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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?"

Monday, October 31, 2011


As Marion indicated in her Last post, we have been talking for some time about the future of What’s the Good Word. It is clear from many of your comments and questions that some of you are wondering too. You deserve an answer, so the purpose of this post is simply to share with you what we have in mind.

We began the blog in June of 2009 as another channel of communication and conversation. Marion chose the title as representative of all the good things that were (and are) happening in Canada East Mission, which is primarily what we wanted to share. Marion took the initiative to get it going. Within two weeks I began contributing occasionally and then regularly. For almost 2 ½ years, we have blogged 5 days per week. I guess we must have had a lot to say, because between us we amassed over 600 of these short essays.

During that time, you, our faithful readers and friends, have been generous with your appreciation, often shared with us personally if not in the comments section. We have highly valued your thoughts. At the same time, it sometimes felt a little daunting when people would tell us the blog had become part of their morning devotions! We were glad people found the blog so helpful, but "devotional" really was never our intent. We talked about that, finally deciding (in Marion's immortal words) "it is what it is," and then went on with what we do.

For both Marion and me, writing is part of what we do, and it is generally more of a pleasure than a chore. Still, it takes a little time each day to prepare a thoughtful piece, and Marion’s retirement represents a major transition. Were I now to take on the task of blogging 5 days per week, the task would indeed become a chore and perhaps a burden. We do not want that to happen. Our conversations together should always be joyous and never an obligation.

Consequently, we have decided to shift What’s the Good Word from a Monday to Friday blog to a more occasional one. Occasional is much more the norm in the blogosphere, with many bloggers who began writing daily, moving to semi-regular offerings. We will continue to share good news as it occurs, probably along with other musings, not every day but perhaps two or three times per week. We hope Marion may still contribute occasionally, and who knows, perhaps some of the other CEM staff, either in the office or out, may also find they have something they wish to say.

It you have subscribed to receive the blog by email, you will continue to get it there. It will also continue to show up on facebook. If you miss receiving a daily piece, there are half a dozen fine blogs listed to the left that you may wish to follow, and there are many others available. We may add more from time to time, and you may also wish to suggest some that you especially like.

So…today marks a transition of sorts, or at least a shift in the frequency of the conversations we enjoy together here. As we have often tried to point out, a conversation flows two ways, so let me ask you, dear friends, What’s the Good Word for you today?

Oh, and by the way, Happy Halloween!

Posted by Carman

Friday, October 28, 2011


This is my last regular contribution to What’s the Good Word. More than six hundred posts ago, we launched this blog as a way to stay in touch with the membership of Canada East Mission. It was intended to be somewhat less formal than memos to pastors or weekly announcements. It was offered to any who wanted to read it, no directions, no filters. We meant to let the general population know of all the positive things that were going on in the various congregations and neighbourhoods around our extended Community.

We decided to focus on the idea of the Good Word and to keep our news upbeat. That really hasn’t been difficult, as the good deeds continue to happen and to spread! Our blog evolved as Mission President Carman joined in with an occasional good word too. His participation now is roughly half the postings, so he won’t have any problem continuing as the primary blogger. (But please encourage him with the occasional response; it makes him feel good when you comment.)

In talking about the future of the CEM Blog, Carman and I have identified several ways we have benefited. Identifying a “good word” or a “reportable item” has given our ministry an important focus. We’ve never collaborated or consulted with one another about what we’ll post; and yet, we almost always find ourselves lifting up similar issues or questions or wonderful observations we’ve noted in our travels and communications around the Mission. Sometimes our “news” turns into an almost-meditation as we try to articulate feelings we’re having or struggles we’re thinking about. We long ago decided that these too qualify as “good words.” So those postings that feel more like poems have crept into our blog.

Both of us have poetic tendencies, as you’ve noticed. And this has been an excellent writing practice for me. But herein lies the reason for my decision to make this my “last post.” I really do want and intend to establish an ongoing writing practice. I need to shift my focus from a daily five-hundred word commentary on a current Mission issue and let it loose into whatever new country my imagination needs to explore. I need to unhitch my thoughts from the discipline of regular blog-writing into something new.

I believe Carman intends to allow me the occasional guest blogger position. I know he needs to change his implied promise to a daily blog. He may even be able to recruit some other guests to help him maintain this essential conversation. In other words “What’s the Good Wordwill continue! But for me, I wish him and all of you a bright future. Thank you for all your encouragement, for your faithful reading and thoughtful reflections. This is my last regular post, but I’ll let you know when my writing practice yields something new for you to read (perhaps even a personal blog, eventually). Meantime, keep on with following “What’s the Good Word.”

