Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer 2014 / Old Women and Floral Dresses / A Cautionary Tale

When we were in Hawaii, I purchased some pretty, loose, floral dresses to wear on the beach and elsewhere in the hot, humid weather.  Everybody else was doing it, too, with the result that place had a lovely aura of femininity and celebration.

I really owned nothing like it from back home, where even the hot summer days are few and far between, and anyhow, my generation has worn nothing but jeans and t-shirts when relaxed.  My wardrobe investment was not too extensive, but this summer in Alberta was so hot that I could wear the dresses in the house and garden and feel the breeze you can get from a flowing dress.  Wearing them brought back memories of Hawaii and blessed my garden with a tropical sensation, although I am only growing the regular things, climatic zone 3 and under.  My most exotic plant was a new lily which bloomed large and pink and for quite some time.

Well, complete the picture with some new flat sandals from Costco.  They were Joseph Seibel and therefore a good solid footwear, quite flat.  Between the dresses, the sandals, the weight-loss, the garden and the breezes, I felt really happy, mobile and light.  Most of the summer went on like this, but I went bike-riding instead of walking, for exercise.  And Yoga class was out for the summer.

Well, the donkey on the ice, one day I decided that I needed to get back into dancing and aerobics.  I felt as light as a feather, I put on really raucous music and started dancing around the house barefoot.  Well, that did it.  I gave myself a heel spur pain that I have been nursing ever since.

Moral of the story:  you are no faerie any more.  Only do 50%, as my Egoscue Yoga teacher says. Or at least, wear some Birkenstocks, woman, with your floral dress, and look like a proper Bohemian.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer 2014 / Television Viewing

Over the last few years my television viewing had nosedived to about zero minutes per week.  I exaggerate only slightly.  There was practically nothing on television worth viewing, it seemed.  Sometimes I watched "Big Bang Theory" with my husband or the odd home improvement show, none of which particularly interested me.  All the various shoot-them-dead shows have never been to my taste, nor the CSI lab investigations.  It was after about year 2000, maybe, that as our television screens good bigger and bigger, the shows also got bloodier, and you could not turn on show without being assaulted by grisly murder and misdemeanors in your very own living room within about a minute or two.  I don't understand people who watch all this violence voluntarily.

We did see a few seasons of "Breaking Bad", of "The Wire", of what's-it-called biker gang in California, "Hell on Wheels", filmed in our own province, and so on, but honestly, after understanding the setting and the main characters and ideas, it just simply was all too horrible for me.  So, I turned to the internet, to CBC radio, to blogging and other bloggers.

Step in the BBC and Netflix.  It has occurred to me that practically all the shows I have enjoyed lately, were BBC productions found on Netflix pretty much exlusively.  And miracle upon miracle:  there are shows my husband and I both love and look forward to seeing TOGETHER!

There are documentaries on Afghanistan, on art and Shakespeare's plays, on Wagner's theatre in Bayreuth (my home turf). There is the newscasting, which could be more in depth and more varied, but the filming on scene is unsurpassed.  And then there are the Series, that you can binge on if you feel like it and watch absolutely no advertising while at it.  My husband has watched all of "Call the Midwife" with me, and now we are working through "Downton Abbey."

We are both drawn to the drama which tries to be either true to a biography or is a historical period piece.  In the shows I mentioned you can learn about the intricacies of the human heart, the problems among the rich or the poor, and how they resolve them realistically.  They give my husband and me something to talk about and let mellow in the brain fruitfully.  It really is a blessing bigger than could be imagined.   TV watching has become fun again, and we have to thank the Brits for it.  Sometimes I am glad that I swore allegiance to the Queen and her descendants, even though it is a strange thing for an immigrant to Canada to submit to.  Then there are also our favorite writers: Chesterton and Tolkien and Lewis, and so many others, that one can be really grateful to have acquired the English language.

Call me an Anglophile.   Only, they should have become proper Lutherans, confessing the Book of Concord.  It is not too late.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer 2014 / Who can think about anything else, this summer, besides the cruel violence perpetrated by Islamists in our day?

Some of this Saturday morning's readings:

I don't know who "" is, but some of the articles there are definitely worth reading and pondering.  The quality is variable, but some are daring and honest, all from within a Muslim point of view.

