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Archive for March, 2016

I’m not a fan of the unknown.  I like to have a plan, and more of then than not, a back up plan.  Some call that being anal retentive.  Some call that being organised.  I simply call it life.

When my Dad was sick, I tried to get him to talk to me about his Celebration of Life.  He had asked me, once he knew he wasn’t going to get better, to preside his service; not because I am a priest, but because I am a Legion Padre, and would do it “properly”.  It was high praise from my Dad and while it was the most difficult thing I have ever done, nobody would have been able to do it the way I did it.

I am loving the mountain view from where I live.  I get out every single day and walk.  It may be a few blocks or it may be a few kilometers.  And every time I walk its with my head up so I can see the majesty which surrounds me.  Sometimes it’s so beautiful I can barely catch my breath.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad.  I have no idea why he’s on my mind so much but he is.  Today was a very productive and active day.  We had our mid week worship, went to the Seniors Center for lunch (which is often the highlight of my day, if not my week).  I applied for a BC driver’s license.  I did laundry, chatted with a friend and tried to watch a movie.

I can’t settle.  I’m feeling tension in me, not a pain per se, but more of a level of anxiety.  And I’ve no idea why.

So I logged onto this blog and did a search with the tag “dad”.

We had a complicated relationship.  He was my idol and hero for many, many years.  When I was in my late 20’s I made a relationship decision that hurt him badly.  And so we did not speak for close to a decade.  When we began speaking again it was, initially awkward, but eventually we found a more comfortable place to be.

When we learned his anyeurism was not operable I tried to get Dad to plan his service.  It took nearly four years but we finally had the conversation.  And it went something like this…

ME:  So, Dad…

DAD:  What?

ME:  Have you given any thought to what you want for your service?

DAD:  No.

ME:  It’s something we need to discuss.

DAD:  I know.

ME:  When do you think you’ll want to discuss it.

DAD:  Not now.

ME:  Okay.  Maybe next time I’m here.

DAD:  Maybe.

We had this conversation likely a dozen times.  Finally I hit on an idea…

ME: Dad?

DAD: What?

ME:  Have you had a chance to think about what you want?

DAD: No.

ME:  Do you think we need to have this conversation or do you want to leave it with me?

DAD:  What do you mean?

ME:  Well, I’m thinking you can either tell me what you want, or I’ll do what I think you’ll want, which will definitely not be what you want.  Is that what you want?

DAD: No.

ME:  Okay then.  (silence)  Well?

DAD:  Well, what?

ME:  Your service?

DAD:  What about it?

ME:  Readings?  Hymns?  Homily?  Eulogy?  Location?  Party?  Interment?

DAD:  Don’t care.  My Way.  No Way.  Yes, you and David.  Legion.  One round on me.  At the Columbarium, but not the Legion one.

ME:  Thanks Dad.  What that so hard?

DAD:  No.

ME:  Good.

DAD:  So you’ll take care of it then?

ME:  Yes.

DAD:  Good.  (silence)  Don’t you have somewhere else to be?

And just so you know, the readings were carefully chosen by myself and approved by my family.  We played “My Way” when the service ended.  There was no homily.  Both my brother and I provided an eulogy.  The service was at the Legion with his ashes present.  As soon as the service ended, the bar was opened…and we raised a glass to Dad.  We found a niche in the Columbarium that was not visible from the road.  I think he would have liked that.

I was looking at the photograph we chose for his service.  It was taken after my Convocation from Seminary.  He’s sat outside, looking less than impressed, with a cigarette in his hand.  A picture that simply captured the essence of my Dad.  I believe it was my brother who took the photo.  I don’t have much of anything physical as a reminder of my Dad.   I have his university diploma which is framed and hangs proudly on the wall of my office.  I have the cigarette case my Mam gave my Dad when he graduated – the first university graduate in the family.  I have an ornament I gave him for Christmas many years ago that was given back to me.  And a cardigan with a hole in the elbow that he used to wear when he was marking.

But much more importantly than that I have my memories.  His stories, which he captured in words and I now have one of only three copies ever bound.  His story telling mannerisms.  His sense of humour.  His down to earth nature.  His ability to tell it like it is and, as I age, not care what people think…to a certain extent…okay, that one is still in process.

