Rockin’ With Randy: Reconnecting With A Song Writer & Balladeer That Continues To Impact My Life


Visiting family in Fort Erie

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Olivia, Tracy, and Rob Rolston.

I don’t get to see my extended family as much as I would dearly love. But there are times where you just need to make the effort to travel two in a half hours to be with the people who matter most to you. We decided to go and visit Lori-Anne’s brother, Rob and his dear wife, Tracy and their daughter Olivia and go and chill out with them. Saturday evening, Rob and his band were opening for one of the living legends of “Jesus Music,” Randy Stonehill. So it was a bonus weekend for Lori-Anne and I as we have wanted to reconnect more often with Rob and Tracy, and to do so on their home turf was especially welcomed at it always feels like “a home away from home.”  Nothing like homespun hospitality from those who love you and cherish you as members of their family.  They are the most incredible hosts, and the coffee is always brewing, and in the evening, there is always good conversation over a cold beer. There is nothing like it. We talk to the wee hours of the morning and it is always a joy and a delight to just hang out with each other. There is nothing like getting away from your own routine, and hanging out with loved ones like this.

More than just a Saturday get-away

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Rob Rolston

This particular Saturday, was extra special, as we were going to see Rob perform, open up for Randy Stonehill. It was something that both Lori-Anne and I wanted to do, to go and support Rob, who is a terrific musician and is especially gifted on his “axe” and to hear him play with his band was extra special.  These guys had last played together over 10 years ago. They got together earlier in the day, for about an hour to rehearse a few songs. Being so familiar with each other it took little time for the band to find their groove and be ready for the evening.  It was a double feature for Lori-Anne and I, as we not only had the opportunity to see Rob, but we also had not seen Randy Stonehill in a long time.  I had not seen him since 1988.  Lori-Anne had not seen him since 1979. So we were pretty jacked to him play and sing in Fort Erie.

 

 

Way back when “Christian rock” was evolving

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Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill

Randy Stonehill started out in that music scene in 1970 when it was in its infancy. He wasn’t even 18 yet. Stonehill was discipled and mentored by Larry Norman in California and became a prophetic voice and balladeer to the spread of Evangelical faith in North America, and as Randy has aged and matured, so has his music in lyrical and musical composition.  He would go on to support, mentor, and sing with the likes of Keith Green, Phil Keagy, Daniel Amos, Tom Howard, Mark Heard and others. Over the last few decades Stonehill partnered with Phil Keagy as well as with Buck Storm.  Stonehill continues to evolve and develop as a person, and a devoted Jesus follower, and as a musician.  You really seen how much he continues to develop when you see the creative and talented output from his cooperative creations he has made with the likes of Phil Keaggy (Together Live (2006) and Mystery Highway (2009)) and Buck Storm (Breath of God I (2012), and Breath of God II (2015)).  You really find here an edgy rocker and a balladeer and master story teller at work in the lyrical composition as well as the beautiful melodies and hard edged guitar instrumentation that Stonehill brings to his craft.

 

 

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Randy Stonehill, Fort Erie, ON. 23 July 2016.

Seeing “Sir Stonehill” was an incredible and momentous event for me personally.  Stonehill was such an influence in my life.  Just thinking about going to Fort Erie last week just stirred my heart and awakened so many wonderful and cherished moments of my adolescent youth and how impactful the man’s music was to me. He is only six years my senior but I always found him to be a person of great influence.

The power of music can shape and form our identity and how we see ourselves

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Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill

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Randy Stonehill’s Born Twice LP, and Larry Norman’s Upon This Rock LP.

Over the decades, reflecting on my youth, I have always cherished my 17th year, a year in which so much happened in my life, where I was in the crux of self-discovery, and awakening to the world and what was going on in the world around me, and trying to understand my place in the world, and what it meant to be a follower of Jesus living in this world at this particular time. Being 17 was not an easy year for me. So much change. So much going on in the world. It was a tumultuous decade. 1975 was the year. America had exited South East Asia and was in a state of isolation internationally. Emotionally and spiritually the American scene impacted the English speaking West in profound ways, and it was no less so with the Evangelical church scene of that time.

 

 

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My favourite Larry Norman album, and second favourite Christian album.

The Jesus People movement had exploded on the scene in 1972 and had continued to spread within the culture at large, and not just in the Christian sub-culture. The Hippie Movement had come to screeching collision with society that culminated with Woodstock and the end of the Beatles, and all the social upheavals of 1968 that impacted Europe and North America were still sending shock waves across the social fabric of the Western culture at large.  It was in this decade that Randy Stonehill emerged as a “voice crying in the Wilderness” as did Keith Green and other song writers, the modern poets of the emerging generation. It was not just the likes of Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Gene MacLellan, Leonard Cohen, Joanie Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn who were poetically and musically calling the current generation to embrace the culture and be agents of change.  The “Christian” voices grew as well with the likes of Randy Stonehill, Keith Green and Phil Keaggy and Larry Norman and other passionate Christians.

The Jesus Movement impacted the church and more importantly society and culture

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One of Larry Norman’s best produced albums. A classic of the Christian Rock genre.

