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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

performance

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts..."

~ William Shakespeare

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

unofficial oral tradition


recently we were talking about the defaults that exist, separating people from each other by reducing others to some rather stark stereotypes.






it began with a 'finish the sentence' question:

"all church people are..."

well, those who spoke, spoke the same word in unison while those who didn't speak up probably heard the same damned thing spoken by their inner voice.

"hypocrites."

yep, it's an easy default. we all know the stories because they have become part of our unofficial oral tradition. still, the negative defaults and social relegations don't end there. we have many conclusions that we conveniently draw about groups of people- i say conveniently because when we paint fine details with rather large brushes we tend to lose track of individuals and how difficult it is to actually find individuals in large number who match the stereotypical views of their 'group.' i mean, there is one here and one there, but overall i believe that it is much easier to find many non-examples of a presumption than it is to identify sharp, clearly cut examples of one.

anyway, i've been down this road before, so no need to drag it out.

here's the funny part...

we continued the word-association game further, ping-ponging prompts and responses, exploring just how deeply these defaults were engrained in our psyche...

P "all people who drink are ..."
R "alcoholics"

P "all people who smoke are ..."
R "nicotine addicts"

P "all people who curse are ..."

pause

pause

R "going to hell?"

couldn't have planned that one better- cursing the cursing and all that.

from there it is easy to loop back by simply saying:

P "and all believers or pastors who drink, smoke or swear are ..."
R "judgemental hypocrites"

of course. it's really sad how easy it is to reduce human beings to a series of identifiable negative characteristics and behaviours, thus completely de-personalizing and de-humanizing them. there's a pompous safety in the distance we create between ourselves and others. this is made possible by both our awareness of right and wrong and our inability to be consistent in our commitment to only doing the 'right' of it.

like the apostle paul said in romans 7, we can't seem to do what we really intend to do and we can't seem to stop doing what we intend to NOT do. it's classic. so when we say that we hate graceless, condemnatory judgement, it probably follows that this is one of the easiest things in life for us to fall into.

eventually we need to come around to God's defaults found in scripture...

All have turned away, they have together become worthless…”
(Romans 3.12)

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
(Romans 3.28)

We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”
(Isaiah 53.6a)

and the hope of redemption…

“…and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
(Isaiah 53.6b)

The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”
(Romans 6.10)

thank God that his defaults are based on tough grace and love,
not easy condemnation.
***

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace
It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

(bono)

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Colossians: The Better Way + Credence to history

This letter made me question my assumptions about Ephesians, since the letters are quite similar in make-up. I think Ephesians may not so much be additions by the church at Ephesus (still unsure) but maybe 2 letters in one? That being said here is my take on Colossians.

Chapter 1 (Introduction + Paul’s Gospel)

Paul begins the letter with an introduction from himself and Timothy (same as Philippians letter). Paul is thankful for the faith they have received (the gospel) and at the strength at which it is growing amongst them. Paul mentions he has heard of their faith from Epaphras (could be Epaphroditus from Philippians). Paul breaks into a few things common in these last 4 letters I have read: Pray that they be filled with knowledge/wisdom so that they can walk in a manner worthy of their faith, steadfastness in the faith, and thanking God for this acceptance.

Paul goes into the gospel he preaches (which he knows and speaks) from vs. 13-23. Delivered from darkness to the kingdom of His Son, redemption & forgiveness of sins, image of God, first-born of all creation, beginning and ending, head of the church, peace via the ‘blood of the cross’, and reconciliation. Paul rejoices in his suffering for preaching this gospel since it is for the benefit of others. This is the mystery Paul always refers to in his letters, Christ amongst all people (s).

Chapter 2 (Shooting down the Falsities)

Paul mentions he has not personally seen this group or the Laodiceans but writes this letter to re-assure them of their faith, so no person may deceive them. Re-assures them that as they have learned of the Christ so follow those teachings, as it seems they have been glad to do to this point.

Paul then breaks down some things that have been happening with this group. Apparently a type of teaching has come to them (philosophy of men) which is contrary to the gospel. This philosophy seemed to have taught Jesus was not God or stripped Him of some authority that Paul attributes to the Christ. Paul then re-iterates the gospel (v.11-15): dead in transgressions, Christ rectified that situation via forgiveness by the act of the cross, and then disarmed all rule and triumphed over them. Paul uses terms like circumcision, baptism, and resurrection – his gospel seems to be taking aim at the mixing of Jewish acts again into the gospel of grace.

In verses 16-23 Paul deals with specifics. Paul mentions people should not judge them according to food, drink, festival days, new moon, or a Sabbath…these are shadows of the time to come, Christ is what matters. Paul then mentions some wrong teachings – self-abasement (severe treatment of the body) and giving a high place to angels – this forgetting the head of the body, which is Christ. Paul mentions they have ‘died with Christ’ to the principles of this world, so why subject yourself to ‘do not’ rules…although appearing holy they are not (they are man-made).

Chapter 3 (A Better Focus)

The focus of the faith should be on the things above, not on earth. Christ has ascended to the right hand of God (he won) and you also have won. Because of this reasoning Paul breaks into the ‘new self’ ideology – put these things behind you and put on these things. Paul re-assures them they are of the faith and there is no differentiation (likely revealing the groups that have troubled them with new philosophies – none of them are above you but are subject to Christ).

In verse 16 Paul mentions ‘the word of Christ’ as a source of teaching/wisdom, possibly telling the people about gospels or written things by the disciples (even Luke); Paul even mentions Psalms and hymns they sing. One has to wonder if something is written by this time by the disciples and is being circulated to these regions (even in person). It even seems to me Paul has a grasp on some of the teachings from the gospel (3:25 and 4:6).

Verses 18 – 4:1 talk about the roles of wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters – very similar to the passage in Ephesians chapter 5 and 6 (making me re-consider my thoughts about Paul not writing that one). Possibly confirming Ephesians had very few additions within it and this is verifiably a letter of Paul’s (maybe even 2 of them).

Chapter 4 (The Wrap-up)

Paul asks for their prayers so he can keep on speaking the gospel, even though he is in prison (by which I reckon this ‘Christianity’ is not liked by Roman society). Paul then mentions the people should be like him, have good conduct with ‘outsiders’ and be prepared to speak this gospel also.

Paul is sending two people to Colossae, Tychicus and Onesimus (a fellow Colossian himself), so he can get word of his dealings to them. Aristarchus (a prisoner also), Justus (also called Jesus), and Barnabas’ cousin Mark (same Mark who wrote a gospel) send greetings. These names are all recorded in Acts (except Justus) which might mean Luke has recorded all these things as they happened (or are happening). They are all mentioned as workers of the circumcision but they are fellow companions of this faith. Epaphras (also a Colossian or ‘one of them’), Luke (the physician), and Demas all say ‘hi’. Greet all the Laodiceans (and Nympha – a girl with a church in her home) on behalf of Paul and companions. Paul then asks for the letter in Laodicea to be circulated to Colassae and vice versa with this letter. Archippus is urged not to forget his calling (no one knows what that is). Paul then verifies this is his letter.

**I found this letter really enthralling. Not only are many of the names from Luke’s Acts mentioned in it, but even Luke seems to be traveling with Paul (or his companions). This letter (if true and not doctored) shows that Luke was credible as a witness to Paul and the gospel ideas could very well have been known to Paul (via Mark and others of the circumcision traveling with him). That also means the gospels were already in existence in some form (I have no proof but it seems Paul refers to this in 3:16). Just some thoughts and this from reading the letters of Paul.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

thanksgiving

"Always give thanks to God for everything."

