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

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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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Taking Care of Business

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.

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On the Brink of Everything

I wish you many blessings for this new year.  Some people make New Year’s resolutions because there is something about new beginnings that gives us a second chance to renew our commitment to whatever or whoever it is that brings meaning into our life, and another opportunity to connect with our purpose.

Over the Christmas holiday I read Parker Palmer’s latest book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old. The book is a reflection on his 79 years of life.  Essentially it is about his understanding of what makes life meaningful. I resonated with the title as I slipped into 2019.  The phrase, “on the brink” is usually used to denote impending disaster, but Palmer uses it to say that no matter how old we are we are always on the brink of everything. He writes, “… being old is no reason to wade into the shallows.  It is a reason to dive deep and take creative risks.  I like being ‘On the brink of everything’ because it gives me new perspectives on my past, present and future, and new insights into the inner dynamics that shape and drive my life.”

I too like the feeling that I am on the brink of everything in 2019.  In 2004 I began a yearly reflective process.  The first years it was fun and interesting, but not very meaningful.  But in the last 10 years I have taken it more seriously. Each January I pick seven cards from a deck of 74 concepts (ancient and modern) that pertain to these categories: Essence, Past, Present, Future, Possibility, Blessing and Synthesis. In 2015 my Essence card was Exhaustion.  It shocked me. I would have said that I was too busy for a 73 year old, or I was tired a lot, but exhaustion was a word that suggested I needed to consider retirement.  I took 6 months to unburden myself of teaching, offering spiritual direction, and many other “jobs” that I picked up because they didn’t take much time.

June 9, with my teaching job at the FCJ Spiritual Life Centre finished, I began a work sabbatical which I defined as:  No Work for a Year.  And I did that. The next June I felt comfortable saying, “I am retired” and I got another message (and to me it seemed like it came from a divine source).   Now I understood that it was okay to say No or Yes to a request, but “yes” only if my heart responds to it and it is not “work”.  I have done that for the last 3 years.  I still spend one day a week contemplating each of the seven concepts.  My life has become a more contemplative adventure, reorienting my physical and spiritual life.  It is my way of delving more deeply into the question, “What is my life about now, in retirement?”

This year my Essence card was Maturity.  This was also my Synthesis card from last year which suggests to me that my maturity remains a primary focus.  Maturity refers to inner connection with one’s divine self/purpose.  I will be 76 this coming summer.  I felt withdrawn over the past summer and in the fall I felt restless and yearning, not for work but for engagement, as if something was coming.  This year I do feel I am on the brink of everything, but not yet sure what that everything is.  However, it does feel like a sacred adventure and I now have the tools to know how to say “yes” and how to say “no”.

Do you have a ritual or practice that helps you hear the voice of God in your life?  Does the new year hold a gift for you?  Does your faith feed you with gifts for the journey?

I heard an interview on the radio about a week ago about “luck”.  The person being interviewed is not a fan of luck. He is a statistician and used the lottery as an example of belief and reality not being the same. He said some people think they are lucky and have an inside track, scheme, or way of winning. In the end he said it is just a happy coincidence if one wins anything.  But he did acknowledge that those who believe they are lucky are more likely to be successful in their life and have more positive experiences and feelings.  Their belief in being lucky gives them a sense of self-esteem and allows them to take on more challenges and risks that lead to good things.  Whereas, pessimistic people are more cautious and do not open doors to growth and new possibilities as easily.  I would say, not that I am lucky, but that I am blessed.  Not that God has chosen me over other people to give me more life and gifts, but that through faith and spiritual practices, I am able to follow a path that leads me to more growth, more life.   I believe there is a positive impulse toward growth in all of life.  There are challenges and disasters that interrupt that process and it is how we deal with these that creates the way forward.

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The Advent-ure of Life

This adventure began when I was invited to lead a contemplative service during Advent.  I said “yes” and was assigned the second week, which traditionally has the theme of Peace.  John 14:27 came first to my mind, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Paul calls this the peace that passes all understanding in Philippians 4:7. And then a second scripture, Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, …a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household”.  There it was – the paradox. This became my focus: Peace and Conflict coming together in our life experience.

Parker Palmer, in his new book, On the Brink of Everything, says that he envies people who practice contemplative disciplines to see the truth about themselves and the world, and in doing so often avoid the train wreck. Then in his words, “I’m a contemplative by catastrophe.  My wake-up calls generally come after the wreck has happened and I’m trying to dig my way out of the debris. I do not recommend this path as a conscious choice.  But if you, dear reader, have a story similar to mine, I come as the bearer of glad tidings. Catastrophe, too, can be a contemplative path.” (P. 59) I agree with Palmer that when we are able to embrace conflict we can often find the path to peace.