Posted by Marion

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I have shared previously in Whats the Good Word that my morning quiet time has brought me to a review of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah in the Hebrew scriptures. This morning I am thinking about the shepherds in Jer. 23:1-4. Jeremiah used the term “shepherd” in a different way than we normally do today, so perhaps that is the place to start.

For me, and perhaps for you, the image of the shepherd is coloured by years of Christmas pageants and the many idealized and romanticized paintings of Jesus the Good Shepherd we are probably all familiar with. In the gospels, Jesus uses this pastoral image to describe his own role. This must have been quite jarring to the people of his day, since shepherds were not the normal, ideal role model for a teacher/rabbi.

Jeremiah uses the image of the shepherd to refer to the kings of Israel and Judah. The author blames the rulers of the nations for destroying and scattering the sheep, referring to the invasion of King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian captivity. In this text, the scattering of the sheep is a direct result of not being faithful to God and allowing the people to chase after other deities.

Today it is common to use the image of shepherd interchangeably with that of the pastor. The pastor/shepherd is one who watches out for and cares about the well-being of the congregation, the people within her/his care. Rather than destroy or scatter the flock, the pastor is expected to protect the sheep, see that they are spiritually fed and nourished, and generally tend to their needs.

Perhaps the oldest question in Scripture is “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) Am I expected to guard, protect, or attend to those around me? The testimony of both Jeremiah and Jesus is a resounding YES! The thing all of the above images have in common is the idea that we have responsibility to care for others, especially those within our sphere of influence.

Inevitably, that bring me/us to a consideration of my/our own pastoral ministry. Am I/are we being a responsible shepherd in caring for the needs of others? Do I/we attend to them, notice when they are missing, go visit them and check to see if they are okay, assuring them that they still have a place within the flock? Or do I/we simply lament the fact that they have wandered away somewhere,and the flock keeps getting smaller? Am I, as a pastor responsible for all of that? Once again, the testimony of both Jeremiah and Jesus is a resounding YES!

That peaceful, pastoral image of the shepherd can be most disturbing at times, can't it?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Here we are at the turning of the seasons, yet again. And at the same time my own life is in a transition into something new. As Carman and I have been talking about how the blog will continue into this new season I am recalling one more poetry exercise that seems to have a bearing here. It's a thought that has occurred to many a poet over the centuries; I do not claim originality here.

This eternal question shows up in this poem of mine "Is life a circle too, or just a line...?"

I wrote this sestina in the spring, but no matter. I think it fits today. I share it with you as I'm considering this new transition in my life. Perhaps it will give you something to think about for yourself.

Seasons, A Sestina

Standing still I hear the sound of running water
Is winter done? I listen and I wonder
at the changing of all matter
This space I’m occupying, is it really mine
or will it melt and run away for good
Will it come again, like every season

“To everything there is a Season”
quotes the preacher, and the water
illustration can be good
and yet as I perceive the world with wonder
I cannot help but question what is mine
How best ensure my little life can matter

The snow, the mud, drab grass, uncovered matter
mark this, as yet, unflowered season
Too soon to walk out into that garden of mine
All that grows there now is under water
and yet I know it’s there, all tucked in wonder
waiting for the warming sun and good

warm wind and drying days, for good
signals that it’s time again to matter
Geese arrive in squadron formed in wonder
instincts intact, smaller birds too read the season
Fat robin waits on hedge, finds water
worms and grubs to mine

Swirling signs that seasons change around me. Mine
a life amid the birds, the plants, the melting snow, all good
I try to read the message of the seasons
Where in my lengthening days will I find water
How do robins teach me what can matter
What must melt away, what remain with wonder

Is life a circle too, or just a line, I wonder
As seasons change this puzzle still is mine
It seems so clear that each returning season
washes out the old, returns the good
springs up anew the precious things that matter
like life responding to that fresh spring water

Where is that refreshing water to renew my life I wonder
How shall I ensure all my days matter, that new energy is mine
Be certain every good comes round again in each transforming season

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Monday was my day off, the first one since Thanksgiving. It has been a busy period, with preparation for Mission Centre Conference, the conference itself, meetings with our Apostle, a couple of conference calls, two trips to Buffalo airport, plus meetings this past weekend in London, Owen Sound, St. Thomas, and Barrie. I was beat, and the next few weeks will be just as busy.

