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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, March 31, 2011


This is a word we've commented lots about at various times. In fact, when I did a search for the word care I got eighty hits! Eighty times we've had something to say about the notion of caring. And yet, this morning, I believe I'm thinking of it in a slightly different way. Maybe--maybe not. You decide.

I continue to hear a phrase that makes me, personally, very uncomfortable. It has even come to be part of the polling question that is asked and then that is reported upon. Bigger than the event itself is the element of just how little most people care about Canada's current election. I've managed to postpone even telling you what I'm writing about in order to perhaps hold your attention for a couple of paragraphs.

It was the "man on the street" question in my local newspaper this week. Four out of five people asked felt not a bit of shame to answer the question: No I don't care at all about this election.

If asked to say more, the most common explanations are versions of "it's too expensive" or "nothing will change" or "they're all crooks anyway."

Are the issues so remote that we really aren't concerned at all?

I do agree that there are things to be done about many of the things we do care about, and I'm sure hoping that we who claim to be concerned about our neighbours, our communities, the bruised and broken-hearted are finding concrete ways to help them. I wish that we of the "peace, reconciliation and healing the spirit" vision have found ways to encourage policies and priorities that promote those things as far and as widely as possible.

It seems to me, again this is my personal opinion, that many of the laws and practices of my government have an impact on those very things. If we who live in a democracy that people around the world are dying to acquire, it seems to me that the least we can do is at least care that the one we have works as well as it could.

If you're someone who has said about your vote, or your obligation to be informed, "I don't care" then I'd like to call on you to reconsider.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


There is a sense in which our collective voice in North America has been increasingly quieted over the past 50 years. It began in the 1960s, which is beyond memory to our youth and young adults; ancient history, like talking about the 1400s. Never-the-less, the quieting began there when we began to hear disturbing questions being raised concerning the many truths we had always held up to the world. Was the Garden of Eden metaphorical rather than actual? Was the flood an incorporation of ancient mythology rather than a historical event? Could the Book of Mormon be true if it was not historical? The list of questions grew and grew, and we began to question every aspect of our sacred story, both ancient and modern.

Slowly but inevitably our voice which once called out with claims of being the “one true church” grew quiet. Our voice went from proclaiming in loud and confident if sometimes brash tones to speaking hesitantly and then to almost whispering. We were no longer sure what to proclaim.

While the latter half of the 20th century was a time of much needed questioning for us, as the 21st century dawned, new understandings began to move from concepts to words. It began with the prophetic leadership of Grant McMurray and has continued with Steven Veazey. Their discerned insights have been formed into words and phrases that await our grasp. Those words need to be lived and spoken.

Read anew the persistent and growing call that is reflected in Doctrine and Covenants Sections 161 – 164. Hear again the divine Voice that calls us to realize and share our blessings. See how often that Voice speaks the word “Community.” The Voice has gone so far as to say that this word not only matters but is so important that it is our very identity and calling! (D. & C. 163:1). This is not some new insight or theology but a fresh way of understanding what has always been true; our call is to create and invite others to community which we used to identify as Zion.

It is time for the Community of Christ in North America to find its voice. Oh we have learned a few things in the past 50 years. We need not shout brashly from the rooftops with inflated claims about who we are, but we do have something to say, and we need to say it. Our voice needs to be heard. It may be a quiet voice, especially at first as we experiment and discover what sharing community really means, but we do need to speak.

Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands and invite all to share in the blessings of community. (D. & C. 161:3a).

It is time we found our voice.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My In-Box today has been just over-flowing with ideas!
It does appear that everyone has been busy over the weekend dreaming up good stuff.

Here's a recommendation for a book that might be great for the CPI pastors (and others too). Here's a great web site with wonderful preaching tips. Here's a terrific report from a congregation who had an amazing service on Sunday morning with a whole bunch of visitors, who'd come at the invitation of a young adult via his facebook page. What a great idea!