In the service I had two Christ candles. The first one, standing by itself was burning when people came in, indicating the One who came with the message of good news, glad tidings.  The second Christ candle remained unlit in the Advent wreath for the One who is yet to come.  This is Advent for me, living in the tension of what has come and what is yet to be.  In expectation we prepare for the Christ who is yet to come, and in so doing we experience the presence of the holy in the gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

In preparing for the service I asked myself “What is Peace for me?”  I didn’t give up after the first few easy answers came to me.  Staying with the question is the contemplative way.  Stay with it until you get the answer your heart, God or the Holy Spirit has to offer.  Then I looked for the experience of peace in my memory, in the world or in people around me.  How does peace happen? Leonard Cohen’s words came to me from his song, Treaty. “I’m angry and I’m tired all the time, I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty, between your love and mine”. Thinking about the words ‘Peace that passes all understanding’ I wondered how do I/we get there.  I have a graphic with the word PEACE In large bold black letters and the word conflict is printed in small letters right in the centre.  There it is.  The dynamic of life, the paradox, the way forward, you can’t have one without the other. Peace and the Sword.  The promise and the conflict. Continue reading

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A Crack in Everything

Last Sunday at church hearing this reading got me thinking…

ANTHEM    by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sing
At the break of day
“Start again”, I heard them say
Don’t dwell
On what has passed away
Or what is yet to be.

Yeah, the war’s they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought, sold, and bought again
The dove is never free.

Ring the bell that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack, a crack, in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We ask for signs,
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed, the marriage spent
The widowhood of every government
Signs for all to see

I can run no more with that godless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
They have summoned up, summoned up, a thundercloud
And they’ll hear from me

Ring the bell…

You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
To every heart, every heart, love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bell…

Last Sunday a guest speaker who is a poet and a theologian took us into the depths of faith that exists in the midst of darkness.  He used this reading/song by Leonard Cohen as the scripture. Cohen was a contemplative and an evolutionary thinker.  He understood the unity of everything in such a way that paradox was the mystery where God becomes visible. Two ideas that are poles apart come together in the present moment.  It is a mystery that reveals the holy presence of God.  This was the perfect introduction to Advent for me.  The paradox is: Christ has come and Christ is coming and in this moment, we embrace both realities.  Christ is here, yet still coming.  We have the ancient record and we have our own experience of the one who has come, but sometimes we experience the absence of God and are in the dark looking forward to Christ’s coming again.

The first verse of Anthem speaks of the process of entering life again today.  “Don’t dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be.”  He doesn’t say ignore the past.  In fact, faith is a celebration, a remembering of what has been; and it is also a promise, a hope, a vision of what is yet to be.  Hold these but do not dwell on them.  Because just when you think you get it, he says “…the war’s they will be fought again, the holy dove, she will be caught again, bought, sold and bought again.”  I think we do buy into wishful thinking, or is it a teaching, that if we have enough faith, if we get it right, everything will be good again and it will stay that way forevermore.  And then we get disappointed and angry when our world shifts again.  Our faith is fluid and flexible and messy.  And when the crack appears it is revelation and we understand that Christ is here in us right now. Continue reading

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My Road to “No”

The City of Calgary began an exploration process in July 2016 to assess the risks and benefits of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.  October 2017 began a dialogue process to flesh out the way forward in getting government partners and evaluating public support.  January 2018 there was a push to support the games and get city council approval to make a formal bid by January 2019.  The bid failed to spark the vision of greatness and celebration that would get the support of the citizens of Calgary.  There was a huge discussion and negotiation process that led to a public vote this past week when Calgarians voted to not go ahead with an Olympic bid.

I got caught up in this process early because I have always been glued to the tube watching the Olympics.  My daughter was a mascot in the 1988 Olympics and I have great memories of what Calgary was able to do.  I was generally positive in support of the bid.  I kept up with the progress reports and assumed that council would make the right decision in time. In the past 8 months I found myself on the fence as the process continued and more questions emerged about the finances.  The Alberta economy played an important role for many people with both positive and negative influences.  The Olympics were put forward as a way to renew the Alberta economy, show the world what we could do, fill empty office space in downtown Calgary, refurbish aging sport infrastructure, and give us and the world a positive vision of Calgary as a forward-looking city.   But financial concerns regarding the huge expense of the games and the risk of overruns and increasing debt kept a damper on the excitement.

