Desiring Death


Her skin is cool and feels like dry paper. Her muscle tone is gone, and her hair has been cut short. The woman I knew who could power walk for miles is now lying in a palliative care bed waiting to die.

We spoke quiet words with one another today. She had been a remarkable encouragement to me, even without knowing it, when I acted as her education assistant at our local post-secondary institution. She was a substitute high school teacher — a job only the rarest of courageous spirits could maintain — so I counted it a extra pleasure when I was able to be with her in the classroom.

Then we were placed in a professional development course together, along with a handful of other people. A certain degree of personal disclosure was required of all us, and I got to know her story a little bit. She got to know mine…a little bit. She got to know Katie, Romania, and that I journeyed life with this odd man named Jesus.

Evangelism was certainly not on the forefront of my mind. In fact, I had already begun to check out at church. I showed up out of form; I showed up so I could keep up with the youth; I showed up because perhaps I didn’t know of anywhere else to go. Church seemed so bleak, and yet to not go at all seemed even more lonely.

But she didn’t know this.

Nor was I aware of the Spirit’s movement in her own life.

As I entered new phases of my life and she into hers, we would take long walks out on the island; then we would pull up lounge chairs on her cabin’s property and sip on refreshments while the sun set over the lake. She would talk about our first encounters with each other years ago — back in the classroom, back in that course. Many of the moments I had long forgotten, being mundane to me, turned out to be profound for her. I was never sure whether to be humbled in her presence or encouraged. Perhaps this was a lesson for me in needing to be both.

Whatever her life circumstance, she radiated kindness to me and affirmed again and again and again that I mattered in the world and that God had not given up on me. No matter how badly I screwed up, she simply refused to see the bad in me or the mistakes. She saw beauty and made sure I knew it.

Now cancer is eating away at her internally. Life is a matter of days for her, or hours.

She, herself, is praying for hours.

Final arrangements have been taken care of; family members are with her 24/7; people have visited, prayed, wept, and laughed. The time is close.

As one who is supposed to believe in miraculous healings, I feel a heavy guilt wanting the death the she wants. Aren’t I supposed to believe the impossible is possible? Am I not the one to advocate physical healing? Aren’t I the one to not give up?

I have absolutely no idea. Not in this moment.

She is at peace. She is ready. As easy as those words are to type, I know they are not easy realities to even speak, much less accept especially for her family. Yet I find myself wanting to walk with her on the journey she is ready to take, as far as the road will allow me. No more pain. No more tears. No more treatments. No more.

Desiring death is not always the release of hope. We furiously work to stave off every shade of death throughout our entire lives, so that even when death stares us in the face we fight to cling on to who and what we know.

There are times to fight death; there are times when we do not give up pursuing life as we know it here for it is the loving, just, and good thing to do; there are times when we refuse to let death its due because the world is already so full of death’s grieving wake, that we must create and nurture life with our whole beings.

But there are times when peace and intimacy with God whisper that we usher one another on to what comes next. At some point we must let go of the hand, commending all life to God, and find beauty in this journey. I speak of this journey not as an eternal optimist, but as one who has had to walk various forms of this path. In the midst of grief and sorrow, the journey is anything but beautiful and profound.

There are moments, certainly, when the beauty and light break in. And these are the moments I look back on and become transformed by later in life. During the journey through the shadow of death, however, the world is icy, dark, and bleak.

So perhaps the miracle here is that death, not having the final word in our existence, is one more way we can be miracles to one another. We become witnesses to divine breath moving from one place to an eternity; we become witnesses to God’s beloved straddling this reality and infinity; we choose to be wounded because we love so hard and love so well, that as the wounds become scars, we are able to breathe that divine breath with others.

I can’t speak for all deaths and all losses in all times and in all places. I can speak to the truth that surrounding one person during their final journey home is one of life’s most potent moments. Whether we approach death with courage or cowardice, love or hate, peace or angst, the truth is we can approach it without guilt or shame.

We can hold hands at the beside and know we are on holy ground.

Will Real Hate Please Stand Up


“I hate peas.”

“I hate this show.”

