Sunday, December 31, 2017

Let all families be holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open our hearts to your love in its many forms.

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas, or close to it, in the Rockies

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

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

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

Pyramid mountain...

What silence looks like...

More silence...

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

My favourite Christmas tree...

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

Long winter shadows...

Open water in a limestone karst...

Sunset on a 10 km hiking day...

A smart friend...

Disappearing mountains...

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

My partner enjoying a sunny spot...

Another sunset...

Another spectacular sunset view...

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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas Prayer

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

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


Whether you believe in the Christ of Christmas or not, this season is often the time of miracles, of people digging deep, and the impossible coming true. My Christmas prayer is simply that you may feel God's life in you, a life that quietly and humbly frees others to be truly and joyfully human:

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sandy's Christmas Pageant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Beloved-ness on the Third Sunday of Advent

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

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

Your spirit is upon me.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Dancing at Day Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Comfort for the Second Sunday of Advent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

A forgotten bike's lament

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

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

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

But I've been forgotten somehow.

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Change is inevitable

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

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

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

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Music for the First Sunday of Advent

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

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

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

Have a blessed Advent...

Monday, November 27, 2017

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

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

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

Good things are happening in Holyrood!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A prayer to the One who runs the universe

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

We thank you...

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

We thank you...

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

We thank you...

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

We thank you...

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

We thank you...

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

We thank you...

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

And you are ruler of it all.

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

We are all children of light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Helping the Rohingya

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Simple Suggestion #269... Drive smarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seeking Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

Help us to remain in you always.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering them

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A talented bunch, singing about hockey

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

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

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy 50th Anniversary, Development and Peace!

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

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Come to the quiet

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

A critical time for reducing waste

Waste reduction week 2017 (October 16-22) was just a few weeks ago, and since then, city managers have discovered that part of our  Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence is having some structural problems. The snowfall on the aging roof of the Composting Facility's 18-year-old aeration hall, a building large enough to hold 2.3 CFL-sized football fields, has rendered the building unsafe.

This means that all of the city's waste, including our organic compostable kitchen scraps, now must be trucked 85 km down the road to the landfill at Ryley, AB, until a solution can be found. In the meantime, Edmontonians need to do everything we can to reduce our waste. Recyclable materials will still be recycled -- it's the things that can't be recycled that we should give more consideration.

Do you know where your garbage goes? How many fossil fuel emissions are involved in getting it to its destination? If you've never given the idea of composting a thought, now's the time to do it. If there's a corner of your yard where you can put a compost bin that you can fill with organic kitchen waste (plant matter, vegetable peelings, fruit cores, coffee grounds, tea leaves, etc.) over the winter, now's the time to do it. If you'd rather start composting in the spring, compostable waste can be frozen in an outdoor plastic garbage can until things warm up. The Compost' S cool website has different ideas to help homeowners reduce the compostable part of their garbage, and our libraries have many resources about composting and recycling ideas.

As for the non-compostable stuff, in Edmonton we need to make sure that we're making full use of our blue bags for recyclingEco-Stations for electronics, chemical waste and large items, the Reuse Directory -- which lists charity organizations that accept reusable items -- and Edmonton's own ReUse Centre. Other cities and towns have their own ways of reducing the tonnage that goes to landfill -- for many Canadians it's just a matter of doing a little research and jumping on board with the good planning that's already in place.

But probably the most important thing we can do is question ourselves every time we are about to dispose of something. We need to ask ourselves: Is this really garbage? Is it still usable in any way? Can it be repaired? Would someone else be able to use it? Should I throw it away or find a different way to get rid of it?

And we need to question ourselves every time we go shopping, whether it be for groceries or other household needs. Again we can ask ourselves: Do I really need this right now? Can I wait a little longer for it? Is there a way to buy it without so much packaging? and other questions, depending on the item...

Now is a critical time for reducing waste in our city, but really every day should be. It's simply good practice to keep waste reduction in mind at all times because all of the "leftovers" in our lives will have to go somewhere else eventually, even once this problem with the Compost Facility is fixed. It's always better if our things can be passed on, composted, or recycled rather than ending up in a landfill 85 km away!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Simple Suggestion #268... Make a simple fruit fly trap

Every fall when I bring in garden produce, and sometimes midwinter if I buy bananas, more fruit flies than people live in my kitchen. Tiny flies can be quite an annoyance, but they aren't hard to catch with the right trap.

Unfortunately, marketers have come up with mostly plastic but snazzily-designed traps that you can find in many hardware or department stores. But don't buy more stuff when it's really easy to make a trap of your own with common items around the house!

