Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

Sabbatical Update: Kids Are Unstoppable!

I’m having a wonderful time today reviewing  the midrashic work we did as a community last Advent (it’s a key piece of the fifth chapter of the thesis). There were the Texts and Textures groups and their amazing courage and insight shared, with a salty mixture of seriousness and humour, the wonderful worship, as well as the  sermons I preached, and this: “Kids are Unstoppable!”  The wonderful song that the children of KidZone composed with our much-loved (and missed) Pat Mayberry.  (Whom you can hear this weekend at Coffee House. Go!)

I can plant a flower, I can plant a tree,
‘Cuz I know by doing this I’m helping people breathe.
Keep it simple, we can do it!
When we share, you know it’s true,
I can plant a flower for the love of me and you.
‘Cuz kids are unstoppable –
We can make a difference too!


I can share a smile, put away my frown.
I can help you to get up when you have fallen down.
Keep it simple ,we can do it!
When we share, you know it’s true,
I can share a smile for the love of me and you.
‘Cuz kids are unstoppable –
We can make a difference too!

Oh, how my heart aches, and my toes itch to be back in the midst of  this amazing creative community again!

Sabbatical Update: one word at a time.

Yep.  One word at a time. Writing them, editing them.  That’s really the story of the last week or so of my sabbatical, and will be almost until the end.  I am sure it’s also probably far less interesting to read than “The Adventures of RevE in Provence!”  But that’s the true gift of this sabbatical time,  a ‘wilderness’ space and time to be filled with those things that could not happen if I were in the thick of ministry with the busy people of Cedar Park.  It is a tremendous gift, and some days it feels more like a ‘responsibility’ to make good on that gift, but that’s alright.  That keeps me going through the ‘grind’ of one more word.  I was asked why it’s sometimes a “grind”, and here’s the answer I came up with, on reflection:  I LOVE writing creative midrashic (imaginative) explorations of scripture that will be shared with Cedar Park.  What I love less is the academic writing about creating midrashic -imaginative biblical experiences. But it’s important work, not just for us, but for others out there, trying to find a way to be authentic, life-affirming followers of the way of Jesus, and dreamers of the Dream of God.  I miss you, and pray for y’all, and hope you do too, for me!

Sabbatical Update: Provence

What a gift this has time in Provence has been! After an intense time in UK (with parents who are ill, and/or with housing issues that necessitate many conversations with care providers, lawyers, social workers), this past two weeks as been a time  of sun-soaked restoration.  For most of the time, Norman was with me, so we were able to fully explore this ancient region – how many hilltop villages are there??  This past four days has been ‘toute seule’, my days spent primarily starting on the task of writing my D.Min. thesis, balanced with daily walks  in the vineyards and olive groves,  or to read  and take-notes for the next chapter sitting on a térasse in the village square with  un café au lait avec du pain au chocolat (which pretty much negates the walking!).   Some photos……

Cheap flights mean it will take me two days to get back to Montréal, so my kindle is primed for lots of waiting in departure lounges.  The next phase of my Sabbatical is about  thinking and  writing, and writing, and in between, more writing. To the folk of Cedar Park United who are following this blog journal, thank you for being interested, and supportive.  Please know I think and pray daily for the congregation, and also pray daily that this thesis – which is about our journey together with Scripture – will come some way close to mirroring the amazing, courageous, creative community that you are.

Sabbatical Update: Thanksgiving

Good Morning, and a Happy Thanksgiving Morning to all Canadians!

I’ve updated the Sabbatical Journal again.  Each week has its own page, and the latest entries are simply sitting in the “Sabbatical Journal”, with most recent entries first.   Norman and I are now in Lourmarin, Provence, where I shall be for the next two weeks.  After spending 10 days with aging parents, and attending to those matters which are specific to age and illness,  I am now shifting gear into full-time writing.  A number of you expressed concern that that didn’t seem “restful” or even “pleasant.”  Rest assured, all is well!  Take a look at these first images, and you will see; we are in a beautiful spot,  and I can’t imagine a more conducive way to write than at a table soaked in Provencal sunlight, above the  crooked alleys of Lourmarin, doves in the eaves across the way.Please don’t feel sorry for me. Not at all!  Today, this Thanksgiving, I am indeed thankful. 

