Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

August 31, 2002 was also a Saturday, as it happens that is the last time August 31 was a Saturday, what with the vagaries of leap years and all.

ANd that day happened to be our wedding day.  Well wedding evening technically since the ceremony was at 7 in the evening.  We did pictures first  (because who wants to do wedding pictures at 8 in the evening) at a park in Thunder Bay.  It was somewhat windy (blowing a gale as I remember) up on the hill. which make pictures a challenge when one of you is wearing a veil.  It needs to be held down somehow...
personal veil weight at your service

And then when you start pictures at 5 and aren't having anything except sandwiches and squares after the wedding you need a bit of a snack in between...
yes that IS an apron being worn as a bib

This actually wasn't the picture we were looking for last night.  Our memory was one of Patty leaning over to avoid dripping on herself (which would be a very common event) and in mid-bite, this seems to have been taken right after that.  SO we think our memories are a little bit hazy as to when pictures were taken.

And one more picture...from the cutting of the cake...

11 years and still putting up with me?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Firsts

As the RGBP site prepares to migrate to a new home, I thought I would play teh Friday 5 (while trying to set up a "new" desktop in the den).  This week is about firsts...
Your first "place" - whether it was an apartment, dorm room, or home with a new spouse, the first place where you really felt like a grown-up:  Well it wasn't the first place I paid rent at but I think it feels like my first "real" place because it was the first place I went apart from a temporary residence for the school year.  A bachelor apartment just a few blocks from where I was working at the time.  And as it happens, I was going through old pictures last night and found some pictures of it:

Your first time away from home. Construe this any way you want. College? Girl Scout Camp? Study Abroad? As with many of us there are several of these.  I think I will go with my first year in Seminary, 1992-93.  Lived in a dark basement suite and really did not like it.  (In hindsight there was other stuff happening in my psyche that may have been augmented by teh darkness of the basement suite).

Your first job in your field of endeavor (so, not babysitting, unless you are A Professional Babysitter today): How does one define the first job in ministry?  My first charge?  My first internship? My work at Kids Kottage (which would match the apartment answer above)?  All possibles but I am going with my work at Camp Maskepetoon.  My first summer on staff there was 1989.  And arguably without going there I would not be here now.

Your first time hosting. Again, construed broadly, this could be a dinner for the in-laws, your first time to have guests for a holiday meal, etc. During my first year at seminary our class developed a pattern of taking turns hosting class gatherings.  There were 3 of us who lived in basemen suites that had no space for hosting such a gathering.  And so we compromised.  We "borrowed" the home of one classmate and we provided the wine and cheese for the gathering as the official hosts.

Your first love.That can be a person or something else!!  I am going with not my first love but my first crush.  I was in grade 4, her name was Evelyn, we had been classmates since grade 1.  And I thought she was great.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Down TIme

This is a Newspaper Column for the end of September...

I made a mistake this summer. OK, to be honest I probably made many mistakes this summer. But there is one I made, one I constantly make, that I really know I shouldn't.

I checked my e-mail.

More specifically, while I was on holidays I repeatedly checked my work e-mail (sometimes everyday). Even though I know that there is no real need to do so (and very good reasons to NOT do so), I routinely check my work e-mail when I am on study leave or vacation. And I have to stop it. Because Down Time is mandatory for my health, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you...Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

There it is, right in the “Big 10”, the commandment to take down time. Because we aren't slaves and we can choose, we are to take down time. In the words I skipped to conserve space we are also told to ensure that those around us have the chance to take it as well. Down Time is important. So why don't we take it?

 I am sure I am not the only person in town who has trouble fully separating from the workplace on my day off or on my vacation time. It is just so EASY to say “well I'll just quickly check my e-mail” (or voice mail), or “swing by” on the way to something else. The gift of modern communication is that we can always be in touch. The curse of modern technology is that we can always be in touch. Are we becoming enslaved by the ease of having work with us whenever we want?

The problem, for me, with those little contact points is that I never fully find myself “off”. I check e-mail on vacation and I make myself think about work. So I don't get the break that is intended and I don't get the refreshment I need. And who suffers?

Well without that down time, without that break for refreshment, my energy level sinks lower. I may feel it physically. I may become more short-tempered (just ask my family). I may not be able to focus well. I may start to feel drained, that the reserves are gone. I may start, unconsciously, to feel resentful. And how can I perform well at my tasks (whatever those tasks may be) if I am exhausted?

This is not what God wants for us. God wants us to live balanced lives. Which, I believe, is why God commands that there be down time in the rhythm of our lives. Not for God's benefit. For ours. Jewish thought is clear that the commandments in Torah are a gift from God. The commandment to rest is a gift from God.

