Thursday, July 30, 2009

goodbye Whistler?

I first came to Whistler in January 2002. Four months later, I had skied 67 days, spent many late and enjoyable nights working at Whistler Village Sports, discovered an amazing burger place (Splitz grill) and had had a much-needed break. I got to enjoy these spectacular mountains, which rise whopping 5000 feet above the valley floor, with friends old (TK, Adam, Scott, Pete LaF, Jake, Mum & Dad) and new (Chris, Shara & Jen). After 67 days, there was still a lot of skiing on these hills to be done…

So I confess… coming to study in Vancouver always had an ulterior motive. Jess and I have been blessed to be able to enjoy three more ski seasons and two summer visits. Each season we booked a 3-day trip (twice on bargain time-share trial deals!) and also did a bunch of day-trips with the crew from Regent, the Neridas, Ken & Julie, Matt & Chris and AY.

While Whistler is known for its winter activities, the two summer visits that Jess and I enjoyed hiking and biking were incredible too. We just got back from a farewell stay, where we hiked the recently built alpine trails along Blackcomb mountain. The weather was warm, the wildflowers blooming and the creeks running wild.

We experienced the Peak-2-Peak Gondola for the first time, which transports skiers from the peaks of Whistler to Blackcomb mountain in 11 minutes. While I don’t think its necessary to ski both of these huge mountains on a single day, this gondola is a truly amazing engineering feat. At its tallest point, you are 436 meters high and the unsuspended cable length is 3km (1.88 miles) long. If the gondola breaks down, I have no idea how they would be able to rescue people from such heights!

Whistler is gearing up to host some of the events for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, so we checked out the impressive new sliding centre (perhaps Whistlers white elephant after the games?), which will host the bobsled and luge events.

So for now, goodbye to wonderful Whistler… and hello again when we will tune in come February 12!

Monday, July 27, 2009


After what has been a rough road for us, our Vancouver apartment is now SOLD! Thank you to all who have advised us through the process, both when we tried (and came very close) to sell the apartment ourselves (, and through the official listing period. A BIG thank you to those who have been praying for the sale, and perhaps more importantly, praying for us through this journey... Although we did doubt what the Lord was doing after so many inspections and no offers, the Lord has once again proved that "he is an on-time God, yes he is!" (to quote Regent's fabulous gospel choir), the day after we arrive in South Bend, the property changes hands. We walk away from this experience, seeing again that steps of faith are not made alone, for the God who calls us, walks with us...

Another BIG thank you, to our friend and Realtor, Elmar Klukas, for the many showings, his counsel and patience (with us) and his professional manner in pushing a complex sale through...

The next step, Indiana via U-Haul, we don't walk alone...

We celebrated the sale in style, Jess cooked a 5 course dinner (including some local lamb - yes Mum I am getting some meat!)) and we cracked a magnificent 2002 St. Hugo Cab Sav (bottle #77907 to be precise)...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

#2/2 – Jesus saves; the church?

The Sydney Anglican Diocese lost $100,000,000.00 in the stock-market slump brought on by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), [read some news and opinions about it in my #1/2 post.] The $100 million loss was partly caused by an investing strategy known as “gearing,” where the investor borrows money to then invest. If the market goes up, gearing accelerates the gains, but if the market goes down – as it did in the GFC – then the losses are magnified. Here are three of my reflections on the Sydney Anglican Dioceses investment woes…

First, a fairly rudimentary understanding of the biblical text should result in the reader feeling uneasy with a ready embrace of debt, which we see in Western economies today – from households to firms, governments and perhaps even churches. While I won’t argue for a water-tight hermeneutical understanding linking biblical texts about debt to modern investment practises, it is worth hearing the biblical text’s aversion towards debt. In Lev.25, the Year of Jubilee is prescribed to ensure indebted families would be able to have their debts forgiven and retain ownership of their land, resulting in their ongoing economic and social inclusion. Deut. 15 speaks of removing debt from the life of Israel and foresees a situation where Israel borrows money from no nation. Prov. 22:26-27 warns about entering into debt when the cost of such debt may be losing life’s essentials (in this case, a bed to sleep in). Jesus uses canceled financial debts as examples of the Kingdom of God in his parables (Lk.7 & Mt.18). The aversion to debt expressed in the Bible is also expressed in the lives of saints throughout the majority of Christian tradition. It was only in 1822 that the Catholic Church relaxed its condemnation on charging interest on a loan. Considering the aversion the Bible has towards debt, doesn’t the question have to be asked why a church denomination would willfully go into debt without any necessity to do so?

Second, the majority of written material I read from the hands of members and leaders of the Sydney Anglican church had no biblical or theological reflection on the gearing strategy (using debt to accelerate gain). Instead, the articles were responding to media criticism, informing parish members about the consequences of the $100 million loss, explaining away the loss as the fall-out of contemporary investment strategies, and some were looking for heads to roll. The lack of biblical and theological critique on the $100 million exposes a way of thinking that separates issues of the church from issues of the marketplace; traditionally this has been termed the “sacred” and the “secular” divide. This form of dualism manifests itself in much Sunday teaching and preaching, where the nitty-gritty practicalities of the biblical text are spiritualised away, beyond any connection to everyday actions and decisions that parishioners face on Monday morning. If the scholarly leaders of the denomination don’t set an example of how to integrate biblical and theological understandings with everyday practicalities like investments, then the pew sitters will be left stumbling in the dark as they try to live holistic Christian lives. Or worse, they will be sadly ignorant that the good news of the redeeming gospel may, in-fact, have implications for all areas of life.

Third, how can a church be salt and light to a city if it acts in exactly the same way as the city? The reactions of journalists and letter writers, as they express opinions on the 100-million-dollar loss, is that the Anglican church has no credibility: the church has acted hypocritically and the church even ignored its own good book. The Sydney Anglican diocese has demonstrated that it has a disconnect between the means (debt-dependent gearing) it chooses to employ and its ends (the preaching of the Gospel and bringing people to faith in the God of the Bible). They have seemingly adopted the attitude that as long as the market keeps going up, the means justify the ends. But do the ends justify the means?
In Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, Hauerwas and Willimon argue that for missional activity by the church to be effective, the church must not accommodate itself to the ways of the world, but instead the church must behave like the church. Perhaps, Sydney Anglicans need to ask themselves Hauerwas and Willimon’s question:
“At every turn the church must ask itself: Does it really make any difference, in our life together, in what we do (in this case, in how we invest), that in Jesus Christ God is reconciling the world to himself?”