Sunday, June 28, 2009

Two Weeks In A Row

I'm most impressed with myself that I've been able/willing to sit down and excrete the happenings of my mind two weeks in a row. I think weekly is frequent enough because often whatever it is that I am thinking lasts a number of days so there wouldn't be much to write if I were to do so more often. Although I may not stick to this weekly thing for long, I think it's ideal.
The pressing issue on my mind this time around has to do with a pretty big change that's coming up. When I moved back to Calgary a year ago I had every intention of beginning my graduate studies and following through to completion in a relatively compacted timeline (relatively because it was always going to be a year longer than the technical length of the program) and while I still have every intention to finish my degree it may end up taking a little longer than originally anticipated. Of course things change, plans change over time. There have been a number of things that have been introduced into my life that I certainly did not anticipate and yet another one of those things will be taking place very soon.
Not all that long ago I was introduced (the way of introduction is not important at this time) to a woman that has quickly become very important to me and with whom I can see a pretty incredible future. That was something that I did not even imagine could, let alone would, happen within a year of returning to school to regroup. I have spent much time wondering, asking God what I did to merit such beautiful person inside and out in my life. But that old saying about looking a gift horse in the mouth may apply here (though she's nothing like a horse, hear me rightly). It's more a matter of simply being thankful for the progression that God has seen fit to give my life in the last year, which I did not think would ever come.
Another event that is soon coming will certainly change life for me as I exit the life of a church janitor into something a little more people oriented. I actually have no problem whatsoever with custodial services, I in fact enjoy being able to complete a list of tasks in a day, there's a certain satisfaction that comes along with it and I also think that it has been the perfect job for me in this last year as I have been able to disappear to do my work in the vast expanse of the church building and think upon all of the things I have struggled with for many years and to yell and scream and cry at God because of those things and to unintentionally hear Him out in the process. It's been pretty great in that respect. There are other things (mainly just one person and the disasterous wake he leaves behind him) that I have not really enjoyed.
Moving on from that, as I will be quickly, I'm very excited and grateful to be moving into a job that is something I feel will be very good for me in many ways. It's a bit more of a career move for me, which going from a pastor to a janitor may not have been quite as much. I'm very excited to be going in this particular direction. I will leave the actual job a secret for now, though there are a number of people who know, it's yet to be a complete process so I just want to be fair with it all. I will get to work with people again, building relationships to a certain degree and travelling a bunch as well. All things that I enjoy. And I look forward to the work environment as well, I think it will be quite a positive move.
Again, a year ago, these things were not even in the back of my mind, let alone the forefront. I thought I would be a single janitor working on his masters degree for the next three years and then life would begin to change afterwards. I guess some surprises are great to run with and some don't seem to be, but they probably still are good to run with, because what else are you going to do? Resistance is futile.
I suppose I could write more interesting things, but this is what's on my mind. I could be like someone I know who wrote about an experience she had whilst walking, seeing a woman twice who then disappeared, but that wouldn't really be news, women have oft disappeared after seeing me twice...oh burn on me. just kidding I know I'm one hot piece of man flesh.
Until we meet again.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's been a long time

Well, I'm sitting at the desk where I check my e-mail and goof off on facebook while I'm at work (I'd say it's my desk, but it's not, it's someone else's that I just use when they're not here) and I realized that I have not written a blog entry for a while. Now this wasn't a personal revelation so much as it was a reminder from a certain lady friend of mine that I haven't placed my thoughts in word form on this page for a while.
I think I'll write about something to do with church this time, I know I never do this so bear with me as I try...
As a result of a few significant conversations with different people in recent weeks I thought it would be good to get out some thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind for a while now so that I don't forget them and so they don't disappear. This past year has been quite a transition for me, out of a pastoral position where I thought I would be for at least another 5 years, out of being a super duper fat kid to just being a regular fat kid now, out of some pretty serious emotional and spiritual issues, into a masters degree (which has been going surprisingly well), into a relationship with a pretty incredible lady, and into some deep thoughts upon the state of christianity in my part of the world.

