Sunday, March 18, 2018

The days are surely coming

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Jeremiah 31: 31-34.

You are making
a new covenant with us,
O God.

We don't deserve it,
but that's just who you are.

You stand by us no matter what.

You give us life.

You surround us with beauty, goodness, and truth,
and we neglect to notice,
or worse, spoil it.

But you are putting a new law within us
even as we see
how our old laws are failing us.

You are writing better ways on our hearts:
ways of openness and inclusion,
ways of peace and humility,
ways of compassion and love for all your creatures.

You are our God
and we are your people.

The days are surely coming
when we will all know
that you are present in all that you have made,
and we will respond to your presence
in all things
with the respect that you
and they deserve.

The broken covenant won't be broken any more
because we will walk in harmony
with all your creatures
and with you,
Friend at our side.


Here's a lovely, newer melody (by David Haas) for the old hymn taken from St. Patrick's Breastplate...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Simple Suggestion #273... Start a seed

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Well, almost. Spring starts early when you're a gardener, and after a long winter, getting my hands back into dirt is always wonderful!

By the end of harvest in autumn, I'm always too tuckered to tidy up the greenhouse, even. So it sits, a jumble of pots and dead plants, until the sun gets higher, the days get longer, and the hothouse gets hotter -- it reached 35 degrees earlier this week. That's a clear sign that it's time to get on with things.

Now the pots are sorted, the shelves are cleaned, the floor is swept, the thermostat/heater and seedling heat mats are re-installed, and planting begins.

On the left are 40 tomato plants for me (and a few extras for my mom and friends), and on the right, three large pots of lettuce and some small planters for perennials. I brought in a few pails of snow because ordinary precipitation is better for these future babies than ordinary tap water.

Indoors, my little windowsill herb garden is growing quite happily, including one marigold seed that I found on my desk back in January! It seems to be doing better than the oregano that is also growing in that pot (probably stealing all the soil nutrients). And there are a few peppers slowly coming up -- they need more consistent heat than the greenhouse provides (on sunless days it sits between 7 and 16 degrees, colder than peppers like) so I'll keep them indoors for a little longer.

In a world where we are so often separated from the sources of our food and walled off from nature, it's really important for me -- for all of us, though not all of us know it -- to find a way back to seeds, soil, and green growing things, even if it's just a little jam jar on a windowsill. We all need some connection to the mysterious Source of Life somehow -- I'm sure our souls are healthier for it!

So today's Simple Suggestion is to start a seed. Any seed. Watch it grow, and feel your soul expand with it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

It's Jay's birthday

Our youngest is suddenly 18. An adult, according to Alberta law, but still very much a kid at heart. My prayer is that Jay will never lose their child-likeness, that they will always remember that we are here for them, and that they can continue to be true to themself, strong, smart, courageous, and still sometimes hilarious as they face the challenges their future holds.

Happy Birthday, Jay! You are always in my heart, even if I can't remember the exact time you were born! (I'm pretty sure it was 12:39 p.m....)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Accepting God's invitation

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Ephesians 2: 4-10.

O God,
your mercy
is worth more than all our wealth.

Your love
is our life.

Your grace
is our salvation.

You seat us with Christ
to show us
that we are your valued children too.

And nothing we can do,
none of our efforts
to deserve your love
or win our place at your table
are necessary.

It is all your gift
and none of our effort
that brings us to your dwelling place.

All we have to do
is believe in our beloved-ness
and your tenderness
and accept your invitation
to participate in the good work
you have called us to do.

Thank you,
Lover of us all.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Special Feature: A local website for International Women's Day

This International Women's Day, I'm sharing the website of a woman who has a heart for women and the incredible challenges many face. I want to draw attention to Missing Cara, which is a beautiful website created by Edmontonian Kathy King.

I have been deeply touched by Kathy and her story on many occasions, mainly because of Kathy's strength and resilience as a woman who lost a daughter to drugs and the sex trade, and who is now a strong advocate for the cause of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and all those who have suffered great losses. Her own loss of Cara is well-chronicled on her website -- a painful, challenging, and inspiring story, with beauty shining through simply because Kathy is a person who thinks deeply about life and loves it well.

Kathy's website is a gorgeous tribute to Cara, and will hold 4 books carrying the story of Cara and many other lost Alberta women -- three books are already available at the bottom of the home page. They're not easy to read, but they are incredibly important if our society is to change the way it reaches out to women in high-risk situations. There is also a page encouraging donations to agencies that support women caught up in the sex trade that I encourage everyone to visit.

Please take today's moodling as a challenge to do all that we can this International Women's Day -- and every day -- in honour of all those women among us who are facing challenges that we can or cannot imagine.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Words, words, words

Today's reflection is brought to you by Psalm 19.

O God,
I've come to a place
where I am tired of words.

I like to think that
you gave us two ears
and one mouth
for obvious reasons.

But we seem
to have gotten mixed up somewhere.

Some of us think
that every word in The Bible
was literally spoken by you
(even the words about violence and vengeance).

We forget that you are compassion and love.

We've gotten into the habit
of thinking that we have to use
many fancy words
to address you,
multitudes of words
repeated endlessly to implore your mercy.

We forget that it's already ours.

Perhaps you'd prefer fewer words
and more silence --
so that we can hear you
in the spaces between all those words.

Only you
have the (gently spoken) words
of everlasting life:
perfect, reviving words,
words that are pure and wise,
full of what's right,
of clarity and light,
enduring and true,
finer than gold,
and sweeter than honey, too.

Thank you, God,
for your gift of words.

Heaven knows I've spoken too many.

I'll listen now.


Friday, March 2, 2018

Simple Suggestion #272... Keep on recycling

Two weeks ago, at conference for members of a charitable organization I volunteer with, I was stunned to hear a facilitator announce, "The City of Edmonton is no longer recycling." As if the end of recycling was a done deal.


As a Master Composter Recycler, I quickly jumped in to try to set the record straight. Yes, the City of Edmonton's Waste Management Branch is facing some challenges, but recycling continues! (I don't think the facilitator read the entire newspaper article on which she was basing her statement.)

The Waste Management Branch, the City's utility committee, and City Council are working to come up with improvements in the way our waste is handled. One idea is to get residents to do more sorting of their own waste -- by providing them with different bins for separating organics from plastics, metals, glass, and paper, so that different items aren't contaminated by being squished together in the trucks that haul them to the recycling facility. Another idea is to refuse to pick up yard waste like grass clippings (because it's actually much smarter to leave them on the lawn rather than spend fossil fuels trucking them around). And I'm sure there are many other options being discussed.

