Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Garden update

This week's fun? 
Picking potato bugs, ugh.


But everything is growing like mad, and I'm happy to be in the thick of it.






I spent five hours yesterday sifting a yard of compost 
and admiring the volunteers in this corner -- 
poppies of all sorts, daisies -- and another zucchini plant! 
There's a cantaloupe in there somewhere, too, 
but I'd have to get rid of the flowers to find it, 
and it's probably not going to produce at this late date.


Julia's garden has produced a couple of good sized cukes already, 
and she enjoyed one of her carrots.


And, as predicted, Suzanna's pumpkin plants are happily taking over the yard.
I hope you're happy, too.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Prophetic change from within

For some people, the fact that the Catholic Church moves at glacier pace -- when it comes to change -- is a source of pride. In their minds, the rest of Christianity of late has been changing with the wind, following whatever is most trendy rather than what has held true since Jesus started it all two thousand years ago.

What they aren't realizing is that Jesus actually instituted very little in the way of structure for his followers. He was about change -- about transforming the stuck-in-a-rut, top heavy religious structures of his day. He was less concerned with the letter of the law and more concerned with showing people how to live their love of God by being open, non-judgmental, inclusive, inviting and welcoming. He was about unity, not division; about connecting rather than setting apart.

So more and more, when I hear people go on about structure and authority and rules and propriety in the context of Church life, and especially "us" vs. "them," I'm afraid I get the heebie-jeebies. Yes, there needs to be enough structure that we actually get around to gathering the people, telling the stories, singing the songs, and breaking the bread together at least once a week, but does it really need to be more complicated than that? And why not think of all those who believe in God as "we"?

I am finding, these days, that when I attend Mass in my local parish, it is hard to say all the theological gobbledygook that I am expected to recite at different times. It is difficult to watch as a male priest stands at the altar all alone, the rest of the community held back from approaching the table by the invisible wall of rules about Eucharist made by the old men at the top of a patriarchal pyramid. It is heartbreaking to know that women who feel called to the priesthood are excommunicated if they act on their call, and that divorced people, people of other denominations and faiths, and those of certain sexual orientations are also not able to share in the community's meal of thanksgiving because they aren't judged to be "one of us," (read: in the right "state of grace"). But what is worst of all is that the Catholic Church clings to all of this non-inclusiveness as if Jesus would insist upon it too.

Jesus. Remember him? The guy who relaxed with tax collectors and sinners. Who eschewed invisible walls of rules and instead offered living water to a less-than-perfect Samaritan woman at the village well. Who loved everyone, and discouraged judgmental attitudes. Who invited us all to come home with him and meet his Abba. I'm thinking he would have called God Imma, too, except that he might have been crucified too soon by the patriarchal people of his day.

Even with my struggles with the Church's glacial pace, two steps forward and three back, I can't sever my Catholic roots, but I also can't shake the feeling that if Jesus started a church today, its liturgies wouldn't look much like the ones to which I'm most accustomed. Jesus would probably gather people in small groups, maybe at a kitchen table. No one would bother wearing clerical clothing to set themselves apart because it's just not necessary. Scripture would be proclaimed, the world and the community's needs would be shared and prayed for, the Spirit would be invoked by the presider, God would be thanked without reference to one gender over another, and everyone would offer each other the blessed bread and wine.

Fortunately for me, I've found a community much like this. It's not perfect by any means, but I can easily imagine Jesus feeling at home enough to slide into a chair and pray along. The format is simple, the prayers follow the usual liturgical format (but without the pompous clutter of the most recent translation of the Roman Missal), the presider can be either an ordained female or male, and no one is turned away. And we are all Catholic (though if the Vatican knew about us, it would probably beg to differ on the point of our Catholicism because we disagree with that one rule about priests being only men and that other rule about participants in the meal having to be in a particular "state of grace.") Unfortunately, I don't get to join this community nearly as often as I would like.

The thing is, there are more and more inclusive Catholic communities -- like the one I have found --gathering all the time around Roman Catholic Women Priests (the group also includes men priests). Seven women were ordained or made deacons in the U. S. in June; more ordinations will take place in September. These women could have chosen to leave the Catholic Church and start new churches or to exercise their vocations in other Christian denominations, but they are Catholic, and they believe that it is time for the Catholic Church to change. So they're being prophetic, and giving the institutional Church a little nudge by being ordained and by celebrating inclusive liturgies wherever people ask (the first women were ordained in 2002 by male bishops in good standing with Rome, so the women haven't disowned the Church as much as the Church has disowned them by excommunication). And more and more, faithful and educated Catholics ARE asking. Whether the institutional church likes it or not, change is coming, and it is coming through committed and prophetic people who are not leaving the church, but who are creating a new model from just within its margins (though Rome refuses to acknowledge most of those particular margins).