There's probably more to say about the transition of the last year, but I'll leave it at that for now, it's a lot of transition and a lot of unexpected experiences. I've had the opportunity to be a part a few different churches in my lifetime, two of which have employed me on varying levels. These two particular churches are essentially polar opposites in many ways and when I think about either one I get that "grass is always greener" feeling. One is a fairly substantial size and runs based on a business model and the other is slightly less substantial in size and operates in a smaller community where the "business" style of church just wouldn't fly. One has a book of policies and the other has pot lucks, one has strategic 1, 3 and 5 year Plans and the other plans ahead almost on month by month basis. They are clearly polar opposites in how they operate, it just causes me to think. It's interesting how different bodies can thrive in different environments. While my personal experience is thus far limited to a couple specific churches, it seems to me from books that I read, people I talk to and things that I hear that this could be said about pretty much all churches all over the place, they're different and they "cater" to a different type of crowd.
I've been finding myself asking a lot of questions about the way "we" operate as christians in churches. Some questions are as simple as "why?" and others are a little more complex as they seek to discover motive and purpose behind certain things. A friend of mind said the other day that the purpose for the general "sunday morning service" is simply to get people in the seats and stick an offering basket in front of them so they'll give. Harsh? maybe, but unfortunately it's all too often more true than not.
Perhaps one who might read the lengthy blogs of my recent history would find me to be a cynic, or bitter, I do not desire to be that or to come across that way, it's not bitterness that drives me it's a disconnect from what is and what perhaps should be. Clearly I'm not perfect in my assumptions or ideas, in fact I will venture to say that I'm dead wrong in some of my thoughts and feelings toward the "church" in general and even in some of my theology, but that is something that is true of us all regardless of whether we would like to think so or not.
That being said, I do believe there is at least some merit to what I'm saying.
I've written before of asking questions of the existing structure of church, questioning the integrity of some organizations and leaders and ultimately the true motivation behind the modern day "church". Is it really to spread the "good news?" (I know I use "quotations" a lot).
This leads me to my next question...what exactly is the message that is getting across to those we say we want to "reach"? Is it really the love of Jesus and the power of salvation found only in him? or is it something else entirely?
I caught myself wondering/thinking the other day how much christians have contributed to the culture of disbelief (I don't like the word "unbelief" because it makes those who don't prescribe to Christ sound like less human or something). Some might be offended that a person would even bring up such a blasphemous idea (or what some might consider to be so), but I think it's a legitimate question. The very first CD I ever owned, before I even had a CD player to be able to listen to it, was Jesus Freak by DC Talk which I won in grade 7 for burping the alphabet in one continuous belch, impressive I know. On that album, as a part of one of the tracks they had a quote from someone, I don't know who because the album cover is not in front of me but here's how it goes: "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." Apparently that was Brennan Manning who said it, but i just looked it up to find that out.
Anyway, I'm sure many have heard it, and many might even agree with it, but I think I would take it to another level. I would venture to say that beyond denying Christ by our lifestyles, there is a certain distaste for the "christian empire" that seems to be continually being built. It's almost as if power, money, fame and success is being sought by those who are "leading" instead of humility, generosity, service, and other such things that may go along with it. I wrote a paper for one of my classes this year on the affect of the evangelical church on North American culture, and the reciprocation therein. What I discovered was somewhat alarming but not really at the same time. People who were turned off by the success driven nature of many from the "boomer" generation who made a profession out of their faith. Perhaps this kind of thing causes people not to necessarily become atheists, but more agnostic or even simply anti-christian in their beliefs because they don't want to become like what they've seen "christians" being.
That's a rant that I didn't intend to delve into but I'm alright with it.
The stuff that's really on my mind has more to do with church reflecting the nature of Jesus Christ instead of broken humanity. I know there will always be an element of brokenness because we are not perfect and we cannot therefore represent the perfection that is Jesus' love. We can however back away from striving to achieve success in the 'evangelical empire' and seek to reflect the love of Christ in what we do and say. The question i am asking these days is more like "what if" instead of the "why". What if there was a community of believers who existed on purpose without a building in which to meet? What if the leader didn't rely on the congregation for a pay check (though there's nothing wrong with doing so, it's biblical, it's all good)? What if they didn't meet every sunday to "worship" like you see with regular churches? What if teaching came through e-mail or blog or a video feed online? What if the weekly "service" was actually serving somewhere in the community? What if the fellowship of believers happened on a daily basis through relationships and "small group" type settings in people's homes? What if the focus of the community was discipleship (including biblical teaching, prayer, worship, etc.)? What if a group of people abandoned the traditional form of "church" and sought to be a Christ-like community? What if people could be the church without having a "church"?

