Monthly Archives: May 2011

Driving With The Windows Down!

There is something special about those first few days in the spring when you can drive with your window rolled down.  It isn’t the same as later in the summer when you “need” the air conditioning on in order to be comfortable in the car and it is certainly nothing at all like the dead of winter when even with the heat full blast you shiver in your seat!


Today I ran out at lunch time to get something to eat.  It was so beautiful out that the first thing I did when I got in the car was  get all four windows rolled down.  I use the term rolled down even though with power windows it is no longer representative of what we actually do.  I got the picture above through creative commons from Alex Garcia on as it is difficult, if not totally unsafe, to take a picture of your own arm out the window while driving.  That short drive with the windows down was so refreshing that it was almost as if I was already in the middle of my summer vacation!


When you think of how much we often struggle with stress in our lives it is amazing to have such a stress-relieving benefit from something so simple.  I was even happy with listening to the car in the next lane’s booming bass from the stereo instead of considering it to be sound pollution.  At your earliest opportunity get out there for a drive with the window down, the sun roof open, or the top down and marvel in the wonder of a simple sunny day!

I Saw The Light, No More Darkness, Praise The Lord!

Psalm 97

11  Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
12  Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Psalm 97 was the morning lectionary Psalm today.  When I read it, the part that struck me was that part I quoted above.  It seemed particularly appropriate in light of the many dreary and rainy days we have had lately and the forecast for the sun to come out today.   Of course, I don’t think the Psalm was referring literally to sun shining.  After-all, everyone who lives in my area has had the same lack of sunshine and we all saw the sun today.  It didn’t matter whether we were righteous or upright of heart or not, the sun really shone on all of us.


So what is that about?  The light that dawns for the upright (please note not the perfect, the sin free) is the light of the Holy Spirit which shines out from within us.  It is the light that brightens your step, that carries us over the stumbling blocks, that helps us to break through the clouds that enfold us.  As I began to write this evening I found myself humming the lyrics of Hank Williams’ song based on Psalm 46 so I share the lyrics with you here.

I Saw The Light
Words and music by Hank Williams

I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin;
I wouldn’t ask my dear Saviour in.
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night;
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!
          I saw the light, I saw the light.
          No more darkness; no more night
          Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight.

           Praise the Lord, I saw the light!

Just like a blind man I wandered alone,
Worries and fears I claimed for my own.
Then like the blind man that Jesus gave back his sight;
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!
I was a fool to wander astray,
For straight is the gate and narrow is the way.
Now I have traded the wrong for the right;
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!

Starting Down A Whole New Road

This morning our congregation took our first steps down a whole new road.  Just like the road in my picture it is not clear right now what it will look like or what side roads may come along but we have cleared a straight path and leveled it out. 


For any of you not familiar with the way things work in the Presbyterian Church,  we do not hire ministers, we believe they are called to a congregation by God.  Once the search committee has heard and interviewed a candidate and decide that they are the right person they arrange for that person to preach for the congregation.  After that service there is a congregational meeting at which it is decided whether or not to extend the call to that individual or go back to the drawing board.


This morning we heard a candidate preach, had some time with her at a reception (along with celebrating a members 93rd birthday), and decided at our meeting to extend a call to her.  This document will then be presented at the next level of our church courts, the presbytery.  If they affirm the call we will have a full-time minister again.  It is pretty exciting stuff!


How often in our lives do we face this kind of “new road” experience?  If we change jobs, begin or end a relationship, become parents we start new roads for sure.  Other than that I suspect many of us are on the same road upon which our parents put our feet when we began to walk, or at least the road we took when we moved out on our own.  I know that despite some side streets and dead ends, I am pretty much walking the path my parents showed me.


How does that translate to a church community?  We have the comfort of all those things that have “always been done that way” but the real path we walk is the one cleared for us by Jesus and he was hardly one timid about change!  I think the big thing that will change in the short-term is that we will have something definite for which to plan.  There will be ordination and induction services to plan.  There will be house hunting and moving for our minister.


The little things will settle themselves over time.  Order of worship is one thing that is likely to undergo subtle changes.  This morning for instance we were invited to sit after the call to worship.  It seemed strange, but then I still remember when that was the norm and the strangeness of standing right from the call through the prayer and then the first hymn.  I think the change was made for time-saving, but today it was quite nice to sit for the prayer.


I think the new road I have pictured above is going to be a new subdivision along the road which goes past our church.  If this is the case, it will be leveled, graded, and lots will be sold.  Gradually people will buy the lots and move into the area making it into a neighbourhood.  Side roads will be added to accommodate more homes.  Hopefully the same will be said of our church over the next few years.  New people may move in to join those of us already there, perhaps new side-roads will take the form of new groups or initiatives.  We can’t know from where we stand now, but we have the road started and it is time to move forward!

