A Roger Hodgson (formerly from Supertramp) shout out!

Roger Fran and I


“This next song is for a wonderful man, Pastor John Van Sloten…”

When Roger Hodgson said those words at his Calgary concert last night I was floored! My only response was, “Ohhhh shit!”.  And as he went on to sing Hide in your Shell, a song that saved my life as a teen, I just sat there overwhelmed; singing along, tears pouring down my face and overjoyed at a God who would do this!

Four years ago I preached a sermon entitled, “How God used Supertramp (Roger Hodgson) to Save my Life”.  In that message I spoke at length about the healing influence of Hide in your Shell and other Hodgson songs. A few weeks after preaching that sermon CBC reporter Russell Bowers brought it to Roger’s attention during an interview. Then he took this photo of Roger holding an iPad with a screen grab from the sermon of me preaching on him.  roger hodgsonA few weeks later I got an email from Hodgson’s manager letting me know how much he appreciated listening to the message, along with an invitation to come to Roger’s next Calgary concert.

Last night!

Not only did we get to go to the concert, but we were also given backstage passes. After waiting in the fan photo line up, I walked up and introduced Fran and myself and Roger gave us this huge smile (he’s such a gentle, loving man… everyone felt it at the concert!). He asked if we could stay and talk after he was done with the photos. Then his handlers ushered us to his dressing room.

While we waited, his manager (Linda) spoke with us (she is as loving as Roger is) and again thanked me for the sermon. She said that the reason the concert started 20 minutes late was that Roger was re-watching the message!

And then after five minutes Roger arrived and we talked.  Again, he thanked me for the sermon. “I’m not much into preachers, but you’ve got it right… keep spreading the love.” After gushing like a teenager for a few minutes I told him about what was going on in me as he played that song, “When I was a kid I didn’t know that God was saving me through your words. When I preached that sermon four years ago I named that fact for the first time. And as you played it tonight (once the shock faded) it felt as though I heard God’s voice in behind your voice, in real time!”

The whole time in his dressing room we were hugging. Roger kept rubbing our backs and embodied such a humble, loving and thankful demeanor. “I’m the one who’s been blessed,” he said. “I don’t even really write those songs… I just receive them when they show up.” We talked about how important ‘getting out of the way’ is when it comes to divine inspiration.

The whole time we’re there Fran and I couldn’t believe what was happening. It felt as though God was putting his imprimatur on our ministry and our calling to listen for his truth everywhere; affirming again, in dramatic fashion, his everywhere presence in our lives. I told Roger that I’m now inspired to preach for the next 15 years!

And I am.

This morning Fran and I are still shaking our heads. What a beautiful parable God has spoken; “The parable of Roger Hodgson’s otherworldly impact on an unknown (yet fully known) Canadian kid.”




Engaging Culture – Where do you draw the line?

After showing up for my class yesterday without lecture notes (worst teacher nightmare ever), I felt the need to send my students an email summarizing what I was trying to say off the cuff.

We were at the point in the course where we were exploring the problem of sin and asking how far one enters into the culture in the search for God’s truth.  For many in the class, who come from a holiness tradition that keeps church and world quite separate, the question of lines is a very important one.  This is the email I sent;

“When it comes to the question of how far we step into a less-than-holy world we need take our direction from what Jesus did via the incarnation.

If a perfect and holy God could go as far as he did – taking on a mortal frame, touching the unclean, becoming a friend of sinners – then couldn’t we do the same? But we’re not Christ! But Jesus did say we’d ‘do greater things’ than him because he is going to the Father (Jn 14:12). But we fall short and are more susceptible to temptation. But Jesus was just as susceptible to sin as we are, wasn’t he? He was fully human and tempted in every way just as we are (Heb 4:15). The reason he didn’t sin was because of his perfect connection to his Father (not because he couldn’t sin). Jesus didn’t do a thing apart from the will of his Father in heaven (Jn 6:38) and it was this ‘will-alignment-submission’ that kept him in a safe, confident and connected place thus enabling him to engage the unholy without fear… no, better than that, with perfect love.

So then, it begs the question, “Is the reason we’re afraid to enter into unholy places an indictment of our lack of connection to our Father?” And what does Jesus’ ability to go anywhere and touch and talk to anybody, say about the humility and dependence we’d need to do the same? Sometimes I wonder if Jesus carried a sense of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ as he engaged broken people and circumstances. And could it be that living into a constant awareness of ‘there but for your grace go I” is exactly what we need to engage a broken world; and even conquer our own sinful natures? What if being an incarnating presence in broken places, being as totally humble as Jesus was, in perfect submission, ever aware of your susceptibility to sin, but trusting God anyways, is the only way for us to gain a foothold over our sinful natures? What if the bigger risk to our personal holiness is not engaging?

Of course, none of us can do that perfectly (in all circumstances). But what if, as we began to discuss in class, we collectively can? Maybe that’s the answer we need to consider when it comes to drawing lines. What if each of us has been given freedom and liberty to engage different parts of our broken world, but none of us has the freedom and liberty to engage them all? To some the gift of bringing light to Gangsta rap, to others the gift of reaching out to Game of Thrones fans, to another the gift of… It seems to me that this might be God’s best way to reach out to all, while still honouring our call to be holy.”

I am fearfully and wonderfully made?

van gogh bible best

All week long I’ve been reading these words as part of my morning devotional (and feeling a bit disingenuous); “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

I suppose I’ve always struggled with the passage, at times thinking it had nothing to do with me, and at other times being okay with the first half, but then generalizing the second (your works in all of creation are wonderful, I know that full well).  Who can really say, “Your work that is me is wonderful I know that full well”?

And so I’m struggling with this passage once again this morning when I recall the feeling I felt toward a few of my students on Thursday as they did their cultural exegesis presentations. It was a sense of overjoyed exuberance at the connections they were making, at the the hard work they’d done, at how the Spirit had moved in their lives, and at how they were getting a bigger glimpse of God’s revelation in his world. I don’t know these students that well, but I felt quite proud of them, a kind of love for them, like I was seeing more of the fullness of them as they were being what they were made to be.

And then it occurred to me that perhaps God felt that same teacherly joy when I first made the connection, working hard at it, his Spirit moving in me, giving me a huge glimpse of his revelation in the world. Could it be that all of those times I was more fully me, sitting in my sermon writing chair, weeping at the way something in creation illumined something from the bible, that God was weeping with joy too? If I could feel the wonderfulness of a few students I barely knew, could the God who made me not feel the same toward me?

And for all I know he feels it all the time. What would it mean to let more of that in?


Edward’s continuum of gratitude


Over the past six months we’ve noticed that Edward has developed a continuum of gratitude when it comes to pre-meal prayer. When he hates what’s being served he’ll hold his hands behind his back and refuse to even close his eyes (salad). When he’s disappointed he’ll let us touch his elbows but will not allow any hand to hand contact (any rice based meal). When he’s happy with what’s being served he’ll hold our hands and actively pray with us (pasta or burgers).  And when Fran brings home take out pizza he’ll reach out and grab both of our heads and passionately draw them to himself like this!