Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew Bible’


Many long term readers know that my family takes time each night to read together and sing. We usually pick a spiritual song to sing, then take time to read a chapter of our scriptures (Hebrew Bible/Christian Testament) as we work through a complete book or something else. Take some time to discuss, and then close with prayer. For the past 10 days we have been blessed to enter into the story of Nehemiah from the Hebrew Bible (you can read through Bible Gateway here). This was one of the stories explored in my leadership courses at Alberta Bible College, so has been used by me for allegories and teaching periodically in my career to share leadership tips with others. This is not going to provide a chapter by chapter or verse by verse guide. What is going to be shared is some key thoughts and points, that if you enter into reading Nehemiah you can see where they pinpoint for you, as well as some questions for reflection at this point and time in your story, and then just a song we sung during our exploration time (and you will see the songs, don’t really need to tie into the themes but can).

A ride to assess the full scope of a project, yet we are jumping ahead (though sometimes as a story teller isn’t it more fun to jump in to the rising action and then flashback to how we go there?). Seriously though, Nehemiah is one of the leaving exile stories. It is about rediscovering who we are, and the pieces of community that are needed for health and functioning. The Coles Notes of Exile is simple, the nation of Israel/Judah had decided individuality, power and money were more important than God and Neighbour, in spite of many prophets coming to sound the alarm and show the path back (and a history of Judges that lived through the reset with them) they did not listen and were warned that there was punishment coming. That is the loss of nation and imprisonment, where the fallacies would be laid bear, and they dysfunction of the system the 1% had imposed on the people revealed.

It was in exile as slaves, some rose to more prominent slave roles than others. Nehemiah was one such, he was cup bearer to the king. What a role, living in the court, but being responsible to ensure no poison was present (so yes, luxury but never knowing when death would come). This is when he would get the call, as it was being said some were being released from exile and heading back to rebuild the ruined Jerusalem. Nehemiah would get this call to the unknown. The king would support it.

  1. Listen into the silence. Are you on the right path? Is there a call being laid on your heart that is a passion for you? How can you tell? Is fear or anxiety maybe creating the gremlin voices to surge to hold you back?

Nehemiah would head out to take over the lead on the rebuilding project of the walls and gates of the city. A new start, but what a project, very overwhelming as it comes into view what needs to be done. What does Nehemiah do? He takes a high level ride to assess what all needs to be accomplished. A full scope understanding of the project to see what needs to be done, so when he meets the people he can assess their strengths to accomplish the rebuild (and yes he would go to the high plains a few times to assess progress).

2. Ensure you have all the pieces of the project and purpose from a high level before jumping into planning (First Things First).

Other pieces in the story? Simple, all were involved in the re-build, regardless of previous career, socio-economics or caste. Each person brought forward with their strengths, and assigned areas to rebuild. It truly was an all in this together. For, without each person doing there part, the work would not be accomplished in time to ensure community safety and prosperity. As well, it lowered the hierarchy-patriarchy that had caused the exile. Neighbour met neighbour, and it was no longer possible to simply cast one aside as a statistic or label.

3. We’re all in this together.

Be reactive to change as the project progresses. As those who do not want to see the status quo change, who enjoy the subjugation of others, who are lost in fear of what is coming, of the new system of inclusion. Anger and hate can be channeled to create chaos and violence. As they built and this became apparent, Nehemiah was not only doing his duty building in the trenches, but the builders also had tools in one hand, and a weapon in the other in case of attack. Versatility, there may be specialists, but in crisis generalists need to improvise and stretch roles for success.

4. Be ready for the aggressive clapback with positive change and as a leader be alongside your team in the trenches.

Another key piece of the story is the listening to experts (in our era, researchers and scientists) to understand who we are, where we have been, and what this can mean where we are going. Ezra, is this character, he shares the story of the nation, that which led them into exile and loss. When those in the midst of re-building under stress and confusion of change, try to behave the same way, Ezra is the one that “Gibbs'” them (ever see NCIS on CBS? Lead Agent Gibbs’ curt head smack when an agent goes off course, that is what happens here). It is the knowing who we were, who we have become, and who we are becoming. While being prepared to rapidly answer those that want to re-create the cycles of oppression, hatred, and pain that created the crisis in the first place.

5. Know one’s history, learn from it, grow from it, and ensure that you do not cycle back.

Finally, there is quite a few chapters laying out roles and names. It can seem daunting, but why is it there? Simplicity of understanding for a society to be healthy and thriving everyone’s role is to be valued. Everyone must be cared for, and able to have simple things such as water, food, home, belonging and purpose. This is why these points exist, and what this ancient wisdom has to share with us today. In a world where we try to shame minimum wage work and argue it shouldn’t be something that one can live off (contrary to the actual legislation when enacted decades ago); when we try to deride someone as “drama teacher”, janitor; waitress/server, etc… What we need to understand is simply every job in society is need for us to function, they should be celebrated for doing the job. For some it may simply be a job while they pursue other interests/artisan callings, for some the job may be where they find purpose and belonging with those they serve and serve with. But truly, it is about crafting a society where everyone’s calling can be affirmed and happens; where everyone belongs, where everyone has a home.

6. Ensuring we have a society that honours our work; a society where all find authentic belonging; a society where no one goes hungry; and all have a HOME.

For the 6 major points take time to reflect and process what they mean to you? Where are you currently in your journey?

If money was not an issue (or other gremlin voices) where would the tiny heart voice in the silence be leading you?

As we move through this time of c-tine, what are you emerging out of exile into in your life and community?

Where is the rebuilding calling you?