The City of Edmonton's Waste Management has been in the news lately because it hasn't lived up to its very ambitious plan to divert 90% of residential waste from our landfill, but we can't let that stop us from recycling all that we can. And along with recycling, we can also do our best to reduce waste at the source by buying items with less packaging, by taking simple steps to reduce single-use items in our lives (for example, by using travel mugs, cloth shopping bags, mesh produce bags, and I hope you can name a dozen other possibilities), and by learning to compost our kitchen scraps and yard waste.

Even if you don't live in the Edmonton area, we have to keep on reducing our impact on this planet, and the best way is simply to use fewer resources in the first place, opt out of consumerism wherever possible, share our resources, and recycle what's left over from our daily lives however possible.

It's a huge challenge, and it's a bandwagon that we all need to jump on and stay on. Don't let anyone tell you to give up on recycling. Do your own research on methods if need be, and keep on recycling!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

If we could all sing together like this

Here's something really beautiful... Imagine a world where we could all drop our politics and ideologies and sing from the heart like these people. And then imagine that the positive feelings that flow from sharing such beautiful music surrounds the planet and fills every being on earth...

Thousands of Jews and Muslims sing One Day in perfect harmony: A spectacular musical achievement that is as inspiring as it is impressive – the Kololam project

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Who will separate us?

O Christ,
you came to remind us
that we are all God's children,
brothers and sisters
in the Trinity.

You justify us
by your unfathomable love for us.
As St. Paul notes in his letter to the Romans (8:31b-35, 37),
nothing can separate us from you.

If God is for us,
nothing is against us...
except, perhaps, ourselves.

In hardship,
or distress,
or persecution,
or famine,
or nakedness,
or peril,
or violence,
you are with us.

You showed us how
to face all of these things
through your passion and death.

And though we may also face
insurmountable trials,
we rise with you.

In truly following you,
we learn to respond with love
even when we are afraid,
to trust you
no matter what.

And since you are love
and we are also responding with love,
nothing can ever come between us.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Update #1 -- Little things for ME

It seems to me that I promised to report back on how the word of the year for 2018, Me, is being used to help my best friend, Cathy, and me focus on what we often neglect...

"Me" too easily gets pushed to the margins of life when too many other things are going on. It's natural to put ourselves last when the people around us are in need.

So what am I doing for me in 2018? Well, I've been reading some pretty enjoyable books, including Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford, The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale, A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (these last two are Canadian mystery writers -- if you've never read them, I recommend them!)

I'm almost finished crocheting a blanket. There's something satisfying about completing a tangible and tactile project like that.

I've seen a couple of good movies, The Greatest Showman, which I've already moodled about, and The Darkest Hour (about Winston Churchill's first month as Prime Minister during WWII).

I've been more consistent with my practice of morning meditation.

I've listened to a podcast or two from one of my favourite places on earth, Taizé.

I've been to one coffee house (where I got to sing with my daughter and her friend) and a few coffee shops just to read and have some ME time while waiting for another daughter who has weekly appointments.

The Muttart Conservatory was a good place for me to be on a chilly winter afternoon, admiring the Lunar New Year Pavilion for the year of the Dog with my daughter.

Speaking of dogs, I've taken them on long walks, which is good for my health, too.

I've spent a fair bit of time writing emails to dear friends, and indulging my creative spirit with these moodlings.

And I've played Words with Friends (online scrabble) for an entire evening without guilt.

Really, I'm not doing anything much different -- but when I am intentionally doing these things with the idea that they're good for my mental health, I'm giving myself permission to really enjoy them rather than feeling like I should be doing other things. It's a shift in consciousness -- that it's okay to relax and indulge in the little things that make me happy. Life is challenging enough without feeling guilty about my small pleasures.

Cathy's ME year is turning out to be more challenging than mine, as she just lost her dad to an unexpectedly short recurrence of cancer. But we will carve out a little bit of ME time in the midst of sorrow when Lee and I drive to Saturday's memorial service. On Sunday evening, Cathy and I are planning to enjoy a bottle of wine and each other's company, chatting and crying and laughing and maybe even singing together. There's usually some singing!

I'm learning that time for ME doesn't have to be extraordinary. It just has to be noticed in the muddle of ordinary life.

What are you doing for you this year?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Garden dreaming

It gets to the point where a garden girl like me starts to get a little bit tired of winter. Especially when the days are getting longer, the fabulous February sun is rising higher, and the temperature in the greenhouse starts to reach up to 13 or 15 degrees Celcius in mid-afternoon. I've been dreaming of my tulips and spring bulbs having their own dreams about emerging from the dark into glorious Spring days!

It doesn't matter if the garden looks like this today...

because I go here and place a seed order 
and start planning what goes where 
for the Spring of 2018. 

And then it's not long before this starts happening, 
almost against my will...

(but not really!)

Today I planted my leeks, a few red onions, some herbs and peppers, and set them on a seedling heat mat. You can bet that as soon as my seed order arrives in the next week or so, I'll be planting a few more things. Come March, the babies will all move out to the greenhouse.

Winter can't keep us garden girls down for too long!!

Sunday, February 18, 2018


This week, my friend Nora sent me the music video below -- thanks, Nora! The song has been percolating in the background of my consciousness, and it strikes me as a good fit with today's reflection.

It's unfortunate,
how our language often limits your message.

That word,
for example,
which conjures up images
of hellfire preachers
rather than your deeper message
about learning to really love.

Your word,
is so much better.


Change your heart.

Change your mind.

Change yourself.

Change the way you see others.

Change the world.

You tell us
that "the time is fulfilled,
the reign of God is near;"
"and believe in the good news,"
you say.

What good news?
we ask --
most of our "news" is not good.

But you are telling us
that this is the good news:

to see people as God sees them.

to love people as God loves them.

to look deeper than skin deep.

And suddenly,
the reign of God is NOW.

Help us,
to change our point of view,
to see the world as you do,
and to BE your good news
through the love we offer our world.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018 Ecumenical Prayer Schedule

Below you will find our schedule for our 2018 Ecumenical Prayer, formerly advertised as Taizé Prayer. I've realized, though, that it's not right to call it Taizé Prayer... saying "Ecumenical Prayer in the style of Taizé," or "using the chants of Taizé" would be better. A semantic thing, perhaps, but the Brothers prefer that the ecumenical aspect of the prayer be the emphasis, rather than Taizé.

This Sunday's prayer is going to be really special, as it's the 5th anniversary of the young adults at St. Thomas D'Aquin adopting Taizé chants into their own prayer group. They are planning to show a beautiful little 10-minute video about Taizé at the beginning of the evening, and will serve anniversary cake after the prayer for all participants. But best of all, they requested that we pray with some of the Taizé community's most beautiful French chants, and honestly, there's something extra special in those melodies -- they carry such yearning and desire that it somehow brings God even closer, I think.

