Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie III

Well this week's episode was kind of fun but again things were said about the Anglican church that were just unbelievable. No, I'm not talking about the same sex wedding. It is hard to imagine that a priest who was so worried only a week ago about being shut down by the Archdeacon for financial reasons wouldn't worry about being shut down by the same Archdeacon for disobeying Church discipline (the issue is being debated in the Anglican Church of Canada but a retired Archbishop was disciplined for participating in a wedding when he didn't actually do the wedding - it is hard to imagine that the same wouldn't happen in small town Saskatchewan). But it is possible - probably as possible as the story line about Yasir taking a second wife. No, the objection I have is to naming the Anglican church Mercy Anglican. Anglican churches are not named for the town they are in. United Churches often are. But Anglican churches have some interesting saint's name. So I'd like to suggest that the church could be named St. Joseph the Carpenter, since Yasir the contractor has found a home there. Or it could be called St. Clare Anglican Church or St. Gabriel's for the patron saints of television. Or maybe St. Genesius Anglican, or St. Vitus Anglican after one of the patron saints of actors. Now that would be believable.

Lent - Day 7

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, understanding, my entire will and
all that I possess.
Thou hast given all to me.
To Thee, O Lord, I return it.
All is Thine; dispose of it wholly
according to Thy will.
Give me Thy love and Thy grace,
for this is sufficient for me.

Prayer of St. Ignatius

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lent - Day 6

We should give up the foolish task of trying to be saints and get on with the more important task of trying to be human.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lent - Day 5

Catch Me in My Scurrying

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my feet to the fire of your grace
and make me attentive to my mortality
that I may begin to die now
to those things that keep me
from living with you
and with my neighbors on this earth;
to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities,
to my fascination with false securities,
to my addiction to sweatless dreams,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be;
to my corrosive fear of dying someday
which eats away the wonder of living this day,
and the adventure of losing my life
in order to find it in you.

Catche me in my aimless scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my heart in the beat of your grace
and create in me a resting place,
a kneeling place,
a tip-toe place
where I can recover from the dis-ease of my grandiosities
which fill my mind and calendar with busy self-importance,
that I may become vulnerable enough
to dare intimacy with the familiar,
to listen cup-eared for your summons,
and to watch squint-eyes for your crooked finger
in the crying of a child,
in the hunger of the street people,
in the fear of nuclear holocaust in all people,
in the rage of those oppressed because of sex or race,
in the smoldering resentments of exploited third world nations,
in the sullen apapthy of the poor and ghetto-strangled people,
in my lonely doubt and limping ambivalence;

and somehow,
during this season of sacrifice,
enable me to sacrifice time
and posessessions
and securities,
to do something....
something about what I see,
something to turn the water of my words
into the wine of will and risk,
into the bread of blood and blisters,
into the blessedness of deed,
of a cross picked up,
a saviour followed.

Taken from Ted Loder's Guerrillas of Grace

Sunday, February 25, 2007

First Sunday of Lent

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Deuteronomy 26:5-9

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lent - Day 4

Psalm 63:1-8 Deus, Deus meus
1 O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
2 Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, *
that I might behold your power and your glory.
3 For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; *
my lips shall give you praise.
4 So will I bless you as long as I live *
and lift up my hands in your Name.
5 My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, *
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
6 When I remember you upon my bed, *
and meditate on you in the night watches.
7 For you have been my helper, *
and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul clings to you; *
your right hand holds me fast.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lent - Day Three

You, Lord, are both lamb and shepherd.
You, Lord, are both prince and slave.
You, peacemaker and swordbringer
of the way you took and gave.
You, the everlasting instant;
you, whom we both scorn and crave.

Taken from the hymn Christus Paradox by Sylvia Dunstan

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie 2

Last night's episode of Little Mosque was a bit of a disappointment. On Tuesday they broadcast an episode about a convert to Islam that was very funny. As a convert I can say that converts can be really difficult to be around. But last night's episode about the impending visit of the Archdeacon wasn't as good.

The premise was that the Archdeacon was coming and the rector of the parish where the mosque meets is afraid that he plans to shut down the church because their numbers are low. To add to this, the Archdeacon doesn't know that the mosque is renting space in the church. So the Muslims decide to help out the priest by pretending to be Anglicans. Funny premise but the Archdeacon was ludicrous. I've never in 25 years of attending prairie Anglican churches heard that thick of a Scottish accent coming out of the mouth of a Anglican cleric. Presbyterian yes, but not Anglican. Now some of the comments about how Anglicans worship were funny. And the little comment the Archdeacon made about closing a church in Dog River because nothing was happening there was funny too. (For those of you who don't watch Corner Gas on the rival CTV it is set in the fictional town of Dog River). But the dynamic between the clergy didn't seem like anything I've experienced or witnessed in my time of ministry.

