Winter Issue 9
(re)MIX AND MATCH
by Annie Hobden
it is the second half of the Great Commandment. But many of us find itdifficult, especially when it comes to the social construct of dating. What does loving our neighbour look like in this context?
This weekend I took the Vocation, Work and Ministry class. During it instructor Grey Poehnell said, “Often the things we struggle with are the things God uses.” It struck me – this is what God is doing with Chantelle and me. We haven’t got a clue when it comes to romantic relationships – but we’re no longer content with this status quo. We don’t claim to have the answers, or even a full understanding of the questions and issues. But I think that’s ok! We are trying to start the process of daring to hope for change. This isn’t about individuals finding soulmates, although hopefully some may. Instead, this is about asking the Spirit to help us imagine something different.
As a management consultant who specialises in culture change, I know all too well how amorphous and complex culture is. It takes time to change mindsets. One approach is to instigate change through correcting the narrative people believe and the practices they engage with, which needs to be done in the context of community. So far, Mix and Match has tested the water by holding one event for people to meet others – the practice bit. We will continue organising events, but we also need to address narratives. Personally, I have loads of false narratives when it comes to dating, and I know these are choking me. However, as a result of the conversations I’ve had over the last month, I’m starting to see a shift. False narratives need to be brought into the light for them to change. Our plan is to facilitate this by opening up the discussion in an unpressured environment and collectively asking what a new narrative might be.
Chantelle and I want to thank you for humouring us. We get it – it’s awkward, and it’s not for everyone. And that’s fine. But we’d love to chat with you, no matter what your opinion; I’m a Brit, so it’s hard to offend me, and Chantelle’s basically British now too. We’re often in the atrium or you can email us - firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are daring to dream for a transformation in dating (initially among Christians, but society at large needs this too). Could dating be an opportunity to develop quality relationships? We’d love you to join us in this crazy adventure.
“Often the things we struggle with are the things God uses” – Grey Poehnell
I struggle with dating and relationships. Aged 30, I have still never had a romantic relationship and not managed more than 3 dates with the same person. There are lots of reasons and excuses I can give for this, but the more I reflect on it, the more I think that, in my case, fear is the cause. I am fearful of getting hurt or of hurting someone else. I am fearful that if I start dating, I will lose the contentment I have with my singleness. I am fearful that I will wake up one day married to someone but feeling lonely and regretting the decision I made ... and so, the list continues, with things I can sense but not express.
This fear has led to a dating paralysis and a temptation to run away from the whole thing. And I was very successful at this until 10th February 2017, when I arrived at Regent at 5:30pm and joined yet another conversation about dating. (On an aside, the frequency of these conversations gave me the distinct impression I was not the only one with issues around dating. What about you?) But back to the conversation we were having, it turned out Chantelle’s dating life was almost as catastrophic as mine – although she’d managed the dizzying heights of 5 dates with the same guy! What a pathetic pair. But during this specific conversation something switched for us. We decided enough was enough. We could continue living held captive by our thoughts, or we could do something about it and, hopefully in the process, help others like us. We chose the latter.
In the space of 3 hours we came up with Mix and Match and planned the first event. With much trepidation, we created a Facebook invite and released it to the world. The response blew us away and proved that we are not the only ones struggling with dating. Since then we have been overwhelmed and encouraged by the conversations we have had with so many people – most of whom we didn’t know before.
Our dream for Mix and Match is to create healthy relationships that enable individuals, in community, to flourish. We are starting with dating, but the vision is bigger.
Harvard conducted a 75-year study into what makes humans fulfilled. The answer – quality relationships. They also acknowledge the failure of our modern culture in this regard. As Christians, learning the importance of relationships should not surprise us – after all,
CONSUMING THE FLESH:
PORN, SCRIPTURE, AND THE POWER AND LOVE OF GOD
by Matthew Nelson
for our whole selves, for our whole person?
