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Posts Tagged ‘sacred’

I was born in the year of Canada’s Centennial…1967. I’m a first generation Canadian born of English parents. I love the country in which I live and I am unabashedly proud to be Canadian as we celebrate the Sesquicentennial of this majestic country.

However…there is a darker side to this place I have called home all my life and the place that my parents chose as their home and to where they chose citizenship.

Canada is 150 years old…Turtle Island is thousands of years old…likely as old as all Creation. And while I think it’s wonderful to see red and white festooning communities and flags going up all over the place…special red and white tulips bred for our Sesquicentennial, we must remember the damamge that our citizens, settlers, all of them, have inflicted on our First Nations peoples.

I am honoured to live on the land of the Ktunaha in Southeastern British Columbia. There is a rich heritage of Indigenous history that surrounds our community…including an ancient curse that was finally lifted about 40 years ago…

Canadians built this country on the backs of those who were here before us…generations and generations before us…and we didn’t do it fairly, or appropriately. And yes, for much of that history we should be ashamed. The Church rounded up Indigenous children in conjunction with the federal government to “civilize” them by taking away their Indigenous names, culture, language, songs and dances. We committed cultural genocide. This was done in the name of God…

It’s a dark part of our history and there are other dark parts of our history…Interment camps in this region that began prior to and ended long after the First World War. The list goes on…

I’m not saying that we should celebrate 150 years of Confederation…I’m not saying that Canada isn’t the best country in the world, because I truly believe that. I believe that now, more than ever, because we are working to make amends with our brothers and sisters in the Indigenous community. We are learning from and working alongside to preserve First Nations languages that are in danger of extinction. Same with dances and songs, of traditional dress and food. We’re making amends, we’re beginning to understand that we weren’t here first…that we are guests on this land.

Last Sunday we recognized National Aboriginal Day of Prayer and it was a very powerful service where we prayed in the four directions, giving thanks to the sacred medicines of tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass. We prayed with the four colours of yellow, red, black and white in the directions of East, South, West and North. We heard of the Creation of Turtle Island from the Great Creator and how those stories resonate so strongly with us even today.

This Sunday we will recognize 150 years of Confederation. We will sing God Save the Queen as well as O Canada and we will hear of how God is working through us as Canadians. We have every right to recognize our heritage as Canadians…but not on the strength of another culture and community. We have the right to wave our flag proudly, remembering on whose land we stand.

I have wrestled with how to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of Canada…similarly I have wrestled with how to celebrate my half-century birthday later in the year. This year I am presiding a memorial service and rose planting for the mother of a friend who died a month or so ago. I won’t be taking in fireworks because I don’t really like fireworks. But I will wander around the community, in an I Love Canada t-shirt and wave my national flag.

But I will also give thanks to the First Nations who were here first and who continue to bless the land on which I live. And so, I say O Canada…Migweech.

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All my life I’ve been an emotional eater…food was used as punishment and as reward. Over the winter my eating habits were atrocious…I would eat non-nutritional food far too often and usually I’d eat mindlessly.  This winter was a tough one because I couldn’t get out and walk, which is one of my favourite forms of self-care.

So winter finally ended and Spring is trying really hard to get to the East Kootenays and especially the Elk Valley, but we’re getting there.  I’ve discovered the trail system that links around and through the community.  During Holy Week I discovered a new trail that I hadn’t hiked before and I hiked it.  It rained and snowed, but I hiked it.

Easter Sunday I went out and hiked it again, and went a little bit farther.  Again, it rained, but I hiked it.

I’ve been out every day this week (granted it’s only Wednesday) but each day I’ve gone a bit further or tried a new path or link.

Today was a crappy day.  I had an argument with a friend and I can remember a time when I would have eaten my feelings, as much fat and salt as possible…the emptier the calories the better.  But today I didn’t do that.  I went for a walk instead and had a conversation with them (they weren’t with me, this conversation was in my head). Originally the walk was going to be around the block…and then it was to the end of the street…and then to part of the trail…and instead of turning back I kept going and walked/hiked a 5 km loop of trail and then came home again.  I was gone just over an hour.

I learned today that I don’t have to eat my feelings.  I can walk them.  I’m still learning to feel my feelings, but today I learned a new way to express myself.  It may not seem like a big deal to you, yet to me it’s huge.

I am strong.  I am capable.  I am in control of myself.  And my food choices today have all been healthy.  This is a good step in the right direction.  I’m proud of me…and it isn’t often I say that.

I’m learning a new way.  I’m teaching myself to listen to myself.  And that’s pretty awesome.  Yay me!

