Friday, December 22, 2006

holidays a-comin'

I'll be taking a brief break from blogging as we celebrate Christmas. I'll be back, blogging like mad, in two weeks or so. Meanwhile, here are some wise words, heard on a hillside a long time ago:

Glory to God

     Peace on earth

And here are some more, heard regularly on CBC radio from Jasper Friendly Bear of Dead Dog Cafe:

Keep calm

     Be brave

          Wait for the signs

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Well, the only thing that stunk (stank?) worse than my shooting percentage last night (we lost our Men's League basketball game by one point... and guess who missed two foul shots in the last minute...ouch...) was the skunk that seems to have taken up residence somewhere under our house.

This is the second time in the last few weeks that this particular creature (or are there more, and they take it in shifts?) has blessed us with its fragrant offerings. Perhaps it read my last inspirational post, and is just "singing its song" in its own stinky way...

Apparently former residents called the Fire Department one time, thinking it was an electrical-fire-in-the-making kind of smell... last night I wondered if it was a particularly acrid physical manifestation of my shooting percentage... and my wife (sensible as always) suspected some kind of lethal gas leak (should we leave the house?)... before a wise neighbour helped us settle on "skunk" as the culprit.

It's times like these when our virtuous habit of hanging our wet laundry on a rack rather than using a dryer seems not so virtuous... is it "loving my neighbour" more to reduce our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by air-drying our laundry, or to carry "essence of skunk" with me to the check-out line at the grocery store...?

Any wisdom from the Musing Masses on how to deal with such strident scent scenarios would be much appreciated...

I'm delighted, by the way, that our friends at Old Man Farm are posting again... We spent a week WWOOFing there last summer (if you don't know what WWOOFing is, it's time you found out...)


Friday, December 15, 2006

sing your song

Lately I’ve been fighting off feelings of discouragement, with varying degrees of success. Just how crazy am I to be doing what I’m doing? What good is another song, anyway?

But I’ll tell you what… reading the “Christmas story” in Luke 1-2 is enough to make me think there are, and have been, plenty of folks just as crazy or crazier than me… living lives and singing songs and trying to make sense of it all…

Take this teen-aged girl, for instance. Pregnant without being married, told she is “favoured” by God, and that her being “favoured” in this way is going to turn the whole world upside down… and she says “…OK…”

And after a bit of time to digest the news, she does what any sensible teen-ager would do who’s learning to play guitar and facing an existential crisis… she leaves the house… and belts out a song… riffing off a song from her tradition that she obviously knows well…

It starts out innocuously enough - “my soul is filled with joy” and so on - but then… Whoa! This girl is singing revolution! God stopping by, messing things up, bringing down the powerful and lifting up the flattened, stepped on, run over… does she have any idea what she’s singing? What kind of cause she’s signing (singing) on to? How HUGE this is…?

And then she goes and has her baby.

And this old man in the temple who’s been waiting all his life for things to change… when he sees this little baby, wouldn’t you know it, apparently he’s a singer too…

His song is even stranger. “At last,” he says, drawing on the old songs that he also knows, “my eyes have SEEN the salvation of my people…”

Huh? Look around you, man. Give your head a shake. Last I checked, things haven’t changed much since last week… or last year… I can understand your “poetic license” and “artistic vision” and all… but do you really see that…? in THIS little baby…?

And how about this one. I think it’s my favourite. There’s big news to announce. A new king is born. Massive changes are on their way. Finally.

Send out the news releases. Talk to the media. Call in the army.

Yes, the army (or “host”, as in the “heavenly host”). The great heavenly army is mustered and deployed… sent out to storm the capital… well, at least to seize the … or invade the… to eliminate the…

Well, actually, they’re sent to a bunch of shepherds. On a hillside. Outside of town. And they… umm… (how embarrassing)… sing a song.

One short tune. Glory to God, peace on earth. And then they pack up and go home.

God, what are you doing? What a waste of heavenly resources, hard-earned heavenly taxpayer dollars! To mobilize and equip the armies of heaven… to go through all the effort and expense – not to mention staff time - to get them to their “theatre of operations”… at a time of such urgent need, such desperate injustice, such oppression and terror…

For what purpose? For what mission, exactly?

To sing a song.

Something big is going on here. There’s a whole lot more than I can see or understand. A revolution is under way, with tactics that are way beyond what I could ever strategize or plan...

So who am I to be discouraged? I guess I’m in good company. God is up to something, and it’s not up to me to make it happen… but maybe, like that teen-aged girl, that old man, and that heavenly army so strangely deployed, I can remember the old songs, and sing my little song too. And trust that change is coming - it's here now - and God can work even my song into the story somehow.

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Friday, December 08, 2006


The other day I opened a book and out popped a scrap of paper with the chorus of a song scribbled on it. I have no idea when I wrote it, and had forgotten all about it - what a delight to find it again, and even more, to discover that it's not bad. It's got potential, at least.

I'm forever jotting things down on bits of paper. A while back, in an administrative burst of organizational fervor, I went so far as to find a binder into which I stuffed as many of the bits of paper that I could find... along with a couple of file folders stuffed with further bits (evidence of previous organizational outbursts).

