Category Archives: 2010

My Best Christmas Gift

My best Christmas gift came early this morning and left me in tears.  As I was recalling the words I spoke at last night’s Christmas eve service – the idea of Christ with us being not just a past reality but also very much a present reality – and thinking about the power and beauty of the ideas God has planted in our little church here in Calgary, I thought about my own family and about how God has so faithfully held and kept each of them.  Images and stories from last night flooded my mind.  Sarah, my eldest daughter leading the music team with such confidence and capacity, for the first time!  She has the voice of an angel.  Thomas, my oldest boy, brilliant in so many ways, running through the powerpoint presentation preservice with the practicing band, and singing along with them as he stewarded the technology.  He was my co-preacher.  Edward, my youngest, causing the people sitting around him during the service to cry again.  A woman, after church, couldn’t wait to come up and tell me about how passionately Edward sang Silent Night…  our disabled deaf/mute boy.  And Fran, my wife, seated there with him at the end of one of the aisles.  As I was moving through the church sharing my candle light with the people of the congregation, here I meet my own wife who then shares my flame.  I could not do this job – have the courage and strength to stick with this new thing God has given us – without her.  We are so in this together.

Laying in my bed this early this morning, thinking about all of these images and trembling with gratitude I said aloud, “They all know You!”  And I am eternally thankful for this God.

Best of’s for 2010 – hallowed by thy game

This afternoon I’ve been pre-posting Twitter and Facebook best of’s from 2010.  Since this article is no longer available online, I thought I’d repost it here –  it was the most well timed editorial I’ve written – published in the Vancouver Sun three days before Canada won the Men’s Hockey Olympic gold.

[TITLE]  “Hallowed be Thy Game”

This Sunday a sacred ritual will play out.

And the faithful will gather from sea to sea to sea. Congregating on the edges of our couches, eyes glued to our sets, we’ll get caught up in an ecstasy; lost in a glory. And for a few rapturous moments we’ll experience what can only be described as heaven on earth.

With glowing hearts we’ll vicariously enter into a larger story; something bigger than ourselves. We’ll clasp our hands in prayer with visions of victory. If only we believe.   On this most hallowed day – God willing – our Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team will go for gold.  And for a brief magical moment hockey will be holy.

In recent years many have made the connection between spirituality and sport. Some claim that sport is the new religion.  They may not be far off.  Think about it, where will most Canadians experience feelings of transcendence this Sunday, in a third row pew near a stained glass window or in the lower bowl at Canada Hockey Place as Sydney Crosby blasts one home?

Where will we experience vibrant community, at church or with a group of family and friends at our local pub? Where will we celebrate the gift of our amazing human bodies; our astonishing stick handling capacities, our flying down the boards legs and our world class play-making minds? Where will we most effectively learn how to grind it out and persevere, work through our losses or finish well?

Surely this Sunday is much more than just a game. This gold medal match is a microcosm of a broader cultural shift from the institution of church to sport; especially here in Canada.  And the all-too-human traits we’re expressing are, in fact, deeply spiritual. Where else do we express this much faith, hope and worship?

Which makes you wonder, why does this game matter so much?  What’s going on inside of us? What are we searching for?

When I posed the question to Globe and Mail sports writer Roy MacGregor, he said, “Canadians aren’t known for much, even the things we should be known for. Americans say basketball was invented in Springfield (it was, but BY A CANADIAN). They say the telephone was invented there (it wasn’t — but HERE, BY A CANADIAN). We invented hockey and no one disputes this. We embraced it as our national game and we are one of a few countries where only one game matters above all others, hockey. The Olympics gives us the chance to have the world notice that Canadians truly own this game they invented…  Our specific yearnings and desires are simple… hockey, I believe, allows Canadians to show the world the face Canadians wish the world to see in Canada: resilient, tenacious, teamwork[ing], hardworking, determined, filled with heart, ultimately triumphant — and yet humble in victory (After the wild piling on and cheering, of course).”

Amen to that.

What country wouldn’t want this kind of recognition?  Everyone yearns to be known for who they really are. It’s an innate human desire – and it’s now playing out for scores of countries on Vancouver’s global stage. Where does that desire come from?  Why is it there?

