Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Great article on Urban Mission by a guy named Mike Crudge. It deals with the Waiter's Union in Brisbane, which is on my list of places to study up close. Just a taste:

I think this loose structure is one of the keys to how the network works so well. Dave Andrews later told me how “being fuzzy and undefined is more inclusive.” While the structure is loose there are norms which give the community its distinctive identity. A weekly meeting at the unsociable hour of 6am on a Monday is one of the strands of the structure which keeps the network in communication across its disparate households. Members of the households are encouraged to engage with their local community in ways that are congruent with the core values of the Waiters’ Union. Having a focus on Jesus and Christianity is also an important dimension to what holds them together.

Thanks Paul.

Once in awhile I see a picture that I find myself coming back to again and again. This one was taken of my father by my little sister this summer. It's a keeper for me because, symbolically, it says a lot to me about my Dad. He is in a church, a simple, beautiful place, and yet I might draw significance from the fact that it is actually a museum. However in this church my Dad is not facing the front, or even showing any interest in what is usually central in a church. Instead, he is at the back, studying the history on the walls. Next to him is a wash basin. And outside the light is so bright.

I sure do love my Dad; good and bad, there is so much of him in me. And I'm glad to be a part of his journey.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Wow. Yeah, what Derek just said. Worth posting in its entirety:

Here are some things I said at church on Sunday in a talk about money:

The typical North American journey through adult life with money goes as such:
1) Graduate from High School
2) Take a loan and go to college or university
3) Work off this loan and get married.
4) Take a loan to buy a house and start a family
5) Work off this loan and start thinking about retirement – ie. Invest, Invest, Invest
6) Retire and live the life you’ve been postponing for 35 – 40 years.

This journey is not a moral journey. It’s just the typical path that our culture has chosen. It’s been different in the past, and it’s different now in other cultures. But many of us follow this pattern because maybe we’re unaware of other options. The problem is, as we’re moving along in this journey, we’re realizing that the things that we value most, our top priorities, are at the bottom of our ‘To-Do’ Lists… if they even make it on. If Kingdom living is supposed to be attainable on Earth, I’m thinking that maybe there is a flaw in our system somewhere. I don’t know the answers, but I would like to offer a few alternatives to this journey that have seemed to help Joy and I. They’re changes that seem to challenge the “givens” of our current culture.

It seems like having a full-time job, as a producer of some good or service, is a given in our society. For the past two years, I worked in Norway House as a High School teacher – Full Time. As with most jobs, the 8-hour workday doesn’t exist for teachers, it ends up typically being 10-12. When I took stock of my priorities – Kingdom living, family and community – the time I allocated to these, my most valued things, was miniscule compared to the time I gave to my job. Now I’m working part-time and my values and my schedule are much more lined up. ---- Here’s a little exercise I did that helped me analyze my actions vs. my values.
Urgent Non-Urgent
Important- Physical emergencies God, the poor, family, community
Unimportant- Work Watching TV or reading the paper

The things that fill most of our time are the Urgent, Unimportant things, whereas the things that we value most are probably the Non-Urgent, Important things. We need to give greater urgency to these important things.

The second given that I’d like to challenge is full-time life as a consumer. This goes hand-in-hand with full-time work, because full-time wage labour was not a consistent thing in North America, until it became socially acceptable for average people to go into debt by purchasing houses, cars, etc. In North America we really like to spend money that we don’t have, and this really fuels our economy the way it runs now. The alternative to this consumerism is something called Simple Living. As a Christian interested in simple living, the key verse is Matthew 6:33, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” The first must actually be made first and maintained as first, and then all the rest can come along and find its place. If all the rest comes first, we’re not living in all that God has for us. It may seem like we’re living responsibly, but we’re missing out. A quick parable told by Soren Kierkegaard helps. A wealthy man was traveling by carriage and when it started to get dark he lit some lanterns to create a pool of light around him and his carriage. He felt secure, because thanks to these lanterns he could see and felt safe. A poor man was traveling the same night and as it go dark he had no lanterns to light his way, but one by one the stars came out, and each of his steps was safe and secure. The rich man had security, but it was security he had created, and of a lesser kind than what God had created or the poor man. In his poverty, the poor man was secure in a different way, as he did not have any possessions to hide the glory and faithfulness of God and his starry night. You might ask, “How could we live like this poor man?” Some practical suggestions to live simply are: bartering, car-pooling, living in community, sharing tools and major appliances, growing your own food – all of which is happening in our community. If you want to hear more practical examples, talk to me later. It seems that if you’re living with less and working less, you have more time to experience the kingdom of God through community. You can experience generosity, both giving and receiving, when possessions are shared, and you have the blessing of experiencing God’s provision, in a way that you wouldn’t by constantly meeting your own needs. Complete independence is not kingdom living.