Mostly I've liked how the writers seem to get church life. I was talking recently with some United Church folks who had found the comment that the organist who was fired for putting hash in his brownies had found work at the United Church very funny. I wonder if there were UC folks offended by the comment too - and if any Anglicans bristled at Sarah's comments last night about growing up Anglican but not remembering actually learning anything. One of the concerns people expressed about the show before it came on was that people would find the humour offensive. I know that over the years of teaching courses on religion I've made it a habit to say right at the beginning of the course that I find a lot of humour in religion and that I hope it doesn't offend people. So far I've never had anyone complain but I'm always aware that the danger is there. I'm glad the show seems to be walking that line well. Mostly I find the show is getting better and better. They seem to be relaxing into their roles and the dialogue is smoother.

Lent - Day 2

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen

From the service of Morning Prayer, Book of Common Prayer, USA

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Bless├Ęd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

from T.S. Eliot's poem Ash Wednesday written after his conversion

Monday, February 19, 2007

Jesus Camp

Just got back from Medicine Hat where I had a visit with friends. They have a wonderful gift for hospitality and a lovely home. I love it when I take the time to go up and hang out with them. So we did a lot of talking and some eating and played with my dog. And we watched Jesus Camp. Wow. Is that an experience.

This documentary, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, has been nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary and probably has a good shot at winning. It has been well received by most reviewers - Michael Medved being one of the exceptions. It focuses on the children's ministry of Becky Fischer, a fundamentalist Pentecostal pastor and three children who attend her "Kids on Fire" camp in North Dakota. The intent of the camp is to convict the children of their sin, encourage them to commit themselves to Jesus and then encourage them to have an experience of the Spirit. In doing so they whip the kids up into a frenzy.

The reaction of many people to the film is that it confirms their worst fears of the Religious Right and their indoctrination of children. By looking at some of the controversy around evolution, home schooling and abortion it does illuminate some of the culture wars going on in the States. Medved and some other critics have criticized the film for what they perceive as its heavy-handed anti-evangelicalism. Interestingly though, I have read that the people depicted in the film aren't unhappy with the documentary. They don't think they've been portrayed in a negative manner. As a Christian I am disturbed by some of the comments I have read that suggest that this is how Christians see the world. I thought the children's sincerity was clear but that doesn't mean I agree with most of what they have been taught. The folks in this film certainly don't reflect the views of many of the Christians I know. But I have talked with Christians who would agree with them. Ewing and Grady haven't made this stuff up.

If it is honest in its depiction of Fischer's ministry then can it be accused of being anti-evangelical? One problem with the film is that doesn't distinguish between different kinds of evangelicals or clarify that the people depicted in the film come from one particular strain of American Pentecostalism. So the problem may be more in its lack of nuance than its misrepresentation of Jesus Camp.

I was disturbed by the scenes of children whipped up into a frenzy of tears and lament for their sins. But I was mindful of a speaker I heard once who said most people have had significant religious experiences as children yet the church often treats them like they aren't real Christians until they are adults. Watching the film I kept thinking that there had to be ways we could share our faith with our children and encourage them in their expression of their faith without sharing Fischer's theology or tactics.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More on movies

Well, World Trade Center was.....I don't know what the right word would be. I remember that day and the days after that. I remember finding out that I knew people here in Lethbridge who had lost family there. A close friend of mine was booked on one of the planes but changed his flight at the last minute because a meeting on the coast was canceled. We held a service at the university and a lot of people came. Another friend went down with the Red Cross and worked with the recovery teams.

Some of that all came back watching the film but in some ways it was a very different glimpse of what it was like to be that close up and not know what was going on. The Port Authority policemen who are at the heart of the movie don't know the second tower has been hit. They haven't seen the planes. They are trying to respond to the emergency but are operating figuratively in the dark. But what struck me was how light it all seemed at first, before the towers collapsed.

In some ways the film reminded me a lot of We Were Soldiers Once with Mel Gibson. That film covers the events of the first major battle of the American involvement in Vietnam on the same battle ground where the French had been defeated before them. The focus of both movies is on the courage of the men and on the agony of the women left behind. Neither are particularly political films in the sense of commenting on the nature of the conflicts. This surprised me with WTC since it is directed by Oliver Stone and he always seems to have something to say that is controversial. Instead the whole point of the movie was to remember the courage of people who ran into buildings when everyone else was running out.

