Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 Canada Day Reflection: Thanksgiving more than pride

In my mind, it was turning into The Mystery of the Missing Canadian Flag. Last fall when I was out of town, an unexpected snowstorm hit... and it was up to my husband to put away the garden. It was a good thing that he took down the Canada flag from our flagpole and put it away, but because he had so much to do in the storm, he forgot exactly where he put it.

Needless to say, we've spent a fair bit of time looking for it this spring because it wasn't in any of the usual places, or the unusual ones. I had pretty much given up searching, saying, "Oh well," but yesterday, when I was looking for something in my laundry cupboard, I moved something aside... and suddenly realized that I was holding the missing Canadian flag! I dropped everything and went to run it up its flagpole over our garden.

Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation this weekend -- a space of time that is a drop in a bucket when you consider the history of countries like India or China, or those in the Middle East and Europe. Our young country of Canada is blessed in so many ways -- but some of the lead up to the 150 celebrations has made me wonder what we are actually celebrating.

The consumerism associated with this celebration leaves me rather depressed -- Canada flag paper plates and napkins, red plastic cutlery, plastic flag garlands, pennants, balloons, t-shirts, ball caps, and more stuff that I don't even want to think about, enough to fill our landfills... Oh, and if you cut yourself while preparing the Canada Day barbecue, there are Canada flag bandaids. The government is already spending millions on celebrations, and how much will ordinary Canadians spend on flag-labelled junk made in other countries? Sheesh.

Of course, my hesitation isn't just about the stuff. There's a lot that has happened in this country in the last 150 years that make us proud to be Canadians -- but there's also a fair bit to deflate our spirits. I'm thinking particularly of the treatment of our Indigenous sisters and brothers over those 150 years. Racism has kept us from becoming a truly wholesome society -- imagine what our nation would have been like if European settlers had been willing to cooperate with the First Nations rather than segregating them and forcing them to give up their culture in what turned out to be a residential school-based genocide. Our challenge now is to heal the entire nation. I hope there will be many Canada Day blanket exercises or other opportunities to bring Canadians to understanding and reconciliation.

Taking pride in our country is probably a good thing on many fronts, but we need to keep in mind that many of us live here simply by accident of our birth, not because we have done anything special to deserve our nationality. I suggest that rather than making Canada Day a consumerist celebration of the sesquicentennial with misplaced pride and all sorts of silly red-and-white paraphernalia that needlessly use the earth's resources, we make it a time of thanksgiving. Let Canada Day be a time to reflect on and be grateful for the gifts our land has bestowed upon us, a time to come up with ways to heal divisions within our society, to work for justice and to welcome those who need a home.

Yes, sing O Canada with fervour at some point on July 1st, but also consider psalmist's words about dwelling in God's house and how they can fit with our feelings about living in our beautiful country:

**How lovely is your dwelling place, O God.

My soul longs for the courts of my God:
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home
and the swallow a nest for herself
where she may lay her young at your altars.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength comes from you,
in whose hearts are the road to your home.
They go through the dry valley
and it becomes a place of springs and oases.
They go from strength to strength 
because of their God's great love.
Hear our prayer, O God!
Be our shield,
and anoint us all with your grace and blessing.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in God's home
than live in a rich palace away from God.
You, God, are our guide and protection;
You are the one who bestows favour and honour.
You walk with us when we act with justice, compassion and humility.
O tender God, happy are those who trust in you.

Here God lives among God's people.

Happy Canada Day!

**(my paraphrase of Psalm 84)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden

I'm in heaven (or maybe a corner of the garden of paradise) these days as I watch things grow. It's such a beautiful time of year, and I find it hard to sit and moodle at the computer when there's so much moodling to be done outdoors. Things change daily, overnight with the little bit of rain that fell last night. Today is cool and rainy, but before the rain clouds got serious this afternoon, I took my camera for a little walk to document a bit of what's going on in our yard.

Belgian poppies and bachelor buttons go well together...

Anton the dog is pleased to have pansies... 
and an unidentified plant that will eventually reveal its identity...

I like this colour combination with my 'Silver Fir' heirloom tomato...

The day lilies and lupines are almost finished... next up, lilies!

The veggie patch is looking pretty good overall...

The volunteer lettuce makes me laugh... 
I've given salad to two neighbours thanks to it...

The yarrow tucked a little posie into my garden clogs...

and the sweetness of the wet garden can be tasted 
in the strawberries I had for breakfast!

