Wednesday, July 26, 2017

As I Am #9 --19 paper cranes

L'Arche Internationale's little videos about the beauty, goodness and truth of people with disabilities and their caregivers never disappoint. The most recent comes from L'Arche Japan and features Sachiko, a woman who lives a beautiful life and creates beautiful paper cranes to carry beautiful souls to paradise. If you haven't seen this yet, I highly recommend it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2hpNbELFHo

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grandma, it's not as easy as you made it look...

Last night, my sisters and I reminisced about picking the raspberries in Grandma's garden. She had approximately 100 rows of bushes, each of them stretching at least a mile to the back Saskatoon berry hedge. Or so it seemed to us three little girls. And no matter how fast we picked, we couldn't keep up with Grandma, who always seemed to have a full pail to our scant handfuls (and I don't think we were eating more than we were picking...)

Today I made my first-ever batch of raspberry jelly. Yesterday I picked a lot of backyard raspberries, and though I usually freeze them for breakfast smoothies, I thought that people might want ice cream and raspberries for dessert at our family barbecue last night. But my mom brought a bee-eautiful rhubarb/apple/saskatoon berry crumble, and my raspberries were forgotten. In the middle of the night, I remembered the pail on the counter, and decided that today I'd have to try a batch of raspberry jam or jelly.

Realizing that my family would probably prefer not to have raspberry seeds stuck in their teeth at breakfast, I started researching how to make jelly online, and as I did, some dimly lit corner in the back of my mind flashed that I had inherited some cheesecloth for straining juices. When Ruby, my oldest-ever neighbour -- who lived in her home until she was ninety-seven and kept on for five years after that -- moved into seniors' housing, her niece passed me a lot of Ruby's canning jars and a few other things. So I went hunting in our cold storage room, and glory be! There was a whole forgotten collection of berry juicing equipment from Ruby in the far back corner!

Once I washed everything and figured out how to put the antique WearEver aluminium strainer together, it was just a matter of time before I would have enough raspberry juice to make a beautiful batch of jelly. I was so excited! But of course, I had forgotten two important things:

#1 It's a good idea to reinforce the seams of ancient cheesecloth bags before using them.

#2 It's an even better idea to wear dark colours when making raspberry jelly.

Somewhere at the halfway point of the juicing process, as I was squeezing the raspberry pulp left in the cheesecloth bag, a seam gave way. Raspberry seeds and pulp sprayed across the room and my lovely flowered t-shirt. A passing stranger looking in our front window could have easily called 911 to report a mortally wounded woman standing over a berry press because it certainly seemed that way. My left side looked as though I was a victim from a chainsaw massacre.

Fortunately, no one looked in at that moment. I changed my clothes, scrubbed the floor and walls and fired up the sewing machine to reinforce the damp cheesecloth bag's seams, and the rest of the canning process was uneventful, thank heavens. The jelly set beautifully, and it tastes like summer. So if you're in the neighbourhood, drop by and we can have raspberry jam on toast anytime, at least for as long as it lasts.

Some days, I swear I can feel my Grandma laughing with me as I try out the things she used to do so effortlessly. And I suspect that just as she would chuckle with me over the big red blotches on my shirt and the floor, she'd also be pleased with this first attempt at raspberry jelly.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday reflection: Sighs too deep for words

Reflection based on Romans 8:26-27


O Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Maybe it's not so much 
that we don't know how to pray as we ought,
but that we are unable to find words 
to express the inexpressible:
fear,
sorrow,
struggle,
confusion,
or a feeling of hopelessness --
alternately,
joy,
peace,
excitement,
contentment,
or a strong sense of hope.
It's just good to know
that when we stand, tongue-tied,
in the chaos of our lives,
you intercede for us
with sighs too deep for words.
Really, that's all we need --
and to trust 
that you've got our backs.

+AMEN.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mary, mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Not with silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row, but I prefer food with my flowers, don't you? And I can't complain about the growth -- it never ceases to amaze me once we reach summer solstice!
June 21 
July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21
Thus far, we're enjoying lettuce, cherry tomatoes and snow peas, and it won't be long, God- and weather-willing, before we can start eating even more organic, 50-foot-diet vegetables. The squash are blooming, and it's just amazing how things change, even overnight. A garden is a good place to be this time of year, but if you don't have one, try a farmer's market because it's awesome too! Or visit me... I have more lettuce than I know how to handle! You've heard of crazy zucchini ladies...???

