Thursday, November 26, 2015

Morning Popcorn

Ballpark Popcorn CrunchHey, when God is making something clear, it is exciting how his Word pops, like kernels of popcorn blasting from hard nuggets to delicious edible morsels. 

I read one of my favourite Bible chapters this morning: the book of Colossians, chapter 3, and some of the verses, when I read them in the light of what I shared in my last blog post, The Heavy Weight of Words, had deeper significance than ever.

Think about the agency of the Enemy of God to divide, and his propensity for the use of words to do so, perverting the gift that sets us apart from all the other wonderfully created beings on this planet. See how some of the verses from the passage in Colossians emphasize that fact in describing his influence, to which humans are all too receptive. Look at the contrast with the character of God, with which Paul the apostle, admonishes us to "clothe" ourselves.
Colossians 3:8-12New International Version (NIV)But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience.New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
We are to "take off" the clothing--and nature of the Enemy--which is so natural to our "old selves" (verses 8 & 9,) and "put on" a new, regenerated self, the image of Christ (verse 10.)

And I love verse 11, which counters division and seeing people different to ourselves as "the other."

To sum it all up, verse 14, the final perfect piece of clothing:

Colossians 3:14New International Version (NIV)14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

A small serving of popcorn from me this morning. :)

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Heavy Weight of Words

 I was reading Life of the Beloved by Henri J.M. Nouwen recently, and in a chapter titled "Living as the Beloved," he wrote these lines, which I thought about for days afterwards, and am still pondering:
"The forces of darkness are the forces that split, divide and set in opposition. The forces of light unite. Literally, the word 'diabolic' means dividing. The demon divides; the Spirit unites."

I was telling a friend about this over lunch one day this week, someone who is also a lover of words. We sat in the front window of a cafe, overlooking the main street of a town decorated for Christmas, and I pulled out my e-reader to look up the gospel of John, chapter 17, verses 20-23 , the prayer of Jesus, which suddenly hit me as the antithesis of "diabolic" in the way it focuses on "being one."

Yesterday, curious to learn more, I looked up the word "diabolic" for myself and found this, under the heading "etymology of devil." 

Origin of devil
The word devil comes from the Latin diabolus (devil)...from the verb diaballo (to insinuate things (against sb), put in a bad light, slander, calumniate...

 Isn't this fascinating, when thinking of the devil's first mention, in the book of Genesis, chapter 3? The definition of his name is personified by the record of this creature's words, which cast doubt and insinuated bad intent from the start.

Another of his titles is Father of Lies. His agenda seems often to make use of words to divide, accuse and cause disunity. Yet Jesus is The Word, and his name is Faithful and True.

This is why one of the seven things that are detestable to God, listed in Proverbs 6:16-19, is "a person who stirs up conflict in the community."

Being reminded of the great gift that words are, and how seriously God takes the way in which they are used, sensitizes me in a good way to guard my heart first and foremost; because it is where our words flow from; and then my words.

Years ago I memorized some really good verses from Ephesians. They came to mind again as I thought about all of this. I know I benefit from remembering them, may it be so for others:
Ephesians 4:29-31
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others upaccording to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Power of a Plaque

Cindy Blackstock, a Canadian activist and advocate for First Nations children

Commissioner Marie Wilson
A small crowd of people stood beneath an ominous grey sky, hugging their coats close, and holding tight to elegant green Beechwood Cemetery umbrellas, bracing against sudden gusts of wind that caught and swirled golden yellow leaves in the air. A CBC camera person in a warm, red jacket, recorded an event as significant as it was small; a correction of a slice of Canadian history in the form of a plaque.

It was Sunday, November 1, the beginning of a month associated with remembrance and Paul and I had just driven five hours to Ottawa to witness a ceremony that shone truth on a part of history that was remembered until now, through the blindfold of prejudice.

Ever since September and an earlier trip to Ottawa, when we had lunch with Cindy Blackstock; a Canadian born Gitxsan activist for child welfare, and the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society; I had been captivated by Cindy's revelations about two Canadian historical figures: Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, and Duncan Campbell Scott

Over a generously shared hour and a half, Cindy educated and inspired me. I highly recommend you clicking on a link HERE to hear Cindy tell the short version of what I heard then, in an 8 minute interview by Robyn Bresnahan on the CBC radio show this week, Ottawa Morning. Cindy is a powerful teacher. CBC website notes: He was a famous poet and he was partly responsible for Canada's residential school system:  Duncan Campbell Scott left a complicated legacy. We hear why both sides are now part of a plaque near his grave in Beechwood Cemetery.

That day in September, when we learned of the ceremony being planned, we knew that we would be back for it in November!

In preparation, for the last month I had been reading A National Crime, by John S. Milloy, cited as "one of the 100 most important Canadian books ever written," by Literary Review of Canada, and one of two books recommended by Cindy. I learned about the residential school system and the role played by the man at the centre of Sunday's ceremony, Duncan Campbell Scott. The book is a heartbreaking read. The other book Cindy recommended is also compelling: Conversations with a Dead Man: The legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott by Mark Abley.

After a few words, a prayer and the unveiling of the new plaque, we retreated from the fall weather to the comfort of the beautiful Beechwood reception halls and chapel, for refreshments and a powerful and poignant ceremony of Truth Telling, Learning and Reconciliation that included talks by author John S. Milloy, Professor Steven Artelle (University of Ottawa,) Mohawk activist and artist, Ellen Gabriel, and Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, Marie Wilson. as well as Beechwood COO Roger Boult, Cindy Blackstock, Ed Bianchi of Kairos Canada and Rev. James Murray of Dominion Chalmers United Church.

Mohawk activist and artist, Ellen Gabriel
It was Ellen Gabriel who used the words, "the power of a plaque," in her talk on Educating the Past as a Vision for the Future. I thought of the significance of correcting the public record of a man's life. It was done not to demonize him, but to humanize him. His failings are those that humanity as a whole is frequently guilty of. As individuals too, we are just as prone to self deception, cognitive dissonance and blindness in our thoughts and actions. I mostly live somewhere between the two men in this story, and one choice at a time determines the legacy I will leave behind. Ellen talked about moving beyond shame and guilt, to taking actions that correct wrongs, as was being done that day. 

The afternoon ended with a walk through Beechwood Cemetery, to "visit" Dr, Peter Henderson Bryce, the man who raised the alarm on conditions in Canada's residential schools, an alarm that fell on Duncan Campbell Scott's deaf ears. At his grave, there is a plaque, unveiled in June, which honours his work. 

By the time we walked to the grave of Dr. Bryce, the cemetery was appropriately aglow in a symphony of golden leaves. It was a time to celebrate truth finally told.  

It had been a very good day.