You don’t have to root for Canadian hockey teams

The idea that all Canadians must actively cheer for the success of all this country’s NHL teams constitutes one of the great lies that we are sold as hockey fans.

There is absolutely no obligation for any hockey fan to support another team simply as a matter of geography.

My stance on this has softened in recent years, mostly due to having a job that required me to watch and write about every NHL team with as little bias as possible. That gave me an opportunity to appreciate teams and players all over the league, somewhat extinguishing the need to be tied to the fate of one single team. Life circumstances along the way also gave perspective to the fact hockey is, of course, only a game and mean to be an escape, not another trap.

Still, as a lifelong Bruins fan, it would be hard for me to bring myself to support the Canadiens or the Maple Leafs (the former as a matter of long standing tradition, the latter more recently as a result of dealings between the two clubs). At the same time, the 2011 Cup Final against the Canucks would eliminate all probability of me supporting Vancouver in the future.

So the simple fact that my team of choice is from an American city with rivalries with a few Canadian teams would preclude me from cheering for at least 3 of the 7, right off the bat.

On the flip side, and given the fact that I grew up in Ottawa, I will admit to having a soft spot for my hometown team, and did in fact get caught up in the excitement of the Senators ’07 run, albeit while living in Manitoba. And hey, since I did live south of Winnipeg for 2 years, I was pumped about the return of the Jets, and would get behind them in the future, provided that it did not conflict with my first hockey love from Boston (same with the Sens on that point, in fact).

As you can see, it’s all terribly subjective.

Personal preferences aside, one major question to consider is this: what makes a team more Canadian – where they play or how the roster is made up?

Let’s use the Calgary Flames as an example of the difference between supporting a Canadian team (ie: city) and a Canadian roster. Jump back to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. The Flames, led by a good Canadian boy in Jarome Iginla, pushed the Lightning to 7 games, only to lose a Cup to a team based in Florida. What a sham, right? Again, nope.

While this idea of “supporting Canada’s team” was running rampant, there were many who were very much supporting Tampa Bay based on the the fact that their roster was made up of several incredibly talented Canadian players, including Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis & Dan Boyle, among others.

When the Senators made it to the Final against the Ducks, would it have been treason to support Anaheim? Not when their roster featured names like Pronger, Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Penner, Perry, McDonald, Kunitz, May, Thornton (et al). Cheering for the Ducks is a little gross, mind you, but I digress … 

To build on that, teams containing several Canadians will no doubt have folks from their respective hometowns rooting for them with all their hockey loving hearts. Why? Because based on the tradition of every member of the team having the opportunity to spend one day with the Cup, chances are it could come to a town near you during any given summer.

Again, to speak from personal experience, it was a thrill for me to be able to combine my joy over the Bruins winning the Cup with the ability to head down to the Sleeman Centre here in Guelph to get my picture taken with Rich Peverley and that beautiful silver mug. In fact, the place was packed with fans of the black ‘n’ gold, all thrilled to death that the Canucks had failed to “bring the Cup home.”

All this to say, let’s put any talk of “getting behind Canada’s team” to death, shall we?

For one thing, being a fan of one team negates fluidity in terms of backing a rival, and quite often a team’s makeup makes it more Canadian than the city in which it plays.

Bigger picture, Canada certainly doesn’t own the game of hockey. They are legitimate fans of this game all over North America and worldwide, all with a passion for seeing their favourite teams or homegrown talent succeed in the NHL.

In short, root for whoever the hell you want. It’s not a big deal.

*Note: The first version of this article was posted on The Hockey Writers back in 2012.

A Better Easter Story

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

automated window coverings

I used to think Easter was all about God being so angry with us that Jesus had to die on a cross to pay the price for our sins. If we believe, then we can go to heaven; if not, we go to hell.

That’s not a narrative I can get behind anymore.

Back in college, my Old Testament professor blew my mind when she walked us through Genesis 15, where God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising to make a great nation out of him that was to be a light to the world and a blessing to others.

Basically, God was saying “stick with me, and everything will be OK with you, your descendants and the whole world by extension. Through you, the whole world will know that I AM God and God is good.”

To seal the covenant, God asks Abraham to bring “a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” The idea was to kill and cut these animals in half, and the lesser party involved in the covenant would walk between then, effectively saying “if this is broken, let me become like these animals.”

