Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sunday Reflection -- I wanna be a sheep

Today's reflection comes to you from
Matthew 5: 31-40, 
First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament (Downer's Grove IL: InterVarsity Press 2021, ISBN 978-0-8308-1350-6).

I've been feeling lately like my moodlings have had too much gloom in them, so I've decided to share only the first half of today's reading from Matthew's Gospel (aka Gift from Creator Tells the Good Story) -- out of my favourite translation of the New Testament. The Son of Man is the True Human Being or Chief, angels are spirit-messengers, and the sheep are good-hearted ones.

And don't we all want to be good-hearted ones?

When the True Human Being comes in all of his power and shining-greatness, along with all of his spirit-messengers, he will sit down in his seat of honour. All nations will be gathered and come before him. He will choose between them like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side and the goats on his left.

Then the Chief will say to the sheep on his right, 'The blessing of my Father rests upon you. Come into the Land of Creator's good road that has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was hungry and you fed me. I was a stranger and you gave me lodging. When I needed clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in prison, you visited me.'

'When did we do all these things for you?' the good-hearted ones asked.

'I speak from my heart,' he answered them, 'whatever you did for the least important of my fellow human beings who needed help, you did for me.'  

True Human Being,
Spirit of all that Is, 
too easily we forget
that you have done all these things for us --
we are fed, clothed and cared for 
by your generosity.

We can't make anything grow
or happen
without your help --
your strength in our bodies,
your intelligence in our minds,
your spirit in our souls.

Help us to remember
that we are called to help others
as generously
as you help us.


(And just for the fun of it... I'm including a wee video to show that baby sheep can bounce like baby goats do!)

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Remembering 209

Imagine losing 5 friendly faces out of your life every week.

Yesterday, the staff of the Bissell Centre and the Inner City Pastoral Ministry team gathered to remember the 209 people who died in the inner-city between February 1 and October 31. If you do the math, that's 5 people a week, more or less, depending on the week.

In my role as ICPM lunch coordinator, I don't often have enough time to ask people their names in the 10-second interaction as they collect snack bags and coffee outside the Bissell's doors on a Sunday morning, but I try to look them in the eye, greet them, and ask how they're doing. And if they come around regularly, I know their faces, if not their names.

We shed many tears during our ceremony, especially when Jeremiah from the Mustard Seed put his heart and soul into singing one of the best anthems of lament -- Gone Away by The Offspring -- "And it feels, and it feels like heaven is so far away, and it feels, and it feels like the world is so cold now that you've gone away."

Things are not getting better for homeless folks downtown. Today, I'm sending a very short letter with the picture above to the Prime Minister, my Premier, provincial health and housing ministers, and as many MLAs as I can with the request that they spend public dollars on 1) safe consumption sites and 2) affordable housing.

I just don't know what else to do. 

209 is too many. Even one is.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Monday Music Appreciation #18 -- A little Mahler, anyone?

My life has been busier than I like, which means I haven't been working at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music for all the concerts that I'd love to hear. That was the case on November 11th, when the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Calgary Philharmonic played together.

I spoke with a fellow usher a few days after the event, and she told me that having the two groups perform together was one of the most incredible concerts she'd ever heard, leaving the audience spellbound to the point that they sat in respectful silence for longer than usual at its conclusion. 

So I've been listening to Mahler's 3rd Symphony, and can imagine what the concert might have been like with twice as many musicians on our Winspear stage. Timpani drums always fascinate me, and this piece has them in the finale like I've never heard them before. Gustav Mahler loved romantic themes, and he certainly didn't hold back in his 3rd Symphony!

So here are the last six minutes of it for today's Monday Music Appreciation, performed by the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai (Torino, Italy) conducted by Maestro Giuseppe Sinopoli. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

A great opportunity

We're living in a perfect storm when it comes to the affordability of housing. Rising inflation, food, power, and heating costs are contributors to the fact that many people are finding it hard to make ends meet. But a bigger concern is the financialization of housing.

As I understand it, the world's money markets have woken up to the fact that investing in housing can make the rich richer. In cities across the globe, large companies (here in Edmonton, think Boardwalk and Mainstreet and the like) are buying rental properties from small owners, doing minor renovations that allow them to renovict tennants, and raising the rents. 

My friend, Sandra, lived in the apartment complex down the alley from me. It was purchased by a new owner who added a new building on the greenspace in the middle of the complex, but before that even happened, Sandra's rent was raised by 50%, and she had to move to a more affordable place after being in her apartment community for 15 years. 

Housing is a human right. But some investors see it merely as an opportunity to make more money, forgetting that real people need affordable places to live. Because our governments at all levels have not invested in affordable housing in the last 30 years, and because so much of what was affordable has been purchased by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) who have raised rents, or because rental repairs of aging buildings have been neglected, more and more people are finding themselves homeless. If this isn't a social justice issue, I don't know what is.

This moodling is a poor summary of the issues involved, but my point is that on Tuesday, November 22nd, which is the National Housing Day of Action, there's a great opportunity to educate ourselves about the many things contributing to our housing emergency in Canada, and to meet like-minded people who are interested in improving the situation.

The event is called "Housing: Who Is It For?" and it will take place at Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre) 8712 109 Street, 7 pm on November 22nd. 

