Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Saturday night it started snowing again and I think it might just be done now..... with more forecasted for Tuesday and Wednesday. Is this really Victoria? We've easily gotten a foot here and other places on the fringes of town got more. Here's some shots of my first white Christmas in Victoria!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wintery Wanderings

When you turn to the weather station and the current weather says -17 Celsius with the windchill, you certainly don't feel like you're in Victoria. When you look out the window and see drifting snow swirled around by fiendish wind gusts, you don't feel like you're in Victoria. Despite the weather harking back to my childhood years on the prairies (yes I know, it's minus one hundred and thirty there right now) the nasty work of Jack Frost uncharacteristically hit Victoria this weekend. This was the sight Saturday night.


We decided to start a roaring fire and pour some 'adult' eggnog while watching some TV and listening the blustering wind. In the morning, this was the sight - 3 inches of the white stuff!


Now in Victoria, 3 inches is like 3 feet... unless you're talking about the Blizzard Of '96 (which everyone has such grand memories of!) I wasn't here but they talk of feet of snow falling in hours, calling in the National Guard, people eating their last can of Heinz beans while being housebound for days... I remember my first winter here schools closing on less snow than this, so I am pretty sure that the Blizzard Of '96, while scarring the minds of Victorians everywhere was not quite as dramatic as some tell it.

Nolana and her Gospel Choir were singing Sunday in a Christmas pageant (of which I have no pictures due to my hands being full of baby) and the congregation was half missing, the drummer was missing, choir members were missing, the brass was missing - all for 3 inches of snow. We take this stuff seriously here in Victoria!

That afternoon we put up the Christmas tree and I only broke 3 ornaments...


So Nolana made me pose for a picture and then politely told me to back away from the tree, NOW! Daija enjoyed her first tree raising - it will be a memory she will never forget. She was mesmerized by the lights, though.



Today was bitter cold. It is in fact -17 with the wind which is unusually bitter for Victoria. They don't really get days like this in Ethiopia....

To end with, and on that Ethiopia note, here are my two favorite Christmas decorations - both brought back from Ethiopia and made by disabled people there.

Angels on our tree.


The Christmas scene hanging.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

African Artists

For most people, you'll never get a chance to dig into the amazing myriads of music that comes out of Africa. If you have it's likely been some of the classics like Fela Kuti or Ali Farxe Toure, or perhaps some of the more accessible South African bands and choirs like Ladysmith Black Mombaza or Soweto Gospel Choir.

Today on Eric's wanderings I present a few samplings of modern African music from a variety of genres to make you smile, make you tap your foot, and just maybe, make you go check out some more. Most of them are not very well known in North America or maybe even outside of their countries. But all way cool.

First off, some Nigerian folk/pop in the vein of Tracey Chapman or even a little Jack Johnson type rhythm. Asa (Asha) is a fairly new artist and this is her song, "Fire on the Mountain."




The next selection is from a famous Senegalese/Moroccan drummer, Mokhatar Samaba off his new album Dounia, which is also the title of the song. It starts off with a recording of the famous Archbishop Tutu. Check him out.



Next up is something very different and way cool. The band is Tinariwen and they are a Tuareg protest group recording in their native Tamasheq. They play in their local styles and rhythms, mixed with some blues. The Tuareg are the bedouins of the Sahara and this group formed in a refugee camp and has started making the world take notice of their culture and their people's plight. Check out the song, "Chet Boghassa".



This one makes me just want to smile and bob my head every time I hear it. A collaboration between 113 from Algeria and Magic System from Cote d'Ivoire. It's hip-hop with a fun, African twist. The part around 1:54 always makes me laugh! Check it out, "Un Gaou Oran".



Lastly, some very cool cats from South Africa. If reincarnation could be real I would probably choose to be one of these guys. BLK JKS from Johannesburg, some psychedelic, African inspired rock. Taking a look at this video, some day I want to be at a show like this... Check out "Summertime" here.



Well, that;s it for now - maybe at some point I'll do it again. Tell me if you enjoyed it, if you skipped through it because there were no pictures of my baby, or if you want recommendations. Peace all.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Erta-Ale Explosion

A cool update to increase your random knowledge.

Recently, the only active volcano in Ethiopia (Mt. Erta Ale) erupted. It's in the Danakil Depression which borders Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti (for you Ethiopia neophytes - think East). The Danakil is the lowest point in Africa (500 feet below sea level), one of the hottest places on the continent, and where they found Lucy.

Some friend of ours in Ethiopia sent us this picture. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One Month


My baby's one month today! Crazy.

She's gained almost 2 lbs already despite a slow start, she's way more alert, getting to be more vocal, follows bright obstacles or my face around and recognizes sounds. Pretty cool.

I love her eyes when she's awake; they're so big! I love her feet too, so perfect and small. So smooth - hasn't walked any miles in anybody's shoes yet.

She's such a content baby and when she does cry I realize I'm a sucker - I just want to go pick her up and comfort her. If she was a wailer I might go nuts...

I think she's the bee's knees for sure.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snippets

Here's some interesting reads:

20 Doctors graduate in Somalia for the 1st time in 20 years - and the great thing is the grads did it through decades of turmoil and will likely only be able to practice in Somalia... that is dedication! Check it out here.

Rick Mercer writes a wicked blog on the coalition talk. Check it out here.

An article on Bush's post-presidency plans - hard to redeem a legacy like his! But he plans to try by building a Freedom Institute that he proudly acknowledges will be "non-academic" because Bush never really liked academics (intimidated likely) and only people who line up with Bush's views need apply to help out. Seriously. Check it out here.

I found out one of my relatives (like 3rd cousin) was one of those who died in Afghanistan, number 54 of a total that has now reached 101. He was Joint Task Force and died in an accident. You can check out the story here.

And, finally, You can find out how your food feels before being eaten here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Of a Coalition

So Canadians are in an uproar, the Prime Minister claims a "coup" is about to happen, and Stephane Dion goes from scapegoat to possible Prime Minister in the matter of months.

I haven't really formulated any cohesive thoughts on the matter, just smatterings that I shall post here. Disagree at will.

1. The heart of the problem is Canadian's misconceptions about the Canadian political system. In a parliamentary system such as we have we vote for MPs, not for who will be the Prime Minister. This is not America. These MPs represent us and the leader who has the most MPs and the confidence of the House becomes the PM. Harper clearly did not have the support of the House or of a majority of MPs.

2. For those who say Canadians voted for the Liberals or the NDP, not a coalition... You are missing the point of a coalition. They are meant to be made after elections. In many countries around the world this is how it is done and how it has been attempted here in Canada before.

3. For those who slam Dion for joining forces with the seperatist Bloc (as our esteemed PM has done), Harper tried the exact same thing to try and oust a weak Liberal government. He courted the Bloc and they turned him down. Hmmmmm....

4. Public opinion is important and somehow, despite all the pluses of a coalition, opinion is very split. The coalition needs to make sure that they're not shooting themselves in the foot for the next elections.

