Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Journey in Banners: 2010-2011

2010: The banner came full circle, back to it’s Celtic roots, albeit much more subtly than in 2003. I also chose not to include the “ecclesiastical anarchist” tagline any more, for two reasons:
Reason #1: Having to repeatedly explain an inside joke means it’s not funny anymore.
Reason #2: It was confusing people. I’m not an anarchist; it was just a joke (see Reason #1).
Our work in YWAM kept us very busy in 2010, and that’s an understatement. Building houses for poor in the colonias, weekly street feeds in the red-light downtown part of Tijuana (Zona Norte), and leading back-to-back Discipleship Training Schools was hard work, but it was incredibly rewarding, even when it wasn’t easy.

2011 saw our family return to Canada, as the Mexican chapter of our journey came to a close. It also saw the end of the print run for Post-Charismatic, which was just as bittersweet as leaving Tijuana, but for different reasons.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Journey in Banners: 2009

The photo from the 2009 banner was taken in Tijuana Mexico by my wife, Wendy, looking towards the Pacific Ocean. The friends silhouetted against the sunset are some of our YWAM co-workers.

This was the view we had at suppertime each day; YWAM Tijuana had a large dining tent, but who could resist sitting outside on the picnic tables, where you could watch the sunset while sharing a meal with good friends?

Despite how the media tends to portray Tijuana — usually painting an image that there’s a drug cartel bristling with assault rifles on every corner — we loved the city, the food, the Mexican culture, and it was our privilege to serve the Mexican people. They were our co-workers, our neighbours, and our friends.

Building houses in Mexico, not to mention running Discipleship Training Schools, takes up a lot of time, week by week. This had a predictable impact on how often I blogged in 2009. (Which, being translated, means “not that often”.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Journey in Banners: 2008

2008 saw many changes come to the Clan McAlpine. First of all, Post-Charismatic was published in book form on April Fool’s Day (believe it or not). God definitely has a sense of humor.

Second, glistening with poetic irony, the day before Post-Charismatic was released, Wendy and I were banned from our YWAM base because we wouldn’t endorse and promote a local self-proclaimed Apostle. Summed up briefly, his teachings encompassed pretty much everything I had just written against in my book. (Hence the irony.)

Third, our family had just returned from two months of outreach in Tijuana Mexico, and had loved it. So, when the local YWAM door slammed shut with a loud thud of finality, we packed up and moved to Tijuana for the next three years.

So, the change in banner makes sense, if you know the back-story. It really did feel like we were scouting out new territory. Moving our whole family into Tijuana at the height of the drug cartel and gang violence felt like new territory, at least to us.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tell It Like It Is

Theologian-par-excellence, Linus Van Pelt, is perhaps the best voice to speak of what Christmas is all about.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
¡Feliz Navidad a todos de mis amigos méxicanos!

the Clan McAlpine: we just can't seem to bring ourselves to do "normal" family pictures...

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Journey in Banners: 2007

Another iconic Scottish image appeared this year, although this time it was the famous Kilchurn Castle. In very small script on the bottom right is the word chrysalis, which referred to the process of people going from “post-charismatic” towards a more balanced, missionary-to-your-own-culture paradigm. A blogging friend suggested the phrase charis-missional, or “Spirit-led missional living”.

2007 was a year which saw a lot more creative writing and story-telling: I wrote a “Can o’ Worms” series on the book Exiles, complete with juicy pictures of worms in cans for each post. Fellow blogger Bill Kinnon almost disowned me due to his acute worm-phobia.

It was also the year that saw (A) several new posts find their way into Detoxing from Church series, (B) the debut of the Younger/Elder characters, and (C) Wormwood's Apprentices, one of my favourite posts of all time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Journey in Banners: 2006

A much more gritty, urban cityscape became the new look of the blog in 2006. Honestly, I don’t remember why I chose this particular image (Hamilton ON), especially considering that we’d moved back to British Columbia the previous summer.

This was the year, of course, that Post-Charismatic was published here as part of the website — a very large part. Researching, writing, and bouncing ideas around lasted for almost two years, but it was worth the time and effort.

The impetus for writing was simply the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back: I had just one too many conversations with disillusioned young Christians who were ready to ditch their faith completely due to the excesses and abuses in the charismatic movement.

Some people yell. Some have hissy fits. Others throw things.
I write.
Meanwhile, as the blog continued, the topic of dreams — a recurring theme over the years — continued to percolate its way to the surface of my thinking. And, predictably, into my writing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Journey in Banners: 2004-2005

The earlier, very ambitious banner art of my first year of blogging grew a bit more refined in 2004.

The Scottish castle remained a central image, as did the tartan-coloured ‘robbymac’ in a Celtic font. And while I kept the tongue-in-cheek “ecclesiastical anarchist” tagline, I was already quite grateful that I’d included the word “journey” in the byline, as it was becoming more clear that it was, not to over-use the phrase, a journey.

The banner continued on in usage throughout 2005 as well. I think I had settled more comfortably into the look and feel of the Celtic flavour of the banner, and still found the ‘anarchist’ tagline amusing enough that I kept using it.

