Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wise Words from a Hollywood Fella'

I read this quote a few days ago and find it to be most wise:

"....there was a price to be paid for a culture that idealizes the relentless pursuit of "self".....  To be counter to the culture, you are by definition willfullly and actively ignoring the culture, i.e., reality. And when you ignore reality for too long, you begin to feel immune to, or above, the gravitational pull that binds everyone else.  You are courting disaster." 

(Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends; St. Martins Press, New York, 2012; paperback edition, pages 65, 66.) 

Pastoral Care for Pastors

It is a beatiful day for writing a blog. The sun is shining, good weather is forecast, my husband is away helping lead a day long grief and loss seminar, I have only a few chores to do around the house and a bulletin for church to produce today. Ahhhh, maybe a little down time for myself after a super busy few days of travelling to Diocesan meetings far from here.

I have been pondering some of the more interesting relationships that exist between priests and their congregations. Today I am thinking of our housing situations.  In our province our denomination is still in possession of a fair number of aging rectories for their priests to live in. 

Rectories are a good news/bad news kind of deal. 

The good news is that for people like us who can't afford to purchase our own home, a place is provided.  The good news for the vestries in our case is that they don't have to do the extra paper work required to give us a housing allowance or worry about how far away from the church building we may choose to live. Our rectory is attached to the church so they keep us close. Since people here are very considerate of our privacy we are blessed indeed. The good news for us is that we don't pay any rent or utility bills because of the way the finances are set up here. We don't have to go through the steps of paying and then reclaiming that many church leaders have to do.  The house was a filthy mess when my husband first arrived here but the congregation worked with him for an entire month to scrub and clean so that my asthma and I could live in it.

The bad news about rectories is that they are left to the availabilities of church volunteers to be maintained, upgraded and otherwise looked after.  Volunteers can be committed, faithful folk who give lovingly and constantly of their time to keep the rectories in the kind of condition that they themselves would want to live in.  The bad news is that scenario is becoming more rare.  Too many church leaders are left living in conditions that not one of their own parishioners would agree to live in themselves. All around us we see rectories with ever growing legions of mold, torn carpeting, broken windows, dangerously out of code stairways, leaking rooves, broken appliances, mouse infestations, and carpet stains remaining from who knows how many doggies and pot bellied pigs, kitties and ferrets, and what have you pets adored and coddled by former residents.

My husband and I are pretty much blessed in our rectory.  When an issue arises we usually don't have long to wait for a volunteer to help us out, or to receive permission from vestry to call in an expert to repair the problem.  There are some issues outstanding as there are in any home built in the 1950's, but we have confidence that we are sufficiently cared for by our congregations that as necessary fixes continue to crop up we will not be left in a mess waiting for years for repairs.  We have not been met with attitudes that say "tough for you" or "suck it up preacher man" or "who do you think you are making demands on us for your own comfort??". Not every pastor is so fortunate.  

So how do you care for your pastors?  How do you contribute to giving them the moral support they need to continue to meet your spiritual needs? Do you pray for them? Do you attend the church and Bible studies and contribute to the life of the spiritual community, or do you show up only when you need to be married, baptized or buried with an expectation of being served without contributing? Do you tithe so that your leaders have sufficient funds to do the very things you demand they do or do you not think about the financial costs of maintaining the programmes you want to attend?  Do you ever think about your pastors' living conditions?  If your church has a rectory for the pastor to live in do you ever wonder if the place is fit for human habitation and how you could assist occasionally to ensure that it remains so?  Do you see your pastor as a fellow brother in Christ with whom you share the ministry or are you a consumer only, taking what the pastor has to offer with no thought of how you can walk alongside and share together in what God is doing in the world?

Whatever issues my husband and I have personally in regard to our own care here they are small ones, and we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to be ministering in our particular congregations. It took us awhile to understand how to ask for what we need, but now when we do we get help more quickly. Our people are working with us. What about your pastors?  Are you walking together in community making sure that the pastor you hired is able to be free to concentrate on caring for your own spiritual needs and not distracted by problems that could be solved easily with a bit of help from yourself?

Just something to think about.........I have been since recently seeing what some colleagues are having to deal with in their rectories.  

Who pastors the pastor where you live and worship?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Muh Town is a Diiiirty Town.....

After a most successful therapy appointment today I felt courageous and empowered.  I dropped Dell off at home and drove myself downtown to the bank and the post office sans cane!!  My joy lasted as far as the first corner away from our house. There I returned to earth sufficiently to realize our entire town is coated with mud....and more mud.....and even more mud. There is nary a mud free sidewalk, street, gutter, boulevard nor parking lot. My new indoor shoes became outdoor shoes the minute I left the mud free zone of my car's interior....well it WAS a mud free zone until I was done my errands and had to drive home again.  The smallest amount of rain this morning created a town wide mudfest.......ugly, dirty, filthy, clinging, disgusting mud.  Guess we shouldn't have washed the car yesterday!

Today the classic words of Charlie Brown leapt into my mind and I wanted to shout them from the rootops:
"I CAN'T STAAAAND IT!!!" I feel better.......  

A Good Day for our Family

Yesterday was a very good day!  We had a grand trip to the city in good weather and on good roads.  Today the snow is coming, hopefully the last of the "stay on the ground" snow for this spring.  It is to clear by tomorrow and then on Wednesday we may actually have a huge thunder storm!! If there is rain with it the snow will melt quickly. Then on to temps well above zero as we go into the weekend.  Spring on the prairies is not boring as far as weather.

We accomplished our various errands yesterday in good time.  There was time to stop on the way out of the city at a small Halal grocery store.  It was jam packed with goodies from the middle east and also from the mediteranean.  We loaded up on spices and herbs and curries and huge flat breads that are so wonderful for scooping up Indian food...and for pizza crusts! Lunch was quite delicious and reasonably priced....sort of....teehee

The city and surrounding area are sporting a typical prairie spring look right now.  The fields are beige stubble and black muck, and still puddly in spots from the snow and ice melts. The roads are gritty with sand. Tire tearing, valley sized potholes in the streets of our own town are full of brown water and in some cases heaps of sticky mud.  The city streets are dusty, the gutters and parking lots covered in tiny mounds of dirt, squashed fast food cardboard cartons, disintegrating styrofoam cups, shredded bits of plastic, torn paper bags, bits of lint, yellowing tops of struggling weeks pushing through cracks in the ashphalt........oooh, it is one ugly time of year. Even the busiest retail outlets look shabby and faded right now.  Last year's new paint is all ready faded and peeling. For me it is a difficult time to recommend the prairies to anyone.  

