Thursday, November 24, 2016

film review: Arrival

Janice I went to see Arrival last night.

It’s a thoughtful sci-fi film from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. It’s a story about 12 mysterious spacecraft that touch down around the world. An elite team – led by Colonel Webber (Forest Whitaker), linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) – are brought together to investigate. As the world teeters towards a military response, the team races against time for answers.

This is not a film that depends on special effects and amazing technology for it’s impact. Arrival takes its time unfolding, but gradually gets under your skin and commands your attention.

It’s a film that draws us in to consider big questions. It's about love, loss, tolerance, compassion, language and non-linear time. it’s a film that asks questions.
  • How do we approach those things, the unknown, that terrifies us?
  • Will man’s tendency toward violence kick in before its science and language leaders can figure out a way to stop it?
  • Why is it important to communicate through language and not action?
  • What would it mean if we could see visions of not just a possible future but our specific future?
  • Would the choices that get us there be any less significant?
  • Would the “gift” of seeing the future be a blessing or a curse?
  • How could a brain that grasps the eternal picture—an all-at-the-same-time awareness—not go insane in a time-bound world?
  • It raises questions about geopolitics and the nature of time and the sanctity of life.
Arrival is a film that remind us that we’ve all had those days when communication breaks down and fear over the unknown sets in. And it is the best of us who persevere, get up from being knocked down and repair that which is broken.

As I reflected on Arrival this morning, I came across some lines from T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” that describe something of the circularity of overlapping departures and arrivals: 
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
Or this:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 

Eliot (and others) put into words a feeling, an idea that haunts us: that we’re eternal beings in a time-bound world. Little ruptures (liminal spaces and moments) are everywhere:
  • the strange way that joy is so closely related to impermanence and longing;
  • the mysteries of memory, imagination, and dreaming;
  • the oddity of deja vu;
  • the prophetic gifts that Christians chalk up to the Holy Spirit and secularists dismiss as uncanny intuition.
Christians have language for this, because we believe that there is more than we can see, that our being is eternal. C.S. Lewis wrote “if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world”?

As the characters in Arrival discover, “time” isn’t what they understood it to be: the future, the past, and the present are all the same from the point of view of the heptapods.

I wonder, as we approach Advent, the season when we contemplate the mystery of an eternal God taking on temporal form “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4.4), if Arrival helps us approach the incarnation with fresh insight and an invitation to revisit the familiar story and see afresh the mysteries the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. To quote Eliot again, maybe we will
“arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

we also live double lives ~ Walter Brueggemann

Power turns and postures and exhibits.
It controls and manages and plots.
We participate in it,
we benefit from it,
we are dazzled by it… and more than a little afraid.
Just underneath, all the while…
Just underneath dazzling power
sits violence and brutality,
greed and fear and envy,
cunning and shamelessness.
In that too we participate.
Like the ancients, we also live double lives,
public in pageant and role and office,
hidden in meanness and thinness.
We do not do well at bringing this double together.
But we confess you to be Lord of all our lives,
Give us new freedom about our public lives,
give us new candor about our hidden lives,
Correct what is brutal and greedy and fearful,
chasten what is hidden and mean.
Make us women and men of shalom,
the kind of welfare you will for our common life. Amen

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

our true home ~Walter Brueggemann

God before and God behind,
God for us and God for your own self,
Maker of heaven and earth,
creator of sea and sky,
governor of day and night.
We give thanks for your ordered gift of life to us,
 for the rhythms that reassure,
  for the equilibriums that sustain,
   for the reliabilities that curb our anxieties.
We treasure from you,
  days to work and nights to rest.
We cherish from you,
  days to control and nights to yield.
We savor from you,
  days to plan and nights to dream.
Be our day and our night,
 our heaven and our earth,
  our sea and our sky,
   and in the end our true home.
Amen.

rebrand us - a prayer by Walter Brueggemann

You mark us with your water, 
You scar us with your name, 
You brand us with your vision, 
and we ponder our baptism, your water, 
your name, 
your vision. 

While we ponder, we are otherwise branded. 
Our imagination is consumed by other brands, 
~winning with Nike, 
~pausing with Coca-Cola,
~knowing and controlling with Microsoft. 

Re-brand us, 
transform our minds, 
renew our imagination, 
that we may be more fully who we are marked 
and hoped to be, 
we pray with candour and courage. 

