Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday 5 on independence

SOngbird writes
In the U.S., we're heading into a holiday weekend as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day. Although the topic of this meme may be inevitable, independence never is, so it couldn't hurt to stop and think for a minute about independence in a general way and holidays in a more trivial way.

1) Do you celebrate 4th of July (or some other holiday representing independence?) Canada Day, July 1st (once known as Dominion Day)
2) When was the first time you felt independent, if ever? First year seminary, first time I lived somewhere other than my childhood home. (true I went back for a couple years at a later date but so is life). THen later I learned that while Independence is important it is also important to know when it is time to be interdependent -- mind you I am still working on that one.
3) If you're hosting a cookout, what's on the grill? NOt hosting one. But we do attend the community party where hot dogs and corn on the cob are the menu du jour
4) Strawberry Shortcake -- biscuit or sponge cake? Discuss. If I must have some then sponge cake is my choice. But really I would prefer a nice cheese cake, or something ice creamy.
5) Fireworks -- best and worst experience Hm, a tough one. Best nwould be the fireworks at Expo 86 in Vancouver. They launched them off a barge in False Creek so you had the light reflecting off the water. Worst, well I am thinking of a time we bought those over the counter fireworks to set off at the lake -- it was a little underwhelming (sound and fury, signifying nothing).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thoughts on Leadership

Here in town there is some dissension about what to do about the current town hall (which is currently in a 50 year old schools that is in very bad shape). THere was a public meeting on Monday night. Here is a letter that grew out of my thoughts around that meeting. (At the meeting I spoke about the need for planning and how a lack of planning in the past has basically gotten the town into a mess in the present)

Friends, Neighbours, Fellow Atikokanites;

For three days now I have been mulling over the public meeting held on Monday evening, trying to determine what my response needs to be. And after careful thought I have come to realize that there is an issue of leadership at stake.

A couple times it was asked about why there was not going to be a plebiscite on the issue of a new/renovated Town Hall. My first response is that if people wanted a plebiscite they should have been asking in January February and doing what was needed to get it on the ballot – it isn’t only council’s job. But really I am glad there isn’t because I feel strongly that plebiscites and referenda are poor ways to govern.

It was also raised that there has been “so much opposition” that it is obvious that the town is saying no. Firstly, I don’t believe that to be true. Yes there was a survey but that can not be counted as a statistically valid tool. Yes there have been lots of letters to the editor but my memory is that many of them have been signed by the same few people. The only possibly valid tool of objection is the petition presented on Monday, assuming that the names of the signatories have been properly checked to see that they are voters in town and that they actually signed (versus someone signing for them – it happens). But even if the majority of the town is against spending $2 million on Town Hall it still doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be spent.

This is where leadership comes in to play. Leadership is that task of doing what is best for the community. In our system we elect representatives. Their task is not to poll the public and do what the majority wants. Their task is to receive and review all the relevant information and then do what they honestly feel is the best for the community in the long term. Will they always do what I would do? No, but as a left leaning social democrat from Alberta I am well used to my representatives not doing what I think is best. But I elect them to provide leadership, and leadership sometimes (or even often) means doing what is unpopular.

The problem with polling the population on every issue and doing what the majority says is that the majority doesn’t always have or take the opportunity to review all the relevant information. Also, sometimes the majority is wrong. The majority of the population once believed women shouldn’t vote or that First Nations people were inferior and needed to be “made like white people” and they were wrong. At present, even if the majority in Atikokan said we should live with the Town Hall as is the council would be foolish to follow their wishes. The best thing for the town in the long-term is to have a decent town hall, a more cost-effective to operate town hall.

But of course, if people don’t believe Atikokan will be around for the long-term then maybe they will never support planning and acting for the long-term. Given some of the comments I have heard in the last year I truly wonder if that is really what is at stake here. Someday I will rehash my Easter sermon to address some of that hopelessness and defeatism.

