Toilet Talk Never Trumps Truth


Donald Trump has done it again, he has managed to insult all eleven million people of Haiti and a pile more in some countries of Africa. He did it with a vulgar comment. He called those places “shit-hole countries,” (Pardon my french!) And then he actually made a comparison to show how much better Norway was and asks why can’t we get more of them to America? It is shocking to hear those kinds of descriptors from the president of a country that prides itself on being a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. Maybe that is another problem, melting!

Margaret Mead and James Baldwin once had a conversation on America that went like this:

MEAD: It isn’t a melting pot, is it?

BALDWIN: No, it isn’t. Nobody ever got melted. People aren’t meant to be melted.

MEAD: That old image from World War I is a bad image: to melt everyone down.

BALDWIN: Because people don’t want to be melted down. they resist it with all their strength.

MEAD: Of course! Who wants to be melted down?

BALDWIN: Melted down into what? It’s a very unfortunate image.

I love this conversation. It’s hilarious, yes, and I agree, people weren’t made to be melted down! People all have an identity. I carry continually around in me dutch ancestry. And its true of us dutchies: wooden shoes, wooden head, wouldn’t budge! I am proud of my heritage. And you are probably too of yours. No one asked my permission though to be dutch or to like Gouda or to be anything? We are who we are. Every last one is uniquely made and shaped by many factors. Deep down in every person’s heart is a desire to be real, accepted, loved and to make a difference in this world.

Trump isn’t the first to show prejudice, it has been around as long as man has. A nice guy named Nathanael once heard about this new prophet in town and asked where he came from. Philip said, “Nazareth.” That was all Nathanael needed to hear to discount this new prophet guy named Jesus. He says, my paraphrase: “Are you kidding me! Can anything good come out of that shit-hole Nazareth?” (Apparently Nathanael spoke french too! Pardon!)

But Philip wisely said, “Come, see for yourself.”

The biblical record agrees that Nazareth was so obscure that it wasn’t even mentioned once in the Old Testament. It was a rude and crude place where they spoke with an accent belittled by the whole population. They even had a label for those who came from that area, ‘Galilean!’ That word was not a compliment, but a racist epithet. And guess what, this despised place is Jesus hometown for thirty years!

Isn’t it so much like God to do something like this? Mmhm. “Lets make sure that Jesus goes and lives in the fringes!” (Fringes = the backwater, the wrong side of the tracks, the trailer park, Hicksville, a s-hole of a place)! Paul reiterated this weird way of God, that is to chose men and women that the culture of the day overlooked and exploited and abused, the nobodies, and God does this why? This is the point: “To expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 Whoa! That’s God!

With one little word, ‘Nazareth’, Nathanael was immediately blinded to the amazing possibilities of the grandeur of Jesus.

I am sure that many Africans and Haitians today wished they could live in a country like Canada or France, (maybe not the USA right now). Life has not been easy for them. Earthquakes and poverty and famines… But imagine, to hear a man from the highest position of authority of one of the wealthiest countries say that they don’t count, that they come from an outhouse country; must be devastatingly humiliating. How can this president or anyone be so blind to the beauty of whole races and cultures? But yet, maybe, hopefully, his insensitive comments might have the opposite affect too. May it spur them on to greatness.

My first language was Dutch. I was so good at speaking dutch that when I went to school for grade one in New Brunswick I didn’t understand what was going on. I must have looked overwhelmed. The school told my parents to stop speaking Dutch in the home so I could catch up. But to this day I still have a slight accent when I speak English. I have often been asked if I come from Newfoundland or Ireland!

But though I experienced some language challenges young, I was taught well that I am a unique-never-to-be-repeated-creation of God! This God knew that one day the Dutch boy who barely passed grade one would speak for Him not only in English, but in Thai and now in French, (accent and all)!

I love this question, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” It reminds me that what God is after is not my pedigree, my nationality, my invincibility, nor my brilliance, my superpowers, my perfect accent, or my attempts to do great things, He is after the real me! He chose me, and He called me by my name.

So here’s the thing, this amazing guy that spent his childhood, teenage years and young adulthood living in the worst of place in Israel, from this, um, outhouse town, Nazareth, comes God’s very best. And before Jesus did anything significant, not a single miracle, not one public teaching, the Father breaks his silence and says, “I am so proud of this one, that’s my son (accent and all)!”

That’s why I believe that when God looks at you and I and every Haitian and whoever, you get the point, He doesn’t see us through the filter of disgust, disappointment or doubt. He doesn’t see our skin colour, eye-shape or hear our funny accent… He just sees us through grace and love. He knows you have His DNA and he knows that He can inspire you, develop you, and deploy you to be a blessing no matter where you were born.