Despite that, I found it hard to turn the mind off on Monday morning. Since I was way behind on email, I decided to work for a while to try and catch up a bit. It is an odd paradox that my mind would not disengage, and yet my heart just wasn’t in it. A change of pace was needed.

Some time past noon my son called to see if I could give him some help rebuilding his deck. He doesn’t often ask for help, and since my work often involves weekends, I am often not available when he does. I decided to go, hoping it might help me get my mind off the many church matters that seem so pressing. It would be a welcome change.

For several hours we worked together, pulling nails, removing old deck boards, and figuring out the best way to repair the structure of the deck itself. When my grandsons came home from school, the older one wanted to help, as I knew he would. He became an enthusiastic junior worker pulling bent nails out of old deck boards, under grand-parental supervision of course. Then after supper, there was time to read stories before bedtime (theirs, not mine).

All in all, it has been a lovely day in the fresh air and a nice diversion from work. There was no rain, and even a little sunshine. Now I feel as if I can face the waiting tasks at hand, or at least some of them. This week there is planning to be done, several daytime and evening meetings to attend, and a Temple School course to prepare before next Saturday. A day off has restored some sense of balance to life, and things will be okay.

What do you do for diversion? When life is busy with work and other pressing matters, how do you find a change of pace to recharge your personal batteries? Do you have trouble finding time to do that? How do you make it happen? Will you share your best learned tips with the rest of us?

May you find the necessary time and diversion to restore yourself today.

Posted by Carman

Monday, October 24, 2011


This weekend I followed the activities going on in Independence at our (Community of Christ's) Peace Colloquy.

Friday night there was a webcast of the opening service that included an address by Terry Tempest Williams who received our award for 2011. You can still watch it on-line if you go to the web site. And you can explore her biography and all the reasons she was selected for this year's award. She's in wonderful company as the church has been handing out these awards since 2005 and the recipients represent an awesome group of folks who've done much to bring peace and justice into what sometimes appears to be an irredeemably broken world.

My experience this year was somewhat different as my Independence family was in full attendance and my very "plugged in" son was posting pictures and commentary throughout the experience. In fact, if you happen to be a facebook friend of Art Smith, you could have had a similar experience.

A colloquy is a somewhat high-fallutin' word for an informal conference, an expanded conversation really, about some topic. As a church dedicated to peace, reconciliation and healing the spirit, with a recently expressed mission to promote peace on earth, it does make sense that we'd choose the topic of peace to have such a conversation about. We're great at conversations! We're even great at honouring folks who've done something to promote peace. Why, right here in Canada East, we've got several congregations who've given peace awards to students in their community who appear to understand what making peace is all about.

I had a note from a friend the other day who shared with me how she works with the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in her town. She was responding to my identity post. I am truly grateful for her encouragement to seek out such a purpose in my own future.

I hope to be someone who does more than just carry out conversations about peace and justice. Noble and important as those are, the real purpose is to encourage us to find ways to be the peacemakers on the ground, in the place where we live, given the gifts that we possess. Really, every single recipient of the Community of Christ Peace Award has done exactly that. They were just ordinary folk who decided to go ahead and do something concrete to pursue peace on earth.

that 's a pretty active word, don't you think?

Posted by Marion

Friday, October 21, 2011


The following poem is from Jeremiah 20 in the Hebrew Scriptures. I invite you to spend some time in it today. It is, for me at least, powerful and compelling. You might want to read it several times, picturing the prophet/poet in his room or in the streets, wrestling with the words and with God.

If it helps you, you might want to imagine Danny Belrose reciting this lament in his dramatic style, capturing the rhythm and drama of the piece. Allow the words and images to caress and massage your heart and mind.

May you know yourself blessed today.


O LORD, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughing-stock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, ‘I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name’,
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
For I hear many whispering:
‘Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
‘Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him,
and take our revenge on him.’
But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonour
will never be forgotten.
O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous,
you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
- Jeremiah 20:7-12

Posted by Carman

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Who am I anyway?

