Sunday, July 29, 2007

God @ the Movies: Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond is an R-rated movie. While I don’t go out of my way to shock or offend anyone by picking R-rated movies, I felt that it is justified in certain cases, this being one of them. Real life stories are often ratet R. The news is often rated R. Books are often rated R, and the Bible of all things is R-rated in places! Just try reading it- wars, tent pegs through the head, knives being plunged into big bellies, incest, adultery, genocides, stonings, slavery, the list goes on.

It’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that scare me, it’s the parts I do understand. Mark Twain

Many of us are strangely distant from the human suffering that goes on in the world.

This film is about what Martin Luther King Jr. called the triplets of evil: rascism, militarism and materialism.

Scene 1, chapter 2 6.35- 8.02

Raw materials lead to guns and death for locals- and huge profits for others.

Darwin’s Nightmare
Some time in the 1960's, in the heart of Africa, a new animal was introduced into Lake Victoria as a little scientific experiment. The Nile Perch, a voracious predator, extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species. However, the new fish multiplied so fast, that its white fillets are today exported all around the world. Huge hulking ex-Soviet cargo planes come daily to collect the latest catch in exchange for their southbound cargo… Kalashnikovs and ammunitions for the uncounted wars in the dark center of the continent.

I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds, in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil.Most of us I guess, know about the destructive mechanisms of our time, but we cannot fully picture them.We are unable to "get it", unable to actually believe what we know. It is, for example, incredible that wherever prime raw material is discovered, the locals die in misery, their sons become soldiers, and their daughters are turned into servants and whores. Hearing and seeing the same stories over and over makes me feel sick. After hundreds of years of slavery and colonisation of Africa, globalisation of african markets is the third and deadliest humiliation for the people of this continent. The arrogance of rich countries towards the third world (that's three quarters of humanity) is creating immeasurable future dangers for all peoples.
Herbert Sauper

In this scene we witness the meeting of a diamond smuggler/soldier of fortune and a journalist who play prominently in the movie, as in any conflict.

Scene 2, chapter 6 24.46- 27.20

A local named Solomon Vandy and his family are caught in the violence in Sierra Leone. Solomon is forced to work in the diamond moines for the RUF, the Rebel United Front.

His wife, daughter and baby become refugees fleeing the fighting. His son Dia Vandy is captured and forced into becoming a child soldier. This is the method of indoctrination and brainwashing the RUF use:

Scene 3, chapter 9 35.00- 36.00

The children are brainwashed. Gangs are the same, offering the things we miss growing up, initiating us into more pain than healing.

Last September our kids scholol got a new principal. He came from a rougher section of Edmonton and at the first school assembly proceeded to take out fake knives and guns and said that kids aren’t allowed to bring them to school. It was a bit of a shock for most of our kids, teachers and the parents who were there. Being sheltered, though, doesn’t mean one sticks their head in the sand. Growing up in northeast Edmonton you got used to that kind of stuff!

Little Dia Vandy is now the ‘boss man’. Dia is the living example of a Blood Diamond. Will he be a little boy, or will his name make him a casualty, a Diamond for Van de Kaap. See the play on names? Diamonds equal childrens lives! Blood Diamonds.

Scene 4, chapter 9 36.40- 37.39

Scene 5, chapter 10 39.56- 40.58

I feed the poor and they casl me a saint. I ask why they’re poor and they call me a communist. Dom Helder Camera

Scene 6, chapter 13 51.41- 54.41

‘Why should I bother to help one person?’

Because that’s how we help the world, one life at a time

Have you ever seen a new story about a large refugee camp sandwiched between trying to watch sports and weather on ESPN?

‘People back home wouldn’t buy a ring if they knew it cost someone their hand.’

Scene 7, chapter 15 61.58- 63.25

How it works getting the diamonds out and reclaiming them for the global market.

Scene 8, chapter 18 75.15- 76.15

At the orphanages they reclaim the children.

‘God-forsaken continent.’

Scene 9, chapter 19 79.42- 80.45

‘You lost both your parents, didn’t you?’

God doesn’t leave any area- He sends us in!