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything's a miracle

As you may have guessed from the changes in the look of my moodlings, we're back from our summer vacation... a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park, a visit to Lee's parents in Lethbridge, and a week at Radium Hot Springs. The weather was great, if a bit too hot, and we enjoyed a lot of outdoor time, appreciating our beautiful environments. The smoke from the terrible forest fires a couple of valleys over in BC wafted across occasionally, reminding us that not all is well everywhere in God's gardens.

On our way home, driving past some of the most beautiful places in the Rocky Mountains, we listened to my favourite tune by Peter Mayer, Holy Now (if you haven't heard it, click here) that reminds us that really, everything's a miracle.

Here are some miracles from the past few weeks...

Lundbreck falls near Pincher Creek...

Hanging out with my gang at Waterton Lakes National Park...


This "living lawn ornament" in the town of Waterton...

Wildflowers and a newly engaged couple...

The view from the heights...

Wildflowers as the sun sets...

The strength of the wind...

Natural hot springs...

Roads (extremely bumpy!) into the wilderness...

Emerald green lakes... (White Swan Provincial Park)

How nature rejuvenates itself after a wildfire (2003)... (Marble Canyon)



And the love of a good man for 26 years (today's our wedding anniversary).

I've never quite understood people who don't believe in a Higher Power of some sort. Yes, there's a lot of trouble and pain in our world, but there's also so much beauty, goodness and truth, and not everything can be rationally explained by science. Miracles abound. As Peter Mayer sings, "the challenging thing becomes not to look for miracles but finding where there isn't one."

I hope you're finding many miracles around you in these summer days...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A prayer for rain

We've been away since July 1st, and in that time we have been following the situation in BC's interior with increasing concern. The smoke from the forest fires that are threatening communities in the Cariboo region is drifting across the western provinces now, and there's an out-of-control blaze near Banff, reminding us that all is definitely not well with our environment if large swathes of forest are burning and adding greenhouse gases to our planet's already overburdened atmosphere. And for most of us, there's nothing we can do about it, really, except pray for those most affected by the fires, for the fire crews, and for our earth as a whole.

So I offer, once again, a prayer for rain:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Simple Suggestion #266... Sing with a friend

I think it began on my 17th birthday. My best friend, Cathy, happened to be in town, and we went for a long walk together. And somewhere on that walk, she taught me to sing "When I first came to this land." I still remember all of the words, I think. I probably taught her a song, too. So there we were, two seventeen-year-olds, walking along the North Saskatchewan River, singing two part harmony.

And it grew from there. In October, the day our trains got all messed up, we unexpectedly found ourselves at a train station in rural France... learning another song in two parts. We've got several duets that we like to sing together, and one evening not so long ago when I was really missing her (she lives 1284 km away), I called her up. When she said "Hello?" I launched into this song, and of course she joined right in:



I have been fortunate to have sung with many friends through the years. I'm particularly pleased to have reconnected with a fellow I used to sing with in a youth group as a teenager. We're both three decades older now, but somehow our voices still fit together like lego blocks. It gives me so much joy to sing harmony with him at church once a month because somehow I can just feel in my bones when he'll begin and what my next note should be, thanks mostly to our early years of collaboration, I think. And there are other friends whose voices are imprinted in my soul from other times, people  with whom I'd like to think I could pick up a tune at the drop of a hat.

Then there are my sisters. We sang together in the car on long trips when we were little... and learned a few melodies in three part harmony in our teens. I loved singing with them, but our regular monthly gig at church ended about ten years ago and has never been replaced by anything else. Sisters, if you ever want to sing non-church music together, just the three of us, I'm game! A capella if you want!

Today's simple suggestion to sing with a friend doesn't mean the music needs to be high quality or aired in public. Even if you don't consider yourself to be a musical person, it can be fun to find a friend and sing along to the radio or attend an in-home karaoke night. All that's needed for guaranteed mood improvment is a friend, a fun little ditty, and a willingness to sing your hearts out. Singing along with Sharon, Lois and Bram or Charlotte Diamond with our kids when they were small made a lot of car trips a lot more pleasant!

Sing with a friend, just for the health of it. And if you have a favourite song that you like to sing with a favourite someone, I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday reflection: I will give you rest

Image borrowed from a lovely blog
called A Glimmer of Sunshine
This Sunday's gospel reading seems like it's chosen to go along with summer vacation mode. Jesus says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

A yoke isn't something we understand very well in North America with our mechanized farming and John Deere tractors. But my grandpa used yokes on pairs of animals... and this reading suggests to me that if I am yoked with Jesus, he's carrying the large ox share of the weight. A perfect image for summer relaxation, just walking along beside the One who lifts my burdens.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The #holyroodbenchproject - An update

One recent sunny morning, I decided to ride my bike around my neighbourhood to discover how the #holyroodbenchproject had turned out (click here for the original moodling on the subject). And I have to say it was a wonderful ride because of the anticipation I felt with every corner I turned. Coming across a bench I hadn't yet seen was like finding an unexpected present under the tree on Christmas morning. Thanks to all the wonderful woodworkers at SEESA, and to my neighbours who took responsibility for giving these benches homes -- and some creative paint jobs!

