Thursday, May 18, 2017
Never getting what we want
Everyone in the world contains certain things which make us human. We all breathe oxygen. We all have blood that circulates through our bodies. We need our hearts and and our brains to live. We generally have similar looks with some variations (no I don't mean we all look a like, but rather, I never confuse a human for a koala bear, an elephant, or a kookaburra because even with the many variations in our looks, we look like a human being). In many ways we are the same.
But we also differ. Some are short. Some are tall. Some speak English. Others speak Japanese. Some are rich. Others live in abject poverty. And we differ in our politics.
Some people want nothing to do with politics. They hate the news. They feel that nothing changes anyways so what is the difference. Oh they complain when governments make bad choices but they choose not to get involved. Others are too partisan, voting only for one party and considering those who don't to be ill informed, stupid, or worse. Some people favour big government, feeling that this ensures that everyone gets a fair shake. Others feel big government leads to wastage and mismanagement. Some people want governments not to spend too much in order that their own individual pocketbooks might not be hurt. Others don't mind paying taxes in order that there is money for roads, schools, hospitals, and social services.
I also don't think that any party is totally right. Yes I may vote a certain way, but I know that politics is a human institution and that as such wrong decisions will be made. When I vote, I know that no one party completely shares my views. On the other hand, I have to admit that no one party is completely 100% wrong. Some come close, very close indeed to being totally wrong, but my theology states that I must love my fellow human being, who like me requires some grace, who like me is far from perfect. I may not ever vote for them, but I can never say that they are wrong 100% per cent, 100% of the time.
Does this mean that we give politicians carte blanche to do whatever they want? No, we must continue to speak for good government, to express our satisfaction and dissatisfaction with things we like or dislike. We must continue to make our planet a better place. This means disagreement, debate, compromise will always be part of politics. All politicians, no matter what their stripe, can make decisions which anger us. All politicians no matter what their stripe, can make wrong decisions which might please us or anger us. But we must always strive for the good. Blessings.
at May 18, 2017 No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
New ways of communicating
This morning I saw a news story that caught my eye. Canada is 150 years old this year and they are issuing stamps to commemorate significant events in the life of our country. One of the stamps, a stamp celebrating that marriage equality was established nationwide in 2005, caught my eye. I decided I wanted such a stamp. So I asked on Facebook if any of my Canadian friends could send me such a stamps. Within an hour, three friends had responded. I have wonderful friends. I had issued a request and within an hour I had several responses. It was all that quick.
We live in an age of instant communication. Yesterday I was able to watch the tv feed from a local station in Vancouver BC as the provincial election results were coming in. Here was I, half a world a way, and I was seeing reporters in Vancouver and Victoria. This blog has many regular readers that I know from around the globe, but also reaches out regularly to strangers in places like France, Germany and Brazil. All this would not have been possible 25 years ago.
This instant communication is great on one hand. If I feel overly passionate about a subject, I can speak out about it. It gives me a platform to speak my mind. My friends, many who share my views, are able to know where I stand. They can comment or add to the discussion at hand. But sometimes strangers read my posts as well and they do not agree where I stand. Hopefully though if the dialogue remains respectfully, we will all learn something new about the topic.
But instant communication has its drawbacks. People sometimes post things which cause them grief later. Employees have been fired when the boss discovers what the employees were up to when they were supposed to be ill. Marriages have broken up when someone is caught sexting. President Trump's tweets may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but they take on a life of their own later. Instant communication is like smoke in a bottle. It is easy to release, but hard to put it back in the bottle after its been released.
It has never been easier to communicate with others than it is now. Facebook, twitter, instagram, and WhatsApp were not known at the turn of the century. Yet it is hard to imagine life without them. But we always have to be concerned about who is listening. How is our message being received? Who might the message upset? Yes we have a platform to share our message. But we must always tread carefully because when we share our stories with others, we are always treading on sacred ground. Blessings.
at May 10, 2017 No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Television is full of reality shows. My Kitchen Rules, The Block, Masterchef, the Kardashians, the Apprentice, Survivor, the Real Housewives of wherever are just a few of these shows that seem to play endlessly on tv. I admit I have watched a couple of such series in my time. I did watch the first couple series of Survivor because it was new and different then. But it became boring. I liked to watch Sell this House where a designer would come in and make an old house suitable for selling. And I like Love it or List it where a realtor and a designer would compete to get a couple to decide either to love their renovated house or move in to a new house. I have never watched a Kardashian, or a real house wife series because I don't see how watching loud bombastic people benefits me. If I want to hear such chicanery, I just need to stand in front of a pub on a Friday night near closing time.