Tickets are now on sale. One option has two steps: email to place your order (name, number of tickets) and then e-transfer the funds for your tickets to from your financial institution. Sales in this way provide ECOHH with all the ticket cost and help our organization to continue to work for changes to make housing more affordable. 

You can also find tickets on Eventbrite.

Below is a trailer for the movie, PUSH, which will be shown at the event.

If you come, I'll meet you at the door! Bring friends!


Saturday, November 11, 2023

Working and praying for peace

Yesterday, I found myself on my knees in the square near City Hall trying hard to see through my tears as I wrote the names of 60 or more Palestinians who have died in Gaza. The oldest was 63 and the youngest was an infant, and as a dozen others and I inked the names of the dead on a long roll of linen, the bombardment of recent weeks suddenly became real.

As I worked, a beautiful woman stood to the side and read out the names and ages of the victims. She became more and more emotional as she shouted out the names and ages of the children, until finally she began to sob, "May these angels find their loved ones beyond the gates of heaven, and may God be merciful to them all! There is no justice in this world for them!" Unable to continue, she handed her lists to a man near her, and took a break, only to continue 20 minutes later. 

When my knees started hurting too much from the concrete I was kneeling on, I gave my list to another person and went to stand beside the woman as she continued to read the names. After another page, she turned to me and we hugged each other long and hard. "My children are safe," she said, and I said, "Mine too. What you are doing is so important -- I'm glad that someone is acknowledging these innocent civilians and their children who have lost their lives." We lamented together as mothers, and after a few moments, she continued.

The thing is... war happens all over the globe all the time. It just doesn't often get our attention the way Gaza has in the past month. Before Gaza was Ukraine, remember? -- and we barely hear about that ongoing conflict anymore. Before Ukraine was Myanmar... and it continues, too. Syria. Congo. The list of ongoing conflicts is unending, and what can an average Jill like me who lives in a peaceful country (so far) do about any of it?

I can stand in solidarity with the communities here who are connected to places where war is being waged. Support aid groups. Demand that world leaders lead the world to cease fires now. And work and pray for peace in whatever imaginative ways we can, as the young adults who organized yesterday's event in Churchill Square did. It wasn't a big event, but it was impactful for those who wandered over, wondering what it was all about, who found themselves on their knees, as I did. We wrote the names and ages of 3,000 people on the linen scrolls, and that might be a fourth of the people who have died or are missing in Gaza up to now.

November 12 (tomorrow) at 1 pm, there is a gathering planned at Violet Henry King Plaza (the Legislature) in support of a cease fire in Palestine.

And in the evening is this year's ecumenical Prayer for Peace, 7 pm at St. Luke's Anglican Church (8424 95 Avenue). 

Just in case you want to join me at either event. 

War is real. Peace can be, too.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

The hummingbird on my shoulder

Gratitude to Jenny
at Hivemind Studios for 
my sweet little bird
She is the little one in Wangari Maathai's story, who sees the fire and does something about it. The other, bigger animals -- who are watching the fire helplessly -- think she is crazy as she flies back and forth to the river, bringing her tiny mouthful of water to the fire. 

To them, she says, "I am doing the best I can."

Our Indigenous Knowledge Keeper told Wangari's story one cold Sunday this past February, the day we had two very unhappy volunteers at Inner City Pastoral Ministry. I found them having an angry discussion in the parking lot after all the work was done, and they said to me, "How can you do this, week in and week out, when nothing improves and things downtown are only getting worse and worse?" It felt like an attack.

All I could think to say was, "I am the hummingbird. I am doing the best I can."

In all the situations in my life that seem hopeless, I think of the hummingbird. In broken relationships. In my imperfections as a mom. Listening to world news. Volunteering where there is need. Facing climate change. Trying to live simply. Caring for the people I love. 

I am doing the best I can.

That's why there is now a small female ruby throated hummingbird on my shoulder, like the one who visits my yard every summer. She's the one and only tattoo that I never planned to get... until one cold Sunday in February.

I like to think we are all hummingbirds.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Sunday Reflection: Two great commandments

Today's reflection is brought to you by 
Matthew 22:37-39. 
A statue from Gubbio
(wish I knew the artist's name)

Jesus told him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." 

I offered the following reflection to the people of the Community of Emmanuel in Edmonton's inner-city this morning. They listened very attentively -- who can resist stories about saints, whether they be the capital or small S variety?

Today in our reading, Jesus gives us what he knows are the two most important commandments, and
these commandments leave us with two questions: 

First of all, how do we love God with all our heart, soul and mind? What does that actually look like?

And secondly, how do we love our neighbours as ourselves? What does that actually look like? 

When I was thinking about this reading and what I might say about it, I also realized that this coming week, Tuesday, an interesting annual celebration will take place. Have you thought about it at all? Halloween is coming. Besides being a day of weird, deathly celebration, costumes, candy, and tricks or treats, it’s really the evening before the great spiritual celebrations of All Saints and All Souls’ days. And if we want to love God, who better to show us how than the holy saints and souls from ancient times and our own personal histories? They give us many examples of how to love Creator and do as Creator asks. 

So what are saints? In our time, it's easy to think of people like Mother Teresa when we think of holy people. She was amazing in her life and commitment to caring for people in Calcutta, India, and she started a group of missionary people who live and work all over the world now, helping wherever they can. But you and I aren’t likely to be Missionaries of Charity or Mother Teresa kind of people… or are we? 