The music of that time period helped shape my life and my worldview. The music of my parents and their generation never resonated in my soul.  It was a music style and format that was dated from a previous time period that never reflected my own time and space in my sub-culture. It did not speak my language and it did not stir me or move me inspirationally. I was alienated musically, and not so highlighted that alienation than hearing the music in “church.”  It was horrific for me in my teens to find any of the music being played and sung in church.  During these early 1970’s, I got my hands on Larry Norman’s LP’s, Upon This Rock (1969), Street Level (1970) and Bootleg (1972). These were digested daily in my room or the basement rec room on the family Hi-Fi stereo record player. I would pile them three records high and listen over and over and over again as I read books, or played chess, or worked on plastic model airplane kits, or oil and acrylic paintings. I was in my own space and my own little world.  I craved for the sounds and lyrics I heard on the radio. Perhaps nothing reflected more of what I felt than Larry Norman’s “Why Should The Devil Have All the Good Music.”

 

 

My early beloved LP’s of Stonehill and Norman got me through high school

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One of the cover designs of Born Twice.

I got a copy of the LP Born Twice in 1972 (the year after its release) and a copy of Only Visiting this Planet the same day.  Here I had the “dynamic duo” of Norman and Stonehill, a few years before Solid Rock Records were formed in 1975. I loved their sound and I loved their lyrics. They spoke my language. This music informed and influenced my life more than any other Christian artist.  These guys were tremendous musical talents who happened to also be devoted disciples of Christ.  They had great talent for writing poignant lyrics about social issues facing society, and also oriented their responses to these issues through the lens of faith. They were among the balladeer prophets of my generation.

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My number 1 album by Randy Stonehill, and my all time favourite Christian rock album.

The apex of this transformative time for me came about in 1976 and 1977 when Stonehill’s Welcome To Paradise (1976) and The Sky is Falling (1977) came out, both produced by Larry Norman on the Solid Rock label. Norman’s album, In Another Land (1976). I really loved these early albums of Randy Stonehill’s music and to this day they are among my favorite albums of all time. “Keep Me Running” and “King of Hearts” are two of my favorite from Welcome to Paradise.

 

 

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This was the perfect follow-up album for Stonehill, and an another well produced album with great lyrical and musical compositions.

The Sky is Falling, is a great follow up album to Welcome to Paradise.  There are so many great songs on this album, to the point that I have to play the whole album through and not skip any songs. It is one of those rare finds when you can find something to love in each song, be it the lyrics or the guitar and bass riffs. It is all so well produced and the recording sessions are superb. There is not one dull moment on this recording.  It is an amazing array of songs with great lyrics and for me, it is not just about the tune, but the significant and impactful lyrics that are used to convey a story and narrative. All the songs really flow well together and weave a beautiful tapestry that makes it a joy to listen to over and over again.  I always enjoy the blues style in song writing and composition, and this one by Stonehill is no exception.  “Jamey’s Got the Blues” is a great song, and rather poignant in its lyrics.

 

 

The oddity of hearing music you loved but your theological perspective has moved on

I WISH WED ALL BEEN READYNo one can dispute the impact that this group of Evangelical Jesus Rockers has left on the music scene within North American Christianity, in particular Evangelicalism as a whole. The historical time frame for the emergence of these talented musicians and song writers helped shape their view of the world, their understanding of the Bible, and still does to this day.  I know from re-listening to Norman and to Stonehill, their songs have been filled and saturated with dispensational eschatological lyrics and meaning, of the “rapture at any time” kind of belief. Hearing these songs now again refreshes for me the initial impact they had. I loved the musical composition, but not the lyrical underpinnings of these particular songs.

Although I must confess that yes, while I don’t agree with the “eschatalogical” lyrics, I do find a basis for the “rapture” in the sense in the end all people ever born will die and face their Maker.  In that sense all people must be “ready for death” at any moment. As such, Stonehill’s and Norman’s lyrics calling people to be ready for Christ, are as poignant as ever, even if we don’t agree with the eschatology.

 

 

end-times-1I was never an adherent or proponent of dispensational eschatology. That “stuff” they sang about that Jesus would be coming in the clouds and all believing and practicing Christians would go up in the air to “meet the Lord” in a “great escape from planet earth” was all nonsensical to me as a Christian believer. I never took that reading and understanding of the same treasured and revered “rapture” texts that prompted Stonehill and Norman to write their songs.

 

 

the-king-is-comingI believe that neither Norman nor Stonehill  ever intended to manipulate or coerce people into embracing the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they understood it.  I have always believed that they were sincere and Stonehill very much is sincere about his views and beliefs.  The dispensational understanding underpins how they understood and currently understand God and His interaction with humanity, and It is just part of the fabric of their belief and their conversion to Christ that came packaged in this theological frame of understanding. Dispensational eschatology was and is their grid for understanding what they say is “biblical eschatology” and the “times of the end.”

vend-timeThere are a good quantity of songs and embrace this belief and understanding and they are sung with a sense of urgency and foreboding, and this is intentional on their part.   But their views are one of many, and no one can truly hold to an absolute understanding that their view is correct or the only biblical option for people to embrace. God is bigger than man made theological systems, no matter how convinced you and I might be about what we believe to be true at this time and place in our journeys with God. We cannot afford to be dogmatically arrogant and presume we are the only ones with the corner on truth on this matter.

 

 

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Leslie & Randy Stonehill singing a duet together (23 July, 2016, Fort Erie, Ontario).

