Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Many Kings

(Written by Marc Martel and Jason Germain; 2006 Centricity Music Publishing/Germain and Martel Music Publishing/ASCAP)
From the album "Ending is Beginning."

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliness hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’ve waited for? Cuz

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me
All for me, All for you
All for me, All for you

This is a great song for this time of year or any time of year. You can listen to it here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Follow-up to A Parable

On December 9th John Stackhouse had a blog post which contained these quotes from Walter Hilton. Hilton offered a way for us to determine if we truly love our enemies. Here is the quote.

What it really comes to is this: if you are not stirred up against such a person in anger while faking an outward cheer, and have no secret hatred in your heart, despising him or judging him or considering him worthless; if the more shame and villainy he does to you in word or deed, the more pity and compassion you show toward him, almost as you would for someone who was emotionally or mentally distressed; and if you are so compelled by love that you actually cannot find it in your heart to hate him, but instead you pray for him, help him out, and desire his amending (not only with your mouth, as hypocrites do, but with a true feeling of love in your heart): then you will be in perfect charity toward [him]. . . .
. . . Stop and think how Christ loved Judas, who was both his mortal enemy and a sinful dog. How good Christ was to him, how benign, how courteous, how humble toward him whom he knew to be damnable. He chose him for his apostle and sent him to preach with the other apostles. He gave him power to work miracles. He showed to him the same good cheer in word and deed. He shared with him his precious Body, and preached to him in the same manner as he did to the other apostles. He did not condemn him openly; nor did he abuse him or despise him, nor ever speak evil of him (and yet even if he had done all of that, it would simply have been to tell the truth!). And above all, when Judas seized him, he kissed him and called him his friend.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Parable

Once there was a wealthy business man who passed away. People knew him as an upright entrepreneur, a leader who served in a mid-level political role, and a man of character. He was well loved and it was expected that many would attend his funeral and speak of his kindness to others, his generous gifts to the poor, and the grace with which he served and cared for his family.

The entrepreneur had left a will that contained instructions for his own funeral. In those instructions he asked that six specific people be given the honour and responsibility of carrying his casket and speaking of him at his funeral. People were surprised to see who the business man had chosen to fulfill this role as pall-bearers.

The first pall-bearer was a man who had sued him in a business deal. This same pall-bearer had many arguments with other business people and had sued or threatened to sue others. He was known as an unscrupulous dealer. Another pall-bearer was a woman who had accused the deceased man as the father of her child hoping for financial gain. Her case had been proven to be unfounded. A third pall-bearer had been a political rival who had mounted an extreme campaign against the business man in a bid to discredit and unseat the business man in a particular election. And so it went, each pall-bearer was found to be someone who had a disagreement with or had spoken publicly against the deceased man.

A large crowd gathered at the funeral to see what these enemies of the man would say at his funeral. Each pall-bearer came forward and struggled with something to say. All could tell that they were uncomfortable with the situation and had little they could say either for or against the man. The lawyer for the deceased business man was then instructed to read a statement the man had prepared before his death. In it the business man said, that it was his desire that half of his wealth be given to the poor and if anyone felt that he had cheated anyone in any of his business or personal dealings then that person should be paid back four times the amount they had been cheated. No one came forward with an accusation but it was noted that several of the pall-bearers went and settled arguments and debts they had with other people in the community. The people of the community organized their own tribute to the deceased entrepreneur and people came forward and spoke for many hours regarding the character and love of this man. And so it is that we shall be known by our deeds toward our enemies.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Listen here.

Read about how the song came to be here.

Words and Music by Dan Haseltine, Steve Mason, Mark Odmark, Charlie Lowell
©1994Bridge Building Music/Pogostick Music (BMI)

Convinced of my deception
I've always been a fool
I fear this love reaction
Just like you said I would

A rose could never lie
About the love it brings
And I could never promise
To be any of those things

If I was not so weak
If I was not so cold
If I was not so scared of being broken
Growing old
I would be...
I would be...
I would be...

Blessed are the shallow
Depth they'll never find
Seemed to be some comfort
In rooms I try to hide

Exposed beyond the shadows
You take the cup from me
Your dirt removes my blindness
Your pain becomes my peace

If I was not so weak
If I was not so cold
If I was not so scared of being broken
Growing old
I would be...
I would be...
I would be...


I wonder, do we ever feel frail?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just Like That

(Words and Music by Mike Charko and Keith Shields - SOCAN 2011)
Listen to the recording of this song here.

