Monday, November 10, 2008

Latest sewing project

Yes, I've taken up the manly art of sewing... check out my latest project!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

5 Influences

So I've been tagged... and now I have to think...

#1 Pastor Randy Charlton
This guy got a youth group started in Scandia, Alberta. Without it I'm not sure what interest I might have found in the church...

#2 The Mike's I know.
These would have to me Mike Sonnenburg, and my brother Mike Bell - Bery formative in the youth group, and both instrumental in getting me to CLBI.

#3 Pastor (Now Bishop) Ron Mayan
He was the president of CLBI when I was there and it was during these years that the call to pastoral ministry was probably first really felt. Did you ever feel 'pastoral presence +10' coming off someone... this is him.

#4 Dietrich Bonnhoeffer
He's bold. He writes alot. And influences my call to be a part of building Christian Community everywhere I go.

#5 (The not yet rev.) Erik Parker
Through my pre seminary days and up till how he has been my best friend and tolerated 100's of hours of converstation and random ideas so he makes the list.

I wish there were an honorable mention category... of course... it's my blog so here I go:
Dr. Jan Boyd - Made the liturgy come alive.
Dr. Cam Harder - Makes me ask good questions.
Dr. Gordon Jensen - Confessions... enough said...
Pastor Richard Riemer - Proves that high energy lifestyle can transmit into actions and pastoral presence.
Fleming Blishen - Honest, deep, profound... a skater.
Chris Nissen - a good friend who challenges me to make sense of my faith.
Tim Wray - Whom I love and look forward to years of making up stuff together with.
Jim Appleby - He converted me to Mac - and his good nature makes me glad to be with Christ.
Jeff Decelle - I love this guys brain and organization.
M. Griener (Matt that is... who's name I've probably spelled wrong) for his honesty and principles and dedication to knowledge.
My parrents - Unconditional love and support.
Drew (little bro) - He has passion, integrity, honesty, honour... and inspiration to those looking to live the faith they profess.

And... the list goes on and on... and of course you all belong on the list but I've got to put the kids to be and I've just stolen 15 min's from my family to write this much so I won't be able to get you all on the list... but I'll conclude with a special honoroalbe mention to my wife - who shows me faith active in love and service to the community and devotion to family (as well as how to forgive a spose who is always late.)

I tag... Matt, Drew, and Lindsay. (Which means, hopefully Matt remembers he has a blog...)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Body Praxis writing assignment

How does my body enter into how I see myself as a leader in the church?

I'm the one whose body is invited into people's space.
The most festive, depressing, 
wonderful, painful, 
jubilant, vacuous 
times of peoples lives.
My body shows up.

I'm the one whose body is given the time to be available in crisis
A shoulder 
A hand
A connecting presence.
My body has time.

I'm the one whose body is used as a symbol for the mighty works of God
In Worship
In Protest
In death
And in new life.
My body is a symbol for something bigger than itself.

I'm the one whose body gives voice to the proclamation that the world needs to hear.
I voice healing
I voice comfort
I voice outrage
I voice hope
My body is the voice that proclaims Word

In ministry, my body is bigger than me and yet, it's still just me. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Winter is coming...

It's a cool and rainy day... it reminds me that winter is just around the corner. This picture is actually pretty bleak with all the colour sucked out of it, but really that was an awesome day of fun in the snow.

Maybe I am called to BC for the mild winters and long growing season...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Here is my actual Grad Year... not that bad really!


Wow... thanks to Andrew Craig for finding this site.

Check it:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where is God?

This should be a simple enough assignment... just write out where you see God...
So I got on the bike and road home and through the midst of the fall colours and all that is fall I saw... colours and fall.
In my family I saw people. In the food I ate I saw food.
Then I came back to school the next day.
I road again through the fall colours and I saw... fall colours.
I felt the cool morning air on my skin and the tingle in my arms as they got too cold.
I pulled up to the seminary and looked around. 
Bikes, Rocks, Trees, Water, Birds, Air, People, Cold, Sun Sets, Sun Rises, all of these things.

And perhaps this is the problem... God isn't a thing (or perhaps more accurately, God is all things and then some). So the problem looks as if it is me. I'm looking at things and expecting to see the whole. 
And perhaps a new set of eyes is what is required to see. 
And perhaps a new set of ears is needed to hear.
And perhaps a new tongue, nose, sensory system is what is needed to realize what is so far away (or perhaps more accurately, what is so close and and all around.)

So if the assignment was to see "God" then I have not yet done that.
Except perhaps a little.
And not in all the places outside, but inside. Not inside me, but inside the interaction of two creatures - Me and the Janitor.

He talked of oiling the Organ and I talked of enjoying my bike ride. And in a way that is beyond a concrete way of saying, there was a sense of something bigger than both of us in the mundane conversation we had. 

And perhaps this is the lesson, 
just keep looking and don't be surprised when the thing you are looking for is found in the morning conversation with janitor.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shucking the Corn

So I went for a ride in the country on the cruzbike and came across a corn stand just South of Saskatoon. I happened to have my bag with me so I stopped into buy some corn... they of course didn't take credit cards or interac so I thought I was out of luck... but then, after a 5 min conversation about the bike, the guy loaded up a dozen corn and told me to enjoy. (He also took down the web page for ... I think I need to get some commission soon!)

So... it was chemical free corn for lunch today!

When you can't think of what to blog: Blog your baby!

Well... here are some more pics of my kids... mostly the youngest one here.
She's really taking on expressions and interactions at an alarming rate... seems like only yesterday she was a newborn and now she's learning new tricks like crazy!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one about the best BBQ of the summer.

Kids show the best emotions... what a great BBQ!

Location: The Salash's.

Friday, July 25, 2008

To be the Pastor is to love them...

So, internship ended and I'm starting to draw together some ideas of what it is to be pastor. It seems that to be the pastor is to love them...

A friend is supply preaching at my internship site right away and was asking me what the process would be like. Right away I could think of who was going to pay her, who would likely welcome her, and all these faces came into my head. It was really all about relationship in the end. All about a community of people that were all so different and all so amazing and challenging in all ways.

So all these years of seminary have loaded my brain with theology and new ideas and in the end... it would seem that the biggest challenge is going to be to love the people I'm called to serve. Not just the easy ones either... all the people.

I wonder who would be at seminary if you described the calling this way... just love your people. If you have not love, all the theology in the world isn't going to help. You just make noise.

Do I have the faith in the people? Am I willing to hope with them? Can I actually love them? This is the new challenge to ponder...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one I put up to gross out Dyanna

If you thought that Dragonfly was gross, check out this couple of crazy teenagers that landed on my window in the rain just the other day. I love macro!

Location: Back of carpark - Saskatoon

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one with Dad's home made recumbent.

Well, you all had a chance to see my recumbent bike from

But I wanted to share a picture today of the bike my Dad made. I don't know if even cares about recumbents, but he has listened to me yammer on for years now, and even build this prototype trike. It started as a regular short wheel base underseat stearing recumbent, and ended as a tadpole style trike. So... it's an interesting picture, and a chance for me to show off what my Dad made. I'm so proud of him sometimes!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one with the dragonfly closeup...

I wish that I could have the same sort of wonder that kids have when they find a bug like this...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one with the swingers.

Real swingers!

I used to make fun of parents who spent so much on these play structures... but totally worth it!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one with young Matt and Erik and Lindsay and Chris

This one is a blast from the past.

Contest: Name the year of this photo.

(I know... this isn't as cute as my normal pics :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one with the Freerider

Ya know, I wanted one of these things for over 10 years and have finally got one and... I love everything about this bike.

