Strength for Today


It has been a trying year.  Too many prominent members of the congregation have died with difficult circumstances surrounding their deaths.  It is emotional fuel for continued conflict and hurt within the leadership.  Too much personal anxiety around mental health issues in immediate family members, inheritance details, feelings of isolation, and decreasing hours of daylight has given birth to a silent litany of “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care” as a way to cope.

I’ve been quilting, constantly, but not finishing a single project.  I’ve started three major pieces in the last month, all with deadlines.  I get almost finished, pull it down off the design board and start something else.  I contemplate whether my inability to finish mirrors my inability to let grief go.  Daily I begin by praying I will have enough emotional resources to get through today.

14729352_10202070259313637_5136655464477300416_n A couple of weeks ago the widow of one of the recently deceased members celebrated her 65th birthday.  Attempted to celebrate.  It has been very difficult for her.  The first anniversaries after a loved one dies typically is, the first Thanksgiving, the first birthday, the wedding anniversary, the baptism of a grandchild.  Christmas is going to be bleak.  I managed to finish this quilt and gift it to her.  I named it “Strength for Today, Hope for tomorrow.”  A line from the powerful hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness.  I pray it brings her comfort and some measure of peace.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Lamentations 3:22-24   The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Those Were the Days


There are previous manifestations of my life recalled with fondness and a sad wishfulness to return.  I miss being a homemaker.  It was a good moment in time.  This photo of chokecherries amidst frost transformed leaves reminded me of then.

DSC_0437‘Then’ were days of harvest, late summer gathering of berries and fruit destined to fill mason jars with jewel bright jellies and jams.

‘Then’ was stewing tomatos, skins split with heat, acid scented steam rising, clinging to window panes as droplets swelling pregnant to burst in transparent rivulets coursing down to pool on dusty sills.  The tomatos became the the starting point for pasta sauces, chili con carne, soups and stews.  Harvest preserving gave way to Christmas baking, concoctions with butter, sugar, cherries and almonds.  Potatos emerged from the root cellar, moisture content reduced in the cool darkess, perfect for perogies and potato pancakes.

Evenings were spent knitting, stitching, creating, reading and dreaming.  Learning math and geography and history all over again at the diningroom table with boys yearning to be young men.

‘Then’ were days of planning and planting, growing and gathering, sewing and simmering.  The day’s effort could be measured in a glance, rows of jars on the counter, the glass clear cookie jar filled to the brim, cross-stitch framed on the walls.  Those were the days.

Ezekiel 16:19  Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with choice flour and oil and honey—you set it before them as a pleasing odor; and so it was, says the Lord God.

A Fist Full of Flowers


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Wild Chickweed and Violets

I’ve always loved flowers.  Always.  Earlier this summer I was reminded of some of my first childhood memories of flowers.  As a very young child I soon learned as my father’s shadow, what flowers were in season.  We would go to the poplar forest as the leaves were just emerging from winter rest, the sun having warmed last autumn’s carpet, coaxing hepaticas to speckle the brown and gray with white, blue and mauve.  Usually that was consistently around Mother’s Day so we would return, fists full of tiny flowers, stems barely crossing the width of a palm.  Mom would find a shot glass to hold the crushed bouquets.  We never picked enough to fill it, our efforts always seemed so diminished by the empty spaces. I learned early that for flowers were best displayed and stayed fresh longer the longer the stems were.

The next offering of spring would be the marsh marigolds, then violets blue and white, followed by lilacs, buttercups, bluebells, wild anemone, something Dad labeled Kentucky Bluegrass, red clover, brown eyed susans, asters and goldenrods.  A bouquet would be barely wilted and I would be bringing Mom another from the fields and the woods.  Before I was taught to know better, I would bring bunches of daisies.  Dad held them in low regard because they were a weed, spoiling the hay harvest.  Plus they stunk, and brought tiny crawly bugs with them into the house that fell and littered any surface the vase holding those sunny faces set off with pure white petals sat on.  He loves me, he loves me not.  I spent hours trying to teach myself the art of daisy chains and consistently unsatisfying attempts at flower crowns to set on my white blond head.

Dad would take us to the spruce forests to search for Calypso Ladyslippers and the blueberry hills for Pink Moccasins and Indian Pipe.  There were excursions into the bog to seek out swamp laurel and pitcher plants.  We observed trout lilies, mayflowers, and never picked wood lilies, or irises.  Dad recalls seeing trilliums blooming just over the crest of the hill, on the east side of the field where we entered the bush to look for hepaticas weeks earlier, but I never managed to locate any on our place.  I enjoyed watching the bees visit the blueberry and raspberry and strawberry and chokecherry blossoms, leaving them alone in anticipation of sweet fruit and berries.  We would beg Dad to guide the boat into the lily pads to collect brilliant white water lilies and butter yellow spatterdock.

I was intoxicated by the scents of twin lilies and lilacs and goldenrods.  I’d search out Canada Thistle and whittle it down with my pocket knife because I had heard once that if you were ever lost in the woods you could survive on its pithy stems.

Flowers are perfect.

Luke 12:27  “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

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.

On the Move


It has been a long time in the making.  At least two years in the praying and the asking.  I have been called to a new congregation.  It was finalized by Presbytery in May, the next day the house went on the market and we began packing it up in earnest.

The new church is much closer to family, in a city, no less!  That is amazing to me.   I always expected to remain in rural ministry.  Even though women have been ordained as Ministers of Word and Sacrament in this denomination for over fifty years, there is still an old boys’ club and patriarchal mentality that firmly hold the glass ceiling in place.  I am not sure if I am now above or below the glass, but I am thrilled to be here.  God is good.  There are so many opportunities for great things to be done, I am blessed to be in this place and looking into the future with excitement and enthusiasm.

Leaving my previous congregation was bittersweet.  There are a number of people I will dearly miss.  As a gift of leave taking for myself, I quilted a string quilt and asked everyone to sign it.  It lies draped over the back of a chair in my new office.

DSC_0362It reminds me of things accomplished, that people are not all cut from the same cloth, that united we are beautiful and serve a purpose, that even scraps and odd and ends are useful, and that errors and mistakes can only be seen with extremely close inspection (and in the larger scheme of things, don’t matter in the slightest bit).

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Isaiah 42:9  See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Two Weeks in the Whirlwind


It’s been a tough two weeks.  The not hoped for, daily prayed about, inevitable happened.  God’s everlasting light shines upon my father.  I will miss him dearly.  Presiding at his funeral was the most uplifting experience, difficult but affirming.  Ever held in the love of God, Dad went to tend the fields of heaven.  I love you.

George with hay

Luke 6:1-5  One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”