Lent - a first observance

The church I am currently a member of is semi-liturgical, meaning it follows the Christian calendar and celebrates such things as Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter in a formal way. Candles are lit on the Sundays leading up to Christmas, readings related to Christ's crucifixion are read on the Sunday's leading up to Easter, a Good Friday service is held, etc.

Many of these Christian holy days derive much of their symbolism from the pagan tribes that inhabited Europe. The birth of the sun at winter's solstice, the celebration of fertility in spring, the name Easter coming from the old name for the month of April which had been named after the pagan goddess Ēostre, etc. The argument could be made that many of the Jewish holy days were adapted from local Canaanite and Egyptian rites too though.

My concern in celebrating liturgical days is whether or not they point us toward Christ or not. I am disappointed by the consumerism at Christmas rather than a meditation on the incarnation. I am frustrated by the emphases on chocolate and giant pink rabbits at Easter rather than on Christ's suffering and death and resurrection. I am confused by the fünken bonfires they have in Germany during Lent. The conclusion I've discovered is that we choose whether or not we will be directed to Christ, whether we will find spiritual renewal or not.

This is why I chose to purposefully practice Lent this year for a first time. I chose to give up coffee. I'm not a coffee addict, but I have a cup most days since having lived in coffee rich Guatemala. I didn't think too much about what was going to happen, but rather decided to give something up and see what happened. So, on March 8 I drank my last coffee and began my fast the next morning on Ash Wednesday (but I didn't get to have the ash cross put on my forehead). I teach, so almost all the coworkers around me have a mug of coffee not too far away at all times, it wouldn't be a cakewalk avoiding coffee.

What I've experienced is a constant reminder of the coming celebration of the cross and resurrection. I was surprised by the power of coffee in my life, how in its absence I was forced over and over and over to contemplate why I had given it up. I have been refreshed over and over through the reminder of Jesus' resurrection these past 45 days (No one told me that Sundays were exempt from the Lenten fast, so I've been extra self-depriving).


Conservatives "Economic Stability" and e

I read in the Calgary Herald earlier this week that the priorities of my Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy are "the economy and stability." Considering conservative policy on the economy (deregulation, privatization, lower taxes, fewer tariffs, foreign investment and ownership, etc.), this seems like the worst way to promote stability. I think Ablonczy should simply say her priority is unmitigated economic growth despite future costs to communities, small businesses, the environment, the disadvantaged, and pretty much every Canadian, very few of whom will be able to afford the inflated costs of living.

As an example: Alberta. Following a conservative economic policy for the past several decades, the province has a bloated infrastructure and skyrocketing prices in energy, food, housing, education and healthcare. How did it happen? They allowed economic growth to happen too quickly. People flooded the province seeking work causing more demand on just about everything. Private industry was willing to pay outrageous wages and prices for services and supplies making it impossible for the public and non-energy sectors to keep up with livable wages. The gap between rich and poor widened shockingly and as history has demonstrated over and over again - the bubble popped and citizens and province are left with things they can't pay for.

In mathematics we have a number, e, which represents the natural growth constant. It is a number related to everything in the universe that grows. It is also called Euler's Number and it's value is roughly 2.7182818284590... (it's irrational). If things grow at a faster rate, I believe it is unsustainable. If it grows at a slower rate, there is a risk of it failing or dying.

It's not that I don't understand the Conservative's policy. They want to lower corporate taxes so more national and international corporations will park themselves in Canada, create more jobs and in turn generate more revenue for the government. The fallacy is twofold. The larger and wealthier these corporations become, the more political power they gain over than the people (gov't) and their interest is not a public one. Second, the money pools at the top and the benefits are not enjoyed by the most of the population.

The Conservative Party of Canada is promoting a get rich quick scheme that is not-sustainable and that puts our nation's proud federal services and increasingly less stable economy at risk.

I believe the greatest challenge we face is that Canada feels it must compete with the United States with tax rates so our jobs won't flow south. If we operate out of fear rather than out of our identity, we risk losing ourselves completely.

If you choose to not vote Conservative, I encourage you to vote strategically (seriously, visit this site). The Green, Liberal and New Democrat Parties are not very far from each other ideologically whereas the Conservatives are drifting further and further to the right.


N.T. Wright gets it

I read N.T. Wright's astounding book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church last summer. It's the best dissertation on the topic that I have come across.

I've happened upon these great small bite interviews with Wright on the 100 Huntley Street YouTube Channel.


Watch it over and over!


The Royal Tyrell Museum

It was my third visit to the Royal Tyrell Museum. The first time I went, my aunt was visiting from the U.S. in 1987 and so we took her there. The second time, friends from the U.S. came for a visit in 1997, so we took them to Drumheller. This time, yesterday, we took Blaise and Acadia. Blaise has been crazy over dinosaurs for nearly a year, so it made sense to drive 80 minutes each way to the badlands and visit this world class museum. Both kids were so excited to go!