One of the songs we discovered for our sing-a-longs, from Blake Shelton, just fit more with the theme of rebuilding out into the new:


There is a weird practice called proof texting, where for some in the Christianities, for it to be “true” there must be a literal connection almost verbatim to a text of scripture (in these movements termed Old & New Testament, in an attempt to avoid dualism and implied anti-Semitism, I continue to use terms Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament). Now with large topics, it can be downright ludicrous to move forward with this proof text practice, which brings us to some thoughts of a cruciform response to defund the police.

I am not going to enter into the extremes of the argument presented from the alt-right of essentially gestapo or to the anarchist of complete personal responsibility with no concrete laws or enforcement for societal norms and safeties, neither of these arguments aid us. Throughout the history of humanity there has been some form of law, in the Commonwealth nations we hold to Common Law, which grew out of laws presented and outlined in Exodus-Deuteronomy of the Hebrew Bible. More so, because the laws around such things as murder, provide a variance of understanding. Obviously, the political usage of police and armed services, the over specifying of laws can create loopholes that allow for ease of exploitation, corruption, and abuse. Properly funded judiciary (that includes the scope of the courtroom, Crown Prosecutors, Defense lawyers, appropriate training of understanding the application of the laws for jurists) and enforcement is necessary within society.

What is not necessary is overfunding because we have shifted the burden of response for every emergency response for every situation onto the constabulary (which is unethical as it has them working outside the scope of their practice). Why is this a religious look? Because it has become a religious issue in that the current governance in Alberta has put faith front and centre and has diminished the evidence based response of what is communal good and belonging especially with the current justice minister interjecting into civic budget discussions of a 4% rollback on police budget (which was at the request of police services) to fund more preventative programming and fiscally have a healthier overall impact. Though this is the response seen federally by the Harper government in wanting to disrupt healthy restorative justice-incarceration programs for youth as it was leading to lower recidivism and incarceration rates. Also, we have heard of a bill to so-call end carding from our current provincial governance, the practice is street checking citizens at supposed random, what statistics show is that the practice is highly a racial profiling tool, and systematic use of power to oppress. What is not ending with the bill in my scope of understanding, is not the practice of street checks, but rather tracking racial data (the idea if we can’t see it, it is not happening) to end an issue.

Which leads to some touchstones of thought on the topic.  From the Hebrew Bible prophetic writers there is much around care for others, belonging and justice. This can be a blind spot for many in the Christianities as we want to read the prophets as future oriented, when in fact they are continuing the tradition of Judges, that is pointing our where society has gone amiss, the harm being done by these actions of those in power, and the power differentials and the need to admit, correct, repent and reconcile to move forward in God’s shalom and love.

Some thoughts, from Amos:

You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the oppressed.
    You treat the righteous like dirt.

It is the Lord who created the stars,
    the Pleiades and Orion.
He turns darkness into morning
    and day into night.
He draws up water from the oceans
    and pours it down as rain on the land.
    The Lord is his name!
With blinding speed and power he destroys the strong,
    crushing all their defenses.

10 How you hate honest judges!
    How you despise people who tell the truth!
11 You trample the poor,
    stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent.

-Amos 5:7-11 (New Living Translation)

Take time with this topic from your point of view, take time to enter a Lectio Divina from Amos. Hear the words in three readings, after each hearing take a few minutes to journal in your reflection whether that is through writing, drawing, doodling or all to come to an answer before moving into the next reading. If possible in your household cohort do this together to share thoughts and ideas between each reading and at the end, add in those on a speaker phone or video call to create a sound discussion in communal discernment.

First reading: What is the mind saying on the topic (the evidence)?

Second reading: What is your heart saying? Is this a bias that is acting counter to the honest judge?

Third Reading: What is the Holy Mystery saying to you in the silence? What does it mean to move into the light and forward?

From this reading, we move into action thought, as found in the prophet Micah’s words:

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

-Micah 6:8 (New Living Translation)

Take time to rest in God’s love, and what is the humble calling? Action is simple, for those who still have Christian Testaments with the words of Brother Jesus in Red, the call is to Love neighbour as ourselves. Take time in this love to make your voice heard to those that represent us politically.

Find your Calgary Councillor here.

Find your Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta here.

Let the voice of imagination, creativity, belonging, love, shalom, and justice be heard.

Amen.


Rev. Matthew Fox’s life has been a prophetic journey for any that have been called or deemed “odd” in structured religious life. Regardless of religious affiliation. His journey is one of standing in prophetic/mystic voice- creativity, imagination, justice, creation and scriptures synthesized with reason and the drive for belonging. Freely admitting and illustrating the Biblical calling within his 37 books the need to shatter the patriarchy and religious binary of command and control.

Yes, take time with those thoughts. The most powerful image in the early days with this dialogue partner for me (during my more structured spiritual formation as a Franciscan), was the one of shattering Jacob’s Ladder, to dance Sarah’s circle. The resounding connection to inclusion, belonging for all, affirmation and alignment with the other sacred text of our spiritual life so easily ignored in the drive for dominion over, not care taking of– creation (nature) that is part of the dialogue with scriptures’ and our lived experience to shape our individual, interdependent life. The second sacred text revealed through mystics/monastics like Aquinas, Francis, Clare, Eckhart, to name but a few (and continually throughout history being re-aligned with). This shift from the holistic and communal journey with the Holy Mystery, has created the world we exist in now. With the binary-dualistic chasms that separate and feed algorithms that continue the separation. The blind loyalty and living the black and white found in doctrines, political planforms, doctrinal stamens. Not in contemplation, living into the silence to hear, but rather constantly reacting, trying to prove holiness and affirming “truth”iness instead of understanding and living out of the values that truly exist under the rhetoric. It is in the inability to realize that life with the Spirit exists in varying degrees of gray as an intimate love relationship is.

