Category Archives: Religion

More Than A Library

The door to the library at Bethel Mennonite Church

“Can I take my drugs in the library?”  I am the librarian at my church and last Sunday an elderly woman came to the door and asked me that question.  She had a beeper that went off when it was time for her to administer her medication and that had just happened.  She needed a place to sit down and take her pills before she forgot.  I told her we were a full-service library and she should come right in. 

One thing I am noticing about our church library is that it is much more than just a place to get books.  For example, before the Sunday morning worship hour, there are a couple of regulars who like to hang out in the library because the noise and hubbub in the lobby before the service is just too much for them, either due to hearing difficulties or because they are of a more introverted nature. We have a couple of nice comfy chairs that provide a safe space for them. 

Parents whose children are having trouble sitting through a church service also come into the library to read stories, or walk around in an open area that provides an alternative to the confining pews in the sanctuary.

The cool new sign for our Kid’s Corner was made by Ike Derksen a talented graphic artist in our church

We’ve just finished setting up a Kids’ Corner in the library to invite even more of that kind of use of our space. 

A group of dedicated volunteers take turns working in the library each Sunday and chatting with church members

Many people come in just to chat. They may start off asking you to recommend a book for them but then the conversation quickly veers to a family matter that is troubling them, a social issue on which they have an opinion to share, a physical ailment that is challenging or something in the church that is of concern to them.  I often get caught up for quite some time in one of these conversations as do the wonderful volunteers who work in the library each Sunday helping people sign out new books and returning the old ones to the shelves. 

I just put up a new bulletin board display of books we have added to the library in recent months

We do have our critics, although certainly a minority.  They come in because they don’t agree with the selection of books we have, or they aren’t happy with the way the books are displayed, or they are concerned about the church perhaps spending too much money on library books or they are sad that I have removed an old book from the shelves that was really important to them. I actually enjoy chatting with these folks and am pleased they are taking such an interest in the library.  Their concerns have led me to develop a Book Selection policy that has been approved by the church’s education committee which oversees my work in the library. 

And then, of course, there are the library patrons who are devoted literary fans. They come into the library to see if you have the latest title which is in big demand, to discuss a book from the library they know I have read too, to have me recommend a book I think they will like, to donate a book to the library, or to tell me about a book they have read that they think should be on our shelves. 

We recently added an Indigenous Relations section in the library

And our library is used for other things too. Church committees sometimes reserve the library for meetings during the week. Families may gather there before a funeral service. People sometimes slip in to find a quiet place to take a phone call or have a one on one conversation with a friend. Folks who are visiting the church for the first time wander in because they are curious or are looking to connect with someone. 

I was just asked on Sunday by our church’s gift discernment committee if I want to continue my work in the library for another two years and I answered yes immediately. I love being in the library at our church not only because I enjoy reading books and talking about them, but because I love the fact that so many other things happen in the library besides taking out books and returning them. 

Other posts………

Love These Guys

Are You A Book Hoarder or a Book Minimalist? 

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Filed under Books, Religion


prayer installationA new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by artist James Webb is called Prayer.  The installation is an ongoing project that began in Cape Town South Africa in 2000.  The 10th version currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was created in the city of Chicago.  The exhibit consists of dozens and dozens of recordings of prayers spoken by people of many different religious affiliations. There are prayers said by Catholics, Lutherans,  Occultists, Episcopalians, Hindus, Bahai, Presbyterians, Mormons and Methodists.  There are prayers spoken in Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques and evangelical churches. 

james webb prayerVisitors can take off their shoes and walk down the red carpet listening to the prayers arising from all the different speakers or they can sit down in front of one speaker and listen to the variety of prayers emanating from it.

prayer james webbJames Webb is a musician and visual artist from South Africa and has a degree in comparative religions.  As he moves his project to one city after another Webb creates a collaborative community of people from many different faiths and provides a sort of spiritual and religious landscape of that city.  As I experienced the Chicago version of Prayer I thought how interesting it would be to create a similar installation with people from the city of Winnipeg.  

Prayer will be in Winnipeg till May.  Be sure to stop in and experience it on your next visit to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………..

A Prayer For a Golf Tournament

An Artist’s Prayer

A Prayer for the New Year

Two Artists on Prayer


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Filed under Art, Religion, winnipeg art gallery

Thanks Lindsey

I was looking through an old journal when I came across this drawing I had taped onto one of the pages. It is by Lindsey Banman and I think was made in 2000 when Lindsey was probably about nine or ten years old.  I still remember receiving it from her.  I had given the sermon in my church, Grace Mennonite in Steinbach one Sunday during advent and Lindsey was in the congregation with her parents. As I spoke she drew this picture of me behind the pulpit and after the service, she gave it to me.  I loved it! Lindsey had included so many details.  Notice the four advent banners on the wall behind me and the Christmas trees? She even has the cross on the pulpit and has drawn the microphone.  

I’ve always loved children’s art and that’s one reason why I’ve kept Lindsey’s wonderful drawing for nearly twenty years but there’s another reason too. As a child, I NEVER saw a woman behind the pulpit. Women weren’t allowed to give sermons.  I remember thinking after Lindsey gave me her drawing how glad I was that she wasn’t growing up in a church where young girls never had a chance to see women taking a leadership role in worship. Seeing Lindsey’s drawing reminded me of just how far we’d come. Thanks, Lindsey. 

Other posts………

Many Women Are Pastors But Our Language Still Excludes Them

Five Wives

Huldah. Have You Heard of Her? 

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Imagine It !

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.

Last Sunday the Scripture passage that was the focus of our church service was the one in Isaiah 11 where the future is described as a time when all of the earth will be at peace. Harm and destruction will stop and those that have traditionally been thought of as natural enemies will live in harmony. Children will take the lead.