~ Ephesians 5:20 (NCV)



i read this scripture the other day...it's never by mistake when something comes to me...there's always a purpose and it's really humbling at times. you know, even as i sit here typing, i look at that verse and it reveals a multitude of things which have transformed into a huge mountainous heap.

i look at the posts i've written the last little while and it brings home how much this 'heap' has clouded things for me. lately, i've been so consumed by the negative that i haven't been able to give thanks to God for much of anything and in the process have allowed portions of our relationship to disappear. the truly humbling thing for me, is He's stayed by my side through it all, even though life appears to be a comedy of errors. i know He's there when i cry out to Him, catches my tears and cries with me, rejoices alongside in the joyful times, because that's what His love is...graceful, everlasting and infinite.

"to give thanks for everything"...yeah, for me that's still a work in progress, but as i enter the week, it will continue to be something i work towards. eventually to find the good in all situations, even when they seem very bleak and uncertain...that in itself, will be a light to help traverse through those situations. strength and peace are gained from the ability to remain positive and thankful even in the 'heaps'...that's why He wants our thanksgiving in ALL circumstances, not just when it's happy or easy.

Something to be thankful for is that you're here to be thankful...

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

happy happy joy joy
























here's the key to my undoing: i want everybody to be happy and that just isn't going to be a reality on the space/time side of eternity.

it's a tragedy that life is this misshapen experiencial and sensory prelude to glory, rather than the dramatic celebration of God's love that he dreamt of in the eternal now, prompting him to say 'let there be light!'

"planet earth is blue and there's nothing i can do" (bowie)

(special bonus points to anyone who can name the instrument pictured here that has, built into its very design, a happy face...)

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ozzy

"Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time."

~ Oswald Chambers~

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

perspectives and defaults

i've been thinking a lot about this lately. what my perspective is, why i have it and what's fueling it. it's seems lately my perspective's been pretty dark and the negative defaults many. i don't tend to share it with many...i don't want to bring them down, find it easier to live a lie of everything being perfectly okay, then to open myself up to the pain of admitting it's not.

this weekend i've been prompted with some pretty heavy questions on my heart...they all lead back to one...why won't you trust me with it all and allow me to take care of you?

wish i had an answer. wish i could promise change. but i can't answer and won't make promises i can't keep. the only thing i can say is i'm trying...may not always appear or feel that way, but i am.

but is that truly enough?

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

crisis control

IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU, JESUS
AND ALL THIS IS FOR YOU
FOR YOUR GLORY AND YOUR NAME
IT'S NOT ABOUT ME
AS IF YOU SHOULD DO THINGS MY WAY
YOU ALONE ARE GOD
AND I SURRENDER TO YOUR WAYS

(Paul Oakley)



These lyrics have been floating through my head for the latter part of this week. A friend used them to talk about the fact we are usually pretty quick to give our joys and praise up to God, but that we aren't nearly as quick to give up our pain and the not-so-great stuff. That's really been a lot to think on...maybe for you the answer's that simple, to give everything into His hands...the good and the bad. I guess it depends on what you have going on, 'cause sometimes for me, it seems like I have to give some things to Him repeatedly and then again, 'cause they're right back there.

As I've read through blogs the past couple of weeks, the general theme has been to rejoice in all things, live life through Christ's eyes, not our own and not to blame God for what's going on in the bad times. I can safely say at this point, I don't blame God for the things going on, but to be able to rejoice in all things...that's not so easy. I've learned this Fall that you can say you will do things in certain circumstances, especially when you've never been through them. I've done it...but then when you are faced with really tough circumstances and uncertainties...the general consensusus for me has been to 'screw' the game plan and just take things as they come, 'cause no matter how hard you try to prepare for things, you never will be prepared for the way a 'crisis' works.

So as I look at the lyrics my friend talked about, they begin to make more sense. If you have to give something over to God repeatedly, then do it...there's really no rules when it comes to that. Every situation is different and every person is different. I don't like not having control of 'crisis' in my life, and especially have trouble letting people see how things truly are sometimes...I've never attested to not having a huge pride problem with certain things...so to give it up to God is so much harder than holding it tight and bottling it.

But this morning as I sit here thinking about Christ's life and our charge to live life completely through His eyes and not our own, I'm looking at it differently. He's not calling us to only live the good parts of life through His eyes, but every aspect of it. He not only showed great compassion and love, understanding and grace...He showed the pain and hardship He went through and expects that we'll do the same.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Philippians: Rejoice, again I say rejoice (the chief theme)

Paul’s letter to Philippi follows his standard letters with an introduction, message, and a conclusion. The letter actually starts and ends with the same premises as it begins (circular).

Chapter 1 (summed up in Chapter 4)

Paul’s letter to the Philippians (even the leaders) starts with an introduction from himself and Timothy. Paul is very thankful for the acts of the Philippians on his behalf, referring to their funding of him & his furtherance of the gospel (even while in prison at the time). Paul prays for the people of Philippi that love would grow in all knowledge/discernment via faith in the Christ (a theme constant in his letters).

Paul’s imprisonment seems to be ‘paying off’ since the progress of the gospel has even reached a famous Roman household, some have gained courage since Paul started this journey (and by his example) and more freedom in speaking. Paul however is not sure whether he will live or die for his speaking, but seems to think he will live through this excursion and return to see Philippi again (if that happened I am unsure but it does prove he is alive during this letter). Paul also notices the gospel is being preached by those of pure motives & selfish motives – doesn’t bother him as long as it is spoken about. At the end of the chapter Paul sets out his intention – the oneness of the gospel and opponents to that gospel…which may lead to suffering (from personal experience).

Chapter 2

From verses 1-11 Paul mentions being of the same mind (one purpose) and that being built in love (continue in this). However do not continue in selfishness (treat others like yourself) but in humility like Christ, who set an example to follow (somehow being familiar with the concept of Jesus as contained in the gospels). Paul’s Jesus was the form of God, humbled himself and took on human form, humbled unto death on a cross, and God gave him a name above all (which was pleasing to God the Father). I would’ve almost considered this an addition but it lines up with Paul’s suffering idea from chapter 1.

From verses 12-18 Paul goes into ‘working out’ your salvation (since God has authored it). Be above the reproach of the society around you (do not grumble or dispute) and be lights to it and hold fast the ‘word of life’ (likely the gospel Paul preached to them). Verses 19-30 Paul mentions Timothy is being sent to report and get an update (since other people he could send might be selfish), and Paul again thinking he will come later. Paul already sent Epaphroditus once (messenger on their behalf and likely delivered monies from them to Paul), who almost died from a sickness but desires to come back to Philippi (so Paul is sending him again).

Chapter 3

Paul delivers his sermon on the Law & his gospel of faith (as a safeguard). Philippi is of the ‘true circumcision’ (faith in Christ) and warns of those who preach otherwise. Paul mentions his credibility in this issue (a testimony about his history & the Law) and these things amount to nothing, even ‘rubbish’…and how faith trumps the works of the Law. Paul also acknowledges the resurrection of Christ and the hope of achieving such.

Paul mentions he has not obtained perfection (speaking of resurrection) but he continues on to reach that goal…he then encourages this community to have the same mind (and standard). Reason being…many have left this gospel and now follow as enemies of it (either of the Law or of the society around them).

