Archive for May, 2016

The Organization

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Sounds a bit like a thriller about the mob!

As soon as we gather as more than one person, we must organize.   To see each other, to enjoy entertainment, to worship, to play sports, to do anything.  Any group of people becomes an organization.  The more people, the greater the organization. 

To distinguish the various stages of organization, we say things like “we are a movement”, “we have become fossilized”, and even, “our needs base is greater than our resource base.” 

Now, in both anthropology and other disciplines, we find that the least organization provides opportunity for the best per capita resourcing, the greatest amount of spare time and even the exercise of greater freedom.

A generation which watched the organization of the church take on phenomenal growth, also became disillusioned with the excesses of rules and the subsequent lack of creativity.  Centralizing does provide some efficiencies, but tends to create a standardization that stifles instead of encourages local initiatives and culture.

The fight of megachurch versus small group/church will grow greater as real estate prices increase, and as the celebrity culture confronts those who desire authenticity instead of sculpted images. 

Those who have soured on organized religion tend to feature the lack of connection, the misapplication of rules, and the need for closeness and support of a small group.  This is not just a millennial generation focus – this reaches from young to old. 

I accept that my religion, outside of my private devotion, will be organized religion.  Nevertheless, unorganized and sometimes disorganized connections with others in the church and community are enjoyed and encouraged. 

After serving in a church of over 500 people, a transition to this more flexible organization was difficult for me.  After moving to a small town and spending more than a decade in this type of setting, I still love organized activities, but I am more and more inclined to return to the very simple approach.  Love  your neighbour, hang out with them, and bring God into their lives simply and authentically.  Love God through Jesus Christ, and enjoy life!

Defining church

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

An interesting conversation caught my attention recently.

We were trying to define the word “church”. 

Apparently King James, when he was establishing a translation of the Bible, required that the word “church” be used instead of “congregation.”  The reason:  congregation was too democratic.  While we see his effort to provide a standard translation as a unifying thing for the country, there may also have been a bias towards controlling the country through the office of the King.

Over the years, “church” has become a part of what many people revile:  organized religion.  In some cultures the word is pictorially represented by teaching – or cynically we would say indoctrination or brainwashing.  Membership is pictorially seen as related to business.

But the Bible seems to have a different approach to “church.”  I like the definition that was expressed:

When you are cut, we all bleed.

Under God: For the people, by the people, through the people

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

While I am not American, I do understand the unique foundations of their country.  Listening to their pledge of allegiance as a child, I understood that the rule of God was to be manifested in their way of life. 

I have since filled in a lot of my childish understanding. 

I am more than ever convinced that a civil society needs God.  Unity will be shattered where a despot or a democracy creates shifting absolutes and selfish approaches.  A benevolent God who cares for the people is the basis of the spirit of love that we exhibit to other citizens.  Law begins in God’s laws.

Then, the country lives in harmony as we determine our culture through shared laws that are determined for the people.  Tolerance is based in the good of God’s laws.  Rehabilitation is based in the intent of God’s laws.  Leadership is based in the service of God’s laws.

A flourishing country lives in the recognition that living under God is done by and through the citizenry.  Not through slavery of the citizenry but through willing participation.  Not through grudging compliance but through enthusiastic enjoyment.  Not through individual edicts but through God-shaped-community decisions.

I am a realist at heart with an optimistic bent.  I would love to live in such a country.  Religion exists to tell us that we are far from that country.  True religion exists to help us reach that country.

The Radio that could

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

RCA Victor was quite a brand in its day.   There was the dog that stood beside the Victorla.  And the early use of an acronym for a product.  Add to that the excellence of the product, and you have a dynasty.  The recording arm of the company is still in production.  The “talking machines” have basically been abandoned.

In exploring our demo house, we found an old RCA Victor tube radio.  Not the large console type.  More the small kitchen counter type. 

Yesterday I cleaned the worst of the remnants of dirt from the cabinet of the radio.  As I ventured into the guts of the machine, everything looked intact.  The tubes were unbroken, the soldering still in place and the wiring all in one piece.

When everything was cleaned and polished, I plugged the radio in.  Nothing happened.  At least for the first few moments.  Then a hiss began.  I turned a knob or two.  All of a sudden the local radio station was clearly broadcasting through the speaker.

I forget that before solid state electronics, tubes took time to warm up.  The power we expect to provide immediate reactions takes a few moments to vibrate through the system.  Then you get a very clear signal.

I suppose our electronic age has conditioned us to only tolerate immediacy.  I wonder if a previous age had something better than us.  Time to reflect, to vibrate and recalibrate before we have to react.  Then our signals can be quite clear.


Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

We have a program called “Defend Dignity” in our denominational circles.  The idea is to stand up for those who are oppressed, particularly those who are involved in the sex trade and being trafficked.

I’ve often wondered why the word “Dignity” is chosen.

