I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You…

We were made to worship…

I don’t know if you’re a Bob Dylan fan. But I am. He has a knack for rousing the human heart with his lyrics. Some suggest he is a prophet and with this, I agree. He has spoken of the things that matter in ways that led to cultural revolutions and that have produced a devoted following. The name of this blog is the same as a song on his latest masterpiece album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. “I made up my mind to give myself to you” is a great song and I encourage you to have a listen.

Why am I pointing you to this song? Because this is a deep and profound song about worship and on Sunday I’ll be speaking to you about idolatry, which is all about worship. It’s a topic that has been on my mind for some time and I’m eager to share with you the things I’ve been learning about it through the Gideon story.

So, what do I want you to know before Sunday?

The first thing I want you to know is that we were made to worship. That means that we are always in the process of giving ourselves to someone or something. In the scriptures and in our faith, we encounter the God that made us and instructs us to give ourselves over only to Him. Why should we? Because this is the proper orientation of the human being; to be directed in a way that our lives are found in God. You’ll recognize this in the very first commandment; You shall have no other gods but me.

We are always roaming to tap some eternal itch embedded in our hearts and we do this by giving ourselves over to things. This is an act of worship. The giving of ourselves. The genesis of this impulse is found, in Genesis, funny enough. It began in the garden, if you recall when we reached for the forbidden fruit. In one way, it wasn’t just Eve and Adam that ate. It was you and me, we all reached, took and ate. And thus, we became idolaters for we wanted to be like God. As a result, we became restless wanderers.

The second thing I want you to know that idolatry is subtle and happens when we aren’t even aware of it. Being a good citizen can be idolatrous. So can taking extra special care of yourself and being patriotic for your country. You see we have our tidy religion in our free country and we, for the most part, have our ducks in a row. We have comfort and certainty, and security. And this is pleasing, like the fruit in the garden, but is it faithful? We tend to wander without looking and we can wander into the arms of waiting idols if we are not careful.

In the scriptures, we meet a very loving but dangerous God that woos us into wholehearted trust and fidelity. “He not safe, but He is good”, as was said about Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia. We spend most of our lives trying to remove anxiety, but I’m convinced that there is holy anxiety that leads to peace that we may need to find by letting go of some things. But fear not…. Because…

The last thing I want you to know is that there is hope! The topic of idolatry can be a heavy one, so I’d like for you to come with hope in your heart and on your mind. In fact, put it on your lips too, why not! For there is reason to rejoice, because God constantly interrupts our idolatry. His covenant with us is everlasting, even though our hearts are prone to wander. So be hopeful as we worship on Sunday. Perhaps I can encourage you with these lyrics from Bob Dylan’s song:

Well, my heart’s like a river, a river that sings

Just takes me a while to realize things

I’ve seen the sunrise, I’ve seen the dawn

I’ll lay down beside you when everyone’s gone

I’ve traveled from the mountains to the sea

I hope that the gods go easy with me

I knew you’d say yes, I’m saying it too

I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you

So, come join us, this Sunday and I promise it’ll be interesting with a little poetry, a parable, and some exposition of the bible and current culture as we explore the topic of idolatry.

Be blessed,


Lent – Salvation from the Dust

As we begin the season of lent, let’s carry close to the front of our vision our need for redemption. In a world that thrives on living as if we’ll never die, Lent is our companion for safe passage past our illusions and into the arms of a loving God; a God who was broken so that all things may be made new and spared from dust.

Dust is an interesting thing. It’s the end point of all temporal and material things. Death is the doorway and death’s living room is lifeless dust, however absurd that sounds. Therefore we avoid death’s doorway at all costs and the way we cope is to keep it from the front of our minds.

