Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Toys And Resolutions

It is New Year's Eve and instead of the usual hustle and bustle in our household as we prepared for guests, some of them overnighting with us, and the New Year's Eve party that we traditionally held, we are having a quiet day.  I am playing with a new toy and trying to figure out how it works...so far so good.  I have added my kobo app and my email app and now I am figuring out how to access my blog!  Finding it was easy and quite by accident I found the post page...my challenge is to be able to access this page again!  So this new toy?....well it's an iPad mini...don't ask the model I've no clue.  It was my gift this year for Christmas.

So I have a new toy that can slip in my handbag for a multitude of tasks.  New toys are always fun to play with and Christmas certainly brings a variety of toys to all ages.  I like a certain practical aspect to my toys and this one will definitely be a winner.  Compact and multi purpose what more could I need...well a tutorial won't go astray!

As I quietly sit here playing, and hopefully learning, it is also a time to reflect of the past year and the hopes for the new year which is upon us.  We have let go of an old and cherished tradition of a house party and will be having dinner with friends.  We will watch fire works from the backyard and have a much quieter ringing in of the new year.    It is hard to let go of a cherished tradition but we will still be making memories and celebrating together.

New toys and resolutions sometimes mean that we move on and forget about what came before or what brought so much enjoyment.  However I think it is more important to regard it as an adding on to skills learned and memories made.  So while I have a new toy to make my life simpler the old ones are still valued and while we start 2016 in a new manner there are many treasured memories that we also carry with us.  New toys and resolutions remind us that we continue to grow and learn and look forward to what is on the horizon of a new year.  As you head into 2016 I hope you find yourself challenged with new toys, thoughts and growth while you continue to cherish the memories that you have made.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Falling Behind

An apt title for this post as I noticed my writing has been a little lax for the last few months.  So as I sit here  in my Christmas apron, listening to Christmas music I figured that it is time to write before Christmas Eve and day hit! A friend asked me on Saturday when my marathon of services would begin,  I replied that it would be the very next day when I had 3 services and so it would be for Christmas Eve as well.


However in the midst of what may well appear to be a marathon, this past Sunday  I traveled to St. Matthew's (my third congregation) where we concluded the services for 2015 with what has become a tradition in the congregation, the Service of Carols and Lessons.  It is undoubtedly one of my favourite places to have this service.  A tiny church (it holds about 50 people) situated on a prairie field in the country. Heated with a wood stove.  Candles burning. And then the service starts with the old familiar carols and the beautiful retelling of the Christmas story by a variety of parishioners and visitors. The crackling fire, candles glowing and everything pure and white with the snow  some how makes the service even more special.  It somehow sets the tone of the season that we are about to enter into.

While I felt like I had fallen behind because I had not done all of my usual preparations and baking I realized with this service at St. Matthew that I am right where I need to be at this time.  Not bogged down with all that has not been accomplished but remembering what is important in this season and that is being ready for the welcome of the Christ into our midst again.  My question became, not what do I have left to get done but, am I ready?  Did I use the four weeks of advent to prepare myself for what it is we are celebrating this season?  Hope, Peace, Joy, Love were the themes to help us prepare ourselves for the coming of the Messiah.  It is easy to fall behind in the daily tasks that we set for ourselves the important thing is that we have spent the time wisely on the things that are important and that our time has been well spent getting ready and preparing in the most important way ... preparing ourselves to receive the most important gift the gift of God's Love.  Have a wonderful Christmas season.


Once upon a Christmas far away in Bethlehem
Mary being great with child had no place to lie down
So Joseph found a stable in which Mary had her child
Once upon a Christmas was the birth of Jesus Christ

Once upon a Christmas in a manger far away
A King was born His palace was a manger filled with hay
His royal robe was swaddling cloth a halo was His crown
Once upon a Christmas away in Bethlehem
And all the world rejoiced because the King was born at last
A savior had been promised now it had come to pass
And the joyful news that He was born spread quickly far and wide
Once upon a Christmas was the birth of Jesus Christ

Once upon a Christmas from the Far East wise men came
With gold and myrrh and frankincense to praise the newborn King
And shepherds left their flocks and came to see and worship Him
Once upon a Christmas away in Bethlehem
And all the world rejoiced because the King was born at last
A savior had been promised now it had come to pass
And the joyful news that He was born spread quickly far and wide
Once upon a Christmas was the birth of Jesus Christ

Once upon a Christmas far away in Bethlehem


 Dolly Parton - Once Upon A Christmas Lyrics | MetroLyrics 


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Feeling the Blues?


In the midst of all of the preparations that are taking place and the rushing around that people will do as well as the normal daily events and work it is sometimes difficult to realize that not everyone is into the festivities and that the song Blue Christmas rings closer to the truth than Jingle Bell Rock.  What is it about the Christmas season in particular that increases the blues and depression for countless numbers of people?  Some will say that the shorter days and longer nights, colder weather have an impact.  Others feel the loss of loved ones keenly.  Many are intensely lonely and that somehow magnifies at Christmas when friends are eagerly looking forward to going home for the season or conversely looking forward to family members coming to spend it with them.  It is a tough season filled with very mixed emotions. 

We know that it is impossible to get far in life without being hurt and feeling pain.  The wounds that life gives us can run deep.  In order to safeguard and protect ourselves we build walls and resistance to love, become less trusting and isolate ourselves.  Then we wonder why we feel sad? Add to that a season of merriment, celebration and gatherings of friends and countless parties and the loneliness and sadness that is felt is magnified –after all everyone else is so happy!  That in turn increases the loneliness that we might feel.  We are reminded though by our very inclusion in events that it is through friends, faith we can start to feel better and whole once more and with their help we learn to open ourselves up again.  We learn to become compassionate and willing to let people be a part of our lives once more.  We heal!  It does not mean that we have forgotten what has wounded and saddened us it simply means that we are moving forward, making new memories to build on the old ones.  In means that new joy can be found in the midst of the sadness that has become a part of our very essence.