As I read the dictionary definitions the idea seems to be centered around worth and respect.  Some commentaries on the idea focus on dignity being given to us upon our birth.  Others figure that dignity is earned.

Who gives dignity?

  • God? 
  • Yourself? 
  • Others?
  • All of the above?

When is dignity conferred?

  • At birth? 
  • Before birth? 
  • Upon earning respect? 
  • At death? 
  • All of the above?

How do we strip others of their dignity?

  • Does providing abortion assault the dignity of the unborn? 
  • Does providing assisted death assault the dignity of the one suffering? 
  • Does bribery assault the dignity of the one paying the bribe? 
  • Does bullying assault the dignity of the one being bullied?

If only words didn’t have meaning!

Visioning: looking back and living forward

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

There has been a lot of talk about making sure you have a vision.  A vision for yourself, for your family, for your business, for your church.

The thing about visioning?  We tend to actually brainstorm and strike out in a new adventure – to explore the universe without a map or without a true sense of reality.

Now, when I was younger, I loved that type of visioning.  I am known for sitting at a table and asking young people what they want to be, affirming their gifts and pushing them towards the door of their dreams.

The older I get, the more caution I place on the color of the door.  If it is red hot, then there may be a fire brewing on the other side.  If it is ice blue, then this may end up being full of frustration.  If it is flourishing green, then the path looks rosy and inviting.

The calls come from history – from memory recalled and organized.  When we lose our memory (as David Timms says), we undermine community, cohesion and connection.  Vision without memory recall is nothing but pursuing the next great experience or the next high.

Instead, we need to honour the past.  Honour the pioneers, honour the leaders, honour the plodders, honour the artists, honour the keepers of our souls, honour those who have stitched together a past for the sake of your future.

Learn the lessons that memory teaches.  Tell the stories of the past that parallel the present.  And celebrate that we have a memory to serve us as we vision for the future.

Humility is more important than happiness

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Reading is an act of relaxation for me.  I sit down, think along with the author (like a conversation), and perhaps have a new understanding of life.

A few days ago the phrase, “humility is more important than happiness,” struck me with force.  I wasn’t pushed back in my chair, but my brain cells went ballistic.

You see, as I look around this world, I’m constantly struck by bluster and arrogance, self confidence and boasting, pride and disregard for others.  Perhaps this has been accentuated by the Presidential campaign in the United States.  Perhaps I’m just getting older and realizing how little is achieved by strutting your achievements and accomplishments.  We’ll all die in the end and our tombstone will mark our life and death.

I am particularly embarrassed by white teeth and the proclamation that happiness is all the proud are seeking.  I don’t see it!!

What I do see is people who are kind, generous, and humble living in the memories of those they care for.  I do see is children attracted to gracious grandparents who don’t presume to give advice without first recognizing that they don’t know everything.  I do see a state of union that is achieved by the poor, the needy and the unassuming. 

And here’s the thing (a warning that this is not my own thinking – but that of Sarah Lebar Hall), humility is better than happiness.  In fact, humility will make the world a better place, God a better champion of your life, and you a better person.  As Sarah says (paraphrasing Paul, the apostle):

“I’m learning to be okay with operating at diminished capacity, operating with serious limitations, because when I am at my lowest ebb, God’s work through me is at its best.  My weakness gives God a chance to show up and show off.”

Four years ago

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Four years ago today my first wife, Jill, passed away.  I miss her on this anniversary – 35 years of marriage leads to life patterns and reminiscences that cannot and should not be erased!

Jill picture

Reading the prophets

Friday, May 13th, 2016

I don’t think Old Testament prophets were high on arrogance, being number one, or desiring to stick out in their culture.  They just felt they had a vocation to fulfil.  They were impelled to follow whatever God called them to do.

So, I’m reading Amos 3:7. 

“The Lord does nothing that he has not already revealed to his prophets.”

Pretty heady stuff if you have a big head.  Not so heady if you realize you might get killed for what you say.  I guess being a prophet has it’s good points and not so good points.

Amos was a contemporary to other OT prophets who did not have the easiest life.  No wonder we analyse them as depressive characters, or martyr complex.  Whatever our current psychological terminology – when a call from God is upon you, go for it.

Which brings me to the question for today.  Who are the prophets that God is speaking to today? 

If God is about to do something, who is the prophet telling us that God is about to do something? 

And don’t forget that Balaam was a prophet that God used, even though he was definitely not on the side of God’s people!  Daniel was a well revered prophet embedded in the government.  Ezekiel had visions that we still haven’t figured out.  Isaiah was a literary giant.

Hopefully we aren’t missing the prophets of our day!

Ready to demolish

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Well, the house across the street is ready to demolish.

As of yesterday, I had the contents cleaned out and categorized.  An unexpected windfall!  There were 5 car batteries left in the house.  That was worth $55 at a local shop!

We will now begin the process of setting a time for demolition, alerting our neighbours as to when that will happen, and hopefully setting up lawn chairs to watch!

O happy day!