Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Who will separate us?

O Christ,
you came to remind us
that we are all God's children,
brothers and sisters
in the Trinity.

You justify us
by your unfathomable love for us.
As St. Paul notes in his letter to the Romans (8:31b-35, 37),
nothing can separate us from you.

If God is for us,
nothing is against us...
except, perhaps, ourselves.

In hardship,
or distress,
or persecution,
or famine,
or nakedness,
or peril,
or violence,
you are with us.

You showed us how
to face all of these things
through your passion and death.

And though we may also face
insurmountable trials,
we rise with you.

In truly following you,
we learn to respond with love
even when we are afraid,
to trust you
no matter what.

And since you are love
and we are also responding with love,
nothing can ever come between us.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Update #1 -- Little things for ME

It seems to me that I promised to report back on how the word of the year for 2018, Me, is being used to help my best friend, Cathy, and me focus on what we often neglect...

"Me" too easily gets pushed to the margins of life when too many other things are going on. It's natural to put ourselves last when the people around us are in need.

So what am I doing for me in 2018? Well, I've been reading some pretty enjoyable books, including Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford, The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale, A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (these last two are Canadian mystery writers -- if you've never read them, I recommend them!)

I'm almost finished crocheting a blanket. There's something satisfying about completing a tangible and tactile project like that.

I've seen a couple of good movies, The Greatest Showman, which I've already moodled about, and The Darkest Hour (about Winston Churchill's first month as Prime Minister during WWII).

I've been more consistent with my practice of morning meditation.

I've listened to a podcast or two from one of my favourite places on earth, Taizé.

I've been to one coffee house (where I got to sing with my daughter and her friend) and a few coffee shops just to read and have some ME time while waiting for another daughter who has weekly appointments.

The Muttart Conservatory was a good place for me to be on a chilly winter afternoon, admiring the Lunar New Year Pavilion for the year of the Dog with my daughter.

Speaking of dogs, I've taken them on long walks, which is good for my health, too.

I've spent a fair bit of time writing emails to dear friends, and indulging my creative spirit with these moodlings.

And I've played Words with Friends (online scrabble) for an entire evening without guilt.

Really, I'm not doing anything much different -- but when I am intentionally doing these things with the idea that they're good for my mental health, I'm giving myself permission to really enjoy them rather than feeling like I should be doing other things. It's a shift in consciousness -- that it's okay to relax and indulge in the little things that make me happy. Life is challenging enough without feeling guilty about my small pleasures.

Cathy's ME year is turning out to be more challenging than mine, as she just lost her dad to an unexpectedly short recurrence of cancer. But we will carve out a little bit of ME time in the midst of sorrow when Lee and I drive to Saturday's memorial service. On Sunday evening, Cathy and I are planning to enjoy a bottle of wine and each other's company, chatting and crying and laughing and maybe even singing together. There's usually some singing!

I'm learning that time for ME doesn't have to be extraordinary. It just has to be noticed in the muddle of ordinary life.

What are you doing for you this year?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Garden dreaming

It gets to the point where a garden girl like me starts to get a little bit tired of winter. Especially when the days are getting longer, the fabulous February sun is rising higher, and the temperature in the greenhouse starts to reach up to 13 or 15 degrees Celcius in mid-afternoon. I've been dreaming of my tulips and spring bulbs having their own dreams about emerging from the dark into glorious Spring days!

It doesn't matter if the garden looks like this today...

because I go here and place a seed order 
and start planning what goes where 
for the Spring of 2018. 

And then it's not long before this starts happening, 
almost against my will...

(but not really!)

Today I planted my leeks, a few red onions, some herbs and peppers, and set them on a seedling heat mat. You can bet that as soon as my seed order arrives in the next week or so, I'll be planting a few more things. Come March, the babies will all move out to the greenhouse.

Winter can't keep us garden girls down for too long!!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Repent??

This week, my friend Nora sent me the music video below -- thanks, Nora! The song has been percolating in the background of my consciousness, and it strikes me as a good fit with today's reflection.

It's unfortunate,
how our language often limits your message.

That word,
for example,
which conjures up images
of hellfire preachers
rather than your deeper message
about learning to really love.

Your word,
is so much better.


Change your heart.

Change your mind.

Change yourself.

Change the way you see others.

Change the world.

You tell us
that "the time is fulfilled,
the reign of God is near;"
"and believe in the good news,"
you say.