The “spirit of this season” brings with it mixed emotions for many people.  I would encourage each and every one of us not to not gloss over the pain, loss or loneliness as it is a part of us and makes us uniquely who we are.   However, I would encourage each of us to be willing to be open to the new experiences, new memories that can be built and grown and to be open to those who invite us to be a part of and share in the festivities so that a new spirit can begin to grow in us.  





Thursday, 3 December 2015

Asking the right questions


As I listened to the meditation talk on Monday entitled Jesus the Teacher Lawrence Freeman emphasized that the answers are not as important as the questions.  He emphasized that a good teacher knows that the important thing is to have their students ask questions.   When we consider that the emphasis is usually on whether one has or knows the answer it forces you to re-evaluate how you look at things.  The question was raised what is the good of knowing the answer if you do not truly understand the question.   Answers in and of themselves are sometimes not  enough.  The example that was offered was that of a student that struggled with math.  The student and his friends discovered that the teacher’s book contained the answers in the back and they further determined that there must be more than one of these books in existence.  After some searching they were able to turn up another teacher manual which contained the answers to the questions and they bought it.  Suddenly the math marks were greatly improved, until they got different questions.  Having the answers was no good when the formula was not understood and the question as obscure as ever.
 
It is important to grapple with questions and it is fine to sometimes not have the answer.  Questions lead us on a peculiar journey and force us to look at ourselves as well as struggle with the answer or the outcome.  The answer is not always the same (unless it is math) as the question will be understood differently by each person and will have a different meaning for each person.  Monday’s talk, Jesus as teacher, said that he was generally referred to as teacher, rabbi by many who encountered him and who still encounter him.  Now consider his question to the disciples “Who do YOU say that I am?”  Since it is not the answer that is important but the question I hear a different emphasis on the “You.”  It becomes a personal question and not merely a question tossed out to the disciples on that particular day and in that particular conversation.  It is a question to be struggled with and the answer – well it could be Peter’s, or what some of the general public were expressing.  The question though is still one for personal reflection.  After thinking about what others say then ask how would I answer? 

This was also a timely question as this week’s confirmation class talked about “Who is Jesus” and the answers of the young people were statements of fact about, birth, baptism, ministry, death and resurrection.  After much discussion I asked them to write in a few lines “Who is Jesus for you.”  I am always pleasantly surprised by their answers and the deep thought that they are giving to our discussions.  The answers were not text book perfect, nor were they the proclamation of Peter but they continue to grapple with the importance of this question and reflect on how it will impact on them as they continue to grow and be at their best.


The answers, as important as they are to us, are not as important as the questions.  In this season of Advent as we prepare the way for the kingdom of God it is a timely question for us to ask of ourselves “Who do YOU say that I am?”  …and the answer…well the answer is yours!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Getting Ready


Today marked what will be the last day in the year of the church calendar, so tomorrow is New Years Day in the church, otherwise known as Advent One -- The Sunday of Hope.  For a number of years now Advent has been launched with numerous volunteers as we plan and execute a family day.  Basically a fun morning with singing, crafts, games and cookie decorating.

This year we did precisely the same.  But one thing never ceases to amaze and that is the joy and enthusiasm of the children that come to the event and join in singing songs like the Lovely little ladybug, Up Down Song, The magic Words, Hugs and on and on we could go.  The more actions the better!  The enthusiasm is infectious and adults volunteering for the event can not help but join in the fun of song, crafting and cookie decorating.

It marks a significant gift in ministry to be able to share in these times and while there were many thanks today for having organized the day I must confess that I received far more joy and happiness from participating than ever seems to go in the planning.  Memories are created that bring smiles years later as well as in the immediacy and I still chuckle when I think about some of the "works of art" that I have praised through the years and have seen proudly worn for display.

The first Sunday of Advent with the theme of Hope shines through in such an event as we shared together today in the Congregations of St. Paul, the Middle Church and St. Andrew's on the Red.  There was laughter, teasing, joy and most of all hope that there is still good in the world, enjoyment to be shared together.  Young or Old or Somewhere in between Hope for a new beginning and enthusiasm to receive the Christ Child into our midst once again was evidenced today.   We created more memories in a hopeful and joy filled celebration today.And as we prepare ourselves, our homes and communities for  Christmas we are called to be mindful that the preparations are about receiving the Christ Child into our midst again. Have a hope filled Advent as you prepare!









Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Paths, Bending and Colours!


This was a quote that I noticed from a friend on face book as I trolled the news feed this morning.  Several pictures were included of a few obstacles that were encountered along the way that day!  How many of us wish for a life with no obstacles, an easy path to travel and pointless days?  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, life is filled with obstacles and hardships that bend us, shape us and help form our characters.  We can choose in those moments to remain in that space and become bitter and broken or we can take the opportunity to turn it into a learning curve, an opportunity to have something good come from the experience.

I know that this sounds optimistic.  And it absolutely is!  The hope is that once the obstacle has been faced we can come through the other side stronger but in the moment when everything is fresh and an open wound then we have to vent, grieve, seek counselling what ever it takes to be able to lead a healthy life again.  It is then that we are able to look back and see how far we have come and look at the road that was traveled and the obstacles that have been overcome.

I often think of the story that Bishop Mark Genge told a group of students at Mountain Field High School in Forteau, Labrador in the early 1990's.  A man was out walking and he heard a click, click, clicking noise with much regularity and at varying intervals.  It was a curious noise and he decided to investigate.  So he stepped off the path that he was on and went through some fields and after much searching he found the source.  It was the cocoon of the caterpillar and it was working to emerge as a butterfly.  The man was fascinated and stayed to watch how the butterfly would manage.  After some time the butterfly was successful and he saw a beautiful vibrantly coloured butterfly flutter out  from the cocoon.  He noticed that there were a lot of other cocoons there as well but they were seemingly not ready to be transformed just yet.  So the next day the man returned to the same spot and sure enough he heard the same noise again.  He headed directly to the spot where all the cocoons were.  This time he thought I will help the butterfly so that it doesn't have to struggle so much and work so hard.  Gently the man began to help the butterfly and in no time at all it was free, the man was most unimpressed as a plain brown, somewhat ugly butterfly emerged that seemed not to be able to fly well and just sat there.  He could not understand what happened or why he did not receive a beautiful vibrant coloured butterfly.  What he had not realized was that by helping the butterfly it did not have to struggle to emerge, to find life and freedom from the cocoon.  The vibrant coloured butterflies are those that face the struggles, slowly and gradually work them through  and emerge stronger.  It is the struggle to emerge that gave the butterfly its colour.

