Contradictions of Healing

I have been a part of an Inter-Spiritual Dialogue that is now being reformed. It is a monthly, really quite profound conversation amongst people of depth from different faith traditions.  Today the conversation entered around Lenard Cohen's Come Healing 

What struck me from the conversation is how God is discovered, that we find healing, often in the most profound moments of brokenness. I know in my own life. I can now look at some of the times that I have been broken, absolutely devastate in fact, and I can see how those times have in many ways been forming my soul. I now carry deep scars, but also grace and wisdom from these times. There is a broken hearted healing that is filled with such grace.

So perhaps as we look at the darkness and confusion that seems to be overwhelming people at this time. It might be a chance to find our healing. For when we stand dreaming that we are good,  when we strive for perfection, how we be open to the broken hearted God. 

Learning to Lead - Power

A little while ago I went to the Industrial Areas Foundation National Leadership Training. It was one of those moments where I was hearing and learning precisely what I needed to learn in order to grow in my own leadership. One of my key learnings was how important it is to think clearly about power and its use. It is interesting, that as a clergy member, again and again I was taught how not to use power well. I was taught to keep everyone happy, to avoid conflict, to work for vague terms (like justice and love) and that it was somehow wrong to defend one's own interests. In reality, I have learned again and again, is that all this does is allow others, who are not shy about using power, to manipulate and destroy good ministry. 

To use power we need to first start thinking about and being aware of power, both ours and others. We need to be clear about what are our interests, and what is in the interest of our ministry. What is negotiable and what is not. How do we build power, by identifying where there is a shared interest and who are leaders that have power to effect change. Power is only realized in action, and when power acts, it creates tension. This tension is not comfortable, but it is what moves things. So how do we create tension wisely? How do we polarize where change needs to happen, and then depolarize once things have move?  Does power create conflict? Absolutely! So how are we prepared for this conflict, how do we move though it, and not see it as a failure. In one of Richard Rohr's sermons he talked about how without conflict there is no growth. 

Jesus was a man of power. He healed and it caused tension and conflict. He taught and people sought to kill him. Eventually those who held on to the status quo succeeded in killing him. From this was revealed the power of eternal life. So how do we learn to also use the power that we have been given, to heal, to teach and to lead all of us into a greater taste of the fullness of life. 

Justice is what Love Looks Like In Public

I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at our synod's congregational life event. I spoke about how the work of justice, love and spirituality are connected and at the core of the renewal of the church. It was a good day. I greatly enjoyed the converstions I had and the workshops was able to sit in on.   Some people have asked for the text of my talk. I will link it below and put in on the writings page. I hope it can be helpful. 

Justice is what Love Looks Like In Public 

A Pastor to a Larger Community

It is amazing what happens when a pastor is free from the demands of a congregation.

In the past couple of weeks I have had meaningful conversations with a local politician, a rabbi, a union organizer, and variety of parents at play grounds. I have had the privilege of sitting with pastors and hearing about their struggles with the direction of their careers and pressures on their families. I have listened to an executive director as he struggles with how to tackle poverty in our city. I find my self listening to my family in a whole new way. Suddenly the meaningful conversations that I often yearned for working in a parish seem to just flow naturally in the midst of everyday life and looking for a job.

What I also find interesting is how much easier it is to experience grace. There is time to just be and receive the joy of the moment. There is time to reflect on one’s soul in the midst of life’s struggles. When you don’t know what is coming next, there is space to just trust and enjoy God. When you are open to possibilities, invitations to share what you have learned seem to open up.  Interestingly I have also been noticing how many more people smile at me.

Of course there is a lot of meaningful things that happen in and through congregations. I am just amazed at how, when a pastor is freed from the demands of a congregation, there is actual space to be a pastor to a larger community.

 

 

Paddling Through the Waves

When people think of surfing, they usually think of some beautiful, extremely fit person coasting along a large curling wave.  What most people don’t realize is to be able to do that, the surfer first had to paddle out through those same waves.

Suffers get fit, not by riding waves in, but because of the great strength it takes to paddle out through the waves. Before you can ride a good wave in, you first have to learn how to recognize the wave coming right at you.  Then you have a decision to make. Is it small enough to just duck your head down and keep going? Is it big enough that you need to duck dive under the wave?  Do you need to turtle? Or are you past the break so that you can paddle calmly over the wave. If you get it wrong, you soon discover just how powerful a wave is.

