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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, May 31, 2011


There is a certain tension in the universe. It is both around us and within us. We are part of it. The planets and stars spin in their orbit, held in place by forces we cannot see and can barely understand. Space is vast. The edge of it, if there is one, is beyond our ability to see with even the most powerful telescopes humans have yet devised. Looking at the galaxy, it appears random, and yet there is order.

In our planet’s orbit it is no different. The earth on which we are totally dependent is somehow held in suspension between the gravitational pull of the sun and the outward expansion of the universe. Attraction and propulsion are constantly at work. The balance of these two delicate but irresistible forces is what allows the earth to continue its present existence. Were the attraction to win, the earth would be consumed in the sun’s fiery heat. Were propulsion to overcome, the planet would become another frozen mass hurtling through space.

As unlikely as it seems, the earth is held in the exact position, with the correct balance of heat and cold, wet and dry, gaseousness and solidity that allows life to occur. There are scientists who study the stars and planets of the universe in search of understanding, seeking places where life might exist. I have read that some such searchers have come to opinion that, of the millions of stars and planets in the galaxy, there may be as few as three places where such life may even be possible. It is a wonderful tension we live in.

It may be an appropriate metaphor for our life and the human quest for God. We are held in a tension between knowing and unknowing, seeing and not seeing, belief and doubt. There is, in our souls, our spiritual DNA if there is such a thing, this gravitational attraction that constantly pulls us toward God, that makes us search and long for unity with that divine force that is the very centre of our universe. And yet there is something that also holds us at bay. Something propels us constantly outward, further, seeking more and greater understanding in our search for truth, wisdom, and understanding. The road to transformation indeed travels both inward and outward.

I will leave it to the reader to ponder this tension. For me, and for now, it is a wonderful place to be.

Posted by Carman

Monday, May 30, 2011


This post is a follow-up to Dreams and could well have been titled Dreams II, More Dreams or some such thing. It is also intended as a tribute to the caring young women and men who try to make the world a better place by serving in the Armed Forces. If you missed the original Dreams post and would like to go back and read it you can still do that by clicking on the highlighted and underlined word.

As an aside, I would like to say a special “thank you” to Steve and one anonymous writer who contributed dreams of their own to that conversation. Others shared privately by email. Your dreams can still be added to either post and are still welcome.

On Sunday morning, on my way to one of our numerous CEM congregations, I was driving at just the right time to catch hour two of Michael Enright’s The Sunday Edition on CBC Radio One. Included in this segment of the show was a short, radio documentary on a young Canadian man who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the ripe old age of Seventeen. You can listen to the podcast of Jacob Davis Mendelow’s fascinating and enlightening story by clicking here.

For the benefit of those who cannot take time to listen to this podcast (you can also download it to your I-Pod or MP3 player for later), this is the story of a Canadian seventeen-year-old who wanted to make a difference. His goal was to make the world a better and safer place following the attacks of September 11, 2001. This report on Jake’s experience concerns his struggle after returning home from his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was both physically injured and “bouncing off the walls” with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He now makes a difference by sharing his experience with others, particularly health professionals whose task it is to work with returning veterans with PTSD.

I was particularly interested in this documentary because of a young man in my own extended family. In addition to being a husband and father, Robb is a soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces. While he tells me he has never been formally diagnosed with PTSD, he had numerous (I am no longer sure if it was seven or ten) improvised explosive devices or IEDs blow up under his truck while serving in Afghanistan. At this point in his journey, about a year after returning from that tour, the net result is that he no longer sleeps, or at least no longer sleeps well or through the night. Will this be a life-long after-effect? Will other emotional scars yet emerge? We do not know.

