Thursday, August 31, 2006

4 Years Already?

Happy Anniversary my love!!!

We actually chse to celebrate last night (scheduling issues). Left the kids and the dog with grandma and papa and went to see Butch, Sundance and the Gang. We decided since we were in a place with greater entertainment options we would make use of those options -- not much dinner theatre in a town of 3500.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Recommendation

Read this book!

Well, if you are firmly against imaginative reconstructions of the GOspel story and characters then maybe not. THis book is a firmly tongue-in-cheek, feminist portrayal of the JEsus story -- told from his mother's perspective.

I laughed, repeatedly. I was pushed to think about things in a different way.

The so-called "Religious Right" would not like it, Biblical literalists would not like it, people who need Jesus' mother to be "gentle MAry, meek and mild" would be disturbed. BUt if you are ready for a "what if" look at the story give it a try.

I plan to recommend it to the local library book club.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Holiday Reading

I brought lots of reading material with me. BUt I have been told that the next book I should read is The Book of Mary. THe author taught me English in Grade 9 (and gave me the gift of an F on the second trimester report card -- truly it was a gift in many ways). It is apparently a rather non-traditional look at MAry's story (blasphemous at times was my father's description -- mind you the acknowledgments name one of our former moderators and his partner). More details and impressions after I have read it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Back to School Friday 5

Songbird writes:
My late mother-in-law thought of September as the “real” New Year because of the number of programs and classes starting. By Labor Day, school is back in session for most of us in the U.S., although there is great variation by region (my children don't return until Sept. 7th!). To mark this, we bring you the Back to School Friday Five.

1. What is your earliest memory of school? I think that would be taking the bus across town for the first few months of Grade 1 (the school I was meant to attend was not yet completed--we started there in January)
2. Who was a favorite teacher in your early education? What does early mean? I am thinking of my Grade 4 teacher. He read a chapter of a book to us each Friday after lunch. ANd he played guitar so we had singing sessions on a regular basis. THose Friday readings are where I was first introduced to Middle-Earth and to Narnia.
3. What do you remember about school “back then” that is different from what you know about schools now? Hmmm, knowing what is done in Junior and Senior Kindergarten in Ontario, and reflecting on what we did in Kindergarten/Grade 1 I think that we may start pushing kids to do too much too soon nowadays. And I don't remember this focus on "teach them what they need to get a job" when I was in high school. But that may be related to the way I paid attention, and that I was on track for post-secondary education. All in all I tnink school is more stressful now, or stressful in different ways.
4. Did you have to memorize in school? If so, share a poem or song you learned. Not that I can recall. At least not as a regular thing. (Either that or I can't remember any of it).
5. Did you ever get in trouble at school? Were there any embarrassing moments you can share? In a word--yes. And oh so many embarassing moments, many of which involved my ridiculous attempts to hide the fact that the homework was, once again, not complete.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Care for the Marginalized

We are vacationing in the richest province in the country. ANd yet, on the front page of today's paper I read:

OTTAWA - Oil-rich Alberta may be rolling in dough, but the cash is not finding its way into the pockets of welfare recipients whose meagre incomes come nowhere near the poverty line, says a major national report on welfare incomes being released today.

This is on the heels of other stories earlier this week talking about the increasing problems around affordable housing in the province. Stories that show how homelessness is becoming more than a lowest income problem :

EDMONTON - Dressed in a white linen suit jacket, blue tie and black dress pants, Pastor Doug Atha began explaining why he was among Grande Prairie's many
homeless this summer.
In June, his landlord decided to raise his monthly rent from $1,000 to $1,500. Unable to afford the increase, Atha and his wife bounced from his daughter's home to a borrowed trailer to a house-sitting gig, before finally finding a temporary rental unit this month, he told Conservative MLAs Monday.

THis is the shadow side of an economic boom. This is when we see that good times put a higher level of onus on all of us to ensure that everyone is cared for appropriately. Why, in a province that has more money that they know what to do with --so much that they issued rebate cheques to all its citizens last year-- is it considered appropriate to provide an income less than half of the poverty line to people who, for whatever reason, have found themselves on teh lower end of society? WHy is it considered alright to allow housing costs to soar uncontrolled while incomes don't grow as fast simply because supply outstrips demand?

