29 February 2012

the eye of the beholder

this past sunday we spent a good bit of time discussing photographs with our guest interviewee, scott hurst. from his life-enriching trip to moscow as a performer in 2002, to his photojounalling of the moments that he believes captures more than just an image, we began to see the world through his lens.

there's something about scott's vision which is captivating, especially the future of barrie which involves a closed-off walking market at the five points area, replete with art galleries, boutique shopping, theatres and restaurants - accessible to and designed for everyone.

not just the haves or the initiated - everyone.

because everyone should have access to that which is good, noble and beautiful.

i think that the Scriptures tell us that somewhere too.

and then (thanks to my prodding) scott began to explain something of his ontological perspective, or his view of how the world is. partly buddhist and greatly informed by his engagement with reiki, scott spoke about universal energies and mantras for life. i wonder how many of us were tempted to tune out at that point, because it was unabashedly 'not christian'.

does the fact that someone holds to a different worldview invalidate their take on what is good, noble and beautiful? if someone thinks that there is no God, or is unaware of how to access Him, does that mean that somehow their entire perception of reality is wrong?

i've long been a believer that all truth is God's truth. and that means that all sorts of people with all sorts of practices, lifestyles and beliefs can wind up grasping exactly what God intended us to grasp.

that's been a big part of this Word On The Street series - entering into serious dialogue with people who are shaping the future of our community, even if they don't conform to our expectations of whom we think God would choose to use to bring about that future. and maybe He does that because those of us who profess to follow Jesus have abdicated our privilege and responsibility to be kingdom bringers.

i hope that at least some of you will join me in celebrating and learning from those who are being diligent in the pursuit of what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.


and now for something completely different ...

a few of you have asked me [ patrick ] in particular about my choice to 'give up God for lent'. i guess that it would be less noteworthy if i had decided to give up chocolate chip cookies or my running routine. but i expected that some of you might wonder.

the idea came from the thinker/lecturer/writer peter rollins, who introduced something into his own faith community called "atheism for lent". as an experiment, it was designed so that people would take the 40 days of lent and explore life from the perspective of atheist philosophers, and discuss the implications with one another.

why, you ask?

consider that the penultimate experience of the Easter weekend is Jesus crying out in anguish over the absence of God. for HIm, in that moment, there was no God.

many christians plough through good friday into easter sunday like a stampede of starving patrons at an all-you-can eat steakhouse. we don't want to linger at the pain of the cross. we think nothing of the abandonment of Christ. we just want to sing our victory songs because who wants to walk away depressed from church?

i choose to follow Jesus.

and maybe that means coming to place where God is nowhere to be found. for someone who's tried to daily spend time in and with God for the last 23 years, that's challenging. and so to follow Jesus to that place is going to take work. maybe 40 days of work.

i confess that i've already dropped the ball at various points this lenten season - i pray by mistake, wind up reading the bible because i have to prepare for a message. i just hope that it doesn't set me back too much.

some of you will wonder how a person choosing to embrace atheism can help navigate a missional community of faith like M. and then maybe others of you will think that perhaps only someone who is willing to go to those places with Jesus is in any position to lead a missional community of faith like M.

for me, the jury's still out. let me tell you what i find out when i finally get to resurrection sunday.


22 February 2012

from M's weekly newsletter, "The Conversationalist"

i've decided that i'm going to post the weekly blasts that we put out for our M community so that i have some semblance of a regular blog. enjoy!


living a life that demands an explanation

last night i had the incredible privilege of meeting with the five other trailblazers that form the M core team. we gathered amidst the clamour of a downtown barrie cafe on a weeknight, and planned, purposed, questioned, reflected and recommitted. it was truly inspiring.

one of the questions that arose at the table is 'what are we about, anyway?'

[ this has now become a staple of all M leadership discussions ]

the reality is that we [ M ] are continuously trying to discover and define our reason for being. we've spent time discussing our five M core values, we're considering what place a mission statement might have and what it could look like - all the while wondering if there's some concise form into which we can distill our perceived mandate.

and that brings me around to our conversation this past sunday with shane dennis.

shane's life seems to mirror his music. rapidly paced, eclectic, rhythmic, profound and engaging. from being an environmental activist, to a hip-hop performer who is concerned about communicating positive values through his art form, to branding an ethically-made clothing line and facilitating locally-grown produce, shane seems to exempify a life that is extended in all directions.

my wife and i wondered aloud the next day, "what's the thread that holds all of these things together for him?"

in other words, what is he about anyway? what's his mission statement?

shane spoke about being a humanitarian, and numbering gandhi and martin luther king jr. among his heroes. but we wanted to probe for more - what ultimately drives him to live this kind of life?

i wonder if the reason that i look for an answer to that question is because i want to be able to bottle him up, slap a label on him and process him tidily as a ___________ type of person. however, shane has basically said, "here i am world - check in with me or don't". and ultimately i feel a sense of shame for trying to reduce him down to a category.

i've long said that those of us who choose to submit to and follow Jesus ought to strive to live a life that demands an explanation. somehow the evidence and footprint of our lives should prompt those around us to ask that question of 'why'? what are you about, anyway? and then we can engage them in conversation, just as shane was gracious enough to do with us.

alright, switch back to the M leadership conversation last night.

is our energy going to be consumed with trying to settle on a logically tight and easily memorizable definition of why we exist? don't get me wrong, i'm all for mission statements and clarity ... or at least, i'm all for the process of theological and existential wrestling that winds up producing those pithy paragraphs. sometimes after all of that hard work they end up being printed on very pretty paper, framed, hung on the wall and promptly forgotten. that last part i'm totally against.

an alternative is to continue to funnel our energies toward being a community that exists and operates in such a way that continues to provoke the question, what are you about anyway? why would you do these things? as i contemplate this, i think of the time that the disciples of john the baptist came to Jesus demanding that he define himself. and in a very 'i yam what i yam' kind of way, Jesus responded by redirecting their attention to the evidence of his passion.

may you - may we - be living the kind of lives that attract others into conversation with us, that inevitably demand an explanation, and that unmistakeably bear out Jesus' passion to redeem the world.


16 February 2012

my annual check-up

hey there ... yep, i figured that it's been almost a year, so i'd better post something.

tell you what - here's a quick rundown on what's been happening in my life:

  1. vertigo - two week-long bouts with it. not fun, and as of yet undiagnosed.
  2. born yesterday - this is the latest community theatre production that has taken me on and given me another chance to play make-believe. come check us out at the orillia opera house april 12-22, 2012!
  3. M - the new faith community which i've had the privilege of helping to start. now this has been an amazing journey to share with so many others.
  4. the mississauga marathon - training now for my next race.
what's been up with you?