Let's start with the original bench, the one that 
spawned the idea for the #holyroodbenchproject.
Note the lovely curved armrests and the shape of the back pieces,
plus the message to indicate that anyone is welcome to sit:


Below is a bench in its original state,
awaiting a coat of paint or varnish...


Then there are the simple beauties, 
finished with lovely stains...


Some people gave a bit more thought to colour and design...


The bench above goes with a red-and-white themed flowerbed 
for Canada's 150th anniversary, I'm guessing...


I'm happy to see these bright colours above on display...
as I'm guessing members of our LGBTQ community might be...


Above, the butterflies are padded decals...
and there are a few benches below with well-designed messages...





Including the special bench above, which sits right outside 
the South East Edmonton Senior's Association building...


Above is a closeup of one that says 
"Break time -- enjoy the day from your friends at SEESA"
and the flamingo is having a wonderful vacation, 
visiting Alberta's golden prairies and snowy mountains...
or at least that's how I see it. See the ducks?

Below is a brilliant activity bench,
with a ziplock bag of chalk included.
Clearly the kids' choice!


But I think my heart's favourite is a bench purchased and painted 
by a neighbour for her neighbours down the street...
with piano keys for a piano teacher,
 and see the beloved pets in the trees?


The bench outside our house appears on my original moodling... and counting it plus all of these, I'm still a couple short of the 20 that were built for the #holyroodbenchproject. I know that the SEESA seniors have had quite a few extra orders, so if you would like a neighbourly bench of your own, they're now selling them for $100, a great deal. A friend of mine bought two, one for her boulevard and one for her children's school. 

If you have a bench that I missed in this moodling, let me know, and I'd be happy to come take its picture too. I've never ridden my entire neighbourhood on my bike before, and I found that tracking down benches made it even more enjoyable. And if you're looking for a walkable neighbourhood with big trees and shady benches for rest, come visit us in Holyrood.

Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 Canada Day Reflection: Thanksgiving more than pride

In my mind, it was turning into The Mystery of the Missing Canadian Flag. Last fall when I was out of town, an unexpected snowstorm hit... and it was up to my husband to put away the garden. It was a good thing that he took down the Canada flag from our flagpole and put it away, but because he had so much to do in the storm, he forgot exactly where he put it.

Needless to say, we've spent a fair bit of time looking for it this spring because it wasn't in any of the usual places, or the unusual ones. I had pretty much given up searching, saying, "Oh well," but yesterday, when I was looking for something in my laundry cupboard, I moved something aside... and suddenly realized that I was holding the missing Canadian flag! I dropped everything and went to run it up its flagpole over our garden.

Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation this weekend -- a space of time that is a drop in a bucket when you consider the history of countries like India or China, or those in the Middle East and Europe. Our young country of Canada is blessed in so many ways -- but some of the lead up to the 150 celebrations has made me wonder what we are actually celebrating.

The consumerism associated with this celebration leaves me rather depressed -- Canada flag paper plates and napkins, red plastic cutlery, plastic flag garlands, pennants, balloons, t-shirts, ball caps, and more stuff that I don't even want to think about, enough to fill our landfills... Oh, and if you cut yourself while preparing the Canada Day barbecue, there are Canada flag bandaids. The government is already spending millions on celebrations, and how much will ordinary Canadians spend on flag-labelled junk made in other countries? Sheesh.

Of course, my hesitation isn't just about the stuff. There's a lot that has happened in this country in the last 150 years that make us proud to be Canadians -- but there's also a fair bit to deflate our spirits. I'm thinking particularly of the treatment of our Indigenous sisters and brothers over those 150 years. Racism has kept us from becoming a truly wholesome society -- imagine what our nation would have been like if European settlers had been willing to cooperate with the First Nations rather than segregating them and forcing them to give up their culture in what turned out to be a residential school-based genocide. Our challenge now is to heal the entire nation. I hope there will be many Canada Day blanket exercises or other opportunities to bring Canadians to understanding and reconciliation.

