Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Hallowe'en!

A Case of Hearts in the Right Place [sic]

In the news today:
TORONTO (CP) - The Ontario government will have to consult the public more fully before it can consider becoming the first province in Canada to make every eligible resident an automatic organ donor unless they say otherwise, Health Minister George Smitherman said Monday.

I am a supporter of organ donation. It lists me as a donor on the back of my Driver's License. And I strongly believe we need to do a whole lot more education about organ donation to help increase the number of usable organs that are donated.

But I have to say that this proposal reaches too far. Presumed consent just isn't ethical or pastoral. There has to be a better way to get the message out there.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

An Early Look at Christmas Shopping

THe following is a letter I just sent to the local paper to run sometime in November (the paper may be full of election news for the next couple of weeks).

Now that Halloween is behind us it will soon be time to ramp up the preparations for Christmas, including Christmas shopping.

The excesses of Christmas always present a difficulty for me. I know it is great to buy gifts for loved ones (and receiving them isn’t bad either). But I also believe that we have too much stuff as it is. So I am issuing a threefold challenge this Christmas season.

One is to consider not buying as much this year, not because of budget but because we don’t need to buy as much (see http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/ for more on this idea)

Another is to buy what we do buy here in town as much as possible. This way our Christmas celebrations enrich the economy of Atikokan rather than the US head office of Wal-Mart or the merchants of Thunder Bay or Dryden.

Finally, I pledge to donate an amount equal to at least half of what we spend on gifts for Sarah, Devyn and Miriam to a charity in their name. I challenge all of you do the same.

Christmas, it’s about more than buying presents.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

OF Being HEard

Literally, not as a metaphor this time.

For the last several months (over a year) we have been borrowing a mixer and amp from a local media outlet (Thanks!!) and finally we chose and purchased equipment of our own, which arrived last week. NOw to use the new equipment we needed to redo some speaker wiring (well it needed it anyway, seeing as when I took the old connector apart the solder joint was about to break). SO today -- after spending an hour trying to get Blogger to post on the church blog, GRRRR-- I had someone come over and we spent part of the afternoon taking care of that and testing the settings on the new system .

NOw the next steps. One is a new wireless mic (currently also on loan from the media outlet). I have suggested to the Board that we get a headset mic since it won't get caught up with cross and stole around my neck. ANyone out there have a suggestion about what to look for (or what not to look for if your experience has been negative)? And then a recorder. I don't write manuscripts. People want to record my sermons (don't ask me why). Given the right equipment it is easy enough. THe recommendation I got was to do it on digital media and burn to CD. Unfortunately I know nothing about digital recorders (I know little about cassette recorders either but they are fairly straight forward). TIme for more research I guess.

Oh well, it is nice to spend money other than my own on toys though.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Important Ideas

Go watch this video.

It speaks for itself.

Halloween Friday Five

You wanna see something *really* scary?...

1. Do you enjoy a good fright? Not particularly. SUspense good, startle, ok, horror no thanks.
2. Scariest movie you've ever seen Hmmmmm, never having really watched scary movies it is hard to say. Because I had grown up hearing aabout it even Psycho wasn't that scary--I knew what to expect. Many of the "horror" I have watched were just plain bad (the later Friday the 13th's for example).
3. Bobbing for apples: choose one and discuss:
a) Nothing scary about that! Good wholesome fun. Never saw the appeal of it myself. NOw apples (or even better, donuts) on a string, that is fun to watch and do.
b) Are you *kidding* me?!? The germs, the germs! Germs, shmerms. It is the drowning risk that bothered me.
4. Real-life phobia mild claustrophobia, fear of failure, looking like a fool on a time other than my own choosing.
5. Favorite "ghost story" Saw a movie by that name once that was quite good. And I heard a couple of really good ones at lunch yesterday about homes and offices (one was an old Anglican rectory that had been turned into office space--stuff jumping off mantles and out of toyboxes while staff were there alone). ANd while it is really an angel story, when my grandmother was having one of her hip surgeries she had a visitor to comfort her during the middle of the night. But as I say, that was an angel story--not a ghost story.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

HOw I spent my day...

Spent today at a presentation for the Neighbours, Friends and Families Campaign.

THis is a program aimed at preventing Domestic Abuse. It was a good day. Time was spent talking about public education, about how to encourage, well, neighbours, friends and families to see their role in helping to deal with the issue. It is based on findings from the provincial Death REview Committee (a program of the COroners Office that looks at spousal homicide cases) which said that in almost every cse there were neighbours, friends, co-workers and professionals that had a part of the picture but not enough knowledge, inclination or courage to step in and do something.