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begins a sonnet by William Wordsworth.

There has been so much hatred in the world…so much violence…so much intolerance and I’m struggling under the weight of it all.

Speaking of weight…today I was out and about running errands in the community where I live.  I was at the check-out in a store and two ladies were complaining about the weather.  I said I was glad for the cooler temperatures and one looked at me and said “I can see why”.  Curious, I asked what she meant.  She replied “you have your own built in coverage for warmth, you likely don’t like the heat”.

I opened and closed my mouth trying to find something humorous to say in return, but instead found myself on the verge of tears.  What she said was hurtful and dare I say, cruel.  Yes, I am overweight.  Yes, I don’t like extreme heat.  But I don’t think what I said warranted that kind of response.  I took my purchases and left.  I continued on my errands and came home feeling deflated and defeated.

The Church I love so much, that I have loved all my life, is voting on something incredibly close to my heart.  As a member of the rainbow community, the issue of same-gender marriage is important to me.  As a priest with many friends in the rainbow community, as it stands right now, I am not allowed to marry them in the Church.  The same Church that I love is pushing me, and people like me, aside.

My parish is holding a prayer vigil for the duration of General Synod.  Each day an email goes out and is posted on our Facebook page with prayers for the daily activities.  We are offering prayers for the marriage canon, but also for Indigenous rights, for visiting dignitaries and for audited financial statements.  We are praying for ears to hear, hearts to be open, for mouths to speak the truth in love and in faith.

Tomorrow’s gospel is one of my favourites, the Good Samaritan.  The epistle speaks of praying without ceasing, and that is what I have been doing.

For me, the gospel is about love.  The promises of our Creator, Saviour and Redeemer are all about love.  God never told us who to love.  God gave us the gift of love.  We are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves and to love God above all else.  There’s no division of who gets more love, we all get the same because, in the eyes of God, we are all the same.

Tomorrow’s homily will be about praying without ceasing and loving your neighbour.  Tomorrow afternoon I am meeting with a couple who are to be married in August.  The day after they are married I have the honour of baptising their infant son, the mother and the Godfather.  It will be my first baptism in BC and, as always, a very emotional moment in the life of the Church.

My fondest hope and prayer for the family is that their child is raised knowing only what love is about.  That he never experience hatred and if he is exposed to it, he will know how to rise above it to show what love is all about.

If only we could focus on that which unites us; as children of God.  If we could focus on that which aligns us, rather than that which divides us, what a wonderful world this would be.  We would know the kingdom of God as we would be living it.

So now I will rest my weary body.  I will tend to my fractured heart.  I will rest in the knowledge that there are those who love me, as I am.  And for the rest, all I can do is love them as Christ loves me.

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I recently celebrated my 7th anniversary with my current congregation.  As I look back I am surprised that I am celebrating such a milestone, while at the same time it doesn’t feel quite that long…strange.

Just after my arrival I met a man who was diagnosed with cancer.  We have shared quite a journey together over the past seven years.  He is back in hospital and learned recently that his cancer has spread to muscle.  For the past few years he, his wife and I have fallen into specific roles…his wife cries, I get angry and he accepts whatever is thrown at him.

A bit more than a year ago I asked if he wanted to discuss his celebration of life.  He politely but firmly told me that he wasn’t ready.  And I accepted that, telling him I would be ready whenever he is.  Last Sunday when he was readmitted to hospital he told his family that he wanted to talk to me, that it was time to have this conversation.  So I headed up, notebook in hand, to have, what we both knew, would be a difficult conversation.

He is a father and grandfather.  He is a devoted member of a local service club.  He is a tireless worker for the Church and is more on fire for the Lord than anyone I have ever seen.  Whenever I am shaking my fist in anger he takes my hand and tells me, “it is what it is”.  such wise words.

Today we celebrated communion around his hospital bed, with each of his daughters and his beloved wife.  It was a very emotional experience, as this is the first time we have all shared communion.  I was taken aback at the sacredness of this hospital room.  Portable xray machines and staff coming in and out of the room did not deter what we were gathering to do. There was a tremendous respect from the medical personnel who were tending to his room-mate.

We joined hands in prayer, offering prayers and praises to God, giving thanks for the joys and bounty of this life and asking for peace as my friend and parishioner reaches the end of his life.  I found myself saying words that we were all thinking but otherwise afraid to say aloud.  A sacred hush filled the room as we finished the Lord’s prayer, and each one of us had tears in our eyes.

