Random Thoughts and Rants

My last post was August 26th.  What was I thinking in the past 7 weeks?  I have been stuck in a negative rant about how bad things are in the world and what can one person do anyway!  When I say stuck, I mean going over actions by Donald Trump like pulling U.S. troops out of Syria so fast that they had to bomb their own bases there to prevent others from getting the equipment they had to leave behind.  Pulling out so Turkey could bomb their allies.  I get so angry when I read news like this that my mind goes on a tirade for days. Where is the sanity when he gets no push back from world leaders?

Then there is the Canadian election. Where is the good thinking?  Where is the leadership?  Trudeau seems to have lost his edge, my total dislike for Sheer, and living in a riding where a conservative win is a foregone conclusion, pushes me to search for an alternative way to send a message to Ottawa to do some new thinking.

I ruminate about stuff.  I want Trudeau to pull the liberal candidate from the riding where Jody Wilson  Raybould is running as a sort of apology for the way he treated her.  I want someone to speak about issues that matter – which means I want some candidate to treat me as a person who can think and understand big issues.  Instead I get a tax break or drivel or name calling.  Elizabeth May is one bright light who has a history of intelligent debate and is calling for doing politics differently. I will probably turn Green this election. Jagmeet Singh has shown good leadership but I want radical. Continue reading

Posted in Justice, Science and Religion, Climate Change Controversy | 2 Comments

Back From Holidays

“As much as summer should remove the burden of “should” and give an invitation to rest and frolic, the world is rarely a respecter of the calendar’s mood. It’s been deeply disturbing to watch, yet again, dozens of innocent lives lost in multiple mass shootings, knowing that collective trauma has now been unleashed on three more cities and states, to say nothing of the numbed-over fears layered on a nation already resigned to waiting for the next horror. These dark events, paired with a week spent in Paradise, California, where 95 percent of the town’s residents lost their homes in the state’s deadliest fire last fall, have me searching for voices that are in tune with shock and stripping. It’s like an ache for the appropriate chord, one that’s scarred and wise, vulnerable yet steely-eyed.”
Comment Magazine, August 9, 2019

This piece motivated me to write something this month. My first plan was to say, “Not yet back from holidays”, because I have not been in the mood to write.  I took a holiday from deep thinking and just wanted to garden, hang out with friends, listen to good music and not worry about the state of the world.  I wanted to bask in John Denver’s song, Season’s Suite (Summer). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q5197B_7iI

Continue reading

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Thinking About Love

It is spring (you can see I have been thinking about writing this for over a month) and my thoughts always turn to gardening, weather, having more time to be outside, and re-engaging with the neighbours.  The cycle of the seasons is about change, new activities (at least in the northern hemisphere) and with the longer daylight it seems like there is more time to do things.  But the regular activities of keeping up with family and friends, keeping fit, holiday time, outdoor activities like attending festivals, concerts, Bar-B-Q in the back yard and entertaining in our garden as well as having a few things to do that share the life and beliefs I have, are things that fill my time.

About two weeks ago I presided at a wedding for the daughter of a good friend of mine, and preparing for the celebration my thoughts turned to love and the spiritually of relationships.  The couple does not have any connection to church but there is a spiritual awareness in their worldview.  How do I tread that fine line of being appropriate and introducing the invitation to a deeper experience of life and love but not be preachy? Continue reading

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He Doesn’t Have a Prayer

“He doesn’t have a prayer,” is a phrase that I have heard from time to time meaning that the situation is hopeless.  Like many people at my age and stage of life, I have been thinking about my life and my legacy.  My wife and I are updating our wills.  What do we have and what do we want to do with it when we die?  Secondly, the church that brought me to Canada had it’s 50th anniversary two weeks ago.  I was the second pastor of this church, only 18 months out of seminary when I came to Canada in 1971.  My task was to build and shape the ministry of this new congregation.  I think this situation fits nicely under this blog titled, What was I thinking? (And perhaps “What was the denomination thinking” as well.)  A young, inexperienced minister with such a challenge!

