Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle

During our family's very busy Christmas week, as we attended different gatherings, took a trip to Lethbridge to see Lee's parents, celebrated a 24th birthday, and wished for warmer weather, what I really wanted to do (besides what I was doing) was to put on my pink fuzzy jammies, make some tea, and set a jigsaw puzzle. It's an indulgence I allow myself every Christmas, one of those ME time things that fit with the 2018 Word of the Year, now that I think about it.

Sunday night
I had to wait until January 2nd to get at it this year, and it was worth the wait. This year's puzzle was of a painting of an Italian restaurant corner. It was a brain buster, the kind where you can't even set the edge pieces because they're shaped so strangely that you simply can't separate them all from the inner pieces. And I was never quite sure of the shape of a piece (or pieces) to fill a space until I'd set the ones around it. I'm not sure I would have finished the puzzle without Suzanna's help.

Puzzling is not a steady pastime for me -- it's a once a year thing because it's so time intensive, and my attention span flags due to many competing interests during Christmas break. For the first week, I felt like I was doing well to set ten pieces a day... after all the sorting of similar colours, there was lots of just sitting and looking, trying a piece in a spot, trying a different piece, then picking up the first one, turning it sideways or upside down, and discovering that perhaps it actually did fit in the first place. It was progressing so slowly that I was tempted to put it back in the box after a few days. But then Suzanna set all the tables, and we were committed. Even so, it wasn't until Sunday night that I began to feel like we had it licked!

Last night
At the same time as it's brain-taxing, I find puzzling completely relaxing. My mind is on the puzzle pieces, yes, but there is also room for reflection, conversation or background music. And there's gotta be something addictive about setting a puzzle piece in the right place. Last night I sat at the table saying to myself, "I should go to bed, but I just have to find one piece to fill that space there," "oh, and one more there," "and this one should be really obvious," until it was almost midnight! I wonder what part of the brain lights up when pieces fit. I suspect someone has already done an interesting MRI study!

When you think about it, setting a puzzle is a rather silly way to spend several hours of this one amazing life I've been given. There's nothing permanent to show for it. But maybe that's part of the point. We human beings have a way of thinking that our lives and our possessions will always be there, even though the Psalmist says:
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone --
as though we had never been here. (Psalm 103: 15-16, New Living Translation)
And I might add, we are like a puzzle that is set, dismantled, and gone!

Setting a puzzle isn't a bad metaphor for life. It takes a while to sort things out, to put things in place, and to get things right. Pieces don't always go where we expect them to, and occasionally, one goes missing. Some pieces set together long before we understand how they fit into the whole. But if we keep at it, eventually we see our big picture, imperfect though it is.

All done!
My one puzzle of 2018 is finished. Suzanna and I gave each other a high five as she put in the last piece this afternoon, and we felt that sense of satisfaction that comes from completing a challenge, even though it was a rather frivolous one. I am very aware that there are many people in this world who simply don't have the luxury of time to set a puzzle like this one, and I thought of them, too, and offered a little prayer for them to have a bit of ME time too.

Now I can take down the card table, put the living room back in order and get on with the usual January activities -- work for L'Arche board and school council meetings coming up soon, a pile of books that I should read, an afghan that needs to be finished, ordering seeds -- and planning this year's garden!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Come and see

"Where are you staying, Lord?"
we ask.

"Come and see,"
you reply.

We look --

and there are people of all shapes and sizes
and genders and colours
and abilities and talents

and there are domestic animals that we know and love,
wild ones that we observe from safe distances,
strange ones in the deeps of the jungles and the depths of the oceans
that we will never see with our own eyes

and there are trees
and plants,
macro and micro environments
and a boundless universe
that surround us

an entire creation from A to Z
and alpha to omega
over the whole planet
and beyond

plus heaven (on earth)

-- and if we really look, we see

your presence,
your beauty and goodness and truth
in all that you have made.

And those of us who see
bow down and say,
"We have found the Christ."

Our gratitude and care for all that you offer us
should be the size of the universe.

Teach us how to love you
in all that you have made.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Forget POTUS. Remember Musa?

It's interesting to see and hear peoples' reactions to the latest outrage caused by the US President. Here's my reaction. Instead of going on about POTUS, I want to remind you about Musa.

Remember Musa? He's a beautiful man who happens to have cerebral palsy and who went from his BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY of Kenya to France some time ago, where a lovely #AsIAm video was made about his experience.

Musa's reactions to our world are dead on. He knows what's really important and what's fluff.

And now there's another lovely video about Musa, who brings people together, and helps them to see beauty and goodness. 

Forget about that other guy. The pundits are saying enough. 

Instead, spread Musa's message of positivity around!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A bright spot in the winter

Last Christmas, I sent a teleflora Christmas planter with a bright red amaryllis to my friend Gaby in Belgium. Red for Christmas, of course, but red also because of a wonderful red sweater that Gaby wore as he showed me around Flanders when I was there the previous October. When he comes to mind, he's always wearing that poppy- or amaryllis-red sweater. In his New Year's letter last year, Gaby reported that a beautiful flower was reminding him of our family, and he hoped that maybe he could make her bloom again next Christmas.

