Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pause for Thought
The Anneke Rice Show
BBC Radio 2
February 25th, 2011

When I was seventeen years old I took a course in bush craft. I was living in the southern Yukon Territory which, notwithstanding the adjective southern, is still pretty north by Canadian or anybody's standards.

One of the concluding tasks was to spend three days (two nights) out in the woods in substantially subzero temperatures living in a shelter you had made for yourself and eating only what you could catch. Some of the details are less palatable now on British radio waves than they would have been in Canada in the seventies, so I'll spare you the details. At some point an instructor would hike in from the road to where you had pitched your camp. He’d inspect your shelter, your reflector fire, and see what you had caught to eat.

That would be your only conversation for those three days. Other than this you would be alone - in community with that part of the animal world you had elected not to eat. You'd listen to the high pitched yaps and wails of a pack of coyotes in the valley behind you or the solitary baritone of the lone wolf howling at the other end of the lake. As the darkness set in you'd witness the utterly silent swoop of an owl along the trail as it hunted for small mammals. During the day you'd make use of the habitual trails of the snowshoe hares which would provide some ease of passage through deep snow.

You may have been the only creature in the forest equipped with matches, snare wire and opposable thumbs but it was driven in to you, by your time alone, that you were a creature and that you were vulnerable.

During the coming season of Lent, Christians will hear the Gospel story about Jesus, following his baptism in the river Jordan, being driven out into the desert by the Holy Spirit - into a place where the purpose of his ministry would become clear.

Things can become clear in the wild. Men and women have always taken time by themselves on retreats in monasteries or on long walks in the forest to sort things out - to listen to a quieter voice within them which makes better sense of the world.

An audio link is available HERE. PFT begins at 0:20:57 - at the beginning of the audio bar.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In the Wilderness

- Robert Graves

CHRIST of His gentleness
Thirsting and hungering,
Walked in the wilderness;
Soft words of grace He spoke
Unto lost desert-folk 5
That listened wondering.
He heard the bitterns call
From ruined palace-wall,
Answered them brotherly.
He held communion 10
With the she-pelican
Of lonely piety.
Basilisk, cockatrice,
Flocked to his homilies,
With mail of dread device, 15
With monstrous barbéd slings,
With eager dragon-eyes;
Great rats on leather wings
And poor blind broken things,
Foul in their miseries. 20
And ever with Him went,
Of all His wanderings
Comrade, with ragged coat,
Gaunt ribs—poor innocent—
Bleeding foot, burning throat, 25
The guileless old scapegoat;
For forty nights and days
Followed in Jesus’ ways,
Sure guard behind Him kept,
Tears like a lover wept.

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

One of the newspapers in Britain had headlines splashed across its website outlining the threat of a trade war between Canada and the European Union over the EU's threats to declare the controversial Canadian oil sands to be "highly polluting".

If it's any consolation, the exploitation of this resource in northern Alberta is the cause of no end of heated conversations even amongst Canadians at home. The benefit of extra oil may not be worth the damage to the surrounding environment.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Folks may joke with each other about giving up chocolate or cutting down to ten cigarettes a day, but the whole issue of what we consume – as individuals and as nations - and what we restrain ourselves from consuming is deadly serious.

From a very early period in the history of the Church, ordinary people have undertaken a time-limited task of examining what they really need to live on. At times, the exercise becomes a spectacle of controlled starvation and self-hatred. There are, however, beneficial lessons to be learned from what Christians have been doing from the very beginning.

What we require – rather than being a fixed thing – is exceptionally fluid. It changes over time – usually in the direction of greater and ever-more-expanding budgets and waistlines. It can however, through reflection and restraint, be curbed. We have that power.

Our appetites increase, in part, because of laziness, fear and lack of restraint.

We find ourselves eating, drinking, burning and consuming ever more resources, and then making accommodations for that bigger and needier person, that hungrier society – needing to devote more and more energy to finding more money or more oil and also more time – time that could be used creatively elsewhere. We are addicted to an ever growing struggle.

Restraint is possible- for ourselves in our personal budgets and for our nations.