Today's pic is a shamless plug for

Location: End of the trail Saskatoon

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one about Spiderman Elijah

Oh yes... that is the amazing spiderman... only with a little plastic hose and a dog collar instead of web slinging power. Almost just as scary really.

Face Paint: Fun Factory
Location: Saskatoon, House, Playroom.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pic from the Bell front: The one about India's intensity

Ahhh... my sweet little girl's true dark side comes out... look at the intensity in those eyes... look at the cunning... All of you who thought that she was such a sweet little girl can now see the truth of her power as she handles that duck better than any man I know could! (OK... she's a little cute too...)

Location: Kindersley Lions Park, SK.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The tragedy of the commons...

With sadness we see that the new digger toy did not last long at the park. Why God! WWWWWHHHHHHYYYYYYY!

Darn big kids.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It is finished!

One more hoop done.
The last meetings, the last reports, the last trip.
I'm sad to finish my internship, I'm going to miss the people and the community.
Although... I'm happy to being one step closer to being done this whole seminary thing.

And... I had another baby (well technically my wife did...)
And... I bought a cruzbike from

And... I need to blog more.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sandy Sermon

Matthew 7:21-29

“And great was its fall!”... So that’s it? That is the end of the parable? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Don’t all of the sunday school and campfire songs tell the story in the other direction? The house on the sandy land comes first because we are told first what we are not, we are not that fool who built on the sand. No, we talk about him first so that we can talk or sing about who we are really are last, the wise man who built his house on the rock. Morals and lessons come last in stories so that we can remember them.

But today, Jesus has told the story the other way around. Or the other way around from how we want to tell it. It must have been a mistake by Jesus, maybe he mixed it up the story. Maybe Matthew got it mixed up when he wrote it down. They can’t have possibly meant that the house built on the sand is the most important part of the story, could they? (Intro Stolen from Erik Parker)


This reminds me of a story I heard from a Tipi salesman once. That’s sort of a strange way to start a story... I’ll try again...

Sandy Marshal is the owner and founder of arrow tipi. He has, a real passion for tipis, and one evening he explained the whole tipi buisness, industrial cutting and sewing tools. It’s hard work.

Sandy Marshal uses only the best materials: 10.10oz Flame Retardant, Mildew Resistant, Water Proofed, Marine Boatshrunk. Sunforger FR 100% Cotton Army Duck canvas. It weighs 13 oz. per yard. Takes at least 2 strong people to lift it when its folded... you’re better with 4 people.

Sandy Marshal works with his son to do the difficult work of marking, cutting, stitching, storing, marketing, and delivering his Tipis all over Western Canada and to the world. You will have seen Sandy Marshal’s place if you’ve been on Highway 6 in BC. It can be seen from the "big bridge" just south of Burton BC - RIght on the Columbian river. Look for the Tipi, you can’t miss it.

The Tipi you see from the highway is the test tipi. It’s up all spring, summer and fall to see how it reacts to sun and wind. All those tipi poles in a permanent circle, pegged down with Sandy’s patented ‘widget’ system... basically a big chunk of rebar bent in a certain way... those poles are solid. When the river swells, they go out and take down canvas, and leave the poles... the ground floods, the winter snow comes and goes, and then Sandy puts the canvas back up... Sandy believes his tipis are indestructible.

Which of course they aren’t... Nothing is truly indestructible...
One of the most disappointing things about visiting world monuments is that they really aren’t as old as they claim to be... Traveling in Germany we would see many buildings which claimed to be 800 years old but really... they'd been burnt down twice or taken down and repaired. Even our most sturdy buildings don’t last.

And we want to think that we are built on the rocks. We want to read Jesus story as a good piece of advice. Like Sharon and Otto’s driveway... the advice is build on the rocks... be wise and safe where you build... make sure you can get out when the summer floods come. It’s good advice.

But it’s not the main point.

Sandy Marshal firmly believed his tipis were fool proof till the day he sold two tipis to some Lutherans. Not just any Lutherans... Southern Sask. Prairie Lutherans. Lutherans who wanted tipi’s for Camp Mutakos. Lutherans, who did in fact read the rules of site selection...
Ground should be level and flat.
No problem there... it’s Southern Saskatchewan.
Grass mowed.
It hardly grows! No problem...
Ground should drain well.
Drain? The ground absorbs every last drop it can get.
4. Safe from falling objects and overhead wires.
5. Secure from vandals and theft.
6. Appropriate distance to firewood, sanitary facilities.
Emergency access.
The ground should allow secure pegging.

Big bold letters on the instructions... protected from the wind. Only a true native of Southern Saskatchewan would stand outside in a gale force wind and say... well... it’s a bit breezy.

And when all the warning signs were there.
As Sandy Marshall got out of his truck to deliver the Tipis he couldn’t believe the site they had chosen... his first instinct was to get back in the truck and turn around and drive away... but he’d come all this way... and this sale was important to him... he said “I was young... I wouldn’t do that again.”
As the wind blew Sandy’s long hair all over the place he was greeted by people who reacted to his concerns with comments of “It’s not that windy... we can do this.” In fact... for Southern Saskatchewan it really wasn’t that windy... and so... two majestic 27 foot tipis were put up... you could see them for miles... it was a thing of beauty.

And it was only a few short months later that Sandy Marshall heard the news. Both Tipis had blown over... well... one blew over. The other one actually took flight and I’m sure the distance gets bigger every time the story is told... but this tipi, poles and canvas and all, 100’s of pounds of 100% cotton army duck and 27 ft poles... actually took flight... flew way up in the air like some sort of majestic prairie albatross, and dove into the ground over 100 feet away. Thank God no one was inside or anywhere near.


The expert in tipis, allowed something to overrule his judgement, and mighty was the fall of the tipi.

The Lutherans, in their excitement to do something amazing, overlooked safety and caution, they made unwise choices.

Disasters, accidents, nice tries, death... it’s all around us. The funerals keep coming, the accidents on the highways keep happening, nothing stays the same.

This has been an amazing discovery for me... nothing stays the same. We all have a story, we all grew up in an environment that is so different from what we are living today. We’ve all made choices - we’ve all been swept along by life - and now we are here, here in this moment. Some things are just how we would like them, other things are gnawing at us, making us wish that we could be in a different situation. Some of us see that change is coming, and some of us don’t want to look at what might happen as the planet heats up, as political tensions rise in all areas of the globe. All of life is built on this shifting sand. As the wind blows, things fall down.

And for all our frantic building on the sand, for all the working and trying to be the wise one who builds on the rocks, we watch with fear the rising gas prices. Many of us build stronger doors and get alarm systems installed in our houses. We cling to inflated housing values, we watch the markets for signs of recession, we worry about our relationships to one another, and what they might really mean. It all points to the same thing... we know that most of our lives are built on the sand. Buildings will fall, money will come and go, lives will begin and end.


But to live life is to venture out onto the sand - the sand is where life is lived. In no way are we called to hunker down - in no way are we called to live lives that look out for our own needs first.

In every way we are called to join God in the work of loving and blessing the world. We are called to care for creation. Care for our neighbors. Reach out to a world that is hurting. Reach out with the things that have first been given to us.

It’s a paradox - wisdom tells us to look for the rock - the solid foundation to build security on. But all our best efforts turn to sand.

And right here, as sand people that are living in shaky structures, that God, and Christ Crucified, and the wind of the Spirit break into our lives. God declares that we are beloved - through our baptism, through the bread and the wine we will share at communion. Through being the church together - through being a part of the body of Christ... the ongoing blessing of God to the world.

And all these things are signs that we are all members of the church - members of this firm foundation that is not based on our ability to make a building, or find ways to first perfect our lives... it is based on God who is always coming to us, the people of the sand. We are members because Christ has called us to faith. Faith in the body of Christ - the firm rock where hope can be placed.