Great! Say This

Open To Someone New

This evening, in around an hour-and-an-half, members of the congregation to which I belong will be meeting the person who may be becoming our new minister.  Exciting stuff!  A bit nerve-wracking, probably more for the candidate than the congregation, but exciting.


At these points in the lives of congregations we face that most frightening spectre, change!  Despite having been without full-time pastoral care for almost two years, we have become comfortable with the status quo.  As much as we all know we need to have a minister, we are nervous of the inevitable change that will come along.


What makes people so fearful of change?  Many would say, “experience!”  It is a bit like labour pains.  The more you tense up and resist the contractions, or the changes, the more they hurt.  Despite what has resulted from change in our past, we need to remain relaxed and open to change.  Perhaps we need to practice our deep cleansing breaths, maybe even expect good things to come.  We do have the Holy Spirit with us for the ride so we know that we are loved and protected come what may.


What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? Articulating a Calling

One of the things that all people seek is the “right path” for their lives.  My grade twelve students are hitting it head-on right now as they make their plans for future career paths and any related schooling which may be required.  How do you balance what you enjoy with what will pay the bills?  From an early age people ask us what we want to be when we grow up?  And who among us has not at one time or another wondered if our parents had us by accident?  As Christians we have the added dimension of calling.  What is it God has planned for us? For what use were we given our particular talent set?

If you doubt that people are looking for this calling, Google search for Rick Warren.  His book The Purpose Driven Life has been translated into 50 languages and has sold some 25 million copies.  Along with the phenomenal success of his book, Warren has trained 400,000 ministers in his Purpose Driven Church strategy.  The topic of the first 7 of 40 chapters in his book? “What On Earth Am I Here For?”

In my case, I basically fell into my current career.  Early in junior high I planned to grow up to be a minister.  In grade nine I decided I was going to go to Mt. Allison to take music and education.  I wanted to be just like my junior high band teacher.  I did go to Mt. Allison for a university degree in music, but by then I was certain that I would not be teaching school!  I didn’t even like kids!  Twenty-five years after graduating I am looking at retiring from teaching in six or seven years.

Even as I was in the midst of this career I still felt called to ministry.  I began doing pulpit supply work around eight years ago, and five years ago actually applied for a position as university chaplain.  When I did not get that position I took it to mean that, for the time being at least, I was doing what was intended.  That may have been too simplistic a view, but the years since have been some of the most satisfying of my career. 

I feel my life experiences have uniquely prepared me to teach my courses on family and child development (I haven’t taught music in years) and to work to further justice and positive climate in my school.  I also believe that all of this is still preparing me for ministry within the church. 

According to the PCC pamphlet, “Am I being called?” “The primary vocation of all Christians is to be in relationship with God through Christ. We delight in God’s gracious love and respond in praiseand gratitude. As the Shorter Catechism says, “Our chief end is to glorify and enjoy God forever…For most Christians, their primary arena for exercising their vocation is in the world and the exercise of their vocation in the church is in a voluntary capacity.”  Whatever your vocation, may the Spirit of God guide you in your work.

For more about Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life go to

For more on calling to ministry with Presbyterian Church in Canada check out this link

“Thank You For The Honor, I Am Humbled”…Check Your Dictionary

Today we are beginning the pet peeve section of my blog.  Well, not really, but today’s topic is certainly one of my pet peeves!  I believe that sometime in the last fifteen years the actual meaning of the word humble has been swallowed up and it has moved over into the false-modesty category.  When you are elected to office, given a special award, or graduate from something you are being honoured.  It is not possible for it to be humbling!



Don’t believe that people really say this?  On election night in 2011, “What a great night,” Canadian Prime Minister Harper exclaimed as he addressed cheering supporters in Calgary. “And friends, I have to say it: A strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government.  We are grateful, deeply honoured — in fact, humbled — by the decisive endorsement of so many Canadians. We shall be faithful to the trust that you have reposed in us,” (

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia’s acceptance speech following his election as new WCC general secretary 28 August 2003 included the following, “I want to say that for me, this is a very humbling affair. I am deeply humbled by this great honour of being elected the general secretary of the World Council of Churches.” posts the following definitions

hum·ble (hmbl)

adj. hum·bler, hum·blest

1. Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.
2. Showing deferential or submissive respect: a humble apology.
3. Low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly: a humble cottage.

tr.v. hum·bled, hum·bling, hum·bles

1. To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate.
2. To cause to be meek or modest in spirit.
3. To give a lower condition or station to; abase. See Synonyms at degrade.

