16 Sep 2017

First Day Photos

Screengrab of image search for "first day of school reusable board"
     Like so many others, I had my first day of school this week.
     I did the maths - it's my 32nd 'first day of school'.  (Life-long-learner is an understatement!) I refrained from taking a photo of myself, bookbag in one hand, info board in the other. (Height: tall, taller in heels. Weight: not telling. Favourite drink: coffee.)
     I found it interesting that these types of photos popped up all over my social media feeds - lots of information about an individual, marking a significant day. (Even after 32 years, I think a 'first day of school' is significant!) We want to acknowledge these days and remember them, how we were/are at that moment in time.
     It made me wonder how we recognise and chronicle significant dates in our Christian education and faith nurture.
     Do we remember the date of our baptism? Did we keep the certificate? What about our confirmation? Re-affirmations? Ordinations (confession: this year I celebrated my ordination anniversary with cupcakes - having forgotten my own birthday! Priorities!)
     What about our more individual but not-less significant dates? Do we remember the first time we committed ourselves to being a Christian? The first time we challenged our faith? The first time we doubted - and when we returned? What compelled us to leave a church community, or to join one? What evoked in us a desire to remain in the church year after year, and what inspired us to ministry in our unique calling?
     Maybe we do, maybe we don't. However, these are all 'first day' events, no less important in our journey than the first day of school is in our education.
     We recognise the beauty of a series of firsts for our schooling in culture and society; I wonder what witness could be experienced if we celebrated such firsts in our life-long Christian eduation.
     Maybe I'll take a picture of the 'first day of book study, 2017' when it starts next week - a day to cherish somewhere down the road!

9 Sep 2017

Thinking Outside the (shoe)Box

A sampling of my well-loved Fluevogs!
            My favourite brand of (non-athletic) shoes happen to be a lot of other people's favourite brand of shoes. They're well made, by a Canadian designer, and cover the spectrum of stylish: my closet includes funky heels and vibrant boots, even a pair of flats a bishop complimented this week (win!).
            As a result, they are in high demand, and there are numerous opportunities to buy, sell, and trade our pre-loved shoes. There are several groups where we share advice on matching outfits, our favourite styles and colours, you name it. We are a community of folks around a shared interest; with emphasis on positivity and support and the sharing of goodness.
            I was thrilled when a new sub-group was formed within this particular community. In lieu of selling or trading our beloved pre-loveds, or purging the closets to a local thrift shop, people are offering them to one another. Rather than receive money for selling our shoes, we are asking the recipient to donate a suggested amount to one of our favourite charities.  Folks who cannot afford a cash donation are encouraged to donate time at a local charity. These can be local or international, small or huge, and work "for the betterment of humanity, the environment, animals or the arts."
            The response to this new initiative has been delightful. People are sharing their joy at being part of something like this, an innovative way to share our passion for justice and compassion. We're able to literally live the Christian mission of sharing one with another, in a multitude of ways. In a mere 3 weeks, over $2000 (US currency!) has been donated to worthwhile causes, and people are keen to go find a pair of unworn beauties they can offer to the group.
            This highlights how we all have something we can share; it articulates how we can all provide some benefit to the broader community. We don't always have to just write a cheque in order to be giving, sometimes what we have to give is hiding in our closets... or our skillsets... or our knowledge... or our time.
            It's a win-win-win group. Someone gets a new pair of shoes they wanted. Someone else gets new space in their closet. Someone else benefits form the time and/or money that supports a good cause. And a lot of us get to connect with other like-minded people.

            Imagine the possibilities, if we were all willing to think outside the (shoe)box. Imagine how we can continue to build and strengthen the communities to which we belong. And - dare to do it!

3 Sep 2017

Prayer for the End of Human Trafficking

While 30 july is the date that the UN has declared as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (see http://www.un.org/en/events/humantrafficking/), this prayer came through my inbox. Shared by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J., it seemed appropriate to continue sharing.

God of freedom, beauty and truth
we believe that your deepest desire,
your most powerful energy,
is that all creation might know abundant life.

We raise our voices in anguished prayer for our sisters and brothers,
women and girls, men and boys,
who are modern day slaves;

They are your beloved daughters and sons, exploited sexually or forced to work because of human violence and greed.

Fill us with your holy anger and your sacred passion
that those who are trafficked might know healing and justice;

that traffickers will come to repentance and conversion; that all of us might live in such a way
that others are not made to pay the price
for our comfort and convenience.

Hasten the coming of the day when all people
and our precious Earth itself
will be treated, not as a commodity,
but as radiant images of your freedom, beauty and truth. Amen.

