Wednesday, February 25, 2009

remember


For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

Remembering is not one of my strong points, at least in certain areas. If I meet you for the first time, I will invariably ask you what your name is a few times before I get it. When we go to a movie, a week or two later I will not be able to tell you the main character's name. I am admittedly a person who lives most of her life in the here and now. While I see that as primarily a good thing, a fresh and engaging way to live my life, it does mean that I can miss out on important lessons and resources that are embedded in the past.

This week we started reading a book about the importance of forming spirituality by living the Christian year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, etc.) along with all its implications. Ritual has very little appeal to me, and I will usually look for a way to extract a modern and meaningful application from any liturgy or tradition. That's not a bad idea, but after reading a few chapters in this book (Ancient-Future Time by Robert E. Webber) I realised that no one has ever explained the profound reason and purpose behind all of these traditions.

Simply stated, remembering all of these events is a way to live our lives in the pattern of Christ. We suffer with Christ, we are crucified with Christ, we die with Christ, we are buried with Christ, we are raised with Christ, we live with Christ. It is turning our lives from one where we live our own way with our own patterns and behaviours to one that centres and takes its cues from the life of Christ. We proclaim his life and death not only in our words and worship, but in our seasons. Cool, huh?

I don't exactly know what the implications of this will be in my life. At the very least, I will think of Jesus and his life more often as the calendar months flip by. Hopefully, some of what I am learning and thinking about will also show up in a meaningful way to enrich our faith community. Above all, let us be a people who reflect the entire life of Jesus in every part of our living. Let the place where this eternal life of God touches our history become a place where we can touch the eternal.

This is Jazz watching some of this week's video teaching for Essentials Red. Honestly, she really does this all on her own, this is not a set-up shot.

Friday, February 20, 2009

meeting


For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

I am in Beaverton, Ontario at a national leadership gathering for the Vineyard Church of Canada. And doing my homework for Red Essentials. Having discussed where we are going as a church movement and sitting in a lot of meetings in the past 24 hours, I am starting to realise that the word meeting has become a bit of a misrepresented word in our world. Meeting is, at its very basic, a coming together of two or more. I meet with God. I meet with friends. I meet a stranger. I meet with colleagues to get some work done.

A church meeting is simply a coming together of two or more people who are joined to Jesus. This can happen anywhere and anytime and anyplace. This week in the online worship course I am taking, we explored the elements of time and space in regard to encountering God and our subsequent worship of him. It was amazing to read where and how and when people will find God present and near to them. There just are no limits to the experience. God is always present.
My challenge is not as much to get to a meaningful church meeting during the week, but to let a lot of them happen in my life every day. Meeting is not a proper noun. It is a verb. Let us meet with God and with each other often: in person, on the phone, via email and letters, online, in whatever way we can, let us not forget to meet.

Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. - from Hebrews 10 The Message

This is the view of St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. I like to go there alone or with friends.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

three in one

I am supposed to be studying for tomorrow's theology mid-term right now. Plus, I have an unexpected house guest coming tonight, and I leave for a 3-day leadership gathering Thursday morning. It is yet another example of life clumping together, and I am somewhat used to it by now. It means that I have to made good choices in order to put attention and focus to those things that are the most important in this moment, and that is always a good exercise for me. I do believe I am getting better at making the right choices and not adding stress to the mix (that would be a bad choice).

Anyway, on Monday morning there was another clumping together in our household, a collision if you will. Dean and Tea (the little black cat) and the shower door all tried to occupy the same time and space for a brief moment. If you know anything about physics, this simply cannot be done. These three items (one object and two living beings) are not divine nor members of the trinity, so existing within each other is not possible. Something had to give. Surprisingly, out of the three, the shower door was the one that did not come out unscathed. Dean gave way to Tea but threw himself off-balance in doing so; he grabbed onto the shower door, and the shower door gave way to a greater force.