Here I am all these years removed, and Randy is still singing, and still singing about the times of the end. It is a burning theme in his heart that people be ready to meet God, and so he is compelled to speak and sing about being ready to be with Jesus. I understand that passion and it is a beautiful things to see and appreciate a person publicly declare his love for Christ, and the earnestness of discovering life in Christ, not just as  a “fire policy” to escape “hell”,  but as a discovery of the full measure of life God has made provision for through Jesus Christ for all of humanity. It is amazing to comprehend how much God loves us, and that theme is constant in the music of Randy Stonehill.  One thing that I can clearly say about Randy Stonehill, he is one persistent, pressed in and persevering believer in Christ and he has held on tenaciously to his belief in Jesus and the beliefs that go along with being a dedicated disciple of Christ. He is authentic and real and transparent.


Randy_StonehillStonehill went through some pretty rough periods in his life as a Christian, and suffered greatly through difficult times with his mentor, Larry Norman. What I found refreshing and most encouraging when I was at the concert last Saturday evening, was the freshness and honest engagement of Randy as a person with his audience. He was real and very present to the moment we were in. He focused on us, and took us along a journey of celebrating Jesus, the Gospel, and what it means to finish well as a believer. He left no stone unturned to testify to the goodness of God and His grace, and how that same grace is available to all of us. It was amazing to be a part of this evening.

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Classic Christian Rock LP’s.

Having had difficult relationships and broken marriages can turn a person into a very private and protective person. In his relationships with friends such as Keith Green and Larry Norman, Stonehill reveals a tender and healed heart in how he pays tribute to these two men who were incredibly talented people, who had equally strong personalities and who were very demanding and exacting in their interactions with others. Stonehill no less pays tribute to them and thanks them and God for though “life is tough, God is good.” You have to have a tender heart and thick skin to make it through life, and Sir Stonehill sure has persevered and inspires us to keep walking with Jesus and to keep trusting in him, no matter how difficult our human relationships become.

 

 

Life is tough, but God is good all the time

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Here I am wearing my new t-shirt.

Randy Stonehill does not know this, I did not even bring it up when I came to speak with him at his product table.  Lori-Anne and I were there, and we just wanted to thank him for coming to Canada, and to Fort Erie and for ministering to us that night.  We both wanted to tell him how much of an impact he had on our lives as young believers.  I had always wanted to say that to him, and I got to do that face to face.  He took my hand and smiled and thanked me for my words and was so genuinely humble.  He spoke of how much it means to him to know how God has used his music to impact the lives of people.  I told him he did that again during that concert.  Lori-Anne and I got some photos taken with him and I treasure those photos, captured in time and space.

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Me, Randy Stonehill and my darling Lori-Anne.

I bought one of those t-shirts, “Life is tough… God is good.”  My journey with cancer the last 16 months have been awkward, difficult, very trying, and also a great blessing to walk with God in a new and more profound way. The shortness of life, and our lifespans, be they 9 years or 99, are but a whiff of smoke. Time literally flies by. My mind may still feel like I am 17, but my body betrays me and reveals that I am 58 and that I am aging and having all the challenges that people have as they grow older. Life was really tough for me in 2015 and 2016.  Life was really really tough. But, God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. That summarizes well just how much I cherish life and cherish God who embraces exactly where I am and He never leaves me or forsakes me. I am never alone. There is perfect union with Him and there is no separation from Him.  Whatever sense of “separation” I may feel, is my own self, my own ego, my own internal junk that separates me, and pushes me from God. God is always there. I praise Him for that truth, that truth that is constantly being written upon my heart and mind. Sir Stonehill sang about it and spoke it over all of us that night in Fort Erie.

Stonehill T-Shirt - Life is tough... God is good

Leslie Stonehill

Stonehill has his product table at these concerts and his wife, Leslie, manages the table with the CD’s, posters, and t-shirts. They really promote this t-shirt (yes I bought one) with those words, “Life is tough… God is good.” I find this to be a profound testimony to this balladeer, Randy Stonehill, who was an inspiration to me as a teenager, and who sang songs that really reflected my own journey with God in this world. It was the sound and the lyrics of my own generation, and I find his music resonates even more now than it did then.  He has endeavored to live a “God honoring life” in all his ways, and has always wanted to use his incredible talent and gifts to the “glory of God.”  Randy Stonehill models for me what that looks like.

Thank you Sir Stonehill and Lady Leslie

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Sir Stonehill ever more the balladeer and troubadour of the King

Stonehill3For all the heartache life has thrown his way, and for all the disappointments and broken relationships, he has modeled someone who no matter how many times he falls down, he picks himself up, turns to God, and God gives him strength, some more keen insights, and then God gives him more lyrics and melodies for more songs.  He is indeed a balladeer and a troubadour of the King.  He sings to the delight of His God, and to the honor of His Name, for the sake of Jesus His Son. There is no more nobler a thing anyone of us can do, than to do all we can, with who we are, and with all the talents and gifts we have, than to do all to the glory of God in Christ Jesus! Thank you Randy Stonehill for reigniting that 17 year old teenager’s heart in this 58 year old body. You blessed me tremendously. You touched my heart and Jesus renewed my spirit.

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Finish Well.

I leave you with the last song Stonehill performed for all of us.  It was a powerful song calling all of us to “Finish well.”  It is a real timely reminder about the importance of how we live our lives and that we live it well. As I have said many times, “A life is not measured in how long you live, but rather by a life that is well lived.” Sir Stonehill continues to remind all of us of this great kernel of truth.

 

 

God be with you and God speed.

In the bonds of Christ Jesus and His eternal grip!

Peace.

