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.

Marriage is Hard


I was at the gym yesterday and a couple of the guys, one older and one younger than me, were chatting about marriage. The younger guy was complaining about not getting to the gym more often because of being married now. The older fellow, divorced, said he didn’t have that problem anymore. The younger guy said he realized love is like caffein, at first it is strong and then the effects dissipates. The older guy just said life is so much easier for him to have a girlfriend. You know, friends with benefits. As I am listening I felt like it was time to give my take on this subject. I said in french, “Guys, my story is completely different, mind if if I share it?” They said, “Bien sûr.”

So I began surprising myself with how much passion was coming from my lips. I spoke these words a little louder than I hoped, “I was married at twenty years and still am, and with the same woman. Has it been hard at times? You bet! In fact, excruciatingly difficult at times.” I think I repeated the word ‘difficile’ a couple of times! “But now we are in our 35th year and I can tell you we are glad we withstood the storms. I am not wanting to make either of you feel anything negative or guilty about your story, but I just needed to tell you that there are alternative stories to the all too common one of marital breakup. It is possible to work out the most difficult of relationships when both sides are willing.”

It got a little quiet. And I’m not sure if my story accomplished anything positive. I just wish there were more stories like mine. Maybe more of us would persevere through those times that are ‘difficile’.IMG_2419

Healing


Honestly, I am confounded by those who approach the way of God’s blessing with narrow formulaic thinking. We love simple formulas and in the process reduce God to a magic dispenser who responds to the right confession of our needs and wants ‘in His name’. But a very simple study on the different methods of Christ’s healing will show you that he didn’t like doing the same thing over and over. He didn’t want to be franchised.

So, let’s get to it, a quick survey from my sunday school days tells me of a mysterious-full-of-surprises Jesus. He really is a ‘winking’ Savior! To one, blind, he says, “Go wash in such and such pool.” It washes the blindness away. To a group of lepers he meets on the road, he tells, “Go to the temple and chat with the priest there.” Out of the ten healed only one returns to say thanks! He actually spits on one blind guys eyes! Glad we don’t use that messy method today. Imagine you doing that while sick with a cold! Another woman doesn’t even really pray, she just simply squeezes behind Jesus as He is teaching and yanks the bottom of His robe and is healed. Then there is the deaf man that was brought to Jesus. They begged him to touch him. Jesus pulls him away and sticks his finger in the ear and grabs his tongue and screams ‘Be opened!’ Of course it worked, this is Jesus, right! Finally, there is the case where Jesus actually uses spittle in the dirt to make some mucky substance and puts the goo in the blind man’s eyes. Once more there is a miracle.IMG_2322

We could go on and on talking about the variety of God’s blessing hand. What are we to learn from this? Yes, he heals by a word, sometimes by laying of hands, and even from strange methods to show us to never limit God to one sure-fire way to move in our lives. Faith is important, but it may not be the only factor, after all Jesus did raise some dead people who didn’t ask for a thing! So when it comes to receiving a blessing I think we don’t need to use formulas or special words. Surprisingly, the only prayer we actually have recorded was from someone asking for a miracle for his son was, “I believe, help me in my unbelief!” Not quite the faith-confessing-undoubting response you would expect. His son was healed!

My usual method for my needs looks a little like this: I thank God for life, all of it. When I am sick I asked for a quick recovery. If it is bad I ask friends to join me in praying. If I am not healed, I don’t complain or beg. I don’t try to conjure up more faith. God heard me the first time. My biggest need is to let go of my thoughts on how something should be done. God’s ways are not necessarily my ways. That’s an understatement! And physical healing isn’t the only issue I face. I have financial needs, relational challenges, needs of others that come across my path… and in all these things I ask for peace. Faith sometimes isn’t a way to avoid, escape or walk away from the problems of life, but the power to walk through with graciousness, confidence and love.

Hope this balanced perspective is helpful.

Trust My Lead?


Unless you trust you can never lead. How tough it is to trust unless you are willing to be vulnerable.  We can all breathe easy when we see your humanity, you’re quite like us.

Generosity is the highest gift of all. Yet if you scrunch your face and give lectures on how lucky ‘we are’ as you give, how lowly we feel. Receiving without your cheerfulness is like flossing teeth, duty slides painfully over the gums, some bleeding, but we got er done!

It’s hard to be a true community when you have more to complain about than good things to say. Ideally we’d all be perfect. Realistically we drown in expectations. Gratitude becomes but platitude.

It’s hard to innovate in the midst of hungry wolves. Don’t snarl, please, or rip my reputation in pieces if I fail.  I am taking a risk by pouring new wine in old wineskins, new ideas usually rip the status quo skins.  Musty status quo wine just doesn’t upset us nearly enough, sadly.