I've always liked the story about the little kid who visits a big fancy church with his grandma during summer holidays. He's never been in a church like it, and he’s asking her lots of questions. “Who are all these people in the colourful windows?” he asks. And she replies, “They’re saints.” And she tells him a few stories about the saints in the windows close to where they are sitting.

Sometime later, back at school, the word "saint" is on his spelling test, and his teacher asks the question, “What is a saint?” and the little boy says, “I know, I know! A saint is a person the light shines through!” 

And that’s a pretty cool definition of what it means to be a saint, if you ask me, because we can all be people that Creator’s light shines through. By being kind to someone, sharing what we have, giving help wherever we can, we are letting God’s light shine through us. When I meet people at the door on Sunday mornings, sometimes I’m blinded by the light of a smile, or the kindness that someone shows to someone else. Our coffee ladies let the light shine through, don’t they? And our volunteers who bring the lunches? They are being signs of God’s love. God’s love and light shine through the way they care for all of us here at the Community of Emmanuel! They are saints, aren't they? 

We’re all meant to be saints – we already are what I call small s saints, or good people trying to be even better, though there aren’t stained glass windows with our pictures in them! And we all know saints from our own lives, people who let Creator's light shine through them in their love for us. I’d like to give you a quiet moment to think about someone in your life, past or present, who is or was a sign of God’s love for you. 

(Brief pause.)

Did you think of someone? Maybe more than one person? I thought of my Grandma Dorothea, my dad's mom. She wasn’t perfect, she had a temper, but she was also a lot of fun. I remember her turning cartwheels on the front lawn when I was a kid. I couldn't turn a cartwheel to save my life, but Grandma could. She taught me to cook some foods traditional to my family, clobbered me in cribbage and rummy, made the best gingersnaps, and could yodel like you’ve never heard at our family sing-alongs.

Eventually Grandma became disabled because of arthritis, and I remember visiting her in the senior's home in Saskatoon. I would peek in her door to find her in her wheelchair, holding her almost worn-out prayer book in her hands, praying for her family. And when I would say, "Hi, Grandma!" her smile was the kind of smile God would have. Absolute delight and unconditional love! I hope we all know someone who is radiant with that kind of love for us. 

Those kind of people are small s saints, as are we, on our journey to Creator. And then there are the capital S saints – the people you see in the stained-glass windows. Maybe you’ve heard of my favourite, Francis of Assisi. He was a rich young man who was supposed to inherit his father’s textile business, but he noticed that, compared to the people who worked in his father’s factories, he was living a life of luxury, and that wasn't fair! He decided to take sides with the folks who had less, just like Jesus asks us all to do, and he walked away from all that luxury to live simply, like Jesus did. 

Many of the priests and bishops in the time of Francis were more interested in power and money than in caring for their people, so Francis started a community of Little Brothers to care for those who were down on their luck, sick, disabled, or elderly. Of course, the Francis and his brothers put the rich priests and bishops to shame, and created a bit of an uproar in the Church. Jesus would have been proud!

Francis also loved nature, and is the saint of ecology, of living in harmony with creation. There are many stories of him preaching to the animals. Not far from where I live, there’s a statue of him talking to the Wolf of Gubbio. The wolf was causing many problems for the people of the town of Gubbio, killing their livestock, and eventually, killing even the people who tried to kill it. The people of Gubbio were terrified. 

Francis was living in Gubbio at the time, and decided to do something about it. He went out of the town's fortified walls to meet the wolf empty-handed, saying, "Brother Wolf, I come in peace." The wolf charged at Francis, but soon realized that Francis was different -- he had no sticks or clubs or knives to threaten the wolf. So the wolf circled Francis, who said, "Brother Wolf, you are hungry and afraid, and you are doing what wolves do to feed and protect yourself." Then he turned to the people and said, "And you are worried and afraid, and you are doing what people do to protect themselves and their livestock." 

Francis soon set up a pact between the wolf and the people – that the wolf would be gentle and kind if the people would take turns feeding it -- and the wolf lived in peace with people for the rest of its life.

It's a beautiful story, an example for us to follow. We all have wolves in our lives in the form of difficult people or situations. The story of Saint Francis and the wolf of Gubbio is a lesson about how to relate to those who don’t view life the way we do -- through understanding and compromise. Francis' life is full of stories that help us to see how we can be better people. Saints like Francis are people who let the light shine through themselves, and help others let their light shine, too. 

So that was a long detour when it comes to Jesus’ great commandments, but it’s leading me back to the first question I asked -- how do we love God with all our heart, soul and mind? What does that look like? Well, we have the example of compassionate and loving people around us – in our own lives, and in the past. Small s and capital S saints. We see the light shine through them, and their example encourages us to let God’s light shine through us too. When I am able to let Creator’s light shine through me, I am loving God with all my heart, soul and mind. 

But letting God’s light shine through us isn’t always easy, as we see in the second question -- How do we love our neighbours as ourselves? What does that actually look like? 

I’m going to break this question in half and focus on the second half first. Before we love our neighbours, how do we love ourselves? Do we even recognize ourselves as loveable? Or do we get hung up on our unlovable qualities? 

