Monday, March 31, 2008

Let there be no light

Yesterday our congregation observed its own Earth Hour during worship. We turned off the lights and went without our projection equipment for the morning. Our music director played the piano rather than the organ and our children's time focussed on care for the planet God has created and is creating.

When I asked the kids how many had observed Earth Hour on Saturday evening I was surprised by how many hands shot up. They were eager to tell me of what had happened in their homes. Apparently school children were encouraged during class to mark Earth Hour and there was an automated phone message from the school board reminding households to turn off the lights.

Although we have since heard that energy use dropped by ten percent during the hour -- the target -- this was only one hour. Skeptics argue that this isn't much of a victory given the enormous challenge of reversing climate change.

Of course I am in the business of symbols and know how powerful they can be. The sacraments of baptism and communion point us to a greater spiritual reality even though some argue they are nothing more than water and wind and bread.

I was encouraged by the enthusiasm of our children and want to believe that this symbolic action can lead to a change of outlook across the generations. Christ can be our light in the darkness and even lead us toward darkness for the greater good.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

I was going to let the artists' images of the crucifixion be my only Good Friday blog entry but there was an article in the Globe and Mail this morning about a Roman Catholic church in the Gulf country of Qatar. Although it is an impressive building seating 1500 it has no visible Christian symbols on its exterior and it was built out in the desert.

This is another reminder of the costliness of Christian faith for many in the world. Saudi Arabia is the only Gulf state that still bans churches but it is an uneasy relationship in many places.
We don't have to worry much about what it means to take up our crosses to follow Jesus.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Artist's Friday

Marc Chagall


Emile Nolde

Homeless Thursday

And Jesus said to him: Foxes have holes and birds of the air have their nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Matthew 8:20

We're told in the gospels that on the same Thursday night Jesus ate his last meal with his followers and washed their feet they went out to an olive grove called Gethsemane to "bunk down." While there Jesus was arrested and the events began to unfold that led to his death.

Gethsemane was a place used for sleep by poor pilgrims to Jerusalem who couldn't afford accommodation. Jesus and those who travelled with him were homeless and depended on the kindness of friends and strangers along the way.

This week a trial began in Toronto for three military reservists who are accused of beating a homeless man to death. He was sleeping on a park bench in the heart of the city. Evidence has already been presented that one of the three expressed his hatred of "bums" before this incident occurred. There is nothing to suggest that the man who was killed did anything to provoke the attack. To his assailants he was just a nobody who lived on a park bench with all his belongings in plastic bags.

A few years ago a New York agency created some thoughtful ads, one of which asked How can you worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday? Good question. I doubt that any of us would do harm to someone who lives on the street, but do we regard them as people of worth and loved by the Christ we follow?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Life of Service

The Servant Susan Gavatos

Yesterday a dedicated team worked for hours in our church hall. They do this most Tuesdays of the month and have been at it for many years. Their task is not glamorous. Seniors show up to have their feet attended at the Foot Clinic. Getting older is not for sissys and among the many parts that wear out with age are feet. The team is a cheerful, hard-working bunch and while their isn't much recognition for their effort it makes a world of difference for the recipients of their care. The folk arrive with "dogs barking" and leave in better shape.

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday and we will have a service in the evening. I will wash the feet of a couple of "ringers," people chosen for this ritual which reminds us of Jesus' startling act of service during the Last Supper.

I always find this meaningful, but of course it is orchestrated. It seems to me that the Foot Clinic is a living, breathing example of compassionate service. The hymn Jesu, Jesu says it all:
Jesu, Jesu,
Fill us with Your love,
show us how to serve
The neighbours we have from You.
Kneels at the feet of his friends,
Silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday Good Friday

A good friend of one of our members called to let me know that he had been in for a visit and his long-time pal was failing and probably dying.

I went to the nursing home, one of several in the area dealing with "bugs" these days. It means they discourage visitors. They let me in when they knew I was his pastor, which told me that they figure the end can't be too far off.

It was an odd scenario as I entered his room with a mask on. He was not responsive but I took a few minutes next to his bed. I began by reading the Easter story from John's gospel, which offers a resurrection promise but moves through loss and grief to get there.

