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.