In our culture it’s just normal to identify ourselves and each other by what we do. Meet someone new and we ask “what do you do?” and we mean “what do you do for a living?” Sometimes it seems that everybody needs a job and a spouse and a mortgage to be considered a “whole” and “normal” adult person. Listen to us talk at church too. We tend to discount the contributions of our so-called youth who may indeed by highly educated, but who are identified as adolescents and adults-in-waiting if they haven’t yet acquired those essential identifiers of adulthood.

I’ve long noticed this phenomenon and was glad to see it articulated so well by Carol Howard Merritt, one of my favourite thinkers and writers. It's here if you'd like to read it more deeply.

About to join the ranks of the unemployed myself, I’m very aware of this idea that identity equals occupation. There’s quite a lot more acceptance when you can say you’re “retired” but there’s still quite a lot of the same uncertainty around. After the congratulations on your retirement comment, the very next question everybody asks is “What are you going to do?”

As I read Carol Howard Merritt’s essay I was struck by just how much it resonated for me. Who will I be if I don’t have a job? What will I be doing that will give me an identity that’s acceptable to all these people asking me what I’ll be doing?

What makes a person worthy? Can my life have meaning without a title or a job or a schedule of activities and contributions I’m engaged in or occupied with? Has my value to the community just been moved into a lesser status because I’m no longer gainfully employed?

Lest you are getting all worried and upset about me, you can relax. I think my sense of “self” is pretty healthy. I shall be just fine, thank you very much. But I do want you to think about some of these issues in your congregation. Do you have levels of members in your community? Are you able to see every person of whatever age or marital or employment status as a full human being, a valued child of God?

I’m encouraged by this article to consider my language too. While I may truly think of everyone in this way, I may ask the usual questions and be perceived in a way that’s different to my intention or even to my own heart. I’m going to work on some new questions to replace “What do you do?”

“What’s going on in your life just now?”
“What are you busy with these days?”
“What are you thinking about lately?”
“What’s at the top of your list today?”
“Are you reading anything interesting just now”
“Where did you get that gorgeous sweater?”

Now I welcome your suggestions. How are you going to get those conversations going?

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


We’ve just come from our 2011 Mission conference. It was wonderful to hear so many voices sharing the stories of what they’re doing and how they’re working on the Goals and Initiatives that we, corporately, have espoused. (We did do that you know, when we raised our hands to sustain people and approve budgets!)

Do you all remember when the President and the Bishop were the only people to talk at these events? (Occasionally someone who’d been instructed to say “I so move” when given the nod from the chair?) Most of the voices actually heard were part of the cacophony in the breaks, the aisles and the lunch room. Oh those “chatter day saints” are still there; after all, it’s in the DNA!

There is still more room for voices to be heard. As one of the introverts in the crowd, let me offer a bit of advice to us all. (Here's a reminder, if you need to refer to it.) It took me years to gather courage to speak up in such a gathering. You’ll notice that I’m still not likely to be the first up, or to say very much more than I feel is absolutely necessary. I look around and see many of you I understand very well as fellow-introverts. I know it takes you time to reflect on the information, to listen to the comments being made, to consider what you might want to read or research before you really know what you could say. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll still be talking about the same issue, and by then the vote has been taken and we’re on to the next item of business.

Now, here’s my advice. Do not neglect to do that research and reflecting. Your perspective can still be heard. The benefit of your reflection must be part of the input to our decisions. Folks often report they are faithful blog readers, but have never left a comment. The Blog is the perfect place for introverts! Here you can take the time you need to reflect, to preview your comment, adjust and edit until it says exactly what you mean before you hit Publish. Please do that! We need the benefit of your thoughtful reflection and that is a good way to put it out there.

To those who organize dialogue sessions and business meetings: please make some spaces for the thoughtful, reflective introverted voices to be heard. Invite some of them to prepare thoughts in advance and to share from a script or a slide presentation they’ve had time to make it say exactly what they want to say. Make spaces in your agenda for getting those other ideas out—not just the ideas of people who love to talk.

We have several months before our National Conference. Be sure that your voice is part of that experience. Find out how the dialogue will be happening in your congregation and ensure all our voices get into the mix. It is NOT a one-time event for bold extroverts. It’s a long, slow reflection for sharing in groups big and small. It’s important that your voice be heard.

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Yesterday’s blog provided a quick sketch of the morning activities at the CEM conference, and held out the possibility of a report on the afternoon’s activities another day. Today seems to be that day. The following is a very quick sketch.

