Friday, 14 December 2018

Memories of My Father’s Cup

My Dad's tea cup.
Photo credit Kevin Thorne

Every now and then and for no particular reason memories pop in my mind.  Sometimes they relate to a particular event, date or experience and other times they are random, seemingly  coming to mind for no apparent reason. As I was driving home one evening I had one of these random thoughts and I began to think about my father's tea cup.

Now tea for my father was an event.  It rarely meant tea alone.  He liked to have something to accompany the hot beverage.   It might be crackers (with lots of butter), tea buns (biscuits here on the mainland) a slice of cake, a cookie or two or old fashioned plain donuts.  Yes indeed, tea was an event.  It occurred more than once throughout the day.  In fact by 10 am he would be in looking for a snack to tide him over to lunch followed by an afternoon snack or two before the evening meal and you guessed it about 9 p.m there would be more tea and goodies for him.  And as pleasant as these warm memories are the snacks were not what drew me to my memory but rather the tea cup.

My father liked his tea boiling hot, none of the luke warm tepid water for him.  A good rolling boil of the kettle was required.  The water, almost still boiling was poured over the bag in the cup.  To that was added several heaping spoons of sugar and carnation milk.  The cup was fine bone China, a proper tea cup.  No mugs for my Dad.  Apparently the tea just didn't taste right unless it was in a cup (a mug was just not acceptable).  He always complained that it never stayed hot enough.

The cup though was what I started to think about.  One memory, the cup, led to many more and certainly added a smile for me as I thought about the cup, the tea and all the snacks my Dad enjoyed.  Then there were the visitors he welcomed with a cup of tea and the willingness to share moments together over a cup and a snack.  We never quite knew who he might have invited in or what he might have had ready to offer.  Many years ago, my DH was at a meeting and he met a person who proceeded to tell him about the generosity of the people in Newfoundland.  He wanted to know where in NL my DH was living and working.  During the conversation he ascertained that my DH had in-laws in the very community that he and his friends had visited.  The man proceeded to tell my DH that they had been looking for a place to eat, saw a man sitting on the front bridge so they pulled the car in the driveway to ask him.  They were told that he wasn't sure where the best place might be in town but he was happy to give them lunch. So they went in had lunch together.   Once they finished and had a little visit they went on their way, they left with a very different but welcoming experience.  This man then told my DH the name of the man.  My DH started to chuckle and told them it was his father in-law. A small world, a shared memory.  In reality we never knew how many people my father invited in and offered a cup of tea (and a whole host of other goodies).

All of this got me wondering what happened to his favorite cup whether it was still in the cupboard at home or long gone. (As you see from above it is still there).  This prompted me to ask my mother and subsequently ask my brother to take a picture and send it.   A random thought that popped into my head on a short drive home took me on a beautiful walk down memory lane.  My Dad died twenty years ago and while he is missed every day I treasure the memories that we shared together.  The laughs, the arguments,  the tea.  I am reminded by him in our last conversation together that he is always with me because he is in my heart and according to him that was a good place to be.  So  I  smile at the memory, shed a tear as I remember and miss him and now maybe I'll go boil the kettle, find a cup and toast him with a hot cup of tea!

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Time Out

Holy Cross Priory Chapel

Whenever I hear the words "time out" I immediately think that someone is being punished for doing or saying something inappropriate.  The phrase and action is most often associated with young children.  But it does not have to be that way.  So I am in a time out. My time out is utterly pleasant and relaxing.  I am taking a time out of my real life and enjoying a quiet retreat.  The focus that I have given myself is mindfulness.

It is easy to enjoy the time out when you are living with a community.  So for one week, I have retreated to the Holy Cross Priory to be quiet, mindful and prayerful.  It was while I was talking with one of the Brothers that I began to ponder what this community means.  It is more than an escape, more than time out of time, more than prayer.  It is a place of belonging to re-group, re-focus and re-connect, not merely with the community but with ones self.

It is also a reminder of how there are so many who pray for everyone in the world, intentionally!  The rhythm of prayer is a continuous circle, beginning here while finishing elsewhere, finishing here and beginning somewhere else.  The reminder of the rhythm offers comfort and hope.  A fitting reminder that even if we lose focus in life, stumble and struggle on our path, someone somewhere is praying for for us and for new light and hope to shine in us.

I have always found a great comfort in being
with my Holy Cross community and,(after being absent from them for three years (far too long)) to be reminded that the rhythm continues, prayers are offered, and the circle of prayer goes on is a source of strength and comfort.  In my mindfulness exercise I am reminded in this time that there is a continuum.   The circle of prayer goes unbroken.   All of humanity is held in loving prayer.  And whether you are rushing through your day, taking a time out, or involved in other activities...someone, somewhere says a prayer.  Someone, somewhere prays for you.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Lamps, Lifeboats, Ladders

Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder.  
Help someone’s soul heal.  
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.

It is strange the little things, sayings or quotes that give a reminder of another experience or story. Today when I opened my grateful word of the day and read it my mind went to an entirely different story. It was a story that I had once used in a sermon illustration.

