Sunday, November 19, 2017

We are all children of light


After hearing today's reading from St. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, I am smiling and shaking my head at God's wisdom -- and timing. Paul writes: But you, beloved, are not in darkness... you are all children of the light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness." (1 Thessalonians 5:4a, 5) And there is a part further on in the reading (verse 11) that also fits my experience today: "Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing."

Back story: Since my last visit to Taizé in October of last year, I have had a dream of sharing a peace prayer with communities of different faiths in our city. The Brothers of Taizé start each week with a simple Sunday evening prayer for peace, a half hour of silence that ends with a chant asking, "Grant us your peace, O Lord..." For the past year, I have been trying to connect with people of different faiths who would be open to such a prayer.

Today, through a series of fortunate events, my friend Julien and I spent a few hours meeting and praying with people of an interfaith community that is very excited about the possibility of peace prayer together. The Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre was celebrating the birthday of their founder this afternoon, and the community offered us wonderful hospitality by means of a delicious afternoon snack, a meaningful performance about caring for creation offered by their young adults' group, heartfelt prayer in call and response chants in Hindi, Sanskrit and English, a wonderful vegetarian supper (complete with birthday cake), and lots of excellent conversation. (Stay tuned to these moodlings for information about an upcoming interfaith Peace Prayer...)

But what struck me most about our visit was the beautiful prayer just before supper, at which men and women of the community waved lamps in large circles and held the light out to all in the room, waving the light toward us as a sign that we are all filled with God's light.

It underlined for me the understanding that the names we give to God and the forms we imagine that God may take are not what is important in this life or in our prayer. What matters is that we understand that God lives and loves in every being on this planet, and that we are all children of the light no matter how we believe. In this regard, we have more in common than we can possibly understand.

O God of light,
thank you
for showing us your light,
for filling us with your light,
and for lighting our way
toward the unity and peace
you intend for all of creation.

Bless us
and remain with us
as we seek you
and find you
in each other's light.

Help us
to care for your beautiful creation
by living simply
and by recognizing your light
in all that you have made.

Show us
how to encourage one another
and build each other up
so that we may work together
until all enjoy
the peace and unity
you intend for our world.

+Amen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Helping the Rohingya

Sometimes, I'm a bit slow on the uptake. After months of hearing about the Rohingya refugee crisis, I finally made a donation to help them this afternoon.

It can be hard to know how to donate, but it's only procrastination that kept me from it until now. I always have complete confidence in giving to Caritas Canada (also known as Development and Peace)  because it offers clear ways to assist partner organizations in areas affected by injustice and disasters. This summer my 23-year-old daughter had the experience of meeting with partners working in Bolivia, and she came back more committed to D&P than ever. The stories she tells are enough to convince anybody about the importance of Caritas' work!

D&P's partner organizations are staffed by people who are best able to serve the needy because they come from the same place, speak the same languages, and understand the difficulties that brought about the crises as well as potential solutions. The workers in Caritas Bangladesh are on the ground where the refugees are, already doing what can be done, and a donation to Caritas Canada helps their work in providing shelter, hygiene kits and sanitation facilities, and protection for children. Donations made before November 28th will be matched by the Canadian government.

To learn more about our brothers and sisters fleeing persecution in Myanmar, click here, and if you are able, send Caritas Bangladesh some financial assistance. It's the least we can do. And, perhaps, the best.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Simple Suggestion #269... Drive smarter

Did you hear about the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice in the news yesterday? Being released on what was the statutory Remembrance Day holiday for many people, its timing wasn't the best, as often happens with these very important news items.

Basically, 15,364 scientists from 184 countries around the globe (the most co-signers of a journal article ever recorded) signed a joint statement (please, go ahead and read it by clicking here or on its title above -- it's a quick and informative read). The Warning's signatories are doing what they can to push us, earth's human citizens, toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, restoring damaged ecosystems, limiting human population growth, and reining in material consumption. They share information about our planet's losses since the first warning in 1992, and tell us:
To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world's leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.
In understanding that Earth is our only home and that it is in serious trouble (as Pope Francis noted in his June 2015 letter to the world, Laudato Si:On Care for Our Common Home), we need to make some serious sacrifices. The scientists' warning offers many suggestions for transitioning to a more sustainable world, and encourages us to look at how we can live more sustainably to reduce our impact on our over-stressed planet and to work from the grass roots to bring about change. Which changes can we make right now?

One thing that we have done as a family was to give up certain conveniences, including our second car. It's been challenging at times when people are going in different directions, but living in a city, we are fortunate to have transit or taxis (or family and friends to help us out on occasion) when too many things are happening at once. We've also forgone attending the odd event just because it wasn't possible to make our single family vehicle bilocate.

But for many people in our spacious and vehicle-oriented country, it's not possible to give up personal transportation. So for those of us who have vehicles, a number of organizations (including the City of Edmonton) have joined with an online program called the Smart Drive Challenge, a program designed to teach us how to be more efficient with the fossil fuels we do use. Click on the highlighted link above to check it out.

Of course, even better than taking the Smart Drive Challenge would be to give up vehicles altogether -- like my friend Terry has. She's been car-less for years, has saved a fortune in insurance, gas, maintenance and registration fees, and only rents a vehicle once in a while for those things she can't do on foot or by public transportation. I wonder how many fewer greenhouse gases she's responsible for. Terry proves that it IS possible to go one step further than driving smarter, and simply give up having a car in Edmonton for most days of the year. But make no mistake, it is a sacrifice. She's at the mercy of our transit schedules a lot of the time, and bus service here seems to end at the supper hour in many cases.

Going car-less is a really radical idea, but somehow, I suspect that our 15,364 scientists would approve. If that's a bit too radical for you, I'll bet they'd give a secondary thumbs up to the Smart Drive Challenge. Try it!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seeking Wisdom

O Wisdom,
we find you in all your goodness, beauty and truth
when we allow love to lead us.

O God of Wisdom
how quickly you show yourself
when we allow you
to work in us,
to do what is right and just.

You wait
patiently
for us to seek you --
even as you are constantly seeking us.

You appear on our path
and meet us in our minds
whenever we see you
and love you
in all that surrounds us.

When we act with compassion
Wisdom is in us
and we are in Wisdom;
you are in us
and we are in you.

Help us to remain in you always.

