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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?"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I’ve been unpacking some book bins from reunions, reshelving, sorting and classifying. It’s been a good summer in the “book business” and I’m glad that many of my good friends out there are in possession of some of my good “book friends.” I hope you’re looking forward to a time of reading or studying. I suspect many of your new books are sitting in a pile somewhere waiting for your time or attention. That’s OK, I’m enjoying the last of this wonderful summer weather too.

One thing I expect to do soon is to feature some of the excellent congregational support resources that are still left on my shelves. From time to time over recent years I’ve brought them to your attention—especially if you are a pastor or congregational leader. CPI, their mentors, newly ordained or about-to-be-ordained high priests, or participants in this or that Temple School class.

The nice thing about so many of these great books is that they really don’t get stale. They are classics that always have something useful to say to someone. Book people recognize that you don’t really read the same book twice—no matter how often you revisit it. You are different; times are different; circumstances are different. You wonder why you highlighted or underlined that paragraph last year. And a whole chapter just makes so much more sense now, you can’t believe you overlooked it before.

So watch for some book titles, recommendations, maybe even a quick review or summary coming your way soon. These classics are just too valuable to sit on this shelf any longer. What are the questions that are on your mind just now, Brother or Sister Pastor, Christian Ed Leader, novice (or tired) Preacher? I may have a classic just for you.

What are the classics that you return to again and again? Any titles you'd like to add to our list? All recommendations are welcome. Let's share some of our favourites.

Posted by Marion

Monday, August 30, 2010


I stand at the top of the ski hill and peer over the edge. It seems dreadfully steep! For a moment, fear grips me. Then I think, "I can do this. What’s the worst that can happen? So what if I fall; I’m not going to die!” At last I take a deep breath and ease myself over the edge. It is the stuff of powerful memories, and a rich experience I will not soon forget.

As a non-skier, how I came to be at the top of that hill is a long and amusing story; too long to share here, but I thought of this experience again this morning as I read the following words in the August, 2010 Herald.
Fear holds us captive, hindering our first steps toward living by Christ’s example.
Fear is our greatest foe. Fear of failure to open ourselves to God’s directions. Fear of being too tired from every day life. Fear of being able to keep meeting the needs of the congregation. And fear of the unknown.
- Alisha Bauman, Teamwork Overcomes Fear, Herald Vol.157 No.8, p 31

In this article, the author describes the process by which her Indianapolis congregation overcame fear and began to interact with the neighbourhood surrounding the church. She shares what a blessing that new relationship has been.

Reading of their experience prompted yet another memory. I was the newly assigned President of Southwest International (USA/Mexico) Mission Centre, and visiting one of the five San Diego congregations for the first time. I was early, so I drove around the neighbourhood, observing that this was a residential area, and that the church property was right beside a park where many children and their families came to play ball. And yet there were no welcome signs out to the community. The only church sign was very small and high on the wall of the building, and the access to the parking lot was gated to prevent the families of ball players from filling up all the spaces.

Inside the church building, a meeting was in progress to plan a fellowship event and fund-raiser; a spaghetti supper. A date for this event was suggested and rejected because one of the other congregations was having something that same evening. It was clear that the intent was to invite church members from the other congregations, while right outside the door were thousands of people who would not be invited, or even thought of! Pointing this out was met with a thoughtful silence; the silence of fear. It wasn’t that the neighbours were scary; it was a fear of the unknown, of trying something new, of failing or of being rejected. It was a fear of all the time it would take to invite all those neighbours, and then what if nobody came? Or what if they all came? Fear does, indeed, hold us captive!

What are the fears that keep you from trying something new? And in your congregation, what fears need to be faced and overcome in order to reach out to the community?

We stand at the top of the hill and peer over the edge. It seems dreadfully steep...

Posted by Carman

Friday, August 27, 2010


You've heard it. You've probably said it; I know I have. "I wish I were better at..."

You name it. We wish we were better golfers, writers, time managers, bookkeepers, housekeepers, better with children, better at making new friends. Being involved in some planning sessions, identifying visions, missions, setting goals and objectives, we're all wishing we had some better church planters, outreach specialists, creative worship planners, visionaries, transformation specialists, and on and on.

Today I found this list that really contains nothing much new , despite the fact it comes out of Harvard! It's pretty simple; if you truly want to get better at something, you can do it. Any human being can, in fact, develop any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way you do a muscle, by "pushing past your comfort zone, and then rest." We tend to fall back on the old assumption that some of us are just naturally gifted with certain talents and abilities. But this author Tony Schwartz says that's really just a cop-out. It's that we don't work hard enough at it.

His advice does speak about a need for passion and prioritizing and focusing. And if those are problems for you, you can fix that too.

It's that time when we're starting to think about going back--to school, to church. Is there some area you've been wishing for better? Look into this concept and see how it works for you.

Here it is again: Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything, from the Harvard Business Review

Posted by Marion

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The morning dawns cool and crisp. In the pre-dawn light the quiet stillness can only be described as lovely. Slowly, the sun rises above the horizon and spreads its light across this part of the world. The light quietly illuminates the leaves on the trees and the mist that hangs above the open fields. The fog glistens. It is a perfect morning.

