VBS: Sonrise National Park

VBS is over for another season. We had nearly 70 kids show up for five days of fun and learning. Very few of these kids are affiliated with our church (we just don’t have many) so it really is an outreach program. This year the program had a park theme and the organizers went to a lot of work, building cabins and decorating the church to bring the outdoors in.

In the past couple of years, I have been quite involved, up front and center every day playing the role of “Commander Ken” , Chef Pierre, and Dr.(?). I enjoyed hamming it up for the kids. This year, because of the uncertain timing of the coming of BT, I could not commit to actually being in Ontario during the week of the program. Other plans were made and, other than one request to help with a drama on one of the days, the week was mine.

That changed Sunday morning. It appeared that I could be of value as a group helper for a large and potentially unruly group. I agreed to help, with the exception of Thursday which was already filled with Greek. By Tuesday, I had been recruited for another drama presentation (a short, unscripted item presented five times in two hours)

It was good to be there as part of what  churches should do best:share the gospel. It was good to see volunteers pull together to bring off something that was bigger than any one of us. It was good to see others from our community help out as well. It was cool to see God at work both in the kids that came and also in the organizers and volunteers, in our community.

I think one of the kids, T, likely one of the most disruptive of the group, the kid that you would hope would just stay home, the kid that you have a hard time liking, the kid that others turn away from, the kid that you are just not sure is getting anything out of being there, gave me pause on Friday, when he said, with dismay in his voice ” How come there is no VBS tomorrow?” God is working, we just need to keep watching. I, and others judged this little fellow unfairly. We might have forgotten that he too is a child of God and that God through our little VBS program is working in him as well.

It wouldn’t be the first time that we find ourselves choosing differently than God does.

Edmonton Sunday

We are still in Edmonton, and will be until Friday, enjoying being in the same city as our new grandson. We’re trying to be as helpful as we can be, while providing enough space that this young family can find its balance and that R can get enough rest. I guess, for a week anyway, we are pretending that we live just down the street, available but not always there.

One thing we could do today was provide a ride to church. R seemed keen to go, especially since there was a car available for the ride. This morning it rained, so the ride was a good thing. Daniel came into church with us and got his first sermon. Interestingly, the sermon was based on the fifth commandment: Honour your father and your mother. He’s going to need to be reminded of this first exposure to church and the message of the day because he slept through the whole thing. After the service he became, what R calls, a “granny magnet” drawing oohs and aahs, as he should (he is so cute!!!).

Four generations

J’s Dad is on the final leg of a six-week road trip. He and G joined us for church and then a picnic lunch (in our room due to rain). What a blessing it is to be able to have four generations together to celebrate new life and longevity. God is good.

Spring

Spring has now been with us for well over a month. Temperatures have been warmer than normal and we seem to be missing a lot of rains. We did get a good soaker a couple of nights ago and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

We planted trees just the day before the rain came. Planting trees on our property has become a bit of an annual practice. The property right around our house is very hilly. Our lawn had some slopes that would stop our four wheel drive lawn mower and were maybe not the safest to cut. Over the past four years the steepest bits have been planted to a variety of evergreen trees (200 so far). We have also planted deciduous trees, maple, ash and soft maple around the perimeter of the lawn and now inside the perimeter as well. There are about 50 of those, some came from the bush on the property while others were purchased as seedlings. Recently, I’ve been transplanting volunteer maple and ash that have grown in the flower beds.

Getting deciduous trees to start has been a bit of a hassle. The first ones we planted came from the bush about six years ago. We dug them up carefully, used a post hole digger to make a good hole, and even used a bit of bone meal to provide nutrients. While some of these trees have taken off and are now over ten feet tall, others are smaller now than when we planted them, and still others have died and been replaced. Granted, the soil where these trees a planted is not the best with sand and gravel in some areas. Where the soil is good the trees have grown.

ImageWe have actually had the best luck with the deciduous trees that came from the nursery. I don’t think that it is because the stock is so much better, but rather, because we discovered Tubex tree tubes at the same time. Deciduous seedlings, in their natural environment, grow underneath the forest canopy. I’m taking them from there and asking them to grow in the open. The tree tube protects the small tree from the wind, creates a bit of a moist environment, and creates a greenhouse effect that gives the plant a little more heat. The results are amazing compared to trees without the tube. The trees reach out of the tube and will grow two to three feet in a year compared to the six inches that their non tubed brothers and sisters manage.

Last week, just before the rain, we put in a hundred more evergreens, balsam fir, white pine, red pine, and white spruce. I have less lawn to cut again and we will need to put up with a few years of ugly, waiting for the trees to have enough height to be seen above the grass. The wait will be worth it.

Of all the things I love most about spring, the best is wandering around looking at how all the things we have growing here change. I love to imagine the possibility of rows of trees towering over me. Spring is such an amazing time of growth and renewal.

God is at work in all of it.

Patient Number 7

With the semester’s work winding down, I decided to make a run to the library. I don’t get there very often anymore. In past years our family was the largest user of the local branch with five readers chewing through books. We were likely also the largest contributors to the libraries income through the overdue fines that we paid.

I held myself back and only picked up two books, thinking that surely I could manage to get through them in three weeks.