These aren't questions that seek to destroy what currently exists as church communities or to defame them, instead they seek to discover what a fellowship of believers is and should look like that may not include all of the elements found in what we currently know as church. I'm sure communities like this exist already, and probably even well known ones, but this is where my mind is at these days.
I do not want to be the kind of person who tries to deconstruct or tear down the thoughts or ideas or practices of others, rather I want to be the kind of person who honestly seeks truth and if some people or ideas are found to be a little or a lot off base, that is really not my concern. Truth is what I seek, Christ is who I seek.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Today in my Christianity and Culture class, we're going through the typology of a guy named Jacque Ellul who lived entirely within the 20th century, he died in 1984. He writes a lot on technology and what he calls "technique." Technique is essentially an overarching rule or law that arises from the human drive to better technology and increase the "quality of life." The problem with technique is that it ends up controlling how a person lives, and even those (in Ellul's mind) who try to fight it ultimately in their resistence produce a new form of "technique." The logic follows and he does come up with some solutions, basically to fight against what is seen as "necessity", those things society views as essential to life, to live simply. This of course is within the context of a technological society, where he found himself.

Ellul claims that freedom only comes when one refuses to allow this "necessity" to control their life. Whether all of his train of thought is impervious to rebuttal is moot, my thoughts from this discussion stem from the point of freedom being apart from this "necessity."

I am caught in this idea. Freedom. Is that not what so many people desire? Is that not what we teach in church? One may argue that freedom is really only found in Christ, I would not disagree.

In fact, I think that's what Ellul is trying to get at ultimately. His plea is for the "Church" to actually reflect a Christ community, instead of being driven by success or what people view as success, to discover that Christ was actually showing us how to be free from the "system" of society. Jesus challenged the Pharisees to do that, and unfortunately the more experience I have with "Church" the more I see similar attitudes to those of the Pharisees of the New Testament.

I also see people whose genuine desire is to see Christ glorified in everything they do and exist in the "necessary evil" of the evangelical world as it is right now because that is our current existence.

I long for freedom. I long for personal freedom in every way, not to do whatever I feel like doing but to be released from this notion of "technique" that seems to have been forced upon me by a generation that has become separated from the culture in which it exists.

I have come back to this post after a couple weeks have passed and in the same class (you may think that because I'm writing that I'm not paying attention, it's actually because I'm paying attention that I write) and today we are discussing postmodernity. That all too nauseating term that has been said and fought for a number of years now. However sickening one may become from hearing the term, I think it would be irresponsible to neglect the present existence in this place and time.

Postmodernity is basically the context in which we live here in Canada and the US. Much of Europe I think would probably even fall into it as well, though my understanding/knowledge of Europe is very limited. A big question that arises when this topic surfaces has to do with the whole notion of Truth, that which is absolute, or not. Those who have been raised in modernity struggle and fight against the thought of postmodernity denying absolutes, especially when it comes to truth. It's scary for them, for who see the truth of Scripture and Jesus Christ as something that must be exactly as they have understood it in order for their faith to remain.
I love truth, it's nice to have a foundation like that, but how can it be a foundation if it is merely a perspective and not reality. I think that's what the main issue is, denying individual perspectives and seeking what simply is. The problem with postmodernity is that it seems to be a pendulum swing that is merely opposing that which has previously existed, going from one extreme to another. The problem with modernity is that simply holds on to that "absolute" that they have been engrained with because if that breaks down, their faith is ruined. The concept of truth, as modernity sees it, is a nice concept that allows those who hold to it not to think about it, basically taking it for granted.

I don't want to be a cynic on this issue, it's just something that I'm thinking about. I think the "structure" can be abandoned without losing the reality of Christ. I think the "absolutes" that modernity is so afraid of losing can be questioned without Jesus Christ being kicked out His position as King. Ultimately, it's the structure that has become the technique which Ellul spoke so much of. Modernity and it's style has become technique, postmodernity seeks to question the technique, in search of something is more flexible. But for Ellul, this too will become technique. The freedom is found in relationship, with God and with people. Freedom may be subjective for some, but it's what many long for, being released from the "necessity" of life is what will free us in our faith and action. It may not make sense, that's ok, I'm not sure I understand it completely.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lego in a Graduate Class

this is what we've learned in our module class this week.

Friday, January 30, 2009

On the relevance of the church.

This is not my first time to vomit my thoughts on the Church around here, and I'm willing to guess that it won't be the last, considering what I've been thinking about recently.

I am considering the question of whether or not the church is relevant to our culture today in North America (or perhaps the Western World). The more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to wonder if that is a question we should really be asking of the Church (that is, the church universal). Furthermore, I really don't think that relevance is what we need at this point in time. In fact, come to think of it, I really don't think that relevance is that we need at all, ever.

Ultimately I think the question we need to be asking ourselves as those who claim to serve Christ, and as the community that makes the same claim, has more to do with how are we representing Christ and portraying Him to the world around us instead of whether or not people care about what the church is doing, or if we are "reaching the lost".