When God was making this covenant with Abraham, then, the assumption was the latter would cross through the broken animals while the ruler looked on. The script was flipped, though, when a pillar of fire passed through instead. This was God saying “I will take on the punishment if (let’s be hones, WHEN) the covenant is broken.”

A pillar of fire in the night. The light shining in the darkness.

Here’s a good summary of what was going on:

“There is widespread evidence that in the biblical world animals were slaughtered in treaty contraction ceremonies. When the parties to the treaty walked between the rows of freshly killed animal flesh, they placed a curse upon themselves — May they too be cut limb from limb if they violate the treaty or covenant.

The smoking firepot and blazing torch that Abraham observes represent God himself walking between the animal carcasses — binding himself solemnly to his promise. Abraham doesn’t walk between the pieces, Yahweh does, making it a unilateral promise that God pledges to fulfill in the most solemn and binding way.

We know the end of the story, where God himself bears — in the broken body of his innocent Son — the penalty for man’s breaking of the covenant.”

When I think about why Jesus died, I always come back to that verse from John 1 quoted above. God created the world and saw that it was good; God called his created people to be a light into the world, but we fell prey to the darkness. And even when we snuffed out the light when it appeared directly in our midst – an ultimate act of darkness if ever there was one – GOD STILL LOVES US.

That’s the good news right there.

Not that Jesus stepped in to appease God’s wrath and give us an out from being sent to hell forever, but that God kept a promise to keep loving us despite the very darkness we continue to embrace.

Jesus took our place not because God was angry, but because God loves us that much.

All of us, no exceptions.

Me.

You.

Us.

Them.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

Repost: Let’s get back to our roots

Back in 2010, folks across the World Wide Web were posting their ‘letters to the Church in North America’ as a lead up to the Eighth Letter conference, which took place place on October 1-2 of that year.

What follows is my contribution to the Eighth Letter Synchroblog, hosted by Rachel Held EvansPlease check out the other posts listed on the synchroblog home page, and please take some time to write a letter of your own.

To the church in North America, from a fellow sojourner daily struggling to understand what it means to follow Jesus Christ our Lord in the 21st century.

A wise voice in our day has proclaimed the following:

The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heart-breaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – student, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ.
– Dallas Willard

Before I address that, let me begin by telling you about an experience I had recently. Sometime late last summer, my wife and I were driving back to Aberdeen after a lovely weekend in the fabled Lakes District of Northern England. After a meal at one of our favorite restaurants in the town of Stirling, we made a planned and highly anticipated detour into the Scottish Highlands. A major factor in our decision to spend a year in Scotland was to experience some family history, and what better way to do so than to visit the small village of Balquhidder, which, overlooked by the dramatic mountain terrain of the Braes of Balquhidder, and sitting at the head of Loch Voil, has been home to generations of McLaren’s dating back to the 9th century.

As my wife and I made our way down the windy roads leading us deeper into the hills, I began to sense that an important pilgrimage was taking shape. I took in the scenery – the lochs, the trees, the mountains and valleys – and felt as though I was created to enjoy such a place as this. If heaven really is a renewed earth [a topic for another letter altogether], then this was the space in which I longed to dwell. After a bit of a longer drive than we expected, we finally found our destination just a bit before sunset. The weather was cloudy, and a mist was in the air, adding a beautifully mysterious backdrop for what we were about to find.

The main feature of this village is the ruin of the Old Kirk, where, as we discovered, one can find the gravestones of many a McLaren, one of which features the actual McLaren Clan crest. As we toured around and took pictures of this ruined building, I came upon a sign on the side of the kirk, which read: “For generations of McLaren’s, their place of worship, and within whose walls their chiefs are buried.” In a year where I had been wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st century, it was an amazing experience to pause and stand in a place where my ancestors had gathered to hear from and worship God for hundreds of years before me.

Connecting with my family history in this way got me thinking about two things: 1) the biblical account of the beginning of human history, and 2) Martin Luther’s thoughts on what was right and what went wrong.

