Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Sometimes it is hard to know which way to go. The maps may be unclear. Or we may not even have a map. Or we may not really be sure where we are trying to get to. But we get to the crossroad and we wonder. How do we get there from here?
This is what it is often like trying to live as the people of God. Amidst all of the voices pounding in our ears, among all the “suggestions” of which way to go, it can be painfully difficult to make out the Word of God. Now sometimes it is easy. Sometimes the path is clear, the choice is obvious. But most of the time it is hard.
There are many ways to seek God’s will. Certainly prayer and silence are important. Trying to discern what is right for the whole Creation (not just ourselves) is important. But I think that the most important thing about trying to hear God is being ready to let go of what we already think.
Have you ever tried to give directions to someone who is sure they know how to get to their destination? I am convinced that God has the same problem. Sometimes we are so sure we know what God wants we ignore all hints to the contrary. This is why we have to look and listen closely. What I have found is that much of the time the harder path, the more unknown path, is where God is calling us.
“Take the hard path,” God says. Take that path which makes you change. Take the path that leads to a world reborn, where all Creation can flourish. And here is the rub. To take that path means giving up. It means giving up on our assumption that what benefits us is always right. It means giving up our comfortable seats.
In many ways the world we live in is broken. The economic system is broken, the environment is breaking, the connections between neighbours are being shattered on a regular basis. What path does God offer out of the chaos?
The irony is that the hard path leads further in. The hard path means rethinking how our economy works (or doesn’t work). The hard path means that we will do less with less. The hard path means that in the short term people will get hurt. But the long-term promise is that a new economy will be born, a new sense of living with (as opposed to on) the Earth will be born, and people will move past individualism and nationalism into a newfound sense of community.
The world is at a crossroad. The world needs to change direction. There is a lot of noise trying to drown out God. There is a lot of noise insisting that variations on the old path will make it work. But cutting through the noise, if we choose to listen, is God calling us on a new path. Which way will we go?
Sunday, August 28, 2005
But I have decided that next time I will just attach a vacuum to the dog to catch the hair as it falls--gotta be faster that way.
Friday, August 26, 2005
SHe has loved horses ever since we saw the RCMP Musical Ride last month.
You're a Horse!
Versatile, powerful, and true, you have quite a reputation for hard
work and a certain unbridled spirit. Many look up to you as an example of what
people can really become, though somewhere deep down, you admit to feeling a little
bit broken. You hate racing, but are still exceptionally good at it. Beware broken
legs, dog food, and glue. If your name is Ed, you do a surprising amount of
Take the Animal Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
My Fellow Atikokanites:
This is a letter that I first thought of writing a few weeks ago but decided that I would wait and see what happens. However, after attending yesterday’s meeting with Ministers Duncan and Bartilucci I have decided that there are some things that need to be said.
For over a month now we have seen signs all over town stating “We love Atikokan and we’re going to fight for it”. I am starting to wonder when the fighting FOR anything is going to start. All I have seen thus far, apart from some generalized comments about potential new industry, is fighting against the AGS closure. Surely there is more about Atikokan than the station. Surely we can fight for this town in other ways. I think that we need to keep the station open in the short term (2010 maybe) to allow time to build an economic base but I also know that unless Atikokanites find a way to start fighting for their town it doesn’t matter how much time we are given – we still won’t move forward.
On Wednesday the phrase “failure to plan is planning to fail” was thrown at Minister Duncan as an accusation. I agree, in the time since he made his guarantee about no net loss of jobs he has failed to start making that happen. But the same goes for us here in town. In Atikokan we have put all our eggs in the basket labelled “Stop the Closure” and spent little visible energy working on finding new investment. We have failed ourselves.
But back to the fight. If we really want to fight for Atikokan I have a couple of suggestions. One is that we strike all references and predictions about the death of the town from our vocabulary. They are logical predictions but they are also deadly. If we keep talking like that we might as well pack up now. Who will invest in a town that has so little pride and trust in itself that they openly predict their demise? Second is start selling the town, even if only to each other at first. In my time here I have noticed that Atikokan does a poor job of seeing itself in a positive light. Again, why would you invest in a town when the local population seems surprised anyone would dream of doing so? Finally, I encourage each and every resident of this town to make a commitment to shopping at local merchants as much as possible, even if it may cost a few cents more. Fighting for this town means supporting the businesses that are here. These are things we can all do, even as we hound our leaders (at all levels of government) to do their part to help rebuild our economic base.
