Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday thoughts on solitude

All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love...
Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, January 18th
I am in solitude these days within a large and praying community in Taize, France. What a gift!

Friday, June 27, 2014

In prayer

Today I am praying in one of my favourite ways... using the chants and music of the Taizé Community, with the brothers and pilgrims in the actual Church of the Reconciliation itself. What's great is that I'm not in charge; the music can just wash over me and fill me with serenity and a sense of God's presence. You will be hearing/seeing more about this in weeks to come, guaranteed.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Speaking simply

Today I am doing the unthinkable (for me), leaving on a jet plane, not telling you where just yet (though you're probably in the know since most of my readers are family and friends). For the time that I am away, my moodlings might not follow my usual Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday routine.

Enjoy the beauty that is summer!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More about Taize on a Sunday

A friend recently sent me a link to the video below, and seeing it made my heart happy. I've gone on about Taize Prayer and music in my moodlings, but here's the story straight from the source, so to speak. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Greenhouse update

When we started, it looked like this:

72 hours later, we had a polycarbonate ceiling...

There have been a few different steps along the way... 

like digging a heat/cold exchange system into the floor,

insulating for the cold seasons,

and starting my first tomatoes even though it was unfinished.

And now, it's almost as finished as it will get.

On the Father's Day weekend, my hubby and I finally got around to painting.
We found leftover paint pails in the basement and mixed a few together,
ending up with Banana Cream Pie, a warm yellow that I'm hoping
our plants will like. All that's left is to install a bit of lighting and re-connect
the heat and humidity sensors. Now that the tomatoes are planted outside,
the greenhouse holds only a few pepper pots (with marigolds), and we've
moved all our gardening/greenhouse materials out of the garage
and onto shelving units against the other wall of the work space.
It's wonderful to finally have the greenhouse as it's meant to be!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Simple Suggestion #208... Read aloud

Before cinema, radio, television, and the internet, what did people do for entertainment? Lots and lots of different things, but the one I've recently rediscovered quite by accident is reading a book -- out loud.

On the way home from Lethbridge back in May, I opened my daughter's copy of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden (HarperCollins 2013, ISBN 978-1-44343-159-0), thinking I'd read a few chapters on the way home, and before long, I was chuckling to myself. The guy in the driver's seat (my hubby) asked what was so funny, so I quickly summarized the few pages I'd already read, and then continue reading Jonas Jonasson's very funny story aloud so that Lee and I could enjoy it together.

I read for almost five hours. My voice was shot, but we couldn't stop. I was supposed to drive the Calgary to Edmonton leg of the trip, but Lee was finding the story so amusing that he decided to drive on so I could continue reading to him. It was one of the fastest trips home in memory as we laughed together at the adventures of Nombeko Mayeki and the twin Qvist brothers, both named Holger, not to mention three Chinese forgers, an American potter, an angry young woman, and numerous international figures. The book had more twists and turns than the road up to Mount Edith Cavell, and Jonasson's wry humour made us both laugh many times at his ingenuity in crafting an entertaining story.

When you find something good, it's only natural to want to share it, but there's something really wonderful about sharing a book aloud with someone special. I think I enjoyed this one twice as much for Lee's reactions to it. It wasn't always easy to find time for reading, but we finally finished Nombeko's adventures last night... and my daughter insists that Jonasson's first book, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (HarperCollins 2012, ISBN 978-1-44341-9-109) is even better, so guess which book we'll share next?

Today's suggestion is simply to share a book out loud. The trick is to find the right one, a willing partner in literary enjoyment (preferrably one who will read to you when your voice gets tired), and time to read it together. I highly recommend it -- and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sunday reflection: More on Compassion

I know, I missed moodling here on Thursday this past week... because it's just a busy season. With garden and volunteering and our L'Arche AGM on my plate, lately it's hard to find time to turn on the computer. So I'm moodling in my head, and perhaps I'll get some of my ideas down here as usual once there are fewer weeds and work-related items on my plate.

For today, I'd like to return to the idea of compassion. I'm supposed to be reading Karen Armstrong's book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. It's the most recent book choice for Charleen's book club, of which I'm a member, and it turns out that my best friend in BC is doing a little course on the same book. Unfortunately, for me, at the moment, other stuff is getting in the way of books about compassion. Even so, I've enjoyed the video below, where Karen Armstrong talks about her dream of the Charter for Compassion. So here it is for this Sunday's reflection...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Love is blue?

