When the Spirit moves me Archives

January 29, 2008's not just about hell and damnation anymore!

I've started a new category for my "church-ish" posts. Church (unexpectedly) has become a large part of my life over the past few years. I love my beautiful sanctuary, I love our minister, I enjoy being a member of a great congregational community, and most recently, belonging to our church choir. (A minor downside was "volunteering" to be Central Treasurer...when the minister asks a favour and says give it prayerful consideration before giving her your answer...who can say no? But that's another story...)

I didn't attend church growing up, although was baptised as a baby in the United Church of Canada , which is the church I was drawn back to as an adult. It just seems to fit my spiritual quest and my own sense of social justice. UCC is open and progressive, a very positive place...there is no fire and brimstone anywhere in sight. (I don't even think our minister believes in Hell.) The path of my own church seems to be more about growing the inner light within, and seeking and promoting justice and equality in the world. The old "be a better person" routine...which is much easier said than done. I find that, although I don't necessarily need to attend church to stay in touch with my inner spirit, I almost always feel rejuvenated and inspired by Rev. Valerie's musings each week ("sermon" often seems too formal a word for the thoughts she shares with us). And I feel somehow energized just by being in my church's sanctuary and surrounded by my church family.

We are not alone. We live in God's world.

PS - come back on Feb 14 to "meet" my minister...

Don't panic or run away screaming...

I should add that I have no intentions of trying to convert anyone - to each her own and all that. It is just where I will post my thoughts on matters spiritual to me - my own personal faith journal, after a fashion. As for having a separate category...well, I'm not sure why I want to keep these thoughts separate, perhaps simply to facilitate deletion in case I decide it's too much to share!

A lot of the posts will likely end up talking about music that inspires me somehow...I am frequently moved by a meaningful lyric, and love to sing, although will not be asked to sing a solo anytime soon! (Not that I'm a terrible singer, but certainly don't have the technical ability our choir director seems to be looking for in a soloist.)

(Updated June/08: Well, it turns out I was asked to sing a solo - much to my surprise, it was a success!)

January 31, 2008

New year, new...hissy fit?

So I was at church one recent Sunday and...uh oh, it was so hectic and crazy mid-December, it turns out I'd forgotten to sign our Choir Director's paycheque so her bank returned it as non-negotiable. And at this time of year too when the holiday bills come rolling in. (I'm treasurer for my pastoral charge...a pastoral charge is the level above individual churches and the level below presbytery...confused? Don't feel bad, the structure of the United Church of Canada is a mystery to me too!)

Anyway, the woman whose cheque I hadn't signed was (understandably) cranky, but the worst part was that she thought I'd known since mid-week and had just been ignoring her! It turned out she'd sent an email to my old email address, so I didn't receive it. We have sorted out and all's well now, but at the time I felt really bad and incompetent (am way too hard on myself, as if I can't make a simple mistake like anyone else!) I came home in a funk. I then blamed it on the fact that I can't get anything done in our teeny cramped computer room, I have no room to spread out my files, and how the heck can I continue as treasurer with no decent place to short, I threw a total hissy fit!

Ever cool headed, Dave lets me rant for a bit and then says what if you had a laptop and wireless internet? Oh I pause mid-tantrum, envisioning myself with files spread out on my 8 foot dining room table...that would be perfect. I feel quite deflated with such an obvious and simple solution in front of me.

Off we go to Futureshop...naturally they had no stock left of the Toshiba which was front and centre on their website at $400 off. But they did have a Compaq Presario C700 for $350 off - works for me! We were the salesman's dream come true...we walk out in about 15 minutes with a laptop, wireless router, HP office jet printer, and wireless mouse.

I love this rig!! At least I will...just as soon as I master this weird Canadian International Multilanguage keyboard. This board's got so many symbols on it, I could type just about every language going, including Maltese apparently (or at least I could if I knew Maltese...).

Yes Virginia, something good CAN come out of a hissy fit (and a patient spouse doesn't hurt either) I just have to pray I don't mess up the paycheques hard to get good volunteers these days... :)

February 1, 2008

Jesus Walks...U2 talks

Blurb from "Jesus Walks" (Kanye West)

"They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes
But if I talk about God my record won't get played Huh?"

Most of the Christians I know (myself included) are quite repressed when it comes to proclaiming our faith from the rooftops. We don't necessarily want to be seen as enthusiastic followers of Christ: Christians yes, but "Lovers of Jesus"? Hmm...that smacks a little too much of rabid, born again evangelism...we collectively shudder in our polite, moderate congregations.

I think that reluctance to actively and visibly walk in the path of Jesus is certainly one of the reasons why, as Kanye writes, songs about God do not get much radio play...unless, of course, the songwriters happen to be U2!

I've been a huge U2 fan for ears perked up at 1980's "I Will Follow", and when I heard "New Year's Day" a year or so later, I was hooked on this band. When The Joshua Tree album came out in 1987, I vaguely noticed the biblical references in the title and a few songs. But it was not until hearing the Rattle & Hum album a couple years later that I really tuned into the spiritual themes running rampant through so many of U2's lyrics.

Continue reading "Jesus Walks...U2 talks" »

February 2, 2008

Life Uncommon

I LOVE this song, and although I have no idea who the poster of this video is, but I echo her comment about this video. I too "hope my children lead a life uncommon".

I know my hope is rooted in reality. My heart swells with pride in my daughters and how they embody the spirit of this song:

"Lend out voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lent out strength to that which we with to be free from
Fill you lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon"

Continue reading "Life Uncommon" »

February 14, 2008

Today's topic is brought to you by the letter "V" for Valentine's Day for Valerie

Valentine's Day is Valerie's birthday. also the third letter in the word loVe - which was angie's suggested topic for today.

So what better day to write about my minister, the lovely and talented Reverend Valerie?!

Show of hands: who would go to church more often if the minister was a vivacious, enthusiastic, soulful woman with the ability to make Scripture relevant? Well come along to my church then 'cause my Reverend ROCKS!!

Here she is front and centre with the kids for children's time (I didn't take the photo, but it just so happens that's my daughter's head mid-photo peeking around Valerie's shoulder)


Part of Valerie's irresistible appeal is that she usually seems to be speaking straight from her heart; she rarely refers to any written notes. For example: one Sunday she was speaking about tolerance and acceptance of others. At one point, she told us how she was driving to church that morning telling her teenage daughter to be careful in choosing friends and not to get in with the wrong crowd. Then she says "that's when Jesus smacked me upside the head and said you're doing exactly the opposite of what you're going to stand up and preach about in church this morning" full Newfie accent (which almost always breaks through when she's animated).

And she really shakes things up from time to time. I've come to believe she'll try anything once. For example, the time our Sunday service turned into a cheerleading session...

Continue reading "Today's topic is brought to you by the letter "V"" »

February 24, 2008

the Gospel according to...Biff??

In the opening pages of Christopher Moore's novel "Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend", is this quote attributed to Voltaire:
"God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh"

(Minor point of clarification: according to Wiki, the quote is misattributed to Voltaire, but was actually by H. L. Mencken: "Creator - A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh")

In any case, it's a great quote - I see no reason why prayer must preclude humour. It seems acceptable to worship while in tears, why not also in the presence of laughter? Humour can bring people together, and brighten a dark day. To adapt a line from Bono (ref the Rattle and Hum CD): the God I believe in isn't short of laughs, mister! Humour - respectful humour, that is - can be a terrific way to diffuse a tense or awkward situation.

I highly recommend "Lamb..." to anyone open to an hilarious - yet through the profanity and goofiness, oddly sensitive - tale of the life of Jesus. I just lent it to Rev. Valerie and am most curious to know if she, as a member of the clergy, will find it as funny as did my daughter and I.

Continue reading "the Gospel according to...Biff??" »

February 25, 2008

Whoot! whoot! for The Hooters

I never realized how many songs I knew by The Hooters until we got their compilation CD Hooterization: A Retrospective (which we found in the bargain bin at the Superstore). I did, however, know they sang All You Zombies, which is a song I have loved since its release in the (early?) 80's. But in my younger days, I just tuned into the chorus and the music, and never really "heard" the words. After I grow into my faith, I take more note of how very many spiritual and/or biblical references there are in the literature and music of our culture. So, now, I still love the music, but have a deeper appreciation for the lyrics. (For some reason, youtube has disabled embedding on this video, so click on the song title above to have a listen if you like.)

According to Songfacts:
"This was written by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, who founded The Hooters. It is filled with biblical images and created some controversy. Said Hyman, "I think the spirituality of it wasn't premeditated. I think everyone is a spiritual person in whatever they believe or not. There was no real agenda on our part. I know it got banned on several stations, which interested us - there were some Christian stations that refused to play it. There were articles - we never understood the controversy that much, but it stimulated activity. For a writer, that's the best thing you can do."

Continue reading "Whoot! whoot! for The Hooters" »

March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

Over the past few years, I have come to love Palm Sunday. I love the fun and excitement when the kids are parading around the sanctuary with their palm leaves. I love the sense of throwing my lot in with Jesus - if I'd been around when he arrived in Jerusalem, I would definitely have jumped on his bandwagon! (or so I like to think...) And I love the anticipation of the upcoming Holy Week.

I also love this fresco, in the Scrovegni Chapel, of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, by Giotto (although alas, I have not yet been to Padua to see it in person):


Continue reading "Palm Sunday" »

March 20, 2008

Jesus Christ Superstar

I have loved this musical since seeing it performed by a touring company at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in Halifax in the late seventies. After watching the movie a bunch on times on TV, I finally bought the DVD last year, although had already memorized the entire thing from listening to the CD over and over. If there is anyone left who has not yet seen this movie, I highly recommend it, even if you are not religious. (The hilarious Herod scene alone is worth the price of admission for any non-religious viewers!!) The costumes and language are oh so early seventies, but somehow don't come across as foolish, the movie still holds its power.

The movie was being shown in church this evening...I had really wanted to go, but we ended up staying home and watching our copy. Mostly because we were all so tired, and I have a splitting headache (going on for three days now...blech!) Also I don't like crying in public (this movie always brings on the tears) because oh man, I am not a pretty weeper - I get all blotchy, I make loud noises, my nose gets red, etc. And finally, I have a hard time refraining from singing along since I know the words to all the songs - people generally don't like the person sitting next to them to be drowning out the movie!

Here's a youtube clip of what is supposedly the 1973 movie trailer:

Continue reading "Jesus Christ Superstar" »

March 24, 2008

Easter joy

What a busy Easter weekend!

The Good Friday service was emotional, as usual. I kept my tears at bay, but Ginger succumbed. After the service, Rev. Valerie hugged her for a long time, and told her that the great thing about Good Friday - and all the dark times in our lives - is that Easter Monday always comes. (Valerie knows about Ginger's depression and I was so moved by her compassion, and incredibly impressed by her ability to always find the right words that one needs to hear.)

After this service, Valerie's youngest daughter came home with us. She and Miss Ninja are best friends, so I wasn't surprised when the two of them cooked up a sleepover (or rather two sleepovers, one at our house, the next night at hers.)

It's nice having the girls' friends over for sleepovers, although Dave sometimes finds the commotion a bit hard to take (he has noise issues...) We played the new version of Life last evening. What fun! This is a neatly updated version of the old Game of Life. I love board games, and card games. I used to love outdoor running around games, but haven't as much energy as I did when I was ten! Still love croquet though.

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March 26, 2008

Let your light shine

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
~ Maryanne Williams ~

I believe Nelson Mandala quoted the above in his inauguration speech. How moving and profound are these words. It is indeed difficult to let our own light shine.

I often find myself belittling my own talents. I am prone to believing that if I am good at something, it must be so easy that anyone could do it. (Of course that can lead to impatience with those of lesser abilities, my mental dialogue often sounds like this: "argh, how can this person not 'get it', this is child's play for heaven's sake!") But I am getting much better at recognizing my own talents and trying to share them, rather than assuming I have nothing of value to share. We can more easily share our gifts if we acknowledge that we have something worth sharing in the first place!

On a more selfish note, I am also learning to accept a compliment gracefully. I had showed my Valentine entry to Valerie and (after telling me that I can talk about her behind her back anytime I want) she said that she happens to think I'm pretty amazing myself. My normal reaction would be to brush such a compliment off as undeserved, but I am not doing that anymore. I am going to accept the kind words and just feel good about it. Because who am I not be amazing?! And when I feel good about myself, I have more strength and energy to share with others.

Continue reading "Let your light shine" »

March 29, 2008

Prayer for a change in Zimbabwe

Chiocciola's post about Zimbabwe inspired me to read recent new stories this morning and follow the election coverage more closely. The news is not encouraging but I add my prayers for change to the many being said around the world on this day of their election.

The election rigging appears to be so blatant. One wonders how Mugabe can imagine people will believe his claim that he wouldn't be able to sleep if he thought the election was rigged...well he probably doesn't imagine any such thing since it hardly matters who believes him when he has the police, army and prison services on his side.

BBC says:
"Across the country, there were reports of voters not being allowed to cast ballots - either because their names were not on the voters' roll or because they were trying to vote in the wrong ward."

And on this page, they are gathering observations from the voters, such as the following.
1430 GMT Radcliffe, near Kwekwe: Georgina says:
"I went to four different polling stations in the area and my name was not on any of the voters' rolls, even though I checked two weeks ago to make sure, and my name was on the voters' register then.

My grandmother's name was on the roll but she was told she could not vote this time, even though she has voted in all previous elections - she is 78. However, seven members of my family who have all passed away were on the list, including my uncle, who died a week ago and was an MDC member of parliament.

This is very disturbing for us. But we are not the only ones. Out of the four polling stations I went to, I would say half of all the people who turned up were turned away. They still took everyone's names however, including my neighbours.

I was hoping to vote for Morgan Tsvangirai and I am afraid they will attribute my vote to Zanu-PF. The same thing must be happening across the country and it will probably mean another Zanu-PF victory. It's very sad."

Continue reading "Prayer for a change in Zimbabwe" »

April 21, 2008

Gifts from God

The first gift: our minister and friend, Rev. Valerie. She gave so much support to my sister, to me, to our family, through Floyd's illness and death, providing practical advice, or simply giving a hug and sharing stories, whatever was needed. From lifting our spirits with laughter, to contacting the UCW and arranging for meals to arrive, to just being there with loving compassion and her peaceful presence as though she had all the time in the world to spend with us, her strength and comfort was a gift from God.

The second gift: a beautiful prayer shawl. Valerie was leaving the hospital one day, when she pulled two prayer shawls out of her bag and wrapped them around our shoulders, saying "May you always feel the arms of God around you". These shawls are made by the women of a local prayer ministry, who knit (or crochet) them while praying thoughts of healing and comfort. The miraculous feeling of peace and comfort that comes from wearing my prayer shawl is another amazing gift from God.

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April 29, 2008

Rejuvenating my soul

The spirit moved me to go to the ocean yesterday...I packed a picnic lunch and a book (Donna Leon's Doctored Evidence) and headed off to Chebucto Head.

I have been going out to this place since I was about 17. It is one of my absolute favourite spots in all the soul finds peace here on the rocks, as I inhale the salt air and listen to the roar and shush of the ocean.

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:7)

"May God, who clothes creation in love mend each rift and strengthen each seam, that threads of hope and strands of healing may be woven wherever we journey."
(Rev. Valerie)

Here are some of the photos I took...


Continue reading "Rejuvenating my soul" »

May 2, 2008

Love song to God?

Funny how much a song's meaning can be affected by mood or thought. I'd always thought of Faith Hill's That's How Love Moves as a typical romantic love song...

Ah, but today I was listening with different ears. Today, this sounded like a love song to God.

This morning, I'd reread Valerie's weekly email to the congregation in which she spoke of the Spirit being like the wind:

Sometimes the Spirit’s presence is like a hurricane, at other times a soft gentle breeze but always it touches us in some way that changes our reality.

With that in mind, I was listening to the song's lyrics, and it struck me that the Spirit is also much "like a river running through you". It can be strong enough to carry you through the rapids, other times is so calm that you can see yourself reflected in it. The rest of the lyrics fit too. It can definitely feel like "the miracle that makes me everything I am". The Spirit's presence can also feel like "the voice of love calling, without making a sound", it can "consume you", can be "a whisper" or "a storm". "Sometimes it lifts you high as Heaven"...

Listening with ears and heart open to the presence of God, this song took on a whole new meaning for me.

The words, especially the first verse, also remind me of two people who helped me to open my heart to the Spirit. When I started attending church few years ago, I was by and large surrounded by people who thought of church as an obligation, a tedious experience to be endured only when necessary. (One friend was once ridiculing "church geeks" - you know, those weirdos who sit up front, bopping along to the music, actually enjoying the, that would be me!) Not the easiest atmosphere in which to embark on a journey of faith. I am blessed to have encountered two vastly different people whose ministries have enabled me to find the courage to continue my journey, and openly embrace my inner church geek!

Continue reading "Love song to God?" »

May 7, 2008

Don't let the sun go down on me

This beautiful scene met our eyes as we drove home from children's choir practice this evening:

Felt like the Spirit sending a message of joy - how can one not be uplifted by such a radiant image?!

Also reminded me of one of my favourite Elton John songs...I play it on my own piano, but somehow it doesn't quite sound the same ;)

May 15, 2008

Prayers for the People of Myanmar (Burma)

The United Church of Canada invites people to use the following prayer for the people of Myanmar.

O Holy One, who speaks to us out of the whirlwind,
revealing how limited is our power,
how vulnerable is our existence,
how fragile our survival,
once again the winds and the waves have devastated a portion of your good earth,
your creation has been laid waste in Myanmar.
By the tens of thousands, your human children
have drowned, have been battered lifeless, and
now countless are left without shelter or home risking disease and death.
Our lamentations rise with our fear-filled rage at this loss, suffering,
and the senselessness of it all.
We cannot undo what has happened,
but fervently invite your embracing presence and love
for all who have died,
for all who are wounded,
for all who are grieving.
Let neither the dead nor the living be far from your Spirit,
they are all with you.

Gracious and generous One,
you love the world and all its people—your global household.
We pray for all who are witnesses to this destruction and death.
Near and far, weak and powerful, rich and poor—
we, who have been spared this killer cyclone,
observe and can hardly credit what we see.
As we watch brief video clips and read news reports,
your Spirit moves our hearts to compassion and generosity.
We rejoice in all who put mind, body, and soul into rescue, relief, and restoration efforts.
We welcome opportunities to give so that life may continue.
We pray, move the hearts of those in power in Myanmar to transcend self-interest
so that the freely-given help and aid may reach
the needy, the distressed and all suffering because of this calamity.
We pray in Jesus Christ, by whom we know your Way, your Truth, and your Life.
(Scripture references: Job 40:6; Psalm 139:7, 18)

May 16, 2008

Votive tree

Inspired by Maria's photos of votive trees, here is one of Miss Ninja lighting a candle in Chiesa di Ognissanti last summer:


May 17, 2008

GO, Supreme Court of California, GO!!!

The Ginger was thrilled to tell me that the California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

As past cases establish, the substantive right of two adults who share a loving relationship to join together to establish an officially recognized family of their own — and, if the couple chooses, to raise children within that family — constitutes a vitally important attribute of the fundamental interest in liberty and personal autonomy that the California Constitution secures to all persons for the benefit of both the individual and society.

Furthermore, in contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights. We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.

Continue reading "GO, Supreme Court of California, GO!!!" »

May 20, 2008

A beautiful day

Valerie and I went for a marvellous drive along the Fundy coast to Cape d'Or today.

Strangely for me, I forgot to take any photos this day. But here's a video I found on youtube to give you a glimpse of this spectacular spot.

Continue reading "A beautiful day" »

May 22, 2008

A beautiful seen through Valerie's eyes.

Each week on Thursday, Valerie sends an email to our entire congregation (or at least to those who've provided their email addresses) as a way of keeping in touch between Sundays. This email is often a newletter of sorts, telling us what's going on in upcoming Sundays, letting us know who is need of our prayers and support through difficult times, keeping us up to date on our sponsored refugee family's situation, and other congregational news. Or it might be a call to offer up our talents toward various ministries, such as youth group, prayer shawls, funerals, music, etc. Recently she invited us to "give some prayerful consideration to what your gifts are and if, in fact, you are being called by God". She wrote: "I do not yet know your name but I do know God is calling – Do you not hear?"

