Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FIRST CORINTHIANS 13 Paraphrased Christmas version:

This came to my e-mail over the last couple weeks. I think it is a keeper (and if I put it here I'll know where to find it again):

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,

strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,

but do not show love to my family,

I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen,

baking dozens of Christmas cookies,

preparing gourmet meals

and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime:

but do not show love to my family,

I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen

carol in the nursing home,

and give all that I have to charity;

but do not show love to my family,

it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels

and crocheted snowflakes,

attend a myriad of holiday parties

and sing in the choir's cantata

but do not focus on Christ,

I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug their child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss their spouse.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love does not envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return; but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From Our House to Yours

Merry Christmas!
And as Tiny Tim would say...
God Bless Us, Every One

Monday, December 21, 2009

Celebrate! Good Times! Come On!

That is the title of my reflection for Thursday.  ANd of course the first thing Beloved thought of (and it was in my head as I wrote it in the bulletin to be honest) was this song (which one of Beloved's friends thought I shoud sing a la Glee during the service--trust me that will NOT happen):

But for the longest time that was about the only thing that was coming to mind.  Then last week I realized that what I really needed to do was change the first 2 exclamation points to question marks.  Punctuation makes a big difference after all.  But think about it Celebrate? Good Times? Come ON! makes a very different statement doesn't it.

But really isn't that the message of the world around us?  In this place 2 of our major employers have been defunct for 2 years now.  Globally we are still struggling out of what is considered by many the deepest recession since the 1930's.  LAst week's conclusion to the Copenhagen summit was very unsatisfactory to many.  Afghanistan and Iraq still build up a body count.  There is much around that puts the question mark in place of the exclamation point.   THese are good times?  WE have something to celebrate?  Srsly?

YEs. Srsly.  THat is the point of Christmas Joy.  It doesn't mean happiness (I would note that nowhere in the faith story are we promised happiness).  Christmas Joy comes from noticing that GOd is being born in the midst of this horribly troubled world.  Christmas JOy comes from the promise and hope that God is still breaking into the world.  So yeah, Celebrate!  Good TImes!  Come ON!  THe angels once again are singing a song of good tidings of great joy that shall be for all people.

ANd even better, now I have a way in.  A dialogue between a preacher trying to wrestle with the title in a troubled world and GOd who has called the title forth.  Assuming the dialogue gets written Beloved will record the GOd parts and then I'll have the dialogue using the recording and the computer on Thursday night (God as a disembodied voice).  OR maybe we'll record the whole thing and just play it as a radio show.  Naw, probably recorded and the pause button....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Column for the Christmas Paper

What's It All About Anyway???

The Grinch had it all figured out, or so he thought. Christmas was all about presents and toys and food and noise. But he was wrong.

Scrooge had it all figured out too. Christmas was a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every year. It was a waste of time and money. But he was wrong.

Some in the church have it all figured out. Christmas is about insisting that the story is all important and factual and fighting against Santa or “Happy Holidays” or anything that draws attention from the baby born to a virgin and lying in a manger. Turns out they may be wrong too.

And so I come back to the question Charlie Brown asks; “Can anyone tell be what Christmas is all about?”. Is it the gifts? The holiday? Family? The story?

In the end Christmas is sort of about all those things and yet more than that. It is about the giving of tokens of love and affection to each other. It is about taking time away from being “productive” to spend with those who are important in our lives. It is about a story, a mixture of myth and legend and faith, told in words and songs and pictures of a special baby. But, for me, none of these quite answer Charlie Brown's question.

What is my answer? What does Christmas mean for me? Christmas is about birth. Christmas is about God breaking into our lives. That is the story we tell. That is the reason for our praise. We aren't celebrating the birth of a child over 2000 years ago. We celebrate the fact that here, now, as 2009 turns into 2010 something new is being born.

The great promise and hope of Christmas is that in the midst of our crises and troubles we hear of God breaking into our world and our lives. We are reminded that there is a light that no shadow can overcome. We listen for the song that brings “good news for all people”. The birth we celebrate may come in a way and place we don't expect, but our story reminds us that God rarely does the expected. Still there is light, there is hope, there is joy.

What is being born this Christmas? Where do we hear angel song? What hope is being awoken?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

25 years later

The message still rings true. (this was always my favourite of the "famine songs")

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When Joy is Absent -- A Newspaper Column

“Joy to the World! The Lord is come!” The carol rang out through the radio speakers. Irritably, John leaned over and switched it off. Joy? What was that? Then he turned back to figuring out which bills he could pay this month.

Meanwhile, down the street, Lisa was sitting alone in the house she had once shared with her beloved partner, had shared that is, until the heart attack. What would this first Christmas alone be like? She put her head in her hands and wept.

Later that day, down at the food bank, Beth snuck in, hoping no one saw her. With trembling hands she handed in an application for the Christmas Cheer fund. Hopefully they could get toys for her kids. On her way out she passed Fred and asked how he was doing since his mother's funeral. Neither of them could find the strength to wish the other a Merry Christmas.

In the midst of the hustle and the bustle, the carols and the songs, the shopping and the baking, of the Christmas season is a hidden sadness for many. For some this is the first Christmas with an empty spot at the table. For some this is a Christmas spent away from family. For some the reality of low (or no) income is especially painful during this season of excess and buying. And for some Christmas has been painful for so many years that they dread the coming of December.

As members of a loving, faith-filled, community we have a duty to take the sadness, the pain, the absent joy of our neighbours seriously. We need to give people space to not be merry. We need to allow them to share their stories (if they want to) and name what reality is for them. Of course this doesn't mean we can't be merry and joyful ourselves. We just need to be aware and sensitive to those around us.

As a person of faith one way I deal with the ups and downs of life is in worship. When life is good we sing songs of praise and share joyful prayers. When life is bad we sing laments and share prayers of pain and hope. At Christmas-time we are certainly singing carols with great joy. But we are also telling a story of a God who sees the pain of God's people and breaks into the world over and over to lead us out of pain and darkness. God gives birth to hope where there is despair, light where there is shadow, and life where there is death. This is the true gift of Christmas. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Study Group Idea

LAst winter the group that was working through Revelation kept asking me a question,  "What does the United Church believe about...?

WE have some people who whave expressed an interest in confirmation classes.

And so I have come to a conclusion that combines both things.

Starting in January I am going to offer a study group that will double as confirmation/re-affirmation of faith class for those who are interested. The group is called What does the United Church believe about...
and possible topic areas include:
  • God
  • Jesus
  • Holy Spirit
  • The Bible
  • Human Nature
  • The Church
  • Communion and Baptism
  • Death and What Lies Beyond
  • Society
  • Sin and Forgiveness
  • The Realm of God--Now, COming, Both?
  • Prayer
  • The Created Order
  • ?????
SOme could easily be further subdivided.  SOme may be combined. What would you add to or subtract from this list?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

And Baby Makes 4

Yes that's right---4

Mind you they already outnumber (and some days out think) us anyway.

And maybe this one will be another male in the house???? (Scalliwag says she wants a brother)

We'll find out at the end of May/beginning of June

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Irony Anyone???

I couldn't help but laugh when I read this story:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged journalists to "shine light into dark corners" of government affairs during a speech late Saturday, but wouldn't take questions from reporters covering the event.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Memory Test

Check out this little test of facial memory/recognition.

I got 83% on remembering I had seen them, and 85% on remembering where.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A New Citizenship Oath

As part of my preparing to ask where our loyalties do/should lie I looked up the US Pledge of Allegiance. Very interesting reading here.

Sadly, in reading this brief summary on wikipedia I fear I may know more about the history of the Pledge than many people who routinely recite it.

I also found the text of the Canadian Citizenship oath

But of course as people of faith it is arguable, and theologically sustainable, that our true allegiance is not to any flag or nation or political party/leader.  Indeed our loyalty is to a kingdom proclaimed by a man on hs way to a cross.  Our allegiance is to a way of life that was (rightly in some ways) condemned as subversive in the eyes of Empire.  Our citizenship is in a realm that is of this world and yet not of this world -- the now and the not yet.

