Monday, August 03, 2020
Since few of us our traveling by air these days, here's a little piece from the archives about clearing airport security.
I'm sitting at the gate, fully clothed and in my right mind, earlier than my normal wake up time. I've been up since I woke on my own at 4:40 am. While clearing the security screening, I was invited to choose full body scan or a pat down from a jovial salt-and-pepper haired woman about my age.
Psychologists say we need seven significant touches daily to stay mentally healthy so I picked the pat down. When I bumped into her later at the Tim Horton's coffee lineup, we chatted like old friends. Told her if the security thing didn't work out she could always consider massage therapy.
My bags were thoroughly hand-searched. The "one bag" restriction is in addition to a purse, a laptop, a camera and other personal items. I didn't bring the camera.
You can recognize the frequent flyers. One tidy roll-aboard. The resigned expression at security. The detachment from other passengers. The realization they have exchanged personal privacy for a tenuous level of pseudo security. High price to pay, IMO.
Next time I think I'll take a road trip. Wanna come?
Friday, May 22, 2020
"Unseen is not unknown."
In the past year, I have begun to see this prayer answered. One of the women whom God brought to our church wrote many original songs which were produced by a multi-congregational collective in two different genres. These are beautiful and transcendent.
Today marks another milestone in God's answer to my long-lived heart cry, as our church's music team have released their first collaborative song, which I've embedded below.
God knew. God worked. God brought all the people together to make this happen "in the fullness of time." His time. Not mine. His way. Not mine. His way may be unseen, but he is not unknown. As God's word promises, when we ask, believing... God will answer.
Take a listen, then share if you like what you hear. (Lyrics follow)
Unseen God (Lyrics)
Waiting, waiting is the hard part
Learning, learning to find where You are
You find me torn
As one less door gives way for me
I am willing, Spirit take me
Deeper into Your wind
This is mystery, this unveiling
Faith in the unseen God
Hoping, hoping it all goes alright
Living, living the stories you write
Come what may
I pray you make them beautiful
I am willing, Spirit take me
Deeper into Your wind
This is mystery, this unveiling
Faith in the unseen God
I tread anointed ground
Found in Your purpose now
Your Presence calms my fear
Unseen is not unknown
I am willing, Spirit take me
Deeper into Your wind
This is mystery, this unveiling
Faith in the unseen God
Unseen is not unknown
Songwriters: Odum Abekah, David Klob, Jayne Luy, Grace Young-Travis
© 2019 (Shared with permission)
Purchase on any platform: Link here
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
I don't normally share recipes, as I am definitely not a domestic guru. In fact, this is only the fourth time in the 15-year life of this blog. However, my dear friend Jean has been supplying me with Farmer's Sausage from an anonymous Saskatchewan source and shared this soup recipe with me. It tastes so much like my momma's hambone soup that I had to share. The secret is the depth of flavor drawn from the Peri Peri spices and the lemon juice, which adds a high back-note. The beauty of this soup is you can toss in any vegetables, but these are my go-to. Reduce quantities if you don't have freezer space for all the extra, but don't skimp on the spice!
Portuguese Kale Soup
(Makes 8 litres)
1 pkg Bacon (chop finely)
1 large Farmer’s sausage link (remove casing and crumble/chop to consistency of ground beef)
1 large onion (medium dice)
5 cloves garlic (minced)
6 large potatoes (peel, cut bite-size) or use a 1.5 lb (680g) bag of baby potatoes
5 carrots (cut into coins, peel optional)
1 28oz (796ml) can diced tomatoes (not drained)
2 cans 19 oz (540ml) can white kidney beans (drained)
2 bunches fresh kale (remove from stem, slice into thin ribbons or chop small)
4 32 oz (946ml) cartons chicken broth*
3 Tablespoons Peri-Peri Spice** (to taste)
2 tsp. Black Pepper (to taste)
2 bay leaves
Juice of one lemon
*I use Costco’s Kirkland brand organic chicken broth
**Peri-Peri is available at Superstore but I made my own from this link
- Heat a drizzle of oil in a large soup pot on medium-high heat
- Sauté onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes, if it gets too dry, add a bit of broth
- Add bacon and sausage, sauté until browned, stirring often
- Add potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, kidney beans and peri peri spice
- Stir to combine and sauté for 30-60 seconds.
