What is it that is important?

I spent Sunday with my parents because my Dad, while he insists on outliving every doctor’s prognosis, is very clearly dying. The cancer treatments have prolonged his life, but they are not working any more. The well-muscled arms that once shovelled snow off the driveway as if it were just heaps of Styrofoam are now just bones held together by skin and sinew and a walk just as far as the condominium’s garden takes a lot of energy. He sits in one of the chairs in the shade and waits for my mother to come back from her walk down into the Don Valley where they now live.

But there’s a lot about him that hasn’t changed.

When I told him that one of the attractions of Miramichi (where I’ve applied for a job) is that it is very close to the ocean, he insisted that there’s a great chunk of the province of PQ between Miramichi and the ocean. I was about to tell him that he was wrong, thought about it and said “I guess I’m not remembering it right then.” He must have expected me to argue, so he repeated it in a more forceful tone. I looked at him and said “Do you really want to fight?” He almost smiled when he said no

After he finished his coffee, he disappeared into his den. My mum said he as probably having a nap. As it turns out, he wasn’t – he came back with a map of the Atlantic Provinces and a very rare apology.

My dad had been forced to start working when he was 16 years old. By that time he’d already helped his mother and baby brother make their way from a city that was about to be bombed out to a safer place, walking at night, sleeping in ditches by day and spending weeks on foot bouncing back and forth between enemy lines. When they did reach safer territory, like many other internal refugees, he was put to work on a farm. The city boy learned to hitch horses to farm wagons and to harvest hay.

When the war was over, there was no schooling to be had for those who had missed the schooling they should have had. So, he read books and watched others and taught himself whatever he needed to know as he went along.

The skill he was proudest of was mathematics. And he was well-known as an amateur chess master both to his colleagues and in the Scarborough neighbourhood where we lived. He traded those skills: piano lessons for his kids from a high school music whiz who really wanted to improve his chess skills. When we moved to Willowdale, he did the same –chess lessons for the church organist in exchange for piano lessons for his kids.

My dad is still brilliant at mathematical puzzles – he has the kind of mind that would have led him into engineering under different circumstances. Instead, he worked as a machinist – proud of the fact that he sometimes had to correct the engineers.

He wanted his sons to get the best education possible and did everything he could to help them. Learning, school, education: it’s all important to him.

Meanwhile, my mum has also recovered somewhat – it seems that her dementia was more likely delirium: her medications have been changed recently and she seems more “with it.” I did something I’d never done in all my struggles with education and endorsement. I told her how dreadfully disappointed I was that that I had lost my denominational validation.  And then I told her that I was currently considering a denominational switch. I was so surprised that she was happy to hear that.

As important as my education has been, putting it to real use is even more important to me. I know I have a gift and I want to – NEED to use it. My parents’ gifts were diminished by earthly powers beyond their control.

My Spirit wrestling has resulted in changes beyond any I’d have foreseen – and now I need to pay back, by not hiding my light under a bushel.


A Strange Lenten Discipline

I stopped singing five months ago.
It wasn’t deliberate – I just could not sing.

I stopped singing at the same time as I stopped laughing.
Whether I sang or laughed – I ended up in tears

So I stopped.
There were already enough tears in my day

For the next 40 days, instead of giving up something,
I am going to take up something.
I am going to find something that will make me laugh out loud once a day and I am going to find something to sing once a day
Wouldn’t it be lovely to put joy back into a world that has become so joyless?
And so I begin with a poster of sorts compiled two years ago using images that were captured six or seven years ago
The Joy of the One-Man Band

Opening Night

I can hardly believe it!
My first ever photo exhibition opens tonight! It will be up for the entire season of Lent and Holy Week.
“Stone Cold Journey: A Canadian Stations of the Cross” is a figurative interpretation of the scriptural “Stations of the Cross,” using the Gospel of John.
I did allow myself to stray into Mark for one image because his vision of the death of Christ is so much more powerful

For now: Just one photo. This one does not appear in the exhibition itself. It’s the image I chose for the poster that will be sent out to the synod, seminary and other churches later this week.

Like the 14, “Mourning” is a winter image, for Lent is a winter journey in so many waysImage

Free Spirit? I Wish!

I have been in limbo again for several weeks – such a painful place to be. I do not know whether the powers-that-be will permit me to stay in the process. 
The issue at hand is that I am “too much of a free spirit.”
Don’t I wish!! 
The Holy Spirit has been in charge more often than not. When things have gone “wrong,” it’s usually because I was impatient or scared and tried to take charge. 
Oddly enough, it has been at the times when I have been on the verge of throwing in the towel that I get the clearest messages not to; like the completely unexpected phone call from a pastor who said “I just this instant thought of you” or the one from a seminary colleague who said “I’m in town. Let’s go for coffee.”

