Yellow submarine: Faith in what we cannot see

For the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed my evening cup of hot herbal tea in a yellow submarine mug.

The submarine windows remain dark and wave-splashed when the mug is cold.

Yellow submarine mug with darkened windows.

But when I pour in boiling water, Paul McCartney miraculously appears and waves at me.

Yellow submarine mug with Paul McCartney

John, George and Ringo also make their presence known in other windows.

Yellow submarine mug with Ringo Starr

The Beatles stay hidden until I choose to create the right conditions to see them, and then I have to choose to celebrate and appreciate them.

The mug reminds me:

  • If I can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
  • When there is something to be revealed, the conditions have to be right.
  • Sometimes I have to make a choice to take action to make those conditions right.
  • And then I have to choose to notice, celebrate and appreciate.
  • I have to trust in what I can’t see as much as what I can.

Faith, hope, peace, joy, love surround me. If they begin to feel distant or elusive, I can pour some warmth on them and notice how they miraculously appear.

 

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Real Bethlehem, Story Bethlehem

Last year I gathered the a group of young Sunday school children into class. We sat in a circle on the floor on big cushy pillows and talked about the two stories of Christmas—the Luke version and the Matthew version. The kids ranged in age from 5 to 7, so we didn’t delve into deep philosophical discussions, but we talked about how two very different stories get smooshed into one. We told each one separately, and we told them as they are usually woven together.

Inevitably, our road led us to Bethlehem.

“Is Bethlehem a real place?” a girl asked.

“Yes, it is.”

Gobsmacked, she rocked back on her pillow. Her mouth dropped open. Other eyes around the room also regarded me curiously.

“What do people do there?”

“Well, they do a lot of the same things we do,” I said. “They get up, wash themselves, eat food, go to school if they’re lucky . . .”

The children digested this information. In the brief period of silence that followed, I watched a transition on their faces. Before the girl asked the question and I answered, we’d been living wholeheartedly in the land of story. Before she asked and I answered, we’d been thinking about what the stories meant.

Then we crashed to earth. The minute I told them Bethlehem was real, their brains began to tick. They moved from the teaching wonder of story to literal dissection. “If Bethlehem is real,” they were thinking, “then how could all that other stuff really have happened?”

Inwardly I sighed. One second we’d been pondering possibilities and thinking about how two stories from thousands of years ago could help us live our lives today, and then—boom—we stumbled into analysis.

It’s not my place to tell them what to believe or not believe. My job is to present them with the stories handed down to us and start the discussion so they can work through it themselves over the course of their lives. I couldn’t (and most certainly wouldn’t) tell them that two different, often contradictory stories, are factually true. I couldn’t (and most certainly wouldn’t) tell them those same stories aren’t true in their own way.

“Oh yes, Bethlehem is real,” I carried on, “but let’s talk about what we can learn from these stories.”

Real Bethlehem, Story Bethlehem. Starting points for contemplation.

Story Bethlehem

I want to live like Jane too

Seven years ago I wrote a post entitled I want to live like Alex. It was a tribute to a man I admired. Last week Alex’s wife, Jane, died and over the past week I have found myself thinking, “I want to live like Jane too.” They were a twosome in so much of the good they did in the world. Together the quiet but powerful pair took action instead of waiting for others to take care of things, they spoke up even when it wasn’t the popular option, and they fulfilled needs.

She died on her ninety-third birthday and, like her husband before her, it was standing-room-only at her celebration of life. Like her husband before her, the church filled with an overflowing multi-faith, multi-generational, multi-cultural assembly of people whose lives she had touched.

All those people were there because, if the world were full of Jane McKeagues, the world would be a peaceful, joyful, love-filled, strong, just place.

If I lived like Jane, I would greet everyone, always, with a big smile and make each person feel that he or she was the most important person in the room. I would travel often and engage in spontaneous, curiosity-driven conversations with people to get to know them and to get to know what I could do to help them. I would speak truths quietly so as to engage, not offend.

