Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I belong to an evangelical baptist church that belongs to a group that has a 100+ year history in North America. OK, I pastor said church (we ain't 100 yet, but we will be 50 in 4 years).

In a recent update from our national leadership it was revealed that "membership" issues will be discussed at our next national conference. I know that local churches have been debating this for some time now. Doctrine is difficult to change.

Here's my position:

I'm a Christian - specifically a Protestant, and I'm a convinced baptist. I am in favour of adult believer's baptism by full immersion in water as the best way to follow scriptural instruction.

However, I know several folks who were not "immersed" although they were baptized (my wife is one) who are as devout and authentic as you can find in the faith. I was baptized by my United Church Minister parents (yup, both of them) as an infant.

As a teenager I sinned my weaselly little butt off - and I did a fair amount of that as an adult, too. When I realized - really realized who Jesus is and what baptism meant I, and my wife, were convicted and convinced about our need to willing be obedient in baptism. No problem. We were baptized by immersion but we understood that we were already "in". What was needed was an act of obedience and worship that would stand against our former disobedient witness and mark for ourselves and others our new direction. We needed it.

But I know folks who haven't strayed as we did since they openly confessed Jesus as Savior. As a note: all churches that practice infant baptism also require that young adults (or older ones if it takes longer) make a full public confession in keeping with Scripture. "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Romans 10:9. Martin Luther would have called that act "receiving your baptism properly". And some of these folks need no new "marker" as we did. Their lives have already been a better testimony that ours, even if we live another hundred years.

So I believe that anyone and everyone who follows Christ will have to be obedient to the command to be baptized. But I am becoming more convinced that the method and mode can be understood and accepted in a wider vein.

I still will teach, preach and recommend believer's adult immersion baptism, but I recognize all who belong to Jesus and are my brothers and sisters. Now to help my conference, association and local church recognize the same thing and find a gracious way to deal with it. Pray for us.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Join the Conspiracy

Conspiracy from "conspire" from the Latin - "to breathe together".

This is an important audiobook: A Networked Conspiracy: Social Networks, the Church and the Power of Collective Intelligence

Open up your mind, listen and join the conspiracy.

Bill Kinnon is the author.


Thursday, January 21, 2010


All of my life Haiti has been the poorest of nations in the western hemisphere. It has struggled continuously and endured the dismissive and reproachful attitudes of her neighbours in North, Central and South America. Haiti has always been a disaster waiting to happen.

Only relatively recently (in the 1980s) did we intervene, when the stench of the atrocities perpetrated by "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier became too much of an offense to our righteous sensibilities. Then, when the military committed a coup and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was exiled to Africa, we did little. The fate of Haiti once again fell into internal disarray and our relationship with them was relegated to the bureaucratic morass of international diplomacy. And the country languished without proper government, institutions, social services or effective international support.

Haiti as a nation was/is the "homeless street person" of the Western Hemisphere. We all continued to go about our daily business, averting our eyes whenever our pursuits led us to pass by them. We watched Haiti's sister nation, the Dominican Republic, raise itself up from its own poverty and comforted ourselves with the thought that "a rising tide lifts all ships". But we believed lies and would not look at the truth. Denial is the strongest of human sins.

On January 11th, 2010, our "homeless person" fellow nation was on fire as we went to work in the morning. Our neglect and indifference over the decades resulted in establishing circumstances that compounded the difficulties of attempting to help Haiti. Our shock and dismay is now mingled with our shame and regret as we trip over one another to rush to aid the wounded and dying - cursing the circumstances that hinder our benevolence. Circumstances that we could have changed if we had chosen to be engaged with Haiti rather than ignore her.

In "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens the ghost of Jacob Marley retorts strongly to Ebenezer Scrooge when the miser offers an excuse for their mutual disinterest in human affairs and benevolent causes. Scrooge says, "It's only that you were a good man of business." "Business!" cries Marley in reply. "Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business!"

I read Dickens' brilliant words every year - and every year I am personally convicted by those lines and compelled to reassess my own engagement with those who have less than I. While I am aware that many, many people and organizations exist to do good and caring works - many already in Haiti before the earthquake - I am also aware that many, many, many injustices lie unattended because political, social, economic and spiritual leadership fails.