I sat down on my front step
And I strummed my old guitar
I wrote a song to make you laugh
I knew it would go far

Usher saw me playing there
He said, "You're gonna be a star."
He signed me up to play The Bowl
And gave me a new car

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind

I climbed up on my white horse
And I went to ride the range
A pretty woman in distress
So I galloped to her aid

The bad guys tried to get away
But I wouldn't let them run
My draw was quick and my aim was true
And they lowered down their guns

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind

Spiderman and the Man of Steel
They are some friends of mine
They call me up wanna buy me drinks
But I haven't got the time

Paparazzi follow me
Cause they think that I'm so fine
I'd like to pose for one or two
But Jagger's on the line

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind

Don't worry I'm alright
I'm not crazy or anything
I'm not crazy or anything
I'm not crazy or anything

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind

In my mind
In my mind

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Two articles published online last week stood in stark contrast to each other. The press release from the Mercer survey reported that Vancouver, British Columbia is once again in the top five most liveable cities in the world.1 Vancouver has ranked as high as number one in previous surveys and is always in the top ten cities of the world. The other article was published in the Globe and Mail and reported the findings of a "Table Discussion" carried out by the Vancouver Foundation.2 They set out to determine the key issues for members of the Vancouver community. One would predict that such concerns as homelessness and affordable housing would be on the list; and indeed they were. But what is surprising is that the survey showed that "the top issue on the minds of the majority of those being interviewed was not one that had been in the headlines: the growing sense of isolation in Metro Vancouver."3

While living in a great city with a large number of people with whom to interact, many people still feel isolated and alone. This is a sad commentary on my city and it is also part of a growing problem in many other cities in Canada and the US. The American author, Robert D. Putnam, in his book, Bowling Alone, suggests that since 1950 there has been a continual decline in the number of in-person social contacts between people in the United States. Furthermore, "Matthew Brashears, a Cornell University sociologist who surveyed more than 2,000 adults from a national database found that from 1985 to 2010, the number of truly close friends people cited has dropped -- even though we're socializing as much as ever."4 The conclusions made by these various authors suggest that we are living in a culture in which people are withdrawing into more technological forms of contact and are investing less in in-person forms of social interaction. The result is a sense of isolation and loneliness.

Much more could be said of this and we could point to other trends in our culture such as how the entertainment we consume is becoming more and more individual (listening to music through our ear-buds; watching movies on our tablets or phones). In future postings we will explore this subject more deeply. For now I leave us all with one suggestion and even a challenge. Take the first step! We know that people around us are lonely and isolated and perhaps we feel a measure of this ourselves. What might happen if we invited that neighbour over for dinner? What if we truly got to know the person living beside us? It might be a risk worth taking.

1 (Mercer: Mags Andersen 2011)
2 The Globe and Mail article suggests that this was a survey but the report itself available at http://www.vancouverfoundationvitalsigns.ca/wp-content/uploads/community-conversations/Vancouver_CC_FINAL.pdf refers to this process as a "Table Discussion."
3 (Mason 2011)
4 (Potter 2011)

Mason, Gary. "Alone, so alone, in Vancouver." The Globe and Mail. November 24, 2011. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/alone-so-alone-in-vancouver/article2246891/ (accessed November 26, 2011).

Mercer: Mags Andersen. "2011 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings – Mercer survey." Mercer. November 29, 2011. http://www.mercer.com/qualityoflivingpr (accessed December 02, 2011).

Potter, Ned. ""More Facebook Friends, Fewer Real Ones, Says Cornell Study"." ABC News. November 8, 2011. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-friends-fewer-close-friends-cornell-sociologist/story?id=14896994 (accessed December 2, 2011).

The Vancouver Foundation. "Community Conversations." Vancouver Foundation. 2011. http://www.vancouverfoundationvitalsigns.ca/community-conversations/ (accessed December 3, 2011).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Advent is a time when we look forward to the coming of salvation. We light candles that glimmer with a faint light as if we are seeing the "light of the world" from a far off distance. We recognize that before the coming of Jesus the world was truly in darkness. We must not too soon skip over the concept of darkness and immediately look forward to the coming of the Christ child. We must wait patiently in this darkness. The years prior to the coming of Jesus had been a dark and quiet period of waiting. Waiting for the Lord. God was not sending prophets and few miracles were occurring. It was the calm, quiet, darkness before the brilliant light that was about to flood the world.