There is not an expectation of pristine cleanliness here.  One reason is that it is impossible to stay ahead of what the prairie winds blow into the area.  There isn't budget sufficient to pay people to stay ahead of the dirt and mess on public streets. Being so close to the farm lands makes it nearly impossible to keep weeds at bay in lawns and gardens, and in the cracks of the city sidewalks.  I suppose it takes some of the stress off people in terms of the constant attention to detail you find in more urban areas.......the pressure of neighbours to conform to a specific standard of house and lawn upkeep that exists in larger cities.  Maybe that is a prairie plus.

Whatever the scenic lack, we had a great day just being on our own with no deadines, no specific appointments, no family or friend obligations.  Being alone was a bonus all on its own.  When we go to AB or BC we rarely get a chance to do things we want to do. By the time family is taken care of, as proper and enjoyable as that is, we just don't get the extra down time we need to relax and refresh ourselves.  There never seems to be enough time or money to do more than what is necessary. So yesterday was special.

When we got home our son called us. He arrived home from his college interview trip in the east at 3am yesterday.  He arrived home to find in the mail a partial answer to his financial worries in regard to his courses starting later this spring. We are all on our knees in gratitude.  He will be able to pay what he needs to pay up front until his student loan arrives in his account. So, the provision hath begun!  Thank you God.  

It was indeed a good day for our family yesterday, a day of relaxing and enjoying simple pleasures as well as receving unexpected encouragements. We needed a day like that to help face the stresses and busyness of the upcoming ministries during Easter season.  

Today is also a good repairs, office work, my physiotherapy, and supper with some parishioners.

We head out again early tomorrow morning for Diocesan meetings and some good visits with friends in Regina and Moose Jaw.  For Dell it is work related but still with a certain amount of social interaction with his fellow clergy from around the Diocese as they gather for The Blessing of the Oils.  It is lovely to have a week mostly away from home to prepare for next week's services in our churches.

And the weather is forecast to be lovely too!!


Monday, March 26, 2012

I Am Going to a City......

If my husband ever wakes up on this the morning of his day off, we are going to head into the city for some church supplies, some tea shopping and a bit of an anniversary lunch at our favourite restaurant there.  There isn't to be any snow in our area until this evening so I think if we can be on our way home again by late afternoon we will have a safe drive on the highway.  Since it will be a 5 hour round trip, good roads are quite important.  Our very busy highway is only 2 lanes, so it can make for some interesting situations with all the semi rigs, and elderly drivers, when you add in ice and snow. 

The last 3 times we have been to the city have been for my medical appointments.  We have carted wheelchairs, crutches, pillows and blankets, soggy dripping splint casts and what have you on those trips.  Today we are going to feel naked carting only my walking cane along for support.  Heady stuff...........we don't have to stop at the hospital for so much as an x-ray.  In fact we likely won't even eat at a favourite little pub because the hospital can be seen from its front windows.  I am tired of that hospital, good as it was to me after my accident.  I will see it again soon enough when I have another checkup in a couple of months.

You know what the best part of the trip is for me? It isn't the shopping, or even the lunch out. It is being able to ride sitting up in the front seat of the car!!  YIPPEE!  Riding in the front seat......sitting barf bucket required!!
Hallelujah for small mercies!! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Awesome Husband

Tomorrow my husband has his 60th birthday!  SIXTY!  6-0!  Seems a bit of a milestone birthday doesn't it?  It is the decade we never thought we would reach......nope, not us, never never never!!  Health issues over the years certainly left us in doubt that my husband would be able to enter this decade of life. But he is here, he is turning 60, achieving a milestone age!

So how has he arrived at this birthday?  Farming and ranching occupied his growing up years with his family, then training for a media diploma, followed by a transition into full time carpentry, becoming a husband and father, years of debilitating illness, and then at the age of 50 a decision to change his career once again that resulted in a long journey toward his present occupation with stops for seminary, more carpentry, and postulancy along the way. It has been a life of feast and famine, of joy and utter despair.  The highs have been up to the moon and the lows have been to the depths of the ocean, but boring his life has not been.

What makes him so awesome to me, as we have walked together over the past 35+ years, is that no matter our circumstances he has never lost his integrity, his love of life, or his focus on the values he treasures.  There isn't a mean and nasty bone in his body.  He is committed to truth in conversation and in practise. He is committed to reconciliation in relationships, peace making, and decisons by consensus whenever possible. He cares for me and treats me like he couldn't live without me even though be both know he certainly could do without the grief I have brought him over the years with my own health and other issues. 

Happy Birthday dear husband. Walking through life with you has been my absolute proof that God loves me. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

No Social Networking For This Old Gal

Today I received my umpteenth chastisement for refusing to participate in the phenomenon of social networking.  I actually have lost touch in the past couple of years with friends who don't want to email even a few sentences to me personally. They prefer to post little tidbits of information daily on their social networking sites, and woe to anyone who refuses to participate and demands at least a tiny bit more intimate communications contact than is available through these sites where many other people can read what my friends and I post to each other.

I realize that this is a great way to communicate information to a lot of people in a quick and easy way.  Of course I see the reasoning behind the sites and know that good things can come of them. Musicians and artists can post information about upcoming gigs and shows, cheaply en masse.  For businesses it is a wonderful way of disseminating needed information to co-workers and clients.  I know that through these sites  friendships, on some level, have even been re-established after years of absence. Large families can quickly send emergency information out to everyone at once.

But the whole thing is not for me.

