Was our Prayer Self-centered?

Chaplin Salt
Salt of the Earth – Chaplin, Saskatchewan

Recently I was recalling the Canadian prairies segment of the Sea to Sea cycling trip. We had been experiencing headwinds and crosswinds at a much greater rate than tailwinds.

Each morning the chaplain had prayed for favourable winds to help us reach our next campsite without encountering undo hardship. We had arrived the day before in Chaplin Saskatchewan having battled headwinds and crosswinds on what had been a long haul.

That evening we welcomed a lone, self-supported cyclist to join us for supper. He gladly accepted. Just one of his many pleasant surprises he had encountered after several years of enjoying life on the road.

The next morning our chaplain was ready to share a prayer with the 70 cyclists.  He paused for a moment to contemplate the situation. How was he going to pray for favourable winds. We were cycling east while our guest was going west. We had a long day ahead of us to get to our pre-book campground. So, what to pray? The chaplain shared his prayer as a general petition for favourable winds and said, “We’ll let God figure it out.”

As this prayer was offered I was squirming a bit and feeling uneasy. Praying for favourable winds felt like we were sending God a Santa Claus gift list. It’s bringing our narrow desires for the day before God. Our narrow desires when there are more significant matters to pray for.

Being in a group of 70 cyclists, it wasn’t essential to have a tailwind. Rather than trying to bias God to send us favourable winds, maybe we should be praying for the cyclists as a group. In praying for success for the cyclists let’s pray for a spirit of cooperation and teamwork.

As a group we had the opportunity to cycle in a pace line. By riding in a tight line of, for example, six cyclist each cyclists would pull for a minute or two and then have an easier time drafting while the other five cyclists took their turn at the front of the line.

On the other hand, the lone guest would be out on the road with simply his own means to reach his goal for the day. He did not have any team members who could work with him.

The other side

Then I come across the verse listed below.

23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24New International Version (NIV)

So what does it mean to ‘ask in my name’ when praying? How does that create a context for what we ask for? Is anything too trivial to ask for in prayer?

I don’t have additional insight into those questions. Yet somehow, I think we need to consider whether our prayers are self-serving or whether we pray in such a way that the answers to those  prayers bring honour and glory to God.

In the end I think we should have prayed for the needs of the lone cyclist. However, did we know him well enough to determine his needs.?Maybe a headwind was fine because he hadn’t intended to go very far that day.

If nothing else, the chaplain’s prayer in Chaplin Saskatchewan did get me thinking about how we pray and what we pray for.


One Chilly Morning

An unusual bed?

Every day when I arrived at work I would park my car near the newspaper recycle bin. I would take a minute or two to clean up stray papers that had missed their target namely the paper recycle dumpster.

One particular morning I nonchalantly opened the lid to throw some paper into the bin. Instead of seeing newsprint and bags of shredded paper I found myself looking at a body. A body with an ashen complexion. A body with disheveled clothing. My first thought was, “This is a crime scene or the unfortunate death of a street person death”.

A moment later I was startled to see the body move. Slowly a thirty-ish young man sat up. My puzzlement faded into relief. Relief that this was not a crime scene.

On second look I had the impression that the bags of shredded paper might actually be comfortable. Definitely more comfortable than many places I’ve seen street people spend the night.

I was rather disoriented and so the only words that came out of my mouth was, “You don’t need to hurry. If you want to sleep for a while, go ahead.”

Instead he quickly scrambled out of the bid and headed down the sidewalk hoping to avoid any extra attention.

I realized later that it would have been more appropriate to have offered him a cup of coffee or my lunch to take with him.

Journey Across My Canada

Start of this journey

I find it fitting that my goal of cycling across Canada which took just under four years to complete ended during the Canada 150 commemorations. In those four years I have experienced significant personal changes.

I started my ride across Canada on September 28 in 2013 in Victoria. Victoria is the starting point or end point of the Trans-Canada highway. That was a one day ride that I did with one of my colleagues.

On June 26 in 2017 I continued that journey with Sea to Sea. That part of my ride went on for 64 more days. This part included about 80 other cyclists who rode parts of the journey and about 50 other riders who rode all the way to Halifax.

On August 30, the day after arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia I continued the journey for 5 more days. This part of the ride included 2 other cyclists who rode along to St.John’s, Newfoundland ending at Cape Spear, the most eastern point in Canada, on September 3, 2017.


Finishing in Newfoundland was a fitting way to end the cross Canada journey through all ten provinces during the Canada 150 year. Even though Newfoundland came late, joining Confederation in 1949, this makes the cross Canada ride complete.

This is not meant to overlook the 3 territories, Yukon, North West and Nunavut. Cycling through them would be a whole new level of cycling. There isn’t a continuous road connecting the three territories.

Crossing Canada at some point from the southern border to the Arctic Ocean is possible now that the Yukon Territory has completed a highway to the north coast.

Tasting a thin slice

Having crossed Canada from West to east only represents a thin slice of an amazing country with such diversity in terrain and more significant a diversity in people.

As a country with two official languages, that simply doesn’t do justice to the multitude of languages spoken in Canada.

