But it is a nervous laugh;
May I trust you more.
But it is a nervous laugh;
May I trust you more.
When we were young, my siblings and I would tell others who asked about our nationalities that we were “half-English and half-Canadian”. We’d even make a joke about it, pronouncing half the sentence in a British Surrey accent and the latter half in a Vancouver one. Many years since, as I learned about the kingdom of God and ruminated on the person of Jesus, I saw that Jesus too carried a dual citizenship. A citizen of earth and a citizen of heaven, Jesus modelled the responsibilities and privileges of this dual citizenship.
Most importantly, I saw that Jesus wasn’t “halfway” about anything. Indeed, he was fully God and fully man. This is still a mystery to my human mind, yet in my spirit I’ve intuited from this paradox a valuable lesson in wholeness. I identify still with the fact that I live a sort of “double” life, but I’m no longer divided halfway between my these two identities. I am one hundred percent both. In a sense, I am two hundred percent. And because of Jesus, I am even more than meets the eye: my citizenship in heaven is valid simultaneously with my citizenship on earth. I am fully present on this earth and fully present in the heavenlies, seated with God. 
 Ephesians 2:6
Obviously nobody likes to create art like this and immediately have to explain or defend it in the first 48 hours. – Chris McGrath
‘Liturgical post-rock collective’ Gungor released their third album, I Am Mountain, earlier this week. Received with intense praise, in its musical quality, I Am Mountain continues Gungor’s journey of innovation, trumping Beautiful Things and Ghosts Upon The Earth.
The album has received equally intense criticism, with some of the more common criticisms being: “It’s not ‘Christian’ enough”. “There’s too much mythological language”. “Where is the hope?”
As Michael Gungor writes on his own blog, “explaining poetry with prose can sometimes be counterproductive”. It’s not wrong of people to want answers. We all do. But I say this: not every art piece produced by Christians needs to be a comprehensive picture of the gospel of Jesus. Christian Contemporary Music has attempted that and runs the risk of being inauthentic: what, you’ve got it all figured out? Attempting to answer our own hard questions is overwhelming. Michael speaks more about that in his book The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse.
My dancer friend Kim Stevenson is quoted in WeMakeStuff Volume 01, saying: “We do not give God enough credit for how much He can work through our art without it being a literal story about winning souls. God is so real to me while creating that I know He is integrated throughout my work. We need to dive into work that is relevant, pushing boundaries and moving ahead. We need to maintain high standards in our craft, and God will do the rest”.
Even Jesus did not summarize the kingdom of God in one artistic composition. Further, he was famous for speaking metaphorically, not literally. He compared the kingdom of God to this and that, allowing the meanings to rise and connect from the deep places of his listeners’ subconscious.
My friend Steffen, a marketer, tells me that 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously rather than consciously. Art forms carry power in their ability to bypass the rational-logical conscious filters and speak to the “heart”.
The final song is a perfect example of art speaking to the heart: this track, which is an exquisite wordless symphony, could speak – without using words – the messages these critics are desirous to hear in this album. Unexpected. Ironic. The message is potentially left unreceived by people looking for literalism. Yet… “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
It’s upsetting that some self-professed “long-time fans” are upset with Gungor, as if they’ve let them down. Let me ask you, on what grounds do you support an artist? As long as they give you the right warm fuzzies? It’s okay for Gungor to put out an album that focuses on questions and even heavier material. Michael Gungor himself doesn’t see it as a heavy album (see video below), but if that’s what the band is experiencing, their art is how they process it. Shunning their material and criticizing them publicly for it is like ostracizing your friend because they are asking hard questions in their personal life. These criticisms reek of an inability to empathize. They stink of objectification and narrow-mindedness.
When we shut ourselves off the the artist’s process, and just expect them to deliver a product that we can consume, we’ve lost sight of the purpose of art. Art’s purpose is to ask the right questions, not deliver all the right answers.
Here’s a video about what Gungor say about it:
There’s only a handful of church gatherings in Ucluelet, BC, but my friends and I ended up at one that took us out for lunch, then rescued us from a soggy disaster of a tent that night, putting us on warm beds and couches. At this lovely little gathering I met Nelly and Jens Heyduck, artisans who moved to Canada from Germany four years ago. They planned to be here for only a year, but have found a home in Ucluelet – Tofino’s less touristy but no less picturesque neighbour.
Nelly and Jens are the founders and crafters of Ahoy Bags. The bags are made from retired sailcloth donated by sailors and yacht clubs. Thanks to Jens’ skill with a heavy-duty sewing machine and Nelly’s background in design, the bags are both durable and eye-catching.