I believe that Atikokanites love their town. Right now we are angry and hurting and that is alright. But if we are going to truly fight for this town we need to move through the anger and into doing something beyond hitting back.
You're Watership Down!
by Richard Adams
Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Taken last week at my mother-in-law's camp on Lake Superior. First time either of these two had been in that lake. This beach is one where you can walk out for many many feet and still be wading--great for small children and small dogs.
And here are the girls. It was an even more testoserone-challenged atmosphere than usual last week--me and five females. It seems that the young ones found the TV much more interesting than Dad (and the dog just hates sitting still).
As I feared, people here have not gotten past the need to fight against and complain the closure of AGS. At one point one speaker referred to the Minister as a moron, a thief, a liar, and a murderer ("you have murdered this town"). That was about the low point of the dialogue--and a later speaker apologized for those comments--but really, what is gained by this, other than a release of anger.
My only hope is that the earlier meeting with Town Council and the business community was more fruitful because I am not sure it did any good to have 2 cabinet ministers come and hear the exact same things people have been saying all along.
At the same time, I think that the Town needs to take ownership of the planning mistake they made. Surely it would have been prudent to have spent some of the time since a government was elected promising to close AGS working on what to do to replace those jobs. Instead all the eggs went into the basket labelled 'Stop the CLosure'.
Update: Here is a story posted by a Thunder Bay media outlet who was covering the meeting.
This afternoon is the meeting. I think I will attend (well I am planning on it, that's why we came back from T-Bay this week). And now I wonder what purpose it will meet. THere are people ready to protest when the ministers arrive. THere are new signs up in store windows slamming the government. THere is little new evidence of people moving beyond the anger. And if this afternoon becomes little more than people standing up to say "You f*****g idiots, how dare you do this to us!" what gets accomplished?
There is one very valid criticism of this decision and that is the level of planning that went into it. 2 years ago the energy minister (who is attending this afternoon) gave his word that ATikokan would not lose jobs as a result of AGS closing. Since then little to nothing has been done by either the province, the Township, or the local Economic Development office to ensure that those replacement jobs are there. That is a failure on all sides. ANd that is what needs to be addressed (and you don't create 90 longlasting, high paying jobs in the time between now and the announced closure date)
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Most commentators I have heard talk about the story, about the conflict, the archetypal battle between good and evil. ANd that is true. But I can't help but think that these books would be nowhere near as popular if they didn't have such good, REAL characters.
Can anyone help but laugh at the sibling rivalries and sibling put downs the WEasly's share? Did anyone else feel the jealousy Ron shows when Hermione goes to teh Yule Ball with Viktor, and doesn't know he's jealous? OR Harry's stumbling attempts at dating Cho, along with Cho's struggle with moving on from Cedric's death? As someone who was mercilessly bullied in school I understand fully why Snape can't let go of his loathing for James and Sirius. THese characters are definitely real.
Yes, a good enthralling story is important. But without characters a good story becomes meaningless. Without good characters we wouldn't really care after all. It strikes me that this is partly why I like the original 3 Star Wars movies better than Episodes 1 and 2 (have yet to see Revenge of the Sith). In those earlier years Lucas couldn't do as much with computers so the characters and the acting were more important. Now I think that the characters and acting are almost second thoughts, with the real stars being the computer animation. SOmehow I have trouble warming to a pile of pixels.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Devyn (who is 1) is at taht stage many children reach where it is hard to tell at first glance whether she is male or female. Yesterday morning after church Patty was wondering why, when she was wearing a pink shirt that said "Princess" on it, people kept referring to her as "he". I suspect it was due to the habit mentioned in the above question.
And it isn't just children. I know I tend to do the same with pets as well. What is this reflex that has us assume one is male without evidence to the contrary?
You scored as Remus Lupin. You are a wise and caring wizard and a good, loyal friend to boot. However sometimes in an effort to be liked by others you can let things slide by, which ordinarily you would protest about.
Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
ANyway, back to mother-in-law's to approach the second challenge in the Triwizard Tournament...
Friday, August 12, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
It is planting time! Well not quite but almost. That time when we put seeds into the ground in the hope that they will become flowers and vegetables to grace and beautify our tables.
In the life of the church it is a time to celebrate change as well. Fifty days after Easter we celebrate Pentecost. In the Book of Acts Luke tells us that it is at Pentecost when the early church first experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. This experience changed them. Up to that point they had been staying quiet, staying together, still living in fear that they would follow Jesus to the cross. But on the day of Pentecost they began to proclaim the Good News far and wide. They were transformed and the world has not been the same since.
