Converge Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:15:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What I’m still learning in my 20s Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:00:54 +0000 What I’m still learning in my 20s by Meghan Mellinger

At 28, the only thing I’m sure about is that I’ve stopped growing — in inches that is. As I...

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What I’m still learning in my 20s by Meghan Mellinger

At 28, the only thing I’m sure about is that I’ve stopped growing — in inches that is. As I reflect upon my near three decades on this earth, I’ve realized I’ve forgotten a lot, learned a little, and am still discovering even more.

In a culture where our 20s have become the be-all-end-all decade of our lives, we’ve become more obsessed with being there than getting there. And while I may have plateaued at 5’10 in kindergarten, God’s not done with me yet.

Here are 10 lessons I’m still learning in my 20s.

1. Who God is

For too long I’ve confined God to a small box constructed with walls of Sunday school answers. I’m finding that discovering God is like searching for eggs at an Easter egg hunt — He is available to me, I just have to take the time to look everywhere and in everything to find Him.

2. There’s more to life than my 9-5

When I’m asked to finish the sentence “I am a _____” I don’t fill in the blank with my job title. While the world tells me I’m defined by my career, I’m learning there’s so much more to my life than where I am and what I am doing during the hours of 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. I am a writer. I am a friend. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a photographer. I am a Bible study leader. I am a sunset chaser. I am a wannabe comedian. I am a child of God.

3. How to say “no”

My life is like going to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. I blink once and my plate, now a skyscraper of egg rolls, is attempting to reach the heights of poor, demoted Pluto. Inevitably, I’m sick to my stomach from attempting to balance it all and swear I’ll never take on another ministry role, enroll in another graduate class, or ask for a promotion ever again. Then an hour later I forget about it all and eat another egg roll. For my own sanity and efficacy, I’m working on breaking my “yes” gluttony, and learning how to prayerfully discern what should go on my plate.

4. If now, so then

I am a master of making cereal for dinner and forgetting to read my Bible every day. But I’ve been learning that I need to work on developing healthy patterns and spiritual habits today, so that they will carry over into my future.

5. This world will one day be restored

Broken marriages. Sick children. Tragic deaths. Financial woes. Political unrest. From a conversation with a close friend to five minutes of a news channel, the troubles of this world are heavy and many. But I’ve been learning to not only cling to the hope that God will pick up the pieces of our broken world, but he’ll also restore it to an Eden-like reality.

6. Have a teachable spirit

Humble pie tastes a lot like vegetables, and I’m a carnivore. I don’t like to admit that I’m wrong or have to readjust my thinking, but I’m working on being open to reproach, teaching, and wisdom when God is trying to mold me.

7. Be in the world but boldly not of the world

My face may not radiantly shine after being in God’s presence like Moses, but my life as a Christian makes me the clear winner of “which one of these is not like the other” in most venues. While my choices, actions, words, and Sunday morning location sometimes make me feel like the last kid waiting to be picked for kickball, I’m learning to become emboldened by Christ’s transformative power, instead of covering up my obvious differences with a veil.

8. My faith is my own responsibility

I can blame the worship band for singing the same three songs every Sunday, or the minister for giving me milk when I’m ready for meat, but it’s not a church’s job to walk with Christ for me. If I’m not being fed to the full, I need to get cooking.

9. The importance of rest

I’m pretty sure when God rested on the seventh day it wasn’t because He was physically tired — He set apart the seventh day and made it holy because rest is a beautiful thing. And we all need it. In this culture of constant stimulation, I’m learning to make time to be still and know that God is God, and let Him refresh my soul.

10. God’s not done with me yet

God’s daily workout plan for me: 1) Pick up my own cross 2) Repeat. For as long as He has me here on this earth, I’ll always be His work in progress.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Navy Blue Stripes.

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5 reasons I’m glad I lost my job Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:00:02 +0000 5 reasons I’m glad I lost my job by Joël Malm

When I was gone one Sunday, my aspiring mega-church pastor offered my job as music director to someone else. He...

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5 reasons I’m glad I lost my job by Joël Malm

When I was gone one Sunday, my aspiring mega-church pastor offered my job as music director to someone else. He never told me I was being fired, he just… replaced me and didn’t plan on telling me.