+Amen.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering them

We've marked Remembrance Day in many different ways over the years, from visiting City Hall's cenotaph to holding our ears against the 21-gun salute at the Legislature grounds to witnessing the indoor parade of veterans from the Butterdome bleachers at the U of A. But I think we've found our favourite way to remember with the small crowd that gathered at the north end of Ainsworth Dyer Bridge at 11 a.m. for the past two years.

Today was a sunny Remembrance Day. Lee and I parked in Gold Bar Park and walked over the Ainsworth Dyer Bridge across the North Saskatchewan, reaching the quiet crowd waiting in Rundle Park on the other side.




The ceremony is simple. A pastor begins with a blessing, reads a scripture of lament and one of hope "...they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks...". Then the names of 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan are read out four at at time, and members of the crowd come forth with small wooden crosses emblazoned with the soldiers' names, and stand them in the snow. The crosses were made by Aart Van Sloten, the father of Ainsworth Dyer's fiancee.


Standing in the snow, watching families, friends and members of the military press the crosses into the ground and remember lost soldiers with a nod or a salute, is a powerful thing because it makes the sacrifice of our veterans more tangible and the world's need for peace more real.

Once the crosses were set, taps, one minute of silence and reveille were played. We heard "They shall not grow old..." and Flanders' Fields, and everyone present sang O Canada.

Simple and powerful. One way to show our gratitude and respect for those who died in one of the many Canadian involvements in global conflicts, and our hope for a future filled with peace.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A talented bunch, singing about hockey

At the recent 50th Anniversary Gala for Development and Peace, all who attended were treated to some pretty great entertainment, including the Logan Alexis Singers. Just four of them came to sing for us with their drums and powerful voices, and I had goosebumps. Their talent and gentle humour added a lot to the evening, and I knew I'd have to look up their Connor McDavid song and share it in these moodlings.

Connor McDavid is one of our local hockey stars, the next great hope since Wayne Gretzky. The Logan Alexis singers really know how to sing and are pretty passionate, not only about their singing, but also about encouraging the Edmonton Oilers!

Even if you're not a hockey fan, here's their song for your enjoyment.




Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy 50th Anniversary, Development and Peace!

For the last 50 years, a Canadian Catholic organization has been doing what needs to be done when it comes to standing up for justice and peace in the developing world. I'm old enough to remember quite a few of the yearly Share Lent campaigns and different projects that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has offered in those 50 years, but it's only as our oldest child has become a staff member with CCODP that I've paid closer attention to the work of the organization. Development and Peace, as it's less officially known, has taught many Canadians that people in the developing world aren't looking for charities to parachute in with North American solutions to their local problems -- rather, they are looking for partners to help them develop their own solutions more fully. I have no difficulty with supporting projects found at devp.org because I know that the communities most affected by the projects are on board 100%.

50 years of social justice work around the world is worth celebrating, and there have been events and activities planned throughout this anniversary year, including a series of videos recalling D&P's many projects in the past. The video below is one of seven three-minute shorts to give you an idea of what's been going on since the Canadian Catholic Bishops founded Development and Peace (now also known as Caritas Canada) in 1967. It's definitely worth watching this amazing solidarity timeline. I've posted the first of seven below just to get you started... Enjoy!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Come to the quiet

This Sunday's readings remind us of the importance of humility and how the beauty, goodness and truth in our lives are not something we claim in order to hold ourselves above others, but are simply gifts that come from God. Self-importance gets us nowhere -- it's genuine humility that is truly appealing. Just think of the humblest person you know, and the feelings he or she elicits when you think of that person.

I think this is why today's Psalm (131) appeals so much to me. It reminds me to be humble, not to occupy myself with things that are beyond what God wants for me. That, and it brings to mind the music of John Michael Talbot, in particular his Come to the Quiet album, which I wore out during my first year of teaching. It's all about the greatness of God, and God's gifts of mercy, peace and justice. So this morning I was delighted to find that someone managed to put it up on YouTube for our listening enjoyment. My very favourite of JMT's sung prayers (Psalm 62) is at the 39 minute mark on the video (sound file, really) below, but the whole album is better than ever, probably because I've lived a lot in the years since I last heard it. Listening to its gentle melodies is like coming home.

Here are John Michael Talbot's lyrics to his sung version of Psalm 131, the last one in the video below. Have a lovely Sunday, and enjoy.

Lord, 
my heart is not proud
nor are my eyes fixed on things beyond me.
In the quiet
I have stilled my soul
like a child at rest on its mother's knee.
I have stilled my soul
within me.

O Israel, 
come and hope in your Lord
do not set your eyes on things far beyond you.
Just come to the quiet.
Come and still your soul
like a child at rest
on his daddy's knee.
Come and still your soul
completely.



Friday, November 3, 2017

A critical time for reducing waste

City of Edmonton Composting Facility Aeration Hall
A view of the compost aeration hall
Waste reduction week 2017 (October 16-22) was just a few weeks ago, and since then, city managers have discovered that part of our  Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence is having some structural problems. The snowfall on the aging roof of the Composting Facility's 18-year-old aeration hall, a building large enough to hold 2.3 CFL-sized football fields, has rendered the building unsafe.

This means that all of the city's waste, including our organic compostable kitchen scraps, now must be trucked 85 km down the road to the landfill at Ryley, AB, until a solution can be found. In the meantime, Edmontonians need to do everything we can to reduce our waste. Recyclable materials will still be recycled -- it's the things that can't be recycled that we should give more consideration.

Do you know where your garbage goes? How many fossil fuel emissions are involved in getting it to its destination? If you've never given the idea of composting a thought, now's the time to do it. If there's a corner of your yard where you can put a compost bin that you can fill with organic kitchen waste (plant matter, vegetable peelings, fruit cores, coffee grounds, tea leaves, etc.) over the winter, now's the time to do it. If you'd rather start composting in the spring, compostable waste can be frozen in an outdoor plastic garbage can until things warm up. The Compost' S cool website has different ideas to help homeowners reduce the compostable part of their garbage, and our libraries have many resources about composting and recycling ideas.

As for the non-compostable stuff, in Edmonton we need to make sure that we're making full use of our blue bags for recyclingEco-Stations for electronics, chemical waste and large items, the Reuse Directory -- which lists charity organizations that accept reusable items -- and Edmonton's own ReUse Centre. Other cities and towns have their own ways of reducing the tonnage that goes to landfill -- for many Canadians it's just a matter of doing a little research and jumping on board with the good planning that's already in place.