When I was placing my annual spring bulb order in September, I noticed that amaryllises of different colours were being offered, and a Red Lion amaryllis bulb immediately joined the tulips on my order form. One amaryllis is twice as pricey as a pack of ten tulip bulbs, but I didn't think twice. I wanted a flower like Gaby's, to remind me of Gaby, and to make our house more Christmassy.

And let me tell you, she didn't disappoint -- she's still going strong!

In these dark winter days with extreme cold warnings, it's wonderful to have a flower bloom indoors, and this one seems to be intent on blooming three different times. Her colour is gorgeous, and I could look at her all day. When she first came out, she was a brash, shiny satin, but now she's deepened into a full, deep red, the colour of the sweater that looks so good on 90-year-old Gaby, who is one of the loves of my life, if you haven't already guessed.

I'm not at all versed in keeping amaryllis, but you can bet that I'll be doing my research to try to keep this one going. Her breathtaking beauty pretty much guarantees that -- pictures don't do her justice. Maybe I'll call her Gabriella.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany and other bloopers

Jesus Christ - Liberator
by Will Wheaton
I'm not exactly sure why, but the Feast of the Epiphany has engendered a few funny events in our parish in recent history. We've probably all heard the joke about the little boy telling his baby sister about how the "three wise guys" go to visit the Holy Family, and there are many other scripture-related jokes, but it's the real life stories that are the funniest.

Six years ago today, a lovely woman stood up in church and read, "they offered him gifts of gold, frankenstein..." her voice trailed off and we could see her thoughts whirring, wait, that's not right. After a moment of thinking hard, she tried again, "they offered him gifts of gold, frankensigns (that sounds better) and myrrh." It was enough to give our whole pew silent giggles through the rest of the story.

And this weekend, our gentle cantor stood up to sing Psalm 72 -- "Lord, every nation on earth will adore you." Perhaps it was the extra long third verse, requiring her full concentration on the tune more than the words: "The kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring him gifts." she sang, "Before him all rulers shall fall prostate..."  And I got the silent giggles once again.

It's silly little moments like these that make me wonder... what does God think when looking down on our churches? Does God perhaps wish we'd lighten up a little? When frankincense becomes frankenstein, a baby gets a really loud case of the hiccups, or the choir sings, "Were you there when they nailed him in the tomb," I can't help but think there might be a Divine Hand at work, bringing a bit more hilarity to our solemnity...

O God,
your humour knows no limits.

I see it in your creatures,
in the people who share my life,
and in stories told about you...

I imagine Sara and Abraham
laughing at a God who says
that she will bear a child.

And laughing again when Isaac arrives.

I imagine Zechariah
laughing with joy
when his voice returned
at the naming of John the Baptist.

I imagine your son,
laughing with delight
with the groom at the wedding of Cana,
when the water turned to wine.

And I imagine you,
laughing along at all these times and so many others,
including when your people giggle in church.

Help us not to take ourselves so seriously,
to notice, embrace and enjoy
your sense of humour
in our daily lives.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

An old song made new for 2018!

Yesterday I received a wonderful Christmas present from Christina and Landon (my daughter and her fiancé). You might already know that some years ago a little song came to me during my Master Composter/Recycler training, and I recorded the original in my kitchen with a cheap mike, an old laptop and my guitar. After the music video received 24,000+ hits on YouTube over the last ten years (including incorporation into the Taiwan Public School Curriculum for a lesson on senseless consumption!), it got rather glitchy.

So for my Christmas gift two years ago, my creative kids offered to update it. Some talented friends and MCRs came together for a re-recording of the tune with all sorts of "recycled" instruments, Landon did the sound mixing, and Christina worked on the video over the last two years -- she's a busy girl, so you could say it wasn't exactly high on her priority list. And now, thanks to all these wonderful people, I'm delighted to share the results!

We fill our lives with so many unnecessary things, all of which have an ecological impact on our planet. If you really think about it, everything we own has to go somewhere else someday. So singing along with the chorus of this song might be part of an excellent New Year's resolution for 2018 -- to reduce our consumption by buying less, period. Some friends have commented on how the song has helped/hindered their different buying habits... and of course, that's the whole point! If we can all reduce our impact on creation, we and future generations will be better for it.

Feel free to share it around... just one more way of trying to save our sister, Mother Earth, and live in the spirit of Laudato Si!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The word of the year, 2018 edition

Moodlings followers who have been reading here for a while know that my best friend and I have a ritual of picking a theme word to focus on each year. Past words have included Freedom, Joy, Balance, Tenderness, and many more -- I think we started the practice of a Word of the Year in about 2003. I wish I had kept a list of our words over the years -- that would be 15 now! Actually, I suspect many of them are included in the handwritten letters we still write now and then and have saved over the years. Our friendship was founded on snail mail from the time we were ten, and we tend to discuss the really important things in our relationship via pen and ink.