My wife and I had just bought our first house five months earlier based on a housing allowance raise that was given to us by that same pastor. We had to move out of the house to avoid financial trouble. My wife was devastated. I was an emotional wreck.

But looking back now, I’m actually really glad I lost my job. Here are five reasons why:

1. I was comfortable and it was holding me back

Comfort is often your enemy when it comes to pursuing dreams that God has put in your heart. It’s far too easy to sit back and say, “Well, the timing isn’t right on what I really want to do. I’m going to wait on God here in this comfortable job He has provided.” And then you never leave.

Losing my job forced me to take the little side gig I’d been dabbling in seriously. Now I’m doing it full-time and I love it. It’s quite possible that there is something great in your future that God needs to get you out of your comfort zone to accomplish.

 2. It was a test

I hate tests, but when you pass them you get to move on to the next level. I believe God allows those tests to give us a chance to advance, if we handle it correctly. Keep a pure heart. Don’t get bitter.

This test was hard. I felt betrayed and abandoned. But I held on to 1 Peter 1:7: “the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Losing my job gave me a chance to show how mature I really was in my walk with God. I had good days and bad, but based on what I see God doing now in my life, I like to believe I passed the test.

3. It reminded me where I get my security

When the money stops flowing, you figure out in a real hurry where you’ve been placing your trust. It’s easy to talk about trusting God when everything is within your power. But when you really have to lean on Him, trust takes on a whole new meaning.

Security is a myth. Your only true security comes from Jesus and His promise that He will never leave or forsake you. When something in life rocks your sense of security, make sure you run to the ultimate source of security.

4. I would have been miserable staying at that job

I always believed I had more in me than that job. But I convinced myself I loved what I was doing. I did like it, but it definitely wasn’t my sweet spot. In truth, it was actually starting to get a little monotonous for me. I often wonder how many years I would have spent living just short of what God really had for me. Thankfully, I was forced out. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for me now if I was still there.

It’s easy to lie to yourself about how fulfilling you find your work. Maybe it’s because lying to yourself is easier than acknowledging that a change is in order. Losing my job made the decision easy. It’s important to remember that God is the one who truly knows who you are. He made you for a purpose. Let Him lead you to that purpose (however he decides to do it) and you’ll find true fulfillment.

5. It reminded me that my future is in God’s hands

I pray it all the time, “God give me direction and clarity.” He did. I lost my job. It was really clear. But rather than see it as God giving me clarity and direction, I got mad. How could you let this happen to me? All the while I was still asking for clarity.

I don’t understand God’s methods. But I know He’s determined to get glory from impossible situations. The harder it is, the better for God. If you are truly surrendered to God’s will, He is guiding your path. He’ll make it clear what roads you need to take. Even if that requires Him forcibly taking you off one road to get your feet onto an even better road. Trust God’s leading. He’s got a good plan for your life.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)


Photo (Flickr CC) by José Manuel Ríos Valiente.

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God’s still working through you Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:36 +0000 God’s still working through you by Veronica Fetzer

Whether you realize it or not “What is God really doing in my life?” “I should do more to show...

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God’s still working through you by Veronica Fetzer

Whether you realize it or not

“What is God really doing in my life?”

“I should do more to show God to others somehow.” 

There are moments or days or months (or years) when we feel like there’s no physical, tangible, touchable evidence of His presence in our lives. So we ask ourselves these questions, never feeling entirely good enough, always feeling like we’ve missed the mark somehow.

And yet, our feelings of inadequacy aren’t quite so intentionally voiced; it’s much more subtle than that. These kinds of thoughts usually slowly begin to creep into our consciousness, overtaking the way we view our lives and our living of them.

I’ve heard a lot of people over the years emphasize that Christians should be more defined by what they do rather than what they don’t do. That they should be known by the kind of love that’s actively expressed to others, rather than a list of “thou shalt nots.”

I am all for this mindset.

But I think that we can and should be defined by both; what we choose to do and what we choose not to do are testaments to God in our life.