~ Samuel M. Buick, a sojourner in a strange land

 

LINKS:

Jesus Movement

Solid Rock Records

Solid Rock Records History

Solid Rock Records Catalog

Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism (Theopedia)

Randy Stonehill

Larry Norman

Phil Keaggy

Mark Heard

Keith Green

Tom Howard

Daniel Amos

Buck Storm

 

 

Posted in Kingdom of God, Missional, Music Review, Personal, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back To The Garden: Leaving Religion Behind, Reimagining A Life of Walking With God Intimately


 

My “ChurchExit”: Getting Closure, Burying the Past, Building A New Way Forward

enjoy-summer-holidays-background_23-2147509589Last week was one of those weeks where I had my first week of holidays and all I wanted to do is stay home with my wife and visit my kids and spend quality time of just being still and quiet, centered and focused, dealing with the issues of the heart, expressing gratitude for the gift of life, and the gift of change, where all of us are capable of making and creating change in our lives, change that matters, change that transforms us from the inside out.

192204-Christianity-Heart-TransformationIf “Christianity” is about anything at all, it is about “transformation.”  Historical theology, and a cursory study of the Christian Scriptures will reveal that the very heart of a Christian relationship with God is a life that is transformed by the love of God and the grace of God, which in turn reaches out to others to bless, heal, restore and express that same love and grace to others. This is where the “rubber meets the road” as they say.

Leaving the “Charismatic Movement” was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do

worshiphandsBack in May of this year (2016), I had to put “Charismatic Evangelicalism” to bed. After 3 decades of being a “Charismatic Christian,” and being an ordained minister, serving in traditional institutional churches, as well as the avant guard “house church movement” for 14 years, I pulled the plug.

Riding-the-Emotional-RollercoasterI have never been able to handle the emotional roller coaster, the hype, the questionable spirituality, extremes ranging  from obsessions with spiritual manifestations, demonization, healing and deliverance, to spiritual gifts, to angels, demons, spiritual warfare, and awful “end times” theology. All of it. I had to let it finally go. That meant I had to leave, literally leave, the Charismatic expression of contemporary Evangelical Christianity as it is practiced in North America. It was the hardest thing up to this point that I have ever had to do, for my spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

I had to be like Lot leaving Sodom, “leave and don’t look back.” Please note here, I am not being critical of the Charismatic Movement by making the reference to Sodom.

The angelic messengers were blunt and direct with Lot:

gen1916-17 Lot was dragging his feet. The men grabbed Lot’s arm, and the arms of his wife and daughters—God was so merciful to them!—and dragged them to safety outside the city. When they had them outside, Lot was told, “Now run for your life! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere on the plain—run for the hills or you’ll be swept away.” [Genesis 19: 16-17 The Message Translation]

dysfunctional-charismatic-cycleI personally felt no less compelled to leave the Charismatic Movement in the same sense of emergency.  I had to leave and felt strongly God calling me to go and leave and I need to run for my life. It was that serious for me. I am simply referencing how Lot was told to “not look back and to not stop.”  I am referring here to my own habitual longing for what was, what used to be, what was hoped for, in that “Charismatic” expression of church, as well as all the “enticements that this represented” to me expression of Charismatic church life.  It would only last a little while and then about 18 months would pass and I would spiritually and emotionally crash because of it all.

I tried to leave multiple times before, but like an addict craving the bottle, I always came back, addicted to this Charismatic expression of church, and each time it would wreak havoc in my life and crush me inside and cause way too much pain. As such, my desire for change and personal transformation was still strong, and what I needed was a form of spirituality and piety that would not cause this same vicious cycle of inward pain.  It was so great, this deep desire for transformation without the hype, that I was finally able to break free from it and not beat myself up all over again because of it or feel guilty for leaving a form and expression of Christian spirituality and church life that no longer worked for me. I am finally free from the pit I was in with Charismatic Christianity.  THIS is my journey, and does not reflect on anyone else, and nor does it judge those that remain and thrive within the “Charismatic Movement.”

 

Since the month of May, Lori-Anne and I had been attending a non-Charismatic church, as I knew the pastor quite well.  I had done some pulpit fill in years ago for this congregation, and had visited a few times over the years and reconnected with old acquaintances and even attended some seminars and conferences. It seemed to be a good transition from the Charismatic expression of church.  Then I had my first week of holidays for the year last week.

crescendowave1blMy week last week came to a crescendo of conviction and action.  After years of struggle with the “institutional church” (IC), you know the “organized Christian religion,” the form and expression of Christianity that meets and gathers in “religious buildings,” or rent premises somewhere, and use commercial buildings or community centres or schools to hold their “structured, church religious services,” I finally put that baby to rest as well.

I realized all too well again, it’s not just the Charismatic Movement, it’s the whole of “Christian religion”!

bagpiperLike those early dawn mornings, when the regimental bag piper bellowed out the Black Bear to wake up the regiment for the day, all those years ago in my past military life, there was a “dawning” and an “awakening” that was a brusque and rugged and startling as that piper was those summer mornings so long ago. I came to this “Ah ha!” moment with a certitude that “This is it! Now is the time! Finally I can do this!”

