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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?"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fair Trade

This morning I had opportunity to review the notes from the Canadian Peace and Justice Committee in preparation for their next teleconference. This committee is working on some serious issues such as human trafficking in Canada, etc. and needs to draw some of their earlier work to conclusion. This blog is in support of their efforts, so the following comments should in no way be read as criticism. It is not the committee that is the problem; it is us!

The notes provided for the coming meeting include a discussion on Fair Trade coffee as well as other fair trade products such as sugar, bananas, chocolate, tea, etc. As I read the notes, I began to get a sense that someone thought the campaign to raise awareness about this issue was now at or near completion. NO! From my point of view, we are nowhere near done; in fact we have really hardly started. Consider the following questions.

We have between 45 and 50 congregations in CEM, depending on how you count. Are any of them using Fair Trade coffee in their gatherings? If so, I would very much like to hear about it.

We have six CEM reunions. Do any of them serve Fair Trade coffee or do we just go with whatever is cheapest? I am not aware of any reunion or camp paying the extra so the coffee grower’s can feed, clothe, and educate their families.

The only time I am aware of that Fair Trade was upheld in any of our gatherings during the past year was at the 2009 CEM conference. Here we served very fresh and delicious Fair Trade coffee, and ran a video beside it talking about the women who grow and harvest the beans in Latin America. Is the job done? No!

Fair Trade coffee is readily available almost everywhere these days, even at the grocery store. Even President’s Choice sells coffee bearing the “certified Fair Trade” logo. I buy mine from a small but growing cooperative in Guelph called Planet Bean. They roast the beans themselves, so the coffee is always very fresh. They also offer Fair Trade cocoa, tea and perhaps other products. Other cities have similar stores and roasteries. Yes, the coffee is more expensive than buying the national brands (I pay $15.99 per pound) , but at least you know you are making a difference in the life of the families who grew the beans!

If you are a coffee drinker, what about you? Do you buy Fair Trade? Are you willing to pay the extra for the cause of peace and justice? Do you call upon your congregation to buy and serve it?

It is possible that I am totally wrong on this issue and we are doing better than I think. If so, I would love to hear from you. Tell me!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


“Give me a project.

I’ll do a project for you. I’ll set up for your meeting or make sandwiches or cupcakes or lasagna. I’ll come in and help do cleanup. I’ll be a ticket taker or a money counter or a change roller.

I’ll do a bigger project if you need me. I’ll organize the spring cleanup, or the fall painting bee. I’ll clear out the basement or wash all the windows. I’ll load up my van and take the remains of the rummage sale to Value Village. Why I’ll even organize the fund-raising dinner. I have a friend who has a friend who’ll do the cooking or entertain or bring his band to play for the kids' picnic.

Let me put the teams together for the renovation. I know how to manage a construction crew. I’ll be happy to let the contracts and manage the whole project. Just give me the go-ahead and I’ll handle it all.

You want a retreat? I’ll do it. I’ll book the location, handle the publicity, put the team together. I know how to delegate and I can pull off a big project like that. You want a week-long camp? A three-year commitment? A five-year plan? OK. I’ll do that too.

It’s a big celebration year, and you want to invite celebrity guests? You need to bring back everyone who’s ever attended. Your wish list of invited guests is more than two hundred, four hundred, five? That’s fine with me. Just give me the budget and I’ll take on your project.

Hey, I’ll even put the budget together. I can project costs, offer progress reports, create a high-profile fund-raiser, recruit dozens of helpers and keep them motivated right through to the sweep-up. I love a project.

But don’t ask me to commit my life. Don’t force me to come out every Sunday. Don’t expect me to sign on forever. Keep me out of the petty politics I see in your congregation. Spare me the traditions or the declarations of “we don’t do things that way around here” or “we tried that and it won’t work.”

Give me my project. Tell we what you want and when, then let me go on my way when it’s done—until you have another project I could tackle. Hey, I’m no “disciple”; I’m a project guy. Have you got a project for me?"

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Several times in recent years I have heard people say, “This is my congregation.” In each case, the congregation in question was a reunion. The speaker was usually someone who feels a very real connection to the church, but no real connection to a congregation. It is no longer uncommon to hear statements like, “This is my community.”

There are probably as many stories behind such statements as there are people who utter them, however the reasons behind this trend are not the subject of this blog. It is the trend itself that interests me. It seems to me I am hearing that statement more and more frequently, and at several different reunions. If increasing numbers of people continue to find meaning (or life, energy, spirit, joy, hope, love or peace) in the reunion experience but not in the congregations, then the congregation’s days are numbered. What would that mean for the church? Is that the future? Could the church survive without congregations? I am having difficulty imagining how.

