Wednesday, January 18, 2017

March With John Lewis

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Where did whatisname go? No Lion Lamb blog musings in three weeks! This was not my intention but after Christmas I had a bout of the flu that left me feeling so miserable my blog was the least of my concerns. Now I'm back to work and back to blogging.

On Monday the three volume graphic novel set of John Lewis' memoir arrived. Appropriately it was Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Lewis was a courageous 23-year-old civil rights activist when he walked on to the bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 with Martin Luther King Jr and many others. Lewis was among those brutally attacked by police who would not let them pass.

Lewis was also one of the Freedom Riders, who toured the South at great risk to personal safety, encouraging black voter registration. In an interview with CNN during the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Lewis recounted the sheer amount of violence he and the 12 other original Freedom Riders endured. In Anniston, Alabama the bus was fire-bombed after Ku Klux Klan members deflated its tires, forcing it to come to a stop. In Birmingham, the Riders were mercilessly beaten, and in Montgomery an angry mob met the bus, and Lewis was hit in the head with a wooden crate. "It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious," said Lewis, remembering the incident.

Lewis spoke at the same huge March on Washington gathering where MLK delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream Speech." Lewis has served for more than 30 years in Congress and is a respected political statesman, except for Thug-Elect Donald Trump, who criticized Lewis in his usual classless way over the weekend.

I heard Lewis interviewed recently and he was charming. He mentioned that as a child he had aspirations to be a pastor and would preach to the chickens on the farm where he grew up. He noted wryly that while the chickens never shouted "Amen!' they were often more attentive than his human colleagues through the years.

I was delighted to read that after Trump's denigration of Lewis the graphic books quickly sold out on Amazon. Without intending to do so, Lewis trumped Trump.


Monday, December 26, 2016

The Nativity Through Canadian Eyes

Trisha Elliot of the United Church Observer has made some excellent choices of contemporary depictions of the nativity by Canadian artists for the December issue. Here is the url for you to check out the article and other images. All of them are intriguing but I've chosen these three to share.

Nativity Jackson Beardy

A Quiet Moment Timothy Schmalz

Arctic Holy Night Nathalie Parenteau

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bedside Christmas

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This Christmas morning I'll share three stories about individuals I've seen in hospital on Christmas Day. Often I have gone early, before the rest of the family was up and about. Most of these intimate encounters have been meaningful, and I have almost always ready the Christmas gospel story from Luke, as well as praying. Here is one of the stories I'll tell:

Perhaps the most meaningful Christmas morning hospital visit was to a man named Dave who had been injured in an industrial accident and was paralysed from the waist down. He went from being a physically powerful guy in his 40s,  in a high-paying job, to being confined in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He was living at home but he had regular hospitalizations for a host of problems related to his paralysis. I visited him at home and when he was in hospital, and while he was always civil there was an underlying anger that could make our conversations awkward.

This was his longest and most difficult time in hospital. The medical team just couldn’t figure out an infection which weakened him, and he developed miserable sores because he couldn’t move and he was such a big man for the nursing staff to turn, even with a special lift.

One day when I was in I told him that a friend had an expression “lower than a snake’s bunion” to describe being really low, and he just nodded his head. He admitted that this time he was preparing to die, because nothing was working, but he just wasn’t ready to go.
On Christmas Day I went to see him. His family was coming but his grandchildren were young so they weren’t there yet. I asked him how he was doing and he responded quietly “snake’s bunion.” I read him the story of the Christ-child born to die and whose resurrection is the promise of new life for us all. Then we held hands and prayed and he squeezed tightly with his big paw.

Dave recovered and went home as well. I stopped in one summer day and he told me that he was back on his scooter and keeping score at his grandson’s ball games. He was an enthusiastic player as a younger man and doing this gave him hope. He had so much to say that day I could hardly get a word in edgewise.

I commented that he seemed to be a different guy, wondering how he might take this observation. He agreed that he was, that somehow the reprieve allowed him to put the indignities and challenges into perspective. Our strangely intimate “man hug” sort of moment on Christmas morning had meant a lot to him. He was glad to be alive and it really was as though he had experienced a rebirth.

Merry Christmas to all of us, good readers!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Manger Tourism?

Image result for Basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano nativity

This evening, Christmas Eve,  I'll have one of our nativity scenes in church, a crocheted version given to us in Newfoundland nearly 40 years ago. Through the years we've invited people to bring their nativities for display and perusal following worship. Folk do so with pride and love, and in every size and style imaginable.

