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?"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


One comment I heard several times from the various commentators who were part of the broadcast of the recent state funeral. One after another they kept being amazed at the silence of the assembled hundreds (thousands?) of mourners. There they sat on the grass in front of the big screens that enabled them to share what was happening inside, yet still in the midst of the big city. And they were absolutely silent.

I'm still thinking about this silence. What is it? What is happening? Why are Evan and Ann Marie and Lloyd and Peter so amazed by it?

While you think about that I have a couple of excellent links to share with you. I've been exploring this new website that appears to be just chock-a-block full of good helps and resources for all you preachers, teachers, worship planners out there. Have a look at it.

One of the excellent articles I found there, under the worship tab, is this essay about silence--what it is, why it is so important to our connecting with God, how to plan for it and incorporate it into our worship.

I'll not say more today, but leave you a little bit of extra time, either to just be silent, or to make those links and put them into your Favourites List.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I’ve shared before that this summer I am the one, for the most part, “holding the fort” here at the CEM office. Others have had the reunion and camp assignments. Several have had opportunities to vacation. One of them has even had the very special occasion to take a honeymoon! But because I’m not doing an extended vacation this year (at least not before November) I’m the one taking many of your calls and responding to your emailed questions.

It has occurred to me just how much we all pay attention to expectations. How many of the questions that come to me, either directly or as next-best-alternative in someone else’s absence, have to do with “what is expected of me?”

What are the expectations for persons being ordained? What is expected of me now that I have this or that new title? What do you need me to do if I accept this job? What is the likely response if I send out this announcement or that invitation or the other notice? What will be the expectations if we choose this course of action or if we decide to stop offering this service? I’ve been invited to speak; what are they expecting from me?

The list goes on and on. And here I sit as arbiter of expectations! (Who would have expected such a thing?)

All of these questions are legitimate; I don’t mind answering them one tiny bit. I’m happy to give the answers when I have them; or I’ll check with a higher authority if I need to. But very often, I find, the questioner really needs someone to let them know that what they’re planning to do is OK and that no one will be hurt or offended or upset if they happen to be wrong. Even if they’re not breaking any rule or commandment or going against policy or decree, they need to check the expectations around what they’re considering.

Sometimes there is a policy or a rule or a precedent that I can clarify or recall for them. Very often the traditions are quite local and while someone may not expect a “mere member” to offer the prayer, or even the sermon, there is no proscription against it. I am often reminded of the big, centre chair in my home congregation, since closed, and how we children would sometimes sneak in to the sanctuary, perhaps during potluck cleanup time and sit on it. Believe me, we knew for sure that we were not allowed to sit in that chair until we were grown and ordained to some very high office! I waited fifty years to sit there legitimately.

Most of the time we can consider the rules we know by heart:
“the mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.” (Section 164)

And this: “do justice, and... love kindness, and ... walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

If you’re living those expectations then all I can offer you is my blessing.

Posted by Marion

Monday, August 29, 2011


It was a good thing that I decided to do that little blogging series on stories last week. It saved me having to come up with a good word every day in a week that was feeling quite sad and unfocused. The passing of Jack Layton did touch me. It did seem to very unfair that someone I had admired and who was somehow "at the top of his game" should die. I am one who shared values that he espoused and I looked forward to what he might yet accomplish.

Of course this one event was not the only reason for feeling sad last week. There is not a week, it seems, when there are not reports of crime and wars with all their inherent loss of life and vision and opportunity. And we had plenty of that kind of reporting last week.

Then there are all the natural disasters. Last week was rife with them as well. It was a week when it was easy to weep.

But now I've pulled myself together (perhaps it was all those lovely stories that helped me), and I'm thinking of Stephen Covey's important lesson of the Circles. Here's a quick summary for you.

I am reminding myself that while I may have a large circle of concern it can tend to overwhelm me if I stay focused there--if I allow myself to stay with what might have been, or to imagine the too many victims of famine or of violence in the world.

