Sunday, November 16, 2008

The universe, according to Beth (rather, Denis Lamoureux). Ha.

Anyone still reading my blog? I have neglected it yet again.

If you've ever wanted to know about the way I currently make sense of Creation and Evolution, as a biologist-turned-seminarian, I would like to lay that out for you in this blog entry. (Warning... this is going to be long.)

To do so, I will be summarizing a fantastic lecture I heard last week called "Evolutionary Creation," by Denis Lamoureux. Denis is a professor of "science and religion" (the first tenured Canadian prof in this field) at St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta, and he has three doctoral degrees: dentistry, theology, and biology. This guy knows his stuff! And he delivered a killer lecture, explaining things in a way that made both the "science" and "theology" sides of me go "Yes!". For a fuller description of his view, you should read his book, called "Evolutionary Creation," even though I haven't yet (I'm waiting for it to go on sale!). The best part is that Denis used to be a staunch young-earth creationist, and set out early in his education to study how he could disprove evolution... so he knows all sides of this issue.

So here we go, a description of Evolutionary Creation (which is also sometimes known as Theistic Evolution - but like Lamoureux, I think the emphasis should go on "Creation").

In summary: "The Father, Son and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained, sustained and design-reflecting evolutionary process."


1. Evolutionary creationists assume these things as true:
- God is the Creator of the universe.
- The beautiful, intricate design of the universe points to its Creator.
- God is a personal God who has always been and still is intimately involved in creation.
- The universe was planned, and has a purpose (ie. It is teleological).
- The Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
- There is overwhelming support for the theory of evolution. It has never been falsified (though it easily could be). It has great explanatory power (It makes sense of the world!)
- It is possible for creation and evolution to come together, for God to create using an evolutionary process.

2. How do we interpret information about the universe in the Bible? The core assumption of most young-earth creationists (whether they recognize it or not) is that of "Scientific Concordism": that God revealed scientific facts in the Bible thousands of years before their discovery by modern science. (For example, they believe that the Bible suggests that the earth is about 6000 years old, and think that this should be confirmed by our present-day geological studies.)

I do not believe in scientific concordism. Instead, I believe that when the Bible was written, the Holy Spirit explained things in a way that made sense to the people at the time. For example, most Ancient Near Eastern peoples understood the universe as consisting of three "tiers." Tier 1: the waters above the earth. Tier 2: the firmament (the hard dome of the sky, on which the sun, moon and stars are fixed). Tier 3: the waters under the earth, that come up as oceans and seas. Here's a picture.

It's easy to see how they would have thought this - you look up and you see blue, and rain falls from up there, so why not assume there is a whole sea above the sky, that drips down when God opens up "the floodgates of heaven"? But I don't think there's anyone who believes this today - no one is trying to prove that there's a vast body of water above the sky, or that the stars are fixed points on a dome. Today, we accept the findings of science about the water cycle, and the earth moving around the sun. YET the Bible does not! It speaks in terms of the ancient, three-tiered universe! Look at Genesis 1:6 - "And God said, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters, to separate water from water.'" God also fixes the sun, moon and stars in this "firmament". He doesn't seem to fret that this is not a scientifically accurate picture of creation - he doesn't try to explain the water cycle or the turning of the earth. (Also see Gen. 7, Ps. 19, Ps. 104, Job 37, Mal. 3...). God does not fret about communicating the exact mechanism of creation... It very well could have happened by evolution.

3. Does this make the Bible untrue, or make God a liar? No, it makes God a good communicator, who accommodates to the limited knowledge of his hearers, just like any parent explaining to a toddler where babies come from! God is not trying to communicate science - the message here is theological - the fact that the universe was created by a sovereign God who made it "good," that humans were made in God's image, they sinned, and faced judgment. Lamoureux calls this the "message/incident principle of hermeneutics." The "important stuff" (the inerrant, infallible message) is packaged in the ancient "creation narrative" format of the day, which is poetic in form (I've learned a lot about the literary genre of Genesis 1-11, and how this story resembles and differs from Babylon and Egypt's creation narratives. Ask me for more info if you want it.) This "story-packaging" assumes ancient science and literary features. So although creation appears complete and quick (6 days) in the Bible, the Holy Spirit may be accommodating to ancient science (like the 3-tiered universe), or this may be a literary device, to condense the story into a week. The "packaging" isn't scientifically accurate, but this doesn't contradict the inerrancy of the Bible, because the Holy Spirit didn't accidentally slip up or make mistakes... this was His intended vessel for His message. At any rate, the presence of ancient science in the Bible as the "vessel" or "packaging" for the theological message should not limit or "disprove" our science today, as we try to figure out more about how our universe works.

4. So what does this mean for the question of human origins? If Genesis 1-11 is a poetic story written to explain a theological message about life and origins, what about humans, and what about Adam and Eve? The genre suggests that Adam and Eve are characters in the story, representative of humanity, not literal human beings who existed. It's easy to see why the Hebrew people would use two "original humans" in the story - in their perception, humans certainly seem to come from humans, who come from humans, so there must have been two original humans that started everything off - the story should be about them. The evolutionary data shows a different picture of human "creation"... between 5-8 million years ago, an ancestral species diverged into "hominids" (human-like species) and the species that produced the great apes. Gradually, starting about 250 000 years ago, Homo sapiens emerged as a distinct species from the other hominids.

This has been the hardest part of "evolutionary creation" for me to figure out and accept. I have trouble letting go of the idea of a literal Adam and Eve. Why? I suppose there are two main ideas for which Adam and Eve seem crucial: the image of God, and original sin. These are two things that definitely distinguish us from chimps (even though we are 99% genetically similar to them). But if humans developed gradually, instead of being suddenly formed from clay, when did we "get" the image of God? Was it 250 000 years ago, when we diverged as Homo sapiens? Or 50 000 years ago, when we started getting a lot better at using tools? And when did original sin enter the picture?

Some evolutionary creationists respond by essentially trying to keep Adam and Eve: humans evolved gradually, but at some point, God bestowed His image on two hominids, and they were the ones who first chose to sin. Others believe there were many Adams and Eves upon which God bestowed His image, and they all sinned. These two views are called "punctiliar monogenism" and "punctiliar polygenism." Lamoureux says that holding these views is similar to accepting modern-day astronomy for the most part, but tacking on the idea of a "firmament" with "waters above" from the 3-tiered universe. It's illogical.