But probably the most important thing we can do is question ourselves every time we are about to dispose of something. We need to ask ourselves: Is this really garbage? Is it still usable in any way? Can it be repaired? Would someone else be able to use it? Should I throw it away or find a different way to get rid of it?

And we need to question ourselves every time we go shopping, whether it be for groceries or other household needs. Again we can ask ourselves: Do I really need this right now? Can I wait a little longer for it? Is there a way to buy it without so much packaging? and other questions, depending on the item...

Now is a critical time for reducing waste in our city, but really every day should be. It's simply good practice to keep waste reduction in mind at all times because all of the "leftovers" in our lives will have to go somewhere else eventually, even once this problem with the Compost Facility is fixed. It's always better if our things can be passed on, composted, or recycled rather than ending up in a landfill 85 km away!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Simple Suggestion #268... Make a simple fruit fly trap

Every fall when I bring in garden produce, and sometimes midwinter if I buy bananas, more fruit flies than people live in my kitchen. Tiny flies can be quite an annoyance, but they aren't hard to catch with the right trap.

Unfortunately, marketers have come up with mostly plastic but snazzily-designed traps that you can find in many hardware or department stores. But don't buy more stuff when it's really easy to make a trap of your own with common items around the house!

The one pictured is just an emptied beer bottle (any bottle will do) now holding about 1/4 c wine vinegar (you can also use cider vinegar), a little splash of water, and a few drops of dish soap. Some people just leave the mixture in a dish for the flies to drown in, but I find the bottle takes less counter space and can be moved without spillage. I like to shake it up every so often -- it seems to strengthen the vinegar fragrance that attracts the flies and they get trapped in the bubbles, which eventually dissipate until I shake the bottle again. The whole thing is simple, harmless to the environment, and it sure cuts the fruit fly population. The vinegar/soap mix can be poured down the drain when I'm done with it and the bottle recycled, unlike the plastic traps sold in department stores. And bonus: there are no sticky plastic chemical strips.

Our garden has been put to bed and, sad to say, my summer beer stash went with it. The snow is falling, we're eating our last few tomatoes, and fruit fly season is pretty much over for this year. But I'll keep at least one empty beer bottle on hand in case those pesky flies make a comeback somehow. How about you?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Love is the bottom line

You remind us
over and over again
through all the centuries since you came
that the bottom line
is love.

Unfortunately,
our leaders think the bottom line
is a strong economy.

But where does that get us, really?

How would the world change
if we lived by your bottom line instead?

Do not oppress
the stranger who lives in your midst,
you say.

Care for widows and orphans,
(all those on the margins)
you say.

Do not loan money on credit,
you say.

Whatever you do for the least,
you do for me,
you say.

Love your neighbour as yourself,
you say.

And if we do all these things
as you say,
then we are loving you
with all our heart,
soul and mind.

O God,
help us to live always
as though
love is the bottom line.

+Amen.

Friday, October 27, 2017

45 bags of leaves... and then some

All that's left in the garden is carrots... and leaves!
One evening last week, I was the only witness to a clandestine transaction in a dark parking lot. T. brought a trunkful of (once) green stuff and transferred it to E.'s vehicle. Sworn to secrecy, my lips are sealed as to identities and the whereabouts of this occurrence.

Of course it's all a joke, though it's a true story. A friend of mine who has more leaves than she knows what to do with shared some with another friend who composts. We Master Composter/Recyclers often laugh about MCRs' strange autumn hoarding habits!

For example, in the last two weeks of September, my engineer hubby designed and constructed a leaf stockade (or corral, if you prefer) and we raked up what I would guess to be about 20 bags of leaves from under our oak/elm trees and stockaded them (to reduce our use of plastic bags). Later, Mom and I raked up six more bags at my parents' home that were dumped into my corral so that we could reuse the emptied bags for the next raking. The corral was almost overflowing. And the leaves just keep on falling.

The leaf stockade/corral
Since then, several neighbours have generously contributed to my hoarding habit. Brian was out raking and gave me a dozen bags one Sunday morning, and on my trip home with our car stuffed full of leaf bags, I noticed that Dan, our local retired pastor, had another huge pile just waiting for the garbage guys. Five minutes later I drove back to see if Dan would mind me taking them. I rang the doorbell, but I suspect he and his wife were at church. Not wanting to see all that good stuff get trucked out of the city creating more fossil fuel emissions when I could make perfectly good use of it here, I loaded my car again (twice) -- another 23 bags, and phoned Dan later that day to make a confession. He laughed and said, "I wondered where they went! Go in leafs and sin no more."

Since then, I've collected another 10 bags from my dad. And there are probably another ten out in my front yard again that I'll try to fit into the corral now that the original leaves have settled somewhat. Will it ever end?

Yes, it will, and that's the whole point. I'm "gathering carbons while I may." Composting through spring and summer requires a lot of carbons/browns (leaves, dead stalks, wood shavings, ashes, or newspaper) to be mixed with nitrogens/greens (vegetable peelings, fruit remnants, grass clippings (if you don't grasscycle, but most people I know do!), green stalks, vines and other garden leftovers) as well as water and air to produce the rich dark organic soil amendment we call humus or compost. And in order to compost most of my garden waste through the seasons, it takes a LOT of carbon that can be easily collected in the fall, but is hard to come by in other seasons. To make compost the ratio of carbon/browns to nitrogen/greens is 20:1. In the past year, I composted 55 bags of leaves, and now it looks like I have enough to start all over again.


Composting is as easy as making a layer of leaves, adding some garden leavings or kitchen scraps (no meat, other proteins, or bones, though, as they get smelly), repeating the process until you have a good pile (1 m or 3 ft cubed is optimal in my books), watering it well, and stirring it every two weeks or so. Having walls or fencing around the pile helps to keep it tidy. I like to add our composting worms -- Red Wigglers -- in the summer (they live in an indoor bin in the winter) because they speed up the composting process by eating their weight in waste every day. In the cold months, when I take my extra kitchen scraps (that don't fit in the worm bin) out to the compost pile, I always fill the bucket with warm water so that it can help to kickstart the aerobes and other life in the pile for at least a little while. Frozen stuff piles up outside, but come spring, when everything melts, it's just a matter of stirring it up and reducing odors by adding more leaves -- of which we now have plenty!