The same is true in the life of our heart. Those people who seem to be filled with joy, love and the peace of God, all of them had to first learn how to paddle out though waves of anger, hurt, loss and regret.

I had written that the real struggle is for our heart. So how do we paddle out through the waves of anger, sorrow or paint that threaten to harden our hearts? Here are a few things I have learned.

The first thing is to be able to recognize that a wave is coming at you. Often there is a bit of warning. Perhaps your encounter some trigger that will set off your feelings of hurt. Perhaps you have to face a situation or finish a task that will cause your anger to take off or perhaps there are certain times of the day that you find your mind racing (for me it is first thing in the morning).  The worse thing you can do is to try to deny the wave – if you do it will simply knock you over. Instead pay attention. Then you need to cut through it.

The easiest way to cut through our anger or regret is, when the waves are not too difficult, is to simply shift your focus and pay attention to the moment. Pay attention to the person in front of you instead of thinking about the past or future. Turn your attention to the beauty around you. Get out of bed. Try to be mindful of the moment. Then as your focus turns back to your hurt, simply return again and again to the present moment.

What  if the waves are too strong for this to work?  Try breathing deeply. Breath deeply in and deeply out. Try counting as you breath, slowly increasing how many seconds your in breath or out breath takes. Taking a deep is a physical trigger for our body that tells it to relax again.

If this doesn’t work, then what I find most helpful is a song. Because of my own experience living for a time at Taizé I find many of their chants very helpful. Recently my five year old daughter has discovered dance music.  It is great. Let me tell you just a little bit of Please Don’t Stop the Music or a little Walk Like and Egyptian, along with some dancing does wonders for one’s heart.

Then some times, what you really need is just to watch a movie, go for a run  or play a video game. Just what ever it takes to give your self a rest and get to a more neutral place.

What is important is, just as a surfer holds on to and trust their board to keeps them afloat and to help them cut through the waves, hang onto and trust in Christ who dwells in you, to carry you through the waves. Have faith that you will be given the strength you need to get through this. Rest on this when you need to. Plus, you will need that surf board. If you abandon it, the whole point of why you are swimming through the waves will be abandoned with it.  

Once the intensity of the wave begins to pass comes the next step. You need to keep paddling. Which in this context means opening your heart to love, and to God again. Where in this moment can you see and experience love? Where is there beauty in this moment that opens you up? What in your life fills you with gratitude? Drink this in as God’s gift of food for the journey you are on.

You need to start paddling quickly. If the surfing is good, there will soon be another wave trying to push you back. Just remember that  one day you will be able to ride these waves in. All this work of paddling out in the end is what helps you become strong enough to surf. 

The Real Battle

So where is the real struggle? When you are in a situation where you feel deeply betrayed; where people you considered friends have stood up to publically speak against you; where people that you had poured your heart and soul into serving treat you like a disposable piece of trash . . . there is so much room for anger. It is understandable.  It would seem like the real battle is with those who have turned against you. To get caught in this is where the real danger lies.

What is life really about anyways? It is about the shaping of our soul. Yes, there are times when anger is both good and justifiable –after all anger tells us when something is wrong and it gives us the energy to do something about it. Anger can also turn so easy into bitterness. Anger can so quickly close and harden our heart. It can lead us to forget that those people who betrayed and attacked – are human in need of great compassion and love.

The real struggle is always for our heart. Will we let evil win in us?  Will we become bitter? Will we close our hearts? Will we allow fear and hatred enslave us? Will we dare to open our hearts to love? To have compassion? To risk again? To dare to follow God again?  To hope again?  To forgive?

 When Jesus was being crucified what were his words?  “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” – Wise words.

Don’t worry, forgiveness does not mean that one needs to trust those who hurt you. It does not mean that abuse should be kept secret or that healthy and safe boundaries should not be set. What it does mean is that we are set free, so that our hearts are not trapped in the wrong done, nor can evil claim our soul. Forgiveness means that we open our heart and those who hurt us again to God’s love.

