Sunday, July 29, 2012

Really??? The United Church makes the headlines again ...

This weekend, Globe and Mail Columnist Margaret Wente once again takes aim at the United Church of Canada, and dubs us and other more liberal denominations as irrelevant ...

My first response was "Really? Again?"

Then I read the article and I wondered yet again, why the media publishes articles about the United Church and manages almost EVERY TIME to interview people within this vast and diverse denomination, who are not really that reflective of the Church or its leadership.

There are those folks out there who do well at getting press coverage and getting their ideas and opinions out there, and in the process are deemed "reflective of the United Church." But when I read yet again, a clergy person who expresses a negative opinion of something as central and basic as belief in God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit I have to wonder what United Church they represent.

This past year, our congregations did a line by line study-conversation of the documents of faith that are part of the revisit and reframing of our beliefs as a Denomination. Over and over we commented on how the older pre-1968 words were problematic in embracing and reflecting our modern beliefs. But overarching that conversation was a firm and unwavering belief in God, and the basic tenets of the Church ... God, the Resurrection, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the transformative power of the Holy in our lives and in our world ... the words may vary, but the faith does NOT.

We spoke of the power and the necessity of prayer.

We spoke of the power and centrality of community.

We spoke of how our faith effects everything we are about as we live and move in our circles of family, friend and community.

We spoke of how what we believe colours and inspires our choices and actions.

We spoke of how being Believers motivates us to support the local food bank, offer support to our neighbours, opt to support outreach programmes and initiative, and be active and involved in our community.

We spoke of how living our faith means being open to sharing it with others through worship services, outreach dinners, weekly gatherings, the presence at the Farmers' Market and a dozen other things we do over and over and over ...

Is the Church irrelevant ... to some ... but as even Ms Wente notes, there is a spiritual hunger out 'there', and it our responsibility as a believing and vibrant Church to open our doors to new people, and invite them to become part of the conversation.

AND, I will go out on a limb and say BOLDLY and UNAPOLOGETICALLY, that 99% of that task rests on the shoulders of the Clergy. It is our responsibility as clergy to provide a passionate, enthusiastic, and faithful (not too mention Faith FILLED) leadership that inspires our people to dream and hope, and equips them intellectually, mentally, emotionally AND spiritually to go out  into the world and envision ways of sharing their faith.

It is NOT about the cult of personality that see Pastors drawing in waves of people enamoured by the prosperity gospel or some simplistic reading of the Scriptures, but rather it is ALL about COMPETENCE!!!

We need clergy who care about more than their pension and their next cheque.

We need clergy who are not marking the days to retirement.


Too many clergy are bland milque toast in their preaching and in their presence ... and too many clergy and leaders are SO steeped in the ways of the Church, that they are truly out of touch with the real world ... what we need is a diversity ... passion ... enthusiasm and a HUGE dose of living vibrant faith.

I can count on my facebook at least a dozen clergy friends who are incredibly competent and capable and amazingly passionate in living their faith - almost everyone of them begins and ends their work in prayer, and none of them undervalue the necessity of the Church to change and grow and embrace the leadership of the Spirit. They ARE believers and not surprisingly, none of them have ever been interviewed by mainstream media about what is wrong with the Church - and THANKFULLY, almost everyone of them is willing, able and courageous enough to express their take on what is wrong with the Church we all continue to call home.

I can speak only for myself, but I am willing to bet, that everyone of them continues to share in the ministry of this Church - This UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, that we call home because everyday they encounter amazing people who inspire them and remind us that we are not dead yet, and that with the presence and love of the Holy Spirit Resurrections loom and bloom around us every single day.

Thanks for folks like Adam, Barb, Nick, Audrey, Phil, Clare, Cheryl-Anne, Darren, Brian, Bill, Bob, Gord, and dozens of others - the Untied Church of Canada is alive and well, and STILL living what it believes.

In short Ms Wente, and folks like David Ewart are WRONG.

The Church is still relevant - and our willingness to embrace social causes while living our belief with honesty and integrity and passion is what WILL change the WORLD!!!!