Instead, Lamoureux suggests a "gradual polygenism." In other words, the image of God and original sin were not suddenly bestowed, but gradually and mysteriously manifested themselves as humans developed. This may sound like a cop-out, but Lamoureux points out that "mystery" is a valid biblical category. We don't pretend to understand the mysteries of the Trinity or the Incarnation... why should we expect to figure out exactly how the image of God or original sin played out in ancient human history?

Lamoureux used an analogy that was VERY helpful for me, to show me that this could very well be gradual and mysterious: the analogy embryonic development. When you developed in your mother's womb, at what point were the image of God or original sin "imparted" to you? Was it at the moment of fertilization? Did you get half the image of God from your dad's sperm and half from your mom's egg, and half original sin from each, too? (Keep in mind that over half of fertilized eggs don't survive the first week of pregnancy.) Maybe it was bestowed on you at the 2-cell stage? Or when you started to move? Or when brain activity appeared? A punctiliar (single point in time) understanding seems arbitrary here, especially since our physical embryonic development is so gradual. God doesn't jump in and tack on a fully-developed arm; we develop gradually as part of an ordained and sustained process, one that is mysterious in many ways, especially in terms of image of God / original sin (morality). Yet we have trouble accepting that this could parallel overall human development through history...

5. What about the belief that death entered the world through sin? If we were to take Genesis as reporting scientific or historical fact, we would agree that suffering and death are the consequences of Adam and Eve's first sin. The fossil record raises a problem with this belief. It seems that many, many creatures died (and suffered) before humans ever appeared on earth. It seems that God ordained that death (possibly even suffering) would be part of his "good" (note he did not say "perfect") creation. Animals did not suddenly switch from vegetarians to carnivores after humans sinned! (This has also been something difficult for me to accept, and I'm still wrestling through the implications.)

So what do we do with the fact that Paul seems to accept that Adam & Eve were historical humans, and their sin brought physical death into the world (a "cosmic fall")? 1 Cor. 15:20, Rom. 5:12, and Rom. 8:20-22 seem to suggest this, and many people use Paul to disprove everything we've been talking about. Lamoureux calls this the "Conferment argument": If Paul believed Adam was historical, he was. If Paul believed one man and one woman sinned, bringing about a cosmic fall, then this had to have happened.

The problem is, as Lamoureux points out, there's something else Paul seems to believe, and that's our good old friend, the 3-tiered universe. See, for example, Philippians 2:10-11, where "every knee will bow... in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" - this is summing up the three tiers, in order to say "in the whole cosmos". Paul was operating with an ancient geology and astronomy. But we don't seem as eager to use the "conferment argument" here... we don't say "If Paul believed in a 3-tier universe, then it's true." So why can't we also say that Paul was operating with an ancient idea of biology, origins, and the origin of death (which logically, for Paul, can only come after the original creation of life in Adam and Eve.) This is another "vessel" / "message" passage. We can accept Paul's "message" that sin entered the world, all humans sin, God will judge sin, Jesus died for sinful humans, rose physically, and offers the hope of eternal life... but this doesn't mean we have to also unquestioningly swallow the "vessel" of a literal Adam and Eve, or that their sin caused a cosmic fall and the origin of physical death.

Ok, that's about it. I hope I explained this well. Overall, I actually think it's crediting God with a lot more power, wisdom, and intelligence to say that He crafted an evolutionary system that would eventually produce all of these beautiful and diverse creatures, including humans, without further supernatural creative intervention (though he remains intimately and providentially involved in this creation), instead of saying that he had to repeatedly intervene with further spontaneous creative acts after "getting the whole thing going."

I'm not pretending this is a perfect system of integration. I know full well that it challenges the way we usually read the Bible (the "message" and "vessel" system could get you into trouble depending on how far you push it.) I'm just saying this is what makes the most sense of everything I know of Biology and Theology, and enables me to integrate these two sides of myself. Along with Lamoureux, I think that it's shameful that an exclusively literal reading and teaching of the Bible, especially Genesis, has led so many educated Christians to abandon their faith, and has presented an insurmountable obstacle to faith for other educated people, who want to explore the God thing, but don't want to check their brains (or their understanding of science) at the door.

So, for those of you who have actually finished reading this... What do YOU think? What challenges YOU most? Is any of this helpful?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Worth checking out!

Hi! I know, it's been a while, and once again, much has happened, including an excellent visit from my whole family a couple of weeks ago. But instead of back-tracking, I want to jump into where I'm at right now, and right now I'd like to make a recommendation.

Sexuality and gender identity have been hot topics lately, especially in the Christian circles in which I participate - at school, at church, at work. Though most Christ followers are well-intentioned (I hope), I've seen a fair amount of violence and insensitivity in ways many of us choose to talk about homosexuality (or same-gender-attractedness (SGA) - a term that I'm really warming up to), and more disturbingly, in the ways we behave (or don't behave) toward same-gender-attracted folks.

If this is on your heart and mind, as it is on mine, or even if it's not(!), I'd like to point you toward a wonderful Canadian ministry I've just discovered called New Direction. Danice told me about them after one of their directors met with her church staff. Their mission: "Creating a safe place for same-gender-attracted people to journey towards wholeness in Christ." Their vision: "That every gay and lesbian person in Canada encounter Christ through friendship with a Christ-follower; and every Christian struggling with same-gender attraction access redemptive ministry in their own region."

Even the language they use in those two sentences is SO encouraging! I find their approach really refreshing. As one person put it on their blog: "discipleship, welcoming and transforming - not rejecting and condemning, or welcoming and affirming...[this is] the harder, more paradoxical road, but one that brings more possibilities for true, deep, and lasting impact through the dynamic tensions of listening, learning, and loving ... without compromising truth."

The key is that New Direction recognizes that transformation is God's business, and love is our business. They recognize that the goal is to introduce people to Christ, not to convert people to heterosexuality. Please, please check them out - at least check out their new blog. I have been challenged and blessed by it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Right now, I am sitting at my table, alone. Danice is on a mission trip with her youth in France, and then in Germany, for two weeks. I miss her terribly. Lindsey is filming a month-long traditional Native canoe trek. Lynn is probably still at work, or practicing with her band. I am the lone roommate tonight.

I am trying to console myself with food. Don't worry, it's not comfort food. I'm not sitting here eating a litre of Haagen Dazs (though that does sound delicious now that I type it). I'm eating good food, food that is very good for me.

