Moving on

The past few months have been resource filled times. I’ve read more articles and drilled into books more than I do in summer (which is to say that my summers tend not to be about research, but leisure).

Of particular interest has been the whole area of “the rural”. This includes ministry, including the stereotypes of rural people. As I have delved into the myriad of thoughts out there, I am saddened.

Put in one sentence – the rural has been left out.

I have to praise Trudeau for implementing a ministry that deals with the rural. And I praise various church denominations who are looking seriously into their own abandonment of the rural.

My question today – what are your thoughts on the rural?

Why bother?

I read a weekly email posting called “The Galli Report”. Mark Galli works with a publication called Christianity Today – begun by Billy Graham.

This past week, I have been considering things such as pluralism, apologetics, identity politics, inclusivism, rural church, and much more.

Then, as I was reading, here is this short paragraph from the most recent Galli Report email (February 22, 2019).

I’ve been involved in many interfaith dialogues over the years. And when I’m with Muslims, for example, who begin the conversation by saying that all religions are different paths to the same end, I lose interest immediately. On the other hand, the most meaningful and energetic conversations I’ve had are with Muslims who think I’m going to Jahannam, that is, hell. I mean, why bother to be a Muslim, or Christian for that matter, if it doesn’t really make any difference in the end?

Identity, Common Good, and living today

Our world today is all about self-identifying. And we fight tirelessly for that identity.

Thus, the new(er) term called “identity politics”. Communities fight for their approach to life, affirming those who agree and excoriating those who don’t. Individuals may fight to do whatever they want, feeling offended if someone disagrees with them. In the extreme, individuals isolate themselves, preferring to affirm their own identity by accepting themselves as “god”, knowing that whatever they do is the most important thing in the world.

We are left with a great amount of polarizing when we self-identify. This can be an individualistic identifying -” I am who I am. Don’t try to make me something else. Your rules are irrelevant.” This can also be a collective identifying – “We are who we are. Don’t try to make us something else. Others rules are irrelevant.”

What brings about this identity crisis?

Dare I say that a desire to be recognized, respected, and accepted fuels this trend. I remember the song of the sixties that talked about giving me a number and taking away my name. We wanted to be something, to amount to something, to make a difference. Cynically speaking, we also wanted to be left alone, to do our own thing without shame, and to be comfortable.

Again, daring myself to say this, a true identity finds solace in the faith that they are right. There is also a solace in finding a group who supports a common good that your faith agrees with. The culture (in the social science sense) is shaped by the individual – who is respected and listened to. At the same time the culture shapes an individual, as the interchange of ideas and action explore the common good.

All that to say, the common good is achieved only by finding the source of good. If you cannot say you have found that source, your identity is lacking that good. If you cannot say you have found a true faith, you are lacking a faith worth living for.

The shade of death cannot overcome the light of life

Humans desire more than small pleasures in the routines of life. We seek great challenges in the face of death.

It is not the desire to be heros that holds us back from expansive life. Rather, that we claim to be the creator’s of our our own heroic status, instead of embracing the true creator, Christ.

In light of death, we are called to come to Christ.

To die.

To live.

Mere self-effort or heroism will not overcome death.

Through Christ and in Christ, we already are conquerors, overcomers in this life.

Weather

Today began at below freezing temperature. In fact, below, below freezing.

Now, in terms of cold, I’ve seen worse.

In fact, in our neck of the woods – or more rightly, our hand of the prairies – we have been blessed this year.

Most years, I have the plugin for the car our of the engine compartment before Christmas. Yesterday was the momentous date – the cord came out and the block heater was plugged in (for those of you from other than the northern climes – a block heater keeps your engine warm so the oil can flow and the sparks can fly when you start your car).

Two of us were shoveling walks yesterday. Our conversation was short as we greeted one another. At another time, and in a warmer clime, we will rehearse not only the weather (which is a good topic this time of year), but probably the state of crops, the welfare of children, the progress on renovations, the need for rain, the . . . But not today.

And so, I’m sitting inside, writing about the outside, enjoying fossil fuels and farmer food. How good is that!!

Toxic Masculinity

There have been a number of assaults on men’s masculinity lately.