This Jesus person did an extraordinary job of calling us past the illusions of life as we know it. He forces us to the dance floor to tango with death. He urges us to not be afraid, even though our natural instinct is to deny or flee our eventual dance partner. In fact, he promises us that in dancing with death, we find our life. He proves this to us by leading the way past the dust. Therefore, the faithful, in preparation for the event that is Easter, enter lent with dust on our foreheads to remind us of this part of our human experience. We are dust.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jesus

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” the Apostle Paul

Let’s make our way in humility to the dance floor in full recognition that we need saving and consider the dust against the backdrop of the eventual healing of all things. These are two facets to God’s plan for the restoration of all things.

This song helps us consider Dust.




Dust and Dreams

“You could not perceive,
how to be
Just rest in this and I will
give you eyes to see
In dust is hope,
just so you know
And I will pull you through
if you let go…
Dust and dreams….”



There is a frail and fine line that separates our dreams from dust. Although we would like to think they are worlds apart, in reality it is quite the opposite. In fact, we tend to believe things are just fine and we fight to hold on to our dreams, even when our realities are crumbling. Coming to terms with the reality of dust is too overwhelming for us, so we create illusions and get in bed with denial to maintain our dreams.

What is dust? Is it shattered dreams, a failing marriage? Death? I think it's all of those and ultimately we spend our lives building castles in the sand that we think will stand the test of time free from dust, but they don't. Although we long to live forever, our lives, it seems, are fashioned toward eventual dust. Many realize a foretaste of dust in the shattering of dreams along the way. Suffering, in this sense, is part of the human experience. Lament and loss are realities that we need to learn to live with. This is hard to bear and in the thick of it, dust is a substance that wont let us see past it. Dust is disorienting.

In a cloud of dust, if you try and clear it by flailing, you will fail and go mad. With every attempt to escape dust, we stir up more and cause increased suffering for ourselves. Our impulse is to fight it, to plan an escape, to find an answer for why we are in it, or how we will get out. It's futile. The dust has a way of razing our wills along with our lives. Dust demands we wait… until it settles, until the smoke clears, until we are transformed by it. Waiting in the dust gives hope a chance to work its way in.

Most people fear the dust because it represents the greatest loss of the hope we had. Dust is death. Fortunately there is a rumour circulating out there about a God that conquered dust and death. Rumour has it that the way out is through waiting in the dust and calling on the one that saves – calling in agony and despair – for this lament is honest and real. In the right time, new hope enters our dust in the form of a loving God to reveal new possibilities. Whether its the dust of broken dreams or death itself, God is the one who takes the dust and fashions new hope that leads to joy and a restored future. This is the power of the resurrection of Jesus. Be hopeful, even if its dusty where you are.

Have a listen to a song called “Dust” by Hope and Social that has gripped me this last week. http://music.hopeandsocial.com/track/dust-3


My favourite coffee…

JJ Bean Coffee House
My Americano

I stopped into JJ Bean for a coffee and breakfast wrap this morning. Something about the texture of the place makes the experience of their coffee so good. As I waited I saw “commercial drivers” sipping their espressos while doing crafts and reading. There were two blue collar types having coffee too. Leathery faces and paint filled clothes and they fit right in at this eclectic place. A breeding ground for hipsters, it is. I like this place not only for their coffee, but for the down to earth-ness evident in their ethos. My drink is the Americano.


Being with the Dying…Remembering Susan

DSC_0800.jpgThere are few moments in a persons life that can be more transformative than being with the dying. Typically, those that are ready to die and have prepared their hearts, can speak with such clarity and reason to the things that really matter. They can expose the trivial pursuits of life to make room for things that really matter; Moments in time that are filled with love.

I had the privilege of giving the eulogy at Susan Caravan’s funeral. Susan was somewhat of an aunt to me. She was my mother’s best friend and we spent lots of time with their family growing up. I have vivid memories of visiting their family. It was both a blessing and a curse for me. As I was prone to evoke the ire of my mother, when visiting with Auntie Susan it was as if my mother had just multiplied. One could call this multi-directional discipline :)

I was fortunate to spend some time with her in the hospice, reconnecting and hearing her voice again. The conversation was profound. Susan was in a place where she was ready to die, and as a result was able to show great courage for the journey before her. Wondering if she would be able to walk in heaven, I reminded her that dancing would be the norm. She quite liked the gesture. We talked about family, told stories and were mutually blessed. I came away from the encounter changed and encouraged. Changed because she, perhaps unknowingly, reoriented me around my mortality and what really matters… encouraged because we all will eventually face the same journey. We can take comfort from those who model the courage we all need when our time is near.

