Sunday, August 14, 2022

Hummingbird meditation

I've run out of words for prayer.

These days, my meditation is simply sitting and waiting for a hummingbird, my eyes filled with the beauty of this particular spot in God's creation, the melody of a Taize chant flowing through me.

Toi, tu nous aimes, source de vie.

You who love us, source of life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Lee's bear

My partner of 31 years has always had a thing for bear statues. I could probably post a picture of him posing with a bear for every year that we've been married and then some.

So when our daughter, Suzanna, and my sister, Jeanine, came across a very shabby little bear statue among a neighbour's garbage, waiting to be picked up and hauled to the dump, they rescued him.

Suzanna did a wee repair job, applied new paint, and voila. The perfect Father's Day present.

Lee finally has his own bear, who, like Shadow-pup, awaits him every day at our back door -- a good reminder, when our garden is wet, to wipe my paws.

No offense to those who prefer garden gnomes... I enjoy them too!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Sunday Reflection: Unexpected gifts

This morning at Inner City Pastoral Ministry, my friend, Dorothy, one of our community elders, called me over, saying, "I have something for you." 

She dug around in her purse for a moment and pulled out a pair of earrings beaded by one of her cousin's daughters, and presented them to me. "I got them at my family reunion! They're like the... what's the name of the place where they hold the Women's Retreat? Star of the North! And I know you like earrings. So now you can wear the North Star on your ears!"

To say I was delighted is to put it mildly. I gave her a masked kiss on the cheek and put them on immediately, and what was funny was that they perfectly matched what I was wearing (though if I hadn't decided to change into something cooler just before heading downtown this morning, that wouldn't have been the case).

It was an unexpected gift, and has me thinking about the many unexpected gifts I've received from ICPM and the Community of Emmanuel. I came to the community at a time when I couldn't find solace for my broken heart in my usual place of worship, and was received with immediate trust and acceptance, tears and all. That was the first unexpected gift. 

It took a while, but the week after I finally asked for prayers for the painful situation that broke my heart, Dorothy approached and told me she was praying especially for healing for me... It was another unexpected gift when she shared her own situation and we agreed to pray for each other.

Every service begins with a smudge of sage, an offering of prayer and smoke for cleansing, and that has been yet another unexpected gift of healing and hope for me. Somehow, it feels like a different sort of communion as we line up to receive sacred smoke in a ritual much older than Christianity. It's also been an unexpected gift to be invited to offer tobacco and pick the sage we use with other  community members at sacred ground outside of the city.

As someone who believes that we all need to gather together around God's word and table no matter who we are or the differences in our beliefs, the ecumenical spirit of the community's worship is yet another unexpected gift that moves me deeply. We are welcome to the table no matter what, and seeing the community receive God's gifts without judgment of any kind is a gift, too. Every week, God's love for each one of us is emphasized in beautiful ways.

But the most unexpected gift of all is how the community has become home for me thanks to the friendships offered and the joy we have in coming together on Sunday mornings even as there's always hardship around and among us.

Before my broken heart, I couldn't have believed in all these unexpected gifts that came through unexpected people. But now I see that my broken heart was also a gift that brought me to the Community of Emmanuel at ICPM. 

How I love my Sunday mornings there.

Thank you, 
for the journey that has brought me
to this special place in my life.

All of my life,
all of the life you have given me,
has led me here.

I wasn't always as grateful 
as I should have been,
Thank you,


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Another song worth hearing (and seeing)

It's easy to get discouraged these days, especially if you follow the news. Sometimes, life's struggles make it hard to sleep at night. So it's always good to find something uplifting and upbeat to counter the things that make us feel hopeless.

I like this one. I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

A ten-minute walking garden meditation

If it's not raining, most summer mornings you'll find me outside with my cup of tea, wandering my garden paths and moodling/meditating on the beauty of growing things and the Creator who silently and secretly somehow makes them grow.

So instead of my monthly garden report, before the harvest begins in earnest, I thought I'd leave you with this morning's ten-minute walking garden meditation, done in silence (well, as silent as my neighbourhood is on a workday morning) so you can see the beauties of creation found in my backyard. I especially love the beautiful things birds and wind planted here and there.


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Simple Suggestion #285... Build a garden blanket fort

Remember playing in blanket forts as kids? I think my mom is the queen of blanket forts. The ones she made with my kids were truly awe-inspiring.

