Catching Up

Well I had a good run. Right up to Day 20 of Lent without breaking the discipline. Truth is, I had my sister Helen and her husband Gary for a visit and took of Days 22-26 from the blog. But fear not – I have thoughts for each day.



One of my favourite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “There are no classes in life for beginners: right away you are always asked to deal with what is most difficult.” There is a lot to be said for that.

Catherinanne and I are pleased to have with us for the next few days a couple who have been strong and have shown courage when so many more would have crumbled. I cannot believe that my sister is finally here visiting with her husband Gary. As I reflect daily in Lent on being better and navigating life, I look to them as a living witness that sometimes we are asked to deal with the ‘most difficult.’  Life does not allow us to choose easy road or tough road. We do not get a manual to explain what to do in the difficult moments. There is no reference book to quickly check and see what we do when…

(Left to Right: Gary and Helen Sparkes with our Friend Fausto Volpatti)

What we have is an unbelievable ability to be pushed and stretched. We have an amazing capacity to stand tall in the midst of great storms. We have friends and family, we have laughter and joy, we have gifted people with new insight for us, and we have God ever present with us who strengthens us in all things. In John 16 Jesus promises that the Advocate will be present to the people in the midst of all things. We have inherited that unbelievable promise.  

There are no classes in life for beginners. This is true – but we do have people beside us in life who can show us how to live through the most difficult of situations with dignity and with love. I will always look to my sister when I face difficulties. We all need to find someone to look to, God gives us each other and we should lean on those around us. We came without an owners manual, but we also came with the power to discern.


Lent – Day 23: HOSPITALITY


In Lent, Sundays are days of feasting and a break from the Lenten sacrifice and discipline. Every Sunday is, in a manner of speaking, a celebration of Easter. We may try liturgically to fashion the liturgy and our surroundings in such a way to accentuate the Lenten theme but we cannot avoid the celebration of resurrection in the Sunday Mass – so we Feast on Sunday. [I pause to add here that we do all we can with the space at St. Mark’s to give the Lenten feel. This year we removed the heat and the walls and had church in the midst of a construction zone. – It was really cool! J)


Yesterday’s feast was a great display of hospitality. We read in 1st Peter – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).” We witnessed again yesterday the great spirit of hospitality at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. Knowing that my family were paying a visit, the Parish planned a luncheon. Not only did we eat – we were entertained with good Newfoundland music performed by Bob Cooper and Christian Paulton. Helen and Gary were blown away by the kindness and hospitality shown them. We owe a debt of gratitude to the parish for all that they did, not just on Sunday but indeed over the course of the past few years offering prayers and love and support for a family that they did not know personally until yesterday.


As Lent moves on we can all seek to find ways to offer hospitality in our homes and in our lives. 

What is the call to hospitality calling us to – Henrietta Mears said it best – “Hospitality should have no other nature than love.”




Lent – Day 24: PART OF THE OCEAN


Albert Schweitzer mused:

“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me.”


Today we took a drive into the county. We stopped in a couple of places along lake Ere and the Detroit River. There was a brisk wind and the lake looked to be alive. The repetitive motion of wave over wave is an image with which those of us who grew up on the ocean are quite familiar. It is an image which I find very calming – even when the seas are quite rough.


Looking at the lake I was reminded of those words of Albert Schweitzer above. One wave will not live on its own. We cannot live on our own wither. We have to be cognizant of that which is happening around us. Put biblically it sounds like this


One Body with Many Parts


“The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit. [b] Our bodies don’t have just one part. They have many parts. Suppose a foot says, "I’m not a hand, and so I’m not part of the body." Wouldn’t the foot still belong to the body? Or suppose an ear says, "I’m not an eye, and so I’m not part of the body." Wouldn’t the ear still belong to the body? If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn’t hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn’t smell a thing. But God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best.

A body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. 20It takes many parts to make a single body. That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet. In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest. We take special care to dress up some parts of our bodies. We are modest about our personal parts, but we don’t have to be modest about other parts.

God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honoured, the whole body will be happy.

Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body. First, God chose some people to be apostles and prophets and teachers for the church. But he also chose some to work miracles or heal the sick or help others or be leaders or speak different kinds of languages. Not everyone is an apostle. Not everyone is a prophet. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone can work miracles. Not everyone can heal the sick. Not everyone can speak different kinds of languages. Not everyone can tell what these languages mean. I want you to desire the best gifts. So I will show you a much better way.” – 1 Corinthians 12

We all play a part in the larger picture. Today there are people who need what we have to offer by way of our love, our talents and our giftedness. We need to all seek to reach out and find ways to be a part of the Body of Christ doing what we can do to bring about dignity for all persons and respect for every human being.


Each wave rolls in, one after another – all of them one movement on a large sea of activity. We can all be a part if the wave!



Lent – Day 25: GOOD-BYE

I always feel that I have two duties to perform with a parting guest:  one, to see that he doesn’t forget anything that is his; the other, to see that he doesn’t take anything that is mine.  ~Alfred North Whitehead

Now that is not how we felt today. No! Having had a great 6 days with Helen and Gary we were saddened to have to say goodbye. I have learned over 15 years of living away from home that it is never easy to say goodbye.  Parting ways when you know it will be a while before you get to see each other is hard stuff. It is made that much harder when the persons we say goodbye to are those that we love and respect so much.  

Life is enriched greatly because of those people in our lives who love us and care for us. Our lives are enriched by having relationships with people who see past our insecurities and our fears to embrace the person that God has made us to be. Those relationships are a gift of God and are a means of God’s undying love for us. When we feel the need for a laugh, we usually know the friend to call. When we need to be embraced, we know who to call. When we need someone to be silent with us, we know who to call. When we need to celebrate, we know who to call. When we need to be consoled, encouraged, challenged, etc, we know who to call. Into our lives walk those who have the gifts that God has given them to be present to those around them. At the same time we should know that we might be the consoler, confessor, protector, joker,  the challenger, etc. for another.  

Helen and Gary have been great house guest excellent company and what is more they loved us well while they were here. We enjoyed having them in our lives gain this week. There is always the phone and internet but nothing is like being with each other. Charles M. Schulz wrote, “Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together?  I guess that wouldn’t work.  Someone would leave.  Someone always leaves.  Then we would have to say good-bye.  I hate good-byes.  I know what I need.  I need more hellos.” 

I think we all have days that we feel like we need more hellos. Today is one of those days.



Reading the BBC’s webpage I discovered a new and exciting way of church evangelism. It is the oldest of programs for getting new membership – encourage people to have more babies. According to the BBC, “At the end of 2007, in a move to reverse the country’s dwindling birth figures, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, came up with an incentive. He promised to personally baptise any baby born to parents of more than two children. There was only one catch: the baby had to be born after the initiative was launched.”

How did it work? – The birth rate in 2008 was four times that of the previous year, with births up 20%.  While stronger economic conditions have no doubt played a role in the increase, it is clear that the Patriarch’s encouragement has also played a huge part in this recent growth in the birth rate. One mother said that, "I am sure that most parents decided to have more babies because of him. If his Holiness baptises your child it means he becomes his or her godfather and that is such an honour."

What is impressive is the role that the church has in that part of the world where just a few years ago when Georgia was part of the former Soviet Union, the Orthodox Church was pretty well banned. I wonder if we can enjoy the same potential as church here in North America. There is the potential that perhaps if we stepped up to be relevant in the communities in which we exist that we could have some influence. BUT we would need to change. We have to become an institution which really plays a role in the lives of those we serve and we have to play a role in the wider communities in which we live.

How did it happen for the Orthodox Church in Georgia get to that place? Well, for 50 years or more they took risks. They decided to be present to the people they serve, even when it meant risking serious punishment. They risked seeking and serving Christ in an environment where there were real consequences to speaking up for those who were hurting and vulnerable. In short – they took the costly road of discipleship. I dare say we too can take on that role. There are those out there today who have no voice who need us to speak for them, that may mean being ridiculed by the establishment. There are those who others do not want to serve who we could choose to serve, knowing that it may mean we pay the price with others.

I would suggest that if we step up and do more to be church – there will be a day when a church leader speaking up in our neighbourhoods might get noticed. But we have some work to do before most people will listen to our church leaders today.   

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