Friday, 19 October 2018


If I had to choose a single word to describe the last seven days, it would be "trying".  I mean trying in the sense that my patience has been tried, my equanimity has been challenged, and my sense of "what will go wrong next" has been heightened.  It's been a week of unwelcome events.  I'll confess that there have been times when I just wanted to crawl back under the covers and shut it all out.  I won't bore you with the details - I've told the story several times this week to different people and even I'm getting sick of hearing it.

Throughout these trying times, I've been lucky to have people around me who have helped me to reflect on what I am experiencing.  Those people have helped me gain perspective and understand that my trials and tribulations are minor compared to what other people are experiencing.  At most, what I've had to endure has been inconvenient and frustrating.  Nothing (so far) has been life threatening or even life altering.  I am grateful for that - or rather, I should be grateful for that.  I'm working on it.

Misfortune, minor or major as it might be, has the potential to awaken me to the mercy and blessings that often accompany it.  It's only in reflecting on the past week that I recognize the gifts that came to me through some adversity.  When the power went out at my home, I played Yahtzee with Thom and Marnie around the table by candlelight - a game I enjoyed more than 50 years ago when camping at Berford Lake.  When we could not cook a turkey dinner in our oven (again, no power), our neighbours stepped in to cook it for us.  The next day, my sister and brother-in-law hosted us for a wonderful supper.  When the electrician and hydro workers visited to get things sorted out, they were prompt, competent and generous with their help.  My house didn't burn down and no one was hurt.  In the midst of minor turmoil, life went it should and must.

I won't go so far to say that I'm glad to have experienced the events of the past week, but I will readily admit to gaining deeper appreciation for the gifts of hospitality, friendship, competence, and assistance freely offered.  It has been an experience that gives deeper meaning to the blessing that follows below.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, be gracious to us and give us peace.
Quote for the Week
"I've had a lot of worries in my life,
most of which never happened."
~ Mark Twain ~


Who do you love?
Whom do you serve?
How wide is your circle of compassion?
~ Omid Safi, Tapestry on CBC Radio One, October 16, 2018  ~

Friday, 12 October 2018


The new season for the First Editions Book Club commenced last month.  I hosted the study of a book by Father Richard Rohr, titled "Falling Upwards".  As I told the group gathered in the upstairs lounge, I came to that book in a roundabout way, led to it by previously-read books by Rohr and other writers who challenge and encourage me to wonder about faith and spirituality.

I had five pages of notes prepared for the book club discussion and used few of them - time was too limited to go deeply.  But, one phrase from the middle of the book stayed with me.  The phrase was, "God comes to you disguised as your life." 

The words were spoken by a woman named Paula D'Arcy, who is a well-known and widely travelled author, speaker, playwright and a former psychotherapist.  In 1975, while three months pregnant, she survived the loss of her husband and young daughter in an accident.  Six months later, she gave birth to another daughter and became a prominent female voice for peace and healing.  From that brief bio of her, I can't claim to know Ms. D'Arcy, but I have a glimmer of understanding of why she would see God in life and life in God.

I spend most of my waking hours busy with work of one sort or another: paid work, volunteer work, fun work, unpleasant work...all types of busy-ness.  I usually feel that my work is rewarding.  There are times though, that I realize that being busy feeds a part of me that is always hungry.  I could call it ego, or pride or self-esteem - it really doesn't matter what I name it.  It isn't the best of me and it isn't what my life should be about.

During the rare and fleeting moments when I am fully awake to the world around me, when my head is not filled with busy-ness, I have a deeper appreciation for what is divine and sacred in my life.  Life is not about deadlines, to-do lists, goals and objectives.  It's about how I treat others, how I relate to creation, and where I find my Way in daily living. 

I wish I could stay in closer, more continuous touch with that sense of sacredness and to know more of God in life, in everyday life.  Now that would be worthwhile work.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, be gracious to us and give us peace.
Quote for the Week
"The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort
to acknowledge that all I am and have,
is given to me as a gift of love,
a gift to be celebrated with joy."
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen ~

A Week's Worth of Gratitude
Saturday ~ hockey game with Philip
Sunday ~ membership, communion and celebration
Monday ~ Larry Henry
Tuesday ~ golden forests
Wednesday ~ mercy
Thursday ~ music and song
Friday ~ Larry Henry

Friday, 14 September 2018


Intuitively, I know that life is not exclusively about happiness.  I know that the pursuit of happiness can, at times, be a selfish and shallow endeavour.  I know that, but...I really like to be happy.  So, being an admitted happiness addict, I do my best to temper my hunger for happiness by making certain it's not all about me.  Usually, I fail at that because, well, I'm the one experiencing the happiness and it's hard for me not to think I'm at the centre of it all.