45 bags and then some should last me until next September, I hope! In fact, I might even have a few extra to share...

If you want to learn more about composting, check out Compost 'S cool here in the City of Edmonton. Elsewhere, check your local library for helpful information!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Simple Suggestion #267... Stop with the straws

I'd kind of forgotten about the Simple Suggestions side of my moodlings for a while, but here we go again...

Plastic is the bane of our existence, if you really think about it. It's created huge problems for ocean life (the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) and it has broken down into micro particles in our air, water and soil. I find bits of it everywhere when I'm out walking my dog in the river valley -- broken pieces of items that were supposed to last a long time, emptied plastic water bottles, single-use plastic bags, all sorts of items that human beings failed to put in garbage cans. It gets to be rather depressing.

What we need to do, my friends, is to refuse to use plastic items as much as possible, to stop the waste before it has a chance to begin. Plastic has infiltrated our lives to the point that we don't even see it a lot of the time. The video below kind of brings that home:



So today's suggestion is just to bring awareness to one of the most ubiquitous plastic items of which we are most oblivious -- the plastic straw. Unless I am an invalid unable to rise from my bed bed for a sip of water, I really don't need plastic straws. I am perfectly capable of drinking from a cup or bottle without one. And if I get a little bit of foam or whipping cream from that ___________ (insert beverage of choice) on my upper lip, oh well, I can lick it off. Or remove it with one of those ubiquitous paper napkins to which we are also oblivious, but that's another moodling for another day.

This summer, Seattle launched a #Stopsucking campaign that is just brilliant. Though Edmonton isn't a seaside city that sees straws wash up on its beaches, we do have our own Accidental Beach that saw its own plastic cups and straws parked in the bushes of our river valley, sigh. So maybe we should take up the challenge of Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson and make our city strawless too?

Straws are only one item we can do without. It's important to consider every single-use item out there if we can and curtail its use for the sake of our planet. How many single-use items can you refuse in one day? How many straws can you decline in a month? I'd love to hear back!



Sunday, October 22, 2017

Giving to God the things that are God's

O God,
we are all stardust.

We do not make ourselves,
and everything we create
is invented from the materials
that you provide.

So really,
nothing belongs "to Caesar" --
everything is yours.

That's not to say
that we shouldn't pay taxes
that help to support our social structures
and the lives of those less fortunate.

It's just to say
that we need to remember
that you are the Source of All Being,
and to hold in reverence
all that is,
all that you are.

You are present in the tiniest amoeba
and the largest whale.
You live in the forests
and in the hearts of people
with a different world view than our own.

So when you ask us to
"Give therefore to Caesar
the things that are Caesar's,
and to God the things that are God's,"
I hear your invitation
to cooperate with you
in caring for your creation.

Help me to be always aware
of the ways I can improve
in my collaboration
with all the other creatures
who come from stardust.

+Amen.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Sunday reflection on wedding clothes

Lord,
I can't help but think
that Matthew
messed up this Sunday's parable.

Maybe he wrote it down all crooked?

Did he fall asleep before you finished
and have to make up his own ending?

I can believe that the King
in your story about his son's wedding banquet
was disappointed
by the guests who didn't show up.

But going to the extreme
of burning down a city?

Doesn't make sense,
coming from someone
who is all about mercy and compassion.

I love to imagine a party
to which everyone is invited --
because that's just
how you roll.

After all, you're the guy who hung out
with tax collectors and sinners,
and who encourages us to welcome the least,
to care for the hungry,
the thirsty,
the naked,
the sick,
and the prisoner.

(At least Matthew got that part right.)

What I don't buy
is the end of his telling of the parable
where one wedding guest
who wasn't wearing a "wedding robe"
is bound hand and foot and thrown into "the outer darkness
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Excuse me?

That's just not how you roll,
is it?

You love us all equally
and the King in any parable you tell
would probably be more like the one
that we see at the Last Supper in John's gospel,
the one who removed his outer robe
in order to wash the dirty feet of his guests.

I suspect you would prefer to have the King in your story
take his mis-dressed guest aside
and offer him the finest wedding robe imaginable --
to raise him up rather than throw him out.

That King would be more like the prodigal father.

Is it possible that after hearing your parable,
Matthew procrastinated,
and then later,
when his memory was rather fuzzy,
he couldn't remember the way you told it originally,
and human bias and a need for retribution crept in?

Otherwise,
I just don't get it.

Really, it doesn't sound like
the kind of story
an all-loving,
all-forgiving
God like you
would tell.

Regardless,
thank you
for loving us
and for inviting us ALL
to your banquet,
no matter who we are
or how we believe.

I promise I'll do my best
to show up in appropriate wedding clothes
when I'm invited to your heavenly feast someday,
but I'm pretty sure
that what I've done wrong
or what I wear
won't really bother you one way or the other,
no matter what Matthew wrote.
I know you love me,
and I love you too.
What else matters?

+Amen.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Autumn beauty

The weather is turning, and the leaves won't be with us much longer. So today I am looking at the beauty that has surrounded me on walks in the last week or two, the photos I can't help but snap every year. This past weekend, Lee and I had a couple of really fine walks in nature even though the weather wasn't great, simply because the colours were. If you haven't had time to enjoy autumn beauty, this is for you.












Sunday, October 8, 2017

A vineyard prayer

Image result for vineyard taize
A vineyard near Taize
O God,
all this talk of vineyards,
wild grapes,
and disastrous tenants!
It's more than I can take in this Sunday.

So I simplify:
It's we who are your vineyard.

You plant us where you want us,
fence us in with your love,
build a watchtower
so you can keep an eye on us,
and dig a wine press
for the harvest of our sorrows and joys.

You, our Tender God, attend to us
with the greatest of care,
and no matter how we produce,
you are jealous for us
because you love us.

In the Song of Songs you say
"Come, my beloved,
  let us go forth into the fields,
  and lodge in the villages;
let us go out early to the vineyards,
  and see whether the vines have budded,
whether the grape blossoms have opened
  and the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love."

In the face of your tenderness,
how can we help but give our all for you?

+Amen.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

'Glad to be Alive' Day

We often don't think about our deaths until we meet with situations that could take our lives. We go through our days always expecting that there will be a tomorrow, and are shocked to hear when tomorrow doesn't come for people we know, when they die suddenly. Often a surprising, sudden death helps us to be more grateful for our life, at least until we are lulled back into believing that there will always be a tomorrow for us on this side of the grass.