I've managed as well to collect two boxes of books from a dear friend who's downsizing and thought I'd have an idea about what to do with them. And invitations. I have invitations to attend any number of amazing activities and events. I really must pace myself, or I'll have so many good ideas of new things to do, places to go, people to see that I shall run out of time for them all.

So here is my advice to all you dear friends who keep sending me your excellent ideas:
Don't send me any more of them. Keep them and Do something exciting with them. Then send me the story of what your idea was, what you did with it, who helped you and what was the amazing and surprising result that was even more than you expected.

Now I'm not suggesting that all these good ideas that are coming my way are ALL being offered for me to do with by myself--although, all too frequently there is a tiny hint that "CEM should do something." But I am saying that my time is limited and is getting shorter every day. So do get busy yourself, because that will happen to you one day and you'll be glad of all the ideas you acted on.

And I shall love to hear your stories. Now, off with you. Get busy working on one of those great ideas yourself. Permission granted!

Posted by Marion

Monday, March 28, 2011


Morning has come. The air is cold but still. No wind blows and the branches of the trees do not stir. They stand entranced in this quiet, peaceful moment. Through the branches, the crescent moon is visible still, pale and white against the sky’s early blue. Were it but a few weeks later the moon would not be seen through the leaves that are as yet unborn.

Bird songs ring out, first this one then that, the morning calls adding a note of joyful hope to the quiet dawn. The birds are not visible, but their notes announce their presence somewhere in the tops of the trees.

On their northeast side, the blackness of the trees' silhouette is gently bathed in soft, yellow light as the sun slowly peeks above the horizon.

Oh that the entire world could be at peace this way, and experience this one quiet moment, with no guns, no bombs, no warplanes, no tsunamis, and no leaking atomic reactors! Oh that my own mind could be so gently, peacefully and thoroughly at rest!

If you have three minutes, you might want to spend it with this version of Cat Stevens Yusuf Islam's Morning has broken. You might also enjoy this one this one.

Have Peace today.

Posted by Carman

Friday, March 25, 2011


Do you hear that drip?

Drip…drip… drip.

All that snow that had so many of us holed up at home, or carefully finding our way through the ruts and slush of yesterday is today dripping off my roofline. The row of icicles that was there this morning has slid off into the rapidly melting snow below this afternoon. The sun is glistening on the snow piles; yes, there are still piles of snow, but they’re fading fast.

The powerful force that is the warming spring sunshine is causing it all to drip into oblivion.

Well, not exactly oblivion. It’s forming up in puddles, making mud for us to track onto the clean floors later. There will be mud. Mud follows drip. We’re sitting at the turn of the season. What a special time, here in this northland.

I’ve done enough travelling in those places nearer the equator where one day is pretty much like the next to know this is special. I recall my visit to Tahiti where #1 Son commented that he did indeed miss the changing seasons but he thought he could bear all this perfect summer weather, green leaves and year-round flowers for several seasons yet. I’m not sure I could.

I find myself just so very appreciative of this changing time that I’m even enjoying the mud. Of course I have no small children or boots or splash pants or sodden mittens to deal with. But I did live through that; I realize how quickly it passes. And here I am at the other end of it all thinking fondly of all this dripping!

Of course there are seasons in those tropical countries too. There are seasons everywhere! Remember that very famous sermon you can read here to remind you that “to everything there is a season.” It is the way the universe works.

I received an email from one of our Mission Advocates today reporting that a pastoral team is taking some discernment time, needing a bit of refreshment and renewal, but feeling some sense of guilt about stepping back. Everyone addressed by that message had the same response; not to worry, nor feel disheartened. After a long period of struggle, even of ill health, this team needs to rest and heal each other. They’ll be finding a quiet place to just listen to the drips until the snow melts, the mud is washed away and a new season is ready to begin. It will come.

I sit here at a very special spot where I can watch these transitions. I spoke with another pastor today excited about the calls he’s perceiving for two young leaders in his congregation. Young people stepping up to pick up leadership roles and planning for an exciting season of youth activities in their newly renovated space.