Stay tuned ... we've ONLY JUST BEGUN !!!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nothing Runs Like a Deere ... especially down memory lane!!!

When Scott died in February 2011, one of the first things I did was brought the John Deere 110 (vintage 1960) into the security of the shop out at the bush ... while to many it is just an old tractor, to me it is a strong connection to my past ... one that goes back to the first weeks that mom and dad and their newborn son called their new house on Devon St home.

Dad bought the John Deere in 1961, and for the next seven years used it regularly and almost incessantly.

I remember hearing from neighbours ALL over the neighbourhood how Dad would spend HOURS out with the tractor blowing driveways in the winter time, and mowing lawns in the summer.

He took the neighbourhood kids for rides in the dumpster trailer, and one glorious afternoon our long time neighbour and friend Laverne Baumbach had tears rolling down his cheeks from laughter as he recounted the night he and Dad and an assortment of neighbourhood men used the 110 and the trailer for a rather inebriated journey meandering from house to house ... while Dad drove the tractor, the men passed a bottle or three around the trailer while each took a turn being the one running alongside the trailer making sure the tire (which was lacking a simple cotter pin) didn't fall off.

As Laverne described it, one of them would run alongside, or stagger ... banging on the tire to make sure it stayed on the axle while the others roared with laughter and enjoyed the silliness of the adventure.

Today, there is one survivor of that night, and a few months ago at Laverne's service he and I talked about it and with a sly grin he said "I can neither confirm or deny those details ..." he then added with the same grin, "but it WOULD be fun to take a spin in the old 110 for old time sake sometime!!" It's a request I'll try to honour in the coming weeks!!

For now though the old 110 has taken up residency in my garage alongside its newer, sleaker and much more comfortable cousin ... but there is something special about the 110.

It was Dad's. He loved that tractor, and for 50 years it has been part of our family. A few years back Scott had it cleaned and repainted (not exactly John Deere Green, but close enough) and new decals were applied, then for several years it sat in a lean-to under a tarp. Today, thanks to a local mechanic and John Deere enthusiast, the 110 again runs like a Deere.

I had it out for a quick spin around the yard and up and down the sidewalk tonight ... and I can only say - It felt GREAT!!! The last time I drove it was almost 30 years ago when I used it to mow the lawn at mom's.

Like riding a bicycle, you never forget!!!

But for me, the best and the strongest memory is associated with the photo below ... sometime in the spring or early summer of 1968, mom pulled out her instamatic camera and snapped a picture of her boys. I am sitting on Dad's knee and a smiling Scott stands beside Dad who is sitting on the 110.

For the last 25 years this picture has been one of the four pictures I had of dad, that I cherished ... in 2005 when the arson fire ripped through Minnedosa United Church I feared I would lose that picture, which was sitting in my office ... today, every time I look at the 110, I think of that sunny afternoon and how much love Dad had for his family ... the 110 might just be an old tractor, but it carries far more memories that the dumpster trailer could ever manage to carry. And every time it starts and I pull it out of the garage I'll think of those wonderful memories and carry them with me, smiling and laughing at the continuation of a story began one day at a John Deere dealer when Dad was handed the keys for the first time!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

tickety, tick, tickety, tick, tickety, tick ...braak ... DING!!!

In the age of smart phones, lap tops and tablets, this old beast is positively ancient ... yet, in its day, this old Remington Travel-Rite was as modern and cutting edge as the latest offering from Apple, or any other gadget manufacturer. I can't say for certain how old it is, but I do know it has typed many a page in its long and storied life ...

This antique began its life when it was purchased by my dad who had absolutely atrocious handwriting (a trait his son and grandson have inherited!!!). Dad used it for just about everything. The tiny little circular piece of paper on the dial of the rotary phone in the kitchen still has the emergency numbers carefully typed out on this beast ... on the door of the broom closet was the paper list of contact phone numbers for family friend - it was also carefully typed ... all through the house were neatly typed slips of paper that ranged from love notes to my mom, through to formal letters to various companies and agencies. Then in time, the typewriter fell into my hands and I used it through my high school days and into university until it was replaced by a Smith Corona electric typewriter/word processor that I've mused about previously. (An interesting aside is that I purchased my Smith Corona at the same time CandyGirlFlies from "I Can Fly Just Not Up" bought her's - I still have mine!!!)