Having been introduced to the story of Genesis at a young age, like many of us were, I have always been pretty confident that I had a firm handle on the story recited to us in its early pages: God creates and it is good, and we humans come along and mess it all up. Recently, however, I have come to see that it might not be as straightforward as we might like it to be. In fact, it’s apparent that this Genesis story goes far deeper than a matter of command / non-compliance / punishment. Rather, as has been suggested elsewhere, the entire Old Testament must be read as the beginnings of a special partnership between God and humankind, the “record of the divine-human conversation, of how God spoke in ‘many and various ways’ and of how humans are called to respond in speaking to God and speaking of God.” (Christoph Schwobel) Human history is formed by a God who creates and speaks, with a view to working with His people to fulfill his loving purposes for creation within the present realities of life.

Which brings us to Luther. In Genesis 2:17, we read that God spoke a specific Word to Adam, prohibiting him from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For Luther, this Word acted as a call to trust in, worship and obey the God who had spoken; “it was God’s intention that this command should provide [humankind] with an opportunity for obedience and outward worship, and that the tree should be a sort of sign by which [humankind] would give evidence that he was obeying God.” To actively listen to this Word was a tangible expression of early discipleship whereby Adam, Eve, and their offspring would demonstrate that they had heard from God and would live accordingly. This tree, therefore, was a place where the divine-human conversation was to carry on steady and unbounded. This tree was, in effect, the first church: it was at its feet that humankind was to “yield to God the obedience [they] owed, give recognition to the Word and will of God, give thanks to God, and call upon God for aid against temptation.” Again, according to Luther, “this tree of the knowledge of good and evil … would have been the church where Adam, together with his descendants, would have gathered on the Sabbath day. And after refreshing themselves from the tree of life [they] would have praised God and lauded Him for the dominion over all the creatures on the earth which had been given to [humankind].” This tree, this first church, provided Adam, Eve, and all those who were to come after them, with the opportunity to be reminded of who God was, who they were in turn, and the responsibilities bestowed upon them as the recipients of His Word.

In Genesis 3, however, this beautiful picture of the church is brought to a halt by a crafty ruse, characterized by Luther in this way: “the chief temptation was to listen to another word and to depart from the one which God had previously spoken.” This is key in terms of understanding the nature of discipleship and what it means for us to be part of His Church in North America today. In this description of that which led to the inception of sin in the midst of God’s good creation, Luther is effectively saying that the point is not that Eve physically bit an apple or broke an explicit command, but rather that the first human beings failed to trust in and adhere to the word that God had spoken. As Luther puts it, “the source of all sin truly is unbelief and doubt and abandonment of the Word.” And as a result, humankind began a pattern of being absorbed into stories that are not intrinsically our own, stories that cause us to forget the Word that God has spoken and continues to speak, stories that de-emphasize and attempt to silence altogether our role as God’s partners in bringing about his loving and redemptive purposes for the world.

But thankfully, the story didn’t end with Adam and Eve’s fateful mistake, for throughout the centuries that would follow, God would indeed continue to speak, calling Abraham and his promised descendants to show the world what their God is like; they were to be deeply engaged in the present realities of the world, acting justly on behalf of the marginalized and oppressed as God had acted on their behalf in the past, and they were called to embody an alternative way of living lest they continue to listen to other words and in so doing be absorbed anew into stories that were not their own.

It’s the same invitation expressed by Jesus himself, the Word made flesh among us, who called all those that wish to follow him to repent and believe [a believing that is not passive and informative, but active and transformational], to embrace and embody his radical teachings, and to participate in his mission of good news to the poor and marginalized, and to those whose have been absorbed into stories that were not intended for them.

What, then, does all of this have to do with the Church in North America, and how does it relate to the call to discipleship quoted above? There are two things to note about Luther’s first Church that must be emphasized. The first is that while many of us continue to read the Genesis story as one wherein God gives humankind a clear prohibition and doles out a punishment in light of Adam and Eve’s non-compliance, the reality is that this tree is a great picture of the freedom that we have to continually meet together to worship and hear from He who has created and cares deeply about the world in which we live. Again, the apple is not the point, but rather that those who gathered around this tree failed to see it for what it was – it was not a place where God’s Word was to be reduced to a set of principles and prohibitions, set aside in the pursuit of power and prestige, but rather a place of worship, trust and obedience with a view to extending God’s grace and love out from its wide branches. To gather here was to hear from God, to worship Him and to learn afresh who He is and what he cares about.