I said a prayer and then I put my hand on his shoulder and thanked him for being such a gentleman when I have visited him. In my five years here I have seen him in his home, in the hospital (several times in emerg and critical care) and in three different nursing facilities. He has been prone to tumbles in latter years and would look as though he had been mugged. Invariably he would express his gratitude for a meaningful, fulfilling life, despite his woes. Yesterday he could'nt speak and the shoulder under the blankets was all bone, a reminder of his steady weight loss.

You might think that this sort of visit would become easier, or more straightforward over time. After all, I have plenty of practice. It is the opposite, probably the cumulative effect of so many "Good Fridays" in the lives of good, kind folk with unique personalities.

Please Christ comfort this man and his family. Easter is coming.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Persecuted Church of Christ

It seems to me that Pope Benedict got it right yesterday in his Palm Sunday message when he called for an end to violence in our world and upheld the message of the Prince of Peace.

He was specific about Iraq and must be aware that during Holy Week the fifth anniversary of that misbegotten and disastrous war will be observed. He honoured Archbishop Rahho (above), the elderly Chaldean Catholic leader who was abducted by extremists in Baghdad and died in captivity. For the most part we hear about fighting and terrorist acts between Sunni and Shia Muslims but the Christian church in Iraq has suffered greatly during the past five years.

The bitter irony is that while Saddam Hussein was a horrible tyrant the Muslim factions got along during his reign of terror and Christians were allowed to assemble and worship. Since the invasion and occupation by Christian nations the Iraqi church has been under constant attack by extremist factions and many Christians have fled the country -- as many as half. Abductions of individuals and bombings of church buildings are commonplace. Is there hope for an end to religious violence? An article in the New York Times today interviews young people in Iraq who are increasingly disillusioned by clerics who advocate hatred and mayhem in the name of Allah. This is a hopeful sign.

We need to pray for the persecuted church in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday 2008

Doesn't this child with branches in his hand look lost in the forest of armed soldiers? This was taken in Jerusalem today, Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday Protest March

The sun shone this morning and attendance at church was back up despite the end of March Break. Together we acknowledged the events leading toward the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Pontius Pilate, the representative of the ancient superpower, the Roman Empire, decided that Jesus represented a threat, so Jesus died.

Today, Palm Sunday 2008, the military might of the rising superpower, China, is cracking down on perceived insurgency in Tibet. Buddhist monks have led the way and Chinese soldiers have crushed the protest. There is concern that hundreds have been killed rather than the ten reported by the government of China.

Will Canada and other Western nations make strong statements decrying this heavy-handed and brutal suppression of dissent? The Dalai Lama has called for condemnation of what he terms cultural genocide. Again I wonder why we have abandoned any real protest against human rights violations by China. We seem to have conceded that because China is a source of cheap consumer goods we no longer care about the freedoms we claim to hold dear.

What a reminder that we live in a world where "might makes right" is the way of nations. It is still so important to say that Jesus the Christ offers a different way, not just for ancient times but for this moment.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Colour of New Life

The snow is deep so we decided to partake of a major Spring-like activity, the Canada Blooms gardenpalooza at the Metro Centre in downtown Toronto. The GO train took us right there and for the next few hours we milled about with thousands of others who wanted to be inspired by the sights and sounds of gardening. I am obviously very secure in my manhood because I suggested to Ruth that we go and I ate quiche for lunch. Real men find a lecture by Marjorie Harris on garden design fairly interesting.

We are about a week away from Easter and in John's gospel we discover that the grieving Mary thought Jesus was the gardener on resurrection morning until her eyes were opened. Blooming metaphors have been used by the Christian church for centuries, for obvious reasons. In one of his Corinthian letters the Apostle Paul likens Christ's death and resurrection to a seed that is buried and dies, only to push upward to new life.

