Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Music Highlights

As you all know music is one of my great passions. 2009 offered up a plethora of awesome musical experiences and here are a few - some you can share and some were of the "you had to be there" variety.

In the "live - you had to be there" category, I have to place worship at Balgonie Baptist Church (BBC) in the #1 spot. We are blessed with an over abundance of talented people and I can honestly say that not a month goes by without my being awed on at least one Sunday morning by what our worship people offer up. My highlights this year were experiencing a new level of musical expression develop between Luke Ashton and Jared Schroeder. On at least two occasions they created near "pin-drop" moments with mesmerizing offerings. We also had the blessing of Marina Dovell joining our regular soloists - Brenda Kramer, Denise Lindenbach and Daphne Morris by providing several wonderful special music numbers And I was able to get involved too, as a percussionist - including my first live hand drum performances using an excellent djembe the Schroeders picked up for a song during their visit to Jamaica.

All of our worship leaders & musicians did wonderfully all year. Our Christmas cantata - directed by Denise Lindenbach - was great and we had everyone from kids on up offer us musical worship, encouragement and joy in 2009. 2010 is only going to be better I am sure!

Concert-wise we backed off a bit this year, despite being tempted by Aerosmith (who didn't make it to Regina ultimately because of Steven Tyler's antics and misfortunes) and ZZ Top (whom I love, but who I also don't trust live after the really poor show we saw them do in the 80's). Chantal Kreviazuk was very good, but we really went to see Dala who were beyond superb as they opened for her. Unfortunately they were allotted a short amount of time and we still have not seen them with a band - so we have yet to hear live what the CD's promise so tantalizingly - maybe in 2010.

So here is my top new music choices for 2009 in no particular order:

The North Mississippi Allstars - "Do It Like We Used To Do" (2009) - double live CD & DVD combo - Songs of the South Records - SOTS-009. I stumbled across these boys through following John Hiatt's work. Jim Dickinson produced John's last two CDs. Jim is the father of Luther (guitars) & Cody (drums) who along with Chris Chew (bass) make up the core of this band. These guys are the most exciting southern/blues/rock players I've heard in ages! "Do It Like We Used To Do" is an excellent way to get to know them, especially the loose and quirky documentary on the DVD that chronicles the musical lives and growth of Luther & Cody. The best song that encapsulates what these boys do is "Po Black Maddie/Skinny Woman" a 12+ minute marathon in which they cover musical styles that range from The Fabulous Thunderbirds to Stevie Ray Vaughan to The Allman Brothers to Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you like any of those folks try the Allstars. You'll LOVE 'em! But forget HMV - they are totally clueless - so order it online from

Dala - "Everybody is Somebody" (2009) - Campus Music/Lenz Entertainment - 0001. I am really running out of superlatives for both the songwriting abilities of Sheila Carabine & Amanda Walther and their musical talent as players & singers. This is their fourth CD of original music (they also participated in a charity Neil Young tribute CD called "Borrowed Tunes II"). This is their strongest showing yet - and that's saying something. I recently tweaked my system to coax better sound from it and this CD is now in my "let me play something to impress you" list. Try it and again, don't take your $ to HMV - you'll only encourage 'em. Google 'Dala girls' instead and follow the links or go to the ever-reliable

Ian Hunter - "Man Overboard" (2009) - New West Records - NW6167. Ian Hunter made his bones as the permanently "hidden behind huge sunglasses" frontman for the British R&B-influenced glam-rock group Mott the Hoople. When no less than David Bowie wrote "All the Young Dudes" for them in 1972 (I was 12! Sheesh!) they climbed to the top of the charts and got some attention on this side of the Atlantic as well. Despite their fame coming from a song penned by someone outside of the band, they developed a catalog of strong tunes - the majority of which were written by Hunter. Hunter has continued his career since, regularly putting out albums but staying out of the mainstream (where I like to be listening). He is to my mind as strong a songwriter as Warren Zevon, John Hiatt, Randy Newman, Mark Knopfler or Bruce Springsteen. Lyrically, "Man Overboard" is filled with Hunter's trademark quirkiness, humor & deft emotional truth. Musically, it has some of the best hooks I've heard all year - listen to "River of Tears", "Flowers" or "Arms and Legs". If you don't have any Hunter on your CD shelf this is a great one to start with.

Speaking of Mark Knopfler he released "Get Lucky" and I bought the "Deluxe Edition" - Vertigo Records/Universal Music - 0252708671 which contains a DVD with several musical portions and a very interesting (if you are an electronics gear nerd like I am) tour of British Grove Studios which Mark designed and built with help from his long-time American producer Chuck Ainlay. I was fascinated by the details of the studio (as an example Mark has the 24 channel recording/mixing console that Paul McCartney used to record "Band on the Run"). It's not a name-dropping, self-congratulatory video by any means - in fact Mark and Chuck are so laid back it's a wonder they ever get anything done - but it's a nice addition and a real "peak behind the scenes". One word of caution though - my copy was incorrectly formatted so it wouldn't play in my Sony DVD players. I had a devil of a time getting customer support from Universal but eventually they sent me a replacement so if you order it you should get one that works. If not let me know - I saved the contact info - just in case.

Now to the music - Mark is mining his Celtic side again (Yay!) which shows strongly on "Border Reiver" & "Piper to the End". "Cleaning My Gun" is a solid bluesy number and the rest fall neatly into Mark's growing catalog. While this CD doesn't quite measure up to the high water mark of 2004's "Shangri-La" it is, never the less, a very strong collection, superbly recorded and wonderfully played by Mark's incredible band - comprised of Guy Fletcher, Danny Cummings, Richard Bennett, Matt Rollings, John McCusker & Glenn Worf - who may be the best collection of players anywhere, anyway, anytime! I say "get it" and you might "Get Lucky", too!

I just can't stop listening to Metric - "Fantasies" (2009) - Metric Productions Inc. / Last Gang Records - Q2 00871. From the funky and overblown riff in "Stadium Love" to the addictive hook and confident swagger of "Gimme Sympathy" to the hypnotic, sinewy rhythm of "Twilight Galaxy" to the raw power and propulsion in "Satellite Mind" all hanging deliciously on Emily Haines' luxurious vocals this CD has legs that won't quit! While I have to note a minor language warning, I can say that the words chosen aren't gratuitous or flagrantly used. Add to the fact that this band is Canadian and world class to boot and how can you go wrong? Only if you buy it from HMV! So don't! Remember - make a big enough order on and the shipping is free.

When Johnny Cash gave his daughter Rosanne the list of 11 songs that appear on her new CD - Rosanne Cash - "The List" - Manhattan Records - 509996 96576 2 7 - he wasn't suggesting she record them - only that she need to know them to gain, as Rosanne said later in an interview, "my musical education". Her education seems to have attained the highest level imaginable with this collection of superb songs made even more wonderful by Cash's stunning performance and the production and arrangements provided by her new husband John Leventhal. As previously with ex-husband Rodney Crowell, Rosanne seems to do her best work with the one or ones she loves around her. My favs on this disc are her versions of "500 Miles", "The Long Black Veil", "Miss the Mississippi and You" & "Girl From the North Country". You might have different ones, but that's OK because every single song on this disc is worthy of loving because they were passed from father to daughter in love and from daughter to us in that same spirit.

Christmas allowed me the means and excuse to obtain "The Beatles" - The Stereo Box Set (2009) - EMI. All I can say is WOW!!. 220+ songs! The vast majority of them written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney and recorded in just 7 short years between 1963 and 1969. When you are faced with the sheer volume and brilliant quality of their songwriting output all at once it is truly amazing. The set is lovingly remastered into stereo when that was the best choice although some tunes are presented in mono. The individual CDs are packaged with the original artwork and liner notes plus included productions notes - often from fifth Beatle, producer George Martin. Each CD contains a mini documentary about the making of each album, filled with studio out takes and comments from John, Paul, George, Ringo & Martin. The sound is excellent and the inclusion of all of the singles including German renditions of - "She Loves You" & "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" are an absolute treat! I got mine on sale at Costco which has it at the lowest price I've seen anywhere. After the $25 'instant rebate' they have on it currently each CD will cost you less than $10 per disc - less than downloading. If you are a pop/rock music fan of any level you owe it to yourself to get this into your collection.

