Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pondering life behind the snow blower ...

I took another step down the road to being a true blooded Canadian today:

For the first time I cleared snow with a snow blower!! Oh sure, I've cleared snow with a tractor, an atv, a THOUSAND shovels, but this year thanks to the generous gift of a friend, I have a snow blower to clear our driveway !!! And today after the dump of cold, very WET white stuff, I decided it would be a good day to do a trial run to figure out how to work the beast!!

It went well ... it took a little over an hour, but I got the drive way and the back yard parking areas cleared without too much difficulty or stress. AND, I had some fun along the way.

But like other times in my life when I've used power equipment, I had time to think about things as I walked along behind the blower.

Today I was thinking about how incredibly thin skinned people in the Church often are, and how over the top serious they can be ... I was thinking about a tongue in cheek reply I put on the facebook posting of a colleague and friend.

Gord (a fellow blogger) had posted a link that cited the "I am Christian, unless you're gay" an article I cited here previously, and an article I WHOLEHEARTEDLY endorse as an eloquent and wise reflection on the struggle the Church often has when it comes to differences.

My comment on Gord's facebook page was asking (facetiously) if Gord had taken an unexpected and slightly irrational sharp turn to the right ... I know Gord ... I respect God ... and Gord, like me is an unabashed liberal in his theology, and inclusive in his ministry. I was offering a humour comment about the TITLE of the article, not offering a comment about Gord ... or at least that's how I intended it.

In a subsequent comment, another colleague in Ministry replied with a fairly involved statement about the article and its intrinsic value and blah ... blah ... blah ...

I hold no offense toward the other poster. His answer IS right ... but it is also typical of how folks throughout the United Church respond to things.

To be blunt - WE'VE LOST OUR SENSE OF HUMOUR !!!!!

We take EVERYTHING so seriously it is at times truly frightening.

We no longer encourage or even welcome humour in the Courts of the Church. I know of instances when a light hearted comment or a joke was ruled out of order in Presbytery meetings because it was deemed inappropriate.

The bottom line seems to be that we've moved away from spontaneous humour and laughter that it causes us PAIN when it actually happens.

Yet, there is EVERY spiritual indication that laughter is a gift from God, and that not only did Jesus have a sense of humour, his disciples did too. (does anyone else recall the introduction of Jesus to Nathanael in the Gospel of John? How can the comment "can anything good come out of Nazareth?" be taken as anything BUT a humourous quip?!?!?!?!)

Yet in the modern Church we've abandoned our funny bone and become painfully serious just when the world needs the gift of Holy Laughter.

I guess that's why I truly value the contribution of friends like Blake over at The Laughing Pastor, and others who have maintained a sense of humour in the face of a world gone mad.

The ability to stand and smile, and even laugh is truly a gift from God. The incredible feeling of waves of laughter passing over our person is truly Holy. Yet, when I look around the Church I seldom see people who reflect that gift of JOY.

Churches are often filled with dour serious people who look angry and frustrated. Yet we purport to be a place overflowing with Grace and Joy.

Can no one else see that disconnect??

I've marvelled at the number of colleagues I've met along the way who rarely crack a smile and who are pharisaic in their adherence to the rules, regulations and polity of the Church, and overwhelm any expression of joy with frowns and scowls.

I can name people who seem to offer smiles only when their personal egos are being stroked by the suffering of another ... they are almost like Disney villains who smile when they are about to launch their devious plans ...

I can't help but wonder if this is even remotely faithful?

How can we deny joy in the face of a God who has given us SO much, and who pours out blessings, Grace, and an abundance of LIFE???

I for one think there is amazing and profound wisdom in the comment by George Carlin's character Cardinal Glick in the movie Dogma. When Glick introduces the figure of Buddy Christ (pictured above), he says "Jesus didn't come to give us the heebie jeebies". To that ALL I can offer is a hearty AMEN !!!!