Bishop Genge reminded us that the struggles of life color us, transform us and make us into stronger people with fabulous vibrant colours that make us the unique people that we are.  And while there are days when we will wish for an easier road to travel, to have the obstacles removed, and a smooth path before us we are also reminded that path will probably lead to nowhere.

So as difficult as those obstacles are to face, and as horrible as some roads are to travel these are the journeys that give us our colours shape our characters and add whole new dimensions to our personalities and through it we will be bent, challenged, face dark difficult days....but we will not be broken we will be more colourful and beautiful!


Monday, 9 November 2015

Leaving

The meditation group today listened to a talk by Rowan Williams (the former Archbishop of Canterbury) on "Leaving."  And we had a short discussion on the talk and what was said.  Leaving or Fleeing something can be  those things that are not essential but draw us in anyway.  It put a new perspective on leaving.

I suspect the title had more than a few people looking and saying leaving...where is she going now?  It has different tones when a clergy person writes as a title -- Leaving.  For some it give a sense of fear and uncertainty and for others joy and relief!  But leaving has a much larger connotation as the talk today clearly indicated,  It is leaving behind or fleeing from the things that are really unnecessary but that we seem to think that we can not do without.  Imagine even one day with out your computer, email connections or smartphone ... and the task of leaving can even on that simple note seem impossible to accomplish.

Today was a timely reminder in a schedule that seems to get busier and busier that going to the meditation group means I leave for a very short while and enter into a quiet space away from everything with a small but lovely group of people.  It was a timely reminder that sometimes it is necessary to leave and to find the essence of self away from the worries and concerns of world.  One statement that made the group laugh was when the statement was made that monks should flee women and bishops!

So it made the whole group think what do we need to leave?  What do we need to flee?  Do we need to go to something different?  Personally I needed to flee to the quiet and the solitude that this group offers, to leave the busy schedule and various commitments behind and in so doing to just be....be present in the quiet, to find solitude in the holy and refreshment to go back to the schedule ready to face its many challenges and demands.

What do you need to leave?

Friday, 30 October 2015

Light Reading

I have been re-discovering murder mysteries!  I finished The Girl on the Train a short time ago and am currently reading The Bones of You.  Nothing remarkable about that right!  So I have challenged myself, not to read a certain number, or only to read at a particular time, no I have challenged myself not to read the last chapter first.  And it is driving me nuts!

I know many people think that is just weird because it ruins the book, but I always read the last chapter first and then go to the beginning and read it through.  The clues make so much more sense when I know what I am looking for or supposed to be noticing about a particular character, or thinking no I definitely would not have seen that coming.  Added to that I get 45-60 minutes of reading a day in -- not bad right!  That time is spent at the gym pounding the cardio machines; so no gym no book giving added incentive to go especially when the book is one of those that you just don't want to put down.

Thrillers, Fantasy, Romance...whatever genre that helps take one away for a short period of time are always fun.  Add to that a  story line that holds your interest and you have a good combination.  All of us need that space from time to time to just enjoy a good read, relax or do whatever it is that captures our attention. It is essential for our well being.

Good reading is about not only the serious, educational elements that we need to read for our work, to generally be informed and so on.  Good reading is about enjoying everything, even the murder mysteries and romances, because then we know we are reading for the pure love and joy of reading.  So I hope that you are reading something gripping and enjoyable this week.

And No, so far I have not peeked at the last chapter but I have been sorely tempted on more than one occasion!  Now its off to get healthy physically and mentally as I hit the machines and get lost in my book.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Something Good


I am sure that we have all had bad days!  Those days where loneliness seems overwhelming, or we feel alone and lost in the midst of all that is taking place.  Sometimes we feel sadness for no explicable reason, it just is.  Those days are tough and can cause us to journey down some dark paths from which there seems to be no return.  Those days are also inevitable as I am pretty sure that we can not be happy all the time.  It would be nice but unlikely that we will not be touched by grief and pain.

I confess that I am an optimistic person and I do find something good in most days but not in everyday so seeing this post that "Everyday may not be good . . . but there is something good in everyday." is a brilliant reminder to not to get bogged down by the big things but look for the value in one little thing that happened during the day and sure enough there is a glimmer of light shining hope back into the day and into life.  I remember a particularly difficult experience that I had and after it was all over I was asked if the whole experience was negative and I immediately responded yes it was completely awful!  The person responded well tell me three positive experiences ... and with great difficulty I found three.  They were not easy to find I assure you but when forced to consider it from a different perspective the positives were there.

Simple statements that are positive reinforcements send our thoughts and minds in completely different directions.  Gurus in the field ask us to put a positive reinforcing statement where we will see it frequently and read it to give ourselves a reminder of the good.  Mine sits on my mirror where I see it  as I get ready for the day and it simply says "Remember to breathe" it is my reminder that no matter how overwhelmed I feel I need to step back, take a good deep breathe to calm myself and then carry on!  A positive reinforcement can be an important reminder to look for the good in ourselves and in each day as it arises.  It also reminds us that one day at a time is far less mind boggling than if we are looking at a week, month or year at a time.  That said I have just finished looking at my schedule up to the end of December ... and yes I definitely need to remember to breathe!  And I do hope that you have your very own positive reinforcement to help you navigate life and its may joys and sorrows always remembering that everyday may not be good....but look (long and hard if you need to) and you will find something good in every day!


Friday, 16 October 2015

the least of these

One of the many highlights of my ministry has been to be with the people in personal care homes.  Every month I take a service of communion in a personal care home and without fail there is an encounter that always brightens the day and sometimes much longer when I stop and think about all that takes place.

