Monthly Archives: October 2011

Getting Your Gulls In A Row: 4 Steps to Eternal Life

So, I’ve had this picture and title, “Getting Your Gulls In A Row,” sitting in a draft post for a couple of months now but it just didn’t go any further.  I’m trusting that inspiration is going to come to me as I type.

You will be familiar with the expression, “get your ducks in a row” for the idea of getting your thoughts straight (in a row) and all the necessary tools and raw materials (the ducks) to get a project underway and all the way to completion.

Across the hall from me at the moment there is a group of young people meeting with the minister with a view to becoming communicant members of the congregation.  In our church we call making this commitment Confirmation, in the Baptist congregations it would be Baptism.  Our kids were baptised as children and parents made the Christian commitment on their behalf, but now we are looking at helping them to understand about our faith and our denomination so that they can make that same covenant with God of their own volition.

On the drive out to the church this morning I was thinking about the common type of article which draws people in with titles that begin with things like, “ten easy steps…”  In the context of getting gulls in a row, and confirmation classes I could simplify the process of attaining eternal life as follows:

  1. Believe

  2. Question

  3. Believe anyway

  4. Repeat as necessary

Snowfall Warnings: Are Your Winter Tires And Your Souls Ready?


Fredericton and Southern York County
8:53 PM ADT Saturday 29 October 2011
Snowfall warning for 
Fredericton and Southern York County continued

Up to 20 cm of snow expected tonight and Sunday.

This is a warning that significant snowfall is expected in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

There is a snowfall warning here in Fredericton giving a possibility of 20 cm of snow for tomorrow.  It has been the topic of most of the Facebook updates from people in the area.  The primary tone is generally that it isn’t even Halloween yet, we aren’t supposed to be having snow yet!  If it were a school night kids would be putting on their jammies inside-out tonight and making tentative plans for sleeping in.

One of the problems with a snowfall of any amount at this time of year is that people never manage to adjust their driving from summer to winter driving at that first storm.  Along with that people will not have changed to their snow tires which means traction will be reduced.  If there is snow, there will be kids out playing in the snow,  and there will be car accidents, mostly minor ones, on the roads.  You would think that we would be better at this considering it happens every year.

It is a bit like the coming of the Kingdom of God.  We don’t have any way of knowing when it will come, although there have been many predictions, and many people won’t be prepared.  The difference is that not being prepared in this case, though, is that those who aren’t ready won’t have a second chance.  The time to get those “snow tires” on is now.



It Is The Family That Never Ends: Our Forever Family

Like the designs of many civilizations, the knotwork of the Celts are noted for their intricate designs created from an unbroken line.

One of these designs, which is well-known, includes three loops and is known as the triquetera or trinity knot. There is one loop each for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, while in truth there is only one continuous line.  To me it ties in with the well-known quote from Revelations, “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.”   At the same time the continuity reflects ahead to eternity and eternal life.  

When we think about life we normally see it with a distinct beginning and ending.  ‘We are born, but to die,’ that sort of thing.  In my classes I teach about the Family Life Cycle.  When you map out a family’s cycle you see that “ideal families” go through a pattern of connected loops growing out of each other.  Each individual has an end at death but when the cycle works the family does not end.

God is beyond even that, though.  From the very beginning (the Alpha) God, Jesus and the Spirit were all present and will remain so forever.  What better family to be a part of than God’s family?  Unbeknownst to us, we were a part of God’s family from before we were conceived.  Like teens, most of us stray away from the family at some point, but through accepting the grace of God in the sacrifice of Jesus we are welcomed back home for good!




It is time for change in our world.  It isn’t that this in new information or a new situation, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  I have been struggling with what to write, or whether to write at all about my reaction to the past week’s news stories.

One day last week I was driving to school in the morning and listening to a young Canadian girl talking about how happy she was that Moammar Ghadafi was dead. News reports were talking about huge parties which had broken out in Libya and among Libyan populations in other places worldwide.  While I understand that it is a huge relief that the dictatorship is ended and that people will naturally celebrate a victory after a hard-fought battle for freedom, how did we come to a place where we are teaching our children to celebrate a person’s death?  Whatever else he became, Ghadafi was a man, someone’s son, husband, brother, father etc.  

Also last week news articles came out about a young man in Ontario who committed suicide.  Sad at any time, this case was made more visible by the fact that the 15-year-old had been keeping a blog in which he was very open with the struggles he had with depression and being gay. He spoke of how hard it was being the only openly gay young man at his school and the fact that it was too hard to wait for “It to Get Better” (check out the It Gets Better campaign fighting against suicide amongst LGBT teens)

On the heels of all of this I just watched an episode of Harry’s Law in which the lawyer Harry Corn was the defense lawyer for a teen blogger who was being tried for murder as a result of the suicide of one of her targets.  While she had “outed” the girl on her blog, used terrible expressions to refer to her, and even went as far as to encourage her readers to let her know that they “knew” she was gay, she was found not guilty of murder.  There were no punches pulled that the bullying had been horrific, nor about the results,  and statistics on this problem were brought forward in the trial.  In her closing arguments Harry pointed out that it really took a whole community to create such a huge tragedy.

