Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday at St. Theodore's

I went out to Taber this morning to take the services at St. Theodore's and enjoyed it as I always do. They are a very warm parish and I miss going out there regularly. When they were without a priest I was out there about once a month and really enjoyed myself. This morning the music at the 10:30 service was especially wonderful.

One of the things I love about them is that they always welcome Robbie. He is pretty good about sitting up in a pew and listening to the service. As he's getting older he doesn't settle as well as he used to though and I worry more about him being a distraction. He loves it there though and I so enjoy seeing him enjoying being with people. Knowing that his time is limited makes these moment even more precious to me.

The Gospel this morning was the Lord's Prayer and I preached on the petition, "Give us this day our daily bread." As a part of my sermon I talked about Sara Miles' book, Take This Bread. I had read some reviews of this book and some discussion of it over on Father Jake's blog so ordered it. It came this week and I couldn't bear to put it down. It is a powerful story of a woman, left-wing, secular, journalist, gay, who walks into an Episcopal church on a whim, takes communion and is converted. She makes a deep connection between the food she had shared with the poor when she was working as a journalist in Central America, the Eucharist, and sharing food with the poor living in the area around the church. She starts a Food Pantry, which distributes groceries to over 200 people a week at the church. When she starts receiving major money to support the work she starts more Pantries in the neighbourhood. It is an amazing story.

Fr. Jake posted this quotation from the book:

...Service is thanksgiving, because it means not only giving freely, but understanding how greatly we’re loved. I remember an afternoon at the food pantry when I was trying to open up, while an impatient throng of people shouted at me and at each other in three languages. I’d been unloading crates of oranges as fast as I could, and bossing the volunteers around, but we were still behind schedule. We were short a crate of snacks, and the two old Cuban sisters who always show up hours early were out front, bickering noisily. Three hyper little kids were pestering me for candy, and the crazy guy with apocalyptic theories kept trying to corner me and explain the secret messages he’d received. Some visiting minister was standing around, but I couldn’t get a minute to talk to him; new volunteers kept asking me what to do, but somehow nothing was getting done. Everything felt hectic and irritating and on the verge of chaos, and my feet hurt. I was sick of poor people, sick of church people, utterly sick of myself.

And then a woman pushed her way to the front of the crowd. She was Chinese, with a quilted jacket, and she was thrusting a package at me. I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, but she kept smiling and coming closer. “Here,” she said, and handed me a piece of fish wrapped in waxed paper, still warm. “Food, for you”...

You can see why I couldn't put it down. I made the link between Miles' experience of working at the Pantry with my own experience of feeding students at the college and university. St. Theo's has helped us with that by providing campus care parcels every term. In fact, they provide as many bags as they have people in church - pretty amazing participation.

So it has been a good day and now I'm going to read Descarte's Meditations for Paul's class on theodicy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lurking Mother

Okay, my mother is one of the lurkers who won't comment. But she caught the ? after Gail Bowen - I'll fix that - she is definitely Canadian. Not only Canadian - she's from Saskatchewan and her detective votes NDP. Gotta love it. Mom suggested Shirley Rousseau Murphy whose detective is a cat. Not my thing but then I like the really dark, dark mysteries. But for those of you who like fey... Thanks for the suggestion Mom!

Speaking of dark I have a few more to add to my list:
Laura Lippman (American, hardboiled PI)
Laurie R. King (American, some police procedural - one with a religious studies prof as the detective - she does Sherlock Holmes ones too but I don't read those)
Tess Gerritsen (American forensic)

Now to a movie recommendation. I just got home from seeing The Lives of Others. What a film! I was blown away by it. It is a German film set in East Berlin in 1985. The main characters are a playwright and his actress girlfriend and a Stasi officer assigned to watch them. There are so many twists you can't believe it but they don't feel contrived. And then when you think the movie is over it keeps going and some more of the threads are brought together for an even bigger punch. It is a really interesting film about what it is to be good and about the choices people make.