This past week, I've been very happy, most of the time.  I was happy to be together with Philip Cochrane, Sue Bos and Jacob Shaw (our student intern minister) as we met for the first time as Jake's Lay Supervision Team.  We spent two hours after worship last Sunday, talking about how we are going to support Jake's ministry at First United, how we will work together and what we each want to get out of the experience.  We shared a meal together.  That was a happy experience.

Later in the week, Church Council met for the first time since June and we had a packed agenda - I was dreading the load of business we would have to get through.  At the end of the evening, three hours later, I was a happy person.  We did really good work as a group; our discussions were meaningful, our decisions were well considered and our intentions were faithful.  I was happy to get back together with that group of dedicated ministers and lay leaders. 

Mid-week, I drove to Toronto and back with a couple of friends.  We were off to a meeting at Toronto Conference and the best part of the experience was the chance to talk for the two-hour ride down to the City and to resume those discussions for the return journey.  In this day and age, the opportunity to pay undivided attention to other people for that length of time is rare.  We covered a lot of ground, literally and figuratively; I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Yesterday, everywhere I turned I encountered happiness: I was at the celebration of life for Terry Moore and learned things about Terry that I never knew.  I met many of his friends and family.  I helped the women who were hosting the reception in Griffith Hall following the service - I was the dishwasher - and being with those ladies made me appreciate the benefits of being part of a team that is engaged in offering generous, heart-felt hospitality.  Later that day, I sat in the choir loft for the first full choir practice of the new worship season.  We welcomed each other, prayed for those who were not able to be there and we sang for the next 90 minutes.  We sang old songs and new songs, we sang our hearts out.  to top the evening off, when I came out of choir practice, I emerged into our lobby and it was chock full of Guides and their parents - a beehive of excitement and happiness.  What a way to end the day!

There's enough grief in this world for all of us.  I'm grateful that there is an equal measure of happiness.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, be gracious to us and give us peace.


Thursday, 6 September 2018


Twenty years in the army taught me the value of teamwork.  It was drilled into me when I was an officer cadet in basic training and it was a major component of my work for the next 20 years.  As a leader, part of my responsibilities was to ensure that all members of the team were working together to accomplish the mission.

The bad news is that, through my middle age, I have lost some of my appreciation for the importance of teamwork.  The good news is, it's not irretrievably lost...I'm learning all over again, that things turn out  better when I work as part of a team.  I am reminded every day of my limitations, physically and mentally.

About a month ago, I announced to my fellow residents of Kingston Beach that Thom and I would be tearing out the old, crooked and sagging mailbox stand at the head of our laneway.  The plan was to replace it with something solid and serviceable. One of the neighbours responded quickly with an offer to help.  He is an active 76 years old and quick to volunteer, so I told him yes.

The work started Thursday morning at 9 am sharp and we finished at 2:30 pm - including a hour's break for lunch.  I was pleased with the end result; and, it was deeply satisfying for me to work with others and to share in the outcome of our labours.  You know that feeling...a deep, contented sigh at the end of a demanding job.

This may come as a surprise to you, but I get the same satisfaction from working with you at First United - whether it is on Council, or at coffee time, or a community dinner or book club or Choir.   While it is true that I able to do many things by myself, working with partners or as part of a team brings significant rewards to my heart and soul.  The strange thing about teamwork is that the object of the effort often doesn't matter as much as the experience of being alongside others in a common cause.  And the added bonus of teamwork as a Christian, is we are always able to call on God as our helper.

If you think that you don't have any special gift or talent to contribute, take this small piece of advice from someone who is re-learning the value of teamwork.  Just give your presence, your being as part of a group of others - believe me, that's a gift.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, be gracious to us and give us peace.
Quote for the Week

"We rise by lifting others."
~ Robert Ingersol ~

Friday, 31 August 2018


I know mountains because I have stood on precipices and breathed.

