Friday, October 29, 2004

Real Live Book Review

I just wanted to pass along that there is an interview with Gordon Atkinson of as well as a book review at Christianity Today. As the review points out, there is a lot of profanity to wade through but if you can manage to do that, you will find a book both thought provoking and heart warming. Atkinson brings a raw edge to his faith that is rare but his doubts will only serve to strengthen the faith of his readers. Although the book may be an affront to those of us who have grown up as conservative Christians, it is refreshing to read such honest reflections with nary a trace of propaganda or proselytizing. Just read it (or the blog) and see if it doesn't touch a place somewhere deep inside.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Science on Saturday

I spent this past weekend awakening my inner scientist. On Saturday I went to the grand opening of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo (see photo below.) I know, not exactly how most people would want to spend a lazy Saturday morning, but this was truly an amazing opportunity to have a look inside what is likely to become one of the leading physics research labs in the world.

I attended a lecture by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas on “Cosmology and the Origins of the Universe.” As a Christian, I knew that this would be a loaded topic. I fully expected to have issues with what Dr. Weinberg had to say, but I didn’t expect the verbal attack on my faith that I experienced.

Let me begin by stating that I have not done a lot of technical research into the origins of the universe. I have a passing interest in cosmology but that is where it ends. I don’t accept that the universe is 16.2 billion years old as Dr. Weinberg states, nor do I accept the concept of a 6,000-year-old earth that I have heard from some creation scientists. If you were to press me on it, I suppose I would fall somewhere in between the two extremes, but then again, the Nobel folks haven’t exactly been knocking on the door asking for my opinion! The Biblical account of God creating the earth in 6 days is good enough for me. Whether those days were 24 hours or 24 million years makes no difference. My faith doesn’t rest in cosmology or in mere intellectual arguments. As Donald Miller says in Blue Like Jazz, “Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove he does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”

Dr. Weinberg’s presentation was fascinating and I managed to keep up with most of what he had to say, even if I didn’t necessarily agree. And while I am not qualified to critique the good doctor’s science, he certainly didn’t use any restraint in critiquing religion and issues of faith in general. To conclude his lecture he called for a world of more scientific heroes and fewer religious prophets because “it is because of religious prophets…the Bible…the Koran…that this world has become the dangerous place that it is.” Of course, this met with a vigorous round of applause from the audience. When asked during the Q&A period after the lecture “where does God fit into Cosmology?” by what appeared to be a Muslim student (sorry for my ‘racial profiling’) Weinberg promptly replied, “That sir, is a hypothesis I choose not to accept.” While he admitted that science doesn’t really know much about the “inflation” period prior to the Big Bang, he took the opportunity to launch several more verbal shots at those who would hold to a religious world view to even more vigorous applause.

Now, I am not completely oblivious to this sort of intellectual assault, and while I hesitate to call it persecution when I am aware that Christians all over the world are being tortured and murdered for their faith, I most definitely felt very vulnerable sitting in the auditorium not applauding Weinberg’s attacks on religion. I felt no bitterness or anger toward the man, just a deep sense of sadness.

For no matter what your background or training, whether a Nobel Prize winning cosmologist or a bookseller with a Bachelor of Religious Education, we all have an epistemology – a world view – that triumphs over and determines our choices in life. Dr. Weinberg’s theories may be grounded in hard science, but his world view spoke louder than any of his charts and diagrams on Saturday.

P.S. For an interesting article on the battle to teach Intelligent Design in the classroom in the United States, check out Wired magazine’s October edition.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

If I Won The Lottery

Have you ever played the “what if I won the lottery” game? You know the one…if I won a million (or more) dollars, what would I do with it? Most people have played either out loud or in the confines of their own head. R and I play probably a couple of times a year. I’m not exactly sure why, since neither one of us has purchased a lottery ticket in our lives, but its fun to think "what if" anyway. The thing is, when you play out loud, your use of the cash is usually far more altruistic in comparison to the in-your-head version:

Out loud: “If I won the lottery I’d pay off the mortgage, buy my parents a house, invest some, and give the rest away to charity."

In-the-head: “If I won the lottery I’d stop by Future Shop the day I picked up the cheque and buy a widescreen high def TV, a surround sound home theatre system, a new computer, an iPod (the real kind, not the wussy 4gig mini version). Then I’d stop by a car dealership and buy a second vehicle. After that I’d…”

You get the picture. When I think of the in-the-head version of the game I recognize the depth of my endless consumerism. Even if I won a million bucks (or two or ten) and could buy everything on my want list, there would still be more stuff to buy…there really is no end to it. Of course, this is the basis for our entire economic system. You are producer, I am consumer. You make cool things that I “need” and I give you the money you need. It’s a great little system until something happens to blow it all away. This leads to the real reason I’m having this conversation – Haiti.