Now, before you go getting your gitch all twisted up and angry at me even thinking such a thing, top and think for a minute what I'm actually trying to say. What I am trying to say, but perhaps my words fail to do so is that it seems to me that for a number of years there has been a "holy obsession" (that which people think is right an honorable, but may not in fact be so) with being "relevant" to our culture in what we do and say. We try to translate what we believe into terms that we think will be easier to understand for those who don't know what Jesus is, and making sure that our services are "seeker sensitive" or appealing to the masses, who simply look for some sort of polish on production.

Even certain "movements" in the Christian world, like the "emerging church"or the call to be "missional" seem to fall into this sort of people pleasing system of carrying out teaching and essentially some sort of more positive image for the Church.

But even this I think falls short of what it is that we are indeed actually called to be as those who have inherited that Child of God status. I guess what I'm really wondering about any specific church movement or icon is who they/we are trying to please or what they/we are trying to actually accomplish.

The deconstruction of the church has happened before. I'm wondering if that's what is needed and indeed what is beginning to happen among some communities. Has the "Evangelical Church" begun to show some evidences of being like the Roman Catholic Church of the pre-reformation period? This is an honest question. The very idea of it disturbs me, but I can't help be wonder if there is some truth to it. If that is indeed at least partially true, then what should be our response?
I exist as a part of a denominational system that I support but I also question. There are certain aspects of the training and the organization structure that grate on me. I can't reconcile the current system with what I see as a New Testament church ideal. I believe there needs to be education for those who desire to be pastors, I also believe that pastors should be held accountable to what they are teaching and their personal theology, but I think that the present process is seriously flawed.
For the Christian and Missionary Alliance there are two significant current steps that one must go through, Accreditation and Ordination. Of course only men can complete both. Woman are permitted to be accredited but not ordained. There is a fundamental flaw here, but that can be discussed elsewhere. It seems to me that this is just an institutional form of control, based upon a man-made system that inevitably fails to maintain the standard it has set for itself. Women are denied access to leadership because of it, and some men are denied leadership because they don't say the right things.
This is just a small example of the problem of institution. I am not criticizing my denomination, I am however stating the issues that exist.

So I revert to my earlier question, who is it that we are serving? Is it people who don't seem interested in what the "church" is doing or saying or who are interested but are against it? Or is it the God who created us to be in community with each other, to love and serve others, especially those who are in need. There are indeed people who are in line with what God desires, but I wonder how many of us are missing the point.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sometimes I wanna go where everybody knows my name

I'm cleaning out my closet right now and that's not some metaphorical jargon, it's literal. I'm cleaning out my closet because basically every box full of stuff that I have has been stashed in my closet for the last 8 months. I'm doing this in preparation for the new bed that is arriving for me tomorrow, my Christmas gift from my roommates ( I am still pretty blown away that they'd get me something like that) and I want to make my room into something of an actual bedroom instead of a den for hibernation on a nightly basis. Or as Jessy would put it, I'm trying to make it more "welcoming" but that's another topic for another day.
I came across a box of stuff that my parents sloughed off on me in the summer time, old stuff of mine from when I still lived at home that they no longer wanted to store for me, though I maintain they have much more space than I at this point in time. I know there are others but the first one I opened had a mish-mash of papers and trophies and stuff from high school and college days. Most of it was old receipts and student records from school, as well as some old Christmas cards and whatnot. But the stuff that got me thinking back to days gone by (some people in this position would say "better days" I'm sure, but I don't agree with such an assessment, life gets better as it progresses, in my opinion) was a pile of birthday cards and notes and such from friends who have played a pretty big role in my formation.
It's not just because there was bounty of birthday cards, which I rarely receive in abundance anymore (also made me think of the fast approaching birthday blues I will be sure to have in a week's time), but it was what was said in a lot of these cards and notes that made me think.
Words that were tossed around about my character, or apparent character at the time made me wonder if those same words could be used to describe me now.
Words and ideas like "reliable" or "safe" or "caring" or even "godly" surfaced more than once and caused me to wonder if that could be a description of me now.
I really hope so, that's definitely a concoction of descriptors that I don't want to lose. But even shifting the focus off of myself, the people who wrote those notes are people that I don't want to lose or forget.
Of course, it is a number of years later and lives have all changed as have some of those relationships grown distant, but at the same time they have that aspect of "picking up where we left off" whenever we meet. I like that. It's a good thing if you ask me. People change, lives change, relationships change, but they don't always have to finish completely. I can look back and remember how different people have contributed to my life and hopefully vice-versa.
Most of those people have moved on to be married and some to have children, and it's fun to see them now and remember them then, to see how they've changed and how they're the same.