I was living in Germany when the wall came down and went to Prague a few months later. This film and another great German film, Good-bye Lenin, bring back a lot of memories of what it was like living in Europe during those years. This is really worth seeing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Reading - Mysteries

Kevin's comment made me think of the mysteries I would recommend. Here's the beginning of the list of mystery writers I like:

the new Dick Francis is good
Ian Rankin (Scottish police procedural)
Giles Blunt (Canadian police procedural by a fellow who used to write for Law and Order)
Elizabeth George (British police procedural - can't wait until the new one is out in paper)
Janet Evanovich (American comedic - the one, two, three, four series - haven't read the others)
Quintin Jardine (Scottish police procedural)
Kathy Reichs (Canadian forensic)
Andrew Taylor (British - some historical, some theological, some police procedural - all good)
Julia Spencer-Fleming (U.S. Anglican priest)
Charles Todd (British historical - WWI)
Faye Kellerman (American Jewish police procedural)
Robert K. Tanenbaum (American legal procedural)
Deborah Crombie (British police procedural)
Jonathan Kellerman (American psychiatric)
Gail Bowen (Canadian - she's an academic but they have police elements)
Ruth Dudley Edwards (British comedic academic)
Marcia Muller (American hard boiled private eye)
Kate Charles (British Anglican)
Patricia Cornwell (American forensic)
Robert Parker (hard boiled but in touch with his feelings)
D.M.Greenwood (British Anglican)

Summer Reading

Real Live Preacher has had a wonderful conversation going about movies (read it here) and someone asked him about novels. He may pick up the request but it got me thinking about what I'd recommend so here is my first go at it.

I'm taking John Irving's Until I Find You, Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, and Vikram Seth's Two Lives with me on holidays.

Novels I'd recommend:

Anything by Barbara Kingsolver
A.S. Byatt, Possession
Sheri Reynolds, The Rapture of Canaan
Anything by Chaim Potok, but especially The Chosen, My Name is Asher Lev, and The Book of Lights
Anything by Graham Greene but especially Monsignor Quixote
Iris Murdoch's Henry and Cato
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Maryanne Robinson, Gilead
Sue Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated
Mark Salzman, Lying Awake
Ian McEwan, Atonement
Anita Rau Badami, Tamarind Mem
Shusaku Endo, Silence

Work calls so I'll leave this for now. All you lurkers out there who don't comment - I know that you read so please suggest some novels for what is left of our summer reading!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Amazing Grace

I went to see Amazing Grace tonight with three friends. Two of us really liked this story of William Wilberforce's campaign to abolish the slave trade, while the other two didn't.

It is a flawed film. There is no chronology - the film jumps back and forth and sideways and for no real reason. It is often very confusing and it is difficult to make out how the legislative campaign developed. Yet there are so many powerful moments and emotions that I loved it anyway. At the end when the pipers played Amazing Grace I was wiping the tears away. The scenes with Wilberforce and John Newton, writer of the hymn and former slave trader, were the most poignant.

In the same way I thought the film Romero was flawed but very moving. There is power in the stories of these saints that transcends the limitations of weak film making.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Being found out

This morning, when I left the house, I found an envelope stuck between my doors. In handwriting I recognize is a message: "Do not open until August 11th. Yes, you read that correctly. Be sure your sin will find you out."

I laughed as I read the note and rejoiced that my vacationing friends are thinking ahead to my birthday. I recognized the bible verse from when I was a kid and we would drive on the weekends to the lake. Every week we passed a pretty little white country church by the side of the road with a big sign outside which read, "Be sure your sin will find you out." I always thought the church was pretty but to a non-church going kid there was nothing welcoming about the sign. I used to think that going to church was like going for my yearly check up at the dentist: "Be sure we'll find those cavities." Maybe they were just being descriptive as certainly our sins have a way of turning around and biting us but I rather think not. This is about as inviting to me as the church not far from here that used to have a sign which read, "by invitation only." And I don't think they meant Jesus' invitation, "come unto me all ye who are weary...."