Sabbatical Update

The Journal continues. You can find the latest entry  here and you can find the Journal week 1 by clicking  this, or using the tabs above..  I hope there’s a ‘thought for the day’ for those of you who are choosing to read this (and thanks for the encouragement).

To update those who are interested on my plans for the next 3 weeks, now that I’ve had chance to finalize some of them:

  • I head to the UK next week, to spend some time with my mother, who at 84 is no longer very mobile,  so we’re planning a few trips to old haunts, and lots of cups of tea.  I shall also visit with my father, who having suffered a number of strokes this year, is now in a nursing home.  For  a hitherto  fit, active,man-of- the-moors, and one whose mental acuity was legendary, this is a hard chapter of life to be writing, so I ask your prayers for my family as we connect as deeply and as meaningfully as possible.
  • Norman and I will meet up in London, to head to Provence, France. We will spend a week basking in late lavender and early grape harvest, croissants and honey, and such delights for eye, body and soul. He, alas must return after a week, but I shall stay on for another week by myself, to write, write, and write.


And so it begins….. Sabbatical

I will post periodically on this  front page of the blog, various highs and lows of this Sabbatical time.  I also intend to keep a regular (but not daily) journal which you can find by clicking the link here  or find “Sabbatical Journal” above in the black header.

After over a year of planning, preparing,  it begins, for me, and for the congregation of Cedar Park United… a time of difference, newness, exploration, attentiveness,  all the while being blessed by the surprises of  life in all its fullness.

Sabbaticals for clergy are meant to be intentional  periods of release and rest from the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of pastoral ministry, thereby creating  space and opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal,  for vocational reflection,  and for study.

The supreme model for taking Sabbath time is God! In Genesis we read that after the work of Creation, God took a breath, took a break from all that creating,  and took time to reflect upon it, and to celebrate its fundamental goodness.   In the Gospels, particularly the one written by Luke, we see Jesus frequently taking a ‘time out,’  heading off to the edges of the day, to the edges of creation, to reconnect with God, rest his body, and renew and retool for the ministry that lay ahead of him.   Good models  I intend to follow.

My hope and prayer for my sabbatical is

a) to rest my body and treat it well.  This involves time on my bike, on a golf course, at the gym, at the piano, cooking interesting food,and  some travel.

b) to bring to completion the work of my Doctorate in Ministry (D.Min).  I need to complete a dissertation/thesis, but I WANT to write down the best of our recent experiences of unlocking Scripture in community through the use of a “midrashic imagination”  – a faithfully playful, curious engagement of the Biblical library in ways that make relevant connections between these ancient texts, our own context, and God who is involved in both.

c) to connect meaningfully with my far flung family.  With parents in UK, our children and their families living in Vancouver and South Dakota, that is no small undertaking!

d)  to  pray and ponder, read and listen well to the call of God for the next chapter of our lives together at Cedar Park United, for you can be sure, God has things, good things in store for us!

My hope  for this Sabbatical time for CPU is that you relish this opportunity to worship in new ways with great worship leaders, Revs. Wendy Evans and Alyson Huntly, and our guest line up for early Adventwho will bring insights from other faith traditions in their Human Quest for the Holy.  My prayer for you is that you love and care for one another as you share the  ministries, programmes,  vision, and  mission of Cedar Park United in the months ahead.

May God bless the space between us.

Snow Day! Beware the Ides of March

Lenten Textures is online tonight, because of the dump of snow we’ve had in Montreal  yesterday and today.  Go to the Lenten Textures tab (above), scroll down, and you’ll find a link to the handouts for the third session,  where we walk with the Syro-Phoenician woman, as she encounters Jesus.

Lenten Textures -We walk this road together


In this Lenten Bible study course, we’ll be using “Midrashic Imagination” to discover the layers and textures of the Biblical texts which we will be using for each of the Sundays of the Season.

This year’s Lent texts take us onto the road walked by our ancestors in faith. What would happen if we were to meet these characters? What would they teach us about how this journey of faith that we are on? What might happen if we choose to walk this Road together with them?