As you have no doubt noticed, I'm no fan of HMV. It's not just them - I'm down on all corporate record stores as of 2009. I do urge you to support independent shops and specialty stores, but for the most part the chain stores have lost it badly and HMV is only a few years (if not months) away from serious financial trouble. How do I know? Look at their product mix. They have added books, games and who knows what else. At the end of days with Kelly's Stereo Mart/ House of Stein they were selling gas barbecues! These are classic signs of a retailer who has lost their clientele and their corporate direction. My advice? Get really familiar with shopping for your music online. Find websites or publications that can help you find the music you want to listen to - radio is still some help here. Support LIVE music and musicians by attending concerts and buying their CDs - especially if they are marketing directly. And keep listening! There is GREAT music out there once you get past the corporate dreck being foisted on us.

Have a Happy 2010 and ROCK ON!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Can We (Should We) Come?

The iMonk has a thought-provoking post up today. Read it, please. I'll wait.


Now - I'm pretty comfortable in church these days. I should be, it's my workplace. But I'm always going to be comfortable in church and in church community - except when stuff happens that excludes or hurts people. And it does happen - all too often.

I think it all has to do with our expectations and forcing others to accept those expectations as rules of conduct rather than seeking community and grace as we learn about each other. What I mean is if I have a certain expectation of what kind of behavior is acceptable, or what king of person is acceptable in our worship services and in our community then I set up barriers that hurt and separate.

The examples the iMonk talks about in his post are probably pretty familiar ones - or at least they have been referenced in pop culture enough that most of us recognize them. What can be ironic is when those same unfair prejudices get turned inward. I know of a pastor's wife who has young children. She keeps them in the service because the church they serve doesn't have a nursery and also because no one complains - even if the kids can be a bit noisy and disruptive sometimes. But this summer a supposed "christian" couple who visited the church chastised her for how her children "spoiled" their worship experience.

How hard must we (I) work to shed this "welcoming for some, but not for all" characterization of the Christian church? How much will it take for us to reach out across these barriers to those who are curious, or searching or feeling rejected? A lot more than this little blog I'm guessing - but it's a start.

The truth is that everyone who is seriously dealing with spiritual issues and their relationship with God will come under the feeling of conviction about their lifestyle and personal choices. I don't need to add to that burden. Note - it's not inappropriate guilt I'm talking about here, it's about those moments when each of us truly realize we are wrong on some attitude or behavior. That is always going to be part of seeking truth and finding it. God is truth - and sometimes the truth hurts. But in that process, no one needs the added stress of being scrutinized and judged unfairly.

The Christian church has a poor track record in this area I admit. But not every church has this problem. Indeed, most churches have members with much more humility, grace and care than you might guess. Surprise! Some of us have been listening and contemplating how Jesus treats people. And it's rubbing off.

Christmas is one of those times when lots of folks will go to a church when normally they wouldn't. The Nativity story is compelling, or maybe it's just that your niece is in the church play. Whatever the reason, you should come. And maybe you should give the place - and more importantly the people there - a chance to show what love can do.

I find it funny that God invented the "taste test". And I find it very humbling that he lets me be one of the folks manning the free samples booth.

This year, if you try one of our "free samples" why not come back for more. They're all free samples.

Of course you can and should come. It would be our honor to be with you, share with you and serve you.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

I've blogged about my concerns regarding climate change before. Now a recent incident involving the Climate Research Unit located at the University of East Anglia has revealed to the world that the data and methodology used by that institution to create reports intended inform policymakers was corrupt, spurious and deeply flawed - as were the conclusions in those reports.

I was tipped to this by John Gormely on his radio show today where he was interviewing Kate McMillan, author of the weblog "Small Dead Animals". Kate has done a superb job of gathering the most useful links in this emerging story under the ongoing title - "The Sound of All Hell Breaking Loose". If you care at all about the Earth and our economic and political future you need to read up on this - and then remember it at the next election, and the one after that, and the one after that.

The real tragedy in all of this will be the huge damage done to the scientific community in general. If it results in a "cry wolf" response from the public world-wide (as I suspect it will) then I can safely predict humanity will fall victim to a true catastrophe soon - even though we will likely be warned about it. We just won't believe the messenger.

The image linked to this post is not the property of the author and is used without permission with purely illustrative intent and with no intent to defraud or injure the original owner.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Fat Shall Never Lead Us

This article caused my own personal, deeply painful and utterly mind-numbing angst to rise up in yet another attempt to strangle my spirit.

Here's the 'skinny' on how this affects me. I am 'morbidly obese'. I'm somewhere around 120 lbs overweight. I have a reason. I'm hypothyroid. I have lost around 25 lbs in 2009 and I'm working on losing more, but it is exceptionally difficult for me (check out symptom # 3). And in the mean time I keep running into this attitude in the 'christian culture' - "Obesity is a spiritual/moral issue and evidence of (choose one or more):

1. Lack of Faith
2. Lack of Moral Consistency
3. Evidence of Sin (particularly 'Gluttony')
4. Evidence of a Lack of Qualification for Spiritual Leadership

On the opposite side of this are the common 'christian' axioms - "God Loves You Just as You Are"; "God Uses People Who Don't Measure Up by Worldly Standards"; "It's Not About Who You Are But Where Your Faith Lies"; "Don't Judge" and so on.

This drives me crazy!

Oh, it hurts, too.

I was at a Willow Creek Leadership Summit around 2000 and Bill Hybels was interviewing Chuck Colson. At the time Chuck was getting on in years and the conversation turned to personal health. Chuck mentioned a new piece of exercise hardware he had just purchased and the two of them were sharing a moment when their guards came down and one of them said something to the effect that you couldn't really be an effective Christian leader if you were overweight. Suddenly Hybel's brain cut in and he realized that they had crossed a line. They backtracked but the damage was done for me. From that moment on, I noticed that everyone on the platform at Willow Creek (and at the church in Calgary where we were watching the satellite feed) were all skinny, good-looking folks. I have nothing against skinny, good-looking folks - but where was I represented in that conference as a Christian leader?

As if to add insult to injury, at that time the only really well-known North American Christian leader of ample proportions was Jerry Falwell. You can insert your own cynical comment here. And if you look around at the lineup on any Christian summit/conference/shindig poster all you will see is skinny, good looking guys and gals. If you go to the websites of any major evangelical, protestant church much more often than not the senior pastor will be a well-proportioned white guy.

Now I freely admit there is a good point about doing what we can to live healthy and be fit. It's a good thing. Our bodies are gifts. We should care for them. And I freely admit that I abused my body in my life. But the actual shape I'm in shouldn't be used as a measure of my love and commitment to Christ or as a measure of my fitness to serve Him.

I love Christ.

I've answered His call on my life (after I developed hypothyroidism). I've spent nearly 15 years really working this out in my life. And I believe in a Kingdom that welcomes in the marginalized and sinful. But we still keep on following human biases in how we perceive each other. And lately, it's felt like the next thing that going to move from immoral to illegal is obesity.

And I'm a fat deer caught in the headlights of opinion and judgment.

So for the time being I console myself with the thought that all of the disciples couldn't have been perfect physical specimens. I imagine that at least one of them - who up until he met Jesus was spending most of his time collecting money in a booth others came to, was making a way above average income and probably enjoyed a richer diet than the rest - looked like me.

What would it do to your ideas about Christianity if the first Gospel was written by a fat guy?

Hey Saint Matthew! Word Brother!

(Not so much)
(this morning. Sorry.)

Pro Deo et Veritate

This is the motto of my school - Taylor Seminary. It means "For God and Truth". I am an unashamed disciple of Jesus Christ. I want to be obedient to God my Father through the power of The Holy Spirit living in me as the mark of Jesus Christ my Savior, Redeemer and Friend - who is the Lord of my life. I am a sinner - saved by grace. And I want everyone to know Jesus as I do - even better than I do.


I believe it is difficult - if not nearly impossible - for others to believe in the One I testify about unless my witness is true.

There is a video making the rounds on facebook and other places. It tells a powerful story of a confrontation of faith between a student and a professor in a major American university. It's a great story, but it has problems.