Our word of the year for 2017 was Tenderness, and with hindsight, Cathy and I see that it was an essential word for both of us. We are both TWOs on the Enneagram, the kind of people who constantly put our own needs last, doing everything that we think other people need us to do before tending to ourselves, sometimes out of a "need to be needed." The word Tenderness came up in our conversations and letters over the past year when we were stressed or tired and not looking after ourselves. "Be tender with yourself," one or the other of us would say, and the comfort in that suggestion carried the day.

2017 was a very challenging year for me. Part of my tenderness toward myself recently was seeking out a counselor, a lovely woman who helped me to realize that my inner critic was dominating my thinking and making my life miserable. You know (or maybe you don't) -- that little voice in your head that is always saying, "You should do more!" "You should have said this instead," "you should have done it that way," or "you really don't know what you're doing!"

Constantly second-guessing myself in the many roles I play -- Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Employee, and Friend -- took a huge emotional toll on me, to the point that I felt as though I was about to fall apart. And if anyone made a critical comment, my private tears were endless. But my counselor invited me to talk back to my critic, to stand up for myself and announce loudly, "I'm doing my best! And if that's not good enough for you, too effing bad!" Turns out, it's a much better tactic than allowing the inner critic to run me down and completely destroy my self-worth.

Cathy had her own struggles this year, a lot of them with the scheduling of her days and a lack of time for herself. She has a tendency to fill her daily life with more than it can actually hold, leaving her tired and out of sorts because she's left with no time to do the things that really make her happy.

So (drum roll please)...

Cathy and I have decided that it's time to look after our own needs, before all the other demands placed upon us completely wear us down... in effect, to "put on your personal oxygen mask before trying to assist others" so that we don't find ourselves incapacitated by our own inability to breathe!

In discussing it, we've both commented that having "Me" as word of the year rankles and feels too self-centred in many ways, but that fact alone tells us that we're on to something -- that perhaps it's time to celebrate Me a little more, to do something for Me every week. We don't want to end up like my favourite saint, Francis of Assisi, who reached the end of his life lamenting that he hadn't been kinder to "Brother Ass" -- as he referred to his own physical self.

How about you? Do you need some Me time? A year to celebrate yourself a little? If you've been giving yourself the short end of the stick for too long, join us. We're not going overboard; we're just making certain that in looking out for others, we also look out for the Me that goes hard for the sake of everyone else. And every so often in the next 362 days, I'll report on some of our Me year projects and activities. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Let all families be holy

I hate it when I end up crying through Sunday morning mass, and lately, it happens more often than I like. You see, God and I have what I would call a wonderful relationship. In fact, I can't get along without God. It's just that some of the people who speak for God make me cry, and that's painful, period.

Today, the last Sunday of the year, is the Feast of the Holy Family. Really, it's a liturgy that is all about love. We heard about love, respect, and honour among family members in scripture from the Book of Sirach. Paul's beautiful letter to the Colossians (3:12-21) reminded us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, to bear with one another, to forgive each other and to love. And then we heard about loving parents Mary and Joseph taking their infant son to the temple at the beginning of his faith journey. All beautiful and inspirational words!

It was the first few lines of the homily that set me off. Family values are under attack, we were told, by gay marriage and transgender activism. And the tears began to roll down my cheeks. I grew up in a Catholicism that brainwashed me against homosexuality, even as several of my Catholic friends who were gay or lesbian struggled with depression and self-loathing because our Christian culture labelled them as "disordered." It seemed to be a direct contradiction to the adage, "God does not make junk." As a young performer in a travelling show, I became friends with peers of many different backgrounds, cultures, and sexual orientations, and my friendships forced me to question the anti-queer mindset I grew up with because of my faith.

In the years since, I have realized that God loves queer people every bit as much as God loves me. Otherwise, why would God have blessed them with their different orientations? They are oriented differently not to spite the world, but because they have to be true to who they are, just as I do. And judging them helps no one.

In the last few years, I have witnessed the love and marriages of many queer friends who are being true to who God made them to be. And for the life of me, I can't see how Greg and Roy's marriage undermines anything. Karly and Inge and their two sons are as loving a family as mine. Their marriage is more loving, balanced and blessed than any of my heterosexual divorced friends' marriages ever were. And my neighbours, Leo and Markus*, are excitedly planning their wedding for September with every bit as much joy and anticipation as Lee and I did. They are a loving couple who deserve to be together for life, heart and soul. We need to remember that many marriages are about a loving unity that doesn't include procreation.

Love is love. And God is love. And since nobody I know can actually tell us the exact thoughts of this God who is love, and who clearly creates so many different forms of love, how can we speak against these other kinds of love, sexuality or gender simply because our experience is different? God is in Leo and Markus' relationship too, I'm convinced! It's full of goodness, truth and beauty,

I wish our homilist this morning had simply focused on the holy family as a model of love, and talked more about the beautiful qualities mentioned in the readings and how they feed our souls. I suspect I'm not the only person who needs to hear how every family that does its best to love one another is a holy family, even through our struggles. Perfection isn't possible, but love is, and families with trans-gendered or otherwise queer members don't need to be judged as somehow undermining family values, especially when we are all doing our best to love and support one another just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph did. God made us all holy!