In fact, that's what I wanted to write about. My life has revolved around food as of late. I may have mentioned that I work at Jacob's Well, and I may have mentioned that we have a couple of urban gardens, nestled between a tofu factory and a sausage factory. I don't know if I mentioned that because we're not doing so well financially (ie. not receiving full paychecks), Jacob's Well has decided to give the staff a share of the gardens as part of our payment. So every week I take home a bag full of fresh green things from our Downtown Eastside gardens.

This has become a delight and a challenge. Often I find myself asking, "What is this green leaf? What is the stalk it is attached to? How should I eat it?" As we speak, there is a soup simmering on my stove. I started with my mom's "Peasant Bean Soup" recipe, and then I added a lot of things from the garden that I didn't know how else to eat. I threw in the Swiss chard. I chopped up the scapes and sauteed them and threw them in. If you don't know what a scape is, join the club. I just found out. They're these curly stems that grow out the top of garlic bulbs, and they taste like garlic, only milder. Gardeners cut them off so that the garlic will grow bigger. If you want pictures of garlic scapes and a recipe, check out my friend Emily's blog. She's good at eating well, and always makes sure to take excellent pictures of her food before consuming it.

As I sit here and eat raspberries (from the garden of course) mixed with yogurt, I will tell you more about why I've been thinking about food. A couple of weeks ago, I went on a trip, a trip called "The Gleaning Trip". Gleaning. Think Old Testament - the Israelite vineyard workers were commanded to leave some grapes on the vine for poor people to glean, and farmers were to leave the grain they dropped the first time around. I've heard interesting ideas about how we can allow for a similar gleaning practice today - like saving your coin change to give away, or setting out your bottles for bottle-collectors. But there's a group in the Okanagan that is taking gleaning very literally. They're called the Okanagan Gleaners. And every year, Jacob's Well sends a team to go serve with them for a week.

Here's what they do... they take the vegetables that orchard owners can't sell (they're small, they're weirdly shaped, they're spotted, they're rotten in one spot, etc.), and they chop them up, and they dry them in a huge dehydrator, and then they mix them all together in bags and send them overseas with YWAM and WorldVision as soup mix for orphanages and soup kitchens. They produce 5 million servings of soup a year. Isn't that incredible? Perfectly edible vegetables that would have otherwise ended up on the garbage heap are instead "gleaned" for the hungriest people on earth. I love it.

So we spent three hours every morning cutting the seeds, stems, and bad spots out of peppers, standing across from each other, talking, enjoying the fresh air... you know, your everyday feeding the hungry stuff. Every evening after supper, someone would share a reflection about the day. One day, Sheryl said she loved the way food brought us together - both around the peppers, and around the dinner table. She realized that the peppers we were holding in our hands would actually become part of other people. Seriously. I've never thought about that before - people across the world will eat the peppers in the soup mix, and their bodies will break down the food and incorporate the amino acids into their cells. Isn't that crazy? We really are what we eat.

Which means that when I help grow food in the Downtown Eastside and then eat it, I'm making the Downtown Eastside a part of my very body. That's so weird to think about. It makes me feel closer to the neighborhood. It makes me happy that we're growing good food for our friends there. It makes me excited to eat this soup.

My only problem now is dishes. They're piled up. I don't want to do them. Anyone want to come over and do my dishes? I'll give you some Garden Soup!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Summer in the Couv!

Hello, friends!

It's been a week and a half... let me catch you up, using pictures and words.

Last Sunday, Danice and I got to go boating with the Bain family. It was my first time boating on the ocean (that is probably a lie, now that I think about it... I was probably on a boat in Costa Rica or Florida once.) It was my first time boating on the ocean in the Vancouver area. I would like to do much more of this! We had a great day. It was so hot that I didn't protest when the spray hit my face. We zoomed up the Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm, and anchored by some little islands, where we swam and ate supper. Swimming in the ocean is different than lakes, you know. For one thing, in the ocean, you have to watch you don't cut your feet on super-sharp barnacles. Also, you feel really sticky when you get out. And Danice said there would be jellyfish, but I didn't see any. Still, it was a most excellent day.

The boat!

Cold, having swam. Swum?
Danice, Cara, and Cara's Dad Russ in the dinghy.

Cara and her mom and the beautiful scenery!
Friday was my birthday! I'm now a quarter of a century old. Jodi gave me a quarter to mark the occasion. Actually, the occasion was quite marked - we had a ginormous party at our new place! It was a combined birthday/housewarming/independence day party, and there were probably 50 people that came through our house that night. The best part was that we had our very own party planner - the magnificent Lindsey Fox - so we didn't have to do a thing! All 8 of Danice's nieces and nephews came, and everyone participated as Jodi and Michelle prayed a blessing over different rooms of our house. It was great to have our house filled up with people. Soon I believe we'll be the number one hang-out spot on the East side. Thanks to all who came and brought food and warmed the house and blessed ME!

Jackson, our sometimes cat, warms the porch before the guests arrive.
Dance party in the living room!
Hanging out on the porch.
Hanging out on a more different porch.
Waking up the next morning having slept on the porch! (This house is all about the porches!)

The next day, Lindsey Fox joined my roommates and I for what I believe will become a routine Saturday morning outing to the Farmer's Market, 8 blocks south of our house.

Lindsey Fox likes chocolate.
Lindsey Willie likes hummus.
Lynn likes bread.We all love crepes!

Trout Lake, where the Market is held.

And in an hour, I'm leaving for the Okanagan - my first trip there. It's a working vacation, with my co-workers and volunteers from Jacob's Well. We're going to do some gleaning (I'll explain next time), and have a lot of fun. I hear the weather is a lot like Saskatchewan in the summer - dry and hot. I'll let you know if this is true.

I'm really excited about this new house and the next year I'll spend in it, and the roommates I'll spend it with (in case you haven't noticed!) I can't wait for my family to come see it in August! The rest of you are welcome, too, you know...

Friday, June 27, 2008

A little post-grieving is ok, too, I suppose.

I was just editing a few leftover photos from Jericho Beach, where we used to live, and I got a bit nostalgic. So I'm posting them as part of an out-of-character post-grieving process. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's a new home!

