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Archive for April, 2016

For many years I have closed off parts of myself…parts that held secrets or had been damaged.  Parts that I felt were no longer a part of me…that impeded me being who I have chosen to be.

Until recently…

Moving West has been, in many ways, a re-birth for me.  When I was packing up the myriad of books that have traveled with me for decades, I came across my old sketch pad from the early days at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.  The pastels were dried up and useless, and yet the drawings held as much emotion as they had when I first drew them.  I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure what some of the images represented…and then I read the titles of the pieces…and a switch flicked.

I adore the mountains…and I’m feeling a creative part of myself awaken to capture them.  I’m not artistically talented in any way, and I have no idea what the images will look like when they are finished…but I do look forward to the creative process once again.

My wardrobe consists of predominantly black and neutral pieces…the occasional burst of yellow or orange.  I liken my wardrobe to that of a female robin…subdued.  However, I do have one dress that is my favourite…it’s a subdued rainbow tie-dye dress that I absolutely adore.  I bought it because it was on sale, and because it made me smile.  And yet I didn’t wear it much because I was uncomfortable attracting attention to myself.

When I was paring down my wardrobe I had to keep the dress, which actually surprised me.  That dress and a very feminine summer dress that I’ve had for decades made the cut.  So far it’s not been warm enough to wear the summer dress although I have worn the rainbow dress a couple of times.  In fact, I’m going to wear it for my induction with a light coloured clergy shirt.

I feel as though I am shedding the extra winter layers for the bright and beautiful promise of summer.  I’m wearing dresses with shorts instead of tights, and I’m walking a little bit straighter, head a little bit higher.  I’m stopping to smell and admire flowers and ask to pet dogs.

After a long, long, dark moment of grief I have emerged and reawakened — as a flower pushing against the newly warmed ground, seeking the sun and the promise of warmth on my skin…the feeling of rain refreshing and washing away the doubt and debris.

I am coming alive in ways I thought were finished for me…in ways I never imagined were possible, never mind wanted…and yet – here I am.

The colours that surround me seem brighter.  The sun and sky clearer.  The air sweeter.  The water cooler.  The grass smoother.  After a long, hard hibernation, I am daring to push my head against that which has held me down and embrace the new life which flows from within me.

I am alive.  And it is grand.

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I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It is not who I am .  It does not define me.  And yet there are days when I really feel it.  Since moving west I’ve moved my body more than ever and I’m loving how my body is responding.  My skin is glowing, I’m drinking lots of water, eating fresh foods wherever possible, getting outside into the sun or rain and walking most everywhere.

When I first got here I was absolutely exhausted.  The Archbishop asked if my soul had caught up with my body from all the traveling, and when I stopped to ponder his words I realised that it had not.  And that was sad.  So I rested myself more than usual, took things slower and generally listened to my body.

One of the challenges with CFS is chronic pain.  It’s manageable…I’ve lived with it for 18 years.  Most days, once I get moving, it’s barely noticeable and so, I’ll admit, I get a bit cocky…and then that’s when my old friend returns.

Late nights, early morning, poor nutrition choices, overloaded work schedule, stress, etc. etc. etc. and soon the dance of fatigue becomes more complicated.

Last night was one of those nights.  I found my body getting heavy.  I found my ability to concentrate diminished. I fought to stay alert and when I started to lose my horizon I lay down.  It took me a little while to figure out which way was down, but once I did, gravity did the rest.  I slept deeply, heavily for a couple of hours.  Woke up refreshed and needing the bathroom.  Returned to bed and slept deeply again…glorious, restful sleep.

So today as I look at my schedule for the week, I’m going to be a bit more gentle with myself.  I’m still going to walk, but not push myself…life is a marathon, not a sprint.  I’m going to eat food I enjoy, and savour it.  I’m going to begin to journal again, noting the joy and challenge in my life.  And I’m going to live.

Slowly, I’m learning to reframe my language into something that is positive.  A wise friend recently commented that language and words define our power…define our reality.  And it’s so true.  “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is a fallacy and a damaging one at that.

My biggest critic is the negative self-talk that permeates my being.  Instead of building walls to keep people out, I’m going to build walls to surround the negative self-talk.  I will acknowledge it, dismiss it, and move on with my life.

A challenge?  Most definitely.

Do-able?  Absolutely.

Because I choose to be happy.  The only actions I control are my own.  And so I will choose to come from a place of love — always.  I will choose to come from a place of peace, of hope and of joy.

Oh there will be bad days…but they will not define me.  Like my CFS does not define me.  Right now we’re dancing the CFS is leading, but not for long.  And when that dance concludes, I’ll send him home.  Then I’ll continue to dance the dance of unbridled joy…perhaps even dancing in the rain.

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In the parish where I serve there are stained glass windows in a triptych behind the altar.  There is also one in the large window of the Gathering Space.  There are large windows at the back/front of the church where the morning sun pours through, bathing the sanctuary in light.

Some Sundays the sun is so bright you can’t quite see.  Makes negotiating the chancel steps a challenge.