“For everything there is a season…a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted… a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones together… a time to keep silence and a time to speak …”
Ecclesiastes 3

Posted by Marion

Thursday, March 24, 2011


As I write these words, it is Wednesday morning, March 23, 2011, although you will not read it until Thursday or Friday.

There is a certain commercial airing on Canadian television at the moment; I have no idea what it is selling, but it uses winter to try to convince us that we are a hearty race of people that loves to be outdoors in the winter. The key line I remember goes something like, “No self-respecting Canadian ever says lets wait for a warmer day.” Oh really?

Yesterday morning the snow was all gone in my yard, and I remember watching the robins hoping around looking for unsuspecting earthworms for their breakfast. This morning we awoke to 15 cm of fresh, blowing snow, East winds, and slippery roads. I think the earthworms are safe today, if they haven't frozen to death. Welcome to what is hopefully winter’s last grasp!

According to the premise being foisted on us by the sponsor of the above named commercial, if I am self-respecting I should ignore all the dire warnings to the contrary, jump in my car and head out on the highway. After all, I have a 9:00 a.m. appointment to get my snow tires off, and a 10:00 o’clock staff meeting! As a self-respecting Canadian, nothing should prevent me, right?

Now, I love the old Steppenwolf song, Born to be Wild, at least as much as the next person. The pounding rhythm and soaring guitar and keyboard can still get my blood pumping all these years later.
Get your motor running
Head out on the highway
Looking for adventure
In whatever comes our way
Sounds good, right? But wait, I recall another line in the bridge of that song. It says
We have climbed so high
I never want to die.

Hmmm… Maybe heading out on the highway is not such a good idea today. In fact, maybe loving being outdoors on a cold, stormy, March day with a raw East wind whipping the snow across the highway and reducing visibility to nil at times is not the kind of adventure I want to come my way at all. Maybe that commercial is trying to sell me a bill of goods!

Being a self-respecting Canadian, I think I will work at home today. In fact, being self-respecting, I will cancel the car appointment,keep my snow tires on, and join my meeting via Skype. Being a self-respecting Canadian, I think I will wait for a warmer day.

Enjoy a smile today.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I sometimes think identity is almost a casualty of postmodern life. As old truths and social constructs fade and lose their luster in the face of new questions and viewpoints, perhaps it is natural for humans to feel less confident about who we are and what our purpose is. In truth, however, what is going on is probably less a loss of identity than a shifting of self-understanding. The difference matters a great deal.

To illustrate this point, we can probably look at almost any social grouping and see how its sense of identity has changed over the last 50 years. If we look at the family for example, mothers, fathers, children, teens, young adults, grandparents, great-grandparents all see themselves quite differently than did their counterparts in 1961. Life has changed, and with it, our sense of who we are and our role within our very own nuclear families. Just because those understandings are different, however, does not mean they are any less significant; in fact quite the opposite may be true. For instance, Mother’s role (or Grandma’s for that matter) may have shifted from cookie baker to bread winner, but her role within the family is certainly no less important.

Like all aspects of life, our faith communities are also undergoing changes in identity. In my childhood, claims of “exclusive truth” were common; we were right and you were wrong! The self-scrutiny that followed those years was often highly uncomfortable, sometimes painful and even embarrassing to some. Slowly but surely, however, we are coming to see ourselves and our religious identity differently. Arguments concerning how the Pentecostals or the Presbyterians are wrong have stopped. We are learning to value not only the contribution of other Christians but the spiritual nourishment all world religions bring to the inter-faith banquet. Instead of having our own, exclusive little table and eating by ourselves, we now bring our spiritual food to share with the larger, world community and invite others to do the same. What we must realize is that we do have some healthy, wonderful, and delicious food to share.

From a church that eats alone to a church that invites all to come a great inter-religious banquet; what a wonderful shift in our identity that would be!

This blog dedicated to Encounter World Religions, and to the pioneering work of J.W. Windland.
Posted by Carman

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Here's the first time I wrote about this project almost a year ago.

