Archive for October, 2010

NDP hypocrisy on climate change

Jack Layton promises to take the federal sales take off home heating because of “skyrocketing” costs.  You can read all about it at HeatYourHome.ca.

1. If you heat your home with natural gas the price has dropped

2. Cheap fuel means encouraging consumption and more green house gas emissions

3. Lowering the price lowers the incentive to become more efficient and switch to renewable alternatives to non-renewable resources.

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NBC Reports 9% of Americans attend house churches

You can check out the video here.  I’d like to see the source of the statistic.  40% of Americans say they go to to church but only about 20% are in a service on Sunday morning.  If 9% of Americans are part of a house church that would mean 1/4 to 1/2 of the American church meets primarily in homes.  This sounds cool but it seems like that number is inflated.

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Harper won’t help protect Potash Corp from a foreign takeover

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled that he doesn’t see Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (POT-N142.43-1.00-0.70%) as a national corporate champion in need of protection from a foreign takeover, saying it’s already American controlled.

As Saskatchewan’s Premier and opposition critics demanded Ottawa act to protect Canada’s resource sector from further foreign domination, Mr. Harper told the House of Commons on Wednesday the fight for Potash Corp. is over “a proposal for an American-controlled company to be taken over by an Australian-controlled company.”

However, Potash Corp. is not U.S. controlled. Canadian shareholders own about 49 per cent, while foreign shareholders hold 51 per cent, including 38 per cent held by Americans, according to a Conference Board of Canada report done for the government of Saskatchewan.

Read the rest at the GlobeAndMail.com

Most long time readers of my blog will know I have no love for Harper, but I haven’t blindly hated him either.  It is getting pretty hard to give credit where it is due, when I see so little credit to give.

We are looking at a 55 billion dollar deficit, long form census stupidity, billion dollar G8 expenses, no measurable progress on global warming, losing the bid for the UN security council seat, labeling gun registry advocates as “toronto elites”, hanging out one of his own MP’s out to dry, proroguing out of convenience, etc, etc, etc… 

I’ve endured all this, but this last one really really bugs me.  Why won’t he stick up for Saskatchewan?  It isn’t like we didn’t elect 13 out of 14 possible conservative MPs.  Don’t they have a say in government? 

We have 3 companies in Saskatchewan that have any weight on the world scene.  One mines Uranium, another Potash and one is a grain company.  Most of what we do for money in this province is pulling stuff from the ground (whether on top or below) put it on a train and or boat and sell it to someone else.  Can’t we own the companies that do that? 

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Brother Andre and an Athiest that believes in miracles

Check out Part 1 of the current today for  a fascinating look at miracles and the Roman Catholic church.  The first section is about Brother Andre.  He is a french Canadian about to be canonized as a saint.  In section two is Jaclyn Duffin.  She is the author of Medical Miracles and in an odd quirk is an atheist that believes in healings that can’t be explained though modern science.  She goes in to great detail about how the Catholic church handles claims of miracles.  I was particularly impressed with the vigorous process the Catholic church goes through to verify a miracle.  They certainly do a much better job than the “revivalist” groups mucking around evangelicalism.

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Manipulation in leadership

Is it possible to lead in a church environment without engaging in manipulation?  It is a question raised by my friend Black Sheep.  I think he is working with a slightly more flexible definition of manipulate.    A better question might be, can Christian leaders exert influence on people in a completely open, honest and transparent way.  Some people I’ve talked to think it becomes less and less possible the larger the group is that you lead.

I remember a conversation I had with a worship leader at a Pentecostal college.  He told me how much control he had over a congregation just by the way he played.  Everyone attributed it to the work of the Holy Spirit but he was quite bothered by how much he felt he could manipulate the crowd.  I think in some situations we go in knowing that we will be bombarded with sounds and visual stimuli that we invoke an emotional response.  A movie trailer is a perfect example.  We watch the trailer for a movie we are looking forward too and we want to get excited.  We let the trailer pump us up.  I remember how excited I was about Star Wars Episode one.  The movie trailer had me so pumped up.  Sadly the movie was something of let down but I knew what I was subjecting myself too and I wanted it.

