From us to you: Merry Christmas!



Here’s wishing everyone a very merry Christmas! It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the chaos of preparation, that when it actually comes to Christmas we are so wound that we fail to embrace the essence of the season. I hope we all take the time to slow down and engage the many different events that we are involved in this time of year. I know there are many different opinions towards the consumer attitude of Christmas, but may the frustrations we have not hinder our celebration of what is valuable about this holiday. While our busyness and self-centeredness may neglect the reality of “Emmanuel, God with us,” the message remains the same; God is with us! While often turned into shallow routines, the events of Christmas, such as time with family, giving, and celebrations can maintain depth in a reflection of the Emmanuel reality. So as I celebrate with Julie and our families my goal is to realize this reality in all of our Christmas celebrations.

May your Christmas be a time where the reality of “Emmanuel, God with us” is the center of all your celebration, allowing you to truly embrace all that is good about the season!

I'm Dreaming of a Dwight Christmas!


Here are some pictures of our good friend Dwight Schrute hanging out at our house for the holidays. He's made himself right at home! The accompanying quotes are a reminder of why we like Dwight so much.


“In addition to these paintball pellets, your gift includes two paintball lessons with Dwight Schrute.”



“I come from a long line of fighters. My maternal grandfather was the toughest guy I ever knew. World War II veteran. Killed 20 men then spent the rest of the war in an allied prison camp. My father battled blood pressure and obesity all his life. Different kind of fight.”



“We are warriors!!! Salesmen of Northeastern Pennsylvania!!! I ask you to rise and once more be worthy of this historical hour!”



“Thank God. It was nice of him to offer, but I live in a 9-bedroom farmhouse. I have my own crossbow range. It’s the perfect situation for me although two bathrooms would have been nice. We just have the one…and that’s out under the porch.”



“When I was in the sixth grade I was a finalist in our school spelling bee. It was me against Raj Patel. And I misspelled, in front of the entire school, the word ‘failure’.”



“I am fast. To give you a reference point I am somewhere between a snake and a mongoose…and a panther.”



“I know everything about film. I’ve seen over 240 of them.”

11 things I’ve been Wondering

Ok, here are some of thoughts that have been swirling around my head these past fews months of busyness. This list is in no way exhausted and points are open to dispute or questioning (feel free to comment...) They are simply points to ponder (some a little deeper than others...)

  1. Turning to God is about our true identity, not “doing” the right things.
  2. Most of the bad things in the world were originally intended for good…
  3. Good friends are a good thing.
  4. Ping Pong after 6 straight hours of class is one of God’s gifts to the life of a student.
  5. We blame the government for everything bad in the world.
  6. Meaningful dialogue with other religions (or opposing beliefs), which means learning what they mean on their own, leads to better insight and a less confrontational approach to understanding.
  7. The Office is a very funny show (especially the Christmas episode – “you have been compromised, destroy your cell phone now” –Hilarious!!!)
  8. Blogging is hard work.
  9. Individualistic faith has shallow meaning.
  10. Openness is key.
  11. Grace as a concept is hard to grasp. Grace embodied in a person (Jesus?) engages the reality of life in all its complexity of highs and lows.

Making up for lost time...

I figure the length of this post makes up for the lack of recent activity. The following is a reflection I have written in response to one of my papers

Repentance: Turn or burn? Or yearn to turn?

In a society where individual fulfillment is a free-for-all of personal preference, even at the expense of others, the message of repentance is as unpopular as ever. Why would anyone want to turn towards Gods, especially considering the weak alternative that Christianity supposedly offers? The unfortunate part is that the Christian response has all too often countered within the same framework; namely, an individual reform with individual benefits, most often associated with avoiding hell. As the traditional warning goes, “turn or burn!” So the tendency to motivate repentance has been to, “scare them into the kingdom.” However, most of you would agree, this message nowadays falls on deaf ears. A faith that focuses solely on the afterlife appears completely irrelevant to the modern individual. Perhaps what is needed is a redefining of a Christian understanding of repentance that begins to realize that identifying with Jesus is about more than just the afterlife.

