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Monday, January 31, 2005

accent

i fear that i will never be a worshiper in spirit and in truth
until i can live these praises without a human accent

gazing at fireworks we miss the stars

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

two-for-one coupon

does every life have in it some stock characters that we all recognize? it would be interesting to take some notes on this one.

i have been thinking about this a fair bit since reading a shortstorydude blog a couple of days ago. ( http://davesshortstories.blogspot.com/ ) the piece was called 'christian house' and dealt with racism and peer pressure and how they work their way through the crowd, beginning with young children.

in the blog, there was a kid that i recognized called 'the leader'. i knew that same kid in the same grade in a different town at a different time- right down to his height and the description of his clothing. weird.

what is even weirder for me is how our roles in each other's lives can be so different from relationship to relationship.

okay, so forget 'the leader' kid... whole new scenario: there was this one time when a friend of mine said to me 'i only pray that no one ever does to you what you have done to me.' now, at that moment i felt lousy enough... but years later when it all played back in reverse, i found myself keenly aware of a subtle curse that had been placed upon me.

you see, it's not that my friend from long ago was secretly willing pain to focus itself on me; the curse was in my awareness of the possibility of a replay and in the scanning for symmetry in my own relationships that resulted. you wanna double your money on an 'ouch'? just clue in when you are on the receiving end that this is probably what it felt like when you gave it to somebody else! it's a two-for-one coupon.

maybe in John 8.8 when Jesus wrote in the sand, he was writing a blog to this effect. all we know is that the stones fell rather than flew. Jesus saved them all that day: not only the girl who was to be just another victim of another mob, but also the would-be mob that recognized that the two-for-one coupon has no expiry date as long as the conscious mind has RAM.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

big night

so last night i went to see a 'battle of the bands' at the casino.

very interesting how these things work. i think that the winning band ("Chesterfield Rock") had already won before they even stepped onstage. the prize was a gig opening for another 'a bit bigger' band and a 'launch' by one of the local radio stations. it was probably a sure thing... foregone conclusion and all that.

don't get me wrong, the boys played a good show. it is the circumstances inwhich they played that i find fascinating. the guys in Chesterfield Rock are all sixteen or seventeen and probably 2/3 of the crowd was there for them and very vocal with its support. to make things sweeter, the first band was running session players, having suffered a falling out just before the preliminaries, and the leader of the third band was probably old enough to have fathered members of all three bands- you could tell he had been playing 'rock star' for awhile now. in truth, neither of the runners up really had much of a future- the Chesterfield Rockers would have had to do something dreadfully wrong to blow this one.

but you should have seen their supporters after the winners were announced. there we all were, trying to somehow outdo each other on who had been more influencial in their rise to stardom: "i gave them their first gig at an assembly!" "i told them they needed a bass player" and so on. remember the little people, right?

in reflection, i find myself thinking of Jesus. on the night of his betrayal, the crowd assembled was hardly a quiet and impartial jury of his peers. as tim rice paraphrasing john 19.11 wrote, "everything is fixed" (from 'Jesus Christ Superstar')- at least it sure felt that way. his fate was basically decided before he ever stepped into the courtroom, and he was crucified, surrounded on either side by people who didn't have a future. something dreadfully wrong would have had to have taken place in order for this one to miss- those who presumed to be in charge had covered the angles (except, of course, the resurrection one, but that's a whole nother blog!)

with all the similarities, however, the most heartbreakingly intriguing one, i guess, is Jesus' supporters- there were none. instead of claiming boldly to have been with him in the early days ("remember when i threw that big freedom party and everybody came and met him for the first time?" or "remember when we were at that wedding and I was the one noticed the wine was running low?") everyone who knew him fled, swearing oaths of denial.

amazing to me, with all this overthink, is how the passion of Christ can find its way into any context, so rich is it in truth and implication. i'm glad my friends' big night gave me cause to reflect upon Jesus' big night.

lives change forever on big nights.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

reality tv

i read something amazing this morning.

