Thanksgiving – a four day journal.
Thankful for the witness of the Saints
It has been a very intense and interesting days around St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. On Thursday a dear parishioner, Valerie Chiesa died with her family by her side. Valerie has called this parish home for over 40 years. In that time she has loved, and been loved. Valerie has run the race and lived as disciple as much as she could. The last couple of years have not been easy as we have all watched our sweet Valerie slowly get lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s Disease. Gone are the days of watching her and Lee Paprosky sit together at the front of the church with so much glee. I loved the camaraderie that existed between Lee and Valerie and Minnie Heeley. I know that the next few days will be hard for her dear friends from 8 AM Church. Gone are the days of her tenderness and care for the community and for all who ministered in it. I will forever be grateful for the kindness that she always expressed to me and the love that she showed to me. Her family have been attentive to her needs and were with her to the last and they are to be commended for the love and attention that they showed their Mom. It is with sadness for our loss of her companionship that we prepare to say farewell on Tuesday morning at 10:30 AM. Yet, it is also with an air of gratitude and a feeling of hopefulness that we prepare for that day. While that may sound strange to some, it will sound familiar to the Christian pilgrims on a journey. We are a people of the resurrection and we must acknowledge what we profess about being a people of the resurrection.
Valerie’s journey began with her baptism, where she was signed with the sign of the cross and marked as Christ’s own forever. In her baptism, Valerie died to sin and death and darkness and was raised to new life, a life of light and hope and love – simply a life of discipleship. On her pilgrimage on this earth she did what she could to seek out and serve Christ in all persons and to love her neighbour as herself. She lived as a person who understood the resurrection and now we pray in thanksgiving for the gift that she was when she was with us and we commend her to God’s keeping –
Give Rest O Christ to Your servants with your Saints
where sorrow and pain are no more
neither sighing but life everlasting.
Thankful for the creative arts
Friday brought a wedding rehearsal and a night out! Ian (Alyce Sandie’s Son) and Jenn were married this weekend (I will have more to say about this later). After the rehearsal we went straight to the Capitol Theatre for a production of Les Miserable. [On a side note I am embarrassed to admit that in over eight years of living in this community I has NEVER been in the Capitol – I made my first trip in there on Friday while the place is officially “bankrupt and closed.” – Only opened, by a trustee for this performance. How embarrassing for me to have to admit that I unwittingly participated in the demise of the Capitol Theatre by never attending anything in it. Catherinanne and I were totally gob-smacked at what a wonderful facility it is – the place if really majestic and the Windsor Community needs to rally to keep this gem alive and well in our community.] That aside, the production was unbelievable and the performers were first rate – the leads in this could all perform on Broadway! I have never seen this wonderful period piece and was thrilled to take in the talent of youngsters from the Greater Windsor Area. I was most taken with the lyrics of Finale # 2 . Deeply spiritual, deeply moving, and deeply portrayed were these words;
Come with me where chains will never bind you
All your grief at last, at last behind you
Lord in Heaven, Look down on him in mercy.
Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory.
Take my hand and lead me to salvation
Take my love, for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person, is to see the face of God.
Do you hear the people sing lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light.
For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
I could not believe what was happening in me. As I heard the words my heart was filled with so much emotion – and for so many people. Valjean in his dying hour expresses that which we all would express – we want to be forgiven and we want to know love. Hearing these words set my mind on a journey. I was aware of Valerie and her family who too were thinking of salvation, of love, of farewell and of God. I journeyed to Newfoundland, to the bedside of little angels who I so wish that I could see, and how I wish that they could see me. I lived by their side for a few quick seconds in the warm glow of knowing that “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” I journeyed to the darkness of the many who have had to face impossible odds and despite the difficult nature of life have understood clearly that their “salvation,” their strength has rested in the gift of love – “love is everlasting.” Reflecting on this experience, I realize that the tears that flowed so freely were a reflection of the love that has been expressed to me – and the love I have tried to express to others. I am so grateful for that gift of love – “to love another person, is to see the face of God.” We are all struggling to climb to hat LIGHT. We see it is great glimpses as we are loved by those around us and as we offer our love to the world.
Having left the play we stopped into PHOG (Pronounced FOG) – a downtown hotspot. There Catherinanne and I sat with people who seems half our age (Scary) and listened to the music of an alternative rock group out of Toronto called Rock Plaza Central till nearly 1 AM. They were excellent – horns, trombones, accordions, mandolins, fiddles, drums, acoustic and electric guitars. What an eclectic and inspiring group of young and talented musicians. Again I found myself thankful -Thankful for an hour and a half, late at night, with my wife doing something that I would have to describe as spontaneous and uncharacteristic. The music was not just well done, the music was for me – very soothing. Playing on the blog here is their song “Things.” I think it will give you and idea of the depth of the songwriter’s talent. Having just been at Les Miserable it was a great juxtaposition of artistic talent. I am indeed thankful for the creative artistic energy that we find in this world.