There's an interesting documentary floating around these days, called Pink Smoke Over the Vatican. It tells the story of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, and makes a clear case for the ordination of women and inclusive Catholic communities. It makes it obvious that they are not radical feminists with an anti-male agenda, but ordinary women who are quietly living their vocations as women did in early Christianity. According to a fair bit of archaeological and historical research, the early Christian Church was far more inclusive in its first 200 years than the present Catholic Church is now. It seems at times that its glacier pace has actually moved it backward, but to me it feels like the fire of the Holy Spirit is starting to move it forward once again. If you ever have the opportunity to view Pink Smoke, I'd recommend it.

For now, I dream of the day when there are so many inclusive Catholic communities everywhere that all the Pope can do is open his arms and say, "I am sorry it took so long to recognize the gifts of women's vocations to the priesthood, and the validity of inclusive communities. We are all one." In the meantime, I will continue to worship at my parish church sometimes, and at Emmaus Inclusive Catholic Community whenever I can. I love Mass there, and I want to support and encourage a new springtime for women and men in the Catholic Church -- without actually leaving it. I much prefer change from within.

If you would like more information, or to join our inclusive Catholic community for Eucharist in the Edmonton area, check out the community's website by clicking here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Simple Suggestion #174... Share some beauty and goodness

The hilly little park where I used to toboggan as a kid has been given a facelift by two generous gardeners. Well, at least one corner of it has.


Shadow and I were out walking back in June and I noticed a woman toiling away, planting hollyhocks and ornamental sunflowers beside a few of the pine trees on the edge of the park. When I asked her about the area, she said, "Well, the City wasn't doing anything with it -- to the point that it was weedy and overgrown -- so a few years ago, my neighbour started fixing up the edge of the park closest to his place, and I've just carried the process around the corner."


My pictures just don't do justice to the beauty two neighbours have created.


Since meeting the woman (whose backyard must also be amazing), the dog and I have walked past the park at least once a week to see what's happening bloom-wise. Now there are brown-eyed susans, lavatera, delphiniums, and even three columnar poplars that I somehow don't think the City planted. It's the prettiest corner to visit, and even has a planter of peonies and a busy bird feeder.


These two generous gardeners have created a lovely little oasis for birds, bees and human beings to enjoy -- and they can see their work from their back yards. I've also noticed that a rosebush and some poppies have appeared on another corner of the park, so the inspiration is spreading. The City likely doesn't know or care about what these people are doing because the corners of the park are out of the way of mowers, and hey, it reflects well on the City if they let voluntarily planted beauty be. I think the folks who have put in all that work deserve a little "Yards In Bloom" award all their own, though a park doesn't quite fit the bill. I'm not sure the City would like it if gardeners everywhere started stealth planting pretty things in neglected corners of parks without approval, but think how lovely things might get with a few more gardeners like the ones who did this!


It doesn't take much to share a little beauty and goodness in these sunny summer days. I've noticed, in a few places, that some of my neighbours have put out little signs that say things like, "Welcome to my garden," or "Help yourself -- Sharing garden." This year I've put five cherry tomato plants outside my back gate, and I need to make a little sign inviting my neighbours to enjoy their fruits once ripe. At the moment, it's a pretty little spot with sunflowers, and blooming delphinia which won't last... but soon, there will be tiny red tomatoes for passers-by. They could also help themselves to the scarlet runner beans, I'm sure... but I expect the birds will take care of the sunflowers once the seeds are set.

my sharing garden
Sharing beauty and goodness can happen in many different ways -- all it takes is planting some flowers in a corner, or putting out a pot where people can enjoy something colourful. There are also even simpler options like posting a positive thought where someone else can find it (check out these "Sticky notes left to their fate in public places" on a blog called Things We Forget), whistling a happy tune for someone else to overhear, or decorating your own face with a smile when there are other people around...


What will you do to share a little beauty and goodness in your world today?

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pass the peas, please


Time to put my moodlings on hold for a time. 
The garden is coming on like gangbusters 
(which, I just learned, is a phrase that refers to 
an aggressive and rather noisy radio show), 
and time is at a premium 
(priced highly because of scarcity, in my case). 
If you're looking for me, I'm out in the garden.



