What winter means to me….

The Winter has a way of bringing us to a place of deep reflection. Curious inquisitiveness and a longing for home; the home our hearts desire past our mortal years. That’s what Winter does to me. It is my favorite time of year in all it’s coldness and warm celebrations of incarnation. Winter has a way of stripping the veneer that builds up like brooding thicket around our hearts. Winter is desperate and violent in it’s chill. A time of death for creation and a time of reckoning for the soul. Winter a tool used to lovingly whittle us to utter dependence on the one who holds us up. In Winter, death is as near as the hope of Spring.


My sons

One idea I have for the resurrected Toward Hope blog is to use this as a place to write general letters to my children about life. From time to time, I will address them with thoughts they can perhaps read one day and know me better as a result.

These are my sons. My boys are a handful of work and blessing all in the same bundle. They bring me much joy and lead me to the end of myself in good ways. They have led me to conversion points in my life more than any sermon has and when I need forgiveness, they pour it over me like soothing ointment on a wound. My sons are a gift from God that are here to receive their own life and be a constant blessing to everyone they share life with. It’s truly my privilege to care for them in these formative years. I often look for God in their eyes and encounter Him there while in full rapture of wonder and delight.

As a photographer my desire is to reflect the best in people and tell their stories. As a hack theologian, I long to find the link to life on earth as it is in heaven. The camera helps me do that.


Rome Day 3 – Colosseum, Palentine Hill, & The Forum

Yesterday we spent the day being overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the Colosseum. This architectural masterpiece is nothing less than amazing and even it’s ruined state did well to inform us of just how vast and large the Roman Empire was. We learned that not many (if any) Christians died there; they were executed at the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum was reserved for gladiator fights and animal shows. The columns of St Peter’s were made with salvaged marble from the Colosseum once the games ceased.
The Forum and Palentine Hill were also quite amazing. Learning about the history of Rome was interesting and the ruins were impressive. It did leave much for us to imagine as to what the original town looked like…I think we’ll buy one of those “Rome then and Now” books that has helpful overlays to help fill the gaps. Anyways, here is the Flickr set with ample pictures for you to see…
Tomorrow we are off for an early Christianity and Catacombs tour….

Rome Day 2 – The Vatican

On our second day in Rome we visited the Vatican. The ornate texture of the place is grand in it’s vastness and caused sensory overload. The art work contained therein can vault one back in time to feel like a part of the history that produced it. As I said yesterday, pictures hardly do this place justice. As I stood beneath the glorious canvass of the Sistine Chapel, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. It was later in St Peter’s Basilica that Michelangelo’s Pieta caused me to pause and consider the cost of discipleship.

We had a guide named Ann from Through Eternity Tours that did a fabulous job giving insight into the history of all we saw. Her commentary kept all interested and I would definitely recommend her services to anyone making the trek to the Vatican. After the Vatican, we stopped by the gelato place outside the walls that Ann recommended and four 5 euros Christiene and I indulged in the best and biggest gelato cone we’d ever had. It’s worth the 30 minute trek back for more.

Here are the pictures we took yesterday. I created a new “Rome Collection” on Flickr.

If you are ever at the Vatican, walk the Copola!

Day One in Rome

Here we are! Freshly jet-lagged as a result 15 hours of flying, we managed to meander into the city for some pizza at the oldest pizzaria in Rome. After dinner we wandered through the Quirinal area that is host to the magnificent Trevi Fountain. I can’t begin to tell you how surreal the intersection of history and modern culture is in this beautiful city. Ancient wonders are scattered throughout rome and jump out at you as you pop around corners. Pictures hardly do the city justice. There is a deeper layer of interaction as one stands before the artifacts in this city with all senses in play.
Here is a collection of pictures from our first day. I’ve uploaded them to my Flickr account. Enjoy!

OK, I am on Flickr now…

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I finally registered for a Flickr Pro account and will be updating pictures often. I rather like the site’s capabilities and it gives me a creative outlet to share my pictures with family and friends. I am still familiarizing myself with all the features of the site and am impressed so far. You’ll notice to the left a collage of pictures. You can access them by clicking on them, or simple follow this link to my pics.

A Glimpse of Wonder

This morning on our way out to Langley to see our financial planner, we were stunned by the beauty of Mt Baker as the sun cast rays onto it and the wind blew snow off the peak. Because of the lighting and such, this mountain seemed closer to us today than ever before. Luckily I had my camera. We pulled over and I took some shots. I adjusted some of them to get some different looks. What do you think?







dabbling in photography

At Christmas we got a Cannon Rebel XT D-SLR kit for an insane deal and since then I have started dabbling in a little photography. It’s taken some time and practice learning how to make the camera work like I want it to, but I think I am picking up on the lingo and functionality well enough to find my way around in most ways. Here are some pics I’ve taken:








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The day the Lord spoke…

Today sure feels like one of those. I was impacted by numerous things in my daily tasks. This post will take the shape of a bit f reflection, some blog links, a picture and some quotes, as those are all the things that have stirred something in my heart today.

I am not sure whether the time and thought I have been putting into a Spiritual Formation engagement proposal has anything to do with it. But I think it may as my proposal is all about helping a community discern God’s presence among them for the purpose of deep missional engagement. The whole idea is to move from programmatic activity to a deeper missional lifestyle that takes seriously the issues of social justice before us. This process is stirring something in my heart.

