Sea to Sea

This week, my friend Stuart begins an epic ride across Canada. He is riding in the Sea to Sea ride sponsored by World Renew to raise funds in an effort to bring an end to poverty.

20161015_140105 (2)Stuart is  riding a bike that he got from us. It is an Opus Legato, part of the set that J and I bought when we first started bike touring a few years ago. We moved on to touring on our Santana tandem right after the maiden trip for those bikes around Lake Ontario. Stuart and Marg took the bikes on a tour to Ottawa last summer and caught the bike touring bug. Now Stuart, having made the bike his own, is poised to begin a nearly 7000 km journey.

We wish Stuart well and would encourage you to support him as he rides. You can find his fund raising page here. He has a blog as well, where he will hopefully share updates as he rides, here 

Our prayers for Stuart are for safety, security,  and that he will have a really great time over the next weeks.

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Another Bunny Butchered

Of all of the children’s messages I do, I think the one that has garnered the most comments, been the most memorable, and maybe caused some short term trauma, is the butchering of an Easter bunny.

The bunny, of course, is of the chocolate variety and I wonder with the kids, just what such a bunny has to do with Easter. One smart kid today, knew that the bunny was a symbol of new life, fertility, springtime. Others thought maybe there was a rabbit at the resurrection. Good, thoughtful answers.

I told them that the answer was inside the bunny, at which I produced a very large knife and cutting board. The question of where we should cut is often answered with a loud “cut off its head” which always reminds me of that fickle crowd that was so willing to shout “crucify”bunny_lg just a few days ago.

Today’s group was much more civilized. One little girl suggested we cut off the feet, while another thought the ears would be more appropriate. We compromised (another good thing to learn in church) and with our big knife, cut the rabbit right in half.

The rabbit was dark inside, so, after a bit of fumbling, I got the flashlight on my iPhone to go, and we all peered into the bottom of the rabbit. There was nothing there. One forward thinker, suggested we were looking in the wrong end, so, we shone our light into the topside. Still nothing.

The rabbit was dark and empty, and, as one child pointed out, smelled pretty good. Which (apart from the smell) is where our bunny merges with the Easter story. The tomb too, is dark and empty.

The butchered bunny and two identical companions disappeared with the children to Sunday School. Some of the bigger kids, and adults, were hoping that some remnant of the bunnies might appear at coffee time, but the bunnies seemed to have been totally consumed, possibly in some sort of feeding frenzy, by the youngest of our congregation.

Blessed Easter

 

 

What Wondrous Love is This

Last night, with the congregation in Fruitland, we remembered Good Friday. It was an evening Good Friday service, something that was new to me, but also something which made the 20974cabc7883fad8610fcbf6b1ab6ccservice very meaningful.

We had observed Lent with diminishing candles.  One of our children extinguished a candle each Sunday to symbolize the coming darkness. By last evening only one candle remained. As the service progressed the lights in the sanctuary were turned off and dimmed leaving the church in near  darkness with just the single “Christ candle” struggling to cut into the gloom.

With the words of “What Wondrous Love is This” still hanging in the air, the Christ candle is blown out, it is finished, light is gone, and, it seems, at this point anyway, hope is gone as well.

Darkness, awe, and silence.

Sunday is coming!!!

An Era Ends

For virtually all of my life, I have been involved in some way in agriculture. I was born on a farm. Slugged hay bales in the summer, milked cows, morning and night, from the time I was in grade six until I left home to go to university where I studied agriculture. I worked in the agricultural industry  both before, and after, the years when J and I ran our own  dairy farm. Our kids were raised on the farm (milked morning and night there too).  Agriculture provided a big part of our identity.

threefoldWhen I left  to go to seminary, Masterfeeds wondered how I might continue to care for the sheep and goat feed business that was growing. I started Threefold Consulting, and continued to work part time as a nutrition and management consultant to sheep and goat producers. For nearly seven years, I provided support to producers and feed dealers across the province of Ontario. Back in December, Masterfeeds made the decision to take this service back inside their operation and give the work on to one of their employees. It took a little while to pass the work on, but it’s done now.

cropped-fall08ss-214.jpgGiving up the work  was difficult. I had worked with some of the producers for many years and had developed deep relationships with the dealers and the staff at Masterfeeds. There is a level of care, a level of ownership, that is just hard to walk away from. These people were my friends, but our connection was really, in most cases based on a professional relationship.

On Friday Threefold consulting came to an end with my last task, a speaking engagement to sheep producers in central Ontario. It was a good event, a receptive group, a full room with challenging questions. It was a good way to end (although no one there knew it was ending).

Driving home though, I realized that my connection to agriculture was pretty well broken. I work for an almost urban congregation now. We’ve moved to a small rural lot, but really don’t have any active, livestock farmers nearby. We’ve just about completed the sale of our farm properties in Huron county. We have, without purposefully thinking about it, stepped away from agriculture.

There is a sense of loss, a sense of grief that comes with the passing of time, the movement to a new season in life. But after driving to my engagement, speaking to the producers, and driving back home (just about 600 km round trip), filling a whole day, ending exhausted, it was also clear that burning the candle at both ends, and from time to time in the middle as well, was not a good long term plan.

While we have stepped away, even if it was not really planned, the soil, and animals will always be part of who we are. Agriculture has been good to us, it has taught us about what is important, how to trust, how to accept grace, how to live with uncertainty. We have enjoyed friendships, built relationships, experienced things that so many have no opportunity to experience.

We are gone from active agriculture, but not far.

 

 

 

 

Our 2016 Theme: Change

Every time we take down one calendar and put up a new one there is, I think, some sense of anticipation of what is to come, a feeling of mystery, maybe even a sense of dread. Each new year brings change. Change is inevitable. It’s the unpredictability of the change, its lack of control, or at least our inability to get our hands around it, that leaves us, at this time of year, with mixed emotions.

