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Posts Tagged ‘God’

I am blessed to receive four weeks of vacation every year.  Some of my colleagues take all four weeks at once.  I can’t do that.  I’m too much a creature of habit; of routine.

I usually take my vacation in blocks of two weeks…this year was no exception.

The first week I stayed with a friend and we did some day trips and worked around his house, getting some outdoor stuff done.  The weather was grand and we enjoyed exploring somewhat close to home.  The focus of that week was relaxing, unwinding and practicing Sabbath.

The second week I came home and challenged myself with a couple of hikes that were more difficult then I thought they’d be but learned a great deal about myself…I don’t have to walk all the way to the end to finish the hike.  I can turn around when I’m ready and I’ve still accomplished something.  I also did something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but was never able…I got two tattoos.  I’ll write more about them in another post.

I was back to work for a week, which wasn’t quite enough time to get things back organized, cleaned out my home office and it’s now quite efficient, clean and bright.  I love the space in there and working in it makes me very happy.  It also means I can relax in the living space of the rectory to try and separate work and home.

The third and fourth weeks of vacation I flew to Ontario and drove a lot.  I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see.  Some of the trip felt like I was attending Old Home Week as I drove across parts of Ontario I’d not seen in two decades.  I visited graves, places in which I’ve lived.  Hiked trails that I’d hiked before and explored new areas that I’d always wanted to but never made time.  The weather didn’t cooperate as much as I’d have liked it to, but it was still a good time away.

In reflecting on my vacation it was incredible.  I spent a great deal of time in prayer and have re-established meditative prayer.  I do this while walking and had forgotten how it makes my soul sing to pray while I walk or hike.

I’m practicing mindfulness in what I eat and in how I eat.  I’m walking every single day without exception and walking to places in the community when I can.

I very much missed my standard transmission car when I was away as I was driving an automatic transmission for the first time in years.  I kept forgetting to put it in park before I shut off the engine.  Ugh.

I learned that home is where I am.  It is not a far off destination.  It is not a house, a parent, a partner.  It is me.  And that makes me very happy.

The mountains are home to me.  I felt, at times, terribly homesick when I was back East.  I wasn’t sure if it was homesickness for a place I once knew, but eventually I realised that I was homesick for Fernie.  For the beautiful part of creation in which I now live.

As I drove home from Calgary I was giddy with the anticipation of seeing the mountains. Once I reached the Crowsnest Pass the smile on my face was broad and bright.  Climbing into my own bed made me deliriously happy and having a shower in my own bathroom meant all was right with the small world in which I live.

It was wonderful to visit places and see people I’d not seen in a long time.  And it was equally wonderful to put the key in lock and come home to my house.  A place I’ve not lived for that long and yet I can’t imagine leaving.  The Elk Valley is my home.  The mountains are my home.  They are a part of me as much as the air I breathe.  May it always be so.

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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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You don’t have to look far to stumble across Year in Review articles, posts and memories.

For a lot of the world 2016 was a bad year.  For me, it was a year of new beginnings.  This time last year I knew I was moving to British Columbia, and only about 10 other people did.  A handful from both congregations.  It was not an easy decision to make, to leave my parish, my friends and family behind.

God was beckoning me to something I had never experienced…I had always imagined if I was going to leave Ontario, it would be for the Maritimes, not the Mountains…and here I am.  The province of British Columbia is different.  I live about as East as you can and still be in BC.  I live about a south as you can and still be in BC.  The closest neighbouring “city” is an hour away (West).  I can get to the state of Montana in less than half an hour.

The climate here has reminded me of Northeastern Ontario.  Nearly two weeks of bitter cold, and bright sun.  A part on the furnace at the Church froze and we were without a furnace on Sunday.  So we all snuggled together on the side of the Church that still had heat and it was grand.

I’ve not written as much as I thought I would over this past year.  It’s been a year of firsts and yet my 9th year in ministry.  I’ve reflected on times as a student, a lay pastor, a summer pastor, a Deacon and a Priest.  It’s been wonderful participating in the life of the community; both of the Church and of Fernie itself.  I’m becoming “known” in the community, and in (mostly) good ways.