We need to remember that Creator is not hung up on the things we think are wrong about ourselves, the negative things people have said to us that stick with us and make us feel bad about ourselves. It's too easy to get down on ourselves when people aren't kind to us, or step on our natural way of being. 

I'm one of those people who can be overly enthusiastic, jumping into conversations, interrupting other people's chains of thought... and when people react to that, sometimes I feel like I should just shut up and never say anything again. But playing small is not serving Creator, who needs someone with enthusiasm to jump in some of the time. I just need to learn to curb my enthusiasm to let other people shine too. 

It's easy to get down on ourselves, but do we realize that it's important to believe that Creator made us the way we are on purpose -- and loves us every day? Because Creator does love us, no matter what. Think about this – Creator loves you so much that there’s this incredible planet for you to live on, given to you for free. Creator made entire diamond galaxies out in space to sparkle and shine just for you to see. Creator woos you with gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and gives you moments of beauty, goodness, and truth if you look for them. Creator made human love to show you the overarching love behind everything that exists, from the tiniest grain of sand to the highest mountain, from the tiniest little bug to the most enormous blue whale, from the depths of the sea to the depths of your heart. And nothing you can do can stop that love. It just is. For you! 

So if Creator loves you that much, can you love yourself that much too? Because that’s the kind of love Jesus is saying that we also need to extend to our neighbours. Even when our neighbours are unlovable. Sometimes they can be like the Wolf of Gubbio, challenging us in ways we'd rather not be challenged. It’s not easy to love ourselves or our neighbours sometimes, but I’d like to guide you through a little prayer experience that might help with that. 

Close your eyes or focus them softly on something near you. Settle into your breathing for a moment and take these words into your heart. 

 Creator loves me, just as I am. 
 Creator loves me, just as I am. 
 Creator loves me, just as I am. 

Now I invite you to think of someone you love as I go through this prayer. 

 I ask Creator’s blessings on this person who I love. 
 I ask Creator to watch over this person and keep them safe and well. 
 I ask Creator to let the sun shine warmly on this person. 
 I ask Creator to be gracious and kind to this person. 
 I ask Creator to give this person peace and joy. 

Now think of someone in your life who is hard to love. 

 I ask Creator’s blessings on this person who is hard for me to love. 
 I ask Creator to watch over this person and keep them safe and well. 
 I ask Creator to let the sun shine warmly on this person. 
 I ask Creator to be gracious and kind to this person. 
 I ask Creator to give this person peace and joy. 

Now let's pray this prayer for ourselves. 

 I ask Creator’s blessings on me. 
 I ask Creator to watch over me and keep me safe and well. 
 I ask Creator to let the sun shine warmly on me. 
 I ask Creator to be gracious and kind to me. 
 I ask Creator to give me peace and joy. 

Creator, help us to love you with all our hearts, minds and souls, to love our neighbours, and to love ourselves. 


St. Francis and the Wolf
north of Newman Theological College

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The four-day kitten adventure

Late on Friday night, my nephew Iain was driving home after a stargazing evening at the western city limits when he saw four little eyes reflecting on the side of the road. When he stopped to see what was there, he found two adorable ginger kittens shivering in the cold.

The question everyone who has heard this story asks is, who would dump such sweet little things on the edge of the city when there are so many options for adoption in our city? We'll never know, but it's certain that Iain saved their lives. He said he saw as many coyotes as kittens that night. 

The next morning, he came upstairs and told us that he had kittens living in the basement bathroom. They were small and quiet, perhaps 8 to 10 weeks old, hungry and moving around on shaky legs. Suzanna and I enjoyed kitten snuggles that first day, and called them Chaos (the adventurous male) and Cuddles (the quieter female). 

Over the four days, their names changed a few times, and as they regained strength, they got more and more adventurous. When I went to check on them on Saturday afternoon, the little female had managed to climb up a bath towel and was crouched on the narrow rack, looking at me as if to say, "How do I get down from here?"

We've had a lot of visitors for them (it's hard to resist kitten cuteness), and a lot of laughs. We asked people if they knew anyone who wanted kittens... and just now, the friend of a friend of Iain's took them home to be new companions for her cat. So the kitten adventure has a happy ending, and we're all delighted, though we will miss their antics.

Here's a short video from this morning. Have happy lives, little ones!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Monday Music Appreciation #16 -- Don't Listen to Me

I'm looking forward to going to work tonight because it's a Martin Kerr concert. This is my second musical appreciation focusing on him, though it's not just him... I love the harmonies of his friends here too. Enjoy!

Monday, October 16, 2023

Monday music appreciation #15 -- Danse Macabre

Have I mentioned lately that I love my job? Being an usher at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music (why doesn't his wife Harriet get any credit??) is bringing me back into contact with so much wonderful classical music!

On Thursday and Friday, Maestro Bill Eddins, Concert Master Robert Uchida, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra put on wonderful evening performances that included Camille Saint-Saëns' wonderful Danse Macabre, a perfect piece as we head towards All Hallow's Eve. I've always loved it as I'm a sucker for the "rattling bones" sounds that come from certain percussion instruments.

