Gun Violence in America – What Do You Think?

photo by Coe Hutchison

photo by Coe Hutchison

I don’t usually post about political issues, but the debate on gun control in the U.S. has so impacted me that I felt I could not keep silent. However when back in January this year, the NRA accusing the President of being an elite hypocrite because there are armed guards at his daughters’ school really made me angry. I don’t think the President’s children are more important than any others, but I do think they are more vulnerable and this type of comment will probably make them even more vulnerable.

It seems to me that the concerns about gun control revolve around our understanding of freedom. Does having assault weapons freely available make us “free”. I don’t think so but then I realize I did not grow up in this country and so have a very different understanding of freedom from the average American.

To Americans the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms.  What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live. Freedom to do what we want and carry whatever type of gun we want, in my opinion, is not freedom at all. Yes I know  the dogma: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” but if guns are not available there are far less gun deaths and we do need assault weapons to go hunting – that I think is massacre of another kind. And in a society with less guns all of us become free from fear.

To Australians freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences not just for us as individuals but for all of our society and our world.  Consequently most Australians are willing to give up their guns for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about drive by shootings.  In the Australian political system voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.

All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?”  Obviously there is a element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ.  However our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society.  Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2)  It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8).  Paul sums this up very well “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”

If we truly loved our neighbours, not just those across the street that we wave at every day, but the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, how would it change our attitude towards guns? Jesus us calls all of us to be citizens of a kingdom in which love not hatred reigns, in which peace not violence is proclaimed and in which freedom means we accept the restrictions on our individual behaviour to participate in the liberation of all humankind.

What do you think?


How To Build a Permaculture Vegetable Garden

The garden season is winding down here in Seattle though we still need to pick our apples and pears and complete the harvest of beans, carrots, broccoli and greens that will hopefully continue for the next few months.  This is a good season to start dreaming for next year.

Permaculture is a form of agriculture that really intrigues me and I hope that we can implement some of these principles as we move ahead so I was delighted to find this article written in Australia about how to start a permaculture garden.  It is mainly pictures which I find makes it so easy to follow and the explanations make it sound so simple.

You don’t need much, but you do need:

  • compost
  • any ruminant manure
  • lime
  • cardboard (or hessian bags)
  • Lucerne hay (or any acacia leaves)
  • straw (seedless)
  • water
  • plants and seed

The basic tools:

  • shovel
  • rake
  • sharp knife/screwdriver (for punching hole in cardboard)
  • hose/watering can
  • wheelbarrow


Is This Real?

Last week I posted a couple of articles that deal with our perception of reality and how it is manipulated by the education of the secular world.  There are other forces too that shape our view of reality, not least the creative arts of music, art and more and more TV and the internet which are as much creative arts as our traditional perceptions of art and music.  As I was thinking about this I was reminded of an art exhibit I visited when I was last in Australia.

The art of Ron Mueck is incredibly lifelike and when looking at it in a photo or video you think you are looking at a real person

And then you see the real thing.

I find Ron Mueck’s sculpture fascinating, not least because of the reminder that reality isn’t always obvious it can depend on where and how we see something.  Ron Mueck began his career as a model maker and puppeteer for children’s TV and films helping us to imagine that make believe is real.

As I watched this video showing how Mueck makes one of his sculptures I was struck by how much work went into making an imaginary world look real and it occurred to me that we do the same thing in our lives.  Many of us live in imaginary worlds where life revolves around us and our needs.  Pain and suffering, the destitute and the dying don’t exist in this world.

Even many Christians have I think created imaginary worlds that revolve around a very self centred and hedonistic view of faith.  In its extreme form we end up with the prosperity gospel where Jesus is there to provide us with health and wealth, but unconsciously, even those of us who don’t believe in the prosperity gospel, buy into the imaginary world where faith provides a free pass away from the suffering and pain of the world.  But this imaginary world, like Mueck’s sculptures, are sooner or later shown to be unreal.

