Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I want to live a thankful life. Mary Jo Leddy says that "we are held captive by dissatisfaction." I see this around me. People living in one of the greatest places on the planet are dissatisfied and want more. I must confess that often I want more. Ingratitude oppresses and binds us. But I will reject this ingratitude as it rises up in me. Gratitude releases and makes us free. Gratitude brings peace. I will be grateful. I will be grateful for my wife and my daughter with whom I live. I will be grateful for my other daughters living in Calgary and Port Dover. I will be grateful for parents and friends, for nature, for food in my belly, for a roof over my head, and for so many other rich gifts in my life. And to whom will I be thankful? I will be thankful to God.

"Always be thankful." Colossians 3:15b, The Bible.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Footnote to All Prayers

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.

Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

By C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Margaret Somerville is one of our best ethical thinkers. In a speech she delivered at the Sydney Institute in 2007 she went head to head with Richard Dawkins and James Watson in presenting this way-forward in the discipline of ethics. Her “science-spirit” view is also a valuable descriptor for a way of integrating science and faith.
I suggest that three views about the proper roles of science and religion in society are currently competing with each other. I call them the “pure science” view, the “pure mystery” view and the “science-spirit” view.

Proponents of the pure science view believe our rational cognitive capacities are our most valued features. This view is intensely individualistic, liberal, post-modern, and personal rights-based. It is uncomfortable with uncertainty and seeks certainty through science.

The pure mystery view is often associated with fundamentalist religious beliefs. People who espouse this view tend to be conservative, traditional and protective of community. They often adopt a literal reading of symbolic discourse. Like people in the pure science camp, they are uncomfortable with uncertainty, though they seek certainty through religion instead of science.

Adherents of the science-spirit view are excited by the new science, experiencing it as increasing our sense of wonder and awe. But they also believe ther is “more” to humans than their genes – that we also have a spirit dimension. Science-spirit people are comfortable with uncertainty and recognize that it can require them to draw lines in grey areas when dealing with ethics. They accept there is much we cannot control. And they try to hold science and mystery in creative tension.

The burning question the science-spirit view raises is this: Can we find the moral will, political consensus and the courage to recognize that in some circumstances we have to say “no,” even at personal cost; at the cost of less rapid “progress” in science; at economic cost and at a political cost?

With the new techno-science we hold the essence of life in the palm of our collective human hand and, with this, the future of the planet and of ourselves, including our very nature. With stakes this high, we need the courage to say “no;” the courage to exercise “wise ethical restraint.” In working out what that requires, one of the most fundamental questions we must constantly ask ourselves is: Can the future trust us?*
For an award winning view of a future in which humans do not say “no” and do not use “wise ethical restraint,” see the writings of another Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. Her fictional book entitled Oryx and Crake (Seal Books, 2004) offers a particularly bleak picture of a world without ethical restraint.

*This quote is an excerpt of an adaption of a speech delivered at The Sydney Institute, June 4, 2007. See Geez magazine issue 10, Summer 2008, pages 58-61. Margaret Somerville is founding director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. She received the 2004 UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science, and is author of The Ethical Imagination (Anansi, 2006).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Red Letters

A few days ago I saw a heart-rending sight. I came upon a suicide just as the police had arrived and put a blanket over the body. Someone (I could not tell you who they were or even their gender) had jumped off of the pedestrian walkway of the Burrard Street bridge to the sea-wall below. I spent a silent 30 minutes in the pool where I swim lengths after witnessing this sight. As I did I thought and prayed about that person's life. What had caused them to be so hopeless that they had made this choice? Why were there no alternatives for this person? Who was missing them right then? Was someone wondering where they were?

Today, I went by again. A few bouquets of flowers marked the spot. One person had written some words addressed to the deceased. I am sure the words were heart-felt and meant to bring peace but as I read them I thought how empty the words seemed. Could any words not seem empty after the fact. I wondered what I would have said to this person if I had had the chance to speak to them before this tragedy. What could one say?