To return to my post on romantic comedies I need to add a couple more films. In response to a comment posted by Aaron I need to add Notting Hill. I like About a Boy but Notting Hill is one of my favourites. Very late last night another one of my favourites was on - Return to Me. It was too late to watch it but I was reminded to add it. Like Notting Hill it has some wonderful scenes of friendship and it has a great soundtrack. And in that vein I would add Keeping the Faith, Edward Norton's gem about the friendship and romance between a priest, a rabbi and a corporate workaholic. There is also that wonderful little Canadian film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. How could it not be a gem? the writer was from Winnipeg.

Now I'm putting my mind to making a list of movies about friendship that I like. 84 Charing Cross Road would be at the top. If you have any suggestions.....

Weird, wery weird

Lady in the Water....as a friend would say when he was young, weird, wery weird. I have a friend who loves this movie and has been raving about it. She bought it as soon as it came out and has told me on several occasions that she thinks there are some good sermons in it.

I was willing to give it a couple of hours of my life despite the fact that I remembered Roger Ebert's review of it:

The low star rating isn't just for pretension or ineptitude, its for hypocrisy and cowardice, too.

Were I the late Joseph Campbell, who devoted his life to exploring how myths are not arbitrary shaggy dog stories but speak to the hunger for meaning deep within our species, I would will my spirit to return from the Land of the Dead, raise my hollowed body from my grave, and pelt this movie with rotten lotuses.

I didn't feel so strongly about it. I tend to save my vitriol for movies I think do damage and I don't think that this one does. You could do some things with the water imagery and baptism and the healing scene with everyone laying on hands was kind of cool. But I don't think I'd watch it again and I do watch movies more than once if they grab me.

Now, in honour of the fact that the gym is closed tomorrow and I won't be getting up early to go, I am going to stay up and watch another movie - Flags of our Fathers. It is hard to go wrong with Clint Eastwood. Correction, the dvd is badly scratched so I'll be taking it back to the video store for another copy tomorrow. Okay, so it will be World Trade Center instead.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Who knows about love

I was just reading a really good post over at Tale Spin on the movie Love Actually. I love that movie. When I reviewed it for The Sower I wrote:

What made Love Actually stand out from other light romantic comedies is that it showed love to be a many splendoured thing. It is innocent and tender. It also involves sacrifice and loss. It can be betrayed and the consequences are serious. It prompts in us moments of self-awareness. It necessitates that we expose ourselves to risk. It is unfortunate that this film isn’t appropriate for teenagers as it says a lot more of substance about love than do most teen flicks.

I'd add a couple other movies to my list of romantic comedies:

  • Hitch, the Will Smith comedy about a love advisor who finds it more difficult to manage his own personal life.
  • Moonstruck, the wonderful love story between a closed off widow played by Cher and the tormented younger brother of her fiancee.
  • Crossing Delancey, the story of a modern woman whose grandmother hires a matchmaker to find her a man.
  • Something's Gotta Give, the story of love for the over 50 set. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton are both great.
  • Sabrina, the story of love between a stuffy businessman and his chauffeur's daughter. It is wonderful in either the Humphrey Bogart or Harrison Ford version.
  • Anything with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.
Next week to celebrate reading week I'm getting together with some of my kids to watch vintage horror movies, an altogether different genre. One of them has Jack Nicholson too though. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Learning to pay attention

Norman Wirzba spoke twice today, once at the university and once at the library and both talks were very interesting. I have a lot to process but just a couple of thoughts tonight.

One of the things he talked about at lunch was the way in which money insinuates itself into our social relations and because it is impersonal it creates distance between people. It made me think about how often faculty lament that students see education as a commodity they have purchased rather than an apprenticeship they have entered into.

It also seemed connected to a conversation I had a couple of days ago with another clergyperson about taking lottery/gambling money to do renovations on the church. Groups can apply for grants from the Wild Rose Foundation, money which comes from gambling in the province. A recent issue of Walrus magazine outlined the way in which Alberta is especially addicted to gambling revenues. From my pastoral experience I can say that gambling can be a blight on people's lives and I detest the way in which sports and community groups are encouraged to work casinos to raise money to fund their activities. I see absolutely no justification for churches to apply for money raised in this way. He thinks money can be used for good even if it comes from an evil source.