God of love,
Thank you for the billions of love stories
that brought us into being,
that surround us,
sometimes challenge us,
and always sustain us.

Open our hearts to your love in its many forms.

Help us to act always
with love,
and honour
toward all members of our human family.

Clothe us
with compassion,
and patience,
to bear with one another,
to forgive each other
and to love everyone who crosses our path.

Bless those families who struggle,
and help us to reach out to those in need
just as you reach out for us.

Bless us in this new year of 2018,
and let all families be holy
by our sharing in your love.


*I have used pseudonyms in place of my queer friends' names. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas, or close to it, in the Rockies

Last week, our family was blessed to have a few days in the Rocky Mountains before Christmas. The bitter cold snap that is now bringing temperatures below -20C with extra nasty wind chills beyond -30 hadn't quite arrived. Lee and I had some wonderful hikes around Old Fort Point, through the Valley of Five Lakes, and around Patricia Lake. The stars were incredible on two of the five nights we were there, and we even saw three "shooting stars" from the Geminids meteor shower. Our kids joined us on a couple of hikes, and we had some nice hot tub and games time together, too.

Below are some of my favourite nature shots from our trip, and you'll notice a new header at the top of these moodlings. I have a thing for mountain streams, so there's also a video clip below. Enjoy!

Looking down at the Athabasca River in the morning...

Pyramid mountain...

What silence looks like...

More silence...

Took us a long walk to find these red chairs...

My favourite Christmas tree...

Yup, that's me doing a somersault on the Fifth Lake...

Long winter shadows...

Open water in a limestone karst...

Sunset on a 10 km hiking day...

A smart friend...

Disappearing mountains...

A birch tree (did you know they're all one organism?)...

My partner enjoying a sunny spot...

Another sunset...

Another spectacular sunset view...

God so loved us that God gave us Christmas... and such beauty!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas Prayer

We're just back from a gorgeous few days in the Rocky Mountains before Christmas. I thought about taking my moodlings along via laptop, but at the last minute, I decided to leave it all at home and have a real break.

And I'm not sorry I did. Of course, that means that I haven't moodled at all in the last few days, and all I have to offer my readers for Christmas is a reflection from a couple of years ago, along with my best wishes for a blessed and peaceful celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, whom our world needs more than ever. Peace in your hearts, your families, your homes, your workplaces and our world. Merry Christmas.


Whether you believe in the Christ of Christmas or not, this season is often the time of miracles, of people digging deep, and the impossible coming true.  As Jean Vanier says,
What is the "impossible"? It is liberation. To liberate people from the demons of fear, of loneliness, of hatred and of egoism that shackle them. To liberate people so that they can love, heal, and also liberate others. But in order to do that, you must go in poverty and experience the life of God flowing within your own flesh.
 -- From Brokenness to Community, p 30 
My Christmas prayer is simply that you may feel God's life in you, a life that quietly and humbly frees others to be truly and joyfully human:

You came to free us
from apathy, isolation, ignorance and selfishness.
Your life calls us
to recognize God's life flowing in us,
and in each person we meet.
Thank you for our blessings,
and for our challenges.
Show us,
in the year ahead,
the places
where our love
can make a difference.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sandy's Christmas Pageant

Image result for Christmas pageant L'ArcheMy friend Sandy* doesn't see very well. Her hearing isn't great either. But you should have heard Sandy sing last night!

At the L'Arche Christmas Pageant, Sandy joined the choir. It was a good place for her to be as she's not very steady on her feet on a darkened stage. She held onto my daughter, Christina, or Christina's friend, Jessamy, and sang her heart out. Sandy definitely knows the melodies of all those Christmas carols although her lyrics lack most consonants. Of course, her enthusiasm more than makes up for everything else!

I'm not far wrong if I say that a lot of the smiles on the choir's faces last night were due to Sandy. Every time we started to sing, she threatened to drown us out with an incredible surge of volume, but then would settle down and blend in -- a little. When 17 different language groups came up to sing Silent Night, Sandy sang her AHHHs in the background, and loudly cheered and hooted as each group concluded, like you would at a rock concert. Though it made us chuckle, it seemed right somehow -- we were building up to the crescendo of Joy to the World and Go Tell it on the Mountain, and it all worked together for the glory of God.

For me, and for many other people I spoke with during post-pageant refreshments last night, Christmas begins at the L'Arche Edmonton Christmas Pageant. Its joy and exultation is like nothing else. By the end, some of the kids in the crowd were literally bouncing off the furniture -- which, if you think about it, is the only appropriate response to God's coming to be with us!

If you missed it, there's always next year!

*I use pseudonyms for the names of my L'Arche friends.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Beloved-ness on the Third Sunday of Advent

So often Isaiah's words in this third Sunday of Advent's Old Testament reading (Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11) are seen as a prophecy about Jesus.

But what if God is inviting each and every one of us to realize--

Your spirit is upon me.

You have anointed me:
You send me to bring good news to the oppressed
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim that every being on the planet 
is your beloved.