I love to start songs. I hate to "finish" them.

Starting a new song is energizing and fun. Revising and polishing and re-writing and scrapping and starting over... that's hard work.

My brother recently submitted his doctoral thesis. Having once entertained thoughts of more academic pursuits, I now find myself amazed at the dogged single-mindedness required to get to where he is.

Then I think: I'm single-minded too. I'm just single-minded about an awful lot of different things...

Now where did I leave that piece of paper... the one with the phone number on it...


Monday, December 04, 2006

a long-expected party

Last week I began something that I’ve been waiting for years to do.

I began reading “The Lord of the Rings” to our 9 year old son.

Now I know this is one of those perennial parental debates: when is your child ready for this… or for that...? As parents we’ve been, on the whole, very careful (some would say overly so) about some of our choices… We didn’t have a TV that worked until he was 4 or so, and then only watched the occasional video. It was rather shocking to us when one of his little friends was watching the newly released “Lord of the Rings” movies… while our son would weep at the admittedly vivid scene of Franklin the Turtle and his friend Bear arguing over the blanket (and tearing it, dramatically, in the process).

We’ve tried to be very careful in terms of watching on-screen depictions of violence. We’ve followed, more or less, a “vaccination” philosophy of TV and “screen time” generally - not prohibiting it and making it a “forbidden fruit” that becomes overly tempting and exciting, but still setting pretty strict limits, and trying to make sure we do other fun things as a family and with friends so that “screen time” is not the only (or most appealing) option.

All the same, how sad that we have felt the need to implement a strategy of intentional and incremental de-sensitizing to a certain degree of on-screen violence for our son to be able to relate and function in a “normal” way with his peers… to not be traumatized when he goes to a friend’s birthday party and somebody puts on a video… While at the same time we struggle with how to nurture an “alternative imagination” in the face of the endlessly rehearsed “myth of redemptive violence” (that “evil” is necessarily and effectively and heroically combated and defeated by violent means)…

One of the joys of parenthood this past while has been delighting together in a pile of books that I remember reading and loving when I was close to our son’s age. A while back it was the Narnia series, and the Hobbit. More recently, Danny the Champion of the World, and My Side of the Mountain. Wonderful, wonderful stuff, and wonderful to hear “How many favourites did you have, dad?” and “What's the next one going to be?”

But I’ve been holding off on reading The Lord of the Rings. Maybe in part it’s because I only discovered them when I was older (early teens), and don’t want to “spoil” the experience by introducing it too soon. They are long, and “darker” and more scary than anything we’ve read together so far… I remember a favourite university prof, who taught us Shakespeare, saying that he’d never finished reading The Lord of the The Rings because it terrified him… But I hear from other parents who have read them to children younger than ours…

So is our son “ready?” How to decide? Is reading the Lord of the Rings together at this point merely reinforcing the “myth of redemptive violence”…? … or could it also be helping to nurture an “alternative imagination”…? (eg: the more I read of the “call” and “quest” of the hobbit-folk the more I hear echoes of texts like 1 Cor 1:26-31)…

Or is it really about daddy not being able to wait any longer…?

Well, last week our son was home sick from school for two days, and I decided to take the plunge. I don’t think being sick has ever been so much fun for either of us. (We haven’t gotten to the scarier parts yet.)

And after reading about Frodo carrying on the tradition of celebrating Bilbo’s birthday, even years after Bilbo went away, our son said “I don’t think that’s so weird. It’s kind of like Christmas. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday every year, even though he’s not here anymore. Well, he is, but not… you know, technically… but we celebrate his birthday anyway…”

And now, at the beginning of Advent, our son is the one insisting that we set up the tree, sing Christmas songs, have our special “family worship” times. He has even planned out a daily “service,” has assigned us each our parts, and has been leading us each day after supper.

“And a little child shall lead them…”

“A Long-expected Party” indeed.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

political analysis from our 9 year old

While listening to CBC radio over lunch today…

“Is that a hockey game?”


“A basketball game?”


“Then what is it?”

“It’s the leadership convention for the Liberal Party of Canada. They’re choosing a new leader.”

“Didn’t they already get elected or whatever?”

“Well, the Liberal Party lost in the last election. Remember Paul Martin? He decided he didn’t want to be the leader anymore, so now they’re choosing another one.”

“Oh… So who’s playing?”

“Who are the candidates? Well, there’s Michael Ignatieff, Gerard Kennedy, Bob Rae, Stephane Dion… who do you think they should choose?”

“Bob Rae.”

“How come?”


“He has the only name I can remember.”

UPDATE: a few hours later…

Stephane Dion giving his victory speech, impressing both the 9 year old and his dad by declaring “a sustainable environment” and “development of a sustainable economy” to be his first priorities… and then…

The speech cut off abruptly, and on comes… Hockey Night In Canada…

Stunned looks from the 9 year old and his dad… when was the last time they both would have rather heard a political speech than watch the hockey game…?

In short order, different responses:

“I bet we can still catch the rest on the radio…”

“Yeah… but can’t we watch the hockey game…?”