I thought you'd like to hear how it's going. And I wanted to share with you about my visit this weekend. As I'd promised, I packed up a box of books from my personal resource shelf to add to the Stratford library collection.

I met Elizabeth and Carol after church on Sunday to view their NEW and refreshed library space. Remember some time ago we purged some of the ancient books and "stuff" from their cramped shelf space. We talked about how to respectfully dispose of once-treasured books. (One day I'll write about a ritual you may want to employ for your church library!)

New shelves are up, cleared and stacked with fresh, colourful and sorted books. Clean, cleared floor and wall spaces make this room really inviting. They're making lists of some books they're still missing. Soon there will be "wish list" for donors who want to fill in those gaps as memorial gifts or just in support of making this library more useful to more people.

We talked about ways to feature some of the periodicals they possess. We're on the lookout for what people want to use--children's ministry ideas, preaching resources, devotional material, excellent fiction and biographies. And they're creating some quick "info-mercials" to bring their excellent and evolving library treasures during sharing time in Sunday services.

Some more costly (or just plain heavy) books will be for use in the library exclusively; so this means they'll need to put a good comfy chair on their "shopping/wish list." Now that this room no longer receives that miscellaneous "junk for Jesus" that some of our church libraries seem to attract, it really IS a real destination place. Kid books attractively displayed on the lower shelves will need a couple of accompanying floor cushions.

I've got still more books if you'd like to earn them. Just let me know you're making a place in your refreshed and ready-to-use congregational library. Give me a call and I'll put you on my list. Meanwhile: Congratulations Elizabeth, Carol and Stratford for a terrific library project. I'll let you know what they do next. They're dreaming big!

Monday, March 21, 2011


One sure sign of spring, along with the emerging grass, the puddles and dirty snowdrifts, seems to be the abundance of potholes! Whatever shall we make of that?

I’d love to wax poetic about the returning of the geese, the twittering of the little birds in the little shrubs round about. I see the swelling buds on the trees, the golden haze appearing on the patches of willow. Flocks of birds are gathering in the hedgerows at the bottom of my garden—the cardinals, the chickadees, the sparrows, all with that unmistakable spring-time bustling and chirping signaling the season.

I’m missing the familiar first eruptions of green buds I know are emerging in the garden I left behind last autumn. I wonder how my forsythia is doing. But soon we’ll be seeing what the new garden has to offer. And we’ll be putting our stamp on it before too, too long. Even the prospects of that new garden are fun and hopeful.

But what of all these potholes?

There really is water running everywhere. All those big piles of dirty snow get noticeably smaller every day, virtually every hour. Stand still, somewhere outside, anywhere and you can hear water running, snow melting, ice becoming water.

Driving through open countryside the other day I noted broad stretches of water. Fields that someday, not too far off, will need to be planted, are just now great flooded expanses. All that water is going to go somewhere. It’s going to sink into the ground, run into the water table, find its way via drain, ditch, creek, stream, to the nearest river. Some of it is going to travel under the asphalt. It’s going to freeze and melt a few more times and when it does, it’s going to create potholes.

Advising, ever so gently from the passenger seat, the new young driver dealing for the first time with the ridiculous succession of potholes in a back country road in rural Quebec, I found myself offering up my familiar Lenten message.

“You can hit those potholes without too much damage if you just take it slow. Slowing down gives you a chance to avoid the ones you can and won’t totally wreck your suspension or ruin your tires when you have to hit one.”

Who knew that the coincidence of potholes with Lent was another of those interesting happenstances? If you’re on the road today, watch out for the potholes. They are inevitable. But if you slow down you have a better chance of a positive outcome.

Posted by Marion

Friday, March 18, 2011


Think of the following as a meditation on Doctrine and Covenants 161:7.
The Spirit of the One you follow is the spirit of love and peace. That Spirit seeks to abide in the hearts of those who would embrace its call and live its message.
What if we were to allow the spirit of love and peace to truly “abide” in our hearts? What if that spirit lived there, not just in these few moments of our quiet time, our morning devotions or evening prayers, but all day long? How might the world seem different if, in each moment of every day, we looked upon it with the spirit of love and peace in our hearts?