Well, the move went about as smoothly as possible. We had lots of help, especially from Danice's family, who were awesome. Her brothers pulled our couch up over the balcony with a rope! Her mom and dad completely unpacked our kitchen the same day we moved... and that was a real blessing, because I was not in the mood to do that! I inherited a bed from Alberto for free, and he also fixed my bike. What a guy. Jodi, Lindsey, James and Veej also chipped in... everyone was very helpful. I'm grateful, because I felt like I spent most of the time kind of numb, walking from room to room, staring at boxes.

Some things I like about our new place:

-Our bathroom has a red door.

-We have a gas stove! It gets hot and cools down really quickly!

-I get to ride the Skytrain. It makes me feel like a working woman.

-When the sun shines through the leaves outside our bedroom window, it makes a beautiful moving pattern on the floor.

-We have a lot of pots. And a lot of mugs. And a lot of forks.

-There is a cat who used to live here. His name is Jackson. He now lives two doors down, but he still wanders in, hoping to be fed, whenever we leave the door open.

-Everyone on Commercial Drive is a soccer maniac. All restaurants, pubs and coffee shops are tuned into the European Finals.


-There is a Farmer's Market five blocks away, every Saturday morning.

-The passion flowers I bought at the Farmer's Market yesterday. Owning plants (especially the coolest flowers ever, which I deduced after taking my plant taxonomy class) makes me feel like a real adult.

-Meeting neighbors! I've met four already. At my other place, I didn't meet any. Admittedly, I'm trying harder now.

-One of my neighbors, Len, enjoys working on motorcycles, on his front lawn. You can hear him revving the engines a lot. When he's not playing the flute...

-Being able to leave doors open without worrying about animals (or insects!) coming in. Except Jackson.

-The balconies! Especially the front one. Oh man. It is the bomb. We've already put a string of lights on it. It's the best hang-out spot. I'm going to sleep on it one night this week, I think.

-I shaved 25 minutes off my commute to work. I can even bike to work now that my bike is fixed!

-Roommates who aren't insane! Well, maybe a little bit.

-Having a kitchen table.

The day after we moved in, it was Car Free day on Commercial Drive. It was like the whole neighborhood got together to celebrate our arrival! It reminded me of the Fringe Festival, but 10 times bigger and weirder. Lots of street vendors, crazy acts, live music, people in costumes, and drumming circles. It was a blast. I especially loved watching one band. They're called the Carnival Band, and they rock. They are a ragtag collection of brass and percussion players with varied backgrounds and abilities (no auditions!), and they have more fun than any band I've seen. They dress up in crazy clothes and march around and play each other's drums and walk right up to members of the audience and they have nothing in common with each other except that they play for the joy of it. I found a video of them playing on the Skytrain... in case you want to see them (or the Skytrain!).

I also checked out the free stage at the Vancouver jazz festival on Saturday... oh man. I love the Saskatoon jazz festival, I think it's awesome, but the free stage in Vancouver is something else. I would have paid to see most of those bands. Especially the 11-piece Cuban salsa band in the evening... the whole crowd was dancing! Including me. At least I was trying. I've decided that I'd like to marry a Cuban.

To sum it all up... I'm loving summer in Vancouver, summer in my NEW HOUSE!

P.S. The sermon I preached last Sunday on the conversion of Saul (and Ananias!) went well, I think, despite the craziness of the weekend. If you have 25 minutes and you want to listen, you can find a recording here.

Monday, June 09, 2008

On Pre-grieving and Inscapes

I should be writing my sermon for Sunday, but I figured I'd start with a blog entry this morning, to get the writing juices flowing, and to empty my head of some other thoughts that are crowding out the sermon thoughts!

We're moving to Commercial Drive in three days, and I find myself growing nostalgic already about the place we're leaving behind. I've always been annoyed by this quirk of mine... I tend to get reflective, sad, and even homesick BEFORE leaving a place or person. Soon after I leave, these feelings pass, and I adjust to the change quite quickly. When I shared this with Jodi last week, she called it "pre-grieving", and she said that some people are "pre-grievers" and some are "post-grievers". This has been a real revelation for me. Now I'm trying to embrace the pre-grieving process, instead of being angry at myself for "ruining" the last few days I have here by being overly melancholy.

So, a little pre-grieving, blog-style. People who know me well know that what I will miss most about this place is my Rock. Only a couple of days after arriving in Vancouver in Sept. 2005, I discovered the Rock and started visiting it every morning (here's the first blog entry I wrote about it). I'm a morning person, and I've always liked starting the day with God, and I've always liked doing it outdoors, if possible. There are a lot of places that have become meeting places. At our old house in Saskatoon, it was up in the treehouse in the backyard. When I lived at our family's current house in Saskatoon, it was the hill in the park. At camp, it was the secret patch of moss in the woods. But the Rock, my Vancouver spot, became the pinnacle of the meeting places. It's a semi-private place on the beach where God can spread out a whole variety of creatures for me to enjoy with Him. I can sing out loud and usually no one will hear but Him. I have a view of the ocean, the mountains, the city, and the sunrise, and it's only three minutes from my house.

Just recently God gave me a gift that helped in my pre-grieving of the Rock. It's linked to the blog entry I wrote recently about seeing new sides of trees and plants. When I got back from Saskatoon a couple weeks ago, I went down to my Rock as usual, but saw something new. There were bunches of yellow flowers hanging down, like a halo around my Rock. The sun was shining on them, and they were brilliant. I looked around, but there weren't any yellow flowers anywhere else on the beach. I climbed up and sat in my usual spot, and they seemed to surround me, enclosing my spot with beauty. I realized that I'd always noticed the dried-up pods on that hanging bush, but I'd never imagined what the flowers that produced them would look like. I spent much of that morning just looking at them and enjoying them, and watching the lazy bees they attracted.

One of my favorite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins, talked about the idea of "inscape". He used the word to refer to the deep personality and character of things, often inanimate created things. He would try to use his poetry to "selve" things, to reveal what he saw to be unique in the way a certain tree or a certain rock was created. For me, it felt like the halo of flowers revealed the "inscape" of my Rock. It was as if the created things around that spot always knew it was a sacred place to meet with God, and they were letting me in on their secret, a secret I always knew but could never see physically. I praised God for revealing this hidden reality, and thanked Him for the time He gave me to delight in the fact that we'd really been together, through these three years, in a distinct way, even though I hadn't always realized it.

