Sunday, January 31, 2016

Thirsting for Justice

The title of my blog has always been a reminder to me that there is a type of thirst that I am to continue to have. Matthew 5:6 says, “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” I can think of times when my physical body was depleted of water and my thirst was strong. I remember how good water tasted when I was finally able to quench this thirst. Until I quenched it, my mind could think of little else. “Thirst for justice” is about having that same kind of desire for a world of justice. It is a desire to see all wrongs made right. It is easy when I feel that I have been treated unjustly; then, my thirst for justice is immediately strong. What God desires for me is that I learn to have a powerful thirst for justice for others as well. It starts with a thirst for the kind of justice God desires. It starts with a thirst for God.

Psalm 42 speaks of thirsting for God like a deer thirsts for streams of water. Like that deer, we may sometimes despair of ever finding water for our thirst. We may think back on happier times when God was very present, quenching our thirst for justice and our thirst for God’s presence in our lives. We have all known times when both God and God’s justice seemed far away. Psalm 42 reminds us that we can once again put our hope in God for He is the one who will quench our thirst - our thirst for God - and our thirst for justice.
Psalm 42 (NLT)
As the deer longs for streams of water,
    so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
    while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
    “Where is this God of yours?”
My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
    amid the sound of a great celebration!
Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and 
my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to God who gives me life.
“O God my rock,” I cry,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies?”
10 Their taunts break my bones.
    They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
11 Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Great Disturbance in the Force

There may actually be a ninth planet in our solar system after all. Astronomers at Caltech recently presented evidence for a large, gas-giant, planet in a 20,000 year orbit around our sun. They have been quoted as saying, "We have felt a great disturbance in the force." This only adds to the crazy nature of this announcement; but they were not referring to Luke Skywalker's famed Force, but rather the gravitational force that keeps all of the planets and dwarf planets in motion around our sun. Their research suggests that the existence of such a planet, in this large elliptical orbit, is one of the best explanations for the measured orbits of the dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt. Their argument is presented in an enlightening YouTube video and one of the scientists has been interviewed by CBC's Bob McDonald on the program "Quirks and Quarks." The mass of the planet is said to be greater than that of Earth but less than the mass of Neptune and it is perpetually "very distant" in the solar system. It has not yet been seen with a telescope; but is inferred from its interaction with the features of the Kuiper Belt.

What are the implications of such a discovery? Where should we point our telescopes to begin to look for this planet? There are certain constraints on where this planet could be, but that still leaves a large area to be scanned. The current position in its orbit will be unknown until it can be visualized. This research also invites questions related to the planet’s proximity to other planets in our solar system. What perturbations (dare I say, “disturbances in the force”) will be noted when this planet swings by after a long journey away from the other planets and dwarf planets in our solar system? Might it have noticeable effects on the physics, chemistry, and biology of Earth? Gravity is a relatively weak force but its influence acts over very large distances.

For now, I congratulate Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin and other contributing researchers for their work in this area. May they inspire many more “planet-hunters.”

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mr. Radio

A few days ago I posted a blog entitled “On the Radio” which featured the lyrics of a song called “Radio” by Steep Canyon Rangers. Today, as a follow-up to that blog, I give you the lyrics to the song “Mr. Radio.” The song was written by Roderick Taylor and has been recorded by Linda Ronstadt and Trisha Yearwood. The song remembers a time when the radio was the main source of entertainment in many homes and communities. The song also speaks of the very practical use of putting a radio in the chicken coop to keep the foxes away. On the farm on which I grew up my father used to play a radio in the milking barn. He claimed it kept the cows calm and helped them produce more milk. He also claimed that the radio needed to be tuned to Country Music; I of course wanted Rock ‘n Roll.

Mr. Radio 
Oh, what a sunny day When they carried the radio home
Bringing him in off the truck And the dogs wouldn't leave us alone
Mr. Radio, you come down here to keep us company  
We listen in a room Through the miles and miles of night
Deep in the heart of the Bible belt In the golden radio light
Mr. Radio, you come down here to keep us company  
And it's hard days out in the field
The crows in the high tree top
If a man's away from his home all day His chickens might fall to the fox
Mr. Radio, what can you do about that? Uh huh  
And you can take me down to a river town
Where the citizens dance till dawn
They dance so close it's a sin almost
The way they carry on
Mr. Radio, I never dreamed you could  
And it's miles at the careless touch
Of a tired hand in time
When evening fell I heard a stranger sell
Dreams that were never mine 
Mr. Radio, come down here to keep us company 
Come down here to keep us company 
Songwriter: Roderick Taylor; Published by BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Nothing Sacred

