Such a long time

I started this blog when I was working in a position where I didn’t preach a sermon every Sunday morning. I’ve since left that church, moved with my family across the country, and in solo ministry. So all the musing I did before – I get to do on Sunday mornings. I’m also not currently “training” for a 5K – the “jog for vogs” stage of life.

But I still have thoughts that don’t make it into the sermons. Musings, wonderings, thinking out loud.

Walks with Benji the dog are when most of them happen. We live in a rural area, with a lot of trails around our neighbourhood. There are lots of other dog walkers – some of whom we greet and chat/sniff (depending on species). Others I try to avoid because Benji is what they call a “reactive” dog. He reacts. If he can say hello, approach the dog – no problems (he’s fairly submissive). But if he can’t get close, if I try to pull him away or the other human doesn’t want their dog near mine for a myriad of reasons, he barks and lunges like a wild thing.

Try getting people to believe “he’s actually really friendly” while my 60lb dog is barking and lunging. Fun times.

I digress.

Along the trails there are often little surprises – painted rocks or shells, fairy doors, fun things.

This week – it was St. Francis. I would have walked right by this little statue, sitting on the ground, in the crook between two trees. But Benji saw him, was really interested and sniffing around, and it pulled my attention to it. St. Francis, giving my “reactive”, pain-in-the-ass dog a little blessing. It made my day to see this little statue that someone tucked in here.

When I started this blog, I tag lined it “divinity and diapers” and even though my kiddos are long past the diaper and heading into the puberty stage, I think I’ll keep it. It’s a time to think about how to do this crazy, weird job of being a minister, a pastor, a priest – while being a mom, and walking our crazy dog. It gives me somewhere to put the narrative that runs through my extroverted brain.

How’s life with you?

It’s Alright – Easter sermon musing on a fave song.

Mother Mother is a west-coast band. From Quadra Island, between Vancouver Island and the mainland- just north of where we live now.

I’m currently obsessed with the song It’s Alright – and the video which makes me weep

I have the song on my running playlist because it’s got a fast tempo and makes me feel good to listen too – all good things when trying not to actually stop the forward momentum.

Because it’s the middle of Lent and my clergy-brain is filled with all things Holy Week and Easter, it has occurred to me that this might make the great basis of an Easter sermon…or if not for Easter, maybe another time. What if this is the message of Jesus. You’re alright, you’re ok, you’re not a monster, just human and you’ve made a few mistakes. You’re alright, you’re ok, you’re not a demon, there’s a reason that you’re acting this way.

Watch the video – look at the faces of these people – the ones who need to hear those words…can you see yourself there? Do you need to hear those words? I do – usually several times a day! Especially as a parent! What if this is the message that Jesus has for us – you’re ok, it’s going to be ok. You have made some mistakes, sure, but you aren’t a demon. You’re just human.

All these ordinary people needing to hear these words. Offering to say these words to someone having a rough time. It’s brilliant.

Listen to the bridge – “I don’t want to know who I am, cause heaven only knows what I’ll find…I don’t want to see what’s inside…I think that I would rather be blind…I don’t want to know that I’m not capable”. What if we knew, really knew in our hearts, that heaven really does know what’s inside, that God has seen the worst, the things that make us feel “gruesome”, and the message is “It’s alright. It’s ok. You’re not gruesome, just human”.

And you’re loved. Just as you are. Just loved into trying to better next time.

How would we live if we had that message?

Watch the video – what do you think? Easter sermon? Or just a fantastic running song?

Who will buy the Pink Shirts this time?

Today is Pink Shirt Day in Canada. 12 years ago, a boy wore a pink shirt to school, first day of Grade 9 – entry to high school. And he was bullied. Because, so it seems, only “homos” wore pink shirts, and to be a “homo” was wrong. Wrong enough for other boys to threaten this child with violence.

They were going to beat him up. Being perceived as gay was a reason to fear for his physical safety. This isn’t a new thing, is it? All of those who aren’t part of the majority have learned to hide in certain situations, haven’t we?