I have been harbouring a bit of a secret about social networking, and that is that I did sign up for one of the sites a couple of years ago. The instructions on how to become a member and get set up were very clear and I followed the instructions to the letter........however I  certainly did something wrong in the process:  the site picked up every email address in our computer files, including my husband's ministry contacts.  Over the first few days of my being a member I received quite a few postings on my page from Bishops and Arch Deacons and other church leaders from all over Canada who I do not personally know and who have never heard of me in their lives.  These dear souls asked me so kindly if they knew me from somewhere and wondered why, since they did not have any memory of me, I was asking to be their social networking friend.  

The definition of "fool" is someone who has managed to unwittingly ask complete strangers to be on their friends list for one of these sites.  As if the idea of asking people I actually do know if they will be my social networking site friends is not childish, whiny and embarrassing enough, how much more embarrassing is it to be asking people I have never met in my life? And how much even more embarrassing is it to have to admit I didn't know I had asked them???

After a humiliating week of this, I got it straightened out and received at least some positive responses to my snivelling requests to be befriended...and by people I actually know!  Bingo!!

I started reading eagerly the various pages of comments on their sites, anticipating all manner of wonderful conversations, new contacts, and inspiring ideas.  What I actually discovered were hundreds of uninspired, uninformative and downright silly postings.  

Post:  "I had a good day today".
Responses: "Yeah?"  "Good!"  "Okay, me too."

Post: "Anyone heard any good jokes lately?"
Responses: "Nope."  "Yeah." 

Post:  "My kid fell in a puddle today and ripped his pants."
Responses: "Mine too!" "Kids do that." " We bought a dog today."

AAARGH!!  Most of the comments and responses were so inane that I was sorry I had joined.  Of all the posted comments I read, other than a few bits of factual data, for me they mostly fell into one of four categories:

1.  Who cares?
2. Why is that anyone's business but your own?
3. Who has duped you into thinking you are a comedian?
4. Who cares?

I lasted about 10 days and then gave it up as a failed experiment.  I like my friends to be up close and personal, on the other end of a telephone line, or at the very least able to carry on a decently written conversation via email.

So if you don't communicate with me any more because it takes more than writing a 30 second post on a social networking site to keep in touch with me, all I can say is that true friendships take time, effort and caring to maintain.  

Sorry about that........ 

The Right Place at the Right Time

Today was a good day to be living in this little prairie town.  We awoke to a grey sort of day, lots of snowfall.....apparently we are going to get our entire winter compacted into 2 weeks this year.  We are paying a bit for the warm fairly dry winter, and today neither my husband nor myself were feeling impressed by that.

However we were reminded of the centrality of our town for people from out of province heading to visit our nearest "sort of" city.  Early in the afternoon we had visitors from Alberta on their way to see their son who lives in that "sort of" city.  How wonderful to see good friends and have a surprise visit with them. 

An hour after they left us we received a second set of visitors,  this time from British Columbia.  How exciting!  They too were on their way to see relatives in the same "sort of" city!  

Apparently we are still just far enough away from our friends' destination that they require a last pitstop along the way.  We'll take that........when it comes to visiting friends we'll take whatever and whoever we can get!!  We will ply them with our best teas and hot chocolate....lure them into staying long enough for a good visit!

What a great day it turned out to be. 


Good News For the Son

Today is an exciting day for our family.  Our son received his formal acceptance into one of the universities of his choice. He is ecstatic and so are we.  So grateful for this opportunity for him.

It is a summer programme, about 4 months each year and then 8 months of assignments to complete during the winter at home.  It means he can return to Canada and work for part of the year and that will be a big help.

His programme starts in May all ready so when he gets home from this past  week of interviews it is going to be a mad scramble for him to arrange sublets for his apt., initial financing until his loan comes through, working out his time away with his job........thank goodness he is still young enough to meet these instant challenges.  I get tired just hearing about all that has to be accomplished in the next few weeks to make his dream a reality.

So now we pray for his financial provision and for all the details to come together as he prepares to leave Vancouver for New York.  Our son loves New York.  He loves the mad crazy arrogant energy of the place.  To live and study there has been his dream for a long time.

So much to do, so little time, but that is life isn't it?  We wait in hope for some dream to be fulfilled, and while we wait we work, and we wait, and we work, and we wait and wait and wait some more. Then suddenly it is like the entire universe comes together and off we go in a new and more exciting direction.  

Congratulations son! We are very happy for you. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prairie Spring Weather

Today was a true prairie spring kind of day. When I awoke at 8am the sky was overcast with thick dark clouds. Huge fuzzy snowflakes were hurtling down to earth, obscuring the houses across the street from view. The temperature outside was +3C. By 11am the snow had turned to rain and the temperature had dropped to +1C.  The highway reports changed from Good Winter Driving to Winter Conditions: Wet turning to Ice.  Now it is nearly 6pm. The sun came out a couple of hours ago,turning the ice on the street to water within an hour, and now the temperature has risen to +4C.  Most of the street is dry and the sidewalks sport only a few puddles of water that will freeze tonight when the temperature dips down to -10C.   Tomorrow is forecast for a high of -3C and lots of  snow, clearing Saturday, and by Sunday it is to be sunny and +6C so most of the snow piles on my lawn will be gone by that evening.  Wow, if you are easily bored, keep an eye on the daily spring weather on the prairies.  The popular prairie saying, "if you don't like the weather just wait 10 minutes", certainly held true today!  

Where has Christianity Gone?

Last night we had some good discussion at Bible study.  We talked about changes that seem to be entering the Christian church in viewpoints and teaching about "sin". Then I read a posting written by a fellow blogger ( and it too addressed the changes in Christian teaching in our churches.  I am realizing how widespread these changes are becoming and it makes me wonder how so many gnostic and Hindu based teachings have begun to creep into our own theology.  Well, I can guess.......but more on that some other time.

One of the big bugaboos it seems now is any sort of discussion about the concept of sin.  Sin:  a simple word to express our belief that we are not as perfect as God is.  He is the holy and righteous creator and we are the creation who are not as holy and righteous as we exercise our free will.  To be a sinner simply means to not be God.  It doesn't mean that we are the essence of pure evil in everything we do, it simply means that in our exercise of free will we sometimes choose the wrong things, the least loving things, the least God honouring things.  God knows this is going to happen because he created us with the ability to make free choices. 