Chapter 4

Paul then urges two women to live in peace (also Clement) since they all helped in the affairs of Paul (his struggles). Paul teaches about ‘gentleness’, being anxious for nothing but pray, and the peace of God will guard/secure you (maybe fears of persecution). Paul then mentions to think on certain ideals and also to continue to follow his example. Paul thanks the Philippians for the concern for him (while traveling) when no other church would help in this endeavor. Paul is especially thankful for all the help and knows God will help supply all their needs. It ends with ‘forever and ever amen’ + a 2nd ending by Paul (where Ephesians split their letter it would seem).

In the end the main thing that stands out is the word ‘rejoice’ (mentioned in 1:18, 2:17-18, 3:1, 4:4, and 4:10). This community stands out as a main contributor for Paul in his travels and he has reason to be very thankful on their behalf, but they also have reason to be thankful (for helping him spread the gospel). They have more reason to rejoice since they are being upbraided as an ideal Pauline community (for their faith in Christ and sincere belief proven by giving). Finally, rejoice since this gospel of faith (even though it will be persecuted – mentions word has got to Rome) is also the hope of resurrection (assuaging all fears).

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

staples

"The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell."

~ C.S. Lewis

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Ephesians: Statements of the Faith?

I just finished reading Ephesians and I am taking something I mentioned to Heinini seriously, reading the works of Paul and what they say. After reading Ephesians I question if these are (a) either 2 letters one ending at chapter 3 (see vs.21) and (b) if this document was altered and added into by another writer who used Paul's name for credibility. Of neither thing I can be sure but they are interesting nonetheless.

In the chapter 1 -3 Paul seems to be reminding the people in Ephesus that this was God's plan to include the Gentiles into the grand scheme of things, a plan predestined by God, fulfilled by the Messiah, sealed by the Spirit, and prays they will be have this revealed to them also (so Gentiles should have no worries about their inclusion). Reminds them of the fact they are saved by God's grace alone (not their personal works but an act of Christ).

Paul then goes into a spiel about circumcision (or references the Law). Through the act of Christ there is fulfilled unity amongst the whole endeavor of the Law and all are one now. What does that even mean? Well, these Christians are considered as children of God and no longer aliens/strangers (a term used in the Torah about Gentiles). This was established by the foundation of the apostles (who taught Jesus as Messiah). This was the mystery/revelation that God revealed to Paul and was fulfilled in Jesus. Then it ends with praise to God because of this revelation. It leads one to think the letter ended here but there is more.

Chapters 4-6 come off as statements of faith (in some senses) or teachings and deviate from the original point of the letter.

Chapter 4 vs. 1-6 read like a statement of 'what we believe'. This then breaks into offices within the church and how they edify the very body of Christ. Then there is a variety of teachings strewn together about how the Christian should behave (no impurity/greed, don't lie, anger is okay, do not steal, language needs to considered, don't grieve the Spirit, anger/slander to be avoided, and live a life of forgiveness).

Chapter 5 (1-14) is more of the same about what to do and not to do (take up the cross mentality, do not be immoral and greedy (again), language to be considered (again), do not be decieved by empty words, be fruit of the light (a mixing of symbols), and expose the deeds of darkness -followed by some quote I am not sure where it comes from). Verses 15-20 are more do's & dont's (do not get drunk but make songs and give thanks). Then we get a title (I think) in verse 21 which outlines vs. 22-33. This is the wives be subject to husbands, husbands love wives which is similar (even allegorical) to Christ and the body of Christ (the church).

Chapter 6 leaves off where the last chapter ended for verses 1-9: with instruction for children, fathers, slaves, and masters (as types of what is right to do - even referencing the Law on some of these points). Verses 10 through 18 live in infamy as the armor of God passage (so I won't reference them as we already know them). Then the letter ends with Paul asking for prayer to speak boldly and sending someone to Ephesus for an update, also the standard ending peace, love, faith from God to you.

I just find the drastic change from the beginning to the ending as quite diverse. Part 1 Paul is teaching about the grace/faith he has brought to Ephesus; Part 2 seems to be solely concerned with teachings to live by (or a doctrinal standard that just may have been upheld in Ephesus and added onto the letter - an addendum). It shows how the early faith became more structured and started to solidify it's teachings (even supported by the churches of the time - since this letter likely made the rounds to other churches). Which might answer the question as to why this might have an addition - so other churches could see what they believed in Ephesus as their standards. Nothing wrong with this (to me) but again I say it's openly questionable.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

the road to remembrance


on holiday two years ago, i ran through the streets of a small town in southern north dakota for my morning jog. i noted many shopfront windows bearing the faces of smiling, hopeful soldiers decked out in their ceremonial best. this was a country at war.

last summer, in sri lanka, i noticed similar posters affixed to trees. the style of photograph, the facial expressions etc were a bit different, but the hope and the future in the eyes was the same. yet, these were posters placed to commemorate the dead. this was a country at civil war.

yesterday, i attended a remembrance day observance at my son's high school. what impacted me there was the presence of a soldier who had just returned from an operation in afghanistan. although he seemed very calm, the story he related was one of open battle, and i couldn't help wondering what he thought of the little drama that followed his presentation as well-meaning young people enacted things they had only read about, seen in films or heard described in presentations such as these. was there a cynical judgement of the efforts of the tenth grade students, or is any effort to actively facilitate remembrance gratefully received on behalf of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice by those who remain behind to tell the stories? who can say? he left before i could ask him.

typically, i don't like to speak in superlatives, but the other day i attended what, for me, was the most powerful remembrance day observance in a school ever. my friend, holly, spoke of her pilgrimage of remembrance from 2005, her relationships with her grandfathers (both WWII vets) and the loss of her childhood friend this fall in afghanistan. i was moved many times to tears by the poignance of the message and by the sobering realization that we are a country at war.

and i look at my own sons- all youthful and full of hope, wanting to go play tennis at an indoor facility in town on their day off, before heading to mcdonald's for lunch (my older son is already older than the youngest canadian to die in active service of his country) and i wonder, with the psalmist, 'how long to sing this song?'

my friend holly agreed to let me post her presentation. for this and the present peace at home that it informs, i am grateful. please read of my friend's experiences and relationships and consider them thoughtfully.

God keep our land glorious and free-o canada, we stand on guard for thee
still trying to figure out what this means...
*NOTE: my apologies that there are not photographs to go with this post...

The Road to Remembrance
Presented by Holly Doidge

Introduction
The theme for Veterans' Week 2006 is Share the Story. Among the many stories, the theme highlights the 50th Anniversary of the First United Nations Peacekeeping Force. In this week, Canadians are encouraged to share personal stories of remembrance as a way to develop a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and achievements of those who served Canada.
What does it mean to remember? 2005 was the Year of the Veteran. To mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, Canadians spent the entire year honouring those who had served in the forces and those who serve in the forces today. What did the Year of the Veteran mean? Who are these people whom we honoured last year? And whom are we remembering this year? Smokey Smith, a Victoria Cross winner. Mark Leger, one of four young Canadians who died in Afghanistan in 2002. And Alfred Doidge and Ed Brady, my grandfathers. These are but some of the men whose efforts and sacrifices pave the road to remembrance. Each of these men has his own story. Good morning, veterans, students, staff, and community members: I, too, have my own stories of remembrance to tell.