It is quite possible for people not to attend a congregation but still feel committed to the worldwide church community. Already I know several such persons. Some are diligent readers of church materials, and their spiritual practice may well be exemplary. I suspect some are faithful tithe payers to world church or other levels of church life. Some also give generously to organizations such as World Accord and consider that their tithing. The one common denominator appears to be that they just don’t find it meaningful to go to church.

It is not my intention here to be critical or sit in judgment on people in this situation. That is not my job and I have no interest in doing that. I do have interest in the trend, however, and its implications for the future. I don’t know that any of the people who follow What’s the Good Word? are in this situation, but if so, I would love to hear from you. If you are not in that boat yourself, you probably know someone who is.

What are your thoughts on this? Could the church survive with reunions but no congregations? If so, for how long? Would it go past the second generation? Would such a fellowship be enough community for you?

Questions by Carman

Monday, September 27, 2010


I debated with myself which word to use today. The other one in the running was "skunks." Hard to believe how many skunks bit the dust on my route Sunday morning, I counted four!! very stinky corpses on the road to St. Thomas. Not a good Saturday night for the skunks of southern Ontario. It is hard to feel too much remorse for those poor little creatures when their signature odour lingers with you for miles and miles; and it did.

But the visual won out and overcame the smells. Driving west as the sun was rising behind me and lighting up the hills, the fields, the trees and fence-rows the gold took the prize. Crops are ripe in the fields. Soy beans, grain and corn each glow a different shade of golden. Trees are just beginning to change in this part of the world, but many, many golden leaves are showing up. Of course all that nasty goldenrod (so sorry for all the you allergics) but it is the perfect complement to the deep purple of the asters. This is a great time of year to be on the road.

It was a golden day. I'm always glad to be with the folks in the St. Thomas congregation. They were welcoming each other back home after a busy summer. We enjoyed the fellowship and shared memories, pictures, stories, food. We were thankful for many blessings. Many people of all ages took active part in the morning's activities. We talked about our need to keep practising what kind of congregation we feel called to be.

Are they a perfect congregation? They don't think so, but they want to share generously what they are and what they yet hope to be. And that, I'd say, is golden!

Posted by Marion

Friday, September 24, 2010


I watched this film on the weekend. It is lovely. I highly recommend it if you’re feeling the least bit stressed and just want to spend an hour with gentle thoughts and no intellectual challenges at all. It’s delightful.Then, if this starts you thinking about how life might be better for all the babies of the world, you could consider some of the studies in this article. Who knew the impact would be so great?

There’s one study that says “For every one-year increase in the average education of reproductive-age women, a country experienced a 9.5 percent decrease in the child deaths.” Wow! That’s huge. And that isn’t only in the poor countries we hear or read about. It isn’t just Afghanistan or Haiti. It’s in the USA and Canada, where your actions and mine just might make some difference.

For sure we need to keep supporting World Accord’s efforts in India and Pakistan. But we could probably do something in our very own congregation or our very own family. I can think of things—maybe you can too—that could help a girl or woman get more education. It will be worth it for their future and the future well-being of their children.

Now I challenge you to give it some thought. Let’s make the world better for all the babies.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, September 23, 2010


As a coffee drinker, and as someone who does a fair bit of distance driving, I have been known to go through the drive-through of various coffee establishments from time to time. This has happened often enough that, some time ago, I began to notice a difference between them. In particular, I noticed that going through the drive-through at Starbucks was a more enjoyable experience than almost anywhere else. It has little to do with the coffee, or with the higher price I have to pay, but it has everything to do with the attitude of the person who takes my order.

Starbucks: “Welcome to Starbucks; how is your day going today?”
Me: (Surprised): “Well, it's going fine, thank you, how about yours?”
Starbucks: “Its going pretty well, thanks for asking. What can I get started for you today?”

I recently read an interesting little book with the intriguing title, How Starbucks Saved My Life. The author, Michael Gill, describes the transformation of his life and world after he was downsized from his high priced executive position with a major advertising firm. In his former life, Gill was used to hiring and firing people almost at will. It was the corporate culture he was taught and never questioned. As a boss, one simply told people what they would do; one did not ask. One did not make eye contact or get to know employees personally; it was not seen as “good for business.” One certainly did not offer employees praise for a job well done, or even express much appreciation, since you might have to fire them next month, and praise could be used as evidence in a possible lawsuit.