And so he sent a part of himself in the form of Jesus to be that bridge between our less than perfectly loving selves and our perfect and loving creator.  He exchanges his perfect life for our less than perfect life so that we can approach our perfect God in full confidence of his love and acceptance, and participate in his ability to transform us into more loving and righteous beings.  We less than perfect humans can approach a perfect God through Jesus, knowing we are accepted, and also knowing that as we accept his transformation of our lives we will become less selfish and less self-absorbed, more helpful to others and to our world.

Several years ago I was teaching a Sunday School class and one of the topics that was included in the curriculum was sin.  Oh my.......there were several moms in the room that day and when the class was over they absolutely freaked out that the words "sin" and "sinner" had been mentioned in the class.  Apparently I was not to call myself or any of their children sinners because it might harm the childrens' self-esteem.  SELF-esteem??  Jesus came so that we can die to ourselves and be empowered to lay our imperfections and sin aside, to become more godly in our actions and words and thoughts, to make the more godly choices in life.  For a Christian, life isn't about ourselves, it is about Jesus and how he changes us and lets us participate with him in restoring the world to harmony with God. It is about becoming empowered to help others.

If we are not sinners, imperfect, capable of making choices that harm instead of heal, what would we need Jesus for? If we are simply sparks of the Divine in the process of returning to our place in the godhead as we perfect ourselves during our earthly lives, what is the point of Christianity? If the Trinity is not a separate entity from humanity what did Jesus' death and resurrection accomplish? Why do people who believe those things bother to call themselves Christians?

It isn't unusual in my own denomination to meet those faithful adherents to the church that do not believe in the virgin birth, the authority of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus, or the concept of sin....even some of our clergy do not believe in these things.  It has always confused me as to why some of these clergy bother to call themselves Christians.  I sincerely don't get it. They would face less opposition and stress in life if they were not in a position of facing the differences between their own beliefs and traditional Christian theology every day.

Why label yourself a Christian if you believe that Jesus is not necessary for life and godliness, that there is no sin to be saved from, and do not accept traditional Christian beliefs about the differences between God and humankind?

The whole thing leaves me baffled....I admit it....

No More Pessy!

Yup, I knew it.......yesterday all the "pessy" was gone by about 4pm. Settled into a big paperwork project over at the church office and before long I was just fine again.  The adrenalin let down ended and life is great once again! It was good to wallow in the "pessy" for a few hours and get it out of my system.  The same thing happens when I occasionally struggle with winter inspired depression.....wallow in it, give in to it, and within a week I am so sick of it, so sick of myself wallowing in it, so sick of MYSELF because depression concentrates all my thoughts on ME, that I have little trouble walking away from it.  ME is simply not that interesting and ME is very selfish......yuck, pooey.....more fun to concentrate on the wonderful things and people outside of ME and relating to the big real wonderful scary amazing world outside my own front door. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Feelin' Pessy!

Well, the big decision has been made and executed.  It was painful and difficult, but it was received by some of the people effected with great grace and understanding.  I went to sleep last night with a big burden rolled away.

As seems inevitable though, after the adrenalin high of working through all the reasons for a decision to their conclusions, today I feel like a deflated balloon that has been run over by a Mac truck!  

My husband's family calls this state of mind being "pessy". What a great "word"! It so sums up that combination of being unable to decide what I want and don't want today, and hating my own choices no matter what they are.  I couldn't even decide what to make for lunch. (Yes, I'm cooking sometimes again.....don't know how I feel about that either today!!)  Felt like I was starving but nothing in the food department appealed to me.  Every decision I have to make today, even what to eat for lunch, makes me feel crabby and blah both at the same time. Today it didn't improve matters that what I chose for lunch didn't taste very good and involved a pita when I am trying so hard to stay away from wheat products. Lesson learned though:  stay away from whole wheat pitas as they are doughy and disgusting.  

"Pessy", that's how I feel:  "pessy"!! What to wear today?  I don't know. This or that. Not this or that.  Just something..... Somebody else choose for me.....but it will still be the wrong thing.  Because I am feeling "pessy"!!

This happens always after a time of stress over big life changing decisions.  Once the big decision is made I feel resentful for the next 24 hours that I have to make any more decisions at all.  The big decision drains all the life out of me.  Don't want to think or plan or do diddlysquat for at least a day.  

But life continues.  In a few minutes I will go over to the office and assist my dear husband with some overdue paperwork and by the end of the afternoon harmony in my heart and head will have been restored.

I know the pattern and the end result is always a return to joy.  Fortunately "pessy" is never more than a glitch for a few hours now and then. Thank goodness.  I don't like feeling "pessy"...except maybe I do today....or maybe I don' is just a "pessy" kind of day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

WOW...1st Day of Spring Now Official!!

Less than 2 minutes ago my husband and I looked out our kitchen window and there on the ground under our trees was a huge red breasted ROBIN!! The first of the season on the first day of spring!!!  He is incredibly early in his arrival. Good weather must be on the way.  On the prairies the arrival of spring's first robin is exciting stuff.......a harbinger of the new season of ice free greenery to come.

1st Day of Spring on the Prairies

What an opening day for the spring season in our province!  The south eastern corner is experiencing record high temperatures and the south western and central portions of the province are covered with a thick layer of ice, 30 cm of blowing snow and dealing with highways labelled "Travel Not Recommended--Ice Covered".  

Guess what part of the province we live in....Yup....

My husband went out yesterday afternoon and shovelled the first 15 cm of the wet heavy snow so that a visitor could access our front door, and this morning he will have to go out and do it all again, tossing handsfull of ice melt ahead of his every step in order to stay upright.

There is a certain rhythm to shovelling after an ice storm:  step carefully, push the shovel ahead as far as it will go, toss ice melt pellets on the newly shovelled area, step forward carefully onto the ice melt, stand still and swivel upper torso carefully to toss the snow from the shovel onto the nearest open space on the lawn.......repeat and repeat and repeat....upon completion tiptoe carefully back across the ice melt pellets, re-enter the house, collapse on church pew in entry way and thank God above you didn't fall and break bones.

