Saturday, January 28, 2012

This week's theme ...

Several times this week I've found myself in conversations about prayer.

On Thursday night, our Remit Study group discussed the 20 Articles of Faith of the United Church and actually spent some time focused on the Article of Faith "On Prayer."

We discussed the calming effect of prayer, the power it has to offer hope, and the impact it has on our lives whether we're conscious of it or not.

Today when I signed into Facebook I found a prayer request from my cousin, asking for prayers for a friend of her's who is entering hospice and preparing to die from breast cancer ... it's a hard request to read and consider, and I have no doubt it is even harder to make. Yet, I have no qualms offering prayers for a too young woman I have never met, and for her circle of family and friends in this difficult time.

As I replied to the posting I got thinking about the place and power of prayer in our lives and our world, and the many ways in which prayer has left a legacy in my faith journey.

I thought about the Christmas Eve in Bella Coola when we gathered in prayer to pray for a community in the Southern US where a family had experienced a housefire and several little boys had tragically perished ... as we prayed on the remote west coast I would later learn that community prayed for us ... that year, we had two of our members dying of cancer (one, a young mom, would be gone before January rolled into February), and we had a community member home from the burn unit in Vancouver to spend the holidays with their family.

The journey home for that recovering burn victim was one of prayer too ... when his accident happened, I immediately put a prayer request out on the old ECUNET internet system that we used extensively at the time. I quickly received replies from ALL over the world. I remember one coming from a research station at the South Pole, and another from a small Norwegian village. It was TRULY remarkable to consider how many prayers were offered from ALL over the world - such is the strength of the digital mediums we have around us.

I had printed and shared each of the prayers as they came with the family, and they in turn read them over and over and over to their beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend ... in time, he himself would say tht his recovery was BECAUSE of the prayers from his family, his friends, his community and from countless strangers around the world who took time to pray and care.

Today, this young woman may be beyond a recovery of her physical body, but the gift of prayer offers much for those who accompany her on this journey. Prayer brings peace. Prayer brings comfort. Prayer brings strength and courage. And most of all, prayer brings the knowledge that we are never alone. In the moment when we are remembered in prayer, we are connected with the circle of humanity who care for and care about us, and we are reminded of our connection with God.

Prayer is a gift ... and this week I've been reminded of what a marvelous gift it is.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Random thoughts on a Thursday morning ....

From the "Things to make you go hmmmm ..." department:

- how do you know when Blue Cheese has gone bad?

- can sour cream really go bad?

- would the people who flip me the bird and tell me to 'f--- off!!' in front of my house when they are SPEEDING, come to Church and say the same thing to my face?

- why is EVERYONE getting tatoos and piercings to express their individuality?

- who was the first person to figure out how to successfully MAKE coffee and tea? (and WHY??)

- how have computers saved us time? and paper? and stress? (SERIOUSLY !!??)

- why do we spend so much time, energy and money to consult 'experts' from outside only to have them arrive and tell us what we ALREADY know? What ever happened to good old common sense?

- why do we worship and diefy celebrities, movie actors, and sports stars, only to react so harshly when they start to believe the press and act badly?

- why do we seek solace in shopping and rampant consumerism only to marvel at reality shows like "Hoarders" and "Storage Wars" where people are overwhelmed by too much stuff ?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teetering on the Edge ...

I typed the words "teetering on the edge" into a search engine and the first image that popped up was this one - from an article about a three foot wide wooden "road" being built in the Hunan province of China.

How apt? I thought ... it embraces much of what I have been thinking and reflecting lately.

The other day I read the article about the strike/lock out at the Caterpillar locomotive plant in London Ontario and how the corporation is asking workers to take a 50% reduction in wages and a roll back in benefits while the company itself is posting record profits, and has for the last few years been expanding.

The management has locked the workers out and has threatened to move the jobs south if the workers don't take the offer ... once again, good paying Canadian jobs are about to simply disappear so that companies can protect their bottom line and continue to ensure profits for the shareholders.

As I read these accounts - and there have been and continue to be many of them in our media, I can't help but wonder when we will reach the tipping point as a nation where there are two classes of people - the investors (the wealthy) and the part-time workers (the poor), with almost no one in between.

In recent days I've had within my circle of friends and family news of losing a job with limited and challenging prospects for the future, struggles to find affordable and adequate housing in a frightening market that is completely out of control, and the day to day struggles just to make ends meet and get through the day ... Taking a step back and reading the various media sources I consult on a regular basis, I hear these same concerns voiced across North America as people are finding themselves umemployed, over extended and facing a bleak future - ALL the while, our politicans and our pundits tell us the economy is rebounding and recovering.