Being changed and transformed is hard to accept sometimes. It can be a scary thing to face. For Peter and his friends, Pentecost meant putting their old life behind them. That life was over and a new life had begun. Real transformation means that something needs to die so a new thing can take its place. And we tend to like that status quo. But think back to those seeds we will soon be putting into the ground.
Jesus said that unless a seed dies it will never grow. A seed rarely looks like the final product. And even those ones that do (potatoes and peas for example) are destroyed in the process of growing new produce. And which of us would say that this is a bad thing? Out of the destruction of the old comes food for our table. So it is with the life of faith. Faith is a process (sometimes fast and sometimes slow) of being transformed. Life with God is a process of being changed. That is why Pentecost remains my favourite festival of the church year. It reminds me that the Spirit is working to help me be transformed.
What signs of transformation do you see in your life?
WHat you do is go to google. Type "(your name) is" and paste your favorite 10 responses.
- Gord is my hero! (WAit, did PAtty write this???)
- GORD is a recurrent condition where gastric juices, containing acid, ... In mostpeople, GORD is caused by the digestive juices in the stomach, ... (here this is an acronym for Gastroesophageal reflux disease--somethign I have actually had to deal with!)
- Gord's is unlike any polish you have ever used. NON-ABRASIVE ... Gord's isNON-Abrasive, easy on your surfaces, your nose, your hands, and your wallet!
- ''Many people think that GORD is caused by the way you live your life, ...
- Gord is somewhat less than heroic (OUCH, well the truth can hurt)
- Gord is so good at answering my phone. I think I should hire him.... Apparently, I live in a fantasy world. Gord is so compassionate. ...
- GORD is a hack
- Gord Is A Vengeful Gord
- The Almighty Gordis ranked 14th in the region and 99910th in the world
- Gord is no Oscar Wilde
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Monday, August 08, 2005
HEre is the other member of the family. SHEBA- a slightly neurotic, anti-social Lab-Dachsund mix (mom-- Golden Retriever for a father). SHe doesn't seem to like the heat that much either. Actually she can be really sweet to the four of us (minor squabbles with the 2 year old at times) but can't stand anybody else coming near her--we think she is terribly afraid of them and so is loud and vicious sounding/acting to keep them away.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Saturday, August 06, 2005
It is easy to chastise the US for this action. Certainly it would count as a war crime, being aimed at the civilian population of the city, but in the end it is the winner who decides what war crimes get punished (and I have no desire to try to list the many possible war crimes from either side in WW2). And certainly it seems that it was a dastardly thing to do. But what if Truman had chosen not to use the bombs of Hirsoshima and Nagasaki but stuck to the naval blockade and amphibious landing plan that had carried US forces to Okinawa and Iwo Jima? Most definitely the US would have won eventually, that was no longer in doubt. But imagine the outcry if thousands of US lives had been lost in an assault on Japan itself (which would have happened) and then the public learned that it could have been avoided with this new weapon.
This is not to say that Truman's decision was right or justified, but it was understandable. In war you do what it takes to win. You do what it takes to win at the least cost to your forces, and that has some good to it. But decisions in wartime always come at a price. In this case the price was not only the thousands killed during and as a result of the blasts but the arms race which followed. An arms race which diverted billions of dollars from more humanitarian causes and so, in its own way, killed thousands as well.
In a preface to LOTR, Tolkien states very clearly that the War of the RIng is not an allegory for WW2 (although it is easy to see how it could be). If it were, he says, the Captains of the West would have used the Ring, not destroyed it. I have no doubt that the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are what Tolkien had in mind here. The War of the Ring is only won because the forces of good choose not to follow the logic of Sauron. To use the Ring would have possibly vanquished Sauron but only set up another power of evil in his place, a rather hollow victory. In LOTR we see a complete victory because they find a way to get off the treadmill of "might makes right". The wars on earth seldom find that ending. And so it is a day to mourn, not only for the dead of Hiroshima but for a world that can't break free of the pattern of war and violence.
God of the ages, stay with us yet. Lest we forget, lest we forget.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Sunday morning, you wake up and look at the clock. Time to get up and get ready for church. Then again, why bother? The bed is so nice and cozy. An extra hour of rest sounds so inviting. Why not stay home this week? For that matter, why bother any week?