Scene 10, chapter 23 94.37- 95.24

‘I hope they don’t find oil or we’ll be in real trouble!’

‘You think I am a devil but it’s only because I have lived in hell. I want out!’

Scene 11, chapter 28 117.47- 118.34

‘I am your Father who loves you.’

Solomon Vandy. Who is considered the wisest person to have ever lived? Solomon. Who is considered by many to have been the wealthiest to have ever lived? Solomon. He wrote Ecclesiastes:

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. Everything is meaningless!" Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Maybe that admonishment even includes the things we fail to do that we should be doing. Just a thought.

Luke 10:1-12
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Were there any pairs sent out in Blood Diamond? How about Solomon and Danny. Or Danny and the journalist.

The kingdom is near, even when there is rejection of God’s ways.

“Don’t let the world steal your soul. Being a Christian is about choosing Jesus and deciding to do something incredibly daring with your life.” Shane Claiborne, quoting a college professor

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing. Arundhati Roy

This thing called the kingdom of God is emerging across the globe in the most unexpected places, a gentle whisper amid the chaos.

One Life Experience comes to Edmonton! It’s a 2000 square foot African village set-up.

Reflect on how to be a person of justice & peace. What is God saying to you?

Partnership Africa Canada

World Food Programme

Free trade coffee. Halftime experiences such as that of Randy W.

From a 19-year-old Bible College student:
To start, if you haven’t seen his movie yet; see it. I just got home from the theater, it’s quarter past one, I have to be up for training in about 7 hours, but I really don’t care. The Holy Spirit is working in me and I have to get it out, I have to tell someone, something. The whole ride home I was silent, this is my attempt at putting my thoughts down, of straightening them out before I let them wander back to the pointless, miniscule things; things that only concern me. ME! FRICK ME. This movie showed the power of greed in one situation in Africa. All over the world, greed causes hell. Christ came to bring his kingdom; so did Satan. Which kingdom am I going to choose to live under?

Blood Diamond was a movie about death, a movie about war, a movie about the power that human beings think they have over one another. It showed quite gruesomely what humans are capable of and why am I any different. I’m not in Africa trafficking diamonds or brainwashing children, I’m in North America sipping coffee and talking about ministry. Tonight, while watching this movie; I became tired of talking. I became tired of sitting around waiting to fight the battle that Christ calls me to; the Battle of bringing HIS kingdom rather than letting the kingdom of darkness reign. This isn’t a battle that’ll put me face to face with my own death literally, but it’s a battle that will take fighting. I can’t sit and feel sorry about myself anymore. I am simply a student at Bible College; slowly trying to figure out what the heck I’m here for; tonight I think I got it. Christ’s kingdom is one of love, charity, peace, joy, struggles, but mostly LIFE; Satan’s is one of death, pain, anguish, suffering, anger; ultimately death. Two kingdoms, and I am stuck in the middle. I am stuck in a world that says that neither kingdom exists, a world that claims that there is no right and wrong; only what we ‘feel’ is right. Excuse my French but that is BS!

Watch Blood Diamond and try to tell me that there’s no right and wrong. Even today I was faced with the choice to live under God’s kingdom or to let the rule of Satan overtake me. God isn’t out to get us, he’s out to free us. I’m sick and tired of waiting to be set free. I have been made free by God and I have been freed to fight. Freed to stop letting myself be the number one priority in my life. Free to serve others with a pure heart. Free to live the life that Christ was calling me to live; in HIS KINGDOM. I’ve been praying that a lot recently; that I would learn to live in the light of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is here, Satan’s kingdom is here; the choice is up to me who I am going to let rule me. Enter the Holy Spirit. I, by myself, do NOT have the capacity to make this choice and make I right. I need to stop playing myself up and start giving myself up. Christ calls me to more; but not on my own. Jesus will be there, the Holy Spirit will be there, I simply need to accept the hand that He is lending me, take it, and let it take me.