A (apporximate, wording may not be exact) quote from the day ...those of us who are frontline workers spend a lot of time pulling bodies out of the water. This program hopes to start working a bit farther upstream...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Church Out or Government Out?

Of the marriage business that is.

The more I think about this debate that seemingly will never go away (see previous post) the more I wonder if maybe a more wholesale change is needed.

Maybe we need to complete change the language of couplehood and the law. Take the church right out of the legal aspect, and make marriage a solely religious term. THe only legal term would be civil union and it would apply to any two persons wishing to aspire to that status and would only be available from JPs or marriage commissioners--clergy would not be eligible. Marriage would then be a religious rite (or sacrament) bound not by the law of the land but by the theology and polity of the faith community--and would be available regardless of whether or not the couple in question seeks the legal bond of civil union.

It is an idea that has its attractions. It would get the churches out of being agents of the state and back into the business of blessing relationships. And it would do a better job at shoring up the "sanctity of marriage" than arguments about legalities. And it would also call the bluff of all those opponents of same-sex marriage who insist that their problem is with the use of the word marriage, not with the coupling itself.

The only problem is that I honestly believe that "4-wheel-theology" (stroller, wedding car, hearse) is a great outreach ministry of the church. ANd we might lose that if clergy could only bless relationships without doing the legal joining part as well.

Earth to Mr HArper: THere are More Important Issues

A year ago the Parliament of Canada passed Bill C-38, an act legislating equal rights to marriage for same-gender couples. THe vote was semi-free (to stay in Cabinet one had to vote for the legislation, but non-Cabinet members of the governing party could vote their conscience. Most of the opposition parties also allowed their members to vote their conscience). This Bill subsequently passed the Senate and was signed into law by the Governor-General.

THen we had an election. During that election the now Prime Minister Stephen HArper promised that he would call for a free vote asking whether Bill C-38 should be reconsidered (nevermind that thousands of gay and lesbian couples have been legally married since provincial courts started ruling that the old definition of marriage was unconstitutional). And now we have entered that debate.

THe United Church of Canada and our partners are arguing, as are a majority of Canadians according to polling, that this is a bad idea. "United Church Says No to Reopening Debate over Same-Sex Marriage in the House of Commons ". ANd really, I have to ask if it needs the time it is taking?

We have troops in a war in Afghanistan (42 killed thus far). WE have thousands of Canadian men, women, and children relying on food banks to survive. We have First Nations communities that can't drink their water. We have all sorts of other issues that make a difference in people's survival. But lets not look at that, let's reopen a debate about a topic that has already been settled not only by legislation but by a ruling of the Supreme Court. A topic, I might add, which makes no difference in the day-to-day life of heterosexual couples (how same-gender marriage is a threat to "traditional" marriage is beyond me).

Please Mr. Harper, drop this sop to your far right supporters and get on with the business of governing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

ANd NOw..!

Did some playing on You Tube this morning and found a true classic...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Stumbling Blocks and Barricades and Reformation

NExt Sunday (yes I know that worship just ended this morning but now it is time to work on the next service) I am using the Markan reading from October 1. This summer when doing my forward planning I read this and the sermon title jumped into my mind: Get Out of the Way!

At the time I hadn't really paid attention to the fact that I had set the sermon for the last Sunday in October--Reformation Sunday. BUt really it seems so terrribly appropriate. Jesus talks about stumbling blocks and being led astray. And of course a stumbling block is something that blocks the path. We as creatures are so good at putting up barricades in people's way. What blocks do we need to move in the church, seeing as it is always reforming (semper ecclesia reformanda est)? HOw have we diverted God's path?

Leading and teaching God, you call us to the narrow path.
But all too often we find barricades that keep us from following it.
Jesus said: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.”
and we are pushed to admit that sometimes we block the path of your Grace, or attempt to re-direct it.
Jesus said: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
and we are pushed to think of the times when our world is based on the opposite.
Leading God, you set out a path that you would have us follow, and lead others as we go,
But sometimes we find the path mis-directed and so set up barricades and detours instead.
…time of silent reflection…
The same God who puts the path before us puts many access points to that path. Even when we go astray God always calls us back.
We are forgiven. The barricades are broken down. Thanks be to God! Amen.
ADD: See more rambling here

Saturday, October 21, 2006

WHich would you choose?

Protestant HEaven or Catholic (according to Marge anyway)?

ANd This Will Last How Long?

For the last week or so we have had a great helper. WEll 2 of them in fact.