 I came across the site just mentioned while researching the Kaaba and its meaning in Islam.  The reason I began researching the Kaaba is interesting, too.  A woman my age from the small community I used to live in, in the country, had posted a link to some apocalyptic interpretations.  I was surprised, as I did not think that the woman had interest in apocalyptic themes.  To be quite honest, even I started thinking about Jesus prophesying in the Gospel of Matthew about the fleeing to the mountains, when the Yazidi's began to find refuge on Mt. Sinjar.  What could be more dramatic?  It rang a bell with me.  Still much worse, however, is a world-wide persecution of Christians on a scale previously unknown.  All the while, Christians and Yazidi's have been trying to live peaceful lives, and it is Shia and Sunni's at each others throats all the time, not to mention innumerable other factions, as the "" article bears out.

Which brings us to the point:  what is it about Muslims always being at each other's throats and what has the Kaaba to do with Muslim worship?  Is it not a thing?  Why bow down toward a thing when idolatry is so strictly forbidden?  Why do Shia's curse Sunni's in their mosques and Sunni's the Shia?  Why is America cursed in the mosque?  Why call cursing prayer?  Why do it in a house of worship?  How can this be religion?

What, though, once more, is the Kaaba?  Why could it matter so much?  It is an ancient place with a stone, possibly a meteorite, embedded in the central structure.  From reading about it, it seems that the meaning it holds for Muslims is that this is where Ishmael and Hagar were saved from death by God himself.  Anyhow, it is somehow connected to Ishmael.  They say that Ishmael could not have been an illegitimate son, because the prophet Abraham would not have committed an immoral act. Apparently, so we are told, the Kaaba is not an idolatrous worship of an ancient stone.  I think one could be forgiven for seeing it as such.  It parallels the worship toward Jerusalem, where the temple has been destroyed, as Jesus foretold, and all of this sort of thing has become irrelevant.

And to which we would have to say:  of course, Abraham could have made a mistake and why should it matter, now?  Why should Abraham's virtue matter now, and why should the lineage or the place matter?  Both Jews and Muslims have a skewed vision.  All the patriarchs had their flaws.  Moses was a murder and had lost his temper, nor was a decent orator.  Jacob played favorites among his wives and sons causing his own grief and that of others.  But God brought good out of all these weaknesses and follies. He worked with such messes as the best of us are.  God is the only hero and all prophets have clay feet.  We could go on.  So, yes, Abraham made a mistake, because he was not trusting firmly in the promise, and the son of promise is Isaac.  The Kaaba is set in juxtaposition to that.

But it need not be.

Both Jerusalem's temple mount and the Kaaba really are in juxtaposition to something else, to something better and higher, something that works for the modern day and all people.

In Christ, all believers, no matter nationality or genetics, are legitimate children of God and of Abraham, the father of the people who have faith.  As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:  it does not matter what mountain you worship on--only drink of the living water!  Confess your sins and trust in Christ, the Messiah, who is standing right in front of you.  She believed, too, and ran to tell her village;  she became a child of Abraham, too, that day, no matter what her lineage, and certainly, Christ was no respecter of such bloodlines.  Again and again he draws in the Samaritans and the women and other marginalized people.   It has all become irrelevant.  As we drink his blood, we are all his offspring.  We are born anew into an international body of followers.

Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Rome, Berlin, Tibet, New York, any promised land... IT DOES NOT MATTER ANYMORE.  Nor Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Sarah, Hagar... this desert or that, this oasis or that, this mountain or that, this plain or that, this season or that, this moon or that solstice... NONE of it matters.  Christ in all and through all.

The gate of heaven is here, where you live, at your local church who offers forgiveness and new life in the body of Christ.  Your brother and sister is the next person who believes in Jesus, no matter the tribe or race or color.   This is why Christians put up a cross.  It is not an idol to worship.  It reminds us of the living body of Christ who is among us and whose love is available to ALL of US.

There are two rocks.  There is the rock of the Kaaba, which speaks to pride and shame and who is good and who is bad.  And there is Christ, the rock, who speaks to forgiveness and love for each one of us.

There is the rock of the Kaaba who requires sacrifice.  And there is Christ, the rock, who gave himself as the ransom, so that we could live.

Matthew 11:28-30New International Version (NIV)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pictures: Heaven on Earth

“Whenever we enter the church and draw near to the heavenly mysteries, we ought to approach with all humility and fear, both because of the presence of the angelic powers and out of the reverence due to the sacred oblation; for as the Angels are said to have stood by the Lord’s body when it lay in the tomb, so we must believe that they are present in the celebration of the Mysteries of His most sacred Body at the time of consecration.”

~St. Bede the Venerable

Summer 2014 / Diet and Weight Loss

With all that is going on, I hardly want to mention it.  But I will soon  have lost 20 pounds.