Amen.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Some preliminary thoughts on what trump as president means

Many of us woke up this morning to the surprising, and if I am honest, disappointing, news that Donald Trump is the president elect of the USA.
We don’t know what Trump will do. His statements have often made little sense. Some (maybe many) of his statements have clearly been made to stir up a response from his target audience (angry whites who feel disenfranchised).
I feel disappointed by evangelicals (both here in Canada and the USA) who have been strongly anti-Clinton because she is pro-abortion. Trump may have made some anti-abortion statements, but the overall tone of his statements (I cannot use the word “policy” because I’m not sure he has any) are not pro-life. Single issue voting is almost never good. And pro-life is so much larger than the abortion issue.
I have a sense that Christians in the USA have an eschatology of politics. When people, and specifically Christians, become confident because their party wins, or when they get depressed and feel hopeless because their party loses, then they are caught up in the empire-shaped eschatology of politics. It is a sign that their hope is more in politics than in Jesus; a sign that they are more citizens of their country than of the kingdom of God; a sign that they are listening more to the gods of this age than the God of the ages.
Exit polls[1] indicate that white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Which, at least in part, indicates that character has become unimportant to evangelicals. It’s time to speak up and remind Trump and ourselves (as evangelicals or conservatives or atheists or liberals or whatever label you chose to wear) that immigrants are made in the image of God, women are not tools and toys, racial and religious prejudice must be confronted, and so much more. We are called to speak truth with love.
Trump in his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning said: “We will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us… [we will] reclaim our country's destiny.” Those are scary words. They go back to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. They open the door for political bullying on a continent and global scale.
But having said all that: I went to bed on Tuesday night with Jesus as Lord. I woke up this morning and Jesus is still Lord.
Trump or Clinton was and is not the hope of the USA and the west and democracy. Our hope is in God.
It was the South African missiologist, David Bosch, who in his book Transforming Mission impressed on many of us that the church’s mission is not in fact the church’s mission but God’s mission. Our calling is to participate in the missio Dei, the mission of God in this world. That’s where our hope is.
Our hope is in the gospel of God. God’s mission is gospel-shaped. Some today want to reduce gospel to personal salvation while others want to convert into public politics and secularize the kingdom of God. The gospel is about Jesus the King and the gospel is about kingdom citizens living under the king regardless of who is in “power.”
Our hope is in the gospel of God that creates God’s people. God’s gospel-shaped mission creates a new people of God, that transcends all differences and man-made distinctions. The gospel creates kingdom citizens who live in this world and live the vision of the kingdom of God. We need to soak up how God’s gospel-shaped work always and forever creates a gospel people.
Someone has written: “every hour [‘chronos’ time] is pregnant for possibilities for God’s kingdom to break in with transforming significance [‘kairos’ time].” Lord Jesus break in, in this time, transforming our world. As David Fitch tweeted this morning, “Maybe not since the 60's or even Hitler's rise in Germany, has it been this important for the church to discern what it means when it says ‘Jesus is Lord.’”
And so this morning:
  • Lament, deep lament. For all those who felt threatened, triggered, attacked, vulnerable, through the whole campaign process and now to have to face the uncertainty of a Trump presidency, may you find communities of support and protection. May you find strength for the coming days. May fear not rule in your hearts. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
  • For women, refugees, immigrants, people of color, religious minorities, Lord hear our prayer. 
  • The fact is, our Lord tells us in the last days things are going to get worse not better. I think that is happening and is going to continue to happen. I am sorry I am not more positive but the one thing I know is that the Lord is here and His Spirit is with us.
This morning, among the people I see and talk to, I will continue to try to:
  • Love and not hate
  • Embrace and not divide
  • Take down walls and not build them
  • Trust and not fear
  • Put down stones instead of throwing them
  • Have faith in a God who is bigger than Hilary and Donald and Justin and the USA and Canada and ...
  • Seek justice within my influence and not neglect
  • Be thankful for my job, home, church, family, community and not greedy for more of what I think I deserve
  • Hope and not despair
  • Listen and not shout
  • Be patient, kind, gentle, good and not angry, mean, and disrespectful.
  • Seek peace and not war


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/exit-polls-show-white-evangelicals-voted-overwhelmingly-for-donald-trump/

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

book review: How to Survive a Shipwreck

title: How To Survive A Shipwreck: Help is on the way and love is already here
author: Jonathan Martin
date: 2016
publisher: Zondervan

I’ll be honest: I have mixed feelings about this book. I loved the title and had high expectations. The content is good. Near the beginning of the book he writes: 
“The only way to lose yourself forever is to keep hanging on to the life you had before. The storm rides you hard, but the Spirit whispers into the pitch-black that surrounds you, carrying the words Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in the wind: You must be born again.” 
But some of the way he writes just didn't connect with me. And that probably says more about me than about the author. And that's OK. Not every author is for everyone.

Martin doesn’t go into details over his shipwreck of a situation, and I think that is good, it is certainly not the point of his story. Instead, Martin takes us into a sea of mysticism and intrigue, where Jesus is not a pat and dry answer to be realized, but a person to journey with in this wild, treacherous ride called life. 