- Add chicken broth and bay leaves, stir and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat and simmer for 15 min.
- Add kale. Stir to combine. Cook 5 minutes more.
- Remove from heat, remove bay leaves and add lemon juice, stir.
- Serve and enjoy. Great to freeze.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Though I am retired from paid work, there is a persistent (perhaps innate) sense that I have not, and will never be, retired from fulfilling my calling. This is different from being productive. Productivity is measurable, task based, checklist of duties and accomplishments. While productivity is good and necessary, being faithful to a calling does not necessarily see measurable results.
Being faithful to my calling does not mean
I will see measurable results. I must still be faithful.
In this seemingly interminable interim of isolation, quarantine, physical distancing, my time is occupied with basic tasks and simple diversions. The removal of normal social and recreational engagements has given opportunity for more contemplative time, reading and reflection. This is an in-between space, between What Was and What Will Be. A "normal" routine, if it ever returns, is likely to look different than before.
How should I then live?
This reflection from Oswald Chambers speaks into that question. I hope you find it helpful. It is from the YouVersion Bible App reading plan, "My Utmost for His Highest: 30 Day Edition" available here.
Is This True Of Me?
It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide. You may be more prosperous and successful from the world’s perspective, and will have more leisure time, if you never acknowledge the call of God. But once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God asks of you will always be there to prod you on to do His will. You will no longer be able to work for Him on the basis of common sense.
What do I count in my life as “dear to myself”? If I have not been seized by Jesus Christ and have not surrendered myself to Him, I will consider the time I decide to give God and my own ideas of service as dear. I will also consider my own life as “dear to myself.” But Paul said he considered his life dear so that he might fulfill the ministry he had received, and he refused to use his energy on anything else. This verse shows an almost noble annoyance by Paul at being asked to consider himself. He was absolutely indifferent to any consideration other than that of fulfilling the ministry he had received. Our ordinary and reasonable service to God may actually compete against our total surrender to Him. Our reasonable work is based on the following argument which we say to ourselves, “Remember how useful you are here, and think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.” That attitude chooses our own judgment, instead of Jesus Christ, to be our guide as to where we should go and where we could be used the most. Never consider whether or not you are of use—but always consider that “you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). You are His.
O Lord, by Your grace open my vision to You and Your infinite horizons, and take me into Your counsels regarding Your work in this place.
God is not limited by time or distance. Grace opens my heart to respond to the Spirit's prompting large and small to do now, the next thing, right in front of me, and leave the results to God.
Photo: Christmas Cactus Bloom at Easter
Credit: Personal collection
Text Design via WordSwag app
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Music and Lyrics by Gayle Salmond
adapted from The Lorica of St. Patrick
I bind unto myself today
The gift to call on the Trinity
The saving faith where I can say
Come three in one, oh one in three
Be above me,
as high as the noonday sun
Be below me,
the rock I set my feet upon
Be beside me,
the wind on my left and right
Be behind me, oh circle me
with Your truth and light
I bind unto myself today
The love of Angels and Seraphim
The prayers and prophesies of Saints
The words and deeds
of righteous men
God’s ear to hear me
God’s hand to guide me
God’s might to uphold me
God’s shield to hide me
Against all powers deceiving
Against my own unbelieving
Whether near or far
I bind unto myself today
The hope to rise
from the dust of earth
The songs of nature giving praise
To Father, Spirit, Living Word
Watch Steve Bell perform this song on YouTube.
I passed two women chatting in the grocery aisle last week. One had her son with her. He was, perhaps, ten years old. She was speaking angrily in catastrophic terms about the crisis. His face, I noticed was pale and strained.