Now I'm not trying to point fingers here - and please forgive me if it seems so - but so many of my friends are passing this around that I can't keep up with it and I have concerns. I wrote to one friend and we discussed it privately but now I want to open it up to others. So, here's the link to the video in question, just in case you haven't seen it -

"This Should Keep Us All Thinking"

And here is my response to it.

Dearest Friends,

I want to start by saying that I love you as Christian brothers and sisters and I never want to do anything to dampen your spirit or your passion for Christ and your desire to be His disciples and witnesses. I really enjoy following how you are living this out and facebook is a great way to do this.

I really liked the story about the student & the professor that I've seen circulating on facebook - it's a great story, but I have one problem with it. It's not verifiable, and it probably isn't really true. If you follow this link -

Truth or Fiction - Athiest USC Prof Encounters God Through a Piece of Chalk

You can read it for yourself.

Like you, I want people to know Jesus, to think about Him, to consider Him and to be compelled by love to get to know Him, but Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" and I think if we are going to witness to Him our witness should always be the truth. I think this is important, because if someone who doesn't trust Jesus or who has big doubts about Jesus and Christians sees that video and then checks it out they might decide that Christians lie, and that Jesus is a lie, too.

Anyway, I'd be really interested in your take on this, and your ideas about how videos like this one could be made that come from real, true and verifiable stories. I know that God is doing things every day just like what this video describes so I don't think we need to make up stories. We need to find and share the true ones.

Anyway, I know you didn't make up this story - but if you send it to someone or post it on your home page you are endorsing it and vouching for its truth, so you might want to think carefully about doing that with this or any other story you can't fully verify. I think the wise thing is to either use your own story, or one that you absolutely know is true and can testify wholeheartedly to.

Now in the spirit of that suggestion I'll share a true story of healing I witnessed two weeks ago. I don't have the permission of the person involved, so I'll refrain from using his name here but you can email or text me and I'll give it to you privately.

Susie and I attended the NAB Pastors and Spouses' Conference in Banff this November as we do almost every year. One of the themes that emerged was "healing". On Sunday morining, November 8th, we were in worship, sharing prayer requests and praise items with one another. One of our leaders, whom we have gotten to know over the years, told us about how arthritis had robbed him of the joy of raising his hands in worship. He could only raise them as far as his shoulders, and he had suffered this restriction for 10 years. Then he raised his arms over his head and made the "touchdown" sign, actually touching his biceps to his ears. He was weeping with joy. He had been healed the previous evening during prayer.

That's the truth of what Jesus can do - how He can heal, set people free and answer prayer.

Stay in His Love and Will, and keep witnessing.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Eye Has It

My friend Amanda Gibson Buhler has an artistic eye which she puts to excellent use through the viewfinder of her digital camera. Check out her new homepage with plenty of excellent examples.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pretty Woman

This is my wonderful wife, Susie, several hundred feet in the air on the side of Sulfur Mountain in Banff as we ascended to the peak in one of the cozy gondolas. This is most definitely not Susie's preferred from of travel. Heights, roller coasters, Ferris wheels, gravity drops, even some merry-go-rounds are off limits. I, on the other hand, am a g-force junkie (or used to be). I now content myself with pulling mild g's in our Chevy.

But this was a great day. And Susie embraced the moment. And I love her for that (among so many other reasons). It's now officially my favorite picture of her. And that smile - I've been seeing that smile for over 30 years.

Yes. I'm lucky. Very, very lucky.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Autumnal Dance

I have always loved Autumn best.

One friend/mentor/teacher summed it up perfectly saying, "It's that delicious feeling of impending doom."

Northerners get it. I lived in Northern Alberta. Pretty way north. Autumn, like spring, was nearly - but not quite - instant. Palpable and ephemeral. As soon as the first hard frost happened Mom & Dad would plan our annual "leaf drive". It was an afternoon excursion into the hills and valleys (coolies) of the Peace Country in northern Alberta. A constantly undulating low-level flight that shifted from golden-gray harvested fields to riotously glowing stands of poplar, birch, willow and aspen shot through with the eternal green of conifers grown black-green with summer sun.

The trees either stood in tight copses on hills and along windbreaks or else filled the steep-sided ravines and coolies. The gravel roads we traveled would pitch and weave through this landscape as we "ooed" and "ahhed" when each new splash of defiant color hove into view. The Sun, now becoming perpetually low in the sky, would dazzle our eyes and make them water through our gleeful grins. Moments of peace, joy, unity and love in our family now flash frozen in my memory and gently cooled by the passage of time.

No music accompanied these trips - "AM radio only, please" in my parent's frugal cars. Just the soundtrack of gravel crunching and rapping under our car and our endless exclamations and comments.

"Oh, look there!"

"Nice reds!"

"It's a sea of gold."

We will go out for our new "leaf drive" soon. Our "version 1.2" of this family tradition incorporated music. I'd usually try to choose evocative favorites. We'd still comment - like we did on those "Christmas Light" drives, too. "Leaf drives" are better. We'd bask in awe of the handiwork of God, reminded of the gentle, powerful, creative and wise hand that shapes everything we experience. Even the agnostic and the atheist must respond with some sense of wonder, I suspect, when faced with such naked beauty and divine radiance.

This year will be different though, perhaps it's now "version 1.3". No children in the backseat. No warm family babble before, during or after. Like the leaves drifting from the trees, our children are dancing ever farther from our reach.

The delicious feeling of impending doom rises.

I will program some music for our drive though. Some companions are constant. Surely some Jack Semple from his wonderful instrumental album "Qu'Appelle" - one place we will surely drive to and through.

New Dala will be played from their summer 2009 release "Everyone Is Someone". Their fourth original CD and my second acquisition - better than the last one, which was better than most anything else I've heard in a very long time.

I'll choose some Mark Knopfler from his wide catalog and especially his new release "Get Lucky".

And there will be new and old favorites too. Some Joshua Radin, some Willie Nile, some Jerry Proppe, some Dixie Chicks, some Ian Hunter, some Emmylou Harris, some Robert Plant with Alison Krauss, some Jon Bauer, a smidgen of Tinted Windows and some John Fogerty.

And we'll dance the Autumnal Dance in a brand-new old-fashioned way.

Why don't you make your own playlist and join us? Can't you feel it rising - that feeling? Don't you want to dance too?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No Change to Climate Change Strategy

"When I use a word I choose it to mean exactly what I want it to." - the hookah smoking Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland

About two years ago the term 'global warming' was struck from the environmentalists' lexicon. The reality was that it has ceased to be a useful pseudo-scientific/political term and actually had become a liability because evidence was already mounting that 'warming' wasn't what was happening. Instead those in charge of shaping the message began employing the term "climate change".


Thankfully, a few scientists had staunchly adhered to the scientific principle of rigorous observation as a means to develop a theory regarding what was actually taking place. They had remembered that science is never complete or finished with a subject - it is always seeking a deeper understanding and to create a more accurate model. And what these scientists were discovering was coming into direct conflict with the "global warming" descriptor so the name was changed to try to duck the inevitable questions that their findings would raise.

I initially became aware of these changes through a number of articles that were placed in inconspicuous locations in newspapers and magazines by editorial choice and a then by more articles which could not be so easily relegated to the lower left corner of page 6. In particular it was the excellent journalism of Lorne Gunter that brought together for me several of the disparate threads of this emerging story and began to give it a fuller shape and treatment. Beginning in 2008 he wrote a number of articles including the four linked here (one; two; three; four). Read them. Go ahead. I've got time - even if you want to read the comments - it's cool. I'll be here when you get back. The only thing you have to lose is your media-induced ignorance about this subject.

Well, now that you're semi-up-to-speed let me preface the next portion of this blog by saying that I'm an ecologist, too. I recycle - very thoroughly. My wife and I have been purchasing energy efficient appliances and making upgrades to our homes to reduce our use of energy since our first home almost 25 years ago. I am a supporter of efficient and appropriate use of our wealth and resources and I take personal responsibility for the part of creation I am able to influence and steward. That being said, I also do not support public policy and the spending of our tax dollars on initiatives that are useless.

