29 Dec 2018

A Grinchy Blog

Every year, I revisit a favourite fictional character: the Grinch. It never ceases to amuse me that this Seuss-beast will stop at nothing to prevent Christmas.

Of course, his heart (which starts being 2 sizes too small) grows 3 sizes on Christmas Day, and he engages with his Whoville neighbours for some good cheer and celebration.

I wonder what might happen if we all started this season as the end-of-story character, with over-large hearts and a desire to engage in compassion and companionship. I wonder what would happen if we embraced every opportunity to forsake our own preferences and instead bring about love and goodwill. Instead of asking (as the Grinch does) how to prevent Christmas, how might we Christians demonstrate the love of Christ?

Can we imagine creative ways to show the good news in our own context? (My new hometown has a large lobster-trap Christmas tree). Can we make family-friendly worship truly family friendly? (I attended a friend's Seuss-inspired Eucharist on the 24th!). Can we carry the peace beyond our comfortable pew to the marketplace? (Extending patience to those working retail during the boxing day/week sales, for example). Can we overcome our inner Grinch and make connections with the Whos living in our own Whoville next door?

Can we see that Christmas means a little bit more?

I think we can. I think we are privileged to be the ones who will stop at nothing to bring Christmas - the true Christmas - to the world. On this 6th day of Christmas, I wish us all the joy of the season!

22 Dec 2018


            As Christmas approaches, I find myself in a rather unusual circumstance - having moved to a new parish but not commencing until the start of 2019. It is a strange sensation to be not making final changes to Magnificat and Nativity sermons, but to be putting energy into arranging furniture and unpacking boxes.
            It's a different way to be 'home for Christmas'.
            The community into which I have been invited welcomed me just a few days ago - and welcome they did! I arrived to a rectory full of not only the contents from the moving truck, but numerous things (practicalities and treats) to make my transition gentle: the fridge had food, the cupboards had dishes, the washrooms had soap and towels. There was bubble bath and wine for me, and heart-shaped treats for the dogs (in a lovely treat jar!). And, of course, there were hugs upon arrival, and many guests have extended welcome greetings. As much of a self-sufficient traveller as I am, I was overwhelmed with the kindness and love that was waiting to welcome me to my new home.
            Perhaps the most touching and unique sign of welcome was a Christmas tree, brought from a parishioners' farm, and set up in the living room. The tree is also decorated: with pictures of all the parish family affixed to wooden disks and shining in the fairy lights. It's a beautiful tree which reminds me that, though new to town, I am surrounded by a loving family at Christmas.
            It is a welcome that goes above and beyond what could be hoped for; yet my new friends have said they just thought about what they would want to feel entirely comfortable and welcome.
            What a gift for me to be receiving this welcome at Christmas. It is, after all, the time of year when we share in welcoming the Christ Child. We will hear sermons about the joy made manifest; we will sing and rejoice for the Messiah's incarnation; we will welcome the baby Jesus into our hearts with delight and celebration.
            My reflection this week is on the welcoming itself. When we welcome the Christ into this realm, into our hearts and lives, I pray that our welcome is not limited to the Glo-o-o-o-o-orias in the hymnal and the sentiments in the greeting cards. I pray that we approach the welcoming of divine love with a comparable level of intentionality that I received here - a careful and prayerful consideration of welcoming Jesus: to keep Jesus as the center of our thoughts and actions, to act to ensure Jesus is entirely comfortable and welcome in our hearts, to be the loving family that surrounds all of God's children at Christmas and beyond.
            I pray that the presence of Jesus will remind us to welcome God in the coming days and throughout the year. May we all welcome a Happy Christmas.   

16 Dec 2018

Out of Habit

Guinness begging for pizza

            As I have been recently preparing for my move, I realized I was starting to slip in some of my better habits: I've run less, I've eaten some meals that are nutritiously less than ideal. I further recognized that this habit-breaking has extended to dog discipline: when friends were over for dinner and the snouts were shamelessly begging (and ignoring my directives to go lie down).
            Needless to say, these habits did not just stop overnight; they gradually slipped away. Stacking boxes on the treadmill was an excuse for laziness, the ease of ordering in superseded a home-cooked (and portion-controlled) meal, the stress of packing house a rationale for letting the dogs bend the rules.
            The shifts like this can be so gradual that you barely notice them; until something happens (like dog noses at the table, aiming for the pizza!) and you see just how far off track things have gone. And that's when I find myself invited into reflection and action of all aspects of life (physical, emotional, and spiritual health), seeing what habits need a bit of a tune-up, and then making that happen.
The eyes of a mooch, shocked at being denied 
            One of the habits I realized I had not changed in the midst of transition was my prayer practice. I start the day with the Divine Office; no matter how many excuses I could come up with (and there are always excuses we justify to ourselves), there is never (in my opinion) a reason not to pray.
            It's a habit. It's how I start the day, usually before I'm even out of bed. It only takes a few minutes, yet the benefits last all day and beyond. It grounds me, focuses my spirit, invites me to recognize that the day is yet another opportunity to dance with the Divine and celebrate my place as a beloved child of God. My daily prayer is a habit that influences and supports every thing that will happen that day. It's a habit worth maintaining, and supporting.
            So I invite you to reflect on your habits: habits kept, broken, or temporarily on hold. How much of a priority is prayer and praise in your habitual health? And as we continue our journey through this blessed season of Advent, how can we augment our spiritual habits to help us through the temporal busy-ness into the timeless calm of a living relationship with God? Especially during stress and holidays: overeating happens,
pets misbehave, running shoes are ignored. But I hope - and pray - that our prayers will guide us, support us, sustain us, and delight us.