For kids, it's important to remember if we aren't paying attention, they will draw their own conclusions without the maturity and experience to be able to discern what is real and what is imagined. Fear can be an overwhelming burden that expresses itself in stomach trouble, headaches, acting out and more.
Disclaimer: I'm not a mental health professional. I used to work in an elementary school. I raised one son of my own. I grew up with seven siblings in a busy family. I lost my first husband to mental health issues. So I have read and implemented a number of coping strategies. In my own growth journey, I continue to untangle and debunk a lifetime of fear-based lies I assumed as truth from my childhood experiences. While I had a caring family upbringing, it was a big family and being the youngest, I often was overlooked and heard things not meant for me. I gave these out of context remarks inappropriate meaning and import, misinterpreting them because I didn't have an adult perspective and the adults had no clue about what I was thinking and feeling.
So, I offer here a few suggestions you may find helpful in navigating this already challenging time. I want to especially highlight the simple but important blue section above for those of you who have kids. Let this be a springboard for your own ideas and research.
1. Reassure your child(ren) that they're safe.
This is not about just spewing platitudes and clichés to get past dealing with their Big Feelings. Hold your child, comfort them. Avoid unloading your own fears onto them. Look them in the eyes, speak kindly, promise your care, your presence, your help, your protection. Use words like "I'm here for you. I'm looking out for you and I'll do everything in my power to make sure you are safe." Then live it out!
2. Let them talk about their worries.
Affirm that you hear them. Don't discount what they're feeling or shame them by saying "You shouldn't feel that way." Use words like "I know it can be hard. These are really big feelings sometimes, when we're going through something brand new." Ask a simple question or two to draw them out, and listen carefully, rather than just talking at them or telling them facts. Get involved in a craft with them. When children are doing something with their hands, sometimes they can more easily talk about what's going on in their mind. Be available and be present.
3. Share your own coping skills (for starter ideas, see the yellow and green squares).
What works for you may not work for the kids you love. Try different strategies. Ask them what helps them calm down or solve problems. Explore the Understood website for solid advice on navigating this current Covid-19 crisis.
4. Limit their exposure.
And your own. Too much news, too much discussion, can be overwhelming and many news reports border on the dramatic and unusual, sometimes downright fear-mongering. The situation is changing every day. Screen the news by yourself (or just leave it off) and let your kids be kids.
5. Create and routine and structure.
Have regular mealtimes and bedtimes. Quiet times. Chores. Outdoor time. Baking. Board games. Yoga. Exercise. Game time. Make lists. Make "laughing a lot" the first goal. Here's one place to start informing yourself on how to create structure with children.
Like I said, I'm no expert and this is a small potpourri of a few small ways to make a difference. I'd love to know what you're doing and what works. Comment below.
Thursday, March 12, 2020
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
I used to enjoy photography. Capturing reality and beauty frame by frame, sharing it with the masses. Editing and post-processing like a boss in Lightroom and Photoshop. Then smart phones, filters, and Instagram came along and everyone’s a photographer, uploading an indiscriminate barrage of unedited, blurry images. Selfies ad nauseum and grotesque facial expressions. On purpose.
I used to enjoy singing. My first solo in front of a congregation at age three to people intrigued by a family with seven boys, and then one little girl. Competed in high school. Obtained my university degree in the discipline. Directed ensembles and choirs, and took groups across North America and Europe. I did my best, but as is true of all of life, there’s always someone better (and someone not as good). I am generally somewhere in the middle.
I used to enjoy games. Scrabble in particular. Always competitive, often triumphant, but finally realized ridiculously high game averages eventually didn’t hold a candle to nearly losing friends who didn’t like losing. (Who does, really?)
Running on the adrenalin of constant competition meant I was forever fearful of losing place, losing face, and it left me at loose ends, running on empty. Criticizing others became the rule of life. They just weren’t doing it the right way (my way). And yes, I realize there’s still an edge of that in this piece. What you may not see, is that, like many, I am most critical of myself. (That’s a whole other post.)
I’m pleased with what I’ve experienced and been able to accomplish, but now, well into my 63rd trip around the sun, it all begins to fade. The years reveal that winning, being the best, standing in the spotlight, only for the sake of ego? It is an empty well. A cracked cistern that can’t hold water.