As I strolled in just yesterday those who are mobile were going into the gathering room where we hold services and others were being assisted by the efficient team of recreation staff.  Meeting me upon my arrival was an elderly gentleman who has rudimentary english, as it is not his first language, and he was so happy to see me there for service.  I was the recipient of a hearty hug and a kiss on the cheek.  That would be followed by him telling me he was so happy to see me and an apology "my english not so good."  I replied that since I spoke not a word of Russian no apology was ever necessary.  He is a regular to the service when I go and his enthusiasm and that of others to have someone come and spend time, do a service and sing familiar hymns is often the highlight of the day for so many of them.  Then on the other hand there is a lady who also attends regularly and her joy at sharing worship knows no bounds and continuously says I love being with you, finishes the visit with a hug and once more saying I love being with you.

I also realize that many find such facilities sad or depressing and while there are many sad sights there to behold I prefer to look at moments like these and know that for a short time someones day has been made a little brighter because they had a chance to worship, to see a somewhat familiar face,and share a little joy together.  I freely admit that I receive far more than I can ever offer.

Several years ago now I asked a fellow priest if they would take a service for me at such a home and they were less than complimentary in their thoughts on such a ministry.  Most don't know who you are, where they are so why bother?  That comment was followed by my usual sarcasm "one of these days it might be me in a place like this, and in this condition and I can only hope that some other priest will come in laugh , joke, and pray to brighten my day if only for a few minutes."  The comment still saddens me greatly.  How may of us get caught up in the fact that we may not be remembered and write off so many people who are in need of a few moments of joy, shared worship, a touch to remind them that they are valued.  There is much more joy to be found here than some may realize


  • Henry who sang a fabulous bass when no one knew he could even talk...I never knew he couldn't
  • The Retired Priest of many years who refused communion from so many but since he thought we were related it might just be ok
  • The competition of two members from an adult day program for me to stand beside them as they sang hymns with gusto
  • The person with severe dementia who shone brightly as she entered into the story I'll love you forever  by Robert Munch and determined that she would not want a child like that
  • A former news paper buyer (I was the paper carrier) who thought I had come to take him home from the personal care home and whose favourite hymn was All things bright and beautiful and if we were singing it at church today he would gladly come
  • The countless numbers who say thank you for coming to pray with us today and taking time out of your busy day 
  • The joy of Boris because I came to see him
  • The sincerity of Sandy to say I love being with you
  • those who gift you with the opportunity to be with them at the end of life, to pray with them and to offer what little comfort and consolation that can be had
The last verse of the poem An Old Lady's Poem says this...

I'm now an old woman ...and nature is cruel;
'Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living life over again.
I think of the years ....all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes,  open and see,
...Not a crabby old woman; look closer ...see ME!!

When next we meet people in those personal care homes who seem forgotten and somewhat lost think of the rewards and memories that they continue to offer and  don't  brush them or the facility aside without looking at the young soul that still dwells within after all we will one day be there, too!

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:40

Who Cares!

"It doesn't matter who gets the credit...as long as the work gets done"  is a line that has become quite popular this last week or so when credit for this philosophy was given to R. A Dickey of the Bluejays.  I first heard this comment over ten years ago when Father Christian Swayne of the Order of the Holy Cross was leading an ecumenical mission in Stephenville, NL and at the end of the week of talks that he had given he concluded with this very statement.  In Father Swayne's context he was talking to a group of community leaders, specifically of the religious variety, and the community at large as he left us with these parting words to ponder.  R. A. Dickey,  in his context, was talking to fellow teammates and media.  The media latched on to the sentiment as well as some team members and it has been quoted numerous times since by either a team mate or the media, usually with the prelude... "as R. A.  Dickey says...."

Really it does not matter who gets credit for the quote but the philosophy that lies behind it is an incredibly selfless one.  Humans in all walks of life expect to get credit for what they do and when the credit is withheld or offered to someone else ill feelings and resentment are frequently the result.  These words are unusual words in a world where recognition is sought after and needed.  These words are foreign in a world where competition is highly valued and you want, or need,  everyone to know how great you are and how good you are at particular things.  You want to point out to everyone who does not sit up ant take immediate notice that these are my talents and strengths and due credit and accolades should be appropriately afforded. It is all perfectly natural for a  person to want validation and  feel a sense of worth for what they are doing   

This philosophy of R.A. Dickey and Father Swayne though calls us to pause and ask if it is important  to have all of the credit as a long as the end result is good for the team, for the ministry, for the community, for the people that are in need.  The emphasis is on the end result and not on the path to that result.  It is also an important philosophy when we consider the context of the world that we live in and calls each of us to honest self examination.  Can we adhere to the same philosophy?   We are  reminded that we cannot hold the limelight all the time, there will be others who share the praise, there will be some who obtain all the recognition but what really matters most is … that the work is being done not who gets the credit!  So thanks R.A. Dickey for such a timely reminder!  An now the credit for the quote has to go to....

“There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn't matter who gets the credit.”

 chatterboxy

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Great Love

On Tuesday evening I went to a clergy event with the Bishop.  This diocese holds them on a regular basis and it enables the clergy to come together with the bishop to discuss certain issues that are relevant and be brought up to date on other concerns.  The speaker, Kevin Lamorieux, was dynamic and engaging.  He made a statement that captured my pondering.  He said that his grandmother passed along a valuable piece of advice to him.  "Love everyone!"  He went on to say that there are lots of people that he likes just fine but he has yet to succeed in loving everyone and all that it implies.

I am sure that we have all been faced at one time or another with someone telling us to love people.  It is easy to command or say but sometimes much harder to put into practice.  And for the speaker on Tuesday evening to say that put an honest perspective on our relationships with others.  It is not easy to love everyone, sometimes we struggle with the very concept in our own families much less with the general public. And yet the sentiment brings strong reaction and thought.