What Covey teaches, and I believe what our heroes have modeled for us, is the need to find the one small thing that I can actually DO to make something better. I need to focus on the circle where I have some influence, to use Covey's term. As long as you and I sit and wring our hands in despair, the world doesn't get any better.

And there are many stories to tell of things that are getting done; hundreds and thousands and millions of people have decided to focus on their circle of influence. Those circles begin to converge and to overlap. More and more stuff is getting done, even as people think of ways to commemorate our lost ones, the ones who told us "it can be done."

Posted by Marion

Friday, August 26, 2011


The disciples came up and asked "Why do you tell stories?"

He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight, it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories, to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen til they're blue in the face and not get it.

Matthew 13,
from the Message

There is a Zen saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. It seems to me that this something like Jesus is saying here. But the teacher is the story! Each story has something to teach. We may or may not be ready for the teaching; but we remember a story. The stories I've shared with you this week are stories I've heard for years. Some of them have been around for centuries, just waiting to teach something.

Another thing I've learned from stories is that they don't always teach the same lesson to the different people who hear them. And they don't necessarily teach me the same lesson I may have gleaned the first time I heard the tale.

How many sermons have you heard of the good Samaritan, or the scattered seeds, or the widow sweeping her home? And how many different "lessons" have you considered? Too often we may have believed that this or that lesson is the correct meaning. This must be what Jesus really meant by his parable.

But I think otherwise. I think the story may indeed have different lessons to teach at various times and to new generations of hearers. When we are ready we can learn the lesson that is right for us. Even these ancient stories can give us new insights if we let them. Let your heart be open to whatever new lesson the Spirit wants to teach. Let the story nudge you into a new direction.

That's my advice today at the end of this week of stories.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, August 25, 2011


There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"

Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck?

Who knows?

Everything that seems on the surface to be an evil may be a good in disguise. And everything that seems good on the surface may really be an evil. So we are wise when we leave it to God to decide what is good fortune and what misfortune, and thank him that all things turn out for good with those who love him.

Author Unknown

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


There is a story about a stream that flowed around many obstacles until it arrived at a desert. The stream tried to cross but its waters disappeared in the sand.

The stream heard a voice. It said “The wind crosses the desert. So can the stream.”

The stream protested, “The wind can fly but I cannot.”

The voice responded, “Let yourself be absorbed by the wind.”

The stream rebelled. “I want to remain the same stream I am today.”

“Not possible,” said the voice. “But your essence can be carried away and become a stream again. You’ve forgotten your essence.”

The stream remembered dimly that she had once been held in the wind. She let her vapour rise into the arms of the wind, which carried it across the desert and then let it fall in the mountains. There it again became a stream.

From Leading with Soul, Lee G. Bolman and Terrence Deal

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Stories transmitted to family and friends convey the ethos of the festival.

In my home around Sukkoth, a story was told of Rabbi Mordecai of Neschiz to whom the citizens of his small village entrusted a sum of money, so that on the week before Sukkoth he might travel to the city and purchase on behalf of the congregation a fine citron (ethrog). In that way the festival ritual on Sukkoth could be properly performed by all the villagers.

Rabbi Mordecai left for his mission and halfway there came across a wagoner crying because his horse had died. Now he had no means of support. The rabbi gave him the bag of his villagers’ money and turned toward home.

When he returned, the villagers asked to see the ethrog, and the rabbi explained what had happened. “What are we to do then on the festival of Sukkoth?” the villagers asked of him. He replied, “Do not worry. While the whole world recites a blessing over the citron, we will recite it over a dead horse.”

There is theology in that tale. More than knowing the law by heart is knowing the heart of the law.

From For Those Who Can’t Believe, Rabbi Harold Schulweis

Posted by Marion

Monday, August 22, 2011


I have some stories to share with you. I'm just going to share them, not explain them or comment on them. (Of course, as always, your comments are most welcome!)

