Giving Thanks: When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

As we approach the celebration of our Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, we recognise that we Canadians have much for which to be thankful. This is good.  Studies have been done, for example, that show that when you express thankfulness, you also bolster your own self-worth and self-esteem. It also helps you to build friendships and strengthen existing ones.

The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, Robert Emmons, defines gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” This weekend, therefore, I invite you to give God thanks for all the blessings you enjoy in life. Think also of others who have not been so blessed and find ways to help them. Remember: gratitude is something that not only blesses the person being thanked; it also blesses the one who offers gratitude.

I leave you with an old reflection that you have likely read many times before, but which still packs a powerful punch:

  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator and I immediately wanted to paint another one.–  When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favourite cake for me and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

    — When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favourite cake for me and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel well and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s alright to cry.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned most of life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, ‘Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.’

 

 

“ReDesigning Retirement” — Clergy from Western Ontario Waterways, Horseshoe Falls and Antler River Watershed regions are invited to join in this special day away at Five Oaks!

“ReDesigning Retirement: A Practical Spirituality for the Second Half of Life”

I am very excited to be able to offer this one day workshop for our clergy who are nearing retirement, as well as those who have already retired! Please join me and colleagues Rev. Kevin Steeper and Rev. Ann Corbet for this special day in this beautiful, peaceful setting near Paris, Ontario!

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019

10-4 pm

Five Oaks Retreat Centre, Paris, Ontario

This is a study day for clergy in the WOW, HF and ARW regions.

Come and enjoy a day of reflection, silence and fellowship in the

beautiful space of Five Oaks.

Cost: $40.00 per person and this includes lunch

Copies of my book, “Re-Designing Your Life”,  will be available

at the cost of $20.00.

Registration: Please contact Ruthanna Mack at RMack@united-church.ca

 

Friendship: A gift to those suffering from poor mental health

Yesterday I listened to a CBC interview with a Toronto psychiatrist who was being asked how strangers can be helpful in preventing suicides on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). Sometimes a kind, friendly word — a bit of small talk — can be the difference between someone jumping to their death on the subway tracks and saving a life.

There is solid evidence to show that depression increases for Canadian men and women after the age of 65. Plus there is an increased of risk of suicide for men in the final third of life. For those of us with family and friends experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, it is important to encourage them to get medical help and counselling. But there is another gift we can offer those suffering from poor mental health: friendship. In fact, David Bieble and Harold Koenig assert that “healing…can only occur within the context of supportive relationships.” (New Light on Depression.)

University of Aberdeen Professor of Theology John Swinton looks to Jesus as the model for the kind of friendship that is needed. When we observe the friendships of Jesus the primary thing we notice is his ability to see the whole person, the person behind the sickness. The first thing he does after healing someone is to send them back to their family and their community. Jesus knows that true healing depends to a large degree on being in relationship with others. People who are hurting don’t just need doctors and counsellors. They also need friends who will listen to them.

While committed friendship is never a substitute for medication and psychotherapy treatments, it can greatly aid in the recovery process. Offering a kind word, sitting with someone through a difficult time,  listening to their concerns, and just being there for them is what friends do. Indeed, sharing a coffee and engaging in a bit of small talk, can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Tips for Grandparents Seeking to have a Relationship with their Grandchildren when Family Members Are Estranged

Someone has said that “All that children need today is access to the internet and a grandparent!” There is much wisdom in this statement, especially the second part of this statement. Spending time with grandparents has been shown to be highly beneficial and very therapeutic both to the children and the grandparents. Often it is the grandparents who serve as the link between Church and the younger generations. Certainly grandparents are in a unique position to pass on their legacy of family stories, faith and values.

But what happens when couples split and children must divide their time between each parent and two separate homes? Whenever I speak with the grandparents whose children have undergone a divorce, one of the most common complaints is that they no longer get to see their grandchildren that often. And that’s sad!

This is why a recent article from Next Avenue caught my eye. The article offers some excellent guidelines on how to maintain a relationship with grandchildren amid estrangement. Check it out!

The Freedom and Opportunity of Menopause — Living Fully in the Afternoon of Life

Someone asked me the other day what was the best part of my summer holidays and I said, “Oh, that’s an easy one! It was connecting with friends who go way, way back — back to childhood, back to high school, back to my university and seminary days.” Connecting with family and friends across Canada, in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. It is fun to catch up with these dear friends and family and learn what they are doing in the second half of their lives and how they are making a difference.

