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.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#holyroodbenchproject update -- two blue benches

Last week I saw SEESA's Executive Director, Kim, when we were both out for an evening walk (or maybe she was heading to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival?). Her neighbourly bench had been missing for a few weeks, and when I asked her where it went, she said that one of the artists at SEESA was repainting it for her. Seems the benches in the neighbourhood, besides giving people a place to rest, have inspired more art too. Here's Kim's bench...


Who doesn't love Van Gogh's Starry Night ... 
this one above with a bit of an Edmonton skyline 
and some hidden objects for the kids to find...


Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, 
this bench (above) recently appeared.
(To see others, click here).
I'm wondering if this latest one is paying homage
to the Arrogant Worms' song about
the pirates on the River Saskatchewan...
If you've never heard that tune, 
here's a humourous cover version 
by Edmonton folk-rock band, Captain Tractor...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G_L9tXEwmc

Even though our perennials are mostly past their peak,
it's still a lovely day to sit and enjoy a neighbourly bench. 
If you're interested in sharing a bench like this 
with your neighbours, they cost $100
and can be ordered from SEESA at (780) 468-1985.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

God in the sound of silence

You
are not to be found
in a wind that splits rocks,
the crash of an earthquake,
or the fury of a fire.

You would rather walk on water
than scare away the fish.


You come to us in silence,
not violence.

You wait for us to quiet ourselves
so you can speak to our souls.

And so, God,
we ask you to heal us
of the many forms of noise
that prevent us
from hearing your voice within us.

Incline our ears toward those silenced
by the fear, injustice, and prejudice
of markets, politics,
and the exploitation of your creation.

Help us to find ways to silence
the chaos that keeps us from you.

Give all your people the deep desire
to build a loving, peaceful, just world
that we can create together,
with your help.

+Amen.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tomatoes

It's a busy time in the garden these days, and moodling is happening off-screen rather than online. For the first time in ages, I missed moodling a Sunday reflection. So to make up for it, I'd like to share a wonderful prayer by Michael Leunig, from his book A Common Prayer (©1990 Dove - Harper Collins,
ISBN 0 85924 933 6). Even though it's coming on time to harvest tomatoes rather than plant them, it's a wonderful prayer:


It is time to plant tomatoes. Dear God, we
praise this fruit and give thanks for its life 
and evolution. We salute the tomato, cheery,
fragrant morsel, beloved provider, survivor
and thriver and giver of life. Giving and
giving and giving, Plump with summer's joy.
The scent of its stem is summer's joy, is
promise and rapture. Its branches breathe
perfume of promise and rapture. Giving and
giving and giving.
Dear God, give strength to the wings and
knees of pollinating bees, give protection
from hailstorms, gales and frosts, give warm
days and quenching rains. Refresh and 
adorn our gardens and tables. Refresh 
us with tomatoes.
Rejoice and rejoice! Celebrate the scarlet
soul of winter sauces. Behold the delicious
flavour! Behold the oiled vermilion moons
that ride and dive in olive bobbing seas of 
vinegared lettuce. Let us rejoice! Let this 
rejoicing be our thanks for tomatoes.
Amen.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Simple Moodlings the easy way

A friend recently asked for the name of my blog because she couldn't remember how to find it. I guess if I wanted this blog to go viral (I don't), its title would probably prevent that even if the content didn't. I'll admit that its name is a strange combo of words that doesn't come easily to mind, simply because moodling isn't a word that very many people have ever heard. It was coined by Brenda Ueland, a writer who lived to the age of 93 and who inspired many people to write (or to follow other artistic dreams), me included.

For Ms. Ueland, moodling was "long, inefficent, happy idling, dawdling and puttering." I've come to see moodling as an amalgam of the word doodling, which I often do with pen and paper when my mind is otherwise occupied, and musing, which seems to occur naturally as I walk the dog or work in the garden. For me, moodling is usually done in silence so that my mind is in free range mode with few distractions.

The things that find their way into these moodlings usually come from that kind of space to ponder this beautiful world we've been given and how we need to treat it with the utmost care, to consider the many good people who share this planet with us, and to reflect on happenings that beg to be shared with family, friends and folks I might not know -- just to make them smile or to perhaps see things in a slightly different way.

But finding Simple Moodlings can be challenging if you can't remember the title. My mother-in-law figured out how to use the bookmark feature on her computer. She was my most faithful reader for a long time -- bookmarking worked well for her because she took the time look at her bookmarks on a regular basis. But for people who can't be bothered to check in regularly and who still use email, perhaps the easiest way to get moodlings is by signing up on the top right hand column where it says, "Get Moodlings via email" -- just plug in your email address and a window will pop up asking you to "prove you're not a robot" by typing a given letter or number combo into a box, and voila! Next time you check your email, you'll receive a verification message asking you to click a link in order to receive Simple Moodlings emails every time something is posted. You can always unsubscribe at any time.