as i was snooping around, exploring other people's blogs, i came upon a blog that was reality blogging at its best. no artsy musings. no vacation pictures. no swearing or chatspeak... just a captivating story of a man and a woman and the other woman. it read like a sequel: 'song of solomon- healing the seven year itch'

as far as i could tell, the moral failure took place about a year ago. however, rather than throw away everything that this couple had agreed to marry about in the first place, they stuck it out amidst mistrust, humiliations, accusations and misplaced questions from others about emotional stability.

from the sound of things, it hasn't been a smooth ride, but at a time when the 'for better' is honoured and the 'for worse' is disregarded, these two are holding on for dear life. although there are other characters in the saga- many who will advise, many who will criticize, many who will close their eyes to the love that still remains- the central theme is one of ongoing restoration. nothing in this life is a done deal; everything is a process.

was it a tad voyeuristic to read this? well i suppose it would be if someone had smuggled cameras into the private lives of these people and then splashed those lives all over the net for the curious to download. but the story that is unfolding is a public one of pain and patience, conscience and commitment. the openness is part of the healing. the blog was started by the wife in the story, but recently the husband has also begun contributing his spin, offering the readers a beautiful two-sided dialogue and discourse much like we see in so many reality tv shows. the difference is that, whereas there is some painful honesty, there is no back-stabbing.

so here i am, thinking about how i process things. how i forgive. how i pursue or accept forgiveness. and i am remembering scriptures which speak of indiscretions shouted from rooftops in times where nothing is truly private. and i'm finding myself returning again and again to, in my opinion, one of the most romantic movies i've ever seen: 'eternal sunshine of the spotless mind' and asking whether anything is actually big enough to overcome a heart truly committed to that connection that begins the very first time you say 'i love you' in the dark.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

limbic system

upon this fictitious sport a predator is dwelling
behind my eyes it studies
every move
notes
every weakness
keeps score
with harsh adjudication
and then lies

in wait

of the heartbeat
when the time
for peace and patience
surrenders
to a moment of truth

and one of us dies


***

i awakened with the first line on my mind.
it is so much easier to dwell upon 'fictitious sports' (sorry nick- your phrase, i know) than to explore that which is really taking place. it takes no effort at all to defer all conscious judgement to one's limbic system and live a reactionary life. i think that it all comes down to prefering to default on one's responsibility to parse the verbs rather than to explore the intended meaning behind the action. there is a twisted comfort in prefering to treat life as a bar fight rather than an evening out with a friend.

but some days there is no escaping it. today i witnessed something on a playground: one seven year-old kid was pushing and shoving another and it got out of hand. however, what bothered me was not the two kids working out their primal dominance issues... what bothered me was the third kid, significantly younger and significantly smaller, who stood watching. as the two gladiators concluded their business and the stronger boy stepped away, the third kid gave the already humiliated boy an additional shove for good measure.

i don't know- it's probably just monday.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

somebody else's cheese

somebody told me a story once... i will try to get it right:

***

this dad gave his little girl some fake pearls- you know the kind... from 'ardene' or whatever. cost him five bucks and it made her feel like a lady- good deal.

she wore those pearls all through her childhood years and into her teens. they made her feel like a lady and they were a gift from her dad. they were very much part of who she was and she couldn't imagine ever going without them.

well, the time came for her to graduate from high-school, and she came down the stairs wearing her grad dress- looking very much like a lady except for one thing: those pearls around her neck. they had yellowed and worn much with age, some were even missing from the string.

the dad looked at his beautiful daughter and he said 'wow- my little girl has grown up... but don't you think it's time you let go of those little kid pearls?'

'daddy how can you even THINK that?' she said. and then, seeing that he was serious, she burst into tears. 'these are MINE! i've had them as long as i can remember! you gave them to me- they are part of me!' she sobbed.