So what do you do when the battle rages and your heart is being drawn into hate? Allow you hurt to have it say. Listen for its wisdom, but then set a limit so that it does not slip into bitterness or hate. When it keeps dragging you down? - Pray. Breath deeply. Sing a hymn. Pay attention to those around you and indulge in loving them. Go for a run. Soak in the beauty of God.  Do what ever it takes to bring your mind and your heart back into peace, into love and into a taste of joy.

Then when you get dragged down again – repeat – again and again. It will feel like a battle, like one more struggle you don’t need. Remember that life is a struggle, that is just the way it is.  It is also a gift. It is our struggles that can enlarge our hearts, so that they might more fully contain the love and joy of God.

This is the real struggle of life – that our hearts might grow though suffering into eternal life, and not be dragged into the hell of hate and bitterness. 

So tomorrow I will wake up and try again.  

Becoming a Quitter

One thing I had always prided myself on was my sheer determination to work at something, even when the odds were against it, until it succeeded. Stubborn determination and hard work is what has allowed me to do and accomplish much.

Then something began to erupt at the church I served. It began before I went on Sabbatical and it fermented and grew in my absence.  What had once been a healthy thriving place was now toxic for me. There had been so much manipulation in my absence that I was now facing lay leadership that were not only opposed to me, but whom I could no longer trust. I was faced with a situation where success would be extremely difficult, costly and the risks were extremely high. Worse yet I was been told be silent about many of the key issues we faced – in contrast to one of the stated values of the church and one of my personal values – openness.

Then came the sense of call. I must admit that a very strong and clear sense of God’s call is actually a rare thing. It does happen. For me it happened on a Friday night as my daughter was at her swimming lessons.

A father next to me was telling me about how his son wouldn’t even get in the water when there was a substitute teacher. Now that there the teacher that he trusted and he could jump right in. It hit me. If trust has been eroded you can’t help people swim! Then, it was as if my eyes began to be opened in a whole new way. All of the different pieces of the puzzle that lay around me came together in a strange clarity. I could no longer help these people I loved swim as much as I would have liked to.  I had to quit and quit quickly or drown in what would come.  Suddenly I knew what I had to do and I knew when I had to do it. I knew with a strange clarity that God was calling me to quit and it was both the wisest and most loving thing I could possible do. So Sunday morning I got up, I preached and I resigned. Then in a children’s sermon I gave my parting wisdom – God is found in love. Then I was done.

Even when you are called to quit, it is a terrifying thing. When I walked out I entered the wilderness. Who am I?  What have I done? Again and again God reaffirmed my decision and action. Yet to suddenly quit and be done is a shock. It is like jumping into an abyss. No job.  Salary and benefits all gone. A big part of my identity gone. Suddenly I was no longer the person who could get things done, who could succeed, who was determined.   I had no idea of what comes next. I had no idea of what people would say or think.  I was now a quitter. There was just nothing, but the faith to leap.

A wise man once told me how in every spiritual journey there comes a point when the wolves are chasing you and you find yourself at the edge of a cliff. Then we have a choice – jump into the abyss or choose safety and have our soul devoured by the wolves.  When we leap we learn that we can fly, he told me. The challenge is that when you leap, there is only the unknown in front of you and waiting for those wings to open . . . 

Sabbatical II

We are now home from a month in B.C. It seems like a good time to reflect on this process of Sabbatical.  It is an amazing time gift. We have had a chance to be in beautiful places, to be together as a family, to study and be alone with God. In the midst of this I have begun to marvel at the process that unfolds when there is simply space.

 

What is the most noticeable change is how the dynamics of my relationship within our family have changed. We have begun to have space for each other. This may sound like a strange thing to say, but it is amazing how in the midst of the To Do list of life that actually giving each other a space to be who each other is, has become something that has gotten lost. Once there is space, along with attention, gently love begins to flow again. Conversations deepen. With space there seems to unfold a natural process of growth. This is as true with us parents as it is with our children. I wonder how hampered we are now in our regular lives.

 

My own internal process has been interesting to watch as well. The first part of my sabbatical was about trying to rest and reestablish some healthy patterns in my life. When we first headed off a deeper sense of just relaxing and enjoying life began to grow. Then something began to shift. Bit by bit, all of my old struggles and issues began to emerge again. Where ever you go, there you are, is a very true adage, at least in part. When there is space, instead of just reacting and repeating old patterns, something else can happen. You can actually notice what is going on; lift it up; and talk about it. Then you can even begin to experiment with new patterns.