I miss my Dad.  This is one of those moments I often speak of with folks who are bereaved.  Grief will hit like a thief in the night.  And you will be left breathless.  And as suddenly as it came, it will leave.  And you will be alright.

I will be alright.

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Lent is my favourite season in the Church.  Holy Week is a marathon of services, in my case 10 services in 8 days.  By the end of the week I’m astonished, exhausted, relieved, overwhelmed and just about any other emotion you can imagine.  In short, I am absolutely spent.

Usually I don’t take too much time off after Easter because there’s always the next thing to do; Bible Study, homiletic preparation, study, liturgical preparation.  This year I decided to take 4 days off after Easter, but not all together.  And that was intentional.

Yesterday I took my first day trip south of the border since I moved to the small town in BC where I now reside.  It was wonderful.  Thankfully I had a tour guide who drove so I could oohh and aahh as we drove along.  Every now and then one of us would see something, and exclaim “LOOK”.  Then we’d stop the car, get out and look.

If I had to recreate the trip I likely could, with some consultation from the driver.  It was, all in all, a perfect day off.  I didn’t talk about work.  I didn’t think about work.  I simply was.  We gazed at vistas, mountains, trees, lakes, rocks, plains.  And marveled in the glory of God.

We talked as we traveled…okay I did most of the talking…and also enjoyed listening to music and traveling in silence.

Today I had great plans of things I was going to get done around the house…dusting, laundry, washing the floor…and I’ve decided instead to relax.  The housework will wait.  My dining room table needs cleaning off and the table cloth needs laundering, but it doesn’t need to happen today.

Today is about self-care.  It’s about resting.  Refreshing.  Relaxing.  Tomorrow I’m back at it, happily and Thursday I have Easter home communions, which I enjoy.  Then Friday and Saturday I’m off.  This time brings out my itchy feet…my wanderlust.  And while part of me would love to get in the car and go, my body is telling me to slow down and rest.

And *gasp*, I’m listening.

So I’ve made myself a cup of tea and will head over to the post office later and maybe pick up some bagels, but otherwise, I’m a home body today.

And that’s just grand!

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It is my tradition that on Good Friday black stones are given to the congregation.  They are invited to hold them in their hands and reflect on the last year.  Things we’ve done that we shouldn’t.  Things we should have done but didn’t.  Same for things spoken.  Every year I hold my stone throughout the service, usually holding it in my hand while I preach.  This year I didn’t do that.  I set it down at my seat and left it there.

During the service and the silence I was reflecting on how much has changed in my life over the past year.  Leaving my marriage, my home, my congregation and begin life again in a different place – a different province.

Today before I set my back stone down I kissed it.  And when I set it down I felt a large burden lift.  A burden of guilt, of shame, of self-loathing.  A burden of feeling I’m not good enough, thin enough, smart enough, simply not enough.  I may not an athlete or supermodel.  I may not the beautiful or even pretty. But I am who God made and I live the commandments by which God created me – to love God and to love my neighbour as myself.

I am enough.  I am me.  There’s only one me…and I’m good at that.  I’m a good priest, who is unabashedly in love with the LORD and who wants to be a beacon of light in a dark world.  I’m not anything special or incredible.  But I am me…and that is enough.

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is my favourite time of year.  It’s more work than Christmas…a LOT more work, and yet I feel a great sense of awe during this time.

My tradition has been to preside 10 services over 8 days.  Many think I’m nuts.  Some colleagues think I’m showing off or flaunting my piety, but it isn’t any of those things.  My Holy Week journey is intensely personal.  I suspect I would follow these services whether or not I was in a congregation.  It is something that I feel I ‘must’ do during Holy Week.

Last year was bittersweet as I knew I was in my last year with the congregation.  I had no idea where I was going, but I knew it would not be there.  It made the readings about death that much more poignant and made the Alleluia’s of Easter Day that much more bittersweet.

Now I have moved across the country.  I’m in a new province, in a new town, in a new house, in a new congregation.  They have not experienced anything like this before, and it’s been eye opening in many ways, for both of us.

