taking my talents to tumblr

So I’ve [once again] grown bored with the old blog, and am looking to mix things up with a switch to tumblr.

Check it out and let me know what you think, whether by comment here, via email (iancameronmclaren@gmail.com), on facebook or on twitter.

nhl preview

It’s that time of year again, friends. The leaves are turning color, the baseball playoffs have started [Roy Halladay ... wow!], and a new NHL season is upon us. And so, as I do, here are some predictions on what will transpire between now and June 2011.

Playoff Teams
East
1. Washington
2. Pittsburgh
3. Boston
4. New Jersey
5. Philadelphia
6. Buffalo
7. Ottawa
8. Tampa Bay

West
1. Vancouver
2. Los Angeles
3. Chicago
4. San Jose
5. Detroit
6. Colorado
7. Phoenix
8. St. Louis

Stanley Cup Finalists
Vancouver Canucks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Stanley Cup Champion
Pittsburgh Penguins

Art Ross
Alexander Ovechkin

Hart Trophy
Alexander Ovechkin

Note: The Caps will have great regular season success, but will once again flame out in the playoffs. Think of them as the Suns of the NHL.

Richard Trophy
Steven Stamkos

Vezina
Tuukka Rask

Norris
Drew Doughty

Calder
Jordon Eberle

Jack Adams
Davis Payne, St. Louis Blues –> my surprise team of the year.

Team with the #1 pick in the 2011 draft
Florida Panthers

There you have it. The official word on the 2010-2011 NHL season. Check back in June to see how off these picks are!

about you by dick staub

I recently signed up to do some reviews for The OOZE Viral Bloggers, and the first book that I could get my hands on was About You by Dick Staub, which features the following tagline: ‘Jesus Didn’t Come to Make Us Christian; Jesus Came to Make Us Fully Human.’ In all honesty, this isn’t necessarily a book I would have picked up and read on my own volition, as, at first glance, it appeared to be another ‘find your best purpose driven life’ type of book. While, to my surprise, I found that it was something more than that and I’m glad to have spent some time with it, I’m left with a few lingering and troubling questions.

Allow me to expand.

Staub begins the book by very rightly pointing the reader back to the point of creation, a story that outlines the following reality: “You are not the accidental result of a random, purposeless process but, in fact, were created by a loving, personal God who had you in mind before the beginning of time.” The first few chapters serve to build on this reality, flushing out the creation story and what it means to be created in the image of a loving and relational God, and how we are to live in a way that reflects the intended order of creation. Staub than outlines the symptoms of the ‘disease’ that has caused us to lose sight of all this, a process of dehumanization that was caused not by the eating of the fruit in the garden, but by the fact that Adam and Eve did not trust and obey God [bang on with this point]. In short, things are not the way they are supposed to be, and we are meant to embark on a journey to recovering what it means to be fully human – in body, mind, spirit, creativity, relationships, and morality. The rest of the book serves to help the reader along in this process, outlining how God is continually pursuing us, how Jesus is the ‘great humanizer’, and the marks of what it means to be fully human.

Let me say that I very much enjoyed the first bits of the book, and believe that Staub’s outline of the creation story and the human condition thereafter; it’s accurate and quite well-written. But while he encourages the reader to seek after a holistic mode of living that embraces all that is good within us (engaging our minds, bodies and spirits in creative and meaningful ways), and while I don’t seen anything inherently wrong with that, I can’t get past the fact that the vision of full humanity that he outlines in the book seems to be counter to the words of Jesus, when he says the following: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

While Staub’s vision of full humanity seems to involve a continual progression towards personal, and in some respects, communal betterment, the way of Jesus seems to point downwards, a path that includes much sacrifice, suffering, and even death. Staub encourages us to become fully human and fully alive; Christ points us down a path that leads to the cross. I see some value in the kind of message that Staub is bringing forth, and I think there is some truth to what he is saying in regards to recovering a deeper sense of what we were created to be and do, but I have a hard time reconciling all of this with Jesus’ call to authentic discipleship.

On a more shallow level, there were two moments in this book that irked me, specifically Staub’s attempts to reference movies: he refers to Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club and Tyler Darden (it’s Durden), and he refers to a movie starring Alex Baldwin, when we all know it’s Alec. Small things, I know, but it bugged me.

Basically, part of me resonated with this book as I was reminded of what it means to be created by a loving God, in his image, and for a purpose. I’m just not sure if Staub’s ‘program’ for the recovery of full humanity meshes very well with the Way of Jesus. This is a tension that exists all around us, and it’s up to each of us to continually work out what it means to follow Christ.