I answered an Angus Reid survey just after a revised last-minute budget was adopted and more money was pledged by governments.   Answering the survey was a very important experience for me because it led me to think deeper about the bid.  I surprised myself because out of 10 questions concerning the benefits of the games for Calgary I answered “yes” to 8 of them but still felt I wanted to vote “no”.  What was I thinking?  As I thought more deeply I became more aware of some aspects of the bid that were influencing my decision.

I realized that there were important issues that were not being addressed in the public conversation. Continue reading

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I’m Looking For Some Good News

I am an optimist.  I have always been interested in good news.  I used to subscribe to a magazine called Ode Magazine that turned into the Intelligent Optimist, then went out of print in 2013.  Good news does not appear to sell well.  The magazine was about the amazing things human beings can accomplish to solve big world problems when they put their minds to it (and can find someone willing to financially back them).

Good News is also the meaning of Gospel.  It is about salvation which I define as entering a better life of freedom, opportunity, justice … all the gospel values.

Lately I have been thinking about how the #me too movement is changing our perspective on human belief and behaviour.  Finally, women will have a say in their own defense and maybe this will bring more protection and less fear of being violated, abused, ignored and limited in their ability to live the lives they want to live and realize their full potential.

I just finished reading a book called Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor in world health.  He shares various data that show that the world is getting better and more people are benefiting from new discoveries and technologies.  There are fewer people living in abject poverty (which he labels Level 1 living), better health care is available around the world and many more people are experiencing some education.  He does not mean that there are no dire problems in the world, just that the trend (shown by data) is toward more people living in better conditions today than ever before.

However, this is not just a feel-good book of statistics.  The book’s purpose is to elaborate on 10 reasons why we do not have a realistic view of the world.  He was surprised to discover that no matter how educated a person was, he/she still incorrectly answered many of 20 questions about world health, wealth, or potential for change. Most people answered with a lower percentage of correct answers than if they had just answered randomly without reading the questions.

Two of his ten reasons are: Continue reading

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Silence is Really Something

It is September and I am ready to get back to a spiritual routine.  Meditation and writing my blog are two parts of my discipline.  In August I was asked to provide leadership for two 7:00 am contemplative services at the church I attend, Hillhurst United in Calgary. In the first service I used the experience of silence as my main focus.  In my blog #13 I reflected on Stephon Alexander’s book, The Jazz of Physics.  One significant discovery that Alexander explained at the end of the book was how matter (something) was created in a vacuum (which we usually think of as empty or nothing).  As I read this, my own mind made a connection with the quality of “silence” in the spiritual practice of meditation.

In several types of meditation we try to get rid of thoughts/inner chatter that are sometimes called “monkey mind”.  I find this a difficult task, but have come to understand the value of developing a way to discipline the mind in meditation. Of course there are also some forms of meditations for other purposes that use the mind to reflect and respond to guidance received in meditation.

Alexander says a vacuum (which we call space) is not empty.  That space between is where everything can happen.  It is the place of possibility.  Often when we refer to silence we mean finding a quiet place or a break in our busy routine, so we can relax, recover and renew ourselves, so we can connect to the Presence and hear the voice of God.  But the silence we seek in meditation or some other spiritual practice is something deeper–the absence of noise within us.  Spiritual teaching says that prayer and meditation are practices that connect us with the divine presence; it is the way we enter into silence where we listen and wait and come to know we are in the presence of love that renews, guides and heals us.  It is really something absolutely positive where no noise can ever penetrate. Nothing in the outside world can disturb it/us when we are rooted in it.  It has infinite depth. It is really something! Continue reading

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The Discovery of the John Griffith String Theory

I just finished reading a book called Convergence: The Idea at the Heart of Science by Peter Watson. It is a history of modern science since 1850, showing how the various scientific disciplines have been converging to influence one other and expound on the evolutionary development of life.  This fascinating book shows how discoveries in physics led to the discovery of the periodic table in chemistry; discoveries in biology (the gene) influenced the growth of politics in Russia and led to new understandings of human behavior in psychology. Watson shows how all the various disciplines in science are contributing to the one story of evolution of the universe and the evolution of human life on Earth.

In physics, the search for a unified theory of everything has been a main goal of research.  In physics research, particle theory led to the emergence of string theory.

“In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings.  It describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_theory

Fortunately, reading this book and some recent personal experiences led to the discovery of my own String Theory:  “Any string, whether it is an electrical cord, garden hose or vacuum cleaner hose, wants to remain stationary and any attempt to move it will elicit a response whereby the string will wrap around, grab hold of, slip into any crevice, crack or opening, or just tangle itself up to impede forward movement”.  This new string theory developed from empirical observation of my own experience and continues to prove itself correct year and year.