Yet, we all felt like it was a call, and in hindsight that was accurate. I was at Christ Moravian Church for 9 years with the task of building the church and shaping its ministry. I recently spent a wonderful Fiftieth Anniversary celebration reflecting on that time, renewing connections and celebrating the life of the church.  I spoke about the nine years I was pastor of Christ Moravian.  I was also asked to open the Sunday worship celebration with a prayer of gratitude that would emphasize the past and the future.   One would think this is a no-brainer for a minister with 50 years behind him.  Yet this was a challenge for an evolutionary Christian to pray at such a pivotal point in the church’s history.  In this now moment the past and the future stand on a platform where experience and opportunity meet.

This a challenge for an evolutionary who has a strong belief in God in a whole different way than seeing God as a being directing life from above.  I saw my task at the beginning of this service was to ground people in their past, to place them in the flow of divine history, and energize them for the future.  I didn’t have a prayer.

As I sat (in a prayerful mood) I began to reflect on my history and my hopes; I began to understand what prayer meant to me.  As this was working for me, I understood that my task was to bring the history of love, ministry, hope and dreams together creating a sacred time of possibilities.  This is the prayer I offered. Continue reading

Posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Spirituality | 4 Comments

I Have Been Feeling Blue

The election in Alberta has been on my mind for months.  I was away on a holiday for the last two weeks of the election campaigning.  I heard the polls and yet held on to hope that the NDP would be re-elected because they showed strong, positive leadership and vision for the Province of Alberta through 4 years of the worst economic climate and challenges (like the devastating fires of 2016 that burned part of Fort McMurray).  Yet all indications were that the United Conservative Party would win a majority.  This is what happened.  I am truly disappointed that the government that showed forward thinking could not reach the general public who were focused on their own immediate agendas.  It was only 4 years to save the world, I know.

Now the UPC has committed to tearing down much of the infrastructure that was created to provide a future for Alberta that would be “world class” in its vision.  My little joke to my conservative neighbours when we got back from holidays, the day after the election was: “I am really feeling blue today.”  It took them a moment to get it – the colour of the UPC party is blue.  It was just a joke, and it was true. I am deeply disappointed that now we have a “Trump-like premier” who rose to power in the UPC by using a third candidate as a foil to get himself elected as the head of the party. This and using third party funding organizations to get around donation rules reveal serious moral flaws. These are serious accusations that are backed by evidence according to major newspaper reports. These character flaws will drive our political process for the next 4 years.  I predict he will follow the leadership pattern of our neighbour to the south, being committed to destruction of all that has been created by the previous administration with no plan forward – just words and promises that everyone wants to believe.  This kind of faith, called “wishful thinking”, believes that someone is going to save us.  Someone will build a pipeline in a day, put us all back to work, pay all our bills and the poor and marginalized will be helped by big business.  I am truly afraid as the world votes in more short-term thinkers with narrow-minded, selfish goals, which to me is a withdrawal from faith. Continue reading

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Procrastination has been a strategy I have practiced most of my life. That is why this blog has been in my journal and half-finished on my computer for over two weeks. It is true that in that time new ideas have emerged, and others have dropped away. I hope it is a better blog. But I still don’t feel good when I watch myself procrastinating.

I didn’t save any money, none, until I was 45. Then I established an RRSP and created a successful saving plan. I didn’t write a will until I was sixty. I knew I should but just didn’t get around to it. The past two weeks my wife and I have reviewed our financial situation with our advisor, seen a lawyer about updating our wills, almost finished our Personal Directive and Power of Attorney forms, talked to a funeral director and pre-paid our funerals. Planning for the next stage of life has not been easy and it’s almost done, but not quite. The downside is that it will not get finished now until we return from holidays in mid-April. Hope our plane is a good one!

Ash Wednesday and Lent provided some inspiration to get me down to taking care of business. This Christian festival or tradition has always been important to me. I take it as a time for reflection on my life (mortality) and what this time of my life is all about (purpose) all in the context of God’s will and the evolving purpose of humankind. That’s a fancy way to say I intentionally think about stuff during lent. Continue reading

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The Great Spiritual Migration

It is already mid-February. I seem to always be wondering about my faith and how the Christian message relates to the world I live in, a world which seems out of control right now.  There seems to be no limit to the number of people analyzing the world situation and trying to make sense of it. I read these cultural analysts because they help me get a handle on how to live in this fast paced, changing world.