Here I sit, thousands of miles away from Africa, with a sense of hopelessness. The main character in the movie addresses Africa as a ‘God-forsaken’ land, in the midst of all that pain he had lost any hope. We can’t lose hope. God is in control, and you know what? I’ve accepted the fact that I’m small, that I may not be able to change the whole country of Africa- but I haven’t stopped believe that God can. So what can I do? I can choose to live under Christ’s rule; as his servant. I may not be able to change the world, but if I can help one person find freedom from the power of Satan’s kingdom – Christ has won. And that’s what he’s promised –that he’s one. I’m going to start living like I believe that… So this has been pretty random, I hope that something here has stuck out to you, let me know what you guys think. I love you all and am tired of just saying it so I’ll probably stop saying it for a while. I hope that you remember that You’re Not alone. The Kingdom of Heaven is here; believe it.

The kingdom is here. Be a part of it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Gospel cycle begins with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit giving and receiving love in perpetual community.

God then gives us love, we receive it and we give it away. We can't give away what we've never fully received. Open your heart to God today.

1 John 4:7-21
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

This is how we know we're living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He's given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we've seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God's Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we've embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

If anyone boasts, "I love God," and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Finishing well brings happiness

Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two years ago in September we had a clothing giveaway we called, "Kids With Style." Well this year the Back to School Clothing event is being co-ordinated by St. John's Anglican Church.

We will join them in collecting Back to School clothing for the residents of Duggan Capital Region Housing on September 14th.

We need things such as underwear, socks and personal care items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, shampoo in addition to clothes. Bring them to the church and we'll deliver them!

You are invited to a Free Clothing Event

For: Residents of Duggan Capital Regional Housing

Clothing for School-age Children

When: Friday, September 14, 2007 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Club Connect Centre Duggan #5, 3724-105 Street

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Get going...

Joshua 1
"Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I'm giving to the People of Israel. I'm giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River—all the Hittite country—and then west to the Great Sea. It's all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going. And don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed. Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Dwell in the midst of us
Come and dwell in this place
Dwell in the midst of us
Come and have Your way

Dwell in the midst of us
Wipe all the tears from our faces
Dwell in the midst of us
You can have Your way

Not our will, but Yours be done
Come and change us
Not our will, but Yours be done
Come sustain us

Revelation 22
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."

Monday, July 23, 2007

God @ the Movies: Cars

Why do this series? We need to cultivate a reflective process about life, and life in our own story as we wake up to our part in God’s story. Movies are one of the best opportunities for us to do that.

God has a way of guiding the selection of movies that we use here in our God @ the Movies series. Originally I thought Because of Winn-Dixie would be appropriate today, but my spirit wasn’t quite settled.

As I thought and prayed about having Hannah’s dedication, God brought the movie Cars to the forfront. Last year we had watched Cars in Kelowna as a respite from 42 C temperatures in an ice-cool air conditioned theater. As I watched I knew it had to be shown this year, and because of the generational aspects and mentoring invloved it seemed the right movie for today. I shared it with Anola & she agreed.

Last Sunday Carlin and Mike & I were talking about the movie and I asked if they liked Cars and Carlin piped up, “We love it! we even have that movie.” Up to that point I hadn’t met anyone who owned it. I love how God works.

Well Cars is a movie that gets at some very important life lessons and does it in an incredibly creative way.

You could title this talk, “Who are your friends and what race are you in?”

As an animated movie everything is a car or a truck, even the insects! The film is told around life as a Nascar type of race.

Scene 1, chapter 1 3.13-4.40

The race for the coveted Piston Cup

Scene 2, chapter 2 (start) 9.26-10.20

Lightning says, “I'm a one man show.” No man or woman is an island, although we pretend to be at times.

Scene 3, chapter 2, 11.32-12.45

“You’re stupid,” says Strip 'The King' Weathers to Lightning. We all can use a good rebuke every now and then, especially when we deserve it!

You could sarcastically call Lightning, “Mr. Teachable.”

Scene 4, chapter 4, 16.11-18.02

Life is a highway.” Tom Cochrane wrote this song after a visit to Africa for famine relief.

Scene 5, chapter 6, 25.36-27.13

Sin so easily entangles, doesn't it?

Lightning is sentenced by Doc, who is also the local judge, to fix the road he destroyed. Says Lightning, “I shouldn’t have to put up with this.”