 

So like that bag piper from long ago, I was jolted to my core and awoke realizing “I don’t have to play the “religion game” anymore! I can walk away from the entire human religion enterprise.” So, last weekend Lori-Anne and I chatted about it a bit.  We had awakened and Lori-Anne asked me about going to church. I said, “Nah! I don’t ever want to go back to church. Not any church. I am done!”  It was that brash! It was that blunt! Lori-Anne talked with me about it. We had breakfast and coffee and hung out and spoke of our spiritual pilgrimage as individuals and as a couple and as a family.

the-look-of-love-yes-that-is-what-it-is-i-lovWe did a lot of reminiscing about our lives and our spiritual journey together.  We spoke about our respective journeys as pastors’ kids and all the challenges of growing up in a very legalistic religious home, which was only made all the more difficult being raised in a minister’s home. The pressures from the household, the pressures from the congregation, and the constant challenges of fitting in at school, and at play, and all that stuff, all just made like hell for a kid to grow up under that heavy load of religious performance and obligation.

Things just did not change either when we grew into adulthood.

rebellionWe had our own rebellious times, Lori-Anne when she was a teenager. Myself, as I entered my adult years.  We both had about a five year journey of rebellion, and it was more wrapped up in a rebellion not so much against our parents, as against the oppressive religious shackles their respective understanding and living out of the “Christian faith” was embodied in their Evangelical churches.  We both acted out and after that rebellion, somehow through all our heartache and sorrow, God broke through. The love of God broke through and did an amazing restorative work in both of our lives, and we both found each other within six months of our respective rebellions coming to an end. It is nothing short of a miracle of love and grace, and people had very little to do with it. It was our own desperation that led us both to seek God and cry out to God and He rescued us, not because of “church” or “Christians” but because of our own brokenness, and in our desperation, Jesus embraced us and transformed our lives. Our respective encounters were nothing short of “prodigal son” stories. We were both radical prodigals, who when restored to Christ, became radicals for Jesus!

The encroachment and snare of Christian zealotry!

markThe funny thing, when you grow up in a Christian home, you have your time of rebellion, and you are filled with anger and tension and just don’t want anything to do with it, and you fall in love with Jesus, it changes everything. The real problem is when other Christians see that zeal in you, it excites some people, and it angers some people too! Not only that, the religious zealots prey on you because they see a pet project to work on, and the grace message which brought you so much freedom and liberty and joy, over a short time after, slowly evaporates into a form of religious duty and legalism.

joincrewYou can never do enough for God! You can never sacrifice enough for God! You can never out give God, so you become unwise in your use of money, and other resources! You get swallowed up in the whole “Christian enterprise” commonly hidden behind biblical words to sound holy and biblical, but it is in fact a diabolical works oriented mechanism and tool, to manipulate, coerce and abuse people to do things in the name of God for what others think is the “work of the Kingdom” but is actually the work of the “kingdom of men” and not God at all.

not-so-great-commissionWhen you see from the inside out how the “Great Commission” has been used to mobilize people, resources, finances, institutions, wealth, and people, all in the name of “reaching the lost at any cost” you wonder how on earth does God ever do it without all of us doing this work?  This is nothing short of exposing the flaw of the “Evangelical Christian Empire,” an empire that continues to plod on, even hijacking democratic political machines to elect Christians to political office, so some form of “Christendom” or “Christian culture” can be used to impact a “secular” and “lost society.”

make-disciplesNo one stops long enough to really think through what redemption is and all the dynamics of what has taken place in the whole plan of redemption in the mind and heart of God. Many give lip service to the “cross” and “salvation” and yet do not really comprehend  the work of the cross  and what Jesus has really accomplished, and  how the finished work of the cross, emphatically articulated by the words of Jesus Himself, when He declared, “It is finished!” and no one really comprehends that Jesus actually meant it! He finished it. And, He still means it! It is finished!  He doesn’t need us, or our money, or our talent and gifts, or anything. He just wants our hearts, not our work or performance! He and the work of the Spirit woo the people and draw the people to the Father.  It is all by grace and the work of God, or it is a works oriented religion. You cannot have it both ways. Yet, in Evangelicalism, you see so much “works oriented religion” and it makes other religions look tame in comparison.  None of it even looks like or feels like Jesus. It wreaks of man and human enterprise. It is a stench of works theology and practice.

Stop the world and let me off the  “merry go round of ministry”

hqdefault(1)I really knew how to perform as a Christian, and as an ordained minister. I even went into a $12,000 debt to go to one of the local established Bible Colleges. Yes, I did that. I served and even did things that I really was not gifted to do, but wanted to serve and please people, and earn my stripes as they say. I knew the system inside out. As I said, I grew up a PK. I knew all the ins and outs and how to play the “religious game of life with God.”  I mastered it well. Then it ate me up, and spat me out, multiple times over, but I came coming back for more and more punishment.

wrath-of-godFor all the talk of the “love of God” that I heard, there was a whole lot more of the “wrath of God” and “divine judgment and retribution.”  There was a ton of fear mongering and anger and disappointment, and in the midst of it all over the years I saw more and more good people, good kids and friends, fall by the way side one by one. They all became casualties of this legalistic religion that demanded everything and gave nothing back. Eventually you came to realize that there was very little actual understanding of what grace and love actually embody, and it certainly was not taught well if at all, and it was not practiced well among most of the Evangelical communities I was a part of.  There is a saying that is as old as I am, “The Christian army is the only army in the world that kills its own wounded.”  I know this to be true from personal experience. There is no harsher judgment, condemnation, wrath, ridicule and persecution that a Christian can suffer from that is worse than other critical judgmental Christians.  You can see ongoing demonstrations of this harsh critical judgment in how some Christians judge Christians who demonstrate love and acceptance, especially those Christians who walk in grace and love toward gays and people in the LGBTQ community.  The only thing just as harsh as this, is the criticism and judgement of Christians who happen to think different than what other Christians believe to be “orthodox belief.”  I have known this kind of “wrath” first hand from those who just did not comprehend that there is more than one way to interpret Scripture or that there are alternative theological positions to their perceived “orthodox beliefs.”

