Upcoming

I’m taking a break for a couple of weeks, feel free to read the archives ;D.

Late in August and early in September watch for posts about a new anti-hate campaign by Toronto Faith Leaders and the September 27th Strike.

If you can, enjoy some moments listening to waves on the water and imagine yourself in a boat with Jesus after the storm has passed.

Questions? Comments? Contact Cameron, minister@forestgroveunited.com

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Terror All Around

The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah had a nickname. “Terror All Around.” Speaking of the future of a Jerusalem that was engaged in political games with the superpowers (Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia) around it, he declaimed that if the people of Judah did not rely on YHWH to get them through these troubled times, trouble would come to their streets. The city would be surrounded by a besieging army and they would know the terrible anxiety of terror all around. He said this often enough that when he walked the streets he would be taunted by the children: “There goes ole ‘Terror All Around.’” It’s difficult to know if the humiliation got to him. He was more concerned about being right.

He was. Although there were times when he was a prophet of hope, he was the prophet of nightmares coming true. And he bore the agony of witnessing them. Jerusalem fell, its inhabitants either slaughtered or left to tend a destitute city or taken into captivity hundreds of kilometres away. It brought him no peace.

I think of Jeremiah when I read George Monbiot’s columns. He is ridiculed by many but impossible to ignore. Here is an article about our governments will be responsible for the burning up of our planet. If we don’t get them to take our countries in a different direction than feeding the shareholders of the fossil fuel industries. It will give George Monbiot, nor the rest of us, any peace when he is proven to be right.

Questions? Comments? Contact Cameron, minister@forestgroveunited.com

That wind

I was on a brief break last week. We went to Simcoe Island (getting there is a 2 ferry adventure, winter population 20) and stayed in a small cottage overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It reminded me of the cottages my grandparents had in the Kawarthas when I was a youngster. Dusty gravel roads with sunning garter snakes, fireflies at night competing with the stars for your attention, the constant sound of water at night. In other words, Canadian Eden.

What moved me these past few days was the wind. It blew constantly. Each day was hot but as long as you were close to the water the breeze cooled things off. And kept the mosquitos at bay.

I sat or stood (and occasionally napped) in that wind every day, for longer than I would have predicted. It wasn’t strong enough to blow me over. But it was strong enough to blow through me. I felt it pushing through my cells and exiting on the other side. While it was blowing I felt cleansed. Not sand-blasted, just like new life was blowing into me, taking my tiredness and all its causes.

In our faith traditions, including followers of Jesus, we talk about cleansing through the ancient elements. The waters of baptism. The purging of the Spirit’s fire.

Of old we spoke of our sins being washed away, of the fire burning away all the dross in our lives. The symbolism of baptism, being immersed in water for a brief moment, is of dying to an old way of life and then breathing again. Another interpretation could be that of being plunged into the seas from which we emerged to reconnect with the source of all life. Fire symbolises the uncontrollable, often painful, experiences of life that remind us of our true value and help clarify what we value.

Those two elements remind us, daily, of the peril of our planet, as flooding of coastlands and wildfires in California and Siberia and Northern Canada speak to us of the imminent danger of unchecked “controlled” burning of fossil fuels.

The wind, with its own destructive power, was the element the Ancient Church used to describe the Spirit. There were tongues of flame ascribed to Pentecost, but the wind was there too. It drove the early believers beyond themselves. It inspired them to courage and compassion and community. It permeated their existence.

Those of us who need to get beyond ourselves require more time out in the wind.

Comments? Questions? Contact Cameron, minister@forestgroveunited.com

Sugar is your enemy for the next 2 weeks

I’m prepping for a century ride in August, 160km in the Muskokas as a fundraiser for the Princess Margaret Foundation. I rode last year, but took it down a notch the day of because I was getting over the flu. 100 km. instead of 160. When I finished I felt great and wished I had chosen to do the 160. Not that it mattered to my sponsors, folks were generous in supporting me and the almost 200 other riders. We raised over $300K. This year’s goal is $500K, and a definite 160 km. for me.

My son designed a training and nutrition program for me to get me ready. It’s smart and helpful. At least the training part. He’s encouraged me to adjust my diet. It isn’t terrible, I understand that the lighter I am the better the ride will go. The focus is on protein and slow carbs. He even supplied recipes. Impressive. Then there were these parting words for the day: “Resist the hunger at dinner, go for whole foods, and skip dessert, sugar is your enemy for the next two weeks.” Got it. Don’t like it, but got it. I mostly skipped dessert, I hope a fresh peach doesn’t count.

It puts me in mind of the author of the New Testament Book of Hebrews writing that we set aside (strip off) anything that holds us back from the high calling of following Christ: "… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, ..." If I carry too much baggage in life, even the sweet stuff, I’ll pay a price. The great (and not so great) literature and movies and even bike rides, when they’re about pleasure, can become our fixations, what we give our time to, our focus of worship. As my friend Abe said, in talking about challenges we face at work, “We’re not just here for ourselves.” The less I carry on my ride the easier the ride. The less we carry in life the less the anxiety.

Can I endure this setting aside for two weeks? Of course. My real concern is that I’ll grow to like it and the ice cream in the freezer will go to waste.

While I’m at it, here’s what I wrote about why I’m doing this ride (other than an excuse to spend a day in one of my favourite parts of the world).

Riding is my escape, my freedom, my health. A good day is going so far I wonder if I can make it home.

Not everyone does. Not everyone has the deep satisfaction of the body and mind bringing you to where you belong. The weight of disease slows and cripples and often ends the ride too soon. Or at least makes us believe we can’t get home this time.

I could tell you that I am riding for a friend or relative or anyone I've sat with, patient or family or friend as they come to terms with cancer, and I suppose it’s true, but my inspiration is the awareness that cancer is a group ride. We’ve all been on it or know someone who has. As much as I enjoy riding solo, I understand the significance of lending our strength to each other on hills and in headwinds.

In August I’ll ride with a group of people through a part of Ontario that has always grounded me, the Canadian Shield. The Northern Pass Ride is an excuse for a beautiful day out in Muskoka. It’s power is in the knowledge that all of us will be carrying hope for others as your sponsorship of us empowers the Princess Margaret Foundation.

I’ll ride as far as I can. Your sponsoring me will help others ride farther than they imagine. Find me here:

northernpass.ca

Comments? Questions? Contact Cameron, minister@forestgroveunited.com