Because this couple handles all aspects of Ahoy, from design to production, to marketing, I reckoned learning these skill sets would be the source of most obstacles for them. Jens didn’t think so. Growing up in Germany, he tells me, he learned sewing and craftsmanship, and his previous ventures have taught him skills that readied him for this enterprise. Nelly agreed: “Even though it’s really different from what we’ve done in the past, everything we’ve been learning has come together in this project.”
Making bags out of sails is admittedly different, even though their art backgrounds have prepared them well. Nelly has a Diploma (equivalent to an M.A.) in Design, and has worked in graphic design and product design. Jens comes from a background of antique restoration and conservation of cultural heritage. However, it’s not just the product that’s a change-up for the Heyducks; it’s also the first major business project they are doing together as a couple. “We have our challenges, but we love what we do”, smiles Nelly. “I am privileged to work on a product that is mine. New things are happening really quickly. The first time I took our products to the market, I met tons of people.”
Locals really appreciate Ahoy’s upcycling model. Ucluelet and Tofino are low-industry towns where ecologically-sensitive living is really important. Yet, the bags have global appeal. Holidaymakers from around the world buy from Ahoy. Nelly lets me in on their secret: “When we place the templates to determine the cut, we pretty much fall in love with every corner of the sail – The patina, seams and hardware all tell a story. Our customers pick up on that dialogue. We think the best stories are yet to come, when the customers take these bags on their very own adventures. We keep in contact with a lot of our customers, especially via Facebook. We are excited to hear stories back from them.”
Jens and Nelly told me some of their adventures and mentioned that they especially love meeting fellow Germans. “We have found we can reach out to more German people here than when we were in Germany! We run a Bed & Breakfast and meet people all over the world. As we share stories and hospitality, we become really close,” shares Nelly. Nelly’s letters home “get people interested in why they are living in this rainy little place – and they are watching us”, she says. “It has opened doors.” Having no relatives nearby opens up time for the Heyducks to connect with their neighbours and visitors more, “but we miss having a community of young professionals,” they share.
One major logistical challenge that Ahoy Bags faces is in the sails themselves. Nelly says, “some kind souls donate their old sails or scraps, but at this point, it’s word of mouth.” Sometimes the Heyducks will receive word of an available sail, but have to drive a considerable distance to pick it up. Sailing is incredibly popular in the Victoria and Vancouver areas, so sails are unknowingly tossed there all the time, but it’s a long way from Ucluelet. The Heyducks hope that as the word gets out about Ahoy’s practical, ecologically-friendly upcycling process, that sailors will see a perfect recipient for retired sails. “We’re sure some people don’t know that there is a better alternative to dumping their sails. If you give us a mainsail, you’ll receive a bag. One hand washes the other!” exclaims Jens.
Jens and Nelly have been involved in all kinds of interesting design and restoration projects, but why bags? I ask. Jens laughs. “During the long winter months, trapped inside, one comes up with all strange ideas! We actually started talking about this idea during a drive back from Port Alberni. We wanted to create classic, green yet durable bags handcrafted from decommissioned sails. For Nelly it had to be a simple yet functional design, taking all the original seams and repair patches into consideration. For me it was the nautical spirit and traditional craftsmanship associated with it that let me sign on. In general, bags break too quickly. We wanted to make something really rugged. Sail are exactly that. They can propel a ten-ton boat through the water.” Nelly adds, “We had a lot to learn. Sails are not identical. There are differences in quality, weight, size, and so on. We needed to get an industrial machine because a home sewing machine can’t handle layers of sailcloth.”
They are particularly excited when I ask them how they see their faith playing into what they do and make. Nelly shares that recently, the verse 2 Corinthians 5:17 is really significant for their trade: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!’ “We had our old life”, she says, “with all the things we have done in the past, and when we come to Christ, he upcycles us; he renews us! Like people, these sails have a past, including scars and bruises to tell their story. When God upcycles us, we become something entirely different – and with much purpose!”
Find Ahoy Bags on Facebook and see their charm for yourself.
Laura Kay Rudat, filmmaker, is full of surprises and is an incredible story-teller. Her brief yet fascinating filmmaking career has taken her to some of the most unlikely places on earth. In India she filmed the documentary A House for Vasan (below) telling the story of Hands on Houses, which builds houses for widows and the poor. In California she created her thesis film Moriah (bottom of page).
Her upcoming project will be with a team in the Philippines. She is raising money for that here.
A bit of her story: I met Laura a few years ago at university near Vancouver, Canada. She was studying International Relations and figuring out what to do next. Over a period of time she was confronted powerfully and mysteriously with the realization that she was supposed to move to San Francisco. She describes the experience with the following words in a post entitled “Dear Reader”:
Many of you are wondering how I got to this point–bags packed, and hours away from moving to San Francisco.