It is amazing that the strong will give way to the weak, most often at cost to themselves. I have seen Dean do this before, putting himself in a difficult position in order to protect a weaker person. It is one of the most beautiful characteristics about him and the sure sign of a trustworthy leader. He will not put others at risk in order to protect himself. He will not mow over the lowly in order to maintain his present status. He will go out of his way to guard those who are in a vulnerable position. And he often pays a cost. Not many may see this, but he pays. Sacrifice always costs, otherwise it would not be true sacrifice. Sacrifice that is acknowledged has some built-in payoff, but sacrifice that no one sees is truly sacrifice.

There are many who sacrifice daily in their lives and we do not know about it. We do not know the time they spend in prayer, lifting us up before God, or the effort they put out to provide resources that we enjoy, or the preparation they go through so that we can eat and live and participate in life in a full way, or the times they rework their own plans so that they can make something happen for us.

I want to say thank you to Dean who does all that for me, and to my family and to many others that I don't know about. Let me never take their sacrifice for granted. And let me never take the sacrifice of Jesus lightly. It makes this wondrous life of grace possible.

These are some benches waiting for someone to occupy them outside St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Love This Body

video

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

A few weeks ago I woke up singing this phrase over and over: I Love This Body. Those are not words that would normally come out of my mouth, so the fact that I was singing them in my sleep made me think that perhaps I should also be saying them while I was awake. To be honest, these words make me uncomfortable.

I don't really go around saying, "I love my body," and yet it is the most intimate, miraculous, and mysterious gift of God that I experience every day. One need only read any medical writings to get a sense of how intricate this marvellous synergy of tissue and bone and blood and muscle and all kinds of other good stuff is. Plus, it is intertwined with a unique personality! This body is my most constant reminder that God loves me and is as close to me as my next breath. Every day that I wake up and breathe and run and eat and go to the bathroom and talk and think, I am crazy with gratitude and giddy with delight.

The second concept that came to mind when I heard this phrase was the body of Jesus. His body held the divine and the human within its skin - how, I don't know. And when we drink wine and eat bread in remembrance of him, we somehow eat his flesh and blood and partake in his redemptive life and death. How, I don't know how. Were it not for that body, I would not be alive, so I reverently say...I love this body of yours, Jesus.

The body of Christ is also what the writer of Corinthians calls the church - those who follow Jesus and submit their lives to God. We are part of one big life, one big story, one big moving, vibrant entity. "The beautiful thing is to join with a church that has gathered and find yourself looking around thinking, 'What could this group of people possibly have in common?' The answer of course, would be new humanity. A church is where the two groups with blue hair - young men and older women - sit together and somehow it all fits together in a Eucharistic sort of way." [1] We are this body and I want to love it like Jesus does, like a young man watching his beloved grow into her beauty, flushed with the glow of love.

I had a lot of fun with this project, thanks in large part to a very willing and capable Dean (best husband/sound engineer ever) and my friends and co-learners and lovely "body people" at the Wednesday night group. Every time I sing the words, "I Love This Body," it is a becoming truer and truer. And I also hear Jesus singing it over me, my church group, Montreal, and the world. *broad smile*

Click here for a pdf of the song Love This Body

[1] Rob Bell and Don Golden, Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 157.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

showers and theology classes

There are a number of things in process in my life right now. Some relationships, some church stuff, some assignments, some minor home improvements, vacation plans, you know the kind of stuff I am talking about. When it clumps up like this, it leaves me feeling unsettled sometimes, kind of empty. When too much is in flux and up in the air, it chips away at one's solidity, one's sense of security and safeness.

So this morning in the shower, I told God, "I feel empty."
And I heard an answer, "Empty? Like a tomb-on-resurrection-day empty?"
God is very funny some days.

Yesterday morning I was sitting in my Introduction to Theology class, and in the middle of a surprisingly interesting lecture on church history, I had a flash of insight.

Change is all about death and resurrection. Change is about being able to die over and over and over again. It is letting go of those things we already know and are familiar with and recognise, about saying good-bye to life as we know it. But more importantly, it is about hope. It is about being able to see that there is a way of living beyond this. There is life after death - it will be different - but it will be life. Jesus was different after the resurrection. His closest friends did not recognise him at first. They had really thought that he was the ONE to save them from bad things in their situation, but it all went so horribly wrong when he died. Death is like that - it looks like things have gone horribly wrong. But it only looks that way. God is never put off by death; he just uses it as raw material for resurrection.