Every night at suppertime the girls insist that they have to set the table. ANd they do it very well too (we carry the breakable stuff to the table but they set it all out). Not to mention that they insist that they want to wash the dishes (we haven't actually had them try that yet). Oh and they are problem-solvers too! Sarah wanted to put the light on upstairs so she carefully ran donwn and brought up the stool. THen when it wasn't high enough to reach the book she wanted mom found her at the bottom of the stairs with the ottoman trying to figure out how to get it up the stairs too!

Wish I was still that cute. Or that I was ever that cute.

Random Thoughts while Walking the Dog

FOr some reason (I honestly have no idea why) the following question came to my mind while walking the dog this afternoon:

How much do economics determine what is considered best for our children?

THere are 2 aspects that I mulled to this question.
1. Immunizations. Now don't get me wrong, I am an advocate of immunizing children. Who wants to see mumps and measles and polio make a return? BUt as more and more vaccines get brought to market and pushed to be made part of the "standard package" I wonder. Chicken pox and flu in particular. Yes I know that severe complications are possible for these bugs. BUt is part of the urgency to have these fairly standard illnesses stpped a joint economic push to both sell the drug (on the pharmeceutical company's behalf) and to limit time off work by the parents? AFter all lost time due to illness is lost productivity--and that costs.
2. Schooling. More precisely, the age at which school starts. Here we have the opportunity to have kids start school half-time in the year they turn 4 (they can actually start at 3 as long as their birthday is before December 31). And in this town senior kindergarten in full-time from October onward. Why the push to get kids into school? Is it because they need to learn so much faster or is it because (as has been expressed by some people I have heard) school is cheaper than daycare. For what it is worth, I think 4 is too young for school, I think 5 is too soon for full-time, and I think that the school system in general is pushing kids to do too much (both in school and as homework) at too young an age.

Taking it as a given that economics shapes "best practices" in all aspects of life, including child-care, I wonder how often we stop to ask what makes something the best way to go.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Five--Word Association

Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.

  • whirlwind -- Dust Devil, Taz, Tornado
  • foundation -- Basement
  • lightning -- fast. Frankenstein
  • den -- computer room
  • prey -- an old editorial cartoon of Ayatollah Khomeini saying "Let Us Prey" with folded hands with arms and legs sticking out from between the fingers and blood dripping....

(Yes, they're all from Job 38.) -- and my answers are most decidedly NOT

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Piece of the Newsletter that Never Was

Back in August we were planning to put out a newsletter in September. SO before leaving on holidays I wrote my little bit.

But as it happened the newsletter got submerged with a pile of other tasks and didn't happen. We are going to do one in the next couple weeks but the old piece is not seasonally appropriate. So I put it on the church blog. You can read it here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And Throw away the key??

IN Canadian Law we have a designation of dangerous offender. A person so designated is subject to a jail term of indefinite length. Currently the onus is on the Crown to prove that a person is worthy of such a sentence. But that may change.

THe federal government has introduced new legislation which is essentially a 3-strikes-you're-out approach to dangerous offender status. And one of the points in it is:

Under the bill, the onus would be put on convicted criminals to prove they should not be declared dangerous offenders, otherwise they would be designated as dangerous and be given an indeterminate jail sentence, with no eligibility for parole for seven years.

NOw is it just me or does this turn things backward? In essence it assumes that a person is dangerous and beyond rehabilitation and they have to prove otherwise.

There is a reason there is more pressure on prosecuters to prove a case. It is a safeguard. I am sure that if one did a study you would learn that a large percentage of persons designated a dangerous offender come from underprivileged groups in our society--those who have fewer resources to mount a legal defence.

I understand the concept of protecting society. But this approach to doing so stinks.

Monday, October 16, 2006

NO Matter What Happens, I have Done SOmething!

Started this morning to do some early Advent Planning. ANd I have found a Candle liturgy (in Gathering -- the "Two-Minute Advent Candle Lighting"--sorry to say but it appears that the liturgy is only available for those who get the magazine. Darn the luck (although it does help keep the subscriber base up).) to use and the liturgy gave me provisional sermon ideas. Here Are the titles thus far:
  • December 3: Look For the Signs! (this title may get adapted after I next listen to Dead Dog in the City to match their sayings at the end)
  • December 10: Wake Up, Wash Up (using the Malachi text as the base)
  • December 17: Christmas Pageant Yet to be determined
  • December 24 (am): Presents and Presence (a look at gifts)
  • December 31: Endings, Beginnings, Resolutions (using the New Year's readings in the Lectionary)
  • January 7: God Revealed (Epiphany story -- not going to do Baptism of Jesus this year)

Of course this still leaves the looming question of what to do on Christmas Eve... BUt then again, it is only mid-October.