Aware that my student visa was due to expire at the end of August, I began to pray about my next step. I sensed my time in Canada was up, so opted out of extending my stay. In this time of seeking His will, God began speaking to me about San Francisco. The idea was strange to me for several reasons.
To begin with, I was happier than I’d ever been in Langley. Freshly graduated and surrounded by close friends and an amazing church community, I had no reason to leave. Washington would have been the logical option if I were to leave; there I could enjoy the familiarity of home and family. Not only had I never been to San Francisco, but I didn’t really know anyone there (though I later learned two of my cousins have recently moved there).
But God was relentless. Every day, for about a month and a half, San Francisco came up in the most random of ways. Conversations on wholly different topics would suddenly swerve towards San Francisco. Somehow, everything I encountered in my day would subtlety or blatantly (depending on my level of doubt that day) orient my future-focus towards this city. Throughout this time, I began to feel peace about going and I received still more confirmations. Once I decided for sure I was going, whether I knew why or not, the signs virtually stopped. It was as if God said, “Phew. She finally understands.”
I thought that after making this decision, God would reveal more of the plan. But as I get ready to leave today, I know almost nothing. He is requiring me to trust Him more by not taking the matter into my own hands. But I do have promises, which I continue to hope in (Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes in what he sees?). I have promises of provision, purpose, community, joy, and His best.
It was a year in San Francisco before she had her next big realization: that her hobby-love for filmmaking was not only real, but what she was meant to pursue. Entering film school and subsequently working things out in dead space after graduating was a testing time period for Laura, but things changed shortly for the better. In the last year she has moved north to Redding where her presence at Global Legacy has taken both her love for the nations and her love for filmmaking and married them in a dream come true. She is truly living the dream.
Laura’s fun, quirky, and inspiring blog And So She Went will tell the rest of her exciting and challenging story. In the meantime, find Laura Kay at film festivals and on Vimeo.
Hearing God: Developing A Conversational Relationship With God
Publisher: Intervarsity Press
Communication: the buzzword for healthy relationships. If faith is a personal relationship with God, why is communication with him such a mystery? This updated and expanded book seeks to clarify what it means to hear God and addressing many misunderstandings of this fundamental piece of the life of faith. This is a comprehensive, level-headed, and challenging book on divine guidance.
While believers around the world soundly establish communication towards God, Willard seeks to illuminate the missing piece: communication from God; that is, hearing and understanding what God has to say about us. With marvellous insight, Willard challenges the reader cognitively and calls forth reflection. Using plain language yet brilliant analogies in everything from quantum mechanics to human anatomy, revealing the indications and implications of God’s interaction with us.
The book’s second interest is answering whether it is more dangerous to risk trying to hear God or not trying to hear God at all. Willard is adamant about the importance as well as the reality of Christians being able to hear from God personally.
Ultimately, Willard’s point is that the Christian person needs to be able to hear God, or they will forever be paddling in the shallow end of the spiritual life. Willard restores the individual relationship with God amongst the other pillars of a healthy spiritual walk – community, Bible reading, and so on – so that people do not become dependent on imperfect human advice for every little thing.
More than ever, Christians are seeking ‘God’s will’ for their life. As a result, many groups devise seminars, strategies, and steps to do this. Willard’s thesis revolves around developing a relationship with God in all kinds of ways, the Bible being one. This updated and expanded version includes six Lectio Divina exercises to guide readers into hearing God through reflective reading of Scripture – while readers also train themselves to hear the ways in which God communicates. At the end of each chapter are reflection questions that may help the reader further unpack meaning for his or her own life.
Flickr photo “Solitude” by MindsEye_PJ
“That they might be with him” – Mark 3:14
In the beginning, the story goes, God spoke a cosmos into being, calling it out of chaos, drawing it with His words. Lifting a finger was needless with such omnipotence. Ironically, rest undergirded the most energetic endeavour in the universe.
Jesus’ incarnation unlocked the possibility of the divine experiencing physical weariness, but He knew how to abide in rest (a loyal, constant, and perseverant residence or frequent resort) as He had been abiding with His Father since the beginning. Out of this consistent residence with Father God, Jesus drew everything He needed in every circumstance.
With empathy at the core of God’s immanence, Jesus draws others into close relationship with him and teaches them all they are willing to hear. One of His most central teachings is abiding. Over and over again, Jesus tells the importance of abiding and models it with His lifestyle.
Rest undergirded the most energetic endeavour in the universe.
Mark 3:13-19 narrates the calling of Jesus’ twelve apostles, stating that Jesus wanted them, called them, and appointed them. To do what? First, to be with Him. The original commission of the twelve disciples, like the original commission of Israel, and the original commission of humankind, is to be with God, to do life with Him involved.
