Bastille’s poetry

Every time I hear Bastille’s song Poet, scripture passages run through my mind. Bastille sings this (re: the nature of poems/ poetic words);

“I have written you down
Now you will live forever
And all the world will read you
And you will live forever
In eyes not yet created
On tongues that are not born
I have written you down
Now you will live forever”

And I hear this;

“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD” Psalm 102:18

“Future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!” Psalm 22:30-31

God’s wisdom through Bastille is rhyming with God’s wisdom through the psalmist. Through God’s gift of poetry both writers attempt to capture the essence of the ineffable… the ungraspable. What can never be fully captured, these artists put into a song.

“I can’t say the words out loud,
So in a rhyme I wrote you down.
Now you’ll live through the ages,
I can feel your pulse in the pages.” (Bastille, Poet)

I have a Patron!

I just left a meeting with Chris Dobbin (a Calgary Real Estate Developer who’s been watching the ‘everywhere God vision’ unfold for many years now).

And I’m still trembling.

Chris just ‘bought’ 50 copies of Every Job a Parable for $5000.00! And then he said, “I want to do this monthly.” What he meant was that he wanted to become a patron in relation to my future work as a writer, teacher, speaker, or whatever.

“As far as I can see nobody else is doing this… anywhere,” Chris said. “This idea has got to get out there!” And so Chris is helping get it out there. He offered me office space in his Kensington Road building if I needed it and wants to help in whatever way he can.

This is overwhelming! In part because of the support and timing of it all. But even more so because of what God is saying through this little ‘parable of a moment’.

At the end of our meeting Chris asked if he could pray for me. When he finished praying I jumped in; thanking God for Chris and for his generosity. And then I said, “And God, what makes this so powerful for me is that this support is coming from a real estate developer (my first career!)… its like his words of encouragement are being spoken in a language I understand…  with a kind of entrepreneurial authority and vision that I get… and in some way this helps me  know that it’s you at work in behind Chris…  this support is coming from YOU…. so thank you for making Chris an icon of your grace!”

Or something like that…  we were both blubbering a bit a this point!

And finally, what was also so beautiful in that meeting was Chris’s joy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so delighted in the giving moment. Surely his heart is a pointer to God’s giving heart!

As I left Chris gave me a hug and said he loved me. He felt like a brother in that moment… which of course – he is.

 

 

My Future Plans

Ten days before my final day at the church I had a dream. In that dream a last minute, all-expense-paid, round-the-world trip was being offered to a small group of people (of whom I was a part)… offered to anyone who was able take it… who was free to take it.

I woke from that dream right in the middle of the moment where I was realizing that, because I had just left my job and had nothing on my agenda, I was totally free to take the trip! While everyone had previous commitments, I didn’t. At that moment my life was wide open.

And it is wide open now.

This past week I’ve been feeling as though I need to make it moreso. I need to do for my body what I did for my schedule (exercise and get back in shape again… so that I’ll have the energy, strength and acuity for what lies ahead). I need to the same for my emotional health (let myself rest a bit…  20 years was a long run… stop with all the pressure to produce). I also need to free up my spirit (learn how to pray again and read my bible more consistently and deeply… so that I will be able to discern what lies ahead). And I need to get serious about reigning in my behavior, my sinful nature (try to be more fully human again… a better version of me… finish well character wise).  And lastly, I feel like I need to let the artist part of me have a bit more latitude (open up my imagination more so that I’ll be able to grasp what God has planned… catch it when it flies by).

I feel like I need to spend the next few weeks (or perhaps months) leaning in this direction… entering into this more free and available place. This I know for sure.

As for what will fill my time in the year ahead I still have no idea. It may involve stewarding Every Job a Parable (things seem quite positive so far). It may involve writing my next book on the human body (God’s Body Language). It may involve teaching or speaking more. I’m really not sure.

But one thing I am sure of is that this ‘experiencing God everywhere’ vision needs to get out there more. Three years ago I began to realize that one small church in Calgary can’t hold it all… nor can the role of a traditional pastor. So now this step has been taken… and I can hardly wait for what lies ahead.