This is the state of our world, a creation in sins of the spirit (a term from Aquinas and Fox), those things that take us away from God.

Want to reflect on a moment what those are?

These are snaps hots and my reflections of some of the dialogues in Fox’s works within my walk. Which brings us to his newest work, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times (2020). A work that can either be a prologue to Fox’s thought process for a new reader, or an epilogue for those that have been on the journey with Fox. The foundation work is his soon to be re-released Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality.

It can be read in one or two sittings as a fill up. But for practice I would recommend a daily reading over 31 days (if you wish to use the introductions and afterword’s as separate readings, then closer to 35 and I do encourage not skipping these, as Delio and Maynard have packed quite a bit of reflective-pragmatism into their words).

See the source image

Each short chapter provides new insights and reflection from Fox’s works, coupled with exploration of some key scriptures from John, Matthew, Corinthians, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, as well as other ecumenical thought leaders within Creation Spirituality. Regardless, of where you fall on the religious spectrum this can be a beneficial daily read, as one shifts outside the box of ticking the box of institutional existence for being “right and holy” to living and experiencing with the Holy Mystery.

As a sojourner, are we ready to enter into the circle dance?


Ah 2020, what a way to show us the meaning of hindsight being as clear as 20/20 vision. The journey and trajectory or society into entrenched ideologies where we cannot have discussions-debates of discovery to move forward in healthy ways as a community. How do we know this? The rise of populism in the last 10 years that has not been matched since the 1930’s, whether you fall on the right or the left. I still remember the political spectrum exercise of public school social studies, that illustrated so clearly populism on the right becomes fascism, on the left, goes through communism to Stalinist dictatorship which connects clearly with Fascism as the same point—that is extremists are extremists—anger, hatred, dehumanization, inability to see the other–the continuing discussion on dualism, for one’s side to be correct the other has to be completely evil (looking for a villain or an enemy every under every bushel).

As I continue exploring ending the false myth of the protestant work ethic evolved into neo-liberalism and by continued evolution, capitalism of 2020, and getting back together the writings of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks have been informative. His latest, being 2020’s Morality: Restoring the common Good in Divided Times. Where in five parts he takes the reader through an exploration of the philosophical-sociological-historical-political and religious paradigms that have brought us to this point in history.

As Sacks works through his theory and thoughts, it builds to a pertinent epilogue on our divided times and hyper-individualism had negatively impacted the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing measures. As an Albertan, I would say the myth of hyper-individualism continues to impact our effectiveness in stemming the covid tied, but also in our ability to destroy public institutions that aid the common good such as public education and health care.

How does Sacks get us to these ponderances? He takes us through the history as noted. He lays out the philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists. As well he explores the role religion plays in morality, but also what it means and how religions’ has been used to shape societal understanding. At the example level out of the Hebrew Bible he touches on the story of Korach in the book of Numbers, more broadley, he also looks at the Reformation and the shift away from works in Christendom to a Pauline individual grace. This begins the slide slowly, which has accelerated in recent years with the addition of social media and the internet to not only connect us 24-7-365, but let’s be honest, to make it easier to share false information more rapidly before fact checking can disprove, and as such, the falsity takes root in some as the truth.

That is even before we explore (as I have written about many times) the algorithms that aid in keeping us in a an echo chamber of our own belief systems. This is the piece that explored what it means to have an ethical market. But to combine those thought processes, as the trust level of politicians continues to devolve, what is our role of citizens in accountability with this? Do we demand and expect a higher level of character within those seeking office? Are we working to end it as the drive of personal ambition, power and money? It has been a steady shift from 2005 forward in Canada within our political landscape, as the hyper-vigilance towards individualism and privatization of crown corporations and government responsibilities continues to march forward. The concept of collective or common good, public service (regardless of whether we trusted the policies) to serve citizens being the goal and calling.

This is but one snap shot for reflection.

As we look at a moment in time when we can continue into the fallacy of “I” (how independent are we? Building our own cars? Pouring our own roads? Growing our own food? Refining our own oil? And no, this is literally asking about in your own home are you able to do all this?). How did you get where you are today? What pieces were at play in the interdependence of community? How is your purpose cultivated? What is belonging and identity? How does it happen in the vacuum of “I”?

What it doesn’t? It happens in the labyrinth of “WE” and yes you are correct.

So how, do we, move forward in creating a new reality as we emerge from c-tine…

How do we as a household live into we? As a collection of households known as a community live into we? As a collection of communities that make up a city or county live into we? As a collection of cities or counties that make up a country live into we?*

And as we live into we—how does that change the character, passions and skills we look for in our elected representatives? Those that are servant leaders of our communities?

Are you ready to answer the call out of I to We?

*The narrative on household to country came from my friend John, rewriting community narrative, he shared it over coffee and had to adapt it to this post.


Ah day 48 of C-tine dawns,

a blessed Sunday morn

to explore the stories of Joseph (he of the amazing technicolour dream coat)

in worship and teaching from our church

(online of course, for we are not of the dominionist-tribulationist variety)

Who is Joseph?