SOcial Values Survey

Hat tip to Poor Mad Peter

This survey assesses human social values by asking questions about your view of the world, and about your personal goals, wishes, hopes, dreams, and expectations. When you have finished it you will be classified into the social values tribe you show the strongest similarity to and be given a more detailed profile of your tribe.

My results say:

We have diagnosed you as most likely being a member of the:Autonomous Rebels with similarities to Connected Enthusiasts

Autonomous Rebels:
Fundamental Motivations
Personal Autonomy and Self-fulfillment

Key Values
Scepticism toward Traditional Institutions
Question Authority

Words to Live By
Knowledge is power
I did it my way
The personal is political

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson
Philosopher and critic Mark Kingwell
Talk show host Pamela Wallin
Environmentalist David Suzuki
Hillary and Bill Clinton
Martin Luther King Jr.
Gloria Steinem
John Lennon

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Good News About Marriage

Most Canadians marry once and only once, and less than 1% walk down the aisle more than twice, according to a new study.

THis study paints a much brighter picture of the state of marriage in Canada than many would have us believe. And the full article says only 1/3 of marriages end in divorce before the 30th anniversary -- unlike the 50% that keeps getting thrown around. It is also interesting to look at what the study suggests are important aspects to a marriage being stronger or weaker (less or more likely to end in divorce). Thus far I have really only scanned the report, it warrants a closer lok when i have more time and eyes that are less sleepy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Is This Really That Important?

The Pope has demanded an end to electric guitars and modern music in church and a return to traditional choirs. "It is possible to modernise holy music," the Pope said, at a concert conducted by Domenico Bartolucci the director of music at the Sistine Chapel. "But it should not happen outside the traditional path of Gregorian chants or sacred polyphonic choral music."

Well it is nice to know that Benedict is seeking out the really key issues to address in his papacy. After all, why deal with issues of sexual misconduct, or a celibate priesthood, or divergent theologies, or AIDS, or Darfur, or human suffering. There's music to fight over!

Why do we churches get riled up over the small stuff while the big stuff goes untouched?

Sunday, June 25, 2006


You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!
ALways did like math. ANd it is nice to know I actually remember it! Now time to turn off the machine for the night -- and hope that chillun's actually sleep (all three were awake at 4:00 this morning)

AH, Great wisdom

Your Fortune Is

The best way to save face, is to keep the lower part of it shut.

But be warned, it took 4 tries before I got a fortune suitable for a family blog.

Ideas Anyone?

I am on the theme planning team for camp this year. Our theme is Covenants and for the last day we need a project.

That day we are talking about prophets and we thought it would be a good idea to have a project that the participants could make for others that day (in about 30 - 45 minutes). Our campers range from age 8-14 (with an obvious range of ability) so the project can't be too complex. And since budget is an issue something that can largely be done wiht "found" materials would be nice.

Any ideas for a possible project and/or a place to send them?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

RGBP Friday 5

Summer is here with a vengeance. We took the family out to Baskin-Robbins to celebrate. I have a special affection for B-R because it was my first job during high school. People told me I'd get sick of ice cream working there. Puh-leeze. Without further ado:

  1. Ice cream: for warm weather only or a year-round food? WHy would you limit it to 3 months of the year? All year of course.
  2. Favorite flavor(s) THey make flavours that don't have chocolate in them? (but no nuts please)
  3. Cake cone, sugar cone, waffle cone, cup? Cup or sugar Cone
  4. Childhood ice-cream memory Hmmm, Dairy Queen. Going for treats from a Dilly Bar on up.
  5. Banana splits: discuss. A waste of good ice-cream, polluting it with Bananas. Replace them with extra whiped cream and you're talking.