Today, I saw second Timothy chapter 3 with greater understanding. The whole chapter speaks into the contrast between those who "love pleasure" and those who "love God." Those who love pleasure are said to

  •  Love only themselves and their money
  •  Be unloving and unforgiving
  • Slander others
  • Be unforgiving
  • Be cruel
  • Hate what is good 
  • Betray their friends
  • Be reckless
  • Be prideful
The passage goes on to describe even more dangers of those who love pleasure. Yet, even as I write and study these words I am aware of the duplicity in myself.  On the one hand, I love God and in many ways live my life according to this orientation; and then there are the times when I reveal my own selfishness and my own love of pleasure. I daresay we are all in the same predicament if we claim that we love God. I struggle to "love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind; and to love my neighbor as myself." (Luke 10:27) You struggle as well. How can we possibly "love our neighbour as we love ourselves?" I can't even love my neighbour as well as I love my dog! (if I had a dog).

But the insight of the day for me is about a foundational aspect of the motivation behind those who love pleasure. It is found in verse two: "They will consider nothing sacred." (2 Timothy 3:2; NLT) If we consider nothing sacred, then we cannot love God. For all is sacred in God's economy. Creation is sacred, life is sacred, my dog is sacred, my neighbour is sacred, my children are sacred, that mosquito that annoys me on a warm summer evening is sacred, making love with my wife is sacred, the work I do in the sciences is sacred, the work I do in philosophy is sacred, and yes, even the work I do in theology is sacred. Those who are on a trajectory away from the love of God consider nothing sacred. Those who are on a trajectory toward loving God consider all things sacred. Selah.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Earth Day

My band, Key of Zed, just posted a new song at ReverbNation. The song is called "Earth Day" and it is dedicated to Jordyn Katherine Haeckel who was born on Earth Day (April 22) in 2014. Here are the lyrics.
Earth Day
Life marches ever onward
Thousands of years come and they go
Constant - motion of the tides
Beings that ebb and flow

There's a change on this Earth Day
Life begins anew
She’s our baby
Our precious little girl

Parents and all their parents
Children arrive one-by-one
This blue-green fragile planet
This jewel of many suns

There's a change on this Earth Day
Life begins anew
She’s our baby
Our precious little girl

Made from nothing but stardust
She shares the hopes of many
Part of a greater family
Her grace is more than any

There's a change on this Earth Day
Life begins anew
She’s our baby
Our precious little girl

Scars and hurts upon this earth
But we will look for more
She waits for her time to come
Her own redemption song

Small and trivial from afar
She stands among all others
I will give her this earth
We will care for her Mother,

There's a change on this Earth Day
Life begins anew
She’s our baby
Our precious little girl

Sunday, January 10, 2016

On the Radio

What will we tell future generations about “the radio”? My grandchildren will have a hard time understanding the extent to which radio stations influenced my childhood and teenage years. We scooped the radio waves out of the air with nothing more than a transistor receiver that ran on a nine-volt battery; or with the large cabinet radio in the living room. We could also listen to radio stations in our cars and we dreamed about the places from which the music came. As a boy I remember using a very fine touch to tune in 1400 CFUN all the way from Vancouver, BC. There were only certain hours, after dark, that this would work and to a kid on a small farm in Central Alberta, Vancouver was one of the most exotic places I could imagine. The radio station played a lot of the band Chilliwack, which suited me fine, and the DJs sounded more sophisticated than those in Red Deer or Calgary. All of the radio stations in a particular area played approximately 40 songs throughout the day. The 40 songs would change from month to month but some stuck around for a while. We learned the lyrics to all 40 so we could sing along any time that they came on. It usually took me about two listens to memorize a song and I still have many of those lyrics locked away in my cranium where they sometimes get in the way of more important pieces of information.

It is hard to comprehend, and harder still to explain, what a profound influence these songs had upon the children of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. We would sing a single line and everyone in the room could fill in the next words of the song. The attitudes and consciousness expressed in the radio hits were absorbed into our psyches and we were changed without even knowing we were being influenced. My first memories of life, when my infant consciousness was awakening, are forever connected to songs that I heard played on the radio. My uncle’s car radio playing “Ring of Fire,” by Johnny Cash, is etched eternally on my mind and I can still see Uncle Ray standing there with the hood up, tinkering with the carburetor. I have been forever influenced by the Radio.

Steep Canyon Rangers, a bluegrass band from Asheville, North Carolina has recorded, “Radio,”  a song that captures the way in which the radio has influenced generations of singers, musicians, and writers. Written by banjoist, Graham Sharp, the song is the first single and the inspiration for the album title produced by Jerry Douglas of Union Station.