Whenever we find patience or perseverance in ourselves that we didn’t have there before — this is God’s blessing poured out on us. And whenever we abstain from sin because we find that our desire to participate in certain activities has disappeared — it is by the grace of God.

Both are marks of the walk of faith.

Back in high school there was an incident where the police were over at my house. It was a small incident, but when the policewoman was questioning me, and when I told her more about my life and how this whole circumstance had arisen because of my mom’s emotional and mental instability, she eventually asked me this question that has stuck with me ever since:

How did you turn out so well?

Apparently from our short conversation, she was convinced that I should not be who I was; in some way or another, I should have been more broken than she found me to be. I’m sure she had seen it all, especially the dysfunction that is so easily passed from parent to child. And yet, she saw that it had not been passed to me.

I was able to respond with something along the lines of: “Because I have had a good life. I am blessed with many good things; I have my faith.”

To me, it didn’t feel like the things that I wasn’t doing were really that significant. Honestly, most of the things she might expect me to do were never legitimate pressures for me to begin with. And why is that? It is all because of the grace of God, so that “[we] will shine among them like stars in the sky.” (Philippians 2:15)

The irony of the situation is that this policewoman asked that question at a time when I was not feeling like God was very evident in my not-quite-so-picture-perfect life. Yet God was still being displayed in my life; He had clearly rescued me from darkness, when others may not have been surprised if I had been in it over my head.

So when God tells us that we will “shine among them like stars in the sky,” we may not even realize that we are shining. In faith we believe that we shine for Him, but it’s not always a bad thing if we don’t fully realize it. For we are not called to look at ourselves as stars, but to the Son, who shines the brightest of all.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Charlie Barker.

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Dear Men: you too can be feminists Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:00:11 +0000 Dear Men: you too can be feminists by Kate McGaughey

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz. Feminism is a hot topic in today’s pop culture. From Beyonce’s definition of feminism in...

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Dear Men: you too can be feminists by Kate McGaughey

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz. Feminism is a hot topic in today’s pop culture. From Beyonce’s definition of feminism in her song “Flawless” to Emma Watson’s speech for the UN’s new campaign for gender equality “He For She,” feminism is making its way to the forefront.

I’m writing this letter to men because I believe that you — young and old, can enact change today for the equal treatment of women. 

Let me start with a simple question: What do you think of when the word feminism comes to mind? Many don’t have pretty thoughts. 

Man-haters. Radicals. Independent. Angry. Self-reliant. Don’t believe in marriage. Think the world would be better off with women running it.

We’ve become so familiar with these phrases in reference to feminism. So much so, that we often grimace when someone says, “I’m a feminist,” and neglect its actual definition: the theory of the political, economic and social equality of men and women. 

I’m not here to preach girl power or say that we’d be better off with women running the world. But I do hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through the following ways I believe men can practically embrace the concept of feminism, and in doing so, help change the way our world works so that men and women do have equal opportunity — politically, economically and socially.

1. Ask yourself the hard questions about how you think about women.

I recently had the privilege of listening to a talk given by Liz Forkin Bohannon, founder of Sseko Designs and creator of the new collaboration, Boys Will Be.”

She shared her learning process from talking with her husband and his male friends about the little things they did or said about women that they had always brushed off as harmless, but on closer examination, actually perpetuated a flawed view of who women are and even objectified them. 

Even our thoughts and little allowances matter. Change starts within, and action comes from thought.

2. If you hear or see injustice, speak up!

We perpetuate unfair perceptions, degrading attitudes, and harmful actions by letting things slide. Sure, maybe your friend didn’t mean anything malicious today by that comment about how women will never be in as many upper-level management positions as men. But how will he act when he is the boss, ready to hire a new employee and it’s between a man and a woman, the woman clearly more qualified for the job? Challenge each other. Start making changes when it counts — don’t wait until damage has already been done.

3. Seek out ways to support women.

This doesn’t mean you have to join a women’s activism group or wave a protest sign around. Maybe it means simply being a more loving, understanding partner, who supports your wife or girlfriend’s dreams and goals. Maybe it means sitting up and actually listening when your female co-worker pitches an idea in Monday’s meeting. Maybe it means learning how to advocate for women who have been sexually abused or faced domestic violence. Whatever you choose, get out there and do it! We need men who are willing to set the example for other men.