My dearest friend was here this past weekend, and we had an excellent visit that included lengthy walks with the dog, a Pride parade, Japanese bento boxes, icecream for supper, a sunny graveyard Pentecost liturgy for two, a bit of necessary shopping, and word games. Plus, we played through two old Reader's Digest Song Book Treasuries, she on piano and me on guitar. My voice is still recovering.

The treasuries mostly held music older than both of us. But the song we played through the most often, because it has a great feel and an interesting arrangement, Love is Blue, came out when we were three years old. My parents had a copy of a Paul Mauriat instrumental album, and I remember dancing to Love is Blue (L'Amour est bleu) I think because it followed Puppet on a String, which was my favourite. But Love is Blue topped the charts in North America, and it's always been a melody I've loved. I didn't even know it had words until Cathy and I played it on Saturday and Sunday.

And really, Love is Blue shouldn't have words, or at least, not the ones that were written for it after it placed fourth in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest (Puppet on a String took first). As Cathy and I sang them, we started to giggle. A little cheesy, for sure, all the colours mentioned, and the final line of the bridge, "now the  rainbow is gone."

Here's a version by Andy Williams, so you can see what I mean about the lyrics, followed by a video of Paul Mauriat's orchestral version. I still love the instrumental version of Love is Blue because it brings me back to my five year old self pirouetting around the living room. And, just for the record, in my books, love is more like a warm yellow, or maybe a coral pink, if I was to choose a colour. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sunday reflection -- The Charter for Compassion

It's been a few years since I first saw this video... and I can't remember if I shared it here or not. If not, I should have. I choose to reflect on this again this Sunday, and offer it for your reflection, too.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Merv's marvellous rain catchment system

It's been very rainy here for the past several days, which is wonderful because everything was getting thirsty. My rain barrels were empty, but now they're overflowing.

And so, I suspect, are my dad's. He's come up with a rain catchment system that is pretty cool, and he's given me permission to share his homemade, practical solution that probably costs half of what most rain barrels cost. I wish I'd thought of it before we spent $65 per barrel all those years ago...

Rain is a resource that is too often taken for granted in our western world. The invention of indoor and outdoor plumbing means that North Americans spend a lot of money pouring treated water on our lawns and gardens in dryer times, and water that goes through our water treatment facilities can't have nearly the nutrients that rain water carries! I hate sprinkling city water on my garden because I suspect its chemical treatment actually stunts plants' growth. One of these years, I'm going to do an experiment with two identical plants, one watered with tap water and one with rain water, just to see what happens...

The thing is, we could easily save rainy day resources with a little thought and ingenuity, as my dad has. Basically, he's converted a couple of big plastic garbage cans into rain barrels. By adjusting the length of his downspout, cutting a hole in each dome-shaped lid and turning it upside down during rainstorms, he ensures that the water is funneled from his rain spouts into two barrels.

He's also prevented mosquitoes from populating his water reserves with larvae by stapling a piece of screen over the holes. When my mom wants to water her plants, she just removes the lid and plunges her watering can into the barrel rather than having to wait for the water to trickle out of a spout at the bottom, saving time.

Though this wouldn't work with a drip irrigation system without adding some sort of tap valve, it serves the needs of their yard, which is full of planters that require regular watering...

So there you have it. A practical, less expensive way to keep the best water there is for any plants growing... Credit and royalties for this simple idea go to Merv! Right, Dad?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Simple Suggestion #207... Celebrate Environment Week

How will you celebrate? I'm celebrating by taking extra long walks in the river valley with my dog and appreciating the fragrance of blossoming trees. Or maybe I'll plant some extra bee-friendly plants in my yard. I'm definitely going to recycle the unnecessary papers on my desk. I'll ride my bike to work tomorrow. And maybe I'll make a fresh salad from the lettuce that is almost big enough to be picked from our cold frame as part of our 50-foot diet.

Canadian Environment Week banner

Click here for info about Environment Week in Canada

If you know me, you know that none of these activities are out of the ordinary around here. So how is Environment Week any different than any other week of the year? I guess the point I'm making is that I'll continue to do the things I'm always trying to do, because EVERY WEEK should be Environment Week. Reducing our ecological impact on our planet needs to be a daily, ongoing thing in a world threatened by climate instability, pollution, over-consumption and waste. As I'm constantly reminded, the way we live is a justice issue -- we owe it to the web of life to live more lightly on the planet, or, as Desmond Tutu commented earlier this week in Fort McMurray, we'll all be "kaput."