As for the Remington, I hefted it in and out of my car regularly taking it to and from Hamilton for papers and assignments at McMaster, before retiring it to the corner of my bedroom sometime in the early 1990's ... it sat in that corner until this winter when I finally brought it home and put it downstairs ... it may not be valuable but it has many good memories associated with it.

One of the stories that is connected to this old Remington also made an appearance in a newspaper story when a presiding judge asked the investigating officer for the notes he made the night of the incident in the patrol car.

Constable Sam Ankenmann produced a sheaf of neatly typewritten pages and handed them to the judge.

The judge again asked for the notes that the officer had made the night of the incident.

Dad, no doubt with a grin on his face, answered the judge by saying that those WERE the notes he made the night of the incident while on scene in the patrol car.

The judge wanted to know how, and dad explained that he carried a portable typewriter with him and made his notes on it in the car. According to the article in the paper, the judge then called for a recess in the proceedings and directed Dad to produce the typewriter and prove the seemingly spurious claim of typing while on scene.

I can, if I close my eyes picture Dad walking out to the patrol car and hefting the Remington into the Court and with a twinkle in his eye begin to type for the judge ... the article (which I found in Mom's stuff and dutifully tucked away to keep it safe, but can't find right now) notes that the judge was both shocked and impressed by Dad's use of the typewriter.

I may never type another page on the old Remington, but like the other handful of touchstone items I have from Dad, it will be a cherished heirloom BECAUSE of the close and wonderful connection that it has with Dad. Then again, maybe what I need to do is take the old Remington out to the Bush and let the locale and the typewriter motivate my reflections and my thoughts and perhaps that elusive story I've been toying with will finally come into being ... one just never knows!

 I realized yesterday talking with Beetle about the typewriter, that it likely was in the car with him the night of his accident, though it shows little evidence of any damage - and I will likely never know for certain - I only know that on the green Bakelite keys, Dad typed all manner of documents, letters, and notes - most of which are lost, but all of which were part of his life and legacy ... the few that remain, like the typewriter are fragments of a life lived with love, laughter and a wonderful joie de vie!!

It may not be fancy, but this little typewriter was my Dad's and I think of him every time I see it !!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

And a journey ends on a grey and rainy day ...

The grey and rainy day kind of matches my mood right now ...

This morning I had the sad task of taking Chloe, the calico pictured above, to the vet for the final time ... she had some fight left in her despite the failing health she was experiencing in recent days. As the vet put the needle in her hip for the sedative, she growled and spun around and bit him!! Thankfully it was with the side of her mouth missing the big sharp fang that had been removed some years ago after an infection. The vet for his part graciously accepted her final act with a laugh and the observation: "She's still got some fight left in her!"

Yes, she did ... but fortunately, she went quietly and peacefully as the sedative took effect and she slipped into a deep and comfortable sleep ... I don't know if animals go to some kind of heaven, and I don't even want to think about the Theological Implications and DEBATE that would start, but I would like to think that Chloe is somewhere peaceful with her old chums who have taken that road ahead of her ... as she slipped into sleep, I whispered into her ear that I hope she'll soon be back together with Mindy, Angus, and Diesel, our dogs and cat who have come and gone from our lives in the 19 years Chloe was part of the journey.

Nineteen years! That's a grand run for a stray kitten that arrived on our doorstep on Thanksgiving weekend in 1993!!

Nineteen years of memories and recollections to look back on.

Nineteen years that saw Chloe outlast two dogs, a cat, two rats, two rabbits, and a couple of stick bugs ... this morning Chrysanthemum is out of sorts - looking around for her old friend ... and Simba, though he is sleeping off the effects of his neutering, has been looking in all the corners where Chloe has hidden in recent days ... life goes on, but a familiar (and grouchy) presence is missing!!!

