Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

Archive for the month “July, 2013”

A Pleasing Odour to the Lord

Almost 2 months into reading the Bible as part of the Bible in a Year challenge that the diocese of Edmonton has taken on for its centennial year. The dear one and I have finished 4 books of the Hebrew Testament, a third of the psalms and are into our third gospel. We are sticking with it, which in and of itself is a good thing.

How many of you have ever read all of Leviticus and Numbers? Like really read them, not just gone looking for something in particular. There are a lot of formulas for worship, sacrifice, daily living, what can or can’t be eaten, cleanness and uncleanness and on and on and on.

The phrase that stuck out for me was ‘A pleasing odour for the Lord‘. It sounds really nice doesn’t it. Then I got thinking about all those animals being sacrificed and all the blood being spattered  on the altar and on the priests and all the incense and all the flour being burnt up and I wondered what it must have smelled like. Not all that pleasant is what I came up with.. So that was a pleasing odour to the Lord? How does that relate to how I live as a Christian today? I am not sure at this moment it does, except I now know more about sacrificial practice then I ever thought I would want to know.

Not quite what the writers of Leviticus and Numbers meant but this sure was a pleasing odour to me recently.

Not quite what the writers of Leviticus and Numbers meant but this sure was a pleasing odour to me recently.

I am going to take back what I just wrote, in fact I do think has something to do with how I live as a Christian. It has to do with ritual, worship, relationships with my fellow human beings and ultimately with my relationship with God.

When my son was a little boy he had the most amazing bedtime ritual. It was between him, Pirate Bear (his favourite teddy) and either his father or me. This is how it would go:

Me: Good night

Son: Good night

Me: Good night

Pirate Bear (with son’s voice): Good night

Me: Don’t let the bedbugs

Son: bite

Me: and if they do

Son: beat them

Me: till they’re

Son: black and blue. (followed by some serious giggling at this point)

Me: Mahoo  (which is what we said in our family when blowing a kiss at the other person)

Son: Mahoo

Me: Mahoo

Pirate Bear: Mahoo

You have to understand that we did this every night from the time he was 3 years old, when he invented the ritual, until he was 8 0r 9. It was such a serious ritual that if a word was missed or one of us tried to rush it, we had to start all over from the beginning. It was also such a serious ritual that we had to teach it to his babysitters. The only reason that we both didn’t have to do it every night was the other parent was doing a much simplified ritual with our daughters.

Ritual is important. It is important to children and it is important to adults. The dear one and I have a morning ritual with our coffee, I bring him his coffee, he smiles and we share a tender moment. The morning doesn’t feel right if we don’t do this ritual.

On Sundays we do ritual, which we call worship. We sing hymns, we pray together, we break bread and share wine, we listen to God’s word – all ritual and mostly done the same way each week. It is important . It is how we acknowledge God’s presence in the midst of us. It is how we remember the stories of Jesus. It is how we strengthen ourselves for the upcoming week. It is how we reconnect with others on their journey of faith. It is what the Israelites were doing when they made all those sacrifices to God – they were doing ritual. They were and we are making a pleasing odour to the Lord.

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Pine Channel Pilgrimage

Every year On Eagles Wings takes teams of two to five people to remote northern communities to run a Vacation Bible School/Bible Camp for a week. These communities are scattered throughout the Northwest Territories, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. The volunteers come from both the United States and Canada. On Eagles Wings is an ecumenical ministry made up of Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and many others. They only ever go into a community if they have been invited by the church leadership of that community.

I was given the amazing privilege of joining their Executive Director, AnnE Zimmerman, to go to a remote community in northern Saskatchewan for the week of July 7-14. We flew up to Fond du Lac from Edmonton in the On Eagles Wings plane. On that plane was our luggage, sleeping bags, and all the craft supplies we were going to need. No running to the store if something was forgotten. Then we travelled from by boat to Pine Channel, which is an island in Lake Athabasca about an hour by boat from Fond du Lac. All in all in took us about 4 hours of travel from the time we left Edmonton to the time we got to Pine Channel. If you want to find out how the Bible Camp went check out my blog on The Community. The rest of this post I am going to share how I felt and what I learned while there.

On Eagles Wings Plane

Pine Channel is the holy gathering place where Dene from communities all around the area come to every year. Everyone set up their camps from one end of the island to the other. A new community was built and we became a part of it. This was a time of spiritual and social pilgrimage for all of us.