 

atheistsIt has so done me in, that it contributed greatly to my deciding enough was enough. It was time to break away from all of the structured holier than thou North American Evangelicalism that now permeates the landscape. It is little wonder that atheists abound, and it is little wonder than many of these same atheists used to be Christians or were raised in Christian communities. The ones that I know that have become atheists and agnostics are quick to point out to the judgmental attitudes, arrogance, hate filled speech, and harsh criticisms they have weathered in the storms of life, and how they just could no longer allow other people to damage them in this way.  And, I totally agree with my agnostic and atheist friends.

it_is_finishedOver the last four years I have experienced so many highs and lows, and so many hurtful experiences with people and Christian organizations and events, which drove me to this place of wanting to jump off the “Christian Carousel”!  For my own physical and emotional health, and my mental wellbeing it had to stop. I have nothing more to give to these man made religious structures and ministries. These “zealous” and supposed “spiritual” and “God called” people and their ministries consume people and spit them out.  So now after all these years, and so much money, so many resources spent, and so much energy given, I have concluded that God loves me and I don’t need to perform for Him, or seek the approval of “Christian leaders.” He really does love me. He really does love you too! It has nothing to with what the religious zealots have propagandized. It is all an “Evangelical hoax” to get people to work themselves to death for God and their own perceived understanding of what the Kingdom of God is. I am done! I am finished. Just like Jesus said, “It is finished!” and I stand in agreement with Him, “IT (Institutional Christianity) is FINISHED!”

love-lovyOh, there will be those that will continue to live their pietistic religious lives and God will bless them and bless other people through their efforts, but NOT out of that kind of activity and process, but simply because God is God, and He uses people and situations, in order to reach people, and He does it IN SPITE of people and all their junk, personal issues, and religion. Unlike us, God love and keeps loving, and religion has NOTHING to do with it!

Burned any mortgages lately?

IMG_20160717_193334760_HDRIt seems one of the “rites of passage” as a home owner, is the occasion upon which you have made your final mortgage payment and you get to literally “burn the mortgage. Last weekend, on Sunday afternoon, I burned two representations of my “Christian mortgage.”  I burned a copy of the Nicene Creed which is universally known in the Christian world as one of the “orthodox” historic Christian “creeds.”  I also burned a statement taken from the Edict of Milan which Emperor Constantine brought into law, which made the Christian faith into a “religious institution” and established “Christian denominationalism” as well as added Christianity as one of the many accepted religions in the Roman Empire.  And we in the world have been living with this legacy of “Christian institutionalism” ever since. 1700 years and counting.

Let the Dead Bury the Dead1-2My “burning” of these two documents was symbolic.  I first declared that I was no longer affiliated with manmade Christianity, and that I recanted from my declarations of fealty to denominations I had been a member of as well as ordained with. I broke and cast aside my former vows of loyalty to these man made institutions. I then ripped up the pages, and set them on fire and burned them in a clay pot. I then took the ashes, and put them in a special container, and buried them in my front yard at my home.

Let the Dead Bury the Dead1-5I wanted this act to demonstrate my own seriousness about having closure with organized Christianity, and to set it aside and move on with my life.  It was a physical act, and in that sense it was quite prophetic and a declaration that I was done with the Christian religion. I am now free and I totally feel free.  I am free from my Charismatic past and free from my Evangelical past.  I am free to return to Eden.

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Returning to Eden

covenantI make no bones or false expectations that I am returning to a literal Eden.  It is illustrative of the restoration of what Jesus accomplished in the finished work of the cross. Jesus is called the “second Adam” and Paul in the book of Romans goes to great lengths to describe in theological terms what the first Adam accomplished through his rebellion against God, and what Jesus accomplished through His obedience to the point of death on a cross. Jesus has literally undone the damage that was caused by the rebellion in Eden that caused the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden.

I hold to a spiritual reality of new things and new beginnings that the cross and the resurrection of Jesus accomplished for all of creation.  It was not only humanity that was completely redeemed but all of creation itself.  We can in this life spiritually return to Eden.

What this means in mystical spirituality is quite simple.

union3When Jesus restored all that Adam broke in his rebellion, Jesus undid all the damage of that rebellion, and makes it possible for everyone to be mystically in union with Him, and to “walk” spiritually with Him as Adam walked with God in the Garden. This walking with God is a picture of being with and relating intimately with God. God is indeed Spirit and He communes with our spirit and as Christians the Holy Spirit of God indwells us and we become the habitation of God.

union1When we don’t sense of feel God it is simply our lack of awareness of that union we have with Him. Even those who have yet to confess Christ who have a sense of the “divine” are sensing the tug and pull of God and have a heightened awareness of the spiritual and real.  God is at work saving and redeeming people 24/7.  Jesus is resting. The Christian Scriptures state emphatically that the work of redemption is done. As Jesus said and as I have already stated, “It is finished!”  The only “work” that is taking place, is our coming awake to the reality of what God has already accomplished for us in the work of redemption.  In the end Jesus will get His full inheritance. The Father promised Jesus would have “sinners” as His full inheritance and Jesus is not about to be short changed on the matter!