And so I submit a Citizenship Oath For Reign of Christ Sunday:
I swear that I will remain faithful to the Creating Parent,
bear true allegiance to the Child who brings life,
and open my life to the wildness of the Regenerative Spirit.
I affirm my commitment to truth, to justice and to true peace.
I will faithfully strive to understand the rules of Kin-dom living
and fulfil my responsibilities as a follower of Christ.
God being my helper. Amen.

May we always remember our call to be subversive, may we struggle to live into our true citizenship, may we be reminded that the kin-dom of God is born not of power but of "liberty and justice for all" Amen.

I Almost....

Wish I was in TOronto. Then I could go see this show

I just watched a piece about it on TV and it looks like a real hoot.

My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding "tells the story of a mother and son," according to production notes. "The mother feels lost in life, wrestling with her identity. A new job brings new opportunities and with it a chance to truly find herself…discovering her sexuality, rediscovering her faith, and eventually coming out to her teenage son, ex-husband and homophobic Jewish mother.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

THis Looks Neat!

Want a new Advent experience?

How abotu an online Advent Calendar?

Check it out here

I am thinking we will do it in this house

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thinking of Using this for Sunday's Sermon...

A COuple (Bad) Swine FLu Jokes

BOth told during tonight's concert:

1)  Did you know the difference between Bird Flu and Swine FLu?

WIth Bird FLu you need tweet-ment but for Swine FLu you can get by with oink-ment.

2)  Apparently the Pope came down with Bird Flu.  HE caught it from one of the cardinals.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Gives?

In eight years being here the garbage can had never been knocked over once.  NEver.  Despite there being bones or food scraps in it.

In the last month it has been dumped and garbage strewn at least 4 times.

Wonder who/what moved into the neighbourhood?

Sunday, November 08, 2009


End of a busy weekend...

YEsterday morning I left home at  9 in the morning.  Today I got home just after 5 in the afternoon.

In between those things I had a total of 7-7.5 hourse of driving.  And a training session for Joint Needs Assessment COmmittees (paired with teh first meeting of said committee).  And a chance to take in the last hour of a church tea.  And 4 hours of leading a workshop on funeral leadership.  And2 worship services with communion (but luckily being able to reprise last week's sermon) and 4 baptisms at one of them.  (BTW, I love doing baptisms).

What I ddin't have was sleep, or at least not a good one.  So now, sweet readers, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Must See!

I was sent this link in an e-mail this afternoon. Following it I found this video that needs to be watched:

The Real Deficit -- Newspaper Column

Deficits. We seem to hear that word a lot these days. Governing parties debate with the opposition how much of a financial deficit is acceptable in the midst of an economic downturn. Politicians muse about a democratic deficit in our Parliamentary processes. Analysts have been talking for years about an infrastructure deficit as our streets and bridges and sewer/water systems age beyond their expected lifespan. Economists constantly watch trade numbers and talk about trade deficits. But with all this talk about deficits is it possible we have missed the biggest deficit of all?

I think we have. I think at almost all levels of our lives together we have a more important deficit to worry about. And in fact, to a degree, dealing with this deficit will help us find a way to deal with all the rest. This is the deficit of vision.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible comes from the book of Proverbs. In the King James Version it is translated Where there is no vision, the people perish. This verse is in fact inscribed over the West window of the Peace Tower in Ottawa. Vision is vital for us to survive and thrive as a society and as a community.

When vision is lacking we tend to go around in circles. When our vision is not forward-looking we tend to spend all our time trying to get back to some sort of “Golden Age” from the past. But when we have a vision that looks ahead, a vision that guides us into the future, then we can grow as communities. With a vision we can find a new way to thrive, without a vision we may struggle to survive.

Where does vision come from? For people of faith asking “where is God calling us to go?” or “what is God calling us to do?” or “who is God calling us to be?” is a way of opening ourselves to a new vision for the world. This means that in our personal and communal life we have to open ourselves to the urging and blowing of the Spirit. And we have to be open to that urging even though it may lead us to a place we have never been before.

As I look around the world I see a lack of vision, or at least a lack of trust in a vision. I see leaders trying to keep an economic model alive despite the evidence that the model is fatally flawed. I see small organization trying to operate as they did 50 years ago despite evidence that people are no longer interested in that way of being. I see people facing crisis by asking how to get back to where they were instead of how to find a new start. At many levels of life we are crying out for a vision of hope for the future.

Where will God's vision lead us in the future? Are we ready to take the risk and open ourselves to the Spirit's leading? Can we dare step forward in trust and hope without really knowing what comes next?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda

Today is REformation Day, the day when many people pause to remember MArtin Luther and the Wittenburg church door and the beginning of the Reformation.  (OK,many churchfolk actually mark the day on the Sunday before Oct 31 but bear with me).  Reformation Day is a time to remember that there are times in the life of the church when the church cries out to be changed.

Tomorrow is All Saints Day.  All Saints is a day to give thanks for all those who are part of the great communion who have gone before us.  It is a day to remember our ancestors -- both genetic and theological.

As a part of a grand family we have inherited much from out ancestors.  As part of a grand family we need to decide what we want to pass on to our children.  WE are part of a church that is reformed and yet is always reforming.

So what is on the horizon?  It is my conviction that the more important question is what do we want to pass on to our descendants in the faith.  What of our inheritance, our traditions still gives life?  What of our inheritance has become irrelevant or worse?  How do we honour both our ancestors and our descendants?  (You will note that I do. not believe that, in the end, it is about US)

OF course the irony is that, as a generalization, great reform movements gather under the banner of returning to some past form of purity or some great golden age.  That is not the reform that is called for in any aspect of society in the 21st century.  We move forward by moving forward, not by trying to go back.

And the ancestor-descendant question?  I personally am guided by the JAroslav Pelikan quote (taken from Wikipedia)
Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.

We need to be people of tradition, not traditionalists.  WE also have to remember that new traditions are always being born.

2 Jack-O- LAnterns

Halloween Costumes

Princess as a Vampire

Scalliwag as a PRincess

Monkey as Barney the Dinosaur

Happy HAlloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Fun

Want an online way to celebrate Halloween?

Want to work out any passive-aggresive feelings about felines?

Try Cat Bowling!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Things kids say

Last week I was washing the dishes while the girls were (supposedly) getting ready for bed.   Monkey came into the kitchen and this discussion ensued:

Me:  Have you brushed your teeth?
Monkey:  Nope
Me: Well go do it then
Monkey: I can't reach my toothbrush
Me:  well use the stool
Monkey:  No, you arms are in the way
Me: What?
Monkey: your arms are in the way, I can't reach!

So I head down to the bathroom, muttering about the fact tht this made no sense.  I was in another room, my arms aren't in the way, possibly a couple comments about delaying tactics.

I open the cabinet and see------the deodorant container in front of the cup with the toothbrushes in it.

SO of course Daddy's arms were in the way, to a three-year-old mind it made sense I am sure.

Here is your answer...

COnfused about faith in a multi-faith world?

Well check this out!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We Need More TEstimonies Like This

On BOTH sides of the 49th parallel


Just found out about this story:
President Obama on Wednesday signed a law that makes it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
And all I can say is that this is a good thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This is a Keeper!

At a meeting this morning I found this quote from Winston Churchill:
When one door closes another opens.
But we often look so regretfully upon the closed door that we don't see the one that has opened for us.

That should come in handy when I want to talk about visioning.

