Sunday, July 31, 2011

Raise Me

Listen to this song here.

My life is now in the hands of those who know my crime
They stare at me with their hungry eyes
Pious words from their lips hide a bitter rage
We share a crime that’s now all mine

Please let me live
This just isn't fair
You are guilty like me
My life has been laid bare

Who is this one they take me to, a judge, or just a man
He looks at me with sorrow in his eyes
At my feet he kneels to write words I cannot read
He sees right through all of their lies

Please let me live
This just isn't fair
You are guilty like me
My life has been laid bare

I can't escape, a lifetime of mistakes
I want to run; I'm so alone

Please let me live
This just isn't fair
You are guilty like me
My life has been laid bare

Suddenly, we are alone; are they really gone?
Only one can tell me now my fate
He looks at me with purest love I truly understand
And says to me go, sin no more

Where are my accusers
I have been released
The one who stooped down with me
Has raised me up again

Lyrics and Music by Mike Charko and Keith Shields.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

We Do Not Lose Heart

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Today's New International Version (TNIV)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning. - Eugene Wigner

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thin Places

The concept of "Thin Places" fascinates me. The definition of a "thin place" is "a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily."* This was an important concept to Celtic Christians. For the Roman church, the place to meet God was, and is, in a church building or a cathedral. To the Celts, the place to meet God was at a thin place. Such places were most often outdoors and defined by islands, mountains, points of land that thrust out into the sea, caves, or other natural landmarks.

The concept fascinates me and unnerves me at the same time. It is not something of which the bible explicitly speaks and yet it seems that the concept is there and that several people in the bible had their own thin places. If you think of Mount Sinai, Mount Carmel, Jacob and his ladder, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane you will get a picture of what I mean. Perhaps it is not that the places have particular significance but that the places come to have special relevance for a person or for people in general.

I have a few places where God has spoken in unique ways. These are places where His voice was a little more clear and He has spoken more often. They are places to which I return to hear from Him again. It is not that He always speaks at such places; for He can be just as silent in such places as any other. It is not that these are the only places where one can hear from God. They are, however, places to which I return with increased expectancy and with an increased desire to listen. Perhaps that is the purpose of this metaphor in my life. Mark D. Roberts has this to say about the concept.
If you want to use the thin place metaphor, then you might want to say that the purpose of thin places is to help us realize that all places can be thin. Or, better yet, perhaps the purpose of a thin place is to train us to make the other places in our lives thinner. Moreover, when we realize that the Spirit of God dwells within us, we will come to believe that we are called to be thin places, as God makes his presence known through us.*
May you seek places in your life where you might find a greater depth of connection with God. May there be enough thin places in all of our lives to spur us on to love and good deeds.

* For some helpful theological reflection on the concept of "thin places" see Mark D. Roberts Blog series on the topic. This is where I found this particular definition.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let's Get Small

No, I am not referring to the 1970s comedy routine by Steve Martin. This blog is about how we humans perceive ourselves in the universe. Who are we? How are we different from the other life forms on this planet (or other life forms in the universe)? What is our function in this world and what is the purpose of life?

It was so much simpler when we could think that our planet was at the centre of the universe, or even the centre of our solar system. But we no longer have that luxury. Observation of planetary bodies and the invention of the telescope mean that there is no turning back. Compared to the known universe, we are small.

This sort of reasoning leads many to question previously satisfying answers. A generation or two ago it was almost always assumed that behind all of the questions was a God who knew the answers and a God who cared about humankind as his crowning creation. That is certainly no longer the starting point of such conversations nor is it the common conclusion.

As we look at a diagram such as the one noted above, it is easy to see that we have come a long way in our understanding of the world in which we live. Perhaps the realm in which we continue to struggle is best represented by the word "why." Not "how" do things work. We have much knowledge and plenty of experiments to do to search for explanations about the workings of our bodies and of our universe. The real interesting questions are still out there. Why does the universe exist? Why does all of that "extra" space in our universe exist? Why do humans exist? Science and theology both seek to answer these ultimate questions of life and there is no necessary conflict between the answers provided by each discipline.

"Why" questions (or purpose questions) are often beyond the scope of scientific naturalism and experimentation . Lesslie Newbigin has said that "cause is something that can be discovered by observation and reason. Purpose is not available for inspection because, until the purpose has been realized, it is hidden in the mind of the one whose purpose it is." Who is behind the universe and why are we here are some of the most difficult questions which humans now face. The work to unravel these answers will require more effort than the largest scientific experiments of our time. And this work will take an eternity. It will require the work of our brightest minds and the collective effort of many people on the planet. Want to join in the conversation?

Click on the picture for a larger image or go here for the original source.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pardon Me Lord

"Pardon me Lord, but if You are with us, why has all of this happened to us? Where are all of the miracles that happened in the past? You have abandoned us and left us at the mercy of this post-modern, consumeristic, God hating people."