Drumheller is an odd place. It gives you the impression that the entire town is there simply because of the museum. You can't grow much there and it gets ridiculously hot there in the summer. The winters aren't mild either. But it is the site of a former coal mine, so the museum sort of saved this dying town. In fact the Midland Coal Mine is famous for the greatest mining disaster of the 1920s.

The museum is stellar. The exhibits are captivating. The kids wanted to race from one display to the next, but we managed to slow them down so we could enjoy the ancient skeletons.

I am not a paleantologist wannabe, never was. But I must say, the puzzle solver in me was drawn to the field more and more as I read about new discoveries and about how they painstakingly piece the dinosaur bones together.

We ran into friends from church and also friends from university that we hadn't seen in years. I wonder how many people I know are actually in Drumheller on the average day (except for Mondays - they're closed then).

Toward mid afternoon, Blaise and I went for a stroll on the loop through Midland Provincial Park. The Red Deer River snakes through this valley. You can see the many sedimentary layers since a glacier carved it out a while back.


On Break, At Home

It's Tuesday. I've been off work for 11 days now. I still have 5 left.

I was kind of envious of some of my colleagues and students who left for California, Arizona, China, Guatemala, Vancouver, Germany, London, Québec, etc. while I stayed at home in cold Calgary. But I'm really glad I'm home!
  • I hit the bottle depot.
  • I went to a friend's talk on sustainable and energy efficient building.
  • I went to the doctor.
  • I'm half way through a novel by Douglas Coupland.
  • I went for tea* with a friend.
  • I've spent hours on my latest documentary, completing the script and rough edit and I even got a famous singer to do a song for the film.
  • I helped plan a benefit concert for Ubuntu.
  • I spent a couple hours at a pro recording studio owned by a friend to record some of the narration for my movie.
  • I cleaned out a couple drawers.
  • I wrote 12 posts for my movie blog.
  • I built snowmen with the kids (and pelted them with snowballs, the snowmen and the kids!)
  • I went to church a couple of times.
  • I did a dozen crossword and sudoku puzzles.
  • I'm going to the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller tomorrow (the kids are overthetop excited about this).
  • I spent a wonderful night at some friends house for dinner and playing games.
  • I spent some time on the project manager search for cohousing.
  • I'm going to a movie this afternoon with Amber.
  • We're taking the kids to Aggie Days (Agricultural Days in Calgary) later this week.
  • We had some friends over for supper.
  • I watched 5 movies so far.
  • I shovelled our parking spots, twice.
  • I'm doing an info session for cohousing in a couple nights.
  • I attended a cohousing general meeting (and I have another on Sunday).
I'm happy I stayed because almost none of this would have happened if we had gone on a trip (plus we'd be a couple grand poorer too!).

*I gave up coffee for lent. ;)

On Stage: The Hobbit

Richard Grafton, a theatre mastermind and teacher at my school, directed a production of Tolkien's The Hobbit (play by Kim Selody) for the students back in February. He sent out an all call to the teachers to see if anyone was interested in being Smaug - the dragon. I eagerly volunteered.

What a blast to be a part of! I didn't have many lines and I was off stage inside a huge duct tape head, so I only had to emote with my voice. It also meant that I didn't have to go to many rehearsals, though a couple more may have done me good as I was still learning my lines the day of the first show.

The four shows we put on over 2 days went super. I was very impressed with how organized and professional the crew was - mostly made up of jr. high and elementary students (with a handful of 10th graders).

I read The Hobbit for the first time when I was in grade 7. It moved me deeply. I dreamed of making the film and I even designed an 18 hole miniature golf course following the various scenes from The Hobbit.


Lake Louise: Ice Sculptures Competition

As melted snow runs down my gutter, I feel pressed to post this entry on our February trip to the mountains.

Amber had a great idea on how we should spend a Sunday: attend the Ice Sculptures Competition at Lake Louise.

We arrived at around 10 am and the kids got to do some ice carving of their own in the village just off the highway. They were equipped with protective eyewear, a picking fork and a square foot block of ice. I helped Blaise form a T-Rex head. The kids put their sculptures on display in a bank of snow and were given a stuffed husky puppy and we got free coupons for coffee, tea and hot chocolate for each of us!

Inside the information building, there were a variety of children's activities - we let the kids choose one. They both chose face painting by the same woman who was at the maple syrup festival in Calgary a year ago.

Then we drove up the mountain to Lake Louise, I dropped the family off and then spent 20 minutes trying to find parking.

While I looked for Amber and the kids, I perused the 20 or so entries - by now they were nearly all finished and about to be judged. I was genuinely awestruck!

I found them in the magic show inside a hotel venue. Jason "that funny magic show guy" made the kids laugh and Blaise wonder.

It was a great trip and I had a great time taking pictures of the many entries. Full size photos can be found here.