office work really can kill you

this was a fun article to read as I stare at the shared HP LaserJet color printer that sits on my desk that everyone uses to print from.

clipped from www.digitaljournal.com

The supposedly benign laser printer emits dangerous particles into the air, an Australian study discovered. Watch out, office workers — new toners can be as harmful to your health as cigarette smoke.

Digital Journal — Even though most offices have banished smokers from the workplace, there’s a surprise health threat as potentially dangerous as cigarette smoking: the laser printer.

As BBC News reported, Australian scientists have discovered that some office printers emit a dangerous amount of toner in the air, possibly causing health problems ranging from respiratory irritation to cardiovascular problems. The scientists even noted some of these floating microscopic particles may be carcinogens.

  blog it

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waking up

Awakened within a dream,
I fall into my own arms.
……What kept you so long?

remembering

This happened 10 years ago, around this time of year, so I thought it might be a good time to share it.

It is a hot, humid, August morning in Lamoni, Iowa. I am sixteen years old. In a huge gym filled with empty bleachers that will soon groan under the weight of 1500 teenagers, I sit on a low riser. Having just rehearsed the song we will be singing, the choir I sit in the midst of is abuzz with anticipation of the worship that will come, what the day holds, and where they will go to escape the heat.

“Excuse me everyone! We need someone to say a prayer in English at the end of today’s service! We have someone praying in Spanish but need someone to pray in English! Any volunteers?”

Silence sharply hits the buzzing choir. No hands go up. My mind races through the four days I have just experienced in this strange, foreign space that is the Midwest of the USA, which each day seemed increasingly far away from my home in Canada. Too many times had I heard prayers that started with “Dear Father…” too many times had I witnessed male-dominated leadership; too many times had I wiggled uncomfortably in my seat with a dissatisfied feeling in my stomach.

“I don’t mind” I hear myself say, as I watch my hand raise.

“Great! Thank-you!” replies the one on the pray-er quest.

I don’t think much of volunteering. Praying in worship is something I have done many times at home in the comforting space of the Pacific Northwest. I’d just have to speak a bit louder, that’s all. Teenagers trickle-in and fill the huge space, and the high-energy worship launches. I prepare myself as I normally would, paying attention to the words of others, listening carefully to what the songs and scriptures are saying in order to echo their words. At the end of the service I confidently step out of the choir and moved forward to wait for the microphone to be passed to me. I take hold of the microphone and look out at the gathered group, the beauty of this diverse gathering, the sense of anticipation and possibility that is so palpable in a group of teenagers, stirs me deeply and fills me to overflowing. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and begin to pray:

“Loving Mother God…” I feel like I’ve just stepped off a cliff into a great abyss of uncertainty. Falling into the oceanic depths of chaos, the tehom as I would call it now, feels a bit lonely, but not cold or desolate, just uncertain.

The rest of the prayer has disappeared from my memory. I remember looking down at my shirt just after saying ‘amen’ and realizing that I was not anonymous; I had “Pacific Northwest Delegation” emblazoned across my chest. It would not be long, I thought, before I was hunted-down and reprimanded. But a mob of pitch-fork-wielding teenagers never showed up, and the only comment I received before running away from the crowded gym that morning was from the choir director who thanked me. I realized that maybe the tehom was not quite as lonely as I thought.

From the vantage point of my 26-year-old self, everything else in my life seems to radiate out of that point, that moment of truthfulness and prophecy, a time of saying ‘yes’ not just to saying a prayer, but to something much deeper and larger
It is a hot, humid, August morning in Lamoni, Iowa. I am sixteen years old. In a huge gym filled with empty bleachers that will soon groan under the weight of 1500 teenagers, I sit on a low riser. Having just rehearsed the song we will be singing, the choir I sit in the midst of is abuzz with anticipation of the worship that will come, what the day holds, and where they will go to escape the heat.

“Excuse me everyone! We need someone to say a prayer in English at the end of today’s service! We have someone praying in Spanish but need someone to pray in English! Any volunteers?”

Silence sharply hits the buzzing choir. No hands go up. My mind races through the four days I have just experienced in this strange, foreign space that is the Midwest of the USA, which each day seemed increasingly far away from my home in Canada. Too many times had I heard prayers that started with “Dear Father…” too many times had I witnessed male-dominated leadership; too many times had I wiggled uncomfortably in my seat with a dissatisfied feeling in my stomach.

“I don’t mind” I hear myself say, as I watch my hand raise.

“Great! Thank-you!” replies the one on the pray-er quest.