There are quite a number of different languages spoken by the various First Nations communities in Canada who have lived on this land from time immemorial (as one Nation in Nova Scotia identifies themselves). Only one province in Canada, namely New Brunswick has a beginning sense of inclusiveness by being officially bi-lingual. In my understanding, of the territories, Nunavut is the only territory that operates with two official languages.

My language experience in Newfoundland is even more unique in that they speak English but have unusual variations of it. The variation includes expressions that most people from away would simply not understand. Also, depending on which part of Newfoundland one is from words are spoken differently, adding letters or omitting letters when it is spoken.

Identity is key

Language gives a community a unifying identity. Language is a key factor in capturing a culture and a people.

My sense has always been that when people are comfortable with their identity they have a greater acceptance and appreciation of other groups, cultures and diversity of view points. Those are important qualities for people to be able to live at peace with each other.

Canada is a confederation. A confederation only works when people choose to work together and value what others have to offer.

Even though my journey across Canada has been a very thin slice it has raised my appreciation for this country I call home and want to see the diversity within unity thrive by learning from each other.

Stories breathe life

The most effective way we learn from each other is by listening to each other’s stories.

In my journey across Canada I heard an interesting comment about sharing stories.

Within one of the cultures in Canada, they do not want a story electronically recorded. The reason being that a story is something alive. You lose it when you try to capture it.

It is only in the telling that a story stays alive. Each time a story is shared the ambiance where it is shared, the mood of the group in receiving the story, the intent of the story teller in sharing it and many other factors is different each time a story is shared. With each telling the story comes alive.

I want to live in a country where each community, each ethnic group or nation is proud to keep their stories alive. They might be stories of celebrations or of pain. In sharing a story one is sharing a sense of hope for themselves, their community or their country. Sharing stories is what I believe would make the Canada 150 celebrations successful.

What stories will you share about the community you identify with?

My Almost Easter Story

Bandit – Border Collie

Came home one day to our border collie, Bandit appearing agitated. He did not greet us in his usually excitable display of affection. He promptly led me to the chicken coop where the door stood wide open but no chickens in sight.

The wide open door was no surprise as we release the two dozen chickens each morning to roam and scratch their way into all corners of the yard. What was strange and unusual was the quiet absence of everyone of the laying hens that generously supply us with fresh eggs daily. All I could think of is that my flock of chickens were gone. Probably dead because there was no sign of them anywhere. What didn’t cross my mind at the time is that there were no carcasses lying around.

Bandit led me to some low shrubs where I found 3 chickens. Well that at least part of my flock. There they sat huddling and unwilling to venture out. Bandit followed me to the coop as I carried the three hens to their nesting area. Bandit then led me to a fence at the far end of the yard. There I found 2 more hens equally scared and quietly huddled.

Each time Bandit would show me another location where some hens were huddled. Each time he would follow me back to the coop. He would scan the hens in the coop and head out to another area of the yard. Bandit showed me two more hens, hidden under an out building 300 feet away, hidden behind some boards, completely out of sight.  After placing those two hens in the coop, Bandit looked over the flock of chickens, turned around and walked to the house and lay down in his favourite spot.

When I counted the hens, I noticed that Bandit had helped me retrieve every last one. All I could think of was the fact that my flock of chickens were all back. Not exactly a resurrection by almost.

The question I was left with was, “How did Bandit know he had found all 24 hens?” Was he able to count? If he wasn’t counting how else would he know he had them all.

I know that farmers with a small dairy herd have a name for each of their milking cows. They recognize each cow when they are grazing in the field. They know when a cow is in the wrong milking stall. Is it possible that Bandit had a name for each of the hens? Maybe. He never did tell me.

The Lord God had formed all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He had made all of them out of the ground. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give them. And the name the man gave each living creature became its name.

Genesis 2:19 (NIRV)

Irresistible Chicks

Bandit the Border Collie

For several years, each summer, we raised a few dozen broilers. It was our way of filling our freezer with chickens that had been raised under humane conditions without hormones and antibiotics in the feed. You could call it urban farming with a purpose.

We had bought our broilers as cute fluffy yellow day old chicks. We had placed them in the coop with a heat lamp so they would be able to withstand the shock of the change in environment.

The first morning when I went to check on them to make sure they had enough feed and water, our faithful border collie Bandit wanted to come into the coop with me. In my attempt to protect the young chicks I decided to leave him sitting outside.

He refuse to patiently sit outside the door. Instead he put up a ruckus and made it clear to me that he  was eager to get inside the coop with the young chicks. By the third morning I relented and figured I would risk letting him into the coop, not really knowing the intent of his eagerness to get in. If he harmed one or two I could quickly lift him up and get him out of there.

When I let Bandit into the coop he made his trip around the perimeter of the coop with the young chicks scattering respectfully giving him space. Satisfied, he walked to the door and waited to be let out. Each morning he followed the same routine. Once the chicks became used to him they no longer scattered. When a chick did not move he would nudge the reluctant chick with his muzzle. The chick would then amble aside and let the dog pass.