“I hate winter.”

“I hate summer.”

“I hate internet trolls.”

“I hate violence.”

“I hate how you treated me.”

“I hate haters.”

Definition of hate (Merriam-Webster)

  1. 1a :  intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injuryb :  extreme dislike or disgust :  antipathy,  loathing <had a great hate of hard work>

  2. 2:  an object of hatred


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1:  to feel extreme enmity toward :  to regard with active hostility <hates his country’s enemies>

  3. 2:  to have a strong aversion to :  find very distasteful <hated to have to meet strangers><hate hypocrisy>

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to express or feel extreme enmity or active hostility

According to the Criminal Code of Canada…

Sections 318, 319, and 320 of the Code forbid hate propaganda.[3] “Hate propaganda” means “any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide or the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence under section 319.”

Section 318 prescribes imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years for anyone who advocates genocide. The Code defines genocide as the destruction of an “identifiable group.” The Code defines an “identifiable group” as “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

Section 319 prescribes penalties from a fine to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years for anyone who incites hatred against any identifiable group.

Under section 319, an accused is not guilty: (a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true; (b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text; (c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or (d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.

Section 320 allows a judge to confiscate publications which appear to be hate propaganda.

It seems to me that just as love in our world is portrayed as an easy, pleasure-filled, sugar-injected coma creating a false sense of truth, hate is just as bandied about in our vernacular creating a false sense of what hatred itself actually is.

Do we know what hate is?

I know that when I eat peas, I have a strong aversion to the taste and I want to spit them out. Does that reaction equate to ‘hate’ or ‘hatred’? Have the peas themselves done something to me out of malice or anger to deliberately arouse my taste buds?

Is this hate?

Today the car in front of me pulled a “Lac La Biche-U”. That is, the driver deliberately turned left — across traffic — in order to angle park in the front of the grocery store. I ‘hate’ that! It’s dangerous, irresponsible, reckless (especially on a day with slippery, icy, rainy roads), and it’s disrespectful.

I didn’t know the driver, and I can reasonably assume he chose to pull the U-turn because it suited his own interests rather than deliberately infuriating me.

Is this hate?

I planned a girls’ group a couple of years ago that looked promising as a go. But due to lack of enrolment, we had to cancel it. There were a few community members who were pleased with the cancellation for their own reasons (which were hurtful to me at the time). Supporters told me: “Don’t mind the ‘haters’. If you have haters, it means you’re doing something right.”

Really? Christians use this catch-phrase ad nauseam to justify our actions: if someone opposes us and our lifestyles or actions, it means the ‘hater’ actually hates the goodness and love of Jesus and not really us. If the world hates us, we’re on the right path.

It would do us well to perhaps back the hater-train up and roll into a station of humility.

Is this really hate?

We have muddled our perceptions of hate so dramatically that I believe we sincerely struggle in determining what is real hate, and what is not.

Sometimes we really believe that any opposition to our opinions or convictions qualifies as ‘hate’. In having an admittedly heated conversation with a colleague over LGBTQ+ people and families, he accused me of giving ‘hate-filled diatribes’. I paused for a long moment in that conversation because I don’t recall feeling hate; I don’t recall wishing for the demise of the person in front of me. I was sad, yes. I was hurt, yes. I was tired, yes.

But hate-filled?

I can honestly say that I wasn’t.

From this man’s perspective, however, my convictions were calling his convictions to task; and for him, this action qualified mine as hateful.

In politics, each extreme side accuses the other of being hate-filled; of being so narrowly focused on its own agenda, that it fails to see the hate that it’s spreading to the community at large. Each side points to the other, and each uses the larger community as a rationale for getting the other side to wake up.

In colloquial culture, it’s acceptable to say “I hate peas” or “I hate winter”. People understand what we mean; some agree, and some disagree. However, when we attribute the heated label of ‘hate’ to inanimate objects or environmental seasons, flouting the term around without understanding its fiery undertones, we make hate and hatred a joke.

Is it any wonder that we can’t recognize true hate when it’s openly upon us?

