Saturday, November 27, 2004

Thinkers from Carl Sandburg.

I've come to appreciate the poetry of Carl Sandburg lately. Not that he communicates things of great spiritual depth, but that he correctly identifies what it means to be human. Or at least he's honest about what humanity looks like without Christ.

Here are two of his poems I've found very thought provoking.


I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers: “Omaha.”


I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life
to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work
of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile
as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out
along the Desplaines River
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees
with their women and children and a keg of beer
and an accordion.

Way to go Globe and Mail...

My great friend Andrew Lakin passed this on to me. And I was amazed. I'm going to print it here because you have to subscribe to view it online. I hope that's legal.

Soul hunger, always a strong suit

Are we really so different from Americans when it comes to our spiritual yearning?

Saturday, November 6, 2004 – Page A25

Here's a question that an educated Globe reader like you should be able to answer. What was the top-selling non-fiction book in North America last year (and likely this one, too)?

No, it's not Dude, Where's My Country? It's something called The Purpose Driven Life. It has sold 19 million copies so far, including 600,000 in Canada (which is more books than anything else except maybe Harry Potter). And it was written by pastor Rick Warren, who founded the Saddleback Church in California.

Never heard of it? Well, neither have most otherwise well-informed members of the media -- you know, the ones who are supposed to be on top of social trends. They've been too busy interviewing Michael Moore. And yet the people who've been gobbling up The Purpose Driven Life are the same people who re-elected George W. Bush. Not all of them live in the shotgun 'n' pickup zip codes. Most of them are middle-class professionals who live in the sprawling new American exurbs.

The Purpose Driven Life is a sort of anti-self-help book. Instead of showing how you can claw your way to the top, lose 30 pounds on the South Beach diet or become the millionaire next door, it promises to connect you with life's larger meaning. "It's not about you," it begins. "The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfilment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness."

The Purpose Driven Life (or PDL, as it's known in the book trade) directly addresses the spiritual void at the heart of our materialistic, consumer-driven, sex-saturated, celebrity-mad, culturally trashy age. Liberal social critics, rightly, have identified this as the central existential challenge of our time. But their answers haven't been all that satisfying. Madonna finds solace in the Kabbalah, and Richard Gere in Buddhism. For the rest of us, there's yoga and recycling.

PDL offers a more old-fashioned approach: Jesus. "If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God," it says. It goes on from there for 40 chapters (a meaningful biblical number, if you remember Noah's flood and Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness), and deals with the timeless matter of how to find inner meaning and affiliation in a community of good persons. It doesn't say a single word about abortion or gay marriage or moral crusades or voting for Republicans. Instead, it stresses tolerance and conciliation. "If you want God's blessing on your life you must learn to be a peacemaker," it says.

The people who devour PDL have created an entirely new religious movement, one that has abandoned the old-line mainstream churches and promises a direct, personal and unabashed connection to God. Its unsensational (some might say banal) message does not make for good headlines. Instead, when the mainstream media tackle the religious revival in North America, they bring us stuff such as the CBC's sensational documentary the other night on faith-healing peddler Benny Hinn. Or they haul out Jerry Falwell to rant about abortion.

Oh, yes, the religious revival contains plenty of zealots and hard-liners you'd go nine miles out of your way to avoid. But presenting Benny Hinn and Jerry Falwell as typical of the movement is like saying that Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky are typical liberals.

The secular media have a curious double standard when depicting people of faith. We're sensitive and respectful toward practising Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and aboriginal people performing smudge ceremonies. This demonstrates our pluralism and tolerance. We're even comfortable with liberal-minded United Church types. But show us a bunch of born-agains and we'll automatically assume they're an intolerant bunch of knee-jerk know-nothings. News organizations that strive for diversity in their ranks will embrace somebody who's a gay Asian Wiccan. But don't be caught reading the Bible, because your colleagues will think you're some kind of nut.

If you're curious about my religious bent, I will disclose it.

I had a brief love affair with God when I was 12; but, by the time I was confirmed at 13, it was all over. I like to think there's a Great Earth Mother who probably hides out on the Queen Charlotte Islands. I think most religions provide similar templates for living the good life and sometimes become dangerously perverted in practice. I think the longing for God -- call it soul hunger -- is universal, and hard-wired into our genes. I like the evangelicals I've met, who strike me as decent, modest, unpretentious people who feel totally shut out by the mainstream media. I also believe strongly in gay marriage, and I have gay friends who tell me that escaping from their religious families was the happiest day of their life.

As for the so-called God gap between Canada and the United States, it's not as big as you think. A recent Ipsos-Reid poll found that 19 per cent of Canadians now describe themselves as evangelical Christians. (In the U.S., it's about one-third.) The gap between the two countries is not so much in beliefs as in the grip that "moral values" now have on the public agenda. In the U.S., they are front and centre, and that is not a good thing; in Canada, they are almost invisible.

And yet are we really so different? If gay marriage were put to a popular vote in Canada, do you think it would pass? I think not. I do not believe this would be a sign of rampant homophobia. I think it means that many people are willing to endorse civil unions and civil rights for gays, but still stick at the M-word. I think that most people in both countries don't want judges to decide this matter for them, and I think that's a reasonable position.