5. I think I would have rather seen the Conservatives try and form a coalition but Mr. Harper felt he had the support to go ahead and govern like he had a majority; he tried to bully his way through and someone called his bluff. He has realized the error of his ways but now it may be too late for him.

6. If the Governor-general decides on another election, my bet is that the NDP and Libs make a deal not to run competing candidates where the Conservative government won by vote splitting (such as in my riding). This would likely lead to a NDP/Liberal governing coalition anyways.

7. I am willing to give the coalition a chance to govern and see what happens.

8. Guaranteed, interesting times in Canadian politics.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Props

A man has got to give props where they're due so here's my shout outs for the night. Major respect, Son.

Props to George Stroumboulopoulos of The Hour. I love how he keeps it real. Even more, I love how he brings real people of faith on the show and treats them with open, honest respect; allowing them to voice their faith in a reasonable way. Check out his interviews with guys like Craig Gross. He also cares deeply about issues like poverty and AIDS and brings some really thought provoking guests onto the show. I love his conversational style - man, he is just kickin' it real style.

Serious props to North Coast Brewing Co. and their Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. If you're a lover of serious beers, you must try this. Dark as a starless night, deep as a forgotten well and complex like the best women. Beer sites and connoisseurs around the web rate it among the best in the world and let me tell you - it is well deserved. I know I rant about American beers...lacking but that ignores smaller micros on the West coast who put out beauts like this. Seriously delicious.

Short Term Missions, Revisited

When my Momma was here last week, she sat me down and unloaded the double barrels of her esteemed opinion on my previous blog post, Tourists or Missionaries? She is a wise woman so I listened and she indeed had some valuable things to add to the discussion but since she's not going to post them on here I will throw them out and then comment.

The gist of her comments was twofold: first, we shouldn't place so much emphasis on money or commodify God's plan with missions. It's not all about money.

The second point was that we should not limit God in his workings. Who knows what can happen when someone chooses to participate in short-term missions.

As you can see, these are a couple really good points that got me thinking again. Wise woman, that momma of mine. But here's what I got to thinking on.

She's right, my original post focused too much on the money side of things when I really see that as a subordinate aspect to the relational side of missions. My problem is with how we represent Christ in out relationships with others. While most people who engage in short term missions probably hope to represent Christ's compassion and love to the impoverished -is that what those "impoverished" see? Or do they see a rich, white Christ who flies in for 10 days, jets around in air-conditioned chartered vans, eats way too much food, and then complains about how friggin' hot it is outside and how there are lizards in the bathroom? Do they see a patronizing Christ who makes them wish they were somehow a little better off? Perhaps a Christ who feels they need a new church building rather than a steady source of food?

I believe that missions work is about relationships. Those types of relationships can't be made in a week or two. They demand a long-term commitment to working, living, crying and playing with people in their lives and in their situations - whatever they might be. It's about portraying Christ as someone who is willing to listen to them, to be there when they're hurting, to support them when they need it, to really understand what the struggles in their life are. This is the relational side of missions that those short-term projects seem to miss, I think.

As for limiting God... guilty. There indeed are no limits to what God can use and the situations that he can choose to work in. For all my objections, it is hard to deny that there have been short-term missions projects that have changed lives for God's glory. But at the same time this seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. God can use anything so we'll give him something inferior because he can use that just as easily as something more superior.

We're called to be good stewards of the resources God gave us - does short-term missions accomplish this? We're called to take up the cross and bring an offering of sacrifice - does short-term mission accomplish this? We're called to truly care about the suffering and oppressed, to wash their feet, to clothe them, to feed them as if they were Christ himself - does short-term missions accomplish this? These are some of the questions I wish the church would sit down ask themselves.

Thanks for the thoughts Momma!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baby Days

In my 5 days of Daddyhood there have been many lessons I have learned, let me share a small smattering of them with you.

1.) She's a lot cuter when she's not crying.

2.) Yellow poo is good poo.

3.) There is no greater feeling then when she falls asleep in your arms.

4.) Babies operate on their own schedule - mess with it on your own peril.

5.) Nothing feels funnier that explosive poos while you're holding her.


Five lessons for 5 days - not bad. They've been a great five days though it's been a bit odd having to go to class on Friday and leave my ladies behind. Mom is doing great and adjusting well - she's a pro. Daija has been super content, for which we are superbly thankful and hope that it is a sign of further things!

As for pictures, you can check out my album on Facebook here. I'll try and update it regularly.

I don't want to make this another 'baby blog' and I'll be back with other content but, hey, being a Dad is part of it all now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Ritskes!!

At 7:26 this morning Nolana and I welcomed a little girl into our family! Her name is Daija Grace (pronounced like Asia with a D) and she was 8lbs 5oz. She is cute as the proverbial button, long like her mama and has a head full of hair that is already looking a little curly. The labor wasn't too bad and was manageable for both of us. We are happy and home, enjoying out little girl!

If you're in Victoria, we really do want to see you all and I know you're going to want to see Daija... just don't surprise us! Call, and if we don't answer don't take it personally - we'll call back. Thanks for all the support and encouragement you've all given us, we appreciate it!

Friday, November 7, 2008

By the Numbers

Zero. Nada. Nil. Zip. None. Not even one. Nothing. Naught. Zilch. Shutout. Goose egg. Not any. Null. Cero.

That's how many children we have.

Six is the number days we are late.

Two is the number of midwife appointments in the last week.

Seven. The day in November our good friends Tim and Kari had their second child.

Two is the number of days they were late.

Sixty-two is the number of people who have congratulated me even though the baby is not here yet.

Zero is the number of days I hope are left to wait.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Last Holiday as a Twosome

Yep, your favorite Ritskes' are preparing for Halloween as the last holiday as a twosome! Nolana is 5 days off of her due date so in the next few weeks I'm going to be a daddy!

We had a nice Sunday yesterday. Off to church in the morning, rushed back for an hour to rake the massive build-up of leaves in our yard. It was nice and sunny (while still brisk) and we got 'er done. Then we went off to the Dawes' place with a bunch of other couples to decorate cookies, carve pumpkins and dip caramel apples... now THAT's how Halloween is meant to be done! Here's my pumpkin...

Then we were off to Nolana's parents for a gourmet birthday dinner for Nolana's birthday and some great company and a game of cards.

It was one of those days we were out of the house from the moment we woke up until we collapsed into bed but it also one where you don't mind because you spent it with family and friends and had a great time, ya know?

Keep an eye out here for the arrival of Eric(a) Jr. !!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Heartwarming

Nolana has choir tonight. Due to the blustery fall day we had and my resolve to not turn the heat on, I told her while she was gone I was going to pour myself a nice glass of Philips Chocolate Porter and sit in front of the fire. She told me in no uncertain terms that she would like the pleasure of sharing the fire with me and we have limited wood... so no fire. So instead, I poured myself a nice glass of Philips Chocolate Porter and sat in front of the... oven.
Not quite as relaxing.

On a completely unrelated front, this past week we cooked our first turkey dinner and were able to have some family come join us. To those family who were not there - we missed you. But we still had fun!

