Sunday, April 29, 2012
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, an annual recognition of Christ as shepherd and all things sheepish. I really appreciate the Shepherd/Sheep imagery of scripture even though we are moving away from our agricultural roots and our individualistic mindset makes us a little contemptuous of the notion of being the sheep of anyone's pasture.
One of my colleagues commented earlier in the week: "I don't want to be a sheep, they're so stupid!" Researchers have realized that while sheep have a herd/flock mentality it doesn't mean the are dumb. I've share in sermons that one farmer in Britain was puzzled by the escape of his sheep from a fenced field with a cattle grate which should have kept them "taking it on the lamb." A video camera helped them discover that the sheep had figured out how to roll across the grate and get up on the other side. This sounds rather clever to me.
I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person, but my experience is that whether it is creative enterprises, or in musical expression, or in living out faith, being part of a flock is a good thing. I'm also humble enough, at least some of the time, to accept that having a Shepherd who seeks my highest good is better than me just wandering around in the wilderness.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Last Sunday morning I brought a basket of "treasures" to show the children as part of our Earth Sunday celebration. Itsure was fun for me. Amongst the items were a really unusual sand dollar, a small conch shell, a piece of moose antler, and a whale's tooth. We didn't dwell on the demise of these various creatures. Instead they were very inventive in their attempts to identify them. Kids are wonderful and it is important to encourage them that they live in God's Wondrous World, as the hymn says.
Later I saw a list, as did reader Anne, of what one writer identifies as a sort of pre-adolescent Bucket List, the things every child should do before his or her twelfth birthday. In this day of Helicopter Parents hovering over children this may seem to be impossible and even irresponsible, but I like it. Sorry that it is compressed like this but it would go on forever otherwise. What do you think? What would you add?
1. Climb a tree 2. Roll down a really big hill 3. Camp out in the wild
4. Build a den 5. Skim a stone 6. Run around in the rain
7. Fly a kite 8. Catch a fish with a net 9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
10. Play conkers 11. Throw some snow 12. Hunt for treasure on the beach
13. Make a mud pie 14. Dam a stream 15. Go sledging
16. Bury someone in the sand 17. Set up a snail race 18. Balance on a fallen tree
19. Swing on a rope swing 20. Make a mud slide 21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild
22. Take a look inside a tree 23. Visit an island 24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind
25. Make a grass trumpet 26. Hunt for fossils and bones 27. Watch the sun wake up
28. Climb a huge hill 29. Get behind a waterfall 30. Feed a bird from your hand
31. Hunt for bugs 32. Find some frogspawn 33. Catch a butterfly in a net
34. Track wild animals 35. Discover what’s in a pond 36. Call an owl
37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool38. Bring up a butterfly39. Catch a crab
40. Go on a nature walk at night 41. Plant it, grow it, eat it 42. Go wild swimming
43. Go rafting 44. Light a fire without matches 45. Find your way with a map and a compass
46. Try bouldering 47. Cook on a campfire 48. Try abseiling
49. Find a geocache 50. Canoe down a river.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Some of you may have seen the 60 Minutes segment on Sunday night which shows the enormous pressure exerted by both the American and Israeli governments on the media not to report this situation. Even the powerful 60 Minutes has felt the weight of censure for a feature that hadn't even been aired. Take a look and offer your thoughts. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57417408/christians-of-the-holy-land/?tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel
Thursday, April 26, 2012
I can't help myself. I just have to express my thorough disgust at the news that "my" member of federal parliament, international development minister Bev Oda, charged excessive amounts to an expense account while in London, Great Britain. The five star hotel in which she was scheduled to lay her privileged head was not good enough for her, so she upgraded to the Savoy -- twice as expensive to all of us of course. And while she didn't have far to travel during her stay she chose to use an expensive limousine rather than anything as plebian as a taxi. Oh yes, there is the sixteen dollar glass of OJ.