Yesterday we had the young grand-daughter of parishioners visiting.  N is absolutely adorable, a little blonde angel.  Through the service she sat at the back with Nana and played, chatting happily about everything around her.  It was a joyful noise.  The happy sound of a child at play brings such joy to a world-weary heart.  I noticed many parishioners nodding and smiling as she was playing…not a worry or care in the world.

When it was time to sing the Eucharistic prayer she hopped off her Nana’s lap and came towards the sound of the singing.  Her blonde pigtails glowing with the vast sunlight, making everything seem bathed in gold.  She looked up at me, at one point, and while I continued singing, I gestured for her to come forward.  She did.  She spotted her Papa and climbed the chancel stairs gleefully to be scooped into his arms while the congregation sang.

Once the Eucharistic prayer was finished she wiggled down and ran back to Nana at full speed, her tiny feet thumping against the carpet and wooden floor.  It was a moment of absolute joy and absolute bliss.  I felt honoured to be in the place where I could see something so innocent and lovely.

In many ways, her approach to the table was very much like life.  She was drawn to something uncertain, the unknown, and she came towards it, tentatively at first, then with more curiosity.  Finally seeing the one she loves and she’s embraced into a safe and joyous place.

When her curiosity is sated she is happy to run back to report what she had seen, much like the women who gathered at the empty tomb on that first Easter Day.

May we always remember the joy and purity of innocence.  May we embrace our own joy and wonder at that which surrounds us.  Life is about discovery.  May we always embrace that absolute joy.

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In the community where I live, life is different.  Time is measured differently in astonishing and incredible ways.  Where I’m from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is something that is recognized in each worshiping community, but not together.  Here, the community meets in one worshiping community and five others lead a brief morning worship followed by a soup lunch, catered by that community.

Monday was the Salvation Army and the service was lovely.  Sang two well-loved hymns, heard a great message and enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship.  I wasn’t able to attend Tuesday as I had Clericus out of town.  Wednesday the Roman Catholic Church presided and it was a more familiar format, with two well-loved hymns sung and a terrific message.

Today is my turn.  And being the first time, I am, of course, agonizing on what do to.  Which format?  One that is familiar to Anglicans?  Write a new one?  Something universal? And then I realise I’m trying to be all things to all people…and I can’t do that.  I don’t do that…or at least, I don’t do it well.

So, I decided it was time for me to have some fun.  The liturgy we use is fixed.  It is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, and yet there are times when I want…no, when I need to shake things up.  Today’s liturgy is cobbled together from two resources and I’ve tied it together with my own writing.  It’s simple, powerful, meaningful.  There will be chanting, call and answer, moving, swaying, a reflection, a time of participation, and of course, there will be dancing.

Because what is life if you can’t get out there and shake your tail feather every now and then?

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Before I moved west I was a basket case.  There were specific reasons for this, mostly involving my home life, but I was also struck by how incredibly tired I was.  Perpetually weary, I dreaded mornings and longed for my bed…sweet escape of sleep.

I still served my congregation and I was still pretty good at it…but I felt overwhelmingly empty.  I would work, and work, and work.  And never seem to finish anything.  I’d be filled with guilt if I didn’t return a phone call or respond immediately to an email.  It was frustrating and soul-rendering.  And I could not, for the life of me, figure out why.

I made a promise to myself when I made the decision to move parishes, that I would establish good boundaries, good life balance and try to be better at this whole life thing.  That began with the drive.  My traveling companion and I stopped every day, at some point during the trip, to discover something…and usually to laugh.  We stopped as close to dark as we could and explored wherever we were.  We would take a swim, find something for dinner, and otherwise decompress from the day.

When I got here I was conscious of my time.  And so was the rest of the congregation and community.  When I met with my Regional Dean he offered to be part of my self-care team.  He would hold me accountable to taking day(s) off and caring for myself as much as I care for the community.  I readily agreed.  And, for the record, he does make sure I take my days off.  And that at least once a week, I do something fun, just for myself.

In all fairness, the respect in this is mutual and I encourage the same from him.

Usually Easter Monday I’m exhausted.  I take to my bed and stay there, completely worn out from over-extending myself during Holy Week.  This year that didn’t happen.  I was intentional in taking time during Holy Week to focus on what was most important and didn’t fill my calendar with “should do” events.  Everything on my calendar was “must do”.  And that made a huge difference.

Easter Monday I had an opportunity to take a day trip south of the border…somewhere I had never been before.  I went and the experience was amazing.  There was a great deal of sightseeing.  There was laughter, conversation, music, prayer, absolute joy.  When I got home from that near perfect day I felt relaxed, refreshed, peaceful.  I felt peace-filled!  I felt unadulterated joy.  BALANCE!

If you’ve looked at the word cloud, one of the largest words is Balance.  It is something I seek and something for which I am very mindful.  I don’t always achieve balance.  I do my best.  Lately, I’m getting better with it.  And that makes me feel like I’m on top of the world.

For me, one of the biggest lessons learned is that I don’t have to do it all *gasp*.  And it will still be okay.  Another of the lessons is that if I don’t take care of myself, I cannot take care of others. *shock*  Taking time for me, sets a good example for the congregation.  Taking time for me means I can be happy in myself and therefore of higher service to my congregation, friends and family.  And especially in right relationship with my God.