The third given I’d like to challenge is our perspectives on attaining security. And this is linked to the first two. Traditionally, our concept of security is purely financial. We invest into RRSPs, pension plans, etc, to make sure our future is secure. The alternative I’d like to suggest is a much more holistic security. It’s not just financial, but it’s also spiritual, emotional, physical and mental security. This security comes from investing in people – investing in community. Financially, this means what II Corinthians 8: 14 says, and this was read last week, “At this present time, your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality.” Holistically, this means investing your time, service, love, encouragement, and even money, when you have plenty, and receiving the same when you have need. Emotionally, Joy and I have had immense need recently, since River died. Our community came around us and supported us, and we felt very secure. Our son didn’t have life insurance, but we were totally provided for, with a house, with food, and everything else we needed in this tough time. This was a direct fruit of relationships built over time, and the cycle of generosity will continue from us, to others, when they are in need. Another example is, a friend of ours comes from a culture where the elderly do not rely on pensions to survive. They put their financial investments into their children. The money that might have gone into RRSPs went to their children’s education, with the understanding that their children would provide for them in their old age.

It’s amazing that somehow we trust God with things of such vast importance in the world, like maintaining Creation, the poor and the suffering Church, global catastrophes, and more, yet, after we give our 10%, we give Him little control over the other 90% because we feel we know better. It’s the same with community. We have faith that our community will support us spiritually and emotionally, but do we have faith to believe that they are capable of meeting our physical needs? Can we find the humility to place our security in the hands of our community? Again, independence is not kingdom living.

To recap, make sure that your highest values match up with how you spend your time. You’ve probably never heard of someone, on their deathbed, with their dying breath say, “Ohhh! I wish I had spent more time… at the office.” So make sure you become conscious of what you value most, deliberately become aware of what you actually do, and then give urgency to the things that are most important. Make sure that you “Strive, first for the kingdom of God” and maybe question where your security is placed.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Bob Sapp beat up another guy tonight - and this time the guy was almost his size. If you don't know who Bob Sapp is, you definitely don't live in Japan. Educate yourself here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I am doing a job for the Expo 2005 people wherein I am editing various speeches given for Expo. Today I am working on one from an environmentalist named Lester Brown. I thought there were some interesting stats:

China is growing so fast and has been the fastest growing economy in the world since 1980. It is growing so fast that it is providing us with a glimpse of what the future is like when large numbers of impoverished people become much more affluent. And I remember in 1994 when the Chinese government announced that they were going to develop an automobile-centered transport system. And they solicited bids from major automobile manufactures like Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors and so forth bids to build automobile assembly plants in China. And I thought about it and I asked myself what happens if China succeeds and one day has a car in every garage or maybe two cars in many garages as in the United States now. And the answer is that China would need more oil than the world now produces Eighty million barrels of oil a day. And last year we produced seventy-eight million barrels of oil per day and may never produce much more than that. And then I also looked at paper consumption. If paper consumption per person in China were to reach the U.S. level, China would need more paper than the world produces. There go the world’s forests. And what I think China is teaching us is that the western development model, the fossil fuel based, auto-mobile centered, throw-away economy is not going to work for China. And if it doesn’t work for China, it won’t work for India either which also has more than one billion people or for the other 2 billion people in the developing world. And in an increasing integrated global economy over the long-term it will not work for us in the industrial countries either. I think that is what China is teaching us. It is teaching us that the old economy fossil fuel based, auto-mobile centered, throw-away is not a viable model for the future...

