Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tree Day

What do you do when one of your children continues to live on the other side of the planet for his second Christmas in a row?

In our house, that's grounds for making a video.


Thanks, Jordan, for all your editing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Artistic Intermission

The most recent draft of my latest writing project -- the Kingdom of God -- has been farmed out to an editorial review team, who are all lending their unique perspectives, insights, critiques, and suggestions to the manuscript even as we speak.

I am very passionate about the subject matter, excited with how the book is taking shape, and I'm chomping at the bit, just thinking of tackling the next draft once the editorial team finishes their work.

So, what does a writer do, during this creative limbo, this artistic interlude, this "down time"? This enforced -- albeit brief -- season of non-writing?

And the answer is: spend a week in the rafters of a renovation project, hanging drywall!


The job is ever so much more interesting when there's already pipes and (live) electrical in place bzzzt!!

Mobile work platform (aka scaffolding); it's nice when they warn you before they move you.

The view of terra firma.
Oh, be careful little feet where you step.

It was a great week of "and now for something completely different", and it was fun to work with two good friends. How am I filling my non-writing time this week, you ask? Why, helping to set up a new grocery store in town before its grand opening in a couple of weeks, of course!

God provides in many diverse and mysterious ways.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Fistful of Chan

Francis Chan is an author who has recently come to my attention. I've read all three of his books in the past few months, and he is one of the most refreshing reads I've had in some time. I've also listened to a number of his podcasts, and I really appreciate his easy-going style of communication, coupled with a firm but exceedingly gracious commitment to the Bible. (He actually reminds me of my friend Kevin Loten, one of Canada's finest unknown preachers.)

Francis' first book, Crazy Love, tackles a topic that everyone loves: to hear more about how crazy God is about us. Except that Francis goes much deeper than that -- he calls us to a radical lifestyle of serving others as the fruit of having "crazy love" for God, flowing out of experiencing God's "crazy love" for us. I won't steal any more of Chan's fire -- this is one of the more noteworthy books on being loved by and loving God that I've read.

Forgotten God came next, and it's a fascinating book -- from my perspective, after writing Post-Charismatic? a few years ago -- dealing with the opposite end of the spectrum. It seems, sometimes, that the pendulum continually flies to the opposing edge; you are either forced to embrace all the craziness and extremes, or relegate the Holy Spirit to a kind of Divine Administration position. Forgotten God is a well-crafted introduction to something in between.

Erasing Hell is the most recent, and the most risk-taking, of Chan's books. Let's face it: talking about God's love, our responsibility to the poor, and the Holy Spirit will make you more friends than enemies. But to adopt a view of hell, as taught by Jesus in the Bible, tends to bring out the villagers with their torches and pitchforks. I admire Chan for taking this risk, and I am very impressed with his tact, compassion, vulnerability, and graciousness as he tackles a very important and unpopular topic. I would lend this book without reservation.
https://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Love-Overwhelmed-Relentless-God/dp/1434768511/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351188415&sr=1-1&keywords=francis+chan
https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-God-Reversing-Tragic-Neglect/dp/1434767957/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351188415&sr=1-4&keywords=francis+chan
https://www.amazon.com/Erasing-Hell-about-eternity-things/dp/0781407257/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351188415&sr=1-3&keywords=francis+chan

Bottom line: I would highly recommend any of these three books by Francis Chan. Each one of them will provide encouragement, provoke thoughtful reflection, and challenge us to dig deep into what we believe, and why, and what we're going to do with it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Political Interlude

I've usually avoided getting political on my blog. Writing about religious topics is usually quite enough to land one in hot water from time to time. Politics could only make it worse, right?


But as the ongoing political comedy unfolds just south of the True North Strong and Free, I couldn't resist sharing an appropriate song lyric from the insightful and delightfully subversive Steve Taylor, from his On The Fritz album. (Wendy and I saw him in concert several times and loved it.)

