Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday Invitation: Hope and longing


Today's moodling is just a quick invitation to Advent Prayer. Join me online, live at 7 pm MST this evening, or anytime afterward at the link below... I will post the video, and it can be viewed for the next few weeks.

We will be praying with beautiful songs of hope and longing from the Taize community, with scripture, and silence. If you're online, you can also post your personal prayers so we can keep each other's intentions in mind.

All are welcome -- for the rest of Advent too.

https://www.facebook.com/events/430838638423614

Advent hope, peace, joy and love to you all!


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Desperation -- and St. Jude

If you've been following these moodlings for a while, you'll know that I have lots of struggles with the Catholic church -- its patriarchal system that can't see its own misogyny, its archaic black and white thinking on so many contemporary issues, its unwillingness to change, its lack of understanding when it comes to the LGBTQ2S+ community... I could go on.

But there are many things about it that I love, too, and the Communion of Saints is one of them. I think of all the small s saints on my list of family and friends who have died (up to these past All Saints'/All Souls' feast days my list has 225 names on it), and I definitely have favourites among the capital S saints who have been officially recognized as such. The idea of all these folks surrounding me and amplifying my prayers is a definite comfort.

Lately, I've gone a step further in my appreciation of one particular saint. St. Jude Thaddeus was one of Christ's disciples, and in some literature, is thought to be Jesus' step-brother, born before Joseph took Mary as his partner. I've heard it said that because St. Jude and Judas Iscariot, Christ's betrayer, had the same name, St. Jude's determination to not be confused with the other guy means that he goes out of his way to assist people in dire straights.

I turned to St. Jude in desperation last week because one of my kids has recently been struggling with a lot of pain from complications after an important surgery. I've never been one to manage praying a novena, because so many of them are written in overly wordy archaic language that drives me up a wall, and I generally don't have the stick-to-it-iveness to get through nine days of prayer. 

But in my desperation for Jay's well being, I decided to simplify and personalize a novena to St. Jude and pray it before bed every night for nine days. My partner prayed with me. And though Jay isn't out of the woods yet as far as complete healing goes, there's been a definite improvement that gives us hope.

Because old-fashioned St. Jude novenas generally carry a clause about spreading devotion to him through publishing his prayer for others to use, I am sharing my novena here. It's short and to the point, and it seems to have worked even though it doesn't have a Nihil Obstat (official approval) from any bishop.

In my understanding, novenas are formulaic prayers designed to assist us in seeking God's help through a saint's intervention... but I expect that God and St. Jude are just as happy when we use our own words. There's nothing to say we can't say/write our own novenas using words that work for us. What counts is just that we pray. 

So I leave this idea here, in case you have someone in mind who might benefit from nine days of prayer... and I add a prayer for those of us who find ourselves feeling desperate enough to try anything!

**Image borrowed from https://www.stjuderc.org/st-jude-novena.html

 

St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, patron saint of difficult cases, please intercede with God. With confidence in you, we ask for God to help with ...

St Jude, Apostle of Hope,

Pray for us, that we may grow in faith, hope, and love.

The Lord's Prayer

Hail Mary

Glory Be

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Sunday reflection: Love waits

There's a lot that could be said about today's Feast of Christ the King on this last Sunday of the liturgical year. But I've never been very comfortable with the concept of kingship being tied to our humble carpenter God who came to show us how to live in love with each other and creation even when life is full of challenges and hardships. And in this year when our country is waking up to colonial injustices that were set in motion by greedy monarchs, I much prefer to focus on Jesus' teachings about love -- God's love for each one of us, and the necessity of our love for each other and all of creation.

Farley McGee is our musician at Sunday worship with the Community of Emmaus, and the first time he sang this song he wrote about love, tears ran down my cheeks. This morning, before the whole community was gathered, Farley allowed me to record him singing "Love Waits", and he's also allowing me to share it with the world on Youtube. Please share it far and wide -- our world can always use more love. Lyrics below. Enjoy!

 

Love Waits     
by Farley McGee

Love waits for empty spaces,
illuminates dark places
where people need embraces.
For soft hearts and hard cases,
Love waits.

Love speaks, love listens,
cries too where tears glisten,
gathers in when hate scatters,
holds together, and when it matters,
Love speaks.

Love heals broken hearts,
knits together ravelled parts,
strews abroad waiting seeds
to the soil that shows needs.
Love heals.

Take a chance, learn to dance,
let your heart move toward the answer.
Take direction, make connections,
in a round dance, you're a dancer.

Love grows in understanding.
Love knows that we're landing
behind enemy lines, for we're at war,
and that is what love is for.
Love grows.

Leave the faith? Keep that faith.
Acts of faith make us stronger.
If we hope we can cope
with this broken world much longer.

Love hopes and forgives,
seldom dies, mostly lives.
Grows roots, forces shoots
through the pavement 'neath our boots.

Love speaks,
Love heals, 
Love grows, 
Love hopes,
Love lasts,
and always,
Love waits.

"Love Waits" written by Farley McGee and performed by him at Inner City Pastoral Ministry, November 21, 2021.
Video shared with gratitude to Farley McGee.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Regarding Residential Schools: Listening is the important thing

Maybe you've seen it, and maybe you haven't. An email has been going around, written by a fellow with a good heart, no question, but what he says misses the mark. It's dropped into my inbox three times already, from friends who also have good hearts. Folks who wish that all the anguish about Residential Schools would just go away.