Jesus teaches us profoundly about hunger and true nourishment when he resists the devil’s temptation to turn stones into bread while fasting in the desert. Jesus quotes Scripture, Deuteronomy’s account of God’s feeding the Israelites with manna in the desert, saying, “it is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
Jesus not only affirms the power of God’s written word in turning from deathly sin, he draws attention to the God in whom alone is our life, the God apart from whom food in itself provides no nourishment. God speaks and writes through people because God desires intimacy with his creatures whom he loves. Jesus, a man and God incarnate, Word made flesh, is himself that “living bread from heaven” (John 6:58) which fed the Israelites! And his Spirit—including his "words [that] are spirit and life" (John 6:63)—is living water. Communion with the triune God is nourishment for our whole selves, for Jesus’s “flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (John 6:55).
This touches down practically, for the road to porn actually begins not with porn itself, but with the eyes and the heart (Mt. 5:28). In a world supersaturated with lust, we must actively renounce lustful looks and thoughts—especially the images burned into our brains from porn or experience—and turn to Jesus. This practice of “taking every thought captive” (1 Cor. 10:3) would be purely a burden and totally impossible (and it is arduous), if not for the fact that our turning is made possible by the Spirit and grace of Christ. We must always remember that we turn away from famine (sin, masquerading as feast) to feast in Christ (whether single or married). This feast of Christ begins in self-denying cross pains, but is a journey in and to ever-increasing fullness of joy and renewal. And this must be built on grace, meaning: we dwell on Christ's perfection, not our own sin or failures.
Anyone who is interested in pursuing greater joy and life in this area, please feel free to send me an email at email@example.com, and also feel welcome to join me at a group that meets weekly in West Point Grey; the group exists to help men encourage each other to latch onto the grace of Christ and increase in love for God in their sexual (and whole) lives. (Also, Tenth Church has a female group, so I would encourage women to check that out).
The group I attend includes time for prayer, accountability, encouragement, and speaking God’s Word—each of us come with memorized Scripture, even just one or two verses. I and many I know have personally experienced the power and love of God through this spiritual discipline that—unlike a mere technique—is a practical way of renewing our minds (Rm. 12:2) and communing with God and one another. And, so you know, many formerly hopeless men (including this one!) of different ages and life stories have been walking in freedom from porn for months and years. It is difficult to stress just how helpful the group has been to foster growth in the love of God, and how it is a means God uses to conquer despair of many kinds.
So instead of consuming the flesh on offer in porn, let us instead consume different flesh—that Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ who gave his flesh that we may live. May every word of God’s living Spirit nourish us as we traverse our deserts, thirsty and hungry, knowing that we shall truly starve apart from communion with the Word.
In the Q & A last week following the CTC lecture on media and communications technology, Professor Iain Provan mentioned the subject of porn use amongst Christians—including Regent students—and I thought I’d expound a bit on the concern he raised.
Let me just say right off the bat that the reason I heartily welcome public discussion of porn is that it delights me to shine Christ’s light on darkness, of any kind—especially the darkness of porn. It gives me deep joy to openly discuss something that thrives by being kept secret, something that many struggle with but are too ashamed to admit. I want to address this because of porn's corrosive effects on our communal lives as a whole (including our broken dating culture—see article above), and on Christians’ lives and faith in particular. I speak as one who had been in the trenches with it for many years, and as such can testify to one of porn’s most insidious effects, namely that it actively creates and fosters unbelief in the God who “sets captives free.” Not to be too dramatic, but for many (like this dude as a teenager and young adult), at stake here is people’s confidence in the reality of Yahweh, his power, and his love.
For many of us—“many” because, statistically-speaking, Christians use porn at rates equal to or even exceeding those of the wider culture—porn is simply part of life. It is seemingly inescapable, given omnipresent internet accessible through those little rectangular computers in our pockets (and also the old-fashioned laptop computers with which we are forced to conduct half the business of our lives). The road to the “forbidden woman” (or man) (Proverbs 5:3-22) has never been so easy to traverse. Facing these facts, many Christians who hate and oppose porn often find themselves helplessly addicted and enslaved to porn, use of which most likely began in childhood. Sadly, most folks in the church were taught little more than “this is sin,” without much theological or practical guidance for how to live otherwise.
