Three Score and a Day Ago


Three Score and a Day Ago my parents were married.  Ten years ago, on their 50th wedding anniversary, it snowed, quite alot.

Five years ago, I managed to get home to celebrate with them.  Dad, even though he still had some physical challenges from his first stroke, marked the day by enjoying one of his most favourite things in the world.  Along with his youngest daughter he burned the grass along the edges of the farm in preparation for the greening of spring.

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Today is Friday, typically a day off.  I putter on Fridays, the only thing I schedule is walking the dog, which I do every morning, and cook dinner.  The rest is puttering, laundry, dishes, quilting.  I catch up on the programs recorded on the DVR, usually it is The Big Bang Theory.  I’m feeling a little blue, the anniversary of my parent’s nuptials heightens how much I miss my dad who died September five years ago.  This was Chuck Lorre’s reflection #589.

Recently I was scrolling through the contacts list in my cell phone, when I came across an entry of a casual acquaintance who had died.  This was a very nice person, someone I enjoyed spending time with.  There was no real reason we didn’t become closer friends.  Just the usual excuses, busy lives, and tossed-off promises of lunches and dinners that would never come to pass.  Anyway, here was all this person’s contact information – email, phone numbers, etc.  Was I supposed to delete it?  I couldn’t think of a reason not to, but pressing the delete button seemed disrespectful, almost irreverent.  To die is one thing, to be deleted is quite another.  Instead, I took a deep breath and called the number.  It went to voicemail (thank God).  I then left a rambling message about how I wished we’d gotten to know each other better, and that I was sorry I didn’t follow up on one of our many threatened lunch dates.  It was a silly thing to do, but when I hung up I felt a small bit of closure.  The my phone rang.  I looked down and saw his name in the caller ID.  I froze.  The room started to spin.  My heart was pounding in my ears.  I took a deep breath, forced myself to press the accept button and put the phone to my ear.  It was his son.  He was confused as to why I’d called his late father.  I promised to explain it over lunch.  Date, TBD.

I have contacts in my phone like that.  Both of my very best friends from seminary.  I can’t bring myself to delete them.  Both deceased, one from cancer, the other a fall (?).  Coincidentally, it is (was) the latter’s birthday today.  My heart is breaking with love displaced to a realm beyond my knowing.

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Psalm 78:39
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.
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The top is finished!  Now to wait for DH to get the Gamill put back together and think about how to quilt it.  Maybe will use 1 Kings 7:36 as inspiration …
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Faith crosses every border and touches every heart in every nation. 
~ George W. Bush

1 Kings 7:36  On the surfaces of its stays and on its borders he carved cherubim, lions, and palm trees, where each had space, with wreaths all around.

The Why of Coincidence


Yesterday I started reading Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  I only read the first chapter, mulling and reflecting over her words, thinking about my call and whether it is different in any way from when I started, through the last five years in Northeastern BC, to now at a big city church on the edge of the urban reserve.

“In 1992, when I started hanging out with the “rowing team,” as I began to call them, I was working at a downtown club as a standup comic.  I was broken and trying to become fixed and only a few months sober.  I couldn’t afford therapy, so being paid to be caustic and cynical on stage seemed the next best thing.  Plus, I’m funny when I’m miserable.”

“It isn’t exactly uncommon.  If you were to gather up all the world’s comics and then remove all the alcoholics, cocaine addicts, and manic depressives you’d have left … well … Carrot Top, basically.  There’s something about courting the darkness that makes people see the truth in raw, twisted ways, as though they were shining a black light on life to illuminate the absurdity of it all.  Comics tell a truth you can see only from the underside of the psyche.  At its best, comedy is prophesy and societal dream interpretation.  At its worst it’s just dick jokes.”

I am not the only one who sees the underside and God at the same time.  There are lots of us, and we are at home in the biblical stories of antiheros and people who don’t get it; beloved prostitutes and rough fishermen.  How different from that cast of characters could a manic-depressive alcoholic comic be?  It was here in the midst of my own community of underside dwellers that I couldn’t help but begin to see the Gospel, the life-changing reality that God is not far off, but here among the brokenness of our lives. … “

The words lay heavy in my head.  I reflected on mental illness, at least a couple within the family, even more in my congregations, countless in the community beyond the doors of this city church.  I thought back to the time I glanced over the edge of it almost a year ago.  I questioned how I, as a minister who pastors, could be the instrument of God’s light and peace in those moments of encountering those in despair.  Bolz-Weber’s book/words hold the promise of hope and help for me as servant to others labouring along life’s paths.

