Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ain't My Home, by Marc Scibilia

It hit me really hard when my grandmother passed away this summer. She was my last grandparent, and the one to whom I had always been closest and bore the greatest resemblance, at least in appearance. She even said so herself on one of my visits when her dementia was worse than usual, and she pointed at a picture of me and claimed it was a photo of herself. ha - I take it as a complement. She was a foxy lady.

It's kind of an honour to think that a little bit of her spirit lives in me - and it would be a privilege to live out a life that equals the one she lived - one of gentleness, hospitality, perseverance and a great depth & strength of character, even when her health was failing and she was in pretty severe pain. Some of her last words were singing along to the hymns we sang together in the hospital.

A few days after she passed away, my family gathered together in northern Ontario, where she had raised my wonderful father and where my parents first met. We were fortunate enough to be staying on the water, and after a long day, I went out to the dock to watch the sunset. The ducks swam by and quacked at me suspiciously, and the sky glowed in a soft yellow hue that reflected off of the waves that softly lapped at the shore. It was a moment of surrender and a gift peace from God.

Eventually, my brother came out with his guitar, and started singing this song. Now when I hear it, I think of my grandmother. I think I will always miss the amazing woman she was in my life and in others', but I will also celebrate the fact that my beautiful grandmother is - in fact - home.


Been to Paris, I've been to Rome
Seen a little bit of the world that's known
But it seems no matter where I go
I know this world it ain't my home

I got keys to a house that's on loan
And keys to a car with rust and chrome
I got keys to things I'll never own
Cause I know this world it ain't my home

And you take me, so very close
But I can't cut down this thought that grows
that no matter where I rest or roam
I know this world it ain't my home

And sometimes it seems a far off dream
just in sight but out of reach
And I don't know where to go but I just keep going
cause I know this world it ain't my home

And you take me, so very close
But I can't cut down this thought that grows
that no matter where I rest or roam
I know this world it ain't my home

Maybe I can try to fall in love again
Find a little house with a picket fence
but you know that I'm a traveling man
to that distant country and that far off land

Oh and when my time is used and done
I will see that final setting sun
I'll leave everything I've ever known
and that house above it will be my home.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Learning how to die

"All along I thought I was learning how to take,How to bend, not how to break,How to laugh, not how to cry,But really, I've been learning how to die." - Jon Foreman


I sat in on a lecture at McMaster's Divinity School the other week. While the lecture was great, it was actually what the professor said afterwards to me in a passing conversation that stuck with me, and is still sticking to me. 

This beautiful, passionate professor and part-time preacher was talking about the former pastor at her current church, and how his wife and himself had both just switched into careers working in counselling and ministry in Afghanistan. While I didn't pry, she continued by debating how either one of this ministry power-couple would cope if the other one was killed for their work in Afghanistan. 

I looked at her a bit wide-eyed and surprised - this was not my original intent for the conversation - but since my face is pretty much an open book, she just looked at me and said, "I mean, of course there's a very likely risk that one of them will die doing the ministry work they're doing. And - of course - it's worth it." And then she continued as if she had said nothing at all that profound. 

And all I could do was stare, and ask myself how willing I would be to go, be a minister, and die for Jesus. I wasn't so thrilled at the thought. It pretty much scared the bee-geebees out of me. 

Which got me thinking why I would be so scared to do something like that. 

And really - not only that - but in so many aspects of my life. What have I been willing to give up - to give back to Jesus in recognition that it's all actually His and for Him - each and every day of my life?

As I've been processing through these thoughts, I've also been reading this fantastic book called, The Saint and the Sultan (Sidenote: I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in issues of peace and conflict, specifically those related to Christian-Muslim religious divisions.). 

As I've been reading through the story of Saint Francis' conversion, I see a story of youthful soul searching, of striving for the success, ambition, "honour values" of the world and then coming to this meeting-place, this complete and total shift caused by the choice to actively follow Jesus and his death.

St. Francis' death was a beautiful, daily one, where he gave up all of his possessions - so that no one could define his value by his earthly wealth. He embraced and served those sick with lepracy, and put himself at risk of also getting the disease in order to help this community of people. He made the choice to be different from his father and mother, and yet still love them as God's children. He put himself at risk of execution to try and stop the Crusades. 

It's a very beautiful and a very scary concept, at all the same time. It's one I want, that my heart desires and sees as pure, noble and praiseworthy, but one that is incredibly difficult to actually put into practice. 