The one pictured is just an emptied beer bottle (any bottle will do) now holding about 1/4 c wine vinegar (you can also use cider vinegar), a little splash of water, and a few drops of dish soap. Some people just leave the mixture in a dish for the flies to drown in, but I find the bottle takes less counter space and can be moved without spillage. I like to shake it up every so often -- it seems to strengthen the vinegar fragrance that attracts the flies and they get trapped in the bubbles, which eventually dissipate until I shake the bottle again. The whole thing is simple, harmless to the environment, and it sure cuts the fruit fly population. The vinegar/soap mix can be poured down the drain when I'm done with it and the bottle recycled, unlike the plastic traps sold in department stores. And bonus: there are no sticky plastic chemical strips.

Our garden has been put to bed and, sad to say, my summer beer stash went with it. The snow is falling, we're eating our last few tomatoes, and fruit fly season is pretty much over for this year. But I'll keep at least one empty beer bottle on hand in case those pesky flies make a comeback somehow. How about you?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Love is the bottom line

You remind us
over and over again
through all the centuries since you came
that the bottom line
is love.

our leaders think the bottom line
is a strong economy.

But where does that get us, really?

How would the world change
if we lived by your bottom line instead?

Do not oppress
the stranger who lives in your midst,
you say.

Care for widows and orphans,
(all those on the margins)
you say.

Do not loan money on credit,
you say.

Whatever you do for the least,
you do for me,
you say.

Love your neighbour as yourself,
you say.

And if we do all these things
as you say,
then we are loving you
with all our heart,
soul and mind.

O God,
help us to live always
as though
love is the bottom line.


Friday, October 27, 2017

45 bags of leaves... and then some

All that's left in the garden is carrots... and leaves!
One evening last week, I was the only witness to a clandestine transaction in a dark parking lot. T. brought a trunkful of (once) green stuff and transferred it to E.'s vehicle. Sworn to secrecy, my lips are sealed as to identities and the whereabouts of this occurrence.

Of course it's all a joke, though it's a true story. A friend of mine who has more leaves than she knows what to do with shared some with another friend who composts. We Master Composter/Recyclers often laugh about MCRs' strange autumn hoarding habits!

For example, in the last two weeks of September, my engineer hubby designed and constructed a leaf stockade (or corral, if you prefer) and we raked up what I would guess to be about 20 bags of leaves from under our oak/elm trees and stockaded them (to reduce our use of plastic bags). Later, Mom and I raked up six more bags at my parents' home that were dumped into my corral so that we could reuse the emptied bags for the next raking. The corral was almost overflowing. And the leaves just keep on falling.

The leaf stockade/corral
Since then, several neighbours have generously contributed to my hoarding habit. Brian was out raking and gave me a dozen bags one Sunday morning, and on my trip home with our car stuffed full of leaf bags, I noticed that Dan, our local retired pastor, had another huge pile just waiting for the garbage guys. Five minutes later I drove back to see if Dan would mind me taking them. I rang the doorbell, but I suspect he and his wife were at church. Not wanting to see all that good stuff get trucked out of the city creating more fossil fuel emissions when I could make perfectly good use of it here, I loaded my car again (twice) -- another 23 bags, and phoned Dan later that day to make a confession. He laughed and said, "I wondered where they went! Go in leafs and sin no more."

Since then, I've collected another 10 bags from my dad. And there are probably another ten out in my front yard again that I'll try to fit into the corral now that the original leaves have settled somewhat. Will it ever end?

Yes, it will, and that's the whole point. I'm "gathering carbons while I may." Composting through spring and summer requires a lot of carbons/browns (leaves, dead stalks, wood shavings, ashes, or newspaper) to be mixed with nitrogens/greens (vegetable peelings, fruit remnants, grass clippings (if you don't grasscycle, but most people I know do!), green stalks, vines and other garden leftovers) as well as water and air to produce the rich dark organic soil amendment we call humus or compost. And in order to compost most of my garden waste through the seasons, it takes a LOT of carbon that can be easily collected in the fall, but is hard to come by in other seasons. To make compost the ratio of carbon/browns to nitrogen/greens is 20:1. In the past year, I composted 55 bags of leaves, and now it looks like I have enough to start all over again.

Composting is as easy as making a layer of leaves, adding some garden leavings or kitchen scraps (no meat, other proteins, or bones, though, as they get smelly), repeating the process until you have a good pile (1 m or 3 ft cubed is optimal in my books), watering it well, and stirring it every two weeks or so. Having walls or fencing around the pile helps to keep it tidy. I like to add our composting worms -- Red Wigglers -- in the summer (they live in an indoor bin in the winter) because they speed up the composting process by eating their weight in waste every day. In the cold months, when I take my extra kitchen scraps (that don't fit in the worm bin) out to the compost pile, I always fill the bucket with warm water so that it can help to kickstart the aerobes and other life in the pile for at least a little while. Frozen stuff piles up outside, but come spring, when everything melts, it's just a matter of stirring it up and reducing odors by adding more leaves -- of which we now have plenty!

45 bags and then some should last me until next September, I hope! In fact, I might even have a few extra to share...