Other weeks, her emails are reminders to "take the time to experience the presence of God in the people around you and the places you find yourselves in. In the darker moments and in those times of complete joy, God is there and we are indeed blessed."

But today, her email included a reflection on our coastal drive, which I wrote about myself yesterday, so I want to share it with you in full...

Continue reading "A beautiful seen through Valerie's eyes." »

June 14, 2008

From a mass email - good advice for once

I received this in an email recently...

Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey, they had an argument; and one friend slapped the other one in the face

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath.

The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.

After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone:

"Today my best friend saved my life"

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?"

The friend replied "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand, where winds of forgiveness can erase it away.

But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."

Learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your benefits in stone.

June 17, 2008 do I hate thee?

Recently my daughter told me that a friend's parents had offered to pick her up at our house, take her to her friend's bowling party, and then drive her home again. I said oh no, I would come get her after the party, as there was no need for them to do all that driving. She replied forcefully “Mum, they offered to bring me home, and if someone offers something, you have to accept, otherwise they’ll think you don’t like them”. I assured her they won’t think any such thing, and explained that whether or not we accept someone’s offer has nothing to do with whether or not we like them.

And yet later that evening, when my own friend turned down an offer I had made when I'd thought she might need a friend on an upcoming trip, I found my daughter's words echoing in my head. Why, knowing there was not a shred of truth to it, would such a thought enter my mind? And yet strangely it did. Even though I fully understood my friend’s reason for saying "thanks for the thought, but maybe another time". Even though I knew the reason she didn't want my company had nothing to do with me in particular, she just wanted to take some time for herself. Even though I myself sometimes choose solitude over the company of friends and family.

I am a hypocrite in the face of my own insecurity. I wonder if this is normal. I wonder if my insecurity is a burden for my friends...I hope not.

O, Insecurity, you curious do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

I hate when the fear of perceived rejection paralyzes and weakens me. I hate when ridiculous and irrational thoughts crawl out of my brain and swirl around my mind. I hate that, even though I recognize their absurdity, those thoughts still lead me to a place of withdrawal. I turn inward and circle the wagons, determined not to risk rejection again.

Continue reading " do I hate thee?" »

June 22, 2008

Ginger's Sunday Reflection

A few months ago, Rev. Valerie had asked Ginger if she would give a reflection on Grad Sunday (today). Ginger agreed. Weeks passed without inspiration. One particularly bad day, she almost called Valerie to say she couldn't do this after all. But she decided to give it a bit more time and see if the words would come. A few days ago, she managed to put a few thoughts on paper, but said it was only about 30 seconds worth and she thought it was stupid. I read it and (honestly) assured her it was not. She planned to finish it Friday since she had no school, but was not feeling very optimistic that she'd be able to find anything interesting to say. I suggested that perhaps she might include a poem, song lyric, favourite passage from a book, etc. if she needed to, in order to find the inspiration that was eluding her. I also reminded her to have faith in herself and to believe that her words are of interest to others.

When I got home Friday evening and read her draft, I was so impressed by what she wrote. Afterward, several people commented on how moved they were by her words. One woman said that she was especially touched because her son also suffers from depression. I know that my own eyes welled up with tears while listening to my beautiful daughter speak of her pain. At the same time, my heart swelled with love and pride at her courage in speaking about her depression so openly. She is an amazing, strong, generous young woman who has so much to offer. Dave and I are incredibly proud of her.

Without further ado, here is the text of her reflection:

Continue reading "Ginger's Sunday Reflection" »

Sunday success!

Hooray, I survived my first solo performance! Amazingly, I was hardly nervous at all, it was a wonderful feeling to share this uplifting and joyful song with everyone. (Singing the line "I can feel this God song rising up in me" felt quite literally true.)

My family - including Dave for once! - was in the pews beaming encouragement at me. My younger daughter even gave me a thumbs up at the cool is that? And quite a few people offered kind words after the service, so I guess I must have sounded ok. (Er, unless of course everyone was just being polite...but I don't think that was the case!) The only disappointing part about today was that Valerie was away so had to miss my big "debut" as well as Ginger's incredibly moving reflection. Janice (our church's staff associate) lead the services in Valerie's absence and really was wonderful...but it wasn't quite the same :(

During children's time, Janice talked about Psalm 86 (at least I think that's what she said), in terms of how we act when afraid (of the dark, of rejection, of whatever makes us fearful), and how we can get strength and comfort from God at these times...which I thought was very interesting, especially considering my musings last week about insecurity.

My friend Brent told me he recorded the service today (audio only, I think) and that he'd give me a copy of the recording. He said he wants to keep a copy for himself too, and then went on to say that Valerie always gets a copy "because she's second to God, you know, and that's only if God keeps on his toes"...he cracks me up with his quirky sense of humour.

Anyway, once I have the recording, and if I can figure out how, maybe I'll upload my own rendition here. In the meantime, if you're interested to hear the song I chose, here's a random version from youtube:

Continue reading "Sunday success!" »

June 24, 2008

What do you mean, who am I buying this for?

I bought it for myself, of course. Yeesh, can't a grown woman buy herself a book without everyone thinking she's lost her marbles? Just because the book is aimed at preschoolers...hey, my inner child stomped her foot and said "I want that!!", what can I say?! :o)

I was browsing the bookshelves the other day (what else is new...) and I came across Guido's Gondola, a delightful children's book. Lovely illustrations, a heartwarming message told in rhymes, and Venice!! What more could one need from a book?

The blurb on the back is as follows:

"Guido spends his days shuttling tourists along the waterways of Venice in a small gondola. The kindhearted young rat enjoys the simple pleasures of his world–until his eyes are opened to the possibilities of all that could be accomplished with a larger, faster vessel. As Guido is persuaded to acquire bigger and better boats, life becomes increasingly complicated. Just how far will he go in his search for true satisfaction?

You and your child will giggle your way through this enchanting story of a small rat with a big heart, who learns the hard way that it’s the little joys of life that matter most."

The author includes this passage on her dedication page:

Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:6

Amen to that!



July 5, 2008

My first prayer shawl

A couple months ago, I posted about receiving a gift of a prayer shawl and the incredible feeling of comfort that flowed into me when I wrapped it around myself.

Recently, Rev. Valerie asked our congregation if there was interest in starting up a prayer shawl ministry in our church...apparently the response was overwhelming. I definitely want to participate, even though I don't knit. I had sampled the world of knitting years ago, but started with a sweater pattern that was entirely too complicated for a beginner. I grew horribly frustrated and abandoned it. But I had enjoyed the act of knitting, other than the frustration of being in over my head so to speak, and had intended to try again with a simpler pattern but, as is often the case in my world of procrastination, I never got around to it.

What better way to reenter knitter-ville than to knit a prayer shawl?! Valerie had some patterns for folks to take, but they looked too complicated for my liking. I want to knit peacefully, with comforting thoughts and prayer in my mind. (I don't think much comfort would come from a shawl knit with intense frustration over missed stitches and the like!) So Valerie emailed me these - much simpler - instructions:

"Prayer Shawl Pattern. 3 plain, 3 purl all the way across and switch coming back. Cast on 57 stitches."

Great, I thought, that sounds uber-easy, but...when I went to buy some yarn, my shopping ground to a, just how many skeins of yarn does one need for a prayer shawl? Does it matter what kind of yarn use? With what size needles should I knit? So many things to know, so little knowledge in my head. Valerie was so busy I didn't want to pester her with my plethora of questions. (I wondered if there was "Prayer Shawl for Dummies" book...)

Continue reading "My first prayer shawl" »

July 10, 2008

In honour of Susie

Fellow ST blogger Deborah dedicated her current trip to her dear friend Susie. She also made this request to her blog readers and Slow Travel friends:

As you visit the great and small houses of faith around the world -- will you light a candle for Susie?

I do not really have an opportunity to photograph the lighting of a candle in my church. We don't have votive candles in the United Church, at least not in any UC churches that I have been in. I could photograph the lighting of the candle at the beginning of worship, but I sit in the choir loft facing the congregation and it wouldn't feel right to be snapping pictures. It would offset the peaceful honouring of Susie to be lighting a candle while feeling self conscious and intrusive. There is a Catholic basilica beside my office building, so I plan to visit it when I am able and light a candle there.

But I have lit a candle here in Susie's honour.


The process of lighting a candle in cyberspace was more peaceful than I had anticipated. At each step, you can take as much time as you need to gather your thoughts and wrap your love and prayers around the people in your mind.

After I finished, the message said the candle will only stay 'lit' for 48 hours, but I took this screen capture to keep my candle lit forever.


In any case, my prayer for Susie will not be extinguished.

Peace to all...

July 11, 2008

A friend by any other name...

Not so very long ago, someone said to me:

"I really enjoy sharing stories with you and getting to know you better. There are some people in my journey who, in the words of Anne of Green Gables, are “Kindred Spirits”. I feel that when I am with you. Just wanted you to know that."

I was reminded of this beautiful expression of friendship today when I came across the very words she referenced:

“A bosom friend - an intimate friend, you know - a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul”
~ From “Anne of Green Gables”, by L.M. Montgomery

And again when I saw this drawing, which totally tickled my funny bone. How cool that it is entitled "Kindred Spirits" because it just feels perfect for this particular friendship...

"Let's face it, friends make life a lot more fun."
~ Charles R. Swindoll

Continue reading "A friend by any other name..." »

July 26, 2008

My shawl is finished!

How proud of me am I?!? I have finished knitting my first prayer shawl ever, and am happy to say that it turned out even better than I hoped. It is hardly a work of art to be sure, but definitely a work of love. It is lovely and soft and warm, and infused with all the comfort and love I could knit in. Thanks to Mom for the refresher course in basic knitting techniques, and to Valerie for introducing me to the whole concept of prayer shawls..."the energy of prayer in solid form", as my blogging friend Annie put it.

As I knit, I held my family and friends in my heart, and prayed for strangers such as Deborah's friend Susie, whom I have met only through the stories of others. I discovered that knitting prayer shawls is very comforting...the rhythm is soothing, plus the simplicity of this pattern does not require much concentration so my mind is free to wander, to dream, to think about the people I feel the presence of God in and around me.

I quite often sang too while knitting, songs of worship or whatever happy music ran through me and set my toes a-tapping (a rousing chorus of Mamma Mia, anyone?) Plus, in Miss Ninja's words, "there is a foot of Newfoundland knit in the shawl". She sat with me for a couple hours one evening, and told me all about her visit with her best friend and family (although I gave up trying to figure out who was who in the extended version!) Of course the little turkey is tickled pink that she has now visited Newfoundland and I have not! :o) But I'm so glad she had such a great time and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her stories.

As I knit more shawls, which I definitely intend to do, I will give them to the prayer shawl ministry at my church so they can go to anyone in need of their miraculous comfort. But I know that this, my first one, is meant for Valerie. A couple months ago, she seemed to be feeling down and I was wishing there was someway I could bring her comfort, instead of always the other way evening, while tucked up in my own prayer shawl and marvelling again, and as always, at the powerful feeling of being wrapped in God's arms, I thought of knitting a shawl for her. And I I will offer it to her and hopefully she doesn't already have a closet full.

Continue reading "My shawl is finished!" »

July 27, 2008

Sunday with Tricia

What a lovely day we had today. Ginger and I went with my friend Tricia to her church - she and I are doing an "exchange". I went to her church this week, and she is coming to mine another week. (Actually we are not-so-secretly trying to lure each other to our own church. I don't know what her motivation is, but for my part, she is just so much fun and would bring a great energy to our church. However, we both love our own houses of worship, so I don't think either of us is going to make a move.)

Her minister, Rev. George MacDonald, is a very friendly and down to earth older gentleman, who is retiring this year. He gave a wonderful sermon, titled "Season to Taste". He began by speaking of his mother's stew and how, no matter how he tries, he cannot make a stew that tastes like hers. After she passed away, he found the recipe she used, which was her mother's. He said it was easy to follow, the instructions were clear and basic...until the last line "season to taste". Does that mean salt and pepper, or a mix of the herbs and spices in the rack above the stove? Does that mean season to his taste, her taste, the diners' taste? And he still has never made a stew that tastes like hers... And that lead into a sermon of how God seasons to his taste and how it's always the decision points that are difficult. It's easy to follow instructions, go to church each week, read the Bible, etc. But what about the times in our lives when we are called upon to "season to taste"? It was very thoughtful. We met and had a nice chat with him afterward. He asked where we were from, and it turns out he knows my Rev. Valerie and her husband Mark (who is also a minister, but in the Anglican Church, not the United Church).

Continue reading "Sunday with Tricia" »

August 6, 2008


I came across this site one day and thought GodTube?? Seriously...there's a "GodTube??? Cool. According to the site: is a dynamic community of people who are looking to connect, share, and belong. In its simplest form, GodTube is a video-driven social network where users can explore their faith and the tenets of Christianity.

I just watched this video, which I don't believe is true, but nonetheless, I think it raises some interesting points about our hesitance to share our faith in the face of disbelief and sometimes ridicule. When you think about it, that should be when we are most vocal, but instead we are often all too silent.

It has certainly taken me years to grow comfortable enough in my own faith to even begin to be truly open about it...proclaiming one's self a child of Christ feels like coming out of the closet! Some people look at me like I have two heads, and edge away from the conversation. Or assume that because I speak of things like feeling God's presence, they need to avoid certain topics...oh please, I have two children after all, and I didn't find them in the pumpkin patch! And just because I want to follow in Jesus' footsteps doesn't mean I've lost my sense of humour or that I don't say the f-word myself on occasion. Well ok, I don't actually swear much, but I never did, my language has not changed since I started on the path of my present faith journey. I think everyone has the right to their own beliefs (or non-belief as the case may be), but they don't have the right to dictate or ridicule what I believe. I sure hope the Spirit will fill me with the strength to stand up should I ever encounter such a bully as in this video story.

Spirit, Spirit of gentleness, blow through the wilderness, calling and free... Spirit, Spirit of restlessness, stir me from placidness, Wind, Wind on the sea...

August 12, 2008

i thank You God

i thank You God

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

E. E. Cummings
(I've seen his name also as ee cummings, but have read that he himself used capitals in his name, although not so much in his work)

Continue reading "i thank You God" »

August 18, 2008

Sunday with Tricia...part deux

As you may recall from this entry, my friend Tricia and I decided to check out each other's worship experience. So yesterday, Tricia came to my beloved St. John's United.

Her husband dropped her off at SJ shortly before the service started, so I had a chance to introduce her to Rev. Valerie, and to several of the congregation (who, in the summer, are mostly made up of 'savvy old ladies', which phrase I read somewhere recently and it cracked me up...there is so much truth in that term, the older church women just know things...lots of things.) I felt a shade guilty for abandoning choir, but I wanted to sit with Tricia. Not that my voice is anything special, mind you, but there were only three other choir members this week (normally we are ten - fifteen, but numbers plummet in the summer) so a fourth member would likely have been appreciated! But I, and the rest of the congregation, sang along to most pieces anyway, so in the end it didn't really matter if I sat with them or not.

We had a wonderful hymn sing this day - on summer Sundays, we always have a few minutes at the beginning of the service where we call out favourite hymns and sing them. Lots of great selections this week: Lord of Sea and Sky (my sister's favourite), In the Bulb there is a Flower (one of my late Grammy's favourites), Jesus You have come to the Lakeshore (one of my favourites), Lord of the Dance (one of everyone's favourites!), and more. I was glad of this, because I know one thing Tricia misses about the United Church is the music...actually it was she who called out Lord of Sea and Sky.

Continue reading "Sunday with Tricia...part deux" »

August 19, 2008

In Your Eyes...

In your eyes
The light, the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
The heat I see in your eyes

~ Peter Gabriel

I heard this song today and, as always, it touched me. I have read that, according to Gabriel, these lyrics could refer to either the love between two people, or the relationship between a person and God. The latter is how it seems to me. Singing these lyrics feels like a prayer: O God, in your eyes, I am complete...

The notion of being seen in God's eyes reminds me of a recent entry I read on the WonderCafe, called "Don't Look at Me", about an encounter with a shy little girl at a First Nations feast. Here's an excerpt:

“It seemed to me that she wanted both to be seen and to not be seen. Isn’t that a tension live most days?

We so much want to be seen, truly seen, that the disappointment of not being seen might be unbearable. The little boy or girl in each of us wants to be seen truly, with eyes of unconditional love. We want to be seen as beautiful, worthy, both strong and vulnerable. We wish we could see ourselves that way. We don’t want the eyes of judgment or shame cast upon us. The eyes of others, or our own, that say “Who do you think you are?” or “Behave” or “You are bad” or “…a failure” or “…ugly” or “…stupid” or “…unwelcome.”

I found myself wishing that I had said to my new friend, "Even if I don't look, God sees you - sees that you are beautiful and loved and a joy in God’s heart.” How might it change the world if each of us could take that in? That is one of the reasons, it seems to me, our faith communities are so important. They are, or should be, places where we feel seen. Places where we see in the eyes of our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles in faith, God looking at us and all creation with love. Places where we hear God’s voice say “I AM looking at you and your song and your heart is beautiful.”

~ David Giuliano (Moderator of the United Church of Canada)

Continue reading "In Your Eyes..." »

August 23, 2008

Ooo, I got my picture in the paper!

Psych!! I lied...I didn't get my picture in the paper at all.

(Well I did once when I was four or five, but that's got nothing to do with this post...although if that old newprint will scan halfways decently, I will post that photo one of these days - it's of me and my (at the time) best friend Joel standing in front of some flowering tree. We were very pleased with ourselves for making the big times, I can tell you! :) I don't remember why we warranted a photo in the provincial newspaper, though...maybe we were just such an adorable "couple" the photographer couldn't resist! lol)

But I got that same kind of feeling when I read Valerie's latest weekly email to our congregation. I felt the thrill of "hey, that's me she's talking about!", and also the warmth we all feel when a friend sees something in us that we do not see ourselves. I am sharing her email, and my reaction, with you because of a recent comment from Annie about how we "are so embarassed by our "icky stuff" that we hide the good stuff too". Annie's words have strengthened my resolve to celebrate my own good stuff and not always brush off words of praise thinking I don't deserve them. Like saying to Valerie how humbled I was that she saw such depth in my feeble attempts to share my faith...when I mentioned this to my mother, Mom said "Feeble? I don't think so!" I must keep in mind something I myself wrote not so very long ago, that we can more easily share our gifts if we acknowledge that we have something worth sharing in the first place. And sharing can also clear up minor misunderstandings...when sharing Valerie's words with Dave, I added that it makes me a bit sad that I can't share my faith journey with him and that he doesn't even read my blog...I've been thinking that he wasn't interested, but as it turns out, the truth is that I'd never thought to tell him the web address so he thought I didn't want him reading it. Oops! He has the address I shall expect the appearance of the odd comment from him from time to time. :)

Here is Valerie's email (I've bolded the lines that touched me)...

Continue reading "Ooo, I got my picture in the paper!" »

September 4, 2008

My latest musical discovery - Josh Ritter

I got home from work one day last week, and had barely changed my clothes when Sara grabbed my hand, "come hear this song, it's awesome"...she has good taste, that child of mine!

Girl in the War, by Josh Ritter:

There are some fabulous interpretations posted on the Song Meanings website.


Peter said to Paul
"All those words that we wrote
Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go"
But now talkin' to God is Laurel beggin' Hardy for a gun
I gotta girl in the war, man I wonder what it is we done

Paul said to Petey
"You gotta rock yourself a little harder;
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire"
And I got a girl in the war, Paul the only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through

Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom
And the angels fly around in there, but we can't see them
And I gotta girl in the war, Paul I know that they can hear me yell
If they can't find a way to help, they can go to Hell
If they can't find a way to help her, they can go to Hell

Paul to Petey "you gotta rock yourself a little harder;
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire"
But I gotta girl in the war, Paul her eyes are like champagne
They sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain
Sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain
They sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you got is rain

I had never heard of Josh Ritter before, but have now listened to a few of his songs and quite enjoyed them. I might have to pick up one of his CDs. I often find that I like the full album experience better than collections of greatest hits, etc. Of course, not all artists can achieve continuity in an album, but when they can, the music and lyrics flow throughout and I get a much better feel for their style. I am interested to find out if Ritter's albums flow, or if they are just a collection of unrelated music. Here is another of his songs:

Continue reading "My latest musical discovery - Josh Ritter" »

September 6, 2008

Sometimes a lonely heart beats under that collar...