Getting moodlings by email isn't quite the full experience -- because readers don't see the blog's design (which I switch up fairly frequently just for the fun of it) and because sometimes a post gets sent out prematurely (before I've fixed all its bugs or thought things through completely). Email moodlings often have awkward wordings, messed up formatting and outright errors that eventually get corrected on the blog itself. But pobody's nerfect, least of all me.

There are lots of better things to do than read blogs online, but if you enjoy these moodlings, I'm happy to share this email trick, and if you aren't interested, I wish you many happy moodlings of your own!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#holyroodbenchproject update -- special edition

The SEESA (South East Edmonton Seniors Association) wood workshop carpenters are still making their wonderful benches for anyone willing to part with $100. Call 780 468-1985 if you're interested. If you haven't heard about the bench project, click here for the original moodling about it. And if you want to see some other pretty cool benches, click here.

Holyrood resident Jennifer sent a message recently -- her family just finished painting their neighbourly bench -- with no less than 150 maple leaves! So finally this morning Shadow and I went for a walk and took one more picture for your enjoyment. Jennifer and her elementary school-aged daughters did a marvellous job, don't you think? Shadow thinks so, too.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: When the Moon is Low


For all the reading I do, I don't leave enough book reviews in these moodlings. But When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi (ISBN 9780062369574) is a book that needs to be shared here. It's written by an Afghan-American pediatrician who tells a fictional story of an Afghan family trying to find its way from a country being destroyed by the Taliban to freedom in England in the 1990s.

I suspect that author Nadia Hashimi has drawn from some of the life experiences of her extended family to tell the story of Fereiba, a young Afghani mother whose engineer husband, responsible for water facilities in their city, is taken away one night by the Taliban. Her son, Saleem, is only 14, and not yet considered manly enough (according to Taliban rule) to accompany his mother on errands around Kabul. Life becomes impossible for Fereiba and her three children. She sells everything and relies on human smugglers to get to Iran, as most of her family left earlier, when the trouble began in their hometown of Kabul.

Thanks to falsified Belgian passports on which much of their money is spent, Fereiba's family makes it through Turkey to Greece, but it is there that Saleem tries to sell some of Fereiba's jewelry to pay for the remaining part of the journey and is caught by immigration police who ship him back to Turkey. Because of her baby's heart condition, Fereiba has no choice but to continue on with the little one and her daughter, hoping against hope that Saleem will somehow manage to make his way to England and rejoin his family.

Saleem's journey as an unaccompanied minor among refugees, farm labourers, human traffickers and contraband smugglers is a harrowing one. It's chilling to wonder how many kids are in the same boat, how many parents have been separated from their children, how many people have died while riding under trucks crossing borders, and related human costs. Nadia Hashimi has offered us, in our relatively peaceful and secure lives in North America, what is probably a fairly sanitized version of what many refugees must go through to reach better places than the war-ravaged countries they were forced to leave behind, and introduces us to compelling characters in Fereiba and Saleem. I would love to know people like them.

When the Moon is Low is worth a read simply to give fortunate North Americans an idea of the challenges faced by refugees and why we need to open our hearts and borders to those being displaced by human-made disasters and conflicts. I didn't realize that, after Syrians, Afghans are still the most numerous people in refugee camps twenty years after their exodus began, and heaven knows there are many other people who need homes because they are unable to return to their own. The news tells us snippets of their stories from places like Lesbos in Greece and Lampedusa in Italy, but since many other European countries have closed their doors to refugees, the patience of the Greek and Italian people who receive so many is wearing thin and it seems the tide of feeling about rescuing people from the rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean might be shifting...

But we are one human family. Nadia Hashimi's story of ordinary people -- with hopes and dreams like our own -- trying to survive extraordinary times is worth a read, if only to remind us of the needs of our sisters and brothers around the world. Everyone needs a home where they belong, and if the tables were turned, we would hope and pray for help just as they do. It's incumbent on us to be their source of help and hope. I can't recommend this book enough, especially if it moves us to get involved by giving what help we can...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A prayer for an understanding mind (and heart)

God,
there is so much
that my small mind cannot fathom.

This world
with all its intricacies
and your created beings
with all our complexities
are more than I
will ever comprehend.

Some of the black and white judgments
I was taught to make in the past
have turned out
to be so many shades of grey
that I am just beginning to embrace.

