Tuesday, January 31, 2006


This past weekend a group from the church went to Breakforth, a church conference in Edmonton. Some of it was really, really, good. Other parts where appallingly bad.

The good:

Michael Card. Wow. What a wonderfully gracious and humble presence. His topic was “Sacred Sorrow” and he talked mainly about psalms of lament (80 out of 150 psalms fall into this category) and the book of Job (which, he said, "smashes any notion of the 'when we are good we get a blessing, and when we are bad we suffer' formula that so many people – and preachers – believe"). He called lament the "lost language of worship." Which is so true for many churches.

Twila Paris: I don’t have any of her CDs in my collection and probably never will, but she was wonderful. She radiated grace and joy. After the morning’s session (see under “the bad” below) I needed to hear a more life-affirming message. Through her music, she provided such a message.

Bill Hybels: I hadn’t heard him before and was surprised by how nervous he was. He was shaking and his voice was quivering. I figured someone of his stature would be brimming with confidence. But he shared what was more like a church effectiveness workshop than a sermon. Which was fine with me. I don’t always agree with his theology or approach to church, but I always appreciate his humble spirit and good ideas

The bad:

I’m not even going to mention his name. If you were there you know who I’m talking about. This “preacher” came dressed like a “homeless” man (although, to me, he looked more like Red Green, as if jeans and hoodie were the uniform of homeless men) and told the crowd that God had drawn the line for Edmonton, and the church needed to stop being mere “believers” and start being “disciples.” Disciples sell all they have and are ready to walk away from family obligations, all for a “greater experience of God.”

If we don’t become true disciples then Edmonton would be lost, he said. This was our last chance. Heed his warning. The line had been drawn.

Then came the altar call. Anyone who wanted to become a "disciple" and save Edmonton from judgment could come forward and commit themselves.


Anyone who was still in their seats were obviously hard-hearted and arrogant, so he “released God judgment” upon those still sitting. Especially the pastors. “You will know when God’s judgment is upon you and your church.”

(Note to Good Shepherd folks: if you lose your house in a wind storm, I’m the guy to blame.)

But I’m glad I went and I’m looking forward to next year. I doubt this guy will be asked back. Arrogance, meanness, and just plain ‘ol abusive preaching doesn’t mix well with the more positive, Christian message of salvation.

While Lutheranism doesn’t easily fall into the “evangelical” category, we do share a common faith, even if much of our shared ideas get lost in translation.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Another Stupid Quiz

Bugs Bunny!
You scored 14 Aggression, 85 Sophistication, and 71 Optimism!
You have all the sophistication and charm one would expect from such a
high-class hare. Very upbeat and generally laid-back, you are
remarkably calm and peaceful even in the midst of the most stressful of
situations. On those rare occasions that your anger is aroused, your
retaliation usually results in embarrassing the aggressor and
laying-bare how foolish he or she really is -- rather than doing any
real harm. You likely have many friends and more than a few admirers
and would make an excellent leader, if you had any interest in being
one. But, being a leader would require hard work and attention to
detail, both qualities you are lacking in. In fact, if you are not
careful, your laid-back attitude will often lead you to drift through
life completely oblivious to the changes happening around you. You also
tend to have a horrible sense of direction.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 2% on Aggression
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 83% on Sophistication
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 53% on Optimism
Link: The Which Looney Tune Are You Test written by coolguy3000 on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Thanks, Nasty Boy

Happy Birthday, Wolfi!

Tomorrow is Mozart’s 250th birthday. I have a soft spot in my soul for Wolfi. I know some readers of this blog hear Mozart’s music as simplistic, child-like, as lacking the depth and fire of someone like, say, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, or Bach.

For me, Mozart’s music is deceptively simple. When I was studying music, thinking I wanted to be a conductor and composer, the course on long-form analysis blew my mind wide open. Getting inside Mozart’s 40th symphony or A major piano concerto was an experience akin to prayer; I lost myself in the texture of his form, astounded by how he tweaked emerging classical forms, subtly, but powerfully. His recapitulations were never mere photocopies of the exposition, like with Haydn or Salieri. He always added development material, transforming familiar subjects into a more mature, deeper musical expressions that what with what he began.