Palm Sunday traditionally involves the Good Friday gospel.  In fact it’s referred to as the Sunday of the Passion with the Liturgy of the Palms.  I don’t like that.  So I separate them.  In my opinion, when you’re covering that much theological ground in an hour long service, you’re going to get whiplash.

Palm Sunday is about the “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem.  It’s about waving weeds in the air and shouting “Hosanna” to the one the poor knew was King…an act of defiance to the one (Herod) who was self-proclaimed King.  It’s about Jesus saying “here I am!  You want me, come and get me!” to the authorities.    It’s a nose-thumbing at the establishment of the day.

Holy Monday is the Stations of the Cross – 14 stations that are hung around the Church and we gather to retrace Jesus last footsteps from his trial before Pilate, to the three falls, seeing the women of Jerusalem, facing his devastated mother, being nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb…it’s emotional, it’s turbulent and it prepares us by helping put things in perspective.

Holy Tuesday is Tenebrae – service of shadows in which we light seven candles and place them on the altar.  No other altar lights are used.  The lighting in the Church is subdued and we have time for prayer, reflection and dialogue.  The question is asked “What if Jesus had said no” and we allow time to sit in the realisation that Jesus sacrifice was a gift.  When in the garden at Gethsemane Jesus pleads to be released and the answer he receives is deafening silence.  Like the rest of us, he had free will…he could have said no, in fact he tried to!  But in the end he stood up and did what he had to do; freely, willingly and lovingly.

Holy Wednesday is the night of Healing, Eucharist and Anointing – we gather to pray for those we know, those we don’t know, and for ourselves.  We ask forgiveness for the things we should have done but didn’t, and for the things we have done but shouldn’t.  We bring this darkness before the Lord and we are forgiven.  We can ask for prayers, laying on of hands and anointing, to remind us, as at our baptism, that we are God’s children…the beloved.

Maundy Thursday begins the Three Sacred Days, or Paschal Triduum.  The service opens as any other service does with a Processional Hymn.  Quickly though, it changes as we move through a reminder of Jesus command to service – we are called to serve, not to be served.  We them move into Eucharist, and I like to use one from Iona that is only used once a year.  After we have shared communion for the last time, the tone of the service changes as the Altar is stripped, the Lamentations are chanted and we are left with our thoughts.

The last thing that happens is for a bare cross to be carried up and left, without ceremony, against the chancel steps.  There is an overnight vigil at the Church so ensure the tomb is protected.

Good Friday we gather in silence and subdued lighting with a sense of loss and longing.  Although we live 2,000 years beyond the story, it is important to be reminded of why we do what we do, and for whom we do it.  The Gospel is read – it is long and onerous – and it tells a story of injustice and hatred.  We hear a homily about just what is so “good” about Good Friday and then we adorn the cross  with a sign, crown of thorns, three nails, royal purple, a towel and a stalk.  Black stones are distributed before service begins and there is a time for us to hold the stones and put all of that which we no longer wish to carry with us.  When the time is right, we come forward and place our black stone at the foot of the cross.  Then we pick up a white stone to remind us that through Christ we receive new life.

When the time is right we leave the tomb in silence and confusion.

Holy Saturday evening we gather where the new fire is kindled outside and light the paschal candle which will burn for the next 50 days.  We hear the Exultet chanted – an ancient story of this sacred night when heaven is wedded to earth and we are reconciled to God.  We go into the parish hall and share stories, songs and prayers from our ancestors, then we head upstairs and renew our baptism vows.  A traditional Holy Saturday bursts open the doors of the tomb and shows the resurrected space – life reborn in Christ.  My tradition is to stop at the door for two reasons – one is to prolong the suspense of the resurrected Christ and the other is to make sure there is the proper emphasis on the Day of Resurrection.  When I have celebrated the entire Holy Saturday service it is a long service, and somehow takes away from the celebration of the Day of Resurrection – Easter Day.

Before we depart we shout Alleluia and depart in hopeful expectation for the risen Lord whom we will see the following day.

