Beer Bottles

When I was a kid, back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s,  bottle picking along the road was a regular pastime. I grew up on a relatively busy highway, at least for our part of rural Ontario. A long walk, on a sunny afternoon in the spring, could yield a few dollars worth of bottlesIMG_0307. Many of these were pop bottles, worth a deposit of a couple of cents. The big ones, those 26 ounce glass bottles, were a real find because they were worth a whole dime. Mixed into our collection were beer bottles too. Stubby brown bottles, still holding a yeasty smell  foreign to our noses. They went into our feed bags as well, dragged home and returned….well, I don’t know where we returned them. The pop bottles went to a local variety store, but our household had little to do with beer, and I really can’t remember where those bottles went.

IMG_0306 IMG_0305On a bike ride yesterday, as the snow melts off the side of the road, I notice the treasure trove is still there, but it has changed. There are more beer bottles now, beer cans too, and hardly any pop bottles or cans. Of course the latter aren’t worth anything at all and often end up being mulched into the sod by roadside mowers in the summer, but I am surprised by the number of beer and alcohol bottles.

The local drive-by–don’t even get out of your truck to make a pick up–bottle picker has already been by. I saw him.  Yet, on a bike ride yesterday, I was able to count more than ten bottles and or cans emerging from the snow every kilometer. In an age when drinking and driving is socially unacceptable, where a single impaired driving charge can effectively ruin your life, how is this possible? Can drinking beer be so important that the bottle is best held between legs extended to a gas pedal, underneath a steering wheel? Are the risks involved providing some sort of thrill?

I do know this areaIMG_0304 has a problem with alcohol use. According to the police reports there are a surprising number of older people charged with drinking and driving. These are not necessarily high school kids out gravel running.

I really don’t see the same density of empties anywhere else as I travel slowly by bicycle. I wonder what it is about this area that makes this problem so much more obvious. I have traveled in many other parts of Canada and the US and nowhere are the bottles and cans more numerous than here.




Pace and Direction in Life has Changed

When I started this blog back in the summer of 2009, it was my way of taking others along on a journey. I was stepping off the path I had been on and going down a road which was very new for me, with lots of new things to examine and describe along the way. The destination of the journey was never clear and I was surprised to find myself occupying the office in the corner of a rural church, my home church even.

Over this past y20131103_135207ear, getting my feet wet in a bi-vocational ministry, I have written a little about the experience. I’ve written about my call, explained how it is to be bi-vocational, shared the ordinations service,posted about baptism of my granddaughter, shared news about a fire in the church, but the interval between posts has grown, interspersed with book reviews and records of holidays.

It’s not that nothing is happening in life, that I have nothing to say, that my mind is empty. Certainly, I am busy writing, likely more than before, sermons, bulletin announcements, various reports keep my fingers near the keyboard. I don’t need the blog to fulfill the urge to write.

My days and weeks have been  taken over with things that are not really for public consumption and it’s likely this keeping me away from this forum. My thoughts and feelings about the funeral I conducted last week are best shared in private. The day belonged to the family as they remembered, not to me, the servant of the event. The visits made to my office, and to the homes in my parish are wonderful, but not the fodder for internet discussion. The struggles we go through daily, are best shared with people who are close, rather than the whole world.

I read a number of other blogs written by pastors some of which are repositories for sermon manuscripts (I could do that). Others write at length about denominational politics, theological dilemmas, and cultural issues (I could do this too, but likely won’t very often, it’s just not me). Most pastors, though, are silent. Shepherding is a local task.

So, we’ll just need to be satisfied with a lower rate of posting. I’ll still write about the events of life, the grandchildren born, the trips taken, the books read, my own thoughts from time to time about things happening around me, but a large part of my life will be kept from view, it’s not mine to share, only to hold.


A Complaint

I don’t think I am known as a complainer. I’m not someone who always seems to point out the negative side of things, but, today I have a complaint. (if my self reflection is marred please don’t hesitate to let me know). I don’t think I’m alone in this complaint either, more and more folks have had enough, want change, and are willing to speak up about it. It’s just that I’m not sure who to send this complaint to.