At the end of the day, as Emma Watson said, the gender inequality problem is not just a female problem, it’s an us problem. Be part of the unification of men and women working together to change feminism from a dirty word to a positive reality. 

Photo (Flickr CC) by Garry Knigh.

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Finding the beauty in simplicity Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:00:39 +0000 Finding the beauty in simplicity by Touray Kungkagam

My father immigrated to America in hopes of finding a better life for himself. When I was a young teenager,...

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Finding the beauty in simplicity by Touray Kungkagam

My father immigrated to America in hopes of finding a better life for himself. When I was a young teenager, my dad loved to share the story of how he had to hold up his wooden roof during the monsoon season. Whenever I complained, my dad reminded me how good I have it.

At a press conference, NBA star Shaquille O’Neal was asked if he felt pressure being a star. He calmly replied, “I don’t believe in pressure. Pressure is when you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from.”

Having that attitude is not always easy. Many of us forfeit living today based on the false premise that life must be perfect in order to have happiness.

Our Instagram and Facebook feeds deceive us into believing that perfect people with perfect relationships exist. Out of that deception comes false expectations towards others and ourselves. Parents, friends, institutions, and churches proclaim the message that somehow our lives are less significant unless we are doing something extraordinary.

And so, we lose sight of the beauty that exists in simplicity.

Whenever I begin to think that my problems are too overwhelming, I remember that we serve a God who is bigger than my problems. Without context and understanding of the bigger picture, we’re doomed to live a life of fear and anxiety of the unknown. Instead of resting in God’s ability to work out the story of our life, we cling tightly to control.

Without perspective, we rob ourselves from enjoying life in full abundance.

The words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul are not primarily directed towards those who do miracles and wonders. They are for the everyday person living their life in relative obscurity. They are for stay-at-home moms, office workers, janitors, and police officers.

Many falsely believe their life is less significant because they are unknown. But your simple acts of faithfulness have not gone unnoticed. It’s better to be rewarded for the things done in secret faithfulness, than for the things we do for publicity.

Matt Redmond stated it beautifully: “We are not saved from mediocrity and obscurity, the ordinary and the mundane. We are saved in the midst of it. We are not redeemed from the mundane. We are redeemed from the slavery of thinking our mundane life is not enough.”

Explore breath-taking vistas and mountain ranges. Look up into the night sky and marvel at the universe. In that moment of smallness, know that God cares for you. He leaves the 99 to find the one lost and seemingly insignificant individual.


Photo (Flickr CC) by Maicon Rugeri.

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Vancouver International Film Festival: Best of BC Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:00:35 +0000 Vancouver International Film Festival: Best of BC by Josh Hamm

One of the most interesting contributions to any film festival are the local contributions; especially so with the Vancouver International...

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Vancouver International Film Festival: Best of BC by Josh Hamm

One of the most interesting contributions to any film festival are the local contributions; especially so with the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Drumming up interest with the #mustseeBC campaign, and highlighting the works of local filmmakers, it can be incredibly rewarding and encouraging to see British Columbian talent emerging onto the scene. But, while there are highlights like Violent, many of these local, indie films are lacking the polish to set them apart from the crowd. Here are two that stuck out.



Every once in a while I need to take a break from serious, heavy films. Preggoland is the perfect remedy: a smart, sure footed by the book comedy that delivers on the laughs.

Ruth is a 35-year-old woman who acts as if she is still 19. She works the same job she’s had since she was in high school, parties like a college freshman, and shirks the adult responsibilities that her friends have warmly embraced. Feeling ostracized and isolated by her friends who are all either parents or pregnant, Ruth pretends she herself is pregnant as a last ditch effort to gain the respect of her friends and family. There’s not much more that needs to be said about the plot: you can imagine for yourself the innumerable hi-jinks and awkward situations that are bound to ensue. There’s one particular scene involving Jell-o that needs to be seen in a theatre full of people, if only to hear the collective gasp and subsequent avalanche of nervous laughter afterwards.

