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A home for things I write

20190515_185448My first mystery novel, The Book of Answers, made the short-list for The Unhanged Arthur Ellis, an award for unpublished crime fiction. The annual competition is sponsored by Dundurn Press and CrimeWriters of Canada. On May 23, my wife and I attended a banquet at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club, where I had the honour of meeting other authors who were nominated, as well as a number of editors, publishers, and authors. It was great fun!

The winning manuscript in my category, the Unhanged Arthur Award for best unpublished crime novel, was The Scarlet Cross, by Liv McFarlane. You can learn more about Liv at her website: https://livmcfarlane.com/

I look forward to reading The Scarlet Cross, and the work of the other nominees:

  • Hypnotizing Lions by Jim Bottomley
  • Omand’s Creek by Don Macdonald
  • One for the Raven by Heather McLeod

 

That the manuscript of my first ever novel was even considered for such an honour, has inspired me to improve my online presence. This site is a re-tooling of my old “Sharing Bread Along The Way” blog, along with old material from “The Fifth Page”, which is where I used to post what didn’t make it into my sermons, which are always a maximum of 4 pages. (I now call them “learning times”, to reflect the truth that I am still learning as I go.)

I am a minister in The United Church of Canada, currently serving the congregation and wider community of Harrow, in beautiful Essex County, Ontario. In the words of Max Marshall, a singer-songwriter from Harrow, it’s a “bread-basket town” in “fruit-stand land”. You should also check out Max, he’s great! 

https://www.maxmarshall.org/about

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The Gift of Joy

JOY“There are those that have in themselves the gift of Joy. It has no relation to merit or demerit. It is not a quality they have wrested from the vicissitude of life. Such people have not fought and won a hard battle, they have made no conquest. To them Joy is given as a precious ingredient in life. Wherever they go, they give birth to Joy in others—they are the heavenly troubadours, earthbound, who spread their music all around and who sing their song without words and without sounds. To be touched by them is to blessed of God. They give even as they have been given. Their presence is a benediction and a grace. In them we hear the music in the score and in their faces we sense a glory which is the very light of Heaven.”

-Howard Thurman, From the Inward Journey, p. 252

Who do you know that brings the gift of joy to your life? Take a moment today to appreciate them.

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Joy wins out

howard thurman close up“There is earned joy: an impossible job tackled and conquered, leaving no energy for assessing the price or measuring the cost, only for an all-inclusive sense of well-being in the mind, and slowly creeping through all the crevices of the spirt—or it may be some dread has reared its head, gathering into itself all hope that is unassigned, until it become the master of the house., then relief comes through fresh knowledge, new insight, clearer vision. What was dread now proves groundless and the heart takes to wings like an eagle in its flight.”

–Howard Thurman, From the Inward Journey, p. 251

I thought of this after I posted the Thurman quote. Here is a link to a great Bruce Cockburn song about Joy: Joy will find a way

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Thought for the New Year

“All around worlds are dying out, new worlds are being born; all around life is dying but life is being born. The fruit ripens on the trees, while the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life. It is the incentive to carry on.”

–Howard Thurman, From the Inward Journey, p. 248

Howard-Thurman-BU-Photo-Services

As Wikipedia notes:

Howard Washington Thurman was an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. Thurman’s theology of radical nonviolence influenced and shaped a generation of civil rights activists, and he was a key mentor to leaders within the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

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A break from Facebook

letter-f-alphabet-broken-d-perspective-set-blue-color-isolated-white-letter-f-alphabet-broken-d-134933645I posted this today:

The following announcement may not change the world: I will be taking something of a break from Facebook for the time being. This is a kind of pre-New Years resolution. When I have things I want to put out into the online world, I will use my own website: revdarrow.com (which is also set up to send links to my Facebook page and other social media outlets.) I am sure I will miss the tiny glimpses into the lives of some of my friends.