A Fitting End

Well, I've finished it and it was good. It was a good read and a satisfying end to the series. Seven is the Biblical number for completion and the story is complete. It is also ultimately a very Christian story despite all the fuss some Christians have made about the witchcraft in it.

Now to go see the new HP movie!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Loss to our Theology Reading Group

I found out yesterday that one of the members of our theology reading group died this week. Ken has been coming for years and I've so come to appreciate his thoughtfulness and his humour. This is the only picture I can find of Ken and it isn't typical because when I think of Ken I always think of his smile. He had an easy, warm smile.
I'm having a hard time getting my head around this.

Rest eternal grant unto him O Lord.
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Potter identity

Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with

You scored as Hermione Granger,You're one intelligent witch, but you have a hard time believing it and require constant reassurance. You are a very supportive friend who would do anything and everything to help her friends out.

Fully Known

Real Life Preacher has a wonderful blog on the difficulties of truly knowing and expressing who we are.

One of the poems in Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" is called, "Song of Myself." That poem caught my attention the first time I read it, and I have contemplated its meaning many times since. Singing the song of yourself has a thrilling and dangerous appeal, like skinny-dipping or hitchhiking across the country with only twenty bucks in your pocket. Many times I have wanted to sing the song of myself, but I’ve never been willing to take the time or pay the price.

You can read the rest here.

I found myself very moved by this posting. I posted this comment.

Your words moved me deeply. I often reflect on Paul's words, "then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." There appears (at least in the English translation) to be some ambiguity about whether the second part means, 'even as I am fully known now' or 'even as I will then be fully known.' The promise that I will be one day fully know seems to be a promise. The thought that God knows me fully now I find rather more terrifying.

The issue of sharing what I know of myself with others seems really complicated. A few of my friends and I have a little reading group and when we last met we talked about the problem of autobiography - that when I reveal something of myself it usually means I'm revealing something of those close to me. I find the same blogging, that I try to protect my friends' privacy as I write about my stuff. This just gets added to the fear that comes from singing the song of myself.

I reflect on the passage from Corinthians almost daily. At some church meetings once I asked a friend something about one of the bishops. He responded that if transparency was a quality of the episcopacy then we had few bishops in the church. I laughed but I've thought of that comment often because I don't think transparency is something only bishops should aspire to. Yet I see all the pitfalls RLP sees in expressing who you truly are and more. My own capacity for self-deception is great and so I struggle with whether I actually know myself well or not. And then, while I long to be fully known I am plagued by the fear that if I was fully known I wouldn't be liked because all those yucky parts of who I am would be out there.

I think the problem is a bigger one than just trying to know and express ourselves. The philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch was concerned to show in her novels how we are constantly writing scripts in our head in which we are the main character and everyone else is just there to play a role in our drama. The critical moment in her novels come when the main character actually sees the other person and sees him/her as s/he is and not as an extension of himself or herself. She picked up Simone Weil's idea of the importance of 'paying attention.' So if we are to pay attention to ourselves, to know ourselves and to find expression for ourselves it can't be at the expense of knowing others, of paying attention to others. And this ties in to another comment left by someone on RLP's blog, that we aren't individual constructions but only exist in relationship to others. So the song of myself is essentially always a multi-voice polyphony.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Suburban Life

J & G's kids check out the ducks in their suburban lake.

My last day in Winnipeg was a lot of fun. Whenever I'm in Winnipeg I stay with my friends D & D and since I was there last they had moved into a really sweet house. It is a couple of houses off of Portage and walking distance to Assiniboine Park. In 10 or 15 mins you can be downtown and there are all sorts of restaurants and stores you can walk to. The trees are big and the houses are really interesting. When it was a suburb the houses probably looked a lot alike but over 80 or 90 years the houses have been changed and have taken on unique features. Some of the houses on their street look like houses at the lake with big screened in porches. There are a dozen houses on their street that I'd love to have.