It's A Personal Thing

(The press conference)
It's a personal thing, and I find it odd
You would question my believing in a personal God
I'm devout, I'm sincere, ask my mother if you doubt it
I'm religious, but I'd rather not get radical about it
The old-time believers had timidity and grace
But this new generation doesn't know its place
You're entitled to believe, but the latest Gallup Poll
Says you mustn't interfere -- that's the government's role

(The nomination speech)
It's a personal thing, and I boldly state
That my views on morality will have to wait
'Til my personal life's out of the public eye
And the limitations statue can protect my alibi
I'm devout, I'm sincere, and I'm proud to say
That it's had exactly no effect on who I am today
I believe for the benefit for all mankind
In the total separation of church and mind

(the victory night)
It's a personal thing, and I plainly speak
(From the same code of ethics that I held last week)
As I promised if elected this election day
With the help of God Almighty, I'll do it my way

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rejoice and Be Envious!

Can you rejoice with, and be envious of, the same person all at the same time? Usually, my gut reaction would be "no".

After watching videos of my son Caleb's new music, I can safely say that I am incredibly proud of him. I rejoice in his talent, and I rejoice in how he's using his incredible musical and songwriting abilities to express his faith.

And yes, in a moment (or several) of musical covetousness, I envy the level of skill and creativity Caleb has been gifted with. I'm a reasonably decent bass player, with some lesser ability at other instruments, but -- HOT DANG! -- can this guy play!

Perhaps some of my older musical comrades may recall our prayer together, many years ago, that God would take the next generation of artistic worshippers far beyond our own.

Well, guess what?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Learning from the (type-written) Masters

Once upon a time, my instrument for creative writing was a portable Underwood manual typewriter. (ping! wrrk!)


My mother had graciously granted permission to use her prized 1950's workhorse -- complete with hardcover traveling case -- to allow her aspiring writer of a son the opportunity to produce multiple cringe-worthy stories. Imagine 70+ pages (double-spaced) of junior high sci-fi dreck*, per book. (ping! wrrk!)
*dreck[drek]
noun, Slang;
1. excrement; dung.
2. worthless trash; junk.
In some ways, typewriters made writing much easier. There was only one font. There was no "align right" or "justified" -- everything was "align left". To "center" something, you just kept hitting the space bar until you were centered (more or less). And let's not forget the psychologically-satisfying act of ripping out a page you were frustrated with, crumpling it into a tiny ball, and tossing it into the (usually overflowing) garbage can. (ping! wrrk!)


On the down side, there were typewriter ribbons gradually fading, white-out for correcting typos (even though you could never get the page aligned correctly again), and the remedial surgery required when your feverishly-speedy fingers got ahead of the typebars, creating a mechanical traffic jam (see pic at right). (ping! wrrk!)

Last but certainly not least, there was the dreaded ping! that let you know that your next wrrk! was now required, and the word you were in the midst of typing would neither fit in the space available in that line, nor hyphenate well. (ping! wrrk!)

The following list is a treasure trove of advice and inspiration from some of the modern "masters" of the written word. And, remarkably, most of them used typewriters to accomplish their literary feats. (ping! wrrk!)
  1. Cut the boring parts.
    I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~ Elmore Leonard
  2. Eliminate unnecessary words.
    Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~ Mark Twain
  3. Write with passion.
    Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~ William Wordsworth
  4. Paint a picture.
    Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~ Anton Chekhov
  5. Keep it simple.
    Vigorous writing is concise. ~ William Strunk Jr.
  6. Do it for love.
    Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~ Mark Twain
  7. Learn to thrive on criticism.
    You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~ Ray Bradbury
  8. Write all the time.
    Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~ Ray Bradbury
  9. Write what you know… or what you want to know.
    If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  10. Be unique and unpredictable.
    I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~ G.K. Chesterton
    Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~ Oscar Wilde
(ping! wrrk!)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Grateful

Yesterday's "service worship" with The Well got me thinking.