The email in question is the fellow's lengthy letter written to a newspaper columnist, extolling the virtues of the good people who worked in Residential Schools, telling how the missionaries in his more northern community provided education and healthcare when both were lacking in the area, even mentioning how a certain brother built a merry-go-round for the children who attended the school.

But white settlers like him spreading happy stories about all the good things missionaries did is tantamount to telling residential school survivors and their children who suffer from intergenerational trauma that their experiences are not valid, and that they should just "get over it."

The fact of the matter is that the Indigenous People of our country were doing just fine before Europeans arrived on the shores of this continent. They had a very rich cultural heritage. Their world view and spirituality saw all of creation as sacred. They lived in harmony with the land and its creatures and developed a kinship with them that helped their environment to thrive even as people harvested enough to live on. They operated with a sense of abundance rather than scarcity, and gave generously rather than hoarding or commodifying things. Yes, there were disagreements and even a few battles among tribes, but overall, they sued for peace in the covenants known as treaties, for the sake of good relationships. They had rich trading, gifting, and sharing practices, a deep understanding of the medicinal values of plants, and a deep gratitude to Creator for all the gifts Creator provided for them. They saw everything as gift.

To put it bluntly, THERE WAS NO NEED FOR RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS.

But then Europeans came with their sense of superiority over the Original peoples, and a desire to own this land, and the past almost 400 years of historical injustices wiped out entire Indigenous communities that had been self-sufficient for over a thousand years before settlers arrived. 

Blaming government for setting up the system and creating legislation that took away Indigenous land and rights, and defending the missionaries who got mixed up in the mess (or took advantage of it as employment for its many religious folks) is definitely not what's needed right now.

Settler peoples have talked at First Nations people long enough. It's time to listen. With shame and humility. To hear their pain without defending anything. To let their hurts seep into our souls. To let them know that even though we are deeply ashamed about what happened to them and our own past apathy regarding their struggles, we are with them, and that we want to walk with them, to right past wrongs, so we can all move toward healing and hope as a community, as a planet.

We need to learn from Indigenous people by hearing their stories and their wisdom if they are willing to share. But we should not expect them to educate us -- they owe us nothing, and they have been through enough already without having to revisit their trauma for the sake of helping us to understand it. Rather, it's up to us to seek out the many educational resources available -- books, webinars, videos, documentaries, websites. There are so many options, and there is so much to learn.

And once we have learned, we need to shift our thinking, our world view, toward seeing that all is gift, including the people who are hurting -- and who are forgiving us. And we still need to listen. Listening and walking alongside them, and feeling that we are all relations is the only way to heal this centuries old rift -- and save our planet from the kind of destruction that has been caused by forgetting that we need to live in harmony with it and each other. 

They are our teachers in learning to see everything as Creator's gift. Listen!


If you are looking for useful links and resources, here are some (that I keep flogging because I have found helpful):
If you have other favourite resources along these lines, I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sunday Reflection: The path

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Psalm 16.

You,
O God,
are the path for my life,
you are my joy,
and you are my destination.

You
are all that I ever need,
my sustenance
is the breath You give me
just as much as the food I eat
or the cup I drink.

You 
hold my very existence
in your more-than-capable 
(and more-than-loving) hands.

So I keep my eyes fixed on You,
seeing You in every sunrise
or snowflake,
in every stranger's smile.

When I remember
that 
You 
are always with me,
my worries cannot move me.

My entire being celebrates your presence:
my heart is happy,
my soul turns somersaults,
and my body rests in the peace I find in You.

You 
are the path for my life,
you are my joy,
and you are my destination.

Let me remember You
in the midst of the darkness and struggle
that lives in every life.

May my life
show others that
You,
O God,
are the path for every life,
You are its joy,
and You are its destination.

My my life help others to discover that 
You
are all that our lives need;
our sustenance
is the breath you give us
just as much as the food we eat
or the cup we drink.

You hold our very existence
in your more-than-capable
(and more-than-loving) hands...

Thank You.

+Amen.

Psalm 16 is one of my favourites, especially the version below. How I loved to sing the alto part with my sister singing the soprano. Deep gratitude to Marty Haugen for all his beautiful music, but especially this one.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Those last few bits of colour

On the weekend, Lee and I drove through a snowstorm to southern Alberta, and the greyness of the trip reminded me of winter's lack of colour. So today I'm appreciating the last few bits of colour as autumn drains away into winter -- it won't be long and these few holdouts will be on the ground too.





I guess for the next few months, I'll settle for the colour of the sky on clear days, Shadow-dog's cozy sweater colours... and the dream of spring tulips. After a busy garden season full of colours, I honestly don't mind too much.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sunday Reflection: Starting from a place of belovedness


Today's reflection is brought to you by
Mark 12:29-31.

O Christ,
it's so simple.

All we need to do 
is to love you 
with all that we are
and to love each other
as we love ourselves.

Why do we 
make things so complicated?

Help us to know
our belovedness,
and to love
as you love.

+Amen.

* * * * * * *

One of the things that drives me a little crazy about the faith tradition I grew up with is its insistence on Original Sin. Yes, we are sinners, and yes, we need to frequently ask forgiveness of each other and of God, and yes, I love the sacrament of reconciliation, but it seems to me that if we were better at believing that we are beloved children of God, our deep sense of belovedness would make us into more loving, less sinful people to begin with. So, you might say that I have very little patience for all the sin and redemption language that comes through so loudly in so many Christian denominations, including my own.