I rejoice in your Love,
my soul exults in your Being;
for you have clothed me 
with the garments of salvation,
you have covered me 
with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it 
to spring up,
So you will cause 
goodness, truth and beauty
(also known as righteousness and praise)
to spring up in me, your child.

And if all of this is true,
how do I live each day as if it is so?

Maybe by making Mary's Magnificat my own
in the face of such great love...

My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
who has looked upon me with such great love,
who has done great things for me
and whose mercy is for every generation!


Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Dancing at Day Program

During today's Monday morning volunteer stint at L'Arche Edmonton's Day Program, I found myself working with a few others, tying special L'Arche Christmas cards into packets of five and curling the ribbon ends ahead of next week's Christmas Pageant and Craft Sale. We chatted as we worked, and Christmas carols played from a computer tablet.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere, with people coming and going from Art Therapy or visits down the hallways. Sandy was sorting her cards, as usual, Thomas was informing us about when some of our friends and colleagues would be arriving after meetings outside of the building, and Darren was making colourful pictures in his usual place*.

But it was Leanne who caught my attention. She was sitting by herself, humming along to the Christmas music -- until Boney M's Mary's Boychild began to play. Then she was up on her feet, dancing her heart out. Jingle Bells followed, and I stopped my ribbon curling activities and danced with her, absorbed by her single-minded devotion to moving her body to the beat. It was a moment of pure and simple happiness.

I wish all my readers some pure-and-simple-happiness-moments in the days and weeks ahead!

And here's another happiness moment -- if you're in the Edmonton area, please join us at Eglise St. Thomas D'Aquin (8410 89 Street) next Monday, December 18th at 7 p.m. for the Annual L'Arche Edmonton Christmas Pageant (and Craft Sale). All are welcome!

* I use pseudonyms for the names of my L'Arche friends.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Comfort for the Second Sunday of Advent

When I heard the reading from Isaiah today,
this is what I heard God saying to me:

"I comfort you
through the care
of those who love you.

"I speak tenderly to you
through gentle words,
soft eyes
and warm embraces of others.

"Your only punishments
are the ones you design for yourself --
I am not a punishing God.

"If you let me help you
to make room for me in your days,
together we can create
Jesus and the Lamb
by American artist Katherine Brown
a straight highway through the desert.
I love to write straight with crooked lines.

"If you offer to me both your low valleys
and your mountain-top experiences,
if we work together to smooth
the rough and uneven places
that trip you up
on your journey home,
glory will come naturally --
my gift and promise to you.

"I, your God, am with you.
Don't be afraid.

"I am strong and faithful
and I gift you with my love,
visible in all that I have made.

"I care for you
as shepherds feed their lambs,
your ear against my heart,
and I care for
and carry all people that way
whether they know me or not."

And all I can say is, "Thank you, my God."

(You can read the wonderful scripture this reflection is based on in Chapter 40 of the book of Isaiah.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

A forgotten bike's lament

I've been sitting here all alone, waiting.
Parked since last spring, waiting.
Through rain and hail and wind and snow, waiting.

See the leaves under my wheels under the snow?
And the super lock that awaits a key?
And the training wheels that never came off?

I'm somebody's dream bike 
with Spiderman webs between my handle bars.

But I've been forgotten somehow.

Won't somebody please come find me
and set me free for someone else to love?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Change is inevitable

Things are always changing. And lately I'm marveling at the changes coming to the city skyline. It's definitely in an in-between stage at the moment -- several skyscrapers are going up in different places, and they change almost daily. Edmonton is having a construction boom, and the crane lights on the latest buildings, one of which will be at least 60 stories, are visible all over the city, but most especially when we walk along the river bank at night.

Just for interest's sake, below are three skyline pictures -- the first from 1975, the second from 2011, and the third taken yesterday. I'll be posting again when those skyscrapers on the right hand side are complete -- you can probably bet on it.

Change is inevitable -- except from a vending machine.
 --Robert C. Gallagher

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Music for the First Sunday of Advent

Whenever today's reading from Isaiah comes around on this First Sunday of Advent of Year B, the song below springs to mind (thanks to Maureen Ward for posting it on YouTube). It's not like I ever heard it very often, because we never sang it in church -- it seems too orchestral or choral for most music ministers to manage (unless, perhaps, you belong to a big church with a good-sized choir). But it has remained in the recesses of my mind, waiting for Isaiah's words to bring it back out into the open.

Somehow, the lyrics taken from Isaiah coupled with the melody always set my heart to aching... and once again, that longing and yearning for justice, peace, and goodness to reign is really underlined for me this Advent. I'm so tired of bad news, the daily distractions tweeted by a certain politician, and stories of environmental disasters caused by human greed. I'm ready for God to rupture the heavens and come to our aid. Aren't you?

But perhaps the real reason that this song has stuck with me all these years is the alternate ostinato that affirms, "My shepherd is the Lord; there is nothing I shall need. Fresh and green are the pastures where he leads..." Advent is a juxtaposition of desperate longing and anticipatory hope, the state I find myself in on this First Sunday of Advent in 2017. So I share this song for the sake of any of my readers who can relate.