If it wasn’t for Mozart, Beethoven wouldn’t have sounded like he did, or Brahms, or Schubert, or Bruckner, or Mahler. (Or Clapton, or Van Halen for that matter)

But personally, Mozart’s celebrated Requiem (I know, most of it was written by Sussmeyer, among others) had a profound spiritual impact on me when I first heard it. I was studying trombone in high school and I was learning orchestral excerpts. And the Tuba Mirum landed on my music stand. My trombone teacher assigned a listening assignment: listen to Ed Kleinhammer from the Chicago symphony’s recording. So I did.

Oh. My. God. We are not alone in the universe.

If I took the time, I could easily connect the dots from that listening experience to my present job as a Lutheran pastor. Luther believed that music was a vehicle for God’s Word. If God was talking to me, it was through music like (but certainly not limited to) Mozart’s Requiem.

So today, I say Happy Birthday, Wolfi! I drink a toast to you in celebration and gratitude for your gift to the world.

UPDATE: Revised for spelling, grammar, poor word choices, and all around bad writing. Look for future updates.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tardy Election Reflections

Technically, I’m on vacation until Friday. So, no one is here. I'm a ghost. Boo!

Monday’s election was good for everyone. Those of you who know me might be surprised by such a declaration.

Long term, the Liberals can use this loss as an opportunity to find a new leader (I’m surprised it took so long for this to happen) to renew a tired and brutally fractured party. The NDP increased their popular vote and seat count (but not enough to hold the balance of power). The Greens claimed more votes (but no seats). The Conservatives finally win and suddenly become real federalist contenders in Quebec, and the west can finally say they have a "voice in Ottawa".

I’ll give Harper’s government 2 years. And then he’ll win a majority.
We’ll see.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Children's Sermon: Epiphany 3 - Year B

“OH NO!” Molly shrieked, springing out of bed, rubbing sleep from her eyes and flicking on the light, “It’s 8:00! I’m late!”

Molly ran to the bathroom, but the door was locked.

“Amber, are you in there?” Molly shouted through the door.

“I’ll be out in a minute,” Amber shouted back.

So Molly went back to her room and pulled out her red dress. “A little smelly,” she said to herself, “but –still- wearable.” Molly ran up the stairs to see if Amber was finished in the bathroom.

The door was still closed.

“Amber! Hurry up in there!” Molly shouted kicking the door.

“Keep your shorts on!” Amber shouted. “I’m almost done!”

“Be done quicker!” Molly demanded, giving the door one last kick.

Molly poured herself a bowl of corn flakes, stood at the counter eating while listening to the weather report on the radio.

After putting her empty dishes in the dishwasher, Molly thought she heard the bathroom door open.

“Finally!” she gasped.

But as she made her way up the stairs, Amber ran past her and back into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

“Hey! Get out of there! It’s my turn!” Molly huffed.

“Just hold your horses!” Amber shouted.

“NO! I want you out NOW!” Molly screeched, punching door.

“What’s with all the noise?” Their dad yelled from down the stairs.

“Amber’s taking forever in the bathroom and I have to get going!”

“Going where?” asked dad. “You don’t have school today.”

“I want to be the first one at the mall. There’s a sale on shoes and I want to get those runners that I’ve been saving for.”

“And so you’re ready to break down the bathroom door to buy some shoes?” dad asked.

“But Amber’s hogging the bathroom,” Molly protested.

“Molly, you know that Amber needs the bathroom to change her bandages before she takes her medicine.”

Molly rolled her eyes.

“It’s like what we heard at church where the bible told us that the world as we know it won’t be around forever, and in knowing that, we can think about what’s important in our lives. Are new shoes more important than your sister getting healthy again?”

Molly shuffled her feet on the carpet.

“I’ll tell you what, when we’re all ready, you, your sister, and I, will take a trip to the mall together.”

Molly smiled. Then they said a prayer like this as we do now: Dear God, help us to focus on what’s important, and to put everything else aside. Amen.

