Search This Blog

Subscribe By Email

Get Blog Posts Sent by Email

About This Blog

How to Comment on Blog Posts

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?"

Friday, July 29, 2011


This is the summer of my “Farewell Tour” – and No, it’s not the least bit like Cher’s. While I’m mostly holding the fort at the office while my colleagues take advantage of all the summer's reunion/camping opportunities, I do bob in for a day from time to time. I like to see the people and enjoy a bit of a conversation. ( I like conversations and think they are very important!)

You may also remember that there have been many occasions to come together to memorialize some of those we’ll be missing as our community goes forward. On one of those occasions I reminded us all via our blog that it’s important to let people know how much we appreciate them while we still have the chance.

Now this last point is the one I’m going to talk about today. I’m realizing as I’m out and about talking to folks just how often those folks have been expressing appreciation to me. They’re taking the time to say it out loud, in a few nicely-thought- out words, some of the things they’ve appreciated about me! While this was not what I expected and certainly not what I was “asking for” it has been lovely, nonetheless. I’ve most certainly noticed for years and years how most people do like to get positive feedback. People thrive on being told what they do that others like and appreciate about them. It’s part of the glue that binds our communities together. And you know, it feels darned nice to receive it too! Thank you.

When we started our “What’s the Good Word” blog, we established a philosophy of “good news,” of sharing some of the many, many things worthy of celebration going on in our particular faith community. It was a deliberate attempt to affect the tone of the conversation among our members and friends, in our congregations and out there on the margins and fringes.

Oh yes, there will always be something to complain about. (I confess; I can have a pretty good time in that camp as well.) But at the risk of being maudlin, we’re just so much better when we’re celebrating our positives. As Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said: “a man is what he thinks about all day long.”

So once again, let me say how very much I appreciate the expressions of appreciation I’ve been hearing, observing, receiving from so many of you out there. The best ones may be the specifics e.g. “I used that blog post in an offertory” or “I really like that you suggest books that are exactly right for me” or “thanks for letting everyone know about our achievement; it helped us meet our goals.” I love hearing them too. “Good job, kiddo. You really cleaned up those dishes in quick order tonight. Thanks.” And “Thanks so much for insisting folks use the microphone; I normally have a hard time hearing the whole discussion.”

See what I mean? Appreciation is the glue that binds us together; it’s the oil that keeps this machine humming.

Appreciation posted by Marion

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Earlier today, about mid-morning, I took a break from work and walked outside to catch a breath of air. I thought to myself, “Perfect! This is just a perfect day.” It was not the first time I thought that this summer, and hopefully it won’t be the last. The sun was shining, the temperature was about 23C, there was a lovely breeze to stir the flowers, and a few white puffy clouds in the sky for contrast. Another perfect day, or at least a perfect moment.

Of course my evaluation of the day was based on the weather, but it really isn’t the weather than determines the degree of perfection a day offers, is it? It felt perfect to me, but if the weather had produced a nice, soft, warm, gentle rain, would it have been any less perfect? Probably the farmer that is concerned about his corn and beans would think that was even more perfect. In this area we have had no rain so far in July, and some plants are beginning to show it.

In truth, what made the day perfect was not that the weather was any better or different than the day before, but the fact that I happened to take a moment in the middle of the day to notice. I wonder how many perfect moments or perfect days we miss because we are too busy to pay attention.

All of that suggests that perhaps perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Is that possible? I don’t think I have ever looked at a snow storm and thought, “what a perfect day.” Well…maybe when I was 10 and school was cancelled, but that didn’t seem to happen very often in those days, even when there was lots of snow and the temperature was -20! Hmmm...perhaps my eyesight for perfection needs adjusting.

According to the Weather Channel, tomorrow is expected to be much like today, and the day after, and the day after that, and so on. I guess I will just have to wait to see if I can look at a rainy day and say it is perfect. And of course I will have no problem waiting a long, long time to test that theory out on snow!

In the meantime, may we each strive to be aware of the perfect moments that touch us every day. God's peace!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This picture appeared on facebook this morning. You've gotta love all those red shirts and shining faces. This is our team, this week attending SPEC at the Graceland campus in Lamoni Iowa. (Click here to see what it's all about!)