You see, I, and many like me (and not so much like me) have had enough of winter. I’ve blown the driveway out often enough. I feel content about the number of times I’ve been through the bush on snowshoes. The wonderful heat of the wood stove is getting old. My sweaters are starting to go out of shape and even the socks, lovingly knit by my wife to keep my feet warm and toasty, are losing their charm. The comforting hum of my snow tires has become an irritating howl.  I’ve experienced winter, all of it, and, while there was some anticipation of the first snow back in November (or was it October) the shine has totally worn off.

The view from the dining room window this morning, March 22 2014

The view from the dining room window this morning, March 22 2014

Last night, after a couple of teasingly warm days, which most years arrive in January, we received another 10 to 15 cm (weatherman talk) of wet snow. It would have been really pretty in December. Now it is just a reminder that winter hasn’t let go yet.

In 2013, our first outing on the bikes was March 10th. I know some folks did get out on that one warmer day last week, but our bikes are still locked in their trainers, getting dusty, because after 40 km in the basement, I’m still in the basement.

There, it’s out. I should feel better now having expressed my complaint. (Note the word “should”)!

I have to remind myself that if the only thing I have to complain about is the weather, I am blessed.

He changes times and seasons; Daniel 2:21a


More Grief

I’ve been reading a lot of fiction involving grief lately. I’m not sure if this is a coincidence or an unintentional leaning. I described a group of similar books  in an earlier post.  These latest three begin with loss and grief, but build very different stories..

51t6EQZ50bL._SY346_Enon, by Paul Harding, describes Charlie’s life and struggle after his teenage daughter dies in a cycling accident. The grief is palpable and it draws Charlie down into its vortex, leading to drug dependence and mental anguish.  The man he becomes is unrecognizable. All is lost. In the background, the grief unearths other losses, times past, and in particular loss of the community for which the book is named.

Taylor Jenkins Reid, in Forever Interrupted, balances the story of grief with a story of romance. Elsie loses Ben after six months of marriage, to a bicycle accident (another common theme here, bikes are dangerous).41arpKFNp1L._SY346_ Her grief is complicated since her husband never told his mother he was married. The conflict between the two women adds to the tension of the story and reminds the reader that grief is never experienced in isolation. Loss affects many people in a community or family, and is manifest in different ways.

The final book in this “grief trio” is the very popular Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This book has more twists and turns than a mountain road, pointing in one direction while going in another. 0806_gone_425Grief is here, but it is overshadowed by mystery, lies, and embellishments. In fact, anyone with a knowledge of how grief works and moves, would recognize something amiss in the way the characters respond to the loss they face. While the other two books ended in some sort of redemption, some resolution, this one leads to a place which is possible, but less than plausible.

All three were great reads.


Sitting, waiting

imagesOur car is in the shop, and I’m waiting for it in Tim Hortons. I’ve managed to keep quite busy balancing rations, dealing with emails, making friends on Facebook, maintaining my Scrabble games, all the while stylishly sporting my ear-buds, listening to Wendel Berry’s Jaybor Crow, a free ebook I got yesterday (you can get it too from

As I wait, and drink coffee, the counter is busy. I visited for a while with an older couple, just back from a trip across the country. We commiserated together about the price of gas, in some places up to $1.44/liter, while we drank our $1.60 medium coffees.

In Christ Alone

This morning, something momentous happened during the worship service we attended at our daughter’s Christian Reformed Church in Willowdale. It wasn’t the baptism, the age appropriate profession of faith, the stirring Pentecost sermon, or even the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. These were all important, in their own ways, special even, but they would not have caused me to put fingers to keyboard this evening.

