Remember Remember

Today is the end of the second long day of meetings here in Toronto for the PWRDF and Youth Council. It has been a good day, surrounded by good people, doing good work.

It has also been a weekend of serendipitous connections with people across this country. I had been asked to rework a piece I wrote for the justgeneration.ca website (and also posted here) as a part of the public engagement team piece. Then, while I was en route to Toronto on Thursday, I was reading through all of the documents in preparation for the meetings and I recognized the name of one of the nominees for honorary membership to PWRDF. That recognition brought forth a flood of memories and caused me to rework what I had intended to say.

Instead of a strict public engagement talk, a talk about how promotional placemats introduced me to the Primate’s Fund, I ended up talking about “placemats and a passionate person.” Because more than the placemats, there was a key member of the church I grew up in who, with her husband, pushed social justice and and international relief and development like very few people I know. Apparently she is still doing it today (centre back of the table as I remember her in 1995) at 90+ years of age and has now been honoured with an honorary memorship to PWRDF.

The flood of memories continued to think about these wonderful relationships that I and my family have been blessed to have through the church community and the sadness of how many of them are no longer.

Yes, today is year eight. And so again I say, I love you Mum. I remember. I miss you.

Waiting

Some late night, only slightly coherent ramblings as they cross my mind. Written here mainly because my computer is on my lap and my journal is out of reach.

I am reading the Old Testament lesson next Sunday (Genesis 29:15-28 for those of you who do not have the lectionary at your fingertips). After being sent the reading this evening, I was looking it over to see what I’ll be reading next week. Wow. Jacob worked for 7 years before getting what (who) he wanted. And I am whining about 1 or 2 years of school or work before “getting there” (unsure where “there” is at the moment).

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Puts things into perspective. I don’t know whether to hope that this time of not knowing what I am doing or where I am going passes quickly or mourn the lost time as time spent doing something other than what I would like to be doing.

Another Chapter

I should be writing my final paper right now. (I tell my counselling clients not to “should” themselves. Easier said than done.) 

The last week or so has seen me wrapping up sessions with the handful of clients that remain. By this time next week, I will have no practicum clients left and will have begun to work with people post-student life (No, I don’t have a job, I’m just volunteering to get my hours up).

My final paper, a major case presentation, is due in 2-3 weeks; I am just over halfway through.

And so, I begin to think about the next chapter.

In reality, I have been thinking about it for a few months. I go through cycles of panic and frenzied job searching to a healthier, more laid-back confidence in God’s provision. Because, really, I have no reason to panic… I’m not broke and needing to repay thousands of dollars in student loans (Though making enough money to cover living expenses certainly would be nice). I do have the ability to wait for something right to appear. Ability… well, some ability. How long I can wait is more a matter of my own sanity.

But then I remember: Why panic? Over and over in my life, I have been constantly amazed at the unseen hand of God at work. Yes, that is what I believe it is. Doors opened and blessings given undeserved. Opportunities appearing out of the blue. It blows the mind. It is a good reminder of why the Israelites were commanded to retell their history over and over again. By retelling those stories, we remember and can be reassured.

Perhaps my lesson right now is to sit and prepare to have my mind blown once again. I’m sure I am violating all kinds of laws of Biblical hermeneutics with quoting this passage out of context, but when thinking about being constantly amazed at what God is doing in (and in spite of), through, and for me, Habakkuk 1:5 comes to mind:

Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.

Hmm. Instead of panic, freak out, and search out, it seems that my words for this moment should be watch, wait, and believe. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying.

Spring on the Island

It feels like spring today: the sun is out, it is actually warm-ish, the flowers are still blooming, and I can hear the birds chirp away as I cycle and walk around town. It is such a nice change from the last few weeks – I can actually feel and hear my body give a huge sigh of relief as it gets nicer outside and it doesn’t have to deal with cycling everywhere in the rain.