Have you ever said that to God?

Scene 6, chapter 12, 44.06-45.41

Doc’s wisdom in action. Robert Clinton has shown through looking at the leaders in the Bible that God uses testing patterns in our life to develop character that resembles Jesus Christ.

The positive testing pattern is the incident that tests us, the recognition that the test is from God, and the positive response which deepens our character.

The negative testing pattern is similar but ends with different results. There is the incident that tests us, the refusal of the test, and the lack of character formation. The negative test almost always requires repeated remedial testing to correct the deficient character element.

Clearly a negative testing pattern was plaguing Lightning.

Scene 7, chapter 14, 49.00-50.00

Trying to make life work- Lightning really needs a mentor.

Scene 8, chapter 19, 64.00-65.26

Piston Cup with wrenches in it. Trophies of old gather dust.

What really lasts?

Transformed lives!

My old baseball medals.

We will all battle cynicism, as we get older. We don’t automatically mature as we age. We must learn from out mistakes, and from the mistakes of others. Reflected experience turns our own history into wisdom.

Reverse mentoring.

Scene 9, chapter 23 71.10-72.15

Cars didn’t drive to make great time; they drove to have a great time. What race are you in?

“Whoever has the most toys when he dies wins.”

Scene 10, chapter 25, 77.57-79.55

Life’s setbacks, life’s hurts, how do we battle cynicism?

Far too often we allow life’s struggles to give us a hard heart and a thin skin as opposed to a soft heart and a thick skin!

Jeremiah 29:5-7
"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

Tune into the movement of God. Help people. Encourage their gifts, believe in them, and slow down life enough to find or create community.

Scene 11, chapter 30, 96.00-98.19

Lightning is no longer into the whole race thing- something is missing.

As humans, we are wired for experiences. But there is a subtle pressure to forget that we’re also wired for community and relationship. The very best experiences are those that we can share with friends.

And the friends that Lightning discovered weren’t fancy race cars- just down to earth characters full of love and acceptance.

I always get chills when I see this scene. I think of an old friend and mentor who has walked with me through some very challenging times. Find someone to believe in, cheer them along. Many individuals have risen above very difficult circumstances because somewhere along the way, be it a coach, a teacher, aunt or uncle who saw potential in them and nurtured it.

Scene 12, chapter 30, 101.55-104.00

You make a living by what you do; you get a life by what you give.

Jesus reminded us of that in the story of the Good Samaritan who made the time to help a Jew, who was usually their sworn enemy. The priest and the royal official had all too much work to do to stop, not the Samaritan.

It all depends on what audience you play for- do you want accomplishments and praise or do you want to be a part of changing lives and the eternal destination for people?

Scene 13, chapter 30, 104.50-106.15

As we leave each other today, what race are you in?

Where is God giving opportunity to put the past behind you?

Is God using you to help someone move through life’s difficulty?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Proverbs 4:23-24
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Philippians 2:1-11
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Colossians 3:12-13
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Philippians 4:4-9
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rocky Balboa to his son:

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place. And I don't care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you permanently there if you let it.

You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.

Now if you know what you are worth, go out and get what you are worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers, saying you ain't where you want to be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain't you. You're better than that."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Bible as story...

Monday, July 16, 2007

God @ the Movies 2007: The Straight Story

Movies are today’s parables. Jesus spoke in story form and film just like His parables, have a way of drawing us in, getting us out of our heads and into our hearts. This is how truth comes to life.

Today we’ll look at The Straight Story, and no it’s not about coming out of the closet or anything like that! It’s the story of Alvin Straight and a bizarre journey he undertakes. It certainly won’t rival Live Free or Die Hard for action, but nonetheless is very profound. I had wanted to use it last year but couldn’t work it in.

As a story of forgiveness and reconciliation it is very powerful. As we begin today, I’d like you to think of two people who you’d like to forgive and perhaps reconcile with. It could be from the car ride over here today or it might date all the way back to an abusive relationship from childhood. Take a second to ask God who it might be.