Guess we will not be driving to the city today for church supplies.....not today, not any day this week.  The forecast for this afternoon and again in 2 days is for rain.....rain that will freeze overnight and leave our area in this state for weeks to come.

And so, I live here why?????  Okay I admit it, the whole ice storm thing is kind of fascinating despite the inconveniences.  And this storm wasn't as bad as some others in the past!  The power  only blipped out once yesterday......for a split second.....just long enough to remove the correct time from every clock in the house and obliterate all my carefully programmed information from my VCR. (Yes, you read it right.....VCR!!  Ya' wanna make something of it??)

Don't hate me because of my elderly tv technology...... 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Residual Effects of Illnesses....the Net Widens

Well, sometimes life hands us a ton of stresses and disasters all at the same time.  My friend June will likely never be able to work again due to the problems she has developed from her stroke.  Turns out her husband has not had a lot of work this winter. So their community is going to have a benefit fundraiser for them this coming weekend. What a fantastic thing to do.  I know one huge plus to prairie living is when a community puts on a benefit dinner or other event to help out those in need of a financial boost. People are generous when there are big needs like this.

I know well the feeling of trying to keep going in the face of poor health that results in no work.  No matter how much faith and trust a person has in God, no matter how many times a person has seen his provision in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, the first reaction seems to be one of panic when facing the threat of financially induced losses. 

I know just as well that in a crisis like this God's people, even outside the immediate geographical community, are often quick to hear and obey God's nudging to be helpful.  They have been helpful to us, generous beyond measure, when we have been in our times of greatest need.

I don't know that June and her husband are panicking. It is possible they are not.  I just know I would be very tempted to do so if I was facing what they are facing, despite evidence that tells me I don't need to. I am still so desperately human!  I have panicked in my own trials that were far less traumatic, and every time without reason to do so.

My friends are appreciative of every prayer you have prayed on their behalf.  Answers are appearing. The benefit is one of them. Thank you readers and thank you God......  

Snake on a Stick Theology

My husband's sermon yesterday centered around a Bible story in the book of Numbers, chapter 21, verses 4-9.

In this strange little story God's people, the Israelites, were grumbling, complaining, whining, snivelling and generally showing a complete lack of gratitude for God's provision of manna to eat on their desert journey after being miraculously delivered from 400 years of captivity under the Egyptians.  How much like them am I? 

"O haven't given us any food........and the food you have given us is awful!!"  Yup, that was their "logic" as it is sometimes my own when life isn't a lot of fun.  "Hey haven't provided for me (at least not what I want to have provided) and the provision you have given me is awful!! (doesn't satisfy my greed or ego or other selfish desires)  Yup, I "get" the Israelites!

Anyway in the midst of their grumbling a bunch of snakes arrived and began biting people, as poisonous snakes will do, and the people began to die and suffer.  So God directed Moses to to create a bronze statue of a snake and put it up on a big stick.  The people who had been bitten had only to look at it to be healed.

The point of the story here isn't completely clear. Why would God send snakes to bite his disobedient people?  Did he do that deliberately? Perhaps, if he did, it was a trial to cause them to stop and consider the bigger picture once again, to cause them to remember who they were dealing with and repent of their own selfishness.  A little pain now can result in safety later.  (I didn't allow my son to play in the roadway as a child, and when he disobeyed he received discipline he thought unfair and painful, for the sake of preserving his life.) 

Is this a record of a true event or an allegorical myth created to explain the workings of God in preparing a later Saviour ( his son Jesus Christ) to also be crucified on a "big stick" and become the One to whom we all look for salvation and spiritual healing? It isn't completely clear, but Jesus himself referred to this Old Testament story in the New Testament book of John, chapter 3, verses 14-21.  His reference occurs immediately prior to that most well known verse of the Bible, John 3:16. He himself draws the comparison of looking to Moses' snake on a stick to receive physical healing and looking to himself on a wooden cross for healing between ourselves and God.  

In Moses' story it seems like such a ridiculously simple solution to merely look at a snake on a stick to experience the cleansing of poisoned  blood.  But isn't it just as ridiculously simple in some ways to merely look at Jesus on the cross  to be cleansed of the poison of our sin and rebellion against our Creator? He takes away our "poisoned blood" that causes us to sin and leads to death, and replaces it with his own clean blood that leads to eternal life.  In both cases people have to simply believe in the power of what they are looking at to receive their cleansing.  They have to trust that what/who they are looking at, trusting in, believing in, actually has that power.  Looking at the "big stick" and the figure on it, believing there is power there to cleanse and restore is an admission that we need help beyond ourselves to receive cleansing and restoration......the first step in the AA 12 step programme is admitting we can't help ourselves sufficiently.

Looking at Jesus on the cross and admitting we need his assistance, that we can't become sufficiently more loving of God and our neighbour, no matter how many self-improvement courses we take, is like that first step in the AA programme.  In the Anglican liturgy we confess our failure in that area at each week's church service:  "Lord, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent....."

As I read the story in Numbers, and about Jesus in John chapter 3, the message I receive is quite simple: look and live, look and live. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Eagles Have Landed...Actually They are Hawks

For all my griping about having to live on the prairies, today we experienced one of those rare visual treats that can sneak up on those who tend to prefer mountain and ocean terrains.

On our way to the early church service in "the other town" we counted no fewer than 17 large hawks sitting atop telephone posts beside the road. The wing span when gliding across the stubbled fields was several feet across.  It was a most impressive sight after a winter of watching teeny finches and redpoles at our feeders outside the kitchen window.

We also saw a gigantic snowy owl sitting on one of the poles.  He was beautiful! So regal looking.......

About the time we ran out of bird sightings we had another treat:  a small herd of antelope standing just inside the fence of a large field.  Last spring the antelope population here was close to non-existent due to their inability to return north across the flooding Mississippi River in the USA. 