We sang the song “In Christ Alone” near the end of the service. I’ve sung this song many times before, love it even, but today, we sang the song in solidarity with the family of Tim Bosma and the Ancaster CRC. We sang along with more than 250 other CRC’s across the continent. Tim was the young father whose burnt remains were found early last week. He was last seen driving off in his truck accompanying a couple of men interested in buying it, a week earlier. A social media campaign brought the image of Tim’s smiling face to many of our computers. The conventional media’s attention was held by this case and they in turn recognized the importance of his church to the person he was and its role in the effort to find him.

I didn’t actually know Tim at all, and while I do know some people who know folks related to  Tim’s widow, I really don’t know her either, and yet, as we sang together this morning, I, like many others who didn’t know these folks either, experienced a deep emotional reaction. There were tears throughout the sanctuary, voices broke, some could no longer stand. I recognized that while I don’t actually know Tim or Sharlene, I really did. Tim’s face, smiling out of the “Missing” poster is so familiar, the face of many of the young men in our communities. Sharlene’s tear filled face exclaiming “It’s only a truck” could be the face of one of my daughters, or any of the young mothers in our congregation. Tim and Sharlene in their strangeness are not strangers. They are one of us. Part of our extended family; our church family. They are us.

And suddenly we found our mostly middle class church communities violated. We find “powers of hell,  schemes of man” breaking into our quiet, peaceful, safe lives and we find ourselves shaken. This sort of thing happens at Jane and Finch but not where we live and suddenly we realize there is no safety. We can’t count on our hard work, our precautions, even our strong communities. There is no safe place.

So today we sang. We stood up against those powers and schemes and held on to the only power we can really count on.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

As we sang, and cried, we did sing for Tim, his family, his church, but in reality we were singing our faith into the world. We’ve been given a glimpse of hell, the power of the schemes of men, and we stood together and sang out against those powers, holding up in front of us, for all to see, the power that really counts in this world.

In Christ alone our hope is found.


“Worldview”, the first time I heard this phrase was in the office of a campus chaplain at a Canadian university. My fiancee, J, and I were there for premarital counselling. We were young students, in our second and third year, looking forward to sharing our lives together, dreaming of adventure, and an exciting career in the world of agriculture. We weren’t all that interested in understanding anything about our worldview, what it was or should be, and after three sessions, where we also planned our wedding service and wrote our vows to each other, we didn’t come much closer to actually understanding what this very well-meaning pastor was talking about, what “worldview” meant.

This particular pastor was likely a little ahead of his time in the Christian Reformed landscape of 1980, trying out new terminology, and concepts, on his student congregation. The Contemporary Testimony hadn’t been written yet, applying the CRC’s understanding of God’s sovereignty in real terms to real life. We intrinsically understood the concept, since we both grew up in very Kuyperian atmospheres, interacting with, and transforming the world were givens, but we lacked the tools to be able to draw from ourselves a description of our individual worldview. Maybe we were surprised that everyone didn’t see the world as we did, didn’t understand the concepts of career and calling, industry and stewardship, pleasure and piety in the same way we defined them.  We wore our worldview like a skin, it was who we were, not something we had thoughtfully delineated for ourselves.

It’s because we wear our worldview like a skin that it is hard to describe. We have difficulty being self aware at all levels of our lives. I sometimes find myself surprised when I look in the mirror. The person looking out at me, the one seen by others, is not the same as the image of myself I hold in my own mind. The way I would describe my voice is different than  what I hear on a recording of myself. Even the way I would describe my temperament is likely quite different from the way others experience me. My worldview, unlike my appearance or voice or temperament, defines more than the way in which others perceive me. It defines how I react to the situations around me, to the actions and ideas of others, even to others without actions or ideas. My worldview is sort of like my constitution, and as such, I should be able to describe it, shouldn’t I?

In reality, I can now vocalize some of the aspects of this interior description of myself, my worldview. I can do it much more thoroughly than I could have over thirty years ago when hormones and life were propelling me down the road, bounded by ditches which were in fact my world view. We had our heads up high, looking to the future, too busy to be trying to describe what those ditches look like.