In the light of events in Haiti we are - at least I am - sickened by our recent (and not so recent) history that testifies how we will go to extraordinary lengths to address issues in foreign lands, especially when - at least from the perspective of our corporate and political leaders - there are compelling economic reasons to do so. We will send our sons and daughters to die - and they will go willingly - when the stakes seem most likely to threaten our luxurious lives. But we will not sacrifice even a small portion of our opulent lifestyles to lift another people up so they can be stronger, safer and have greater dignity if there seems to be no immediate benefit for us. At least not until they are on fire.

Haiti is a hard lesson. I pray fervently that we, who are blessed beyond what words of any language can adequately describe, might learn this lesson well. That addressing the needs of others is always in our best interests, for when we do so we help ourselves - so intimate is our connection to one another on this tiny planet that we share. And that we might come to realize that when we do offer comfort to others we act in love that touches the very face of all we hold most sacred and good.

In speaking of charity, benevolence and simple care Jesus of Nazareth said, "Whenever you do this to the least of my brothers, you do this to me."


Tuesday, January 19, 2010


NASCAR definitions that sound like life lessons:

Understeer - hitting the wall with the front of the car.

Oversteer - hitting the wall with the back of the car.

Push - description of a car that won't turn in smoothly.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - official band of NASCAR events - also the only band ever who failed to be able to buy a vowel on Wheel of Fortune.

Hitting the wall - the result of over driving a car that "pushes", or - trying too hard.

Spin - missing the wall entirely when pushing the car. Also something much worse than it sounds. Also (ironically) to go for a leisurely drive.
Eg. "Experienced NASCAR drivers would all like to take Danica Patrick for a "spin"."

The pits - a place to stop to refuel, change tires, adjust the car's setup or (ironically) the place you find yourself after "hitting the wall".

Racing under caution - doing what you do while it is more dangerous than normal to do - no passing allowed. Also a very good time to visit the pits voluntarily.

Trading paint - bumping other cars to get a better position. Almost all paint swaps are considered unfair by at least one participant.

Penalty - something inexplicable that affects the standings.

Danica Patrick - the ONLY NASCAR driver worth watching/interviewing/photographing.

Crash - the primary reason 30 to 50 thousand fans will attend a NASCAR event is to see at least one. Ironically, to hopefully be involved in one is also the reason 30 to 50 percent of all NASCAR drivers enter any given race.

Sponsor - persons and corporations who pay to have their names and corporate logos painted on the cars - also a NASCAR slang term that means "has more money than brains".

Rookie driver - someone in immanent danger of experiencing a crash.

Bill France - God, on Sunday afternoon AFTER church is done.

Richard Petty - The Holy Spirit of NASCAR. Possibly also a member of the Osmond clan (dental records need to be checked).

Budweiser - sponsor and lubricant, but not a lubricant manufacturing sponsor. Also the official fuel of all NASCAR fans.

Corner - the place the crashes happen.

Straightaway - the place you prepare for the crash.

Talented driver - a driver who mostly causes other drivers to crash.

Lubricant - see "Budweiser" also "sponsor".

Wrench - Verb: (1) to violently pull, twist or sever or (2) to repair a car. Noun: a mechanic. NASCAR mechanics perform #2 while Canadian Tire mechanics mostly perform #1.

Experienced driver - multiple crash survivor.

Pace car - the one car on the track that really doesn't belong there and wouldn't be if it wasn't for the sponsors.

Standings - mathematical mysteries.

Color commentary - unintelligible utterances or homespun advice delivered exclusively in a West Virginian drawl.

Cockpit - the place to find a rookie driver when he is experiencing a crash, a talented driver when he is causing a crash and an experienced driver when he is avoiding a crash.

