The Tears of Alexander


The night air was warm, and its moisture caused my t-shirt to stick against the skin on my back and arms. It was going to be another rough night and I knew that my options were limited. I could either try to fall asleep on my rusty bunk and hope the breeze from the electrical fan made its way through the mosquito net adequately enough to combat the humidity; or I could go for a walk in the night air.

I chose the latter.

The fresh mud stuck to the bottom of my rubber flip flops, which sprayed the mire onto my calves as I walked on the uneven road that weaved its way through the camp. It was around the second of the three months of my stay in the Haitian refugee camp, and I’d gotten used to wandering out by myself. It was lonely being the only person in my concrete house at the entrance of a camp which seemed to be more accustomed to outsiders than I was of it. In fact, I was the only outsider living there.

I tried to make out the silhouettes of the people warming themselves around the various barrel fires outside their homes adorned with sheet metal rooves, but failed to recognize the more familiar faces. No matter - the road would eventually lead me to someone with whom I would stop and chat, but for now I took refuge in the sound of the tropical breeze softly pushing the palm leaves just enough to reveal the magnificent canvass of stars beyond them – a canvass made more vibrant in the context of a community living without street lights or traffic.  

How many nights had I spent staring at the constellations on my flat concrete roof, up the rickety ladder, through the cobwebs and amongst the steel rebar which pointed ever upwards to the heavens?

Time held no place here. She was neither welcomed nor invited. 

As I stumbled my way further along the potholed path, I stopped when I saw two of my friends, Joe and Orlando, standing in front of the concrete steps and humble vegetable garden of Orlando’s home – or rather, his family’s home. It was situated at the bend in the road, before it twisted and weaved its way up the mountainside, which is where most of the refugees lived. Orlando and Joe waved to me with their usual smiles and I happily joined them.

Politely switching from Creole to Spanish so that I could understand what they were saying, the two young Haitians were in the midst of discussion. From what I could make out, they were talking about their spiritual connection to the stars and what that meant for them. While I didn’t catch every word, I understood that their stars represented their lives – both the lived and the yet to be lived. It was the latter that Orlando and Joe were now focused on, as they began interpreting all that lay ahead for them. This came in the form of something other than what they had, whether power or wealth, or simply an opportunity to leave the camp in search of a more prosperous path. It was clear this was a powerful symbol. It wasn’t simply a game of imagination and dreams for them, but rather a belief that their future, a future of material advancement, was somehow related to one of these celestial bodies.

Orlando, with his usual effervescence, lifted his arm and strained his fingers, as if his manifest destiny were to pull himself out of that refugee camp and into a life of opportunity that lay in the stars themselves.

“This one, Ho-el, this one is my star.”

I felt Joe’s calloused palm tug at my t-shirt as he touched my shoulder in order that I might move my attention from Orlando to him. Joe was a motoconcho – a motorcycle taximan – who made his money ferrying people in and out of the camp, through the bumpy roads enveloped in overgrown sugarcane for 40 or 50 pesos (just over $1) a ride. He too wanted more. He beamingly asked, “you want to see my star, Ho-el? Look, this one here,” he pointed at one of the millions of stars above us, “this one is mine”.

When in Rome, I thought to myself, and too claimed a distant plasma hanging in darkness.

Joe and Orlando struggled to maintain their composure, attempting to stave off laughter, before Orlando finally took pity on me as I laughed, confused and clearly ignorant of the context.

“No, Ho-el, that’s not your star.”

“It isn’t?,” I asked – still confused.

“No. You are a rich man. A white man. Your star will be bright. Like…” He searched the blackened sky carefully, stroking his chin, “like this one!” He pointed out what I thought might have been a close planet, and admittedly it looked very bright indeed. 

In truth, I wasn’t rich - not by Western standards anyway. I was dead broke. I had just finished university with a student loan and had yet to step foot into the working world. I didn’t have a cent to my name, but despite this fact, I was wealthier in that moment than they would ever be. To Orlando and Joe, as well as the other Haitians in that refugee camp, I represented the life they desperately wanted: a life of untold riches and opportunity. In their minds, I had made it; while in mine,

I didn’t even know what it was.

Truth was, I didn’t leave my comfortable life and sign up to live solo in a developing nation because I was confident in who I was. Au contraire, I left a life of comfort and material goods behind because I wanted to shake up the monotony of life in order that I might feel something, anything, that might orient me to a purpose.