Revival


The music begins to play. It's a haunting, swaying tune that envelops you and leaves nothing outside the realm of possibility. The people in the room are caught up and the air starts to heat up. A minister walks to the front and his message is a passionate one. He speaks of renewal, of recommitting your life to Christ - going further. He speaks of an outpouring of the spirit. People start to cry, to shout, to fall to their knees. And then there is the magic word - Revival!

Or maybe it is simply a normal service like mine was last night. A challenging message on a challenging topic followed by the proclamation: If we get this right there might be - Revival!

The word resonates. When it is invoked people start dreaming of "what if" and start calling for the Lord's spirit to rain down. We've all heard stories of times when mass conversions happened and it impacted history and we called it - Revival!

It got me to thinking. Should we be desiring revival? Is it really that Holy Grail of Christianity - the chance for us to change the world or change our nation or change history? I guess the problem I have with the idea is the very ideas that are ingrained in the term. We think mass conversions, changes in society, a return to a purer form of living, the outpouring of signs and wonders... We want to be history makers.

Nothing inherently wrong with that I guess. Acts 2 records over 3000 coming to Christ in one day due to the original moving of the Holy Spirit onto the apostles after Pentecost. Old Testament records report mass societal changes under good kings such as Hezekiah or Josiah; a return to walking in the way of the Lord. So where's the issue?

Maybe it's in our expectations. A revival involves massive change over a short period of time. We've heard stories of drug addictions cured with a word, cancer with a touch, and conversions within the span of a sermon. THIS is revival! We want the Lord to come, pour out his Spirit and make some changes - NOW. We're fed up with the frustrating pace that we see God working in and want a sign - kind of like the Israelites when they're wandering in the desert. They are tired of the pace of what is happening, and despite signs and workings along the way, they continually demand more and more FASTER!

This is revival. We doubt the timing of the Lord or doubt he is evident in our day to day lives and struggles. We want miracles. Don't get me wrong. I believe in miracle and I think revivals are biblically valid. I just wonder if we value it too highly at the expense of the daily wonders and workings of the Lord. We ignore the struggles that ARE a walk with God. Christianity is not easy and struggle is a sign of a forward moving relationship: we HAVE to struggle against our very nature. Christ says in Romans 5 that perseverance creates character; and character creates hope. Paul boasts about the Thessalonians faith and perseverance.

There are few instances in the Bible that would qualify as revival and even fewer, if any, that would qualify under today's understanding. Instead, Paul often teaches about persevering through trials, revelling in God's grace through day to day challenges, and being strong through weakness. In James he teaches perseverance makes you mature and complete. Maturity desires perseverance. So what does immaturity desire?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Prayer

My Flames have opened the season 0-2. Even though at dinner I prayed for God to help them win!!

Just goes to show God can's be harnessed for a cause I guess...

Someone should have told the pastor in Iowa, the one who prayed for God to step in and protect His reputation which will be shattered if Obama wins the election. Someone should also stop by and tell him that the God whose name he throws around is bigger than an election, a candidate, or an issue. Immensely so. You can check out the news story here.

It's all about FEAR. All those Muslims, all those Hindus, all those people you know nothing about but believe to be terrorists want Obama to win. Fear is what drives the woman in Minnesota who told McCain at a rally that she doesn't trust Obama - he's an Arab. Fear is what they are playing on when they accuse Obama of "pal-ing with terrorists".

Only McCain and God can save you (and Palin).... in that order.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Worship Resources

Picture Jesus raging through the temple just before the feast of Passover. Is it graceful or is it raw, unbridled rage flowing out? Do the moneychangers scatter in fear or are the planted in astonishment? Is there silence or mass pandemonium? I think maybe he gets a little sweaty and really gets into it so when he is done he has to sit back, get some air and wonder at it all.

Wonder at the gall of those who would dare pervert the sacred traditions for profit. Wonder at those who worked the system for personal gain.

This was the topic of the sermon at church this week. And as we were getting into the 'why' of it, the speaker realized they were selling CDs in the foyer. He was quick to point out this was not the same thing as what Jesus was raging against. These were worship resources to help us "worship right". And at a reasonable price!

When did christian CDs become a need for right worship before God? It had to be sometime post-Bible writing because I searched through it that afternoon and couldn't find any mention of worship resources in it. I don't mean to rag on the speaker because from what I know he seems like a good guy but it seems revealing to me of the facts we automatically spew without thinking of what we are saying. In varying from his notes he revealed a wide held belief: we need professionals to aid us in "good" worship.

For me there were some more serious parallels between popular Christian music and Jesus' raging through the temple. Why did he rage? Because people were turning sacred traditions in for profit. They were working the system. And I wonder if most of our Christian artists aren't doing the same. Maybe not intentionally but, doing so none the less. There's a belief that we need worship CDs so there's a market for CDs that's isn't going anywhere so there are people to fill the need. Because the need is there regardless of quality we substitute cheesy knock-offs and pop jingles for worship.

Steve Bell states: "The problem with poor art is that people keep buying it. I really think that much of the new worship music is very poor, but the church gobbles it up greedily, and so artists aren't forced to work harder. We've lost our capacity for nuance, complexity and paradox."

And that's even assuming that worship is just music.

I can't help but think that we've perverted the good thing that praise was. We've worked the system for a profit. Don't argue with me that they're not making profit because they are! The artists, the label, the retailer. And not at cheap prices either! I'm pretty sure if Jesus were to walk into the Christian bookstore or a Christian music festival he'd start raging something about a bunch of thieves....

Monday, October 6, 2008

From the Books: Mercy

By the great Flannery O'Conner - if you haven't read any of her stories, Do it!

"He understood that [mercy] grew out of agony, which is not denied to any man... He understood it was all a man could carry into death to give his Maker and he suddenly burned with shame that he had so little of it to take with him. He stood appalled, judging himself with the thoroughness of God, while the action of mercy covered his pride like a flame and consumed it."

From "The Artificial Nigger"

With the little one coming (4 weeks!) I've been thinking about what I would want my child to become. And I've decided the greatest thing they could be is someone who cares about mercy and love. Someone who cares about others and their travails. I guess we pretty much want for our children what we desire for ourselves...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Snapshots of our Lives


It’s hot and as I stride down the dusty street I swat the snotty nosed children begging for “one birr, mister” away like they are flies. I don’t stop because if I do I will be surrounded by the horde of them. My long strides are difficult to match and one by one they fall away, realizing that they won’t get that one birr out of me today.


Then, out of nowhere, one of them has the audacity to touch me. I spin around, readying my most withering glare; guaranteed to make whoever it is stop, back away and run for cover. But it is she who stops me. It is not the outstretched hand begging for that birr but the look on her face. It is slightly apologetic. As if to say “I’m sorry, but I had to. If you were in my situation you would do the same.” It’s hesitant as if when I turned around she lost her nerve but can’t back away because she needs the birr more than she needs her pride. It’s a look of awkward desperation.