It was refreshing to take in all that colour and it was certainly more enjoyable than watching the hapless Leafs get thumped.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Voices United

I have to admit that reading Clarington This Week, the local paper, takes me all of five minutes most days. However, the latest issue has a number of worthwhile articles including the cover story on the possibility of two more nuclear reactors at Darlington. Whatever we may feel about a nuclear power source, it is a reminder that our area is one of the energy focal points in this province. Once again we are reminded that Energy From Waste is a grossly misleading way of describing the proposed incinerator in Clarington, to be built next to these reactors. This energy is not really necessary, and so much energy is needed to burn the garbage in the first place that the gain in negligible.

In the same paper there is an article about a report released after the decision to locate the incinerator in Courtice. It reveals that air quality in Clarington and Durham is poorer than in York region, the other partner for the incinerator. The emissions from a local incinerator will only make this worse. Why bother banning smoking in cars when we are planning to put harmful particulate in the air for everyone to breathe?

I am baffled that so few people in our region seem concerned that this project is moving forward despite the astronomical costs to the taxpayer ( a quarter billion, maybe more) and evidence that no significant incinerator has been built in North America in twenty years.

Among the group raising the concerns over the incinerator are a number of committed Christians who view this as both a health issue and a faith issue, because of the environmental impact. I urge you to get informed and make your sure your voice is heard.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pope Got Pull for Patrick

Our 20-year-old daughter, Emily, is home on college break. "Hey Dad" she begins, "did you know the Pope changed St. Patrick's Day this year to keep it out of Holy Week." "Is that right" I respond, quite dubious since the fixed date for St. Patrick's Day is March 17th. I should have known she had it right. Sure enough, the Vatican has declared that this year St. Paddy will be honoured this Saturday the 15th, breaking with tradition.

I can understand why. While the Celtic saint, Patrick, deserves to be recognized, the occasion has become an excuse for raucous parades and revelry. No, he did not invent green beer. Holy Week is the most solemn time of the Christian year and an ill-disguises frat party just isn't a great fit. As best we know, Patrick was a Welsh slave in Ireland during the fourth century. He escaped, only to return years later as a Christian evangelist. He cleverly honoured the "earthy" Druidic traditions in the Christianity he preached and modelled. His most famous prayer might not have been his, but here is a sampling of the Deer's Cry.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. . .

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven;

light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendor of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
tability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sin of the Century

Since I posted my blog entry earlier this morning Eliot Spitzer resigned. It was the right thing to do. We probably all agree that his actions were reprehensible and hypocritical.

It's interesting though. Another higher profile American politician led his country into a war that the majority of citizens consider unwinnable and even immoral. To date more than 150,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Over 4,000 U.S. military personnel have died. The cost for the war will be between 2 and 3 trillion dollars. That's trillion, not billion. The American economy is in tatters, in part because of the war, and there is no money for a health care system.

What is the greater moral crime? What is the greater sin?

Create in Me A Clean Heart

Eliot Spitzer had a real bad day yesterday. Today will be just as bad, if not worse. Did I mention tomorrow? Spitzer is the governor of New York State, and he got there as a hard-hitting District Attorney who went after crooks, including those who ran and used prostitution rings. So what did Spitzer do? He availed himself of prostitutes -- often it now appears-- and he was caught and publicly humiliated. There is a good chance he will loss his job.

Pundits have rushed to offer opinions about why people -- mostly men-- get embroiled in these situations. The basic answer is, because they can. The saying is that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac and there is a "rush" from doing those things which put one above the law, including the law of God. The media outlets have been offering a long list of powerful people who have been caught and usually humbled in similar messy situations.

We began Lent on Ash Wednesday with Psalm 51, the psalm of contrition, the cry of the heart by King David. David was the prototypical high-powered adulterer who compounded his sin by arranging the murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. He makes Eliot Spitzer look tame. There was no media frenzy back then but David was "outed" by the prophet Nathan and his grievious errors have been part of the story of Jews and Christians for 3000 years. How's that for a story with staying power!

David eventually realized his sinful ways and begged God's forgiveness. Of course this is a message for all of us, in every age. In Psalm 51 we find these phrases which lead us through a process of contrition and restoration:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love...
You desire truth in the inward being...
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities...
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me...
Restore to me the joy of your salvation...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Early Easter

I don't know if I'll last another 220 years!