Ultimately, Preggoland is a great example of what happens when a movie puts the script first. Even if the craft of the film is somewhat generic, the story, jokes, and characters are well-rounded and memorable. Comedies may be a dime a dozen, but genuinely funny ones are rare. Preggoland made me laugh; at the end of the day, that’s good enough for me.


TurbulenceTurbulence is a paradox of a film that represents both why I generally avoid seeing locally made films and why I need to try to watch more of them. Soran Mardookhi shows promise with his writing and directing, despite stumbling a bit too often for Turbulence to recover. It is a film about Kurdish immigrants, touching on the politics of the Middle East, but is never defined by it. Instead, Turbulence is about broken people trying to live life the best they can after they’ve seen too much of its brokenness.

Sherzad and his daughter Jina came to Canada  to escape the political upheaval and military violence back home, but life is hardly simpler in Canada. Sherzad is a retired electrical engineer who works as a translator and moonlights as an inventor, while Jina is a drug addict who can’t get her life together, no matter how much her father and the community try to help her.

While the budget and production values are obviously low, the acting from the leads makes up for it, as well as an interesting script that fosters a slower-paced reflection on things, rather than break neck action or overly talky bits. But several awkwardly edited and shot scenes, including one climactic scene near the end, serve to confuse and disconnect it from the rest of the film’s medium; Turbulence is built on a solid foundation, but the rest of it is flimsier than it should be. 

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Real Love: confronting Mark Driscoll Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:00:51 +0000 Real Love: confronting Mark Driscoll by Maureen Farrell Garcia

A year ago, Mark Driscoll, founder of Seattle megachurch Mars Hill, was held up as a champion of the Christian...

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Real Love: confronting Mark Driscoll by Maureen Farrell Garcia

A year ago, Mark Driscoll, founder of Seattle megachurch Mars Hill, was held up as a champion of the Christian faith. He was gearing up for the release of his new book (co-authored with his wife) Real Marriage. Mars Hill had expanded to 15 different locations across five states, with 15,000 people attending every week.

Driscoll’s dynamism, humour, and shock-and-awe approach to faith had people — particularly young men — flocking to hear him preach. So he cussed a bit. And sure, he offhandedly degraded women from the pulpit. But evangelicals turned a blind eye; after all, he was getting guys back into the pews, and that’s all that really mattered.

Things have sure changed in a year. There have been accounts of not only Driscoll’s mismanagement of church funds and of plagiarism, but of personal and spiritual abuse.

And yesterday, Mark Driscoll formally resigned as elder and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church.

Rachel Held Evans, in a recent blog post, asks the question everyone is thinking: “Why didn’t more people recognize these unhealthy, abusive dynamics?”

“Far too many Christians just don’t know how to spot and respond to the signs of abuse,” she continues, “be it spiritual abuse, abuse of authority, or even the physical/emotional/sexual abuse of women and children.”

Craig Welch of The Seattle Times highlights one example of this destructive ignorance in his article “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Church.” He quotes Matt Rogers, another Mars Hill Pastor: “The hard part is that some of what’s out there is true, and [Driscoll has] owned it and apologized for it and is trying to correct it, and some is not …. If someone went through and dragged out every example of where I’d been short with my wife, or rude to a co-worker or done something stupid, and trickled that out week after week after week for months, you would have no respect for me, either.”

Rogers’ statements are deeply disturbing; he doesn’t recognize — or refuses to acknowledge — the abuse Driscoll is accused of. Basically, Rogers is equating Driscoll’s decades of damaging behaviour with minor blunders such as “being rude,” snapping at a family member, or doing “something stupid.” This is a drastic misrepresentation of the allegations against Driscoll. And the frightening part? Rogers is in charge of the board responsible for examining the accusations against Driscoll.

Rogers’ minimization also includes passive victim-blaming. He contrasts Driscoll’s good behaviours (“owning,” “apologizing,” “trying to correct”) with the suggestion, twice, that the majority of the accusations are slanderous lies. He does this without explicitly attacking the accusers. But the effect is the same; his words subtly suggest those who have accused Driscoll cannot be trusted.