Perfection. The morning quietly fulfills its purpose with quiet energy and resolve. It is a simply a work of art.

May I follow its example today. Let my life be filled with grace and light, quietly giving that same light and peace to those I meet. May I move forward doing what matters most within my true purpose, and may I do it with the same quiet energy and resolve. Today, may I be a blessing to those I meet.

May you be blessed with grace, beauty and perfection today, and may your life also bless those whose path you cross.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I have had the privilege of connecting with dozens of congregations in at least five mission centres. In eight of those congregations, I was a member, three I served as a pastor, while with several others I shared as a guest minister for varying periods of time.

Of all of those encounters, three stand head and shoulders above the others in my memory. Those three were the Chattanooga Community of Christ in Tennessee, Highland Manor Ministries in Independence, MO, and Victor Valley congregation in the High Desert of California. The reason these three stand out is because these are the congregations that I saw really making a difference in people’s lives. These congregations knew what their mission was, and they were about it. They became communities of hope for people who previously had very little to be hopeful about. Some of these people were the extreme, inner-city poor. A second group were kids and teens who had wretched family lives. They came to church seeking a source of meaning and order. Still others were people who needed help escaping drugs or other addictive behaviours. All of these found hope within the fellowship of those three communities. Lives were and are transformed and changed by the loving acceptance of people who really cared.

Of all the congregations I have known, these three give me hope that all the work we do to support the church really can make a difference. These demonstrate that it really is possible for a congregation to make a difference in the community and in the lives of people who live there. The members in these churches show me what it means to live out D. & C. 163:2b: “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.” When I feel discouraged because of the apparent absence of missional focus in many congregations, the memory of lives changed in these locations keeps me going.

Last week I saw the same kind of hope finding expression in the lives of several campers at Sr. High camp. In this community which gathers for only one week per year, lives were touched and encouraged. Here, people knew they were loved. In this environment they came to believe it was safe to expose their hearts, even for a brief moment, and trust that they would not be hurt. Here, perhaps for the first time, some found people who would love and accept them in the name and spirit of Jesus. For a while at least, they were, indeed, restored. It is amazing thing to see, and awesome to be a part of.

And so, in addition to the three congregations mentioned above, I can add a fourth fellowship to the list that gives me hope; our own Senior Hi Camp. It is a community that lives love and makes it real in the lives of people. Thank God for such a place, and for the incredible lives it blesses.

What gives you hope?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The last of the summer camps is behind us. I am always amused as each event ends there is a rash of new facebook friends. "Kris is friends with Joni and Albert and Wally and Denise and Sandra" proclaims my news feed. And this is good. I very much favour connecting this way.

It's wonderful to be able to chat with my CPI colleagues, to receive email updates on the comings and goings of work friends, even aquaintances I see only at World Conference, to get the latest update on the social activism in my Peace & Justice monthly newsletter. Connections are great and truly do build relationships deeper and wider.

But there's really nothing exaclty like being together, is there? Our Fired Up! leadership team met last evening at a local coffee shop for a couple of great hours of checking in, making plans, visiting about summer happenings, new relationships, new houses, new babies. Some of the facts we already knew. There's just something better about seeing each other, sharing hugs, spilling coffee on each other, propping up a wobbly table, that make it all so much richer.

Members of congregations are experiencing the same thing. As fall approaches (sorry about that) summer trips are over, camping done, school is looming, we're getting back together once more. Many plans are forming and many of those plans focus on ways to get together with new and old friends. Some of these plans are formal. Family and Friends of Erie Beach will be spending one more weekend together September 10-12. Fired Up! will be calling folks together, old friends and new, for some upcoming ministries of service. (You'll be hearing from them soon.)

We've been blogging recently about reasons to come to church, or not. That's a very complex issue, with many perspectives. But surely one of the reasons is that human beings need to be together to keep those relationships strong. Families need to make those long drives, or troublesome flights or whatever, because sometimes you just need to get together!

Connections are essential. I love my facebook friends, Google groups, email lists and I hope you take every advantage they offer. But after last night, drinking coffee with my friends, I remembered that it's very, very important to be together in the same physical space.

Posted by Marion

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sr. High

It may be a result of advancing age, but like just about everything I encounter these days, this year’s Senior High Camp at Noronto was the source of many memories and reflections.

I first attended Noronto Senior High as a camper; I believe it was in 1965. I would have just turned seventeen. In those years there was no A-frame dorm, and the boys all slept in tents, which we pitched and trenched ourselves, next to the chapel. As a teen I had a lot of anger, or what we would now call ‘attitude’, mostly due to the natural process of growing up but also because of what I then saw as injustice during my early years. I had not yet learned that trials and difficulties may be blessings in disguise, or that how we handle those will shape and reshape our character throughout our lives. Senior High camp was one of several occasions when love broke through my anger and made one of many needed course corrections to my life’s path. Thank you, God.