Wanting to share it with my readers, I went looking for videos, and found this one of an orchestra of very young musicians from Czestochowa, Poland. No offense to Robert, Bill, and the ESO, but this video below is my new favourite version of Danse Macabre! These young people are a wonder!! Enjoy!!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Sunday reflection: a prayer of lamentation

The news is not good in the so-called Holy Land. In fact, it ranks among the unholiest of places on the planet because of the things that have been happening to people there in the past eight days, and long before that.

With so much history of conflict and oppression of different peoples over many centuries, I find it hard to know how to pray for the people caught in the midst of chaos and injustice and terrorism from all sides. 

But then I remembered a line about "putting your mouth in the dust to wait for hope," and found something like that in the 3rd chapter of the book of Lamentations. Hope is hard to find, but if you're so inclined, please pray with me for the people in this latest conflict, and for all those oppressed by violence of any kind:

46 All our enemies
    have opened their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us,
    devastation and destruction.
48 My eyes flow with rivers of tears
    because of the destruction of my people.

49 My eyes will flow without ceasing,
    without respite,
50 until the Lord from heaven
    looks down and sees.
51 My eyes cause me grief
    at the fate of all the young women in my city.

52 Those who were my enemies without cause
    have hunted me like a bird;
53 they flung me alive into a pit
    and hurled stones on me;
54 water closed over my head;
    I said, ‘I am lost.’

55 I called on your name, O Lord,
    from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear
    to my cry for help, but give me relief!’
57 You came near when I called on you;
    you said, ‘Do not fear!’

Creator God, 

be with all those who need you the most right now, 
and open the gates of heaven 
for all those whose souls suddenly need a home. 

We pray, we cry, we lament. 

Be with 
the people who live in the land 
where your child, 
came to live with all of humanity, 
to show us what your loving compassion looks like.

Let loving compassion return
to the hearts of all,
we beg you.

We beg you.

We pray, we cry, we lament.

We turn our mouths to the dust,
until you give us reason to hope.


Monday, October 9, 2023

Monday Music Appreciation #14 -- Cavatina

After being away since I broke my foot on May 10, I'm delighted to be back at work at the Winspear Centre for music. And the symphony season started off with two wonderful sold out shows that included the beautiful "Cavatina" from the 1978 movie, The Deer Hunter, a sad movie with a very famous piece of music.

Here's something gorgeous for this Canadian Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy.

Friday, October 6, 2023

A wild time

I haven't been very present here at Simple Moodlings lately because my father-in-law needed some help. In the last ten days, we took a flying trip to his home, contracted a moving company, moved him into assisted living, and made a good dent in cleaning out his house. He's making a big adjustment, and we are exhausted. But the crisis we were half-expecting came and went, and we all lived to tell about it. We're so thankful for that fact!

Dad K. will be 92 in a few weeks, but he still takes a lot of delight in life, as evidenced by the short video below. It's too good not to share!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Love and fear revisited

From A Common Prayer 
by Australian humourist and cartoon artist Michael Leunig 
(Dove, Harper Collins 1990, ISBN 0 85924 933 6) 

Today, in love, I stand firmly with those in my city's 2SLGBTQIA+ community, especially my own kids and their friends. I witnessed how strong they were in facing the anger and fear emanating as insults, abuse, bullying, and some very unfortunate flying debris from the angry and fearful "parental rights groups" rallying across the road. My love and respect for the solid and compassionate young adults around me this morning is boundless.

I was grateful to be part of this morning's event, but was also broken-hearted because of the abuse suffered by our 2SLGBTQIA+ family members and friends, simply because they express their love or gender differently and want to protect younger people like themselves from insults, abuse, violence, or homelessness just for being who they are or loving as they do.

If there had been less anger on the other side -- and I hadn't been so afraid myself -- I would have liked to invite some of the "others" to go for coffee so we could listen to each others' experiences and understand each other's point of view. 

No matter which side we are on, we shouldn't have to be afraid of each other. It gets us nowhere.

If you know anyone who is feeling the effects of today's anger and fear, send them some love. If you want to have coffee with me, just say the word. We can listen to each other.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Sunday Reflection: Prayer for creation with the four directions

September is the Season of Creation, and this morning the inner-city Community of Emmanuel prayed this prayer with the four directions: 

Let us turn our hearts to the East
The morning Sun begins each day there
Creator God, awaken us and help us to walk with renewed life

Let us turn our hearts to the South
Where the warm winds come from to give us comfort and joy
Creator God, soothe our aching souls

Let us turn our hearts to the West
From there the clouds bring us cleansing rain
Creator God, heal us and our relatives

Let us turn our hearts to the North
Winter comes from there and calls us to rest
Creator God, restore our strength

Let us turn our hearts to the Sky
From there Creator sees all around us
Creator God, help us to trust you to lead us

Let us turn our hearts to the Earth
From there quiet wisdom comes to teach us
Creator God, hear us as we pray to you

+Amen, let it be so.

If you are looking for more creation-based prayer between now and the October 4th Feast Day of St. Francis, patron saint of ecology, here are some wonderful resources, and this link will lead you to a special prayer card.

If you're in my neighbourhood, we are having our annual Ecumenical Prayer for Creation in the style of Taizé on Sunday, September 17th, 7-8 p.m. at St. Luke's Anglican Church, 8424 95th Avenue. All are welcome!

After a summer like the one we are having, our earth needs more than prayer, but prayer is a good place to start because it changes us

Let Justice and Peace Flow.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Cornelia stands alone

Well, not quite. At least, not right away.

