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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Monday, August 31, 2009


I popped into the back pew at Stratford congregation yesterday morning for a good old fashioned hymn-story worship service.

I was also pleased to see the good-sized circle forming up in the after-service time for a discernment circle. I'm glad to know congregations are holding these important conversations about Conditions of Membership.

I'd be pleased to hear any experiences you're having with these resources too.

Friday, August 28, 2009


So friends, this morning I had to locate my sweater. And a certain tree I pass on my way in to work is almost totally RED! The parking lot at the elementary school was full of cars.

Do you think this means anything?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


An important question, often asked, sometimes unspoken is "What's it all for anyway?" "Why am I here?" "Why are we here?"

This, from Section 163, paragraph 2:

The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey of faith.

If you and I are working on those things, it's a good start.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


If you've seen me around in congregations, at workshops, wherever, you might have noticed I'm pretty well always carrying a notebook. Usually a little spiral journal with a nice cover and a really good gel pen tucked in the spine.

I started carrying a journal a few years ago and can't really be without one now. I do not write daily entries--although that' s not a bad thing to do; I just never got into that practice.

My journal practice is more like this. I write notes there if I'm listening to a speaker, or the radio, or even just eaves-dropping at Timmy's or eating lunch alone in a restaurant. I record bits that I may later incorporate in sermons or classes or a poem or short story I'm writing.

But a big way I use my journals is long after the fact. If I'm off on an assignment Iusually pluck an old journal off the shelf and bring it along. Because I go back and search for treasure in those journals.

This morning I've been reading from a book I started in April, 2001! In there I've found quotations from Grant McMurray, Danny Belrose and Brian Wren (from a Worship seminar).

There are notes for the wedding ceremony of nephew Dave and his bride Erin--some wonderful insights about stones. Today I can picture the great little family established on that solid stone foundation.

I find the past casts insight over the present; words recorded long ago are somehow even more relevant today. I don't claim anything magical about it. It's just interesting and helps my focus
I love my journals. I mine them for wisdom and ideas. I expect you'll be reading from them here in this blog.

What about you? Anything to share about your journal practice?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


It seems like only yesterday I was announcing the opening camp of our summer season when Kids' Camp assembled at the end of June! Now, here we are at Senior High camp, now on at Camp Noronto.

Alfredo Zelaya and his awesome team of leaders, leaders in training and campers are closing out the official summer camping season this week. We can only wait for the tales of their adventure.

Or we can reminisce about times past when we've been campers. I never fail to hear stories of "good old camping days gone by" when I'm with some people around the Mission. Campers of all ages. Recent visits with Rod McLean, Doug Bolger, John and Elaine Morgan as well as Eric Horning and Justin and Dara Ashwell have all had healthy injections of the camping experience. Take a minute and recall your own.

Of course, camping ministry continues through September as we look forward to Family and Friends (Erie Beach, September 11-13), Women's Retreat (Ziontario, September 18-20), Canoe Camp (northern rivers, September 25-27), Men's Retreat (McGowan's Lake, September 25-27). And if you've still not had enough, Retirees' Retreat (Camp Noronto, October 5-9)!

Check the CEM Calendar or Announcements for contact and registration information for all these events. Word on the street is that summer weather will be extended this year due to a late launch, so do plan to enjoy one or more of these great opportunities for fellowship and community building.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I just want to remind us all that a big part of being a community is the fun we have together.

Don't forget to plan in some play time.

It was great being with the Hamilton congregation Saturday afternoon and evening for a goal-setting workshop. One of the things they appreciate most about each other is the ability to enjoy each other's company.

They'd started up earlier in the day with a community car wash and barbeque. Despite periods of torrential rain (it's been that kind of weekend here in Southern Ontario!) they spent lots of time laughing and connecting with the neighbours. No signs of discouragement here. They'll do it again.

There was a great sense of optimism and anticipation of the future that lies ahead of them -- as well as appreciation for those who went before. There's lots of laughter there to sweeten the mix.

Friday, August 21, 2009


This is World Water Week.

I heard a report about it on a late night Radio Netherlands and realized it's something that is much bigger and growing bigger every year than I ever imagined. If you're interested by all means plug it into your favourite search engine. It's vast!

(For example, here's a link about UNICEF's concerns for the needs of the world's children for a safe supply of good water ( )

Then I thought of a couple of verses from Section 163. We still have a lot of work to do with this one, friends.

The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.

The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation's natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.

Prepare new generations of disciples to bring fresh vision on the perplexing problems of poverty, disease, war, and environmental detrioration. Their contributions will be multiplied if their hearts are focuswed on God's will for creation.