I'm tired. Tired of sharing, tired of shouting, tired of needing everyone to look at me, listen to me. Tired of falling short. Tired of alienating others. As I look at the list: writing, photography, music, games… these are primarily hobbies. Only a few people are able to maintain successful careers in these fields and even they are continuously scrambling, marketing, striving. The rest of us do stuff we don’t enjoy from 8-5, then we fly and do what we love till the wee hours. Most never realize that dream of “Do what you love and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.” Because there are just some things that have to be done. Like eating and paying the hydro bill.
Now I’m retired and have more time but less energy to engage. The bills are paid. Most days I have no need to be seen. Prefer to stay home. New to the idea that wholeness isn’t about perfection, but rather an acceptance of all that I am: the healthy and the broken. I remain a strong witness to the fact that relationships trump everything, so I’d better keep them healthy.
Relationships require me to give and receive, collaborate and cooperate (not compete), realizing we have all been gifted with something to bring to the table. And it’s a very big table. Look at the one beside you and carefully cultivate. Listen. Ask questions. Draw out.
“Bigger, better, best” is no longer the measure. “Fight, flight, or freeze” is no longer the response, but rather in the years, days, or moments I have remaining, I’m leaning more toward “bend, tend and befriend.”
Bend my head and knees in prayer. Bend to lift another. Bend my ear to listen.
Tend my heart, my home, and my own business. Tend to my friendships.
Befriend the outcast and the incomplete parts of my own life.
This is the invitation to awaken to all of life.
This I shall enjoy.
Monday, January 27, 2020
Monday, January 27, 2020 is designated the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. In honour of their memory, and for so many more reasons, this article was written and published after my 2007 visit to Dachau.
Dachau: From Darkness to Lightby Joyce E. Rempel
Dachau – the significance of this name will never be erased from German history.
It stands for all concentration camps which the Nazis established in their territory.
~Dr. Eugen Kogon 
I rise early. It is the sixth day of our European tour. Sleep is impossible as I consider today’s destination: Dachau—the first Nazi death camp.
Haunting words invade my thoughts from a friend who first toured Dachau at age 18: “It left such a deep impression on my heart,” she reflects, “I struggled with sadness and despair for weeks afterward, when I realized how abhorrently evil human beings can be. I will never forget it.”
The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site draws over 700,000 visitors annually. It is the only camp to have existed throughout the entire twelve years of Nazi rule, 1933-1945. The Memorial Site opened as a place of political education in 1965 and opened an expanded documentary exhibition in 2003. The Memorial provides information about the history of the former concentration camp and addresses the horrors of the Nazi regime. It also serves as a cemetery for over 30,000 murdered prisoners.
Everyone is somber as we board the bus to Dachau. Our tour guide is German, married to an American, lives in France, holds a degree in Art History, speaks three languages; she is confident, humorous and articulate. Each day, she gives interpretive talks about upcoming destinations and their place in European history.
“You need to understand,” she begins grimly, “It is difficult for me to speak of this. All German school children are reminded about this black spot on our history. Every year we learn how Hitler took the best German qualities—efficiency, precision, pride—and exploited them for his own dark advantage; how he took nationalism to the extreme and made ethnocentrism an integral part of Nazi ideology. As we grow up hearing year after year of the atrocities our own people committed, shame about this part of our history overshadows any good that may have been present. Since WWII, we have abandoned any sense of patriotism or pride of country. Imagine growing up with this burden, this blemished heritage,” she urges, “and think about the natural biases and antagonism that surface.”
“Be honest,” she continues, “When you hear the word ‘German’ what is the first thing that enters your mind? Is it not the Holocaust?”
All of us are silent. Yes, Germany and the Holocaust are inexorably linked. Even my own German roots are a source of some indefinable discomfort. I am taken aback at the realization of my own prejudice as I reflect on the more recent whispers of those who fear a unified Germany. As if reading my thoughts, our guide pulls me back to reality.