On the first Sunday of each month, The Well goes into the community to serve. Ranging from a plot in the community garden, graffiti removal, cleaning garbage off the streets, cleaning houses, and helping out in general with struggling neighbours -- this church invests itself in the community. Children serve alongside their parents. Lord only knows the long-term fruit this will bear in their lives as they learn to serve in practical ways from an early age.

Three of us had returned to the home of a single mother who struggles with a debilitating, long-term, incurable disease. My responsibility this sunny autumn morning was twofold: (a) make some headway in organizing her small storage room, and (b) find old photos and yearbooks for her as she prepares for Canadian Thanksgiving, and the anticipated visit from her children.

She wanted to share some of her life stories with her children, and the photos and yearbooks would serve as nostalgic visual aids.

The sobering discovery for me, when I finally unearthed the old yearbooks (in the lowest box in the farthest corner, naturally), was that this woman graduated from high school the same year as me.

The old photos and the yearbooks show a pretty young woman, full of life and promise, and I couldn't help but wonder, as I brought them into the house for her to see, whether the re-telling of her life story was as much for her, as it was for her children.

It wasn't always like this, the photos proclaim, pointing to happier times in her past. The three of us from The Well arrange the photos around her tiny living room, making it a treasure-house full of happy memories as she tearfully anticipates seeing her children today.

I'm thankful that we had the opportunity to serve her yesterday, to help out in whatever ways we could. And I'm grateful for the perspective that her life gives to me about mine.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, so I pause and remember just a few of the many things I'm grateful for:
  • my beautiful wife Wendy, my companion and lover in all the ups and downs of our 27+ years together
  • our three incredible children:
    • Jordan the dancer/artist, who works full-time as a social worker at Inn From The Cold,
    • Caleb, the musician, who serves at YWAM Harpenden (UK) as DTS staff,
    • Renee, the dancer/gymnast, who selflessly and happily serves with The Well or alongside her big sister at the homeless shelter, or just wherever
  • my extended family in Ontario and Manitoba
  • friends near and far who have enriched our lives
  • a roof over our heads and food on the table (our "daily bread")


grate·ful[greyt-fuhl]
adjective
  1. warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received;
  2. thankful.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it just me, or are the times a-changin'?


Times They Are A-changin'
It hit me again this morning. That feeling that somehow, when I wasn't paying attention, time had continued to march on.

The changing of the seasons here in the Okanagan Valley, as the leaves turn vibrant colours in a final act of stubborn defiance against the coming winter, perhaps?
Or maybe it was when I was painting the gable on our roof, to complete our weekend project of repainting the exterior of the house.

When I was young and indestructible, things like heights, ladders, scaffolding, or taking ridiculously stupid risks while rock-climbing, all seemed laughably irrelevant. Today, as the suddenly cold fall wind tugged insistently at me as I applied the last bits of paint to the gable, I realized I had become much more aware of things such as, for example, gravity.

Whenever I'm perched precariously above the ground these days, there is this one vivid memory that keeps coming to mind...


SMART climbers use rope
For the record, it's nothing like the movies. My life didn't flash before my eyes. Everything didn't suddenly go into slow-motion. There just a sudden, sharp crack as I leaped sideways from one perch to the next.

Everything went black and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled awkwardly in a puddle of my own blood, spitting out pieces of my teeth.

Which is why, they say, people who climb without ropes are an accident waiting to happen. (I didn't even fall very far.)

And one fractured arm, a badly sprained ankle, numerous capped teeth (exposed roots are exquisite but not in a good way), a fair number of stitches, and a handful of Advil later, things were looking up.

"Don't worry," my doctor, friend, and fellow youth group leader told me, after suturing my skull back together, "your hair will cover the scar." And it did.

For a few years. (Another marker of time's passage, but I don't want to talk about it).

So what did I learn from the experience?
  1. Well, to state the obvious: gravity hasn't changed, but my appreciation for its effect was greatly enhanced.

  2. Life can change in an instant. That, also, has always been true. But I was now more aware that it applied to me, not just to 'other' people.