This morning when I dismantled Cornelia the scarecrow's three sisters' raised bed (of "corn, beans, and squash the patriarchy," as my friend Quinn's hoodie says), I discovered the rest of the produce that was growing at her feet. I was also amused to see that one of the bean plants grew right around her compact disc left hand!

Cornelia's collection:
One large field pumpkin, three pie pumpkins,
three spaghetti squash, three kabocha squash, 
the last pail of scarlet runner beans 
and a few little leeks that lost sight of the sun!

We enjoyed several feeds of peaches and cream corn and lots of yummy scarlet runner beans thanks to Cornelia's vigilance, and will also have some good pumpkin soup and baked squash over the next while. Maybe I'll make a pie.

Now that her "charges" have moved indoors, Cornelia deserves a rest from her labours. She's moved into our sunny greenhouse space, where she can keep an eye on the birds' comings and goings through the winter.

Good work, Cornelia. Just so you know, the sparrows are already missing your garden domain's many hiding places.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Early September garden report 2023

Pear tree produce!
What a summer it has been. Edmonton has felt like its own little oasis. We have been really, really fortunate to have good rain for our gardens when many places around us have not. Climate change is impacting everyone on the planet in one way or another, and for us, it has meant some days where you don't want to step outside because the air quality is running off the scale in terms of unbreathable -- due to wildfires, of course. 

Just this week, someone from Texas borrowed A Prayer for Rain yet again. I guess In the northern part of the state they're having wildfires too, but we probably haven't heard about it because we're pretty focused on those closer to home, the many climate refugees who have come to us from Yellowknife, and the latest hurricane season. My heart goes out to everyone affected by climate issues, and to all who are feeling climate grief, as I am.

But what has been happening in our yard is a beautiful distraction from the challenges our planet is facing elsewhere, and I am counting my blessings! Here is my garden report for late August/early September:


The garden has outdone itself, and our pear tree even managed to produce some fruit. Last year's hard pruning helped, though there is still evidence of fire blight on a few branches that we will take out this weekend.

The garden reminds me that everything is gift, and that we have to appreciate what we have while we have it. So I'm not taking this wonderful produce for granted. I suspect I'll have to give a lot away, but that's a blessing, too, to be able to share with others!

If you're in my neck of the woods and would like some tomatoes or pears, just say the word!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Roses for a Sunday

I've always loved roses, but it took me a while to plant them for myself. Our rosebushes remind me often to thank God for certain people in my life, and to say thank You, period... I still want some to remind me of my sisters and my best friend, but that will come, maybe next year.

For now, this Sunday morning reflection is about beauty, and family and friends who have given beauty to my life.

Blanc de Coubert reminds me of Lee
and our evening walks together.
Thank you God, for my partner in life.

Oscar Pederson is delicate but tough, like my daughter Suzanna.
Thank you, God, for her quiet strength in facing challenges.

Morden Sunrise is the rosette that I pinned
to Jay's lapel on their graduation day.
Thank you, God, for the many things they've taught me.

Olds College reminds me of my dear friends,
Ralph and Lidia, because I bought this rose
with birthday money she gave me.
Thank you God, for their friendship (and my
Sunday morning espresso in her pot!)

Fire Glow is my mother-in-law, Vivien's, rose.
Her heart burned with a lot of love.
Thank you, God, for her shining faith in you.

Never Alone is her husband Louis' rose. 
They grow side by side in my garden.
Thank you, God, for my father-in-law.

John Franklin came from my dear friend
Jocelyne, who I don't see nearly enough, 
but John reminds me to pray for her.

Prairie Joy is Christina's rose.
It was part of their wedding bouquet
and bloomed on their 4th anniversary, June 29th.
Thank you, God, for my go-getter eldest child.

Adeline is my dad's rose.
Thank you, God, for Dad, who makes your love comprehensible.

And I don't know the name of this rose,
but she's a beauty I call Hildegarde
because my mom gave her to me.
Thank you, God, for my mom-best-friend.

This Sunday morning, I'm counting my roses, and my blessings!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Fresh paint


It didn't turn out quite as I intended because my hands are shakier than they used to be, but the ferris wheels/flowers/fireworks are eye-catching and will be a bright spot of colour in the winter, at least.

You're welcome to sit and rest a while any time!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Cornelia's pumpkins

Cornelia the scarecrow has done her job very well, and we have enjoyed peaches and cream corn and scarlet runner beans for several suppers. And today I found these two at her feet.

There are more hiding among the corn and bean stalks. I guess we'll see how big they get.

Friday, August 18, 2023

As Kelowna burns...

I can't sit and do nothing. Especially when Alberta's premier is backing away from renewable energy and putting her power behind the fossil fuels that create the greenhouse gas emissions that have created climate change. 

I know, I know. I rely on oil and gas and all the products and plastics that they make so that I can live just as much as everyone else. But we aren't given any choice, are we? Imagine if the wealthy folks who are running oil and gas companies decided to turn around spend their money on sustainable forms of energy and renewable products instead. The world would change. 

And that's the exact kind of revolution we need right now. 