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, "Grab my hand and I will pull you up!" But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.
When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

The author of this piece is unknown. The story makes an incredible point. We so often look about for answers, solutions thinking it will be the big expression. The small events that seem insignificant can sometimes pack a bigger punch. And yet too often we ignore all of the little signs around us. We want the big miraculous event and all the while what we need has been constantly available.

More than this is also the quote from Rumi. We just might be the ladder, the lamp or the lifeboat that someone else needs. We might be the one that brings a connection, light and hope to another who is lost and searching. But in order for us to know how to respond, we first need to go out our doors, be present and less self absorbed and truly see what is required of us. God sends all that we and others need; ladders, lamps, lifeboats the key is to recognize that it comes in various forms, interesting ways and different people.

Friday, 2 November 2018

You are what you eat

What do you feed yourself on a daily basis? Oh, I don't mean what's good for you or if you are following a proper nutrition plan; not that it is not important.  But I want to know what you feed your brain.  It seems everytime I listen to the news there is yet another tragedy being reported.  And it seems as if life is of less and less value.  I ask myself regularly why is there so little value placed on life.

You see I still live in a bit of an ideal world.  And in my ideal world people are equal.  Everyone is treated the same and afforded equal opportunities.  I believe when you look at a person you do not see the outer shell but the value of the person, no matter what their abilities.  I did warn you I am an idealist.  And as much as the world intrudes and reminds me of the great levels of hate that exist I refuse to sink to the same level.  I insist on doing my best to treat those that I meet by seeing the person first and the shell that we cart ourselves around in as a happy after thought.

Now I'm  about to date myself! I still remember the scene in Family Matters when Waldo, not known for his intellect said "you guys think you can walk all over me because I'm dumb.  But I have feelings too.  If you cut me, do I not cough?  If you hit me, do I not sneeze?  And if you call me names, do I not eat?"  In a very humorous manner he reminded his friends and television watchers that underneath our skin we are all the same.  We all hurt.  We all bleed. We all feel.

So in a world that focuses too much on our differences,  focus instead on how we are all similar.   In a world that chooses to focus on hate, focus instead on love.  In a world that focuses of the bad be the one who does some good.  In  a world that often fails to value the person let those you encounter know just how valuable they are.  And one small encounter of goodness and hope at a time we will hopefully see a change around us.  Feed hope, love and compassion  to yourself daily and then in turn share the same with others.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

The Beauty of Friends

Friendship is a sweet responsibility not an opportunity
Khilal Gibran

I was immediately struck by this quote when I recently heard it in a speech at a birthday celebration.  How often do we think of the responsibility that comes with friendship?  For most of our friend relationships we probably don’t even think about the responsibility because we are just happy to have the time to share together.  We create memories, enjoy experiences, laugh and cry with each other.  It doesn’t feel like a responsibility because of the mutual love.  On the other hand though, if we do not put time into the friendship, if we start to take it for granted or never find time for each other then we are renegading on the responsibility that comes with being friends.

None of us like to feel taken for granted.  None of us care to be considered for the advantage we might be able to offer.  If we feel this way then we generally withdraw or change our perception of  what we think of the friendship.  We do not appreciate merely being the opportunity.

So this beautiful quote makes us stop and think about relationships.  It makes us consider what exactly friendship means to us.  It also reminds us that entering into that friendship means we take care of each other.  Friendship is one of the most important gifts that we have bestowed upon us.  It is a rare treasure that should never be taken for granted.  It should be cherished.  The beauty of a deep and abiding friendship is that you can go periods of time without seeing one another but know that person is there for you and pick up right where you left off.  Friends stand by you, defend you and simply love you even in your worst moments.  They send words of encouragement and are your biggest cheerleaders.  They are rare.

Too often we take our friends for granted.  Friends never seem to mind though and generally wait patiently for us to rectify that particular flaw in ourselves.  And still we pick up right where we left off, just as if that oversight had never occurred and because they are a friend, they forgive the incident.  Because a true friend is rare it is important for us to remember to take care of them and the relationship.  It is also important to guard against taking them for granted too many times so that we cause endless hurt.  With this kind of relationship there comes certain responsibilities to protect and value the relationship.

I suspect that as you read the words a particular person (or persons) came immediately to your minds eye.  You may have even had a smile as you thought about that person and all that they add to your life.  I know that you realize just how much is added to your life because of friends so be sure to let them know just how valued and valuable they are to you.  Friends are sweet responsibilities that we should always cherish.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

What is your super power?

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Leo Buscaglia
We all love super heroes.  They are known for the spectacular feats that save people.  They are able in great, fictional ways to perform miraculous deeds and whether very young or old there is something about the stories that attract us.  It makes us feel good to simply watch the movie or read the story.  We always root for the good guy super hero.  We are happy when the quest is successful.  The biggest part of the hero that makes them so wonderful is the lives they touch with th the good deeds they do.