Disclosure of Material Connection:

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. 

I was not required to write a positive review. 
The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

batman & Jesus

Mythicism [the belief that Jesus Christ never existed as a historical figure but was derived from a group of mythical gods and demi-gods from Greek and Roman times] is so nonsensical, especially when it thinks that there is something profound in making a comparison between Jesus and Sherlock Holmes or superheros or Batman. 
But I must admit, the depiction of Bat-Church in the trailer below is pretty cool!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

little boxes

One of my favourite Toronto area photographers, posted this photo of "little boxes" at tumblr.topleftpixel.com 

It immediately made me think of this classic song by Malvina Reynolds

Here's a more recent version by Walk Off the Earth

Friday, September 30, 2016

book review: #OrganicJesus

title: #Organic Jesus
author: Scott Douglas
year: Kregel Publications
publisher: 2016

Scott Douglas has written an interesting book on finding Jesus. He asks the question: "If Generation Next is supposed to question everything and trust no one, where does faith fit in?"

If as consumers we demand that our food be pesticide-free, our cosmetics and shampoo be paraben-free and that everything possible - from clothes to toilet paper - be made without additives or chemicals. 

But what about Christianity, it has included all sorts of additives. How do we get back to the 100% organic version of Jesus?

In #OrganicJesus, Scott Douglas goes on a funny, thought-provoking romp through the foundations of belief. Christianity, he says, has become a simulacrum - a bloated, over-processed image that lacks the true substance of the real thing. 

Scott Douglas looks at historical Christ figures, urban legends, odd facts about the faith, and freakishly flawed Christians, often using a sense of humour (that some may find a little odd - but I really liked!) All of this is to get back to to the essence of Jesus.

There is nothing new or especially radical in #OrganicJesus. His picture of #OrganicJesus could fit in nearly any time or place, denomination or religious community. Which means some will find him to be a troublemaker for the culture and a comforter for the afflicted.

It's not a perfect book, but then it doesn't pretend to be. It only scratches the surface of the real Jesus. I so appreciated his description of trinitarian theology. He highlights the mystery and challenge of understanding trinitarian theology, and challenges Christians to stop using dumb models to explain it. 

"The Trinity is the dumbed-down version of God - God explained in the absolute simplest form. God in his entirety - the One we will know in the next life - is far more vast and complex. But out minds are just not equipped to understand so splendid a being."
In our attempts to try and explain the mysterious, we obscure it and send us down rabbit trails.

Whether it’s the Trinity, Creation, or worship music and prayer, Douglas sets the stage with the history, the debate, and carefully looks at the confusions. And then he gets to the core question(s) about who this Jesus really is.

Do I recommend #OrganicJesus? Yes.
It’s a good, easy read for those searching for a way through the chaos of faith. #OrganicJesus is far more attractive, accessible, and compassionate than most of what we see in North American religion. And he is far more engaged and loving than we get from much of evangelical witness.


Like organic farming, the pursuit of #OrganicJesus is healthy and normal. And, at least, part(s) of the church have been doing this for 2000 years, not just the last 5. And unlike the prepackaged Jesus, this one has more than 5 pre-programmed responses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Speakeasy Blog Review Program
in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts expressed here are my own.


book review: #OrganicJesus

title: #Organic Jesus
author: Scott Douglas
year: Kregel Publications
publisher: 2016

Scott Douglas has written an interesting book on finding Jesus. He asks the question: "If Generation Next is supposed to question everything and trust no one, where does faith fit in?"

If as consumers we demand that our food be pesticide-free, our cosmetics and shampoo be paraben-free and that everything possible - from clothes to toilet paper - be made without additives or chemicals. 

But what about Christianity, it has included all sorts of additives. How do we get back to the 100% organic version of Jesus?

In #OrganicJesus, Scott Douglas goes on a funny, thought-provoking romp through the foundations of belief. Christianity, he says, has become a simulacrum - a bloated, over-processed image that lacks the true substance of the real thing. 

Scott Douglas looks at historical Christ figures, urban legends, odd facts about the faith, and freakishly flawed Christians, often using a sense of humour (that some may find a little odd - but I really liked!) All of this is to get back to to the essence of Jesus.

There is nothing new or especially radical in #OrganicJesus. His picture of #OrganicJesus could fit in nearly any time or place, denomination or religious community. Which means some will find him to be a troublemaker for the culture and a comforter for the afflicted.

It's not a perfect book, but then it doesn't pretend to be. It only scratches the surface of the real Jesus. I so appreciated his description of trinitarian theology. He highlights the mystery and challenge of understanding trinitarian theology, and challenges Christians to stop using dumb models to explain it. 

