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This should not have happened to me!

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It was a beautiful day to study. I had just settled in on one of my favourite benches near the lost lagoon in Stanely Park, when I had the strange sensation that someone was watching me. I looked up from my books and turned around. There behind me perhaps 15 meters away in the bushes was a well muscled young man standing beside his bicycle, he was looking at me. No worries, I went back to studying. Still my unease remained, so I looked over my shoulder again, he was still there, but this time it appeared as though he was studying me. As I tried to return to my work I realized that I couldn’t. Why was this man watching me with such intensity? I decided I would make direct eye contact and find out. So for a third time I turned around. At that moment the man grinned in a sinister way, lowered his pants, exposed himself to me and began to massage his manhood in plain view.  With his other hand, he pointed directly at me, and then commanded me to  “Come here!” I was shocked, disgusted, traumatized, violated, angered, and afraid all at once. I grabbed my books and backpack, yelled at him “No!” and ran off.

I kept running until I found another bench far away and in a very public place. I called my wife and as we talked she suggested I call the police. They came immediately, and together we searched in vain to find the perpetrator. As we drove around in the squad car, I asked the officer what the primary crime in our neighbourhood was. Without hesitation he said sexual abuse. People, he told me, are always trying to take advantage of each other sexually and as a result many people feel violated. Since we were only three days away from the Pride parade, (a parade in our neighbourhood which celebrates, among other things, sexual freedom) I asked the officer if during this time of year there was a spike in sexual abuse complaints. He said yes.

That got me thinking. Are we as a society helping to increase sexual abuse or decrease sexual abuse? I think it’s the former. The cry for freedom is a noble one, but maybe not so much when it comes to sex. If we as a society tell ourselves that we are free to experience whatever sexual pleasure we happen to desire then we shouldn’t be surprised when people regularly break through the rather loose constraints of “responsible” and “consensual” to maximize whatever they think will give them the most pleasure. This is exactly what’s happening in my neighbourhood and it’s exactly what happened to me. This man who attempted to violate me, acted upon a freedom principle he has learned from our society. Granted he was willing to break through more fences then most to get what he wanted, but still, if we continue to promote sexual freedom as one of the highest ideals in our society, then we will have to continue to accept sexual abuse as one of it’s unintended consequences.

Perhaps there is a better ideal to strive for when it comes to our sexuality than freedom. As one who has been violated, I am certainly willing to explore other options. What if, for example, freedom was supplanted by faithfulness as our society’s highest ideal when it comes to sexuality? What if faithfulness was the message we taught our children in schools and at home. What if our popular culture began to frame it’s art, movies, and music around this ideal? Would sexual abuse increase or decrease? My suspicion is that it would decrease and humans would flourish.

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What it means to be a dad

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“Wrestle time!” 

That’s pretty much all my 5 year old son says whenever he sees me. First thing in the morning or late at night, it doesn’t matter he’s always up for a fight. He tries to think of put downs to really get me going. The other week he put his tough guy face on and called me a “rubber ducky” — the ultimate throw down! This week, he fine tuned his verbal barrage and goaded me into another rumble by calling me an “old man”. We took it to the park, shirts and shoes off, no holds barred. Forty year old verses five year old. The dog walkers in the park were quite amused to see this shirtless duo of father and son engaged in mortal combat. There was a pause in the melee:

“Dad, were not allowed to hit each other in the penis right?

“That’s right son” 

The dog walkers chuckled. Fists and feet flailed away once again.

A homeless guy passed out in the park, woke up, squinted, and looked over in our direction, trying to figure out what the ruckus was all about. He finally did, and stumbled over to us. He watched for a few minutes and then said.

“Dude I need a woman, so I can have a son, cause what your doing is f***ing awesome!”

He wandered off. The fight ended, and we headed back for supper, sweaty, sticky, itchy, dirty, scrapped, bruised and happy. My son’s efforts earned him a shoulder ride home. He had four helpings for dinner, and made no objections when it was bed time.