I have been attending Remembrance Day ceremonies since I was a child. My grandfathers were both World War II veterans and were very involved in the Wynyard Legion. When I was in elementary school, I began drawing posters and writing poems for the Legion contest. I started to think about what it meant to remember, and what it meant to be a soldier. In my Grade Ten English class, I was instructed to write a poem or an essay about remembrance. I remember my teacher reading from the pamphlet for the contest and telling the class that if our essays or poems were REALLY good, we could win a trip to Ottawa. And I remember sitting at the back of the class, thinking, “GOOOD LUCK!” Well, I should just have listened to that teacher; she was right. That year for my essay and the year following for a poem I had written, I was the winner of the National Literary and Poster Contest. And yes, just as my teacher had said, I was invited to lay a wreath at the National Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa. My road to remembrance widened there; how could I, a 16 year old girl represent the YOUTH of Canada? I was one of those youth, struggling to understand the descriptions of the losses suffered in the war and to understand what truly it meant when my teachers and my parents and my grandparents told me to “remember”

When I was selected as Saskatchewan’s Representative for the 2005 Royal Canadian Legion’s Youth Leaders’ Pilgrimage of Remembrance, I was given the opportunity to travel down a new road to remembrance. The goal of the Pilgrimage is two-fold: to give the participants an opportunity to visit historic places only read or heard about and to help pilgrims make a personal connection to remembrance. The Pilgrimage itself: fourteen days, four countries, fifteen formal ceremonies of remembrance, and countless informal stops. Do the math: we were very busy!

I, nine other Provincial Command pilgrims, two Dominion Command representatives, several paying pilgrims, and a tour guide began this odyssey in Toronto on July 7, 2005. Doris and Allan MacDonald, World War II veterans from Nova Scotia, accompanied us. The insights and reminiscences Mr. MacDonald shared throughout the course of the tour made his the face of those who had given so much. Mr. MacDonald came on the trip, hoping that if he revisited the battlefields and the cemeteries, “the nightmares would finally end.” 60 years ago, he landed on the beach at Normandy on the first day of war. As he ran onto the beach, a shell blew up in front of him, wounding him in the head. Mr. MacDonald lay on that beach for more than a day. Hoping to stay alive, some of the men on the beach covered themselves with the bodies of dead soldiers for protection from the shellfire and snipers who attacked throughout the night and the following day. To this day, Mr. MacDonald has not only the shrapnel, but also the haunting memories inside his head. After hearing his stories, the pilgrims understood so clearly why 60 years later, he still has nightmares.

Everyday, we Canadians enjoy any number of freedoms and a quality of life that veterans, including Allan, purchased for us with pain and suffering, the fabric of those nightmares that so plagued Allan.

And now, Allan will have those nightmares no more. On Sunday, Allan MacDonald, 84 years old, died. Today, friends and family are gathering in Nova Scotia to pay tribute to this husband and veteran.

As a nation, we are richer for having had a man of Allan’s integrity and commitment wear our uniform and salute our flag. I am poorer for having lost a man who in two weeks, became as dear to me as my grandfathers. Allan shared his stories and his life with the pilgrims. I will miss this gentle soul who had dedicated his life to serving others.

The Pilgrimage was a rapid blur of activity; nothing could have prepared us for what we would experience. This year during Veterans’ Week the theme is Share the Stories. I am here today to do just that. Of the many experiences and events I had on my trip, a few capture truly the essence of the pilgrimage on our road to remembrance.

When we traveled to France, we began our tour in a small orchard around the village of Authie. In World War II, in this orchard, a young man named Lorne Brown became the first of 156 Canadians who would be murdered by the Germans over the first few weeks of the battle for that area. Our tour guide, John Goheen, took us to this orchard, and told us that this fellow, Private Brown, was wounded and a German soldier approached him just as Brown was getting up. After seeing the Canadian soldier, the German soldier ran at him, screaming. Brown staggered and fell backwards, and as he did, the German placed his boot on Brown and ran the Canadian through eight times with a bayonet. We pilgrims stood in front of the lone tree that remains in the orchard. We stared at that tree and at that spot and wondered how it can be that so many young men, both then and now, must buy peace and freedom for themselves or others by giving up their lives.

Around the same time that Private Brown was killed, many soldiers became prisoners of war. Of the many soldiers who became prisoners of war in the days and weeks following the D-day landings, some were housed in Abbaye d’Ardenne near Authie. Among those taken prisoner and transported to the abbey were soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, Lieutenant Tom Windsor among them. Tom Windsor’s tank troop had gone to Authie to assist, but his own tank was knocked out, and after becoming prisoners of war, Lieutenant Windsor and his crew were transported to the abbey. During intense interrogation by the Germans, Tom Windsor gave only his name, rank and number. The SS commander – General Kurt Meyer – was furious. Tom Windsor realized that the Germans were going to execute all the Canadians. In a final act of courage and leadership, the 31-year-old Montrealer shook hands with his young soldiers before he was led through a corridor into a garden to be shot in the back of the head by a German soldier. The rest of the Canadians met the same fate.

We pilgrims remembered the 1944 SS murder of Lieutenant Tom Windsor and his nineteen fellow prisoners in and near the area of this abbey. As we retraced the soldiers’ route, the stillness of the corridor and the serenity of the orchard paid silent homage to their sacrifice.

A tribute, images of young men who died long before they had a chance truly to live, can be found on the wall in the orchard. Among those men, the face of George McNaughton smiles out at those who stand before the wall. McNaughton, an acquaintance of World War II veteran Allan MacDonald, became the face of remembrance as we pilgrims stood and watched Allan take the photo of each individual face, determined never to forget those men who had accompanied his friend into eternity.

Last October, as the keynote speaker at the Legion Provincial Convention, I recounted my Pilgrimage experiences. I told the same story of the Abbaye Ardenne that I just told you. After the ceremony, a gentleman approached me and asked if I would be willing to meet his mother. When this woman and I met, she reached out and told me that she had been moved by my presentation and my thoughts about the Abbaye. She went on to say that her brother was one of the Canadian soldiers on that wall, a young man who had been murdered in that garden. Knowing that one of those soldiers who was murdered was a Saskatchewan boy, reminded me that war does not have one face. War is not particular; anyone will do.

DIEPPE
A visit to Dieppe was our last stop in the region. Nothing that I had ever read or viewed about Dieppe prepared me for the emotions I felt standing on that beach. The vast landscape surrounding the White and Red Beaches was overwhelming. It was at this beach that hundreds of Allied ships landed and soldiers ran onto the beach. Those soldiers ran and ran and they FELL, mowed down by bullets or hit by mortar shells. If you were a Canadian coming in from the sea, where do you think you could hide? If the soldiers were not one of the many who were killed on the beach that day, they scrambled, hoping to find shelter. Some soldiers tried to reach the seawall bordering the beach; however, they became prisoners after a few hours of useless resistance.

Stepping onto that stony beach, we pilgrims quietly surveyed what had been one of Canada’s bloodiest battlegrounds; the group watched and remembered as Manitoba’s Harry Hodges honoured his father who had landed on that same beach so many years ago. Unlike so many of the soldiers, Harry’s father survived. Harry’s father came home and began a new life, raised a family, and he died just a few years ago. Did Harry’s father ever truly begin a new life after what he saw on the beach that day? Harry didn’t think so; so haunted by the memories, his father never talked about his time at Dieppe. And so, anchored in those rocks over which those Canadian troops stumbled, our flag crackled in a chilling breeze, the sound an oral reminder of the gunfire which had contributed to the huge Canadian losses in that battle.