Antelope seem more aware of the existence and speed of passing cars than deer seem to be.  In the past 14 years in our area only 2 animal related car crashes involved antelope.  Is it because deer tend to hide in treed areas and use camoflage to escape their predators by standing still to blend in before leaping away, often too late in the case of cars, whereas antelope are used to the more open plains and having to run to escape predators? I have no idea, but I find the antelope are very much more careful to stay off the roads in the presence of oncoming vehicles.  

So it was a great drive.  

3 days ago our back yard birds suddenly disappeared. Many of them are species that generally head much farther south for the winter and we only see them as they pass through on their way south, and then again for a couple of weeks on their way back north. This year it seems, with our very mild winter, they only went as far south as our house!!  Now they have suddenly disappeared and the feeders remain nearly untouched. Wherever they have gone we will miss them. Each little bird has a personality of its own when you take the time to watch them each day.  The birds have provided hours of entertainment for me during this time of immobilization. 

Wonder what the spring and summer bird population will be like........

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Talked Out

The telephone is a marvellous invention.  It is one of the most useful inventions ever created but I find myself becoming in danger of being too tied to it.

I used to be able to let the phone ring if I was busy doing something and let the voice mail pick up the messages to be returned when I had time to listen to them. 

But in the past few months I have found myself carrying the phone around the house with me and hitting the Talk button on the first or second ring.  It started when I first broke my ankle and had no hope of getting through the house or even across the room to take calls before the caller was passed on to voice mail.  It was sensible. It was a safety measure for when I was in the house alone.

Now, however, I am hobbling around pretty well with and without a cane and can make it to almost any room in the house before the 4th ring.  Yet I find my hand still wrapped around that phone as I go about my daily chores.  Is it slowly becoming a bondage?

Today I had myriad calls from out of town friends. It was wonderful to chat with them all.  Some knew I was alone today and so settled in for long conversations.  It was great!  But now I am completely exhausted from all the chatting.  My day flew by and I got nothing else accomplished. I didn't get the church bulletins printed off until 9pm when I had planned to do them by 4pm. It is my own fault. I could have excused myself from each conversation long before I did.  

Time to break the phone habit once again and live my life without the stress of thinking I have to answer every call instantly no matter what else I am in the middle of.  I have to go back to being able to graciously excuse myself when it is time to go and finish or start a project I need to get done that day.  I am so lazy. I would far rather chat than work.

So many phone calls, so many good friends, so much work to get caught up on now that I am little time.......  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Decisions Decisions Decisions AAAARGH!!

Why is it so difficult sometimes to make decisions about the big things in life?  Looking at the facts and figures, pros and cons, doesn't always help settle the questions of the heart.  While the right path seems to eventually become quite clear, living in the prior limbo time is just not that easy sometimes.

Making life decisions, for me, falls into the broad category of "Lord, why are these things NEVER easy??"

Of course part of the answer to the question comes from the Lord who tells me over and over again, through the stories of the Bible and through my own life experiences, that if it was easy I would lose opportunities to discover just how much or how little I trust Him.  (and when I use the word "Him" I am using the universal "he" since I don't see God as specifically only male in his attributes)  In this way every major decision is a learning experience in the Spirit and in my spirit.

So Lord, here I go again........I do trust you to guide me in the right paths even if there is a lot of pressure or confusion during the in between time.  I am fairly certain all ready, if I am honest with myself, what the answer is going to be. However this is not just a "between me and the Lord" decision in terms of immediate consequences. My decision will effect a lot of other people who love me and are not going to understand my choice. This is when trust in God is most tested for someone who wants to avoid confrontations with loved ones and hopes that type of pressure will just go away.

I am such a coward..

Why are the opinions of other people able to make me feel badly about being obedient to God?  Maybe I can't trust them to support me because my decision may hurt their feelings?  When other peoples' feelings are involved it makes obedience to God a lot more difficult........but it doesn't change what I probably have to do.

There, glad I talked that one through..........    

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eli and his Paintings

Eli Bornowsky’s abstract paintings combine the scientific and the intuitive, the hard-edged and the handmade. Alex Waterhouse-Hayward photo.
Eli Bornowsky’s abstract paintings combine the scientific and the intuitive, the hard-edged and the handmade. Alex Waterhouse-Hayward photo.

It's House Cleaning Day....YIPPEE!!!

It is a good day today!  My husband is at our other church for the usual round of Bible studies, pre-marriage counselling, ministerial meetings and pastoral visits.  I have until late this evening to accomplish my slate of house chores, so can rest my ankle lots between tasks.

So, today for the first time in over 3 months I am cleaning my own house.  BY MYSELF!  Yahoo!!!  It feels amazing! (yes, I know it is of no interest to anyone but myself, but, my blog, my subject choices, hoho)

Am I doing the best job?  No.  Am I getting every last detail taken care of and every last corner scrubbed out completely?  No.  I can't twist myself around in the contortions necessary to wash the floor behind the washer and dryer, I can't pull out the heavy 18 litre water jugs in the coat closet and I can't move all the furniture to vaccuum underneath.  BUT I can move some of the furnture, I can squeeze in pretty close to the water jugs in the closet with the mop,  all the mini spiders and their webs are gone from the kitchen and bathrooms (spiders are everywhere in this house at this time of year), and it is delightful to see and smell the "clean-ness".  After a good break now I will complete the living room  and bedrooms. Tomorrow I will clean the bathroom fixtures and mirrors before our weekend company arrives.  

It feels good to be cleaning for company things my own myself.....aaaaaah......after so many months of not being able to do them, the most mundane chores become occasions to experience joy!     

For Those Who Have Prayed for June

The report tonight is that she is somewhat better.  She is eating a bit and her bp meds seem to be helping lower her rate a bit. She may have lost partial sight in one eye permanently, and her speech is troubled with loss of word finding ability.  However she can sing words as it is a different part of the brain in use for that. 
Please continue to pray for her 2 children who are struggling with health issues of their own and for her dear husband who is completely shell shocked right now. Thanks so much!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

True Virtues

Trustworthiness demotivational poster

Posted ImagePersistence / If you stop now, you'll never get that cookie.

Real Life Continues with a Splash

This morning marked the end of over 3 months of sponge baths!  haha WHO CARES?  And well you may ask.  Well, I DO!!  

