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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?"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Palm Sunday 2010, was an interesting collection of events for me. It began with wonderful and thoughtful scripture, discussion on spiritual practise and worship with the group of pastors in our CEM Co-missioned Pastor Initiative. Throughout the day there were numerous other events and conversations, many of which were significant in one way or another. The day ended with the National; the CBC’s nightly news coverage with TV journalists reporting on a variety of Palm Sunday worship services around the world.

As interesting and varied as the day was, one of the images that has stayed with me was television news coverage of the Palm Sunday celebrations in Haiti. There the cameras showed a very large crowd of people that gathered in front of their ruined church, which stands and lies in rubble now. People who have lost their homes, their livelihood, and even members of their own family came together in the street for this significant day. With many emerging from their makeshift tent homes, they gathered to sing, to pray, and to worship God. As is their custom, they wore their Sunday best clothes, gathered from I cannot imagine where.

It was another reminder of the remarkable resilience of this amazing nation. Despite the problems associated with extreme poverty and natural disaster, the people come together to celebrate their connection with God! I am in awe. One cannot help but admire their faith and courage.

I think again of our congregation in Montreal, populated mainly by Canadians whose roots were nourished in Haitian soil. I think of how they sing and dance in worship; how fervently they pray, and how generously they give. They are remarkable and wonderful people.

Whether in Canada or in Haiti, may this wonderful, resilient group of God’s children be blessed with continued hope and abundant grace. As we progress through Holy Week 2010, I suspect there is much the rest of us could learn from them.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


This is one of those vestiges of British spelling that really serves very well. Most usage dictionaries have caved in to the pressure to simplify and approve the spelling as "practice," whether for verb or noun. Webster's Dictionary excuses its users from making any distinction that Canadian teachers have been urging on their charges forever: "is" is the verb, "ice" is the noun.

At our CPI weekend with a member of the Spiritual Formation team we heard this advice. Practise the Practice.

In other words, it's really not much use to learn about spiritual disciplines unless you try to incorporate some of them, or one of them, in your everyday life. It was wonderful to hear our instructor talk about the practices, good to try some of them on for fit.

But as we've returned to our normal lives we've come with the assignment to consider which of the practices we want to move to that other column--the verb column. Which spiritual practices are we willing to make part of what we do (or practise) daily, or regularly, enough to make them into a habit?

Maybe just a different spelling isn't all that important. But for this old English teacher it's a reminder that knowing about an idea isn't enough. If it's going to work for me I must move it to a new place in my life and begin to introduce a new action that can make a difference if I practise the practice.

Being more centred, more focused, more balanced can be the positive results of doing what I've learned about. Ask a CPI participant near you for more information.

Posted by Marion

Monday, March 29, 2010


This past weekend, the weekend that included Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, was a wonderful time for me. I got to spend the weekend with members of my team and the twelve CEM pastors who are joined together in the first cohort of our Co-missioned Pastor Initiative (CPI).

This was the third of six retreats planned for this group; each one focused on a particular aspect of congregational leadership and ministry. This weekend was spent exploring and developing the spiritual disciplines. Together we sang, prayed, meditated, dwelt in the Word with Apostle Mary, laughed, listened to each other and listened for the voice of God. It was a wonderful, peaceful time.

I went to the retreat tired; I know I was not the only one. Life has been very busy for weeks now. The opportunity to sit in that circle under the direction of Evangelist Marvin Rice and be blessed by the overflow of Spirit that is a direct result of his own practice couldn’t have come at a better time. I came away refreshed, restored and renewed.

We have entered Holy Week; the climax of the Lenten season. It began yesterday with Palm Sunday. It will lead us through remembrance of incredible highs and unspeakable lows in the life of the first disciples, and of Jesus himself. It calls us to remembrance, reflection, and a renewal of our spiritual journey. As we walk through this most remarkable week, may you also take the time to reflect, recharge, and renew. In the midst of your own highs and lows and the busyness of your journey, may you find yourself refreshed in the peace of God’s Spirit this Easter season.

A prayer for you posted by Carman

Friday, March 26, 2010


Have you kept your old camp logs? Do you know where they are? Do you ever get them out and read them? Do they bring back a flood of memories? Do they make you wonder, “What ever happened to Jim?” Or perhaps, “Where is Suzie now?”

Sadly, I did not keep my old logs. They went the way of the world so long ago, I no longer remember when or where; but I occasionally wish I had them! It would be nice to be able to take a stroll down memory lane once in a while. (Note: this is a hint for you younger readers!)