There was a certain familiarity about the quote I have today.  It is not one that I remember as a direct quotation but the intent of the quote is familiar.  I remember being told, when I was a young priest, by a health care professional at the Long term Care centre to never forget to touch a hand or arm or shoulder.  This person went on to say that for many this might be the only time they are touched aside from their personal care.  That left an impression on me.  Now, nearly twenty years later, I still make sure that I reach out and touch.  By nature I am not a touchy, feely person.  This has taken some training.   The rewards though have been astounding.

The Long term Care centres are not always attractive places to go.  Odours can be off putting, the heat stifling and rarely are you remembered (depending on the level of care).  Putting all of that aside and learning to simply be in that moment is  glorious and the reward beyond measure.  The conversations in those moments can be awe inspiring.  It is a rare visit that I don't receive more than I can ever give.

A touch, it is not too much to offer, it requires minimal effort and yet it is ever so powerful.  I never thought of touch in this way initially but now years later I still see the power it holds.  A touch brings smiles and sometimes tears to the one on the receiving end.  I remember at one service in particular a lady with late stage dementia was in attendance.  She was one of those who attended regularly.  She frequently sat there with absolutely no response.  On this particular day I shared the story by Robert Munch I'll Love You Forever, it was the Tuesday following Mother's Day, and much to my delight she switched on and engaged in the story, making a comment here and there about the behaviour of the child.  For a few brief minutes she was present.  It was months later that I met a friend of this lady and I told the friend about our encounter and while that friend had missed it she was so happy to hear that it had happened.  We shared a laugh and in that moment she joined us again.  A touch, a smile, a few moments of your time can make such a difference and we are so often unaware of the power we have in that simple gesture.

That power within may well have gone completely untapped but for the wise words of a seasoned worker and leader in the long term care field.  The gentle reminder to see the person first and always be compassionate.  Bring joy, bring a smile, tell a story and never ever forget to touch them gently so they don't forget what it feels like.  The power of the touch I was recently reminded was important in the gospel stories.  The person I was talking with reminded me of so many encounters that were changed by a touch.  Healing took place because of a touch.  Hope was restored because of a touch.  Gentleness came to the forefront because of a touch.  It is a timely reminder in a world that often fears interactions that we humans are social creatures.  Touch is important and conveys a wealth of meaning to the recipient.  This continues to be a mighty lesson.

So in this world that shies away from interaction look up, smile, compliment and even occasionally (under the right circumstances) touch a person to offer comfort.  The power lies within each of us to make a difference.  Small events cause the ripples that lead to great miracles and it all lies within our reach...because we were willing to touch.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Let your Light Shine

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be?... And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”— Marianne Williamson

So go on, own your brilliance and shine your light. ✨ The world needs you to live your highest potential.

I thought the above quote was quite an interesting one when I read it this morning.  It was quoted by the Chopka Centre.  I could not help but think about it over and over and I was not sure that I agreed with it.  But when we think about it you realize that we tend to be confident in what we are good with and strong in our convictions of.  We do not usually fear being inadequate in that way.  Yes, we appreciate feedback letting us know how we are doing but we rarely feel inadequate in things that we are strong in.

The following bit of the quote though rang more true, it is our light and allowing our light to shine that we really fear.   Failing to allow our light to shine is not new.  It reaches back to biblical times, at least.  We fear letting our light shine for many reasons.  We don’t want to be called braggarts, we don’t want to be labeled conceited, we don’t want to toot our own horns, we are reluctant to take on an additional role or more work.  The reasons we are reluctant to let our lights shine are many and varied.

Interestingly, the author of the quote finishes by saying that when we let our lights shine we give others permission to do the same.  How empowering and how powerful!  Conversely if we are not living our potential and letting our light shine we are conceivably  holding someone else back.    So when we think about about it we have an incredible power to share, to be who we are and to enable others to reach that same potential.  The author challenges us to ask ourselves who we are and in that answer be honest with ourselves so that we can reach our fullest potential and in letting our light shine give others the permission to be able to do the same.  When we allow our light to shine we illuminate the darkness around and within but even more encourage and allow other lights to join in and the darkness is overcome.

More years ago now than I like to think about I had a discussion with a person at the local gym.  This person was retired but not quick to volunteer for anything.  This particular evening was going to mark the opening of the diocesan synod and volunteers were needed behind the scenes for set up, clean up and so on.  I was about to leave the gym and said to him”see you this evening.”  He replied that I would not.  I was a bit shocked so I went back in and said to him, no pressure but I’m curious, when you reach the pearly gates and you are asked if you did your best, will you be able to say yes?  Much to the surprise of everyone, including the parish priest of this man, he was there for everything and a super help with the other volunteers.  He and I laughed at it after but he said on a serious note it was an important question because he really could do more.  This question has on occasion come back to haunt me, challenge me and guilt me into doing something that I otherwise would have refused.  It is a call asking ourselves if we are doing our best, allowing our light to shine, encouraging each other to respond and allow lights glow beautifully and to become brighter and brighter.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The Beauty of Your Season

There is something about the autumn that brings out a certain love of life.  It might be the brilliant colours as nature sheds its foliage to prepare for rest and rebirth.  It might be the leaves falling and subsequently blowing around with the wind, almost as if they are engaging in one final dance before becoming mulch and fertilizer.  Autumn is resplendent in all of her glory and while some feel depressed with the shorter days and winter looming, stop a moment and look around and enjoy the beautiful show that nature has placed before us to enjoy.

