Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year’s Resolution

The English poet John Milton (1608-1674) is most remembered for his poem Paradise Lost. However, in another poem, he made a scathing comment about the church of his day. Remembering Jesus’ reference to Christians as sheep, (Luke 15) he wrote, “the hungry Sheep look up [expectantly], and are not fed.” I was recently told that this remains true 400 years later. A large number of church going Christians are either turned off faith entirely, or at least refuse to attend regularly. They arrive expectantly, but leave disappointed.

Is this you? Would you rather sit at home and watch Sunday morning football because it gives you more to chew on than going to church? Or do you attend hoping that this Sunday might just be different?

If so, Faith Formation might be something you might be interested in. As the American pastor and author A.W. Toser wrote over fifty years ago, Faith Formation is “a modest attempt to aide God’s hungry children to find Him.”

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Mine is always the same… to follow closer after Jesus. If this is your desire this coming year, I encourage you to contact me and come for a free one hour session.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What are your Diffabilities?

Living with disabilities like a visual impairment, partial paralysis and memory loss allows me to sympathize with others who struggle. We are not alone. We have ‘different abilities’ aka diffabilities that we can offer, entirely because of the things that we cannot offer. What are your diffabilities?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Humbugs about Christmas?

At around this time of year, we may be overwhelmed with excitement about what we will celebrate later on this month. Others however, might be overwhelmed with responsibility, sapped of joy and energy because we believe it is our job to give the best gift, throw the biggest party, or host the most delicious meal. At no time during the year does it seem more important to “Love our neighbour as we love ourselves.” (Matt 7:12, Luke 6:31) But what if we don’t have enough energy to do this? What if we are humbugs about Christmas?

Well, let’s see if we can turn this rule around a little. What if it read this way? “Do for yourself as you would like to do for others.” Jesus first stated the Golden Rule in front of people who were already doing so much for themselves that they needed a change. Many of us have been raised on this rule and we too need a change. However, if we turned it around, what might happen? Could we do that?

I can hear you saying “I will just become ego-centric and self absorbed” like how the teachers of Jesus day were. However, instead of throwing the best party for your friends and colleagues, attempting to give them the best gift, or making the best meal for them, do it for yourself instead and invite them along. It’s not their party anyway, it’s yours, they are just invited guests.

If you click the title of this blog, you will be taken to a U-tube video of a Winnipeg teenager’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy”. The teenager was having a blast doing what he loved, and I am sure the Lord Jesus received this birthday present gladly because he was an invited guest of honour. If you consider yourself a Christmas Humbug with nothing to offer, can you offer Him the privilege of watching you “Do for yourself as you would like to do for others”?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

By Faith

Who said that only those who perform unbelievable acts in the name of God have faith? Can regular Joes and Jans be men and women of faith? Sure, their knees might not become calloused as the apostle James’ apparently did because of the hours he spend in fervent prayer, but they have enough faith to get up and go to work in the morning. They have enough faith to raise their kids in the best way they know how. And they have enough faith to believe that God will provide them the means to do it. As the song says, they “are saved by faith.” Click the title and enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Booted from the Banquet

Jesus’ story of the great feast (Matthew 22:1-14) is confusing, and I have not heard many pastors or bible study leaders attempt to dissect its meaning. In it, God boots someone from the banquet without any apparent reason. But is this act all God’s fault? Or is this just another story that proves to spiritual skeptics that the Christian God is a bully? A paraphrase of this passage might help.
Jesus was a man of many words and many stories. In one of them He said, “Heaven, where God is, is like a wedding banquet the Father prepared to honor His Son. When everything was ready, He sent His servants to give the invited guests the O.K. sign that they could finally come. But each of them declined.
“But because persistence often pays off, the King sent more servants: ‘The best of the best has been prepared for you, and it is ready to be eaten. All that is needed is your presence.’ But the King’s perseverance didn’t work as each of them turned their attention to their own busy-ness. Others didn’t just ignore the messengers, but killed them instead.
“The King was furious and mobilized his army to destroy their town. Then to His servants He said, ‘Everything is ready, but those I had invited weren’t worthy to receive this honor, so go to the street corners, the back allies and find people who are. Get the dumpster divers, the hookers hooked on Heroine and the crack-addicts. Get the prostitutes, pan-handlers and pot puffers and bring them in. Whomever you find is welcome, but each seat must be filled.’
“But after the hall was full and the King arrived to address them, He noticed that one of them wasn’t prepared to be there. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘why aren’t you ready to receive this honor.’ The man was speechless because a servant had just invited him a few minutes before and he was hungry. To these servants, the King demanded: ‘Get him out of my sight! Throw him as far from here as you can, then still further where he will be sorry for what he has done. For many are invited, but few are actually prepared for it.’”
The obvious question here is what did the man do? or what didn’t the man do? In the paraphrase it says that he wasn’t prepared. How do you get prepared for a banquet? Yes, there are external things that we may hope to do to be ready for surprises like this. But surprises are hard to prepare for. The NIV says that he wasn’t wearing the right “wedding clothes”. But I can’t imagine that if a street person was invited to a banquet, he would come wearing the right clothes. However, he must come with the right spirit, one of thankfulness and gratitude.
In a couple of weeks, my church (CapChurch) will be sending its 6th team to Bufukhula Uganda. Over the past months they have been preparing themselves physically by getting their shots, raising money and packing their bags. They have also been meeting regularly with each other and alone with their King to talk about getting their hearts ready for what they are about to do. They are ready!
But I would argue that though the man in the parable had a stomach that was more than ready to receive whatever came his way, something in his heart wasn’t. Years of eating scraps and begging had hardened his heart to the point that though the King knew that he needed what He had to offer, he was not able to receive what the King so desperately wanted to give.
One person who proved his preparedness was the American pastor A.W. Tozer. In his book “Pursuit of God” he prays:
‘Oh God, be exalted over my possessions. Nothing on earth will be dear to me if you are not glorified in my life. Be exalted over my friendships. I am determined that you will be above all, even if I must stand all alone in the middle of the earth. Be exalted above my comforts, though it may mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy loads. I will keep my vow made today before you. Be exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please you, even if as a result I must be ignored and my name is forgotten as a dream. Instead, arise oh Lord into your proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me sink so that you may rise above. Ride on me just as you rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, and let me hear the children cry to you; ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ Amen!’