Bonus: Baskin-Robbins used to make ice-cream sodas. During the 18 months I worked there, I think I made about 3 tops. They're no longer on the menu, but you can still order them. Question: What are the ingredients/steps for making an ice cream soda? Soda water, ice cream, milk and flavouring (which is best when chocolate). THe how to make I am not sure anymore. DQ used to have them as well, and I made them at home in a blender for one summer.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

OLd Fears (and Hates) Die Hard

As I have been following some of the discussions and fallout surrounding the election of a female Presiding Bishop by the Episcopal Church in the US I have had reason to reflect on some of these old feelings about what is "proper".

I was born in 1969, I grew up in what was largely a post-feminist world. Or so I always believed. I honestly never saw reason that women couldn't do what men could do and vice versa. (As a male who worked for years in a job that many considered a "woman's position" I know that the sexism sword cut both ways.) The first time I remember being confronted with overt sexism was when I was working in a restaurant kitchen. And that was mainly one person who was just generally boorish anyway.

But as I got older I started to realize how strongly some of these old biases hang on. I know that for some people gender makes all the difference in the world. And I know that there are some roles that will forever be typecast as male or female in some minds. What I don't understand is why?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

National Aboriginal Day

Cross posted from Riverview Rolls On

Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. It is also National Aboriginal Day, a day when Aboriginal communities across the country will have special events. For the church it is a day to reflect on our relationships with Aboriginal peoples.

This relationship is difficult to say the least. Our Methodist and Presbyterian forebears came with the best of intentions and did some, by modern standards, damaging things. They came with a belief that they had the truth and that all other spiritualities were invalid. They came to bring people to God and later worked to assimilate people into mainline culture. Looking back, we now recognize that these things, while also bringing education and skills to live in new ways as the traditional ways were disappearing (largely due to European attitudes and actions) were acts of violence against a people and their culture.

20 years ago, in 1986, at a General Council Meeting in Sudbury the Moderator offered words of apology to the First Nations people. Since then we have tried to live out that apology. Over the last 20 years we have tried to come to grips with the reality of residential schools and tried to seek a way of helping to repair the damage done by that system. We have established a Healing Fund, monies set aside not for paying lawsuits but for funding projects to bring healing of wounded souls and spirits.

The United Church as a whole has put much effort into restoring Right Relationships with First nations people. As individuals some of us have done a lot and some still have trouble understanding why we keep apologizing for things that happened before we were born. But part of being the church is talking about our community responsibility. As a community we, unintentionally, were part of injury being done. As a community we will help to repair the damage.

Sometimes it is up to the children to pay for the sins of the parents.Other resources around the United Church and First Nations can be found here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

General Council Info

The General Council of the United Church has it's triennial meeting this summer. For information about the meeting, including a draft agenda and the workbook for commissioners, go here.

ONe of the interesting pieces is a major piece of work on clergy compensation and a proposal for some major changes in how that happens (this is pages 93-120 in the "Commissions" part of the workbook)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Suffering for Faith

Today I wrote my opening thoughts for Sunday's sermon. As I have mentioned before, I am challenging myself to preach on the Epistle readings this summer. SOme weeks the opening is obvious (next week is one) but this weeek, not so much. This weeks reading is 2 Corinthians 6:1-13. I spent a good portion of time this morning trying to work out what this passage had to say to us today. BUt then it struck me.

Maybe what this passage can do is remind us that faith isn't always easy. Maybe it can remind us that it isn't supposed to be easy. In a world where Patty and I are the youngest adults in the church on many Sundays and I still get into debates about why not saying the Lord's Prayer in school is the right thing we may need to be reminded that faith isn't about being part of the cultural center.

SOmetime in the next few months I need to raise issues of vision and mission. I need to point out that while we may have trouble meeting our budget, money isn't the problem (in fact I may well argue nex week that part of the problem is we aren't doing, and therefore aren't spending, enough). The problem is that we have trouble getting excited, or showing that the church excites us, or passing on the message that there is something here that is worth sacrificing for. Maybe talking about Paul's suffering and struggle can start that. Or maybe not. I really don't know yet.

