Friday, March 31, 2006

Stench Warfare

Jan and I were at Movie Village renting movies for tonight's Circuit and suddenly we smelled a foul and disturbing odour.

There were two kids—I would guess twelve or thirteen years old—near us, and they stunk. In a big, big way. We discretely moved away from them, while holding our noses, waving our hands before our faces and saying "PIEW!" as discretely as we could. The poor children must be in need of some medical attention, I thought to myself.

They left, but the smell didn't. In fact, it spread throughout the store. It was, apparently, a stink bomb.

And I wept for the poor employees who must remain within that poorlventilateded stench-bucket of a store for the rest of the day. The fresh air outside smelt great.

You Just can't Jump in Puddles in Your Dress Shoes

Yesterday was a crappy day.


It was cold and rainy most of the day, and I realized that I have no suitable boots for rainy muddy weather. I had these great boots which were warm and waterproof and had good grips, and were suitable for walking in snow up to my knees and in puddles up to my shins, but they are now five or six years old, and time has begun to take it's toll. They both have holes in the sides.

It is truly sad. Not only because I now have nothing to protect my feet from cold and from water, but because they were excellent boots. I was genuinely happy every winter to bring them out and find that they were none the worse for wear. Except that now they are. I can't bring myself to throw them out.

And my running shoes are even worse. They have holes too, so that they are really no use as any kind of protection against the elements.

That leaves only my dress shoes, which I have been wearing for the last few days while I hope to find a dry path. In Winnipeg. Good luck.

The soil is made of clay, and doesn't absorb water. The city is totally flat, and once water has been collected it has no where to go. The river has a tendency to flood.

The really worst part is that if I had good boots, I have nothing against rainy weather. I would be the first person out jumping in puddles and enjoying it. But you just can't jump in puddles in your dress shoes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Letter From a Concerned Follower

Weird to think of all the things
That have not been keeping up with the times
It's ten o'clock the sun has now
Just begun to set the western hills on fire

I've heard you don't change
How do you expect to keep up with the trends?
You won't survive the information age
Unless you plan to change the truth
To accomodate the brilliance of men,
Yeah the brilliance of men

Some folks say we're better now
Social evolution's new synthetic lives
Will keep us on a straiter path
As better men use brand new math with no wrong answers

I'm just a little bit worried,
Do you have some sort of plan
Have you been finally defeated
By the cunning of these fully evolved men?

I've heard you don't change
How do you expect to keep up with the trends?
You won't survive the information age
Unless you plan to change the truth
To accomodate the brilliance of men,
Yeah the brilliance of men

-Pedro the Lion

Saying Swears

Although some people (indeed some of my very best friends, for whom I have utmost respect and admiration) have concluded that as English speakers there are no words or phrases that should be off limits to us, I find I still cannot be comfortable with swearing.

It is true that for Christians everything is permitted. But not everything is beneficial. (1 Cor. 6:12)

As a Christian, I believe in a God who created the world through words. I believe in Jesus Christ who is described as "the word". As a Christian, I cannot dismiss words as irrelevent. Rather, I find I must acknowledge that words carry power. In James' epistle he says that the tongue is to the body, as a rudder to a ship. It is small and seemingly powerless, yet it controlls the direction of the whole. James says further that the tongue is like a spark which can start a raging fire. With the tongue we praise God, but with it we curse each other. Jesus himself said that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out.

So what comes out of my mouth that may defile me? Heresies and insults, curses and profanities?

With most swear words, it is not that the word is magic—not that that combination of sounds happens to be offensive to God—but that for social reasons they are offensive, insulting, derisive or profane. It is true that there is freedom of expression. Yet it is uncharitable to make the people around you uncomfortable and unhappy simply to exercise your own freedom of expression.

The most usual swear words have social connotations which make them "bad words". The "f" word for example places the act of sex, which for Christians is sacramental and for any people should be intimate, and uses it as profane. It exemplifies a de-valuing of sex.

The various words which refer to various bodily functions typify an almost gnostic de-valuing of the body.

Using language that refers to women as animals is demeaning and offensive.

All of these words of which I am carefully avoiding the use are full of social implications, and you never know who they will offend. While it is true that it is sometimes necessary to offend people in order to do good, or to expand their thinking, or to shock them out of complacency, using foul language is almost always about either vocabulary laziness or about venting personal frustration at the expense of the people around you.