Jesus came to offer Love, Compassion, Care, Grace and Life in ABUNDANCE. The heebie jeebies are a human creation, not one from God ... it's time to return to our roots, so too speak, and reclaim the gift of joy and laughter in the Church and celebrate it !!!

If we are truly a child of God frowns and scowls have no place on our faces !!!

It's time to lighten up and truly dance with JOY !!

(Oh, and for the record - I DO have a Buddy Christ in my office, along with the infamous Bobble-headed Jesus AND a Bobble-headed Buddy Christ too !!! It's ALL about the fun!!)

Lessons from Looking Back ...

It's funny (and sad) how many people in the Church fear technology and fail to see the potential it offers. And yet, if we look back in Church history we know that the Protestant Reformation would never have happened had it not been for the technology of the printing press that allowed for the wide spread dissemination of the writings and reflections of the Reformers like Luther and Calvin who forever changed the Church.

I can remember when I started in ministry in Bella Coola BC seeing the potential of the Internet for communication and committee work. I suggested that we use the Ecunet forum that almost ALL of us in the Presbytery were members of, to conduct a committee meeting. To my thinking the confidential bulletin board format of the Ecunet was a perfect means to 'meet' as a committee. The four of us who were members could each sign in from our respective corners and we could have our discussions online, thereby saving THOUSANDS of dollars in travel costs that would be needed to hold face to face meetings.

I was ridiculed and the idea was soundly rejected. The spending of travel money was opted for instead and what could have cost us a few dozen dollars instead cost THOUSANDS and took months longer than needed.

Today most of our Church business is conducted by email. On a local level our Council and Committees do much of their communication via email, and we have had no less than two Council 'meetings' via emails.

When I worked for the Federal Government in Brandon we regularly held online consultations and workshops via a wide range of technologies and gizmos.

And for the last half a decade I've maintained this and other blogs as a means of Church outreach. Today though, as I snapped the picture above with my iPhone, I couldn't help but think about the amazing changes that I've witnessed even in the last five years when it comes to our online communicating.

In the past when I wanted to post a picture here I had to pull out my camera, tether it to the computer via a cumbersome cord, wait for the camera and the computer to start talking, then download the picture to the computer, then upload the picture from the computer to the web page and HOPE everything went according to Hoyle.

Today I point my cell phone camera, snap the picture then with the touch of a couple of buttons I have sent my picture to my computer. The next step is to simply load the picture to the webpage and within minutes I can post a picture of what is happening around me. I know there is a way to do it DIRECTLY from my camera to the blog much like Facebook, but so far I haven't explored the technology ... one day I will though !!

What struck me though, was the amazing possibilities that this technology has for The Church, and yet in many corners people approach this technology with fear and apprehension. The first three years of blogging was met would outright opposition by folks within the Church and even inspired the Presbytery where I served to propose a BAN on Blogs by Church Ministers. The fear was we might make people uncomfortable, or reveal some deeply hidden secret and violate the sanctity of the minister-congregational relationship.

Yet, at a National Level we have staff who are acting as consultants and teachers to show us how to better use the many modern technologies as a means of outreach and evangelism.

The profound disconnect is striking.

On one hand, people get the new technology, and like our forefathers see the potential of sharing the Good News. While on the other hand, others fear change and see in the technology uncontrollable change and want to shut it down ... it makes me realize that today, those of us who have pioneered the use of Blogs, and Social Media as a means of communication within the Church are very much like Luther standing on the steps of Wittenburg nailing his 95 questions to the door of the Cathedral.

Some will and do embrace change, while others fear change. Hopefully, we will have an experience like Luther that sees powerful allies stepping up and holding back the violent backlash that comes when people are scared by something they fail to understand.

Today taking a simple picture of the snow outside my window and choosing to post it here, I realized that my actions are not in and of themselves all that remarkable, but in the context of The Church as it struggles in the opening years of the 21st Century, my actions are part of a greater revolution (or to be theologically appropriate a REFORMATION) that will and is profoundly changing how we function as Church, and how we get the Word out to others.