Let this be the week of telling stories.
Here's the first one:

When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune would be averted.

Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: "Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer." And again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sassov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: "I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I do know the place and this must be sufficient." It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhin to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was sufficient.

Posted by Marion

Friday, August 19, 2011


Here's an interesting list from the United Church Observer magazine. The editors of that popular Canadian church publication invited its ministers to list their favourite authors, people they'd recommend to their members.

It's a great list. You might like to find some of these authors if you haven't met them. Or perhaps you're already a fan of some.

Click here then share which ones you already know and like.

Or recommend some others you think should be on such a list.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, August 18, 2011


You know that old riddle: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I am currently clearing my office of years of accumulated stuff. Each day a little more. One shelf today; one drawer tomorrow. I fill up the recycle bin tonight and the good cleaning fairies come and remove it so I can fill it again tomorrow.

One of these days it's going to look so tidy in here I'm going to want to stay!

But no, actually it is feeling quite right to be clearing things away, giving things away, throwing things away. To everything there is a season...and it is my season to move along. The last time I retired it was a quick decision and a fast move. I left one job on Friday evening and the following Monday I moved into this one. That too was a good move. But the pace was somewhat disconcerting. I think I've got it right now. Having retired twice before I believe I've figured it out.

But it is a gargantuan task--an elephant of a job, if you will. So it needs to be done at the proper pace. One bite at a time. Time to mull over the good memories, to think of the right person to offer this book or that. Time to carry out one box at a time with the final objective of carrying out the last box on the last day.

Which reminds me: if you are one of the people I've invited to come shop my bookshelves you've only got a few weeks. I'd love to see you. Come along and help me eat this elephant.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ask (again)

I've had several e-mail messages today asking for advice, or help, or information. It's been a good day. I don't mind being asked at all. Especially if I have the option of giving the advice, or help, or information I have to offer. It's not necessarily the same, mind you. But it's good to be asked and it's good to maintain a relationship with these good friends of mine. I hope they'll ask again.

Then I needed to think about tomorrow's "good word." So I checked the archives to see if either Carman or I had ever said anything about it before. Here it is:

Click here for some excellent advice, help or information about the good word "Ask."

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


A conversation I had this morning brought to mind this “other” meaning for the word bubble. This is not the lovely, airy bit of nothing that I recommend you blow from time to time just because you need to feel good. No. I’m thinking about how easy it is for us to live in a bubble these days—and how important it is to get ourselves out of there, should it happen.

Despite a world that gets smaller and smaller and every community becoming more and more diverse, some of us react by retreating into a bubble. By this I mean that we surround ourselves with people just like us who think exactly as we do and we put up a wall that keeps out anything that might disturb our personal peace.

I do understand why many people really prefer to “live in a bubble.” My morning newscast is full of tragedy, both local and global. Some days I am one of those people who choose just not to listen. But I do get troubled when more and more of the folks around me have no idea what’s going on in the world and whose response to every conversation is “I never listen to the news.”

This becomes even easier as we choose which of our friends to pay attention to on facebook, or narrow our news sources to only those we’re sure to agree with.

My concern today is that one of the critical Mission Initiatives we’ve signed up for is “Pursue peace on earth.” Seems to me that if I’m to pursue Christ’s mission of justice and peace, I need to engage in some effort to know what the issues are. How will I contribute to causes of justice if I never allow myself to hear the stories of need, or to understand how this or that solution might help?

During the next several months we’re going to be invited into a conversation that will culminate in a national conference. Between now and June 2012 there will be opportunities to be a part of a process to engage as many of us as possible in discerning the direction for the years to come. It’s going to be a conversation about compassion and justice; and it’s not going to be easy.

I’m sorry to report that I’ve heard far too many folks who’ve elected (so far) to remain in the bubble on this topic. They think they’ve said and heard all they’re willing to say and hear and they intend to just remain on the sidelines until it’s all over. Please don’t be one of those bubble folk.

