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...