Highlights of the afternoon (actually I think it was still morning) included a thank-you presentation of a lovely pot of flowers to Marion Smith for her retirement, coming up much too quickly in two weeks time. The unthinkable is happening folks. Please feel free to call, write, or email to show your appreciation to Marion for the many years of amazing support and ministry she has given to all of us.

Mike Hewitt presented an excellent report on how the mission centre budget is supporting mission, and how the very important camp and reunion program is supported. We then received a motion for the Canadian Peace and Justice committee calling on the Canadian Government to better identify and label GMO foods, and provide information to consumers on what it all means. The motion passed.

The conference then considered four calls to the ministry of High Priest in Community of Christ. The four candidates are each part of the Mission Advocate system initiated this past year, so are already serving in a “Minister of Vision” capacity. The sharing of testimonies concerning these calls was rich in love and bathed in Spirit. The four calls were approved, and a wonderful ordination service followed. I truly believe all were blessed.

The day ended with a reception for Marion Smith and the four ordinands. It was a lovely day, and many fine comments have been received since from those who were there. As I look at this report, however, it seems a little flat, rather like black and white words on a page. The point is that get the full benefit of this wonderful day, you really had to be there. If you were, you will know what I mean. If you missed it...well...I’m afraid you missed it.

May you be blessed as you seek ways to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ in your own life.

Posted by Carman

Monday, October 17, 2011

Conference 2011

Last Saturday was the annual Canada East Mission Centre conference. It was a great day. The morning began with praise music led by Bryce Huffman and his guitar, followed by almost three hours of positive reports. The reports included details of progress made on CEM’s goals as outlined in the 2020 Vision.

Conference participants rejoiced together over news that more young adult leaders have stepped up to take important roles, both in congregations and in the camping program. Their spirits were lifted further as they watched a video provided by the leadership team in the new Barrie congregation detailing its first year of life, and then by the hope for another new plant, this time in New Brunswick.

Co-missioned Pastor Initiative (CPI) director, Doug Bolger, detailed what we have learned in almost three years of the CEM pilot project, and discussed plans to morph that learning into a new Leadership Development program now in the early stages of design. The goal here is to provide training for more people, both present and future leaders, at the same time. Doug also shared about a new Discipleship Formation Team now in the planning stage.

Following this, two of our Mission Advocates shared about some of the positive momentum in the congregations they support. It was exciting to hear of congregations beginning to catch a new vision of ways in which they can actually fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ. It was also obvious that they are also having fun doing it. Then Bishop Mel Mills shared a presentation concerning What Matters Most workshops, both what has been accomplished to date and what we have learned.

J.W. Windland shared some of the special ministry that Encounter World Religions Centre is involved in. Their teaching of inter-religious peace now include providing training for staff and officers of the Canadian Armed Forces about the nature of Islam. J.W. has also been asked to conduct a special three day workshop for the Council of Twelve, and perhaps other members of the World Church Leadership Council on major world religions.

Tim Stanlick shared concerning plans for the Canadian National Conference coming up on June 16, 2012, and the fact that he has “245 more sleeps” until then. Bishops Dave Snell and Mike Hewitt provided a presentation detailing some ways congregations can be involved in fulfilling the mission initiatives.

The conference was then treated to a presentation with pictures from the 2012 camping season. What a joy for people to see themselves, their friends, their children and grandchildren participating in so many great times at camp this past year. It would have been the perfect way to end the day. But there was more…much more. David Barth was standing in the wings with a great presentation on how World Accord can help congregations fulfill their mission. This was followed by a touching recognition of long-time director Jack Cooper for his many years of service to Sionito and Zerin Development Corporations, led by Bryce Taylor.

Sounds like a very full day, doesn’t it? But that was only the morning! Since I have reached my self-imposed word limit, however, that will have to be the “Good Word” for the day. Perhaps we will talk about the afternoon some other time.

Posted by Carman

Friday, October 14, 2011


I read somewhere that many of us are like the team that wants to come out for the pep talk on Sunday morning, but really isn't interested in getting into the game.

I hope this isn't true.

And I hope to see many of you at CEM Mission Conference on Saturday. Listen to the pep talks; hear some of the game plans; meet some of the star players.

I hope we all find some energy and pick up some tips and successful strategies for the big game. Looking forward to seeing many of you there.

(Be sure to stop by the book table to check out the selection of great "play books" there. And say hello/good bye. I really AM retiring in two weeks. If you're still thinking of coming to shop my office bookshelves, your time is limited. They're going fast.)