Mind you, I am cheating a little and doing a bit of an introduction to Paul in the first part of the sermon. HE is after all arguably the most influential theologian of the CHristian Scripture and while we may assume that people knows who he is and why he wrote all these letters I am not sure that is true anymore. So many of us have become Biblically illiterate these days.


Help please!

I just put a post on the church blog and the whole blog has disappeared! As I was looking at settings and so on to try to find out what happened it appears that half the template code is gone. Suggestions? (No I didn't have the code saved anywhere as a back up--but am about to do so for this blog).

I rebuilt the template--but now the spacing is screwy. More work ahead I suppose.

Got it! Ended up changing the base template but I got it. ANd Patty says it looks less like a wanted poster now.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

O WHat a Rogue And peasant wait that isn't right.

Which famous Shakespeare play are you?

Don't bite me! You're 'The Taming of the Shrew!'
Take this quiz!

I was so looking to be Hamlet. Hat tip to Sister Christer

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Just got back from walking the dog. On the way we passed the owner of the local lawn care company applying weed-n-feed to a lawn. AS required for safety, he was wearing full coveralls and a resirator that pretty much covered his whole face. As I watched him spraying I couldn't help but think.

If the product is unsafe enough for humans that you need to wear that level of protection and put a warning sign on the lawn when finished -- what makes us think it is safe to put into the environment at all (much less intentionally)?

Good News!

Last year when I started this blog I talked about living in a town under siege. Well the Siege has (temporarily at least) been lifted:

A new natural gas pipeline through the city of Thunder Bay has been cancelled as part of the Ontario government announcement Tuesday to shelve plans to close the province's coal-fired generating stations.
Energy Minister Dwight Duncan confirmed that the region's power plants will continue to operate "as is" for the foreseeable future. "Atikokan and Thunder Bay will stay open and continue to operate with coal," Duncan told The Chronicle-Journal.

Most certainly this is good news. But I hope that people won't lose focus now. Over the last year a LOT of effort has been put into finding ways to grow/broaden the town's economic base. My fear is that now citizens and government will say "whew, the crisis has passed" and stop working to make those new ideas come to fruition. That would be a shame.

Eventually the generating station will close. Eventually the mills in this area will close. Wouldn't we be better off to expand now so that we are better able to absorb those hits when they come? I know there are people in town who share that belief. Hopefully they will carry the day.

Medieval cities knew that even while you celebrated the besiegers packing up and going home, you had to get ready for the next attack. Some things remain the same. Celebrate yes, but keep strengthening for what may come in a few years.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Holiday Time

I am on holidays this week (minus the 2-hour teleconference this morning). SO how am I spending it?

  1. Lots of time reading blogs and playing computer games.
  2. extra time with the girls (we went swimming yesterday morning).
  3. cut the lawn yesterday -- on our lot that is a 2 hour job at least.
  4. as a result of bug bites doing #3 spent 2 hours waiting to see the Dr. on-call today. Last night whem Miriam woke to feed my lower arm and hand were in great pain. THe elbow area was fiery to the touch and somewhat swollen. It was better this morning but after feeding Miriam the weight on the elbow had everyting aching again so off to the Dr. Diagnosis is a strong reaction to a bug bite and treat symptoms with analgesics and anti-histamines (pretty much what I suspected but the pain/wekness in the hand were a little off-putting).
  5. a restful day tomorrow (minus another 2-hour meeting) and then off to my mother-in-law's for the Thurs-Sun. May even go to hear a fellow blogger preach on Sunday...

Hello, My Name is...


Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti

IT is high on my list of favourtie movies. But I must confess, my first try was Count Rugen.
Hat tip to Phantom Scribbler

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Picture Anyone?

We got these arches 3 years ago. Strange thing is that the older two are far more fascinated by them now than they were when they were infants. And Miriam, well she needs to get used to the idea that it is ok to be lying on the floor.

Say What???

THe last case of diapers we bought had something odd (actually we generally use cloth but have disposables in hand for when travelling or while the cloth are being washed). Take the bags out of the box and find on each one a label. A label with an expiration date!