Second, it’s important to note that while this tree took up physical space in the world, it was not cut down and crafted into four walls, a roof, an altar and some pews. Instead, this place was holy and communal, set apart yet wide open. It’s a picture of the reality that God’s people are not meant to be hidden, and cuts to the core of the distinction that must be made between what it means to go to church, and what it means to be the Church. To be a part of the Church is not to individualize faith, nor is it to retreat into a fixed address one day a week. Rather, we are to constitute a widespread community that on one hand gathers together to hear the Word that God has spoken and continues to speak, and, on the other, seeks to ensure and enable faithful, daily participation in God’s loving and redemptive practices in, to and for the world.

As I visited that old ruined church in Balquihidder, and as I considered that great need for authentic discipleship described above, it occurred to me that perhaps what the Church needs most is to get back to its literal roots – let us, therefore, gather together to hear from and worship God and, in turn, day in and day out, demonstrate to the world that a different way of living has been made possible, one that reaches back to the very beginnings of human history and continually reveals who God is and what He cares about.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you, wherever you may be.

Ian Cameron McLaren

Quitting Karamazov

Image result for brothers karamazovLife’s too short to waste time powering through books you’re not enjoying.

I came to this realization late Sunday night as I stared at page 680 of The Brothers Karamazov, wondering how long it would realistically take for me to get through the remaining 300 and desperately wishing I cared enough to finish.

But I don’t, and that conclusion was clearly drawn as I struggled to read through a synopsis to get a sense of how the story wrapped up.

If you can’t even bother to get through the SparkNotes, it’s time to move on.

It’s been about a year and a half since I first thought this book was one I just had to read. I’ve heard it discussed on podcasts as theologically rich, an essential companion on the path of spiritual deconstruction. So I bought a used copy with a gift card I received for Christmas in 2018, and fully intended on being captivated by each of its 1000 pages.

I began it last year but put it down in favour of lighter fare when Lauren and I went on vacation to the Dominican Republic. Dostoyevsky didn’t seem to be ideal poolside reading. Upon our return, I just didn’t pick it back up and moved on to other books.

As an aside, I should add I don’t remember a time where I didn’t have a book on the go, and that dates back to when I was a kid.

When the calendar turned to 2019, one of my resolutions was turn revisit this book and keep going until I was finished. And I was doing the thing! I took a break here and there to read other books, but over the past couple months I turned the page 680 times, convincing myself I was into it while a voice in the back of my head told me I’d be a failure if I gave it up, especially after posting it on Instagram and declaring my goal! Too official to back out of.

When I picked it up last night to get through another 20 pages or so (my stated daily goal), I honestly assessed the situation and decided that while I do care about the story, I simply wasn’t enjoying the experience, and am willing to cut bait and accept the fact I will not be marking this book as read on Goodreads.

I have a pile of 18(!) books on my desk that I want to read, so why put them off any longer? Any anxiety felt over quitting Karamazov is pure silliness. Literally nobody else cares whether I read this book or not, and if I’m judged for putting it down, that’s not my problem.

If I had to read this for a course on Russian Literature, that’s one thing. I would persevere like a good student because I was investing more than time into it. But the the pressure I was putting on myself as a working, married father of 3 is bullshit.

When it comes to a singular activity like reading that can take up a significant amount of limited downtime, there’s no reason to push myself like I’m working on a PhD.

I mean seriously, I have L’Engle’s time quintet, a couple Wendell Berry novels and a John Steinbeck collection staring at me right now, not to mention some non-fiction books I know will be beneficial and challenge me to be a better person.

With all due respect to Dostoyevsky, I’m putting you back on the shelf. I may return one day to finish (hell no not from the beginning again), but for now, I’m quitting Karamazov and have zero regrets.

Update: This I might consider at a later date.

One Hand Up

 

I’ve been a fan of The Strumbellas ever since I first heard ‘Sailing’ during a Hockey Night in Canada Remembrance Day montage made by Tim Thompson.

I immediately downloaded all their available music, and have become an even bigger fan with each subsequent release and live show (seen them twice, hope to again soon).

They just dropped a new album last week, and I can stop listening to it. Paste Magazine recently lauded the band for creating songs of hope in a dark time, and that’s a perfect way to describe their vibe.

In this time of division and rancor, songs of community and hope are needed more than ever. But such songs are useful only if they can persuade us to trust their message. And that’s one of the hardest tricks to pull off in pop music. In fact, any hint of sappy sentiment or formulaic bromides is likely to create mistrust and produce more pessimism than optimism.

