Monthly Archives: November 2011

Permission To Stop: Finding Balance For Christmas

I believe I have mentioned in the past that I have been doing relaxation exercises with my high school classes each day this year.  Today I selected an exercise from the book Five Good Minutes in Your Body: 100 Mindful… By Jeffrey Brantley  which was called “Permission to Stop.”  The basic idea was that just as momentum keeps a ball rolling once it is started, once we are running (physically or emotionally) it is not at all easy to get stopped in order to care for ourselves.   

This is a particularly apt time of year to be looking at momentum and rest.   As the days darken we run into the other side of momentum.  Caught up in the “rat race” of shopping, entertaining, celebrating, wrapping, baking, etc. we are inclined to keep going long after even we are aware that we are exhausted! Lying in bed at night, bodies at rest, our brains take over and run through all the things we still need to get done.  On the flip side of momentum,  objects at rest remain at rest.  Once sitting down after supper it becomes a challenge to get up and drag ourselves to meetings and activities, no matter how much we will enjoy them after we get there.

So, when you feel exhausted and recognize it give yourself permission to stop.  Sit down and just be still.  Breathe deeply and pay attention to sensations in your body.  Do you still feel motion inside you?  Settle and breathe until it finally stops.  When you feel glued down, remind yourself of the reward of the coming activity.  The trick, which I have yet to perfect myself, is balance.  So fight the power of momentum and let balance carry you through the  Christmas season.

By The Light Of One Small Candle

By the light of one small candle

Total darkness disappears.

A glimmer of hope

Begins to glow.


Pathetic Fallacy or Climate Coincidence?

One of my favourite literary terms we learned in high school is pathetic fallacy. I see examples everywhere; in books, on tv shows, and sometimes in real life. Today as I headed out to the doctor’s office it was raining. I was somehow not surprised though, it seems like it has been raining every time I came here for ages!

I don’t think this counts as pathetic fallacy, since I rather like seeing my doctor. Now if we were talking dentist appointment that might be different! Here are a couple of examples from my lifetime

Remember all those Remembrance Days where we went to the cenotaph in the cold, driving wind and rain or snow? It made trench life more real to me as my fingers froze to the metal keys on my clarinet. How dare I complain about that hour or two in comparison to months on end?

The Christmas Eves when the first sparkly flakes of snow started just as we stepped out of the Christmas Eve service bespeaking the miracle of Jesus birth.

The Sunday’s when the clouds cleared just as the message of hope came out and the sun threw its light into our midst just as the Spirit was lighting our spirits.

Bright sunny days when happy couples share their weddings with families and friends. To be fair, I think a lot of that is humanly contrived as the majority of people schedule their weddings at times and in places with the maximum chance of good weather.

In historical or Biblical society, what weather would you expect to go with the shame of an unwed teen mother traveling across country? What time of day would you set a birth? What weather goes with the hope we are seeking during the first week of Advent?

No Vacancy : Making Room At Your Inn For A Weary Traveller

As I sat in the choir this morning I had a great view of our church nativity scene.  It being the first Sunday of Advent, however, it was not what you might expect to see.  There is a big lighted, open fronted, wooden barn.  Inside there were a couple of sheep and a shepherd.

Everyday life in Bethlehem. Shepherds, farmers and their families.

This is actually the most normal scene it could be.  Most barns and stables are there for the farmers, in this case shepherds, to house their animals.  Barns are not for people to stay in, and certainly not to be confused with maternity wards!  Christmas Eve will see a young family move into the stable.  How does this come to pass?  They will be in the stable because there was no vacancy at any of the inns in Bethlehem.

This is a pretty familiar story isn’t it?  I wonder if there are vacancies in our hearts for the travelers, the tired, the poor, the displaced, and other folks in need in our communities and our world.  In Bethlehem the inns were filled up with those people, in town for the census, without families with whom they could stay.  Not only that, but they were the ones who had started out early, planned wisely, and traveled quickly.  From many people’s perspective, Mary and Joseph brought their problems on themselves, they didn’t deserve a room since they didn’t have their acts together!  Mary,however, was in no condition to travel more quickly.  

How often do you hear people question whether or not the poor deserve our support.  After all, “If they didn’t want to be poor they should get off their butts and get jobs!”  When we feel this way, the rooms of our heart are all filled up with self-righteousness, pride, and prejudice.  For those people most in need, their material help may lie with us, so we need to pray for help with clearing out those undesirable tenants.  Remembering that we in no way deserve the grace of God, and that we constantly do things that make us less deserving, should be the humbling we need to remove the pride and self-righteousness.  The only thing we can do to get rid of the prejudices taking up space in our hearts, is to learn about, and get to know those who need our help.

What Are You Giving Up For Advent?

This morning I was standing in line at the cash register at a local store.  There was Christmas music playing in the background, and I became aware that all three of us in line were toe tapping etc. to the music.  I noted this to them and suggested that it must mean that it was early in the season as later on we would likely be complaining about being tired of hearing it.  We had a nice chuckle, and one of the women noted that it wasn’t even December yet.  When I commented that Advent starts tomorrow one of the women asked what I’m giving up.  I said that we give things up for Lent and not Advent, and that it is a good thing!  That got me thinking…

We actually give up many things during Advent don’t we?