We're told that the first living nativity was created by Francis of Assisi in the early 12th century and the scene complete with animals inspired the sculptural versions we have. The earliest carved figures we know of are the ones in the grotto of a church in Rome (below), created in the late 13th century.
Related image

Apparently there are so many in the city of Rome that there are dedicated Manger Hoppers, people who visit a number of locations each year. There is even an Italian Friends of the Nativity Scene Association. The association’s museum has more than 3,000 scenes from around the world. Some of the nativities in Rome are very elaborate, such as the one at the top of this blog. St. Peter's basilica square has its own depiction each year.

Really, it's just lovely that the story of Christ's birth is told in this way in so many locations through countless generations.

Do you have a nativity you've set up through the years? We're about to pass on the crocheted version to our grandchildren. Do you have a set shared from one generation to the next?

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Friday, December 23, 2016


I was testy yesterday because of an exchange with our bank after we had been bilked. It had cleared a cheque from our Benevolent Fund which was altered from $50 to $150 by a fellow we had assisted, with some reservation. We felt that his story was suspect, but it is often difficult to verify need, so we often choose generosity over suspicion. Amazingly, he was back seeking more help after he had defrauded us and was probably aware that we wouldn't have received the altered cheque back. He is "at large" at the moment, as police have already charged his wife for stealing from churches on a recent Sunday morning and plan to charge him as well.

I visited the bank and the cheque cashing store, aptly named Cash and Dash. The cheque-casher knows the guy and mentioned that it was a larger cheque than many she sees from Bridge St. Interesting. Of course people often tell us they don't have bank accounts, and they want the money immediately anyway. We agreed that in future if they have any questions about the amount they'll give us a call. The bank was very apologetic, citing the busyness of this time of year.

The temptation is to just get angry about this and cynical about requests for assistance in general. Yet I realize that I should reserve my indignation to those who can defraud others in semi-legal ways, including the president-elect of the United States. Why get wrapped around the axle about someone who is after twenty bucks?

The day before this incident a woman stopped by and paid back $180 we figured we would never see. This was actually the sum of several requests for help by this person, who always promises to repay us. She has in the past, but the total was climbing and we'd assured her that we didn't expect her to do so. The "mixed blessing" of her repayment was that she had won $500 on a scratch ticket, so wanted to settle up. Our administrator Carol asked if she just wanted to give us a portion, so she wouldn't be left without money, but she insisted.

In the end I'm surprised that people don't try to bilk us more often. We have hundreds of people who join us for meals in one of our three ministries. Ruth and I sit with them and share conversation. Not once has anyone asked for money, even though we discover many could use it.

This is what we need to keep in mind and heart, not just in this season of generosity but all through the year. Christ invites us not to harden our hearts, to listen with compassion, to share with humility because we are blessed.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Good News for the Arctic

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Santa will not be giving a lump of coal or any other form of fossil fuel to Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama this year. In fact, Santa, elves, and all the critters of the North must be celebrating because of an important agreement signed by both Canada and the United States this week that you might have missed. It will prohibit drilling for oil in sensitive Arctic waters for at least five years, which will take us through the Age of Doom, otherwise known as the first and hopefully only Trump term.

A response to the news by the Natural Resources Defense Council includes these thoughts:

The joint U.S. and Canadian announcement recognizes the benefit of both countries acting together to protect the shared Arctic region. The U.S. announcement indefinitely puts off limits from offshore oil and gas the vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. And Canada agreed to “designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing”, with a review every five years.
The Arctic Ocean is remote and icy, hypersensitive, and an impossible place to clean up oil. So this decision recognizes that “the only safe Arctic Ocean drilling is no drilling at all” since there is a high chance of a spill.  NRDC analysis of spills in the U.S. Arctic found that they would have devastating impacts on both the U.S. and Canadian Arctic region.

Officials in Alaska and some American lawmakers are already grumpy about this agreement, saying it favours Canada. Well, when don't they make this claim? No doubt oil companies are annoyed.

Many of you are aware of how passionate I am about our responsibility as Christians to care for Creation and reverse the destructive post-WWII patterns of rapacious resource consumption which are choking the life out of the planet. This is a glimmer of good news in the midst of so much that is grim. The agreement is a meaningful gift to the planet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Walking toward the Dawn

On my drive to Bridge St church this morning I detoured to the Bay of Quinte so I could enjoy the glory of the sunrise on the Winter Solstice, the day of the shortest sunlight hours in the Northern Hemisphere. Last year on a balmy Christmas Day we paddled from this spot on the open bay. Not this year! Here is a prayer/poem from Jan Richardson. Check out her artistic work.

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;

a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson

Christ be with all of you as you walk toward the dawn.

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