Wolf or Potato

Wolf Moon 2020 January

It’s not there yet or here yet,

but it’s really nearly here,

.

Light Night

Light of Night

Moon full of light,

Blazing Cold, Square Cold, Deep Cold

so a bit chilly, one might saw.

.

No Potato

No Potato

No Potato, But a Bit of Light on Snow, and Walla!

Or if one tries to peel a potato outside it might be the last potato or

anything else that might be peeled by one,

such as a bell.

Bells ring, for joy, for alarm.

What’s alarming in your life?

That many people regularly bully others in order to get their way with them.

A crime, it is, most, that no one cares for the most part about bullying by adults of adults.

Just when bullying is done to children … or vulnerable women.

What would one want? Justice.

Justice of course, laced with compassion. God’s way of being God.

We’re in the Pink*

If Only

In the movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, Fred Rogers helps Lloyd Vogel process his relationship with his father and re-connect with him after decades of cutoff on both sides…. It leaves us thinking we can’t change the past, but maybe we can give the story a different ending….** If only we could be just a bit better than we are, a lot less anxious, helping others trust God just a mite more, so that our stories could have a good ending. **adapted from Healthy Congregation Words by Rachel Tune, Pastor Wittenburg University***

Joy Sunday Contrasts with Advent Blues

Today, the third Sunday of Advent, is the Sunday of Joy. Advent was historically a time to prepare for Epiphany baptisms, a time to take in Jesus’ costly journey of bringing faith to us. During the rest of Advent we get ourselves alert, reflect on the cost of our faith, prepare for, but wait patiently for, Christ’s coming and our celebration that he has come, and is present.

Joy is out of step with the Lenten-like mood of waiting. Our wreath has one pink candle among the blue candles of hope. In this season of waiting to celebrate, how did the Joy Sunday and the pink candle get into the mix? Except this contrast makes our Christmas joy that much more intense.

Today we highlight the opposite of the rest of Advent, making our preparations and joy all that more vivid. Only blue on the dark black of the long nights won’t do, neither would all pink be great. If Advent were all joy, then it’d be hard to celebrate Christmas; it’d be as if we’d nibbled at the turkey, dressing and all, and gobbled up all the Christmas cookies for weeks. The celebration would be just more of the same, if anything were left for the feast. But on the dark background of real life, pink decorates blue spectacularly, and since it denotes God’s joy then the best pink would be hot-pink on deep sea blue rising to sky blue.

God’s Hot-Pink

Winter Blues

Winter Blues

Today, though, we also remember that Christmas, more so because it’s supposed to be such a joyous time, can actually be the most painful, sorrowful, lonely and despairing time of the year. It can be all so blue. For this reason we offer Blue Christmas Services.

Insert here Niel Diamond singing Song Sung Blue YouTube – Song Sung Blue or your favourite song about the blues, our old friend the blues, or your favourite song about the blues, our old friend the blues.

The New Ending Needed

In the name of Jesus we can’t change the past, but we know the story needs a different ending….

Biblical Images of Life Dried Up

Images of dried up creation abound in today’s lessons: wilderness, dry land, desert … weak hands, feeble knees, fearful hearts … blind, deaf, lame, speechless people … burning sand, thirsty ground, haunts of jackals, dry grass … lions, ravenous beasts … sighing and sorrows.

The New Ending, Possible?

That is the past. We can’t change the past, but can we really give this story a different ending?

Dark, Cold Tunnel of Real Life

It’s dark. The sun rises but stays below the southern roof- or tree-tops. It’s cold. In the city it’s dipped into the minus teens. Not far away, on a little lake that’s as much home as anywhere, it’s been below -30⁰C and not over -15⁰ for days. Most everyone is affected, some a bit more as they struggle with mild to severe depression because of the lack of sunshine. Too often this season can seem like a cold, dark tunnel that we get thrust into, whether we choose it or not.

Unemployment

In Alberta now, after the oil bust of 2014 and lately Premier Kenny’s cuts, 20% of young men are unemployed. That does not count those who have given up trying to find work, or those who are back at school trying to increase their odds of finding a job (going in debt to do so), or those who have part-time jobs where they work pitifully few hours, so that it’s less a job, and more a hindrance to finding real work. Employers more cheaply employ 10 part-time workers 8 hours each week than 2 full-time employees 40 hours each.

This is real. These young men face hunger, homelessness, losing their vehicles. Forget about having anything for health and dental care.

Chaplains in hospitals write up verbatims: formerly well-paid men are hounded by their spouse (or not-spouse) to bring home the same money for the pricey lifestyle they’ve spent themselves into. Turning to crime or not, the stress eats away at the men’s health. For some, physical or psychological violence at home puts them in the hospital. Women know the courts will likely believe any lie they tell and the men will be convicted and jailed, even when they are the victims.

The Booby-trapped Tunnel

The dark tunnel we find ourselves in can, in this or other ways, turn out to be full of traps set by people we would trust. People point us to the light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems a long ways off through the dark and dangerous cold.