  • We give up common sense with respect to our eating habits.  Our best intentions with respect to eating healthfully typically go out the window as the chocolate, candy and home-baked sweets are set out to tempt us, and big family dinners go on and on!

  • We give up on our budgets as we buy special clothing for Christmas parties, and get caught up in all the Christmas shopping hype.  Out come our credit cards and we lose track quickly of how even really great prices can be too much if you buy too many things.

Neither of those are good for us, but there are more things given up during Advent and Christmas…

  • We relax those tight fists on our purse strings and donate more to charities and causes.  Knowing this it is the main time of year for organizations such as World Vision to put out catalogues of items so that people see something concrete to go along with their monetary donation.  Along with our money we loosen up and give more of our time and talents at this time as well.  People go out to entertain at nursing homes, work to collect food and clothing for food banks etc.

  • It is a time to give up on despair, to be replaced by the hope that comes with the birth of the Messiah.

  • We give up on arguments, feuds, and wars (remember hearing about the troops in the WWI in 1914 meeting in no-man’s-land to celebrate Christmas) and accept the gift of peace from the Prince of Peace!

  • We let go of our inner Grinch and, in joy, we smile, sing, and celebrate the birth of a baby boy!

  • And finally, out goes our loneliness as we accept the love of God and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So it turns out the question the woman asked me in line this morning was pretty insightful after-all.  What will I give up for Advent?  How about you?

Storm Day Denied: When Wearing The PJs Inside Out Doesn’t Do The Trick

If you live in an area which has snow storms during the winter, chances are you are familiar with the unexpected treat of a storm day.  For the most part these are only a boon for school students and teachers as technically they are caused by it being unsafe to have the buses on the roads.

If this is all sounding familiar to you, then you may also be aware of some of the superstitions that go along with the forecast of a storm.  When the radio first forecasts any amount of snow hopes begin to rise, and when they change to a snowfall, or winter storm warning the action begins.  First, of course, it is important not to talk about it due to a risk of jinxing things.  Then there are the night-time rituals like putting your pajamas on inside out, getting homework done, mittens under the pillow, and they go on.

Much as you may rationally understand that there will not be a storm day, when the alarm goes off the next morning and you don’t hear a cancellation notice, your heart falls.  From that moment frowns and grumbles are the order of the day.  The kids are extra cranky, especially if they didn’t finish their homework.  They spend the whole day looking longingly out the window and asking if they are going to get sent home early.

In some ways this is like the Christian story.  We have the forecast of the second coming of Jesus, of the New Earth.  When it happens it will be completely undeserved, a total change from the everyday with nothing scheduled, no to-do list, and no struggles.  We know it is coming,  and yet when we get up each day it is in the same life, same hassles, the same old Earth.  We don’t need to go through special rituals, wear things a particular way, this is already a done deal and all we have to do is continue to believe.  

Second Only To God: Family Comes First

Today’s topic came naturally out of my morning quandary about what to wear.  As I stood looking at my closet I had in mind that I was dressing not just for church, but for a lunch-time family gathering with almost all of my family of orientation followed by supper with my family of procreation and my father-in-law.  A full day of activity and social contact, this would normally be just my kind of day, but if it weren’t church and family I would be begging off and spending the day resting up for the coming work week.

If you have been with me from the beginning, you may remember my post about priorities titled What Would You Have Left if You Lost Everything?  In that post I talked about an exercise I do with my classes in which they write down the six things that are most important in their lives, and then one-by-one they have to choose which of them to lose.  It can be pretty difficult when you get down, for instance, to the choice of God, your spouse, or your children.  It also shows just how unimportant things like our cars and our homes are for most people.

Back to today.  The only time I skip church is if I’m away or if I can barely stand due to illness, and there is certainly no way that I am going to miss a chance to visit with my brother and sister-in-law who only get to town once-a-year.  That takes us up to supper time (the evening meal).  We make a point of going to see, and eat with, my father-in-law on Sunday evenings.  It is vital to us that our kids have a close relationship with their grandparents.  They see my parents regularly at church, but their paternal grandfather goes to a different church and so we have, since they were little, gone for weekly visits.

Continuing to prepare for the day, I was putting on my rings.  First I put on my wedding band and engagement ring, an obvious priority in my life.  After that I had choices and I got thinking about the fact that almost everyone would put a ring they bought for themselves in a different category than one that had belonged to a now-deceased family member.  There is more meaning to my grandmother’s wedding ring than the cute ring I got when I finished my lay ministry course. 

In the Bible we see that God created people as man and woman.  He saw the need for us to have helpmates or partners.  When human children are born they are uniquely dependant.  Unlike all other species, humans are not able to fend for themselves until far beyond a year.  This fact made families of whatever configuration necessary for their survival,  and continues to do so.  The cycle continues when we leave our parents and “cleave to” our own life partners.

Come to the Water, You Who Thirst and You’ll Thirst No More

What is at the bottom of your well?  When you are at your lowest and need refreshment, into what does that bucket drop?