Happy Summer, everyone!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Living out of love, not fear

Last Monday morning, we woke to discover our garage door open and my husband's fairly new bicycle missing. We still don't know how the thief gained access, but we suspect a faulty garage door opener. We filed a police report and secured our garage. Then at 2:45 in the middle of last night, Julia woke us, saying she heard a scraping noise from the garage. So Lee got up and went to see if another bike might have disappeared. 

Fortunately, everything was in place. We don't know what Julia heard, but it was a windy evening so maybe someone's garbage can was walking down the back alley? Our sleep disturbed, we lay for a while wondering if our home and possessions were secure enough. Conversation kept us awake for a while, as we talked about the things we own that we need to protect (not all that much, really). Eventually we came to the wise conclusion that our possessions really aren't that important, and that we don't want to let fear rule the way we live.

The problem with possession, with clinging to anything, really, is that we have to protect and defend what we consider to be ours. Of course we don't want things to disappear from our lives -- we need what we need, and having the things we need disappear can get costly. But locking ourselves and our possessions away from the world all the time isn't a good option either.

In Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus said, "Fear no one... do not fear... do not be afraid..." And what do we fear? Loss, pain, and abandonment, mainly. And what counterbalances our fears? Love, of course.

I love this little reflection by Michael Leunig. I know I've posted it here before, but it comes back to me in situations like this, begging to be rediscovered. We are afraid of so many things. But when we chose love over fear, the world changes from terrible and traumatic to a place of infinite possibilities. Knowing that we are loved beyond our wildest dreams, cared for by a Creator who provides us a beautiful planet on which we live, move, and have our being, can help us to be fearless, to welcome the stranger, to forgive the thief. We know that our Creator's love touches all, even the person who stole Lee's bike, whether she or he knows it or not.

Of course, we're still one bike short, and we've taken as many precautions as we can to ensure that nothing else goes missing. It was a good bike, and I hope and pray that the person who took it benefits from it in a positive way, gives up petty crime and discovers their belovedness. But of course, that's between them and our Creator.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bread of life, body of Christ

This Corpus Christi Sunday, my mind goes back to morning prayer at Taizé, and to the communion offered to the gathered community. Consecrated bread (host wafers) were offered to Catholics in one place, and blessed bread was also made available to everyone who wanted to partake. I didn't know about the blessed bread during my first visit in 2014 because I usually ended up sitting on the side of the Church of Reconciliation where the Catholics received the consecrated hosts, which we were allowed to dip in a cup of wine.

But when I visited Taizé in October 2016, I sat on the other side of the church with my best friend, and we received the bread together (Cathy isn't Catholic, and I wanted to share communion with her). And I wasn't sorry to receive the unconsecrated bread because a young volunteer offered us a basket from which we took a chunk of bread with a piece of crisp crust, like bread will taste in heaven, every bit as delicious as God's love should be. And as Cathy and I left morning prayer for breakfast, I said, "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!" and she laughed and said, "I know! It was so DELICIOUS!"

I'm not sure how or why so many churches got away from sharing really good bread, though I expect it has something to do with concern for the crumbs being dropped on the floor and walked on. But to break our morning fast with such a delicious piece of bread shared with a smile by a young volunteer had a profound impact on my understanding of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus probably gave his followers a special meal to show that life is meant to be delicious, and joyous, and to help us know that the people who eat his meal are meant to bring flavour and celebration to all of life, especially to those who hunger and thirst for justice, joy, peace and beauty. His gift of himself as food for the feast is meant to encourage us all to offer ourselves for the life of the world in the way he did.

The idea of the Body and Blood of Christ has always been a bit too visceral for many people, but who doesn't like to share a good loaf of bread and bottle of wine with friends? Maybe the enjoyment of eating together as God's beloved people got lost in the rules around how to distribute the meal to large groups in huge churches... and in our concern for how the meal is served we have been missing out on something simple, joyful, and absolutely delicious.