In 20 years of ministry the Church has made leaps and bounds technologically, and I for one am delighted to be able to say that I have tried to stay current and ride this amazing wave of change as it sweeps through our communities and our world.

The Internet and the many new media formats it offers are not things the Church should fear, but rather they are tools the Church MUST embrace if it is to continue to proclaim and share the Good News!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some reading to enrich your heart and soul ...

I've been doing a fair bit of reading articles and postings online lately, and thought it would be worth sharing some of them here ... so here we go:

An elqoquent and powerful statement about living our faith:

I'm Christian, unless you're gay.

A very good and apt commentary about the recent Black Friday happenings:

Pepper Spray Cop Begets Pepper Spray Shoppers

And of course there is the photoshop versions of the Pepper Spraying Cop:

Pepper Spraying Cop.

And, there is the whole issue of our consumerism running wild:

Will Shopping Save Us?

Now that I've mentioned the Occupy Movement, here's an article about the impact it has had:

How Occupy is Transforming the National Conversation.

And I've saved the BEST for last. Here is a Baptist Pastor's reflection on the role the Church SHOULD be playing in the Occupy Movement. Going straight to the source, he hits the nail smack on the head !!! Thanks to Rev. Bess for this:

Would Jesus Join the Occupy Movement?

Happy Reading !!!

Making a difference in our world ...

After a three year absence from my life, it is BACK !!!

I just got an order off to the Raising the Roof folks to participate in their annual Toque Campaign. This year the toques come in a lovely red and beige, and will be sold here in Flesherton to help support a youth homelessness programme in either Stratford or the Kitchener Waterloo area!!

We will have them available at the Church office, or at our Indoor Market-Bazaar for the affordable price of $10.

I have no doubt that the Toque Campaign will achieve the same startling success as our ongoing sales of Fair Trade products. Along with the Pastoral Charge cookbooks, we have a wide variety of gift items that carry a social conscience and involvement along with their affordable price.

To revisit our 2009 posting (and the various links to Raising the Roof) click here

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Scott Edwin Ankenmann
November 20th 1961
February 3rd 2011
A brother,
an uncle,
a nephew,
a cousin,
a friend,
a pain in the ass (sometimes),
one helluva guy.
Love him or hate him,
you never forgot him.

Rest in Peace Scott,
and Happy Birthday wherever you are!!

Miss you bro !!!

The 50th that should have been ...

Happy Birthday Big Brother ... today you would be turning 50, and my plan was to take you out for dinner, a few drinks, and just a helluva good time.

But life is what happens when we're busy making other plans.

As it turned out, you never made it to the big 5-0, and we'll never get to crack that 1947 bottle of Crown Royal to toast Mom and Dad and Mr Baumbach and Uncle Drake, and ALL the beloved people who helped make us into the men we are and were ... one day I'll crack that bottle and raise it in a toast to you and to all you meant to me as my big brother.

To say that I miss you would be an understatement.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of you and your damned grin.

And when a tear pools in the corner of my eye I hear you ... I hear your voice saying "Oh my gawd ... 'pfffft' ... just give your head a shake." Then you laugh ...

I miss your laugh.
I miss your teasing.
I miss you ...

So, with a heavy heart I wish you a Happy Birthday any way. You may not be here to enjoy it, but I will remember you.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time ...

I'll admit to watching the Hoarding shows on tv ... I watch them and give thanks that as bad as things are in my life, they are not as bad as what I'm watching ...

I do however understand the strange world that hoarders inhabit a little better now.

My brother and I used to tease Mom that she could be the star of an episode of Hoarders. Her response was to get angry and tell us to 'shut up'. There is unfortunately an element of truth to our teasing, and I honestly believe that Mom would have made Hoarders had it not been for Scott living in the house and keeping things clear in many of the living spaces.

Admittedly, Scott had his own hoarder like tendancies ... the stacks and stacks and stacks of "Old Auto" magazine were the most obvious trait that betrayed his hoarding ... but as I've dug into dressers, closets and other nooks and crannies at Mom's my discoveries have left me laughing and shaking my head - sometimes simultaneously.