When I read MacGregor’s words, they reminded me of God’s foundational calling for humanity, to “be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28).  In the Judeo-Christian worldview, it’s understood that a big part of that “filling” involves the creation of culture.  And a big part of culture is sport.  So when Canadians invent a game like hockey, we’re doing a good godly thing; something unique to our cultural, sociological and geographic context.

When we come up with a cool game like this – conceived in a land of ice – we’re creating something that, in a sense, only we could create.  Hockey is a unique product of Canada’s divine cultural calling (one of its best).

This game is part of what God created us for, a cultural gift that we made, mastered, and now share with the world.  And it’s a gift that gives us life.

We’re made for that sense of awe we feel when Patrick Marleau threads a tape-to-tape pass to an on the fly Joe Thornton, who then softly feeds the puck to Danny Heatley who one-times it into the top corner.  We’re made for that head shaking sense of disbelief we feel after Roberto Luongo miraculously stonewalls yet another opponent. We’re made for that feeling of pride in knowing that these are our boys, playing our game, in front of the world – in front of God.

So when we experience the game this Sunday, perhaps we’re doing what we should be doing on a Sunday; honouring God through the celebration of one of his best cultural creations; the game of hockey (courtesy of those Canadians).

Layered Revelation?

Last night my friend Geoff texted me and jokingly asked what I thought God was saying through the NHL hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames.  I don’t know if it was the movie I was watching at the time (Inception), or not, but my first thought was that the experience of  God’s revelation via the game was multi-layered.  Initially I felt a bit defensive about Geoff’s question thinking, “Well, no… I don’t think that everyone watching the came is drawing all of the theological conclusions I made in chapter 4 of the book relative to the sport – that our communal yearnings for victory and the joy of play are foretastes of the victory and joy we’ll one day know in Christ when heaven meets earth.”  Heck, I don’t even do that much revelatory math while engaging a good game! 

Even though I believe it’s true. 

I think God’s revelation through the game might be known in layers.  For one person the game is merely a relevant experience (fun and entertaining)…  for another its more (understood as God’s good gift to humanity- “Thanks for hockey God!”)… and for another it’s even more (this is a experiential foretaste of the union with Christ in heaven)… and for another even more than that (a numinous, real time, sense of the presence of a God who made all things, who is now holding all things, and would whisper through a hockey game that he’s here, by his Spirit present to life – bringing a joyful distraction to our troubles, providing a joy that points to a greater joy, or perhaps  just loving the creational goodness of the game with us).

Everyone’s watching the same game, but they’re all hearing and seeing something different.  From simple revelance all the way to a profound sense of revelation.   God at a very superficial (but still good) level…  God at a very deep (3rd heaven- level… and all kinds of revelatory layers in between.

This morning I woke up praying about some of the struggles I’ve been processing recently… especially in regard to people not being awake to the powerful truth of God’s active presence in his world.  Why aren’t more people knowing and experiencing you in all things God?  If you could just open their eyes to see.   Open my eyes to see.

A perception challenge with the book

How do you get people to read a book they think they’ve already read?  Book distributors are telling my publisher that they’ve already got tons of titles doing what The Day Metallica Came to Church does (so why carry ours?).  But they don’t really.  They have tons of books engaging culture as a source of illustration for Christian truth, but in terms of taking that next step and seeing culture as real time revelation, they don’t have that many. Yes there are a few titles that expound upon the ‘all truth is God’s truth’ thesis, but (and I may be ignorant or naive here) there are none that I know of that take the next step and speak of how truth in creation speaks to truth in the bible (and vice versa), and how that conversation plays out, and how this co-illumining dialogue then busts the door wide open in terms of evoking a sense of the real time presence, power and glory of God. 

 This is the big idea in The Day Metallica Came to Church. 

And it seems that pre-concieved notions are so strong that it remains veiled and  hard to see.  Maybe it’s just a time thing… or perhaps the book wasn’t clear enough on this… I don’t know.  But if you have any ideas on how to bridge this gap let me know.  I am so convinced that this way of knowing and experiencing God needs to get out there.