[Mars Hill] is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with. (Dr. Paul Tripp)

Rogers assumes that “owning,” “apologizing,” and “trying to correct” wrongs are all that are needed in a case of systematic abuse that has created what Dr. Paul Tripp has referred to as, “without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.”

Whether or not Rogers is aware of it, his statement affirms the distorted thinking and belief system of an abuser’s worldview. He minimizes the abuse, shifts blame subtly to the victims, and implicitly accuses them of dishonesty at best and slander at worst. At the same time, Rogers presents Driscoll as morally superior, and concludes by offering a mocking parallel to the abuse accusations, implying the victims and their supporters are overreacting, and need to just get a grip.

Unfortunately, Rogers is not alone in his inability to recognize abuse and his own distorted thinking concerning it.

The New York Times offers this insight from one Driscoll supporter, “We’ve seen how he has changed so many lives, and to see him treated this way is just sad…. There’s positive stuff about our church that’s not being heard, and it feels like a family member is getting bullied.” Unfortunately, this brief commentary highlights characteristics of Driscoll’s effective community grooming.

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‘Mommy’ and ‘Violent': Best of Canada at VIFF Tue, 14 Oct 2014 19:06:40 +0000 ‘Mommy’ and ‘Violent': Best of Canada at VIFF by Josh Hamm

These Canadian films are breathtaking, resonant Violent The debut film from director Andrew Huculiak (the drummer and songwriter for the British...

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‘Mommy’ and ‘Violent': Best of Canada at VIFF by Josh Hamm

These Canadian films are breathtaking, resonant


ViolentThe debut film from director Andrew Huculiak (the drummer and songwriter for the British Columbian band We Are The City), and the team at Amazing Factory Productions, Violent is a remarkable – not only because it’s Huculiak’s first feature, but also because it was made in Norway (when none of the filmmakers speak Norwegian), and won awards for Best B.C. and Best Canadian film at VIFF’s B.C. Spotlight gala. You can read our interview with the filmmakers here.

A (slight) sci-fi film that’s presented in a linear flashback sequence, Violent tells the story of Dagny, a young woman struggling to come to terms with her life. In that sense it’s about millennials – even as it eschews the trappings of a coming of age tale. The film explores the questions that we all ask: what’s the purpose of all this, is there a God, are we alone in the universe, do we fear death?

The film focuses around five segments, each with the title of a different person who is, at that point in time, significantly present in Dagny’s life. From family, friends, coworkers, and potential love interests, we are granted glimpses into her life, but the film’s form keeps us removed at a distance still, furthering the sense that we each live life alone. No matter who Dagny is with, she is ultimately reminded that she is alone. Whether or not that translates to loneliness is one of the questions the film explores.

The cinematography, clean and crisp, shows the stark beauty that catalyzes these sorts of questions, as does the soundtrack: much like the album of the same name, Violent’s score is heavily focused on ambient reverb sounds that ebb in and out. At times it overpowers the film itself, but in a way that reflects the thoughts and feelings of Dagny on the screen.

Punctuating our time with Dagny are cryptic, dream like sequences with floating objects, reverb heavy, humming soundtrack, and a voice over that repeats: “It feels like water, it feels like electricity, it sounds like a humming fridge.” This, combined with a few other subtle and not so subtle clues, fit together to explain the overarching plot and backdrop for the film that gives rhyme and reason for its structure.

While the film is far from perfect, it avoids many of the problems which plague debuts – especially on the festival circuit – and it cements the filmmakers as ones to watch closely in the coming years.


Mommy-by-xavier-dolan-cannes-posterAlready the fifth film from Xavier Dolan – who made his first at the age of 19, and is now only 25 – Mommy may be his first masterpiece. It’s already been building some buzz (both good and bad) because of the  aspect ratio in which it was shot (the proportion between width and height), 1:1 – which is common in still photography, but rarely used in cinema. The choice seems like a gimmick at first. This awkward square composition looks remarkably lacking on a big screen. But as the story unfolds, the 1:1 ratio becomes a stroke of genius.

Set in near-future Canada where a bill has been passed which allows parents to give up their children to state sanctioned wards, sans explanation or paperwork. Set against this troubling societal backdrop are the lives of Diane and her unstable but loving son Steve.