Invariably when fall arrives I am enamoured with the colours, the falling leaves and the rustle and crunch you get when walking.  There is something quite playful about kicking the fallen leaves before you.  It is, at its most basic, a reminder to enjoy the little things and the little pleasures that you can find all around you in this life.

This time of year I am also reminded with the falling leaves that another year is waning and for some their season of life has changed.  So fall always reminds me to go back and read a short little book that was recommended to a group of us by a neonatal nurse many years ago.  It is called The Fall of Freddie the Leaf.  The author is Leo Buscaglia.  It is a story of life.  Freddie and his companions face many changes with each season that passes, finally falling to the ground in the autumn and being covered by a blanket of snow.  The story, from the perspective of a leaf, reminds us all of the delicate balance that we have in life.
As the leaves slowly drop off there is a beautiful conversation between two leaves, Freddie and Daniel.   
I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel.  “I don’t know what’s down there.”
“We all fear what we don’t know Freddie.  It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him.  “ Yet you were not afraid when spring became summer.  You were not afraid when summer became fall.  They were natural changes.  Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”
“Does the tree die too?” Freddie asked.
“Someday.  But there is something stronger than the tree.  It is Life.  That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.”... “Then what has been the reason for all of this” Freddie continued to question.  “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”
Daniel answered in his matter of fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon.  It’s been about happy times together.  It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children.  It’s been about colours in Fall.  It’s been about seasons.  Isn’t that enough?”

This beautiful book reminds us all that we each have seasons in our lives.  Some seasons are longer than others but within each there is beauty to be seen and joy to be found.  It also reminds us that though seasons may also be short we can avail of the opportunities that are before us and celebrate each and every opportunity that we have.  Laugh, cry, dance, embrace the good, work through the bad and know that with each experience, with each season of life that we enjoy for however long we have to enjoy it we will gain new perspective.  No matter what season in life you are currently in look for the joy and the beauty around.  Everyday will not be a wonderful day but it will afford us new opportunities, new things for which to be thankful and when we finally come to our winter we will again find new opportunities and new beginnings.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Your Limits

May I see my own limits with compassion, just as I view the limits of others.
        Roshi Joan Halifax

A limit is defined as “a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass, or a restriction on the size or amount of something permissible or possible.”  (Google dictionary). Limits are often the boundaries that we have set for ourselves.  And hopefully we know when we have reached our limit.

What happens when we reach the limit?  Are we okay with it or do we decide to push a little further, try the boundary a bit more?  At some point in time we decided what our limits might be and occasionally we do push and try a bit harder to test and see if it can go further.  If we push too far do we snap?  Limits are a place where we can also find comfort as we realize that we have done all we can, pushed as far as possible.

Once in a class where we were studying non violent crisis intervention we were all asked to pick a partner, stand across the room from each other and the partner would walk towards the other and when the person reached your personal space, different for each person depending on your comfort level,  you put your arm straight out to indicate they must stop.  It was a great experiment.  Everyone was different.  I remember one female had no problem with her partner coming nearly nose to nose, the partner was decidedly uncomfortable because they were out of their comfort zone.  It was a simple exercise but one that told us that all our limits were unique.

How do we react when we have reached the limit?  With others we are generally understanding and considerate.  We appreciate the boundary and we respect it and them for having it in place.  Are we as kind and considerate of ourselves?  Sometimes, yes.  But more often we will have a negative conversation in our own mind about how we should have done it differently or better.  We are less kind and understanding of ourselves.  We question if we could have done more, spent more time, expended more effort.  Surely we could have been better.  We are not so kind and compassionate to ourselves.  And yet it is important to be gentle and kind.  To remind ourselves that it is fine if we could not do more, reach more, see more.  It is important to say that it is good to know and stick to the boundary.  It is essential to care for the self, without that care how then can we continue to be positive for others.

Limits are beautiful things they are not intended as a tool to denigrate the self but are intended to care for ourselves.  And when we reach the limit...we are called to be as kind and compassionate as if it were someone standing physically in front of us and telling them that it is all good.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Change Your Attitude!

A few days ago a friend posted this cartoon.  While the cartoon is intended to be humorous it is also a sad commentary on how quick we are to complain and how slow we are to pass on appreciation. Along with this post there were numerous other friends who have been posting sayings such as when you can choose to be anything, be kind.  There is nothing wrong with a reminder to be kind to one another.  There is also nothing wrong with forcing ourselves, even with the above humour, to consider our attitude.

