My latest column in the Christian Courier.
There’s a temptation to wish life away—to wish that pandemic days, months, or even years would rush to oblivion. That from some bright future these mournful days would become as an Autumn mist burned away by the late morning sun. Forgotten; banished from memory.
Exhaustion of online world and conversation. Two dimensional images displace the play of light on faces and bodies. Loss of loving presence through touch and embrace and quiet nod. Digitized voices never quite capture the person we know and want to learn from. Click “leave meeting” and sit back to recover.
Far-off parents and grandparents reachable only by phone—a Summer visit already distant in heart and mind. Thanksgiving, family dinner over Zoom? Forbidden 600km journey to a meal of roast turkey and baked potatoes and the best stuffing ever and a welcoming embrace. Aching for a world other than the one received today. Continue reading
My latest column in the Christian Courier.
My front-yard garden measures 12 feet by 11 feet and so represents a modest effort in terms of urban agriculture. It certainly doesn’t compete with the larger plots tended by some Portuguese seniors in west end Montreal, or with the wide-open community gardens that flourish here. But its postage-stamp size doesn’t tell the whole story of my veggie patch either. Year over year my acreage (dreaming big, here) teaches me much more than many other areas of life—it is the source of innumerable successes, failures, and opportunities to learn.
This year I decided to plant kohlrabi for the first time, which one website describes as “a unique, easy-to-grow veggie.” Easy for them to say! I don’t know whether to blame the less-than-consistent rainfall of this past summer or my less than strategic enriching of the soil, but the resulting, stumpy little kohlrabi stems were rather disappointing. In my defense I should say that I didn’t have a lot of time to invest in the garden this year. And the decision to leave town for four weeks of holidays wasn’t exactly conducive to its flourishing.
Most of the carrot seeds I planted in early June simply didn’t germinate, though the few seeds that did spring up produced twenty lovely carrots. Twenty! (You can interpret that exclamation mark as either frustration or delight!) They were typically odd-sized and wonderfully misshapen. Also, at some point during the season I simply forgot I had planted onion seedlings in the back corner, and only discovered them when pulling out overgrown crabgrass and other weeds a few weeks ago. And there they were, 10 of them pulled up and held in one hand, as remarkable and beautiful as anything on God’s green earth. Continue reading
My letter to the congregation of Kensington, for this Thanksgiving.
Click the image to the right for the letter.
Our God, we remember before you the astonishing gifts of creation – this morning we think especially of the variety of sea creatures. There is the bulky and wizened walrus, immediately recognizable with its tusks and whiskers – an ancient creature that looks its age. We think of whales, from the massive, deep-diving Blue Whale, to the starkly white Beluga. We think of schools of sardines, clouds of sardines, morphing and shifting in an amazing dance. We consider the translucent jelly fish, pulsing its way through the deep. For all the gifts of creation, and of the sea, we thank you O God of covenant and creation.
In this season of Autumn, our God, how can we fail to thank you for the beauty of the trees. As the days and nights grow colder, and chlorophyll production slows – yellows and oranges and reds are unmasked. Leaves show forth a new glory as trees respond to their environment, as we make our way from summer warmth to winter cold. For the gifts of creation, and the gift of trees, we thank you O God of covenant and creation.
What does gratitude look like?
How should gratitude be expressed in our lives?
For most of us, one of the earliest things we were taught by our parents was to say “Thank you.”
When someone paid you a compliment: “Did you say thank you?”
When someone was giving you a gift: “Remember to say thank you.”
And of course there was always also the right posture in gratitude: “You’ve got to look at her when you say thank you. ”
From those earliest days of learning to say thank you, there have been so many instances when gratitude has made sense to each us – so many times when we have expressed our thankfulness to others.
But as we have grown up – as we have put some distance between our childhood selves and our mature selves – the question of thankfulness has also gotten more complicated. I’m sure we’ll all agree. I’m sure that all of us can think of situations where thankfulness wasn’t at all straightforward. Continue reading
It goes without saying – toddlers find it difficult to share. Have you ever tried to convince a 2 or 3 year old that they need to share something? Sometimes they are willing – very often they are not.
Just this past week, Becky had two of our kids with her picking up vegetables just down here on Grand boulevard. And one of the things she picked up was a small pumpkin. She had her hands full with the other vegetables, and so she asked Reuben if he would carry the pumpkin. Well someone, who happens to be named Esther, decided that she really should be the one carrying the pumpkin. “But Esther, it’s Reuben’s turn – I asked him to help me. You can carry something next time.” Well, as you probably suspect, that wasn’t going to do it for Esther. It was now or never – and the tears flowed and the little screams came. But I want to carry the pumpkin.
The whole logic of sharing is something that toddler’s are on their way to learning. It’s true that toddler’s can be taught to share, but it is only as they develop and mature that the logic of sharing becomes more deeply engrained in them. Even as they grow, of course, the various influences in a child’s environment (the example set by adults, for example) will influence whether they share with others. Continue reading
My Thanksgiving letter to the congregation of KCKF:
In the name of Jesus Christ, warm greetings to you, members and friends of Knox Crescent Kensington and First Presbyterian Church, as we approach the celebration of Harvest Thanksgiving.
I confess that I have mixed emotions each year as this special holiday approaches. There are feelings of delight in the gifts of the land – in the beautiful, fresh squash and apples and potatoes and carrots that are graciously given by God and brought in by farmers and workers. There is joy in those familiar hymns that announce our Creator’s blessing:
For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God;
for the gifts to every nation, thanks be to God;
for the ploughing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future’s needs in earth’s safe-keeping, thanks be to God.