The New Ending Beyond Us.

We know full well we can’t change the past, but even trying to give the story a different ending seems beyond us.

Epidemic of Senior Loneliness

The severity of the seniors’ epidemic of loneliness increases at Christmas. 25% percent of seniors live alone often not by choice. Living alone or not, an unknown number of seniors are severely lonely, cut off from meaningful engagement in life. Loneliness affects health and precipitates death as quickly as any disease. Two of life’s necessities are missing: a meaningful contribution to life and an ability to love and be loved.

There are walls to stare at, perhaps paths to walk. But one is alone even in crowds. Few reach out with kindness and understanding, and time. Everyone has their own busy agenda to help them ignore the emptiness that threatens.

Worse still are the seniors that experience elder abuse. Seniors can be more vulnerable than young children and become targets because they may appear to have wealth, and the taking appears to be easy. This month we collect for “No Room In the Inn” to create a safe place to which they can escape.

The Light in the Tunnel is a Train

The light they told us was at the end of the tunnel looks more and more like a train coming right at us in this dark tunnel and we cannot see any way out. We can’t move fast enough to find any emergency exit that may be somewhere out there.

The New Ending Only Hoped For

We can’t change the past, and we only hope we can give the story a different ending before it’s too late.

God’s Transformations

Exactly into this dark reality, our Advent Sunday of Joy is set as a stark contrast to our Lenten-like Advent preparations.

This Sunday is exactly like the Crocus named in the OT lesson. The first flower of Spring, it pushes up and blossoms even while the snow and morning frosts keep other plants at bay.

Similarly all the desolate images serve as the setting into which God comes and transforms creation. Cool streams flow in the wilderness, over the dry land, and on the burning sand bringing them to rejoice and blossom, with joy and singing. Weak hands are strengthened, feeble knees made firm, fear is met with encouragement, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap, and the speechless sing.

A highway is made upon which no lion or beast or thief prowls, and even a fool cannot go astray. Those redeemed by Christ will obtain joy and gladness. All sorrow and sighing will flee away. In a simple word, we and all creation are baptized in the water of God’s blessings. It is a marvellously new creation. We are made saints and set to live well in it!

God’s coming is already, and not yet. Like the farmer we wait patiently for the early and the late rains of God’s blessings to tumble down on us and through us. We do not grumble against each other, for grumbling against each other is caustic to life and for it we would be justly judged by the Judge at the door. There are no evidentiary rules, precedents, or arguments required. This Judge is omnipotent and all-knowing, and the judgments are fair, clearly so to all. Jesus’ every judgment is made to make life possible for all.

Jesus comes to set things right, to make people healthy, what is wrong is set right. Jesus comes in poverty, born homeless in a cow barn. Jesus comes to those least acceptable to the world of his day. Jesus comes to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the lepers, the dead, and the poor.

The Light in the Tunnel is Christ’s Light on God’s Train Coming at Us!

It turns out that the light at the end of the cold, dark tunnel is a train coming right for us. Or rather it is the Light of Christ barrelling down on us like a train. This train is not loaded with oil, grain, lumber, or other goods.

The first cars of this train have the Blue Hope of Advent spilling out in endless streams over the landscape of God’s wonderful and broken creation.

Hope is followed by cars as numerous as the stars spewing Justice, Mercy, Forgiveness, Inspiration, Gratitude, Generosity, Faith, Love in Action, and Love Universal and Unconditional. Look at all the colours streaming across the desolate landscape of our broken lives!

See the Light. Run to it. Dance to it. Sing for it with the deepest and broadest joy.

Insert here the Proclaimers singing I’m On My Way [From Misery to Happiness]. You Tube- I’m On My Way

For God intends for us, even in our sadness and loneliness, to be overwhelmed with the Goodness of life given to us by the Holy Spirit, the engine of that train. It may be cold and dark outside but the pink of joy covers the dark and decorates our blues.

God’s New Ending

We can’t change the past. And we cannot give the story a different ending. This Advent we remember, we do not have to. God has already given the story the best ending possible! What Joy!

We wait, full of anticipation for the celebration of Christmas, marking Jesus’ birth, proclaiming Jesus’ presence now, and hoping for Jesus the Christ’s return!

We pray, Let us be the blessed “who do not let the Messiah [we] are expecting blind [us] to the Messiah who is standing right in front of [us]” (Barbara Brown Taylor, God in Pain: Teaching Sermons on Suffering [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998]).

Our Response: We are the Pink in the Blues

Today we reflect on joy, and its roots in the dark of misery, and its place within the blues of Hope. The Holy Spirit makes us the streams of cool water flowing in the deserts of life, the crocuses springing up for those to whom Christ came. We are the patient, non-anxious, gracious, kind, and generous ones. In us others see Christ active for them even if the world frosts them out.