The staff member I remember most clearly from that camp is Paul Winegarden. Paul, as a young adult, gently and patiently talked to me about my habits and choices, and gradually helped me bring them into some kind of perspective. I will always be grateful to him for that. I’m sure it would have been easy to write me off as hostile and uncooperative, but Paul’s gentle caring was and is a blessing I have never forgotten. Without Paul and many others who gently cared and guided during those difficult years, I doubt I would be here today. Paul, should you ever happen to read this, Thank you!

It is now forty-five years later and in some ways not much has changed. Oh the grounds are different with dorms and bunks instead of tents with bedrolls on the ground. The chapel has a lovely wooden floor instead of sand, and there are plastic chairs instead of rusted old theatre seating.

Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. Campers still come to camp from many different places and circumstances, and with a wide variety of experience. Some of those campers come with wounded souls and problems that are very real; much more serious than anything I experienced at that age, although I probably would not have thought so then. Life in 2010 is no easier than it was in 1965 and for many it is significantly harder.

And yet there are still caring staff members who reach out to campers in love and patience, offering a hug here or a word of encouragement and hope there. They believe that even the most wounded souls can find healing and peace in this community. Perhaps the most amazing and wonderful element of this is that many of the current staff members who heal so effectively were themselves wounded campers just a few short years ago. They were slowly and carefully loved into healing, and now they do the same for others. It is a wonderful process, and I thank God for the wounded, the healed, and the healing!

Posted by Carman

Friday, August 20, 2010


Do children practise their times tables these days? I can remember being drilled by my dad, mostly it was my dad; my mother was likely busy finishing up the dishes or ironing. So in my family it was my dad who administered these drills and I and my siblings, one after the other, became proficient in the “twos, the threes, the eights, the nines” and, because my dad was a hard task-master (it generally wasn’t required by the teacher) even “the twelves”!

Maybe it’s all this “back to school” chatter on the television and in the bushels of paper ads coming into my house that I’ve been reflecting a bit on old school memories. Most of that kind of grunt work now seems to be handled by whatever version of smart electronic device the young scholar is able to wheedle out of parents for that return to class. Surely, though, someone, somewhere still learns their tables?

I recall another occasion from the dark recesses of my memory. Actually quite a lot more recent than the one I just described. I was singing a familiar hymn. Had sung it many, many times but didn’t really realize what I was singing. Have you had those moments? The hymn was number 171 in Hymns of the Saints: Help Us Accept Each Other. Maybe it was the very familiarity of the song and the totally uncontroversial nature of the theme that sent me into auto-pilot on verse three. I can’t explain why it never struck me before. But then it did.

Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved
in living situations to do the truth in love;
to practise your acceptance until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness and laughter’s healing art.

There it is. Even harder than “the twelves” is the “table of forgiveness” that really can only be learned by practising acceptance! I remember being so struck by those words, words I’d never even noticed before. There is no calculator, no software, no “app” that will do it for us. Just allowing ourselves to be changed, to be moved enough to begin, and then to practise, practise, practise—until we know it by heart.

The “table of forgiveness.” Maybe another day we’ll look at the rest of it.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why not?

Last week Carman posted a long and heart-felt essay about why folks do or do not come to church on Sundays. A couple of folks offered wonderful and heart-felt reasons why they do try to come to worship every Sunday if they can. No one responded with a reason they might not, though Carman offered to listen without judgement. Here are a few reasons I’ve heard over the years:

• Because someone thoughtlessly (or not) said something in a sermon, in a class, in the kitchen after a potluck that made me feel small or unworthy or angry or offended and rather than confront them I/we just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because it’s become apparent that the building, the carpet, the walls, the windows, the organ, the piano, the flower beds, the coffee maker are more important than the people and rather than get into a fight about it I/we just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because something happened in my/our life, our family…that kept me/us away for awhile and nobody called or checked in with us but when we returned they invited us to sign the guest book, or they didn’t notice we were gone at all so I/we just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because we’re already working two jobs to make ends meet, or pay child support, or keep up the payments or whatever and don’t need another job that seems to go with being a “regular” at church, so we stopped being “regular” and just got out of the habit of going on Sundays.

• Because I don’t believe what I’m supposed to anymore and if I keep going someone’s going to realize that I really don’t belong there and it’s just easier not to go on Sundays.

• Because I needed time to heal from something (a death, a suicide, a miscarriage, another major loss, a…) and someone implied I should be “over that by now” and I’m not, so I just stopped going on Sundays.

• Because the world is such a petty place with people treating each other in hurtful and nasty and rude ways that when I/we started noticing that church really wasn’t much or any different we just stopped going on Sundays.

Now I know it’s quite possible to respond to any one of these reasons/excuses in a logical, faithful, even positive and helpful way. I also know there are people out there on the margins who don’t come to church on Sunday for these or any one of a thousand other reasons. There are more; I just listed this few for you to think on. Is there something you want to do about it?

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


This summer, in small bits of time as permitted by crazy, hectic, house-buying and selling schedule, I've been reading Eleanor Wachtel's collection of interviews with the title of "Original Minds." Actually the cover blurb calls it "a collection of conversations" as it indeed is, lovely conversations to listen in on.

