Tag Archives: Bible

Flow: Clogs, floods, parables and Justin Bieber

The main pipe that takes water waste away from our house clogged.

For a twenty-four hour period while we waited for the friendly rooter person to come and clear out the gunk, we couldn’t wash dishes, shower or do laundry for fear of back-up and damage.

Before the clog, I thought of water in terms of supply. That is, how important it is to have water flowing to my house. It also should be a world priority to have water flowing to people no matter where they live. After the clog I realized that water flowing from my house is equally important.

While water was backing up in our pipes, it was flowing wildly in the Ottawa River. Two years after a disastrous flood—one that was supposed to be a “hundred-year flood”—another one came to us, and this one was worse.

The flooding damaged homes, cottages and businesses along the shoreline. Even though the force of the water through one of our bridges was three times that of Niagara Falls, the volume of water flowing to us exceeded its ability to flow from us. Flooding and damage resulted, and that bridge will be closed for weeks because the force of the water could undermine the integrity of the structures.

Still shot from local news - Niagara - 2400 m cubed per second of water, the Chaudiere Bridge, 7497 m cubed per second.
Matt Skube on CJOH News Ottawa with graphics showing the force of water through the Chaudière Bridge.

We experienced what I call the “Justin Bieber effect.” (More on that later.) The community pulled together to fill sandbags and clear up damages. The community will continue that work for weeks and months to come

While all this was happening, I was participating in a series of group discussions about the parables in the Bible. Those stories have been studied, analyzed and dissected for centuries and people still can’t agree what they’re all about. The same story can mean two different things to the same person at different times in their lives.

For me, right now, the parables remind me of flow. They teach me two lessons: (1) There is enough and more where that came from flowing to us, and (2) we’d better share or there will be damage, and everyone is worthy of receiving the flow from us. The loaves and the fishes, for example, can be interpreted as saying, “Never think there’s not enough. There’s enough and more where that came from, and everyone is worthy of receiving it.”

Which brings me to Justin Bieber. As I stood by the banks of the Ottawa River watching the level continue to rise even though there was nowhere else for the water to go, I started to think about flow in terms of abundance and money.

Justin Bieber was a simple kid from Stratford, Ontario. He was adorable, but not well-known, and there was no excess of money in his household when he was a child. Then he got noticed on YouTube. Then important people noticed him on YouTube. Then there was a torrent of wealth and fame that descended upon him, and it was TOO MUCH all at once. The volume flowing tohim was more than the flow from him could handle. The flooding caused damage and the force threatened the structures

Justin needed some sandbags and some clean-up help from community.

This spring of clogs and floods reminds to allow the flow, to trust the flow to provide for my necessities and maybe some fun too, and that if sandbags are needed, community is there.

Here is a video of fun in the flow.

Good will, then peace

many-ChristmasesAt the end of my Tuesday post, Charlie Brown reflections, I tagged on the Christmas story that Linus recites in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Since Tuesday I have discovered how deeply Linus’s scene touches people. People have told me it’s their favourite scene. They have told me that as soon as Linus says “Lights please” a peaceful quiet descends on a room, and that all movement stops until Linus says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The King James version of the Bible isn’t used in my progressive Christian church very often anymore, but Christmas is the one time of the year I wish they would. Other Bible versions cannot match the lyrical rhythm of the King James Luke 2:10-14.

But I’ve been mulling this passage over in my mind since Tuesday. I’m a stickler for non-gender-specific language, so I would rather have the words “all people” at the end instead of “men,” but I am willing to live with it in this case as a nod to a time when we didn’t know better. If I had to change something, it would be the order of the last phrase of the last line: “. . . and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The writer of this passage wished for peace first and then good will toward all people. Wouldn’t it work better the other way around?

If we had good will toward all people, peace would follow.

So this Christmas, no matter whether the season is a secular one or a religious one for you, show good will toward all people. From that, we make peace. 

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Luke 2:10-14 (Arlene version)

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and with good will toward all people, on earth peace.

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A table in the presence of thine enemies: forgiveness or threat?

cup-of-hope“Thou preparest a table in the presence of thine enemies.” —Psalm 23:5

The challenging, troublesome, dangerous thing about the Bible, or any faith-related book, is the different ways readers interpret the passages. The quote above is from the famous 23rd Psalm, a touchstone passage for many.