(ADD: THis afternoon I completed until the end of this page on my planner. WEll other than the big service.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

1st SNow

AS soon as it started snowing in earnest on THursday afternoon the girls started talking about making a 'nowman. Friday before supper mommy took them out to make one -- a first for either of them since we didn't get one made last winter.

And BTW, October 13 is FAR FAR too early in the year to be able to make a snowperson.

Friday, October 13, 2006

CHristmas Angels

We had CHristmas pictures taken this week. Here is the collage.

A COmforting Friday 5

(From RGBP)

1. Comfort beverage Hot Chocolate with a touch of mint. (It is a cold snowy day here).
2. Comfort chair Well our recliner is broken :( So we are limited to couch or love seat. But I generally stretch out on the couch anyway. (IT isn't a chair and so doesn't count for the question but a nice warm tub can't be beat lots of times)
3. Comfort read This one varies. It really depends on my mood.
4. Comfort television/DVD/music Hmmmmmmmm, this too depends on my mood.
5. Comfort companion(s) Surrounded by my girls and the dog, what else? Of course such comfort companions aren't always quiet and relaxing :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Yes, but...

OKay, I agree wholly that the NOrth Korean situation is important. And if you are going to talk about rogue states then Kim Jong Il's regime would surely qualify (I am not fond of the term since it is both judgmental and totally subjective and seemingly based largely on "whoever ain't fer us is agin us").

BUt what right do nuclear powers have to say to those who want to be nuclear powers "No, we can have those weapons but you can't".

If the weapons are that dangerous and that offensive then outlaw them. Get rid of the ones you have first--then you have some credibility saying to North Korea, or Iran, or Iraq or your enemy du jour that they should not have them either.

Just something to consider amongst all the rhetoric.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Painfully Accurate

You May Be a Bit Dependent...

You're more than a little preoccupied with being abandoned.
You need a lot of support in your life, at all times.
It's difficult for you to survive on your own...
And you don't reallly think you ever could.

You Are Expressionism

Moody, emotional, and even a bit angsty... you certainly know how to express your emotions.
At times, you tend to lack perspective on your life, probably as a result of looking inward too much.
This introspection does give you a flair for the dramatic. And it's even maybe made you cultivate some artistic talents!
You have a true artist's temperament... which is a blessing and a curse.
ANd Now, off to watch Mythbusters...

WEll Darn...

I was so proud of myself. WE had roughly half the leaves raked and poured on the flower beds and around the trees for mulch. Just a matter of raking and hauling to the garden and the yard was ready for winter.

Today we had winds up to 60km/hr. My nicely placed mulch is scattered far and wide. THe corner of the house by the carport looks like it has been a mulch pile. Oh well, more raking next weekend than I had thought I guess.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Being Thankful...

What better way to start than with a grace:
For food in a world where many walk in hunger,
for friends in a world where many walk alone,
for faith in a world where many walk in fear,
we give you thanks O God.
(#552 in Voices United, original German words by Manfred Wester, 1984)
And that pretty much sums it up. I coud be more specific in a list but that pretty much says it all. There are of course family (a wonderful partner and 3 beautiful daughters) and health and safety. There is the sunny day we had today (actually got the van washed and waxed--as for a sermon...)

For all these things I say thanks O God.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Five on Voting

It's that season of the year when lawn signs are sprouting as surely as flowers in the spring; elections are just around the corner. And so today we bring you a Civic Duty Friday Five.

1) How old were you when you voted for the first time? Technically speaking the first time I voted would have been at the end of Grade 6 when we were electing a class representative to Student COuncil for the following year so I would have been 12. In "real" elections I would have voted the first election after turning 18.
2) What was the contest at the top of the ballot? See above. As for the first post-18 ballot I am not sure. Since federal and provincial elections in Canada don't follow a set schedule I can't remember what the next one was after March of '87 (well I think the next Federal was in fall '88 so that may well have been it)
3) Can you walk to your polling place? Depends on the election and how energetic I am at the time (seriously, you can walk anywhere in a town this size).
4) Have you ever run for public office? Nope. It was suggested 3 years ago, but I paid no serious attention to the idea.
5) Have you run for office in a club or school or on a board? Not really. I have served in positions that were theoretically electable but were often acclamations.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

COnfession/Assurance and Blessing

I will be out of town until Thursday next week and so have already done next week's bulletin. With the extra lead time I actually wrote some of the stuff and thought I'd share them. They go with a sermon titled "The Word Lives -- and Cuts"