I had a comical exchange on twitter the other evening. Just before I headed off to bed, the rain that had been intermittent all day picked up and began to pound my exposed third floor window. Not long after I complained about it on twitter, so did one of my friends, saying, “Here comes the rain again…” I responded with a modification of the next line of that classic Eurythmics tune (yes, I just used “classic” and “Eurythmics” in the same sentence) and our exchange continued on that line for a few minutes.

There are a few song lyrics like that, songs which always come to mind in specific situations. Curiously, they are mainly weather related. On my cycle into town this morning, the warm sunshine on my back made me go all John Denver, “Sunshine, on my shoulders makes me happy…” The sight of spring coming into bloom brings me back to car rides on the East Coast with Buddy Wasisname, “Its spring on the island…”, though he is referring to a different island on a different coast.

Whichever Island and whichever coast, I’ll continue to sing throughout my day. Enjoy spring, enjoy music, enjoy life!

My Evening With Bruce

I went to see Bruce Cockburn last night, live at the McPherson Theatre in Victoria. It would not be an understatement to suggest that it was one of the better concerts I have been to… but then I probably say that after every good concert I attend. I also had a fantastic seat: front row directly infront of Bruce. This photo was shot on my phone from my lap.

Not only is Bruce a phenomenal musician and guitar player, there is something about his ability to craft lyrics that is always profound and thought-provoking. It was an incredible experience to be able to sit and hear him sing them live. He performed a mix of songs off of his new album (to which I have not yet listened) and old favourites. Some of the favourites (how does one pick a set list from a repertoire as long and as deep as his?) were ones I had hoped he would play (Pacing the Cage comes to mind) and others were songs I had forgotten I loved. One of the classics I was struck by all over again as I remembered its beauty was Strange Waters.

I’ve seen a high cairn kissed by holy wind
Seen a mirror pool cut by golden fins
Seen alleys where they hide the truth of cities
The mad whose blessing you must accept without pity

I’ve stood in airports guarded glass and chrome
Walked rifled roads and landmined loam
Seen a forest in flames right down to the road
Burned in love till I’ve seen my heart explode

You’ve been leading me
Beside strange waters

Across the concrete fields of man
Sun ray like a camera pans
Some will run and some will stand
Everything is bullshit but the open hand

You’ve been leading me
Beside strange waters
Streams of beautiful lights in the night
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?

Every time I read or listen to these lyrics, something different jumps out. I think that the first thing that grabbed me last evening was the phrase “You’ve been leading me beside strange waters.” The reference to Psalm 23 is unmistakable, however instead of the “still waters” of the psalmist, we have “strange” waters. Strange seems more accurate to life, certainly to life right now.

Two other lines that jumped out to me last night, and continue to do so today, are in the first verse: [I’ve] Seen alleys where they hide the truth of cities / The mad whose blessing you must accept without pity. Part of their impact is a recollection of my time in China. As we walked down a backstreet near the river in Xining, my Chinese language partner turned to me and said, “If you were here with a party member on an official visit, you would not be allowed to come here.” It was a mud-track road with tumbling down brick building on either side. The cavernous doors opened into dark, dank mud floored “houses” where chickens ran around freely and large families squeezed into a single room. Yet this is where a large number of people lived. And the government was trying to take it from them: pushing them to goodness-knows-where so that their houses could be bulldozed and tall apartment blocks put in their place.

The next place my thoughts went was to some of the ideas I am pondering as I reflect on church’s stated mission of being the “Cathedral to the City” and what this entails. It is something I am trying to incorporate into my Holy Week meditations and has therefore been on my mind a lot lately. What does it mean to be the Cathedral to the City? Part of that is being aware of those around us and working to integrate our worlds: our guest preacher last week called it being an “indigenous church.” In our part of the city, we are faced with both the beautiful but expensive houses and the people who have no other choice but to pull a tattered blanket over themselves as they lie in the doorway of a closed shop. The latter are the truths that the city would rather hide. They are the truths that we must confront if we are to live an engaged life within our community. Some of these individuals are indeed the mad whose blessing must be accepted without pity.