See you Saturday!

Posted by Marion

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I could have posted a response to Carman's question yesterday as a Comment, but then many of you would never read it! And I want to give you some more poetry to think about, so I'm extending the conversation in today's posting.

Have I read any good poet's lately? Oh Yes, indeed I have. I carry a little book of Robert Frost around with me in my car, for long lines or construction delays or while waiting for the ferry. I love Robert Frost. His poems are so well built they almost make me cry. He can talk about a hay field or a fence in a way that is so very simple and yet just so complex it makes me shiver. Robert Frost hated so-called free verse. He said it was the equivalent of playing tennis without a net!

Another poet I also love, and who has the added attraction of still being alive is Billy Collins I've most recently been reading The Best American Poetry of 2006. The reason I picked 2006 is because it was edited by Billy Collins and I love the way he talks about poetry. So the Introduction is as wonderful as the whole rest of the book.

If you are one who thinks poetry is boring, it could be that you've been reading what Collins describes as poems whose opening lines make me feel I have walked in on the middle of a Swedish movie being run backward with no subtitles. He'd be with you on that and would quickly reject such a poem. None of the seventy-five poems offered in this little text make you feel that way. They all make you want to do what Collins' own poem entitled Introduction to Poetry invites you to do. Here it is. Just have fun with it!

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

If you chance upon a book of Billy Collins' poems, be sure to pick it up. You'll find something in there to enjoy. Guaranteed!

Oh, and here's what he looks like (no stamp yet):

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


The announcement concerning the 2011 Giller Prize Shortlist happened at the same time that I began spending more time with the poems of the prophet Jeremiah. Then almost immediately after came news that another poet, Tomas Transtroemer of Sweden, has won the Nobel prize for Literature. The juxtaposition of these three events has had me thinking about the role of poets and other artists in society.

It is probably clear to anyone reading the Book of Jeremiah that the book is largely poetry. Even though the text was originally written in Hebrew, the modern English translations still retain the unmistakable imprint of skilled, creative and careful crafting of words expressing ideas. For the reader, ingesting this text has the effect of savoring a delicious and sweet use of language applied to a very bitter subject matter; the conquest of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel and the enslavement of its people. The central question is, if we are God’s chosen people, how could God let this happen? The author quickly posits an answer to this question, although not one the average person would have been likely to readily welcome. He certainly did not win a Nobel Prize, nor a popularity contest either!

Great writers; poets, novelists and other artists, always have something they wish to (or need to) say. In this sense, they perform something of a prophetic function. Their work often provides us with a new lens for looking at a given subject or situation. That lens often brings a different perspective than that which is upheld in the public media or the court of public opinion. Sometime we find their observations uncomfortable. Often we may disagree with their point of view. Whether we agree or not, however, we generally recognize that what such persons have to say matters, just as Jeremiah's words matter.

Sadly, I have not read any of the current list of work by the Giller nominees. Some are new young-adult authors who are being welcomed to the Canadian literary table, and that is a very good thing. They will no doubt bring a new perspective to whatever it is they are thinking and writing about, either now or in some future work. Even without having read these authors, I am pleased at their inclusion.

And so here we are, back to the subject of books in this blog. What a surprise! So let me ask you, read any good poets lately?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I’m following with interest today (Monday) a conversation on my nephew’s facebook page about his grandpa’s legendary prowess as a typist. Grandpa Trueblood was known as an amazing typist. On his old Underwood Standard he was known to slam out a hundred and twenty words per minute! Dave wonders early on if such a speed is even possible. “It seems super-human” he opines. But testimony follows declaring it possible. Such speeds have been recorded. One friend claims the speed for herself in grade eleven typing class. (She doesn’t reveal whether or not she had the benefit of electricity.)

Eventually Dave’s own mother, daughter of the legend himself, enters the conversation and swears to its validity. The legend is true! Today’s conversation began, not about typing, but about Grandpa T’s one hundredth birthday. His legendary status depends on much more than his professional abilities. He was a true "man of faith."

This weekend many of us may have sat around the family table together, perhaps in a rare occasion to be together and share those family legends. Thanksgiving does tend to be celebrated with an extended family dinner. There are others as well and we can all recount our experiences at weddings, funerals, congregational anniversaries. It’s at these times we bring out our legends, share our stories together. This is so important to helping us remember who we are and what we value.