I am the champion sponge bather after spending more than one period  of my life being forced by injury to leave a proper shower behind for a few months.  But it does get tiresome, it is awkward, it is inconvienient, it is time consuming!  

Today that all ended as I stood in the tub, bravely clung to my newly installed shower grip bar, planted my feet firmly on the non-skid mat, and delighted in the cascade of water flowing down my back and around my feet. I didn't even need to sit down on the bath transfer bench. Not even once!!  The bit of weight I can now handle putting onto my healing ankle even without a shoe made all the difference.

Such simple pleasures so easily taken for granted. 

AND I am so grateful for a teeny tiny bathroom where there is so little room to fall down!!

What Triggers Memory?

For some reason I awoke this morning thinking about some of the outfits I wore back in junior high school!  Good grief!  What difference does it make to anything now?  But, think of them I did.

Every autumn my parents would take me shopping for school clothes so I would have some new things each term.  It was a lot of fun. My parents, both suckers for buying nice clothes,  were very fashion conscious in their younger days. They would always have me try on every outfit in the stores and then pretend I had to choose only 1 or 2. I knew that the longer I  hemmed and hawed about what to purchase the better chance I had of them just buying everything!

 Oh, and "outfits" were the big deal in those days.  It was rare to buy any "top" without also purchasing a matching "bottom".  Buying clothes piecemeal the way we do today was simply not done at that time, at least not by anyone we knew. 

The year I started Grade 7, the grand junior high adventure on the horizon, I found a wonderful outfit in the local Woodwards department store.  Are you old enough to remember Woodwards?? It was the one Canadian "department store" in the 1960's about which you didn't have to feel embarrassed for having purchased your clothes there. (One of my cousins-in-law was a store detective in the Vancouver branch, but that is fodder for another blog entry.) The Bay and Eatons were only OK in those days and you didn't always admit to buying clothes there.  Zellers and K-Mart (an updated version of the traditional Zellers competitor, Kresges) were unmentionable, even for childrens' clothing, and if you went into one of those stores it was best to cover your face so no one would recognize you. I don't think I ever entered a K-Mart store in my life. My feisty paternal grandmother used to take me into the downtown Zellers regularly and buy me a hot dog lunch at their lunch counter for the express purpose of horrifying my father.  haha I loved the smell of the store's oiled wood flooring, and the spongy "rise and dip" feel of it under the soles of my shoes.  Woodwards had a modern cold feeling to it with lino floors, large plastic squares of overhead panels to cover the tube lights, and lots of silver painted welded metal railings separating the various departments.

Anyway the outfit in question was a subdued green reversible skort with a matching top in a heavy cotton fabric. (for readers younger than age 50 a skort was a pair of knee length, wide legged shorts with side slit, front and back skirt panels that hung over the top of them)  One side was solid green and the other a print I thought quite lovely, although then as now I wasn't much for prints.  The print pattern was small orange flowers and tiny yellow/green grasshoppers, just the thing for a 12 year old girl: a little bit grown up in style and a print that was girly but not too childish. O how I loved that outfit. No one at school had anything like it, all the girls admired it, so I wore it to nearly tattered rag condition that year.  haha  I loved the solid colour and print mix and match options.  "Reversible" was "in" at that time and it was great fun as well as reducing the number of outfits required that year.

The next year in Grade 8 neon colours ruled!  For Christmas that year I received a neon pink, long sleeved A-line mini dress of thick knit polyester! Polyester was the newest man made fabric at the time and was really hot stuff....especially if it was hot pink! My dress was the latest '60's fashion statement with the giant gold zipper that ran up the front of it....a zipper with a large gold hoop to pull it with.  The fabric was scratchy and non-absorbent, but I wore it with pride...and wore it and wore it, although I always felt like I needed a shower afterward to get rid of that scratchy feeling!  For school dances I wore it with Go-Go boots:  ankle height, low heeled white leather affairs that, paired with the pink neon mini skirt made me look like a pair of legs hanging out of a pink cumberbund with a tiny face appearing above it.  All photos have been destroyed.........

For Christmas that same year I debuted a neon purple straight cut today's pencil skirt with a blouse attached.  There was a band of fine white lace around the wrist cuffs and it sported a huge white man-style, Windsor knotted suit tie edged with lace hanging down the front of it.  Mixing traditional men's and women's fashions together was quite a big deal in the 1960's!  We slaves to fashion were all about attempting to wear the same clothes advertised by a popular British fashion model with the moniker "Twiggy".   I had never seen anyone so thin in my life and I wanted to look just like her. Fortunately my 13 year old self was pretty much as thin as a twig anyway so the clothes hung properly; no bulges or rolls or panty lines to worry about....unlike now.....

Elephant pants were also the rage for about 8 months in junior high school so of course I had to have a pair.  Elephant pants were high waisted wool blend pants, that were tight around the waist and behind, then blossoming into yards and yards of fabric in the legs. By the time they reached the ankle there was about a yard of fabric at the bottom cuffed hem of each pantleg.  From the waist down we girls looked like walking giant triangles! If elephant pants were too expensive to purchase you could make cheaters by ripping open the outside seams of your blue jeans and sewing in wide panels of brightly coloured polyester fabric. For some reason red and bright yellow were the favoured colours. Elephant pants vs slit jeans defined your social status in some schools. If you could afford elephant pants you were among the snooty elite and if you wore slit jeans you were likely viewed as some kind of poverty stricken druggie.  Aahhhhh, the heirarchy of junior high days.....

Maybe I have these bizarre memories in order to feel more grateful for life as it is now!  Because I am....I am..... 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Almost a Normal Day For the First Time Since November

What a normalizing, freeing afternoon I had today.  I am so grateful for it!  After a crazy morning doing all manner of work related things (will my husband EVER get his days off ever again?) Dell loaded me up in the car and took me downtown.

I got to do my own banking, I was able to get up the steps and down again at the post office to check mail by myself.  Then we drove to the library to the book sale and I spent a glorious half hour picking out reading material sufficient to last me for months into the future.  Once again I got up and down the long flight of steps to the book sale with only a slight assist from my cane and the handrailing. I bought so many books the librarian had to give Dell a box to carry them in!