“Make no mistake,” she concludes, “It was not just ‘a bad German gene’ that allowed Hitler to rise. Genocide can occur anywhere aggression is tolerated, an ethnic group is singled out or governing powers are allowed to rule unchecked.” (Note: this was in 2007)
* * * * * *
Huge, broad and barren, the gravelled hue of the camp blends with washtub gray clouds above. Overcast and sullen, the sky seems to cry with us at our visit, as if to wash away the spectre of death we are about to encounter.
Former prisoner, Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, describes the feeling in his memoir: “Something pitiless loomed over everything, something awful, something icy that was frightening.” 
My first stop is at the Visitor Centre to view a 20-minute documentary. The screening room is hot and crowded, standing room only. The film outlines conditions in the camps and a rule of terror by SS officers: forced labour, insufficient nutrition, medical experimentation, inhumane crowding, humiliation, intimidation, beatings, tree and pole hangings, torture and execution. The visual images and emotional impact are devastating. I feel completely overwhelmed and need to get outside but a large crowd of school children sweeps me along toward the Exhibition Hall. Heart pounding, I struggle against the flow and finally stumble out into the brooding light.
I wonder, along with death camp survivor Terrence Des Pres, “How much self-esteem can one maintain, how readily can one respond to the needs of another, if both stink, if both are caked with mud and feces?” 
Stepping into the first barrack, I imagine myself living in such conditions. The corridor is crowded with visitors and the pace is uncomfortably slow. An uncommon sense of claustrophobia begins to rise, so I escape through an early exit and head toward the far end of the compound. At this barren and crushing place, I crave the comfort of wide-open space.
Columns of tall trees line the centre pathway of the prisoners’ block. At least the prisoners had this small consolation of nature. Leaves to whisper in the dark night. Rough bark against which to lean in the few moments of daylight they treasured outside the barracks. Remnants of creation, testimony to life which will not be silenced.
Sharp rocks under foot ensure no grass grows on the pathway. Continuing to the far end of the camp, the site of the original crematorium now gives rise to three memorial chapels. Each one serves as an individual remembrance for Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Yet even here, the horror and anguish of the camp is integrated into each design.
At the Jewish Memorial Site, the structure slopes downward.
The entrance ramp is bounded on both sides by a sculpted barbed wire railing.
Inside burns Ner Tamid, the eternal light.
Central to the structure, a towering menorah rises through an opening in the roof,
stretching into the light like an arm reaching up for freedom.
Above the entrance, an engraved Psalm:
“Put them in fear, O Lord: that the nations may know themselves to be but men.”
The central position of the Catholic Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel and its open circular form symbolizes liberation from captivity by Christ. Suspended over the entrance is a crown of thorns.
On the back of the Christ Chapel, a plaque declares: “Here in Dachau every third victim was a Pole. One of every two Polish priests was martyred. Their holy memory is venerated by their fellow prisoners of the Polish clergy.”
I shudder, feeling besieged by the sheer numbers and move on to the Protestant Church of Reconciliation.
There are no right angles in the chapel, an intentional design in direct opposition to the dictated order and uniformity of the former camp. Steps lead down to a narrow, dark entrance that opens into a light interior courtyard. At the point where darkness and light meet, a steel gate is inscribed: “Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings.” 
Inside the church, the sculpture of a metal cross depicts a crushed person still rising up within. Another shows an angel supporting the dying.
Yes, represented here alongside the anguish is a small measure of comfort: divine support for those in whom no strength remains.
Leaving the memorials, I enter the respite of heavier green foliage and mature trees outside the original compound walls, a retreat formerly enjoyed only by the SS. On the way, I pass another small octagonal memorial, the Russian-Orthodox "Resurrection of our Lord" Chapel. Its main icon shows the resurrected Christ leading the camp inmates out of their barracks and through the gate held open by angels.
By now, it is nearly mid-day and the time for our departure is near, yet my steps slow on the path toward the gas chamber and crematoria. As much as I want to flee to the safety of our tour bus, I continue. I am walking in the steps of the prisoners; should I turn back now when I face the most difficult station?
