Month in Review

I’m still here!

It has been a slow start to writing in 2015, mostly because I broke my hand just before Christmas and am only a few days back into having two hands available for typing. It is a wonderful feeling to have all ten fingers working[mostly] properly again! It was a freak finger jam of the finger I dislocated as a kid and I spent the second half of December in a bright blue cast from finger-tip nearly to elbow, then the last two and a half weeks in a removable splint. Thursday I was set free to “take it easy” which, obviously, I have been doing…

The last month in review:

IMG_1827We had a lovely Christmas week at Matthew’s family’s home outside of Ottawa, then down to Montreal for a few days with some of both sides of my family before heading to Sarnia for New Year’s Eve with that fantastic gang.

School has begun again, rather uneventfully. Some good courses this term, with a nice balance of practical and academic. I remain in placement at St Andrew Memorial Church and have been refining learning goals for a new term of new learning.

Matthew and I continue to plan our wedding – we’ve met with one caterer and will meet another next week. The date (October), venue, and priest to do the ceremony have all been settled. Fitting for two priests-to-be, the things we have been deliberating on most have included liturgy and who will read what for the service!

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Halfway

The end of term one year two: I am now officially halfway through seminary! It is hard to believe that 17 months ago I was getting on a plane to leave BC and move to Ontario. It feels a lot longer…

The weather in this corner of Ontario has felt a lot like Vancouver Island weather over the last few weeks (*touch wood*). While some have been lamenting the lack of snow and the above zero temperatures, I have been enjoying mist, fog, and mild days reminiscent of home.

All of that being said, I won’t be sad if and when we get snow – I have some ice skates, snowshoes, and cross country skis to put to use! Not to mention the winter jacket that I bought new this year.

Christmas break for me this year will involve working some extra shifts and reading lots of good fiction. Fiction: it is like a breath of fresh air after three and a half months of dense theology texts. Work: it grounds me and is a wonderful community to be a part of that is completely removed from my school and church communities. There is something very real and immanent about working shoulder to shoulder with those living with severe mental illness; there is no BS with them, no politics, and no illusions.

And then January will happen and it will be back to school for term two year two (or term four of six, depending on your preferred method of counting!).

Until then, Happy Christmas.

Dawning of a Brand New Year

Christmas, New Westminster

So what if it is January 3 and it has taken me this long to write anything about the new year. Aside from a New Years Eve party that continued until 2am, it feels like the new year has entered with more of a fizzle than a pop; it seems no different than last week.

If anything, I’m more stressed than I was last week.

The next course starts tomorrow and I’ve already been doing readings in preparation for it. Gone are the days when I bought the text book a week or two into the course and read it the day before the final exam. I seem to be working more this week than I have in previous weeks and I have meetings. With the busy advent season over (does anyone else find it ironic that our two church seasons of slowing down and contemplation – advent and lent – seem to the be the busiest time in the church calendar?) meetings that were put on hold are starting up once again. Now is when I discover just how busy I will be with various committees and commitments.

Is it more helpful to look ahead or to dwell in the moment? Some would remind that looking ahead prepares one for what is to come. It can also cause undue anxiety. Others suggest that to dwell in the moment and live each day for what it offers without looking too far ahead (consider the lilies of the field…?) is the supreme way to live ones life. I find that a good balance of the two works well… usually…

What, then, am I looking forward to this year?

  • By this time next year, I will be more than two-thirds of the way through my degree (I think, if I’ve calculated it correctly).
  • My cousin is getting married in the spring. I get to go to Montreal.
  • Ten year high school reunion (holy cow!).
  • Work, work, work.
  • Hosting a conference with Brian McLaren and Steve Bell
  • A possible road trip around BC and Alberta.
  • Sailing.
  • Visiting our Anglican friends in Burma.
  • Having a full summer in Victoria for the first time in… ever?
  • Spending time with family and friends.

Re-Reading Christmas | (Mis)telling Mary’s Story

The following readings were developed by Brandon Morgan for the VOID event “Mothers of God” (December 6, 2009).

