Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Beauty in a Drainage Ditch


Ditches are constructed to drain water from the land, especially during or immediately after times of heavy rain or melting snow.  Ditches are the things into which drivers sometimes drive or swerve and then need to be towed out of them. 

 

We don’t generally think much about the ditches alongside our roads.  We certainly don’t want to end up in them with our cars.  They tend to be somewhat filled up with trash which once it has blown down into them remains stuck there and gets water-logged.  When we have roadside clean-ups the main focus is clearing this refuse away.  For one thing it is unsightly, but it is also a danger to the functioning of the ditch as it may block the passage of water causing back-ups in the system.

 

If I sent you off to find examples of spring-time beauty, I doubt you would head straight for the ditch along your road.  But just as there are awesome and beautiful things happening in a world full of sin, hate, and war, there is beauty in our ditches.  In our neighbourhood it is one of the first areas to have really green grass which is a spirit lifting sight after months of snow.  No matter how much garbage may be thrown into your life, seek out the beauty and revel in it! 

 

photos were taken in the drainage ditches in my subdivision on April 29, 2011

Let Sleeping Dust Bunnies Lie


Jellaluna photo creativecommons.com

I have known that I am allergic to dust for a long time.  When diagnosed it was recommended that I not have carpet or plush in my home, in the bedroom especially.  I was supposed to have vacuuming done twice/week, but I was not supposed to be in the house when it got done.  My conclusion?  Let sleeping dust bunnies lie!  This fits perfectly with the sentiment on the mug my friend owns which says, ” I hate four letter words like: Cook, Bake, Dust, & Wash”  It may seem obvious, but this strategy has never actually helped with my allergies.

Procrastination and justification are great partners!  I could wear a face mask and dust and vacuum more often/but they are so uncomfortable.  Did you see how that worked? Great isn’t it?  Obviously I am willing to live with my allergies and they aren’t so bad that I can’t survive with them.  How often do we look at our dust bunnies (or unpaid bills, or social injustice) and find a way to justify not taking action on the problem?  What would it take, how big does the bunny need to get, to project us into action?

I think there are two types of dust bunnies in our lives.  There are our personal bunnies and the more global societal bunnies.  The global bunnies are the easiest to ignore because they come with the built-in justification of, “What difference can one person make in such a big problem?”  In order to address this isolation issue people who are motivated into action tend to form networks and organizations so that the work is combined and focused.  Organizations like 350.org have brought together people in all the countries of the world to solve the climate crisis.  The blossoming of the internet has gone a long way in making it easier to get involved and be in contact with others with the same focus.

Our personal bunnies are another story.  While we often have only ourselves to blame for inaction on the solution, we are often unable to enlist help or find other people for support.  For abuse victims, for instance, it is hard to convince yourself that you don’t deserve the abuse, let alone gather the courage to seek help.  Letting someone know we are a victim feels like admitting our own weakness and may make them think less of us.

Let’s assume that we all have at least one personal bunny hiding somewhere in our life and one global bunny about which we care particularly.  What one small act can we take which will at least shine light on the dust, perhaps lifting the edge of that rug?  Maybe for your personal issue you might try just telling one person whom you trust that this issue is bothering you. Maybe you could buy a button to wear on your jacket encouraging improvement on the global issue.  Make sure the step is small and then actually take it.  Getting the duster into your hand is the hardest part!

The Martha/Mary Quotient


Mary/Cathy

Martha/Cathy

Mary and Martha both heard my alarm at 6:00 this morning.  I’m not sure which one it was who turned it off, but I do know that it was Martha who dragged me out of bed and got me moving forty minutes later.  Clothing appropriate to the day was chosen, some semblance of breakfast eaten, lunch was packed, and it was off to work.

 

Mary made a brief appearance while I was driving to work.  She reflected on the Easter weekend that has just passed, the fact that this was a new day and as it says in a popular song from the 70’s Every Morning Is Easter Morning From Now On!  I think she even hummed a little bit of the tune.  Once in view of the school, though, Martha took over again with thoughts about what my students would be doing today and errands I needed to get done.

 

Last night the devotion in The Message\\Remix:Solo was about the familiar story from Luke 10:38 – 42 of a dinner party at the home of Mary, and Martha.  Jesus was the guest of honour and as he talked with his host and the other guests, Mary sat taking it all in with rapt attention.  In the meantime there was a meal to prepare!  Martha, unlike Mary, did not give herself the time to sit down and listen, she was busy tending to the preparations.  When Martha complains about Mary’s lack of help, Jesus tells her that Mary has made the better choice by staying with him and listening.