There are many exciting things that can and will come from this national conference experience. Not least of them will be a kind of “test run” to engage Canadians in more of these nation-wide conversations about issues and questions of special concern to us in this country. Can we, as Canadian members of Community of Christ contribute a perspective for the global church? We’ll never know if we allow ourselves to remain in our bubbles.

Posted by Marion

Monday, August 15, 2011


It's official! If you missed the announcement, our man Jim Poirier has been called into the Presiding Bishopric.

Here's the announcement on the World Church's website.

You may also like to know that Jim and Janet will not be moving to Independence. Jim will still need to travel, but home base will be here. Canada will remain a big piece of his responsibility. After all, how long have we heard the basic instruction "In Canada, call Jim Poirier"? Can't waste that!

We are proud to have our very own Canadian at the BIG leadership table. Be very sure he won't forget his roots. If he does, some one will give his shirttail a big pull. We have experienced Jim's skills, well balanced by his concern for the people--all the people! And we're grateful that he has learned some of the essential lessons he needed to care for his own health and spiritual well-being. Not only is he "smart" he is also "wise."

Go into this new challenge with the blessing of all your friends in Canada East Jim. We'll share you with the world for a time.

Posted by Marion

Friday, August 12, 2011


I once read about a very small congregation where all the members were seniors. There were no active children or youth, young adults or even middle aged folks, but there were a handful of older members who wanted to do something. They felt God was calling them to some kind of ministry, but what? What could they do?

As I recall the story, their church was right across the street from a local public school. One of the members apparently had a conversation with a teacher or the principal, and became aware of a problem, which they translated to mean an opportunity. It seems that many of the children who attended the school were having trouble with their school work. Their parents were working, and there was no one to help them with their homework. Some were falling behind. Consequently, this group of seniors decided to start a homework club as an after school program. Every day when school got out, students who were approved by the school would come across the street and get help with their homework for an hour or two before they went home.

It is a story I still find inspiring. Here was a dedicated group of people that might have thought they had done their part. They could have felt justified had they simply decided to stay home and watch TV. Being disciples, however, they sensed the call of the Spirit to do something more, so they did. Awesome!

I thought of that story again this week after I read of another congregation that is attempting something different; a congregation that has few children and hasn’t held a Vacation Bible School for twenty-five years! Having discovered there are “hundreds of kids living right next door” to the church, they have decided to try something new. Praise God!

You can read all about it at Peace Camp. I hope you are inspired.

By the way, this is the latest entry from the Peace Blog, which we introduced you to a few days ago with a lovely post called Is God Real? You might want to subscribe to the Peace Blog and follow it yourself. These guys are trying to do great stuff!

Posted by Carman

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Things have been on the quiet side around here lately. It is summer after all, and several of us have been off to reunions and camps. Some have even had some vacation time! The phone rings less frequently and when it does there is often some surprise on the other end of the line as callers expect to be greeted by the message system. While they are usually (but not always) pleased to have a “real” person, one gets the impression that they really wouldn’t mind if they have to wait a bit to get the response they’re after. It is summer after all.

I’ve noticed a couple of the messages I did receive ended with the disclaimer: “we’re leaving for two weeks, so I don’t need that information until we get back” and “there’s no hurry on this one; whenever you get a chance. I’ll be on holiday until…”

Of course there are many things that are not so quiet. There are riots in England; there are economic crises everywhere. Births and deaths and personal catastrophes go on as usual. Even the summer season brings concern as droughts and famines and floods and earthquakes don’t take holidays.

But I noted with interest, one of the “experts” called by the radio news person to give comment about the London riots explained that “she’d been on vacation and not following events too closely” and was thus not entirely prepared to give an opinion on that specific event.