Advertisements

Say Yes to 2018


Almost everyone I talk to says 2017 was the most stressful year of their lives and for our world. Not to be an Eeyor, but I doubt that the number of crises that the world will face in 2018 will diminish. One would hope there will be less crazy weather, but signs point to an increase. Scientists no longer have to prove we are at a critical point when it comes to Global Warming, we all get it, (except for the Donald)! And wouldn’t it be great if the terror attacks decreased as well? But humanity has a penchant for finding excuses and new ways to bring terror to the earth. And though we’ve always had poverty, it now touches all parts of the world, even where they have long lived the American dream.eeyore2

In the real world scores find themselves in a continual crisis mode, just  providing for their families is more than enough to bare. Where and who to lay blame  for the negative stress caused by today’s definitions of true success? We are being stretched to breaking points.

And, while we are still at it, the sexual liberty so long vaunted, too, is being challenged in the same way the AIDS crisis of the 80’s did, maybe more. Women have risen up in unison wanting, and may I add, deserving the respect that is their due. So “No” to your stupid little games of lust! “No” to our “body parts’ as your “plaything”. And we are just touching the surface on a malaise ignored for too long.

As we enter a fresh New Year, 2018, know the same old problems continue breathing down our necks. Though we try to be upbeat as the music at our parties, we cannot but know this new year will have more than its share of new fears. It begs the question, “Can there ever be a true revolution of thought and action on how we relate to the earth and to each other? Can there be peace on earth? Can we live our way into a new reality? Should we even try?” I’m just one person here writing, but I say, “Yes!” Just because our track record of late doesn’t seem promising, we cannot, must not, give up hope. I mean that. Just because politician’s promises have fifty shades of truthfulness, there has to be something true to believe in. If the universe is not against us, nor the gods, and if we humans can still do beautiful things, generous things, how much more, enamored by “unconditional hope” and new thinking can real change come to us.

As a believer in Christ, I hang on and pray daily the little “as-it-is-in-heaven” prayer and never forget to repeat the best part, “so let it be on earth!” I feel sometimes like shouting that last part as though the earth needs this reminder too! Heaven is not just a pretty idea, if it is anything, it is about dignity, worth, beauty, sharing, peace, and ultimately, LOVE. Heaven begins on earth when we discover our own beauty and worth. It continues when we see it in others. That’s a good step to understand that our neighbors to the east, west, south and north carry the same divine image or DNA or worth as we do. We are not that different. We really are “our brother’s keeper.”

“So do not say I am not able Yes!
That’s a lie, a kind of fable
All you need is a willing heart,
just say, ‘yes, and do your part!”

Recently someone said that we all need to find our deep inner “yes”. Although saying “No” to the evil impulses in our being is a step in the right direction, more powerful yet is a resounding inner “yes”. For sure, say “No” to the “Us and Them, mentality” and to bullying in all its forms, great, but better is a deep “yes” to “You’re my brother, my mother, my fellow human being and I see you.” Because we all want the same thing in 2018… the why we were created: to enjoy each moment in friendship, family and community on earth.

 

I invite you to let go of anything that keeps you from including, sharing, reconciling, and growing in love. I invite you to say yes to heaven, that is, heaven on earth.

Kiev


A midnight arrival to Kiev and my tired eyes were happy to see two smiling Canadian faces waiting for me. It would be my first time to be in Ukraine and I wanted to learn and be a blessing if I could. Driving through Kiev felt oddly familiar, like I was going through some downtown neighborhood in Toronto. It felt homey. I wondered if the many Ukrainians who had moved to Canada had similar feelings to the ones I was having, only in reverse.

The conversation in the car moved quickly to the main language spoken in Kiev, was it more Russian or Ukrainian? I tried to go over my knowledge of history about the Russians who made Ukraine part of the Soviet Union in the 1920’s. They changed everything, the signs, added nondescript buildings, but could not destroy the people’s hunger to be independent and Ukrainian. Now the Ukrainian language was coming back strong, signs and all. Some regions hung on to the old ways and of course old ways die hard. Cory, who spoke Russian, was convinced that Russian was spoken more but Ryan disagreed. They argued good naturally; I saw in them an example of today’s Ukraine being played out before my eyes.

Off to bed way past my bedtime but my mind was not able to shut down. I wondered again how I got to live in this history-filled Europe. Not just ‘my france’ but most of Europe brutalized by all its wars to extend or protect borders. So much bloodshed, bombs and bayonets. Religion played a  part at the heart of some of those battles. In a couple of days I would walk to a high point in the city overlooking the river a viewpoint well chosen by Russia’s elect to erect the Motherland Monument, proud and high. But Ukraine was independent, 26 years now, and actually my own country of Canada was the first to recognize their independence. (We Love Ukraine 🇺🇦 !)