And yet there is a hint of a smile in her face. Perhaps it is an apologetic smile or maybe it just a smile to charm the ferenj into giving her a birr. But it is purer than that, more revealing. It is the smile of someone who knows something that the other doesn’t, something more. A smile that speaks of the knowledge of her situation and how she knows that if I were born into her family it would be me begging for change and not her. It’s a bemused smile as she wonders to herself at why I think I have the right to spin around so confidently, hands already on the holster. It’s a knowing smile.


I don’t know how to react to her. I stand staring incomprehensibly as if shell-shocked and she continues to smile, hand out and expectant. I turn and slowly walk away, leaving her standing still in her spot beside the pedestrian bridge.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Who is John McCain?


You can find the original post from BAGnewsNotes here.

The picture was accompanied by this quote:

"Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just do things." —the Joker in The Dark Knight

Kinda caught my eye.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Better Off

It was around our 4th month in Ethiopia and I was starting to run out of reading material. We had packed up and moved everything we might need within Lufthansa's weight restriction of 60kg each. While that might seem like a lot of weight to some we had to have everything for a year's worth of living in there and had to make some sacrifices. So out went my extra pairs of underwear, my extra deodorant (they use must have that there right?) and in went as many books as my wife would allow.

Books are heavy though and by the fourth month I was nearing the end of my stash. I had bought and read everything of interest from the only bookstore in Addis that carried English books. I had even ordered some books from Amazon, delivered to Ethiopia: those books were done. I had borrowed books from students; those were also done. I was heading for some hard times.

And then one day my compatriot Rob invited me to check out the new (and only) modern cinema in Addis. I believe Will Smith's I am Legend was playing. I hadn't heard of it and am not a big movie goer to begin with but I gladly accepted. ANYTHING for a taste of home. And it was next to that shiny new cinema I found the greatest thing aside from my wife: a new bookstore.

It was stocked with leftovers from who-knows-where. In English. Everything from medical texts to cook books to sudoku to steamy Harlequins. Piles of books, all over the place. And they were cheap. Way cheap. The price on the back said 10. We were both sure it meant ten dollars but were curious why an Ethiopian shop would sell in dollars (though it obviously catered to foreigners). So I asked the clerk, "Is this in dollars?" She assured me it was in birr. 10 birr = 1 dollar. Hallelujah choruses rang through my head as I tried to reason in my head how many books I could carry home with me.

One of the books that grabbed my eye was this one: Better Off. Since I was a kid I dreamed of living off the land; fed by those rugged Canadian pioneer stories and Gary Paulsen's Hatchet. Robinson Crusoe was a favorite as was Swiss Family Robinson. I wanted to be abandoned on an island or to run away from home and have to fend for myself.

As I matured this passed but I have always been interested in the idea of "walking away from it all". Leaving the traps of society for a simpler life. Walden Pond called to me in Thoreau's work. In Vietnam, on a small deserted island I was bewitched and told Nolana I wanted to buy a hut on the beach and grow a garden and fish for a while and I read about a guy who did just that in the Philippines. "Into the Wild" was great right up until the second he dies.

This book was an excellent, thought provoking read. Eric (what a GREAT name!) realizes the limitations of doing this within today's technological society and works to find ways to around what we think is 'necessary'.

And the flame was rekindled. Nolana told me I would have to wait until she passes to move to a deserted island because she's not so keen on desertion.

So I thought of other things. This month I wrote up a proposal for Nolana that outlined why and how we should sell our car and live without electric heat. She threatened to call social services for intended abuse of a not-yet-born baby. Needless to say, we still have our car (though when it looked like it needed repairs she softened for second...)

The point of this rambling story is not to paint my wife as the ruiner of my hopes and dreams. Far from it. In fact she in rather normal and had already followed me to Ethiopia and no running water for 8 months. Rather, it is to point out how ludicrous it sounds to leave it all behind, to make 'serious changes' beyond recycling milk cartons and energy efficient lights. But WHY? I hear of people who did it and the hardships they had and I desire them rather than scoff. I swear life was different not so long ago and people were at least as happy as now. People could be farmers AND scholars. They built their own house AND preached in church. We're so one dimensional these days.

And so I was reawaken by the latest edition of GEEZ magazine in which there was a call of lifestyle experiments for their Spring 2009 edition. In it, someone who I knew a long time ago, shares of how he and his wife and his kids took off and lived for a year in a cabin in the Canadian woods. Wood fires. Cast Iron Pots. Outhouses at -60. And again, I wanted it.

There's something about moderation in this instance that seems dirty. I turn my lights off but who cares. We're going to use cloth diapers but we're still going to buy them at a store. We buy local produce. It just seems so vulgar in light of what could be.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. I want to find a place in the middle of nowhere. Miles from a town but close enough for emergencies. A garden to work. Maybe a lake to fish in. And not much more. Am I crazy?

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Crisis of Values

As you most likely know, the U.S. economy has had better days. The government is trying to push through $700 billion plan (failed the first vote) to aid lending institutions that are struggling with failed debt, primarily caused by defaulted mortgages.

I don't want to weigh in on what I think about the whole mess because I am still processing all the information coming in. Though I have to say I wonder/worry how this will all play out for the average American and Canadian... what does a great depression look like in the 2000's??

The observation that leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth is this: how quickly the money came out of the pockets. Already $900 billion has been spent. Another $700 billion proposed. To save the American people (if you believe the rhetoric). My question is: how about the rest of the people? How about the Haitians who don't have clean water and are living in mud filled houses? How about the Somali's who are afraid to even step onto the streets in the capital of Mogadishu? What about the Ethiopians who are starving? What about the millions dying of AIDS in places like Lesotho and Swaziland? Why, when it comes to these people, are we so hesitant to pull out the money to fix the problems?

President Bush's plan PEPFAR came out to great fanfare in 2003 as the largest contribution by one country to fight the global plague of AIDS. It was $15 billion dollars.

The UN recently reported that not a single country is on target to reach the Millennium Development Goals (which include the eradication of hunger, primary schooling for all, etc...) due to lack of financial commitment from participating countries.

To much fanfare, countries of the UN gathered and pledged $3 billion to end malaria.

And yet hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on a war in Iraq to secure oil for Americans. Billions have been spent on agricultural subsidies to support American farmers. $900 billion has already been spent to prop up the American banking system. $700 billion is being proposed to prop up an economy that is fundamentally bankrupted by a society of 'more'.

Where are we headed and why have we dragged ourselves to this point? Make no mistake, we enabled the politicians and businesses in getting to this desperate point.

I can only wonder at the absolutely skewed values of the society I belong to and wonder what's next. Will we change? Or will we search frantically about for band-aid solutions to aid us in our reckless living?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Musical Bits


For lack of engaging things to blog about I shall update you on my musical wandering and you shall pretend like you are interested.

Last week I went down to Element to check out Fleet Foxes live! I was stoked. The hour and a half waiting to get in made me less stoked. The jackasses who stood in front of me the whole time made me even less stoked.

And then Fleet Foxes came on. And they blew my mind away.