How then do we practice this engagement? I have no answers. It is much easier to ask questions than to actively search oneself, find answers, and make changes… or even find a path to what might eventually become an answer. I hope, through the process of reflection as I prepare for Holy Week, to begin to step onto that path and invite others to walk with me.

The Bicycle Saga

I bought a new bicycle.

I was planning on waiting until after I finished school and had made some money, but things just happened and there is a new bicycle in my life.

The old one is still around, it is sitting in the garage with its flat rear tire. I’ll hang onto it for awhile I think. If I want to do any trail riding (which I don’t ever really do) or if we get another snow like the one a couple of weeks ago, it is pretty invaluable.

Flat rear tire. That is what precipitated the purchase of my new white speedster. Make no mistake, it was not a snap decision (not entirely anyway). I have been checking craigslist for the last few months now, monitoring the prices of road bikes and watching for any great deals, sending off a few questions here and there. Then we had that snow a few weeks ago and I was able to ride the faithful red bike around just hours after the snow had finished and the roads were marginally clear. Last week, I was cycling home from a group counselling session at a local elementary school when the heavens opened and this odd, and freezing cold, combination of large fluffy flakes and big raindrops descended upon me. By the time I got home, the lower half of my body was soaked to the skin. The rain/snow had been so fierce at times that I could not see where I was going. The edges of the road were still (and are still in many places) covered with all of the debris that accumulates after a week of snow. I had no choice but to cycle right through it.

When I got home, I thought nothing of parking my bicycle in the garage and rushing inside to clean up/dry off. The next evening however, when I took my bicycle out, the rear tire was completely flat. By that time, the stores were closed and I no longer had any patches in my patch kit. The tire was going to have to wait until the next day. Problem: the next day, Saturday, was a full day of work followed by company for dinner. There was no time to go downtown, buy a patch kit, and fix the tire before I needed the bicycle on Monday morning. Sunday? you ask. Nope. My local bike shop is closed. Solution: buy a new bicycle.

You may have seen it on Twitter and Facebook: “How to solve the problem of a flat bicycle tire? Buy a new bicycle.” Yes, that is what I did.

I had seen a good-looking bike on craigslist and sent off an inquiry. The owner lived only a few blocks from me, so I went over and checked it out in person. It rode well, shifted well, braked reasonably okay (nothing I can’t improve on), and, best of all, had new tires. I bought it.

Since then I’ve been riding it everywhere. I’ve taken bicycle commuting to a whole new level (for me) and have myself fairly well outfitted now. The most crucial piece I’ve added to the bike: full mudguards.

Faithful red? Well, she still sits in the garage. I made a valiant attempt to fix her rear tire the other day and it ended badly. After spending an inordinate amount of time removing/patching/and replacing the tube and tire, I re-inflated the tire only to hear air hissing out… Apparently I hadn’t found whatever had punctured the tire in the first place and it had re-punctured it. So I still have to remove everything and start all over, but I’m waiting until it gets a little warmer in the garage and I have a little more will-power. The last time was a little bit of a chore and I’m not looking to be swearing over that tire anytime again soon.

Still Light

I took this on my phone tonight, as I got home from practicum site #1 in time to shove some food in my mouth before heading out to practicum site #2 for some evening appointments. The interesting thing about having a schedule that does not vary each week is that I can see the changing of times of light and dark much easier.

For example, I got up at 5:30 this morning to head to yoga. On my ride home at 7:30, the sun was peeking over Mt Tolomie and starting to turn the tops of the trees beside the road a beautiful fiery gold. Last month, it was still pitch black at that time of day. And then again in the evening: Monday nights I am usually heading home around 5:30 and Tuesday nights I head out to site #2 at around the same time. On each of those trips in the last two days I have stopped to contemplate whether or not I needed to turn my bicycle lights on or if it was still light enough to safely ride. Last month, it was pitch black by 4 or 4:30.