So if you are looking for a wonderful way to get into the spirit of Lent, look no further, and join us this Sunday evening, 7 pm at Eglise St. Thomas D'Aquin, 8410 89 St. And if you would like a printable copy of the poster below, drop me an email and I can send you a .pdf file to print.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sunday reflection on a Monday: No one is an outcast

Image result for Blanket exerciseOn Saturday, I attended a Blanket Exercise held at a local community league. It was a deeply moving experience that isn't easy to moodle about (hence my Sunday reflection has taken me longer than usual), but I really want to share it here and to encourage any of my readers who haven't experienced the Blanket Exercise to do so.

About two dozen people, a third of them of Aboriginal descent, gathered Saturday afternoon to walk through Canadian history as experienced by the First Nations people of Canada. We spread blankets on the floor to represent the land, and all of us who stood together on the blankets represented Inuit, Metis, and Aboriginal people who lived on the land before colonialism. One facilitator narrated the exercise, while another represented the Europeans who came to Canada beginning in the early 1600s.

Each one of us represented a 'sovereign nation' at the beginning of the exercise, and we mixed and mingled, trading and exchanging with other 'sovereign nations.' When Europeans came, we shared knowledge with them, helping them to survive our harsh winters and discover the abundance of wildlife and food sources in a new land. But the newcomers brought smallpox, which killed many (I 'died' only 5 minutes into the exercise).

Soon European settlers began over-hunting and trapping some animals to near extinction, sending the land's wealth to their countries across the oceans. It wasn't long before they were calling Aboriginal people 'uncivilized' and changing the rules so that all land not being used for 'civilized' purposes belonged to them. And when Aboriginal children were taken from their families to be 'civilized' in Residential Schools, and those who survived were pushed to the margins of Canadian life, whole generations lost their family ties, sense of culture, and self worth.

I am not of First Nations descent -- I am a grandchild of European settlers. So this journey through history according to how First Nations people experienced it was more than eye-opening. The word 'civilize' took on very negative connotations in a hurry, a near equivalent of 'exploit.' And after a week of listening to news reports about ugly racism surrounding the murder trial of Colten Bouchie, the afternoon had even more of an impact when one of our group told us she came from Biggar, Saskatchewan during our post-exercise talking circle. But that's a whole other story that isn't mine to tell. Let's just say that becoming more aware of some of the many injustices that have been dealt to Aboriginal people was overwhelming...

I went from the Blanket Exercise to church,  where Mark's gospel (1:40-45) made it clear that according to Jesus, everyone is to be treated with equity and justice. Jesus reached out and touched the man with leprosy, letting him know he was an important member of the community. The lepers of Jesus' time were outcasts because of fear of their disease. And First Nations people are on the margins of our society now because colonizers and their descendants didn't bother to even try to understand them or their way of life. It's one thing to be quarantined, but it's another to be ostracized. Jesus knew the difference and used his ability to heal to restore community. And we are called to do the same.

Our First Nations sisters and brothers have many reasons to resent all the non-aboriginal peoples who have come to Canada over the last 400 years. Our prejudice, and our blindness to the inter-generational trauma they are still experiencing from being forced onto reserves and into residential schools are only a few of many issues that should be enough to break our hearts and open us to compassion and a deep desire to heal our relationship. The Blanket Exercise made it clear that there is still much to do for true reconciliation to happen. And it starts with each one of us. We are all called to reach out and touch those who have been treated like outcasts the way Jesus did.

During the Blanket Exercise, as I heard the mounting evidence of mistreatment and abuse of Aboriginal people at the hands of European colonizers, I felt deeply that, as a privileged European descendant, it should be my turn to be outcast by the Aboriginal members of the post-exercise talking circle. They had every right to be angry, and I felt afraid to approach them because I didn't know what to say or how to apologize. But because the First Nations people in our circle already knew the hurt caused by injustice and marginalization, they didn't wish it on me. They just wanted healing, and were so grateful to everyone who came to share in their story. So I shouldn't have been surprised when two beautiful Aboriginal women came and hugged me first.

No one is an outcast when reconciliation really takes hold.

If you haven't been to a Blanket Exercise yet, I can't recommend it enough. For more information about Blanket Exercises, click here.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Praying with Anthony

My heart is sad today. During my volunteer time at L'Arche Day Program this morning, I learned that my friend Anthony* is dying of cancer.

Although he hasn't been to Day Program since before Christmas, Anthony has been part of it for about three years now, and his presence touched me deeply. He always had a smile for me when I greeted him. He loved to walk to the garden and help pick things in the fall. When we had coffee together in the mornings, sometimes we would play a game or roll a crayon back and forth between us. Our friendship was simple.

But what I will always remember about Anthony is the way he prays. During our community prayer time, when everyone was invited to pray their personal prayers, Anthony's mumbled prayer was very fervent and sincere:

"Bless my mom and my dad" (and numerous other people whose names were hard to make out). "Read my bible, God's word. Light a candle, God's light. I pray for L'Arche, and Day Program, and Barb (his favourite assistant) and..." (more people from Day Program, I think, but he spoke so softly it was often hard to hear and understand him).

And it seemed the longer Anthony was with us, the longer his prayers got. He was really, really talking to God, and asking for blessings, over and over and over again. We hated to cut him off, but he probably would have prayed the entire morning away, eyes closed and hands folded, in spite of others getting quite antsy.

Anthony's relationship with God was clearly a very special part of his life. And I'm sure his reunion with God will be a real celebration, though we will miss him here.

* I use pseudonyms for my L'Arche friends.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Vocation: no spectators allowed

I love this Sunday's reading from Mark's gospel (1:29-39). It shows us that Jesus was a busy guy, doing what he was called to do. He went to synagogue to pray with his community, healed Simon Peter's mom in the afternoon, and cured people of illnesses and cast out demons later that evening. Then I'm guessing he snatched a few hours of sleep before getting up while it was still dark to converse with God in a deserted place before continuing his efforts to spread God's love. He lived his vocation, his God-given call to love and serve, to the fullest, and he encouraged his own disciples to do the same. They weren't allowed to be spectators very long before he sent them out to do as he did.

I think we all know what it is to be busy, but how often do we recognize our busy-ness as part of God's plan for us? Do we see it as our vocation, or is it just how life is? Are we living our vocation to the fullest, using all our gifts and talents the way God wants, or are we weekend spectators?

I don't know about you, but I often feel that, while I am doing my best to live my vocation during the week, balancing busyness with prayer, I am often relegated to being a spectator when it comes to my participation in church.