Taking pride in our country is probably a good thing on many fronts, but we need to keep in mind that many of us live here simply by accident of our birth, not because we have done anything special to deserve our nationality. I suggest that rather than making Canada Day a consumerist celebration of the sesquicentennial with misplaced pride and all sorts of silly red-and-white paraphernalia that needlessly use the earth's resources, we make it a time of thanksgiving. Let Canada Day be a time to reflect on and be grateful for the gifts our land has bestowed upon us, a time to come up with ways to heal divisions within our society, to work for justice and to welcome those who need a home.

Yes, sing O Canada with fervour at some point on July 1st, but also consider psalmist's words about dwelling in God's house and how they can fit with our feelings about living in our beautiful country:

**How lovely is your dwelling place, O God.

My soul longs for the courts of my God:
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home
and the swallow a nest for herself
where she may lay her young at your altars.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength comes from you,
in whose hearts are the road to your home.
They go through the dry valley
and it becomes a place of springs and oases.
They go from strength to strength 
because of their God's great love.
Hear our prayer, O God!
Be our shield,
and anoint us all with your grace and blessing.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in God's home
than live in a rich palace away from God.
You, God, are our guide and protection;
You are the one who bestows favour and honour.
You walk with us when we act with justice, compassion and humility.
O tender God, happy are those who trust in you.

Here God lives among God's people.

Happy Canada Day!

**(my paraphrase of Psalm 84)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden

I'm in heaven (or maybe a corner of the garden of paradise) these days as I watch things grow. It's such a beautiful time of year, and I find it hard to sit and moodle at the computer when there's so much moodling to be done outdoors. Things change daily, overnight with the little bit of rain that fell last night. Today is cool and rainy, but before the rain clouds got serious this afternoon, I took my camera for a little walk to document a bit of what's going on in our yard.


Belgian poppies and bachelor buttons go well together...


Anton the dog is pleased to have pansies... 
and an unidentified plant that will eventually reveal its identity...


I like this colour combination with my 'Silver Fir' heirloom tomato...


The day lilies and lupines are almost finished... next up, lilies!


The veggie patch is looking pretty good overall...


The volunteer lettuce makes me laugh... 
I've given salad to two neighbours thanks to it...


The yarrow tucked a little posie into my garden clogs...


and the sweetness of the wet garden can be tasted 
in the strawberries I had for breakfast!

Happy Summer, everyone!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Living out of love, not fear

Last Monday morning, we woke to discover our garage door open and my husband's fairly new bicycle missing. We still don't know how the thief gained access, but we suspect a faulty garage door opener. We filed a police report and secured our garage. Then at 2:45 in the middle of last night, Julia woke us, saying she heard a scraping noise from the garage. So Lee got up and went to see if another bike might have disappeared. 

Fortunately, everything was in place. We don't know what Julia heard, but it was a windy evening so maybe someone's garbage can was walking down the back alley? Our sleep disturbed, we lay for a while wondering if our home and possessions were secure enough. Conversation kept us awake for a while, as we talked about the things we own that we need to protect (not all that much, really). Eventually we came to the wise conclusion that our possessions really aren't that important, and that we don't want to let fear rule the way we live.

The problem with possession, with clinging to anything, really, is that we have to protect and defend what we consider to be ours. Of course we don't want things to disappear from our lives -- we need what we need, and having the things we need disappear can get costly. But locking ourselves and our possessions away from the world all the time isn't a good option either.

In Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus said, "Fear no one... do not fear... do not be afraid..." And what do we fear? Loss, pain, and abandonment, mainly. And what counterbalances our fears? Love, of course.

I love this little reflection by Michael Leunig. I know I've posted it here before, but it comes back to me in situations like this, begging to be rediscovered. We are afraid of so many things. But when we chose love over fear, the world changes from terrible and traumatic to a place of infinite possibilities. Knowing that we are loved beyond our wildest dreams, cared for by a Creator who provides us a beautiful planet on which we live, move, and have our being, can help us to be fearless, to welcome the stranger, to forgive the thief. We know that our Creator's love touches all, even the person who stole Lee's bike, whether she or he knows it or not.

Of course, we're still one bike short, and we've taken as many precautions as we can to ensure that nothing else goes missing. It was a good bike, and I hope and pray that the person who took it benefits from it in a positive way, gives up petty crime and discovers their belovedness. But of course, that's between them and our Creator.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bread of life, body of Christ

This Corpus Christi Sunday, my mind goes back to morning prayer at Taizé, and to the communion offered to the gathered community. Consecrated bread (host wafers) were offered to Catholics in one place, and blessed bread was also made available to everyone who wanted to partake. I didn't know about the blessed bread during my first visit in 2014 because I usually ended up sitting on the side of the Church of Reconciliation where the Catholics received the consecrated hosts, which we were allowed to dip in a cup of wine.