After being dismissed in his early 60s, and desperate for a job, Gill was finally hired by a Starbucks store in New York City. Here he learned to work with and serve people he would formerly have hardly deigned to notice. Along the way, Gill learned about respect, for according to the author, respect is one of the prime values of the Starbucks culture. This new approach to business was totally foreign to Gill and took some getting used to. He was amazed that his new boss did not order him to do things, but would politely ask if would do some job, as if he would be doing her a big favour!

Gill eventually began to realize that the Starbucks culture was built on respect; respect for your fellow employees and respect for the customers or “guests.” He learned to listen carefully to people, to look them in the eye, and to make conversation. He learned their names. He got to know that this regular guest was undergoing treatment for cancer, and that that one always ordered decaf because she was pregnant. In the process, this former high-priced executive transformed his life from an arrogant, insensitive snob, to a caring, thoughtful and loving individual. Not only was he surprised by his new, respectful world, but he eventually discovered that, for the first time in his working career he was really happy!

As you go throughout your day today, try paying attention to who you encounter, and how they make you feel. What is it that makes the difference? Is it a smile, perhaps?

And even more important, why not pay attention to your own attitude, and see how you can affect someone else’s life for the better. You may be glad you did!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I just had a long telephone conversation with someone in a congregation who had called to ask about the Rule about…

I won’t say what; you may fill in any topic. You’d probably like for there to be a rule for something. She really wanted help with what to do in her situation. I talked about how important it is to have a conversation, to bring some more people in to help solve their problem, to share the decision and make it more acceptable to all. Nothing like being involved in a decision to create commitment, to ensure buy-in to the final answer. She needs to examine her own opinion; why does she think this way? Where do her ideas come from and does she need to update them?

Do you remember that tv show? The one where they kept asking “is that your final answer?”

If only we had more final answers. Why can’t we just turn to the back of the book? Isn’t that where we find the answers?

Sorry, 'fraid not. Alas!

My friend really did want me to just give her the rule. “Couldn’t we have just a tiny rule book?” she queried.

Well, I guess we could, but you can be assured that as soon as we got a tiny rule book someone would suggest we put it into a loose-leaf format so we could add some more rules—rules that would get their questions answered, their solutions found, their directions clarified.

I sent her back to work some more on her issue. She left off our conversation laughing. I hope it works out for her and her antagonist. They truly do love each other. They really do need to figure out how to work together. Because I don’t have a rule that will provide the majority vote in this situation. The rule is “Talk together and figure it out! Decide how you’ll decide and still remain friends.”

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


We are one.
We are not separate beings.
We are one in God and the One God cannot be divided.
Sometimes we want to forget our Oneness, for to remember would change how we behave.
I need to remember, and I need to change.

Recently someone told me of a conversation he had had with another, and the other had said some things I found extremely odd; things I could not believe or accept. I wanted to write this person off; to distance myself from him and his ideas. I wanted to just say “He is just plain weird,” and separate myself from him and his strange beliefs. I verbally attempted to do so.

But this person is part of me, and part of you. He is not some strange, separate other; he is part of the wonderful Oneness that is God’s created universe. God’s love for him is boundless, and God delights in him as much as God delights in anyone else. Perhaps God actually enjoys his strange ideas as he explores the world from his unique perspective. If I ever hope to be more Godly, I cannot just write people off because we disagree. After all, my ideas aren't always so wonderful either.

To accept and love ‘an other’ in the same way we accept and love our self does not seem easy, but it is Godly. It must even be natural, because we are One.

Sometimes we want to forget our Oneness, because to remember would change how we behave towards each other.
I need to remember, and I need to change.

Posted by Carman

Monday, September 20, 2010


“People profoundly want to be made new, to be clothed in Christ, to be born again. And they profoundly want to cling to everything old—the world, themselves.

We desperately and passionately desire two opposite and mutually exclusive things: to change and to stay the same.”

I like this quote from Sara Miles' book Jesus Freak. I haven't read it yet, but loved her first book Take this Bread.

I did read the quotation somewhere and found it so resonated that I wrote it down in my journal. I offer it to you dear readers for your contemplation. What do you think? Is it true for you, or not?