This is a story of a healing journey and of the purpose of our life. There is a great deal that challenges the fast pace of life, of seeing where the kingdom of God is breaking in, not through the fast and the powerful but in simple hospitality, through the sharing of our sorrow together. It is a spiritual odyssey.

Let’s meet Alvin Straight, who is about 73 years old and has just fallen and been unable to get up. Here we see him in the doctor’s office following that experience:

Scene 1: chapter 3 9.10-10.30

Crusty old curmudgeon, hey?! Do you think he might be stubborn? Any of us here stubborn, too? Don’t ask my wife if I am!

Alvin lives in a small town in rural Iowa. One evening he and his daughter Rose are enjoying a summer storm when they get a phone call:

Scene 2: chapter 5 12.57-16.31

Life’s storms blow in unexpectedly and often we’re never the same. I know many of you have received traumatic calls like the call Alvin got. Alvin’s brother Lyle, whom he’s estranged with, has had a serious stroke.

I gotta go see Lyle’, says Alvin. His face is set upon forgiveness and reconciliation.

Lyle lives about the distance from here past Jasper to Valemount. Or probably from here to Saskatoon- and the terrain would be similar! He can’t drive and he hates the idea of taking a bus. Add that to the fact that this is a trip he must go alone and he is left with only one alternative:

Scene 3: chapter 7: 24.10- 26.12

I love the pan to the sky as if the question is being asked, “What does God think of this journey? Perhaps He would say, ‘This is my son in whom I am well pleased.’’

The road to reconciliation can be a lonely road, can’t it? When Rose first gets the inclination that her dad is going to undertake such a long trip with the mower the only thing she can say is, “Oh jeez dad, no!”

Well, the mower breaks down and Alvin is brought back into town on the back of a truck as his friends watch. He arrives home to shoot the old mower, but shortly thereafter buys a 1966 John Deere and is back on the road!

He passes the Grotto of the Redemption, West Bend, Iowa that is the largest religiously inspired grotto in the world. There is deep symbolism there. The Grotto tells in stone the story of the fall of humanity, and our Divine redemption through Jesus Christ.

On the journey Alvin passes a young hitchhiker who later shares that she’s running away from home because of an unwanted pregnancy. She feels that her family hates her. Here is Alvin’s response:

Scene 4: chapter 10 43.00- 46.53

What or who has hurt you? Who is your bundle? Can we share our wounds together and so experience healing and wholeness? The hospitality is so powerful in the movie. Notice too the work of the church in grace and how it’s ‘out there’, not in here.

Along the way there are many God-winks for Alvin, where his needs are provided for. These show confirmation that he’s on the right journey, be it ever so slow.

Let’s watch what happens when someone passes him on the highway:

Scene 5: chapter 13 54.08-56.38

Life happens. Mishaps, struggles, death, sadness and relational road kill. Notice how Alvin redeems the situation!

Along the way an angel named Danny, like our Danny, helps Alvin.

After the mower breaks down again the twin owners of the local John Deere outfit help Alvin. The twins are having their issues and so Alvin opens up a bit about his journey:

Scene 6: chapter 18 81.29- 82.18

Pride. ‘Nuff said about that. Well Alvin crosses the Mississippi River into Wisconsin and encounters a local Catholic priest at his church and nearby cemetery. Once again the symbolism of crossing the river, of encountering a holy place and a place where the dead are buried is rich.

Alvin talks with the priest:

Scene 7: chapter 20 91.32- 92.42

Cain and Abel. Anger and hatred. As Alvin nears Lyle’s place his tractor stalls one last time. Now Alvin is stuck in the middle of nowhere: he can’t walk out, can’t drive the mower. We all get stuck at some point. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t dealt with our past, or with our hurts. We need help. We’re never more stuck than when we’re in denial.

When dealing with forgiveness the size of transgression matters: The big ones are really hard to forgive and big numbers of transgressions mount up into a person who is hard to forgive. Alvin and his brother had gone over ten years without speaking!

“Injustice Gap”: the gap between my ideal and the way that I perceive that things currently stand. We all desire to see that gap closed somehow.

Our own personal injustice gap is affected by our perception that the offender hurt others and that the offender committed a transgression against God.