For me, Environment Week is a good time to up the ante -- to learn more about my local environment and how to protect it. It would also be good to come up with even more hard-core activities I can implement at home to reduce my ecological footprint. Those are harder to figure out. If you have any suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them! Ah, one just came to me. A shorter shower this morning...

The thing is, we only have one environment to protect for future generations, and every choice we make as human beings impacts it in one way or another. How can we impact it positively? If we think and act on that question all the time, every week IS Environment Week, as it should be.

How will you celebrate?

P.S. If you're in the Edmonton area, why not take a tour of the city's amazing Waste Management Facilities? Tours are being offered every day at 1:30 and 5:30 pm (except Wednesday, only 5:30) and you can register/get details by calling 311. It's well worth the trip -- an awareness of where our garbage goes and how much waste our city produces has inspired many Edmontonians to find ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover things that might otherwise end up in the landfill, something our earth can no longer afford.

P.P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Guest Moodler: Sermon on Listening to Hearts

Here's another beautiful piece from my best friend and guest moodler, who is coming for a visit in 5 more sleeps (yay!). I love to publish her sermons here, because I think her ideas deserve a wider audience, she's a good writer, and a wise woman. Her postings always get a lot of views. She gave this sermon last Sunday...

Listening to Hearts
May, 25, 2014

Cathy Coulter

Let’s play a game. I’ll name an occupation and you picture the person in that occupation. Ready? Firefighter. Farmer. Teacher. Surgeon. Nurse. I’m curious how you pictured the nurse. With a uniform? A white uniform? Carrying a thermometer, or a cup of pills or a bedpan? All valid images and mostly based in hospitals. It’s natural for people to assume I work in a hospital when I say I’m a nurse. But I never wanted to work in hospitals. I gave it a try off and on after graduation but never for long. It’s not that I don’t like hands-on-caring for patients. Hands-on-caring is one of the things I love best about nursing. No, it was the hospital environment, system and culture that made my heart sink. Not to mention the brutal shift work of which I put in my time. I worked in the Jubilee Hospital for eight years but for Victoria Hospice which, while set in a hospital, is not hospital nursing.
          Now I work for Home Care Nursing. Not many people know what an RN does in Home Care. It’s not the same as Home Support workers who provide personal care. It’s not the same as a Public Health Nurse. It’s hard to keep all the different kinds of nurses straight.
          So imagine people’s bafflement when I tell them I’m also a Parish Nurse, a nurse who works for a church. “You work for a church?” some of them say in bewilderment. I can see their minds trying to picture what I do. I wonder if they have visions of me tiptoeing around in my white shoes during a church service with a thermometer and blood pressure cuff, quietly checking out people’s vital signs during the sermon.
          I understand why people so commonly ask, “What does a Parish Nurse do?” and I certainly don’t mind being asked but it’s hard to give a short, snappy answer. People are used to thinking of nurses in terms of the tasks they do: the hands-on-care, carrying out doctors’ orders, monitoring vital signs, changing dressings. But they do a whole lot more that’s not as obvious to the casual observer. It’s the “whole lot more” that for me is the heart of nursing, and much of that whole lot more takes a whole lot of time to explain because it’s about relationship and intuition and seeing into the heart of people to assess what is really going on. Nurses listen to people’s hearts.
          The visionaries in this church who wanted a Parish Nurse and paid for one (me) out of the Visioning Fund, recognized that pastoral care visits often included questions around medical or health issues and having a pastoral care person with a nursing background would be helpful. There was also the insight that we have many seniors in our congregation, many who don’t have their families nearby and a Parish Nurse could be resource for them, especially in navigating the health care system. We have an amazing health care system that works well for the most part but as we all know there are cracks. A Parish Nurse can help prevent people from falling between the cracks. I hear stories of people outside of our church family who needed support of some kind, whose family perhaps wasn’t near, who didn’t know how to access services or even that there were services to access. “They need a Parish Nurse,” I think. Someone who could provide information, translate what the doctor said, educate about medications, guide on what to expect, connect people with resources and help ensure people are getting the follow-up they need.
          In the 5 years I’ve been Parish Nursing, I have been able to help many members of this church family on this practical level. But after 5 years, I see this role as a whole lot more… the whole lot more that I mentioned before that’s about relationship and healing.
          As a Parish Nurse I accompany people on their life journey and that journey often takes us through places of suffering. Sometimes that suffering is resolved, for example, a successful medical procedure or end of an illness, and sometimes that suffering is transmuted into an ongoing grief, but either way, healing can happen.