If you want to learn more about composting, check out Compost 'S cool here in the City of Edmonton. Elsewhere, check your local library for helpful information!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Simple Suggestion #267... Stop with the straws

I'd kind of forgotten about the Simple Suggestions side of my moodlings for a while, but here we go again...

Plastic is the bane of our existence, if you really think about it. It's created huge problems for ocean life (the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) and it has broken down into micro particles in our air, water and soil. I find bits of it everywhere when I'm out walking my dog in the river valley -- broken pieces of items that were supposed to last a long time, emptied plastic water bottles, single-use plastic bags, all sorts of items that human beings failed to put in garbage cans. It gets to be rather depressing.

What we need to do, my friends, is to refuse to use plastic items as much as possible, to stop the waste before it has a chance to begin. Plastic has infiltrated our lives to the point that we don't even see it a lot of the time. The video below kind of brings that home:

So today's suggestion is just to bring awareness to one of the most ubiquitous plastic items of which we are most oblivious -- the plastic straw. Unless I am an invalid unable to rise from my bed bed for a sip of water, I really don't need plastic straws. I am perfectly capable of drinking from a cup or bottle without one. And if I get a little bit of foam or whipping cream from that ___________ (insert beverage of choice) on my upper lip, oh well, I can lick it off. Or remove it with one of those ubiquitous paper napkins to which we are also oblivious, but that's another moodling for another day.

This summer, Seattle launched a #Stopsucking campaign that is just brilliant. Though Edmonton isn't a seaside city that sees straws wash up on its beaches, we do have our own Accidental Beach that saw its own plastic cups and straws parked in the bushes of our river valley, sigh. So maybe we should take up the challenge of Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson and make our city strawless too?

Straws are only one item we can do without. It's important to consider every single-use item out there if we can and curtail its use for the sake of our planet. How many single-use items can you refuse in one day? How many straws can you decline in a month? I'd love to hear back!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Giving to God the things that are God's

O God,
we are all stardust.

We do not make ourselves,
and everything we create
is invented from the materials
that you provide.

So really,
nothing belongs "to Caesar" --
everything is yours.

That's not to say
that we shouldn't pay taxes
that help to support our social structures
and the lives of those less fortunate.

It's just to say
that we need to remember
that you are the Source of All Being,
and to hold in reverence
all that is,
all that you are.

You are present in the tiniest amoeba
and the largest whale.
You live in the forests
and in the hearts of people
with a different world view than our own.

So when you ask us to
"Give therefore to Caesar
the things that are Caesar's,
and to God the things that are God's,"
I hear your invitation
to cooperate with you
in caring for your creation.

Help me to be always aware
of the ways I can improve
in my collaboration
with all the other creatures
who come from stardust.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Sunday reflection on wedding clothes

I can't help but think
that Matthew
messed up this Sunday's parable.

Maybe he wrote it down all crooked?

Did he fall asleep before you finished
and have to make up his own ending?

I can believe that the King
in your story about his son's wedding banquet
was disappointed
by the guests who didn't show up.

But going to the extreme
of burning down a city?

Doesn't make sense,
coming from someone
who is all about mercy and compassion.

I love to imagine a party
to which everyone is invited --
because that's just
how you roll.

After all, you're the guy who hung out
with tax collectors and sinners,
and who encourages us to welcome the least,
to care for the hungry,
the thirsty,
the naked,
the sick,
and the prisoner.

(At least Matthew got that part right.)

What I don't buy
is the end of his telling of the parable
where one wedding guest
who wasn't wearing a "wedding robe"
is bound hand and foot and thrown into "the outer darkness
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Excuse me?

That's just not how you roll,
is it?

You love us all equally
and the King in any parable you tell
would probably be more like the one
that we see at the Last Supper in John's gospel,
the one who removed his outer robe
in order to wash the dirty feet of his guests.

I suspect you would prefer to have the King in your story
take his mis-dressed guest aside
and offer him the finest wedding robe imaginable --
to raise him up rather than throw him out.

That King would be more like the prodigal father.

Is it possible that after hearing your parable,
Matthew procrastinated,
and then later,
when his memory was rather fuzzy,
he couldn't remember the way you told it originally,
and human bias and a need for retribution crept in?

I just don't get it.

Really, it doesn't sound like
the kind of story
an all-loving,
God like you
would tell.

thank you
for loving us
and for inviting us ALL
to your banquet,
no matter who we are
or how we believe.

I promise I'll do my best
to show up in appropriate wedding clothes
when I'm invited to your heavenly feast someday,
but I'm pretty sure
that what I've done wrong
or what I wear
won't really bother you one way or the other,
no matter what Matthew wrote.
I know you love me,
and I love you too.
What else matters?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Autumn beauty

The weather is turning, and the leaves won't be with us much longer. So today I am looking at the beauty that has surrounded me on walks in the last week or two, the photos I can't help but snap every year. This past weekend, Lee and I had a couple of really fine walks in nature even though the weather wasn't great, simply because the colours were. If you haven't had time to enjoy autumn beauty, this is for you.