stories of a failed holy man


on taking life
April 30, 2014, 5:53 am
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The first time I had a clean shot at a deer, I missed on purpose.

My brother and I had hunted since early morning, starting as the sun broke over the ‘wannabe mountains’ Manitoba hilltops. I still remember not really being certain if hunting was for me. All I knew is that my dad loved it, my brothers did too, and I had fun pushing bush with my cousins when I was a little guy. If I didn’t try, I’d never know. Plus, I hoped to discover the first evidence of a Sasquatch, and I thought hunting might lead me to meet our future overlords. Trust me, it’ll happen. They are just biding their time until we are too fat from Cheetos and McD’s that we can’t fight back. Oh wait…it’s too late.

This time was my first actually holding the gun. The first time feeling the weight of the weapon, trying to be ready for the moment of truth. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to be the hero.

Instead, we got skunked. We only saw one Buck, which ran out of the trees in the opposite direction before we could get a shot. The rest of the day was spent sitting quietly and walking through empty bush. Before we knew it, the sun was setting and dark fast approached. To increase our chances in the final minutes, my brother dropped me on a hill where he had shot a buck the year before, then he drove off to scope another spot.

After waiting for about 15 minutes and darkness nearly upon me, my teenage brain couldn’t comprehend sitting still any longer. I walked the dusty mile road back to the highway. Just as I got to the bottom of the hill, I saw her. A beautiful doe. Medium size, nothing spectacular by trophy standards, but a beauty nonetheless, especially based on the lack of luck we’d experienced that day.

I lifted my gun. It felt heavy from carrying for hours, and I couldn’t keep it steady. It could have also been that my scrawny boyish figure weighed about as much as the gun, but we’ll go with the ‘tired’ excuse. I tried lowering to my knees to get a better stance. She saw me move and froze. She must have thought to herself, “what is that strange, tiny, gangly creature that I could definitely snap like a twig with one kick?”

We stared at each other. It wasn’t nearly as intimate as I paint it out to be, but I imagine that she knew my fear as much as I knew hers, and wanted to call truce. I felt as if she could sense my anxiety and desire to be a man. Of course she couldn’t, but my mind raced on. In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to kill her. I looked to make sure my brother wasn’t nearby. She had eased from my initial movement and was walking towards the tree line, believing I wasn’t a threat. She had no idea how right that was. I took a couple shots, close enough that I could pretend I actually meant to hit her (in case anyone was watching), but knowing it would miss. Mostly so I could say I tried and tell a tall tale of ‘almost got one!’ to my friends. The truth is, even if I wanted her dead, I’d have missed anyway. I was a 16 year old punk kid who could barely hold a rifle, let alone load it. I’m sure there are many worthy teenage hunters, but I was not one of them. So I missed, and felt a strange mix of shame and peace as she ran away from the noise.

When my brother picked me up, I’m sure I claimed it was a buck, hundreds of yards away, so far away that an expert marksman would have surely missed. We cursed our luck and drove home.

14 years later, I’m still a terrible hunter. Last year, I went again, had several shots, actually tried to hit several deer, and missed. My best chance was from about 50 yards. A young, love drunk buck had been chasing a doe that was running away from us. He was thinking with his nether regions, so stayed in the wrong spot just too long. You know what I’m saying, gentlemen. We’ve all been there.

I opened fire once, twice…thrice. I was out of bullets and hadn’t come close as near I could tell. My brother was about 50 yards behind me and to my right, and got him. We watched the handsome beast breathe his last, and I had a hard time holding back my tears. I acted excited, and was for my brother, but truthfully felt unworthy of the gift this beautiful animal had given us.

I’m not cut out for hunting. It’s not that its wrong. It’s just that death breaks me. A loved one. A stranger. An animal that could feed a family (Insert vegan-power comment here). It’s so real and final, no matter how much I rationalize or justify it, it just doesn’t feel right. It’s the broken place, and I don’t know how to deal with it.

As Mufasa would say, it’s the circle of life, or some crap like that. But it doesn’t mean it feels right just because the Lion King says so. People die. Animals die. There’s a time for everything under the sun. Until then, I’ll avoid it like the plague. Coincidentally, the plague also causes death.

I don’t know what to do with deaths reality in my world. As a Christian, I know I should be less afraid to die and for loved ones to go, but what I should feel and do feel rarely align. In the meantime, I’ll miss shots, both on purpose and because of my poor skills, hoping to cling to life in all her forms.

I’m a bad hunter. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, they say. Well don’t bring me to one either, because I’ll cower and cry and miss on purpose.



on hammocks
April 22, 2014, 4:59 am
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Hammocks might be the best things ever invented.