Don’t misunderstand, I do not live in the past and have no desire to do so, but I do have missing pieces about those camps. For example, I remember one particular dorm-mate from a Junior High camp; I think his name was Mike, and he wanted to be a cop. Who is he? What was his last name? Did he, in fact, become a cop? Where is he now? I would just like to know.

Even as I write this, a flood of memories wash over me, surfacing names from the past. I will refrain from listing those names here, although I suspect some of us old-timers could have a great time scratching our collective heads!

Then there are those faces to whom I can no longer attach a name. Whatever happened to that guy from Senior High camp at Port Elgin that had that black, “souped-up” ’49 Ford? He had installed a V8 Engine, and those cars were so light in the back end that he could lay rubber half way to the dairy! (Okay, okay, I’ll stop!)

Sometimes I think it would be fun to have a camp reunion, and try to find as many people from the “old days” as we could. (In my case, from the 1960s) It could be amazing! Of course, I don’t have time to take on such a project, but if someone had, it would have to start with old camp logs.

So…do you happen to have kept your old camp logs? Do you have any spare time on your hands or know someone who has? It could would be lots of fun...


Posted by Carman

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Season (continued)

The season. It sounds so…singular! In fact, it is anything but. It is a multi-faceted, multi-location, multi-level program. Consider the following numbers.

¨ One Kids Camp
¨ One Senior High Camp
¨ One Music Camp
¨ Two Camp Quality(s)
¨ Two Junior High Camps
¨ Four campgrounds with four campground boards.
¨ Six Family Camp/Reunions
¨ Twelve or more retreats
¨ Several off-site ventures like Canoe Camp, SPEC, Women’s Retreat, and Encounter World Religions
¨ Hundreds of staff, all volunteers
¨ Thousands of meals generously prepared by so few cooks and eaten by so many hungry campers
¨ Thousands of hours of work, all donated with loving care by hundreds of people.

Why do they do it?

Why do they do it? Because somewhere along the line, their hearts have been touched and blessed at camp and they want the same experience for you. They do it because they love camp, and because they love you.

Its true! It is all done in the hope and trust that somewhere during the course of the camping season, there will be persons who find themselves touched and blessed, or as Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b put it so eloquently, "restored to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth. "

The season is definitely coming and the buzz is getting louder. Can you hear it?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Season

The season is coming. Can you hear the buzz?

That sound has been growing in volume and intensity for over a month now. You can hear and see it on Facebook, on websites, in emails, and in congregations.

The camping season is coming. Camp and reunion directors are busy planning their events and recruiting their staff. They are getting excited!

Camp ground boards are sending out email reminders of campground clean-up days and their opening events.

The Ziontario board is planning and fund-raising for the brand new swimming pool.

McGowan’s Lake is getting set to build a new shower house with (wonder of wonders) flush toilets!

Erie Beach is getting set to dispose of facilities that have outlived their purposes.

The Noronto Board will meet one more time before the season begins to make sure they are ready.

The new Camping Commission is working diligently to be ready for their first Camp Staff Training day on May 1.

We are in the final stages of firming up the 2010 lifeguard team.

The buzz is definitely growing, and in exactly 50 days the season will begin.

The season is definitely coming. Can you hear the buzz?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


How many times have you walked up to a door and tried to Push your way in only to come up short in your path because there, clearly written, was the word "Pull"? How many times have you even tried again, pushing a bit harder, somewhere in your unconscious possibly believing the door is stuck or something is wrong? Push! Push! Then feeling foolish as you realize it's right there in front of you--the clear instruction to Pull.

We here at CEM along with the Merrie Bande of Bishops are beginning to work on the 2020 Vision strategies. The first of a series of get-togethers with a sampling of congregations happened Sunday with the Brydges congregation in east London. You'll be hearing more as we branch out into other areas, meeting with congregations gathering data and shaking things up a bit. Keep your antennae up; someone might just be coming your way! Or call if you'd like to take part.

One thought I've had as I've been mulling over some things we heard there has to do with the idea of Push and Pull. Folks were thinking about "what they need from the Mission" and we Mission people were thinking of all the things we want to do for them, and for you. We plan and work out things to offer, messages to send, announcements to publish, resources we collect and how we push, push, push those things your way. But sometimes, no matter how much one may push, the action that is really needed is the Pull from the other end.