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The Jazz of Physics

When science, music and spirituality converge in the search for and the finding of truth I am genuinely moved. I was moved in ways I cannot fully articulate reading Stephon Alexander’s book, The Jazz of Physics, a book about the search for the answer to the question: How did the structure of the universe come to be?

Having a Welsh background (Griffith) music is in my soul.  Music leads me into awareness, feeling and knowing beyond words. For example the statement, “Love changes everything”. Hearing this you may nod your head in agreement.  But when I hear the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,  “Love, Love changes everything: Hands and faces, Earth and sky,  Love, Love changes everything: How you live and How you die”, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0Kl2iBders) I feel the truth of that statement in the depth of my being.  I am carried away by its truth. Jazz is a specific kind of music which runs the gamut from smooth jazz with improvisation on a melody to avant-garde that may be characterized by nontraditional, aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability.  The latter is the music Alexander played and for him it became an analogy for the way discoveries in physics are possible.

Physics is another one of my passions.  Even though I can not do the math, I do see the connections between the spiritual yearning for understanding who I am /why I am here and the reality being explored by physics studying the physical movement of evolution to how we came to be here. In this book Alexander comes very close to bringing these two explorations together. Continue reading

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Back to the Future When Everything Was Better

This week I have been thinking about Doug Ford’s decision to roll back sex education in Ontario to the 1998 curriculum.  He made this decision because an updated curriculum is not necessary.  We haven’t learned anything new about sexuality, gender identity, cyber-bullying, transgender choices, and how sexual attitudes have a lot to do with personal well being of teenagers.  RIGHT!?

Of course, the real issue here is about Doug Ford’s popularity with his voter base who are mostly “now-focused”, having little vision for the future. They are afraid we are getting too far away from the conservative values of Stephen Harper or Ralph Klein such as: the freedom to do whatever we want, the ability to make obscene amounts of money and ignore social problems, and the power to maintain straight white privilege.  Ford suggests it is better to go back to letting the parents teach their children about sexuality issues.  OK.  But some parents teach intolerance and discrimination because that’s what they were taught by their parents. These are not Canadian values.  Perhaps we need to pass legislation mandating that parents with teenage children take sex education classes so they are up to speed on the rights of children and what we have learned over these past 20 years about respect for gender identity, gay and lesbian people, etc … Continue reading

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Two Books on Science and Religion

I like to learn how other people think.  In the past month I read two books on the relationship between science and religion.  One was from the perspective of Francis Collins, a molecular biologist, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief; and the second, Darwin, Divinity and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological Christianity, was from the perspective of Bruce Sanguin, a theologian,  and United Church minister. Continue reading

Posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Science and Religion | 1 Comment

Happy Are the Poor in Spirit…I Don’t Think So!

I heard an interview-sermon at church a week ago and it triggered a reaction that I have had off and on for quite a long time. The text was the beatitudes Matthew 5: 3-10 which used a newer translation that replaced the word “blessed” with “happy”. The presentation was great, but that one glitch brought back a long conversation in my head. For me, the Gospel is supposed to be leading people to a deeper understanding and connection with God. And when translators “lighten it up” with “common language” it does not do the job. Happy comes from a 14th century word meaning lucky or fortunate. It is related to the word “happenstance” which is a combination of happen and circumstance. We are happy when things go our way, when the circumstances are pleasant and rewarding. Happy is related to our outside world. Blessed is a state of being when one is centered, or I would say, living in relationship with God. Yes, if you look back in the Greek usage it will say fortunate and even happy and the Greek word did refer to the elite, the rich, as blessed. But Jesus used it in a totally different way. Jesus is a transformational thinker and gives us a message that challenges our simplistic or egoistic thinking. It is not the elite who are blessed, it is the poor; it is the hungry and thirsty and those who are in mourning who are blessed. Why is that? Because they are connected to the world in a deeper, more loving way. They have a source of power that does not come from the world around them, rather it comes from the world within them. To bless someone is to empower them. When you bless someone, they are more than happy; they experience a deep sense of joy in being that gives direction to their lives.

