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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, November 30, 2010

Priesthood Calls

Last Sunday I had the responsibility and privilege of presenting four priesthood calls to the Faubert Drive congregation in Chatham; three Elders and one Deacon. This is actually the latest step in a process which began more than a year ago, and is still not quite complete. Let me begin at the beginning.

In early 2009, I visited this congregation and became aware that the Faubert Drive church had a very effective pastorate with one somewhat unusual feature; all three pastors were Priests. Further, it appeared that there was a shortage of Elders in the congregation, although clearly not a shortage of candidates for this office.

For the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with Community of Christ operating method, there is nothing at all wrong with having three Priests as pastors, but it is more common for pastors to be Elders. While it is fine for pastors to be Priests, there are benefits to the congregation to have Elders available. For example, if there are persons who are sick and request the sacrament of Laying on of Hands for healing, it takes an Elder to do that since a Priest does not have that authorization.

Normally it is the pastor’s responsibility to discern a call to priesthood, and to initiate the process which can bring the candidate to ordination, and that is the procedure that was followed with the young lady who will soon be ordained a Deacon. When the candidate is the pastor her/himself, however, that procedure does not apply. In such a case, it is the duty of the next administrative officer to prayerfully discern, process, and present that call. Such was the case in Faubert Drive, and so that task fell to me as mission president. Now, more than a year since that process began, the candidates have each made a decision to accept the call, taken the required training courses, and are ready for ordination at a time that will work for them, their families, and the congregation.

The ordination of these fine ministers will make the congregation stronger and equip these leaders for further ministry in their community. We celebrate their willingness to recognize the movement of God’s Spirit in their lives, and to faithfully respond. May their efforts always be blessed by the Presence of the Good Spirit, and may they always minister in the Spirit of Love and Peace.

Posted by Carman

Monday, November 29, 2010


It is upon us! 'Tis the season!

By any number of markers, it has indeed arrived. The first was probably the commercials on tv, quickly followed by the heavier and heavier piles of paper being delivered to our doorstep. Somewhere in there might be a few pages of news, but mostly it's ads for every potential gift imaginable--and some not so imaginable. (Who gives a furnace filter or bulk meat to show seasonal regard?) Conversation these days is typically some version of "Can you believe they're advertising so early? Does it get earlier every year?"

And of course it doesn't. We're right on schedule. Thoughts of gift giving, office parties, play rehearsals, choir practices, menu planning, tree buying, decorating, shopping, baking, holiday letter writing line up on our "To Do" lists. Festive songs get loaded into cd players, play lists, whatever. Santa lists are being compiled. School parties or seasonal concerts fill up calendar slots. How many things must be done and how can priorities be juggled to fit everything in? How many lists are you working on?

Some of us are trying to find extra time to plan critical parts of important Advent worship--reading, praying, preaching, drama, song. Our challenge may be to find something new to say about something very, very old. How to cast the old, old story in a way that's fresh or different? Or are you the one who loves everything exactly the same old way?

What are your thoughts as we enter this season? Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Four opportunities to slow down for some moments of rest on the race to the finish line. To remember those simple but very profound words that shape our mission, and for just now, that shape our season. Peace, hope, joy, love!

I'm going to try to let those words shape my season. It's too easy to get swept up in the frenzy and to forget what matters most. How are you doing? What are the elements of the season that give you peace, hope, joy and love? Are they the old ones or have you found something new to be excited about?

How do you plan to deal with the challenges of the season? Any tips to share?
Let me wish you all the best of the Season!

Posted by Marion

Friday, November 26, 2010


On Wednesday, the five final titles in CBC’s 2010 Canada Reads book selection were announced. You can read more about that at Canada Reads 2010.

I find myself slightly chagrined. I have not read any of these books, although I have had a copy of The Jade Peony in my possession for several years. And just like last year, I tell myself, I must do better. But once again, it may not happen.

It is not that I feel any need to get my reading list from a group of elites or keep up with some sort of high-brow Canadian culture. It is, rather, that a good book is a good book, and a joy to read. This panel has identified what they feel are great books, and I love a great book as much as anyone else.

It is also not that I do not read because, in fact, I do. But like everyone else these days, finding the time to read has become more of a challenge and my reading time tends to be limited to early morning moments, and late nights before falling asleep. The choice of books selected becomes limited just by the scarcity of reading time. Book time begins to feel like a luxury. Sad day!

