Query

It being the end of the month, I decided to look at the stats for this page. Since the site has been found by a couple of search engines, I’ve had 56 search queries that have led people here. On some people’s blogs they’ve noted some downright strange search words that have led to their words.

Most of the ones here, to date, have been pretty tame. The only two that caused my eyebrow to lift were: “dirt on alecia keys” and “the episcopal church sucks”. I don’t know anything about Ms. Keys… and – depending on which episcopal church – only a bit more! 8)

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The Samaritan Re-told

Something else to read. Not something light or enjoyable.

A Parable Re-Told?
She was a young woman, in the first few weeks of her first year at university, enjoying every minute of it. Part of the enjoyment was meeting new people and getting to know them. She had met a guy – a great guy – and after going out with him a couple of times, she invited him over to her rez-room, to have some coffee.

To sit.

To chat.

To get to know him better.

It was there, in her room, in what was supposed to be a safe place, that he forced her to have sex… raped her.

And afterwards he walked out the door.

Lying on her bed, curled on her side, she could feel nothing. Nothing except pain… and… and… filth. Everywhere he had touched her she felt unclean. Almost mechanically, she walked into the shower and scrubbed mercilessly at her skin, rubbing away at her body until it was bright red. Trying to get the feeling of his touch away from her – trying to get clean.

She moved as if she were on automatic. After getting out of the shower she found herself dressing and leaving the room where it had happened. She walked around and around the campus, not seeing the people on the street. Not seeing much of anything.

She turned and entered a building, sat down at the table, and stared at the wall. As she sat there, staring, the wall slowly came into focus. She began to see the words printed on a poster. “No means No.”

“No means No.” It was one of the posters up around campus, talking about date rape. At the bottom of the sign was the location of a place where she could find someone to talk to – a place where she could get help. Grasping for something normal, she went there, to find someone she could talk to.

She arrived to find the door being locked. “You want to help out,” said the person heading out, “Great! Look – I’ve got to make a report to the student’s union right now. I’ll be back in about an hour. I’ll see you then – ok?” Without waiting for a response, they took off down the hall. The young woman was left standing there, her stomach dropping to her feet. Numbness was beginning to fade. Her feeling was beginning to come back and the brush-off had been like a blow to her already aching body.

With the pain inside beginning to blind her, she wandered out of the building. It was October and there was a cold wind blowing. Although she was taking little in, at one point she saw a building with a tall spire. Realizing it was a church, she opened the door, stumbled in, and sat down in a pew. She had grown up in the church. She had been taught that the people there were always willing to help someone in pain. The minister saw her and sat down beside her, asking if she needed help. In painful whispers the story was told. After she was done there was silence. Then the pastor looked at her and said, “Dear child, you shouldn’t be going around telling stories like this. You’re going to get that young man in trouble. Now… tell me the truth. Were you dressed like that? Were you teasing him? No wonder he thought you were interested in sex!” She stared at that member of the clergy in disbelief, tears of pain and anger running down her face. Trying to grasp at what was left of her self-worth… at was left of her Self… she turned and ran out of the church.

No longer knowing where she was going, no longer caring where she was going, she continued to walk. She walked for miles, trying to get the cold of the fall air to dull the knife-sharp pain stabbing into her body – into her soul.

It began to rain.

She walked into a coffee shop and sat at a table, shaking with more than just the cold. As she tried to hold herself still, she began to feel like she was going to break apart. As the numbness continued to give way, she was tossed about by loss, by betrayal, by anger, by terror, by pain, by…

She sat slowly losing her Self.

Another woman was in that coffee shop. This was a woman who was used to the streets. Someone who most of us would walk by without a second glance, or, perhaps, a glance of distaste. Someone you might see sitting on the sidewalk downtown, asking for change. Someone you might see offering a “transaction”. Someone who learned to survive a life most of us can’t even begin to imagine.

She was also someone who knew the look on the young woman’s face.

She got up from her chair and moved to the young woman’s table. She sat, not saying a word, and offered her hand. In a torrent of words and tears the story again came pouring out. Again – silence. But this time, a head nodding… shared tears in the other’s eyes. She understood.

More than that – she knew.

She knew the shock… the pain… the fear… the anger.

She knew.