Posted by Marion

Friday, September 17, 2010


Something in mgabriel’s comment on Wednesday’s blog post Monarchs has lodged in my consciousness, and I think it is worth exploring. It was her confession that “My desire for my children to have the opportunities for worship in the sacred spaces is a major driving force in my journey…” Isn’t it interesting how so many of us want our children or grandchildren to have the experience of “worshiping in the sacred spaces” of our campgrounds? I have talked to people who have probably not attended church in years, (which is not the case with mgabriel) but they desperately want their children to go to camp. It is often intensely important to them.

I know from talking to hundreds of people who attended camps or reunions at grounds all over North America that this is not at all unique to the campgrounds in Canada East Mission. Everywhere there are people who have the same feeling of attachment to their camp. They will talk about the friends they made there, and the people they knew. They often remember someone who was on staff, or perhaps particular events such as great campfires, or swimming, or some trinket they made in the craft elective. The memories of those long ago days are very strong.

I do not believe, however, those great memories alone are the reason behind our desire to have our children and grandchildren go to camp. I suspect the root cause is much deeper. I believe that, for many people, the reason for their attachment to their camp experience is because it was there that they first had an identifiable encounter with the Divine. It is often at camp that God (or even the possibility of God) first becomes real to many people, and they remember. Somehow, in that community, in that place, on that mountain or on the shores of that lake, something happened!

That something was an encounter, or an experience, or a feeling that was real and that mattered! In that experience, somehow we felt embraced and loved by a Presence that could not be explained and that may have never been experienced anywhere else. The experience stays with people, and long after the feeling can no longer be described, the knowledge that it happened and that it was or is important remains. It is as if the experience has taken up permanent residency somewhere in our hearts, and cannot be dislodged or denied. It is a treasure we hold sacred and dear.

Am I overstating this? Perhaps…or perhaps not, but some of you will know exactly what i am talking about. I wonder, are you willing to share your sacred memories of camp here? It is a lot to ask, but I feel very confident in assuring you that those who read your comments here will honour and respect your experience, because they have been there too.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, September 16, 2010


How many times has someone said to you: “things must be pretty quiet with you now”?

Maybe the kids have gone back to school, or someone has moved out of your upstairs apartment, or everybody else is off at reunion, leaving a mostly empty office. It surprises me a little that the question is often spoken as in sympathy, as if for a situation not to be envied. “Too bad things are so quiet” they’ll commiserate. The opposite is “Must be nice that things have picked up again; not so quiet these days I guess.”

I notice just how often people seek to fill their ears with sound. Everyone has ear buds or background music playing, or the news channel scrolling in the other room. Even so-called “quiet time” is generally filled with mood music. “Silent meditation” hardly ever is. Someone is endeavouring to guide my thoughts or “help” me imagine babbling water or twittering birds.

May I please have some real quiet? I love it; I need it. My life is about to change from a busy down-town street with fire engines, garbage trucks, passing cars, loud gas lawn-mowers and an obsessively busy neighbour (with every noisy tool and gadget ever invented) to a cul-de-sac on the farthest edge of town, overlooking a cornfield and a bird sanctuary. I like my street and enjoy observing the passing parade. I have loved my house. But I surely notice that it’s got very, very noisy around me.

I recall appreciating the response of a certain politician to an interview question: what’s your favourite music? His reply: whatever is playing for free on the radio right now. I do not have an electronic device loaded with all the top tunes (or even the middle or the bottom tunes). If I’m not enjoying what’s currently playing “for free” I’ll turn it off and just be quiet.

My friend over at Church for Starving Artists suggests that in the 21st century, church may be the only place to find quiet. I’m sympathetic to her point of view, but I’m also optimistic that I’ll find some quiet on my new back deck to which I shall soon be going. The wicker chair on the front porch of the other house has just become too noisy to read, so I shall be moving closer to the edge where I should be able to find some quiet.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


As you enter the gate at Erie Beach Campground these days, you quickly encounter a somewhat unusual structure. A small sculpture has been erected there with a plaque that reads, “FOR ALL YOU WHO COME AND GO FROM THIS PLACE, MAY YOU SHARE GOD’S BLESSING OF LOVE, HOPE AND PEACE.”

Created by Scott Scherer, the sculpture is known simply as the “Blessing Stone.” This eye-catching piece has the appearance of blue, living, water bubbling and swirling out of a rock. Its not a bad image for the refreshment we have come to expect from our camping experiences.

The idea of erecting such a marker was the brainchild of Kelly Knight. Kelly had been seen a marker placed by Camp Quality at another campground and been touched by it. She shares that she felt her life was blessed by the presence of this marker. Out of that experience, the idea of having a blessing stone at Erie Beach was born.