It’s feels wrong to put on this ‘man-o-God’ stage mask just because you want me to ‘wow’ the crowd. I know it fills seats, puts money in the plate, but I want my true voice to be heard. I am being vulnerable again. Can you still trust my lead?

You can only fly when you feel trusted! “I believe in you” becomes ‘The sky is the limit’. It’s easy todance be at peace when we give our best, especially when no one is watching and evaluating. The bonds of love are strengthened when you show a little vulnerability too. It’s simple to walk in harmony when we leave our judgments at the door and see through eyes of grace. It’s easy to be real with you when you’ve been real with me.

And I want your true voice to be heard. It is easy to hear you speak truth when I know you speak it without forcing me to see it or to change.

These are the rhythms of a good or bad dancing partner.

Beauty and the Soul


There is beauty and purpose in each season. Who can deny the delight of witnessing the renewal of nature itself when gusts of warmth bring on the leafgreenburgeoning colours of delicate flowers and tree buds release their fingers towards the sun. We all love it when summer’s lengthy light entices us into taking long nature walks in short sleeves and lazy days abound around waterfronts and barbeques, and oh, the glorious sunsets. Who among us hasn’t ooh-ed and aah-ed as the sight of the bold reds, golds and oranges of autumn begin to herald the end of summer’s green. And then there is the season that gets the least love, especially if you are Canadian where complaining about dark cold days is a national pastime, winter. Yet even winter’s bleak skies and frigid climes has its beauty and purpose.

My soul has seasons too, though not always chronological. Soul-seasons seemingly can’t leafredbe rushed and suddenly change with little forewarning. Spring for the soul is about clean slates, fresh starts, and discovery! Summer is strength, delicate strands of hope taking form. It’s watching with confidence our projects and confidence grow. Fall is maturity, seeing our investments reach their prime. But winter, we are not so sure what benefits to the soul winter brings. It seems life is put on hold. It’s the biblical equivalent to the dry desert.

Looking back to one of my hardest soul-winters I remember the shame I felt during an illness that took months to recuperate from. My veins were alternately pierced and arm tied to an IV pole that dripped antibiotics and salt solutions for ten days into my system. I worried about the expectations of my peers and employers. I could not perform as I had in the past. It was humbling. I was sure that my ‘net worth’ was descending . I tried hard to speed up the process of healing, get myself going again. But my body and mind wasn’t ready for it yet. I think God was trying to teach me, “Slowly I am with you always.”

I understand better now that slow invisible change, both in us and in the way we see life, usually happens in seasons we dislike the most. Of course I still tend towards trying to rush my exit out of desolate dry seasons, cutting cold seasons, brown ground barren seasons and enter the seasons of colour, freshness, warmth and growth. We feel shame and quite useless (almost dead) in our winter seasons. That’s when we need to step back again and let wisdom speak. She whispers to us to embrace the moment, live into the now, leafbrownpossess or be possessed by the renewing power of winter! Let love lure you into the next newness.

The more I think about the rhythms in our lives, the more I realize that God’s steadfast love is the common denominator in each season and his mercies are new just the same. In his time He makes lasting beauty to break forth through the darkness or dryness or the disappointment.

A wise man named Thomas Merton said, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” That’s something to hang onto! Go back and read that phrase again. The slow growth of maturing beauty lasts longer because it’s roots have gone deeper in the soul. Not long ago someone said to my wife, “You have changed and it is remarkable!” I began to reflect on that a bit and smile inside because I saw it too. Often we are unaware of the changes happening inside of ourselves until someone else notices. Until then we don’t properly appreciate the inner coherence of beauty being matured in us.

There is a process to any growth and it entails the mysterious miraculous. We are not simply mellowing out with age, no, God forbid! We are becoming more like original goodness in our soul and adding beauty to the world.  Like the crushing of grapes, it helps to remember that the juice will one day miraculously become like fine wine! It’s a slow but real process. Stop for a moment today and reflect on what is being planted in your soul these days.

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One more, Give me One More!