This morning, at the Rock, I read Psalm 84 - "How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty... better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere." I know the Psalmist was talking about the Temple. I also know (from the theology class I'm currently taking) that the Holy Spirit's presence in me makes God's dwelling place much more universal and less "localized" than it was for the Old Testament people, who lived before Christ sent His Spirit. (I am glad for this, because it means that I don't leave God when I move to Commercial!) But I still understand the Psalmist's longing to meet God in a certain place, a place that becomes holy and sacred ground, a place where the skin between this world and the unseen reality all around it becomes a lot more thin and penetrable. I'm already praying God will show me one of these places, a new place to meet near Commercial. And I'll probably keep coming back to the Rock every once in a while, by bus, or by imagination...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Commercial Drive, here we come!

Great news! After two and a half months of searching, Danice and I (and our friends Lindsey and Lynn) have finally found a house to move into! The house is on Commercial Drive, which is much further east than we are now. This means we'll be closer to downtown, where we work, and further from Regent. But it's on Commercial and 7th, which is two blocks away from Broadway, where the skytrain and express buses stop, so we're within reach of a lot of places.

The suite is a second floor and a loft in a large house. There are only three bedrooms, so two of us will be sharing a bedroom. There are three balconies (!) which I'm stoked about. The living room has a fireplace, and there's an actual kitchen! (We have a very, very small kitchen in our basement suite!)

Two of the best things about this house are the landlords and the neighbourhood. We've had such excellent landlords at our current house, and as we searched for a new house, we encountered a lot of landlords who seemed much less friendly. But the young couple who are renting out our new place are very friendly. They live on the main floor of the house, and they're excited about gardening with us in the backyard, and getting to know us better. Really, who wouldn't want to get to know us? :)

And the neighbourhood... what can I say about Commercial Drive? I guess for my Saskatoon friends, the closest description would be Broadway to the power of a thousand. Although "the Drive" started out as Vancouver's Little Italy, it's now a very racially diverse community - most of Vancouver's best ethnic restaurants are there. Within a couple of blocks, you can get Belgian fries, Italian gelato, Ethiopian, and Jamaican food. There are tons of independently-owned coffee shops. (Danice is very excited about this). There are dogs everywhere. (Danice is also very excited about this.) Ever since I did a project on a church on Commercial Drive in my first year here, I've always felt like I "fit in" there. I don't know what that means, because the stereotypical Drive resident would be a bike-riding, dog-owning, granola-eating, dreadlocked (or at least matted, greasy haired), baggy-clothes-made of-hemp-wearing, pot-smoking, Birkenstock-sandaled, green-party-supporting, chickens-in-the-backyard, belly-dancing, gender-not-always-crystal-clear person. But really, no one fits that stereotype. Everyone is eclectic. Case in point... as I sat in the Belgian fry place once, I saw a very tall Scandinavian man with a shaved head wearing a baby blue sweater with the name "Dusty" stitched in near his shoulder, walking hand in hand with a MUCH older Asian woman.

Really, even though people argue that it's getting more "trendy" and yuppies are starting to move there to be cooler, it still feels like a place where people are proudly "themselves." Perhaps obnoxiously themselves. They wear less make-up than people in Kitsilano. They don't care as much when their kids cry in public. They freely talk to people who are weird in different ways than they are weird. I think that's what I'm drawn to - it's a place where I want to be myself, too, even if I don't smoke pot. I will be a proud non-pot-smoker. And I'm looking forward to a fresh chance to actually get to know people in my neighborhood, to support a few local shopowners to the point that they know my name, and to be generally more 'present' in my community, which is something I think I haven't done well here in Kitsilano.

And I'm stoked about learning to be more hospitable, taking more ownership of a place, cooking in a normal-sized kitchen and enjoying it, and inviting people over to eat and sit on the balcony!

You can pray for me in the next couple of weeks though... we have to pack and move, and I also need to write a sermon, because I'm preaching on the 15th at Kits Church for the first time, a day after we move! Lots to do, and very little time. But it's an exciting time. God is providing for me, answering prayers right and left.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The trees were holding out on me.

Thank you to those who contributed to my survey in the last post... interesting data, indeed! Feel free to add a comment, if you haven't yet, and I will let you know when I draw conclusions.

It's amazing how much Vancouver can change in a week and a half! As I walk the route from my bus stop to my house, I am reminded that I do not know the trees at all. I do not know the flowers at all. I thought I did, because I've walked that same route for three years now, with one important exception: I've missed a crucial 4-month period every year. Yes, this is my first Vancouver summer. This is my first Vancouver month of May.

Familiar trees that I know by heart in September and March are now unrecognizable, covered in unexpected blossoms or fresh leaves. There are strange and beautiful orange flowers growing by the front steps that I have never seen before. I am enjoying being taken by surprise. Trees and bushes
I scarcely noticed before are springing to my attention, like when one instrument suddenly stands out in the orchestra.

Let me give you an example. There's a scraggly tree on Alma &3rd, he's a chaotic mess of thin branches growing in all directions from a thick stump. He's a species I've never seen before, and I've never been able to identify him. He grows in the yard of a man who collects other people's junk. He's not an immediately lovable tree, but I've grown to love him for his scraggliness, just like I've grown a secret affection for this little long-haired junk-collecting man I've seen but never actually talked to. The other day, as I approached the tree on my walk home, instead of scraggly branches, I saw what looked like soft pink dreadlocks.
Every branch was covered with the tiniest pink flowers, bringing out a softer side of him I'd never seen. He reminded me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book! Or perhaps Sideshow Bob's hair, if it were pink (for the Simpsons fans out there). I felt a sense of pride in this tree I'd grown to love over three autumns and winters and springs. He had been holding out on me! Actually, I had been missing out on him. I imagined everyone looking at him and enjoying him a little more than usual. I also wanted people to know that I loved him before I knew he was beautiful.

This whole experience of Vancouver flora in May reminds me of similar experiences with people. I don't know if anyone else is reminded of people when they look at plants... it may be a weird side effect of being both a biologist and a pastor-in-training.... Anyway, I am being reminded of times when people I love reveal some gift or talent I never knew they had. Like when I returned home from Belgium, and my brother could suddenly play saxophone. Or when I heard Chris sing for the first time. Or the first time I saw Danice interact with her youth. It's such a great feeling, because you already love the person, but it gives you one more reason to love them, one more dimension to that love. It also reminds me that even when I think I know someone, I don't know all of them. This is something God's been teaching me for a few years - people are rarely as good or as bad as I think they are. There are beautiful and ugly sides to people I rarely see. Which is great motivation to pay closer attention in all seasons, and love them in all seasons.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Home life

I'm at my family home in Saskatoon. I just swept the kitchen and the three bathrooms and both entrances. My mom is exploiting my love for sweeping the floor. I really do love sweeping the floor. She never forgets that. I enjoyed getting in her way in the kitchen tonight while she made meatballs. They're very easy. I could make them back in Vancouver.