I love Eleanor Wachtel's interviews. Most often I hear her interviews with contemporary authors on Writers and Company but will stop short if I recognize her familiar voice on the radio no matter who she's talking to. She is one amazing interviewer, and can pull out the essence of the personality she's talking with.

This book is the print record of a set of interviews done as a millenium project for a radio series about influential people, people who've had extraordinary impact in their varied fields of study, or interest, or activism. What an amazing group!

I've so enjoyed meeting these particular people, or at least getting to know them more deeply as real people. For of course, I'd heard of the exploits and accomplishments of such as Oliver Sacks and Desmond Tutu. I've even read writings of Jane Goodall and Gloria Steinem. I've wished to explore more about Jane Jacobs and Susan Sontag. I've listened to other interviewers speak with Noam Chomsky and Johathan Miller.

But nobody has enabled these amazing people to lay out their ideas, their motivation, their childhood and formative influences like Wachtel does. For example, Jane Jacobs is introduced as having been part of New York magazine's list of Irritating Women, a list that includes Hildegard of Bingen and Mary Wollstonecroft. In a few pages of conversation with Eleanor Wachtel I am intrigued and enlightened about what the connections are and look forward to digging deeper into those lives, that list and Jacobs' writings myself.

I'll leave it to you to do your own Googling into these names, or this this book. Watch for it in your favourite used book store or find it on line. It's worth the hunt.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Today is the day I get the key and take possession of my new house. This likely won’t happen until sometime this afternoon, no matter how anxiously certain family members are waiting with paintbrush in hand. I realize that the emotion I’m feeling is a certain anxiety to hurry up and do what needs doing before that call comes in. In my mind I find that little phrase racing around round and round: better hurry up and get that blog posted!

But truly I know better. It’s one of those life lessons I’ve already learned, but often need to learn again. It’s the lesson of “You’re late; you must take tea.”

A few years back I was part of an Encounter (World Religions) winter term event for a class of Graceland students. In fact it was the January of the Big Snow in Toronto and we were struggling with the challenges of bad weather, accumulated snow drifts from several major storms, a bus driver unfamiliar with routes to this temple and that gurdwara and the “interesting” personality quirks of thirty or so college students operating on too little sleep and too close quarters.

We were scheduled for the Sikh visit at 3 pm but it had been snowing for hours and hours, literally days. We crowded onto our bus and embarked through the beginning of what should have been “rush hour” but nothing was rushing and the hour stretched into two. We were very late when we finally arrived to be greeted by Jasbir, a host who was to become a dear friend.

“You are late. Come downstairs for tea.” Oh no, we insisted. We’ve already caused you so much inconvenience; we’ll just begin our tour. Of course we were frazzled and hot and had wet feet from trudging through drifts to enter the gurdwara. Nerves were frayed. Students were unhappy. Leaders were frustrated and trying to figure out how to get back on schedule and keep the emotions in check.

“You are late. You must take tea.” Finally our leader relented and we retired to take the refreshments that had been prepared for us. We sat down and sipped the delicious chai tea and sweet treats and felt the anxiety melt away. Muscles untightened. Faces relaxed. Words became calmer and kinder. The visit extended into evening, with much sharing, more food, some amazing spiritual connections, many lessons learned.

But by far the most important and most lasting lesson was the one that has become an automatic response in our workplace when things are beginning to get too rushed and we get to feeling harried:

“We’re running late; better stop for tea.”

Posted by Marion

Monday, August 16, 2010


I stumbled across a little lesson in Greek that’s given me a new thought I’d like to share with you. Come along as I try to tell you how what I discovered.

You’re likely familiar with the image of Jesus as the good shepherd. It comes from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel. Christians generally like that image of the gentle shepherd leading his sheep safely into the fold, knowing their names, cradling the little lambs in his arms. I remember pictures from my earliest days in Sunday school. And I guess I grew up with that image tucked in my mind somewhere of Jesus keeping me safe.

Then I read this Greek lesson. I go back to the chapter and there it is, clear as day. It says that Jesus leads the sheep out of the fold. Already I’m noticing something. The shepherd is not putting the sheep safely inside, but is leading them out into the world where there are wolves and bandits. Then my Greek teacher shares with me the word “ekballo” that in this chapter is translated as “to lead out.”

But everywhere else—and it’s there in the gospels a whole lot!—it is translated as “cast out, throw out, eject violently.” Jesus “casts out demons”—ekballo. He drives the money changers from the temple—ekballo. In John 9, the blind man has been kicked out of the synagogue—ekballo is the word that’s used.

Now here, in the story of the good shepherd, Jesus ekballos the sheep from the fold!

Is the message what we’ve always wanted it to be? Our Savior knows our names and wants to keep us safe from harm, here in the sanctuary of the church, the congregation, the beloved faith community? Or is it that Jesus, who cares for all his sheep is ready for us, his beloved, to get out there and help with his mission in the world. Admittedly there will be wolves and bandits, but Jesus knows us by name and goes before us. Enough of this lolly-gagging around the fold. It’s time for us to be tossed out on our little wooly behinds. It’s time to be ekballoed out where there is work to be done.

