Easter brings New Life

This article first appeared in the Marathon Mercury, April 2021.

Although we had some warm weather recently it’s hard to believe that it is, indeed, Spring. Certainly, when the majority of the snow melted away in March we had begun to believe it. But then the cold wind and snow returned and it feels like Winter once again. However, despite this weather, I am seeing all sorts of new life budding in our town right now.

There is new life in the lengthening days and the sunshine, in children back at our playgrounds raising their voices with screams of glee.

There is new life in old buildings being torn down, making way for the new, and in new businesses that have found ways to open despite the present challenges.

There is new life found in bundled-up newborns, and seed packets arriving in the mail.

New life can be found in all the newcomers who have moved to Marathon this past year, despite this pandemic!

And, we have seen new life in a small glass bottle and syringe, calling our vulnerable community members back from the shadow of death.

I am reminded, this Easter season, of the persistence of new life, of how it pushes back against the shadows of fear and death. I feel inspired by the Holy Mystery of Easter and the possibilities it calls us to dream for ourselves.

New life can be awfully hard to see when the bud is so small and fragile, yet, it’s there. Just think, with a nurturing hand imagine what we can grow!

So, a joyous Easter season to each of you. I hope you’ll discover some signs of new life this week in your homes, and around our beautiful town. Or, just maybe, you’ll feel inspired, to plant and nurture a seed yourself.

Why, on earth, would we celebrate Lent this year?

This article first appeared in the Marathon Mercury, February 2021.

The question has been posed, “Why, on earth, would we celebrate Lent this year when we’ve already given up so much?”

Why give up meat, or chocolate, or television when we’ve already given up connection, closeness, shared meals and travel. Why make the next five weeks even more unbearable when we’re clinging to the simple pleasures we have in order to survive?

That is a very good question. It also has me thinking about why Lent began in the first place, and how its origins might make the weeks leading up to Spring more bearable, instead of less.

Lent, the time of lengthening-days that leads us towards Easter, is made up of 40 days and five Sundays. For the early church it was a season where new members would commit themselves to study and reflection, preparing for Baptism at Easter. This ancient version of Lent reminds me more of an exam season than the somber affair we sometimes make it today. Exam time, held in anticipation of graduation, is certainly stressful but also a season when all your hard work comes to fruition. It is the last step before a new journey begins, a time we measure our growth and dream about what is next for us.

In Lent, we follow Jesus through a similar journey. Baptized, named and claimed by God as the Beloved, we follow Jesus through the height of his ministry and towards his final days in Jerusalem. We follow his story, listening attentively, knowing the culmination of his ministry is just a little ways away. We hold our breath in the temple as he overturns the tables, we nudge each other with knowing gazes as he tells his followers just what the Son of Man has come to do, and swallow discomfort as he approaches Golgotha on Good Friday. Beneath it all, the humming anticipation of Easter reminds us that this is not an ending, but a whole new beginning.

I wonder if you can capture that humming energy this Lent, following alongside Jesus as he teaches and travels through the countryside. You might find it helpful not to give-up something over this next month and a bit, but to take up a practice that can help you enter the story more fully.

You could read the book of Mark over the next five weeks, write a note of kindness for each day, or cook and deliver a meal for a friend once a week. You can probably come up with some marvellous ideas of things you can “take-up”, life-giving habits to accompany you through these weeks, practices to help you know Jesus’ way more fully.

I hope this year you can let yourself sink into the Lenten journey. Walking in the footsteps of many curious students who have come before you; following in the shadow of the Teacher, as he takes dusty country roads leading him closer to the Great Mystery of Easter. And, may you find some life-giving practices to enliven this story within you. Safe travels, friends.

Have A Heart Day invites us to speak out with love

This article first appeared in the Marathon Mercury, February 2021.

St. Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays folks tend to hate or love. I’m all for any excuse to love on my family and friends, and I enjoy any ritual that involves handing out free food—especially chocolate. But, I understand the anti-Valentine’s Day faction turning up their noses. Love is not store bought, pricey or branded; love is an activity, not a product.

This year, if you haven’t participated in Have A Heart Day, I want to invite you to try something new on Feb. 14th.

Have A Heart Day was started by The Caring Society  as “a child and youth-led reconciliation event that brings together caring Canadians to help ensure First Nations children have the opportunity to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are”. There are lots of different ways to participate but the most popular is sending Valentine’s Day cards and letters to our elected representatives asking them to “have a heart” for Indigenous kids.

Love is an activity. Love is speaking up, speaking out, standing by, listening closely, and holding up others. And it is certainly not confined to one day of the year!

As settler people we must think critically about how we are loving First Nations, Métis and Inuit kids. We must grapple with the reality of Residential Schools and events like the Sixties Scoop. We still struggle to acknowledge that these historical events are not over and done with: their legacy lives on. Our country continues to enact policies that actively harm or disregard Indigenous children and youth. This is not love.

All children deserve to be happy and safe, to grow up with all the tools they need in order to be healthy and receive a good education. All children deserve to be proud of who they are and connected with their culture. Have A Heart Day tells our leaders that we will not accept our society as it is, we will not accept the unfair ways our country treats First Nations, Métis and Innuit kids.

It’s also a celebration of the creativity, intelligence, and spirit that Indigenous kids have. Just as Black History month is not only about focusing on the trauma of the past, but also celebrating those of African descent, Have A Heart Day celebrates the power and strength of these kids, who know the difference between love and hate, fair and unfair. Kids are naturally wired for justice, and they don’t mind telling us when we’ve got it wrong.

I hope you feel inspired to participate this Feb. 14th. Maybe there’s a young person in your life you want to talk about Have A Heart Day with and write some letters together. I hope you teach by example that love is not store bought, it is an activity. (Learn more and find printable templates at fncaringsociety.com/have-a-heart.)