My dad just walked in. He's wearing his greasy mechanic one-piece outfit and holding some rusty car part from Rachel's car. Hopefully the part that's making it hard to start the car. Yep, he just confirmed it, it's the starter. He's a pastor, but he looks very at home as an engineer.

It's great being home and settling into a different rhythm, even though it's only for a while. I have enjoyed the simple things - picking dandelions out of the grass, having a drink at the coffee shop where Rachel works, watching the crabapple blossoms bloom on the tree, and laying on the backyard lawn in the sun. My family is awesome.

It was fun being at the Webbers, too, for our yearly gathering of four families. Sam, Cindie and Danice were the newbies this year, and they all live in Vancouver, so it was a strange meeting of two worlds for me. Lots of laughs, theological discussions, visits to cattle ranches, rides in the back of pick-up trucks, gopher shooting (I didn't participate), and eating. Some pictures of Danice experiencing the prairies:

Oh yeah, I'm also doing a survey right now. It's a dialectical geographical survey, and you can participate. It's very important. Here's the question - please leave your answer as a comment, and state where you live: What do you call the game where you knock on people's doors or ring their doorbells, and then you run away before they open it?

Please answer. Vancouver, I'll see you in a couple days.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thomas Merton rocks

The rain has stopped. The afternoon sun slants through the pine trees: and how those useless needles smell in the clean air! A dandelion, long out of season, has pushed itself into bloom between the smashed leaves of last summer’s day lilies. The valley resounds with totally uninformative talk of creeks and wild water. Then the quails begin their sweet whistling in the wet bushes.

Their noise is absolutely useless, and so is the delight I take in it.
There is nothing I would rather hear, not because it is a better noise than other noises, but because it is the voice of the present moment, the present festival.

(Thomas Merton - "When the Trees Say Nothing")

Friday, May 09, 2008


I was thinking about how it takes me so long to digest things - information and art, especially.

For example, when I read a book, I usually underline or mark passages in it that I like. When I get to the end of the book, I don't feel like I've really "got" it unless I go back through it again. Otherwise, nothing sticks - it's all gone. So I usually flip through it and type out the parts that I like, and remind myself of the structure of it, and the point of it. It takes twice as long for me to read books as it takes a lot of other people.

And in order to actually feel like I have a handle on a song or a band, I have to sit and listen intently to the music while looking at the lyrics and concentrating on the song as a whole - I can't just have it in the background. Lately this has taken up a lot of my time, because I've been "getting into" a few different artists (U2, obviously, as well as Ani DiFranco and Death Cab for Cutie). All of them have been around for a while, so it takes time to sit and really get my head around their body of work - in each case, I have a lot of catching up to do. I need to start getting interested in brand-new artists so that this catch-up takes less time!

I guess this is ok. I'd rather know what I know and know it well. I'd rather really appreciate a few things, instead of spreading a broad and shallow net. Next things to dive into: Brothers Karamazov and Radiohead.

So what's been going on my life lately... I'm looking and looking for a 3-bedroom house to rent with Danice and Lindsey, preferably further east in this lovely city, but so far, the search is fruitless. I have started working full-time at Jacob's Well. I got two TA jobs for the fall 2008 semester (Iain and Darrell), so I will not have time to take many classes come September! I just played guitar at a pastor's conference at Regent, where I got to listen to and meet Marva Dawn, who is an amazing writer and a hero of mine. I finished watching Season 2 of "Lost" with Danice, on to Season 3. I'm playing piano at Tora and Jordan's wedding tomorrow. The cherry blossoms are almost all gone, but there are a lot of other things blooming here that I've never seen before (because I've always been in Saskatoon by May!). I'm going to Homowebmape in a week, and I'm bringing Danice with me. After that, I'm spending a week in Saskatoon, so Saskatoon friends... let's do coffee, between the 19th and the 25th of this month.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Women, let's talk.

Disclaimer: This blog is about... menstruation. Many men (and probably some women) will likely not want to read on. I, myself, am not very comfortable talking about this, as Danice would attest, and I am even less comfortable writing about it for the masses of people who read my blog. But I'm writing as an effort to get rid of some of that awkwardness, as I will explain below.

I made a decision about menstrual products last year, and it was probably one of my best choices all year (you know, next to deciding to become a pastor!). Since it was my sister who inspired me to do this, I'd love to inspire more women to follow suit. Also,I want to brag about how hard core I am, because I'm proud of it, and I don't exactly drop it into casual conversation.

This is what I did: I stopped buying tampons and pads, and instead, I bought two reusable products: the DivaCup , and Lunapads (designed and produced locally in Vancouver). Both can be ordered online.

Together, these cost me about $70, and will likely last me several years. My wallet is happy!

I am no longer contributing any menstrual products to landfills (an average woman throws away 12 000 pads and tampons in her lifetime, not to mention the packaging). The planet is happy!

I don't know much about the health risks of tampons and the bleaching and all that, but I'm kind of glad to not have to worry about that now, too. Bonus advantage: you can't feel the DivaCup, and Lunapads are much, much more soft and comfortable than plastic pads. My body is happy!

So... good for the environment, good for my body, good for my budget. All I had to do was to get comfortable with seeing my own blood. Which was easy, once I reminded myself that the people making me think it was dirty and embarrassing (maybe even shameful), in need of sanitizing, bleaching and immediate disposal were... drumroll please... the producers of the tampons and pads! How convenient for them. They're so embarrassed for me that they use a strange blue liquid to substitute for blood in their little scientific demonstrations on their commercials, and tell me I need "protection" from something that comes from my own body! An interesting article I read online (read it!) talked about how disposable pads (Kotex brand) were invented in 1921, after WWI, from an absorbent wadding used to bandage wounds in the war. The part about advertising is fascinating:

"...the menstrual product industry has employed a three-fold marketing strategy that remains remarkably unchanged almost 100 years later, though its methods may vary: medicalize menstruation as a problematic bodily function; emphasize the importance of hygiene (menstruation as "dirty"); and stress the potential for embarrassment ostensibly inherent in menstruation itself. In these ways, menstruation is itself constructed by the marketing of the product. In conjunction, these strategies effectively instruct women to be silent on the subject."