This is the ending to the story that God has for creation and all of us in it: that Christ came, that Christ comes, that Christ will come, and all of creation was, is and will be baptized with living water, transforming it and all of us. Therefore we follow Christ’s example: bringing real joy to those with SADS, the unemployed, the lonely, the blind, the lame, the deaf, the lepers, the dead, and the poor. This is the pink of our Advent Blues. It may not be more than a touch on the horizon in our preparations, nor need it be more. It is like the light at the end of the tunnel, giving us reason to Hope, even in the blues.

We are the pink of Advent

We are the pink of Advent for those in need around us.

Amen

As we get ready to sing: Let me highlight with pink and blue a few words of our hymn of the day:

All earth is hopeful, the Savior comes at last! Furrows lie open for God’s creative task: this, the labour of people who struggle to see how God’s truth and justice sets [Blue:] everybody free.

We first saw Jesus a baby in a crib. This same Lord Jesus today has come to live in our world; he is present, in neighbours we see our Jesus is with us, and ever sets [Pink:] us free.

Theme and Notes

Joy, the pink contrast to the Blues of Advent, draws us to be God’s people to bring transformation to those most in need.

*In the Pink: to be in the best of health; by Grace alone the best spiritual health.

***Wittenberg University is a private liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio. It has approximately 2,000 full-time students representing 37 states and 30 foreign countries.

Grace

Remember Our True Faith of Grace

The passages for this Sunday’s lessons are profoundly problematic.

Malachi 4:1-2a

Malachi promises that the day will come when arrogant and evildoers will be burned up entirely, stem to root. That is of course only Those, them, the others. And on that day We, us, those who revere God’s name, upon us (not them) the sun of righteousness will rise, with healing in it’s wings.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

2 Thessalonians, either written by Paul or more likely a disciple of Paul writing in his name (as was common and acceptable then,) commands the readers to work for their food, and not be idle. And he also commands that those who do not work should not eat! This prescription to allow some people to starve has been used as justification for all sorts of injustices worked against the poor.

Luke 21:5-19

The Lukan passage deals with the end times, cautioning the listeners to not be taken in by false prophets claiming to be the returned Christ. Admonishing calm patience and faithfulness the passage ends with “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

Blown in the dark cold wind of self-righteousness, what are we to do?

Blown in the dark cold wind of self-righteousness, what are we to do?

Unfortunately we do not use Psalm 98 this week.

Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done | marvelous things,
  whose right hand and holy arm have | won the victory.
2O Lord, you have made | known your victory,
  you have revealed your righteousness in the sight | of the nations.
9The Lord will judge the | world with righteousness
  and the peo- | ples with equity.

Or perhaps it is a good opportunity that we do not use the Psalm.

While each text is filled with directions on what to do as Christians, even prescribing what things we must do in order to receive Salvation, we believe and hold firm the faith and tradition that is handed on to us, namely: that we are saved by grace alone, not by the merit of our works.

We interpret all scripture and spiritual thought through this lens: That we are saved only by God’s act upon us, that we remain totally sinners throughout our lives and at the same time God makes us, through Christ’s redemptive sacrifice for us, totally saints. This is a gift imputed to us, not infused into us. This gift is effective in us, yet does not overcome the sinner that we remain, until Christ comes again, God reckons righteousness to us, and we become saints in the light of Christ for ever. These precepts are paradoxical, and we believe they hold the truth of God’s Grace for us that cannot logically be expressed. Faith cannot be grasped and controlled. It can only we experienced and enjoyed with awe, or rejected with consequences unknowable.

So what are we to make of these scriptural judgments of others and promises that we are not them, of the command that if we or others do not work we are not to eat, or the admonishments to earn our salvation?

Our choices are four:

  1. We could preach the problematic parts as if they were the Gospel of Christ ignoring that they are destructive to faith and community.
  2. We could ignore or pretend to ignore the problematic parts of the texts. Preaching on Psalm 98 alone would be an opportunity to take this route.
  3. We could preach a reinterpretation of the passages so as to proclaim a faithful Word, a true witness to Christ, but not mention that we are interpreting the passages to bring Gospel out of them. OR
  4. We can be clear about the need to re-interpret and proclaim that need along with a clear proclamation of the Gospel after we re-interpret these passages according to Luther’s Gospel within a Gospel: that we are saved by Grace through Faith and not by merit of our works.
Gone are the days of colour and calm.

Gone are the days of colour and calm.

The Cold Hard Facts of the Gospel have arrived with the cold and snow in late fall.

Preach as you will, but as for me and my empty “household”, the woods, squirrels and the occasional deer, we will enjoy God’s grace and preach it clearly, honestly, and profoundly as, as much as God gives me opportunity and energy to do so.

Of course, the squirrels really do not listen very well, and the deer have no patience, anxious as they are from hunters pursuits.

What is clear from the lessons for this Sunday is that true discipleship is costly.

As costly as those we remember today, the veterans who have sacrificed to give us the possibility of the lives we now enjoy.