But this story had a different ending – 2 grade 12 boys decided this was wrong, bought 50 pink t-shirts and invited people who knew this was not ok to torment another person for not being the same as the people in power, to wear them. Pink Shirt Day was born.

The day the by-standers didn’t sit by, didn’t turn away, didn’t go along with it. But took a stand to support the vulnerable. It’s become anti-bullying day.

This year, Pink Shirt Day came the day after the United Methodists in the United States, a large, mainline denomination not too different from my own, made a public statement of its own. Gay people cannot be ordained into ministry. Same-sex weddings are not permitted in these churches.

Not quite the threat of being beaten up on the playground, but the message is exactly the same. Homos aren’t welcome here. In case I’ve gotten too complacent in my safe little bubble, the message has been received.

And I just want to weep. I want to sit down on my front step and just cry – seriously? With all the pain and poverty and violence in the world, why do you hate enough to spend your time shutting me and my kind out? Don’t you have better things to do, the things that Jesus did – feeding, healing, advocating, welcoming? Why be part of the haters?

My question is – who will buy the pink shirts this time? Where are the bystanders who will stand up and say “no” to the exclusion, and empower others to do the same? I’m tired of the permission that has been given to build a wall, be a racist, be a bully, led by our politicians and leaders – and bringing the racists, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists and all the other haters into the light, emboldened by the example that has been given. How many pink shirts do we need to buy, and who is going to wear them?

Pink Shirt Day – it’s a beginning, but only the amuse bouche. We have So. Much. Work. To. Do.

I’ll need an extra big cup of coffee today. And a whole lot of friends and allies dressed in all our rainbow colours to get through this day.

Different kind of office hours (aka culture shock)


This is my “office” view this afternoon.

This summer we moved from downtown Toronto – big city! – to rural Vancouver Island. I took a job as 75% minister to a church whose parish is a rural valley with 4 small towns within it.  The other 25%  is minister to the local United Church Camp. It’s new experiment – not a multi-point charge, not just “at camp” for the summer.  There’s lots of flexibility to figure out how and what is needed.

So I decided to have “office hours” at the camp, once a week. It is a huge bonus that both my daughters are here – one in daycare, one in after-school care.  But even without that bonus, how amazing to sit in this lovely hall, cozy on a cool fall day, with a latte (I picked up in town on the way here), my laptop and this amazing view.  Overlooking the lake, trees.  And right now, my child and the other older children, playing outside.

So if you are on Vancouver Island, swing by and come and see me.  We can talk about God, the Universe and everything.  Or just drink coffee and drink in the view.

It’s good for the soul.

Tenacity and faith

My new church, on Vancouver Island, has a gorgeous outdoor labyrinth, set in some old-growth trees, near a creek.  You enter it by walking through a lovely garden, filled with lavender


It’s not too far from the local high school, so when I walk it first thing in the morning, there is a little background noise of busses arriving, the school bell ringing, announcements asking people to report to the office.  At least one morning there was an exasperated announcement that the bell had rung, students, why are you all still in the hallway.

Still, it’s peaceful.  It’s beautiful.  It smells like cedar and pine trees.  Often there are crows perched high on a tree, talking away to each other – maybe to me.

It’s where I do my morning prayers.

This morning I was stopped in my tacks by a spider web. This little (ok, rather large) spider had strung her web beside the labyrinth.  She began on a branch about 6 feet in the air and strung an anchor line all the way to the ground.  She strung another anchor line to a branch about 5 feet away from the first, and even a little higher off the ground.  And there, at my eye level, she was working on her web.  I was mesmerized by her circuit around the web, adding in the inside lines, round and round, just like the circuits of the labyrinth I was walking.

