Monday, August 27, 2007

Internet desert

I'm taking a few days holidays while renos are being done on my house and am having troubling getting internet access. So please forgive the silence.

I have had a chance to do some reading and movie watching. I reread Chaim Potok's The Book of Lights and the new Marcia Muller mystery. I'm now reading Donald Miller's Searching for God Know's What. I have also been rewatching season one of the West Wing for the first time in years. Last night I watched Reality Bites. I need to write about this but it will have to wait until I get back to a computer. My time on this one is about to end.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Friends from the north

One of the hardest things about chaplaincy is that you get to meet really great students and become friends and then they graduate and move away. One of the things I love about the summer is that students come back and visit. I got to see Kris who is now teaching college and Frank who is at grad school. Sarah and Nathan have been back all week visiting from Iqaluit where they are now teaching. Sarah came out and helped us out with VBS and today we got together for breakfast. We had some interesting conversations about their experiences living up north. And like always we also talked about God and faith and books and music and art. I miss them a lot.

Cleaning up

The clean up continues - my BFI dumpster is about half full. I've been working to a bit of a deadline to at least get the back porch cleaned out. I'm getting it tiled and painted so I've been running to the tile store and Totem and buying all sorts of odd things I'd never heard of before. I'm not doing the work - I've hired a friend, bless him, to do it. But I've been doing a bunch of the prep. Yuck.

As I've been sorting through stuff and figuring out what needs to go to the dumpster and what goes to recycling or the thrift store I've been struck by how much junk I have. Part of the problem is that we can get so much cheap stuff made in the third world with little regard to environmental or labour concerns. The temptation is always to buy four cheap things instead of buying one good quality thing. And more to the point, there is always the temptation to buy a new one when you can't find the one you have already.

I've also come to realize that I go through a lot of paper that I don't file and therefore could never find if I needed. I run off articles all the time thinking that this is of interest and that I might use it in a sermon or a class. But then it gets thrown in a pile where it languishes. So now I'm asking myself whether or not I will file an article before I run it off. Hope it helps.

Maggie Dawn has a great principle for getting rid of junk: would I pay to ship this across the country? Unfortunately I have. It was 23 boxes of books and papers and miscellaneous stuff I had stored in friends' basement. After I went through it several years after I had paid to bring it here I found that there was little that I actually wanted or needed in the boxes.

So I was really preaching to myself last Sunday (see below). Now I just have to listen to myself!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Busy Days

It has been really busy these past few days - no time to blog. Mom and Dad arrived Monday to take me out for my birthday and help me set up for VBS. Tuesday our VBS started and then I had a bbq in the evening for my folks. Yesterday they left early, VBS continued and then I was invited out for sushi in the evening. Today we finished VBS and now I focus again on chaplaincy work.

VBS was a lot of fun. We did the Augsburg programme Great Bible Reef and it was really good. The kids had fun, we learned some neat songs, and our older kids really grew into their roles as leaders. Our group was small - about a dozen - but that is about what we can handle with our small church and small group of volunteers. Two of my friends joined us to run the programme so we had 7-8 volunteers helping out. Most of our kids are under 7 so we need lots of grownup help. Our 12-14 year olds lead and do a fantastic job.

A while back there was a debate over at Fr. Jake's about packaged VBS programmes with lots of people praising home made simple programmes. I'm fine with keeping things low key but boy I appreciated having all the ideas and resources of the programme we bought and so did our cook. And the music was really really good.

We did add to the programme. On the second day the story was the healing of Namaan and we did a little session on baptism including learning how to bless ourselves with the baptism water as a reminder of our own baptisms.

Our main activity was to make aquariums to house all the great reef animals they made. They turned out beautifully.

Now I want to have a nap!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Which Church Father are you?

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Thanks to Dead Apostle.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

And all shall be well

This morning at Ascension was lovely. We sang some favourites, we welcomed back folks who have been away, and we welcomed visitors. I preached on traveling light (beginning with reflections on my own struggles to get rid of clutter) and how this is grounded in trust. Then I explored the relationship between trust and hope and the choices we make to be trusting and hopeful.