One morning as Bandit made his way around the coop nudging the occasional chick, one of them did not respond. He nudged it a second time. He realized the chick was dead. Using his muzzle Bandit gathered up some of the bedding material and covering the dead chick. Once the chick was covered Bandit proceeded to finish his inspection of the flock. That action confirmed for me that he made the rounds as an inspector to ensure all the chick were well and accounted for.

I had started off wanting to protect the chicks from Bandit. In the end it was Bandit who took it upon himself to check on the well-being of each member of his flock, for indeed he had proudly adopted each one of the 5 dozen chicks.

How does a dog not only develop an appreciation for another species but make it their job to ensure their well-being?

18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me,
    four that I do not understand:
19 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 young woman.

Proverbs 30 (NIRV)


Micah George Marnoch

20170225_125214Micah Marnoch. You took your time, challenging the doctors and midwives, till you were good and ready to make your grand entrance into your waiting family. And a grand entrance it was, rocketing your way, letting no one slow you down, not looking any worse for wear as you began to take in this whole new world, mom, dad, grand….

February 24, 2017

Getting to a Better Place

Fracture Clinic

I recently visited a health clinic to address a persistent pain. I had vacillated for two weeks trying to decide  my best course of action. I woke up one morning and made the call at 8 am to get a same day appointment. Since the doctor wasn’t taking additional patients that day I was booked with a nurse practitioner.

On walking into the examination room I was asked what the concern was. I explained where I had been feeling pain for over 2 weeks. I told her what preliminary diagnosis I had been given. I further explained the need for some follow up blood work to verify part of my health status.

In all fairness the nurse practitioner asked where I had received the diagnosis. I explained that I had secured the services of an iridologist the day before. I explained how the diagnosis fit with several symptoms that seemed to be part of my health issue.

The discussion that followed clearly indicated that she had minimal if any knowledge about iridology. However, she took it on herself to caution me about the high incidence of medical ‘quackery’ out there. I explained to her that in my dealings with this iridologist over the past number of years I have been very pleased with the accuracy of her observations and the effectiveness of the treatments prescribed. In response to this the nurse practitioner decided to ramp up her statements that this is a very unreliable source of medical information. I was puzzled by her insistence to caution me despite sharing anecdotes concerning the veracity of the information I had received.

Let me digress

In fairness to her concerns there are opposing views about iridology and the reliability of diagnosis and the efficacy of the prescribed treatments.

Iridology (sometimes referred to as iris diagnosis) is based on the bizarre belief that each area of the body is represented by a corresponding area in the iris of the eye (the colored area around the pupil)    

An opposing view is captured in the following statement

Iridology is a quick, accurate and painless system of health analysis through the examination of the colored part of the eye known as the iris.

To continue…

The nurse practitioner asked to examine me rather than rely on the information I had passed on to her. I appreciated her level of diligence to confirm the symptoms that I had reported. On completing the examination she told me there was no evidence. What she did not acknowledge is that she had no baseline with me to determine what the level of swelling I might be experiencing.

In the ensuing discussion, I asked her what would account for the persistent pain. Despite posing the question twice she offered no answer.

In wrapping up the visit she agreed to give a requisition for the blood work as I had shared with her the specific blood tests which the iridologist had requested. The nurse practitioner made it clear to me that she was only giving the requisition for my ‘peace of mind’. Talk about condescension, as if I’m merely a troublesome hypochondriac wasting precious health care resources. Her final comment on the matter was that the blood tests would come back clear.

A few days later, on reviewing the blood test  results the iridologist informed me that only one blood test had been requisitioned. The nurse practitioner had  simply refused to honour my request. Given that the  one blood test came back negative, the iridologist had to assume that the second test would have been positive.

On Reflection

The arrogant posturing during most of the encounter had me reeling. I had come in with what I thought would be helpful information. While I had considered how to share this information in a non-threatening posture, in the end I did not expect the nurse practitioner to put so much emotional energy into discrediting the information I gave her and the source of the information.

What makes this clinic visit even more concerning is that she did absolutely nothing to help address the pain and related symptoms that I had experienced for over two weeks. While she told me, at one point in the visit, that she was not here to debate the pitfalls of alternative medicine, she had in fact made that the main focus during the consultation.

What concerns me is that when a health practitioner fails to keep an open mind and listen to additional information we are all worse off. We lose out when medical professionals seem more intent on protecting their turf than considering new information that might prove to be helpful. In so many other sectors in society we have learned that collaboration helps all parties make better informed decisions.

This rant is not to disparage all western medicine practitioners. A second experience within the same week played itself out in a very different tone. I was in to see my family doctor who wanted to explore a possible health issue having viewed some recent images from my file. In doing his due diligence he went one step further. He asked me whether the iridologist had ‘seen’ anything during my recent visit.

Wow,  what a contrast of attitude within the same clinic. Two things were affirmed in that second consultation visit. One, collaborative efforts makes for better and more reliable decisions. Second, affirming a patient’s efforts at taking an active role in their own health care makes for a healthier patient. Wouldn’t that put each of us in a better place?

When it comes to health care, there is nothing better and more encouraging than a relationship of mutual respect with a family doctor who has not been totally brainwashed into practicing western medicine with procedural rigidity.