Love everyone and then we need to put a name and face to who it is we love and then we begin to think about the short comings of the person and the time they did something wrong and we can go on and on with good and valid reasons as to why we are holding out.  Then I think about those who say I love  you with relative ease and I find a certain discomfort in the easy ability they have to say those three little words especially if they are more of an acquaintance than what I would deem a very close friend.

Love, the lyrics of one song says, is a many splendoured thing.  I am not sure that we would all describe it in the same way and yet there was something about yesterday's sentiment from a grandmother saying "Love everyone"  that calls not only to the speaker but to all of us to try to do our very best to love and in so doing create world will be a lovelier and kinder place.  It calls each of us to strive to do better by the people that we know and are in relationship with, to do better with those that we will one day meet.  It calls us to strive to be the people that we have been encouraged to become.

Love everyone, at least start with the liking and work towards becoming an even better person and one small step at a time we will succeed in being all that we can be.

Don't look for big things, just do small things with great love....The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.
  • As quoted in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (2007) by Brian Kolodiejchuk

Friday, 9 October 2015

Hunting...

A catchy title to be sure!  And it will have a completely different meaning and significance to my Newfoundland and Labrador friends who are in the midst of hunting season and where the question of "did you get your moose?" is heard frequently.  My hunting has been a completely different sort!  No guns or harm of animals of any kind involved.

As with most arrivals of autumn I have increasingly noticed that I have to go looking for parishioners who are a bit, shall we say, slow to return to the church services and various ministries.  So this past week has been filled with e-mails, telephone calls and follow-up.  My parishioners have discovered that I can only be avoided for so long and eventually I show up at the door -- I'm a lot harder to avoid this way!  And I have discovered that if I show up at the door, even if I have to leave a calling card, there is always a response.

I imagine that some of my colleagues may be less than impressed with my tactics but after more than twenty years in parish ministry it seems to continue to yield results and people do still appreciate the personal contact even if it is only to connect by telephone to make sure that everything continues to be fine.   Relationships are built and slowly grow through contact and checking in.  So, while it may well be slightly manipulative on my part,  people do appreciate the personal touch that is basically pain free but indicates that they have not fallen among the forgotten.

So are you wondering if I have had success?  Absolutely!  I have secured a guitarist and vocalist to participate in a number of special events, had phone calls returned, booked visits, and had telephone conversations to touch base with others.  It has been a good week "hunting" for those who have been off to a slow start to return to the congregations, reconnecting with those who have drifted away and having a number of elderly parishioners make time in their schedules for us to have a home visit.  So hunting friends while you are limited to a quota of one beast to fell its been a bumper week here and I still have a few more to go!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Light

As I finished reading the book the 13th Disciple it said you are light, you are the light.   The premise of the whole book was that the 13th disciple set up a mystery school of people who were at very different stages of faith, brought them together and changed their lives forever.  One discovered that he was a healer, another the speaker of truth and so on.  Each of the members of the mystery school had a gift unique to them and it was up to them to accept and use it.  The over all message for the ordinary person was that the light lives in you and that you have a choice to accept or reject it.

Imagine for a moment that when we look at each other we can see the light of the spirit glowing.  It would positively change how we look at each other and most likely how we treat each other.  It would also change us as we look at others, our self and the whole world differently.  One character in the book wanted to go around telling everyone that they were blessed and while it was a very humorous moment in the book the response of the people was predictable and they all thought she was crazy!

How many of us look for the good in others?  We note all of the things that go wrong, we remark on all of the things that people do wrong.  We are happy to point it out on a regular basis but we seldom emphasize the good that people do.  It reminded me of a poster that a friend had many years ago "When I do good no one remembers.....but when I do bad no one forgets!"  It is a sad reminder that we often get caught up on the negative aspects and give the bad things emphasis when all of the good may well outweigh them. Certainly the media does not help matters when night after night we hear reporting about all that has gone bad in the world and then every so often a good news story gets shared and we are all reminded that there is still good at work in the world.

Yet this book The 13th Disciple reminds all who read it that there is good in everyone... but we have to be willing to look for it.  The light still shines...but we have to be willing to see it.  God still needs messengers and light in the world...but we have to be willing to be open to receive the message.  Give and take, good and bad, messages and silence.  The light of the good news lives it is in each of us,  will you look for the light?  And will you let your light shine?


Friday, 25 September 2015

Four Legged Bundles of Love

I have been noticing the various uses people have for social media for sometime now and quite enjoy some of the things that get posted.  The inspirational quotes intended to send a positive message, the connecting with friends, the wonderful pictures of the places that people travel, the soap box to have your say and sadly the harsh talk or hate talk.  It makes me ask what is the purpose of social media?

I freely admit that I am selective about who I friend, what I post and how much I am willing to follow others but tonight as I was scrolling through the facebook news feed there was a picture of Pope Francis with a dog and the quote, "One day we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God's creatures."  It caught my attention.  When I was a seminarian there was much discussion around this topic and various opinions.  A visiting Bishop, not about to be cornered, responded to our question with a question, "How many angels can dance on the point of the needle?" We were left with no clear answer.   I have not given a lot of thought to the question through out the years and then this evening there is this lovely post and quote.

I have always considered that the one who created all creatures would also be the one who received them when death came.  I enjoy the Blessing of the Animals service in October as people bring their beloved creatures to church for the celebration.  More than any of that though is the intense joy and pleasure these animals bring to our lives.  They sense our mood, our feelings and offer incredible support and comfort.   I also remember being asked, many years ago to describe a time when I have felt close to or in the presence of God.  I remember writing about the experience of having one dog lying on my feet under the desk as I typed and the other lying at the back of the chair.  There was peace and complete harmony in the room.  In that moment I knew that the presence of God was everywhere and it is frequently offered through the companionship that has been shared through the years.

So as memories of beloved creatures that have graced our lives for too short a time come to mind Pope Francis offers comfort to all animal lovers.  The hope and grace of God is extended to all of creation and is not a human monopoly.  The God who creates also receives all of the beloved creatures  back to himself.  So how many angels can dance on the point of the needle?  Who knows, who cares?  Pope Francis has reminded us of a loving God that is bigger than we can hope or imagine, that supersedes our expectations and loves all of creation especially the four legged variety that teach us much about unconditional love.