The point of all this is a dream for our world when it is no longer necessary to send young women and men into situations where they will be subject to such soul-scarring and life-altering trauma and death. That is an audacious dream to be sure. It seems impossible and is certainly out of reach in my lifetime. Such a world would necessitate having found better ways to deal with many problems including poverty, aggression, and differences in ideology. Such a world is conceivable, however, and one we need to work toward. This is the ancient vision of prophets such as Ezekiel and Isaiah. It is a worthy dream.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2:4

Posted by Carman

Friday, May 27, 2011


When you meet someone who looks or dresses different than the norm, what do you see? If they are dressed all in black, is that intimidating to you? What if they are covered in tattoos; do they make you feel uncomfortable or are you intrigued? Do you assume they are expressing their creative side, or that they are just rebellious? Perhaps we assume they are scary people who may even be criminal and just want to stay away from them.

The other day a blog by Evangelist Tom Mountenay called Where God's Blessing Begins came across my email inbox. I was busy, but when I finally got around to reading the post, I was both intrigued and impressed. I immediately asked Tom for permission to post a link to his blog, which he generously granted.

You can read Tom’s post by clicking here. Read it and enjoy; you’ll be glad you did.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, May 26, 2011


There is something about birthdays I have noticed and find fascinating. When one is little, birthdays are very important. Ask a three-year-old how old he will be on his rapidly approaching birthday and watch his eyes sparkle as he excitedly holds up some chubbly little little fingers and fairly shouts, “FOUR!” Somehow being that year older is the biggest thing that has ever happened to him.

As we grow older, other birthdays also represent milestones, like 16, 21, 30, 40, or 65, but somehow they seem to misplace most of their magic. In fact, by the time we are approaching some of those numbers, we would just as soon not bother celebrating a birthday, or at least not with a lot of enthusiasm. It is always nice to be recognized, but we no longer look forward to getting older.

Then a mystery occurs. There comes a point where birthdays seem to recapture some of the magic, and we enjoy having them again though perhaps for different reasons. Of course I am not old enough to know exactly when that happens (a-hem), but I have observed it in others. It may seem odd to say, but I am rather looking forward to that experience when the time comes, for reasons I will explain.

I have attended three birthday celebrations in the past week. The first one was for three members of my own family as we got together to celebrate the “May birthdays.” This month all three who celebrated birthdays are young adults, and while they enjoyed being together, I must say that the excitement thermometer for being a year older never really got above tepid. The second party was for a distinguished and highly respected gentleman and friend who has reached the significant milestone of 90 years. The birthday was the occasion that brought together something like 200 people to wish him well. He was so gracious to his guests, and clearly appreciated their coming. The third celebration was for a wonderful lady who is 92. Again, many came from miles around to wish her well, and once again I was struck by how charming and gracious she is, not just on her birthday but everyday.

And that is where the magic comes in. It may not be magical to be old, but the passing of years seems to bring with it a certain gentle grace, at least for some. The hustle and bustle of the frantic years of building a career, earning a living, raising a family and so on have passed. Family is still there to be worried about of course, and worry they do; that just goes with the territory when you love. But the self-expectation to do something about things we can not change, and probably never could, seems to have gone.

I appreciate very much the gentle graciousness that comes to so many with the advancing of years. I am not sure if it takes some of the sting out of aging or not, or perhaps there simply is no sting. Either way, I appreciate the peacefulness of spirit exhibited by these two gracious friends, and am glad to have spent a few moments in their presence. Your grace has quieted some of my stress, at least for a little while.

So Happy birthday, dear friends, and thank you for your gifts of grace, to me and to all you bless with your presence.

Grace and peace to you.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Lets dream out loud for a moment, shall we? What kind of a world do you dream of? Oh, I don’t mean dreams for a bigger house or more money in the bank; I am thinking of bigger dreams than that. I will go first to get us started. Lets see where this conversation takes us.