Second, Jesus gives His disciples authority – supernatural power. Power to preach, to heal sicknesses, and to cast out evil spirits. They receive the power to restore. They are likely eager to get out and start putting things right. After all, the church has been involved in justice from its inception. Yet rather than turning them loose, Jesus immediately pulls them into a house, bringing them back to their first appointment – to be with him.
With God dwelling in you, you are powerful. Make no mistake about it: unseen power is at work. The real question is what kind of power you are exercising. That depends whether you are becoming like God. If you abide in God, you will become like him. Without staying close to God, you cannot become like him and will inflict damage as His representative. Your first mission is to abide. The success of the second mission, and every subsequent challenge, depends on it.
Published in Converge Magazine, Vancouver, Canada.
Some social conservatives (Christian ones, at that) argue that feminism is to blame for the breakdown of marriage and society. One well-known evangelical sadly suggests that feminism turns women into “lesbians who hate their husbands and kill their children”. But I’m sure he means that with love.
Some Christians, reading into admonitions for women not to teach or speak in church from New Testament epistles, have used scripture to legitimize their culture’s own existing sexism, settling for the status quo instead of envisioning a kingdom of Heaven culture where “there is no male nor female, slave nor freeman, Greek nor Jew” (Galatians 3:28).
These narrow-minded and ill-informed views couldn’t be more wrong. Feminism neither destroyed marriage nor created abortion. Feminism is mistakenly blamed for abortions, but in China, third trimester abortions and even infanticide takes place regardless of the rights of women. Women’s rights is not some kind of culprit. The subtext of the argument against feminism is that it’s a bad idea to empower half of our society – that somehow women cannot be trusted to handle freedom. It reeks of fear and manipulation. Feminism isn’t responsible for breaking marriage, either. Marriages have been deeply broken for a long, long time, and children die where patriarchy (a force that generally opposes feminism) reigns like a lion. In some regions of Somalia, the men take the first portion of food and whatever scraps are left over – if there are any – are given to the women and children. The family friend who witnessed this tragedy said it reminded him of child-sacrifice cultures associated with the god Moloch.
One cannot quote the Letters to the Corinthians or letters any other 1st century church with disdain for context. The people of Corinth wrestled with a pagan culture whose association of women’s involvement in religion was as temple prostitutes. Further, women were largely uneducated and untrained in literature, speaking, teaching – things necessary for a woman to teach in church. Paul’s admonitions, offensive when read void of context in modern times, actually safeguarded the reputation of Christian Corinthian women and prevented poor teaching from being spread through the church in its fragile early years.
Nowadays, the story is quite different. Recent studies concur that higher education is tipping heavily to the side of women, with females comprising more than 60% of enrolment in higher education. Modern women are articulate, empowered, and educated, and St. Paul’s reasons for cautioning women in Corinth are absent in today’s Western context. Is it possible that God is asking us to be rational about it?
To entrust our education to female teachers at school but not at church is to hold a pretty laughable double standard.
So, what’s Christianity’s problem with feminism? The biggest kickback seems to be the link between feminism and humanism. Fine. Humanism is an ideology underpinned in naturalism, with a bone to pick with Theology. But for the moment, let’s look at the common ground between Christianity and feminism, since it’s pretty clear that some Christians have found a way to harmonize their beliefs with feminist thinking. After all, we are called to be peacemakers.
Dr. Allyson Jule at Trinity Western University‘s Gender Studies Institute helped me to see how both Christianity and feminism desire for fullest human flourishing, freedom from all forms of oppression and compassion for the powerless. Both involve aims of justice and self-reflection. Both involve seeing others as equals. That’s significant common ground. From this, I would gladly argue that Christianity and feminism can inform and empower each other.
Let’s just consider one important distinction. While there are lots of intelligent, well-spoken, wonderful, prayerful Christian feminists, there is a temptation to claim Christ was a feminist. People who do this usually point to the book of Luke, seeing how Luke the physician made careful note of how Jesus interacted with women and with the disempowered. The problem is that we apply a 20th century school of thought to a 1st century man (who happens also to be the omniscient Creator of the Universe whose ways are above our ways). According to Christian belief, God is infinite, eternal, and transcends all of our notions. To apply the label “feminist” to Jesus is actually to limit his scope. It’s a bit like saying “God is a builder”, “God is an artist” or “God is a parent”. While these things are true about God, he is not limited to any one of them. There is a great children’s book about this called Old Turtle, which I recommend highly. He is, in the words of Pura, “all balances struck”. While Feminism has been helpful in critiquing injustice, promoting women’s rights, and pursuing equality, Jesus is God, and his plan to restore humanity is larger than that of Feminism. Instead of forcing Jesus into boxes, no matter how nice they look in the catalogue, let’s allow Him to deconstruct ours. He promises “behold, I make all things new”.