The hope that is in Christ and his church outlasts life and death, it outlasts housing booms and financial crisis, it outlasts all the ways that we organize ourselves politically and religiously and socially... it gives comfort when the whole world seems to be going crazy.

And best of all... it’s gift. It’s grace that is given to the people of the sand - the people sitting in the midst of tumbled down sand castles. Grace, forgiveness, love... it all comes down to God telling us who we are.

Today, to each of you, I name you rock. Chosen by God - declared to be beloved - made a part of the rock that is Christ's body. And on these rocks Christ is continuing to build a church.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Story of Stuff

I wonder what would happen if we all started thinking of the cost of the things we buy not in terms of money, but in terms of what people had to go through to get it to us?

This is a way to start thinking of it...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost Day A May 11, 2008

Sermon - Pentecost Day A May 11, 2008

In 1996 I was called to work as a camp Counsellor at Camp Kinasao. Literally, the phone rang... they wanted me to work. I was attending bible school at the time when the call came. The director of the camp had called the President of the seminary and said they needed people to work... Were there any students he could suggest? The president met me moments later on the stairs and brought me to his office, we made the call, I talked to the camp director... a few minutes on the phone and an application was faxed to me. I filled out the application and faxed it back 30 min later. Then I waited... It seemed like a long time? How long do you wait for a job application? You don’t want to seem to eager but at the same time I needed to know. I must have waited 2 hours I was so excited to know what the next step was in the process... what do I need to do next?

So I called... and the director said: you have it. You are a fit for the need we have - your position is waiting for you.

There is nothing like the excitement of getting the perfect summer job - getting that perfect position that is far better than you could have hoped for. To me, it was like getting a job doing the thing that I probably would have done for free.

Fast forward to today:

Welcome to Confirmation Sunday.

Confirmation is Graduation to the church.

Now note... I said graduation to the church and not graduation from the church. This day is just the beginning. Confirmation is so much more than one day. Confirmation is so much more than getting all dressed up and getting it just right for this one day. Confirmation is the beginning of a whole new relationship to the church and the beginning of a life time walk with God.


My position as Camp Counsellor had a two week training period at the beginning of it. Canoes, safety, lost camper drills, leadership of chapel, leadership of campfire, leadership of the challenge course, leadership of bible study and learning all the wide games they play at camp.

Staff training is two whirlwind weeks of training to do the job that you have already been hired to do. This is a leap of faith for the camp. They hire you... offer you a position... guarantee you a job and then... hopefully, by the end of the training you are ready to be turned loose on the world. Turned loose for the job that you have already been hired to do.

Today, families, friends, we are at the end of staff training. And this goes for all of us. Specifically, those being confirmed are honored today but really... we’re all living in the same world. We are all in relationship to the same one God. We are all part of the same camp - called life.

Confirmation is Graduation to the church.

Today we gather to celebrate the public proclamation of these young people Today they name there desire to be a part of God’s ongoing gift to the world. The gift of the church.

Today we honor the work that these confirmands have done. Meeting after meeting we have gathered with them to work towards this day. This is the day where they publicly say yes to the reality of God’s activity in their lives. Publicly they say yes that they are ready to get on board with this thing called church - with this group of people who form the church.

Today we celebrate that 2000 years ago... on this day of Pentecost... the Holy Spirit came to the people. The birth of a new way of God speaking in the world. Of God acting in the world.

And this brings me to my favorite part. The story goes that the Spirit descends like tongues of fire and all the disciples started speaking in foreign languages - all people gathered could understand them. All people heard the Gospel - the Good news that Christ had died, Christ had risen, and Christ would come again. What a powerful way to say that this message is for all people. All people hear it in there own language.

But this isn’t my favorite part, my favorite part is where it says “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

They are filled with new wine. It’s like saying “You’d have to be drunk to come up with this. You’d have to be drunk to believe this. You’d have to be crazy to think that there is a God active in the world around us.

But I have seen God:
That summer at camp and through other summers at different camps, I have seen God reach our through the camp staff to children that are hurting. Children that are bullied at home and school, children who had been raped, children who carry so much pressure in their lives that I don’t now how they get up in the morning - I have seen them open up and lay the pain down. I have seen the camp community reach out and support them in those moments of emotional crisis... where it all comes pouring out, and I’ve seen the church follow up to protect and help them as they return to there lives - The Holy Spirit is at work in the midst of the pain life.

I have seen God: In confirmation students. In the little “aha” moments found in the middle of discussion. As different parts of the nature and character of God are explored. I am excited to hear the stories of where they go, what they do - to see where they work. They are part of the church now... how will God use them in the future?

I have seen God: In the work of this church - in the support that exists through the pastor and council and the many ways that the community - the people on board with church reach out to help those who need it - HAGUE:The distribution of the Delores Rudolph estate to purchase defibrillators in Hague and Hepburn, donations made to Sunshine Housing, The Zone, The Canadian Deaf Blind Rubella Association, donations made to Global Hunger Development, to the missionary serving in Peru, to our sister Synod in Argentina.
Rosthern: Visiting those who are sick and lonely, bringing food to those who have just had a baby or to those who have just lost a loved one, driving those who can't to appointments, offering hospitality

And so the world continues to turn. And I don’t doubt that we in the church get it wrong sometimes. I don’t doubt that we just don’t get it sometimes.

The Disciples give us a great example of people not getting it. Let’s look at their record. All through the Gospel of John they don’t get it. The need to have things explained to them. They are told that Jesus is going to die. They are told that Jesus is going to be resurrected and that this must happen. They are told to have faith.

Then they are in the Garden of Gethermene. Jesus is arrested and they ALL scatter. Peter denies Christ three times - can’t even admit to a child that he knows this Jesus. Some of the disciples head out of town. ALL of them are running scared. None of them get it.

And then Jesus acts with a Word: Jesus speaks Peace be with you. Jesus says Peace be with you to the disciples who “didn’t get it.” To the disciples that fled and scattered and had no faith. Jesus shows the wounds - and he’s not mad at them... he’s not vengeful for them abandoning him. Peace be with you he says a second time. And then he breathes on them the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is not simply saying peace be you... Jesus is making Peace into a reality through the gift of the Spirit.

The same Spirit that comes at Pentecost.

The same Spirit which reminds us of the promises Jesus made to never abandon us, to always be with us, to be joined with us in life, in pain, in death, and resurrection and beyond.

Everyone is broken... everyone needs to mend broken relationships with others and with God...

Everyone needs the church...

Everyone needs the support of a community at times...

Everyone needs forgiveness - the power to mend the broken relationships around them - and to move forward into new life and new possibilities.


Today is Pentecost Sunday where we celebrate the gift of the church and the coming of the Spirit.

Today,... ... peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven, you can forgive others, scars and all, God is offering peace.

Today it is confirmed - God is active in the world.

Today we are all graduated into the future... it is The Spirit that graduates us into being the church.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The numbers are in...

I love spread sheets. Here is something ridiculous about my internship:

21842 KM's travelled on internship
$9719.69 paid in mileage
$9000 paid in wages.

And now... all I need is one of those cheesy "Priceless" lines...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Garden is begun

Carrots are in... Potatoes are in... 1 Cucumber is in.

I'm finding that I think a little too outside the box for most people in the gardening world. People don't like my arcing row of carrots and propensity to ignore the spacing of vegetable instructions. I've even been told that you can't grow watermelon here... well... they are probably right but this will be more fun.

I've got Raspberries, Sunflowers, and (soon) Zucchini in the back, and Carrots, Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Strawberries, Lettuce, beans and 1 Cucumber in the main yard. We're also going to try a pumpkin in the large black container.