In nature, in the northern hemisphere, trees and plants lie dormant through the bleak mid-winter awaiting the coming of light and spring. There is no fruit; there is an appearance of death. But look at the ends of the branches and you will see the new buds preparing to burst in spring. There is hope; there is life; spring will come again; but for now we must wait. We must wait in the darkness, accepting the dark night of the soul, the barrenness of winter, and the winter of our spiritual life. Only by hanging in the moment of this darkness will we appreciate the brilliance of the light. Advent is a season that cries out, "Wait, wait for it." Let the moment build to a heightened expectancy. We must wait so that we might truly appreciate light and life.

Dorothy L. Sayers, speaking of the "Word becoming flesh," says, ". . . from the beginning of time until now it is the only thing that has ever really happened . . . We may call this doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating, we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish . . . but if we call it dull then what in heaven's name is worthy to be called exciting?"*

In this season of Advent we look with expectancy to this "only thing that has ever happened." He is near, but, at this very moment we wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . in darkness and barrenness.

*Sayers, Dorothy L. Creed or Chaos? Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1949, p. 5, 7.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Irish and Civilization

It is the thesis of Thomas Cahill's book, How The Irish Saved Civilization, that if Patricius (also known as Saint Patrick) had not boldly gone into Ireland, the course of the entire world would have been different.

Ireland, a little island at the edge of Europe that has known neither Renaissance nor Enlightenment - in some ways, a Third World country with, as John Betjeman claimed, a Stone Age culture - had one moment of unblemished glory. For, as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of western literature - everything they could lay their hands on. These scribes then served as conduits through which the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultures were transmitted to the tribes of Europe, newly settled amid the rubble and ruined vineyards of the civilization they had overwhelmed. Without this Service of the Scribes, everything that happened subsequently would have been unthinkable. Without the Mission of the Irish Monks, who single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent in the bays and valleys of their exile, the world that came after them would have been an entirely different one - a world without books. And our own world would never have come to be.*
What a remarkable thought. Imagine a world without the books and knowledge of the great western literature of Rome, Greece, and Israel. Imagine Europe without a knowledge of animal husbandry and breeding, agriculture, viniculture, military strategy, and law. Many of the books and parchments on the main continent of Europe which contained this knowledge were lost in battles, lootings, burnings, and disregard. Cahill makes a very good point. These humble monks who were far enough removed from the turmoil that was happening in the rest of Europe were able to preserve culture and then restart that culture from their little corner of the world. It is astonishing to think of the impact of the life of one person. Patrick, who was once a slave in Ireland, a herder of pigs and sheep, influenced the whole of Europe and the western world. It makes me believe that perhaps God may be calling many more of us to make sacrifices and take risks to make our world a better place. What might happen if we all began to listen to God in a manner similar to the way Patricius listened to God? What might happen if you and I lived a life that was more about our concern for others and less about our concern for our own well-being?

*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. 4.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Piece of the Darkness

I am reading Street Crossers by Rick Shrout. Chapter two is about Jason Evans who started something called Church at Matthew's House (or simply Matthew's House). At the close of the chapter, Rick reflects on some of what Jason has to say:
I was blown away when Jason made the comment about being called to respond when he and his fellow brothers and sisters in arms see darkness at work in the city. He said they wanted "a piece of it" . . . a piece of the darkness. It's their call to action . . . reminding me of the expression, "a piece of the action." As individual followers of Christ and as members of local churches, what is your call to action? From where you live, can you see a specific piece of the darkness that threatens individuals and families in your local community? If so, can you identify the action needed in order to confront it? Just imagine if all of us went after a piece of it - a piece of the action - a piece of the darkness. Just how far reaching might our impact be in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities? But in order to get a piece of the action, it will require a trip across the street to see and understand the darkness at work in your city. This calls for people who are willing to go. Find those people and do all you can to help them in their crossing.

Darkness cannot be overcome and displaced by light until light enters into darkened areas. So that's why we need to be there - simply there - in the darkness. You might think you can stand on one side of the street and direct the beam of a high-powered flashlight into the darkness on the other side. But that's ineffective. For one thing, darkness hides around corners and can only be exposed up close, by venturing around those corners with light in hand and heart. Furthermore, confronting darkness is not easy. It's not as simple as identifying what's wrong with the world and broadcasting that they all have to come over to your side of the street and get fixed. Few will hear the broadcast, and even fewer will listen. Even more telling is that this approach is impersonal, void of relationship and human contact. Then why do we tend to prefer this approach? Because it's easy. The more difficult way requires following The Way - a way that leads to face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball relationships with people who might make us uncomfortable.