My life experiences to this point make it impossible for me to believe that Jesus died for my sins. I think Jesus came to show me how to live with sin and failure by living his own life of goodness and love as the Way for me to follow. But his Way was a threat to the sin economy of the faith leaders of his day, not to mention their temple coffers, and his loving kindness made them look foolish, so they made sure he was crucified. Jesus wasn't about sin, he was about love.

I suspect that's part of the reason why I feel so at home at The Community of Emmanuel, where I spend most of my Sunday mornings with Inner City Pastoral Ministry. Sin language isn't helpful there, where people are already quite broken. It's like kicking us when we're already down. So the old prayer that you find in the rosary after the Glory be is the last thing I would pray there. You know, the one that goes, "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell..."

The Jesus I know would probably prefer to hear us pray with less emphasis on the negative aspects of sin, and more on the power of love:

Oh my Jesus,
my brother, my friend,
child of the Living God, 
as I am,
let your love shine through us
and help us to care for each other
and all your creation.
+Amen.

That's my prayer, and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Sunday Reflection: Let me see...


Today's reflection is brought to you by 
Mark 10:49-52.

You call me.

I throw off my past,
get up and come.

And You ask,
"What do you want Me to do for you?"

Where to begin?!!

"Sometimes I am blind.

"Please, let me see again,
in the way that You see.

"Let me see others
the way You see them.

"Let me see myself
through Your love and forgiveness.

"Let me see Your world
and the little things I can do 
to help it heal.

"Let me see the struggle,
but also the hope
that it's not too late,
for it is faith
that makes all things possible
and that makes me well.

"Thank you for asking, and for helping me to see.

"And even in my moments of blindness,
let me follow You on the Way."

+Amen

* * * * * * *

If you're able, please join us for our musical, meditative ecumenical prayer of Thanksgiving this evening at 7 pm MST, or anytime afterward at https://www.facebook.com/events/1041490756669136


Friday, October 22, 2021

They're So Fine

They've done it again... Double Double has put out a catchy new song with a pretty neat little music video that I can't help but share here for your enjoyment. 

I've been following the band's work quite closely because I happen to know them, and this tune has been one of my favourites since the very first time I heard it in a crowded little place on Whyte Avenue. It's taken directly from the lives of two band members who relied on long-distance phone calls for a while because their work kept them apart quite a bit in their relationship's beginnings. Big kudos to the video creator(s) -- nice to see the Edmonton skyline in the background of this fun little stroll taken by the band and their musical instruments! The walkers, in order, are Neil, Christina, Jessamy, and Landon.

If you like this tune as much as I do, you can add it to your music through most of the big music apps: here's are links to Spotify and Bandcamp. And if you leave the band a comment, I'm sure they'd love to hear your feedback. 

Way to go, Double Double and friends! And Matt, I love the video! Well done.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

A small tribute to Dr. Walter Moser

Walter, centre, playing French horn
When I walked (with considerable trepidation) into the Ed North amphitheatre for the first class of my university education, I had no idea that I was about to meet an important new friend, though I wouldn't actually call him friend for some years.  

Two professors stood on the stage, only one whose name I can clearly remember. The younger man, dressed in corduroys and a loud sweater, left no lasting impression on me other than his clothing, but the elder, Dr. Walter Moser, wore suit and tie and had a thick Austrian accent that took a few minutes for me to understand. Once my ear had acclimatized, I found myself fascinated -- and amused -- by him and his dry sense of humour, as he taught us basic undergrad biology.

I looked forward to Dr. Moser's lectures much more than the other prof's. I can't really remember any lecture details so many years later, but I do remember Dr. Moser's little jokes, usually directed at himself. He would rattle through his notes and chuckle whenever something about the natural world amused him, when his chalk broke, or the slide projector malfunctioned, or a student question struck him as particularly interesting. Because the class was large, I don't think I ever interacted with him directly, just completed what he called "multiple guess" exams, and was sad when the class ended in December that year and there would be no more of Dr. Moser's gentle humour in my life.

Fast forward maybe eight years. At the end of a Taizé Prayer evening at St. Paul's United Church on campus, my very musical friend, Karen, was helping me lead the prayer with only guitar, voices, and her trumpet. As we often did, we asked if there were any musicians in the crowd who would be willing to help us lead our monthly musical meditation. 

We'd asked the same question many times without results, but this time, a couple approached and explained that they were delighted to find our prayer, that Walter played french horn and cello, Clara played piano and flute, and that they had come very early to the prayer, expecting the church to be so full that they might not get seats. They had heard about Taizé from a friend in Innsbruck who had been there, and they were very excited about joining our music group. And so, as Clara recently reminded me, they joined our very next rehearsal in my living room a few weeks later, using music I had photocopied for them until they could purchase their own books.

From then on, Clara and Walter became invaluable members of our musicians' group, and a beautiful and prayerful musical collaboration was born. Karen and I took to calling Walter "the Maestro" because he had a fine sensibility when it came to how the music should be sung and played -- I fondly remember him reminding us to go gently on the words "in laetitia" and suggesting not to sing "Dona la pace, Signore" so heavily -- "You're singing about peace, make it peaceful, but with longing!" The Mosers also brought many friends to make music, and where it had once only been Karen and me, we nearly had an orchestra!