That is my paraphrase of Gideon's words found in Judges 6:13. Gideon was hiding from his enemies and sneaking around getting some grain to make some bread. God had not done any miracles in Israel for many years. He is scared, he is alone, he feels small and weak, and he has been defeated by a conquering army. Yet, God calls Gideon in the midst of his cowardly hiding and tells him to "go in the strength he has and save Israel out of Midian’s hand." God doesn't even tell Gideon that He will increase his strength. Gideon is to use the strength he already has to save Israel. This doesn't seem to be much with which to work. There does not seem to be much of a plan. God does not say, "Do it this way." It is up to Gideon.
There is an almost awful freedom about Christ's religion. "I do not call you servants." He said, "for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. I have called you friends." As Christ's friends, His followers are supposed to know what He wants done, and for the same reason they will try to do it--this is the whole working basis of Christianity. Surely next to its love for the chief of sinners the most touching thing about the religion of Christ is its amazing trust in the least of saints. Here is the mightiest enterprise ever launched upon this earth, mightier even than its creation, for it is its re-creation, and the carrying of it out is left, so to speak, to haphazard--to individual loyalty, to free enthusiasms, to uncoerced activities, to an uncompelled response to the pressures of God's Spirit. Christ sets His followers no tasks. He appoints no hours. He allots no sphere. He Himself simply went about and did good. He did not stop life to do some special thing which should be called religious. His life was His religion. - Henry Drummond (17 August 1851 - 11 March 1897) a Scottish evangelist, writer and lecturer.
What have I got that I can use for God today? What strength do I have? What resources? What fear? What faith? What missiology? What ecclesiology? Who will go with me? God calls me with the same call that He gave to Gideon. "I am sending you to save the church (Israel)." I will give my little and He will fill it up.

Judges 6:11-24
New International Version (NIV)
11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Celtic Blessing

May you have -
Walls for the wind
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks bedside the fire
Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire


Friday, July 15, 2011

Ancient Wisdom

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430).
Lord, inspire us to read your Scriptures and meditate on them day and night.
We beg you to give us real understanding of what we need,
that we may in turn put its precepts into practice.
Yet we know that understanding and good intentions are worthless,
unless rooted in your graceful love.
So we ask that the words of Scriptures
may also be not just signs on page,
but channels of grace into our hearts.
Origen of Alexandria (c.186-254)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I could not attend my usual community of faith and so I walked down the street to one of the closest places of worship. I was an outsider and looked in as the community worshipped together. This came at a good time, I was ready for a change, a good selection of worship songs, and a message from the Bible. It was a sunny day and I walked to and from the gathering with a joyful spirit. I was moved by the songs, the guitar solo, the vocalists, the passionate words from the woman who preached a well researched and well-spoken message. There were moments when the veil of heaven was pulled away and we sensed Holy God was present. If I could attend a new gathering every week I would likely be equally inspired and would go out to share what I have learned with others in my world.

Unfortunately, if I get to know any of these people I will soon come to realize that they are just people like me. They have their flaws, their sins, they fail to see God, they fail to care for the poor, or look after their neighbour. In my foolish vanity I would soon see myself as equal to them, and then far superior. I would imagine that I could teach them a thing or two about worship and then that I could do much better starting my own church.

Eugene Peterson quotes Annie Dillard in his book The Contemplative Pastor*.
Dillard says
"I know only enough of God to want to worship Him by any means ready to hand....There is one church here so I go to it....It is unfashionable because it is ridiculous. How can searchers after God and seekers after beauty stomach the 'dancing bear act' that is staged in Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, week after week?" Dillard, cheerfully and matter-of-factly, goes anyway. Her tour de force on worship, "An Expedition to the Pole," provides the image and rationale. "Wherever we go, to the North Pole or the church, there seems to be only one business at hand: that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us". "Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?...The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews. Explorers [to the North Pole] unmindful of 'conditions' died. Why don't similarly unprepared worshipers perish on the spot?"
After attending this local church gathering I came home and read a meditation from my book of Celtic Daily Prayer*. Perhaps there is an answer to my unasked questions in these words:
Where are you to begin? Begin where you are. Make that one corner, room, house, office, as like heaven as you can. Begin? Begin with the paper on the walls, make that beautiful; with the air, keep it fresh; with the very drains make them sweet. Abolish whatsoever makes a lie - in conversation, in social intercourse, in correspondence in domestic life. This done, you have arranged for a heaven, but you have not got it. Heaven lies within: in kindness, in humbleness, in unselfishness, in faith, in love, in service. To get these in, get Christ in. Teach all in the house about Christ - what He did and what He said, and how He lived. Teach it not as a doctrine, but as a discovery, as your own discovery. Live your own discovery.
Then pass out into the city. Do all to it that you have done at home.#
Begin at home, begin with the people closest to me, begin to build a community, begin to reach a city, begin to reach a world. I will begin right now.

*Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993.
#Northumbria Community. Celtic Daily Prayer: Inspirational Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community. London: HarpersCollinsPublishers, 2005, p. 714, 715.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Our world is a place of joy, beauty, love, grace, war, pain, suffering, and selfishness. I want to celebrate all of the good things of this world but I also want to recognize the pain in which we find ourselves. We all want a better world. We all want to contribute to a better world and yet, I am hindered by my own selfishness. I never seek to be selfish. I never feel that I am selfish. But one thing I know is that my heart wants what is good for me. I am not alone in this. Selfishness shows up in so many places in our culture. We see it in road rage and horn honking in traffic. I saw an instance of cycle rage on a leisurely Sunday afternoon in Vancouver where a cyclist was shouting at people to get off the cycle path and onto the walking path. The irony was that the cyclist was yelling at people who were carrying on a conversation in sign-language happily unaware of his rage. Others got angry and shouted insults at the cyclist for his attitude. We see selfishness in a lack of common courtesy and we see it in a general lack of patience with others. I will often disdain others for the very thing that lurks in my heart. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn spoke of this in his book, The Gulag Archipelago.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Solzhenitsyn knew this well having spent several years in the Soviet work camps known as Gulags. And I too see it around me and in my own heart. My heart needs a renovation. My heart needs the kind of revolution found in these words.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3,4, the Bible (New International Version).
This seems quite impossible of me and my fellow humans. This requires more than you and I are capable of giving. Perhaps that is why it requires help from God. With Him, all things are possible.