That's not the case at the Emmaus Inclusive Catholic Community I belong to, which continues to meet monthly even though we lost our Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Ruthie, to cancer on Easter Sunday last year (for a simple version of Ruthie's story, click here). Ruthie's vocation inspired us all to commit to the Emmaus community, to make it part of our own vocation, our God-given call to love and serve through a deeper participation in liturgy itself.

When Ruthie joined the heavenly Easter Celebrations a year ago, our Emmaus Community faced many questions -- the main one being, how will we continue without our Roman Catholic Woman Priest friend? Ruthie had tried to plan for her succession, but none of her community felt called to the priesthood as she was. So we had to come up with an alternate plan for our monthly Sunday gatherings. And what has happened is that we've all been called to live our own vocation to the priesthood of believers more deeply.

One of our group wrote a beautiful agape liturgy of thanksgiving. Agape is a Greek word referring to the love of God for us and our love for God, the highest kind of love that exists. So now we share a simple liturgy of the word (using Sunday's scriptures) and a liturgy of thanksgiving with unconsecrated bread and wine. I like to think that what we are doing is what the earliest Christians did in memory of Jesus; to tell the stories, break the bread, pour the wine, and celebrate our relationship with God and those God calls us to serve.

What I appreciate most is that our agape, while it incorporates basic traditional liturgical prayers, is much simpler than what happens in most Catholic churches on a Sunday. We use the Sunday readings, and one person offers a 'homily' that invites others to share as well. We pray the prayers of the faithful, asking God for the world's needs and our own. Before we break the bread and share the wine, we participate in a simple giving of thanks to God -- we each name those things and people in our lives for which we are grateful. We pray the Lord's prayer. No theological training or liturgical expertise is required for our prayer service -- anyone can 'preside,' and everyone else can respond. We take turns.

And it strikes me that perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to show us with his life -- that our God-given call to love and serve requires us all to use our gifts, and none of us should be held back from living our vocation because we aren't one specific gender or have a specific education. Each of us carries certain wisdom, gifts, and talents from our own lives, and we are meant to share them in community. Some of us like to sing, some like to preach, others bake delicious bread, and everyone has ideas about and experiences with the scriptures. We know our gathering is not a full mass, but it feels richer when we all actively share our own vocations through participating more fully in different aspects of the liturgy. No spectators allowed.

February has long been designated as Vocations Awareness month, and this year, I would like to challenge the Church to broaden its understanding of vocation, to do more to incorporate the priesthood of all believers into Sunday liturgies that could be far more participatory and much less a spectator sport. Present liturgy, while it holds a certain familiarity and comfort for many, allows for too much passive participation. Annie Dillard said we shouldn't wear hats to church, but crash helmets. Just think what might happen if the people of God were invited to step out of their pews, time-worn habits, and prayers to answer their God-given call to love and serve -- as Jesus did in the Gospels -- on Sunday mornings and beyond.

No spectators allowed, and maybe the world would change!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Talking Circles to heal a nation

On a snowy day last week, my daughter and I participated in a women's Talking Circle at one of our city libraries. Christina called and invited me at the last minute, and suspecting that a Talking Circle might have something to do with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, I agreed to attend with her.

(In case you missed my earlier Moodlings about the TRC, Canada has a long history of mistreatment of our Aboriginal peoples, most especially through the Residential School System, which saw Aboriginal children taken from their families and put into schools far from their homes run by government and churches. The idea was to destroy the Aboriginal culture and replace it with a version of state-sanctioned Christianity -- your basic cultural genocide of the First Peoples in a country being settled by Europeans. The damage done by the Residential Schools is multi-generational, and many of the problems faced by our Indigenous brothers and sisters continue. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's efforts to address these injustices led to 94 Calls to Action, many of which are still only on paper.)

Our Talking Circle was facilitated by Sharon, one of Christina's university professors, and it began with a feast of bannock (!) and delicious beef stew. Chairs were arranged in a circle, and about a dozen of us sat together, discussing the snowy day for starters.

Soon Sharon gave us a page explaining talking circles. I was struck by this quote:
"The Circle has healing power. In the Circle, we are all equal. When in the Circle, no one is in front of you. No one is behind you. No one is above you. No one is below you. The Sacred Circle is designed to create unity..." 
-Dave Chief, Oglala Lakota, Grandson of Red Dog/Crazy Horse's Band.

Sharon, who has a Métis background, began our gathering by acknowledging that we were gathered on Treaty Six Territory, and offered a brief prayer and welcome song with her drum. Then she invited us to smudge, though the library didn't allow the burning of sage or sweet grass. We passed around the sacred medicines -- sage, sweetgrass and diamond willow fungus -- enjoying their fragrances. Then we stood in our circle as each woman smudged imaginary smoke from the medicines in an abalone shell over our five senses and our bodies as we prayed for healing. Sharon shared with us a link to a scientific study that showed that the use of medicinal smoke reduces environmental toxins in a room, and I'm sure our Aboriginal sisters and brothers have many other wholistic practices that come from ancient earth wisdom. It was a calming, meditative start to our afternoon.

Then Sharon invited us to share our names and our genetic backgrounds, as each speaker held her turtle rattle. A talking circle is just that -- a place where a person who holds a special object has the opportunity to talk, and the rest of the people in the circle listen with respect and without judging, until it is passed to the next person. It turned out that a third of our group had some indigenous heritage, and the rest of us were children of "settlers" in Canada. So much history, so many things to be healed.

The second time around the circle, Sharon invited us to share about something on our heart. And in the sharing, we realized how we were different, and also how we shared many similarities. Struggles, sorrows, illness, joy -- we had all experienced them. I was also quite touched by the elderly Indigenous woman beside me, who passed on her speaking times, content just to listen, though I'm sure she had many stories she could have shared.

One Story, One SongAnd the third time around the circle, Sharon shared a story about a crow who wanted to be an eagle, from aboriginal author Richard Wagamese's book, One Story, One Song (2011, Douglas & MacIntyre, ISBN 1553665060). It spoke to all of us in different ways, and we expressed how the story fit with our lives. Then Sharon closed the circle with one more prayer, and we said our farewells and headed home through the snowy afternoon.

To experience a sharing circle with complete strangers made me see how Dave Chief's words about it having healing power and creating unity is absolutely true. Each person listened respectfully to everyone else, and though we came from diverse backgrounds as people of Aboriginal and settler heritage, the stories told and the tears that flowed bound us together in friendship in two short hours.

I am someone who is very aware of the privilege I've grown up with, and the suffering of many of my sisters and brothers of Indigenous heritage, so I was a little apprehensive about how a circle would actually work. But it did work because no one blamed or judged anyone else, everyone was respected, and deep truths were spoken. We were all invited to share, we all listened, and we all came away with a deeper appreciation for each other's lived experience.