EDIT: got the quote slightly wrong, fixed it

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Advent Planning

Advent 2009
Birth Means…

1st Sunday November 29 Birth Means Tearing Down the Old
  • Jeremiah 18:1-6
  • Psalm 25 (VU p.752)
  • Luke 21:25-36

2nd Sunday December 3Birth Means Re-Evaluating Priorities
  • Malachi 3:1-4
  • Luke 1:68-79 (VU p.900)
  • Luke 3:1-18
3rd Sunday December 13 Birth Means New Beginnings (Pageant/White Gifts)

4th Sunday December 20 Birth Means Future Promises
  • Micah 5:2-5a
  • Psalm 146 (VU p.868)
  • Luke 1:39-55
Christmas EveBirth Means Celebration
  • John 1:1-5, 14
  • Isaiah 9:2-7
  • Luke 2:1-20 (in sections)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

For the Girls....

A favourite song for each of the girls:
For the Princess:

For the Scalliwag:

For the Monkey:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

THis MAkes CHristians....

look ever so idiotic.

CANTON, N.C. - A North Carolina pastor says his church plans to burn Bibles and books by Christian authors on Halloween to light a fire under true believers.

Mind you he also thinks the the KJV is the only acceptable Bible so what can you do?

Story here

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I never like these stories

PRayers go out to our sisters and brothers in faith in Wetaskiwin whose church building was destroyed by fire today.

Story here

Old Scam, New Twist

So I was checking my e-mail this morning and saw one claiming to be from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  I was tempted to simply report it as spam and move one but just for the heck of it decided to open it.

The first paragraph stated that through their intelligence monitoring network the FBI had determine I was eligible for a $7.5 million over-due inheritnce payment.  Furthermore, the FBI and the Department of Homeland SEcurity had investigated and approved the transaction.  Then the next paragraph launched into, you guessed it, the standard Nigerian inheritance scam.  Then to top it off the letter was signed by NAME, SPecial Agent cc: Robert MEuller (FBI Director).

DO people still buy in to this scam?  This one claimed that to receive my millions I just had to send $380 to them first.  DO people still do this?  But I must admit, it is rather ingenious to add the FBI name to the scam, gives it a bit more "credibility" (unless you realize that the FBI isn't remotely in this sort of business).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday Five on Saturday...

I am pre-posting this because Friday I will be at my new Independent Catholic church's yearly Synod, being welcomed and conditionally re-consecrated to episcopal ministry for this jurisdiction. I leave in a few hours and am spending the morning packing and making last preparations for my preaching, presiding, and teaching during the week. ....This has me thinking of the special rites of passage in our lives which we participate for ourselves or in which we support and bless others: baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, graduation, funerals, etc. Such important days, so exciting and joyous, but also sometimes anxiety provoking or deeply painful....So, this week, please share five memories of such sacred moments with God and her holy people from your life and the lives of those you love.

  1.  Palm Sunday 1984 -- the day I was confirmed.  The confirmation class had a retreat on Saturday and Sunday morning I woke early and went out walking in the playground beside the clubhouse where we were staying.  The fog was thick that morning and I had a lovely prayerful walk in the fog around these big concrete tunnels.
  2. August 31 2002 -- wedding day.  OK the day didn't get off to a great start (fight with the UCW about how to set up the hall for the tea -- don't ask) and the pictures were challenging due to a high wind, but at 7pm we gathered in the sanctuary of beloved's childhood church for the service.  The choir sang, the bell choir played, Beloved's childhood clergyperson preached, a hymn (I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry) was sung, we recessed to You Shall Go Out With Joy.  A great cap to the day.
  3. October 2001 -- my covenanting service with this congregation and this Presbytery, the really official beginning to a ministry that had begun back in July.
  4. MAy 2003, 2004, 2006 -- the births of the girls.  'nuff said.
  5. May 2001 -- my ordination service (and no Conference AGM to attend before hand!!!!)
And so so many more.....the girls baptisms, grandparents funerals, walks by the lake, campfires.......

Friday, October 09, 2009


That is all I can say after reading this story

Jumping the, um, Gun?

Probalby the story of the day, or even the whole Nobel season:
U.S. President Barack Obama says he is deeply humbled by the Norwegian Nobel committee for selecting him as the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and will accept it as a "call to action."

Now I am a supporter of President Obama. I share many of his ideals. If I were a USan I a 99.9% sure I would have voted for him last year. But I have to think that this prize is inappropriate. REally he has given people hope for change but what exactly has he made happen? (And to be fair how much should we expect him to have accomplished given that he was only sworn in 9 months ago and given the nature of politics as the art of the possible and the US balance of powers).

It is too early. A great honour, a vote of confidence but too early. It is almost as if the Nobel committee go caught up in Obama-mania. At least IMO. (and in the opinion of others as I read this story)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Giving Thanks, No Worries -- A Column

From the hand of Matthew the Gospel writer come these words of challenge and encouragement:
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things (Matthew 6:31-32)

Is Jesus kidding? Don't worry? Just trust that what you need will show up? That can't be right! That just isn't realistic.

Well, no, from a strictly practical point of view it isn't realistic. Food and drink and clothing and shelter and heat don't just fall from the sky when we need them. But then again there is a great deal of wisdom in Jesus' words.

In the end what does worry accomplish? Other than making us uneasy and anxious that is. A couple sentences earlier Jesus asked “Can any of you by worrying add a single day to the span of your life?”. Does worrying bring us food? Does worry pay the rent? All worry does is cause us discomfort and make us feel bad.

Well that isn't quite true. Worrying can do one more thing. It can change how we see life. When we are worrying about things we start to see the world through eyes of scarcity, we start to believe that what we need for life is scarce. And then we worry more. And, more importantly, we start to believe that if things are scarce then we need to hold tightly to what we have.

But there is an alternative. Even in the face of conditions that lead us to worry we can choose to follow the advice Bing Crosby gave Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep...I fall asleep, counting my blessings.
In the face of worry and anxiety we can count our blessings. And then a funny then might happen.

If worrying leads us to see the scarcity in the world, what does counting our blessings lead to? Why it leads us to see the abundance in the world! And when we see the world as a place of abundance we often become happier, more at ease. And then we start to feel like we have enough to share with others.

This Thanksgiving season we have a choice. We can fret and worry about the economy and the job market and the future. Or we can set those things aside for the moment and focus on why we are blessed. Counting our blessings won't add a single dollar to our bank account or a single crumb of food to our table. But it can change our outlook on life. And besides, if we really miss the worry and anxiety we can always go back to them!

What choice will you make?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


No not the luncheon "meat".

No not the Monty Python sketch (a classic).

The e-mail kind.  This week I noticed that my e-mail was having issues.  More precisely, my work e-mail wasn't getting through to 2 lists I am on or to the church.  I tested by sending a message to myself and it popped up as suspected spam. 

So I called my ISP (shaw) and we did some testing over the phone.  Turns out their system has suddenly decided that it dislikes my signature block.  More precisely it doesn't like the fact that I had 2 blog addresses in it. Further trials determined that while it didn't mind the church blog it was flagging my blog of worship resources as spam.  I forwarded a message to the people who could supposedly fix this but haven't had a response yet.

Still, what does it mean to have a link to a blog of worship resources flagged as spam?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Music, It Fills the Soul

We have in this house musical children.  Now it is my belief that ALL children are musical chidren.  I firmly believe that all of us have a musical side.  Not necessarily talent but a part of our soul resonates with music.  ANd this is most evident when we are children.  Unfortunately something about life seems to push us to restrain this musicality in our beings.

For instance, all 3 year-olds can sing.  By the time they are 15 few of them will sing in public.  I'm not talking about solos or performances, I am talking about singing at campfire or along with the radio.  Then of course there are some of us adults who still sing freely--whether we should or not.

Our girls still have that tendency to sing and move to whatever music is around without even knowing it.  Especially the SCalliwag -- on Sunday morning she simply can not sit still during hymsn, she has to dance.  This afternoon we were at coffee and she was sitting beside me colouring when suddenly we realized she was quietly singing along with the background music and her head was bouncing away (and we didn't even know she had heard the song enough to know the words).

Oh if only we could always keep the music of our souls alive!

Do You Feel Appreciated?

Were you aware that October is Clergy Appreciation Month???