Surrounding all this wonderful activity of daily living I was also able to do 6 loads of laundry, the last of which are drying in the dryer while I write. Everything will be folded, ironed, and put away by bedtime.

Dell has been a brick this past few months, caring for me, transporting me along with my ever varying assortment of riding and walking aids. He still does almost all the cooking but that is fast coming to an end as I am able to stand for longer periods of time.  Life is returning to normal and I can't seem to stop it! As I look around this pre-spring, grey, drab little town I sometimes do want to stop it so that I don't have to go out every day again and gaze upon that grey drabness  and the flatness of the surrounding prairie, but I am glad to be busy doing more regular activities like playing my keyboard and being able to carry my own dishes to the table. I will miss being spoiled rotten, I admit it, but it is also good to see my abilities to be productive returning.

I tried on a shirt today I haven't worn much because it shows off so well the rolls of excess fat around my tummy, but I have lost enough weight now to wear it without embarrassment.  The physio exercises are helping more than my ankle and that is exciting.  It bodes well for the summer wardrobe.  (Even we old gals are a bit self-conscious about weight issues sometimes...even though no one else is looking or caring any more.)

Today a parishioner expressed strong appreciation for our ministry here. People in ministry accept and appreciate every positive comment they get! It was the icing on the cake of a happy and productive day. I am incredibly fortunate. 

More Fun For the Son

So the plot thickens for our son.  haha  The registrar, for the summer Masters programme that accepted Eli unexpectedly, passed his application on to the full time programme registrar as requested.  No results expected as it would have arrived far too late to be considered.

However he got a phone call yesterday to say that this particular university felt very badly that he had become confused and so they want to interview him for the full time programme.  They have exactly one spot open in their entire spring interview roster, a day next week, and wanted  to know if there was any way he could be out there that soon.  

Well yes he can be there!  He is flying to that city in a couple of days for another interview at the college he can likely not afford to attend, and his return date is not until the day after the requested interview at the other university.  


It is so nice for him to be coming from a position of strength, having been accepted all ready into the summer programme.  He knows that if all else fails for getting into a programme he really wants to be in, at least he can be in a programme that will get him a start on his MFA.

We just sent him our part of the international student financial aid forms and of all the applications, CV's, art works etc. that he has to send in to the registrars, it is really these forms that will make or break his acceptance to any school outside the country.

I am getting too old for all this excitement.... 

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Sleepless NIght

I have reached the age where friends and relatives are leaving this earth at an increasing pace. The funeral I attended on Saturday was a difficult one as the woman was such a good friend, an encourager, a difficult for me to say even this temporary farewell.

Driving home from the funeral, an emergency phone call: prayer being requested for another friend, this time younger than myself.  The woman had suffered a brain bleed stroke and had been admitted to hospital with blood pressure so high that even the nurse of many years who called me had not seen such a high bp reading in a patient.

As of last night my friend was doing very poorly.  It was not looking good.  As I prayed for her I remembered all the years of friendship we have experienced, the highs and lows, the shared joys and sorrows not only with her, but with her family and extended family who adopted my husband as their own when he was young and seeking his place in the world.  I remember the amazing inspired spiritual  songs she has written, and her leadership in music in her church and community.  I remember her joy over my own accomplishments and her tears over my trials.

Life has taken us in different directions over the past few years and we have not had the contact we once enjoyed, but still there has been a bond that will feel the wrench of loss if my friend does not recover.  

I am praying for June, her 2 newly grown up children and her husband, the rest of her family.......don't know what God is going to do here, but I know of her love for him and I don't fear for her ultimate future.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

And the Winner is........VIA Rail!!

I just read a newspaper article online that told of a Canadian so called "celebrity" being removed from her Via Rail train for bringing her dog into the passenger seating rather than putting him into the usual cargo space where he was supposed to be. 

 What she tried to get away with is known as "breaking the rules" and I am thrilled that her status in the arena of Canadian entertainment did not prevent her from having to face the same consequences for rule breaking as the rest of us would have faced.

The person shall remain nameless here as I have not personally met her, have nothing really against her and only desire to express an opinion against arbitary enforcement of rules in places catering to the general public. I am just happy that there are still some companies and their employees who do not exempt entertainers from following the rules.  As a regular nobody type of person it is nice to know this kind of enforcement of the rules regardless of social standing of the rule breaker still happens in my country.

And shame on you nameless entertainer for publicly reacting so angrily about being made to follow the rules.....the language you used was as abominable as your attitude of denial that the rules actually apply to you. What you should have tweeted, blogged and otherwise published is a big fat apology for arrogantly disregarding VIA Rail's policies!  

So kudos to Via Rail for providing equal opportunity ridership.....and I do hope the entertainer will now calm down and realize that being made to follow rules was not a personal attack.

The Tao of Pooh

This weekend I enjoyed reading a short book by Benjamin Hoff titled "The Tao of Pooh". (Penguin Group [USA] Inc., New York, 1983). It includes Ernest H. Shepard's illustrations.

Author Hoff employs a somewhat cutsie and sometimes witty style of presentation using original writings of the A. A. Milne Winnie the Pooh stories and interspersed with his own writer's dialogue with those characters, in order to present a case for Tao'ism as opposed to Confusianism, Buddhism and Christianity.  While his caricatures of each leave something to be desired from a factual standpoint, it is still a lot of fun to read.  He does capture some of the essence of Tao'ism and expresses it in a friendly way; not too deeply philosophical nor theological.  I would liken it to a sort of "Tao for Dummies" except that it is more clever in its presentation than such a change of title would imply. It introduces an overview of Tao'ism in a popular writing style that is enjoyable.  If you enjoy reading about similarities and differences in world philosophies on a popular level rather than on a text book level this is a good read.  

It is the first book in a series. The second book is "The Te of Piglet".  I have just received this book in the mail and am looking forward to reading it as well.  It is a thicker volume of writing and I will be interested to see how Piglet fares in the philosophical discussion.  Pooh did fairly well for himself.