Those times when I feel empty, like things are not working out, I am standing in the tomb. I am looking in the wrong place for life. I am looking for the remains of something old instead of a brand new body. I get stuck at the death part and don't move into resurrection. I know what the dying thing looked like and I have become attached to it, but the resurrected thing - I'm not so sure. It is different, strange, unfamiliar, and unsettling. I have a hard time seeing life beyond this unsettling place, but if I am to live, I must.

Welcome to the death and resurrection cycle. It will happen often, if I let it.

This is Tea investigating the orange juice this morning. She is very much alive. Not the same cat as before her illness, but definitely alive.

Friday, February 06, 2009

sitting


For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

One of the recurring thoughts that I came across in my readings this week was that worship is a response. It is the appropriate reaction to encountering God, to experiencing his love, to living on his earth, to viewing his creation. What exactly that response looks like is hard to pin down. We think of majestic songs, intimate whispers, loud shouts, bowing down, sacrifices, caring for the poor, submission, exaltation, crying and laughing and jumping. All of these can be appropriate, but what is appropriate today, right now?

Today, after a week of reading theology texts and doing assignments for three courses (this one plus two university courses), my thoughts are fuzzy and scattered. I can't remember what I think about every aspect of the Trinity or my humanity or what all the names of the theologians were in the 20th century. The subject is too bright to look at directly and I am tired. So I sit here. And I close my eyes. And I take a deep breath. And I rest for a moment. This is my worship today.

Here is a poem I read for my Spirituality class which illustrates a wonderful response to God:

Sharon's Christmas Prayer

She was five,
sure of the facts,
and recited them
with slow solemnity
convinced every word
was revelation.
She said
they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
to eat
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.
And do you know who he was?

Her quarter eyes inflated
to silver dollars,
The baby was God.

And she jumped in the air
whirled round, dove into the sofa
and buried her head under the cushion
which is the only proper response
to the Good News of the Incarnation.

- John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected (Allan, Tx: Argus Communications, 1977), 68.

This is a handmade camel sculpture from Egypt sitting on the beam in our condo.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

the world as I see it

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

This week we had to put together a brief statement that reflected our worldview or the big story as we know it. Here is my attempt:

It all begins with God. This originator - beautiful, awesome, complete, and communicative in himself and all he does - liberally sprinkles his living and breathing compositions into time and space. Of these, the one that carries his likeness, his breath, and joins in his project of growing a loving and glorious holy community is mankind.

In the middle chapters of this story, the lovee (that would be us) wanders away from the lover (that would be God), deciding that life needs to be explored on her own terms. Disaster ensues. While everything that the original Lover touches brings life, everything that moves outside of that love starts to decay. But listen, this Lover, he cannot be thwarted. He pursues the wayward, confused, and tainted lovee, inviting her to a new start. He takes her stinking decaying world and all the trouble she has brought on herself and holds it close to himself. So close that the death touches his life and is swallowed up by its light.

The vision of a vibrant and rightly related community has never died. Love is still at the centre of it, but the boundaries are broader than ever. Now every maimed body and broken relationship and bruised ecosystem is invited to the party called "Restoration." Creation branches out into re-creation. Love is ever present, in every place and time, calling all back to himself, to align themselves with him, to be one with him.

The final chapter does not end. Love never ends. Everything that deviates from love will end. Everything that says yes to Love will live. And we will never get tired of looking at the original Lover in wonder and gratitude, becoming more like him every moment. Glory!

This is a school in South Africa where they are trying to teach and show these kids how to learn and live with hope.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I love my metro pass

In January, due to only being in school for three weeks of the month, I did not purchase an all-access metro and bus pass. Instead, I bought blocks of tickets, thinking that I would save money. In the end, I spent 25 cents less than if I had bought a monthly pass, and I found myself counting and calculating every trip, wondering if it was worth spending a ticket on it. I hate that. I don't want to be evaluating an unscheduled trip to a friend's house or a fun evening out on the basis of whether or not I have enough tickets in my pocket.