For many people they want to escape reality. The news on tv is bad. Governments talk about short falls, blame previous governments, cut backs, and raised taxes. The media seems fixed on topics like murders, terrorism, and global warming. People talk about overcrowded roads, the high cost of housing, and strained health services. Is it any wonder we want to escape from reality?
Now I know some people feel that we should just ignore the bad news and consider the good. I went to the Wild Ideas Festival last Sunday. The topic was does the church have a future. One of the speakers used (misused) stats to say that everything was wonderful in the world and yes the church could only grow. But we know that everything is not wonderful in the world. Refugee totals are at historically high levels. 650 million people live in dire poverty. Economic inequality is growing (where the 8 richest people in the world have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion). Another speaker at the same event had nothing good to say about the church or the state of the world. For him the world was in crisis. There was no hope. According to that speaker, humanity is on the decline.
I think the answer is somewhere in between these two poles. Yes there are problems in the world. But I see hope everyday. New babies born. Birds singing. People doing selfless acts. On the other hand, many things are wonderful. But we can still do better. Some are getting left behind. There are injustices that need to be righted. This is much more real than any housewives show. Blessings.
at May 03, 2017 No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Leaving a mark
Very few of the footprints that have ever been made on the earth are permanent. I travelled to a dinosaur museum once. There they displayed about 10 sets of different footprints that they had found, footprints that had been fossilised. They told us that thousands of dinosaurs had walked in that region long ago, and since then millions of creatures had walked the same path but only these few fossilised footprints have survived. The other footprints from those countless of other creatures have disappeared.
Footprints. Most of the time, they are very temporary. I love walking on the beach and leaving my footprints in the sand. They never quite last though. The tide inevitably comes in and washes the footprints away. But for a while, people had a visible reminder that I was there. The same was true with snow. If the snow was just the right hardness, you could walk on the snow and leave your footprints. But again such footprints were temporary. The snow would melt, the wind would blow, more snow would fall and your footprints were gone. No one knew you were there.
Some people leave big footprints with their lives. I think the world was forever changed by the likes of people such as Florence Nightingale, Martin Luther King Junior, Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few. Because of their work, the world was forever changed.
Other people's footprints, like my footprints in the sand and snow are temporary. Walking through a grave yard though, I quickly come to realise that almost all of the names listed on the headstones, are names that I don't recognise. Obviously these people were loved by others. These people had touched a few lives during their time. That is why people gave them a headstone to be remembered by. But for most people who walk by, the significance of these people's lives will be lost on us. I know nothing of Alice Smith other than what it says on the tombstone. Alice Smith and her contributions have been all but lost.
I am saddened by this. For I realise that all people have made a great contribution towards life on this planet. Some like the great dinosaurs who left fossilised foot prints will be remembered. Countless others though will be forgotten after a generation or two. Yet all of them lived, worked, produced, taught, loved, fought, challenged, and changed the world in some way. Everyone's life is significant, whether they be world famous or unknown. Let us take a moment not only to listen to the stories of the important but the unimportant as well. And let us each commit ourselves to living our lives in such a way that the footprints we leave will be for the good of all whether they last or not. Blessings.
at April 25, 2017 No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
My second placement in ministry in Canada was at Hope United Church in Hope, British Columbia, a small town at the edge of the Fraser Valley just 150kms east of Vancouver. It was a beautiful town. The town was surrounded by mountains, and three rivers met near the community. For Canada, we enjoyed mild weather. You had the best of small town life, with larger communities just half an hour a way.
There was one problem with living in that community. Brian tells the story of when we first met, he asked me where I lived, and I said I lived in Hope. He went on to ask me, "Well what does one do in Hope?" We still laugh about this to this day. What does one do when you live in Hope?
But don't we all really live in hope. This past weekend we celebrated Easter, a day full of hope. Traditional theology has often held that with the death of Christ on the cross, we have been given the gift of eternal life. Each individual life has meaning. With Christ being risen from the dead, it meant that all of us are worthy of God's love- the wrongs of the past are forgiven- the world has been forever changed. Alleluia.
The world right now is in need of hope. We live in a world where we increasingly fear the other. We live in a world where some politicians are stirring up feelings of hatred to those who are not quite like us. The threat of nuclear war is in the air as one bombastic president is threatening another bombastic president. We see the devastation of climate change slowly affecting our world. We watch helplessly as the number of refugees continues to climb, yet governments are unwilling to open doors to others for fear of appearing weak. And we know that so many people live in abject poverty while the few very rich get richer and richer. Our world is in desperate need of hope.