Go vote!

I asked my confirmation class who I should vote for in tomorrow’s election. Without blinking they all said in unison “the Marijuana Party.”

Tomorrow, I am going to vote (sadly, for my confirmands, there is no MPC candidate in Lethbridge). PLEASE, go vote as well. I don’t care who you vote for. Just vote.

And don’t give me this “choosing not to vote is just as valid a form of electoral participation as casting a ballot” nonsense. Make the drive to Vulcan (yeah, I’m talking to you Mick) grab a ballot and put on X on it somewhere. Anywhere.

Vote. That’s the only way this whole democracy thing can work. Do not take our democratic freedoms for granted. For all our sakes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Election Day approaches

After much thought, discernment, reading, and discussion, I’ve decided who I’m voting for. Hint: It’s not these guys.

No vision. Contempt for voters. Insults leveled at the military. Need I say more?

So who is getting my vote (and $1.75)?

I reserve the right to keep my vote secret.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sunset Sara in Brazil

Sara, a former parishioner, current seminarian, and eternal friend, is going to the World Council of Churches general assembly next month in Brazil. And she's blogging about her experience. Check it out!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Children's Message Epiphany 2 - Year B

“Bye, mom, I’m going outside to play hockey,” Jack yelled as he ran out the door.

“Okay,” replied his mom, “dress warm.”

“I will,” Jack said.

Mom watched through the living room window as Jack met his friends Ryan and Daniel in front of the house.

Then a few more boys and a couple girls appeared, wielding hockey sticks.

“Okay, we’re going to pick teams,” Jack’s mom heard Jack say, “Ryan, you’re on my team, Daniel, you too, Donald, you’re on the other team, so is Sally and Jen.”

“Hey,” Donald protested, “who made you boss?”

“Let’s just play hockey,” said Jack, ignoring Donald’s comment.

Mom watched through the window.

Later that evening, as the sun was going down, Jack’s mom stuck her head out the door and called,

“Jack, dinner’s ready.”

As Jack was helping set the table, his mom asked,

“How was your hockey game?”

“Great!” replied Jack. “We slaughtered the other team.”

“Of course you did. I saw how you stacked the teams.”

“How else are we supposed to win?” asked Jack.

“How do you suppose Donald, Sally and Jen felt?”

“They know what it feels like to be dazzled by some superb stick handling,” replied Jack.

“Now, Jack. They didn’t look dazzled to me,” replied his mom.

“Mom, you don’t understand. It’s important to win. What am I supposed to do? Not try so hard because the weakest players can’t keep up?”

“No, that’s why we put you in a league. But when picking a team outside, have you thought about how Jesus picked his team?”

“His team?”

“His disciples. He chose some pretty strange people. People many other people didn’t even want to talk to. But Jesus chose them to be his disciples.”


“I don’t know. Maybe he saw something in them that no one else could see. Maybe he knew that we are more than our weaknesses. Maybe because he knew that God didn’t see winning as how many pucks go into the net, but by how much we love each other.”

Jack thought that was simply bizarre. But before they sat down to eat, they said a prayer like this as we do now:

Dear God, help us to win by loving others. Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Andrew Scheer's blog has been hi-jacked

Andrew Scheer, Conservative incumbent for Regina - Qu'Appelle had a blog. Not a very good or frequently updated blog, but still, a blog. One of few but growing number of Members of Parliament who venture forth and communicate with Canadians without the safety net of a communications staff.

But today, while snorting back pizza at my desk I decided to check and see if Andrew had updates for us greedy, little, blogging politcal junkies. What I found instead was a short, badly written, academic paper on Salmon Rusdie and Norman Mailer with links to porn sites (don't bother looking at my links, I've already deleted Scheer's hi-jacked blog from my template - pervert).

Either Scheer had gotten really weird, or something was amiss. I choose to believe the latter. Say what you want about Scheer's politics, but he's not dumb.

This is not new. Last year, a Christian, pro-family, anti-same-sex marriage group, angry over (then) proposed Bill C-38 bought Don Boudria's domain name and pointed it to their site.