After listening to Norman today I occurred to me that this argument for taking money is essentially a reflection of this notion that because money is impersonal it isn't really connected to its source. I wonder if it wasn't money that we got if we wouldn't think differently about gambling revenues. Like, what if people gambled away their wedding rings and the government gave those rings to the soccer club or the church for them to hock. Maybe then we would be a little more appalled by this system. Maybe it is because I have known families devastated by gambling but I can't imagine ever seeing that money as clean.

Tonight he talked about what the monastics call stability. He suggested that professors often encourage their students to think that life is somewhere else rather than encouraging them to stay in the places they grew up. He said that when people go someplace new because they are bored where they are that they end up bored again because they take the boredom within them. He suggested that we learn the discipline of patient attention to the place where we are. It takes time and effort to really get to know a place and only then can we really delight in it.

The theme of paying attention came up a lot in all his talks. It is an idea that runs through Iris Murdoch's novels and one that has long intrigued me since I first discovered her in grad school. She talks about it a lot in terms of relationships. I suspect that when we get bored by our friends or lovers and go looking for new people that we also take our boredom with us.

And now on the theme of finding rest and delight or maybe delightful rest I'm going to bed. Tomorrow is another long day in a long week. Reading week is next week!

Carrying for soil

Norman Wirzba gave his first talk today and it was very stimulating. He spoke at some length about the second creation story and the significance of soil. I'd really like to read his book on creation now. At the end of the session he asked a question though that really set off all sorts of thoughts for me. He talked about particularity of culture and asked us what we thought the culture of agriculture is here. It occurred to me that I grew up in a city of a half million where there was much more attention paid to agriculture and the care of the land than I experience here in a city of only 75,000. This area is highly dependent on agriculture but it seems like it is all about agri-business and the focus of so many people is the financial. This isn't true of everyone of course but enough that I don't feel as connected here as I did in Winnipeg. Can't wait now until tomorrow's talks!

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Kingdom of God is a Banquet

Tonight the Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Coaldale hosted a banquet and invited representatives from all the churches to come. Last year they gave lovely gifts to all the pastors and this year they decided to expand their gift to lay leaders in the congregations too. So I went with one of our lay readers who is also the head of our hospitality team.

It was a delightful evening. They had a delicious meal catered and members of their church, all dressed in black slacks and white shirts, served it to us. Helen and I sat with six people from the United Church in town and we had a great time. The conversation was really interesting and they had a pianist and violinist playing while we ate.

After dinner they handed out gift certificates to folks and then prayed for the town and a member of one of the congregations who is in the ICU. And then we went home.

There were a couple of things that really stood out for me about the evening. There is a church in town that has never participated in anything in my ten years in Coaldale and folks from that church were there tonight. The folks at Abundant Life have brought us together in a way we've never been together before. So often those of us in 'mainline' churches talk about ecumenism but then have a hard time getting together with anyone who is really different from us. Yet this church actually lives a generosity of spirit that is inspiring. The other thing that really stood out for me was the warmth of their hospitality. We don't often talk about the virtue of hospitality but it must be one of the most important of the Christian virtues.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Welcoming the Stranger

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., the Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori, concluded some reflections with this beautiful text:

Celtic Rune of Hospitality
I saw a stranger yesterday;
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place;
and in the sacred name of the Triune God
he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones,
and the lark said in her song:
Oft, Oft, Oft,
goes Christ in the stranger's guise.

I followed the link to this reflection from Tobias Haller's blog In a Godward Direction. Here is his own beautiful ballad on the welcoming of strangers:

Home Town Prophet

When Jesus went to his home town
the people gathered round;
he spoke to them in words of grace,
but they didn’t like the sound.

“Why don’t you do a miracle,”
they said, “some magic trick;
like cure a leper, raise the dead,
or heal someone who’s sick?

He said, “When prophets worked God’s might
in Israel of old,
it wasn’t for the Israelites
but those outside the fold.

The leper was a Syrian,
the bread a Sidonite’s,
God’s grace was shed on strangers
rather than on Israelites.

It seems a prophet gets high praise
except in his home town...”
They took him to the cliff’s high edge
intent to throw him down.

“See here,” they said, “we’ll hear no more
this blasphemy you say!”
But passing through the midst of them
he went upon his way.

— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, Feb 8, 2007

Manly hugs

My cousin sent me this great link to video jug, a site like you tube with some great how to videos. Some of them are practical videos about thinks like how to get out of a car without showing off your knickers (the site is English) and how to roll sushi. On this last note I found it interesting to read all these comments about how it is rude to mix wasabi with your soy sauce because everyone I've eaten sushi with here does exactly that. I guess we are really hicks here when it comes to our raw fish eating etiquette. Wasabi is one of those things that confirms that God really does love us. Yum. Anyway, go to www.videojug.com and go to the video "how to give a great man to man hug." It is very funny! Thanks Tim!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Re-creating with our community

Lisa Lambert gave a fascinating talk tonight on the impact of the double burden of work and volunteering on women. One of the things that she suggested that really resonated with me was that we have private leisure and public work. She talked about how we flee town on holidays rather than staying with our friends to re-create our relationships through shared leisure. I know that I can find rest and delight in Saskatchewan in a way that is difficult to do here but that doesn't mean I shouldn't find time to rest and recreate with friends here. Yet the busier I get the quicker this seems to get pushed out of my schedule. And of course she pointed out that we have to schedule our leisure time too.

One of the things I most enjoy about this lecture series is that people do take the time to have a conversation together and it gives us an opportunity to enjoy some community.

Photos

I just found out that my photos aren't showing up on anyone else's computer. Not sure why but I'll figure it out. In the meantime you will just have to take my word for it that Bert is beautiful.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Meet Bert and Sue

Years ago in the days when I rented apartments where I couldn't have pets I had an aquarium. After a couple of moves I got rid of it but for the last year I've had an itch to get another one. When I'm feeling stressed I love to sit and watch the fish swim around - it is highly meditative. So this week I went and got a little aquarium on sale. It is only two gallons but it will be easy to clean! My buddy Blake and I went today and picked out two gouramis for the tank. Blake named them Bert and Sue. This is a picture of the aquarium but Sue is hiding. That's Bert on the left.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Lent is Approaching

Lent is quickly approaching and I've been thinking about what I will do this Lent. Last year, in the parish, we met every Sunday evening for prayer and for study. It was a really powerful time for me and for others and I was really glad we had done it. I think that we will do something similar this Lent although I now have worship two Sunday evenings a month now with our students so we won't be able to do a study every Sunday.

I think for my personal reading I will real Miroslav Volf's Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. It was the the Archbishop of Canterbury's official Lent book last year but I'm at least a year behind in my reading.

I usually try to see some movies for Lent too. There are some that just seem right for a season of repentence, preparation, self-examination, and pilgrimage. People tell me often that Lent isn't about the first of those things, that we've emphasized sin and repentence too much. Instead, they tell me that we should be emphasizing the idea of preparation. No one has told me so far that we should be using blue for the liturgical colour instead of purple.

Maybe it is because of my Roman Catholic days though, when six weeks of self-examination led to going to confession and making it a good one, but I think it is helpful to have a more sombre season of the church year. I really like the custom of stripping the church of flowers and the service of alleluias. And I like 'giving something up' for Lent - another custom which seems to be out of favour with some of my friends and colleagues. Well, maybe I shouldn't say I like it, but I do find it meaningful.

So I like to watch The Apostle in Lent to see how Sonny is forced to give up his 'life' after committing a dreadful act and how he then goes on a journey of redemption. Robert Duvall wrote, directed, produced and starred in the movie and it is really is an act of love. Another film that I always associate with Lent is The Mission about the Jesuits working in Latin America in the 18th century. There is an amazing scene of Robert de Niro carrying the burden of his sinful life up a mountain after he murders his brother. The climax of the film is a metaphor for the Garden of Gethsemane. De Niro's character represents Peter picking up the sword while Jeremy Irons' character is Jesus being faithful unto death. The first time I saw this film it was around the corner from my apartment on Good Friday and it haunted me for weeks.

Here is a review I wrote originally several years ago for the Sower of two movies I think work well for Lent too.

This month we begin our Lenten journey to the cross and an empty grave. We make this journey hoping that it will be a journey in which we walk more closely with Jesus. Christians have understood that the pilgrimage that is our life requires times of particular self-examination when we seek out the ways in which we’ve gotten off track.

In my first year at university our intro English class began with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Overwhelmed by the challenge of reading 14th century English I don’t think it occurred to any of us that what we were being introduced to was the very important Christian theme of pilgrimage. It was only later that I would realize how prevalent that image of journey is in the west. In sources as diverse as the spiritual classic Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan to John Grisham’s novel The Testament we find the idea that the spiritual life is an often difficult and dangerous journey.