In many ways, Dolan’s film is about the limitations of love; a social worker says to Diane early on, “loving people doesn’t save them. Love has no say.” Diane works hard to not only homeschool Steve, but rein in his violent and unpredictable temperament, which complicates their lives and the lives of the people around them. The 1:1 ratio works to literally confine the characters in a box, or metaphorically as a photograph, and Dolan occasionally changes the ratio in ways that take your breath away.

Mommy doesn’t simply delve into the dynamic of mother and son. The film explores the boundaries of grief, hope, the blurred lines between love and responsibility, and the constant struggle to do what’s best for those around us and for ourselves. Mommy refuses to present itself in a way that makes it easy for us to hate Steve or sympathize with him.

There is rarely ever one distinctive theme which I can point to in a film and say “this is what it is all about” – but I would hazard to say that this is a film about moments. Or, at least, it revels in moments. Not in a carpe diem sense, but Mommy is very aware of how our memories, hopes, and dreams are formulated around specific moments in time – as if we create our own montages.

The film isn’t afraid to veer away from the present in order to give us the hopes and dreams that Diane has for her future life with her son, even as she realizes that it will never come to fruition; these dreams collide and mingle in a stunning montage that is neither sentimental nor haunting, but revels in the space between the two. It’s a rare film which is not only technically superb and pays great attention to form, but is also emotionally resonant and gripping.

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Why Ebola is more than a healthcare crisis Tue, 14 Oct 2014 11:00:24 +0000 Why Ebola is more than a healthcare crisis by Becky Hansmeier

If I had heard the word Ebola a year ago, I likely would have laughed at the absurdity of a...

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Why Ebola is more than a healthcare crisis by Becky Hansmeier

If I had heard the word Ebola a year ago, I likely would have laughed at the absurdity of a word that sounds like a jumble of letters used to win a close game of Scrabble.

Fast forward to today, when Ebola is a household word, sensationalized by the media, eliciting fear and uneasiness whenever spoken out loud.

The fear of death at a young age due to Ebola has yet to strike me.

But I do fear something.

Something more than dying from a rapidly spreading disease in West Africa.

More than the steadily growing state of panic in the United States.

More than the possibility of a healthcare crisis.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that Ebola is more than a medical issue. It’s an issue of humanity. And how we have responded is what scares me the most.

Last week was a game changer; suddenly Ebola went from being a disease half a world away to a disease much closer to home. Suddenly, Ebola went from being someone else’s problem to our problem.

Suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, humanity’s face was revealed. And it was eye opening.

Our call as Christians to serve and love and forgive others was all but forgotten by far too many. Looking through people’s comments to various news reports and statements, I can probably count on one hand the number of people — out of hundreds — who expressed any type of compassion or empathy towards a man who lay suffering from the disease in a Dallas hospital. Instead, voices of anger and hatred and fear responded.

Anger towards the man who brought the disease to the country. Anger that he had potentially exposed others to the disease.

Some anger and fear is understandable to an extent. But hatred has also seeped through. Hatred in the form of suggesting that citizenship and insurance status should determine whether he should have received any medical care. Hatred towards the doctor and nurse in the emergency room who first treated the man.

As people focus on their own health, and worry how Ebola may effect us in North America, it seems we have all but forgotten about the fact that Ebola has already taken thousands of lives in West Africa. That the situation in West Africa is far more significant and severe at this time in regards to medical access and care.

Instead of directing anger and hatred towards people directly involved in the situation, we should be praying for their recovery. Praying for people who have been impacted by the disease.

Praying that God will provide healthcare workers in West Africa with the knowledge and skills to care for the ill. And we should forgive healthcare workers, instead of blaming them for mistakes.

Rather than berating hospitals and leaders involved directly in healthcare policy-making, we should be giving thanks that we live in a place with readily available healthcare.

While those who have been possibly exposed to Ebola are being monitored for any physical signs of a deadly disease, I think it’s prudent for the rest of us — myself included —to start monitoring our hearts.

Photo (Flickr CC) by European Commission DG.