Thirty years ago today, I was travelling with a performing group in Eastern Canada when the tour bus I was in rolled down an under-construction embankment in the Laurentians. I remember the bus tipping to the left, and suddenly feeling like my friends and I were bouncing around in a dryer drum. Unlike many other similar accidents in the famed hills of Quebec, we came out relatively unscathed because our trip to the bottom was just two revolutions. Sadly, our bus driver later died of complications related to his injuries, and one of our cast mates with a fractured skull had to leave the group due to migraines. The rest of us escaped with minor fractures, cuts and bruises, and were mostly just traumatized. To this day, some of my friends report a hesitancy to climb aboard a bus.


Ever since that day thirty years ago, October 5th has been my personal 'Glad to be Alive' Day. It's a good exercise, now and then, to remember that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. As I was moodling the paragraphs above, I received word that a woman I exchanged a smile and a few words with at a local election rally the night before last died suddenly yesterday morning. She looked perfectly healthy when I gave her my written question for the candidates. Her family and friends are reeling, I'm sure. They are on my mind and heart today, too, and in my prayers.

We just never know when our time might be up. If we could really be aware of the gift of life all the time, every day would be 'Glad to be Alive' Day. But living in that kind of awareness takes more effort than seems humanly possible. I try to remember to be thankful for my life every morning when I open my eyes, but too often, the dog's whine for breakfast or some other life event gets in the way of that train of thought. That's why I make an effort to have my annual designated day on October 5th every year because of the bus accident.

Do you have a 'Glad to be Alive' Day?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Walking with St. Francis, the earthiest saint

Image result for St. Francis
image borrowed from Wikipedia
Today is the day the world celebrates a little Italian guy who lived over eight hundred years ago and who really appreciated life, love and beauty in all forms. Francis of Assisi was born into material wealth but saw beyond it to the things that are really valuable -- compassion, openness, the beauty of creation, the importance of living in harmony with nature, the value of those on the margins of society, and the power of simple living. He disregarded the church authorities of the day (who were on the wrong track in many ways) and invited a group of his friends to join him in following Jesus in a radical way, living with the poor and sharing everything that came his way. He was probably the first (only?) Christian to befriend Muslims in the age of the Crusades, and he understood that really, we can own nothing -- all that we have is gift from God.

It gives me no end of joy that there are still many Franciscans and other people of all stripes who follow in Francesco's footsteps today. The present Pope was inspired to take Francis as his name, and what a beloved man he has become even for people who have nothing to do with the Catholic church. Pope Francis is down-to-earth rather than in the usual churchy ivory tower, and offers our world a necessary alternative to the cult of celebrity and consumerism at a time when we really need alternatives! His common-sense approach to life is refreshing after so many church leaders who have been stuck in theological dogma and doctrine to the detriment of really understanding human beings.

If you've followed my moodlings for a while, you already know that St. Francis gets a lot of mention here. I've always felt a deep kinship with him. Today, as I walk the dog, I'll exercise my imagination and invite Francis to walk beside me. We'll discuss the state of our world and what we should be doing about it, laugh at how Shadow-dog imagines he might jump up a tree to catch a magpie, and just appreciate the beauty of a crisp autumn morning. And maybe my side of the conversation will be like the prayer below:

Holy Francis,
please pray with me.
I grieve the struggles
of those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods
to earthquakes and climate change
and human made tragedies of outrageous proportions.
Help us all to find ways to help each other.

Lover of creation,
please pray with me.
I am mourning the loss of life and good portions of earth's abundance
where wildfires, floods, hurricanes and other climate disasters
have killed and
destroyed beauty and goodness.
Remind us all how to live in harmony with nature.

Channel of God's peace,
please pray with me.
I lament the escalation of war and war-like behaviour
in so many people and places in our world.
Help us all to learn your lessons
about sowing love rather than hatred,
forgiveness where there is anger,
hope where there is despair,
and light where there is darkness.

Saint Francis,
please pray with me.
Help us all to be like you --
to welcome those on the fringes,
to follow wisdom and share with others,
to care for creation,
and to offer inclusion and love to all.

+Amen.

Happy St. Francis Day!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A busy month

Since I dropped the online moodling one month ago, it's been a pretty busy time, to put it mildly. Looking back at my list of to do's, I see that I managed most things...
  • 3 apple pies (with more to come yet, I hope) and plenty of other fruit baked into yummy things
  • Jams made
  • Veggies blanched and frozen
  • Apples and plums picked with my 92-year-old Italian friend, Ralph, and a couple of wonderful visits with him and his lovely wife, Lidia (that included delicious Italian cookies and espresso to keep my nerves jangling for the rest of the day)!
  • Plenty of dog walks through autumn splendor
  • Jay gone back to school (grade twelve!)
  • Compost sifted, dug into garden boxes and started up again for the winter with freshly pulled garden stalks, plus Red Wiggler worms shared with several vermi-composting friends
  • Tabs kept on my in-laws, mostly by phone
  • Tomatoes gathered from the L'Arche community garden bed with my friends at Day Program (and another fun time with the Library Lady)
  • Lovely sunset strolls with my hubby
  • Minutes taken for the monthly L'Arche board meeting
  • Hot dogs handed out at my very last Welcome Back School Barbeque and Meet the Teacher Night
  • Almost finished reading The Brothers Karamazov
  • Next spring's tulips planted
  • Letters written to a few friends, and last but not least
  • The garden went from this...


to this...


still a bit of work left...

And there were special visits from friends who don't come to town very often anymore, we had a September Taizé prayer, I prayed with seasonofcreation.org, and life moved along as it does. At times I was tempted to cut short my "time off" from moodling because I really wanted to write about something, but at other times I wondered if I'd ever pick it up again. 

But I'm back, after a very busy month. Did you miss me?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A break from moodling

I have a lot on my plate these days:
  • Pies to bake
  • Jams to make
  • Veggies to blanch and freeze
  • Plums and apples to pick for my 92-year-old friend, Ralph
  • A dog to walk in these dog days of August (gotta enjoy it while I can!)
  • A kid to get back to school (grade twelve!)
  • Compost to sift and turn
  • In-laws to visit (five hours from here) 
  • Volunteering to do
  • A hubby who needs his evening strolls
  • My monthly work preparing for a board meeting at L'Arche
  • Getting things together for the next School Advisory Council meeting
  • A few friends I owe letters, and last but not least,
  • A garden to put to bed...
All is well, more or less, but finding time for online moodling is a challenge right now. So if you don't see anything here for a couple of weeks, don't be surprised, but maybe check back in October. I'm just taking a sanity break!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Of wedding rings lost and found

We were walking the dog on Saturday morning when I noticed that my wedding/engagement rings (joined into one piece) were not on my finger. To me it's really a single ring with a double meaning, and I couldn't remember having removed it, but I've found it in our sheets on more than one occasion (why I slip it off in my sleep is beyond me). So I wasn't too worried... at first.