The real world of the gospels is an uncomfortable world for those of us who are well off to live in but it is worth uncovering and moving into:

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need of him for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs

God blesses those who mourn for they will be comforted

God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the whole earth,

God blesses those who  hunger and thirst for justice for they will be satisfied

God blesses those who are merciful for they will be shown mercy

God blesses those whose hearts are pure for they will see God

(Matthew 5:3-8 NLT)

Novels I am Reading and How the World is Changing

I just realized that I have read 4 novels in the last week all written by people of different nationalities.  I remember when I first lived in the U.S. I loved to travel because it was the only way to find books written outside the U.S. Then for a while it seemed that no matter where I was in the world all I could find were American authors which for me was very frustrating as I find that reading novels often gives great insights into life in that country.  Now the world is changing and best sellers here are written all over the world. I love it and it is definitely a reflection of how the world is changing.  Now I don’t need to travel to get a window on the world – I just need to curl up with a good book.

So what has been on my reading agenda this week – all books that are worth a read (if you enjoy mysteries or historical fiction that is.)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (Sweden)

No Law in the Land by Michael Jecks (England)

A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander (US)

The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas (France)

Most interesting fact I picked up from these novels (and I won’t tell you which one) DNA tests in 2000 proved that the child who died in prison was indeed the dauphin Louis Charles, son of Marie Antoinette an Louis XVI

Living with Pain and the Messiness of Life

Yesterday I had a tooth extracted.  Pretty painless actually and the dental office did everything possible to make it even less painful.  I was offered general anaesthetic but opted for local – after all it was only a 20 minute procedure and generals can have complications.  That saved me $500.  I even refused the laughing gas – again it didn’t seem worth it just so that I could forget about the discomfort of having local injected.  I did take the vicadon I was given afterwards but then wished I hadn’t when the rest of the day receded into a fog.

Last night Tom was reading The Economist, becoming more and more depressed as he read about the impact of climate change and the devastation of deforestation.  A place to mourn and a place that it is easy to become overwhelmed.

Then I came across this great article on Claudio Oliver’s blog

Even without knowing why, a huge number of people around the world, especially youth, feel the inclination and desire to reclaim basic human activities like cooking, sewing, walking, biking, educating children, planting and building. Like an uncontrollable urge, – and even though the masses has been pasteurized toward dehumanization and simple activities of consumption – it has become common to see people trying to make bread, cycling and planting something in their gardens. A distant memory, a kind of dull ache is calling, and many are seeking and finding here and there – in books, free courses, in informal conversations – a way to redeem their humanity.  Read the entire post

So what is the connection between these stories.  Well for me they raised the question: Why do we want life to be painless, and convenient even when it costs us money, time and sometimes even our humanity and the health of our planet?

Part of the reason is that we have bought into a life that has very little to do with reality and even less to do with the life that God intends for us.  Our focus is on creating a comfortable place for ourselves and not on creating a place of comfort and abundance for all God’s creatures.

I am still reading Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Educating for Shalom. This is not a book that you can read quickly and then discard.  And today I came across a section that helped put all of this in perspective for me.  Wolterstorff talks about the fact that in order to move towards the ideal shalom community there are four ways basic places in which we need to engage:

  1. We are called to engage in the endeavor and struggle to bring shalom – modelling it where possible and being instruments of shalom where we see it lacking.  In words we are called to both act justly ourselves and work against injustice.
  2. We are called to pray for shalom recognizing that God’s reign of peace and justice is in many ways in God’s hands not ours.
  3. We are invited to savour, to enjoy, and to celebrate shalom wherever we see it breaking into our world.
  4. We are invited to mourn the shortfalls of shalom in our world.