I am not a movie buff, but when there’s a good movie I want to see it. So a few nights ago my wife and I watched a movie recommended to me, Mel Gibson’s movie “Hacksaw Ridge” Like most modern war movies the carnage of war is portrayed realistically. There is a lot of blood and intestines, death and wounded soldiers. There was a memorable scene when the untried young men had to climb ropes up a formidable rock cliff to attack the well dug in and waiting enemy (Japanese). You could feel the fear in the young men as they ascended knowing well the battle awaited and survival would be more of a miracle than a given!
The heroism of one man, Desmond Doss, is unforgettable. Because of his family hardships as a child so well portrayed in the first fifteen minutes of the movie and his Adventist religion, he vowed to never touch a gun. When he enlisted and declared his conviction to not kill another human, he payed dearly for it. His mates and commanders mocked and socked him! Against all odds he avoided court-marshall for insubordination.
hacksawThen came the day when the freshly trained platoon had to go to Japan and fight. He was now a bonafide medic, the favourite target of enemy snipers. When night fell after that first day of carnage, the Americans came under attack again at dawn and had to retreat off the ridge down the cliffs. Doss would not leave. He was overcome with compassion for all the wounded left to die on the ridge. Where that courage came from, I don’t know, but it kept him from fleeing. “One more life,” he kept muttering. Those were the unforgettable words of a praying man as he went into the dark to find comrades too seriously wounded to help themselves. He even saved a few Japanese soldiers!
His passion is not easily forgotten by the viewer.  “Let me save one more life, please Lord,” he pleaded. And save he did… over and over and over. Miraculous. I cannot remember the exact amount he rescued at the risk of his life, but it was so many that the whole platoon previously antagonistic towards him, put him equal to angelic status! Before going out to do battle again the next day they practically begged Doss to pray first. “We are not going without Doss! No way!”
Films like this are so poignant and need to be viewed. The world today is a ridiculously dangerous place, full of tragedy, it is selfish and me-centered. World peace would almost seem like an impossible dream. I didn’t grow up in the World War eras, but of recent memory we have witnessed the terrible 9/11 and tyrants like the Gaddafis and the Husseins and now worse, ISIS. Killing in the name of god, is not new, but it gives those who sever heads, burn live victims, rape and pillage a sense of false righteousness, as well to salve their ruined consciences. Crazy. Tragic. Sad.
mom8yrsoldAs someone who saw the emotional scars and heard stories from my mother who lost both parents in World War 2, I cry out against the savagery of war! I pray that there will not have to another Hacksaw Ridge and  Normandy’s and Juno beaches, etc. I know I am just one unknown blogger with a few faithful readers, but oh, can’t we all speak out and reject the idea of violence as a legitimate way of shaping our world? And to all those wounded and rendered homeless without a hope by these ridiculous wars, lets be like Doss and pray…”One more, Lord, give us the courage to save one more!”

Diversity is Not Just a Snowflake!


Colossians 3:11 “…where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor snowflake3uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.”

I wonder if we Christians have understood just how radical the forming of new relationships through God’s outpoured grace is? God is not just going about saving souls. His heart from the beginning of time was to establish a new kind of family from every ethnicity; love bonds the world had never before witnessed. In Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae he writes about God’s family on earth which he calls the body of Christ. He proudly proclaims that the uncultured and uncouth barbarians belonged together in the same family with the wealthy intellectually driven Greeks! He mentions uncircumcised gentiles and Jews being invited to sit at the same table. Slaves, especially, were to be treated with respect and dignity, as family. To most this was preposterous. To Paul this equality was the fulfilment of God’s original strategy.

snowNowhere do we see it more clearly than in Jesus dealings with his own earthly family. Remember the answer given by Jesus when told his concerned mother and brothers wanted a word outside with him? ‘And who are my mother and my brothers,’ he said? His next phrase was about to radically realign relationships on our planet. ‘And looking around at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, “Here are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34)  This was cataclysmic. With those few words Jesus extended the family beyond Abraham and bloodlines! Jesus pulls us all in and throws out the divisive narrative of difference.

To take it further you might remember the time that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to a couple of friends. They didn’t even recognise Him! The account says He appeared to them in a different form to teach them to recognise Him by the spirit and not by appearance. Jesus also spoke of coming to us in the form of a stranger and complimented our willingness to take him in. (Matthew 25:35)  The Lord comes to us through those who are as different to us as foreigners, but like Paul reminds, He is all and in all.

snowflake4Here’s a simple truth for you to embrace today: The universe tends toward diversity! God loves diversity so much that he made every last one of us different. God knows we need the uniqueness and freshness that each one brings to us. We too, like God, are free to love the creativity that diversity brings. Instead of buttressing ourselves within our own lines of sameness and like-usness, we are permitted, even encouraged, to step out and learn from each other. Be open and expectant! That is such a different posture from the closed stance we were taught which is based on fear. Next time you are in a church or meeting that is not your own look around and say to yourself proudly, “This gathering is more than a belief in the same God, these people are family!”

The apostle Peter revealed that God is building something big and beautiful out of all of us, Anglicans, Baptists, Brethren, Coptics, Catholics, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and the hundreds of other kinds of Christians.   We are each “Living stones to make a spiritual house.” 1 Peter 2:5  Can we plumb the depths of that sentence? Each rough-edged stone is being fitted. We are not certain how it all will look in the end, nor do we have to. That’s the glory of God. We are pretty sure, though, that the family of God, imperfect as we are, was made to teach the world the beauty of unity in diversity. We haven’t always done such a good job at this, have we? Lets keep at it!

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