Economic times are good here -- for some. It stands as a test and as a marker what happens to those who aren't counted among the "winners".

AH, Sweet Relaxation

Well my body has realized that it is on vacation. THe last 2 nights I have fallen asleep between 8:30 and 9:00. Yes, it is wind-down time.

GIrls loved the zoo -- especially the ""elaphan" and the pony ride. Oh and seeing a "Zooboomafoo" (a lemur for those unfamiliar with the show).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Build aa Bear

THis afternoon we went to the mecca of all canadian shopping malls -- West Edmonton Mall.

One of the reasons we went was to visit the Build-a-Bear workshop so the girls could make their own bears. WE went basic, chose a bear for each and had it stuffed. No fancy sound devicesor clothing for these ones.

THe girls really enjoyed it, once they understood what was happening. Unfortunately it was quite busy and hectic so we couldn''t get a picture of them holding the bears for stuffing.

Tomorrow the girls go to a zoo for the first time!

Neew Map

Ok, so I am wondering who all actually reads these random musings and other drivel. Take a moment and put yourself on my Frappr map (See link in sidebar or go here)


Saturday, August 19, 2006

And We''re Here

Well we have made it through phase 1.

Arrived at my parents this afternoon after a fairly good trip. DOg and kids travelled fine. A couple of nights were slightly chilly for tenting with a baby (10C). THen there was the night when our air matress had a valve pop open. It was less than comfortable spending most of the night with a bit of rubber between uss and the ground.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Check, Check, Is this thing on?

Sometimes you wonder why we make announcements.

Multiple times over the last 3 months I have talked about the fact that General Council was meeting in Thunder Bay this summer. 2 days ago I talked about the fact that it was starting, named some of the issues that were being discussed, and shared this prayer.

Today I get asked by a regular attender (who was there on Sunday) "I heard on the news something about a bunch of United Church people meeting in Thunder Bay this week. What is that about?"

HEy Hey, anybody listening? Hey hey anybody there?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Vacation musings

ANd on the seventh day God finished the work..and he rested... (Genesis 2)
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy... (Exodus 20)

Wednesday morning we leave on vacation. An idea in keeping with the concept of SAbbath and rest. Vacations are essential to our well-being in body mind and spirit. And yet in last THursday's New York Times one could read:

SOMEWHERE on a faraway beach, a cellphone rings, a BlackBerry buzzes, a laptop beeps.

It is an electronic requiem for the American vacation.
“I never go on vacation,” said Ellen Kapit, a real estate agent in Manhattan. “And when I do, I have my computer, my Palm, my e-mail and my phone with me at all times.”
Ms. Kapit’s habits are typical of today’s employees, who check for e-mail messages from work in between parasailing or floating in the hotel pool, consider a long weekend a major excursion and sacrifice vacation days by not taking them.

Are vacations becoming a thing of the past? And, if they are, at what cost?

To tell the truth I don't think this is a new phenomenon. There have always been those who didn't quite take all their vacation time, preferring to take vacation pay instead. ANd there have always been people who would call the office while away "just to check in". What is new is how easy it is to blur the lines between work and vacation.

BUt what is the cost? Is it worth never really destressing, never letting go of all those concerns? I may be the wrong one to ask. THe last time I took a week of vacation I called in to a teleconference half way through. And I continued to check all the same websites I normally do -- including the church ones. And, because we were in town for over half the week, it was terribly tempting to pop across the parking lot to the church "just for a second" (even if only to drop off the mail, yes I collected the church mail while on holidays too, and end up doing a couple of things).

BUt for the next 4 weeks we will be away. IT is always easier to honour a vacation when not staying at home. NOw that 4 weeks includes a week of study time (a compressed week, a 3 day retreat to do some visioning and planning and centering), and likely a Presbytery teleconference (also charged to the week of study time). ANd admittedly I will use my parents computer somewhat. I look forward to it. NOt just because the break will be nice, or because the visit "home" will be nice. I look forward to it because, despite all the pressures the NYT lists around vacations, I understand why Sabbath time is important. THere is a reason Sabbath time is part of those 10 commandments. It is all about loving oneself as you love your neighbour. IT is about taking care of yourself so you can live out who you are called to be.