When we moved up the hill, we pilgrims stood atop the Headlands overlooking the beaches and were astounded at the vista the Germans had had on that battle day. Though wide open, this landscape had offered Canadian soldiers no escape. Small wonder that a Canadian battalion suffered its heaviest losses in a single day: the enemy’s unparalleled advantage and the rocks which had slowed the Canadians’ progress all contributed to this battalion’s sacrifice.

Menin Gate
The evening of July 16th found the pilgrims standing under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. This massive stone archway of remembrance bears the names of 54, 896 of the 100,000 British Empire soldiers, Canadians included, who died in the terrible battles in and around the city.
As I looked at the rows of names, I was unable to focus because there were just so many soldiers who had no known grave. All of the men named on the wall had never been returned to their families, had never had a proper burial. This reality had become not only a recurring theme, but also a haunting reminder of the costs of war.

Since 1927, the WWII years being the notable exception, here, each evening at 8:00 the citizens of Ypres remember. After the gate is closed, soldiers march along the thoroughfare, pipers sound the Last Post, participants observe two minutes of silence, and a citizen lays a wreath.
The pilgrims’ colour party took part in this daily ritual of remembrance. I, the youngest pilgrim, along with the oldest pilgrim laid a wreath during the ceremony. This experience became one of the most memorable and defining moments of my Pilgrimage. Each year in Canada, we stop for one hour of ONE day; I was amazed at the Belgians’ commitment to remembrance: every SINGLE day citizens feel compelled to honour those who served and died.

How do we remember?
Grandfathers

Now, let’s just stop for a second. How many of you have someone in your family who was a soldier? If you have someone in your family who was a soldier, please raise your hand. Now, out of those of you who have not raised your hand, how many of you know a soldier? Please raise your hand. And lastly, how many of you know a veteran? Raise your hand. Quietly look around the room – how many people do you see without their hands raised? Those of us who are standing are so incredibly fortunate, to have known or to know someone right now who is a veteran and who can share his or her stories.

You know, if I was doing this with you, I would have my hand raised too.

During a visit to a cemetery on the trip, several pilgrims took me aside and said, “Just think, you were just walking with a WWII veteran!” Despite my sincere affection for and admiration of Allan MacDonald, I was not overawed by walking with a veteran. You see, just a few minutes ago, I could have stood up to say I knew a veteran and still do. When I was a little girl, a veteran used to stand beside ME, and hold my hand to cross the street or help me up on the slide or help me tie my shoes. Some of my first steps were guided by a veteran’s hand. My grandpas were veterans, and they taught me how important it was to remember the soldiers. Both my grandpas served in World War II. Like Allan MacDonald, they left home, did their duty without expecting glory, and returned to guide the steps of those for whom they had been fighting.
When I was a young adult, my paternal grandfather, a proud Air Force member, had so many stories to tell; however, I was just a teenage girl with little time to sit and listen to a grandfather’s stories. Grandpa began to suffer from Alztheimer’s disease about six years ago.

He had taken all the stories to which I did not listen and had locked those precious memories and connections inside him forever. A few years ago, devastated by the realization that I had run out of time, I vowed not to lose the opportunity to connect with my maternal grandfather, a steadfast Legion member who has rarely shared his memories of the war. My grandfather has always treated the war as a part of his life about which I need to know very little. Grandpa, trying to protect his youngest grandchild from the horrors of what he had experienced, maintains that many things are not necessary for me to hear. Since I came home from the Pilgrimage, my grandfather has begun slowly to share fragments of his history with me; he senses my passion to know his story and to remember.

Three months ago, I said a final goodbye to Alfred Doidge, one of the men who had guided my remembrance all these years. You know, I had seen my grandpa in his Legion uniform many times in my life. But on the day we said goodbye, I looked at my peaceful grandpa, dressed in the Legion uniform he had cherished for 61 years of membership, and I couldn’t have been more proud that he was my grandpa and that he had shared some stories with me. And next spring, just like the cemeteries I saw in Europe, someone will make sure that a Canadian flag is tucked into his final resting spot, in honour of everything he gave and everything he was to his country.
On our trip, we spent time visiting cemeteries where many Canadian soldiers are buried.

Throughout our tour of England, France, Belgium and Holland, we visited seventeen cemeteries. There are diligent caretakers at every cemetery who take care of the graves of the soldiers who died bringing freedom to their homelands. In each cemetery, both a cross of sacrifice and the Stone of Remembrance, bearing the words “Their Name Liveth for Evermore,” urges people to stop and remember all of the men and women who have died. Each headstone gives the following information: the soldier’s service badge or national emblem, his name, rank and number, and an inscription chosen by relatives of the deceased.

And sadly, the inscription, “A Soldier of the Great War – Known unto God” is the only testament to the sacrifice of so many. No name is written on the headstone because that soldier was never identified. We were so sad by the idea that some soldier’s family may never know what happened to the soldier or know where the soldier was buried. And so, we made sure that a Canadian flag was tucked into the ground in front of each of the headstones.

Future Stories
Now, because of the Pilgrimage, I have the incredible opportunity to come and share my stories, stories I have learned about legends and heroes that I can pass on just like my grandfathers and other veterans have done.

As I have presented to students and people across Saskatchewan in the last year and a half, I have told the story of Private John Condon, the youngest man to be killed in World War I. He was a tender fourteen-year-old: a child really, about the same age as the Grade Nine students whom I teach. I often wonder if my young students realize that throughout history and still today, even the very young have borne arms in the name of freedom. Beside John Condon’s grave lies another soldier, a man who died at the age of 47. Such a stark contrast in age can be found in any conflict. War is blind to age and race. War does not discriminate.

Every Remembrance Day, I will tell the story of the Chenier brothers. I heard their story during our visit to the cemetery at Cabaret Rouge near Vimy. Wilfred and Oliver Chenier, two Royal Canadian Regiment soldiers, were the only children in their family. The brothers, whose regimental numbers followed one after the other, signed up side-by-side, served side-by-side, died side-by-side at Vimy Ridge, and now rest side-by-side at Cabaret Rouge.

I will remember that the story of the Unknown Soldier, an unidentified soldier killed at Vimy Ridge; a soldier whose family did not ever have the opportunity to know what had become of their father, brother or son. This patriot’s remains had lain at Cabaret Rouge until the soldier was returned to Canada in May 2000. The Unknown Soldier’s remains now lie in a tomb at the War Memorial in Ottawa. This memorial recognizes the more than 116, 000 Canadian men and women who died for their country, especially those 28,000 soldiers who have no known grave. Think about that number: 28, 000. This same number represents approximately the number of people who live in Moose Jaw this year. Imagine the entire population of Moose Jaw leaving and never coming home, never having a grave, their families never truly knowing what happened to them.

Take a minute and look around. Look at the person beside you. Look at the person in front of you. Look at the person behind you. Study that face.

We have no way of knowing what that person may do ten years or twenty years from now. Someday you may be telling a story about that person.

My last story is one I never thought I would tell. When I was a teenager, I met a boy named David Braun. He was a friend of some of my friends, and I got used to seeing him around. Dave was one of those people whom you just wanted to be around. According to his family, David had dreamed of being in the military since he was 12 years old. By the time I met Dave, he had already made up his mind about what he wanted to be “when he grew up.”