That's interesting to me because you often hear the very pro-globalization crowd saying that globalization is necessary to improve technology and standards of living in less developed countries. These sorts of statistics say quite the opposite, that we are in fact able to live our highly consumptively, first world lives because others do not.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Hey I finally wrote a new song today. The lyrics still need work, but for now they go like this:

The nicest guy
With the bluest eyes
And a will to try
More than getting by

Money and happiness
Every try, success
And demanding nothing less
Only one regret

He could have anything in the world
But he couldn't get the girl

Is it you feel free to lean on memories just like a crutch?
Is it irony or a tendency to think too much?
I get the feeling that you're gonna leave me alone out here,
Don't leave me alone out here

The other day
He came my way
He was going to go away
With no more to say

He could have anything in the world
But he couldn't get the girl

Yeah, those lyrics really don't cohese very well just yet. But they work better if you hear the tune, yeah, you gotta hear the music... ;-)
Dan's right you know:

when Sharon targets the elderly representative of a people--the face of a man who could have been Tevia's father in Fiddler on the Roof--he has effectively stopped any hope of peace among this generation of leaders. i will not have part in the self-righteous political rhetoric and media silence that gives tacit and explicit license to Israel's policy of political assassination. specifically, i will not share in the presumption that a marginalized, geriatric's violence is somehow more heinous than that perpetuated by Sharon, Putin, Bush or any other commander of forces engaged in pre-emptive war making.

the world has turned a blind eye to international norms on political assassination in the case of the Palestinian debacle for far too long. it is blatantly disingenuous to legalistically claim that various leaders within the PA and related groups are not actual heads of state and thus do not fall under the no-assassination practices of our time. furthermore, it is nonsensical to meet out death and carnage from a position of profound military superiority and then expect those who are left with the remains of their families, their country and their pride to refrain from acting out in reprisal by whatever means is at their disposal.

Yassin is not without blood on his hands. neither are the Israelis. and neither are we.

actions of this nature--half ton bombs launched into multi-family dwellings from fighter jets and attack helicopters--carried out in an effort to kill anyone of standing within the variously inbred Palestinian humanitarian, military and governmental groups will guarantee an unprecedented death toll as the conflict escalates over the coming decade.

my words should not be viewed as justification of suicide bombing--nor, certainly, of terrorism. nevertheless, the convenience of quickly using standard story lines and labeling parties in conflict under the unconscionably ambiguous labels our various media traffic in masks the irreducibly layered complexity of this conflict.

peacemaking is a multi-generational practice. it is a long walk together. a privileging of conversation in the hardest times. a religious eschewing of ultimatums. a heritage passed from mother to son that finds voice and shape only in a community's life in aggregate.

we have to do better.

all of us.

Friday, September 05, 2003

These kinds of notions are what really draw me to Chomsky:

C: Empire, yes, but I have to say I found it hard to read. I understood only parts, and what I understood seemed to me pretty well known and expressible much more simply. However, maybe I missed something important.

D: Yes, and the book arrives to the same conclusion as yours but through a more complicated, less readable way...

C: If people get something out of it, it's OK! What I understand seems to be pretty simple, and this is not a criticism. I don't see any need to say in a complicated way what you can say in an easier way. You can make things look complicated, that's part of the game that intellectuals play; things must look complicated. You might not be conscious about that, but it's a way of gaining prestige, power and influence.

D: Do you look at Foucault's work in this prospective?

C: Foucault is an interesting case because I'm sure he honestly wants to undermine power but I think with his writings he reinforced it. The only way to understand Foucault is if you are a graduate student or you are attending a university and have been trained in this particular style of discourse. That's a way of guaranteeing, it might not be his purpose, but that's a way of guaranteeing that intellectuals will have power, prestige and influence. If something can be said simply say it simply, so that the carpenter next door can understand you. Anything that is at all well understood about human affairs is pretty simple. I find Foucault really interesting but I remain skeptical of his mode of expression. I find that I have to decode him, and after I have decoded him maybe I'm missing something. I don't get the significance of what I am left with. I have never effectively understood what he was talking about. I mean, when I try to take the big words he uses and put them into words that I can understand and use, it is difficult for me to accomplish this task It all strikes me as overly convoluted and very abstract. But -what happens when you try to skip down to real cases? The trouble with Foucault and with this certain kind of theory arises when it tries to come down to earth. Really, nobody was able to explain to me the importance of his work...