Their CD is one of those that makes you wonder if they can replicate it live. They can. Super tight harmonies, funky jams, and a more driving drum beat than their album made them one of the coolest bands I've seen live. Overall show experience: 6/10; Fleet Foxes: 10/10

I love going to shows but unfortunately Nolana doesn't share the same passion so I have been to few shows in the past many years... being away didn't help either. But I think I might try and squeeze one more in before le' babie arrives - The Acorn is coming in October which should be cool.

As for CD listenings and goings on... Been listening to Calexico's new one "Carried to Dust" which has some nice acoustic indie folk/latin rhythm stuff going on, bringing the steel guitar back into it. The Acorn's "Glory Hope Mountain" has some great Fleet Foxes meets Honduras vibes going on. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's CD "Lie Down in the Light" has been grabbing me for its simplistic, stripped down genius-ness.

Good tunes = good times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hope

I tried to tie the title into some inspirational message but just couldn't... I'm a failure.

This weekend we journeyed to the lovely hamlet of Hope (or close to) to see Tim and Kari, some good friends of ours. Dave and Kristen, another couple of friends journeyed from Whistler to meet us there and the 6 of us had a rollicking good time.

Many games were played (despite Kristen's protests), much great food was devoured (Thanks for the goodness Hun!) and even more great company, new friends and old, was enjoyed. It does the body good to get away and enjoy some time with close friends... it's too bad they don't live closer so we could do it more often!

The men engrossed in a game of extreme bocce.


And while we did that the ladies did a photo shoot. Kari is due 4 days after Nolana so they enjoyed comparing their bellies!
A contemplative pose from my lady.The 6 of us plus another couple for Sat. evening.
Hard to match good times with good friends...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Christian Defense of Israel

The flier from my local christian book store arrived in the mail today. On the front was this fine text - "In Defense of Israel: The Biblical Case for Supporting the Jewish State". And, WOO HOO, it was on sale!

Now before I jump into what I so eagerly I have to say, let me start by saying I have not read this book and know little beyond the few articles and quotes I have seen. And yet I am absolutely gobsmacked to see it sold at the Christian bookstore (though I am not sure why, when I stop and think about it....)

First, and the point I will deal with briefly, Hagee defends Israel and the Jews by claiming Jesus was not the Messiah. Ummm, pretty sure that's not a Christian belief so it's hardly a Christian defense.

Secondly, should Christians really be supporting the Jewish state? Not Jews, but the state of Israel? Not if we believe we serve a god of equality and justice! Israel is often called by critics the last state to openly practice apartheid. The UN has repeatedly tried to condemn their inhumane treatment of Palestinians living within Israel and in Gaza and the West Bank. They openly take away basic human rights from Palestinians living within their own state, making them powerless members. They refuse to recognize that Palestinians should have equal rights. They displace and persecute Palestinians on a regular basis. This is the state Christians should support??

And yet the U.S. stands staunchly by Israel's side, constantly vetoing UN sanctions and supplying billions of dollars in aid and military supplies. Supplies that are used to treat Palestinians like sub-humans. And Christians all over the world feel compelled to defend Israel as their special pet project, ignoring the realities.

A favorite quote of mine comes from the great Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, one of the most balanced and stanchest supporters of Palestinian rights. It's not damning and yet I think the force of it is understated...

"Every Jewish Zionist I have either read, heard, or spoken to... adheres to the notion whose common denominator is that Israel must remain as it is now on order to safeguard the Jewish rhythm of life; a phrase that presumably serves to camouflage the wide social discrepancies... The [rhythm of life] phrase is an argument for preserving Israel from having to face the real truth that the Jewish rhythm of life has surplanted a more inclusive one"

Palestinians have just as much historical right to the land, and more importantly just as much right to basic human and political rights. The God I serve revels in justice and love. The state of Israel stands for neither of these.

Monday, September 15, 2008

SNL is sexist?

I'll admit I am a bit of a political junkie and I am watching the US race with a bit of fascination. It is just such a circus compared to the wham-bam-Thank-you-Ma'am style of Canadian elections.

The most recent news is that someone from the Palin/McCain camp is slamming actress Tina Fey on her SNL impersonation of Palin.

Check out the article here.

The gist is this: Palin's impersonation was sexist because it showed Palin as superficial. Ummm, so if I portrayed George Bush as being superficial I would be sexist towards men? Or maybe I just think his policies are superficial. Or maybe I think he as a person is superficial. I would NOT be saying it because I think men are superficial.

The funny thing is that the Negative Nancies realized that Clinton was portrayed as substantive but kind of forgot that she is also a woman. It is clearly the policies that SNL was poking fun at but...

Someone on the McCain campaign felt they were getting some negative press and needed to say something to counter it. Lame. Instead of showing me how shallow and callow your comebacks are, how about showing me some of Palin's policies that are clearly not superficial.... or are there none to show?

Anyways, my two cents for your day. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Geez


I have recently subscribed to the most intriguing magazine, whose online direction I should like to point you towards.

It is out of Manitoba (who can think of ANYTHING good to EVER come out of Manitoba!?!!) and it's called Geez: holy mischief in an age of fast faith.

I received my first voume in the mail this past week and instantly settled down with a cup of coffee and read it cover to cover - 93 pages of recycled paper goodness.

I love how it engages faith with all aspects of the world around us. Sustainable living - check. Homelessness - check. Art - check. Other viewpoints - check. It comes from a Liberal Christian perspective but is not afraid to include voices from other writers. Faith SHOULD engage with anything and everything for that is what it was meant to do.

I highlight one of the sermons that was part of their "30 Sermons You'll Never Hear in Church" issue because it truly makes one think and definitely has at least a kernel of truth in it. Check out the magazine at http://www.geezmagazine.org

And check out the article I am talking about here

Tell me what you think. Do you agree?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Convince Me..."

A short while back someone left a comment on my blog that went like this:

Eric, do you believe that any other religious expressions are valid? I ask because I believe that God is God no matter what you call him and that there are many paths to Him. Therefore, I can't believe that "No one comes to the Father except through Me" because then I have to believe that all other faiths are wrong. Feel free to convince me otherwise.

And since then I have been debating whether or not to respond to it. I don’t really feel that anything I say can ‘convince’ someone of faith in Jesus Christ. I know that I firmly believe that when Jesus says in John, “I am the Way…No one comes to the Father through Me” that this is the truth. We all at some time have had to try and reason out why we believe what we believe and yet there is something about logic that is incompatible with faith; as the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, we all come to a time when we have to use faith to leap into an unknown. He believed that there were simply too many paradoxes in Christianity that reason could not fully comprehend.

And yet I do believe that there are reasonable, logical answers to many questions that interaction with Jesus brings up. I am often frustrated with the ‘blind faith’ of unquestioning Christians and firmly believe in “testing and approving” as it says in Romans.

So can I convince anyone of faith? Not likely. Convincing usually comes off as bullying and Christians are notoriously bad convincers. Kind of like bulls in a china shop. So I am not out to convince anyone in this blog but feel the need to present some of the reasons why I believe that Jesus is the one true way to salvation and heaven. They are to be taken as personal ramblings rather than an academic dissertation and are meant in the humblest of expressions. I don’t have all the answers. Like others, I am continually wandering/searching/seeking, as the title of my blog suggests.