 

Martha is not the “evil twin” here.  If it were not for Martha, Jesus would not have even been in their home.  It states at the beginning of the reading, “A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him (Jesus) and made him feel quite at home.”  It takes a special talent to put someone at ease in your home when they are visiting, and Martha did a great job of that.  She then got carried away, though,  by the minutia of hostessing the party and did not sit down to enjoy her guest’s company.

 

We are all some combination of these two women, or if you prefer some combination of these two inclinations.  I started this blog with a representation of my day through the lens of the two women.  That was one part of the devotion last night, taking time to reflect and let Jesus tell us whether we are more Mary or Martha on a given day or in a given experience.  Some Sundays I am definitely Martha at church.  I have responsibilities, music to worry about, plans and issues for later in the day, and my Martha is on the job.  Worship is so much better on the days when my Mary attends and I am able to fully engage in the word and the celebration.  On the average day I am more Martha, although my house may not reflect that in its cleanliness and tidiness, and I expect that is true for most of us.

 

If we were all Mary all the time nothing much would get done in our homes or workplaces.  I’m not sure even a 50/50 split would be ideal, but we do need to beware of the dangers of slipping too far over to the Martha.  If we give no time to listening to God, the three-in-one, then we risk losing our way in a world just looking for lost souls of whom to take advantage.  So, look back at your day today.  What was your own Martha/Mary balance like?

The Real Breakout King


There is a new TV show on this year called Breakout Kings.  The premise of this  show is that a small group of inmates are given temporary leave from prison in order to put their unique skills into finding and catching escaped prisoners.  Yesterday at our communion service our minister spoke on the theme of breaking out and even as he was doing the children’s story I was sneaking out my note pad and writing down, “Jesus: The Real Breakout King.”

 

As people have stated for ages, there are two things that are inevitable; death and taxes.  From the day we are born, we are moving towards our death.  A chalenge with helping children to understand death is letting them know that it is permanent, the goldfish, other pet, or loved one will not be coming back.  We all know this.  That is why it was so amazing when Jesus was able to call a young man being carried to his grave, a young girl who had died, and finally Lazarus who had been in the tomb four days back from death.  This was amazing enough but Jesus actually broke out of his own death.  He was dead, he was layed out in the tomb and sealed in, and he broke out on his own!  

 

Jesus is truly the breakout king, and through his resurrection we not only see his power over death for himself but for us as well!   Through his death for our sins, we are forgiven, we have not yet died physical death, but we are already living our eternal life.

He Lives!


Happy Easter! Today we celebrate because Jesus is risen and he lives despite dying for our sins. Through this we are redeemed.

What Some People Do With Fabric


I would have to ask my sister-in-law how many tiny pieces of fabric went into the making of the quilt in the picture above.  When some people go into a fabric store they envision clothing for themselves or their loved ones.  Some think of curtains or upholstery.  And there are a large number of people who see fabric on the bolt and see it becoming a part of an intricate design like the one above.

When fabric comes off the bolt at the store it is cut in a large rectangle.  No matter what you plan to do with it, it is likely to be cut.  If you are making a table-cloth or a sheet you might just trim off the selvage edge in preparation for hemming.  If you are making a dress you lay out pattern pieces and may cut all kinds of oddly shaped little pieces that will go together to make the dress.  I don’t think anyone cuts that 45″ or 60″ wide fabric any smaller than a quilter (oops, just thought of people who make Barbie clothes).

You know the saying about breaking eggs to make an omelette?  Well, for the most part, you don’t get a quilt top without cutting up and then reassembling the pieces.  Originally quilts were made this way because they were made of the remaining good parts of material left from clothing that had worn out, been outgrown, etc.  It was not cheap to buy fabric and every last scrap was used for something.  People who piece quilt tops have a special kind of talent for putting together patterns and colours.  It is quite amazing to see the combinations they come up with and how beautiful they can be.

So each tiny piece of material has its own place in the greater design, much like we each have our own place in God’s design.  Some of us are the people with the vision and colour sense to plan the quilt top.  Some of us are the ones with the patience to sew all those little seams.  Some of us are the warm batting layer that gives the quilt its lift and makes it cozy.  After the layers are put together there is another group needed.  If you were to wash this fabric sandwich of plain cloth, batting, and quilt top, you would find the batting up in a ball at one end or the other.  The last people in the process are the ones who spend hours meticulously quilting the three layers together.  With tiny, even stitches through the three layers and following patterns from block grids, tea-cup sized circles, to outlining the quilt pattern itself they make it so the resulting piece will remain evenly warm throughout its use.

No matter what role you play in God’s design, without you it wouldn’t come together, nor stay together as well without you.  Remember that the next time you are feeling unneeded.  There is an unfinished quilt there just waiting for your particular pattern or talent to make it complete.

