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Posts Tagged ‘Beloved’

Today is Good Friday, the middle part of the Triduum (Three Sacred Days).  Last night was Maundy Thursday and we gathered to hear readings, sing a hymn or two and many of those assembled allowed me to wash their feet.  It has become my practice that when I do so I tell them how much they mean to the congregation, to the community, to God and to me.  And then I kiss their feet.

For the first time a member of the congregation asked if she would wash my feet.  I stammered “Uh, yes, thanks” and she did for me what I had done for her.  Needless to say we were both in tears by the time she was finished.

After the footwashing was finished it was time to exchange the peace and move to the Holy Table for the sharing in communion, the last time we will do so before Easter.  It was moving and powerful as always and yet as I looked into the congregation I saw something I had not seen before.  I saw unity…love…family.

After Communion we sang another hymn, then as I chanted the Lamentations for Maundy Thursday the congregation, without saying a word, stripped the altar and altar space.  And by the time I finished chanting…it was over.  The area was clear.  The brass was taken downstairs where it will be cleaned this afternoon.  The frontal was removed and put away.  The cross was draped.  All without a word spoken.  A vigil was held in the Church overnight to keep watch over the empty wooden cross that is at the chancel steps.

Today is a difficult service…we gather in the plain space to adorn the cross…we will hear the gospel…the agony of the garden…we will hear just what is so good about Good Friday.  And we will meditate and pray on our own infirmities, failings and hopefulness.

We will take a black stone each at the beginning of service and hold it through the time of service.  And when the time is right we will leave that black stone at the foot of the cross and pick up a white stone.  The black stone is to leave all our shame, sorrow, pain, fear and sin at the foot of the cross.  We will then pick up a white stone to carry with us, reminding us that we are God’s own Beloved.  We are brothers and sisters of Christ.  He died that we may know eternal life.  And we will carry this stone with us throughout the year to remind us that we don’t need to carry our burdens, we can lay them at the cross.

After service I’ll be learning how to polish brass.  Then I’m going to do some housework that I’ve been neglecting.  Then I’m taking a long hike in the wilderness.  Then I’ll be home to relax for the rest of the day.

I will not eat today until after the sun sets.  Good Friday is one day when I fast.  I will take water with me on my hike.  But food will not cross my lips until the sun sets.

Know this…wherever you are on your life’s journey, you are a Beloved child of God.  You are created in God’s image which is perfection.  You nothing to deserve this honour, but it is yours and you cannot pay a monetary amount for it, but you can give your life to service.  None of us are perfect.  And yet we receive God’s love and grace.

Tomorrow night we will gather outside to light the new fire and bring light into the darkness.  We will gather in the Parish Hall and hear the stories of our ancestors, pray and sing and then we will come upstairs to renew our baptismal vows.  But the tomb will remain sealed….it’s not yet time…for that we must return on Sunday.

Know that you are loved.  Always have been.  And always will be.  Amen.

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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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When I was recently away for two weeks I read a book that changed my focus and, in fact, my life.  Since that time I’ve been back at work, working as hard as before, but with a better sense of peace.  I am able to recognize things within my control and much more often, things outside my control.

I no longer feel the need to micromanage everyone around me.  My house is a mess, there is dog hair everywhere, but instead of fretting about it, I go for a walk, meditate or pray.  I watch a movie or read a book.  And then I vacuum or sweep the floor.  My “must do” list is much shorter than my “may do” list.

I’m eating healthier, drinking lots of water and moving my body every day.  I no longer race around, I walk, sometimes at a good clip, other times barely above a saunter, and take in my surroundings.  I stop to smell a flower or say hello to a dog (always with permission of the dog’s owner).  I say yes to meeting a friend for coffee and then walk to our meet (if at all possible).  I’ve stopped taking responsibility for other people’s actions and reactions.

In short, I’m regaining control of my life and letting go of the things that have cause me distress and devastating unhappiness.  I have finally realised that the only person responsible for my happiness is me.  Those two weeks away meant I could unwind and simply be.  I reordered my priorities and now I’m quite near the top of the list.

The realisation that I’m a priority, and by spending time doing things that make me happy is not selfish, but necessary.  Doing that helps me remember my balance and priorities.  I’m worth it.

I will never be an extreme athlete.  It’s not something for which I strive.  I will never be a cover model.  I will never be the size I was in high school again.  And that’s okay.  I’m overweight.  Or maybe I’m undertall?  Either way my goal is to be happy, not because of a dress size or numbers on a scale.  More than happiness I crave peace and calm.

I still have a riotous sense of humour that can come out in unexpected and often inappropriate places.  I’m unique.  I’m quirky.  I’m weird.  I’m different.  In short, I’m me.

My choice is to seek the good in every situation.  And in every person.  Every day I give thanks for something…it may be something small or something huge.  But it’s something.

I try not to take anything for granted.  I try to celebrate something in every day.  Yes, there are times when I will be hurt.  Yes, there are times when I will hurt other people.  But I truly believe if you speak the truth in love, you will always find the strength to speak the truth.

This next year will be about changes.  Some internal, some external.  All good.  All healthy.  All God-given.

Look at me go!

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As a depressive I was shocked and saddened at the death of Robin Williams.  I was disgusted with a lot of the media coverage and especially of the term “commit suicide”.  To use the phrase “commit suicide” is to incur that a crime was committed.  He didn’t break the law.  Robin Williams died from side effects of deep depression.  I read a great deal of articles that talked about how “selfish” he was, because he took his own life.

There is no doubt in my mind that Robin Williams was loved.  He was loved by his wife and family, his co-workers and his fans. The fact that he struggled with depression and addiction all of his adult life meant that he found it difficult to love himself.