I was struck by the ambition of a spider who would build such a huge web – the anchor lines are over 6 feet long!  The web itself was the size of a lunch plate.  But with ambition there is great risk.  It would only take a mammal walking by to bring her hard work down – a labyrinth walker who swung her arms.  Something walking on the ground – a rabbit, marmot, fox – any animal walking through this garden spot on its way to the creek or the woods. One largish animal not paying attention and all the work would be brought down.  But while it stands – it’s a fabulous spot to catch more flies than one largish spider could ever imagine feasting on!

Ambitious and risky.  Hard work that can be brought down by one thoughtless action.  Amazing beauty woven in silk, woven in circles.  I tried to take a picture of it, but spider webs aren’t easy to photograph.  I had to just stand there and experience the wonder, the amazement, the awe.

Kinda like faith, huh?

It’s ambitious.  Takes risk to build and work to maintain. Can only be experienced – possibly the feeling can be shared, but you can’t take a selfie with it. Often exists where there are no witnesses – the spider wasn’t building her web to be admired by the likes of me, but because that’s what she is built to do.  We are built to have faith, to participate with the Creator, but how many “saints”, how many “leaps of faith”, how many daring actions of faith and hope and trust happen every single day, with no-one to witness but the faithful and her Creator?

Can be brought down with thoughtless action of others.

But can be rebuilt over and over, if one dares to risk.  If one dares to be ambitious. If one puts the work in.

It’s a truly amazing web.  Probably one of many all over this little plot of land that I will never know about.  And I give thanks that for a brief moment, it wove it’s way into my morning prayers.

Thanks be to God for webs, spiders and faith.

Finally, the finale (of this challenge)

Well, we made it.  We crossed 5 provinces in 8 days, no need to stop at Best Buy in Regina (or anywhere else) for DVD players, and everyone still talking to each other.  The girls were allowed to listen music or audio books on our phones, with their own headphones for a couple of hours each day – it kept them entertained and we could listen to the music we wanted to here up front. One of my favourite moments was when C had her headphones on, but R was bored by hers.  Little R let out a plaintive “I miss my sister”. Who she’d been trapped in the car with for about 4 days at that point.

We had this grand plan to run in each of the provinces as we drove across – a goal, a challenge, a way to move bodies that had been sitting for hours.  And we did great through Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.  It was the smells that stay with me – the woods in Northern Ontario (and the swim in Lake Huron after to cool off).  The river in Winnipeg.  The sage in Saskatchewan.  And the ocean – oh, the smell of the ocean – in BC.

We didn’t run in Alberta, though. Somewhere outside of Calgary, things got misty.  And we kept hearing about the smoke from “the wildfires” on the news.  I kept asking the radio “where are the fires” – but surprisingly got no answer.

Until we got into the city.  It was smoke from the wildfires in BC. I was baffled – there was the Rocky Mountains between us. And the smoke was so thick we couldn’t see the mountains until we were driving through them.

Our first night in BC was in Golden.  There was ash on the car when we got up the next morning.  It was then I looked at the BC Wildfires Map.  My province, BC, is burning.


This is the Okanagan.

The north is in worse shape. The area where my parents’ home is, where spent so many summers, growing up, that my mum and dad bought shortly after they got married, where the house my dad built with his hands stands, is on evacuation alert. Fortunately my dad has moved into PG with my sister.  But most of their belongings are still there.We were lucky – although that side of the lake was on evacuation “alert”, but no order.  And even that has been removed now.  My province is burning – hectares of standing deadwood, thanks to the pine beetle infestation that has overrun this province for years now. Winters are no longer cold enough to kill it off – and the damage is done.

But it wasn’t until we had been in BC for 14 days before I could do the final run in the “run through 5 provinces” because even on southern Vancouver Island, the smoke was so thick that we are all coughing and wheezing and taking all kinds of medication.  Finally, though the smoke has cleared. After what has been called the second worst fire season in BC history.

So, this is the sad side of my welcome home, to the province I’ve been longing to return to for 2 decades – and it’s scary.  Climate change is real. And devastating.  And here.

But on a positive note – I ran in 4 of the 5 provinces!  I’m still not a fan of running, but it was a nice way to spend some intentional time in the environment of 4 very different parts of this amazing countries.