I've always suspected that history was just lying in wait to take its exquisite revenge on us boomers who sought meaning in sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and the entire menu of Eastern mysticism. And so it has. The people who buy books such as The Purpose Driven Life have an average age of 38. They think our generation debased the culture, and they're right.

After every period of personal and cultural excess, the pendulum inevitably swings back. After the Regency came the Victorians, and so it goes for us, too. Meantime, until somebody else can come up with as good an answer to soul hunger as Rick Warren has, maybe we shouldn't sneer. The '60s are finally over, folks. Time to move on.

Friday, November 26, 2004

My thoughts, His words...

Have you ever had someone say what you are thinking. It's a pretty amazing moment. Max Lucado recently did an interview about post-election America that said exactly what I've been thinking but just couldn't find the words to communicate.

Take a look

Emerging, the Priesthood and Harmony with God

I love the way Will Samson puts togeter thoughts. He writes...

I know that I spend a lot of time in the Gospels, but consider the kingdom parables of Matthew 13. Read through those and you understand that God is at work whether we acknolwedge it or not. It is not our job to gin up God’s activity; that is a given. Instead it is up to us to open our eyes and see what God is up to, see what God is doing, and to ask how we might be a part of that.

Read More

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Holy Observer: Local Man Gives Thanks in Most Circumstances

Sunday School Teacher Fails to Give Thanks for Stubbed Toe, Canadian Change

CHARLOTTE, NC - Darryl Gowin had high hopes for his Thanksgiving Sunday school lesson this year. But Gowin, who teaches 3rd grade Sunday school at Charlotte Church of the Nazarene, had his hopes dashed by a stubbed toe and an overlooked Canadian quarter. 'I've always had a real hard time with 1 Thessalonians 5:18,' Gowan told THO. 'I told myself I wouldn't teach that lesson to my 3rd graders until I could go a whole year, giving thanks in all circumstances. That was 15 years ago.' Gowin says he almost reached his goal this year, until October 3rd at around 3 AM. "

Read More


I've been thinking a lot about progress. I found this at Jay Vorhees blog -

It's a picture of a what the Rand Company of the 1950's thought home computers would look in 2004.

So I guess it's true, we've come a long way baby. But progress isn't always linear. Just because our technology is progressing doesn't mean that everything is moving forward. Take, for example, this quote from Owen Hanson, "After thousands of years, western civilization has advanced to where we bolt our doors and windows at night while jungle natives sleep in open huts."

Often our progress in one area brings about regress in other areas. I'm not very happy with our vision of progress in North America today. Often we've progressed to the point where we are able to see things from our viewpoint without the "hindrance" of seeing things from a larger perspective. We can live fat and happy in our consumer oriented society without thinking that we are ignoring the cries of the poor and oppressed from other parts of the world. Have we really made progress? That's a huge question and one that we need to wrestle with.

Paul wanted Timothy to make progress. But it was a different kind of progress. He wrote - "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (I Timothy 4:7-16)

How do we progress in our faith? How do we take one step closer to Jesus Christ? In regards to a church, progress is often seen as higher attendance, more professional services, a new or updated building. But spiritual progress often looks different than the world's progress. It often appears as weakness or brokenness. Sometimes it looks to the world as if we are moving backward. Kind of like the cross looked like a failure from the world's point of view.

We're called to make progress, but let's be sure that we don't misunderstand how that looks.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Friday, November 19, 2004

Here's a thought...

Introducing Buy Nothing Christmas

This Christmas we'll be swamped with offers, ads and invitations to buy more stuff. But now there's a way to say enough and join a movement dedicated to reviving the original meaning of Christmas giving.

Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites but open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.

Buy Nothing Christmas is a stress-reliever, and more people need to hear about it. You can change your world by simply putting up one of the posters (or make your own) in your church, place of worship, home or work. Be sneaky about it if you have to. The point is to get people thinking. It's an idea whose time has come, so get out there and make a difference!

Read More

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Fascinating Trivia

Thanks to my nephew Matt for these facts -


Many years ago, in Scotland, a new game was invented. It was ruled
"Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden"...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the US Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

Coca-Cola was originally green.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28% (now get this...) The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven: $6,400

The average number of people airborne over the US any given hour: 61,000

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:
Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs -Alexander, the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

Q. Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of what?
A. Their birthplace

Q. Most boat owners name their boats. What is the most popular boat name requested?
A. Obsession

Q. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter "A"?
A. One thousand

Q. What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common?
A. All invented by women.

Q. What is the only food that doesn't spoil?
A. Honey

Q. Which day are there more collect calls than any other day of the year?
A. Father's Day

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase......... "goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month ... which we know today as the honeymoon.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down." It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.


At least 75% of people who read this will try to lick their elbow!