 

In this God plays an interesting role. I could almost see how God was at work. Poking me here, having me run into a conversation there, a word from a book striking me when I needed it. There seems to be a slow process of how God is reworking me. In the midst of it there seems to be another invitation to come to know God, by creating a space for God to be as God is. It is amazing how much we impose our own images upon God. What happens though when we simply sit, surrounded by what God has made and open our selves to have who God is revealed to us. It is an unsettling blessing to begin to know God beyond our projections.

 

In the midst of all of this we have discovered just how healing just being out in wild nature is. How we love small communities where you run into people and can bike or walk where you need to go. We have discovered again the joy of play and the freedom of turning off our screens. Above all there is this gift in simple silence. When the noise is turned off,  when the to do’s are left undone, when our ears simply here what is and our hearts are left open. Then life begins to flow. 

Interior Castle II - The Prayer of Recollection

One of the questions that I am often asked and that I struggle with at times my self is how do we pray. What are the best methods. When Saint Theresa of Avila talks about prayer she describes what she calls the prayer of Recollection. The foundations of this prayer is the reality that God dwells within us. Prayer becomes a turning inwards towards this indwelling of God in our Soul. If I was to take what she has written and describe it to to someone it would be something like this. 

First of all there are two ways of living this prayer, in times of solitary prayer and in the midst of your day. The practice of solitary prayer is the foundation of the prayer, while the prayer in the midst of the day would be one of the ways in which we carry our solitary prayer into our days. 

For solitary prayer

1. Find a place where you can be undisturbed for a time and not distracted by your surrounding. Sit and begin by stilling your body. Sit comfortably with an upright back. 

2. Begin by quieting your mind and turning your focus towards God. Slowly reading a passage of scripture, a spiritual book, focusing on your breath or repeating silently a phrase from scripture are all good ways of beginning this stilling process. 

3. When you are ready, close your eyes, turn from your other bodily senses and turn your focus within you, within your soul.

4. Use your imagination to open your self and focus on how God dwells within you. Use what works best for you. You could picture Christ within you, the cross, a light, a throne room with God on it, the feeling of love within you. The particular image is not as important as the attention and openness to God within you, so choose and stay with what is most helpful for you. 

5. As your thoughts and worries arise and pull your attention from this awareness, gently hand them over to this presence of God with in you. The work is to hand over all of who we are over to God so that God may more fully dwell within you.  So whether it is joys or sorrows, insults or praise, worries or expectations - simply hand it over to God. 

6. As you come to the close of your time of prayer you can say a prayer such as the Lord's Prayer or have a conversation with God concerning what ever is on your heart or in your day. Talk with God as you would talk with a friend. 

7. Pause for a moment, rest in God's presence and then carry this remembering of God's presence within you into your day. 

In terms of time. Start with what you are able to do. If you are someone who needs something more specific  20 min. is a good guideline for a place to start. 

In the Midst of Your Day

1. As you go about your day simply pause, turn your attention inwards and remember that God is dwelling within you. 

2. Hand over what ever your are in the midst of over to God. 

3. Briefly, inwardly, talk with God about what ever is happening or that is on your heart at that time. Talk with God as you would talk with a friend. 

4. Listen and give some space for God's response. 

5. Carry this into the rest of your day.

This is both a bit of a simplification and my attempt to make this practice a little clearer for contemporary prayers. If you want to go into more depth please read the originals. You can read more in  Chapter 28-29 in her Way or Perfection or Chapter 3 of the Forth Mansion in the Interior Castle. 

 

Interior Castle I

I have been reading Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle. It is an amazing book, especially since it seems like she wrote it in one draft (that then got edited to avoid inquisition - though largely untouched). Once one gets past her own declarations of her stupidity and wretchedness, (which is hard for us moderns to hear) it is a beautiful description of the journey of a soul into discovering how God dwells in us. 

Two of its most important insights occur on its very first two pages:

"I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of a soul and its great capacity. In fact, however acute our intellects may be, they will no more be able to attain to a comprehension of this than to an understanding of God; for, as He Himself says, He created us in His image and likeness." -

and then:

"Would it not be a sign of great ignorance, my daughters, if a person were asked who he was and could not say, and had no idea who his father or his mother was, or from what country he came? Though that is great stupidity, our own is incomparably greater if we make no attempt to discover what we are, and only know that we are living in these bodies, and have a vague idea, because we have heard it and because our Faith tells us so, that we possess souls."