How many tea cups, platters and celery vases does one person really need?

Is keeping EVERY note, letter and card really necessary?

And, I don't think you have to keep your financial records forever ...

But in amongst the clutter were (and remain) treasures waiting to be recovered ... I've found toys and books from my childhood, I've lost track of the coins and other money I've found tucked here and there, and I've continued to discover beautiful antiques and collectibles that are often hidden in plain sight ...

As I've sorted and cleaned and decluttered, I've also struggled with the very issues that often come up in episode after episode of Hoarders (and the other related shows).

How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of?

How do you know what is junk and what might be valuable?

and on and on it goes ... the biggest challenge I encounter though is the waffling back and forth between keeping everything, and just walking away and letting go of everything ... at times it is paralyzing. I understand why people end up being overwhelmed with STUFF after losing a loved one, or having a traumatic event.

Some days I want to hold on to everything, while other days find me wanting to load everything from the house and just dump it ... it would be easier to do nothing then to face the emotional roller coaster of sifting through memories and mementoes of what was, and has been lost ... over and over I find something that takes me back and brings a smile and tears ... it is both inevitable and difficult, and it is what I have to face.

For the moment, even though I joke about it, I have no real desire to be on a future episode of Hoarders ... I will in time make my way through the stuff that has crammed Mom's house, and I will deal with the treasures and the junk.

When I think about it, instead of Hoarders, I'd rather appear on Canadian Pickers ...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

All Saints and All Hallow's Eve ...

I realized today I haven't been blogging much in the last year ... I have posted periodically about things, but my regular blogging has fallen away, replaced by the periodic visit to see what's new on the blogs I follow, and instead I tend to post my thoughts on facebook instead.

I can't really offer an apology for that, because there isn't really anything to apologize for.

I just haven't been compelled to blog.
I haven't been compelled to read much lately either.

Most days I just plug along trying to keep the ghost and memories at bay, and trying to focus on the tasks at hand.

Some days I do well. Some days I don't do quite as well. But every day I try to get through it.

This year my birthday came, and for the first time since I started this blog I missed it. I was just too busy doing other things to take time to post here. On Sunday we had a fabulous gathering of family out at Scott's Bush. We roasted marshmallows, played on the ATV's and walked through the bush that was as my cousin Michael observed "Scott's sanctuary."

Then on Monday we decorated the yard in an hour and a half for the tricker treater's, and had pizza for dinner.

All in all it was a good way to celebrate my birthday, but as I crawled into bed that night I realized that I was deeply missing two important pieces of my birthday celebrations over the last fifteen years ... This year there was no call from Indigo, and no call from my mom ... I went to bed very aware of their absence, and grieving their loss.

There would be no more calls from my brother saying "It's your brother ... you know - Scott" (he always said it more like a question than a statement - like I have another brother somewhere!!)

There would be no more calls from Indigo wishing me a Happy Birthday on the date we share.

And there would be no more rambling two hour calls from Mom filling me in on all the minutiae of life, the universe and family happenings.

While on one level it is no big deal, on another level it is another reminder of how many losses I've tallied this year ...

I went to bed reminded of those losses, but woke up the next morning knowing that Halloween gives way each year to All Saints, and with All Saints comes the reminder that those souls we've lost in this life are with us in the next.

All Saints is about the great cloud of witnesses that the medieval scholars spoke of so eloquently. But it is about so much more ... All Saints reminds us to celebrate the legacy and lessons that our departed saints have left for us.

My Mom, Laverne Baumbach, Scott, and Indigo have ALL taught me much in my journey, and even though they are gone from our lives, they are not fully nor completely gone ... they and the impressions and lessons they left remain ... I miss them, but I truly haven't forgotten them.

This year I have come to appreciate All Saints in a WHOLE new way.

And for the Saints and their lives among us, I am deeply thankful ... for such is the path of faith.