Sunday, December 31, 2017

Let all families be holy

I hate it when I end up crying through Sunday morning mass, and lately, it happens more often than I like. You see, God and I have what I would call a wonderful relationship. In fact, I can't get along without God. It's just that some of the people who speak for God make me cry, and that's painful, period.

Today, the last Sunday of the year, is the Feast of the Holy Family. Really, it's a liturgy that is all about love. We heard about love, respect, and honour among family members in scripture from the Book of Sirach. Paul's beautiful letter to the Colossians (3:12-21) reminded us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, to bear with one another, to forgive each other and to love. And then we heard about loving parents Mary and Joseph taking their infant son to the temple at the beginning of his faith journey. All beautiful and inspirational words!

It was the first few lines of the homily that set me off. Family values are under attack, we were told, by gay marriage and transgender activism. And the tears began to roll down my cheeks. I grew up in a Catholicism that brainwashed me against homosexuality, even as several of my Catholic friends who were gay or lesbian struggled with depression and self-loathing because our Christian culture labelled them as "disordered." It seemed to be a direct contradiction to the adage, "God does not make junk." As a young performer in a travelling show, I became friends with peers of many different backgrounds, cultures, and sexual orientations, and my friendships forced me to question the anti-queer mindset I grew up with because of my faith.

In the years since, I have realized that God loves queer people every bit as much as God loves me. Otherwise, why would God have blessed them with their different orientations? They are oriented differently not to spite the world, but because they have to be true to who they are, just as I do. And judging them helps no one.

In the last few years, I have witnessed the love and marriages of many queer friends who are being true to who God made them to be. And for the life of me, I can't see how Greg and Roy's marriage undermines anything. Karly and Inge and their two sons are as loving a family as mine. Their marriage is more loving, balanced and blessed than any of my heterosexual divorced friends' marriages ever were. And my neighbours, Leo and Markus*, are excitedly planning their wedding for September with every bit as much joy and anticipation as Lee and I did. They are a loving couple who deserve to be together for life, heart and soul. We need to remember that many marriages are about a loving unity that doesn't include procreation.

Love is love. And God is love. And since nobody I know can actually tell us the exact thoughts of this God who is love, and who clearly creates so many different forms of love, how can we speak against these other kinds of love, sexuality or gender simply because our experience is different? God is in Leo and Markus' relationship too, I'm convinced! It's full of goodness, truth and beauty,

I wish our homilist this morning had simply focused on the holy family as a model of love, and talked more about the beautiful qualities mentioned in the readings and how they feed our souls. I suspect I'm not the only person who needs to hear how every family that does its best to love one another is a holy family, even through our struggles. Perfection isn't possible, but love is, and families with trans-gendered or otherwise queer members don't need to be judged as somehow undermining family values, especially when we are all doing our best to love and support one another just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph did. God made us all holy!

God of love,
Thank you for the billions of love stories
that brought us into being,
that surround us,
sometimes challenge us,
and always sustain us.

Open our hearts to your love in its many forms.

Help us to act always
with love,
respect,
and honour
toward all members of our human family.

Clothe us
with compassion,
kindness,
humility,
meekness
and patience,
to bear with one another,
to forgive each other
and to love everyone who crosses our path.

Bless those families who struggle,
and help us to reach out to those in need
just as you reach out for us.

Bless us in this new year of 2018,
and let all families be holy
by our sharing in your love.

+Amen.

*I have used pseudonyms in place of my queer friends' names. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas, or close to it, in the Rockies

Last week, our family was blessed to have a few days in the Rocky Mountains before Christmas. The bitter cold snap that is now bringing temperatures below -20C with extra nasty wind chills beyond -30 hadn't quite arrived. Lee and I had some wonderful hikes around Old Fort Point, through the Valley of Five Lakes, and around Patricia Lake. The stars were incredible on two of the five nights we were there, and we even saw three "shooting stars" from the Geminids meteor shower. Our kids joined us on a couple of hikes, and we had some nice hot tub and games time together, too.

Below are some of my favourite nature shots from our trip, and you'll notice a new header at the top of these moodlings. I have a thing for mountain streams, so there's also a video clip below. Enjoy!


Looking down at the Athabasca River in the morning...


Pyramid mountain...


What silence looks like...


More silence...


Took us a long walk to find these red chairs...


My favourite Christmas tree...



Yup, that's me doing a somersault on the Fifth Lake...