In many ways these lines capture so much of our spiritual crisis today. We have forgotten the great beauty and capacity of our soul and most people make almost no attempt to discover who we really are while being caught up in our physical lives and desires. It reminds me of someone I met the other month who had bought a lamborghini and yet had barely even driven it. It just sat in his garage. We posses such wondrous things of beauty, we occasionally remember that we have it, and yet we fail to take the time and the risk to really drive them and discover what they can do.

I wonder what it takes to give more people the courage to take the inner journey into God that leads us on the outward journey of love? After all is this not far more beautiful and important then an overpriced car? 

 

 

Sabbatical

As of August 1st I am off on Sabbatical. It is a time of rest, renewal and study. So I thought I would resurrect this site as a way of sharing my sabbatical adventure with others.

For the study component I am taking this as a chance to read more about Christian Spirituality. At first my plan was to write an introduction to Christian Spirituality, but as I am working on this what I am discovering is that I am all seeking to understand the inner dynamics of Christian faith. I have so often met people who seem to have discovered this profound, love filled power of the Gospel. How does this happen? What are the process that bring us there? Can it be shared? 

The other part of my study is in the area of leadership. Specifically I am working with CAUSE Canada to help them develop a strategic plan. At the same time I am a part of our synods Missional Network project.

The other major part of my sabbatical is to spend time with my family and rest. 

My plan is to share some of my insights here, along with clips of my writing. Since Sabbaticals are about fun and rest. I will share some of that as well. 

Sacred Awareness

Over the past several weeks I have been discovering an interesting pattern.  I have become more and more interested in what actually helps people grow in their spiritual lives and how does this process begin.  Oddly enough, this was something that I was never taught in seminary. So I set off to begin asking people I knew and ran into who have both traveled deeply into the spiritual life and who have taught many others.  Over the last while I have ran into an interesting range of people. I have talked with Jewish Rabbi’s, Hindu Swamis and Christian monks. All of them have responded with basically the same thing – it begins with sacred awareness.

So what is sacred awareness? It is a combination of two things. The first is component is what is often referred to these days as mindfulness – that is simply paying attention and being aware in the present moment. In other words it involves not being caught up in our thoughts, in our regrets about what has past, in our anxiety about our future or even all of the things that we have to do today. Rather it is about simply being present, in the present moment. How this is cultivated can be through different forms of meditation. It can also be cultivated by simply brining our self continuously and gently back to the present moment when we get distracted throughout our day.

This is just the awareness half of what sacred awareness is about. The sacred part is found in paying attention to how God is present in this current moment.  One of the key significance of the life of Jesus, from his birth, to his death and his resurrection, is that his life shows us that God is not separate from us, from creation or from our present moment, no matter what is happening. Immanuel - God is with us! So how do we begin to cultivate our awareness of God’s presence during our day?

            One of the ways that you can cultivate this is though the practice of reviewing your day. It is a simple practice of prayerfully going over you day at the end of your day looking for how God seemed either present or absent – or more accurately how throughout your day how you were open to God’s presence or closed to it.

            So how do you recognize God’s presence? Scripture writes about the fruit of the Spirit. These are the signs that God is present and flowing through us. They can be found in Galatians 5:22-23. One of the best ways of looking for how we are open to God is to look for how these fruit are present in our life. They are (followed by the meaning of the Greek word used in Galatians)

 

Love: (Gr. Agape: a Divine Love. A strong, ardent, tender, compassionate, devotion to the well-being of another.)

Joy: (Gr. Chara: the emotional excitement, gladness, delight over blessings received or expected for oneself or another.)

Peace: (Gr. Eirene: The State of quietness, rest, repose, harmony, order, and security in the midst of turmoil, strife, and temptations.)

Forbearance: (Gr. Makrothumia: Patient endurance; to bear long with the frailties, offenses, injuries, and provocations of others, without murmuring, repining, or resenting.)

Kindness: (Gr. Chrestotes: a disposition to be gentle, soft spoken, kind, even tempered, cultured, and refined in character and conduct.)

