Thursday, August 29, 2013


4 Ambulance attendants, 8 police officers and a sucker punch to my head. How was your day?

Last night I drove downtown to meet someone from the church  for coffee. After we parked the car near McDonald's, we noticed a young man speaking wildly to an older gentleman. Clearly the younger was harassing and threatening the older guy.

My friend and I instinctively moved in closer to see if the situation could be de-escalated. The younger one turned to us and was diverted away. We spoke calmly to him and he momentarily chilled. But then he began to tell us that he was with CIA. Then it was FBI. He started uttering death threats and saying he could shoot us. He told each of us that he was going to kill us.

I had taken my eyeglasses off and had them in my hand. He grabbed them and took off running down the line of cars in the drive-thru lane. He harassed people at their windows and hopped into an older woman's vehicle for  a few seconds.

My friend and I chased after him to retrieve my glasses. He dropped a piece of his ID. I picked it up thinking it might be needed to identify him or to trade for my glasses. Around the line he danced and then he put a dent in a pickup truck by punching it.

Now the crowd began to gather and I phoned 911. He came behind me and punched me in the head. (It's a little tender today, but nothing serious.) He took a swing at my friend. He ducked and restrained the wild man from behind. He wiggled loose and then another bystander assisted my friend in pinning this guy to the ground until the police arrived.

So what can I learn from this mayhem at McDonald's?

The Perpetrator

When I looked into his eyes, I could see that they were dilated. The CIA/FBI references may have been delusions of mental illness or substance abuse. A couple of the bystanders knew him and said that he had a serious drug and alcohol problem. So something was jacking him up. I don't know his story (yet), but I've been around enough people with problems to recognize that he was not in control of himself. I hope I can meet him when he is in his right mind and that he can get help.

The Punch To The Head

I guess I don't have an anger problem. Neither did my friend or the other bystanders who intervened. No-one lost it on this guy including the arresting officers. He was swinging at several of us  and uttering threats. Real men do not let foolishness or unreasonable behaviour provoke a violent response. 

I'm not a scrapper, so a punch to the head is more of an oddity to me than an insult. I remember thinking, 'Really? Have you lost your mind?'

I was checked by EMS to make sure I was okay. My blood pressure was spiking, but other than that nothing to be concerned about. Hmm... wonder if I was under duress?

The Charges

He stole my glasses, threatened to kill me and several others, assaulted me and others, public mischief, property damage... The officer who took my statement asked if I wanted to press charges? I was hesitant at first, because I'm a man. I can take it and not feel that I had been victimized. But, I was a victim and the more I thought about his erratic behaviour, the more I realized that he should not get away with what he had done. I was actually glad that he encountered us and not victimized someone that could be traumatized and vulnerable. I did press charges because I realized he needs a wake-up call. 

Substance Abusers

People who abuse drugs and alcohol are abusive and insensitive toward people around them. A person's bad habits are not victimless. Someone always gets hurt by the altered state and self-medicating behaviour. Addicts need help and some have to hit bottom to realize it.

Have you been to a hospital emergency room between Thursday and Sunday? I would suggest that 70% of the crises are drug and alcohol related. I would suggest that 80-90% of people in jail are there partially because of drug and alcohol abuse. IMHO

If anyone knows this guy or his family, I hope that there enough people to give a rip and get him the help he needs. I hope he's sunk far enough to realize he has a problem and is ready for change. 

1:30 p.m. - I just got off the phone with a detective. The young man was known by the police and has a history of psychiatric problems. He was admitted to the hospital last night and is getting help. The police will not lay charges, since it is a psychiatric problem. In this instance, I am in agreement that jail is not his answer. Too many people with mental health issues end up in jail where they are not adequately helped. I'm praying that this guy gets good help and a clear mind.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


There is something that smokers may have difficulty comprehending. There is a smell that clings to your house, car, clothes, hair and skin. The smoke puts a stale smell on everything it touches.

When I worked at the halfway house and smoking was allowed indoors, I would get headaches from being around the smoke for extended periods of time.

On occasion various smokers will visit me in my office. If they have that stale smoke aroma, it lingers in the room. I have a can of Febreze that I use after they leave. I am polite and do not show disdain for the aroma. I have a fairly good tolerance for all kinds of smelly people.

If a smoker keeps their habit away from the house and car, brushes their teeth, gums and tongue and washes their clothes they probably do not carry the smell.

This is why people staying in hotels have the option of staying in a non-smoking room. I find that many smokers are oblivious to how they smell. When people quit smoking, they often become aware of that unpleasant aroma on others.

Now it’s very possible that I may be smelly at times and unaware of it. I love garlic and spicy food. I give you permission to tell me if I stink.