Some folks ask the question: what is this “mission” that you’re always talking about? I’m not sure what it is in your community, but I’m pretty sure it’s not inside the fold but out there beyond the security of the fold. It’s in the world outside. And you are being ekballoed out there for some good reason. Go figure it out.

Posted by Marion

Friday, August 13, 2010


A couple of days ago I made the comment to Carman that our conversations in here were getting pretty heavy and serious. He agreed that we’ve got some pretty heavy and serious concerns. Even if folks aren’t sending in comments we’ve both had some indication that our faithful readers are indeed thinking about these heavy and serious topics we’ve been thinking about: mission and worship and preaching and church attendance.

But I still think that occasionally it’s nice to just think about a bit of fluff and give my brain a rest. Because I’ve also noted that we quite often also write about other important stuff like Sabbath and rest and renewal and pacing.

If you follow us faithfully, you’ve also probably read another of the blogs we follow: Beauty Tips for Ministers It really is not totally frivolous, although it is fun and light-hearted. But Victoria who blogs as PeaceBang has a wonderful attitude about appearance and body image. She holds up the importance of valuing one’s physical self as God’s creature, worthy to be well-groomed and appropriately fashionable and certainly fit and healthy. This week, however, I think she’s been feeling a bit tired and has been reminding herself to take better care of herself, her eating and exercise plans. I believe she’s struggling a bit. She’s been feeling heavy and serious. It happens to the best of us.

So here’s today’s good word: fluff.

I want to tell you about a little sheep that hangs on the refrigerator door at Weston and Gail Leeson’s house. I love this little fridge magnet. It always makes me smile. I love that it doesn’t accuse or judge or yell out dire warnings at all. It’s just a sweet little sheep with a sweet little reminder. I’ve thought PeaceBang might appreciate its gentle message. I know I appreciate it every time I read it on the Leeson fridge, or even as I’m recalling it now:

“Ewe is not fat, ewe is just fluffy.”

Have a good weekend everyone and do come back next week for some more conversation about “The mission of Jesus Christ: what matters most for the journey ahead. [D&C: 9f]

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Marion’s recent post, Challenge, gives us a lot to think about. If you followed the links to the achurchforstarving artists blog , or the pomotheo one, you will know that it is part of a much larger and very interesting conversation. The conversation might even be considered important, at least to those who think about the purpose and future of the church and the congregations.

In her post, Jan Edmiston asks the question, “Why exactly do we gather together as a congregation on Sunday mornings?” This is a question a lot of people have been asking in recent years. Judging by the empty seats in many churches, apparently the reasons why we do are not so obvious to a lot of people.

For some other folks, the answer comes quickly; “We gather together to worship God.” Why do we do that? As someone I respect said to me recently, “Does God even want our praise? Is this the best way to show our love for God?"

Appropriately I think, Edmiston never answers her own question, but does posit several possibilities, each of which end with a question mark. You can review those by following the line above, but I would like to add a few more.
• To plan for our collective mission?
• To support each other in mission?
• To celebrate our achievements with God in mission?
• To teach Christian mission to new disciples including our children?

I have often noticed that when I start thinking about a major topic like this, almost instantly there are many sources that come together to bring added information to the subject. (What’s going on there on a “spiritual” level?) Usually those raise more questions, but occasionally they may also point towards answers. It was therefore not surprising that yesterday Kris Judd sent me a link which led me to this very intriguing YouTubeVideo. I hope you enjoy it.

But most of all, I hope you will join this conversation. Why do you go to church on Sunday mornings if you do? If you don’t go, why do you not? What do you do instead? We promise you will not be judged, nor will your answers; we just need to talk. And while you are at it, watch for those added pieces of information that may come your way while you are thinking about it!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Yesterday’s Church for Starving Artists blog really got me thinking (blogger Jan Edmiston often does!). She has a talent for asking the right question at the right time. This week’s question is about preaching. Does preaching get in the way of mission?

Wow! We often write about “mission” here at What’s the Good Word. Here and here, for a couple of examples. We think it’s what matters most. (D&C 164:9 f)

On the other hand, I also spend quite a lot of energy promoting good preaching, stronger reliance on scripture, an understanding of exegesis. We hold up one result of the Co-mission Pastor Initiative as “better preaching” and this has consistently been something the congregations of our CPI grads and participants both report and appreciate.

Now, this pastor I really respect is suggesting preaching might be getting in the way of what matters most? Her explanation bears exploring. I’ve often heard it said that we come to church to be “refueled.” We see Sunday morning as a kind of pit stop on the race track that is life. And a good sermon is a good way to spend the time; come in, sit down, rest a bit and listen to the Word.

The problem is in our attitude. (Isn’t that so often the way?) If we feel like we’re done now for another week, that being here and listening attentively, of having a spiritual thought or considering a scriptural question is all there is to it, then we’ve missed the point. If we walk out the door, thank the speaker for “a good message this morning” and leave refreshed to face our life for one more week, then that blogger is right!