Rick's reflection makes me think of Bruce Cockburn's unforgettable words: "But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight; Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight."*

*"Lovers In A Dangerous Time," Bruce Cockburn; September 1983. Toronto, Canada.

Follow-up to "Imagination"

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. - Thomas A. Edison.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Many of us spend very little time cultivating our imagination. The early twenty-first century was expected to give us more leisure time as automated devices freed us up from household chores. But instead the pace of life has robbed us of quiet times to dream and create. Add to this the fact that we have so much information and entertainment available to us and one soon sees why most of us are quite content to absorb someone else's imagination as we settle in for a night of television, movies, or video games. Most are content to listen to music rather than compose; read books rather than write; view movies rather than produce; and critique art rather than create. Perhaps you are one who has thought about using your imagination and becoming more creative. Can we cultivate an imagination? The good news is that we can. Think of imagination as an ability to play. When I was young I had no problem imagining that my bicycle was a space-ship on which I cruised through the solar system. I could use it to visit interesting planets and lost civilizations. When I was bored with another afternoon on the farm I could readily invent something that was far more interesting than dirt roads and fields of grain. My mind could transform these into other places, other times, and other creatures. Trees became jungles, barn-cats became fierce carnivorous beasts, and a granary roof the look-out for a castle. How could I be bored when I was capable of seeing all of these things in a single day?

Dorothy L. Sayers, in an interview, once explained how, at a certain point, she was discontented with her life and so she created a character in one of her novels that had all of the things she wished for. 

Lord Peter's large income... I deliberately gave him... After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.[1]
What an amazing way to explain her process. I think I would have enjoyed spending an afternoon learning from Sayers. That too is another way to spark imagination: spend time with those who are creative. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and other writers were known to spend time together at a public house known as "The Eagle and Child" in Oxford. The group was known as "The Inklings" and they read each other's works and inspired each other's imaginations. If you want to write books it certainly can't hurt to hang out with those who already write. Spending time with authors and song writers is a great way to stimulate your own creative gifts. Perhaps imagination and creativity are not expressed in every person. That is likely what makes them such precious gifts. Yet, I am convinced that more of us are capable of imagination than the ones who actually go on to express their creativity. What projects lie dormant in your heart? What might come of dusting off your imagination?

[1] Barbara Reynolds, Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, p. 230.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


"I always have a quotation for everything - it saves original thinking."
- Lord Peter Wimsey (a character in Dorothy L. Sayers' detective novels)

Friday, November 4, 2011


Darkness is not as easy to come by as it once was. At least not the literal kind. When I grew up on a small farm in central Alberta the nights were truly dark. Most people turned off all lights on their farm when they went to bed. There were very few sodium or mercury vapour lights in the area. The cities were smaller and did not give off as much light pollution. The night skies were spectacular. I remember standing in the yard and being awestruck by the immensity of the Milky Way. In one swath across the sky I could see thousands of distant stars all at once. I imagined what it would be like to travel to a distant star or some exotic planet. I learned the names of a few constellations and stars and loved to watch for them in the sky: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion, Cassiopeia, Polaris. Each had wonderful names that rolled off the tongue and allowed me to dream of places far, far away. I soon learned that the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) could help me find direction. As long as I could see these stars, and the North Star (Polaris) to which they pointed, I could always know north, and by inference, south, east, and west. With this knowledge I would surely be able to find my way home.

Orion was a favourite constellation. Noticing this collection of stars but not knowing it by name, I had given it my own moniker: "The Scotty Dog." Years later in high school a science teacher brought in his photos of his favourite constellations and I discovered that my little scotch terrier in the sky was actually Orion The Hunter, with bow, arrow, and a belt of three stars. I would stare out the window of the car at Orion as our family drove home from town. I would try to imagine how long it had taken the light of those stars to reach my eyes. By the time I was fifteen I knew that light from even the closest stars had to travel many years to reach earth. Light that I was seeing shining from the centre star of Orion's belt had left that star over 1300 years before I sat in my parents' car watching it twinkle in the night sky. It was almost impossible to understand this and it filled me with awe and pointed me to God. As I gazed out the window my mind was filled with questions. Why was there so much space out there? What were those distant stars and planets like? Was there life on any of those planets? Could there be intelligent life that was looking back at me and wondering if there was life "out there?" What was the significance to how people gave names to collections of stars? I must confess, today, when I look up at Orion it still looks like "The Scotty Dog" to me.