Dave joined the military four years ago and was stationed with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at the Canadian Forces Base at Shilo, Manitoba. On two occasions, when David was home for leave from the military, he went to the school in his hometown and spoke to students about his job. The students were completely captivated by Dave’s stories. According to Dave’s mother, the military was not only Dave’s job, but also his passion. From what everyone has said, Dave loved what he was doing and he believed his job was important. He spent time in Bosnia on a peacekeeping mission and in August, he set off to be part of the mission in Afghanistan. David’s best friend asked him he could get out of serving in Afghanistan, and David replied that “he didn’t re-sign his enlistment contract to sit around Shilo.”

Dave had been in Afghanistan for approximately three weeks when a friend of mine called me. She told me the news that would soon be heard on reports across Canada: Corporal David Braun was travelling in a Light Armoured Vehicle as part of a Canadian re-supply convoy travelling in Kandahar City. And that a suicide bomber had attacked the Canadians and exploded his vehicle near the convoy.

In that moment, that suicide bomber altered forever the lives of so many people with one action. David was 27 years old and he died that day on a dusty road in Afghanistan. He was the 27th soldier to die since Canada deployed ground forces to Afghanistan in early 2002. Since David died, 15 more fallen Canadians have followed him home.

After David’s death, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement saying "Our country honours this brave soldier, who exemplifies the best that Canada has to offer. While deeply saddened by his loss, I hope his family may find some comfort in knowing that Canadians share their sorrow." This morning, as you watched the video tribute of Canadian soldiers at the beginning of the service, you would have seen comrades carrying Dave’s body in one of those caskets, draped in a flag. You would seen the yellow roses that David’s mother, sister, and two brothers had laid on the casket that was bringing home their son and brother. As you listened to O Canada, you would have seen some of the men that exemplify the best that Canada has to offer and you would have heard the anthem that will forever pay tribute to their sacrifice.
After David’s death, David’s mom Patti said that David’s family knew that David had died doing a job that he loved and doing something he believed in. She said, “We are very proud of his bravery and ask that you support our troops."

When I was younger, I always thought that veterans were people that were my grandfathers’ age. I didn’t think that veterans would be people who were my age. And I really never thought that in my lifetime, I would have to say that I knew someone who died fighting for peace in the world. I never wanted to have so personal a connection of remembrance. When Dave died, I felt as though the greatest injustice had taken place. Dave was too young, and war had stolen him from his family. War had taken away a young person who had had so much for which to live, just as so many years ago during World War II, young men who were friends of my grandpas had never come home.

When Dave died, it was the beginning of the school year, a time when I am used to new beginnings and exciting opportunities. This year, instead of pursuing new opportunities, I found myself standing at the front of a block-long honour guard, saluting Dave’s casket as it was driven to where Dave would rest from now on under a tree in a quiet small-town cemetery. In the days following, I remembered what everyone had always said about how much Dave loved being a soldier. And I started to become very proud to be able to say that I had known him.

Have you ever stood up for something in which you believed? Have you ever done something because you knew it was right, even if other people didn’t believe that and you were standing alone without much support? Well that’s the kind of person that Dave Braun was. Dave thought it was important that people stand up for other people who don’t live in countries as free as Canada. Dave thought it was important that every person in the world live in a peaceful place and without war. Just as some of you would stand up for someone if he or she needed help, Dave was a soldier so that he could stand up for someone. At Dave’s funeral, the father of Dave’s best friend paraphrased the English philosopher Edmund Burke who said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Mr. Braman said that "David Braun was a good kid who grew up to be a good man -- who refused to be silent..."

This refusal to be silent in the face of injustice was a characteristic shared by those men who faced the enemy on foreign soil and whose final resting spot is a quiet European graveyard. The Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor stated that “Canadians will not forget the dedication and courage Cpl Braun demonstrated in our name. We are humbled by his willingness to serve Canada in this theatre of operation." Will we? Will we Canadians continue to remember those who have fought for freedom?

Conclusion
John Goheen, a principal from B.C. who has led several tours through the battlefields was our tour guide on the Pilgrimage. Prior to our departure, he suggested that the tour would be “educational and informative, but also emotionally charged.” Though I understood that the Pilgrimage would be a unique and life-changing experience, I underestimated the actual impact of the events, emotions, and relationships of those two weeks. Abroad for the first time, I experienced a whole range of emotions when singing “O Canada.” Unexpected, too, was the joy I felt each day, seeing townsfolk in each country waving at our coach.

The feelings, emotions, as well as the hundreds of memories and experiences of those two short weeks changed forever each pilgrim’s view of the importance of November 11. We pilgrims guard the torch of which John McCrae wrote so eloquently. Our renewed passion holds high that torch and pays homage to those Canadians who fought for liberty and justice in faraway lands. Those silent voices issue a daunting challenge and guide the pilgrims on their road to remembrance.

You students are our children and you are our future. Unfortunately, what I know definitely, is that no one can predict the future and so that is why it’s incredibly important to share our stories. I cannot truly understand the experiences of those who sacrificed so much. However, our leader, Pat Varga reminded us that, “If you forget about history, about what happened, then you’re doomed to repeat it. It’s up to each generation to teach the next generation about remembrance. Unfortunately, world events are doing their utmost to ensure that remembrance continues.” The morning I left the safety and security of my home in Regina, terrorist bombs were exploding in London, the city where the Pilgrimage would begin. Ironically, the morning we would leave to return to Canada, there were more terrorist bombs in London. Though we thought we were off to explore the past, the events of the morning of July 7th, reminded us that the threat of war continues to be around us.

War is not a historical anecdote. In the last four years, our country has lost forty-two young Canadians. So many years ago, Canadians lost forever these young men and women who would never come home. Do we remember them, the past and the present?

War is a thief – it steals the lives of both young and old. Too often, too many, receive little or no thanks for their contributions. Langston Hughes’ poem, “Peace” captures the sentiment of those who gave their lives without knowing whether their sacrifice had been in vain.

We passed their graves,
The dead men there,
Winners or losers,
Did not care.
In the dark
They could not see
Who had gained
The victory.

Each Christmas, Dutch children put a candle on the headstones in Holten Canadian Cemetery in the Netherlands; this tribute helps to dispel the darkness for those resting souls who left Canada to die on foreign soil so long ago. 60 years later, these elementary school children do not want those precious soldiers and their sacrifice to be in darkness.

Those students understand that they need to remember the past in order to protect their future. Indeed, we cannot predict the future. If I could have predicted the future, I would have told my grandfather one last time that his selflessness and his service to his country and his stories meant so much to me and that I would do my very best to pass them on to those people who did not have someone to tell them what war was like. If I could have predicted the future, I would have told Dave this summer that I was incredibly proud JUST to have known him. And more importantly, as a Legion member, as a friend, as a human being, I was humbled by him and SO incredibly proud of his courage to stand up for what he believes.

No, we can’t predict the future but we can AFFECT IT! YOU are OUR children. Our future depends on you. What I have learned is that there will always be a need for people to stand up for someone else. You will be the next generation of peacekeepers and people who want to keep Canada a safe place to live and a place where people believe in other people being free. You will be the generation that will need to continue to STAND UP in a very big way, for what is right.

Lest we forget.
There cannot be an end to the road to remembrance. The calendar and theme may have changed but the need for remembrance is the same. I believe that every new year is a new Year of the Veteran; another year where we continue to honour those whose lives have been forever changed by war; another year to feel so incredibly thankful for what we have because of soldiers’ sacrifices. Another year to share the stories.

Lest we forget.

Forget what?

That humans are vicious puppeteers
who send boys into bullets.

That sometime somewhere
there will be
someone
who needs a soldier to fight for them.