Sunday, July 21, 2013

Good questions on a Sunday

After posting my best friend's sermons for the past two Sundays, I thought I'd post this video homily by Fr. William Grimm, MM. He asks two very good questions at the very end of his reflections on today's Gospel reading about Mary and Martha. Don't miss them...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Simple Suggestion #173... Encourage a gardener

This morning on my walk around the neighbourhood with Shadow the puppy, I found two women on their knees in their yards. They were working hard, because gardening is hard work. Knowing how much I appreciate it when someone makes a comment about my garden, I congratulated them both on the beauty in their yards. Of course, then we stood and chatted for a few moments, and they told me what they really liked about their many plants and shrubs. I had to agree with them. Anywhere that there is more than a lawn monoculture, it's a good thing for bees, birds, biodiversity and beauty.

So today's Simple Suggestion is to take a walk, and see if you can find a garden to appreciate and a gardener to encourage.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Tuesday morning walk

If you've never walked a little black dog on a beautiful July morning, this will give you an idea of what it's like.


The park we walk through...


the tiny butterflies he chases...


his appreciation of cool, shady places...


the downhill path...


the uphill path... and a one minute clip of how he likes to run all over.

video

You're welcome to join us for a walk any time!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Guest Moodler: Sermon on Images of God

This sermon makes more sense if you've read The Taskmaster from last week. Another good sermon  from my one and only guest moodler. I think I'll try reciting Hafiz's prayer when I wake up in the mornings from now on...

