Wednesday, March 30, 2011


So often I want my life to be comfortable. I want it to be free of stress, free of conflict, free of hard work, free of ambiguity, free of distress at seeing pain and suffering in the world, free of responsibility to do something about the pain and suffering in the world. The voice of comfort calls to me and lulls me into doing my work and ignoring the things that make me feel awkward. But comfort and ignoring the world around me becomes isolating. I avoid the uncomfortable theological discussions, I avoid my neighbour, I avoid making decisions about who to support in a federal election. Then I remember these words from one of my favourite writers.
I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity. - C.S. Lewis
So today I say, bring on the discomfort, bring on the ambiguity, bring on the tension, bring on the dis-satisfaction with the world in which we live. I embrace the discomfort knowing that it is good for my soul. It is through wrestling with these things and seeking to right the wrongs of this world that I become the man that God intended me to be.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

God at Work

Our community of faith was blessed to see God's redemptive hand at work this past week. Some of us have been serving a man who is a contemporary "leper" and an outcast from society. He is a man who spent a long time in prison for things he has done. We have walked with him for over two years providing him with support and accountability.

This week he gave a tour of the downtown east side of Vancouver to a group of Bible college students who were visiting our church. He showed them many of the services he had used, the Christian ministries that have been a help to him, and the shelter he had used when he had no other place to stay for a brief period of time.

Although this man is not yet a follower of Jesus, it is apparent that God is slowly breaking through to him. He knows much about Jesus from his interactions with our church and other ministries. He was able to give back some of what he has learned and served these young people by showing them around and giving them insight into the needs of the community.

Friday, March 25, 2011


We often hear that “Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as people in the world.” Recent studies show that this is not the case.
A Statistics Canada report found that while religious affiliation had little impact on marital dissolution (separation and/or divorce), religious service attendance had a pronounced effect. Among Canadians 25 and older who had ever been married, those who attended religious services occasionally were 10 per cent less likely to have their first marriage dissolve than those who never attended religious services. The risk of dissolution was 31 per cent less for those who attended religious services at least once a month.*

The confusion comes when we associate all of those who say they have a religious affiliation but do not have a living faith. The article goes on to say,
Naturally, claiming to believe something or merely belonging to a church does little for marriage. However, the deeper and more consistent the practice of faith – submitting to a body of committed believers; learning regularly from Scripture; being in communion with God through prayer individually as well as with spouse and children; and having friends and family who encourage deeper marital commitment – the greater difference this makes in strengthening the quality and longevity of marriage.
A living, active faith does make a difference in the life-long commitment of marriage.

*"Divorce, the church, and the world," Glenn T. Stanton, March 24, 2011.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


As I look around Vancouver I see projects that suggest progress: a new condo tower beside other new condo towers; a 500 million dollar project to put a new roof on BC Place; a 3.3 billion dollar project to build a new Port Mann bridge. All of this is exciting to watch and means more and more people will be able to live and work in the "most livable city in the world." Is this progress? Humans have been given the ability to reason and the power to create. We must reason well and learn to create that which is good.
Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day. [Uncle Vanya, 1897]
- Anton Chekhov

Thursday, March 17, 2011


St. Patrick (originally Patricius) was a British, Roman, Christian, missionary in Ireland during the second half of the 5th century. He was taken to Ireland as a slave from Roman controlled Britain. In Ireland he toiled as a shepherd-slave for six years before escaping. He trained for ordination and returned to Ireland as a missionary to the people who had once been his captors.
With the Irish - even with the kings - he succeeded beyond measure. Within his lifetime or soon after his death, the Irish slave trade came to a halt, and other forms of violence, such as murder, and intertribal warfare, decreased. In reforming Irish sexual mores, he was rather less successful, though he established indigenous monasteries and convents, whose inmates by their way of life reminded the Irish that the virtues of lifelong faithfulness, courage, and generosity were actually attainable by ordinary human beings and that the sword was not the only instrument for structering a society.... Patrick is beyond dispute: the first human being in the history of the world to speak out unequivocally against slavery. Nor will any voice as strong as his be heard again until the seventeenth century.*
Today, we celebrate Missionary Patrick.

*Cahill, Thomas. How The Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. New York: Anchor Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 1995, p. 110-114.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Good Things Come In Threes

Click on photo to enlarge.

Last June I wrote about the experience of two of our daughters getting married within six months of each other. That was a lot of fun. Now, just ten months later our third daughter has married. We are blessed. We are blessed to have these amazing young women in our lives. We are blessed to have their husbands in our family. We are blessed to have so many family and friends who have shared with us in these wedding celebrations.

Weddings are joyful, social, events that remind us of the rhythms of life. Jesus chose a wedding at Cana to show his first miracle and the book of Revelation tells us that one day there will be a marriage in heaven.
Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:
“Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.” Revelation 19:6-9.