Attitude goes a long way.  Are we known for a positive or negative attitude?  Are we known to complain a lot or for being a thankful, grateful person?  In a sermon the preacher conveyed an encounter that he had.  He told of an incident where a mother and her son were disagreeing on an issue.  It ended with a much disgruntled young person.  The mother simply looked at him and told him that he needed to change his attitude.  That mom had no issue calling her child on a bad attitude or a sulky after effect.  Reminding him that all was not bad in his world but that on this occasion everything  was not going to go his way.  It is a lesson that we all learn at some point, win some and lose some.  Be gracious what ever the outcome.  The preacher went on to emphasize that sometimes we all need that reminder...change your attitude.

So what is our attitude?  Are we gracious in wins and losses? Do we openly show our appreciation and gratitude or merely lodge the complaint(s)?  Are we inclined to pass along kind words that tell a person how appreciated they are or the first to line up when something has gone wrong?  Are we a healthy balance of both?  The cartoon made me think!  The cartoon, brought a smile to my face but it also made me ask do I complain more than I express appreciation?  Do I need to change my attitude?  Living in a society where we often expect immediate gratification, there is no doubt that we all have days where we need to change our attitude.

The cartoon though is a timely, light reminder of a more serious issue.  We forget to say thanks for a job well done.  We forget to convey the message that we appreciated the service that someone offered thinking they already know.  We forget to pass along the kindness.  And that may make all the difference to that person for that moment in time.

There once was a young man who struggled in his professional life.  He often heard negative comments about his work and negative comments of a personal nature.  He avoided colleagues and as a result became known for being unreliable.  When another person said they were going to reach out and make an effort to include him more, give him a schedule to participate in they were laughed at and mocked for making the effort.  Much to the surprise of the nay-sayers the young man responded and was faithful to the schedule that he had agreed to be apart of.  Good things happened on many of the occasions that he participated in and others began to tell the scheduler of how well things were going.  The scheduler, hearing the compliments, decided to mail a note of thanks for the additional effort to let the young man know that it had not gone unnoticed and that it was much appreciated by those that he was interacting with as well as the volunteers that were there to help.  It would be several months later when the young man and the person doing the schedule would be face to face.  At that time he asked if he could speak privately and the interaction for the person doing the schedule was rather shocking.  The young man pulled out his wallet and there was the note card, very worn from the folding and unfolding.  It had obviously been read many times. He went on to tell the person responsible for the schedule that he had gone to the mail and it was with some trepidation that he opened the envelope which contained the note.  He went on to explain that anything he received in the mail was generally not good.  He was shocked when he opened the envelope and read what was inside.  A note that expressed thanks for the work and the extra effort that he put into what he had been asked to do.  He said he had never gotten anything like this and he was so grateful.  The person responsible for the schedule had honestly not given any further thought to the note.  Was somewhat shocked at the reaction and responded that they had heard good things and thought it was important to pass it along.  The note was refolded, replaced in the wallet.  Each of the two persons moved on but for that time it made all the difference.

The thought that a note with a few kind words expressing gratitude for a job well done is not a regular occurrence is sad.  We are quick to pass along a complaint but less so with a compliment.  Somehow we assume that the person already knows if they have done something well.  But really, how would anyone know if we never take the time to tell them?  So can I encourage all who take the time to read this blog to not waste another day before complimenting someone, thanking someone, appreciating someone.  Let them know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed because the smallest of kindnesses make a world of difference to the person who receives the expression of gratitude.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Stories to tell

All sorrows can be born if you can put them into a story
                                                                                                                         Karen Blixen

Stories are important.  Stories offer an escape, which is why as children we likely loved fairy tales.  Stories offer hope, tell about struggles, despair, joy and celebration.  Stories cover every aspect of the human condition.  Some are told to scare us, nothing like a good ghost story after dark around a campfire the scares you to death.  Some are told to make us happy.  Some are told to teach a lesson (remember the dog with the bone who looks at its mirror image in the water?).  Whatever the reason for telling the story, if it is told well, it will have a lasting impression on the story teller and the recepient.

I love a good story.  Through the years I have been told a number of them.  Some are long and you hope the person is soon going to get to the point and finally finish.  Others are highly entertaining. Some incredibly practical.  For example, did you know that flour only absorbs as much water as it needs to be mixed together?  So if you have flour in a bag or container you can add the water and mix it right in your container and then remove it to cook, leaving the remainder of your flour for the next time.  A handy bit of information if you are an outdoors, camping type of person.  An interesting piece of information stored in this non-camper, non out doors kind of persons mind (a camper and out door survivalist I am not!).

People have all kinds of interesting stories to share.  I love sharing in those moments.  You never know what kind of interesting tidbits are going to be imparted.  Perhaps more importantly you never know how important the telling of the story might be to the story teller.  Stories, whatever the circumstance, convey a piece of the person.  Each story tells a bit more about their life, joys and struggles.  The stories are integral to the well being of a person and often help us cope with whatever life throws our way.  It is also important to listen when a story is being told so that the point is understood.  Often times the story teller is conveying a life experience that over time they figured out a way to share.  It can often hide great struggle and sorrow.