"The Trinity is the dumbed-down version of God - God explained in the absolute simplest form. God in his entirety - the One we will know in the next life - is far more vast and complex. But out minds are just not equipped to understand so splendid a being."
In our attempts to try and explain the mysterious, we obscure it and send us down rabbit trails.

Whether it’s the Trinity, Creation, or worship music and prayer, Douglas sets the stage with the history, the debate, and carefully looks at the confusions. And then he gets to the core question(s) about who this Jesus really is.

Do I recommend #OrganicJesus? Yes.
It’s a good, easy read for those searching for a way through the chaos of faith. #OrganicJesus is far more attractive, accessible, and compassionate than most of what we see in North American religion. And he is far more engaged and loving than we get from much of evangelical witness.


Like organic farming, the pursuit of #OrganicJesus is healthy and normal. And, at least, part(s) of the church have been doing this for 2000 years, not just the last 5. And unlike the prepackaged Jesus, this one has more than 5 pre-programmed responses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Speakeasy Blog Review Program
in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts expressed here are my own.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trump - Skittles - Refugees

On Monday night  tweeted 



Donald Trump Jr compared Syrian refugees not to skittles but to poisoned skittles. Ignoring the fact that Trump has no idea what he is talking about, what bothers me so much about this image is the reductionism - desperate asylum seekers being reduced to a few poisoned Skittles - this is so dehumanizing.

Wrigley, the company that owns Skittles, responded: "Skittles are candy. Refugees are people."

Now, the person who took the picture of the bowl of Skittles, David Kittos, back in 2010, who is himself a refugee, has come forward and said that Trump is using the image without his permission."This was not done with my permission, I don't support his politics and I would never take his money to use it" BBC.

What often happens, is that we feel we have to protect ourselves from others and so we distance ourselves from them. We turn them into objects so we can treat them without having to consider their feelings. When we objectify others, we strip them of their humanity and their individuality, we depersonalize them.

The opposite of objectification is empathy. And that seems to be in very short supply these days. To empathize with another is to see them as fully human and as worthy of respect and dignity as we believe ourselves to be. It results in compassion and mercy, generosity and hospitality. Accepting an increased quota of appropriately vetted refugees from Syria and other places seems to be an entirely empathic, Christian thing to do. 

And if I remember correctly that’s pretty much was Jesus told us to do.

video

Sunday, August 07, 2016

book review: slow kingdom coming

title: Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World
author: kent annan
publisher: ivp
year: 2016

Pursuing justice is not easy. It's often a very challenging and difficult road with many obstacle
Kent Annan in "Slow Kingdom Coming" highlights what he has learned from over 20 years of trying to live faithfully.

We are all called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly in the world, persevering until God's kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

The Kingdom of God is hear but not yet. We know that the vision is one of justice—all wrongs put right, swords into plowshares, and all tears wiped from each and every eye. However, the "not yet" of the Kingdom of God means that the work for justice remains exhausting work. The poor are among us, there is violence all around, racism is sickening alive, systems, even ones which are supposed to help, still grind up the marginalized. 

Lord have mercy. Lord come quickly. We pray for and work for and long for God's Kingdom to  come, but it often feels like it doesn't come fast enough.

Kent Annan in his book, extols practices which will sustain us as we work for justice. He calls us to Attention, Confession, Respect, Partnering, and Truthing. It's a simple, humble, and healthy way to serve. It seems slower at times, and so the title of the book, but it will be far more effective.

"Slow Kingdom Coming" is rooted in Annan's own experience of working for justice, particularly in Haiti, where he serves as a co-director for Haiti Partners.

This isn't a typical spiritual disciplines book, but it is about reorienting ourselves so that our work for justice is lived from a right center. These five practices bleed into one another and it is hard to say where one starts and another ends. 

When we do partner in mission, we need to get beyond "rescue partnership" and "fixit partnership" and aim for "equal agency partnership" and "partnering together with God." Partnerships, especially between North American churches and third-world Christians, need to be based on mutual respect and listening. We in North America must avoid the arrogance and preconceived notions that have marked missions. Take the long view. Don't force things. Above all, listen. And make sure that God is a partner in every endeavor.


"Slow Kingdom Coming" is a great book: insightful, introspective, mission oriented and inspiring. I would recommend it for anyone who is serious about participating in the slow yet wonderful work of God's redemption in the world. I plan on re-reading it as I deepen my engagement with the needs of the world and participate in God's story of bringing justice to the world.

In the final chapter, Annan writes, “For the kingdom to come it’s crucial we lose to God our claim of ownership. Then we can be faithful stewards of God’s kingdom.”  



This book was reviewed for Mike Morrell's Speakeasy group.