Jesus, Bread and Power

Great post from Will Samson:

"Perhaps so much of our efforts have been focused on things that Jesus didn't even take time to mention that we have no time left to do the things that he explicitly asked us to do? "

Read more

Friday, November 05, 2004

An uneasiness about America

I have been unsettled about this whole election. Part of it has to do that I wasn't thrilled with either candidate. I realized on election night that if I had to choose a president based on what was best for America that I could have made a choice. But trying to choose a candidate that was best for the Kingdom of God seemed impossible. I think I'm disillusioned with what America is coming to stand for. Brennan Manning seemed to echo my thoughts when he wrote -

"A critique of our culture in the light of the gospel is imperative if the church of Jesus Christ is to preserve a coherent sense of itself in a world that is torn and tearing. To criticize the system of Western technological capitalism is neither unpatriotic nor un-American, for as Walter Wink, professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, noted, "We cannot minister to the soul of America unless we love its soul." A chastened patriotism is indispensable for the survival of the nation as well as of the church. National attitudes and policies change only because people love their country.

I see three areas where the American Dream is counter-evangelical - that is, in direct opposition to the message of Jesus and a life endorsed with the signature of Jesus. Our culture, as John Kavanaugh observed, 'fosters and sustains a functional trinitarian god of consumerism, hedonism, and nationalism. Made in the image and likeness of such a god, we are committed to lives of possessiveness, pleasure, and domination.'

Unless the church of the Lord Jesus creates a counter-current to the drift of materialism, self-indulgence, and nationalism, Christians will merely adapt to the secular environment in a tragic distortion of the gospel, in which the words of Jesus are reinterpreted to mean anything, everything, and nothing."
(Read more)

I want to be a good American. I love my country. I love what it has given to me throughout the years. But I am troubled that it is building a foundation on sand. The preservation of what we have has taken precedence over the call of Jesus. And I can't settle for less that what Jesus wants. If that is what it means to be American then I am not interested.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Great quote

Here's a great quote from Lesslie Newbigin's The Gospel in a Pluralist Society .

"If the gospel is to challenge the public life of our society, if Christians are to occupy the “high ground” which they vacated in the noon-time of “modernity,” it will not be by forming a Christian political party, or by aggressive propaganda campaigns. ... It will only be by movements that begin with the local congregation in which the reality of the new creation is present, known, and experienced, and from which men and women will go into every sector of public life to claim it for Christ, to unmask the illusions which have remained hidden and to expose all areas of public life to the illumination of the gospel. But that will only happen when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society."

Thanks to for the link.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


One of the habits that Jesus had that often escapes our notice is the habit of joy. He celebrated during His time on earth. His first miracle was at a wedding feast, and it actually served to prolong the party! Why is it that so often Christians lack joy? Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years. His mind, wit and work earned him the unofficial title of "the greatest justice since John Marshall." At one point in his life, Justice Holmes explained his choice of a career by saying: "I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers." What a sad commentary. Jesus, however, was full of joy. I believe that is one of the reasons people were so drawn to Him.

Perhaps one of the reasons that our joy seems to be so fleeting is that we search for it in the wrong places. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

As Halloween has just passed I find myself raiding my kids candy stash. There is nothing like a Reese's Cup to bring a smile to my face. Yet I find that if I eat too much, the smile slips away. The "good feeling" ends and I end up feeling lethargic. I've tried to fuel my body with junk food. While it initially felt great, there was no real substance to the fuel. In the same way, I often settle for fueling my spirit with spiritual junk food. Playing with things that make me feel good for the moment, but that provide no energy for the long haul.

I need to take a look at myself. Am I joyful? Am I seeking God's offer of a " at the sea" or am I just sitting around making mud pies?

A very important question...

What Muppet are you?

Here is my result:

You are Kermit the Frog.
You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you
have a habit of waving your arms about

"Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and
"How Green Was My Mother"

"Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the

Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.

"Hmm, my banjo is wet."

What Muppet are you?

I just couldn't resist.

Shine on Harvest Moon

Did Falwell really say this?

"But you've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I'm for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord. "

Apparently he did.

Check it out here

A New Confession of Christ...

From Sojourners Magazine - Well worth the read.

Confessing Christ in a World of Violence

Our world is wracked with violence and war. But Jesus said: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God' (Matt. 5:9). Innocent people, at home and abroad, are increasingly threatened by terrorist attacks. But Jesus said: 'Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you' (Matt. 5:44). These words, which have never been easy, seem all the more difficult today.
Nevertheless, a time comes when silence is betrayal. How many churches have heard sermons on these texts since the terrorist atrocities of September 11? Where is the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian 'realism' mean resigning ourselves to an endless future of 'pre-emptive wars'? Does it mean turning a blind eye to torture and massive civilian casualties? Does it mean acting out of fear and resentment rather than intelligence and restraint?
Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism.
- A 'theology of war,' emanating from the highest circles of American government, is seeping into our churches as well.
- The language of 'righteous empire' is employed with growing frequency.
- The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American 'mission' and 'divine appointment' to 'rid the world of evil.'
The security issues before our nation allow no easy solutions. No one has a monopoly on the truth. But a policy that rejects the wisdom of international consultation should not be baptized by religiosity. The danger today is political idolatry exacerbated by the politics of fear.

In this time of crisis, we need a new confession of Christ

Read the full statement