I do know that when a story of sorrow is able to be told it is not told quickly.  Nor is it told soon after the experience.  All too often it is first internalized; too wounded to share the great pain the person may retreat for a time.  Most eventually emerge again, they are changed and scarred and slowly they can tell their story.  I remember well the spring and summer I turned twelve.  My father was seriously ill;  it was life threatening.  My mother rushed off to be with him.  My brother and I would go live with our older siblings.  It was a horrible summer, but I had a very patient sister and brother-in-law.  My father did eventually recover and returned home.  For many years no one could even mention his illness where I was, it would reduce me to uncontrollable tears.  The pain and fear were too fresh and deeply private.  My father was not the most patient person with this type of emotional expression and would simply say “stop that foolishness!”  Now, many years later I can selectively share the experience.  It is rarely done randomly and has only been with a select few people.  Most would only be told that I grew up with a very ill father.

Stories, we all have them to share.  Some stories flow freely, others reluctantly dragged from a person.  Each story that we tell imparts a bit more of ourselves to the people that we comfortably share it with.  Each story helps us move forward and remember the experience and what we gleaned from it.  Each story helps us remember the person with a smile as we choose to focus less on the difficult times and cherish instead the happier moments that were spent together building memories.

Stories challenge us, teach us, make us think.  They help us want to know more about another and build a relationship by listening to the story that they have to tell.  We all have a story to tell.

Friday, 7 September 2018

What do you want?

For several weeks now I have been asking the members of my congregations the question “What do you want?”  It stemmed from the Readings in the lectionary that were from the gospel of John.  We have been focused these past number of weeks on the sixth chapter and Jesus as the bread of life.  At one point he asks the people the question “What do you want?”

Without being present to hear the tone, one has to use their imagination.  It might have been frustrated and abrupt, it might have been at the end of  his patience with the endless demands and needs and wants, it might have been warm and soothing.  But think about it, if someone looks at you and asks what do you want, does it engender a warm fuzzy feeling or more of a sinking feeling?  Do you feel free to make the request or do you need to dig deep to find your courage so that you are able to ask for and name what it is you want, need or are looking for?  When I asked the question of those present the body language indicated a pulling away, a barrier seemed to go up.  The question did not appear to make people feel comfortable or welcome.  It did not seem to engender the warm fuzzies but rather there was a certain reluctance to have to either face or answer the question.

A couple of weeks later I returned to the question with my congregations.  This time we looked at it in relation to the story of Solomon.  Specifically we focused on Solomon’s dream when God asked what he wanted and Solomon requested wisdom.  Faced with the same opportunity, I asked those present to consider "what do you want".  Would it be personal gain or would it be something bigger?   I don’t usually put people on the spot to answer and this was no exception.  I wanted them to truly think about what they wanted.  Imagine my surprise when one person said as we concluded the service, “I know my answer, I’d ask for peace.”  There is always something special about these moments.  (Someone actually was paying attention!!!) The answer was heavy duty, sincere and completely selfless.

What do you want?  Depending on the circumstances, what is happening in that moment and life events we all have different answers, wants and needs.  At the same time it is an important question to contemplate so that when we are faced with that question in life and on our faith journey we will have considered how we would respond and know what it is we want.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

New patterns, old fabric

Loss makes artists of us all as we weave new patterns in the fabric of our lives
Greta W. Crosby

Losses throughout our lives are inevitable.  Unwelcome usually, but inevitable.  The loss we experience however significant or insignificant changes us.  The change is sometimes hardly noticed and at other times quite profound.  Every loss affects us.  When we experience a loss it means that adjustments in our lives have to be made.

In a conversation with someone a few days ago I made the comment that June and July had been terrible months.  First one car died, then the dog and then my much loved but old Jetta kicked the can. The result, the first time in many years we had to go car shopping.  A minor adjustment.  The death of a much loved pet meant far bigger adjustments in a house where there have been two furry critters for many years.  While we all grieved we  also had to get on with decision making, work and life in general.  Time moved forward and willingly or not we were dragged along with it.

The pattern of our days took on a slightly different rhythm and the fabric of our lives has been forever changed. As clergy, loss is not something new in our household.  We take that walk numerous ways and often with various people.  One thing that is always noted is that the experience changes everyone.  Our life pattern is inextricably changed.  Sometimes our fabric is changed and we learn slowly to walk again.

I have been asked many questions through the years about what I thought about death.  One particular conversation still travels with me.  I was visiting the hospital to see a friend.  In the bed next to him was a gentleman and I thought little of it.  The man struck up a conversation and eventually said you don’t remember me do you?  I confess I hate that question, it’s like a big bag of tricks and loaded with trouble.  I couldn’t (perhaps wouldn’t is a better word choice) lie to him.  So I told him no, I did not.  He proceeded to tell me who he was and how I would know him.  We chatted a little longer.  I knew he was gravely ill so we prayed together.  As I was leaving he said “when I’m back home from my treatment and feeling stronger I will see you in church.”  To be honest I have heard that many times and did not put much credence in it but replied, “I will be there and you will be most welcome.” I did not give much thought to the conversation.  Many months later at the Easter sunrise service we had a lovely turn out of the regular congregants and a couple of visitors.  Following the service I welcomed them with us, told them there  was a fabulous breakfast in the hall and made sure they knew they were welcome to come and join us.  Much to my embarrassment the man said “you’ve forgotten me!”  Horror or horrors, I took a closer look and realized that we had indeed met before.  He was looking much better, had gained a few pounds and held up to his promise to come and see me.

