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Posts Tagged ‘love’

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for awhile…apparently a few months.  From the last time I blogged time has flown.  There’s been a wonderful community event called Chautauqua, the adoption of an 11 year old Domestic Shorthair cat called Buddy, the Ordination of our Deacon, a terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of three men, a Memorial Service for those men, and a surprise birthday party for my 50th.

Chautauqua took on a life of it’s own this year in a new format that had all events taking place in the historic downtown core.  The Fall Fair took place the same weekend and the grounds at City Hall were filled with animals of all shapes and sizes, vendors showing their wares, artists and crafters showing their trades and a community out to enjoy a beautiful Autumn celebration.  My little parish hosted the Community Ecumenical Service and it was an absolute success.  Folks started coming in just before the official event time and kept coming in for the first 20 minutes.  It was glorious.  We finished the service in time to get to the Senior’s Centre that was hosting a High English Tea.  A Harvest Supper at the Catholic Church rounded out a weekend filled with activity, history, wonder and joy.

Buddy is a cranky black cat, missing one canine tooth who was looking for a forever home.  The other cats on the SPCA website were all cuddly and adorable.  Buddy looked at the photographer like he could care less…or if he had pose-able digits would have raised his middle finger.  He’s cranky, he hisses a lot, has a mean meow and reminds me of my late father.  So of course, I was hooked.  He doesn’t like being picked up…or touched…I am allowed to pet him within very strict parameters that I have not yet learned.  He’s not particularly patient with me, hence the hissing.  He likes to hide under the dining room table.  He likes to be in the same room as me, but not too close.  He’s afraid of the mop and the vacuum and doesn’t climb.  So far so good…but I’m unsure of his assessment of me as his staff.  After all, they say dogs have owners and cats have staff.

Ordination is one of the great celebrations of the Church.  A faithful woman of God was Ordained in Christ’s Holy catholic Church and we gathered to celebrate.  We sang her favourite hymns, surprised her with an Anthem.  She was feted and celebrated and the parish commissioned a red Deacon’s stole for her which she helped to design.  An absolutely gorgeous design featuring flames and doves in shades of red, blue and white.  Absolutely spectacular for an absolutely spectacular child of God.

On the 17th of October my brother was returning to Calgary after visiting me overnight.  I took him to see the Church and he signed the Guest Book.  I went to a meeting at a Retirement home across the street from the local Arena.  Little did I know that our community would be rocked to it’s very core that day.  The winds were high and sky was a strange colour.  The atmosphere around town was eerie.  Hurricane force winds blew the power out twice and we were in the dark for a couple of hours the second time.  I was checking my Facebook feed and saw that there had been an accident at the Arena and the surrounding neighbourhood had been evacuated…including the residents I had visited earlier that day.  I went to the evacuation centre and tried to provide some comfort, some humour and a few hugs.  Three men died that day.  They went to work and didn’t come home.  And even now, months later, there is still a void in the community.  The residents returned home within a week, but there is still a sense of unease.  However, this community did what it does best and came together in a show of support.  We will always remember those who died, but too will we remember the community that showed support and love to one another.  The road is long before us but we will get there…together.

A Community Memorial Service was held on the 12th of November on the grounds of the high school.  It was damp, overcast, chilly day but there was an air of hope.  The community choir sang, my United Church colleague and I offered prayer at the beginning and ending of the service.  Three eulogies were shared, many tears were shed and a group of strangers gathered as family.

I don’t like surprise parties…especially when I’m the one being surprised…but that’s exactly what happened on the 25th of November, the day before my 50th birthday.  My congregation decided that I needed to celebrate this milestone and so I was duped into leaving town for the day with a friend who needed to run errands and I was there to be company in the car, navigate and carry stuff.  We got back at 5:30 and the street was lined with cars.  I thought my Roman colleague was having a larger than average attendance at Mass.  And then I saw a parishioners car parked where it usually isn’t.  Then I looked at the lawn of the Rectory and saw 50 pink flamingos…and a sign notifying all and sundry that is was my 50th.  I walked into the Church, down to the parish hall and opening the door heard “SURPRISE!”  I was shaking and smiling and unable to remember my name at that point as I saw friends, neighbours, parishioners and colleagues gathered to celebrate a half-century.  I was presented with a “birthday girl” pink sash, pink star sunglasses and a birthday tiara.  Many of the guests wore pink.  And everyone knew I was surprised…  We feasted on potluck fare, a birthday cake that read “Happy Birthday Princess Flamingo”  I took many photographs and opened many cards and gifts, one of the most special being a painting a parishioner and friend painted with birch trees and a winter sun…it is spectacular.  There was a trivia game with 50 questions related to my life…and those assembling the game had help from my brother, my spiritual advisor and friend.  It was great fun…and while I still don’t like surprises, it was a blessing to celebrate with so many wonderful people.