And that is where we are today. It is part of the obvious passion Mr. Gunter has for the truth that he has published his latest article on climate issues now - when nationally and internationally we are engaged in the process of discussing and shaping policy to address these challenges. As you will undoubtedly know the leaders of the industrialized world are currently meeting to discuss a new initiative to replace the ill-conceived, poorly-implemented and ultimately failed Kyoto Accord. But the rhetoric, the science and most importantly, the political perspective at the discussion table has not changed to properly recognize and deal with the truth.

I know the pollsters will say that a majority of North Americans are concerned about the climate and ecology of the Earth, but the polls that have been taken have been constructed to create data that seems to support the view that the majority of people believe the scientists and their reigning theory. This, I believe is far from the truth.

As an example - if someone who believes wholeheartedly that 'global warming' is the greatest threat we face and that the theory that it is largely (if not entirely) the fault of human activity, especially free-market industrialism and life-style - and someone like myself, who does not believe such things, were both asked-

"How concerned are you with climate-based issues?",

-we would both answer that we are and rate our concern at the top of whatever scale we were given by the pollster. But our real underlying concerns and our convictions as to what solutions might be the best to employ would likely be radically different in important ways.

Still, the politicians would see the results of such a poll and conclude that this issue must be addressed and that the advice they have been receiving to attack CO2 emissions must still be a valid strategy to employ. The media, the scientific community, politicians and business have all aligned themselves along this policy vector because they all will benefit in some way through pursuing it. Largely, it will ensure political power and control for the politicians while it will ensure economic power and control for everyone else.

Frighteningly, it is becoming more and more evident that the strategies and initiatives we have been pursuing will NOT result in the Earth's climate becoming a New Age 'Garden of Eden' as so many advertisements for consumer products promise. This is not to say that every initiative and policy has been so flawed that no good at all has come of them. Some good has been done. Certainly public awareness of ecological issues is much more prevalent than over three decades ago when I was in high school. But awareness is not the same as true and useful knowledge - and is almost useless (maybe even dangerous) without it.

What shocks me the most is how the media, the scientific community and the political parties have either ignored or willfully limited free and open debate on these issues. If we all were generally appalled but the discovery that there were no "WMDs" in Iraq to truly give impetus to the US-led invasion of that country, how much more should we be appalled to learn that scientists have known for years that their climate prediction models were not working and that new empirical data was invalidating their predictions of our climate future? How appalled should we be when we realize that billions of tax dollars have been already spent and are yet committed to policies shaped by this erroneous information? How appalled should we be that business, the media and academic institutions have been willing to literally sell us all a "bill of goods" for their own benefit - ignoring the truth and the mounting evidence?

I don't want to be in opposition to those who claim to be concerned about global climate issues, but the leaders of the "global warming" - now the politically correct "climate change" - movement used fascist strategies to vilify and censure those who were as equally concerned for the planet and its future but who questioned the science and its conclusions. I say "fascist" not for its shock value but because it most accurately describes what has obviously been at the heart of this debate - a consuming desire for control, even if motivated by noble intentions. At the heart of all fascism is the desire to control and limit freedom and choice. And the first casualty in the pursuit of that desire is always the truth.

Not once in the last decade have I, or thousands and thousands of others like me, said, "There is no problem". What we have said is, "The problem is NOT as you describe it to be." But our overtures to discuss this and find common ground were drown out beneath the angry rhetoric that labeled those with doubts as "heretics", "immoral" and "evil". We should all remember that the weakness of any position or argument can easily be measured by how low those who support it must stoop to defend it.

Today - this very day - your political representatives are engaged in negotiations that will decide how billions of our tax dollars will be allocated now, and in the future, to deal with global climate issues. I am not here calling for those dollars to not be spent. I am calling for them to be spent wisely and well!

You can have an influence in this issue by writing letters and sending then to your MP, MLA, the Premier of your Province, the Prime Minister, the Leaders of the political parties or whoever your political representatives might be - and to international representatives as well. Ask them to answer - or even if they are aware of - the questions raised by people like Lorne Gunter and others who are speaking out on this topic. Demonstrate that you ARE concerned, but that you no longer want a public opinion polling company with a built-in political agenda to do your talking for you. And keep reading, keep learning and stay engaged.

It's our planet.

This issue affects us all.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sweet Pea & Shadoe - 1994-2009

This is my facebook tribute to our family pets.

I can't believe it but I'm still crying.

Vaya con Dios to our lovable little furballs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This Summer Has Been a Bummer..............But..........


July 5 - Our good friend Perry dies unexpectedly - shock, mourning, sadness & pain.

August 25 - Friends Colin & his daughter, Rachel, die in a motoring collision. Lizyanet, wife and mother, survives - more shock, mourning, sadness & pain.

In between this Susie must face unpleasantness in her workplace and make a very difficult decision that is still causing her stress.

My initiation into working for our Association can be best described as jumping right into the deep end, fully clothed, with about $637.25 in quarters in my pockets. Most folks are encouraging me by standing close to the edge and yelling, "Swim Harder!". Thanks!?!

Our cats continue to slowly deteriorate - health-wise.

Our TV hasn't worked in 8 weeks (this might be a good thing or a bad thing - we're not sure).

Don't even get me started about the weather or the Riders.


We were at, and I officiated, 3 weddings since May - and each one was special and memorable. And we get to go to one in October and just enjoy it.

Our friends said "goodbye" to his mother and it was time and she is in paradise so no deep loss there - just the bitter-sweetness of separation and the confidence that reunion is inevitable.

We saw all of our nieces - such a special gift. And my sister made me cookies for my birthday - and they were killer good! Everybody I shared them with said so, too!

Some of our best friends gave me the best musical birthday gift I've ever had in 49 years - a glorious, full-voice, three-part-harmony, spontaneous rendition of "Happy Birthday" in the middle of the "Elephant & Castle" restaurant in the Delta Hotel in Winnipeg.

Susie and I traveled over 6000 Km with absolutely NO problems whatsoever - and this new Impala has to be the best screwed-together GM product we've ever owned. Could there be hope for the mighty (but currently wobbly) General yet?

Three nights and two glorious days in Jasper including a great visit with an old friend.

And right now I'm up to my armpits in our annual VBS with about 60 kids and the BEST volunteers a church could hope for or a pastor could enjoy working with.


Life is never purely one thing or another. It is always this blend of pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, loss and gain, defeat and victory, confusion and clarity.

But for us there is always much, much more hope than doubt because again and again and again Jesus proves His love and constancy.

And part of the hope we have and enjoy is knowing the truth that anybody can discover this.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Edmonton man, daughter, 11, killed in crash near Fargo, N. D.

Edmonton man, daughter, 11, killed in crash near Fargo, N. D.

Shared via AddThis

We know this family. They are Christians. Please pray for the mother who survived, their extended family and friends. This is shocking and tragic news. We will really need grace from God to come to terms with it.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On the Passing of a Friend

Reverend Perry Chernesky, M.Div. - July 20, 1966 - July 5, 2009

I met Perry in 1998 at Edmonton Baptist Seminary. We were seeking God and answering His call on our lives.

We hit it off right away.

In my life that hasn't happened often - I can count the guys I've really connected with on one hand - but I'm grateful for each one.

What can I say about my friend? He was funny. I liked and admired that. He laughed at my jokes, too. I loved that. He was smart. I treasured that. He pushed me to be better. I needed that. He was a righteous dude! I was always impressed with that. He was a true believer. I was encouraged by that. He was flawed and he knew it. I was humbled by that. He was loving and generous. I was blessed by that. He was my friend. I was enriched by that.

I've borrowed Bruce Springsteen's song about the loss of his friend to pay tribute to the memory of mine. I apologize Bruce, if this breaks some rules or crosses some lines, but you wrote truth in this song - at least a little bit. We're all made "one of a kind" by God. But the ones we remember are the ones who understand that truth and dedicate their lives to being that unique individual they were created to be. Too many of us settle for so much less.

What do I do now that my friend has gone and I must remain? I'll remember.

Vaya con Dios, Amigo!