I started the first one right away on Saturday and by Monday morning it was done. Patient Number 7 is by the Canadian author, Kurt Palka, and draws on his own Austrian background giving a unique perspective on the events of the Second World War. The story focuses on Clara and her experience as the wife of an Austrian officer in the German army. Flashing backward and forward, alternating between the present and the past we are given a very sympathetic view of a country and a people who were drawn into a conflict that was not theirs.

It’s a new book and a highly recommended read.

Global Rich List

This past week, while working on trying to describe my theology of social ministry (diakonia), I came across this site. The Global Rich List calculates your place on the list of the world’s richest people. I have to admit that when I put my number in I was in the top 1%. I’m not sure if this should be a source of pride or shame.

I wonder about the usefulness of this number though. Certainly, those of us in North America are blessed with wealth and we use the resources of the world at a rate that is well out of proportion to our population, but, to live here is expensive as well. I’m not saying that in any way that I am impoverished, I’m not. But if I put the annual income of the patrons of Soup and More, the soup kitchen that I have been volunteering at, into the web page they are calculated to be in the top 10% in the world. These are people that have to chose between buying groceries and paying for a place to live. Yes they do live in a country that provides social services for them that are unmatched in the world, but, if they had the income they do in one of the many third world countries of the world they would be wealthy in comparison to their neighbours.

I guess I’m arguing that just using a number to figure out your place in the world does not really tell the whole story.

For those of us who are well blessed though, it is a sobering reminder.

10,000

This morning when I checked the statistics for this blog, the total hit count was sitting at an even 10,000. I thought that was pretty cool. Such a nice round number.

The first post on the blog was back in July of 2009 and with 117 words I expressed some hopes for the future as my life was beginning to take a new direction. Since then I’ve written 211 posts and in the area of 100,000 words. I’ve enjoyed the writing and find it somewhat therapeutic.

I’ve  enjoyed the feeling that out there in cyberspace folks are finding some value in following what I write. I know that the blog has regular subscribers both on WordPress and through Google Reader. I also know that some individuals hit my home page every day, many from Ontario, but some from further away. I don’t know what draws them, but there is a feeling of community, even though it is fairly one-sided. Most of the visitors come, read, and leave, anonymously, quietly. I’m good with that, I’m glad that they find some value in what is written here.

I also know that I have friends that read what is written here. Friends who are interested in the life that J and I are living, the things we do, the struggles we face, and the journey that we are travelling.  I’m glad that you are along with us, and while you to are generally quiet in terms of leaving comments I’m always a little surprised when it talk to you and you already know so much of the story because you have read it here. You keep me honest as well, because you know who I really am. Thanks.

So, its onward to the next 10,000. My hit count has increased steadily over the life of the blog so the next 10,000 may not take as long as the first.

Thanks again for visiting. Your interest is appreciated.

Reminiscing

This past week, for some reason, my daughters have been looking at the past, at least one of them with some sense of fondness. Both are bloggers. One of them maybe got the thing started with a characteristically oblique post followed by the other with a more eloquent offering.

The house in the 50's

Their posts revolve around our old house. Both of them posted the same picture from an era well before the time that we lived in it. It was a big old farm-house, home for our family for eighteen years. Our youngest daughter was born there. The other two children may have vague memories of other places, but this house would have figured largely in their lives. It was home.

When we moved in it was livable for a family that was trying to start a farm life and  willing to put up with less to make that happen, but really, it was a mess. The windows throughout the house were in bad condition. The frame addition that housed the kitchen and bathroom was sided with rotting painted particle board. There was little insulation. The oil bill was high and we actually did not heat most of the house. A wood stove in the kitchen kept us warm during the day, blankets did the job at night.

As we left it

Over the years we did renovate and fix. If we were doing it today we’d likely have a renovation blog. As it is, there are virtually no before and after pictures and those  there are only happened because we were taking a picture of somebody. There were no digital cameras back then and film was too expensive to waste on remembering what we wanted to get rid of. The house was entirely gutted in three stages over about eight years. A new kitchen and bathroom were installed. All the windows were replaced. The particle board was covered with siding. Two new porches were built. We put on a new roof. The carpets were pulled out and the wood floors underneath were sanded and refinished. A new wood stove, furnace and water heater were installed. Heating bills went down. We started to use the whole house.

It was more than just a house

At the same time, we built barns and sheds and a silo. We built a life and a business. It was a business that allowed us to work together as a family (code for child labour). While money was always an issue since there were more ways to use it than places for it to come from, this time in our life was a good one. We raised our family, we learned together, we dreamed together.

But, life moves on. Life throws curve balls that are unexpected, that change the direction that you think you are supposed to go. So we moved on. We were blessed in that moving as well. Somehow God gets the message through that its time for the next step.

There are things about that time and place that I miss. They are not the same things that my kids may reminisce about. I miss the dreaming, the sense of possibility, the sense of working with, or against nature, and succeeding. The sense that next year would be the one when things would come together. I miss the order of the seasons and the work plan that they wrote. I miss the common cause that J and I once had, every day, on almost every front.

But, I don’t really miss the house.

Genesis 12:1-3