The following article from the Toronto Star was reproduced today in my local paper, the Chronicle Herald. It is quite an eye opener and very thought often do we give any thought to the needs of our clergy?

I read in the article that 49% of ministers told researchers they had two or fewer close friends within their parish. 18% reported no parish friends at all.

Wow, those are surprising numbers. It makes me wonder how anyone can have the strength, the faith, the commitment to go into ministry...the call of God must be powerful indeed for anyone to follow it in the face of such isolation and feelings of loneliness. We are blessed to have such souls in our midst.

I think the article especially touches a chord in me because one of my best friends is a minister, and it makes my heart sad to think of her having to face these issues. Although at least I'm sure she isn't one of those with "no parish friends at all". (After all, I know she has at least one close friend in her congregation - me! And no doubt a few others as well.) I have to admit though, that it was only as our friendship grew that I actually offered my company, or thought to tell her she is in my thoughts and prayers. I had just assumed she had lots of close friends, family members, fellow clergy to turn to for comfort and support...which seems to be true in her case, but the point is, before she and I became friends ourselves, I never thought to ask if she wanted someone to talk to. And I never thought to ask my previous minister, Rev. Iain, either. Hopefully I will be more thoughtful with future ministers in my life!

Here is the article, and accompanying survey results:

Continue reading "Sometimes a lonely heart beats under that collar..." »

September 14, 2008

Who ARE those crazy women??!

Alas, it seems I am becoming a constant source of embarrassment to Miss Ninja. And for a change, Mamma Mia was not involved this time!

There was an Ecumenical community service (all faiths) this afternoon. This service is an annual event usually held in conjunction with Waverley Gold Rush Days (the annual celebration of the village's bygone days of gold.) This year, the music was provided by the Bedford United Church youth group's band ReGenesis. They played at my church once, and I so enjoyed their performance that I bought their CD (they weren't selling for profit, they were raising funds to attend a big choir gathering in Toronto.) I listened to this CD a lot over the past year (hearing those young voices raised in joyful song really lifted my spirits when it was low.) So I was definitely looking forward to seeing them again.

So, there we are at the Legion...the music starts...the leader of the youth group tells everyone to get up on their feet, and quite a few people did, including us. I have a notion Valerie and I were among the more enthusiastic in the crowd though...we were dancing, doing the actions along with the songs, and singing loudly all the words we knew. Sitting just beside us, Valerie's daughter whispers to my daughter, in embarrassed tones, "oh man, look at our mothers" gal slouches in her chair and answers "I know, I don't even want to know them"...

Of course if the girls were just there by themselves, they would have been front and centre with enthusiasm...but when their mothers are around, apparently they are too cool for such antics. Funny, funny girls. I love them both dearly!

September 22, 2008

How Facebook nearly ruined a great friendship...

...A Brief Glimpse Into the Crazed Mind of My Inner Five Year Old...

What a crazy roller coaster ride of angst I was on this weekend...and it all started with an innocuous comment about Facebook...

I was reading Valerie's weekly congregational newsletter the other day and she talked about connections, and how a girl she'd gone to school with had found her on Facebook, and - wait, WHAT?! I did a mental double take - Valerie is on Facebook?? I thought: "who are you and what have you done with the person who told me she doesn't like written conversation, who rarely answers social emails, let alone can possibly have any interest in a Facebook account??"

I emailed her right off and told her my inner five year old was sulking in the corner thinking "hmph, apparently I'm not good enough to be your Facebook friend". (I also said it's ok to laugh at that, I was.) Because I thought my crankiness was simply due to being tired from an overnight staff retreat (where we ran amok till the wee hours), and I was fully expecting to find myself in a better frame of mind the next morning.

Alas, the next morning did not find me in a better frame of mind. Funny how the stupidest little things can sow seeds of discontent. My inner child was still pouting and feeling left out.

Continue reading "How Facebook nearly ruined a great friendship..." »

September 29, 2008

A prayer

My church choir director just emailed me this lovely prayer...

Dear Lord, I thank You for this day,
I thank You for my being able to see
and to hear this morning.
I'm blessed because You are
a forgiving God and
an understanding God.

You have done so much for me
and You keep on blessing me.
Forgive me this day for everything
I have done, said or thought
that was not pleasing to you.
I ask now for Your forgiveness.
Please keep me safe
from all danger and harm.

Help me to start this day
with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude.
Let me make the best of each and every day
to clear my mind so that I can hear from You.

Continue reading "A prayer" »

October 1, 2008

Life after death...

"Is there really life after death??" Where the heck did THIS thought come from? Yikes, surely I have better things to think about on the eve of a trip to Italy than pondering the mysteries of life after death! Oh well, now that I'm on the subject...and have a few minutes to kill ('cause sure as heck I'm not starting anything new at work, and have finished all that I intended to do today anyway - which is a miracle in itself with my mind wandering all over the place like this!)

I guess the thought came because something reminded me of an Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode. I love that show - Tony will eat anything and enjoy it...well except for that nasty bit of offal served him in Namibia (unwashed warthog rectum cooked al dente on the ashes of an open fire...mmm...) If I hadn't seen that footage for myself, I'd be hard pressed to believe anyone could physically manage to swallow such a thing without some serious gagging! (Man, he almost managed to look like he enjoyed it...almost. Although I'm not so sure he wasn't sick afterward.)

Anyway, the show I was reminded of was based in Cleveland (just a tad less exotic than Africa!) and his guest was a guy named Harvey Pekar. I had never before heard of Harver Pekar, or his apparently very well known autobiographical series American Splendor, but this exchange cracked me up:

Anthony_Bourdain: "Does it give you satisfaction to know people will still be reading American Splendour in 50, 100 years?"

Harver Pekar: "Yeah, but I'll be dead then...when you're dead, it robs you of many pleasures."

Continue reading "Life after death..." »

October 24, 2008

Inspiring thoughts...

The following is from Valerie's weekly "Thursday Thoughts" email to our congregation. Her thoughts this week really resonated with me. I found them very beautiful and inspiring...a good reminder to let God's light shine into me even when (or maybe I should say especially when) I am feeling tired from jetlag, cranky from missing people, cold in body and mind from the change in climate from Italy to home. A reminder to appreciate and celebrate what I have, instead of whining about what I don't have...

"This sun is shining and the leaves are brilliant, at least for another few days. It is a day that speaks of warmth of spirit and of new life taking root that will wait and be nurtured until the life giving waters of spring. These are my thoughts for today:

I woke up this morning
Confronted by the normal sounds
Of house and home.
Alarm clock ringing; children clamouring;
Breakfast cooking; coffee perking.
In the car and on the road
Confronted by God’s creation

Brilliant colours
Blue… the sky above
Red, rust, gold and green…
The carpet beneath.

A day made to soothe the soul
And calm the stormy seas.
The beauty wrapped me in a blanket
Of security and serenity
I knew for one brief moment
The Kingdom.

May the sun of God’s creation shine in through your windows and into the windows of your souls touching the inner most parts of your being with light and hope and love."

After reading this, I was certainly feeling the love, the light, the hope. And feeling great joy and thankfulness for the love of my family and my friends, for being filled with the Spirit, for the wonders of this glorious world of ours (including the wonders of my own gorgeous Nova Scotia, as well as those of la bella Italia!)

Hopefully her words will lift your spirits also.

Continue reading "Inspiring thoughts..." »

November 15, 2008

United Church of Canada Issues Call to Action for the Congo

The following is a news release from The United Church of Canada:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The United Church of Canada is calling on its members to take action in support of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The church’s call to action comes in response to growing concerns over the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the eastern province of North Kivu. Fighting between armed rebel groups and the armed forces of the DRC recently escalated in the east with attacks on Goma, the capital of the province of North Kivu.

The United Church of Canada’s partner in the region, Église du Christ au Congo (ECC), is working with other agencies to provide humanitarian relief and offer shelter in churches and homes for those seeking refuge.

"The humanitarian situation in North Kivu is catastrophic,” says the Rev. Milenge Mwenelwata. “More than 1.5 million people are without shelter, food, and water, and are displaced each day with no destination, fleeing hostilities. The population is without assistance.”

In October, renewed violence drove 250,000 people from their homes, adding to the million-and-a-half people already displaced in the province, almost one-third of its population. Since 1998, an estimated five million people have died in the DRC from conflict and related consequences. Rape, forced prostitution, and abduction of civilians as sex slaves are widespread. Perpetrators of these crimes mostly go unpunished.

The causes of this long-standing conflict are complex, and include a breakdown of the state, the legacies of Mobutu Sese Seko’s 31-year regime, the lingering aftermath of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, and competition over the DRC’s vast natural resources.

The Amani Program (amani is Swahili for peace), signed during the Goma conference in January 2008, established a disarmament and demobilization process and laid the foundations for a reconstruction program in the region. All the Congolese armed groups, including the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), accepted it. In early October, the CNDP reneged on its promises and renewed its military operations.

“The people of Congo are yearning for peace,” explains Wendy Gichuru, The United Church of Canada’s regional coordinator for East and Central Africa. “This new crisis is undermining their advances toward peace and democratization, which had been supported in large part by the international community and Canada.”

Gichuru adds that the United Church has already allocated some emergency response funding to support partners’ humanitarian and relief efforts in the region.

Through Église du Christ au Congo and Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, the first interventions have concentrated on water supply, small-scale food and other assistance, and supply of medicine to the looted medical facilities of the area. Despite the lack of humanitarian access, several ACT International members have been able to deliver some initial assistance.

The United Church is also participating in the ecumenical coalition KAIROS’ appeal to the Canadian government to actively work for peace and justice for the Congolese people.

The United Church’s call to action for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo is asking church members to

• write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling on Canada to actively support peace and respect for human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [Note: a sample letter and mailing addresses are available on the UCC website.]

• pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo as they strive for peace and harmony in their country.

• contribute to the United for Peace Campaign, increase support to the Mission and Service Fund, or earmark a designated donation to the “Eastern DRC Crisis.” Individuals can either donate online at or mail cheques to Financial Services Unit, The United Church of Canada, 3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300, Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4. (More detail on the website.)

For details regarding this call to action for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, please visit The United Church of Canada’s website at

November 29, 2008

A Poem for a Friend

Each of us has a hidden place
Somewhere deep within ourselves;
A place where we go to get away,
To think things through,
To be alone, to be ourselves.

This unique place, where we confront our deepest feelings,
Becomes a storehouse of all our hopes,
All our needs, all our dreams,
And even our unspoken fears.
It encompasses the essence of who we are and what we want to be.

But now and then, whether by chance or design,
Someone discovers a way into that place we thought was ours alone.
And we allow that person to see, to feel and to share
All the reason, all the uncertainty
And all the emotion we've stored up there.

That person adds new perspective to our hidden realm,
Then quietly settles down in his own corner of our special place,
Where a bit of himself will stay forever.

And we call that person a friend.

~ by Carol Elaine Faivre-Scott ~

Continue reading "A Poem for a Friend" »

December 13, 2008

Prop 8 - The Musical

Sara showed me this video last night on the Funny or Die website. We laughed our heads off. And then we talked a lot about the attitudes and hypocrisy highlighted by the skit, and how disturbing it is when the bible and religion are twisted to support prejudice. As a church goer who does support same gender marriage, I pray that the Supreme Court of California has the wisdom to nullify Proposition 8!


Continue reading "Prop 8 - The Musical" »

Jacuzzi musings...

It was cold and damp today...just the day for a nice, long soak in a nice, hot bath. I absolutely love my deep oval jacuzzi tub, complete with jets and all...for me, it's the perfect place to be alone, whether I am feeling joyful, or in need of a good cry. (Except when our well is low and then the tub just sits there empty...taunting me because I cannot fill it.)

So I filled the tub and hopped in, with my book, some chocolate and a cup of coffee (if it had been an evening bath, the beverage may very well have been wine instead!) As for the current choice of book, I'm nearing the end of Sue Monk Kidd's When The Heart Waits, and much of it resonates with me. The back cover has this description:

Blending her own experiences with an intimate grasp of spirituality, Sue Monk Kidd relates the passionate and moving tale of her spiritual crisis, when life seemed to have lost meaning and her longing for a hasty escape from the pain yielded to a discipline of "active waiting."

Continue reading "Jacuzzi musings..." »

December 15, 2008

A prayer and the words of Gibran

This is for my dear friend Valerie, who is attending the funeral of her friend this afternoon. I know that God is with her, and that she possesses her own amazing inner strength, but I still want to offer my prayers of support. I was at her house when she received the news of her friend's death. In a heartbeat, she moved from grieving friend to caregiving Minister in order to go break the news to his mother (who is a member of our congregation)...the depth of her caring for others amazes me.

I hold her in my heart as I read from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet...

Continue reading "A prayer and the words of Gibran" »

December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

To all my blog friends, I say...

Merry Christmas!!

And this being the season when we traditionally celebrate the birth of Christ, here is a photo I took in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi. I thought this was a rather odd nativity scene in that the baby Jesus is neither in a manger, nor in the arms of Mary. I'm assuming the man holding the baby is supposed to be St. Francis, who introduced three dimensional nativity scenes (or presepio) to Italy after a 1220 voyage to Egypt.

Continue reading "Merry Christmas!" »

January 2, 2009

Feeling Roman today...

Ok, I'm pretty sure this is not going to be about what most of you were thinking of when you saw the word "Roman"! But it is about hope, and what better topic as we begin a new year.

Romans 15:13

There are so many translations...which of these do you prefer?

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV):

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

King James Version (KJ):

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

New International Version (NIV):

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Message:

Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

I found a site BibleGateway that seems to have every version known to man, it is in Italian!
La Parola è Vita:

Possa il Dio della speranza, riempirvi della gioia e della pace che vengono dalla vostra fede, affinché la vostra speranza abbondi, per mezzo della potenza dello Spirito Santo!

Continue reading "Feeling Roman today..." »

January 9, 2009

Every day is the best day!

Write it on your heart
(by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day,
and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

I came across that poem this evening and thought wow, are these words of wisdom for me and my sometimes insecure inner child, or what? I will write on my heart that every day is the best day in the year!

Normally I do not make New Year's resolutions ('cause who needs to go through that setup for failure exercise every year?!), but recently said to a friend:

I just had a thought - maybe I should make a New Year's resolution after all - I resolve to trust my heart whenever in doubt this year! Imagine the possibility in, the mind boggles! :)

And that includes letting my heart be open to the power and the glory of the Spirit, so that I am uplifted and strengthened in order to leave behind those blunders and absurdities that creep in, and start each day with a fresh outlook and a joyful spirit. So...I think this might just be a good year for a resolution after all, and through prayer and being wrapped in the love of my dear family and friends, I might even manage to keep it!

Here too are a few photographs of the glories of creation to show just what beauty each new day might hold...who does not feel their heart lifted by such wonders?! I now have a line from a really joyful hymn running through my mind (not sure if these words are exactly right, but they sound really good in my head!)

Wake up! Arise! Rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for a bright new day!!

If only I could program my alarm clock to blast that at me every morning, in what a happy mood I'd awaken! :)

Continue reading "Every day is the best day!" »

January 10, 2009

The upside of funerals...

I had the great privilege of singing at two funerals this week. Yes, that's right, I said privilege. Being in my church choir, I try to add my voice when possible, although since I work fulltime, I cannot attend many of the funerals that fall on weekdays. But I go when I can. And it really is an honour, not a burden, to share in these celebrations of life.

In the case of the two funerals this week, I didn't know either of the people beforehand, but came to know a part of them through the stories and reflections shared during the services.


The first service was on Thursday morning, for a gentleman who had died from cancer. I am fairly well acquainted with his widow, as she is envelope secretary at my church, but not sure if I ever met him or not. What wonderfully joyful and uplifting music was chosen for this service...I said to Phyllis (a fellow choir member) that I was going to "steal" some of the selections for my own funeral! (Although in fact, I long ago decided I want joyful music at my funeral. "Shine, Jesus, Shine" and "Hallelujah, Your Love is Amazing" are a couple I have mentioned to family in the past. Obviously, I am not planning to need a funeral service myself for many years to come, but...when I do, I surely want to go out with Joy!!!)

And the stories by his family, the humour, the poetry read by a couple friends, the Scripture passages, Valerie's reflections of the man and his faith...all so moving and uplifting. I came away feeling honoured to have shared in this warm, loving celebration of a wonderful sounding man.

Also had the feeling that I was meant to be there. Originally had a meeting at work that I couldn't get out of, but then it got postponed, so I was able to attend the funeral after all. And earlier that morning, while still home, I had picked up my bible for no particular reason, and randomly read a passage from the gospel of Matthew...which passage turned out to be the exact passage read by the man's daughter during the service. Goosebump moment.

But wait...there's more! When we were filing out of the choir loft, I noticed a slip of paper on the pew behind me and said, oh someone had Chinese food last night, let's see what the fortune is...

Continue reading "The upside of funerals..." »

January 15, 2009

The big kids' corner...and the biggest kid in it!

"Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs." (Mark 10:14, NRSV)

The big kids' corner during children's time...
(Guess who is the biggest kid of all?**)


**The answer to that question is of course my friend (Reverend) Valerie...which anyone who's ever read my blog probably already knew since I am always writing about how wonderful she is and how much joy our friendship brings me. And about how uplifting her ministry is, because she truly is an awesome minister (and I'm not just saying that because she's my friend!)

Of course, I only write the good stuff about Valerie...I would never share the bad bits, such as when she...

...told me to get the hell out of her office (Being told to get the hell out of church by the many people have that claim to fame, I wonder?!)

...treated me like an outcast over the holidays - an outcast, I tell ya!!

...said that I have a freakishly bizarre shaped head (I'm traumatized for life...I may never let anyone massage my migraine-ish head again...)

...insulted my humming abilities during Cranium. I said I wouldn't be able to hum very well because of my cold, and she replied "it's not like that will make a difference"...humph.

...somehow managed to get my husband to buy her flowers, 'cause yes, the last time my husband bought flowers, they were for her and not me. (I'm thinking hey, just what's going on around here anyway?? I haven't gotten flowers in years, decades even. This is just not right.)

...cancelled our date (again.) This happens with such frequency (twice last week alone!), I'm starting to think she's just pretending to be my friend, you know, in hopes that my husband will buy her more flowers or something...

Continue reading "The big kids' corner...and the biggest kid in it!" »

January 22, 2009

Make a joyful noise!

I am feeling wonderful and wonder-filled this morning...for no particular reason (and isn't that always the best way to start the day!!) Well actually it's partly due to the most glorious sunrise I saw this morning. It was one of those risings where the sun is a big ball of reddish yellow shimmering over the horizon, surrounded by swirling colours and a beam of glowing orange light shooting straight up into the sky. The kind of sunrise that fills your soul and makes your heart sing of the sheer beauty of creation! ♥

And here I am sharing a joyful moment with Sara a couple years ago standing out on the ice of the Northumberland Strait:

Continue reading "Make a joyful noise!" »

February 1, 2009

And we're off...Feb blogging challenge, day one!

Let the Second Annual February Blog Extravaganza begin!!!

Except, er, I don't actually have an idea for today's post...

How about if I post some photos I took this morning?

I was first to arrive for our pre-service choir practice, and instead of heading straight into the chapel to wait for the others, I went into the sanctuary. For me, there is something so wonderful about being in this place all by myself. In the stillness and silence, I feel calmed and strengthened. In the absence of other people, I feel not at all alone, the presence of the Spirit surrounds and fills me. It seems an incredible blessing to feel so entirely at home, with such a sense of belonging, in this amazing and awesome place of worship.

While enjoying my commune with God in the beautiful sanctuary this morning, I snapped some photos. Continue on to view those...

Continue reading "And we're off...Feb blogging challenge, day one!" »

February 6, 2009

A reflection...


That is a photo I took a couple years ago of River Phillip in Cumberland County, NS. I was just looking at it and thought of Proverbs 27:19. (No, I don't have the bible memorized, the words just came into my head, and I googled them to find the passage!)

I am quite fascinated with all the different versions of the bible (it is uber easy to look them up on sites such as BibleGateway.) I find that the various translations range from very subtle differences in wording to "wow, are these even the same book??" Often it's the latter instances that open the door to a better understanding though, because I have to stop and really think about the underlying meaning in order to figure out how the different translations can possibly be related.

Here are three translations of Proverbs 27:19. Interesting that The Message version seems so internally focussed, while the others seem more about relationships with others. (I love the NRSV version myself.)