Slowly but surely the days are getting longer.

When I took this picture and posted it on instagram tonight, I put the caption “Still Light” on it because, well, it was still light outside at 5:30. Reflecting later however, I realized how it captures a moment of stillness, of quiet, and that it is an image of wonderfully still light. Light is anything but still though. But the stillness of the tree be-ing in light is something I am now thinking about.

Making Bread

I made bread tonight. I’ve been eating it a lot more lately, consequently I’ve been making my two loaves every week and a half or so. Sometimes more frequently. I’d make more at a time except for the fact that I hate freezing it and I only have  two loaf pans.

There are a lot of blogs that I follow. A lot. Thankfully, I have an RSS set up so that I can just have them appear rather than me having to waste time going and checking them each day. One section of my followed blogs is a group of people from all over the world who are committed to living their faith differently. Not different in the “Oh, she’s diff-er-ent” sort of way, but different in the way that makes me stop and think about how I live my faith. Different because they have obviously stopped to think about what works in their lives and because they are continually challenging their and my theology.

Today, a post popped up by Cheryl in Australia. She contributed to a book I read earlier this year which I really liked, and I’ve been following her blog ever since. It is interesting that I read this post today, bread day, because it is all about bread.

We get really excited about yeast when we bake bread. I, for one, love to watch those hard, round pellets grow and become alive and then, unseen, cause my bread to expand and rise. Yeast is so Biblical too, isn’t it. Matthew 13 has us reading the words of Jesus explain that the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that gets mixed into a large amount of flour until it works itself all the way through the dough.

Cheryl got me thinking about how the yeast isn’t really the important part. We get all excited about the yeast, but we could still eat bread without it. It just wouldn’t be light and fluffy. It is really the flour and water that is important.

I got to thinking further, and I may be way off of the original point here, about how the flour and water are so ordinary. Yes, as Cheryl said, the higher quality flour is going to make higher quality bread. But it is flour. It is the ordinary things that God takes to make the stuff we need.

I don’t know if that even makes sense, but that is where my thoughts wandered tonight as I kneaded bread (and also made yam and black bean burgers, and chipotle yam rolls!).

Running, Clear Night Skies, and Good Teachers

“Are you a runner? Because you look like a runner.”

I’ve had strange comments from patients at work before… The last time I had one about athletics was a few years ago when Silken Laumann asked me if I was a national rower.

For some reason, I answered the running query with “Yes, but not lately.”  The last race I ran was in 2002. The last time I did any serious running training was probably closer to 1999.

But it got me thinking, why not run again? I’ve been sitting on that thought (quite literally, actually. My rear has now melded to the couch) for the last couple of weeks. Every day, I have had a great excuse for not running until today when I finally told myself to stop being stupid and get out there. Did I mention that I pulled some muscles in my back yesterday and it has been sore all day?

I’m glad I went. The overcast sky of today has cleared up and the clear night sky is beautiful. The moon is nearly full and it casts a glow over everything. I head down the street and through the park before turning up the hill towards the university. The park is in a little dip and it always seems cooler in there than at our house half a block away. As a result, there is slippery frost on the path. As I run through the dark park and up the hill, I look up and see that the sky was clear and all the constellations can be seen. There is majestic Orion standing straight up below the moon. Beside him, Taurus, the zodiac sign I was for one day. Then the Pleiades, Casseopia, the Dippers, Gemini…

I began to think back to my love of staring at the night sky. Where did it come from? I remember being drawn into stargazing on Offshore when we could sit for hours at a time under a huge black umbrella of the sky – an umbrella with millions of pinpricks of light all over it. It got to the point where I could tell if the helmsman was off course just by looking at the sky.

I loved the sky before that. I may have not known and been able to identify all of the constellations, but the interest was there.