Still, Christmas holidays are coming, and that always stimulates hope of curling up with a good book or two for a few hours or even days of enjoyable reading. For me, this season also provides hope that I might be able to shift gears from reading work-related titles to fiction.

The topic of books is no stranger to this blog, and the release of Canada Reads 2010 suggests that perhaps it is time to revisit this favourite topic. Also, as I write this, the sound of ice pellets hitting the window in the pre-dawn light makes the idea of staying in to read a wonderful thought. With all that in mind, let me start the conversation off with my current list of books on the go.

• Reframing Hope, Vital Ministry in a New Generation by Carol Howard Merritt
• The Tangible Kingdom, Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

• A Course in Miracles Workbook for Students

Fiction (recently read)
• The Shaman’s Bones by James D. Doss

That is my current meager list of books on the go. Now it is your turn. Read any good books lately? What are you reading now? Anything you would like to share with the rest of us? How about any books you hope to find in your stocking on Christmas morning less than one month from now? Perhaps you can drop a hint or two here! 

Enjoy your day.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I’m still seeing lots of folks with various coloured wrist bands—I’m choosing to call them bracelets, if that’s ok. Most recently I had dinner with a women wearing a white band. “It’s for Make Poverty History” she shared with us at our shared table. “It’s my third one; I’ve worn out two already.”

Here’s the place she’ll order a new one when this one wears out.

One of the bloggers I follow recently went on a real rant about all the Pink! that surrounds us. Pink ribbons, pink clothing, pink facebook pages, pink comic strips. She was a breast cancer survivor and was downright furious that the whole “pink campaign” had become so commercial and phony. It reminded me of the criticism that Oprah’s Buy Red blitz generated a year or so ago. Do you remember why we were encouraged to choose all things “red” when we went shopping at The Gap, or Old Navy, or Banana Republic or the I-store? Me neither! Which was exactly the point.

This blogging cancer survivor had all kinds of suggestions for ways to make life better or easier or more comfortable for actual cancer sufferers. She had little regard for those of us who choose to buy a pink kitchen appliance and pat ourselves on the back.

Which brings me back to my friend with the white bracelet. Her I deeply respect. Because she’s a board member for Niagara Falls Community Outreach. She’s active in her community to feed the hungry and house the homeless. She knows the local politicians and lobbies them regularly for better policies to deal with the issues poverty creates. She’s currently busy raising funds to ensure those living with less, or with nothing, have a refuge where they can get a meal or a bed for the night. But she’s also taking a long look and campaigns for those whose values line up with hers, the elimination of poverty.

“We have no excuse to still have this much poverty in a country as rich as ours. I’d be happy to start with the children,” she said. But it’s clear she’s not willing to stop there! She really doesn’t care if we notice her white bracelet. It’s just to keep her focused.

If you’re wearing a similar band, of whatever colour, my question to you would be “what are you doing to make that wish come true?

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Last Sunday afternoon on the way home from Director’s Retreat I was casually listening to The Vinyl Café, which I often find at least mildly amusing should I happen to be travelling in the car at the right time. In this case, Stuart McLean was interviewing Andrea, the third generation member of her family to manage Russell Books in Victoria, BC. Because I previously enjoyed a 23 year career in the Canadian book industry, I was casually following the conversation when I was surprised by the sound of Andrea’s hearty laugh. The sound was so genuine and compelling that I was startled! You could tell from the easy and natural sound that this was a person who laughs a lot. It was wonderful.

As I thought about this, I realized the reason the sound of this woman’s laughter was so startling is because it is a sound I don’t hear all that often. Further, I came to see that I don’t laugh nearly enough myself; in fact hardly at all. Somehow, life has become far too serious. These days we all seem to work too hard and play too little. As ridiculous as that is, I’m quite sure none of us are the least bit amused.

The health benefits of a good laugh have long been known. Laughter has been shown to reduce pain levels, increase a person’s energy, strengthen the immune system, and even offer protection from the damaging effects of stress. Further, it reduces tension between people and lessens conflict. And the best thing about this remarkable therapy is that you don’t need a medical plan to access it; it is absolutely free!

So why don’t we laugh more? In fact, why don’t we do something about this? How be if we all do something good for ourselves today, and have a good laugh? Its really not that hard. And just in case you need a little help, here’s a link that will help you. You have probably seen these laughing quadruplet babies before, but they are worth watching again, and I know you will at least smile. Click here.