Despite my faux pas it was the beginning of a lovely pastoral relationship.  His cancer was not cured but he was afforded some additional time.  He became a regular attendant to the church  and became a part of the community.  Inevitably the day came when he went missing from the congregation again, the cancer had reared its ugly head again and he was palliative.  It was on one of my visits with him that he asked, “do you think it is better to have a slow death or a fast one where it’s all over in a blink?”  A tough question but knowing his struggles in life and with his partner and several of his children present I knew the answer was extremely important to him and to them.  I told him “both have their merits.  The person with the prolonged death can see it has an opportunity, or gift.”  He laughed sarcastically and said “really, this is a gift?”  I replied “yes.”  “It is a gift because if there are things you need to say to the people that you love, reconciling that you need to do then this is the time to do it.  A quick death would rob you of that opportunity and the opportunity to set things right.”  He thanked me for my candid answer and endeavoured to see it in such a way.  He died peacefully several days later.

The fabric of my life changed for having known him and shared in that most difficult journey that he had to undertake.  Life experiences whether that strong or not invariably change us.  We learn from the people who enter our lives, we mourn those that we lose and we weave different patterns for each experience.  We are forever marked because they have been a part of us whether it is for a long time or a brief period.  Now years later I still think of that conversation, remember my friend with a smile and know that he changed me by allowing me to walk with him.  And for that new pattern in my fabric I am forever thankful.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Finding a Path

Wanderer, there is no path,
        the path is made by walking
Antonio Machado

This quote came in my emails just a few days ago and it reminded me of a hike that I did with a group of people many years ago.  A group were planning to hike Killdevil Mountain in Gros Morne Park.  They had acquired a guide and were looking to add a few more people to the group.  My DH thought I would love it and signed me up!

Here we are...
about halfway and you can see how small the road is already

The Top... just joking we have not yet reached the summit.  
It was merely wishful thinking!

This is truly the summit, mountains in the background and 
the water has gotten considerably smaller

I got a little more hike than I had planned on.  You have to understand that there is no trail up this mountain you meandered up the caribou trails, made your own path across a mountain that had an approximate seventy degree ascent.  Rumour had it the climb would take a couple of hours ... I wish! I remember that we kept going and going.  Eventually we would reach what I would think was the summit and think we are at the top, only to discover there was yet another level to go.  Two hours turned to four and finally I was at the summit.  It was quite a hike.  The views were spectacular.  It is at those particular moments a bit of pessimism sets in for me.  While I gloried in the achievement, I was also thinking of that journey down and was not looking forward to it.

The key to going down was to walk back and forth across the mountain so that the decent would be less steep.  Some members of the group sat down and slid down the lichen and moss.  I confess I was tempted but it looked like a bit of a rough ride.

The answer is YES!  
This is as steep as it looks and see no trails

Like many of the journeys in life sometimes we have to plod our own path.  The path is not always clear but one thing is for certain if we do not make the attempt or start to move there will never be a path.  Life with all of its challenges and journeys is exciting.  Each day brings new possibilities, new explorations and new paths to explore.  Some will be well worn and familiar and I think it is here we take comfort and rest.  Others will be brand new, unexplored possibilities where we have to find our own way.  Face challenges. Find inner strength.  Realize that life is filled with all sorts of experiences.  Know that each of us has a unique path that we can only truly experience if we are willing to walk and sometimes make a new trail.

“First, he says, you have to go out into the world. This is not a simple matter of going outside one's door. No, that is simply going out. That's what one does when one is on the way to the store to buy a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a bottle of wine. When one goes out into the world, one is shedding preconceptions of past paths and ideas of past paths, and trying to move freely through an unsubstantiated and new geography.”

Jesse Ball, The Way Through Doors

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Can I Have this Dance?

Several weeks ago, my DH, niece and I made plans for a small road trip.  The weather forecast was uncertain.  It called for thundershowers and quite likely  thunder and lightening to go along with it. Given that we planned to spend much of the time outside once we reached our destination we figured alternate plans might be a better decision.  It was a Saturday morning, that means farmers markets and treasures galore.  We meandered around, admired many things, bought a few items and generally enjoyed the time.  Fresh vegetables from the farmers are always a welcome buy and there were lots of choices.  

As I was making my way back from dropping off items to the car I noticed a child playing in the puddles from an earlier shower.  This child was taking great delight in splashing in the muddy water and entertaining those close by who were observing and enjoying the joy and happiness of the child.  It was a joyous display of life, enthusiasm and that willingness to just dance and it didn't matter much who was watching.