To be honest, I am not always sure I can answer that question. There are times when I am sure that if I wasn’t working in the church I would not be there many Sundays. After all, the extra rest does sound appealing (or if not more rest there are many other things one can find to do with that time). In fact, when I was working before finishing school there were few Sundays I got up and went to worship, but when I got back into the habit I was glad of it.
What I learned is that I gain by going to church. Regular worship helps keep my sense of perspective; it helped me “stay real” in the midst of my busy life. It helps me keep what is truly central in focus – and reminds me that I am not the center. Regular attendance allows me to get to know the other people in the congregation and so enter into a supportive community. Regular worship pushes me to think about how God is active in my life and how (if?) I am active in God’s life. Regular worship reminds me that I am a beloved child of God, that even though I am not perfect I am “good enough” and accepted by the Creator.
There have been studies done that show that people who are active in their faith communities are healthier. They tend to deal with stress better, to have a better sense of what is most important. Couples who share a church life have better relationships (including their sex lives). Newcomers to a community can find that by going to church they meet new friends, people who can help them feel at home. Communities with healthy churches in them benefit by having a population which is committed to loving and serving each other. We all benefit from people going to church
Attending church regularly can be a chore, or a habit, or something that we do out of guilt. Not attending can seem freeing, or become a habit, or something that makes us feel guilty. But it is my belief, a belief born out of experience, that regularly joining with friends to share stories and experiences of faith offers us a way to make our lives better. No, it will not buy us a new car, or give us a bigger bank account, or help pay for the new kitchen but it will make us richer. If you attend church, think about what you have gained, and think about sharing that with others – whether they go or not. Go to church, it does a body (and soul, and heart, and mind) good.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
- Raise taxes --gradually doubling them-- on all gasoline sales. Do this by assigning all new tax dollars not to road repair or to general government revenue but rather to a special fund to improve mass transit systems and to provide funds to support the development of better vehicles. Mass transit systems to be supported are not only commuter based, within cities, but also for travel between communities and provinces. This should help people stop driving as much (and when people complain remind them that North American enjoy the cheapest gas around).
- Declare large areas of our cities "car-free zones", areas where the only motorized transport allowed is mass transit -- no personal vehicles or taxis.
- Set mandatory standards for fuel efficiency. Any vehicle not meeting these standards will be assessed a special tax upon its sale (such tax revenues to go into the same pot as gas taxes in #1)
- Regulate thermostats for home/commercial heating and cooling so that air conditioners can not be set lower than 23C and furnaces no higher than 21C. For people who have a medical need to exceed these limits a special program will be set up requiring medical documentation before the thermostat can be reprogrammed.
- Place a special tax on vans, SUV's, pick-ups, and large cars to compensate for their lower fuel efficiency (this is an extension of #3). Offer rebates to people choosing more efficient and/or alternative fuelled vehicles
- Raise electricity rates.
- Set aside a portion of funds from electricity rates to: support the development of more efficient appliances, provide rebates to people replacing older appliances or replacing appliance use with other means such as clotheslines.
- Cease providing across the board support to business. Instead only offer incentives (loan guarantees, tax breaks etc) to businesses pledging to do business in a less impactful way and/or create more efficient products. Should they not live up to the pledge they will be responsible to repay the amount of the incentives.
- Provide more funding to initiatives such as recycling programs and second-hand product sales (reusing).
- Mandate environmental education at every grade level in the public school system.
Maybe not all are doable. Certainly most are politically untenable. BUt to make change in the scale that it needs to be made needs leadership. Leadership does what is right because it is right, not because it is based on which way the wind is blowing.
The flicker of the camp, warm and bright;
where you get warm fuzzies every night.
A place where you can get away from city life.
A place with so much fun you could cut it with a knife.
SO! Give me a week at camp, making lots of friends.
Having such a blast, we wish it would never end.
Love is for those who find it, I found mine right here.
Just give me a week at camp and the counsellors I love to see...
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
In 16 years of involvement with camp ministry one thing has remained constant. My favourite part of camp is campfire, always has been. PArtly that has a lot to do with the fact that from childhood on I have loved fire. I was the one who would, when camping as a family, drive my mother mad by holding sticks in the fire and then writing in the air with the glowing tip. But more I think it touches something primal within me.