• I dream of a world that is safe for children; a world where they do not have to pick through garbage heaps looking for plastic or other bits of junk they can sell to recyclers in order to get food to eat.
• I dream of a world where every child has a roof over their head and a nice, clean, warm bed to sleep in; where they do not sleep in doorways, or cardboard boxes, or back alleys; where they do not wander the streets in fear.
• I dream of a world where children are not forced to become soldiers and taught to kill in order to stay alive themselves; where bombs do not fall on their homes at night or explode in the streets or marketplace during the day, where mommies and daddies, brothers and sisters always come home safely with all their limbs and parts intact.
• I dream of a world where children are free to play, and where play is an imitation of the healthy life they see around them; an imitation of caring mommies and daddies who themselves play and work to earn money to care for and provide for their children and others who depend on them.
• I dream of clean air for children to breathe, clean water for children to drink, and food that is not contaminated with pesticides, herbicides or growth hormones.
• I dream of a world where every child can go to school because there is a school for them to attend; a school that has paper and coloured pencils, books and teachers, and perhaps even computers that open windows onto the larger world of science and nature, mathematics and literature, God’s universe and beyond.
• I dream of a world where children are free to think about God and the miracles they see every day in the life that is around them; where they are free to wonder and contemplate what is, and what might be.
• All of this is a dream of a world where children themselves can dream, in a safe healthy environment, of all the great things they can and will do in God’s world.

For the most part, this dream is already a reality for my grandchildren and others where I live. It is not so for everyone. This is the dream we work for; a world of justice and peace, because we can’t have one without the other.

So that is my dream this morning. Now it is your turn. What kind of world do you dream of?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


There is a certain sense of acceleration in the air at this time of year, and I am not talking about the tree pollen that makes my nose run. It seems like we’ve been waiting for spring for months, and now it is here. The trees are leafing out, the birds are building or sitting on their nests, and the flowers are blooming. Occasionally we may even see the sun between the rain showers.

The acceleration I am sensing, however, is not really related to the weather or the greening of the countryside. It is something that happens every spring. Preparation and planning has been going on for months but now everyone is picking up the pace. I am talking about the quickening rate of preparation for the camping and reunion season.

I see the urgent emails, hear the worried comments, and share the same sense of anxiety. Camp ground boards are busy making changes and improvements to their facilities, and the camping commission is making sure the word is out on the new Skills and Leadership Weekend. Directors are frantically trying to recruit staff to fill those few remaining vacancies. Worship planners are trying to envision every aspect of their services and prayerfully seeking the right person to offer that prayer or sing that solo. Busy guest ministers are trying to get class material prepared, and worrying about what the can offer in the way of ministry that will meet people’s needs and strengthen the church.

Of course the problem is not just preparing for a summer of ministry. The problem is all the regular work that still needs to get done while you prepare! As May draws near its close, we frantically count the weekends in June, desperately trying to see if there are any days that can be protected so we can read the books we need to brush up on, write class material, prepare sermons, or even have a day just to breathe. Before we know it, July will be upon us, and the busy summer will have begun.

Yes, there is a sense of acceleration in the air these days as we anticipate and prepare for our many family camps, youth camps and summer retreats. The normally busy pace has become downright hectic as we grapple with the tasks that are ours. But here’s the thing about all that: in 13 weeks the camps and reunions will all be over. In 15 weeks the children will be back in school! Its true folks, you can count the weeks for yourself.

The point is that while we are each frantically trying to get ready for the important season of ministry, we need to remember that this season always passes too quickly. Summer will come and go, and when it is gone it can never be recovered. So in the midst of your accelerated pace of work and preparation, please remember to take some time each day to enjoy this season we have all looked forward to. Smell the roses now folks; they do not bloom in January.

Posted by Carman

Friday, May 20, 2011


An early walk on the rain soaked ground has me thinking about footprints this morning. Over the past twenty years, we have each become familiar with the concept of our environmental or ecological footprint. This is a scientific term used to measure the impact of human demand on the earth’s ecosystems. Using methods that have been developed, scientists can compare consumption of resources and resulting pollution with the earth’s ability to regenerate. It was estimated that in 2006, consumption exceeded the earth’s regeneration capacity by 40%. Clearly this has a devastating impact on the quality of such basic and essential elements as air and water.