I like how Jon Foreman puts it - we are "learning how to die." Life and faith are progressive. You learn more, you accept the knowledge, you make a choice to change and shift - or not to change and shift - , and then you act accordingly. And then you - again - learn something new. We are sure to make mistakes and stumble in our journey forward, but I think we will come out the other end so much more beautiful than we came in. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day & Love for Enemies

At 11 a.m., I said a prayer during the two minutes of silence for Remembrance Day. A prayer that God would forgive and heal our nation. That we would begin to see everyone - the soldiers who were lost, the people we killed, the victims of the Holocaust, the Nazis - everyone as children of God who were lost in a terrible war, not only of guns and bombs, but in the war of the mind.

Because before there was war, there were people who did not question the authorities. There were Christians who forgot what it meant when Jesus said "Take up your cross, and follow me." There was a church who forgot that Jesus, ruler of heaven and equal to God, gave up a kingdom to come to Earth, live among us, teach us, and then go to his very death - and called us to follow in His example. 

We lost focus. 

We forgot what it meant to love our neighbour. 

And so today, I remember. 

I remember the importance of keeping my focus on Jesus, not on what others tell me. 

I remember the importance of speaking up against hatred, against oppressors, against injustice.

I remember the importance of choosing to love, even when it means my own death.

I remember the devastation of war and the victims of the Holocaust, and vow to live a life that actively seeks out truth and love so that history does not repeat itself. 

I remember the "enemies" who died fighting for a country they also believed in, and how this very well could have been me if I had been born in a different time, in a different place, to a different family. And I remember the importance of questioning authorities and testing it against the life of Jesus. 

And finally, I choose to live my life in a way that shows it is always okay to die for a cause, but never okay to kill for one. 

In humility, even to death on a cross

It is an amazing thing to come across a concept in your life that seems so evident once you realize it, but that was not at all evident before. And it is here that I put forward my thesis:

Humility is – perhaps – the heart of Christianity.

Philippians 2 says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves.”

I think I’ve read this verse a hundred times, but something hit me this time, in the full breadth of its implication. Because this book doesn’t end here – it goes on to talk about the humility of Christ (who did not see equality with God as something to be grasped, but humbled himself, even to death on a cross!).

And when I read this, and continue into the verse about “shining like stars” in a corrupt generation, it hits me.
That perhaps the key to faith is not in striving to be perfect, in getting everything right. Nor is it trying “not to be bad” or “a sinner.”

It is in humility. It is in putting aside "yourself," and taking the heart of a servant. It is in purposely choosing Jesus over the things in life that you want or desire. It is in letting go of everything you once felt was important, and saying the only thing that matters is Jesus.

And then trying to be “good” isn’t really that hard. If you approach everyone with the heart of humility, with the idea that “You matter more than me, and you are loved by Jesus no matter what,” then you come to them with a heart of love and a heart of equality and a heart of justice. You come to them in a broken state, and say, “Hello, I am broken, and forgive me if I’m wrong, but maybe you are too? There’s this guy named Jesus, and he took my life and made it into something worth living. I wonder if you’d like to meet Him too.”

But it will only happen if humility is at our core, if everyday we choose to die to ourselves & those desires that are not of God, instead putting Jesus first. To set aside the things that were in our "past life" before our rebirth through Jesus, and instead be those “shining stars” – a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope in the midst of a rather erratic, immoral and destructive place.

But we can never do this unless we first choose humility over selfishness.

I believe this is the answer to the majority of the problems facing the modern Church. And it is the way forward. An incredibly simple, yet incredibly difficult, path for us to take. 

It is time to reclaim the cross, and start dying. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Identity and the Postmodern Dilemma

Who am I is a difficult question to answer in a postmodern age.

First, the postmodernist believes that there is no truth, only what each person perceives to be true.

Second, if the postmodernist stumbles upon an identity crisis, she or he will not be able to ever figure out exactly who he or she is because there is not truth, only what she or he perceives to be true. 

In which case, we bring about problem three: He or she enters into a vicious cycle of deciding what she or he perceives to be true about her or himself (which is in constant flux because he or she also acknowledges that whatever truth they've decided on isn't actually true, just what they've decided to be true for the time being, and thus subject to change). 

And so they end up with nothing except, I am.

Lucky for them/us/me/not me/undecided, God said I AM. So if that's the only thing left after the postmodern identity crisis is the affirmation that, "I am," then perhaps I am simultaneously confirming the only thing I need to: that God is here. 

Note: I recognize the flaws in this argument, and am working out the kinks as you read. You are assured that I am 100 % positive I am absolutely confused and doubtful about most things in this argument, acknowledging the extraneous factors, stories, people, details of which I am not aware. And am searching for the truth in the midst of it.

I think it's Jesus.

And perhaps, this will be sufficient for right now.

**Side note: This post is meant to be a satirical commentary on society, postmodernism and - if I am completely honest - myself. Sometimes this doesn't come across in writing, so I am making it clear to you. - or am I? **