The introductory reading was offered at the very beginning of the event:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a child. This child will be great, and will be called God and of God’s kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; and will be called God.

The three concluding readings were offered one after the other (read by three different individuals) toward the end of the event:

Reading 1

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son. This child will be great, and will be called God and of God’s kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; and will be called God.

Then Mary said, “I’m sorry, but I am not the servant of the Lord. I cannot do what you have asked because I do not believe that what you say can happen.” The angel, surprised and perplexed, said to Mary, “But you have found favor in the eyes of God? If you do not let the Most High overshadow you, then God will not be born and God’s kingdom will not begin.” Mary said, “I don’t have the strength or the will to conceive God as you have asked. I don’t desire for God to be here as you have mistakenly hoped. I do not want to be the mother of this God. My womb is closed.” Then the angel said sadly, “Let it be with you according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Reading 2

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a child. This child will be great, and will be called God and of God’s kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; and will be called God.

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. Joseph, her husband, went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem. He went with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. But while they were there, Mary ceased to feel the child alive inside of her womb. There was no longer any kicking or moving, as if the child was no longer alive. When the time came for her to give birth to her firstborn child, the baby came without breath and was dead. Mary wept bitterly because the God that she had hoped to birth did not survive. She wrapped the child in bands of cloth, and laid the child in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Reading 3

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a child. The child will be great, and will be called God and of God’s kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called God.

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem. He went with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. But during the birth, Mary’s body could not bear the labor. The pain and anguish overtook her body. Though she was willing to birth God, she was not strong enough to survive. Mary died giving birth to God. And Joseph wept bitterly because the child lived and Mary did not. He wrapped the child in bands of cloth, and laid the child in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Conspiracy Confusion & Consternation

It is the Saturday before Christmas. Today, I was walking around outside in just my jeans and a hoodie. My bare feet were quite happy inside my sandal-shoes and my bare fingers were not cold in the slightest. It does not feel like Christmas.

Last year this time, we had more snow than we knew what to do with. This year, it is mild and might rain. Oh, how things change.

For a few days there, I was getting into the “Christmas Spirit,” whatever that means; I had a little more excitement and anticipation than I remember having last year. Now that has been replaced by the chaos of the last week as I hurry to write/submit my final paper, scurry around to finish last minute preparations to head over Vancouver for Christmas, wrap up some church commitments, and maintain my usual level of work/church/other activity.

Last night, we went to see the Messiah. It was a beautiful performance of some of my favourite music. It brought back memories of performing the Young Messiah with my elementary school choir and of making Christmas gifts aboard ship in Papua New Guinea. It helped to get me in the frame of mind of Christmas. But then this morning I passed one of the malls and all the parking spots looked full. At 9:40 in the morning. How discouraging.

I’ve been a part of a group encouraging people within church to participate in Advent Conspiracy but at the same time, I’ve been caught up in the quest to find the perfect gift for the one person on my list for whom I haven’t yet found something. How easy it is to loose perspective. I am reminded of something a friend wrote the other day. It was a good reminder then and is a great reminder now; In the hubbub of crass commercialism and my resultant desire to withdraw from Christmas altogether I cannot forget to hold on to why we have Christmas in the first place.

Epiphany

Light-giving God –
We are magi on a caravan of lumbering hope,
traveling through grinding wind and glaring sun,
chill clear nights and skin-baking days.
We come to seek Your light.

We come lumbering in hope, each of us on our own life’s journey
– traveling through times of loneliness and fear,
through heartbreak and anger,
through grief and loss,
through economic uncertainty,
through fear for loved ones caught up in war,
through our own private crises,
through the extended shock of horrific images of hurricanes and genocide,
through struggles with the mental illness of a child,
the disintegration of a parent,
the simple letting go of a child more ready to be an adult
than we are ready to allow their growth,
through the changes in a new marriage,
the welcoming of a new child,
the completion of a degree,
the vision emerging in a new work of art.