There does seem to be a seasonal rhythm that just happens. Is it a built-in need that human beings and human systems need? It really appears to be impossible to operate on full-speed all the time. Sometimes we just need to slow down, take some quiet time, observe a sabbath. It’s one of the principles we try to recognize here on our team. We’ve had it brought urgently to our attention that if you keep running too fast, too far and too long, your own body will shut your down whether you like it or not. It’s a lesson we work hard at helping each other to remember.

So here’s my point; or at least one possible point. It’s likely much better to plan for these quiet times than to have them thrust upon you. And the planning may incorporate a way to ensure that someone is at least “on call” for those times when urgent life also happens. Otherwise we find ourselves all lost and at sea when the call just can’t wait.

Congregations that regularly shut down for the summer may find it very difficult to get back into an “all systems GO” stage come autumn. By all means take your vacations, but make sure you’ve got your bases covered and are ready to move back into (what Carman has called) making your Mission Real status when the time is right.

Now please excuse me; I want to go put my feet up.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


There is a heading in the Mission Initiatives brochure that has stayed with me. That heading is Mission Made Real. The phrase resonates with me because it so clearly and succinctly states what we as a church are called to do. To make mission real means to transform an idea into practical expression. It is to take it out of the realm of the merely theoretical, a good idea we reflect on from time to time, and make it an actual, physical, living expression of that idea.

Making the theoretical real is not a new idea. It is sometimes referred to as incarnation or transformation. In its grand, theological sense, it is what Jesus has done in demonstrating the nature of God. It is why we say he is the “Word made flesh.”

Making Mission Real is the task the Christian community is always called to. This call may take different forms in different ages, but it always remains before us. How can we take the words or ideas and make them a real, physical, living expression of God’s love and will for creation? It is the task that is before us now.

To merely hear or read the words and not deeply reflect on their meaning, to do nothing, is to ignore the gentle but urgent call of the Divine. In some extreme cases, we may want to run away to avoid that call, rather like Jonah seeking to avoid his mission to Nineveh. But the call of God is persistent, and the task is always before us. Every Christian and especially every congregation is faced with the challenge. The questions become, how shall we Invite People to Christ? How can our congregation Abolish Poverty and End Suffering? How shall we Promote Peace on Earth? And, as always, the questions continue.

The need to make mission real is what lies behind the five goals of the CEM 2020 Vision. It is the call of the five mission initiatives articulated by President Veazey in his April 10th sermon. It is the task that lies before every congregation. How shall we respond?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We often speak with much affection of our Montreal congregation, led by Pastor Albert Cineus. Check the Archives, over there in the left sidebar, for some old stories about them. Or do a word Search to pull some up to re-read.

Today I'm referring you to Art Smith's blog Impressions of Haiti for pictures and commentary of his latest visit to Pastor Albert's homeland. Many of our Montreal families have their origins there.

We all, along with our Montreal folk, have worried and wondered and prayed about the future of Haiti following last year's earthquake and several disasters that have followed. You'll get a bit of an update if you read Art's blog. You'll also read his reference to visiting Montreal years ago and enjoying the hospitality of that "small congregation." At 100 or more active members and friends, they are no longer small, but are one of the larger groups in CEM.

If you haven't thought about Haiti for awhile, let this be a reminder that there is still a great need. And if ever you have a chance to visit, know that you will be welcomed and mightily blessed by a generous people.

Posted by Marion

Monday, August 8, 2011


In the morning’s early light, the sun rises just above the horizon looking for all the world like a soft red balloon. One could imagine it held on a string by the hand of a child, invisible now because of the crest of the earth. Clouds cross its face, streaking the red with blue. The scene is lovely, and I think again, as I have thought so many times, that sunrises are a special blessing for the early riser.

As I walk and watch, the clouds move increasingly across the face of the sun until it is no longer visible at all. If one didn’t know better, it would be possible to think that the sun had been swallowed up; that there would be no sun today, or perhaps that the sun did not even exist. As if! As if we could exist without that fiery orb. If there were no sun, our little planet would be a dark and frozen mass, a totally uninhabitable and terrible place.