Life as pilgrimage illustrates the fundament spiritual life

union2Just as I have mentioned “walking with God” illustrates our union with God in Christ, so too the idea of “pilgrimage” illustrates our 24/7 journey with God and other people.  There are ancient Christian pilgrimage sites that still call Christians to walk a sacred path and journey for a specific number of days and undergo a spiritual transformation in the process. One of the better pilgrimages that is as ancient as the Christian faith, is the Way of St. James, or the Camino as it is commonly known that is 800 km long, and extends from France to the Atlantic coast of Spain.  You can make the trek in under six weeks through going over 25 km per day which is a considerable undertaking.  Many stories abound about the spiritual benefits and the experiences that have materialized as people work hard physically on the daily trek, and while there is all this excruciating work being done through aching muscles and blisters and callouses, there is at the same time an inner work taking place where a heart is becoming transformed through the act of pilgrimage.

But we don’t have to wait for an actual physical pilgrimage in order to experience the inner transformation that comes from a focused physical pilgrimage.

union quoteWe can view and experience our day to day living as a pilgrimage in process. We can embrace each encounter of each day as another day of journeying with God and seeing every person who makes up that given day as another divine encounter through another image bearer of God. Every person and every situation is a gift of God to us, to experience His love, His grace, His provision, His very Presence in us and through us! It has little to do with having a religious experience in a cathedral with stained glass windows, or hearing divinely inspired music, or seeing the beauty of physical creation! It has everything to do with embracing the divine in all you see, taste, feel and encounter in your day

everything-is-spiritualEverything, absolutely everything is spiritual.  Let me say that again. Everything, absolutely everything is spiritual. You will encounter God in diverse, subtle, and extreme ways when you decide to be awakened in your mind and in your heart, and in your intellect and in your physical body.  When you become present to the moments that make up your day, you will discover that there is not one moment where God is not present. He is ever present and with you. He has not and He never will ever abandon you. The only hindrance we have is our own minds and our own stinking thinking.

I am the habitation of God and so are you and I don’t need man made religion or belief systems

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indwelling01I am committed to Christ Jesus as my Lord and my Saviour. He is God incarnate. He is fully God and fully man and is fully alive. Through the Holy Spirit He lives in each believer’s heart and life and He continues to renew and transform our lives and our minds. I read the Scriptures and I meditate upon them. I walk and talk with Him every day. I pray continually and I pray using my own prayers as well as reciting ancient Christian prayers like the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner”).  I love Christian devotional writings from Ancient Church to the modern era. There are so many resources for meditation and reflection, that you really do not need sermons or teachings. I hear God for myself. I read the Bible and I pray. I spend time with God and I am open to His voice all day long 24/7.  I do not need “church” or “meetings with Christians” or any such thing.  I am more alive today than I have ever been. I am more open to God and encounters with God and encountering other spiritual people who have their own journeys with God to speak and testify about how they understand and know God personally.  THIS is what a life of Christian pilgrimage is all about, and it is beyond the “church walls” and beyond “Christian theology and teaching.”

indwelling000I am only concerned with being a living habitation of God and carrying God and expressing God in every human encounter and situation I face. I am being renewed day by day by the Spirit of God. I don’t need “church” for any of that! God dwells with me. God dwells with you!

Peace.

~ Samuel M. Buick

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Posted in Church, Kingdom of God, Ministry, Mystical, Personal, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carragh: Forever Young, Forever Beautiful


Our children, no matter their age, will always remain our sweet and wonderful children

carraghParents always presume they will not outlive their children, especially in this modern age. Even a hundred years ago it was not uncommon for families to lose children not only at birth, but within the first five years of life. When Lori-Anne and I had our first child, I never dreamed that I would be among those to lose a child to a horrific disease like cancer.  I never imagined the pain and sorrow of battling that disease for seven years and then losing my first born daughter Carragh.

Today is Carragh’s birth date
carraghfamilyToday I remember my little girl. She is forever young and forever beautiful etched in my mind and in my heart and soul. She is as much a part of me now as she ever was when she graced my life when she was born back in 1984. As a parent, I have no regrets whatsoever of having had Carragh. The joy and life giving grace and love that came through her, and living life with her and her mother and her sisters, has made my life full and has given me the greatest joy and satisfaction. It is through having had Carragh, with the cancer and everything that comes with it, has made my life a truly blessed and wonderful life. I am indeed a very blessed man, and I am rich beyond measure because of Carragh, Caitlin and Erinn. My three beautiful daughters. They are forever young and forever beautiful

So today, I posted on Facebook, a note of remembrance and thanks for Carragh and her life and what she continues to mean to me.

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carraghsistersI decided today, in Carragh’s memory to publish for the first time the letter I wrote to her when she died. It was read in public at her Celebration of Life (funeral) by my friend Bob Dekker. It was too emotional for me to read at the time. I find its words to ring even more true today as I remember Carragh and her impact on my life which is impacting me all the more with my own battle with cancer.