To hate on anything has become so socially acceptable that we’re often unable to see with liberated and Spirit-filled minds where true hatred begins or where it can possibly end. Without having honest conversations about hate — what it actually is and how it actually works and spreads in our worlds — we will continue to point out what we think is hatred in ourselves and other people, and remain unable to address true hatred festering in our homes, our churches, our street corners and soap boxes, and our selves.

Where do we begin? With dictionary definitions? With legal definitions?

I can begin by chewing on my peas and recognizing that, despite my aversion to them, that they are nutritious for me and that other people do enjoy the flavour.

I can begin my checking my frustration at the poor driver in front of me, knowing that unbridled frustration can be a breeding ground for the beginnings of hatred. If the person did me no harm, I let it go and carry on. If a safety incident needs to be addressed, I park my car and address that incident with compassion and truth.

I can begin by refusing to be baited into conversations about topics that will only trigger sensitive responses in me. Hard conversations need to happen, but perhaps I need to enter into them prepared and with the knowledge that I will not convince ‘the other side’. That side is already convinced of their rightness or certainty. Perhaps I can offer a different way to respond to the world, and that offer is the other side’s decision to accept it or not (just as it is mine). My hurt and pain, like the anger with the bad driver, are justified but left unchecked can breed into justification for hatred.

What about you?

What does hatred look like for you?

How would you begin a conversation about hate and hatred and hating in our world?

Dear Nephews: On This Day of Trump’s Inauguration

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America just now. I’ll admit it: I feel sick to my stomach.

I still don’t understand how a narcissistic bully without any political experience won the presidency using racism, misogyny, lies, and outright meanness. He’s a cruel man, and I’m having a difficult time right now envisioning how a cruel man can become a compassionate leader. He’s justified rape culture, torn down people of colour, and has promised severe reversals in same-sex marriage laws. Trust me, boys, millions of people (both Americans and international folks) are justifiably angry, terrified, sad, and confused.

Protests are happening en masse around the world against Donald Trump. While I don’t agree with all the methods some protesters are using, I do agree with unflagging zeal of nonviolent activism that Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. embodied. Just because Trump is officially America’s president now, it doesn’t mean he’s no longer accountable. In fact, it is all the more critical that people of conscience and justice rise up and not back down.

If you think such protests are the domain of the marginalized, you would be wrong. Only months ago, thousands of Albertans – yes our fellow Albertans – marched on the Legislature in Edmonton (many brandishing pitchforks) to protest a bill Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP Party was pressing into law. I confess I was ashamed to be an Albertan that day, not because of any lack of deep respect for farmers, but because their display connoted a violence against other people whether that was the intention or not. Pitchforks, when taken out of the field or garden, have long been a symbol of peasant uprisings used to kill, torture, and destroy. In other words, the pitchforks were being used by people for purposes for which they were not intended.

And the underlying tone of the protest was so hostile and angry that I found it challenging to dig deeper into the real reasons protesters actually showed up for such an event. Having said all of that: even though I did not agree with how the protesters sent their message, (and I strenuously disagree with much of the vitriol towards women, immigrants, indigenous people, and Premier Notley herself that flowed out of that protest) I agreed that the right to protest was a part of the democratic process we all shared.

The kinds of democracies that both Canada and America have built allow for such protests. Remember that. Even when you vote for any given candidate, your work is not done, my boys. The hardest part is learning to live in community when the leadership above you stands against almost everything you hold dear.

And to live in community in ways that emulate Christ.

No easy task.

How can we do this? Today it seems impossible.