Keep running… cross Gordon Head Road, good thing I have a light because there are actually cars on this road… Through the university. I love the pathways with arches of trees overhanging. I’m surprised I haven’t run into any deer yet. Through residences… I’m surprised how few people there are out tonight, though it is 10:30pm and a little chilly. I’ve got two thermal running shirts on, plus an old soccer jersey. I’m through the university now, to Sinclair Road. I came the better way: this hill is much nicer to go down than up.

I had the same teacher for both grade 5 and grade 6. Mr Shurrock was one of the best teachers I ever had. After a fairly disastrous Math experience in grade 1, he was the first teacher that actually believed I could do Math and, unsurprisingly, I excelled in his class. I may not have ever become a Math-wiz (as my college transcript can attest to), I did well at Math for the rest of my elementary and high school career. With Mr Shurrock, we studied all sorts of interesting things, including astronomy. I remember researching constellations and drawing them out in our notebooks. I think this was one of the first places where I encountered these stories in the night sky.

Down the hill, loop south along Cadboro Bay Road. Still running. The initial cramp has long-gone and I’m actually enjoying this. Who knew? It is colder beside the ocean, but the air is lovely and fresh. Annie Lennox, Ella Fitzgerald, and Moxy Fruvous are shuffling on my iPod. I have no idea how this combination made it together on the player.

Up the long, slow incline to Cedar Hill X Road. This is my road, but it is a fair ways to go yet. The last part is downhill and I turn in to head back through the park. I slow to walk through the park and take a few minutes to look up and enjoy the sky once again.

Thirty minutes. Seven and a half kilometres. I guess that isn’t half bad for not having run in a long time.

Back to Community

Back on the subject of community… I think I first broached here in March 2009 and it has not been far from my thoughts since then.

A friend made an interesting comment the other week. This friend is most assuredly not connected in anyway to a Christian or religious community and would likely run the other way if I were to suggest a visit to a church or meeting with too many religious folk. I, on the other hand, have never been shy to mention in my friend’s presence the fact that I have received great benefit from church communities and love being a part of one.

I tagged along to a 100-mile dinner party last weekend. It was a birthday celebration (a celebration where I did not know the birthday boy) and potluck where people were invited to bring dishes made from ingredients produced within 100 miles. It was a veritable feast and some wonderful experimentation happened. During the evening, we ate a lot of food, some excellent conversations happened and I met some very interesting people, some games were played, and then I needed to go home (1:00am is quite late when you have to be at church at 8:30am). As we were cycling away from the home where the dinner took place, my friend said something like, “Environmental people are a pretty good and responsible group to spend time with. It is the best community to be a part of.” I know I am off on the wording, but the gist of what I took from the statement was a gybe directed at religious groups (a fairly common occurrence in our discussions) and a statement advocating community and belonging.

Here we had, on a Saturday night, a group of about 20 young adults, in the 24-30 range, gathering together to share around something they are passionate about. There was good and engaging discussion. There was food. There was a common purpose. It was fun.

But it also felt like it was lacking. Yes, I can get behind no-waste initiatives. I can agree with a moratorium on offshore drilling on our coastline. I am all for urban sustainability projects and food security. However for me it goes deeper than that. At the heart of all of these discussions, I always come back to Christ. Why do I care for people and for the environment? Because of my faith in God.

If I didn’t have that hope and that knowledge of my future, I am not sure that I would see the purpose of environmentalism. I would have loved for discussions at the 100-mile dinner to go beyond the surface to more fundamental questions of life and belonging. These questions need to include discussing how we relate to and deal with the environment, however they cannot be isolated to them. These are questions that are best answered in community because community can be the core force needed to jump-start any initiatives. Community strengthens, supports, challenges, and encourages. We need more of these types of communities – with Christ at the centre – that are unafraid to challenge the status quo on all issues. That is a community I would be a part of.