Susan was a great woman, strong and determined to raise five children, mostly on her own. Not without struggle, Susan worked tirelessly to be there for her entire family that included five children, twelve grand children, and two great grand children. She modelled the persistence that eventually emerged in her children to navigate through life and become good people. She will be missed greatly and remembered well.

A letter to my children….don’t stare at the ads!

There are many things I want to teach you about life. Although I am hardly the expert, some understanding has grabbed me through my experiences that I long to impart to you for your benefit. Today you are still young, but tomorrow, I hope you will see things with clarity and a keen mind nurtured from a trust in God and a desire to understand the truth beneath the surface of things.

Don’t stare at the ads! That’s right, I said don’t stare at the ads. I am talking about the advertisements that constantly bombard you with their visual arrows through television commercials, public billboards, the radio, internet, and junk mail. They are harmful. They seem harmless, but in reality, millions of dollars are spent on constructing them in a way that will tap into your deepest desires in order to shape them. They are designed to make you feel incomplete without the product that they are trying to sell. They will offer you the world if you pledge allegiance to their brands. Popularity, beauty, power, wisdom, satisfaction…I tell you, it’s all rubbish!

When you peel back the surface, you will see that corporations are trying to create a religious experience in you to make you their disciple. They want you to believe that you were made to buy their products. In other words, they want your self-identity to be deeply rooted in consumption, and as long as it is, you will always be longing for more and more without being truly satisfied. This is not who you are.

The constant struggle for us in this life is to remain true to who we are. You know where you come from. We’ve told you the stories about the God who created you in dignity, love, and respect. You know how God rescues you and offers you a fulfilling life as a contributing artist in his restoration masterpiece. Each of you are gifted to be blessings in God’s project to heal this world with a love that puts an end to manipulation and violence. Sharing in the life and love of God….this is where real purpose and fulfillment come from. Not from the consumption of products that leave your souls thirsty and anxious in the end.

If you stare at the ads and let them invade your imagination, they will shape who you are. And let me tell you, if the heart of your identity is found in being a consumer, you will always be in a place of unfulfilled longing. Don’t be a slave to filling an empty void with “things” that can only be filled by God.

Life giving conversations….

The last week has offered me the opportunity to have some very life giving conversations with special people. Each one has been a learning experience and a discovery of what God is doing in me lately. I contrast these conversations against the feeling of this image that I made last weekend while on a photo shoot. As this image speaks to the coldness and isolation of winter, the conversations I’ve had have nudged me toward the warm hope of spring and renewal in my life….and I think that’s a good thing.

Conversation #1:

A good friend met me for lunch and within three sentences we dove into a candid discussion about theology and integrating faith with life. I’ve looked forward to chatting with my PHD friend for some time as I respect his wisdom and knowledge. I threw out a theological statement I’ve been chewing on for a while:

“To claim the salvific benefits of the gospel without living into the social and political implications of God becoming King in Jesus is to, in fact, never have known him.” 

This launched us into a dialogue about left and right agendas and the shortfalls with each of them as that is how such a statement tends to polarize the discussion. Does it have to be a social gospel, or conservative one largely uninvolved in the social ills of our day outside the political efforts of legislation? This encouraged us to consider appropriate demonstration of the Kingdom consistent with the story of God in history and not just political engagement bound by a certain process or context stripped of the story of Israel.