Yesterday, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was once again covered for the month, free to travel as much as I wanted, here and there, to and fro, to stop in at friends' places for coffee, to run downtown for a movie or lunch with the gang, to spontaneously make a stop on the way home from class to shop for a niece's birthday or a random gift. No running of the numbers in my head necessary. I am free of the worry of running out of tickets before the month is done.

Last night I realised that this is exactly the place I am trying to live in as it regards our finances and overall provision in life. To be continuously counting and measuring and hoping not to run out takes a lot of fun and enjoyment out of the journey. And in the end, it will probably work out about the same when I add it up.

A week or two ago, I was reading a story in Matthew 14 about Jesus feeding the crowd. Bunches of people had been following him and listening to him teach and watching him do some pretty incredible things. At the end of a long day, they were hungry. The disciples immediately came up with a perfectly logical solution: send the people away into town so they can buy food, because there's nothing out here in the middle of nowhere. Jesus' reply was classic: there is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper. And they took what they had and Jesus made it enough.

You see, when you are next to Jesus, there is no need to go anywhere else to get what you need. We are so used to getting spiritual input from church, food from the grocery store, hardware at Canadian Tire, books from Chapters, and clothes from the mall. We know where to go for what we need; it seems logical. But Jesus is way beyond our small logic. When we are with him, we have access to everything we need. When we leave him to go elsewhere for our daily needs, we end up spending part of ourselves that we don't have to, and this results in feeling needy and counting and calculating to see if there will be enough. With Jesus, there is always enough. He prepaid. Not just for a month but for your whole life. That feeling of freedom from having a monthly metro pass, that's just a fraction of the freedom we can feel when we know that God will provide for all our needs in Christ Jesus.

I love my metro pass. Thank you, OPUS.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

rescue

This is another journal entry for my Christian Spirituality course.

I saw two movies in two days this last week. On Thursday night in our Christian Spirituality class, we viewed part of the "Jesus" film - that time in his life dealing mostly with his public ministry. On Friday night I went with some friends to see the movie, "Taken," with Liam Neeson. It is the story of a father whose daughter is kidnapped, and it chronicles his relentless journey to rescue her. Both of the movies have their share of bad acting, lack of continuity, and special effects that fall short of being truly "special," but none of this really matters in the end; what matters is the story.

What I find most attractive about Jesus is that he came - he didn't stay away. He walked on dirt roads and got hungry and tired and truly seemed to understand the need and fear and desperation of those around him, because he responded with compassion and action instead of judgment or indifference. This is not the picture of a God who is "other" and distant. This is not a God who waits for humans to make the first move. This is not a God whom one cannot touch and encounter, but this nearness poses a problem. The part of the living human named Jesus that is most challenging for me is the mystery of being limited. He could not be in more than one place at one time. He could only respond to what was in front of him. He existed only in a specific time and place. The limited colliding with the limitless must put some constraints on God, and I find it hard to envision and trust a God who has limits. How can a mere person be a true picture of God?

At the end of the movie, "Taken," I sat in my chair for a bit and thought about the character of the young girl. She lied to her father, she disobeyed, she was selfish and immature, she was distant from him, she made some bad choices; she was just like I am many times in relation to Our Father. But that didn't matter to her father. When she was in danger, he sprang into action. He used all his resources and his skills and connections to get to her and to free her. Anyone that opposed him or got in his way was soon paying for that decision. However, the young girl had no idea that her father was turning the world upside down to rescue her - all she knew was that she was in a very bad situation with bad people and that things were getting worse and worse with no end in sight. Her father seemed very distant, and she felt very alone and afraid and unprotected. She was being sold as a slave and it seemed like no one cared, but it wasn't true. It just wasn't true.

To me, Jesus is the personification of God's relentlessness. He came. And he keeps coming. He will never stop pursuing us. He will never give up on us. He will always make a way for us to be rescued. He is always thinking about us with affection and longing. Even when I feel my most alone and forgotten, he is already on his way, working behind the scenes, reaching out to rescue me. The fact that I cannot see Him nor feel Him is not the point. The point is that He will never leave me nor forget about me. Fathers never do.

This is a picture of Peggy's Cove with a random person on the edge.