We were having a conversation just yesterday around our lunch table. It seems some of our children have heard about this "thing called Graceland" and were asking what it's all about anyway. It was one of those all-too-familiar conversations about these children of the children we knew way back when. Tim, the newest member of our team, recounted how he had traveled to Lamoni in the summer of "70-something" and had the most spectacular experience! All his kids have followed in his footsteps.

My own kids never did the SPEC thing, but we did fall under the spell of Graceland as two sons' academic careers tracked through that campus. And now I'm delivering one of their kids to junior high camp to see if there's a place for him on this team Canada. Of course there is!

The gang meeting that bus had such a fun time connecting back through the generations. Three couples waiting there had met at camp, years ago. Three others had directed camps this summer and were now putting their own progeny on that bus.

Picking them up again was a whole other matter. Excited campers (high on sugar and camp!) poured off the bus to give everybody one more hug while sorting out luggage and bags and sombreros and pillows from the mix. They're a team now, for sure. They may not yet realize that they're part of a bigger team than meets the eye. Who knows how many will make it to SPEC at some point.

We look at that picture and try to find the faces we might know. The archives are full of such pictures. But the heart of the team beats beyond those red shirts, as moms and dads, and grandpas and grandmas and former camp directors and counselors recognize a look or a smile or a goofy expression that looks just so familiar. It's our team!

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I had a note from one of my sisters the other day. Her email contained the disappointing news that she is not able to come for a visit, but it also held a delightful surprise. My sister shared a link to some writing she has been doing on a blog of her own. I read her posts, and was totally delighted. It was enough to make me feel a sense of instant connection. I had a glimpse into her distant life, her relationship with her now grown children and even her dogs. It was wonderful and made me want more.

That lovely surprise got me thinking about you, and made me wonder how many of you are writing. It occurred to me that, of all the blog links we have on the lower left of this page, only one is written by a reader and follower; our delightful Tomato Transplants. Surely that is just not right! While we do not know exactly how many there are who follow these pages, we know there are more than a few hundred who check in with some regularity. It seems highly unlikely, therefore, that there is only one writer in the whole bunch!

Are there other bloggers out there that we don’t know about? Come on now, fess up! Are you writing and not sharing? This need not be a one-way conversation you know. If you are writing, will you not share with the rest of us?

If you are writing and willing to share (and I can’t think of a reason you would write a blog unless you were), would you please send us the link? You can do it privately if you wish, but we would be delighted to read your poetic verse or prose. And just in case you are shy, I promise we will not publically add you to the list of blogs we follow unless you give us permission.

So how about it; are you writing and willing to share with the rest of us? After all, enquiring minds want to know! Lets make this more than a one way connection, okay?

Posted by Carman

Monday, July 25, 2011

A year ago

Here's a reprise of a blog we posted one year ago. You'll find some familiar topics as we come to the end of Healing and Freeing the Spirit reunion along with some good resources to help us think about the values of "Small."

Click here to read this post from 2010

Posted by Marion

Friday, July 22, 2011


I had a conversation the other day with one of our Mission Advocates. Our conversation was about conversations. He shared with me that when he first accepted the MA job, he really didn’t understand what he was supposed to do.

Oh he got the message about how important is it for us all to be engaged in “doing mission” and that “what matters most” is indeed a call to be about Christ’s business in the communities where we live and work. He very much got that we need to be about responding to God’s call to be working in the world, inviting people into community, working at compassionate ministry. He loves the notion of making the world a place that is more about peace and justice.

But he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do—as a Mission Advocate!

We talked some more about the things he has been trying. He’s had any number of conversations with pastors and other folks who’ve sought him out, because of course, now he has a title and a job and must be able to help them. And they’ve talked about their hopes and concerns for their congregations or their families or the world we live in.

He shared with me how he’d attended some gatherings. One was with a group of folks who’d come to listen to what the Apostle had to tell them. He was glad to have heard her preach, but the best part of that gathering, he reported to me, was the afternoon before that was just an extended conversation with the people who’d come to listen to her. Then he told me that he’d even had a chance to talk with other people who’d been there and that those conversations were even better. Thinking about what they’d heard and then talking some more had deepened the experience for them.

“We weren’t worrying about who had been there and who hadn’t,” he reflected. “We just enjoyed our conversation.”

It was somewhere about here that our conversation took an unexpected turn.

“You know,” said this rookie Mission Advocate, “I’m beginning to think the answer to my own question about what I’m supposed to do is right here. I’m supposed to get people to talk to each other. Not come to listen to someone—either me, or the Mission President, or even the Apostle. My job is to get us all into meaningful conversations with each other. As I look back over the past few months, the richest and deepest and most important times have been the conversations I’ve had with people.”

