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Archive for March, 2013

Tonight is the third of the three sacred days. All day the Church has been a hub of activity with the brass and silver polished, Easter lilies arriving, cleaning and primping and priming for tonight’s service.

The decoupage stone has been placed in front of the closed doors to the worship space. The tomb stays closed until tomorrow morning.

Tonight we begin our service downstairs where new fire will be kindled outside. The paschal candle will be lit and the Exhultet sung. Then we will hear three stories, sing three songs and pray three prayers.

We will then move into the Gathering Space where we will see the font ready for the renewal of baptism vows. We get as far as the door of the tomb tonight, but we will not enter until tomorrow as we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord.

This service usually fills me with excitement and anticipation. Yet this year I feel emptiness, and a feeling of anxiety that is close to dread. I worry about the service, but moreso I worry about the congregation. One of my parishioners is palliative. We had a visit today to talk about his memorial service and while it was a good visit, marked with laughter and tears, I wonder how many more we will have to say goodbye to this year?

It is the strength we have, knowing that the promise of the resurrection is real that keeps me from complete madness. And yet tonight, as the sun sets and it grows cold, I know there are many who are not with us due to illness or exhaustion. And those who have left this life for the next will be with us, in the company of saints and angels which surround us.

So tonight, I pray to God, be present with us in our stillness and in our suffering. In our hopes and in our joys. In our wishes and in our realities, knowing that all we do is to your glory, and all we see is in your will.

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Today is the second day in the three sacred days of the Triduum. This morning we gathered in silence at the Church. The sanctuary was empty, save for the bare cross, the base draped in burlap. The altar was stripped, the aumbry was open and empty. The service began without a formal start, we simply picked up where we left off last night. The service consisted of prayers, of chants, of song.

And then our attention turned to the cross.

One by one we added the towel, the nails, the crown of thorns, the royal purple, the stalk of hyssop and the sign. And we were breathless, spent with the indignity of it all. How humanity could kill one who was so innocent. And even moreso how he could excuse our weakness and petition for mercy on our behalf? We crucified our Saviour and left him to die on a simple wooden cross.

What is so “good’ about that?

The Good part is that the story does not end there. In fact, because Jesus chose to die for us, we have been forgiven. Jesus had a choice and chose our life over his own. How many of us, in a similar position, would do the same thing?

The story does not end with the crucifixion. Rather, the crucifixion is a page in the story, not the end of the story. It is not the end, but in many ways, the beginning.

Which is why we have adopted the empty cross as a symbol of Christianity. A symbol that had been used for death was the instrument to new life. New life that we do not deserve and yet we receive it anyway.

The greatest gift we will ever receive, and for which we can never repay. Instead we are called to love our neighbour, to live in the way Jesus lived; to live for the other and not for ourselves.

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Today is the first of the three sacred days known in Churchland as the Paschal Triduum. Today is Maundy Thursday and instead of my usual anxiety and excitement about this service, I’m approaching it with a great deal of dread. The fact of the matter is, I’m exhausted. Bone weary. Spent. And we’re not even to the most difficult service of the year…Good Friday. That’s tomorrow’s service.

Today there is also a blessing of the oils or Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in the city. But I’m not going. Why? Because I don’t have it in me. There’s a group of us that meet and have lunch together. But not this year. Most of us aren’t able to go because of parish commitments. And I simply don’t fancy a drive into the City, searching for parking, etc.

So right now the washer is cleaning the second load of laundry for the day. I’ve three more to go. I’m still in my nightgown and housecoat. I’m working on my second cup of coffee and looking around at the disaster area that used to be my house. Something needs to be done and it’s up to me to do it. So, I’m going to finish this post, set the timer for an hour and work on the kitchen. Then have a rest. Set for another hour, and work on the dining room. Then have a shower and get dressed. Head out for some errands, then come home and have a rest.

This afternoon I’ll head over to the church to get it ready for worship tonight. And then I’ll come home and have a nap. My homily is stirring in my head, but I’m not able to put words to paper. So tonight I’ll take a risk and speak from the heart. It will be what it will be.

And it will be enough. Because it’s all I have to give.

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I’ve been posted in the community where I live for six years. In that time, I have presided five funerals during Holy week. On Saturday I received a call from a parishioner that his mother, 80 years old, had just died. My reaction was of shock. She has been ill for about 7 months, but always bounced back. I went to meet with the family, all her children and their spouses, to plan the celebration we would have on Tuesday, the third day in Holy Week.

For some reason I’m feeling more anxious that usual for this celebration of life. I think it’s because I have known this lady for six years. She was part of our Bible Study group, she was a stalwart member of the 8:00 am service. She volunteered as part of a Community Justice Circle, helped feed the hungry at a Coffee House in the City and seemed indestructible.