So I'm trying to break the silence, and change my own perceptions about my body and the way God made it to function. But I won't say much more - you can check out the product websites. (I will warn you that the DivaCup takes some practice and you have to be ready to give it several tries. Before starting with it, I used "ob" brand tampons, without applicators, and I think that was a good intermediate step.)

Feel free to ask me more questions about this, if you want... it might help me become less awkward talking about it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

One love, one...liner.

On the plate today are some of Bono's great one-liners from that same book, "Bono in Conversation":

(okay, some of them are two-or-three-liners!)...

"The sound of getting out of a ghetto is very different to the sound of getting into one."

"To be relevant is a lot harder than to be successful."

"Coolness might help in your negotiation with people through the world, but it is impossible to meet God with sunglasses on."

"Decadence is when you have it all in front of you and don’t notice. I noticed everything. And I appreciated it."

"You know, celebrity is ridiculous. It’s silly, but it is a kind of currency, and you have to spend it wisely."

"One of the great ironies of these concerts is that our songs are very intimate: incredible intimacies shared with people whom you’ve never met. And I wouldn’t trust that. Who would trust that?"

"It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be flesh."

"It’s the loss of money that leads to the love of it."

"This is how we worship God, even though we don’t write religious songs, because we didn’t feel God needs the advertising."

"The thing that’ll make you less and less able to realize your potential is a room that’s empty of argument. And I would be terrified to be on my own as a solo singer, not to have a band to argue with."

"No one does anything interesting for just the right reason. It’s the flaw that makes the frame... You wouldn’t write a song if you didn’t have a hole in your heart."

"Yeah, a great rock show can be a transcendent event... it’s an extraordinary thing to get 70000 people or 7000 people to agree on anything."

"God is love, and as much as I respond in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now, that’s not so easy."

"It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe...And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff."

"The Greeks may have come up with democracy, but they had not intention of everyone having it."

"The quality I admire in people the most is lack of self-pity."

"Laughter is the evidence of freedom. A sense of humor is not always defensive. It can be a great attack dog."

"You just get on with your life, and you slowly find a place to put Africa, this beautiful, shining continent with all its ups and downs. Occasionally, you’d take it out, you’d look at it again, and then you’d put it back in that safer place called distance and time."

"“Be silent, and know that I am God.” That’s a favorite line from the Scriptures. “Shut Up and Let Me Love You” would be the pop song."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When wrestling with God, wear a cup.

This is what I'm paying the big bucks at Bible School for...

This morning in my last Genesis class, we studied the story of Jacob wrestling with God. It's in Genesis 32 (we didn't quite make it all the way through Genesis!).

If you know the story, a man meets Jacob in the dark and starts wrestling with him. It's not until daybreak that Jacob realizes he's wrestling with God. The match is lasting forever, and no one is winning. Here's how verse 25 goes in my Bible:

"When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man."

And verses 31-32:

"The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon."

This gets kind of technical, but bear with me, I promise it will get good... My professor, Dr. Provan, started talking about the Hebrew words that are translated "socket" ("kap") and "hip" ("yarek"). He explained that elsewhere in Genesis and in the Old Testament, these are actually words associated with flesh and muscle, not bone (eg. "yarek" is translated "thigh" in Gen. 24:9). It's hard to tell exactly what parts of the body the author is referring to. The custom it describes (not eating parts of the meat) didn't even make it into the Jewish law - this is the only mention of it. The word translated "tendon" is "gid-hannasheh", and this is the only place it's used, so it's impossible to know exactly what it means, but it seems to be some sort of "fleshly appendage". At this point, the less mature students in the class (including me) were already giggling.

So Dr. Provan has a theory, unprovable, but very appealing, in my opinion. Instead of talking about hips, sockets and tendons, he thinks that this passage is euphemistically talking about Jacob's genitalia. Basically, he thinks God kicked Jacob in the groin. That's why he limped. God canned him. God sort of cheated. Which makes sense, because if you know Jacob, you know Jacob is a cheater, and it would be poetic justice for Jacob to be kicked in the crotch by God.

Although in this painting by Eugene Delacroix, it looks like Jacob is trying to turn the tables and knee God in the crotch...

Anyway, as you can tell, this has given me a whole new appreciation for the story, and for Jacob. I think he might be a new hero of mine. :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bono in conversation

I've been reading this book of conversations with Bono. It's by Michka Assayas, and it's entitled "Bono in Conversation." Very appropriate. You know I've been getting into U2, and the thing is, I kind of thought they might be an accident. I thought that maybe they stumbled into a lot of great things, and that maybe they didn't really know what made them great. But I was wrong. At least in Bono's case. This man is freaking brilliant. So much of what he says is full of wit, humor, wisdom and humility. Here's how he describes himself in the book:

"I’m a scribbling, cigar-smoking, wine-drinking, Bible-reading band man. A show-off who loves to paint pictures of what I can’t see. A husband, father, friend of the poor and sometimes the rich. An activist traveling salesman of ideas. Chess player, part-time rock star, opera singer, in the loudest folk group in the world."

He is, of course, very involved in Africa. This one thing he said really grabbed me. Check it out:

"Right now there is the biggest pandemic in the history of civilization, happening in the world now with AIDS. It’s bigger than the Black Death, which took a third of Europe in the Middle Ages. Sixty-five hundred Africans are dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease. And it is not a priority for the West: two 9/11s a day, eighteen jumbo jets of fathers, mothers, families falling out of the sky. No tears, no letters of condolence, no fifty-one-gun salutes. Why? Because we don’t put the same value on African life as we put on a European or an American life. God will not let us get away with this, history certainly won’t let us get away without excuses. We say we can’t get these antiretroviral drugs to the farthest reaches of Africa, but we can get them our cold fizzy drinks. The tiniest village, you can find a bottle of Coke. Look, if we really thought that an African life was equal in value to an English, a French, or an Irish life, we wouldn’t let two and a half million Africans die every year for the stupidest of reasons: money. We just wouldn’t. And a very prominent head of state said to me: “It’s true. If these people weren’t Africans, we just couldn’t let it happen.” We don’t really deep down believe in their equality."