Lent Ends: Do We Take Up Our Habits Again?


 

Today was Good Friday.  Depending on the way you view the liturgical calendar Lent either ended last night or tomorrow, the day before Easter.  This leads to my quandary of the day…do I go back on Facebook and Twitter? 

 

If you count Sundays, I have not logged on to my FB and Twitter accounts now for 45 or 46 days.  In some way I didn’t really miss it.  I didn’t feel tempted to log on.  I took them off my home page list on my browsers and my BlackBerry and I guess the old out-of-sight out-of-mind thing works.  On the other hand I had many bouts of feeling isolated which I can only attribute to that lack of interaction which comes from at least keeping up with the doings of my friends. 

 

Did I make use of the time I saved and the loss of distraction throughout Lent in order to spend more time in prayer, study and reflection on God?  I did a really good job of it for a while at least.  I did, as I planned, spend more time reading books and doing cross word puzzles.  I completed my on-line course and prepared two services.  I’m really glad I decided to make this sacrifice and it is really hard to believe it has really been so long. 

 

How did you make out?  Did you give something up for Lent?  However we spent Lent, Sunday morning it is time to celebrate the risen Christ.  Sing songs! Shout hosannas! Give thanks that God has given this amazing free gift to all of us!

 

Whose Feet Have You Washed? Whose Bread Have You Shared?


Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is here.  This is the night on which Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and instituted the Eucharist or communion which we still celebrate to this day.  It is also the night on which he was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane.

“And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table,took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.” (John 13:2 b- 10)

Other than when we are babies and later possibly under nursing care, we don’t often have someone bathe us.  One of the early signs of separation from a parent is when a young child starts to want to wash on their own or even want privacy in the bath.  In Jesus’ day, people’s feet got dirty every time they left the house.  Servants would wash people’s feet when they entered the house.  Jesus took this servant role in the story above and it embarrassed the disciples who were lower on the social hierarchy than Jesus.  In the absence of servants it should have been one of them washing Jesus’ feet.  When Simon Peter hears that he must be washed clean in order to share with Jesus he asks for even more.  


Several years ago my Bible study group were involved in planning the service for Maundy Thursday.  We usually have a pot luck dinner on that evening prior to the service.  We were very interested in the foot washing part of the story and decided we wanted to include this in some way.  People were too uncomfortable with the idea of actually doing foot washing and we ended up setting up two hand washing stations.  People came forward and one of us dipped their hands in a bowl of warm water, and the other had a soft towel and dried their hands.  I was at one of the stations doing the hand drying and I have to say that it was a most amazing experience of intimacy with members of my church family and one I will never forget!

” While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” (Matthew 26:26-29)

Tonight as we reenact this meal shared by Christ and his disciples I pray that we are granted that sense of intimacy as we allow him to wash us clean once again.

Today’s readings were found through a web-based Bible search tool with the New Revised Standard Version.  http://bible.oremus.org/

Santa Claus, Christ, And The Easter Bunny


Bonnets and Baskets Tea

What events do your family celebrate?  Many families celebrate birthdays and  anniversaries as important family milestones.  For Christian families we celebrate Christmas and Easter, Muslim families Ramadan and Eid, Jewish families Passover, Chanukkah, etc.  For the purpose of this post we are going to focus, as I usually do, on the Christian traditions.

 

What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word Christmas?  I’m willing to bet that for a number of you it was either a tree or Santa.  Sure, lots of people would have pictured a manger scene, a star, an angel, or maybe an Advent wreath, but for every one of those I bet there are two people out there wishing they could have a do-over.  How about Easter?  Images like crosses, palms, nails, empty tombs, mix in with brightly decorated baskets filled with chocolate and candies, bunnies, and chicks.

 

Both of these celebrations have, at their hearts, the life of Jesus Christ.  Christmas celebrates Jesus taking on human life in the unlikely form of a helpless infant who was almost immediately the focus of a plot to kill him.  Easter celebrates Christ’s rising from the dead, but not without the pain and sacrifice of his arrest, and crucifixion.

 

The other day I was surprised to hear students in my class discussing Easter gift giving.  I don’t mean asking what their family puts in the Easter basket/ what the Easter Bunny brings, but actually discussing the exchange of Easter gifts like we do Christmas gifts.  It seems silly that the idea bothered me a bit, after-all I really enjoy buying Christmas gifts for people, and of course opening mine.  It just doesn’t seem to be a part of Easter. 