Besides my ministry obligations, I had three full days to explore. The orthodox churches awed me with their artworks, architecture, and  history. We walked into a wedding like I’ve never seen, replete with symbolism that I didn’t fully understand. I will remember the walks through the old city and see where the Dignity revolution took place, about 100 innocents shot down by snipers at the order of the ex-president. Then there was that 62′ meter high Motherland Monument built by the Soviets and called by some of the locals MotherlandMonumentas ‘Brezhnev’s daughter.’ Some people wish it were torn down. Just below was an outdoor war museum consisting of statues and tanks and warplanes.

I remember Ryan pondering out loud about why we actually needed such monuments. We had talked about the USA wanting to tear down historic statues of men who impacted their world. Even Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, was under attack in Canada. “We need to be reminded of where we came from and how we got to here and now,” both of us agreed.

That led further to a conversation wishing that ethnic groups everywhere in the world could finally settle their past and move on with hope and respect. “Wouldn’t it be cool if every Canadian,” I added, “would join a movement to heal the wounds of our First Nations?” I listened carefully to hear Ryan’s response to my statement. “Yeah, but too many people are still misguided that our natives have been coddled, they would never jump on a healing train!” Maybe. I thought of the words of Christ, “You are in the right place when you are truly a peacemaker.” I want so much to be that.

Truer words - a fresh coat of paint won't make it go awayI had come to Ukraine to share something with young people. My topic dealt with walls. Walls do more than demarcate, they divide and isolate. They scream hateful words. The dreamer in me would say to those young souls “imagine all these people living in a world unwalled!” I wanted to point out the invisible walls between the Russian and Ukrainian but chose to go further than two nations.

Invisible walls don’t need blocks, bricks and mortar; all they need is for someone to bump your books all over the floor and then call you an idiot for their mistake… and inside of you an invisible brick is laid. It’s that easy! A harsh word is spoken by someone, another brick. Someone laughs at us, one more brick. Walls are made of a few bad experiences, a betrayal, a few foiled expectations,  biases passed down from parents, politicians and peers and the wall grows. There’s no shortage of material for us to build invisible walls.

If only we could be bridge-builders and not wall-makers. Thank God there are those doing that in our world. Ryan and Ashley from Canada are doing that in Kiev, so is Cory. I shared a small moment in their lives. Thank God that in a walled world that is increasingly biased, separated and isolated there is a growing group of people that can imagine another way to be in this world. We are the revolutionaries of love that understand that true worship is not simply raising our hands, eyes closed, to good music, but by walking hand in hand eyes wide open with love and respect for all other creatures on this planet. It’s that simple!

UkraineGWs

War no More!


I spent a couple of hours recently in France’s War Museum, Les Invalides. Two world wars, Napoleon’s wars, and seemingly every war between France and Germany since time began is immortalized in some way! Those two countries perfected the absurdity of war!IMG_2797

Room after room I was able to caress various cannons, machine guns, bayonets, and even missiles of every size. Of course many french painted what they thought to be the glory of defending the Republic. But it all became overwhelming for me. “What have we done to our world? Are we not our brother’s keeper?”

Of course the slaughter houses for the Jews affected me the most. What were the Germans thinking? Where was the church? I could not resist pondering the counterintuitive message of Christ and it’s implications, mainly, the love for all and for our enemy. How could the helpless ever be treated like the scum of the earth, or worse than!

War is dehumanizing. War is a destroyer. War breeds more war. War changes everything and never for the better. There are no wars to end all wars. Violence produces violence that produces more violence. C.S. Lewis once described our world of war as ‘winter without Christmas.’ The bleakness of war freezes our hearts in fear and loathing for our fellow man. They are our brothers!

It’s time to have a new vision for humanity and an alternative narrative for our future as peoples of the earth. Yes, it’s high time to live out the radical kind of life and social order described in the Beatitudes. Peacemakers arise! Lovers of justice dance upon the tragedies of the inhumaine and show us a new move. Persecuted ones don’t give up, keep alive in hope and help us make all things new.

Jesus was not offering another religion for the purpose of controlling or manipulating people. He was giving us a transformative way of seeing and being in this world, He called it a blessed way or the way of true happiness. He actually lived it out before us. He incarnated love. He went about forgiving people. That didn’t go over well for the temple managers who made a killing selling livestock for sacrifices. Oh well. He even prayed for those who smashed the hammer into the nails that pierced his flesh. We could never imagine such love without it being modeled before us, could we?

His teaching on loving those different from us, on blessing those who misuse us, on leaving judgment to the Father makes little sense to most. The inclusive message he taught was revolutionary and so sacred. The words about the last and the least being the first and worthy of honour, simply amazing! Can the poor be blessed? Jesus says the possibility is there. Can mourning lead us to laughter? Jesus says it’s a step to the sons of freedom laughing for joy.

It takes time to catch the heart of the one who spoke these unmatchable words of life. That’s why we need to repent, meaning rethink the way we see others and do life on earth. It is the only way for our planet to survive really. It is.