What most people don’t understand is that depressives are often great actors.  We force ourselves to clean ourselves up, pull ourselves together and face the world with a smile.  The saddest part of Robin Williams suicide is that he is, in some cases, being vilified after his death.  And that is repugnant.

He suicided, because he could no longer find the strength to pretend.  Chances are, when he made the decision to suicide his behaviour changed.  He appeared to be “better”.  He appeared happier, more like his “old self”.  This happens when someone who has been in such pain for so long has decided how they will escape that pain.  A great burden is released, a weight lifted and there is finally relief.

Some articles suggested that he had it all.  While that may be true, he, most likely, did not feel deserving.  He had an incredible gift; the gift to help people escape the misery of everyday life and laugh.  He knew he was loved by so many people but he could not love himself.

When depression appears it is usually unexpected, and it can feel like staring into a deep, dark precipice.  It can feel like a dark cloud descending, smothering the light and all air.  It can start slowly, like a long, slow dive.  It can be a sudden shock, like a trip, stumble and fall.  Regardless, depression is not something that you can “snap out of” or “think happy thoughts” and be instantly better.

You don’t have to go far to hear platitudes that all we need to do is to love one another.  I am a big believer that love can change the world.  In my heart, I believe that if we each did our part and started from a place of love we would solve many of the world’s conflicts.  Robin Williams was loved.  He loved many people.  Just not himself.

In his case, and in the case of many depressives, when things are bad, at their darkest, it is then that hopelessness takes over.  How can I love my neighbour as myself, when I don’t love myself?  How can I be a Christian when I cannot follow the basic tenet of Jesus?  Sometimes we cannot love ourselves.  And the worst part is, no-one can do it for us.

We do the best we can with the gifts that God has given us.  And occasionally we stumble and fall.  Sometimes we need to stay down for awhile, but we cannot unpack and take up residence there.  At times like this it is imperative to seek help, and yet, it is counterintuitive to reach out because every ounce of energy is being used up staying upright and breathing.

There are days when it feels like the sun will never shine again.  There are times when it feels like you will never smile again.  These are the times when we should reach out and trust, but the disease can be so crippling that it renders us completely immobile.

I believe, in my heart, that Robin Williams is now in paradise.  He is in a place where there is no such thing as depression. He is free of the demons that haunted him and ultimately led him to die.

My prayer is that we who are depressives find the strength, somehow, to reach out when we are hurting.  My prayer is that those who know a depressive will recognise the signs when they are on a downward slope, and reach out.  You don’t have to say anything.  Advice will likely not be heard.  All you can do is be present, listen and remain in the silence.  Words won’t fix depression.  There are treatments, but there is no cure.

If you are reading this and feeling the darkness descend, take a moment and reach out.  Text, email or call a friend.  Tell them you need them.  And they will come.  

If someone reads this and reaches out to you because they are frightened and vulnerable, go to them.  Be calm, be non-anxious, and non-judgmental.  It took an inordinate amount of energy to reach out.  Respect the incredible gift of trust that has been bestowed upon you.  Be prepared for silence…for anger…for frustration.

When someone is hurting, sometimes love does not seem to be enough.  Robin Williams could not love himself enough to stay.  He suicided because he felt there was no point in continuing.  He was not selfish or self-centred.  He was not seeking attention.  He could no longer handle the pain of the disease.  And so he ended it.  The world mourns the loss of a comedic legend.  Please do not let his death be in vain.

If you are someone who struggles with depression, find a person who you trust, that can support you.  When things start to get bad, reach out.  Be open and honest.  And receive the love they will give you with grace.

If you know or love someone who is depressive, learn their cycles and emotional swings.  If you see them struggling, reach out to them.  Be reassuring.  Remind them you love them.  Ask nothing in return.  Sit in silence, become comfortable in that silence.  And know you are not alone in supporting them.  Know that you are loved.  And so are they.  By the one who created us, died for us and loves us unconditionally. God. 

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My dreaded insomnia has returned. Yesterday my Beloved and I saw our marriage counsellor and, as usual, I ended up in tears. It was horrible. But at least now I have a plan for recovery. I am completely exhausted and am taking time to be well. Finally.

The shelves in my living room have all been dusted and cleaned. The books that felt overwhelming have been pared down and put on the shelves in the living room. I have many books that now need new homes. They are all askew on shelves in the home office, and for now, that’s how they’ll stay. Eventually I will invite a select few to come and peruse and what they don’t take will be donated to a Christian bookstore.

I am a keeper of paper. I’m not sure why, but I am. I have an attachment to it like nothing else in my life. Last night I went to bed at my usual time, following my usual routine, but woke up fretting, about 2:30 am. I got up and tried to read, but I couldn’t concentrate. So I went into the home office which now has empty floor space and started going through boxes. It was meant to be one box, but I sorted through four banker boxes of paper. Notes from my undergraduate days. Notes from my MDiv. Essays, stories, sheet music, all kinds of things were found.

Evaluations from CPE and SPE. Report cards, certificates of merit. I pulled out of each box what I “had” to keep…what was still meaningful to me. When I was finished, I had filled three of the four banker boxes with paper to be shredded/recycled. I also pared down my home files…most of which will be going to the Church as that’s where they should be. Some for which I have electronic copies, I have set aside for shredding. I don’t need the hard copy.

This morning my Beloved loaded the three boxes into the back of my car. Later this morning I am going to take them to a stationary store that does shredding. And I won’t look back.

This simplification process is going really well. Now mind you, there are two boxes upstairs and two downstairs that need attention. They have memorabilia that have been meaningful to me for a long time. One day I will go through them and sort out what I must have and give away what no longer holds the same meaning.

There will always be something else to sort out, something else to clean up and something else to simplify. I must say this process has been very enlightening and lightening, in every way possible.

This is the summer of my simplification. And so far, it is going very well. Full steam ahead.

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