I will remember, like a bullet in my heart.
What do you want to hear?

That I stayed in that trench
a cold reaching further into my soul
than into my bones.

That I moved through a pooling ink
onto that beach
stepping over friends who stumbled and died.

That even if I had come home to you
the memories scarring my mind
would hold me far from your reach.

The headstone reads
'Sunshine fades, shadows fall, But sweet remembrance outlasts all'
Outlasts what?
A life.

You might remember if you knew.
This morning and tomorrow, I am dead.
I am lost
among a list of names,
ideas for men who disappeared into time.

What else is there to remember?

Only that somebody died once,
somebody who fought for
something.

Lest we forget.
(Poem written by Holly Doidge 2005)

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walk

behind...life's intricacies and controversies envelope the air
like a silent, venomous killer
constricting the joy and breath from life itself

in the distance peacefulness and joy permeate
like the essence of sweet smelling honey

where will i 'inadvertently' walk today....

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Galatians: A Lesson in Grace (and the Law)

I have just finished reading the letter of the Galatians (by Paul) and something in me clicked, something made a whole lick of sense that never did before…grace.

I have been reading the Old Testament (Torah) alongside the New Testament and the words of Paul (letters) made more sense then ever (also somewhat thanks to the Qu'ran). I started to understand the meaning of the law and the person of Christ, as to what has changed and how it has changed.

Paul opens the letter by stating that someone is 'twisting' the gospel (good news) he is preaching, a gospel taught by Paul that even the church 'pillars' like Peter, James, and John (apostles) all endorse. Paul reiterates his knowledge of the Law and how he was very high in the ranks of it (familiar) but turned it all away for this faith in Christ.

The gospel is being turned/twisted back to following the Law of Moses (Torah) and the circumcision ritual (from Abraham), as a seal of that promise. Paul states this is absolutely wrong and anyone teaching this is not teaching the gospel correctly but is nullifying the very act of God.

Paul's argument is that Jesus is the promised 'seed' (singular) of Abraham that was promised to bring 'all nations to God' (which Abraham was promised by God in Genesis and Christ mentions a lot in Matthew). The law was only given as a 'tutor' of right/wrong (sin) until this Christ (promised one) came and fulfilled the law. The law was also a curse to those who followed it since it could only condemn you – not free you. Jesus takes on the 'curse' of the law and 'hangs on a tree' in death (in the Torah this is a curse) - becoming a curse for the sake of humanity – thus ending the curse of the law in his sacrifice/death (atonement).

Well Christ made it possible to become free, even 'children of God' with that sacrifice. Jesus fulfills the Abrahamic promise and the promise is now that 'faith' (in Jesus) is the key to the kingdom now, nothing more. The law which taught you right's & wrong's can do nothing more than that – teach you – it cannot free you (thus it was done away with). Faith in God (same as Abraham) is the gospel taught by Paul (which is full of grace & acceptance). Everyone is accepted in Abraham's lineage (the promised line) – all you have to do is open your mind to the idea of faith in God.

Why is this important at all? The law kills and the spirit brings life. The OT and the Qu'ran are both books of Law and they are harsh (I dare you to read what you could be killed for doing). But the cause of Jesus was to free people from those binding agreements into a life of faith in Him (which in turn you will be led to right thinking). The law is not something 'freeing' (believe me I am reading them as we speak) but the teachings of Paul (or the gospel) are. We are free to have faith in God and enjoy the grace Christ provided for us – a way to become actual children of God (via Abraham's lineage). Nothing is being asked of us, only faith in Christ. It's so simple and I am not sure why I never got it earlier. So here is the rule of thumb: Law is not to be heaped upon grace but grace upon the law (as the next step in faith). Thus the attributes of mercy, love, forgiveness, and charity are to rule the day and if a church is not steeped in these ideals – well they have a law upon grace – which is not the gospel Paul spoke to the Galatians.

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nunVUs



well, northVUs is all about heavy, so here's a heavy one for us all.
jollybeggar saw this picture and just had to share it...

we asked what the heck are they watching?
thanks for your responses... in addition to those left in the comment box, there were basically two different types. on the one hand, people suggested very thematic shows with jokes about nuns and monks in them:

The Flying Nun (4 votes)
The Sound of Music (2 votes)
Sister Act
Bad ‘Habits’
Change of ‘Habit’
Nuns On The Run
Spank the ‘Monk’ees
The Monk –ees
2 Mules for Sarah
Oh Brother Where Art Thou
The Blues Brothers
Agnes of God
Stigmata
Dogma
The Exorcist
The Omen
Devil's Advocate

whereas on the other hand, people suggested some rather surreal ones:
The Matrix
Monty Python's Attila the Hun Show
Andy Warhol's 'Empire'
Harry Potter
Hee Haw
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Scarface
The Shining
Gene Simmons' School of Rock
Friday Night Smackdown
The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour
Rollerball
DaVinci Code (illegal downloaded version)
Z-boys of Dogtown
The Fifth Element
March of the Penguins
Braveheart
Father Ted

and my personal favourite:
Smokey and the Bandit
(to see if sister bertille has actually left the faith!)

i guess it all depends on how your brain works and what strikes you as funny. thanks for your help on this one... special thanks to mickey mouse for making an appearance.
-jb

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Monday, November 06, 2006

aesthetic hypocrisy


okay, i finally figured it out.

i think i now understand why people get so bent out of shape by bad music in churches. i mean, i am distracted by this as well, and i've never been able to figure out why it bothers me so much (apart from the obvious)... until now.

see, i know that the music is not supposed to be for us. it's supposed to be instrumental in uniting the collective songs of our hearts for an audience of One- i get it...

i was a worship pastor for a number of years and heard myself use the same words many times, but it has always troubled me that some days, in my efforts to crawl toward the throne of grace, i just can't get past the musical offerings of other people. then there's all this stuff in my head about needing to be more gracious because God is and all that. in rolls the guilt and off we go- yada yada yada.

but when are discussions on 'quality' and the like appropriate? i've heard myself (in entirely different conversations with different people) pontificate how 'anything that does not begin with the love of Christ does not end up with him' when referring to graceless pronouncements and such... kinda graceless in and of itself, isn't it?

i know that when it comes right down to it, i don't have a lot of love fueling those 'we've gotta make sure this NEVER happens again' followup sessions... they are fueled entirely by some drive to pursue some personal version of aesthetic quality in the musical worship we do together. to say that it is out of love for my God is to lie and to suggest that it is out of love for the lost is to elevate music to dizzying heights in the overall redemption process. trying to pull off that kinda justification is more like playing dodgeball than anything else.

so what is it about aesthetics that makes it powerful enough to eclipse even love, unity and devotion?

lots of books have been written on this, mostly by musicians who grow frustrated with others' inability to communicate in the same languages that come so naturally to them. fair enough. i remember thinking, when bill hybels, the pastor of a massive chicago-area (barrington ill) megachurch said "5% of the world's population are artists and it is their job to feed the world" that these aesthetic chefs had better make sure they give people something good to eat.

i'm not saying that it is this way for everyone, but for many it probably has to do with a basic clash between their love for the subject of the music being played/performed/'shared' (you pick the verb) and their personal aesthetics which just aren't being satisfied by the expression. i mean, if a person does not have a strong spiritual aesthetic then the music is really a backdrop for the communion that that person intends to enter into in the group setting. however, if music plays a big part in who that person is- in fact is a defining quality of the person- then its role in worship goes beyond that of simple background ambience to an aesthetic bridge across the abyss that separates the physical and spiritual realms. for this kind of person, bad music or otherwise inaccessible manipulations of music, its elements and its various genres, no matter how well-intentioned, can still be that bridge, but it is now a bridge with a number of important planks missing, stretched across a vast chasm, suspended several thousand feet above a harsh and rocky riverbed. for this kind of person, it is much easier to remain in the spiritual realm than to begin the treacherous climb across... the crossing is just too much work.