So – what should the next challenge be?  Because running will never be my favourite thing, and having a goal, a challenge, something to justify? makes it easier to do!


Running through 5 provinces

We’re moving west.

We sold our house, bought a new one (almost – still working out those bank details), packed everything we own into a moving van, stuffed the car so full we wondered how both children would fit in it, and we’re off.  From the largest city in Canada to a tiny town on Vancouver Island. I was telling a friend that we’re going from a city to a town where our house will be on septic and possibly a well – and he helpfully pointed out that we do, indeed, have indoor plumbing!

This has been my dream since I left Victoria, over 20 years ago to go to school.  I knew that I would be away for a while, but had no idea how long.  Or that I would be returning with a wife and 2 children, after having fallen in love with the big city. But it’s my chance to go home, and my wife and 2 children love me enough to embrace this adventure.  It’s my dream job – working 3/4 time in a church and 1/4 time in a camp.  It’s my home – between where I went to high school and where I went to University.  It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Like all the best adventures.

We are driving across the country – taking a few days to have a family holiday. And we have decided to make a little running challenge. Run in all 5 provinces from Ontario to BC.


I started in Blind River, Ontario. The best part of the run was being able to jump into Lake Huron afterward.

Sounds very grand and ambitious – but since I’ve been running my slow little shuffle only every so often, it will be 3-4 km for me, more for Beth who actually has kept it up. It’s kind of fun, but it will also be a good stress relief.  We’re driving 4,588km.

And I have declared there shall be no videos in the car.

We’ve downloaded some audio books for the girls.  Friends have been arriving with books and crafts and very thoughtful packages of activities the girls can do in the car. Everyone is very worried that we won’t survive without plugging in, but these 2 lively little girls have travelled to Grandma’s since they were very small, have driven all around England and Scotland with us last summer, are creative and engaging and we’re all used to the last hour of the drive all being completely squirrley. At least this time, there are no roundabouts and we drive on the correct side of the road!

But a run at each stop is a very good way to stay sane. And it’s fun to have a little challenge – although one that doesn’t involve shoes. If my math is right, if I run twice in Ontario (it’s that big) and once in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC, then I will run 15-20 km.  Out of 4,588. Well, at least it something.

We’ve done the first Ontario run, the next will hopefully be in Thunder Bay – because it does take several days to cross Ontario!

Wish us luck.




I made jam this weekend.  It’s not an unusual thing, my Facebook feed is filled with pictures of my preserving – jam, pickles, fruit in syrup.  I love preserving, taking fresh, locally grown food at the height of it’s own season, peeling, mixing, bubbling, pickling, water-bathing it until it becomes rows of beautifully coloured glass jars on the shelf.  There’s a rule that after the first taste of everything (because you have to taste it and make sure it’s as delicious as it looks and smells!), jars don’t get opened until January.  Because in January, the height of harvest is a memory and the “fresh” fruit in the grocery store has travelled through many time zones since it was actually fresh.

This year was different.  I don’t preserve as much these days because it’s time consuming and so are small children – of which I have two. And right now, we are in chaos. Crises. On two fronts.

It helps to remember that my girls are all happy, healthy, adjusted, well. ‘

But the crises is real.  On two fronts – my parent are aging, both have been unwell, the future is uncertain.  The woman who taught me the love of preserving, my mum, has a serious illness that isn’t getting better.  My mum, who taught me the love of food, the value of local, the beauty of those coloured jars; who had all the neighbourhood kids sitting on our front porch pitting cherries with this odd but oddly fun contraption; whom we teased when she said to go get a jar of “stoned plums” for dessert – isn’t eating because that’s how sick she is.

They live far away- 2 planes and a car ride away.  I don’t know if I should go and see them now, or wait – maybe things will get better, maybe they will get worse.  Do they need me now, will they need me more, later?  It’s been weeks of I’m flying out/I’m waiting and not knowing if either is the right choice.