Why am I thinking about this today? Well, it's over 30 degrees outside this afternoon, and that fact reminded me of the online workshop I took a while back that talked about how to climate-proof our gardens. Not that we can really climate proof anything... we're at the mercy of weather patterns that do as they must, that are only getting more and more challenging to live through in so many parts of the planet.

When the weather gets this warm, a garden can easily sunburn, so it's a good idea to move tender plants into the shade when possible. Failing that, we do what we can to soften the burning rays, and my solution this morning was to build backyard blanket forts for my tomatoes and peppers. Everything else will have to tough it out until the sun goes down and I can water again.

Climate change is real, and it's hard to watch the devastation it's wreaking on different parts of the world right now. About the only things we can do are to try to reduce our creation of greenhouse gas emissions, disengage from consumerism as much as possible, and source our food locally when we can in order to build up local producers so that we have them to fall back on as it becomes more challenging to ship food across the globe. I hope. 

Well, actually, there are hundreds of other things we can do, too, if we choose to live more simply. I started this list of Simple Suggestions back in 2011, and it grew and grew... If you haven't checked it out yet, it hasn't gone anywhere, though I've forgotten to add to it for at least a year!

If you're a gardener, I hope you already know this handy tip. For the time being, my tomatoes and peppers are protected until the weather moderates, and I'm trying to keep cool while praying for more temperate weather. 

God, help all the people and places that really need relief.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The hug

I hadn't seen the young woman since our encounter on Easter Sunday. She showed up at Inner City Pastoral Ministry again this Sunday with a healed-over scar on her forehead, and found a seat at a back table, choosing to sit rather than dance this time.

But at some point during our Standing Stones service, she approached shyly, bringing me a copy of Alberta Native News, an Indigenous newspaper that is often found on the back counter of our worship area. I thanked her for it, bowing to her a little since she couldn't see my smile through my mask. 

She came closer, murmuring something about angels all around us.

"Yes," I said, "They look after us even when we don't think about them."

She put out her hand as though she wanted a handshake. I shook it gently, holding her gaze. When we dropped the handshake, she continued to look at me, and I knew, somehow, that she wanted something more.

"Would you like a hug?" I asked instinctively.

She didn't hestitate, wrapping her arms around me. I held her tightly, and she didn't let go for almost a full minute. My eyes filled with tears, as I thought about how she probably doesn't get a lot of hugs from the people around her on the streets of the inner city, and how my own children rarely hug me anymore, either.

When the hug ended, I said, "Thank you for the hug. I needed that," and we nodded to each other as she walked away.

I hope I was as much of an angel for her as she was for me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022


Somebody REALLY missed the memo. Pope Francis' visit is about seeking reconciliation and healing with Indigenous Peoples. It's not meant to be a show of clericalism the likes of which we haven't seen since I was born. I was there as a volunteer, in hopes of helping to facilitate reconciliation, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. What the **** was that?

If the Canadian Catholic Church really wants to build a relationship that moves toward healing and hope, it would give First Nations People, especially houseless ones, the seats of honour. It would put away the Latin (!) and communicate and pray with them in languages they understand. 

A reconciling Church would try to understand the complexities of family relationships among Indigenous families suffering from intergenerational trauma, rather than offering a homily on happy grandparents and grandchildren, especially since the Church was part of destroying those relationships. It would admit its complicity in helping to create a society that is particularly unjust toward First Nations.

And it would allow all Indigenous people to come to the table where Christ is shared, no restrictions, so that they can feel like the most honoured of guests.

This week isn't about upholding theological tenets or impressing the Pope. It's about really connecting with and listening to the ones he's come to meet on their lands.

Bishops of Canada, you have so much to learn about reconciliation.

I am more than a little angry, and heartbroken with the way you're doing things, but my feelings don't matter. Theirs do. I wonder what they are thinking and feeling after what happened this morning.

Enough with the ecclesial poop (I use the word intentionally) and circumstance. Let the Pope meet Indigenous Peoples on common ground, and really listen. And really allow all the truth to come out, and create possibilities and programs for healing.

Everyone else, get out of the way.

Monday, July 25, 2022

A new neighbour shows up

Pope Francis arrives in his Fiat
He's just a few blocks from here. His cortege arrived yesterday at about 1 p.m., a long line of about two dozen vehicles -- suburbans, Prestige sprinter vans, and two ambulances -- surrounding his little white fiat with the papal flag. 

