Remembering Why I Write

I came across an old post of mine, and went down a rabbit hole that led me to all my old blogs, the first of which dates back over 13 years. I was reminded why I write, why I keep putting stuff out there for few to actually click on. It’s part of who I am, and something I won’t give up anytime soon.

I’ve been doing a lot of hockey writing these days (on top of the 150 or so posts written for my day job in recent months), which I love. It’s been something I’ve been working towards for a while, the whole reason I started my own little sports blog (the now defunct scorenation.ca).

I didn’t realize how technical this new venture would be; there’s a lot more to it than posting some relevant information about a hockey team or players, or crafting a good story about some current event. There’s a distinct way to structure the post so as to attract hits, involving the use of embedded tweets and videos and something called SEO (Note: This is hilarious because my current marketing job is all about SEO). The more I wrap my mind around it, the more I see the value of it, and it’s actually kind of fun.

But there’s something to be said about eschewing structure and just writing for the hell of it.

That’s why I started blogging 13 years ago, and it’s something that I feel I’m missing the boat on these days. Like I said, I love the hockey writing, but there are different spheres of my life that also deserve attention: marriage, parenthood, and oh, the fact that I have a Master’s in Theology but haven’t written much along those lines in some time.

That’s where this website comes (back) in. This small corner of the Internet will be a place where I come to basically jot down some life notes, in a wholly unstructured way. Maybe I’ll type up a couple paragraphs on my phone and submit on the go, or just post up a quote or song that I’m feeling at that moment.

I hope I can keep up with it. Life is indeed pretty busy these days. But that’s part of the appeal, to stop and share.

And maybe, just maybe, start a conversation or get people thinking or remind at least one person that they’re not alone in this crazy world.

Confessions of an unapologetic Switchfoot fan

I originally wrote this in 2016 and thought I’d update and re-post in light of a new album dropping on Jan. 18.

In 2015, I wrote a post on this blog entitled Confessions of an unapologetic Lifehouse fan, wherein I admitted to being fully on board with a band that might not land me many cool points.

Here I am once again fessing up, openly expressing my appreciation for a band that has helped provide the soundtrack to the past 15 years of my life.

Drawn to their alternative rock sound, catchy pop hooks and positive lyrics, I became a Switchfoot fan during my college years (early 2000s).

I picked up a copy of The Beautiful Letdown and made the journey downtown with Tyndale friends to see them perform at El Mocambo, then quickly went out and grabbed everything they had recorded up to that point.

Yes, that included their contributions to the ‘Walk To Remember’ soundtrack, and Lauren and I even had ‘Only Hope’ sung during our wedding ceremony.

I’ve picked up every album since, and while some of have been better than others, the band’s constant challenge to make the most of life and impact the world for good has always left me feeling hopeful.

It’s right there in the band name.

According to (frontman) Jon Foreman, the name “Switchfoot” comes from a surfing term. “We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.

(Wikipedia)

Switchfoot releases its 11th studio album Friday, and NATIVE TONGUE proves the band is as tight as ever.

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The first song that stands out to me is All I Need, making me think about where I’m at as a husband and father in his late-30s.

Sometimes I feel so small
Like a picture on your wall
Like I’m hanging on just to fall
No matter how I try
So love sing to me gentle
That I’m more than just accidental
More than just inconsequential
Burning out tonight
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
There’s a place down by the ocean
Where I take my mixed emotions
When my soul’s rocked by explosions
Of these tired times
Where love sings to me slowly
Even when I feel low and lonely
Even when the road feels like
The only friend of mine
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
One light
One goal
One feeling in my soul
One fight
One hope
One twisting rope
I’m ready to run where the ocean meets the sky
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
Tell me love, ’cause you’re all I need

It brought me back to that first album I bought, and the question ‘this is your life, are you who you want to be?’

That’s what makes me love this band; they challenge me to be a better person as a result of listening to their music. Some may consider it cheesy, but as I get older, I see great value in embracing that side of life.

Again, in the words of Dave Grohl,  “there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; if you like it you like it and that’s ok.”

I like you, Switchfoot. I like you a lot.

p.s. Lauren and I went to see a Switchfoot + Lifehouse show during the summer of 2017 and it ruled.

Book review: How The Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns

y450-274 “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”

This is a common trope heard in evangelical circles, but it’s light years away from that simple, as Peter Enns explains in his new book, How the Bible Actually Works:
In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers – and Why That’s Great News (which I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of courtesy Harper Collins Canada).

His central argument is that God is not a helicopter parent and the Bible is neither an instruction manual nor a rule book; instead, it’s a a powerful learning tool that nurtures our spiritual growth by refusing to provide us with easy answers but instead forces us to seek and use wisdom.