I'm gardening for style points... now we wait to see if anything grows...


nothing yet...


still noth...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sermon - Easter 7A - May 4, 2008

Before I start, I want to say that I don't know why this sermon worked. I wrote it through a haze of sickness last week and yet, it seems to have inspired people to give me more feedback than any other sermon... if you can guess why I would love to know.

Look at your hands.

Take a good long long look at your hands.

What do you see? Little scars, smooth areas, rough areas.

What story do these hands tell? Where have these hands been?

Make a small group... between 2 and 5 people.

I want you to share the most charitable thing that your hands have ever done.???

Eg: In Madagascar we were visiting a neighborhood in a village where there was an organization working with the community on sanitation issues. They had limited access to sewer and... ... ...

I hate long goodbyes...
In fact, when I’m getting dropped off at the airport now to go on a trip, I prefer if the people dropping me off just leave me on the curb. Drive up, unload the bags, a few final words, and then get on with it. There is just that awkward half hour if everyone comes inside. You’ve said the goodbye, you know that at any moment the flight will be called, and there is really nothing else to say. All people involved want to get on with the grieving of begin apart and, that half hour of small talk you have to make - asking about the coffee, looking at the magazine racks... and yet... there is a part that wants it to last as long as possible. To delay the inevitable parting what when that flight number is called.
I hate long goodbyes...

Well there is the hand again... hands are good at this... waving goodbye. They can be used to hold on - to give that last goodbye embrace, and then to let go - to wave.

Tomorrow is the Sunday where the church celebrates the ascension. Luke tells us in Acts what those final few moments are like and, with 2000 years of Christian tradition we celebrate tomorrow as the symbolic day of the year that Christ ascended into heaven - and it all seems to be very good news.

I wonder if we aren’t making this a little happier than it was for those first disciples... I see this ascension event as incredibly stressful.

To understand what is happening you need to see the feelings that are involved. Imagine that someone very dear to you has died. Imagine the funeral home, the meetings with all the different family members, the grave side. Imagine the pain of the hushed conversations at the lunch following the funeral. You have to live for three days of loneliness without this person - thinking that they are gone forever. Then, on the three days after the funeral you awake to see what can only be a vision. Your loved one has returned - has returned and has good news to share. And shortly, just a few short days after this miracle, you are sitting and having coffee. You loved one rises and walks out of the room.... you follow and you walk to a hill. And then, with some parting words of comfort, your love one leaves again..

Ascension is being left behind.

In one moment Jesus was walking into Jerusalem, the King of Kings, on top of the world. Within the next few days the world is turned upside down. He goes from high to low. From place of reverence, to place of whipping boy. He is hung out on a cross to die, his body left cold in a tomb. The disciples are devastated. Then Jesus re-appears three days later - There is much celebration... and now we come to this moment. This moment on the hill, this moment of parting words of comfort, Jesus saying good bye. Jesus ascending into heaven... and now, forever mixed with the Joy of Easter resurrection, is the lonliness of the reality that Jesus has to leave again.

Ascension is loneliness.

Loneliness is one of the greatest sorrows we experience in life, and all of us have experienced loneliness. We can handle much physical suffering. We can handle much emotional suffering. But loneliness in its barren solitude rips out the floorboards. We stand in a cold draft with no one to surround us with warmth, left suspended with no one to share the pain.

But now the promises come:

Because Ascension is a sending out -
I can just imagine what it was like to see all those people staring up at the sky - and then the angel gets the best line “PEOPLE! why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

I wonder what there hands looked like - reaching in a longing way? Hung low in astonishment? Perhaps making checklists of what now needs to be done. New information has come to light and perhaps they all had to reach for their black berries and palm pilots and start work... There was work to be done.

Ascension is vocation:
So let’s take a look at these hands. Are they starting something new? For many, this time of year marks a change. Change from university to a summer job - might mean getting your hands dirty. Change to the new chores that spring is bringing - might mean your hands are going to finally keep warm outside. Seeds are planted - dusty hands, gardens and lawns are being watered - wet muddy hands assisting in God’s ongoing rejuvenation of life.

Today we remember the prayer that Jesus said “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

So look at your hands. We talked earlier about some of the amazing things that these hands have done. Look at these hands. These hands are part of the mystery of God becoming human.

And more than that, these are the hands that the Spirit uses to accomplish the work of God in the world. Jesus makes the promise to not leave us alone - and we aren’t alone. Christ in the promised Holy Spirit has come, and God’s is at work to love and bless the whole world. These hands - Your hands, are the hands of God in the world.

In a world filled with loneliness and change, look at your hands, these are the hands of God in the world. These are the hands of the people whom Jesus promised to never leave. These are the hands that reach out into the world. Hands that God uses to heal, Hands that God uses to plant seeds of new life. Hands that God uses to restore creation.

And... hands are used to bless. Place your hands on your head. Press them in and hear the words that Jesus, is praying.

“Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” Amen.

And now, may God inspire us to use our hands to be about the Spirits work - so that all our hands can make more stories of God’s work - just like the stories we told. May we use these hands to love, to bless, and bring wholeness to all of creation. Amen.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sermon - 6th Sunday Easter April 27 - 2008

Sermon - 6th Sunday Easter April 27 - 2008
Today we are talking a lot about love, and to love someone is to know them. To know someone is not a series of facts about them, it's intimacy. In the movie the Moulin Rouge, in an attempt to court the cortisone, Ewan McGregors character (the young bohemian lover)uses many lines to get his passion and love across.
“Love is a many splendored thing, Love lifts us up where we belong, All you need is Love. I was made for loving you baby... This powerfully points to the desire to know the other. To know in a God type way – is to know with a deep sense of intimacy – beyond physical, emotional or spiritual of anything any of us has yet experienced with other humans. In fact, it’s a one sided love that depends nothing on the other reciprocating the love.
Perhaps this is where God and Ewan McGregor are different. Both are passionate, but Ewan, like all humans, requires love to be reciprocated to keep feeling it. Ewan, like all humans, can be made to give up when to much betrayal or dishonesty enters a relationship.
Thank God that God’s love does not require such reciprocation and that, as Jesus shows us in the resurrection - God is not about to give up.
God comes to Adopt us - Alone, broken, hurting, hurtful and ... deep down... At the root - God knows that to know and be known is something that we long for.
There was once an intern who was serving a rural two point parish, just north of Saskatoon SK. In the first of the two points, the intern read a poem about ecology and how the whole world is connected through the water cycle, and how God calls us to be in good relationship with the earth. It was an exciting poem that gave hope that God would be with the people in the hard times, and was calling the people to work with God in the care and help with restoration of the earth. The intern had a large green bucket on a table, and there were cloths to symbolize the different parts of the poem. It was well done.
The intern then went to the second point in the parish and set up his large green bucket at the front. He called some of the kids forward and a flock of 2 to 5 year olds came forward to see the bucket. And as the intern recited the poem... the young children grew restless, they started to squirm around. And the intern, trapped behind the large bucket, could only watch in horror as his own 2 and a half year old daughter bumped into the large Christ Candle at the front of the church. In slow motion terror the intern watched as the candle hit the steps - the candle went out, and the wax splashed up onto the chancel carpet - two pieces of Christ Candle lay on the floor only loosely connected by the wick.
I’m sure it says somewhere in the church constitution that ‘thou shalt not knock over and break the lit Christ candle during church’. There was a collective gasp, and then a sigh of relief when it was revealed that no one was hurt.
Sensing the tension, the interns daughter ran to her embarrassed mother sitting in the front row - repeatedly saying “Sorry mama sorry mama sorry...”
I am thankful that my daughter... I mean... that interns daughter could run to her mother and know that forgiveness was coming - even though in that moment she was terrified and scared about what might happen next... and the temptation might have been to run the other way, but she ran into her embarrassed mother’s arms.
This is the very same trust that we are called to. The faith like a child, to believe that even when we break the Christ candle, or perhaps we have made the choices that might seem to make us unworthy of God’s love, we can still trust that God will receive us, we will not be turned away. God’s love is not waiting for us - it is always coming.
It was actually my wife that found todays Gospel - the good news for today. Right there in the middle of the reading “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” She said “This speaks to a core fear we all have. It speaks to the deepest fear we have as humans - to not be chosen - to be left alone. It speaks to fear that someone we love will turn us away.”
God is the one who promises to never leave us. God is the one who promises that he is coming. God is the one who promises to send us an advocate to be with us till that time when we are fully united.
The natural outcome of loving God is to live and learn in all that Jesus commands. This is what happens when someone is saturated with the Love of God - it pours out onto others. There is no path to the love of God through fearfully trying to earn the love - this is to try to take the love and posses it. No the love of God is coming - like getting caught out in the rain, it’s not hard to get wet.
So today we hear a great promise. A promise that addresses our loneliness - we are not alone. A promise that addresses our need to know we are cared for. God will not leave us orphaned.
Out of this, the burden of loving the world is made light - the challenge to learn Jesus commandments and to love God becomes possible.
And we can apply all this trust to God’s mission to love and bless the world.
Henri Nouwen writes:
A Christian community is a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings and occasions for a new vision. Sharing weakness becomes a reminder to one and all of the coming strength.
May it be so with us. In our worst moments, God is reaching down and signing the adoption papers.
In our wounds and pains, God is informing us of who we are - the adoption papers are already signed.
We are the children of the God that makes promises to come to us, to walk with us, and to stick with us... even when we knock over the Christ Candle.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Easter 4 Sermon