As I moved further into my evolutionary Christian journey I thought I was losing my faith, but I was only losing my connection to the God I thought I knew, and was discovering a God who was much different and more connected to my everyday reality. Then I wondered if I could hold on to Jesus because he was integral to my connection with God before God took a different shape and purpose. (The 20 books written in the last 15 years that I have on the theme, “Who is Jesus”, suggest that I am not the only one with this problem. Continue reading

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My Foray Into Truth and Lies

For two weeks I have had the most unsettling thoughts.  Usually I am optimistic and hopeful, but lately I find myself angry and frightened.  And I confess I now see how naive I am about political matters.  I have been reading The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder.  It brought back to memory a line in a sermon I heard 30 years ago by Fred Craddock, “A lie will get you far, but it won’t get you home.”  It also reminded me of a parable told by Jesus about the wisdom of building your home on a rock foundation, not on sand.  The rock is the truth, sand a lie.  In a storm a rock will hold, but sand will shift, and your home will collapse.  Grace means that a lie might take you far.  You can get away with it, sometimes for a long time.  But in the end if your life is built on lies it will collapse and you will lose everything.  The Road to Unfreedom is about Russia, its collapse and re-emergence as a country built and maintained by lies.

The prologue to the book says that communism in Russia and democracy in the western world were both propagated by what Snyder calls the politics of inevitability.  In this political view, it is the future when life becomes good, and you get there by living by the laws of progress as defined by your particular political structure.

In Russia this collapsed in 1991 and the western world said, “I told you so; it is our system that will inevitably lead to the good life”.  But the collapse of the politics of inevitability did not lead to democracy, but to what Snyder calls the politics of eternity, where a nation sees itself at the centre of a cyclical story of victimhood.  The politics of eternity narrative holds that the enemy is coming and we need to protect ourselves.  Progress is seen as impossible; we must hunker down and be prepared to save our country from outside attacks.  In this scenario politicians manufacture crises and manipulate emotions to hold onto power and distract from their inability or unwillingness to reform.  One strategy to stay in power is to undermine foreign powers that exhibit a better way of life.  Truth is not important; history is used selectively to show that we are the chosen people, and lies are used to demonize others and proclaim our innocence. Continue reading

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Thinking About Justice

On April 7th, an article in the Globe and Mail got me thinking.  The article said shareholders of the Royal Bank were not happy with the “breath taking size of the CEO’s pay package” (last year $13.4 million dollars).  An RBC board member responded that shareholders are getting a bigger dividend now because the bank is making more money.  But that is not the issue. For me it is a justice issue.  The Royal Bank exists in a bigger world.  This response shows the narrow focus of the board (granted this was a share holder meeting).  I wonder who speaks for the customer and the community.  As a shareholder, I regularly get notices of fees being increased.  If those pay packages were not so large I think they could afford to lower some fees for their customers.  But that is not really the issue either.  They operate in a community where poverty persists, low-income housing is hard to come by, and homelessness continues to be a problem.  Enlightened leadership could shift $10 million out of top executive salaries (I believe there are 5 top executives) and put it into a fund to target poverty reduction.  That would benefit the bank in the years to come, and the community right now. Just saying. For example.

This brings me to something I read in a Canadian book called, “I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up” by James Hoggan (2016). The author interviewed 23 people around the world asking the question, “Why in this age of communication can’t we solve big problems such as poverty, climate change, etc.  In chapter 8, “The Self-Regulating Psychopath”, with Joel Bakan and Noam Chomsky, the conversation is about corporate greed. Continue reading

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Thinking About Easter for the 53rd Time

Three things caught my attention in the past two weeks: Thinking about Easter, a song I heard on the radio, and a play I saw at Alberta Theatre Projects called Constellations.

In my last post I mentioned that the ritual of observing the church year has been important for me in directing my thinking about faith and life issues. This year is no different. Lent has been an intentional reflection time for me, and Easter has always been a challenge. The Christian Church focuses on Easter as being the defining moment for God at work in history and in our lives. While I agree with this I have always had trouble with the way the church interprets this event. Jesus has always been very important in my life and I know him through prayer and scripture. The word of God still speaks to me after all these years, but I have never been able to figure out this teaching about dying for our sins. I know the theology, and can see that the system works when it includes heaven and hell, judgement day and our human nature being corrupted so badly that we need a saviour to help us. But this system no longer describes the real world for me and many others. The God who sacrifices his son so we/I might have eternal life does not fit for me with the love of God I know. It fits for me if I see the Easter event as a life pattern of letting go so new life can emerge (growing up). I have seen this life, death and new life cycle in my life many times.

I spent 53 years of ministry trying to understand Easter and preach it with integrity. I think that Jesus was modeling faithfulness as making life choices which lead to human transformation. To me it works as a metaphor for the way love works in transforming our lives, and it works in the scientific world if we change the word resurrection to emergence (See Nov.3 blog). But as a real physical event that changes history it seems limiting and inconsistent with my idea of the way a loving God is acting in the world today. Having lost the physical constructs of heaven and hell, for me the meaning of Easter is more about the way I live, the choices I make right now. Continue reading

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