Doubts arise in such conditions: are human beings primarily lustful non-monogamous animals? Are God’s commands regarding sexuality—one man and one woman in marriage—absurd and unlivable? What to do with our heart, which we are told is a fountain of sinful desire? Why won’t Jesus do what they say he will do—set us free from sin? Is this an "inhuman" faith?
Due to such doubts or others unnamed, many become resigned to porn, having learned to tolerate and begrudgingly accept its presence in their lives, having given up (in whole or in part) the fight against it—whether due to outright unbelief and rebellion, guilt, repeated failures (God’s or mine?) to leave it behind, unhealed sexual and relational trauma, lingering doubts in God’s power to free us, and—most awfully—doubts in the truth that God’s “steadfast love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3).
What must be understood here is that porn is spiritual. And by spiritual, I mean porn is a phenomenon of the whole person—mind, body, heart, and soul. Like all sin, porn interacts with the inmost self of a person, one’s deepest desires. As images of sex, porn’s uniquely pernicious nature is that it offers a counterfeit of love and sexual intimacy. Porn exploits good God-given desires for intimacy and promises fulfillment while, in truth, merely deepening our thirst.
Against all life-denying philosophy and religion, God tells us in Scripture: It is human to desire. It is human to thirst and to be hungry. We need nourishment! Where can such nourishment be found
WHO NEEDS A NAP?
by Andrew Headley
He sees everything in you. He shines his light, which blazes against the darkness. It's like going under the knife. Isaiah said: Woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips. John, the beloved of Christ, fell on his face, as though dead, when he saw him in his glory.
"Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us."
If the doctor diagnosed you with a terminal illness, and then proceeded to tell you not to worry, that he could do the operation, would you run out into the street proclaiming the good news? Or would you go under the knife? Would you suffer through the rehab?
Adam sinned and then he hid. I do the same. I try to come before him, but I do it half asleep. I bring the parts of myself that I like. I approach the throne from my left side, because it's my photogenic side. Don't get me wrong, Jesus wants whatever we have to give. He is patient, and his light is gentle, and so is his prodding. But we are not surgeons. We cannot change the heart. Jesus doesn't want me to change. He wants me to let him change me. He wants to shine through me, that I can be healed. It's both the worst thing and the best thing. But it remains the best thing, if I stay the course until the end. Because those pains, of who I really fear that I am, deep at my core— that hidden feeling of worthlessness I am sure will disqualify me from friendship, from love, from being seen— actually qualify me for a lifetime of loneliness, unless I let him in, unless I let him love me.
Wake me. Love me. I know it will be painful. I know it will be good. Help me not to numb, in this anesthetic world. Teach me to stand it. Shine your light, that I can live and shine. Help me to bend my knee and accept your help. Help me to give you my sin, even these I have chosen again, that feel as though I am trampling you underfoot. Please take them from me. I can't change. But I can approach you boldly. It's unbelievable, I keep saying that I will only kneel here, will only touch your feet, and I realize you are already kneeling, washing mine.
For anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14
We had an altar call at Church last week. But it wasn't only for the unbelievers. It was for us, the sleepers. I was sitting in my usual chair, a suddenly uncomfortable blue chair, assessing my spiritual condition. I'm doing well, I think. I'm reading the word, enough. I'm semi-to-somewhat eager to do my quiet times. I even recited Psalm 103 for the call to worship, in honour of Ash Wednesday. All from memory. Heck, I might even be one of the elite. Is there a throne in my future? I shake my Christian eight ball: All signs point to yes. So, in light of all my achievements, I didn't consider myself a sleeper. As a matter of fact, I can think of a few sleepers. There they are. I can see them, right over there. I wonder if they'll go up. They need a good glory washing.
FYI: These are the thoughts of someone who is sleeping.
Wake up! We are all sleepers. I may have been awake a moment before, but right when the presence came close, I decided to protect myself and go to sleep. We live in a mediated world. We don't like real presence. At the moment when we could truly be changed, we tend to fall asleep. The disciples did this all the time.
Anytime prayer is offered, I think, nah, I'm probably good, I have enough Jesus, I'm a good friend of his actually, I'll let the really broken people go.
Good friends are in need of more Jesus.
This statement is always true.
