Saturday, January 30, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #25... Toward a work/life balance

Work-life balance is something a lot of people are thinking and talking about these days, but today I'm using the term in a different sense than you might expect: the work of human beings is important because it gives us a sense of purpose and meaning, but it must be balanced with the life of the planet, which is also important. As has been noted in much of what we've been reading from Laudato Si lately, too often the value we give to human endeavour has trumped the value of the rest of creation. There needs to be a balance between the way we use our earth's resources in our work if we are to have a true work/life balance for ourselves and our planet.

This week we're looking at the section entitled, "The need to protect employment," paragraphs 124-129 of Pope Francis's most recent encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, which can be accessed by clicking here. Basically, it's looking at how an ecology that cares for creation must also be aware of the value of labour in our lives, and how our work can aid -- or hinder -- our planet in its fruitfulness. Paragraph 124 notes that "Developing the created world in a prudent way is the best way of caring for it, as this means that we ourselves become the instrument used by God to bring out the potential which he himself inscribed in things."

Paragraph 125 underlines the importance of a "correct understanding of work." If we understand human labour correctly, we see that it is underpinned by our relationship with God, with others and with all created things. The holy people of our collective past seemed to understand this better than we do today -- the desert mothers and fathers lived simply and without using more resources than they required, ancient monasteries lived a rhythm that allowed them to meet the needs of the communities housed within and around them, and practices were developed to replenish resources depleted by human beings. Early spiritual communities were more organic and carbon neutral than we are today. "Personal growth and sanctification came to be sought in the interplay of recollection and work. This way of experiencing work makes us more protective and respectful of the environment; it imbues our relationship to the world with a healthy sobriety" says the end of paragraph 126.

Unfortunately, this kind of simplicity has been overtaken by the idea that our personal growth and fulfillment can only be found in what we possess rather than in how we make the world a better place by how and who we are: "once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood," as St. Pope John Paul noted in his writings (footnote 101). When work is only seen as a means to more possessions rather than as a way to participate in God's creation of a just world, the decline of our environment follows. "Work should be the setting for... rich personal growth, where many aspects of life come into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God" (paragraph 127).

So valuing work the way God intended us to is pretty important, isn't it? Work doesn't always meet the above-mentioned criteria, so sometimes, it can feel like drudgery, but when it is taken out of our hands by technology, that's not necessarily good either. Paragraph 128 says, "The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work.... Yet the orientation of the economy has favoured a kind of technological progress in which the costs of production are reduced by laying off workers and replacing them with machines. This is yet another way in which we can end up working against ourselves... "through the progressive erosion of social capital: the network of relationships of trust, dependability, and respect for rules" that Pope Benedict noted in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

This reminds me of those automated self check-outs at some of our local stores. 4 or 6 automated tills are situated in the space where two cashiers used to interact with customers. The machines might allow us to move through the line-up more quickly, but they also reduce our interaction with real human beings and allow the corporation to hire fewer people. And hmmmm, how often have I opted for allowing one of those machines to take the place of a real human being when I'm in a hurry lately? More times than I'd like to admit. So I'm actually playing right into the hands of the corporations that are taking work away from human beings just for the sake of convenience. Are you?

And there's the problem. We human beings are easily addicted to convenience, to the point that we forget about the value of labour as a means for providing "meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.... To stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short term financial gain, is bad business for society" (paragraph 128).

And the answer to this bad business? I'm convinced it lies in doing business on a smaller, more human scale than large corporations allow. So is Pope Francis, who says,
Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production. To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power.... Business is a noble vocation... especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good (paragraph 129).
The fact that the phrase "the common good" comes up almost 30 times in Laudato Si is significant -- because many human beings have become so focused on what is good, easy, and convenient for themselves rather than what is necessary for the good of ALL. Too many of us have forgotten that we need to serve the common good if we want to have meaningful lives.

So in the week ahead, I intend to pay attention to where I can best serve the common good, where I can support small business rather than soulless greed, and how I can find the balance where my life's work can bring benefit to the life of the world God gave us as pure gift. If I have to shop, I'll support small, local businesses. I plan to visit a farmer's market. And if I have a choice between a self check out and a real live human being, I'll stand in line a little longer to support her or his work.

Join me?

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Next up:  #26... How to cure a technological headache

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

No Lions in Paris

People with disabilities bring me closer to God because, once they know me, they have a gift of loving me unconditionally, and I can't help but love them too. It doesn't matter to them that my teeth are crooked and my hair is grey, what I do for a living, or my political preferences. They are who they are, and they love and accept me as I am, too. Kind of like God loves and accepts all her and his children.

I love these #AsIAm videos being put out by L'Arche International. The view of Musa from Kenya when it comes to Paris is delightful, don't you think? What is important to him is the love between people -- and I'm pretty sure that's all that really matters to God, too. Enjoy!



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection #24... Practical relativism as a "dog's breakfast"

Consider yourself warned -- in this week's paragraphs of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis and his encyclical writing team bring out a dog's breakfast (British slang meaning a confused mess or mixture) of issues that our world isn't handling particularly well due to the fact that many of us give priority to personal interest rather than the common good.

I'm focusing on paragraphs 120-123 of Laudato Si, which can be found by clicking here and scrolling down. Only four paragraphs today because a fifth would take us into a different topic which we'll cover next week.

As the seventh chorus of Laudato Si reminds us in paragraph 120, everything is interrelated and all of God's creation -- from the human embryo to his mother to the oilsands worker to the wildlife that lives near the tailings pond -- all are important and really, how can we assign them particular value, especially when we are not God and we can't see the Big Picture? But when human beings try to play God and make decisions about who should thrive and who should die; when practical relativism says, "it is inconvenient, therefore it must go"; when we devalue life in any form, we end up with a dog's breakfast "whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay" (paragraph 122).