This morning I read a wonderful article in The Atlantic Monthly by Liza Mundy called “The Secret Power of Menopause.”  Mundy notes that most of us do not realise how unusual it is that “non reproductive females persist.” In most species females continue to bear offspring until they die. Not so with the human species. Many women, at least in the west, live long past menopause and enjoy many years of productive living after they have raised their children.

In fact, some years ago anthropologist Kristen Hawkes came up with the “Grandmother Hypothesis.” In her research on the Hadza and other tribes, Hawkes deduced that women were able to bear and raise multiple children only because of the presence of grandmothers — post-menopausal women who could find and feed infants who had been weaned but who were too young to find their own food.

Very few other species enjoy such a long postmenopausal life. One exception, Mundy notes, is the killer whale. She refers to the work of Darcey Steinke, who observes that in the ocean non-reproductive females play a vital role in guiding their young to the best salmon, thus ensuring their survival. As she writes, “The wild matriarchs have given me hope. They are neither frail nor apprehensive, but in every way leaders of their communities.”  I love that!

It reminds me of what Carl Jung said long ago: “The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different…”  Now, in the second half of life, we too can play an important role by sharing the wisdom of our years in helping to guide the next generation.

 

A new, safe community for people suffering from Dementia

This past year has been a challenging one for my husband’s family, especially Richard’s  mother. His Dad, who was in hospital in St. Andrews, Scotland, for nearly six months, has now moved into a nursing home. Richard’s mother and siblings visit him several times a week. Unfortunately Richard cannot get back to Scotland that often, but keeps in regular touch with his mother. This coming Sunday will be their 64th wedding anniversary, but it is doubtful that Grandad will remember, such is his cognitive impairment. Still, I am sure they will share a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

As anyone who lives with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s will tell you, this can be one of the toughest illnesses, both for the person suffering and for their family and close friends. This is why I was intrigued by an article my daughter Alexandra sent me while she was attending a wedding out in B.C. last week. British Columbia has just established the first ever Dementia Village so that those who are afflicted by severe memory loss can live in a normal environment with complete safety.

Check it out here! Would love to hear what you think!

 

 

Resiliency and Aging

As I mentioned in my last post, this was the theme of an excellent workshop/retreat I attended last month at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario.

“Resiliency in aging is different from when you were young,” workshop leader Teresa Bryant told us. Bryant is a psycho-therapist and former Director of Supportive Care at St. Joseph’s Hospice in London, Ontario. As she noted, “When you break your leg when you are young, you know it will heal completely. When you break your leg when you are older, you will probably walk differently and have certain ongoing limitations.”

She also noted that resiliency in aging is less about cure or achieving complete healing and “more about adapting to changes” in one’s life. The second half of life is all about negotiating losses and changes in our relationships, finances, and health. Our success in negotiating these changes, to a large degree, comes from our attitudes — in other words, from our inner self. Quoting author and spiritual director Kathleen Dowling Singh, Bryant said courage in our later years is also different from the brash determination of youth. “As with any other muscle, it starts with doing small things” and taking small steps. It often begins by paying closer attention to the people around us and being intentional about spending time in prayer and meditation. Check out the July/August 2019 issue of Aging Well* for more on this important topic and to subscribe to this excellent newsletter.

*Aging Well — Celebrating the Young at
Heart, is an e-magazine published by
Morcom Media Group, with news, features,
and commentary for people as they
age. Published 10 times a year: January/
February, March, April, May, June, July/
August, September, October, November
and December.

Publisher/Editor: Pat Moauro
Email: patmor123@gmail.com
Associate Editor: Glenn Cutforth
Email: gcutforth@teksavvy.com

 

A New Way of Seeing: Clare of Assisi’s “Visio Devina”

The last time I wrote, I mentioned that in June I had the opportunity to take part in a very interesting workshop/retreat on resiliency and aging at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. One workshop I found to be unique related to how we view art. Both Richard and I love to visit art museums when we travel, so this workshop intrigued me..

Entitled “Gazing in Art & The Art of Gazing”, it was led by former Regis College professor Maureen McDonnell, who invited us into a different way of “seeing”. This is something that Jesus was always inviting his followers to do — to see things differently. In fact, most great spiritual leaders have called their disciples into a deeper way of seeing life.

McDonnell introduced us to the spiritual practice known as “Visio Devina”, a Latin term which means “Holy or Divine Looking”. Dating back to the thirteenth-century nun, Clare of Assisi, the Visio Devina includes four steps: gazing in silence, consideration,  contemplation, and imitation or transformation. It takes time. It requires quiet and a clear focus. It involves meditation. It is not something to be rushed. Those who practise Visio Devina often come away with a deeper appreciation for the painting or sculpture they are looking at, a new lens on the subject matter, and even a sense of spiritual awakening.