If we truly did that, the spirit of love and peace would not, could not, stay in our hearts, at least if we think of our hearts as being a place deep in the centre of our being somewhere. It would spread. If the spirit of love and peace lived in our heart, it would grow and shift and also dwell in our mind, becoming part of our consciousness until it also became our unconsciousness. The spirit of love and peace would also come to dwell in our eyes so that what we looked upon we saw with eyes of love; eyes of peace. That spirit would be in our ears so that what we heard, we would hear lovingly, peacefully. That same spirit would be present in our arms, our touch, so that we held and touched the world differently, lovingly, peacefully.

If the spirit of love and peace truly lived in us, then we would live in the spirit of love and peace; we would truly be in the spirit of the One we follow. Perhaps another way to say this is that if the spirit of love and peace truly lived in our hearts this way, God would be more fully alive in us and we would live in the spirit as well as the Spirit of God.

If that abiding presence were our reality, I wonder, would the things that happen to us matter quite so much? Would not even things we think of as bad be seen differently? An earthquake would still be an earthquake and disaster would still be disastrous, but would we not respond to those events differently? Would we not seek to help those around us rather than just thinking about ourselves? Think of Jesus standing before Pilate, abiding in the spirit of love and peace, silent but looking at his judge through eyes of love, eyes of grace. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55)

The Spirit of the One you follow is the spirit of love and peace. That Spirit seeks to abide in the hearts of those who would embrace its call and live its message. The path will not always be easy, the choices will not always be clear, but the cause is sure and the Spirit will bear witness to the truth, and those who live the truth will know the hope and the joy of discipleship in the community of Christ. Amen. (D. & C. 161:7)

May we abide in the spirit of love and peace today.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Last week I went back for the first time in a couple of years to my writing class. I believe I shared here with you that I had decided I needed to inject a little more discipline into my life and that registering for an actual class would do that for me. As in years past the evenings I have available have lots more to do with which topic I pursue than any other great desire to learn this or that or to practise one skill over another. So this year it was Thursday that was available, so fiction it is!

Of course the first evening there is the predictable go-round when each person shares why they’ve elected to learn more about (in this case) writing fiction and I share that I have been thrust into this class because it’s Thursday and I can actually complete the whole series and only miss a single class. Ergo: fiction it is!

Given all that background, however, I am really quite pleased to be spending the next twelve weeks considering, reading, thinking about, discussing and even writing some fiction.

I recall once listening to a panel of writers discussing the merits of fiction vs. non-fiction. I believe it was Ray Robertson who claimed to have given up the writing of non-fiction because he realized he had only limited time left to write anything and since he wanted only to write “Truth” he would only write fiction for the rest of his life. After much chuckling, the rest of the panelists all agreed with him that “truth” was a much closer synonym for “real fiction” than anything else they could think of. If I’m into the discipline of fiction, I really have to agree with them.

My reading practices over my lifetime have not been entirely consistent. During some times I’ve read mostly fiction; at other times—usually prescribed by study—I’ve focused more on various types of non-fiction. I realize that it’s easy to fall into a reading habit that takes me into a particular genre at the expense of other areas I don’t really want to neglect. And reading good fiction is one of those types of reading not to be neglected. I think the reason I appreciate it so much is the very fact that it tends to bring those deep truths to mind that those writers were alluding to. Truths about love and relationships, about life and the complexities of living, solving problems, setting priorities, articulating values somehow find their way into and out of works of fiction.

Another writer suggests that reading fiction tends to make her more empathic and compassionate and cites a study to that effect. I agree this too is a noble goal.

Those of you reading this blog are well aware that I write lots of words, some of them you’ve read—and many more you haven’t. Over the next twelve weeks I shall be spending some disciplined time thinking about, and perhaps writing some fiction. I suspect there will be fallout of this practice showing up in this blog.