Also in 2004, I accepted a position in a denominational head office in Toronto, which marked a radical shift from being a bass player in a Celtic rock band.

Let’s just say: it was a bad fit — I was fired about eight months into the job. I think, in retrospect, everyone involved breathed a sigh of relief, including me.

By mid-2005, we had moved back to British Columbia in anticipation of joining YWAM.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Journey in Banners: 2003

There have been literally thousands of words displayed here since this blog began in 2003. Sentences, phrases, quotes, rants, ideas, thoughts, questions, queries, and prayer requests.

It’s an interesting trajectory to browse through all the different banners that have graced this blog over the past eight years. Each one tells a story of a year, of a season, and of a journey.

2003: the year everything began. The nickname “robbymac” had been given to me years earlier by an associate pastor who gave everyone nicknames. When it came time to choose an online moniker, it just seemed an obvious choice.

This first banner included my nickname, ‘colored’ with the tartan of the Clan McAlpine, with the backdrop being the iconic Eilean Donan castle in Scotland. I also snuck in the crux of a Celtic cross, and the words “Christ before me”, from St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

Gary Best, then National Director of Vineyard Canada, joking called me an ‘ecclesiastical anarchist’ at a Vineyard Regional Gathering of pastors in 2002. Somehow, I managed to work all of these themes into one blog banner. Ambitious in a symbolic way.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Through A Mirror, Darkly

A friend of mine, while teaching a class on Identity, made a joking reference to one of the many American Idol-cloned talent shows on television:
"Have you ever experienced the guilty entertainment of watching people -- who seem to think they are incredibly talented -- absolutely  humiliate themselves in front of millions of people on television?"

"And do you ever wonder: Where were the friends and family of these people, and why didn't they tell them the truth?"
Most of us are spared the nationally-televised indignity of having our lack of self-awareness broadcast for the entertainment of the masses.

And then uploaded to the Internet for digital eternity.

You'd have to be pretty cold-hearted to not feel at least some sense of empathy for these poor souls.

Of course, when you read the history of the people of Israel, throughout the Old Testament, you can also see the story of people who:
  1. Repeatedly saw, heard about, or personally experienced God doing incredible things
  2. And returned to worshiping idols shortly thereafter. (usually about 20 minutes)
  3. And had observant scribes in abundance, taking notes and chronicling their cyclical stories, for millions upon millions to read about for thousands upon thousands of years.

And, of course, the legendary thick-headed-ness of the original Twelve Disciples also lives on in print (and numerous movies of varying quality). These guys tried even the patience of Jesus. Again, captured for the viewing pleasure of millions upon millions, over thousands of years.

If there would have been a "patron saint" of these earliest followers of Jesus, I wonder who it would have been?

Yet there is another list to be found in the Bible. Again, captured for the viewing pleasure of millions upon millions, for over two thousand years.
I'm talking about the great Hall of Faith, located in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Not everyone on this list accomplished noteworthy things, although some did.

Not everyone on this list is named, although some are.

Not everyone on this list had a happy ending (at least, not in this life).

Everyone on this list had one thing in common: faith.

Self-reflection is a good thing. Even if we do only see through a glass, dimly.

Facing the truth about ourselves is always healthy, if not always pleasant.

Reading the stories of the people of God in the Old Testament, and the early disciples, should not only serve as an example to us, but also cause us to reflect, "Lord, is there anything in me, that is reminds You of them?"

And the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 should also inspire us, encourage us, and remind us that what truly counts is living according to our faith. Not "results". Not recognition or applause. Not the praise of man. Simply, faith.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


One of our favourite family traditions always takes place on December 1st: Tree Day.

On this day (besides phoning my dad to wish him a happy birthday), the Clan McAlpine traditionally puts up the Christmas tree and all the decorations. From the box containing the ornaments, all the Christmas CD's, and the Christmas movies, comes the traditional soundtrack while the tree gets decorated: the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Eggnog is served, of course. The smell of cinnamon sticks being heated on the stove adds to the ambiance. And once the tree is up, the lights turned on, and the angel put on top of the tree by whichever child's turn it is this year, we relax as we watch the traditional first movie of the season, The Muppet Christmas Carol.

What makes this year's Tree Day different is that, two days earlier, we took our son to the airport and waved good-bye to him as he heads off for jolly old England.
(Which actually meant that we broke our tradition by moving Tree Day to before he left.)
We're very grateful to God for the spiritual growth we've seen in our son. We are proud of him, his character, his musical talents, and the Godly choices he is making as a young adult. He's excited to be on staff for a Discipleship Training School in the same YWAM location where he was a student a year ago.

And we had a lot of fun together, as he ran us through a nightly marathon of Doctor Who, getting us up to speed with the last two seasons of Britain's favourite show on the telly.

But it's going to be a new and unique experience for Wendy and I, to look around the table on Christmas Day, and have one chair empty.

My parents also navigated this emotional hurdle many years ago, so I know that we'll survive it, too. And I'm proud of my son and the direction of his life. It just made this particular Tree Day a little more poignant and meaningful.