There was nothing in our bedding, but I remembered that when the dog jumped off the bed to come to the kitchen, Lee and I heard a metallic clink and wondered what Shadow might have set loose. So I swept our entire bedroom, lifted furniture that doesn't usually get lifted, and checked both our wastebaskets. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

I wandered through the garden, searching the vegetable beds, looking in all the places I had been in the previous 24 hours. I wondered if the ring had perhaps been picked up by those treasure hunting crows who sometimes leave pieces of tinfoil for me in our birdbath. Maybe my ring would fall out of a magpie nest in our park pine tree someday, to rest forever in or under the pine needles where the rabbits make their resting hollows. I sighed. And I asked St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost things, where my ring could have gone and would he mind helping me find it? It's a funny thing we Catholics like to do.

The interesting thing is that there was a big news story just last week about a wedding ring turning up on a carrot (click here to see it). Mary Grams lives near Camrose, less than an hour from here. It was her ring, missing for 13 years, that made the news across Alberta. Seems to me my Auntie Barbara can tell a similar story.

The only thing I've ever found on a carrot thus far was a clothespin spring! But maybe a carrot could bring my ring back to me, someday... hopefully... In the meantime, I wore an antler ring that Christina gave me in the spring, made by a fellow from Grande Prairie. And I tried not to feel sad.

Still, as much as I told myself that the lost ring was just some metal with a couple of little tiny rocks attached -- stuff, no big deal -- it was more than that. It was the love of a young man for a young woman, a promise made and kept for over 26 years, a symbol of something deep and profound, and I would miss it, and grieve it, and come up with a much simpler replacement somehow. But how does one replace sentimental value?

The ring stayed on my mind all week, of course. You know the joke about the guy looking for his car keys under a streetlight, and a cop comes to help him look? After searching the whole area, they don't find the keys, and the cop says, "Are you sure this is where you lost them?" and the guy says, "Well, actually, I lost them in the park, but it's brighter over here." Well, I looked everywhere, even places I hadn't been, and a lot of places twice. Lee and I even got out of bed to check the edges of our bed frame one night. After hearing about that, my dad suggested I should get a metal detector and go over my garden again, too.

So, last night, I posted about my missing wedding ring and asked friends on Facebook if anyone knew someone with a metal detector I could borrow. I don't think I've ever had so many responses to a post before! I learned that the story about Mary Grams also made it to friends in New York and California! No one had a metal detector at the ready, but people re-posted my request to community groups they belong to, and thanks to the caring comments of so many friends (including more pray-ers to St. Anthony), I started to feel a bit more hopeful that the ring would return.

This morning a few friends reported that they knew of metal detectors I could borrow, and I was thinking to go pick one up this evening. I was halfway through cleaning my desk (in case the ring just happened to be there somehow), when the doorbell rang and there was a lot of firm knocking. Rather hesitant to open the door because I was still in my housecoat, I found a young man named Charlie, and his big sister, Ella, both of elementary school age, greeting me with, "Did you lose a ring?" They had somehow heard that the lady with the green Holyrood neighbourly bench was looking for a wedding ring, and Charlie was carrying his metal detector, a snazzy, almost new gizmo, with its instruction manual. He gave me a mini-lesson on metal detector use right there on my front step, he and Ella wished me good luck, and off they went.

And off I went to search my garden. Nothing in the potato patch, where I had dug up potatoes the night before I noticed the ring missing. Nothing in the strawberry boxes. But oh so many beeps and noises from the compost pile where I dumped those potato vines. Had they pulled my ring off? How would I ever find it in there? I spent a good 45 minutes digging through its layers, and feeling a bit hopeless again. Then a big thundercloud started growling and I decided I'd better hurry and gather up any produce that was ready (in case of hail), so I picked tomatoes and cucumbers and...


Elated is too calm a word. The rain started to fall, but I didn't care. I pulled a few carrots, ran into the house, washed them, packaged them with cucumbers and tomatoes and a jar of homemade jam to thank my new friend Charlie for his willingness to help. I ran over to his house during a pause in the storm.

Charlie was very happy, but not as happy as I am! I'm convinced that his desire to be of assistance to someone he had never met before is what turned the search around. Yes, I might have found my ring eventually, but a magpie might have found it first. And the Facebook friend who connected Charlie with me also deserves kudos for using social media in such a helpful way.

So, many thanks to Charlie, and to all those good people in my life who offered encouragement, advice, and prayers. After five days of fruitless searching, I was losing hope, but my friends found it and returned it to me.

It's not lost on me that Mary Grams and I are both wearing our rings again thanks to encouragement or assistance from others in our circles of friends!

"When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the [ring] that I had lost." (my paraphrase of Luke 15:9 -- it works for me!)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Butterfly driving a truck (yeah yeah!)

Yesterday, in the L'Arche Day Program, the "library lady" came to visit and share caterpillar and butterfly stories. She reminded me of library story time sessions when my children were small. I think I was always more delighted with those programs than my kids were -- there's something in me that just loves children's books and the simple activities that librarians pair with them. We played clapping games and parachute games, the librarian told a story with a felt story board, and we enjoyed action songs with and without percussive shakers.

The song in the video below really made my day. The librarian wasn't sure it would be a hit with our group, but what's not to like? It's cute and catchy, and I love the little Beach Boys bit in the middle. We all bopped in our seats and pretended to be butterfly truck drivers. And when I got home, I had to find the music and share it with my kids just because it's a hilarious idea -- a butterfly driving an eighteen-wheeler with a cup of joe, a CB radio, etc.