An apology helps close it, usually enough, but not always. Sometimes it takes restitution. Even apologies that aren’t heartfelt work at times, such as when you ‘ask’ one child to apologize to another child.

Decisional forgiveness: one’s intent to give up on revenge or avoidance and to treat the person as in the pre-transgression relationship.

If we don’t decide to forgive, and even sometimes when we have chosen decisional forgiveness, we don’t experience in our heart it because we ruminate too much. Rumination is simply the repetitive negative thinking related to our own hurt, depression, anxiety, and anger. This leads to emotional unforgiveness and a hardened and embittered heart.

Emotional Unforgiveness: A complex combination of negative emotions (i.e., resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anger, and fear), that is experienced at some time after a transgression is perceived, that occurs after ruminating about the event and its consequences, and that motivates attempts to reduce the negative emotions.

‘I can’t believe she did that to me!’

Unforgiveness: Holding a grudge (emotional resentment, etc.) or holding vengeance motives or “get-even” motives. Alvin had all of that until he felt compassion for his brother Lyle. It helped close the injustice gap.

Emotional forgiveness, deep forgiveness, real forgiveness, this is what we desperately want to experience! It’s defined as the emotional replacement of negative unforgiving emotions with positive other-oriented emotions. eg. Empathy, Sympathy, Compassion, Agape love, Romantic love.

Here we experience Gratitude (for having been forgiven); Humility (recognition that I, too, have erred); and Hope (toward the future).

Fortunately for Alvin a farmer on a bigger tractor helps him out. Alvin pulls up outside of a decrepit shack:

Scene 8: chapter 23 100.30-103.10

You’ll have to watch the movie to see the finale.

As we come to communion, we recognize God undertook the ultimate act of reconciliation towards us. In eating the bread drinking the juice we remember the sacrifice of Jesus. And it was a big sacrifice where God Himself came to be one of us, and took all of our ‘stuff’ away to restore us to god the Father. And we are asked because of that to be forgivers of the same degree especially around God’s table.

It would not have been God's table

The bread and wine on their own are nothing.
To become a foretaste and a promise
of love made real and a world made whole,
they need a story and a blessing
and a people who believe…

It would not have been God’s table

if they hadn’t all been gathered around it:
the betrayer and the friend
the power-hungry and the justice seeker
the faithful and the fickle.

When Jesus poured the wine, and the bread was broken;

when everyone could eat -the outcast and the beloved
the arrogant and the gracious
the wrongdoer and the wrongly done by -the table became a foretaste
of love made real
and of a world made whole.

Your company at the table, will include the betrayer and the beloved

the wrongdoer and the wrongly done by.

It would not be God’s table without them.

And the promise is

that when you are together,
when you tell the story and give the blessing
when you break the bread and pour the wine
you will discover a foretaste
of love made real
and of a world made whole.

Let’s celebrate together.

Matthew 18:23-35
"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn't pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

"The poor wretch threw himself at the king's feet and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' Touched by his plea, (empathy) and full of compassion the king let him off, erasing the debt.

"The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, 'Pay up. Now!' (Injustice gap)

"The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' But he wouldn't do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

"The king summoned the man and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn't you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?' The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."

That’s the Straight Story as told by Jesus.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Romans 12:3-5
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The upside down and backwards kingdom

Mark 9:35-37
"So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all."

Jesus put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, "Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What You & I Have Done

In this farewell
There’s no blood
There’s no alibi
‘Cause I’ve drawn regret
From the truth
Of a thousand lies

So let mercy come
And wash away
What I’ve done

I'll face myself
To cross out what I’ve become
Erase myself
And let go of what I’ve done

Put to rest
What you thought of me
Well I cleaned this slate
With the hands
Of uncertainty

I’ll face myself
To cross out what I’ve become
Erase myself
And let go of what I’ve done

For what I’ve done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m forgiving what I’ve done

What I’ve done
Forgiving what I’ve done

"It doesn’t matter that you sinned. You can do better, and I give you that chance." Jesus

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Romans 12:18
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What did Jesus say?