a friend showed me the video that spoke to this: Like A Rolling Stone

this is a really disturbing clip of some pretty incredible musicians and dancers doing some absolutely horrendous things aesthetically to the words of bob dylan's like a rolling stone. now whether a person likes the music or not, it is obvious in this arrangement and choreographed performance that something from the original heart of the song has been lost and replaced with something reflecting the vision and perspective of someone else. for bob dylan fans it is, no doubt, an abomination.

however, as i viewed it, i found the way i was feeling comparable to the way that some God fans like me feel in worship services where music is performed, but performed in such a way that, in the interest of creativity or something, the identity and the original intent of the aesthetic expression is compromised.

i wonder if there is such a thing as aesthetic hypocrisy, and how prevalent it is in today's church. amidst all this aesthetic racket, complete with crashing cymbals and resounding gongs, there is the heart to which God inclines his ear. o that i could hear what he hears...

i wonder what my own uptight and aesthetically snobby heart sounds like when i'm clambering across that crude bridge?

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Free Speech Only Counts If..............



marcythewhore says: I see that free speech only counts if I agree with Ted Haggard and that kind of thought.

Ah, well. You deleted my posts, you invited me here......please remove my name from this blog. It was fun while it lasted................marcythewhore

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

give it up or suck it up


epiphany time... love that.

i was driving in my car yesterday, minding my own business when God challenged me with a simple question:

"what do you mean your own business?"

huh?

"whose business is it really?"

well, what i meant was...

"tell me about it..."

(yeah, God often cuts me off in mid-sentence because, having created me in the first place, he knows of my special ability to keep a sentence going on and on, accomplishing this feat using numerous sub-clauses -all separated by commas, dashes and/or brackets- leaping from topical tree to tree as they float down the mighty lingustic rivers of an almost pythonesque stream of coinsciousness... wouldn't you?)

and suddenly i realized something that i hadn't considered before.

there is a convention in many experiencial worship songs to actively give everything back to God in a musical wave offering of sorts... ascribing to God all glory and honour and actively trying to banish any sort of spiritual pride thing.

one such song goes like this:

it's all about you, Jesus
and all this is for you
for your glory and your fame
it's not about me
as if you should do things my way
you alone are God and i surrender to your ways...
(paul oakley)

so now i'm being poked because of one word that i haven't actually been singing for real...
the word is all

now, i'm fairly comfortable with giving music or service offerings or whatever to God. i recognize that there is no room for arrogance or smug spiritual pride in the things we do for God and humanity, and although i am still sometimes guilty, much to my personal chagrin, i work really hard at trying to clear all that selfishness out of the way whatever my role that day.

but...

i'm not so good at giving pain back to God... especially the pastoral kind. i'm kinda terrible at leaving that stuff at the cross. for some stupid reason, i just cherish it, and have a tough time letting go of it. it's kinda sick, bargain basement martyrdom.

anyway, God reminded me that this pain is part of the word all and this means that the attacks that come our way are really about him. the enemy hurts us to get at God. every betrayal, every disappointment, every abandonment or harsh criticism or whatever is actually aimed at God, not us... we are just the scapegoats. but when we whiteknuckle that pain. great or small, we are essentially actively participating in satan's folly... hurting God by allowing ourselves to be and to remain hurt when protection, freedom and peace are inviting us to cast off our burden.

so there's a decision to make: give it up or suck it up. unfortunately, we often suck it up, forgetting that in doing so we are robbing from Christ, causing him to hang on the cross for less than he literally bargained for. we are still trying to be somehow self-sufficient.

and to what end?

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

hafuts or kool aid?


i just received an email from a friend of mine reminding me of some rather troublesome recent church history, and carrying with it some good counsel for those of us who sometimes struggle with getting over ourselves enough to be able to discern between a simple, questioning heart and a person who questions our motives or our office or our decisions or our integrity or our leadership or pretty much anything else we feel insecure about at the time...
***

It is now November. Something about November in the back of my memory. 1978, November. Right, 909 people all drank poisoned kool-aid together because their religious leader, Pastor Jim Jones, told them it was God’s plan for their life.

Jones had so conditioned these people to follow him without question. Told them that what whatever he said was from God. That drinking poison was right in order to escape from everyone else, who was wrong.

One of the earmarks of an insulated and isolated group of people, a cult: No questions allowed! Questions are viewed as doubt or evil. A new documentary is out about the Jonestown massacre. You can check out the trailer below:

http://images.apple.com/movies/independent/jonestown/jonestown_h640w.mov

Thinking about Jonestown today, sure, it is November and my brain links historical moments. Can’t help it.

But, a few friends of mine have been asking me if I had seen a documentary on the weekend about a “new church” in Hamilton? Called the Dominion Christian Center? Never heard of it. Lived in Hamilton for a few years, sure, but never heard of the guy who was leading this new thing in Hamilton.

Checked out the information available on line regarding this new ‘church’ in Hamilton. The CTV report, even if only 10% is bang on, is quite disturbing:

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061027/wfive_pied_piper_061027/20061028?hub=WFive&pr=showAll

A few marks of a healthy group come to mind:
Humility
Accountability.
Freedom of thought.
Unafraid of doubt.
Transparency regarding finances.
Shared leadership decisions.
***
it occurs to me that, having attended to these 'hafuts', any further questions from the people are going to be either useful in clarifying and verifying or indicative of someone else's personal agenda.


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Madcow disease...er, mancow disease? and Amish Radio...

Someone said :"Hey I said the slap comment (in reference to how free the will can be) and now I see there is a diatribe about it...at least someone gives me the respect I deserve (which is none). First off, a man that has died has no will, nevermind a 'free' one. If the dead could 'will' himself to life he would, however he cannot think. But can we will him to life?"

Marcythewhore says: Before I begin haranguing, here is some stuff you can do to occupy your minds while you are contemplating the inexplicable:

http://www.mancow.com

I recommend the 'Crazy Preacher' to begin your journey through mancow radio.

Okay, now on to my harangue for the day: Hey, if you want to be Christian, be Christian. If you want to be Amish, then be Amish. I don't think you can be both.

For those of you who don't know the difference between Christians and Amish: Christians go to war for gasoline. The Amish don't know a Chevy from a Ford.

But whatever you go, it's time to stop being an anal retentive ultra-repressed depressive persona. If you don't like something, say so. If you get the crap slapped out of you because you said so, then you learned something (What? I don't know. I haven't met anyone yet who could slap the crap out of me). But the thing is that if someone else slaps the crap out of you, then at least it's different that you aren't slapping the crap out of yourself because you feel so repressed you can't express yourself (and this doesn't mean you should take a sniper rifle up into the tower).

As for the free will of the dead...........well, you have to spend some time with the dead to understand them. They are some very interesting, ah, former people. Actually, I find the dead a hell of a lot more interesting than the living anymore. Look. Take this from Bigbro who specializes in Big Brother things: The living are so vague on free will anymore that you might as well be talking Quantum Mechanics for as much as they understand.

Talk to the dead. You might learn something....................mtw




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