There now, don’t you feel better?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


History was made this Sunday. Those of you who follow Art Smith on facebook will know that today the very first South American evangelist was ordained.

Final pictures aren't yet available (the ministry team had to leave and rush to the airport) but here is a picture of Dean of Seminary Don Compier and Sr Fernanda at the close of a series of study sessions with Don and Presiding Evangelist Dave Brock.

This is not all though. History happened right here in Canada East as well. Lynn Aquin, founder and pastor of our Jesus Rocks emerging congregation was ordained an elder. This has been an eventful year for Lynn as she's struggled with her own health challenges while shepherding her little group in downtown Hamilton. We are so thankful for the blessings this little group has received.We look forward to many more.

While there is now an "official" Minister of Blessing in Brazil, we thank God for blessing Lynn and Jesus Rocks. History happens in Hamilton!

Posted by Marion (photo by Susan Hare)

Monday, November 22, 2010


This past weekend, 34 people met together at Scarboro Missions for the 2010 Directors Retreat. This is an annual meeting of our camp, reunion and retreat directors, some of their key staff, plus people who are being mentored as directors of the future. It is always a weekend well spent.

For me, this year was especially rewarding because it was the first time this event was led by our new CEM Camping Commission. Despite having worked very hard to be ready, this four person team was understandably nervous. They needn’t have been; they did a great job, and they were embraced by the wonderfully supportive members of our wonderful camping community. Our camps will grow stronger because of their efforts.

Generally the meeting begins with a review of the season just past. Here we share our successes and celebrate victories. This year we were especially thrilled to hear stories of young lives changed and transformed as a result of the loving and accepting community found at camp. Just one story of a life changed in this way makes all the planning, all the phone calls searching for competent staff, and all the work of preparation worthwhile. Tears of joy were shed, for these are lives saved and transformed. We thank God.

Soon the group turns its attention to learning from each other. We listen to those who have achieved great success in their particular area. This year, we celebrated excellence in children’s programming at Erie Beach reunion, and exceptional team building in the leadership of Senior High camp. In this section of the weekend, techniques are shared and ideas explored as we seek to learn from each other’s success.

As the comfort level in the group grows, problems are also revealed, explored and wrestled with. Questions are raised about ways to handle difficulties already experienced, or anticipated in the future. As always, I am impressed with the serious level of intensity directors and staff brings to this effort. Discussion and debate ensue. Sometimes solutions are found, and sometimes we decide we need to keep struggling for an answer. At least one persistent problem comes up every year, and every technique we can think of has been tried. It is a small problem really, but a nagging one. Once again, possible solutions are suggested, and we will try again.

Finally, our attention turns to new ideas, and there are some good ones. For example, what if we chose one reunion and focused on helping parents understand the various stages of child development? What if we had marriage counselors on staff, and instructors who could give parents solid, proven ideas about how to deal with difficult situations? What if we also offered the Good Sense course right at the reunion? Should we do this at an existing reunion or should it be a new camp? Who would staff such an effort? Who would lead it? Where and when would we hold it? This is just one of several new ideas explored.

For all those who look forward to the six reunions, four youth camps, and numerous retreats that happen every year, you may be interested to know that the work of thinking about and planning for next year’s camping season has already begun. There is much to do, but many hands make light work. Perhaps you might like to help. If so, why not give the director of your camp or reunion a call to offer your services? They will be delighted to take your call.

Posted by Carman

Friday, November 19, 2010


Well ladies and gentlemen, I'm about to leave early. As Peter Trueman used to say "this isn't news, but it's reality."

I'm trying to do more of that lately. I'm making an effort, as I reported to the rest of my team at staff meeting this week, to disconnect. I'm working at taking the time off that I have coming. In this job we work lots of overtime. Or at least if we were in a regular job it would be counted as overtime.

Have you ever considered that there are really only about 50 weekends in a year that one could reasonably be in a Sunday congregational gathering? And that most of your CEM team tend to work those days! (I'm giving us a conservative two weeks holiday; because, believe it or not, reunion, youth camp, directors' retreat, even women's retreat) do not count as holidays. Even if you're not officially "on staff" because there's always someone who needs to talk, or ask questions or give you some feedback on something you talked about last time. Now don't think we don't enjoy all that--or most of it anyway, but it isn't exactly leisure.