Images of God
Cathy Coulter
July 14, 2013

Last Sunday I read a story I had written many years ago that was a light -hearted look at how my image of God had expanded from the rather distant, judging male God the Father to the more intimate, relaxed and fun-loving female God the Mother. I now will give a disclaimer that these characters of God are not based on my actual mother or father but I did have some experiences in mind when I wrote them.  The church of my childhood, my time with born-again Christians in my teens and my rejection of all that in my twenties was based on a God that I had let down in some way but who forgave me despite the fact that I didn’t measure up. I was apparently a sinner and Jesus had to die for my sins. That was the God who sat up in the sky and kept a record of right and wrong and tested us. God was male and as the only girl in a family of boys in a farming society where boys did the important, valuable work of farming, I had the unspoken, unconscious message that females were less valuable. In my thirties, exploring why I felt like I didn’t measure up, I came across the phrase “the original sin of being born female” and a light bulb came on. At the same time I met a wonderful group of women through the local United Church who introduced me to the idea of a feminine God. It was those women on whom I based my story’s character of God the Mother. The idea of a feminine God blew my mind. For the first time, I knew what it meant that I was created in the image of God. My spiritual life was kick-started and I became so thirsty to learn more, more, more.  That hasn’t stopped. I still feel like there is so much to learn and understand.
So I thank God for the United Church and its openness to different images of God and its inclusive language. I believe including the feminine is important for everyone, but I think it’s absolutely critical for girls if they are to have a deep sense of their own value and worth.
I needed the pendulum to swing from a male to a female image of God for quite some time but it has swung back to a more balanced place. I can be ambidextrous (for lack of a better word) with God the Father and God the Mother. They’re all kind of mixed up now, like in my story at the end when they were at the barbecue together, flirting.
Many people say that they don’t imagine God as either male or female and that’s fine too. I don’t know that I can really do that. We seem to be hard-wired for relationship. There is something about seeing a loving face delighting in us that is necessary for our wholeness. Arms wrapped around us. The touch of a kiss. That’s how I like to imagine God. Christians don’t have the monopoly on the image of God as a loving person. Hafiz, a Sufi poet in the 1300’s wrote a poem that would be a good poem to recite every morning upon waking:
          In the morning
          When I began to awake
          It happened again –
          That feeling
          That you, Beloved,
          Had stood over me all night
          Keeping watch,
          That feeling
          That as soon as I began to stir
          You put Your lips on my forehead
          And lit a Holy Lamp
          Inside my heart.
When I read that for the first time, I had the picture of exactly that. God keeping watch over me at night and planting a kiss on my forehead when I first stirred. Is that a beautiful image, or what? I love how it makes me feel so cherished.
          The image of God as Beloved is a rich image that we find a precedent for among the Christian mystics as well as the Sufi poets. It seems fitting that as we mature spiritually we expand our image of God beyond a parental image. When we have the experience of falling in love with God, only the language of the Beloved will do.
I started thinking about this idea of the images of God this spring when I learned more about St. Francis of Assisi through an on-line course of Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest in New Mexico. I like Richard Rohr’s teachings and this particular course gave me so much to think about. The course was not a study of St. Francis’s life as much as a study about the theology that emerged from his life.
We know St. Francis of Assisi from his prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
St. Francis was not born a saint. He was born in 1181 or 1182 to a wealthy family, and spent his youth drinking and partying. During a local war he fought in, he was imprisoned for ransom for a year. It was in prison that he received a vision to follow Jesus and live a life among the poor, forsaking his wealth and comforts.
Francis is perhaps best known for loving the birds and animals and is often seen in pictures  surrounded by little creatures.
In his love of Jesus and of nature, Francis saw how God revealed God’s self in everything. Francis was able to step out of seeing himself as the centre of the universe, perhaps by stepping out of his comfort zone and living a life of poverty. He began to see everything for itself. When we take a break from seeing everything in the world in terms of how it affects us, when we look at something for what it is, we see that by being itself, a thing is good and true and beautiful.
By being ourselves, we are good and true and beautiful. We can see that in ourselves and in others.
Francis saw God as a part of everything and that included each person that walked down the street. He would walk through the streets of Assisi, greeting all the people he met, saying, “Good morning, good people. Good morning, good people.” When he reached the edge of town he would say, “I have preached my sermon.” We can only wish that all sermons were that simple and that short.
Francis saw the goodness of people because he saw God in them and he knew God is good. Francis also knew that God is totally humble. Humble is not an image of God that usually springs to mind. “God is humble.” Let’s think about that. When I think about the words for God that we grew up with, ones that come to mind include almighty, all powerful,  Lord, King. Michael W. Smith’s popular and catchy Christian song has a refrain that goes,
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power and love
our God is an awesome God.
That’s a God that we bow down to but is it a humble God? Francis spent his life finding God in the world around him, not in heaven above. He let the smallest creature, the smallest flower or weed or stone speak to him of God. The outcast, the drunk, the poverty stricken, the infirm…Francis saw the face of God in these humble people. And his model was, of course, Jesus, who did as well. Our Christian faith teaches us that God chose to be revealed in Jesus. As our Creed says, God “came in Jesus, Word made flesh”, not as a king but as a baby born to a poor, humble couple. Jesus lived his life in humility. Jesus didn’t take the side of the powerful or the “in crowd”. Consider story of the Good Samaritan that we heard this morning. Think about that story again, this time considering the Good Samaritan as an image of God, who does not pass us by, who binds up our wounds and pays for all our expenses. If Jesus is the face of God, then our God is a humble God.
We also grew up with a theology that because we were born sinners, we weren’t good enough for God so He sent His son Jesus to make amends on our behalf through a violent death. St. Francis and the Franciscan theology that grew out of his life, did not teach that. St. Francis recognized our original blessedness and believed that God came in Jesus to show us that God is totally good and totally humble. Richard Rohr, the teacher of the course that I took about Franciscan theology says that “Christ didn't come to change God's mind about us, but to change our minds about God.”
During the course we were asked to reflect on what is our real, operative, de facto image of God? And that got me thinking about the story that I wrote a dozen or so years ago, the one that I read last week. I thought about my God the Father figure, the one I didn’t measure up to, who saw me as hopeless, who had an enormous rule book and set up tests that I surely couldn’t figure out. With my God the Mother figure, I could be myself and I was liked for who I was. I could relax and play and trust my own inner voice. I realize now that those two versions of God weren’t as much about gender as about how I saw God generally. But which image of God is operating in my life now? I’m still a bit of a rule freak, find myself judging others too often when they don’t follow the rules, worry if I measure up, if I’m doing things right, still have a voice telling me I have to be productive to be worth anything. I think that image of God is still hanging around.  
Richard Rohr says that if we want to grow spiritually, "we must first deal with the often faulty, inadequate, and even toxic images of God that most people are dealing with .... Jesus as the image of the invisible God reveals a God quite different and much better than the Santa Claus god who is making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who's naughty or nice... We must be honest and admit that this is the god that most people are still praying to." 
Somebody is knocking at your door. Is that somebody calling you to explore your own images of God? Where is the mysterious image of God beckoning you to expand?
The poem that I taught the children this morning about the squirrel was written by St. Francis and I would like to end with another of his poems:
Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,
I have to wring out the light
when I get
home.
May all our hearts open to such love.

Amen          

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Simple Suggestion #172... Do some kitchen gardening

After a good rain again last night, my little dog and I took a wet walk up and down the back alleys within a two-block radius of our home. Back alley walks are interesting because I love to peek through fences when possible and see what people are doing with their yard space. And it makes me so happy to see kitchen gardens!