But when I visited Taizé in October 2016, I sat on the other side of the church with my best friend, and we received the bread together (Cathy isn't Catholic, and I wanted to share communion with her). And I wasn't sorry to receive the unconsecrated bread because a young volunteer offered us a basket from which we took a chunk of bread with a piece of crisp crust, like bread will taste in heaven, every bit as delicious as God's love should be. And as Cathy and I left morning prayer for breakfast, I said, "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!" and she laughed and said, "I know! It was so DELICIOUS!"

I'm not sure how or why so many churches got away from sharing really good bread, though I expect it has something to do with concern for the crumbs being dropped on the floor and walked on. But to break our morning fast with such a delicious piece of bread shared with a smile by a young volunteer had a profound impact on my understanding of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus probably gave his followers a special meal to show that life is meant to be delicious, and joyous, and to help us know that the people who eat his meal are meant to bring flavour and celebration to all of life, especially to those who hunger and thirst for justice, joy, peace and beauty. His gift of himself as food for the feast is meant to encourage us all to offer ourselves for the life of the world in the way he did.

The idea of the Body and Blood of Christ has always been a bit too visceral for many people, but who doesn't like to share a good loaf of bread and bottle of wine with friends? Maybe the enjoyment of eating together as God's beloved people got lost in the rules around how to distribute the meal to large groups in huge churches... and in our concern for how the meal is served we have been missing out on something simple, joyful, and absolutely delicious.

If I was consulted on how to make our liturgies more meaningful, I'd say, stop worrying about the crumbs. Christ wants us to enjoy the bread of life and each other. Pass the basket to each other with a smile, let everyone take a fresh and delicious piece to dip in some sweet and excellent wine so that they can really taste and see the goodness of God, and know that together, we are all the body of Christ in the love that we share with each other and the world.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A tune for a rainy day

Corb Lund is guaranteed to put a grin on my face every time I hear him on the radio. He's a pretty wonderful Alberta musician who grew up near my husband (though he's four years younger) and he sings some hilarious quirky songs about farming, ranching and related adventures. His sense of humour tickles my funny bone -- and he just seems like a down-home decent kind of guy. The fact that he sings about bestowing a western blessing, "May you always have cows around," appeals to the prairie girl in me. I've always liked cows, too -- there's something kind of calming about them. And Corb's vibe is like a drive down a dusty dirt road with happy tunes on a gorgeous sunny day. Mmm, smell that fresh air (unless there are a LOT of cows around)!

This morning my sister brought this old video to my attention. So if you've never seen or heard of Corb Lund, here's a little tune for a rainy day (we're having a million dollar rain right now and it sounds like my neighbour down the back alley is getting stuck). Enjoy!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The widest circle

It's Trinity Sunday, a day that I like to think about how our God is a God of relationship, and more all-encompassing than human beings will ever be able to understand. God, the Creator of all, could have stopped at coming to us as Jesus, God with skin on, but no -- She and He also appears to us as God, the Holy and Creative Spirit. Together, the three form a wide circle and invite us all in to their dance. They show us the love and inclusiveness that we are all called to offer to one another.

Imagine, for a moment, a more inclusive world -- one in which everyone is recognized and treated as a cherished child of God no matter their age, ability, culture, faith, gender, race, or socio-economic status. That's exactly the kind of circle we are called to create by the way we welcome one another and live together.

Jean Vanier understands this, and in his message to Canada for its sequicentennial (150th anniversary celebrations) this year, he offers a wonderful message about creating a more human society where everyone belongs. I love this man, and I'm guessing he could tell us more about the Trinity than most Trinity Sunday sermons ever will. Have a listen to his message, and enjoy...

"You are more beautiful than you dare imagine..."

Happy Trinity Sunday!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Oh, what a beautiful day!

The weather for this Environment Week has been gorgeous, with just enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes down during the day. I should be out in the garden, but I had to share a few pictures... I've always been fascinated by back lighting, especially on flowers, and how the sun shines through them...





And the light coming through the sprinkler caught my fancy, too...


There's a fair fluttering at our birdhouse these days... Mom and Dad Sparrow have a wee brood in there, and we are keeping an eye on them -- and they on us -- in a mostly peaceful co-existence (though I get scolded a lot for encroaching on their territory as I weed the garden). It's been fun to track their growth through the volume of sound that comes out of the birdhouse -- at first it was the tiniest noise, but now it's a loud chirping!


Here's Mom going in...


And checking if the coast is clear...


Even Shadow pup agrees that it's a perfect kind of day.
Have a good one yourself!