Archive for May, 2012

Well it would appear that summer has come upon us here in the country. Driving around a semi-backroad into the first nations reserve to get to church, what do I come across, but a large female moose.

It was my first time seeing a moose up close. She was about 10 feet from the car before she galloped off into the cemetery. It was a little scary, but she was majestic. I can’t get over the size, at first I thought someone had lost their horse.

As I got up closer I could see that this was indeed not a horse, but at almost 7 feet tall, she was a moose weighing in at close to 800 lbs. She moved quite quickly off of the road and into the cemetery. I was close enough, about 5 feet away from her and I saw her face. She looked, well terrified, lost as she galloped around the headstones.

I wonder where she was going, if she was lost, what she thought about the changing environment, less wilderness and more construction. It was also kind of funny, to see this wild animal full of life running through the cemetery which is usually a place of death. It’s also strange, I saw a large male moose, around 1500 lbs on my first Sunday service here, and then on my last Sunday service I saw a large female moose.

The only two moose I have seen so far. I wonder what that represents?

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The Patchwork Quilt/ Walking Through the Graveyard

As we sit in worship today it the the day of Pentecost. This is a bit of a two part sermon. As it is also my finale Sunday with you. We’ve journeyed together for this last year.  I will never forget my time here with the Tabusintac Pastoral charge and I am forever changed, this time has become part of my journey on the road of life. The Hebrew Bible lesson and Gospel readings reflect the journey we make as Christian people.     Ezekiel has been an important text for many in the world, from the North American slaves, to refugees from war. In our own community, the words of lament can echo forth.

In the 21st century, we are not so removed from exile. There are millions in the world in exile because of war, life, as they had known it has changed. Millions who are exiled from food, clothing shelter. In our own community, we have people amongst us who are spiritually exiled, no longer able to connect to God. We still have others estranged from family, divorced from social groups. Our bones are dry, thirsting for the living water, panting for breath. There are many crying out for help. In Ezekiel, it says: “And you shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves . . . I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil. . . .” Can we return from spiritual exile and live again? Can we know that even at times when we may feel dead that God sees life?

In the acts of the apostles we are given the story of Pentecost. Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit desended onto the Disciples, filling them with the Holy Spirit. Allowing them to experience the world in a new way, including talking in tongues and other acts of the spirit.  From that moment onward the disciples were forever changed, they had an experience with the Holy. There are many times in our scripture when we see what can happen after an experience with the Holy. Lives are changed, and in some cases people are given new life, such is the case of Lazarus when Jesus called out to Lazarus at the tomb, telling him to come out. Lazarus came back from the dead.

Commercials often play off the theme of coming back to life. There is a commercial on TV I have seen over the last week for an energy drink. The opening scene shows a guy with no energy, who worked hard, tired to the bone, but once someone hands him a can of red bull, he jumps back to life, recharged, the end of the commercial says “Feel Alive”. The advertisers lead us to believe that just one can of energy soda can bring us back to living a fulfilling physical life. The marketing scheme appeals to some to buy the soda. Is it too hard for us to believe the words of Ezekiel? That God will breathe spirit into the spiritually dead. That we will come back alive.

Jack was in his late thirties when he first heard the dreaded word “cancer” in reference to his health problem. He was doing well in his job, head of his department at work. He was married with three children, the oldest twelve and the youngest seven. He had worked hard all his life, to be successful; he had been involved with the church, leading the board of stewards, fundraising to help with renovations. He had been a faithful Christian, a loving father and husband, a hard worker. His voice called out to God, “why did you do this to me?”

Months after the initial diagnoses, things did not look well for Jack, the oncologist estimated Jack had at the most a few years before he would die. Anger bubbled up inside, and Jack became one of the living dead. He left the church, and stated he did not want anything to do with a God who would allow this to happen to him. His body was failing him and he believed God had left him for dead.

Jack was living in the valley of dry bones that Ezekiel describes. His cancer treatments were aggressive, his cancer never gone into remission. Although family surrounded him, he felt alone, lifeless.