Even through Florida has been hammered by hurricanes over the past six weeks, for the most part, there is still a sense of hope; a feeling of “we’ve lost almost everything but we’re safe and we can get through this.” While I commend the folks in Florida, the residents of Haiti have no government infrastructure to assist them, no benevolent businesses to truck in fresh water and food, no family in other parts of the country to take them in for a few weeks until the insurance company figures everything out. These people have literally nothing. No food, no water, no home, no hope.

Watching the absolute despair in Haiti since Tropical Storm Jeanne passed through has really caused me to consider my own wealth (middle-class by North American status, but ridiculously wealthy in comparison to the rest of the world - check out the Global Rich List to find out where you rank in the world), what I could do if I had the funds to do it, and would I do something if I did have the funds?

I’d like to think, with apologies to the Barenaked Ladies, that if I had a million dollars I wouldn’t buy you a house, or a K-car, or even a green dress. No, I would hope if I had a million dollars I would buy myself the first plane ticket to Haiti and try to do something, anything, to relieve some of the suffering; to bring some help and some hope.

For possibly the first time in my life I think I have come to understand in a tangible way that wealth is not a bad thing in and of itself. Great wealth can bring great good. Even the Bill Gates’ and Charles Bronfman’s among us have no reason to be ashamed of their great wealth in and of itself; it is after all, the love of money that is the root of all evil. That being said, those of us who are wealthy, be it by world standards or by North American standards, have a responsibility to care for those who can’t care for themselves. I’d love to be able to fly down to Haiti and help people one by one, but I can’t because I’m not North American wealthy. What I can do is dig into my own funds, the cash I’ve been setting aside to buy a new computer or whatever, and spend it on someone somewhere who really needs it. Care for the poor and the widows Jesus said. Sounds easy, until I realize that caring for the poor means the shiny new iMac I’ve been eyeing will have to wait. And when it comes to me and my stuff, I don’t like waiting.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Somewhere Over The Mid-West

I also drove up Pike’s Peak, which, with an elevation of 14,110 feet, was a tough haul in my little rented Nissan. A sign said that with every 1,000 feet of elevation, the temperature drops 3 degrees. That would mean the temperature at the top was 58 degrees yesterday. Add a wild wind at that elevation and it made for one chilly trip, especially after the mid-80’s temperature 8,000 feet below! I’ll post some pictures later, but when you get up above 11,000 feet you are above the tree line and the entire landscape takes on a bit of a Lord of the Rings feel - rocks, red sand, moss, and not much else.

Beyond a simple sense of wonder in this landscape, you begin to feel with your heart, not just see with your eyes, that there is a greater mystery calling out, an acknowledgement that there is a greater purpose to our typical 9 to 5 lives; that we are part of a greater journey which is crying to us if we can only take the time to hear it. Before he was a believer, C.S. Lewis referred to this calling as “the North” – an otherworldly term related to Nordic mythology. John Eldredge would likely refer to it as the Sacred Romance. Others might refer to it as a Haunting. Whatever terminology you wish to use, there is a sense that God himself is calling you to something bigger, to a larger battle that we can acknowledge with our minds but only have a small sense of in our hearts. In that wilderness, the surface of this life is stripped back just a little to reveal the “hills full of horses and chariots of fire” that Elisha’s servant saw.

As Lewis said, there are no mere mortals. Like it or not, we are all a part of the battle and must choose to fight or to stay back in camp. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like in 2004, but I do know that all of the great tales – Narnia and Middle Earth among them – point us in the right direction. As a Christian, I serve a King and He needs me on the front lines, not back in camp where it is comfortable and secure.

As I said, I’m not sure how this plays out today, and specifically what it looks like in my own life, but I do know that when I see the King face to face, I want to have scars on my hands and dirt on my clothes from having fought with all my strength.

At The Airport

So here I sit in Denver International Airport after spending four days in Colorado Springs. Colorado is a gorgeous state and I’m glad I spent an extra day here. Yesterday I visited the Garden of the Gods which is a park donated by a local resident on the condition that there would be no commercial development. It’s a gorgeous place of wild trails and red sand dunes pointing up to the sky – think PEI turned sideways and you’ll have a pretty good picture of what it looks like.