Long winter shadows...


Open water in a limestone karst...


Sunset on a 10 km hiking day...


A smart friend...


Disappearing mountains...


A birch tree (did you know they're all one organism?)...


My partner enjoying a sunny spot...


Another sunset...


Another spectacular sunset view...


God so loved us that God gave us Christmas... and such beauty!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas Prayer

We're just back from a gorgeous few days in the Rocky Mountains before Christmas. I thought about taking my moodlings along via laptop, but at the last minute, I decided to leave it all at home and have a real break.

And I'm not sorry I did. Of course, that means that I haven't moodled at all in the last few days, and all I have to offer my readers for Christmas is a reflection from a couple of years ago, along with my best wishes for a blessed and peaceful celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, whom our world needs more than ever. Peace in your hearts, your families, your homes, your workplaces and our world. Merry Christmas.

*******

Whether you believe in the Christ of Christmas or not, this season is often the time of miracles, of people digging deep, and the impossible coming true.  As Jean Vanier says,
What is the "impossible"? It is liberation. To liberate people from the demons of fear, of loneliness, of hatred and of egoism that shackle them. To liberate people so that they can love, heal, and also liberate others. But in order to do that, you must go in poverty and experience the life of God flowing within your own flesh.
 -- From Brokenness to Community, p 30 
My Christmas prayer is simply that you may feel God's life in you, a life that quietly and humbly frees others to be truly and joyfully human:

Jesus,
You came to free us
from apathy, isolation, ignorance and selfishness.
Your life calls us
to recognize God's life flowing in us,
and in each person we meet.
Thank you for our blessings,
and for our challenges.
Show us,
in the year ahead,
the places
where our love
can make a difference.
+Amen

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sandy's Christmas Pageant

Image result for Christmas pageant L'ArcheMy friend Sandy* doesn't see very well. Her hearing isn't great either. But you should have heard Sandy sing last night!

At the L'Arche Christmas Pageant, Sandy joined the choir. It was a good place for her to be as she's not very steady on her feet on a darkened stage. She held onto my daughter, Christina, or Christina's friend, Jessamy, and sang her heart out. Sandy definitely knows the melodies of all those Christmas carols although her lyrics lack most consonants. Of course, her enthusiasm more than makes up for everything else!

I'm not far wrong if I say that a lot of the smiles on the choir's faces last night were due to Sandy. Every time we started to sing, she threatened to drown us out with an incredible surge of volume, but then would settle down and blend in -- a little. When 17 different language groups came up to sing Silent Night, Sandy sang her AHHHs in the background, and loudly cheered and hooted as each group concluded, like you would at a rock concert. Though it made us chuckle, it seemed right somehow -- we were building up to the crescendo of Joy to the World and Go Tell it on the Mountain, and it all worked together for the glory of God.

For me, and for many other people I spoke with during post-pageant refreshments last night, Christmas begins at the L'Arche Edmonton Christmas Pageant. Its joy and exultation is like nothing else. By the end, some of the kids in the crowd were literally bouncing off the furniture -- which, if you think about it, is the only appropriate response to God's coming to be with us!

If you missed it, there's always next year!

*I use pseudonyms for the names of my L'Arche friends.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Beloved-ness on the Third Sunday of Advent

So often Isaiah's words in this third Sunday of Advent's Old Testament reading (Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11) are seen as a prophecy about Jesus.

But what if God is inviting each and every one of us to realize--

Your spirit is upon me.

You have anointed me:
You send me to bring good news to the oppressed
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim that every being on the planet 
is your beloved.

I rejoice in your Love,
my soul exults in your Being;
for you have clothed me 
with the garments of salvation,
you have covered me 
with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it 
to spring up,
So you will cause 
goodness, truth and beauty
(also known as righteousness and praise)
to spring up in me, your child.

And if all of this is true,
how do I live each day as if it is so?

Maybe by making Mary's Magnificat my own
in the face of such great love...

My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
who has looked upon me with such great love,
who has done great things for me
and whose mercy is for every generation!

+Amen.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Dancing at Day Program

During today's Monday morning volunteer stint at L'Arche Edmonton's Day Program, I found myself working with a few others, tying special L'Arche Christmas cards into packets of five and curling the ribbon ends ahead of next week's Christmas Pageant and Craft Sale. We chatted as we worked, and Christmas carols played from a computer tablet.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere, with people coming and going from Art Therapy or visits down the hallways. Sandy was sorting her cards, as usual, Thomas was informing us about when some of our friends and colleagues would be arriving after meetings outside of the building, and Darren was making colourful pictures in his usual place*.