This is a major triumph.

I have never binged and put on much at a time, but weight just kept on creeping up year after year, half pound by half pound, over the decades, and I could never get it off.  By now the BMI was quite out of line and the weight was making me very miserable.   I went back on a diet that has worked for me once before, that the staff had once introduced to our business, and all we girls were on, since nothing else seems to work.  It was the "Lean For Life" diet.  The books can be found on Amazon (see below).  There is a book for the weight-loss period, and there is a book for the maintenance afterward.  The latter is quite important as people have a tendency to return to old habits and put the weight back on.  The plan for maintenance is just as strict.  And I think this is what I need.

The most important part, aside from following all the rules and regulations of "Lean for Life" was to use the My Fitness Pal app.  I am probably the last person to find out about this, but it has been a revolutionary aid to me, as tracking becomes very accurate, easy, and really a snap.  The statistics provide the much-needed feedback which can fuel a full commitment to the goals.  I would say that the first step is to become thoroughly acquainted with the app. and to start tracking.  From there on, many things just fall into place.

What also helped was finding good and easy sources of protein for snacks.  I have eaten more cans of sardines, and found a decent protein bar at Costco that is not overloaded with carbohydrates.

My goal has been to stay under 1200 calories and under 100 carbs, a day.  I need to supplement several things including fibre.  At the moment I am in "metabolic adjustment" which means that for a period of time I try to eat more, in a very controlled way, and keep the weight the same.  So far so good.

Summer 2014 / For James Foley and his Mother

A Modern Crucifixion.  Glory and Shame. 

Another son is dead.

It happens to be a high profile case,
a murder, almost broadcast world-wide,
but we all know about it,
a martyrdom, it turns out, some say.

A true humanitarian, a man
of prayer and photography,
beloved by scores
is gone

...his mother a saint,
of steadfast vigils and rosaries,
of community involvement and charity.

I heard her speak
and I recognized her.
She was strong.
She was loving.
She was graceful.
She was carried by an invisible force.
With it,
she comforted the whole world.
She turned evil to good.
The shame became glory. 

She, too, will never be the same.
When she stops bleeding,
and comforting,
she will still bear the scars.
May the tormentors hide their faces,
and repent in dust and ashes.
Their glory is nothing but shame.

Psalm 130:4
"But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared."
Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer 2014 / The joy and the horror and the discoveries

What can we say about this summer?  The weather has been fantastic.  The garden is lush and productive.  And I marvel.  

I marvel at what grows.  Such is the fascination of the Canadian gardener.  You prepare the soil, finally, when all frost is past, you plant a tiny or not so tiny, yet completely unsuspecting looking seed--and from it grows the most unbelievable thing, a gorgeous flower, a lovely bush, a humongous zucchini plant producing for the whole neighborhood.  How is it possible that a little seed produces a zucchini plant?  The frond-like leaves?  The great yellow flowers?  The zucchini growing a mile a minute if you don't watch out!

It is a truly astonishing every-day miracle.  It takes my breath away because I planted those seeds and now I have a big plant and vegetables to eat.

And I think about the DNA that makes it all happen.  It is even so much smaller than the seed itself.  It contains all the information to make the zinnia and the zucchini. Information is everything.  You have DNA and you can have anything you want that lives, beautifully designed.  Without DNA you have dirt and only dirt.

And we think we are not known by God. He does know the hair on the head.  We think he does not hear us but all around me are communication waves.  If I had a radio, I could listen to my radio in the garden.  If I have my cell phone, I can receive things from the cell phone tower.  If I have my I-Pad I can receive things from the WiFi.  If I bring my Bluetooth speaker, and can receive things on its wavelength.  Everywhere there are waves, and everywhere waves can bring communication of information.  And God can hear my prayer.  Yes. ?  He made the zinnia.  He made the WiFi.  He made me.  Mindblowing.  Help my unbelief.

And also this summer, the horror in the Middle East and other places has occupied my mind.  Does God hear my prayer about that?  I don't want to go into it right now.  But the beauty of my garden and the Wifi in my garden and God in my garden--my prayer in the garden--it is dis-consonant. Life is so sad, also.  We wait and pray for that other garden, the garden where all is well and there are no more tears.  The garden where we are with the good God, and not with how many black-eyed virgins.  Lord have mercy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Belief is an idea gone bold

"Belief in Belief"

A short BBC radio program.  It shows us why modernism and post- modernism do not work.  I might listen to the speaker, Will Self, again some time.