Proverbs 27:19 (The Message)

Just as water mirrors your face,
so your face mirrors your heart.

Proverbs 27:19 (New Revised Standard Version NRSV)

Just as water reflects the face,
so one human heart reflects another.

Proverbs 27:19 (Contemporary English Version)

You see your face in a mirror

and your thoughts

in the minds of others.

As I was looking at The Message version of Proverbs 27, I saw also these lines:

14 If you wake your friend in the early morning by shouting "Rise and shine!" It will sound to him more like a curse than a blessing.

...which literally made me burst out laughing!! It so reminds me of a recent story told by a friend of mine (which person shall remain nameless for the sake of about her best friend/roommate through university, who evidently understood that any real human interaction before 11am in the morning was just wrong. My response to that last part was "uh oh, I must suck as a friend then, 'cause I've come barging in your door at 7:30am looking for coffee & conversation!" She claimed otherwise, but now I know she was secretly cursing me for arriving at such an ungodly hour... ;)

Proverbs 27:9 (The Message)

Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight,
a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

February 18, 2009

Show of hands...

...who wants to see/hear me sing?

In yesterday's entry, I mentioned that I was singing another solo in church on Sunday. And I also mentioned that I was hoping to drag my husband along with the DVD cam to record my 'performance', so I can share it with you in a future entry. What's the problem?? you ask. Well...the problem is that Dave does not go to church...ever. I have joked with fellow choir members that he is my imaginary husband. (Ok, he has gone a handful of times over the years, but truly is a rare occurence for him to darken the doors of my sanctuary.) All I've managed to get out of him so far is "if I go, I'll bring the DVD cam"...

Candi left this comment:

"re your solo, maybe we can start signing a petition for Dave to go video tape you. Do you think this will work?"

I thought Hey, great idea!!! So this is where you all come in...if you would enjoy watching a video of my upcoming solo, please leave a comment, between now and Sunday morning, as a way of signing my petition. Maybe if enough people are interested in seeing me sing, we can convince Dave to come and record me! :)

Oh and just so you know...I'm really not all that talented ;) I just like to sing, and usually do so with joy. So this will be the church equivalent of "open mike night" at the local karaoke bar and not a polished performance. Thought it was only fair that I warn you before you sign your name in expectation of great entertainment!

Bridge Over Troubled Water

As a little girl, I spent hours listening to my Mom's and my Aunt Phyllis's record albums. I grew up with Leonard Cohen, the Beatles, the Stones, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, the list goes on. Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water was (and is) one of my favourite songs in the world. The message of a friend who walks beside you, who lifts you up, who offers encouragement and unconditional support through times of trouble, really speaks to my heart. When my daughters were little, I used to sing this song to them as we had our bedtime cuddle in the rocking chair. It's also one of the few songs I can play on the piano (I can't play it very well, mind you, but I can play least well enough to make myself happy!)

I was reminded of the song this morning as I read an email from a friend of I am listening to it now while holding her in my heart with love and prayer:

♥ ♥ "If you need a friend ... I'm sailing right behind" ♥ ♥

Full lyrics:

Continue reading "Bridge Over Troubled Water" »

February 20, 2009

A prayer

A friend at work sent this prayer to me this morning. I read it, got a little veklempt, and gave her a hug of thanks for making my day. :)

Of course I immediately had to share this lovely prayer with my best friend (who shall remain nameless for sake of because the line "beautiful, classy and strong" was obviously written with her in mind, although I would also add amazing and full of grace. Just saying...

Now I pass it along to all of my wonderful blog friends, because don't we all like to feel that someone is thinking of us?!?! (I know it lifts me up and warms my heart to feel that way!)
Ti voglio bene ♥

Dear God:
The lady reading this is beautiful, classy and strong, and I love her. Help her live her life to the fullest. Please promote her and cause her to excel above her expectations. Help her shine in the darkest places where it is impossible to love. Protect her at all times, lift her up when she needs you the most, and let her know when she walks with you, she will always be safe.

Continue reading "A prayer" »

February 22, 2009

Singing Hallelujah!!

As is the video (thanks Dave!!) of me singing in church this morning! Have to say the quality sucks. The original video was fairly decent, but in the conversion and upload onto youtube, clearly much of the visual aspect got lost in translation. The audio is not half bad though. Surprisingly, I am not completely embarrassed by this video :)

[Edited to add: I am only do the singing, someone else is playing the piano]

February 24, 2009

Lunch With God...

In recognition of African Heritage Month, during the month of February, the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs circulated weekly samplings of African Nova Scotian history to all government employees. The final one included a link to the site, which contains some really cool African proverbs and stories. While browsing the site, I found the following story and absolutely love it! A wonderful reminder that encounters with the Spirit are not restricted to places of worship or times of formal prayer.

A sharing...a hearts...connection to the divine within. What a beautiful message.

I Had Lunch With God

NOTE: When Mary Magdalene meets Jesus in the garden she first thinks he is the gardener. Then she says, "I have seen the Lord." Yes, Jesus comes to us in disguise. But how often do we recognize him? How often can we say: "I have seen the Lord.

A little African boy wanted to meet God. He knew that it was a long trip to where God lived. So he packed his suitcase with small cakes and a six-pack of soda and started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park just staring at some birds. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his can of soda when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry so he offered her a small cake. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again. So he offered her a soda. Again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

The little African boy and the old woman sat there all afternoon eating and drinking and smiling, but they never said a word. As it grew dark the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave. But before he had gone more than a few steps he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a big hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?" He replied, "I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond he added, "You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!"

Meanwhile the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked: "Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?" She replied, "I ate small cakes and drank soda in the park with God." However, before her son could respond she added, "You know, he’s much younger than I expected."
(East Africa adaptation of a universal story)

Another of the many beautiful banners in my church:

February 27, 2009

Beauty is...a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted

Today's entry is courtesy of my dear friend, the lovely and talented Reverend Valerie.

She sends a weekly email to our congregation as a way of keeping in touch between Sundays. I found this week's message incredibly uplifting, both Gibran's words from The Prophet (an amazing book) and Valerie's own reflections.

I forwarded the email to a couple women at work, one of whom said: "now I totally get why you two connect, this so reminds me of you, it's like something I'd read on your blog." And it is something she'd read on my blog because I share it here with you now!

Valerie's email:

Good morning one and all!

Kahlil Gibran writes “Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide? And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

In winter say the snow-bound, 'She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.' And in the summer heat the reapers say, ‘We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.’ All these things have you said of beauty, yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied. And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy. It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth, but rather a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted. It is not an image you would see nor a song you would hear, but rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears. Beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. But you are life and you are veil. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror but you are an eternity and you are the mirror.”

As I sat at my desk this morning and the sun shone through my office widow I picked up “The Prophet” and this is what it fell open to. I was particularly struck by the line, “a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted”, and as I read there was a peaceful feeling that filled my being. I was reminded that there is beauty all around and inherent in our daily life. What a blessing! Sometimes that beauty is revealed in a simple smile that touches the soul; a hug that communicates belonging; the sun shining; or the rain coming. Perhaps is in the words that are spoken between friends or strangers. Perhaps it is in the silence of the moment. But most importantly is the reminder that each of us is beauty.



[By the way, I edited out the announcements and notices...pretty sure the weekly goings on in our church community would not be all that interesting to most of those reading my blog! Although I could take this chance to remind Lynn and Mom to stay for our annual meeting after the service on]

March 4, 2009

An open letter to Canadians from the Moderator of The United Church of Canada

I was reading the recent press releases on the United Church of Canada website, and came to one that began as follows:

We Cannot Shop Our Way to Prosperity, Says Moderator

Toronto: In an open letter to Canadians about the world’s economic situation, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. David Giuliano, delivers a message of hope tempered with resolve.

The rest of the release simply summarized the open letter, so instead of including the full press release, I will post Rev. Giuliano's entire letter (the bolding within the letter is mine, I just wanted to highlight a couple of lines that really struck me as I was reading):

Statement in Response to the Economic Crisis

An open letter to Canadians from the Moderator of The United Church of Canada

Recently it was announced in the small town where I live that the mill is closing down. Everyone here—builders to bakers, teachers to preachers—works directly or indirectly for the mill or the already vanishing mines. A spirit of dread and anxiety is settling among us. It feels like a microcosm of what is happening to the economy across the country and around the world.

But we are not alone. Times of crisis can call out the best in human nature. During periods of war and the Great Depression, our grandparents bought bonds, rationed, rolled bandages, bundled clothes, helped their neighbours, and learned to distinguish between needs and wants. They pulled together as a nation. Solving the current economic crisis will also require our best.

Canadians are hurting. Our global neighbours are reeling. The economic situation is the harbinger of discomfort for some and of catastrophic suffering for others.

Canadian families are living with uncertainty, anxiety, and severe stresses that fray the bonds of relationships, harm physical and psychological health, and intensify social problems. Debt is rising. Savings are shrinking. Line-ups at foodbanks and shelters are getting longer.

We have a moral responsibility to care for those most affected—here and around the world. To do otherwise would be a marked departure from our identity as Canadians.

Continue reading "An open letter to Canadians from the Moderator of The United Church of Canada" »

March 5, 2009

I am in a facilitate or not to facilitate...

I came home today and found an email in my inbox with the subject "An Opportunity?..." The first line was "I wonder if you would consider the following..." Uh oh, I thought...why do I have the feeling I'm about to hear God calling?

Here's the email:

Anne -

I wonder if you would consider the following...

The Thing about Youth Ministry ....

Do you know that in past few years we had to turn down youth interested in attending Intermediates at Conference? For the past two years the Planning Team have worked out systems to make it possible to double the number of participants this year. Do you know that over the past two years we have nearly doubled the number of male participants? The Planning Team is ready. Early indications show the youth are applying in good numbers.

However, in order to accept 120 youth we need 20 facilitators. At present we have 8 applications. We need more applications for facilitators and especially from men. Please give this some thought.

Think about people who have the gifts to work with youth. Some people think you have to be a young adult to be a good facilitator. Yes, we want young adults. And we also want people of any age who have the energy, openness and desire to be a small group leader.

You will find more information and Facilitator applications online at: (scroll down)

The thing about youth ministry .... We have the youth, we need the leadership.

I know you may want to give [M*] her "space" at IaC, and if you would agree to apply as a Facilitator (and become one, 'cause who in their right mind is going to refuse you?!), we can be sure to have [M*] in a different Home Group, etc.

Let me know what you think. I think you'd do an awesome job!

Continue reading "I am in a facilitate or not to facilitate..." »

March 12, 2009

Up Where We Belong

The road is long, there are mountains in our way,
But we climb a step every day.

Love lifts us up where we belong,
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high.

What beautiful lyrics. Love, whether given or received, does lift us up. It makes our hearts soar and our souls expand. I am wrapped in my prayer shawl and feeling the presence of God's love. The knowledge of this unconditional love gives me strength and comfort and courage. The road might be long, and there may be bumps along the way, but what an amazing journey it is. ♥

Continue reading "Up Where We Belong" »

March 17, 2009

United Church Sends Condolences Following Newfoundland Helicopter Crash

The past few days have been so painful for many families in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and British Colombia as 17 loved ones were lost in a tragic helicopter crash last Thursday. The words of the uncle of one of the victims:

"So many hearts have been broken by this event that it is difficult for us to fathom the amount of pain and suffering being felt by so many good people," he said. "We are praying for all the families involved."

My church's Staff Associate forwarded the following statement from the United Church of Canada. Rev Giuliano's thoughtful and heartfelt expression of caring, and his reminder of hope and love and light, moves me to tears:

Toronto: In a statement released today, The United Church of Canada shared the text of a letter written by the church's Moderator, the Right Rev. David Giuliano, expressing the church's condolences to the family, friends, and communities of everyone affected by last week's helicopter crash off the coast of Newfoundland.

The letter reads as follows:

Words alone cannot heal the profound grief you must be feeling. However, it may be some comfort to know that across the country many are holding you in love. Hearts are reaching out to you in this great shock and sadness. Many Canadians are whispering prayers for St. John's, for small communities across Newfoundland, and for the dear souls who have been lost at sea.

Please accept my sincere personal sympathies. With each radio broadcast, I too am holding you in prayer. And on behalf of The United Church of Canada, please accept the deepest sympathies of our members across the land. We know that in Newfoundland and Labrador there are many aching hearts. We also remember that there are families and friends weeping in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. And we pray for the healing of Robert Decker, the lone survivor of the crash. We remember the men and women who remain on the offshore platforms away from loved ones. And we are grateful for the efforts of the search and rescue and recovery crews who serve as witnesses to this tragedy.

The sudden loss of 17 family members, friends, neighbours, and co-workers is devastating. The closeness among Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans means that everyone deeply shares this loss. That closeness also means that you will draw together and support those who are most personally affected.

Above all, I want to offer condolences to family members and close friends, especially the children, who will feel this loss most poignantly for months and years to come. Long after this story has faded from the news, they will be finding their way in the "valley of shadows." Let us commit ourselves to be with them, so that not a single spirit is broken by this tragedy.

As spring - and for Christians, Easter - approaches, may you experience the growing light and the re-emergence of life in spite of these difficult days of winter. As the Gospel of John puts it, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (1:5). May there be many kind souls among you who stand like lighthouses of hope, defying the darkness and helping you to find your way home.


Continue reading "United Church Sends Condolences Following Newfoundland Helicopter Crash" »

March 26, 2009

The Kiss of Spring

Valerie shared this wonderful poem today...its message of hope and promise really lifts my spirits - enjoy! ♥

The Kiss of Spring
(by Donal Harrington and Julie Kavanagh)

Such is the grip of winter - we long to escape;
such is the darkness of winter - we yearn for the sun.

Yet, in the grip of darkness
restless seeds struggle towards the light;
from the darkness of the earth buds will burst forth
and dull landscapes will be splashed with colour.

Spring invites us into expectation,
kisses us in anticipation,
awakens us from the quiet months
and enlivens our yearning hearts.

As life breaks out from the earth
the Lord of Spring,
working in our hearts,
calls us to new birth.

As life breaks out from the earth
the Lord of Spring,
working in our church,
calls us to new hope.

As life breaks out from the earth
the Lord of Spring,
working in our world
calls us to new vitality.

Spring bursting forth on the grounds of the Villa Borghese in Rome:
(Photo is from my March 06 trip with my mom and sister.)

April 9, 2009

Mysteries, Yes

I thank Annie for sharing this lovely poem with me.

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

~ Mary Oliver

Continue reading "Mysteries, Yes" »

April 18, 2009

The waiting is the hardest part...

This is a story with a happy ending...

I went for my regular screening mammogram on February 19. In and out quickly, no problem. A week or so later, I had a call from my doctor that they had found a nodule and I needed to go for a magnification mammogram and ultrasound. I was only mildly apprehensive, after all the same thing happened last year and all was fine. Mostly I just thought it was a nuisance.

So on March 6, off I went to the mammography department yet again. They did the mammogram first and sent me out to the waiting room while the technician reviewed the photos. Then brought me back in, saying that if they could show that it was nothing with the second mammogram, I wouldn't need the ultrasound. So when they finally sent me on my way without the ultrasound, I thought great, it must have been nothing.

Wednesday March doctor called and said they wanted to do a biopsy. Silence on my end. Those are not words a woman wants to hear. She reassured me that it was low degree of suspicion, and would likely be a benign result. "Do not stress about this, ok?" She insisted, and asked if I had any questions...I was too stunned to think and said no. I went downstairs and told Dave...he was as freaked out as I was. We just held each other in shock for a while, absorbing the word "biopsy" and trying not to think about what that could mean.

But no matter that my brain heard the words "low degree of suspicion", my mind still drifted into thoughts of cancer. I thought of Kim and what she has shared about her journey through breast way could I get through such an ordeal with that much strength, humour and grace. I tried to concentrate on my doctor's words that it would likely be benign, but so hard to keep your mind from wandering into the shadows! I was grateful for my prayer shawl and wrapped myself in its comforting embrace.


I don't know how many times I read these words this past month. Every time I put down a glass or a mug, I found myself reading the words on that coaster. And praying for the strength to get through this time of waiting, wondering, worrying without driving myself and everyone around me nuts with my impatience!

Continue reading "The waiting is the hardest part..." »

April 25, 2009

Bubbles of joy in my heart ♥

My friend Chiocciola wrote a wonderfully uplifting entry about gratitude recently. One of the things she said was "I feel bubbles of joy in my heart when I think about the places I'll go". What an awesome phrase, doesn't it just make your own heart sing out with glee?!" I want to share some of the things that bring bubbles of joy to MY heart...

- the freedom to let my inner five year old hang out with my wonderful husband Dave (who is SO jealous that he can't make cool popping noises with his lips, or wiggle his nose, or cross one eye while looking around with the other...)

- relieving childhood memories with my sister Lynn (who recently reminded me of our imaginary alter agos Mrs. Clevell and Mrs. Benjamin...the former was full of grace, the latter was a crankpot. Being the younger sister, I always had to play the part of Mrs. Benjamin. Until one magical day when I was allowed to be Mrs. Clevell - oh joy, oh bliss!!! But then my joy went up in smoke when Lynn invented an even better character for herself! Too funny.)

- times when my daughters are having fun together and their laughter fills my ears with joyful sound and my heart with happiness ♥

Continue reading "Bubbles of joy in my heart ♥" »

April 28, 2009

Light is sweet

I came across a passage from Ecclesiastes (11:7) this evening, and found it quite wonderful. As usual, I looked up a few versions...they are all similar, but interesting variations in nuance.

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. (New Revised Standard Version)

Oh, how sweet the light of day,
And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!

(The Message)

Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.
(New Living Translation)

Nothing on earth is more beautiful than the morning sun.
(Contemporary English Version)

Light really is sweet, isn't it? How would we ever survive our times of darkness if we didn't know the sun'll come out tomorrow?

Continue reading "Light is sweet" »

May 12, 2009

The men-made gods

I was randomly browsing poetry on the Project Gutenberg site (obviously I'm not a Slightly Dorky High Nerd for nothing!), and came across the following Ella Wheeler Wilcox poem from her Poems on Optimism collection.

The men-made gods

Said the Kaiser’s god to the god of the Czar:
‘Hark, hark, how my people pray.
Their faith, methinks, is greater by far
Than all the faiths of the others are;
They know I will help them slay.’

Said the god of the Czar: ‘My people call
In a medley of tongues; they know
I will lend my strength to them one and all.
Wherever they fight their foes shall fall
Like grass where the mowers go.’

Then the god of the Gauls spoke out of a cloud
To the god of the King nearby:
‘Our people pray, tho’ they pray not loud;
They ask for courage to slaughter a crowd,
And to laugh, tho’ themselves may die.’

And far out into the heart of Space
Where a lonely pathway crept,
Up over the stars, to a secret place,
Where no light shone but the light of His face,
Christ covered His eyes and wept.

Continue reading "The men-made gods" »

May 13, 2009

If Everything Has Its Time...


Everything Has Its Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Continue reading "If Everything Has Its Time..." »

May 14, 2009

An awesome prayer

Valerie sent this email to our congregation this morning:

"When I opened my book this morning this is the prayer that I began my day with:

Let me live today. Let me be open to the miracle of this day. Let me breathe the best of today. Let me find the gift of today, hidden like a jewel in the rubble of care, duty and detail.

Let me pause to hear the steady beat of the heart of God – hoping, aching, sorrowing, expectant, patient, despairing heart of God.

Listen, listen, do you hear it? Ever so faint but steady, steady, rhythmic organ, strong muscle, thumping, pumping, sustaining, encompassing, wildly dancing heart of God.

Let me live this day, aware, open, listening, breathing, alive.
(by Rev. Virginia Going)

May this day be so for you.

Blessings to all this day

I am utterly delighted by the exuberant image of a wildly dancing heart of God! I hope this prayer lifts your heart and soul as it does mine ♥

Have an awesome day!! :)

May 15, 2009


Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

~ Mother Teresa





Continue reading "Smiles..." »

May 16, 2009

Boring sermons?

This article was in our local paper today:

‘Boring’ sermons cited among reasons for decline in church attendance

By The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — Are you a Christian CEO?

By CEO, I don’t mean the head of a business or corporation. I’m talking about attendance at worship services. Are you a Christian who goes to church on Christmas and Easter Only?

On Easter Sunday, for example, most churches were filled with people who hadn’t been to church for a while — maybe not since Christmas, or longer.