This is not to say either that we only work weekends! Much stuff gets packed into "office hours" even if those hours are spent on the road, at a home office, meeting with people, attending workshops or meetings or information sessions or preparing to preach, teach, counsel... There's plenty to do.

So here's the scoop. Sometime in the year 2011 I DO plan to retire--not come in to work any more. And I need to practise not being here, not staying until the last person leaves, not waiting to see if there's something more to do, someone else to call. I need quite a lot of practice, alas. It might take several months. But for today, I think I'll just leave early. Is everybody OK with that?

Posted by Marion

Thursday, November 18, 2010


One of the meeting places we frequently use, when we need to go off-site, or want to put all our attention into the meeting and not into cooking, KP, washroom duty and the like, is Scarboro Mission. This Catholic retreat centre in the east end of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is a wonderful place for just such a gathering. This weekend the various directors of our camping program will meet there for just such a meeting. They'll be considering reunions, retreats and camps past and future and will no doubt have a wonderful time networking, challenging each other and motivating one another in new and creative directions. (Our CPI group have met there too.)

What does this have to do with walls?

One of the great things about Scarboro Mission are its walls! In every hallway you'll notice photographs, pictures, posters, all promoting the work the Mission is proud of and promotes. You'll see the most wonderful photographic art illustrating the principles peace and justice, of the commandments, the beatitudes, the golden rule, even the stations of the cross in ways that most of us have never thought about in quite this way. There are carvings, sculpture, fabric art from the countries its missionaries visit, and whose citizens come to learn or retreat together. It is wonderful and inspiring "art" that surrounds those assembled--as they're on their way to dinner, taking a break, moving back to residence rooms. And I think it helps shape the meeting.

I've just been reading this in a book about Community by a favourite author of mine, Peter Block.

"An empty wall is a testimony to the insignificance of the human spirit," observed pioneering street life researcher William H. Whyte. Our job is to affirm the significance of the human spirit, and filling the walls with photos and with art by citizens, youth and employees is very doable. The library or art galleries in the community would be willing to curate public space. They do it frequently for restaurants and shops. It is not a question of cost; it is a question of consciousness.

At the end of the day, we have to ask, how can we create aliveness when the wall sits sadly empty?"

Have a look around at the walls where you work or plan or meet in community. Are they alive? Or do you have some work to do there?

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I listened to an interview with author Michael Adams about his new book "Stayin' Alive." He's taken a good look at what the Baby Boomer generation is doing to "redefine retirement." Very interesting. You can listen to the interview here if you like.

I've been thinking all day about the implications of his observations on the church and most particularly on our 2020 Vision Goals. Our first goal is to empower young adult leaders. And according to Carman we're beginning to do a pretty good job. Yes! We have young adults ready, willing and able to lead.

But, according to Adams, and my own observation and experience, we also have a whole bunch of active Baby Boomers not yet willing to step into the sunset, remove themselves to the rocking chair, settle into their slippers and retire. In fact, many of this generation are just now considering taking up a new challenge, moving more actively into leadership roles they may have had less time for in years past and are not quite so sure they want to hand off to someone else the church or the congregation they care passionately about.

If this is really the case, then we have a dilemma on our hands. What do you think?

Can we re-frame this picture into one of new hope and excitement for an amazing future? Can we create new partnerships and tap into the combined energies of these complementary generations?

What about a leadership team that capitalizes on the creativity, new ideas, technological savvy of one group and the extra time, experience and familiarity with such things as strategy, budgeting, management tools, established networks and drive to forge an even better future for beloved grandchildren? Can we create new images that combine the efforts of all the generations? Do we have to force one group into passive retirement while another group with just as many challenges (think multiple jobs, unstable economy, new relationships, debt, time pressures of new career, new families, etc. etc.) tries to pick up the reins of a congregation on top of it all?

Seems to me we just might have a marriage made in heaven if we can figure out a way to work together. One thing I noted with interest was Adams' use of the word "tribe" to describe the various different ways his boomers view retirement (or NOT). This is exactly the same word young adult pastor and author Carol Howard Merritt uses in her seminal book about Young Adults in church Tribal Church. Seems we're not so different after all. Now let's figure out a way to use the best each tribe has to offer and there'll be no stopping us!