Have a blessed Advent...

Monday, November 27, 2017

YESSS!!!! You CAN work with City Hall...

This evening, city councilors and the mayor voted 8-5 in favour of changes to the Holyrood Gardens Development application, including its referral to the Edmonton Design Committee for further consideration. Residents of Holyrood in attendance (including me) are pleased with the outcome of the public hearing, and look forward to working with the City and the developer toward a better plan for the safety and well-being of all who live in the Holyrood area. (For last week's moodling with background on this, click here.)

Huge kudos the ordinary citizens of the Holyrood Development Committee for offering strong presentations on behalf of their community. The hundreds of hours of time and effort paid off. And thanks to City Council for listening and realizing that a better plan is possible.

Good things are happening in Holyrood!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A prayer to the One who runs the universe

Cefalu Christus Pantokrator cropped
Cefalu Christus Pantocrator
photo by Andreas Wahra via Wikimedia Commons
O God,
you are to be praised and adored
for the many wondrous ways
that you reveal yourself to us.

We thank you...

You were there before all time
and will continue to be beyond all time.
You are deep within us
and extend beyond the furthest reaches
of our understanding.

We thank you...

From the moment we begin to exist,
we are hidden
in the warmth and unity that is you,
just under our mothers' heartbeats.

We thank you...

When we take our first breaths
and are welcomed into the arms of our parents,
we become part of your beautiful world.

We thank you...

As we grow
we learn about our surroundings
we come to know you
through all your creatures,
in the sparkles on the water,
the leaves on the trees,
the stars in the sky,
and the love of family and friends.

We thank you...

As we work alongside you
to build lives of hope and meaning
for ourselves and others
we learn to share what we have
and care for our corner of your creation.

We thank you...

We know you through our limited senses
and through the many ways we have learned to see
both the microscopic and the far reaches
of your universe.

And you are ruler of it all.

Your reign is here and now
wherever love is found,
and always yet to come
as we grow into you.

We are humbled,
and blessed
to be your co-creators.

Teach us to be wise
in your ways,
to feed the hungry,
give drink to the thirsty,
welcome the stranger,
clothe the naked,
and visit the sick and imprisoned.

We thank you, we praise you, and we bless you
who run the universe.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

You can't fight City Hall... but maybe you can work with it?

Over the past year and a half or so, I've had something of an education in how the Edmonton City Planning Department works. I have to admit that I'm not terribly impressed thus far, but I have hope that all shall be well, somehow.

Our neighbourhood of Holyrood has a strip of rather dilapidated two-story housing units on its southwestern edge. Regency Developments bought the land some time ago and made a development application to the city that could potentially see 1200 units sitting on a half-block wide strip of land (5 hectares) between 90th and 95th Avenue on 85th Street, north of the Bonnie Doon traffic circle.

Having spent a full day last Friday in Council Chamber listening to the pros and cons of this development, it's quite clear that the City of Edmonton Planners have been trying to bend city bylaws in order to accommodate the developer rather than expecting the developer to abide by the city's bylaws. As a result, there are so many problems with this Transit Oriented Development plan -- problems with parking, traffic, safe pedestrian routes, height of the buildings and the shadows they create, lack of affordable housing opportunites, and the list goes on. The developer's consultation with the community amounted to a few open houses where Holyroodians were given two picture boards like the boxy image above and asked, "would you prefer skyscrapers model A or skyscrapers model B?" Details were lacking, and opportunities to offer alternate ideas were ignored, making conversations around changes to the proposal one-sided at best.

On Friday last, the arguments for and against the proposal were presented during a public hearing that ran from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm -- a long day in everyone's books. This coming Monday (November 27) the public hearing continues at 3 p.m. The community is hopeful that City Council will send the proposal to the Edmonton Design Committee, a group that uses best practice principles for urban design in its considerations and recommendations for development. The Holyrood Development Committee, comprised of a group of local citizens who have been extremely dedicated to creating a better plan, is hoping to fill the council chamber with people who would like to see a Transit Oriented Development that all Edmontonians can be proud of. If you fit that category, come join us!

Holyrood Gardens Development Application Public Hearing
3 p.m. Monday November 27
City Council Chamber
1 Sir Winston Churchill Square

Come support your city's decision-making process...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

We are all children of light

After hearing today's reading from St. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, I am smiling and shaking my head at God's wisdom -- and timing. Paul writes: But you, beloved, are not in darkness... you are all children of the light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness." (1 Thessalonians 5:4a, 5) And there is a part further on in the reading (verse 11) that also fits my experience today: "Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing."

Back story: Since my last visit to Taizé in October of last year, I have had a dream of sharing a peace prayer with communities of different faiths in our city. The Brothers of Taizé start each week with a simple Sunday evening prayer for peace, a half hour of silence that ends with a chant asking, "Grant us your peace, O Lord..." For the past year, I have been trying to connect with people of different faiths who would be open to such a prayer.