It is a little ironic that at the time we need God most it is when we cannot reach out, instead we find it hard to be in worship. We find it hard to be in community. It is hard to give praise when we are feeling despair.

Ezekiel was a prophet living among the exiles in Babylon. There had been much fighting between the religious factions with in the middle east world, which eventually led to the Judean people being exiled from their homeland, exiled from Jerusalem They had lost their heritage and after a century and a half, had lost many of their people, as the Judean tribes began to dissolve. Their key symbols of the Judean religion had been lost, their temple destroyed, many of their people dead and the Holy Land of Jerusalem was lost.

In many ways, their spirit was destroyed and they were in a crisis of faith. The Judean people were beginning to doubt God, as to why God would allow such a thing to happen to them. We hear the lament and pain in the words of the people in verse 11 “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely”. They are an empty people, who thought of themselves like a living dead. They could see no end to their situation and God was non-existent to them.

Everything that had made them a unique people was slowly becoming nonexistent. Their temple had been destroyed, their old way of life with it. There was no end in sight and no hope. When God asks Ezekiel “Mortal can these bones live?”, he can barely answer yes. God orders Ezekiel to view the situation in a new light, and to have hoped that situation would change. Ezekiel was given a hard task: to get the people to listen to him, and to once again have hope and to follow God. This was an impossible task.

No group of people could be expected to survive the exile without losing some of their roots. God did resurrect this people, bring them back into their land, and bring them back to live. God did it through nothing but a vision. God spoke “13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act”

Things were still not easy once the exiles were back in Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s task was not finished, with many of the Judeans born while in exile. They needed to start fresh and learning from those who had known the old Judean ways. Many of the Judeans had never seen the Holy Land or known the temple.

With the initial push from God, positive things began to happen. Discussion was occurring and debate between the people and Ezekiel. So involved was everyone in their new life that they failed to notice the critical thing: they had all accepted that things were going to happen. Vision had become expectation. Hope had become anticipation. The unimaginable had been imagined the people were once again able to live; they were no longer piles of dry bones. They were able to take action and work towards their future as a faithful people.

Through the Judean people, we are shown how history is made how people can once again begin to life. By having hope, their despair was overcome and replaced by a new vision. The Judeans went home to Jerusalem, the temple was rebuilt. The empire of Babylon eventually fell and the people were once again fully alive. It took time but eventually God’s promise of filling the bones with spirit happened. Once again, God was doing the impossible. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was power and promise for their journey into the unknown.

You may want to know about Jack, it has been closer to 16 years since his initial diagnoses. He has never been given a clean bill of health, some days are better than others are. He has outlived his initial timeline. A few years ago when he was in the worst of his illness and feeling that he no longer had the power to fight, he received a little angel in the mail. There was no note, no return address, and he never found out who sent. It was just a knitted angel with the words that someone was thinking of him and God was there. He said at the point he received that gift, was the lowest point in his life. From then on marked a change in Jack. Although he has never received a cure, he still has the will to continue on fighting his bones are strong. He can realize the support that exists around him. He is alive and his bones no longer dry.

God is at work in our lives today. There are still people within and around us that experience unprecedented levels of spiritual hunger and restlessness. It is the job of Christians to act like Ezekiel in supporting others, and to act like Lazarus’ community work as a church in uplifting each other. So that we no longer dry bones, but spiritually fed individuals. Like Lazarus and the community we are instructed to “Unbind and let go”. We need to be able to let go of the past in order to live a new life.

I have seen God at work in this community, through how each Church community can come together when need be and great things can happen. Here in Tabusintac, after the death of a wonderful lady, men and women came together worked for many hours to make sure the bathrooms were working and the hall was ready to honour her life the next day. I’ve learned a lot during my time here. Out of death, defeat and despair God gives us new life. Through the resurrection, we are given new hope, and new life. We need to strive to hold onto this throughout the year. So that we do not become merely dry bones. I don’t think there are dry bones here. I leave here to go on another part in my life, but I leave knowing I experienced God here. I’ve gotten to take part in the quilting group in Tabusintac. The ladies meet twice a month, and they had taken me into their group and showed  me how to quilt and offered me friendship. In a quiet way they offer support to those in the community undergoing cancer treatments as they put many hours into putting together quilts for those people.