I'm not sure if Talking Circles are part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action, but I really hope so. I'll have to read them to find out. Regardless, reconciliation requires sharing of life, deep listening to the struggles, hurts and joys of others, and a respect that leads to friendship. At our women's talking circle, we got a preview of what healing our nation, healing the mistreatment of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, and healing settler biases and prejudices could look like.

Hope for healing Canada comes through forgiveness, friendship, and community. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a talking circle, I'd highly recommend it.

And I think Richard Wagamese's book will be worth a read, too -- I'm going to borrow Christina's copy!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Two little dogs

Button and Shadow
A friend of mine had her back surgery date bumped up earlier than expected. so for the past week, Button, her little black dog, has been our house guest.

Button is much like Shadow when it comes to size, sound, colour, and appreciation for stroking and snuggling, and that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Button is long and lanky. Shadow is short and stocky.

Button has energy to burn at a moment's notice. Shadow prefers to laze around.

Call Button, and she's Button-on-the-spot. Call Shadow... and he gets there... eventually...

Button goes up stairs in leaps and bounds. Shadow's short legs mean he takes one step at a time -- front paws, back paws, front paws, back paws...

Button jumps onto my lap or onto furniture no problem. Shadow whines to get up.

Button likes to chase and fetch her toys. Shadow watches things get thrown around.

If you say the word "walk," Button is at the back door five minutes ago, trying to put on her own leash. Shadow is hiding.

On walks, Button follows her nose. Shadow's eyes are always on the lookout for jack rabbits, squirrels or magpies, and he's ready to chase a car at a moment's notice. This confuses Button.

Button daintily picks a few kibbles from her food dish, sets them on the floor, and eats them a few at a time. Shadow inhales his.

They both seem a bit wary, or maybe slightly jealous, of each other -- Button of the somewhat grumpy dog who was here first, Shadow of the waggy interloper who seems to have won the affections of his humans.

I'm giggling as I type all this. It's been fun to have two dogs for the past week. They keep us laughing! And in spite of their differences, they both have loving hearts. Thanks, Eleanor -- we've enjoyed this experience!

It's another cold winter day, so we three just took a short walk (Shadow wears boots -- Button doesn't), and now I think I'll take Shadow and cuddle on the couch. Button will jump up and join us, no question!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

L'Arche time

I haven't said much about L'Arche for quite some time, but I'm still happily spending small chunks of my life with the community.

On the weekend, we had our annual Solidarity Bowl-a-thon to raise funds for our sister L'Arche communities in the developing world. It's a great cause and it's always a lot of fun. Lizzy and Cassandra were both delighted to beat my score!

On Monday morning I hung out with my friends at Day Program as I often do, having coffee, socializing, enjoying our little prayer time, and participating in the scheduled activities. Mondays are a good day for having one-on-one time with core members, watering plants with Lucy*, dancing with Leanne, coloring with Anthony, or setting puzzles with Cassandra.

But my L'Arche time on Monday afternoon was extra special. The entire community was called together for a meeting, with the assistants (persons without disabilities) in one room and our 22 core members (persons with disabilities) across the hall. Carmel, a long-time community member, three seminarians who have been staying in three of our homes for their practicum in the month of January, and myself enjoyed a rare opportunity to be with our core member friends without the assistants (who have an energy all their own). Though we didn't really have much of a plan for the afternoon, one soon evolved.

We started by singing different core members' favourite songs. Lark loves Home on the Range, and Joe led us in a rousing version of It's a Long Way to Tipperary, while Keith was hoping we'd sing Taking Care of Business (I'm afraid we didn't manage that one). I can't begin to remember all the songs we sang and drummed and shook shakers to. It turned out that Jonathan, one of the seminarians, knew a slew of camp songs with some hilarious actions!

When our voices needed a break, we all made and signed a get-well card for a community member who just had surgery and a birthday card for one of the assistants. We talked about life in community and named each core member along a community timeline -- who came to L'Arche Edmonton at the very beginning, and who came most recently. We had a wonderful conversation about the ups and downs of living in community, and we closed our time together with prayer. When the assistants' meeting finally ended, we all enjoyed a chicken supper together.

I can't help but feel that we were on holy ground for those few hours that we were together yesterday. It's rare to have just the core members meet together like that, and while there were a few shorter tempers and some moments when we wondered how we'd keep a hungry group happy, for the most part, they led the gentle pace of the afternoon just by their interactions.

Talking, singing and telling stories with our core members, and being part of their sharing only underlined the goodness of L'Arche. They truly are the heart of our community, our teachers, and our society could take many lessons from them about what's really important -- friendship, humility, and generosity of spirit. They carry a gentleness and wisdom from which the world needs to learn!

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

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday Reflection: To go with the Divine flow

What follows is my homily this Sunday for the Emmaus Inclusive Catholic Community, which continues to meet monthly even though we lost our Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Ruthie, last Easter. Tune in for more about the Emmaus Community next Sunday.

The Sunday scriptures both last week and this week have spoken about what it takes to be a prophet – last week we heard about Jonah, the prophet who didn’t want to go to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-5,10) but finally did (after taking a detour through a fish’s belly), and this week we hear about Moses (Deut. 18:15-20) begging God to appoint a new prophet to the Israelites. It seems that hearing God’s voice and seeing God’s fire got to be too much for Moses, and he was afraid he’d die if it kept on happening. Moses and Jonah found that hearing and responding to what God wants can pretty challenging. Does that resonate with you at all?

And then there’s Jesus, the Son of God, the most connected prophet of them all. In today’s reading (Mark 1:21-28) the people are enthralled by him, saying, “He speaks with authority! Even the unclean spirits obey him!” And the excitement around him builds, and his fame spreads, at least until he starts challenging them to look at their own lives.

Being a prophet IS hard work, because you can’t be a really good prophet unless you’ve done the work that gets your own ego out of the way and unless you know who you’re talking about, like Jesus clearly did. Both Moses and Jonah weren’t quite up to the challenges God set for them, but Jesus managed to hear God’s voice and see God’s fire and speak God’s truth because he knew himself to be God’s child, God’s beloved, and he trusted God to take care of the rest. Moses and Jonah seem to have developed small “God complexes” thanks to their egos – saying to themselves, God wants this, but maybe it would be better if I did it my way – and they got steered off course a few times.

I’m guessing that’s because it’s just too easy to second-guess God. When things are moving along smoothly and life is going according to our plans, prayers of thanksgiving and praise flow naturally. But when God asks for things that seem chaotic and beyond our control, our egos spring into action to try to fix things. Maybe we harden our hearts a little. We make excuses, we come up with alternate plans, and we forget how to listen to what God really wants and do it God's way. For me, prayer usually goes out the window when I jump into fix-it-myself mode.