My angst in all of this comes from the incessantly private nature of Christian faith and the incredible silence on social issues of systemic injustice. This came to a head for me recently in light of the silence and lack of engagement by much of the church with the Occupy Wall Street movement. I wasn’t sold on any notion of complete agreement with the OWS movement, but at least some commentary and consideration about the validity of the movement’s general protest against the disproportion of wealth and oligarchy that runs the West. My friend (Scott is his name) had some wise encouragement about a missional/incarnational posture that would in once sense protect from the polarizing liberal/conservative lines and offer a third way to live into the gospel that opens the door to transformation from within the believing community as well as without. What is it? It’s quite simple. Solidarity in the margins that goes beyond telling good news and embraces kingdom enactment and prophetic critique as a mode of being in the civil sphere. A posture of receptivity to the Spirit and a relinquishment of control seem like the appropriate prerequisite here within the context of discipleship.

This post is getting too long….conversation #2 will be another entry.

Voice of the Day – Bonhoeffer on humility…

“Those who would learn to serve must first learn to think little of themselves…Only those who live by the forgiveness of their sin in Jesus Christ will think little of themselves in the right way. They will know that their own wisdom completely came to an end when Christ forgave them.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It makes sense, this perspective of his. For in and through Christ is the only way to genuine selflessness and humility. Any other attempts at servitude, although admirable, remain motivated by a self-centered impulse to seek nobility; an end that points back to the self (created being), rather than the creator.

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My attempt at socially responsible gift giving…(Part 4)

Today my report includes a goat and two chickens. That’s right, a goat and two chickens. I purchased these from Oxfam in name for others. These are a great gift for the person that pretty much has everything they need. They serve as good stocking stuffers (the information gift card does). They can also be great conversation points about the meaning of Christmas and how it is important to consider others in need over the compulsion so common to just buy stuff for people because we feel we have to. It was, after all, God who considered our need in giving the gift of His son. I heard today that the world spends enough each Christmas on “stuff” to end global poverty. Perhaps unrealistic, but an important statistic to consider to show the extent of consumerism’s plight.

In addition to livestock, I picked up a couple of Leatherman Squirt keychain tools for family. As far as I can tell through Leatherman’s literature, they are made in Portland USA. So, the distance for them to travel was not too far and they seemed to fit my criteria for gifts this Christmas.

My wife asked me to consider some CDs for her. Notably, Dave Matthew’s and Carolyn Aerands. She laments that I always take my ipod and macbook with me so she doesn’t get to listen to the music we have. I checked with Best Buy today and the cost of CDs are double than through itunes. Perhaps an online purchase and a little CD burning for the stereo might be the best solution here.

Here is the collection of related posts:

Introduction – Is Our Celebration of Christmas Shrouded With Injustice?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

My attempt at socially consious gift giving…(Part 3)

There is nothing too extravagant to report on this leg of the socially conscious gift buying adventure. Today my son and I went t run some errands and while out stopped by the local theatre to buy some gift cards. Gift cards are a wonderful way to keep things local and it gives some room for freedom (in this case, movies) of choice. I know that I am always grateful when I receive Chapters gift cards for Christmas. They always come in handy as I need books for school and such…

Next on the agenda is some charity donations in name for others…

Here is a list of websites for you to consider for donation gifts:

World Vision

I like the idea of buying a goat, or lending someone money this Christmas…

I made the upgrade…


…to Leopard. We were at Trinity Western today with the kids for a Christmas Festival when I stopped by the bookstore and realized that I could get the student discount on the Leopard OS. I picked up iWork 08 as well to utilize the pages app that seems useful. Now I just have to begin the pain staking process of familiarizing myself with all the features to make it worth the money spent.


About the Festival…included in it was a nativity drama outside that was done quite well by the students. it was snowing today and it was cold and it was good to see the cast tough it out. There were five stations and we were led by a very eccentric lady and her helper. They also participated as various characters. It began with Zecharaiah and his visitation, followed by the visitation to Mary and Joseph. Then we moved to the Herod scene where he talked with the wise men. Then it was to the shepherds in the field before we ended up at the stable. At the stable there was no dialogue, but only song sung beautifully by the girl who played Mary. Oh Holy Night and What Child is This, graced our ears as we stood amazed at the quality of song and creativity that went into this event. It was a blessing.