In short, it’s a good book, but I’m not prepared to go all the way with it.

meet will

Name: William Cameron McLaren

Born: September 19th 2010, 12:11 a.m.

Weight: 8lb 14oz

Forgive me for not updating the blog in a little while, but it’s been a bit of a busy week.

Early last Sunday morning, Lauren and I welcomed our first child into the world, a beautiful baby boy named William Cameron.

We had been anticipating his arrival for a few days, as his actual due date was September 7th. We hoped that things would begin rolling along on their own, but had been told that if he had not arrived by the 17th, we would be going to the hospital to begin the induction process. Sure enough, after a week of wondering if that day was ‘the day’, we ended up going to the hospital last Friday evening and then again the next morning, knowing that the next time we came home, we would be bringing a baby boy with us.

I won’t go into all the details of the birth process, but I will say that after 16 hours in the hospital featuring various twists and turns throughout, we were able to meet our son shortly after midnight on Sunday morning. It was an incredible if not somewhat foggy moment, one wherein we both knew we were beginning to uncover new depths of love, both for each other and directed towards this [not so] little boy.

Needless to say this past week has been one of transition and learning, vigorously embracing both Will and precious moments of rest along the way. We did not have many visitors during the first few days, allowing both Mom and son ample time to rest. It’s been interesting to see many things that we had been told about becoming parents are indeed true, while at the same time joyously discovering all that can’t be known until it actually happens. Our hearts are full of love for Will, and we are so blessed, thankful and proud to call him our son.

We will try to post some thoughts about becoming parents along the way, but, in all honesty, blogging will take a bit of a backseat, pending a few book reviews. Here are a couple photos – for more, check our facebook pages.

let’s get back to our ‘roots’

What follows is my contribution to the Eighth Letter Synchroblog, hosted by Rachel Held Evans. As mentioned previously, all this week, folks across the Web are posting their ‘letters to the Church in North America’ as a lead up to the actual Eighth Letter event which is taking place on October 1-2 in Toronto, ON.

Please check out the other posts listed on the synchroblog home page, and please take some time to write a letter of your own.

Also, if you tweet, please follow twitter.com/eighthletter/

To the church in North America, from a fellow sojourner daily struggling to understand what it means to follow Jesus Christ our Lord in the 21st century.

A wise voice in our day has proclaimed the following:

The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heart-breaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – student, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ.
- Dallas Willard

Before I address that, let me begin by telling you about an experience I had recently. Sometime late last summer, my wife and I were driving back to Aberdeen after a lovely weekend in the fabled Lakes District of Northern England. After a meal at one of our favorite restaurants in the town of Stirling, we made a planned and highly anticipated detour into the Scottish Highlands. A major factor in our decision to spend a year in Scotland was to experience some family history, and what better way to do so than to visit the small village of Balquhidder, which, overlooked by the dramatic mountain terrain of the Braes of Balquhidder, and sitting at the head of Loch Voil, has been home to generations of McLaren’s dating back to the 9th century.

As my wife and I made our way down the windy roads leading us deeper into the hills, I began to sense that an important pilgrimage was taking shape. I took in the scenery – the lochs, the trees, the mountains and valleys – and felt as though I was created to enjoy such a place as this. If heaven really is a renewed earth [a topic for another letter altogether], then this was the space in which I longed to dwell. After a bit of a longer drive than we expected, we finally found our destination just a bit before sunset. The weather was cloudy, and a mist was in the air, adding a beautifully mysterious backdrop for what we were about to find.

The main feature of this village is the ruin of the Old Kirk, where, as we discovered, one can find the gravestones of many a McLaren, one of which features the actual McLaren Clan crest. As we toured around and took pictures of this ruined building, I came upon a sign on the side of the kirk, which read: “For generations of McLaren’s, their place of worship, and within whose walls their chiefs are buried.” In a year where I had been wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st century, it was an amazing experience to pause and stand in a place where my ancestors had gathered to hear from and worship God for hundreds of years before me.

Connecting with my family history in this way got me thinking about two things: 1) the biblical account of the beginning of human history, and 2) Martin Luther’s thoughts on what was right and what went wrong.