A kind a lovely English lady who loved her garden and her family. She spoke fondly of her children and grandchildren. She had a special relationship with God. And she prayed for me. When I was inducted she gave me a statue of a woman on her knees, hands clasped and praying. She said it should remind me to always take time for prayer. And she was right. That statue sits on the windowsill in my office where I can see it whenever I’m there. It makes me happy to see it and know she continues to pray for me, as I continue to pray for her.

Tonight there is a Tenebrae service of light and shadow. There will be seven candles on the altar, lit, and over the next 45 minutes we will hear the psalms and chant the refrain that will centre us and prepare us for the continuing journey that is Holy Week.

We won’t say goodbye to M today. We will wish her Godspeed, commend her into the arms of the Lord and know that one day we will meet again. That her celebration of life is during Holy Week, I believe, is comfort through the pain we feel. The promise of the resurrection is always there, especially during this sacred week in the life of the Christian community.

So we will gather to celebrate and remember one whom we love so well. And we will gather in the darkness this evening to give thanks for all we are grateful. Life does go on, it does continue, but in a different way.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

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I’m caught in a cycle of insomnia currently. Part of it is a brain that needs a dimmer switch. Part of it is my body be going through detox and part of it is the need I have to be organised. My office at home is a catch-all area where things get tossed that have no other place to be. I’ve been promising myself I will do something with this room as I tire of stepping over empty boxes, and other miscellaneous “stuff” that has piled up.

So last night while my husband and daughter were at choir I decided to spend “just one hour” to see what I could get done. I spent nearly three hours and hauled three bags of garbage, two bins of recycling, and two boxes of ‘stuff’ for the parishes upcoming yard sale. I was proud of myself. I did some deep breathing and meditation exercises, I said my evening prayers and got ready to sleep.

One mississauga, two mississauga, three mississauga and the brain was replying “click, click, whirrrrr”. So after half an hour I got up and tackled the kitchen cupboards. I threw out spices that are older than my daughter (she’s 12). I pulled everything out of the fridge and freezer and disposed of anything past its expiry date. I even cleaned out the “junk drawer” and felt awesome!

And bone weary.

I climbed the stair again to attempt sleep about midnight. I was feeling cold so I stayed put where it was warm. and when my hsubands alarm went off at 4:00 a.m., I woke him up but could not go back to sleep. So I got up at 4:30 and started on my dining room.

Today is my “day off”. I have an appointment in the city, and then the rest of the day is mine. I’m expecting that a nap is in order, and then maybe I’ll tackle my bedroom closet and sweater chest…hmmm. I have a basket of fresh laundry to put away…perhaps its time to take a clothing inventory…perhaps that nap will have to wait.

But right now I’ve got dishes to wash and have to be out of this house in 20 minutes. I should probably get dressed too as I think it’s too cold for my nightgown and bathrobe.

The gift of insomnia is that it frees time to organise, something that always brings me peace and calm. So today I may indulge my mental health and do what feels good to my psyche. I will sleep tonight, I may sleep this afternoon. And in the meantime I will have a fairly well-organised house.

That, in itself, is a gift to me.

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We are almost at Palm Sunday, the official start of Holy Week. It has been my practice, since I came to this small town in Southwestern Ontario, that we observe eight days of services. Palm Sunday is the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into the East Gates of the City of Jerusalem. He was perched on the colt of a donkey, in other words, a baby donkey. The image makes me smile as his feet would have to be pulled up to his chest so he wouldn’t drag them on the floor!

Holy Monday we follow the 14 stations of the Cross. This year we are using reproductions of modern art interpretations of the traditional Jerusalem stations. Each image is multi-faceted and I’m so excited to share these with the congregation.

Holy Tuesday we gather in the evening for a Tenebrae service of light and shadows which combines the psalms and the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my favourite theologian, and one who struggled greatly with good and evil.

Holy Wednesday we gather to put our emotional house in order. A service of Anointing and Eucharist invites us to be fully open with ourselves and our Saviour as we ask forgiveness, confident it will be given. We then gather for the greatest gift – in the Holy Eucharist.

Maundy Thursday is the first of the Triduum or Three Sacred Days of Holy Week which include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. These three days are one extended service which grows more powerful with each service. Maundy Thursday we gather as I wash the feet of the congregation, sharing with them how much they mean to the fabric of the church, and to me as their priest and pastor. We chant the Lamentations as the altar is stripped and then, in near darkness the empty cross is placed at the ready, and the tomb is left empty, save for the cross.

Good Friday we gather in silence, picking up a black stone as we enter, and slowly build on the images of crown of thorns, sign, nails, hyssop stock and stole of royal purple. As the service unfolds and we hear the horrific story of the crucifixion we are invited to set down the black stone…to set down those burdens which we bare, but which are too heavy for us to bear alone. We then pick up a white stone, knowing we have been forgiven, we are loved and we are never alone. In stunned silence, as we take in the gravity of the situation, we leave the worship space, which has become the tomb.