Checkered flag - end of the race - start of the sales pitch.
Eg. "The KINKOS/OUTBACKSTEAKHOUSE/SNAPONTOOLS/WONDERBRA/CHEVYMALIBU was running perfectly today thanks to our PENNZOIL/GOODYEAR/MONROESHOCKS/MASTERCARD pit crew. I want to thank God (Bill France) and my Savior Jesus for letting us run so well today and I hope y'all will come out to watch us at the BUDWEISER/HOOTERS/STARBUCKS/WAL-MART 500 next week at the FORDCUSTOMRACING Speedway in East Podunk, Nebraska. God (Bill France) Bless America and all our Armed Forces Everywhere! GO ARMY!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Failure, Forgiveness and the Future

This past week Flatlanders were focused on the fate of former Rider GM Eric Tillman. Mr. Tillman failed morally, and this ended his work with our beloved football team. It's a team that has known this kind of failure before - from players mostly. They are much more expendable than management - with the exception of coaches, who often are changed as frequently as defensive linemen change their lucky socks - which is to say at least annually. Losing Mr. Tillman has seemed to hurt people more and shaken hope and optimism deeper than any of the player dismissals I've witnessed in the last 7+ years.

The recent feelings in Flatland regarding this are, I think, rooted in the sense of disappointment created because Mr. Tillman was supposed to be part of a change in the organization's policies and culture that was intended to deal with these very issues. Rightly recognizing the very public nature of sport and the lives of those involved in it - even those charged with the off-field tasks necessary to operate a professional franchise - the Rider organization drafted a new policy on these matters, and Eric Tillman was a proponent of having that policy adopted by the Riders. Now he is - most sadly and ironically - the first one it had to be applied to.

I think such a policy is an important thing for any organization - not just in this day and age, but in any day and age. Personal character always influences professional behavior. Our recent history is littered with examples in every area of endeavor - finance, politics, manufacturing, religion, entertainment. We have always known that this matters. Now with an insatiable 24-hour-a-day-365-days-a-year media industry that craves grist for its mill, there is no life that is immune from scrutiny and, because of the internet, no issue that can escape public opinion and reaction.

And there is no place for forgiveness and restoration. All is retribution and hard, cold justice - or justice denied - depending upon your perspective. Few organizations give thought to the path of repentance, recompense and restoration, even though many organizations recognize the significant investment that lies in employees - even employees who fail. A broken machine might be repaired or restored if the investment seems fiscally sound, but people are more expendable it seems.

But would the public accept the repentant, forgiven and restored person? Would they allow time and space for healing and change or would they demand their same voyeuristic position they enjoy during the accusation and conviction stages. My guess is that they would clamor for this right, and little healing or change of any true consequence could come in such a bubble. Reality TV shows notwithstanding, there is an overwhelming list of failures who have shown change and progress in the eye of media scrutiny only to end up wrecked in life's ditch for the same reasons they were so fascinating to watch in the first place.

True character needs to be developed out of the public eye. If the only time you can behave is when someone is watching you then you need to be in prison.

Will Mr. Tillman repent and offer restitution? Will he seek forgiveness and reconciliation? Will he find redemption and restoration? We shall see, but it remains that these possibilities will happen - if they happen - elsewhere. And the benefits of those efforts, hard won, will be enjoyed elsewhere as well.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fine Print

I read Post Secret every Sunday morning.

This morning this postcard got my attention.

It's pretty personal because we just faced this same situation, but as the recipients of the work this person does. And it's personal because God does not say, "Thou shalt not kill." His Word says, "You shall not murder."

I've done a little work on this and I can say that the Hebrew word used in this passage is best translated as "murder" rather than "kill". I won't go into getting too technical here, but I will say that this is one of my favorite reasons for suggesting that it is well past the time we retired the King James Version of the Bible.

To put it simply, every copy of the Scriptures not in the original languages is a translation and that in itself poses some difficulties because of the limits of human language. We always think of our native language as being up to any communication task we may put it to, but we all need a little bit more humility in this, I think. After all, it is an accommodation of the highest order that God Almighty should acquiesce to allowing something as pitifully limited as human language to attempt to encompass His Truth - especially a language as pitifully limited and downright weird as English. As Dave Kellett of Sheldon puts it on a t-shirt I am definitely going to buy, "The English Language - carefully cobbled together by three blind dudes with a German dictionary."

But I digress - one of the few things I do well.