Having been introduced to the story of Genesis at a young age, like many of us were, I have always been pretty confident that I had a firm handle on the story recited to us in its early pages: God creates and it is good, and we humans come along and mess it all up. Recently, however, I have come to see that it might not be as straightforward as we might like it to be. In fact, it’s apparent that this Genesis story goes far deeper than a matter of command / non-compliance / punishment. Rather, as has been suggested elsewhere, the entire Old Testament must be read as the beginnings of a special partnership between God and humankind, the “record of the divine-human conversation, of how God spoke in ‘many and various ways’ and of how humans are called to respond in speaking to God and speaking of God.” (Christoph Schwobel) Human history is formed by a God who creates and speaks, with a view to working with His people to fulfill his loving purposes for creation within the present realities of life.

Which brings us to Luther. In Genesis 2:17, we read that God spoke a specific Word to Adam, prohibiting him from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For Luther, this Word acted as a call to trust in, worship and obey the God who had spoken; “it was God’s intention that this command should provide [humankind] with an opportunity for obedience and outward worship, and that the tree should be a sort of sign by which [humankind] would give evidence that he was obeying God.” To actively listen to this Word was a tangible expression of early discipleship whereby Adam, Eve, and their offspring would demonstrate that they had heard from God and would live accordingly. This tree, therefore, was a place where the divine-human conversation was to carry on steady and unbounded. This tree was, in effect, the first church: it was at its feet that humankind was to “yield to God the obedience [they] owed, give recognition to the Word and will of God, give thanks to God, and call upon God for aid against temptation.” Again, according to Luther, “this tree of the knowledge of good and evil … would have been the church where Adam, together with his descendants, would have gathered on the Sabbath day. And after refreshing themselves from the tree of life [they] would have praised God and lauded Him for the dominion over all the creatures on the earth which had been given to [humankind].This tree, this first church, provided Adam, Eve, and all those who were to come after them, with the opportunity to be reminded of who God was, who they were in turn, and the responsibilities bestowed upon them as the recipients of His Word.

In Genesis 3, however, this beautiful picture of the church is brought to a halt by a crafty ruse, characterized by Luther in this way: “the chief temptation was to listen to another word and to depart from the one which God had previously spoken.” This is key in terms of understanding the nature of discipleship and what it means for us to be part of His Church in North America today. In this description of that which led to the inception of sin in the midst of God’s good creation, Luther is effectively saying that the point is not that Eve physically bit an apple or broke an explicit command, but rather that the first human beings failed to trust in and adhere to the word that God had spoken. As Luther puts it, “the source of all sin truly is unbelief and doubt and abandonment of the Word.” And as a result, humankind began a pattern of being absorbed into stories that are not intrinsically our own, stories that cause us to forget the Word that God has spoken and continues to speak, stories that de-emphasize and attempt to silence altogether our role as God’s partners in bringing about his loving and redemptive purposes for the world.

But thankfully, the story didn’t end with Adam and Eve’s fateful mistake, for throughout the centuries that would follow, God would indeed continue to speak, calling Abraham and his promised descendants to show the world what their God is like; they were to be deeply engaged in the present realities of the world, acting justly on behalf of the marginalized and oppressed as God had acted on their behalf in the past, and they were called to embody an alternative way of living lest they continue to listen to other words and in so doing be absorbed anew into stories that were not their own.

It’s the same invitation expressed by Jesus himself, the Word made flesh among us, who called all those that wish to follow him to repent and believe [a believing that is not passive and informative, but active and transformational], to embrace and embody his radical teachings, and to participate in his mission of good news to the poor and marginalized, and to those whose have been absorbed into stories that were not intended for them.

What, then, does all of this have to do with the Church in North America, and how does it relate to the call to discipleship quoted above? There are two things to note about Luther’s first Church that must be emphasized. The first is that while many of us continue to read the Genesis story as one wherein God gives humankind a clear prohibition and doles out a punishment in light of Adam and Eve’s non-compliance, the reality is that this tree is a great picture of the freedom that we have to continually meet together to worship and hear from He who has created and cares deeply about the world in which we live. Again, the apple is not the point, but rather that those who gathered around this tree failed to see it for what it was – it was not a place where God’s Word was to be reduced to a set of principles and prohibitions, set aside in the pursuit of power and prestige, but rather a place of worship, trust and obedience with a view to extending God’s grace and love out from its wide branches. To gather here was to hear from God, to worship Him and to learn afresh who He is and what he cares about.

Second, it’s important to note that while this tree took up physical space in the world, it was not cut down and crafted into four walls, a roof, an altar and some pews. Instead, this place was holy and communal, set apart yet wide open. It’s a picture of the reality that God’s people are not meant to be hidden, and cuts to the core of the distinction that must be made between what it means to go to church, and what it means to be the Church. To be a part of the Church is not to individualize faith, nor is it to retreat into a fixed address one day a week. Rather, we are to constitute a widespread community that on one hand gathers together to hear the Word that God has spoken and continues to speak, and, on the other, seeks to ensure and enable faithful, daily participation in God’s loving and redemptive practices in, to and for the world.