Today, most of us see stars very infrequently. Even at a distance of many miles from the nearest city, the light pollution from urban centres destroys our ability to see all but the brightest stars which makes constellations very difficult to discern. For hundreds and thousands of years humans have looked up at these stars and wondered what they meant. Ours is one of the first generations to actually know the composition of a star and where it is in the universe. We are also one of the first generations to live most of the time not seeing the stars. Many go along without contemplating the immensity of space because they so rarely see the stars. Whole generations of children have grown up in cities in which they can only see one or two stars at a time. They may never know the awe of the Milky Way or the beauty of the aurora borealis or think about the vast distances of space. Could this be one of the reasons why faith in a creator God is waning?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Follow-up to "All Truth is God's Truth"

John Henry Newman, who was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland, also spoke of the seamless nature of all truth.

I lay it down that all knowledge forms one whole, because its subject-matter is one; for the universe in its length and breadth is so intimately knit together, that we cannot separate off portion from portion, and operation from operation, except by a mental abstraction; and then again, as to its Creator, though He of course in His own Being is infinitely separate from it, and Theology has its departments towards which human knowledge has no relations, yet He has so implicated Himself with it, and taken it into His very bosom, by His presence in it, His providence over it, His impressions upon it, and His influences through it, that we cannot truly or fully contemplate it without in some main aspects contemplating Him. (John Henry Newman, (1858), The Idea of a University,  p. 50-51)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

All Truth is God's Truth

There is an often quoted statement that says, "all truth is God's truth." Arthur Holmes wrote a book with this title in which he explained that there is no divide between sacred and secular knowledge. The quote is a paraphrase from one of Augustine of Hippo's writings. He said,

A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan literature, but rejecting superstitious vanities and deploring and avoiding those who 'though they knew God did not glorify him as God' . . .*

Wherever truth is found, if it is indeed truth, it is known to God and is part of what we too can know if God allows us to know it. We can trust that truth is a good gift from his hand.

Of course truth must be separated from untruth, lies, and superstition. That is often the challenge. How do we know things? How do we know truth when we see it? Is what we think to be true, actually true or simply something we have always believed? These are difficult questions and we may always find some uncertainty in our answers. When it comes to understanding God's revelation in the Bible and God's revelation in the created world, we must read the two together and allow each to help interpret the other.# Science that reveals truth is God's truth as much as God's word in the Bible is truth. Augustine goes on to say that
In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines our position, we too fall with it. We should not battle for our own interpretation but for the teaching of Holy Scripture. We should not wish to conform the meaning of Holy Scripture to our interpretation, but our interpretation to the meaning of Holy Scripture.
The science of our day, some of it being done by followers of Jesus, is revealing many things that we could not previously dream of knowing. Some of it is very challenging to our traditional interpretations of the Bible.^ Does this mean that the Bible is wrong? No, the Bible is still God's word and is true. Could it be that our interpretation of the Bible is wrong? Truth and truth will agree. In some places, we may need to reinterpret our understanding of the Bible, but the truth of the Bible will indeed fit with truth wherever it is found. The challenge will be for theologians to understand God's meaning in his word and find a way to understand the truth in light of truth found elsewhere. There is much work to do and some scholars such as Darrel Falk at the Biologos Forum are seeking to help with the conversations that need to happen. He has said

We have some re-thinking to do, but it can be done and will be done within the context of a Christian faith that is fully orthodox and thoroughly evangelical. Any time we draw closer to truth, to God’s truth, we have nothing to fear. There is still much to learn, but we can look back at what we have learned with awe—absolute awe.&
Truth, wherever it is found, is truth; it is not hidden from God. All truth is God's truth.

*Augustine, On Christian Teaching II.75
#For further explanation of the two book metaphor see the article by Loren Wilkonson in Crux.
^ As one example, see these articles by Dennis Venema at the BioLogos Forum.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sacred Spaces Followup

A few days ago I wrote about sacred spaces and challenged us to create our own. Now I would like to ask you to tell me about your sacred spaces. Where do you go to be creative? Where do you go to unplug? Some write songs or solve problems in the shower. For others their creative space is in the car while they drive. Still others find solice and sanctity on a mountain-top? Take the time to send me a comment in the space below.