But Jesus spent a lot of time listening to God. He prayed so that he could go with the Divine Flow instead of what his ego told him. The only thing he ever said that sounded like second-guessing God was when he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  But I think what he was really doing was showing us that it’s okay to be human, to have doubts and fears, as long as you leave everything in God’s loving hands. That’s the ultimate challenge. Which he accepted and fulfilled, on that cross.

I’ll admit to having second-guessed God many times in my life, never with good results. The most recent is in dealing with my youngest child, who came out recently as a non-binary, asexual teenager. Jay has gone through a legal name change now so that their legal identity fits who they feel that they are, neither a boy nor a girl, but somewhere in between. Jay is Jay.

Unfortunately, through it all, my "God complex", my ego, kept insisting that Jay was just passing through a phase, or attention-seeking, or going through teenage self-esteem issues and insecurities, and that they’d get over it, given enough time. In the meantime, I took on a lot of guilt and self-blame for Jay’s “being this way.” I was second-guessing God, not believing that God could make my child different gender-wise, and feeling that it was my fault somehow. How is a person who was raised with a bible that announces in its first few pages, “male and female God created them,” supposed to get their mind around gender identities outside of those two boxes?

Short answer: by putting aside my own ego, and a bible written by humans who don’t really understand the huge heart of God, and by not second-guessing God. By understanding that God has a much wider view of humanity than most humans ever will. God made Jay, and Jay’s experience of being non-binary isn’t my experience or the experience of most people I know, but does that make it impossible?  With God, all things are possible.

Jay is a young adult who is coming to know themself and their way of being in the world, a really wonderful kid with a huge heart, a creative spirit, and a marvelous sense of humour. So getting my ego, my education, my background and my religious upbringing out of the way and accepting Jay as God made them is what I believe God has been asking of me for quite a while already. It just took me some time to get the message because I was scared, like Jonah and Moses. I wasn’t entrusting the situation into God’s loving hands because I was afraid that God was asking too much of Jay, and of me.

And don’t get me wrong – God is asking a lot. I worry for Jay. I know that our world operates out of those female and male boxes, and that there are many people who are afraid of the kind of diversity that God is giving us through people like Jay. I’m afraid of the backlash from those fearful people. But Jay is brave, and is teaching me to be brave, to set my ego aside and trust our Creator who made Jay as they are. Just as Jesus trusted God with his life.

I started by talking about prophets and their struggles. And I guess my point here is that we are all prophets in one way or another. God calls all of us to set aside our biases and egos and let God work through us rather than in spite of us. That’s what Jesus did. We may not think of ourselves as prophets if we aren’t out there challenging the world. But if prophets are those who bring messages from God to people, isn’t that what we are all doing by living the gospel? We are called to trust, to set our egos aside and to let God work through us, even in ways like the one I've just shared with you.

So where is God asking you to set your ego aside and trust -- so that God’s will, that Divine flow, can be revealed to others through you?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Simple Suggestion #271... Shop like a hunter

Have you seen this sign?

I don't think that way. I love shopping with my hubby. He and I are what you might call hunter-shoppers, like the first human beings were hunter-gatherers, and we like it that way.

What I mean is that when we shop, we don't waste time or energy on wandering around window shopping and getting side-tracked by stuff that we don't need. We make a list of what's necessary, imagine the most efficient route to get to the places we need to go, and tick things off the list as we collect them.

For example, last weekend, we needed a few groceries, a replacement part for a broken blade on my food processor, two watch battery replacements, and Lee needed some new pants. I wasn't sure we could accomplish all that in the two hours we had before I needed to get home for a music rehearsal. But Lee was determined.

So we stopped at a parts place for the food processor blade (tick one) on our way to a watch repair place. While the lady there needed twenty minutes to replace our watch batteries (tick two), we crossed the parking lot to a grocery store (tick three). Then we drove a little further and found a men's wear store where Lee got his new pants (tick four). We made it home with ten extra minutes for me to grab a bite before practicing music.

What's so great about that? 

We took less than two hours to complete four errands and came home with exactly what we needed, no more and no less. Our trip was efficient, used as little fossil fuel as we could manage, didn't cost more than we'd budgeted, and incurred no extra consumption of the planet's resources than was necessary.

Shopping has become a pastime for many people in North America -- we've become a society that fills our homes to the rafters and garages to the driveways with unnecessary things, all of which will have to go somewhere else when we go. Lee and I used to be like that, but since we began to practice Voluntary Simplicity, we've changed our ways.

Shopping like a hunter means determining what's required and getting it and only it, so that we aren't adding to the earth's burden of wasted resources and have more time for doing the things that make us truly happy. We know that "They who die with the most toys add the most to the landfill" and rather than doing that, we can think of people we'd like to spend more time with, activities or recipes we've always wanted to try, books we've always wanted to read, et cetera, et cetera...

As Lee says when we are shopping, "Get in. Get out. Get on with better things."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A move recommendation

On Sunday, my sisters and I went to see The Greatest Showman, a recent movie about P. T. Barnum and his circus dreams. While I can't comment on the real P. T. Barnum's life or his motives, I can comment on a feel-good sleeper of a movie with great music and stunning visuals, and a strong message about the value of every person and being true to self. It's definitely a movie to see on the big screen if you still can. I was amazed by the choreography and cinematography of this eye- and ear-pleaser.

The Greatest Showman is a beautiful, joyful, uplifting flick and a great way to get rid of the winter blahs! Just remember, we are all glorious!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fishers of people

We are all fishers of people,
O God,
though some of us
are more successful
than others.

Perhaps we need to look at our bait.

Do we speak with fire and brimstone
or joy and humility?

Do we reach out with dogma and doctrine
or simplicity and tenderness?

Do we listen to others with judgment and condemnation
or forgiveness and compassion?

Do we offer burdens of guilt
or smiles and helping hands?

Do we display pious pretenses
or do we live your gospel
through a real relationship with you
and the people with whom you surround us?

Please, teach us to fish for people
with the kind of love you offer to each of us.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Simple Suggestion #270... Take an evening stroll

One of the side benefits of having a dog has been our daily after-supper stroll. My hubby and I have gotten into the habit of setting out shortly after supper for at least a 20-minute walk with Shadow-dog. He seems to need it, or he paces the house and drives us a little crazy. Sometimes we opt for longer walks, and when it's really cold, they're shorter, but it's not the length of time that's important. It's that it happens at all.