Ms. Oda managed to be reelected in this riding despite lying about her part in cancelling funding for Kairos, a highly respected advocacy and support agency for international development in which our United Church participates. The cancellation of funding was incredibly mean-spirited on the part of the feds and the lies compounded the situation.Oda has now paid back her London excesses, but only after they came to light in an embarrassing fashion. What a piece of work. This is so wrong. A letter to the editor in the Globe and Mail pointed out that a two cent a day pill prevents blindness for a child in Africa but this government minister feels an extraordinary sense of entitlement. While Ms. Oda has apologized since the story broke, it's difficult to accept it as sincere.
Does anyone else think this stinks or am I just not turning my taxpayer's cheek?
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
President Richard Nixon was a nasty man surrounded by nasty minions. While best known for Watergate these henchman had a big bag of dirty tricks. One of them was the clever Charles Colson who admitted he would run over his grandmother to fulfill his questionable responsibilities. As smart as he was he went down with the president and spent seven months in prison. To everyone's surprise he converted to evangelical Christianity and after his release he began a prison ministry which is stilll going strong. Colson also wrote a biography called Born Again which sold millions.
Colson died over the weekend at the age of 80. I really didn't care for Colson's theology which at times seemed to be too strongly connected to conservative American values -- surprise, surprise. I did admire that he turned his tenacity and intelligence to work with people who are the lepers of our society, those in prisons. Interesting that I would write twice about prisons this week for very different reasons.
Did any of you follow the Colson story through the years? Yes, I realize that a fair number of you weren't born during th Nixon era, but don't rub it in!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I was somewhat surprised to discover that their are over 200 page views per day and that last month 6,000 people checked it out from all over the world. It's obvious that I get "drive by" reads from those searching a subject because I can also see the number of views of blogs from previous years. There have been over 100,000 views since I began a few years ago, but more than half have come in the past twelve months.
Once again I thank you for following this blog and once again I'll say that I always appreciate comments. I came into a room at the church recently where a meeting was taking place. They happened to be chatting about this blog and I discovered that three of them were readers I didn't previously know about. They commented that they feel a tad intimidated when it comes to responding, in part because of the thoughtful comments they read.
All I can say is, don't be shy! And I really want to know if this new format is readable and worth keeping.
This organization was formed when the founder, Richard Cizik, was censured for what I felt were thoughtful and refreshing views on a number of subjects including caring for Creation.
They are offering a bumper sticker which is a variation on the What Would Jesus Do? trend of a few years ago. Instead of WWJD, the bumper sticker is WWJDA -- Who Would Jesus Discriminate Against?
Their description says:
What do you think? Would you stick one on your bumper?
Monday, April 23, 2012
Believe it or not I feel some pangs of nostalgia over this closure. When I was doing my seminary training I spent four months in a chaplaincy internship at Kingston Pen and it was one of the most challenging and instructive periods of my life. It certainly shaped my faith and opened my eyes to the grim realities of the criminal justice system. Just about all those guys deserved to be in prison and some admitted to me that while they had been wrongfully convicted for one crime, they were involved in criminal acts at the time which would have resulted in greater sentences!
For more than 30 years I have been aware of the issues around conviction and incarceration. I saw firsthand that the poor and First Nations people are more likely to go to jail because they don't have the money to hire decent lawyers. I was aware of the desparation of many inmates who weren't notorious criminals and who must hide their fears from those around them. Institutions such as these need chaplains.
Farewell KP. Any observations?
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
As I listened to these parents and the emotion they are feeling I thought of the old expression "you're only as happy as your unhappiest child."
One father offered that there have been more Good Fridays than Easters recently. We can pray for all the parents of our Christian family in their very important roles.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
This evening is week two of our Confirmation/Exploring Our Faith classes for the Spring of 2012. I was pleased with a turnout of fifteen last week, and with the composition of the group. There are seven teens, three in their thirties, one in her forties, and...up! That may sound like a challenge because of the range, but I really enjoy the diversity of a group of mixed ages. I figure out how to break up the teens because they know one another best. They were great last week at pairing with the adults for discussion.