What good news?
we ask --
most of our "news" is not good.

But you are telling us
that this is the good news:

to see people as God sees them.

to love people as God loves them.

to look deeper than skin deep.

And suddenly,
the reign of God is NOW.

Help us,
to change our point of view,
to see the world as you do,
and to BE your good news
through the love we offer our world.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018 Ecumenical Prayer Schedule

Below you will find our schedule for our 2018 Ecumenical Prayer, formerly advertised as Taizé Prayer. I've realized, though, that it's not right to call it Taizé Prayer... saying "Ecumenical Prayer in the style of Taizé," or "using the chants of Taizé" would be better. A semantic thing, perhaps, but the Brothers prefer that the ecumenical aspect of the prayer be the emphasis, rather than Taizé.

This Sunday's prayer is going to be really special, as it's the 5th anniversary of the young adults at St. Thomas D'Aquin adopting Taizé chants into their own prayer group. They are planning to show a beautiful little 10-minute video about Taizé at the beginning of the evening, and will serve anniversary cake after the prayer for all participants. But best of all, they requested that we pray with some of the Taizé community's most beautiful French chants, and honestly, there's something extra special in those melodies -- they carry such yearning and desire that it somehow brings God even closer, I think.

So if you are looking for a wonderful way to get into the spirit of Lent, look no further, and join us this Sunday evening, 7 pm at Eglise St. Thomas D'Aquin, 8410 89 St. And if you would like a printable copy of the poster below, drop me an email and I can send you a .pdf file to print.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Praying with Anthony

My heart is sad today. During my volunteer time at L'Arche Day Program this morning, I learned that my friend Anthony* is dying of cancer.

Although he hasn't been to Day Program since before Christmas, Anthony has been part of it for about three years now, and his presence touched me deeply. He always had a smile for me when I greeted him. He loved to walk to the garden and help pick things in the fall. When we had coffee together in the mornings, sometimes we would play a game or roll a crayon back and forth between us. Our friendship was simple.

But what I will always remember about Anthony is the way he prays. During our community prayer time, when everyone was invited to pray their personal prayers, Anthony's mumbled prayer was very fervent and sincere:

"Bless my mom and my dad" (and numerous other people whose names were hard to make out). "Read my bible, God's word. Light a candle, God's light. I pray for L'Arche, and Day Program, and Barb (his favourite assistant) and..." (more people from Day Program, I think, but he prayed so softly it was often hard to hear and understand him).

And it seemed the longer Anthony was with us, the longer his prayers got. He was really, really talking to God, and asking for blessings, over and over and over again. We hated to cut him off, but he probably would have prayed the entire morning away, eyes closed and hands folded, in spite of others in the group getting quite antsy.

Anthony's relationship with God was clearly a very special part of his life. And I'm sure his reunion with God will be a real celebration, though we will miss him here.

God bless you, Anthony, and find you the best garden room in heaven!

* I use pseudonyms for my L'Arche friends.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Vocation: no spectators allowed

I love this Sunday's reading from Mark's gospel (1:29-39). It shows us that Jesus was a busy guy, doing what he was called to do. He went to synagogue to pray with his community, healed Simon Peter's mom in the afternoon, and cured people of illnesses and cast out demons later that evening. Then I'm guessing he snatched a few hours of sleep before getting up while it was still dark to converse with God in a deserted place before continuing his efforts to spread God's love. He lived his vocation, his God-given call to love and serve, to the fullest, and he encouraged his own disciples to do the same. They weren't allowed to be spectators very long before he sent them out to do as he did.

I think we all know what it is to be busy, but how often do we recognize our busy-ness as part of God's plan for us? Do we see it as our vocation, or is it just how life is? Are we living our vocation to the fullest, using all our gifts and talents the way God wants, or are we weekend spectators?

I don't know about you, but I often feel that, while I am doing my best to live my vocation during the week, balancing busyness with prayer, I am often relegated to being a spectator when it comes to my participation in church.

That's not the case at the Emmaus Inclusive Catholic Community I belong to, which continues to meet monthly even though we lost our Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Ruthie, to cancer on Easter Sunday last year (for a simple version of Ruthie's story, click here). Ruthie's vocation inspired us all to commit to the Emmaus community, to make it part of our own vocation, our God-given call to love and serve through a deeper participation in liturgy itself.

