Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Solitude on the Rock(s)

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I'm hoping and praying that when you read this we will be on the island of Newfoundland, Canada's easternmost province and the place where I began ministry on a five preaching point pastoral charge.  You'd think that would be enough to scare us away forever, but I figure that this is the eighth trip back in 35 years. We are actually going to a community off the island, called Change Islands. They are adjacent to the "rock star" island of Fogo, which has become the place to go, despite it's remote location. We are only a short ferry ride to Fogo, and Change Islands shares the rugged beauty of its more famous companion.

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During our time on Change Islands we will hike and kayak and read lots of books, rain or shine. We will also step away from connectedness, the blessing and curse of the internet and social media. We are both aware of the effects of internet brain, which has altered our attention span, raised our expectations for constant information, and, honestly, has changed our relationship with God. Without silence and solitude how do we listen for the voice of the One who created us and leads us into the fullness of love. How do we savour and grow in wisdom, rather than consume, consume, consume?

We've stayed on the cove you see in the painting above in the past. The house below will be our retreat this time.

So, I shall return to blogging, I'm just not sure when. God be with you!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Martin Sheen & the Spirituality of Imagination

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I really like Martin Sheen. I enjoy him as an actor because he has great range. He's played the president of the United States with a gravitas that would be the envy of Donald Trump if Trump had any clue about his role. He is able to do comedy as well, and if you've watched the Netflix series Grace and Frankie you'll know this is true.

Sheen also played a man on a quest in the film The Way. It's about the Camino, the pilgrimage walk across Spain. The character he plays goes in search of his son's body and finds himself as he saunters through his grief.

Sheen is a person of faith, returning to the abandoned Roman Catholicism of his youth in mid-life. After he finished his role in the film Gandhi he was in Paris, doing some serious soul-searching, aware that alcohol was not his friend, uncertain about the direction of his life. He wandered into the only English-speaking Roman Catholic church on the Left Bank and the experience became the most joyful moment in his adult life. Even still, he realized that he wasn't returning to the piety of his youth, which had been too restrictive. This was a different way of encountering God.

I would encourage you to search for Sheen's interview with Krista Tippet on the radio program On Being. It's called Spirituality of Imagination, and while it's a couple of years old it was reposted recently.

Has there been a time when you've moved away from the faith of your youth, only to return. Was that reimagining of faith liberating?

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

An Eye for an Eye?

A Canadian 3RCR Battlegroup sniper walks up a hill to his position during a mission near Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2003.

A couple of years ago the film American Sniper was a huge box office success. It glorified the sharp-shooting exploits of Chris Kyle, a US Navy Seal. Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. Ironically. Kyle was shot and killed by another serviceman suffering PTSD after his return to America.

There is a mystique surrounding snipers who must combine rock-steady nerves with mathematics while in the midst of combat. Canadians are reportedly amongst the best snipers in the world, and recently a Canadian sniper working alongside Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS successfully struck a member of the militant group from a distance of a little more than three and a half kilometres away. This is now the record for a verified sniper kill, and may never be matched.
This has been all over the media and it seems grisly to me. As Tom Mulcair of the NDP points out we are supposedly not involved in offensive military action in Iraq. And while combatants kill the enemy in any conflict, the fascination is macabre, in my estimation.

As a Christian I constantly wrestle with Jesus' teaching to be peacemakers, to turn the other cheek, alongside the realities of evil in our world. While there are occasions where lethal force must be used, in policing and in situations of war, glorifying the death of human beings doesn't fit with my sense of the gospel. This may sound naïve, but really, has the message of Jesus ever made sense in the ways of the world?


Friday, June 23, 2017


Through the years but particularly the past six months I've blogged periodically about my mother, Margaret, whom a number of you know. Some of you have interacted with her as a senior and witnessed an intelligent, engaged woman whose faith issued in action well into her eighties. In recent years her Parkinson's Disease has become more of an issue, with her mobility and balance affected. In these past months the slow progress of dementia has become a freight train which we are scrambling to address. She never complains, but she is increasingly anxious in the afternoon and evening, evidence of Sundowners Syndrome.

My brother Eric is a constant support to Mom, taking care of so many practical aspects of her life. I've made a point of visiting more frequently, usually reading scripture, saying a prayer, and even wonkily warbling a hymn or two with her. We both want to affirm her personhood, her essence, even as her memory betrays her. And she continues to surprise us. In the past couple of visits she has asked how I feel in retirement and wondered when we leave on vacation. When I showed up with son Isaac and his family recently she was delighted. She was downright playful with her great-grandsons and beamed in a way we simply don't witness anymore.

The other day she got word that she would be visited by Dr. Paul Thistle, a medical missionary in Africa. Years ago Mom paid for a nurses residence to be built, at considerable cost. Paul has always been grateful for her support and visits when he's back in Canada.

Margaret Mundy is a person, loved by God, loved by her family and friends. Is she diminished by age and illness? Yes. But she continues to love us and teach us, in her own way.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

National Aboriginal Day

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Finally! Yesterday the issues accessing my computer were resolved.

This morning I listened to CBC from Toronto and their live National Aboriginal Day broadcast from Nathan Phillips Square. It seems an unlikely setting for a sacred fire yet city hall in the heart of Canada's largest city was once Native land. The organizers say that this was the largest crowd yet, hundreds of people gathered at five o'clock in the morning.

There are days when I wonder whether we will very get beyond the indifference and systemic racism of a country where we pride ourselves on inclusion yet continue to treat our first nations as second class citizens, at best. Yet today's recognition across the country is encouraging. As always we have to ask if this will translate into the honouring of commitments by our federal and provincial governments to eradicate poverty, provide decent water and education, and protect the most vulnerable.

I pray that the United Church and other communities of faith will provide leadership in keeping these issues before the governments and that Canadians will understand that these are matters of justice, not charity.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's Not You...

Hey folks, it's not you, it's me. No, really! I'm
bedevilled with computer challenges as I get
established at home. So, please be more
patient than I am and keep visiting my Lion Lamb blog. Thanks!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Admiration & Lament for the Oceans

Three weeks from now we will be in a house by an ocean, God willing. We'll be on Change Islands, adjacent to Fogo Island, a place of wild beauty and warm people. As my ministry draws to a close we'll be back where we started, a short distance by water from the communities I served in the early 1980's.

We'll be there during the recreational groundfish fishery which allows Newfoundland residents to catch cod for their own use. Homes on Change Islands which are empty are other times will be filled with those coming home for this opportunity. This personal fishery has expanded over time after a total  moratorium on cod fishing when it was established that stocks were plummeting toward extinction. There is now a controlled commercial fishery as well.

For the longest time it was considered a God-given  right - literally - to take as much as ships could haul in. The ships got bigger and more efficient until an abundant species all but disappeared. It was reckless plunder rather than careful management. It ruined a way of life for many.

On this World Oceans Day we can lament the emptying of the seas, even as we marvel at them. We can pray that it's not too late to change the course of our species when it comes to conservation and care. We can admire the diversity of the oceans enough to allow them to revive.