But, in the last few weeks Chloe has not been comfortable nor well, so it was time ... as hard as it was, it was time ... in this moment, I'm thinking about the snippets and images etched in my mind of Chloe and her life in Bella Coola, Langely, Minnedosa, Brandon and Flesherton. She has seen more of Canada that many people ever will - and she has taken each move in stride, although she made known her displeasure of being put in a box and moved from here to there each time!!! And really, who can blame her?

Right now, the image I have in my mind as I think about the old girl, is one from the summer of 1994, when Noahkila was still just a babe ... I was working in my office in the basement of the manse in Bella Coola, and Noahkila was sleeping on the couch, wrapped in his blankets. I glanced over and saw that Chloe had crawled in the bottom of the swaddled blankets leaving only her hind legs and tail showing - at the other end, Noahkila remained blissfully asleep!!

Before I could get the camera and snap a picture, Chloe freed herself and laid beside the babe (something she would do frequently!!! I lost count of how many times I carried a sleeping baby into his crib and had push Chloe aside, or later came back and found her snuggling her Boy!!!). The image though that I have is of a strange merman-like image of a baby with calico cat legs and tail!!!

Such was Chloe ... always looking for a place of comfort and warmth, and for most of her 19 years, she slept with Noahkila - and for his part for most of those years, he would curl around her giving her the best and warmest place on the bed!!!

She truly was the matriarch, and despite the annoyance of finding puddles and surprises all over the house in the last few months - we WILL miss her, but after 19 years, we can only wish her a peaceful rest and say "thanks for the memories!!!"

R.I.P. Chloe - 1993 to 2012!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mid-Summer Delights!!!

Above is my tiny little garden when I started ...
Below is my tiny little garden today:

And thus far, I have enjoyed a number of fresh radishes as snacks, a wonderful dinner with fresh steamed chard, and in recent days the tomatos are coming on fast and furiously.

Everything is growing very well despite the drought-like conditions (the twice daily watering helps) and all things being equal, it will continue to produce a bounty of fresh produce throughout the summer!!!!

Just had to share the before and after pictures!!! (MORE to follow!!!)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One cup at a time ...

One of my long standing passions has been Fair Trade products ... I have, in every community where I've lived, and every church I've served, introduced and promoted Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, dried fruit and other products.

In the last 18 months, the folks of Flesherton/Eugenia have not only encouraged that passion, they have joined in and taken our promotion of Fair Trade to a wholly unexpected level.

Each week we set up and people a booth at two local farmer's markets, and we sell a steady stream of some very fine Fair Trade products - so much so, that some weeks we struggle to keep up to the demand!!

But more importantly, the Farmers' Market booth serves a better purpose - it tells people that the congregations of St John's and Eugenia United Churches are alive and well, and interested in reaching out to the community around them and sharing the values and importance of our faith with our neighbours both near and far.

Despite the work and effort involved, I look forward to the weekends when we set up our tables, our tent and lay out our inventory and welcome folks to consider making a conscious decision to provide themselves with a good quality product that makes a difference in corners of the world we may never visit. One cup of coffee, or tea at a time, we are MAKING a difference in the world, and the good folks of the Flesherton-Eugenia Pastoral Charge are living that reality every day !!!

Sometimes living our faith and sharing what we believe means stepping out of the comfort of our buildings and truly going into the market places and offering an faithful alternative to the people we meet there!!! And that is just what Fair Trade is ALL ABOUT !!!

Ain't that the truth ...

One week of holidays down ... and more than a couple to go ...

I haven't made plans for anything big or momentous for my holidays. The highlights so far have been a break in at Scottie's bush with the loss of tools, various items and one of the atv's, then a couple of days later Beetle arrived from BC to spend the summer sweltering in hot, humid and muggy Southern Ontario.

Since her arrival, we haven't really done very much ... dinner out a couple of times, some shopping expeditions, watching some videos, and splashing in the pool ... but, it has been wonderful to have her home, and to have her around.