Shalom, too!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Music Reviews For Summer

No one commented on my last note over at facebook so I'll try again. It's summetime peoples and time to get your groove on. Now I have fairly eclectic tastes in music so I really think there is something here for everyone. So, are you sitting comfortably? Good! Let's begin -

Willie Nile has been writing songs, playing, singing and recording them for more than 25 years. And he has avoided being a huge commercial success by being way better than the vast majority of so-called "artists" that get peddled to you by "the machine" as Pink Floyd aptly named it. What's Willie's music like? Well some have compared him to Dylan & Springsteen. I'd add that there's a healthy dose of Lou Reed, Tom Petty and John Hiatt in there somewhere too. This album was recorded in New York City and that fabled musical locale oozes through every jangly guitar chord and joyfully shouted chorus line. Willie rocks, writes solid melodies, has a peculiar voice, dares lyrics that would make most songsmiths blanch in fear and has a way lot of soul. Visit his website for a free download of "Give Me Tomorrow" which is a great song but only one of my favorites, including "Run", "Doomsday Dance" and the title track, from his new album "House of a Thousand Guitars".

I listen to everything I get and rate it all. Every song on "House" got 5 stars from me except two which got 4 each. I developed a keen sense of "good" after 5 years at Kelly's Stereo Mart and House of Stein where I had to ignore the music constantly playing in the record department in order to work. It developed in me a sensitivity to better music which would penetrate my defenses. If Willie Nile had been playing, I'd have stopped dead in my tracks to listen. You should too.

Joshua Radin is relatively new on the music scene - his debut album appeared in 2004 - compared to Willie. Joshua is also from another part of the musical spectrum, although a closely connected part to where you find Willie Nile. Some of Nile's tunes and lyrics could be embraced by current folk aficionados, or earlier ones too (check out "After The War is Over"). Joshua is much closer to the folk world. His predominately acoustic arrangements and personal, introspective approach conjure up images of Simon and Garfunkle, James Taylor and Harry Chapin. But Joshua has a tuneful way with a song and a thoroughly 21st century perspective. You can hear clips from three songs from his new album on Mom & Pop Records - "Simple Times". I just can't accurately describe how infectious his songs are and it's a shame that one of the clips isn't for his tune "Vegetable Car". Still, if you want to enjoy about an hour with a truly gifted songwriter who can put you "in the story" with effortless grace as he plays, you owe it to yourself to listen.

LIGHTS is an enigma wrapped in a mystery and tied up with a riddle. OK, that may be a bit too much but there is very little biographical info (from trustworthy sources) available currently about this extremely talented, multi-instrumentalist from (supposedly) Toronto. Her latest self-titled EP notes inside that she is managed by none other than Jian Ghomeshi - host of CBC radio's pop-culture daily show "Q", and former "King of Spain" as a founding member of Moxie Fruvous. Jian has been around Canada's pop music scene for a while and he knows people. He also obviously knows a good thing when he hears it and LIGHTS is VERY good. Now I have come to the temple of pop/dance/techno only recently, mostly because I was put off by the heaps of trash piled up around the doors left by no-talent also-rans who thought they could craft a good tune. But, there is some real gold in those halls and I'm a sucker for a well crafted pop song. LIGHTS gives me the same feeling I got the first time I heard Fountains of Wayne play "Stacey's Mom". If you listen to radio you have already heard "Drive My Soul". Every time I listen to this 6 song EP my estimation of each song goes up a notch. Good fun. Clean fun. Canadian fun. What more could you ask for?

I first heard The Stills when they opened this year's highly disappointing Juno Awards show with their killer tune "Being Here". To say the show went downhill from there would do downhill skiing a nearly irreparable disservice, but The Stills shone - brightly. Their penultimate album "Oceans Will Rise" has the feeling that that may be a joyful response to attending one of their live shows as opposed to some sort of ecological prophesy of doom. Some critics have labeled them as having an "80's sound", but that pigeonholes them too tightly. They definitely have a rock presence, but they also layer their sound with acoustic guitars, piano and rich harmonies. The songs swagger, strut and sway with hypnotic rhythm and purposeful intent. Echoes of The Clash, early U2, Simple Minds - before they we co-opted by the movie biz - and hints of The Cure waft tantalizingly through the music The Stills produce. They also easily stand toe-to-toe with current bands like The Killers, Matchbox 20 and My Morning Jacket. This year's Juno Awards caused me to despair that not much good was happening currently in Canadian music - but The Stills are shining a ray of hope. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, after all Great Big Sea did a KILLER version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" to close the show - waitaminit, that song is around 40 years old. Yep, it's a long walk, across dry land to find something "good" AND "new". Speaking of "new", The Stills have a new album available now - "Without Feathers".

OK it just cleaned up last year and it was on sale on so I bought it. Yep I'm talking about Coldplay's "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends" (Ever notice how feminists never complain when "Death" or "The Devil" are referred to using male pronouns? But god has to be a "she" - so let's tear down the double standard and erect a brand new one on top of its bones - but I digress.) What can I say - this time the "great unwashed" and those who lead them got it right. I won't add much to what has already been written, spun, gushed and otherwise bellowed from the rooftops about this one except to say this is the first Coldplay album I've heard where I've really, really liked more than one song. In this case LOTS more than one song. Coldplay are the current standard bearers of the ongoing "British Invasion". I think they have finally landed for good - certainly better. Oh, and did I mention that it's currently on sale?

And finally in the "This Just In Department": Dala has just released a new album. I was introduced to this exceptionally talented Canadian duo at "Stuart McLeans' Vinyl Cafe Christmas" show last year. My best attempt at describing the amazing two-part harmonies these girls create is to say that if the Everly Brothers had been sisters they would have been Dala. Their 3rd album "Who Do You Think You Are" is still in very high rotation on my playlist after 6 months. Their new album "Everybody Is Somebody" arrives on June 6th. If you frequent the movies you'll see an add spot for it. My suggestion - buy "Who Do You Think You Are" and "Angels and Thieves" (their fist album) on because they are a package and pre-order "Everyone Is Someone" (on sale for only $9.99). Trust me, you'll love their stuff. Have I ever been wrong before?

Trust me!

By my count that's two Yankees, a band of Brits and three Canadian acts. Balanced music coverage for your listening pleasure. I've done all the hard work so it's your turn now. And I'd like some feed back this time IF you're not TOO busy.

So "Hey! Ho! Let's Go!". It's summertime! Music time!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Star Trek - No Spoilers

J.J. Abrams is a consummate artist and a certified film genius. Everyone on this project should be extremely proud of their work - it was to a man and a woman - outstanding in every respect. They have collectively achieved the nearly impossible.

You should have seen the faces on the folks leaving the theatre with me - all smiles - every single one of them and a few tears, too. If that ain't the result of great movie making then I don't know what is!

'Nuff Said!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back to School?

I was one of those students for whom High school was a breeze. It made me unpopular with my peers so I tried flunking for a while. That made me unpopular with the teachers and my parents, and they had the power to detain and discipline me. That didn't compare with the power my peers had to torture me emotionally.

My solution - I dropped out. Intelligence has nothing to do with wisdom.

Twenty-one years later I went back to school as a "mature" student. The criteria for determining "mature" status was my age - 38 - and my financial ability to pay the tuition. My academic prowess was assessed and it was discovered I still had "it" - whatever "it" was that made me a good student before was still there and largely functional, plus I had a new asset - motivation. Peer pressure - no longer a factor. The only threat of discipline was the possibility of watching $20,000 go "bye-bye" with nothing to show for it - oh, and the resulting response that my wife would no doubt share with me. "The fear of the Lord (or your spouse) is the beginning of all wisdom."

With my shiny new Master's degree under my arm I entered the ministry. Later I discovered the darn thing did not inflate like a "Mae West" life jacket, nor did it contain a parachute, soft pillow to fall on or even a tiny pink umbrella I could hold over my head to deflect the boulders falling on me. Instead, I discovered the "better questions" I had acquired as I pursued the degree were the new tools I was using to seek better answers. And all that stuff every single prof, instructor, sessional lecturer and staff member at the seminary had told me about trusting Jesus - all of that was Gospel Truth.

I'm seven years down the road in ministry and I'll be 49 this July. I should be taking a sabbatical (I'll wait for the apoplectic laughter to die down out there), but instead I'm considering what feels like another call from God to go back to school. It feels like what I followed eleven years ago - but different, too.