While we chafe under encouragements to tithe, giving 10% of the first fruits of all God gives us, our time, talents and resources, the call that claims us and the faith that is imputed to us demands not merely 10%. We chafe so brutally that we often demand no mention of tithing occur in our congregation, certainly not that we ask each other to work towards this small sacrifice, guilty as we are that we have never thought this possible for us ourselves. Always one hears how unjust this call is for those who are below the poverty line. Which is true sort of: 10% of an income of which 50% is spent on the bare necessities of life is challenging, but 10% of an income of which 110% or more is spent on the bare necessities of life is a challenge beyond respectable.

True discipleship costs us 100%, and our avoiding a call for 10% gives witness how weak our faith is practised in our lives.

Yet the True Gospel is not that we must give 100%, or that we must give even 10% for God’s grace to be effective in our lives and at the end of time, effectively applied to us. What counts is still what God does, not what we do.

Though it is problematic that we do not do what we readily could do, and instead we count on God’s Grace to save our neighbours from hunger, poverty, despair. Since Christ steps in for us sinners when we were lost (each day of our lives) why would we not strive with all our being to be Christ’s hands especially to our neighbours in desperate need!

But one can hardly preach that to people who refuse to be the hands of Christ, asking for the first 10% in good stewardship for their church. One does pray for them, and for one’s self: that we may all survive the winter, cold, hard, and brutal as it is … to be gracious with each other … soon, before it is too late.

That Ti –

That Ti-

Me

Of

Year

Aga-

in

nice ice at sun setting

nice ice at sun setting

Cool but warm inside.

Wonders and Miracles

flow freely to those with eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to believe,

and who pursue truth

in all things.

….

explanation for those who do not know enough to notice: the lake froze over last night thus the golden sheen on the lake ice all across.

Of course only being here will inform one that yesterday there was most of the lake still waving water,

saying goodbye

with great hopes of coming again

when the sun sticks around longer each day.

Choose grace, live hope, love even one’s enemies…

for God is a God of the living!

Lots of Heat, More Forgiveness

Spring Struggles to Break in as Large Flakes Cover the Once Bare Ground Again

My wood stove, set up to provide heat in the severe -40°C winter worked wonders. It even provided hot water for coffee in the morning and tea throughout the day. It was not without it’s challenges as the stove pipe got so hot that it melted the plastic tarps of the shelter around the stove.

Holy Week is our opportunity to remember and learn ever more from Jesus story. Jesus’ story is a life full of communication from God to us, in a way we can understand.

God tried to communicate to us with Word, creating a good creation. We messed it up, with trying to be smarter than we are and blaming others for the results. Kicked out of paradise we even became murderers, for a ‘good’ start.

God tried to communicate to us with the Law, we turned it into control of others.

God tried to communicate to us with the prophets, and we thought they were crazy, because they really were, trying to embody God’s Word does that to humans.

I rebuilt the damaged tarp sections, put in a heat shield and a remote thermometer. Now gets as hot as 70°C without problems.

God sent his Son, a full life story lived that we can learn. Jesus came to live, teach, heal, and do remarkable things like calming the chaos of the waters.

God exists beyond time, matter, limits. Now Jesus has all the limits of a human. Paul says it well: Jesus emptied himself of being other than human, and became limited as a human.

Why?

The real purpose of Jesus’ life was his death. That’s this week’s story.

No one really listened at first, and those that did usually got it all wrong. Listen to the parade as Jesus enters Jerusalem. They think that Jesus is God’s way of giving them control again of Jerusalem, maybe. That’s their hope.

Then things change.

The harsh winter slowly gives way to cool spring temperatures, and the 2000° C inside the furnace became way too hot in the shelter. Always the thermometer showed a max of 70°. It dawned finally on me that the thermometer could read no hotter than 70°C but the actual temperature could be much more!

Things change.

After the triumphant entry parade into Jerusalem, things go downhill fast and hard. Jesus is betrayed, deserted, tried, denied, whipped, condemned, mocked, tortured, abandoned, and murdered on a cross.

There is no greater measure of suffering.

God came to live and die exactly like this. Why?

God came to make clear: God understands our suffering, even if our measure seems to have an upper limit, God has no limits, God understands us, our pain, our sin, our suffering, our death.

God lived it to show us God’s intent for us.

As Jesus dies, he forgives those that mock, torture and kill him.

This is what God wants us to be to each other. Not sinners, destroyers, scape-goaters, or mockers, torturers, murderers, or chaos makers, not even people who cannot listen to others pain and suffering and not know what to do.

We know God knows our suffering.

In our suffering we experience what others suffer. We know what we most need when we suffer is forgiveness, love and not to be abandoned.

We learn this so that we can give God’s gifts of forgiveness, love and being present to others as they suffer.

God came as Jesus to show us God’s goodness and love for us has no limits. God’s forgiveness has no limits. We may not easily hear, listen or understand, but we have Jesus story handed from generation to generation. We can always learn more if we pay attention.