And again here, in the things he says, I hear values that resonate with the things we pursue as a followers of Christ: humility, honesty, a desire to change your own evil before addressing someone else's.

D: When you talk about the role of intellectuals you say that the first duty is to concentrate on your own country. Could you explain this assertion?

C: One of the most elementary moral truisms is that you are responsible for the anticipated consequences of your own actions. It is fine to talk about the crimes of Genghis Khan, but there isn't much that you can do about them. If Soviet intellectuals chose to devote their energies to crimes of the US, which they could do nothing about, that is their business. We honor those who recognized "that the first duty is to concentrate on your own country." And it is interesting that no one ever asks for an explanation, because in the case of official enemies, truisms are indeed truisms. It is when truisms are applied to ourselves that they become contentious, or even outrageous. But they remain truisms. In fact, the truisms hold far more for us than they did for Soviet dissidents, for the simple reason that we are in free societies, do not face repression, and can have a substantial influence on government policy. So if we adopt truisms, that is where we will focus most of our energy and commitment. The explanation is even more obvious than in the case of official enemies. Naturally, truisms are hated when applied to oneself. You can see it dramatically in the case of terrorism. In fact one of the reasons why I am considered public enemy number one among a large sector of intellectuals in the US is that I mention that the U.S. is one of the major terrorist states in the world and this assertion though plainly true, is unacceptable for many intellectuals, including left-liberal intellectuals, because if we faced such truths we could do something about the terrorist acts for which we are responsible, accepting elementary moral responsibilities instead of lauding ourselves for denouncing the crimes official enemies, about which we can often do very little. Elementary honesty is often uncomfortable, in personal life as well, and there are people who make great efforts to evade it.

And one more article from an Indian writer speaking about Chomsky, wherein she speaks "as a subject of the U.S. empire". I thought it was another good one for helping us as Christians to face the dishonesty inherent in the notion of a "Christian nation".

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Another good one from this guy I found through Mark.

Postmodern linguist theory makes it clear that we can only communicate in proximately. I can rarely (if ever) perfectly understand what you are trying to communicate. So basically all I can hope to communicate is a sense of my intended meaning.

In fact the receiver of my communication will hear and see many signs I never even intended. They read in from the vantage point of their uniqueness.

Each of our experiences of language, text, culture, relationships, etc shape our perceptions of language, text, culture, relationships, etc.

There are some great books on "post-Foundationalism" that can shed some light on some of the implications of pomo philosophy on our approach to Scripture. Grenz and Franke's book is a good one to start with.

So, is can the Bible still be authoritative in pomo world?

I'd say yes. But the "secret" to unraveling the mystery of the Word is not found in an historical-critical method of interpretation, it’s not found in arguing for an inerrant text, it isn't even found in trying to keep the context on any given sentence within special revelation, rather, the authority is a mystical authority. God Himself leading us to Truth; Truth being a person.

The fact is that God speaks in everything and every where. He is always at work. If God can speak through Babylon, Balaam’s ass, and a Roman cross, than surely he can, and is speaking through prairie style architecture, indie rock, sars, and ICP - whoever has ears to hear and eyes to see...

For protestants and especially for evangelicals the Bible has become something of a paper-Pope. The incarnational question is; can we trust God enough to lead us, (in-keeping with his Word), to live as Christ in our specific time and place? I’d say the jury is still out on our willingness to Trust God for the here and now beyond the written page.
(Sept. 1 post, no hyperlink)

I agree. Very agree. (see Brian, we weren't the only ones thinking these heretical thoughts... but now they are even starting to write them down!!)

Monday, September 01, 2003

Today will be remembered as the day the Blue Bombers took on the Roughriders and 40,000 fans and shut 'em down -- and I wasn't there to see it. I had planned to be home to keep the yearly roadie tradition alive, but instead I was listening on the internet. Maybe next year. Otherwise I'm looking forward to the day when I can get a good video feed on the internet.

One question: why is the Labour Day Classic in Regina every year? Is the Alberta version in the same place every year??