God who spoke at the beginning, your Word continues to live and inspire.
But sometimes we crowd it out with words of our own.
And yet you continue to speak a Word that calls us to New Life.
But we pretend not to hear, we are comfortable in the old.
And so sometimes you offer a Word that cuts us to the core with challenge or rebuke.
Leaving us to choose whether to respond or to walk away.
Gracious God, Living Word, open our ears to hear you again.
Living Word, forgive our deafness or inattention.
...time of reflection…
The Word of God does live with and among us. God is still speaking and will continue to speak. The Word brings not only challenge but blessing, not only rebuke but forgiveness.
We are a forgiven people. Thanks be to God! Amen

The Word lives in you as you go out from worship.
We go to share the Word of hope and promise with the world.
And may the Speaker, the Word, and the Spirit go with you in all your ways.
ADD October 8:
Opening thoughts for this Sermon have now been posted at Riverview Rolls On.

WOrth Watching

The Dash

Both for the text and for the pictures this is worth watching.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

For What are YOU Thankful?

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada. Later this week I may share some thoughts about why we are thankful (although I have already posted some early sermon thoughts at the church blog). But I thought I would make it more interactive.

One of the best traditions I have seen for Thanksgiving is when the gathered group goes all the way around the table and each person share what he/she is thankful for. (In many places the follow-up rule is that you can't repeat what another has said.)

SO here is the suggestion. Sometime between now and Monday let us know what you are thankful for, either here in the coments or on your own blog (if the latter please leave a note/link in the comments).

My list will come later--we have a show to attend tonight (John Berry and Diane Chase)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Might have to buy this one

In tonight's paper (front of section B) there was an article about this book. It looks like it would be worth a look.

The article talked about the author realizing how stressed out he was at the length of time it took him to dial on a rotary phone (remember those?) while on vacation and that was a wake up call for him.

Among his tips in the article (can't find it through Google thus far):
  • slow down: Ask yourself, what's my hurry?
  • Don't multi-task inefficiently: Give one task your full attention
  • DO what matters to you most

The article also told of a woman whose company provided a BlackBerry so she could always be in touch--and how much more relaxed she became when she changed jobs to a place that didn't do so (after getting over the addiction to the constant communication).

Oh, yes, I think that will be part of my 2007 reading.

Monday, October 02, 2006

BAB II: Domestic Violence

I was having trouble deciding what to blog about for BAB so here is my other choice.

I remember the first time I saw it for real. I was at work and a mother came in with a bright purple eye/cheek.

I remember the child at camp who kept saying "I need to be hit".

I could go and look up the statistics about the number of people affected by violence in the home. But it doesn't change the fact that it tears the heart up.

THankfully we have moved past the time when Jackie GLeason regularly threatedned domestic violence on prime-time TV. But still do we take it seriously enough?

TOday someone is being wounded by a partner or parent or child. I can't understand it but I know it is out there.

WHat does our response need to be?

Blogging Across Boundaries: Politicians

I am not a politician, nor do I play one on television. And I am sufficiently politically aware and socially involved that I can point out where I disagree with and disapprove of decisions made by those in government (at any level).

But I also feel sorry for politicians. To misquote Rodney Dangerfield, "they don't get no respect".

One of the reasons I have no desire to run for office is that I have no desire to put up with the, to put it bluntly, crap that politicians get, particularly at the municipal level.

In a small community municipal leaders are, by and large, people who have offered to take a chunk of time out of their everyday lives to provide leadership and guidance to the whole community. And in exchange they get vilified at a regular basis for decisions that they make. These are our neighbours. They deserve respect. They deserve to be treated fairly.

I have never lived under a government whose decisions I always agreed with. I admit that I have spoken disparagingly of decisions and those who make them. But we owe them better. It is possible to think that the decision is wrong without calling the decision-maker names. Let's give it a try.

Sleep, BLessed Sleep!

Over the last week something has happpened. Baby has started to sleep all the way through the night!

My, isn't that nice (especially for mom who was up longer to feed her, I sort of woke up when the arose and then rolled over back to sleep).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pass the Bread!

At one of the first family meals after we were married I called out "could someone toss me a bun?" and of course they did, literally (I don't think Patty realized I was expecting that to happen in her family--she thought I was being metaphorical for pass).

But isn't that the beauty of family meals, the freedom to pass the food down the table (or toss it as appropriate), the laughter and joking, the comfort of being welcomed.

TOday is Worldwide Communion Sunday. Today we sit around a giant table with our family. Today we break bread, metaphorically at least, with our brothers and sisters of all colours, denominations, sexual orientations, and places. Is this family table a place of ease and comfort? Or is it a place of stilted phrases and tension? MAy it be the former.

Oh and could someone please toss me the bread?