If you’d like to share your own experience with reading or writing fiction or if you have thoughts as to how truth is or is not expressed in what you’re reading, I’d love to have you join me in my quest.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


There are many possible expressions of faithful discipleship in congregational or community life. Sometimes these exist simultaneously, and sometimes one leads to another. Often new expressions grow out of one or two people’s inspired vision concerning some new thing that is possible.

This past Sunday I spent a lovely day in the Sarnia congregation renewing old acquaintances and meeting new folks; at least new to me. One thoughtful member had even had the foresight to locate and invite a former member who is a cousin of mine that I have not seen in perhaps 50 years. Consequently, I got to meet her husband and daughter, which was a delightful surprise and an unexpected blessing. The congregation shared together in worship as we contemplated some thoughts concerning our human longing for life in relationship with God. The group was small but lively, especially as we conversed together over soup and sandwiches after church.

If one looked at only the Sunday morning expression of this congregation’s life, it is not unlike many others in that it has gotten smaller recently. But Sunday morning’s formal worship service is not the only program of ministry this group of disciples has. A couple of years ago, two women of the group decided to start a youth ministry. After all, there were three young people in the congregation, and each of them had friends! So they began. If I remember the story correctly, after the first year, they had a group of twelve, including the three members. Now in their second year, the group has grown to twenty with one of those being a member. And so the congregation has developed an important new ministry of outreach to young people in their community. Well done! I can't think of a better way for you to live your discipleship. May your efforts continue to be blessed as you bless the lives of the youth who come to participate and learn.

What expressions of discipleship does your congregation have? What ones would you like to see? Is there one you feel called to begin?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


In my former life I taught lots of people to make presentations. I’ve spent time with some people you might have heard speak. In fact I heard one of my former students on the radio a couple of days ago speaking about his study into the lives and struggles of the children in Canada’s north. He was speaking of the terrible inequities thrust by a dysfunctional system into the lives of thousands of Canadian Inuit children in Nunavut. I hope you’ll be hearing more about this. (If not, check here for the back story)

It was nice to hear those familiar tones. His was an interesting voice marked by his Scottish homeland. He came to work for the Auditor General via an earlier career with the Hudson Bay Company. I first met him in his student days, so I worked with him in much of his early course-work learning to be an auditor for the government of Canada. Today he is an assistant auditor general and the anchor person introduced him as Assistant Auditor General Ronald Campbell. But I recognized his voice right away. It was still Ronnie!

Ronnie has a passion for the North and for Canada’s indigenous people. But scrappy Scot and ex HBCo guy had lots to learn to get where he is today. And I claim no credit for getting him there at all! I was no Lionel Logue ( of King's Speech repute. But there is one lesson I can be sure I taught to Ronnie as I did to virtually everyone to whom I ever taught the principles of public speaking—one that I did see upheld by that coach of the king in that amazing movie: the power of the pause.

All who speak publicly want to do well, to fill the air with wonderful, inspiring, motivating, encouraging, delightful speech. And all of us tend to fill the gaps in our monologue with “ums, ahs, ers, you knows, I thinks” that betray our flaws of rhetoric or logic or just plain nerves in unsettling ways. The best, hardest way to fix that is just to let the pauses in your thinking become a pause in your speaking. Don’t fill the silence at all; just be quiet.

The King learned from his coach that these pauses can have the most dramatic effect. The impact of the pause setting off your well-chosen words can inspire your listeners to gird their loins for war! The old king’s advice to his stammering son to “Just say it!” can be the worst advice. If it isn’t coming out yet—just be quiet and wait.

Have you picked up on my message here friends? It’s that “waiting thing” again. The pause that injects power into the speech, that persuades the waiting listener that you must be in touch with some great inner Force that truly knows. They may even be right.

Here we are in this Lenten season being encouraged, yet again, to just pause. If you’re not sure what’s next, or what you should be doing, or why this or that course of action hasn’t clarified itself yet, then just pause and let that inner Force teach you its wisdom. There will be time.

Posted by Marion