Friday evening we went out to the suburbs to have dinner with other friends of mine. We had a delicious dinner and a really fun conversation but we also had our perennial debate about suburban life. J & G love living in the 'burbs and J has a missionary zeal trying to convince D & D that they should move out there too. They have a nice house and I'm really glad they are happy but when I walk around their neighbourhood all I can think is 'Stepford' - when I'm not singing Pete Seeger's classic - Little Boxes.


I'm home safe and sound after a long, hot but uneventful trip home. Stopped in the Hat for a delicious dinner with friends and then got back to Lethbridge in time to pick Robbie up from his sitters. He loves them and loves being there but he's always glad to see his mom. More thoughts on Winnipeg to come but now I'm going to go wash the trip off.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More Scenes of Winnipeg

The view of St. Boniface Cathedral from the river. The church was gutted by a fire in the '60s and a much smaller church was built inside the walls of the old church. Both are beautiful in very different ways.
Salisbury House is a Winnipeg institution. The burgers are called 'nips'and breakfast is served all day. Here is their version of a Rueben - another Winnipeg institution.
There is a Sals in the middle of the new bridge they built over the Red River. I ate there tonight with the GD and her family. This was the view from our table.

Lesson for the day. It would appear that the coffee place in town that isn't Starbucks uses tap water to make their coffee. Winnipeg tap water. See post below. My latte went down the drain when I realized that the bad taste in my drink was algae. I found the nearest Starbucks for relief.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reasons not to love Winnipeg

#1 water that tastes like it came out of your fish tank
#2 restaurants that don't serve filtered water, and don't sell bottled water, and who make their iced tea with tap water
#3 showering in the morning in water that smells like the Gimli harbor
#4 the mosquitos (they aren't that bad but you'd protest if they weren't listed)
#5 the winters (ditto)
#6 did I mention the water - worse now than Regina's ever was

Reasons to love Winnipeg

#1 friends
#2 neat old houses
#3 five people can eat six dishes, steamed rice, tea, soup, and egg rolls for $63 at the Shaing Bo
#4 McNally Robinson bookstore
#5 Assiniboine Park
#6 the Forks
#7 Gunn's bakery - especially the onion bagels
#8 interesting politics
#9 St. Boniface
#10 the Goldeye (the baseball team, not the smoked fish)
#11 Gimli (the biggest icelandic community outside Iceland)
#12 no Hummers on the streets
#13 the Warehouse District (it used to be seedy - now it is funky)
#14 Homemade Music (great folk music record store)
#15 Folklorama (two weeks of ethnic celebration)
#16 the Manitoba Opera Association
#17 the Winnipeg symphony
#18 the Winnipeg folk festival
#19 the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
#20 free jazz concerts outside in the summer
#21 Manitoba Theatre Centre
#22 all the other theatre and folk music and choral music in the city

Images of Winnipeg

Winnipeg's Citizen Walk of Fame in the park. Sybill Shack was my jr. high school principal.
Carl Ridd was my first Religious Studies prof.

Cricketers in Assiniboine Park.
Toboggan slides at the park.
Wilfred ever vigilant.
Brian, Lesley and me after a yummy Chinese dinner at the Shaing Bo.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This will surprise the teenagers in my life

I am nerdier than 38% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Pilgrimage to Dog River

Got the pictures downloaded and here they are - holy Canadian shrines:

We turned off the #1 onto a gravel road because I thought I saw a small Rouleau sign. We drove on faith because it seemed like we were heading to nowhere and then we came to a paved road with a sign saying Rouleau. We drove a little way further and saw all the cars parked by the side of the road. I felt a little goofy hanging out with the tourists taking photos of the Corner Gas set but it was fun. There was a woman standing there handing out postcards and a map of the town with the other buildings marked. We then did a tour of the town and took more photos before heading to the Dog River police station which is an ice cream bar and gift shop. They didn't have a big selection but we bought some gifts and signed our names on the wall with thousands of other pilgrims. Then it was back in the car and up to Regina, all on paved roads this time. After grabbing lunch I went into Starbucks to get a latte for the road and who was sitting there but Brent Butt and Nancy Robertson. On the Corner Gas website Brent writes: “I love what I do,” Brent says. “It’s just like having coffee – only now it’s with a thousand or so people at a time.” Well there he was having coffee surrounded by a couple dozen folks who were being polite Canadians and ignoring them. I wouldn't let my GD go in unless she could promise not to make a fuss and she couldn't promise. It felt pretty cool to see them right after visiting Dog River but I was glad I wasn't wearing a Corner Gas ball cap or something really goofy like that. I'm sure they didn't see the discrete little Ruby pin I have pinned to my MEC bag.