The church has not been spared by the rapid pace of change.  The church used to be considered a solid rock which would give us something stable to hang on to and enable us to cope in the midst of life’s storms.  Now the church is being rocked by a huge storm of its own that is closing an unprecedented number of churches every day.  We are seeing people leaving church or questioning their faith.   I am in the latter category — re-thinking my faith.  But this is not new for me.  I have been doing this my whole ministry.  In fact, I think this is the job of a minister, to continually ask how the gospel relates to our world and helps people search for truth and live a more purposeful life.

I am currently in a book study of Brian McLaren’s latest book: The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian.  McLaren has been writing on evolutionary theology and the emerging church for over 20 years.  I am reading his latest book for the second time because I am involved with a group of people who are bringing Brian McLaren to Calgary in November.  This book summarizes a lot of my own journey in faith and has reaffirmed why I remain a Christian.

His introduction delineates the reasons why Christianity needs to move on from the baggage it acquired over the years. He goes on to specifically identify acquired beliefs that are not rooted in Jesus’ teaching.  These are beliefs that have led us to an image of God that is less than the God Jesus reveals in his life and teaching. The migration that Christianity needs to make is a “back to the future” movement, a trip back to the teachings of Jesus before the church took hold of them, shaped them into creeds that had to be believed and interpreted scripture in a narrow, self-serving way.

In chapter 3, Learning How to Love, McLaren spells out his fundamental belief which is the foundation of this book.   He had just left the pastorate and moved to a new city. As he wondered what kind of church he wanted to go to he realized: “I wanted and needed a church that would help me live a life of love. …I need sustenance, encouragement and help in loving God, loving myself, loving my kids and grandkids and extended family, loving my neighbors, especially people I might struggle to love, and loving the earth.” p. 50.

In chapter 4 he describes the history of Christianity based on a judgemental God who only really loved those who loved Him.  The church became a group of people who believed that loyalty to this God was the only way to reward/heaven.

In chapter 5 he speaks of a migration of belief from God 1.0 to God 5.0.  He shows how our perception of God changed through history until it arrived at God 4.0, who moved beyond selfishness to compassion. However, it was still only compassion for those who believed, looked and worshiped as we did.  In the next migration to God 5.0 we must move to a religion that is global (universal?) and does not believe that Christianity is the only way.  “Only a bigger, nondualistic God can unite us and them in an inclusive identity that is not limited to a tribe or nation, but that extends to all humanity, and not just to all humanity, but to all living things, and not just to all living things, but to all the planetary ecosystems in which we share.  We need to migrate to a grown-up God….” p. 102.  This resonated with me and my evolutionary Christianity.

The rest of the book addresses our fears about losing our faith, losing Jesus as our saviour, and losing the Bible as our book. McLaren and I know that this “leap of faith” is attended by dark periods of uncertainty.  That is why it is call a leap of “faith”.  McLaren states that we must live in faith, not in fear.  We must let faith draw us forward, not allow fear to hold us back.  As we get in touch with the new reality that science is putting before us, we find that our faith has a deeper purpose than describing how God created and runs the world.  God, through us, is shaping the world into a more holy and human shape.  Are you, am I, on board with the task of loving more intentionally the life we have in and around us? This is our holy purpose.  McLaren calls for us to join or create a movement — a group of people who rise up, organize, and confront institutions by pointing out what is wrong with them and proposing how to make things right.  When institutions go wrong, they create more harm than good and fail to provide the life enhancing benefits they were created to give the community.

The old-time religion is just not good enough for me.  At 75, I still have an important place in sharing the love of God and creating a community where love is the basis of our relationships.  Right now it seems nearly impossible for us to get out of this mess in any reasonable fashion.  That is where faith has its grab — to raise up hope and belief that there is a way forward and it is a holy path.

I will follow-up with a final comment when I finish the book study.  I am looking forward to your comments and hope you will read the book.

Posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Science and Religion, Spirituality | 4 Comments