It occurs to me that, for some, this is like our relationship with God. God is like that sun, and when It is visible to us, we can feel secure in its warmth and beauty. But sometimes we have clouds in our vision or hearts or minds, clouds of doubt or fear or perhaps worry. When the presence of God is obscured by those illusions, we may conclude that God is not there, or not listening, or perhaps doesn’t care. The truly skeptical may conclude that God does not even exist. As if! As if we could live without life itself, for is that not what God is? Is the Apostle Paul not correct in saying "In God we live and move and have our being?" (Acts 17:28)

From time to time, as I continue my walk, the clouds themselves are edged with brilliant light, making it clear that the sun still exists, burning just as brightly as it ever has. The sun is shining, even if its rays do not yet reach me. Finally it rises above the cloud, and shines with such a fierce intensity that I can no longer gaze directly upon it. Gone is the soft, early morning balloon, replaced by an intense white brightness that speaks clearly of its purpose and strength.

It is going to be a very warm day!

Posted by Carman

Friday, August 5, 2011


I recently read an article that explained why every single Hollywood star always looks good in their clothes--even in those paparazzi pictures of them schlumping around town in their jeans. It’s because they never, never wear anything that hasn’t been tailored to fit them. They really don’t all have perfect bodies. They don’t walk into a store and find the size that miraculously fits them, when the rest of us never seem able to find that store or that size. The secret is all in the tailoring!

Then I read another blog. You might like to go to this one yourself. It’s a great site that gives me much good stuff to think about.

It seems it’s necessary to tailor our communication to the various folks we want to stay in touch with. Some love email; others hate it. Some live on facebook; others find it silly and time-wasting. Some folks make do with only a cell-phone; others must be reached by landline. And finally they got to talking about the so-called generational divide. Is it really only a certain generation that prefers one thing or another? Is it really only the “young adults” who use this or that bit of technology? We talk a lot about that too.

So my further musings today are around this question: who bears the greater responsibility? Is it up to me to know what you prefer and to tailor my communication to suit you? Is it up to the congregation, or the pastor, or the church planter to tailor our welcome or our pastoral visiting, or our outreach to the exact preference of the folks we want to reach?

Is it unreasonable to expect that once in awhile a visitor or a long-time member might bend to accept our best intentions—even when me miss the mark a little?

We church folk really do spend an awful lot of energy thinking about what will appeal to young adults, or how to adjust our worship practices or our outreach programs. What can you do to ensure the “spiritual but not religious” find out that we’ve done just ever so much work to tailor our programs for them too.

It seems Paul was having some of these thoughts. Here's his conclusion in his letter to the Corinthians (ch 9:17-27)

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

So there you have it. Seems Paul wants us all to be tailors! What do you think?

Posted by Marion

Thursday, August 4, 2011


This morning’s post is a forwarding referral to the Peace Blog of the Orange California Community of Christ. This writing, entitled “Is God Real?” was written by Katie Harmon McLaughlin, a fine young adult minister who now lives and works in Orange.

I first met Katie and her husband Zack when I was assigned as Campus Minister at Graceland University. They were both students and part of CCLP, the Community of Christ Leadership Program for which I had some responsibility. As a freshman, Katie impressed me with her deep spirituality, her gifted leadership and her soul’s deep desire to be in relationship with God. You will readily see all of that in her writing.

I encourage you to click on this link and enjoy Katie’s post. It is lovely.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Here’s one of those words that appears to have a couple of opposite meanings. I’m guessing that many of us (Dare I say “most”? Probably not, that’s dangerous territory) would give a definition related to “watching.” To observe is to see, to look at, to take notice of in a kind of passive way.

Monday was the first day of Ramadan. Muslims around the world will be “observing” Ramadan for the next month. It’s a central element of their faith. And there is nothing passive about it! To observe the fast calls for a major commitment. From sunrise to sunset, faithful Muslims will abstain from food or drink. Any of us who’ve just spent a super-hot long weekend at the beach might have some idea about how difficult that would be.