When I disconnect from own pain and of the pain others suffer, when I live a life of convenience and comfort rather than engaging in the creative productivity God intends me to, I am disconnecting from God’s dream for shalom. My own pain makes me aware that others suffer far more than I will ever suffer.  And becoming aware of the growing movement towards making rather than consuming gives me hope.  Making something – a meal, a garden, a new sweater – are all ways to express the God given creativity that is central to who God has made us to be.  And it excites me because I see that God is very definitely at work transforming and renewing, giving us glimpses of that incredible shalom world we all long for.

My Favourite Apple/Blackberry Crisp

We have 3 apple trees in our parking strip that usually produce far more apples than we can possibly eat fresh.  We also love to harvest wild blackberries which grow in great profusion in the Pacific NW.  This last weekend we headed up to Camano Island for that purpose and because the apples on our trees are not ready yet I pulled some out of the freezer.
Apple and blackberry crisp is a favourite of ours during the apple season.  Packets of apples and blackberries can be frozen so that this can be enjoyed throughout the winter.
– 4 cups Apples,Peeled & Sliced
– 2 cup Blackberries
– 1/2 cup Sugar
– 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
– 1 cup Wheat Flour
– 1 cup Granola Or Rolled Oats
– 1/2 cup Butter,Melted
– 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
– 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
– 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
Preheat oven to 350℉ .  Mix in a greased 9″ deep baking pan – apples, blackberries, sugar, all purpose flour.  Combine remaining dry ingredients in a bowl, add melted butter and sprinkle mixture over apples & blackberries.  Bake 30-45 mins.  Serve warm or cold with ice cream or custard

We have 3 apple trees in our parking strip that produce far more apples than we can possibly eat fresh.  We also love to harvest wild blackberries which grow in great profusion in the Pacific NW.  Apple and blackberry crisp is a favourite of ours during the apple season.  Packets of apples and blackberries can be frozen so that this can be enjoyed throughout the winter.
– 4 cups Apples,Peeled & Sliced- 2 cup Blackberries- 1/2 cup Sugar- 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour- 1 cup Wheat Flour- 1 cup Granola Or Rolled Oats- 1/2 cup Butter,Melted- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar

Preheat oven to 350℉ .  Mix in a greased 9″ deep baking pan – apples, blackberries, sugar, all purpose flour.  Combine remaining dry ingredients in a bowl, add melted butter and sprinkle mixture over apples & blackberries.  Bake 30-45 mins.  Serve warm or cold with ice cream or custard

Salvation is free, discipleship is costly

Yesterday’s lectionary readings ere all about the cost of discipleship.  The gospel portion from Luke 14 25-33 is one of the most challenging scriptures I read.  And like many of us I would really like to believe that Jesus did not mean these words literally.  But I think that he did.  Or as our preacher said yesterday –

Salvation is free, discipleship is costly

I have thought a lot about that ever since.  A concise saying that carries so much poser and possibility.  So I thought I would share with you some of my challenges expressed in this refrain I wrote after the service in order to imprint what I had heard on my mind.

Salvation is free, discipleship is costly

Salvation is paid for through Christ’s death and resurrection

Discipleship is risky, it costs us brothers and sisters, possessions and livelihood

Discipleship means yielding,

A call to count the cost to carry our own crosses an follow

Discipleship remakes us

Building us afresh, remolding us into the image of God.

Back From Esperanza

Tom and I have just returned from 5 wonderful days at Esperanza, a very small and remote settlement on the West coast of Vancouver Island that can only be reached by boat and that is after an hour’s trip along gravel road to Tahsis.

But the trip was worth it. The settlement was started in 1937 as a mission to native peoples and today continues to do impressive work among First Nations people along the coast.

For us and our friends Tom & Kim Balke it was a wonderful opportunity to relax and refresh ourselves.  Bonnie went too though Tom had to almost drag her down the gangplank and into the boat.

Tom & Kim Balke

Tom & Bonnie & I

It was also great to make new friends and learn more about the hidden and often overlooked mustard seeds of God’s work.  We are very appreciative of Tom and Nancy Murphy and the community at Esperanza who made this possible.