NOw can someone please explain how disposable diapers would expire?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rain Rain Rain

Actually we could use some rain, preferably a nice gentle 12 hours worth. All we have gotten this year are short strong storms that don't do a really good job of watering anything.

  1. Favorite way to spend a rainy day -- A fire, a comfortable chairt, a good book or a good movie. Then again, walking in the rain can be very pleasant as well, as long as the first list is available for retreating afterward.
  2. Favorite song about rain -- THe Rainbow Connection from THe Muppet Movie (OK so it isn't really about the actual rain but oh well.)
  3. Favorite movie featuring rain -- Tie for Singing in the Rain (love that dance number) or the sequence leading up to and including My Favourite things in The Sound of Music
  4. Favorite piece of raingear, past or present -- NO strong memories of raingear at all actually.
  5. Favorite word for rain -- More like a phrase "It's clearing over the lake". This is based on a family joke. When my mother was growing up they had a cabin at the lake. Whenever it was raining it was always "clearing over the lake" but never over the cabin. I've had weeks like that.

Friday, June 09, 2006

3 Kid Stories

We are sitting at afternoon coffee and one of the fellows is telling a story. All of a sudden Sarah looks at him and says: "Blah, blah, blah". It was so appropriate and timely. THe three adults just broke down laughing.

ONe night this week the 2 girls are wrestling on the floor. SUddenly we realize that Sarah is saying "listen to Baby's heart" and feeling her sister's belly just like she saw the Dr. doing with mommy. And Devyn is loving it. Took a couple of minutes before eith of us could cleraly say anything, we were laughing so hard.

LAst Sunday I read the Pentecost story from the Family Story Bible by Ralph Milton. As I finished the story and closed the book Devyn pipes up with "The End!" clear as a bell, the whole congregation heard and loved it. I tell you, sometimes I think I may just be window dressing...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

LEss than a dollar a day! (Newspaper Column)

What can 90 cents a day get you these days? Not a cup of coffee. Not a can of pop. 90 cents doesn’t do much does it? Well only 90 cents a day ($325 a year) in charitable giving would put you in the top 25% of donors in Canada according to Statistics Canada. (for more details see this article)

Now maybe it is just me but I find that number very disheartening. Three-quarters of the Canadians who gave to charity in 2004, and in fact only 85% of Canadians 15 and over gave to charity, gave less than 90 cents a day. To me that says a lot about our willingness to share, about our willingness to help each other.

A central belief within Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the idea that we have a responsibility to share out of our richness. And for the vast majority of us 90 cents a day is peanuts. It is time that we took a serious look at what we do with what we have. It is time that we challenged ourselves and each other to do better.

The reality is that in many places people would honestly consider $325 a year to be exceptionally generous. But according to the 2001 census data average family income in Atikokan was $50 000. In our Judeo-Christian roots we find the idea of the tithe, 10% off the top. That would be $5000 – more than 10 times $325. Even allowing for a tithe on Net (deducting an overly hefty 30% for Income taxes, CPP and EI) it would be $ 3 500. It seems we have a long way to go.

Part of the problem may well be that we don’t realize how much we have to share. We easily buy into the notion that we don’t have enough therefore we don’t have to share. But my worry is that part of the problem is that we are losing that imperative to care for our neighbour. I worry that we rely on others (or the government) to do it so that we don’t have to.

The prophet Micah asks “What does the Lord require of us?” The answer? Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God. The prophets Amos and Isaiah yell against people who have confused “right worship” with being God’s people. Jesus reminds us that in God’s sight care for people comes before following rules and commandments.

In the end we each know what we have. In the end we are the ones who choose what we can afford – it is rarely chosen for us, despite what we would like to believe. In the end it is up to us to choose how best to share what we have. As for me and my house, a dollar a day is not nearly enough. What choice will you make?