There are even computerized tools available to let you calculate your own ecological footprint, should you be brave enough to want to know your personal impact on the planet. You can find one such website by clicking here. It all reminds me of a poster I first saw in the 1980s which said
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.
In more recent years, some augment this slogan to read,
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.

My morning musings on footprints are not confined to our environmental impact, however. While we have ecological calculators, I know of no method, scientific or otherwise, to measure our spiritual footprint. Am I contributing to the spiritual well-being of the earth or are we detracting from it? I wonder how one would know.

Isaiah 52:7 says
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Are we working for peace? Are we contributing to and sharing good news with the world? Do we help people understand their spiritual connection to the Devine? Are we contributing to the spiritual well-being of those with whom we share the planet or do we merely suck up spiritual energy for our own personal consumption?

As I ask myself these questions this morning, on a strictly personal level I am not sure I am comfortable with the spiritual footprints I am leaving behind.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Imagine you are a young adult, 18 years of age or older. Perhaps, at this time of year, you are approaching your high school graduation, and looking forward to a break from the pressure of final exams. Maybe you are really looking forward to going back to camp as part of your summer experience, or spending time at the lake. On the other hand, while you want and need some time off, you have also been accepted into a college or university program for the fall, so you really need to earn some money this summer to help with tuition or expenses. What to do? How can you have the change of pace you need and also earn some money?

Perhaps the dilemma described above sounds like a situation facing someone you know. Or perhaps you have someone in your family, or in the family of your friends who will be at that point just a year or two from now. If so, this message may be for you or them.

There is a way that responsible young adults who are at least 18 years of age can have a great summer, attend camps and reunions, and still earn money. Further, they will also get their camp fees, meals, lodging and transportation all paid! Sounds like a good deal, right? Have I got your attention? How can they do that?

Every summer, CEM seeks to hire a minimum of three lifeguards to supervise swimming at six camps and reunions. Applicants need to be qualified with at least a Bronze Cross, but NLS certification is preferred. Lifeguards who are qualified can look forward to a great summer working at camps and reunions, be in a great environment with wonderful mentors and leaders, and practice their skills by supervising the waterfront. What a great summer!

There is just one problem. Every year we struggle to find qualified applicants we can hire. We have great summer jobs to offer, but we have difficulty finding people to employ. Each year it is a challenge to build a team, and this year is the most difficult since the program began. In fact, we have enough camps that we could probably hire two teams, or five or six lifeguards, if we could only find them.

Here is the point of this blog. If you know a young person who is soon going to be in the situation described above, why not encourage them to think about qualifying for this opportunity. Perhaps they already have part of the swimming qualifications they will require, and just need to add a few more lessons to qualify for their NLS certification. Or perhaps they need more instruction. Either way, there will very likely be jobs waiting for them if they will take the time to qualify themselves.

Incidentally the program is not only open to young adults. If you are older but have the qualifications, we would be delighted to talk to you. I invite you to send your resume and application to the CEM office via email at your earliest opportunity. If you want more information, or know someone who does, just send me a note.

In the meantime, no matter what your age, lets all plan to have a great summer. See you at the waterfront?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


At the time of this writing it is 10:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night and I am pumped! A conference call with our camping commission has just ended and there is a lot to be excited about.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the camping and reunion program is very important to our community. Hundreds of people will attend our camps this summer, each with hopes of experiencing combinations of activities that will produce relaxation, recreation, and spiritual renewal. In order to make all that happen, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The work of preparation of the grounds and facilities is undertaken every year by the dedicated campground boards and dozens of volunteers who give freely of their time for the benefit of others. They work to meet provincial and other safety standards for grounds, building, safe drinking water and meal preparation facilities. They work to upgrade and maintain their facilities to make the camping experience not only enjoyable but wonderful. Their work is so important.