Artistic interpretation of Isaiah 11 by John August Swanson. Note the people on the road with candles coming to follow the child in the centre with a candle of hope.

Of course, the vision described in Isaiah 11 seems like an impossible reality. Our world will never be a place like that but…. our speaker last Sunday urged us to use our imaginations and start thinking about the planet we share as just such a place of peace and positivity. He said if we can keep imagining the possibility of a harmonious and happy future for humanity like the writer of Isaiah did, we will start living as if we believe it is going to happen.
That really resonated with me. It is easy to think our world is falling apart and the future is grim. Many people just throw up their hands and say there is nothing we can do. But if you can imagine the possibility of a future for humanity that is bright and good like the one described in the figurative language in Isaiah, then you will be inclined to act in ways that will help to make that peaceful, happy future a reality. 

My husband Dave at the John Lennon Wall in Prague

The anniversary of John Lennon’s death was exactly one week ago. In the lyrics of his song Imagine he provided us with a modern version of the Isaiah scripture passage inviting us to imagine a future in which everyone lives in peace, sharing the world’s resources and not allowing religious differences or economic differences or political differences to cause harm and destruction. 

Imagine it. Believe it. Act like you believe it. It just may happen. 

Other posts…………

To The World Peace- Visiting Westminster Abbey

Common Threads – Indigenous Spirituality

A Book To Make You Insanely Hopeful

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I Want To See

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

Mark 10:47 and 51  

My friend Esther sorts and packs recycled eyeglasses once a week. She volunteers for the Lions Club, a service organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired. Distributing some twenty million pairs of glasses annually to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them is only one part of the club’s global vision initiative.

Lion’s Club members know developing nations are disproportionately affected by eye problems for a variety of reasons including environmental ones. Tibet has one of the highest rates of cataracts because of soot and pathogens from the dusty environment and overexposure to UV rays.

Doctor checking children for trachoma in rural Ghana – Photo from FHI 360 a non-profit human development organization

Trachoma another eye disease rampant in developing countries could be eliminated by addressing environmental concerns like the inaccessibility of clean water and lack of proper sanitation facilities. The World Health Organization believes that with support and intervention 80% of the world’s vision problems would be avoidable.

The Healing of a Blind Man by Duccio di Buoninsegna- 1308

The Bible passages I quoted at the beginning of this post are from a story about a blind man named Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus knows Jesus is nearby and calls out to him for help. Bartimaeus makes me think about the people around the world calling out for help with their vision difficulties.  Jesus restored sight to Bartimaeus. Our world has the resources to prevent blindness and improve the quality of life for almost all of the visually challenged in the human family.  

There are more than a hundred charitable organizations focused on hearing and answering the voices of those who are saying just as Bartimaeus did, “I want to see again”.  How can we help?

Read about an amazing project my cousin Dr. Stephen Fransen established in Nicaragua to help people whose sight has been compromised by retinal diseases

Read about a modern-day miracle worker who is doing the same thing Jesus did in Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the New York Times


Filed under Health, Religion

Gifts From the Earth

And God brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. I’m offering some of what I’ve grown on this ground you gave me, O God.  Deuteronomy 26: 9-10

During the year we taught on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona a colleague asked us to join her family at dawn for the baby naming ceremony of her grandchild. Later we were invited into her home for breakfast. The meal was spread out on a large cloth on the floor so as we sat around it we would be close to the earth.  Before we ate the grandmother took a wooden bowl and filled it with small bits of food from the many different dishes she’d prepared.  The bowl was placed on the ground just outside the door of the house as a way to recognize the gifts received from the creator and the earth.

Corn grown by Manny Talasmaynewa near the Hopi village of Moenkopi. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

In Deuteronomy 26:9-10 the children of Israel also offer a gift of food from the earth as a way to thank the creator.  The land flowing with milk and honey described in Deuteronomy 26:9 presents a stark contrast to the Hopi Nation where a scarcity of rain requires special centuries-old farming methods, careful preservation and care of the soil, and plenty of hard work and faith in order to harvest crops like corn, beans, squash and melons.

This weekend our American neighbours celebrated Thanksgiving. The holiday provides another opportunity to reflect on the fact that our food is a gift from the earth and from the creator. We are responsible to care for, preserve, and use the earth in the best possible way so the whole human family can share in creation’s bounty both now and in the future.

Other posts………

He Hasn’t Lost His Green Thumb

A Thankful Weekend

They Don’t Grow Tomatoes Like They Used To

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Filed under Holidays, Religion

The Color Purple- God in Every Living Thing

God not some gloomy old man like the pictures you’ve seen of him.
God, not a man at all.
God is inside you and everyone else
That was or ever will be.
We come into this world with God.
But only them who look inside find it.
God is the flowers and everything else
That was or ever will be.
And when you feel the truth so real,
And when you love the way you feel, you’ve found it
Just as sure as moonlight bless the night.
Like a blade of corn,
Like a honeybee,
Like a waterfall,
All a part of me.
Like the color purple,
Where does it come from?
Open up your eyes,
Look what God has done.

We saw the musical The Color Purple at the Manitoba Theatre Centre on Wednesday night.  The signature song The Color Purple brought tears to my eyes and as soon as I got home I looked up the words and purchased the music. Then I scrolled through photos I’d taken to find the color purple in nature. 

I keep thinking what a different world it would be if we all believed as the song says that God is in us, in other human beings and in every living thing. 

Other posts………

Two Poets on Prayer

Go To The Park

Living Beings Just Like Us?


Filed under Religion, Theatre