But it was Leanne who caught my attention. She was sitting by herself, humming along to the Christmas music -- until Boney M's Mary's Boychild began to play. Then she was up on her feet, dancing her heart out. Jingle Bells followed, and I stopped my ribbon curling activities and danced with her, absorbed by her single-minded devotion to moving her body to the beat. It was a moment of pure and simple happiness.

I wish all my readers some pure-and-simple-happiness-moments in the days and weeks ahead!

And here's another happiness moment -- if you're in the Edmonton area, please join us at Eglise St. Thomas D'Aquin (8410 89 Street) next Monday, December 18th at 7 p.m. for the Annual L'Arche Edmonton Christmas Pageant (and Craft Sale). All are welcome!

* I use pseudonyms for the names of my L'Arche friends.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Comfort for the Second Sunday of Advent

When I heard the reading from Isaiah today,
this is what I heard God saying to me:

"I comfort you
through the care
of those who love you.

"I speak tenderly to you
through gentle words,
soft eyes
and warm embraces of others.

"Your only punishments
are the ones you design for yourself --
I am not a punishing God.

"If you let me help you
to make room for me in your days,
together we can create
Jesus and the Lamb
by American artist Katherine Brown
a straight highway through the desert.
I love to write straight with crooked lines.

"If you offer to me both your low valleys
and your mountain-top experiences,
if we work together to smooth
the rough and uneven places
that trip you up
on your journey home,
glory will come naturally --
my gift and promise to you.

"I, your God, am with you.
Don't be afraid.

"I am strong and faithful
and I gift you with my love,
visible in all that I have made.

"I care for you
as shepherds feed their lambs,
your ear against my heart,
and I care for
and carry all people that way
whether they know me or not."

And all I can say is, "Thank you, my God."


(You can read the wonderful scripture this reflection is based on in Chapter 40 of the book of Isaiah.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

A forgotten bike's lament


I've been sitting here all alone, waiting.
Parked since last spring, waiting.
Through rain and hail and wind and snow, waiting.

See the leaves under my wheels under the snow?
And the super lock that awaits a key?
And the training wheels that never came off?

I'm somebody's dream bike 
with Spiderman webs between my handle bars.

But I've been forgotten somehow.

Won't somebody please come find me
and set me free for someone else to love?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Change is inevitable

Things are always changing. And lately I'm marveling at the changes coming to the city skyline. It's definitely in an in-between stage at the moment -- several skyscrapers are going up in different places, and they change almost daily. Edmonton is having a construction boom, and the crane lights on the latest buildings, one of which will be at least 60 stories, are visible all over the city, but most especially when we walk along the river bank at night.

Just for interest's sake, below are three skyline pictures -- the first from 1975, the second from 2011, and the third taken yesterday. I'll be posting again when those skyscrapers on the right hand side are complete -- you can probably bet on it.

Change is inevitable -- except from a vending machine.
 --Robert C. Gallagher




Sunday, December 3, 2017

Music for the First Sunday of Advent

Whenever today's reading from Isaiah comes around on this First Sunday of Advent of Year B, the song below springs to mind (thanks to Maureen Ward for posting it on YouTube). It's not like I ever heard it very often, because we never sang it in church -- it seems too orchestral or choral for most music ministers to manage (unless, perhaps, you belong to a big church with a good-sized choir). But it has remained in the recesses of my mind, waiting for Isaiah's words to bring it back out into the open.

Somehow, the lyrics taken from Isaiah coupled with the melody always set my heart to aching... and once again, that longing and yearning for justice, peace, and goodness to reign is really underlined for me this Advent. I'm so tired of bad news, the daily distractions tweeted by a certain politician, and stories of environmental disasters caused by human greed. I'm ready for God to rupture the heavens and come to our aid. Aren't you?

But perhaps the real reason that this song has stuck with me all these years is the alternate ostinato that affirms, "My shepherd is the Lord; there is nothing I shall need. Fresh and green are the pastures where he leads..." Advent is a juxtaposition of desperate longing and anticipatory hope, the state I find myself in on this First Sunday of Advent in 2017. So I share this song for the sake of any of my readers who can relate.

Have a blessed Advent...