Like most ideas, this one took shape over time. Kelly says she had the thought that the stone needed to come from the lake, which is such a big part of the Erie Beach experience. Eventually an appropriate stone was found. In truth, it is not a stone at all, but a piece of old cement with a most intriguing history. It once formed part of the foundation of the old auditorium!

If you are not familiar with Erie Beach’s 100+ years of history, the old auditorium once stood down beside the lake. Here, previous generations of Erie Beach campers gathered to sing, pray, and worship. After years of the pounding waves eroded the shoreline, however, the structure finally had to be removed to prevent it washing away. The foundation was broken up and used to form part of a barrier to prevent further erosion and encroachment by the lake. This particular piece of concrete lay almost forgotten, with the waves lapping against it for many years, until it was recovered to become part of the blessings stone.

When I heard that story, I couldn’t help but think of the question asked in Ezekiel 37:3; “Mortal, can these bones live?” This question is followed by the prophecy, given in the Divine voice in 37:5; “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live!” Of course, the question that occurred to me was a paraphrase of this text, which was, “Can these stones live?” And obviously, in the mind of the visionary and the hand of the artist, the answer is yes!

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The Monarchs are on the move! On Saturday, at Family and Friends weekend at Erie Beach campground, the trees were laden with Monarch butterflies, clinging, resting, and probably waiting out the wind blowing from the wrong direction. By Sunday morning, they were on their way, and from the auditorium window, we could watch as butterfly after butterfly flew past, heading out over the lake. In the afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice how many monarchs were visibe flying down the 401 corridor, perhaps heading towards the very place from whence we had just come.

Somehow it seems appropriate that they choose this place to rest before the next step on their long, long journey. This is a place that we humans look to in order to accumulate the strength to continue our own life’s journey. Like the butterflies, we come here to rest under the trees, to gaze out over the water, to gain spiritual and physical nourishment, and to flex our metaphorical wings.

But there is another, perhaps less obvious parallel between us and the butterflies that come to this place. It is here, or to places like this one, that we bring our children and grandchildren so they too can be fed and nourished. It is here that the hope is expressed over and over again that our children will continue to bring their children for generations to come, so they too can experience that special bond with the grounds and the Spirit we experience here. This tradition has now continues for over 100 years, and many generations. But the pattern is even more dramatically illustrated in the experience of the Monarchs; the only species of butterfly that undertakes the the long migration from Canada and Northern USA to Mexico and back every year. The truth is that the butterflies who leave here this fall have never rested here before, but their ancestors have. Further more, they will never come again, although their descendants will. In fact, when the Monarchs return next summer, it will probably be the great, great, grandchildren of those we watched fly away this fall. Yet somehow they remember where to come.

Whether the co-habitation of this sacred space by these two species is an accidental or deliberate blessing makes no difference to me. The fact is that we share this space, and we know we are blessed both by God’s grace and by the graceful presence of God’s other remarkable creatures.

So on we journey, filled with wonder and awe, as we watch these remarkable Monarchs continue theirs. Farewell, little ones. We will watch for your children to return, even as we bring ours to this special place.

Posted by Carman

Monday, September 13, 2010


I just received a nice newsy email from a friend who’s recently retired. Like many newly retired folk, she’s finding herself busier than ever. [Note to self: refrain from real retirement awhile longer!] My friend is also a minister, and much of what she’s been busy with have been weddings and funerals. One of her stories is remarkable and I’d like to share it with you.

Married to a wonderful supportive spouse who happens to be an active practising Catholic, my friend has lots of family whose heritage is in the Catholic church. But like many people today, some of this extended family do not have an active church life and don’t have a priest or even a parish that they feel attached to. These folks have come to look to this Community of Christ priest as a family minister at times when they “need” one—for weddings or funerals.

She had the opportunity to be with a sister-in-law through the last days of her illness and then with the family for the funeral at a somewhat distant city. As it happened, the next door neighbours of the bereaved family are active in the Community of Christ congregation in that town. The reception following the services were held in that church. And our friend was supported by her brothers and sisters so that she could bring comfort and minister to her extended family. She can also return home being assured that these good folks will continue to offer help and solace to their bereaved neighbours.

Of course we’ll say “it’s a small world” and think about the interesting “synchronicity” of the experience. But as Allyson says: I’ve learned it’s not about me and what I do; I just need to be open to whatever that power is working there already.