Crazy. I think he's right. I might be posting more quotes from the book soon...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Unless a seed falls

I spent today at Jacob's Well, like every Wednesday this year. I'm getting paid now! I'm on staff! After two and a half years of volunteering. I will be working there full-time this summer. Here's a taste of today, a taste of the Well... (check out our website if you want)

I took the bus for 40 minutes to arrive at Jacob's Well, on Main and Cordova.

I spent the morning tackling the problem of how to reconcile Quickbooks with our bank statements for 2008. I rejoiced when the numbers added up!

I cut up half a pineapple to share at Colleagues' lunch. Every Wednesday, we invite other people who minister in the downtown eastside to come eat lunch with us. Usually we have between 5-10 guests. It's great - a lot of us bring food to share, and we share stories and prayer requests and pray together and drink tea.

I wrote a cheque to Telus. I wrote a cheque to the Receiver General.

Someone came in to use our bathroom. They asked if we were trying to fix doors. Berto explained that those are our tables. (Our tables are made of old doors.)

I headed out to the Farm. We have two community gardens in the downtown eastside, and we call them collectively "Red Clover Farm." Today, I got to plant onions, parsnips and lettuce. I also transplanted two trees with Berto. We have too many for the farm, so we put them outside the garden, near the street, on city property. An elderly Chinese lady came by and encouraged us, although she couldn't speak English. She used her fingers to show us that she is 78 years old. She laughed when I tried to repeat after her in Mandarin, and gave me a thumbs-up sign. Maybe I should try to learn Mandarin.

At 5:00, I walked to the bus stop with very dirty hands. On the way, a lady tried to sell me a flower. My heart sank. It was our friend J., the flower lady, for whom we had tried to find temporary housing in January. I had spent a whole afternoon with her that month - she had been off drugs for a while, and we tried to set up an interview for her at a drug-free housing unit, so that she could stay clean. She had been very kind and articulate that day. But today, I could hardly recognize her, and she definitely didn't recognize me either. It was like she was a different person, disheveled, bent over, scowling and shuffling along with her flowers, getting angry at me because I didn't want one, yelling and complaining to everyone who passed. Another attempt to stay clean, foiled. This was the first time I'd seen this kind of "before and after" change in a friend of ours... my co-workers, Joyce, Jane, Dawn, Berto, Tom and Dave, see this all the time. I'm starting to realize how discouraging ministry on the downtown eastside can be. Watching friends make good choices, and then turn around back down the same destructive path again.

I rode the bus home, another 40 minutes. Tried not to think about the flower lady. Tried to think about those seeds I planted... thinking how crazy it is to put something that tiny into the dead ground, and to expect life to burst from it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thank the Great Spiritual Beings!

My brother was asked to say a prayer at his high school grad banquet in Saskatoon, SK. He eagerly accepted.

Then they gave him the "school board approved" prayer... if it can even be called a prayer. Check this out:

"In the spirit of humility we give thanks for all that is.
We thank the great spiritual beings who have shared their wisdom.
We thank our ancestors who brought us to where we are now.
We are grateful for the opportunity to walk this planet,
to breathe the air,
to taste the food,
to experience sensations of a human body/mind,
to share in this wonder that is life.
We are grateful for the natural world that supports us,
for the community of humankind that enables us to do many wondrous things.
We are grateful that we are conscious,
that as intelligent beings we can reflect upon the many gifts we have been given."

Gag me. Danice says he should just hijack the whole thing and pray something of his own. It's grad, he's finished school ... what can they do to him?

What would you do?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I want U2 respond

I never was a big fan of "U2". I think it came from hearing too many Christians trying to "up" their cool factor by listening to them, and then discussing all their songs with each other, and making me feel insecure for not knowing their music. I developed negative associations to them. Plus, they were just too big. I didn't want to start liking them just because everyone else seemed to.

It's only this year that I came to my senses, through the musical influence of Danice. I finally fell in love with U2, first with "40", then "Where the Streets Have No Name," then "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own," then "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", and many more. My admiration for them feels more authentic because it's taken time. Also, through Jodi's influence, we managed to work U2 songs into our Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday services at Kits Church this year.

So now I'm working U2 into school. I'm in the process of writing a paper for my Preaching and Worship class with this title: "What the Church can Learn from U2 about Worship". I'm reading some great books, but I'd love to have the input of anyone reading this blog. I'd especially like to hear from people who have attended their concerts. I've heard a lot of people say that this experience has been one of the most spiritual/religious experiences of their lives. Anyone want to give me some feedback?

Monday, March 31, 2008


So I've got a new blog format to go along with my resolution to write more... it's very Easter-ly. All things being made new.

My thoughts today come from my Preaching class with Darrell Johnson. He talked about preaching the book of Revelation, and gave us several tips for interpreting and explaining the book. He actually wrote a book about it called "Discipleship on the Edge," which I haven't read, but I want to, after learning so much in today's class.

Some of it I had heard already... like the fact that we need to honor the book's genre, as a letter (which was written to a particular people and had meaning to their present-day situation) and an apocalypse (which means "unveiling" or "breaking through" - the disclosure of the unseen realities of both the future and the present, drawing out implications for today.) It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, about Jesus Christ, by Jesus Christ, and any interpretation that doesn't lead to an encounter with Christ (eg. by getting bogged down in dates, or in fear-mongering) does not match up with the purpose of the book. There is a lot of symbolism in the book (let's hope we don't go to meet Christ and discover an actual lamb with 7 eyes and 7 horns!), and this also applies to the numbers used.

The most eye-opening realization about the book that I heard today is this: John saw these visions in a certain order, but this doesn't mean they're in chronological order. It doesn't seem like he was concerned with chronology at all (a characteristic which I've also seen as I've studied Genesis in Iain Provan's class). The book feels jumpy and disjointed, moving from mass destruction to throne-room worship, to what seems like an ending, but keeps going... Darrell likened it to an MTV music video, with rapid cuts and little continuity. One minute, Jesus is holding 7 stars in his right hand (1:16), and the next, he's placing his right hand on John (1:17). It makes a lot of sense to me to approach the book with a view of unpacking the images, and letting them take their places, without trying to impose a chronology on them.

Anyway, I'm excited to do more reading on this. Darrell spent a whole year preaching Revelation (1999 - the Y2K year). Maybe I will one day...

In closing, here is a picture of cows that I apocalypt-ified.