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Showing posts from 2015

what is a good gift?

Christmas is always a challenging time for me. In many ways, the gift-giving practices (and accompanying consumerism) surrounding the season seem to clash with nearly everything I find in the story of Jesus' birth. And yet, I don't want to become cynical and miss out on all that is good in our present-day traditions. The benefit of my yearly angst is that every December I find myself going back to the basics, reminding myself once again what is important, what is true, and what is good. I try to put into practice the directive Paul gives to the Philippians: "Fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script." (Philippians 4:8-9a, The Voice). Well, my script this year included two well-known stories.

You might be familiar with the century-old short story, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. You can read it here. Pu…

a few words on wisdom

This morning I taught a class on the topic of spirituality, specifically, Christian Spirituality. People can have varied, muddy ideas of what constitutes spirituality these days, so I always try to bring a bit of clarity to the topic. Spirituality is that dimension of life which is engendered (comes out of) and empowered by (derives energy from) the Spirit of Christ. It finds expression in how we live, act, and interact with others every day. It is not merely an interior, isolated journey (though that is certainly an element of spirituality), but an integrated life guided by the Spirit of God. It is a quest for meaning, for the sacred, for the mysteries of the universe, for the purpose of life, and for a life which flourishes. It links the question "Who is God?" with "Who am I?"[1] It addresses queries like: "Why do people do what they do?" and "What values are guiding them in their decisions and actions and relationships?" In certain instituti…

two questions I need to keep asking

I am reading through the book of Acts. It is an account of the beginnings of the early Christian church. It is jam-packed with adventure, action, and amazing stories. Take Acts 16 for example. The summary or thesis statement of this chapter could be identified in this sentence in verse 5: "Day after day the congregations became stronger in faith and larger in size." But what exactly does "becoming stronger and larger" look like in practice? Not quite the continuous upward trajectory that we might envision. The details are found in the remainder of the chapter.

1. Paul and Silas set out on a journey to spread the good news of Jesus.  2. They plan to go into Asia province but the Holy Spirit blocks them (really?). 3. They try to go north to Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus won't let them go there either. 4. So they go on to Troas and there Paul has a dream in which a Macedonian says, "Come over and help us!" 5. So Paul and Silas travel to Macedonia and…

A little more hope

Last week Dean and I were on the East Coast for a few days of leadership meetings for the Atlantic Vineyard Churches. It was great to arrive a day early to have some down time: wandering around the Halifax harbour, driving through the Annapolis Valley, stopping at Kingsport Beach, and chilling in front of the fireplace in our historic Bed and Breakfast, originally an army barracks. It was also a real treat to see friends we had not encountered in years and catch up a bit with folks who are dear to our hearts. I so appreciated the tone of the get-togethers which were focused on gathering together over food and telling stories and praying for each other and worshiping our great God together and listening to the still, small voice of God for each other and not so much on hearing a lot of speakers give talks, great as that can be. On the Friday night, I was sitting meditatively on a couch during worship when I felt that God was offering to teach me how to hope again. Now, I think of myse…

The S word: salvation

Last week in an introductory theology class for which I serve as a Teaching Asssitant, the discussion centred around the concept of salvation. For many of us who have heard the word over and over again, it can begin to lose its meaningfulness. As I sat in class and listened, I realised again just how rich and amazing this idea of salvation is. So I decided to talk about the what and how of salvation in our faith community this week. Here is a summary of that talk.

Salvation, according to common usage, is basically "rescue from harm." The theological term for the study of salvation is Soteriology (soter being the Greek word for savior). The biblical names Yeshua, Joshua, and Jesus all mean to rescue, to deliver, to save. If we look at some of the names of God in the Hebrew Bible, we find El-Yeshuati (God of salvation), El-Yeshuatenu (God of our salvation), YHWH Hosheah (Lord saves), and YHWH Yasha (Lord my Savior). These names let us know that these texts are about a God who…

when enthusiasm goes missing...

It has been great to be back in the classroom this fall after months of sitting alone at my desk and writing, drinking vast amounts of tea, and trying not to pull my hair out. This term I get to serve as a Teaching Assistant for Introduction to Theology. I love being in a supportive role for both students and the professor, but it was a bit of a rough start.

I remember coming to the first class in early September and for the first time in my life (as long as I can remember), not being super excited about the beginning of the school year. I didn't even take the traditional first day of school photo. I was just tired, fatigued by the ongoing demand for high level, innovative, scholarly output and the exceptional dedication required by the multitude of tasks on my schedule. I was depleted by a summer spent wringing words onto the page day after day without any real break. I felt the constant, weighty pressure of finishing my doctoral dissertation, sitting like a yoke on my neck. Tha…

hospitality challenge

On Saturday I will be presenting a paper at the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association conference. My topic is Theological Hospitality, and (spoiler alert) my main point is that we are all guests at the theological table, that we speak about God not from a place of ownership but as outsiders who have graciously been given access to divine mysteries. In light of this, we should adopt the same posture toward any who may act, think, and believe differently than we do about theological matters.

I love the idea of hospitality, of being open to others in personal, physical, and spiritual ways, but in practice, I find it rather difficult. Part of my research for the paper led me to a book by Jessica Wrobleski (The Limits of Hospitality) which cites several works by Henri Nouwen on the subject.  Because we are imperfect human beings dealing with other imperfect human beings, there is no such thing as totally safe or foolproof hospitality, but Nouwen offers wisdom on how to ado

why we make mistakes

Last week I picked up a book at the library called, Better by Mistake: the unexpected benefits of being wrong by Alina Tugend. The author, a journalist. takes a close look at how we view mistakes, finding that there are basically two approaches: the fixed mindset believes that we have a fixed amount of intelligence, talent, and potential for change, and assumes that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs. The growth mindset believes that there is always the potential to do better, and mistakes are just part of how we learn. Therefore, it is important to take risks and develop perseverance in the face of inevitable setbacks.

In 2002, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for The New Yorker called, "The Talent Myth." He concludes that companies which use the star system, hiring the brightest and the best, those who have degrees from the most prestigious schools, and paying them hefty compensation, are not as effective and successful as companies which hire few stars, pay modest …

true or false

At present, there are two political campaigns happening in North America. The posturing for popularity mixed with defaming propaganda wears on my soul. As people and parties vie for power, so little of it feels genuine or honest. Despite their designation as public servants, government officials seem to have lost their way when it comes to knowing what it means to truly serve others.

In light of the times we live in, it seemed particularly fitting that we talked about the prohibition against "bearing false witness against your neighbour" this Sunday. People tend to associate the ninth matter in the Decalogue with lying, but it is a bit more nuanced than that. First, what is a witness? In its most basic form, witnessing is a passive role; we see and hear and observe a lot of things throughout the day, most of which we have no control over. However, being a witness is brought into an active, intentional role when we say something about what we have observed, or when we give …