The church's role in all this is to share the good news of the gospel. God loves each one of us because of who we are. Everyone in the world is God's children. No one is outside the realm of God's love. The church needs to denounce the campaign of fear that many of our politicians are using as election ploys. Easter happened to show that all men and women of the world might know that they are welcomed, loved, valued, and respected. And if all people felt that valued, I am sure there would be fewer wars, less injustice, less fear. Hallelujah and blessings.
at April 19, 2017 No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
A $999,996,000 mistake
Like many of you, I watched in horror as a man who legally had a ticket and legally had been allowed to board a United Airlines plane was tasered, beat up, and dragged out of a plane in Chicago. The reason given was that 4 United Airlines staff had to be in Louisville for a flight the next day. Compensation had been offered to anyone who was willing to give up their seat. When no one did, the airline checked through its records, found 4 people who had paid the lowest fares, and began removing them from the plane. The man who was beaten, was said to be belligerent when he was asked to leave the plane. It did not matter what inconvenience this being bumped caused the customers. In the airlines mind, the staff members took priority.
Right away, news reporters or detectives looked into the history of this man. He had been mixed up in a inappropriate conduct medical scheme at some point in his life. The airline took that as a sign. See we didn't harm an innocent person- this person has a past. He was a bad guy. So he didn't deserve to be treated with respect.
Now I have been bumped from a flight before. In fact my family was bumped. We voluntarily gave up our tickets and flew at a later time. We were duly compensated. It was our choice that we made. And that was fine. We used the compensation to fly out some relatives from England. It was a good choice to make.
All of the passengers on the plane were given a chance to voluntarily give up their tickets in order that the four crew members could fly to Louisville. They were given an offer of $400 and a hotel room. When no one jumped at this chance, they were given an offer of $800 and a hotel room. Still no one jumped at this chance. So all in all the airline offered about $4000 in compensation (the money and hotel room costs) for the four precious seats.
Thus the airline made the decision to remove 4 passengers who were already on the plane to make room for the crew members. Now like most people, when I get on the plane, and as long as I am not causing a disturbance, I expect that I will get from point A to point B. The beaten man probably felt the same way. But instead the police and airport security dragged him from the plane. As a paying customer the man had a right to be upset. His past history was of no importance in this case. He had on that night done nothing wrong. He had paid for his seat and had been given permission to board, only to have that right snatched away from him by the airline.
With the cost of the compensation, surely the airline could have found 4 other seats on another airline between Louisville and Chicago to get the crew members to their next assignment. Or maybe they could have adjusted the schedule so that these crew members could work a different flight and found replacement crew members to work the next day's flight. The airline could have found many other ways around this situation. Instead though, they chose to drag this man from his seat after beating him and it was all on video for the world to watch.
The videos yesterday circulated around the globe. United Airlines stock plummeted by a billion dollars yesterday. Undoubtedly this man will sue for damages costing the airline more money. The damages to the airline's reputation of being the "Friendly Skies" will be astronomical. The airline could have chosen to take a small loss because of their scheduling policies, but instead made a huge mistake which will affect them for years. It was not a wise move. Blessings.
My Lenten blessings this week
On Friday April 7th, I gave thanks for the wisdom of the Synod staff who dealt with a very touchy situation with great care and concern.
On Saturday April 8th I gave thanks for the ability to reconnect with friends from the past.
On Sunday April 9th, I gave thanks for the energy of Palm Sunday
On Monday April 10th, I gave thanks to folks generosity as we drove over about 200 kilograms of food to the Newtown Asylum Seekers Centre
On Tuesday April 11th, I gave thanks for those who entertain others.
On Wednesday April 12th, I gave thanks for a few minutes of quietness in a busy week.
at April 11, 2017 No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Ignoring the sign posts
When we are young, time seems to go ever so slowly. I remember as a child, the nine week break we got from school seemed to last forever. The end of June till the end of August seemed to take forever. Often times those days were filled with busyness. Our family would go on vacation for a couple of weeks. My birthday was right in the middle of this time. The end of July and early August meant that the local fairs and exhibitions were on. Mid August meant that it was time to go shopping for new clothes and school supplies. But those 9 weeks seemed to last forever.
Now nine weeks moves much more quickly. How many people have said to me, "I can't believe it is Easter already." Easter is a bit later than normal this year- yet people still seem surprised that it is here already. Time seemingly has moved too fast. How did time get so speedy?