There is a quotation from Viktor Frankl that comes to mind now that really sums up what I was trying to say:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

It seems to me that hope isn't so much about hoping for some particular thing (whether it be descendants or winning the lottery) but a more basic attitude of trust that God wants good for us.

I realize I could have used the well-known words of Julian of Norwich:

All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing
shall be well.

The problem is that we do experience things that cause us to question God's goodness. (I've been sitting in on my friend Paul's theodicy course and thinking about this a lot lately) I spoke about the children's memorial at Yad Vashem - you enter a dark room in which the names of the 1.5 million children who died in the Shoah are read. A candle is reflected off of a thousand mirrors creating the image of the stars in the sky. My friend Paul talks about the power of the rebuke of God as the promise made to Abraham that his descendants would number like the stars in the sky is contrasted to the death of so many children under the Nazis. I talked about this in light of the readings from Genesis and Hebrews about the promise made to Abraham and his faithful response and the Jewish struggle to make sense of God's covenant post-Shoah.

Then I talked about the challenges to faith we often face in our own lives. And I talked about an attitude of hopefulness that choses to look at the reasons we have in our own experience to trust in God. (See the Buechner article below)

As I look out at these people I love so much knowing some of the things they've suffered I am so moved by their faithfulness. They are so hopeful and so gracious in the face of suffering. This is why we can't be solitary Christians. When my faith is shaken or uncertain I count on the prayer, the support, the example of these people to carry me when I'm unable to walk for myself. Father Bob Cowan, may his memory be a blessing, said to me once when he was dying that when I was praying for him I wasn't just interceding for him but I was literally praying in his place because he was unable to pray the office any more.

Being a part of this community is one of the reasons I trust in the goodness of God.

Preaching on Hope

I'm preaching on hope this morning so I went back and reread one of my favourite pieces on preaching on hope. Frederick Buechner wrote this:

If preachers decide to preach about hope, let them preach out of what they themselves hope for....

And let them talk with equal honesty about their own reasons for hoping -- not just the official, doctrinal, Biblical reasons but the reasons rooted deep in their own day by day experience. They have hope that God exists because from time to time over the years they believe they have been touched by God. Let them speak of those times with the candor and concreteness and passion without which all the homiletical eloquence and technique in the world are worth little.


Read the whole piece here.

The End of a Perfect Day

Birthdays are great. Today was a wonderful day! thank you Kevin and Tim for your birthday greetings and to all those who called and dropped off cards etc. What a day!

I got to spend most of the day with good friends, picked paint and tile out for my back porch, got neat gifts and had a wonderful evening with friends. I cooked supper which was a lot of fun and my best friend made one of my favourite cakes in the whole world - angel food with lemon filling.

Here are two of my gifts - what a hoot eh!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Feast of My Nativity

Today is my 46th birthday. I figure I'm on the downward slope towards 50 and given the typical lifespan of my family I'm now playing the back 9 holes. Robbie and I went to the park with friends yesterday for a picnic. Here I am about to dig in to my cake - Bonny's carrot cake from Round St. Cafe - yum!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Getting to know me...

I find this interesting. When I was in my twenties I always came out as ENFP but in my thirties I always came out as ENTP. David Kiersey argues that there are four basic temperments, NT, NF, SJ and SP and when I look at them I think I actually am an ENTP Now that I'm decidely in my forties, however, I like to think that as I mature my feeling side is becoming better integrated. And for my fifties I thought I'd become an ISTJ. Ar ar ar....

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Thursday, August 9, 2007

More on clutter

Here's some great words on clutter. I'm trying to take them to heart!

Thanks to Kathryn over at Good in Parts.

How do they know me so well?

You're the University of California, Berkeley!

A true hippy, you really wish you could spend the rest of
your life in the 1960's. It's not that you haven't been able to settle down
and be quite successful, but you yearn for the days of agitation and
revolution. You're fond of the old comic Bloom County, as well as the more
recent Outland. The rest of your life looks like a struggle between your
prestige and your radical nature. You really like those cheap Sathers

Take the University Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Thanks to Wormword's Doxy

You're South Africa!

