Thursday, September 29, 2011

Skyscraper Soul

I had a surreal experience tonight. I had just finished a day of work and I was waiting on Maureen as she was walking home from her job. I was sitting in our condo on the 14th floor of a 27 storey skyscraper watching the sun go down and the people bustling home from work. I turned on a previously recorded television show of Jim Cuddy performing his Set List in Studio One at Corus Quay in Toronto. He was singing Skyscraper Soul and the words flowed over my consciousness. It was like he was in the room with me describing the sights and feelings of my day. Oh yes, I've got a skyscraper soul and I'm scraping up against the sky!

Skyscraper Soul (words and music by Jim Cuddy)
© 2006 - 2011

Everyone knows it, try not to show it,
This city can bring you down
I’m a believer some days are hard, but
I couldn’t leave this town

I got a skyscraper soul
Like a flower that comes where the sun never goes
Skyscraper soul
Filling my heart where there once was a hole

Look out my window
Watching the sun go down
On the crowds below
I know the struggle,
Weaving through trouble
Life can be hard, I know

I got a skyscraper soul
There’s mud in my veins and there’s steel in my bones
Skyscraper soul
Building it all up from water and stones

Look through the market stalls
Over broken walls
To this hollowed ground
Looks are deceiving
There’s a heart beating
Here in this battered town

Cause I got a skyscraper soul
Like a flower that comes where the sun never goes
Skyscraper soul
Filling it all up with water and stones

I’ve got a skyscraper soul
There's mud in my veins and there’s steel in my bones
Skyscraper soul
Brushing the rust off and losing control

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

People and the Kingdom of God

“You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into his Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment."
“But we can block it in many ways. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colors, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away."
“There is a character in one of my children’s stories named Aslan, who says, ‘I never tell anyone any story except his own.’ I cannot speak for the way God deals with others; I only know how he deals with me personally. Of course, we are to pray for spiritual awakening, and in various ways we can do something toward it. But we must remember that neither Paul nor Apollos gives the increase. As Charles Williams once said, ‘The altar must often be built in one place so that the fire may come down in another place.’” C.S. Lewis

These words from C.S. Lewis are taken from Decision magazine, September 1963; © 1963 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  The article can be found online at

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I was listening to some of Michael W. Smith's music today and heard "Live and Learn" from the I 2 (Eye) album. The beginning of this song quotes the last stanza of the William Knox poem, "Mortality." In an attempt to make the entire poem more accessible I present it to you today.
(aka "Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud")
(Written by William Knox)
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passes from life to his rest in the grave.
The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, the low and the high,
Shall molder to dust, and together shall lie.
The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
The husband, that mother and infant who blessed;
Each, all, are away to their dwelling of rest.
The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure - her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.
The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne,
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn,
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.
The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap,
The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep,
The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.
The saint, who enjoyed the communion of Heaven,
The sinner, who dared to remain unforgiven,
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.
So the multitude goes - like the flower or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes - even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.
For we are the same that our fathers have been;
We see the same sights that our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we feel the same sun,
And run the same course that our fathers have run.
The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging, they also would cling -
But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.
They loved - but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned - but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved - but no wail from their slumber will come;
They joyed - but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.
They died - aye, they died - we things that are now,
That walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
And make in their dwellings a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.
Yea, hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;
And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.
'Tis the wink of an eye - 'tis the draught of a breath -
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
(This is commonly referred to as Abraham Lincoln's favourite poem.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Walking in the Dark

For a few years now I have developed a practise of walking in the dark. What I mean by this is I like to go for walks at night in places that are as dark I can find. Living in a large urban centre like Vancouver means that even when I go for a walk at night there are still plenty of city lights. So in my quest for darkness I find myself walking in places like beaches, parks, and the Iona Jetty (one of the best places in Greater Vancouver to see the stars). When I lived in Calgary, one of my favourite places I would go for a night walk was a retreat centre near Calgary called King's Fold. At night one could hike the river valley with just the light of the stars to guide you.

Night walks heighten my senses and allow me to listen better, smell more, and detect things I might normally miss. One must overcome a sense of fear for we are often taught to be afraid of the dark and there may in fact be some real danger. The valley of the Ghost River at King's Fold is home to predators such as bears and cougars and so my ears were constantly tuned for the snap of a twig when I walked this valley. Yet, such fear and heightened awareness can be a metaphor for life.