The Bible itself is an embodiment of wisdom at work. Its ambiguity, antiquity and diversity dictates certain noticeable and intentional shifts as you move from Genesis to Revelation. That’s because each text was written at a specific time for a particular audience and in order to communicate something unique within that context, resulting in certain tweaks – big and small – as people grew in their understanding of who God is and the nature of his relationship with creation.

Through the pages of the book, Enns offers example after example of how the biblical writers exercised wisdom and made additions to or removed bits from previous pieces of scripture, showing us that the aim of the Bible is not to give definitive answers, but to discern what it means to live God’s way for our time; “thus the Bible, rather than closing down the future, sets us on a journey of relying on God’s presence to discover it.”

The Bible says a lot of things, many of which contradict each other, raise troubling questions about God, and appear to give answers to pressing questions that weren’t meant to be applied in 2019.

Wisdom, therefore, is needed not only to read the Bible, but also to continue on with the very biblical tradition of questioning, debating, and working out of the life of faith that its pages point us to.

It’s all far from settled, and that’s the point.

This is one in a long line of books about the Bible, but the best I’ve read in recent years, along with Rob Bell’s What Is The Bible? Do check it out when it becomes available on Feb. 19.

The new cynics

This is a post that I originally wrote in March 2010, but that I have revised and re-posted as part of the Rally to Restore Unity hosted by Rachel Held Evans.

The new cynics: From critical thinking to positive action

All I ask of you, especially young people…is one thing. Please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.
– Conan O’Brien

As I look back upon my 20s (now five months 8 years into my 30s), I would have to say that those ten years were defined, in part, by the practice of critical thinking. Whereas my teens years were all about going with the flow in so many ways, my four years at a Christian university (followed by six years of marriage, more school, moving / travelling around & becoming a Dad) introduced me to different ways of thinking and looking at the world. Nothing was taken at face value any longer; everything began to be questioned and looked at from different angles.

In many ways, I believe that this was a good skill to develop. It allowed us (for I believe that I speak on behalf of many of my peers) to begin to truly wrap our minds around what it means to be a decent person, to consider the reality of grave injustices many face on a daily basis, and to uncover fresh ways of helping make an increasingly messy world a better place.

In short, a new hope that things do not have to be the way that they are is springing up and taking over because of a refusal to merely go with the flow.

While this has been happening, however, something less grand has been bubbling beneath the surface and has, at times, become the more dominant sentiment.

cyn·i·cism An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.

What I have found in my own experience is that the more I have engaged in the process of critical thinking, the more I have come to expect and accept the negative. What I mean by that is that it has become so easy to sit back and criticize that which I deem to be not up to whatever standard I have created for the world around me.

Critical thinking has, at times, morphed into critical living, whereby something is always wrong with anything and everything that does not jive with my new way of thinking, and this has come to affect my attitudes and actions.

For example, I have experienced a very long period of time wherein I could not sit through a church service without coming out with a list of several negative points. Rather than coming to the house of God to worship and join together in community with fellow believers, I would sit there and stew over this theological point or how the worship was being led etc. I couldn’t even step foot inside a Christian bookstore because I simply could not stomach some of the titles being sold as, well … ‘Christian.’ (Yes, I too have been guilty of judging books before having actually read them.)

And I don’t think I am alone. Look around, and you can see this propensity to point out the negative just about anywhere these days, particularly in the world of my generation of ‘Christians.’ And while it is good to question, I am coming to realize that I have been missing out on a lot lately. My first inclination has become to pick at things, and as a result, I have, in many ways, been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I do believe that followers of Jesus are called to think differently about the world, to speak out against injustice and to be a Church that lives according to his Way. I believe that this involves thinking critically and calling into question traditional modes of … well, just about everything.

However, I also believe that we do a disservice to that mandate by focusing too much on that which is wrong with the world, often mainly among ourselves and with a view to demonstrating to others that we are the ones that really and truly ‘get it.’

I believe that followers of Jesus should be quicker to point out that which is good in the world, to seek out and illuminate the subtle glimpses of the kingdom that rise up among us, and to be united in our pursuit to show the world that this different Way is a movement defined more by positive action than negative banter.

Which brings me to Conan the prophet. Cynicism – constantly focusing on the negative – has gotten me nowhere, and will do the same for all of us. In truth, I have missed out on a lot because of my propensity to point out the negative. My desire is to be kinder, more loving, and quicker to embrace that which is good around me. While I do think it’s important to think critically and not take things at face value, I also believe that the challenge of embracing and creating a better world is far more rewarding than constantly pointing out the negative and picking at each other.

Be kind. Work hard. Seek, embrace and create some good in this messed up world. Maybe, just maybe, we can all (mercifully) come to see that we don’t have all the answers, that our way is not always best, and, in so doing, open ourselves up to be blown away by goodness at work within us, among and all around us.