For three days before he arrived, we heard a couple dozen RCMP and Edmonton Police on motor bikes practicing their motorcade skills, sirens blaring. I actually called the Catholic Pastoral Centre and suggested that Pope Francis probably didn't want to sound like a fifteen-alarm fire.

This morning my mom and I watched from her front window as he and his cortege left for Maskwacis to begin his "pilgrimage of penance" among Indigenous People here. Then I went home and watched the ceremonies online, beginning with a time of prayer at the Ermineskin Cemetery, and a simple apology to the residential school survivors gathered there. The emotion reflected in the faces of the elders listening to the Pope's speech made me cry.

His presence here on Turtle Island (North America) is a continuation of the fulfillment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action #58, asking for the Pope to apologize for the Church's complicity in the devastation caused by Residential Schools. But as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald, said, apologies are only as good as the actions that follow.

Still, we can be hopeful that, as this week's papal visit progresses, Pope Francis will speak more and more boldly about the steps the Catholic Church must take to make amends for centuries of injustices. It was the Church's Papal Bulls that led to Terra Nullius, the belief that non-European lands were empty and available for exploitation, allowing for the colonization of Indigenous lands and the subjugation of peoples and their cultures not just in Canada, but around the globe. 

If Pope Francis can open the Vatican Records related to the experience of Indigenous peoples and clearly admit to centuries of church disrespect, neglect, and injustice toward them, he will, in my books, live up to the radical example of the humble little saint from which he takes his papal name. Even better would be if he would liquidate some of the Church's many financial assets to actually finance programs that help suffering Indigenous people to heal physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. 

St. Francis of Assisi stood up against all forms of violence in his day -- he understood that all of creation is beloved of God, and he walked away from wealth and prestige to stand with the people of his time who were ignored by those who held power.

Dear neighbour for three days, Pope Francis, please do what is most needed. There are so many praying for you. Indigenous people and me included.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Thoughts for a Thursday

Most mornings I read the daily meditation that comes from the Centre for Action and Contemplation. This morning's carried a beautiful reflection from the thoughts of activist and mystic, Rosemarie Freeney Harding:

There is no scarcity. There is no
An abundance of roses on a single stem
shortage. No lack of love,
of compassion, of joy in the world.
There is enough.
There is more than enough.

Only fear and greed make us think 

No one need starve. There is enough 
land and enough food.
No one need die of thirst. There is
enough water. No one
need live without mercy. There is no 
end to grace. And we
are all instruments of grace. The
more we give it, the more
we share it, the more we use it, the
more God makes. There
is no scarcity of love. There is plenty.
And always more.

-- Rachel E. Harding, "Daughter's Precis," 
forward to Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), [ix].

Let's live always with this kind of abundance and plenty in mind!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

It seems I'm being followed

 Look who found me when I turned over my compost pile this afternoon. 
Now, how would he end up in there?

It's been almost a year since my last interesting compost experience...

The Knave of Hearts also found me on a trip to the Taize Community 8 years ago.

For reasons explained here, he has come to represent the carpenter of Nazareth for me. I guess it's not him following me, so much as me following him, that really matters.

Still, it's always nice to be reminded of his presence...

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Tuesday morning crowd

Folks waiting for lunch at Bissell Centre
It's a warm one. This morning Quinn (the pastor from Inner City Pastoral Ministry) and I took a quick trip to Walmart for water, juice, snacks, underwear and toiletries, and went to offer what we bought to the folks living in tents and makeshift shelters around the Bissell Centre. They were glad to get supplies, and some stopped to chat with us, blessing us as they went on their way.

I was glad I went, as J, a regular at our Sunday Community of Emmanuel services, told me that she's going back to her home town in Iqaluit soon, since her father recently passed away, and she was here "looking after him" for the past 21 years. I received two big hugs from her, tiny as she is. I hope she'll be okay. 

Why am I moodling about my morning? Well, in case you missed it, Edmonton City Council recently decided against allowing small permanent encampments to be established for its houseless population, deciding that it was more cost effective to hire a few more outreach workers to go out to the camps scattered throughout the city. At present, there are many tents set up around the Bissell, and an outreach worker stopped by to say good morning. Quinn asked him what it was like to try to help folks in the area. 