Looking back on the week that has been, I can't help but wonder if the quiet start of my holidays is a good reminder of Vonnegut's astute observation about the little things in life being the most meaningful and important.

For me, I've tried in the last few years to focus on living in the present moment and appreciating what I am surrounded with ... I've had some epic failures in this, but by and large have continued to try to actively and openly appreciate the things around me in the present moment.

Admittedly, I've let some things slip through my fingers, and I have a few 'little things' that I failed to appreciate adequately until after they were gone ... but I will continue to try.

This spring I planted a number of gardens in my yard and have been enjoying the process of watering, weeding, and otherwise tending them as they grow ... yesterday Beetle and I enjoyed the first ripe radishes, and I savoured the sweetness of a vine ripened cherry tomato enjoyed standing in the late afternoon sun ... the simple patient act of tending a garden is an ongoing reminder of life's little things ...

Looking forwards and backwards, I am mindful today not so much of life's little things, but of the importance of better appreciating those so-called little things, and valuing them better before they have slipped away, and it is too late ... good friends, good food, good conversation ... the list is pretty long ... and today, I'll try to continue doing better at appreciating them!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The nostalgia of sounds and smells ...

He ALWAYS had the best matchbox and hot wheels cars tucked away in his dresser. They sat in the middle drawer, on the right hand side in a (now) ancient Hot Wheels carrying case, and in the original cardboard sleeves ... and I was ALWAYS desperate to play with them.

It was an ongoing battle for most of my childhood: I would sneak in and 'borrow' the tiny toy cars and he would take them back then smack me around for my misdemeanours ... I was never thwarted for long though. I would be back trying again and again and again ...

As I got older I would sneak into Scott's room and carefully and quietly open the drawer to pull out the cars I wanted and one ear was always listening for a car door, or the rattle of the front door lest I get caught pilfering his drawer ...

Today, the dresser sits in my bed room at the foot of the bed, far from its original home, and even though the sounds of the handles being lifted and let go, and the pull of the drawers still makes me listen for a car door, or the front door (it's instinctive now!!!), I know (sadly) that I no longer have a big brother to fear finding me taking his stuff ... but there is a strange comfort in the familiar sounds the handles make when you open the drawer, and the woody smell that still permeates the dresser ... and even though the cars are tucked away in the basement, I still open the middle drawer on the right side expecting to see the familiar orange carrying case (I've thought about putting it back just because ...).

As I use the dresser, I think of Scott and all the memories - good, bad and in between - that are part of the journey we had together ... I think about him and how much I miss him ... I think about him and how much he influenced me whether he realized it or not ...

This week has been a series of nostalgic moments ... making strawberry pie for Beetle, tidying up afghans and quilts and tucking them in the old cedar chest, moving and sorting a few boxes, and just surveying the assortment of stuff that has come home from Mom's ... over and over the sounds and the scents have triggered deep memories of childhood, growing up in Stratford, hanging out at home, and just being part of the family circle that was Mom, Scott and I ... they have been good memories that brought a smile to my face, and a tear or two to my eyes ... but memories that brought comfort and a reminder that even though they are are gone, they are still very much part of my heart and soul ...

It is funny how powerful a memory can be when triggered by a sound or a scent ... I feel it everytime I open the middle drawer on the dresser ... I wait to hear his voice from the kitchen: "What the hell are you doing in my dresser??" ... and even though it would mean a beating, I would love to hear it one more time just for old time's sake!!!!

Friday, July 06, 2012

One day ... one glorious day:

This is Blake.

Reverend Blake Spencer, the pastor and minister at The Presbyterian Church in Pleasantville New Jersey.

In addition to being a Pastor, a father, a son, a friend and a fabulous person, Blake is also known as The Laughing Pastor, and blogs his reflections and thoughts about his life, his ministry and his journey of Grace and discovery ... AND, I am honoured to be able to count him amongst my friends!!