"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself"
Josh Billings 
 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

O. G. P.

Sometimes it is hard to get inspired!  This is true of any aspect of life from an exercise program, weight loss, career challenges or in my case this week, the blog.  It is not meant to be cumbersome and it is not that I have not had numerous encounters this week with a variety of people and varying needs.  I have gone from the high points of life,  meeting couples for marriage planning, to low points of life, funeral planning.  Now I get to step back on the merry go round of ministry and start all over again tomorrow.

Inspiration, when it happens is a fabulous thing.  The eulogy at today's funeral ended with the acronym OGP.  The daughter in law, who delivered the eulogy, went on to explain that the deceased always ended his letters this way....Okay, Good, Perfect!  It was a lovely summary of a life well lived, filled with teachable moments and this occasion of his funeral was one more opportunity to leave those gathered with a positive message.  Everything is okay, good perfect.  OGP

I pondered this as I left the service and thought what a happy thought if we could all look at life in this way and have a positive outlook it would make so much difference to how we look at the world and the people in it.  It doesn't mean that we won't have our moments of weakness but three simple letters can change our outlook tremendously.  I am always impressed when families share memories that have such an impact and leave many people gathered with such a strong impression.

So when inspiration seems hard to come by because I have gotten caught up in the demands that get placed in the schedule I am reminded that the everyday and ordinary circumstances of life can be the source.  Ordinary letters of the alphabet can take on a whole new outlook and as a result they will never be considered in quite the same manner again.  So if you are struggling to find some inspiration look to the ordinary, find encouragement from a friend, share a moment of your time and always remember to listen.  Inspiration will come!

"Faith begins as an experiment and ends up as an experience"
William Ralph Inge 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Chance Encounter



This morning, a nice fall crisp one, I took the dogs for a walk.  I know that you are not supposed to talk to strangers (but I will talk to almost anyone) but as we were strolling along we chanced to encounter a gentleman walking his dog.  This dog was harder to control and the man was trying to get him to sit for me to continue on with my dogs, without much luck.   In the meantime mine were sitting and waiting patiently for the new comer to continue down the street.    This dog, a pure bred Doberman, was making a coughing sound and eager to meet two new furry friends.  The man and I established that the three dogs were friendly and let them meet each other.  They were all happy to make a new friend.

The man was quite curious about the leads that I was using and started up a conversation as the one that he used was not working so well in controlling his dog.  So we discussed the merits of the Halti harness versus the Gentle Leader (my preferred harness).  He was quite impressed with the Gentle leader and the way it controlled the dogs.  He also shared that his dog, now called Bruno, is a rescue, had spent most of his two year life on a chain and had sustained some sort of damage to his throat as he could no longer bark, only make the coughing sound that I had heard.  This dog certainly had a sad story.  I also learned the man’s name and where he lived and that he did shift work.   So as we were chatting I told him that I was a priest with the Anglican Church and without pause he said, I’m Anglican. I quickly figured out that he had not been there in a while since he referred to it as the Church of England.


It was a friendly visit, a chance encounter of two dog owners who happened to be walking the same sidewalk on the same morning but it left me thinking about the comment “I’m Anglican.”  This man, like numerous others that I have encountered, still claim some loose affiliation with the denomination but for some reason are no longer in attendance.  My question is not so much why he doesn't  attend a church but where has the church failed?  Why are we not engaging people?  Why have people walked away?  Is it disillusionment?  Work commitments?  Family engagements?  Hypocrisy of the institutional church?  I am sure that there are any numbers of reasons that people can provide by way of explanation.  Yet, there is still this claim to the denomination even if the person has not been in a while.  The challenge then, I think is to meet the people where they are enter into conversation, it doesn’t have to be deeply philosophical, and let a chance encounter change both parties.  I once read “God meets us where we are, but he doesn’t leave us there” and I hope that chance encounters like the one I had this morning plants a seed in both the man that I encountered and me so that there will be more encounters, more conversations and that we will both be richer for the experience.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Bits, Pieces and Scraps

I opened a drawer in my craft room, quite by accident, as I was looking for material that I had bought to make a fall table cover.  In this little drawer I found a bundle of pieces, already cut into 2.5 x 5 inch pieces.  I had no idea what I had cut them for or what pattern I had envisioned.  Along with the small pieces I found other pieces ready to be cut on the 5 inch mark, many more pieces of left over scraps as well as a series of 6 x 6 inch blocks.  Google is definitely a most useful tool so I entered in my material measurements and up comes the idea of a scrap jelly roll quilt.


 The bits and pieces that I found (trust me there are a lot of pieces here, enough for at least 1 double quilt)


 Scraps ready for ironing and cutting


Apparently you piece it together however you wish upright, sideways, long or short pieces and there is no wrong way because each one is unique to the creator.  So this got me thinking (a most dangerous sport) that I need to go quilting again.


Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt












And what I hope it will look like, but with more colors 
(photo thanks to Christa's Quilts Online)


I learned to quilt over 20 years ago when the older ladies of the Parish of Forteau thought it would be fun to teach me how to make some of those works of art that they produced.  At best I was and am a mediocre student, but it was a lot of fun and a good way to get to know some of the matriarchs of the communities and the congregations.  It was also a very pleasant way to pass a winter evening.  So this skill that has lain dormant for the last 10 years or so has emerged and as I looked at the bits and pieces of materials that were ready to be cut up I found a completed quilt top and back ready to go together, another put together ready for quilting (no picture as it will hopefully be someone's Christmas gift) and of course bits, pieces and scraps ready to be made into at least 1 masterpiece.




The Queen size quilt top that I found, ready to be assembled and quilted


Paths to explore, I thought, would be about new ventures.  Today I learned that it is also about the past and what has been learned along the way, skills that have been acquired and visiting with some old and pleasant memories.  Paths to explore with it bits, pieces and scraps are the things that make up the memories of life, add colour and character.   Our interactions and encounters show us that life is not perfect in symmetry, nor is it monochromatic but it is diverse and rich because of the paths that we travel, explore and allow others to enrich when we enter into relationships.