There is also another kind of sleeping that I can't get out of my head. It's the sleeper who says: Jesus is so great! All I can do is praise him, and I love to be near to him, and it's always so amazing, and his presence feels so good. I'm sorry, but this too is sleeping. To stand before the throne of glory is not comfortable. Jesus physically healed many people in the bible who were never heard from again. To approach the presence of God—the holy of holies, the all-consuming fire—is going to hurt. I'm sorry, there's no way around it.
by Jonathan Lyonhart
streets of night. Yet it is not too late to return and awaken in the house of the Lord. Dawn may be coming, but night still affords you the slivers of time needed to rectify all wrongs. Time is on your side for now, but she is growing weaker.
One day, not long from now, you shall wake up not in your beds but at the pearly gates, howling at the door. Will you be taken in? Indeed, what excuse shall you give your Lord then? Shall you stand before the all-knowing Spirit and claim: “We did not know!” Will you stand before the one who taught us to love our neighbor, and say: “They were not my neighbor, for they did not live in my neighborhood, but in another town, far away.” Will you stand before the one who paid the ultimate price for you, and mumble: “It would’ve cost too much to save them.” Will you dare stand before the crucified Christ, and argue: “Rome would have killed us if we helped them.”
So what if some of them might be spies of the empire? So what if they might bring terror and plague? Would it not be better to die for their humanity, than to live and lose your own? What did you expect? That love would not cost everything? That following a crucified Christ might not mean you too would be crucified? If you want wealth and privilege and the promise of safety, then go worship Zeus or Artemis. If you want to follow Christ, then pick up your cross daily, dying to yourself so others can live. The symbol of our faith is not gold or lions or lightning. Nay, it is death. A lover’s death.
Do you not remember? Have you forgotten so quickly? Indeed, it has only been a few decades, many of you were there yourself, and for those who weren’t, my friend Luke has documented the whole event. Remember those first days after Christ was crucified? When the authorities in Jerusalem began to hunt you down and slaughter the disciples? The government claimed we were terrorists, just like our leader who was crucified for rebellion. You all fled North toward the land of Syria. You all took refuge there, hiding until it was safe. If the people there had not embraced you, sheltered you, fed you, then all of us would have died, and the movement would have died with us. All Christians from the beginning through to the end of time, are, were and ever shall be, Syrian refugees.
I, Paul, write this with my own hand.
The grace and peace of our Lord be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
To the church in Corinth,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is actually said among the people that you will not take in the Roman Christians and Jews. Indeed, since Emperor Claudius banished them from Rome, you have made it your duty to deny such exiles and applaud anyone who followed in your shame. At first I did not wish to write you, knowing as I did your many struggles, not wishing to burden you with more. Alas, last night I had a dream that rebuked me from my slumber. In my vision a howl came from a wounded mutt, running from the woods, fleeing a beast with legs like tree trunks and extra heads where ears should be. The mutt ran from home to home, whimpering for someone to let him in. Yet door after door closed, until he was left all alone in the dark to be consumed by the beast.
Perhaps you do not understand. Perhaps you do not see the tears turning old trails to mud, nor smell the blood collecting in flesh-clogged gutters, nor hear the howl of brothers and sisters climbing over each other to escape. I prayed as much, for ignorance can be corrected by time. But I fear your symptoms bespeak a different disease, one deeper than joints and bones and marrow. A demon lives among you.
I prayed that perhaps this was not so, that Corinth was sheltered from the flight of the innocent, and so was innocent itself. Alas, Corinth is on the coast. Have you not then become fishers of men, catching corpses in your nets, the thousands lost at sea as they flee Rome? Does it not make a faint sound, when your ships cascade through rising and falling skulls on the tide? Have your homes not moved further inland, as the Mediterranean rises, displaced by death? Do you think yourselves merely lost in the Red Sea, whilst swimming in blood? Indeed, you are right in this at least: you are lost. Bodies float onto your beaches, yet you are the ones who are washed up.