Based on John 10:1-10

I once knew this couple from Vancouver that were thinking of getting married. They were young and, as they were getting ready to taketh plunge they had some hesitation.. actually... they had a massive amount of hesitation. You... when they sat down to think about... when they sat down and counted it turned out that they had 14 parents all counted up. This is his and hers, biological and step parents. 14 people have in different ways played the role of Mom and Dad. This couple was so in love and in so many ways didn’t want to hurt each other that they were wondering what to do next... should they take this step of marriage? There are so many voices calling them in different directions and they had seen such pain in so many lives that well... the path of marriage was one that didn’t seem to hold out too much hope for them. They didn’t know which voices to listen to.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was on clear voice that came and made all things clear at times like this? That maybe, some of these decisions could be made for us?

Well, this is the theme today. Shepherds. Shepherds in 3 acts. Act 1: Shepherds in psalms. Act 2: Cows of the Maasai Mara. Act 3: The gospel according to shepherd imagery.

We begin with Act 1: Psalm 23.
“Lo thou I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death!”

Psalm 23... do you think we have it memorized? It is the most popular psalm and even people who aren’t Jewish or Christian have heard this one.

I don’t like that painful part about the darkest valley. I don’t like the dark valley part at all because I really like that part about the still waters, green pastures. To have a shepherd leading to all the good stuff is fun to think about. I can remember many camping trips with the sun beating down, then fresh air sweeping off valleys full of flowers and life and joy and all the wonderful memories of camping. But really I think that I would rather go around those dark valleys. Avoid that swampy place where the odor is foul, the air is cold, and there is a sense of doom and foreboding. Isn’t there another way around? Couldn’t we short cut this valley part our? Isn’t there a shepherd that will take us to the good parts and avoid the hard parts altogether?

Unfortunately, this psalm is rooted in reality. There is a reality that life can be so good and so sweet, but then there is the other reality. Best summed up in a quote from the movie the Princess Bride:

“Life is pain your highness... anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.”

You can’t live too long in this world and not understand a little of what this means. People will always try to sell you something that promises to take all your problems away. More to the point, people will try to sell you a set of beliefs that promise to take away all your pain.

It’s the TV evangelist that promises you marital bliss and infinite wealth if you just pay him a little money, maybe... maybe just buy his book. Just do this, just do that... and you’ll never need to enter the dark valley again. We’ve all heard the sales pitch coming from someone trying to get you to join a group - “If you just live like me, believe like me, be like me, pray like me... you won’t have any more problems.” It’s the same sales pitch offered by the recent book “The Secret”, where a system is outlined that promises a great life if you just think the right thoughts. Just put out the right energy to the universe and the universe will give it right back back to you.”

I feel bad for people who believe this because when that bad thing happens, when you didn’t have a positive thought, or when the sickness comes anyway, or the accident happens, the blame falls on your shoulders. When life is good, you’re riding high... but life won’t always be good.

These ideas are trying to sell you something... and the psalm isn’t buying it. These idea’s are trying to sell you something, but they ignore that the son of God who did things perfectly... ended up suffering, and dying.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil.

Your rod and your staff... they comfort me.

Well, now we have two sides here. On one hand, the beautiful parts of the psalm that offers peace and comfort and protection. And the in the other hand we have “Life is pain.” - and even the psalmist agrees that there are going to be dark valleys to walk through. We won’t walk it alone, but we will walk it.

We live in both worlds. We life in the world that hopes for peace and comfort and life abundantly forever, and we also live in the world where bad things happen to good people.

This is an uncomfortable paradox to live with.

This brings us to Act 2 - Cows

Right now, it is early early morning in Kenya. The sun is thinking about rising on the Maasai mara... the plains of Western Kenya are beginning to warm up. The Maasai people are beginning their day. Water is being carried, food is being prepared. Fires are being stirred. And the Maasai Men and Boys - they’re leading their cows out of the village to start a day of grazing and drinking - these are the activities of daily life on the Maasai Mara.

And tonight, after spending the day grazing, the cows are all brought into the village.
The village is made up of several different family groups, and it’s boundaries are clearly marked by the high wall of thorny branches that have been collected and piled up to surround the village. The village is made up of low roofed mud huts. The grass is cut low in and around the village so that snakes and other predators won’t be able to approach without some warning. This is good practice in a place where the cats are big enough to eat you, the odd elephant might want to come charging through your hut, or perhaps a snake could get a little closer than you would like.

My friend Salash grew up there. Living on the plains in a traditional village and moving his cows around from place to place during the day, and then bringing them into the village for the night. Our lesson speaks of a Rod and Staff to guide the sheep. The Rod was basically a thick stick to beat of the predators, and the staff was the long hooked stick that was used to guide the sheep. Salash used these... (show maccete and club)

When you live this close to your cows they know you, and you know them. With a minimal amount of marking, each family knows which cows they own, and the cows spend the day eating and walking beside their shepherds.

Salash got the imagery from the bible right away as I was talking to him about todays sermon. As Jesus spoke of being the gate, of calling to the sheep and the sheep knowing Jesus voice. To Salash, it was almost like I was describing his home.

Tonight, all the cows of the families will led into the middle of the village, penned in safe together. On a rotating shift, the Maasai take turns being the gate. The opening to the village is guarded through the long night by a rotating shift of Maasai Warriors. You do not get through without being known. They are the gate.

And in the morning, it all starts again. Each family calls for their cows and they separate themselves out and then they head out for the day. These cows know who they belong to, they know the voice that is calling to them and they follow. They follow and trust that they will be lead to places of good food and clean water.

The Maasai people... they are good shepherds. The cows know them. The cows know to follow them when they call. The cows are safe at night, protected by a living gate. The cows are lead out into the world to get food. They trust the one they know to be their Shepherd.

And this brings us to Act 3: The Gospel according to Shepherd Imagery.

I was told this week that in a congregation of 100 people, 15 people will likely have some sort of depression. That is... in this building. If we found 100 of or friends and neighbors and gathered around... 15 of us would have some sort of depression.