  1. I’m going to be gentle with myself today, boys. I’m angry and sad both for the backsliding America and for my friends in America who are genuinely afraid for their futures now. That anger can fuel further community action, but left to its own devices it will devour me. So I’m going to take a long walk around the lake, watch the birds, and (if I’m lucky) look up to witness a brilliant display of Northern Lights.No matter how dark the world seems to get, search for the beauty within it. Always. When anger or sadness threatens to consume you, take a step back. There’s no shame in doing so. Find a quiet space that is safe for you. Be alone with God and enjoy your presence together. Learn from the ancient mystics, prophets, and sages who meditated, prayed in the desert, and found Jesus in the broken places of the world. Walk gently, boys. Walk gently.
  2. I’m going to keep on learning how to listen. Not every Trump supporter would declare themselves as racist or homophobic. In fact, many thought his promises of viable work and food on the table were finally going to be real for them.So often I want MY viewpoint heard, because MY viewpoint has already critically examined all aspects of an issue or an event. But MY viewpoint is extremely limited. I need to learn not only to listen, but to DESIRE to listen. Even if the person across from me is making (what I believe to be) horrible statements that I disagree with, I must challenge myself and ask: “How can I make this space between us safe enough that this other person senses that no harm will come to them, even if we disagree?”
  3. I’m going to work all the harder to find the truth in the “news”. Fake news and post-truth are trending terms right now. How do we know what to believe? Outrageous stories shape my viewpoint, whether I like to confess it or not, and I must be oh-so-careful. False news is a beautiful way to start wars and genocides. Be zealous in getting all your information, boys, but be cautious and questioning of all of it.
  4. I’m going to stand with those already oppressed. There are many privileges you and I take for granted (and not all of them are good privileges) that millions around the world and in Canada will never know. I choose to listen to them, to see the world through their eyes, to glean from their wisdom, to repent of my own blindness, and to transform the world by seeking transformation within myself. I can donate all the canned goods in the world to the food bank, but without taking the time to understand why food banks exist in the first place (and ways to grow past them), poverty will continue.

You will all grow up and find your own ways of collecting information, forming your own opinions, and acting on your convictions. Today was a dark day for millions of people, even as it was seen as a day of light for millions of others. I can’t tell you what to think, but I can help you how to think. Be informed, be wise, be discerning, be questioning, be kind, and be loving. Choose that your heads and your hearts work together as one, just as we were created to be, so that your words shape your actions with integrity, honesty, humility, and love.

As for me, I’m going to take that walk by the lake now. I’m going to take long deep breaths of fresh air.

Tomorrow we resist.

“The ultimate thing is that we build community not on our love but on God’s love, because we really do not have that much love ourselves, and that is the real challenge. . . . It puts us in a position where sometimes natural community is very difficult. People are sent here and there, and often very incompatible people are thrown together. Groups of people who would never have chosen to be together in an ordinary human way find themselves living together. . . . This is a test of faith. This puts God’s love to the test and it is meant to. . . . It isn’t just a question of whether you are building community with people that you naturally like, it is also a question of building community with people that God has brought together.” —THOMAS MERTON, “MERTON IN ALASKA”


Women Who Occupy Space Touch


This past week at seminary was fascinating: we were given a text to dig into (pulling out verbs); we then had to place those verbs back into the sentences in which they appeared; but then we were asked to let our imaginations run free a bit and contextualize what those sentences were stoking within us — what fire — and find a focus sentence that sparked our worlds. We needed to do this three times over the week, so I’m sharing what I came up with.

The first passage I chose was Matthew 9:18-22: the scene where the synagogue leader (Jairus in other accounts) begs Jesus to raise his daughter, and an anonymous woman reaches out for healing in the midst of the crowd.

Verbs Verbs to Sentences Sentences of Context
…say… Jesus is speaking God is communicating continually throughout the world.
…came… Synagogue leader comes before him Leaders come before God when they need help.
…knelt… Synagogue leader kneels before him Some leaders demonstrate genuine need, if not genuine commitment.
…say… Synagogue leader speaks before him Some leaders speak the truth about God, whether or not they intend to follow God.
…died… Synagogue leader’s daughter has just died Death is inevitable for all people at any time.
…come… Synagogue leader invites Jesus to come Faith can be demonstrated through invitation & intimacy.
…touch… Jesus can lay hands on daughter Physical touch is a powerful force in the universe.
…live… Jesus can make daughter live again We are desperate to try anything in order to keep hold of our loved ones.
…got up… Jesus gets up Reaching out to help others demands we get up.
…followed… Jesus follows God follows even worldly leaders into their lives & spaces.
…came up behind… A woman with hemorrhages comes up behind Girls learn from childhood that we are untouchable.
…touched… She touches the fringe of Jesus’ cloak Women know that touch can be a source of healing.
…said… The woman speaks to herself Women know we are not listened to, even if we are heard.
…touch… If I touch the fringe of [Jesus’] cloak Desperation & desire can become a powerful expression of faith
…made… I will be made well We all yearn to be whole.
…turned… Jesus turns Touch turns the posture of God.
…seeing… Jesus sees the woman In the midst of billions, God turns to see me.
…said… Jesus speaks to the woman God listens & responds to women in ways that defy culture and context.