At times like this I am reminded of the sacred journeys that we take as members of the body of Christ.  I am always astounded at the weight of the sacred when we stand together in the presence of our Creator.  We have shared so many moments of joy together, and many moments of loss.  Eventually we will have these moments only as memories, but I suspect these memories will be sacred.

When I was posted to this parish I was given only one instruction:  love them.  And I have.  This family has taken me into their own and welcomed me.  My parishioner was particularly wonderful when my father was dying and I was so very angry.  He sat and listened to me as I ranted and raved that it “wasn’t fair” that my father should have to suffer.  He gently and lovingly took my hand and said “it is what it is” with a shrug and a smile.  He wasn’t ignoring my feelings, rather he was reminding me that there are many things over which we have no control.  And he was right.

I shared with him today that he has taught me so much about patience and grace.  He has taught me about understanding and acceptance, whether I like the outcome or not.  As he begins his sacred journey back to his Creator, I am reminded of the incredible gift we are given as clergy.  We are taken into people’s homes, their lives and their souls, as members of the family.

I expect to have many more hospital visits with my parishioner.  Each and every one will be treated as a sacred moment in time, as it will never be repeated.  And eventually the visits will end.  My heart will break when the time comes that he returns home to God.  It will hurt as much as it did when my own Dad died.  And I know that God will give me the strength and the Holy Spirit will give me the peace I will need to say what needs to be said.  And to comfort those who need comfort.

When we can silence ourselves, in the midst of crazy busy-ness, then and only then can we turn to hear, to truly hear the voice of the one who loves us the most.  It is only when we truly surrender our power that we  can feel God’s love surrounding us.  There are some things that we are not meant to know.  We may not like it; I know I surely don’t; but we must learn to live in that tension.

Another lesson I learned from my parishioner.  In his wise words “it is what it is”.  Thanks be to God.

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It seems you cannot turn on social media these days without hearing about the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.  The idea, initially, was two-fold, to raise 1. money and 2. awareness about living with ALS.  It is a degenerative neurological disease in which the body slowly stops working.  It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the famous baseball player who was one of the first people to be diagnosed.

Sufferers of the disease lose control of their body, but never lose control of their mind.  It’s been likened to being buried alive or slowly suffocating in sand.  Not very welcoming images.

The controversy on social media is the perceived water waste for people who are taking part in the challenge.  I have seen lots of videos posted to Facebook and You Tube.  Some are dignified, some are humorous and some are disgusting.  Recently I was challenged to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  This hits very close to home for me.  One of my parishioners died from the disease last fall.  He was in his 70’s when he was diagnosed, which is “late” for diagnosis.  Another of my parishioners is currently battling the disease and she is only in her 50’s.  She has an 13 month old grandson.  Slowly, she is losing control of her body, is now full-time in a wheelchair.  

Her and her husband built a barrier-free house in the same community as her daughter and they are living with the disease. I decided, last Sunday, to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge, on the front lawn at the Church by the Church sign.  In collecting from the folks attending church we generated $50 which I will mail to the ALS Society of London.

Folks are getting upset because water is being wasted.  And while that may be a true statement, Canadians and Americans waste an inordinate amount of water every day.  One person participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge will not make a child in Africa die of thirst.  It’s the same concept as not eating our dinner as a child would make a child in Africa go hungry.

I chose the front lawn of the church so the water could be return to the ground, sacred ground at that.  The ice was collected and used a second time for my husband and daughter to participate.  There was very little waste, in my humble opinion.

The other controversy surrounds the funds being pledged and generated.  Every non-profit charity is held to great scrutiny at times like this.  And they should be.  Administration can often make up 40% or more of funds received.  Back in the day when I had a “real job” I worked for three health-charities.  All of them worked on shoestring budgets and were not supported by United Way.  Our Administration stayed at approximately 8% which was considered high.

There will always be people who try to pull a fast one.  They will make a video and not donate.  Or collect money and not send it in.  However, the vast majority of people will send in money, will pledge to send money and follow through.  Standing on a fence built of moral high ground is not a fence that will be strong.  It will blow as the wind does and eventually you’ll be sitting flat on your butt.  A humbling experience indeed.

Do I support the ALS ice bucket challenge?  I do!  I did, and I challenged my brother and sister-in-law.  

Do I understand the cries about wasted water?  To a certain extent, I do.  And that is why we chose to be economical in the amount of water we used and in the location where the water was poured.  I do think there were some videos that were excessive, but I expect it was more about people trying to promote a greater video than to intentionally waste water.

The bottom line for me is that the challenge raises awareness about a disease that has no cure.  If 1,000 people now know about the disease, it was worth the media hype.