'i know, sweetheart, but i just think it's time, you know? trust me, they don't go with your outfit.' and he held out his hand.

gingerly she reached back and fingered the twist-tie that held the string together, for the clasp had broken long ago. having removed the trinket from her neck, she held it out to her dad while the tears ran down her face. 'here, daddy- are you happy now?'

'yes, i am' he replied 'now close your eyes.'

and with this, the father gently placed a string of real pearls around his daughter's neck, closing the silver clasp.

'yeah, that's better' he said, 'i've always seen you this way, but now it's how you are, not simply what you would one day become.'

father and daughter laughed together and wiped each others' tears away as the doorbell rang.

***

yeah, i know- kinda cheesey. a friend sent me an email today which prompted me to pass this story on. weird thing is, God told me something through it that i really needed to hear. isn’t that just like God?

so now I don’t know who the story is for.

"when i was a child i talked like a child, thought like a child, i reasoned like a child. When i became a man, i put childish ways behind me"
1 corinthians 13.11

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

empty pockets

we are to be the new lucifers.

lucifer means 'light bearer.' he was God's top angel, entrusted with the awesome responsibility of taking the worship that was offered up by all of creation and passing it to the Creator himself.

but lucifer embezzled a bit. he took a tithe from all of the glory that was to pass through him and tucked it in his back pocket. alas, the lightbearer became just an 'angel of light'. lucifer became satan.

as if God wouldn't notice that some of his glory was missing. if you knowingly subtract even the smallest measure of truth from the nature of God, perfect and complete in every way, it logically follows that what you have left is a lie about him- not the whole truth of God, but a quirky derivation of it... a blasphemy.

and we are called to take on the task of being the new light bearers. bringing God's light into darkened corners and reflecting the glory of God's creation and love back to him, that the glory loop would be complete. to be empty-pocketed lucifers is the greatest honour God can offer us... it is the greatest calling in heaven or earth, and is only there for those who have accepted his grace and are ready to start sharing it.

the father looks down
when we worship, accepting from us
clumsy attempts at approximating
his majesty and glory and power
with song
and dance
and chosen words

the way i kneel down
when my little boy presents me with
a drawing of
myself
done
in his unsure hand
with the inscription

"i lov yuo dady"


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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

the time is always now

I'd been reading an article - well a sermon actually- written in 1750 by John Wesley. 1750!
He writes about Sicily in the year the 1692 and in the same year Jamaica and the devestation that occured in these places as a result of earthquakes. I could not help but see the parallels to the current situation in S.E. Asia. I thought it was remarkable that once again history was repeating itself. I've been bothered alot by this since. I'm kind of in that place between what my head knows and what my heart knows. Do you ever feel that? I get that something of this magnitude gets people's attention. Did the recent snow storm in Regina get our attention - sure; for a time I saw all kinds of people helping one another out. And then it all goes back to the way it was. No one looks another person in the eye. No one stops to offer help to the guy with the hood of his car up. No neighbour glances the way of the one whose driveway he snow blowed(sp?) just the week before.
Will the change effect of this tsunami diminish with time. Sadly yes. And so I see why history repeats itself. We need reminding. The time was not just at hand in 1692 or 1750. The time was not just at hand on Sept. 11, 2001. The time was not just at hand on Dec. 26, 2004. The time is always now to be reminded of God's justice and His mercy. To be reminded to love my neighbour regardless of the season. To be reminded that my neighbour doesn't just live next door to me. That this global village is smaller than we think. That my agenda is really unimportant in the bigger scheme and can easily change whether by my hand or the providence of God.

The sermon is entitled "The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes" (if you're interested follow the link) http://www.segen.com/wesley/sermon04.html .

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Monday, January 17, 2005

eye drops

we were talking about the difference between issues of doctrine and theology that are 'deep water' issues and those which are 'shallow water' ones.

it is amazing how few deep water issues there probably are in the christian faith, and yet how many shallow water ones seem to so expertly divide and conquer the body of Christ. the problem is probably a perspective one, but people are notoriously bad at being able to see the world through the eyes of another. the real trick is to see the world through the eyes of God as revealed in his Word.

but what does the bible say about this or that? does the bible's apparent silence on an issue mean that it is a shallow water issue- or does it fall in line with a number of other tightly related issues upon which the bible is not silent?

and where is the deepest water found? somebody asked Jesus this.

