Monday, March 30, 2015

A retroactive Earth Hour, all year long

Oops! I missed it! Completely, this year. Usually I put in a good word in these moodlings for the World Wildlife Fund's efforts toward Earth Hour every year, and participate myself, but somehow, it escaped my notice until Friday afternoon, when someone posted a little ad somewhere and I said, aloud, "Oh, it's Earth Hour tomorrow night!" Unfortunately, that was the extent of my observance this year, sigh. During said hour, I was actually sitting in a darkened theatre, watching a play (that referenced the law of thermodynamics, of all things)! So much for Earth Hour 2015.

Did you miss it? Have you missed it in the past? I'm not sure how to make up for my failure to participate. But here's a list of possibilities:

1. I could give up hot drinks for a week. The electricity it takes to boil water is fairly significant.

2. I'll dry my laundry outside. An electric dryer can account for up to 15% of household electricity usage.

3. Do I really need to eat toast for breakfast every day? Toasters consume energy, too. Maybe I'll have fruit instead.

4. I've been getting a bit lazy about turning off power bars for the electricity vampires (computers/TV/microwave and other small appliances) in my house. I'll get back on that bandwagon.

5. I can have my own Earth Hour sometime this week, and enjoy an evening in quiet darkness, maybe with a candle, playing Boggle with Julia.

The thing about Earth Hour is that it's a great tool for building public awareness of humanity's overuse of the earth's energy resources, but if it's only one hour a year, what difference does it really make? Sure, it might be fun to see the lights lowered where I live and participate in that, but it's supposed to carry into our daily lives, too.

This was the ninth Earth Hour, and it's no longer a new idea for most of the planet's human inhabitants. The novelty has worn off to the point that electricity companies are reporting a decline in the amount of energy saved during that hour in comparison to earlier years. I don't think Earth Hour is collapsing by any means, but maybe it's time to take it to a new level for the tenth anniversary Earth Hour on March 26th, 2016.

Any ideas for the tenth anniversary? Something that will really engrave the importance of saving energy on everyone's conscience for another ten years? If you have an idea, leave it in the comments below, or better yet, send it to the World Wildlife Fund, and your own political representatives, to let them know that saving the planet is important in your books.

In the meantime, how are you living Earth Hour 2015 every day of the year?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another good one to send forward...

Remember Monica Lewinsky? What a mess her life became, all because, at 22 years of age, she fell in love with her boss, who happened to be the President of the United States. (Who didn't fall in love with the wrong person at age 22? I'm thinking of Charlie, ten years older than me, the kind of guy who would never grow up...) I'll admit I didn't give much of a thought to what Monica's life was like because of the mistake she made at age 22, but she has to think about it every day. (I mostly forget about Charlie, thank heavens.)

In this powerful video below, Monica talks about how the internet and our society have created a culture of humiliation and shame that devastates too many lives. It's too easy to make anonymous judgments, and too many of us jump to nasty conclusions that we air online. We forget the old piece of wisdom that we heard as children, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Negativity only breeds more negativity, shame, and humiliation, but every living being on this earth deserves compassion, regardless of her or his mistakes. Monica says it well, and I admire her for standing up and saying it, especially given her past hurts, which had to be huge.

The thing is, we are all part of the solution. The next time I run into negative comments, I'm going to throw in a positive one if I can. Thanks, Charleen, for sharing another good one, one that I'm sending forward as definitely worth watching. Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A zillion different colours

A rainbow cross made for me
by my new friend.
I don't know about you, but I'm getting really tired of this black and white world that so many of us are living in. You know, good versus evil, liberal versus conservative, gay versus straight, believer versus non-believer, east versus west, and any other seemingly opposing viewpoints you care to pit against one another. Dividing ourselves into camps is never a good idea for human beings. It's the antithesis of inclusion, of openness to others, and about as far from God's plan for the world as we can get. God includes everything, if we look around for a minute. It's just we humans who divide the world into opposing categories.

At the L'Arche Emmaus retreat in Montreal two weeks ago, I was blessed to journey with a young assistant who had recently come out as a gay man. He is a really beautiful person with many gifts, including a deep intelligence, compassion, understanding, warmth, openness, honesty, and a wonderful sense of humour. He gave me my best belly laugh of the week! Thankfully, his family, friends, and L'Arche community are supportive of him, and he is able to honour and celebrate the way God made him to be. We spent a lot of time talking about his hopes and his dreams, and it was a joy to listen to a man who knows and loves himself and wants to share his gifts with others, including someone to love.

But there are so many people in his position who feel that that they have no choice but to pretend to be what they are not, to deny their sexuality in places where its spectrum is not understood or honoured. In sexuality, as in most things, there is so much more than the black and white, this-versus-that perspective. The full colour spectrum is made of zillions of different colours, each of them important and necessary to the whole.