So everybody, please calm down.  If you don’t want to participate, then don’t.  But please stop shouting platitudes at those who choose to participate.

Every party has a pooper.

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I am not sure that fabulousness is a word, but from now on, I say it is.

I have struggled with my weight for many years. I would like to be thinner than I am. Recently I have questioned my motives for wanting to be thinner. It all comes down to numbers. Why? I don’t honestly know. I weigh over 200 lbs. Most people who see me would never guess that I weigh that much. But for some reason, I believe that weighing over 200 lbs makes me “fat” and unattractive.

The fact is, I’m healthier now than I’ve been in a decade. I tried juicing and it is something I will continue doing, but not every day. I like to make fruit smoothies, but again, not every day. I am realising (FINALLY) that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Life is lived in the shades of grey, in the in-between times. If I want to wear a mini-skirt, I will wear a mini-skirt. If I want to wear a figure-hugging dress, I will do so. If I want to rock a pair of heels, I will do so. Etc.

This summer I have been paring things down; simplifying them. I have already thinned down my books, knick-knacks, paper, and am still working on photographs. I have roughly a dozen boxes/containers to go through to sort things out. What do I have to keep. What can I let go of.

I bought an elliptical trainer four years ago and used it about 25 times. It’s too hard on my knees. So I gave it away to a friend who loves elliptical trainers. And I feel great about that.

I have a yoga mat that I use most days. Sometimes I do yoga stretches and movements, and other times I simply lay on it and meditate, or sit up and meditate or some combination of the two.

I live my life better with routine. I used to measure everything by a set of rules, which were quite complicated. I’ve let some of that go.

My cell phone is now just a cell phone. I cannot check email on it, plan a trip or surf the web. And I’m absolutely okay with that. I have a laptop that is second-hand, but works perfectly for my needs.

I have a desk that is not used. Not ever. So I’m debating about whether to get rid of, repurpose or simply leave it. And as I think of it, the last option is not a feasible option. Should I sell the things I no longer need? I likely could, but for what gain? Yes, the money would come in handy, but if there is someone who needs something that I have, why not give it to them?

Recently I went through my jewellery and cleared out a whole bunch that I no longer wear. In going through some boxes I found an old jewellery box that contained, among other things, my wedding ring from my last marriage. Why did I keep it? Do I still need to keep it? How will I dispose of it?

Yesterday I cleared out a bunch of purses and bags that I have had for years. I kept about a dozen…which go with shoes and outfits I currently own. Next week I am going to cruise my wardrobe and look at blazers, jackets, dresses, etc., that I no longer wear. And I will get rid.

I don’t need more stuff in my life. I need to embrace what I have that brings me joy and makes me feel good about myself. I am not a model, I have no desire to be a model. I am a human being that tends to hold on to too much stuff.

So I’m thinning out and simplifying.

I am embracing myself in all my fabulousness.

Look out world, hear me roar!

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Tonight we had our Wednesday service in Holy Week. It was a service of healing and Eucharist. There were 9 people in attendance and each of them was there for a specific reason that had nothing to do with me.

The service bulletins didn’t print in quite the correct order, so we have some fun trying to figure out what came next…but we managed through. At a certain point in the service, prayers are offered silently or aloud for folks who are in need. And there is an opportunity to pray in the silence of our hearts to invite God to hear what we cannot find the words to say.

After that there is an opportunity to come back and have a moment of prayer with myself. We sit, facing each other, often taking hands, often sitting in stillness. I will ask if there is something specific on their heart and they will answer what that is. Tonight six people came back for prayers. Five of the six had specific concerns. After the prayers there is a moment of silence and an opportunity for anointing with healing oil. One of the six came filled with gratitude for the abundance in her life. Her smile is infectious and after we prayed giving thanks she squeezed my hand and bowed her head. She then asked for God to bless me with healing and with patience…and winked at me.

We then move to the table and share communion in a different setting than usual; a setting from the Island of Iona. It is beautifully written and always moves me. Tonight it moved me to tears.

We shared communion and sat in silent contemplation for about 10 minutes after the liturgy had concluded. Then I extinguished the candles and left the worship space. The congregation followed, about 10 minutes later. The service is simple, sacred and contemplative. It is everything a Holy Week service should be.

My ankle is incredibly sore. It has ridges on it from the brace, but the pain is nothing in comparison to the feeling of peace and serenity that is building inside of me.

These are my people. We are connected to one another. We have shared many stories; both good and bad. And now we have had the opportunity to be still in the presence of the sacred.

Thanks be to God.

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