A younger son, lost in exuberance, sold into slavery, falsely accused, imprisoned, brought forward to be honoured for his gifts, faced with the challenge to embrace or exclude his family in a time of famine…

also a catchy musical with Donny Osmond or the movie by Dreamworks

Yet, there is more,

as we walk into the story,

and descend into where the Holy Mystery is alive in our world

some may only see the sruface

or what is known as the short game

but the long game is and has been being played

lgbt-pride-flag-redesign-hero-852x480the last gasps of Christendom and empire struggle to turn back the tide

of the love wave.

Not seeing, the blessing of true authenticity

 

and love of the Imageo Dei in its beautiful mosaic of life.

My life was blessed,

yet I could not fully be true to me

some aspects had to be hidden

due to societal “norms”

that were nothing more than hatreds hidden behind pretty drapes,

like a Wizard to be exposed

and that wizard was,

crashing down

Love wins!

Where I stood ground,

faced violence, death threats

my kids can be who they are meant to be

build upon the cornerstones laid down,

some may be bitter or cynical

for what they view as a generation’s “easy ride”

But was this not the point of the blood, sweat and tears of the justice fight?

Where all can be seen as fully who they are meant to be?

yes we need to rise up again with voices joined in our province,

but the battle has been one, and the war is beyond a tipping point to victory

like a fascist regime clinging to delusion is what those who perpetuate hate and fear are still.

For in this time of C-tine,

I loved that GSA’s were able to allow our children to acknowledge

sometimes checking a box is not useful,

but rather, be who you are, be authentic, be love

for that is what Brother Jesus lived as his sermon, gospel declaration

and what we were beginning to be…

sadly, online school does not have this courageous sacred space,

may it be renewed,

for children like my daughter

who have lived in the glory of love previous generations fought and built

simply being able to be

herself.

What a beautiful time

why do we need to destroy it, to hold onto what is past?

Maybe, just maybe,

the future is now,

and it is time

to be…

true.

Where do you experience the Holy Mystery today?

 

 

Musings on 1 Samuel

Posted: February 15, 2020 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , ,

Our family continues our nightly sacred text readings. We are currently exploring the Hebrew Bible story of 1 Samuel. Samuel, was the son of Hannah. A beloved wife, who was barren, and being mocked by the second wife for not providing children to their husband (yes biblical marriage at work). Hannah in her devoutness went to the Holy, and dedicated the baby if she was able to be a servant of God.

Hannah was found to be with child, and probably put of weaning for a bit longer than was necessary, for she was struggling. Struggling with her vows and promises, keeping her yes to yes…for she did not want to take her son to be raised in the Temple by the High Priest Eli, whose sons were–for lack of a better term corruptly abusive in all ways to the people. Yet, she followed through on her vow, with the joy of the life she had created, and nurtured that was now on a new path.

The path was that of being the last Judge and the first prophet Israel had since Moses. He was the high priest, the connector to the Holy for the people in their theocracy. Samuel’s ascension over Eli’s sons also leaves a lesson that those of faith need to re-learn, and should’ve been living the whole journey. See the sons were corrupt, they were stealing the sacrifices, and forcing the faithful into sexual relations (pedophilia, rapists). It took until Samuel for Eli’s family’s punishment to roll out, and the voice of the victims to be heard.  We are having an Eli moment now with the Jehovah Witnesses, Willow Creek, Southern Baptist/Canadian National Baptists; and Roman Catholic Church to name but a few… also with the desecration of the Imageo Dei, that is that all are wholly and beloved images of God, the corruption of power and creating the false dualism of Us-Them is what is tearing apart the Methodists for they are more concerned with sexual labels, than with the beloved wholly and blessed brother and sister of this world.  Just like Eli’s family was leading Israel astray and causing harm…so too are we in the religious now.

If it needed a further showing of what inter-generational trauma, and unresolved pain can do. Samuel has to deal with the people looking at their lives and not seeing the end of tyranny as a good thing and getting back on track, but as a moment to throw out the God with the priests– for they want a king. And God complies, with Saul who is anointed to lead the kingdom. So starts the lessons, as Shakespeare would point out about power and corruption.

For Saul, as king, believes that he is the final authority on what is right and wrong in life. His impatience leads him to take on the role of priest-prophet for he does not like Samuel’s tardiness. In essence he supplants God with himself and makes the worship about him, not the Holy Mystery that exists in everything and everything exists in. His power madness begins to show, and God lays the smack down for his downfall with the rise of the runt-shepherd as the new anointed–David…and we shall see how Saul’s tyranny unfolds, and David’s own corruption and possible causes, as my family continues the read (Currently ending Chapter 18).

What moments are you like Samuel?

When may you be Saul?

What can youd do to connect deeper in your walk with the Holy?


The Gifted is a Fox show tied into their X-Men universe movies (ala before Disney just bought them out). It opens up in the mess the Mutant Registration Act (MRA) is wreaking on America. For the uninitiated a mutant is a person born with the x-gene, at puberty, powers and sometimes physical changes take hold (I mean imagine the ride of puberty hormones and then bam you can fly or bam you’re a telepath). The MRA is stating it is illegal to be a mutant, and they must be registered, using your powers is an illegal act, in this reality the X-Men have vanished, and their is a refugee underground to move mutants out of America in a safe third country like arrangement to Canada.