A lot of my neighbours probably wouldn't really consider themselves gardeners, but many of them have little patches of their favourite vegetables and a few herbs that they like. Some of them also have lovely lawns and perennial/annual beds with colourful flowers tucked in between their herbs and veggies.

We've come a long way from the times when a lawn was a sign of wealth (when only the gentry had lawns and ornamental gardens as status symbols -- as if to say, see, we don't need to farm every inch of our property!) and I'm delighted to find lovely yards where vegetables and herbs make up "edible landscapes." Apartment dwellers are also getting in on the act with containers of delicious greens and the odd tomato on their balconies. No balcony? I've seen windowsill herb containers with little grow lights in many hardware stores. All it takes is the will to begin. Kitchen gardening is a wholesome activity for body and soul, and saves wear and tear on our planet because at least some of our food doesn't have to be transported to grocery stores. Self reliance when it comes to what we eat is a good thing.

So today's challenge is to find a little soil in your yard -- or a pot of dirt -- and plant a few herb seeds to start a little kitchen garden if you haven't already. Plant a flavour you like.

I think I'll go out and pick a little dill for the scrambled egg sandwich I'm making for my lunch.


Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An update on Julia's garden... and the rest


I was having a lovely time sifting compost yesterday when thunder boomed overhead. I sighed, gathered up a few garden tools and put them away as the first raindrops spattered the garden paths. As I headed for the house, I saw six other garden jobs to do, but decided they could wait... and no sooner had I closed the door behind me when SPLOOSH! Down it came. Almost 2 cm (just under an inch). We seem to be having more than the usual rain all at once these days... every rainstorm.

What was funny was that earlier in the afternoon, I had called my girls out to water various thirsty looking plants. There was no rain in the forecast... and other parts of the city barely got wet while we had a deluge. But here I had put my girls to work for no good reason. Oh well, at least they weeded their vegetable boxes.

Julia's box is doing pretty well, though she planted her carrots more thinly than she intended, I think. A cut worm took out one of two tomato plants before we took him out, and one cucumber plant died. But that means there will be more room for the other two cucumbers, which will likely try a hostile takeover of the entire box.



And Suzanna's pumpkins are growing by the foot each night. Ever want to see something grow, day to day? The pumpkin is your plant. I don't think Jack threw down magic beans. They were pumpkin seeds! Suzanna's plants will probably try a hostile takeover of the ligularia/delphinium patch beside them, and half the lawn, too.


Here's a tour of the rest of the garden...


Lettuce and herbs...


potatoes and carrots...


A slow zucchini (I had to plant twice), chard and kale...


borage (to attract bees) and spaghetti squash climbing the trellis...


peas...


cukes...


leeks and onions...


beets...


TOMATOES...


peppers...


Saskatoon berries...


and strawberries (these have weird red flowers... an interesting hybrid, 
no doubt, but I like plain old white-flowered everbearing plants better, 
so maybe next year I'll get more of them and have a Canada themed
strawberry box in red and white).

Since we had such a good rain yesterday, you can bet I won't be bothering my girls to water today!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Guest Moodler: The Taskmaster

Once again, my dearest friend is giving the sermon at her church this weekend. I always enjoy her sermons, and ask her permission to share them. Here, for your enjoyment once again, is my one and only guest moodler.

The Taskmaster
Cathy Coulter
July 7, 2013

A line from the Galatians passage of this morning reads, “When God decided to reveal God’s son to me…I did not go to anyone for advice.” In the reading from Luke, Jesus tells us, “Listen! I have given you authority.” (Luke 10: 19) God has given us the ability to know God directly, especially through Jesus.
When we’re young we need to be given spiritual training wheels. We need to be given ways to think about God, and when I was young; I was given a certain image of God that melded with my experiences in the world. A turning point in my spiritual journey and in my choosing to stay on a Christian path came in my thirties when my eyes were opened to a new way of imagining God. Today I want to read a story that I wrote at that time. So today, it’s story time. I call the story “The Taskmaster.”