As Father’s Day comes upon us, my appeal is specifically for fathers to be fathers to their sons. Young boys don’t need gadgets and television shows to occupy their time. They don’t need physically or mentally absent fathers preoccupied with trivial matters like making money or advancing a career. They don’t need dad’s who spend most of their time in vain pursuits and selfish hobbies. They need dad’s who will get dirty with them, who will wrestle, who will roar with their sons like lions, who will go on adventures, take risks, and scrape knees together. Dads committed to walking out perilous exploits, and daring feats that require courage, bravery, responsibility and hard work from their sons. This is fathering and the homeless dude was right, it’s f***ing awesome!

What is Church

What if church looked like this? Would you be interested? Welcome to Meta.

When Leaders Let You Down

Don’t let disappointment destroy you

Don’t let disappointment destroy you. 3 min video

Is there away to prevent yourself from becoming bitter when others let you down? The only way that I know of I learned from Jesus.

Religiphobia

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Horrible things have happened in the name of religion. I am half way through the book A Concise History of the Middle East, and I could easily cite a hundred examples or more of atrocities committed in the name of Jesus or Allah. Before that book I read Great Soul the biography of Mahatma Gandhi, which some could argue is more a chronology of carnage between Hindus and Muslims than anything else.

I understand why religion is creepy at best to many in our western world. I see clearly how charlatans and power mongers embed themselves in religious communities so as to control people and take advantage of noble traits like generosity and grace. I’ve seen how religious institutions grow, gain power and become corrupt. I’ve observed how leaders of religious organizations let success, fame, & popularity go to their head. These leaders become arrogant, pompous, and unloving. I’ve witnessed the stunning transformation of well-meaning religious people who become so fixated on a particular issue or moral standard that love and grace vanish, replaced with violent anger and rage.
Given these realities, is it suitable for us as a culture to embrace a phobia of religion? Religiphobia is a knee jerk negative reaction against anything that even resembles religion. The assumption of a religiphobe is that all things religious or even apparently religious should be continually marginalized, censored, & prohibited.

The problem with religiphobia is that is comes with an unwarranted presupposition against all religions and it fails to take into consideration the truth that every human is innately religious — especially religiphobes.

The unwarranted presupposition against all religions fails to consider what I call simple religion. Take Jesus for example. His conclusion on the whole matter of religion is to love God by loving your neighbor. That’s how Christians are supposed to practice their religion. So if a Christian or group of Christians want to practice the simple religion of loving their neighbor at a community centre or a local school by putting together a program or event that benefits the neighborhood they should be able to do so. But it’s simply not possible when religiphobia is in the air. If one wishes to practice simple religion by opening up his home to share meals and talk about life’s questions. The religiphobes send city inspectors to try to shut it down. For many who wish to practice this form of simple religion they could only do so if they jettison their faith, or masquerade as irrereligous. Even a hint of religion and doors slam tightly shut. Granted, if religious organizations were trying to manipulate people or hurt them that would be one thing. But this is not what the purveyors of simple religion are about. They are about helping make their neighborhoods better as an act of worship to a God they believe in. Why ever would we as a society frown upon that?

Secondly, every human is religious. To quote Yann Martel “Atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith…We all go as far as the legs of reason will carry us and then we jump!”  Science can never retrace with certainty where we have come from or where we are going, or why we are here. The deep why’s, the ones that matter in our gut, will always remain unanswered by scientific rationalism and so we jump. All of us jump: some with lab coats on and some without, but we all jump. That’s faith, that’s religion. Everyone who is part of the human race, shapes their life around a story that they are believing. To me it’s culturally poor form to push to the margins certain faiths while at the same time upholding others. Somehow we’ve managed to justify this discrimination by pretending that some of the more secular explanations for why, what and how to live are not faith based. They are all faith-based. Religiphobes are the fundamentalists of this faith.

Perhaps we as a society should relax a little, take a deep breath. There are enemies out there that want to undo us, some in the name of organized religion some not. Practitioners of simple religion are not the enemy.