As a child, we’d go to our friend Jonathan’s house, and a game we’d play was to see how many of us could fit in the backyard hammock . Then the older kids would swing us until we inevitably fell out and scraped our knees and smashed heads. But it was awesome. And we’d climb back in and do it all over again. A form of self-torture that was too much fun to pass up.

The next time I used a hammock was the first time I got high. Much like when I was a child, my friends and I piled inward and were swung back and forth, cackling like idiots. It was much like being a child, only more obnoxious. My friend and I laid there for what seemed like hours staring at stars and feeling like grownups, even though we were proving to be anything but. I remembered the joy of the hammock as a child, and although this could have been the drugs talking, this felt even more meaningful.

A few years back, I set one up between two monstrous trees in our back yard. I tried to replicate the joy of my youth, minus the drugs and friends. It was okay. Nothing too special. I never felt I had the time to actually relax long enough to enjoy it. Toddlers will do that to a man. I took it camping and slept in it a few nights, in hopes that if would take me back to more carefree days. I tried afternoon naps on sunny, summer days. It was nice, but nothing could take me back to a past that was no longer attainable.

Nostalgia is funny. You can build up memories into these giant panoramas, making them out to be much more than they were. It’s like you paint a mural in your mind, only to realize it was nothing more than a finger painting.

My kids ended up using the hammock more than I did, often asking me to swing them as they giggled and got scared, the way I did as a child, minus the swearwords. Then my dog chewed holes in it, and I threw it away, much too cheap and unwilling to pay for a new one.

The truth is that memories only hold the power that we give them. While objects and people can take us back to certain places in time, nothing can replicate what brought us joy in the past. It wasn’t the hammock that made me happy. It was being with friends, laughing until I couldn’t breathe, experiencing life and growing up. A product can’t do that. If we spend our time trying to manufacture nostalgia, it will truly be a wasted life. If we expect items to bring us real joy, then we have no chance at experiencing the memories now that create nostalgia in the present, and will again in the future. We’ll be left unsatisfied.

Hammocks went on sale today, half price. I couldn’t resist, so I purchased another one. Can’t beat $25 for a chance to relive your dreams. I no longer expect to be taken back in time, though. That’s silly to expect out of a hammock. Besides, you need drugs to do that.

Maybe hammocks aren’t the greatest thing ever. But if your favourite thing to do is lie down, it might come close.



on resurrection
April 21, 2014, 4:41 pm
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FightClub6Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

-Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from his book of poems “The Country Of Marriage”

 

This poem kicks me around quite a lot. It speaks to the power of doing something new, of bringing life to death, of following the path that hasn’t yet been trodden. The world expects us to be corpses, separated from the lifeblood that comes from following a different way than the consumerism our world sets out before us. Take a look around you. Death is the norm. Life makes no sense. UNTIL you experience resurrection. Then nothing else makes sense.

Yesterday was Easter. I have no spiritual treatise to share. Only a longing for resurrection. Because as long as I’ve put faith in Jesus, resurrection has been at the tip of my fingers, yet felt just out of my grasp. I’ve tasted it, caught glimpses here and there, yet it remains just out of my reach. It doesn’t make sense. I’m sold on the devouring mentality, the way of death and mindless consumption. To live a resurrected life, to live the siren song, so appealing yet incredibly dangerous and counter cultural…It makes so much sense one moment, then feels impossible to grasp the next.

A man on a cross dies and comes back to life three days later. They even say this man is God himself. How believable is that? Not very to the logical mind. BUT, if it’s true…if resurrection is real and possible…not only attainable, but the place where TRUE life is found…If that’s even remotely possible, then we must not remain content to be bloated corpses, walking miserably and meaninglessly through life. How sad would that be to walk through 80 years, living for nothing more than the quick profit, the annual raise, paid vacation and that which is ready made for our ‘convenience’? As the great prophet Tyler Durden proclaims in Fight Club, Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

There has to be more than microwave ovens and TV dinners. If there isn’t, this is all just a cruel joke. Convenience and consumption kill our brain cells, one by one, telling us we are getting the deal of our lives when all we’re getting is more garbage to fill our houses. Resurrection offers something new, exciting and real, as unreal as it seems. I’ve yet to experience it’s true power, as culture has it’s grip tight around my throat. But if resurrection is possible…new life out of dead things…a counter culture like none we know…a way of hope rather than emptiness…then what have I got to lose? Why do I hold so tight to the grip of emptiness and hollow satisfaction? Isn’t it worth the risk?