It was early morning and the late spring sun was pouring around the edges of my cheap vinyl blind. I woke up but was desperate to go back to sleep. I rolled over and pressed my face more deeply into my pillow. But I knew it was too late as I heard a cough from the foot of the bed. It was not a polite cough. It was an irritated one. He’d been waiting for a while, it seemed.
I rolled over again as I knew I must. There he was, as he was most mornings. The Taskmaster. Standing at the end of the bed in his immaculate blue velvet doublet over peach satin pantaloons and pale yellow stockings. The white curls of his periwig danced slightly as he pulled out the scroll from under his arm, unrolled it and began to read the list of things I needed to do that day. The list was always longer than the time I had, as the Taskmaster always pointed out. By the time he was done, I was not only fully awake but my stomach was clenched. Finally, after I had heard too much to take  in, the Taskmaster rolled up his scroll, tucked it under his arm, straightened to attention with the slightest of bows and marched on out of the room. My head was spinning and I leapt out of bed to begin running around in activity. Maybe if I moved really fast I could get a lot of things done.
Sometimes the Taskmaster would be waiting for me as I left work. He’d be waiting in the back seat of my car. As subservient as he seemed in the getup of an aide to Queen Elizabeth the First, I was no queen. I knew who held the reigns despite appearances that the Taskmaster was there to serve me and my interests. Always, there would be that scroll. I hated that scroll. Written on it were the long lists of tasks which became blurrier near the bottom. I’d watch happily when a task would vanish from the top of the list after I’d completed it, only to watch in horror as two or three more emerged from the blurriness at the bottom. I’d always thought that a list was a tool for time management. Sometimes, it seemed more like an instrument of the devil. If that were so, what did that make the Taskmaster? But I needed him. How else would I stay productive, worthy, earn my right to exist?

* * * * * *

The Taskmaster first came after the session I’d had with God the Father. God the grumpy, intellectual bachelor Middle-School God the Father. I’d been called up to God’s office. I was about eleven.

            “Come in,” He barked when I knocked. Maybe I shouldn’t have knocked. Just gone in. I went in. I hesitated. Should I close the door?

            “Sit down,” He barked again, making me jump. I rushed to the chair in front of His desk.

            “The door,” He wailed. It was clear He already found me hopeless. I scurried back to close the door, then returned to the chair. I perched on the edge of the seat. I felt sick.

            “Have you studied your lessons?” He asked.
            “Yes, Lord,” I said. I’d studied and studied. So much was riding on this. More than anything, I wanted to get into the Lord’s favour, into His club.
            “Alright. We will soon begin. But first, let Us play a little game.”
            He smiled as He pulled out a piece of paper from a drawer and laid it on top of the desk. I could not read that smile. It did not feel reassuring.
            “Come closer,” He said. I inched my chair forward. On the paper were three rows of three dots.
            “This,” He said, “is a simple little game. All you have to do is join all the dots with this pencil.” He pulled a yellow pencil out of His sleeve with a flourish. “The only thing is, you can’t pass through a dot more than once. You can only use one line and you can only change the direction of the line three times.” He smiled again and handed me the pencil.
            I looked down at the dots and poised the pencil. I was worried. This kind of thing was not up my alley. I imagined drawing one line, then another but that would leave that dot free. How about this way? Or that way? My heart sank further. This kind of puzzle had always stumped me. I bowed my head and closed my eyes.
            “Dear Lord,” I said. “Thank you for showing me this game. I know you love me and want what is best for me. But Lord, I ask You to take this puzzle from me. If that is Your will, Lord, please take this puzzle away. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
            I kept my eyes closed. I heard God sigh and - was that a little snort? I looked up again.
            “Alright,” he said, picking up the paper and slipping it back in the drawer. “Let’s get on with the test. Are you ready?”
            He pulled out a chess board and began setting up the pieces. The test was a chess game?  I knew how to move the chess pieces but I was a terrible chess player. I couldn’t think four steps in advance and anticipate the other player’s moves. I couldn’t employ any strategy at all. I was not logical enough. I was not smart enough. I was done for.
            Ten minutes later my king lay tipped over on the board. All but my rook and two pawns were captured. At least it had been a rapid humiliation. God was trying not to smile as He packed up the pieces and put away the board. He composed His features, and then frowned at me. He didn’t need to tell me. I knew I had failed. I felt overwhelmed with sadness. Now I’d never get in.
            “Well, what are We to do with you?” God said. I hung my head to hide the fat tears welling up in my eyes. “It seems you won’t be able to manage on your own with what you’ve got, will you?”
            I shook my head. One tear dropped into my lap.
            “Hmmm,” He said. The yellow pencil was still lying on the desk. He picked it up and began to tap-tap it.
            “We have decided that We will send you a Helper. Yes, that is what We will do for you. This Helper will show you the Way. For you do not know what to do. Wait for the Helper. He will come to you.”
            “Thank you, Lord,” I whispered.
            “Go,” He said.
            I got up and backed out of His office. It seemed that I had been saved, given a second chance. All I had to do was do what I was told. I could do that.       