Any of these words or phrases, however, is preferable to me than the casual taking of the name of God as a profanity. Many people (even the nuns at the school I worked at) think of religious swear words as milder than other forms—but for me the profaning of the name of God is much more offensive than any of the other socially offensive swear words. God commands us in the third of the ten commandments not to take his name in vain. To use the name (or even the idea) of God simply as emphasis is to disrespect the creator of the universe in a way that we are specifically commanded not to do. This is no longer simply a social consideration, but also a theological one.

The main point is this. We cannot pretend that it doesn't matter what we say, as long as our thoughts are pure. What we say reflects, and even forms what we think. Words matter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Heaven and Hell

People complain that God is unfair. Why should the good suffer while the bad prosper? Wouldn't it be better to have a solid set of rules with a solid set of consequences we can see?

My mother once said that humans have suffered under a spiritual mondegreen. The good news is "God is Love", but we have misheard it as "God is Law".

The idea of a God who loves us is difficult to accept. Even "churched" Christian, raised in an envionment of faith and repeatedly reminded of the Gospel find it hard to really believe.

We still believe that if there is a heaven, it's a reward for being good, and if there is a hell it's a punishment for being bad. And if we can't accept that, then we deny the existance of heaven or hell.

So we try to find a way of justifying ourselves before God. Or conversely, we try to pretend that we don't care that we are unjustified before God.

But God's love is not conditional. Paul's epistles are very clear that we are justified before God by faith through grace, so that no one can boast. In short—none of our fine accomplishments are good enough to justify us before God. And none of our terrible sins are bad enough to keep us from being justified before God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through our saviour Jesus Christ. (Rom. 3:23)

Heaven is a relationship with God. Hell is separation from God. And all receive not what they deserve, but what they choose.

And this is the secret. God is unfair. But unfair in our favour.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Elliot makes a list, and checks it twice. Jan's new haircut causes quite a stir. Diedre wrestles with issues of faith. Laura is going to miss South Africa (mostly). Chris Enns likes games but not McDonald's.

I'm on Spring Break (Woo!) this week, and have a lot of extra time to accomplish important things.

So naturally I'm spending it reading books and blogs and comics (both web and paper), and playing video games. It's really amazing how quickly a day can go by. Yesterday Jan got home from work at 4:30 and I realized that if she asked me what I'd done all day I wouldn't know what to tell her. I read some X-Men comics that Elliot loaned to me. I thought about writing on my blog, but decided against it. And then it was 4:30.

Today I was a little better. I took out the garbage and went grocery shopping. Still, though, that's a lot of day for not a lot of accomplishment. Tomorrow I swear I won't act this way.

Christian Art

Elliot recently implied that "Christian" fiction isn't usually very good. I want to take that a little farther.

The tendancy of almost all "Christian" art is to be... sucky. The reason for this is that most art only gets qualified as specially "Christian" if it's not good enough to stand on its own as art. Most writers of "Christian fiction" write bland, absurd or just plain lame books. And "Christian music" is just as bad. If not worse. The horrible truth is that a vast majority Christian musicians are successful in the Christian community because within that community they are big fish in small ponds. The music on "Christian" radio stations tends to be just plain bad. All too often in consists of bands playing "Worship music", which, while it is often extremely valuable as worship, falls short of music. It is the kind of thing that a group of people singing together can make very powerful as a statement of faith, and of emotional closeness to their God, but which a band playing on the radio leaves a little flat.

But there are good Christian musicians. My personal favourite these days is Pedro the Lion, who is not so much a "Christian Musician" as a musician who happens to be a Christian. His faith figures very heavily in his music, simply because it figures heavily in his life. He writes songs about God's unconditional love, about how it feels to let God down, about feeling alienated from God, about being angry with God. He also writes songs about divorce, cheating girlfriends, and why women shave their legs.


The sun shines, and leaves blow
And my hope, like Autumn, is turning brown
I know it seems like
I am always falling down

But it does not matter to me
Although it seems like it should
That's because I know I'm understood
When I hear him say "Rest in me
Little David, and dry all your tears
You can lay down your armour
And have no fear
Cause I'm always here
When you're tired of running
I'm all the strength that you need."

It's uphill both ways
Tomorrow I swear I won't act this way
I know it seems like
That is what I always say

But it does not matter to me
Although it seems like it should
That's because I know I'm understood
When I hear him say "Rest in me
Little David, and dry all your tears
You can lay down your armour
And have no fear
Cause I'm always here
When you're tired of running
I'm all the strength that you need."

You know I want to be like Jesus
But it seems so very far away
When will I learn to obey?