While I enjoy the photos and words from my friends, and sometimes learn from the articles for which people post links, I am paying attention to the time I spend on devices, and intend to be a little more productive, and less consumptive, in my behavior.

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Z is for Zoroastrian

Z sparklyDecember 25, 2019 Christmas      Day 25 of the Advent Alphabet

Z is for Zoroastrian. Have you come across this word before? Some scholars suggest the Magi who appear in Matthew’s Gospel as visitors to Jesus were Zoroastrian priests. The word Magi derives from an Old Persian word “magus”, which was an occupatiadoration of the magional title for members of the priestly caste of the Zoroastrian religion. The Zoroastrians were very interested in the stars, and had a highly developed “science” of astrology. Their reputation as astrologers led to the term Magi being used in connection with the occult, and this led to the development of the English word “magic”.

The Zoroastrian religion survives to this day. While it was once the dominant religious force in Iran, now it survives there only in an underground fashion, because of the radical Islamic fundamentalism that treats it as a heretical religion. The largest number of Zoroastrians are found in Pakistan, and India where they are called “Parsis”.

ZoroasterHistorians of religion credit Zoroastrianism as being one of the oldest to have a revealed credal basis- meaning that it had written statements of belief. The religion was founded by the prophet Zoroaster, also called Zarathustra, who codified religious ideas and practices that already existed, and added to them his own world-view. Zoroastrianism is also likely one of the earliest “monotheistic” faiths, meaning that they recognized that there is only one God. Zoroaster is typically depicted as dressed in white, in garb that is very much like what modern Zoroastrian priests wear. His poetic writings form the basis of the religion, and its liturgy (prayer and ritual for worship).

Zoroastrianism had a powerful influence on the development of the world’s major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (often called the Abrahamic faiths because they all trace their histories back to Abraham).

Some basic Zoroastrian beliefs:

-there is one God, called Ahura Mazda, the one Uncreated Creator

-there is a conflict in the universe between order and chaos, and humanity has a role to play

-the moral code of Zoroastrianism is universally summed up in the words, “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds

-the religion teaches the equality of all, regardless of race, sex or social position

-Zoroastrians are urged to preserve and protect the environment

-Zoroastrian religion teaches that fire and water are to be used for ceremonies in which a person is made ritually clean. Prayer takes place in the presence of some form of fire, which is considered to be evident in any source of light.

There are active Zoroastrian faith communities in Canada, the largest being in Toronto and Vancouver. The Zoroastrian Society of Ontario is based at its community centre on Bayview Avenue, and is an active participant in Mosaic Interfaith, which is a group that promotes peace and religious tolerance.

The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. http://www.harrowunited.org/ Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet has been a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections have be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and were posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.

 

 

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Y is for Yeshua

y on laceDec 24, 2019 4th Week of Advent – Day 24 of the Advent Alphabet

Y is for Yeshua. Yeshua ben Joseph is the “reason for the season”! (The “ben” means “son of”) When I was growing up, I thought his first name was Jesus, and his last name was Christ. It was actually not until I was studying the philosophy of religion in my under-grad years that I learned that “Jesus” is our translation of a Hebrew name which can also be expressed as “Joshua”. I say “expressed as Joshua” because in the original Hebrew writing there were only consonants, and the reader would have to fill in the vowel sounds. There are a variety of ways to pronounce words that have the “J or Y” sound followed by the “S or Sh” sound, depending upon which vowel sounds we plug in. So we say his name is Jesus, but that is not a name that anyone who lived in his time would recognize.

Does it matter? Most people know who we mean when we talk about Jesus. What this minor revelation about names taught me is that it does not hurt to practice a little more humility when it comes to what we think we know, with certainty, about the founder of our faith.

The “Christ” part is not actually a name at all, but more of a description, or a title. Our English word “Christ” is derived from the Greek Χριστός “Khristos”, which means “the anointed”. When the Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament was translated into Greek, this was the word chosen to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ  which means “one who is anointed”. This Hebrew word is also translated as “Messiah”. Words are important!