Today, through a series of fortunate events, my friend Julien and I spent a few hours meeting and praying with people of an interfaith community that is very excited about the possibility of peace prayer together. The Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre was celebrating the birthday of their founder this afternoon, and the community offered us wonderful hospitality by means of a delicious afternoon snack, a meaningful performance about caring for creation offered by their young adults' group, heartfelt prayer in call and response chants in Hindi, Sanskrit and English, a wonderful vegetarian supper (complete with birthday cake), and lots of excellent conversation. (Stay tuned to these moodlings for information about an upcoming interfaith Peace Prayer...)

But what struck me most about our visit was the beautiful prayer just before supper, at which men and women of the community waved lamps in large circles and held the light out to all in the room, waving the light toward us as a sign that we are all filled with God's light.

It underlined for me the understanding that the names we give to God and the forms we imagine that God may take are not what is important in this life or in our prayer. What matters is that we understand that God lives and loves in every being on this planet, and that we are all children of the light no matter how we believe. In this regard, we have more in common than we can possibly understand.

O God of light,
thank you
for showing us your light,
for filling us with your light,
and for lighting our way
toward the unity and peace
you intend for all of creation.

Bless us
and remain with us
as we seek you
and find you
in each other's light.

Help us
to care for your beautiful creation
by living simply
and by recognizing your light
in all that you have made.

Show us
how to encourage one another
and build each other up
so that we may work together
until all enjoy
the peace and unity
you intend for our world.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Helping the Rohingya

Sometimes, I'm a bit slow on the uptake. After months of hearing about the Rohingya refugee crisis, I finally made a donation to help them this afternoon.

It can be hard to know how to donate, but it's only procrastination that kept me from it until now. I always have complete confidence in giving to Caritas Canada (also known as Development and Peace)  because it offers clear ways to assist partner organizations in areas affected by injustice and disasters. This summer my 23-year-old daughter had the experience of meeting with partners working in Bolivia, and she came back more committed to D&P than ever. The stories she tells are enough to convince anybody about the importance of Caritas' work!

D&P's partner organizations are staffed by people who are best able to serve the needy because they come from the same place, speak the same languages, and understand the difficulties that brought about the crises as well as potential solutions. The workers in Caritas Bangladesh are on the ground where the refugees are, already doing what can be done, and a donation to Caritas Canada helps their work in providing shelter, hygiene kits and sanitation facilities, and protection for children. Donations made before November 28th will be matched by the Canadian government.

To learn more about our brothers and sisters fleeing persecution in Myanmar, click here, and if you are able, send Caritas Bangladesh some financial assistance. It's the least we can do. And, perhaps, the best.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Simple Suggestion #269... Drive smarter

Did you hear about the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice in the news yesterday? Being released on what was the statutory Remembrance Day holiday for many people, its timing wasn't the best, as often happens with these very important news items.

Basically, 15,364 scientists from 184 countries around the globe (the most co-signers of a journal article ever recorded) signed a joint statement (please, go ahead and read it by clicking here or on its title above -- it's a quick and informative read). The Warning's signatories are doing what they can to push us, earth's human citizens, toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, restoring damaged ecosystems, limiting human population growth, and reining in material consumption. They share information about our planet's losses since the first warning in 1992, and tell us:
To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world's leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.
In understanding that Earth is our only home and that it is in serious trouble (as Pope Francis noted in his June 2015 letter to the world, Laudato Si:On Care for Our Common Home), we need to make some serious sacrifices. The scientists' warning offers many suggestions for transitioning to a more sustainable world, and encourages us to look at how we can live more sustainably to reduce our impact on our over-stressed planet and to work from the grass roots to bring about change. Which changes can we make right now?

One thing that we have done as a family was to give up certain conveniences, including our second car. It's been challenging at times when people are going in different directions, but living in a city, we are fortunate to have transit or taxis (or family and friends to help us out on occasion) when too many things are happening at once. We've also forgone attending the odd event just because it wasn't possible to make our single family vehicle bilocate.

But for many people in our spacious and vehicle-oriented country, it's not possible to give up personal transportation. So for those of us who have vehicles, a number of organizations (including the City of Edmonton) have joined with an online program called the Smart Drive Challenge, a program designed to teach us how to be more efficient with the fossil fuels we do use. Click on the highlighted link above to check it out.

Of course, even better than taking the Smart Drive Challenge would be to give up vehicles altogether -- like my friend Terry has. She's been car-less for years, has saved a fortune in insurance, gas, maintenance and registration fees, and only rents a vehicle once in a while for those things she can't do on foot or by public transportation. I wonder how many fewer greenhouse gases she's responsible for. Terry proves that it IS possible to go one step further than driving smarter, and simply give up having a car in Edmonton for most days of the year. But make no mistake, it is a sacrifice. She's at the mercy of our transit schedules a lot of the time, and bus service here seems to end at the supper hour in many cases.

Going car-less is a really radical idea, but somehow, I suspect that our 15,364 scientists would approve. If that's a bit too radical for you, I'll bet they'd give a secondary thumbs up to the Smart Drive Challenge. Try it!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seeking Wisdom

O Wisdom,
we find you in all your goodness, beauty and truth
when we allow love to lead us.

