The news from the Philippines is so bleak. The smell of bodies under rubble in Tacloban. People scavenging for food, living in the ruins of their homes with nowhere else to go. Looting.

Typhoon Haiyan may have killed thousands. It’s what your insurance company means by “Act of God” in the “things we don’t pay for” small print.

I would never call an event like this an “act of God.” Many scientists studying climate change say that storms like this are going to get more and more common, and they lay the blame for climate change in the destructive and wasteful ways we live. God doesn’t need to mix in in the misery and suffering of the world. The world, natural or human, manages just fine in this regard without any divine “aid” whatsoever.

Yet whenever we experience extreme loss or challenge, many of us are driven to wonder: “Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this?” Somehow in such moments we forget that the sun rises and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous both (Matthew 5:45). That’s clear in the pictures from Tacloban. No one living in that island city has gone unscathed.

Brian Stoffregen, commentating on Luke’s account of the cross at, says that even while Jesus is dying, one of criminals dying beside him “has the faith to see and believe that Jesus can remember him…This dying king can remember him,” in this world and the next.

Sometimes, or maybe even most of the time, “why” is just the wrong question. We might just as well ask, “When…when will I suffer, Lord?” Suffering is a built in feature of existence. This is not the new creation, Christian theology teaches, only the old creation being re-birthed. Birthing hurts. Sometimes it even kills.

Maybe, in that dying man’s plea to Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom,” we get an answer that makes it possible to endure and even find wellness within the midst of trials. The art of suffering might just be to see the face of Christ suffering beside us and within us, and to trust that God will work good from that suffering. Just as God conquered death through the cross of Jesus Christ, so can new life arise out of every form of human suffering.

It’s not an easy answer.

It’s a really bad answer to shove down a suffering person’s throat.

But it is an answer that, once embedded in the heart of faith, sustains and gives hope when hope seems impossible.

May God grant hope to the people of the Philippines, and grace to the rest of to be the hands and feet of that hope.

Photo Credit: New York Post

Stand at the Crossroads

Stand at the Crossroads

Stand at the Crossroads

Did you know that before there was a “Halloween” there was Samhain (pronounced Sow-an)? Samhain was a time on the Pagan calendar when, it was believed, the dead could draw near to the living. Our dressing up in scary costumes has its origin in the Samhain practice of trying to “spook the spooks,” to scare away the ghosts that might be tempted to “cross over” and cause mischief or harm.

The institutional church co-opted this Pagan observance and replace it with its own, All Saints Day, a feast day to remember all the dear departed, but especially the saintly dear departed, a time to look back and give thanks for the ones who went before us.

In the Bible, Jeremiah tells us to “stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) Today in the church on All Saints Day we might remember the roads built by the peoples of our past, paths of faith and practice that help us live more nearly with God; paths which led to the building of gorgeous sacred spaces in which to worship, and in Canada, at least, gave us tools for compassionate living such unemployment insurance, welfare, socialized medicine.

It’s likely, however, that our gratitude is also tinged by grumbling. The church(es) founded by the first saints, the Apostles, have had a hand in oppression and institutionalized abuse through much of their history. Our church buildings suck time, energy and money away from outreach and justice. Our social safety net has gotten expensive and cumbersome without serving the needs of those it was designed to protect.

“Ask for the ancient paths where the GOOD way lies,” said the prophet. We should be constantly wondering over which ancient paths are worth keeping and which need to be wiped off the map. Remembering the gifts of the people before us without turning a blind eye to the harm they may have caused allows us to also maintain a certain humility about our own practices of life and faith today.

Funny thing. “Crossroads” in the ancient world were also considered everyday “thin places” where the mystical and the mundane collided. Maybe Jeremiah knew that those were good places to listen humbly for the voices of the past calling us back to the good they had in mind for us, at the same time as hearing their pleas to avoid the mistakes they made.

Take some time today to stop and give thanks for the gifts from the past that have brought you to where you are today, to extend forgiveness when the past has been more of a burden than a gift, and to think ahead to the world you’d like to pass onto your own kids, grandkids, great-grandkids etc.

Stand at the crossroads and wonder, and let God show you the good way.

And for goodness’ sakes, eat a bunch of candy, dress up in something silly, and scare a Trick or Treater or two at your door! No one ever said the “good” way had to be the boring way.



“Hi you’ve reached ____________, I’m not here to take your call just now, but please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able.”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard this sort of voicemail message in the early days of my return to faith. I was struggling painfully with a host of personal issues, and both my therapist and my recovery group had been generous with their contact numbers. And still, I would come to a particularly hard place and find myself utterly alone in it. I never seemed to be able to get anyone on the line when I most needed them.

I have a strong suspicion that were it not for that experience of feeling repeatedly abandoned by others, I might never have heard the message most likely to occupy God’s voicemail (were God to ever make use of such a thing): “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

It’s a lot harder to call God up and receive that beautiful message when we ignore the basic human need to be alone, at least sometimes. In solitary stillness, as we grow to know our pain, our glory and everything in between, we also become more able to experience God working through it all.

I would love to tell you that whenever I am alone, sad or afraid now, I instantly feel God with me. The truth is something more like this. I have begun…to be able…to consider the possibility that…whatever life’s various fails – whatever the mini-Armageddons I face – I am able to be especially present to God if I allow myself to experience the pain of the moment.

Somehow, being present to that pain is also the way I am able to hear pain’s ultimate answer, love in God Most High.

