An Artist’s Healing Journey

It was a privilege to meet Isadore Charters a few months ago and hear his story.  It is gut wrenching and saturated in the pain of a residential school experience but a pain navigated with humility, reconciliation, joy and brilliant ‘soul formed’ artistic expression.  This is his story.  Well worth the watch.  It’s 3 minutes long.  (HT to Brander McDonald).

What part of Isadore’s story struck you?  How do youexpress yourself when you are on a ‘healing journey’?

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My son Asher, carving the “Healing Pole” Isadore brought to our church. The “Healing Pole” is a way to participate together in reconciliation activity for the atrocities of the Church/State run Residential School’s that were scattered throughout Canada.

The Big Dirty ‘D’

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“Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith.  They keep it awake and moving”
– Frederick Buechner

When the disciples told Thomas of the resurrection, he doubted.   Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, needed more.  He was fraught with uncertainty.

The grand narrative of the Bible does not shy away from doubt. We encounter ‘heroes’ of faith who languished within the depths of doubt.

Often our churches do not encounter doubt with any degree of maturity.  If we do not take doubts seriously, churches come across as merely trying to maintain a confortable faith ‘construct.’

It’s like a dirty word or something.

It is because doubt asks questions of carefully constructed theological and organizational structures.  Many of which serve as foundational to a faith that gives robotic answers to much of life’s mystery.

Doubt offers us an opportunity to explore anew the mystery of God.  It pokes holes in the construct.  Sometimes we claim to know so much, yet in reality we know so little.  In the midst of this world that celebrates certainty even within our church communities, uncertainty creates a doubt that is troublesome.

Pay attention to your doubts.  Pay attention to the questions those doubts are asking in the particular context in which you find yourself or your community asking them.

Here are a few questions those in my context are flirting with;

  • Can faith and science get along?
  • Why do bad things happen?
  • What about all the contradictions we find in scripture?

With doubt we have potential for new understandings and ultimately a new depth of faith.  Because if we follow our doubts into the realm of uncertainty and mystery, we may indeed find a deeper call to believe.

But what is faith if not for uncertainty?  For a faith of only certainty grows stagnant within the shallow waters of human concreteness.

Pursue your doubts with honesty.

What are your doubts?  Are you afraid to pursue them?  Why or why not?

I was privileged to participate in a weekend of doubting with the young adults of the Mennonite Church British Columbia conference. This was the best retreat I have been part of in my short pastoral career. Our doubts sparked a new depth in conversation unmatched in many ministry contexts which have avoid ‘the big dirty D’

Linking Our Sunday’s with our Monday–Saturday

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I have been reading JR Woodward’s new book “Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World” and will be dropping a collaborative review with Len Hjalmarson soon.  Here are some helpful words on what a thriving church looks like.  Interestingly it is a church that connects our Sunday’s with our Monday – Saturday.

A thriving environment helps the congregation to live our her calling in the world for the sake of the world.  People begin to link Sunday with Monday, and their work transforms from a job to a sacred vocation.  They learn to bring God’s power to bear on human need.  The banker or person in finance looks for a way to live out jubilee; judges help the court system move toward conflict resolution instead of ever increasing litigation.  Realtors try to house people according to their need instead of their greed.  Engineers and architects look to bring a sense of order and beauty to cities.  Artists seek to disturb, awaken and enlighten us in hopes that we might be more present to ourselves, our world and to the One who is behind all of creation.  People learn to live out their calling in their vocation in a way that blesses others and brings glory to God. – page 53/54

How do our churches and communities empower and equip us to walk as disciples beyond Sunday?  How do you want to be encouraged to “live out faith” every day of the week? 

Persecution: Do we really have a clue?

 

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I will never forget my friend from Pakistan. 

I met him at Bible school in Germany.  One evening, while hanging out in the lecture hall he told me a story about what life was like for him in Pakistan.

He told me that one time militant Muslim extremists (it is important to note that faithful, practicing Muslims are not militant extremists and that Islam practiced faithfully is a faith of peace) put him in the back of a car, took him to a building, force fed him and hung him upside down.  The next thing he remembers is his mother sitting over his bedside crying.  Still he believed in a God that, in his words, is ‘much bigger.’  There was sacrifice and faith staring me in the face.

I walked out of the lecture hall that night introduced to true sacrifice in the name of faith.  It was a sacrifice I had not known in my many years in North American Christian circles.  To believe was a matter of life and death.   

It was a moment, a person, who has been significantly formative to my faith.  It scared the crap out of me.  But sacrifice in the name of faithfulness has a tendency to do that.

A few weeks after he shared that story with me, we found out that his family had to disown him for fear of persecution themselves.  It was a trying time for many of us who supported him.

We come up against resistance because of faith in many places and spaces in North America.  After all, we are moving increasingly into a time where the story of Jesus is not known. Yet I am not so sure that the majority of us have a clue what persecution is… 

We have much to learn from the global church!!!!!

Have you ever been persecuted for faith?  Do we really have a clue about persecution? 

I am thankful for my friend from Pakistan. I am happy to write that he is doing great and living in Germany.

are denominations important?

According to dictionary.com a denomination is “a religious group, usually including many local churches,often larger than a sect.”

When I was younger I only knew about my larger denomination because my father was a pastor and would go to their meetings.  Otherwise I would not have had a clue about the larger body of churches that makes up a denomination.  While in university, I failed to see any value in my church being part of a denomination.  As a church goer I felt tremendously disconnected from this larger and seemingly purely administrative body.

I saw denominations as insignificant.  If my church was not part of a denomination, nobody would have noticed anyway.

Yet here I am today, a pastor and see the value in a denomination.  Not only does it provide the administrative backdrop that facilitates my being a paid pastor.  But, my denomination is also an excellent resource providing me with further professional development, a resource centre, and denominational leaders who can give a significant wisdom to my ministerial context.  More importantly, it connects me with other churches and leaders who share similar theology and are grounded in a similar faith tradition.

As a pastor, this formal network has been invaluable.

Blogger Ed Stetzer asks a question about the importance of church denominations pointing to the results of a recent study.  An important question that I think is worthy for those within the Anabaptist world to ask.  The results below are are interesting.  It is an American study, though I am not sure how the results would change if the same study were done strictly in Canada.  But the question remains.

Are denominations important?

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