On another note, I bought the Vox De Nube CD from ITunes today. The Magnificat, sung by Noirin Ni Riain and the monks of Glenstal Abbey, enchanted me Friday morning as I listened to prayer from my daily podcast, Pray as you go. Her voice is haunting and launched me into worship. There was something enchanting about driving and listening to her voice as the snow fell and blanketed everyting. You can listen to the song here as it is in the daily prayer for Friday the 30th.


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The Church Moves into the Neighbourhood – Part 1

The following is part one of a three part series of posts on the incarnation. It is a small paper I completed for a class in Spiritual Formation. I welcome your questions and feedback on these thoughts. As the total paper is a short 7.5 pages, it was difficult to formulate detailed arguments. As such, I deal with three general perspectives that I feel the Church needs to consider as it incarnates the gospel. This first part considers Lesslie Newbigin’s work, Foolishness to the Greeks


Engaging the topic of the Church and her move into the neighbourhood, presses one to grapple with elements of the incarnation. That Jesus incarnated the presence of God in human form requires us to consider the presence and work of God among us and in us in each cultural context we find ourselves in. As Eugene Peterson’s, Message puts it: “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood”. This compelling description of incarnation shapes the pattern now for the church.

But the pressing questions of “How?” and “In what manner?” remain on the forefront and can determine the difference between faithfulness and gospel reductionism. I believe for the church to faithfully move into the neighbourhood, a number of things need to be considered. That they begin with the church’s faithful relationship with Jesus and a clear understanding of his mission and purpose is without question. Without this, “moving into the neighbourhood” will bring with it numerous reductions and cultural accommodations that are sadly far too evident in many churches today.

As I Reflect on the readings for this paper, Brueggemann, Wright, and Newbigin, all offer incredible challenges to the Church about her relation to the gospel and culture. In addition, they fund for us new (or, rather old) perspectives for the church’s faithful witness. In this paper, I will present three perspectives that have emerged from my engagement with the texts.

With Eyes to See – A Cultural Investigation Alongside the Gospel

I am learning that perceptive eyes and critical thinking about the world around us are important elements to appropriately understand how to incarnate the gospel. Foolishness to the Greeks is a superb book that engages the sub-forces of culture and how we are shaped in the West alongside the gospel. For how can we trust that our understandings of the gospel and the culture (in which we are so enmeshed) are accurate, without first listening and observing the philosophical and theological assumptions we come to the table with?

Newbigin’s work is helpful in that it challenges our presuppositions about culture and the gospel. One big issue was made clear to me. It is that the gospel is not about propositions and mental articulation of Jesus in order to go to heaven when one dies. The gospel is, as Newbigin summarizes, “…the announcement that in the series of events that have their centre in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ something has happened that alters the total human situation and must therefore call into question every human culture.” This statement early in the book sets up a number of arguments that bring into question Modernity’s Post Enlightenment assumptions that suggest a divide between that which is sacred and that which is secular. This has made religion a private affair (of values) and left the public world of “facts” (as governed by the public religion of science and rationality) untouched by the challenge of the gospel.

Why is understanding this important to faithfully incarnating the gospel? It is so because the neighbourhoods we desire to incarnate in operate in the realm of pluralism where our Christianity has no superior claim to any other religion and all religions have no claim on the God of rationalism that governs public truth. “What is true for you is not true for me”, is the earthed expression of this postmodern reality. This must cause the church to move beyond trying to rationalize faith (as it so often does) according to the scientific principles of modernity, and begin to live and breath the resurrection as a result of being in Christ. We must embody the resurrection in historical word and deed following in the footsteps of Jesus.

The Gospel is foolishness to the Greeks and this serves true in our day as well. It can be said true that sacrificial love and care for the world holistically (beyond care for only the rational mind) will always trump the scientism that tries to rule the public realm that belongs to the Kingdom of God, without discounting the value of science, of course. To live out of a hermeneutic of love is the invitation knocking on the door of the church in the West. After all, in our postmodern times, truth is understood locally and experientially. This way will surely call into question the culture with the gospel and what better opportunity than now to live out our faith?