Do not take from this only judgment, for it is only by grace that we can still speak at all. For if God had treated us in accordance with justice, you would have been wiped from the earth years ago and I would never have been born. I speak harshly to you not as a judge but as a loving father. You have run away from your calling, fled your holy beds to seek solace in the neon
POEM OF THE WEEK:
by Blythe Hutchcroft
It’s March. Our desks are thick with papers and in moments of distraction we find ourselves wondering how the heck we’re going to return all these library books in one go. (Have you ever tried a hiking backpack for the end-of-term library dump? Not great on public transit, but, when in a pinch….) Given that we’re all already knee deep in deep thoughts, I thought I’d give you something to lighten that load: love poems! Gross, I know. Sorry. But it’s almost April and as well as folk who “long to go on pilgrimages,” those “sweet-smelling showers” mean lover’s season in literature. Just ask Chaucer, from whom I stole those weird old-timey phrases. So, here, take this offering of love haikus, originally written for my spouse as we try and make it through winter in Montreal. In this poem, I experiment with a playful—albeit strict—form to explore ideas of place, space (heart space, cognitive space, domestic space), linear time, and life together.
“Time that withers you will wither me. We will fall like ripe fruit and roll down the grass together. Dear friend, let me lie beside you watching the clouds until the earth covers us and we are gone.” — Jeanette Winterson
The day we married
Annie crawled into my arms,
bright blanket of light.
Apples swallowed sound.
Graft into strange families.
Old “our” into new.
The best way to build
a home is to dwell in a
space that is not it.
So we decide to
live in not home for a time.
Your torso, a balm.
Paprika beans soak—
I am always hungry. You
teach me to grill cheese.
I wonder if you
know how much I talk about
your goodness, my pride.
Alone on a flight
to your hometown—how odd, that
which makes us most sad—
I think of your mind,
a tidepool in bloom. Up close,
the colours I see!
In November, we
fumble soggy prayers for
women we don’t know.
You hate your birthday,
so I let you into my
warren of poems.
We map nowhere but
here. Hills hung with red fox fur
flare into winter.
Already, the fall
mends into memory: our
life, unfolding here.
time, but three hours ahead.
Kitchen light leads me.
Turn your face upwards.
A kingdom might pool into
your head like a flood.
MODEL OF A MODERN REGENT-GRADUATE
by Julian Houston
Like all great creative moments, this one--a song modified from the song "I am the very model of a modern major-general" from the operetta "The Pirates of Penzance"---came to me when I was supposed to be doing something else. Namely, schoolwork. In light of this, the next time you are under pressure to complete a task, do not bewail your circumstances. That pressure may just squeeze out a masterpiece.
I am the very model of a modern Regent-Graduate
I’ve information saintly, apostate and of flagellates
I know the saints of England and can quote crusades historical
From Innocent’s to Children’s in matter categorical
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters theological,
I understand the sacraments, both holy and heretical
About pastoral theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’news
With many cheerful facts to keep them in their holy pews
I’m very good at Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages
I know the saintly ways of holy martyr's languishes
In short, in matters saintly, apostate and of flagellates
I am the very model of a modern Regent-Graduate
I know our Catholic History St Bernard's and St Benedict's
His penitential tasks, the famous rule that interdicts
I know through exegesis all crimes considered blasphemous
Mnemonics help me tie amanuensis to γραμματεύς.
I can tell undoubted Piuses from Bonifii and Celestines
I know the croaking chorus of the hymnals by the Weseleys.
Then I can sum a view of which I've read the lit a'fore
And scuttle all the ploys of Plato that infernal philo' bore!
I can wax at length why Nicodemus need be reborn
And teach you ev'ry bit of Calvinistic Dutch reform
In short, in matters saintly, apostate and of flagellates
I am the very model of a modern Regent-Graduate
In fact, when I know what is meant by narrative and history
When I can tell at sight intelligence from sophistry
When such affairs as theses and exegeses I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by "the well is where I'm at"
When I know that stewarding is needed in modern-day ecology
When I know more of praxis than an abbot in astrology
In short, when I've a smattering of sacramental trinity
You'll say a better Regent-Grad has never graced BC
I pray for tranquility, though I’m given to histrionicity,
Thank goodness living this does not rest on my ability;
But still, in matters saintly, apostate and of flagellates
I am the very model of a modern Regent-Graduate