Tom & Nancy Murphy

We ate lots of fresh seafood and even got to pick local berries, reflecting while we did so on the generations of First Nations’ people who must have picked berries here before us.  And in case you did not notice we had lots of Toms there this weekend.

Breaks like this are so important for all of us who lead busy lives.  So often our vacations can be just as busy as the rest of our lives and we return feeling strung out and exhausted rather than refreshed.  So what do you do that refreshes and renews your soul and spirit?

Loving the Unloveable

I was just reading an article this morning about the wildlife we like to attract to our garden.  It talked about the fact that all of us love to see nice furry creatures like squirrels and winged creature like colourful birds and buuterflies out our windows.  We tend to ignore the destructiveness of some of these creatures – the racoons and deer that eat an entire row of corn in the night for example.  After all they look so cute while they devour our favourite plants.  Most of us are not so keen on the less loveable creatures – the stinging, slithery and slimy critter like toads and snakes and spiders.  They make some of us shudder just to think about them. Ironically these are the creatures that we most need in the garden.

When it comes to preventing damage to your garden, however, these critters are the ones you want visiting.  Snakes, frogs, carnivorous lizards, wasps and eetles help keep the true pests in check.”

As I thought about this I could not help but think about the similarities to the church.  What makes a healthy church?  We love to attract the well dressed and the wealthy.  We love to attract the energetic and the likeable people.  We are not so keen on the outcasts – the mentally ill, the homeless, the disabled.  Yet so often it is those that look good on the outside who do the most damage in the church.  A pretty face and a well packed wallet can easily disguise a deeply broken personality that suddenly erupts in broken relationships and destructive behaviour.  The perfect pastor or church elder who is suddenly caught in an adulterous relationship.  With the outcasts we are often aware of the sins and the brokenness right up front.  And they scare us because as a result of their own brokenness they are able to see through our facades.  They know our churches are not healthy, they know the well dressed are as broken as they are.  It amazes me how transparent my struggles are to those who are often ostracized and disregarded by the church.  Maybe that is part of the reason for our rejection.  We don’t want to face up to the areas in which God still needs to transform us and unfortunately in the process we turn away the very people that can make our churches healthy.

Just as the garden needs the stinging, slithering wasps and reptiles so our churches need the homeless and the marginalized.  We need the broken and disabled people in our midst to enable us to confront and eradicate the real pests both in our own lives and in the life of the church.

In Need of Administrative help

You may have noticed from some of my blog posts recently that I am a little overworked at the moment.  I am currently looking for someone who might be able to volunteer to help in the MSA office as an administrative assistant 10 – 12 hours a week.  If you know anyone that might be interested please encourage them to contact me.

  • This position would require knowledge of word & powerpoint and would require that a person be available 10 – 12 hours per week.  

This position would involve: 

  • Co-ordinating Tom & Christine Sine’s speaking schedule – Work with Sines to confirm details of speaking event & fill out event form to add to speaking file. 
    • Help respond to speaking enquiries
    • Add new events to MSA schedule on Google calendar, 
    • Book tickets & car if necessary, check on housing, contact information for arrival, mapquest directions if necessary, 
    • print out articles if necessary for them to take with them, 
    • Pack books, resources and email sign up sheets for events, unpack after event, put book money into finance file,  & enter email names into data base
    • Invoice expenses and check on reimbursement
    • Visit websites of organization hosting event & download photos that can be used in powerpoint presentations.  
    • Help with design of powerpoint presentation.  
  • Answering routine email and written correspondence that comes to MSA.  
    • Open email each morning, distribute enquiries to appropriate staff person.
    • Work with MSA director to respond to general enquiries about co-housing, futures’ research, & community.  
  • Coordinating MSA resources  – 
    • Inventory MSA books & keep track of those sold or given away
    • pack box of books for each event, mail for distant events, unpack box after event 
    • record book sales & give aways, keep book inventory up to date, put price slips in books
    • Photocopy MSA booklets & greeting cards if necessary
    • order books from publisher when needed