So, like Solomon,
I ask for a wise and discerning mind --
not so that I may judge
things or people to be right or wrong
but so that I may hold the tensions
you want me to hold
and remain open,
leaving judgment to you alone.

I trust that
as I embrace life and love in all their many forms,
you will lead my heart
down paths of beauty and goodness,
truth and simplicity.

+Amen.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

As I Am #9 --19 paper cranes

L'Arche Internationale's little videos about the beauty, goodness and truth of people with disabilities and their caregivers never disappoint. The most recent comes from L'Arche Japan and features Sachiko, a woman who lives a beautiful life and creates beautiful paper cranes to carry beautiful souls to paradise. If you haven't seen this yet, I highly recommend it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2hpNbELFHo

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grandma, it's not as easy as you made it look...

Last night, my sisters and I reminisced about picking the raspberries in Grandma's garden. She had approximately 100 rows of bushes, each of them stretching at least a mile to the back Saskatoon berry hedge. Or so it seemed to us three little girls. And no matter how fast we picked, we couldn't keep up with Grandma, who always seemed to have a full pail to our scant handfuls (and I don't think we were eating more than we were picking...)

Today I made my first-ever batch of raspberry jelly. Yesterday I picked a lot of backyard raspberries, and though I usually freeze them for breakfast smoothies, I thought that people might want ice cream and raspberries for dessert at our family barbecue last night. But my mom brought a bee-eautiful rhubarb/apple/saskatoon berry crumble, and my raspberries were forgotten. In the middle of the night, I remembered the pail on the counter, and decided that today I'd have to try a batch of raspberry jam or jelly.

Realizing that my family would probably prefer not to have raspberry seeds stuck in their teeth at breakfast, I started researching how to make jelly online, and as I did, some dimly lit corner in the back of my mind flashed that I had inherited some cheesecloth for straining juices. When Ruby, my oldest-ever neighbour -- who lived in her home until she was ninety-seven and kept on for five years after that -- moved into seniors' housing, her niece passed me a lot of Ruby's canning jars and a few other things. So I went hunting in our cold storage room, and glory be! There was a whole forgotten collection of berry juicing equipment from Ruby in the far back corner!

Once I washed everything and figured out how to put the antique WearEver aluminium strainer together, it was just a matter of time before I would have enough raspberry juice to make a beautiful batch of jelly. I was so excited! But of course, I had forgotten two important things:

#1 It's a good idea to reinforce the seams of ancient cheesecloth bags before using them.

#2 It's an even better idea to wear dark colours when making raspberry jelly.

Somewhere at the halfway point of the juicing process, as I was squeezing the raspberry pulp left in the cheesecloth bag, a seam gave way. Raspberry seeds and pulp sprayed across the room and my lovely flowered t-shirt. A passing stranger looking in our front window could have easily called 911 to report a mortally wounded woman standing over a berry press because it certainly seemed that way. My left side looked as though I was a victim from a chainsaw massacre.

Fortunately, no one looked in at that moment. I changed my clothes, scrubbed the floor and walls and fired up the sewing machine to reinforce the damp cheesecloth bag's seams, and the rest of the canning process was uneventful, thank heavens. The jelly set beautifully, and it tastes like summer. So if you're in the neighbourhood, drop by and we can have raspberry jam on toast anytime, at least for as long as it lasts.

Some days, I swear I can feel my Grandma laughing with me as I try out the things she used to do so effortlessly. And I suspect that just as she would chuckle with me over the big red blotches on my shirt and the floor, she'd also be pleased with this first attempt at raspberry jelly.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday reflection: Sighs too deep for words

Reflection based on Romans 8:26-27


O Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Maybe it's not so much 
that we don't know how to pray as we ought,
but that we are unable to find words 
to express the inexpressible:
fear,
sorrow,
struggle,
confusion,
or a feeling of hopelessness --
alternately,
joy,
peace,
excitement,
contentment,
or a strong sense of hope.
It's just good to know
that when we stand, tongue-tied,
in the chaos of our lives,
you intercede for us
with sighs too deep for words.
Really, that's all we need --
and to trust 
that you've got our backs.

+AMEN.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mary, mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Not with silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row, but I prefer food with my flowers, don't you? And I can't complain about the growth -- it never ceases to amaze me once we reach summer solstice!
June 21 
July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21
Thus far, we're enjoying lettuce, cherry tomatoes and snow peas, and it won't be long, God- and weather-willing, before we can start eating even more organic, 50-foot-diet vegetables. The squash are blooming, and it's just amazing how things change, even overnight. A garden is a good place to be this time of year, but if you don't have one, try a farmer's market because it's awesome too! Or visit me... I have more lettuce than I know how to handle! You've heard of crazy zucchini ladies...???