In the first century, when Jesus preached repentance, he directly addressed the Jewish expectation for what the coming kingdom of God would be. Any message of repentance, then, would have been understood, similar to the prophets, as a turning towards God to what it meant to be the true Israel. Any sort of individual reform was only within this community framework. Jesus’ message falls in line with this pattern. What is unique about Jesus’ repentance, however, is that it is a redefinition of what the Jews expected the kingdom to look like. Repentance, still thoroughly communal, was a turning away from violent revolution and ritualistic works, towards an identity defined by sacrifice, truly taking up the cross with Jesus.

If Jesus’ message of repentance to his audience was about radical identification with God, the implication is that repentance now still means the same. Jesus acknowledged the expectation in the Jews and responded with a call to turn to towards him, not for purpose of being morally pure, but for the purpose of being truly identified as the people of God. Repentance, then, is identifying with who we truly are.

Now, obviously morals and ethics are a part of what it means to identify oneself to Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount talks about (Matthew 5-7). However, the ethic of Jesus is about identity. This challenges the narrow individual ethic so often understood to be at the core of Christianity. Now, before anyone gets up in arms, or alternatively thinking this means Christianity is easy, let’s touch on the implication of what it means to identify with Jesus through repentance.

The main distinction, just like the Jews longed to return to true community, is that repentance is our response to the longing we all have to belong. Hence the second part of the title, “yearn to turn.” Yearning connects with the desire we all of have for true community. An individual understanding of Christianity and repentance as just a moral ethic fails to address this innate part of our being. Perhaps this is the hardest part about repentance, because no longer can we simply respond individually, reforming our actions to some sort of moral ideal. Now we have to identify with Jesus in the context of community. In this way, we repent together.

Now, I am sure this is an awkward conversation for many, especially when issues of faith are understood primarily as a personal choice. As an individual, repentance towards God is often a simple shift in attitude, possibly affecting the way we live and act towards one another, but still primarily a personal quest to connect with God. While perhaps fulfilling for time, when the spiritual fulfillment of this supposed connection to God is gone, or our will to shape our attitude towards God runs dry, we are left alone to ponder our mistakes. Communal repentance, however, involves a transparent vulnerability as we connect with God that goes against the notion of individual striving. There may still be striving, don’t get me wrong. The point is that it is no longer done alone. In fact, perhaps the act of identifying with Jesus, symbolized in our identification with each other, will actually lead us to live better lives morally and ethically?

Repentance seen in this light is difficult to envision in our individualistically minded society. “I’ll do what I want, and you do what you want…” Will this modern motto not lead to cultural unity and peace? I am not so sure… However, if we realize the shortcomings that come with an individualistic approach to life and faith, then the message of repentance towards true community as Jesus calls for is one that provides a place where lonely striving becomes obsolete. “Turn or burn” repentance is lonely and ultimately selfish as if the only thing that matters is my personal salvation. But “yearn to turn” repentance acknowledges the reality that Jesus came to create community, and the invitation to repent is about identifying with just that. The challenge, then, is that your life and faith be identified with repentance that reaches the core of who you are, a relational person yearning for true community.

World Aids Day - Dec 1

My friend Mike, who is raising money for aids through his (Red)emption campaign, asked everyone who has supported this effort to post about World Aids Day. I must admit, I feel very distant from the whole issue of AIDS, or even the whole condition of the African continent. It would be just as easy to pass this day by and continue in my life unchanged. Now, just posting on World Aids Day isn't going to drastically change my actions, but at the same time it reminds me that my life can have more of an impact than just here in BC. For now, this may mean I simply support my friend Mike and his efforts. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with the whole issue, cause as individuals we can't change the situation. Yet this cannot be an excuse to simply ignore global issues, in this case AIDS. As Mike has quoted, "we are the people we've been waiting for."

So I invite you to reflect globally, particularly about AIDS. Is there an aspect to being human that challenges us to look beyond ourselves to others who are suffering? I know I am challenged...