One day, a week, a month. WHatever length of time you can get. Take some SAbbath time. It does a body/mind/spirit/heart/soul good.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Prayer

Note: This was first posted a week ago. I am chagning the date to bring it up to the top as the meeting starts with Commissioner Orientation this afternoon

{Cross posted from Riverview Rolls On}

As we quickly approach the beginning of the 39th General Council (see more detailed information here) I offer the following prayer:

Creator God, who calls us to live, and work, and be together in community,
we confess that sometimes we find it hard to do that.
Sometimes we find it hard to admit that other members of the community
might have a different vision of who we are.
Sometimes we find it hard to listen and so we attack.
Sometimes we find it hard to hear and so we stop trying.
Creator God, who calls us to grow and mature as people of faith,
we pray that we would be able to listen and hear and hope.
At this time we pray particularly for the Commissioners to the 39th General Council.
As they gather together from the depth and breadth of this thing we call the United Church of Canada,
which is in turn merely a part of your much larger body,
may they come with hearts, minds, and souls ready to listen.
May they be ready to listen to those with whom they agree and to those with whom they disagree.
And may they be ready to listen for your voice.
God who calls us to be the church,
grant that these men and women, young and old alike,
will hear your voice and hear what and who you are calling the United Church to be.
Help them to translate that vision into action with wisdom, compassion, and excitement.
These things we pray in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the one we call Christ,
the one in whom we are all united despite our differences,
our Teacher, our Redeemer, our Friend.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

WOrds Matter

HEre it is, still two days till the weekly Saturday Sermon Party but I am getting an early start on my angst.

I had some opening thoughts on Monday on what I would do with this week's Ephesians reading but as I re-read them tonight I thought "that won't work". I have nothing else there. So maybe I would do some thinking out-loud about the future and what it might hold. Talk about the need for us a congregation to do some serious goal-setting and visioning. Important stuff, but for a summer crowd? THe General Council recap planned for the Sunday I return from holidays precludes doing a GC preview this week. What to do.

Then I re-read the passage again, trying to find a sermon. And it hits me -- words matter. If we are going to be imitators of GOd words matter. It is still abotu transformation. It is still about our call to remember that we are Imago Dei. But we can focus, for this week, on the fact that words matter. Our angry words matter. Our hopefull words matter. Our words can build up or break down. Words matter. Maybe that is the first two and the last two things I say on Sunday. WORDS MATTER.

PS: and in the end it ties in to goal setting and visioning too. How we talk about the future helps to shape it and our expectations of/reactions to it. Words Matter.

Holidays a comin', Holidays a Comin'

A week from now I won't be here. In all likelihood I will be in a tent trying (vainly? desperately? convincingly?) to convince my daughters to go to sleep.

We leave on our vactation next WEdnexsday morning. 3 weeks of vacation with a week of study leave mixed in for 4 weeks total. A trip to the land of my childhood, time to do the "touristy" things there. A retreat, time to center and envision the future. A reunion at the camp that started me on the path to ministry.

Oh and three nights of tenting with a 3 month old, a 2 year old, a 3 year old, and a dog who has never tented before on the way out.

THat retreat may be verrrrrrrrrry welcome come August 28th.

A SPecial Day

Today is a very special and honourable day. ARe you properly prepared? Properly dressed?

Yes today is National Underwear Day!

I trust you all have a clean pair.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