On Wednesday night, Lee got home from a business trip to Ottawa/Toronto at about 9:30 p.m., just minutes before I returned from a L'Arche Board Meeting. Shadow hadn't had his walk yet, and we looked at each other and said, "Well, he needs a walk." And we put on our coats and boots and headed out, two hours later than usual. To be honest, we were the ones who needed the stroll more.

An evening walk is a wonderful way to unwind, a good place to review the day and let go of its stresses. Our routine stroll around our neighbourhood gives us a chance to catch up with ourselves and each other after a busy day. Even when Lee isn't here, Shadow and I walk without him. It settles the food in our stomachs, gets the blood flowing, and slows us down for the evening. Sometimes we opt to go a little further afield than our own neighbourhood just for a change, like last week's walk around the Legislature Grounds. Shadow loves a change in routine.

Even when it's cold and icy, we dress warm and head out for a stroll. And we recommend it to anyone who can manage it, all year round. Even if you don't have a dog who needs a walk.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle

During our family's very busy Christmas week, as we attended different gatherings, took a trip to Lethbridge to see Lee's parents, celebrated a 24th birthday, and wished for warmer weather, what I really wanted to do (besides what I was doing) was to put on my pink fuzzy jammies, make some tea, and set a jigsaw puzzle. It's an indulgence I allow myself every Christmas, one of those ME time things that fit with the 2018 Word of the Year, now that I think about it.

Sunday night
I had to wait until January 2nd to get at it this year, and it was worth the wait. This year's puzzle was of a painting of an Italian restaurant corner. It was a brain buster, the kind where you can't even set the edge pieces because they're shaped so strangely that you simply can't separate them all from the inner pieces. And I was never quite sure of the shape of a piece (or pieces) to fill a space until I'd set the ones around it. I'm not sure I would have finished the puzzle without Suzanna's help.

Puzzling is not a steady pastime for me -- it's a once a year thing because it's so time intensive, and my attention span flags due to many competing interests during Christmas break. For the first week, I felt like I was doing well to set ten pieces a day... after all the sorting of similar colours, there was lots of just sitting and looking, trying a piece in a spot, trying a different piece, then picking up the first one, turning it sideways or upside down, and discovering that perhaps it actually did fit in the first place. It was progressing so slowly that I was tempted to put it back in the box after a few days. But then Suzanna set all the tables, and we were committed. Even so, it wasn't until Sunday night that I began to feel like we had it licked!

Last night
At the same time as it's brain-taxing, I find puzzling completely relaxing. My mind is on the puzzle pieces, yes, but there is also room for reflection, conversation or background music. And there's gotta be something addictive about setting a puzzle piece in the right place. Last night I sat at the table saying to myself, "I should go to bed, but I just have to find one piece to fill that space there," "oh, and one more there," "and this one should be really obvious," until it was almost midnight! I wonder what part of the brain lights up when pieces fit. I suspect someone has already done an interesting MRI study!

When you think about it, setting a puzzle is a rather silly way to spend several hours of this one amazing life I've been given. There's nothing permanent to show for it. But maybe that's part of the point. We human beings have a way of thinking that our lives and our possessions will always be there, even though the Psalmist says:
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone --
as though we had never been here. (Psalm 103: 15-16, New Living Translation)
And I might add, we are like a puzzle that is set, dismantled, and gone!

Setting a puzzle isn't a bad metaphor for life. It takes a while to sort things out, to put things in place, and to get things right. Pieces don't always go where we expect them to, and occasionally, one goes missing. Some pieces set together long before we understand how they fit into the whole. But if we keep at it, eventually we see our big picture, imperfect though it is.

All done!
My one puzzle of 2018 is finished. Suzanna and I gave each other a high five as she put in the last piece this afternoon, and we felt that sense of satisfaction that comes from completing a challenge, even though it was a rather frivolous one. I am very aware that there are many people in this world who simply don't have the luxury of time to set a puzzle like this one, and I thought of them, too, and offered a little prayer for them to have a bit of ME time too.

Now I can take down the card table, put the living room back in order and get on with the usual January activities -- work for L'Arche board and school council meetings coming up soon, a pile of books that I should read, an afghan that needs to be finished, ordering seeds -- and planning this year's garden!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Come and see

"Where are you staying, Lord?"
we ask.

"Come and see,"
you reply.

We look --

and there are people of all shapes and sizes
and genders and colours
and abilities and talents

and there are domestic animals that we know and love,
wild ones that we observe from safe distances,
strange ones in the deeps of the jungles and the depths of the oceans
that we will never see with our own eyes

and there are trees
and plants,
macro and micro environments
and a boundless universe
that surround us

an entire creation from A to Z
and alpha to omega
over the whole planet
and beyond

plus heaven (on earth)

-- and if we really look, we see

your presence,
your beauty and goodness and truth
in all that you have made.

And those of us who see
bow down and say,
"We have found the Christ."

Our gratitude and care for all that you offer us
should be the size of the universe.

Teach us how to love you
in all that you have made.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Forget POTUS. Remember Musa?

It's interesting to see and hear peoples' reactions to the latest outrage caused by the US President. Here's my reaction. Instead of going on about POTUS, I want to remind you about Musa.

Remember Musa? He's a beautiful man who happens to have cerebral palsy and who went from his BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY of Kenya to France some time ago, where a lovely #AsIAm video was made about his experience.

Musa's reactions to our world are dead on. He knows what's really important and what's fluff.

And now there's another lovely video about Musa, who brings people together, and helps them to see beauty and goodness. 

Forget about that other guy. The pundits are saying enough. 

Instead, spread Musa's message of positivity around!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A bright spot in the winter

Last Christmas, I sent a teleflora Christmas planter with a bright red amaryllis to my friend Gaby in Belgium. Red for Christmas, of course, but red also because of a wonderful red sweater that Gaby wore as he showed me around Flanders when I was there the previous October. When he comes to mind, he's always wearing that poppy- or amaryllis-red sweater. In his New Year's letter last year, Gaby reported that a beautiful flower was reminding him of our family, and he hoped that maybe he could make her bloom again next Christmas.

When I was placing my annual spring bulb order in September, I noticed that amaryllises of different colours were being offered, and a Red Lion amaryllis bulb immediately joined the tulips on my order form. One amaryllis is twice as pricey as a pack of ten tulip bulbs, but I didn't think twice. I wanted a flower like Gaby's, to remind me of Gaby, and to make our house more Christmassy.

And let me tell you, she didn't disappoint -- she's still going strong!

In these dark winter days with extreme cold warnings, it's wonderful to have a flower bloom indoors, and this one seems to be intent on blooming three different times. Her colour is gorgeous, and I could look at her all day. When she first came out, she was a brash, shiny satin, but now she's deepened into a full, deep red, the colour of the sweater that looks so good on 90-year-old Gaby, who is one of the loves of my life, if you haven't already guessed.