Our family has rejoiced in three weddings in 16 months and still we prepare for the greatest wedding of all.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Humanae Vitae

A few days ago I wrote about chastity as discussed in the recent "Pastoral Letter to Young People on Chastity" written by the Canadian Catholic Bishops. As I said in that post, I found the article to be a helpful letter which gave guidance and encouragement to Catholics and other followers of Jesus. But,one sentence did confuse me and left me with uncertainty of what the Canadian Catholic Bishops meant to say. I wrote them for clarification and asked about a sentence on page three. The sentence reads: "That is why the sexual act has to be unitive and procreative and why some kinds of sexual activity are not chaste." I notice that the sentence specifically says unitive "and" procreative. My question regarded what this sentence means for married couples where procreation is no longer possible.

Patrick J Fletcher, PhD, Senior Theological Advisor, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was kind enough to answer my question.
The sentence you mention, although perhaps unfortunate in its lack of precision, simply intends to express the teaching of the Church (cf. Humanae Vitae 12) that the marital act must have a procreative and unitive significance. It is not trying to say that every marital act must result in procreation, or even have the possibility of resulting in procreation. To the extent that the current wording could imply this, it is unfortunate.
Please be assured, however, that the Pastoral Letter is in no way intending to change the teaching of the Church on sexuality as contained in the magisterium of Pius XI, Paul VI, John Paul II, or Benedict XVI.
Thus, as regards the example you provided of a couple who is sterile for reasons beyond their control (age, disease, etc.), sexual intercourse for them would still possess its procreative significance inasmuch as the essential meaning of the act still speaks the language of life-giving and has not been intentionally thwarted in this regard.

I appreciated being directed to the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae 12 and read with interest much of the letter. This quote from Humanae Vitae section 11 was particularly helpful.

The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.

The encyclical letter clearly states that sexual activity between a husband and wife is noble and worthy whether or not the couple is fertile. This is a helpful clarification as it is clear that some Catholics and other readers of this letter have been confused by the language. I encourage readers to take the time to read all of Humanae Vitae and particularly sections 11 and 12. They are a helpful counter-cultural voice to a world focussed on personal gratification.

Monday, March 7, 2011


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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
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Sunday, March 6, 2011


A few weeks ago the National Post ran an article about a letter written by the Canadian Catholic Bishops regarding "chastity." The majority of the letter entitled, "Pastoral Letter to Young People on Chastity," is directed to young single people and states that "living a life of chastity is an ongoing journey which requires both guidance and encouragement." Chastity, not to be confused with celibacy, can be defined as an appropriate attitude toward sexuality or perhaps defined as holy sexuality. Of course the ideas of chastity, celibacy, and sanctity in marriage are not popular themes in our western culture. Naturally the letter was newsworthy and some persons quoted in the National Post article expressed concern that it represented a return to more conservative sexual attitudes that predate the reforms of Vatican II.

I encourage the reader to read the entire letter before drawing conclusions since it appears to me that the letter is consistent with the teachings of the church and indeed the teachings of the Bible. The National Post article chose to focus on one paragraph of the letter that dealt with chastity in marriage. Reading the Post article one may be confused about what the Catholic Bishops consider the place of sexual intimacy in marriage. Here is what the letter from the Catholic Bishops had to say about chastity for married persons.
Sexuality becomes truly human when it is integrated into the total relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. Pope John Paul II wrote: “Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love.” This means that married people are also called to be chaste if they are to truly love each other.
Married people living chastely can have vibrant sex lives. In the relationship between a man and a woman, chastity helps them love each other as persons rather than make each other an object of pleasure or satisfaction. Despite what the media and Hollywood suggest, the value of sexual intercourse does not lie in recreation, or physical gratification. Any physical pleasure should lead toward the ultimate expression of love between husband and wife, the total self-giving of one person to another. Sexual intercourse in marriage can be so intimate that it becomes an emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual experience. It strengthens and completes the bond of marriage. That is why the sexual act has to be unitive and procreative and why some kinds of sexual activity are not chaste. Though pleasure may be present, some acts are a misuse of sex when they fall short of what God intends.
The letter calls Catholics and all followers of Christ to a higher view of our sexual lives. It reminds us that the goal of sexual intimacy is the total self-giving of one person to another. In a world driven by self-gratification, consumerism, and Hollywood attitudes regarding sex we need once again to hear this call.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Unlived Things

No one lives his life.
Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.
Our true face never speaks
Somewhere there must be storehouses
Where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armor or old carriages
or clothes hanging limply on the walls.
All paths lead there,
to the repository of unlived things.
–Rainer Maria Rilke*

*As quoted at Empire Remixed