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This past weekend, a group of young adults from around the mission centre gathered at the Bathurst Street church in Toronto. The purpose of this gathering was a Vision Workshop with Becky Savage of the First Presidency, and Erica Blevins-Nye of the church’s young adult ministries office. The workshop was number 25 of about 28 such events being held around the world to give the First Presidency a chance to dialogue with young adults and hear what they are thinking.

Of course, like any retreat, the event did not just come together on Friday night all by itself. For months, several young adult leaders have been meeting, both on-line and in person, doing the hard work of planning this event. Schedules were worked out, fun and serious activities were thought of, a budget was drafted, and dialogue sessions were planned. A trip was made to check out the facilities (meeting space, kitchen, beds, showers, parking, etc.), qualified volunteers were found to look after the participants' children, a cook was retained and meals provided. The various dialogue sessions were prepared, worship planners were found and worship leaders recruited. All of this had to be coordinated with the congregation. Small wonder then, that at the end of the event, one of the leaders confessed to feeling a little weary. Pulling off this highly successful event was a lot of work!

While there is a great deal to celebrate about this successful weekend, the aspect that is most encouraging to me is the leadership shown by this fine team of young adults. They know how to lead. They understand how to plan, and the many steps required to make an event a success. Further, they were willing to do the work in order to make the event happen. I am grateful for their willingness, their skills and their leadership.

All of this is just one more evidence of success as we work toward achieving our # 1 mission centre goal: Young Adult Leader Empowerment. We have many young adult leaders, and they have the skills they need to lead. Lets give them room and opportunity to do so.

Posted by Carman

Monday, November 15, 2010


Has anyone ever advised you to “keep your options open”?

It surely seems to me that many people have received that advice. Or they’ve decided it all by themselves. Oh I get it. It’s good to have choices. And sometimes it must seem that something better just might come along. It wouldn’t be good to be too tied up and to have to say “No” to some ultimate opportunity, would it?

There are opportunities aplenty for certain. Invitations to “events” fill up our facebook pages. Fundraisers, celebrations, concerts, workshops, parties, dinners…and on and on. Not to mention the essential preparations—shopping, cooking. Many of us are managing more than one calendar and need to synchronize a whole family, merging kids’ activities, parties, school trips, appointments with our own.

So we naturally adopt the very workable and understandable strategy of “keeping our options open.”

But here’s the thing. There are some things you’ve just gotta commit to! Face it: sometimes the best choice is the clear winner and you just must commit!

Next weekend all camp, reunion and retreat Directors get together for a weekend of focusing on this very, very important ministry. For this one time only we’ll be coming from every corner of the Mission. Many current directors will bring their good ideas, their leadership team, their potential successors, members of campground boards to expand the conversation and ensure great experiences to future campers. Some veteran directors will be there bringing their many years of experience and expertise to the mix. It will be amazing!

Our new Camping Commission is stepping up the plate this year and have organized this weekend’s program. They have the idea that sending out the invitation and planning a great agenda means that most folks will be there. I hope they’re right! This is no time to be “keeping your options open” folks. If you direct one of those major ministry events, or if you’d like to some day—camp, reunion, retreat—then this is for you! Nothing better is going to come along. We need you to commit and we’d sure like to hear that you’re coming. If you’re waiting for something better, forget it! There’s no better place to be.

Call Cheryl (1-888-411-7537) today and book your spot or email Pat Pallister ( and let her know you’ll be there. That’s CEM Directors’ Retreat, Scaroboro Missions, November 19-21. (See Events calender)

Posted by Marion

Friday, November 12, 2010

Between the Crosses

Funny how a phrase can stick in your mind. Funny how it can take on life in new ways as it percolates in your subconscious.

Between the crosses…

Think of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, commanding an army outpost hospital in France during W. W. I. Following the death of his young friend, 22 year old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer of Ottawa in May of 1915, he penned Canada’s most famous poem which begins;

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,

But on the 28th of January, 1918, McCrae himself died of pneumonia in the very field hospital he commanded. Between the crosses of Helmer and McCrae, there were less than three years, but in those three years, Doctor John McCrae probably saved the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands others.

Between the crosses, life happens.

Between the crosses of Jesus and the two death-row convicts executed with him, stood soldiers, grief stricken friends, and a broken-hearted mother; real people with real feelings, and real lives. In the air between those crosses their three unfortunate occupants held a strange conversation, and as a result of that redemption and grace ocurred.

