This morning’s Bible reading was a bit of an unexpected one. Hosea 14. I suspect I am not alone in saying that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time in Hosea for devotional reading. It’s a fascinating book and a remarkable story about the fidelity of God to his people, but Hosea, like most of the minor prophets is a bit off the beaten path. At least for me. It’s like that interesting little town that you drove through once upon a time but haven’t visited in quite a while. Read more
As far as I can recall, the last few weeks have contained my first ever interviews. This sounds quite a bit more impressive than it is or was. One was forty-five minutes in a Tim Hortons coffee shop discussing my time in Colombia last year with a local reporter who is preparing a small booklet as part of an upcoming relief sale put on by Mennonite Central Committee. The other was ten minutes or so in front of a camera in Montreal as part of a feature about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being put together by Mennonite Church Canada. We’re not really talking a big stage here. But still, kind of interesting experiences. Read more
That may be true for you, but how can you say that it is true for everyone else when there are so many different understandings of truth out there
This is, of course, among the most common questions out there in postmodern-dom and, more specifically, in the context of the religious/ethnic/cultural diversity that is becoming the new normal in Canada and the West in general. Christians are becoming increasingly aware that there is much that is good and true and beautiful in a wide variety of worldviews and practices. We are also alert to the painful reality that the Christian worldview has all too frequently been aligned with the interests of colonialism and other less overt modes of cultural imperialism. It can be a tricky thing, this business of expressing one’s convictions about the particularity of truth amidst all of diversity and historical error and the baggage that comes along with it. Read more
I continue to consider it a shame that I have only begun to get acquainted with Brennan Manning now that he has passed away. I am finding him to be a remarkable writer and thinker. Even though at times Manning’s spirituality seems quite different from my own and, on occasion, I even find myself disagreeing with how he puts this or that, he quite stubbornly holds the reality of grace before the reader in an extraordinary and compelling way. Here are a few memorable quotes containing plenty to ponder from my reading of The Ragamuffin Gospel this evening. Read more
The following comes out of an experience I had yesterday. I try to be very careful in deciding if/how to share about stuff that I encounter in my daily work. There are issues of privacy, of course, in addition to the simple fact that not every experience I find meaningful necessarily needs to be shared—especially in an online/cultural context where over-sharing is reaching almost epidemic proportions.
Having said that, I think it is important to hear the stories of our world and our communities—perhaps especially the unsettling ones. Stories move and change us. At the very least, it’s important for me to hear/tell them. There are so many things that I cannot do in light of the many problems in our world, but one thing I can do is simply to write, to tell stories like this one. It is especially relevant, I think, in light of my recent posts on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (here, here, and here) and yesterday’s post on “Normal Unhappiness.” All the names below have, of course, been changed. Read more
Ever since I was a little kid, I have felt the pain of the world quite deeply (how’s that for a pretentious opening sentence?!). I don’t recall being an unhappy child—not by any means!—but I do quite distinctly remember being drawn toward more existential themes of pain and loss and identity and belonging, even as a relatively young person. Often the manifestation of these tendencies coincided with being dumped by a girlfriend (in grade 7-8!) or failing a test (mathematics and I are still sworn enemies) or some other utterly ordinary perceived injustice in the life of a kid. But I also remember wondering about and being saddened by some fairly big questions. Why do so many people suffer? Why do I have a mom and a dad who love and care for me while others do not? Why was I born in Canada and not Ethiopia? How does God expect us to live with joy and happiness when we see pain all around us and while we know that death is coming? If God is good and powerful, why does he allow so much horrific pain in his world? Read more
It’s intriguing to me how frequently our morning worship services will contain a pleasant surprise of some kind, whether an unplanned correlation between a song and a prayer or a testimony that just fits with this or that aspect of the sermon or some other thing. It’s remarkable how frequently the Spirit of God seems to be working in similar ways and prompting similar ideas in the hearts and minds of people in our community. Read more
I arrived at work in a bit of a grouchy mood today. I had spent my twelve-minute commute listening to the first part of a recent podcast from CBC Radio’s Tapestry—a program that explores faith and spirituality in the twenty-first century Canada. The host was in conversation with “Adam” (a pseudonym)—a pastor at a fundamentalist church in the southern USA who lost his faith a few years ago but has remains in his position despite his unbelief. For the interview, Adam had phoned from an undisclosed payphone in an undisclosed town and his voice was distorted to protect his identity and preserve his job. It all felt very grave and dangerous and important. And annoying. Read more