After a few years of praying together at our monthly prayer evenings, the Mosers took a trip to Basel, Switzerland, and decided to experience Taizé themselves. It took them three trains and a bus to get to la Communité, and they thoroughly enjoyed their week there. Having an extra day before their train would take them back to Switzerland, they wanted to remain in Taizé, but their room was spoken for by new visitors. 

Having heard me announce at the beginning of many prayer evenings that Taizé was a small village "not far" from the town of Cluny in France, they  decided they could walk from Taizé to Cluny. After all, the bus ride had been only a few minutes between the two villages. Of course, after a few kilometers of carrying their heavy suitcase between them, they found themselves standing on the winding, shoulder-less road from Cluny to Taizé laughing hard. "Not far!" Clara exclaimed as she told me the story upon their return, and they both laughed again, wiping at their eyes, "it was 15 km!"

Not long after Clara and Walter's trip to Taizé we had a mix-up with music that Walter inadvertently blamed on me. He could sometimes come across as a bit gruff, and I was quite surprised by his reaction to a bit of confusion at one evening prayer. What happened was that, at Taizé, he had bought new music books with different page numbers than the North American books, and neither of us knew it beforehand. Being a very organized man, he was upset about having to scramble to find the right music, flipping pages and missing the start of each song, and he let me know in no uncertain terms.

When I pointed out the difference between our books, he was mortified to realize that he had blamed me for an honest mistake. A few days later, a package arrived in the mail with a letter of apology, an index of songs listed by titles, page numbers, and the books in which they appeared, and a music book with the "right" page numbers, matching his. It is my favourite music book because of its inscription: "From Walter Moser to MARIA." I am still deeply touched by his determination to make things right.

I don't know how long it took for me to connect the Austrian cellist with the Austrian biology prof. Longer than it should have! I think, though, it might have happened when we had a music rehearsal at Clara and Walter's acreage east of Edmonton, and he made a joke that finally reminded me of the man who stood on the stage at the Ed North amphitheatre. Walter seemed to be quite serious a lot of the time, but his eyes twinkled with mischief when glee broke through... and I'm sure that's what helped me to finally make the connection between Dr. Moser in my university years and Maestro Walter.

Regardless, I'm sure it was shortly after I told him that I had been a student of his when he and Clara invited me to bring my kids for time in the great outdoors. I don't have any really good pictures of Walter, but this is my favourite -- him wandering along their acreage cross country ski/hiking trail with my two-year-old in hot pursuit! The kids had a lovely time learning about life at the edge of the pond, chasing butterflies, and roasting wieners for lunch. I'm not sure they remember that outing anymore, but I will never forget it -- warm hospitality, and child-appropriate biology lessons.

Walter and Clara's involvement in our Taizé musicians' group lasted several years, until they decided it was time to "retire." Their absence left a huge hole in the rich music we had enjoyed making together... it was back to guitar, voices and flute (if we were lucky) -- no more cello, horn, sax, or piano, as several of the other musicians that came with the Mosers also moved on. But I kept Clara and Walter on the email list to let them know of our prayer evenings, hoping they could join us now and then.

In February of 2020, just before Covid-19, I received an email from Clara to let me know that she and Walter were downsizing and had some extra Taizé music books -- could I use them? So I had a lovely cup of tea with Clara (Walter was napping) and brought home more Taizé music books than I know what to do with. I wish I had seen Walter then, because now he is gone -- Karen called last week to let me know he has recently passed away.

Dr. Walter Moser was a biology professor who, I'm sure, inspired many of his students. I can't begin to speak to all that he accomplished in his years in academia because I don't know very much about that side of him. I am quite sure that he was a devoted father and grandfather (probably great-grandfather by now) just by the way he treated my own children, and that he passed his love of music on to his very musical family.

If you are someone with a story of Walter, or if you knew him better as Dr. Moser and don't mind sharing something in the comments below, I think that would be a wonderful thing. Because his academic career was mostly before our internet age, and because he was a humble man, it's next to impossible to know about him because he flew under the world's radar when it comes to fame and fortune. But those of us who loved him know him as someone very special, and our stories about him are definitely worth sharing.

What I know for certain is that my time with Walter the musician proved that he was a friend who was gentle, funny, talented, kind, and passionate about music -- and prayer. I will never forget the twinkle in his eye and the kindness in his smile. Certain people leave indelible marks on the hearts of those they meet, and he has definitely left his mark on mine. 

Hugs and heartfelt condolences to Clara and the family. 

Dear Walter, I look forward to making more beautiful music with you in the great beyond! I'm so grateful that you were so much more than a single-term biology professor in my life. Thank you for all the joy you brought, and the beauty of your soulful cello and exultant French horn that still resonate somewhere in my heart and soul.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Reflection: Approaching God's grace with boldness

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Hebrews 4:16.

Creator,
St. Paul invites us today
to approach your throne of grace
with boldness.

Today is also the third anniversary 
of my broken heart.

So I approach to ask you
for love, light, healing and wholeness
for the one who broke my heart,
for me,
and for all whose hearts are broken.

I also pray that the civic leaders
for whom Albertans are voting tomorrow
will step up 
and care for all,
but especially the broken-hearted
who are cold 
on our streets
with winter not far off.

Your grace is what holds us all.