First, a couple of clarifications. God is God no matter what you call Him. He doesn’t change and still IS, regardless of what we believe. There is more than one path to Him but only one path to salvation and it goes through Him. We all make our way there in various fashions and speeds but, like I said earlier, I do believe He is the only way to salvation. I understand the gist of the question though.

My first question is this: What name do you call God? This does seem to matter because if you call him Allah you will want to follow what Allah says. If you call him Jesus you will want to follow what Jesus says. If you call him Brahman you will try and make him happy. The issue then becomes how to reconcile the vast differences and oppositions found in the texts and sayings of these gods. That is not to say that there are not similarities within religions. Many have similar ethical boundaries but they vary widely and conversely on key issues, even most scholars recognize the conflicting truth claims of differing religions. Similarly, what are we striving for by following God? Is it the heaven of Christianity? Is it to be reincarnated at a higher level? The Nirvana of Buddhism? Or do I get to choose which reward I get depending on what I choose to call God? Again, there seem to be some logical contradictions.


The question becomes: why would the same God give such varying and contradicting answers to salvation?

This is not to say that I believe Christianity has a monopoly on truth or salvation. I believe Christ has the monopoly. We go through Christ and not through a religious system or special incantations. So are other religious expressions valid? You don’t have to adhere to Christianity to be saved, certain parts of Buddhist worship rituals might aid in bringing you closer to Christ, or Taoism might have some good principles to follow in aiding you in living a just life . There may be different kinds of worship but there can’t be different types of Jesus. He IS. Christianity has morphed over times but God cannot. It is in Christ we find the Truth.

So are there many paths? For sure. Is Allah the same person as Jesus? No. Are we just worshipping a “higher being” that we Westerners call Jesus and people in the East call Allah/Buddha/Brahman/etc…? And yet these religions recognize the historical Jesus and all speak differently on him. Islam denies that God could have a son. Judaism denies the divinity of Christ. Christians believe Jesus is Christ, part of the Trinity incarnate. These simply cannot gel. As my favorite author G.K. Chesterton said in his book Orthodoxy about people who believe that the beliefs and God are the same among religions, it's just the worship that is different:

"So the truth is that the difficulty of all the creeds of the earth is not as alleged in this cheap maxim: that they agree in meaning, but differ in machinery. It is exactly the opposite. They agree in machinery; almost every great religion on earth works with the same external methods, with priests, scriptures, altars, sworn brotherhoods, special feasts. They agree in the mode of teaching; what they differ about is the thing to be taught. Pagan optimists and Eastern pessimists would both have temples, just as Liberals and Tories would both have newspapers. Creeds that exist to destroy each other both have scriptures, just as armies that exist to destroy each other both have guns"

While I feel my argument is slightly superficial in scope I feel it highlights the main problem with religious pluralism: the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit with each other. If we try and put the major religions of the world together to find a coherent ‘god’ or ‘higher being’ we only highlight the contradictions. Hopefully I haven’t confused anyone even more than they were before.

Again, let me put it out there to any reader that made it this far: I say this all with a sense of knowing that words and reason are inadequate for the task. The Bible says the knowledge of man is confounded by the knowledge of God and when we try to completely wrap our minds around who God is - we fall short. Faith can be the only complete guide to Christ and through Him, to salvation.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fantasy Hockey is Here!


Oh my gosh. I've been waiting years for this exact moment. Normally I am the part of multiple fantasy hockey leagues and due to being abroad with lack of internet and funny time zones I have had to forgo this immense pleasure.
The wait is over. Yahoo fantasy leagues have begun and I am starting my own league for the first time.

I am welcoming all to join. I am sending out invites to people I know will be interested but in case I miss you... just leave a comment or email me and we can get you a team.

It will be weekly head to head format. I am open if there are certain stats you do or don't want to count. Live draft online, but for those of you in Vic you're welcome to my house to do it, we'll make it an event. If you can't make the live draft date you can set your preferences before hand. Just let me know if you have questions. Oh my gosh I can barely contain my excitement. Let the battles begin!

And as soon as I tell my wife I know what she's going to say. Eric, you're such a dork.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Personal Jesus

There's a lot of talk in evangelical circles about personal relationships with Jesus. He wants to walk with you. He's your best friend. You need to have an intimate, personal relationship with him. Prayer is just like talking on the phone to your best friend. You can tell him anything. You get the idea.

And this is what we have created. Buddy Jesus.

This is not to say that we shouldn't have a personal relationship with Jesus. Not to say that he doesn't walk with us. Not to say that you can't tell him anything. But I wonder if what we have done is boxed him up, created a Jesus that is "the guy next door", created a Jesus... that works for us.

We've sanitized all the things we don't like. The wrath. The holy anger. The cross we're supposed to bear like him. The sacrifice that love demands. The suffering we're supposed to rejoice in. We've taken it all away and made Jesus a suburban Dad who likes to golf on the weekend and take his kids to Dairy Queen.

Now don't get me wrong, the God I believe in is a God of love and of compassion and of grace and has unlimited quantities of these things. But he's also pretty radical which doesn't always go over so easy in my cushion-filled life. Do we tend to focus too much on the overflowing love and not on the commitment/sacrifice factor? Probably. Love and mercy are a hell of a lot easier to sell that's for sure.

Not really sure if there is a conclusion to this but I simply wonder if maybe we have shot ourselves in the foot a little. We've pushed the "Buddy Jesus" to make Christianity more palatable and have forgotten to tremble in fear at his awesome might. I know there have been books like "Your God is Too Safe" and tons of Narnia quotes ("He's wild") but I still wonder if we really grasp something of God beyond him sitting in his pajamas, painting his nails while he listen to our laundry list of complaints. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Propaganda War


Propaganda is: Material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause.

I remember the first time I watched the movie Black Hawk Down. It was quite a popular movie and when it opened with the setting of Somalia I vaguely tied to to Bosnia, Chechnya, and other war torn areas in the news and ending with -ia. I remember thinking how valiant the soldiers looked in the middle of horrific battle. These 19 men died for freedom, for helping others.

Now I watch the move (as I did this morning) and wonder at what a masterful job the creators did of shaping a piece of propaganda meant to shape the way we see a certain event in history.

Two times in the beginning monologue they refer to the U.S. troops "restoring order" in Somalia with their presence. Or as this order restoring was earlier called in Africa - pacification. The killing of whoever represented a threat to 'security'. And casualties be damned. An American sense of security must be restored to a vital region. Vital to American security concerns. Anything so we can be 'secure'.

The events of Black Hawk Down are inextricably tied to the following Rwandan genocide. Due to the loss of life during operations in Somalia the U.S. was understandably a little more reticent to send in troops to another African country intent on self-imploding. So they sat back and watched the genocide happen, all the while refusing to call it a genocide, because if it was indeed a genocide they would be required by UN sanctions to intercede. They did not call it a genocide and did not intervene.

