14 Sep 2019

Prayers for the Candidates

Screenshot of https://www.elections.ca/content2.aspx?section=can&document=index&lang=e

            It feels like we just went through this time of year: a slight chill in the breeze, the threat/promise of Pumpkin Spice Everything, the eagerness of getting ready to wear boots again...
            And, as per normal every 4 years or so, the shade of the political posturing.
            Despite the federal election being called just days ago, the campaigning has begun.
            I, for one, tend to look forward to times such as these. As a political animal, with a degree in Political Science, I'm quite keen for folks to develop and present platforms on issues and concerns to the people.  I sit prepared, aiming for an open heart and mind, for the door-to-door visits where I can raise my carefully crafted questions around issues of justice (not of the penal code variety) and goodwill for all. I track polls, I watch the results with my election buddy (oh, the commentary!)... I am an engaged citizen in the electoral process. My vote matters!
            Yet... this election, even in the infancy of the campaign, we're seeing some serious mud-slinging. There's trash-talking on all sides; there are personal attacks and snide remarks and cruel intentions... and it appears that it will continue on this low-road of a path for the duration of the campaign.
            So what's a church-going, God-loving, Christ-following person to do?
            We pray.
            Not to get our own ways, or to have our preferred candidate win. Not to have "our" Party dig up more dirt on "their" Party; not to hope for a faux-pas in a debate, not for any ill-wlll.
            But we pray with thanksgiving for a democratic society that allows for every citizen (of age) to vote. We express gratitude for civil discourse on difficult topics. We recognise the personal challenges that every candidate is undergoing, and the hardships on their families; so we ask for God to bless all of the candidates, all of their families and friends, their staff, their neighbours. We ask for travelling mercies for the campaign trail.
            And we pray that the will of God will be reflected in the votes of the people. We pray for our country, for responsible citizenship, and for an election: "Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Help us elect trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and thus serve you faithfully in our generation to the honour of your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord." (BAS, 678)

7 Sep 2019

A Powerhouse of Positivity

            I have a friend who is always a joy to be around. She sees the best in people and situations. (Even an impending hurricane is, for her, an opportunity for extended uninterrupted family time!) She finds ways to be grateful, as well as inspiring others to be grateful as well. She is a powerhouse of positivity, and lives life with thankful heart.
            Her attitude is not just surface level; so often we see people forcing themselves to smile through pain or present a happy face because it's what other people expect. She has known sad days, painful days, distressing days - as everyone has. But throughout the challenge, she sees opportunity to seek joy. She relies on God, family, and friends, to weather the storms, to learn from them, and to flourish as a result. 
            This is the kind of friend who can help put things into perspective: I benefit immensely from chatting with her. She's a great listener, and responds with empathy. "I'm sorry that happened" can be a wonderful affirmation of my frustration; an "are you okay" an extension of care I may not even realise I need. She lifts others up and encourages a continuation of care and concern - and of gratitude.
            This is a friend who will reach out with hugs, texts of support, and a listening ear. She is the kind of friend to have a coffee with in a difficult week. She's the kind to chat with over a beer in the pub to celebrate good news. She's the type to pray with when making a decision.
            She's the kind of friend that I am grateful to have. She's the kind of friend I aspire to be. I thank God for her - and for all of my friends - who celebrate life with this attitude. What a gift for us all to focus on all the gifts that God has given.

31 Aug 2019

Community living: a messy reflection

Many clean-up bags for many messes:
the life of a canine companion!

            One of my dog's many skills is input: he's a good eater! By extension, he's also good at... output. So good, in fact, that (as a responsible canine companion) I purchase the mess-removal bags in bulk.
            Clean-up is not my favourite part of having a dog, but it's the right thing to do.. Leaving a mess is ugly, unsanitary, un-neighbourly, etc. Yet there are people who do: when they are distracted/ ignoring/ oblivious to the mess being made; when they can't be bothered attending to the mess; or (in extreme cases) when they delight in seeing a pile in the yard of someone they don't like.
            Poop happens. Literally, and metaphorically.
            So what happens when the poop isn't something that fits into one of those little bags? When the mess is the brokenness in a relationship or a community?
            An extreme example from a friend in church-land: a group of intentional mess-makers cruelly (and remotely) caused division in a parish, with many leaving the church. Pleased with the resultant mess, this group proclaimed a generic "mistakes were made" to the remaining community. They did not take ownership of the mess they had so careful curated, and they did not reach out to the individuals whom they had made effort to offend.           
            In the dog analogy, it was piling poop in someone's yard until the person moved, then proclaiming to the neighbours that the mess shouldn't have happened in the first place.  The mess is still there, however, and now more unpleasant than before; and without taking ownership of it, there is significant potential for the mess-makers to return to the same poopy behaviour.
            While messes are inevitable, as Christians we are called to put aside our egos and to seek to make things right - to clean up our messes - before they reach excremental levels. It is not a time for shaming, but for being accountable for our actions. It means apologising with intentionality, and engaging in reconciliation. Like using a bag, it can be unpleasant, but it is essential work. A mess left alone will not clean itself up, and may in fact get nastier. But once a mess is cleaned, and any resultant stink is past, a community can go on to flourish and grow - mess-free. Communities that are based on truth and respect and love - the values of our faith - are worth the efforts of cleaning up the mess.

24 Aug 2019

You SHOULD go there!

"Cape Breton Island Map"
(CC BY-SA 3.0) by "Canadian"
Source: Wikipedia

            I was recently reminded that I haven't taken my vacation for the year, and so am in the pleasant reality of getting to do some planning. It's fun living in a new region; there are lots of places I've not visited, so there is ample opportunity.
            For example, I've not been to Cape Breton - yet! I've shared this fact with some people. The responses have been consistent in the affirmative, but the way the message is conveyed has varied. The majority of answers have been encouraging: offering a positive perspective on the area, the fall colours, the music festivals, the time to visit, etc. I've gained a large number of pointers from the positive experiences that others have had: from food to accommodations to which way around the Cabot Trail one should drive. "I think you would really enjoy it" one review came, basing their opinion on a conversation of what I like to do while on holiday.
            In a few cases, when discussing my vacation plans, I've had the less inviting "You HAVE to do X" or "You SHOULD do Y". When querying why these statements are so prescriptive, the answers have one thing in common: it's what the speaker wants to do, without taking into consideration what my goals or preferences might be. This approach, while meaning well, can actually deter an interest in a place or event.
            I like to feel encouraged, inspired, invited, and supported when I'm considering heading somewhere new; with enthusiasm and positivity and ideas as to what may feed my soul. I like to know others  (whose opinions I trust) have made a similar journey and are so positive that they want to share it.
            Imagine if we treated church like this: inviting guests to come and see what it is that we do, because we have enjoyed it immensely. If we tell someone that they HAVE to come because it's what we want for them, they are likely not going to respond well. But if we can instead share why we choose to come to church and be part of Christian community, we might inspire them to come and see for themselves.
            So... let's consider the possibility of sharing a good review of church with our family and friends. Let's encourage people to try church based solely on the happy and fulfilling experiences we have had!

17 Aug 2019

The Problem of Free

          Our parish hosts a 'Random Acts of Kindness' (RAK) group. Once a month, we gather together and undertake a project that will benefit the community. We get folks of all ages and affiliations coming out (we're not just Anglicans); and each project is completed in an hour. It's fun, it's free, it's mission!
            This month, however, we hit a snag... our project was to hold a lemonade stand. Free lemonade! No cost, no expectation, just yummy sweetness on an evening when the whole town was engaged in a large-scale music festival.
            The problem: it was free.
            A lot of passers-by didn't believe it was free; and even when we told them there was no cost, they anticipated us to suddenly pop out a donations basket. We live in a society that firmly believes that nothing comes for free.
            But... it was free. We weren't accepting donations. We were just handing out lemonade, to make peoples' day a bit better.
You've been RAK'd!
Random Acts of Kindness
            For those who did stop by, we received a LOT of compliments and thanks. They were grateful, they were kind, and (sadly) they were surprised. But there were many who missed out on the opportunity - because they couldn't fathom 'free'.
            What does it say about our society that we view kindness and gifts with suspicion? That we look for the 'catch' when something is given to us, that we would rather divert our eyes when offered something rather than engage in conversation to better understand what it is we're being offered?
            I wonder when our society became so suspicious of receiving something, that it is now laden with an expectation of reciprocity; that we have forgotten how to accept without an anticipatory quid pro quo. I wonder how much time and generosity it will take before we (collectively) move from fear and reluctance into acceptance and interaction.
            I dream of the day when a culture that is reticent to receive free lemonade will have such open hearts and positive interactions that we can receive the free gift of God's grace.
            I pray that day will be soon.

We even offered drive-thru!