I really dug your double-tape deck
Pressing dead flowers
For hours with you
Up in your bedroom
Beneath that Waterloo sunset so fine

Riding home from Sunday School
Casey Kasem told me
I'd find her one day
I believed, I believed
In every word he said

Cause I was born to the rhythm
Rocked in the bosom
Raised on the sound of the Radio
And when I want to get back
I turn it up loud and I'm ready to go

We never had to look around, look around
The sound was everywhere
And you'd call me on the phone
Saying look what I found

The skeleton key made just for you
Songs were the dark sunglasses
And the telescopes we were looking through
And the open door that we stumbled through
And we crawled, and we ran
And we just, we just flew

Cause I was born to the rhythm
Rocked in the bosom
Raised on the sound of the Radio
And when I want to get back
I turn it up loud and I'm ready to go

On the radio (on the radio)
On the radio (on the radio)
On the radio (on the radio)
On the radio (I'm on the radio)

Cause I was born to the rhythm
Rocked in the bosom
Raised on the sound of the Radio
And when I want to get back
I get back 
Cause I was born to the rhythm
Rocked in the bosom
Raised on the sound of the Radio
And when I want to get back
I turn it up loud and I'm ready to go
On the radio
On the radio

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What is Church?

As we enter the year 2016, some will consider attending a gathering of the church as a resolution for the new year. Some may decide to attend a church gathering more regularly. In this post I am assuming that there are many valid forms of church gatherings. Jesus Christ, who is the head of the universal Christian Church, is in perfect communion with the Father, and Holy Spirit in guiding His Church. There are church fellowships suited to unique settings in the world and valid forms include (but are not limited to) house churches, church plants in school gymnasiums, gatherings that meet in historic liturgical buildings in city cores, clandestine church gatherings that avoid the scrutiny of government officials, mid-sized churches, simple churches, organic churches, small churches, mega-churches, multi-site churches, and missional-communities. We may be prone to ask, “What is church?” It is an easy question to ask - and hard to answer! In this year of 2016 I plan to write a few posts addressing various aspects of the answer to this question. I offer humble research, opinions, and assessments, not definitive, or complete answers. For “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

The first topic I will address is that “the church gathering is a place where we search for God.” Of course, we often attend church after we have had an encounter with God; yet, there is another sense in which we continually search for the God of the universe and for His communication to us. Furthermore, we want to make our church gatherings a safe place to search for God.

How do we make our gatherings a safe place to search for God? One way will be that we will stop being certain that we have already found God in all of His mystery and magnificence. 1 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that God has revealed Himself to us through Christ and yet there is still great mystery in understanding this faith which we now proclaim.
Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith:
Christ was revealed in a human body
    and vindicated by the Spirit.
He was seen by angels
    and announced to the nations.
He was believed in throughout the world
    and taken to heaven in glory
 And Proverbs 25:2 (NLT) says,
“It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them.”
God has not totally revealed Himself to anyone. Some, like Moses, Solomon, Paul of Tarsus, and John, the Beloved, have been taken deeper into the mystery of Christ than any others. Yet, even they did not receive a perfect picture of the God of creation, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. We cannot expect to fully understand God this side of heaven.

So, a gathering of believers that recognizes they do not have all of the answers will be a place in which there is less argument and more grace; less protection of the past and more protection of the future of God’s Kingdom on earth. We will never achieve perfection in this area but let us aim for greater unity despite our diversity of opinions. There will be times when we will be convinced that we have the full truth in some aspect of our theology and, it is just possible that, in some narrow area of theology, we might be right. Still, our churches need to be places in which a person is free to dissent from the majority opinion and seek a greater understanding. That is the kind of church of which we would all be proud.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Small Steps

Resolutions or irresolution; we hear many opinions. You may also hear many statistics telling us that only about 7% will have kept their resolutions by the second week in January. You don’t even want to read a blog about resolutions! Neither do I. So instead I would like to advocate for small, feeble, steps throughout the entire year.
“God is waiting eagerly to respond with new strength to each little act of self-control, small disciplines of prayer, feeble searching after him. And his children shall be filled if they will only hunger and thirst after what he offers.”
Those are the words of the former Bishop of Edinburgh of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Richard Holloway. He is a controversial theologian; but I find this to be an inspiring statement.

To these words I would add that this means that God is waiting for every feeble step toward Jesus; for, our trajectory is everything. Moving toward Jesus may mean small steps in the direction of self-control, prayer, and searching. It may also mean small steps toward helping the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the widow, the orphan, and the spiritually lost. Small steps - that is all I can take. Small improvements to this world I have been given - by God's grace, that is all I can hope to achieve. Yes, I will be filled. I will be filled if I hunger and thirst. I will be filled if I hunger and thirst for these small steps toward a redeemed world.