Altar Calls

I've driven the GD out to Winnipeg to return her to the bosom of her family and have much to write of the trip through Saskatchewan and our holy pilgrimage to Rouleau but I want to download my pictures later.

On the trip I spent some time thinking about the service we had Sunday in Coaldale. It was Settlers'Days last weekend and is our custom all the churches organize a joint service for the Sunday. It was in the field behind the Sportsplex and about six different churches had representatives involved. It was a nice service with some good music lead by a praise band from one of the Mennonite churches. I really enjoy our ministerial when I get to it and they had done all the work organizing the service. All I had to do was show up and do the final blessing.

I don't really remember our conversations about what the theme would be other than that it was good for us as Christians to gather together. I had to chuckle though when much of what was said was a kind of altar call. The guest preacher told the story of his own conversion, of how he was raised in a good home and thought he was a Christian until a young woman he was interested in told him he wasn't. He was drinking and brawling and she told him he wasn't living like a Christian and six months later he fell down on his knees and gave his life to Christ. Now we might think we are Christians but maybe aren't and need to give our lives to him.

Looking around the congregation of folks meeting on a beautiful July morning in a field in the middle of town I thought it rather unlikely that there going to be many people there who would respond to such an altar call. It seemed likely most of them probably think that they are Christians. They might struggle with faith, they might anguish over their sinfulness, but I think they probably understand themselves to be Christians involved in this struggle. Sanctification was probably more of an issue than justification.

But maybe I'm wrong and someone was responding in their heart to his words. My problem is that I've never found altar calls all that moving. Years ago I attended a friend's Pentecostal church with her and they had a visiting preacher who was determined to convert that congregation. He preached an altar call that was still going on after two hours when we slipped out that door. He was determined that people were going to come up and give their lives to Jesus but he really was preaching to the converted.

The sermons that have grabbed me heart and mind are not the ones that raise doubts about whether I've actually 'given my life to Jesus' because isn't the point that we are always 'justified and yet still sinners'? I know that my following of Jesus is fraught with moments of doubt, looking back, distraction, losing my way. I give and then I try to take it back all the time. The times that call my attention back to what I have set my heart on are the times when I see others following Jesus and I realize I'm going off in the wrong direction. The preacher told us that when he was drinking and brawling he wasn't really a Christian and after he prayed in a particular way he was. Maybe. But his story sounded a lot more to me like the story of the prodigal son who had lost his way and then came to his senses and started home again. I wished he had told us more about what it was like when the father welcomed him home. I wanted to hear more about what it is like for him to be a follower of Jesus. It is always the lives of saints that convict me of my shortcoming and spur me on to a new commitment.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

More Summer Fun

Had some fun the last two days. The kids and I went to see Evan Almighty and really enjoyed it. The critics have panned it but it is quite sweet. Okay, if you don't like sweet you probably won't like it but it is child friendly and has a nice gentle message. There are some really good things said about prayer and about caring for creation. I read through some of the reviews afterwards and a number of critics seem to be still angry at Mel Gibson's The Passion and the marketing of Hollywood to Christians. Why you'd want to take your anger out on this comedy is beyond me.

Ironically, Mark Joseph writes a piece for Fox News (read it here) arguing that it won't appeal to evangelical Christians because it is too 'green' and too critical of conservative (read Republican) politicians. So it is too Christian for some critics and not the right kind of Christian for others.