But can these bones live? It is not an easy task to leave a church, or in this case three churches. I’m not a fan of saying good-bye, although I’ve had to say it many times in my life and I expect having many more Good-bye’s in my future. It’s not an easy task. I expect some of our paths may cross again, but some of you I may never see again. We never know on what paths our lives may take us.

As I’ve been reflecting both on the readings for this week, and my time here with the Tabusintac Pastoral charge, I’ve realized that I have been changed by my time here. You’ve taken in a new graduate with slightly dry bones from the years of schooling you’ve offered to me the living water through Christian caring.

As I have learned to quilt I realize that life is like a patchwork quilt. Throughout our lives we pick up little pieces of fabric and our lives are like that of a patchwork quilt. Everything in our lives, all the seasons, all the experiences, all the people, are different patches in our quilt. It’s a lifetime process the making of this quilt, and each experience we have helps us piece together another small piece of the quilt. It takes a lot of time and care to put together our quilt, and sometimes we have to rip out stitches, but when we come to the end of our days we are left with our patchwork quilt  of life. I’ve thought about the many experiences that I’ve had here, and I’ve come to realize that you’ve given me a lot of patches to put on my quilt, and when the different patch work of my life comes together, it actually makes a beautiful quilt of many colors and many textures. There is still a lot of work to be done, and I’m not sure what the finished pattern will look like, but know that you have added to my patchwork quilt of life. There have been tears, frustrations, but also times of friendship of learning, of experiencing the spirit of God. Thoughout my life I will think back on what it took to make each patch, the strength, the talent, the tears and the love. A beautiful quilt does not just happen. It takes planning and purpose. Time and love. It is my hope that during my time here, I’ve also helped you to put together some of the patchwork quilt of your life. As an unknown author once said: “ Our lives are like quilts – bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love”

Travelers Rest

By Ann Tatlock

Published by Baker Publishing Group 2012

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What would you do if in a split second your life was changed forever? The person you loved forever changed and no longer the man you used to know?

Could you handle the situation of your once fiance going to war a healthy man and returning a quadripoligic? Would you turn away? Would you stay by? Those are some of the questions that the main character Jane has to face when the love of her life returns from war a wounded soldier.

“New Contemporary Novel from an Award-Winning Author Jane Morrow has a dilemma. She”s engaged to Seth Ballantine, a member of the National Guard”s 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and he”s returned from Iraq severely wounded. Jane hasn”t seen him for nearly a year, and with trepidation, she heads to the VA hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where he is being treated. Seth isn”t happy to see her. He”d asked her not to come. He wants to end the relationship. But Jane loves him, and despite his injury, she”s determined to convince him that they can have a life together. Her faith has never been strong, yet she hopes God will answer her prayers and tell her what to do. Beautifully written, Travelers Rest takes readers on a journey through pain and tragedy to a place of hope and redemption.”

Travelers Rest is the 9th book for author Ann Tatlock, and it contains twists and unexpected surprises. It is also a story of coming to faith, learning how sometimes there are things out of our control.

Tatlock writes in a clear manner and has well developed characters. The faith journey does not overwhelm the main storyline but works to move the story along and help the reader to question what would they do in a similar situation. It shows the real struggle that occurs in real life. Tatlock doesn’t hide the heartache or pain of the characters. I would put this on a summer reading list and I hope in the future to read more of Tatlock’s novels.

 

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.
 

“Let Us Die”

Posted on May 24, 2012 by revnick

I can’t imagine there are any other words that could be more heart breaking to Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, than “Let us die.”

Especially when it’s coming from a church!

Yup, you read that right. Members of a church actually said, “Let us die!”

The question becomes, how did this happen? I am totally disheartened by this attitude coming from churches. While others may not have said it outright, there are certainly a good number of them living this way.

Yes, we do have too many churches. But some of these churches which wish to be left to die are actually churches in areas where there is a huge opportunity to share the Gospel message. One church in particular is in a residential neighbourhood, absolutely full of small families and they are the only protestant church in the area. And they are more than satisfied with continuing with nothing more than Sunday morning services presided over by a part-time aging retired minister.