I was taught in the same Pentecostal college that if a man shows up in a church I’m pastoring with canary yellow suit I’m supposed to go up and compliment him on it.  One of the swifter folks in the front asked the obvious question.  Wouldn’t that be lying?  The teaching pastor’s answer was “well say what you can without lying.”  Looking back, that was probably the turning point where I walked completely away from vocational ministry.  That year was full of crap mind you, but I became convinced that ministry was about gathering people together and kissing up to them so they keep paying my salary.  I get a career and they get to ignore me as I preach things they don’t really want to take to heart.  You are probably thinking these thoughts were a bit dire, and they probably were but at the time I saw so little integrity in ministry I wanted no part of it.

Another thing I learned in “pastoral theology” was how to project an image.  The belief was that a Christian leader must always be looked up to in the eyes of the people.  If you expose your weaknesses people will lose faith in you.  You wonder why so many pastors are lonely and burnt out?  Their job makes it very difficult to be open and honest.  If you confess some sort of sin then it is believed people won’t listen to you anymore.  Influence is everything because few pastors wield any real authority in their churches.  They can plan the meetings and the programs but often congregations keep their leadership on a short leash.  Once they cross a line they can find quickly where the real power lies.

The truth is that words from a pulpit have less power than we acknowledge.  Speaking to a large crowd might educate, encourage, challenge or inspire but none of these things is enough on their own.  Very few lives are transformed by hearing words in a crowd.  Without much real influence it is always tempting to resort to tactics that Paul condemns in 1Thess 2.

1Th 2:3  For the appeal we make does not come from error or impurity or with deceit,
1Th 2:4  but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts.
1Th 2:5  For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is our witness —
1Th 2:6  nor to seek glory from people, either from you or from others,
1Th 2:7   although we could have imposed our weight as apostles of Christ; instead we became little children among you. Like a nursing mother caring for her own children,
1Th 2:8  with such affection for you we were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

1) Error or wandering from the truth
2) Impurity or having ulterior motives
3) Deceit or tricking people in to believing something that isn’t true
4) Flattering speech or praising people when you don’t mean it
5) Using your authority

Paul said something similar in 1Cor 2.

1Co 2:1  When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God.
1Co 2:2  For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1Co 2:3  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling.
1Co 2:4  My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
1Co 2:5  so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Paul understood the concepts of rhetoric popularized by the Greeks in that era.  Rhetoric is the art of persuasion and it has 3 main components:  Logos, pathos and ethos.  Logos meaning words, or the construction of your argument.  Your pathos involved your ability to appeal and influence through emotion.  Ethos was your personal reputation or presence.  If you had a strong logos, pathos and ethos you could win debates and influence people.

When Paul brought the gospel to Corinth, a city well versed in the rhetorical arts notice how he breaks it down.

His logos : “concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”

His ethos : “and I was with you in weakness and in fear with much trembling”

His pathos: “My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom”

His influence on them was to not be an influence so that they could be influenced by the power of God.    But that really isn’t his entire approach.  We see more of it back in Thessalonians.

1Th 2:7   although we could have imposed our weight as apostles of Christ; instead we became little children among you. Like a nursing mother caring for her own children,
1Th 2:8  with such affection for you we were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

1) Became little children or gentleness
2) Caring as a mother
3) Affection
4) Shared life

Paul changed the western world one person at a time through love.  I  don’t think Christian leaders need to pretend or project.  One can be open, honest, transparent and truthful and still lead.  The catch is  lot of what Paul did is impossible if you are trying to influence hundreds of people at the same time.

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Parenthood

I’ve been married and a step-father for 5 years.  Come November I’ll be a plain old-fashioned father for 4 years.  These transformations in my life have been hard on the blog.  I remember when I posted a couple times a week, sometimes even a couple per day.  Now I don’t have the mental energy to pontificate on such weighty matters like the state of the church or Canadian politics.  The most important impact from parenthood has been learning what real ministry is.  I have a son that has been diagnosed with three different mental health conditions.  These labels don’t define him, and have only been modestly helpful in understanding him, but at least he has been qualified for additional support in school.  This son, which I will refer to as “the boy” has tested me in ways I never I thought I could be tested.  Our other kids don’t have the challenges that this son has.  I know what we are going through with “the boy” is more than just “teenagerhood.”