The situation is similar for other religions; synagogues, temples and mosques also expect higher attendance for major holy days like Passover, Diwali, Vesak and Eid.

Those who attend regularly might be tempted to look askance at people who come only two or three times a year. But before you get too smug, consider this: Regular attendance at worship services isn’t what it used to be.

At least, that’s what some local pastors are telling me. It used to be that regular attendance meant going to worship services every week, but that’s apparently not the case anymore. My pastor friends say that many of their members consider themselves to be regular attendees if they go to church twice a month.

One pastor told me that growing numbers of people in his church are absent from May through September, yet still consider themselves to be members in good standing.

Why the change? Maybe it’s the busyness of life. Between work, sports and other activities, there’s so much to do, and so little time. Plus, for many people, Sunday morning has become the only time when family can be together, or just sleep in. That’s why Faithworks, a Mennonite Brethren congregation, meets at 6 p.m. on Saturdays — people can go to church, and still make it to the symphony or hockey game.

Maybe it’s because of the changing role of religion in society. In the 1950s, societal attitudes supported regular attendance. In the 1950s, almost 70 per cent of Canadians said they went to church. Today, only 17 per cent of Canadians regularly go to worship services.

Many people assumed that attendance at worship services would increase during the recession — all those people worried about falling investment portfolios, foreclosed houses and lost jobs would return to church for spiritual comfort. Apparently, it didn’t happen.

Maybe it’s because church services are less than inspiring. Commenting on the precipitous decline in attendance at Church of England services, Paul Handley of England’s Church Times offered the following reasons: "Too many services are boring. Too many sermons are shallow and ill-prepared. Too many liturgical performances are apologetic and scrappy. The provision for children is uninspiring; the music is a bizarre mixture of 19th-century dirges and 1970s easy listening; the sound system is inadequate."

Or maybe it’s because going to worship services just doesn’t fit with these modern times. Why go to a worship service when you can download a podcast at your convenience, or watch it on the web?
© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Continue reading "Boring sermons?" »

May 22, 2009

Living in the moment

~ carpe diem ~

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
~Rabindranath Tagore

Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.
~Ruth Ann Schabacker

All the windows of my heart I open to the day.
~John Greenleaf Whittier

Whether it's pausing in the quiet centre...

Or embracing a moment with laughter and love...

How wonderful and uplifting to savour our time on this earth, to live with joy and an open heart. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go seize the day! ♥

May 25, 2009

A sun poem by Sri Chinmoy

The Rising Sun
by Sri Chinmoy

The rising sun
Blesses my mind
With joy.

The setting sun
Blesses my heart
With peace.


May 26, 2009

The time has come for IAC!

You may remember my entry from a couple months ago in which I talked myself into volunteering as a youth facilitator for Intermediates at Conference. IAC is a 3-day residential event for United Church youth between the ages of 12-15, held during the annual meeting of Maritime Conference. (How Maritime Conference fits into the United Church of Canada is all made clear here.)

Well...the time for that event has arrived! We leave tomorrow morning to drive up to Sackville, New Brunswick, where the Conference takes place. The Conference itself will be in the Tantramar Centre, but I believe the IAC event will mostly take place in nearby Mount Allison University. So I'll be living in residence the next few days...mercifully I have my own room, or so I was promised when I signed up for this gig! My daughter and Valerie's have both been accepted as participants, and Valerie of course is attending Conference, so we are all driving up together.

I am a tad worried my introverted side will go a little mad spending so much time in the constant presence of 12-15 year olds! I have been told we get up around 7am, and the youth's curfew is 11pm...I'm not so sure I can keep up with them, but we'll see! :)

I'm also excited, and a little bit nervous since I have absolutely no clue what to expect. Here is all I have to go on:

Arrival time for facilitators is 1pm next Wednesday at Bigelow House, Mount A Campus (arrive @ 1 for 2pm start). The youth arrive at 1pm on Thursday, organized activity starting around 2:30pm. If you have musical instruments that you're comfortable bringing, feel free. The beds have pillows, blankets, etc., but feel free to bring your own (there were some complaints about the pillows last year!)

Not much information...oh well, I know from the info sent separately to M that there might be a lot of walking involved, so I'll be sure to bring my sneakers! :)

Wish me luck! I'll let you know how it goes.

June 1, 2009

Does it matter how we learn to pray?

On the drive home from Conference on Sunday, Valerie and I had some wonderful conversations...or at least we tried to. M and K have a (sometimes maddening) tendency to burst forth with a story they can't wait to tell us, just as we are wading into the deeper waters of our own conversation and we never really pick up the same threads afterward. I really do feel blessed that they like to share with us, but...every now and then, when we are having a particularly interesting discussion, I find myself frustrated and thinking: "arrgghhhh, can't you two amuse yourselves and let us talk in peace for longer than ten minutes at a time??!!" of the interesting conversations we started was around prayer. I mentioned that one of the other facilitators had told me about a prayer writing workshop held at her church, and wondered if our prayer team would find such a thing valuable. Valerie's response was that such a workshop must be the Presbyterian side of UCC coming out, because those with a Methodist background would never need to be taught how to write a prayer! She said that in the church family in which she was raised, you could be asked to lead prayer at any time, and you just did. The idea of having to be taught how to pray seemed rather bizarre to her actually. I must say her freedom to pray from the heart has long amazed me, but I thought it came with ministry and practice, I hadn't known it grew through her upbringing. I wish our church's spiritual oversight committee would not insist on prayer being led by people from the congregation. I'm sure they mean well and assume people must want to participate by offering their own prayers, but often I find myself tuning out because their scripted words simply don't reach me in the same way Valerie's spontaneous prayers do. Uh oh, it seems I am a prayer snob!

Having said that...I still think a prayer writing workshop sounds pretty cool. I told Valerie that it is harder to offer an unscripted prayer if you have not been brought up to do so all your life. I imagine a little structure and/or help with the language would enable many to feel far more at ease voicing prayer in a group setting, especially when the group is full of those also not raised in an environment where unplanned prayer is the norm! And really, does it matter whether we learn to shape spoken prayer by growing up in the right environment or by attending a workship? Perhaps I am not the only prayer snob in the family! ;) Surely the important thing is being comfortable sharing your prayers with others, and how you reach that comfort level is irrelevant. However, I absolutely concede her point that United Church people in Nova Scotia seem to be very restrained (repressed even!) when it comes to praying. Which, come to think of it, makes me all the more inclined to accept that we need help relaxing into prayer. The first step on that path just might be a prayer writing workshop.

Any attempt at a verbal conversation with God feels awkward to me. I don't really pray in a way that resembles a "Dear God" conversation, it's more like sharing a connection that lifts me and brings me peace. It's being filled with the presence of something infinite, glorious, intense. It's bursting with joy and wonder, hope and gratitude, and feeling immeasurably blessed with all I have in life. It's feeling inspired to help others. (Even if the helping is as simple as volunteering to be a youth facilitator at IAC.) Words might form in my mind when I am in darkness..."O God, please give me the strength to get through this"...but even then, the true prayer is keeping my heart open to allow the love and strength of God to carry me through life's aching, heart breaking, weeping with pain moments.

So trying to articulate the words of my heart out loud to God in the presence of others would be a self-conscious nightmare for me! In fact, I cringe at the very prospect. The only way I would ever participate in the prayer part of worship would be to read the words of others, or a somewhat generic prayer of my own that I'd written in advance...would a prayer writing workshop help with that? Who knows, but I'd be open to finding out. Maybe after writing and sharing a few structured prayers, I'd grow more comfortable writing "free verse" from the heart. If not, no harm done, but if so, my church might have one more voice of prayer...and can that ever be a bad thing?

June 2, 2009

Images of IAC

I really will share some stories about conference very soon, I promise! :) In the are some images. (I have more photos, but am not posting the ones in which other youth or facilitators could be identified, for privacy reasons.)

The annual meeting itself took place at the Tantramar Civic Centre in Sackville, NB. Intermediates at Conference gathered at nearby Mount Allison University, joining the larger group only to make a brief presentation on Saturday evening and then for closing worship Sunday.

As a facilitator, I had to be there on Wednesday noon, Valerie and the girls didn't need to be there until Thursday but we decided to drive up together, because that was more fun than driving up separately! I drove from my house to Sackville, then turned the car over to Valerie since she needed wheels more than I did...also she knew where I needed to be and I didn't!





Continue reading "Images of IAC" »

June 6, 2009

Thanks for this day ♥


For the expanding grandeur of Creation,
worlds known and unknown,
galaxies beyond galaxies,
filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations:

We give thanks this day.

For this fragile planet earth,
its times and tides, its sunsets and seasons:

We give thanks this day.

For the joy of human life,
its wonders and surprises, its hopes and achievements:

We give thanks this day.

For our human community,
our common past and future hope,
our oneness transcending all separation,
our capacity to work for peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression:

We give thanks this day.

For high hopes and noble causes, for faith without fanaticism,
for understanding of views not shared:

We give thanks this day.

For all who have labored and suffered for a fairer world,
who have lived so that others might live in dignity and freedom:

We give thanks this day.

For human liberty and sacred rites;
for opportunities to change and grow, to affirm and choose:

We give thanks this day.

We pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes,
not by our words but by our deeds.

We give thanks this day

~ by O. Eugene Pickett




June 10, 2009

Another quiz...or 4 :)

"What is God Calling You to Be?"
Hey, I'm a Prophet, how cool is that?? Guess y'all better listen to my words of wisdom now or else... :)


What Colour is Your Aura?
Part of this fits me, part is way off (I am so not a planner!), but I love the colour...


Continue reading "Another quiz...or 4 :)" »

June 15, 2009

Random glories of nature...


Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
~ Albert Einstein


If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.
~ Eleonora Duse


Drinking nature is an unquenchable thirst.
~ Berri Clove

Continue reading "Random glories of nature..." »

June 19, 2009

More images of IAC...

Maritime Conference now has some photos posted on their website that were taken during the Annual Meeting weekend (IAC was part of that weekend). The website says "feel free to use them for reminiscing", so I'll borrow a few that I like. Maybe this post will inspire me to get my act together and write an entry about my IAC weekend!

Intermediates and Youth joined the main conference on Saturday evening. Some of the intermediates sang onstage during that service. M is third from the left (the gorgeous blonde!)


The Intermediates doing a conga-line around the room, great fun!

Continue reading "More images of IAC..." »

June 24, 2009

A Wordsworth moment...

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

~ William Wordsworth, 1804

Continue reading "A Wordsworth moment..." »

June 28, 2009

Butterfly thoughts...


With the rose the butterfly's deep in love,
A thousand times hovering round;
But round himself, all tender like gold,
The sun's sweet ray is hovering found.

~Heinrich Heine, "New Spring"


"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."
~Hans Christian Anderson

August 10, 2009

Trust Me (This is Love)

I was singing along to this song on the way into work this morning, and it felt not like a romantic love song, but like a love song to an inner conversation about faith, about trust, about letting go of fears and self doubt.

As the song says: "when a heart is uncertain, it's bound to second guess"...far too often, I let my heart be plagued by uncertainty and second guessing. But as I sang the rest of the song, I felt lifted by the power and knowledge of love...both given and received.

I was especially touched by the words "it may not look that way right now, but trust me baby, this is love". Therein lies the key...trusting even when it doesn't look or feel that way. Knowing that when real love is present, it doesn't vanish just because it hits a will still be there on the other side, and probably all the stronger.

With that thought, I felt infused with the strength to let go and fly, to trust that I can rise above my uncertainties. I can soar over those mountains that I often let stand in my way. I can brush off the feelings of insecurity that weigh me down, take my scared inner child by the hand and say "trust me, baby, this is love". In feeling worthy of being loved, in knowing that the love that surrounds me is here to stay, my heart is lit from within, and my soul does indeed soar. And, most importantly, I want to share my light and love with everyone else...

Maybe my reaction to the song stemmed from last night, when I was rolling the quotation "be still and know that I am God" around and around and around in my heart and mind. I really wanted to let go of all the negative buzzing in my mind (mostly motherhood issues), to let myself be open to the presence of the Spirit, to feel strengthened and uplifted...and thinking about those words helped. I have a beautiful song version of that passage on a CD by Paul Rumbolt, but alas, am unable to find it online anywhere to share with you.

In any case, whatever the reason for my shift of mood...I am in a strong and positive place this morning, and I feel amazing!! Even better, I feel like I am amazing!!

Lyrics to Trust Me (This Is Love):, by Amanda Marshall:

Continue reading "Trust Me (This is Love)" »

August 19, 2009

A love like that...


Sara just introduced me to this quotation (and through it, the poet Hafiz) is one of the most wonderful things I have ever read. Imagine if our hearts were filled with a love like wondrous that would be. Our hearts would shine with the radiance of the sun, lighting the lives of all those we touch as we travel along our life's journey. Just imagine...

My heart also smiles to see the two little friends standing in front of the mural. My own best friend recently said to me:

"I always sense your presence whenever you are near and even when you are not ... you are a part of my reality."
I think friendship embodies the spirit of Hafiz' words..true friendship is a love that lights the whole sky. ♥

August 26, 2009

Ode To Enchanted Light


Ode To Enchanted Light

Under the trees light
has dropped from the top of the sky,
like a green
latticework of branches,
on every leaf,
drifting down like clean
white sand.

A cicada sends
its sawing song
high into the empty air.

The world is
a glass overflowing
with water.

by Pablo Neruda


August 29, 2009

Where the Streets Have No Name

Where the Streets Have No Name
U2, from the album The Joshua Tree

According to wikipedia, Bono said of this song:

"Where the Streets Have No Name is more like the U2 of old than any of the other songs on the LP, because it’s a sketch - I was just trying to sketch a location, maybe a spiritual location, maybe a romantic location. I was trying to sketch a feeling. I often feel very claustrophobic in a city, a feeling of wanting to break out of that city and a feeling of wanting to go somewhere where the values of the city and the values of our society don’t hold you down. An interesting story that someone told me once is that in Belfast, by what street someone lives on you can tell not only their religion but tell how much money they’re making - literally by which side of the road they live on, because the further up the hill the more expensive the houses become. You can almost tell what the people are earning by the name of the street they live on and what side of that street they live on. That said something to me, and so I started writing about a place where the streets have no name."

And in this LA Times article he is quoted as saying:

"We can be in the middle of the worst gig in our lives, but when we go into that song, everything changes," he says. "The audience is on its feet, singing along with every word. It's like God suddenly walks through the room. It's the point where craft ends and spirit begins. How else do you explain it?"

I love Bono's description of how the mood in the room changes...I've felt that change, that feeling of God walking through the room. Not in a concert, but in other places. Such as one morning at IAC when one of the other facilitators spoke to the youth about how, among the thousands of young people attending all the United Churches within Maritime Conference, they - this group of ninety kids - were the ones called to come to IAC, called to action. He talked about how they would probably go home, and hear others in their church speak of things that should be done, those "wouldn't it be nice if..." kind of projects that often don't get started because everyone waits for someone else to start them. He said to the gathered youth "you are the someone that everyone else is waiting for." I could feel the rapt attention of the youth as they listened to Paul's reflection and prayer. I could feel their hearts filling with inspiration, with confidence, with did feel like God walked through the room. As we lifted our voices in song to end our worship service, the youth were on their feet, singing enthusiastically along with every word. The presence and power of the Spirit surrounded and gathered us together as one. It was a moving, inspiring and energizing experience, full of hope and joy. I'm so glad I was there to share it! ♥

September 3, 2009

Over My Head, I Hear Music in the Air

I came across the following video on youtube (is a choir from Ireland, I believe) and got the song "Over My Head, I Hear Music in the Air" stuck in my head. It's one we sing in my church sometimes (not nearly often enough!) I love it, it really does fill me with joy to sing it. Out loud. Some of the people in my building give me really strange looks when I walk around singing or humming...I mentioned that to a friend once and he said ignore them, obviously they don't have music in their souls. Excellent advice!

I couldn't remember all the real words, so just made up my own, singing about what makes me hear music in the air and fills me with joy. I flipped an email to Valerie, because I knew she would recognize the song...I'll share our email exchange because it kind of cracked me up:

Continue reading "Over My Head, I Hear Music in the Air" »

September 11, 2009

Gratitude Friday...Faith

I am so grateful to have faith in God and feel the presence of the Spirit in my world. Grateful for the expansive sense of joy and uplifting power when my heart is singing with happiness and laughter, grateful for the embrace of comfort and strength when my heart feels laden with burdens too heavy to bear alone. I am grateful to have found a church family with whom I can celebrate this faith openly, grateful to have found a place in our choir so I can worship through song. (Although, truth be told, sometimes choir practice is an exercise in frustration and negativity as a few people, I think, lose sense of the reason we are singing in their quest for perfection. But I just keep reminding myself of the joy I feel when singing on Sunday mornings to a very appreciative congregation. They are not nearly as critical as we can be ourselves, and seem to love our performances, imperfections and all!)

But, back to the faith issue...I could write volumes, but will simply say that trusting in God, and opening my heart through prayer, has helped me through some painful experiences the past year or two, and has also led me to a deeper appreciation of my world and all its wonders. I take time more often to marvel at the glories of creation, to feel a sense of connectedness with everything around me, to embrace and celebrate diversity. I find it easier to deal with pain and sorrow...well maybe it's not exactly easier, but I do find that emotional healing comes faster when I allow myself to be strengthened by God's love.

I realize not everyone feels the same way, and that's fine. I recall fellow blogger Jill once saying that her father taught her that it was ok not to believe in God. Which I thought was interesting, since I had to find my way to a place where it is ok to believe in God. But regardless of anyone else's faith or beliefs (or lack thereof), I am incredibly grateful for my own!

I am also grateful for gifted poets like Tagore, who can capture such incredible wisdom in so few words...

The Grasp Of Your Hand

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,

but to be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but

for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,

but hope for the patience to win my freedom.

Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling

Your mercy in my success alone; but let me find

the grasp of Your hand in my failure.

~ Rabindranath Tagore from The Heart of God

For some unknown reason, I always feel the presence of God very strongly when gazing at a sunset...all those radiant colours in the sky reminding me of the vast complexity and beauty of the universe. Here is the sunset I was blessed with a couple nights ago:



And, as always, each Friday I invite you to click over to Diana Strinati Baur's blog. Diana is the founder of the Gratitude Friday Club, and has a list of the club members on her blog...check them out too, your heart will be lifted by the wonderful expressions of gratitude.

September 21, 2009



Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.
~ Anatole France

Continue reading "Wandering..." »

September 22, 2009

Songs of the sun...

Thy sunbeam comes upon this earth of mine with arms outstretched and stands at my door the livelong day to carry back to thy feet clouds made of my tears and sighs and songs.

With fond delight thou wrappest about thy starry breast that mantle of misty cloud, turning it into numberless shapes and folds and colouring it with hues everchanging.

It is so light and so fleeting, tender and tearful and dark, that is why thou lovest it, O thou spotless and serene.


Thou art the sky and thou art the nest as well.

O thou beautiful, there in the nest is thy love that encloses the soul with colours and sounds and odours.

There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand bearing the wreath of beauty, silently to crown the earth.

And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool draughts of peace in her golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest.

But there, where spreads the infinite sky for the soul to take her flight in, reigns the stainless white radiance. There is no day nor night, nor form nor colour, and never, never a word.


What divine drink wouldst thou have, my God, from this overflowing cup of my life?

My poet, is it thy delight to see thy creation through my eyes and to stand at the portals of my ears silently to listen to thine own eternal harmony?

Thy world is weaving words in my mind and thy joy is adding music to them. Thou givest thyself to me in love and then feelest thine own entire sweetness in me.

(Quotations from Gitanjali, by Rabindranath Tagore)

September 24, 2009

Kathy, meet Jesse Cook :)

This is for my blog friend, Kathy. I just read her post Classic Rules, in which she mentions having a Spanish guitar, and decided I must introduce her to the wonder of one of my favourite musicians in the world: Jesse Cook.

I encountered Jesse Cook's music maybe ten years ago. Dave came home with a couple of his CDs one day, borrowed from a coworker. The coworker had been playing them and Dave immediately thought that I would like the music. He knows me well, my hubby does! I loved the dynamics, the amazing rhythms of this guitar and accompanying percussion. Dave and I have seen since Jesse (as if I'm on a first name basis, eh?! lol) live at the Rebecca Cohn auditorium in Halifax and I am just blown away by his talent. Seems like his fingers should go up in smoke, they are flying so fast over the guitar strings sometimes. His music fills and expands my soul, I get breathless with joy and awe and astonishment listening to the oh so alive classical/rumba/flamenco sound!! His CDs are a staple in my kitchen, excellent cooking tunes!