 

 

 

The Parable of a Sound Engineer

For the past three days I have been recording an audio version of Every Job a Parable at a Calgary studio called The Beach. I love doing new things and this was a blast (although pretty hard on the vocal cords!).

Several times, as I was speaking, I found myself reliving conversations with people and re-experiencing vocational epiphany moments. When I read the bible verses my voice slowed slightly and took on a more reverential tone. When the pace of a story picked up, so did I. When something funny was being relayed, words were laughingly enunciated.

Unlike my times of preaching, I found myself noticing all of these things. It was probably the sound studio atmosphere; totally soundproof with only your voice feeding back to you via your headset. (I told the sound engineer that I wanted to get one of these headsets for the rest of my life… because I sounded more authoritative to myself when I wore them! 😉 ).

During breaks I got to know Ryan; the sound engineer. This guy was a pro. Sitting in a sound proof room next to my sound proof room, facing a wall of speakers, he followed along word for word, catching the smallest of mistakes on my part…  “You said politics instead of policies…  You added an ‘s’ to ‘manage’…  you pronounced that word a little too muddily… etc, etc…” I couldn’t believe how he seemed to catch everything. At times I would go on for pages without error, and then he’d suddenly cut in and say, “We need to do that last sentence again, you missed the word ‘on’….”

As we spoke about the nature of his work I found myself exegeting it as though it were a parable (how could I not?). What made Ryan good at his job was the intense focus with which he was able to listen. He didn’t listen to empathize or be moved by the story. He listened to hear precisely what was being spoken, and that was all. “When I record a band I can isolate and listen to just the kick drum or any other voice or instrument… even as the whole band is playing.”

Hearing him say those words I said, “You could come to our church and teach us how to listen!”  If only we listened to God’s words with a sound engineer’s level of precision. Imagine being that tuned in and focussed on every syllable, every tonal variation, every change of pace.

What was interesting in the book recording process was that Ryan never looked at me. He faced in a perpendicular direction, so as not be distracted by any visuals (I’m guessing)… because ‘all that mattered to him’ was the voice.

Imagine listening with that kind of intensity. Perhaps this is why we close our eyes when we pray.

In the bible God is a God who speaks. Our faith is born out of a very oral tradition. He who made our ears hears. And surely this sound engineer is made in the image of a God who hears in perfection… and records every word.

 

 

 

Birth and Breastfeeding (God’s first words to us)

Reading Psalm 22 this morning I was struck by a couple of phrases in verses 9 and 10;

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (italics mine)

Made me trust in you”… through the biological imperative of breastfeeding. From the moment we first drew near to our mother’s breasts God was making us trust in him. From day one he was teaching us that our sustenance comes from another and that all we need to do is receive it. God ensured that our earliest experience of life set the foundation for our ultimate experience of life; that we are meant to intimately engage with him, to be fed by him, to be held by him, to be loved by him, like a mother loves a newborn child.

I was cast on you”…  The New Living Translation says, “I was thrust into your arms“.  The Message translation says, “When I left the womb you cradled me“. From the moment we first entered this world God was teaching us that he receives us. Though the pushing way of childbirth he thrusts us into his arms. With a final contraction he casts us into his cradling care. God catches us. He cleans us up. He swaddles us. From birth he has been our God.

I find it compelling that the psalm writer understood birth and breastfeeding in this way; as more than just metaphor or analogy. God really did give birth to the entire process. His Spirit really does hold in place every single facet of childbirth and breast feeding.  And every time God thrusts you into a life situation, any time he receives you, or catches you, or feeds you in ways that feel good and right, you can be assured that you’re actually reliving a memory that he implanted in you at birth.

 

 

Top 5 Biologos Conference Moments

5. Watching uber-theologian N. T. Wright and US National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins sing a song on the book of Genesis (that they wrote together… really).

4.  Being asked, “Where can I go to learn how to preach science like this?” after my talk on preaching Supernovas, Neurons and Knees as text. I told the man about my preaching class at Ambrose Seminary in May.

3. Seeing so much green while out walking, and the sun so high in the sky, and palm trees.

2. Realizing last night that the greater risk for me right now would be to ‘not’ heed God’s call to step into the unknown at the end of the month (in terms of the long view).