"I'm having to cover a lot of ground," he said, "because they’re not just here -- they're spread all over, and down into the river valley. And then, just when I'm making progress to help someone with getting housed, their camp is dismantled because it’s deemed too messy or noisy, or violating bylaws, and I have to spend two or three days trying to find folks again because they've been forced to relocate." 

How is this more cost effective? City of Edmonton, are you listening to your own employees? Your Encampment Response non-Strategy isn't working very well.

Quinn and I found paths through the tent area in the vacant (but full) lot north of the Bissell to pass out our remaining water bottles, and lamented that, since some of the dwellings had encroached across a public sidewalk, it won't be long before police and cleanup crews dismantle them and send residents scurrying to find shelter elsewhere yet again. 

The tents, tarps, and belongings of these people will go to the trash heap, and they'll have to start over, scrounging for the basics. One of the dwellings I noticed was barely there -- a small blue tarp tied to a fence and held up with two small pieces of wood, open to the elements, two sleeping mats inside, tidy as could be. Of course, not many were quite that organized.

Heading back towards Quinn’s car, we noticed a young man in some drug-induced distress on the sidewalk in front of the Bissell. While Quinn went to look for a street healthcare worker, I stayed with the line of folks waiting to get into the Centre for lunch, making sure that the young man’s shopping cart was shading him from the hot sun. 

The people in line were concerned for the fellow, though no one knew his name. One offered his half can of Grape Crush, another asked if someone should call EMS. I assured her that the one resting on the sidewalk didn’t seem to be in immediate danger, and watched the interactions going on among the Tuesday morning crowd.

One of the most frustrating things about the City's reponse to houselessness is that it announced that it has increased the Bissell Centre's hours, when actually, Bissell hours have been cut back significantly. When we serve ICPM bag lunches on Sunday mornings, we were able to say "It will open at noon," but now we are constantly saying, "Sorry, it's not open today; come back tomorrow."

The houseless folks in the inner city face many challenges, but clearly, what gets them through, more than help from the city, is that they are a somewhat cohesive community simply because they know each other, and share similar struggles. This morning in the area around the Bissell, folks were looking out for each other, sharing things amongst themselves, loudly suggesting that the angry ones “walk away,” and encouraging each other to have patience. And they all seem to have more patience than I do. 

Or perhaps it's resignation, and who can blame them? 

Resignation about social issues among the general public gets us nowhere. Yes, encampments will have their problems, but dividing up community by frequently dismantling it only adds to the struggles these houseless folks are trying to handle in the best way they can -- by working together and helping each other. 

Those of us fortunate enough to have roofs over our heads need to get off our resignation.

What can we do? There has to be something. A province bringing in a surplus thanks to oil money has no excuse for its citizens having to live under tarps.

I guess it's time to write more letters and emails...

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sunday Reflection: Another prayer from the Inner City

(I wish I knew whose words these are so I could give credit where it is due. But perhaps it's enough for its writer that we are still praying these words, entitled Celebration of Life, in the inner city Community of Emmanuel (God with us)...

Gratitude to the author...

In the midst of hunger and war,

We celebrate the promise of plenty and peace.

In the midst of oppression and tyranny,

We celebrate the promise of service and freedom.

In the midst of doubt and despair,

We celebrate the promise of faith and hope.

In the midst of fear and betrayal,

We celebrate the promise of joy and loyalty.

In the midst of hatred and death,

We celebrate the promise of love and life.

In the midst of sin and decay,

We celebrate the promise of salvation and renewal.

In the midst of death around us, 

We celebrate the presence of the living Christ.

+Amen, hiy hiy.

And Happy Birthday and happy holidays to my sister, Jeanine!

Friday, July 1, 2022

Growing like the garden on Canada Day

I do love living in Canada... but I am only too aware of the way our country is divided right now between those who want to fight for the freedoms they feel have been trampled because of past health mandates and the collapsing economy, and those who wish the freedom convoy folks would go to Ukraine and come to an understanding of how free we Canadians actually are. 

I am also very mindful of how the establishment of Confederation 155 years ago was a trampling of the rights of our First Peoples, and the centuries of pain inflicted on them by colonists (European settlers and everyone who came after) make it hard to feel like celebrating.