What they needed was hope. We all need hope. Our world tries to convince us that there is no hope. But there is hope for the hopeless. There is hope in one Person. And that one Person has left us His words of hope in Red Letters.
There is love in the red letters
There is truth in the red letters
There is hope for the hopeless
Peace and forgiveness
There is life in the red letters
In the red letters.*

*"Red Letters," DC Talk from the album Supernatural, 1998.
Songwriters: Michael De Wayne Tait; Kevin Max Smith; Toby McKeehan; Christopher Harris; Mark James Heimermann.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A New Twist on An Old Tale

The Pharisee sermon by Amos Nidiffe
He also told this parable to some who trusted that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.
Two people went to church to pray, one an intellectual, the other a politician. The intellectual, standing by himself, was praying thus, "God I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, capitalists, conservatives or even like this politician. I garden, eat organic and shop fair trade."
The politician, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven but beat his chest saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!"
I tell you, this man went home justified rather than the intellectual; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.*

*"Sermon No. 12," Geez magazine, Summer, 2008, p. 38. Amos Nidiffer lives in his native Carter County, Tennessee.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Love someone who does not deserve it

"Manifesto: The Mad FarmerLiberation Front" by Wendell Berry
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Because this is a vision of life that embraces humility and patience,

Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are to be harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.*

* Wendell Berry, "Manifesto: The Mad FarmerLiberation Front," in The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1998), pp. 87-88. As quoted in Walsh, Brian J. and Keesmaat, Sylvia C., Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 178. See the entire Wendell Berry Poem here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Destinations and Hand-baskets

I must preface this by saying that there is much good in this world. But sometimes, as I read the news, I find myself wondering, "Where are we going? . . . And why am I in this hand-basket?"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking the Easy Way

I wish there was an easy way to live out this life of faith. I wish there was some way to just say a few words and "presto" life would be simple, righteous, just, easy, and uncomplicated. Jesus, the night before He was crucified, asked for an easier way.
He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. "Abba, Father," he cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." Mark 14:35-36 (NLT)
But there was no easier way for Jesus. The cross was the way that God could show His love for all people for all time; and there is no easy way for us. Each day is a new start and a new day in which we once again commit ourselves to following Jesus. We follow with joy, we follow with sorrow, and we follow with hope.
Magic Wand (Chris Rice)

He rode his wagon into town
A gaudy spectacle
And every gray November brought him there
Always entertaining
Pulling rabbits from thin air
He would wave his magic wand
He would say the magic words
Working up a miracle
Puttin’ on a show
Changing what I thought to be
Unchangeable reality
Wish I had a magic wand of my own

Now twenty-three Novembers later
The prestidigitator
Still holds a power in my mind
‘Cause I’d like a quick and easy way
To look inside and make a change
A magic wand would do me fine
I would wave my magic wand
I would say the magic words
Working up a miracle
Puttin’ on a show
Changing what I thought to be
Unchangeable reality
If I had a magic wand of my own

I would wave it over me and over you
And over all this crazy world
And make it right
Oh and there’s so much I’d change
If I could take the easy way!

I would wave my magic wand
I would say the magic words
Working up a miracle
Puttin’ on a show
Changing what I thought to be
Unchangeable reality
If I had a magic wand of my own

The only way to really change
Is simple choices everyday
Obey the Spirit-whisper in my soul
With the help of God, a little time
Can change a heart, renew a mind
Without a magic wand He’ll work a miracle...

Copyright 2000 Clumsy Fly Music (ASCAP)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Cross

The cross was not the defeat of Christ at the hands of the powers: it was the defeat of the powers at the hands - yes, the bleeding hands - of Christ.[1]

The whole biblical drama, . . . the whole tradition of the embrace of pain - from the initiation of covenant to the devastating events of Passion Week – declares that evil is defeated when it is allowed to expend itself in demonic fury on that which it hates the most, the Source of all good. On the servant of the Lord, in the Messiah’s death on the cross, that demonic fury is let loose. The cross was "the victory of weakness over strength, the victory of love over hatred. It was the victory that consisted in Jesus' allowing evil to do its worst to him, and never attempting to fight it on its own terms. When the power of evil had made its last possible move, Jesus had still not been beaten by it. He bore the weight of the world’s evil to the end, and outlasted it."[2]

This is what C.S. Lewis calls "deeper magic from the dawn of time" in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (London: Fontana, 1950), chap. 15.[3]

[1] N. T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), p. 19.

[2] N. T. Wright, New Tasks for a Renewed Church (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992), p. 72. as quoted in Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 111.

[3] Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 111.