The show raises great issues, and before folks at me, comics have always been political so new age wanna be fans check your faux privilege. Any-who. The story follows a family on the escape. The Dad is a former federal prosecutor who served the law of the land, never questioning the moral of the law until his kids were outed as mutants. It raises questions around segregation, internment, experimentation on those that society has deemed as others, human rights or sentient being rights as just some of the more now issues. With a prophetic lens, it shines on society going yeah you keep saying never again with your lips, but the actions of governments and people prove never again is a catch phrase for just look at the rhythm of the 20th to 21st century in regards to equality of races, genders, disabilities, sexual orientations, refugees, migrants and immigrants. Each group having to fight the same battles over and over again. These are the questions being put forward. As with every rights movement as well, those left to fill the void with the m.i.a X-Men, and their villainous counterparts, Brotherhood also M.I.A., you have the Hellfire Club and Underground needing to find their path of resistance. Is it non-violent? Is it like the IRA and overtly terrorist? Is it all out war? Or just violence in self-defense? What do the choices mean for the person making them? And how can the be justified? For no matter which side of the MRA a group is on, there is a cause and effect trajectory that one can follow based on their action choice.

Shows and story lines like this open up the discussion of prophetic voice. For many religious, the term prophetic speaks to future seers and end times. This can be what one takes from the prophetic and apocalyptic literature found within the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament, yet with that lens you are missing as a reader the breadth and depth of the stories.  For in the religious stories from wisdom, to mythology, to history to prophetic to gospel to epistle there is a strong undercurrent on what it means to journey with the Holy. In this journey in the ups and downs the responses of the children of the Holy in living out the greatest commandments of love.

Yet, we still miss the mark, and hold to this end times scenario of fire and brimstone, destruction and rebirth. Currently the religious right has clung to their self-identifiers of anti-abortion, anti-inclusions (yes it can mean LGBTTQ2+, but also seeing the disabled as a full imageo dei as well), and for some reason vehemently anti-public services ala welfare and health care. Yet is this showing love? Love as I have love you is what Jesus commanded us. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 unpacks love more.

Most point back to their stances to the Hebrew Bible texts. Especially the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Stipulating that it shows the wrongness of same-sex love. Well, let’s look at the thread on this destruction:

Genesis 18:16-33 (New International Version)

1When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[c] 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.[d] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[e] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

First, it shows the Holy had heard the cries of something evil a brewing, that is anti-love, within these cities and was out to discover what was happening. Yet, much like many parents/caregivers/social service workers/”tough on crime” politicians had set out that the punishment for even a few would be the nuclear option. Abraham actually enters into a dialogue pointing out the fact that it does not need to be punitive. He opened up the dialogue, but could have done many things differently. I would say that Abraham set up the confirmation bias for the Holy on destruction. Abraham could have challenged the punishment, that is only those that transgressed be punished. As well he could have pushed the salvation line of questioning more by saying, you say I am righteous and loved, lets problem solve and save the city, do not destroy them based on who I am and who you are and how you want to be known by the people.

Abraham, did not fully use his prophetic voice. He chose the easy path. But part of the prophetic voice to, is knowing cause and effect so perhaps did Abraham not know how bad it was? Most certainly for his nephew Lot, and his family lived in the midst.

Genesis 19: 1-29 (New Living Translation):

19 That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom. Lot was sitting there, and when he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.”

“Oh no,” they replied. “We’ll just spend the night out here in the city square.”

But Lot insisted, so at last they went home with him. Lot prepared a feast for them, complete with fresh bread made without yeast, and they ate. But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection.”

“Stand back!” they shouted. “This fellow came to town as an outsider, and now he’s acting like our judge! We’ll treat you far worse than those other men!” And they lunged toward Lot to break down the door.

10 But the two angels[a] reached out, pulled Lot into the house, and bolted the door. 11 Then they blinded all the men, young and old, who were at the door of the house, so they gave up trying to get inside.

12 Meanwhile, the angels questioned Lot. “Do you have any other relatives here in the city?” they asked. “Get them out of this place—your sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else. 13 For we are about to destroy this city completely. The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.”

14 So Lot rushed out to tell his daughters’ fiancés, “Quick, get out of the city! The Lord is about to destroy it.” But the young men thought he was only joking.

15 At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. “Hurry,” they said to Lot. “Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!”

16 When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful. 17 When they were safely out of the city, one of the angels ordered, “Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”

18 “Oh no, my lord!” Lot begged. 19 “You have been so gracious to me and saved my life, and you have shown such great kindness. But I cannot go to the mountains. Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die. 20 See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don’t you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved.”

21 “All right,” the angel said, “I will grant your request. I will not destroy the little village. 22 But hurry! Escape to it, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” (This explains why that village was known as Zoar, which means “little place.”)

23 Lot reached the village just as the sun was rising over the horizon. 24 Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. 25 He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.

27 Abraham got up early that morning and hurried out to the place where he had stood in the Lord’s presence. 28 He looked out across the plain toward Sodom and Gomorrah and watched as columns of smoke rose from the cities like smoke from a furnace.

29 But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain.

The Angels came…and well…they were not very welcomed. In fact it ripped the veil completely off what was happening. But was it same-sex love between consenting adults that brought this city low? NO! Just read the story— gang rape, power, control, in-hospitality, Lot’s response to offer up his daughters, when mercy shown the fiancees laughing at Lot in their arrogance, and then his wife turning to a pillar of salt yearning for the past no matter how bad it was because “well it is better the devil you know than the unknown road.”

Prophetic voice, pointing out that what is happening through parable, song, vision, oracle, psalm, or proverb that it will lead to this negative consequence. In the Hebrew Prophetic tradition it was showing the exiles to come, and the silence in exile. In Genesis it was showing the destruction to come. Or as the prophet Ezekiel would use as his own example in the space and time he existed in to communicate a point to Israel:

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

-Ezekiel 16:49-50 (New International Version)

The story of Sodom, used to show that the never again righteous thoughts and prayers, actions wise had returned and as such the same consequence was coming. Just like the stories in the Gifted television show. For Albertans it is not wanting to cope with the shift of industry away from oil and gas, so the willingness to wreak havoc and destruction upon the most vulnerable, the families…for the true first time in history create a situation where the next generation is made worse off, because of the fear of the older generation, and them like Lot’s wife wanting to look backwards.