It’s a sobering number to say the least. It’s one that I have a hard time believing so I’ve asked many people this week and to my surprise, a lot of people thought the number should be higher... And that is just one of the many problems that face us all each week.

And we can’t escape it anywhere... even right now in this building. In this place of comfort and rest that the good shepherd has brought us to. Here in the body of Christ we have the reality of psalm 23’s whole emotional gambit - pleasant songs and good friends and family gathered. We have each heard the voice of the shepherd and gathered into this safe place... but it seems that the noise of the world, all the things that might distract us from the shepherds voice, all the hurts and pains that we endure, have followed us... right into the heart of worship here.

And you only get to stay here for an hour. The world is out there waiting for us... nothing has changed out their in this hour that we are together.

But I believe... that we are changed in this hour.

We gather and today hear and remember what the Good Shepherd has said while Jesus walked with us and talked with us in the past.

We have examined the psalm of the good shepherd who’s Rod and Staff will comfort and guide us. In many and different ways the Christ is calling us to live new lives in service to the Gospel and to others.

I have told you the story of the good Maasai shepherds who’s machete and Orinka will comfort and guide you as you are lead into the safety of the village, and out into the world to gather food and water as you grow and learn. Jesus is the good Maasai Warrior who is the gate that keeps us safe. Jesus is the good Maasai Cow Herder who leads us out into the dangerous and difficult world.

It is true that life is pain, that many voices distract us, and thieves come to steal and destroy. But it is even more true that Jesus, the good shepherd has come to lead us in life... lead us to a relationship of trust and discipleship as we go out from this place today not only to live, but to live life abundantly.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Post 50... just a video I ripped off the web...

Well... here we are at post 50. Didn't see it coming... didn't think to do something extra special... just a video of Madagascar that my friend Cory made... he's the one in the picture about the Christian that the Devil warned you about in post 49...

Isle de Madagascar on

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Flickr uploader works

...and here is the picture of Cory to prove it!

OK iphoto fans: HERE IT IS!

Once again, sitting in a historic Norwegian mission house, Cory was the most interesting thing around to take pictures of...

Monday, March 24, 2008

OHS Alert

Maybe it's the back ground in nursing where we spend a LOT of time talking about self care... and back care especially.

So, Easter Sunday, lots of families, lots of extra people, and I noticed my horrible body posture for giving communion.

As the faithful are comfortably kneeling down on the step, I'm bent over trying to pour wine from a chalice into little mini communion cups.

This is where the years of video games come in handy as this is a feat of hand eye coordination. Each cup is held at approx. my knee or waist height, and they are all held at varying levels of stability. Some are firmly held in a two hand grasp, some are tenuously held in one hand - slowly moving back and forth. And some cups are appear as if they are being held by a drunken sailor on a small boat in a large maelstrom.

All this activity is happening when I notice that by back is curved forward as far as it goes and is getting sore.

Well, I'll send an email to the Bishop and see if the Occupational and Health Department can look into this...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A week...

A surprise funeral meant that I needed to teach confirmation while Lynn did here prep tuesday. I also had a rehersal for a good friday monolouge that we are doing thie Friday.
Wednesday was 12 hours again running around picking up some things for the church in Saskatoon, and then off to do a service at the Mennonite Nursing home in Rosthern followed by more practice last night.
Then today is Maundy Thursday service in Rosthern plus I need a sermon for Sunday so I'll work on that this morning, take the afternoon off, and then head in for the service tonight.
Friday is just the Monologues in the evening so I'll finish the sermon tomorrow morning. What started as some readings has turned into a mini community theater project so it's good.
Saturday I'm working Home Care for the day and the evening off.
Sunday Easter.
Monday is the 7th day... and I'll rest.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Madagascar - A participants perspective in Journal, Story, and Reflection.

This was written for the "Sheeves" seminary newsletter.

Reflection: Leaving my family for three weeks is not typically seen as a good idea. There is a slight resentment for having to take this trip... What I mean to say is, I've travelled. I've seen poor people... OK wait... attitude check... refocus... start again.
What an amazing opportunity to see a different part of the world! What a way to development my understanding of globalization! What a way to strengthen my family by bringing new insights and opportunities from my independent travel!
Visiting Madagascar is like visiting another planet. Just when you think you've seen it all, you know it all, you have less to learn than before - a whole new world opens up before you.

Journal Entry: Jan. 4th - 10:23pm Madagascar time. Hour 31 of travel.
A late take off from Paris means a late landing. Will be landing at 0005. Then we buy Visa's, then we get to sleep... hopefully. (What I didn't know was that the bus was going to break down 6 times on the way to the hotel and we wouldn't be sleeping till 0400)
The "3D" view on the little TV now shows the island of Madagascar is below us... It's now time to wait to begin the experience of meeting a thousand people for the first and likely last time. It is mid-afternoon at home so I haven't really slept well for 32 hours. The plane is descending, and the real advernture begins now.
MOOD: Flat
Energy: Tired.

Reflection: It turns out that what I thought from my other travels was South American architecture is really just the way that a city looks when it's poor. Concrete walls, unfinished buildings, glass shards stuck on top of fences for defense. The hotels we are stay in are more that adaquate, the food is different but very tasty (if you don't mind food with a face... it's like eathing very close to the food chain... and it's not uncommon to see live animals coming to the rear of the kitchen.) It all happened quick now. The days are packed with meetings of missionaries and directors and Pastors and... growing inside me... is the dream that this missionary life might be a possibility. I've spent many hours in meetings about 'development' and 'social justice' and have even been involved in some projects... but it was always so distant... and now with the pace of this study tour, with the intentional work that is put in to have us meet and hear presentations by people actually doing missionary and development work, there is a great shift in my brain. Switchs are being turned. Wheels are starting to rotate. Dreams that could be realities are starting to form. Until you see it actually working, it's just a nice theory at a nice meeting with nice people.

Journal Entry: Jan 6th 3:30AM
- Hotel Bathroom - Aaron sleeping - Why am I suddenly wide awake...?
I have no tears for the children of Madagascar. Leaving each of my kids and wife, those last hugs and kisses, resulted in an unstoppable flow of tears for each of them - emotions that shook me and left me drained. The prospect of these 23 days away left me sobbing.
Now it is 3:30am, just 3 days later, and I have no tears for the children of Madagascar.
As Diana, Amber, and I walked, we were followed by a young boy - probably 8-13 years old. Dutifully, we we were told, we each said "no" firmly once, and then ignored him. I saw pain on Diana's and Amber's faces as the boy moved in front of them and continued to plead in words we couldn't understand. I wondered if there was pain in my face but I don't think that there was...
The young boy continued to follow us as we joined another group that was going to see some famous monument. I started to drop to drop back from the group. Flemming could not follow the policy of ingnoring and so the boy was focussing his energy on him. It's killing Flemming to not be able to help this boy...
Here I took time to to reflect on money. My camera is about $500. On an island were most people make less than a dollar a day, this means it would take 500 days wage to buy this item...
What do I feel (Tom Powells CPE kicking in... he'd be so happy that I can identify emotions instead of thoughts)...
Awkward... Uncomfortable... Poweless...Afraid... Annoyed... Torn...
I feel HELPLESS because meaningful change seems impossible - I can't fix this.
MOOD - Flat

Reflection: What does is look like when a Canadian Mining Company drops $150,000,000 into a small coastal village in Madagascar? It looks like SUV's beside Ox and cart. Like dirt roads that merge onto freeways. Like a new high school for foreign workers children only. Like massive increase in Aids. Like job opportunities never before seen. Like the cost of living tripling in a year. Like getting paid out three years wage but being told that you are not allowed to fish where you have fished for 80 years.
QMM (The Quebec Mining company doing the word) has a beautiful and air conditioned public relations visitor centre in Fort Dauphin. It is here that we were told about how wonderful the Titanium mining will be for the economic growth of the area. It is here that we hear that it is safe for people, the environment, and the continuing prosperity of all for the world to embrace this project.
This is the quandary of international travel and interaction. To walk well fed and wealthy amongst the hungry and the poor. To be part of a system of countries that produce international companies that bring resource, wealth, and the poor into conflict and the debate takes on new urgency when you've seen it in the first person. There is no clear answers here... only more questions.