Heart… breaking…

No wonder people don’t want to have any kind of connection to the church if this is the public message we are giving.

When did we lose our passion? Why? How? What took it away?

I can’t believe I serve in a denomination where churches wish to die when so many people in our communities are looking for hope, joy, love, peace… the things that our great and wonderful Father, our God in heaven, is just waiting to pour out for all who come to know him.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do…”

Let’s bring it back!

Let’s bring Christ back into our churches and have the Spirit move us to serve faithfully, sacrificially, with our whole being so the world may once again know how great is our God!

http://maritimers.ca/2012/05/let-us-die/

 

New Lord’s Prayer

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized
Our Jesus,
Who are an activist,
How could you be a carpenter?
Thy Kingdom is Queer Positive
Thou are only a human on Earth as you art in heaven.
Give us your trippy Transfiguration
Forgive us for being judgemental
As we comfort others who are vulnerable.
Let us not to hate
But teach us to love
For thou are a xenophile
All poor and displaced, forever inclusive,
Forever we love you.
Amen.

 

http://marconfon.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/international-day-against-homophobia-and-transphobia/

Student Debt Article

Posted: May 22, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags:

Nova Scotia students struggle with large debt loads

May 22, 2012 – 4:10am By BRETT BUNDALE Business Reporter
 Outstanding loans, bleak job prospects force graduates to put life goals on hold
In this file photo, a first-year university student  checks out the bulletin board at the financial services office at his university after picking up his bursary check in Ottawa. (TOM HANSON / CP)

In this file photo, a first-year university student checks out the bulletin board at the financial services office at his university after picking up his bursary check in Ottawa. (TOM HANSON / CP)

North Sydney native Lori graduated last May with $60,000 in student loans.

After seven years of university, including an undergraduate from St. Thomas University in Fredericton and a master’s from the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax, she was lucky to find full-time work in her field.

How bad were your student loans?
$30,000+Between $5,000 & $30,000Less than $5,000I never had debt from schoolOther:
 

But her partner, who racked up roughly $30,000 in student loans, wasn’t so fortunate.

“It’s been extremely tough,” said Lori, 29, a United Church minister who declined to give her last name. “He’s been working part-time in a kitchen just to make ends meet.”

Together the couple owes a stunning $90,000, an amount that will climb to about $130,000 once they finish paying back their loans with interest.

The crushing student-loan debt has forced them to put off buying a house or having children.

“It’s really hard to put your life on hold for 14 years while you pay back student loans. But we can’t get approval for a mortgage, and I just don’t think it would be responsible to start a family any time soon.”

They aren’t alone.

Student-loan debt is on the rise across Canada, with more than $20 billion in student loans now outstanding.

Nova Scotia graduates are saddled with an average debt of $35,000 — one of the highest in the country — and are delaying major life decisions while they struggle to pay off student loans.

While a university degree is still a good investment, graduates are entering a bleak labour market where finding a job can be tough.

The provincial unemployment rate for young people hovers around 20 per cent, significantly more than the national average of about 14 per cent.

Jacques Marcil, a senior economist with TD Economics, called the combination of joblessness among young people, mounting student-loan debt and rising interest rates a “perfect storm.”

“Students are facing higher unemployment following this recession than previous recessions. It’s taking longer for employment among youth and recent graduates to bounce back.

“The real risk is that these graduates could be vulnerable to rising interest rates. If rates rise and employment opportunities remain low, it could be a perfect storm.” Part of the problem is a mismatch between job openings and the skill sets of graduates, Marcil said.

“A large proportion of students graduate in areas that don’t always lead to a profession or specific employment.”

There is also a regional mismatch, with some provinces posting strong job growth and labour shortages, while others have chronically high unemployment, he said.

The situation could trigger an exodus of graduates to other provinces with brighter job prospects.

Debbie Warkentin graduated from Dalhousie University in Halifax last spring with about $38,000 in student-loan debt.

With her diploma in hand, the 24-year-old scoured help-wanted ads and handed out hundreds of resumes.