Gathering around the campfire for stories and songs is such a community activity. Granted, i will sit by myself and watch a fire for hours while thinking and praying and singing. But when 100 people are in the circle then something special happens. At campfire we are all allowed and encouraged to be a little bit silly. As a song leader I have done things that made me look or sound absolutely ridiculous and not felt self-conscious about it. At campfire something special happens, people who would never sig in broad daylight join in song by the flickering flames. In the camp I started at campfire was where we did vespers. AS leader, there was something about sharing a little bit of the faith around a fire. I could take a loud group of campers and hold them spellbound with a story. Fire is magical, I know no other way to say it. Fire is holy. Fire is spiritual. Camp without gathering around the fire just doesn't fee like camp. AS a song I have often sung to open evening campfire says:
Any world-wise boat person would know when it was a bad time to go out on the water. But the disciples still manage to get caught in a storm (although the Sea of Galilee is reputed to be prone to sudden storms). In fact the passage says thta Jesus sent them out on the water. Sent them out into the storm as it were.
Emergency management people always tell us to seek cover when storms approach. Common sense says the same thing. But this week I am drawn to Peter. Peter, who not only is caught out in a storm but chooses to leave the relative safety of the boat and put himself at the mercy of the waves. I wonder what that says. If the church is the boat (a common interpretation) then maybe Peter understands that there are times when you have to leave what is safe. I have been known to stand in front of our picture window and watch golf-ball sixed hail bounce off of it (Patty was less than impressed with me that day). I think that sometimes we are only faithful when we dare to walk through the storm. I think that there are many many storms around us and part of our job is to stand out there and bear the elements. If we try to build refuges and hide from the storm then we can get stuck, we can stop growing.
What do we need to do to gain the courage to take the risk of going out into the storm? What does it mean to brave the storm of social change, or the storm of economic strife, or the storm of a faith reworking itself for a new world? More and more I applaud Peter's act of getting out of the boat. We may flail around in the water at times but risking is an important part of growing.
Two songs have been weaving through my thoughts this week. One is "Never Walk Alone" from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel. The other is an old hymn (that I have never sung but have read the lyrics to somewhere) called "Stand By Me".
Now just to make a sermon out of all these thoughts...
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
One of the joys of small town living is that when making such a trip is you have a high probablilty of knowing the people who are working when you get there. Which is exactly what happened. 2 nurses in ER and I have baptised both of their children, they know me and know my daughter. The Dr. on call is our family Dr. All these things mean that it is much easier to be taken at face value--I have made similar trips to clinics in the city to see staff I did not know and not been treated like I know what I am doing.
So anyway they did an exam and took a throat swab (what fun that is when the child doesn't even open her mouth to let you count teeth, much less get something in there). Then we went home and put her to bed. An hour later phone rings. Child has strepthroat, back to hospital to pick up meds to last until the pharmacy opens tomorrow.
Say what you will about the faults in the medical system. It does work. In the city I would very likely still be waiting from the first visit, not even having seen a Dr. yet. Small town life definitely has its benefits.
Monday, August 01, 2005
ANd yet I wonder. Is it a real answer to give pulp/paper and saw mills cut rate electricity? According to the companies and to the local MPP it is. BUt what cost does that come with? THe logic is that the Ontario government has made sweetheart arrangements with other industries (particularly the auto sector) so forestry should get the same treatment. But whenever I hear this I feel like screaming "CHEAP POWER SOLVES NOTHING!". Cheap power means more is paid through tax dollars rather than by the user. So called "cheap power" (one argument is that local mills should pay what the actual cost of generating power locally is, rather than the market price which is up 400% more) is priced in ways that don't account for the true cost of those power plants. HOw do you assess a charge for flooded out areas, or smokestack emissions, or changed water temperatures, or variable water flows with all the attendant environmental cost? CHeap power will only be a stopgap solution.
The more I think about it I wonder if we are on the threshold of a paradigmatic shift in economic reality. ARe we about to experience a change in the backbone of economic life in the Northwest? Are we on the verge of changing how we define profitable industries? Most importantly, will this change bring about a new ethic when it comes to assessing the full cost of doing business? If we are about to see these sorts of changes then we are in for a whole lot of hurt. In the short and long term jobs will be lost, with no guarantee of new ones to follow. People will be pushed to re-evaluate what things are "essential" to have and what are luxuries, pushed by financial/economic forces rather than by social ones.
I fully believe that we may be edging toward changes at this level. I fully believe we have to consider that reality as we listen to the demands for bailout packages. Maybe the solution to the siege mentality is to open a gate and see what is really out there.