Thankfully, though, God doesn’t depend on me getting it right in order for love to keep working in my life. That’s the promise we get in Jesus, that whatever the catastrophic end in which we find ourselves, God is constantly there, working the new out of the ashes of the old.

We are not alone, even to the end of the age. Thanks be to God!

Hungry Days



You that yearn for days of fullness
All around us is our food.
Taste and see the grace eternal.
Taste and see that God is good.
(Sylvia Dunstan, 1990)

Would you count yourself among those who “yearn for days of fullness?”

You’re not alone. Lots of us are in tight times economically. Lots of us are having days where there are far more tasks than time. Lots of us are meeting impossible demands with limited resources.

Hungry days, in other words.

My hungry days of professional and personal disaster came just three years ago this week, when ministry, marriage and money all tanked, within a week or so of each other. Very quickly I found myself empty of hope, shell shocked by one bad turn after another.

With many others in similar times, I found myself saying : “If God is good how come I feel so bad?” or “If God were good, I would never have lost the job/lost my money/lost my marriage…”

But people in my life kept calling me back from despair. They kept putting food on my table (literally and figuratively), but more importantly, they kept me open to the food that was always there for me: grace eternal. Even though sometimes my prayers of thanks were delivered through gritted teeth, just the act of trying to be grateful changed the experience.

Notice, I didn’t say “made it all better.” But even my grudging thanksgivings helped me see what I otherwise would have missed. That there were good things alongside the bad. That God was constantly present working good out of the bad. It helped me get out of myself, let go of the “poor me” and remember the needs of others too.

This year, whether at table with a turkey and fixings, friends and family, or at the feast of God’s love, the Communion table, I hope you are able to accept the gracious invitation: “Taste and see that (even on our hungry days) ” God is good.”

Were not 10 healed? (Luke 17:16-17) (art credit: Gary Wilson)

Were not 10 healed?  (Luke 17:16-17) (art credit:  Gary Wilson)

Practicing gratitude is an invitation to grace.

Ever notice that some religious groups (Christian or otherwise) make “right behaviour” necessary in order for God to love us? It’s as though such folk believe they can “make” God save them through their own actions. Or worse, they like to make it seem as though believers are better than everyone else.

And yet…there’s no question that without works, faith is dead (James 2:26). How do we balance these, to have trust in God’s grace but not take it for granted?

I think the key is gratitude. When we accept God’s love as a gift in our lives, gratitude is the most natural and fitting response. Gratitude is the best reason to work in a soup kitchen, to collect money for a relief fund, to lobby government for fair wages for all, etc etc. True Christian gratitude should lead us to hunger after every way we can for others to get a chance to experience God’s love in mind, body and spirit.

Gratitude can and should inspire in us the desire to constantly create opportunities for the experience of grace.

What opportunities for grace might God be shaping from your daily practice of gratitude?

The Magic Penny

The Magic Penny

“Love is something if you give it away you just have more and more…”

Remember that old song “Magic Penny?” (Here’s a link to the whole song, just in case you don’t: It’s going to mean a lot less to our kids and grandkids as the penny goes the way of the dodo in Canada, but most of us would agree:

Giving money away does NOT, in fact, cause it to multiply.

Love is like that, though. Just as parents discover that loving their second child just adds to the love they have for their first, the truth is, the more people you love, the more people you can love!

Church communities are exactly the same. Week by week, we gather to remember ourselves as loved by God, and to work for God’s love in the world. Hoarding that experience causes congregations to go the way of second languages we never used after learning them.

Parlez vous Espanol, anyone?

Just like the “magic penny” of the song, sharing God’s love with others feeds our faith and our communities both. But it’s not easy for us to invite people to church, is it? We worry that they might think we’re weird. We worry they might think we’re trying to force our beliefs on them. We really worry that they might reject us.

September 29, Gordon-King is having a party, along with hundreds of other congregations around the world. The party is called “Back to Church Sunday.” It’s a day for you to celebrate what God has given you, by daring to giving it away.

It’s a day to trust that, just like the “magic penny” of the song, God will grow your courage in faith when you reach out to someone else and invite them to worship with you!

Give some thought, this week, to who you might invite for “Back to Church Sunday.” Contemplate the gifts of God you’ve experienced through your faith community and ask God for courage to find others to share those gifts with.

Who knows what “magic” God will work through you?

Vinyl Village Stage, Festival Campground

Vinyl Village Stage, Festival Campground

Photo Credit: Patrick Boggs

Spirit/Mind/Body Praying

While I was away on holidays, I went to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Not only did I hear a lot of music, but because I camp in the noisy camping with a bunch of musician friends, I got a chance to play a lot of music too. What a pleasure and a privilege to be able to do that!

Music is a big part of life at GKMUC. Thursday nights between Sep-Jun we have Gordie’s Coffee House showcasing some of the best up and coming musical talent Winnipeg has to offer. And, of course, we have the fabulous ‘Called 2 B’ band on Sunday mornings leading enthusiastic singing in the sanctuary.
St Augustine, one of the most influential Christian theologians of all time, is reputed to have written “He who sings, prays twice.”

If you’ve been with us in worship, that probably resonates. Just try saying “The Lord’s Prayer” out loud now. Then cast your mind back to singing it on Sunday morning with the band leading.

It’s a different experience, isn’t it?

When we sing the words, not only does our brain process and interpret the words. Our body integrates those words into who we are. Suddenly we are spirit/mind/body together in an eternal moment, deepening our faith and drawing us more closely to God.

Thanks be to God for music and so much more!

PS Gordies’ Groupies: The music starts up again Sep 19. See you there!