Elsewhere on God's word it says there is "a time to kill". If "killing" is utterly forbidden by God then it would be beyond strange how Jesus dealt with at least one soldier who came to Him for help. He never berated him for his vocation. He did not deny him. In the end He asked His Father to forgive the soldiers who crucified Him.

Sometimes killing is necessary. Sometimes it is a mercy. But we must be very cautious because it is so very, very easy to do. When it comes to pets and the time has come for them to be "put down" in love rather than suffer - it is "a time to kill". When it comes to the thousands upon thousands of animals destroyed by humane societies and animal control agencies all over North America - let alone the rest of the world - because they are abandoned, neglected, the offspring of animals left by their "owners" to breed indiscriminately or otherwise uncared for - it is a sin that offends the nostrils of God. But the executioner doesn't bear the guilt of it. We all do because we allow our selfish lifestyle to create such a problem.

I get a bit intense over this both because of the recent pain of taking responsibility for our own pets and because when I was around 10 years old I spent a week in hospital for a post-tonsillectomy infection and there was a 6-year-old boy in the bed next to me whose face was a horrific road map of stitches because he had been mauled by a pack or roving dogs in our northern Alberta town.

What we do and allow is bad enough without adding to the angst of those who must clean up after us by handling the "fine print" of God's Word and Truth poorly.

I'm a bit frustrated because I can't figure out how to send a message to Frank Warren at Post Secret to let this poor person - who does this thankless and unfortunately necessary work for us - know that their soul is most definitely NOT in jeopardy. So I'll console myself with my little rant on my little blog and pray that someone who is actually thinking will speak the words of encouragement this person needs to hear.

"Thank you for showing mercy and grace every day in your work and for being willing to do what must be done because so many of us are unwilling to live lovingly and responsibly. Your reward will be far greater than any of us can imagine."


Saturday, January 02, 2010

We're # 2 - We Try Harder!

It's the 2nd of January in the second decade of the third millennium since Christ shook the pillars of Heaven & Earth by audaciously embracing the human condition.

No resolutions - just plans to embrace our changing human condition and to interact with it in increasingly hopeful ways.

We moved Steven to Moose Jaw yesterday for the last time. In 4 months he'll graduate and burn his "school furniture". I hope he keeps one or two pieces. Susie and I have a stack of purloined N.A.D.P. (Northern Alberta Dairy Pool) plastic milk crates that once stood as the foundation to the bed we loved on and slept in. These tough plastic boxes that proclaim their allegiance to their owner - "Property of N.A.D.P" - with enduring words embossed on their sides, have moved our meager sticks and stones from Jasper, to Edmonton (and around that Town) to Saskatchewan and our current Flatland Home. They predate our vows, our children, our current careers and remind us of our humble beginnings.

Occasionally I ruminate on how our illegal possession of these items will be dealt with in ultimate terms.

"Now Brian," the Lord rumbled, "about those milk crates."


But we can't recompense their owners - the N.A.D.P. is long gone, either defunct or absorbed by another corporate entity - so we're stuck with them and their dubious provenance. I console myself with the thought that their rightful owners never made the type of deep, emotional investment in them that we (or most likely only I) have. My practical wife might blush at the pixels I've squandered on such mundane items, but so often it is the mundane, the utterly pedestrian, the commonplace that marks and holds the connection we have to the historical and the profound.

You can't say Stonehenge is just a bunch of rocks - even if that is just what it is.

So why did I use a title that was the corporate slogan of Avis Car Rentals in the '70s? Because, the two days of 2010 have served to remind me that we are not first, or primary, or most favored. We are average, second string, among the masses. But we TRY!

We are all growing, learning and reaching forward towards a future that will likely turn out to be something quite other than we imagine - and we are so like so many others who do the same. And within that trying is the genius and glory of being human and living.

From humble beginnings including a bed laid upon purloined milk crates to a home that has raised three young men and launched them into the world with their own meager beginnings to tell their own stories of struggle and strife, triumph and truth, we are standing on the cusp of the next chapter in the "great adventure". It ain't on the front pages or burnin' up the blogsphere - but it's a ride we are enjoying.

Hang on! When you try harder you sometimes go faster!