I wanted to offer this post today because I think Blake is an amazing person who has dared to stand up and speak out about his life and his experience in the Church. In the last few days Blake has lamented on Facebook about the bullying he is witnessing as our Presbyterian sisters and brothers meet in their General Assembly in the US ... Blake is being very open and honest about his struggle with the role and place of Gays and Lesbians in his home denomination, and the agony they are experiencing as they wrestle with this issue.

I see so many parallels to what my home denomination - The United Church of Canada went through over 30 years ago ... Congregations were torn apart ... friendships were ended ... angry words were spoken ... tempers flared ... and people repeatedly invovked the name of God to justify their ponts of view, and in some case to justify anger, hatred and non-faithful exclusion ... I remember well what I saw myself ... and I serve a Church that was devestated by the decision by the United Church to welcome self-proclaimed Gay and Lesbian candidates to ordination. The exact words were "Homosexuality in and of itself is not a barrier to ministry in the United Church of Canada."

Looking back over the last 30 years I can only offer a grateful "AMEN!!" to that decision and those bold enough to support it.

Our church hasn't been overrun with 'those kind of people' as some cried out ... but instead, our Church has become a place that is more aware and more sensitive to the bullying and the exclusion that we too often invoke in the defense of our faith. We have many wonderful and talented ministry personnel who HAPPEN to be Gay (or Lesbian), and who are able to be true to themselves, and no longer have to hide away in fear.

The United Church still has work to do, and despite our official policies as a Denomination to be open, welcoming and inclusive, we are still struggling to make that a reality in ALL corners of this Church we call home.

But from an official point of view, we've opened the door to including and celebrating the full spectrum of the human family by removing the barriers of colour, race, gender and sexuality from the dogma of faith - we recognize and celebrate and LIVE the fullness of being human!!

And for that I am thankful ...

I am also thankful for the courageous and faithful witness of people like Blake who have boldly stood up and openly shared their sexual orientation, and who have continued to share their gifts and calling of ministry!!

Our world, and the Church Universal and Catholic is a much better place because of the ministry and witness of folks like Blake ... and I am a better person for having folks like him in my circle of friends.

It's funny ... I would never introduce Blake as a Gay Pastor or a Gay Minister. Instead, I would introduce him as a Minister who happens to be Gay ... and I pray that one day I will live in a world and serve in a Church where we no longer have to make that designation.

I long for a day when we no longer speak of gay or straight ... but simply celebrate our commonality as the Children of God. With the leadership and guidance of folks like Blake, I truly believe it WILL happen before I retire!!!

And for that, I say a hearty and faithful: AMEN!!!!!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The simple joys of gardening ...

I've reflected on gardening around here a few times ... it is and has been one of the stress relieving hobbies I whole-heartily embrace each year, though last year was a bit of a loss with all the stresses that were too much a part of the unfolding of my life ...

This year though, I have been able to be a little more focused and A LOT more intentional in getting my gardens in and established and tended.

The picture above is the tiny veggie patch. It started last year with the inground portion that was dedicated to a few spindly tomato plants, some potatoes, and a few other assorted veggies ... I don't remember it producing much in the way of edible produce - the squash plant that self seeded itself in the compost bin out back was much more successful!!

This year as I prepared the veggie patch, I decided to use the old steps I had removed from the back porch last year, and I banged together a small raised bed to plant alongside the existing veggie patch. My ultimate goal is to keep expanding the veggie, perennial and flower patches in my front yard so that instead of boring and relatively useless grass, I will have a proper English Cottage Garden that requires minimal tending, and produces a wide array of bloom, berries, fruits, vegetables and herbs ... I've started, and I'll keep plugging away at it year by year, season by season ...

For now though, I enjoy having to go out a couple of times a day to water the various plots and patches, and to watch the growth of the new spouts pushing up through the ground past the weeds (did I mention I am terrible at weeding??), and creating a lush covering of new growth. It is simultaneously relaxing and rewarding.

This morning as I watered the veggie patch and noted the growth, even from yesterday I found myself plucking radish greens (and even a tiny plump radish root!!!) and tender chard and nibbling as the water sprinkled over the plants and soil ... I took some time and ACTUALLY weeded between the rows, taking note of the beet, carrot, and spinach that was beginning to sprout.