Between the crosses in our lives, life exists, but we seldom know where or when the crosses will come.

Between the crosses we need to make the most of life.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Today is November 11. Across Canada today, at 11:00 a.m. we will pause for a moment of silence and remembering.

When I was a child, Remembrance Day was an interesting exercise; something different and interesting that we did on this one day a year. As I get older, however, it seems to me that Rememberance Day gets much more personal. For example, I now feel a personal sense of connection to W.W. I, W.W. II, and now the war in Afghanistan. I know this experience is common to many people, but this is part of my remembering.

I remember Joan’s grandfather; a homeboy on a Canadian farm who was badly abused. He lied about his age, joined the army, then saw action in some of the most horrible battles of World War I including the battle of Ypres. I recall Fred sharing how despite no religious upbringing he prayed in a shell hole to a God he didn’t know; “God if you spare me, I will serve you.” Then he would laugh; he had no idea what that meant. But he was spared, returned home, then met a nice girl who led him to faith. He learned to serve God as a Sunday school teacher who told his war stories to try to warn of the horrors of war. His effort was not entirely successful; he had one of the biggest Sunday school classes in the city of Toronto! It was filled with boys who were fascinated by those stories. But the soldier went on to serve as a Community of Christ pastor, High Priest and District President. God was faithful and Fred kept his promise.

Then I remember my own father. I see him as a young man, camped with his unit in an oak forest in England in June of 1944. Their trucks were all waterproofed and ready to head for the docks the next day to participate in what would become known as the D-day invasion. That very night, an allied fighter pilot shot down an overhead buzz bomb, which landed right in the middle of their camp and “blew everything to smithereens!” I remember how he would wince when he shared that story. That event delayed their departure while they patched everything back together. As a result, he followed the D-day invasion, but several days late. I have often wondered if that unexpected event saved his life, which in turn, may well have enabled mine.

And now, I think of Robb, a young man who is the father and step-father to four of my grandchildren. Currently his address is the Canadian Forces Base, Kandahar. I remember how he left with a lot of enthusiasm for this new experience. I recall how, over time, his FaceBook posts revealed a very different reality. Now, both he and his family anxiously dream of, pray for and await his return home, and so do I.

So Remembrance Day is more personal for me than ever this year. Please don’t misunderstand, it is not about me at all, but it is about remembering, and it feels very personal.

As you pause today, for a moment of silence at the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, whom and what will you remember?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forgiving 2

In the gospel of Luke (and only in Luke), Jesus is recorded as saying as he hung upon the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) The historicity of this verse is, of course, in dispute since some of the most ancient sources do not include the saying. Whether or not it actually happened that way, what we can say with certainty is that the saying is consistent with the life Jesus lived and the teaching he taught. It is also consistent with the life his example calls us to.

Forgiveness is power; not political or economic power, but personal, spiritual power. It frees us and makes us lighter. Sometimes we humans want to hang onto anger as a source of power. We are inclined to harbour hurts, slights, and grievances, coddling and nurturing these elements in our hearts. We may even try to give legitimacy to the anger we hold onto by using phrases like “righteous indignation.” I believe this is seldom appropriate or helpful.

That is not to say that the injury caused by some action, whether malicious or accidental, is not real. All of us have both caused and received such hurts, and the result may indeed be painful. We may carry emotional scars for years, both as a result of the damage we have received and the injustice we know we have caused. If we are not careful, these grievances can come to define us, and therein lies the danger.

All of this is not unlike the chrysalis that binds the butterfly. The caterpillar spins the cocoon around itself and hides itself inside. This is part of the process of transformation, but the creature must emerge from that shell in order to truly become who it is meant to be. Interestingly, the new creature does not immediately begin flying about in its new expression of life and freedom. It hangs on the split chrysalis for several hours while its wings dry and get stronger. Then when it is ready, it begins it new life of digesting nourishment from both milkweed and flowers, and sharing its grace and beauty with the world. Can you imagine any more peaceful scene than a butterfly floating and flitting from flower to flower?

As acknowledged in yesterday's post, it is not unusual for people to spend years in therapy seeking to let go of their pain. They know they need to emerge from the chrysalis. Forgiving makes our life more authentic. It frees us. Without forgiving, whether ourselves or someone else, we can never truly become who we were meant to be.