When the tragedy took place in October I realised just how much this community has become home for me…and how the folks that live here are my family.  Seeing such a large collection of people at the birthday party reinforced this to me.  I am loved very much here and I love this place very much.

If the rest of my 50th year is anywhere near as awesome as the first few weeks, I’m in for an absolutely AWESOME year!

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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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filled with simple things is how I bring communion to people.

It’s a willow basket that I bought on sale for 50% off.  It’s lined with a dollar store tea towel and under one side of the towel is a small pottery paten.  On top of the towel and the paten is a pottery chalice.  The towel gets folder over and inside the cup of the chalice is a small glass jar (it once held jam) that now contains hosts.  There’s a small bottle filled with wine and water that gets tucked in the other end of the basket.  Two white linen purificators tucked around all exposed glass and pottery ensure that nothing gets broken in transport.

I carry my basket the same way I’d carry any picnic basket.  It contains a special, sacred meal that has been prepared in front of our parish family, then taken into the community to a Bible Study group, or a shut in, or a person in hospital.  It’s also been brought out at the bedside of a person who is approaching the end of their life.

To anyone looking at it, it would appear a plain willow basket.  To me, it contains many stories…some are happy, some are sad, some are heartbreaking, and every one of them is real and true.

If the fabric of the basket could talk, if the towel could talk, if the vessels could talk they would tell many stories.  These stories that connect each recipient to each other; to bring each recipient into closer relationship with one another and with the one for whom we share this wonderful meal.

Today when I was walking to the hospital to visit a parishioner, a gentleman asked if I had a picnic planned.  I looked strangely at him and he gestured at the plain willow basket.  I told him I was visiting a parishioner and was bringing him communion, so in a way it was to be a picnic.

As I was walking home a construction worker asked if I was willing to share my lunch, gesturing at the plain willow basket.  I told him I had communion wine and bread and would be happy to share.  He smiled and said he was looking for something else.  I smiled and continued on my way.

A plain willow basket filled with ordinary, simple things.  Things made sacred and extraordinary by the people who share in it’s contents.  Brought closer together to share in something so beautiful and yet so ordinary, it almost defies description.

A plain willow basket.

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Christ is Risen!  The Clergy are Dead!! So goes the tongue in cheek phrase to which most clergy can relate.  Holy Week is a glorious week, a long week…and a hard week.  There’s services to plan, bulletins to check, props to gather, homilies to write, prayers to say, visits to make, so many things that must be done in order for worship to come together…and yet, every year it does.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday.  A completely stranger walked in off the street for our first service and worshipped with us.  He exchanged handshakes with everyone when service was over, nodded to me and replied “Happy Easter” when I wished him “Happy Easter” and went back out into his day.

Our second service was joyous and vibrant and while many of our regular parishioners were not in attendance, it was a glorious celebration!  I have a beautiful rainbow tie dye dress that I bought last summer and I decided to wear that on Easter Day.  After worship and coffee hour I went to the grocery store and had some lunch.  Then I walked to the Nursing Home for another service.  It’s a lovely walk there and I carried a basket with palm crosses, white stones, my cell phone and house keys.  Along the way I waved to every car I saw and said “Happy Easter” to everyone I met.

Most waved back or exchanged the greeting.  One little boy asked if I was the Easter Bunny.  I told him I wasn’t but I was delighted he thought I could be.  I asked his parents if I could ask him for a hug.  His Mum asked if he wanted to hug me and he did.  It was precious.

Along the way there I met three sets of dogs and with permission, I got to pet all of them!  It was a highlight.  Especially a huge black lab/shepherd who was a strong leaner and gave me kisses.

I got to the Nursing Home and chatted with a couple of guys who don’t come to worship but like to sit outside the room and hear the preaching and singing.  One of them told me I look like an Easter egg…which made me smile.  We had a huge turn out of residents and we sang out hearts out.  I brought palm crosses to remind them of the journey of Holy Week and white stones to remind them that even in our brokenness we are children of God, created in love and created to live in love.