I desperately wanted to trek across the linguistic, cultural and socio-economic wastelands that lay between us, and to somehow convince them that I wasn’t a fixed star to envy, but rather a traveler who’d lost his way. If they could have somehow put me through a spiritual x-ray, they would have seen past my skin and on to the state of my heart, which was neither familiar with fulfillment nor enveloped in confidence, but rather filled with an insatiable lust for belonging, direction and genuine significance.

And the hole which sat empty in the depths of my soul would never be filled by my own workings, even if I were to be rewarded with every last of Earth’s valuable treasures.

There’s this tale of a man in the Bible who is powerful. Rich. Influential. If the Haitians were looking for his star in the night sky, they may have selected the moon at its fullest.

We don’t know much about him, but the first thing we learn is how he enters the story: he runs. He’s racing after someone – a carpenter of humble origins who is at the center of a new rabbinical movement in AD 1st century. The object of the man’s attention is neither a Pharisee of popular influence, nor a Sadduccee of social class and power. It’s neither an Essene of strict and respected piety, nor a Zealot of any political value. Instead, the man of great power is running to catch up with a blue collared worker who holds nothing of traditional value, and yet the only thing the man has yet to acquire:

A life worth living.

At this point in the story, the carpenter rabbi – Yeshua – is setting out on a journey, leaving behind what we can only assume is the rich man’s homeland. The rich man must have heard about the crowds that had gathered to hear Yeshua’s preaching and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to have a face-to-face encounter with the man that had been ruffling the feathers of those who held the traditional understanding of worth and purpose in their talons.

The man catches up with Yeshua. He let’s his knees fall to the ground in front of the rabbi. The man of wealth and success now kneels before Yeshua of humble origins, allowing his own tunic to be ripped and sullied by the Jordanian dirt and rocks. He begins his dialogue in this way:

 “Good teacher! What must I do, to live forever?”

The wandering rebel ignores his question, choosing instead a series of his own,

“Why are you asking me? You know the old code. You can read for yourself in the texts how to live a good and moral life.”

The successful man stands to his feet and faces Yeshua, “but sir, I’ve followed the old code all my life. I’ve never broken any of the laws – I do what is right and just.”

The Bible says, then Yeshua looked at him and felt a deep love for him. Perhaps he even felt sorry for him. Here was this rich, young ruler who wanted desperately to follow the right way – the good way. He had built his kingdom, not by cheating or manipulating his way to the top, but by his own merit. He was successful, and he was respected – indeed we find out later how he had won over the admiration of the 12 Apostles of Yeshua.

But Yeshua doesn’t see a rich, young ruler who rightly follows the old code – he sees a conflicted soul, torn between the identity he has attached to his own wealth and power, and the desire to have the life that Yeshua offers – one of freedom and transformation. Yeshua senses the conflict within him and puts the reality into words: “if you want to enter my kingdom, you’ll need to give up yours”.

The story ends in disappointing fashion. The man goes away saddened by Yeshua’s words. He’s disheartened. He’s reached the apex of the social, religious and economic hierarchy and scanning from the summit he spots an even higher peak. He believed Yeshua to be his spiritual Sherpa – able to guide him on to the next peak. Instead, he’s haunted by the words of nomadic rabbi, which tell him not how to climb higher but that,

He may have been climbing the wrong mountain all along.

Yeshua concludes his exchange by saying “how hard is it for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God!”


How often have I been there myself?

I have chased hopes of career, hopes of financial gains, hopes of possessions, hopes of opportunities, hopes of positive recognition…and perhaps the greatest disappointment is when I see those hopes come to fruition, because I see them for what they are : not stars in the distant sky, but shadows and dust upon which no foundation can ever be built.

The illusion is revealed.

As English playwright William Congreve puts it,

Having only that one hope, the accomplishment of it, of consequence, must put an end to all my hopes; and what a wretch is he who must survive his hopes! Nothing remains when that day comes, but to sit down and weep like Alexander, when he wanted other worlds to conquer.