"Creative Arts raise a person to another level of consciousness as if you could imagine life before words." Charlie Haden

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guarding Sacred Spaces

What are the sacred spaces of our time? At one time it was only God's Tabernacle or His Temple in Jerusalem that were considered holy. God used to rage against the Israelite people for going to other sacred spaces. Back then, people saw every high place or wooded grove as a potential sacred space to whatever god it might be dedicated. God drew his people to worship him in appropriate places and in appropriate ways. Eventually churches and cathedrals became the sacred spaces of choice. Oh there was still the occasional holy moment celebrated on a mountain-top; but everyone knew that the only real place to meet God was in a church building. So people built churches and they proliferated throughout our cities. Municipal planners left room for them in their community designs and people attended them. Today it is a rare thing to see the construction of a new church building.

Today, it seems there are no sacred spaces left. All have become secular and stripped of spiritual meaning. Even places that were once dedicated to God have become community halls or condos with only a facade left to give an impression of past glory. We have declared that nothing is holy. Annie Dillard says, "We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it." [1]

We wonder why we feel so scattered. We wonder if we will ever again feel together and holistic. Our spaces are a constant barrage of email, internet, social networking, twitter, mobile phones, satellite radios, iPods, and every other imaginable distraction. Nothing is sacred.

"Despite the incredible power and potential of sacred spaces, they are quickly becoming extinct. We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences." Scott Belsky[2]

It is time for a revolution. It is time to take back some sacred space. It is time that we drew a circle around some spaces and declared them holy. Standing within these circles we will stare technology in the eye and, like Gandalf facing a Balrog, declare, "Go back to the shadow. You cannot pass!"

Without sacred spaces we shall surely perish. Without places of imagination free from interruption our culture will wither on the vine. We must be proactive in creating sacred spaces for ourselves. When we find ourselves in places of disconnection we must guard them jealously and use them wisely. Unplug, disconnect, worship, let creativity flow, and seize the space.

[1] http://hungerandthirst4.blogspot.com/2011/09/hearing.html
[2] http://the99percent.com/articles/6947/What-Happened-to-Downtime-The-Extinction-of-Deep-Thinking-Sacred-Space

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson is a writer of biographies whose previous works include the life story of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. I find biographies to be interesting insights into public personalities and have read Isaacson's Einstein: His Life and Universe. Recently, Isaacson completed what will likely be his biggest selling book, the authorised biography of Steve Jobs. The publisher is rushing the book to the market to capitalize on the peak in interest following Jobs' death on October 5th. In a teaser to the book Isaacson has told of Jobs' motivation for having his biography written.
"I wanted my kids to know me," Isaacson quoted Jobs as saying in their final interview at Jobs' home in Palo Alto, California. "I wasn't always there for them and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did." *
Steve Jobs' words don't sound so much like regret but rather an explanation. He wants his kids to know him through this book. He wants them to have an explanation for why they did not know him and why he was not "there for them." There is much we can learn from Steve Jobs. Even these words from his final interview are instructional. They can lead us to think about what we will leave behind when we pass from this life. They can lead us to ask questions about our own lives. "How well do people know me?" "Do I care whether or not people know me?" "Who are the people in my life for whom I want to 'be there'?"

I will likely read this biography of one of the most interesting men of our time. And as I read it I will ponder the important questions of my own life.

*© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/oct/07/steve-jobs-biography-official-release

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good Work

When I grew up in Western Canada there was a weekly CBC television show called "Marketplace." The theme song was sung by Stompin' Tom Connors and the lyrics I most remember said,

The Consumer, they call us,
We're the people that buy
While everyone else is out to sell
Some kind of merchandise
Another sale on something,
We'll buy it while it's hot
And save a lot of money spending money we don't got
We'll save a lot of money spending money we don't got

Oh, yes we are the people
Running in the race,
Buying up the bargains in the old marketplace,
Another sale on something,
We'll buy it while it's hot
And save a lot of money spending money we don't got
We'll save a lot of money spending money we don't got


