How Not to Waste Time: An Incomplete List

Let me know my end, Lord. How many days do I have left? I want to know how brief my time is. (Psalm 39:4 CEB

Stop wasting time. Your earthly life is finite, its end both inevitable and unpredictable. Don’t use your limited time poorly.

I get it.

You’re productive. You don’t waste your time. You’re important and always do important things. Continue reading »

Thorns in the flesh and Pastoring with CFIDS

“Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.”

Saint Paul, who cannot be accused of overabundant elation, in 2 Corinthians 12:7

I love him, but Saint Paul has always come across to me as a bit of a grump. I admit I could be biased. Or maybe I just have read Galatians a few times. I firmly believe he is a saint, but he hardly strikes me as a ray of sunshine walking into each room he entered. While contemporary pop culture idealises, and a bit idolises, the cheery disposition (c.f. Joel Osteen’s permasmile).

Saint Paul was a Holy crank. And for good reason. God, Saint Paul tells us, either gave or allowed Satan to give him a “thorn” “in the flesh.”  Continue reading »

In defence of sorrow, sin, and death

 

You return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.

Genesis 3:19b KJV

AshWednesdayCross

On Wednesday the bishop dipped her hand in the ashes of charred palm fronds, sketched an ancient instrument of execution on my forehead, and told me, gently but firmly, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” The middle of the work week and my boss tells me I’m going to die. In any other line of work, I suppose, that would be ethically troubling. But our deaths are not a threat, they’re a promise: an inevitability, a poignant and inescapable equality we all face.

For many people, this is just the problem with Christianity. Our tradition can seem, and can be, violent and regressive and sombre. Continue reading »

To Whom I Have Gone

10665390_10101665190401881_480715649763161015_nI used to be Mormon, or Latter-day Saint, as we sometimes preferred to call ourselves. And while religion is not entirely quantifiable, I tried to be very Mormon. I had a convert’s zeal instead of pioneer ancestors, and there was plenty of social pressure to overcompensate. I would be rebellious against Mormon cultural norms that were not official (or at least not enforced) doctrine: I’d wear blue dress shirts to church or sport a beard or vote Democrat or be a vegetarian; but when it came to the rules and the expectations, I “knew” Mormonism was “true” and I was trying to “endure to the end”–to use the cultural lingo.

I served as a missionary to San Diego. I accepted and loved my callings (assigned, never requested, church responsibilities). I spent two of the happiest summers of my life working for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints youth conference programme, EFY. I married a fellow EFY counsellor in the Newport Beach Temple. I worked for the seminaries and institutes. I was as all in as I knew how to be. I said my daily prayers. I read the Book of Mormon. I wore my temple garments day and night. I kept the Word of Wisdom (Mormon prohibitions on alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and maybe, but probably, not caffeinated soda pop; I erred on the side of safety). I paid my often impoverished tithing. I obeyed the law of chastity. I went to the temple at least monthly.

In the depths of my devotion, I, like so many Mormons, saw those who left the church as less valiant, perhaps easily offended or perhaps morally weak or perhaps exhausted from righteousness. In Mormonism, there seem to be two colossal failures one can achieve: divorce and apostasy. I had already committed suburbia’s greatest failing–dropping out of high school, so I had to double down and get these right. No matter what. Continue reading »

Get up, take your mat, and go

Reflection prepared for 2016 Annual General Meeting–the theme of which is Allons-y!/Let’s Go!–of the Montréal & Ottawa Conference of the United Church of Canada. Originally presented in both French and English.

9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— 11 ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go…’ 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

(Mark 2:9-12 NRSVA)

Nous n’avons jamais rien vu de pareil! dit la foule autour de Jésus.

We have never seen anything like this.

In the Gospels and in the person of Jesus Christ, our God is a God of miracles, of things that are too difficult for humans to understand. Starting with the earthly ministry of Jesus, the history of our faith, of the church, is a story of a God who loves, and who surprises, God’s people.
Continue reading »