Jesus’ story is God’s new limitless thermometer by which we can measure what really goes on in this world. There’s lots of heat. There’s even more love, forgiveness, and compassion than we are ever capable of measuring.

This week, we remember, we listen as we can, we learn anew as we are able.

From Jesus story we know and trust, no matter what we do, what we succeed at or fail at, God understands our yearning, our chaos, our sufferings …

and God always loves, forgives and is present with us …

calling us to be exactly that for other people,

with Jesus as our model,

a model that has no limits.

Amen

Lent: A Fast for Justice – Seeing God

2019 Mar 15

See Reality, See Our Creator

The light of life, the light of Christ.

This Ash Wednesday the Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah 58 read in part :

6Is not this the fast that I choose:
  to loose the bonds of injustice,
  to undo the thongs of the yoke,
 to let the oppressed go free,
  and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
  and bring the homeless poor into your house;
 when you see the naked, to cover them,
  and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
  and your healing shall spring up quickly;
 your vindicator shall go before you,
  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”

From this I choose for all of my Lent this theme:

What is the acceptable fast?

When fish became a common fast, Fridays one gave up other meats to eat only fish. It was indeed a matter of justice. It was designed to help struggling fishers by creating a larger market for their product.

Then it became a mark of piety, a proud mark of piety, that one could eat fish.

Always good works become meaninglessly banal and then a perversion of the original goodness.

Life is about remembering, and always being creative with purpose driving creativity.

So what is it this Lent that we give up, not for the giving up, but that others will have the basics of life!?;

so that the bonds of injustice will be loosened, the yokes will be untied, the oppressed will see freedom, every yoke of slavery and oppression will be broken, no one will hunger, go unclothed, or remain homeless.

Note that this is more than everyone will have shelter sufficient, which is more basic. This is that everyone will have a home. A home means among other things that one has a place marked for one as a unique individual, one has a place one belongs, is cared for, cares for others, and most of all where one can go in the best of times and the worst of times and the doors are open to one.

The Light from on High, the Light from Below: The Light of all Creation.

The light of beauty.

Technically, I am homeless, so I am sensitive to this issue.

By the grace of God and generosity of many different people, I have a home: a borrowed old 18’ camper, attached to a 9.5’x8’ tarp shelter on a trailer in which there is a rebuilt wood stove that provides heat sufficient even at -40°C. It just takes an awful lot of wood.

The challenge is I have no where to set up the camper and trailer, so I am a guest of the Queen on Crown Land, always temporarily.

Fortunately there are locations where this all works:

Oh and there are many other challenges including connecting the camper and the trailer-shelter, and setting up the arrangement for 14 days at a time. Then I have to tear it all down, pack it up, and move it off Crown land. That’s a lot of work and a lot of money in gasoline to move the trailer and the camper.

It takes at least two days to set up, and a day and a half to tear down, more when it’s colder than -15°C. In the deeper cold it is only possible if I get the wood heat going, and stoke the fire full blast, with doors still open and heat the inside up to 50°C so I have a place to warm up between stints of working outside, and a toasty place to warm up boots and gloves that I switch back and forth.

But it is my home such as it is, and for that I am thankful.

Financially I am hanging on by a thin thread. Though so far though I have not gone hungry, not that my diet has been the best all the time, and my health demands a pretty careful diet.

My situation is a result of others bearing false witness against me, which is injustice, raw and simple and very destructive … and obvious.

But I am not yoked, or enslaved, or oppressed as most would understand those terms. I am not unclothed. (That would bring one to a very quick end in the Canadian winter.)

And I am alive. Though challenged sometimes close to my capacity to meet the challenge, I live well.

That is a statement of resilience and faith, of seeing God at work when others seem oblivious.

At sunrise, as the wood smoke wafts up through the woods, especially as I start a new load in the furnace before the smoke gets hot enough to burn real cleanly, this reality bears witness to God’s presence, to Christ’s light, to the promise that God is here with me. In the wilderness and cold, in the solitude and quiet God is here as the wood furnace works to help me survive. Wonderfully the stove gives off what is needed for me to see the presence and power of the sunrise light even before it hits the solar panels sufficient to provide electricity to recharge the batteries.

The Light Undoubtedly Breaking In With Blessings

God blesses us that we may be blessings to others.

This Lent may our fasts be undertaken, not for us, but to bring to all justice, freedom, clean water and air, food and clothing, homes and meaningful labour, love and, most of all, hope.

Remember God’s promises.

Remember the victims in Christchurch.

Remember without fear.

Live well, that terror have no place among us.

Mysteries —

all kinds of
wonderful unknowables

There are so many things in life that remain a mystery.

As the sun rose after a bright moonlit night I kept working inside and missed the marvel of the sunrise through the trees.

Winter though provides little light above the trees, so even when I was able to emerge, this caught my eye. I moved easily to get my camera for this was far to complex a shot than possible with a simple cell camera which I also did not have on me.