Goodness: ( Gr. Agathosune: the state of being good, kind, virtuous, benevolent, generous, and God-like in life and conduct.)

Faithfulness: (Gr. Pistis: the living, divinely implanted. acquired, and created principle of inward and wholehearted confidence, assurance, trust, and reliance in God and all he says.)

Gentleness: (Gr. Praotes: the disposition to be gentle, kind, indulgent, even-balanced in tempers and passions, and patient in suffering injuries without feeling a spirit of revenge.)

Temperance: (Gr. Enkrateia: Self-Control; a moderation in the indulgence of the appetites and passions.)

 

As you notice how these fruits have been present. Allow your self to again feel them, allow this feeling expand within you and soak into you.

 

Overtime, as you look over your day for these things, you will discover that you will begin to be attentive to when these fruit arise throughout your day. As you become more attentive, you will also begin to grow into these things. Look over the list. Is this not a description of what any of us would like our life to be about? As we do this we then begin to discover again and again that God is present and active in our life.

 

And you can being this right now. Prayerfully read over the list of fruit, then prayerfully reflect on the past day. Where have you experienced God? 

Desmond Tutu

I have always been amazed at Desmond Tutu. His thought and his life have always seemed to me to be a bright light of what a Christian life is about in really challenging times. It is true his life also exemplifies the life of someone who is both a sinner and a saint. That though is what makes him inspiring. Here is an interview with him.

Advent II

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:3-11

With Advent there is such a strong sense of beginning. It is the beginning of the church year, as we wait for the birth of Christ. This beginning though happens in the middle of a much longer story. It is a story that reaches back to be beginning of creation and reaches forward to the end of time. Along the way, God continues to work, slowly brining us to the fulfilment that all of existence was intended for.

The same is true in our own life as well. Advent is a season to mark a new beginning in our own spiritual life, but it is really a point of beginning again. As such, it gives us a chance to again allow the work that God began in your baptism, to continue  with a fresh start, as we are moved towards completion of the good work that is what our life is intended for.

So this advent take the time to begin again. What ever fresh start you need, take it, confident that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.

Disability, Abilizing Dis -abilizing

One of the un-avoidable realities of Sierra Leone is the people with disabilities. It is one of those ongoing, living memories, or a horrendous past while also being a witness of Sierra Leon's mixed present. Two of the biggest sources of disability have their roots in the civil war. It was one aspect of the campaign of terror, that rebels would simply cut off people's limbs, especially if they had an education. It was a way that they left a permanent mark on people's lives and their country. Like all wars disease is often not far behind. During the war the public health system was decimated. The result was an outbreak of polio, leaving countless more children crippled. 

As horrible as this is, there is also another side. On our walk each day for breakfast, we passed a blacksmith/tinsmith shop. There, there were people who were "disabled" showing how abled they really are, as they shaped metal stoves and countless other object.  In Sierra Leone, the dis-abled, are far from being un-able. 

This has also been a part of the work of CAUSE. Since the civil war they have been working to help people with disabilities get educations; start income generating activities; overcome social isolation through sports, recreation and drama groups; and help people regain mobility through rehabilitation and prothesis. Great things have also been achieved in advocacy with the passing in 2011 of a national disability bill that was in part shaped by those with disabilities. 

Now again comes some more dis-abilizing. There is all of this good work happening, but it is dependent on funders from Europe and North America and when we have messed up our economies, cutting the way we assist others overseas seems like such an easy place to cut. The result is that these programs have ended and now await funding. It makes me wonder, who is disabled? Who is dis-abilizing? Where are we and our own hearts in all of this?

(In Sierra Leone, people with disabilities generally don't like their photos taken. Who could blame them after all they must wonder,  is their photo being taken as a freak or out of pity? So no photos this week)

A New Bishop

The church that I am a part of, the Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada, just elected a new bishop for the territory I am in. Bishop Elect Larry, before he accepted began with a covenant that I believe reflected what we as a church and also the role of a bishop is about. I would like to share it. 

 Will you covenant together:

To pray for your Bishop?

Yes, by the help of God.

Mindful of our past, aware of our present, to move together into God's future?

Yes, by the help of God.

To journey together in mission?

Yes, by the help of God.

To work and serve together?

Yes, by the help of God.