Letter to Carragh – December 21 1993

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Dear Carragh,

carragh5At this very instant you are the envy of everyone in this gathering.  You are in the presence of Jesus. I cannot even begin to imagine your joy and the thrill of sitting at His feet. Now you can ask all those questions that I could never give you an answer for.  You always were a deep thinker. You were the real theologian in the family.  I may have the academic degree but you lived the experience of know God that continues to inspire me.


carragh9As your Dad I have always been proud of you.  I was the first to hold you at your birth, after the doctor of course!  You inspired me to have my best softball game the next night, when I hit a homerun, had two doubles and two triples! I never have come close to that since! I exposed you to baseball at an early age. By the time you were six months old you had your first baseball uniform, much to the chagrin of Mom.  From the time you were a couple of months old to this past summer, you came and cheered for your Dad. You were the best fan in the world.

carragh8The last two years you were hard to live with. Your whole life you have loved the Blue Jays. You knew I despised them and yet you cheered for them. I remember when you met some of them at Sick Kids.  You sure were proud of their autographs. You really enjoyed rubbing my nose in the dirt over the two World Series the Jays won. But, I guess I got one back when the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup over your Gretzky and the L.A. Kings.  I will miss the times we would sit and enjoy a ball game.

You always had sharp eyes and insight. When all those “Bo knows” ads were on TV, you said to me once, “Bo may know all those things, but I know Jesus!” You certainly grabbed my attention with that comment.

carragh15You have had a profound impact on me Carragh.  I remember when you got sick. You were so young. You were so brave. You lost your hair four times, each time more traumatic that the time before. I watched your courage. You were quiet but pain was etched on your brow, and when I would ask you if you were OK, you would say, “Fine, Dad… Just stay here and pray and hold my hand.”  The treatments had their toll on you. The chemo, the pills, the needles, the IV’s, the radiation, the steroids… all compromised your body, but you fought on.


carragh3I remember when you were with Mom, you were listening to Mylon Lefever in the car. He was singing “Crack the Sky and  you asked Mom what that meant. Mom told you that when Jesus comes back to earth for His followers, He will “crack” the sky and we will all rise into the clouds to meet Him. You began to cry. Mom asked you why, and you said that, “Mom, I can’t go… I have too many crafts to do, I have my friends and dancing, I’m just too busy.”  You really taught us how important it is to be ready to be with Jesus. Even now, you are with Him and you are still teaching us to be ready.

carraghsisters2Your insights have always amazed me.  When we spoke about Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and how sin came into the world, you remarked reflectively when you were five years old, “If sin did not come into the world, Jesus did not have to come and die for me and everyone else.”  My heart almost stopped beating! You were well advanced in your theological studies!

carraghsisters3I remember when you first saw the movie “The Mission,” you were impressed by the scene when the man climbs up the mountain with all the armour on his back and when he gets to the top he begins to laugh. Right away you said that he laughed because his sin was taken away. You really amazed me. This movie has always impacted you with a concern for missionaries. You had a desire to be a medical missionary born out of that movie.

carragh3sistersThis desire was heightened when you saw “Chariots of Fire.” You really loved Eric Liddell.  You said that it would be easier to be a missionary, just as long as you did not have to run like he did! You were happy when I told you that you could take a car or walk!

carragh10Your exposure to treatments, doctors, nurses, and hospitals molded your thinking for a long time. You began to have compassion on other kids right away and you always knew which one needed you to help them. You always looked out for the hurting and misunderstood, because that was what you had experienced too. When others suffered and died, you silently bore the pain yourself, rarely sharing your fear or feelings. But, your feelings came out in what you did. You were so brave whether it was a finger prick, an IV, or a lumbar puncture. You coped well by playing doctor on everyone in the family, and as a result we all became expert chemo nurses ourselves! You really found comfort in role playing.

carraghknewI regret that you had to endure so much pain, and that you had to find out that many of your friends had died.  I remember during prayer time you would ask Jesus to take care of your friends. You genuinely cared for all of them.

carragheternalifeYou not only found therapy in role playing but in doing crafts, drawing and painting, and you sure knew how to it well. Grandpa Buick would have been proud of your artistic talents. You were a gifted reader and retained so much of what you read that you astounded me.  You also could write as well.  You were a good listener and could express yourself well. I had great aspirations for you. In my heart I always hoped for a lasting miracle. But, each moment of each day became a miracle… each moment a moment where God and His grace could be poured out in full measure for each need.

carraghjohn_14-3I remember the many miracles we experienced during your illness. God used your cancer to draw us closer to Himself and to transform our lives. You almost went to be with Jesus twice before and God raised you up miraculously.  This time the greatest of miracles is that you are with Jesus. I am the one who is now in pain suffering and mourning your loss.

carraghjohn14Unlike many Dads, I will not have the opportunity to chew out your first date, or deny you the keys to the family car, or be able to attend any of your graduations. I will never meet your husband or children. People will say that this is a terrible loss. No, in the mind of God was not to be. God in His wisdom chose to bless me with your life, to touch me and break me and mold me. Jesus used our adversity to make me, to make Mom and all of us become more like Himself. Without suffering and pain, there is no growth, no life. In you I learned to live in Jesus, living my life to the maximum.  In you I have now learned how to die, for now for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. On day, we will be together again. There will be no sorrow or pain. We will have new bodies. You will be the perfect blond, and will be trim and handsome just the way you and Mom wanted me to be. I look forward to the day that I will behold you when we will worship Jesus forever. I love you Princess. My love is yours forever.

Love,

Dad

So, on this day, a day I always remember, a day that my body speaks to me and I know and I remember that today is a special day, so on this day, I honour and remember my beloved Carragh, who is forever in my heart, forever young, and forever beautiful. I will meet you again Carragh, on the other side of the Jordan. I love you.

Peace.

Your wee Da [Samuel M. Buick]

LINKS:

Facebook update – July 5 2016

 

 

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