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3 ways consumerism is killing the church Mon, 13 Oct 2014 15:33:50 +0000 3 ways consumerism is killing the church by Justin Karl

Consumerism. It’s so ingrained within us, within our culture. So it’s not surprising that it has bled — or maybe...

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3 ways consumerism is killing the church by Justin Karl

Consumerism. It’s so ingrained within us, within our culture. So it’s not surprising that it has bled — or maybe even flooded — into the church.

Often when the issue of consumerism is addressed and confronted from the pulpit, we tend to shrug it off. Our minds race to those we consider more consumeristic than ourselves.

Part of reason why we don’t acknowledge our own consumerism is due to the way in which we narrowly define the term. We think it only refers to the accumulation of material goods or services. While this definitely is the main part of it, and something we constantly need to address in our lives, overconsumption can also speak to a way of being, or the kind of posture we assume.

Here are three ways consumerism can creep into our ways of thinking about church.

1. Church as a drive-thru

This person pulls up when he’s spiritually hungry. He orders exactly what he wants; it better be right, speedy, and satisfying. He comes to church demanding that it has every good and service he might want. He only goes when it’s convenient. And if the order’s ever wrong, he speeds away, bad-mouthing it to anyone who will listen.

(Can you believe that parking lot was full? I was only five minutes late! Can you believe they didn’t make me a deacon? I am so godly! I just want a wilderness adventure ministry funded by the church, full of my potential BFFs, is that too much to ask?)

This person hops angrily and merrily between different churches to satisfy his hunger for community, worship, preaching, or a special ministry. Committed to none, satisfied by none, he demands, consumes, and complains his way through town, more resembling a Viking raider than someone looking for a home. This is upfront consumerism, and it’s probably the most common.

2. Church as a garbage collector

Garbage collection is a funny thing. You put it at the curb on a certain day of the week, the people come, they are allowed five feet into your yard; the garbage is collected and compacted into the truck, and then they speed away, with only the grunts of engine to signify their departure.

Sometimes church is treated like a trash collector. When a person has junk piling up in her life, it starts to smell, others notice. So she drags her spiritual, emotional, and relational garbage to the curb. She expects the church to pick it up and make it all go away.

In some ways, church is the place to bring her junk. But if church members get too close, she’s calling the cops. If they try the front door, she’s gripping the baseball bat. She just wants the inconvenience, the smell, or embarrassing parts of her life swept away, no questions asked. 

3. Church as the tax man

This person is a member of the church. He tithes his money and time. He nods at sermons, and he’s proud to follow his church on Twitter. He even attends special events sometimes.

But it’s superficial. His heart is far from loving the church; instead he treats it like the IRS. He pays what’s required, nothing more. Instead of being filled with the radical and scandalous love for God, living sacrificially for those around him, to this person, the church is a legal transaction. This scenario is formed by guilt (he must do these things). It is perpetuated by shame (he must not be exposed as a sinner). And underneath the surface, he hates for God and His church (he’s a good person and he doesn’t need either of them).

As Christians, we have a hard time loving the church because deep down, we have no idea what it really is.

We are the church. If you are in Christ, you are the church. When the church gathers into committed local communities, that’s a local church. Every Christian is called to band together for life and mission.

There has to be an end to this cycle of consumeristic attitudes towards the church. Here are a couple ideas on how.

First, join a local church that makes sense for you. Does the church believe what you believe? Will you be able to make friends there? I’m talking about making actual friends, because a friendless experience of church is miserable. You may be asking, doesn’t this first suggestion sound like drive-thru consumerism? There’s a tension here. Therefore, avoid the extremes. One extreme is to never commit to a local church, and treat them all as a drive-thru smorgasbord. The other extreme is to make yourself a martyr by attending a church you don’t enjoy. Try to find the balance.

Secondly, think through the last time (or next time) you are disappointed, angry, or frustrated with your local church. Reflect on why you were angry. Was it a legitimate issue, or was it one that in some way stemmed from consumerism?

When we abuse the church, we actually abuse ourselves. God has called us to the opposite of consumerism, to sacrificial love. So let’s start challenging our consumeristic mindset within ourselves and within our churches. After all, when we lose our life, we gain it.

Photo (Flickr CC) by John Starnes.

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