 

My husband and I have drawn some odd lines with our family traditions. We told the kids all about Santa Claus and even now read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, after getting home from the midnight communion service.  We decorate extensively (well, I do), have stockings, and exchange gifts.  Somehow this doesn’t seem to lessen the event as a celebration of the birth of Christ.  Easter on the other hand is all about church.  I put up a few decorations like spring flowers to brighten things up after the long winter, but we have never pretended even for a moment that there was an Easter Bunny.  We coined the term Easter Parents to explain who put out the tiny pile of treats on Easter morning (not to be touched until after church). 

 

It seems hypocritical to “lie” to our kids and tell them about Santa Claus, the spirit of Christmas who enters into people and makes them more giving, and then not follow along and tell them about a bunny who delivers treats to children on Easter.  I’m sure no real harm would be done.  It is just that while at Christmas we are celebrating an entirely happy event, the birth of a child, Easter is much more complicated.  Jesus was a gift from God.  Like the birth of any child this is a joyous event.  Theoretically, our gift giving is inspired by this gift. 

 

Easter is about a huge sacrifice made by an innocent man to take away the sins of others.  Jesus bled, was ridiculed, and died a shameful death.  That is the most amazing gift anyone could give to another, but it is not easy to deal with.  We celebrate Christ’s defeat of death when he rises on the third day, but the celebration is necessarily coloured by the events of the previous week.  I see no role for a bunny carrying a basket of eggs here.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I think bunnies are adorable.  I have a couple little ceramic bunnies on my mantle along with a jug of artificial spring flowers and palm branches.  My kids will get a few chocolates, a book, and new socks or something on Sunday morning.  I love Cadbury Easter cream eggs, and think the ads with the bunny clucking like a chicken are brilliant.  But Easter is about church, services like Good Friday complete with the somber reminder of the cross, as well as Easter worship with communion. 

 

 

Palm Carpet Part Two


The other day when I wrote my blog it was as part of preparation for today’s sermon.  I thought I would post some of what came from that beginning today… 

 

Are you a royal watcher?  There is an exciting week coming up for people who follow the lives and activities of the British royal family.  There are many websites devoted exclusively to the upcoming wedding of Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton.   At 4 AM Atlantic Time on April 29th people like my sister-in-law will be awake watching their TV sets to see full coverage of this bit of history being made.  They will be watching the “pregame show” and then Kate arriving at the church in a car and Lady Catherine and her husband driving away in a glass coach.  The red carpet will be out for all the dignitaries who will be at the wedding, most notably Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  Crowds will have gathered along the route from the palace to the church as much as 24 hours in advance in hopes of getting a glimpse of the royals and their guests. 

 

Today is Palm Sunday and we are looking at another big day, a procession of an important person and people all lined up to catch a glimpse.  The story that begins Matthew’s account of the passion story serves the purpose of showing Jesus’ royal status publicly.

 

First, palm branches were a symbol of triumph and victory to the Jewish people for instance, in Leviticus 23, they were instructed to celebrate the triumph of God bringing the people out of Egypt with branches of palm and leafy willow. It was a custom in the Middle East to cover up the paths of people worthy of the highest honour. In 2 Kings 9:13 (dated in approximately 830 BCE) when Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was declared king, the people spread their coats on the ground in front of him. This may have been a precursor to the red carpet which at one time was rolled out only for heads of state though now this extends to include famous people of almost any sort. “The earliest known reference to walking a red carpet in literature is in the play Agamemnon by Aeschylus, written in 458 BC. In this story Agamemnon’s wife has servants spread out a “crimson path” for him to walk over when he returns from Troy. He is reluctant due to “knowing that only gods walk on such luxury…”

 

The main connections between the Old Testament and Palm Sunday come from Zechariah 9:9 which is quoted in Matthew 21:5 where it prophesies, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. and Psalm 118 which we read today, from which came the words people were chanting, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” and another mention of laying down branches, “Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.”

 

For those of us who have the benefit of hindsight in this matter, the perceptions of the people of Israel in Jesus’ day don’t make much difference.  Regardless of the size of the crowd none of the people really knew what was going on.  The disciples had a fair hint at what was going on after Jesus told them that taking the donkeys was to fulfill the prophecy from Zechariah and yet even they were surprised by the events of the coming week.  We know that he was not the king they had been hoping for, entering to get rid of Herod and the Romans.  We also know that he was much more than they could ever have imagined.  Jesus was not entering as a king of one small area in Israel; he was really the king of heaven.  His task, while it would have been confusing to them, was much greater than grasping for political power and improving the lives of the people of the city and surrounding area during his lifetime.  He was coming to improve the lives of all the people of the world for all time.

 

Our current reality in Canada is a battle for power between our political parties.  In Egypt power was just taken away from a dictator by the people.  In Libya there is a civil war in progress to try to eliminate another dictatorship.  Let’s take comfort in the greater reality that the ultimate king is on his throne and he will be coming again.