Sunday, October 25, 2009

Healing while dieing

I heard an interview the other night on the way home from work; Matt Galloway, CBC Radio host of Here & Now was talking with Paul Quarrington.

Paul is described as a musician/award-winning author/film-maker and he just recently won the Matt Cohen Award from The Writers Trust of Canada.

For those who don't know (and I didn't) the Matt Cohen award was "Established in 2001 by The Writers' Trust of Canada and a group of anonymous donors, [and] given for a lifetime of distinguished work by a Canadian writer, working in either poetry or prose, writing in either french or english who has dedicated his or her life to writing as a primary pursuit. Valued at $20,000, it is one of the richest literary awards in the country.

According to the 'online guide to Canadian authors' Matt Cohen died of cancer in December 1999, at the age of 56. His first novel was published in 1969 and during his writing career he published 34 books, including novels, short stories, poetry and books for children. Cohen also worked for all Canadian writers through his long association with The Writers' Union of Canada. He was a founding member of the Union, and served as an executive member for many years."

Paul Quarrington is 56 years old. Paul is also suffering from stage 4, inoperable, lung cancer.

The interview was well done - a difficult subject for sure. But Paul made it easy for Galloway to discuss his health and the short time he has ahead of him.

One thing that struck me most in the interview was something that Paul said. He talked about the gnashing of teeth when he first was diagnosed and about all the stages that he moved through between then and now. But one thing he said was most I don't have it verbatim but the essence stayed with me.

Paul talked about how he had been healed. In the face of his imminent death he said that he was healed. You hear about people who pray to be 'healed' when what they really mean is that they want to be 'cured. And so they miss the peace and joy that true healing could have brought to them.

Paul didn't miss it. He's living life to the fullest. He said that if 80 years is wonderful then so is one, or two. Good man. Healed man. Thanks Be to God.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Dare to Remember Update

Well, my month without television is coming to an end. I surpassed by goal of $1,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation and increased it to $1250 which I hope to meet by end of day next Sunday, October 25th.

I watched (not on TV but on my computer!!!) Stephen Lewis on George Stroumboulopoulos and was impressed anew with his passion and strength. When George asked him about losing his faith in the fight Stephen replied that he certainly had his ups and downs but that one cannot let futility take hold. What an amazing man. In the face of 8-10 million people needing treatment and only about 3million receiving it one could expect that you might get discouraged. And I suppose he does. Get discouraged, that is. But he never gives up.

He said he's concerned that, at his age of 72, he doesn't have enough years left to do what he needs to do. That's why the Foundation is so important. People need to pick up the torch and follow in his footsteps.

A Dare to Remember. An amazing man. Thanks Stephen Lewis for being such an inspiration.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Dare to Remember

Well, today marks the beginning of my month long dare.

I was listening to CBC radio and heard an interview with Stephen Lewis about the Dare to Remember campaign that was developed to raise funds for his foundation.

I'm a big fan of Stephen Lewis and as soon as I got home I checked out the website ( and created my own dare.

I dared myself to give up television for one month and, during that period, read at least 10 books. My dare begins today, September 25th, and ends on the last day of the Dare to Remember campaign, October 25th.

My friends, family and colleagues have shown incredible support - I'm well on my way to reaching my $1,000 goal.

The money raised goes directly to those who need it. The Stephen Lewis Foundation, which started just six years ago, "worked to create a new way of funding that is sensitive, responsive and flexible - one that avoids bureaucratic red-tape and ensures that the money goes where it's most needed." My kind of fundraising.

So, to everyone who has supported my dare so far - THANK YOU.

To those who haven't yet visited my page please check it out at

and to those who elect to support different fundraising organizations, keep up the good work.

In the words of the Dare to Remember campaign "Together, ordinary people CAN do extraordinary things."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Linden Tree

My front lawn has the biggest tree in the neighbourhood.

It's a Linden tree and if I had to guess at it's height I'd probably say it was a gazzillion miles high. I love it.

Literally, I love the tree. I feel a Celtic connection to its branches and its flowers and the hard as nails berry-type beads that fall off and cover what little remains of my front lawn.

I was a child when this tree was planted. Its predecessor was a Mountain Ash. My mother hated that tree; well 'hated' is probably too strong a word but she sure as hell didn't like it. The Mountain Ash had berries too but not the dried, hard shell kind of the Linden. Those berries were red and squishy and made a mess all over the front sidewalk. THAT'S what Mom didn't like ... the mess.

Anyway, one year a bunch of teenagers (well, we figured it was teenagers because who else would do it) ripped all the branches off the Ash and left it in shreds on the front lawn. Even though Mom - and by extension none of us - liked the damn thing it was an affront to see it in pieces all over the lawn.

The Linden replaced the Ash and for years I just took it for granted. Until I became the owner of the house and the tree.

You see I discovered that if you don't trim back the branches they grow and grow and make a lovely kind of shelter. It's like being wrapped in the arms of someone you love. Of course by letting the branches grow it blocks out the sun and the grass dies. But I've solved that problem. This year I put in a rock garden. No worries. I get to have my wonderful tree just as big and magnificent as I know it wants to be and my husband doesn't have to moan about the dead grass. He doesn't love the tree. And he doesn't quite understand my attraction to it.

We used to have an elderly lady come and pick the flowers to make Linden tea and last year a neighbourhood youngster would come by on his way to school and hide under the branches. His mother apologized when I happened to be home one day and saw him doing it. No worries, I said, I love it too. I think she got it. I'm sure she did - only someone who got it would have added extra minutes to their walk to school knowing their child wanted to be embraced by the tree.

We had an incredible storm here last week. The wind was phenomenal - it was the storm that launched the tornado in Vaughan - and the trees all around us were bending in its onslaught. I found myself praying for my tree. Certainly I didn't want the tree to fall on my house or on any of my neighbours' but I also, perhaps even more, couldn't bear the thought of the tree being harmed. Thankfully she stood her ground and remains part of my life.

Honestly, I love that tree.

Friday, July 17, 2009

'Nothing to be ashamed of'

From The Globe and Mail, Thursday, May. 14, 2009

'It's a shame about your job," my friend says.

"Yes," I say. "But what can you do? In this economy lots of people are getting laid off."

We both nod and sigh a little. The part about the economy is true. The part about my job is a lie. I've been lying to a lot of people lately.

The truth is that I wasn't laid off from my job. I've been sick, too sick to work. I struggled through most of the winter to make it through those long, dark days at my desk, but eventually I had to quit before the end of a six-month contract. It wasn't a choice. I simply couldn't keep going.
So why didn't I just tell my friend this? Surely he would be supportive. Why would I lie to someone I've known for more than 10 years?

Because the thing I'm sick with usually doesn't generate the same level of sympathy and understanding as other illnesses, even though it's far more common than most people imagine.

Simply put, I'm depressed. Clinical depression, major depressive disorder, severe depression; there are several names for what's going on inside my head.

Major depression is more than just feeling sad all the time. It's a serious illness that can take over an entire life and make a formerly productive person incapable of doing pretty much anything. At least that's what it's done to me. But from my experience fighting depression on and off for the past eight years, most people don't see it that way.

There is a deeply ingrained belief in our society that mental illness is a form of personal weakness and that if sufferers really wanted to they could just (and I detest this phrase) "snap out of it."

Unfortunately, that's not possible. Believe me, I've tried. I've tried talk therapy, light therapy, yoga, meditation, medication, exercise, vitamins, you name it. But my boot straps firmly refuse to be pulled up. None of my efforts or the efforts of several medical professionals have so far been able to pull me out of the swamp of despair that I've been sinking into for months.

I barely remember what it feels like not to be depressed. I've heard depression described in many ways, usually involving the colour black - sometimes as a black wave, black dogs or a black hole. These make it sound like depression is something external to the depressive, as though it comes sneaking up from the outside or is a well-hidden area of quicksand that a person can slip into by accident.

For me it's never been like that. I've always felt like it's something inside me, always there even if I can't feel it at one particular moment. It does feel black, but more like a black swamp, a heavy, wet, cloying ooze that bubbles up from inside my chest and spreads throughout my body, weighing me down.

I tried for a long time to act normal in spite of it, and most of the time I did an excellent job. But I couldn't keep it up forever. I feel the depression so deeply that sometimes I don't understand how it's possible that people don't see it. I feel I radiate misery like a halogen bulb.

Sometimes, if I'm having a really bad day, someone will ask, "Are you okay?"

I want to burst into tears and say, "No, I'm not, please help me." But I never do. Instead I say, "Yes, I'm fine," in the high-pitched voice I always use when I lie.

This is only my personal experience of depression, and I'm sure it feels different for everyone, but I think a feeling of intense despair is common to most depressives, along with feelings of isolation and loneliness.
On top of the despair is the embarrassment and shame that inevitably come with mental illness. Sometimes the stigma feels as heavy as the despair itself. A few close friends and family know what I've been going through, but to the rest of the world I do my best to present a normal front. They ask how I am and I say, "I'm fine."

But I'm not fine. I'm so tired. I'm tired of lying, tired of hiding. I'm tired of feeling ashamed of being sick. And I know I'm far from the only person who feels this way.

Every instinct I have is telling me not to reveal my mental-health issues, telling me to keep struggling to get better in silence. I cringe at the thought of people I know reading this. What will they think of me?

But somewhere along the line, the silence has became more of a burden than the shame and the fear of judgment. There are countless people out there right now in pain and ashamed of their own suffering. So that's why I'm writing this, for myself and for everyone else who struggles with mental illness.

I haven't given up the fight to get better. I know it's possible. But it takes time, resources and, above all, patience. It also takes people to believe in us. We can't be afraid to ask for help. We have nothing to be ashamed of.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Will you .....

I was at a food service conference recently and the key note speaker reminded me of something that was instrumental in my spiritual life.

Many years ago, as a member of a small neighbourhood Anglican church, the priest often spoke of his mentor, a professor and member of the Russian Orthodox church, with great love and affection. As we heard Fr.'s stories of Professor S I believe that we came to love and revere him almost as much.

The stories about the Professor's church were most exciting to me. Having never seen (nor really heard of) an iconostasis before made the idea of a gold embossed wall of icons lit only with candles seem like the stuff of a fairy tale. How much I wanted to go to that church.

Then, during one Lent the priest took his warden to a study evening which was being offered by Professor S at that very church. How much I'd wished that I was going. And then, the warden returned with stories of her own about the candles reflecting off the gold of the icons and about the amazing Professor which made my desire even greater.

And so, that Good Friday evening (that would be the Anglican Good Friday. not the Orthodox one) I went to a service at the church.

When I walked in I was struck dumb. The church had been, in its previous life, an Anglican church (ironic eh?) but was now a Russian Orthodox cathedral (albeit with stained glass windows!!). The iconostatis was magnificent, there were only a few pews in the centre and along the sides of the walls. (primarily for the elderly I learned later). The smell of incense filled the air and people walked about.

The service began .... entirely in Russian ..... and I was enthralled. This service taught me that you don't need to understand the words to understand what the words mean. Throughout the service I knelt when everyone else did and I crossed myself (likely 'backwards' in that venue) when everyone else did but I was obviously out of my element. Painfully out of my element. Sticking out like a sore thumb out of my element.

After quite some time I noticed a man off to the side with a few things on a small table. He began to move through the congregation offering the items on the tray to each person. All I could remember was the admonition that had always been included in the stories from my priest ... "whatever you do while in an Orthodox church DO NOT RECEIVE". And so, as the fellow got closer and closer to me I was terrified. Surely, I found myself feverishly praying he'll realize that I "don't belong" and won't put me in a position of having to either (HORRORS) receive what I presumed to be the Host or of bolting out the door thereby eliminating any further possibility for me to ever return and see those glorious icons again.

He got closer & closer and I got more & more nervous. And then, there he was, standing directly in front of me (remember that there are few pews so almost everyone was simply standing around). I looked at him and he looked at me. Well, actually that's not exactly correct because what it felt like was that his soul looked into my soul.

And he offered the tray and said to me .... said to my soul .... "will you share our prayers". It wasn't a question. It was a gift.

At that moment I knew I belonged. I knew that I was welcome and that I was loved. This stranger took away all my fears and hesitation. I accepted what he offered, remained for the balance of the service and then floated all the way home.

The next day I was telling my priest and the warden and as I described the event and the stranger who asked me to 'share our prayers' they both realized that I was describing the illustrious Professor. I'd had no idea that the man in the church was Professor S. But his grace shown through in that moment when our eyes met. It was incredible.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The 'Anti' Role Model

A few years ago I was very active in a local Anglican church. Sadly the Diocese closed the church because of - what else - money problems. But during the years that I was there I learned a lot about people and about myself.

When they closed that church I started to attend another one but over time became less and less involved and now find myself sitting alone way in the back pew on Wednesday nights. I still love the essence and the artistry of this particular liturgy but, for me, something is missing and several things are just wrong.

Last week I found myself in danger of becoming like any number of the old dears I used to see at my earlier church. Many of them would find anything - everything - to complain about. Nothing seemed to make them happy and I used to wonder "do you only come to church so that you can complain?".

One of them, lets call her 'Barbara', was particularly difficult. No matter what happened, no matter what changes were made, she hated them. She seemed to hate everything. And yet I sensed that, deep inside of her, she wasn't as persnickety as she appeared on the surface. I thought she was probably very sad and quite lonely and that this curmugeondly facade was a mask of protection.

So when, last week, I found myself detailing & itemizing in my mind a large number of criticisms about what is now happening in my church, 'Barbara' came to mind. And I recalled how my then friend Liz & I had promised each other that should we EVER become like 'Barbara' we would give each other a shake. And since I no longer see Liz I had to give myself a shake and try to put things into perspective. OK, so there's things happening that annoy me. Things that distract me from my worship. So what? Get over it. Focus on what's important and ignore those minor irritations. Because that's all they are - minor - and if I let them fester and grow then I too will become a 'Barbara' .... sad and lonely and generally miserable. And I promised Liz I would never let that happen. But more than that even, I promised myself.

So thanks 'Barbara' for being a reminder for me as to what not to do. Thanks for being my 'anti' role model.

Monday, May 11, 2009

When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall
to see the farmer and his wife open a package.
"What food might this contain?" The mouse wondered.

He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard,
the mouse proclaimed this warning :
"There is a mousetrap in the house!
There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched,
raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse,
I can tell this is a grave concern to you,
but it is of no consequence to me.
I cannot be bothered by it."
The mouse turned to the pig and told him,
"There is a mousetrap in the house!
There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said,
"I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse,
but there is nothing I can do about it
but pray.
Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said,
"There is a mousetrap in the house!
There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you,
but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house,
head down and dejected,
to face the farmer's mousetrap
. . . Alone. . .

That very night
a sound was heard throughout the house
-- the sound Of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught.
In the darkness, she did no see it.
It was a venomous snake
whose tail was caught in the trap.

The snake bit the farmer's wife.

The farmer rushed her to the hospital.

When she returned home she still had a fever.
Everyone knows you treat a fever
with fresh chicken soup.
So the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard
for the soup's main ingredient:

But his wife's sickness continued.
Friends and neighbors
came to sit with her
around the clock.
To feed them,
the farmer butchered the pig.

But, alas,
the farmer's wife did not get well...
She died.

So many people came for her funeral
that the farmer had the cow slaughtered
to provide enough meat for all of them
for the funeral luncheon.

And the mouse looked upon it all
from his crack in the wall
with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear
someone is facing a problem
and you think it doesn't concern you,
remember ---

When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.
We are all involved in this journey called life.
We must keep an eye out for one another
and make an extra effort
to encourage one another.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Weigela is - according to Wikipedia - a small genus of about 12 species of deciduous shrubs in the family Caprifoliaceae, growing to 1-5 m tall and named after a German scientist Christian Ehrenfried Weigel.

The reason I know this is (apart from looking up the specifics on Wikipedia) that I have a Weigela bush (also spelled Weiglia) in my backyard. I suppose I should say that my mother had it and I took it on when I bought the house. For years I would say to her, 'what's the name of that beautiful flowering shrub in the backyard' and year after year she would say 'Weigelia'. I would reply 'oh right, I can NEVER remember that'.

But I knew that I really didn't have to remember it because I could always ask her - and she would always tell me. And then she got sick. Welll, she got Parkinsons and as the disease began to ravage her already tiny frame I realized that I couldn't always ask her because she wouldn't always be around.

And so one final time I asked her what it was and I wrote it down and I stuck it on a bulletin board that I look at each and every day. Weigela. Just that one word written on a scrap of paper. Weigela.

The summer after she died my son was getting married and having the photo's taken in the back yard. We were all sad that Mom hadn't lived to see him get married - she loved him so. But standing in front of the shrub I realized that it had flowered more than it had done in many years and I knew that Mom was with us anyway ... maybe not in body but certainly in spirit.

Today I trimmed the Weigela. Cut away all the dead branches so that the new ones can grow and the flowers will bloom beautifully this summer as well and I thought of Mom. With me in spirit - now and always

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The authentic self and the undivided life

I'm reading a book called A Hidden wholeness: The Journey toward an Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer.

Palmer writes that he suffered a period of serious clinical depression and found his way out through what he calls a 'circle of trust'. Palmer also writes extensively about the damage we do to ourselves when we lead 'divided lives'. Lives in which we hide, bury, obscure our 'authentic self'. Eventually if we're not careful, we lose that self.

We need to nurture that authentic self and lose the divisions we've built over the years. And one way to do that is to surround ourselves, as much as is possible, with true friends. "Friends", he writes, "with whom I can be authentic."

To do that he comes "together with people who bring out my better self, friends with whom I can be authentic. I make it a point to connect, whenever possible, with people with whom I have a history of shared joy and shared pain, who call forth in me this feeling of safety."

As I read those words I immediately thought of the few people in my life with whom I can be authentic, who "call forth in me this feeling of safety". That is a gift beyond anything else - the gift of ones self.

To each of those people, I thank you.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The sound of sheer silence

I've been thinking a lot recently about the need to listen to the still small voice of God.

Because God doesn't come to us in HUGE ways .... not, as I heard recently, as an 11' angel at the foot of our bed. In the book of Kings Elijah discovered that God was not in the fire nor the earthquake but in the 'sound of sheer silence'.

Just as God came to Elijah in the sound of sheer silence he comes to us in very subtle ways. For instance, I was struggling over Holy Week and wondering where my 'place' is/was in the church. I am passionate about my participation as an acolyte but was having some difficulties. So one evening a lovely woman took the time to seek me out and tell me something that was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. In my mind she was the 11' foot angel that I needed. But if I hadn't listened ... with my heart and not just my ears .... I might easily have missed the voice of God within her words.

As well, when I got an email the other day from a friend asking if I would be interested in joining an organization to which he'd belonged for years I realized that contained in his words was the still small voice of God.

Because I had been thinking of just exactly that!

In fact only a few days before he sent me the email I had attempted to find the website but had been unsuccessful. I'd not said anything to anyone and yet, when his message came, I was initially quite startled because of what I first thought of as a coincidence but then realized that this was a gentle nudge from God. Because there's a great saying that there is no such thing as coincidences, just God working miracles anonymously.

So if I'm accepted into this organization I will update this blog and keep you posted on the new direction in my life. I'm excited as I haven't been for a very long time. Pray for me, a sinner.

"Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Always be Joyful. And never stop praying.

I was reading a business article today about the need to remain focused in this struggling economy, and my thoughts (obviously I didn't remain focused on the article!) turned to prayer.

I'm a very visual person and have discovered that one of the most effective prayer techniques for me is with iconography. I have dozens of icons throughout my house and draw much comfort from simply being in their presence. My eyes often land on St. John the Baptist while I'm watching TV and I don't find that odd at all. I don't believe that prayer means stopping what you're doing (say for an hour on Sunday mornings) to pray. I believe that prayer can be - should be - with you always. I don't always manage it but I believe it.

Brother Lawrence, in his book The Practice of the Presence of God, wrote of being in prayer - in communion with God - no matter what he was doing. Washing dishes, gardening, walking, sweeping .... no matter what, Brother Lawrence was in prayer. The Dalai Lama has said that he is in prayful meditation when he listens to the daily radio news. Proof that our minds are phenomenal machines.

In the very early days of discovering my own spirituality the first Biblical passage that captured my attention was St. Paul's words to the church in Thessonalica. 'Always be joyful, and never stop praying' were his instructions to the Thessalonians. I printed out that passage, added some flower clipart and posted it over my desk at work. Where it stayed for years. I have it still. Funny though, until today, I always thought of it as one single command but during the writing of this piece I see it as two separate and unique instructions that feed each other. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. And to actually BE joyful at all times one must never stop praying. Separate but combined. A cool realization.

When I first began to use icons in my prayer life I spent most of my evenings alone in my church. Even though it was an Anglican church there were icons on every wall. I used to take a stool, pile up a stack of books and place a candle at just the right height in front of the Saint I felt most drawn to at the time. Thomas was often a favorite for me back then as I recall. Another icon, one of Christ Pantocrator which had been written specifically for the church, was in the Lady Altar where I spent many hours in quiet contemplation; on the floor, in a pew, often (thankfully no one ever discovered this) actually curled up right on the altar so that I could be as close as possible. I would begin to pray - in ways that I thought were "right" - but often found my mind wandering. Initially, when that happened, I'd give my head a shake and try to 'get back to prayer'. I added in a somewhat altered 'Jesus prayer' in an effort to keep focused but still found that my thoughts wandered off. While one part of my mind was reciting 'Lord Jesus Christ, most Holy Son of Mary, have mercy on me a sinner' (my own version of the prayer) another part was struggling with concerns or issues. I kept thinking I was doing something wrong, that I wasn't praying 'correctly'. [Talk about needing to give your head a shake!] But then I read somewhere - I think it might have been in a book about St. Therese de Lisieux - that I really needed to pay attention to those wandering thoughts because they are God's way of bringing forward things that matter. And, wandering thoughts about what to make for dinner aside, I think there is a great deal of truth to that; I've remembered it to this day and I allow myself to follow the wandering thoughts.

So while there might be a lot to be said about remaining focused there's more to be said about the need to listen to that still, small voice inside you to discover what really matters.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

With Her

This time is difficult. Wait for me.
We will live it out vividly.
Give me your small hand:
we will rise and suffer,
we will feel, we willl rejoice.

We are once more the pair
who lived in bristling places,
in harsh nests in the rock.
This time is difficult. Wait for me
with a basket, with a shovel,
with your shoes and your clothes.

Now we need each other,
not only for the carnations' sake,
not only to look for honey--
we need our hands
to wash with, to make fire.
So let our difficult time
stand up to infinity
with four hands and four eyes.

~ Pablo Neruda

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easter Homily by St. John Chrysostom

Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: "O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world." Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

but what if it's all junk?

Get rid of the junk in your life he said.

'Junk?' she thought, maybe I should have a garage sale.

not that kind of junk he said, reading her thoughts.

the junk in your heart and your soul.

junk that pushes God out of your life.

junk like envy and greed and hatred and fear and jealousy ... but mostly fear.

'Rhetorical question' she asked

[well, if it was rhetorical did she ask it or state it?]

'Rhetorical question'

'what if it's all junk?'

it isn't. he replied. you were created in the image of God. That's why you laugh so well when you laugh. That's why you feel so deeply when you feel. that's why it hurts so much at times. None of that is junk. all of that is divinity.

the challenge is to believe it ..... and that's the fear ... what if it's ALL junk??

Friday, March 20, 2009

A rose by any other name ......

The topic on DNTO a few weeks ago was names. Names at birth and names from friends. Given names and nicknames. Everyone, said host Sook-Yin Lee, has a nickname and that got me thinking. Did I have a nickname?

I suppose you could say that my nom de plume, Young Lady, is a bit of a nickname. And a few folks refer to me - in writing - by my first initial because that's usually how I sign off emails, etc. But it's not really a nickname.

Years ago I worked with a fellow whose initials made a word (for the life of me though I can't remember either his real name of the one I made up for him!) and so I called him that word rather than his name for as long as we worked together. He then begin to call me by the sound of my initials. It was something that the two of us shared. No one else called us by those names. It was special and it connected us and somehow strengthened our relationship.

When I met my anam cara they began to call me a 'silly' name and again I felt special.... until I heard them use if for lots of other people. Bummer. Because I had mistakenly thought that I had been given a gift - a private special name that was mine only. So when I heard it bandied around it was quite a disappointment. I heard it used again just the other day and recalled that original feeling.

Words, names, can be very powerful. A nickname can be a lovely -private in a public way - shared experience. Many, many years ago I called a man I loved 'Barney' ... it wasn't his name but it meant something to us and we could use it in public places knowing that it meant something intimate and private that no one else understood. A special shared moment that helped to connect us in public, and sometimes stressful or difficult situations.

Nicknames can also have a bit of a mean streak. Early in his construction career one of my sons shot himself in the foot with his nail gun and his nickname became 'Shooter' - his boss even had a name tag made for him.

A few years ago my anam cara and I began to call each other by the names of characters on a cartoon show. Are you pondering what I'm pondering? It was fun and silly and special because it was private.

I guess that's part of the power of a nickname. It demonstrates a connection, a shared experience or relationship.

So whether you're called Zippy or Pinky or D or Shooter .... a rose by any other name ......

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Books .... books and more books ....

I was thinking about books the other day when I was in a Chapter's store looking to buy a copy of 'The Borrower's' that I can read to my grandchildren. As it turns out I had to order it online because it's too old to be kept in the stores. Anyway, as I was looking around at other books - because you can't possibly go to a book store without buying a book, at least I can't - I found myself wondering what it is about books that so captivates me. I've always been a reader. I remember as a child taking my book and lamp and blanket and pillow into my bedroom closet, shutting the door and reading for hours. My family must have thought I was nuts but they didn't stop me. My parents, particularly my dad, was a voracious reader right up until he died. In fact, it was one thing we had in common and could discuss the various books we'd read and debate the character's and the endings.

The week before he went into the hospital last summer I was visiting him with other family members when he turned to me and said. "I've got a bone to pick with you." As it turned out what he wanted to chastise me about was the ending to a recent book I'd given him. Laughing I said, "I didn't WRITE the book, Dad, I just gave it to you." But he was so annoyed about how the author had elected to end a book with familiar characters that he made me read him the final few pages and then give him MY interpretation of the events. I honestly don't think he accepted my view - which was markedly different than his - because he just kept saying, "you think?". I remember telling him that when her next book was published I was going to ensure that she didn't take the characters where he thought she was heading and if so I wasn't going to let him read it! He died shortly afterwards but I'm sure going to laugh if his interpretation turns out to be correct.

But as for my passion for books - I really don't quite 'get it'. My parents never read to me when I was a child and we only owned a few books. The library was our 'book store'. My house today is filled with hundreds of books (not only do I love to read, I love to own) and I get great joy just looking at them, remembering the characters and stories in the fiction; the lessons learned and people 'met' in the non-fiction. I also write in my books highlighting phrases, sentences, paragraphs that 'speak' to me, and use sticky notes to make it easier to go back to them - which I do .... often. I remember the first time when, as a VERY mature student, I got my student card from U of T and was able to access the stacks at the Robarts Library. I can still remember how I felt to walk down rows and rows of books ... the smell, the touch....the honour and privilege I felt. I'm not embarrassed to say that I wept.

This is partly why I support The Children's Book Bank in downtown Toronto. The Children's Book Bank is a non-profit organization that collects new or gently used books and gives them to children. Not lends them as the library does, but GIVES them a book. One of the stories told is that a young boy came to the Book Bank and after he had selected his book he asked when he needed to bring it back. Upon being told that he didn't ever have to return it because it was now his to own he clasped his hands together, looked up and thanked God. Check out their website or drop into the centre... it's an amazing place.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Jesus Wept.

I heard a horrifying news item last week about a young girl who chocked herself TO DEATH while 7 prison guards stood by watching. The young girl - only 19 years old & with a history of mental illness - had originally been incarcerated after throwing crab apples at a postman. Ashley had been transferred 17 times - bounced back and forth between prisons, treatment centres and hospitals - and had a history of over 150 'security incidents' in 11 months.

150 'security incidents' in 11 months!! Now THERE's a cry for help. But what help did she get? Apparently the guards stood watching because they had been instructed not to intervene as long as she was still breathing. In fact they waited almost half an hour before they called for any kind of medical help - didn't even check her vitals. A 19 year old child died in front of their eyes and they did NOTHING. Apparently senior officers didn't want to reinforce the negative behaviour. The help they gave was to 'urge' her to remove the ligature she had tied around her neck.

Ashley had been originally been given a short sentence but she kept having time added to her original term because of her behaviour and 'security incidents' while in custody. In fact she spent most of her time, 23 hours a day, in solitary confinement. Because of her mental illness. Because no one in the system stepped in and helped.

The thought that 7 guards - people who are paid to protect the inmates - stood and watched Ashley die in front of their eyes is horrific. I cannot imagine how any of them can live with themselves now. Oh, sure they were 'obeying' orders. I'd guess that's what many of the guards in Abu Ghraib said as well. And the horror that her family must feel when considering her time while incarcerated is inconceivable. My heart aches for their loss.

The officials who gave the orders that the guards so blindly followed should be charged with murder. This was a mental health issue. This was not a prison matter. Ashley didn't deserve to spend the final months of her much too young life in solitary confinement because of a mental illness. Ashley didn't deserve to die because the officials determined that she was 'crying wolf'. Where were the mental health professionals?

One can only hope and pray that something positive comes as a result of Ashley's death and that nothing like this ever happens again.

Jesus wept.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Books, books and more books

I was adding to my book list on and realized two things. One, I have WAY too many books on my shelves that I haven't read yet and secondly that books have a powerful hold on me. I suppose I've always known both those things but going through my library reinforced it.

To me books are like friends - good close friends who sometimes make you laugh (anything by David Sedaris), sometimes make you cry ('What they Wanted' by Donna Morrisey...warning, you'll need plenty of tissues when reading this one), sometimes really piss you off (I was so annoyed at the ending for 'My Sister's Keeper' and as I kid couldn't finish a book if someone was being 'double-crossed'. Speaking of sister's, my own was so annoyed at the circumstances in 'Careless in Red' by Elizabeth George that she put the book down and refused to finish it or even talk about it).

Books are powerful things. The ability to write a phrase that stays with you long after reading it, the ability to create characters that come alive in the reading and stay alive when you've finished is a rare art form. I often go back to Rohinton Mistry's 'Family Matters' for the quote ... "A letter is like perfume. You don't apply a whole bottle. Just one dab will fill your senses. Words are the same - a few are sufficient."

As I added to the list on Goodreads I remembered some of my other favorites as well. 'Can you Hear the Nightbird Call' by Anita Rau Badami. 'Bishop's Road' by Catherine Safer. 'Walking after Midnight' by Kay Hutchison. And many more.

I also remembered where I was - or at least what I was going through - when I read some of them. I read 'Beyond Crazy' and 'The Last Taboo', both by Scott Simmie and Julia Nunes, when I was going through a particularly bad patch. Any and all of my books on Celtic spirituality or the Orthodox church remind me of when I was mad for learning as much as possible about those two subjects - subjects which are still close to my heart.

I still have the very first book I ever owned as a child, my first 'grown-up' book anyway. It's called 'The Five Circles' by Barbara May and I can clearly recall how proud and thrilled I was to have a book to call my own. That's partly why I'm so partial to a charity called The Children's Book Bank ( located on Berkley Street in Toronto, Ontario. The Children's Book Bank collects books and GIVES them to children. It's a phenomenal idea and to anyone who loves reading and realizes the power of a book for a child visit this website and donate, donate, donate.

I also remember feeling so stupid the first time I opened 'The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty' by Paul Evdokimov. It was in the very early days when I found myself enthralled with icons and iconography and wanted to learn as much as I could about them. And, instead of starting with something basic, like 'Sacred Doorways', I chose Evdokimov's book. It begins .... ' "Beauty is the splendor of truth." So said Plato in an affirmation that the genius of the Greek language completed by a coining a single term, kalokagathia." ' HUH????? Honestly, I don't think I've ever felt so stupid as when I started reading 'The Art of the Icon' (well, maybe with the exception of the first class I took at Trinity College as a VERY mature student but more on that another time) . But I got through it and think of it often and, remembering how stupid I felt then and realizing that I 'get it' now is a special feeling as well.

I've begun to give books as gifts as much as possible. A few years ago I gave 'I never saw another butterfly ...' to all my fellow acolytes at church. I gave both my sons 'Where the Sidewalk Ends' by Shel Silverstein this Christmas. When they were little boys the three of us used to read the poem's in that, and all of Silverstein's books, over and over. It turned out to be one of their favorite books. I gave 'Bel Canto' by Ann Patchett to two of my best friends for Christmas as well, one of whom loved it, the other - well, I've not heard what they thought of it yet so ... who knows. After all, just because I love a book doesn't mean that others will.

I remember recommending 'Family Matters' to my best friend ..... and hearing that they HATED it. They went to the trouble of taking it on a family vacation, sitting down on the beach to read this "great book" and HATING it! 'Too depressing' was the comment I got back. Honestly, the way they went on made me feel guilty for even suggesting it to them! Also made me a bit cautious to recommend books to anyone for a while but then I figured, even if they don't like them, reading pretty much anything is an experience worth having. And I still love it. It remains one of my all time favorites, along with 'Bel Canto'.

Now that I've realized how many books I have on my shelves that I haven't read I'm planning to take care of that. I'll keep you posted on any true gems I discover .... well, in my opinion anyway!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


John Updike's publisher received his newest collection only a few weeks before he died this January. In it was a poem titled 'Requiem' and it seems to say so much about how he sees himself. I don't know his history or background but I sense some extreme melancholia.

I guess it takes one to know one because it struck a real chord with me too. It reminded me - as a contrast - of a wonderful monument in the shape of a Celtic cross that I saw at St. Conan's Kirk in Scotland. The inscription at the base of this huge monument indicated that it had been erected in memory of Caroline Agnes Campbell by 34 of her friends. At the time I was struck by the number. Thirty four friends! For me that is a titanic number and I was, I am, quite envious of Caroline Agnes and what must have been a wonderful personality to have had 34 people work together and build a lasting monument after her untimely demise.

Sadly I tend to identify more with Updike's vision of himself than with Caroline's legacy. Who knows, perhaps Caroline might have had a similar opinion of herself. We'll never know.

John Updike's 'Requiem' .....

It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
'Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise - depths unplumbable!

Instead a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
'I thought he died a while ago.'
For life's a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Always look on the bright side of life !

The weather on Sunday afternoon, September 12, 2004 was hot and the wind was still. It seemed the perfect day for my sister and I to take care of Mom’s ashes.

When Mom died, Dad didn’t know what to do with the ashes. In his view the moment that Mom died we were left with, in the words of St. Paul, ‘the clay jar’. He didn’t want a burial, and he sure didn't want an urn in his apartment, so when the Funeral Director suggested that we might sponsor a tree in the local arboretum where we could sprinkle her ashes, it seemed the perfect solution.

Unfortunately Dad fell and broke his back shortly after Mom died and so the disposition of the ashes had been delayed. And it became obvious that, even as his health improved his emotional state was very vulnerable. We all knew that this next task (clay jar or not!) would be too difficult for him to face, but he was anxious for it to be done. So, about two months following Mom’s death my sister and I went to the arboretum. We had already selected a young Thomas Black Walnut set well back from the road. In our mind we thought it would be better for Dad not to have to see the tree every time he passed the arboretum.

I had agreed to pick up the ashes from the Funeral Home and when they handed me the cloth bag that held a small cardboard box my first thought was – wow, this weighs almost as much as Mom (she always was tiny and when she died she was down to less than 50 lbs). But my second thought, surprisingly to me, was ‘this box contains my mom’. I say ‘surprisingly’ because I know that box didn’t contain ‘Mom’. My heart knows that what it contained was the remains of her ‘clay jar’ but still…… it was a very strange feeling and I was surprised at the intensity of my emotions.

My sister and I drove to the arboretum the next day with hoe, camera, wind chimes and ashes in hand. She carefully raked back the mulch around the base of the tree and then made a furrow in the soil. She said it was like the circle of life and that it would allow us to distribute Mom’s ashes in a continuous flow. A lovely thought.

But first we had to open the box. Not an easy feat! The cardboard was taped tightly shut so we had to struggle a bit with that. Not only that, but prominently placed on the top of the box was a typed label with Mom’s name on it. The two of us looked at each other for a moment then moved on. We finally got the box opened, expecting to find a bag of ashes. However, what was inside the cardboard box was a green plastic box marked ‘temporary container’ and again labeled with Mom’s name. There was no easy way to open the green box and so we had to use my car keys to pry open the top before finally reaching the plastic bag. It was kind of like opening a gift when someone has packaged a small box into a bigger box and then again into another bigger box and on and on ….. a bit bizarre actually.

We looked at the plastic bag filled with gray dust but also containing bits and pieces, some small and others a few inches long. It was surreal. This has been our Mom. Silently we poured the ashes ‘round and ‘round the tree until the plastic bag was emptied. We then sat down on opposite sides of the tree and, with tears flowing down our faces, pushed the mulch and soil to cover what remained of our mother’s ‘clay jar’. After sitting quietly together for a while we hung the tiny wind chime, took a few photo’s for Dad, and left.

Dad died this past summer, at 95 years old, four years to the day after Mom. Following his wishes, which had been clearly and frequently articulated during the previous four years, we arranged the cremation and took the ashes, ready to be scattered around the same tree.

However, it wasn’t exactly the same tree. The spring after Mom’s death we received a call that all of the Black Walnut trees had some kind of disease. We were offered the option of either planting a new, different, tree in the same location or simply choosing a tree in another location. This time Dad was able to participate and he selected a young maple tree that was very close to the road. Funny, six months earlier my sister and I had selected a tree far from view thinking that it would be better for Dad. Yet when Dad had his choice he wanted one he could see as he went by. Appropriate really I suppose, after 63 years of marriage if must have offered some comfort. Disconcerting too though when, on my visits he’d often ask – as we drove by the arboretum – “would you like to say hello to your Mom?”

My brother-in-law, knowing how upset my sister had been when the Black Walnut died, had gone over one afternoon with a shovel and a bucket and removed everything from around its base and placed it around the new tree. Mom had moved!

So, we were now in the position of having to dispose of Dad’s ashes around Mom’s tree. We had learned however from our experience with Mom and so, before we left the house we opened all the containers. We also remarked on how much heavier ‘Dad’ was compared to ‘Mom’.

And then the rain started. So we waited. And we waited. And at about 9pm we set out. In the dark and the wet. Surrounded by mosquitos.

Did I mention it was dark? Did I mention that this tree was right at the corner of the main intersection?

So, there we are, flashlight, trowel, hand rake and a box full of ‘Dad’. My sister was being eaten alive by the mosquito’s as she held the flashlight and I hacked away with trowel and rake around the base of tree.

This had been MUCH easier on a warm, sunny, Sunday afternoon far off from the busy roadway!

All we could imagine was that one of the dozens of cars that seemed to have chosen that particular moment to drive by would report “strange activity” and the police would come to investigate. And so we started to laugh. Each time a car went by we’d turn off the flashlight – leaving me digging away in the total darkness while she slapped at the swarms of insects that surrounded her. Then the car would pass, the flashlight would come on – who knows, we may have been giving off some bizarre morse code messages - and I’d begin to empty the bag of ‘Dad’ around the tree. Each time we turned off the flashlight we laughed harder. By the time we had finally finished our task we were laughing so hard we could hardly stumble back to the car and get off home again.

No ‘circle of life’ or hanging the symbolic wind-chime for Dad. No sitting quietly together in contemplation. No, more like a Monty Python or Fawlty Towers skit. And in reality, because of their personalities, it really was much more appropriate. We imagine that Dad heartily enjoyed every minute of the farce.

But still, after Mom’s ‘circle of life’ ceremony and Dad’s ‘Monty Python Meaning of Life’ ceremony, they’re side by side again. Just as they always were in life. And now always will be. Both in heaven and on earth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Someone will come for you, but first you must open your heart

Last summer a friend gave me a book to read. "I know you'll think this is crazy" she said 'but just read it". "Don't ask me why I'm giving it to you, don't think about what kind of book it is, just read it and then we'll talk."

Her sister had given it to her with the same instructions. She was, as was I, initially perplexed. Why would she have given me THIS book. But then she read it and understood. Luckily she shared it with all of her friends including me. I read her copy and then bought one of my own along with several copies for other friends. If I could, I'd insist that every person would be REQUIRED to read the book.

So why did my friend, and her sister before her, loan a book which they felt needed to come with a cautionary message?

Because it was a children's book. And I'm long past being a child ... at least chronologically.

When I say it's a children's book I suppose what I mean is that it was written as a children's book but the story, and the message, are ageless and timeless.

That book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, with beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline, won my heart.

For those of you without children - or whose children are long grown up like my own - you might recognize the name Kate DiCamillo as the author of the book on which a recent childrens' movie has been based, The Tale of Despereaux. People with young children will likely be familiar with DiCamillo's 'Mercy Watson' series of books as well as Because of Winn-Dixie.

There's lots of stuff in the entertainment news about Edward from The Twilight book series but it's a porcelain rabbit named Edward that won my heart.

Read it. No matter how old or young you are this is the book to read. "Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit ...."

And while you're at it check out Edward's website (yes, the porcelain rabbit has his own website) and Kate's website . Kate's journal section on her website is more than worth the read.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Young Lady

Someone asked me why I refer to myself as 'Young Lady' on these musings. Actually, it's not 'Young Lady' it really should be THE Young Lady.

That was what my parents both called me for as long as I can remember. When I'd call them whoever answered the phone would call out to the other 'it's the young lady'. When the phone was handed off inevitably the first words would be 'hello young lady'.

Whenever I met any friends of my parents they'd always say "oh so YOU'RE the young lady'. As a really young lady it used to embarass me. As I grew up I came to appreciate and value it.

It likely began because I have an older sister (although by no means does me being the 'young' lady make her the 'old' lady!!) but it just became what they called me. Dad was a great one for using 'doll', 'honey', 'sweetie' for Mom, my sister and I but I was the only 'young lady'.

Mom died in 2004 and Dad just this past summer. One of the most poignant things that struck me after they were both gone was that I was no longer anyone's 'young lady'.

And so, writing under this pseudonym is both honouring their memory and giving me a little something like a security blanket.

Hi ... it's the young lady.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2 minutes ... get your shit together ....

I watched the "Mark Twain prize for American humour" ceremony tonight which honoured George Carlin. Apart from laughing like hell over some of the bits they showed ... '2 minutes, get your shit together' .... 'where am I going to put my STUFF?' ..... what struck me most was his personal transformation.

In his album AM/FM he did the 'AM' side (as Bill Maher said "remember when albums had sides?") in his 'crew cut/business suit persona'. The 'FM' side was the 'long haired t-shirt wearing hippy' who Carlin said was the real thing - not a persona at all. He said that HE had become lost in his act. There was no more 'George' in 'George Carlin' and so he transformed. references the Jungian view of 'persona' as the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual; the public personality' and it all got me thinking about the masks that I wear "to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment".

I have a work persona and a home persona. I have a friend persona and a family persona. I swear comfortably (like a truck driver some might say) with some people but just knowing that would seriously shock some others. I can hold my own when it comes to single malt or a good red wine and yet comfortably spend weeks drinking Perrier. I don't think I'm much different from most people. Honestly anyone who tells you they're the same person in every situation is, in my humble opinion, delusional.

Anyway, for me these masks are protection. As one who suffers from a major social anxiety disorder (some times more debilitating than others) the real me is masked by whatever persona will "satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment".

I used to tell my anam chara that he is the only one who knows the real me. What everyone else sees is what I present to them. I have, over the past year or so, gotten better at showing the real me to more people and luckily haven't been rejected (a key worry of a social anxiety sufferer). But it's the 'old' relationships that I have the most trouble with.

In new relationships, or those that have changed due to other circumstances, I'm more comfortable presenting the real me. In the 'old' ones ... the ones where the persona has a stronghold ... it's much more difficult.

Because in those relationships the persona has become the person. What I mean by that is this ..... when my social anxiety peaks (and for those of you who share this disorder you'll know what I mean) the persona takes over. And if you have long periods where the anxiety is prime then all people see are the persona. And then the persona becomes you. They believe - and why wouldn't they - that the persona is the person. They don't see the person behind the persona. And so they continue to treat you the same way even though you - inside - feel able to drop the persona. They simply aren't able to see you differently and you (or me in this instance .... and after all, it's MY blog so it IS all about ME!) struggle with the person/persona conflict. After all, I've been judged and labelled as the persona. The challenge to show the real you to the people who before then have only known the 'other' can seem insurmountable. Does seem insurmountable.

So what I have to work out is this ..... can I be as brave as George Carlin and flip to the 'B' side - show that 'long haired t-shirt wearing me' to those who only know the other or will the other prevail? Time will tell.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

There's probably no God .....

"There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".

These words, or something quite similar, are likely to be coming soon to the side of a TTC vehicle near you. This advertising campaign began in the UK and the ad's are already prominently displayed on the sides of London buses. Advertising coming soon to Italy will proclaim "The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that we do not need him".

As you can imagine, this has created a flurry of responses, primarily from two extremes. One are the strident atheists (whose own 'god' might be Richard Dawkins) and another the hell-fire and damnation religious right [many of whom claim their own ownership to God]). I wonder if either group recognize the similarities between each other.

Both cling passionately to their own dogma ... whether God/god does/doesn't exist. Both will argue opposite sides of the same point using science or faith depending upon their viewpoint without listening to the opinions of the other. Just like a kid who sticks their fingers in their ears to drown out the things they don't want to hear. [or the 'Vancome Lady' from MADTV]. la la la la la la

The young university student who is promoting the Toronto campaign received, in one week, over $21,000 in donations towards the cost of the ad's. In the UK the campaign raised almost $250,000. Many of the comments that I've heard are about how much good that money might have done had the donors contributed to other [non-religious if that is more palatable] organizations.

The basis for the campaign resulted from a young woman in the UK whose attention was grabbed by an advertisement quoting a particular Old Testament passage that basically said 'if you don't believe in God you're going to hell' (I'm paraphrasing but there are numerous Old Testament passages that can be interpreted in this way). This woman created the campaign to 'provide a balance' and 'the other point of view'.

Both campaigns are, in my opinion, offensive. I wonder if the old adage 'two wrongs don't make a right' is applicable here. It's interesting that these folks seem to think that there is only one religious type (aka the hell fire and brimstone) and paint us all with that same brush. I'll be damned if I'd worship a God who condemned me to hell. ;)

One person who commented on this uproar said that - contrary to the ad's -she does believe in God yet isn't worried about anything and is enjoying here life very much.

If there's one one positive result from this advertising it might be that it will stimulate discussion. Sadly the groups who would benefit the most from an open dialogue are those most unlikely to participate.

As Dylan (a fellow with many of his own followers) reminds us ....

you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Coincidence? I think not.

British born author and Nobel prize winner Doris Lessing once wrote that"Coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous."

Recently I was faced with a decision.

I hadn't communicated my quandary to anyone, I was just struggling with it on my own when I received an email from afriend that ended with the words " the universe is unfolding as it should and even though we may not like where we are at a given moment,things can change. We can change. And we can change the way we feel andreact to things."

Like a lightning bolt - his totally spontaneous words spoke directly to my own struggle and I realized that I can change. I can change how I feel and how I react. I had my answer. Not rocket science for sure (and most of you are probably thinking 'duh, that was pretty obvious') plus it was not given as advice nor even in response to anything I'd said or written. It's highly likely that I already knew this buts omehow, someway, I needed to be reminded. My friend became the vehicle by which that message was sent.

A 'coincidence'? I think not.

So was Lessing correct that coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous? I wonder if it might not be more appropriate to recognize that God comes to us in many different ways and manners. Few of us have to wrestle with an angel as Jacob did. Fewer still are visited by angels to announce births and miraculous events yet all of us - if we are open to them - receive gifts that the giver doesn't even know they've offered.

It's not so much that God is anonymous, it's more that we - in more ways than we could ever imagine - are basically messengers, angels, of God. Remember that the word angel is derived from the Latin angelus meaning 'messenger'.

Angels are God's messengers. Messengers delivering just what God knows that we need.

Coincidence? I think not.

Thanks Joe; you're an angel.