When the people of Israel were slaves they could not choose whether to rest or not. Are we slaves or can we choose?

Can we choose to shut off the cell phones, to not click on the webmail link,to not check the voice mail? Can we choose that for a day or a week or longer we will not work, not talk about work, not think about work (admittedly for some of us that last one is REALLY hard)? Can we choose to take down time? Well yes, we can. Maybe the real question is will we? Maybe the choice is not so much if we have the option (as any moral employer will ensure we have the option of taking down time – and the really good ones will encourage us to do so) but actually letting/making ourselves do it.

God knows that we are not meant to be “on” all the time, so God instructs us to take down time. Somehow it has become a status symbol in come circles to brag about working all the time, about always keeping in touch with the workplace. Somehow we have bought into the idea that we always have to be productive or else we are “wasting” time.

God knows that to truly be productive we have to have time where we are not being productive. God knows that few of us are so important or irreplaceable or wise that our workplace will sink if we are gone for a while. God knows that we need a break. God wants us to be physically, mentally emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Taking Sabbath Time, or Down Time is a big part of how we care for our health.

Do we have the wisdom to listen to God's call for Sabbath?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sacred Places.......

 What makes a place Sacred?  What makes it holy?  Why does it get set apart?

Every continent has sacred places.  Every major religion has sacred places.  This link has a selection of images, this one is divided by country.  In the case of Christianity, I work on the presumption that many Christian sacred places (particularly in Europe) were sacred places for the old religions and then got "baptized" as Christianity took over -- Glastonbury comes to mind as an example. 

Sometimes Sacred Places have buildings on them, or the sacred place is in fact the building.  Sometimes they are natural spaces that have never had anything built on them.  Sometimes there is no building but humans have put a marker of some sort (Stonehenge or Native American Medicine wheels for example).  But there is something about a sacred place.

My Celtic ancestors used to talk about the thin place, which I understand as another way to describe a sacred place.  They are places where the Divine just feels more present than other places.  When enough people feel that a place is "thin" then it becomes more widely known and described as such.

But I think sacred places go far beyond the ones that have been culturally recognized.  I believe that we all have our sacred places.  We share some of them with others and for some they are only special to us, a closely guarded secret we hold in our hearts.

I visited three of my sacred places this summer.  As it happens two are on the same lake.

One is Rundle's Mission, a place that has had special meaning for me for approximately 40 years now.  As I was growing up we had congregational camp weekends at that place once or twice a year.  Over the years it became a very homey place to go.  When I am there, when I have time to wander around, I find peace, I know that I am with the Divine One.  I can't define it, but it is a thin place for me.
I have introduced the girls to it.  I know it will likely never be as special to them as it is to me.  They just don't have the history.  But I can tell them the stories.

Another is Camp Maskepetoon.  Just down the lake from Rundle's, a nice walk takes you from one place to another (indeed sometimes we would walk down to Rundle's from Camp--one year we took the whole camp down the road for a picnic).  I went there 3 times as a camper (1978, 1980, 1981).  But it really became special to me as a young adult.  I applied to be summer staff at the end of my 2nd year of university, got the job, and caught the bug.  Over the next 10 years I would end up being on staff for 5 summers and spend 3 years on the board (during those 3 summers I spent most of my days off out at the lake).  A holy and special place indeed.  It was there that I first felt what became known to me as the call to ministry.  It was there that I started to develop my adult spiritual self.  Without that place I would not be the person I am today.  When I go there I feel God.
And this one the girls, at least the older two who have gone as campers, have started to share with me.

The third is the church of my childhood.  Well technically now it is the sanctuary of my teens and young adult years, the sanctuary of my childhood has long since been redone, changed into the Friendship Hall as part of the 1983/4 expansion--and I have no picture of it as it once was.  This is the congregation that nurtured me, that helped/watched me grow.  We started attending there when I was 2.  There I started teaching Sunday School, there I learned what it meant to be church (both positive and negative).

When I am there for worship, as I do most times I am in town on a Sunday (or a Wednesday in the summer) I feel at home.  Yes the congregation has changed much in the 20 years since I was an active part of its life.  But still I am home.  And God is there with me.

Of course there are many other places.  Cemeteries (pretty much ANY cemetery) are a thin place for me.  I can spend hours wandering around looking at headstones and drinking in the ambiance.  And the odd thing is that some places can be "thin" one day and not the next.  So it is sometimes hard to know what makes it thin. 

What are your sacred places?  Why are they holy?  What makes them special?