That’s why the Strumbellas are the right band at the right time. The Ontario sextet’s new album Rattlesnake boasts the kind of anthemic choruses that can rouse an audience from its seats to dance in place and sing along. The stimulus is not so much the positive lyrics—which are easy to write—but rather the magnetic melodies, which are so difficult to come up with.

The song posted above stands out as an early favourite off Rattlesnake. I love the lyrics, love the tune, and have it on repeat. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

[Verse 1]
We can burn bright if we want to
Like stars in the night when they’re shining through
We can explode just like dynamite
To where, we don’t know

[Pre-Chorus]
There’s no turning back, so raise it high

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me, yeah

[Verse 2]
We can be the love and we’ll teach ’em how
We’re pounding on the drum when they say “Quite down”
We can go wild if we want to
We can run for miles

[Pre-Chorus]
There’s no turning back, so raise it high

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me
We can hold one hand up when we get there
We can hold one hand up for the gold
We can be the change that we wanna see
There’s no give-up in me, yeah

[Bridge]
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me
We can hold one hand up when we get there
We can hold one hand up when we win
We can be the change that we wanna see
There’s no give-up in me, yeah

“Did God not like dinosaurs?”

There’s nothing quite like conversations with a 4-year-old.

I was putting our youngest son Henry to bed the other night and, as per usual, the routine included reading some stories (as well as requests for a drink, cries for mama, and a need to pee. But I, like he, digress).

We began with Hug-A-Bible, a fur-covered collections of 10 stories meant to remind children of God’s great love of creation.

Let me say here that sometimes I struggle with how to talk to the boys about God. We flipped past a page about Noah, for example, and it talked about God spared Noah, his family and two of each animal, with a nice rainbow to put a bow on it. Of course, it failed to mention the story was about the rest of creation being destroyed by an angry God who was sick and tired of humanity screwing things up. That’s the bit left out in Sunday school.

Henry seemed to get the basic, age-appropriate gist though – God loves him and will always be within and around him.

We turned to a book called That’s Not My Dinosaur. He’s smart enough to dinosaurs don’t exist anymore, and before we were able to turn the first page, he asked me what happened to dinosaurs. I explained they were all gone because a big rock fell from space and caused a “spolsion” (his word, not mine) and now they’re extinct.

That satisfied him for a moment, but maybe the Noah story triggered something because then he asked, “did God not like dinosaurs?”

How does one even begin to answer that?

We already implicitly covered the fact that God (allegedly) got rid of most created beings through the flood, not to mention there are those who believe God sends people to hell for all eternity if they don’t believe in Jesus. Maybe God thought velociraptors were getting too smart for their own good and fossilized them. They can open doors after all, and probably took a bit from that God forsaken apple.

I tried to affirm that God loves all that God created, and sometimes things don’t go as planned (which he’ll learn more about one day when he watches Jurassic Park). I think an all-loving God would have been sad when dinosaurs went extinct, but apart from that instinct, I really didn’t know how to answer.

Instead, I simply blurted out, “that’s not my dinosaur, his back is too scratchy!”

Maybe the best thing I can teach him and his brothers is there are some questions that can’t be answered, and that’s OK.

 

Comedy Sex God and me: A review of Pete Holmes’ book

My journey to Comedy Sex God began with Rob Bell, which is fitting because he’s the author of Sex God.

Similar themes, but less funny.

Rob is the former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI (not to be confused with Mars Hill Church in Seattle). I used to religiously download his weekly sermons, and was feeling a Bell-shaped void after he decided to take off for Los Angeles to pursue other ventures.

Image result for you made it weird

It was 2013 and were planning a trip to Ottawa at the time, so I did a search for Rob Bell in my podcast app to help keep me entertained on the long drive. I came across his name listed beside this funny little logo and was interested to see how the author of Love Wins could make it even weirder. As it turned out, that book was the impetus for this podcast host to reach out to Rob, and I quickly learned that I actually had a lot in common with Pete Holmes.

We were both raised in the church. We both went to small Christian universities (I even knew people who went to his). We both liked to make jokes, although he’s admittedly a million times better at comedy than I could ever dream to me. We were both clearly fans of Bell’s, and welcomed his work as opposed to bidding him farewell like so many others still caught in the throes of evangelicalism.