Our heart is designed from the time it takes its first beat, to crave significance and seek fulfillment – we need not fight against this design, but rather to recognize the reason for its existence. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to feed the hungry, house the orphans, comfort the widows, aid the poor and expel the darkness. We are called to live a Gospel life – one of continual transformation at the feet of the cross – where we humble ourselves and surrender that which is in between us and the daily immersion into Kingdom of God. We are called to shake the dust off our hearts, now fallen asleep, and to open our eyes to reality that we may have wandered far from home.

We as a people do not hope in ourselves and thank goodness we do not. To hope in our own stars would be to enter into a process which inevitably leads to disappointment and want. Instead we hope in Jesus - the one who gives not as the world gives, but so that we may have life and have it to its fullest (Gospel of John). He is our hope, our salvation, our purpose and he invites us to enter into the renewal of all things, to bring our gifts and our shortcomings alike, so that the Gospel can awaken those who are dead and dying inside and bring about new life.

But we act as the gatekeeper of our heart and we are daily faced with the decision of what foreign desire we’ll allow in. Is it a desire to build our own kingdom? Or to enter into His?

May we as a people, look not to the stars for what they hold over our lives, but to the One who breathed both our lives and the stars into existence. It is by first adopting this perspective that we will come to understand that we are his offspring, his children, and in him we live and move and have our being.

When the Light Breaks


"Man must first cry out that he sees no hope; In this disturbance, salvation begins. When man believes himself to be utterly lost, the light breaks." 
- Martin Luther, 16th century

The thunder cracked, and the skies opened, which caused a great shock to the man’s soul – as if it were as fragile as an egg, with the yolk of security, courage and independence dripping onto the fresh soil – now covered in a new way of being.

It was both the death and the birth of a man, then acting in concert, as if a symphony of divine music were playing the opposing chords of the heart, forever changed.

It was July 2nd in the year 1505 and Martin Luder, a German law student of University of Erfurt was traveling home from a recent visit with his parents. He had been wavering about his future for some time, but this was a guarded secret from his father, a wealthy copper smelter and an influential man in his own right – having no time for anything but his endless pursuit of Fortune –

Regardless of where she may lead him.

He had plans for Martin to become a lawyer, so that he could help the family business in its re-occurring legal tensions with rival enterprises.

But on that night, the night of July 2nd, Martin’s life trajectory shifted like a tectonic plate rising vertically out of the deep waters of expectancy and regularity, neither foreseen nor sought after.

It came in the form of a tempest, a gale, a storm. 

And it seemed to pick up out of nowhere as this medieval law student struggled to keep his wits about him on a cobblestone road in central Germany.

Martin would later say that the terrifying lightning strikes, and crippling air pressure which pinned him to the ground, were the work of a God himself, intercepting him on the road home. Whether a natural or supernatural experience, one thing was certain:

Martin’s life would never be the same. 

In fear and trembling, he cried out to the maestro of this terrifying orchestra, pleading with God to save his life. In return, Martin bartered, he would leave law school and becoming a monk – somewhat unthinkable in the context of the Luder family, who were neither religious, nor interested in anything that the monastic life represented.

Martin had little understanding of God, beyond the idea that his gamble seemed to have paid off – as he was able to escape the storm, alive and unharmed. But now what? He was faced with a life of serving a God he knew virtually nothing about. In fact, the only understanding of God that Martin would have come to inherit from the clergy of his day would have looked quite different from the God that is worshipped in Canadian churches in the 21st century. Gott (God in German) in the eyes of this litigator-turned-monk was something of a maleficent character, taking little interest in His creations beyond judging them for their wretched nature. Gott was often angry, whose wrath could only be appeased by endless confessions to representatives of the papal hierarchy, sequences of preordained prayers and the purchasing of indulgences.

As a result, Martin felt stuck in a system of servitude to this Gott; and yet like he was simultaneously careening off the cliff of control and into the abyss of depression and anxiety about life and the afterlife. The worst of both worlds. One contemporary of Martin noted that while it was not unusual to see someone in angst about their religious position, given the religious atmosphere of the day, it was striking to see how the monk was able to confess for hours on end, trembling at the thought of omitting to mention even the smallest of transgressions to his vicar. 

In short, Gott was terrifying.

Like many both within and outside of the Church at the time, he had simply adopted the status quo of what it meant to be a member of the Church body. Transformation, deliverance, restoration and even the Gospel itself would have meant virtually nothing to someone filtering their understanding of the role of Church through their Medieval lens. Its as if the original ethos – the overarching narrative, including the guiding beliefs and purpose – had simply been forgotten or pushed aside to make room for a collective of men who built the Medieval Church in its stead.