Let's backtrack a moment to practical relativism. Basically, it has to do with seeing everything in life in terms of how it serves my personal interest. It's interesting to me that practical relativism really took hold during the age of the 'me generation' which is comprised of people my age and older. We came of age in a time when there was peace and prosperity in the Western World, and many of us developed a sense that we had worked hard for our wealth and security, forgetting that there were others like us in poorer and more dangerous parts of the world who were working just as hard or even harder, but were unable to reach our standards of living because of many factors beyond their control (some of those factors created by our high standard of living). Some of us have lost sight of the fact that everything we have is blessing and gift from God, and now think that because we can afford it, we are entitled to a life of luxury and convenience and the world revolves around us and our desires.

But it doesn't, and it shouldn't. All God's creatures should be as fortunate as we are, and we shouldn't rest on our prosperity until they are.

In paragraph 123 we read that "The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts." And it leads to the dog's breakfast which we see in our newspapers almost daily (some of which is named by Pope Francis and friends in the continuation of paragraph 123):

abortion
sexual exploitation of children
abandonment of the elderly
human trafficking
organized crime
the drug trade
commerce in blood diamonds and endangered species
buying of organs of the poor for resale or experimentation
elimination of unwanted children
(and this list hardly begins to account for the hardships faced by other species... like loss of habitat, pollution of soil, water, and air, climate change, etc.)

And all of it, all of it, springs from our inability to really appreciate the value of life in its many forms. If I have a bone to pick with Pope Francis and friends, it is that is that they fail to acknowledge that we humans might need to employ some form of reliable birth control to limit our numbers for the sake of all earth's species, all God's creatures, but I completely agree when they note that
[relativism's] "use and throw away" logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts of the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided (paragraph 123).
After reading these paragraphs earlier in the week, I found myself moodling (musing and doodling) about our tendency to think that we know all the answers and our tendency to make judgements based on what works for us instead of what's best for everyone. Unfortunately, this extends into all corners of our lives. Example: the guy who tailgated me this morning -- I judged him for being a pushy driver and thought some nasty thoughts about what should happen to him, but for all I know, he was on his way to his mother's house because she was having a medical episode and needed his help.

We humans tend to pass judgment on many occurrences in our lives, but I suspect that God calls us to be open to possibilities that are far beyond us, and to trust God's wisdom more than our own egocentric applications of practical relativism. So this week's challenge is to be more aware of the internal critic that decides what is good and bad according to our own lived experience rather than God's commandments to love, and be open to seeing with God's eyes instead.

Then, perhaps, we can find God's merciful and loving ways to deal with the dog's breakfasts that plague our own lives, the lives of our brothers and sisters facing the kinds of human struggles in the list above, and the life of our beautiful Mother Earth.

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Next up: #25... Toward a work/life balance

Friday, January 22, 2016

On asking for prayers

For the past year, my dad has been living with cancer, and this week, decisions were finally made regarding what to do about it. On Wednesday, he learned that today he'll be having a five-hour surgery to remove the cancer. Then comes a week to ten days recovery in hospital, and a few months of going gently after that. And then we hope it will be gone!

Yesterday, I went through my email list and invited 70 folks that might or might not hear about the surgery otherwise to say a wee prayer for my dad. I felt a little funny doing it, but this morning, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my friends' response, a definite tsunami of prayers, as one friend called it. If prayer alone can save a person, my dad has it made. The bonus is that he's in God's loving hands, of course.

My lesson? Never be afraid to ask for prayers. Friends are only too happy to bring each other's needs to God, and nothing raises the spirits like knowing they've asked the best for you or your loved ones. Prayer may or may not change the outcome of what's happening, but it fills everyone involved with hope. And personally, I think that changes outcomes right there, even if we don't get exactly what we've been praying for!

God bless you, my friends. Please say a wee prayer for my dad...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A marshmallow world


It's a marshmallow world in the winter
when the snow comes to cover the ground
It's a time for play, it's a whipped cream day.
I wait for it the whole year round...
-- It's a Marshmallow World 
by Lou Sigman, 1949


It seems unfair to me that the song above is only played at Christmas time when it doesn't even make mention of Christmas. What it actually talks about is a day like today, when I woke up to see light fluffy snow "in the arms of the evergreen tree" and more sparkly stuff floating down, turning every upraised branch into a series of cotton puff balls.

Shadow and I walked for almost two hours, revelling in the beauty of the day. The white trees contrasted with the grey sky, and every bush was like a fairyland of crystal and lace. God's artistry is so incredibly beautiful, a little bit of heaven here and now.

A whipped cream day, indeed. For my readers who rarely see snow, here are the best of my pictures, which can't begin to do the day justice. Enjoy!














Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Darren* makes my day

I've been working from home since the end of November, and I hadn't been to the L'Arche Community Centre in well over a month. But there is a board meeting this week and I went in to prepare for it, and received a wonderful reception from my friends. I didn't realize they missed me as much as I miss them when working in my kitchen.

As I walked into the Day Program room, I wished everyone a Happy New Year, and received immediate affection. My sister Alice chided me for taking so long to come and wish her a Happy New Year. Leanne snuggled in and gave me a hug, Lucy called me over to her wheelchair for a hug, and even Darren made eye contact. I teased him, saying, "My hands are cold, Darren; can I warm them on your neck?" I slowly reached out my hand, and my non-verbal friend took it and gave it a gentle kiss! What a charmer!

How many people do you know who get that kind of a welcome when they return to work?

*I use pseudonyms for my L'Arche friends with disabilities.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #23... A(nother) shot at anthropocentrism

I was trying to explain this next portion of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home to my husband earlier in the week, and found I had a hard time getting my tongue around the word anthropocentrism. And, to be honest, summarizing these next five paragraphs was challenging, too. As I read them on Monday, I wondered what on earth they could say about anthropocentrism that hadn't already been mentioned in reflection #17? But it always amazes me how new ideas suddenly come along...