Carman recently wrote his thoughts about our community’s giants. I love the picture the Wiarton congregation shared of their Thanksgiving service. (Find them on facebook.) Several “living legends” are pictured there. But let us not forget the other part of this whole concept. There was a day when those gray heads were young. They were once the little ones in the front row.

At what point does one become a “legend”?

A blogging pastor I occasionally follow speaks about a “man of faith” or “woman of faith” this way:
When we describe someone as a “woman of faith” or a “man of faith,” we mean more than the ability to articulate beliefs. We are describing how they walk through this world. We are describing how they go to work, how they behave in relationships, how they use their time, how they spend their money, how they get through each day, how they live their lives with all of the questions and all of the stresses that all of us have. Faith is not necessarily being sure where you are going, but going anyway.

(Read the rest of her sermon here if you like.)

We’re all of us on a faith walk. We’re walking together creating new legends as we go. I love watching you and seeing you being new legends. And I love telling those stories. I invite you to join me in the watching and in the sharing of the stories.

I am convinced that not only are we standing on the shoulders of giants, we are walking among legends! Here’s your assignment: watch for the emerging legends around you and then find a way to share their stories. That’s the good word for today.

Posted by Marion

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gobble Gobble

Today, Monday, is Thanksgiving day but most of you will probably not see this until Tuesday. That is okay, I am actually preparing the post on Sunday, and only anticipating that it will be Monday or Tuesday. (If that confuses you, just wait until you figure out that most of it was actually written a year ago!)

I confess that I am wondering how many people will not have family or friends to celebrate Thanksgiving with this year. Is there someone I personally know who will be alone, and as my friend Bryce Taylor would say, living on "tea and toast"? Our home will be full of family and friends, but there is always room for one more, and they would be most welcome. I suspect you feel the same.

On a personal note, a year ago one member of our extended family who serves in the Canadian Forces had Thanksgiving in Afghanistan. This year he is home, and we are very grateful. Still, many are not. Lets spare a thought or a prayer for them today.

What follows is the post from October 12, 2010, which was the day after Canadian Thanksgiving last year. When I looked back, I rather enjoyed reading it again, and The Gobble Song still makes me smile. I hope you enjoy it too.

Happy Thanksgiving, or if this is Tuesday, Happy Thanksgiving plus one.

1. The gurgling sound made by a male turkey.
2. To devour in greedy gulps.

Canadian Thanksgiving is over. The hours of stuffing and cooking the turkey, making the cranberry sauce, peeling the potatoes and turnip, baking the pumpkin pies and whipping the cream are done. The meal has been eaten and the family has left for home. The house that bulged with the sounds of eighteen people talking and playing is now strangely quiet. The only sounds are the keys on my computer and the quiet splash of the dishwasher doing the last load of dishes for the evening. Ah bliss!

Despite good intentions about not overeating, my waistband feels a little snug at the moment. It must have been the fact that there were four different desserts on offer, and I knew I would be asked my opinion on at least three of them! I am happy to report that regular pumpkin pie with a healthy dose of spice and a dollop of whipped cream is still far superior to cream-cheese pumpkin pie. I can further opine that apple crisp made without wheat flour should only be eaten by people who are wheat intolerant. They will be very thankful for a dessert they can safely eat. The rest of us should stick to regular apple crisp!

All in all, today was a good day at our house. We have greeted each other, talked, laughed, eaten, enjoyed the children, and even celebrated three October birthdays while we were at it. Now we have sent everyone safely on their way home to bed. No better day than that!

Now, so that we don’t forget how and what we gobbled too soon, click on the following link for a very cute You Tube video called The Gobble Song.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thanksgiving (Canada)

On Thursday, January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed:
“ A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

Shopping for pumpkins for Thanksgiving at Ottawa's Byward Market.

This morning I sat down at the computer to prepare a blog about Thanksgiving, anticipating I would list at least some of the sources of my gratitude. Out of curiosity, I decided to do a little research on the origins of this annual Canadian celebration. What I found surprised me, going far beyond the usual images of Quebec settlers and First Nations people sharing their scarce provisions. I thought you might enjoy it too. The following is quoted directly from an article in Wikipedia entitled “Thanksgiving (Canada)”. It is a little longer than our usual posts, but very worth reading. Enjoy.