'Red-Letter Christians'

Some of our most “successful” church models function less like a community and more like a “mall of religion”, dispensing spiritual goods and services to members, rather than building genuine community around a shared mission. In such a consumer oriented church culture, congregations will begin to lose their “market share” as soon as another church hits town offering trendier programs. Our surveys overwhelmingly reflects that “consumerism” is one of the most significant dysfunctions in the North American church. Consumerism is present in small churches and mega churches. Our research shows that it knows no denominational boundaries. At the same time, the insidious power of consumerism grows exponentially as a church attracts throngs of people and garners more media attention.

This consumer driven environment places an exceptionally heavy burden on leaders. Many of these churches have often unwittingly abandoned the mission of the church to make disciples and form a priesthood of believers. Just as our secular culture is celebrity crazed, our consumer church culture creates celebrities in the very places we need servants. JOE JURKOWSKI

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Fruit

We just had a week in Kelowna- complete with the stomach flu, simple fun chasing rabbits, and shooting Nerf darts at just about anything. We also had an enormous game of Mini-golf. Don't believe anything that Anola tells you about who won and by how much!

The Okanagan Valley is known for orchards, wine and amazingly fresh fruit. Cherries, strawberries, and peaches, the whole nine yards of the fruits family. Rainier cherries- ever had some? Unbelievable- like Ambrosia.

The Bible teaches us about fruits too. These fruits are very attractive and they elude us many times. They aren’t the goal of following Christ, but a by-product of accompanying Him on the journey of life.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These expressions of God’s character are often contrasted with the works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other.”

The journey of life isn’t always easy, in fact many times it’s a struggle, as we’ve all discovered once again with painful consequences here at Community of Hope over the past while.

In our midst we have hurt and pain because of things that were done and not done; things that were said and not said; hurt because our friends have been hurt and pain because we may have some friendships that don’t seem as friendly as they once did. In times such as these the negative emotions can seem to far outweigh the positive ones that I’ve just mentioned.

What are we to do?

Galatians 5:13-25
13-15It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

23-24Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

25-26Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Our time together today, which includes our potluck and meeting, is an act of using our freedom to serve one another in love. When we say "I love you," we often mean "I love me and I want you!" That’s not the kind of love Paul is speaking of.

We want to have ‘faith as a verb’: “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” (Verse 25)

The whole orchard business and industry is a challenging one. High costs, difficult growing conditions, rain at just the wrong time can destroy a good crop of cherries. Good fruit can be very hard to come by.

Let’s look at a couple of interactions of Jesus with His most committed followers and see their expression of ‘fruit’:

Luke 9:51-62
51-54When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, "Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?"

55-56Jesus turned on them: "Of course not!" And they traveled on to another village.

(It’s natural for us to lash out at those who’ve hurt us- isn’t it?)

57On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.

58Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."

Jesus said to another, "Follow me."

59He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral."

60Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's kingdom!"

61Then another said, "I'm ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home."

62Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."

James and John come back rejected by the Samaritan village and ask “so, should we rain fire down from heaven to consume them?” Jesus just had to have rolled his eyes. These guys were a real piece of work. So exactly when did raining fire down to consume the villages of folks they didn’t like become an option for them?

If you go back to the first verses of chapter 9 to check what Jesus said in sending out His disciples it reads, ”power and authority to cast out demons, healing and proclaiming the kingdom,” but strangely enough, incinerating an entire village because they made you look bad is strangely absent.

Christian love and allowing Jesus to cultivate a life filled with the fruits of the spirit is easy except for one little problem: the annoying people around us. Seriously, being a slave to the annoying or the mean or the manipulative.... this is a real problem. But Paul is pretty clear on this one: “Through love become slaves to one another.”

So when it comes down to it, we all reach a threshold where we realize, “I just don’t think I can show that much love.” Seriously. When it comes to love and attitudes of joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and (for sure) self-control, you and I can come up pretty short. But here’s the good news - these are not the fruits of Stewart, or Joe or Elaine. These are the fruits of the Spirit.