One last post about my experience at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Quebec National Event this past week. As I’ve reflected on the flight home yesterday and throughout today, few questions/topics of a bit more philosophical nature keep recurring. I don’t necessarily claim to have the answers to these questions, but I would welcome dialogue about them here. I think they are important matters to discuss as Canadians of all kinds try to work toward a more just and equitable future. Read more
A story from day three of the Québec Truth and Reconciliation Commission…
It was nearing the end of a long day of listening and I was looking for a place near the back of the hall to sit quietly for the last session of the day. Near the back of the room, I was somewhat surprised to see a flip chart stand with a drawing on it sitting in the middle of the aisle. I was even more surprised to see a young aboriginal man wildly gesticulating beside it as he was speaking in a very animated fashion to a young woman with a notepad. I edged closer to get a better look (and maybe a listen). The closer I got, the more obvious it was that this young man was very angry indeed. Read more
I’ve spent the last two days in Montreal attending the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s Québec National Event. This is one of seven national events held across Canada to provide a space for listening and truth-telling about the history of residential schools in our country. Events have already been held in Halifax, Winnipeg, Inuvik, and Saskatoon, and there will be future events in Edmonton and Vancouver. It has been a sobering few days. So many stories of abuse, neglect, and prejudice. So many stories of families torn apart, of addiction and violence and dysfunctional relationships. It was a hard, but good day of listening. Read more
Last week, I read Rob Bell’s latest book What We Talk About When We Talk About God. It was, I don’t know, underwhelming? It wasn’t bad or heretical or even really very controversial, much as his promoters/publishers may have tried to ratchet the excitement level up by bringing up his views about homosexuality right before/around the book’s release. But it was kinda ho-hum. The book was pretty much exactly what we’ve come to expect from Rob Bell by now. A handful of interesting ideas, some good questions, an approach to God and faith that starts with human experience and then moves on to consider what, if anything, this or that human longing might point to, a bit of semi-vacuous, poetic language that dances around controversial issues, and a lot…
of weird formatting and spacing…
to make his words seem…
and fill up a book.
Summer still seems like something of a distant rumour here on the Canadian prairies. After a relatively mild winter, the last few weeks in southern Alberta have been decidedly wintry. January felt kinda like April this year, and, well, April has felt a bit like January. And as I look out my window this morning and see the last traces of the most recent dump of snow melting, I hear rumours of more snow on Sunday. Sigh. Ah well, summer is coming. And summer means…. Summer school!!
Wait, what? Read more
Among the lessons we are learning with each large-scale tragedy in the digital age, is that our insatiable appetite for “news,” for answers, for solutions can and does lead to some fairly shoddy journalism. In a world where traditional news sources must compete with social media and public journalism, the only thing worse than not getting the story right is not getting the story first. And so we see predictable results like the ones that have been on display since the bombing in Boston on Monday (and which will no doubt continue with today’s tragedy in Texas). We have a suspect… No, wait, we don’t… The suspect is of x ethnicity… No, wait, that was inaccurate… There were x number of people killed… No, wait, that’s not exactly true… And on and on it goes. Read more
The Internet is, predictably, awash with words about/for Boston today. This is both good and necessary. We need to express our solidarity with and compassion for the victims, to give voice to our anger and sadness, to seek meaning and order amidst meaninglessness and chaos, to somehow bear witness that these things should not be. And so we talk and write and talk and write… and we try to keep the horror and the confusion at bay. Read more
I had one of those semi-awkward, overly familiar God-talk conversations today… You know the ones right? Conversations punctuated by words about “what God is doing” and breathless declarations that “it was such a God thing” and “God just showed up” and “it’s so amazing how God is just moving.” Now that I am a pastor, these kinds of conversations are even more awkward than they once were because, rightly or wrongly, I get the overwhelming sense that I am supposed to be eagerly expressing my approval of such language. Kinda like a professional requirement or something—like if I don’t understand and affirm the words and the experiences, then I get a failing grade as a pastor. I usually mostly smile and nod while inside I am rehearsing a thousand objections and criticisms and mostly wishing my interlocutor would just take their enthusiastic fervour somewhere else. Read more
I opened my reader this morning to discover no fewer than six tributes to author, speaker, and contemplative Brennan Manning, who passed away early this morning at the age of 79. Brennan Manning is, regrettably, one of those writers that I have seen quoted endlessly but have never actually read. Consequently, I spent a bit of time this morning doing a bit of reading about his life and work, digging up quotes, and generally trying to learn a bit more about this widely admired figure who seemed so keenly tuned to grace. Of course, I also ordered a few of his books . I am looking forward to my relatively late introduction to Mr. Manning.
I went for a walk yesterday and the speaker in my iPod’s headphones was talking about expectations. What we expect has a lot to do with how we respond to experience. One’s reaction to an ordinary room with a bed, a table, a chair and a TV, for example, would vary depending upon being told to expect the penthouse suite or a jail cell. Expectations are everything. Read more