Here’s what is supposed to happen, again from the blog:

“The proof is how our priorities change, how our activities shift, and how our commitments deepen in terms of how we are changing our communities for good. In other words, are we following Jesus more closely?”

If that’s what the sermon does for me as listener, than I’ve been moved for mission! How are you doing? How are the sermons you’re listening to helping? How are the sermons you’re preaching helping? Now there’s a challenge. Is “Mission” happening where you are because of the preaching, in spite of the preaching or is it happening at all? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


ac·cre·tion [uh-kree-shuh n]
an added part; addition: The last part of the legend is a later accretion.

Accretion is a new word for me, however I find its meaning very helpful. I came across this word in the book In God’s Presence by N Graham Standish. In an early chapter, the author explains the difference between tradition and accretion, and how we often confuse the two.

Tradition has to do with the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, usually by word of mouth or by practice. In other words, tradition represents a long established practice. Accretion, on the other hand, has to do with elements that are added to our practice that are not actually part of the original. Given enough time, however, we often come to see the more recent material as also being part of our original traditions; hence the confusion.

As an interesting example, singing psalms or hymns in worship is an ancient practice that goes back to King David and beyond, and can rightly be said to be part of both Jewish and Christian tradition. (Both Mark’s and Matthew’s gospels refer to Jesus and his disciples singing a hymn together at the end of the Passover meal we call the Last Supper. See Mark 14:26 or Matt 26:30. ) On the other hand, the songs or hymns we currently sing are all accretions.

Another example is the playing of musical instruments in church, which is a relatively recent accretion. In the early 19th century, with the exception of cathedrals or very large structures, churches generally did not use instruments, and almost all church singing was performed a cappella, i.e. without instruments or “chapel style”. Presumably this is the reason that, when the Kirtland Temple was built in Ohio in the 1830s, no musical instrument was installed. Within 50 years, however, a new and controversial idea was sweeping churches: pipe organs! Consequently, when the Auditorium was built in the 1930s and after, a magnificent pipe organ was included in the structure.

Initially, the use of organs in worship was very controversial with some people wanting them while others disdained the new additions. Some churches even split over the issue. While pipe organs had been around for centuries, they were simply not widely accepted for church use. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the instrument was becoming popular and was even proclaimed by some to be “the instrument of the church.”

In our day, some see the pipe organ (or the more recent electric organ) as being part of church tradition. It is not. It is, in fact, a recent accretion, having been in general use by churches for a mere 150 years. Singing songs in worship is traditional. The songs we use and the instruments that accompany them are merely a matter of popular choice.

Posted by Carman

Monday, August 9, 2010


My life is such an open book that most of you already know I’m in the midst of changing houses. I’ve already bought the great new house my family and I will be moving into shortly. This would normally be a busy, but exciting and hopeful experience. And it is. But there’s a catch.

The catch is that the house we already live in isn’t sold yet. So I’ve needed to do some work with my friendly, neighbourhood banker to shift some of my reserves into a down payment for another mortgage, and if my present home doesn’t find a buyer right quick, I’ll be owning and living in and between two houses. I’m telling myself, and anyone who wants to commiserate with me, that I still have that investment, it’s just in a different form: a very nice house instead of a comfortable bank account.

One pastor, with whom I’ve done lots of work over the years, recently made a comment to me. “For all you invested in us, what do we have to show for it?”

No, they don’t have a large and growing congregation. They’ve even made a decision to sell their facility as it’s not feasible for their small group to maintain it as a church home any longer. But is my investment lost? No way!

I see a community that continues to care for each other, despite much brokenness. They’ve struggled with ill health and advancing age more than many groups. And yet, they continue to take care. They are part of a thriving volunteer program that is very successfully meeting needs beyond themselves. Leaders of this congregation carry the biggest share of the burden of a community outreach organization with fund raising, organizing and volunteering to house and feed needy members of the broader community. They aren’t likely to lay this down any time soon. In fact, it still lives in the church building.

Concern for health has led many of the group to volunteer in the hospital. They’re sending one of their promising young adults off to a university nursing program with dreams and ambitions to expand his caring into a professional life that started as a kid volunteering at the hospital alongside others from his church. Many Community of Christ folks are known by sight and by name when they walk through those doors, for each other or just for someone in need.

I think of all the people in that congregation that I’ve known over the years. Yes, I’ve invested a lot in them. Some have moved on and are sharing their talents in other congregations. My investment and theirs continues to yield dividends. It doesn’t look exactly as the pastor might have imagined. But it is still there!

Just like my house. No one knows exactly how that will turn out. I hope it becomes a happy, comfortable home that my family will enjoy and from which will flow much wealth in years to come. I doubt that wealth will have big dollars attached; I’d rather it be in the form of lives well lived, nourishing ourselves and serving others.

Posted by Marion

Friday, August 6, 2010


You are the light of the world.


Did you get that?

YOU are the Light of the World!