The school I attended has been/is in turmoil lately. Big changes. Unsure future. Huge decisions to be made. Financial stuff, too. But the seminary portion is (should be) largely unaffected by all of this. And they have or are in the process of creating a Doctor of Ministry programme. The president of the school and the person in charge of church and alumni relations have assured me this is so - and I trust them.

My why reason to go back is because I am feeling prompted in this direction by God. I have no illusions about the amount of work and effort this will take (OK maybe I do, but the thought of school does scare me pretty much so I figure I'm being at least a little rational here). My goal is to become more useful to God and His church in any way I can. My hope is to teach a little bit one day in a seminary or other more formal setting than the local church (Yeah I'm weird that way - I like school).

But there is a lot of uncertainty - not the least of which is how in the heck I would pay for something like this (which was one of the big questions eleven years ago, too). So I'm praying - you could pray with me, too (It couldn't hurt.) I have given myself until my birthday next year to either enroll or set it aside. Of course quite a few other things will have to be in place before then if I am to go this way.

It's probably too soon to start sharpening pencils and buying loose-leaf paper, but I do have a nearly brand-new lap-top so maybe I'm more functionally ready than I think I am.

I guess I'm waiting to hear the school bell.


Saturday, May 09, 2009


Shadoe - our 14-year-old black cat is in my arm, purring up a storm. She has been extra affectionate recently - probably because our son, Steven, is back at school all week and she is feeling neglected. She's making it hard to type this post because I'm using one hand - and one finger on that hand for that matter. OK - she just left so I can get down to it now.

We took her and her sister, Sweet Pea, to the vet yet again today. Steven (home for the weekend) had to pull Sweet Pea out from under our bed to put her in her carrier. She didn't fight, but she didn't want to go either. I say "again" because we've had problems with the girls (yes they are spayed) lately and we've been to the vet quite a bit - over $2500 worth - lately getting tests and such like.

The practical reality is that they are getting old and are starting to suffer common cat health problems that come with being the equivalent of around 80 human years old. As such they are both remarkably fit. They need a special reduced protein diet and Shadoe may need some medication for hyperthyroidism but other than being a bit set in their ways they are still active and affectionate.

So we are facing their age and mortality. When they joined us Steven was 7, Matt 9 & Duncan 11. They have been the only real pets (fish don't count) our boys have known. Susie always had cats. I grew up with dogs until my last one left me for someone else (a story for another day and place). Susie and I had another pair when we were first married, but we had to let them go. (Ouch! A very painful memory.) So these two have been the pets for most of our lives together. If they hold out two more years they will officially have been in our lives for over half of our marriage.

But we will lose them one day. The costs are a bit of a concern. We can't put out money indefinitely. Our commitment is that they should not suffer or be forced to endure a severely reduced quality of life. Don't ask me to define that yet. Susie and I both hope we will recognize that when we see it. It does mean that we will have to take responsibility for their lives (as we have all along) and ultimately their deaths. We won't replace them. When they are gone our pet owner days will have come to an end. It will be sooner that later. But not too soon we hope.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I used to love baseball.

My dad loved baseball. We watched it together. Played "catch". Dad sent me to ball camp (twice). He taught me to appreciate the game. I was never a "hockey" kid. I played for 2-3 seasons in the really early years. It was curling in winter and baseball in summer at our house - oh and we both loved to watch the CFL (for that matter I still do).

One of my best memories was spending an afternoon with my three boys and my dad at Telus Field in Edmonton watching the Trappers. It was a beautiful summer afternoon and we watched, ate, talked, ate, cheered, ate, sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" in the 7th inning stretch, ate and just loved each other.

I remember there were some other kids in our section running over, under, around and through (we were in the bleachers and there was room to run over, under, around and through) and generally disrupting what was otherwise a great day. Their parents were yelling at them, occasionally corralling them only to have them break lose later to do more acting out. My boys were happy and content to sit watch and, of course, eat.

Steven was only 4 or 5 and when we came to dessert he ordered a cone that was a bit too big for him. He looked at me with plaintive eyes about a third of the way through it and said, "I can't finish this dad." I said it was OK and just found an empty food try to put it in. No muss. No fuss. No worries.

Later, as we were leaving a lady who had been sitting a few seats away came up to me and said, "I just wanted you to know how wonderful it was to see how gentle you were with your boys. It was nice to have you all here watching the game with us." I thanked her and caught my dad's eye. He was grinning with pride and joy. His son and grandsons did good! It remains to this day the best compliment I've ever received from someone outside our family regarding my parenting skills. It still makes me feel warm 15 years later and it happened through, around, in the context of baseball.

Now the sports press is hunting Manny Ramirez with self-righteous zeal and the commissioner has benched him for 50 games. No court. No hearing. No proven evidence. No process. No justice. No game.

Let me firmly state that I am appalled by the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports, but what really is appalling to me is the hypocrisy and evil manipulation the owners of teams, commissioners and governors of sport embrace for their own selfish gain at the expense of the lives, health and well-being of the athletes.

The truth is that illegal or banned substances are simply at the extreme end of the continuum that also includes cortisone shots for hurt knees, surgery for torn ligaments, pain killers, hydrotherapy, oxygen and a host of other medically accepted treatments employed to help the athletes keep performing. We live in a consumer society which offers us all a pill for whatever is bothering us or holding us back or making us sad, mad or glad. On top of this, the pro athletes are under pressures that few others have to face and the powers that be have conveniently ignored the problem of illegal drug use in sport and even been complicit in its use.

There are only two options that I can see that have a hope of working. The first is 100% drug testing of all athletes in a particular league or sport coupled with crippling sanctions for failure to comply or test clean. Don't even begin to suggest that cost or complexity would make this option unworkable. As long as the players and owners enjoy incomes and lifestyles that are in the top .0001% of all humanity on Earth that argument is only valid if you are a complete idiot or in collusion with those who earn their livelihoods off the breaking and broken bodies of abused athletes.

The unfortunate reality is that this scenario will always result in more scandal, ongoing investigations, controversy and escalating efforts to find ways to beat the tests, devise new drugs and keep cheating. The downside will always be out weighed by the upside as far as the athletes, coaches, owners and league bosses are concerned. A few busted cheaters, a few destroyed careers, a few wrecked legacies, a few records tainted will always be "acceptable losses" when compared with the rewards of winning - even if you cheat to do it.

The alternative is to open it up and manage the use of performance enhancing substances in the open. Again 100% testing will have to be used but the reasons will be different. Essentially, the teams as corporations and the owners must become responsible for the ongoing and long term health of their employees. Rather than benefit from the achievements of cheaters who risk their lives for money, fame and glory while having no obligations towards them for the consequences of the risks they have taken, the teams, owners and leagues would become legally responsible for the use of these substances and their effects on the players.

This would create a strong motivation for the teams to closely monitor their athletes use and health. The whole sport would have a vested interest in making sure that use was as safe as it can be made. We as fans would know exactly what was going on and players could choose whether or not to use substances based on their career objectives and personal moral codes instead of under the pressure of having to deal with these choices illicitly. Fans could actually decide if they preferred to idolize athletes who use performance enhancers vs. ones who don't. Corporations could choose athletic spokespersons based on their read of which type of athlete would best represent their brand to their clientele. We could do away with the witch hunts, shattering revelations, debates about asterisks in the record books and the host of other uncertainties this issue is creating.

Most importantly, tragic outcomes like the horrible end faced by Lyle Alzado for example could be largely avoided or at least the team, owners and leagues would be obliged and able to provide support and compensation to afflicted athletes and their families. Also, the risk to young, non-professional athletes would be greatly diminished as the whole issue would be dealt with in the open instead of the dark corners of the clubhouse and dressing room. We do not know even now how many young men and women have been damaged by succumbing to the pressure to use these substances and incur the consequences of their use before ever (if ever) entering the ranks of professional sports.

In the meantime as we debate the morals of the athletes who are suspected of using banned substances we ignore the obviously reprehensible morals of owners, coaches, league officials and corporations who have all turned a blind eye to the obvious use of these substances by their employees because they have enjoyed the obscenely huge profits these men and women have generated for them by sacrificing their bodies and long term health.