Then I spent a lazy and leisurely afternoon in the shade of my back deck reading the book "Trauma Farm" by Canadian writer Brian Bett, about his hobby farm on BC's Salt Spring Island. As I read Bett's words I found myself thinking about my humble little garden and how I could expand it to include some of the lovely heritage breeds of veggies and fruit that are being lost to our Industrial Monoculture ... then I thought about how lovely it was growing up in a neighbourhood with fruit trees and gardens to raid, and with access to vast farm gardens tended by my extended family ... There simply is NOTHING comparable to fresh produce picked and eaten while standing in the middle of a garden!!

I thought about our neighbour Mr Baumbach and his spindly pear tree that we used to raid while waiting for the bus ... the hard green pears were good - but the ripe yellow ones were better!!! I remember the year the last kid took a bus from the stop at the end of Mr Baumbach's drive way, he commented on how many pears that tree had produced, and he wondered what he was doing differently after so many years of getting only one or two pears ...

I laughed, and he did too, as I put the finger of blame firmly on the kids who had for the last decade or so used his driveway as our bus stop ... "We changed," I said, "and so YOU get ALL the pears this year instead of us stealing them!!"

Such are the memories of gardens and orchards and producing fruit and veggies in your own backyard ... I cherish the mental picture of Noahkila in our backyard in Bella Coola stuffing his pudgy toddler cheeks with fresh cherries from the Queen Anne Tree that stood outside the dining room window (he ONE enjoyed fruit) and I will forever smile as I picture Ms H. and Beetle stripping their Grandma Beach's raspberry bushes of the thick ripe berries.

That is WHY we garden, and enjoying the bounty of the harvest surreptitiously makes the whole process much more enjoyable ... I look forward to continuing with my seasonal nibbles, and in the coming weeks, months and years, I look forward to continuing to expand my gardens so the palate of flavours, colours, scents and experiences can continue to grow!!

The lessons we can learn from a cookie !!!

"Boycott Kraft!!!"

"God hates ... "

"Jesus loves you, ... but"

I read the Scriptures, and I take what I find there quite seriously, but I must confess I marvel at how seemingly faithful people can read the same scriptures - the very same words - and can find in those texts prohibitions and calls to exclude and hurt others.

I have never been able to see how the Scriptures can be used, or more appropriately, misused to exclude women, left-handed people, minorities, and most recently Gays, Lesbians, Trans-gendered and Bi-sexual people ... over the course of time, the Church has struggled repeatedly with the widening of our circle. Each time we've tried to widen the circle voices have called out denouncing the inclusion of the latest group, likening us to Sodom and Gomorrah and calling on the fires of heaven to rain down on us and condemn us to the deepest hell.

How can we, who claim to follow a God of Love and Grace, utter such hurtful and hateful words?

How can ANYONE who claims to be a follower of this rabbi named Yeshua utter words dripping with such hate and anger?

I've pondered the bewildering idea of God Hating anyone elsewhere on this site, and today as I've been following the postings of my friend and colleague Blake (aka The Laughing Pastor), as he watched the convulsions our American Presbyterian cousins are going through at their General Assembly, I find myself once again wondering how we've so defined 'faithfulness' and the Gospel, to intentionally exclude ANYONE.

When I read the Scriptures, I don't see any foot note that says God's love is ONLY for a particular group of people ... when I read the Scriptures I see a Gospel that frees us from such foolishness and calls us to care for those who are hurt, broken, and marginalized. When I read the Scriptures I discover that living out the Gospel demands opening the circle wide and living inclusively and with love for ALL people.

Love precludes the ability to say God hates anyone ...

Love prevents us from invoking anger and hurt in our speech ...

Love locks firmly the gates of hell and asks us to stop trying to condemn people to its fiery abyss ...

Love means living without fear and trusting in God fully and without hesitation !!!

Love means serving rainbow oreos and celebrating the diversity of the human family at Church function!!

Love means living the idea of welcoming EVERYONE in the name of the Risen One!!