As a Christian, I’ve never fully known the resurrection. I know the theology, the dogma and the story. But I’ve never truly KNOWN resurrection. Because if I did, if we did…then everything would be different.

This has become rather more preachy than intended. My apologies, I just needed the sermon this morning. I’m tired of living for the newest movie and to put gas in my car. That’s not resurrection. That’s putting one foot in the grave.

It’s time to do something that won’t compute, to ask questions that have no answers, and to not be afraid when they leave you with more questions. Resurrection is real. If you don’t believe in Jesus, believe in the power of resurrection. Because without it, Jesus is irrelevant. The power of resurrection breathes new life into these dry bones. Resurrection is my only hope. And if Jesus was resurrected and is the place where resurrection life is found, then all else is meaningless.



on running out of time

If ever there was a time waster, I am he. The one people look to for an example of what it means to waste away into nothingness while you check twitter for the 20th time in the hour.

Wasting time is my forte. If awards were given, I’d be number one. Most likely I wouldn’t show up for the ceremony, though. That would require getting off the couch. No time for that business.

I’m only 30 years old. That can be taken two ways. One says, “there’s still plenty of time, Blair.” The other says, “your life is 1/3 over, chump.” I listen to a different voice depending on the day. I have big dreams. Maybe ‘had’ would be more accurate. Past tense feels a little more honest. But as a 30 year old with lots of time left, yet 1/3 over, I want to be more, and the big dreams of my youth have flown the coop.

To be super Christian. To grow in my faith; to sainthood status by 30 years old (and I’m not even catholic. This new pope makes me want to be). I want to be this ideal picture I have in my head of what a Jesus follower looks like. Humble. Forgiving. Wise. Spends time with God daily. Giving. Patient. All those things.

Also, healthy. Washboard abs and glutes that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger weep. Believe it or not, I am currently not there. Close, but not quite. I want to want to go for a jog or a bike ride. Heck, I’ll even settle for walking up the stairs without sweating.

I want to be the people I admire. The Brennan Manning. The Brian McLaren. The Pope Francis. My grandmas, both living and deceased.

I want to be all this without putting any effort in. Because CandyCrush won’t play itself and my daily 2 hour nap is essential to my routine of getting more ready for bed. I can’t make time to become the person I want to be. I’m much too busy wallowing like a pig in his own filth to move forward.

My glass is either half full or half empty. Most days it feels like the latter, as I’m a raging pessimist on steroids. There’s still time, though. Each day is new, and I can’t become the man I should be overnight.

Speaking of steroids, people like to take shortcuts. Those people being me. To be unnaturally strong with half the work. And that’s my problem, minus the real steroids. I want to be what I cannot be unless I choose to be a better user of my time. Shortcuts will leave me sitting in the couch sucking back Doritos watching TSN highlights for the 10th time in a row (just in case they are different this time).

Time to step up and get it done. I may or may not, though, depending on how I feel in the morning. Sometimes wasting time is the best use of time. I just get those times confused often .



on being a peace maker (or at least, trying)
April 13, 2014, 1:23 pm
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I still cheer for hockey fights. Maybe not audibly, but definitely on the inside. And sometimes audibly, when my kids aren’t around. My convictions of non-violence don’t match the intense energy that comes from watching people pound each other. I lean in close and my attention is singular when the gloves drop.

I’ve long considered myself a ghandi fan-boy. but in truth, the only similarity I have to ghandi is the fact that I’m a skinny East Indian man respected my millions worldwide. Wait a second…never mind. We have no similarities. He mastered the peaceful protest. Whether it was walking head first into a waiting army with clubs, not raising a hand in the process. Or refusing to eat as a form of pressure against his oppressors, he had the courage of his convictions. Meanwhile, I have more in common with a hobbit, anxious for third breakfast by 10am.

Jesus says to turn the other cheek and pray for our enemies. I love this in theory, but in reality… Think about it.

Turn the other cheek. If someone hits you, turn the other cheek and let them strike you again. How would that go over in hockey? Probably great in some ways, because the other guy would get a penalty. But Don Cherry would sure be disappointed in your manhood.

I get it. I understand it’s about rising above and being stronger and beating violence at its own game. I get that Jesus showed what this is all about by dying on a cross. I get that. What I don’t get is how I’m supposed to follow that example. Because on some days if takes everything in me to not resort to violence and hatred, and that’s just when the internet is slow.