Prayer shared by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J. Source https://www.chausa.org/docs/default-source/prayers/a-prayer-to-end-human-trafficking.pdf?sfvrsn=2

26 Aug 2017

Making memories

         Last week my friend invited me last-minute to go to a concert with her. It was a band I knew, but not all that well; and a late night early in the week isn't ideal.
         However, it's a friend whom I cherish, and wish I spent more time with. So the possibility of a fun evening together made for an easy answer. Definitely I would go!
         We met up in the city after work (from our opposite directions), grabbed a quick bite and headed to the show. 
         It was fantastic. Worth the price, and the lack of sleep (that's what coffees for, after all!). Because we were making memories.
         Memories are important to us. We've both had circumstances where life has intervened unexpectedly, and we wish we'd had more memories. Time with loved ones, with intentional interaction, is important. 
         We don't always get pictures of our time together. (We almost never do, to be honest!) We prefer to be present without screens between us. 
So we were impressed when, during the concert, the lead singer asked the audience to put away their phones and tablets for just one song. To not record what was happening, but to live it.
         That's a bold request to make of 50,000 people who have paid a lot of money to be there. Though most of us are not professional photographers, we didn't have professional equipment, and we certainly were not getting the best views - yet so many were seeing the concert through their screens.
         From my vantage point, people put down the phones. They focused on the here and now, not what they could show friends on social media. 
         They were present. They were making memories. 
         And what a gift; what an example. What a chance to model that the best way to live life is completely, engaging with the people they care about, telling those people that they are loved, and benefitting from whatever the circumstances are.
         Will I continue to take the occasional picture on my cell phone? Absolutely - but as a secondary reality, knowing that pictures can never recreate the moment.

         Will I continue to be intentional to make as many memories as possible, knowing they will stay with me forever? Absolutely.

19 Aug 2017

Buying Local

            A friend of mine has this thing - during the summer, she doesn't go into grocery stores. At all.
            It's not that she somehow doesn't eat for several months - instead she frequents the abundance of local fruit and vegetable markets and roadside stands that populate our part of the world. Even for other food groups (though, who needs other food groups in peach season?!), she finds local places: the local cheese maker, the free-run egg seller, the local butcher.  We share tips for where to get the best products and prices.
            This week, I popped into a chain grocery store - I needed more canning jar sealers and lemon juice - to preserve that glorious local fresh produce! - and I saw a rather surprising sight.
            There were people flocking to bins of imported fruits and vegetables. The prices were higher than what I had paid to the local farmer, the fruit was smaller, and (having traveled goodness knows how long to arrive) was significantly less fresh.
            Now, I know that there are reasons to buy from a grocery store - if transportation is a problem, for example. But for the majority of folks, we don't have a legitimate reason to avoid supporting our local folks... we have some form of transport that can be used to get around (cars, bikes, friends with cars, &c.). There are farmers markets that open up in town and city centres to make the produce readily available. With a little planning, time is not a constraint. I could go on.
            Supporting our local folks helps to build community. The more we talk with our farmer-neighbours, the better we can respect the folks who are literally feeding us. The more we connect to our food chain, the more we can understand the natural systems of seasons and rhythms - and actually improve our food security. The more we support local shops, the better our local economy is.
            There are lots of reasons to focus on community, and we are all invited to take part. Community building is a key part of the Christian life: Jesus built community, each of the disciples built community, we are encouraged to continue to build community - it's part of our faith journey.
            The great thing about building community is that it doesn't have to be difficult: it can be choosing a locally owned grocery store instead of a big box chain. It can be bypassing the self-serve line to be cashed out by a human staff, thereby keeping employment option. It can be as easy as purchasing seasonal produce from our local farmers.
            It can take some time and intentionality, but it is worth it.

            How can you build or enhance your community this week?

12 Aug 2017

Prayers for #Charlottesville

In light of the events of Charlottesville this weekend, I'm at a loss for words today.

I merely offer my prayers:
For those who have been injured and died.
For those who grieve and mourn.
For those who live in constant fear.
For those who peacefully protest.
For those who bravely stand against evil in spite of threat of personal danger.
For those who are too afraid to protest.
For those who are too apathetic to protest.
For those who truly believe that violence and hatred is acceptable.
For those who have just had their eyes opened to this reality of our world.
For those whose eyes are still closed.
For those whose hearts are closed to human suffering.
For those whose hearts are broken.
For those who live in circumstances where such violence, and worse, is the norm.

Holy Messiah, Divine Christ, Sweet Jesus: may we live your commission to love one another. May we not get swept into a vortex of hatred. May we be brave to stand up to evil, to work for your peace, that your kingdom will come.

Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.