Friday, July 31, 2009


Some friends and I have been e-talking lately about the number of people who are disillusioned by church. The discussion was prompted by the book title "So you don't want to go to church anymore" written by Wayne Jacobson and Dave Coleman. Our interaction has included views that are sympathetic to the disillusioned and some that are ticked off by the disillusioned.

One of the lines of thought I have had is this.

Illusions are false beliefs. Illusions can lead to disappointment. To be disappointed when something proves to be false is often regarded as unfortunate but with disappointment there may be no mechanism or personal will to change the condition. To be disillusioned is the state of being free of illusion(s). This should be regarded as wholesome, shouldn’t it? Disillusionment goes beyond disappointment because it accomplishes the beneficial result of freedom from illusions, from false beliefs. To disillusion is to cause to lose naive faith and trust in something that is not true anyway. It is the act of freeing from an illusion.

Could you stretch your language appreciation enough to see disillusionment as a gift? Might it be possible that God calls some people to plant seeds of disillusionment among their peers? If your immediate reaction is a horrified NO, then indulge me for a moment or two. Our common understanding of what it means to be disillusioned, is to be cynical, indifferent, negative, and
discouraging. Since these are not qualities or attitudes that harmonize with saintly traits, we conclude disillusionment is mistaken and God would certainly not encourage it. But we misunderstand disillusionment.

What I am asking us to consider is the true meaning of disillusionment. It has received a bad rap among Christians by being lumped with moaners and protesters. If we are faithful to language, then we must concur that becoming disillusioned is essential to awakening to the truth.

GPS Application
Illusions or deceptions, false impressions and misapprehensions are not to be adopted by people who have been born again to be free. The truth shall set you free. Disillusionment is the process of being stripped of falsehoods no matter how comfortable or kosher or right they have seemed to be. And this may entail a tedious, continuous work and very delicate and painful when it involves the life and practices of the church. Disillusionment may irritate and disrupt the ardently defended norms of our Christian or church culture, yet if it can show that some long held ideas and claims are untrue, won’t that be a good result?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Baby it's Hot Inside/Outside

Yesterday, was the Hottest day ever recorded in Vancouver. It's been like that for days, and is expected to continue.

It's all that we can talk about. I woke up on the family room floor this morning where I slept on a couple of lounge mattresses. Upstairs was too hot last night. It was 5 am when I awoke and it was already 'butter melting in the cupboard' hot. It is 'even the shade is hot' weather. I am golfing with Tim this morning, T-ing off at 7:30 am to beat the heat at my local course. It has been one year since I retired, and this morning I wish I was back at work because that office was air conditioned. This could become expensive. Christine took off to the bank, to a couple of other businesses and to the mall the other day so she could spend time in AC facilities and be in the AC car. We are not equipped for this heat here in ocean side, moderate lower mainland BC. Most houses have never heard about heat pumps and air conditioning units. We don't want to complain too loudly because we know the rains and the clouds will come soon enough. A little rain right now would be a relief. Roofers in our neighbourhood work until noon and then knock off. It's over 100 F and 38 C up there. I have a fan blasting warm air at my back at this moment as I tap these words on my laptop. It is too warm for me to paint. My acrylics dry before I apply. I am writing this particularly for my Ontario friends whom I hear have had a wet and cool few weeks of summer, and your winter (brrr) comes so soon. Ahh, winter! snow, ice, cold, frigid, freezing. Sounds so good.

GPS Application
Revelation 3:15-16 quoted from the translation known as "the Message" pictures God speaking to the ancient church of Laodicea about its tepid spirituality. It's classic and bold. ""I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You're not cold, you're not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You're stale. You're stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, 'I'm rich, I've got it made, I need nothing from anyone,' oblivious that in fact you're a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless."
Sorry, the summer heat has fried my output for past few days!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alphabet Soup for the Soul

We all respond to setbacks, reversals, conflicts and adversity differently. Some of us may lose our appetites and others may go on a feeding frenzy. Still others of us may find comfort in eating certain food items. Call it comfort food. It could be pepperoni pizza, or double butter pop corn, or a Dairy Queen pecan cluster blizzard, or maybe Kraft dinner. What do you like to eat when you are feeling low? Is there a particular food that picks you up or calms your spirit, or is enough of a diversion that it feels like comfort? It might be chicken soup, or spicy pasta, or hot porridge, or homemade apple pie with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream. Psalm 25 is comfort food for the soul. It's an alphabet soup for the soul. The reason I call the psalm an alphabet for trouble is because David wrote in Hebrew and while we cannot see the evidence in our English translations, he began each of these twenty-two verses with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the psalm David calls on God and speak our his concerns and recites God's character virtues and values and gains assurance that God will look after his needs. He receives comfort.