I wasn't until I opened my mail this afternoon.  In it was a package addressed to me so I opened the envelope and found a card and a letter and a poster from a group called CLergy United.  The odd thing was that the letter itself was addressed to the congregation, not to me.  And the text of the letter stated that it was being sent to churches throughout Ontario.  SO why send it to me by name?  Do they expect the clergy person to pass on a letter asking that the congregation mark Clergy Appreciation Month?  That would be a little self-serving after all.  (NEver mind that I have never heard of Clergy Appreciation Month and suspect it is a new creation, and never mind that I am not a supporter of the group that sent the package and never mind that I feel quite appreciated as it is)

So anybody else heard of Clergy Appreciation Month?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Germinating COncept----or Weed?

Being in a small congregation means that most of teh Christmas pageants that one finds are essentially useless.  Many of them are written with the "find speaking parts for the most kids" mindset,  but when your regular Sunday School is 5 children in Grades 3 and under with a couple of youth you may be able to get to help that mindset just doesn't fit.

ANd so each year I toy with writing something.  But thus far I have always been fortunate enough to find something that will work.  ANd that is good since often I don't start thinking about it until NOvember.  But this year I have started thinking early and am tempted to try to write a whole service/pageant for White Gift Sunday.

So far I have an idea to have 4 speakers:
  1. A narrator/liturgist
  2. Scripture Reader
  3. An older woman remembering fondly what Christmas in the church used to be
  4. A young man/woman who is struggling (possibly homeless???) economically and wondering what CHristmas will bring this year.
The service would intersperse carols and spoken bits and prayers as we talk about the Christmas story and lead into the sharing of gifts for the Food Bank or Christmas Cheer.  NOt sure what to do about the "traditional pageant" piece.  THe kids we have could be granchildren or children of the speaking parts or some sort of pageant tableau could be worked in.  Do we have to have a stable scene for it to be "proper"?

My tentative Advent theme as a whole is looking at what is being born.  Writing our homegrown pageant could allow it to fit that theme????

Friday, September 25, 2009

Just over 1/2 done!

It is the last weekend of September and in these here parts that means it is Presbytery time!

2 solid days of work (with an extra 2+ hour exec meeting last night for an emergent issue).  But at least most of my actual work is done now.  Just a bit to present tomorrow and one motion that we didn't get done today.  Otherwise just sit back and listen and debate.

ANd then no preaching on Sunday!  Unfortunately I would LOVE ot be at home hearing the guest reacher instead of drinving 4-5 hours (depending who you ask/how heavy a foot you have) to City-by-the-lake to pick up the dog before the kennel closes and then another 2 hours home.

TOday was a good day, as PResbytery goes.  TOmorrow may be interesting at times....

And I was only asked to take on 2 new jobs in the last 24 hours.  One was a quick and clear no.  THe other will need thought--maybe if it can be done by teleconference?????????

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who Do You Say You Are? -- A Sermon Opener

“Who do you say I am?” Jesus' question echoes through the ages. Not just “what do others say about me?” but “who do you say I am?” “What do you believe? It isn't enough to rely on what others have said, you have to make up your own mind.” Jesus tells the disciples.

(Interestingly, as Mark tells the story Jesus seems to be less than impressed with Peter's reply. In Matthew Peter is praised but here Jesus tells them not to repeat that anywhere.)

But here is the real kicker. We still have to answer this question. One of the reasons we retell the stories of the Scriptures is to see where they intersect with our lives in the here and now. And this story intersects with our faith lives at the most basic level.

One of (some would say THE) defining marks of Christian faith is that we have to take the Jesus story seriously. To be a Christian means making a statement about who and what Jesus was and is. And we are encouraged to find our personal answer. It isn't enough to simply recite the teaching of the church by rote. Our answer to Jesus' question has to have meaning for us.

It has been suggested that if Peter was a modern Jesus Scholar the discussion in today's story would have gone like this:
Jesus said, "Who do they say that I am." They replied, some say Elijah, some John the Baptist, others one of the prophets." And he said, but who do YOU say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the ground of our being, the ontological kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationships." And Jesus said, "...What?" That is our answer but yet it is not our answer.

That answer, when taken apart and translated into English, describes a fairly common picture of who Jesus is for us. But it can't be our answer. For starters, who really talks like that? SO the question remains, how would you respond to Jesus? Who is Jesus for you?

And why does the question matter? Well, as I said already, declaring who Jesus was and is is central to Christian faith. And why is it important to be clear about what we believe? We need to be clear about our faith, or at least have a degree of clarity since faith tends to be a moving target for many of us, because that clarity is a source of strength when the world get rough. If we don't know who Jesus is for us it is that much harder to know who Jesus is when the road of faith takes a dark turn.

Because look what happens right after the question. Jesus talks about the road that leads to cross and grave. Jesus talks about the need for people to take up the cross and follow him. And let's be clear. Jesus isn't talking about our “cross to bear” as some sort of inconvenient disease or hardship like we often do. Jesus is talking about the road of faith being a road that leads to persecution and rejection. Knowing who we are, knowing whose we are, knowing what we believe helps us when the cross comes knocking.

Scholars now tell us that this story probably doesn't come from the life of Jesus. Instead it is probably a post-Easter reconstruction as the disciples strove to understand what had happened. IT isn't a story of identification of a a person – it is a story about confessing the faith. When we make the same sort of claim that Peter makes then we make a statement about to whom we belong. We make a statement about whose side we are on. Such statements are not something we should trust to others. Such statements are something we have to make for ourselves. The faith that has been handed down through centuries of the church helps us find our way, but rote recitation of others words is not enough. Who do you say Jesus is? Whose do you say you are? Who do you say you are?

Friday, September 11, 2009

YAWN!!! Friday Five--Pyjama Time


1. What was your favorite sleeping attire as a child? And did you call them pjs, pajamas (to rhyme with llamas), pajamas (to sort of rhyme with bananas), jammies, or ??? pjs was that term we used. and always wore 'em

2. Favorite sleepwear put on your own little ones, or perhaps those you babysat? (Bonus points if you made it). LAtely the girls have decided that they need to sleep in underwear only. Hopefullly we can convert them back to pyjammies before winter hits

3. How about today-do you prefer nightgown, pajamas, undies, or au naturel? pajama pants to this day, unless it is REALLY warm (although someone votes that I wear too much a it is --oops is that the TMI land)

4. Silky smooth or flannel-y cozy? Cotton in the summer, fleecey in the winter

5. Socks or bare feet? Bare feet save for cold weather when camping at times

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Who Is Welcome?? -- A Column

The brightly lettered sign on the door said “All welcome, come as you are”.

Pete looked at his his wheelchair and asked “even me?” and then he continued down the street. How would he get up the stairs?

Next came Sue and Cathy. They looked at the sign, and the beautiful stained glass windows and for a moment thought about going in. But then they remembered the last time they had been, and the clear message that folks like them were “bad”. They knew they weren't welcome as a couple.

Next down the block was a young family. “Let's go see!” shouted the youngest. But the kids tended to be noisy, they had trouble sitting still. Not wanting to cause trouble the parents quickly walked away, dragging the kids with them.

Finally came Fred and Alice. They thought it would be nice to have a warm place to sit and maybe a cup of coffee. But they looked at their shabby clothes and their unwashed faces and knew that their presence seemed to make others uncomfortable. So they went down the street to try and find a meal.

Meanwhile, oblivious to the people passing by and wishing they could come in, the congregation sat looking around the half-empty sanctuary and asked themselves: “Why aren't there more people here? We are such a friendly group?”

The Gospel message is clear. The love and grace of God are offered to all of God's people. But even then we see the struggle to understand what that means. Even Jesus has to be taught about God's amazing welcome. It takes a foreign woman challenging his prejudices to show Jesus that, as an old hymn says, “the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind” (see Mark 7:24-30).

And still the world struggles. Every church I have attended has described themselves as warm and friendly. Every church wants to believe that all are welcome in their midst. But the reality people experience is far different. The story told earlier plays itself out over and over across this country. But God is still calling us to a new way.

