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Well, it has been a couple of weeks since I've been on-line. Yes, my family and I have been "on holidays," as we say up here in the "true North, strong and free"--or as Bob Dylan calls it south of the border, "the north country fair." Whatever you call it, after a hard start to our holidays with the death of a young mother in our congregation (see the blog, "Claudette's Cancer: A Hard Sanctification?"), God blessed us with opportunities to re-connect as siblings, cousins, parents, childen and grandchildren in two rounds of family reunions.

In our case, summer reconnections also meant re-creations, even though the reconnections were sometimes sobering. We met a new grand-niece--Clementine (what a darlin'!). We listened to sad news of a niece's recent separation. We heard about two military nephews--one in Iraq, the other heading to Texas for Air Force training. We worshiped as a large family group and prayed about the joyful and the worrisome, thanking God for all of us there and those not able to attend.

On the next reunion round we paddled canoes with hand-made paddles in lakes in Algonquin Provincial Park. There a colleague and friend surprised us at our campsite--a surprise not only because we didn't know he and his sons were around, but also because he was hard to recognize, looking scruffier than his normal (shall we say) "relaxed" appearance. He had been paddling with his boys and stopped at our campsite unexpectedly after a downpour cut short his trip.

"John!" I said (I'll call him "John," because that's his name.) "What brings you here? How about staying for lunch?"

"Well," said John, "I saw your email that you'd be in Algonquin on a family campout for a week. To my fine, sensitive pastoral ear, it sounded like a cry for help. So here I am on my holidays, rescuing you. I'm happy to cadge lunch from you too."

"How long have you been on holidays?"

"I'm taking four weeks in a row for the first time ever. Man, I've been on holidays so long, I've almost forgotten I'm a Christian!"

Uh--that's not exactly the point of holidays, I thought, but then, John is John and has found his oddly sanctifying ways to recharge. Casual banter, smart-aleck comments aside, we did talk seriously about holidays--"holy days," well spent by resting, reading, re-creating, getting back in touch with God's creation and creatures.

What did YOU do on your summer vacation? Were you off for four weeks or less at a stretch? I've often taken three weeks in a row, but never four. One summer my family and I spread our four weeks over eight separated weeks. Didn't work; don't do it. At the end of the summer, it felt like we'd never been gone. Meanwhile, lots of folks in the congregation said it felt like we'd been gone all summer!

And now I'm back--a wedding today, with the wonderful text of God's plans for people in exile from Jeremiah 29:11--selected by the discerning couple. Tomorrow morning we celebrate baptism and communion, which provides a fine time to preach on Genesis 9 and "New Beginnings"--for Noah and the human family, for the young baby and his family, for all to whom God gives new forgiven, re-created life through Jesus' death and resurrection.

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