My routine lately is to wake a bit early, give thanks for the day, say morning devotions and prayers.  Get up, dressed, and walk, sometimes to the chiropractor, sometimes to the post office.  As part of every day I get outside, whether it’s raining, sunny, windy.  Even if just for 20 minutes I get outside.  I’m drinking more water.  I’m consuming less caffeine.  I’m moving my body more.  I’m slowing down and savouring everything around me.  I’m aware, I’m mindful.  I’m happy…I’m peaceful.  I’ve found balance!

Everything around me looks brighter, clearer, more awesome, every single day.  And for that I am eternally grateful.

Thanks be to God.

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In many parts of the Church, the second Sunday after Easter is filled with “Holy Humour”.  I have a colleague who writes a short sermon and intersperses it with jokes, quips and aphorisms.

I think it’s wonderful to laugh…and especially in Church.  Don’t get me wrong, what I do, I do with great love and affection.  With great respect and devotion.  And with absolute mindfulness.  Where I currently serve, I have two services on Sunday mornings.  The first service is from the Book of Common Prayer, written in 17th century vernacular.  Kind of Shakespearean in language, but we don’t speak like that anymore.  And yet, there is a beauty to the rhythm of the language.

At the second service we use the more contemporary Book of Alternative Services.  Both books are incredible in their own ways.  The services are moving and beautiful.  And there are times when laughter can be introduced intentionally…or even unintentionally.

Today, the gospel reading was about Thomas, who is also known as the Doubter.  “Don’t be a Doubting Thomas” kind of thing.  A great story that, I believe, is often misunderstood.  Thomas is accused of doubting Jesus, but in fact, I believe he is doubting his friends.  They had just been through the most frightening time of their lives and they are gathered again in the upper room to regroup and figure out what happened and what to do next.

Jesus appears to them, out of thin air, shows them the wounds on his hands and side and breathes the Holy Spirit on them.  Thomas isn’t present at that moment.  What I think happened is that Thomas came back and they said “Guess who was here?”

Thomas says, “I don’t know, who was here?”

They say “Jesus”.

Thomas says “No way!”

They say “Ya-weh”.

Theologians or Hebrew scholars will be groaning.  Yaweh is another way to pronounce the Holy name of God.

Today I threw this joke out when I was preaching and only one person got it right away.  The overemphasis from me made it humourous to the rest of the congregation.  The joke itself failed.  The attempt to make it was successful.

I don’t tell jokes each week…in fact, I rarely do.  But we live in a time of such angst, anxiety and strife.  We live in a place where we fear for our safety and don’t trust anyone…and that’s not right.  We will lock ourselves away for fear of the stranger, just as the disciples did after Jesus arrest.  And we will lost the innocence and the humour in who we are.

That is devastating.

We were created in God’s image, which is nothing short of perfection.  Not in a societal standard, but in a way of love.  We were loved into being from the Divine, who could not imagine a world without us.  That should be celebrated.  That should be cherished.  That should make us feel incredible.  That should be celebrated!

And so, when you venture into God’s house, please think of it as a place of worship, of fellowship, of humour.  We know God has a sense of humour…otherwise how do you explain the platypus?  An animal made up of leftover parts…beaver’s tail, duck’s bill, etc.

Way to go God!  Thanks for the sense of humour!  Keep up the grand work!

Alleluia!!!  Let’s dance!

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Insomnia…really?

Again?  Didn’t we dance this dance the other night…

I thought we had an understanding, you and me.  I would take better care of myself, exercise every day, get outside every day, limit caffeine, eat real food, drink water.  Okay, I’m not perfect but I’m better than I was.  Yes, yes, I had coffee today, which for the record, was gross and I only drank 1/3 of it.  It was SUPPOSED to be steeped tea.  What happens when you go to the drive-thru…you get SCREWED at the drive-thru…

I’m not drinking as much water as I should…but I’m drinking some.

So, how about your end of the bargain, eh?

If I do the aforementioned, you are supposed to blanket me with deep, restful sleep for at least 7 hours.  I’ll even get up to use the bathroom if I can slip back into sleep.  But not lately.  Jackass.

I don’t understand the problem.  Room is cool.  Relatively dark.  Bedding and pjs are clean.  To Do list is made for tomorrow.  Clothes are laid out.  WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

WHY can’t I shut off this brain of mine…no wonder it’s addled…can I get a dimmer switch installed?

ARGH!

Well, as I’m not getting answers from you, I think I’ll do some research…maybe about dimmer switches…  I’ll read my daily meditation and once I get my shoulders to come down from around my ears, I’ll go upstairs and try this blasted sleep thing again.

The problem is, if Insomnia decides to stick around…what’s my recourse?  Afternoon nap?  Back to sleeping pills?  Ick.

*sigh*

*whimper*

*growl*

*sigh*

Okay, insomnia.  I’m not (that) angry anymore…can we call it a truce?  At least until the next full moon?

 

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