We're entering section three of Chapter three, "The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism" -- that A word referring to the belief that human beings are the most important creatures on earth as far as our value and intelligence go. As I've walked with my dog this week, noticing all the human-dropped garbage peeking out of snowbanks in parks and school yards, I've been grinding my teeth in frustration at the blatant anthropocentrism in the act of littering! Why on earth can't we human beings take care of our own trash?

But rather than re-flog the anthropocentrism horse too much (flogging any horse is a rather anthropocentric thing to do, if you think about it), I just want to quickly summarize what Pope Francis and friends are saying in paragraphs 115-119 (you can read them for yourself by clicking here and scrolling down).

Paragraph 115 -- Our human-centred, technological-minded world view has turned creation into an object to be used in too many peoples' minds -- this is ground that's already been covered, except perhaps for its connection with technological thinking.

Paragraph 116 -- We need to pay attention to reality and its limits and recognize that we are not masters of the earth, but stewards of creation. Personally I dislike the word "stewards" as it still places human beings as managers above creation -- wouldn't it be better to say, co-operators WITH creation?

Paragraph 117 -- "When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities -- to offer just a few examples -- it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected." There's the chorus of Laudato Si, sung for the sixth time! But again, only mentioning human beings -- there's a problem when we're so stuck on human worth that we fail to acknowledge the importance of everything from aarvarks to zooplankton because we are only worried about human issues. There has to be a balance.

Paragraph 118 -- "There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology.... Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued." Again, balanced with the concerns of all God's creatures.

Paragraph 119 -- "Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence."  But I can't see immanence, the idea that God is present in all material things/beings as stifling -- rather, we are freed from self-absorption when we can see Divine Presence in everything around us. That's where humanity's mind needs to be re-set so that we can do what's needed for the good of everything. I also suspect that our relationship with God should never be isolated from our relationship with creation. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in over-pious garb, locking us into a religiosity that ignores God's presence in the rest of creation -- and unfortunately, that's where some folks seem to be stuck at the moment -- "our eyes are fixed on heaven; who cares about the earth?"

For some strange reason or trick of the mind, these paragraphs, combined with all the litter I've noticed this week (some dropped beside a gas station garbage can yesterday until my hubby accidentally shamed the litterer into picking it up!), reminds me of a story that Jesus told in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew's gospel. If Jesus was with us now, would he perhaps adapt his parable to encourage better care of our common home? Imagine him telling a story like this:
Listen. An ecologically-concerned person went for a walk. And as she walked, she saw others walking. Some dropped chewing gum on the path, and birds came and tried to eat it, and it choked them. Others dropped plastic waterbottles on rocky ground, but of course plastic bottles aren't compostable so they lay there for thousands of years without ever enriching the soil. Others dropped their food wrappers among the bushes, and they caught and hung there, cluttering the landscape until the wind blew them somewhere else. But the ecologically concerned person picked up the litter and threw it into garbage cans where it was properly disposed of, or carried it home to a compost pile to become good soil amendment, or dropped it off in recycling bins where it could be turned over to companies that would make it into useful items once again. 
Let anyone with ears hear. Whenever anyone litters, it can be seen as carelessness towards creation. It doesn't matter where they live, what they value, or whether they believe in God or not. Littering can be a sign of immaturity (they haven't learned what is right), self-absorption (they're too wrapped up in themselves to notice what they've done), apathy and a blatant disregard for the earth. But whenever anyone cares enough to clean up, they're only doing what they should be doing, they're saving the earth from abuse and leaving it in good shape for future generations, and they will reap the reward of a healthier place to live, not only for humans, but for every form of life on earth. 
Humans are just one of many creatures on the planet. And we need to stop with the self-absorption already, become more earth-aware, and encourage others too. That's the only way we can sow good seed, the kind that yields an abundant harvest. The best example is the one we live daily, even when no one but God sees.

Are we always the best examples we can be when it comes to caring for creation?

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Next up: #24... Practical relativism as "a dog's breakfast"

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Simple Suggestion #245... Retreat now and then

Today I'm thinking about how wonderful it is to get away from ordinary, daily life now and then and do something completely different. to retreat from all the things that clutter the mind and soul as we go about our work and home life, and to give ourselves a wee break from the usual. It used to be that a yearly religious retreat of some sort was recommended for Catholics, and I've had my share of those. Though it was wonderful to set some time apart for my relationship with God, there were a few times that I'll confess that retreats were also a relief in that I wasn't expected to cook meals or do dishes -- I was happy just to be.

At the moment, I have three retreat possibilities on my horizon, the first of which is a trip to see my best friend at the end of this month. It's a retreat because I think she lives in the nearest place to paradise, and because we haven't seen each other for a long time and have lots to catch up on. I can't wait to sit at her kitchen table and trade stories and sing songs in two parts and go for walks and yes, cook and do dishes together, and share and laugh and renew our friendship, which is one of my life's joys.


The second retreat is this one at the end of February -- a one-day religious retreat modelled on a day at Taize, my favourite pilgrimage destination, with time for musical prayer, sharing and discussion, food, and friendship. The thing I love about Taize spirituality is that it's inclusive and "non-preachy" -- it offers scripture, poses questions and lets people discover answers together, which is always an exercise in inspiration.

And the last retreat is a March L'Arche retreat for assistants who live with persons with disabilities in L'Arche homes. I will be honoured to spend time listening to a few of these wonderful young adults encouraging them on their journeys. They inspire me with their dedication and love for their L'Arche friends and deepen my appreciation for an organization that does so much good work with the developmentally disabled.