I take deliberate deep breaths and step inside. The gas chambers are sterile and clean, resembling shower rooms. It is small consolation to learn that mass executions did not occur in the Dachau gas chambers because liberation came to the camp before they were in full service. Moving ahead, I can barely bring myself to look directly at the brick ovens. Many others stop; take photographs or gawk like voyeuristic tourists at a highway crash site.
Why do we memorialize a place such as Dachau? I wonder how one would display photos of death rooms. What is the attraction of preserving images that burden our sensibilities? Are there horrific places in the wider world, such as the death camps, that we should attempt to eliminate from our emotional memory? Why remember?
Historian Wolfgang Benz writes: “Remembering is an element of self-reflection, an element of identity, and, like forgetting, necessary for all human existence. Remembering forges self-confidence and peace, but remembering also torments and is painful. Nowhere does memory crystallize with more power and oppressive force than at those historical sites and places where the events shaping this very remembrance and determining memory occurred: the authentic sites of history.” 
In a documentary film, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum reveals they recently acquired a scrapbook containing selected personal photographs of Auschwitz SS officers relaxing off duty while hundreds of prisoners were being murdered only a short distance away. 
In the film, Becky Erbelding, Archivist of the Holocaust Museum, asserts, “We need the reminder that Nazis weren’t red-eyed, pointy-tooth monsters. They were people like you and I, whose society had gotten to a point that (murder) was morally acceptable behavior. That’s a very scary concept.”
Judy Cohen, Director of Photographic Collection, concurs: “When you see people who look like nice guys in a benign setting and we know for a fact they were doing monstrous things, then it raises all sorts of questions about man’s capacity for evil. In a different setting, would they still be monsters?”
Ms. Erbelding continues, “Because of all the overwhelming evidence of what we know was going on in (the camps), it makes it even more chilling that they are having so much fun doing it. It makes you think how people could come to this. They don’t look like monsters, they look like me. They look like my next-door neighbor. Is he capable of that? Am I?”
As I view the gas chambers and the crematoria, I am gripped at a deeper level, unable to de-personalize this vision of death. I imagine those perpetrating the crime. I can visualize my family, my best friend, myself—entering those showers and consumed by those flames. But could I visualize my family, my best friend, myself—as the ones who flip the switch? The possibility terrifies. The exit cannot come soon enough.
Behind the building, I seek solace on the quiet path wrapping around the burial sites of prisoners’ ashes. The Star of David marks the Jewish site. At the Christian site, a cross rises and I pause to reflect. The atrocities are unimaginable, yet the facts are clear: human beings committed these acts.
Do I understand how humans can be so abhorrently evil? Not at all. I am not certain I want to understand, but in condemning these vile actions, I dare not raise the self-righteous scales of comparative goodness and dismiss my own capacity for sin. Jesus himself explained to Nicodemus, an elite teacher of the Jewish law, that humans by nature choose darkness rather than accept God’s light. 
As I move toward the main camp gate on this gray day in July, just like my friend years earlier, I am profoundly shaken and anxious to escape. A few snap-happy tourists are trying to capture a photo of the gate before they enter. One holds the gate shut as I approach. They will have to retake their picture. Nothing will bar my exit to freedom.
The purpose of the Dachau memorial is to unite the living in their defense of peace and freedom and in reverence of human dignity.  The exhibition exists “to contribute to keeping humankind from repeating a similar disaster.”  It preserves and documents horrific atrocities of man. It also shows the hope and faith that enabled prisoners to survive the camps, to endure despite unspeakable acts. The exhibition declares the truth. It shines a light to dispel the darkness.
Dachau opens my eyes to the capacity of humanity for both evil and good. I see the documented facts and much of it is frightening; but I also see hope, endurance and redemption. Like the icon in the orthodox chapel, I am led through the gate into light, truth and freedom. My response? To remember; to unite with others to preserve peace, freedom and respect for human dignity. No prejudice. No silence. No genocide.