Boarding call…

Friday, August 13, 2004


It was one year ago tomorrow that Ontario and much of the Northeastern US were plunged into darkness at 4:11 pm. 50 million people were without power for up to a week afterwards and the already beleaguered city of Toronto took another hit in the “black summer” of 2003.

I just finished reading Souvenir of Canada 2 by Douglas Coupland (my favourite author) in which he presents the following essay contending that the rest of Canada is feeling somewhat more benevolent towards Toronto the these days. Have a read then I’d like to hear comments from those in the West who have had issues with the “center of the universe” and if that has softened as Coupland suggests.

"Toronto was once the city that Canadians loved to hate. Why? Simple. One day, as happened with Microsoft, the numbers came in, and Toronto was suddenly the biggest dog on the block. I remember the year it happened, sometime in the mid-1970's, when Toronto's population eclipsed that of Montreal. I was with my uncle and we were driving south from the Gatineau Mountains into Toronto. Somewhere on the 401, we saw the highway sign with the new population numbers - white letters on green. It felt like a real moment, and it was.

Most of the nation's commerce and culture is regulated and multiplied within Toronto's grid. In a book, I once described Toronto as "the Yellow Pages sprung to life in three dimensions, peppered with trees and veined with ice water," and I think that definition still, to some degree, sticks - in a good way. When you factor in its suburbs and what social scientists call its "conurbanation," Toronto is a massive economy unto itself, larger than that of most of the world's nations. You simply can’t deny its power. Human hearts are jealous; Toronto was an easy target, up until 2003.

In 2003, Toronto was blindsided by the SARA virus, a sci-fi plague both from hell and the distant and awful future. A few months later, after limping through the wreckage of its economy, the city melted down during a catastrophic power failure. The year 2003 was an awful time for its citizens, and for the first time in its history, the hearts of Canadians went out to Torontonians and have largely stayed with them since then. Toronto has been humanized and, because of its vulnerability, at long last has won a form of affection."

P.S. Take a look below at the groovy signature I got when I met Doug on his book tour for Hey Nostradamus!

The best autograph I've ever seen! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Man Sues God...and Loses

This is an old news item from AP but i just came across it for the first time and I had to pass it along...

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- In the matter of Drusky versus God -- God has won. A Pennsylvania man's lawsuit naming God as a defendant has been thrown out by a court in Syracuse. Donald Drusky, 63, of East McKeesport, Pa., blamed God for failing to bring him justice in a 30-year battle against his former employer, the steelmaker now called USX Corp. The company fired him in 1968, when it was called U.S. Steel. "Defendant God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and took no corrective action against the leaders of his church and his nation for their extremely serious wrongs, which ruined the life of Donald S. Drusky," the lawsuit said. Drusky wanted God to return his youth and grant him the guitar-playing skills of famous guitarists, along with resurrecting his mother and his pet pigeon. If God failed to appear in court, federal rules of civil procedure say he must lose by default, Drusky argued. But U.S. district Judge Norman Mordue threw out the case earlier this month. Mordue ruled that the suit -- which also named former U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the major U.S. television networks, all 50 states, every single American, all federal judges, and the 100th through 105th congresses as defendants -- was frivolous.

And we wonder why there's a backlog in the legal system!

Friday, August 06, 2004

That's A Good Question

Bill Clinton was in Toronto yesterday signing copies of ‘My Life’ for thousands of adoring fans. According to an exclusive media report, “he was even giving out hugs!” I bet he was…

Anyway…I would fall on the conservative side of the voting spectrum (although I try to be open to the strengths and weaknesses of all parties), however, Clinton was interviewed for the CBC last night and he made a really good point about the U.S. involvement in Iraq. I’m not getting involved in that debate right now, but he asked the question why, after September 11, was the tracking down of Bin Laden/Al Qaeda not a priority? Why did Saddam Hussein suddenly become public enemy #1? And why were the Pakistani’s left to hunt for Bin Laden with only 10,000 US troops for support while there are 130,000 in Iraq where there are no WMD’s? All good questions I say.

If you want a good laugh, go to JibJab for a great video that takes shots at both sides!

A couple of weeks ago at a worship concert, Brian Doerksen said that it was his opinion that God had specifically called Canada as a nation to be a peacekeeper to the rest of the world. I had never thought of us in that light and it gives me a whole new perspective on the military and what our role in the world is as Canadians. Although I still believe our military deserves more federal funding, it needs to be as a support to our peacekeepers around the world to equip them in their role, not to bolster our military might.