How not to get your “nose out of joint”

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When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more… (Ruth 1:28) She did not thank Ruth for her incredible sacrifice, give her a hug, tell her that she loved her -nothing, she just shut right up. The good things we do should never be for the purpose of winning the approval of the one we do them for. If this was true for Ruth she would be completely offended  at this point. “Look at all I am doing for her and she doesn’t even have the decency to say thank you!” — When you do the right thing because you serve God it’s much harder to become offended when people don’t appreciate your sacrifice. You are not doing it for them! Because I serve God I can continue to bless people in need whether they appreciate me or not. This is such a liberating position. We are so often controlled by the actions of others. We react to people and our emotions come under their grasp but not so much in this view. People can do whatever they want. They can like me or not like me, appreciate my sacrifice or not it doesn’t matter, I serve God. I love God by loving my neighbor that is all.

Why Do I Need God?

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Its another beautiful day in Vancouver, the fountains at Lost Lagoon soothe me, the beauty of the mountains and trees amaze me, the sun warms me, I breathe in deeply the fresh air invigorates me. My belly is full, thanks to a wife who loves me. I sit here without fear. This is Canada, we love peace & simplicity. The turtles are sunning themselves on the log, a swan glides gracefully by, these are the reassurances of the serenity that I have found. The question rises, “Why do I need God?” An answer does not immediately come. I think for a minute, the wind picks up a bit, a swallow races by my head, effortlessly defying gravity. A crow makes it’s presence known. Could I not just be content with the natural beauties of this world and leave God out of it? There are these things in this world, be amazed, enjoy them and leave it at that. The crow has found two peanuts, he is greedy, so he works hard to fit them both into his beak, he is unsuccessful. He stands in danger of losing everything as three smaller birds hop towards him. In the end he takes one, and hides it by a lamp post, then dashes back to grab the remaining morsel and fly off. What’s wrong with greed? The crow knows that he needs food or he dies, he cares nothing for other birds, and why should he, is not life about survival? The tour guide Dan stops by, he has people from St Louis, Virginia, & Edmonton, now I am learning all about Stanley Park, evidently it took 70 years to build the sea wall, each rock laid by hand. Dan is good, he has everybody laughing, it’s clear he loves his job. Why do we love? Love seems to mess with this idea of survival as the primary thing. I know of people who for love have forfeited their own lives. My mind drifts back to my original question “why do I need God?” A beautiful woman just sat down one bench over, she’s delicate, yet appears strong, she has a beauty about her that draws me in, the breeze loosens her hair, a soft hand reaches up to address the erring lock. I want to imagine certain pleasures with her, a man comes up and asks her for the time, does he really want to know the time? She’s writing now, I imagine she’s writing wonderful things about me. Faithfulness, that’s what I start thinking about, a picture of my wife flashes through my mind. What’s so bad about unfaithfulness? Back to my question — It’s the story really, I want a meta narrative, a grand story that helps me find the proper place for greed, for love, and for unfaithfulness. A framework that helps me identify a right path and a wrong path. Ultimate meaninglessness as a grand story and the human as the central figure of that story leave me feeling bloated and hollow. I want to believe that life is so much more than the material world, so much more than me. I want to believe in things like redemption, hope, and happy endings. I want the beauty of nature that I am experiencing today to point me in a direction toward someone, someone greater than us all. Perhaps this is why I need God.

God & Evil

There is nothing that enters into our world that escapes Gods notice. If God was not willing to allow something it would not happen. Both the good and the bad have God’s all seeing eye on them. Nothing is hidden from God. So how is it then that a good God can allow bad things to happen? We believe that God redeems even the bad things. So when we must walk through these dark valleys we trust that God will bring good out of it. The best example of this is the cross of Christ. Incredible evil allowed by the hand of God upon himself all for an incredibly redemptive wonderful purpose

Is 45:6-7 –     I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.Image