Then as I mounted the steps to go inside I noticed the light change and with a panic that only a photographer can know too well, I ran to catch the light at play before it moved to something, somewhere else.

Back outside the light returned to play, and these two of the few I took surprised me nicely.

I went back to work after adding them to my desktop slideshow.

This evening they showed up for the first time, which brought me to decide to postpone sleep until they are up for others to enjoy.

The challenge is to find the right composition and play to show what caught my eye.

Here the lines are strong, though the mystery is less if at all.

.

.

.

Here the mystery lays fully in the frame.

There was no fog, as one can tell with a trained eye. This is smoke from the campfire burning up some junk wood and chainsaw chips, with the temperature just right that the smoke traversed quite a ways through the trees on its way to ‘freedom’ in the atmosphere.

Small mysteries include how people can possibly not understand what Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu demonstrated so diligently:

It is very difficult requiring great patience and diligence to throw off oppressive, racists, unjust rulers.

But if one simply replaces them with one’s own version of oppression, racism, and injustice
then one actually only takes a step deeper into greater difficulties for which one is then responsible:
Getting rid of one’s oppressors becomes a step deeper into oppression, from which one has less likelihood of getting free of, for one has deepened the cycle of revenge … and that can take more than generations to be free of.

Mandela and Tutu demonstrated that FRFEDOM from one’s oppressors only is possible if one finds a way free from being the oppressors first, last and all the way in between, which is so much more difficult than throwing off one’s oppressors!

Another small mystery is how it is that so many people think that their lies which ruin other people, are not seen as lies, and that there are terrible consequences, natural consequences and God wrought consequences for such injustice. Even people entrusted with great authority, or perhaps most of all, people entrusted with great authority seem to be oblivious to their own lie’s baldfaceness, and the unjust consequences to other people far beyond the persons they lie about, and the ruinous consequences to themselves. Lies rot a person from the inside until there is nothing left inside, until one is physically alive, but there is no soul left.

While God punishes people for their sins, or forgives them, But unless one repents (changes 180° the sin) the sinner suffers the sin more than anyone else.

Another small mystery of life is how people can think that doing nothing about lies and injustice are even options for life.

Bringing light to bear upon lies and injustice may seem to be costly, even one’s job, or peace, or reputation … but to do nothing in the face of lies leaves one rotting inside as badly as the liars and perpetrators of injustice.

One can look a far, or not so far, just south of the border, to see how destructive lies and ignoring them, can be. But one ought also to pay attention to what is happening in one’s own town: in the politics, the power plays, the wealth thrown around and cow towed to, the public officials, elected and appointed who are entrusted with maintaining good order and justice. Of course one also needs to start in one’s own family, and with one’s self.

The mystery of life for me has been how so many people whom I’ve met are so unaware of the themselves, as they hammer others down and about to make their way forward and upward through life. It’s as if kindness we completely unknown, honesty never heard of, and fairness and justice concepts that mean whatever gets me ahead at whatever cost.

The profound mystery is how light plays on all these self-deceptions, colouring the world ugly.

Except by Grace the colouring can be also a thing of beauty as one forgives and loves despite the cruelty focused at oneself and at others.

Forgiveness is not always possible: sometimes one needs to leave the judgement to God, and move on, not forgiving and fully remembering the sins, but not condemning. The sinners suffer their sins. God eventually judges them, no spin, no evidence hidden, no witnesses excluded — God knows all with or without evidence and witnesses. And since God exists beyond time the consequences of that judgement begins at one’s birth; thus sinners suffer their sins more than are punished for them.

As an ordained person, responsible and with authority to bring forgiveness to sinners, and also entrusted with the terrible authority to bind sins for God to judge, I have seldom done other than pronounce forgiveness, until the last few years. Now the injustice that I have been the brunt of, which is not limited to just me, but most men abused by women, falsely convicted in our courts … which forces me to estimate that more than 75% of men convicted of a crime against their spouse or partner are truly innocent; so pervasive is this turn. We used to hear that men without a thread of truth could bring their non-compliant wives to jail to be ruined or to mental institutions to be drugged out of their minds for decades. Now the system has changed: and it allows women, without truth, to bring their husbands and partners to jail and mental institutions.

These sins, that make this possible, that invite women to do this, as if this deals with the real abuse of women by men, and clearly ignores the real abuse of men by these women … these sins cannot be forgiven. They are bound for God to judge.

The rest of us need to work to bring light to these injustices, or we rot just like the perpetrators.

The small mystery, or not so small mystery, is why this takes so long for us to bring the light to bear upon such blatant sin?

Those are small to immense mysteries. They are dwarfed by the real mystery.

The real mystery is faith:

This coming Sunday we read: love your enemies.

How is that even possible?

The answer is simple and elusively complex.

Just do it!

But the prerequisite is that one knows two things at least:

That one does not deserve to be loved by God, not at all.

And that God still does love you, fully and without reserve or hesitation.

And the third thing to know is that God calls us to love our enemies as God has loved us.