I ended up listening to that episode more than once, and You Made It Weird has been part of my weekly routine ever since. I love the silly episodes, the spiritual elements of it, the Friends of Rob Bell series, the comedy guests, the inside baseball tales from the worlds of stand up and show business. I rarely take a week off.

On top of that, I devoured clips from Pete’s foray into late night television, his HBO specials, and especially the recently-cancelled Crashing, which I loved for all the same reasons I keep downloading the podcast.

So when Pete first announced he was working on a book, I knew it would be right up my alley.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from Harper Collins and made my way through it over the course of a few days. Here’s a few thoughts on this delightful piece of work.

Image result for comedy sex god

I was already pretty familiar with Pete’s story from all of the above, but I really resonated with his early struggles with the church, particularly as it pertains to purity culture, the sins that tend to befall teenage boys, dealing with that guilt and shame, responding to countless altar calls and repeating the process over and over again.

Like I said, I too went to a Christian college, began to explore new/old ideas, and eventually left the church I grew up in.

Our stories aren’t quite the same (my wife didn’t leave me for a small Italian man, thank God), but I weave in and out of phases of deconstruction and reconstruction as a result of life circumstances, having my eyes opened to new ways of thinking while shelving old, harmful beliefs about faith and God’s role in the world in which we live.

I can’t say I’ve gone so far as to have my mind opened by psychedelics, and likely never will. Pete’s deep dive into Ram Dass is kind of where our paths veer most obviously. I’m interested in him and will check out his teachings, but I won’t be humping on a plane to Hawaii anytime soon. At the same time, I’ve kind of found a guru in absentia in Richard Rohr – another previous YMIW guest and a fave of Pete’s – and often think about planning a retreat to New Mexico to meet him.

That’s kind of the point of Comedy Sex God, really. We’re all on different paths, but we all come from the same Oneness, and the more in tune we become with it and each other, the better off we all will be.

Pete referenced Bell in this book, and I know he has a relationship with others I admire, namely The Liturgists, David Bazan, and Rohr himself. Again, different streams, but all flowing from the same grand river.

The sections on meditation and breathing and Awareness were particularly meaningful for me, and I know these are practices I need incorporate into my life. Thanks for another kick in the ass, Pete.

I should add Pete is a really great writer, and both his comedy and his warmth come off the pages in droves. This book is hilarious, and I laughed out loud on several occasions; it’s also deeply moving, and I teared up more than once. It’s above all incredibly honest and vulnerable, and Pete’s authenticity is what draws so many to his work, myself very much included.

Right off the top, Pete writes “My mom always wanted me to be a youth pastor. When I become a comedian, she said, ‘Close enough.'” I’m a grown man with a wife and 3 sons, and Pete’s inner youth pastor speaks to me on a regular basis. It will come as no surprise that I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I hope you all read it, love it, and come to admire Pete as much as I do.

Book review: Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor

After years of serving as an Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor began teaching Religions of the World at a small liberal arts college in Georgia. She guided her students through Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, discovering more about herself and her faith along the way.Image result for holy envy

She recounts stories about this in her new book, Holy Envy. The title speaks volumes; only does she allude to be very much attracted to elements of religions other than her own, she sees holiness in all of them. We are all created in the image of God, and religion – at its best – is humanity’s attempt to figure out what means.

There’s a million different ways to go about it, and certainly a fair amount of diversity within Christianity itself. Regardless of what you believe about God and Jesus, few object to the notion of a divine spark within us, and the call to love. As the author writes:

Yet this, in a nutshell, is the monuymental spiritual challenge of living with religious difference – and more centrally than that – of living with anyone that does not happen to be me. “Love God in the person standing right in front of you,” the Jesus of my understanding says, “or forget the whole thing, because if you cannot do that, then you are just going to keep making shit up.”

Amen.

We don’t need to be afraid of the differences between us; a lot of it comes down to using different languages and symbols to try and articulate the same things.

We are all made in God’s image, called to love each other and take care of this world. It’s OK to open our eyes and look around at what others are doing, and we don’t have to be afraid of otherness.

All that matters in the end is how we loved each other.

Thanks to Harper Collins Canada for hooking me up with a review copy of this book.

The time hockey made me cry

There’s nothing wrong with crying.