This past week, I was struggling with the third of three sermons in deliberately different styles in a “might as well go out with a bang” mood. And then, when I really needed the writing time, came a series of three phone calls from the hospital to attend families and friends of patients who’d just died. Each attendance provided clear gospel messages to the law/trouble messages in my sermon. Each one was a clear “don’t give up” message for me too. 

In the end, the sermon came together so clearly that it was a complete “Holy Spirit in Charge” situation.

The Sunday morning service itself was amazing. My cantor/assistant was of the rare “ought-to-be-on-stage” variety that I just wanted to hug. 

Here’s the funny thing in all of this: My hearing aid was out of order so my hearing was badly reduced. (Out of order because I had managed to drop the more vital of the two into a just extinguished column-candle so that it was totally immersed in molten wax just as I hit the sack on the night before.)
The announcements there are done at the end of the service. At the end of the announcements I said “thank-you for allowing me to worship with you” – I hadn’t planned to, and it just came out (which was so cool, so totally “Spirit in charge”). Because my hearing was at about 25%, the next sound I heard made me think it was raining! I actually looked at the window first and then back at the congregation. When I saw their hands, I realized what was up. What a surprise! I don’t remember ever being applauded in church. They were thanking me, as a group, for having joined them! 
And then, once again — someone had to remind me to ask for birthdays and anniversaries because I had forgotten :/
Everyone looked around and around and then Spirit in charge said: “why don’t we sing happy unbirthday to us” – They loved it – hmmm I guess that will have been recorded too! 

Today, I will admit my anxiety level is up a little again as I go back into waiting mode. But I have the memory of yesterday’s service to remind me that I am on the right track. If the earthly-powers-that-be here reject me, I will be looking for another that won’t.

In the meantime, I am once again couch-surfing so that my minimal income can be used to slowly pay off the debt I accumulated over the four years at school, and to keep up with the weekly counselling sessions that are helping me deal with those underlying issues that sometimes cause me to try to take charge. 

Free Spirit – yeah, right! If only…

Uproar in the Lion’s Den

Let’s first allow that my grade five teacher was right and that I *am* the “Keeper of the Lions”

And that my space is a den – a very messy, untidy, disorganized den!

I am domestically challenged. There is simply no more polite way to put it. My head works best in arts mode and rarely in practical mode. This explains why I forget to put things where they belong, why I cannot have friends visit my messy abode, why I have burned the bottom out of pots, spoiled more meals than I can possibly afford, and flooded my apartment kitchen to the a depth that more than covered my toes (causing problems with the living and dining room carpet as well). 

Now I am really stuck! I have to move in five weeks and I cannot get organized enough to even begin packing! 

I have to divide the apartment into rooms: Living room Week One;  Bed and Bath Week Two; Kitchen Week Three; Study Week Four — YOu can do it! yes you can!!


And now: a Sermon to put into power point, mixed with Living room tidying: good start, yes?


Changes and Things

Things are changing again. Life is changing again. The Spirit is changing ME again!

Of course i was looking forward to internship. But I was expecting that this would take place in Stratford, or perhaps Elmira, or possibly even here in Kitchener. The lazy part of me was really not thinking about the need to pack and move just yet. But I should have known! The Spirit usually knocks me upside the head just as I get settled and lazy.

But my placement came as a huge surprise! After the summer I spent at Sauble Falls, I expressed the wish that I might some day be blessed by a call to one of several parishes at the south end of the Bruce Peninsula. But the possibility of doing my internship there was not even a blip on the horizon.

I am to be placed in Wiarton (more or less), with Brad Mittleholz. A seven-point parish with only one Lutheran congregation and six Anglican congregations! I have some serious work to do this summer – not just packing up this great packrat’s collection to put it all in storage, but also to learn Anglican liturgy and comportment!

And the “more or less” part is even more interesting! Brad suggests that he’d rather place me up in Lion’s Head to establish a pastoral presence there and to make it easier to get up to Tobermory for more of the same!

I’ve had the vet in to prep Theodore with every vaccination under the sun and I’ve made plans to leave this apartment as soon as possible.

And then, to make matters more interesting, my on-call status at St. Mary’s has just been broadened a little. – But that is also the sad part of the story. The reason i am needed to do day-time back-up is that one of the “real” chaplains has tendered her resignation following the shocking discovery that her cancer has metastasized. I cannot really “enjoy” my new position, for it feels very wrong just now. The news about my colleague’s health has made me so sad that it feels as if i were wrapped in wet tissue paper, my movements slowed and stiff.

Changes — some good, some not so good. Another knock upside the noggin from the Spirit that ensures that life is never, ever dull.