Sunday, 30 August 2015

Think of Happy Things

We have returned from France and will during this week ease back into a full work schedule.  It hardly seems possible that the trip is finished.  When we finally got up today after 28 hours of flying and lay overs in various airports, Edmund said “well yesterday this time we were doing….” whatever it happened to be.  Over a coffee we chatted about how fast the time went, it seemed like a long time coming when we booked in February but passed so quickly.  As we chatted about the highlights and the fun we had together Edmund said the quote that keeps coming to mind is a thing of beauty is a joy that will last forever.

There is no doubt it will last forever.  What we were able to experience, the educational, the spiritual and the fun rolled into one neat little package with lots of pictures will be something that we treasure, memories that we made to share.  As the line from Keats poem says so beautifully “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.”  So when life becomes busy, stress levels get high and escape is on the agenda, it is times like these that we can look to as a reminder of the beauty and joy that we experienced.  There is a scene in the movie Pan (played by Robin Williams) where Pan returns to Neverland all grown up and unable to fly.  As he struggles to fly Tinkerbell (played by Julia Roberts) says find your happy place.  When he goes to a happy place he is able to once again soar.  The memories we build are our happy places that help us soar, find peace, remember joy and just be in a happy place.  “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” and for both Edmund and I there are wonderful memories and joys of this trip.  

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!” 
 
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Fairy Tales

Friday, 28 August 2015

Where will You Pray?


Edmund’s Mom, Josephine, inquired last night, after talking to Edmund to wish him a happy birthday, where will you go to pray before you begin the journey home?  It was a sweet thought and question.  It was one that we had already considered and we had decided to return to the Abbey Notre Dame de Bon Secours. This place is close and it was one that I was most taken with.  Edmund told someone that I just loved the place.  He is right, there is such a serenity there that I am happy to return for the quiet and prayer before we begin our journey home.

The question that Josephine asked is an important one for all of us to consider, where will you go to pray?  This from a woman who prays absolutely everywhere felt that it was important that we return to one of the sanctuaries that we had been so fortunate to visit.  At the same time it is a deeply personal question that can only be answered by an individual for themselves.  There is no one place that speaks exactly the same to all of us.  There will be places that we will journey to because it is an important “shrine” or holds historical significance that will move us.  Then there are places that we need to see because of the significance to our religion.  But the place where we go to pray is significant to an individual, a safe place where the presence of God is felt.  Is it your community church?  A bench under a tree?  A park?  A monastery?  Each of us will answer in our own unique way recognizing that prayer is time when we build our relationship with God, handing over the concerns of the day, of life.

My book Practical Prayer is certainly a helpful tool in understanding how to make the most of the time that you have, how to set aside a safe space and how our mundane tasks can become deep moments of prayer and connection.  It does not undermine the importance of connecting with a worshiping community but certainly helps reduce the guilt factor if we have been away for a while.  It helps prevent the need to justify that indeed we are “spiritual but not necessarily religious”.  As spiritual people we enter into a relationship with the divine.  A relationship built on spending time together in quiet, solitude, community, work.  A relationship built not on guilt for what has not been done.  So as we go forward, struggling with the phenomena that people tell us in ever increasing numbers that we are “spiritual but not religious” perhaps we need to begin not with guilt but by entering into a relationship meeting the person where they are and understanding where they go to pray and be in their relationship with the divine.

Where will you go today to pray?




As we arrived "home" today these guys were waiting for dinner!  

Thursday, 27 August 2015

As we Clue up






We are nearly finished our time here in France and as we prepare to pack up it is a good time to reflect on the memories that we have made, the spiritual insights gained and the impact that it will leave on us.  When we started our journey, we knew that spirituality was a key component but beyond that we had no idea of how it would all unfold.  We left Canada, nearly two weeks ago with an itinerary for to follow.  We did very few of the itinerary items.  Instead we made new discoveries, which took us from the highly publicized places, to more obscure locations. 

So I learned that :

  • while planning is a very good thing is should be subject to change.  
  • Local people are a fabulous source of information regarding the things to see (nothing new here).  
  • Being outside and seeing what was on offer nearby was much better than hours in a car (although it looked closer on the map).  
  • Even though the GPS plans very obscure routes sometimes, it does get you to your location.  
  • I can drive like locals on the roads (a frightening concept and the roads are starting to look a lot wider!).  
  • And most importantly, prayer happens everywhere, under a variety of circumstances and one's spirituality is not limited to a particular space or action.

The bonus of doing it this way is that we were able to appreciate the richness of the majesty of all that we saw and enjoyed.  The simplicity of the Cistercian Abbeys to the richness of St. Michael de Frigolet highlighted for us that the surroundings will add to being able to center the self and every forum has a unique gift to offer the seeker.  The people that we encountered in passing were visiting for various reasons and even if they were not particularly seeking perhaps they could sense the divine at work.  These places have stood the test of time, and while they may not draw the same numbers of congregant worshipers, they are a reminder of the devotion that people have to erect such magnificent structures that are still a refuge for many pilgrims.


In a few days we will return home, we did not succeed in visiting Lourdes, the grotto of Mary Magdalene or LaSallette but we are just as richly filled with the time spent in the places that we were able to explore.  We wandered far off the beaten track, bypassed the areas with the large attractions and instead discovered these gems.

“Adults follow paths. Children explore.  Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.”  Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Some Things are Worth Repeating


Second looks are generally a worthwhile thing.  Today Edmund and I decided to forgo the tourist sights and headed back to the Abbey of St. Michael of Frigolet.  We have learned that it is impossible to see and take in everything the first time around especially when you have been out all day, are starting to get tired and hungry.  So while we had a good look around yesterday today was all about taking our time, looking at each pillar and painting, stopping at each altar site and enjoying the quiet.

We took a picnic lunch with us today to sit under a tree in the big field that looks on to the cross.  Several others had the same idea and there were a number of families enjoying the heat and beauty of the day in such a serene surroundings.  With the exception of the wasps it was a lovely place to be.  After our lunch Edmund wanted a siesta but didn’t much care for the ants along with the wasps so we wandered around the grounds until everything re-opened at two.  