The Christian ethos was dead long before Martin was ever born.

As such, Martin’s very real struggles with anxiety and depression over this life and the next, were the results of a framework of corruption and perversion of the Church, which could offer nothing of value to the deeper questions of where did we come from, where are we going, and what is our story as the Body of Christ. The idea of purpose, direction and context within the complexities of life seemed like looking into a dimly lit room and searching for discernment, instead finding disorientation, disconnection and trepidation.

Simply put, Martin did not understand his place in the Gospel, since (even as monk) he did not know of the Gospel.

His dilemma at first was that he had never read the Scriptures – something of a guarded text, housed within the ivory towers of the powerful who would bend and manipulate portions of Scripture to justify their personal agendas. But upon attending the University of Wittenberg to obtain a degree in Biblical Studies, Martin began to discover that Gott was not God, and the Church of the 16th century was quite unlike the Body of Christ found within the Word of God – moving, emancipating, renewing. It was here that Martin Luder changed his family name to Luther to identify with the Greek eleutheros, or as we would now say:


Imagine the sheer ecstasy of knowing that you were not the object of Gott’s wrath, a wretched creature of unlovable nature – but rather a beloved, a betrothed, an adopted child of a King. No longer fettered by shame, nor chained by darkness. No longer bound by fear, nor shackled by sin. Freed.

Like Sha'ul who changed his name to Paulus 1500 years prior and went on to launch the early Church into its purposed glory, this transformation of character within Martin demanded a new identity.

Martin no longer served a man-made den of thieves, eager to line their religious cloaks with the pauper’s coins. Instead, he served a man-making God, who desired to nothing other than the pauper’s heart. No longer did Martin see a Gott who desired to judge the world in their sin, but rather a God to save them from it.

And that would be his point of no return.

Once Martin understood his ethos – that he was a part of something much greater than himself and that this something was the moving, breathing power of the unstoppable Gospel – he knew two things: 

One: He was in.

Two: He needed to tell everyone about it, whatever the cost.

And it nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion, as the keepers of the perverse tradition of Gott would stop at nothing to maintain the reigns on the uneducated and poor.  Injecting the life-giving nature of the Gospel into the spiritual death and decay of the populous meant the certain death of Gott – and by extension, the death of the 16th Century Church. As such, one does not need to search very far in either his imagination nor in the annals of history to comprehend just how desperately the Church wanted to silence and destroy the monk who threatened to end them.

And here, Martin made his stand. He’s been called the most influential figure of both the Medieval and Enlightenment eras, because he is largely responsible for collapsing the former to make way for the latter. That of course was never his intent, but I think it speaks to the power of the Gospel to burst the wineskins of old and corrupt ways, to make way for the new, life-giving potations of freedom and justice.

And yet, he was a man who was crass and offensive, prideful and bitter, and went through a period when he struggled with his own religious prejudices. He was, in short, merely man – and man can err. But he was a man who, through the enlightenment of Scripture, found and re-launched the Gospel Movement in his era and recognized that his life meant nothing outside of that context. 

But that context, what we call the Gospel, begins with the Gospel Originator – Jesus Christ. The first time the words of Jesus hit the ears of the people in his day, a crowd packed into a Jewish synagogue in AD 1st Century, they concluded what so many of us now tend to forget:

The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law…  Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” (Gospel of Mark)

The people of his day picked up on something striking: the words that have left the mouth of whomever this is, are not like words we have




This isn’t another religious sect. Or another philosophy. It’s a not a means to control nor an attempt to establish a theocratic rule. Its partially what makes me cringe when I hear Jesus lumped in with the major religions.

These are new words.

This is freedom. And freedom from.

But when we consider that lens – that we are not simply church-goers or small-group attenders, but bringers of these new words of freedom – of eleutheros – do we hear our own voices in that? Do those words sound like the words that leave our mouths? Or do we sound like the same resounding gongs and clanging symbols of the world around us, apathetic, cynical, desperate to fit in and yet spiritually disconnected?

We have a choice before us. We can adopt that which we have allegedly entered into – a people chosen for a purpose – or we can keep the status quo, hope for a hedonistic outcome to our lives and pray that no one engages us. It sounds simple. But how many of us choose the former over the latter?