For us, 2016 was a year of unprecedented change. We began the year knowing there would be change. I was into the second month of my interim pastoral position at Maranatha CRC in York. We knew the position would be over by the first of November and we would be leaving our little apartment, likely holing up in our Huron County home until the next opportunity for ministry showed itself. Other than that, the beginning of this year held little uncertainty and few anticipated surprises.

Change came in many forms and it does come, sometimes without warning, and sometimes announcing itself well ahead of time.

It comes, beautiful and miraculous, in the form of new grandchildren E and N within weeks of each other. Those little hands and trusting eyes all wonderfully put together, are a great gift (at least to grandparents, their parents seem a little tired at times, and may not see the wonder of it all at three am).

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J’s Mom and Dad with R many years ago

It comes, sharp, sudden, and painful, in the form of surprise loss. J’s dad passed away early in the year after complications from heart surgery. While there is always the risk of trouble with any surgery, we were anticipating some years yet with B, years with better quality of life, years of his wisdom, and ready laugh. Instead the family gathered with friends to say good bye, to grieve another loss, find ways to go into a new reality.

It comes, uprooting and disorienting.  Just 13567068_10154354331883885_2198732296147352867_nbefore our summertime bike ride from Huron County to Halifax, our daughter, J, announced that she and her husband, M, were moving their family to Belleville where M and his brother were going to launch an engineering firm. By the time we got back, they had bought a house, and booked a moving truck. We began drives from home to Belleville and soon started to wonder what it was that was holding us in Huron. Certainly we had good friends there, and both my dad and brother were nearby, but, all of our immediate family, our children, had left to start lives far enough away that visiting any of them for an afternoon had become  quite impossible. 56f45187ae18fd4c161f57a2996d31d1We started riding with a realtor and by early December we had sold our properties, sold the home we always said we wouldn’t sell, and purchased a new home in Prince Edward County. In mid December, we moved, sneaking out between snowstorms, our lives piled into a forty three foot trailer. 

During all of this, my contract in York did end, and an opportunity presented itself in Fruitland. I accepted a call to this church located between Stoney Creek and Grimsby. _35Neither place is close to Prince Edward County, so just days after the moving truck was unloaded, we were riding with a realtor again, and quickly purchased a condo on Lake Ontario as our second home, anticipating an early February beginning to a new interim ministry experience.

Change has been our constant companion this year. We’ve grown too. J has expanded her skill as a spinner and dyer of wool. Her fingers, rarely without knitting needles, produce more and more intricate designs.  Her creations in the 20161120_090919pottery shed (a new one is being build right now) become increasingly accomplished. We are now able to put into real practice the title “grand parent” like we were never able to before. The experience of a large congregation has made me a better pastor.

Living in a new place will bring change as well as we explore the area, make new acquaintances and, with time, friends, as we take this new house and turn it into a home, hopefully one we enjoy so much that we will strongly suggest that we will not be selling it any time soon.

It has been a year of change. We would like to control it, anticipate its effects, but, we recognize that we can’t, that one who is greater and wiser, better able to see ahead, walks with us through all of life’s uncertainty.

 

 

 

Birthday

Today would have been my mother’s birthday.

We never made much of a fuss about her birthday, likely because it was so close to Christmas. In more recent years she got into the habit of having her sisters over to share a meal. Over the years, our Christmas gathering, usually the Saturday before Christmas served a dou2008-05-08_201209ble purpose. This year, the weather canceled our family gathering altogether.

Mom’s been gone a year and a half now. This is the second Christmas without her, the second birthday to remind us again of what has been lost, to open up the hole that has been left a little more sharply than any other day. The 21st of December has become a day of remembrance rather than one of celebration.

Of course, we share her confidence in her salvation, but its not the same as having her here with her quiet optimism, her ability to live in the moment, her giving spirit, her generous wisdom. She is missed. We continue to grieve even as we live into the reality that life does go on.

So today, I remember.

 

A Moving Time

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything. In his long list, I don’t think he gets to a time for moving and a time for staying, unless it is right there in verse 2 “a time to plant and a time to uproot“. The word uproot is maybe better anyway, a little more descriptive of what happens when one moves, a little more true to the emotions, the grief, and the anticipation, that are wrapped up in a move.

The trauma of being uprooted, even if you bring it on yourself, likely depends a bit on how long you have been planted in a particular place. We moved last week from the place where I have spent most of my life. Not always in the same house, but in the same area. Roots and relationships run deep and long. Roads and places are warmly familiar. Faces and voices have points of connection.

J and I were gathering supplies at the local grocery store the weekend before the move and there, beginning her own shopping, was my grade one teacher. This woman, now in her late seventies, plays a big part in my early memories. She has lived in the area as long as I have known her and even though we had not actually visited, it soon became clear through her questions about bike trips and ministry, that she had been keeping pretty good track of us through the community’s verbal information cloud. We were being held by the wider community. Our lives are, in a way, part of theirs. By moving, particularly by moving 400 km away, we have weakened something that is hard to measure. Something beautiful, and a little creepy fades.

There is, of course, the anticipation of the new and the realization of the reasons for the move. We have come to Prince Edward County to be closer to our daughter, her family, our grand children, to be able to have meals together regularly, to help out with child care, to do the things grandparents do. We’d love to be able to live near all of our grand children but the lives they have chosen, and the roles we have taken on, make that impossible.

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Already the house is awash with toys!!!

And so, we anticipate new things, meeting new people, becoming part of new communities, finding our places in a new place, exploring new back roads and restaurants, and maybe even becoming part of the conversation in kitchens and coffee shops in this part of the world.