Monday, June 05, 2006

WHat ATonement Theory do we need?

A couple of years ago I wrote a paper about atonement. I chose the topic because I wanted to explore the thesis that there can not be one, universal theory of atonement . THeories of atonement are meant to address whatever it is that is separating us from God(something I find helpful to remember by breaking it into 3 words -- at-one-ment). Not everyone feels separated from GOd by the same thing. For some of us it is guilt/disobedience. For some of us it is fear of death. For others it may be shame that they are "built wrong" somehow. For others it deals with a sense of unworthiness.

THis came back to the forefront of my mind recently (it is always hovering in the background, I think if I ever go back for further study it is something I may choose to explore in some depth) as I was reading The Cross in Our Context:Jesus and the Suffering World In one chapter Hall talk's about the need for a new atonement theory to address the basic question faced by many today. He suggests that this question is based on a sense of meaninglessness.purposelessness. He calls this the dominant anxiety of our times. I think he is right, at least for people in the middle and upper socio-economic strata in WEstern society. Christus Victor and Anselmian Satisfaction theories will not answer this anxiety.

In the end I am fine with there being more than one way of atonement. I think it is mandatory. To claim that there is only one is, to borrow an image from Borg in Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, as if Moses walked into the slave camps and said "congratulations, your sins are forgiven" . "great, what about our freedom?" In preparing the paper mentioned above (which must be on my office computer since it isn't on this one) I used W. Paul Jones' book Theological Worlds. I reccomend it as a tool both for personal spiritual growth and for pastoral sensitivity. (If I remember correctly, I am mainly in World 3 with over/undertones of worlds 1 and 5.)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

NOw the Test Begins

For the last 2 weeks we have had extra people in the house. My parents came to ease the transition into haveing 3 kids, to help out witht everything for a bit. They left today. I work one week and then take a week of holidays (which tied in much better with the original plan). NOw we see how well we survive with this house full.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Of $$$$ and Priorities

LAst weekend at the Annual Meeting of Conference they passed a budget. Said budget included a 17% increase in assessments to Presbyteries (where it will then be handed on to Pastoral Charges). Already I can hear the complaint starting to arise in the fall. BUt maybe the problem isn't that we are asking for too much. May the problem is that we have not done a good job of developing Steward ship. Prairie Preacher writes: (that better Shawn? :) )
For the record - at Conference we were told that the annual cost of operating Conference is $12.60 per resident member and $17.84 per identifiable giver (I will leave the rant about the disconnect between the givings of members and givers for another day.). For that we get the staffing skills and resource pool that Conferences offer us as lay and clergy ... It's a tiny expense, particularly when you break it down to a weekly or daily donation ... Imagine what we could be doing if we doubled or tripled our donations??

I hunch that often the story is much the same at the congregational level. Of course we don't really break our income down into X$ per giver/family because we know that some can (do) give more than others. BUt sometimes we are talking about amounts that pale compared to some of the other discretionary spending in our lives. Education seems to be the answer, education and an infectious sense of vision/mission.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I Get to Hold her Too!

Generally I am the one behind the camera. But here is a picture of me with the girls. Maybe next time one where we all actually look at the camera :)

Farewell to a Good Thing

AS I remember it, the only way I was allowed to go trick or treating as a child was if I took an orange UNICEF box with me. ANd as an adult, when I was first living in a place where I was likley to get trick-or-treaters, I made sure to have change available to put into said boxes. It was a goog program. It raised a surprising amount of money (considering we are talking about pennies and nickels $3 million annually is incredible) and it gave a chance for children to talk and learn about what UNICEF does for children around the world.

BUt no more. UNICEF is cancelling the orange box program in Canada. Part of the reason is that dealing with coin is a lot of work, and it is. It sounds like the program will be replaced with something else in a fundraising/educational vein. And that is good. But still there is something redemptive about having kids collect for others while getting candy for themselves. I think that is why I remember having to take the box with me to be allowed to go out.