Not someone else; YOU! Jesus said so in the Sermon on the Mount. (You can look it up. See Matthew 5: 14).

So…you are the light of the world.

What does light do? It gives light! That’s all. Simple, right? It just gives light. It is what it is and it does what it does. It gives away what it is, and it is not diminished by the giving. It does not ask, “How much will it cost me to give this light?” It does not grumble “I have already given away light today, or this week, or this year, or 40 years ago.” It does not complain if it is turned on at 3:00 in the morning. It just gives light.

And yet the effect that light produces in people who behold it is really quite startling. People who walk in the dark of unknown paths somehow gain a sense of hope, assurance, safety, peace, security, trust, confidence, faith, encouragement, and even joy in the presence of that light. The light just did what it does, but the people who saw it experienced blessings. It is a wonderful metaphor for people who know themselves to be vessels of God’s light and love in the world.

So, you who are the light of the world, how is the light business? Are you shedding light for others to walk in? Wonderful, isn’t it? What a privilege to be called to be the light of the world!

“You are the light of the world.
A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on
the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Posted by Carman

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The pattern of our lives intersects with the lives of others in a grand matrix we seldom realize or even stop to think about. As an example of what I mean, this morning I opened a can of Cloverleaf tuna to make a sandwich for my lunch, and for some reason, thought to glance at the label. Product of Thailand. Interesting. I bet the fish whose body now occupies that little can never knew she was a product of Thailand!

Who were the fishermen (fisherpersons?) whose work brought me this can of tuna? Where do they live? Given that Thailand now imports (due to overfishing in Thai waters) much of the tuna they can and export, they may well have been Indonesian, Taiwanese, Malaysian or Papua New Guinean workers; I will never know, and yet we are connected by this fish!

Okay, I know a meditation on a tuna fish will be a little over the top for some of you, but work with me here, okay?

Now back to the fishers. Whoever they are and wherever they may be from, do those fisher people live in a house or apartment? Do they live in a city or in a fishing village somewhere? What does a Thai or Malaysian fishing village even look like, and how many thousands of people live there? Do they enjoy the luxuries I assume are necessary and take for granted; things like electricity, hot and cold running water, or in-door plumbing? Do the fishermen have families? Do they have children? Boys? Girls? If so, do those children go to school? Are they well fed and clothed? Are they loved and cared for? Do they live in secure neighbourhoods or dangerous, violent ones? And what are their dreams for the future?

Wherever the fishers are from, they probably took their catch to Phuket in Thailand for processing. Who were the dock workers who unloaded those fish? And the woman in the cannery who packed the tuna into that little can, who is she? What is her life like? Is she well and happy? Does she have dreams? Does she ever wonder about the person who will eventually open this can and eat this fish? Probably not.

And yet her life and mine have connected. Think of all the people whose lives are touched by this one little fish. In New York or Los Angeles are the office workers who processed the orders for so many thousand cases of canned tuna. Out on the sea somewhere half way around the world are fishers from whatever country who sail in a trawler or hopefully a long-line fishing boat to catch the fish. In Phuket are factory workers who process and store it, then ship it to exotic places like Canada. After briefly touching dozens if not hundreds of lives, the tuna at last arrives at the Zehrs store in Woodstock, ON where it finally comes to me.

As I eat my lunch today, as I say a silent prayer of gratitude for this food, may I also remember the fishermen and their families, the cannery workers, the office clerk, the truck driver, the shelf stockers; all the people whose lives and labour have been touched and blessed by this one tuna fish. On some unseen level, their lives have intersected with mine. We are connected, and despite our different circumstances, somehow we are really all part of the same unseen whole. I have been blessed by their lives and labour. I am grateful.

May they and you be well and happy, and may we each know that we are blessed today.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I was recently a bystander to a conversation about hand washing. It began with one of the parties commenting upon a sign in a restaurant reminding employees to wash hands before returning to work. Of course, the conversation took a couple of predictable turns around the idea of a need to enforce those rules and whose job it is anyway, and just how very poor many people are (at least the folks these conversationalists observe personally) at washing their hands.

Then the whole thing took an interesting sideways turn, from washing hands before eating, to offering thanks at meals! Do you know that people who say grace, or who pause to give thanks in some way before eating actually have better digestion than those who don't?

Are you more likely to wash your hands or to say a prayer before eating? A little informal survey indicated it was about fifty/fifty. But all agreed that a pause to feel thankful is as important as washing hands.

We often write about a need to slow down, to pace ourselves, to take time to be appreciative. And yet, we also realize that more often than not, we're too rushed, too busy, too preoccupied. Perhaps we need to put up a mental sign that reminds us to wash hands, take time to be grateful, slow down.

You may recall as I do, during one of our regular pandemic scares, being told to be sure to wash hands often and thoroughly. Sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself to ensure you've washed long enough. That's what they teach you in kindergarten. Instead of that, let's all begin to move to a state of prayerful gratitude "for what we are about to receive." Whether or not you speak an audible grace before meals, you can think thoughts of blessing while you wash your hands.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ice Cream

On Civic Holiday, Joan and I took the opportunity to go to Westfield Heritage Village with two of our grandsons; Aidan,age five, and Wyatt, age three, along with their Dad.