What prophetic voice is there in this situation? Simple, under Premier Ralph Klein there was no plan, debt load was shifted from government to citizens creating a debt anxiety cycle at the household level, infrastructure and up keep was ignored which created a deficit issue that is still not fully addressed (what is it like a billion in differed maintenance the largest school board in our province carries?). Public Health care infrastructure and services still trying to rebound from the asinine third way tinkerings; no long term care or seniors housing, affordable housing behind the already abysmal percentage level in Canada; every year a crisis in homelessness that put life and limb at risk; and the privatization and deregulation of utilities that hit families hard. All this precipitated on false information shared as truth, and fear mongering about deficits that if the people’s resource had been managed as former Premiers’ Manning and Lougheed had laid out would never have been an issue. Literally prophetic political voice Mel Hurtig wrote his seminal work pay the rent or feed the kids during this time. For more on the Klein era I refer you to Kevin Taft’s Shredding the Public Interest (1997); Clear Answers (2000) and Democracy Derailed (2007).

Regardless of political affiliation, premiers since Klein have been working to repair the havoc wreaked to ensure that all Albertans prospered, and the huge poverty deficit created was corrected. Unfortunately as 2013-2015 the desire for our natural resource faded on the world stage Albertans began to feel a bit of a sting, in 2015-2019 a government that managed the down turn without creating a recession, and ensured citizens were cared for, looking at optimization of tax dollars, not perfect, and as Kevin Taft would point out in his Oil’s Deep State (2017) that it appeared as the NDP government had rapidly sold out to oil interests. Yet it was a balance they moved forward on to get a pipeline in the ground (yes the ground breaking, and work now is due to the NDP provincial government, and Federal Liberal government). Unfortunately, the invoking of the “saint” Klein, and the rallying cry to tap into the denial and anger in a grief cycle of Alberta by the United Conservative Party played well. It was aided by the NDP campaign focused on Kenney’s character, not their record of stable leadership and countering what was planned if Kenney was to be Klein 2.0 and what that would actually mean economically. That is translating socialism into capitalism language and showing how it actually prospers the citizen, consumers and corporations. Instead, in April 2019 a regressive regime (like Lot’s wife) eternally looking backwards to an authoritarian time when questioning of government could result in a negative impact, they had stepped up the bar to it being a black mark, even created a privately government funded corporation to look for enemies. They have so far gone after our children through public school funding (under-funding the typically coded students by at least 1,000 dollars a student, and not providing funds for student growth numbers, handing out a budget mid-year which has hit families with higher transportation fees of upwards for $400 a student, end of public transit subsidies so monthly passes go from $20 to $70) and the response when trustees speak out is to audit and threaten dissolution. Now I am no fan of school boards, but let’s keep it real. You cannot under-fund an endeavour then rally about their incompetence. If the end game is to eliminate school boards, state it, and fund my damn kids. They de-indexed AISH for inflation, so there will be no extra monies however little in our minds for disabled Albertans, they are looking at PUF funding (early intervention for children with disablities); they have removed from seniors pharmacy plans the ability of dependents to be listed (a wife a year or two younger, children in their care); they have messed with funding for Kinship care for our Child & Family Services; they have lowered ages for support for those in care from 24 to 22 years old; they have removed the cap from auto insurance premiums. Their statement on that was the bill was to expire anyways this year, yes, yet a government in Constitutional good standing understands peace, order and good governance would have looked at renewing, so now we have some people’s insurance rates going through the roof (one family in Wainwright stating in their local paper they have seen a 26% increase). Looking at safe consumption sites that are abating our opioid crisis and blatantly politicizing them as NDP Drug Use sites, and threatening to close them, rolling back protections for our LGBTTQ2+ children; removing the cap on utilities adding more costs to family’s bottom line. In the midst of a time when Albertans are already carrying the highest personal debt load, higher mental health and substance use, and sadly, a growing rate of domestic violence. Our premier has even stated it is hard for Oil & Gas companies to pay their property taxes and we just need to understand, he then back tracked a little saying rural municipalities could seek recourse through the courts. Speaking of rural? They are going to see an increase in RCMP, but the Provincial government will not provide funding so rural folks are going to have to pay for it themselves and see a growth in their property taxes upwards to 10%. Oh, and speaking of taxes, they have de-indexed exemption amounts on income tax so we all will be paying for tax as well. When they consult with the public reading and responding to the surveys that are specifically designed to report what they want to hear. Oh and if you are a post-secondary student, you have lost the tuition cap and your tuition is going up at least 7%. There is no questions around how to grow revenue, only what should be cut to reduce spending. A blue ribbon panel was assembled to explore spending, but at no point did it look at revenues which is not a full system examination. Oh and our “hatred” for the Carbon Tax, due to the ineptitude of the new government, we have two carbon taxes as of January 1, 2020.

Talk about cutting off our noses to spite our face.

Was the prophetic work their to show what was planned?

Campaign financing questions, kamikaze campaigns, arrests and charges out of leadership races, Elections Alberta fines nearing or exceeding (so hard to keep up) the $200K mark; the RCMP stating the investigation into the UCP leadership race identity theft has progressed to identity fraud. For the legacy party leadership of the PC’s, one leadership candidate leaving the race and joining the then governing NDP citing harassment and bullying by other campaigns.