I guess in a sense this is a sort of Thank You to those who have been a part of my life experience thus far, some more than others and some in different ways than others. I think if anyone is reading this chances are you're one of those people. I appreciate the relationships that we've had, even though it likely wasn't perfect, and I probably caused some frustration or anger, or hurt or have been frustrated or angry or hurt, I appreciate it nonetheless.
I guess I am discovering how wealthy I really am, obviously not monetarily speaking. But then again, who reads these things anyway?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Read it and weep...

I'm sitting here in my living room, it's 10:30 at night, I got home from youth a little while ago and I've been introspective tonight, as I usually become when I feel I don't have the grace needed to show it to those around me. It's of course not from someone else doing something, just simply I'm not in the proper frame of mind to handle things that I don't want to. So I withdraw and think upon the issues, I should converse with God in the midst of it but recently I can't say that's my first instinct.
But tonight as I squirm in my skin at the thought of how I can be and think upon what's going on, it came to mind that I should simply approach the throne of grace in my time of needing grace.
I find it far easier to understand the grace of God for others than I do for me. One can commit the most heinous of crimes and I can see the need for God's grace in that person's life and am more than willing to express that to them (of course it's hypothetical, I've not known anyone to commit what I might consider "heinous" crimes) but find it hard to grasp this concept for my own life. That God would have grace and mercy on me is almost beyond my comprehension.
But as I sit here, thinking about grace, I thought it necessary to read something from Scripture in hopes that I may hear some whisper from the Almighty.

I traveled through the short book of 1 John, mainly because it's short, but also because I remember talking about it with someone recently though I don't remember the context of the discussion. Though the thought came to me with no real connection to the text, a connection would come eventually. I couldn't help but wonder how in the world so many hateful crimes, eras, people and occasions could be developed in the midst of something so symphonic in nature. What I mean to say is that I am completely taken aback by all of the things that can be traced back to someone's interpretation of the Bible, that have destroyed lives throughout history in such a negative tone.
Of course, when one doesn't know how to properly interpret Scripture, context is destroyed and the message skewed, but it's troublesome for me to think about how often hate has come from a message so full of love, one that calls a person to a life that is generous and giving and not leeching.
It even causes me to try to grasp how so many places that claim to be the "body of Christ" are in practice the very opposition of what they claim to be. I don't believe that I'm jaded...well not on church as a whole anyway. That is, I haven't had bad experience with "church" to give me some sort of bitter outlook on it. But like I said, I don't believe that I'm jaded, I am simply disturbed by the seemingly vast numbers of people who show up to churches in North America on weekends or even during the week for the sake of tradition or ritual and completely miss the point. It causes my heart to ache.
How has the one place that should be welcoming and inviting to those who feel like they don't deserve the very breath inside them because of something they've done to someone else or themselves become the place that scares them away? How has "church" become the place where people put on their "sunday best" and paint on a smile, in hopes that people won't find out how screwed up their lives really are? How has the support network of true "Christian" fellowship turned into the breeding ground for distasteful humor and gossip that destroys?

It's around here that the connection to 1 John started to become more clear to me. This is a letter written to instruct a group of people (it's not entirely clear what group) on what it looks like, practically, to follow Christ and what love really means. As I read 1 John and think upon many church communities that I have experienced and some that I've heard of, the two pictures don't seem to line up with one another.
I starting to believe that "institution" as many know has no place within the parameters of the faith. It's not a matter of institution or rules or religiosity, it's a matter of life. If, according to 1 John, the evidence of God in our lives is to love many of us really can say that God is in us?
I'm terrified to admit that there are times when my life is completely or near completely devoid of that presence.
So if evidence of God in our lives is to love others, should our "churches" not be the very place that sin can be openly brought to light (of course, there are definitely things that don't need to be shared with an entire congregation, in fact it's not healthy to do so. But I am speaking as a matter of general principle) without fear of disownment or verbal abuse or hatred?
I think it's the "holier than thou" attitude that I am can't exist if we are living as true biblical communities, it just can't. But alas, it seems to.

I honestly grieve over this thought and certainly hope to contribute in a positive manner to the shift that I believe needs to take place, not giving into the lie of "saving face".

It is for these reasons that I really appreciate some of Derek Webb's solo musical work, for he writes the words of my heart on this issue. take a look at his songs "New Law" and "King and a Kingdom" and you'll understand what I mean.

People may not read this, but it's now officially a burden that I do not carry inwardly.