The life I live in Canada is really quite safe and secure. Most of the time I organize my life in ways that protect me and minimize my exposure to danger or the risk of loss. I have my keys and locks to keep out the "bad guy," "bogeyman," and "terrorist." I have my vitamins and disinfectants to protect me from disease and bed-bugs. I have my life insurance, RSPs, and stock investments to placate my fear of the financial future. I am fortunate to have so much. Many in the world have none of these things. They survive and thrive without all of these protections. Could I do as well if I were to lose all of my security blankets?

Walking in the dark reminds me that I am small and fragile in a big world of danger. It reminds me to put my trust in the right places. It causes me to pray and trust and love and hunger for something more. It reminds me that life is about risk; it is about taking chances when every fibre of my body cries for comfort and security. Where would I be if I had never taken a chance? Where would I be if I had taken more chances?

Walking in the dark reminds me that there are more sources of light than streetlights, sunshine, and flashlights. There is inner light which is a reflection of light that is far greater. There is a light in which we can walk that will bring light to any dark place.

No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. - Isaiah 60:19 New Living Translation (NLT)

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. - 1 John 1:5-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Voices II

I posted these lyrics a while ago but now I have added a link to a recording of this song.

Voices (Lyrics by Keith Shields; Music by Mike Charko; Copyright 2011 SOCAN)

It's 5 am and all is quiet
I hear voices in my head
One says, "I should seek out comfort"
Another, "Give it all away"

Life is complex and confusing
Wise enough to know
I will always keep on seeking
The Voice that whispers in the Wind.

It's the Voice that cleared away the darkness
It's the Voice that separated seas
It's the Voice that speaks against oppression
The Voice that whispers in the Wind

Other voices cry with passion
Tickle in my ears
They tell me I must try to fit in
They tell me not to make a scene

Friends and family want to help me
Tell me to be calm
But I cannot keep from hearing
The Voice that whispers in the wind

It's the Voice that cleared away the darkness
It's the Voice that separated seas
It's the Voice that speaks against oppression
The Voice that whispers in the Wind

So many voices that I'm hearing
Listen through the buzz
One says, "Give it up and follow"
One says, "You are just a fool"

The call of comfort keeps on screaming
Listen, screen it out
But I will always keep on seeking
The Voice that whispers in the Wind

It's the Voice that cleared away the darkness
It's the Voice that separated seas
It's the Voice that speaks against oppression
The Voice that whispers in the Wind

Sometimes I wonder, sometimes
Sometimes I wonder, sometimes

It's the Voice that says I am holy
It's the Voice that calls me by name
It's the Voice that heals all my sickness
The Voice that whispers in the Wind

A recording of this song can now be heard by going to the profile page of "Key of Zed" on

Friday, September 9, 2011

Listening to the Universe

Today I simply offer another quote from Annie Dillard:
Who shushed the stars? There are a thousand million galaxies easily seen in the Palomar reflector; collisions between and among them do, of course, occur. But these collisions are very long and silent slides. Billions of stars sift among each other untouched, too distant even to be moved, heedless as always, hushed. The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. But God knows I have tried. At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains; the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep - just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don't do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life's length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression; instead, it is all there is.*
*Dillard, Annie. Teaching A Stone To Talk: Expeditions and Encounters. New York: HarperCollins, 1982, p. 89, 90.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Big Bang

The "Big Bang" hypothesis of cosmology has become part of our collective psyche and is the most popular explanation for how the universe came to be. If you asked a cross-section of people who it was that first came up with this theory you might get a variety of answers but few would be able to tell you that it was a Belgian scientist and catholic priest named George Lemaître (Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître). He first developed his idea in a paper published in 1927 under the terminology of the "hypothesis of the primeval atom." The paper suggested that the universe was not static but rather continuously expanding. Such a view was contrary to the collective understanding of the physicists of his day, including Albert Einstein. Lemaitre's theory led others to agree that there might have been a primeval point and sent physicists down the path of searching further and further back toward the elusive big bang as the point from which all else follows. Einstein once stood and applauded a lecture given by Lemaitre on this very topic.