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is Creation my Neighbour?

If we are to obey the golden rule and “love our neighbour as we love ourselves” (Matt 19:19), can we replace “Neighbour” with “Creation” and ‘love creation as we love ourselves?’ What would that look like?
If you live in the city as I do, you don’t have to look very far to see how we have disobeyed this ‘Green rule.’ The larger cities become, the more impersonal relationships become with people, products and even plants. But to people who live in smaller villages, I wonder, are the relationships more personal, are the products greener and the plants healthier? Because I live in a city, I understand that this post is speaking against me, but I think the question is a valid one.
Several years ago, after I graduated from Capilano College with my Special Education certificate, I thought about moving to Smithers to work with friends of mine who work with native youth. As the summer passed, however, a job opened for me in North Vancouver and I was happy to take it and stay close to home. I don’t want to leave North Vancouver, but I wonder, if I was to do so, would I follow the desire I had in 2003 and join my friends up north?
One of the reasons why I loved it up there was the close knit relationship the family I was living with had with creation. They were not environmentalists but they raised their own chickens to lay eggs, grew their own vegetables and allowed their kids to get their hands dirty in doing the same.
With the creation of cities, which seem to be overwhelming our modern culture, our desire to be green has taken a back seat. Only recently have some people decided to take baby steps to reverse this trend, and they are fighting an uphill battle.
Instead of loving creation as we love ourselves, most of us have decided to build more urban sprawl so that creation is no longer our neighbour and we therefore don’t need to do anything about the problem. Now, people who care about creation have to travel far and wide to find it in its truest form. And that doesn’t seem to bother us because we do not love creation as we love ourselves.
As Jesus concluded the story of the Good Samaritan, he asked “who was it who acted neighbourly?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had compassion on him.”
Christ replied “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Nature is currently lying in the middle of the road. Are we crossing over to the other side?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Can Generosity make ends meet?

When I think about generosity, a word which defines as “freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character,” I have a picture of an open hand in my mind. Anyone can take out of that open hand, and anyone can give to it, but nobody, accept the owner of the hand, can close it. If it is closed, nobody can take anything from it, but no one can give to it either.
Journalist, social activist and founder of the Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day said that the principle of generosity always works. In the words of St. John of the Cross, she writes:
“If we are rushed for time, sow time and we will reap time. Go to church and spend a quiet hour in prayer. You will have more time than ever and your work will get done. Sow time with the poor. Sit and listen to them, give them your time lavishly. You will reap time a hundredfold. Sow kindness and you will reap kindness. Sow love, you will reap love. Where there is no love, if you put love, you will take out love.” (Day)
Hearing stories of people receiving answers to prayer, or even receiving what they did not pray for, have encouraged me to pray dangerously. Some time ago, and several times since then, I prayed, “God, if there is something that I have that I should not have, take it. If I covet certain things more than you, take them. If I am filling myself up with junk, empty me.” I am not sure if this prayer was a true one because of the presence of the conditional word “if.” But the Lord listened to it nonetheless and has answered it.
Since I prayed that prayer last summer, I have moved into a basement suite with no cable, so I am not able to fill my mind and heart with all that the media gives as often as I may want to. I had moved in to join my friend, who lived in a suite where the rent was higher than where I had been staying before. In addition, my principal at work would cut my hours in half when I returned to school a month later, forcing me to rely on the grace, compassion and generosity of others to make ends meet.
Soon after going back to school, I miss-placed my wallet and, for a little while, was resolved to the fact that I would not be able to satisfy myself in certain ways until I found it. Though I found it a week later, I have now tried to make it a practice to keep my spending to a minimum and, as my roommate and I recently practiced praying for our daily routine, I hope to continue to pray for my daily spending so that generosity may be the result.
Can Generosity make ends meet? Well, I’m banking on it!