[Edited to add: Just found out his upcoming tour includes a performance in Halifax on April 12, 2010 (tickets to that show would make a most excellent Christmas or birthday present ;) ... just saying ...]

Here is a sampling of his music (yay for youtube!):

Continue reading "Kathy, meet Jesse Cook :)" »

October 15, 2009

Gratitude Friday...silence

This week's entry wrote itself...and a day early at that!

It all began with my friend Valerie's weekly email to her church family. (For those who don't already know this, Valerie is the minister at my church, which is how we came to know each other and then grew into being best friends.)

Anyway, her email went like this (with the reminders of upcoming events edited out):

"Good morning

Welcome to those new families joining us this week in Thursday Thoughts! My list keeps growing which is absolutely wonderful! Last night, a friend of mine brought a book by Kahlil Gibran and dropped it off at the office. It was one that I saw at her house and really wanted to read. Gibran might be familiar to many or most of you and, while I knew of him for a long time, I had not really read anything until this past year or so. He has become one of my favourites. Most mornings I begin with a time of reflection and reading and so today I opened up Gibran and began to flip through my eyes fell on the chapter entitled From Beautiful and Rare Sayings – 1923, this is what I read:

“My soul counselled me and charged me to listen for voices that rise neither from the tongue nor the throat. Before that day I heard but dully, and naught save clamour and loud cries came to my ears;

But now I have learned to listen to silence, to hear its choirs singing the songs of the ages, chanting the hymns of space, and disclosing the secrets of eternity”

As I read I was drawn to the line from the psalms that says “Be still and know…” How often we get caught up in the clamour of day to day life and so surrounded by noise that we miss the beauty, wonder and peace that lies just beneath the surface in those moments of deep silence. My prayer for each of you this day is that somewhere in the midst of chaos you will take a moment to breathe deeply and listen to the silence and experience the possibilities that lie there."


Continue reading "Gratitude Friday...silence" »

October 16, 2009

Gratitude Friday...silence (part 2)

I listened to Simon and Garfunkle's The Sound of Silence this morning, and am inspired to write a second gratitude entry this week!

I think there is much truth in the lyrics to this song...the metaphoric words of the prophets are most often written in places where we forget to look, and whispered in the silences we don't take time to listen to.

This song about the sound of silence kind of ties in with my previous entry, although a different way of listening to the silence. Not listening for your own sake, but listening for others. Listening for the voices of those who have grown silent, weary of having their words fall on deaf ears. Those of us living lives of wealth and privilege do too often bow and pray as lip service only. We go to church on Sunday morning, we hear the words about what we are called to do, but we do not always listen, and certainly we do not always act. In fact, we often simply return to our comfy lives and think no more about the ways in which we might help others, or the ways in which we might change the world. In fairness, it is hard to sustain a belief that one person can make a difference, so we get disheartened and feel helpless and overwhelmed at the size of the problems facing our world.

I am grateful for an employer who is engaged in charitable efforts, who offers us opportunities to respond with action. One such opportunity arose last week, when volunteers were requested to participate in the United Way Day of Caring. I, and several others from my department (I work for the provincial government) were allowed time off to volunteer and were assigned to a work team that would be painting sections of a men's shelter owned by the Metropolitan Immigration Settlement Association (MISA). A small act of helping, but every small act is a step in the right direction. Here is the story, and a couple photos of our team.

Continue reading "Gratitude Friday...silence (part 2)" »

October 27, 2009


A friend posted this video on facebook recently, I hadn't seen it before but think it delivers a powerful message.

Continue reading "Permission" »

October 29, 2009

We live for each other...

"Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality - not as we expect it to be but as it is - is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love."
~ F. Buechner

I don't know how one would truly capture such a thought visually, but I was browsing through my photos and stopped at this one, which I took in Newfoundland this past summer, of my friend Valerie and her sister Juanita (aka "J" in my vacation stories):


And I was reminded of something Valerie wrote in one of her recent Thursday Thoughts emails to our congregation:

"...we walk a road that is filled with twists and turns and sometimes difficult blows as well as the moments of joy and celebration. Faith is about not making that walk alone. God comes to us in many ways – the quiet of moment; a beautiful sunset; the changing colours of the fall; a raging storm; or a gentle wind. But more often than not, God comes to us in the presence of another who stands beside us- holding, challenging, loving, listening.

Today I give thanks for those in my life who have revealed to me, again and again, the presence and power of God..."

I remember that when I read her words, I imagined she was speaking of those in her life like her sister J. So I thought what better portrays Buechner's sense of lives that "flow into each other as wave flows into wave" and "where there really is, in just this sense, love" than this beautiful photo? ♥

November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

We had an wonderful service of remembrance at our church on Sunday. A young woman in our congregation told us of her experience visiting Normandy and Vimy Ridge, where there is a Canadian war memorial. She spoke eloquently and shared her own emotional reactions through her story. She also showed an accompanying slide show of her own photos from those places. I was moved to tears listening to her. Toward the end, she said that she wished so many more could have the chance to visit places like this. I agree, visiting places of honour and remembrance opens people's hearts and minds to the reality of war. And it's important to shine a light on that reality so we do not keep going down that same path.

The closest similar experience I've had was standing in the ghetto in Venice, on the very spot where thousands of people were rounded up and sent to concentrations camps. It really does hit the heart hard to stand in those places and feel the presence of those who suffered the horrendous atrocities of war...



The plaque says:

Duecento ebrei di venezia
ottomila ebrei d'italia
sei milioni di ebrei d'europa
da cieco barbarico odio
in lontane terre
cacciati martoriati soppressi

il ricordo dell atrocissima offesa
alla umana civilta
richiami cli uomini tutti
alla santa legge di dio
ai sentimenti di fraternita e di amore
che primo israele affermo fra i popoli

Which words I typed into google translate and then tried to make sense of the result. Here's a very rough translation in English:

Two hundred eight thousand Jews of the Jews of Venice, Italy, six million European Jews, hunted tortured exterminated by blind hatred in barbaric distant lands.

The memory of the atrocious offense against human civilization calls all humanity to the holy law of God to the feelings of brotherhood and love told first among the peoples of Israel.

Continue reading "Remembrance Day" »

November 23, 2009

What Happens

What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
Your eyes
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great Journey of Love?

First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears

And a hundred sweet promises
And those heroic vows
No one can ever keep.

But still God is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.

What happens when your soul
Begins to awake in this world

To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?

O the Beloved
Will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions –

Like Hafiz.

(From: “I Heard God Laughing": Renderings of Hafiz: by Daniel Ladinsky)

I recently came across that poem and was reminded of someone very special to me. If I imagine it as a story of my own spiritual journey, I would change the last line to –

Like Valerie

The amazing woman I met after I decided to start going to church in my late thirties (not so very long ago!), and she became our minister the following year. I wrote about the beginnings of my spiritual journey last year in this entry: Love song to God, and how Valerie's ministry (and that of our previous minister, Iain) touched my life. I cannot imagine a better companion to have on my own soul's journey to awake in this world and shine with the light of the Spirit within.

Here we are as friends in faith, on the way home after Maritime Conference last year:

Somewhere along the line, we developed a close personal connection as well. Discovering in each other a kindred spirit...a wonderful, wild companion...a best friend.

Here we are as friends at heart, on vacation last summer when she introduced me to her beloved (and oh-so-beautiful) home province of Newfoundland:

She was so supportive while I was sick and Dave was away...she called every day to see how I was feeling, made me soup, brought me ice cream, put up with my whining and weeping and weird flu-induced moodiness, drove my daughters to places they needed to be, had patience with my clinginess when I was needing hugs (yes I did actually say "no I'm not letting go yet, I'm so hug deprived!!" as she was trying to leave one

I say to my wonderful and beautiful friend: dearest Valerie, I am so blessed to have you in my life, our friendship does feel like a gift from God.

November 25, 2009

Hallelujah, my inner joy is back!!! :)

Wake up! Arise! Rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for a bright new day!!!

That is the song in my head this morning as I did indeed wake up feeling like it's a bright new day - hooray!! I have had a dark shadow of gloominess over my heart ever since I came down with the flu almost two weeks ago. I've never in my life had such an extended period of the blues, it's been horrible, I hope I never descend into the dumps for that long again. I didn't even feel particularly uplifted in church on Sunday, which is truly unusual because I love Sunday worship and I love connecting with my church family each week. But my blue flu mood even put a damper on that this week.

I don't know what marvellous metamorphosis happened in my sleep last night, but I woke this morning feeling like the cloud has finally blown away and my heart is once again full of light and rainbows! The weather outside is frightful, but my heart feels oh! might be raining outside, but inside my heart the sun is shining :)

This is how I feel today:

To feel keenly the poetry of a morning's roses, one has to have just escaped from the claws of this vulture which we call sickness.
~ Henri Frederic Amiel

December 3, 2009

Hallelujah...the k.d. lang way

I may have posted this before, but it's worth watching again and again...and again!! k.d. lang singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah at the 2005 Juno award show. Such an incredible performance...

December 12, 2009

God of light, we are waiting for you.

Earlier in the week, Valerie asked me if I'd do the Prayers for the People on Sunday, if necessary, because she hadn't heard from the woman who organizes people for that part of the service. I said I would...but only if SHE wrote the prayer. Because I've never written a prayer, especially one I would have to read out loud, and was a bit panicky at the thought of trying to form prayers into words that will speak to anyone other than me. Plus I wasn't feeling all that comfortable with the thought of writing one on such (relatively) short notice. Short notice because I didn't think I was going to have a lot of spare time before Sunday, and also I didn't really know what the theme of the service was (aside from 3rd Sunday of Advent, which is about Joy. And I think something related to the climate change conference - churches are asked to ring bells maybe).

But when we were hanging out at the camper today, Valerie said there was someone already arranged for this week's prayer, so I was off the hook. Part of me was relieved, part of me was disappointed. So I decided I'll just write a prayer anyway. Even if it isn't for my own church family, perhaps it will speak to someone...if not, well I'll just consider it a practice run for another time when I may be asked again. As I said, I've never actually written a prayer before, goes! Let me know what you think. :)

God of light, we are waiting for you.

We pray for your light to bring wisdom and strength to the thousands of people, including representatives from the United Church of Canada, gathered at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

May the Spirit fill those gathered with a sense of joy in the wonders of Creation, that they are inspired to celebrate and preserve our precious earth.

And may those gathered be filled with the Spirit of abundance and with compassion for our children’s future, that they are moved to find common ground and reach agreement on ways to slow the consumption of our earth’s precious resources, to ensure our planet’s wealth and beauty remains for future generations.

We pray for all our sisters and brothers living in poverty, that they may one day know abundance. We pray for our brothers and sisters living and serving in war zones and other areas of conflict that they may one day know peace. Their hope of abundance and peace lies in the promise of sharing…our sharing.

May our eyes be open to see the need of others less fortunate, our ears be open to hear their voices, our hearts and minds be open to understanding that it is sharing that gives meaning and joy to our lives. Sharing with one another and living in harmony with Creation brings us closer to each other and to God.

We lift in prayer all those experiencing loss, the loss of loved ones, of jobs and income, the loss of good health. Gracious God, may your strength and presence help us to gently hold those in pain. To bring light and love to those who feel surrounded by the darkness of sorrow or depression…who feel empty…in hope that they too may feel uplifted and included on this journey, and be touched by joy and hope in this season of promise and celebration.

Grant us the wisdom and grace to not judge the circumstances of those in need. Help us find in our hearts the compassion to reach out to those around us, and the courage to believe in ourselves, to believe that we can make a difference. We pray for the strength to start moving when we are paralysed by the fear that our actions are unworthy, too small, meaningless. We need to remember that what we do fearlessly can touch the lives of others in ways we never imagined; in ways we may never know.

When next we hear this familiar blessing:
May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet
and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you.

...may we hear ALL the words of that blessing…may we do more than seek the Christ in others…may we be not afraid to let the face of Christ be seen in us. For many of us, that is the harder challenge, accepting that we are ourselves worthy of containing the light of Christ and letting that light shine with humility and grace.

Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the power of your presence; help us to let our own light shine…to live our lives in ways that fill others around us with hope and joy…to be not afraid to show vulnerability or to step out and take chances. Life is about trying and learning, it is about giving and growing, it is about joyfully sharing ourselves with those around us so that we are all uplifted. We are all walking on this earth together, let us actively, joyfully, build relationship and community with one another. Let us honour and cherish the gift of each other’s company. If we all shine together, who knows what might happen? We just might change the world.

God of light, we are waiting for you.

January 5, 2010

Word cloud prayer

So I'm waiting for a report to run in the oft-times uber-slow financial system here at work. Rather than twiddle my thumbs in sheer boredom, I decided to make a word cloud. (Thanks to girasoli for introducing me to this cool idea.) I tried to make a cloud of my entire blog like girasoli had done - entered the URL in the appropriate box, but got an error message that it couldn't pick up the feed (assume that is related to the problem of the SlowTrav blogs not updating in various Atom and RSS feeds, or whatever...I don't know much about feeds and such. I just offer heartfelt thanks to those like Kim and Marta who do know what they are doing when it comes to blogging technicalities and help the rest of us out!)

Anyway, since the URL attempt didn't work, I cut and pasted a single entry, the one from last month when I created my first ever written prayer, and made a word cloud of just those words instead...I think it looks so cool!


(If you click on the above image, a larger version will pop up in another window.)

January 31, 2010

Prayers of the People...Open our hearts

As I wrote before Christmas, I've been sucked into the vortex of Prayers of the People, that part of our weekly Sunday worship service where someone from the congregation prays aloud for a few minutes, followed by collective recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Most, but not all, of these people write their own prayers. Some of these prayers speak deeply to my soul, some do not.

A Sunday or two after Valerie had first asked me about reading prayers, the woman who coordinates prayer readers at our church came up to me, saying "Valerie told me you wanted to do prayers, so I put you on my list." I thought to myself: "um, wanted to do this? Felt more like a dare that I couldn't back down from!!" But aloud I said yes...mostly because Valerie seems to have gotten it into her head that I can write a meaningful prayer, and frankly resistance is futile against that woman! :)

Unfortunately this wasn't the best week for me, just seemed to have a lot on the go in the evenings, so by the time Friday rolled around, I still hadn't written anything. And then my thoughts were all scattered from my eye exam, I had a horrible headache, and just couldn't seem to get in a prayer writing headspace. A few thoughts rattled around in my head, but somehow wouldn't settle into place. This week's preparation for prayer choir piece had a beautiful melody, very few words:

Open our hearts...
Open our minds...
Open our lives to you, O loving God...
Open our hearts...

But these few words contain such a powerful invitation to enter into relationship with the divine within and around us...I love them and used them to frame my prayer. I never did find the right headspace to craft a new prayer, so I took bits and pieces from the prayer I wrote for my blog in December, added a few new thoughts and voila, a Prayer of the People was born. But I was still feeling really uncomfortable about sharing my thoughts with the congregation. I can stand up and read scripture or anything else without batting an eye, but sharing my own inner heart thoughts face to face with rows and rows of pews full of people...that was seriously unsettling for me.

So I emailed Valerie a copy Saturday morning and asked her to read it and let me know her thoughts...because I knew she would be honest if it seemed disjointed and because I just wanted my friend's feedback. Besides, I wanted to share it with her anyway, since she wouldn't be there to hear it in person. After her show of support ("Amazing!!") and much needed reminder to "Just take a deep breath before you begin and open yourself to that same spirit you call upon", I felt much more ready to share it aloud with others.

And I am really glad I did share it. I mentioned to Janice (the woman who is leading worship in Val's absence) that I had vetted it through Valerie first, because of being so edgy about sharing it in public..."oh you cheater!", she laughed. But she also thanked me very much for sharing it, said she thought it was amazing, and gave me a big hug. In fact, several people came up to me to say it resonated with them. My mom told me the church was dead silent while I was reading, and said it felt to her like really touched a lot of people. I feel humbled and honoured to think that might be so.

I post my prayer here too, in case my blog friends also wish to share it...

Continue reading "Prayers of the People...Open our hearts" »

February 8, 2010

A question from a friend...

Yesterday, my friend Jane asked me:
"Did you ever think about becoming a minister yourself? I bet you'd be wonderful at something like that."

I'd been telling her that work is really on the back burner for me lately, I am just so much more passionate about my church life and spiritual growth than about my career these days. (Not that I couldn't enjoy both church and career, of course...many people do! But although I have worked in accounting for 20 years, it has never been a passion, is just something I fell into during my twenties when I had not the least clue what to do with my life. And I am now settled in government with a decent supervisory position...a job with stability that pays well, which is a situation for which I am grateful, especially in today's economic climate. But being grateful for my job does not translate into being passionate about my job.)

I had also said to Jane that I rarely even bother checking into professional development opportunities in the corporate training calendar anymore because why take yet another classroom session in, say, public speaking when I can instead get actual experience in my church, such as doing prayers, like I did a couple Sundays ago, or singing a solo (I'm sure the energy around public performance comes from the same place, whether speaking or singing.) Not to mention our corporate calendar rarely offers any useful courses in the first place, at least none that I haven't already taken.

Anyway...back to Jane's question: "Did you ever think about becoming a minister yourself?"...when I read it, I turned to Dave and said: "hey, Jane just asked if I have ever considered being a minister, she thinks I'd be good at it." He replied without hesitation: "yes, you would be." (Dave seems to believe I can do anything, and I must say his unshakeable confidence in me is very strengthening and inspiring! ♥)

I figured I may as well be honest, so wrote back that yes, actually the idea has crossed my mind and I don't think I've ever openly shared that with anyone before. Although I have shared it in a very oblique sort of way at least once...

I remember mentioning to Valerie, a while ago (couple years maybe?), that suggested career paths for my personality type were ones like teacher, psychiatrist, clergy, writer, etc...I went on to say ok, maybe it is ridiculous to think of me as a minister, but I could see myself as a writer. Valerie quickly agreed about the writer, but remained silent on the minister idea. I took her silence as an indication that she agreed it was a ridiculous notion (being certain that if she didn't, she would have said so.) Perhaps I misinterpreted her silence, but...I never brought up it again.

But I will admit, it is a path that appeals greatly to me, however tentative I feel about it as of yet! :) So having both Jane and Dave express words of encouragement is really uplifting.

Now, having been asked the question, I find myself wondering if this is a door I would ever seriously consider stepping through, or if it's just a pipe there a whole new world out there waiting for me, I wonder?


February 17, 2010

A prayer for my choir

As some of you know, I sing in my church choir. Our numbers are relatively few, perhaps a dozen regulars. Some strive for perfection and call attention to every missed note during practices...others are more laid back. I feel frazzled and stressed the odd time I get caught up in the perfectionism, but mostly I just sit back during practice and offer what vocal talent I have, without worrying about whether an occasional high note comes out sounding like chalk on a blackboard!

Come Sunday morning, I open myself to the Spirit and what music flows out of me is what it imperfect but joyful noise! I sing with love in my heart and (so I am told) a smile on my face :)

This past week, we received a note of criticism over one of the hymns...the author of the note felt we had not sufficiently practiced and did not provide adequate leadership for the congregation to sing this unfamiliar piece. The note contained a valid point, that choir should not be all about the anthem (the main musical offering around the sermon) but should also be about the hymns too. Fair enough. But the rest came across as unnecessarily critical and judgemental...and not at all mindful that this is a group of people who are not trained vocalists and who are offering their gift of music on a purely voluntary basis and who have limited time for choir practice amid work and family and the rest of our lives. So I wrote this prayer for my fellow choir members and myself...may we all remember that our music ministry is indeed a gift to cherish, and one that is welcomed and appreciated by most of our congregation.

Gracious and loving God

Our souls are filled with the power and joy of your song of Creation

Our hearts dance to the beat of your rhythm as we raise our voices in response to your call

Wrapped in the arms of your sustaining and eternal Love, we offer our gift of music

In the presence of your Holy Spirit, hearts are stilled to hear, minds are stirred to action, lives may be transformed...