She settled on part-time jobs managing a coffee shop and scooping ice cream. But despite two paycheques and tips, it
wasn’t enough to start repaying her student loans.

“I decided to move to Ottawa because there are more job
opportunities here,” said Warkentin, now working as a personal trainer.

NSCAD University graduate Natasha Krzyzewski is also considering packing her bags.

Krzyzewski is staying afloat by working two jobs and reapplying every six months for repayment assistance, a program that comes up with a reasonable payment plan based on income.

“Without that, I don’t think I would be able to cover all my costs,” she said. “I’ve sent out literally hundreds of resumes and it’s just been really hard to find anything.”

Although the 23-year-old Ontario native said she would like to stay in Nova Scotia, she is considering moving away to get a better job and pay off her loans.

“There are things I would like to do in life and a time frame for these things to happen, but I feel like everything is on hold because of student loans.”

Gabe Hoogers, the Nova Scotia representative for the Canadian Federation of Students, said skyrocketing student debt is curbing the ability of graduates to contribute to the economy.

“People are starting out their lives burdened with a huge amount of debt. They want to start families, buy a home and start saving for the future, but all of that is being put off.”

While there are programs that assist graduates struggling under mountains of debt, he said one of the biggest issues is interest.

“We are effectively telling students if you can’t pay for your tuition up front, you will pay more per course in the end than someone who is better off.”

Hoogers, a University of King’s College student, said reports that trumpet the advantages of post-secondary education despite rising costs are flawed.

“They tend to exaggerate how much people will make overall because of their university degree and underestimate the true cost with interest.”

However, a report by TD Economics said despite increasing debt levels and labour market weakness among young people, post-secondary education remains the single best investment one can make.

The report found that while the upfront costs and stress can be a major burden, the benefits that accrue over the lifetime of a university graduate outweigh those costs.

Meanwhile, a study by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission found most graduates said the investment in their education was worthwhile.

Five years after graduation, eight-in-10 graduates said their university education was worth the time invested and seven-in-10 said it was worth the financial investment, according to the report Five Years On: A Survey of the Class of 2003.

Nova Scotia students face some of the highest tuition fees in the country, an issue that has prompted many students in Quebec to go on strike, Hoogers said.

“What’s going on in Quebec is important to the situation in Nova Scotia. Over the last two years, we’ve had days of action advocating for lower tuition fees and people have come out in the thousands.

“We do face a crisis in our education system. I fear the amount of debt students are taking on is unsustainable.”

(bbundale@herald.ca)

My Stubborn Heart

By Becky Wade

Publisher: Bethany House 2012

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This is the first book for author Becky Wade, and I am blown away by her style of writing. My Stubborn Heart follows the story line of a burned out social worker named Kate and an ex star hockey player named Matt. As Bethany House describes the book:

“Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When her grandmother asks her to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance.

Upon her arrival in Redbud, Kate meets Matt Jarreau, the man hired to renovate the house. Kate can’t help being attracted to him, drawn by both his good looks and something else she can’t quite put her finger on. He’s clearly wounded–hiding from people, from God, and from his past. Yet Kate sets her stubborn heart on bringing him out of the dark and back into the light… whether he likes it or not.

When the stilted, uncomfortable interactions between Kate and Matt slowly shift into something more, is God finally answering the longing of her heart? Or will Kate be required to give up more than she ever dreamed?”

This normally isn’t the type of book I would chose to read, but I am glad that I took a chance. Becky writes in a way that draws the reader into the storyline. I could not put this book down, which meant staying up til three in the morning to finish reading. I felt attached to the characters Kate and Matt. I felt the emotions of the characters come through as they struggled with questions of faith and how/if God is working in their lives.

I feel that the story shares what it means to struggle with God and what a difference it can make when we decide to live by listening to God rather than closing our ears to him

There was a good balance in the book between love story and faith story. I felt that love story was not overwhelming. It’s a great book to have at the cabin or to enjoy while drinking tea on a warm summer day.

This was an excellent read and I know I will be recommending others to read this book.

 

5/5

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.