Recipe for Summer alphabet soup Serves 4

4 plum tomatoes
4 ears fresh corn, husked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled
8 cups water
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into
1/4-inch pieces
1 cup alphabet pasta or other small pasta such as flakes, orzo, or baby shells

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. After removing tomato cores drop tomatoes into boiling water, & remove in 15 seconds transferring them to a colander. Rinse with cold water.
2. When the tomatoes are cool, peel away tomato skins. Halve the tomatoes & then snip into coarse chunks; set aside.
3. Cut all corn kernels from ears of corn. Save the corn cobs.
4. In a soup pot, heat the oil and when it is hot, add the onion, carrots, salt, and pepper. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring often, or until the vegetables soften.
5. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring for 3 minutes more.
6. Pour in the 8 cups of water and add the corn cobs. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Use tongs to remove the cobs from the soup.
7. Add the corn kernels, green beans, zucchini, and alphabets. Return the soup to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the alphabets and vegetables are tender. Add more water during cooking if the mixture seems too thick.
8. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

GPS Application
“Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.” Psalm 25:8-10

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ruth Johnston

Ruth Johnston

On Monday we received the news that a dear friend has passed away. I am still intrigued that the news came as such a blow even though we had expected to hear it for some time.

In most circles Ruth was known as Gordon’s wife. They were married for fifty-three years. Gordon is a leader, a gifted, magnetic, convincing and confident person. He was a successful business executive, followed by a succession of consultant and leadership roles in Christian organizations and churches. He walks with God. Ruth was a homemaker, wife and mother, the traditional role of a person of her generation. Moreover, she was compelled to be close to her home because of her physical challenges. She was a diminutive woman, made smaller through the years by the arthritis that ravaged her and the succession of complications she endured. As long as we have known her, thirty years, she lived with pain. Yet she lived so well. She was thoughtful, articulate, spiritual and interesting.

For Christine, Ruth was the complete confidant with an understanding and patient spirit and a spiritual depth of conversation that stimulated and empowered Christine. Christine loved Ruth very much. One of the hard things for Christine about our move west from Toronto was leaving Ruth. For me, Ruth was an eager listener and a delightful writer. She and I took pleasure in the way we each put words together to describe scenes and situations and to convey ideas and values. She bumped up my self esteem.

In her 77th year she passed into the arms of her Lord, Jesus Christ. She leaves a crowd of friends and three children and their spouses, Susan and Bruce, Heather and Jeremy, Graeme and Carina and grandchildren Melissa, Michael, Matthew, Kriss, Joshua, Katie, Bethany, Esther and Henry. A celebration of her life takes place) on Thursday, July 30th at 4:00 p.m., at Morningstar Christian Fellowship, 7601 Sheppard Avenue East, Scarborough (just west of Morningside Avenue), Toronto.

GPS Application
"For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

The Toronto Star Notice

Monday, July 27, 2009

Are We Without Prophets Today?

Are we without prophets in our time? Are preachers out of touch with the ways and purposes of God or too timid to tell us that these misfortunes may truly be acts of God? As the proverbial locusts have chewed their way through billions of dollars and as companies are failing and hundreds of thousands of people are becoming jobless, I haven’t heard anyone asserting the connection between God and what is happening nationally and globally. Why is that? Have we amputated God from our understanding of the times and conditions? Are there any nationally recognized preachers calling for the nations to repent?

The Old Testament book of Joel is highlighted by two major events. One is the invasion of locusts and the other the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Joel’s countrymen were experiencing the effects of a recent infestation of locusts. There were successive swarms of locusts, first chewing, then swarming, then crawling, and finally consuming everything. The land was devastated by them so now there followed drought, famine and fires. The economy was shattered. This was a national disaster. The economy of the land was ruined. Even religious life was being threatened because of the shortage of offerings.

Joel, the prophet of God, saw a connection between this national disaster and God’s judgment, and more significantly, an approaching time of greater judgment by the Lord God. He called this judgment ‘the Day of the Lord.’ That is why the book of Joel is insightful because it demonstrates a grasp of the relationship between historical events and the involvement of God. God is sovereignly operative in all that comes to pass. In Joel’s day, the people of Judah were people who had known the blessing of God but now the blessing had ended. And there is an explanation. Judah had neglected, even rejected God. Joel’s purpose in writing was to tell the people that the national crisis was to be considered a warning for them to repent.