Focus Sentence: Women know that touch can be a source of healing.


Women rarely occupy a middle space in our world. We are either shunned for being too dirty, or we are shunned for being too sacred and powerful. Set on the edges of the margins, we know from childhood the void that is left when touch is removed from our worlds. Touch, as a universal force, has been sanitized in our western culture to live as either medical examination or pornographic exploitation. Neither realm can exist as fully evil or fully good, but both are wholly insufficient to meet the needs of the bleeding woman. She already knows that touch will cure her, and Jesus knows that his response to her touch will be the more powerful component of the miracle. An intimate laying on of hands has been erased from our world to the point that we are suspicious of motives, and fearful of potential shadows lurking in offices, classrooms, in vans, and online. How can we learn to see our need for touch – between ourselves and God, & between one another – as well as begin to accept touch as a healing force rather than a clinical practice or a demonized subtext?

How indeed…?

Nick Cave’s “O Children”: Hey Little Train, Wait for Me

So I’m a Potterhead. 😉 Since transferring my blog from Typepad to WordPress, this post still gets daily clicks. Is it the movie? The music? Or is the message that Nick Cave’s wrote such evocative lyrics that no matter the context, we can all be both singers & hearers?

Reluctant Mysticism

harry and hermione dance Since the memorable dance between Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt.1), O Children has gained an instant following. It’s blusey-gospel-sway finds the listener swept away to times we wish we had, times when we wished we had acted differently, and times when we know we’ll need to act differently in the future.

I tried searching for the actual meaning behind the song since it wasn’t technically written for the movie. One blog interpreted the lyrics quite literally, thinking it sang of the children taken away by Nazis during the Holocaust; while other various Yahoo answers thought it to be more hopeful, using familiar images from old African-American spirituals such as trains, stations, and the imminence of freedom. No matter what interpretation I read, there was a despair at being caught in a place of no exit… and a plea for hope for…

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Strange Welcome


What expectations do I put on the stranger invited to my Christmas table?

I don’t think I’ve really stopped to consider that.

I know I’ve been raised in churches that preach and encourage me to welcome the stranger in at Christmastime (and during many other times throughout the year); I know that we are to welcome people in for they are cold, hungry, lonely, lost, oppressed, and downtrodden just as Mary and Joseph were; just as Christ was; that we are to welcome them because these people might even be angels.

Yet in the glow of my feel-good-about-myself outreach, I forget to reflect on the kinds of true realities these strangers may be enduring all throughout my terrific meal. Why should I? These people aren’t alone for Christmas (because of me!). I’m welcoming them into our family. They are welcome, they are warm, they are fed, they are given gifts, they are loved on.

At least they’re not alone.

When I stop to consider the number of times I’m lonely amidst a sea of people — even people I know — and still expected to be filled with their goodwill, cheer, encouragement, and joy, I pause to think: does the stranger feel the same way?

Christmastime is often dreadfully hard for millions of people. Life doesn’t stop for Christmas. People die, accidents happen, wars displace millions, genocides continue, hunger gnaws on, trafficking keeps raking in the money, and cancer diagnoses are handed down.

And then there are the memories.

It may have been ten years since one’s child or father passed away, but still the stark empty place at Christmas dinner is a stinging reminder of grief and loss. Perhaps abuse or addictions have broken families apart, jobs have been lost, or eviction notices have been posted (or all of the above and more), but people find themselves without home or shelter. Remembering what was — the tinsel and glitter of what used to be — or aching for what never was can be soul-sucking.