After almost endless suffering, you've finally freed yourself
from the oppression that somehow held you back.  Now your diamond in the
rough is shining through, and the world can accept you for who you really are.
 You were trying to show who you were to the world, but they weren't interested
in helping you become that until it was almost too late.  Suddenly you're
a very hopeful person, even if you still have some troubles.

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid

Sunday, August 5, 2007


A friend and I had a great conversation today about clutter and our struggles to bring order to our houses. She recommended the site FlyLady so I've signed up and I'll see how it goes. The idea of being able to see the surface of things really appeals. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Systemic Sin

Matthew over on Global Turtle has a piece on the Mattel toy recall story:

I know I am behind on my blog in relation to home reno pics, writing about the west coast trail, Some Southern Alberta trips, and other things on my mind, but I have to put a comment out there about a sad news story.

Last night Fisher Price (owned by Mattel) has recalled up to 83 different toys that are manufactured in China because of the high likelihood that the paint on them contains large amounts of lead. Read more here.

I really struggle with the issues Matthew raises here. I know that there are people who do everything they can to buy only locally raised food and Canadian made clothing and I really admire that. I don't know how they do it though. I've tried reading labels and it is a nightmare trying to find products that aren't made in China. The young son of a friend of mine started reading all the labels in their clothes and refusing to wear clothes made in China and she had a heck of a time trying to respond without denying the point this seven year old was making about unsafe labour practices in other countries.

Years ago, when I was working at the University of Manitoba with the chaplaincy, I brought Fr. Bert Foliot, S.J. to campus to give a talk on something. I remember he talked about how much he liked hearing confessions because people were honest about themselves. He said that in all his years of hearing confessions though he hadn't heard anyone confess their participation in systemic sins. No one confessed that they ate well and cheaply because farmer workers were paid peanuts. He said that it wasn't possible to remove yourself from these systems of exploitation unless you lived off the land and maybe not even then. But he said that there was value in confessing sins you couldn't stop committing if only it made you more aware of what you were doing.

I've thought about that a lot in the 20+ years since I heard that talk and I do try to do some things to keep from sinning even when I know that they are symbolic gestures. I don't shop at WalMart. I read labels. We use fair trade coffee at church. I shop at 10 Thousand Villages. But truthfully I'm still a far way off from making the changes that Matthew is talking about.

My fault, my fault, my most grievous fault...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Summer movies

I'm in the middle of getting ready for renovations so I've got a demolition bin out front and I've been sorting through a lot of crap to find the one or two treasures before pitching the rest. Well, actually it is a complicated process of sorting out the garbage from the Sally Ann stuff from the recycling from the treasures. So while I sit and sort and shred and sort I watch movies.

Last night I watched Hot Fuzz. What a hoot! It is pretty gory in places so if you can't handle splurting blood you better not watch it. But it is a very funny spoof of bad buddy cop movies. The English do humour so well. Makes up for the cooking. I don't always like parodies but this one is really well done - and incidentally kind of a sweet movie about buddy cops.

The night before friends and I watched Breach (I took an evening off from sorting). It is the true story of the worst spy in American history. Really good movie - great acting and a tight story. There was lots of the spy intrigue stuff but also some really good inter-personal stuff between the spy and the young man assigned to shadow him.

Earlier in the week I watched To Kill a Mockingbird. I've never read it or seen it before and I liked it a lot. Gregory Peck has always been a favourite of mine and he is really good in it. I've always heard how brilliant the film is from Americans and I think it is something that you see when you've grown up in the States with that form of racism. I lived in the States for a year and found that the racism I witnessed there was similar to what I had witnessed here and yet different because of the different history. And we didn't experience the civil rights movement in the same way either. But when the preacher tells Scout to stand up because that's her daddy passing my throat closed. Powerful moment.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

See, I'm not immature - I'm a rabbit

You're Watership Down!

by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're
actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their
assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they
build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd
be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thanks to learnerpriest