Jesus summarized the entire mosaic law in a few well-chosen words:
'love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind... and love your neighbour as yourself."

love. at the centre of it all. the one thing that God is all about. the one thing that we are to be all about. can shallow water issues spring from deep love?

i know what this says to me: i have some work to do- after that i can take a look at the details that are left.








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Thursday, January 13, 2005

polaroid


"I was twelve going on thirteen when I first saw a dead human being. It happened in 1960, a long time ago... although it doesn't seem that long to me." (Stephen King, 'The Body" 1982)


the baja is a strange place. the light bends funny and there is this heathaze that creates mirages out of nothing and distorts everything real, especially in the retelling. for a place surrounded by water on three sides, it is inescapably dry. there is so little moisture that rivers flow only directly following seasonal rains, the water carving its path of least resistance deeper into the lifeline of the penninsula. being that visitors to the region will only be inconvenienced for about one week a year, roadways are built down across the dry riverbeds in an effort to save money, materials and labour. the actual week, however, changes slightly from year to year, so nothing alarming is printed in autoclub travel journals.

it was january of 1979 and i was on the last family trip i would take as one of the kids in the van. i remember listening to a lot of queen and steve miller band through the single speaker of a little cassette tape recorder that my father and i had wired up to a huge 6 volt battery. my cassette recorder and i were safely stored in the overhead sleeping area for most of the trip, although i came down regularly for meals. the cassette recorder didn't need to eat.

one morning as we drove, however, my father noticed something a bit off. for hours now- since the last town, in fact- there had been no traffic coming from the opposite direction. as we were all speculating as to the cause of this, we came over a rise and were given the first of many unforgettable images that day. a line, two miles long, of cars, vans and rvs reached back from what appeared to be a river flowing directly across the highway.

we got out and walked down to the river's edge, but as we descended we felt the mood of the day darken. it was darkest at the spot where the road entered the stream. asking around, we had our gaze directed to an unexplained pair of western boots that stood on a signpost out in the middle of this mexican mississippi which had effectively pre-empted all of our plans to make it to the border by this evening. according to a spokesman for the crowd gathered in sullen silence, a man had gone out into the water to assess its depth, had taken off his boots and, straining to reach high enough, had placed them on the post. upon doing this, he had been swept away and, although valiantly doing battle with the current, had drowned in full view of the powerless onlookers. this had been about a half an hour ago, and since then the waters had risen to only inches below the top of the post upon which the boots sat safely baking in the hot mexican sun.

the two-mile walk back to the van was more or less silent. somehow, no one had anything to say.

that evening as the sun went down in what could only have been a painted backdrop, had i not seen it with my own eyes, we played backgammon and ate the last of our provisions before bunking out for the night. we did not go back down to the river- we knew what was there. i went to sleep thinking about the man with the boots.

as the sun was setting the eastern side of the sky on fire, horns started honking. just as quickly as it had risen the water had receded, racing feverishly to the sea where it would be safe from sun and soil. our van joined the slow moving queue as vehicles made their way, one by one, across the little brooke of straggling stream. although no one spoke, everyone was awake and everyone was wondering. wonder is what people do when they are out of their depth and know it.

they were there. the boots. the torrent had failed to touch them.

we became immediately aware of a fence that ran parallel to the highway, probably all the way back to the last town we had been through. it went down into the riverbed just as deliberately as the mexican highway did. it's strange how we can be blind to so many things until something draws our attention to them. so it was with this fence. had we seen it earlier, many of our questions of the previous day might have been answered, for it ran parallel to the road on the downcurrent side.

draped on this newly discovered fence, having been underwater just hours before, hung the figure of a man. this was not a scene of serenity- this was not resting in peace. this was mortality, bloated and green. as we drove down into the creek, with the burning eye of the sun now completely visible in the east and the signpost holding in memorium the boots once worn by the body on the fence now close enough to touch, i didn't think about anything. i just took it in as a moment that felt important somehow.

although i don't often, whenever i go back to that moment i wonder.