Rick Mercer, in response to Conservative Jason Kenney's suggestion that it was Boudria's own fault for not registering his name in domain form, borrowed Kenney's name and pointed it to Egale, the gay advocacy organization. Touche.

I don't know if the hi-jacking of Scheer's blog is politically motivated, but I do know it is childish, and adds nothing to our political discourse. In fact, it diminishes it.

UPDATE: Revised for spelling. See comments for a possible explanation about what happened to Scheer's blog.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Five Weird Things

Political Cycles tagged me with a rather bizarre meme: name five weird things about yourself.

Here they are:

Number Five: I love Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Love ‘em. Can’t get enough of ‘em. What’s not to like? Hum-able tunes. Vacuous plot lines (Jesus Christ Superstar excepted – JCS is a masterpiece). Ahhh, my guilty pleasure…Don’t Cry for Me Argentina!

Number Four: I have a paralyzing fear of flying insects. Spiders I find comforting. Beetles are cute. Wasps send me screaming like a 2 year old boy caught on fire.

Number Three: I came within a hair’s width of becoming a monk.

Number Two: I have one long strand of hair on the back of my ear that I trim weekly.

Number One: I find Hillary Rodham Clinton sexy.

I tag Tom in Ontario, Saheli, Skakes, and Nasty Boy.

Update: After consultation with my wife I changed Number two.

As a Christian you should vote for...

From the Anglican Planet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

For whom to vote...?

For the first time in my life, I can be filed under the “undecided” category. I’ve ALWAYS known who I was going to vote for (for whom I was going to vote?) well before the writ was dropped. But this time, I’m stymied. Let me explain.

Paul Martin: While I have been a partisan Liberal for as long as I’ve been wearing a collar (except for a brief return to the NDP for 3 three torturous months in 1997), I’ve never been Paul Martin’s big fan. While I applaud his fiscal record, he always struck me as soulless, caring only about power for power’s sake. No comprehensive vision for the country

He wears the “Dithers” moniker with an astonishing degree of comfort.

Stephen Harper: If I ever voted Conservative, 3 generations of Powells would revolve quarter turns in their graves. Having said that, Harper has been running an excellent campaign. It’s been smart, policy driven, and moderate. Personally, I couldn’t care less if Harper doesn’t smile. All I’m worried about is whether he can run the country effectively. However, Rick Mercer has a preview of what a Conservative cabinet might look like.

I REALLY like Harper’s child care package. It works better for our family because it has the option of part time day care. My wife and I decided that one of us will be home with our kids until the youngest reaches school age. Under Martin’s plan, we’d be penalized for my wife not working outside the home. Recognizing that for some families, full time day care is an economic necessity. For us, it’s a hindrance to how we want to raise our children.

Jack Layton: Jack has breathed new life into the party. Alexa is an excellent MP and did a fine job as leader. And despite Libs and Tories ridiculing the NDP’s mantra “making parliament work,” the NDP did.

Locally, I think we have a fine NDP candidate. But in this riding, barring some bizarre re-ordering of the universe, the Conservative candidate will win handily. I don’t know if I could pick the Liberal candidate out of a line up.

The Greens? Maybe I’ll take a look at them when Harper’s minority parliament falls in 2007.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bad blogger

I haven’t posted for a while because, well, I didn’t have much to say. My laptop’s been idle because of the huge stack sitting on the right hand corner of my desk, the pile un-returned phone messages by my elbow, and the to-do list hanging from my work station that’s gets bigger each time I look at it.

But I’m not complaining. I’m busy because there’s a lot to do. Good things are happening here at the church. Unfortunately, we seem to have more ideas than resources, more passion than money, and more energy than people.

Someone suggested we scale back some of our plans, but I couldn’t pin-point one area where we could do that. The problem is that we're too high energy and too gifted.

We have some really good problems here at Good Shepherd. But problems nonetheless. But that’s why we’re called to trust and believe that we’re doing what God wants us to do. Then roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.

But first, I have to go to a pool party for campus ministry. I can’t believe I get paid to do this.