  3. Stupid risks will always be stupid, even if "nothing happens". Smarten up.

    And last but not least,
  4. When it comes to life, there are risks worth taking, challenges worthy of our time and energy, and 'playing it safe' is not the answer. Knowing the difference between a stupid risk, and something that God is truly calling you to, might be helpful.
Our house-painting project is done, and I made it back down off the roof requiring no new stitches, and with the same number of teeth. I'm not sure if the times are a-changin' (any more than they already were). But I think I have.
Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. (Psalm 39:4)
Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hamilton

I haven't thought about the city of Hamilton, Ontario much recently. True, it was the site of Wendy's and my first apartment as newlyweds, and the place where we welcomed our first child into our lives. But it's been so many years since we moved West that my only thought of Hamilton is when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Tiger-Cats (yet again). (not that I'm gloating, Mom, honest...)


But Hamilton has been very much on my mind in recent days.

I was recently given my grandfather's typewritten notes on his family tree, as well as his autobiography. His children had been badgering him for some time to write out his life story, and finally, in his early 70's, he acquiesced and began to type it all out.

His early and unexpected passing was evident on the last page, which was not only incomplete, but actually stopped in mid-sentence. It was probably discovered still in his typewriter, awaiting his return.

The city of Hamilton figures prominently in my family's Canadian history, following emigration from Scotland. My grandfather's simple, meat-and-potatoes style of writing recounts his story in short, fact-based snippets, although his dry sense of humour finds its way into his writing as well. His great respect and admiration for the pastor of the Caroline Street Mission is also unmistakable.

And the Caroline Street Mission marks a turning point not only for my grandfather, but for the following generations after him. It was here, as a teenager from a dysfunctional home, desperately trying to find his way during the Great Depression, that my grandfather first heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and became a Christian. That simple decision, so many years ago, continues to have a ripple effect over several generations of his descendants.

Hamilton is a long way from here, geographically, and living there is several decades in the past for Wendy and I. And yet, as I read my grandfather's story, Hamilton Ontario -- and the Caroline Street Mission -- represent an important part of my roots that I am both mindful of, and grateful for.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Note to Pastors

The wording varies but a little, depending on the pastor and the setting.

"Great to see you! Let's have coffee soon."

I haven't kept track in a ledger somewhere, so I don't have an actual count. Nevertheless, I've heard this phrase more than a few times from pastors that I've known over the years.

I used to look forward to the possibility, thinking that perhaps the pastor who uttered these words would actually follow through. A few of those times, I really had something on my mind that I wanted pastoral insight and wisdom into.

And then -- nothing.

Radio silence. The same sound you get when you hold an empty seashell to your ear (and no, that's not the sound of the ocean you're hearing).

Eventually, I learned to counter the phrase by responding, "I'd love to. What day works best for you?" And then watch them stumble all over themselves to avoid being trapped into actually setting a time and place. "Send me an email" was the usual delaying tactic.

Just to do my fair share, I would send an email, although my expectations gradually became lower.


Of course, not all pastors are like that. I've enjoyed some great times over coffee with pastors. You have demonstrated genuine 'pastoral care' and personal interest. If only you represented "normal".

Perhaps it's because of these positive pastoral coffee experiences that I feel strongly enough to make the following suggestion:
If you say "let's do coffee soon", MEAN IT.
Or don't say it.
Either option is acceptable. (And to those pastors who say it, mean it, and do it, thank you. It means more than you may realize.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Segue & Salvation

(another Renaissance post)
"Can you believe this wind?" gasped the Younger, averting his face from the worst of the grit blowing into his eyes.

The Elder hesitated briefly, recalling his many years of seeing the seasons change. "No, actually," he finally admitted, keeping one hand firmly on his head to prevent his cap from joining the leaves swirling about them, "although it's possible I'm just weakening with age, and the wind feels more fierce than I remember."

"But if memory serves," he added a moment later, as his gaze fastened on their destination -- still several blocks ahead of them, "a good stiff breeze has always been a sign that summer is ending, and fall is just around the corner."