We pray that all who listen will hear with understanding, and open themselves to feel your presence through the joy in our voices and the passion in our hearts

We pray that all who listen will feel their spirits touched by the wonder of your mystery, and add their own voices to our joyful noise

May we ourselves continue to be uplifted in knowing our singing touches and uplifts many others in our faith community

May we cast off the burden of impossible perfection, and let our souls soar on the wings of heavenly music

May we sing always with hearts open to your presence and your power ♥

Hallelujah and Amen!


"Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us."
~ Martin Luther

February 20, 2010

Alea iacta est

The die is cast...

As I may have said in a previous post, the first step in my journey to answer the call to ministry is a year long discernment period with others in my faith community. Well (deep breath) I'm ready to take that first step, so I just wrote my letter to my Church Council requesting that a Discernment Committee be set up! Drum roll and loud applause!!! Woohoo - go me!!!

Such a committee consists of the inquirer (me), three members of my own congregation (one that I name, two that my Church Council names), and one or two members of Presbytery (the layer of the UCC hierarchy above individual church and pastoral charge.) Valerie and I have already talked about who would be good from our congregation...people that I feel comfortable and secure with, and who I can also trust to be honest with me and say what needs to be said, to ensure this is right both for me and for the wider church. Val herself cannot be on the committee for two reasons: committee members cannot be ministry personnel serving in the inquirer's pastoral charge, nor can they be people with whom the inquirer is in a relationship. And to be honest, I feel this part of my journey needs to be my own so thinking it's best not to have my best friend on the discernment team.

According to the UCC booklet Discerning a Call to the Order of Ministry, the discernment period "provides an opportunity for the congregation and the individual to reflect on ministry and call, to discern gifts for specific ministries, to understand the expectations of the church, and to discern together how the individual will respond to God's call." I am really looking forward to this time of exploration and discovery!!!

The booklet also says "It is important for all members, including the inquirer, to leave behind preconceived outcomes of the process. Discernment requires a willingness to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to be silent, to speak, and to listen to others and God's wisdom." Which is rather strange in a way...I am entering a period specifically to discern a call to ministry, and yet the very discerning of that call requires that I leave behind my preconceived notions of ministry. On the other hand, this openness to being led in unexpected directions, wherever the Spirit takes me, resonates deep in my being. Having said all that...the voice in my heart is singing a song of ministry loud and clear! :) letter is written, and I've filled out my section of the appropriate form DIS201, and tomorrow I'll give those documents to Valerie so she can bring them to Council (at least I assume that's how it goes.) Slightly alarming is the fact that the next Council meeting is also our church's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on March it would seem my intentions will be made known to everyone in my congregation, and not simply to those few who make up the Executive of Council. Yikes! Hopefully the response will be positive (not that I have any reason to expect otherwise, but one never knows in these larger group settings...) Of course, I could wait and submit my request to Council at their next regular meeting, but Val thinks that is not until April and I don't want to wait that long. (I don't think she can wait that long either, she's as excited as I am about this!)

It has been interesting for me to hear people's reactions to my I said to Valerie this afternoon, it's really cool to see myself through their eyes. Surprisingly only one person has asked me "why?" Not in a sarcastic way, simply trying to understand why I want to do this...I answered that I feel like I can make a difference in the world, I feel like I can touch people's lives...and if I can do those things, then how can I not? Ok, that's cool, my friend replied. Took me 45 years to feel this way about what I am doing with my life, but just goes to show is never too late to find your passion!! God really does work in mysterious ways :)

[Edited at 11pm to add: Woohooooo!!!! Dave's finally home after being in Toronto for a week. I really missed him this week, was feeling kind of adrift in all my mental wandering without his anchoring presence!]

March 11, 2010

Souls open like suns


“The world grows green again,
And runs with gardens. The jewels from the vines
Glitter in each tree;
Souls open
Like suns
And link with one another.”

~ Rumi


March 12, 2010

Gratitude Friday...The Lord's Prayer

This week, I am grateful for ...The Lord's Prayer. I started this entry months ago when I came across the translations (below in the extended blog entry), and it sat unpublished, apparently biding its time until now when I sat wondering what to write for this week's Gratitude Friday entry, and thought aha, I know!

Our Lenten worship service last evening was centred around prayer, specifically the Lord's Prayer. We closed our eyes, Janice (our part time ministry person) led us through a meditation exercise while Peter played beautiful music on the piano, and then Janice slowly read the lines of the prayer, asking us to really think about each hear it, feel it, roll it around for new meaning. Now I must confess I really don't do well in that type of exercise, I just find it really hard to truly immerse myself in deep thought when someone else is controlling the atmosphere. My mind wanders, and I am always conscious of being in a group. Plus, in this case, Peter's piano playing was so wonderful and uplifting that I found it distracting - in a very good way, but distracting nonetheless.

And as often happens, I got stuck on the "Our Father" part of the prayer because those words don't speak ot me at all. (I'll add that "Our Mother" wouldn't speak to me either - I'm unbiased on the gender issue!) For me, God doesn't have a gender or persona of any kind. I remember one Cafe Soul discussion around what were our images of God...I said "sky" simply because it was as close as I could get to my impression of God. God just is...around us, beside us, within us. Trying to describe God in an *image* doesn't hold a lot of meaning for me, in fact it feels restrictive.

I struggled for years with the concept of God as Father, because I knew I didn't believe in that God and yet I have always felt a strong faith in *something*. But I couldn't bring myself to say "I believe in God" when it seemed the word "God" was reserved for a patriarchal Father figure. So I didn't know how to reconcile my feeling of faith with what I thought was the accepted vision of God. Of course that was before I actually started attending church, and discovered that the Father figure is far from being the accepted vision of God, just one of many ways to experience God. It seems many do believe that God as Father is the only true God, but I have also found that many others have a faith grounded in God as light and love, as spirit and breath of life, as power and presence and source of strength, as many things, but without gender, without form. Hallelujah, there's a place for me on the shared faith journey after all!!

Having said all that...I sometimes find comfort in reciting the Lord's Prayer in unison with fellow companions. I remember reciting it in St. James Episcopal church in Florence, when I was there on my solo trip. When I closed my eyes, I almost felt home in my own church. And there is much in the prayer that does speak to me, as long as I pray to Creator and not Father! And pray it with meaning and not just as words I give no thought to (which practice was also another thread of Janice's worship service last evening.) I like the "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" part...because I believe in living out faith actively in the here and now. I also like the emphasis on being both forgiven and forgiving, because forgiveness goes both ways. In part because we ourselves find wholeness by letting go of the burden of others' actions.

Continue reading "Gratitude Friday...The Lord's Prayer" »

March 21, 2010

Prayers of the People – March 21

We had such a wonderful couple days at the camper. No bizarre twists of fate interferred with our plans for once - hallelujah and thanks be to God!! :) I'll post a few photos soon, and look forward to catching up on everyone else's blog...but wanted to share the prayer I wrote for this morning's worship service. (I was again asked to do Prayers of the People...I guess once on the Prayer Coordinator's list, always on the list! I was not quite as inspired as I was the last time I wrote a prayer to be read aloud, but perhaps my words will touch at least one person in the pews this morning.)

Have a joyful Sunday everyone!!

Creator God
We give thanks for the beauty of your creation as we joyfully welcome the arrival of spring. We hear with gladness the babbling of brooks freed from winter’s ice. We see with delight the shoots of new growth pushing out of the dark soil. We feel with joy the breeze beginning to hold the promise of warmth.

We raise faces and hearts to the warmth of your sunshine, and feel the pulse of rebirth beating in the ground beneath our feet. Spirits soar and souls are renewed again and always by the presence of your holy spirit around and within us.

We give thanks for the blessing of family and friends, and all around us who share in the wonders of life on this earth.

But, as we dance in the light, we are also mindful that others among us are still journeying in shadow.

We lift in prayer those suffering from illness, both physical and mental…and we hold in our hearts the caregivers, medical personnel, and all who bring hope and healing.

We lift in prayer all who have lost loved ones…and hold in our hearts those who bring comfort and compassion in times of grief.

We lift in prayer those living under the shadow of poverty, of conflict, of oppression…and hold in our hearts those who seek ways to bring about peace, justice, abundance.

We pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti…a country far from full recovery. Too many people are still living in appalling conditions, without adequate shelter or food. Without the protection of homes and male family members, Haitian women and children are increasingly becoming victims of rape. We offer prayers of hope for a better future. As the world’s attention turns away to the next headline, let us continue to offer support toward rebuilding, to enable Haiti to rise from the ashes of that devastating earthquake. May we as a nation continue to share our wealth and our gifts, even as we are tempted to think we have no more to give.

We pray for our world and local leaders as they are faced with difficult choices…may they have the wisdom to base their decisions on careful consideration of the impact on the environment, on the global community and on future generations.

We pray for ourselves as we open our hearts to you, O God. We seek understanding and insight as we move out of our comfort zones and stretch our boundaries in our struggle to discern who we are…as a family of faith…and as individual disciples of Christ. O God, we ask for your grace and divine inspiration…we open ourselves to your guidance as we step out in new directions.

Holy Spirit, as we take those steps, help us shed old mindsets that hinder our growth. As we do with our gardens, we sometimes over cultivate our lives, and become so attached to neatly manicured designs, that we leave no room for the growth of the unexpected. Help us have the wisdom to let unbidden, often disquieting, stray thoughts linger in our minds for reflection and consideration, instead of tearing them out as weeds when they don’t fit our preconceived, comfortable, scheme of life.

Only you, Gracious and Eternal God, know what seeds you have planted in our hearts …grant us the wisdom and patience to let your seeds take root in our lives, and hear your voice in our stray thoughts and know your will amid the unexpected twists and turns in our path…

Sustaining God, source of our strength, fill and renew us with your power and presence, so we may continue to answer your call, and follow wherever it leads.

Let us join our hearts and voices as we pray together...
(Lord's Prayer)

March 25, 2010

Feast of the Annunciation

(Two entries in one day, whatever is the world coming to?!)

From wikipedia:
The Annunciation is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would become the Theotokos (God-bearer). Despite being a virgin, Mary would miraculously conceive a child who would be the called the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus, meaning “YHWH delivers”. Most of Christianity observes this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, nine full months before Christmas.

Beginning in 2010, the Annunciation feast is a national holiday in Lebanon celebrated by both Christians and Muslims by virtue of a governmental decree.

Of course I think it should be a national holiday in Canada as well, so I would get my birthday off every year!

The annunciation story as told in Scripture:

From the Gospel named for Luke, chapter 1, verses 26-38 (NRSV):

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’*

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’*

The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born* will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Now I personally don't read the annunciation story literally, but I absolutely love the message of opening ourselves to the presence of God and allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, even when what we are called to do seems impossible.

Some of my favourite paintings of the Annunciation:

Continue reading "Feast of the Annunciation" »

March 31, 2010

Wednesday wanderings...

Travel teaches how to see.
~ African Proverb

Words of wisdom...when we travel, we do learn to see in new ways, our eyes are open to wonder. We experience new places, new cultures, new rhythms of life.

We look up

...and find wonder in works of art and architecture

...and are awed by Creation...

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April 1, 2010

Lenten thoughts...

In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year's income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year's days. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question of what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be answer questions like this is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end. ~ Frederick Buechner

So what does it mean to "be ourselves"?

I don't have the answer. But I believe the search for that answer includes looking deeply inward and finding the places of darkness inside us that prevent us from fully answering the call to be loving and forgiving people. I think it is important to uncover our inner darkness and shine a light on it, instead of pretending it doesn't exist. How can we live in community if we don't recognize the ways in which we ourselves create barriers around and within us? How can we shed our own prejudices and judgements if we don't acknowledge their existence? Let's face it, we all have them. Who among us has never gotten on a self righteous high horse? Or shied away in discomfort from someone different...and such discomfort often stems from inner prejudices we don't even realize are there. But with honest reflection and self awareness, we can shed the harmful attitudes lurking within. It might be a painful process sometimes but, as Buechner says, something like Easter may be at the end. As we let God's light illuminate the dark corners of our heart and love others as we would be loved, we can become who we are called to be.

April 8, 2010

Thursday Thoughts (Valerie's, that is, not mine)

You may recall me mentioning that my friend (aka Rev) Valerie sends a weekly email to our congregation...and sometimes I share those thoughts here, as I'm doing now. What a joyful message she sent this IS great to be alive!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Laugh! Children of God! Let tears of joy baptize your eyes and your cheeks. Give God thanks and celebrate! It is great to be alive!

Dance! Children of God! Lose yourself in the choreography of the Spirit. Life is a dance and God is the orchestra. It is great to be alive!

Embrace! Children of God! Open your arms and feel close to each other. It is in our openness where life takes on meaning.

In the after glow of the sun rise of Easter we walk the road that opens up and are invited to see the Christ among us. And He will come in the most unlikely places. In a closed room where we hide, nursing our wounds; on the street as we make our way from work to lunch; in the parking lot of a busy mall; in the playground as we laugh with our children; in the hospital room as we wait beside the one we love; on the sea shore as we take in the mystery and beauty of life itself. Wherever we are God comes!

My prayer this day is that each of us will be open to the mystery that is God – with – us; that we will have eyes to see and ears to hear; that we will stop a moment and allow ourselves to be touched and changed and transformed.


April 10, 2010

Live as if only love mattered

It so amazes me how often songs take on new meaning when heard at different times...I've had Tracy Chapman's New Beginnings CD for years. Various songs have moved in and out of my favourite zone, but only recently did this particular one truly touch my heart. I was singing along one day and suddenly thought wow...I mean really, WOW!!, these lyrics are amazingly profound.

At this point in my life
Although I’ve mostly walked in the shadows
I’m still searching for the light
Won’t you put your faith in me
We both know that's what matters
If you give me a chance
I'll try

At this point in my life
I’d like to live as if only love mattered
As if redemption was in sight
As if the search to live honestly
Is all that anyone needs
No matter if you find it

Those words speak to me about letting go of all the wrongs done in the past, recognizing that those wrongs do not define who we are, we are so much more than the sum of our past mistakes. How uplifting and hopeful to live as if only love mattered...just think of how we are we are, and who we are, with those we truly love. At our best, we are caring, sharing, respectful, encouraging, honest, open...we would indeed give the shirt off our backs...we speak the truth, even when painful or awkward to do so...we are held close by unbreakable bonds...yet we also have infinite space between us to grow. How different would this world be if all relationships were like that...

If you can believe in this heart of mine
If you can give it a try
Then I'll reach inside and find and give you
All the sweetness that I have

What a powerful true it is that when someone believes in us, we are moved to open up and believe in ourselves too...and then our sweetness does flow out. There is something deeply strengthening about trusting someone to love you anyway, even knowing of the many things you've done wrong. Such unconditional love gives us wings to fly. Into my head just popped a notion...God's love, self love, love of and for others...perhaps that is the real Holy Trinity! <3

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! Mine's looking pretty good so far. We're going to see Mark's dinner theatre this evening, which should be loads of fun. I'm really looking forward to it, and - bonus - Sara's coming too! Yay! And just got off the phone with Valerie and apparently we're heading off on a mini roadtrip in the morning. (Note re the space-time continuum: I'm writing this on Friday and scheduling to post on Saturday because I already posted a Friday by the time you read this, I'll have left on said roadtrip, and the dinner theatre will be but a memory!)

Ok, so the roadtrip includes a funeral in Port Hawkesbury, but since I'm travelling with Valerie, I'm sure the journey will also involve lots of conversation (serious or silly, probably both!) and stories and laughter (and food...hey, we can't live on words alone!) I'll fill you in later...except for any "what's said on the road, stays on the road" bits! lol :)

April 20, 2010

Let the discerning begin!!!

This is me...

This is me on drugs...

No, not really, there were no drugs involved! Er, except for a celebratory beer... The second photo is how I have felt since last night when I got some great news! (The first photo is one Sara took one evening when we were fooling around with poses...she calls it "momma's emo picture". lol)

Just a quick update for those who read my previous entry about exploring ministry. To very briefly summarize that post, I said I feel called by God to ministry, ordained ministry to be specific, so had written a letter to my church council asking that a Discernment Committee be set up - because that's the process in the United Church of Canada for those who feel called to ordered ministry.

I gave my letter to our minister (aka my best friend Valerie) to bring to our church's Council when next they gathered...she said that would be at the congregational Annual General Meeting (AGM). I was hesitant about having my request announced to such a large crowd, but didn't want to wait another two months for the next Council executive meeting, so...I said ok, let's do it then. I am often insecure about proclaiming my own good news in person...have this feeling people are going to react in a "yeah, so what?" kind of way that will leave me feeling really deflated and idiotic for imagining they'd be interested in the first place. Weird?

Before the congregational AGM, came our Pastoral Charge's Annual Board Meeting, a much smaller gathering. Unexpectedly, we did an icebreaker where everyone said their name and their passion. I listened as the people around the circle spoke, waiting for my turn, wondering if I felt inspired to share my true passion or just make light of the question as some seemed to be doing. One woman said something along the lines of how, at her age (only 50), she is too old for passions and just lives life comfortably...that seems sad to me, I think I will never be too old for passions! Anyway, it came round to me...I said "I am passionate about many things, my husband, my children, my church..." Pause. Split second of thoughts racing around in my head...I decided it felt right to share my big news so I continued: "...actually I'm so passionate about my church that I am requesting a discernment committee to discern a call to ministry." Murmurs of surprise - drowned out by an outburst from Valerie: "YES!! I'm so glad she finally said it out loud, I've been bustin' a gut keeping it to myself!!" (In her full Newfoundland accent that always slips out when she is cute!)

The AGM was the following week. Valerie read my letter, and my request was met with unanimous approval by my church family and a round of applause...I noticed more than one hand waving to make a motion before Valerie even finished reading! How supportive is that? I love those people. ♥ The next step was to forward my request to Presbytery...and then wait...and wait...and wait. Ok, not really all that long of a wait, I suppose. Val mailed the request right away, but the Education & Students Committee didn't meet again until recently, April 7 to be exact.

But seemed a long time since I'd written my letter on Feb 20, then had to wait until our AGM on March 7 for my church to approve it, and have been waiting ever since to hear from Presbytery. Argh!! I was getting really impatient yesterday afternoon, wishing they would hurry up and let me know if my request was approved...I wrote on my facebook status that I was starting to wonder if the delay was a sign (and not a good one!) Then, in one of those quirky twists of coincidence, I got the mail on my way home - lo and behold, there was a letter from Presbytery saying that they are pleased to recognize the decision of my church to receive me as an Inquirer to the ministry of the United Church of Canada and to establish a Discernment Committee. Yay!! One more step along the world I go...

April 28, 2010

How to get a seat to yourself on the bus...


May 11, 2010

Heritage Quilt

Here is the Maritime Conference Heritage Quilt I mentioned near the end of my last entry...

This is what we saw in the days leading up to our anniversary service:


Then, during the service, the "doors" were opened to this beautiful sight:

Continue reading "Heritage Quilt" »

June 15, 2010

Who needs TV with a view like this?

I had the most marvellous moment of grace on the drive home from church last night...I pulled over by Grand Lake to commune with God, the night sky, the fading remnants of sunset stretched like a rainbow across the horizon, and the peaceful sounds of water lapping the edges of the lake. Alas, I did not have my camera with me, because the scene was one of indescribable beauty. But I have photos to share from other evenings...

As I've said before, the view of the sky from my back deck is absolutely amazing. I am so blessed to witness the most stunning sunsets. Sometimes the light gently fades, the cloudless blue sky deepens, deepens into an unfathomable and luminous expanse, and my soul feels connected with God and all the mysteries of the universe. Other evenings the clouds swirl and gather across the horizon, the sky is ablaze with brilliant shades of orange and red, and my heart skips a beat of wonder and awe. Always my spirit is lifted...

Last night the colours ranged from a most delicate mauve to a deep, glowing orange. Here's a sample of the display...

June 14, 8:44pm:

June 14, 8:46pm:

June 14, 8:52pm:

June 14, 8:59pm:

Continue reading "Who needs TV with a view like this?" »

July 26, 2010

Talk about a leap of faith!

I made one huge and exhilarating leap on Sunday. A leap of faith in myself and in being called to ministry. I lead the worship service at my church and preached for my very first time ever!!