Or, perhaps, more rightly, we are trying to figure out what masculinity means. Which drives a number of questions about gender. Our society has now determined that your sex (that which distinguishes you anatomically from birth) is different than your gender (that which is fluid).

This appears to be a sign of discontent, of selfishness and disregard for a created order.

  • Why are we discontent?
  • Why do we think our way is the best way?
  • How does a creator explain the order of creation?

Questions I have been pondering.

Constant Updates

I’ve just spent time trying to figure out how to do things. On the internet. New program updates keep popping up (no, these are not pop up ads that need pop up blockers – although, that is an idea . . .).

I liked the old program – I knew where things were. Sort of like in the grocery store.

Now I understand if you need security updates. Or programming that hastens the work of the program. Or even new colors.

It’s just when I thought I had figured out where things were, they move. I guess we call that the interface. Of course, if you saw my face, you would not want to be interfacing.

And what of the new ads that keep showing up. Yes, I have a strong ability to disregard ads (in fact, in principle, I do not click on Google Ads when they appear in my search). I wonder if the program were stripped of ads, how much faster it would run.

And of course, there is the argument that you need to update and change things to keep my attention. I’m using the program because you have my attention already – you don’t need to overdo the attention thing, otherwise you will lose my attention – did that get your attention?

There, my rant hath been completed!

Misreading ministry in a rural context

My official title for a research paper I am planning for Ambrose Research Conference 2019 – March 27 at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

In one sense this is really about rethinking rural ministry. Here is my description I have submitted:

  • The rural has been misread over the years. A core element of Donald Trump’s victory as President of the USA in 2016 – this demographic has been characterized as simple minded, out of touch with current reality, and anathema to progress.
  • Recent books have begun to explore rural church essentials. These essentials are not what you think!
  • In a world of increasing isolation, the rural church tends to breed community. This is DNA, not introduced incentives or strategic planning initiatives. A broader definition of North American Church Growth includes the rural, sparsely populated areas of the continent – not characterized by highly attended service times but rather as closely-knit invitational discipleship communes.
  • Those approaching ministry in a rural setting need to consider this: rural ministry is not a problem area of the global church, neither is rural ministry to be considered as the ultimate and only approach to ministry, nor is this an excuse for laziness. The flourishing rural church will be strategic, purposeful, visionary – uniquely positioned and unhindered by a consumeristic approach.

Meeting the missing

A few quotes from an obituary!

“. . . three children who may have at times taken the example of their mother’s self-assurance and impulsive contrarianism a bit too close to heart.”

“. . . dislike of plain walls – plain anything – was visceral. All of creation was filigreed and swept through with inexhaustible beauty – to respond to this universe of delights and terrors with a determined plainness was to spit in the Creator’s face.”

“. . . belief that family, with its existential lifeblood of conflict and imperfect reconciliation and yearning for better, was the nearest model we had of humanity’s relationship to its Creator.”

Now that’s a woman you want to meet! Her name was Lois Laverna Reimer (nee Peters), born May 23, 1938 – joined Jesus January 15, 2019. And yes, she was a relative!

Violence, sex and girdles

The armour of God (Ephesians 6) strikes me as most interesting. One of the first phrases is about a girdle around the reproductive organs, composed of truth. BTW: a quick aside – with very few exceptions, the context for this description of armour deals with a male army. I would love to be inclusive, and the principles are transferable – but . . .

Now, at first glance this seems preposterous as armour. Is there an offensive tactical posture that is taken up by having a girdle (the image of violence and sex and girdles may be offensive in and of itself)? What do the organs of reproduction have to do with war?

As I cogitated on this line of inquiry, I came up with the following catch phrase: Embrace your passions with truth. The girdle covers up a vulnerable part of the body, but also keeps the activities of that area of the body within control – there is no place for rape and pillage. A soldier without self control is bound to strike out – quite literally – into a far riskier part of the war than is needed. A soldier without self-control will generate illegitimate ideas that will come back to haunt him/her. A soldier without an effective girdle leaves the sensitive area of the body open for attack

Think on this. If all the soldiers were harmed because they did not wear girdles, then there would be no future generations to fight for.

I know I tend to think outside the box, but perhaps I need to put this back in the box?