It's time that the people who get rich through professional sport, including the athletes, stand up, take responsibility and face this problem head on. Continued banning, testing and sanctioning will only continue the cat and mouse game and subject whatever sport is in view to ongoing suspicion, ridicule and fan disenfranchisement.

I believe if the choice to use or not use was able to me made in the open we would see that the very best athletes and best organizations would have little or no abuse. As it is there is now no one who can be trusted, no one who's hands are clean, no one who's motives are pure and no one who holds the high moral ground. This is because the default position we have all adopted is "it's OK as long as you don't get caught". The system rewards those who cheat well and it destroys those who cheat poorly. In that we probably shouldn't be surprised, it's just another game with it's own rules and it's own winners and losers. But for my money it's a lousy game.

For my part I want to love baseball and other sports again, but for that to happen they are all going to have to start being honest with themselves and with me as a fan.

When that starts to happen I'll be back in the bleachers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Last Days

During the current world-wide economic strife I have been relatively pleased that the Christian community has, for the most part, showed remarkable restraint in not proclaiming the end of days loudly and stridently from the rooftops of churches. The temptation must have been - and still is, I reckon - quite considerable.

But, the doomsayers have had their moments before and whether it was Hal Lindsay in his book "The Late Great Planet Earth" or Oral Roberts pleading for money to shore up his ministry or The World Wide Church of God determining a set of what ended up to be moving dates when the end would come (and these are only a few occurrences in my lifetime) we all know that the score stands thus: God - ∞ ; Predictors - 0.

Unfortunately the cracks are starting to show in Christendom and dire warnings of doom are beginning to leak out. I was very surprised to read such a post by David Wilkerson, the author of the autobiographical "The Cross and the Switichblade". His message is predictable, cryptic and supported (poorly) by Scripture as John Piper observes.

My personal reaction was dismay. I read "The Cross and the Switchblade" when I was a youngster. It frightened and fascinated me. I became aware of the reality that there are people in the world who will actually do what Christ would - put their lives on the line for others - and this was long before we started wearing WWJD bracelets. I admit I'm no David Wilkerson, but to now see him treading into fool's territory is disappointing.

All of this, and some recent personal encounters, have caused me to think about this and I am currently of the opinion that the church can gain no ground by taking the role of doomsayer for the following reasons:

1. We have a message to deliver already. Christ Lives! He died for all and was raised to life by the power of God. All can receive His free gifts of forgiveness, salvation, restoration and everlasting life. There is no other message we are called to deliver.

*NOTE* Generally the church as a whole does not engage much in doomsaying, despite the stereotypes the world holds of us - it is most often individuals. I suggest to those of you with such a message a very healthy contemplation of Ephesians 5:21 then don't deliver your message of destruction until there is unity within the body you are a part of concerning this.

2. The judgment of God upon the world is implicit in the Gospel. We do not do conviction - that is the work of the Holy Spirit. If in the hearing of God's Word people feel appropriate guilt (yes gentle reader there is such a thing) that is something they must address if they wish to be honest with themselves. We do not need to add unnecessary emphasis to this portion of the message.

3. We have cried "wolf" too often to be taken seriously. As an example, I suggest that the politically motivated eco-movement is currently falling under the effects of this. Recent revelations concerning "global warming" - now re-named "climate change" - questions and concerns about the adoption of policies purported to aid ecological agendas and the lack of civil debate in these matters has tainted the message of the ecologists and they are risking losing what credibility they still have. When it comes to the issue of "the end of days" I submit that the church has even less credibility, if any at all. And that sad truth alone could be the subject of an entire blog post.

4. Worrying about this inevitable event is useless. Trying to accelerate its inception, manage through its possible series of events, use it as a goad to prod people into acceptance of Christ or basing your life decisions on how you believe you understand it all will happen is, at the very least delusional and at worst violently arrogant. Especially in light of the truth that it is God's decision and we claim to accept His sovreignity. Even Christ Himself admitted that he doesn't know when all of this is going to happen. So when we say we do, who the heck do we think we are?

I heard a story recently that captures, I think, how we pilgrims should react in troubled times. This is my modified retelling of it:

At an evangelical seminary a group of earnest, fresh-faced students were engaged in a late night friendly game of Risk with one of the professors. One of them asked the group what they would do if they suddenly received the message that Christ's appearance was immanent and the end of all things was upon them. Answers ranged from "call my family and friends who don't believe and plead with them one last time" to "wake up everyone on campus so they can be ready" to "go to the chapel to confess and pray" to "call the radio and TV stations" to "put it on my blog/text it/twitter it". Finally the students turned to the professor and asked what he would do.

"Finish the game," he replied with a smile.

One other person commenting on these things said "I think brothers and sisters in countries all over the world are living through what looks like Armageddon to them right now." So why is this such a big deal to us all of a sudden? Oh yeah, right, I forgot - we all just lost a bunch of our gold. It must be the end of days, right? (sarcasm very much intended - forgive me if you can)

It is the end of days - right now.

It always has been since Jesus ascended to Heaven.

Live them for Him.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

In Cars

For those of you who recognized my borrowed title as belonging to the lyrics of Gary Numan's semi-hit "Cars", congrats.

I have been fascinated with cars since my very earliest memories. I dreamed of owning the muscle cars of my youth in the '70's - Burt Reynolds' Trans Am, Steve McQueen's Mustang, and the Challenger from the cult classic "Vanishing Point". I have collected Car and Driver and Road & Track mags for years. Once, I was moments away from purchasing $5000 worth of Snap-On automotive tools and beginning a career as an auto mechanic. My first workplace experiences were in service stations and I did the usual "grease monkey" jobs, oil changes, tire repairs and some minor repairs.

I didn't end up owning my dream cars (and my newest one is out of my reach financially) but it may be a moot point as the company that builds it may not exist as it does now in a very short while. While the facts are that GM, Ford and Chrysler are all in dire financial straits currently (Ford being the possible exception) it seems they will die, not because of their own mistakes, but because of the political baggage that will be attached to any attempt by the US government to bail them out.

The short version of this is that President Obama will (already has) attached caveats to the bailout package offered to the US automakers that will severely limit the ability of the executives to run their companies in an efficient and profitable manner. The insistence on demanding that the US companies meet fuel efficiency targets their competition will not be required to, incorporate new technologies before there is a profitable business case to do so and limit the choices they can make regarding how to use the bailout funds will inevitably result in business failure in any case. These issues have been reported elsewhere and are now public record. The recent resignation of the CEO of GM was the only response he could choose in the face of what the US government was demanding. Had he said "yes" to the bailout as offered he would have been unable to do his job effectively anyway. His choice was the honest one.

In addition the the roadblocks the US government is putting up in front of the automakers the leadership of the UAW and CAW have continued to insist that the cost of labor is not a problem for the US car industry. This is in spite of the fact that the huge disparity between the average wages of their members compared to the average wages of competitors' workers in the US is so great a grade 10 student in a Junior Achievement program could spot it as a HUGE problem.

I am now predicting the bankruptcy is inevitable for the US automakers. Even if deluded leadership is found who will accept the strictures of the bailout package the end result will be failure, albeit delayed failure. The sad truth is that this ultimate result will be more the fault if the US administration and the influence of special interest groups than because of the mistakes the US auto manufacturers have made. I will not blindly defend them. They have made serious errors in judgment over the course of their history and have had to deal with their self-delusional corporate culture, but the truth is that all three US companies had already made major changes and improvements before the economic meltdown took place. The evidence of this is certainly in Ford, which currently is still relatively solvent. Every new model GM has introduced in the last 5 years has been a meritorious design, including the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu (both of which won "Car of the Year" in the two previous years). Even my beloved Cadillac CTS-V is considered a "world-class" luxury sports sedan capable of competing with anything in its class and price range.

The truth is that if the economic meltdown had not occurred it was becoming more and more likely that the US auto manufacturers would have begun to regain market share, rebuild their reputations and infuse the marketplace with exciting, innovative and worthy products. Ultimately we as consumers would have benefited with more choices of better vehicles at better prices in a more competitive marketplace. That future is all but a lost opportunity now.