I am blessed to have made some friends here and one or two very close friends.  I have experienced a deep, abiding love from this congregation.  I’ve heard a few times “we’re so glad you came” and I feel very much the same.  2016 has been a year of transition, a year of anticipation, expectation, participation…moving with what could fit in my car plus another 20 or so boxes across the country to a furnished house.

Slowly, I am making this house a home…personal touches, hanging artwork, acquiring little things for the house.  I am able to keep in touch with my family and friends “back East” thanks to technology and even letter writing.

In speaking with a colleague and friend who was worried about me living so far from family and friends, he asked how I was doing.  I told him I was happy; truly happy for the first time in a very long time.

I am content in who I am.  In who God has called me to be and where God has called me to serve.  I am part of the LGBTQ+ community in Fernie and beyond.  I am part of the Arts community in Fernie and beyond.  I am joining the Symphony of the Kootenays Chorus in January.  I am a patron of the Arts Station, the Library and the Museum.

I have met people who love me and who I love.  And for that I feel incredibly blessed.

My Mam turned 80 in 2016 and I was able to be with her for her birthday in August.  I saw friends I had not seen in decades and it was wonderful.  And yet I found myself pining for the mountains.  When I flew over the Rockies towards home I felt a catch in my chest.  Is this where I was meant to be?  Driving from Cranbrook to Fernie, I saw the mountains again and felt as though I were home.  It was a wonderful feeling.

This winter I am going to learn to snowshoe.  I am going to explore hiking trails.  Some days I will stay inside, wrapped in a blanket and sip tea.  And some days I will laugh until my sides hurt, or cry until I can’t breathe.

Here, in the Elk Valley, is where God called me to be.  I am a child of God, created in God’s image, which is one of perfection.  I am waiting with baited breath for the birth of the one who will set us all free…waiting to receive the perfect gift.

I am nervous about my first Christmas in the West.  But I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and know I am loved.  I will look through the windshield more than the rear view mirror because 2017 will be my best year yet.  I will turn 50, I will savour every moment of every day.  I will continue to love and be loved.  I will continue to work towards the coming of God’s kingdom, knowing that together; heart to heart, hand in hand, we can and we will change the world.

From my heart to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy and Healthy New Year and a Blessed Epiphany.

 

 

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I tend to apologise, a lot.  Often for things I don’t need to.  I’m sorry… 🙂

Back when I still had a real job (before I answered God’s call to a life of service) I was the Administrative Assistant to one VP and five Managers.  It was a challenging job.  One of the things I learned early on was the VP was very particular about how she wanted things done.  I learned that if she received an apology for something that had gone wrong she would often take the news much better.  So I became the department apologist.

When I left the working world (to enter the vocation of the priesthood) I continued to be an apologist…for the Church, for my denomination, for God, and for the world.  And you know what?  It’s exhausting.

I am the first to apologise when I’ve done something wrong.  I think it’s important to acknowledge when I’ve done something that may have hurt someone, especially if it was unintentional.  I also think it’s important to acknowledge someone’s hurt, even if I’m not the one that’s hurt them.

A few years ago I had a discussion with a friend of mine that got heated and some very hurtful things were said to me.  I apologised for my friend being upset, but didn’t stand up for myself and challenge how I had been hurt by what was said.   A few days later I did confront them (gently) and their reply was “I’m sorry you’re hurt”.  That statement hurt almost as much as the other statements.  What I wanted to hear was “I’m sorry I hurt you” or “I’m sorry what I said hurt you”.  But instead I’m feeling guilty for sharing my feelings of hurt and in that guilt I almost apologised…I say almost because I didn’t.

Sometimes I wonder why I apologise so much.  There are things for which I have no control…I can’t control my height…my hair colour…my sexuality…my left-handedness.  I can control my hair colour (until I decide to stop colouring it).  I can control what I eat and how much I exercise.