How are you recognizing World Water Week? How about the rest of the year? And the rest of Creation?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I'm thinking about favourite scripture verses this morning. I've got a couple that I have posted on my bulletin board. I remember when I first read Isaiah 35:3 I did a big "whoopee! that's for me!"

I must have been feeling particularly achy that day:
Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.

It's probably a good thing I didn't find Mark 12: 28 any sooner than I did. How bad can it be if Jesus spent a whole day at it?

And Jesus had been all day arguing with the Sanhedrin.

I've had great conversations with various groups of people about whether we feel more drawn to the Great Commission or the Lukan Manifesto.

Matthew 28: Go into all the world and make disciples...
Luke 4: Tell the good news to the poor, set the captive free, bring sight to the blind...

That's the kind of conversation a few of us had under that famous Erie Beach tree. Would you believe we spent almost two hours on Matthew 1:1-17. It could be because most of us skip over that part when we read Matthew's gospel. Who knew there was just so much treasure in a list of Jesus' ancestors!

Oh what we're missing!

Anybody care to share your favourites? And a couple of lines about why would be great as well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Motto of the Vinyl Cafe (

We may not be big, but we're small!

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I've been carrying this newspaper clipping around for years now. I really, really liked it when I first read it, clipped it and thought someday I'd use it in a sermon or something. It's taped inside the cover of one of my favourite journals and I still look at it often.

Annual Drayton Bike Blessing for motorcycle enthusiasts, 1 p.m., Drayton Arena parking lot. Prayer of blessing for personal safety and a safe riding season. Rev. Jeff McCracken of Drayton/Glen Allan United Churches will officiate; all motorcyclists are welcome -- no restrictions on makes of bikes or riders' beliefs. Free will offering, proceeds to Drayton Drop-In Centre.

I was really happy to hear about the La Salle Road congregation's first biker blessing day earlier this summer! Maybe Mike or someone who was there will share about their experience sometime.

When I think of the admonition we've had to consider "what matters most" I feel like the Drayton folk and the LaSalle folk are onto something. After all, why should the make of my bike matter?

Monday, August 17, 2009


I listened to a repeated essay on CBC yesterday in celebration of "aunts." Mostly the discussion was about all the wonderful qualities of various female relatives, sisters of parents or wives of uncles. These may be the ones we look up to or seek support for the first time outside our close family. Maybe they're mentors or models.

But one bit of the story got me thinking about how our congregations work. The reference was to "auntie" as someone, not necessarily related by blood, but related by friendship or geography who takes on the responsibility of a closer relationship with a younger person. It could be your mother's best friend or a neighbour you drop in on after school.

I had this kind of "auntie" as a child and young teen. And I see some of these women in the congregations I visit. Maybe they're Sunday school teachers; maybe childless women in the congregation who befriend little ones, or the awkward pre-teens or the adolescents (an appropriate adjective escapes me). They might even be moms of friends who somehow see you differently than your own mom.

Aunties talk to us like real people, recognize our adult qualities before our parents do, show real interest in what we're doing or thinking or planning. They play a key role in a congregation that is creating the best qualities of "community."

Has your life been enriched by an auntie?

Friday, August 14, 2009


My mother was always a great knitter. All the grandkids had sweaters, mittens, toques with supply replenished in February when several mitts were guaranteed to have gone awol.

But one thing that would have horrified her and she would NEVER have done would be knitting in church. I'm seeing more and more of this. Knitting in church; knitting at meetings. Knitters of all ages--well possibly not my mother's age...

So what about it? We're in the midst of a very interesting conversation elsewhere on this blog about "coffee in church." What are you thoughts on knitting?

I know for a fact that Mary knitted more than half a dozen pairs of mittens during classes and services at Erie Beach for the school across the street from the Brydges congregation in London. They have a partnership there.

And I pick up bags of vests and hats from various congregations for Honduras kids. Other congregations are producing acres of blankets for homeless or sheltered folk everywhere.

Now not all of those have been produced in church or meetings, but some have! Any thoughts on this? How is the culture in your congregation? Would someone be annoyed or offended if you or I were knitting? Are you a knitter? Can you knit and worship simultaneously?

Your thoughts please.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Minute in "it only takes a minute."

I can't tell you how many people have said to me "I intend to read your blog but I just haven't had the time. " Unfortunately those folks aren't here reading this rant -- because they don't have time!