"The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head..."
(Stephen King, 'The Body' 1982)

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

ready or not

it's this cosmic game of hide and seek

the more freedom i am given,
the more creative i become in my hiding places
and the more relentless Christ becomes in pursuing me
if only i could remain at his side saying "here i am" again and again
while he finishes counting.

who am i to be coy with God?

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

scar

what is it about my heart
that makes me laugh when i long to cry
that makes me live when i need to die
that makes me walk when i long to fly
that makes me quit when i need to try...

a questioning faith isn't a questionable one-
it's one that seeks to qualify itself by clarifying its figure and ground.

so is this scar a reminder of past pain or past healing?

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Monday, January 10, 2005

you're bugging me, man!

so it's about 12:30 a.m. and i knock on the door of the hotel room in order to double check that everything is cool for my son to stay there with his friend. it has been a great night of watersliding and pizza that has come at the end of a great day of atomic house hockey. to my surprise, one of the other 10 year olds on the team answers the door and asks me for a donation to tsunami disaster relief. not having a clue what is about to happen and thinking that this is just a typical 10 year old playing a new spin on the secret password game, i tell him that i already gave to the cause...

'oh yeah, yeah, right!' the boy's dad is in my face in a very real way, far too late in the evening.

oh, this is serious. good thing i wasn't being glib... i had already responded a week earlier. turns out that the boy's father has offered to match any contribution that his son can elicit, and is upset that it hasn't cost him any money yet. it appears to him that, after only two weeks, the story of arguably the most dreadful of natural disasters is 'old news' and the collective heart of the west is once again shrinking.

what ensues is a conversation... more of a grilling actually... that matters. "who is this God person and how can he work out his issues with people en masse like this? what message is being sent that couldn't have been communicated without putting 150000 people to death? why didn't anybody tell me you are a pastor? how come we can exhaust ourselves holding a hockey tournament to raise money for our kids' team but we can't give funds towards relief efforts? why does it cost $200000 to build a house here when the same house can be built in the tsunami zone for $4000? why can't i turn cnn off every night? why don't you have cable? what is the difference between lutheran and methodist and why is there such thing as Ukrainian Christmas? if i come to your church, do i have to pay to get in? what do you mean 'story of God?' what do you mean 'faith?' where are these tears coming from? YOU'RE BUGGING ME, MAN- IF YOU CAN GET ME INTO YOUR CHURCH, I'LL BELIEVE!"

so many words. so many angels holding back so many demons in order for the questions of one heart to actually be set free. sometimes it takes a beer or two. sometimes it takes the implosion of a marriage. sometimes it takes the death of 150000 people half a world away to snap us into a place where we ask the big questions. whatever it takes, i don't believe that God specifically orchestrates the cause... that would be micro-managing. however, he does move through people in order to be present and actively involved in the effect.

we meet people. we ask what they do for a living as an ice-breaker. sometimes we remember, often we don't. i may or may not remember that my friend- the father of the philanthropist kid on my son's hockey team- is a carpenter. if i am thinking about building a house, however, and it comes up in a conversation that this guy is a carpenter, i get thinking 'woah, imagine that- right when i need one!'

so i'm a believer in Christ- a minister of the gospel, as all believers are- and it comes up at 12:30 in the morning, right when my friend needs to talk to one. do i have all the answers? hardly. but exploring the questions together- especially the ones without tidy answers- helps all of us grow.


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Friday, January 07, 2005

is anybody out there......?

ahh, i thought it appropriate to begin a blog that has Darryl involved, with song lyrics. do you agree? it's not that I have a lot to say today but thought I should post something to start with.