I don’t think much of volunteering. Praying in worship is something I have done many times at home in the comforting space of the Pacific Northwest. I’d just have to speak a bit louder, that’s all. Teenagers trickle-in and fill the huge space, and the high-energy worship launches. I prepare myself as I normally would, paying attention to the words of others, listening carefully to what the songs and scriptures are saying in order to echo their words. At the end of the service I confidently step out of the choir and moved forward to wait for the microphone to be passed to me. I take hold of the microphone and look out at the gathered group, the beauty of this diverse gathering, the sense of anticipation and possibility that is so palpable in a group of teenagers, stirs me deeply and fills me to overflowing. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and begin to pray:

“Loving Mother God…” I feel like I’ve just stepped off a cliff into a great abyss of uncertainty. Falling into the oceanic depths of chaos, the tehom as I would call it now, feels a bit lonely, but not cold or desolate, just uncertain.

The rest of the prayer has disappeared from my memory. I remember looking down at my shirt just after saying ‘amen’ and realizing that I was not anonymous; I had “Pacific Northwest Delegation” emblazoned across my chest. It would not be long, I thought, before I was hunted-down and reprimanded. But a mob of pitch-fork-wielding teenagers never showed up, and the only comment I received before running away from the crowded gym that morning was from the choir director who thanked me. I realized that maybe the tehom was not quite as lonely as I thought.

From the vantage point of my 26-year-old self, everything else in my life seems to radiate out of that point, that moment of truthfulness and prophecy, a time of saying ‘yes’ not just to saying a prayer, but to something much deeper and larger.

poetry and gappy theology


Is there enough poetry in our lives? Today my teacher, who is first generation Chinese-American was telling us how much Chinese love poetry, they put it everywhere: on teapots, in landscape paintings, around the door of a home, on a flower vase, wherever there is a little spare space a few characters of poetry can be added.

Poetry doesn’t seem to occupy the same sort of space – literally or metaphorically – in our North American lives. In fact, I find that poetry tends to actually make people rather uncomfortable: “I don’t get it” folks say, “That’s pretty, but what does it mean?” folks wonder.

But the more that I study theology, the more I try to preach or write about what I dis/believe, the more I try to connect in pastoral yet challenging ways with my fellow spiritual pilgrims, the more I find that poetry offers far more possibility than any other form of writing or speaking.

I presided over a church service this weekend and found that the best way to communicate what I wanted people to learn or take away was through the hymns – the poetry. I find that people are at such different places in their spiritual journeys, and needs are so different, that most communities need “gappy” theology. By “gappy” theology, I mean theology that has enough gaps to allow people too find and make their own meaning. By this I don’t mean hymns or poetry that have no meaning or completely relative meaning, but rather different layers of meaning that can speak differently to different people.

I too find myself, far too often, trying to tie people down to thinking exactly the way I do, believing exactly the way I do – I find myself thinking “if only this person could read exactly what I’ve read, and hear the lectures that I’ve heard, then they’d see things the way I do!” But then there’s the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve loved, those who’ve loved me, the things I’ve seen… all of that has influenced the way I see the world and the way I do theology. How could I ever convey that totality of life theologically?

I speak of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience…. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so that it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
-Audre Lorde “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” in Sister Outsider

Maybe poetry is a way of doing theology in a way that both honours the fullness of our lives and allows enough space for others to enter in.

Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky
the way of a snake on a rock
the way of a ship on the high seas
and the way of a man with a woman

-Proverbs 30:18-19

a breath of fresh air


The other night while I was walking home at the end of a long, hot day I found some surprising refreshment. I noticed that as I walked along the street, the temperature and taste of the air changed dramatically when I stepped beyond the first bank of concrete buildings, and set out across a tree-lined street. As I kept walking I noticed huge shifts in the temperature and quality of the air, from stuffy and hot next to buildings, to refreshing and cool next to plants and trees. It was a very immediate and obvious reminder of my/our own total dependency on the world around us – particularly the green, growing world, for our survival, and the necessity of plants for our lives to flourish.

I also found myself thinking about the unexpected places where I find breaths of fresh air, or the times when i don’t even realize that I need fresh air until it comes whooshing over me or gently wafts into my nostrils. Sometimes I think my life (our lives?) become stagnant and muggy and stale so gradually that I don’t even realize what has happened until something awakens my senses, either by rushing in and shaking me up or gently and softly permeating me.

Once I’d had my first taste and sniff of fresh air during my walk the other night, I kept looking for those fresh breaths the whole rest of my way home. My nostrils were so entranced by seeking out that sweet soft air that they managed to sniff it out even in tiniest gardens along the way.

When the air of our human lives is so heavy and hot and thick, can we dare to sniff out wisps and whispers of sweet green goodness? As in the city, which may seem void of such lushness, yet where I found fresh air, we may find those whispers in unexpected areas, from unexpected people, in books we may have once turned our noses up at, or in the flotsam of our consumed and consuming lives.

The grace and power of greenness (what mystic Hildegaard Von Bingen called veriditas) can enliven and restore the soul, and is woven deeply into creation by the One who desires our flourishing. May we be blessed by its goodness.

summertime…

…and the livin’ is easy.

Here’s a little summer treat, a lovely quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, made all arty by yours truly. Enjoy. (click image to see larger, better quality version)