Today we went to the Lethbridge Buddhist Church for a tour. Rev. Izumi does some chaplaincy work with me at the university and is a delight. I enjoy his enthusiasm and his gentle spirit very much. It was interesting to hear his explanations of their space and their practice. We talked for some time too about the differences between practice here and in Japan. The Japanese theme continued this evening when the GD and I picked up a big order of sushi and other goodies and took them over to my best friend's house. After supper the GD spent two and a half hours putting together the BF's bbq and then we played a game of Nerts. We laughed so hard the tears poured down my cheeks. The only downside was that Robbie started to cough a lot again. He's been quiet for the last few hours but we'll try to see the vet tomorrow morning just in case.

It might seem like a corny line from Evan Almighty but there are times when grace is spending a hot summer evening drinking lemonade and playing cards with people you love and who love you.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

New Prayer Book

This year at our clergy conference a friend recommended to me the Church of England's Common Worship daily prayer book. I've been using it on line since then which has the advantage of having everything including the readings in one place. But there are times when I haven't had internet access and besides, it feels weird praying on line. But my own copy arrived in the mail yesterday thanks to Amazon!

It is a really wonderful prayer book with different prayers for each day of the week and sections for each season of the year. I especially like the psalm prayers. The Book of Alternative Services, a book I like in many ways but not for its daily office, has psalm prayers too but I've never been too fond of them. The ones in Common Worship are quite lovely. The one for this morning's psalm #91 is:

Almighty God, our eternal refuge, teach us to live with the knowledge of our death and to rejoice in the promise of your glory, revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

I look forward to becoming at home in this prayer book.

Land of the Living Dead

Last night my GD and I watched the original 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead. It freaked me out but she just mocked it. It may be a classic but it only had two special effects guys! Well, it turns out I wouldn't do very well in a zombie crisis.


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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie

Great! Our U.S. Anglican brothers and sisters have discovered Little Mosque on the Prairie! Read all about it here.

Waterton in the Heat

The kids and I drove down to Waterton and enjoyed the beauty and the heat! Usually when it is really hot here it is nice to go down to the mountains and enjoy some cooler breezier weather but today it was relatively still and stinking hot.

We had a picnic at McNeally's and then went down to see the glory of Cameron Lake. Then we went to town and bumped into friends of mine and had ice cream on the main street. What a great way to spend a summer day. Robbie had a wonderful time. I always think about what the vet said about his heart being pretty vulnerable to stress but have decided that if he's going to blow a valve that happy it will be a good way to lose him.

Tomorrow it is supposed to be even hotter so the kids and I are going to see a movie in an air conditioned theatre and then go over to have supper with friends who have an indoor pool. Should be very fun.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy 140th Canada!

Well, Canada Day weekend is now history and I'm beat! Friday evening dinner and scrabble with friends. Saturday I drove up to Calgary to pick up my goddaughter who flew out by herself for the first time. Saturday evening we went with friends to Galt Gardens for an outdoor movie projected on an inflatable screen. The downtown business folks put it on and what a great time it was. The movie was Firehouse Dog - sweet kid's movie.

Yesterday we had church and then a bbq at some other friends' house. We had a visitor at church who found us through this blog which has never happened before. We had a really interesting conversation and I hope we get the chance to talk some more. Last night the GD and I went to the fireworks with another teenager who is a delight and we had a blast. They were wonderful fireworks and we were positioned closed enough that we were covered with ash afterwards.

Today I invited a bunch of friends over to meet the GD and to let her meet them. She and I prepared food all morning and she put the bbq together. It is a cool looking bbq but the regulator is crap and it didn't work very well. Fortunately I had borrowed one that did work. We ate a whole mess of food and had a wonderful visit. Now she's gone to bed - with Robbie who has decided she is the dog's woof. He follows her everywhere, lets her pick him up and carrying him around and sleeps on her bed. Thank goodness for my cats or I'd be getting a real complex by now.