It is in the warning that hope emerges. The recovery package doesn’t come out of Ottawa or Washington or London. If the people repent, Joel says, then God will pardon and God promises restoration.

GPS Application
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, my great army, which I sent to you.” Joel 2:25
Now that is an Act of God.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Cost of Dying

Death is a growth industry. I was invited last year to a golf tournament for pastors sponsored by one of North America’s largest funeral service provider. I was invited to give a prayer before the sumptuous dinner at Coyote Creek banquet facilities. Every duffer regardless of handicap received a great prize. Let’s face it, pastors as I have been officiate hundreds of funerals over a career and we often are asked for recommendations to a funeral home. Funeral services are provided at a price which many people consider excessively high.

My thanks to a Nov 8, 2007 Vancouver Sun article for some of the data used here. I loved a line in that piece which expressed that with the self absorbed baby boomers due to turn 70 in 2016, expect to hear that death is the new 90. I arrive at 70 a fraction earlier in 2012 but I will be among the peloton skidding to the grave with our brakes fully engaged. Through the years much has been written about our costly way of dying. This has inspired the founding of membership driven memorial societies which for a nominal fee permits pre-arrangement of low cost funerals with select contracted companies. My mom and dad had memberships in such a society in Ontario. The Memorial Society of B.C., around since the 1950’s has 207,000 members at a cost of $20 lifetime membership, plus a $35 records fee when life ends. Many independent funeral homes have contracted to work with the Society that has incorporated an ethics code to which the contracting funeral service providers agree so grieving families are not pressured but helped. Costs of services and products like caskets and urns are priced respectfully rather than competitively. All Memorial Society of British Columbia designated funeral providers are owned and operated by Canadian families. None are franchises or owned by publicly traded companies. MSBC covers 95% of BC's population!

Personal Alternative Funeral Services is another option to a number of communities. Founded in 1992 and owned by Lawrence G. Little, a man with a distinguished 35-year career in the British Columbia funeral industry. I have worked with the Aldergrove Home and have always found families were satisfied with the services. The website allows you to connect with a provider in the following communities: Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, BC ; Kamloops and the Thompson Nicola District, BC ; Okanagan, BC; Trail and the West Kootenays, BC ; Calgary, Airdrie and Southern Alberta ; Red Deer, and Central Alberta ; Seattle and Western Washington, USA.

The Society’s website or toll free number may be helpful
and toll-free number is 1-888-816-5902

Friday, July 24, 2009

Requiring Driver Tests at Age 70

At Christine's birthday party a subject surfaced that pressed my button. Someone mentioned that the provincial government of B.C. was going to legislate that driver retesting would begin at age 70 and be repeated every two years. Public safety must be maintained.

The closer one is to three score and ten the more one tends to react with irritation. My defence system kicks in. I will be 67 in September. I am ageing but I can still do math. In three years I will turn 70 and I would be required to take a driver test. I might have to do a written as well as an actual motor vehicle street exam. The natural defence for people like me is retroactive. For example, “I used to drive truck for a living, both during college days and later full time before I obtained my first job as a church pastor. In Toronto I could drive a large Sears truck downtown, whip across a road when the flagman stopped traffic and back up fast into a truck elevator with 3 inch clearance on each side mirror. I have always taken driving seriously and been diligent about observing good driving habits. I have driven in blinding snow storms on the worst road conditions without negative incident.” But that was then. What about now? Has anything changed? Perhaps.

The second level of defence is accusation. That there are tens of thousands of drivers much younger than I who have poor driving habits and drive foolishly and even recklessly is undeniable. There is an equity issue here. Why, by virtue of age should teens, twenty-somethings, thirty, forty, fifty and sixty year olds be exempt for decades from testing beyond the initial exam that granted them their license? Fair play demands that statistics and medicine and wisdom combine to produce a piece of legislation that truly addresses public safety on our roads.

GPS Application

Test 70 plus drivers every two years. Fine! Rexamine every other driver every three years. Test drivers of trucks and buses for their specific licenses every three years as well. Psalm 90:10 "The length of our days is seventy years — or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away."

That's my ride, a 2007 MX5, and my birthday girl passenger, looking out to the Gulf Islands. As the verse above infers, I am taking my flying lessons now.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Sweetheart Christine

My sweetheart is having another birthday today, the 23rd of July. She was hoping that birthdays would stop last year.