Holy Saturday we gather in the parish hall as we kindle the new fire, aware of the faint aroma of incense that has been used to cleanse the Church, inside and out, to prepare us for Easter Day. We hear the Exultet, share together three foundational stories, sing three hymns and then move upstairs, tapered candles lighting our way as we gather at the outside of the tomb. We then reaffirm our baptism vows and are sprinkled with the holy water of life.

Easter Day we arrive to learn that the tomb has been opened, the stone has been rolled away and we are astounded at the beautiful sight that surrounds us. A beautifully decorated space, a cross that is empty and draped with a white garland of flowers, and the joyous choruses of Alleluia as we discover the Christ has Risen!

And then, after all the pomp and ceremony is finished I delight in climbing into my waiting bed for a well-earned afternoon nap.

Come and journey to the cross. There will be pain and heartache on the way, but in the end, love will triumph over all.

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I have never been a huge fan of grocery shopping. I make a list, and get what’s only on the list, but I find the grocery store daunting. Even moreso now that I am aware of my addiction to food.

I’ve been told that if I stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store, I’ll do better, as there’s very little processed food on the outer aisles. While this may be true, there’s also plenty of end of aisle temptations with weekly specials etc.

My pantry is close to bare and my fridge is full of half-eaten leftovers that needs to be cleaned out. Today is the day. I’m having company for lunch tomorrow and don’t have the ingredients in for what I need. So, instead of overwhelming myself with a list for a week, I’m going to menu plan for the next 3 days, get us through the weekend and perhaps go again on Monday.

I’m finding that the liver cleanse is going well. But I have a pounding headache, dry mouth and ringing in my ears…all signs of detoxing. I’m told it will go away. And I hope it does…soon!

I’m going to get a garbage bag and clean out the fridge and freezer of expired food, half-eaten food, and take out/leftovers that are not edible. Then I think I’ll clean the fridge itself and start fresh.

At the same time that I’m learning to deal with food addiction, I’ve switched from my paper planner to a virtual calendar in my new smart phone. A GIANT step for me, who is daunted by technology and anxious about new things. But I will learn and I will succeed. Because I have to.

I have a clean bright, spring-like tablecloth on the dining room table. I have fresh flowers in a vase in the middle of the table. There is a placemat at each seat and a cloth napkin to match. I’m going to savour each and every food experience. Especially food I make myself. I have the ingredients in to make fruit smoothies in the morning and I’m excited about that venture.

Overall I feel quite disjointed, unable to properly focus and finish one task before beginning another. I believe that is the artificial sweetener leaving my system. And my sleep has taken a turn for the worse. But it will get better…it has to.

This afternoon I’m going to buy my first pair of proper running shoes as I now have a walking partner for two days a week. That’s exciting! And once the pup is better trained for walking (he starts obedience training on Friday night) I’ll bring both dogs with me.

One step at a time. One food choice at a time. One day at a time. It will get better.

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I think these things are supposed to begin like this “Hello, my name is _______ and I am an addict.
I am addicted to food. I have begun to realise that most of my issues with food are because I react emotionally to food. The daughter of a friend of mine is in recovery from an eating disorder and she blogged recently about food shaming, and body shaming.

I am overweight. I got on the scale today and it said 234 lbs. I’m 5’6” and that’s simply too much weight for my body. I live a very active lifestyle, most days I’m on the run constantly. Some days I can go all day without eating because I don’t feel hungry. And then I sit down. And all hell lets loose.

I’ve tried diets before and I don’t have the willpower or the staying power. I try to eat according to the recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide. And then I’ll bake something involving chocolate, and I’ll eat most of it. Not in one sitting, but sometimes.

The problem with being a food addict is that food is everywhere I go. A heroin addict, once clean, would not randomly come across her drug of choice at the gas station, or the supermarket, or the corner store. But everywhere I go there is food. And of course, the most appetizing stuff is close to the check out. I’m reading a book called The Hunger Fix and it talks about the necessity of detoxing from food before learning to eat better.

It talks about mouth hunger and about pleasure sensors. It speaks to me because it was written by someone who is also a food addict. I don’t know one human being who says “OMG, I’m SO craving carrot sticks”…unless they are part rabbit. Living with food addiction is a minefield. It is a form of an eating disorder and has all the shame that goes with it. A simple lunch invitation can cause fixation on what I am going to eat, and that makes me run through “the rules” of eating.

My recovery will begin with the understanding of why I overeat. And what I overeat. I need to stop several behaviours that are not good for me. Such as eating while standing up. Eating while watching a movie. Eating anywhere but the dining room table.