Retreats can take many different forms. I've heard about quilting and scrapbooking retreats, winter wilderness retreats, writer's retreats, mother-daughter retreats... The idea of the retreat is just to "fall back" from the usual and do something different for a while. It doesn't necessarily have a certain duration, the point is that it's a bit of a break from the rest of what fills our lives that allows us breathing room and time to take stock of what's going on if that's what we need. Even an afternoon at a greenhouse can be a retreat if you like plants. An evening in a comfy chair, wrapped in a soft blanket with a glass of wine and a good book. Or a walk with the dog in a place I've never been before. My sisters are good at creating "instant retreats" -- over the last several months, they've called me up and taken me out to mystery locations (usually coffee shoppes) on the odd Saturday morning, just to take my mind off my troubles.

We're in the darkest days of the year, and I heard on the radio the other day that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year (because of the darkness and Christmas credit card bills arriving!) so it might just be a good time for a retreat of some kind. A mini-retreat, even.

I've got mine to look forward to. How about you?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #22... BOLD CULTURAL REVOLUTION, anyone?

Over the Christmas break, it was nice to have time to moodle about lighter topics than papal encyclicals. I also had some time to think about these weekly essays on Pope Francis' most important letter, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and to realize what a worthwhile effort they are even though very few folks will ever read what I'm writing. The thing is, even a practitioner of Voluntary Simplicity like myself can become complacent over time, but I find that in rereading Pope Francis' call to action for the sake of our planet and throwing challenges out to my readers, I'm being stirred to action once again. It's all good!

On further reflection, the one thing I wish I could change is that this blog format doesn't really allow people to engage in discussion about what we read -- if only I could invite you all into my living room once a week to chat! But you're too spread out, so instead, I've adjusted some settings to make the comment section more reader friendly, and hope that some of you might be willing to share your thoughts or engage each other (and me) in discussion there, even if it means I end up with spam comments to wade through and delete. Please, feel free to click the Comment link at the bottom of this moodling if you have thoughts or ideas to share, and remember to play nice.

On to our reading for this week: Paragraphs 111-114 of Laudato Si, which can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down. We'll start the year easy with only the last four paragraphs from the section, The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm.

It seems that Pope Francis and friends are calling us to recognize that technology has its good points, but that giving it complete power over the way we live, think, and act is a huge issue that our world needs to face. The two-pronged belief that technology is the answer to our planet's every issue and that technological convenience is essential to every part of our lives has brought us to a place where we are simply using technology's many different facets to entertain ourselves or in "a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources" (paragraph 111).

Found at Quotesgram.com
In this way, we are missing the Big Picture -- and too often dealing with the symptoms rather than the original disease that needs to be cured. What's required is "a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm" (paragraph 111). It's going to take more than scientists to get us out of the mess we're in. I think Franciscan Richard Rohr expresses it well in his quote (to the right).

It's become too easy for us to imagine that technology is running the world, but the last time I checked, it was still human beings who were in charge (though leaning heavily on processes that are more technological than humane). Pope Francis rightly notes that "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (paragraph 112).

And I am hopeful that this will happen -- in fact, I am seeing it happening more and more. At the beginning of our family's journey into a life of less consumption and more meaning almost ten years ago, it felt as though we were constantly swimming against a tide of non-essential trends, fashions, possessions and experiences all designed to turn us into the shopaholics that marketers told us we should be for our happiness' sake. But in the last few years, the current seems to be shifting in our favour -- there's been a huge uptick in common sense -- and people are realizing that we can't buy happiness, but it can be found by owning less, living smaller, protecting the planet and enjoying a healthier, more balanced life. My oldest daughter and her friends' desire to ride their bikes everywhere rather than drive is just one example of this kind of thinking. The recent increases in vegetarianism and veganism can also be seen as another kind of rethinking of consumerism. And there are dozens of other examples! Slow food, small homes, permaculture, you-name-it!

I love these lines at the end of paragraph 112, which notes the awareness that is creeping into our world:
An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance? 
Yes! I want to shout... But... Technology has offered humanity so many amazing gadgets and gizmos -- the "novelties" mentioned in paragraph 113 -- that we've become distracted from living lives of depth and meaning. The "constant flood of new products" are simply "new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness" because, in our distraction, we have forgotten how to deeply appreciate life in all its manifestations. Pope Francis and his encyclical team clearly ask that we get back to authenticity -- that we "refuse to resign ourselves to this [escapism], and continue to wonder about the purpose of life and meaning of everything."

Here is the beginning of the BOLD CULTURAL REVOLUTION (the Pope's words, my uppercase, sorry) that the world needs. It's gotten to the point where it seems we've become a bit blasé about all the technological and scientific wonders in our lives and have let science and technology (dare I say it?) take on God's saving role in the world. But the only saviour for this planet is the God of peace and justice who acts through us -- through our appreciation for creation's wonders and our efforts to improve the lives of every being on earth by reducing our consumption, sharing our riches, and cleaning up after ourselves.

The final line of paragraph 114 says it perfectly:
Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.
"Delusions of grandeur?! But I have no delusions of grandeur," I imagine we are all thinking (I know I am!) So here's the exercise for this week: let's read a short article about the poorest city in the world by clicking here, and note how many things are lacking in Monrovia, Liberia, for which we regularly forget to give thanks. Then let's think about the objects in our home that we'd be hard pressed to find in a home in Monrovia, where many labourers earn less than a dollar a day. And perhaps we can also consider those things that many of us feel entitled to in North America -- our vehicles, possessions, "toys," vacations...

We are blessed with so much, aren't we? Do we truly appreciate our blessings? Can we forget about delusions of grandeur that fill us with a sense of entitlement -- at least until all of creation is cared for? Can we live in harmony and solidarity with creation? Gratitude and the desire for justice for all are where BOLD CULTURAL REVOLUTION begins... and it only begins with us.