I am grateful for her and her ministry and her openness to the power, but I am also grateful for those neighbours who were doing their part for a family in need.

Posted by Marion

Friday, September 10, 2010

Care (continued)

It turned out that I still have some more to say about caring. Today, Friday September 10 is "Suicide Prevention Day." A couple of years ago at our Registered Youth Worker Training and Information Day in Corinth we paid attention to signs of depression in children and youth. It was a great day with lots of opportunity for some very caring sharing about this oh-so-common issue for children and youth. What are the signs and what do we do, as adults who care? As church school teachers, youth leaders, parents? The guest speaker from Canadian Mental Health Association had much to say and offer to raise our awareness of this very real issue.

Of course not only children or youth suffer from depression. Here's what one of our Blog pals has to say: Talk About It

When I spoke about the need to be more real about our caring a couple of days ago, this could be the "trouble" that our friends are hiding. When we "put on our Sunday face" it could be a depression that we're covering up. Depression is way, way too common for us not to pay attention to it.

The Canadian Mental Health Association is just a terrific resource that everyone should know about--certainly all our pastors and congregational leaders should check it out. Maybe October 3-9, Mental Illness Awareness Week would be a good time to learn about this community-based organization. All over Ontario (and Canada) there are speakers, experts, teachers--your neighbours who volunteer and who are trained and ready to come to your congregation or women's department or youth group to talk about whatever questions you might have about mental health, depression, suicide. They have a chapter in your community!

If we're going to be a more caring community, we'd better get ourselves informed and equipped. CMHA is a great place to start. And mental illness is an important thing to care about. Check out some of these links and consider planning an event. Or just take some steps to make yourself a friend who has a clue how to care.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shadow or Shade?

It is sometimes amusing to contemplate words that have the same root, and the same properties, but to which we ascribe different meanings. For example, consider the two words shadow and shade. Both are exactly the same thing; i.e. a dark area, figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light. And yet somehow the two words take on different meanings in the way we use them. Consider the following two sentences.

The heat from the sun is uncomfortable, so the man steps into the shade of the tree. Sounds comforting, doesn’t it?

How about, Will you remain hesitant in the shadows of your fears? Somehow that does not sound so reassuring.

As an experiment, what if we were to substitute one word for the other?

The heat from the sun is uncomfortable so the man steps into the shadow of the tree. Hmmm…it sounds just slightly spooky doesn’t it? Stepping into the shadow could be a line from a bad, gothic novel of some kind; like a precursor to something sinister happening. Stepping into the shade sounds comfortable, but stepping into the shadow could make one feel slightly uneasy.

What about the other sentence? What if we were to say,
Will you remain hesitant in the shade of your fears? Does it change the meaning? Does it suggest the possibility that we might be deliberately hesitating to step from the relative comfort or security of the predictable shade into the brightness of the noon-day sun, even though it is a shade provided by fear? Does it perhaps suggest preferring the shade of the known rather than the uncertainty of the unknown?

Its an interesting play on words, don’t you think? Shadow and shade are exactly the same except for the meaning we ascribe to them.

Okay, enough word play. Its time to restore the words to their original context, which includes both a promise and a question. Lets read the promise and ask ourselves the question.

When our willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds our natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, we will become who we are called to be. Will we remain hesitant in the shadows of our fears, insecurities, and competing loyalties? Or will we move forward in the light of our divinely instilled call and vision?
(Adapted from D. & C. 164:9b, e)

What shall we do?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I spent some hours in the car with my friends at CBC and then had a good long visit with a pastor. A couple of things stick in my mind after the day.

I listened to the sad story of the two brothers who died in their home. One was the older brother who’d spent his life as the only care-giver of his younger brother who had Down’s syndrome. The younger one died of starvation or lack of basic care after the older brother died of some natural cause. The reporter interviewed neighbours and officials who are responsible for social programming in that community. It is a sad story, and everyone was sorry and upset that these two brothers had perished in the midst of a caring community.

Now, back to my conversation with my friend the pastor. We talked about how prone we are to “put on our Sunday faces” at church and fail to let others know that we have troubles. We imagined a congregation going for years and years, doing church as always, planning events, handing out assignments, making sure it all gets done and never really knowing who needs something more.

We talk and write a lot about communities, about our faith communities, our congregations. What makes a community real? Oh yes, there’s shared history, common culture, even a sense of belonging that comes from shared goals and values.