God is calling the global community to be a place where all are welcome. All. Regardless of age, or physical/emotional/mental ability, or gender, or race,or social background, or economic status, or marital status, or sexual orientation, or any of the multitude of other ways we have of dividing people; despite all of that you are welcome in the Family of God.

This is the challenge for the world, to live out God's amazingly broad and open welcome. We will sometimes fall short. Sometimes we fall short intentionally, sometimes we don't even know it. If we are going to do better we need to be challenged. Otherwise we are as oblivious as the congregation in the story. What barricades do we put up that keep others out of our clubs, our businesses, our communities? How do we go about breaking them down?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Jobs I have Had...

In honour of Labour Day I thought I would try to remember all the jobs I had had.  So here they are; the good, the bad, and the ugly:
  1. Babysitting (because really isn't this the first job for most people?) -- although I really did relatively little babysitting during my teen years.  Certainly I didn't make my fortune at it.  I did, however, take a babysitting course when I was 12 or 13.
  2. Ticket Seller at Klondike Days -- Summer of 1987 -- this was a 10 day job that pretty much falls into the ugly category.  SPent a whole shift either standing or perched on a little stool selling ride tickets in a booth that became an oven in the hot sun.  Even wore I was 18 so I was put on the late shift and so was ther until the ex closed each time I worked.  THe biggest drawback though were the people with whom I worked.  IT is hard to spend an 8 hour shift beside someone who is doing everything he can to scam the system (or outright steal from the customers as one person did).  Oh and if you didn't balance at the end of the night any shortage was taken of your check.
  3. Gas Bar Attendant -- 1988-1992 -- this started as a weekend graveyard position the summer after first year university.  ANd then I moved to take some morning and afternoon shifts as needed by the end of the summer.  Then during 2nd-4th years of University I worked 3 or so afternoon/evening shifts a week.  It was a great job during school since I could usually get some schoolwork done during my shift.  On a few occassions I helped out with paperwork during the owner's absence.
  4. Lumber Yard -- summer 1988 -- a two week job cutting fence boards that grew into 6 weeks of general lumber yard assistant (a whole lot of stacking and strapping cedar).  Worked with good people but not a job I care to repeat.  ANd since during that time I worked at the Lumber yard all day (8-16) Monday to Friday and then graveyards at Job #3 Friday and Saturday I was really well tired out by the end of the 6 weeks
  5. Devotions Director -- Summers of 1989 and 1990 -- this was my intro to Camp ministry and, as it turned out, my starting on the road to Ordained ministry.  I first applied because it was the sort of summer job that provided career-relevant experience to an Education student.  But it had an infectious quality that remains to this day.
  6. Bull Cook -- Summer 1991 -- my 3rd year at camp.  I had finished my 4th year of Education but still had one round of Student Teaching to complete so I suddenly needed a summer job.  As it happened the camp needed to fill their 3rd cook position, sort of a glorified help-all, and so I went back to the lake.  IT was alright, unfortunately the Head Cook was a bit difficult to work with.
  7. Dishwasher/General Kitchen HElper -- fall/winter 1991/92 -- after camp ended I now needed a job.  Friends of ours were opening a restaurant in town so I aplied.  I started as the daytime dishwasher (with some janitorial work at the beginning of each day) and then when it came time for me to finish my student teaching I moved to an evening line cook position where I stayed until May.  I had a great time at that job and learned more about cooking than I had expected.
  8. Golf Course Clubhouse -- Summers 1992, 1993, 1994 -- I left job #7 to work at my home congregation for the summer.  Unfortunately the grant that was funding the job was for summer students and since I had only taken one course the preceding year I was not eligible so I had to find a job.  I had one offered at a Pizza place but after showing up for the first shift and, half-way through, being told that since this was training it was an unpaid shift I decided tht wasn't a place I wanted to work.  Then I got a job serving in a golf course clubhouse.  I enjoyed it so much I went back the next 2 years (in -between years at seminary).  The 2nd and 3rd summers I did both serving out front and worked in the kitchen (we were short a cook one day and I said "well I can do that" and then the die was cast). 
  9. Assistant Cook -- Summers 1995 1996 -- the year of my first internship I reconnected with camp.  And the next summer I was teh Assistant cook. It was a much better atmosphere in the kitchen these years.  The HEad Cook and I worked well together.  And it worked out that I got to do some programming as well as work in the kitchen.  Actually had the manager/director known it he had a cook who did far more programming and general non-kitchen work than was common.
  10. Car Detailer -- Fall 1995 -- without a doubt the worst job I have ever had.  Not only was the work mind-numbingly dull and mindles but the company was (IMHO) violating the labour code.  The code stated that once you arrived at work you were automatically there for 3 paid hours and ou were always paid for at least 3 hours a day.  But the trick was that you had to be there 11 hours a day while only being paid for the time you were clocked in.  SO if you spent most of the day in the break room because it was slow it was a (free) waste of your time.  It is telling (both in terms of turnover rate and quality of people employed there) that after being there a week they approached me about becoming the assistant manager of the detail area.  I lasted 6 weeks there before I left.
  11. Line Cook -- Winter 1995-96 -- finding myself unemployed and wanting to save money for a trip to England I applied at a new restaurant that was opening.  I didn't get the hours I had hoped for (partly because they didn't get the amount of business they hoped for) but I moved from a relatively limited position to working the full line fairly quickly (along with a few prep and dishwashing shifts as needed).
  12. Line Cook -- Fall 1996 -- My 3rd restaurant opener.  AFter camp ended I was looking for work that would be a little more meaningful.  That didn't come around so I went back to applying at restaurants.  I got a job as breakfast cook and ended up working evenings (again they had less staff than they originally planned because they had less business than orginally planned.
  13. Family Support Worker -- 1996-1999 -- WIthout a doubt one of my favourite jobs.  WOrking at a Crisis Nursery.  Once I got this job (part-time at first) I quit #12 to free myself up for more shifts.  Within a few months I had moved into a 0.9FTE and after about  year into a full time spot.  Being shift work it meant I could do some other things (like spend lots of the summers at camp and do an extended CPE unti one winter).  I worked with great people and of course there was the rewards of helping people in crisis and having shifts where the main job was to play with kids.  I only left this job because it was time to return to working on my MDiv.
  14. Camp Director -- SUmmer of 2000 -- the summer betwen internship and final year of seminary.  Of course I needed work both for time usage and for $$$ so I worked at a different camp.  I likely could have gotten the director job at my "home" camp but didn't really want it both due to geography (this camp I could base out of the city where the seminary was, thereby making saving myself a move right before school) and because that job included recruiting 15-20 volunteers a week.
  15. Ordained Ministry -- 2001 onward -- and that brings me to where I am now.  Wow!  15!  I had never stopped to count them all up before.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bus Bullying???

I heard the end of this story on the radio earlier, and now have found it in entirety...
Greyhound Canada said Thursday that unless it gets $15 million in government aid, it will cease passenger bus operations in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario because it is being forced to operate unprofitable rural routes without government help.
Now this town lost Greyhound service last year. ANd someone stepped in to partially (almost fully) fill teh gap. ANd I could see why Greyhound stopped the route, it had to be losing bigtime money on it given the amount of use it was getting. I could see the logic of threatening to stop or cut back servicing underused routes. But to simply cut a great big hole in national service? To stop servicing a province 2 months after opening a multi-million dollar terminal in the provincial capital? THis is good business practice?

This time (although I hate to admit it) I have to agree with the federal government. It smells like bullying. IT smells like a money grab. After all, as you read further you find that they are not only threatening Ontario and MAnitoba but all of WEstern Canada.

Time will tell if they get away with it.