If I was consulted on how to make our liturgies more meaningful, I'd say, stop worrying about the crumbs. Christ wants us to enjoy the bread of life and each other. Pass the basket to each other with a smile, let everyone take a fresh and delicious piece to dip in some sweet and excellent wine so that they can really taste and see the goodness of God, and know that together, we are all the body of Christ in the love that we share with each other and the world.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A tune for a rainy day

Corb Lund is guaranteed to put a grin on my face every time I hear him on the radio. He's a pretty wonderful Alberta musician who grew up near my husband (though he's four years younger) and he sings some hilarious quirky songs about farming, ranching and related adventures. His sense of humour tickles my funny bone -- and he just seems like a down-home decent kind of guy. The fact that he sings about bestowing a western blessing, "May you always have cows around," appeals to the prairie girl in me. I've always liked cows, too -- there's something kind of calming about them. And Corb's vibe is like a drive down a dusty dirt road with happy tunes on a gorgeous sunny day. Mmm, smell that fresh air (unless there are a LOT of cows around)!

This morning my sister brought this old video to my attention. So if you've never seen or heard of Corb Lund, here's a little tune for a rainy day (we're having a million dollar rain right now and it sounds like my neighbour down the back alley is getting stuck). Enjoy!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The widest circle

It's Trinity Sunday, a day that I like to think about how our God is a God of relationship, and more all-encompassing than human beings will ever be able to understand. God, the Creator of all, could have stopped at coming to us as Jesus, God with skin on, but no -- She and He also appears to us as God, the Holy and Creative Spirit. Together, the three form a wide circle and invite us all in to their dance. They show us the love and inclusiveness that we are all called to offer to one another.

Imagine, for a moment, a more inclusive world -- one in which everyone is recognized and treated as a cherished child of God no matter their age, ability, culture, faith, gender, race, or socio-economic status. That's exactly the kind of circle we are called to create by the way we welcome one another and live together.

Happy Trinity Sunday!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Oh, what a beautiful day!

The weather for this Environment Week has been gorgeous, with just enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes down during the day. I should be out in the garden, but I had to share a few pictures... I've always been fascinated by back lighting, especially on flowers, and how the sun shines through them...

And the light coming through the sprinkler caught my fancy, too...

There's a fair fluttering at our birdhouse these days... Mom and Dad Sparrow have a wee brood in there, and we are keeping an eye on them -- and they on us -- in a mostly peaceful co-existence (though I get scolded a lot for encroaching on their territory as I weed the garden). It's been fun to track their growth through the volume of sound that comes out of the birdhouse -- at first it was the tiniest noise, but now it's a loud chirping!

Here's Mom going in...

And checking if the coast is clear...

Even Shadow pup agrees that it's a perfect kind of day.
Have a good one yourself!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Be environment-wise

It's World Environment Day today, the first day of Environment Week, and there are probably a million different actions we can do to help the cause. It all begins, of course, with being mindful of how the way we live affects our planet. What we eat, what we wear, how we keep ourselves clean, how we travel, the work we do, how we entertain ourselves -- in short, everything we do during an ordinary day can have a greater or lesser impact on our environment, and most particularly on our climate. Just by breathing we are creating greenhouse gases! Never mind driving, cooking, heating or cooling our homes, etc...

Just because a certain world leader chooses to ignore the fact that we are experiencing global climate change doesn't mean that the rest of us can afford to follow suit. That's part of the reason I've been moodling here for almost seven years -- to offer my readers all sorts of simple suggestions about things we can all do to live more lightly on the planet. Some of my "Simple Suggestions" are obvious, others are whimsical -- how can flying a kite improve our planet's well-being, you might ask? The way I look at it, anything we do that gets us to appreciate our environment, to entertain ourselves and use personal energy instead of the worldwide web or the electrical grid, and takes few resources is a step in the right direction. A certain filthy rich world leader has already fallen behind ordinary citizens like us who are truly taking the lead for our planet's sake. We understand that, as Richard Rohr is fond of saying, there is enough for everyone's need, but not everyone's greed.

Rather than re-list ideas I've already listed before, you're invited to review my Simple Suggestions page, revisit your environmental footprint by clicking here (I'm happy to see that our family's footprint has gotten smaller since a year ago), or find a website with other ideas that work for you (let me know if you find a good one!) And maybe step outside, breathe deeply and appreciate the abundance and goodness of our sister, Mother Earth, and consider what else we can do to return her many favours. Let's let our gratitude lead us to action for our earth's sake and leave the climate deniers in the dust. They'll have no choice but to catch up eventually!