Westfield is a pioneer village in the Rockton area which is dedicated to teaching, by demonstration, how the pioneers lived and worked. The Civic Holiday weekend is the occasion of the annual Ice Cream festival. Given that it was close and would involve only a short car ride, it seemed like a perfect holiday outing. I learned a lot from this outing, and thought I might share some of my new understanding with you. Discerning what each of these lessons actually mean will probably take a little longer.

  1. For a five year old, having a ride in a horse-drawn wagon is a lot more fun when you don’t have to wait in line.
  2. Learning about weaving cloth on a barn loom is of practically no interest to a five year old boy, and being told that his great, great, great, great, grandfather was a weaver means absolutely nothing at all.
  3. Watching the blacksmith hammer a red-hot iron bar into a pointed hook is infinitely more interesting than hearing said smithy explain the process.
  4. Seeing how ice cream was made in small batches by putting cream and sugar into a can, surrounding that can with ice and salt in a larger can, then shaking that can gently back and forth, is interesting and fun…to a point. The idea of doing that activity for half an hour is not. Moving up a few decades, making strawberry ice cream in slightly larger batches using a hand-cranked ice cream church is also somewhat interesting, but the only part that really matters is tasting the final product.
  5. Lemon Sorbet is much more interesting than plain ice cream, or even strawberry.
  6. Tasting the quickly melting hand-made ice cream on the end of the wooden, teaspoon sized tasting stick is fine, but in the end, not very satisfying. Enough with the little tastes already! Can’t we just go back to the kiosk by the entrance where they sell the “real ice cream”! Real ice cream, I discovered, is already made by Bryers and fills a big cone!
  7. The most interesting part of a steam locomotive is not the engine but the only part you are actually allowed to climb on; the caboose.
  8. If you have been patient and are finally going to have fresh made caramel corn, having a small bag of your own that you can actually have in your hand is much better than having a huge bag to take home and share with everyone.
  9. Even in a 19th century school house, teachers are teachers, and teachers think you should be able to do things for yourself, especially if you are five.
  10. It is easier to be patient in order to have another ride in the horse-drawn wagon when it is closer to the end of the day and you are getting a little tired. It also helps that there are now more horses and wagons, and you may be able to ride in a different one this time.

Somewhere in the above list of observations, I am quite confident there are important life-lessons, even though I am not yet sure what they are. Perhaps you can see them. If not, maybe we each just need a big bowl of ice cream to help us figure them out. Enjoy!

Posted by Carman

Monday, August 2, 2010


Last Tuesday I was in two different churches; one in a small town, and one along side a country road. The town church was Durham Presbyterian, or DPC to use their current short form. The country church was Proton Community of Christ.

Despite their different locations, sizes and denominations, the two churches have much in common. Both have the accoutrements of a traditional church built in an earlier era, such as the gothic windows, the pews, and the raised dais. Both were built in an earlier day when we were not so concerned about such things as access for the handicapped, so both also have steps to deal with. But there was something else that both had in common. In their own way, both had made at least some accommodation to modernity.

On the rostrum of the church in Durham resides ample evidence of a church band. Drums, an electronic keyboard (now carefully covered), and lots of microphone stands were clearly in evidence. While no guitars were left on stage, it was pretty obvious where each guitar player would stand on Sunday morning. Clearly an effort is being made by the worship leaders of this church to match the musical style of choice for modern people under the age of 75. I was impressed!

The little white Proton church is picture postcard perfect. It stands beside a quiet road with its peaceful country cemetery, and a naïve city person might imagine that nothing has changed there in the last one hundred years. That person would be wrong. From the ceiling of this apparently old-fashioned church hangs a modern, digital projector, carefully aimed at the screen that hangs on the front wall. The computer age has arrived!

Somewhere, perhaps someone is reading this blog and sighing. To this imagined person, the presence of such modern tools in these lovely, traditional settings may seem out of place. For me, however, in both cases these symbols of modernity bring a sense of hope. By themselves, the presence of a praise band or the digital projection of lyrics and DVDs in worship will not guarantee the church’s survival. They are evidence, however, of the church’s willingness to try, to adapt, to present the gospel message in a new, fresh, and modern way.

Our grandparents had enough vision to install electric lights and indoor plumbing in their churches. Our parents added carpet, modernized the kitchens and added microphones to the pulpits and installed speakers on the walls. Now it is our turn to try to keep up with the opportunities before us. The gospel message may not change, but the methods we use to declare that message change constantly, and so they must!

What will the future hold? I confess I don’t have much idea; perhaps a holographic projection of the prophet/president speaking in congregations all around the world simultaneously. I am not the least bit concerned about that; it is not my job to be. It is my/our job to be concerned about how we can effectively share the love of Jesus with people who need to hear it in our day.

So good job, DPC and Proton CofC. For today, at least, you give me hope!

Posted by Carman