To live among God's faithful people?

Yes, by the help of God.

To hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper?

Yes, by the help of God.

To proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed?

Yes, by the help of God.

To serve all people, following the example of Jesus?

Yes, by the help of God.

To strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

Yes, by the help of God.

Then I respond, Yes, to you,  Yes, by the help of God.

Sierra Leone?!?

Usually when I tell people that I am going to Sierra Leone for three weeks I get a variety of reactions. Some are excited, some are concerned for my safety (and sanity), others are just curious. Almost everyone asks me why I am going.

The surface reason why I am going is that I am on the board of CAUSE Canada, which is a development agency based in Canmore, that has a history of doing great work in Sierra Leone. So as a part of the board I am going so that I can see first hand the work that is being done and to meet the people doing the work.

The deeper reason is that I believe that our world is at a critical point in our history. Recently in a speech at the London School of Economics Bill Clinton described how our world is currently deeply interdependent, which means that we are not only in the same little boat, but there is no longer an option for divorce. At the same time as this inter-dependence is increasing, population growth, resource consumption and environmental disruption is making our world far more precarious. He described how we now face a choice whether our interdependent future will be based on competition for scarce resource or a future where we share and cooperate. He described how one future is very dangerous and dark while the other would give us great hope.

For me this question that is before us is deeply a spiritual question. It is the question of whether we will choose a path of compassion and love or do we chose the path of self-centered getting what we can for me and mine. Because this is a spiritual question I believe quite deeply that the church and people of faith need to be fully engage in shaping our future and finding a ways by which we can take the path of love.

I have become involved with CAUSE because they seem like an organization and people who are brining their faith to the work of taking the path of compassion. What is especially courageous about them is that they have chosen to do this work in the midst of what have been some of the poorest and most violent places on our planet. It is now 10 years since the violence in Sierra Leone has abated. Still it is recovering, and it is still one of the poorest places on the planet. It is there that we are sharing our wealth so that moms can give birth in a safe and clean place with medical assistance. It is there that they are ensuring that both boys and girls can go to school and have a meal while at school. It is there that they are working with the many disabled people, many disabled from the years of horrendous conflict.

It seems like a great metaphor of the gospel; where there was once death, the love of Christ, lived through people, is brining new life and hope. I am going to Sierra Leone to learn from the people who are doing this work and I hope to also be inspired.

If you want to follow me on my trip, if I can get access to the internet I will place my updates on my website www.transforminggrace.org.  I will also be sending Texts to Terrie. 

Jesus and a Wife?

I must say that I am fascinated by fascination about jesus's possible wife. This little piece of parchment that was unveiled by Dr. Karen King (who I must say I think is great - I never took a class with her, but the few conversation I had with her left me impressed). A part of Dr. Kings skill as an academic is that academics are careful to say was is the limits of what they know. In this case this text doesn't prove or disprove whether Jesus had a wife, it only shows that it was a point of active discussion about four hundred years later. 

So why are we fascinated by this still? Lets be clear, if it turned out that Jesus was married the only doctrines that this would affect is around the accuracy of Scripture and the Christian Tradition. Lets face it, there is much better evidence then this to pull this into question any claims of infallibility for either of these. I guess it would also reshape claims for celibacy based on Jesus' example - but for us protestants, this was settled about 500 years ago. 

On the other hand it would strengthen another doctrine, one of the central doctrine of Christology, namely that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Lets face it, Jesus would have had sexual desires, otherwise he wasn't fully human. Also much of judaism at the time would have expected a good Rabbi like Jesus to be married. It would only be as Christianity moved into more gnostic inclined circles that being married would have become an issue. In my mind Jesus not being married would have been a greater challenge during Jesus's life then him being married. Thus there would have been little reason to cover it up. 

So why are we obsessed by this? Perhaps the real reason is our own ambiguity about religion an sexuality. We want a celibate God to free us from the ambiguous and powerful pull of sexuality, but we also want a sexual God that affirms or at least interests the same desires. 

Perhaps there is something more interesting going on. After all didn't God have a son?

Do we not describe God as a lover?

Has God not only created life, but continues to create and nurture life?

Does not scripture describe the Church as God's bride?

Mmmm  . . . I doubt that Jesus was married,  but I think God might as well be .