Thursday, June 23, 2011

love your t-shirt

We learn about the possibility of love, and the reality of love, in and through the relationships in our lives. If we experience healthy, life-giving, encouraging love and support from the people in our lives, it may be easier for us to believe that love is real, and good, and worth working at. It may also be easier for us to believe that it is worth the risks involved, in daring to love.

The opposite is also true. If we have experienced unhealthy relationships, and a lack of good support from the people in our lives, we may find it very difficult to trust that love is real, and good for us. We may hesitate to put ourselves “out there”, and risk being hurt.

The cartoon I am including below, from the Naked Pastor says it well. As people of faith, and in how we behave in groups, such as our churches, our actions, words, choices, and our attitudes convey a lot. I am also including the cartoonist’s comments. I recommend you check out his website at

I’ve heard the sentence, “God loves you!” so many times. And it has meant so many things. It has meant:

God loves even you, you measly little runt!

“God loves you, but he doesn’t like you very much.”

“God loves you. It’s a miracle!”

“God loves me, which authorizes me to inform you that God loves you, but only through me.”

“God loves me more than you. But that means he still loves you. Kinda.”

Love is love. The One who loves is love. Can blessing (love) and cursing (hate) come from the same spring? Love.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The story about stories

There is a lot of power in stories. Most of us can remember stories in greater detail than we can lists of facts or ideas. Some methods for improving memory ask us to attach each thing we want to remember, to a story, or a character.

We like stories to have structure, and plot, and certain typical elements. When we watch a movie or read a book, at the beginning we are sorting out who is in the story. We want to know if there is a main character, or hero. Do we like the hero? There is usually someone in opposition to the main character, the one who complicates their life and adds conflict to the story. For the story to be interesting, to hold our attention, to seem real to us, complication and conflict are absolutely necessary.

We also like stories to have a beginning, middle and end. We like the questions to be answered, and the problems to be resolved- and the resolutions have to make “sense” to us, somehow. We all seem to have an internal sense of whether the story “works”.

I mentioned in the Sunday sermon that there are theories about a limited number of categories of plot or story-line. The idea is that while there can be an almost infinite variety in the ways a story is developed and told, the basic “bones” of the story will fall into one or more of a short list of possibilities. According to an author named Christopher Booker, in his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, these are the categories:

Overcoming the Monster

Rags to Riches

The Quest

Voyage and Return




There are numerous websites where you can explore these categories, and find examples of stories that fit into them. It might be interesting to try categorizing some of your favourite stories.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Slowing down in sacred space

I mentioned in the Sunday sermon that last week I spent a "Day Away" at the Five Oaks Centre near Paris, Ontario. I am a member of the Listening Ministries Team, which helps with some of the programs at Five Oaks. Five Oaks describes itself in some of its own literature as " a sacred place for learning and renewal. The Listening Ministries team are a group of people with training and experience as Spiritual Guides. We are available to accompany people who are interested in coming to a deeper awareness of the presence and the movement of the Spirit in their lives.

Glorious tree at Five Oaks Centre
Five Oaks is a beautiful place, in all the seasons of the year. I like it especially in the early summer, when the trees, like the one in my photo, are brilliant green in new leaves. There is a freshness about the place. I snapped my picture on my way back from walking to one of my favourite spots on the property. Five Oaks was established at a location that has been thought of as sacred for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.

Part of what makes it a special is that it sits at the confluence of Whiteman's Creek, and the Grand River. At the place where they meet, the creek is moving quite quickly. It is possible to stand on a point of land, and watch the waters flow together. You can hear the rush of the creek water, racing into, and then being absorbed by the Grand River, which, as the name may suggest, moves at a less hurried, almost stately pace.

The creek is frenetic and hurried. The river is calm, and able to take in the energy of its watery sibling.

I met with two different people for Spiritual Accompaniment on this Day Away, and they had both made the same journey to the waters that I had. They both reflected on the power of that spot. I wondered if that was because the confluence had been pointed out to them as a special place, or whether they had felt it themselves. Maybe both were true.

Sometimes we need help seeing that a place in our own lives can be named as sacred. Sometimes the sacredness speaks to us, and we find it without being told. It seems to me that we are more likely to experience the sacred if we give ourselves the time to slow down.

How many of us are rushing through our days like that little creek, pouring ourselves fully into moving forward. It can be so good for us to slow down, to be absorbed for a time into a stillness that can accept our hurriedness, and allow us to release the pent up energy, and find a calmer way to be.