Many would find it surprising to hear that a faithful catholic priest would have developed such a significant and world changing concept. How did this man maintain his faith and his science? Hubert Vecchierello remarked that,
It is a point of great interest nowadays . . . to see a man who is both a priest and a scientist fraternizing on the most intimate terms with the world's most illustrious scientific geniuses. He not only associates with them, but he is their peer; and in that is the lie given to the old and empty charge that the study of science means the loss of belief in religion. Lemaître, of course, is usually an object of great curiosity — not so much to his coreligionists as to many not of the faith who marvel at the "phenomenon" of a Catholic priest being a scientist, yes, not only a scientist of the regular run, but a genius whose theories are most daring.*
Lemaitre was very careful with his use of the scientific method. Speaking to Catholic scientists, Lemaître said:
The Christian researcher has to master and apply with sagacity the technique appropriate to his problem. His investigative means are the same as those of his non-believer colleague . . . In a sense, the researcher makes an abstraction of his faith in his researches. He does this not because his faith could involve him in difficulties, but because it has directly nothing in common with his scientific activity. After all, a Christian does not act differently from any non-believer as far as walking, or running, or swimming is concerned.#
And he was sensible about his understanding of theology.
Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes . . . The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses . . . As a matter of fact neither Saint Paul nor Moses had the slightest idea of relativity.%
His understanding of the Bible led him to trust it on all matters of salvation but never worry that it might include scientific or historic errors.
The writers of the Bible were illuminated more or less — some more than others — on the question of salvation. On other questions they were as wise or ignorant as their generation. Hence it is utterly unimportant that errors in historic and scientific fact should be found in the Bible, especially if the errors related to events that were not directly observed by those who wrote about them . . . The idea that because they were right in their doctrine of immortality and salvation they must also be right on all other subjects, is simply the fallacy of people who have an incomplete understanding of why the Bible was given to us at all.^
Lemaitre's conclusion to his 1950 book on the subject of the primeval atom gives us a glimpse into the mind of a man who is thoroughly scientific and thoroughly Christian.
We cannot end this rapid review which we have made together of the most magnificent subject that the human mind may be tempted to explore without being proud of these splendid endeavors of Science in the conquest of the Earth, and also without expressing our gratitude to One Who has said: "I am the Truth," One Who gave us the mind to understand him and to recognize a glimpse of his glory in our universe which he has so wonderfully adjusted to the mental power with which he has endowed us.@

For further reading see "The Faith and Reason of Father George Lemaitre."

The original 1927 paper can be found here.

*Hubert Vecchierello, Einstein and Relativity; Lemaître and the Expanding Universe (Paterson: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1934), 23.

#Godart and Heller, Cosmology of Lemaître, 174.

%Hubert Vecchierello, 1934, 24.

^Hubert Vecchierello, 1934, 25.

@Georges Lemaître, The Primeval Atom (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1950), 55.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I was rereading The Language of God by Francis Collins for a paper on which I am presently working. I came upon a place where he quotes one of my favourite authors, Annie Dillard. She reminds us that we have banished God from the world in which we live. We have found ways to show that He is not involved in our daily lives. We have plugged our ears solidly so that He will not speak to us. And now, when we think we might like to hear from Him, He is quiet. We hear of stories in other times and in other places where it seems like God might be at work and might be speaking and we wonder why we do not hear Him and see His miracles. Dillard says,
Now we are no longer primitive. Now the whole world seems not holy. . . . We as a people have moved from pantheism to pan-atheism .... It is difficult to undo our own damage and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave. It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind. We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it. We are lighting matches in vain under every green tree. Did the wind used to cry and the hills shout forth praise? Now speech has perished from among the lifeless things of the earth, and living things say very little to very few. . . . And yet it could be that wherever there is motion there is noise, as when a whale breaches and smacks the water, and wherever there is stillness there is the small, still voice,
God's speaking from the whirlwind, nature's old song and dance, the show we drove from town ... What have we been doing all these centuries but trying to call God back to the mountain, or, failing that, raise a peep out of anything that isn't us? What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are they not both saying: Hello?"
(Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk p. 87-89; as Quoted by Francis Collins in The Language of God p39.)
Oh God, how do I unplug my ears?

Collins, Francis S. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. New York: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc., 2006.

Dillard, Annie. Teaching A Stone To Talk: Expeditions and Encounters. New York: HarperCollins, 1982.