The Entrance to the Abbey as you cross the road


The Walls of the Abbey as you glance down the street


The Chapel bell tower with the statue overlooking


A close up


If you notice the opposite side of the tower there is another statue facing the opposite direction


The Walk way as you go into the Abbey grounds, walled on both sides


Archway leading to one of the side paths


The Walk way as you come in (I took this looking back)


The towers can be seen as you approach from the road

Once the church was open we went in to take in as much as we could.  I am not sure that the brain can hold all those memories at once, fortunately we had the camera and Ipad.  The stained glass was detailed, the paintings told a story and there was symbolism upon symbolism everywhere.  The ceiling would have been great to view if you could have laid down and looked up to see the intricacies of the beams as well as the artwork and angels with huge wing spans.  The columns had a different saint on the front and back.  It is amazing and something to behold.


The splendor, magnificence and detail in this place really is awe inspiring.  There is loving detail put into the story of the life of Jesus as it unfolds.  Add to that the majesty of the ceiling and there are times when it all looks heavenly and you hope to see the angels before you and hear the heavenly choir.  Visitors who come through speak in whispers and even that little sound can be heard clearly.


 The Center Aisle


Here is some of the detailing on the columns.  On one you can see a disciple


 Tried to get some good detailing so the intricate work can be seen


This is one of the side altars dedicated to St. Teresa of Liseaux


the Altar for St. Michael as he holds Satan underfoot, again the detailing around



The Artwork above the altar of St. Joseph's chapel tells the story of Jesus' life here is the birth story


This was in one of the corners of the chapel ceiling


The High Altar


Another column with 3 saints and lots of detailing all around


 No I did not lie on the floor like I was tempted but I think this one of the ceiling came out pretty good


The Ceiling and Stained glass above the door.  Had to remember to turn around to look too!


And here is the window


the detailing that you walk through to get into the church, easy to miss if you don't look back


The sun shining through the trees on a very still day

Some things are worth repeating and this Abbey was one of those places for both Edmund and I.  We have felt the presence of the divine as we participate in this pilgrimage and have found wonderful treasures along the route that we have been travelling.  Our education time is quickly nearing its end here in France but we have finished it on the highest possible note here at Abbey St. Michael de Frigolet and we are happy to have deviated from the original plan and schedule to have found this place.  In one of my earlier blogs I included the poem of Robert Frost  The Road Not Taken and it really has made all the difference.


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Lost for Words



We headed off early this morning to fit in as much as possible.  There were a number of things on the list to do.  We headed out first to Montmajour Abbey near Arles.  It was quite amazing and felt like we had stepped back in time as we wandered the ruins of the Abbey.  This place features in a number of Van Gogh’s paintings and it is not hard to figure out why with the magnificence of the towers and the imposing presence that it has over the valleys.  There are parapets around the towers for the guards to keep watch and danger can be seen from miles and miles away.  Tombs are literally carved in the rocks.  In many ways it looked like a scene out of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  It certainly showed that this life was not for the faint of heart.  Montmajour Abbey is hard to describe except to say that it is all stone with wrought iron gates at the entrances.  



 this is the main body of the church with the pedestal of the altar reamining


One of 2 tombs in the church.  Ciborium and Crozier were found buried here.  They are now on display at the Louvre


The fields in the Valley below


The Abbey Ruins


St. Peter's Church outside the Abbey walls for the lay people

 

The Tower, there are 155 steps to the top  


            A View of the top and where a watch of the area below could be kept


A Tomb


Burial Sites


The Tower


From there we travelled to Arles.  It was busy!  Obviously a tourist hot spot as well as an UNESCO world heritage site.  After a quick lunch we wandered around to see the sites.  We managed to see a number but the crowds and vendors made it less than appealing and we did not stay around for long, well only 90 minutes.


the entrance into the town square


the square


 the fountain


The Cathedral


Detailing above the door


What looks like people on either side of the doors


the Arena


the antique Theatre




Some of the people sitting in the shade.  Sidewalk View

Our next stop today was another Abbey, St. Michael of Frigolet (St. Michael and All Angels).  The tourist office in Pernes had told us that this was really one we should see.  The drive up was not at all harrowing.  There was lots of parking available but it seemed like everyone was looking for a shady tree.  The walk into the Abbey reminded you of heading into a compound and it was so large we thought that it was a secular community.  However, that is not the case.  Our first stop was the chapel of St. Peter.  It was lovely and relatively quiet.  We enjoyed some time here as well as the beauty of the place.  As we continued on we came to another church and entering in we were awestruck.  It is breathtaking!  Every inch is artwork, the ceiling decorated with stars, every column has a Disciple or Saint painted on it.  There are three parallel places of worship with the center being the largest.  A small group of local people were at worship and the acoustics were phenomenal.  The Nunc Dimitis in French is just as familiar and haunting when the canting starts as it is in English.  It was a great way to end the day of site seeing.  


St. Peter's Chapel


St. Michael's and All Angels Basilica


The Center Aisle


A Small group at worship



Again the Center Aisle


The Spires above the trees


A side garden


At the top of the path is this statue of Mary.  It is at the entrance to picnic area and large field

Our journeys here have taken us to many different places of worship.  Most have been simple and plain with little to no ornamentation but today there was a splendor that cannot be described and when the singing and praying started it just gave one chills to be a part of it.  Despite the magnificence of this building the prayers were heartfelt, as people knelt before the altar on the stone floor to offer themselves and their petitions to God.  The singing rang clear and true in further prayer.  Despite the ornateness of this Basilica today the prayers were no different in the sincerity with which they were offered than any other place that we have journeyed.  True worshipers gathered to bring their prayers and all they had to offer to God.


Finishing up the tour of the grounds we discovered a play area with picnic tables and lots of room for children and pets to roam safely.  And right in the middle of it all a very large cross, perhaps as a reminder of who we are and whose we are.