But seriously, how many things do we put off that really would ONLY TAKE A MINUTE but we use the excuse to ourselves that we don't have the time? I know there are phone calls I need to make, addresses I need to locate, questions I need to ask...but for whatever genuine reason I haven't done.

Maybe I really don't want to talk to that person, or maybe I feel guilty that I've let it go this long, or maybe I think I'll hear something I don't want to hear.

But those are the things that kill relationships. They're indications of lack of trust or of a willingness to "disconnect." If we really want to be about building community and creating right relationships, then we need to challenge ourselves when we avoid doing some of the things that "would only take a minute" but that may indeed take a whole lifetime of being hooked into a true community.

And if you know someone who could use a minute of being connected to the rest of us--see if you can persuade them to check in here every day or so for a very quick read (I promise).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Cardinal

The cardinal sits in the highest branch of the tree and calls out his song for all the world to hear. It is a clear, delightful, and yet plaintiff cry; probably calling for his mate to come and join him in the top of the tree. His coat is as beautiful as his song, and the panorama he sees from his vantage point must be magnificent. I wonder sometimes if he is saying, “Come, come, come, see, see, see!” And we, earthbound creatures below, look up to see if we can find that lovely little red bird. When we find him, we see the bird, we hear his song, and we may comment that both are beautiful. We may even find both sight and song thrilling, but we somehow never catch a glimpse of what he sees.

Ironic, isn’t it that we see the visionary, but not the vision. We see the prophet and hear his call, but fail to see the possibilities of which he sings.

Still, the prophet keeps calling, “COME, SEE, COME, SEE COME, SEE.”

Who knows, maybe one day we will.


I heard a song Sunday morning on CBC FreshAir by artist Jaylene Johnson, from Winnipeg. You can look her up. A review in Winnipeg Sun calls her a "sweet, sincere, optimistic person." She's nominated for International Aboriginal Singer award.

The line that caught my ear was this:

"The bird doesn't wonder if it's heard; it just starts to sing."

It's from her song Just Be and the album is called Happiness.

All this seemed to qualify this for a good word of the day.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Maybe some of you are missing folks over the summer season. Congregations shut down; people go on holiday.

Here's an idea I got from one of my good friends (and pastors). The women in the congregation have decided to get together for lunch. It seems it's easier to round up a crowd to share rides and choose a restaurant midweek than to ensure meeting up on Sunday.

Sounds like a great idea to me! Touch base; swap vacation stories; share your good news (or your concerns). Get your telephone lists out and see who's not travelling and would like to book a congregational mid-week luncheon date.

Or meet us at St. Catherines Mandarin on Tuesday at noon. Always room for one more.

Peacemobile (update)

This is posted as a Comment to an earlier posting, but I didn't want you to miss it; so here's the update on the recent Peacemobile activity. Thanks Ruth Anne and team.

"A small Peacemobile team (Barb K,, Claude and I ) loaded 2 cars with our boxes of goodies this afternoon and headed out to Providence Point to spend a couple of hours with the new campers and companions at Camp Quality - it was so very rewarding as usual - those kids are a wonderful inpsiration - there was Jessie, almost blind and wearing leg braces but determined to do everything, even walking with the 2-man wooden skis - saying a genuine thank you for every helping hand - and his 2 assistants - so loving and patient and generous with the high-fives after a successful activity -- I got to sing Peace Like a River several times as Nicole and her friend Noemi played the bells - we had to start over a few times until we got it really right - Nicky said when she makes a mistake, she likes to start over until she gets it right... such determination! a whole lotta peace happenin' there! -even if the shirts are neon green this year ! : )"

Saturday, August 8, 2009


germ (definitions from
1. a microorganism, esp. when disease-producing; microbe.
2. a bud, offshoot, or seed.
3. the rudiment of a living organism; an embryo in its early stages.
4. the initial stage in development or evolution, as a germ cell or ancestral form.
5. something that serves as a source or initial stage for subsequent development: the germ of an idea.

What is it with humans and our paranoia about germs? We hate them! We buy and use chemical cleansers that claim to kill 99% of germs on contact. Does that not seem excessive? Should humans not be concerned that a chemical that powerful might not be very good for us? Somehow we seem to have developed this notion that, if we could just wipe out all the germs, we could live in this perfect, safe, disease free world. Good Lord, what a ridiculous idea!

Of course my reflecting on germs is more ethereal than physical. Of the five dictionary definitions above, only the first one seems at all risky because it talks about disease-producing microorganisms. More about that in a minute, but the other four definitions are all wonderful: a bud, offshoot, or seed, an embryo! The one I like the best is # 5, something that serves as a source or initial stage for subsequent development, the germ of an idea. Sounds to me like germs are the essential ingredient that allows us to move forward, both as individuals and as the human family!