Why not find some quiet time and give Clare of Assisi’s Visio Devina a try?

I’m Back!

It has been a long time since I have updated my blog, but I’m back! My life has been very full since just before Easter, when Kelly Walker came to Siloam and inspired our living for life’s second half! Then right after Easter, my husband and I visited our eldest son in Morocco, where he has been teaching at the American School in Marrakech for the past three years. We had a wonderful time – beautiful weather, gorgeous flowers, delicious meals with fabulous friends, visits to the picturesque countryside, interesting museums, and of course the fascinating souks! While we were there I celebrated a special birthday – the kick-off for a milestone birthday next spring. But more about that later!

We got back and within two weeks we were off again to Minneapolis where I attended the always inspiring Festival of Homiletics, where I was privileged to hear some of North America’s finest preachers. We made a whistle-stop tour to one of our favourite cities – Chicago – and then came home just in time to get ready for our Church’s Regional meetings in Port Elgin. The United Church of Canada has a new governance model so our annual meeting this year was a bit of a work in progress, as we joined together with two other regions and got to meet lots of new people as well as some old friends I had not seen in a long time. I even got to sell a few of my books, ReDesigning Your Life: A Practical Spirituality for the Second Half of Life.

Then two weeks later I attended a most interesting conference-retreat event on Spirituality and Aging at Conrad Grebel University College on the campus of the University of Waterloo. More about that in future posts too.

In between all these events that have taken me to various far off places, I have been busy with Easter and Pentecost and welcoming new members to Siloam. There has been time for fun too – a delightful musical at the Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia, called “Summer of ‘69”, which celebrated the musical greats of an era that is dear to my heart. For me, that was the summer between elementary school and high school, between grade 8 graduation and the start of the secondary school journey. I had no idea how many songs were made popular during that time!

Two other events have touched me in a special way this past month. One was a beautiful ceremony to celebrate the renewal of vows of a lovely Boomer-aged couple who wanted to re-commit themselves to each other. At the end – and this is what made it so poignant – the husband sang that wonderful old Johnny Mathis song, “The Twelfth of Never.” (He had a bit of help from Johnny Mathis singing in the background, but it was still incredibly moving!)

The other thing that brought tears to my eyes was the passing of a dear Boomer-aged man in my congregation named Brian. I first met Brian when I was doing my internship for ministry thirty-three years ago in St. Marys. When I moved to Siloam twelve years ago, I became reacquainted with Brian, who had since moved to London. Left developmentally challenged as the result of a brain injury at birth, Brian blessed so many lives in his 65 years. Every day since it first appeared on video he watched his favourite movie The Sound of Music, which was released back in 1965. Gentle, simple, compassionate, and kind, Brian taught us all a lot about what it means to love and care for others. Today we celebrated his life and then buried him beside his adored parents, his devoted sister and her family blanketing his casket with beautiful long-stemmed roses.

As I reflect back upon the last few weeks, I notice two trends. More and more I am conducting services to celebrate the renewal of marriage vows made long ago. Over the past few years I have actually had occasion to celebrate more “Renewal of Vows” services than wedding services. The other trend I am noticing is that I am starting to conduct more funerals or Celebration of Life services for Baby Boomers – in other words for people who are part of my own generation. These are trends that are giving me pause for thought. But more about that later!

 

 

 

 

Kelly Walker brings the luck of the Irish to Siloam on Saturday, April 6th, as he shares how we can find meaning in Life’s 2nd Half!

This past Sunday, on St. Patrick’s Day,  my mother would have celebrated her 104th birthday. Born on March 17th, 1915 to an Irish mother and Canadian father, she represented everything good and lovely about both cultures. There is not a day goes by that I do not think of her. She has been gone for over 22 years, and I still miss her.

That is why it was such a delight for Richard and me to be able to honour her memory by attending a special St. Patrick’s Day Vespers service at St. James Anglican Church in Stratford, Ontario. Tagging along were our good friends Cora and John. John’s father, like my maternal grandmother, also came from Ireland.

The service was led by Kelly Walker, well-known Canadian author, speaker, counsellor,  and singer-songwriter. His Irish ancestors would have been proud. You may have missed Kelly’s beautiful service on Sunday, but you still have a chance to register for his special one-day event on Saturday, April 6th at Siloam United Church, in London, Ontario: Growing Somewhere: Living life after mid-life, when together we will learn how to find meaning in life’s 2nd half! Hope to see you there!