PS> this has been a few years building. MAny of the rural routes used to be served by Grey Goose Lines but ever since they were bought out by/merged with Greyhound there has been pressure to cut back on this service. Unfortunately this service is a vital lifeline for many in those small communities (for simple little things like medical appointments, you know not that those are important...)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


As I prepare for worship this week I am musing on wisdom. What is it? How do we get it? HOw is it passed on? How does wisdom relate to knowledge?

ANd of course the big question for those of us who are people of faith: HOw and why are Godly wisdom and worldly wisdom the same? Different?

If we are wanting to develop as people of God we need to embrace the foolish wisdom of God, even when (or perhaps especially when) it goes against "common sense".

ANy thoughts about any of these questions?

70 years ago...

On September 1 1939 the troops of Nazi Germany broke through the border barriers of Poland.

Soon afterward England and France declared war on Germany in defence of Polish sovereignty. A few days later Canada followed suit (this was a step forward in Canadian history because in 1914 the English declaration of war automatically brought Canada into the war).

70 years later what have we learned? WW2 was a slaughter. Millions died, nobody is really sure how many. Historians debate whether it could have been avoided had the LEague of Nations, particularly ENgland and France stepped in to stop Hitler when he first started violating the conditions of the Versailles treaty, or if that treaty had not been so punitive in nature. But what have we learned?

Did we learn enoguh to avoid war in the future? Apparently not. SO what will it take for us to really learn that lesson?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

THe Productive and the Unproductive of holidays...

We'll start with the productive. When we arrived 2.5 weeks ago I learned that I got to help dig holes. There were 2 signs to put up at the church (holes to be 3 ft deep--actually ended up being 2'6") and this arbor to create. THese holes were 4' into solid clay. The original plan was to dig all the holes by hand (the sign post holes were dug by hand) but at less than 2' down on the first of these ones and several hours of work the foreman decided to rent a power auger (nevermind that the hand auger would only have gone 3'4" before the handle hit the ground). Then things went much faster. It is almost finished now, just some work on the downspout (which was a bit of a "water feature" when tested last night).

ANd then there is this. On Saturday night I was tucking the girls in when my kneecap decided it didn't feel like staying in place. This has happened before, but not for many years, so I popped it back in and dealt with the pain for the rest of the evening. Sunday things still didn't feel right so I gave in and went to the hospital in the afternoon. The Dr. took x-rays, said all looked good and prescribed a brace to allow the soft tissues to heal and strengthen. By brace Beloved and I figured he meant something mid-thigh to mid shin that would allow leg movement and usage. Instead it wasthis "knee immobilizer". So I wear it for a while each day. (just for the record, 15 years ago when a similar thing happened and the knee swelled so much I couldn't walk the treatment was a simple tensor bandage -- that seemed to be more appropriate and equally effective) THe knee is doing much better however....

Friday, August 14, 2009

A "Wild" Friday Five

Over at the RGBP site we are asked to talk about encounters with wild animals.

1. I really only know this story by having heard it, not by memory. WHen my sister and I were very young (she was still being carried in a backpack) we went on a hike on a circle trail. A little way in my parents saw a bear up ahead. SO we turned around and walked the trail the other way. About 3/4 of the way around however (by which time I was also being carried) my parents realized the problem in their logic. What if the bear was still there???? Happily it wasn't and therefore we did not have to turn around again.

2. another bear story. This time I was about 11. We were camping in North-Central Saskatchewan with good friends and my grandparents. Just as we finished eating supper a couple walked up from the other side of the circle and asked if we knew that the park staff had just tranquilized a bear a few campsites over (of course we didn't otherwise frying meat and cooking supper may well have waited a bit). So we walked around and actually got to touch the bear before it was loaded up for relocation.

3. About 4 years ago we had a groundhog living in our backyard. He would come out into the yard and sit in the sun every once in a while. ANd this year he was back, to the great amusement of the girls. Unfortunately it was also feasting on the neighbour's garden so I suspect it has been removed by now (the plan was live trap and relocate).

4. While on our honeymoon cruise 7 years ago we stopped in Aruba. Beloved and I took a walk around the port area of Orangeville and on almost every rock of any size was a lizard sunning itself. Some of them were a very great size.

5. Growing up 5 hours from the mountains meant that we very often took trips to the mountain parks. And often while driving through the parks there would be Bighorn Sheep beside or on the roadside. So we would often have to stop and wait for them to pass.

BONUS: (another bear story) last year we had a very large black bear (biggest I have ever seen) come for a visit. First in the middle of a hot afternoon with lots of people moving about. Then later that evening it came back. As he had been around several times and showed a distinct lack of worry about human contact he had to be destroyed. Interestingly, he was so habituated to human contact and/or unhealthy that he simply sat while the wildlife control officer walked to within 15 feet of him to get a good shot.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

As Promised! CLothing Pics...

Last week I went and spent as much on clothes as the rest of the trip will cost....

Here is the more formal look, with tie

Here is the same jacket with the other pants and shirt combo and no tie -- although the tie goes nicely with this pairing as well.

Fun at GC40

Who says United Church Folk don't know how to have fun!!!!

Here is a video of a presentation by the children at council:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I just finished this book to day. At 165 pages (plus notes) it is a relatively short read But it is a very worthwhile read for anyone who has doubts about the so-callled economic recovery plans currently being peddled by our governments.

Rubin questions if we can really expect to return to "life as usual" given the state of oil supply and demand. ANd he outlines a very believable picture of why we can't and what that means.

IT is a book with some uncomfortable "truths". But many of us know and understand that the uncomfortable truths are often the most important ones in the end.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Honesty and Vision

As part of following GC40 from a distance (note that had I known how the balls that I had in the air would land in terms of my time availability I would have accepted a nomination to attend this meeting as a commissioner. Ah well there is always 2012) I have been reading this blog.

Today I read this particular post and was greatly impressed by the wisdom contained within it. To quote:
Before any significant decision is made at this General Council, commissioners heard from Don Hunter, the chair of the Permanent Committee on Finance...Don was clear in his message that the General Council sets the priorities of the church, and so is free to approve anything before it. He pointed out, however, that with every approval, commissioners should be prepared to identify what they want to eliminate in order to fund the new initiative...He then offered some visionary ideas as to where the United Church might be in 10 years which really started the discussion. Every urban church located in a mall? Sell half our current church properties to fund ongoing ministry? Cut General Council committees to 10 (from present 70+)?

If this is a sample of the wisdom that is present at GC I am comforted. Hopefully the words are heard and not ignored as "inconvenient" or "un-hopeful" or "unpleasant". NOw if we could just get all other courts of the church to hear and put into practice the same wisdom (Presbytery and Conference folk I am looking at you!)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

THe Things Kids Say.....

Last night we were returning to my parental abode from that of my sister. Princess has her window wide open staring out into the wind (sort of like dogs do when they stick their head out the window to be totally honest).

Dad: Do you want the window closed?
Princess: Nope.
D: It's not too windy?
P: No, I like the wind (a couple of beats) It's like the spirit

Obviously she is a PK.

Mind you after our communion ervice at camp, while the campers were working on their banners, I turned around and gathered around the table finishing off the bread with great gusto are Princess, Scalliwag and a third PK. Sort of like they knew this is what you did with left over communion bread....

Prayer for GC

The 40th meeting of the General Council of the United Church of Canada starts tomorrow. You can find out more about the meeeting, including how to follow the proceedings) here.

Holding the commissioners, guests and staff who are gathering in Kelowna as I type in prayer I re-post this prayer I wrote 3 years ago as GC39 was approaching:

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 40th 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 05, 2009

Vacation Update

Well vacation is now a week old. And I still seem to be waiting for the "extra sleep so I can catch up" part to kick in......

Anyway, what has been happening? Well a trip to the local Farmer's Market on Saturday. And church at "ye olde home kirk" -- imagine, I got to spend the whole service with my daughters for a change!