If you are interested in where my thoughts behind this post originated, you can visit Mike's website.

Relaxation by snow!

These pictures are of our backyard. We’ve had at least a foot of snow in the last 24 hours. Pretty rare for still being November. But hey, it’s hard to argue with nice BC snowfall!!! What’s really good is the imposed relaxation due to the fact that we don’t really want to venture out driving too badly (yes, us BC drivers are wimps in the snow, but I don’t care…). As you could probably tell by my last post, I haven’t had much time to relax, and when I do, it seems like my mind is still racing. So a snowfall is a good lesson in slowing down and taking a breather.

So if you have a chance, look out the window, or go for a walk, or have a game of “Life” tournament with a special someone (like I did this afternoon!). Just don’t let this beautiful weather just pass us by like we do with so many other things in life. I know it sounds corny, but this snowstorm is just what I needed. A time to prioritize and remember that my life is more than just all of the things I do. Sometimes it just takes a snowstorm to point that out…


self-portrait...

Here is a picture of what I have been up to lately... Yes, my life right now consists of typing papers. What has been nice, however, is that in my spare time I have been able to do some typing...

I feel like a "castaway" in my office, only all I have to look at is trees... Perhaps I will be able to drum up enough energy to return from my deserted island and actually "type" a real post...

More government!!!


Ah yes… Last night I encountered an example of the “Ratchet Effect” at work. It came with the hot topic of global warming. I watched the investigative news show “The Fifth Estate” and it presented the approach that American and Canadian governments have taken towards the global warming issue. It actually ended up being quite depressing in its survey of both governments lack of definite action to fight this very real problem. It has become a game of words allegedly protecting the “bottom line”, rather than a fight for what is “right.” Anyway, my point here is not to critique North American government responses, or lack thereof, but to point out how it is the government that is the central focus towards fixing the problem. The main thrust of this news story was that we need the government to act! The interesting twist was that it was a former government communications expert (who finally admits to the reality of global warming) who challenged this over-reliance on the government, pointing out the need for individuals in society to start making a difference. While I know that government policies could regulate the amount of emissions put out by large companies, is it not also possible that their emissions would drop if our consumption was lowered?

Perhaps more government action isn’t the only solution…

davewear


I came across this website a little while ago. For some reason I liked it... (if you're name isn't Dave, you may not understand). Anyway, my favorites are "tough dave at the office" and "what a difference a dave makes."

Check it out...

Bobble-Head Jesus

Hey, what do you think of the new advertising campaign for the United Church? Perhaps the fact churches feel the need to advertise raises questions in itself…


"Ratchet Effect"

A class I had this week was discussing government in our present society. A concept that stuck out to me was something that could be coined as the “ratchet effect.” What this is implying is that in the response to issues, and particularly times of crisis, there is an expectation that government will respond in an official manner. The interesting thing, however, is that once the crises have been averted, the official response of government remains. What results is a growing government, even when the original issue has been resolved. In fact, we have become so dependant upon this system of government we don’t necessarily even judge the effectiveness of this government response. As long as the government is doing something, the majority of the population is satisfied. Basically, government is being “ratcheted-up,” becoming bigger and bigger.

Ok, here are some examples to support this “ratchet effect” (the links go to government websites)

-U.S. Department of Homeland Security

-this department was created in a response to 9/11.
-Is American society on a whole questioning the effectiveness of this government response to a crisis, or to most people just take it for granted?

-Hurricane Katrina

-The immediate reaction was to ask what the government is doing?

-Social assistance (welfare, EI, etc…)

-This one is more subtle, but coming out of the recognition of social crises in our society, the government has created certain programs to respond.

Well, what’s the point of all this you are wondering? On one hand, it is simply an interesting reality of how our governments function. Recognizing this is not to say it is good or bad. On the other hand, it forces us to consider the degree to which our society is dependant upon government to solve our problems. With government growing bigger and bigger, our lives are increasingly influenced by government institutions. At what point do we become too reliant upon government? Especially in the face of catastrophe… What would happen if humans simply responded out of the reality of our connectedness as humans, rather than a government sanctioned response?

