Friday, August 31, 2007


While we were travelling this summer we listened to a number of episodes of the CBC radio drama Afghanada. It is well done and thought-provoking. It happened that we heard one installment just as we were arriving in Ottawa where we visited the Canadian War Museum which opened last year.

Ruth was a little dubious about going but it is an excellent museum and we both felt we learned a great deal. Currently there is an exhibition on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. It doesn't try to promote or justify our involvement. It does tell the story of what happens there. There is a poignant slide show featuring some of those who died with photographs from childhood through proms to their time of deployment. I can't imagine anyone not being moved.

We are also given the grim facts on malnutrition and illiteracy and poverty in Afghanistan. According the the UN half of the population gets less than 2400 calories a day, considered the minimum for health. Infant mortality is high. The stats also point out that 8 million people voted in the last election, including millions of women. Children are now getting an education and food is being delivered to areas of extreme poverty.

What should we think? Incessant war is the reason for much of this suffering, so why would more war be a solution? Yet the election wouldn't have taken place without the NATO presence.

These issues are seldom simple and we all want our troops to come home to safety. So we keep praying for peace.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Walking With Whales

I wish I could claim that this is one of our photos of beluga whales. We saw belugas twice during our vacation, including a wonderful encounter while camping on the north shore of the Saguenay Fjord in Quebec. Ruth did manage to get some pictures but neither of us is a wildlife photographer.
For some reason a pod of belugas spends the summer at a spot called Baie Marguerite, about 30 kilometres inland from the St. Lawrence. People come in large numbers to this provincial park to see them. The day we arrived we dutifully walked the 3 kilometre trail to the observation deck where a hundred or more were gathered to watch for the belugas. A park naturalist was there at the appointed hour and I'm not sure what we all expected. Maybe we figured that she would shake a bowl of whale chow and they would come a swimmin". No belugas. Everyone went away disappointed.
The next morning we walked out by ourselves just for the solitude and the view. We were the only people there except for another naturalist with a spotting scope. There were at least two dozen belugas! We realized that the tide was running out and that a point of sand was being exposed immediately adjacent to where the whales were swimming. We made our way out onto this spit and actually walked and trotted alongside the belugas which were perhaps 40 metres from us. We could see the unique shapes of their heads and make out the much darker young ones close beside their parents. It was probably 45 minutes before other humans began to arrive, so for a few magical moments we enjoyed "walking with whales" all to ourselves.
I am aware of the marvellous gifts of the Creator in moments such as this. It reminded me of the importance of spending time out of doors as often as possible in order to be connected with the God who brings all things into being. I'm always interested to hear of your creation and Creator encounters.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Kill

After nearly 50 years Stephen Truscott has been acquitted of a murder he did not commit. As a fourteen year old he was the youngest Canadian to be sentenced to "hang by the neck until dead" a graphic and grisly description of the form of execution to be meted out. Fortunately the death sentence was commuted and now he has been exonerated.

I don't believe in the death penalty for many reasons. There are miscarriages of justice which cannot be righted when the wronged persons are dead. But even when the perpetrators of the crimes have been fairly brought to justice the state should not be a murderer. I worked as a chaplain in Kingston Penitentary during my seminary days and I saw that some of those who committed heinous crimes came to the place of penitence for their wrongdoing.

Executing them might have brought some satisfaction for a few, yet capital punishment would not have brought back the dead victims, it would have removed the opportunity for repentance, and it would have made our society harsher. The United States is the only Western country which maintains the death penalty but there is little evidence there that capital punishment acts as a deterrent.

I have a button somewhere which asks "Why kill people for killing people to prove that killing people is wrong?" One of the Ten Commandments instructs us not to kill. This question and this commandment still make sense to me as a Christian.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Was It Really Three Weeks?

Cap Trinite Quebec
I came back to three weeks worth of email this morning. While my vacation time went quickly the correspondence proves I was away for a while.

I also checked my blog to refresh my memory on where I left off. I was pleased to see that there were several responses during my absence. A couple more individuals have joined the ranks of Blogger so that the responses can be direct rather than through email.

I have been thinking that I should figure out how to make my blog entries a little more "interaction friendly." I enjoy reading your comments and musings.

I will apologize in advance for the next few blog entries which will likely have a "what I did with my summer vacation" flavour. We had a great time in the Saguenay region of Quebec and in the Killarney area of Northern Ontario.