When Ruthie joined the heavenly Easter Celebrations a year ago, our Emmaus Community faced many questions -- the main one being, how will we continue without our Roman Catholic Woman Priest friend? Ruthie had tried to plan for her succession, but none of her community felt called to the priesthood as she was. So we had to come up with an alternate plan for our monthly Sunday gatherings. And what has happened is that we've all been called to live our own vocation to the priesthood of believers more deeply.

One of our group wrote a beautiful agape liturgy of thanksgiving. Agape is a Greek word referring to the love of God for us and our love for God, the highest kind of love that exists. So now we share a simple liturgy of the word (using Sunday's scriptures) and a liturgy of thanksgiving with unconsecrated bread and wine. I like to think that what we are doing is what the earliest Christians did in memory of Jesus; to tell the stories, break the bread, pour the wine, and celebrate our relationship with God and those God calls us to serve.

What I appreciate most is that our agape, while it incorporates basic traditional liturgical prayers, is much simpler than what happens in most Catholic churches on a Sunday. We use the Sunday readings, and one person offers a 'homily' that invites others to share as well. We pray the prayers of the faithful, asking God for the world's needs and our own. Before we break the bread and share the wine, we participate in a simple giving of thanks to God -- we each name those things and people in our lives for which we are grateful. We pray the Lord's prayer. No theological training or liturgical expertise is required for our prayer service -- anyone can 'preside,' and everyone else can respond. We take turns.

And it strikes me that perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to show us with his life -- that our God-given call to love and serve requires us all to use our gifts, and none of us should be held back from living our vocation because we aren't one specific gender or have a specific education. Each of us carries certain wisdom, gifts, and talents from our own lives, and we are meant to share them in community. Some of us like to sing, some like to preach, others bake delicious bread, and everyone has ideas about and experiences with the scriptures. We know our gathering is not a full mass, but it feels richer when we all actively share our own vocations through participating more fully in different aspects of the liturgy. No spectators allowed.

February has long been designated as Vocations Awareness month, and this year, I would like to challenge the Church to broaden its understanding of vocation, to do more to incorporate the priesthood of all believers into Sunday liturgies that could be far more participatory and much less a spectator sport. Present liturgy, while it holds a certain familiarity and comfort for many, allows for too much passive participation. Annie Dillard said we shouldn't wear hats to church, but crash helmets. Just think what might happen if the people of God were invited to step out of their pews, time-worn habits, and prayers to answer their God-given call to love and serve -- as Jesus did in the Gospels -- on Sunday mornings and beyond.

No spectators allowed, and maybe the world would change!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Talking Circles to heal a nation

On a snowy day last week, my daughter and I participated in a women's Talking Circle at one of our city libraries. Christina called and invited me at the last minute, and suspecting that a Talking Circle might have something to do with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, I agreed to attend with her.

(In case you missed my earlier Moodlings about the TRC, Canada has a long history of mistreatment of our Aboriginal peoples, most especially through the Residential School System, which saw Aboriginal children taken from their families and put into schools far from their homes run by government and churches. The idea was to destroy the Aboriginal culture and replace it with a version of state-sanctioned Christianity -- your basic cultural genocide of the First Peoples in a country being settled by Europeans. The damage done by the Residential Schools is multi-generational, and many of the problems faced by our Indigenous brothers and sisters continue. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's efforts to address these injustices led to 94 Calls to Action, many of which are still only on paper.)

Our Talking Circle was facilitated by Sharon, one of Christina's university professors, and it began with a feast of bannock (!) and delicious beef stew. Chairs were arranged in a circle, and about a dozen of us sat together, discussing the snowy day for starters.

Soon Sharon gave us a page explaining talking circles. I was struck by this quote:
"The Circle has healing power. In the Circle, we are all equal. When in the Circle, no one is in front of you. No one is behind you. No one is above you. No one is below you. The Sacred Circle is designed to create unity..." 
-Dave Chief, Oglala Lakota, Grandson of Red Dog/Crazy Horse's Band.

Sharon, who has a Métis background, began our gathering by acknowledging that we were gathered on Treaty Six Territory, and offered a brief prayer and welcome song with her drum. Then she invited us to smudge, though the library didn't allow the burning of sage or sweet grass. We passed around the sacred medicines -- sage, sweetgrass and diamond willow fungus -- enjoying their fragrances. Then we stood in our circle as each woman smudged imaginary smoke from the medicines in an abalone shell over our five senses and our bodies as we prayed for healing. Sharon shared with us a link to a scientific study that showed that the use of medicinal smoke reduces environmental toxins in a room, and I'm sure our Aboriginal sisters and brothers have many other wholistic practices that come from ancient earth wisdom. It was a calming, meditative start to our afternoon.