She gently took the young woman’s hands in her own, lifting her up. She led her to a shelter where she knew the counsellors. She waiting, holding the young woman safe, until a counsellor was free. She stayed beside her until she knew that the healing would begin.

Then she quietly slipped out the door.

And Jesus looked at the disciples and said, “Now… which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the one who fell into the hands of the thief?”

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Iambic Pentameter

And wherefore do I sing my songs of praise,
as I dance with movements filled with love’s delight?
The world, turned and confused by evil’s craze,
seems caught up in the Temptor’s terrible grasp of might.
Can my song banish the wretch’d terrors of war,
or my dance heal wounds ‘tween parent and child?
Can the hopeful lifting of prayer open a door
to God’s touch – so gentle… so loving… so mild?
Or is the Adversary’s job now done,
it’s God-given tasks finished, fully complete?
Have we decided to turn from the Holy One,
never again to look even upon God’s feet?
No… for still we feel God’s shalom
shouting, crying, beckoning… calling us home.

Nope. I’ll never make it as a poet… but it is fun trying to write in iambic pentameter. *lol*

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Back

Well… I head back to the office tomorrow. I’ve decided to put the “Please, do not disturb” sign up on the door, unless there are emergencies. I can’t quite believe the back-up of administrative stuff that I have to get through.

I have decided to put out an “all call” inviting people to consider becoming part of the nexus. I’m not quite sure how to word the announcment yet… but I’ve got a somewhat mysterious ad to go in the local papers.

Pray for us! It’s going to be a wild ride.

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Iambic Pentameter 2

And wherefore do I sing my songs of praise,
as I dance with movements filled with love’s delight?
The world, turned and confused by evil’s craze,
seems caught up in the Temptor’s terrible grasp of might.
Can my song banish the wretch’d terrors of war,
or my dance heal wounds ‘tween parent and child?
Can the hopeful lifting of prayer open a door
to God’s touch – so gentle… so loving… so mild?
Or is the Adversary’s job now done,
it’s God-given tasks finished, fully complete?
Have we decided to turn from the Holy One,
never again to look even upon God’s feet?
No… for still we feel God’s shalom
shouting, crying, beckoning… calling us home.

Nope. I’ll never make it as a poet… but it is fun trying to write in iambic pentameter. *lol*

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The Nexus

image of a poster inviting people into the nexus
So – here’s the poster. Plain. Simple. Not particularly informative. 8)
I hope to plaster it all over town in two weeks.
Any suggestions, comments, critique?

(If you have problems linking to the nexus site please try again later. I’ve been uploading pages all night and the server isn’t happy with me.)

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Holiday’s End

I’m sitting back, listening to The Memory of Trees by Enya. It’s been a relaxing day, bringing me almost to the end of what has been an extremely relaxing holiday. I’m slowly preparing to slid myself back into my formal ministry on Tuesday morning.
I got an e-mail today, from someone in northern Ontario, asking if I would consider facilitating a workshop on “Creative Worship” for their congregation. Sadly, I had to say that I couldn’t even consider it right now – ’cause I had reached my limit of wider church leadership. Just a few minutes after my response I found another e-mail in my inbox, asking what kinds of things I was doing… because they hadn’t seen anything listed in my blog! I found myself chuckling… I didn’t realize that people were checking here, to see what kind of leadership help I could offer.
So… if you’d like to find out what I’m doing, outside of regular congregational life… here it is:

– on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 8th, Shannon and I have been asked to develop a creative way to share the message of the gosple at a service of ministry covenant between the congregation of Exeter United Church, Huron-Perth Presbytery and their two new ministers: Nancy Corrigan and Paul Ross;

– on October 21-23, Shannon and I, along with Jane Ripley, are facilitating worship and music at Re-presenting Fullness of Life being held at Five Oaks Christian Centre in Paris, Ontario. I also get to lead a workshop entitled: “Engaging People in Worship – Implementation of New Ideas” where we’ll look at different ways of introducing new ideas and activities to worshipping communities;

– on October 26, Shannon and I have been asked to share “an active meditation” at the 125th Anniversary of Victoria Street United Church in Chatham, Ontario;

– then, on November 1st to 3rd, I get to facilitate worship at a United Church of Canada Stewardship Event entitled, “Finding Abundance… in all we are… in all we have… in all we do: Opening ourselves and others to recognize, celebrate and share the abundance of God’s gifts” being held in Jackson’s Point, Ontario;

– on two Saturdays in November, with the Rev. Harry Disher, I get to co-facilitate a Huron-Perth Presbytery workshop for lay people on Leading Worship… and then comes Advent!