Then there is the camps themselves to be planned and provided for. Once again, there are provincial health and safety regulations to meet plus world church standards for risk management. We have four campground boards, each with their own guidelines that need to be understood and followed. Then there is the fact that our six reunions, five youth camps, and numerous retreats are all staffed by volunteers. Those volunteers need to be trained, not only so that we meet or exceed provincial and world church guidelines, but also so that we have safe and enjoyable camps. Their training is clearly very important.

When I was reassigned to Canada East Mission 2 ½ years ago, several people told me that the Director and Staff Retreat every fall was very helpful to them in understanding and planning for the following year, but the Camp Staff Training Day held in the spring needed to be strengthened. It was the weak link in the chain. Consequently, once our new camping commission got their feet under them, their attention was turned to this need. For the past several months, this group of five people has worked to develop a training session that will be not only meaningful but powerful. Tonight we met in teleconference to make final decisions. I truly believe they have nailed it.

This year, on June 17 – 19 at Ziontario, we will provide excellent and important training for all our staff,no matter what camp or grounds they work at. Sessions will be provided for directors, business managers, camp counselors, cooks, recreation leaders, lifeguards, and more. In addition, training will be offered in team building, group facilitation, and guidance in appropriate social media contact following the camp. Can you believe all that? It is amazing what this group has accomplished. PLUS, worship and worship training will be provided by our Apostle!

If you have any role in the camping program this summer, you need to be at Ziontario, June 17-19. Further, if you know someone else who is planning to be on staff, either now or in the future, they need to be there as well. I think you will be surprised and impressed.

Our camping program in CEM just got better. The weakest link in our camping chain has been reforged, and the entire season will be stronger. I am definitely pumped!

Those not yet registered, please contact Wendell Martin at immediately. Registration is free, but we need to know you are coming, and the sooner the better.

See you on the 17th.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I thought it might be a good idea to offer a few tips to our readers. I know several of you get the blog via email on the day after we post it. And some of you go to the website and read there. A few of you are “followers” and somehow have figured out how to get notice of new postings every day, or of comments as they appear.

One thing both Carman and I have been doing more of lately is linking to other articles or friendly blogs we think you might enjoy. Sometimes it’s a link back to an old post that has some relevance or that we’d like to remind you about.

I hope that most of you know that if you find a word or phrase or bit of instruction like “Click here” that’s underlined or shows up in a different colour (usually blue) in the text of your message, that you should click on that word and be magically transported to another site where you’ll find a treasure we want you to have.

These can be a bit tricky for us to insert, and we try to check them all to ensure the links aren’t broken. But occasionally you’ll get a message, something like “Page Not Found” in big bold letters. If that should happen, just send me an email and I’ll try to get it repaired, or I’ll send you the link. [Note: thanks Steve!]

If you read our whole post without ever visiting any of those outside links, you’ll still have the whole message we intended for you. So if you are a novice Blog-reader and haven’t known about these clues, don’t worry that you’ve missed the essential lesson or news-bit we meant for you to read. But if you connect to the links you’ll be a little bit richer, a bit better informed and you’ll find some other writers or excellent resources you might want to read or use in future.

For those who receive What’s the Good Word? by email, let me encourage you to occasionally bring up the main site. Check the sidebars for a few of our most favourite bloggers. And don’t forget the Comments. Every day there are folks who respond or ask questions or add a little bit to what we’ve written in the main post. We enjoy and value this feedback so very much. If you track these bonus conversations you become part of a little “community” in conversation about the many good things happening in our larger Canada East community and beyond.

I hope this is helpful. If there is more to say on the topic I trust that one of our faithful followers will add his or her comment to the message. Thanks for following us and for participating.

Posted by Marion

Monday, May 16, 2011


On Saturday, May 14, 2011, twenty-nine people gathered in St. Thomas congregation’s fellowship hall to take the Child Protection training. This was the first class using the new “core” training approach created by Karen Waring. The class was about evenly split between those who are already registered as child and youth workers wanting to renew their training, and those who are new to the process needing to become registered. It was a good day; one I consider an important milestone for the folks from St. Thomas and others who attended.