 I think the reason some people are using the word humble in their acceptance speeches is that they are made to feel “modest in spirit” by the win or honour.  What they may be feeling is embarrassment or unworthiness which may sound the same, but if they really felt that way would they not then decline the honour?  For many it is a way to insert false-modesty into their speech.  Certainly nobody who spends millions of dollars and every waking minute of months of their time campaigning to win an election should feel that they deserve the job or we are in real trouble!


Let’s look at some examples of humbleness.  The word humble can be found 25 times in the NRSV translation of the Bible.  Moses tells Pharaoh (definitely not an humble person) to humble himself and let the Israelites go and then later speaking to those very people whom God saved tells them that they wandered in the desert for fourty years in order to humble them.  (Exo 10:3, Deu 8:2, 16)   We are frequently called upon to humble ourselves before God and over and over again it is noted that God hears the humble and does not forget the humble.  In Proverbs 6:9 it says, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”  Later, in the New Testament when it says that the humble will be lifted up it doesn’t mean that if you act humble you will get earthly attention and wealth, but to be truly lifted up into the presence of God.


If none of those examples give a clear picture of true humility, look at Jesus.  God humbled himself to the point of being born as a helpless infant in a lambing shed along with the animals.  He lived a simple life with his parents and an even simpler life as he traveled the countryside during his ministry.  There were no fancy campaign busses (or white steeds), slogans or $100-a-plate fundraising dinners.  He didn’t wear fancy clothing like the members of the Sanhedrin, and on the night of the Last Supper he knelt down and washed his disciples feet like a servant, and refused to let his followers fight to save him from arrest.  In the next several days he allowed himself to be whipped and beaten, hung on a cross with common criminals, and to be defeated by death.  This is humbled.


As we go to bed tonight, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit may enable us to be truly humble in our lives, that we might be lifted up by God.


The 25 uses of the word humble come from; Exo 10:3,Deu 8:2,Deu 8:16,Jdg 19:24,2 Ch 7:14,2,Ch 34:27,Job 22:29,Psa 9:12, Psa 10:12,Psa 10: 17,Psa 34:2,Psa 69:32,Pro 6:3,Pro 16″19,Pro 29:23,Isa 57:15,Jer 13:18,Mat 18:4,Mat 23:12,2 Co 12:21,Jas 4:6,Jas 4:10,1 Pe 5″5,1 Pe 5:6

What Does Your Bookshelf Say About You?

One Shelf of Many


At the risk of sounding anachronistic given the rise of the e-book, have you looked at your bookshelves lately? I was sitting here the other day reading a book on my Kobo reader and glanced across the room at my shelves of books.  Some of the books are good friends of mine, some are strangers waiting for me to get around to meeting them, and some are “good for me” and await the time when I gather the courage to turn their pages.   It occurred to me that one thing I often do when I am in someone’s house or office for the first time is look at the books on their shelves for some insight into their character, their interests etc.


So, what would looking at my shelves tell someone?  Well there is one shelf, not pictured, which has about twenty Bibles of various sizes, translations etc. stacked somewhat haphazardly as many can not stand on their edge without damaging their leather.  Hanging from one corner is the tag from the packaging for a gay pride flag which turned out to be surplus to my needs and I have not yet given it to someone.


The shelf in the picture above has; three Hemingway novels with matching spines from when I belonged to some book club or other, nine beautifully bound classics from when I belonged to the Franklin Library club The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Decameron with a book mark hanging at about half-way, Vanity Fair, a Jane Austen volume containing both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility,  The Magic Mountain, The Annals of Tacitus, Don Quixote De La Mancha, Candide, Wuthering Heights, a thin trade paperback Anoqcou Ceremony is Life Itself by a first nation elder from the area, A Night With Robert Burns, a Christian novel for youth called Just Another Girl, a trade paperback Understanding The Faith Essays in Philosophical Theology with a bookmark,  Tamped Clay and Saltmarsh Hay which is a book about artifacts of New Brunswick, Literature in Canada Volume 1,  Michael Whelan Folk Poet of Renous River, and The Book of Forms from the Presbyterian Church in Canada.


On the shelf beside this one there is one of every novel written by L.M. Montgomery, while another holds a bunch of rarely opened cookbooks.  The shelf with C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series has the set both in text and CD version, along with The Te of Piglet and an antique leatherbound set of Charles Dickens books.