I don’t tear up as much as I used to, having said that. My first memory of crying comes from kindergarten, when I slipped on some ice outside the school, busted up my chin and had to get stitches. In Grade 3 or 4, someone tossed a pencil at me and it landed in my glasses, poking me in the eye. I cried then, and was so embarrassed when the teacher helped wipe my nose that I yelled “HONK” into the tissue.

I absolutely wept when Lauren decided to work at a different camp during the summer we were first dating, which is quite embarrassing in retrospect. I cried on our wedding day, when each of our sons was born, when our youngest was undergoing a procedure at 4 months to have a heart issue repaired, when Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer and many times during her treatment.

These days, I mostly get emotional watching an episode of This Is Us and when one of our boys tells us a story from school about kids not including them.

Hockey has only made me cry once, as far as I can recall. It was back in 2011, and the Bruins had just won a Game 7. They did that three times that year, and the one that got me emotional might not be the one you’d expect.

I had been a Boston hockey fan for over two decades by that point, really coming to love them in the early 90s thanks to Cam Neely, Adam Oates and Ray Bourque. In fact, one of the big pushes to cheer for this team was the fact my older sister was mad about Edmonton, and I took it upon myself to passionately cheer for the enemy during 1990 Stanley Cup Final. That didn’t go well for me, but the black and gold stuck.

The team hadn’t attained much success in the intervening years, and the previous year had featured the infamous collapse against Philadelphia.

Their run in 2011 almost didn’t happen, seeing as Montreal had gone up 2-0 in the opening round courtesy of two road win. The Bruins fought back and pushed the series to seven games, winning in overtime thanks to Nathan Horton.

No tears to that point, though.

Those would come in Round 3, actually. The Bruins were once again faced with a Game 7 on home ice, this time against Tampa Bay. Vancouver had already won out West, and as the Presidents’ Trophy winners, were sitting pretty as the Cup favourites awaiting their next combatants. Be that as it may (or mayn’t, as it happened), all I wanted was for the Bruins to have a shot at winning it all.

The game remained painstakingly scoreless until late in the third period, when Horton once again clinched it off a sweet feed from David Krejci. The Bruins held on, and as the celebrations began, I started crying.

 

 

We had a 9-month old baby, and he and Lauren were both sleeping at the time, so I went out into the backyard, raised my hands in the air, and let out whispery, teary, celebratory cries into the atmosphere. If my neighbours had looked out the window right then, they would have thought I was nuts.

It seems silly, looking back. Crying over a game played by people I’ve never met. I was certainly overtired at the time (see note about baby), and I had never really seen my favourite team advance to the Final with years of disappointment behind me. The fact it was up in the air until the very end set it apart from Game 7 of the next round, which was won with far less dramatics and was enjoyed my yours truly with smiles and beers.

I’m not sure it will ever happen again, either. Even if the Bruins were to go all the way this year or in the future, I’m not in that space anymore. My head and heart don’t have as much emotional real estate for fandom as they used to, and my time writing full time about hockey helped me learn to appreciate good stories all over the NHL and therefore become less invested in one particular outcome.

Still, I’ll never forget that moment.

Horton from Krejci forever.

The most beautiful song I’ve ever heard

The musical duo soon to be formerly known as Gungor is currently in process of saying farewell, touring down in the States for the final time using that brand name.

As Michael wrote not too long ago, “Gungor feels to us like it’s done what it needed to do. Said what it needed to say.  And now it’s time for something new.”

Gungor’s music has become extremely important to me in recent years. I jumped on the bandwagon through I Am Mountain, developed an appreciation for their older beautiful songs, and was helped through times of struggle and doubt by the truly amazing One Wild Life album series as our family weathered through various health issues.

I wrote a bit about all of that when I reviewed Lisa’s book here.

I have their songs tucked in a De/Reconstruction playlist on my computer, alongside Derek Webb, David Bazan, The Brilliance, John Mark McMillan and Audrey Assad, all of whom I adore. But there’s one Gungor song that fills me with … something I can’t even describe when it comes on, and it’s truly the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.

Please enjoy ‘Vapor’ and I hope it speaks to you today.

 

 

I’ll miss you, Gungor. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Also, please read Butt Prints In The Sand if you haven’t already. It was inspired by another one of Gungor’s projects.