The word “Christ” has taken on a meaning in Christian theology that is very different than what “Messiah” means in Jewish religious thinking. (The word Christ, in much of our theology, is used to refer to the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, who in creeds is described as being both fully human and fully divine. The word Messiah in much of the Jewish literature, refers to a person who is fully human. In Jewish theology, only the one God is divine.)

When early Christian theologians began poring over their Greek translations of the Old Testament, they were not necessarily aware of what had been lost (or added, depending upon your view of things) in translation. So Old Testament passages about an anointed king or leader of Israel took on an air of prophecy, of appearing to foreshadow or predict the coming of Jesus, who later came to be called the Christ.

Scholars of religion, and particularly of Christian theology, have been debating for centuries whether or not there is a connection between the “messianic hopes” of the Jewish people, who were looking for a human leader to “save” their nation, and the earthly ministry of Jesus (or Yeshua).

Does all this confusion over names, and the questions about the meaning of those names take anything away from our anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus? Not for me. I think God is a mystery. It is not surprising our human languages, and our translation efforts, have not fully captured the truth.

The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. http://www.harrowunited.org/ Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet has been a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections will be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and will also be posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.

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X is for Xmas

big red XDec 24, 2019 4th Week of Advent Day 24 of the Advent Alphabet

X is for Xmas. As in Merry Xmas. How do you react when you see that in print? I can remember Over the years there have been emotion-laden campaigns to “do something” about the use of this abbreviation. There seems to be something about this letter that gets people x-cited. As if it is x-rated or something! I found some x-cellent pieces on the subject on-line. I thought I would offer you an x-cerpt from what I think is the best x-ample, written by Dennis Bratcher. He provides a lot of good content on a website called The Voice, which represents a Methodist perspective in the tradition of John Wesley. http://www.crivoice.org/

“ I have no doubt that some people write “Xmas” because they are too busy or too lazy to write out the whole word. And no doubt some secular people, who are just as uninformed as Christians, see “Xmas” as a way to avoid writing “Christ.” And certainly there are secular and commercial motives in the fact that “XMAS” appears in ads and signs because it can be larger and more attention getting in the same amount of space (more bang for the buck). But those factors do not take away the thoroughly Christian origin of the word “Xmas.”  In this instance, all of the hype and hysteria over supposedly taking Christ out of Christmas by writing “Xmas” instead of spelling out “Christmas” is both uninformed and misdirected.

Abbreviations used as Christian symbols have a long history in the church. The letters of the word “Christ” in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, or various titles for Jesus early became symbols of Christ and Christianity. For example, the first two letters of the word Christ (or as it would be written in older manuscripts, chi_rhoCRISTOS) are the Greek letters chi (c or C) and rho (r or R). These letters were used in the early church to create the chi-rho monogram, a symbol that by the fourth century became part of the official battle standard of the emperor Constantine.

Another example is the symbol of the fish, one of the earliest symbols of Christians that has been found scratched on the walls of the catacombs of Rome. It likely originated from using the first letter of several titles of Jesus (Jesus Christ Son of God Savior). When combined these initial letters together 1024px-Ichthys.svgspelled the Greek word for fish (ichthus).

The exact origin of the single letter X for Christ cannot be pinpointed with certainty. Some claim that it began in the first century AD along with the other symbols, but evidence is lacking. Others think that it came into widespread use by the thirteenth century along with many other abbreviations and symbols for Christianity and various Christian ideas that were popular in the Middle Ages. However, again, the evidence is sparse.

In any case, by the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type. In the early days of printing typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation C for the word “Christ” to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and “Xmas” became an accepted way of printing “Christmas” (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity). Even Webster’s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.

So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season.  Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church.  It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. In fact, as with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation “Xmas” should be pronounced “Christmas” just as if the word were written out in full, rather than saying “exmas.” Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas Season.”

The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. http://www.harrowunited.org/ Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet has been a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections will be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and will also be posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.