Early Easter: This year's March 23 Easter is the earliest Resurrection Sunday most us will ever see; only the very elderly of our population have ever seen it this early before. The next time Easter will be this early is the year 2228—that's 220 years from now. The last time it fell on March 23 was 1913; only those 95 or older were around for that. March 22 is the earliest possible date for Easter, but that is quite rare. The next time for that will be the year 2285. The last time it was on March 22 was 1818.

From the Christian Century

Sin Against Creation

Not long ago our son Isaac, a 25-year-old McGill student engaged me in an email conversation about sin. It isn't usually on our chat agenda, but why not. He feels that sin still needs to be an important, although not over-emphasized aspect of our Christian theology. I agreed and spoke about the brokeness of our lives as individuals and of the brokeness of creation.

Yesterday sin made the news in a big way as the Vatican came up with some new, or at least new-to-them sins. The traditional Seven Deadly Sins are Pride, Sloth, Coveting, Lust,, Sleepy, Dopey. Okay I'm trying to do this from memory and I didn't make it! The two I missed are Gluttony and Envy. I envy those who can rhyme off all seven.

The new list of seven includes excessive wealth and polluting the environment. These two certainly address the brokeness of creation which needs to be mended. And often they go hand in hand. Our Western lifestyles may seem normal to us, but they must be viewed as wealth beyond measure to those who are amongst the world's poor. Actually covetousness, envy, gluttony all contribute to the abuse and misuse of the natural world. Maybe those "old" sins were quite serviceable after all.
Here are all seven of the sins named by the Vatican.

Environmental pollution
Genetic manipulation
Accumulating excessive wealth
Inflicting poverty
Drug trafficking and consumption
Morally debatable experiments
Violation of fundamental rights of human nature

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Disappeared

While many of us finished digging out from the weekend storm yesterday, demonstrators protested at a Toronto church to raise awareness about the aboriginal children that they say disappeared from Canada's residential school system between 1840 and 1940. Eventually they went inside and hung a banner as part of the protest.

The church was Metropolitan United Church, a reminder that our UCC has a sad history of abuse in native schools, although I must note that there were many dedicated teachers and administrators in that system. The protesters have demanded that the federal government and leaders of several churches reveal the locations of unmarked graves where tens of thousands of children were buried near residential schools. The reality is that no one is sure how many children died at the schools.

What is indisputable is that the residential schools are a blight on our history and the United Church has acknowledged the injustices of the school system and paid millions to those who were wronged. We have also established a healing fund to help aboriginal groups find ways back toward dignity and hope.

During March there will a nation-wide tour of aboriginal and church leaders as part of the initiative called Remembering the Children. It will be a precursor to a Truth and Reconciliation commission to further address the wrongs of the past.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Winter Glory

St. Fiacre is the patron saint of gardeners and the statue in our backyard does not appear amused by the latest onslaught of winter. The spade in his hand has become a snowshovel.

We did get out for that afternoon ski and enjoyed both the blue waters of Lake Ontario and a blue sky while we did so.

Showers of Blessings

Lots of snow to shovel! From my window I can see a team of four who have just poured out of a van to do battle with the accumulation in a neighbour's driveway. Our area probably received 25 centimetres or more, but in Ottawa it was a reversal of those numbers --52 centimetres in addition to the 28 they were blessed with on Tuesday. Suddenly it doesn't seem so bad here.

Did you have a shower after you finished your labours? We assume that when we turn on the taps the water will flow, even in Winter. The seemingly endless precipitation of this winter and the shower we take in the comfort of our home are actually related. When we don't have significant snowfall through the winter the levels of lakes and streams and rivers go down and there are problems with everything from navigation for boats to enough water to drink and clean ourselves with.

We are aware of the effects of dry summers but dry winters can be an even greater concern. When the milder weather of Spring comes -- and it will come -- the snow becomes this time-release source for replenishing the aquifers and reservoirs and other bodies of water. Maybe there won't be such a big bathtub ring on the Great Lakes this year.

Once again we are reminded of the cycles and patterns of the world God has brought into being. Winter isn't just "putting in time" until the real seasons begin.

Our shovelling is done so we'll go and play in the snow instead, in the form of an afternoon ski.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Women's Day

Apparently International Women's Day hasn't been cancelled as a Snow Day. Read and listen here.