But back to the first definition for a minute. What if we think of it as dis-ease producing; i.e. that which disturbs our sense of confident assurance? Isn’t that a good thing? Don’t we need to have our easy, self-satisfying, comfortable assumptions challenged? Isn’t that what leads to all great inventions or social human developments?

Having spent the last couple of days trying to cough up phlegm from some virus or other that took up residence in my lungs, I think even the dark side of germs can have benefits. For instance, I got to take two days off to take naps and read books, I learned to be more humble about my usual good health, and if it doesn’t kill me, hopefully even this will make me stronger. (Okay, maybe it will/maybe it won’t.) But even if it killed me, who knows where that might lead? Could be a great thing, right? So, had any great germ-ideas lately?

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I had a little "computer sabbath" this morning. My computer would not start up! It got itself into a loop of starting and stopping; so I shut down and called the tech guy to rescue me.

Then I had to decide what to do for an unknown period of being off-line! So I picked up the reunion text Vulnerable to Grace and started to read, beginning with the Preface.

Three hours later I'm on page 26 and have had a wonderful period of going deeper with author Danny Belrose and my highlighter and some quiet time. This book has been on my desk for several weeks and I've skimmed through it on different occasions, but because I've not had the responsibility to teach the text yet I fear I've missed many of the precious nuggets that are there for the finding.

If you haven't fully explored Vulnerable to Grace by all means find yourself a quiet time and place and begin what is potentially a truly great treasure hunt.

(Now as you can tell, I am re-connected and must get back to work, refreshed from a morning of deep reflection.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rear-view mirror

One thing I've noticed at some of the reunions I've visited (and some congregations as well) is the tendency to dwell in the rear-view mirror. It gets just too easy for some of our wise elders to get into the swing of reminiscing and praising the ancestors who made "this wonderful place possible."

Unfortunately, however true and right the things they're saying, the mood does get a tad nostalgic and the message heard by younger ears is closer to: those days were better, past is good, present is not, future is unlikely!

Those are NOT the messages we want planted in those young ears, believe me!

Sometimes it seems to take a real effort to get older eyes turned away from the past and focusing forward -- to the future to which we are called. I really appreciated Don Robb's efforts in the Erie Beach adult class to remind us that the real reason we're here is not to celebrate the past so much as to speak of our vision for a better future.

The message to be putting in front of all those youth and children who truly ARE here in our midst is one of hope and confidence that together, we and they, can indeed create the peaceable kingdom but it's going to take work. And we can do it, working together.

Youth love to hear testimonies of real experiences with the Divine in your past and in your present, and they need to hear your hope for the future. If we get too focused on the rear-view mirror exclusively, we may just find ourselves riding alone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Now there’s a word for you! One of my facebook pals used it in reference to her new Smart Meter recently installed to increase her intelligence and decrease her electricity usage. Says she now feels a whole lot smarkner!

It’s a “kid language” phrase from her family history. A once-little brother once said it and it passed into the family lexicon. How many of those words and phrases do we use every day? They are one of the markers of an “insider.” And it’s great to be an “insider.”

Unless you’re an “outsider.” How many special words and phrases do we use in our congregation, in our denomination, that say to others “we’re just so special in here” even as we talk about inviting and witnessing and evangelizing?

Do you have any of those smarkner words that only your family or your church family understands?

As we began to dig deeper into the We Share document with some "faithful saints" recently, we discovered our preference for certain terms and phrases that have always felt right to us, but that have apparently been recast for easier access, translation, etc. Are we going to be able to spend the time in conversation to ensure we know what we mean? Or will some of us continue to insist on the old terminology? Will we insist on using our comfortable insider language, even if it means someone else gets cast in the "outsider" role?

Monday, August 3, 2009


Lots of good stories collected from that past week at reunion (Erie Beach). Much processing to be done.

But I can tell you about a "secret" group of senior high age girls who formed a Conspiracy of Kindness. Their objective was to affect the tone of the reunion by committing random acts of kindness, anonymously, in the hope that others would feel good, and potentially become kinder themselves.

From my perspective it really worked! The mood of the attendees, adults and children, became noticeably more upbeat. Children ran to get chairs for seniors; youth handed open songbooks to latecomers; lunch trays and empty dinner dishes were swooped out from under us with expressions of "let me take that for you."

Better than that, one heard once-cynical adults commenting on the many good kids and expressing genuine hope and optimism for the future!

This is a very good word!