* * * * * *

I first met God the Mother playing in a park with a bunch of women. The menopausal gray-haired feminist activist God the Mother. I didn’t know who she was at first. The women were playing Frisbee. One of them had invited me to come and hang out. I was thirty-three.
            “Hi,” they all called out in welcome as I crossed the lush green grass. The Frisbee went sailing over my head. They all laughed.
            “That’s Norma’s Frisbee Blessing,” said one and they all hooted and howled again. I ran to get the Frisbee and threw it back. It floated over the grass and was plucked out of the air by some nimble fingers.
            “Good one. Come and play.”
            We had fun and played for over an hour until it was time for the potluck picnic. It was an abundant feast. I was filling my plate with seconds when one of the women came up beside me to start into the cheesecake.
            “You’re Cathy, aren’t you?” she said, as she popped a large red strawberry into her mouth. I confirmed that I was.
            “I’m God,” she mumbled with her mouth full.
            “Oooh,” I said, impressed.
            “Did you make this cheesecake? It’s heavenly. I must get the recipe from you. How did you make this crust?”
            On the way home that night I felt happy and relaxed. I felt like I had made some new friends. They invited me to go out with them again. Godde said she would pop over for a visit and to get the cheesecake recipe. I hoped she would come soon.

* * * * * *

            One day, after  God the Mother and I had gotten to know each other, we were sitting on my front step trying to see who could come up with the most names for the colour blue when I said,
             “I’d like to get rid of the Taskmaster.”
             “Who’s the Taskmaster?” God asked.
            “He’s the One who helps me know what I need to do. But he’s really getting on my nerves. I’d like to be free of him. Completely.”
            “Maybe you could suggest he retire?”
            “I thought of that but I’m afraid he would want to come back as a consultant. Even that would be too much for me.”
            “I see,” God said.
            She leaned over to pet the cat who was rubbing up against her legs. “Who’s his boss?” she asked.
            “God the Father.”
            “Why don’t you talk to him?”
            “I haven’t talked to Him in a long time, “I said. “I’d feel pretty nervous about it.”
            “I saw him at a convention recently,” God said. She put her arm around me and gave me a sideways hug. “He’s mellowed quite a bit. I think it would be okay.”
            I leaned my head against her shoulder and sighed. I knew that it was the right thing to do but I was afraid. What if I turned into an eleven year old again and stumbled and stammered my way into an even bigger dilemma? What if God decided I needed even more guidance and sent a second Helper? Could I be strong enough to say what I really wanted? Or would I be turned into stone in His presence?


* * * * * *

            The door to his office looked just as imposing as before, except it seemed quite a bit smaller. I raised my left hand to knock and hesitated. I placed my right hand on the doorknob then knocked and opened the door at the same time. Sticking my head into the room I called out, “Hello, God.”
            There he was, bent over his desk, writing intently on the piles of papers in front of him. He raised his head and peered at me, frowning.
            “It’s…”
            “Yes,” I said.
            “Oh, hello,” God said.
            “Can I come in?”
            “Yes, come in.”
            I looked him over. He too seemed a bit smaller. I sat down in the chair.
            “What can I do for you?” he asked.
            “I’ve come to ask a favour of you…actually, to tell you something. I’m not going to need the services of the Task…I mean my helper anymore. I’ve come to tell you that I’d appreciate it if you took him away from me.” My heart was pounding and I felt a flush rising in my cheeks. I tried to look composed.
            “Oh, I see.” Then a long silence.
            “Will there be a problem with that?”
            God was frowning. “Well, it’s a bit irregular. Not exactly in the Rules. I must look it up.”
            He pulled open a drawer and hefted an enormous black book onto the desk. The word “Rules” was printed on the cover in gold capital letters. God began flipping through the pages. He found the page he was looking for and ran his finger down it as he scanned. He turned a page, and then he turned it back. He flipped to another section and ran his finger down several more pages. His frown deepened.
            “God,” I said.
            “Just wait,” he said. “There must be a rule here somewhere.”
            “God,” I repeated, “I know what to do.”
            God’s finger stopped mid-page and he looked up. “You know what to do?” he echoed.
            “I’ve been thinking. My helper likes to keep very busy. I think if you sent him to Siberia, he would be very happy.”
            “Well…” God began.
            “It’s the right thing to do,” I said. “Trust me.”