It was only a snippet of a longer song that spoke of the difficulties of the working population who were trying to pay their bills, get a good deal, buy quality products, borrow more money, and generally get a fair shake. Stompin' Tom was using his platform as a folk-singer to say some of the same things Dorothy Sayers said in a 1942 essay entitled "Why Work?". She says,
A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand.
Nearly seventy years later, I wonder if we have learned anything from Dorothy Sayers'  important essay. Indeed, have we learned anything from Connors' folk song? Or are we simply "saving a lot of money spending money we don't got?" As economies of the world plunge to new depths and we wonder how it will affect our country and our jobs, politicians encourage us to see things as "business as usual." We continue to consume more than we can afford and individually and collectively go more and more in debt. We are told that it is just a temporary slowdown in the economy. "It will all get back to normal if we put our nation first. But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse."* We spiral into more debt and consume more to stimulate our flat economy.
Sayers suggests,
Whatever we do, we shall be faced with grave difficulties. That cannot be disguised. But
it will make a great difference to the result if we are genuinely aiming at a real change in
economic thinking. . . . The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done. To do so would mean taking the attitude of mind we reserve for our unpaid work – our hobbies, our leisure interests, the things we make and do for pleasure – and making that the standard of all our judgments about things and people. We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay?” but “is it good?”; of a man, not “what does he make?” but “what is his work worth?”; of goods, not “Can we induce people to buy them?” but “are they useful things well made?”; of employment, not “how much a week?” but “will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?” And shareholders in – let us say – brewing companies, would astonish the directorate by arising at shareholders’ meeting and demanding to know, not merely where the profits go or what dividends are to be paid, not even merely whether the workers’ wages are sufficient and the conditions of labor satisfactory, but loudly and with a proper sense of personal responsibility: “What goes into the beer?”
Sayers is reminding us that our jobs are about more than money; they are about producing a good product. We ought to "clamor to be engaged in work that was worth doing, and in which we could take pride." Work is to be about making a difference in the world. I wonder if we might try that for a while.

*Bruce Cockburn, "The Trouble With Normal."

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)
© JimCuddy.com 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 http://www.cbn.com/special/Narnia/articles/ans_LewisLastInterviewA.aspx

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 MySpace.com.

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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Song Writers

Music is highly personal. Ask a group of people to tell you some of their favourite songs and you will get a wide variety of answers. A friend of mine recently blogged about choosing his perfect music for a long road trip. Although I could appreciate his list and even liked some of the songs, his road songs and my road songs would be quite different. Many people tell me they never listen to lyrics; but I am a lyrics first person. Intelligent lyrics that I can sing are a must for me to engage a song. Good rhythm and melody are important but they come second.

This got me thinking and I decided to put together a list of some of my favourite song-writers and some of their songs. So, read this list and then let me know of one of your favourite song-writers and why you think they should be on my list.

Annie Tate, Dave Berg, and Sam Tate, writers of Moments
Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason, and Matt Odmark, writers of Faith Enough
Don Henley and Steuart Smith, writers of Waiting in the Weeds
Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy, writers of Bad Timing
Harry Chapin, writer of Taxi
James Page and Robert Plant, writers of Stairway to Heaven
James Taylor, writer of Copperline
Jimmy Webb, writer of The Wichita Lineman
Mac McAnaly, writer of Down the Road
Marcus Mumford, writer of The Cave
Robbie Robertson, writer of The Weight
Wayne Kirkpatrick, Gordon Kennedy, and Tommy Simms, writers of Change the World

Friday, August 19, 2011

Problem With the World

"The Problem"
Written by Marc Martel and Jason Germain
Copyright 2008 Centricity Music Publishing/Germain and Martel Publishing/ASCAP
There's got to be some reason for all this misery
A secret evil corporation somewhere overseas
They're pulling strings, arranging things
It's a conspiracy

Or what about the ones who shape the course of history
What if we petitioned for one grand apology?
I'll write to my prime minister
You, write your president

Everybody's wondering how the world could get this way
If God is good, and how it could be filled with so much pain
It's not the age-old mystery we made it out to be
Yeah, there's a problem with the world
And the problem with the world is me

Some will say the devil and his legions
They put us in a headlock of submission
But they lost all power over me
A long, long time ago

And since I was a kid you know I've caused a lot of hurt
And no one ever taught me how to put myself first
It came so very naturally
But I'm not a prodigy

So I will look no further than a mirror
That's where the offender hides
So great is my need for a redeemer
That I cannot trust myself
No, I cannot trust my self
I dare not trust myself
So I trust in someone else

The sooner you can sing along
The sooner you can sing this song
The happier we'll be
The problem with the world is me
Sometimes the poets say it better than all of the philosophers, scientists, and politicians. This time the guys from the band "Downhere" have said it well, "the problem with the world is me."