We go to friends and family for help, but what if they aren’t available?  What if they have left us?  What if they have died?

There are lots of people out there to whom, for a fee, we can go for help. There are social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors etc.  What if that doesn’t help?

If you believe that there is no God that is where you hit the bottom.  If you rely on your own strength for everything what happens when it turns out your strength has limits?  Then not only do you not get help, you actually add self-blame for your failure to recover.

If you believe in God, the Triune God, there is no bottom to your well at all.  No matter how far you may fall God will reach down to pull you out.  No matter how parched you become, there is no end to the availability of water.

Come to the waters, you who thirst and you’ll thirst no more.
Come to the Father, you who work and you’ll work no more.
And all you who labor in vain and to the broken and shamed:Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from His brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.
Cuz love is here.

Come to the treasure, you who search and you’ll search no more.
Come to the lover you who want and you’ll want no more, no.
And all you who labor in vain to the broken and shamed,


Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from His brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.


And to the bruised and fallen,
Captives, bound, and broken-hearted.

He is the Lord,
He is the Lord,

By His stripes He’s paid our ransom
From His wounds we drink salvation

He is the Lord,
He is the Lord.

Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from His brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.
Cuz love is here.
Love is here.

these lyrics are submitted by OarSmaN
these lyrics are last corrected by threedaysgracefan9431

Will I recognize my former students in thirty years time?

I wrote the other day about a talk I attended about holocaust experiences by Dr. Israel Unger.  While it was fascinating and moving, it was not the only really interesting that happened that evening at the church.  It turned out that Dr. Unger’s wife was a teacher at Fredericton High School where she taught math to both my husband and I and actually remembered both of us.  Did I mention that I graduated from high school almost thirty years ago?

Our kids found it fascinating to stand at the reception and talk with Mrs. Unger about our their parents as teenagers.  They were looking for stories of poor behaviour, but, however we thought we may have come across to our teachers, she said we were good kids.   We reminisced some about things like the time Tom and his friends took her literally when she said that if they wanted to bring food to class, they had to bring enough for everyone.  They ordered pizza for the whole class.  

For me, as a current high school teacher, what was most impressive  was the fact that she was able to remember us at all.  When I commented about the fact that I have so much trouble remembering my students names even the next year.  She made a very astute observation.  She pointed out that when she was teaching us, each course lasted the whole year and not just a semester and that it is much harder to really get to know kids in just a semester.  Educationally you get to know your students quite quickly in terms of their names, their academic strengths and weaknesses and the best way to help them.  What a semester doesn’t allow for, she pointed out, was time to really get to know our students as people.

Luckily, I get to teach many of my students in more than one course and work with some in extra-curricular activities.  These are the kids I have a chance to get to know well.  One of my students asked today how I can stand teaching the same thing three or four times per day for years on end and I was able to answer totally honestly that it was them that made it fun.  The variety comes from their different personalities, their different reactions to the material we cover etc.

In thirty years time I don’t know if I will recognize my former students.  I expect that I will at least remember the ones with whom I have had contact through Face Book.  I just hope that, whether or not my memory improves, I will manage to convey to them somehow how much I care about them.   

It’s Just A Phase! –

  • Sewing
  • Writing
  • Working out at the gym
  • Playing guitar
  • Playing clarinet
  • Scrapbooking
  • Needlepoint
  • Cross stitch
  • Quilting
  • Horseback riding
  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Geneology
  • Dogs
  • Biking
  • Girl Guides
  • Hiking
  • Camping

This is a partial list of the various phases through which I have gone so far in my life.  I remember my parents asking, when I was getting into something new, if I was really serious or whether it was just a phase?  Somehow in their minds this tied into whether or not it was worth putting money and time into supporting my efforts.  I have, in fact, caught myself thinking the same thing when the kids decided they desperately needed calligraphy pens, collections etc.  I realize that there are some developmental stages that kids go through which parents only survive by telling themselves, “It’s just a phase, it will pass!” but the thing about the things on my list is I was absolutely serious about all of them.  At the time that I was into riding it was all I thought about.  I worked hard to learn all I possibly could about horses and riding and there were hours of sweat and labour involved.  I loved every minute of it, but then it passed.


I am here to talk about the value of the phase.  Much maligned, it is in those periods of intense focus on one activity or another that we gain knowledge, proficiency, sometimes expertise in that area.  Long after the phase has disappeared  from our daytimers, that skill and knowledge remain with us and help to inform our further pursuits.  It is remarkable the connections that come up when you are doing something seemingly unrelated.  Things you did when working with horses turns out to work well with other animals, and or people.

When I have pondered my calling over the years I often gave thought to all those skill sets I have and wondered what path they were pointing to.  There were times when I considered mission as an obvious answer.  In the end, I think that more than anything they have equipped me to make connections with a great variety of people.  I am just as comfortable in a conversation with farmers and college professors, teens and ‘little old ladies.’  It is in this way that I believe I have been prepared to give pastoral care.  I may not be useful in the church kitchen, but I can talk with and coordinate with those who are.

So…here is to the phase, may we enjoy many more of them!