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England in search of the Northwest Passage. In this, his third, voyage to the Frobisher Bay area of Baffin Island in the present Canadian Territory of Nunavut, it was also the intention to start a small settlement and his fleet of 15 ships were so fitted out with men, materials and provisions for this purpose. However, the loss of one of his ships through contact with ice along with much of the building material was to prevent him from doing so. The expedition was plagued by ice and freak storms which at times had scattered the fleet and on meeting together again at their anchorage in Frobisher Bay,
“..Mayster Wolfall, [ Robert Wolfall ] a learned man, appoynted by hir Majesties Councell to be theyr minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places,…” .
They celebrated Communion and
“The celebration of divine mystery was the first signe, scale, and confirmation of Christes name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters.”

Frobisher returned to England in the fall of the year with over a thousand tons of what he thought was precious gold ore which turned out to be totally worthless, and minus “fortie”, or about ten percent of his ships’ compliment
“whiche number is not great, considering howe manye ships were in the fleete, and how strange fortunes we passed."

The exact locations of Frobisher’s activities remained a bit of a mystery until the discoveries of the American explorer Charles Francis Hall in Baffin Island nearly three centuries later in 1861.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, in 1604 onwards also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed 'The Order of Good Cheer' and gladly shared their food with their First Nations neighbours.

After the Seven Years' War ended in 1763 handing over of New France to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year. After the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States and came to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada.

Lower Canada and Upper Canada observed Thanksgiving on different dates; for example, in 1816 both celebrated Thanksgiving for the termination of the war between France and Great Britain, the former on 21 May and the latter on 18 June. In 1838, Lower Canada used Thanksgiving to celebrate the end of the Lower Canada Rebellion. Following the rebellions, the two Canadas were merged into a united Province of Canada, which observed Thanksgiving six times from 1850 to 1865.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872 to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illnesses.

Starting in 1879 Thanksgiving Day was observed every year, but the date was initially a Thursday in November. The date of celebration changed several times until, in 1957, it was officially declared to be the second Monday in October. The theme of the Thanksgiving holiday also changed each year to reflect an important event to be thankful for. In its early years it was for an abundant harvest and occasionally for a special anniversary.

Canadian troops attend a Thanksgiving service in the bombed-out Cambrai Cathedral, in France in October 1918.

After World War I, an amendment to the Armistice Day Act established that Armistice Day and Thanksgiving would both be celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11 occurred, starting in 1921. Ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays, and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day. From 1931 to 1957, the date was set by proclamation, generally falling on the second Monday in October, except for 1935, when it was moved due to a general election. In 1957 Thanksgiving was permanently set to be the second Monday in October.

Happy Thansgiving, everyone.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Today, Thursday October 6, is voting day in Ontario. Here is an old blog post about Citizenship that has some very good things for us to think about today.

I hope you'll take time to read it as you consider your vote today. It's your right and your responsibility.

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Have you ever thought about going on a silent retreat? In the hustle and bustle of your life, do you ever wish you could just “get away from it all” for a while? Perhaps you have even contemplated looking up a monastery or some other place of retreat where you could simply be alone with your thoughts, pray, or meditate. Many people have considered the possibility, and even longed for the opportunity to do this, but not many seem to actually undertake such a pilgrimage. Perhaps they don’t know how easy it is to do.

This week at Ziontario reunion grounds, a number of people have seized the opportunity to spend a week, a few days, or even one single day in silence. Some of those who attend will have done this before, while for others it may be their first attempt. People attempting the silent retreat for the first time often commit to only one day to “see if they can do it.” Most will come back for more.

The Silent Retreat began a couple of years ago when David Morris realized there were vacant weeks in the Ziontario calendar. Being highly experienced in meditation himself, David knew that this was a great place to spend time alone with the Divine. If he offered to host such a week, would anyone come? A few conversations convinced him that they would. Now the retreat is offered three times a year; spring, summer and fall.

Participants come together for meals, usually eaten in silence, and for a morning and evening meditation, but otherwise they spend their day in solitude. Some come seeking answers, others searching for personal peace. Indoors or out, whether sitting, lying or walking, they attempt to quiet the “monkey mind” as David calls it, the part of our consciousness that keeps up a constant stream of largely irrelevant thoughts and chatter.

For some people reading this, the silent retreat may sound wonderfully inviting; for others it may seem unthinkable. If you are in the first group, you may want to give it a try next year. If you think this is not for you...well...we’ll see you in the hustle and bustle of life. Either way, I am sure you will be blessed.

Posted by Carman