I'm not at all versed in keeping amaryllis, but you can bet that I'll be doing my research to try to keep this one going. Her breathtaking beauty pretty much guarantees that -- pictures don't do her justice. Maybe I'll call her Gabriella.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany and other bloopers

Jesus Christ - Liberator
by Will Wheaton
I'm not exactly sure why, but the Feast of the Epiphany has engendered a few funny events in our parish in recent history. We've probably all heard the joke about the little boy telling his baby sister about how the "three wise guys" go to visit the Holy Family, and there are many other scripture-related jokes, but it's the real life stories that are the funniest.

Six years ago today, a lovely woman stood up in church and read, "they offered him gifts of gold, frankenstein..." her voice trailed off and we could see her thoughts whirring, wait, that's not right. After a moment of thinking hard, she tried again, "they offered him gifts of gold, frankensigns (that sounds better) and myrrh." It was enough to give our whole pew silent giggles through the rest of the story.

And this weekend, our gentle cantor stood up to sing Psalm 72 -- "Lord, every nation on earth will adore you." Perhaps it was the extra long third verse, requiring her full concentration on the tune more than the words: "The kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring him gifts." she sang, "Before him all rulers shall fall prostate..."  And I got the silent giggles once again.

It's silly little moments like these that make me wonder... what does God think when looking down on our churches? Does God perhaps wish we'd lighten up a little? When frankincense becomes frankenstein, a baby gets a really loud case of the hiccups, or the choir sings, "Were you there when they nailed him in the tomb," I can't help but think there might be a Divine Hand at work, bringing a bit more hilarity to our solemnity...

O God,
your humour knows no limits.

I see it in your creatures,
in the people who share my life,
and in stories told about you...

I imagine Sara and Abraham
laughing at a God who says
that she will bear a child.

And laughing again when Isaac arrives.

I imagine Zechariah
laughing with joy
when his voice returned
at the naming of John the Baptist.

I imagine your son,
laughing with delight
with the groom at the wedding of Cana,
when the water turned to wine.

And I imagine you,
laughing along at all these times and so many others,
including when your people giggle in church.

Help us not to take ourselves so seriously,
to notice, embrace and enjoy
your sense of humour
in our daily lives.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

An old song made new for 2018!

Yesterday I received a wonderful Christmas present from Christina and Landon (my daughter and her fiancé). You might already know that some years ago a little song came to me during my Master Composter/Recycler training, and I recorded the original in my kitchen with a cheap mike, an old laptop and my guitar. After the music video received 24,000+ hits on YouTube over the last ten years (including incorporation into the Taiwan Public School Curriculum for a lesson on senseless consumption!), it got rather glitchy.

So for my Christmas gift two years ago, my creative kids offered to update it. Some talented friends and MCRs came together for a re-recording of the tune with all sorts of "recycled" instruments, Landon did the sound mixing, and Christina worked on the video over the last two years -- she's a busy girl, so you could say it wasn't exactly high on her priority list. And now, thanks to all these wonderful people, I'm delighted to share the results!

We fill our lives with so many unnecessary things, all of which have an ecological impact on our planet. If you really think about it, everything we own has to go somewhere else someday. So singing along with the chorus of this song might be part of an excellent New Year's resolution for 2018 -- to reduce our consumption by buying less, period. Some friends have commented on how the song has helped/hindered their different buying habits... and of course, that's the whole point! If we can all reduce our impact on creation, we and future generations will be better for it.

Feel free to share it around... just one more way of trying to save our sister, Mother Earth, and live in the spirit of Laudato Si!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The word of the year, 2018 edition

Moodlings followers who have been reading here for a while know that my best friend and I have a ritual of picking a theme word to focus on each year. Past words have included Freedom, Joy, Balance, Tenderness, and many more -- I think we started the practice of a Word of the Year in about 2003. I wish I had kept a list of our words over the years -- that would be 15 now! Actually, I suspect many of them are included in the handwritten letters we still write now and then and have saved over the years. Our friendship was founded on snail mail from the time we were ten, and we tend to discuss the really important things in our relationship via pen and ink.

Our word of the year for 2017 was Tenderness, and with hindsight, Cathy and I see that it was an essential word for both of us. We are both TWOs on the Enneagram, the kind of people who constantly put our own needs last, doing everything that we think other people need us to do before tending to ourselves, sometimes out of a "need to be needed." The word Tenderness came up in our conversations and letters over the past year when we were stressed or tired and not looking after ourselves. "Be tender with yourself," one or the other of us would say, and the comfort in that suggestion carried the day.

2017 was a very challenging year for me. Part of my tenderness toward myself recently was seeking out a counselor, a lovely woman who helped me to realize that my inner critic was dominating my thinking and making my life miserable. You know (or maybe you don't) -- that little voice in your head that is always saying, "You should do more!" "You should have said this instead," "you should have done it that way," or "you really don't know what you're doing!"

Constantly second-guessing myself in the many roles I play -- Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Employee, and Friend -- took a huge emotional toll on me, to the point that I felt as though I was about to fall apart. And if anyone made a critical comment, my private tears were endless. But my counselor invited me to talk back to my critic, to stand up for myself and announce loudly, "I'm doing my best! And if that's not good enough for you, too effing bad!" Turns out, it's a much better tactic than allowing the inner critic to run me down and completely destroy my self-worth.

Cathy had her own struggles this year, a lot of them with the scheduling of her days and a lack of time for herself. She has a tendency to fill her daily life with more than it can actually hold, leaving her tired and out of sorts because she's left with no time to do the things that really make her happy.

So (drum roll please)...

Cathy and I have decided that it's time to look after our own needs, before all the other demands placed upon us completely wear us down... in effect, to "put on your personal oxygen mask before trying to assist others" so that we don't find ourselves incapacitated by our own inability to breathe!

In discussing it, we've both commented that having "Me" as word of the year rankles and feels too self-centred in many ways, but that fact alone tells us that we're on to something -- that perhaps it's time to celebrate Me a little more, to do something for Me every week. We don't want to end up like my favourite saint, Francis of Assisi, who reached the end of his life lamenting that he hadn't been kinder to "Brother Ass" -- as he referred to his own physical self.

How about you? Do you need some Me time? A year to celebrate yourself a little? If you've been giving yourself the short end of the stick for too long, join us. We're not going overboard; we're just making certain that in looking out for others, we also look out for the Me that goes hard for the sake of everyone else. And every so often in the next 362 days, I'll report on some of our Me year projects and activities. Stay tuned.

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,
and honour
toward all members of our human family.

Clothe us
with compassion,
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.


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