If you’d like information about any of these events, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

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Iggy lists 15 traits of the postmodern apostle. What’s cool about this list is that it looks like Iggy is going to expand on what each of the points means. Here are the first four (just as a taste):
1. Apostles have time for everyone.
2. Apostles know that the DNA of the church is to make apprentices of Jesus Christ.
3. Apostles function as soul friends.
4. Apostles are passionate about entire cultures, people groups, and regions…

You can see the rest at housechurch.

(Thanks to Karen Ward for this link.)

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Aaaugh.
I just had one of those dratted conflict moments. For the past year, I’ve been signed up to be the worship facilitator for a conference happening in November. The conference happens every two years and I’ve been having fun getting ready for it.
Shannon and I have two tickets to go and see Great Big Sea in concert, in London, on the evening of November 2, 2002.
Guess what I just realized.

Ooops. *sigh* Well, I’m sure that one of our friends will enjoy the concert with Shannon.

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I’d like to suggest to any of my colleagues who serve with congregations that have websites to check out MeanDean’s website: Heal Your Church Web Site design tips for church and charity websites and webpages.

Not only does he give great tips and suggestions, he’s extremely readable.

(Now I’m going to re-create the nexus website to follow his suggestions. Well… maybe tomorrow. *wry smile*)

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I’m back! What a wonderful, relaxing trip! Since my last post, Shannon and I have travelled to and from Nova Scotia (by car), visited with a variety of friends along the way… and generally had a lot of fun.

Now it’s time to get back to work. Well… not actually quite yet. My holidays continue until Tuesday. (As long as I am as quiet as a mouse, hide the car in the back yard, and keep all the lights off, maybe no one will notice we’re back.)

Right!

I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone. I guess that will be tomorrow’s fun.

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There were quite a few aha moments on this trip – some personal, some “professional”. One of them came while I was reading one of the books that someone in the blogosphere suggested to me – Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew.
One person I visited saw that I was reading Yancey’s book and, excitedly, told me that I’d be deeply shocked by some of the things he had to say.

Sorry. I didn’t find any great surprises waiting to leap out at me. A number of Yancey’s thoughts did, however, allow me to wander off into new conversations with God – and that was exciting.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about having been elected/acclaimed the president of London Conference of The United Church of Canada, from June 2003 to May 2004. It’s a great honour – and a great responsibility. While I have no worries about my ability to do the mechanics of the position – moderating the 200 or so delegates at the annual general meeting, helping the Executive to do its work – what I have been worrying about is my ability to be the “vision keeper” or “pastor” to this body.

Over the past few months, I’ve cast around for themes for the year. A number have come to mind… but none have had a feeling of “right-ness”.

Of course, I was searching and seeking, rather than simply opening myself. So, at the point I wasn’t looking at all, in a book that – while interesting – wasn’t shaking my world, I found one quote… and a huge AHA!

In Paul’s second letter to the people of Corinth, chapter 4, verse 7, he writes, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (NRSV).

As we were driving down the highway, I “saw” the delegates, the presbyters, the congregations in terms of clay jars, filled with the treasure of Christ’s presence – filled with the treasure of Divine love. It struck me that those jars are similar to the ones at Qumran… before they were opened. The community at Qumran wanted to save all those sacred texts, so they sealed them tightly and hid them away in caves. They were safe and secure. So much so, that many of the texts are still extant. But for nearly 2000 years they were hidden. In many ways, non-existant to the world around them.

Much of the church today… much of the denomination I am a part of… much of my own faith journey – feels like we want to keep that treasure all sealed up, deep within. It feels like we’re afraid that this treasure is finite, and that if we take the top of our clay Selves and pour out the Treasure it’s going to disappear.

We’ve got to stop being afraid.

(Want to know what one of the biggest “aha’s” is in the above story? I don’t particularly like Paul. I disagree with him on a regular basis. I continue to wonder why we’ve come to see his writings as being so divinely inspired that they should be part of the canon we call The Bible. There have been other people since Christ’s resurrection who have had powerful experiences of conversion and call to evangel… and while their lives and writings guide us, we don’t lift them up as “scripture”. Oh, well. The funny thing is… every once in a while I read something Paul wrote and go, “Ack! We agree again!” God has a funny sense of humour.)