I attended a pro-love rally yesterday. It was about as hippy-awesome as you’d imagine. Tie dye tshirts, signs that said “free hugs”, bad renditions of John Lennon songs. “All you need is love” sung in the key of 50-60 enthusiastic hippies. In other words, bad. But it was pretty awesome. The rally was a response to vile and disgusting ideas geared towards the LGBT community by the guest speaker at a conference. His response was to counter protest with pictures of aborted fetuses and signs claiming persecution. Meanwhile, parents covered their children’s eyes and had difficult conversations before they were ready because shock value was the counter argument to pro-love and singing. Apparently, the goal is to give children nightmares.

Some people were angry and frustrated, but our group held their ground in a loving stance. Attendees, and even organizers, of the conference crossed the street to talk and understand why we were bothered by the message. They knew, but wanted to hear from us. Some of them even joined in our disgust at his message, as it had little to do with what the conference was even about. Hugs were given and common bonds were shared, just not with the person who upset us all in the first place.

And it was good and Kum-ba-yah and all that. But the truth is, I wanted to cross the street and bash some heads, straight up Georges Laraque style. At least one persons head.

Violence feels more effective because it offers immediate satisfaction. If this person does something we hate, knock out their teeth and have their jaw wired shut so we don’t have to hear them. Bomb that country over there so we can control the puppet government put in place. Shoot first, ask questions later. Violence is all that our society knows. An eye for an eye and a counter protest sign for a protest sign. A liberal news channel for a conservative one. Yes, because the only way to defeat a blithering bunch of idiots is with a blithering bunch of idiots, BUT with opposing viewpoints.

But no matter how disillusioned I become with the state of our world, I still go back to Jesus on the cross; to Ghandi starving for change; to Nelson Mandela forgiving his captors and oppressors. No matter how unlike these examples of goodness I am on the inside, I’m still drawn to their beauty. There is a counter-revolution to the way of violence perpetuated by our society. And it’s gorgeous. No matter what my temptation is, I pray that I’m always drawn to non-violence. Ironically, it’s the only way to feel long term peace. Violence offers immediate satisfaction and long term turmoil. Non-violence offers immediate moral high ground and long term confidence that you rose above.

To make peace in this messed up world is the only thing that makes sense. While my primal manliness gets jacked when fists start flying, I know there’s a better way that I’m called to.

Jesus says to pick up our cross and follow him. Am I crazy enough to do this? What if more people did? Jesus carried his own cross to his crucifixion. To the non-believer, it seems stupid to do so if he had a choice to fight back, and they would even say he had no choice, as he was clearly a prisoner. But to me, he did so willingly when he had every choice in the world to bring down the hell-fire.

But he didn’t. And if I’m paying attention, that speaks to me. Because my temptation is to do the opposite. To raise my fists, weak as they might be. To do the opposite. Fighting against oppression is a good thing, but if we use the same methods the oppressors use, are we really offering anything different?

Non-violence doesn’t offer immediate satisfaction. But it offers something better. A chance to create something beautiful.



A thought…or two
April 9, 2014, 11:56 pm
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Something I find interesting…

that Christian opponents of same sex marriage and LGBT equality feel under fire from wider society, often feeling their free speech is being stifled.

yet, Christians who support LGBT equality often feel under fire from the same Christians who feel under fire from society. If they speak their minds, they are often cast aside as quick as the evangelical is by LGBT proponents.

It seems as if we are caught in a self fulfilling prophecy, where Christians on both sides perpetuate the negative attack cycle.

Maybe it’s time to stop attacking each other and truly talk. Not at each other, but to each other. It seems to me there’s a disconnect where everyone feels attacked and nobody wins. How do we move forward in this, genuinely hearing each other?

I admit, most days I don’t want this conversation. But until it’s had, will the us vs. them mentality ever stop. Can it ever just be US? Us together, not against each other.

I genuinely don’t know. I have hope there’s a better way forward. Not always confident it’s possible.



on free speech (or ways to disguise our disgust with those who are different)
April 8, 2014, 6:57 am
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Peter LaBarbera is coming. The outspoken, divisive and many would argue , hate-filled (at the very least mean-spirited) leader of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality. Sounds very official, I know. Just remember, anyone can build a website. The internets gave me one. Doesn’t make me legit.

I don’t know what to do about this guy. I hate that he’s coming. To a small town close to where I live, basically in my backyard. He compares gay people to pedophiles. He calls people who oppose him “homo-Marxist”…whatever that means. He believes in reparative therapy, which I believe to be damaging and destructive at best, and that’s being generous. A group is organizing a protest during the event and even started a petition trying to stop him from speaking. Free speech is a tricky thing. We all have a right to it until someone says something we don’t like. But I don’t blame them. I’ll even join them. After all, aren’t protests just a form of exercising free speech?Labarbera claims they are trying to eliminate his free speech. We are exercising ours by telling him we disagree with what he stands for.