So I am having a low-key Canada Day, putzing around in my garden between rain showers, and moodling in my mind about this beautiful stolen land we call home, and ways to live in appreciation of the freedom many of us enjoy as Treaty People. We have much to be grateful for, but also many reparations to make. There's much to ponder as we try to heal the divides among us, to welcome truth and work for reconciliation, and to be open to newcomers fleeing places of conflict. 

Happy Canada Day. May we all open our hearts to listen to one another, and create cooperation and healing in our country.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share two videos that show how much things can grow in one month. Can we grow bigger hearts as Canadians the way my fava beans grow? I think so.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

8 Ps

Dancing on Indigenous Sunday
at Inner City Pastoral Ministry
Though Jesus is a wonderful person of the Trinity, I often feel like his followers, in getting tied up in
arguments about sin and redemption more than emphasizing hope and love, have really messed things up at times.

So whenever Michelle, our Oskapewis (Elder's helper) speaks at the Community of Emmanuel of Inner City Pastoral Ministry on Sunday mornings, I usually find a deep wisdom in the Indigenous teachings she shares.

On Indigenous Sunday, she spoke beautifully about 8 Ps Creator gives us to help us along. Her words touched me deeply, so I asked if she would mind me sharing her teaching. Though I didn't get to these moodlings in time for National Indigenous Day yesterday, I will leave them here to mark Indigenous History Month. 

If we could celebrate Indigenous History by remembering and practicing these 8 Ps, maybe it would help truth and reconciliation to become more of a reality for our country:

The first P is Creator's Promise. That Promise being that Creator will always love us, and never leave us. No matter what.

The second P is Peace. If we can hold Creator's promise close to us always, we will be peaceful people who know that we are loved and cared for. The antithesis to peace is fear and anger, and Creator's promise is their best antidote!

The third P is Prayer. If we can talk to Creator daily, and listen for Creator's response in silence, in the words of those around us, that is the prayer that helps us to develop a relationship that continually reminds us of the first P, and holds us in the second.

The fourth P is Purpose. In knowing Creator well, and understanding that Creator wants good for all our relations, we can discover what we are called to do to create that good for all, moving out of selfishness and self-destruction to love and service of Mother Earth and all her children.

The fifth P is Pain. Creator allows pain in the world because we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Creator doesn't want us to live in pain for long, though... just long enough to learn and to find a better path forward.

So Creator gives us the sixth P, Perseverance. It helps us to work through the difficult things that happen in every life, and it comes to us through the encouragement of others around us, and through the strength that Creator gives every being, the spark of life that is in each of us.

The seventh P is Patience, a very important gift that we all need, especially when we make mistakes and get down on ourselves. Creator's patience with us is endless, and we need to have Creator's patience with ourselves when it seems like we can't fix things on our own. We need to keep reaching out for help.

And that leads us to the eighth P, which closes the circle by bringing us back to Creator's Promise. All the Ps are single parts of our journey as people, but Creator's promise is also part of all the other Ps. Whichever P we might experience on a given day, it always comes with Creator's unconditional love and refusal to abandon us. That's the bottom line.

And it sounds just like what Jesus was telling us about God all through the gospels. Not sin and redemption, but God who is with us, no matter what. Except Indigenous teachings have been around a lot longer than Jesus has.

I hold both in my heart now, and offer this moodling for you to do the same.

Happy Indigenous History Month!

Friday, June 17, 2022

A trip to the coast

Vancouver Island on the West Coast is one of my favourite places on earth. We've just returned from taking my 90-year-old father-in-law on a trip to Vancouver Island to see family along the way. It wasn't exactly a relaxing vacation (we need a rest) but Dad Louis was delighted with all the "babying" as he put it... it was his special trip. 

Gratitude to brother-in-law Les for all his navigating so that I didn't have to deal with motion sickness!

Here are a few pictures from along the way...

The man who went 3300 km (at least)

Elevators in Creston, BC

Dad and his two sons at Lake Skaha in Penticton

A walk in Vancouver's Stanley Park

Seafood on Granville Island

A trip on the Sky Train (too noisy, Dad said)

A ferry ride to the Island

Four hours at Butchart Gardens for me!

A beautiful view from Pickles' Bluff near Saanichton

Our most expensive fill per litre

A gorgeous return crossing

Foggy Coquihalla (Lee drove the entire trip)

And a memorable meal of pie and icecream!

It's good to be home. Lots of garden catch up to do for the next while!