And I expect strangers to feel at home in my home. I expect them to suddenly feel like family?

When the only person an isolated spouse wants is their oil field-working partner, how am I suddenly a good substitute? When everyone around the table is a stranger to the stranger, how am I seeing life through the stranger’s eyes?

Does this mean I rescind all holiday invitations for people to come and enjoy a Christmas dinner, a New Year’s hangout, or some holiday warmth and shelter? Not at all!

It means I need to choose within myself to begin to see how these invitations affect the strangers through the stranger’s eyes. It means I place no expectation of gratitude or joy on anyone else when I give a gift. It means that if someone sharing my table is uncomfortable for reasons all their own, I accept this as okay and supported.  It means I begin to empathize with the realities my neighbors and strangers are living through, and craft my invitations with this sensitivity in mind.

It means I extend these invitations because I, too, know the pain and grief that piles up at Christmas time. When I tap into that dark space — really dig into it — I begin to mine wisdom about what kinds of helps and supports truly met me where I was, and which ones didn’t.

I know when I’m lonely for specific people, it’s hard to accept an invitation to another’s home for dinner because I’m not with the folks I desperately ache to be with. It’s a difficult time to enjoy, even though the invitation and experience are both freely given and well prepared.

I know when I’m not sleeping in a familiar bed, I sense that physical warmth and shelter are cared for, but true rest? That’s almost impossible to find. One can be sincerely grateful for a cot in a large room of cots, and also be exhausted and in despair.

I know that when I land on a dark anniversary around the holidays, being around others who are festive and jolly can be a living horror story. It’s not that the others around me ought not to be making merry. Rather I can’t enter into the merriment when there’s such a traumatic collision of both light and darkness. It’s asking too much of me.

These are only a few of the spaces strangers find themselves in when I invite them into my home. There are so many more reasons why they are overwhelmed, frustrated, unsure, anxious, quiet, too loud, embarrassed, tense, or depressed. Truth be told, when I enter into my own dark spaces, I begin to see that these strangers are me. These people aren’t strangers at all. We may not have walked through precisely the same circumstances, but darkness and loneliness finds us all eventually. These things are no respecter of persons.

The strange welcome then becomes a place of refuge and sanctuary for friends as yet unmet. I know that my meal or bed or gift or presence will not heal all wounds or comfort all lostness. I know my offering isn’t a cure. I know my love is inadequate at best.

With this new wisdom — mined from the depths of my own honesty and darkness — I can enter into this strange welcome just as I would hope strangers would enter into my home. It’s a new place, a fantastic place, and an awkward place.

It is a place of small things with great love.

It is a place of awakenings.



Invited, Welcomed, Assured.


Christmas drains me.

Trying to secure funding for food hampers, and then distributing those hampers fairly is a heavy job. There are so many stories that come with the people walking through my office doors and, after a while, the sheer volume of need takes its toll.

Christmas drains many of us if we’re honest.

It’s precisely the time we need to choose how we’re going to participate in God’s transformative plan. It will be risky, unpredictable, and dangerous. We will be tired, we will make many mistakes, we will hurt others, and we will be let down. We won’t often see or know God in the midst of the suffering within us and around us.

Choosing the risker plan — choosing to listen to God’s voice — is more like a daily discipline than a one-time declaration. We get up in the morning (sometimes after having been in bed for only an hour or two), we become paralyzed all over again watching the slaughter in Aleppo or engaging our brothers and sisters out on the streets tonight in this terrible Canadian cold. Life and death hang in the balance so closely each day, and our decisions tip those scales more than we like to believe.

Joseph could have walked away from Mary, raised his own family with another woman, and not suffered anything much beyond perhaps some initial grief or scorn.

But he didn’t.

Joseph is often overlooked in the Advent narrative; he’s kind of a stock character that is simply there. But as I reflect on the ways my decisions at work and in ministry affect the most vulnerable around me MORE than myself alone, I get perhaps a small taste of what Joseph may have gone through.

What about you?

What choices in your lives are you facing that will have a greater impact on someone else than yourself alone?

Strange space to be dwelling in, huh?

Strange place indeed.