I know I am not society’s “ideal” anything.  And in fact, I take some pride in that.  I am unique in who I am.  There is not another me in the world…and I thank God for that.

I refuse to apologise for my size.  For how I dress.  For what I say (unless it is something hurtful).  For who I love.  For my faith.  For my denomination.

Yesterday I was getting a pedicure and was sitting next to a lady who looked to be about the same age.  We were talking about the freedom that comes with aging.  I’m much less self-conscious about how I dress now then I’ve ever been.  I really don’t care how people look at me.  I temper what I say carefully (most of the time) to not intentionally upset or inflame, yet I don’t apologise for speaking from my heart.

One of the most powerful homilies I preached contained the phrase “If you speak the truth in love, you will always find the strength to speak the truth”.  This phrase was repeated multiple times in the course of the homily.  And I still believe it to be true.

Many of my opinions may not be popular opinions.  Much of what I do may not be perceived as important or necessary  or relevant in society.  And I’m okay with that. I am who God created.  I am my father’s daughter, with my sarcastic humour and ferocious protection of the innocent.  I am my mother’s daughter, with my blunt speech and fierce determination.  But most of all, I am me.

And for that I will not apologise.

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When I was Chaplain at Diocesan Church Camp nearly 10 years ago, there was a favourite hymn we sang during communion…very simple tune, very simple words…

Let it rain, let it rain, open the floodgates of heaven and let it rain…

I had the honour, for several years, of being invited back during Staff Training Week to celebrate Eucharist and inevitably the song “Let it Rain” would be shared.  It was awesome.  Occasionally, one of the staff would rap the words to Jesus Loves Me over the melody and while it may sound strange, it was actually very powerful…

Jesus loves me, when I’m good, when I do the things I should

Jesus loves me, when I’m bad, even though it makes Him sad.

Let it rain, let it rain, open the floodgates of heaven and let it rain…

It’s been raining here for more than a day.  It started raining last night and has continued.  Usually I walk to the nursing home for the service on the 4th Sunday, but today I decided to drive because it was raining hard, was cold and I was simply feeling lazy…

I’m not sure what’s up, but my get up and go has got up and gone…I’m feeling lethargic, tired and somewhat cranky.

Let it rain…let it rain…open the floodgates of heaven and let it rain…

Today is also Trinity Sunday, one of, if not THE most difficult homily to preach.

How do you describe something that is indescribable?  One person who is three persons?  One being who his three beings?  Huh, what?  Father, Son and Holy Spirit?  Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier?

I pulled out an ancient source the Creed attributed to St. Athanasius.  It has 42 petitions that attempts to describe and define the Trinity.  It’s wordy, and awkward, and frustrating. I started reading it in Church today and at the half-way point, dropped the service book on the floor, threw my hands up and said “I give up”.

Let it rain…let it rain…open the floodgates of heaven and let it rain…

Then I started talking about relationships.  For Lent I challenged the congregation to deepen their relationship with God…yes, the Triune God.  I suggested that when we strive to identify or label something, sometimes it diminishes the significance of that relationship.  So perhaps we are better to not label it, but simply to explore and enjoy it.

Was it a cop out?  Possibly.  Did I cheat the congregation?  I don’t think so.

Will I preach the Trinity next year?  Um, not likely.  But then again, I do love a good challenge.

I am supposed to go out of town tomorrow to do some exploring.  The weather forecast is the same for tomorrow as it is for today…generally I like doing things in the rain…I love to dance in the summer rain…but this rain is definitely not dancing rain…it’s ch-ch-ch-chilly.

So I may instead spend the day relaxing.  Maybe a few chores around the house, yoga, writing, meditation, soak in the tub, movie watching, perhaps a short walk…I have provisions in the house so I don’t have to go out.

Regardless, tomorrow is a day off.  A day relaxation.  A day to unplug and simply be.  Perhaps part of my day will be spent staring out the window, watching the rains fall…

Let it rain…let it rain…open the floodgates of heaven, and let it rain…

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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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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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