Perhaps the US auto manufacturing industry will be able to rise from the ashes of the oncoming inferno that will consume them. There are historical precedences for companies being rebuilt by those who buy them, but this will most likely not be a "made in America" solution. The irony is that while President Obama is likely to flirt with some protectionist policies during his administration (and perhaps already has), in this case he seems content to throw one of his nations oldest and most storied industries to the wolves - even when there is evidence that they could still survive if aided appropriately.

For my part I'll be shopping for a lightly used GM product this spring. I like what I'm driving now, I just am wearing it out. Maybe this will be my last GM purchase. I hope not, but to me the future looks grim.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Signs! Signs! Everywhere a Sign!

My deep respect and props to Canada's own 5 Man Electrical Band and I hope they will forgive me for borrowing the lyrics from their excellent song "Signs". But it just jumped into my mind when I read a Facebook post today about how a friend of mine saw a sign at their local medical clinic warning against abusive behavior and language when dealing with the staff. Their question was along the lines of asking if this sort of thing was a regular enough occurrence to actually warrant a sign. And they opined that if it was then maybe barbarians were no longer at the gates but might have actually moved in down the block and begun frequenting the local Wal-Mart.

To be sure that question might be worth exploring, but my brain took another tack and I ended up thinking about my own medical clinic. When I visit my doctor (which I do frequently as we are monitoring a number of things that require regular blood tests - all is well dear readers, do not fear) I can read no less than EIGHT signs in the waiting room. There's the one about turning off cellphones; the one about having your government health care card; the one about how you can only see the doctor for ONE problem per visit (so don't even TRY to sneak in another one); the one about how missing appointments can get you dropped from their client list (includes instructions on rules for notifying the office if you wish to cancel an appointment); the sign about doctors' hours; the one about picking up the toys and putting them away when your children are done with them; the one about declaring if your injury is work-related; AND the one about zero tolerance of abusive behavior.

It seems to me that you can discover that you are in a new era when an obvious social convention starts to be used in a fashion that seems unusual. My understanding of the use of signs is that they are most useful when they communicate information that EVERYONE who reads them might possibly need to know and understand. Signs are most often warnings or information providers. We really shouldn't need them to declare the common rules of acceptable social behavior. I realize that signs often declare what common sense should already have provided, but as we can see not only is common sense in short supply - now common decency and good manners seems to be evaporating.

I always tend to think that a sign gets posted when those in charge have finally given up on relying on the good sense and judgment of people and have decided to "nip the problem in the bud". But how many times has someone yelled at or abused the staff in my medical clinic? I mean, really - about the only place I find people more subdued and non-communicative is inside elevators! Honestly, in 49 years I have NEVER seen someone lose it in a doctors' office. I know most of us WANT to - usually about the time we realize that we have been waiting long enough that if we could be paid for our time we could take our significant other out to lunch. And missing appointments without canceling - is this really happening so often that the clinic needs to THREATEN its clients with censure? If so maybe this summer's outdoor project should be digging a moat to keep the barbarians off my lawn. And what about NOT having your health card available when visiting the clinic - I mean who DOESN'T understand that we live in a SOCIALIST country and the state is in charge of the medical system? "Documents please! Please show your documents! Please have your documents ready!"

What is really worth pondering is why the clinic needs to post these signs. Does it really make for a better work environment? Does it really help the patients? Or are those signs there so the clinic's lawyers can argue that their client has done their due dilligence in communicating with their patients? And why does TALKING to one another no longer suffice?

Speaking the truth is a rare enough event these days. Speaking the truth out of love and concern is rarer still. Soon speaking itself may become rare. Perhaps it has already - being replaced by texting, twittering and (yes) even blogging. We are becoming a society and culture that increasingly responds only to images and text. Our ability to speak is being diminished as is our ability to listen. If you think I'm off base here then try this next week - make a note of every time you have to repeat yourself for ONE day. I bet you will be shocked.

The real problem with signs (which is where I came in) is that they really don't communicate - they declare. We need to speak and to listen to be able to connect. So before you put up another sign ask this - is there a better way?


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Who's In First Place?

By now most people in North America are aware that Flatland has become an island oasis of economic prosperity awash in a sea of financial turmoil. Thanks to a slow news day at CNN, our brothers and sisters south of the 49th Parallel can now add the descriptor "Economic Haven" to their maps - which have previously shown a vast void to the north of the USA with the appellation "Here Be Monsters or Maybe Nothing" emblazoned across them. To be sure it may be a mixed blessing to have the American Giant become more aware of us than he/she/it already is, especially while desperately seeking a cure for the economic woes that plague the "Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave" (with my sincere apologies to Scotland).

But before we become a tasty morsel to be scarfed up I would like to remind everyone that we didn't get into "first place" in the economic race because we were running faster than our competitors. The truth is that everyone else - EVERYONE - simultaneously blew a head gasket. We just happen to be better off than all of the others who were in or near last place. Hardly something to be as proud or smug about as it seems we are becoming lately.

What I find ironic/frightening/disturbing is that it seems our captains of industry and politics are charting a course for us to build upon the model that just blew up so spectacularly. (That the rest of the world also seems intent on rebuilding what failed - mostly because no one seems creative enough to offer an alternative - is no less disturbing.) I guess hard lessons are learned the hard way - by repetition.

Now I do admit that our time seems to have come when it comes to commodities and new commerce. But if we don't go to school on the difficulties and failures of our neighbors, our eventual destination could hardly be imagined to be much different than theirs. I'll be bold and suggest a new model to look at. After all, what have we got to lose? Quite a lot, apparently!

Jesus spoke about money - a lot. And the "bottom line", as it were, was "it's temporary, and it's on loan - so be wise and careful". We are born empty-handed and so too will we die. In between we have opportunity to have control of much - in North America, Europe, Australia parts of Asia, South America and even Africa these days that can amount to quite a bit more than most others have.

So what will we do with it?

Now that's a question much more worth pondering over than "What will I tweet on Twitter today?".

I'm not going to tell you what do do, but if you are curious - and you must be because you keep watching all that stuff in the media about money - why don't you check out this, this, this and this?

It's a much different take on wealth and economy. And judging by the evidence at hand we could use a bit of "different".

'Nuff Said!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Waiting For ....

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon

Winter doesn't want to loosen its grasp on Flatland. It seems to have dug in deeper even as the Sun has tried to climb higher in the sky. I feel I am watching an epic struggle between an unmovable object and an irresistible force. And even though I know how the story will end, it truly seems as though the outcome is presently in doubt. Like watching "Apollo 13" I am fascinated, stuck on the edge of my seat, unable to look away.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who sometimes sees his life circumstances reflected in the world around him. This seems so self-indulgent and self-delusional, but these past several weeks have left me with a distinct sense that there are also immense powers and principalities battling for supremacy in my life and their straining potentialities are beginning to shape my circumstances.

As a 'Christian' you might properly mock me for not being more sanguine about my seeming lack of control - and you would be right, too. I did voluntarily submit my life to my Lord and Savior and thus I have no cause to object to the circumstances I find myself in. "Not my will, but Yours, Lord." Much easier said than done.

The natural desire to defend, deflect and to even launch a preemptive attack is strong, and I am no better at resisting temptations than anyone else I know, and in most cases far less able. And yet I wake each day and put one foot in front of the other. The tsunami may overtake me soon, but I have obligations, responsibilities and even simple mundane tasks to fill my moments while I watch for darkening clouds on the horizon.

My faith seems to be sustaining me, and my ministry - such as it is - is comforting as it is frustrating. People are such....PEOPLE! Lost, angry, frightened, unreliable, dangerous, confused and reckless - they bump into my life with heart-wrenching abandon - often doing what I'm doing. Putting one foot in front of the other while quiet desperation hangs on us all like a shroud.

I'd like to be specific, but I can't. Let me just say this - I was warned that there would be days like this. But no amount of preparation can fully steel one against the onslaught that is the pain of people's lives and the destruction they leak out on others because of it. And then in the middle of this there is a moment of truth, a breath of compassion, a twinkle of joy, a mote of hope caught in the light. And it is enough for the next few steps.

Spring. Promise. Hope. Change. The chance of a well-hit tee shot flying clean and true. The powers that be may rage on unabated, but I will stoop to brush the snow away from another new flower bravely pushing through the cold earth towards the sunshine. It will be enough. Even if the Summer never comes.