As I visited that old ruined church in Balquihidder, and as I considered that great need for authentic discipleship described above, it occurred to me that perhaps what the Church needs most is to get back to its literal roots – let us, therefore, gather together to hear from and worship God and, in turn, day in and day out, demonstrate to the world that a different way of living has been made possible, one that reaches back to the very beginnings of human history and continually reveals who God is and what He cares about.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you, wherever you may be.

Ian Cameron McLaren

eighth letter synchroblog

Due to the fact that Lauren and I are expecting our son to arrive … well, really at any time, I don’t anticipate being able to sit down and pound out many posts anytime soon.

I can, however, direct you to the Eighth Letter Synchroblog, which is taking place from today through to the 18th of September.

Here are the pertinent details, as provided by the host of the synchroblog, Rachel Held Evans:

1. Write a letter to the North American Church, sharing what you believe is the most pressing message to Christians living in this culture.

2. Post the letter on your blog, linking to Eighth Letter (http://eighthletter.com) and the synchroblog (http://rachelheldevans.com/8th-letter-synch) Feel free to use the image above. If you tweet, share the link using the #8thletter hashtag.

3. Let Rachel know (via her blog) when your post is up and she’ll add a link to synchroblog main page. (You can simply leave a comment after that post or you can contact her directly; just be sure to include your name and a link.)

There are already several posts up, a few of which I have been able to check out. There’s some great stuff there, so be sure to take a look. And please take some time to write a letter of your own as well. I’m going to try to squeeze one in if time permits this week.

If you tweet, you can also keep track of the posts via twitter.com/eighthletter/

Have a good week, friends. And stay tuned for the baby news!

outlive your life by max lucado

Allow me to begin this review with two confessions: a) I’m not a huge fan of Max Lucado’s books [admittedly having read maybe only one or two in the past], based partly on the fact that this one in particluar is endorsed by the likes of Kathie Lee Gifford [enough said], and b) I am generally skeptical of books that feature several different variations (ie: a version for children / teens, a participant’s guide, an inspirational booklet, church DVD, music CD, desk calendar etc.) Knowing that this book was a product of both, it might seem off that I would bother to request this book to review. Suspecting that most who would request this book would be the kind of people who might give it a glowing if not uncritical review, I decided to have a go at it and maybe offer a different perspective.

While I can’t say that, in my reading of Outlive Your Life, many of my fears in regards to these kinds of books weren’t realized, I also can’t say that I wasn’t sometimes pleasantly surprised along the way. For what Lucado might lack in theological depth, he makes up in his ability to tell stories [my favorite of which, in this book, being his take on Ananias and Sapphira], and these stories root simple biblical truths into the fabric of the realities of every day life with a view to spurring the reader into action.

In Outlive Your Life, Lucado takes the reader through the book of Acts, examining the lives and work of the earliest followers of Jesus, and, in so doing, encourages us to consider what kind of impact could be made in the world if we were only to step out and do likewise. While the task of setting the world to rights seems like a daunting task, in light of the litany of deep-seated issues that we see playing out around every day, Lucado repeatedly argues that none of us can help everyone, but all of us can help someone. In taking the time to seek out ways to make a positive impact in the lives of our neighbors and in the world at large, we engage in very real acts of serve unto Christ himself, and, in Lucado’s words, who would want to miss a chance to do that?

Maybe I’m succeeding in my quest to become less cynical, and maybe I’m learning not to pick at everything I read in the name of theological snobbery, but I came away from a reading of this book feeling encouraged to get off my donkey and put into action that which I believe. And, in this case and in only light of the overarching call to all those who would seek to follow Jesus, maybe it’s not a bad thing that there are several volumes to this book, because it’s a message that all who have ears should hear. [Having said that, there are several similarly themed books that I would recommend way before this one.] Plus, the back cover tells us that 100% of the author’s royalties will be given to World Vision / other faith-based ministries of compassion [yes, a very vague statement that may or may not be comforting], so perhaps some good can come from simply reading the book.

There you have it – a somewhat ambiguous review based on my honest thoughts on a book that I probably definitely would not have purchased / read had I not received a free copy, but one that I am glad that I spent some time with.

*Note: This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program.

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