As timing would have it, I watched this video, forwarded from my friend, Mark, at the end of June, just yesterday. Kathleen Dean Moore's presentation is actually from 9 years ago, but what she has to say about what we should do still holds very true. I'm including it below, because it is what motivated me to write the letter to my premier. I've set the video (I hope) to start at the most essential point, but if you have time for the whole thing, I encourage you to hear what she says in its entirety. 

And I invite you to write your own letter to your own politicians about supporting renewable energy over fossil fuels. If you live in my neck of the woods, keep an eye out for Solar Alberta's #RiseUpForRenewables campaign. Maybe I'll even get me a lawn sign...

Dear Premier Smith and members of the Alberta Utilities Commission,

As I watch people fleeing for their lives from Kelowna and Yellowknife, I urge you to end the pause on renewable energy projects right now. We need clean energy more than ever. If you should be pausing anything, it is fossil fuel projects and subsidies. 

I am really angry that Premier Smith has called for this pause, especially when our fossil fuel industry is not being held to the same standards when it comes to end of life, land use, and reclamation concerns. I have seen with my own eyes the huge solar farm on poor soils/alkali flats near Claresholm, AB. I believe that our renewable energy community has the welfare of the planet in mind, unlike the fossil fuel industry that is padding the pockets of the wealthy in spite of evidence that emissions are causing climate change and killing too many of our planet's ecosystems.

I want my children and grandchildren to be able to breathe clear air. With AQHI reaching 10 or worse at times, that's not possible. Have you even noticed that Alberta's blue skies aren't as blue as they used to be? Pausing renewable projects is dooming us all to have to rely mainly on the fossil fuels that are changing our climate so quickly. If we haven't already reached the tipping point, we are most certainly running out of time.

End the pause on renewable energy projects now.

Maria K

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Uncle William's Solitaire

I've been wanting to share this two-deck solitaire for a while, just because it's a good way to relax at the end of the day. I learned it from my best friend, Cathy (accidentally called her my cousin in the video below!) who learned it from her cousin, the daughter of Cathy's great-uncle William. Uncle William was a physician, and every night he would play this game, perhaps to unwind -- his daughter remembers falling asleep to the sound of the cards slapping the table. 

Unlike the solitaire games played on computer/online that take the tedium of laying the cards out of our hands, here it's part of the fun -- getting the right numbered card on the right pile is its own pleasure and reward (you may notice that I miss a six of clubs on the six pile in the video -- I was moving fast for the sake of the video being shorter, and that six didn't register!) 

Uncle William's Solitaire is probably the neatest solitaire I know, and I'm not sure how well-known it might be -- perhaps Cathy and her family are the only people on earth who know how to play it. I've shared it with a few in my family, and now I share it with you, just because I don't want it to be lost in the mists of antiquity. It's rare that all the cards come up in the right order for all eight suits, but it does happen, I promise.

Find yourself two decks of cards, and play for yourself. It's a great way to relax, but be warned... it can be addictive!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

#holyroodbenchproject -- update #6 -- 6 years later

Come and sit a while...
Six years later, our faithful #holyroodbenchproject beauty had seen better days. She's been sitting patiently through all the weather Edmonton seasons have thrown at her over the past six years, and we've really enjoyed seeing people (and animals) enjoying her...

A neighbour's toddler ran to the bench to try to climb up on it each time the family went for a walk, but now she's six and tall enough that no one has to lift her. Another neighbour's labour began on that bench, and she brought her swaddled baby and visited quite regularly while the wee one naps. He's two now. Squirrels and magpies like to sit on its back, and jack rabbits keep the grass trimmed around its legs. Bike riding families line their little ones up on it for snack time. And my chalk box rests under it for Julianne to use whenever she comes by. 

But someone (on a bike?) knocked one of our bench's legs off kilter, and exposure to moisture caused some rot along her backrest, so Lee and I have been working on fixing her up again. He repaired and sanded her, and I put a second coat of fresh paint on her this morning.

She looks much better again, ready for another stretch of offering a hospitable sitting space to passers-by. And she's a blank canvas -- for a new design and welcoming phrase. 

So, dear readers, if you had a blank green neighbourly bench like this one, how would you decorate her? I'm looking for suggestions.

For those who may have missed other moodlings about the #holyroodbenchproject or perhaps want to revisit them, here they are...

Have a happy, neighbourly day.

Friday, August 4, 2023

July-August 2023 garden report

My plan to show readers my garden at the end of each summer month got away on me. So here's my July garden video, which was made yesterday, August 3rd. A wee garden tour in just under four minutes! Come visit at the end of August and we'll eat lots of wonderful produce together, God and weather willing!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

And her name is...

Cornelia among the three sisters
 Cornelia! Kudos to my East Coast cousin, Claire, for her sense of humour... and I'll come up with a first prize of sorts. Honourable mention to Suzanne, my simplicity sister, who suggested TIDDA, which means sister in an Australian aboriginal language, and to Eleanor, a friend and faithful reader, who suggested Grandmother Fox, a mythical figure in indigenous stories of Turtle Island.

All three contest entrants will receive an I'm-not-yet-sure-what by mail at some point down the road, when the exact right thing crosses my path. It's out there somewhere!

In the meantime, Cornelia has withstood some pretty heavy rain storms and is doing a fine job of protecting the corn tops, though some of them are a bit worse for sparrow wear. Hopefully we'll have some nice full cobs in about a month's time!

Today's harvest...