And now, I'm going to pick some mint and make a cup of backyard tea to toast the health of our environment!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Breathe in us, Holy Spirit

It's interesting how my relationship with God has shifted as I've grown and changed through life. As a child, I related most to God as a father figure, probably because I have a wonderful dad. When I reached my teen years, I got to know BJ, or Brother Jesus, at a youth retreat, and he became my dearest friend. But now that I'm in middle age, it's the mysterious Holy Spirit who speaks to me the most through my creative endeavours, through the beauty of creation, and in the quietness of morning meditation. I have come to love the Spirit's gentle proddings... and I suspect today's moodling is about one of them.

In organizing our Taizé Prayer schedule for 2017 back in November, I decided, as usual, that it would be a good idea to take a break in the schedule for June, July and August as people are usually into camping/holiday/summer mode in those months, and it's hard to get musicians together for rehearsals. But the morning after our May 14th prayer, the last one scheduled until September, this chant to the Holy Spirit started playing in my brain and wouldn't quit. So I emailed my musician friends to see if any of them would be willing to lead a prayer at the beginning of June, and got enough immediate positive responses to set up a prayer for Pentecost tomorrow. I guess we were all open to the Holy Spirit's promptings... and, of course, the first church I called was willing to host a prayer.

"Breathe in us, Holy Spirit" is the translation of the German Atme in uns, Heliger Geist. It's a beautiful prayer -- asking God to fill us up, to sustain us, to bring life to our world, and the repetition of such a simple phrase makes room for the Spirit to move, at least in my experience.

In Taizé last October, this chant moved me deeply, and right away I asked Brother Jean-Marie if it would be possible to get the music, but it hadn't been released yet. When new music is being developed in the Taizé community, they take their time trying it out and perfecting it before they make it available to the public.

I love the descants to this piece, at least the ones I can understand. The English verse is from a beautiful prayer, the Invocation to the Holy Spirit by St. Symeon the New Theologian, and the first French verse lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. I don't know what is being sung in Spanish and German, but it all sounds just beautiful to me, and brings to mind the many languages spoken when the Spirit descended on the apostles.

The chant was released for publication last month, and even though our music group doesn't have access to the official sheet music, we will sing and pray it tomorrow evening as best we can. If you are in Edmonton and are able to join us, we'll meet for ecumenical prayer on June 4th at Assumption Church, 9040 95 Street, at 7 p.m. All are welcome. Feel free to bring a friend.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Simple Suggestion #127 revisited... Fertilize your lawn with compost

On the May long weekend, when Lee and I installed two new raised bed boxes in our front yard, we got more compost than we needed to fill them. We didn't want to leave a pile of it sitting on our front boulevard, so Lee spread it on the grass around our yard, and two weeks later, we are definitely noticing the difference.

This picture gives you an idea of the difference compost has made in ten days. This piece of lawn is on the south side of our house, and the way the sun beats down between our house and the neighbours' has meant that our neighbours' lawn (which is shaded by their house) is always greener while ours fries in the sun. But with compost added, our side is greener than theirs this spring -- first time ever.

Above is a shadier spot where our neighbours' lawn meets ours. I can't get over the colour difference in the two lawns. The story is the same on the sunny city boulevard below... where the compost landed (clearly not spread in the straightest line) the difference is very noticeable!

no compost over here                                              compost sprinkled on this side
I know a lot of people who like to spread those tiny fertilizer pellets on their lawns just before a rainstorm, but compost is a much greener alternative, both literally and figuratively. There are no chemicals involved -- compost is composed of well-rotted plant matter that is safe to use for a light top-dressing anytime, whether it rains or not. Good compost offers a slow release of nutrients every time it rains. We spread ours and then it didn't rain for four days, but the rich, dark, crumbly humus was working its way down to the rhizomes as we walked around on it. And when it did rain... what a difference!

If you know me, you know I'm not a lawn fanatic -- I much prefer to see interesting flowers and shrubs rather than boring green monocultures that don't feed bees and butterflies or offer any kind of habitat for birds. In fact, I could be accused of grass neglect because I have never made the effort to fertilize a lawn in my life. But this year's extra compost turned our neglected lawn a rich and healthy green (and the dandelions are happier, too, of course). I've known about the benefits of using compost with my perennial and vegetable beds for a long time, but having some to spare for grassy places, I have been floored by how green our grass has become in just ten days and one good soaking rain!

The moral of the story? If you're someone who appreciates a great lawn, get rid of the chemical fertilizers and invest in a load of compost, or make your own from your plant-based kitchen scraps. Compost is better for our environment because it recycles plant matter to enrich our soil -- which is good for everything we grow!