To top it all off, he bases his beliefs on the same God I worship, and that bothers me. Or maybe he doesn’t , as our views of what God is like are very different, but we’re at least using the same title. I have a hard time seeing God the way he does.

To those who don’t believe in God, you might call us both ignorant. You’d even level the accusation that we are to blame for this fiasco, and that’s true and fair. I would agree that I’m pretty ignorant. I don’t know much, but what I do know is that God is love. And if that’s true, AFTAH and the Sask Pro-Life organization that invited them here are not being loving to the LGBT community.

Jesus defines love in John 15:13 as “laying down ones life for ones friends.” In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us the greatest command that covers all others is to love God and love our neighbour. In other words, lay down your life for God and for your friends. Sacrifice. I think Jesus of all people understands this concept. But who are our friends? One could argue Jesus isn’t talking about the gay community. After all, the church hasn’t been very friendly to them. Jesus tells us to love our enemies in Matthew 5, so I’m guessing that the boundary isn’t too exclusive. If we are to love our enemies, doesn’t that make our enemies into our friends?

Jesus speaks clearly on who we are to love and how we are to love in the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10. Our neighbour is the one we’d least expect, the one despised by the religious elite. Jews hated Samaritans and thought they had no place in their religion. Sound familiar?

Jesus even tells his stunned, Jewish audience at the end of the parable to go and live merciful lives, emulating the Samaritan, the person they so strongly think isn’t in line with their values and morals. Talk about a twist in the story.

Enough preaching. Get to the point.

So if the greatest command as a follower of Christ is to lay down our life for God and our friends, and our love is supposed to extend out to those who would even be our enemies (notice how just because the Samaritan is the enemy of the Jew does not make that person the enemy of God. Important point to remember in this discussion), those we would not want to associate with, then I fail to see the logic in AFTAH so called ‘biblical’ stance being anything but hate, or at the very least, ignorant disgust.

How are they loving gay people in their opposition? They might say it’s loving, that true love speaks the truth and brings about repentance. But Jesus doesn’t say “The greatest example of love is to tell everyone what you think is true and make sure they change their wrong actions and thinking.” Love sacrifices for those who we would consider enemies. How is calling gay people pedophiles loving? How is attacking those who would accept LGBT rights loving? Not to mention the fact it’s completely false and ignorant.

The right to free speech seems to be the go to argument here. People opposing gay marriage argue they have a right to say what they want. And that’s true.

(A side note here…not all Christians are bigots. I know many who think being gay is a sin, but they are not all bigots. I also know many Christians who support LGBT equality. They can’t all be lumped into the same category. Hence the difference between myself and Peter.)

You can have your right to free speech, but don’t use it as an excuse to be a jackass in the process. Because if you do, don’t be surprised when people get upset and try to get you to shut up. That’s why I oppose Peter LaBarbera. Not because I’m against free speech. Rather, it’s because I think he’s spreading terrible, destructive lies, and I want to say that not all Christians are like that. He can say what he wants, but I can also say what I want. The hard part is to do that with love for the other, for both of us.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Peter LaBarbera might need to do a better job of truly loving gay people, but how am I doing a better job of loving Peter LaBarbera? Because the God I believe in doesn’t discriminate. He loves all us punks equally.

I don’t care what you believe, just don’t be a jerk. That goes for me, too, and I don’t always follow my own rule. So hold me accountable. It’s pretty simple, really. I support LGBT equality in society and the church, and I will stand for that. That doesn’t mean I cut off communication with anyone who disagrees. And I hope it doesn’t mean you will cut me off.

So what should I do about Peter LaBarbera? I’ll go to a peaceful protest and add my voice to the many who disagree with him. I’ll do that respectfully, and I hope others will too. I know some hate this guy. I don’t hate him. I just feel sad for all the damage these culture wars have left in their wake, and I wish he wasn’t a part of that. I’ll go to a protest and I’ll write this blog, and I’ll keep speaking out where I see LGBT people being treated as less than human.

Welcome to Saskatchewan, Peter. I hope some good comes from this, if in no other way than by forcing people from opposite ends of the spectrum to talk and be heard. And I hope the protest doesn’t stifle your free speech, but I do hope it makes people realize our society doesn’t stand silently when hurtful ideology is being spread. I just truly hope it can be peaceful, and pray that we’ll all listen and love the other.

Remember…the enemy of us is not the enemy of God.