When Jesus was with us, during his ministry, he already knew change was needed.  Jesus was a change maker, a boat rocker!  He taught us that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds.  Second only to that was to love our neighbours as ourselves.  The stories from last week represent what my students might call “epic fails!”  We need to spend a lot more time actively working to show that we love our neighbours, even the ones with whom we do not agree!  We can each start on our own, and we can join with groups like the Humankind one at my school with campaigns like Grow the Glow, anti-bullying days, Ally weeks etc. 







The Sunday Hymn page has been updated to include November 13th and 20th

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 64

Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #64

Be still and know that I am God

Words: anonymous
Music: anonymous
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.

I am the Lord that healeth thee.
I am the Lord that healeth thee.
I am the Lord that healeth thee.

In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust. 

I like this well-known hymn despite its repetitive lyrics.  It is in the repetition that one is able to rest and, be still.

Similar to the repetition in the lyrics the melody has a simple pattern with a rising line between two falling lines.  The triple rhythm has a soothing almost rocking feel which adds to the stillness even more.

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 61

Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #61

Oh come and sing unto the Lord

Psalm 95
Paraphrase,  Psalter 1912
Music: A Collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1749
Oh come and sing unto the Lord;
to God our voices raise.
O Rock of  our salvation hear
our joyful noise of praise!

Before God’s presence let us come
with praise and thankful voice;
let us sing psalms to God with grace,
with grateful hearts rejoice.

Our God is great and reigns supreme
above all power and might;
God’s hand still holds the depths of earth,
the mountains’ breadth and height.

The sea belongs to God alone
who made both calm and storm,
and from the Maker’s mighty hand
the dry land took its form.

Oh come and let us worship God
as to our knees we fall;
we are God’s people; God is Lord,
the Maker of us all.

This paraphrase flows well and uses language which will be simple even for children.  Good to use when Psalm 95 comes up in the lectionary, this is also good to use any time creation or praise in general are a Sunday theme.

Irish is a good melody with two distinctive phrase patterns.  The first two phrases are primarily step-wise while the second pair has a series of skips and falls with eighth notes to add interest.  The tune is used for one other hymn in the book, Thy kingdom come- on bended knee #784.

Day by Day, O Dear Lord, Three Things I Pray

Last night I had occasion to watch the movie Godspell.  The movie came out in 1972 when I was eight, but what I remember are the multiple musical theatre productions of the show which I saw as a teen and young adult.  I was, last night just as when I was a teen, held transfixed as the character of Jesus led his little group of misfits through the parables.  When the partner songs begin at the end of the show with “Long live God” as they carry him away from the cross, being joined with “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,”  from the opening of the show I was  taken to that thin place!  I felt lifted up, I was closer to heaven!

I realize this sounds rather flakey or esoteric, but somehow the combination of the real stories of Jesus, the foolish antics of the disciples as they act them out and misunderstand their meanings, and the music is very affecting!  We are led to praise God and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but not just that.  At the same time as we shout, “Long live God!” we need to be preparing the way for the coming of Jesus!

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 58

Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #58

To render thanks unto the Lord

Psalm 92
Paraphrase, Scottish  Psalter 1650
Music: Jeremiah Clarke (c.1674-1707) paraphrase
To render thanks unto the Lord,
it is a comely thing,
and to thy name, O thou Most High,
due praise aloud to sing.

Thy loving kindness to show forth
when shines the morning light,
and to declare thy faithfulness
with pleasure every night,

upon a ten-stringed instrument,
up on the psaltery,
and on the harp with solemn sound,
and grave sweet melody.

For thou, Lord, by thy mighty works
hast made my heart right glad,
and I will triumph in the works
which by thy hands were made. 

The language is quite archaic.  When was the last time you heard anything referred to as “comely”?  I find the fact that verse two doesn’t end until the end of verse three irritating, as always when these things happen.

The tune Bishopthorpe is a slightly less familiar melody, at least in the churches in my area.  In 3/4 time, it begins with a syncopated pick-up note at each phrase.  I really like the snappy rhythm in the second last bar.  The range is slightly less than an octave, and it is easy to sing.  This is the only hymn in the Book of Praise which uses this melody, though it does work with other 8686 CM lyrics.

Fall Contrasts

I took these picture last week while walking my dog. There were many times driving to and from work lately when I felt a strong urge to pull over onto the shoulder of the road to try getting a photo which adequately represented the glory I was seeing. Fall is a beautiful time in New Brunswick and the contrast ofbright colours of dying leaves and the dark green of the evergreens is striking!

Today in church we read the story of God showing His glory to Moses, but only from the back. Just as there is more to the whole picture and contrast in the roadside colours than I can encompass in a single still picture, God’s glory is just too big for any of us to catch all at once. As we look at the fall leaves in their shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown, perhaps we are seeing a beautiful fringe or lining on god,s cloak.

We notice the bright colours more when they are in contrast to the deep greens, perhaps we need to be looking for God’s glory in contrasts as well. We certainly know that the rows of temporary housing in massive refugee camps is a stark background, and yet against that canvass we see smiling children running and playing, we see volunteers putting forward great effort, and at times at great risk. It is here that we see the glory of God. We often want to look away from people when they are hurting, but remember that in doing so you risk seeing the contrasting glory for which we all yearn!