So at the beginning of this movie one of the Somali's tells an American, "It's a civil war, there is no place for you here." And all self-righteously the American responds, "No, it's a genocide."

It was not a genocide, it was indeed a civil war and remains so to this day. And yet the movie makers needed, in light of Rwanda, to insert this comment to show that Americans take this oh so seriously. That they're not afraid to intervene in a genocide. Somalia and Rwanda are tied together by these events and you, in your Hollywood movie, toss around genocide in attempt to ease your national conscience and to get people to believe that you actually care about what happens in Africa.

Alright, so maybe I'm a little tight about the whole thing. I actually found the movie a little hard to watch this time around. I had to stop part way through, give myself a break, and then keep going. The war in Somalia still rages. Mogadishu is still a ghost town torn apart by daily violence. And now the U.S. is involved again... in a safer way. They don't want to lose more American boys so they arm Ethiopians to go in and 'defend democracy'.

I remember talking to a Somali man I met in Ethiopia (there are many who have fled the country) and he talked about his family, his life there. Nothing profound. Except that this man now had no country to return to, no place for his family to be safe. This was real. It was not just the rabid crowds you see in the movie, attacking the soldiers who are there to help them. It is the pent up anger of decades of American interference, of civil war, of the inability to escape violence. All this, affecting real lives like yours and mine.

And yet, for all that most people know, it's just like they show it in Black Hawk Down. US Boys dying for human rights, fighting against the barbarian horde.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beautiful Belly

Just wanted to share some shots of my beautiful wife with you all. Stand in awe and amazement (or sit if you prefer).
You can also wonder in amazement at the photographer which is my little sis Lori. She's pretty good.

'Bout 10 weeks left for us before we meet baby.

Belly Dancing and Other Miscellaneous Updates

Blogging continues to be far down on the list of things that are getting done, but I guess that's just life. So here's some updates on the coolest arm of the Ritskes clan.

The kid inside my wife is going to either be a rhythmic dancer or a soccer player with the way it flops around. We'll be just sitting there and Nolana's tummy will do the wave then the Gyrating Monkey. Pretty cool.

I am typing this with a slightly puffy face due to the extraction of two of my wisdom teeth. This unfortunate event required the use of two of my least favorite things: dentists and needles. Oh yeah, and I am now quite tired of smoothies.

Someone called my blog a "left-wing" blog. All Right!! No seriously, why does everything have to be left or right or Commie or Liberal...

I have got tickets to go see Fleet Foxes in a month. Stoked.

I am totally digging some great music from the African continent. As well as Fleet Foxes. And if you also like Fleet Foxes I would encourage you to check out the Ottawa based band The Acorn and their latest release "Glory Hope Mountain".

I have been able to get out this month and get back into golfing with some of the guys here. Nothing more frustrating than a bad round of golf but I'm getting the kinks worked out.

Not much else is new. The summer has flown by and all of a sudden I am ordering textbooks for the fall. Not much of a real summer due to classes but I feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do and now am anxiously working on Master's work, making sure I get what I want.

Friday, August 15, 2008

From the Books: On Olympic Protests, Oil, and America


I have been watching as much of the Olympics as I can, simply because CBC.ca is streaming a ton of it online. Not having cable means I don't get to watch too many sports so this is a glorious opportunity. Seriously, go check out CBC.ca, 9 channels of streamed Olympics.... though some of the channels the video quality is so-so.

Leading up to the Olympics there was a lot of talk about boycotting the Opening Ceremonies due to China's lack of human rights in 2 areas (primarily): Darfur, Sudan and in Nepal. George Lucas pulled out of aiding production due to Darfur connections that China had. Bush condemned China on his way to attending. And all this made me think...

How many times has the USA been involved with or had business dealings with corrupt, human rights smashing governments in Africa? The answer is: too many to count. From the DRC to Angola to Equatorial Guinea to Nigeria to Congo/Brazzaville to Ethiopia.... the list goes on. What a double standard! They are just upset that someone else has figured out their tricks and is using them to battle them for power! (also see: Georgian conflict)

The Chinese in Sudan have invested large sums in drilling for oil and this money goes to fund the militias, etc... that perpetrate the killings. The US has done similar, or just plain gave the money, to more than a handful of equally dastardly governments in Africa. And often for the same reason: oil. I just finished reading Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil and I highly reccomend it, even if you aren't into current events reading it is a highly enjoyable, easy reading. My From the Books doesn't actually come from this book but from one by the great Orientalist Edward Said. It's rather lengthy, so now that you've ready my rant, you can safely scroll through without hurting my feelings.

"The United States is in fact repeating the practices employed by the British and the French in the nineteenth century. The big differences are, first, that today we [the US] are capable of much greater destruction than they were, and, second, they we are unable to state openly and candidly our engagement in the business of empire, and damn the results. The counter to this anachronistic and dishonest line is.... starting immediately to dismantle the imperialist mission that the United States has set itself from the beginning as a nation....

The first step is to remove the taboo that forbids Americans to regard their country's actions as imperialist. Then what we must do is learn to live like other people.... since ours is a precariously balanced world, with ecological, economic, and social pressures that are barely containable,

it is sheer folly to suggest that we are naturally entitled to cheap oil or to a
better way of life than anyone else. Or that we can survey the world and
decide whom "we" regard as punishable or not.

That we have military power to enforce these often petulant, not to say narcissistic, desires makes things a great deal worse. The Gulf [or Africa] is not merely an empty desert with a large pool of "our" oil underneath and a whole bunch of sheiks, terrorists, or Hitlers on top, but a place with living people, traditions, and societies whose aspirations and values have to be viewed as having merit independent of our needs and attitudes.

The history of American interventions over the years has not been salutary, to say the least.... We are insulated by our wealth and our immense power."

Edward Said - "Politics of Dispossession"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Week of Crazies

This week has been super busy so here's a random update of things that have been been more important than blogging.

I got a job. Starting September I will be an Education Consultant (aka Tutor) for Korean high school kids coming over here and jumping into high school here. Pays pretty well, seems pretty flexible, so hopefully it works out while I am in school.

Lori stayed the week with us and Jani came over from Vancouver to visit. She brought her beaux. We had some fun.
They're pretty crazy kids but we enjoyed having them here.


We went up island this weekend to see our good friend Jeff marry the woman of his dreams, which was pretty much a woman who would put up with crazy ways. It was a gorgeous outdoor wedding, the bride and the groom were giddy with joy, they picked the perfect MC for the wedding (me), and we walked away thinking what a good thing God had brought together. It was a great day of celebration.

We were also recently up at Nolana's parent's place to celebrate John's birthday. I got to see my favorite niece . I usually get the first hug (when Uncle Kyle's not around) and we played bocce and picked berries together. Can't wait to have my own!

It was an insane week but we get a few days to collect our wits and get a few things done around the house before Nolana heads back to work. She's got about a month left and then she's done work to prepare for baby who is around 12 weeks away. Almost there!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Jesus Camp

Forget the Blair Witch project, you want scary? Watch the documentary, "Jesus Camp"... that's scary.