-Pedro the Lion

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Joys of Teaching

They say that teachers are not paid a lot, but that they have rewards beyond money. In my recent practicum placement I was not paid at all, but it was an enormously rewarding experience.

My grade 9 math class made me this a few weeks ago:

I cannot feel anything but flattered. And a little weirded out. But mostly flattered.

Friday was my last day, and they threw me a surprise party (for which they had approval by the principal) and gave me a big card that said "We will miss you" on the front, and "You will miss us" on the inside.

A class across the hall, who I never actually taught, gave me a going away card too, which read "We know you never taught us, but we always wanted you to", and a present, which turned out to be a gift-wrapped juice box.

I kinda cried. And was a little weirded out.

Bald Wife

Okay, she's not exactly bald, but check her out!

As you may read on her blog, Jan has cut off her hair and donated it to wig makers for cancer patients.

Personally, I think it looks pretty good, but she's more than a little bit shocked.

Friday, March 24, 2006

King Arthur, and other Recommendations

I just finished my practicum placement, and with it a unit on heroes. I left them just as they began to study King Arthur, and the class was watching a mediocre made-for-tv movie called Merlin. The plus of the movie is that it tells pretty much the entire story, beginning with Merlin's birth, and ending with Arthur's death. The minuses are that... well, it's a made-for-tv movie.

So I left the class with a series of recommendations. For movies, the recent King Arthur movie isn't great, but it is kind of interesting. First Knight has its appeal, the 1967 version of Camelot is a classic (with Richard "original Dumbledore" Harris as King Arthur), and The Sword in the Stone like the book of the same name, is peerless.

For books, as I mentioned, T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone can't be beat, unless it is by the continuation by White: The Once and Future King. Mary Stewart's trilogy is a mainstay, and worth reading. Bernard Cornwell's Arthur trilogy is an interesting (if frustrating) new perspective. And finally, John Steinbeck's Arthur stories are hard to find but definitely worth the search.

And finally, speaking of good reading and off the topic of Arthur, here are a few web comics I enjoy:


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Silent Eyes

Silent eyes
Jerusalem make her bed of stones
Silent eyes
No one will comfort her
Jerusalem sleeps alone

She is sorrow, sorrow
She burns like a flame
And she calls my name

Silent eyes
In the desert sun
Halfway to Jerusalem
And we shall all be called as witnesses
Each and every one
To stand before the eyes of God
And speak what was done
-Paul Simon

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Big Steaming Pile of Troll Dung

I've been teaching Beowulf to grade 10 students as part of my practicum placement. As such, I was interested, nay excited to hear about the new Beowulf movie in theaters now.

And wow, should I have seen V for Vendetta instead.

I was prepared for them to bastardise the story of Beowulf. Prepared even for them to miss the point entirely, as Peter Jackson missed the point of The Lord of the Rings. I went in ready to judge the film on its merits as an original piece of work.

It was just plain bad.

Let's leave aside for the moment all my disagreements about the interpretation of the story of Beowulf *and comment solely on the movie as a stand-alone work. The acting was bad. The characters all had different accents, even though they were supposed to be from the same place. The special effects made Monty Python look cutting edge. You could tell that young Grendel was a troll because he was a six year old with a beard glued to his face. The dialogue was stilted and strange, as if the writers could not decide if their characters were supposed to talk in archaic or modern English.


Oh well. Now my hope lies only in Neil. I have faith in you, Neil. Don't let me down.

*Grendel was just a big guy, whereas he should be an achetypical monster who comes out of the darkness to attack the safe place, and as such should be filmed as little as possible, a la Steven Spielburg's Jaws. Sarah Polly's witch character was a bizarre addition. Making the audience empathise more with Grendel than with Hrothgar entirely misses the point of what a monster is. The postmodern theological assumptions of Beowulf, who sneered as the foolish were converted to Christianity, were out of place and inappropriate. The attempt to demystify the story by removing supernatural explanations just ended up making the story flat, uninspiring and bizarre (just what the heck IS Grendel's mother?) . Stopping before Beowulf fought the dragon means that story ended without being resolved. I could probably go on, but I won't.

Peer Pressure

So here's the thing. All the coolest people I know have blogs. I felt left out. So here I go. Giving in to peer pressure like a shmuck.

Will this ever come to anything? Will I soon grow distracted, forget all about it and leave this blog, once fresh and full of possibilities to decay and fall into ruin, abandoned and alone? I don't know. I promise nothing. But I'm going to try it out for a while.

We'll see what happens.