My kids were mostly grown up by the time Caspar Babypants released this tune around 2011. In case you missed it, I share it here for your enjoyment. We all need a little child-like humour now and then!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rRpcSN1F0g

Monday, August 21, 2017

Unusual shadows from a partial solar eclipse

Today has been an interesting day. On Mondays, I've been volunteering with my favourite L'Arche friends, helping with their community garden plot. This morning (after an interesting session with a library lady that I'll moodle about tomorrow) a few of us had a lovely walk to pick some tomatoes, and as we strolled back to the Community Centre, I couldn't help noticing that the sun was less bright than usual thanks to the partial solar eclipse which covered 70% of the sun here in Edmonton.

When we returned shortly after eleven, I quickly made my own very basic pinhole camera with two pieces of paper, and a few of us went outside to check the eclipse's progress. One of my colleagues had made a more impressive pinhole camera from a cardboard box, and it worked better than my two pieces of paper. Then I discovered that if you hold your hands a certain way, you can see the eclipse reflected on the pavement through your fingers. My friends didn't believe me at first, but it was true!
Then some of the staff from the local Daycare appeared with welder's masks, and all our low tech viewing tools were forgotten. What could be better than seeing a partial eclipse with your own eyes? We basically mobbed the daycare people so we could all have a peek through the dark glass of the masks, and they were more than happy to share. It was pretty neat to see the moon covering 70% of the sun with our own eyes (but I still liked the crescent pattern through my fingers the best).

I decided to bike home in a hurry to share the moment with my daughter, and noticed that the dappled light through the trees was making crescent-shapes on the park bike path. And sure enough, when I got home, the shadows under our pear tree held many crescents.

Not sure I'll ever see this so clearly again in my lifetime. It's kind of amazing, when you really think about it!

Solar eclipse shadows at 11:53 am, with the moon still covering 54% of the sun

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Guest Moodler: Sermon on Forgiveness

My friend, Cathy, has written a beautiful sermon that's she's delivering at her church today. Her congregation gets to hear the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers (Genesis 45), and the story of Jesus' encounter with the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21 ->). (These days, I am the Canaanite woman, pleading with Jesus to heal my daughter, too, who has been having a difficult time of late -- if you have any spare prayers, I'd be grateful.) I'd like to be in Cathy's church, to hear her share with her Christian community. What she says about spending time in silence with God, the ground of our being, is so true. Enjoy.

Forgiveness
Cathy Coulter, RN, BScN, Parish Nurse

Not everyone that comes to church has grown up hearing the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures, but chances are they know the story of Joseph and the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Here’s a quick synopsis: Joseph was the favoured child among the twelve sons and one daughter of Jacob. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery to a caravan going to Egypt. In Egypt Joseph experienced suffering and adventure but eventually ended up finding favour with the Pharaoh and gaining a position of power. When famine spread throughout every country, Jacob’s sons came to Egypt to look for food and Joseph recognized his brothers and finally revealed himself to them as we heard in the reading this morning. It’s a really great story with twists and turns that I’d forgotten about and I encourage you to read it again for yourselves.

Our scripture passage today is dramatic. Think of the emotion of that moment. Joseph had been ripped from his family and his home and here were the brothers that had done it. We expect Joseph to harbour anger and thoughts of revenge. But Joseph forgave his brothers with a graciousness that turned their world upside down.

How about Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman in the Matthew gospel? Was his response as welcome and gracious as Joseph’s? A Canaanite woman seeks out Jesus to beg him to save her daughter and Jesus says in effect, “Nope. You’re not good enough.” Jesus has taken his disciples away for a rest and that rest gets interrupted by this demanding woman. Who hasn’t been in this situation? You’re just about to have a break or settle into something you enjoy and you’re interrupted by someone’s demands. You’re annoyed. You ignore them, like Jesus did initially, or feel like saying to them, “I can only please one person a day. Today’s not your day. Tomorrow’s not looking good either.” But the woman has the courage to persist and use her wits to counter Jesus’ argument that only the Jews should receive his healing. Jesus finally shows graciousness at this point. He hears the woman. He changes his mind.

Does he admit he made a mistake? Not in our scripture reading, and likely not in traditional theology. But I like to think about Jesus, not as some sanitized, sinless saint, but also as a human being who has the vulnerability to admit he was wrong and change his actions accordingly.

How I want to see myself is how I see Jesus once the woman has schooled him with her quick witted reply to his protests… “Even the dogs get the crumbs”. How often I react when I’m caught out in bad behaviour by feeling embarrassed and defensive and “double down” to prove I’m in the right. But Jesus softens and changes his attitude. He shows the woman respect, hearing her and praising her for her faithfulness. And, best of all, he sends his healing energy to the Canaanite woman’s daughter.

Two stories this morning. One of forgiving and one of admitting making a mistake. We need to practice both of these actions to bring peace into our lives and our world. But how difficult forgiving and admitting mistakes are for us.

Forgiveness is a mysterious process to me. It’s not something we can summon up with will power. We can say with our heads, “I forgive you,” but we can’t force our hearts. I don’t know if it’s something we can practice and work on, or if it is more to do with God’s grace working on and healing our hearts. It doesn’t happen all at once, but you’ll know when you’ve truly forgiven someone. I’ve tried to figure out how to express the feeling, the knowing, but I can’t, other than to say a bad feeling is replaced by a feeling of love. We can’t force ourselves to feel forgiveness but I wonder if the first step is wanting to forgive. Wanting to have our eyes opened to the other’s humanity like Jesus and wanting to find gratitude like Joseph.

And what about admitting we’ve made a mistake? This can be excruciating, if we’re honest with ourselves. I call it my cringe-worthy moments. When, after my blustering and protesting and telling friends my side of the story to prove I had every reason to act (or not act) or say what I did…when I can finally admit to myself that I behaved badly or acted stupidly, or spoke wrongly, I feel an inward cringing that I find really hard to take. Do others ever experience this? That terrible feeling of cringing embarrassment?

I think I’m not alone because there is an epidemic of being right at all costs. I’m sure many relationships end because both parties insist they are in the right. Marriage can be a battle ground of two people being right. Like the old joke goes, I married Mr. Right. I didn’t know his first name was Always. The same joke can be told about Mrs. Right. A self-help talk on the internet is titled, “People Would Rather Die than Give up Being Right.” The classic, pathological example of this is the current leader in the country to the south never admitting he is wrong.

A really nice little book about this kind of thing that I found surprisingly useful is the classic “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson with the subtitle “And it’s All Small Stuff”. One of his quotes is, “Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.”