It might be a bit counter-cultural. People always seem to want to just come and hear what some expert has to say. We try to think of activities that others will find worth attending, things that will entertain or enlighten. But when we look back don’t we always say “wasn’t it great just to get together and talk?”

If we truly care about mission, then our conversations will move us in that direction. At least that’s what we thought, that afternoon, as we were talking.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Summer is passing quickly. Somehow I knew that would happen, but I am still dismayed at the speed with which these lovely summer days are slipping by. What is the hurry? Summer just began, and already in the fields around the village where I live, the farmers are working on the 2nd cut of hay, the strawberries are over, the wheat has already turned to gold, and the corn…I swear it is growing at the rate of 6 or 8 inches a day! It seems like just last week those corn plants were just two little leaves sticking out of the ground, and now they are already five feet high!

A few days ago in this blog we were talking about the rapidly approaching camping season, and I recall writing that in a mere 13 weeks it would be Labour Day. Now it is a mere six! Summer is passing far too quickly.

At the risk of showing how old I really am, when I was a child, summer days seemed to last forever. I can recall being about three, and playing outside day after day. Then there seemed to be no end to summers but now they pass so quickly.

Of course buried in that statement lies the truth. When I was a child, I played outside, day after day with no other demands. Now the opportunity to play at all seems so illusive. And therein lies the problem.

It occurs to me that Jesus would not waste his entire summer on work. I can’t imagine it, can you? Somehow I see him saying to the disciples, ‘Lets go down the park and play some ball today, or maybe go for a swim.’ After all, does Matthew not tell us that Jesus actually moved and made his home in Capernaum by the sea (Matthew 4:13)? So what is with all this constant working anyway?

I hope you are able to take some time to enjoy your summer. You need to visit with friends, meet some new people, feel the sun on your face and smell the roses. You may as well; the work will still be there.

And if you need still further incentive, Let me remind you that December 1st is now only 19 weeks away.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


We've talked before about the various different "kinds" of people there are in our amazing and diverse world. Cat people and dog people, tea people and coffee people, introverts and extroverts--the categories could go on and on. It occurred to me yesterday that there are people who like jigsaw puzzles and those who don't.

I spent the day yesterday with the fifty or so folks who are this week enjoying the Healing and Freeing the Spirit experience at Ziontario. One feature of that gathering is always a table set up, right in the middle of things, with one of those lovely giant jigsaw puzzles in process. Any time during the week, day or night, before and after and even while classes or activities are ongoing, one or more heads will be bent over that table working on the puzzle. As one is completed someone pulls out another. Why, they've even been known to call home to have a visitor for the day bring an especially challenging one along. "The one we're on now will be done by tonight!"

I wonder why there seems to be an inordinate number of jigsaw puzzle lovers who attend this otherwise small reunion? Could it be that these are people who've already spent a good part of their lives thinking about healing and wholeness? The classes are generally led by folks who've already overcome some need in their own life to put things together, to consider what contributes to good health and wellness. They're open to exploring interesting and non-traditional, new or ancient, methods and techniques. They try to keep their minds and hearts open to the wonderful ways their bodies, minds and spirits have been created and search for balance and sustainable life practices.

Just as they'll ensure the kitchen is turning out healthy food for all (Great job there Robert and team!), and remind each other to pick up things that could be recycled and not mar Mother Earth's lovely face. They share tips for small space gardening and eating locally and reading scripture in ways that lift the spirit. Even the harmonious sharing of the cleanup duties feels perfect.

No wonder they are happy to pore over a 1000 piece puzzle, sharing the task of getting all those pieces put together; morning people collaborate with night owls until the last hole is filled and everyone takes satisfaction in a job well done. One more picture comes together from a pile of jagged pieces.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This has been my task today. I really can't say there's much of a sermonette or even a worthy thought for the day in there, but when you have an office as chock-a-block full of paper as I do, there comes a time when you just have to bite the bullet and -- shred it!

I'm trying very hard not to spend too much time looking at these pieces of paper that I'm tossing in the shredding box. My guiding principle is this: if I haven't looked at this in weeks, or months, or years, then chances are it's out of date or really wasn't worth keeping in the first place.

I confess to glancing briefly at a few workshops I've designed, class papers I've written, discussion questions I've compiled and remembering fondly the first (or last) time I used them. But I also know very well that folks offering workshops or doing research or preparing for discussions also deserve the fun they'll have inventing their own, and don't need my help.

I did only a cursory glance at the conference bulletins, orders of service for a few special occasions. I peeked briefly at the pictures in some of the old newsletters, Heralds, and graduation programs I discovered.

I'm feeling a real sense of accomplishment as I move some things that have been mine into a nice orderly and documented stack of things that will become someone else's very soon. It's especially good to know who those folks are and to feel confident that they'll do just a fine job carrying that responsibility into the future.

Now this is beginning to sound like a major "Farewell Address" and it isn't quite that yet. But today has been "Shredding Day" so this is what you get. May I also say that I'm very much looking forward to creating some more papers, stories, poems, letters, journal entries, essays, etc. for some future time. I am not through with accumulating or with creating just yet. And I have too much fondness for the blank page to give it all up any time soon.

Now, back to the files!

Posted by Marion

Monday, July 18, 2011


To speak or not to speak; that is the question!

A friend of mine recently lost her father. He is one of the missing Marion recently wrote about. Perhaps it was the fact that she was accustomed to visiting him every day and could no longer do so that prompted her to drop in to a local coffee shop. It was just a few days later, and she had never done that before.

While there, she noticed a man who, from his clothing, was clearly a cyclist. Because she is a cyclist herself, she had an urge to begin a conversation with this stranger. To speak or not to speak must have been the question. She is not a forward person, and it must have taken some courage to approach this stranger to ask about his morning ride.

As they chatted, the man mentioned that he was retired from Babcock and Wilcox; a large engineering and manufacturing firm that is also a prominent local employer. My friend responded, “Oh, my father worked there too.” The man enquired as to her father’s name, and when she told him, he replied, “When I was a young man, newly arrived from Northern Ireland and starting work at that new place, it was your father who took me under his wing and taught me how to do the job.” He then went on to tell her that her father was not just his mentor at work, but also in life! He had taken an interest in this young man and offered him good counsel and advice to help him find his way.

In the chance encounter (?) with this cyclist in a coffee shop where she had never gone before, my grieving friend found an affirmation concerning a side of her father’s life she had never known. What a blessing! She felt as if she had received a message from her missing father himself. When I happened to call later, she was anxious to tell me all about it.

What if my friend had resisted the silent urge to reach out to this stranger? What if she had remained within her quiet, shy nature and not spoken to the man? She would never have known! Oh, the joy she would have missed!

How often do we meet someone and want to speak to them but are too introverted to do so? How many times do we deny a blessing to ourselves or someone else because we are reticent to speak to someone who catches our attention? How often do we resist the promptings of our spirit to reach out to another human being? In doing that, do we deny ourselves a blessing?

May God's peace be with you today, and if you have the opportunity, may you also share that peace with someone you may meet. Who knows what blessings may await.

Posted by Carman

Friday, July 15, 2011


You know that old saying: you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. Those of us still paying attention to the Lectionary this month have had a chance to consider gospel-writer Matthew’s take on some of Jesus’ more familiar “country” parables. We’ve thought about the sower and now we’re into weeding season! It follows inevitably, as any of you country folk know only too well. This week’s parable of the wheat and the tares sets this country girl to thinking about weeds!

I have a somewhat conflicted attitude about weeds. The dictionary defines a weed as a plant growing where you didn’t plant it and don’t want it. I love a nice natural grassy area with lots of volunteer buttercups and daisies; why I don’t even mind the dandelions all that much! A wildflower garden has just so much more appeal to me than a neatly manicured lawn.

When we moved to a new place a few years ago, we rejoiced at the lovely little yellow pear-shaped tomatoes that sprang up, unplanted, unknown and unexpected in our flower bed. Technically a weed, it returned faithfully in one place or another for the several years we lived there.

My generosity, however, does not extend to all such volunteers. I cannot abide a milkweed on my property. Butterflies, who love their blooms, must go elsewhere for their welcome. At this moment, in the front garden at my office—a garden tended conscientiously by someone else—there grows a lush and vibrant yellow blooming plant. It’s probably a meter tall, with brilliant green foliage and a dozen or more flowers waving lazily in the summer breezes. It’s driving me crazy. It is a sow-thistle!

I spent most of my childhood working in the fields with my siblings, my cousins, my dad and uncle, trying to eradicate these pesky weeds from our soybean, corn and tomato crops. It was a matter of pride how very “clean” our crops were.

Modern farm practice is given more to cleaning up of the harvested seed. You seldom see today’s farm workers out hoeing. As I ponder the parable of the tares, in which the farmer urges his workers to leave the weeds and the wheat to grow together and leave it to the angels to manage the differences in due time, I struggle. Jesus tries to help his disciples understand his meaning.

I think I may need to resist my urge to start pulling weeds out of my life. There are people who show up whose character and qualities I just don’t get—at least not yet. Jesus clearly indicates that the wheat and the tares are people. But he also says it isn’t up to me to declare anyone a weed and cast them out.

I know how easy it is to judge someone a weed. I may think I know best what to do about this milkweed or that sowthistle. But in God’s garden, it isn’t up to me to do the weeding. I have a different calling.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, July 14, 2011


God is calling for a prophetic community to emerge, drawn from the nations of the world, that is characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Through divine grace and wisdom, this faith community has been given abundant gifts, resources, and opportunities to equip it to become such a people. Chief among these is the power of community in Christ expressed locally in distinctive fashions while upholding a unity of vision, foundational beliefs, and mission throughout the world. – Doctrine and Covenants 163:11a

Does anyone besides me find the bolded statement in the middle of the above paragraph startling? Think about it. Were we not taught in Econ 101 that the first principle of economics is that resources are scarce? Is it not a fact that most of us live our lives assuming that principle is true? Do we not spend vast quantities of time and mental/emotional energy worrying about the fact that there is not enough money to do the things we would like to do? Is that not true in our personal lives as well as our collective expression of community we call the church? And yet, here we have this recent scriptural text saying exactly the opposite!

1. present in great quantity; more than adequate; oversufficient: an abundant supply of water.
2. well supplied; abounding: a river abundant in salmon.
3. richly supplied: an abundant land.

The idea takes some getting used to, does it not? Perhaps we need to think differently just to get our heads around it. Of course the sentence is not about money is it? The sentence in question refers to abundant gifts, resources, and opportunities. (Okay, resources can certainly include money.) And, the sentence is set in context, which is all about what God is calling to the church to be.

What if the real resources we need are human ones, not financial? What if it is about the actions we take working together and not about buildings or other physical resources? The statement says we have been blessed with abundant gifts, resources (human), and opportunities to become a prophetic community characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Wow! Are we ready to go there? Are we ready to express that kind of community locally; i.e. in the places where we live?

Reading the statement from this perspective, perhaps there is little wonder both section 163 and 164, given just three years later, seek to encourage us not to be afraid! (see 163:1a and 164:9b)

Okay, maybe I need to go blow some more bubbles now!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Last fall I bought a new pair of running shoes. I don’t know if that was an act of optimism or just habit, since I have not been able to run for the past three years. Sadly, my running shoes are now used only for walking, mostly on the treadmill in winter and outside in the summer when I can.

My new shoes are designed with a space in the sole under the heel. I don’t know what the reason is for this, whether it saves a little rubber or keeps the shoe light, but either way, it sometimes produces an unintended result. When I walk on gravel roads, the shoe sometimes picks up a stone in that space.

Interestingly enough, I probably will not notice that the stone is there for some time. As long as I am walking on gravel, the stone may not become apparent. Eventually my route takes me off the gravel and onto pavement and eventually a sidewalk. All of a sudden, I become aware of a new sound as I walk along. What is that click, click, click? If I pay attention, I will also notice that something does not feel quite right. Sure enough, a stone has become lodged in the sole of my shoe, and it is necessary to stop and pry it out.

At this point, I am going to assume that the metaphor is pretty obvious and will not go into unnecessary explanation. Instead, let me just ask you, have you ever picked up a stone in your soul?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thank you

This morning’s post is to express my appreciation and to give you one last update on something that started out almost by accident. About three weeks ago, I mentioned in a post called Camp that there was a larger than normal number of would-be campers this year whose families were unable to afford the camp fees. I had not consciously planned to include that information; it just sort of wrote itself from my fingers to the screen. I looked at it and decided to leave it there to see what would happen.

The first call came in immediately. I briefly mentioned the situation again the next week in a post entitled Camp II, once again as an add-on. More people made enquiries and pledged to help send a kid to camp. A week or so later, I wrote the post Camperships. This was really to express my appreciation for that response, and to provide a slightly fuller description of the situation. Once again, an immediate response occurred.

What an amazing group of generous disciples you are! As of now, we have received enough money to cover the camp fees of every child or youth who has requested assistance! I am not really surprised, but I am overwhelmed. Thank you sounds so inadequate to express the gratitude we feel, but I don't know what else to say.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

In the past, local congregations and the Frank Clifton fund have helped send kids to camp, but this year they were unable to fill the gap. You have stepped into that breach and done the job.

If you are one who provided the means to make this happen, I want you to know that you have made a huge difference in the life of a child. I have personally met many of these children, so trust me when I say that you have done a very good thing.

With heart-felt appreciation,


Monday, July 11, 2011


Let’s talk about culture. Not culture in the sense of elite, hoity-toity, ballet and opera culture, but culture in the sense of “how we do things around here.” There are just so many ways culture impacts me and us and doing business that I think we need to chat about it a little. OK?

There’s culture in a very big way. We speak of our “Western culture.” That’s a very broad brush that might mean rational, or scientific, or capitalist, or individual (to the point of ego-centric). All those things can be gathered up and tossed into a single box labeled “culture.”

The church has a culture too. In your Sharing in Community of Christ booklet, you’ll definitely find some things that are part of our culture. Some things connect us with folks from the other side of the globe, who are different and yet in some special ways the same.

Some things we do and perspectives we hold just because we are Canadian. I could list a few of those national cultural things, but you know them and I don’t have the space. Mainly because I want to talk about the much smaller definitions of culture that have impact way beyond the size of them!

There’s family culture. My family has one and so does yours. Attitudes and practices and stories are very particular to our family. There are things we say to each other that we alone understand. How we do the dishes or who gets the last piece of pie or what time is bedtime all get determined by our family culture.

Congregations have culture. Oh my! This is a big one. Just as it is difficult for the fish to discuss the water they’re swimming in, it can be just oh so hard for us to be aware of our congregation’s culture or to consider ways it may be creating problems for us, for each other and, in a very big way, for our visitors. Some of the ways our congregational cultures differ are just fun. It really doesn’t matter who leads the way in line at the potluck. Maybe it’s the children (feed the kids first and get them settled and out of the way of the adults…) or the guest ministry (because after all you are the honoured guest and should go first…) or families stay together (so parents can monitor the kids’ plates and ensure there is still enough for everyone….). I’m sure someone, sometime had good reasons for offering the prayer over the offering before it’s collected just as someone else understands very clearly why the prayer should come after it’s collected.

Those of us who routinely visit many congregations observe these peculiarities of culture much more than those of you who live in the midst of them. After all, the fish don’t notice the water. Until, or unless something stirs it up! Can we please think about our own special cultural distinctives for a bit? Because it’s not thinking about them that can create problems for us and make us feel inhospitable to visitors.

What have you noticed about culture?

Posted by Marion

Friday, July 8, 2011


I am thinking about the constant need to focus this morning; the need to concentrate one’s thoughts or intentions on what we really want to accomplish. Without focus, we are likely to wander off somewhere we did not really plan to go, and not get to where we thought we were going.

Why is it so hard to stay focused? In our post-modern world, it may be tempting to respond with comments about information overload, the demands on our time, or all the stresses and pressures people face. To focus, however, is to cut through all that, to sort the email from the junk mail and concentrate on what matters most.

The temptation not to focus has always existed. It is not some new phenomenon of the 21st century. It is somehow in the very DNA of the universe to have many things compete for our attention. That is part of the lesson Italian children’s writer Carlo Collodi conveyed in his story The Adventures of Pinocchio. The little wooden puppet learns that,if you want to be a real boy, you have to concentrate on where you were going (school) and not be distracted by every interesting thing or person that calls to you. As the story unfolds, Collodi tells us that disaster and disappointment lie down that alternate path.

The need to focus is also reflected in religious literature. Siddhartha has to give up all distractions in order to seek the path to enlightenment and find his Buddha nature. At the age of twelve, Jesus travels to Jerusalem with his family to celebrate the feast of the Passover. When his parents return home, he stays behind in the Temple. When his parents find and question him, he says, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49 NKJV) He was already focused.