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Next up: #23... A(nother) shot at Anthropocentrism

Friday, January 8, 2016

Edmonton Taize Prayer 2016

If you’ve been reading these moodlings for a while, you’ll know that yours truly has been involved with Taizé Prayer for quite some time, and that I even had a chance to visit what I call my heart's spiritual home -- the little community in the Burgundy region of France known as Taizé.

I love praying in the style of Taizé because it’s one way that Christians can come together and not worry about theological differences – after all, everyone on the planet is a beloved child of God, and it’s kind of ridiculous that any of us go around thinking ourselves better than anyone else, or that our faith is truer. I also love that there is no preaching at an evening of Taizé prayer – scripture is read (in several languages) and we’re left in silence so that God can speak to our hearts.

If you’re in the Edmonton area and are looking for a beautiful, musical and ecumenical way to pray, come join us, and feel free to bring friends. Also, check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/edmontontaizeprayer/.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Snow tanning


Mrs. Claus and Santa seem to be revelling in this morning's snow tanning. That's all you can hope for here in Edmonton today.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epiphany

It has been five years since I wrote this story, and it's still how I like to imagine the visitation of the travellers from the East to the Holy Family. But this morning when I read it, it dawned on me that the wise ones probably gave away their all, so I made a small adjustment to my tale. Do you know what it is?

This story seems extra fitting this year, with all our Syrian refugee families arriving daily.

Happy Epiphany!