Wherever you are on your Lenten and Holy Week journey, if you have never partaken in the Paschal Triduum, I invite you to do so.  It is an amazing time of reconciliation, of acknowledging our brokenness and truly understanding who we are and whose we are.  It is a lot of work to preside these services, and yet it is moreso very life giving.

We live in a time when there are more people than every who have never heard the gospel – the good news.  And it is our responsibility as people of faith, to share that story with them.  To show them that even in this broken world, we are loved; truly, unconditionally and that without fail, love always wins.

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I don’t mean that in a derogatory or negative way.  I look around me and I see people with huge lives, always running, busy, busy, busy.  In debt, in therapy, under stress to “keep up appearances” and I simply don’t understand that.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I wanted the best of everything.  The problem wasn’t that I wanted the best…but that I wanted EVERYTHING.  And I’m not (and never will be) in a financial position to buy everything that I see…everything that I want.  And that’s okay.  It’s better than okay.  It’s grand!

As I age my needs are simpler.  I need God, shelter, food, clothing and love.  Most everything else is a want.  I want classical music.  I want deep conversation.  I want meaningful relationships.  I want good food, with the occasional junk food meal thrown in.  I want hiking sticks, and good books.  I want breathtaking sunsets, meaningful liturgy and uncontrollable laughter.

I want memories, not things.

Because of where I now live, I can walk most everywhere, which I enjoy.  Even when it rains I can walk.

I have a small circle of friends.  I have a beautiful home in which to live.  I have a vehicle that gets me where I need to be when I can’t walk there.  I have love.  I have people that I can talk to about the things that matter.  I have food in my cupboard, money in my bank and even some in my pocket.  I have clothing.

When I look around I realise that life is not a competition.

I don’t want to be a competitive skier.  In fact, I don’t want to compete at anything.  I don’t want what “society” tells me I want and need to be happy.  I don’t need designer clothes.  I don’t need caviar (seriously, ick)  I don’t need fine china or expensive champagne.

When I look around my life I realise that for the first time in a long time I have enough.  I have exactly what I need and want in my life.  And that means everything to me.

Life, as they say, is grand.

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A little more than a week ago I came down with a cold.  No big deal, except this cold had fever, chills, nausea, and a bark-like cough.  Maybe it was more than a cold.  I don’t really know.  What I DO know is that it knocked me on my backside and I was down for the count.  As a rule, I don’t get really sick.  I’ll have a sore throat and some nasal discomfort that will last a few days, and I can usually work through it with little aggravation.

Not this.

I couldn’t read.  I couldn’t focus.  I certainly couldn’t drive.  I went to Church last Wednesday and was promptly sent home.  I guess I looked as bad as I felt.

Now, there was a time when I’d have fought tooth and nail to be there.  Not this time.  I was sick, I was tired and I needed rest.  When I realised I had two very capable people who could take the service for me I came home, changed into my pjs and went to bed.  I woke up 9 hours later feeling more like a human being.  But still not well.

I struggled through the rest of the week.  Drinking copious amounts of tea, water, eating toast.  Not really much of an appetite, and I was determined that I would be well enough for Sunday.  And I was.  Barely.

I preached and celebrated both services, but little else.  Thankfully I had licensed lay ministers who made sure the other parts of the service were covered.  It worked well.  And after service we postponed Bible Study, I came home and went to bed.

Monday was a full day, as was today.  Tomorrow is a full day, as is Thursday.  And Friday I’m finally getting my hair cut.

There was a time when I could shake off a cold.  I could fight through it.  Not anymore.  And as I reflect on how weak I still feel, I am horrified that I used to work when I was sick, so sick I would share my sickness so others would be sick.  That’s not good for anyone.

I finally got to the chiropractor and realised it had been two months since my last adjustment.  The intake process took the better part of an hour, and I was finally adjusted.  It was a loud adjustment and I felt much better.  Today I’m sore again, but thankfully I see my chiropractor again Thursday morning.

Now I need to find a registered massage therapist, a family doctor and a dentist and I think my health care team is in place.  One thing at a time.

I think I’m beginning to get the hang of this self-care model.  Look at me go!

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