Maybe this might explain. When I was growing up, each year, maybe twice in a year, we would make the 760 kilometre trip from our house to my grandmother's house. When we were little, we would look at each sign post and proclaim the distance- its now 426 kilometres, now its 388 kilometres, and so on. The signposts indicated that our journey's end was getting closer. However, in a way, it made the journey seem ever so long. We became aware of how many small bits it took to get to the final destination.
When we got older as children. we stopped looking at the sign posts between our house and grandma's house. The post at kilometer 426 was still there, but we knew that it was just one of many. We became used to what 8 to 12 hours (depending on traffic, length of gas stops, food stops, bathroom breaks) in the car felt like. The journey was still just as long but we had adjusted
I think all of us adapt to time just as we children did in the car. Even though Easter is a moveable feast, it is always between 3 and 3 and a half months after Christmas. When we are children we mark all the special days of the year as big events. In Canada, as a child, I knew that the following special days would occur: New Years Day, going back to school, Epiphany, Valentine's Day, Family Day, Shrove Tuesday, the first of March (where we wondered if spring would come in like a lion or a lamb), St. Patrick's Day and the first day of spring. We marked each sign post between New Year's and spring, and so Easter was never a surprise. As we get older though, we those little celebrations seem less significant. We have eaten many Shrove Tuesday suppers. We have gone through many St. Patrick's Day celebrations. And so because we ignore these signposts, Easter can catch us unaware. Blessings
Friday March 31st- I give thanks for ministerial colleagues
Saturday April 1st- I give thanks for April Fool's humour which brightens our news pages
Sunday April 2nd- I give thanks for the time change, which helps us to remember to be aware of our time
Monday April 3rd- I give thanks for the ability to get to know my congregation better through our pub ministtry
Tuesday April 4th- I give thanks for the work of other congregations in this area of Sydney
Wednesday April 5th- I give thanks for the seagulls and the laughter that they caused as people tried to shoo them away from their food
Thursday April 6th- I give thanks that I have been blessed to be in ministry now for one half of my life. It has been an honour and a privilege.
at April 05, 2017 No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Easy to complain
I'm guilty of it. I know many of my friends are guilty of it as well. I complain about the weather. It is either too hot, or too cold, or we have had too much rain, or not enough of it. I complain about all of the manic changes that are happening to our weather right now due to climate change. The extremes seem to be getting more and more extreme.
Yet for all of my complaining, I do not have the ability to change the weather. Yes possibly if a few hundred million people did their part to cut green house gases for a few decades, maybe the earth might be able to repair itself. But just because I complain about the heat or the rain does not mean that it will be going away anytime soon. The weather is beyond our control.
Some people enjoy complaining. I liken these people to Mamma Bear and Pappa Bear from the fairytale of Goldilocks. Either the soup is too hot or too cold and the bed is too hard or too soft. People who complain often want attention in life. Look at me I am not happy. You need to adjust to my needs. Sometimes people complain in order that things might get better. If I give my critique, then maybe thing will get better. Sometimes people complain just for the sake of complaining.
Other people don't like to complain. They don't want to make a scene. They don't want to upset others. They don't feel confident enough in themselves to express their opinions. Maybe they just find it easier to go along.
I think the best option is in the middle. I think those who complain all of the time risk being dismissed. The listener thinks "Oh that's Mr. Smith, he is never happy," rather than taking the complaint seriously. On the otherhand if one is too compliant, one might have to endure endless frustrations (someone continues to serve you brussel sprouts for instance because you have never complained about them even though you think they are disgusting). But sometimes we need to use critical thought, express areas of improvement, in order that we can move ahead and make positive strides in the world. Blessings
Thursday March 23rd I give thanks for the gift of working together. The choir I sing with persevered with a difficult piece of music.
Friday March 24th I give thanks for a quiet night at home after a busy week.
Saturday March 25th I give thanks for the gift of preparation. We readied our house for a social gathering.
Sunday March 26th I give thanks for the ability to offer hospitality to others.
Monday March 27th I give thanks for the surf and tide at a gorgeous beach on a warm autumn day.
Tuesday March 28th I give thanks for ears to listen as our church council attended a meeting where a presentation was made.
Wednesday March 29th I give thanks for community as members of our church gathered to watch a movie starring one of our congregants.
Thursday March 30th I give thanks for the gift of family. Brian's cousin died today and I remember her warm welcome that she gave me despite our differences in politics.