(Of course, an astute reader will recognize that the boys from "Downhere" are quoting the great G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton was once asked by a London newspaper to join other authors and thinkers to address the weighty and important question of "what's wrong with the world." His response:
Dear Sirs,
I am.
Sincerely yours,
G.K. Chesterton.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


On Sunday August 7, Discovery Channel premiered a new series: “Curiosity.” The first episode was a show entitled “Did God Create the Universe?” The episode was narrated by Stephen Hawking and presented his own arguments and scientific explanations. The show is available online here.

Stephen Hawking continues to be a man that both amazes me and frustrates me. I have a great deal of respect for him and read his popular works with enthusiasm. He has a very large platform for his ideas. He is highly respected and has become a “rock-star” in the scientific world. He is likely the most famous mathematician who has ever lived and the second most famous scientist next to Einstein. We all know that he can do the math to prove the existence of eleven dimensions in our multiverse. In more recent years he has become a vocal atheist and philosopher. Although he would say that philosophy is dead, there is little doubt that as he speaks of cosmology (the nature of the universe) he often strays into the areas of philosophy and cosmogony (the study of how the universe came to be).

In this episode of “Curiosity” Hawking makes bold statements about how science can explain the universe such that there is now no need for God. He suggests that those who hold to a belief that God did create the universe are simple minded. He compares them to ancient Vikings who screamed at the “wolf god” to prevent it from eating the sun as they experienced a solar eclipse. He apologizes to people of faith and then firmly states that there is no God, no heaven, and no after-life.

I am not a logician or a philosopher. There are plenty of others who are writing about this program and Stephen Hawking's line of reasoning. One can easily compare my explanation with others. My understanding of Stephen Hawking’s reasoning goes something like this. First, Hawking says that we can mathematically analyze our universe in ways that allow us to “see” the creation of our universe right up to the “Big Bang” from which our universe sprang. So far, so good, Hawking and other physicists have the technical knowledge of math and science that allows them to analyze things which others cannot.

Second, he maintains that for most things in the universe “it takes something to make something.” You can’t make a mountain of dirt without taking dirt from a hole in the ground. However, the universe, he claims, is the ultimate “free lunch.” Quantum physics suggests that subatomic particles can spring into existence out of nothing. I would want to check with physicists to see if they would agree that this is what is happening at the subatomic level. Perhaps others would express it as not knowing the source of such particles. But since you and I are not physicists (I doubt that physicists read this blog) we will concede this point to Professor Hawking. He states that when we consider anti-energy, anti-matter, and other universes, it all adds up to zero. So, as long as the net sum is zero, the universe can come to exist out of nothing (at least nothing in our universe). Okay, that was the hard one to understand. Hang in there for one or two more paragraphs before you give up on this blog.

Third, Hawking says that, at the Big Bang, time came into existence. Therefore, we cannot talk about a time when God existed before the creation of the universe because there was no time prior to the Big Bang and God could not be in a place where there was no time. Plus, we have filled in all of the gaps in our understanding of the universe and there is no need for God. Therefore, God does not exist. That, in simplified terms, is the argument Hawking wishes us to follow and with which he would like us to agree.

Okay, here is where my small brain begins to disagree with Professor Hawking’s large brain. Just because I don’t see a need for something does not mean that thing does not exist. He might have convinced me of his argument if he had said that "there is an alternative explanation of how the universe came to be and the explanation does not require God." I might grant him that and we could agree to disagree on which explanation suits our philosophical understanding (since we are now solidly in the realm of philosophy, theology, and cosmogony). But the leap from “we don’t need God to explain the origins of the universe” to “there is no God” is too great for me. Even other atheists have pointed out the weakness of this argument. As for there being no time before the Big Bang, in first year Bible College we considered the possibility that God existed outside of time. Einstein’s theory of relativity has always been a great source of comfort to me as I have grappled with understanding just how God might indeed be able to see all of time at once and stand outside of it. Again, Hawking can say that there is an alternative explanation that does not require God but this is not the same as saying "God cannot exist."

Curiosity, I am all for it! I think it is appropriate to ask the questions proposed in this television program. We should seek to learn all we can about this amazing universe. We should seek to explain how things came to be in the world in which we find ourselves. We should hear from scientists who wish to explore these topics as well. But science and mathematics are still not the only tools we use for analyzing our world. Philosophy and theology continue to be valid disciplines which add to our understanding of the questions and the answers. I appreciate the Discovery Channel programming and the way they challenge us to think, dream, investigate, and experience the world. These questions lead me to a greater sense of awe about the God who calls us into relationship with Him.