As I said to Valerie, it was quite a daunting and nerve-wracking idea to lead worship for the first time in front of my home congregation, having no experience or training in preaching, without so much as a bible study course under my belt as far as formal education goes. When she first asked me about it, I hemmed and hawed in alarm. She tapped her fingernails on the table, finally declaring "so...I'll take that as a yes." Ah my dear friend, how well she knows me! I almost always have an initial moment of doubt when faced with a challenge, and hang suspended in a place of insecurity, before realizing well duh, I can do this. (Or sometimes I just decide that no way am I letting my fears get the better of me, I have to at least try to rise to whatever the challenge is!) So she just jumped over my moment of doubt, knowing full well what my answer was going to be.

I feel with my whole heart that God is calling me to this, so I just needed to trust in that and trust in myself. And I knew I would be surrounded by people who love and believe in me - Dave, Moira, Mom, my sister Lynn and her partner Bruce, my niece, and my faith family. Sara had to work so wasn't able to be there, which was unfortunate.

Valerie wasn't there either, she was in Newfoundland visiting her sister. A week or so ago, I must confess I was rather relieved that she was away - felt like too much pressure preaching for the very first time in front of a minister with 20+ years of experience under her belt. I imagined how naive and infantile my efforts would surely seem to her. But the other day I realized, wait a minute...she herself is making quite a leap of faith too, just by her very act of asking me to lead worship, from her pulpit, in her absence. If I botched the job, she would probably be the one bearing the brunt of the criticism, and having to listen to the Spiritual Oversight folks complaining "what were you thinking asking her to preach?" And my heart also spoke up, reminding me she is not a person who would come to sit in judgement, expecting me to be polished and perfect my first time out...she would have simply been there with love and support for her best friend. So by Sunday, I was really wishing she could share in this momentous occasion with me. I got a happy surprise Sunday morning when she called from Newfoundland to see how I was doing, to say she had no doubts whatsoever that all would go well, and to let me know she would be thinking of me the whole time I was worshipping. It meant a lot to me to know she was with me in spirit, if not in person.

Dave and I went a bit early to church, so I could get the headset sound turned on, and just be there early enough to settle myself and not feel like I was rushing around. I followed the steps Mike (one of our volunteer sound guys) had shown me back in June before I went on vacation, but - argh! - no sound was forthcoming. I probably could have managed without it, although it would have taken a concerted effort on my part to remember to project my voice, simply because I am not used to doing so. Mike was on vacation, but to my surprise, he popped in for a few minutes to get me up and running - what a thoughtful act!

Our organist arrived, followed by a couple ladies who were greeting at the door that morning...then the congregation began to trickle in, and a few choir members appeared...but still no sign of our choir director, who was the one who had picked the piece for our Ministry of Music. At quarter to ten (service began at 10), I asked our organist if he would play an instrumental in the Music Ministry spot instead. No problem, that he could do, neither of us were frazzled by this turn of events. But a minute later, our director finally arrived, gathered us together in the chapel where we practice, ran us through the piece a couple times, and we were all set. One of the choir members called out "Hey Reverend Anne, are you all ready for this?" Hahaha, I laughed, indeed I was! I was feeling only good nervousness at this point (thank God!) Oops, it was a couple minutes past ten...time to head in to the sanctuary!

Dave brought our dvd-cam and recorded the service...minus a couple minutes mid-sermon when he had to change the DVD, and a few bits and pieces throughout as he took a quick break to let the blood flow back into his wrist! Hadn't occurred to me beforehand, but I imagine it would get rather tedious holding a dvd-cam for a solid hour. It actually worked out well though, since a full uninterrupted service would have been too long to upload onto youtube I've broken it up into separate clips based on where he paused during filming.

And now - drum roll, please - here, for your viewing pleasure, is my leap into the world of leading worship. (The sound was fine in church, but was very low while watching the videos on my laptop, so you might need to turn up the volume.)

Continue reading "Talk about a leap of faith!" »

August 9, 2010

My church...from a different angle

I'm singing a solo in church this coming Sunday...a song I've never heard before. I'm not really sure when the word "no" vanished from my vocabulary...I seem to be agreeing to just about anything these days! Although it's funny how differently I feel from the first time I sang a seemed like such a big, not so much. Solo? New (to me) song? Yeah sure, no problem!

My choir director invited me to swing by her place tomorrow on my way home from work, but I figured I'd get the book this evening and see if I could get a handle on the melody first. So I stopped into my church on the way home today to pick up a copy of More Voices (the song is #169 "When Hands Reach Out Beyond Divides" if anyone is familiar with MV). As I expected, there was nobody at the church when I arrived, but I have a key so I let myself in. I signed out my choir book (first things first because I am easily distracted!) and then went into the sanctuary. Part of the reason I stopped by the church in the first place was because I wanted to sit in the sanctuary...I love being alone in that space, and I just felt like I needed to be there today.

The ceiling fans were whispering, the building creaked from time to time, but otherwise the place was utterly silent and still. I walked up and sat in the front pew...and started to cry. (Not to worry, I'm ok, just have some things laying very heavily on my heart these days and tears are a good release for me.) Eventually I had to get up and go look for a no avail. Sigh...maybe it's just me but it seems like a church should have an ample supply of tissues on hand. I suppose nobody thinks of it, unless in need of one which time, one is not necessarily in the right emotional state to run to the store. Maybe we need a kleenex committee! Perhaps I'll just go buy a bunch of boxes and donate them. Oh well...between sleeves and toilet paper, my tears were wiped away and I returned to the sanctuary. One of the things I discovered today is that the sound of sniffling and sobbing is really loud in the empty sanctuary...I mean really loud. So loud that I felt self-conscious about my noise even though I was the only one in the building!

But the really interesting and neat thing I discovered is that after lying on your back in the front pew and looking straight up for a long time, the vaulted ceiling takes on a whole different Escher-esque feel, in fact. Hard to describe, but when I finally roused myself and turned my head, the big window at the front of the sanctuary seemed out of kilter with my *reality*. It was very disorienting and gave me the weirdest feeling for a couple seconds until things realigned in my brain.

I took this photo with my cell phone to try to capture the strange impression:


The part of the ceiling along the top of the photo had felt like a regular flat ceiling while I was looking up from the pew...and I was looking up long enough that by the time I turned my head, my brain expected the window to be perpendicular to that surface. As I say, it was a strangely disorienting feeling when it was, of course, aligned with the spine of the vaulted ceiling and not with the surface that seemed flat from my perspective.

This is what the window looks like this from the standard upright perspective:


I suppose this is not unlike life in general...often a new perspective makes a huge difference. Sometimes I think I need to look at things straight on more often...but then again, looking from a slanted angle can reveal something new, that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Besides, if I suddenly became straightforward, how would my family and friends recognize me? ;)

September 10, 2010

Gratitude Friday...Words to live by

I sometimes share here the Thursday Thoughts my friend sends out to our congregation each week. Her thoughts are sometimes funny, sometimes serious...and almost always move me in one way or another, either leading me into reflection or into action...or both!

Her email this week contains particularly powerful and profound message:

Good morning,

As I sat in the living room this morning with my cup of coffee and listened to the news I felt a certain sense of shame. The main story was about the Christian community in the United States who have been planning a burn the Qu’ran event for this Saturday, the anniversary of 9/11. At that moment I could not help but wonder what this says to the world about Christianity and I felt like yelling that is not what Christ would want. Yet this is the picture of Christianity that gets front line news over and over again. While many of the world leaders, including Stephen Harper, have denounced this action I have yet to hear the voice of the many Christian communities who would find this appalling. An action such as the burning of the Qu’ran flies in the face of everything that we believe as followers of Christ. Such actions demean our faith and are not true to the gospel. Our sacred story is filled with images of acceptance, inclusion, love, compassion, justice and that is what we are to be about. It is our responsibility, as those who follow the Christ, to speak out against such acts of violence and until we do the only thing that is presented to the world is a very warped view of our faith. That anyone could use Christianity as a tool for hatred should cause us outrage! The Qu’ran is the sacred scripture of the Muslim people and within its pages there can be found amazing and wonderful teachings, not unlike what we read each week from our own. We are closely connected, although many do not want to admit it, through our shared story and the Power that makes us one. We are brothers and sisters.

My prayer this day is that the God who clothes creation in love might mend each rift and strengthen each seam, that threads of hope and strands of healing may be woven through our communities.


We are all brothers and sisters, regardless of religious or other beliefs...let us actively weave those "threads of hope and strands of healing" into our communities, and remember always to care for and support one another, and actively speak out against the actions of those who spew hate in the name of Christ and create deep rifts in the fabric of our world.

On a related note...I came across a UCCan document called "Mending the World: An Ecumenical Vision for Healing and Reconciliation" (there's a link to it on this page). The Prelude goes thus:

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel used to tell the story that when God, the Holy One, gets up in the morning, God gathers the angels of heaven around and asks this simple question: “Where does my creation need mending today?” And then Rabbi Heschel would continue, “Theology consists of worrying about what God worries about when God gets up in the morning.”

Margaret Atwood writes, “The facts of this world seen clearly are seen through tears; why tell me then there is something wrong with my eyes?”

“As [Jesus] came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!’” (Luke 19)

We hold the conviction that the world is at the centre of God’s concern. In the words of the Psalmist, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it, the world and they who dwell therein.” (24:1) The world is at risk because there are those who, refusing to see through tears, seek dominion and use the instruments of military, economic, political and cultural power to that end. God, who sees clearly through tears, is grieved by the estrangement of God’s children from one another and from the created order. God works, at the beginning of the day as at the end, for the mending of creation.

Life in the “whole inhabited earth” (oikoumene) is life in relationship. We are bound up with one another and with the world of nature—not just our kinfolk, or our kind.

We are thus led to speak of “whole world ecumenism,” naming the search for justice for God’s creatures and healing for God’s creation as the church’s first priority, and joining with other persons of good will in the search for justice, wholeness and love.

Our passion for the transformation of the world is rooted in our relationship to God in Jesus Christ. God, who is absolute love, mercy and justice, yearns for mending of creation, calling us to see the world through God’s tears, and to bend ourselves as church to the task of “worrying about what God worries about when God gets up in the morning.”

Today I am deeply grateful for those who speak out with love and compassion, who promote peace and justice and wholeness, who shine a blazing light amidst the darkness of those who use Christianity as a weapon.

September 11, 2010

"You awaken my soul Mr.Cohen"

My fellow blogger Barb posted a link on Facebook to a youtube video for Dance Me to the End of Love by Leonard Cohen.

I've loved this song for many years, and was delighted to see the video link on FB. One of the comments left on this youtube video was: "You awaken my soul Mr.Cohen..." I echo that thought...Mr. Cohen does awaken the soul. I read that Cohen had this to say about about the song:

'Dance Me To The End Of Love' ... it's curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that's why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, "Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin," meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song -- it's not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.

What a thought provoking statement: "it's not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity." I often feel that way about the language of the Bible. There have been times in the Cafe Soul gatherings at my church when other participants have been so tenaciously focussed on the historical accuracy of place and people that I have tuned out of the discussion. For me, it is not the literal facts of the stories, but the metaphors within, that inform my faith, shape my life, and lead me into deeper relationship with God and my community. I realize having a sense of the historical accuracy and background is often necessary in order to set the stories in a meaningful context...and to gain a sense of what is the universal grain of truth in the story. I acknowledge that history is a very important layer of our sacred story and yes, I am keen to explore it in my studies as a way of adding depth to my knowledge. But when in the presence of those who are intent on establishing literal *fact* to the exclusion of all else, I want to nudge them toward finding meaning in the myths in addition to simply pinning place names on a map or dates on a timeline.

After I wrote the above, I picked up the bible that was sitting on the table by my elbow, flipped a few pages and right away my eye caught this passage (Romans 12:2):

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Do I need to know the genesis of this language, know precisely when it was written and what was going on in Rome at the time in order for Paul's message to hold meaning? No. Instead I ask myself what do these words say to me...right now, in my world, in my lifetime? And, to me, it speaks about not conforming to the social structures, the divisions, the materiality of the world...but instead trying to live in right relationship with each other and with God. What is "good and acceptable and perfect" surely cannot be the current status quo of our broken world...massive accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of the few, while far too many others live in extreme poverty. Which imbalance drives pretty much all of the violence and injustice in the world, in my opinion. I don't have the solution to resetting our status quo...but the first step for me is to open myself to change. I think one of the biggest hurdles is that feeling of being helpless...that feeling of what can I possibly do that would make a difference? I keep reminding myself that every small act counts. So instead of being paralyzed into inaction, I offer what I can of my time, my money, my talents. I answer God's call to ministry (although I realize a path involving church is not for everyone...especially the atheists in our midst, like my husband!) But there are innumerable ways to make a difference in our world...we just need to move ourselves to action of some kind.

Pause before making that next "want to have" purchase, and think about what that amount of money could do for a village in a developing country or for those who have lost everything to disaster...instead of spending an evening at the movies, go serve at a soup kitchen...get involved in a charity drive at work...join Kiva and make small loans that transform lives...join Amnesty International and work to protect human any number of organizations that provide aid and support to people close to home and around the world...offer to paint a local shelter...lead a youth group and find yourself transformed by their enthusiasm, generosity and passion for making our world a better place. The steps we can take toward changing the status quo are endless and varied.

Let your soul be awakened. Let your light shine.
Go make a difference in the world!

September 21, 2010

The Sound of Sunshine

"And that's the sound of sunshine
Coming down..."

"They say that miracles are never ceasing
and every little soul needs a little releasing"

"And that's the sound of sunshine
Coming down...
And that's the sound of sunshine
Coming down..."

What a great message to hold in our hearts on International Day of Peace.

A reflection from the United Church of Canada website:

"Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not…do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble." Romans 14:19, 21

This Tuesday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace—a day when people around the world celebrate and support local, national, and international efforts to end conflict and promote peace. When we think about people who are part of these efforts, we come up with the “big names”—the Nobel Peace Prize–winners, heads of state, treaty negotiators. It’s wonderful to celebrate their work, but we should also look closer to home.

What about the union leader and the management head who sit down before a crisis to figure out how to help each other? What about the woman who has just made her 100th Kiva loan, supporting educational and economic development in struggling communities? What about the mothers who stand together to say that the killing of all children must stop? What about the tween who overhears classmates making heterosexist jibes and says “Stop! Listen! Be!” How can we celebrate these peacemakers?

Can we push ourselves a little further—to find ways to work together and to help bring peace into the world?

God of Love, Prince of Peace, Ever-Moving Spirit, thank you for this day of celebration and challenge. Thank you for your peace-bearers, your peacemakers, your peace-lovers. Help us listen. Help us act. Help us be your peace in a world that needs it. Amen.


September 30, 2010

Keep your coins, I want change

I was browsing through the United Church's Wonder Cafe site and came across the link to the following image. I find it very thought provoking...


I don't know about you, but I find it much easier to donate a few bucks to charity than to make an effort to get involved, than to stand up and speak out against injustice and poverty, than to change myself or be an agent of change in others. Statements like the one in this image help to shake me out of my complacency, and move me into a place of action. Art...tis a powerful tool.

Also came across this link for 366 Community Service Ideas. What a fantastic list of ways to get involved in our communities and share our time and talents with others. I sometimes find it hard to know where to start when I think about taking action...this will be a great starting place!

January 21, 2013

welcome morning

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne,"
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young.

welcome morning - anne sexton

November 28, 2013

Fun at school

Today we made a video for our fellow students who are away on internship this year. (An 8 month full time internship in supervised ministry is required before we can be ordained...I'll be doing mine next year. I won't know where I'll be placed until next April...waiting for the details will strain my patience, but is out of my control!)

In past years, intern gifts have been more conventional: grocery cards, little figurines, greeting cards, etc. And while we will still send the cards, we also wanted to do something more personal, something that allowed them to feel connected with the group. So we made a fake news video for their viewing pleasure...and, apparently, your viewing pleasure also.


PS...I'm one of the sign-holders in the background, wearing a black top. We didn't realize the camera angle was so low or we would have stooped down more often, but you can catch glimpses of my face behind the male "news anchor" throughout the video. LOL

February 19, 2014

A little snow isn't going to stop us...

We had a snowstorm overnight Saturday into let off a bit early Sunday morning, but was forecasted to swell to blizzard conditions again in the afternoon. I waited and waited for a call from my church to let me know they were cancelling the service, like every other congregation in the area. In my denomination, the decision to cancel isn't made by the minister or worship leader, it's made by the "session" or council of the I don't make the call, I just await the decision. I figured for sure I'd get a call, since the congregation had cancelled two different Sundays in December due to bad weather. It's a small group, mostly older, and I figured they wouldn't want to be out in the storm. I've told them a couple times not to factor me into their decision to cancel. I always had to brave the weather when I worked in government and the private sector, I figure why should it be any different in ministry?!

However, my phone didn't ring by the time I needed to I headed off to church, roughly a 15-20 minute drive from my friend Valerie's house in normal driving conditions. (It's about an hour's drive from my own house, but I stay at Val's place every Saturday night, just so I don't have a long drive before church Sunday mornings.) The roads were snow covered, what we call "centre line bare", but visibility was good so the drive wasn't bad...


By the time church was over, it was a whole other story. The blizzard had kicked back into high gear. When we emerged from the church, we couldn't even see the other side of the road! One woman in particular was very concerned about me driving...she tried very hard to persuade me to come to her place for a cup of tea, and wait out the storm. She lives very close to the church. I was deeply appreciative of her concern and her offer, but I didn't know how long the storm would last, and I really just wanted to get some place where I could settle in. So I thanked her, but carried on my way back to Valerie's house, knowing I could just stay another night if things didn't clear up.

It took me twice as long to get back to her place as it took to get to the church from there a couple hours earlier...there was a hint of centre line in places, but it was a pretty nasty drive, between the white out conditions and the snow drifts across the road in places!


All in a day's work! lol :) And the storm subsided by evening, just in time for a sleigh ride! Perfect conditions actually, clear skies and lots of fresh fallen snow...followed by hot chocolate. Good times!

February 28, 2014

Spiritual practice with markers

Once a month or so in our Formation class, we learn a new spiritual practice. (Formation as in being formed for ministry...a space in which to explore our identity, build community, and grow our spirituality.) This past week we were met with two blank sheets of paper and some markers (many of which turned out to be pretty dried up, but that's besides the point.)

We were directed to just draw lines - free flowing lines - on one of the pages. Not to try to make them straight, just let them curve all over the place to loosen up our creativity. Evidently I was channelling my inner minimalist because this is what my page looked like:


Pretty pathetic, I thought at first! But as I got looking at it, I started to think hmm, mysterious ways at work? It kind of looks kind of like a river with fishy shapes (God, the Living Water and the Jesus fish, get it? lol)

Our next practice was to turn the page over and draw what freedom looks like. No rules or parameters, whatever freedom looks like to us, draw that.

Continue reading "Spiritual practice with markers" »

March 3, 2014

What Sustains (poem)

What Sustains

The more I am hollowed
by the fire, the more my ribs
spread like the tree of life.

The more I am washed
by the tears of others, the more
my heart rounds like an ocean shell.

The more stories I tell
of how one picks up another,
the more my hands open
like scoops for grain.

To be what others drink,
to be what others stand on
to reach what they love--
we should be so lucky
to be worn to this.

~ Mark Nepo, Reduced to Joy

May 8, 2014

A Master of Divinity

I missed last week's photohunt in the whirlwind of Convocation activities. After three years of intense study...I now have my Master of Divinity degree!!! Woohoooooo!!!! I also received a couple of prizes, which was an unexpected honour. One was for achieving 1st Standing Overall in Old Testament studies, and the other was the Leadership Prize awarded by faculty for significant contributions to the life of our school community. My family is very proud of me! (To be honest, I'm quite proud of me too!)

Next leg of my journey is an 8 month full time internship. There are different scenarios for internship. Many students do their internship in a church where there is already a full time minister in order to benefit from on-site supervision and guidance. However, I've been approved for off-site supervision...which means, from Sept/14 - April/15 I will be "the" minister in the church to which I've been appointed. I'll meet with my supervisor once a week to reflect on my experiences and do some planning, and that person will also be a resource for me, since he's a very experienced minister (he serves the church in a neighbouring town.) Pending successful completion of my internship, and passing my final ordination interview next spring...I hope to be ordained into the United Church of Canada on May 31, 2015 (yes, I already have the date marked in my calendar! lol Ordination happens at our region's annual conference and those dates are set loooong in advance.)

Here are some pics from my Convocation...

Here I am having my degree conferred on me by our President. Or, to put it accurately, here I am being "admitted to the degree of Master of Divinity with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining.":

Continue reading "A Master of Divinity" »

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