They may not deserve it, but we are to love them anyway.

It’s a matter of faith.

Simple.

Simply impossible.

Simply possible for the Holy Spirit through us, since God makes us saints.

What Does -36°C Look Like

Simple question, simple answer.

It looks like an old photographer with camera in hand, bathrobe bare legs exposed, stepping outside to catch the morning photo(s) for the day.

(I will spare you that selfie … and pretty much all selfies. I’ve never thought much of selfies, being even a reluctant model for myself when I was working with lighting and had no other model to practice on.)

This morning having emerged from the 45°C plus shelter for the wood stove I stepped brashly without a jacket or anything more than my bathrobe to dump the ashes from the fire.

Now that tray, usually a bit toasty, was HOT, so much so that even though I ran (I usually do not) this time it seared through my gloves before I reached the fire pit. It has to be dumped not anywhere since the hot coals that hide in the ash are very alive, passionate red, like some people I’ve known well. As I started to flip the ash tray over the heat hit a nerve and the leprechauns grabbed it out of my hands and threw everything into the snow: hot metal hitting cold snow with sizzles and pops – the tray warped!

Cold has it’s impact.

I grabbed the tray, flipped it to empty it fully, and dashed lively back into the 45°C heat. I did manage to notice the light of the sunrise poking a few holes in the coldscape.

Since I survived that I grabbed my camera, and stepped outside, again.

About the time I caught the first photo I started to feel the deep hard bite of below frostbite warning levels. By the time I made the third photo the bite had eased. Comfortable, and alarmed at how quickly it felt OK, I stretched through the five steps to through the door and thawed my nerves back to yelling painfully alive next to that HOT fire.

Words convey the cold.

But how to say it with a photo?

The best addled thought I had, given the bite I knew was coming, was to contrast the cold with the smoke of the hot fire.

So this shot: Not much there? Looks the same as -3.6°C or even +3.6C.

Yes, that red used to be a deck table leg and support: garbaged, recycled with the cutting wheel of a grinder, and re-purposed to support, minus two legs and the table support arms, a chimney.

Inside my brain started to work again, once thawed. Since the window had cleared of the thick frost present at my wake-up an hour earlier (a nice side benefit of wood heat that it is DRY) I decided the blatant visual was going to have to be the best effort for this early hour. The long end of the needle points halfway between 30 and 40 on the left side, the negative side of zero.

A Little Light, a Little ‘Warmer’ -35°C

The rest of the world that is to be seen from ‘my’ window is as beautiful as always on a clear snow covered winter day. Fresh snow. Solitude.

Things are looking up; it’s warmed up a degree, to -35°C

How Cold?

How Cold Can It Get?

Sometimes words make a difference.

What words do you have, that you can use to inspire life abundant

in a camper warm in the cold, soaked in solitude, and connected to the beauty of life by a thin thread of grace and a camera, a chainsaw and a pile of wood, an old furnace, old metal doors, old tarps added to 1x4s and pallets, garbage wood and metal, propane and gasoline …

and hope?

Is your heart warm, your music lively and loud, your thoughts connected to the universe made by God’s grace?

At -25°C that would be helpful, if a bit elfish.

It warmed up suddenly, mostly the cool on the floor dissipated, why,

?

A wonderful feeling after being cold most of today.

Church: I arrive and within minutes need to take my boots off to rub my feet that are painfully cold still. 10 minutes and they warm up … so it goes all day.

Until now. Toasty warm.

Great music, to volume, the selection of Good Lovelies, Cohen, and Beethoven so far, more to come.

Find a corner that is kind

of friendly and cozy.

A woman at the till behind me, said I was nice, for letting her put her milk jug on the belt sooner than otherwise there would have been room.

I told her my wife doesn’t say I am nice.

She says I am kind ….

Kind of this and kind of that.

‘Cute’

Back out into the cold … it is soooo cold.

Some people heat their homes with gas,

the heat that is put into my face to burn the light out of me

is darkness in action,

the throngs that have used Gaslighting to beat me into submission, death or exile, whichever works first,

is darkness with a goal,

the lies that others live by and for and with,

is the darkness resident.

the pain that everyone suffers for their part in Gas creating,

Gaslighting me

is sadness given place where life belongs.

My little corner is cozy,

in the cold, it is always good enough, with lots of work, to be warm enough.

How cold can their hearts become, so that the weather hardly compares?

How cold can it get?

It can be as cold as it possibly can get, even with climate change,

where yesterday’s extremes are now today’s normals,

because

God’s Grace

and Love are more powerfully Light

than the darkness that people wish on me,

and the furnace

has plenty of wood,

so that

the kindness of my heart is enough,

by God’s Grace,

to hand on what was first given me

faith,

hope,

and

love.

How Cold will you let your life become, before you step into the light of Grace?

Solution or More Problem



The sun rises to colour pieces of the air.

What do we want to be?

Right and therefore probably terribly wrong and the perpetrator of worse: or humble and humorous?