My point to all this is we may not be aware of the affect we have on others. Aroma can attract and it can repel. This is also true with the state of our spiritual life. Dead people may not be aware that they are decomposing. Everything may appear pristine in their lives, but something has died inside them.

If you have a deep experience in God’s presence, you may find yourself more aware of the aroma of death in others. When you get away from certain attitudes and values, you may be shocked when you return to those who still live and believe that way. Is it time for fresh air in the smoking room? Is the aroma of Christ in your life?

Thursday, August 22, 2013


God does not have a shifting baseline. We can turn to God and find that the Creator is still in the business of creating.  From the earthly perspective, we find that opinions about God shift in a spectrum from atheism to polytheism. 

Most of our diversity in understanding God has to do with our lack of vision. In the story of Jesus, we find that God sent Jesus in our midst to clarify the vision of who God is. In the small, ancient nation of Israel, a man named Jesus was born who claimed to be sent from Heaven to show us the Father’s love.

Jesus recognized the shifting baseline of religion in his day. Religious diversity and opinion was just as widespread then as it is now. Everyone had his or her own party view of God. The seers (see-ers) and prophets helped people catch a few ideas about the Almighty. Jesus’ own people, the Jews were hanging on to ancient promises that God would send someone to restore the world back to its original design and potential.

Matthew 16:
13 When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15 He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17-18 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

Peter looked beyond the shifting baseline of religious opinion. Though others saw Jesus as an important figure, they did not see him as the Son of God come to reveal God’s heart for a violent, hard-hearted world.

Jesus describes a ‘knowing of God’ that cannot be learned in catechism, listening to Joyce Meyer or by being a student of world religion. Jesus tells Peter that the true and living God had given him the ability to see who Jesus is.

How do you see Jesus? Have you accepted a degraded, shifting baseline version of Jesus or has God opened your eyes to see that Jesus holds the keys of life and death?

Jesus told Peter that he was gathering a group of people who would work together to live with an eternal baseline. Jesus is not building a house on shifting sand, but a solid concrete foundation.

If you see Jesus for whom he is, you belong to his church. The worst fire will burn down God’s house. The heaviest flood will not wash it away. Cathedrals may be emptying, but God’s table is filling up with people who once were blind and now can see.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Monday, August 19, 2013


In 1990 my wife and were on vacation in Florida with some family members. I had previously snorkelled at John Pennekamp State Park and couldn’t wait to bring everyone back to a truly spectacular diving experience. We were not disappointed.

I remember vividly the moment when I tapped my brother-in-law on the shoulder and pointed beneath the surface to a spotted eagle ray with a four-meter wingspan gliding gracefully through the water. In that moment, time stood still.

A couple of years ago, Marsha I and took our young adult children on a Caribbean cruise. In Belize we decided to take a snorkelling expedition to what was being touted as some of the best in the country. After an hour in the water, I was disappointed by the experience. I had an experience previously that was so much better. Instead of seeing hundreds of colourful sea creatures, I saw handfuls of much blander looking fish and dull coral.

Bryan Walsh, the senior editor at Time wrote about a snorkelling expedition that he took in Belize this summer. He was at Glover’s Reef, a state protected area. The reef is part of a project to rehabilitate and protect coral reefs and the experience was spectacular. In the article he notes however that the reef is only a fraction of what it once was.

Coral cover in Glover’s Reef dropped from 80% in 1971 to 13% in 1999. There’s been some recovery in the years since, thanks in part to the establishment of a large “no-take” protected area within the reef, and as a result Glover’s is one of the healthiest coral ecosystems in the Caribbean. But that’s in many ways a reflection of how degraded the rest of the Caribbean—and coral reefs around the world—have become, thanks to pollution, coastal development, overfishing and climate change. Outside of parts of the South Pacific, too remote yet to be impacted by human activity, coral reefs are nothing like they used to be. The bewildering abundance, the sheer mass and variety of sea life that the first scuba divers would have encountered decades ago is long gone. We’re trying to protect a shadow of what once was—even though to me, floating among the coral of Glover’s Reef and straining for a view of that elusive hammerhead shark, it all seemed so perfect.
It turns there’s a scientific term for this feeling: shifting baselines. The fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly coined it in 1995 to describe how overfishing has changed the ocean so rapidly over the past several decades that what we think of as normal and healthy—the baseline—has had to shift to keep up with reality. Our picture of the environment becomes skewed, as we forget what used to be and adjust unconsciously to a diminished present.[i]

‘We’re trying to protect a shadow of what once was.’  Where else do we see a depletion and degradation of what once was? It’s not simply nostalgia that can be dismissed with ease. The truth of loss and corruption appears in many ways and we have shifting baselines.