As Seen [almost] Everywhere: The Book Meme

1. One Book That Changed Your Life. What does it mean to say a book changed your life? Hm, Certainly there have been books that have challenged how I thought about certain topics but to change my whole life? One would be a book by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear And Do it Anyway. Another is DOn't Sweat the Small Stuff -- and its all small stuff by RIchard Carlson.
2. One Book That You've Read More Than Once Only one? Of course there are countless bedtime books (as anyone with children can attest) and of course Lord of the Rings. And any number of novels. But also both Iron John by Robert Bly and Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen. BOth were first read for a course in seminary and then revisited as I worked more at reclaiming myself and my being.
3. One Book You'd Want On a Desert Island I have no idea! Honestly, Shakespeare's plays come to mind but I don't think that is the answer I really mean. Truly not sure.
4. One Book That Made You Laugh: A book by Robert Ludlum called The Road to Omaha, a sequel to his earlier The Road to Gandolfo. Both are espionage stories with a twist, and terribly funny (but I liked the sequel better).
5. One Book That Made You Cry: The one I just finished. A beloved teacher/mentor/leader's death and funeral and a talented mentee preparing to set off on his own (so he thinks, I am willing to lay money on two good friends staying with and assisting him), how could one not be stirred. ANd I know there have been many others...
6. One Book You Wish Had Been Written. I like SUe's answer to this one. Also something like "The Never Fail Guide to Understanding and Communicating with Toddlers"
7. One Book That You Wish Had Never Been Written: Mein Kampf or rather I wish that such hatred was never known in the world (yes I am an idealist at times -- professional and confessional failing). SO I would put all books espousing racial hatred or the elimination of a group of people in this category.
8. One Book You’re Currently Reading: THe Emerging Christian Way (about 50% through). Ordinary TIme of course. THat's it at the moment, but there are some waiting for vacation time.
9. One Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read: There are oh so many. Just to name the ones on my shelves in this category would take too long. But 10 years ago I bought a cheap printing of Don Quixote and never got past the first 10 pages.
10. Tag five people. I think not. If you are a fan of reading, go ahead and do this.

ANd That is that


D. is dead and buried. Treachery has been revealed, and the final stage begins. Of course the final stage in this saga is going to be a terribly large stage. Book 7 will be eagerly awaited. I may have to get it in hardcover--not sure I can wait the extra year for paperback this time.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Well It was a Nice THeory.

LAst week I found that HAlf-BLood Prince had come out in paperback. So I ordered it (I prefer to read books in paperback, and they are a bit cheaper that way), planning to take it on vacation later this month. Yesterday as I picked it up at the post office I said that the challenge would be to not start reading it until the 16th.

15 minutes after we got home...

I am just starting the chapter where Harry and Ron return to The Burrow for Christmas. I would be farther along but I had two wedding rehearsals last night and two weddings today. Maybe I will finish it before vacation and thus save myself the weight of carrying it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What Does the Future Hold?

I have found myself thinking a lot about the future the last couple days (which is a little odd for me). In part this is likely due to my preparation for this Sunday's sermon (where, as noted below, I am talking about possible Adult CE ideas for the Fall/Winter). And in part it is because I have just finalized arrangements to do a retreat while out West at the end of the month.

But I think that the real reason is what lies beneath both of those. I have been here for five years (five very full years seeing as I arrived single--hadn't even met my Dear One--and childless). And now there is the voice asking "Now what?" "Where do we go from here?"

Where do we go from here? What is the path that is best professionally and personally for me? What is the path that the congregation needs to walk down to find hope and abundance? HOw do those paths match and/or diverge?

The quest for new life, new zest led me to look seriously at CE possibilites for the new season. It also led me, knowing that there is a retreat house a few blocks from where my parents live, to try something new. I go on retreat to help sort out the questions of the future. I go on retreat to recenter myself in the faith, and to look for a path. The path may be another 5 years here, time to try new things, time to work on the only kind of church growth that matters, time to help be a force in a community seeking/needing resurrection. Or the path may be one that says "move on". Right now I am not sure. I truly am not sure. Both paths have fearfulness lurking in their shadows. But a new path needs to come. THe future always calls us forward.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Study, Study, What to Study...

This week I am musing about growing in faith as I prepare a sermon. Part of growing in faith is of course, faith study. But in many congregations the majority of people don't take part in church-sponsored study opportunities. What does this say? How do we encourage more to take part? I honestly believe that the only type of church growth that matters is the quality of our faith, of our walk with God. How do we deepen that relationship?

The faith we share both is and is not the faith "of our fathers, living still". It is and is not the faith we picked up as children. But if, as many do within the UCCan, we treat confirmation classes as "graduation from Sunday School" aren't we dropping the ball?

THis Sunday I am going to talk about possible adult CE for the Fall/Winter. One idea is a study on the Lord's Prayer. For January onward I am wavering between suggesting Living the Questions of Experiencing the Heart of Christianity. ANyone out there done those? How did you like them? My hope also is that the act of study can reawaken a sense of vision and purpose that leads to a revitalized sense of hope for the congregation.

When we focus on growing in terms of numbers (bums in the pews, dollars in the plate) it is easy to seem more and more like another social club. WHat happens when we focus on growing our faith?