Story: Psalm 2, Transfiguration, and Bazaha Seminary
January 12th/2008. Travel from Tulear to Bazaha Seminary
I awoke to my alarm clock just as the sun was beginning to fully light up the sky. I crawled out of bed at the Hotel Victory in Tulear. Tulear is a town on the South West coast of Madagascar... the morning temperature is 30 degrees celcius, and the humidity felt that it must be near 100% again. It’s another day on the coast of Madagascar.

And this is the day that we, the participants of the seminaries cross cultural trip, are going to visit the Lutheran seminary in Bezaha. And so we board a bus that looks like it belongs in every movie about Africa you’ve ever seen. It’s rugged and steal with small patches of rust... the large industrial tires are low on tread, the seats are well worn and the door is held shut by a rope that is tied off to the metal poles that hold the interior of the bus together. It’s like a school bus on steroids. It starts with a roar and plume of smoke that does little to inspire confidence.

It’s a 3 and a half hour drive. The first 45 min go by uneventfully when suddenly we slow and turn off the highway onto a dirt road. As we start this new leg of the journey we marvel that the driver can tell where to go... and marvel still further that the word road is applied to the dirt path we are now following. It winds through the red sand and low brush, often splitting around deep ruts or large puddles, only to again join itself a few hundred meters further on. It’s like everyone gets to make there own road.

As we approach 11 am, the temperature has climbed to 40 (47 in the sun), the windows are wide open and I’ve already drank 2 liters of water but I am still thirsty. It’s a long, bumpy, ride punctuated with constant acceleration and deceleration as the driver skillfully guides this bus across the land.

It is with fatigued minds and dusty eyes that we catch first sight of the community.

President Ogilvie - our guide and president of the the seminary in Saskatoon is returning home. He used to live in this community. He was the president of this seminary in Bezaha - he is looking around... and he is worried.

The river has adjusted it’s course and there is no longer water in the rice fields which are dry barren beds... He says that the people are looking to thin. There has been famine in this area before... and these look to be lean times.

Driving through the dusty streets we finally come to the seminary itself. It is two long low buildings, made of concrete with a centre square... and as we pull up in the square... as we get off the bus and the sun beats down... the singing beginnings.

Singing in Madagascar is different than here. There is a certain... volume... an exuberance that can’t be matched by Canadian voices. And the harmonies are many and spontaneous... always there is singing in harmony.

With mounting excitement we are ushered through the singing crowd of brightly dressed seminarians and take out seats in the chapel. A worship service begins.

It’s all in Malagasy so I don’t catch the words exactly... but it’s based on the Liturgical history that we all share. They have a liturgy that is based closely on what the Norwegian missionaries brought them in the 1890’s so the feeling and flow... the images... and even some of the tunes are familiar. In this moment... we have transcended cultural difference and have become one in worship. It’s a thin space moment where the presence of God is very much felt as we are warmly embraced by our African Lutheran Brothers and Sisters.

Here is a place that I would want to build a tent and live. Despite the 47 degree heat and the shortage of food in the back of my mind... this moment is one that I would love to preserve.

This is what Psalm 2 is about! Powerfully feeling God so close. Confidently singing praise to God - no doubt - no worries - deeply confident that God is who we always hoped God would be.

And then... the announcements... there are always announcements at Malagasy services... there are no bulletins so sometimes there there are 10 mins of announcements... and other times there are an hour of announcements. Today is 10 mins and speeches of welcome and then it is our turn to give something.

We are the first group of seminarians to ever visit the Bezaha seminary. Madagascar is out of the way in terms of international flights so they don’t get many visitors - and for us to stop, to take the time to show up and receive there amazing hospitality was a gift that we mutually shared.

But we also brought some cash. My church and several others in Saskachewan were approached by some of the seminarians on the trip for a one time donation of funds to start a ‘perpetual food fund’. Colectively the students raised $2000 which the Bezaha seminary will use to buy a stockpile of food during the harvest season when it is cheap... before it’s all sold and shipped off creating shortage. So in the off season when the price can triple of quadruple, the seminary will sell to the students at the low price and replenish the $2000, while giving a good bargain to the students. It’s a gift that perpetually keeps on giving.

There was deep joy in the meeting. So far apart in the world and so different in language in culture and yet, we were connected in Christ. There was laughter and happiness and a deep experience of the Joy of Christ between us.

But the reality of life was starting to sink in too.

After lunch and some discussion, our time quickly came to an end. They had work and studies, we had a 3 and a half hour bus ride to get back to the city. They had to prepare for class and prepare to be future leaders of the church, and we all have our part as well. Our royal moment of transfiguration had passed.

We were Christ to them in visiting and in gifts we brought from Canada, they were Christ to us in hospitality and experiencing worship with us. Christ was present in our humanity.

It would be a book to write all the thoughts, feelings, stories and reflections that were had in Madagascar. I wish I could write that book. It will take a years to unpack some of the meaning and to understand what has changed in myself. I hope that my perception is right in thinking that they (the people of Madagascar that were so generous to us) are changed too in meeting us, in knowing that someone out there knows about them and cares enough to come and visit.

And this realization of the importance of showing up is the real thing for me. I had a hard time justifying this trip in my head. It's a long way to go and I didn't know and had a hard time seeing what the benefit would be. But if you always think in terms of inputs and outputs you'll miss the magic moments of life, where you show up tired and dusty at a seminary in Southern Madagascar - and you receive hospitality like never before - and give gifts that others cannot fathom. It's like driving an hour to visit a friend or a sick parishioner when you could have phoned or just sent cash. It is in the meeting and the handshakes and the hugs and in the dancing that meaningful interaction occurs, and lives are changed forever.

Sean Bell - LTS Student.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Glory glory glory blah blah blah...

So I ran into some amazing Theology of Glory yesterday. I couldn't believe I was in a conversation with someone so clearly articulating the concept that IF YOU pray/believe/forgive THEN GOD will give you money, power, fame, sunshine etc...

You hear this theology a bit in different people longing for a good parking spot or praying for a sunny day at the beach... but there something profoundly scary about the way it was presented. After 10 mins of being talked at (and I do mean talked at... I don't think that he heard a thing that I said) I walked away with a sense that if anything bad happened the rest of the day, this man would blame my lack of prayer/belief/forgiveness and it would really be all my fault.

So... I'm sad that he's the new pastor in town because I think that he's going to be that guy that comes in with energy - attracts the energy of the community to him, and then the whole thing blows up in a judgemental mess that leaves everyone wounded and worse off than before. Then he'll leave and go do it somewhere else.

((sigh)) at least I have this picture of kids making fun of a pastor preaching...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Still running

Well... I'm not Forrest Gump but I run... I'm not smart about wearing warm clothes or anything like that but I do run.

I'm also feeling extra pastoral. There was a person that I meant to talk to for a long time and have been avoiding it because of how awkward it is to start a conversation sometimes but then I did and he talked too and then it seems like hey.. maybe there is something to this whole pastor game...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The runner

I am runner!
Tis time... I’m 3 years past the end of the 5 year plan to get into shape. I’m not even making promises to me anymore. But I did run today.
I’m officially a runner. I ran. I run.
It felt... ,,, pathetic.
At first I wrote painful but that isn’t true. I’m following the couch potato to 5km in 8weeks plan. This is to say... I feel like I should be able to do so much more... 60 sec’s running, 90 sec’s walking.
A forced slow start... my first goal is to not hurt myself for the first 10 weeks. By hurt I mean injure by going to hard so... a slow start.
I’ll keep ya posted

Friday, March 07, 2008


It's the spousal units B-day so I'm up and out of the bed with the kids and it's all good.

Little miss wants to have a shower so we go in the bathroom and little man stays out to watch TV.

I finish up Little miss' shower and then walk back into the living room to see young man with the happiest smile. Happy and a little mischievous...

In his left hand, an entire block of marble cheese.

In his right hand, the cheese slicer.

Man... that little man loves cheese.

Thursday, March 06, 2008



I have been tagged by the Cowboy Seminarian Erik Parker;

Here are the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
(I skipped rule 5... no time to tag others.)

Anne Lamott "Plan B; Further thoughts on faith.

"When the problem with your kid starts up, you're really beginning at fifty-nine, but you're not moving. You're at high idle already, yet not aware of how vulnerable and disrespected you already feel. It's you child's bedtime and all you want is for him to go to sleep so you like down and stare at the TV - and it starts up."


I was so excited last night to find a Taize song that fit reading we were doing that I totally forgot to give the people the 5 mins of silence. The whole point of the service for most people is that 5 mins of collective silence and I just skipped it. I didn't notice till well later but it was too late to go back.

Then, Pastor Lynn didn't include the Lord's Prayer... another oversight.

Then the service ended and I say down. 3 min's past and nobody moved and I realized that we were in liturgical deadlock. The people didn't know it was over because they didn't have an order of service, they didn't have the silence, and they didn't say the Lord's Prayer. So... I left.

I thought that this would cue them to the fact that the service was over. Nope... 4 more mins past till the first person got up to leave...

So... in the end... they got the silence but I'll never forget the silence part again.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Taize is hard...

Taize music is hard. Normally when I play guitar it's for a hymn, a liturgy, or a praise and worship song. In these cases the people have the music and for the most part will be fine if you give them the first note and guide them along.

In Taize it's different. First, your going for a meditative feel - so you can put the pick away for most songs, and forget about the power chords or strong hits... it is all about mood. Second, I'm teaching the songs by simply singing them. This means I have to come in strong and clear and confident, and then maintain that till the people catch on to what is being sung. There is no real relaxing.

All and all, it's good. If you can get to Taize in France I recommend it (theoretically... I hear it's awesome). If you can't, look up your local Roman Catholic retreat centre or something on those lines and you'll find it.

It's good to be stretched as a musician.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

First Methadone Experience

So I had my first Methadone experience today.

I was visiting a group home for the acquired brain injury people and according to the chart, I had 3 pills and 4.5ml's of Methadone to give.

As I approached I was greeted with mono-sylabic grunts of the resident who showed me inside. He retrieved the locked box from the back room and brought it to me. We sat down on the couch and I fiddled with the lock on the box - the key was attached to the chart that I had.

I opened the box, found the pills and handed them over. As soon as I handed the pills over, he reached out and grabbed the Methadone and washed the pills down. Before I could say anything he drank the whole bottle... just chugged it all down... then he showed me to the door.

AAAGGH! My brain cried... I don't think that I handled that well.

I drove a block a way and called my supervisor only to find out that it's all good... the bottle is dosed and he's supposed to take the whole bottle. Man, what a relief. I don't know what that would mean to down a whole bottle but... we're all in the clear.

It's been a crazy couple days...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Darwin Awards

So I missed my shot at fame and fortune the other day by not running myself over with the car.

I was doing taxes on my brother in-law's computer and when I rushed out the house and jumped into the car I found that it would not start. Didn’t even turn over. All the lights were on but nothing was firing.

This is not new for my car. All summer long when the temperature climbed above 25 a similar thing would happen so I was not shocked or dismayed, but this was the first time in months that this had happened - and I was in a hurry too. I popped the hood and then reached into the glove box for the little red wire that I use to hot wire the car.

I quickly got in front of the car and lifted the hood. I could see the two points that I needed to connect (the red battery post, and the exposed connection point just before the starter). With my objective in easy reach, I balanced the hood open with my head and pushed the wire onto the two points of contact.

Here is note for you mechanics... I imagine you thought that the system was 'fool' proof when you made it so the car wouldn't start while it was in drive. Well... this fool just found a way around your little 'safety' device.

With a satisfying roar, the starter turned over and the engine came to life... then the car bumped into me. As I was pushed back, the hood slammed shut and the car kept on coming. I was reminded of the old “Herby the love bug” movies and wondered briefly if my carr was trying to communicate with me... perhaps some loving message of ‘let’s go, we’re in a hurry’. But as I leaped to the side and the car started to pass me - I could see that his more like a Stephen King novel than a Disney.

I dodged around the door and leapt into the driver side as the high idle of the car continued to propel the car forward towards the parked car innocently sitting ahead. I applied the brakes and awarded myself the medal of Bravery for saving that other parked car, my car, and myself. It was a good thing I was there... someone could have got hurt.

Taxes are dangerous...

I thought that perhaps I was the biggest idiot in the world for this, and then I talked to my Sister in-law who works on the Ortho-Trauma unit at the hospital. Turns out lots of people have run themselves over in the past. In fact, they once had a room of 4 people who had all run themselves over so... I guess this doesn’t even get me into the honorable mention category for the Darwin’s...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Next Stop, Antarctica.

I love this photo for the lines and have entered it in an art display at the seminary... I just like it...

I miss my hair...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

We're off on an African Adventure

Last day before the trip...
24 hours from now I'll be almost in Winnipeg for our first stop. I wish that it was more like the amazing race that seems so exciting, and less like reality which seems like the kink in my neck is only going to get worse while we do some waiting.

The goodnews for me is that for some strange reason I actually like the process of waiting and be shifted around international airports. I like that feeling of being so exhausted I can hardly lift my eyes to look at how weary all the other people around me are. So... the best part for me is likely the worst part for others... maybe I could borrow some Ativan or something...

The good news is that there seems to be lots of internet companies in Madagascar so I'm guessing that cafes that provide this will be plentiful. I'm hoping to send 'youtubes' from madagascar as well as upload to flickr when possible.

My Flikr address is:
This is a picture anyway... just search for mailseanbell on flickr and it should should up.

As always I finish now thinking that I should say something profound which I haven't really thought of but it's time to get packing and if I don't just start typing then I'll never put anything out... so... talk to yall on the youtube.


We're off on an African Adventure

Last day before the trip...
24 hours from now I'll be almost in Winnipeg for our first stop. I wish that it was more like the amazing race that seems so exciting, and less like reality which seems like the kink in my neck is only going to get worse while we do some waiting.

The goodnews for me is that for some strange reason I actually like the process of waiting and be shifted around international airports. I like that feeling of being so exhausted I can hardly lift my eyes to look at how weary all the other people around me are. So... the best part for me is likely the worst part for others... maybe I could borrow some Ativan or something...

The good news is that there seems to be lots of internet companies in Madagascar so I'm guessing that cafe's that provide this will be plentiful. I'm hoping to send 'youtubes' from madagascar as well as upload to flickr when possible.

My Flikr address is:
This is a picture anyway... just search for mailseanbell on flickr and it should should up.

As always I finish now thinking that I should say something profound which I haven't really thought of but it's time to get packing and if I don't just start typing then I'll never put anything out... so... talk to yall on the youtube.