The Younger groaned. "And the first snow won't be long after that. I guess I'd better keep my eyes open for a new snow shovel." Squinting into the wind, his voice softened as a new thought came to him. "How do you suppose he's going to segue back into writing?"

The Elder guessed immediately what his young friend was referring to. "You mean, after announcing the release of a book project like Detoxing from Church? How does one jump back into the regular rhythm of writing for a blog?"

"Yeah, that's what I'm wondering," agreed the Younger, as the two quickened their steps as the welcome sight of the door to The Genesis Cafe drew closer. "What is it -- business as usual? Just jump back in?"

"I wouldn't worry, if I were you," smiled the Elder as he reached for the door with one hand, while keeping a firm grip on his cap with the other. "I predict he'll be inside, at his usual spot, writing as always."

And with that, the two friends slipped into the welcome stillness inside the café, returning the friendly wave of the Barista, as their eyes scanned the tables near the back. Glimpsing the figure seated alone near the rear exit, completely absorbed by the laptop before him, the Elder nudged the Younger and pointed.

"All is well," he chuckled, and they turned their full attention to the chalkboard list of drinks behind the Barista.



Often maligned by negative associations like "Brother, are you SAVED?", this is nonetheless the single most common word throughout the Bible to describe the active work of Jesus Christ.

The two most common Greek words in the New Testament that are translated as salvation or save(es)(ed) are:
  1. Soteria: "deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation"

  2. Sozo: "to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction"
Indeed, try to talk about Jesus, His death & resurrection, and coming to faith in Him without using the word "saved", or "salvation"... All the possible synonyms eventually lead back to the idea of being saved from something, and saved to something else.

There has been an incredible amount of discussion and debate about how salvation actually works (some of it helpful, other times not so much). And a single blog post could never do it justice.

But first things first: Jesus saves is a solid, concise statement regarding a very rich tapestry of Jesus' mission and work.

Yet to many people, this same phrase is deemed worthy of derision and bad puns.

To redeem this phrase from triteness and/or cynical stereotypes will take some work. That work will likely start with us, as we shake off an embarrassed fear of being lumped-in with zealots.

source: Wikipedia

Salvation is an important word. Too important to leave languishing on dusty theological shelves. If you'll pardon the theological pun, perhaps salvation needs redemption.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Release: Detoxing from Church

Folding his hands and gazing more intently at his friend, the Elder carefully continued, “What if what your friends are feeling could be described -- not as malcontent, or rebellion -- but holy dis-satisfaction? The same kind of holy dissatisfaction that some of the great Reformers of yesteryear also felt as they observed similar dynamics in the church of their day?”

The Younger finished the contents of his bowl, and turned his attention to the fresh-baked roll on the side. “It sounds like you’re suggesting that questioning the status quo of church is a good thing. Can I quote you on that?” (from the opening chapter)

Getting the System out of our system.

It's easier said than done. And the journey has pitfalls and traps that, if we're not careful, can result in us resembling dysfunctional hamsters, spinning endlessly on a wheel of bitterness and regret.

Detoxing from Church can also be an exciting opportunity for spiritual growth, if we recognize the opportunity before us. Simply 'quitting church' will result in little lasting change. The inner journey of detoxing from depending on, and finding our identity in, church culture is more challenging, but worth every step of the way.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

¡Nos vemos pronto!

We'll see you soon! (en español)

Goodbye's are always bittersweet. On the one hand, you are genuinely happy for friends embarking on new adventures. Yet at the same time, there is also an unmistakable twinge as you realize you won't be seeing them for a long time, as they head off. To Germany, in this case.

Norm Strauss has been a constant source of encouragement, friendship, and musical camaraderie in the 20 years that I've known him. Norm is one of the few people I know who is truly a worship pastor. And it's been an honour (and a great deal of fun) to be part of "The Fab Four" at the Kelowna Vineyard.
Likewise, Norm's wife Loralee has also been a great resource as I've begun my new season as an "indie writer". Her input, advice, and genuine enthusiasm for my writing has been absolutely invaluable as I've begun this journey.