Throughout our years of marriage, Christine has been a homemaker and mother, and my encourager and support. We served within the church together but undoubtedly my role, my positions and my educational opportunities cast public light upon my accomplishments more than upon hers. I honour her as a gifted, loving woman who makes a habit of thinking first of someone else before herself.

I echo Bette Midler in her well known ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings.’

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.

Did you ever know that you're my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

Today I pay tribute to Christine.

GPS Application
Proverbs 12:4 "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown..."
Proverbs 18:22 "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD."

Listen to Bette Midler sing 'The Wind Beneath my Wings'

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

David Omar White

David enjoyed the fulfillment of every artist’s dream, of having his art covering the walls of a public facility and occupying the attention of hundreds of people every day.

David Omar White, known as Omar lived in Cambridge Massachusetts where he was well known as a painter and an activist for the Affordable Housing Organizing Committee. He was 82 years of age when he passed away on June 26 from pulmonary fibrosis resulting from exposure to asbestos during World War II. Over the years he drew a political cartoon strip called "White Rabbit" which ran for years in various alternative newspapers. He used various mediums, including small washes and enormous, color-filled paintings that celebrate both the real and surreal worlds and he won many awards and artistic grants. He taught and he lectured. He had a Chris Kringle persona with his white beard and twinkling eyes. His friends remember him as a witty, warm and quirky man who never stopped what he loved to do.

He was a true artist, a muralist, a sculptor, a political cartoonist, a children’s book writer and illustrator. From his childhood there was nothing else that he wanted to do with his life. His paintings were flamboyant and surrealistic. He was recently quoted as saying that “Art has never been a hobby. I am a fanatic artist. I work as much as my energy allows; it’s my reason for living.” His last years were difficult as he was confined to a wheelchair but he lived in a senior housing facility in which he converted his bedroom into a studio and he slept in the living room. He was often up at 4 am to paint. I don’t find that strange at all. “My favorite work is the next one I’m going to do,’’ he wrote in a recent letter to a young friend for a school project. Omar said, “My art is based on what feels right. I don’t compete with God or nature ... I feel that if I copy the creator, I’m bound to come out second best.’’

The Casablanca Restaurant in Harvard Square in Cambridge MA commissioned him to paint large murals in 1970. When the restaurant relocated in 1990, the murals were dismantled and reinstalled in the new restaurant in 1991. His now famous epic Casablanca mural depicts the classic film romance of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart.

GPS Application

I admire the passionate commitment of an artist like Omar and I would like to emulate that but I cannot bring myself to treat my art as my reason for living. My reasons for living are my relationship with God which began when I was ten years of age, my relationship with the woman to whom I pledged faithfulness 42 years ago, and my relationships with family and friends. The payback on these exceeds all my art no matter how proficient I become. Proverbs 21:21 "Anyone who wants to be godly and loving finds life, success and honor."

Monday, July 20, 2009


A SIMPLE FAITH - Don’t be Corrupted from The Simplicity in Christ

At its peak in the early 1800’s the Shaker community in the United States had 6000 believers but by 1920 there were only twelve Shakers left and as of 2008 there were only four. Who are the Shakers you are asking. The name ‘Shakers’ was originally an uncomplimentary term applied to this Quaker fringe group who were known for the emotional religion involving singing, trembling, dancing, shaking, speaking in tongues. The composed thousands of songs and dances. Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848 wrote the lyrics of a one verse song that had the music of a quick dance, and the song was entitled, ‘Simple Gifts.’

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

In the course of a lifetime in our western urban society we move gradually from a simple childhood with meals, clothes and shelter provided and a few toys that we call “mine,” to the amassing of a house full, and a garage full of possessions and a mortgage and a wish list for other properties. Perhaps occasionally we vacation away from all of the things and we mutter “this is the good life, the simple life.” That exclamation is a confession that the accumulation of stuff which appears to make us happy is not really successful. We concur briefly with that Shaker composer that it actually is a gift to be simple. It’s a gift to be free. It’s a gift to come down where we ought to be. It's such a difficult lesson to apply consistently.

GPS Application

God has gifted humanity with a simple faith which we too easily convert into something complex. We should recover the simplicity of Christ. Noted theologian Karl Barth was asked, "What is the greatest theological thought that has ever crossed your mind?" Some very complicated answer was expected, but his answer was this: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Painting by Stephen Sawyer Please enjoy his website

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I-Phone Brushes Application

I did not hear about this innovation until Robert Genn apprised me in one of his biweekly e-notes.
Genn learned that the recent cover of the New Yorker bore an image that was produced with an iPhone. No it wasn’t a photograph, strictly speaking. It was a photo conversion using a remarkable creation. Jorge Colombo's cover for the June 1, 2009 issue of The New Yorker was composed entirely in the Brushes iPhone app. It’s called New York City-scapes.