Doctrine and Covenants 161:3d says, “The road to transformation travels both inward and outward. The road to transformation is the path of the disciple.” The inward journey is important. Perhaps even Jesus would not have had the strength to forgive his executioners without it. But having gone inward, let’s not forget to also take the outward path. Like the butterfly we are also called to go outside the chrysalis; to become a source of joy, hope, love and peace to others. It is rather like Jesus saying to Peter, when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.

May you be blessed with love and grace today, and may you have the courage to take the journey of forgiving.

Note: This is not the first time we have talked about the butterfly in What's the Good Word? For further reflection on these remarkable creatures you might want to review Monarchs.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Forgiving 1

Lets acknowledge right up front that forgiveness, including self-forgiveness is a complex subject. Often hurts are so deep and so personal that people may spend years in therapy trying to accomplish healing and wholeness. Professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists have much to offer persons with such pain, and we fully support their work.

But forgiving is also the subject of faith, perhaps for the very reason that there is such a glut of guilt and pain in human lives. Jesus has much to say on this subject. In fact, it is such a major issue that, when he taught his disciples to pray, he included both the need to be forgiven and the need to forgive others in the Lord’s Prayer.

Further, there is a story you probably remember from your Sunday school days, simply because it is so dramatic. Some rather exuberant fellows tear a whole in the roof of someone’s house to lower a young man down to Jesus in an attempt to obtain his healing touch! (I wonder how long it took the owner of the house to forgive that!) It is probably no coincidence that it is a paralyzed young man who is lowered through the roof. What words does Jesus offer? “Son, your sins are forgiven”! While we have no idea what offences, real or imagined, this man may have perpetrated, the suggestion is clear that it is those very wrongs have paralyzed his life. It is well known that guilt and shame have that kind of paralyzing power over us. We need to forgive in order to move forward.

Marion has often observed that sometimes wounds can be so deep that forgiveness may only be possible as a gift of grace. That appears to have been the case of the young man in Luke 2 cited above. It is certainly true that many people who have been victimized by others can spend a lifetime searching for that gift of freedom.

When we consider the preponderance of guilt that so many people carry around in their lives, we can see why it is so much the subject of our faith journey. In order to move forward, we need to forgive, and to forgive ourselves.

At the risk of wading in waters beyond my depth, I will have more to say on this subject in a future post. As the saying goes, stay tuned!

In the meantime, may grace and peace abound in your journey today, and may you know the freedom of forgiving.

Posted by Carman

Sunday, November 7, 2010


How often do we say it: I hear you!

Not only have your words been heard, but your meaning is understood. Jesus used to say it when he’d told one of his good stories: him who has ears to hear, let him hear. (For example see Mark chapter 4.)

In other words, disciples “Listen up!”

One of the phrases I kept hearing last week as our dozen co-missioned pastors worked together with Apostle Susan Skoor and worship specialist and president of the High Priest quorum, Jane Gardner was some version of that phrase, I hear you. Judi Hopkin and Mike Hewitt also brought glimpses into other areas of pastoral ministry that were much appreciated.

Extensive discussions of church policy, or excellent practices for public worship along with some very philosophical concepts about what it means to be a pastor, to bring compassionate ministry and create truly hospitable welcomes gave lots to listen to, for sure. But opportunities for one-on-ones, or quiet solitary walks added time for reflection. All of it necessary to translate those hours of listening into moments of understanding—of real hearing.

Combine all this with on-the-job experience of being pastors in congregations working together in pastoral teams, leadership teams, community projects and I’m seeing some amazing growth in these committed people. Nobody has it easy; many are dealing with incredible life challenges and everyone has the demands of family and employment. But they have formed strong networks and caring bonds of support with each other and with coordinators and instructors. Each pastor expresses appreciation for the investment being made in them and in their congregations. Again and again someone remarks on the opportunity of making personal friendships with church leaders who might otherwise be quite remote.

We’re a little more than halfway through our CPI experience. One more week of training in the autumn of 2011 and two spring retreats in 2011 and 2012 will complete the formation experience for this group. No decisions have yet been made about what happens next. Mission leaders and staff want to find ways to replicate the best parts of this initiative to develop skill and confidence in congregational leadership as a way to build up the CEM cadre of mission-focused healthy congregations with the optimum level of investment of resources. Lots of conversation will be happening to this end.

What do we get for your investment? More and more often we hear those precious words indicating another new insight: I hear you.

And when we do, it’s priceless!

Posted by Marion