One of the things I’m going to do is clear off my dining room table and make it pretty. I think if I sit down to eat each meal in a beautiful setting i.e. tablecloth, place mat, charger, wine glass for sparkling water, etc, it will give me an opportunity to enjoy my food, and be aware of what I’m eating.

At first there will be many rules I impose on myself, but eventually, I hope to loosen them. I don’t want to starve myself to a size 3. My body is not made to be willow thin, but I know I need to lose a lot of weight. It will be a four-step process…detox, eat healthier making healthy choices, drinking lots of water and exercise. The though of running a marathon does not appeal to me, nor does going to a gym. I still have too many body image issues for that.

So I am going to take the dogs for a walk, at least once a day, for 30 minutes. Eventually I will take longer walks and will turn to exercise in times of stress instead of food. I will work more zealously at yoga. Being aware of my body, my breath and my well-being.

I will avoid social settings (at first) where I will slip into unhealthy eating patterns. Especially while I’m in detox. I’m in day 3 of a liver/digestive detox which is designed to last a month and clean out the liver and digestive system. I take 4 supplements a day (2 in the morning, 2 in the evening) and I have the doctor’s approval that they won’t interfere with my antidepressants.

There is no Betty Ford Centre for food addicts. Everywhere you go, there is food. I can’t go “cold turkey” from food or I’ll die. I also don’t want to fall into the place where I’ll never be able to eat out and enjoy myself again. In short, I don’t want to share one set of unhealthy behaviours for another.

Behaviour is the correct word. I reward myself with food. I comfort myself with food. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but the amount and the type of food are not appropriate. So for now, because I can’t have “just one” of something that I overeat, I will eat none until I know for certain that I can handle “just one”.

Artificial sweeteners are out of my diet for good. Pop is out of my diet. my plan is to eat as close to nature as possible. Fresh as opposed to canned. Cooked from scratch as opposed to processed foods. It’s going to take some work. My beloved is on board and has started to make healthier choices for himself as he supports me in my endeavour.

I’m hoping that once I begin to eat properly I will lose weight. Not to be supermodel thin, but to be healthier in who I am…whatever that weight may end up. Having said that, weighing below 200 lbs would be great.

So for now I’m going to take one day at a time, one meal at a time, one trip to the grocery store at a time. I’m going to talk myself through new things. I already talk to myself, only now there will be new reasons for it. I’m going to share my anxiety with those I trust if I’m in a potentially dangerous situation…such as a buffet, or a dessert bar.

I need to be friends with food, not to look at it as the enemy. Currently food and I are not on speaking terms. But with time that will change. And it will be good. Once I get the cravings under control I know things will change. The next 27 days will have their ups and downs, but I’m confident I’ll get through it. If I fall off the wagon, I’ll get back on and try again.

Why?

Because I’m worth it.

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We have only a few children at our church. We don’t have enough for the traditional Sunday school, and truth be told, I don’t like traditional Sunday school, for many reasons, but that is a post for another day.

Yesterday, before worship, a 5-year old girl came and asked if she could help me with Communion. I said she could. A couple of weeks earlier she was her usual active and bubbly self, running in the worship space, scribbling a picture on the church school page and having an awesome time at church. When she sat in the front pew and watched me as we were getting ready for communion, I went and asked her if she wanted to help. She did.

So we washed her hands (we have a hand-washing ritual for everyone who is assisting with communion) and she stood beside me on a stool so she could see what was going on.

We repeated this excercise yesterday and I noticed that she was looking at the missal as I was chanting the Eucharistic prayers and when we sang the Lord’s Prayer, she did too. When it was time for communion she held the pottery bowl that we use for Lent and I placed the wafer in each parishioner’s hand. When we got to her mum and dad, her sister, her aunt and her grandparents she named them for me, so they heard their title, not their name i.e. “Grandma, the body of Christ, broken in love for you”. This little girl is awesome. She can’t articulate theologically what is going on (let’s face it, most adults can’t either) but she understands something profound is happening.

H and I handed out the communion wafers, and J was distributing the wine. H is one of my youngest parishioners, and J is one of my oldest parishioners. It is my custom to receive last, so after everyone had been fed, H took a wafer and carefully placed it in my hand saying “Broken in love for you”. Then J gave me the wine and said “The blood of Christ”. And at that moment my heart was fuller than it’s been in a long time and I felt love all around me.

I gave J a hug and he went back to his seat, then H and I “did the dishes” where the left overs are consumed and the vessels are symbolically washed out. She inspected every vessel to make sure they were empty and then we tidied up.

At the end of the service, while I was pronouncing the blessing H danced and twirled in the sanctuary. It was awesome. Yes, we are in the penitential season of Lent, but there’s nothing says we can’t dance for the Lord wherever we are.

I am one of the most fortunate priests that I have such a diverse congregation in terms of age. Days like that make me feel very blessed and make this “job” seem worthwhile.

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