Anyway, I am not implying that we don’t need government or that we need to bypass necessary channels available for crises response or social issues. The question that I am faced with, is to what level do we as society rely on government? Do we possibly rely too much? Also, what role should family, friends, or community take in social issues we face? Then again, perhaps turning to the government is the best response?

Well, something to think about…

doing or being???

Recent discussions have led to me reflecting on the Christian life. More specifically, I have been wrestling with the constant need for us to package faith into a specific list of things we do. And if we get this list just right, well… then life is good, right? Um, I am not so sure…

Unfortunately the biggest cause of anxiety for many people is the question of “what do I need to do to get to heaven?” Well, I have difficulties with this question. Firstly, is the Christian life really summed up with getting to heaven? Perhaps when Jesus talks about his “kingdom” he was referring to a faith that involved life here on earth beyond just some sort of other-world reality. While I am not at all suggesting that heaven will not be a reality, I believe that the Christian life is concerned with now. Secondly, this question centers around the idea of us doing something in order to attain some level of acceptance before God. While our thoughts and actions do impact our faith, they are only a part. Rather than doing “Christian” things, I wonder if God isn’t more concerned with us being Christian… Could the Christian faith be more about being than doing?

How does this look? Well, with the distinction of being over doing, there is the implication that faith is more than just part of our identity, but actually is our identity. Obviously this kind of faith is more than just an intellectual agreement, or a simple trust placed in some sort of greater reality. Faith is life!

Now, making this distinction is just the beginning. How this looks for life or the Christian faith is a question that needs exploring. Hopefully I can discuss this more in the future, and in the meantime if anyone has suggestions, feel free to comment!

buy something to give something?

Some of you may have noticed the link I have to a project called (Red)emption. A friend of mine at Regent College just happened to be watching Oprah (I am sure he was watching just to see Bono...) when they were presenting Product (Red) Campaign. Basically, the point of the whole thing is to get major companies to sell specific products, and then to send a portion of the proceeds to Africa to help fight AIDS. My friend Mike points out that it is great that money is being sent to this very worthy cause (don't feel guilty if you have supported this project!), but he also wonders how it is that we have to be enticed by the prospect of getting something "cool" in order to be motivated to give money. Good point!

Anyway, Mike and a friend of his have decided that perhaps it is possible to raise some money for Africa without having to buy products that we perhaps don't need. Hey, maybe we will actually think about the process of giving money, and not just the prospect of getting a shirt or a pair of "Bono glasses" (direct quote from our good friend Oprah). This is where project (Red)emption comes in. The idea is to get 1000 people to donate $10. All of the money raised (yes ALL) will be donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. If you aren't too sure about donating $$$ to some guy that Dave mentions on his blog, or you think $10 is too much money, or that AIDS in Africa is a helpless cause, well then go here to listen to Mike's response to some of these concerns...

If you interested in making a $10 donation, go to Mike's website and click on "make a donation" on the top right corner.

Why???

Well, here is my second post and a minor introduction to why in the world I am embarking on this time consuming journey of having a blog...

First, the title: Wondering and Wandering…

Wondering: I wonder about many things related to life...
Wandering: My wondering is a wandering journey (and sometimes I may share pictures of my actual wandering…)

Second, why blog???

Well, going against my own random thought (top right), I figured I would join everyone else in this incredibly popular venture of blogging… Beyond that, I guess there is possibly something more…

Basically, having a blog is a chance for me to actually process some of the thoughts and ideas that are bouncing around in my head these days. The last thing I want to do is spend considerable time (and $$$) to only have my educational experience become relegated to some irrelevant part of my life. With that in mind, the purpose of this blog is to simply discuss and dialogue anything and everything. I invite comment (no criticism please;) and dialogue with what I am reflecting on. Hopefully whoever finds their way to my blog will enjoy interacting with my wondering and wandering...


1st post!!!

Well, this is my blog...

Here is a picture of me doing more wandering than wondering...

(Tofino, BC)