Help us all to be your grace
for each other
and to bring your grace
wherever it's most needed.

+Amen

* * * * * * *

I was very fortunate to take a course on Children's Literature when I was in university, and this battered and well-beloved paperback was my favourite textbook in that class. T. H. White's whimsical tale of the young Arthur before he found The Sword in the Stone was such fun to read compared to the sleep-inducing stuff from other classes I had to take for my education degree. 

Chapter 21 in particular really moved me. White's recounting of Badger's Treatise -- on the story of the creation of the creatures on the fifth and sixth biblical days -- gave me a different image of our Three-In-One Creator, whose love for all they made shines through in the dialogue. I wish the author had been a bit more careful with his pronouns throughout (he got it right toward the end), and though I've always had issues with God setting "man" above the rest of all creation, given that the story was first published in 1939, I guess we have to take it as it is. 

Enjoy this little piece about the moment when all of creation approached the Creator's grace with boldness, shared out of my broken down and rubber-banded but no-pages-missing copy of Terence Hanbury White's The Sword in the Stone, (ISBN 0-440-98445-9, Dell Publishing Co, New York, NY © 1939, Twenty-third printing -- Sept 1983). And I'd recommend the entire book as a delightful read! You should be able to find a copy that's not falling apart at your library. 

* * * * * * *

 The Badger’s Treatise – from the end of Chapter 21 in T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone

"People often ask as an idle question whether the process of evolution began with the chicken or the egg. Was there an egg out of which the first chicken came, or did a chicken lay the first egg? I am in a position to state that the first thing created was the egg.

"When God had manufactured all the eggs out of which the fishes and the serpents and the birds and the mammals and even the duck-billed platypus would eventually emerge, he called the embryos before him, and saw that they were good.

"Perhaps I ought to explain… that all embryos look very much the same. They are what you are before you are born, and, whether you are a peacock or a cameleopard or a man, when you are an embryo you look just like a peculiarly repulsive and helpless human being…

"The embryos stood up in front of God, with their feeble hands clasped politely over their stomachs and their heavy heads hanging down respectfully, and God addressed them.

"He said: ‘Now you embryos, here you are, all looking exactly the same, and We are going to give you the choice of what you are going to be. When you grow up you will get bigger anyway, but We are pleased to grant you another gift as well. You may alter any parts of yourselves into anything which you think would be useful to you in after life. For instance, at the moment you can’t dig. Anybody who would like to turn his hands into a pair of spades of garden forks is allowed to do so. Or, to put it another way, at present you can only use your mouths for eating with. Anybody who would like to use his mouth as an offensive weapon, can change it by asking, and be a corkindrill or a saber-toothed tiger. Now then, step up and choose your tools, but remember that what you choose you will grow into, and will have to stick to.’

"All the embryos thought the matter over politely, and then, one by one, they stepped up before the eternal throne. They were allowed two or three specializations, so that some chose to use their arms as flying machines and their mouths as weapons, or crackers, or drillers, or spoons, while others selected to use their bodies as boats and their hands as oars. We badgers thought very hard and decided to ask three boons. We wanted to change our skins for shields, our mouths for weapons, and our arms for garden forks. These boons were granted to us. Everybody specialized in one way or another, and some of us in very queer ones. For instance, one of the lizards decided to swap his whole body for blotting paper, and one of the toads who lived in the antipodes decided simply to be a water-bottle.

"The asking and the granting took up two long days – they were the fifth and sixth, so far as I remember – and at the very end of the sixth day, just before it was time to knock off for Sunday, they had got through all the little embryos except one. This embryo was Man.

"‘Well, Our little man,’ said God. ‘You have waited till the last, and slept on your decision, and We are sure you have been thinking hard all the time. What can We do for you?’

"‘Please, God,’ said the embryo, ‘I think that You made me in the shape which I now have for reasons best known to Yourselves, and that it would be rude to change. If I am to have my choice I will stay just as I am. I will not alter any of the parts which You gave to me, for other and doubtless inferior tools, and I will stay a defenseless embryo all my life, doing my best to make unto myself a few feeble implements out of the wood, iron and other materials which you have seen fit to put before me. If I want a boat I will endeavor to construct it out of trees, and if I want to fly I will put together a chariot to do it for me. Probably I have been very silly in refusing to take advantage of your kind offer, but I have done my best to think it over carefully, and now hope that the feeble decision of this small innocent will find favour with Yourselves.’

"‘Well done,’ exclaimed the Creator in delighted tones. ‘Here, all you embryos, come here with your beaks and whatnots to look upon Our first Man… the only one who has guessed Our riddle, out of all of you, and we have great pleasure in conferring upon him the Order of Dominion of the Fowls of the Air, and the Beasts of the Earth, and the Fishes of the Sea. Now let the rest of your get along, and love and multiply, for it is time to knock off for the week-end. As for you, Man, you will be a naked tool all your life, though a user of tools: you will look like an embryo till they bury you, but all others will be embryos before your might; eternally undeveloped, you will always remain potential in Our image, able to see some of Our sorrows and to feel some of Our joys. We are partly sorry for you, Man, and partly happy, but always proud. Run along then, Man, and do your best. And listen, Man, before you go…’

"‘Well?’ asked Adam, turning back from his dismissal.

"‘We were only going to say,’ said God shyly, twisting their hands together. ‘Well, We were just going to say, God bless you.’"