At the heart of the child protection training is the need of the child for safe care. We recognize that their well-being must take precedence over the convenience of the worker. Protecting the children in our care from harm must always be our number one priority.

Throughout the day we talked about the variety of ways we do this, exploring the principles we employ. Those principles include the registered child and youth worker program itself and the need for training such as we were undertaking right there and then. The principles also include the two deep rule (or 2 X 2 rule) which means that a worker never works with children by her/himself because there are always at least two registered adults present, and the 1:1 visibility rule which means that, if you have to be alone with a child or youth for some reason, you go to a place where you are clearly visible to others.

The morning following this intense, day-long session, I awoke with a fresh thought; one clearly related to the previous day’s work. What if we were to treat each child as if they were God? What if every child was really God in human form? What if this child was God choosing to have a human experience? What if that experience included the unknown and uncertainty; the need to learn and find one’s way through this life? What if our task was to be caregivers for God in Human form; would we treat that Child any differently? If we were to be guides and protectors to God’s self on this adventure, how would we behave towards this God/Child?

It is an interesting question, don’t you think? Is this what Jesus means in his great, apocalyptic description of judgment (Matthew 25) when he says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”?

The Hindu’s use a Sanskrit word we have probably each heard and perhaps become familiar with. The word is Namaste, which is frequently interpreted to mean, "The spirit in me respects the spirit in you," or "the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you."

May we each recognize, respect and honour the divinity of God in every child we meet. May each and every God/Child always be safe in our care.

Posted by Carman

Friday, May 13, 2011


As I prepare this post, a group of International leaders are gathered together for important meetings. No, this is not the G20 or any such thing. This is a group of Community of Christ leaders from around the world who are meeting together in Independence, MO. (or in IndepMO as some younger folks have humorously dubbed that place.)

At this gathering are church leaders from around the world. Some will come from various nations in Africa. The church in India will no doubt be represented, as well as various countries in Europe, Australia, French Polynesia, and Fiji. Leaders will probably come from the Philippines, Korea, and perhaps Japan. The Mexican church will be there, along with representatives from the many countries of Central and South America. Some will attend for the first time. Canada is represented at the table by our beloved Bishop, Jim Poirier.

Undoubtedly there will also be some disappointments thanks to the difficulty in getting visas to enter United States from many countries these days. I would be very surprised if our Chinese friends were able to attend, along with representatives from several other countries.

It is really quite remarkable that a gathering like this is even possible. During my youth, Community of Christ was not represented in most of those places. In fact, it was not until the 1960s, less than 50 years ago, that the church under the leadership of President W. Wallace Smith began the rapid expansion we have seen in recent years.

The gathering of the ILC (International Leadership Council) is a relatively new thing. To be honest, I really have no idea what is on the agenda this time around. It could be big things or little things, I simply do not know. What I do know is that this gathering matters. From this group, remarkable contributions to the church have already emerged. For instance, the We Share booklet that has become so familiar to us over the past two years grew out of the work of this council as leaders met to discuss the resources that were needed in all the countries where the church exists. Leaders from around the world came, put their heads together, and blessed the church. Hallelujah!

So as you go about your day today, perhaps you might want to offer a short prayer of thanksgiving for this group, and the work they are doing. Because of them, thousands of lives are being blessed, both at home and abroad. I think of that gathering, and I am grateful. May the good Spirit richly bless their fellowship and their efforts, and may each of them have safe passage back home.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


It’s sheep season again in the lectionary. Of course if you happen to be out in the countryside, you may notice that it’s “lambing season” out there too. But I’m not going to talk about signs of spring and new babies in the pastures and the barns and the nests. Today I’m trying to think about this whole metaphor of the sheep and the shepherds.

One summer, long ago, my son Arthur worked on a sheep farm. That was a very formative summer for him in a number of ways. It was a summer of heat and hay and hard, hard work. But it was also a summer of changing attitudes-- about sheep, for one thing. I recall Art saying that he’d heard the scripture of the peaceable kingdom and the lion lying down with the lamb. Now he knew, he would tell us, that the problem wasn’t going to be with the lion; if there was any trouble you could bet it was the lamb who started it!