But what about the people who live next door? Is there someone to care for them? How about the “always fine” man, woman, youth, or child we see all the time? Are they really fine? Who cares for them?

I am sorry this isn’t one of our cheery “good word” posts today. I’m feeling kind of sad about that pair of brothers who had no one to care, until it was too late.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


On days when I go for my early morning walk in the country near the village where I live, I pass several fields of beans. This time of year, the leaves on the beanstalks are turning yellow and falling off as the crop ripens, and one can easily see the pods of beans hanging below them on the stock. One morning I got to wondering, “How many beans grow on each stock? My curiosity got the better of me, or perhaps I just have OCD tendencies, and I had to stop and count.

It turns out (according to my unscientific experiment) that in this field, there are an average of 30 or more pods on each stock. For the sake of easy calculation, lets say there are 33. It also appears that each pod contains three beans, which means that each bean planted produced about 100 beans. Not bad!

What does 100 beans look like? How much is that? Not much! If you go to the pantry, find the bag of dried beans and count them out, you can easily hold 100 beans in the palm of your hand. It is perhaps 1/8 cup. If you cooked them, it wouldn’t even make a meal for one.

Well then, how many beans does the farmer plant in a square foot? The answer appears to be roughly 10. That means he gets about 1,000 beans per square foot. What does that look like? Well, you would now have a little more than a cup of beans, so if you cooked them, at least you would have enough for a meal, however that is still not worth the trouble is it? Our farmer had better plant by the acre, not by the square foot.

Well how many beans would a farmer plant in an acre? It turns out to be roughly 200,000, and his yield might be roughly 50 bushels per acre in Ontario. (No, I have absolutely no idea how many beans there are in a bushel!) A 10 acre field would therefore produce around 500 bushels of beans. The farmer could eat all he wanted, have lots to sell or share with others, and even some to keep for planting again next year. (Yes, I know he buys fresh seed each year, but don’t ruin the illustration, alright? We have a story going here.) Life is good!

But what if the farmer had said, “I have 200,000 beans; that’s enough to keep me eating beans all year, I don’t think I’ll bother planting any this year”? What if he said, “I am alright, and to heck with everybody else”? The farmer would be fine, but nobody else would have the benefit of his beans to feed themselves or their families. Sad day.

What kind of beans are you planting? How many do we plant? Do we plant by the individual seed, by the square foot, or by the acre? Whatever beans we have, do we have lots to share with others, or do we keep them all to ourselves? Think about it.

Posted by Carman

Monday, September 6, 2010


That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Let anyone with ears listen!" - Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus loved to teach using metaphors, which is why we remember his stories so well. They stay with us, and surface in our memories when we least expect them. We ponder them and perhaps even think about what they might mean in our lives. “Let anyone with ears listen!” Indeed!

The story of the sower (above) surfaced for me as I was out for my walk one morning last week. What is it that the sower sows? What is the seed that the sower distributes freely on the ground? The reason for your hope? Good cheer? A friendly greeting? A bit of happiness and optimism with which to start the day? It could be anything, couldn’t it? It could be any gift you have to share.

What do I have to share? Joy? Hope? Love? Peace? Good cheer? A friendly greeting? A bit of happiness and optimism with which to start the day? Perhaps it is time to scatter a few seeds.

I see a certain farmer getting into his tractor; he always seems to be so grumpy. I wave and call “Good morning.” He knows I saw him, so waves back but turns away. Hmmm…not very fertile ground there it seems. I walk on.

Soon I see another man sitting on his front porch. “Good morning,” I say. “Nice morning.” He appears to think that over since it is already hot, but then says, “Yes, but I’m hoping for a little rain.” I think he probably needs it.

Soon I am met by a lady walking her dog. Usually I am wary of dogs on the street, but this one looks friendly, and besides, I want to try out my seeds. “Good morning,” I say. “Out for a walk with your beautiful dog!” “Oh thank you,” she replies. “She is, but she is very friendly and just wants to be loved.” I stop to pat the dog and talk to her for a moment. The lady smiles appreciatively and then moves on, but both she and the dog seem to have a happy smile. Perhaps my seeds have finally found fertile ground.

As we go throughout our day, lets look for chances to plant some good seeds today, okay?

Posted by Carman

Friday, September 3, 2010


Isn’t that an interesting word? It looks interesting. You write it and you’re not sure that’s really how it’s spelled. And it just sounds like “Q” so why do you need all those other letters anyway?