Quite a bit of anger, yelling, threats. Hiring media trolls for social media, not to share and explain government policy, but literally to troll citizens.

Very authoritarian regime. When questioned responses are deflect, blame the NDP, or stating “we have a majority, Albertans voted for this.” A narrative driven out of fear, driven by deflections and seeking out an other to blame for our woes, instead of looking in the mirror and saying how are we going to come together and do this. How are we going to travel through transformation, and bring everyone along, and ensure we are all better off on the other side. I have not seen such venom directed at one another as I have since the inception of our governing party, openly hearing grandparents saying “well we don’t need public schools funded for that because of unions…gsa’s….get back to math…” and going, did your parents so hate you that they set your kids up for failure?

Sadly, Albertans did not look at the writing on the wall, or at the actions or invocations behind the party. Like the religious right saying this story of Sodom is about homosexuality, and then leveraging it to propagate hate, and harm to citizens draped in the cross. When in fact the story of Sodom was about arrogance, unwillingness to change, unwillingness to love…to be lost in anger, lust and pursuit of authoritarian power and control.

As we move more into 2020, examine your heart, your core values, your core faith. Are you living it? Are you using it to hold those that govern to account?

Are we using our prophetic voice like Ezekiel and the writers of Gifted?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

onal Version):

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[c] 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.[d] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[e] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.


Standing firm in what one believes can be hard. There needs to be an internal discernment, are you simply standing firm because you fear change? Dislike the change agent? Or does it cross a non-negotiable ethical line of yours?  Stories like this crop up many times in the Hebrew Bible, especially during the two times of exile: Babylon and Assyria. This is one of the bonus features if you will from the time of Daniel, under King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as King of Babylon (and yes, it is also a good Veggie Tales movie, it’s the Children’s Pastor in me). As the King attempts to remove the ability of freedom of thought and belief by becoming the top of the pantheistic pyramid.

Will you bow to the golden statue?

Will you worship and do, what is a non-negotiable in your ethical compass?

23 But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” 25 He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”[e]

-Daniel 3:23-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

For the three, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego it appears quite a simple thing to stand firm in their belief and be rescued. Unfortunately, sanitized tales such as this can remove the struggle of faith. The internal questioning, the mulling, the contemplation, the praying.

What would you do? In today’s world it comes down to not necessarily being burned alive, but if it meant losing your career? Being black listed within a sector? If you are a politician being voted out of office or booted from a party caucus?

Would you blow the whistle on that which is wrong?

Between these scant three verses emerges the bonus feature within the Apocrypha of the Prayer of Azariah and Song of three Jews.

Verse 1 they enter the furnace, from 2 through 22 what you are reading is a whistle blowing memo to a media outlet in today’s world. They are admitting the FUBAR of the nation’s situation (insert any organization you know that you are trapped in a similar ethical quandary).  He lays out his heart, knowing what is wrong and why it is wrong, it is basically what a prayer of confession is. Then he points out the character of the Creator he serves, and that patience and mercy is needed to reignite what is right.

To blaze a new path, by stepping off the one that is being blazed (and in the furnace, quite literally).

Verse 23-27 literally brings us into the fire. For those reading the link provided, 49 cubits of flames is 29.40 Meters (let that sink in, for our American friends that is 96.5 feet), and naphtha is believed to be a type of petroleum product so it was a burning blue flame.

The Empire attempted to silence the whistle blowers, but the Angel (messenger) came in and essentially provided sanctuary from the blue flame, as a moist wind. There can be many storms created when we take a stand for belonging, love and what is morally and ethically true… but in the eye of the storm where you come to rest it is peaceful, that is the message here as you carry through the hard parts of the journey know where your sanctuary is and live into it.

Verses 28-68 is a Psalm, praising God, and calling for all of creation to praise God. Within the words it is seen that there is a balance within creation that exists in the heart of the Holy Mystery. It is the song that they were singing with the king looked into the furnace and did not see 4 burning, but dancing and singing.

It is a tale on those moments where we are confronted with a choose path a or lose it all, we have wisdom to rest in and contemplate with.

If we are willing.


Story of Jonah

Jonah is the story of a minor prophet in the Hebrew Bible. He is minor because the story is short, not because it is inconsequential. It is the story of a man given a mission that does not want to do it. Many will take the tact of the journey of coming into your own within your chosen vocation. As Jonah is called to take a message of salvation to the non-Israelite city of Nineveh.

But there is another tract of the story, that is rarely mentioned in spiritual circles. Michael A. Martin in his 2011 Star Trek Enterprise Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wings touched on it. The Jonah curse he would write about, it was what Captain Archer was feeling after a previous encounter that the freighter, Kobayashi Maru and all hands were lost, the Enterprise needing to save themselves turning away and fleeing. It was due to a Romulan control weapon that took over allies ships to do the deed. It was a logical decision, and a hard one. The flood of transfer requests after left the Captain reflecting on Jonah, and the curse that many spacefarers and nautalists too, would focus on. It is in the first chapter, when Jonah first flees the call:

 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Image result for jonah and the whale13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

-Jonah 1:1-16 (New International Version)

A ship in danger. The only way to end it, is to get rid of the cursed one. Fairly clear cut, but why is this so necessary a story in the spiritual journey?

It is an effect we see on dry land many times. The shunning, the avoidance. It can happen when one leaves your spiritual community. It is more prevalent however when one receives a diagnosis in mental health or physical health that can be chronic, long, enduring, or stigmatized this is an effect that takes hold of some. The length of time as family or friends does not matter, for it becomes a subconscious response of distancing.

