Thursday, 28 February 2013

February Felicity

Wake up to a new snowfall, heavy with moisture, coating every tiny twig of city trees with white icing.  In this moment, relish the beauty before it melts again into messy slush. Ride through the day with wonder.

Gear up for more basement renovation. Put on thick old running shoes to shield against spiky carpet tacks.  Wear a face-mask to filter out filthy, flying dust from the old carpet.  Smile at the memory of Ephesians 6, “armour of God” and  “feet shod with the good news of peace”. Savour the metaphor.

Welcome the plumber who’s plugging an old floor drain.  Ignore the unexpected cost and mess. Share the joy of grandchildren.

Honour a Christmas amaryllis bulb that has persisted in its slow journey into two tall, rigid, lime-green stems and seven huge trumpet blossoms striped scarlet and cream. The ridiculous miracle blares testimony like a streetcorner preacher.

Enjoy soup in a corner Grill. Five women and a baby girl escape the cringing cold winter evening – bowls of egg drop, wontons, mushrooms – casual conversation about prayer. 

Deal with someone's belligerent defensiveness. Rant to friends, analyse, read wise texts, sit in silence. Be surprised by peace and new perspective. Some boundaries are necessary; others can be dismantled. When Love wins, no one loses.

Settle into the wooden pew of a gaudy, yellow brick sanctuary. Eyes closed, listen to soulful acoustic-electric guitar in a minor key. Give thanks for wine and bread. Muse on sacrifice and community, past and present, divine and human.

Sink into a soft bed, relaxing muscles, sighing out tension. Give thanks for comfort and safety. Pray for those without. Leave tomorrow to itself.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Weird. I'm giving up Lent for Lent

 I grew up in a bare bones church, as puritan as they come. 
Although we celebrated communion every week and held occasional dramatic baptisms by immersion, there were no other mystical rituals. Our worship focussed on the written word, read, spoken, prayed, sung and preached. Nature, the human body, and the arts were mostly ignored. Even as a little girl, my starved imagination yearned toward those exotic Catholic churches with their red glass candle-holders and spooky statues. 

In adulthood, I converted to feminism, so I was not tempted by the Roman rite, but found, instead, a home in Anglican worship. There is comfort, both physical and spiritual, in the routines of kneeling on special benches, reciting unison responses, and standing to honour the Gospel reading. Community and meaning are heightened by these actions. Traditional church seasons like Advent, Pentecost, and Lent enrich the intangible sense of connection with generations long gone. 
I enjoy attending services where the Holy Spirit candle hangs glowing from the rafters, the strong smell of incense fills the air and tiny bells chime. Some congregants bow and cross themselves. There can be a shivery feeling of reverence.

Although Christian faith respects the intellect as God-given, life's humbling experiences teach us to submit to Mystery, even as our confidence in a loving Creator can deepen. In contrast to systematic theologies, the strange rituals of praxis mirror the "otherness" of the One we call God. These suprarational alternatives can feed our spirit when preaching and study group analysis dissipate joy.

But then there’s that priest who played soulful music, bowed low to painted icons, and incensed enthusiastically in the moody, darkened sanctuary right up until the day he ditched his wife and disappeared with the church secretary.

Well, now. 

On the other hand...
sometimes our sensual delight in ritual becomes itself an idol. Delicious aesthetics trump private disciplines of confession and self-denial. Personally, I’d way rather walk around with oily ashes on my forehead than give a welcoming smile to someone who’s interrupting my day's agenda. Let me light another candle instead of trying to listen patiently to that droning committee colleague. 

Don’t misunderstand; I could not denigrate inspired devices like icons or labyrinth walking. They are sacred to me. 
However, this year I surprised myself by skipping the Ash Wednesday service. I have no plans for 40 days of ritualistic abstinence. So far, I’m reading the bible book of 1 John, caulking gaps around the new basement ceiling, and trusting that the Holy Spirit of God will continue Her merciful, catch-you-off-guard tutorial.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

No matter [what], 
if I have no love in me, 
I am nothing.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy.
Love does not boast.
Love is not proud.
Love does not dishonour others.
Love is not self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered.
Love keeps no records of wrong.
Love does not delight in evil, 
but rejoices with the truth.
Love always protects.
Love always trusts.
Love always hopes
Love always perseveres.

On Valentine's Day, and every day, may you live in God's love!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Happy Sights and a Puzzle

Stopped at a red light, I watched a troop of school children, bundled in parkas, cross the street, hunched against the blowing snow, each one carrying a pair of skates. Classic Canadiana made me smile.

On another winter day while driving north I noticed a scene worth painting. In the distance stood a grove of leafless saplings backed by a darkening grey sky. In the foreground, the low winter sun behind me was spotlighting one small oak tree, its raggedy bronze leaves bravely waving. Beautiful.

At a stop sign I waited for a woman to cross on a windy day and had to laugh out loud. She had no idea that her thickly wrapped ponytail was being blown from behind up into a curve over her head so that she looked like a unicorn in the gusty gale. 

On my way to the car after shopping, I was scanning the sky over the grocery store parking lot. Where two power lines were strung, one just above the other, two rows of birds huddled together, crowded so tightly that the lower tier seemed to be ducking their heads. They looked like football fans in a sold-out stadium. Made me grin.

Meeting my brother for lunch at an unfamiliar mall I enter the nearest door and found myself in one of those clothing stores designed for teenage girls without much money. I had to walk right through to get to the mall hallway and it felt like I was in a spring garden. Displayed on the walls were peach-coloured shirts overlaid with jewelled netting and lime green leggings splashed with red roses. Racks held orange jeans, lavender skirts and turquoise underwear embroidered with daisies. Shelves offered sparkling silver lame running shoes and bright yellow purses. As long as I didn’t think of sweatshops and landfills, it was surprisingly pretty.

One chilly day I walked past a tiny toddler padded from top to bottom in a blue plaid snowsuit shuffling her way across the daycare playground, to join her friends lining up at the door. She looked like a baby robot. Just darling.

Early on a cold February Sunday, the sun was up, the air still, the neighbourhood quiet. I heard sparrows and a cardinal singing gaily and wondered, how do birds’ scrawny little feet not freeze solid and drop off overnight? Call it Nature or call it Creation, it’s a miracle to me.