25 Did I not weep for those whose day was hard?

    Was not my soul grieved for the poor?

26 But when I looked for good, evil came;

    and when I waited for light, darkness came.  Job 30:25-26

PS – Coincidences can be a blessing and a curse.  Not an hour after closing the pages of  Pastrix on the first chapter, sitting down to a meal with family, comes the heartbreaking news of the suicide of Robin Williams.   Heartbreakingly weird, I just read about comics, and addicts, and depression in a search to be a better servant to the people I am called to serve.  It was a punctuation mark that drenched me in sadness.  Robin Williams, no less and none greater – A genius dwelling in darkness who brought light and laughter to millions.  A father who read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to his children.  An actor who could be chaos and compassion in a shining super nova of brilliance.

“You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.” – August Rush, 2007

“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”  – Good Will Hunting

“Death is nature’s way of say ‘Your table is ready.'”

What an eschatological thing to say Mr. Williams, welcome to the banquet.  God’s love and peace bless and keep you now forever.

Tulip Surprise


I’m a sucker for those value packages of fall planting bulbs, especially when they are sold by colour, being of course – purple.  I bought two packages last fall.  With those packages you never know what you are going to get, they are just a mix.  A pleasant surprise this spring, beautiful two toned tulips in the front yard.

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Admirael van der Eijck from the 1637 catalog of P.Cos., sold for 1045 guilders on February 5, 1637

The introduction of the tulip to Europe in the late 1500’s created quite a stir and within a few decades the tulip became a coveted luxury item.  At one point the price of certain tulip bulb in a much sought after variety cost 10 times the yearly wage of a skilled labourer.   Developed mainly in the United Provinces (The Netherlands) it became a status symbol which resulted in Tulip Mania.

The Canadian Tulip Festival occurs every May in Ottawa, a display of millions of tulips blooming in brilliant colour.  It was initiated in response to the birth of a baby girl during World War II.  In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.

The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of international territory, so that she would be born in no country and would inherit only her Dutch citizenship from her mother. To commemorate the birth, the Canadian Parliament flew the Dutch flag over Peace Tower. This is the only time a foreign flag has flown over the Canadian Parliament Building.  In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.  While the Netherlands continues to send 20,000 bulbs to Canada each year (10,000 from the Royal Family and 10,000 from the Dutch Bulb Growers Association), by 1963 the festival featured more than 2 million, and today sees nearly 3 million tulips purchased from Dutch and Canadian distributors.

Tulips are the only flower that continues to grow in the vase after being cut. They can continue to grow up to another 3 inches. They also conform to the shape of the container, straight up if in a tall container, twisting to fit into a flat or irregular shaped vase.

The ancient Turks used to brew a love potion from tulips and many cultures consider tulips to be the symbol of perfect love.

In the early 1700s, A Turk by the name of Sultan Ahmed III was the first to begin importing bulbs from Holland. But it proved a fatal attraction. When Sultan Ahmed was brought to trial, his crimes included “having spent too much money on the traditional annual tulip festivals”. The sentence: He was beheaded.

In Japan, certain flour is made from tulips.

In times of famine the Dutch have eaten tulip bulbs when no other food was available.

Hans Gillisz. Bollongier, Flower Piece, Frans Hals Museum, 1644. The top flower was always the most expensive one and in this bouquet it is the tulip Semper Augustus.

William Morris 1875 design printed on cotton

Of course, a nod to my favourite arts and crafts artist, William Morris.

The tulip and the butterfly
Appear in gayer coats than I:
Let me be dressed fine as I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still.
~Isaac Watts

Tulips


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Lamott is an unstoppable storyteller, whether writing about church-going with a sullen adolescent or reconciling with her late mother. She rages against the Iraq war but takes comfort from her sage-like Presbyterian minister, who says faith is not about how we feel it is about how we live. … Rule 1 We are all family. Rule 2 You reap exactly what you sow, that is, you cannot grow tulips from zucchini seeds. Rule 3 Try to breathe every few minutes or so. Rule 4 It helps beyond words to plant bulbs in the dark of winter. Rule 5 It is immoral to hit first.
Anne Lamott

Quilt Quote


… from an old-time (frontier?) quilter: “I make my quilts as fast as I can to keep my children warm, and as beautiful as I can to keep my heart from breaking.”