For me, the line above signifies forgiveness and peace. It says: “You might be in conflict now, but someday you will resolve the issues, you will forgive, and you will eat together in peace.

Lovely, right?

Then someone went and ruined it for me. A man who I will call a Negative Nellie if it’s possible for a man to be such a thing, said, “Oh, no. That passage is about revenge. It says that enemies have to be disarmed in order to sit and eat, so it’s a threat to your enemies. It’s saying they will be vanquished and disarmed, and you will put them at your table so you can gloat.”

His interpretation deflated me. I felt like I had gone to the movies to see Field of Dreams and ended up in a theatre watching Carrie instead.

The same passage interpreted in two different ways. Maybe it’s another “roses or thorns” situation that says more about the reader than the passage itself.

I prefer Field of Dreams, and I’ll stick to the rosier interpretation of the passage, too.

What do you think?

The first Christmas gifts were not reciprocal

many-ChristmasesYou know the scenario: Someone you know and love, but don’t usually exchange gifts with, suddenly appears before you holding out a brightly wrapped Christmas gift. She beams with joy, because she has found the perfect thing for you. She saw it in a store, thought of you and just had to get it.

Do you receive the gift with unqualified gratitude? Or do you think, “Oh, no! I don’t have anything for her”?

My friend, Ellie, reminded me a few weeks ago that the gifts in the Christmas story were not reciprocal. In one of the Christmas parables, wise travellers brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. The Bible doesn’t go into detail about what Mary and Joseph might have said upon receiving such valuable gifts, but I don’t think it went like this:

Joseph: Mary, the wise men are on their way, and they’re all carrying something.

Mary: Carrying something? What could that be?

Joseph: I’m not sure, but one of them has something shiny. It looks like gold.

Mary: Gold! Oh, no. And I didn’t get anything for them. Do we have something in our baggage that we could wrap up quickly?

From what we can glean from the Matthew version of the Christmas parable (there are no wise men in the Luke version), Mary and Joseph received the first Christmas gift with grace and gratitude. To do otherwise would have made the whole situation awkward, and would have deprived the wise visitors of the joy of giving.

This Christmas, when someone beams with joy as he gives you that perfect something that he brought to you out of love, receive it with unqualified gratitude. Don’t deprive him of the joy of giving.

Creation from many perspectives

Beware of a man of one book.  —English Proverb

On this date in 1925, the state of Tennessee made it illegal to teach evolution in any state-funded school. The Butler Act stipulated that teaching about evolution would deny the factual truth of the creation story in the Bible.

(Which biblical creation story, I wonder? There are two)

This led to the famous Scopes trial and decades of debate about creationism and evolution. Even though the act was repealed in 1967, incredibly, there is still controversy about teaching the theory of evolution.

Now, 87 years later, we live in an electronically connected global village. We search the internet to enrich our imaginations with the creation stories of cultures from around the world—including those in the Bible. We read many books full of detailed scientific information about the big bang and evolution. What a wealth of resources we have to feed our full and balanced educations.

Beware of an education of one book.

Gratitude makes you happy

This past summer, A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible, spoke to a gathering of law librarians in Philadelphia. His speech included anecdotes about how the research for his writings has affected his life.

When Jacobs chose to explore the Bible, he did it the Jacobs way—to the extreme. He lived for a year following every law and teaching in the Bible. Or rather, he tried to live that way for a year but discovered that there are more than 700 laws in the Bible and some of them contradict one another. “Even absolutism must have exceptions,” he wrote, as he struggled to decide what to do.

But at the end of the year he had changed.

He was happier, and the secret was gratitude. Faith communities encourage the giving of thanks, and when he adopted a daily practice of giving thanks throughout the day for all those little wonderful things that often go unnoticed, it changed him. He realized that for every one or two minor things that went wrong, a hundred things went right.

Sometimes we “save up” our gratitude for Thanksgiving weekend, instead of mindfully practising the giving of thanks throughout each day, week and month. This weekend, be thankful, and let it be the beginning of spreading out your gratitude, and your happiness, throughout the year.