Find the Lenten Textures drop down tag above, and you can find there the handouts for each of the Sessions. If you cant join in on Wednesday evenings or Thursday mornings, you can keep up with what we’re doing here!  Happy Midrashing!


The Sermon on the Mount: An invitation into counter-culture

I couldn’t begin to say this any better. Linday Paris-Lopez’ recent article on the “Sermon on the Mount” , posted in  Sojourner’s  Magazine online is well worth your attention.

If you subscribe, you’ll find it here:

If not, I’ve quoted extensively, below.


“……The Sermon on the Mount is a call to resistance. It has always been subversive and counter-cultural. Because of its core ethic of nonviolence and its insistence on the blessing of the powerless, it can be misinterpreted as a dissuasion from action, a plea to settle down and accept authority. Yet it uproots and overturns a conventional order built on and maintained by violence. The Sermon on the Mount calls on us to repent. Repentance is the first step of resistance. Before the powers of exclusion, greed, and coercion sweep us along in their destructive path, we are called to repent — turn around — and resist the tide that threatens to drown us all.

The Sermon on the Mount catches us in the current of our cultural violence and turns us around first by drawing our attention to the victims swept under the wave of human violence.How are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the ones who hunger and thirst for justice, blessed? Jesus blessed the people on the margins of his culture by embracing them, showing solidarity with them, building a community in which those who had always been shunned were welcomed and loved. As the body of Christ, we are called to be that blessing.

…… Jesus’s vision of healing a world in pain begins with blessing, not blame, so that we may keep our focus on those in need of comfort. This is not to say that Jesus leaves us with nothing to say to those who wield powers of oppression and violence. Acknowledging the victims of oppression, meeting them at the margins and building community upon their inclusion and well-being is the first step toward subverting and transforming oppressive systems. ”

And there’s more, in Matthew 5:38-41, Jesus gives instruction on how to handle those who mete out oppression:

“Neither acquiesce to evil nor return evil for evil, Jesus instructs, but reject oppression by asserting your own dignity with firm compassion, refusing to participate in or perpetuate the cycle of violence. In doing so, you refuse to be either a helpless victim or a heartless monster, reaffirming not only your own humanity, but also that of the one who would dehumanize you…..He teaches us never to lose sight of the human face in front of us. First we must see the humanity in those trampled by systems of power, and then we must see the humanity in those who wield those systems. Forces of exclusion, greed, and violence transcend even those who seem to control them, gripping humanity in their thrall. Striving to overturn oppressors through violence leaves systems of oppression intact, at most switching the places of victim and victimizer. But Jesus teaches us to overturn systems of violence with active inclusion and compassion.”


The Great Invitation

In a world where being a progressive/liberal/affirming Christian seems to be getting weirder if not harder, it’s perhaps not surprising that more of you are asking “How on earth do I talk about my faith with friends or colleagues, or family?”   I hope you’ll discover that at Cedar Park,  season of Epiphany is  being designed just for you and your questions!

The lectionary – the list of Biblical readings – gives us a series of texts that churchy folk like me often  refer to as “call stories” – but that’s church-speak.  What would happen if we were to read these texts  not as ‘call stories’  but as invitations?   When Jesus shows up near the sea of Galilee, he’s issuing an invitation -take it or leave it – to find out a bit more about what makes him tick as a spiritual human being.  When it comes down to it, that’s probably all we need to share with friends, skeptical or otherwise when they look wide-eyed at us when they realize we are church-goers.   If they’re curious at all, they’re probably curious to know why on earth we do such an archaic thing,  especially when the word “Christian” is being dragged through some particularly muddy pastures right now.

If you can’t join us Sunday mornings, you can read the sermons on this blog site . Just go to the sermon tag, and you’ll find the sermons in this series posted each week.   Once our church website team have completed the upgrade and reconstruction, you’ll be able to find them there too, along with audio podcasts of at least some of the sermons.

January 15: The Great Invitation: Come and See!

January 22: Come and Follow – a Daunting Invitation

January 29:  Invitation to be Blessed

February 5:  You ARE Salt and Light

February 12: An Invitation To Go Deep


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