Of course, I'm excited for them as they begin this new season in Germany. It will, without a doubt, be a time of new adventures, new friends and opportunities, and faith-stretching challenges. And we know that they'll be visiting Canada again next summer.

So, it's not "fare-well"; more like "see you later".

Or, as we'd say in Tijuana, "Nos vemos pronto." And I would add, "Muchas gracias a los dos. Voy a tu extrañar." (Thank you both. I'm going to miss you.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Forgotten Metaphor

I'll never forget the earnest zeal of the pastor, with a handshake-turned-to-death-grip hold on me at the back of the sanctuary. I had hoped to slip out quietly after the fearsome hell-fire-and-damnation sermon he'd just preached.

"Brother, are you saved?", he asked with penetrating gaze, augmenting his iron grip on my hand with the furrowed brow of concern and a commanding tone of voice.

I had been hitch-hiking to (a different) church that evening, but the pouring rain and lack of rides made the little church I was walking past look like a viable alternative. There was no way of knowing that I was about to have a completely cross-cultural experience, right there in my town of birth.

I was able to escape after a short (mostly one-sided) debate -- it didn't seem to matter how many times I assured him that I was a Christian, he wasn't convinced.

There are probably a lot of words in common usage among Christians that are misunderstood, caricatured, and mocked. "Saved" would definitely be one of those, even among self-identified Christians. Experiences such as the one I just mentioned, have resulted in my tendency to avoid using the word, as well. And I suspect I'm not alone. The mental picture of loud, obnoxious lamprey-zealots crazed with wild-eyed fervor... well, you know. (shudder)

But at the same time, the word 'save' (saves, saved, salvation) appears literally hundreds of times through the Bible. It is the most common word referring to our faith in what Jesus Christ did for us. Why should the lunatic fringe be allowed to deprive us of a word so rich in meaning?

Perhaps the time of finding 'alternative metaphors' is past. Maybe, instead, we should invest our time and energy in exploring the richness of the original term, and allow a positive connotation to emerge in place of the caricature.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Renaissance

[ren-uh-sahns]; noun.,
a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival


The word "renaissance" comes from the Italian language, and simply means "re-born". The historical period known as the Renaissance was a time when much of the Classical Greek era's art, science, and literature (pre-Medieval) were re-discovered, re-born, revived. To be a "renaissance man" was to be adept in various disciplines: arts, science, philosophy, etc.

Fast forward to the early 21st century: In Christian circles, particularly in North America and Western Europe, there has been a lot of conversations, ink spilt, and pixels published surrounding the future of the church, and even of Christianity itself. In some instances, some have gone so far as to reject and/or re-write a large chunk of the beliefs of Christianity. Many caricatures of what Christians believe have been circulated, usually with just enough truth mixed in to sound reasonable.

I'd like to suggest that we need a renaissance -- a re-discovery, a renewal, a re-birth -- of classic Christian doctrines. Not to entrench, nor to develop a reactionary, paranoid "circle the wagons" kind of fortress mentality. That leads nowhere.

As the saying goes, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness". The rebuttal to the caricatures and distortions of what Christians believe is not to 'curse the darkness'; the best response is to positively 'light a candle' by saying what we actually believe, and why.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15)
We need a renaissance of discipleship. We need a renaissance of passing on core truths about our faith to the next generation(s). We need to proactively, without apology but tempered with humility, speak of what we have become convinced to be true.
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act."
-George Orwell-

Monday, July 30, 2012

Coming Soon: Detoxing from Church

There is definitely a growing sense of excitement and anticipation in nearing the finish line of publishing a book.
The home stretch for the book version of Detoxing from Church -- in print as well as e-publishing -- is coming to a close. While I can't promise the exact day the book will be released, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting very near.

Detoxing from Church will be available in numerous e-formsts, including Kindle, Kobo, Sony, etc., as well as in print. Once the book is released, there will be a permanent link in the sidebar where all the appropriate links will be listed.