Artists like myself may be initially chagrined that anyone can now produce a piece of art on a handheld device without opening a tube, handling a brush or getting dirty. Of course, people have been doing art on Photoshop and comparable programs for some years and the debate has raged as to whether it is to be considered legitimate art.

Here’s the deal with ‘Brushes.’ You can begin working from a blank canvas or an existing photograph. The application features several different brush-stroke sizes (from slim and fine to rough and wide), high-powered zoom capabilities, and a plethora of color and saturation options to produce works of art that are then immediately available as downloads to any location in the world. People are actually buying the art.

Should traditional artists of pastel, graphite, acrylic, oil and watercolour be concerned that their own work will be devalued? That’s my immediate instinctive response. Yet more objective reflection makes me think that our original art will survive as collectors’ preference.

GPS Application
Beyond that conclusion I am struck by the reality that there are far more important aspects of life with which to be occupied. 1 John 3:17-18 - "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Arthritis - help yourself - opt for Quality of Life, pop a pill do whatever else you need to do

There is no known cure for Osteoarthritis. I customarily deal with it by wincing when pain grabs me and by ignoring it most of the time. Occasionally it flares up as it did the other night, unannounced and like a knife to the joint. It's in my hands and primarily my thumb joints. I have read a lot about osteoarthritis and pain relief. This recent attack left me questioning my future it was so severe. I love painting but I couldn't hold a paint brush. Now I didn't know what to do for myself. Yet instinctively I popped a couple of advil, (ibuprofen) and I slipped on my glove. It's not white like Michael J's was but it is supposed to be effective, having ceramic fibres woven into the fabric to redirect body heat back into the joint. Warmth works. Some use hot wax, and soaking in hot water. I had also earlier purchased a topical application but discontinued its use when I read about potential side affects.

I purchased something called Voltaren and was not thrilled with what I read about its potential side effects. My brother recommended Arthrotec. Each of these contains something called diclofenac sodium and that appears to cause a few users some grief because it is absorbed and systemically administered throughout one's system to other organs.

Using Voltaren for a few days had given me some relief so I wondered about using it again. I made an appointment with my GP. He spoke common sense to me. Since there is no cure for the disease the objective becomes pain management. He advised me to use the topical cream. Eighty percent of it is absorbed into the immediate tissue which is what I want. A pill goes to the stomach and must then work its healing way back to my hands - a bit of a trip. And sustained downing of Advil and/or Tylenol (acetaminephan)may injure the stomach lining. That's precisely why I had avoided swallowing pain relievers. He said that in Canada more people die of bleeding stomachs each year than in vehicle deaths. Having thrown out that warning, he did say that Tylenol was easier on the stomach than Advil, and I shouldn't hesitate to use 650 mg per dose four times a day for a few days to manage pain.

So here is what I am doing for myself and with some immediate improvement to the way I feel about life because the pain is subsiding if not the disease.
(1) I wear the therapy glove and get a lot of attention. The glove may work. I am still not sure. I am experimenting. Prolotex Therapy Gloves and ThermoFlow Therapy Gloves
(2) I liberally apply the Voltaren cream four times per day.
(3) I take one 650 mg Tylenol four times per day.

GPS Application
Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message) 6-7 "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

Friday, July 17, 2009


A few evenings ago, the night air was warm and Christine and I sat on our front porch and enjoyed conversation and a cool drink. Across the street a neighbour’s son and his friend worked on their hot cars. Next to them other neighbours had some friends over. Their conversation carried on the quiet night air so that our entire street could listen to the dialogue which was thick with swearing. The ‘F’ word was adverbially and adjectivally used liberally in a friendly conversation about music styles and music artists. For the men and women in that gathering this was normal. Christine and I found the display crude and tasteless.

Gordie Howe is quoted as saying, “All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.”

We can treat profanity lightly but it affects our social interaction. Our next door neighbours commented to us on the evening of the blue air, that they couldn’t believe the neighbours’ son was so profane. We told them, it was not the teenagers. It was the adults beside him.

Etymologically 'profanity' derives from the word pro (before) and fanum (temple) suggesting that something is outside the temple and therefore not sacred. Profaning language treats it with irreverence and contempt. It debases it. And when the name of God is used in this fashion it is even more offensive because it defiles God’s name.