In the last few years, Community of Christ has also been seeking clarify its focus. We have been seeking to redefine and articulate exactly what our mission is. We have come a long way in that task. We have now reminded ourselves that Christ’s mission is our mission and that the church has no other reason to exist. In response to the question, “What is Christ’s mission?” President Veazey has identified the mission initiatives based on Luke 4:18,19 and expressed that in his sermon, The Mission Matters Most.

Despite all the progress made in our refocused understanding, the temptation to concentrate on other elements remains. It is so easy to be sidetracked from what is important by that which presents itself as merely urgent. It was ever thus.

May you find life a blessing today as you seek to focus on what really matters.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Hello all you blog friends. I had a lovely day yesterday, part of my "farewell tour", spent with the folks at Ziontario. It was indeed that perfect summer's day. I always love the drive up-country, through lush fields; it's the beginning of the hay harvest. Hills and valleys and broad expanses of canola bloom, the occasional group of boys fishing off the bridge, and herds of cows all facing in the same direction (how do they DO that anyway?) made for just a wonderful morning.

There's a good crowd enjoying the ministry of Apostle Susan. There are so many kids of all ages they've had to split classes. The book table was looking beautifully sparse and picked over--although still plenty of great titles for you late-comers. Afternoon chats, both formal and informal were taking place here and there around the area. My choice of picnic table out in the open made it ideal to greet many folks passing by, some "on a mission" and others off to swim or meet up with someone somewhere.

Now here I am the following morning, trying to sort through the many random thoughts and ideas I might shape into some kind of blog message but really unable to sort them into any kind of mini-masterpiece at all!

I guess I need Carman's advice about "focus." Watch for tomorrow's message and I'll share that advice with you. Meanwhile, have a great summer day. May it be perfect for you as well.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


It really is a genuine word. In the dictionary and everything. Even though it’s not been around very long. According to our good friends at Wikipedia the word was first coined on that great Canadian tv show “Corner Gas” in 2005 and was taken officially into the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in 2009! Once again, Canadian comics impact the universe.

Staycations grew out of major economic problems, low monetary rates, high gas prices. It just got too expensive to travel for holidays and families en masse were deciding to just stay home and take advantage of the attractions in their own backyards.

So what’s the difference, some may ask, between this staycation and just hanging around home being bored because you can’t afford to take a real vacation? And the answer, of course, is attitude, That and intention. If you just sit on the couch and feel deprived, it isn’t a real staycation at all. You must make a plan, whether it’s to put your picnic lunch in a basket and take it to the park on the corner, or you decide to spend the whole day blowing bubbles in the wading pool in your own backyard, your holiday attitude makes all the difference. Put on your sun hats and your sun screen, pack sandwiches and juice boxes in your back pack and hike to the municipal museum. It’s only twelve blocks and you’ve never been there!

See what I mean?

It’s quite similar to our conversation the other day about “Ordinary time.”

You could feel sorry that you couldn’t get the time off to go to reunion this summer (because that’s where all the really spiritual stuff happens) or you could strike up a conversation with that person who always seems to be sitting alone in the coffee shop. Maybe they need a friend. Could be they’re new in the neighbourhood and hoping to meet somebody too. Look around and really see who needs a friendly connection.

What might you do to be intentional about your discipleship during this ordinary, stay at home time? What’s going on right there in your own neighbourhood that needs some attention? Can you see anyone already working to abolish poverty and end suffering? What peace and justice projects are happening right there in your community that need you to pitch in? Human need doesn’t take a vacation.

Too often, I think, we wish someone else would come along. We long for more active young adults to turn up on our congregation or community. We think we should invite the apostle or the seventy to visit us and “turn things around” in our struggling congregation. Heaven forbid we’re waiting for fall when congregational life cranks back into action.

I’m suggesting we put on a good positive “staycation outlook” and start making things happen ourselves. After all, we already live here. Let’s exercise our initiative and get things growing. It’s the green season!

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


In the blog post Action, I offered a few thoughts about a series of words that stand out to me in the early verses of what is now Doctrine and Covenants Section 163. This morning I would like to revisit that list. It seems to me there is much to be understood there; certainly far more than we will be able to explore here.

I find an interesting progression in that series of verbs. It seems to me the list begins with actions designed to aid or increase our understanding; words like discern, embrace, discover, become. Then a shift occurs, and we move to word that reflect more physical action. This part of the list includes verbs like go, come, receive, follow, share, and restore. As the list goes on, the verbs seem to ramp the action up a bit to somewhat more aggressive terms like create, strive, challenge, pursue, and be alert. Finally, we turn to words that seem to have more to do with preparing to go further or equipping others for their tasks. This part of the list includes terms like open, awaken, equip, and prepare.