About the cover art:

When people talk about their negative experiences with church, the tendency is to focus almost exclusively on what they resented and how they were wounded. If that were my focus in writing this book, it would make more sense to use a bio-hazard warning as a cover image.

But my focus in writing is on recovery, and becoming emotionally & spiritually healthy. The emphasis is on the positive outcomes of 'detoxing from church'.

This book is intended to be the literary equivalent to offering a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:40-42), and the cover image was chosen to reflect this.

Of course, being married to a professional photographer is a great help, as is Wendy's remarkable creativity and seemingly endless flow of ideas. I love her inclusion of lemons, limes, and mint leaves to the cup of cold water -- it looks even more refreshing as a result. And that is, ultimately, my hope for those who read Detoxing from Church. To be refreshed and encouraged.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In a Country Far, Far Away...

Caleb McAlpine continues to write incredible music, with an assortment of his incredible friends.

I don't know about you, but this sure looks like 'community' to me.

(And can I just say, once again, how proud I am of my son?)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kaleidoscope

'A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection off of the mirrors. "Kaleidoscope" is derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), "beautiful, beauty", εἶδος (eidos), "that which is seen: form, shape" and σκοπέω (skopeō), "to look to, to examine", hence "observer of beautiful forms."' (source: Wikipedia)
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:15-16)
One of the encouraging aspects of our current season is our opportunity to regularly connect with several difference churches in town. Two are Mennonite Brethren in background (one mega-church pursuing ways of becoming more intentionally missional, the other a downtown gathering for the street community), one is a Christian Reformed church-plant that invests one worship service per month in serving the community around them, and the other a Vineyard with a large contingent of artists and musicians wrestling through the issues of art, faith, and justice.

These are only four of a large number of churches of varying denominations in our town, but even by our regular participation with just these four, we can see a wonderful tapestry -- or kaleidoscope -- emerging as 'each part does its work'.
  • Each has some sort of outreach to the community around them.
  • Each is in the process of finding out how to bless the poor, and tackle the local issues of injustice.
  • They didn't try to create some monolithic and unwieldy über-church organization.
  • Each just does its part, unique to each gathering.
It's fascinating, encouraging, and humbling to see what God is doing.


Playing bass at the Kelowna Vineyard (picture courtesy of Len Hjalmarson's iPhone)
Metro Central

Willow Park Church

The Well

Kelowna Vineyard

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rotten to the Core: Five Steps

This was the view from our carport deck last week. Our neighbours -- and our youngest daughter, who was playing with their daughter at the time -- were literally five steps away from disaster.

When they pulled into their driveway and opened the car doors, they heard the tree making loud creaking sounds. Fortunately, our neighbour wisely ordered the girls to quickly move towards the house.

Five quick, running steps, and the tree collapsed, crashing down where they had all been standing just seconds before. Thankfully, no-one was hurt. My daughter later remarked on how loud the creaking had been, and that they were just staring at the tree, mesmerized, until our neighbour told them to run.

The tree had looked perfectly healthy just the day before. Wide branches, lots of leaves, casting a wonderful amount of shade from the hot summer sun. There were no high winds, no heavy storms. Just a typical summer's day, until the tree suddenly split and half of it came crashing down.

The next day, from the same vantage point, I watch in fascination as city workers came and, with surgical precision, carved the tree apart and disposed of it. Just a couple of hours later, only a stump -- barely visible above ground -- remained.

Now, you know me: I tend to see metaphors in things around me. (From time to time.)

Metaphors that sometimes express themselves as questions.

And the tree next door got me thinking, as I watched it being systematically carved into smaller chunks and taken away, so that only a stump remains to give testimony to what had once been a mighty tree.

The tree appeared healthy. It had all the usual signs of life. Yet a rot had spread deep within; a deadly weakening that ultimately resulted in its collapse and disappearance.

Metaphorically speaking, how much "rot" can exist within our theological beliefs before the whole tree comes crashing down? Which doctrines/teachings are simply a matter of differing opinions, and which ones either give life or produce rot?

Just wondering.