Our modern western medical/health care system does not know what to do about suffering. Suffering can’t be seen on a CT scan. It can’t be fixed with a pharmaceutical. And when something can’t be measured or fixed, it’s ignored because it makes our fix-it mentality uncomfortable. An article in The Journal of the American Medical Association acknowledged that Western Medicine has no model to help people through their suffering. That’s an astonishing statement, that Western Medicine has no model to help people through their suffering. In fact, from what I’ve seen, our modern systems often add to suffering.
          Enter the church. Religion is supposed to be the place where we grapple with the big questions of life, love, suffering and death. Good religion doesn’t provide easy answers but a container in which we acknowledge the questions and wrestle with the mystery. This is called spirituality and spirituality is gets short shrift in Western Medicine and our health care system. Spiritual care departments in hospitals and care centres have been cut by more than half, and I’d say almost to nothing. Spiritual care is seen as an unnecessary frill in today’s tight budgets.
          The health care system is a reflection of our North American society. We don’t want to deal with suffering. We don’t want to be out of control and suffering is being out of control. Dame Cecily Saunders is the founder of the modern day Hospice movement. Her observation was that spirituality is the most overlooked factor relieving pain and suffering. I agree with that 100%.
          Don’t get me wrong. If I’m sick, take me to the hospital. Give me skilled medical staff and medications or medical treatments to cure me or ease my symptoms. But please, send someone to companion me while I’m in there, to pray with me and remind me of God’s presence. That’s soul medicine.
          A Parish Nurse can be such a companion, as can a minister, a pastoral care worker or volunteer, a friend, a neighbour, a family member, or indeed, a compassionate health care worker. God’s spirit is not left kicking her heels in the hospital parking lot. She moves and heals in surprising ways and in unexpected places.
          Our health and wholeness is not just impacted by the state of our physical health and abilities. If, as a nurse, I am listening to hearts and attending to suffering, I am a witness to the tragic gap. The tragic gap is where suffering arises. Let me explain.
The tragic gap occurs when we have a circumstance that causes us pain and there doesn’t seem to be any way we can fix it. We have the ideal or how we want things to be on the one hand and the reality on the other and there is no way we can see those two coming together. There is a tragic gap. 
I recently bumped into one in my own life. I considered strategies that might help or miraculously fix things but that only made me more anxious in feeling I could and should do something. And then one morning I woke up with this crystal clear thought. “My love cannot save anyone.” I experienced the tragic gap. And it was a humble, painful and profound moment.
Families are full of tragic gaps. Life is full of tragic gaps. I’m sure you can think of one of your own. Sure, we can work at solving problems but eventually we run into a situation where we don’t know what to do, or accept that there is nothing we can do. But what does this have to do with Parish Nursing? Well, over the years, I’ve bumped into many situations of suffering that can’t be fixed. As a nurse, that’s frustrating. We try to fix everything. But what I have noticed, is that sharing our stories and having our hearts listened to can give us the courage to step into, or, more likely fall into, the unknown, into that tragic gap and find that God is there, not only holding us, but holding the situation much better than we can. And we start to have hope, and we start to heal. God moves and heals in surprising ways and in unexpected places.
Our reading today in Peter tells us that bad things happen to good people but there is a hope in us despite that. In John, Jesus reminds us that he will never abandon us and says “you are in me just as I am in you.” That is the Spirit that is at work in our healing.
It is because I love the depth and vastness and mystery of the spiritual life that I love Parish Nursing. Hippocrates, the ancient father of modern medicine said if the suffering person ever begins to attend to soul, the soul responds a thousand fold. We need companions on that soul journey. That’s why I’m here. I’m here for you. And I thank you and this church for the gift of that. It is truly a gift to me.

 Thanks be to God.

During the time of community prayer, Cathy invited those listening into a little ritual, in which she invited them to hold out their hands on either side of them, saying, "When I learned of the idea of the tragic gap at a conference, we learned a simple ritual that I invite you to try now as we pray. Think of a circumstance that for you has a tragic gap, that seems impossible and unfixable and is causing suffering. In one of your hands, hold the situation in its idea, and in the other hand, hold the situation in its reality. During our prayer we will bring our hands together and hold them over our hearts."

What a beautiful way to pray! Today I hold two tragic gaps -- those of Richard and Ruthie -- in my hands as I pray, remembering how God holds us all...