I would like to think that the variety would give the impression that I am eclectic in my interests and interested in expanding my mind. The classics should show my connection with history and interest in the _________.  The other books show interest in folklore, historical artifacts, and of course Theology and the church.  The bookmarks part-way through multiple books is either good in that it shows I started the books, or bad in that it shows that I gave up. 

My 30 Minutes at the Bottom of the Food Chain

I mowed half the back yard one day when I got home from work.  The reason I didn’t finish?  Was I too tired to continue? Did I need to get chores done inside?  Was I leaving it for my children to do? Did the charge run out on the mower?  No, none of those reasons applies to this situation.  After thirty minutes of work I was tired of being a human popsicle for the recently hatched hordes of black flies which have invaded my yard!


For those purists, entomologists, biologists etc. out there let me just say that I am a trained musician and an humanities teacher and not a scientist.  For all I know the black flies who were snacking on me so merrily may be days old, they aren’t really at the bottom of the food chain etc.   All I know is that the day before when I mowed the front yard there weren’t any flies and today I was having trouble avoiding inhaling the stupid things as they swarmed around me and my lawn mower.


I understand that the black flies need to eat in order to survive to reproduce.  I understand that there are spiders, bats, and birds who need the flies fattened up to make good meals for them.  I understand how the food cycle works, but I am used to being at the top of the chain!  I am supposed to be the eater, not the eaten!  After-all, weren’t Adam and Eve given, ” dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth… every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”(Genesis 1:28-29)?


We humans are generally quite proud of all we have accomplished.  We have developed ways to produce more food on a small piece of land than it was ever intended to yield.  We have found ways of preserving our food so that we may have things to eat when they are not even in season (I’ll be freezing bags of fiddleheads any day now for use next winter).  Many of us could go through our whole lives without really facing the fact that those nice tidy cuts of meat we buy on the styrofoam trays at the grocery store were once live animals who bled when they died. 


Our one remaining real issue in the developed world?  Biting insects!  Look at the panic caused by an outbreak of bedbugs in North America, and look at all ingenuity we have put into ridding ourselves of mosquitoes and black flies.  There are citronella candles and sprays, bug sprays of all sorts, mesh suits which are so fine that the biting insects can not get through.  We have propane based contraptions that claim to clear 1/2 acre areas of flies.  We have pesticides which are sprayed over vast areas in some places.


Since we have this dominion, and the technology etc. and cannibalism is such a taboo in almost every human society, we have little to fear from the food chain.  I think we need to be thankful for reminders of how the prey animals feel. It is humbling, and heaven knows most of us need practice being humble!

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life


This morning I had occasion to stop off at Tim Hortons (a major Canadian chain of coffee shops) to get something for breakfast.  Since I wasn’t in a huge hurry, I decided to park and go inside to get my food rather than go through the drive through.  While inside I noticed that the place was packed with groups of people gathered together to share their stories, experiences and plans along with their coffee and donuts. With my breakfast sandwich in hand I headed back to my car and started to eat.  As I ate I watched a steady stream of people heading in and out of the shop.

There was a long line of people in their cars who were in too much of a hurry to park and go into the shop. Along with that group I saw the following walking across the driveway and headed into the shop; a pair of ambulance drivers, several female members of a road crew with their work boots and caution vests,  a young woman with hair of various colours and tattoos, men I’m suits and ties, women in business dress, women pushing children in strollers, and a man with a large bag who was digging to get returnable bottles from the garbage cans.

There is, perhaps sadly, no other type of circumstance that would have this broad a cross-section of our population coming together in one place. Do we see this variety of humanity headed to the doors of our churches on Sunday mornings? I realize that out of work clothes of whatever type we may not know what people do in the rest of their lives. Would someone in steel toed work boots, jeans and t-shirt feel comfortable in our churches or would stares and comments indicate to them that they shouldn’t be there? How many of our churches would welcome the man who was digging in the garbage can?

The lyrics of the song from which I took the title of this entry speaks to this issue and to the fact that while we may be inclined to reject and exclude, Jesus would never do so.

Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear thy voice, O Son of man.

In haunts of wretchedness and need,
On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed,
We catch the vision of thy tears.

From tender childhood’s helplessness,
From woman’s grief, man’s burdened toil,
From famished souls, from sorrow’s stress,
Thy heart hath never known recoil.

The cup of water given for thee
Stills holds the freshness of thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see
The sweet compassion of thy face.

O Master, from the mountain side,
Make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
Among these restless throngs abide,
O tread the city’s streets again;

Till sons of men shall learn thy love,
And follow where thy feet have trod;
Till glorious from thy heaven above,
Shall come the City of our God.