Friends, if we don’t where we’ve come from, where we’re going and what in God’s name we’re doing here, then as author John Eldredge puts it, we’re disoriented times zero, unaware of our surroundings and unable to allow for transformation to take place in ourselves or to invite anyone else into that process.

And yet we find ourselves in the interesting position of inheriting the freedom that was fought for and paid for by the blood of martyrs and the sacrifices of the saints that came before us, only to turn and accept with open arms the very things that fettered the Medieval Church: ignorance and apathy.

We’re becoming a Church that is perniciously willing to allow perversions of the Gospel to enter the Church, happily adopting ideas, philosophies and habits which are at best a distraction and at worst, heresy. Worse still, the decisions made are often done not in the name of conviction, but rather in appeasing the applecart – keeping the spotlight of negative opinion away from us and on to someone else. The problem isn’t so much that we have malintent, but rather that we don’t even realize what is happening. Like a rescue diver who has hit the water at great speed and found himself disoriented in the pulls and tugs of the ocean current, we can no longer see which way is up, and therefore cannot tell right from wrong, good from bad, freed from enslaved, Gospel from something other entirely. 

And consequently, we stray from the Movement.

The Gospel offends. It is raw. It is untamed. It is the rescuing power of Jesus Christ, the one chosen to free us from the ugliest versions of ourselves – our addictions, our pains, our anxieties, our sins. The Gospel comes to claim, and claim boldly, the lives of those once discarded and deemed worthless, to bring those lives into the fold of the Body of Christ and to make them sons and daughters of the King. Witnesses of the message that saves. Slaves to forgiveness and love. Bringers of peace and proclaimers of truth. Defenders of the orphans and widows.

Sounds great. But the truth is, we will never be characters in a narrative in which we’ve not entered. And we will never enter a story for which the author is unknown. Our ethos is who we are as a people, as a chosen Body to bring the fire to those kept in the cold. It’s an understanding, a mindset, a wardrobe to another world.

But that process starts the way it has always done: from the manger of humility. It starts in a place where we as the Church can admit to ourselves that we have become mistrustful and disinterested, and placed the things of this world above the Gospel. When we can admit that we’ve lost our way. That we are without hope of saving ourselves.

If we can get to that place, a place of openness and humility, we will wake to the reality that something good is rising just over the horizon, the darkness is lifting, and the Gospel has come.

Here, and only here, the light breaks.

Live Unsettled

I often seek comfort. Whether putting on a warm coat on a cold day, upgrading the home furniture for something cozier, or simply removing myself from a stressful situation, my natural tendency is to find stability and grounding in a world that sometimes seems to spin too quickly. Sometimes I can find the world to be an unsettling place. Often, in fact. In my job, I am employed to step into chaos and redeem it – to bring it into a state of stability and calm – to rectify the situation. Many jobs, when you boil them down, are just that: mending broken situations. Settling the unsettled.

After all, that is what the Big Man upstairs wants for us all. Isn’t it? To feel comforted? Calmed? Settled?

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The Gospel Movement

The Gospel Movement

“You will read what’s on the paper”, he says to the young woman in front of him – in front of all the people sitting, watching. The young woman, in her twenties, smiles politely and responds in a voice that seems to trail off into the immense heights of the ancient cathedral, “I know. But I was just going to read this first.” She uses her index finger to indicate the crinkled, hand-written eulogy on the pulpit in front of her – a piece dedicated to her grandmother, a woman now passed after fighting years of Parkinson’s disease. The priest, dressed in a ceremonial gown of pure and undefiled white, moves in closer to the young woman, now sharing the same air that she breathes. His look intensifies as he slowly pronounces each word of his unwavering position, “you will read what is on the page”. The priest points to the binder of laminated biblical passages previously selected in a handful of meetings between clergy and family prior to the funeral. As she stares back at him, there is a short-lived but courageous moment of pure defiance in her eyes before she turns, defeated and humiliated, to read the verses. She now knows that the moments she spent pouring out her heart into the lines in front of her have all been for naught.  She takes a deep breath and takes a brief look at the audience of fellow mourners, before quickly returning her eyes to the words touching the priests rigid index finger.  

But the words do not come out...

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