One of those people who bring joy to life

She’s gonna kill me for writing this, but this morning, while reading the obituary of 83 year old Patricia Everett, I read a husband’s words that could have been mine.  “Every so often someone comes along who is in total harmony with life.  Effortlessly they bring a sense of happiness to everyone they meet.  They are not overly aware of this special quality and so they strive to perfect themselves and to achieve as the rest of us do.  But they have long since reached a goal that eludes most of us because they contribute so much to the joy of living.”  (Globe and Mail, Dec 8th, 2010, Lives Lived)

out of control

I just got a call from one of Edward’s careworkers saying that he was left by himself, sitting on a bench, in front of a building where he was to begin a new volunteer job.  Left alone.  Not handed over to another person.  Edward, with no language skills – a boy who cannot cross the street safely on his own – left by himself on the other end of town.  If I think about it too much I’ll lose it.  All those what if scenarios.   Thank goodness his caregiver had arrived 25 minutes early and, from a distance, saw the cabby leave. 

This morning I was going to write about how how hard it is for me to take a day off and turn off all of my devices for 24 hrs.  Yesterday I realized that the problem has nothing to do with workload, its really about my hyper controlling tendencies.  I am a freak at times.  Most of the time. 

But I’m supposed to be when it comes to my kids right?  To a disabled boy especially right?  Talking to the people at Access Calgary (transit coordinator for those with disabilities) I spoke of a time when Edward had a brush with death with a school bus when he was much younger.  It was winter and he and his siblings were waiting on the sidewalk across the street from our house.  As the bus pulled up I could see beneath it, that Edward has slipped on the sidewalk and appeared to be sliding underneath the slowing bus.  I ran out of my door screaming for the driver to stop.  She did, and Eddy’s toque clad head was snuggly stuck between the bottom metal edge of the bus and the curb.  With a gentle tug I pulled him out.  And he was fine.

So I’m supposed to be a control freak right?  I’m not so sure.  Of course I need to be vigilant.  It’s my calling as a dad.  But I need to also trust that God is even more vigilant, getting care workers to their jobs early some days, filling a city with people who have goodness in their hearts and would surely have helped a disabled boy if they saw him lost in some city parking lot in the middle of winter; a God who stops big yellow school buses just in the nick of time.

Standup comedy at the CO-OP

Driving through the Co-op parking lot this aft I bumped into Barry, struggling through the snow and ice with his grocery-filled walker.  We usually say hi to each other when we pass on the street.  But this time he looked like he needed some help.  “Need a ride home Barry?”  I asked.  (He lives a block further away from the food store that I drove to than I do…)  He said he didn’t.  So we just stood there and talked for a while.  “So what exactly is it that you have Barry,  Cerebral Palsy?”   I figured as much but wasn’t sure.  “Yeah, how did you know?” he excitedly replied.  Then with a more serious look on his face he leaned in and said, “I actually have two diseases… Cerebral Palsy and a sick sense of humour.” 

I howled.  He then went on to regale me with 10 minutes of stand-up.  Joke after joke after joke (half of them, half decent).   I told him he should do Yuk-Yuks some time.  Then, in a more genuinely seriously tone he said, “I’m not good enough.” 

“But that’s OK.  I can still tell jokes to my friends.  What do you think is better?  I could walk down this street with a big frown on my face every day or I could smile.” 

And then off he went.  He should be getting home just about now.

How we’re made for mountain top experiences

Reading an article about back country climber Greg Hill’s attempt to climb 2,000,000 vertical feet in one year made me to wonder about that feeling climbers feel at the top of a mountain.  Alongside the sense of accomplishment, majesty, solitude  and glory, you always hear words that talk about feeling small and insignificant.  Standing on the top of the world, looking out over countless snow capped peaks, its hard not to imagine the feeling.  But why is it a good feeling?  Maybe it’s another one of those things God builds into human beings.  If we’re meant to experience and one day be fully present to an omni-everthing God, then perhaps it should be no surprise that we feel most at home in places that dwarf us.