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Part of what I love about blogging is how other people’s thoughts cause my own to bounce around. Rachel wrote about a drive she took last night and some time to vent. Her words reminded me of something from my own life…

Pebble Beach on Lake Superior, Canada. Dec. 2001. Richard Bott
Just before Christmas, I was overwhelmed by my Self , by the congregation I have been called to serve… and by life. I was granted some leave time, to go on retreat.
I trekked back to my childhood home, a little town on the north shore of Lake Superior. It’s about a fourteen hour drive to get there from here. My friend and colleague at St. John’s United Church agreed to be my spiritual director for the two weeks. We met every couple of days for prayer and exploration.
But the most important part of the time was sitting on the shore of the lake, at a place called Pebble Beach. It had been a place of safety and excitement when I was growing up. I went back there, curled up in the rocks, and spent five days raging at God.

Five days of screaming into the -15C wind.
Five days of tears freezing to my face.
Five days of yelling at the breakers.
Five days of pouring out my pain.

I lost my voice.

Because of my tears and cries and yells and screams, I couldn’t make a sound. For the next five days, all I could do was listen… to the waves… to the wind… to my heartbeat. After a while of not being able to speak, all I could hear were the rhythms going on around and inside of me. As I began to slow down and become part of those rhythms, I heard in their patterns and repeats: “Be still and know…” “Don’t be afraid…” “My child…”

I’m still in ordered ministry.
I still serve with the same congregation.
I still have a life filled with no small amount of confusion and chaos.
I’m still not sure what’s going to happen next.

But, I know, at the deepest part of my being, that if I can get to the point of being able to listen… even if that means I need to scream myself mute… I will hear the Divine, reminding me of my worth

Alleluia!

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I just spent a couple of hours wandering through rejesus.

wow.Wow.WOW!

It gave me a lot to think about, but the one part I know I’ll come back to is the labyrinth. I’ve been walking labyrinth for about ten years. It’s part of my contemplative practice. This is the first time I’ve walked a virtual labyrinth. If you have 40 or so minutes, take the time to walk it. If you don’t have that much time, take a listen to the opening screen… if you’re anything like me, you’ll be back to walk the path later.

Wow!

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Has anyone heard of The Center for Progressive Christianity? I’ve been taking a look at their website, and doing some thinking about their ministry and mission. They have “8 Points” that represent their “working defintion of progressive Christianity”.

By calling ourselves “progressive” we mean that we are Christians who:
1. encourage others to join us in following the way to God that we have found in the life and teachings of Jesus;
2. respect people who follow other ways to God, acknowledging that their ways are as true for them as our way is true for us;
3. understand that those of us who share bread and wine in Jesus’s name are holding up an ancient vision of all people being welcome at the same table;
4. invite people of all kinds to participate in our spiritual and social life – without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable – including but not limited to:
– believers and agnostics,
– conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
– women and men,
– those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered as well as those who are straight,
– those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope, and
– those of all races and cultures those of all classes and abilities;
5. think that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is more important than the way we talk about our beliefs;
6. find more promise in the quest for understanding than we do in absolute certainty, more value in the questions than in the answers;
7. form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do – trying to assure justice and peace for all people, and bringing hope to the oppressed and despise
8. recognize that being followers of Jesus can be costly because we have to resist all forms of evil actions, which may result in the loss of our familiar privileges – a tradition that has been honored whenever the church has been most faithful.

There is a great deal here that speaks to my experience of God’s presence in my life and in the lives of those around me. It also speaks to my experiences of Christ “in community”.

What do you think?

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Well… it’s my birthday. As part of our celebrating time, Shannon took me to see Shakepeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well at the Stratford Festival, in Stratford, Ontario.
There was a line that caught my attention and has stayed with me through the evening. At the beginning of Act II, Scene iii, Lafeu (an old lord) says:
They say miracles are past;
and we have our philosophical persons, to make modern and familiar, things supernatural and causeless.
Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge, when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear.

I’m not sure why these words stuck on me… except that I often need to remind myself that I don’t have to have all the answers. There are some things are are unanswerable… and need to remain that way.

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