1. Seeing a Van Gogh that I’ve never seen before (along with a few other works that make me smile).

 

 

 

God’s just in time ‘Yes’ to my decision to leave

This past Sunday it was announced that I would no longer be senior pastor at New Hope Hillside Church. Tough decision. But definitely the right one. For years I’ve been struggling with the call to write, teach and speak more… to get the two-book vision out there more. Early last week it became clear that this decision needed to happen now (or never…  I’m turning 56 this year!). And so Sunday was now.

Here’s how it played out if you’re interested.

As you can imagine, I had a bit of anxiety heading to church that day; an anxiety that was met with three small providential words from God.

The first was an internal whisper that said, “Get over yourself”. It wasn’t a belittling or pejorative word… it was more of a ‘Hey, quit worrying about yourself so much… get over it… life is too short… and you’ve got stuff to do… and this is my church… and my calling for your life… and I’ve got you… so get on with it’ kind of realization. My immediate response was, “You’re right!”. It felt like a weight was lifted.

The second word was spoken right after I got into my car. Stopping at the intersection forty feet from my house, an older woman crossed the street in front of me. “That’s Colleen!” I said to myself (Colleen is the flyer delivery lady whose story opens chapter one of my book on work). I couldn’t believe it was her. It felt like God was pointing me back to my writing, and saying, “Your doing the right thing!”  Talking with Colleen she told me about the stress that she’s facing this week… moving to a seniors home… “so much change and uncertainly”… she talked about her anxiety in leaving all her neighbors and friends. Listening to her speak I couldn’t help but smile.

God’s third word was spoken as I crossed the Bow river on the Crowchild Trail bridge. I know this may sound a bit hokey…  but to me it was perfect. As I crossed the bridge, a holy trinity of Canadian geese flew right over my head. Twenty three years ago, when I was in my second year at seminary, and in a deep depression in response to Edward’s birth, and struggling with a new calling into the ministry, there was a moment where the clouds parted and my soul was lifted up. I was walking in the woods and three Canadian geese flew over my head, so confident of where they were headed. I asked myself, “How do they know where they are going?”  And in the questioning I knew that God knew… and then I knew that he knew the same for me.  And in that moment the depression began to lift and I knew where I had to go and who I needed to be.

Those three things all happened within a hour Sunday morning…. and God quieted my soul through them… and my sermon on forgiveness felt powerful and true… and the announcement felt peaceful and good. And now all is good.

Last night I layed awake for an hour praying, “So what’s next… where do you want me to go… I’ll do anything.”

(Re)sketching a Rembrandt

For the past month I’ve been scratching away at replicating Rembrandt’s etching, Christ at Emmaus (original above). This gospel story has always been deeply meaningful in relation to the vision God has given our church. The thought that Christ is with us – even when we have no idea that he is – is profound, compelling and a bit unsettling.

I started the project with Jesus’ face (figuring if I got that part wrong I wouldn’t have wasted too much time!). The eyes were so hard to get right. There was something about sketching them, and re-sketching them over and over that brought about a sense of intimacy – like he was near.

As I started to work on the hands, I had a moment where it felt as though he was actually passing the bread to me! Drawing his fingers I was drawn in.

Then yesterday, as I started in on the first of the three characters that surround Jesus (excluding the dog!), I had another epiphany moment. As I was drawing the character in the forefront – clearly not one of Jesus’ two disciples, perhaps a keeper of the house/inn they were staying at – I was struck by the fact that, while he was somewhat aware of what was happening in the room, he was still walking away from the scene!

Walking by and having no idea who he was looking at!

And it hit me… that here’s a moment where three people are all in the same room as Jesus, and still one of them appears to have had no idea who he was. Then I realized that this scene is a microcosm of reality in our world… so many people, caught by something that is going on, and yet seemingly not fully aware. This reality broke my heart. All I want is for people to know Jesus for who he really is… for where he really is!

In Rembrandt’s original it is hard to tell where Jesus is actually looking (it appears as though he’s staring into space), but in my attempted re-creation it’s like he’s looking at that man who’s walking away. A Freudian slip of the pen.