Hasta la Vista

Alot of March Break travellers have experienced delays and cancellations at Pearson Airport today. I wonder whether some of them are a group of teens from Bay of Quinte Conference of the United Church. Two of the young adults chosen to go to Cuba are from the St. Paul's congregation. Amanda and Alexandra have worked hard to raise the $1500 each for the trip. The congregation has been generous and they have been enthusiastic. Rev. Cathy has been an excellent advocate and support through the past few months. But none of us can control the weather.

During the next week the group will spend some time on the beach but the trip is designed to be so much more. They will have the opportunity to meet people who live with a fraction of what we consider to be a comfortable lifestyle. They will visit a seminary and church-sponsored projects. It may be that the trip will change their perspective for a lifetime.

So, even though they may be languishing in the Toronto airport watching the snow drift down, they will get to Cuba. We can pray that it is an awakening for these young Christians.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Turn the Other Cheek

March break begins and many of the kids whose families won't escape southward will spend some of their "down time" enjoying video games. Although our three children are in their earlier twenties and grew up in the video age the games were only occasional part of our household, through rentals. Many of their peers are still avid players into adulthood.

There is controversy at the moment about a game developed here in Canada called Bully. As the title suggests, there is no subtlety about this game and the level of aggression and the premise has led educators to call for a ban. After the development of excellent anti-bullying programs this game is going in the opposite direction. It's odd that our society seems content to have influential video games reinforcing stereotypes and values that we work to eliminate in our homes and schools and even television. The argument often used is that "it's only a game," as though this makes the message less offensive or morally dangerous.

In faith communities we teach the importance of non-violent relationships and actually walking away from confrontation. We all know how difficult this is, but it has been the source of inspiration for great leaders of the 20th century, as well as movements that brought about profound social change.
It's weird, but here I go again with the Sermon on the Mount for the third time this week: "But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." Maybe we need a Mohandes Gandhi, M. L. King, Desmond Tutu video game. Okay, sales might be weak but there are too many Bully's out there.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Flakey Gift From God

I have been doing my best to frame winter as a gift from God but the promise (threat?) of another snowstorm on Saturday compells me to share this drawing passed on by a member of St. Paul's.

Holy Conversation

We had a holy conversation at our board meeting last evening. Board meetings in most congregations tend toward business rather than vision but our board chair agreed to devote the majority of this meeting to an exercise led by our Visioning and Strategic Planning committee.
Instead of sitting in rows and listening to reports we gathered in groups of four or five to address what the Alban Institute has identified as three key questions for the spiritual strategy of any congregation. These questions are posed in an excellent book called Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations.

They are 1. Who Are We? 2. Who is Our Neighbour? 3.What Has God Called Us To Do? I appreciated the feedback of the group of nearly 30 and wondered how often these important questions are answered by leaders in congregations. There is a tendency to keep doing what we have always done, even if it is no longer successful. And even when we like who we are, as this congregation rightly does, how do we move forward without some process of reflection and assessment?

Last night we affirmed that we are welcoming, slightly left-of centre Christian community. We saw that we are what one person has called a Golden Rule congregation, eager to "do unto others as we would have them do to us" in various community outreach projects. We enjoy warm worship in which children and youth are a high priority.

Next meeting we will address the third question, which will probably stretch us. That's okay, and Christ will be with us in our holy conversation.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Salt of the Earth

You are the salt of the earth: but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? Matthew 5:13a

I had no plan to quote from the Sermon on the Mount two days in a row, but there it is. Ontario is running low on the salt it uses on the highways in abundance. Obviously officials weren't prepared for a much harsher winter than in previous years, along with the snowiest February since record-keeping was established. We choose to use one of the alternatives to salt on our sidewalk and driveway because of the damage salt can do to our watercourses and vegetation. But it sure makes a difference on the roads.