8 Dec 2018

Jumping In

"Day 325. Jumping In"
CC BY-SA 2.0 by David Mulder
Sourced from Flickr
            This week, a friend and I went to a trampoline park - one of those places where you can bounce like a cartoon tiger. There's dodge ball, and basketball dunking and warrior challenges and flinging yourself into a pit of foam blocks. Neither of us had ever been to one of these places - it was hilarious!
            Perhaps we would not have had the great time we did, if we were less comfortable with each other. You see, you have to suspend any semblance of grace when you spend a couple of hours jumping on trampolines and into foam block pits. You fall, you sweat, your hair goes all manner of directions, you fumble trying to get back on your feet.  Most of our laughter was at ourselves: my friend did a great balletic flop off the warrior challenge, I repeatedly made a (apparently) hilarious face when my brain decides that leaping into the unknown is simply not going to happen. (There were no wild backflips or fantastic gymnastics from me.)
            My friend and I are comfortable with each other. We trust one another. And we encouraged each other, pushing ourselves a little bit out of our comfort zone. By the end, she was trying side-wall bounces; I managed an adequate leap into the foam pit.
            Because of this, we laughed, we celebrated, we had a great time. We made new memories, we had tried new things. We knew that there was a risk (there's a risk to everything though!) and proceeded with caution. We joked that it would be a great place for a community-building event, or a first date.
            The next morning, as my muscles reminded me that I had in fact done quite a workout, I realised that jumping in at the trampoline park was a perfect analogy for Advent. There's trepedation and enthusiasm; there's a knowledge of own skills and a desire to improve; there's an element of boldness contrasting one of vulnerability.      During Advent, while our bodies are caught in a whirlwind of busyness, it's a great time for some spiritual retreat and renewal. It's an opportunity to rest and recreate for a time, to have some fun, to be silly while being cautious. It's a time to challenge ourselves spiritually, to encourage others who are journeying alongside us. It's a season for trying new things, for opening ourselves up to new experiences and new encounters. It's a now and not yet, an elation and an anticipation, an experience for every level of experience and expertise.

            Advent: an adventure with God - but only when we choose to make the leap. Let's jump in.

1 Dec 2018


            There's a beautiful tree at the side of my driveway. The springtime buds come out faster than can be counted (or so it seems), the summer leaves provide shade to the delicate grass below as well as a resting point for birds and insects. Squirrels race across branches (seemingly to amuse and antagonize my dogs) as the autumnal leaves boast brilliant colour changes. Now, as winter approaches, those leaves have released their hold on the branches, allowing the tree to rest and regenerate for the next cycle.
            The tree is in constant transition. It moves with the natural cycles, as do the other factors in its ecosystem. It flows with the rhythms around it, adjusting in ways that allow it not only to survive, but to thrive. Because the tree embraces these transitions, it meets God's purposes, and provides beauty to those around who might see it.
            Our lives can be like that too, when we let them. We can recognize the different seasons in our lives, and allow ourselves to change and be changed by them and through them. We can seek out new ways to contribute to the community around us, to gradually adapt to how God is inviting us to be present, in who we are and how we minister.
            If we do not, we will suffer. We will stagnate, and staying immobile in one season is incongruous to growth. A tree budding in the snow, or dropping its leaves at the start of warm sunny weather would be damaging to the overall health of the tree, in the short term and the long.
            As we begin this season of Advent, we begin the opportunity to see and embrace a new season. It is a new liturgical year, a new beginning, a time of preparation. As we begin the liturgical transition, it is my hope that we allow ourselves to be transformed by the season itself, fitting in with how God is calling us to be at this place and at this time, within this community.

            We may not understand the transitions, and they may be gradual, but when they are of God, they will always bring us to new life and new growth. For everything there is a season, Ecclesiastes reminds us, and a time for every matter under heaven. May we be open to discerning our own transitions, celebrating all that this season has to offer.