If I lived like Jane, I would embrace reading aloud to enrich the experience of books. I would think deeply about what I have read and lived, and I would tell stories to inspire people. I would speak when necessary, but only with the fewest number of the most impactful words.

If I lived like Jane, I would tell people how grateful I am for their friendship. I would challenge my body, my mind and my spirit throughout my whole life. I would honour myself, but care for my family with deep devotion they never doubt.

People have been known to ask “What would Alex do?” when faced with a difficult situation. Now they ask “What would Jane do?”

Because we want to live like Jane too.


Please read my other Alex and Jane stories and be inspired!

I want to live like Alex

Seeing the mountain

 

 

 

Thank you: Fair and softly goes far

From the Charter for Compassion Facebook page:

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We feel the influence of the United States of America here in Canada. When “sleeping with an elephant,” as former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it, we cannot help but feel the effects. Sometimes the association challenges us—the past year has been eyebrow-raising to say the least—but most often we celebrate the gifts of the mighty nation. Like this week, for example. Even though our Canadian Thanksgiving is long past, this week we sense the American time of gratitude. Knowing that our friends to the south are taking time to be thankful reminds us to seek it out ourselves.

We practised a “heart of the matter” form of gratitude in our house during the period within our kitchen renovation when the sink had no running water. Inconvenient, right? You betcha. But when we walked the ten feet to one of the FOUR bathrooms in our house to turn on a tap to access CLEAN, ACCESSIBLE water effortlessly, we said to ourselves, “We didn’t have to walk for miles with a bucket to fetch water that might or might not be potable.” Gratitude for the ease with which we accessed a substance so vital to survival made the inconvenience of doing dishes in a small sink something to celebrate, not resent.

Gratitude brings joy, for sure, but the real gift of gratitude is its bridge to perseverance, its ability to help you go far in celebration instead of resentment. It places you in a Now that allows you to make it to the next Now, and the next, and the next . . .

Now, America, fair and softly, thank you. Now, now, now . . .

Meals to remember

If we’re lucky, we eat three meals a day. Most of them routine, not special in any way. A piece of toast for breakfast. A salad from the deli for lunch. The old family recipe tuna casserole for dinner.

But can you bring to mind a meal you will never forget? A dinner that stands out in your mind as special and unforgettable because of some atmosphere, or circumstance, or food that imprinted the experience for life?

My number one memorable meal happened during my honeymoon.

Before our marriage we often listened to an audio cassette (this was the 1980s) a friend of ours had brought as a gift from South American travels. We loved the wooden pan flute music of the band, Akary.

One evening during our honeymoon we dined at a restaurant high on a Puerta Vallarta mountainside. We ate Chateaubriand and drank wine on a balcony overlooking the ocean. As we watched the sun set over the ocean, the familiar sound of wooden pan flutes wafted up through the jungle trees. Akary. Unmistakably. We finished our wine and wandered down the cobblestone road to an outdoor café where the band was performing live. We could not believe the coincidence or the magical good luck. The memory of the music floating around us through the tropical air still gives me goosebumps.

Enjoying the Mexican sunset to the sound of wooden pan flute, 1989.

Magic can happen at home too.

A few years ago a group of close friends decided at the last minute to pull together a pot luck meal. Each person contributed something different. I don’t remember the specifics of the food, but I do remember how all the flavours blended together as if we had planned it, how the atmosphere in our candlelit sunroom matched the circumstances perfectly, how our long-term, comfortable friendship felt just right.

When I look back at the special meals that stick with me, in every case the event was unplanned. As if the magic needed the spontaneity to make it happen.

What are your memorable meals?

 

 

Loved, just the way you are

The message above is from the Wall of Encouragement at my church, a place for people to place or take messages of encouragement.

Today, the Wall of Encouragement “encouraged” me to let you know that you are loved the way you are.

Just ’cause.

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