Monica’s Epiphany

Christmas was a week away, and Monica was in miserable martyr mode. Hurrying along the mall concourse, she chanted a litany of the things she still needed to find: new Christmas candles, some slivered almonds, two new pillows, and—oh dear, she had forgotten something. What was it? What was it?
Sighing deeply, Monica paused at the food court, racking her brain for the missing item. Seeing an empty table for two, she found her way through a crowd of shoppers having late afternoon snacks. She sat down and slid her bags and parcels onto the table top. There was already more than an armload; how was she going to lug all this and two pillows home on the bus? Frowning, she picked up her purse and rifled through it for her shopping list.
The search was fruitless, and her mood worsened -- she would never get everything done without that list! Looking at her Christmas purchases, she thought hard about each store she had visited and where the list might be, but there was no way of knowing whether she’d find it if she back-tracked. Besides, she didn’t have time. Her bus home was less than an hour away.
This business of Christmas was highly overrated as far as Monica was concerned. Holding a commercial festival that had nothing to do with anything was ridiculous, really. Not being religious in any sense of the word, Monica couldn’t for the life of her understand why thinking adults would put themselves through the yearly chaos surrounding the birth of a mythological biblical character who was supposed to be God, but she grudgingly went along with it. Her husband and kids seemed to sort of believe in something about it all, and she couldn’t refuse them anything. For her own part, Monica was ready to call it quits entirely.
Furious with herself and the missing Christmas list, Monica scanned the noisy crowd around her until her eyes halted on a group of three elderly men sitting in the midst of the hubbub, grinning at her. Unnerved, she turned and looked behind her, thinking they might be amused by something going on at the Chinese food counter. When she turned back, their eyes were on the playing cards they each held in their hands. The old Asian fellow was laughing at something the white-haired man of African descent was saying. The small, grey-goateed Middle Eastern-looking gent threw his cards on the table with glee, and Monica actually heard a roar of mock disapproval from the other two over the noise of the crowd. They were clearly having a good time, while she was having everything but.
Monica shook her head. It wouldn’t surprise her if the old roosters’ wives were running themselves ragged doing Christmas errands while the men didn’t lift a finger. Husbands were all the same. Wasn’t Al home reading the paper or watching TV? He complained that he hated mall mayhem this time of year. Well, so did she, but someone had to prepare for Christmas.
An hour later, Monica sat on the bus, her parcels taking up the seat beside her, causing frowns among the passengers who were stuck standing in the aisle during rush hour. Avoiding their eyes, she checked her bags one more time. A sweater for Al, gift cards for the grandkids, pine potpourri and the new pillows (suggested in that Debbie Travis article), chocolates (for the boy who shoveled her sidewalk and any extra friends who might show up with a gift that had to be reciprocated), new Christmas towels for the bathroom, slivered almonds for cookies, three extra Christmas cards (for the friends she had crossed off her mailing list because they didn’t send cards last year, but who sent cards this year), and earrings for her friend Teresa.
 Not bad a bad haul, though she hadn’t come up with a gift for her daughter Janie. As Monica closed the last bag, she spotted her Christmas shopping list slipping to its bottom, crossly snatched it out, and didn’t have to read further than the first item. Silver polish! She had forgotten the silver polish! Her head dropped as angry tears filled her eyes, but she blinked them back and looked up, right into the face of one of the men she had seen playing cards at the food court.
His dark brown eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled at her, and he removed his hat to reveal thin, curly white hair that contrasted with his dark skin. “If I held the biggest bag on my lap,” he said in a deep voice with a faint but unmistakeable accent, “would you mind if I sat beside you?”
Surprised, Monica shuffled the smaller bags aside as the man lifted her bag of pillows and slid his lanky legs beneath them. His hands were black against the downy whiteness of the pillows peeking out, and the tender pinkness of his palms and fingernails embarrassed Monica somehow.
“I forgot the silver polish,” she confessed quickly, then wondered why she had said it.
“Silver polish?” the stranger repeated. “Is it important?”
“Well, yes,” Monica replied. “I polish the silver every year for Christmas.”
The man considered that for a moment, then said, “Why?”
“Well, it gets tarnished. It’s a wedding gift, and we’ve always used it for Christmas dinner.”
“What would happen if you didn’t use it?” her seatmate asked, looking her in the eye.
“I don’t know. I suppose that as long as everyone has knives and forks, that’s all that really matters.”
“So who are you polishing the silver for?” he asked, smiling.
Monica’s mouth dropped open. She was about to protest, but surprised herself by saying, “I’ve always hated polishing the silver.”
“So why not make a change?” the stranger said gently. “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine,” he grinned, wiggling his white bushy eyebrows.
Monica almost rolled her eyes like a teenager faced with Mom’s advice, but smiled instead. “I guess you’re right,” she said.
“Here’s my stop,” said her seatmate. “Thanks for the seat.” Leaving her pillows beside her, he shuffled past others to the front of the bus and disembarked. As the bus pulled away, Monica watched his figure recede in the darkness.
Someone touched her shoulder. “I sit?” said the small Asian man she had also seen at the food court.
“Of—of course,” Monica said, and looked past him to see the third card player, the one with the goatee, holding onto a handrail. The Asian man took her pillows and held them on his lap as he settled beside her. He beamed, nodded, and pulled a folded newspaper from under his arm. “I going to Christmas concert tonight,” he said, pointing to a notice in the paper. Handel’s Messiah. “You go to Christmas concerts?” he asked.
“I used to, when my family was younger,” Monica replied. “But now that they’ve left home I have too much to do to get everything ready for Christmas. Tomorrow, I need to put up the tree and get going on my Christmas cleaning, and after that I have to decorate. Oh, and bake almond cookies.”
“Ah. Why you do so much things? Husband, children no help, or you not like help?” he asked. “Why they don’t help so you can enjoy Christmas, go to concerts?”
Monica was speechless. She had never really asked for help. But now that she thought about it, Al probably wouldn’t mind setting up the tree, and Janie would likely be willing to come over and wash some walls and clean the china cabinet for her. Monica's daughter had always loved that cabinet and its porcelain statues. Come to think of it, Janie should choose one or two of those dust-collecting treasures as her Christmas gift this year. And her twelve-year-old daughter, Sara, would probably love to make almond snow drops for her Girl Guide badge, since she swore they were her favourite cookie.
“I suppose I could ask for help,” Monica murmured.
“Confucius say, “They must often change who would be constant in happiness and wisdom.” Yes, ask for help. Go to concerts,” her seatmate said, pointing again to his newspaper as he tucked it in with her pillows and stood up. “My stop, good bye.”
“Oh. Goodbye,” Monica murmured, too late, as the little man hustled forward and stepped gingerly off the bus. He waved at her as the bus pulled away. When she turned back from the window, the third card player was sitting beside her.
“What is it with you guys?” she said.
The grey-goateed man smiled and shrugged, saying with a thick accent, “We have been friends for many years. But we noticed you didn’t seem to be enjoying yourself this afternoon.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Monica admitted. “I misplaced my Christmas shopping list, and couldn’t remember the things I intended to buy. So I forgot the silver polish… and -- oh no! Spicehill Farms gift boxes for my neighbours.” She cursed internally.
The man shrugged again. “Do you like your neighbours?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t buy them presents if I didn’t.”
His eyes twinkled. “So who needs sausages and cheeses? Do something different instead. Our only true security is our ability to change. Why not invite your neighbours over for some Christmas cheer?”
Monica laughed. Years ago, when Christmas was simpler, didn’t she and Al host a neighbourhood Christmas party? And invite the Magnussens, Wongs, Chomiks and Leighs? How had that tradition been forgotten when it was such a good one? Oh yes, Al had pneumonia that one year, she had the flu the next…
“Good idea,” Monica said, smiling. “Why are you and your friends so wise?”
The man smiled, shrugged, and put his finger to his lips. “Please excuse me. This is my stop.” He stood and handed Monica her pillows. “Have a Merry Christmas,” he said.
“Thank you,” Monica smiled. “And thank your friends, too. You all gave me good ideas.”
When Monica reached home, she was surprised to find Al in the process of putting up a Christmas tree. “TV got boring,” he said, as she gave him a kiss. “I thought you might like some help. And I’m warming last night’s casserole leftovers in the oven. I hope that meets your approval.”
Monica felt like applauding, but settled for giving him an extra kiss. “How would you feel about taking in Handel’s Messiah tonight?” she asked.