It can be a hasty exclamation like “Oh God!” that still qualifies as profanity according to this definition and particularly because of God's own prohibitive command. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Exodus 20:7)

GPS Application
Colossians 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Psalm 19:14: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Pagan Christianity" and "Reimagining Church"

I firmly believe that Christ instituted the Church as his body/family/flock on earth. What earth’s inhabitants see when looking at expressions of the Church around the world is a frequent misrepresentation of what the bible prescribes. What they see is disillusioning. It astonishes me how my own view has adjusted by standing back and gaining vital objectivity. Involved in the church as I have been for over forty years as a pastor and a denominational executive I have always been high on the church, defensive of it against critics and cynics. After all, it was my calling and it paid my bills. I sought to upgrade various aspects of church life and operations. My assessment of church has been chiefly positive but spectator observations of pain, dysfunction, legalism,inflexibility and entrenchments within too many churches has informed my opinion now that I have retired from active church work. Now I have to concur with those who dare to critique the church, that there is a lot of room for improvement.

George Barna and Frank Viola have written a prophetic critique of the prevailing forms of church and a positive vision of what the church can become if Christians discard institutional forms of church and embrace more organic forms. "Pagan Christianity" by George Barna and Frank Viola, and "Reimagining Church" by Frank Viola are two books that belong together. Although one preceded the other (January and August 2008), the first was never meant as a stand alone book since it is deconstructive and the second book is the constructive argument. With Pagan Christianity the authors were saying that “the picture on the box has been wrong, and that's why the pieces haven't been fitting together.” With the second book Viola presents a fresh vision of the picture on the box that's rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

Evangelicalism has often proudly viewed itself as the correction to lifeless dead formalism and sacramentalism. How scandalous is it for evangelicals to admit that something is wrong with church as they know it. But how redeeming can it be to introduce a new style of responsible, interactive Christianity. These books are easily worth a read.

GPS Application
Luke reported in Acts 2 that 42 …” they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." God, help us to be today what you intended back then.

* a great site with so much provocative info to challenge your thinking.
* An audio file of an interview with George Barna and Frank Viola

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Morrie Schwartz and some Dying Wisdom for Me

I have no idea who gave us this book some years ago but I picked it up again to read portions. Today I have climbed back aboard my hobby horse of feeling sorry for myself. I live each day with pain in my arthritic hands but tonight it seemed to attack my right hand, my painting hand. I cannot grip a pen or a brush. This keyboard doesn’t require a grip so here goes, because Morrie helped me with perspective again.

The book I opened is entitled ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ and it’s touchingly sad and emotionally educational at the same time. Morrie was a man who suffered and then died from the devastating neurodegenerative disease commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease but more clinically by the acronym ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Morrie, like all other ALS sufferers living with the disease became progressively paralyzed due to degeneration of the upper and lower motor neurons of his brain and spinal cord. Eighty per cent of people with ALS die within two to five years of diagnosis and so did Morrie - unable to breathe or to swallow. ALS has no known cure or effective treatment. For every person diagnosed with ALS a person with ALS dies. Approximately 2,500 - 3,000 Canadians currently live with ALS.

Morrie was a sociologist and a professor at Brandeis University. Mitch Albom, one of his former students, became a columnist for the Detroit Free Press after failing to become a pianist. After seeing Ted Koppel interview Morrie Schwartz on Nightline, Albom visited Morrie and thus began a series of visits on Tuesdays. Albom’s recount became this 1977 best selling book based upon Schwartz wisdom, experiences, quotations and conversations. It became a TV movie starring Jack Lemon in 1999. Morrie Schwartz wrote his own epitaph: "A Teacher to the Last." The excerpts are like everlasting and critical proverbs.

Morrie Schwartz Quotes
• After you have wept and grieved for your physical losses, cherish the functions and the life you have left.
• Dying is only one thing to be sad over... Living unhappily is something else.
• It's not to late to... ask yourself if you really are the person you want to be, and if not, who you do want to be.
• It's not too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with people.
• So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things.
• The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
• When you look at it that way, you can see how absurd it is that we individualize ourselves with our fences and hoarded possessions.
• Learn how to live and you'll know how to die; learn how to die, and you'll know how to live.

GPS Application
James 1:2-4 “Consider it nothing but joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not deficient in anything.