Then Sharon invited us to share our names and our genetic backgrounds, as each speaker held her turtle rattle. A talking circle is just that -- a place where a person who holds a special object has the opportunity to talk, and the rest of the people in the circle listen with respect and without judging, until it is passed to the next person. It turned out that a third of our group had some indigenous heritage, and the rest of us were children of "settlers" in Canada. So much history, so many things to be healed.

The second time around the circle, Sharon invited us to share about something on our heart. And in the sharing, we realized how we were different, and also how we shared many similarities. Struggles, sorrows, illness, joy -- we had all experienced them. I was also quite touched by the elderly Indigenous woman beside me, who passed on her speaking times, content just to listen, though I'm sure she had many stories she could have shared.

One Story, One SongAnd the third time around the circle, Sharon shared a story about a crow who wanted to be an eagle, from aboriginal author Richard Wagamese's book, One Story, One Song (2011, Douglas & MacIntyre, ISBN 1553665060). It spoke to all of us in different ways, and we expressed how the story fit with our lives. Then Sharon closed the circle with one more prayer, and we said our farewells and headed home through the snowy afternoon.

To experience a sharing circle with complete strangers made me see how Dave Chief's words about it having healing power and creating unity is absolutely true. Each person listened respectfully to everyone else, and though we came from diverse backgrounds as people of Aboriginal and settler heritage, the stories told and the tears that flowed bound us together in friendship in two short hours.

I am someone who is very aware of the privilege I've grown up with, and the suffering of many of my sisters and brothers of Indigenous heritage, so I was a little apprehensive about how a circle would actually work. But it did work because no one blamed or judged anyone else, everyone was respected, and deep truths were spoken. We were all invited to share, we all listened, and we all came away with a deeper appreciation for each other's lived experience.

I'm not sure if Talking Circles are part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action, but I really hope so. I'll have to read them to find out. Regardless, reconciliation requires sharing of life, deep listening to the struggles, hurts and joys of others, and a respect that leads to friendship. At our women's talking circle, we got a preview of what healing our nation, healing the mistreatment of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, and healing settler biases and prejudices could look like.

Hope for healing Canada comes through forgiveness, friendship, and community. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a talking circle, I'd highly recommend it.

And I think Richard Wagamese's book will be worth a read, too -- I'm going to borrow Christina's copy!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Two little dogs

Button and Shadow
A friend of mine had her back surgery date bumped up earlier than expected, so for the past week, Button, her little black dog, has been our house guest.

Button is much like Shadow when it comes to size, sound, colour, and appreciation for stroking and snuggling, and that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Button is long and lanky. Shadow is short and stocky.

Button has energy to burn at a moment's notice. Shadow prefers to laze around.

Call Button, and she's Button-on-the-spot. Call Shadow... and he gets there... eventually...

Button goes up stairs in leaps and bounds. Shadow's short legs mean he takes one step at a time -- front paws, back paws, front paws, back paws...

Button jumps onto my lap or onto furniture no problem. Shadow whines to get up.

Button likes to chase and fetch her toys. Shadow watches things get thrown around.

If you say the word "walk," Button is at the back door five minutes ago, trying to put on her own leash. Shadow is hiding.

On walks, Button follows her nose. Shadow's eyes are always on the lookout for jack rabbits, squirrels or magpies, and he's ready to chase a car at a moment's notice. This confuses Button.

Button daintily picks a few kibbles from her food dish, sets them on the floor, and eats them a few at a time. Shadow inhales his.

They both seem a bit wary, or maybe slightly jealous, of each other -- Button of the somewhat grumpy dog who was here first, Shadow of the waggy interloper who seems to have won the affections of his humans.

I'm giggling as I type all this. It's been fun to have two dogs for the past week. They keep us laughing! And in spite of their differences, they both have loving hearts. Thanks, Eleanor -- we've enjoyed this experience!

It's another cold winter day, so we three just took a short walk (Shadow wears boots -- Button doesn't), and now I think I'll take Shadow and cuddle on the couch. Button will jump up and join us, no question!