No matter. To a faithful Muslim the rules don’t change for heat waves. No food and no water during daylight hours brings to their attention the needs of others. They think about their own blessings and they make donations to abolish poverty and end the suffering of those who have need. It is a requirement of Islam. It is something you must do if you would be a faithful observer of the faith.

If you ask what makes someone a Muslim, she will tell you that they pray five times a day, they take care of the sick and the poor, they fast regularly and they “observe Ramadan.” If you ask someone what makes them a Christian, they will likely speak about some of the things they believe. Christians are much more inclined to speak about beliefs than about actions, at least in my observations.

Maybe Christians need a Ramadan--something to shake us out of our notions about “observing” as merely watching. Earliest Christians spoke about their belief in Jesus as “The Way.” Disciples of Jesus tried to live in a way that was different from others around them. No more “just believing” but living in a way that showed they followed Jesus.

If you’ve been around any good campfire this summer you’ve probably sung “They’ll know we are Christians by our love…” If we give it some good thought we’ll realize that “they” won’t know us by the beliefs in our heart, but by the things we do that truly show that love.

We have plenty of scriptures that teach us this lesson:

“Peter do you love me?”
“You know that I love you.”
“Then feed my sheep.”

But we need to be reminded. That’s alright. Muslims need to be reminded too. Every year for an entire month they reflect on the needs of others as they observe Ramadan, abstain from food and drink and make offerings to abolish poverty and end suffering in the world.

How will we observe the teachings of our Master? By watching and believing? Or will we find some sheep to feed?

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thoughts from the Summer Kitchen

To cook or not to cook; that is the question. Whether it is better to turn on the oven and heat the house even more or eat peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of the week.

It is not nearly so eloquent as Shakespeare’s soliloquy in Hamlet, is it? Nor is it likely to last for 400 years and more, stimulating the philosophical imagination of millions of people. No, it is just the question we face on these hot summer days. For those with air conditioning, the question may seem even more significant as we pay to cool the house and then deliberately set one appliance working against another!

Many years ago when I was a youth, farms had no air conditioning but some had summer kitchens to solve this dilemma. This was a room on the back of the house, or sometimes a separate building with the capacity to prepare meals or do the home canning without heating up the main house. There would be some kind of big stove (wood fired in the era of my childhood), and at least one big table on which to prepare the food to be cooked. In some climates, it may have been a room with less than four walls, which would not keep out the flies, but would at least allow in any passing breeze.

Whatever happened to summer kitchens? Did urban dwellers ever have such things? Did they just become too expensive, too luxurious for the modern world? Did the era of the supermarket and fresh produce all year round supersede the need for such a device?

I stand in my kitchen and idly ponder this question of no importance at all, then glance out the window to my back porch where my eye falls on what I realize is probably the modern equivalent: the bar-b-que! Talk about miniaturization; a whole room has been replaced by a fairly small device! Of course you are unlikely to can your peaches in the bar-b-que, but most of us don’t do that any more anyway, do we? We simply store all those sealers in the cold room in case we ever decide to try it again. Mostly we just cook frozen hamburgers and hotdogs. Oh there are persons who are really industrious who try some more exotic creations in the name of keeping the house cool; my wife once baked rhubarb crisp in there, but mostly we don’t, do we?

All of this means nothing at all that I can think of, and that is exactly the point. Every one of us need time, once in a while, to contemplate what are merely the musings that get caught in an idle mind. It all rather reminds me of Eeyore in A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner;
They haven't got Brains, any of them, only grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake.

How delightful! No wonder I love Pooh so much.

I hope you are enjoying your summer, and blessed with time for some idle musings of your own.

Posted by Carman

Monday, August 1, 2011



You were expecting a blog today?

It's a holiday. I'm going to the beach for a picnic. See you later.

Posted by Marion