What works with other kids doesn’t work with this one.  One of the unspoken common philosophies of childhood development is “kids do well if they want to.”  This is why we invent systems that reward good behavior and punish bad behavior.  If a child isn’t doing what we have prescribed for him or her, then we feel the need to motivate them more.  Sometimes we will ratchet up the rewards and punishments.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.  What if that child didn’t have the a properly developed capacity to read social cues?  “The boy” is famous for interrupting me when I’m in the middle of something else.  He will keep on talking until the 3rd or 4th time I point out that he is interrupting, adding volume and bluntness with each iteration until he finally clues in.  I could punish him for this behavior but he simply just doesn’t get it.  Even if I motivate him to get it he won’t.

“The boy” has had a terrible time at school.  While there were lulls he was constantly getting in trouble for acting inappropriately.  He often used abusive language or physical violence.  On the outside he looked like any other kid losing it over something most people would think is inconsequential.  The truth is we were trying to educate “the boy” in an environment that caused him stress overload.  Imagine trying to teach someone math who was afraid of heights on top of a roof.  Imagine trying to teach someone afraid of water on a boat, or afraid of dogs in a kennel.  For “the boy” the stressor was the unpredictable chaos that occurs in every school environment.  Every time there was a blow up we talked about medication, diet, sleep.  All those factors had relevance but after years of frustration we found one simple thread.  It is kind of like “follow the money” it is “follow the anxiety.”  All things being equal “the boy” didn’t want to hurt anyone with the exception of a few people he became extremely bitter with.  There was something along the way that overwhelmed him and triggered an anxiety overload.  When we stopped placing all our emphasis on changing the boy and put more on changing the environment the improvement was significant.  We even found a school that would work with us on this.

The boy’s first school tried very hard but we found that educators are really stuck on their particular approach to education.  In grade 6, a year of particular infamy for the boy, we practically begged the school to keep him inside at recess and at lunch time but they wouldn’t.  Our reasoning was that recess and lunch time were unstructured chaotic times and that almost all the major incidents occurred at these times of the school day.  The principal refused saying that recess was necessary for the child’s development.  3 days after that conversation I was giving the police officer my name and address for the police report.  “The boy” had is worst day ever.  It was that moment that sort of triggered the “this isn’t working” moment for me.

We home schooled for one year and for grade 8 found a school that understood what “the boy’s” issues were.  He had the best year ever with great EA support and a nice quiet place to go for recess and lunch.  There were still times he was overwhelmed and became violent.  The situation couldn’t have been more ideal, yet the school environment was too much.  We decided to start preparing “the boy” for the life he is going to live, not a life surrounded by hundreds of his peers in a chaotic environment. 

Through the 5 years it took us to figure this out I’ve encountered more failure and personal disappointment than I ever have in life.  Looking back it is hard to believe I didn’t figure what I have sooner.  I’ve learned that people are often more complex than they seem to be.  The simple assumptions we operate on are not always the best, and sometimes they lead us down a very futile and frustrating path.  Learning to care for someone takes an incredible amount of flexibility in thinking.  There is also the personal cost.  Caring for someone with a complex set  of mental and emotional issues can cause incredible amounts of pain and heartache.  Never before in my life have I invested so much, sacrificed so much for one person, and watch that person walk all over it.  Sometimes tender hearts of mercy and care can become callous and ungracious.  My relationship with “the boy” has taken some steep downturns.  At this moment we are back on a upswing.  I can tell by my personal capacity for understanding, patience and grace.

I don’t know what the future holds, and whether “the boy” will develop coping mechanisms that will allow him to function somehow, somewhere in society.  I do know that I have received inner strength through my faith in God to be a father.  I keep hoping and I keep loving. 

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