New offensive weapons – no. Helicopters that don’t crash 10 minutes after lift off – yes.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Henri Cartier-Bresson: 1908-2004

Since it probably won’t get a lot of press anywhere else, I thought it important to note the passing of one of the early masters of photography, a pioneer of modern photojournalism, and one of my favourite photographers. Henri-Cartier Bresson was a true purist in that he refused to use anything other than natural light and believed in capturing "the decisive moment." In his own words:

“’Manufactured’ or staged photography does not concern me. And if I make a judgement, it can only be on a psychological or sociological level. For me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity and the master of the instant, which questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.

To take photographs means to recognize both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's hearth on the same axis.

As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is means of understanding, which can not be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shooting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one's own originality. It is a way of life.”

Is photography art? Yes. It is art observing life which, in many ways, itself is an art form. Bresson was a master at both.

"Photograph is nothing; the life in it; that interests me." Posted by Hello

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Essential Music

No real plans on this long weekend so I'm just doing some DIY projects around the house and listening to the radio. Right now there's a show on CBC 2 called 50 Tracks, with four panellists choosing what they feel are the top 50 songs on the recorded music era by decade (today they are in the 1950’s).

Now, I consider myself more knowledgeable about popular music then your average person on the street, but I’ve never even heard of some of these tunes! I know music preferences are a deeply personal thing but Mel Torme over Elvis? Hank Snow over Johnny Cash or Patsy Cline? I don’t think so!

So, your assignment is to leave me a comment about what you believe are the most essential songs or artists in each decade from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. This is a good site if you need some help. I love a lot of the music prior to the 50’s but to keep this easier, let’s just consider the last 50 years.

Places to Visit

Oh yeah, I was going to give you links to some favorite places that we visited on the east coast. You should check out these spots if you're planning a trip:

PEI: Confederation Bridge, Avonlea Village, Founders Hall

Nova Scotia: Pier 21, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Peggy's Cove, Annapolis Royal

There's lots more to see and do, these are just a few that we really enjoyed!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

A Great Vacation!

Although it was a bit of a whirlwind tour, we had a great vacation in the Maritimes and we discovered where we would like to visit again and where we wouldn't bother with. Prince Edward Island is absolutely gorgeous on the North Shore and is perfect for a week of relaxing on a beach. We only had a couple of days camping, but next time we'd rent a cottage for a week, stay on the beach, and not bother visiting the cities/towns. Cavendish is great, but Charlottetown and Springfield were a little disappointing.

Nova Scotia is great too and Halifax is my favourite city in the world. Gorgeous harbour area, plenty of history, lots happening, friendly people, and a pace of life that is so much more sane than here in Ontario. I don’t even have the right words to explain my affection for Halifax. It goes beyond words to my very soul. When I am there, all is right in the world. When I have to leave, a piece of me stays behind just waiting for my next visit.

Lunenburg is a beautiful little town filled with colourful houses, maritime antiques, and artisan shops. We're not talking your mom's ceramic garden gnomes here; we're talking truly amazing works of carving, glassware, and folk art. We will definitely visit again – hopefully when the sun is out!

Port Royal used to be the capital of the province back in the days before the British forced the Acadians to leave. Although I didn’t take many photos, it’s a picturesque little town that was a perfect spot to spend our last night before heading home. A number of the B&B’s and shops are owned by people who fled the rest of the country for a more sensible life. As one person put it, “I was sitting on the 401 in rush hour traffic and just thought, is this really worth it. I visited Nova Scotia and didn’t ever want to leave.” She and her husband moved permanently a year later. They now officially qualify as "CFA's - come from away."

But now we are home and it feels good too. No matter how great it is to visit other places, there is always something wonderful about being in your own bed in your own home. It makes me think of the longing in every human heart for heaven. Whether it is recognized as such, we all have a desire for "home", that place where we will find our ultimate comfort, peace, and rest.

Thanks for enjoying this little trip with us. I hope someday you’ll be able to visit this part of our country too and discover just how amazing it is!

The sun sets on a great vacation. Posted by Hello

A stop for lunch in Quebec City on the way home to see "our hotel" the Chateau Frontenac. Posted by Hello

One more very important stop before heading home - Windsor, NS - the birthplace of hockey. Posted by Hello

The Europa visits Port Royal. Posted by Hello

Down to Lunenberg. Lots of fog = not many photos! Posted by Hello

A deckchair from the Titanic on display in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Note the poster for the return trip to England. Posted by Hello

The Caledonia tied up in the harbour. Posted by Hello

On to Halifax... Posted by Hello

In town at Peggy's Cove. Posted by Hello

It's not all tourism. Some people actually work! Posted by Hello

Heeding the warning...sort of. Posted by Hello

Warning on the lighthouse. Posted by Hello