With that fresh on my mind, I was hit with this image that Brant’s blog led me to. Now although this image won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1994, I have never seen it before. It touched me deeply and I feel something stirring in my heart.

Then Andrew Jones linked up to this site that posted an article about orphaned kids and missional families. This article addresses the absurdity of there being 65 million evangelicals in America and yet there are 115,000 orphaned kids. What’s wrong with this picture? Where is the true religion James talks about. We will not have another child until the a serious discussion about adoption is worked through. Bethany is a Christian adoption organization that you can start with if you are interested. This stirred something in my heart.

Then I had a conversation with my good friend Bill. Bill should blog, but he doesn’t. he is thoughtful and one of the best conversation partners around. We looked at the image above together (on the phone) and had a serious talk about justice and compassion and what it means to be a Christian. One thing we realized is that here in the west we often do not recognize our complicity in the issue of poverty simply by the way we live. This stirred something in my heart.

I then proceeded to read this Christianity today article about what it means to be poor in Spirit. Please read it, it seems we cant be poor enough. And again, this stirred something in my heart.

Then finally, and very inspirationally, Erika posted an email to her from a reader about making a difference in the life of a family. This person asked Erika to find a family or two that could benefit from a 50$ bi-weekly gift card for groceries. This story stirred something in my heart.

This quote stood out for me today

“Take this city, a city should be shining on a hill. Take this city, if it be your will. What no man can own, no man can take. Take this heart, and make it break.”


I’d be foolish to wonder for much longer what God is saying through these encounters today. Something is happening, Aslan is on the move in the hearts of the faithful to see a fresh and lovingly piercing movement of God’s people in the West. There is some upside down living going on that serves as criticism to the status quo that turns a blind eye to the things that matter most to God’s heart. The poor.

Is there something stirring in your heart? Or better yet, is it breaking?

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Artistic imagination as subversive prophetic engagement

I had to stop and look more closely at Chris Jordan’s art collection that I posted a link to yesterday. In the world of the web, things are often glanced over and little attention is given to the detail that comprises the message in an image or artistic piece. In many ways, this skimming "web vision" is a portrait of how we are socialized in life. This socialization urges us to move past things worth paying attention to and can land us in a place of numbness. I caught myself brushing too quickly over the images in the collection and I failed to notice the subversive power only seen with the steady eye. If you are curious to what caught me, have a boo at the paper bag picture and the Denali vehicle logos and see if you can spot the subversiveness of the images.

This experience encouraged me to again ponder the thoughts of Walter Brueggeman’s work, The Prophetic Imagination. In it he suggests that the royal consciousness is one which socializes the culture to a point of numbness and kills artistic creativity. For example, I realize the issues of mass consumption, but since viewing Chris Jordan’s images, I have an increased sense of the seriousness of the issue; a seriousness that I hope spurs me on to consider my complicity in it and evokes change in me. Brueggemann suggests that the royal consciousness wants to silence the artist and maintain a status quo that seeks to console people with the "everything is OK" rhetoric. The images mentioned scream a resounding "it’s NOT OK" and serve as a wake up call to our ways of unsustainability, which points to our issue of selfishness, and greed, and is also closely tied to our issues of poverty. It is Brueggemann’s position that the voices of artists and poets funded by the biblical vision of God can evoke alternative visions for humanity and life; even before the pragmatics of that vision are clear. It is the prophetic way that seeks to discover the interplay between heaven and earth.

This leads me to further questions about how we, the people of God, respond to such a challenge. Have we been lulled into a status quo-type state religion (into the royal consciousness) that – If I can borrow Martin Luther King Jr’s words – has served as more of "… a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion"? Or have we taken our prophetic stance as did the early church to function as "…a thermostat that transformed the mores of society"? It is without doubt the creativity, expressed in poetry and art, of every generation of believers that made a significant impact to transform the oppressive ways of their time, was inspired by the possibilities of the alternative vision for humanity the gospel gives us.

Have we lost the artistic imagination and prophetic edge necessary to be thermostatic? Or is everything OK?

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Some worthwhile link thingies to click on and read…

Will Willimon tees up a Dr King quote that is just as prophetic and piercing today as it was in his context…it’s about how the church should be a thermostat rather than thermometer.

Julie Clawson at Onehandclapping points to Chris Jordan’s Photography collection called Running the numbers. It looks at contemporary American culture through the lens of statistics. Here are some pics:


Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.


Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.

The rest of the collection is found here. Go have a look see.

And Len is back with Leader as Listener VI…it is a great piece…please read it.

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What glitters is not always….

Have you ever been to a church service and wondered what you just experienced? For some, the thought of coming to see a show, or being counseled ministered to is the expected norm. Some come and buy right into the “meet my individual needs” gospel that pervades the West. The over-the-top jungle gyms for kids, the self-esteem “have your best life now” type sermons, the name it and claim it mantras, and programs galore that will ensure ambidextrous golfers and housewives have their own care group keep the crowds a commin and little attention is paid to the meaning of it all. On the surface, there is a “jesus-ifying” of everything. But beneath the fools-gold glimmer of falsity lies nothing more than a way for consumers to feel good about their pursuit of the North American Dream and its values. For others that ask tough questions about the gospel and ecclesiology, experiencing the aforementioned scenarios can make the stomach churn.

Kind of like this…


Then, in my queasiness I am reminded how even for these, the ones who get it wrong from time to time (like us), the Lord died to redeem and make whole.

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