Really?? The economy is recovering?? For WHO??

The only people who seem to be benefitting and enjoying a recovering economy are the wealthy and the investors who are happy that thier various portfolios are rebounding and posting profits. But for the workers who are suddenly out of jobs, and facing unemployment or WORSE, employment in part-time jobs with NO benefits, there is no solace, and no peace.

We may have thousands of NEW jobs, but every indication would tell us that those new jobs are a pale shadow of what they are replacing.

Where there were once good paying jobs with benefits and future in the many factories and plants across our country, now there are lower paying jobs with limited to no benefits and absolutely NO long term security. The owners of the plants are forever threatening to move these jobs off shore where cheaper workforces with eagerly take on the tasks of building the bits and pieces our consumerist culture erroneously values.

I've observed before that one is hard pressed to find domestically produced products and items, and I've wondered what the long term effects of this will be ... I fear we're standing on the brink of not only realizing, but experiencing the profound and devestating effects of this long term obsession with shopping, shopping, and shopping.

Cheaper is not necessarily better, and cheaper may have a HUGE long term effect beyond the few extra coins in our pockets at the end of the transaction.

Ballooning credit.

Limited job prospect.

Migrating business ventures.

Economic devestation.

The list goes on and on ... as I reflect on this, I think of an observation in one of the books on our global food supply that noted the $1.99 burger at the local fast food joint may be subsidized by various levels of Government through a HUGE diversity of programmes and public policies. If memory serves, the author suggested that that cheap two dollar burger may be costing the tax payers upwards of ten dollars when we factor in the subsidizes from field to table - all in the name of a cheap burger with questionable nurtitional and culinary value.

What if we stopped living the consumerist lifestyle that values cheap over quality?

What if we put people before profits?

What if we lived our lives mindful of what our the many effects our decision in the grocery store has from field to table?

What if we stopped valuing shopping over everything else, and instead began to address the hungry ache that permeates our lives and our culture?

What if we finally recognized that our economic system is not just broken, it is an utter disaster that is destroying communities, families and the lives of individuals?

What if we finally opened our eyes to the simple fact we are teetering over the brink, and if we don't rethink things SOON, we will plunge into an abyss from which recover may be extremely difficult if not impossible???

Regardless of what President Bush said after 9/11 - shopping and the consumerist lifestyle will not save us ... it will only help to drive us further into a bankruptcy of mind, body, spirit and economics that will leave us impoverished in ways that are simply unimaginable ...

It's time for the Church to step up and reclaim the voice that prophets like Bill Phipps and Walter Brueggemann have offered, and instead of whispering in the sanctuary, we need to shout it from the roof tops ... our society is broken ... it's time to fix it and bring the transformative healing that is part of our genetic material as the Body of Christ !!

Monday, January 23, 2012

With a gust of wind ...

The other day I went out to fill the bird feeders on the back deck and was amazed at the myriad of fragile bird prints in the freshly fallen snow. The tiny tree toed prints criss crossed the deck in around the spilled seed, leaving a tenuous reminder of who had been visiting the feeders.

I tried not to disturb them too much as I filled the feeders with more seed, then I started to examine the intricate little markings and realized the metaphor they offered ...

It has been a little over a year since Mom died ... and it will soon be a year since I lost my brother Scott. Along the way, I said my farewells to three other important friends in my life, and was left reeling at the sorrow and sadness that accompanied these successive passings.

On an intellectual and professional level I am very familiar and well versed in the many paths of grief. This left me in the position of being able to explain and understand what I was experiencing, but being unable to do much about it ... thankfully I have found support from a number of caring and wonderful people who have walked this journey with me as friend and family.

Yet, as I stood and looked at the tiny fragile prints in the newly fallen snow, I realized how much life is like them ...

One good gust of wind and they are altered or changed ... they are a thing of beauty, but their beauty comes from their fragility ... they leave an impression but can be gone in a breath ...

We want to leave an impression with our existence. I have numerous readings that celebrate this and offer suggestions on how to leave positive impressions on the people around us. But the harsh reality of our world says even the most profound impression is fleeting ...

We may touch the lives of our community, our family, our circle of friends ... but in a few years soon that impression, like the tiny foot prints in the snow, is gone and is nothing more than a vague memory ...

Today as I look out on my back deck. now wet and bare from the rain and warm temperatures, I can see that the snow and the prints are long gone ... yet, they remain with me as part of my memory.

Today I am reminded that life is a precious gift that is truly beautiful BECAUSE of its fragility, and because of that, we should and we MUST savour that fragile gift everyday, because we never know when a gust of wind might come and forever alter it ...