So it’s not easy to admit we’re wrong. And it’s not easy to forgive. And I think that it is almost impossible to do either fully without two conditions.  These are the two conditions for being able to forgive and being able to admit we’ve made a mistake. The first is we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. While forgiving may seem magnanimous, in reality, true forgiveness is hard because it means we leave ourselves vulnerable to being hurt again. Think about this for a minute. Even if you never see the other person again, to forgive you must drop the wall that you put up to protect yourself, and that is a vulnerable place to be, but the only place from which you can live a whole hearted life.

And of course, to admit we’ve made a mistake is to be vulnerable. It is to admit we are not perfect, and perhaps, like me, feel some uncomfortable feelings.

The second condition to be able to forgive and admit we’ve made a mistake is really the only condition because we can’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable without it. This condition is knowing we are grounded in that which created us and sustains us. In our tradition we call that Love. We call that God. We need to know in our hearts, in the very core of being, that we are okay as we are, loved as we are, not required to pass a worthiness test. That there is a purpose and a rightness to our very specific being in the world right here and now. If we don’t experience this sense of okayness and are not grounded in that sense of being loved, it will be impossible to become vulnerable. It will be impossible to forgive and allow someone who has hurt us back into our heart, or to admit we are flawed and imperfect and (God forbid!) wrong about something. It will be impossible because without that sense of groundedness it will feel like we are falling, with our feet swept out from under us. It will feel like we are dying. People would rather die than give up being right.

Jesus said over and over, in his words and in his life, you have to die before you can live. Sometimes life circumstances force us to be vulnerable. And then we fall, and that is where God begins to reconstruct our hearts. But we can also get a head start on the heart reconstruction that gives us that sense of ultimate security, and allow God to work on our hearts with prayer, particularly contemplative prayer when we stop doing and learn to sit in the presence of the Holy.

Until we come to know God as the ground of our being, we experience too much anxiety about protecting ourselves and making sure we don’t slip up. But when we sit in intentional silence, there is no hiding from ourselves, no pretending that we are better than we are, or covering up because we think we are worse than we are. In silence we can’t pretend we are in control and slowly and gently we begin to relax into that which is holding us. Into who is holding and always has been. And always will be. Practice sitting in silence every day. Start with 5 minutes. Then 10. Then 20. And see your life change.

What two betters examples do we have of people who lived grounded in the love of God than Joseph and Jesus? Look at the rest of the stories of their lives. It is really profound.

So now I want to ask you, who in your life are you estranged from, or have a strained relationship with? Are you ready to think about forgiveness?

A few years ago I spoke here about a vulnerable letter I wrote to my cousin when our relationship had been fractured. That was the talk that I got the most feedback about ever. One woman told me that after I spoke she went home and phoned her son whom she hadn’t spoken to for two years. Well, ever since then I was thinking about another letter I needed to write for another relationship that I had deliberately let go, but never felt right about. This was a friend that I had shared many important life experiences with when we were in our twenties. But I did not relate to the direction her life took after that. It seemed not to share many of the values that were important to me and I grew increasingly uncomfortable whenever we got together until finally I just kind of dropped her. But it niggled and niggled and I could never move on. It took years, maybe ten years until I was ready to try to find some closure and I did that this spring, writing her a letter over three stints in a coffee shop. The letter I ended up writing took me by surprise because through it I worked out why I was so uncomfortable with her life choices. I had been jealous. I was not secure in my own choices and felt I suffered in comparison. My wobbly self-esteem took the form of judging her harshly but what I worked out in the letter, now that I am more in that place I mentioned of feeling grounded, was that I actually behaved badly towards her. It turned out to be a letter of confession and apology.

When I came home from the coffee shop after I was done, I felt really buzzed, like the decaf coffee I’d ordered had been caffeinated. But I felt really good. Really happy with the letter. It was a good energy, and the rest of that day I turned to a big job I’d been poking away at and that was cleaning out the basement. And my goodness, did I clean out that basement! I couldn’t believe it when I was done. I honestly felt a surge of power and energy that I can only explain by the release of admitting I made a mistake and asking for forgiveness, and for forgiving my friend as well.

Annie Dillard writes:  “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? ... It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews…. ”

There is power in this God of ours. God is the rock on which we stand. God is the wind beneath our wings. God is the great dissolver, the great heart reconstructor. God gives us the power to forgive and ask for forgiveness and even clean our basements.

Let us pray.
God of Joseph and Jesus, thank you for the gift of life! Thank you for the gifts of the heart. Give us courage and grace to forgive and be forgiven. 
Amen

Friday, August 18, 2017

A moment of silence for one of the host

Sparrow eulogies
Yesterday, I found a visitor in my garden, crouched beneath my tomato plants. She was a gorgeous white cat with black patches and very blue eyes. I was delighted to meet her, as it's been a few years since Chloe, my previous cat-in-the-garden companion, moved away.

But my visitor wasn't actually interested in hanging out with me. When I picked her up and carried her to my back step to introduce her to my daughter Suzanna, she jumped from my arms and sauntered to the back gate. Slipping through it, she rolled on the driveway for a good back scratch and disappeared around the corner of our fence. So I shrugged and headed to the pea patch to collect a few snap peas for supper.

Within moments, a huge hullabaloo arose from the host of sparrows in the bush across the alley, with one of them wailing loudly, over and over. I went and looked over the fence, and there was the black and white cat with a small sparrow in her mouth, wings akimbo. "Did you have to do that?" I said. "It's hard to be friends if you kill my other friends." She slunk off down the alley with her prize, and I had to wonder if she'd silenced one of the little voices that I'd been hearing in my birdhouse before they fledged last week. If only her owner had put a bell on her collar!!

The flock of sparrows (properly known as a quarrel or host) returned to the bush for a time of reflection on their friend's life, I kid you not. What had been a noisy group -- hence the choice of the word quarrel by whomever decided on bird group names -- was extremely still and subdued. They sat in near silence, barely moving, and it seemed as though they were taking turns offering a few words of remembrance about the one killed by the cat.

As human beings, it's too easy to think that we are the only truly sentient beings, able to reflect on the meaning of our lives and other big questions. But the truth of the matter is that we don't really understand the thought processes of other creatures, their feelings, communications, or aspirations. We assume they are less intelligent than we are, and we assert our will over them all too easily, especially when they cause us some sort of inconvenience. But what if every life is just as valuable as mine?

Just asking.