It seems to me the progression in this sequence is reflective of the process we go through in almost any effort we undertake in life. First we need to learn more about the cause or task at hand. Having achieved at least a rudimentary level of understanding, we are able to begin doing some things. As we grow in confidence, knowledge and experience, we become more skilled with greater expertise and can pursue the goals more aggressively. Finally, we need to both go deeper and to recruit others to join the cause. We share our accumulated wisdom with them so they are better equipped to continue or expand the task.

Where are we are in this progression? Where am I? Where are our congregations? Thinking of the Mission of Jesus Christ as clarified by President Veazey through the Mission Initiatives, are we at the learning stage or are we ready for action? Perhaps you feel you have moved beyond the early stages to a more aggressive level or maybe you are at the point where you are recruiting and training others. Are we thinking about this? Are we preparing for action? I hope so.

As always, we would love for you to share your thoughts or responses to this subject.

Posted by Carman

Monday, July 4, 2011


How often have you been in a gathering, say at church, and the person up front appears ready to welcome you all and instead they begin to go on about how many are missing? You know, the line about how it’s summer and so many are off at the cottage, or maybe at camp or reunion. “It’s too bad we’re so few this morning, but we think about all those missing from our midst and look forward to their return.” And maybe you think “what am I, chopped liver?”

I wrote last week about my concern that we try to squeeze our call to mission into the bits of year between cottage time and snow bird season. Remember? It’s here. As with many of the good words I ponder, there is more than one way to think about them. I still think it’s important that we remember that call to be the Body of Christ—even on vacation!

But this morning I’m thinking about our sense of the missing. What is it that makes the missing ones just so very present for us? I’m not going to preach at you about being in church where you belong because you’re missed. I’m not going to remind you to send your offering (or sign up for PAT) because the church’s expenses continue even in your absence. I’m just thinking about how I miss so many who are not with us.

I am sitting with a major sense of loss this morning as I write. It does seem as if there are many who’ve left our community. We have had what feels like an inordinate number of farewells, funerals and memorials lately. I’m not going to list any because every one is a dear one of someone and I don’t want to leave any out. These are pillars in our extended community, wise elders we’ve looked to for years for advice, for wisdom, for stories of our history, for reminders of our heritage. I remember laughs, deep conversations, even stirring arguments with many of the men and women who will be missing from our next gathering.

They won’t be in their familiar places when next we gather. Someone might mention them and we may wipe away a tear together. We may squeeze the hand of our neighbour and we’ll both know what we mean. We’ll smile and remember each in our own way. We can sense the presence of those missing.

Others are still with us and we can be thankful for their presence and let them know we love and appreciate them. We can do what we can to knit new and precious relationships that link our community together. We can pull others into this web that needs to keep growing if it is to be alive.

I’m reminded of that familiar verse from the letter to the Hebrews encouraging the church: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…(Hebrews 12:1)

Friday, July 1, 2011


I had a note this morning from my co-blogger. Carman is off to several reunions this summer while I hold the fort back here at home base, writing blogs, orienting a new team member (more of that another day) and generally taking care of business.

Carman's note expressed an opinion about his own, somewhat "heavy" messages of late. He has been in a rather serious mood. Maybe a few weeks of camping with the folks will help shake him out of that.

"I do need to lighten up" was one thing he said in his note.

I know at our house, when we need to "lighten up" we get out the bubble stuff. There's just nothing like an afternoon blowing bubbles off the deck to give you a lift. Watch them float out over the garden, landing on flowers or perching on a blade of grass. See how long they can keep from popping. Sometimes they don't pop at all but just seem to dissolve and are not where they were just an instant ago.

How big can you make them? How high will they float? How many can you get from a single dip into the bubble-juice bottle? Which wand works best? Try the red one, the yellow one, the blue. What else do we have in the kitchen drawer that might work as well--or better?

Oh I can go on for hours blowing bubbles on a summer day. Maybe this will be one of my Canada Day things to do. Have a great day; take it easy. Don't forget your sun block. And come on back next week, or next month, or whenever, all lightened up!

Happy Canada Day! Now go blow some bubbles.

Posted by Marion