Sheep have several problematic tendencies. They will follow a leader into no matter what kind of trouble with nary a backward glance. Or they will get separated from the community and just keep going, no looking back or turning around. And, of course, they aren’t very smart.

So we return to that familiar Psalm and try to hear it again, from the sheep’s perspective. All that leading and rescuing and pulling out of dark crevasses (probably a better translation than our usual understanding of the lush grassy valleys) might bring new images to mind. Given the gospel’s use of the Good Shepherd as an image for Jesus, we don’t have another place for ourselves. If Jesus is the “shepherd” than there’s nothing else for it but to cast ourselves in the role of “the sheep.” None too flattering a concept, alas.

The lectionary also reminds us about Peter, though. Even though the reference is one more “lost sheep” reference, I am still reminded of his encounter with the risen Jesus on the shore (John 21) when he keeps saying “Do you love me? Feed my sheep; feed my lambs.” It’s possible to think of Jesus' whole ministry as one of trying to get us sheep out of the fold where we want to cower and feel safe. He’s been trying to teach us not to be fearful bumbling critters, but to recognize that we need not be captive there. He is both the Shepherd and the “gate” (John 10) and now we are freed to live with a new reality, as “resurrection people.”

He is alive, and we are called to become shepherds too. What do you think? Can we be both sheep and shepherds? Can we learn the lesson of “turn around” and move on to be a feeder of sheep and lambs?

That’s my question for today.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


It is very nice to receive the calls, the cards, the carnations—maybe even the breakfast in bed and a “by” on the dishes. “No Mom, you sit down, it’s Mother’s Day.”

Whatever the family traditions I’m OK with them. I have some concerns about some of the traditions that have found their way into our worship practices. Some folks much smarter and more sensitive than I have explored a few of the traps we may fall into there. Here’s one of the best I’ve read.

In my researching I did discover some interesting and challenging facts about the historic origins of this day. Daughter Anna Jarvis wanted to memorialize her mother’s lifetime of efforts on behalf of disadvantaged children and mothers in mid-nineteenth century West Virginia mills and factories. She was shocked by the horrific conditions people, particularly women and children, were enduring. Crowded housing and working conditions, disease, malnutrition, children forced to work at the expense of their education and any hope for a decent future.

Jarvis undertook to organize what she called “Mother’s Day Clubs” bringing other women to work in relief actions and to pressure factory owners and government to reduce the suffering and pass laws to make significant changes to work as well as food safety and disease control practices.

During the American Civil War the model of the Mothers’ Day Club was used to mobilize volunteers to go into field hospitals, onto battle fields, tending to the sons of North or South who were being wounded and maimed by this most cruel conflict.

It was out of this latter experience Julia Ward Howe stepped up to advocate for a national day to promote the objectives of these two movements. She believed that mothers could best understand the desperate need to end such conflicts, to fight for peace in word and in deed. And in the shadow of WWI, President Wilson agreed and instituted this national day in recognition of the Mothers whose chief goals were peace and justice, ending the conditions that took untold lives by war or in tragic exploitation by cruel industrialists.

Unfortunately, the end of the First World War also saw the rise of commercialism and of advertising. Mothers’ Day was one of the “victims” of this development. Within fifteen years of its institution, Anna Jarvis’ daughter lamented that she had ever allowed her mother’s efforts to be associated with the day that had been co-opted by those commercial influences.

She despaired that the day she hoped would mobilize the voices of caring women had lost its focus and become another spectacle of shopping and feasting. I think Anna Jarvis would be pleased if we truly take up the Mission Initiatives to “abolish poverty, end suffering and pursue peace on earth.”

Oh yes, I love to hear from my kids and grandkids on Mother’s Day, but I am so very proud that all of them are doing things with their lives to end suffering and pursue peace. That is the best gift!

Posted by Marion