Scary because it shows a part of Christianity that is anti-Bible and anti-Christ.

Scary because it shows this as the sum and whole of Christianity.

Scary because it shows the abuse of childhood innocence.

I was really torn by watching this movie. The movie shows my two largest pet-peeves with the American brand of Christianity: the reliance on war metaphors and the twinning of Church and State.

And yet the film makes go out of their way to say that this is a accurate, unbiased representation of Evangelical Christianity. This is ONE arm of it and the ugliest arm. Why not make this distinction in the movie? This is unbiased like Michael Moore is unbiased. And yet like Moore it seems to have hit something on the head.

The parents and pastors in the movie make it very clear: children shouldn't learn, they should be indoctrinated with the truth. If we, as Christians, have the truth... should it not stand up to scrutiny? Should we not allow children to 'test and approve' what they parents tell them? Will they not find it good and pure and right?

This movie just brings up bile on every level for me. The god of the film is not the God I worship. And yet I know that this is an accurate picture of some Christians. And I know that they are deadly serious about their beliefs. And it makes me sad.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

From the Books: On Vows

One of my absolute favorite writers of all time has to be G.K. Chesterton. He writes stories, poetry, essays and even a touch of theology. He's been compared to C.S. Lewis, but as the pastor at my church said this Sunday, if you look closely Lewis simply plagiarized most of his good ideas from Chesterton. Ol' GK is not nearly as dry as Lewis sometimes is, I think he has an impish sense of humor and he's writing with a slight tongue in cheek as he turns ideas on their heads.

So today's quote is from his essay, "A Defence of Rash Vows". He says that we view people who make crazy vows, such as chaining two mountains together or counting every leaf on every third tree, we view them as insane. When really a vow is the purest form of rationality for it gives us limits and allows us to accomplish things.

"The revolt against vows has been carried in our day [and he's writing in the early 1900's] even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil [or by God, or by society], instead of being as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black-and-white contradiction in two words - 'free love' - as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-flavoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment.... But what have lovers to do with ridiculous affectations of fearing no man or woman? They know that in the turning of a hand the whole cosmic engine to the remotest star may become an instrument of music or an instrument of torture.... As we have said, it is exactly this back-door, this sense of having a retreat behind us, that is, to our minds, the sterilizing spirit in modern pleasure. Everywhere there is the persistent and insane attempt to obtain pleasure without paying for it."


His essays are these short gems that begin with a tree or a ceiling and impishly move to tying it in to some bigger idea. And usually I find him dab on. The very nature of love cannot be free but must be sacrificial. This any married person knows... or quickly finds out!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Missionaries or Tourists?


Where to start...

Short-term missions to developing countries are simply church-paid vacations. There, I said it. Now that's out of the way and you are appropriately warned, let me look at why I think this.

The way I see it, there are two reasons people choose to go on short-term missions.

a) To help the local people.
b) To gain valuable personal, life-changing experience.

Both seem to be valuable reasons for missions. As Christians we are called to help others less fortunate than ourselves. And many of us have such an insular view of our little bubbles that a lesson in poverty would do us good. And yet, I don't think short-term missions accomplish their goals, or at least not as efficiently as they could.

My biggest problem is with reason A. If you really want to help the people there... send the money you fund-raised, not yourself. Say you spend $1500 on flights, tack on accommodations, food, souvenirs for the family back home and then, as most groups do, the cursory day or two off to go see the local tourist sights. Most groups want to maintain their standard of living in their host country. Let's say $3000 a person, which is a low average I would say. You arrive, you build a new house for an orphanage, you play with the kids, you hand out balloons, you see what your $35 a month is accomplishing, whatever you do. Yes, you have helped and you can go home happy with what you have accomplished for those less fortunate people. That's not missions. That's Volunteer-Tourism. Look it up, you can pay that same amount to a company to do the exact same thing. It's tourism, plain and simple.

You really want to help? Send those thousands of dollars to the local missionaries and organizations. They can hire local help at fair rates to build that extra house or clinic, which injects money into the families and local economy. They can buy local goods to give out to kids and families. And they've still only spent 10% of that money. $3000 goes a LONG way in most of these countries. So say you have a team of 10 people come, that's $30,000. That'll buy more than a new church building. It'll buy the building, all the furnishings, a local minister's salary and start a new feeding program. Do you really want to help or do you just want to go visit PeruZambiaNicaraguaIndonesia?

Now to reason B. Sure, visiting places like PeruZambiaNicaraguaIndonesia gives you a new perspective on poverty, life, etc... Most people come back shocked at what they have comparatively and complain at least a little less. I firmly believe in world travel as a valuable experience (I just don't believe in the Church paying for it, I mean - that's a sweet gig!) The thing is that there is lots of poverty and life changing experiences to be had a lot closer to home. You want to see poverty and desperation, go visit your local First Nations reserve. You want to help the helpless, go visit downtown VancouverCalgaryToronto. Helping in places like this will change your perspective just as quickly as a visit to the other side of the world... and for a whole lot cheaper. And guess what you can do with that extra money? Send it somewhere! Or go travel, just don't pass it off as helping others.

I add a caveat to all this. Some people have extraordinary skills that are not readily available in the developing world, such as Doctors, Economists... you know the kind. These skills are needed in Africa as it tries to play catch-up in a developing world they've been thrust into. If you have these skills, go teach them. And if you have these skills, you likely have the money to pay your way and don't need to rely on fund-raising or your local church. All the power to you.

Now I know this goes against all the Church has built up in the past decades. We have pushed short-term missions and business such as YWAM have become famous in evangelical circles. Again, I have nothing against you doing YWAM, just don't ask me to pay your way and don't pass it off as doing your best to help others. It's volunteer-tourism, plain and simple. Nothing wrong with that and it might even change your life. But my question is, how many more lives could you change with that money?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

From the Books: On Leadership and War

" Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

- Herman Goering -
Nazi Luftwaffe Commander


Mr. Bush might have more in common with Mr. Goering than he thinks...

I've been thinking a lot about pacifism and if it is a view that can actually be held in today's climate. I always thought that if Canada were directly attacked I would be willing to fight to protect the freedoms I have here. And yet that argument hinges on war being able to create peace... is that simply the reality of it or a feeble solution we have come to terms with?


Best of Steve Nash

If you're a fan of the NBA or of Steve Nash, heck even if you know who Steve Nash is (and I know all you Victoria folk do, homeboy what!) then you need to check out this video of him and B-Diddy spoofing Will Farrel's new movie.

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Too hilarious...

Monday, July 28, 2008

26 Down, 14 To Go

At long last, the much sought after pictures of my beautifully burgeoning wife are here! The paparazzi have been hounding us and People Magazine has offered 20 mil. for first picture rights but... oh wait, I'm not Brad Pitt. But people have been asking... ok, fine, someone asked.


Here are the first shots of my soon to be son/daughter growing so splendidly in my wifey's belly. Doesn't she look great!