And at the same time, we may be forced to move out of a house we love living in because of “circumstances beyond our control”.  Our security is threatened- we don’t know where we could go on such short notice that keeps our eldest in the school she’s thriving in, with the friends she’s made and the families we really like.  Not within our budgets, anyway.  The thought of uprooting our little girls yet again is heartbreaking. But we don’t know yet, we live in the uncertainty, which is the worst place to live – you can’t make plans if you just don’t know what’s going to happen.

It’s the not knowing what to do next that is so damn hard.

I walked around Costco chanting “I am the eye of the hurricane” to myself, trying to channel some inner peace of the present moment, and it helped.  At least in Costco (sorry to everyone whose toes may have inadvertently been run over).

So I made jam.  Peaches enthusiastically picked by my happy, healthy girls – the littlest one mostly loved being able to climb the ladders.  Blanch, peel, crush, simmer – the long boil, no added pectin.  Mixed with maple syrup and rum.  Becoming beautiful orange jars for the shelf – the only preserving I’ve done this year.

Like Jeremiah’s field. Symbols of trust in a future.  Jeremiah is the gloomy prophet, the “Weeping Prophet”.  Jerusalem is under siege from Babylon, and God tells Jeremiah to go and buy property there.  Who in their right mind would buy property that is about to be conquered and taken by a powerful king?  But God tells Jeremiah to do it, to trust that it will be there to live on that land.

Trust that no matter how chaotic and awful things feel now, there will be an ending that will be ok.  “It will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end”. I’m making jam, preserving the harvest, trusting that there will be the time when we open those jars of August gold and everything will be ok then. Not now, things aren’t ok now, but it won’t be like this forever.

My heart is breaking into so many pieces and no, jam won’t fix it, but in those jars is all my hope, prayers, trust that there will be a light in the darkness, if not now then soon.

So much to put into 6 little jars.  But it’s what I can do now.


***update, August 2018.  I wrote this post almost a year ago. I don’t know why I didn’t publish it more widely- too close to the heart, I guess.

In the year, my mum did indeed die.  February 23rd, after bravely fighting the battle with all her incredible strength. But cancer, well it’s a tough foe.

And we did lose the house we loved. People we thought were friends were fighting their own demons, I guess, and got ugly on us. We got almost 2 years in that home and made some great friends both on the block and in the school.

But doors open up. Pieces are falling into place. New opportunities and adventures showed up and we said “yes”.  So off we go.

The jam – it’s on the truck.  We’ll eat it on toast, as a toast to the next grand chapter. If you stop by our new home, I’ll break into a jar for you.

The next goal – and giving back

On Sunday morning, I got to wear The Shoes, and it was wonderful.  I preached a sermon  about this journey – and the support of everyone who cheered me on on this blog and in person.  Thanks to you all.

One last goal – and for something a little more important than even a pair of beautiful Fluevogs.   A 5K race, on October 22nd.  It’s a women’s run at Sunnybrook Park (near the hospital where my first baby was born!).  I’m going to get a bib with my name on it and I’m going to frame that sucker and probably put it up in my office as my beloved won’t let me hang it up in the living room. (She’ll be running too).

It’s a fun run, but there is an opportunity to raise money for POGO – Paediatric Oncology Group of Ontario.  It’s the group that came to that first born baby’s Kindergarten class last week, because one of her classmates has cancer.

So, if you’d like, you can pledge a few dollars and help me put money toward something a little (or a lot) self-indulgent than shoes.  This is the link.  You have to put in my last name and it will give you the prompts about how to pledge me.

Or not.  You’ve all cheered me on, gave me “likes”, made encouraging comments and fabulous playlist suggestions – and been my crowd of Witnesses that helped me reach a goal.  And for that, I am very thankful.


We’re looking for someone who might be willing to come cheer us on, while watching our little ones – and helping them yell “run, mummies, run” so if you’re in the city that day and have an hour or so on Saturday morning free, please let me know!