On the way home I saw more dogs and chatted with a man who had been cleaning his lawn up from the winter gravel.  We talked about the joys of working “only one day a week” and laughed at how quickly the community changes when ski season is over.  I pet his dog on the way to the Nursing Home and again on the way home.

When I got home I called a friend and went to visit her.  We watched the video of her dad’s funeral service and then went to the cemetery to pray together with him.  The gates for the cemetery were locked, much to our annoyance.  We walked in to where the grave is and sat at a rock for awhile.  There was laughter and some tears and then I dropped her off at home.

I came home, got changed and made a simple supper.  Then I relaxed, chatted with a friend online and thought about how incredibly blessed I am to live in this corner of God’s creation.  Everywhere I walked yesterday I could see mountains.  Yes, I was a walking billboard, but I have noticed quite often that when I walk and smile at folks they either smile back or are already smiling.

God is very much alive in this place.  And even though our Easter Day service wasn’t bursting at the seams, we gathered and shared Alleluias, thoughts about the Easter Bunny, why church bells have to ring so long…and how very blessed we are with the gift of Jesus.  We gathered and shared in Communion.  We exchanged the peace together in ways we have for quite some time…and yet there was something different in the air…something innately hopeful and hope filled.

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

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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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Who Am I?

Advocate, anxiety

Barefoot, bellringing, blogger

Child of God

Daughter, depressive

Extraordinary

Follower of Jesus

Grand, gullible

Hugger, hiker

Individual, idiotic

Jubilant, justice-seeker

Kooky, knowledgeable

LFBTQ+, lover of all

Mountain watcher, Mental health advocate

Nana

Ordained

Padre

Queer

Romantic, rambunctious, rainbow

Sarcastic, sister

Theologian

Unique

Veritas

Welcoming

Xcellent

Yellow (one of my favourite colours)

Zillions of kisses

 

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Tomorrow is the 25th of January, Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” initiative to help quell the stigma of mental illness.  Celebrities have recorded brief interviews and have stepped up in raising awareness of depression, anxiety, OCD, Bipolar disorder, etc.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety the past couple of months have been scary.  I am a Canadian, and proud to be one.  Our neighbours to the south elected a new President and it seems the world has been in a tailspin since.  Every day the rhetoric increases, the attacks get more personal and social media is reaching a frenzy status on who is right and who is wrong.

What scares me is the increasing vitriolic hatred that both sides of the debate engage.  There is hurt and anger and a decided lack of respect.  There seems to be no acknowledgment of the other side as a human being.  Memes spring up everywhere and there are veritable twitter wars and Facebook battles over who is right and who is wrong.  Over who is telling the truth and who is lying.

We seem to have lost the respect of basic human dignity.  Regardless of whether you are a supporter or protester of POTUS, we need to come together in unity.  He needs to be held accountable.  We need to ensure our voices are raised in unison.  Can we please, please stop with the division and hatred.

I don’t like being told that as I woman “I must” feel a certain way or behave in a certain manner.  I don’t appreciate being told as a Christian “I must” say certain things and if I fail to do so I am a disgrace to Christianity.

I am a child of God.  So are you.  So is POTUS.  So is our Prime Minister.  So is everyone we meet.

I’m tired of the anger.  I’m tired of the hurt.  I’m tired of the hatred. I want to join the revolution of love.  I want to change the world with respect; with words of empowerment and love.  I can and will change how I view the world by looking through lenses of love and respect.

I short, I refuse to hate.

My mental health is always fragile in January…I’m not really sure why…but it is and I tend to cocoon more than usual, trying to stay warm and safe.

I am blessed in being surrounded by people who love me.  Who hold me when I cry, who bolster me when I struggle.  Who check in because I am on their mind and in their heart. I am blessed to love many of those who surround me.  And lately, I’ve begun to fall in love with myself.

I know I am not perfect.  I never will be.  And that’s okay.  In God’s eyes I am created in perfection and that’s more than good enough for me.

There is a South African word, Ubuntu, that means “I am because you are”.  In other words, I can’t be who I am without you.  It doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree and think the same.  It means we have the right and even the responsibility to disagree and hold one another accountable for our words and actions.  It means we are all in this life together.  It’s a way of living, an understanding, that is both powerful and profound.

If we embrace Ubuntu, perhaps we, together, can change this cruel world in which we live?

As always, I live in love and in hope.

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