O God of Wisdom
how quickly you show yourself
when we allow you
to work in us,
to do what is right and just.

You wait
for us to seek you --
even as you are constantly seeking us.

You appear on our path
and meet us in our minds
whenever we see you
and love you
in all that surrounds us.

When we act with compassion
Wisdom is in us
and we are in Wisdom;
you are in us
and we are in you.

Help us to remain in you always.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering them

We've marked Remembrance Day in many different ways over the years, from visiting City Hall's cenotaph to holding our ears against the 21-gun salute at the Legislature grounds to witnessing the indoor parade of veterans from the Butterdome bleachers at the U of A. But I think we've found our favourite way to remember with the small crowd that gathered at the north end of Ainsworth Dyer Bridge at 11 a.m. for the past two years.

Today was a sunny Remembrance Day. Lee and I parked in Gold Bar Park and walked over the Ainsworth Dyer Bridge across the North Saskatchewan, reaching the quiet crowd waiting in Rundle Park on the other side.

The ceremony is simple. A pastor begins with a blessing, reads a scripture of lament and one of hope "...they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks...". Then the names of 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan are read out four at at time, and members of the crowd come forth with small wooden crosses emblazoned with the soldiers' names, and stand them in the snow. The crosses were made by Aart Van Sloten, the father of Ainsworth Dyer's fiancee.

Standing in the snow, watching families, friends and members of the military press the crosses into the ground and remember lost soldiers with a nod or a salute, is a powerful thing because it makes the sacrifice of our veterans more tangible and the world's need for peace more real.

Once the crosses were set, taps, one minute of silence and reveille were played. We heard "They shall not grow old..." and Flanders' Fields, and everyone present sang O Canada.

Simple and powerful. One way to show our gratitude and respect for those who died in one of the many Canadian involvements in global conflicts, and our hope for a future filled with peace.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A talented bunch, singing about hockey

At the recent 50th Anniversary Gala for Development and Peace, all who attended were treated to some pretty great entertainment, including the Logan Alexis Singers. Just four of them came to sing for us with their drums and powerful voices, and I had goosebumps. Their talent and gentle humour added a lot to the evening, and I knew I'd have to look up their Connor McDavid song and share it in these moodlings.

Connor McDavid is one of our local hockey stars, the next great hope since Wayne Gretzky. The Logan Alexis singers really know how to sing and are pretty passionate, not only about their singing, but also about encouraging the Edmonton Oilers!

Even if you're not a hockey fan, here's their song for your enjoyment.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy 50th Anniversary, Development and Peace!

For the last 50 years, a Canadian Catholic organization has been doing what needs to be done when it comes to standing up for justice and peace in the developing world. I'm old enough to remember quite a few of the yearly Share Lent campaigns and different projects that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has offered in those 50 years, but it's only as our oldest child has become a staff member with CCODP that I've paid closer attention to the work of the organization. Development and Peace, as it's less officially known, has taught many Canadians that people in the developing world aren't looking for charities to parachute in with North American solutions to their local problems -- rather, they are looking for partners to help them develop their own solutions more fully. I have no difficulty with supporting projects found at devp.org because I know that the communities most affected by the projects are on board 100%.

50 years of social justice work around the world is worth celebrating, and there have been events and activities planned throughout this anniversary year, including a series of videos recalling D&P's many projects in the past. The video below is one of seven three-minute shorts to give you an idea of what's been going on since the Canadian Catholic Bishops founded Development and Peace (now also known as Caritas Canada) in 1967. It's definitely worth watching this amazing solidarity timeline. I've posted the first of seven below just to get you started... Enjoy!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Come to the quiet

This Sunday's readings remind us of the importance of humility and how the beauty, goodness and truth in our lives are not something we claim in order to hold ourselves above others, but are simply gifts that come from God. Self-importance gets us nowhere -- it's genuine humility that is truly appealing. Just think of the humblest person you know, and the feelings he or she elicits when you think of that person.

I think this is why today's Psalm (131) appeals so much to me. It reminds me to be humble, not to occupy myself with things that are beyond what God wants for me. That, and it brings to mind the music of John Michael Talbot, in particular his Come to the Quiet album, which I wore out during my first year of teaching. It's all about the greatness of God, and God's gifts of mercy, peace and justice. So this morning I was delighted to find that someone managed to put it up on YouTube for our listening enjoyment. My very favourite of JMT's sung prayers (Psalm 62) is at the 39 minute mark on the video (sound file, really) below, but the whole album is better than ever, probably because I've lived a lot in the years since I last heard it. Listening to its gentle melodies is like coming home.

Here are John Michael Talbot's lyrics to his sung version of Psalm 131, the last one in the video below. Have a lovely Sunday, and enjoy.

my heart is not proud
nor are my eyes fixed on things beyond me.
In the quiet
I have stilled my soul
like a child at rest on its mother's knee.
I have stilled my soul
within me.

O Israel, 
come and hope in your Lord
do not set your eyes on things far beyond you.
Just come to the quiet.
Come and still your soul
like a child at rest
on his daddy's knee.
Come and still your soul