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sunday Reflection: Thanksgiving pants

You know,
O God,
how I've been struggling
to believe
that you are there
and care for every individual, 
for every so-called sparrow 
that falls.

Are you just
a story we tell ourselves
to feel better
in the face of hard realities?

I have been feeling that way
a lot lately
because of many things.

And then
a young woman is found 
shivering under a blanket,
naked,
on our back step of
the Community of Emmanuel,
the community where you-are-with-us
this Thanksgiving morning,

Our pastor asks me 
to be present with her 
on the very day
that I have finally brought along
a pair of pants
that was too long for me
but hemmed too short,
pants
that were forgotten 
in the back corner of my dresser drawer
for at least two years.

Which, 
of course,
fit her perfectly.

Random occurrence
or God-incidence?

I'm told
that belief in you 
is in my DNA,
but lately,
it's been a challenge
to believe it.

Thank you
for today's more tangible reminders,
and the little nudge of the Spirit
that made me turn back 
(though I was running late)
for those perfectly fitted pants for her
even before anyone knew she was there.

Thank you for life, 
its struggles and challenges
and these serendipities
that seem to say
you are there
in spite of my doubts.

+Amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Watching the birds bathe, and other stories

 It's been a busy end of summer and early autumn. You can tell by these two pictures that we've been working hard to put the garden to bed...

September 14th

October 7th


What you don't see is the missing flagpole. It was right in the middle of our onion patch, and had to be removed so our neighbour's power lines could reach his renovated home next door to us. Lee worked extremely hard to move mounds of soil because its base was encased in concrete that went down six feet. Then he had to take a sledge hammer to break up the concrete, and we managed to give the pole away on Kijiji a few days later.



All that's left in our garden now are the pepper plants in the covered box, a few carrots and beets that can wait until after frost, and the garlic that I planted this afternoon. I'll leave the borage and other flowering plants until they no longer provide food for the bees that are still buzzing around, then compost them, too.

The real reason for this post is to share a little video. While I was planting garlic this afternoon, there was quite a commotion behind me in our garden birdbath, and I realized that I was being splashed by a noisy group of sparrows who hadn't noticed me. 

Of course, when I turned around, they all took off, and the next thing I knew they were bathing in our little fountain instead. Our greenhouse/shed window faces it, so I went into the shed, waited for a few minutes, and took the little video below with my daughter in mind. She loves the birds in our yard, but doesn't see them as often since she left home last spring. 

So Suzanna, this one's for you... and, of course, for the rest of my handful of readers. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

International Teacher's Day 2021

I was a teacher once, many years ago, but turned those skills toward parenting my own kids, and somehow never got back to the classroom. I have the deepest respect for teachers, especially in these build-the-plane-as-you-fly-it days of covid. Teachers are miracle workers who deserve our undying appreciation as they inspire and guide our young people to be whole, and hopefully, happy and healthy members of our society. It's a tall, tall order to do what they do!

A first year teacher (me)
and some of her students
So here's an exercise to mark World Teacher's Day, which was established in 1994 to commemorate the signing of an important Recommendation Concerning the Status of  Teachers by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN International Labour Organization -- fifty-five years ago today.

The exercise is simple but challenging. Name the significant teachers in your life, people who have taught you, people who have taught important people in your life (I've included some of my colleagues and my kids' teachers, too). I'm sure I've missed quite a few, and it was definitely challenging to remember some of their first names, but here are the ones I am thinking of today:

Lillian Howrish, Alida Janzen, Violet Hansen, Florence Carson, Aline Collins, Gloria Vilbrunt, Robert Motut, Julian Usyk, Rick Lemieux, Ken Donnelly, Collin Collister, Bob Chorney, Diane Washuta, Heather Bedford-Clooney, Palma Covelli, Lorraine Gallant, Karen Douziech, Fr. Fee Otterson, Gary Kozens, Lee Vilbrunt, George Stepney, George Fortier, Gina Charbonneau, Glen Kirkland, David Leigh, Dr. Eileen Conway, Fr. David Louch, Walter Moser, Fr. Tim Scott, Dr. Olenka Bilash, Dr. Barbara DeLuna, Ingrid Zukiwsky, Dr. Bob Ware, Dr. Ron Stephens, Arthur Szynkowski, Pat Dusyk, Kathy Dekker, Michael Marien, Shirley Marien, Pat Turner, Monique Gratrix, Maria Lentz, Sr. Teresita Kambeitz, Shirleyan Threndal, Fr. Dave Norman, Lucille Lewans-Rezac, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Louise Potvin, Fr. Don MacDonald, Ruthie Wasylenko, Gilles Denis, Michelle Widynowski, Priscille Jong, Janice Barton, Margaret Bujold, Richard Beaudoin, Michelle Dupuis, Karen Koester, Moira Hecker, Dr. Tracy Bear, and last but definitely not least, Jeanine, my dear sister.

How many can you name from your life?

Heartfelt gratitude to all teachers today! They deserve it, now more than ever. 

If you are able to express your appreciation to a teacher in person or online, go for it!

Monday, October 4, 2021

A belated anniversary moodling

Next spring's bulbs (178 of them)
When the leaves change and we reach Autumn Equinox, these Simple Moodlings close another year. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking to start my online moodling (love letters to the world) at harvest time, when there's so much to do in the garden before that first frost, which seems to be arriving late this year thanks (but no thanks) to climate change. It's definitely not the best time to be marking a moodle-versary, with produce to process, spring bulbs to plant, and a garden to put to bed.