I really hope this blog, for example, is part of an ever-growing conversation keeping us connected with one another. Some of the feedback I get tells me this is beginning to happen. (More feedback might help it be even better.) But we can only push it out in your direction. It it's going to be helpful at all, somebody needs to pull on the receiving end. Just like some of the other "products" we offer.

Let's make sure this partnership is as good as it can be. Let's share the push/pull tasks and create something amazing.

Posted by Marion

Monday, March 22, 2010


I remember once doing a church school opening wherein I handed out pieces of paper and asked everyone to draw a "ball." Then we proceeded to enjoy just how many possible correct responses there were. In addition to the various and predictable sports balls, some of our creative people pictured a few fun ways to have a ball!

I'm thinking today the same thing would work with "box."
Take a second and consider how many images fit the notion of "box."

It could be a plain cardboard box; but even there, imagine that great stack of boxes piled at the end of the grocery store, or the collection you gather if you're needing to move houses, or the cool refrigerator box you might have played in once. Maybe your image is a big cheerily wrapped package with a nice big bow, or a tiny blue box containing a really important treasure as in good things come in small packages. Or the box from the Oliver song Who will buy this beautiful morning...and put it in a box for me. We surely have a stack of those boxes recently.

There's the "box" that implies fisticuffs and of course the big box store. And the metaphorical box into which we must not put God.

My thoughts of boxes arises from a wonderful experience I had Thursday shopping for books at a huge discount warehouse. A couple of times a year a place I know offers at amazing prices all the books you can carry. If one is willing to join the hoards, collect your box from the stack of hundreds made ready for the event and sift through thousands of remaindered books there are treasures to be found. Watch for some of my treasured findings as you visit the book table at reunions and other events to come.

And then, for good measure, think again just how many right answers there can be. Then imagine what we can accomplish if we combine all our amazing images.

Posted by Marion

Friday, March 19, 2010


“How do you get nominated # 1 eight years in a row?” the weather channel asks. In part, their answer is “focus.”

Focus is a good word. It can be a noun, as in “the focus of our attention, or a verb, as in “focus that telescope.” It has to do with paying close attention to the object or activity that requires our concentration.

Ford has a car they call Focus, and given that this company came through the recent economic crisis showing a profit instead of asking for billions of dollars in government bailouts, perhaps they really were focused.

To stay focused is to pay attention to what matters most, and not be sidetracked by all the other things that clamour for our attention.

The weather forecast here for tomorrow (Saturday) is cloudy with a chance of showers, but today (Friday) it is sunny and warm. I think I will stay focused on today!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


In his landmark work, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster offers us guidance on twelve spiritual practices or disciplines. Foster identifies these as “classical” disciplines, not merely because they are ancient, but because they are central to experiential Christianity.

The seventh discipline in Foster’s list is the discipline of submission. There is something about this word that makes me bristle inwardly. I can wholeheartedly agree about the value of prayer, mediation, or even fasting, but submission? When I reflect on my discomfort, I realize it is not so much about the practice as the idea. Something about submission feels like a dirty word, in part because it has so often been preached to keep people in line with the demands of the cultural hierarchy. This has been especially true for women, and it has all too often been oppressive. Foster agrees that the discipline of submission has been “terribly misconstrued and abused”, however that does not lessen its importance to him. The mere fact that I find the idea difficult suggests I need to take a deeper look.

Foster highlights seven “acts of submission.” There is no room for detail here, but the seven are as follows.
The first act of submission is to the Triune God.
The second act of submission is to the Scripture.
The third act of submission is to our family.
The fourth act of submission is to our neighbours and those we meet in the course of our daily lives.
The fifth act of submission is to the believing community, the body of Christ.
The sixth act of submission is to the broken and despised.
The seventh act of submission is to the world including the environment.

The book offers only one brief paragraph in support of each of these, but it is enough to give us another way to look at this word.

Celebration of Discipline maintains that the Spiritual Disciplines are the door to liberation. Each discipline has a corresponding freedom, and the freedom associated with submission is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way.

I’m good with that.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Yesterday surely did feel like spring and today promises to be even more so! When the warm weather hits, it seems as if everything and everybody is out.

Friends are reporting that the world is full of critters, out from wherever they've been all winter. Bunnies in the garden, racoons, even possums are making their presence felt. I notice all the new mums with nice new strollers pushing babies, out for a proud spring walk. And toddlers taking first unsteady steps along the sidewalk under the watchful eye of a new dad. Poor kid is still bundled up in a pink snowsuit so that she can hardly walk, but nevertheless, clearly walking for the first time on her own--she's out too.