Yesterday we bowed to the altar of consumerism and went to the monstrosity of a mall in the big city just south of us. And only spent almost $1000 on clothes for one of us (the one family member with a Y in the chromosomal mix). But then again when one only buys good dress clothes once every 8 years or so it makes the dollar amount sound a little bit better. (A jacket, 2 pairs of pants, 2 shirts and a tie -- maybe pictures will appear after the alterations are complete)

One of the things we promised the girls was that we we take a ride on the commuter train in Big City to the South. So today we drove to the end of the line (which used to almost be the end of town--not so much now) and rode in to the University. This gave us a mixture of above and below ground stations to ride through. I guess I must be jaded, having ridden this train many many times since the system opened in 1978. But the grin on the girl's faces when the train started moving was ear to ear and absolutely priceless (but no I didn't have the camera out for it). Then we wandered around the University for a bit before heading "home".

Still up for grabs? Beloved and I are going to a dinner theatre next week. And my sister (and family) just returned from holidays so something with them. And possibly a trip out to the lake for a day. And a trip to the museum is a possibility. And............

In Other News: Last night on the news I heard that the White House is claiming no involvement in Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea that seems to have prompted the release of 2 US journalists convicted of entering the country illegally. Really? They expect us to believe that a very popular former President whose wife is the current Secretary of State makes a high profile visit (because what other kind could he possibly make given his stature) to an "Axis of Evil" state with whom the US has no diplomatic relations without the White House being involved? That seems a little hard to swallow.

Friday, July 31, 2009

LEg 1 Completed

This year holidys started by loading 2 adults, 3 children 6 and under, and a (decidedly high-anxiety, anti-social) dog into a van with tent and sleeping bags and clothes and driving 1900 km over 3 days.

Apart from the heavy rain whilst driving on the first day. And the bit of rain on the tent that night. And the heavy rain the second evening (which necessitated a retreat into the tent for the evening at 6:00 until the next morning). It was alright. We really are, all in all, blessed with good travellers for children.

Just let me say that we are really glad we brought the portable DVD player and that we were close enough to the power outlet last night to have it available to use without worrying about the battery dying.

One small issue. Anyone know if they make air mattresses that do not get holes? LAst night we had to do some rearranging since the large air mattress for mom and dad wouldn't hold air. It all worked out but was a little inconvenient.

Now the relaxing part of holidays begins........

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This quote came on one of the e-lists I am a part of. It is going in the sermon for Sunday. Possibly as the intro?

from: 'Dying Church - Living God', by Chuck Meyers pg. 37-39
Sometime in the early 1970s, the president of AT&T called all his managers into a large room for an emergency meeting. Attendance was mandatory. Speculation ran high as to what announcement would be made. Perhaps a breakthrough in technology. Perhaps a downsizing. Perhaps ...... They could tell by the grim look on his face that something extremely serious was about to be revealed. When all were seated, the president went to the podium and said, "The telephone as you know it no longer exists." Muffled giggles rippled through the room. What game was this? They all knew he was wrong. They had used phones that morning. He continued: "Anyone who does not believe that state-ment can leave this room right now and pick up your final paycheck on the way out of the building." Sober silence prevailed. No one left. They all just stared. "Your job today is to invent one."

He broke the group up into small teams and they spent the rest of the time coming up with a new phone. Some people wanted one with no cord...... in the car, or to carry around.... to know when another call was coming in.......to be able to forward calls to another number, to see the person on the other end, to send other kinds of messages on it. About 60 items that distinguished the telephone they invented. Many are now the features that we take for granted, from call-waiting to individual digital phones, and the list has not yet completed.

In the same manner, at the beginning of the third mil-lennium, we come to church one morning for the Sunday service and, much to our shocked dismay, we find a vacant lot with a little note tacked on a piece of tattered plaster out front. It is written in Hebrew and it is the same note left on every vacant lot of every former church building in the world, from cathedral to clapboard. Translated, it says, "The church you have always known no longer exists; it is gone - walls, pews, altar, and assumptions." The tomb is empty. "How can this be?" we ask in abject puzzlement. In the background, we hear God's laughter saying, "Given the world the way it is, given the devastating problems and the incredible possibilities opening up for the first time in history, given what you now know to be true in the world, the real question is, 'How can it NOT be?' " Then God looks us right in the eye and says, "Make a new one."

I figure I will have a "toolkit" with me to help build the church. Included will be some actual tools (hammer, saw, pliers etc) and a Bible and a copy of The United Church Manual and a copy of the church mailing list. Which of these would be the most useful in building the "House of GOd"? Here's a hint. The sermon title is The House of Flesh.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Will They Even Notice?

Much less act on it?

Who and what you ask? Facebook and threats of being hauled into Federal Court in Canada.

On cbc.ca today one reads:
Facebook shares its users' personal information with developers who create games and quizzes in a way that breaches Canadian privacy law, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has found.

Privacy concerns about Facebook are nothing new. ANd the general reaction of the creators has been "trust us". Now, if they don't act on these concerns the PRivacy commissioner has the authority to haul them before Canada's Federal court. But of course FB is not a Canadian company. SO, as often with the 'net, the question is whose laws apply? Can a Canadian court enforce changes to the system?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

10 Days late...

10 days ago was my 4th blogiversary!

I really should have had some words of wisdom for the occassion but oh well, there's always next year!

When Tradition Meets Archaeology...

I saw this story a couple weeks ago but just now got around to blogging it.......

The first-ever scientific tests on what are believed to be the remains of the Apostle Paul “seem to confirm” that they do indeed belong to the Roman Catholic saint, Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday.

So they have confirmed a tomb that tradition claims to hold the bones of Paul may in fact have bones of the right era. Still I find it a bit of a leap to say it is actually PAul's. I find it a convenient "confirmation".

Not that it really makes an iota's difference to me anyway.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Choice I COuldn't Make...

ANd you have to know that the Gallinger's are not the only family in this situation. But few families would be willing and able to make this public a plea.

Realistically, it is cheaper to provide support to families and allow them to keep caring for their child than to have the child totally cared for by the state. Arguably it is healthier for everyone involved. And it appears to me that it should be the default to support parents to raise their own children.

For more about the situation click here

And while it is admirable how well she talks her way through it, no 5 year old should be that familiar with how to give medication. In a perfect world anyway...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Talkin' Bout ....Pop Music (Friday Five)

OVer at RGBP we read
The sad news of Michael Jackson's untimely death has me thinking about music and its effects on us - individually, as cultures, as generations. Let's think about the soundtracks of our lives...
1) What sort of music did you listen to as a child - this would likely have been determined or influenced by your parents? Or perhaps your family wasn't musical...was the news the background? the radio? Singing around the piano? A variety of things. My father put many many vinyl albums onto cassette. But for years he refused to buy the albums on cassette, preferring to buy the record and then copy it. We had a spectrum that included Olivia Newton John, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Carpenters, Kingston Trio, Glenn Yarbough, ABBA. ANd then the bass section of the church choir was known to practice at our place as Christmas or Easter drew near (although this is more in my late teens)

2) Going ahead to teenage years, is there a song that says "high school" (or whatever it might've been called where you lived) to you? In grade 10 we had the "famine songs" (I always liked Britain's Do They Know It's Christmas and Canada's Tears are NOt enough far more than We Are the World). My high school years also carry the memory of pop/disco/dance music mixed with a dose of metal (my grade 9 class was sharply divided between in his point--especially on the question of Duran Duran). A listening to '80s rock always brings me back to those days--through the rose coloured lenses of memory of course.

3) What is your favorite music for a lift on a down day? (hint: go to www.pandora.com and type in a performer/composer...see what you come up with!) SOmething with a Celtic lilt or a country beat most often these days. Mind you I am still wondering how Jon BOn Jovi shows up on CMT or why country artists are covering pop/soft rock songs of my teen years.

4) Who is your favorite performer of all time? Honestly? I really don't have one. Mind you the total lack of concert attendance might account for that.... There are artists I like most of what they have done but no real favourite

5) What is your favorite style of music for worship? A mixture. Not fond of praise choruses. Not fond of a lot of classic hymnody. But some classic hymns I love (out of curiosity, what exactly makes a classic??) and certainly a lot of newer hymnody and worship music I love. And of course in part it depends where I am at on that particular day whether a piece speaks to me. In the interest of full disclosure I will note that choosing music for worship often forces me to use pieces I don't like, but of course worship planning isn't all about what I like/need/want is it?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bible Scholars in TRaining???