Pine Channel Pilgrimage

My time in Pine Channel was healing, invigorating, strengthening, fun, stretching of my faith, and so much more. I have not been as physically dirty as I was there for a really, really long time. That’s what limited electricity and no running water will do to you. In fact, I am still getting the dirt out of my toes. 🙂 That may have been too much information but that was also part of my experience at Pine Channel.

I didn’t realize when I said yes to AnnE to this trip that I was going on pilgrimage. That I was going to a holy place, a healing place. Many of you know my story of feeling abandoned by the church at a time when I really needed the church to be there for me. I hadn’t worked with children in the church directly for almost 3 years. That is the longest time of my adult life. It was heart breaking and in some ways so unnecessary. Last week I was with children from about 9 am to 11 pm each day. They wanted to share their stories, they wanted to show me what they had made, they wanted a hug, they wanted help in making something. They wanted me around and were grateful for the attention that I could bring them. They wanted to know that God loves them and God does. So much healing provided by so many younger people. I am full of gratitude, full of blessing and full of joy for this past week.

I went on a pilgrimage and I met God in the faces of the children, the faces of the elders, the faces of the priests, the face of my friend AnnE, the faces of the young people from London and in my own face.

My favourite photo from the whole week.

My favourite photo from the whole week.

I was asked if I would go back next year and I gave a definite yes! I fell in love all over again with children’s ministry. I remembered how much I love northern Canada. I had time to heal a really broken part of my soul. I met God in holy pilgrimage. Of course I said yes. Thank you AnnE, thank you Pine Channel, thank you all the new friends I made.

Painful Couple of Weeks

Image

I started this post while in the midst of a rheumatoid flare up, fortunately that has abated but I decided that I needed to share this with you anyway.

This has been a painful couple of weeks for me. I feel just like that red sad face in the midst of all those happy yellow faces. Like the rest of the world is enjoying life and I am left behind. Now I know this is not true and that there are many people who are in worse situations than mine but that is how I am feeling at the moment. As I have explained before I live with the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is in all the small joints of my hands and feet and I think now my elbows. When I am the middle of a flare, like now, my joints swell and cause the muscle tissue around it to hurt as well. It gets painful to walk and it gets painful to type (this post may take me a while). My hands also lose their grip on things and I get the dropsies.

It has been hard for me to think, to write or to plan anything. I have felt like a complete invalid and have felt mostly useless. It got me to realizing that pain is something that I have to work through everyday. This is not a new learning but it is one I seem to have to learn again and again. It is hard to work through pain and sometimes I just have to give in and let the pain be what it is. Other times I need to get medical help so that I can function. Sometimes you just need to break the pain with medications so that you can sleep and the inflammation can calm down.

I am not writing this to look for sympathy or care. The dear one, other family and friends give me lots of that. I am writing this as a way to share what many like me go through. RA is mostly a hidden condition. You can’t tell immediately that I have RA just by looking at me. You only know if I share that with you. It is like many other conditions that are mostly hidden.

RA has been with me for so much of my adult life that it has become my companion. A companion that has made me see the world with gentler eyes and pay attention to things that I never thought as a young adult I would pay attention to. Issues of accessibility – steps and stairs are hard when you are in the midst of a flare. Issues of work – how do you get it done when you are dealing with pain? Issues of appropriate medical care – I will never take for granted the good health care we have in Canada.  I am full of gratitude for having my eyes opened in this way. I wish that it didn’t have to happen because of this condition,  but it has and as I said RA is now my companion on this journey of my life.

Unless a cure or better managing drugs are found I know that I will live with pain for the rest of my life. It doesn’t stop me from smiling or enjoying the little things and the big things. It may put a crimp in my plans from time to time, but I will continue to be upbeat because that is who I am. I will take what I have and do the best with it that I can.

What do you live with that has changed your perspective on your life? How have you changed the way you live because of it?

Canada Day, my Mum and Me

This is one of my favourites of my Mum and I. Taken in England before we immigrated to Canada.

This is one of my favourites of my Mum and I. Taken in England before we immigrated to Canada.

Today is Canada Day – the day we celebrate the birth of our country. A really good day in many ways.

Today is also the anniversary of my Mum’s death, so today is day that has an edge of melancholy about it. I am not going to say much about this, just that I am full of gratitude for my Mum, for her ongoing presence in my life through her grandchildren (all 7 of them) and that days like today I am remembering her.

I am also grateful for this country called Canada – it is not perfect but it was a great place to grow up and to be an adult in. I am grateful to all those who have built this country and are continuing to do so.

So tonight with the dear one, I will raise a glass and give thanks for Canada and for my Mum.

Happy Canada Day everyone! Miss you Mum!

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