After an incredible evening of letting Handel’s glorious music wash over her, Monica had the most vivid dream of her life.
She dreamed she was walking a rugged path in a cool, dark valley, the sky above her sparkling with more stars than she had ever seen, though the edge of the horizon held the palest glow of coming dawn. There was just enough light that Monica could see the path ahead of her for a short distance. Somewhere behind her, there was a gentle jangling of bells.
Suddenly, the bells became louder, and Monica turned to see a large beast come over a rise in the path. A tall man in a turban was silhouetted against the sky where it had begun to lighten. He limped along, leading another man on a camel. A second man walked behind them. Instinctively, Monica stepped off the path into some shrubs to let them pass, but the procession came to a halt.
The elderly black man in the lead looked familiar to Monica, but she couldn’t place him. He began to speak to her, but she didn’t understand a word. He paused, and tried again, a different sounding language, and again, another language she couldn’t begin to recognize. He turned to his friends, and they each tried to speak with her, but nothing they said resembled English in any way. So the leader reverted to sign language, pointing toward a small village ahead, and to the camel, indicating that he wanted Monica to ride.
“Oh, no, no,” she replied, and then remembered that he probably didn’t understand her. “You’re limping, she said, pointing to his foot and doing an imitation, then gesturing from him to the camel. “You should ride.”
But the goateed man on the camel had already dismounted, and the two of them pushed Monica toward it, making clucking noises against her protests, helping her into the saddle. The two men linked arms and hobbled slowly down the path toward a sleeping village, the beast below Monica tossing from side to side in an ancient rhythm unfamiliar to her. She turned to the Asian man who walked behind her, and he shrugged and smiled encouragement. Why did they all look so familiar?
The single-camel caravan stopped as it reached the outskirts of the little town, and the men gathered to confer in a soft-sounding language. The goateed man drew some instruments out of a sack that was fastened to his belt, and seemed to take a reading from the fading stars. After a short discussion, a point in the direction of the far end of town, and quiet murmurs of assent, the three men resumed their positions.
Somewhere a rooster crowed as the light increased, and a few more joined in chorus. The little procession passed through the shadows of the dusty town, only the sounds of harness bells and the camel's footfalls echoing from stone walls. The group was almost at the last home in the village when they stopped. The men came to help Monica down across the camel's saddlebags before unpacking some beautifully ornate jars and boxes.
Monica stood alone, not knowing what to do next, but the three men beckoned that she should come with them to the door of a tiny house with a dim light in one of the windows. Curious, she followed them, standing to the side as the goateed man rapped on the door. The light in the window increased, and a moment later, a tousled-haired girl bearing a lamp peeked through the door. Surprise registered on her face as her eyes travelled from face to face. Nodding to Monica, she murmured a moment in the soft-sounding language Monica had heard the men speaking, and disappeared for a few moments. The goateed man made a comment, and all three chuckled as the girl returned to the door, pulling a robe around her slim body.
The girl opened the door and held the lamp aloft, gesturing that the visitors should enter. Monica found herself swept into the tiny home with the rustle of the three strangers’ robes. She was standing in the middle of a single room. A man on a mat in the corner raised himself onto an elbow, and a tiny child peeked out from under the blanket that covered the two. The girl set the lamp on the room’s only table, turned to a shelf on the wall and brought down a pitcher and bowl. She was reaching for a towel when the man with the goatee said something that made her stop mid-reach. He gestured toward the two on the bed. The child had sat up, his dark curly hair standing on end, his eyes reflecting the lamplight, and the man put an arm around him and spoke what seemed a soft challenge to the visitors.
The child looked intently at Monica as the man with the goatee took a step back, waving one hand in dismay, speaking softly. Monica scrunched her eyes at the little one the way she had with her own grandbabies, and he grinned, put a finger in his mouth, and scrunched his whole face as his father and the stranger spoke to one another. The girl put one hand to her mouth and sank to the table’s bench, following the conversation with her eyes. Monica wondered what was being said, but continued to exchange blinks and winks with the little tyke.
Suddenly, he wiggled out from under his protector’s arm and stood up, taking three steps toward the girl. Almost as suddenly, the three men standing in the doorway dropped to their knees, smiling, reaching toward the little one. The child toddled to the girl’s knee, and she lifted him to her lap, smoothing his hair, but he wiggled and slid to the ground again. Then he went to Monica, who had crouched to his level.
Silence filled the room, and the lamplight seemed a little brighter, Monica thought. The child looked into her eyes questioningly, and smiled. “Ah, you’re a charmer,” she murmured, reaching out to tousle his curly hair. She let herself down onto the floor, and he plunked down in front of her, legs akimbo.
“I don’t suppose you know Patty-cake, do you?” she said, and he wrinkled his nose in a quizzical fashion. “Here,” she said, taking his hands and smacking his palms in gentle rhythm, “Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker’s man…”
The next thing she knew, the girl was sitting behind the little one, pulling him into her lap, listening intently to the rhyme. Once the cake had been put “in the oven for baby and me,” the child clapped as if to say, “again,” and Monica repeated it. When she finished, the girl smiled shyly, and began to clap her son’s hands in a different rhythm and sing a little melody, pausing for the child to fill in syllables now and then. Monica looked over at the other visitors, and they too were sitting on the floor, eyes shining, watching the clapping game, smiling and nodding at the child.
His eyes moved over the three strange men, and he clambered off his mother’s lap toward the one who was closest to him. He touched the Asian man’s wrinkled cheek, and the old man touched the child’s cheek and murmured what only could have been appreciation. The little one then moved to the one with the goatee and touched the tip of his rather bulbous nose with one finger. He laughed, and the goateed one laughed, and flattened his nose with his own fingertip, crossing his eyes, making the toddler giggle. Finally, the boy reached the darkest one. The old man closed his eyes, smiling as little fingers traced his bushy white eyebrows. Then he opened his eyes, took the child’s hand, and kissed it gently.
The young man on the mat had tied his thin blanket around his waist and moved to the table. He unwrapped a few crusts of bread in a towel, offering them to the three visitors. They shook their heads, the goateed one responded at length, and then turned to the others in conferral. The three then removed from the folds of their robes the ornate boxes and jars that Monica saw earlier, and held them out to the young couple. The girl shook her head, but the old one with the goatee slowly got to his feet and went to her, pressing his boxes set with stones into her hands before returning to help his fellow travelers to their feet so they could do the same with their jars. The goateed one spoke with some urgency to the young man, and a look of alarm crossed his smooth face. He swallowed hard, making eye contact with the girl. The two nodded almost imperceptibly, and the girl scooped up the child and gave him to Monica.
Confused, Monica and the child watched from their place on the floor as the young couple moved uncertainly about the room, seemingly in a panic. The black stranger grasped the blanket the young man was wearing, and Monica averted her eyes and began playing Pattycake with the little boy while the young man dressed and the old one folded up the bedding. The Asian man wrapped up the bread that had just been offered him and handed it to the girl as the goateed man took a rough cloth sack from a hook on the wall and gave it to her. The young man brought a hammer and chisel, and a small shirt that he passed to Monica so she could dress the child while the rest hurriedly but carefully packed the few things from the room into the sack, including the gifts the strangers had brought. When the child’s head and arms emerged from his little shirt, he clapped his hands and made grunting noises to the patty-cake rhythm, and Monica repeated it again, smiling in spite of the anxiety she was feeling.
The girl interrupted the game by wrapping a blanket around her son’s shoulders. She spoke softly to him for a few moments, and he raised his arms to her. She picked him up, and he snuggled into her neck as she rummaged in the top of the sack for the bread. She broke off a crust and gave it to him, and he offered it to Monica.
“Ah, no, little one,” she smiled. “It’s your breakfast.” The young woman smiled an anxious smile, and before Monica knew what she was doing, she held both mother and child in a wordless embrace.
The young man appeared at the girl’s elbow, speaking rapidly as he hefted the bag and gestured toward the door. But the tall black man held up a hand for a moment, opened the door a crack, and looked out. Cautiously pushing the door open, he led the young couple and child out into the slanting early morning light. Monica and the others followed.
The young man made a deep bow toward the three, put his arm around his wife and child, and was about to walk along a path that led into the hills when the Asian man became quite agitated, pointing toward the horizon, where a cloud of dust could be seen advancing toward the village. Waving his hands, he spoke quickly to his companions and grabbed the young man’s sack of belongings. The other two men had hurried to the camel, unloading bedrolls and satchels before tying the young man’s sack and their own canteens to the camel’s saddle and handing the young man the beast’s lead.
The Asian man took the child from his mother and gave him to Monica as the other two visitors helped the girl mount the saddle. Monica kissed the child's curly crown and lifted the little one up to the girl, whose eyes were misty as she spoke words of what seemed to be gratitude to the three visitors and Monica. The men smiled and bowed, and Monica followed their lead, then crinkled her eyes at the child, who responded in kind. 
The goateed man spoke seriously with the young man for a moment, pointing first one direction, then another. The young man nodded, gripped the older man’s arm, and hugged him tightly for a moment. Then he nodded to the other two, who coaxed the camel to its feet and began shouting and slapping its backside. The young man led the lumbering beast up the path without looking back. The girl and her child, their eyes dark, their smiles bright, turned and waved to the strangers who had come to visit. Then the girl wrapped herself and her child in her cloak, and the two turned to face their seemingly uncertain future.
Monica stood watching until the little family disappeared over a rise. When she turned around, the three old men were standing with the things they had unloaded from the camel that had just left. The goateed man threw up his hands in disgust and spoke to the Asian fellow in a rather irritated tone. The Asian rolled his eyes and shrugged, and the black one guffawed. A moment later, all three were laughing. Their laughter rang like bells, peal after peal, and Monica was laughing too, even though the joke was beyond her. As she turned toward the horizon, her laughter caught in her throat and her smile faded. Her companions’ eyes followed hers, and Monica heard the sound of marching echoing through the streets.
“You—you saved them, didn’t you?” she said, pointing toward the hill where the young couple had vanished. “You knew they were in danger, and you warned them. Your camel was probably the best gift you gave them. How will you travel now?”
The goateed one reached for Monica’s arm, lowered it to her side, shrugged, and put his finger to his lips. Then he whispered, in a thick accent, “God grant me the serenity to accept the situations I cannot change, the courage to change the ones I can, and the wisdom to do what must be done.” 
Monica woke, and wondered.