* * * * * *

            I never saw the Taskmaster again. Not that I didn’t miss him a little bit. Freedom can be quite overwhelming at times. Still, I sleep better than I ever have. And everything falls into place somehow.
            I asked God the Mother if I could invite God the Father to our next women’s barbeque. She said, “Sure, why not?” So I did. And he came. Looking quite spiffy. I think he was a little nervous. But God the Mother soon put him at ease. Near the end of the evening, I saw her put her hand on his knee as they were both laughing over something. I think they were flirting.


* * * * * *     
               
That’s the end of my story and it’s the beginning of my reflection for next week. I invite you through the week to think about your real, operative image of God. And for your consideration through the week, this question: How does our image of God reflect on how we live our lives? 


Thanks for the most interesting story, Cathy! And some things to consider... If any moodlings followers would like to post a comment, I'm sure she'd be happy to read it...

Stay tuned... I'll be sure to post Cathy's follow-up reflection in a week's time.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A letter to a long lost friend

My dear friend,

How are you? I really would love to know. It's been so long since we talked and laughed together. We got along quite well if you recall. I enjoyed your company, your humour, your friendship. But something went wrong somewhere, and a lot of water has flowed downriver since then.

When we were friends all those years ago, we were both very different people than we are now. Younger, of course. More foolish, certainly. Our lives and our levels of wisdom have changed. We can't go back and undo what was said and done, but I'd like to think that we could move beyond those things to a new form of friendship, better than the old.

Of course, I don't know what you are feeling. But I want to you to know that I am open, and willing, to pick up the pieces, and perhaps talk and laugh together another day... if you are willing and/or able.

This invitation stands, because all I can do is invite. I think of you often, and I wish you a happy birthday today.

Your friend, always,
Maria

***

My friend is a brilliant man who thinks deeply and speaks eloquently. He has a wide heart and a terrific sense of humour. We were close friends once, but now he is far away. I still miss him, but have no way to connect with him. Our friendship is an unfinished symphony from my point of view.

Today --- It seems that lapsed friendships are a universal theme -- I've been noticing that this post (now my most popular) is being viewed many times by people from all over the world. I'd love to know what brings you here, or hear a story about your long lost friend, if you don't mind leaving a comment below... thanks!

Maria K.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The bee's knees

Suzanna has always had a soft spot for injured or unwell animals... or creatures in danger. She's the one who came to me with a mouse held in her garden gloves, before Chloe, the neighbourhood cat, could catch it as it scampered from leaf pile to leaf pile on the road past our house. If a bird hits our window, Suzanna will put it into a little box and sit nearby until it regains its senses and flies away.

So I wasn't surprised when she called me to the back step the other day, and showed me a bee that wasn't moving very much. "How can I help him?" she asked.

I shook my head. I've been finding more dead bees than I like in our yard lately... done in by exhaustion? Pesticides? Colony collapse disorder? Genetically modified plants? Parasites? Our little pollinator friends have so many enemies... humans and our farming/gardening practices being the worst. I'm heartened by the fact that so many people are starting to realize the importance of bees (if you want to see what your produce department would look like without them, click here). The necessity of reducing pesticides and GMOs is becoming more and more obvious to Joe and Jane Public, but I fear that our actions to fix what's broken may not be enough to save our pollinators from extinction. Just yesterday I heard another report about the decimation of bee colonies in Ontario. I haven't the heart to look for Alberta apiary reports because I suspect I already know what my back yard is telling me.

The bee Suzanna showed me seemed to be on his last legs. Actually, he was missing one. I shrugged and said I didn't think there was much she could do, but she wouldn't give up. She went into the house, warmed a bit of honey, and drizzled it on the step beside him. I took a garden fork and gently pushed him to a droplet, and he began to eat, or at least we think that's what he was doing, his little proboscis sucking up the stickiness. I told my girl that though I didn't think it was enough to restore him to health, at least he'd die happy, with a full belly.

Suzanna kept vigil with him for quite some time, before I picked him up with a trowel and carried him to our lupins, where he clung tightly. When I went to check on him later, he was gone, and I couldn't find any fuzzy bee carcasses on the ground...

Though I have my doubts about his survival, I marvel at my girl and her compassion for all God's creatures. For the bees' sake, her sake, and the sake of all our kids, we need to do everything we can to protect our fuzzy little yellow and black friends. So put away your Raid, and get rid of your Black Flag. Our bees and our future generations are counting on us.

I think Suzanna is the bee's knees. As are our bees, our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren...