The Show is On!

If you are on Olympics overload and are hankering for a little talk show blather to break up all the skating, sliding and sledding, check out Context with Lorna Dueck's God's Gardeners episode.

Margaret Atwood claims the spotlight for most of the show, but then yours truly and my handsome husband Markku join Margaret and Lorna for the last third of the show.

It’s been online for a couple days now and I finally worked up the courage to watch it last night (in bed with my girls and Markku all piled in). 
My verdict: I like it! 

Lorna is warm and “present.” Margaret is articulate, funny and uber intelligent. Markku is very smiley. And I blink a lot and very slowly (odd, that).

Favourite sound bites:

“Loving your neighbour means loving their biosphere.” Margaret Atwood

“Know where your food comes from and where your garbage goes.” Markku Kostamo

“God is not an absentee landlord.” I think I said that (quoting Wendell Berry, though in the heat of the moment I forgot to give him credit. Oops – thanks, Wendell!)

Here’s the link again (in case you missed it the first two times :)): Context with Lorna Dueck's God's Gardeners episode

Douglas Coupland, the Good Samaritan and Bizarreness at Missions Fest

The Good Samaritan by Paula Modersohn-Becker

                                                   Cast of Characters:

                               Me, tired, very sore shoulder, grumpy (suspect I was channelling Doc Martin, having binged on the tv show the previous week).

                                  The Two Arabs            The Cheery Couple

                                  The Intense Man           The Sick Woman

                       Missions Fest – largest Christian missions conference in Canada

                                               Reason for being there:
                  1. Stand at A Rocha booth and pepper passerbys with creation care propoganda.
                  2. Participate in Book Signing later in the evening.

I arrived at Missions Fest at 6 pm on Saturday night and felt like I was stepping into an alternate universe – a very cheery Christian universe. It felt alternate because I was not feeling particularly cheery or even Christian. The alternate universe theme played out, like a Douglas Coupland novel, through the entire evening and though I am still not sure how the sequence of events quite relate to one another, I share them now in the order and veracity in which they happened, that together we might make some sense of them.

I began the evening in surveillance, walking at top speed, without making eye contact, through the maze of booths, on the lookout for any long lost friends. Mid-stride I was stopped by two men with thick Arabic accents. They asked for directions to someplace far away, which tipped me off to the fact that they had no idea where they were, and I wondered if they knew they’d landed in the lions’ den. I asked where they were from. Iraq, they said. I apologized for the US bombing of their country. They said not to worry, it wasn’t my fault. And then the thicker and balder of the two took my hand and told me I was very beautiful. Which was unexpected. I said I was also very married, smiled and scooted back to the booth. And hid behind the A Rocha banner for a few minutes.

Soon it was time to take my seat at the book signing. I was joined by Mark Buchannan, best-selling author of lots and lots of books. A steady stream of people qued up to buy Mark’s books and get them signed. No one lined up to purchase mine.

I was tempted to start humming and swinging my legs in an “Oh, isn’t this fun,” sort of way. I was also tempted to hide behind my iphone, but somehow I thought that might look tacky so instead smiled bravely at people as they passed quickly by, avoiding eye contact. Finally a couple took pity on me and approached.

“We recognize you,” they said. “We were at your book launch at Regent College.”

Oh hurray, I thought. Comrades!

They went on to tell me how much they loved the book launch party, especially the food, and all the books they bought at the Regent bookstore. It quickly became obvious that mine had not been amoung those books purchased. Nor was it going to be purchased this night. Oh well, at least they were talking to me, and they were friendly. I imagined us going on chatting like this for a long while, maybe even throughout the entire book signing. That would be pleasant.

But then, a cherub-faced little girl, led by the hand of her father, walked by. She giggled and winked and drew them to herself like flies to a web.

Don’t go play with that little girl, I wanted to yell. Stay with me! Tell me more about all those other books you bought!

But alas, they left. And I, shoulder aching, throat sore, ears becoming sore too now, went back to smiling, a little more feebly, at the stream of humanity that flowed around me.

Then a man strode straight up to me with a brusqueness that implied mental instability. “What time are you leaving?” he blurted.

“Uh, I need to sit here til 9:30,” I said, bewildered.

“Well, there’s a woman sick with food poisoning, can you take her home?”

Me?! I thought. Why me?! I’m sick too -- with shame and shoulder problems and a sore throat.

I suggested he ask that an announcement be made, which it was. But, go figure, there were no takers. So he returned, and pressed me for a commitment. What was a Christian girl to do? The morning conference session had probably been on the Good Samaritan. Of course, I’d take her home.

I found her in the lunch room hunched over a big black trash can. I approached. She looked up at me with wide, kind eyes.

“Are you the author?” she asked in a voice just above a whisper.

“Uh, yes,” I said, wondering when writing a book qualified one as a paramedic.

We made our way slowly to my car. She talked the whole way, pausing ever few minutes to take deep breaths. I told her she didn’t need to talk. I told her that when I was ill I didn’t like to talk. I liked in fact to retreat to a dark cave within myself and sit very still and very mute. But this woman was not a cave-dweller. She was a believer in God’s providence. And she was grateful, and positive and sincere. She was also still in the throes of food poisoning, but happily for both of us she’d brought a little white barf bag and a medical blanket to cover the seat. Both were needed on the drive home. Having just come through the stomach flu the week previous and having a sympathetic constitution I started to feel ill myself, complete with saliva glands watering. I wondered if she’d find it alarming or too chilly if I rolled down my window and drove with my head out of the car like a Golden Retriever.

We made it to her home, all windows rolled up and only one barf bag in use. She took my card and said she’d visit A Rocha with her niece. She was full of faith. Full of gratitude. I have never met such a thankful person. Even between throwing up, practically in the midst of throwing up, she was thanking me for the ride and thanking God for her normally good health.

I returned home, an hour later than I had intended, throat still sore, shoulder still throbbing, but a little less grumpy and I wondered who had actually been ministering to whom. I wondered who, actually, had played the lead role in this Good Samaritan parable?

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HomeBrewed Christianity Goes Green

Hello Blog Chums!

I want to make you all aware of a wonderful creation care podcast series that has just come online this week. It’s hosted by a wonderful website called HomeBrewed Christianity (think theology, beer and winsome dialogue).

Yours truly lead off the series on all things Planted and A Rocha. The podcasts are about 50 minutes each and are free for your listening enjoyment (just scroll down until you see the little play button).

Go to

Here’s an outline of the series. Enjoy!

Episode 1: Leah Kostamo author of Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community

Episode 2: Matthew Sleeth author of Serve God Save The Planet , The Gospel According to the Earth & 24/6

Episode 3: Jennifer Butler is part of the new Christian Earthkeeping emphasis at George Fox Seminary. She is co-author of the upcoming book On Earth As In Heaven due out in November.

Episode 4: Randy Woodley with Shalom and the Community of Creation: an Indigenous Vision

Episode 5: John Cobb rang the alarm bell back in 1972 and has recently returned to the theme with Spiritual Bankruptcy: a prophetic call to action.

Episode 6: is a special surprise from new Elder Micky Jones and friend.

Episode 7: is specifically food related. How do get food on the table? What issues are related to feeding a family?

Episode 8: at the the end of each episode, we ask our guest the same 5 questions. Tripp and I are dedicating a TNT to interacting with their answers to the those 5 questions. It will be in the same format that we did the Brueggemann-Fretheim Bible Bash.

10 Question to Help You Figure Out Where in the World You Are

We care for only what we love.  We love only what we know.  We truly know only what we experience.
                 Steven Boumma-Prediger

The first step toward living lighter -- toward really rolling up your sleeves and caring for creation -- is to get to know yourown place. Ironically, with environmental crises ranging from deforestation in Brazil to desertification in Africa filling the news, it is often easier to know more about places thousands of milesaway than the place right under yourown feet and in front of yourown eyes. Don’t get mewrong:an understanding of worldwide environmental problems is necessary and valuable, but true understanding and experience of yourlocal environment in all its botanical and zoological uniqueness is transformative.

So here’s a challenge: get to know your neighbours.  The guy with the scruffy beard down the street, certainly, but also that bird twittering in the tree at the end of the block. Oh, and learn the name of the tree as well. 

A little quiz to help you get started:

Where in the world are you?

1. What is the name of your watershed?

2. How is your home’s electricity produced?

3. Name five edible native plants in your area.

4. From what direction do winter storms generally come in your region?

5. Where does your garbage go?

6. What are the easiest vegetables to grow in your soil and climate?

7. Name five trees in your neighbourhood. Are any of them native?

8. Name five resident birds in your area.

9. Name five invasive species (either plant or animal) in your neighbourhood.

10. Point north (not a question, I know, but quite a valuable thing to know!).

Meeting Margaret

I readily admit to the temptation of idol worship. Not idol worship of men so much, unless their wit and intelligence is cushioned by a massive dose of humility. But women – funny, smart, influential women – they set me genuflecting.

But genuflecting is not becoming, especially in public, hinting as it does to the fact that you, the genuflector, are not yourself funny, smart and/or influential. Besides that it breaks the Second Commandment. I know this and yet when I got word that I was scheduled to be on Lorna Dueck’s Context TV show during an episode on Faith and the Environment** and that Markku and I would share the stage with Margaret Atwood – THE Margaret Atwood, author of over 40 books, winner of the Booker prize, sole subject of an entire literary society – I felt my knees start to give.

Fast forward to CBC Studios, Toronto. It is the pre-show book signing. Margaret is sitting at a table before me while I stand, lock-kneed and smiling in what I hope is a sweet, confident, friendly way – the way one might smile at a very beautiful and very intimidating Great Dane.

Margaret is signing her newest book which I’ve just purchased en route – MaddAddam. “For Thea,” she writes, because in my nervousness I’ve mumbled my name. But oh well, I won’t trouble her to correct it. Thea is a nice name. Maybe I can find someone by that name and give her this book as a present.

And then, quickly and sort of on the sly because of the long line of people stretching behind me, I give her my thin little book, Planted. And, clever woman that she is, she notices from the cover that my name is in fact not Thea, but Leah, which rhymes with Thea, but is definitely a different name. And so she turns the Th into a fanciful L and adds an h on the end and I’m grateful.

Then off to make-up where a spry middle-aged woman with something of a wood-nymph about her makes us up (which is a wonder and sets me wondering why I’ve never gone in for this make-up stuff before since she’s erased five years at least from my face….but I digress).

In make-up Margaret is warm and chatty and very funny and even sings a little song to Lorna and the rest of us, and I worry that my knees might give way.

Then it’s into the studio for the show – the same studio, by the way, where Hockey Night in Canada is filmed, a jewel of trivia which, when he hears it, makes Markku gape and look around in awe and expectancy should Don Cherry come marching in through a side door.

Margaret is on first and for most of the show. And she is very funny and very smart and therefore very articulate. And I’m glad I’m sitting down. She talks about her book Year of the Flood and about religion and the environment and the wacky fictional sect she’s created called "God’s Gardeners" – tenders of gardens, keepers of bees and wearers of flowy linen clothes. Hmmmm…

And then Markku and I are on stage – real life God’s Gardeners. Jesus followers and bird lovers. Of the potential eight questions I’ve been told will be asked of me, I get to lob back only two answers. I spent the whole plane ride out to Toronto reading and committing to memory the best of Wendell Berry (yes, I see the irony) so that I might sound half as articulate as Ms. Atwood. But no matter, because when I steal a glance at Margaret – at this accomplished and gracious author – she is positively beaming at us, her smile beatific with rapport and camaraderie. Yes, the author of The Handmaiden’s Tale – whose dystopian visions have set the most callused hearts quivering – smiles on us. We are in this together. We are all God’s Gardeners, held, with the rest of creation, in the hand of Great Love. And from that place of security and hope we are called to act with courage and strong knees.

**The show will air sometime in the new year. Watch this space for channels and times.
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