Life notes: The importance of keeping a journal

I’ve been keeping up with the practice of writing in a journal off and on since high school. Not to age myself, but it’s been almost 20 years since graduation, so that’s a lot of ink spilled.

My early journals were full of heartache and late-teenage angst, lamenting patterns of sin and wondering if I’d ever find a girl who loves me. There are whole journals in my bedside table that outline why the answer was going to remain “no.”

Now, as a husband (I did it!), a father of 3 boys, a keeper of a full-time job with freelance writing gigs on the side, and someone who’s involved in various other things in our community (softball, volunteering through church), I use those pages to keep track of what’s really going on in my life and how I feel about it all.

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I try to bring my journal around with me wherever I go, just to be able to make note of some thoughts on different aspects of life; it’s not only a space to express my thoughts, feelings, anxieties, success and failure as I try to sort through it all, but also a reference to look back on and see how things have worked out.

And while I do use my journal to write down some thoughts on current life events, what makes this practice so worthwhile for me is having one place where I can jot down quotes from and notes on books that I am currently reading, the verse of the day from my Bible app, funny things the boys say, writing ideas, memorable lines or scenes from movies / TV, musical lyrics that make an impression – anything worth noting, really.

If you don’t journal, I would highly recommend it. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Re-post: The matter of opinions

I’m hoping to use this space for less formulaic and more creative writing, hearkening back to my blogging days of old. To stimulate that side of my brain, I’m going to occasionally post some old goodies I come across. Here’s one from 2011, originally posted on Tumblr. 

  • o-pin-ion (noun) 1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty. 2. a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.
  • fact (noun) 1. something that actually exists; reality; truth. 2.something known to exist or to have happened.

In the second of a developing series of tweetfessions, I expressed tonight that sometimes I have trouble distinguishing between the above two concepts, ie: there are times when, in attempting to share an opinion, I express it as fact.

Instead of sharing a personal belief or judgment that cannot be proved with absolute certainty, I make statements of fact that, in my mind, are true and cannot be argued against.

The potential outcome of this is twofold: a) one can come across as a bit of an asshole a know-it-all, and b) one runs the risk of ostracizing those who may not share the same opinion.

Allow me to give an example.

I am not a fan of the show ‘Big Bang Theory.’ I have tried to watch it on several occasions, but have it to be quite boring and unfunny, causing me to change to channel before making it through an entire episode. I have been known to state in no uncertain terms that the show stinks, and that it is not worth watching. At the same time, however, the reality is that this is a wildly popular show, and for a multitude of reasons that are inexplicable to me, there are many people who would say that it is quite hilarious.

In saying that it unequivocally sucks, I come across as some sort of TV expert (which I’m not), and open up the possibility for those who genuinely enjoy the show to feel somewhat attacked or shamed for doing so (which is crazy).

Something that I am learning more and more is the value of staying quiet; not all opinions need to be shared, and it’s quite alright to be quietly confident in and comfortable with the things I like and/or believe while allowing others to enjoy and openly express their opinions on something, even if I do not hold the same view.

This translates not only in matters of taste (movies, TV, music, sports teams etc.), but also when it comes to more personal beliefs that people hold as well.

And while there certainly are times when certain statements and beliefs need to be wrestled with and questioned, I need not only to be open to having my opinions questioned, but to lovingly allow others to hold their opinions without always feeling the need to argue against them.

Because at the end of the day, when it comes to the matter of opinions, sometimes it just doesn’t matter all that much.

Re-post: Those small, transcendent moments

I’m hoping to use this space for less formulaic and more creative writing, hearkening back to my blogging days of old. To stimulate that side of my brain, I’m going to occasionally post some old goodies I come across. Here’s one from 2010, originally posted on Tumblr. 

In life, there are these transcendent moments where everything seems right with the world.

Lauren and I experienced such a moment a couple weeks ago.

Our good friend Chris Lewis had been over for supper, and we were in the process of cleaning up and getting ready to call it a night. Our son Will had been changed and fed, and was also winding it down in preparation for a few hours of sleep.

I was holding him (outwards, as is his preference), and Mommy walked over, drew in very close, and started to talk to him, presumably looking for some sort of cooing response, as he had been doing in increasing measure and volume in recent weeks.

What we got instead was something far more amazing.

From the bottom of his toes and out of his sweet little mouth sprang this big old belly laugh, the first of its kind from our awesome (then) 10 week old. And as Lauren kept talking, he kept laughing, and within seconds, we were all laughing, all three of us without any cares in the world. (I’m pretty sure both parents had tears in our eyes as well).

I can honestly say that are few moments of comparison in my 30 years in which I have experienced such pure and unbridled joy.

That’s parenting for you, I guess. As much as nothing can prepare you for the constant feeding, changing and the (hopefully) occasional bouts of fussiness, it’s also true that nothing can prepare you for the first time that you hear your kid laugh away.