ALS Society of Canada
Ted Koppel interview with Morrie
Ted Koppel’s last interview with Morrie

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Loneliness, Art, and Understanding Myself

Robert Genn, while explaining artistic creativity yesterday, provided me with an insight that helps me to understand the way I think and behave. Robert is a successful fine artist known internationally to collectors for his landscapes and to artists for his free weekly encouragement. Twice weekly an e-note, 'The Painter's Keys' comes to my mailbox. You can subscribe. Here is an excerpt from yesterday’s piece entitled, ‘Are you lonely this morning?’

“… With the exception of various forms of team art, most of the functioning professional artists I know have come to terms with the strengths and weaknesses of keeping their own company. Although less of a problem for introverts, this art can be learned. The art of effective aloneness includes the understanding that solitude is necessary for creative gain. "Most progress," said self-improvement guru Bruce Barton, "comes out of loneliness." Creative people need to dream and contrive on their own. "Dreams," said Erma Bombeck, "have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely."

I spent an entire working career in service to God, Christ, and his church. No apology. No regret. All of that was very public. For half of that time we lived in parsonages owned by the church. One was located beside the church. It was the proverbial goldfish bowl. I did all of the public duties and did them effectively. I was a diligent and creative pastor, crafting words that developed a reputation for predictably good ministry. That required concentration and private time. I received some criticism for the amount of time that required yet I relished such time.

Now as I try to paint, I love being alone. I need to be alone. This is the true me. I train myself to tolerate intrusions. I have struggled to be like most people I know who live to be with people. I have been self critical. Now I understand that innately, my creative DNA has shaped me for loneliness and that’s OK.

GPS Application
Apostle Paul advised, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). The counsel is to include God rather than leaving him out of something as ordinary as putting paint on canvas. Then even an artistic endeavour is a sanctified activity.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tour de France, Lance Armstrong and Coming Back

The Tour de France has begun once again.

Today is a rest day. Eight stages have already been completed.

We love watching the Tour de France. The telecast comes to us VERY early in the morning. Channel 49 OLN here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Of course OLN shows it at night as well. While we lived in France for two months I picked up a 2009 Tour de France T shirt which I wear each morning as I watch a stage. It has the logo on the front and the map of the route for the entire Tour on the back. I am like a little kid.

For several years Christine and I have followed these twenty-one days of time trials, sprints and mountain climbs. Christine and I enjoy this athletic event because of the magnitude and majesty of the course, designed differently each year to give riders every riding experience. We admire the team strategies as much as individual performances. We envy the stamina and endurance.In April and May we saw many riders throughout France handling mountains as though they were small knolls.

Certainly Lance Armstrong was a draw during his robust seven Tour de France victories and NO, we never believed that he took performance enhancing drugs even though the sport has been riddled with violations in recent years. Then this year, learning that Armstrong was attempting a comeback we were thrilled but admittedly not expecting him to be more than a team support player. He is thirty-seven years old and he has had a five year hiatus from racing. How could we know that he is something so special that as we have watched these past few stages, Lance has been in second and third place overall and may yet wear the yellow jersey. What a Comeback! It’s incredible, and of course he will pee in a bottle regularly for dope monitoring.

GPS Application:
I ask myself, "Am I in need of a comeback?" “Am I ready for a comeback?” Perhaps I am. Not a return to my former career. Life has changed for me, ??? pounds too heavy, drinking too much coffee, teeth worn with age, corrective lenses and my granddaughter plays with my wisps of hair on top of my head. Life's purpose is a bit confused. Spiritual slippage is a concern. God says, “Now, therefore, (because of all that has happened) return to me with all your heart... ” (Joel 2:12)

Lance Armstrong's Official site
Livestrong Website - The Lance Armstrong Foundation
The Livestrong Blog
On Tour with Lance
YouTube video of the Tour's Itinerary

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Perry Haddock has a Show in White Rock through July

Perry Haddock, an artist acquaintance, opened a one person show in White Rock on Friday evening at the White Rock Community Arts Council Gallery at 90-1959 152 Street.

Perry’s subject matter may consist of the luminous whites of a waterfall, or an intense purple shade within a forest, or the happy jaunes of tropical light on a coconut cluster, or an aged burgundy awning of a Paris Café rendered with delightfully free and vivid strokes. Attractively framed this show of Perry's work is a visual treat.

If you live locally stop in at the gallery. Click the link on Perry's name and see his online gallery.(This Painting is called 'Nooksack Tapestry')

GPS Application
Creativity is intrinsic to our humanity. Made by the Creator himself and fashioned in his image we have the capacity to create. Creativity has value in God’s economy and it deserves value in ours. Art is one of the products of this invested creativity. Throughout the world and in every culture people produce art. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1).