We are blessed to live in such a beautiful country and now you're going to hear about it!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Making the World a Better Place

I will be gone for a bit as we come and go on vacation. Thanks for reading during these summer days.
I thought I would conclude with a "feel good" story. Actually it is bad news/good news. The almost incessant bad news is about spoiled and cheating athletes. Steroids, blood doping, dog fighting. What ever happened to honesty and fair play?
The good news? Two guys, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, were just inducted into the baseball hall of fame and they were two of the best. Ripken holds the record with well over 2000 consecutive games played and Gwynn won eight batting titles. They were "lunch pail" stars and while they were certainly well compensated for playing a game, their quiet commitment and discipline was and is much admired. In his acceptance speech Ripken offered:
I know some fans have looked at the streak as a special accomplishment, and while I appreciate that, I always looked at it as just showing up for work every day. As I look out on this audience I see thousands of people who do the same, teachers, police officers, mothers, fathers, business people and many others. You all may not receive the accolades that I have throughout my career, so I'd like to take the time out to salute all of you for showing up, working hard and making the world a better place. Thank you all.
The emphasis in the text is mine. It would be wonderful if we had a steady succession of spiritual "highs" -- our version of the hall of fame -- but for the most part the life of faith is the discipline of showing up, working hard, and making the world a better place.
If we are willing to be disciples, Christ will take of the rest. Shalom.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Global Justice

You have probably figured out that my brain works in its own mysterious way. I was thinking last night about the recall of Elmo and Dora the Explorer toys by Fisher Price. They are painted in China and may pose a health hazard to children. As do bogus toothpaste and pet food. So we start to worry about the avalanche of consumer goods from China which fill our North American store shelves.

Eighteen years ago our concern was very different. Western governments were figuring out how to respond to human rights issues in China. A protest against government oppression led to public demonstrations in Tianammen Square in Beijing. It's estimated that 200-400 students were killed, maybe more.

We will always remember the young man who stood in front of a line of tanks. It was everyman confronting military might. At least I hope we will remember. Human rights violations continue in China. Executions are commonplace. Some of our imported goods are produced in situations of slave or child labour. While there is much greater religious freedom, there are still restrictions.

I pray that we will have the courage to challenge injustice, not just take the toys and run.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

God's Phone Number

On Sunday there were a dozen kids in church --fourteen if you take into account the two in the womb. It wasn't bad for a summer worship service and most of them came forward for the children's time.

I was trying to explain how Jesus is with us even though he is not physically present. Tough one. A little girl who can be a handful at times (all kids can be) was, as usual, right "on message" to use a popular phrase. She told me about her bear book and how it says that we can be alive in one another's hearts. She even illustrated with her own hands over her heart. I've noticed that she almost always understands what I am trying to convey and offers her own insight and commentary. Why not?

In Tuesday's Globe and Mail the Essay was by a father whose daughter asked "Daddy, what is God's phone number? Cute? Yes, and an important theological question. How do we communicate with a God who can easily be perceived as distant, yet is loving and personal?

The essay writer offered this observation:

Listening to children's demands is a special talent. Their spontaneous, innocent and thought-provoking questions are nothing short of miracles. They challenge you from all fronts. They demand forthrightness and honesty; they possess no political malice; and they tolerate little ambiguity.


The True Secret

A number of people have asked my about the book called The Secret and the film based on its premise. Have I heard about it or read the book? I saw it at the library the other day so I signed it out.

According to the author the Great Secret of Life is the law of attraction: "The law of attraction says like attracts like, so when you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you. " She goes on to offer that "your thoughts become things."

Would anyone argue with the idea that in life it helps to be positive, hopeful people? We really don't enjoy being around the Eyores of the world. Surely we "get it," though, that one of the reasons that the planet is in a mess is because we are so enamoured of "things." This book tells us that our thoughts will attract material wealth and while this is not the only promise it is a prominent one.

This is not Jesus' secret. Jesus promised abundant life but not material prosperity. In fact, while he didn't say that wealth is wrong, he did warn us to be wary of its effects. He cautioned that money can become our god, the lens through which we see the world, and that distorted image can change us for the worse. Some of the most positive people I have met don't have much in the bank. Some of the kindest and most open folk I have encountered live in countries where there is little evidence of Canadian-style affluence.

The apostle Paul also wrote of a secret: "in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Phil. 4:12

Inner peace and contentment in all circumstances. This is a powerful message that doesn't have to be a secret.