I have seen film and photos of the salt mines near Goderich Ontario which extend out under Lake Huron. There is plenty of salt down there but it is a matter of getting it where it is needed. In Jesus' day salt was a precious commodity which was used to pay Roman soldiers --hence the term salary. We put so much of it in our food that our doctors warn of its effects. Take a look on cereal boxes. Many of our breakfast favourites contain between 12 and 15% salt! When we visited our friends on the farm I carried a hefty salt block out for the cows and the horses. The sheep got the cone which was left over from the old block.

As Christians we are called to be a flavour-enhancing seasoning for our world, not a poisoning. Somehow we need to see ourselves as absolutely necessary without being overbearing in our witness.

Have a salty day.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Blessed Are...

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:8

Last Saturday morning we went with our friends north of Kingston to the local snowmobile club for a hearty helping of cholesterol. Apparently these breakfasts happen every two weeks in support of the trails and other activities of the club.

Most of the people around us were in snowmobile suits but there was a small group of outsiders (like us) who weren't dressed in the appropriate fashion items. They were in the area for a Christian Peacemakers meeting. Their presence in rural Ontario isn't quite as strange as it might sound. They have been around, on and off, for the past few months extending back to last summer. A uranium mine has been proposed on nearby property and there have been peaceful protests staged by the local native band and those who support them. The Algonquins are convinced that the land is theirs.

Some locals are supportive and some aren't. A fair number of people are opposed to the mine for environmental reasons, sure that it will affect the water supply. Our friends invited some of the peacemakers to their home for a meal, along with some folk from the community, including someone who is in favour of the mine. Their United Church has been involved, including providing accomodation. A retired UCC minister from the area was part of one of the peaceful protests and because he admitted that he was at the mine site in a letter to Premier McGuinty he is facing a fine of up to $50,000.

John, the fellow sitting next to me at breakfast is a retired college professor from British Columbia and he happens to be a Mennonite. He recently returned from Gaza where he and others peacefully got in the way of clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers. That is the goal of the peacemakers, to be a non-confrontational presence in situations where violence may escalate. They figure it is Jesus' way.

The reason we have heard little in the news about the Robertsville stand-off, compared to Caledonia, is because there have been no violent incidents. The band leaders are committed to non-violent protest and the peacemakers are there to support them.

You never know who you will meet over breakfast.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Fullness of Life

When we go to the gym we begin the hour with 20 minutes on the elliptical machine. Essentially we shuffle along with arms flailing back and forth going absolutely nowhere. It is good for us of course, getting our heartrate up and burning calories. Still, we look along the row of machines and see the other lemmings earnestly labouring for fitness.

What a difference when we visited our friends last week in the "back of beyond." Each day we went out on our cross-country skis making our own trails. Same motion, different world. The sun on the snow and the long blue shadows of the trees were breath-takingly beautiful. We would stop to catch our breath at a fox den or to examine the tracery of deer tracks along the fence line. We saw the deer in the woods and a wolf on the hill beyond the fields. It stood and watched us, unconcerned, until we were quite close.

Ruth loves skiing and skating out of doors. We kept the river rink clean and while out there we saw otters and a beaver in the open water.
The gym is a necessity for fitness but time in creation reminds us of the fullness of the life God has given to all living things.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sex, Sex and More Sex

You have to admit, the title got your attention. We got away for a few days to visit long-time friends who live on the Mississippi River -- in Ontario. The not really mighty Mississippi flows into the Ottawa River and our friends have a farm on a bend of the river.

These few days were glorious winter weather with cold mornings (-26c one day) and bright sunshine. Despite the wintry feeling Spring was in both the air and the lengthening daylight hours. The chickens,which don't lay eggs in the darkest days of the season, have got back into gear. The sheep have just begun to produce lambs after messing about with the ram back at the beginning of October.

The most amazing reminder of the coming season of new life was the sight of two wolves out on the ice one morning. At 7:00 am on one of the coldest days of the winter we were voyeurs from the kitchen window as the male and female did what God created them to do, which is "go forth and multiply". Hey, if they hadn't wanted us to watch they should have gone into the woods. Our friends said that they rarely saw wolves or coyotes and this amorous display was a first for them. I walked down to the water's edge to take this photo.

We citified folk are usually disconnected from these rhythms of life, both domestic and wild. The created order is remarkable in so many ways. Thank you God.