Once thriving neighbourhoods and business districts become ghost towns and the haunt of broken spirits. Detroit goes bankrupt and it is viewed as a merciful break for a dying city. This is the shifting baseline for industrial cities.

A generation that grew up with an abundance of employment opportunities now have debt-laden, university educated children working at menial jobs for minimum wage. Some of the kids are not maturing into a work ethic until they reach thirty years of age or more. The baseline of employment has shifted.

Mighty cathedrals built to seat hundreds of worshippers barely survive with a handful of attendees and we accept it as the new baseline.

What we once thought was normative, healthy and good has been downgraded. If we look at world history over thousands of years, we see that some things have improved while others have diminished. In the generation that you belong to, you have a new baseline from which you measure success, morality and priority.

Are there any baselines that do not shift? Is there anything that stays original and unaffected by degradation? Is there anywhere we can go and not find the ground shifting beneath our feet?

Friday, August 16, 2013


“Beware of the leaven of Herod.”

Elsewhere Jesus calls Herod a fox. He presents a political face and an interest in the miracles of Jesus, but is actually hostile to the Messiah. Luke 23:8 records Jesus standing before Herod who was delighted to see Jesus and immediately wants him to perform a sign. When Jesus does not comply, Herod mocks Jesus and has him executed.

The yeast in Herod’s soul was that of ‘sign seeking’ with no real interest in spiritual change. The disciples needed to be warned—they witnessed many, many signs but were struggling with hardened hearts. It is an attitude that says you cannot really know anything for sure. Everything is dubious so remain restless in your doubts.

The leaven of Herod infects us when we listen to our critics too much. We see that they have a point and let their hostility become our own. Only love can shield us from infection.

Janine Economides, an Orthodox writer put it this way:

I realized when I was quite young that a sort of nihilism is capable of denying or destroying anything of value. There's a way to automatically oppose whatever one may desire to oppose in order to tear it down; it doesn't really matter what the subject is. This sort of attitude can be used as a propaganda tool to tear down any form of values and taken to an extreme - and has done so throughout political history.

We must be able to perceive with this organ of the heart, I believe, in order to practice mercy and to perceive value even in general terms. This is the grasping of wisdom that comes not just from intellectual acceptance. And I think it's important that we understand faith in these terms: faith is more than an intellectual acceptance. It denotes relatedness and relationship.

It is about love. Love is what we grasp with the heart and all that is related to it: beauty, truth and goodness. When we recall that God is love, then we begin to grasp Spirit as the "treasury of good things" as it says in an Eastern prayer.[i]

When the disciples were acting as hypocrites and functional nihilists, Jesus confronts them and says, “Don’t you remember what I did?”

A hardened heart is most concerned about his/her own opinion and welfare. A softened heart is more concerned with love.

Has the hypocrisy of religious people and the hostility of two-faced sign seekers tainted your love? Have you eaten a whole bowl of monster dough mentality and been sickened by it? A little yeast corrupts a whole batch of dough.

Let us eat the untainted Bread of Heaven and be satisfied. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Let us remember the goodness that we have known from God. Let every sign of the Kingdom soften our hard hearts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had a sinful effect on the community. What was the yeast of these who were influencing religious thought and practice?

Luke 12:1
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Jesus clearly states that the sinful influence is hypocrisy.

In Luke’s story, Jesus and the disciples are experiencing ‘Bieberesque crowd mania’. People were trampling on one another to get close. In this situation, we are reminded of the ‘loaves and fish’ miracles where the disciples witnessed and shared in feeding thousands in a miraculous way. When the disciples were worried about a lack of bread (Mark 8), Jesus reminded them that he always provided generously for them, even if required a miracle to do so. Had they so easily forgotten his care for them?

The hypocrisy warning has to do with being seen as powerful, virtuous or faithful when the truth is otherwise. The Pharisees were masterful at showing people a good religious act, but inwardly being far from God.

Every time they had a problem (bread shortage, storm at sea, no money for taxes, competing for position) the disciples would opt for fear and doubt instead of remembering the recent miracles. Then when the show was about to take place, the disciples put on the mask and lavished in the attention of Jesus’ fans.

This kind of hypocrisy is the leaven of the Pharisees and Jesus warns them about it. It is a religious expertise and authority that caves in the midst of crisis. It is trust in earthly circumstances more than in heavenly plans. Success is measured by the size of your following and not by the sincerity of your heart. It happens to people who get caught up in their own importance.

When things go wrong, do you default to fear and doubt? Even though God works in your life and provides, the yeast of the Pharisees will cause you to be corrupted so that even the blessings will be questioned.

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