Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Years...and 20 Years too!

This picture was taken 10 years ago today -- before the actual wedding!  If they weren't in a box downstairs I would dig out the better ones--like the side view of me couched behind Patty holding the veil so it wouldn't blow in her face (slightly windy day up in Hillcrest Park) or the one taken at the church between pictures and service of Patty wearing an apron as a bib as she had a hamburger.

10 years, 4 daughters, a neurotic dog and a move across the country later she still puts up with me!  Happy Anniversary beautiful!

ANd now the 20 years...
As we enter into Labour Day weekend I realized that on Labour Day weekend 1992 I was getting to know my way around a new neighbourhood.

I had just moved to Saskatoon a week earlier, and was getting ready to embark on the next adventure.   Time to start studies at this school.  And it only took me 9 years to finish that!  (admittedly there were a few other adventures and a side trip or two along the path).

mmmm, What adventure shall we start this decade???   A new degree maybe???

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Testify! -- A Newspaper Column

I am in Grade 11; one of my classmates turns to me and says, somewhat derisively, “do you go to church?”. Sensing that to say yes would open myself to ridicule, I hesitate and stammer out a “No” – at which he laughs saying “Yes you do”.

Do you go to Church? Why? What do you believe? For many people these are hard questions to answer. It has long been said that the only topics not appropriate for public discussion are Sex, Politics, and Religion – with the reality being that Sex and Politics are becoming more and more acceptable. But still there is a sense that Religion should not be discussed.

And yet, we are called and encouraged to share our faith. If we truly believe that we have found a way to experience the presence of God in our lives, if we truly believe that we have found the path that leads to abundant life why is it so hard to share?

Part of the answer, for some of us, is that we have an image of how sharing our faith happens. In our mind we see the street corner preacher, or the person at the party who aggressively asks, “Do you know the LORD?” and we know that we would never be caught dead doing that. But that is only one way to share testimony, to share our faith (and many of us would argue that it is a highly ineffective method at that).

I would argue that most of us would be most comfortable sharing our faith in the context of a pre-existing relationship. Where there is a level of trust between people we are more willing to share what is important to us. And it may not be in the interest of converting the other to our point of view. In fact I would suggest that simply sharing where we are at and allowing others to share where they are at is the most effective way of giving testimony. When we accept each other without trying to convert then we can move the discussion deeper – and I believe that is why we share our faith (this attitude is needed in other areas of life than faith, say politics for example).

There are other ways we give our testimony. Earlier this month the General Council of the United Church (this is our National Body, which meets every 3 years) met to discuss the life and work of the United Church of Canada. As a part of that meeting there were multiple examples of testimony. The Commissioners shone the light of faith on questions around the Northern Gateway pipeline, Oilsands expansion, our relationships with Aboriginal and First Nations people, how we as a church can push for a just peace in Israel and Palestine, gossip, and a variety of other topics. While there is great debate within the church and within the wider society on all of these questions making a statement, any statement, is a form of testimony. They are ways we talk about how our faith interacts with the world around us.

Testimony happens in fun ways too. Check out this video: A group of teens and young adults on Parliament Hill dancing to the song “Testify to Love”. I have no doubt that this event was seen as a way to raise up a different way of living in the world. This was Testimony to the difference it makes to take seriously the words “love your neighbour as yourself”. We don't have to be solemn and serious when we share the wonders of our faith. In fact, I would suggest that if we find joy in our faith then that joy should replace the solemn and the serious more often. Sadly this is not how many people see the Church. What does that say about our testimony thus far?

St. Francis of Assisi is reported to have said “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” and also “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”. The Saint implies that our greatest testimony is how we live our lives. The best way we show people the difference faith makes in our lives is by living it out. What does our lifestyle say about our priorities? How do we treat others? Do our actions show that we have allowed ourselves to be changed by the love of God? Do we, as people of faith, make others think that maybe faith makes a difference in life? This is our testimony, this is the testimony we make every day.

So how do you testify? How do you share what is important in your life? If someone asked you to share your faith, what would you say?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book 11 of 2012 Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible

I was freely browsing through the website when I came across this book.  THe concept intrigued me.  What would one find if one read the Bible with little to no background and little to know recourse to commentaries???

THis is a book to read.  It is a book to talk about in a group--as long as the group members also read the Biblical book being discussed (hmmm, do I sense a study group opportunity......).  One of the benefits of a book like this to those of us who, perhaps, have become a bit more jaded at biblical study is that we have forgotten what it means to read a book with fresh "untainted" eyes.

In the first week of my intro to NT course in seminary (a class whose student body was a mix of seminarians and Religious Studies students from the University) we did an exercise where we were to read the letter to Philemon and then discuss it.  But we were to assume that this was the ONLY piece of Christian writing we had ever seen.  For some it seemed it may have been.  And that was a real eye-opener.  It shows us what assumptions we tend to make when reading scripture.  THis book reminded me of that exercise.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Book 10 of 2012 -- Kisiskaciwan (Saskatchewan): Tracing My Grandmother's Roots

This is a follow up to this book.  In researching his earlier book Vern Wishart came across the scant records of his third great grandmother, a Cree woman named Kisiskaciwan.  Because of the nature of the times, there are few written records of a Cree woman who entered a "country marriage" with an employee of the Hudson's Bay Country near the end of the 18th century.

Wishart has taken what information he was able to find about his ancestor and has placed them into this work of "creative non-fiction".  As he weaves an educated guess about the life she led he shares much about the times in which she lived and the attitudes she likely encountered among the Europeans who were taking over the continent (with a degree of editorial comment evident about those attitudes).

Wishart takes us from a Cree camp on the shores of the Kisiskaciwan-sipiy (North Saskatchewan River) to a trip down to York Factory, to a series of fur-trade posts, to the Red River Settlement, to the West Coast, and back to Red River.  Many adventures along the road.  Many meetings with people whos names are much better known.

A good read.  If you want to get hold of it this link might help.  It is one of those volumes unlikely to be carried by the major chains.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Book 9 of 2012 -- The Rob Bell Reader: Selections from Love Wins, Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Drops Like Stars, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians

I was browsing through the Kobo site recently and came across this little teaser volume.  And, thinking it would be a way to see if I wanted to read more Rob Bell (specifically Love Wins, and possibly the one he has just released on creativity) I thought I would give it a try.  And after all--it was free!  {note to self, must check out more free books, especially if I get an actual e-reader}

Did it accomplish the purpose (which is to sell more books)?  I think so.  I will probably get Love Wins at least.  And possibly more.  I like what I saw.  ANd hey, a free book is always worth the money.

Book 8 of 2012 -- A New Day

Holidays means time for reading. Today I read "A New Day", a free book by Canadian sociologist Reg Bibby. Much of Bibby's career has been spent looking at issues around religion in Canada. I am going to suggest this as a book study/discussion this fall. (At first I was going to suggest that with Council but I think a wider audience would be good). The book is a quick read--the whole .pdf file is only 76 pages and that includes cover and table of contents and copywright page etc. You can download a copy here.

Bibby starts off by saying that all those who forecast the death of religion in Canada were wrong.  Religion is not dying.  Nor is it likely to die any time soon.

But the landscape has changed.  And so the book helps explain how the landscape has changed, and how faith communities could react to those changes.

Good book.  Easy read.  And free.  What else can one say?