It is the Jonah Effect as I have decided to dub it. That is a fear that if you continue the relationship with the person afflicted, or whose life is changing, that you will somehow become susceptible to what they have. That you will become associated with the diagnosis. The very act of shunning/distancing/relationship breaking you are employing due to stigma is the fear of it happening to you is what drives it.

The Jonah Effect…


There is the official history of the world, and the land. There is religious history. There is political history. There is geo-political history. Some would even class colonialism, and other epochs of history (Reformation, Enlightenment, and Romanticism). Each human prairie-memoirsmovement and people cling to an official history of what they distill down to be the most important aspects for their legacy. The meta-narratives of history can be boiled down to the local communities’ yore, and then the tales of the people. This is the jurisdiction of family journals, scrap books, photo albums, and if one family is lucky, publishing of a memoir. This is the journey that Margaretha Wilms …and the Meadowlark Sang –Prairie Memoirs- (2011) takes the reader through. It starts with Mennonite Migration to North America, after laying out who Mennonites are, then comes down to her local family unit on the Prairies (when it was still the Northwest Territories).

A tale familiar to many of a family structure to accomplish shared goals, this being farm life, communal meals, shared religious upbringing, tight community with kith and kin. It also shares some of the struggles, what it was like to be in a world shaped by certain points of view. The fun of Crokinole (and yes it is fun, if you make it to Countess ask for a game). The importance of family, chosen and by blood, for that is what a healthy supportive community becomes, a family chosen. Sharing stories of roles that seem antiquated through today’s lens and child rearing that would not be considered but it was her reality that shaped her life.

The joy of Christmas and the arrival of the Eaton’s and Simpsons catalog for ordering  gifts from, and as we have learned through the exploration of the Countess Bible School, a time when the winter Sabbath from the farm would bring different opportunities.

Through it all, she ties to scripture of her heritage, Hebrew Bible prophets and wisdom. The familiar (to the Birds fans) refrain of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 of a time for everything, and the prophet Joel, to a reminder of why sharing our stories matter:

Tell it to your children,
    and let your children tell it to their children,
    and their children to the next generation. (New International Version)

Willms (p.116) shares of the personal renaissance, as she grew in life and moved from shame to embracing of her heritage and who she was as a person. She writes of being a Saskatchewan farm child in the grasshopper infested-dust bowl of farm life of the Dirty Thirties, how her parents modeled values she still holds dear of the intangibles, or as Willms phrased it eternal over material.

Her journey takes her through Prairie Bible Institute and Caronport, as she discerns whom she is. The narrative shifts into the Russian Mennonites who came later to Canada. For Mennonites had enjoyed very good autonomy, and a strong control of the flourmill industry under Tsarist Russia, but between 1917 (Bolshevik Revolution) and 1925 (when the last would try to flee) the tide would turn as they were seen as enemies of the state (p.234-35). These immigrant’s to Canada became known as Russlanders, as only their country of origin was Russia (p.236).

meadowlark-memoir-image-1.jpgCP Rail loved the work ethic of Mennonites that were coming in this later wave, and brought them to the prairies to work (Countess, Gem, Rosemary and Duchess) with each family being given ¼ sections of land originally managed by French Settlers (p.236). Willms’ husband, John was part of this wave of immigration. They were a hearty bunch that built a church in Gem fairly readily, with many choosing to gather in the Clemenceau School in Countess because it was closer in the cluster (p. 237). The influx of Russlander Mennonites doubled the size of Mennonites in Canada and brought 176 new congregations, this is important as the church was the hub of communal life (p.237). In 1924, 8,000 Mennonites came to Canada, and CP Rail negotiated to sponsor another 3, 772 in 1925 (p. 239). Some newcomers found Canada to worldly and wanted to go to Mexico or Paraguay to avoid what they viewed as a “sinful” nation; while others wanted to dive in to Canadian life taking further education, rising in leadership and building a new world (p.238-9).

John’s parents were part of the 1925 wave of immigrants from Russia. By 1926 Stalin had stopped the flow out of the Motherland (p.239). John was born to his parents in Ontario, they went on to settle a farm in Manitoba before finally coming to Countess, AB in an irrigation arrangement with a few other Mennonite settlers (p.240).

John Willms met his wife Margaretha, in Alberta, in the Irrigation District of Countess, part of what is known as the Palliser Triangle the driest patch of land in Canada (p. 241-242). John had remained in the area when his parents had returned to Manitoba.

The irrigation district from Calgary to Medicine Hat was the property of CP Rail, and built to facilitate the railway (p.242). It was tax exempt from 1921 and was to be irrigated but this idea was quashed instead to use a Dam system of the Bow River by Bassano (p.242).  The French settlements were mostly in tact when the Russlander settlers came and moved in. They had originally been settled by Quebecois and Francophones from Eastern USA between 1917-1919 but after years of almost freezing to death, and few crops they left to head east back to Quebec (p.242). This is why CP Rail sought out the Russlanders to make the hamlets viable for their endeavour.

John attended Clemenceau School for his education, it was originally a Francophone school named after a VIP French General (p. 242-3). It was a one-room school house, with a rectory-style house on the same land for the teacher (who was also expected to function as janitor) (p.243).

As we move into the betrothment, wedding, and settlement back into Saskatchewan with Margaretha and John. Teaching around the province, children, staying connected with the family diaspora, the CCF, oh and a nice wrap up as an appendix with the recipes mentioned throughout the book.

It makes one reflect if they were to pause, and write the story of their family, what would it look like?

What is our story?