Did that child have a plan for today, likely not!  What it did show was unadulterated joy.  A zest for life that we could all use.  It was the most important place that child could be in that moment.  It most certainly was not a recipe for great success but it was a reminder to  find the joy in life and more than that to not avoid the puddles in our path, instead take a moment to play and enjoy life.

Perhaps we needed the rain in our lives after all.  Not just to refresh nature around us but to refresh ourselves as well so that our outlook could have a new perspective, our creativity new possibilities.  That we find an opportunity to become unstuck and to dance in the puddles.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Where will you look?


There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He really wanted to meet God a lot and so he did some research on the subject of where God lives, and he thought that he knew just where God Lived. The little boy made plans to go to where he thought God Lived. He knew it was gonna be a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his book bag with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer, and he started off on his journey to find out if he did know where God lived, or not.

When he had walked about thirty blocks, he was tired. He needed a rest, and so he walked over to the park across the street and he sat down on a park bench. Then he met an old woman who was aimlessly walking round the park. She sat down on the bench next to him and started staring at some pigeons. The boy sat there, next to her and opened his book bag. He was about to take a drink of his root beer and eat a twinkie, when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie.

She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Once again, she smiled at him.

The boy was delighted that the woman was very happy now.  They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, watching the squirrels and birds and eating twinkies, drinking root beer...

The Twinkies and Root Beer were gone and as it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was, and how late it had become, and so he got up to leave. Before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy got back home and opened the door to his house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"

He replied, "I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? She's got the most beautiful smile I''ve ever seen!"

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face, and he asked, "Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?" She replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God." But before her son responded, she added, "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

I was asked today if there was a problem with my blog, and had it suggested that I would need to check if I was actually sending out the message.  After a minute or so I realized that the reason the person was not receiving the blog was because they mistakenly thought I had written something that they had missed.  Sadly they haven't missed a thing as I have not posted any articles in quite some time.  There are several works in progress but unfortunately they are incomplete.  

However, on the return home from an afternoon movie I caught some lyrics of a song on the radio.  I have no idea who was singing but it basically asked the question where do I find God?  This triggered the memory of the story (posted above) of twinkies and God.  So the drive home was a percolation of the brain and how I might finally be inspired to write something.

Where do we seek God?   It is an important question and I think it goes hand in with another question How do we show God?  The story of Twinkies and God is a beautiful illustration reminding us that we can find and see God everywhere.  It basically requires us to look, to be in community with one another and to see the ability and beauty of a person rather than getting caught up with what we think should be a more complicated process.   The little child and the elderly person shared a bench, shared a meal and shared the presence of each other and as a result they both returned home believing that they had seen the face of God.  Likewise, we are asked to truly look at one another to share our time, a meal, a presence and in so doing the infinite love of God continues to be seen and experienced through the love that is present in that moment.

Where do you see God?  Where do you look and perhaps more importantly will others see the face of God when they have an encounter with you?

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Let's tip toe through

I am going to make everything around me beautiful -- that will be my life.                                                                                         Elsie De  Wolf

We have had quite a day!  We went into central Amsterdam, rented a car and took a road trip.  We had four destinations in mind.  Made it to three so we didn't do too bad at all.

The first stop on our road trip was to a town called Groesbeek.  There is a Canadian War memorial here.  There are just over 2600 graves of allied soldiers, 2300 of them are Canadian.  It was a poignant trip and so sad to walk among the graves of so many young men. The relatives of those who died would be pleased to know that the cemetery is beautifully situated and lovingly cared for.  There is not a grave that does not have flowers and it is a pristine environment.

The Canadian War Monument Grounds

The Cross and Flags

Row upon Row

While our road trip started on a solemn  note it did not remain that way.  We stopped for a lovely lunch and then headed out to the Keukenhof  tulip fields.  These gardens have been in existence for four hundred years.  They are situated on thirty two hectares and have more than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.  It is a spectacular place.  The weather was less cooperative and it was cold and wet.  However it did not dampen our spirits or enthusiasm.  We wandered the maze, saw colorful birds and lovely animals as well as an abundance of color from the flowers.  After a great of coffee and Dutch apple pie we hit the road again in search of the windmills.

A glimpse of the fields

Rows of colour

A few feathered friends 

Isn't this guy gorgeous 

A different looking chicken

The peacock refused to spread those feathers

More colour!

I love this guy!

The beauty

Odd tree stumps

Again we had relative success and reached the town of Volendam.  This is a quaint seaside community and it boasted a beautiful windmill.  My list is complete!  The day finished with a leisurely dinner and then a short drive back into Amsterdam.  It was a whirlwind tour of the countryside and sites that had been associated with the country all reached and they were just as spectacular as my imagination had captured.

A glimpse of the harbour

Volendam streets.  A quaint and beautiful community

A fisherman with a basket of fish 

Loved the look of this boat

I keep telling you I am easily amused!

Last but not wind mill!