I know prairie because I have lain on my back and been absorbed by the sky.

I know the ocean because I have immersed myself in it and felt the pull of its current. If I want to know life, I need to experience its wonder and breathe it in with every breath.

If I want to know possibility, I need to see its immensity and allow it to absorb me.  If I want to know faith, I need to surrender to it and feel it pulling me in its unseen direction. 

~ Richard Wagamese, Embers - One Ojibway's Meditations, Douglas & McIntyre, 2016  ~


I've known for quite a few years now, the blessings that I receive as a member of this community.  Community is something that I often take for granted, until a day comes along when I am reminded what a precious and priceless gift it is to be one in the circle of lives in our faith community.

I've had a few of those days recently and I hope you have too.  If you haven't, take a chance and come to church some Sunday.  That's where the gifts of community have found me.

Gifts, you ask?  What kind of gifts do we receive by coming to church?

I can't speak for you, but I can tell you what my experience has been.  The gifts start in that 15-minute segment before the service begins, when I meet people I haven't seen for a while.  Sometimes it been a week since I last saw you, and sometimes it's been longer; but, however long it's been, I'm joyful to see you again.  We talk about the weather, your children and grandchildren, your aches and pains, the things that are good in your life and those that aren't.  There will be music playing in the background to remind us we are in church.

Then, someone will bring us to attention and we worship together.  There are announcements, there is prayer, there is more music - music of the best kind, that we sing together.  If we are lucky, some folks offer a personal gift of music and we can just sit there and enjoy that together.  Every time we gather like this, we hear stories told, stories from long ago about how people lived in their world and with God.  Someone will also stand up and tell us a personal story...a minister or someone who just has a story to share.  At some point in our time together, we all get a chance to offer up gifts of time, talent and treasure and no matter what we offer, we are blessed and thanked for what we can give.

On most occasions, we have a chance to eat and drink together - this is a very special gift of communion-ity; it might be a tiny glass of grape juice and a miniscule square of bread; or, it could be coffee and tea and sweets - or if it's really a special occasion, we'll have a full meal of some sort.  However and whatever we eat, the important thing is we will do it together.

The most precious of blessings that I receive in community is when someone shares something deeply personal with me.  It might be something that terrifies or hurts them - but they want me to know what they know.  It might also be something that is wonderful in their life and they just want me to understand how thankful they are to be part of it, or to laugh with them.  Whatever it might be, the core of what they are sharing is vulnerability.  I understand that it is because we are in the circle of community that it can be shared.

Come to church and share in the gifts.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, be gracious to us and give us peace.


Friday, 24 August 2018


I’m writing  about what happened on the Danforth a month ago...because I know a mother and a daughter who were close to that event.  Mother and daughter were both feeling the aftermath of the shootings and I didn't need to be told how distressing and upsetting that was.  It was close to home in many ways.

I’ll admit up front, this is one of those occasions when I feel deeply the poverty of words.  I can’t begin to understand the experience; being at safe arms-length from the tragedy, I am uncertain and searching for what I should be thinking and feeling.

I have a sense that it’s too easy to offer the standard condolences...”my thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those”...that sort of thing doesn’t seem to do the job.  It might make me feel better, but it is a fleeting relief at best.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my reaction should be.  As in most things of this significance, I go to trusted sources – often books – that can shine a light on what’s important.  It’s not a matter of learning lessons, although that’s important.
For me, it’s the need to find my roots again, to regain my capacity for hope.
Hope is a great antidote for fear.

And in reading, I was reminded once again, that hope and love are linked.
If it is true that love is greater than hope, it’s because we cannot have hope without a degree of love.  Love has the power to project hope out into the world and out into the future.

What I felt after the shootings, in addition to fear, was the lack of love and hope.
The fear is lessening now (time will do that), and hope is leading me back to solid ground.
Hope and love will be necessary because we have to go on living in a world that is constantly and intensely challenged by fear.

So here we are, just a month after the fact, still seeking to make sense of everything...and it comes down to love and hope.  I’ll set aside the fact that hope remains vulnerable to disappointment.  I’ll regain the degree of hope that will let me imagine what better times might fall into place again.  I’ll think about what I can do bring that about.

It’s a good thing we have our family and friends at this time.
I hope that you can stay close to yours.  They’re a source of love and hope.