Two films come to mind as illustrating the pilgrimage we make in Lent. The first is “A Family Thing” (1996) starring Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones. After the death of his mother, Earl Pilcher, played by Duvall, discovers that his birth mother was really a black servant, Willa Mae. Willa Mae dies in childbirth and because Earl is able to ‘pass’ as white Mrs. Pilcher has raised him as her own. She tells Earl in a letter that she wants him to find his half-brother Ray Murdoch, played by Jones, a police officer in Chicago, and make him family. So begins Earl’s pilgrimage from his home in Arkansas to the city of Chicago.

The second film is “The Straight Story” (1999), based on the true story of Alvin Straight, played by Richard Farnsworth. Straight is in his seventies, suffering from a wide range of medical problems, living in Laurens, Iowa. He receives word that his brother Lyle has suffered a severe stroke. The two brothers have been estranged for ten years and Alvin decides that he must journey to Wisconsin to be reconciled to his brother. No longer allowed to drive a car, he rigs up a trailer to his John Deere riding mower and sets out to make the journey of 370 miles.

Both films share a number of the themes basic to pilgrimage. Both begin on a note of repentance. For Alvin the journey is motivated by his own regret for the falling out he has had with his brother. Earl Pilcher’s journey begins with a request from is mother who has told Earl on her death bed that she doesn’t want him to be like her, facing death with regrets.

Going on pilgrimage means facing difficulties and dangers and Earl and Alvin encounter both of these. For Alvin it involves everything from weeks of exposure to the elements to failing brakes. Earl will face the dangers of urban crime and be beaten up in a car-jacking. Yet the difficulties are part of the experience and not to be avoided. When people offer to drive Alvin the rest of his way he replies that he has to do make this journey his own way. And despite the hostility he faces from his brother and nephew Earl finds reasons to stay in Chicago.

For both men the journey means a turning of their hearts. For Earl it means confronting his own bigotry and the fact that he was fathered in an act of rape. In a moving scene we see Alvin confess to another war vet what he did in the war and how it changed him when he returned home. Alcohol and anger have marked his life and lay at the root of his fight with his brother.

The people they meet on their journey will be changed by their encounter with these men. Alvin will change the direction of a runaway’s life while Earl will speak of hope to his embittered nephew. In their own ways, the pilgrims become guides for others on their journeys.

In the words of one of my favourite hymns in the new hymnal, we are invited to ‘come and journey with a Saviour.’ May Lent be a time for us to make a holy pilgrimage, a time to move in new ways, accepting the difficulties that come with walking a new path, and looking for other pilgrims to share the journey with.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Healthy Eating at the College

Next week is going to be a busy week at the college and I'll be a part of it. The counseling area, of which I am a part, is doing a week on healthy eating. Should be a really interesting week. Check it out if you are in the area.

Schedule of Events:

Monday, Feb.5:

“Reviving Ophelia” Video. 12 p.m. LOCATION: TE 1202

Tuesday, Feb. 6:

“Holy Anorexia: Religious Attitudes towards Fasting and Feasting”.
12 p.m., LOCATION: RH 1000 (New RAC) - Presentation by Chaplain Erin Phillips.

“Images in Media”
Video. 1 p.m. LOCATION: TE 3218

Wednesday, Feb.7:

Eating disorder screenings and information tables with resources, pamphlets, flyers and brochures. 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. LOCATION: Centre Core

"Disordered Eating Promotion and Prevention"
12 p.m., LOCATION: CE 2341 - Presentation by Chinook Health Region Eating Disorders Specialist, Monica Hinton: Note: This presentation is intended for staff only. only.

“Bridget’s Story; Fighting to Survive Anorexia”
Video. 1 p.m. LOCATION: TE 3218

“Stop Hating Your Body”
2 p.m., LOCATION: TE 3218 - Presentation by Registered Psychologist Angela Bardick.

Thursday, Feb. 8:

"Hidden Persuaders, Pitfalls, and Traps That Lead to Mindless Eating"
12 p.m., LOCATION: RH 1000 (New Residence Activity Centre) - Presentation by LCC Counselling Services practicum student, Sacha Lingenfelter

“Nutrition and Exercise”
Video. 1 p.m. LOCATION: TE 3218

Friday, Feb. 9:

“Fearless Friday”: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., LOCATION: Cafeteria – Comfort food specials at the cafeteria including meatloaf with mashed potatoes, gravy and carrots, teriyaki beef salad, brownies and hot chocolate/coffee. A day to drop the diet and love yourself for who you are.