Though she never saw her three wise men again, Monica took their words to heart. Her silver was donated to a charity sale, she now involves her family in pre-Christmas preparation (and has discovered that they actually enjoy helping out), and she has stopped worrying about buying her neighbours gifts and has started inviting them over more often.
Since then, every year during the Christmas season, Monica approaches an inner city charity and asks for the name of a needy young refugee couple with a small child. She buys blankets, food, and a Patty-cake book, and leaves them on the family’s doorstep on Christmas Eve.
Monica is a changed woman.

Monday, January 4, 2016

I love winter walks...

Especially when the sun is setting, which is around 4:25 pm these days in Edmonton. Here are a few pics from a stroll around the Highlands Golf Course and along Ada Boulevard...


Lee and Shadow wait for me to catch up...


A shiny golden ball...


that turns seed pods golden too...


the setting sun...


Magrath's Mansion is still impressive 
(a young lady we know held her marriage celebrations
there last fall)...


but I liked watching the sun set even better.
Sunset walks are highly recommended.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Psalm for a New Year

image courtesy of Yahoo
Last night we went out to Elk Island National Park for New Year's Eve, and as I stood in the snow looking up at some pretty spectacular Aurora Borealis flaming across the sky, a psalm started forming in my heart.

In the tradition of Edward Hays, one of my favourite authors, I offer it to you as a prayerful start to 2016.

Happy New Year!


A New Year's Psalm

We praise you, O God,
for new beginnings --
fresh footprintless fields with unplanned paths,
clear calendars and unwritten words,
unperceived passages and paths that we will discover in the year ahead.

We thank you for the year that has passed
with its many challenges, loves and losses,
its ups and downs.
We offer you our joys and sorrows from the last twelve months
and ask that you bless us and heal us as needed.

We invite you to become our home
in the twelve months ahead,
to be our refuge, joy and strength
in all the twists and turns of life that we cannot foresee.

In the days to come,
bring your justice and peace into our world through our actions.
Make us mindful of the difference we can make.
Help us to love as you love, without reserve.
Please be gracious to us and bless us
so that we may also bless those you send into our lives,
especially those most in need of blessing.
Make our hearts like yours in the year ahead, O Lover of all,
and bless your world with the kind of peace that is found in love.

We exult and rejoice in your presence with us
and trust in your goodness to us.
Let your face shine on us and on all of your creation in this New Year,
for you are our courage and our hope.

From the rising of the sun to its setting
and all the moments in between
we praise you,
God of life.

+Amen.