Monday, July 24, 2023

Monday Music Appreciation #13 -- Stay Gentle

I really love the music of Brandi Carlile, and I think she's an incredibly cool musician and person besides. If you've never heard her song The Joke, click here and watch the video... it's deeply moving for anyone who has ever felt alone or ostracized, and who among us has never felt that way? 

What I appreciate most about Brandi is that she is unapologetically herself, and she sings right from the bottom of her toes, and from her heart, too. Her voice has a bit of a rough edge that gives her songs more strength or subtlety, as needed, or so it seems to me.

I've been meaning to musically appreciate Brandi (and this album in particular) for a while. So this morning when I found a cheeky little article from Sojourners' Magazine about God's Summer Playlist, the time had come.

According to the article, Brandi's song, Stay Gentle, is on God's list of top twelve tunes for this summer (I guess God works in twelves -- you know, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve minor prophets, twelve apostles, etc.). Have a listen, and see if you might like to add Stay Gentle to your own playlist. Its message is something we all need to be reminded of now and then. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Meeting Ephthemia

Photo by Alfred Schrock on Unsplash
One of the first people who came to visit during Inner City Pastoral Ministry "table time" yesterday on the corner near Bissell Centre West was a small elder with shiny black hair, a huge smile (in spite of very few teeth), and the tendency to shout the odd word to emphasize it. 

She picked up a few snacks ("I like them HICKORY STICKS!"), thanked us, and moved on to collect hugs from a couple of Bissell Centre staff members that she obviously recognized, and they her. She stood in the middle of the sidewalk, arms outstretched, just waiting to be embraced, and she was not disappointed. Their encounter made me smile.

Pastor Quinn and I stood at our little table of shareable items for almost an hour,  having our own encounters with people who came for snacks, toiletries, dry socks and underwear (it had rained at least an inch overnight, probably more). 

I love table time for the interactions with the locals. One guy made me laugh when he said, "I'm from Newfoundland, so give me the tuna and crackers kit, not that chicken salad and crackers sh*t." Inevitably, there are jokes and stories exchanged at our table. Some of the stories are hard to listen to, but the tellers of those stories appreciate that we listen and sometimes pray for them -- if they request it. Inner City Pastoral Ministry is a ministry of presence, of just being with folks. We can't solve their problems for them, but we can listen.

After we had given everything away to people who had come to our table from nearby encampments and other dwellings, Quinn headed inside to see if any of our regular community members were taking advantage of the Bissell's services, as he usually does. I broke down cardboard boxes and folded up our portable table, watching for Quinn's return, because he's my ride home. He was gone longer than usual, but eventually I spotted him further down the sidewalk, chatting with the little elder with shiny black hair and very few teeth at the small garbage bin across from the entrance.

When I arrived, Quinn was using the lid of the bin as a table for a tape dispenser, and carefully taping the arm back onto the elder's glasses. She had a small bleeding abrasion on the side of her nose where the nose piece of her broken glasses had cut into her skin, and a lot to say about it. "That STUPID woman had to hit me for NO GOOD REASON!" she said. "I'm sixty-six and that TWENTY-SOMETHING B**CH thought she'd take a piece of me. COWARD. Now she's HIDING inside."

Quinn confirmed that he'd seen a younger woman "clock" the older one, and that he'd gone inside to ask the Bissell's nurse for help outside (better to keep the two parties apart), but the nurse was already swamped by people needing attention. So I waited with the little woman while Quinn went back in to see what he might do for the elder first aid-wise.

I asked her name. "I'm Effie," she told me. 

"But there's more to your name than that, I'll bet," I said. "What is Effie short for?"

"My full name is Ephthemia. It's Greek. Do you know what it means?"

"Greek!" I exclaimed. "It's a beautiful name. But how did you get a Greek name?" 

"My dad knew a Greek guy," she said. "Ephthemia means Beautiful Butterfly. That's me. I'm a beautiful butterfly."

"You definitely are," I agreed, and pointed to her t-shirt, which bore the image of a woman with butterflies in her hair. Delighted that I'd noticed, Ephthemia wrapped me in a hug. I asked where she lived, and she told me she had a place in a nearby seniors' affordable housing building.

Quinn returned wearing medical gloves, carrying gauze and a little vial of saline solution. He asked Effie's name and got the same story I did, but without the hug. He carefully swabbed the cut on her nose and told her to stay away from the young woman who had hit her and suggested that she go see the nurse anyway to get checked for concussion.

Effie said, "I'm not afraid of HER! I've gotten worse beatings from a KITTEN." She gave me another hug, I told her to take care, and Quinn and I headed back to the car.

"Did you see what actually happened?" he asked me.

"No, I was folding up."

"I saw the girl hit her, hard, but I'm suspecting Effie smacked the girl's uncle on the head first, or maybe poked her as she walked by. I guess we'll never know."

"With a name like Ephthemia, she's certainly one of a kind," I said. "I wonder if it means what she says it does. I've never heard it before." 

When I arrived home, I looked up Ephthemia/Efthimia, and it actually translates as "well-spoken." But if "beautiful butterfly" suits her self-image better, I definitely won't argue. 

Effie will have a shiner today, but hopefully it won't matter too much because Ephthemia knows she is a beautiful butterfly. In my books, and in God's sight, she is.