I’ve been thinking of this word for a few days. It felt like a “good word” but there really wasn’t much to associate with it. It wasn’t forming into a blog post; it’s just been sitting there in my imagination while I’ve been digging for something more to say about it.

I guess my first experience with “lining up” is from my earliest days at school. We lined up at the ringing of the bell to be brought in to the classroom in orderly fashion. “Lining up” required a particular protocol, mainly involving quiet and not poking the person in front. I recall my first day as an elementary school teacher, standing there at the front of those two (yes, properly separated boys and girls) lines of expectant faces, wondering who I was and what we would be experiencing together as the school year unfolded. Usually the girls’ line was the quiet line (without poking) while they waited for the boys to settle down.

Later queue experiences in my life—at the bank, at the grocery store, the license bureau, the passport office, the airport—are not quiet. I tend to visit in a queue. I find it a great place to speak to strangers. What is there about being in a line that encourages the questions: how are you? Where are you off to? How are you dealing with this humidity?

My children used to ask me: do you know that person? In fact, they used to ask me: do you know everybody? And for an introvert such as I, it is somewhat unusual just how comfortable I am with speaking to strangers in a queue.

What is there about a queue? Is it the safety of the limits of the line? We know it’s only going in that direction and at the end we’ll go our separate ways. I do like speaking to people in a line. I like making that little connection. Life is about making connections after all. It might even be good practice at reducing the fears Carman wrote about recently. After all, we are all God’s children, moving unavoidably through life towards the inevitable “same place.” Might as well be present with each other as we inch along.

Think about that, the next time you find yourself in a queue.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Form or Inform

For some time, I have been thinking about the difference between form and inform, or to put it in its noun form, the difference between formation and information. My reflections on this subject have to do with how we experience worship in church.

I have talked with many people about worship and it is clear that not everyone is blessed by the same approach. For some people, ideas are very important. They feel worship has been good or helpful if they are challenged with a new and stimulating thought or idea; in other words, with new information. For such people, a sermon that offers a fresh perspective about God is often a blessing as it offers them “something to think about.”

For others, ideas are not as important as experience. For these folks, it is important to have a sense of drawing near to God in worship. For them, music and testimony are often more important than sermons because these elements help them come into the Presence or “feel the Spirit.” For these folks, information or ideas appear not to be as important as spiritual formation.

The difference can be surprisingly polarizing. If you attend church regularly or have in the past, you may have instantly identified or aligned yourself with one of these two positions. Whether people find a worship service to be a blessing or a waste of time may be determined by where they are on this continuum. What is more, two people attending worship in the same chapel may have the exact opposite reactions to the service!

My intent here is not to determine that one approach is right or wrong, or that one is more important than the other. What is important is what is helpful to the person, and we cannot decide that for anybody else. Is it possible that we can provide both formation and information in worship? Ahh, now there’s a challenge!

For many worship planners and leaders, it is easier to provide information than formative experience; in fact, they may not have even thought about the difference. Even prayers are often more intellectual than formational, more head than heart. For others, sensing the Holy in worship is everything.

Have you thought about this puzzle? What do you find helpful in a service of worship? Are ideas that give you something to think about more important than experience? Is the experience more important than ideas or teaching? Perhaps you have a different take on the question altogether.

The question may be important. Can we have a conversation on this subject? Will you share your thoughts or experience?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


From my upstairs window, I look over the roofs of the houses across the street to the fields beyond. This time of year, in the cool, early morning light, those fields are covered in mist. The scene is lovely.

It occurs to me that were I standing in those fields instead of in my study, I probably could not see the mist. It takes the perspective of a certain distance to perceive it. I always appreciate the beauty of this scene.

Of course, there are many details I cannot see from here. For instance, were I standing in those fields, I would be able to see the stubble from the cut grain, undoubtedly some weeds, perhaps some rocks and obstacles I cannot see from a distance. They are out there, but I do not perceive them. The bigger picture is better.

Is this what God is like when surveying our lives? Does the Divine Artist look at Her children with a certain objectivity that allows for recognition of their sacredness and beauty? Does God paint the bigger picture, shrouded in mists of grace, without recognizing the weeds and stubble that we see in our own lives and think are so important?

As we go about our day today, may we hold the bigger picture in our hearts. May we see the beauty in God’s world, and know we are surrounded by grace and love. May we regard those we meet from this perspective, recognizing their divine holiness and beauty rather than holding on to greivances, and may we offer to ourselves the same grace.

Posted by Carman