But at the same time, it's a season for slowing down and taking stock. The colours change, the days get shorter, and my spirit starts to relax into a deeper awareness of light and darkness, warmth and coolness, and the gift of time in general. As I watch the squirrels tucking our oak tree's acorns away for the winter, I am tucking away summer memories, and relishing the good muscle aches from spreading compost and collecting leaves to make next year's good black humus.

Life is a never ending cycle, and seeing the leaves fall in this covid season brings to mind the many losses and changes created by this pandemic. I think of all those we have lost to the virus, people who are slowly recovering from its effects, our medical people who are struggling to move forward as our healthcare system is being overwhelmed, and I wonder, at times, how our world will continue to function. Some days it's hard to imagine. But we keep on going.

On this feast of St. Francis, at this time when so many are so seriously ill with covid and there are still so many on our planet to be protected from it -- especially those with no access to vaccines, and children under 12 -- I ask the little saint of simplicity to pray for us, that we all do the right thing, not only for ourselves, but for our world as a whole. As I move into this 12th year of online moodling, I wish all my readers safe journeys through the darker months ahead.

May we all have the resilience of the bulbs I've buried deep in my front yard, and emerge into next spring's sunshine after a period of protecting the vulnerable through our patience, perseverance... and peace.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Gold strewn everywhere

Walking along the river valley this week has been breathtaking. Who needs that yellow ore mined from the depths of the earth when it's on all the trees once a year?

When I get to heaven, I'm going to ask God why they gave humans and magpies the desire for shiny things even as they filled the earth with enough beauty to suffice for all our lifetimes...

Here are a few pictures from this week's walks for your enjoyment. Have a beauty of a weekend!


Quiet Sunday morning river...



Not easy to capture Wednesday's uphill climb, but the sun was right...



This morning's walk home from our downtown dentist...




I hope next year there will be a Folk Music Festival here...


Gold leads me all the way home... where my heart is.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

What have you been doing on National Truth and Reconciliation Day?

I've been wearing an orange shirt and reading, reading, reading. And listening to radio programming featuring the work of Indigenous musicians and authors. And spreading the word on social media about Indigenous Canada, an excellent course I took through the U of A back in the spring, which has been helpful in my understanding of many issues facing my inner city faith community's members. And arranging Sunday lunches for the homeless ones who will visit us there in the month of October. 

If you feel like reading, reading, reading, here's the link from Raven Trust, an organization that I support because they are land and people defenders. Their website absorbed a good portion of my day.

https://raventrust.com/reconciliation-is-a-verb/ 

I particularly liked what Ryan McMahon has to say, short and straight to the point:

Calling yourself a treaty person, doing a land acknowledgment: that is not reconciliation. Pick one action you know you can stick with in your life, and find people to bring along on your journey. If you have a strong heart, come to the front of the line. If you don't, get in line, and we'll get there. Show up. Be on the ground. Give your energy. Every single choice you make is reconciliation: there is no handbook.

I also appreciated this Maclean's Magazine article about Finding David Lightning, sent to me by my eldest. In my days as a teacher in Ponoka, I taught a youngster who was probably related to the Ermineskin Lightning family, possibly a great grand-nephew to David Lightning.

What are you doing on National Truth and Reconciliation Day? What have you learned that you didn't know before? What are you planning to learn and do in the weeks and months to come? I'd really love to know... please leave me a comment if you like...

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday Reflection: How to do a "deed of power"

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Mark 9:38-41.

O God,
you invite us all
to do your will,
to do the right thing.

And your son,
our brother,
Jesus, 
talked about
the one who follows him 
as someone who does a
"deed of power."

It's easy for us to think
that we can't do 
those Jesus kinds of things --
healings, 
exorcisms,
or calming storms.

But is Jesus telling us today
that we are selling ourselves short?

If giving a cup of water
to a thirsty soul
is notable 
in Jesus' books,
could getting vaccinated
to protect the vulnerable among us
also be a deed of power?

Could holding a door for a stranger?

We just don't think that way. 

We look to the miraculous 
as deeds of power.

But could seeing
and acknowledging
the pain and struggle 
of those among us who are hurting
help lead to healing?

Could praying for the sick
make a difference?

Could it be that
listening to angry souls 
express their rage and hurt
might be a deed of power?

Could acting upon 
what caused that hurt and rage
be necessary to exorcise
the injustices 
that have wounded 
so many among us?

Could just being present
to those who feel isolated in their anguish
help to calm their storms?

O God,
show us
where we can be your instruments
and do your deeds of power,
even when 
they are less miraculous than we think;
even if 
they seem beyond our abilities.

+Amen

* * * * * * *

Please, if you have a spare prayer, say one for the healing of my youngest, Jay, who will undergo surgery tomorrow. Thanks.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sunday Reflection: The birthday girl's prayer

Today is the birthday of Michelle, our Oskapew/helper at The Community of Emmanuel/Inner City Pastoral Ministry. She led our Standing Stones service this morning, and the prayer and scripture she chose really moved me. Even more wonderful, she planned, collected volunteers, and held a barbeque for the folks who hang around the Bissell Centre -- a great way to celebrate a birthday! 

