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.