In this congregation there is a tradition whereby the UCW presents each baptised child with a children's Bible. And so we have three of them in this house.

Until recently they have been put away for safety since when the girls were younger they tended to be very hard on books. But two weeks ago Beloved used one of them to read the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones during Sunday SChool ( the same day that I read a different version of the story for children's time and we listened to Dry Bones in worship).

This was a hit. They were fascinated by the story but also with the Bibles. Now they are the favourite book. Beloved will read out of one while the other two follow along in their copies. ANd they want to have the stories read -- Beloved says they will flip through and see a picture they like and ask for that story (tonight was "the four men in the fire" [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego]).

Youngest was really excited last night yelling out "I found my leg bone" when she found the Ezekiel story. Her other favourite, the one she often asks for help finding is "the (or my) baby" which is from the beginning of Exodus.

The joys of PKs

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"I Found Jesus!!!"

LAst year we bought a bath book of BIble stories for the girls. Included with the book were some cut out figures to go with the stories (an ark, Moses in a basket, Jesus walking on water etc). The girls greatly enjoy the book (although rarely in the bath, more often as bedtime reading).

ANyway, a month or so ago Beloved was checking that all the figures were in the storage net on the back of the book and noted that Jesus was missing. A quick look around produced no results and since it was bedtime the search was suspended.

A couple days later Monkey suddenly gets very excited and shouts out I found Jesus!,
Awfully young to become an evangelical isn't she?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

BUt I thought Dogs were Hunters??????

Dogs, as is well known, are in the same animal family as wolves. SO they should be natural hunters right?????

Apparently not.

Yesterday afternoon we were all outside and a chipmunk came around the corner. Said chipmunk walked right past the dog who was facing the other way and was halfway across the yard before being noticed. Then tonight, not 30 minutes ago, same thing.

I let the dog (who has Labrador, DAchshund, and Golden Retriever blood in her -- all hunting dogs) out and as I hook her to the chain I notice that there is a bunny sitting in the yard. Bunny is at a spot which, depending how the dog went around things, would be just about the end of the 30' chain. But dog goes the other way, sniffing the ground intently and doesn;t notice. Bunny sits and watches the dog wander across the yard for about a minute and then nonchanlantly hops towards the back of the yard, pauses to look back, then continues on its way. Dog notices NONE of this.

Did I mention that this dog has hunting breeds for lineage????

THe Problem of Suffering

I just finished this book tonight.

Ehrman tells the reader that he was so struck by his struggles with the problem of suffering that it led him out of the faith. In this book he discusses a variety of Scriptural answers to the question of suffering and why he finds all of them unsatisfactory.

I share the struggle with theodicy. I too wonder why bad things happen to good people (and the corollary of why good things happen to bad people). ANd, like Ehrman, I find that many of the answers are unsatisfactory.

The thing is that it just doesn't make sense. As it has been put before, if God is Good then God is not GOD, and if God is GOD then God is not Good. Why do people starve? Why are people so cruel to each other? Why do earthquakes flatten whole villages? If God is, as Scripture claims repeatedly, in charge of everything then why does GOd cause or allow these things to happen?

On the whole I liked the book. HOwever, I had trouble figuring out how Ehrman approaches Scripture and theology. He claims that his academic work forced him away from a literalist approach to Scripture but it still seems at times that he holds on to that literalism. Same with theology. As someone with a doctoral degree in theology you would think that he knows there is a multiplicity of atonement theories in Christian thought but he maintains there is only one -- substitutionary sacrificial satisfaction. Admittedly this ties in to what he is trying to say about what may well be the most common answer to suffering (punishment for sin) in Scripture but still...

In the end I answer the question of suffering with a combination of SCriptural and non-Scriptural answers. It is a mystery (the poetry of Job and the philosophy of Ecclesiastes). It is a reality that will be changed when GOd's reign comes to pass (apocalypticism). And overall, maybe God is not GOD (meaning that God is not all-powerful, all controlling).

But the book is well worth a read. It gives one a chance to explore this issue that, honestly, troubles many people of faith. ANd even if there is no answer we need to ask why there is suffering and what our appropriate response to to that suffering is.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Five -- Grocery Shopping

1. Grocery shopping--love it or hate it?
A neccessary evil I'd say.

2. Who is the primary food shopper in your household?
Generally all five of us go together. ANd sometimes that is quite an adventure.

3. Do you have a beloved store like TJ's which is unique to your location or family?
We have one grocery store in town.

4. How about a farmer's market, or CSA share, as we move into summer? Or do you grow your own fruits/veggies/herbs?
We grow some root crops and lettuce, just planted them today.

5. What's the favorite thing you buy at the grocery store?
No real favourite, but it is worth noting that we often go to buy milk "and a couple of other things". A full cart and $100 later....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How I spent my Memorial Day Weekend

Of course since I am Canadian it wasn't a holiday.

Instead I was at this meeting

All. Weekend. Long.

OTOH< the girls loved going to the city and staying in the hostel.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Two Decades

20 years ago this month I began my journey towards ordained ministry. I just didn't know it at the time.

In early May 1989 I got a call offering me the position of Devotions Director at this camp. This was merely to be a summer job to both earn some money for university and help build up my resume for when I finished and would be looking for teaching jobs.

On Victoria Day weekend that year I attended my first training weekend for the camp (having been told that I would not be asked to do anything and then arriving on site to find out that I would indeed be preparing Morning Watch and Evening Vespers). THis was the first event on this site I had attended since the last time I was a camper in 1981. We arrived on a day which had snowed to find that the power was out (which meant the water pumps were also out so there was no water). And the camp had just had all the power lines on-site moved underground so there were partially filled & settled ditches all over the place. Mud and dark and holes make for an interesting evening.

I worked that summer and the next. And by then the seed had been planted by the minister at my home congregation -- "has Gord ever thought about...?". The rest is history. Not straightforward history but history nonetheless. And certainly I caught the camp bug. From 1989 through 1999 I was out at Maskepetoon for at least part of every summer except one. And every summer since 1999 I have been involved in a camp program somewhere...

AMazing what can start from one summer job!

Monday, May 18, 2009

THe Lesson of the Lash

A week ago Saturday my eye started to bother me. Being overtired, I assumed that was the main issue and thought little of it. THen it still bothered me on Sunday. Monday was a bit worse, so was Tuesday. By that time I realized that if anyone else told me they felt like there was something in their eye for 3 days I would suggest they need to get it checked. So I did.

Dr. looked in the office then had me come to ER to use a brighter light (I though Dr.s always told us NOT to shine bright lights in our eyes). Saw nothing. So I picked up some eyedrops and gave that a try.

Having spent much of WEdnesday and half of Thursday either squinting or holding my eye closed for relief I returned to ER on Friday morning. This time after more bright lights and some freezing drops and some poking and prodding the offender was found. An ingrown eyelash that was then promptly plucked out and the irritation dissappeared.

Upon further thought it struck me that the church needs to be somewhat like that eyelash. An eyelash is incredibly tiny but for those few says it made an incredible impact on my life.

How can the church, as it grows smaller on the political and cultural stage, learn from that lash? HOw can we continue to make a major impact (even if as a non-relenting irritant) on the world around us? ANd are we even willing to figure it out or give it a try?

OK, so the image of the church as an irritant may not seem all that positive. But then again I have previously compared the church to a rotting potato or onion (that destroys the whole bag in time). And of course the GOspels compare the Reign of GOd to some yeast that infects several measures of flower and the people seeking justice to a widow who annoys the local judge so much that she eventually gets her due.

So maybe the church needs to be an irritant under the eyelid that won't let us rest until it gets attended to.