Redemption on the 58

A short story about a bus ride, momentum and mercy.

It had been another frustrating day in the lab, and I just wanted to get home. To grab a beer, drop onto the couch and watch another few episodes of Vikings of Valhalla on Netflix. A perfect segue to the weekend.

“How many times can an experiment fail, anyway,” I thought to myself as I threw on my coat and loaded my laptop into my backpack. In the world of crystallography, you could run out of liquid nitrogen in the middle of an experiment, or a machine could fail, or your measurements could be off. This week it had been a simple failure of crystallization, one in a series of frustrations in my PhD progress.

I walked down Peel Street to the metro, and took the green line west, getting off at De L’Église. Instead of the stairs, I took the escalator up towards daylight, and wandered over to the 58 on Wellington. Settling into my seat on the bus, I noticed a guy walking joltingly toward the back, half falling as he held onto the shiny yellow posts of the bus. He was clearly drunk or stoned. I groaned inwardly as he sat down beside me and turned mumblingly in my direction.

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A Christmas Prayer

My latest column in the Christian Courier is a prayer for Christmas.

Praise to you, O living Word, for you give the gift of our world. You are the creating one through whom ancient Laurentian mountains have their craggy existence. By your imaginative power, forests of black spruce, larch, and balsam grow along ridges of granite and gneiss. By your gracious creativity, lynx and porcupine make their fleet-footed or lumbering way through habitats long called home. “All, at a Word, has become this almost overwhelming loveliness” (Margaret Avison).

Praise to you, O living Word, who has been born, like us, in a rush of blood and water—vulnerable, with your mother, in your passage into this world. The love displayed in your birth is an accompanying love that risks pain and loss and cold and homelessness, even as you are warmly received into the arms of Mary. This young woman who has borne God, leads you into a beautiful and fearful world, teaching you the prayers of your people along the way. You have learned from her; you are yourself with her and the people to whom she belongs. You find yourself, and are yourself, in relation to the God who makes covenant with this people.

Praise to you, O living Word, for you are the showing forth of God’s glory. In your speaking, the magnificence of God is heard. In your face, the beauty of God is seen. In your living, the grandeur of God is made apparent. We had always expected God’s glory to be otherworldly, almost unimaginable, yet here you are in time and space. God’s grandeur in a bawling baby. Glory to God in the highest; Glory to God in an unremarkable Lord alongside us. Continue reading

down by the riverside – the river as a boundary

In so many places around the earth, rivers are also boundaries. Rivers, of course, are natural geographic formations that are often difficult for people to cross or to get around. And so in the history of peoples and communities and nations, rivers have inevitably become boundaries that define those peoples and relations between them.

 So the St. Lawrence River forms part of the boundary between the Canada and the United States in Eastern Ontario.

The Colorado River forms part of the boundary between the United States and Mexico.

The San Juan River forms a large part of the boundary between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The Zambezi River forms a part of the boundary between Zambia and three other countries – Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Nambia.

Rivers are these natural geographic formations that in many places have also become political boundaries. One people or nation lives on one side of the boundary, and another people or nation lives on the other side of the boundary.

There are at least two ways of to think about rivers as boundaries. And we’ve already been thinking about river boundaries in one particular way – we’ve been thinking of them in terms of a separation – in terms of something that divides people or keeps them apart. From this point of view, the river as a boundary might even be a point of contest or conflict – the river as boundary might become a source of animosity and political strife – or even of war. One simple, historical example – in the war of 1812, American troops crossed the Niagara River to attack British settlements near Fort George and Fort Erie. The British and aboriginal populations there eventually pushed them back across the river. From this first point of view, the river is something that divides or keeps people separated from each other. Continue reading