Maybe that love is not from us but from Christ through us. If our face is set towards Jerusalem, then we are set towards the cross and God’s reconciling and redeeming work in the world, not our work in the maybe the love by which we are to be slaves of one another is already accomplished and thankfully does not rely on our own efforts.

"In the gap between the life we live and the life we hoped for is either transformation or despair" Bob Mayo

The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new horizons but in seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust

We need the eyes of Jesus, as in Matthew 9:36, “Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. "What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"

It means a full surrender to the ways of God, and purposes of God and needs of God.

ULTIMATELY there is tremendous grace in suffering –- not because of the pain of the suffering itself but because suffering allows us to reorient ourselves in ways that we simply could never have done had life proceeded in an untroubled manner. Suffering gives us the occasion to listen as we never have listened before – both to new words and to new sources of wisdom – and to turn listening into seeing. William Long and Glandion Carney

“Spiritual formation in Christ is the process by which one moves and is moved from self-worship to Christ-centered self-denial as a general condition of life in God’s present and eternal kingdom.” Dallas Willard

Come up to pick up your words- one fruit of the spirit and one work of the flesh. Allow God to speak to you as you reflect on the different attitudes that they represent. Perhaps you'll want to start you day each morning by looking at the two choices they represent; or perhaps you'll end your day reflecting on which way it went, be it to the flesh or to the spirit. Ask God to help tend to your heart orchard and produce some summer fruit that'll last a lifetime!


sexual immorality


selfish ambition


factions and envy


idolatry and witchcraft


hatred and discord




fits of rage




Which do you want to see evidenced in your own attitude?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Jesus and the Kingdom of God

Luke 10
"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Do you know who you are!?

I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15)
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt. 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil.3:20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31-34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor.5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom.8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor.1:21-22)
I am assured all things work together for good (Rom. 8: 28)
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16)
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3: 12)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God's temple (1 Cor. 3: 16)
I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God's co-worker (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1)
I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected (Phil. 1: 5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven (Col. 1:14)
I have been adopted as God's child (Eph 1:5)
I belong to God. (Thanks to Tricia for this)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thin Places

The Celts were people whose faith permeated every aspect of their lives and they serve as past examples to us of faithful living in a pagan world. They were fond of referring to places where people feel most strongly connected with God’s presence, calling them “thin places.”

It is in these places where the seen and the unseen worlds are most closely connected and inhabitants of both worlds can momentarily touch the other. Often they undertook a pilgrimmage to discover 'thin places'.

“Pilgrimage is always a search for God and God’s goodness. True pilgrimage has to do with a change of heart. The outward journey serves to frame an inner journey: a journey of repentance and rebirth; a journey which seeks a deeper faith, greater holiness; a journey in search of God.” Sister Joan Miriam

Genesis 28:16
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

A holy place evokes an atmosphere of devotion. It invites prayer. Ray Simpson

Where are your thin places?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

On the Journey To Becoming More Merciful

We live in a world that thrives on judgment. All one has to do is listen to the media and we see and hear someone sitting in judgment over someone else. Sadly, this demeanor has become inculturated and trickles down into our everyday lives. I have made many mistakes in judging others. I know that I have been quick to judge other people before I even know what is in their heart. Some years ago I judged my brother harshly and it caused a deep hurt in our family. It separated us from the love that we shared for each other. It wasn't until I sought forgiveness that our relationship was restored.

I decided some time ago that I needed to put my judge and jury to rest. It lacks true Christian charity to judge a person harshly when we do not know what is truly in their heart. When I'm tempted to bring out my judge and jury I remember the Beatitude that Jesus spoke, "Blest are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs." God knows I have struggled to learn this lesson.

The amount of mercy we show to others is the mercy that will be shown to us. On my journey toward becoming more merciful I seek a humble heart that allows me to always seek forgiveness and mercy.

Mercy toward others and ourselves softens the harshness of life. VICTORIA SCHMIDT

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

History repeats itself because no one listens the first time. Anonymous
The older I grow the more I listen to people who don’t talk much. Germain G. Glien
"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret." Ambrose Bierce
James 1:19-21
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hold on to Jesus

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Monday, July 02, 2007

1 Thessalonians 5:13b-18
Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.