Part two will come tomorrow.

I welcome your questions and feedback.

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A Community in my face…

Poverty 10 06.Jpg (Jpeg Image, 445X296 Pixels)

Each morning I get up in the wee hours, prepare myself for work and make my way to the train station where I park my car before the 40 minute trip into downtown. I park on the street beside a vacant lot that is a smattering of trees and unkept grass. Upon first glance, anyone will realize this is an abandoned lot. On an adjacent street, one riddled with syringes and roaming prostitutes, there is the local food bank which is frequented often by the needy. This is the marginalized centre of Whalley, in the city of Surrey. It is wrought with discomfort, brokenness, and violent crime. The people here are considered by societies standards, the dregs. Although I live in an somewhat well kept neighbourhood, this place is a five minute drive from home.

Since the summer weather is nicely lingering and offering mild days, lately I have noticed a community forming in the vacant lot that I park next to. There are about 15 people that call this abandoned lot home. I am confronted by them daily, not in a ‘harassing’ way (perhaps only harassing to my comfort), but in a way that has troubled me since I have begun exploring how God works in each moment of my day. The simple question, “What are you saying, God?“, if offered to each situation in life, can have serious implications for faithfulness.

People ignore the humans (that’s right, humans) that struggle through life in this park. Some pass them by thinking “You’ve made your own bed, you deserve this.” How Karmic such statements are. Others don’t even notice that these are someone’s earthly and heavenly children. As I pass, always in a rush to get to work on time, these sentiments make their way out of my heart as well. Then I realize that were Jesus here today in person, these would be the ones he would wake up beside to the sunshine, or rain, of the morning. They are the “least of these” Jesus talked about. These are the ones who would jive to hearing that he too didn’t have a place to rest his head. These are the ones that would be drawn to the one who identified with them through the incarnation.

Where does that leave me today? Troubled. Why? because I know that as Christians we are to implement the plan of reconciliation that Jesus fulfilled and instigated on the cross. To say the least, I am challenged. I am challenged to the point where I want to shake myself (or be shaken) out of this slumber of day-to-day getting along, and make my life here a reflection of God. Because I know he cares for those I tend to sheepishly pass by.

I am also inspired. Our mission groups are gearing up for a journey into discernment as well. Through this we want to eagerly hear God’s invitation to us to act justly and love mercy in our neighbourhood. My question of; ‘How is God inviting us to embody his love here?‘, is lingering as I write.

Perhaps my discomfort is a sign of God’s attempt to reach send me?

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Thoughts on Suffering &Thankfulness

Is it only the things we desire out of life that we ought to be thankful for? Or, can we be thankful for the times things don’t go our way? I think the latter should be the right perspective. Being thankful for difficult times, whether suffering to an unbearable point, or hardships of a lesser degree, is not morbid. It is rather an acknowledgement of life in its full humanness and this opens us to the lessons we can learn, regardless the circumstances.

I find that in the most difficult times the easiest thing to say is "Where is God?" or, "How could God let this happen?". This makes it difficult for us to be open to the Spirit’s shaping of our character through the incarnation. For in the incarnation, it is God who has come near, and is very near, whether we can sense Him or not. Perhaps we do not sense God in times of suffering because we were wrongly taught to only "feel His closeness" when things go our way? May it never be so. Being happy and on a spiritual high is not our only point of reference of God’s closeness. To do so is a denial of the incarnation. In fact, the most valuable lessons we can learn, the greatest growth our God invites us to, is through hardship. Our God is a God who suffers, identifies with us in our suffering, and blesses us in our discomfort with His presence.

For this I am thankful….

May you be blessed in your discomfort and trials with the realization that God is near and inviting you to deeper trust and relationship with Him.

My Peace I Leave With You…

Inhabitatio Dei has invited a some thoughtful people to write on Christian Pacifism. Please have a look at their perspectives on the subject.