God sees all of the people he and she has created as important and necessary to the whole, too, or she and he wouldn't have created us! It's long past time for us to stop worrying about human-made categories in our ideologies, spiritualities, nationalities, sexualities, and simply live in the inclusive reality that is God.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Simple Suggestion #227... Don't be a mess-it -- bag it!

The title of this moodling goes back a long way, to when I was a child and there was an anti-litter campaign. I can still see the little, hang-over-the-car-radio-knob litter bag given out in our classroom. It was decorated with a little character that looked like the one at the left, sitting in a pile of garbage. "Don't be a mess-it. Bag it!" it proclaimed.

It might have been my first lesson in ecology, one that every kid learns, but somehow not every adult obeys. It's so basic, and so ignored.

I find this time of year to be rather discouraging because the snow disappears and litter becomes evident everywhere, and it seems that most of the human race could care less about our environment. But rather than rant about people who litter, I'm more inclined to bag it myself. I think of Alberta's past Lieutenant Governor, Grant MacEwan, and his insistence on leaving the planet a better place than he found it, every single day. The great man couldn't go on a walk without picking up other peoples' garbage and putting in where it belonged.

And it's such an easy thing to do, especially this time of year. Yesterday, during my walk with Shadow pup, no less than two plastic bags made themselves available to me. One was stuck under a bush; the other laying listlessly on a sidewalk. I picked those poor orphans up and used them to gather other waste along the way -- a lost running shoe, sheets of newspaper, empty disposable coffee cups. And I wondered at the people who misplaced these things. How could they be so careless? Or did they just forget to secure their garbage cans and the wind blew? Did they skip their childhood ecology lessons? I'd better watch out, or I'll start to rant...

At any rate, it doesn't take much to make the world a better place, like Grant MacEwan did. And that slogan from my first ecology lesson still holds. Don't be a mess it -- Bag it!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's coming...

This afternoon, Shadow pup and I took an hour's walk, looking for signs of Spring. We found plenty!


The tulips beside the house are starting to make their appearance...


the river is opening up...


sap is flowing down this tree where a porcupine 
made a meal of bark...


students at the Bennett Centre were having classes outdoors. Cool bison!


A cyclist whizzed down the hill...


avoiding the winter grit on the road's edges...


Nobody to be found on toboggan or ski hills...


good thing, too -- the T-bar is stock still, 
and look at that mud!


Snowbanks are pretty much missing from the park...


and there's not much left for puddles, either.


A motorcyclist was running his machine 
around and around the block, listening carefully to it...


and there were little patches of green grass here and there...


We have happy tomato plants in our +30 degree greenhouse.


Yesterday I found some pussy willows...


and both days, I had a little dog 
who definitely needed a bath when we got home.
(It's a daily occurrence at present.)

Of course, it could snow tomorrow and we'll be back at square one,
but the strength of the sun says that winter can't last much longer...

Happy almost Spring!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Seeing with the heart

I'm back from an excellent week at Villa Saint-Martin in Montreal, where I was the musician for the team leading the annual Emmaus retreat for L'Arche assistants.

It was an excellent week, with so many graced moments. Besides providing music with my guitar, I was also there to walk with assistants individually for a half hour each day, and what a privilege it was! These young people have such deep spirits. They see with their hearts, perhaps because they have learned from those with disabilities that the eyes can often provide us with faulty information when it comes to what is really important. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." That essential is love, of course.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus only saw clearly after Jesus broke the bread with them... and we spent some time last week looking at where we find the bread that nourishes us in our daily lives. I realized that, like the assistants, I am fed by experiences like the Emmaus retreat, and by the writings of Jean Vanier, who sees how important the weak are when it comes to enlarging the hearts of the strong.

My journey on the road with my 6 new friends from across Canada (Whycocomagh and Antigonish NS, North Bay, Toronto and Richmond Hill, ON, and Lethbridge, AB) filled me with amazement and joy. I really felt the Holy Spirit working in the way that their journeys and mine came together in the things we had in common, and in our differences, too. They taught me so much!

The little unexpected bonus of the week was that Jean Vanier received the 2015 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. The 1.7 million US dollar prize honours "a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension whether through insight, discovery, or practical works." (All three, I think, in Jean's case).

L'Arche's founder joins the ranks of many wonderful people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Brother Roger of Taize, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, and Mother Teresa, who have been recipients in the past.

Jean wrote a wonderful message in response to winning the prize that you can read by clicking here if you're interested. Below is a short video of some lovely interactions at the press conference...


At the end of our week of retreat, during our little celebratory fiesta, some of us raised our glasses and toasted Jean's inspiration to start an amazing community. He is a wonderful man, and his vision has done a lot for our world. Through him, the Spirit inspires people with and without disabilities in all 147 L'Arche communities in 35 countries around the world, 29 of them in Canada, to live together in loving mutual relationship. And his writings inspire us all to be aware of and love ourselves and each other in our vulnerability. We are one family, whether we realize it or not, and as family, we are only as well as we treat our weakest members, who often are our greatest teachers.