One of my neighbour's front lawn yesterday afternoon looked like a preschool parking lot, covered as it was with tricycles, scooters, strollers, red wagons and a couple of pint-sized two wheelers leaning on their training wheels. Clearly it's time to be out.

The fitness columnist in my local newspaper began his column yesterday with this line: it's the season when anything feels possible. Then he went on to speak of fitness and exercise goals. But the line about possibilities resonated for me.

Many of us have been on a vision quest for several months. We've been trying to get our ideas clarified, our goals set, our strategies in place. And now it's time to launch. Put those ideas and goals and strategies out there. Anything is possible, even the dreams of greatness!

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I often hear folks express a wish for a good leader, or, better yet, good leaders. Of course, these desires are being expressed in a conversation lamenting lack of a single person willing or able to lead. To lead the congregation or to lead a particular ministry they've identified as something important to be done.

If they still deem the project or the ministry or even the survival of the congregation to be worthwhile they may resort to what they clearly see as "second best" and cobble together a group of people willing to share the job.

Let me say a few things in favour of the team! We're most likely to point to the obvious stars, the high-flyers, the charismatic loners who charge in and win the games. People who take charge, set direction and make decisions may indeed get respect and others line up eagerly to follow them, or not.

But consider the other skills it takes to go the distance, ensure long-term success, create a sense of belonging, ownership, motivation, trust, loyalty. I'd even suggest one of the most essential team skills is the ability to challenge effectively. Maybe I don't have a good idea myself, but if I can ask questions, offer refinements, push someone else to clarify their vision, are those not equally valuable to the life of the group?

Carman and I are currently working with the leadership team of our fledgling Fired Up! group. The really important, really challenging work of creating that team is going on just now. And it's very exciting to see this group coming together, clarifying its vision, making ready to develop strategies, asking the critical questions and building the trust that will be needed to achieve that vision and move into an uncertain but exciting future.

As a church we're being asked to join a team, to be part of a prophetic people, to get engaged with the discernment process, not just to wait to follow blindly the directives of our leader. This is the model Fired Up! is trying to learn--to put together a team of people with different skills, different passions, but with a vision of what such a group can do using the model of prophetic people, not just a people with a prophet.

It is a process. It takes time to practise, to recognize abilities in each other and to point those out as we are together, to notice when it's working and when it's not, to say "let's go" or "let's wait" and then to support a decision once made. Many of the congregations in CEM have leadership teams. Let's practise noticing our team processes and successes and see how far we can go.

Posted by Marion

Monday, March 15, 2010


This writing came about on one of those days when I start work very early at home, which sometimes results in my driving to the office very late. This time, however, this imbalance produced a joyous blessing. The radio broadcast I might normally listen to was long gone, and instead, I was surprised to hear Beethoven’s Piano Concerto # 5, The Emperor Concerto. With my car’s poor little radio pumped to the max, I could just see the great man conducting the orchestra, his hair flying wildly and his arms swinging with energy! I could see him scowling, demanding the absolute best from his musicians; probably more than they knew they had to give. The result is nothing short of magnificent!

Now I confess that I am not a great, knowledgeable fan of Classical music, and yet I find something wonderfully inspiring in Beethoven. It seems to me that he has heard the very music of creation itself, and poured his entire being into expressing it. In this I believe he has given us everything he has. I do not know if it was his growing deafness that produced such urgency in him, or if his passion simply demanded free reign. In any event, the resulting greatness is such that I do not have adequate superlatives to express my awe.

There is something very compelling about such a quest to be the absolute best one can be, and to deliver every note in the most expressive possible way. It produced such sheer brilliant greatness that beside it, my dreams feel tarnished and unworthy. To express my dreams in the same space as praise for Beethoven’s genius feels inappropriate and laughable. And yet, they are my dreams and they are the best I have to give. Here goes.

I want us to build great churches for God. Oh not the bricks and mortar sort, but the kind that inspires people to bless others and transform difficult lives. I want us to build churches that feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that visit the lonely and comfort the hurting. I want us to build churches that throw open doors instead of locking them so people can come in and be warmed and fed. I want us to build churches that understand what it really means to share the Peace of Jesus Christ in ways and dimensions that we haven’t even thought of yet. I want us to do that because we want to give the very best and the very most we have to God, and to God’s people.