I can't begin to tell you about her inspiring words this morning, but I will share that she encouraged us all to name four truths that we rely on in our lives. I think that the ones I rely on most are encapsulated in the prayer and the psalm below. Beautiful words for a beautiful Sunday:

Great Spirit, God, Creator of all,
I welcome you into my heart, mind, body and soul.
There is always room for you here.
Grant me the wisdom to heed my inner voice
And the strength to stay grounded while I sing my sacred song.
Guide me down my chosen path.
Give me the courage to pursue my options.
I am thankful for the lessons and grateful for my struggles;
I have not forgotten what has brought me to where I am today.
Open my heart to the healting wholeness of nature;
We are all related, and through this I will find peace.
Great Spirit, God, Creator of all,
Cleanse my spirit and wash my heart.
There is always room for you here.  AMEN, hiy hiy.

From Psalm 139:

O God,
you search me and know me,
you know when I sit down
and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path 
and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
God, you know it completely.

You hem me in, 
behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven,
you are there;
If I make my bed in hell,
you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, 
"Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,"
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you, 
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance,

In your books were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.

How weighty to me are your thoughts,
O God!

I try to count them --
they are more than the sand;
I come to the end --
I am still with you.

My you feel God's presence in the week ahead, that God can be relied upon, no matter the results of the tomorrow's election!

And I pray Creator's blessings on our birthday girl, too.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Saving the Eastern Slopes

This past weekend, my love and I were invited to a gorgeous part of our province known as the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains, not far from Nordegg. You may have heard a fair bit about the Eastern Slopes lately if you live in the west, as a lot of musicians, ranchers, environmentalists, First Nations leaders, and ordinary joes and jills like me have been raising a bit of a ruckus about protecting them.

The Alberta Government quietly changed its coal policy back in June of 2020, and has granted too many coal leases to foreign companies, who will come and strip mine the coal beneath our mountains, leaving a huge mess and allowing all sorts of other chemicals (like selenium) to be released and washed down the slopes into our creeks and rivers. Even one lease is too many.

Before I rant any further, let me show you the beauty that Lee and I enjoyed for the last two days:

A view of ranchland...


Those amazing, wispy cirrus clouds...


The North Saskatchewan River on its way to our hometown...


A gorgeous picnic site overlooking so much beauty...


This last picture is of the North Saskatchewan River as it flows toward Rocky Mountain house. It's the river that supplies water to many cities and towns on its way to join the South Saskatchewan River and flow on towards Hudson Bay. Unfortunately, one of the coal leases people like me are opposing is situated just on the other side of the slope going up from the river on the left side of this picture. 

So this morning I wrote a letter to the people in charge of Alberta's Coal Policy, to let them know that they need to change their policy, period. If any of my readers are interested in adapting what's below to send their own letter to the Alberta Government's coal policy strategists, I'd highly encourage it, as they are accepting emails and submissions until September 19th, and the more of us who speak up, the more likely they are to listen. 

Even if you're not from Alberta, feel free to send an email to  energy.coalpolicy@gov.ab.ca. Especially if you live downstream! The fact of the matter is that coal projects in Alberta aren't really necessary, but they'll affect people all over the globe if we don't get a handle on coal-burning caused climate change. Every person on our planet is part of the web of life affected by short-sighted decisions that allow for coal leases.

Here's my version of the letter, but it's always good to personalize your own! 

To whom it may concern,

My husband and I just spent the weekend in the Nordegg area, and feel more than ever that the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies need protection from coal projects. We want you to revoke coal leases to protect the water that comes from those slopes through the North Saskatchewan River to so many Alberta communities, ours included. 

The use of coal for industrial processes is already severely reduced as scientists, metallurgical engineers and technologists find less fossil-fuel intensive ways to power industry worldwide. Destroying the beauty of our province now when coal is almost a thing of the past is sheer stupidity.

The AER made the right decision regarding the Grassy Mountain Mining project. I ask you to please put a halt on ALL other coal projects immediately, to protect our water and save our planet from further environmental devastation and climate change. Albertans like me are depending on you to do the right thing!


Why not make yourself a cup of your favourite beverage and send the coal policy folks a note of your own?

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Sunday Reflection: A special prayer in the month of creation

I know it's only Saturday, but instead of a Sunday reflection, I'll just post an advance invitation to join our ecumenical online Prayer for Creation that is happening at 7 pm MST on Sunday September 12th (tomorrow). We'll pray with scripture, silence, and the songs of Taize. 

I was really hoping we'd be able to pray together in person, but with covid numbers as high as they are in Alberta, it's probably better to refrain from gathering to protect those who are unvaccinated, not to mention those who are. I also like including those who aren't in the Edmonton area via livestream.

I'm grateful that Pope Francis wrote his letter to the whole world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and I'm still wishing that it would receive more attention and action, especially in light of the many climate disasters our world faces -- wildfires, hurricanes, floods and so many other coming concerns that we can't foresee. Our air is clear of smoke in Edmonton right now, but that doesn't mean we can't pray for creation and act to reduce our impact on its climate. I've written at length on the Pope's Encyclical in these moodlings, and am doing all that I can with regard to living simply, though there's always room for improvement!

But for now, let's pray together. All are welcome, and if you miss the prayer, it will remain online for the rest of the month of Creation, which ends on the Feast day of St. Francis, October 4th... It's a very meditative and peaceful prayer that could be good to wind down with after a busy day...

https://www.facebook.com/events/1247853455642809