We come lumbering in hope on a journey of joys and sorrows.
We come as magi to seek Your light.

But Light-giving God,
we admit that we are also Herod the King,
trembling in fear at the news of the rising of Your light.
We admit that we are afraid that the light of Your truth may indeed rise,
and it may be threatening to us.
Like Herod,
we fear the rise of the truth of the harm we have done to others to build
our own palaces and to fortify our own power;
we fear the rise of the truth that lies beneath the political spin we put on
our own lives;
we fear to admit to ourselves the truth that may rise within us as we
acknowledge the pain of what we have done to others and what others have
done to us.

Light-giving God,
we come as trembling Herod, afraid of Your light.
But Light-giving God,
we are also magi wrapped in joy to arrive at the manger that cradles Your light.
We greet the rising light that Herod so fears.
We, too, fear this light, this truth.
For here we meet Your light and truth, the truth of our own powerlessness.
We are magi, wise and respected sages.
We are Herod the King, holding wealth and power.
Yet we are no more than this helpless infant,
no more than human flotsam on the tidal wave of time,
human beings, no more and no less.

Light-giving God,
let us sit in stillness in the light of this truth of our powerlessness,
until we can see Your real light cradled here,
until we are enveloped in the assuring light of this truth,
until we shine in the light of the common humanity You reveal to us here.

Light-giving God.
We lumber together in hope as Your church to lift Your Light.
Let the light that we lift be this light visible in the manger.
Let us lift not the light of our congratulation of ourselves,
not the light of belief in our own superiority,
not the light of our belief in our own narrow presuppositions,
not even the light of our own church.
Let us lift the light from You that we can encounter here,
the light of the power You make known to us
in the truth of our powerlessness,
the light we can see as we sit quietly as magi at the manger
learning to be at ease with our common humanity,
learning to be at ease with You.

Let this be the light we lift as a beacon in the darkness we know best.
As we lift that light,
may we too be lifted to know the true power that lies among us
waiting to rise as a beacon of our true hope.

Amen.

Dr. Susan M. (Elli) Elliott

Pageants

We finally got our Christmas Pageant done this morning, after two unsuccessful attempts.  Good thing that the snow they were predicting last night never materialized or else I’m not sure what we would have done.  The kids were adorable as always and the costumes were fantastic.  Some one had made little animal costumes for all the young ones and they really were quite well done. Made me wish we’d had costumes like that when I was in Christmas pageants.  
I remember one year at St. Thomas’ where we told the story from the point of view of the animals in the Christmas story – four main parts by four different animals: a camel, a sheep, a donkey, and I can’t remember the last (perhaps horse or cow as stable representative?). I was the donkey. Please, no asinine comments…  I believe the most believable part of my costume was a fuzzy donkey hat we borrowed from somewhere.  Otherwise it was grey leggings under my grandfathers grey cardigan with a fuzzy tail pinned to the back.  I think I was 10 or 11 at the time.  
I suppose that is what happens when your mother helps to stage the pageant every year: you end up as the lead, or at least co-lead.  I clearly remember going over to the house of another poor Sunday Schooler who’s mother was also involved quite heavily in the pageant.  The two of us would have to read our lines back and forth to each other, speaking into wooden spoons to practice our microphone technique, until we knew them down pat. 
The other bit of preparation I had to undergo involved improving diction and projection.  We lived in a huge old house with two sets of staircases: one at the front and one at the back.  The back stairs had the worst echo (although it was fun to hum as you walked down them).  I used to have to stand at the top of the back stairs with mum standing at the bottom of the front ones and holler my lines until I said them s-l-o-w  e-n-o-u-g-h and e-nun-ci-ated well en-ough that they could be understood at the other end of the house.  
It would be fun to see footage of the many pageants I was in to see if they were actually any good.  (Although if someone reading this actually does have footage, I’m just kidding.  Please burn it.)
At any rate, the kids this morning were adorable and it was quite enjoyable to watch and remember the Christmas story, even three weeks late.  On reflection, it is never to late to remember the message of Christmas.