I want us to build great churches, not merely good ones. It is not so much about size, endowment funds or sustainable balance sheets. It is about transformed lives and people whose existence has been blessed because the church was there for them at exactly their point of need. It is also about planning and preparing for so great a cause.

May God inspire us to see and build that kind of churches. May we open our lives to truly receive our own unique vision and calling to that level of greatness. Amen!

Posted by Carman

Friday, March 12, 2010


I like having more daylight. Daylight is wonderful stuff and makes me feel good. We've had lots of good, sunny daylight for a couple of weeks now. Mornings are bright and afternoons extend into evening. I really, really like this season.

Now, here comes Daylight Saving Time! This is it! This is the weekend we set our clocks forward (Spring forward!) (Who will be the one to walk into church just as the last hymn is being introduced? It happens every year.)

I'm reading that in fact this exercise really is a little like self-imposed jet lag. The whole population feels just a bit slower, groggier for a couple of days. British Columbia offers a list of safer driving tips for drivers to remember while
suffering the effects of the time change next week!

So I guess it's reasonable to nod off in church this Sunday. If you're the speaker you might want to ratchet up your energy levels, or be prepared to realize it's not your fault; we're all just a bit sleepy today.

OK, that's your reminder: Don't forget to change your clocks! Daylight Saving Time is here.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The genius who conceived the idea of Walt Disney World in Florida was Walt Disney himself. Unfortunately, Walt died long before the park was completed. He never saw this dream come true.

And yet, in another sense, he did see it. In fact, he could “see” it when there was nothing there to see. I am guessing that before he even committed to the project, he could see the whole thing in his mind’s eye. As he developed the plans and blue prints, he could envision every detail of how the park would look and work. His was the genius behind the plan, and it was this vision that allowed it to happen. That was Disney’s vision, and his vision inspired his leadership and creative genius.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Rick Warren always says, “Where there is no vision, the people move to another parish!”

Vision is a powerful and wonderful thing, yet vision is just imagination blessed with intention. Every child is born with imagination. We could all see great possibilities when we were young, and the visionaries among us still can. A leader is merely one who says, “I can see it, and we can do it!”

Some congregations are dying for lack of vision but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can envision and create a different reality. Which future can you see?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


One month from today World Conference begins. Ideas, concepts, emotions around conference vary from person to person, place to place. It is so interesting how folks think about it.

In one place people say to me things like "you must be really excited" or "I'll bet you can't wait for it" or "are you ready for all the excitement?"

Somewhere else I've been asked "so what are the big changes coming out of conference this year?" and "are you getting nervous?"

Questions implying a whole range of my supposed feelings about the experience have stopped surprising me.

What I am thinking about conference is that this is an opportunity for a large and very diverse number of people to come together to talk and to listen, to consider, to share opinions and maybe even to form new opinions. In fact, it's very important to come with that willingness to be open to new information, differing perspectives, with the possibility that something entirely different from my original idea might emerge!

I've sat in the midst of our elected delegation many times now; I'm very aware that we don't all think alike. We don't even think alike as to the way we "do Conference." I may sit next to you and vote the opposite way you do. But I hope we've both done our homework, got as familiar with the questions as we can (maybe by checking in here ) and then been as prayerfully present as we can possibly be so as to be ready to raise a hand when the time comes.

Will it be exciting? Yes. Will there be changes? Yes. Will I change? Probably. Do I know how it will all turn out? No. Because we still have a whole lot of conferring yet to be done. Are you getting ready?

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


You may have noted, as did Carman, that I did not post anything yesterday regarding International Women's Day. My feelings about this special day, one among many days to honour this group or that, are dubious.

[Just a side note here: dubious doubtful, uncertain, wavering or hesitating in opinion,inclined to doubt . ]

About twenty years ago my employer said to me "You're a woman; why don't you organize International Women's Day this year?" But he really couldn't give me much guidance as to the objectives of such recognition. Is it to celebrate the accomplishments of women? Is it to highlight the inequities, the injustices, the many ways women of the world continue, with their children, to be the ones who most suffer from poverty, hunger, violence, war? Just what is the purpose of this special Day anyway?

We have lots of days in our culture. In fact I understand our federal government is about to institute a Seniors' day (I'll likely get to organize that one now too.) We recently observed Family Day here in Ontario. That was fun. My cat and I got some cleaning done.