In Montreal, we were certainly inspired through our retreat and the stories shared there, to be like our community's founder, to see with our hearts, and to find Jesus in everyone we meet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Our pale blue dot

I've seen this one a few times already as it regularly makes the email circuit, and every time it makes me want to cry for some reason, but also to feel hopeful. There's something calming about Carl Sagan's voice.

How does this video make you feel?


Sunday, March 8, 2015

How is Lent treating you?

Or, I could ask, how have your conversations with God been going lately? Did you give something up for Lent to remind you that it is Lent? And how is that going? (I always give up chocolate -- but accidentally had some chocolate chips in a muffin on Tuesday morning! God smiled, I think, because we were in the middle of quite the conversation about God stuff at the time.)

My Lent has been pretty good so far. I met my spiritual director last week, and he offered me some very helpful things. I've had lots of time to pray with Helena at the hospital -- a very precious time of feeling God's nearness to a dying friend. And in the week ahead, I'll be going to Villa St. Martin in Montreal to help with another silent retreat for L'Arche assistants. To be honest, I'm feeling a bit spoiled this holy season. Usually, finding time for God in Lent is an effort, but this year she and he has handed me time on a silver platter.

How are you doing? Are you looking for a little bit of God time on a silver platter? Our Taize ecumenical prayer group is meeting on Sunday evening at St. Luke's Anglican Church (8424 95 Avenue) at 7 p.m. We'll be praying in song and silence, and all are welcome. Please feel free to join all those present, and bring a friend if you like.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

You are my sunshine

It's a song I've sung more times in my life than I can count. At every family singsong, from the time I was very small. And now it has added meaning as a song I sang in a hospital room to a dying friend who loved it.

Today, we sang it at the reception after her funeral, along with Yellow Bird, another favourite, and We Are Marching in the Light of God. We remembered a woman who loved visitors, and her own bedroom, and coca cola and Tim Hortons iced cappuccinos. We laughed about the colourful language she sometimes used, and the straight-to-the-point comments she made. When Chuck started playing Amazing Grace on the harmonica, many of us shed a few tears because she liked to play the harmonica. Some of us even painted our fingernails her favourite colour in her honour. (I NEVER wear nail polish, but made the extra effort to celebrate her!)

She loved it all, from where she is now, I'm sure. We look forward to seeing her again on the other side, and hearing that harmonica once again. I wonder if our little Polish lady will be wearing red nail polish then?


Monday, March 2, 2015

Helena found her way

Yesterday afternoon I was with Helena, singing to her, moistening her mouth, and telling her that Jesus was waiting for her. We were having our usual quiet visit when her guardians, who had been out of country for a few weeks, came to visit. Ann said, "Helena, Jesus will take you for a walk to see all of heaven's little birds because we all know you like little birds, and your mom and dad and brothers and sisters will all be there waiting for you, and it will be beautiful. It's okay to go, my dear."

At 11:30 last night, Helena went with a peaceful sigh, born into the new life we all await.

Today, the L'Arche Edmonton community will gather at Helena's house to remember her, sharing stories, pictures and songs, and lots of hugs and tears, too, no doubt. The long walk has ended, and it's time for celebration and surrender of our friendship with Helena, until we meet again.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The bishop made me cry

Image result for Communion in the hand
Today, the presider at Sunday mass was a dear friend and past spiritual director of mine who ended up being called by Pope John Paul II to become a bishop over twenty years ago. My bishop friend has always been a very humble man who values the involvement and efforts of people in the pews. He once asked me to help him lead a confirmation retreat. He's one of those priests who isn't stuck in the "us" and "them" mentality that many clerics seem to hold when it comes to lay people. He's one of the flock under the Good Shepherd, even as a bishop.

I really appreciated his homily, and the fact that he focused on God's love in the story of the prodigal father -- how tough the father is, how determined to love even in the face of his sons' rejection.

I was grateful when he prayed the more down-to-earth Apostle's creed instead of the super-wordy Nicene, though it caused a bit of confusion in an archdiocese that's been stuck on the latter since the new Roman Missal translation came out (Rant Alert: for us men and for our salvation hurts every time I hear it! I'm not a man, and never will be!!! And that kind of language is another example of women are pushed down to the level of second-class citizens all over the world).

But it was the bishop's actions at Eucharist that made me cry.

Since the Roman Missal was altered, lay eucharistic ministers have been banished from the altar until the priest has received communion. But this morning, the bishop gathered the ministers around him, distributed communion to them all, and after he completed the final prayers, he and everyone else partook together.

A small difference, but it made me cry tears of happiness -- and pain. The bishop refused to separate himself, to hold himself above the others to be the first to receive. His decision to share the sacred bread with the lay eucharistic ministers who were assisting him with distributing communion is how I imagine Jesus would want all those who serve him to share Eucharist.

I'm convinecd my bishop friend did it right, and I pray for the day when the men who make the liturgical rules see, respect and acknowledge the equality of everyone the way the bishop did this morning.

Come, Holy Spirit!