Thankful for Children and their simply loving clarity.
I have Four stories to share here.
1. The first one comes from Ian and Jenn Sandie’s wedding. They had a wonderful day and Alyce (Ian’s Mom) was so beautiful and so proud and I was thrilled to be a part of such an important day. Getting to know Ian and Jenn has been a treat and I can see in Ian that his mother has poured a lot of love and care into this man and she has much to be proud of. One of Jenn’s children is Stephen – he is a wonderfully mannered young man of I will guess eight years of age. He has CP and to be truthful, he is so personable and so magnetic that the CP is an afterthought, not what defines him. Stephen gave a speech at the wedding that really melted the hearts of all who were there. In speaking of his new step Dad Ian, he offered this short, concise and profound speech – “I just want to say, that anyone in this room who is related to Ian – I want you to know you are all very lucky to have him.” I have sat through a lot of speeches at a lot of weddings, I have given many of them – I was so envious of this young man who was so able and so willing to share his feelings with others – and he communicated his feelings perfectly. I am so pleased that I met Stephen and I am so thankful for the love that I saw expressed in Alyce’s family and extended family. Thank you for including me.
2. This morning we celebrated Harvest Thanksgiving at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. One of my job was to offer the Children’s Focus. I have to admit that I felt like I did not have a lot this morning when it came to creativity for the kids. Turns out I did not need it! Enter young Bobby age 5. Bobby is still putting the pieces together having lost his Dad to a heart-attack suddenly this summer. The first thing that Bobby noticed was the font at the front. “Is someone gettin’ baptised? Who is it? Who’s gettin’ baptised Kevin?” Point one of my Children’s sermon becomes – Meet Mitchell who is becoming a member of the household of God today. OK – that seems to work for a minute or two – now on to Thanksgiving – I ask the question, or should I say, I lob them in and Bobby hits them out of the park. The pitch was – “Whose having Turkey Today?” Booby swings the bat – “I know a song about turkey!” “You want to sing it Bobby?” No encouragement necessary. Here is what I got! [To the tune of Frera Jaqua]
Mr. Turkey, Mr. Turkey
Run away, run away
If you are not careful
You will be a mouthful
I don’t need to say more Bobby stole the show! We chatted briefly about being thankful and responding but all I could think of all day was “if you’re not careful, you’ll be a mouthful.” Thank you Bobby for again reminding us of what Jesus meant when he said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them: for to such belongs the kingdom of God."
3. A Little later it was little Mitchell Hickson’s turn. This little baby came home from Oklahoma to be baptised and we are grateful to Becky and Bryan his parents for bringing him back. I was so moved by Mitchell. It turns out that while he was a little restless before it “was time” to be baptised, when the time came – he shone. Matchell loves water and he decided that if he was to be in my arms while I said some longwinded prayers after I had already baptised him, then he was going to play about in the font and splash as much as possible. He loved it and so did I! The abundance of God’s love poured out is hardly expressed well in a little bird bath of a font – Mitchell decided that we all needed to see the water that he was baptised in. We should see that the life giving waters of baptism are alive and they are not a small stagnate pool. Thank you Mitchell for stirring the waters of baptism today – may we all be as stirred as we live out our baptisms.
4. We went to London for dinner tonight and while there I listened to Catherinanne interact with her nieces and nephews. I had some calls to return and emails to answer and I was in another room as the children expressed their love in humour, in fun, and in being themselves. We do not get to see the children too often and when we do they always bring great joy to our hearts. I was impressed with Aunt Catherinanne’s expressions of love as I was with the children’s affectionate repartee with her. They sure do no how to make an Aunt and Uncle feel pretty special.
I am so thankful for so much today – words alone cannot express it – but God knows, as do all of you have read this long post, I have used a lot to try. I miss my family in Newfoundland today – what makes it easier is the multitude of goodness that I see around me. God is so good – I have been given great parents, wonderful siblings with wonderful children and grandchildren. I have a loving and compassionate and supportive wife and I appreciate her as a gift of God’s giving. I have a large caring and loving family of in-laws who have accepted me with all of my quirks. And I have an amazing parish that is teeming with hardworking, mission minded disciples who have cared for Catherinanne and I at every turn in our lives – We have an excellent mentor in Geoff Dibbs to whom we had to say farewell to today as he and Margaret get set to return to Arizona for the winter. We will miss them terribly and I do hope and pray that they know how loved and respected they are in this community. As I go to bed to rest I offer my thanks to God for all the goodness in my life. Even when it hurts – and sometimes it does hurt – I feel God’s presence.
Thank you God for all the children who in the last two days who in their joy and in their challenge have helped me give thanks to God today for the children that I could not hold, could not embrace and could not see. God is so good!