I recall Mothers' Day was the day the women got to organize the Sunday service, and our youth still get pulled into service for Children's Day or Youth Day. Neither of those circumstances ever seemed quite right to me.

If issues are worth crusading for--ending poverty, treating human beings equitably, stopping violence in families, in society, providing proper care for children, women, men!--then we ought not to be limited to a single day. In fact most of those things are much too important to allow the possibility that anyone might say "Oh we have a Day to pay attention to that"!

And if someone's accomplishments are worthy of honour or celebration, then find as many ways and days to honour and celebrate tham as you can. I'd be happy to have special days popping up all over the place. But make your day a day of genuine celebration; pull out all the stops, or take home a big bouquet, or spend the whole day with your family in the park, or whatever pleases you.

There you have my cynical rant on special Days! I'd be really pleased to hear from our readers holding a different perspective. As I said earlier, I'm still wavering, and am ready to be convinced otherwise. What do you think?

Posted by Marion

Monday, March 8, 2010


Just wanted to let you know that I had a wonderful visit in Lowbanks and a great sunny sabbath weekend. Now I'm reflecting on some thoughts I'm having about the experience.

The little church was open and welcoming as I arrived with groups of (mostly) women gathered around here and there visiting about what a gorgeous day it was. Many arrived without coats and no one wore boots! Sky was sunny, air was warm and underfoot was dry, dry, dry.

Nine area churches--count 'em--nine! were represented and came prepared to share readings, prayers and singing together. The procession proceeded according to plan. Marlene, who was the coordinator was buzzing around making sure it all came together. And it did!

We expect even the reporter from the Dunnville Chronicle was impressed!

But clearly,one of the most enjoyable parts of the day was the time spent socializing, vistiting and sharing tea and goodies after the service. No need to convince or convert anyone at all. Just a time to recall old friends, common experiences (who walked farthest to school, whose family moved latest into the neighbourhood...). A great time to cement relationships, to remember that we all care about this community and can work to keep it vibrant.

Oh the thoughts about needs in the rest of the world were good and worthwhile too, but to my mind, the World Day of Prayer in Lowbanks today was more about neighbours next door than about neighbours around the world. And that's OK too.

Friday, March 5, 2010


It is interesting to “reflect” upon moonlight. If you live in an urban area, you may not think about it much, but almost everyone has been out in the country at some point; perhaps at a camp where the streetlights were not so prominent. Perhaps you, like me, have stopped and simply marveled at the illumination of the moon. When the moon is hidden or only partially visible because of planetary rotation or cloud cover, the night is dark and one has to be careful about finding one’s way. But when the moon is full on a clear and cloudless night, the earth is flooded with a soft luminous glow. It is lovely.

Something about moonlight inspires us. We see it as romantic; the stuff of love songs and poetry. Myths and legends grow up around it. One of Beethoven’s more famous pieces of music, Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, was dubbed the Moonlight Sonata by music critic Ludwig Rellstab more than thirty years after it was first published. Rellstab is reported to have compared this enchanting musical movement to “moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne.” Beethoven himself included the phrase "Quasi una fantasia" (Italian: Almost a fantasy) in the title. Somehow it seems appropriate.

Given the romantic mystique we find so fascinating about moonlight, how curious to think that the moon actually has no light at all of its own. Left to its own devices, it is a cold, dark, forbidding place. Without the sun to illuminate it, the moon would be entirely invisible to the naked eye. All of that lovely, soft, magical moonlight that shines upon the earth is actually a reflection of sunlight being bounced off a lifeless orb. How remarkable that a sun so hot and a moon so cold should be combined to bless the earth with such wonderful results!

May you know yourself to be blessed today, whether by light or love or music, in a way that your soul will recognize to be so wonderful it is “almost a fantasy.”

Posted by Carman

Thursday, March 4, 2010


This afternoon I've been working on my "reflections" for the World Day of Prayer service in Lowbanks this Friday coming. I was pleased when I looked at the program and they had called my part reflections.

I've been thinking about the theme and the scriptures for several days. Reflecting, one might say. But I hadn't really come to a point where I could say, there's a message or that's the Word! I certainly had not arrived at anything that could wear the handle of "sermon"!

What do you generally call the bit that is spoken by the speaker in your Sunday bulletin? Is it the Sermon? or the Word? or the Message? or something else? And what difference does it make anyway?

Most of the time I don't much care what is in the bulletin as far as the name of the bit that I'm going to say. But this week I was having a hard time arriving at a point that I could finally say "There, that's it; I'm done."