Leaving the study conference, the presenter came to the door, with packed suitcase, leaving with someone else to catch a plane at the airport an hour away. It had been bitter cold, below -30°C. As we left the temperature was still a stiff -20°C with a windchill of -27°C, which does make a difference for what happened next.

I asked if she had a parka. She said it was packed in the suitcase. I continued with my real concern saying that at these temperatures one ought have it at least right handy in the vehicle so that if something happens one is prepared.

She returned a glazed look and said that she would be in the car and into the airport. She had no plans to be outside.

I shook my head in disbelief and said that was ok, but the concern was if an emergency came up, she would not be ready.

More non-commitment, and I departed.

Later I remembered this conversation and one of her comments in her presentation:

‘Mansplaining’ are those spouting off by men without qualifications or attention to the-woman-they-speak-to’s qualifications, as if all wisdom came only from men. And her learned and practiced response was to ignore the words as much as possible and move on.

Ahh, so that was what she did to my words at the door, as I bundled into my down parka on my 40 feet to the car, travelling that same hour to the airport, also never leaving the car.

Perhaps I was just a dumb Minnesotans (she’s from St. Paul MN) from the sticks (Brainerd), who was male and therefore mansplaining her. Perhaps in a different universe.

I have winter survival training, specifically for the weather we were suffering. As a commercial pilot I flew in northern (so it’s called, though it is really central) Alberta. The training was to help us as pilots know how to prepare and then ensure we and our passengers survived after a crash in the bush at extreme temperatures for at least 72 hours. During the training it went down to below -20°C each night as we made our shelters with only natural materials with the tools we normally flew with (or should have never flown without.) The last night it went well below -40°C.

In addition I have had the misfortune of being in a vehicle accident in the winter, and the difference made by having a parka on was critical for survival. Perhaps everything would have turned out ok had I had the parka near me. But then everything was tossed far and away during the pirouette and flips. So maybe not. But getting it out of a packed suitcase? Not a chance that would have gone well.

So maybe I was just mansplaining and her best response was to ignore my words with judgmental disdain and move on; which is good enough until there is an accident, and the parka could have made the difference between life and death, for her or for others in her car or others vehicles.

Maybe she is fully qualified to make the risk assessment, did so and chose comfort over the small likelihood of being in an accident on the way to the car or to the airport.

Or maybe she was not, and as a professor in St. Paul she may never have to work to survive in the outside below -20°C.

But to dismiss my good words, kind even, wise from training and experience, well that is just proof that mansplaining is hardly the problem. The problem is that she dismisses what men say.

NOT

The sun colouring book is actually the smoke of the fire that keeps me warm, or at least alive, when it dips below ‘Youch-It-BITES-to-be-Outside!)

I have no idea if she glazed over about my comment. Or if she actually had a parka to pull out, or was sheepishly covering for the fact she’d travelled, via California, without a parka this time, or she actually made the risk assessment fully informed and the best she wanted to.

Regardless: travelling with no parka at least on the seat beside oneself in the deep freeze of winter is not wise.

Maybe my commenting, with surprise and expecting a humorous exchange, was out of place: why care about how strangers deal with the elements. It’s just the extremes of yesteryear are now the norms, because of climate change. Besides if the stranger is a woman, then it is politically incorrect to try to assist in some normal way.

The best thing to do is let all women suffer, even if there are simple words of hard won wisdom that are worth sharing.

Besides, who cares if I was a stay at home parent, and listened to all the womansplaining that was directed at me at parent-teacher meetings, or other gatherings of parents. Now of course fathers as at home dads is more common. Back then I was singular in most every woman’s experience, and obviously I was stupid at it … because helping raise 7 younger siblings does not really give any man real child rearing experience. You have to be a girl to learn to raise children, practising on your younger siblings, right?!

And all of that is utter nonesense. How do I even know the speaker responded to me as if I were mansplaining her?

I do not.

And why does she ignore men who she thinks are mansplaining her? Because she needs to survive.

But ignoring men, is exactly what women are complaining about: they are ignored.

So the real fix is to blame men and ignore them, to shut them down and silence them, right?!

Wrong.

That kind of working hard to turn the tables on people who treat me/us as if I/we do not count is much more of the same injustice and it breeds injustice, until it has built enough to cause a war, or a personal fight … and then the number of people who are silenced grows out of hand.

Empathy, kindness, reaching into the unfamiliar to understand; These are a good start toward a real solution.

Blaming, dismissing others because they are xsplaining you is not an answer, it is a dodge that perpetuates and makes worse the situation. One could have solved it, but one chose instead to become like one’s enemies and wreak havoc on them as they have you.

No solution comes from diminishing the other, nor from making them one’s enemies.

Only grace truly works.

It’s cold outside. That does not mean one’s heart needs be ice hard.

Be safe, outside, travelling, and with the hearts given into one’s care.

Sometimes the treat is to see something up close, real, beautiful … and forget the rest.