We talked about Jesus and I appreciated how open people were, given the awkwardness of beginning as a group. I put up ten images of Jesus from different artistic perspectives, along with a Popular Mechanics (really) image created years ago using the best forensic evidence available about a first century Palestinian male. It was a way to invite conversation about Jesus who has been interpreted in so many ways through the centuries and must be interpreted today by Christians.
Some people liked more striking representations while others liked the image they grew up with in their church, even if he looked rather white and Caucasian. Sort of Jesus comfort food.
I loved it when one of the teens offered that her Jesus looked alot like Ashton Kutcher! And apparently someone else found a resemblance, as you can see above. It was the "out of the box" response that delighted me. I don't think for a moment she was trying to be irreverent, just candid. All in all I was really impressed by how willing the younger participants were to engage in faith talk. It speaks well for the excellent youth leaders we have been blessed with in recent years and this remarkable gang of young people.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
We talked and talked some more and then I prayed because there is no way he would let me away without a prayer at any time. This occasion was a little more emotional for him, but I certainly understood why.
The remarkable moment came as I was about to get up. He mentioned that he had been to one of the big drugstores to get one of the many prescriptions he now has filled, and noticed that he had accumulated a lot of points which could be redeemed for "stuff." Could I ask my wife Ruth if it was alright for him to buy gift cards to be used by women at Bethesda House, the shelter for which she works. I explained that this would be a kind gesture because there is no funding for items such as toiletries and makeup. Sure enough, he passed along $90 worth of cards to be used as the recipients saw fit.
What a splendid human being. He was "lower than a snake's bunion" to use an old expression, but he was still thinking of others. His sense of social responsibility and generosity are rooted in a quiet but strong Christian faith. The gift was one more reason I really like him.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
As you may recall, the GPI is the world’s leading measure of national peacefulness. Now in its 6th year, it ranks 158 nations according to their ‘absence of violence’. The GPI is developed by IEP under the guidance of an international panel of independent experts with data partly collated and calculated by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The Index comprises both qualitative and quantitative factors on 23 separate indicators. These indicators range from a nation’s level of military expenditure to its political terror scale and the level of violent crime.
On a macro level, this year’s GPI will be particularly interesting as the Arab Spring continues to dominate the MENA region. What will the GPI tell us about the prospects for long-term peace and stability for the region? Has the European crisis been more detrimental to Greece, Italy or
Spain’s ranking? Has the threat of global terrorism increased, as it did last year, or has it been abridged?
This is interesting information and we can be grateful that Canada is number eight in the rankings, with Finland being numero uno. By comparision the United Kingdom comes in at 26 and the United States at 82. Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia are at the bottom of the list. No surprises there.
Every year I ask what our favouable ranking means for me as a follower of Christ, the Prince of Peace. What responsiblity do I have as a peacemaker living in this land of privilege and promise? Can I repeat the words of Jesus, "blessed are the peacemakers" without actively working toward that shalom, wholeness for the planet?
Take a look and share your thoughts.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Monday, April 09, 2012
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Saturday, April 07, 2012
I'm tryng to remember who told me this year that the 25 year tradition of Roll Up The Rim has a sinister Lenten connection, at least according to the urban/suburban myth. The story goes that Tim Hortons was concerned about the drop in sales during Lent as folk gave up their sweet treasures and even coffee. So they created an incentive to sin with the free giveaways. I'm having trouble buying into this one, but it might be there are little red horns on the brows of the late Tim Horton and his co-founder Ron Joyce!
Anyone else hear this one? Maybe we should all give up urban myths for Lent. How did you do during Lent, or did you bother?
Friday, April 06, 2012
Thursday, April 05, 2012
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
The seder meal with its questions about deliverance from slavery in Egypt may be the oldest continuously practiced ritual in human history. It has survived times of intense persecution of the Jews, including unfortunately by Christians, and will be observed again this year in places around the world. This year Jews will share in the seder on the day we celebrate Easter.
Of course Jesus and his followers were observing the seder when he chose to use the symbols of wine and unleavened bread to speak of his impending brokeness on the cross. Our Maundy Thursday service this week commemorates that meal.
Did you know the connection between the Seder and the Last Supper? Have you attended a seder? Does Foer's book intrigue you?