However, I'm very much enjoying thinking about, pondering over, exploring, reflecting upon the verse that's been selected as the theme for the 2010 World Day of Prayer service, Let everything that has breath praise God! And I am happy to be sharing my reflections with the Lowbanks Christian community tomorrow.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


For many of you that’s nothing short of a “dirty word.” Oh no! You exclaim. Not another meeting.

But sometimes, done right, a meeting is just the thing and if we use them well we can accomplish great things. Sometimes also, meetings might just keep us from getting the right thing done.

Let me tell you a story about my recent visit in St. Thomas. I’d been there a few months before to help them have a meeting and figure out how to move forward in reaching out into their community. They were definitely feeling the pull to be involved but had got stuck in a round of meetings and some were getting frustrated that they weren’t really doing it.

We had a great meeting! And we decided not to meet again until we had stories to share of something that was happening.

This weekend I was back. Not for a meeting but for a class and a Sunday worship. But I heard some wonderful stories. A friend of the congregation was moving from one apartment to another--with an elevator--so her hip surgeries could heal. In the move one member realized she needed a lower bed and did what it took to provide it—before bed time! (They hope to replace a faulty toaster ASAP!)

The food pantry at the nearby housing project runs pretty low by the end of the month, so the congregation now runs a food hamper that gets filled and delivered just before the last week of the month.

Members are watching local garage or estate sales and have been picking up small appliances or bedding or toys that can be used by the not-so-well-off residents of that same project.

Police checks, youth worker registration forms, insurance coverage are all moving into place in order to be ready for whatever idea comes next. They’ve realized that some opportunity will come and they need to be ready for it!

Congratulations to pastor Stephanie Johnson and all your doers who saw what to do and did it, rather than having another meeting.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


It is interesting to reflect on the building of the great cathedrals of Europe. These magnificent structures were built over an extended period of time, often more than 100 years. Notre Dame de Paris, for instance, also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, began with the appointment of Maurice de Sully as Bishop of Paris. He ordered the original cathedral demolished and a new one constructed in 1160 C.E. In 1163, the cornerstone was laid and construction began. Within 20 years, the first section of the cathedral had been completed, however when Bishop Maurice de Sully died in 1196, work on the great Western façade and towers had not yet even begun. Notre Dame Cathedral was not completed until 1345; 185 years after it was originally commissioned!

Think of the hundreds, probably thousands of people who worked on that structure: architects, stone masons, carpenters, labourers, painters and more. Many probably invested their entire working lives in a building they never saw completed! In fact, given the significantly shorter life expectancy in the thirteenth century, it is conceivable that up to ten generations of workers knew no other career than working on this one structure.

From our modern world view, to think of working your entire life on a building you will never see completed seems incredible. And yet it occurs to me that in many respects, each of us do the very same thing. We work at building families, companies, churches, charities and lives, and at the end of the day, few if any of those enterprises are ever really complete. For instance do not know what effect the investment we make in the lives of our children and grandchildren will be. Will the values we seek to instill bear fruit? How great will be that yield? We cannot know.

Realizing this helps us realize the significance of every single day. The great cathedrals were not built century by century or even decade by decade. They were built one day at a time.

May you enjoy your work and life today.

Posted by Carman

Monday, March 1, 2010


We normally think of gestation as related to pregnancy; the period of development in the uterus from conception until birth. One interesting aspect of this process is that the period of gestation seems to be directly related to the size of the species, with smaller animals having a shorter gestation period than larger ones. A mouse, for instance, takes only about 21 days from conception to birth, whereas an elephant takes 645 days.

Gestation, however, can also relate to the conception and development of an idea or a plan. How long does it take for an idea to grow and develop in the mind? Interestingly, it often seems that the size of the idea or plan also affect the gestation period here as well.

When I was in the book business, calling on retail stores and wholesalers, it could take me from a few minutes to several hours to complete a sale. If I spent an hour and came out with an order for $2,000, that was an hour well spent. A bigger order of $5,000 or $10,000 would take longer. Later, when I became a National Account manager, I would often develop a plan, present it to a buyer, develop a prototype, get it approved and then turn it over to the sales reps to execute. The gestation period of that idea might take a year from conception to completion, and another year before we knew how much business it would produce, but the value of business generated might be several million dollars. Bigger ideas just seem to take longer.

So let me ask you, had any big ideas lately?

Posted by Carman