Names above are links to websites.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Visual Art is Huge at the Calgary Stampede

This is the last weekend of Calgary Stampede 2009, July 3-13

It’s the Western Showcase and it’s an integral part of the Calgary Stampede. You may not have thought that Chuckwagon Races and Art are compatible. Somebody thought they were. For 30 years Western Showcase has displayed the work of well known western artists until it has become one of the strongest art shows in North America.

Artists apply and the fortunate ones go with their work on display and for sale. Patrons come prepared to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of art. Among the local artists with whom I am familiar who are at the Stampede right now, are Roger Arndt, Jonn Einerrsen, Brent Heighton, and Murray Phillips.

Western Art is defined as art that is visually identifiable depicting themes of western prairie/mountain culture, lifestyle, heritage and characters. In various mediums artists convey scenes of ranching; landscapes; rodeo; agriculture; first nations; florals; portraits; architecture and wildlife.

GPS Application
God has an intrinsic relationship with beauty. In the context of earth, he spoke principles which birthed carbon coloured space and cerulean skies with golden sun and jade pasture and azure seas and scarlet flowers. He looked at all that he had made and he pronounced it good. If Eric Liddell was correct in believing that God took pleasure in his running it is sensible to assume that God can delight in our painting.

Names above are links to websites.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Global Positioning System and God

GPS is an acronym that stands for Global Positioning System

The Global Positioning System (GPS) internet site explains in laymen’s language that GPS is freely available to individuals who, equipped with a GPS receiver, can accurately locate where they are and easily navigate where they want to go. The service is available to anyone for multiple modes of navigation whether walking, driving, sailing, or flying. It’s precise in all weather, day and night, anywhere in the world.

The GPS is made up of three parts: satellites orbiting the Earth; control and monitoring stations on Earth; and the GPS receivers owned by users. GPS satellites broadcast signals from space that are picked up and identified by GPS receivers. Each GPS receiver then provides three-dimensional location (latitude, longitude, and altitude) plus the time.

I have used GPS on a Blackberry, in a golf cart, and in a car. Farmers, surveyors, geologists and countless others perform their work more efficiently, safely, economically, and accurately using the free and open GPS signals. Disaster relief and emergency services depend upon GPS.

The Creator of the universe transcends this one tiny planet upon which I live. Inexplicably God provides instantaneous and accurate information to individuals on earth through reliable prior communication (scripture) and through personal communiqués (Spirit to spirit). It is all that we need to understand where we are and how to navigate into the presence of God beyond earth’s orbit and the pull of gravity. With this biblical world view I interact with the issues and events that concern us all.

Point of interest: Garmin manufactures GPS receivers. Garmin Slipstream has a team in the Tour de France

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I’m alive and I’m here forever

Mine is not a voice of reason although journalists certainly appear to need one given the superlatives heaped upon the memory of Michael Jackson. This was the day of Michael’s public memorial. It was over the top.

I officiated hundreds of funeral services over a forty year pastoral career. Believe me, I have heard it all when it comes to embellishing a memory. No, I was wrong. Today I heard things I had never before heard at a memorial service. It seems like people cannot say enough kind words about Michael Jackson now that he is gone. Go figure!

Think about it. The title of this piece was the title of the tribute to Michael - I’m alive and I’m here forever. It is left for the reader to envision Michael speaking these words. How like the Saviour Jesus Christ they sound. It’s an understandable funeral sentiment given Michael’s premature death. He will be alive in people's memory forever of course.

As the memorial began a wonderful choir sang the words of a 1976 song with text and music by Andrae Crouch. Church going people have always understood the “King” as a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are the lyrics.

“Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” No more crying there, we are going to see the King. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We're going to see the King. No more dying there, we are going to see the King. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We're going to see the King.”

And then the casket was rolled to the dais at the front of the Staples Centre. People had come to honour the King and The King of Pop had arrived.

The Jackson family’s pastor, Pastor Lucious said of Michael, “He will be there forever and he will comfort us.” Maya Angelou’s poem was read and called Jackson “Our bright and shining star.” They spoke of Jackson as the key person to establish racial equality in America, to promote love throughout the world. It makes you want to say, “mmmmmmmmmmmm.”

Sincerely, I trust that Michael Jackson has gone to see the King. There is only one way you know. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Pastor Lucious Smith included the necessary prescriptive in his prayer as he said, "The King of Pop must bow his knee to the King of Kings."

A Brand New Ron Unruh Blog

This blog is under construction, that is, its purpose and content are being developed and by Monday July 13, 2009 it should be programmed.