“Blood: It’s in You to Give!”

Okay, this not strictly about Boomers, but just think: this could be your daughter or your sister or your friend! An urgent plea on from my millennial daughter who cares deeply about her friend:

Dear friends,

A few of you may have heard me talk about a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). In a nutshell, this terminal disease (for which there is no cure) causes scar tissue to grow inside my friend’s lungs, making it difficult for her to breathe. It also makes it difficult for oxygen to move through tiny air sacs into her bloodstream, which her other organs desperately need.

She currently has 38% lung capacity and travels everywhere with an oxygen tank she calls Thomas (the Tank).

She’s TWENTY-NINE years old.

To say her world has become a lot smaller and her life a lot more challenging is a huge understatement.

Currently, my friend is in desperate need of packed red blood cells as her hemoglobin levels are rapidly declining because of her IPF. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs – and YES, I had to Google that. #EnglishMajor

Unfortunately, my friend is not able to access blood because the supply is critically low and – unsurprisingly – literally thousands of other Canadians need blood every day. As an example, another friend of mine gave birth to her third child in February, but the delivery was extremely complicated and she nearly died. Blood platelets and blood products from more than 45 (!!!!!!!!!) donors are the reason she is alive today. 

With the long weekend approaching, I don’t doubt that the number of people who need blood will increase due to car accidents and other tragic events that always seem to cluster around holidays.  Canadian Blood Services is projecting a need for 60,000 blood donors by July 1 to meet the demand.

If you are in good health and able to give blood this week, next week, or really any time, I encourage you to do it! You never know whose life you could be saving.


Personally, I’ve taken it for granted that “other people” donate blood and that my friends and family will be magically exempt from this need. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s taken 10 years (since donating in high school) and a friend’s illness to fully realise that I can play a role in saving other people’s lives.

If you read all the way to the end of this email, thank you. If you donate blood already, thank you. If you decide to donate because of this message, thank you. Even if you decide not to or can’t donate, for whatever reason, I’m sending you this email because I think you’re awesome, and I’m thankful to know you.

You can find out more information about donating blood at www.blood.ca Please also encourage your friends and family to donate.

Blood: it’s in YOU to GIVE!

Thank you!!



Under the Big Top: Thoughts on National Aboriginal Day


Wednesday, June 21 is National Aboriginal Day, a special day dedicated to celebrating the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you the following blog post from Maggie McLeod, Executive Minister, Aboriginal Ministries and Indigenous Justice for the United Church of Canada. Maggie’s blog post talks about the beauty and vulnerability inherent in coming together as a diverse faith community, and how sharing our gifts allows us to grow closer to the Creator and to one another.

The first part of Maggie’s piece is copied below, and I encourage you to read her post in full on the United Church of Canada’s blog.

I took these pictures last August while visiting my mother’s relatives in the central part of Saskatchewan on the Muskoday First Nation. They capture some of the 825 dancers that participated in the 25th annual traditional Powwow.

I was sitting beside my aunt, my mother’s youngest sister, during the afternoon Grand Entry when she remarked, “There is no such thing as too much colour when you are Indigenous.” I have cherished my aunt’s words, since. They have provoked me to look more deeply into the richness of what I see and experience. And perhaps her words will help you to lift up a spirit of celebration as our church, and this country, mark National Aboriginal Day.

Click here to read the rest of Maggie’s post.




Lessons We Can Learn from Famous Biblical Dads

Having just celebrated Father’s Day, it seems appropriate to share a few thoughts from my Father’s Day message yesterday. I think there are some important lessons we can learn from ancient biblical Dads. Recently one proud new Grandpa told me that his greatest wish is that his children would learn from his mistakes. So, in addition to whatever good our ancient biblical fathers did, today I want to suggest that we can also learn from their mistakes. With this in mind, I offer a few fathering lessons from the biblical fathers.

First, there’s Father Abraham, who was even ready to slaughter his son Isaac for God. Abraham certainly does not jump out as a model father. When you consider that his near sacrifice of Isaac follows soon after his abandonment of his elder son, Ishmael, you need to wonder if this isn’t the kind of parent about whom one would call the Children’s Aid Society. So, what’s the lesson? It’s this. Don’t let the faith you follow blind you to your children’s needs.

By the way, I recently heard someone say that if Isaac had been Abraham’s grandchild and not his son, there is no way that he would have obeyed any divine order to sacrifice him!  You might consider sacrificing your kid, but NEVER your grandchild! Grandchildren are just too precious! They’re your reward for not having killed your kids!

Well, as we know, Isaac doesn’t fare much better as a Dad. In fact, Isaac was literally blind to who his children were. And how often does that happen to us? How often do we see our kids as who we need them to be instead of who they really are? How often do we value our kids because of what they do for us instead of how they become who they most need to be? Of course, we also often only value our parents for what they can give us. The lesson here is that we need to value our children – and our parents – for who they are, not who we want them to be!

Well, are we at all surprised to learn that Isaac’s son Jacob doesn’t get that great a report card as a Dad? If we look at his record, we can see that Jacob actually raised the creation of sibling rivalry to an art form. How? He played favourites. He gave that expensive, fancy, colourful coat to Joseph, just because Joseph was the son of his favourite wife. He turned Joseph into a spoiled brat who was deservedly resented by his older brothers. You see, by playing out issues with his wives in the lives of his sons, Jacob was in many ways the author of his own family problems. Some of us will be going to Huron Country Playhouse next Saturday to see the musical based on that story from Book of Genesis. It’s a story to which we need pay close attention because in a world of increasingly blended families, that’s an increasingly complex issue. Third lesson: Don’t play favourites and never allow your children to become pawns in whatever battles you may have with your former or current partner.

Skipping ahead several hundred years, we come to what I call the mother or father of them all: King David. You all know about the bathtub antics he got up to with Bathsheba. But did you know that he actually allowed one of his sons to get away with rape and another with murder? And although rape and murder are terrible things no matter how you look at them, these involved David’s own children.

Remember that David was considered to be the greatest of God’s anointed leaders. And of course, back in David’s time, it was customary for a man to have many wives and many, many children. Among his children were a daughter, Tamar, and a son, Absalom.  By another wife David had a son called Amnon. As his children grew to adulthood, troubles began in the royal household. Of all the possible women he could have picked, being the king’s son, the young man Amnon developed a real thing for his half-sister Tamar. By hook and by crook, he managed to lure her to his bedside one day. When he was done with her, having raped her, Amnon threw Tamar out of his house. Well, naturally, Tamar felt nothing but hatred for Amnon. But did David do anything to punish Amnon for what he had done to Tamar? No. But when Tamar shared her story with her brother Absalom, he was filled with a wild rage and a determination to seek revenge. Indeed, so overcome with hatred was he for half-brother Amnon that the Bible tells us that Absalom had Amnon murdered.

But again, David did nothing. And later, when Absalom turned on David himself, David still sought to protect him. You can read more about this sordid tale in the scriptures.

For now, let us consider if there is a lesson to learn from all this. I think there is. It’s this. Over-indulgence of our children is not love. We all do it to some degree; but in its extreme form it can produce very selfish, narcissistic and even dangerous children. Remember: just as our parents aren’t all good because they are our parents, so also our children aren’t all good just because they are our children. King David’s mistake was that he would tolerate just about anything from his kids. But his misguided love led to tragedy for him and his family.

Here’s something else to consider. We often say that things are getting worse. Our children are getting worse. Somehow or other, every generation has the mistaken belief that the next generation is worse than their parents were. Well, by the standards that Amnon and Absalom set, the very worst of our sons and daughters would qualify as near angels. And by the standards set by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, all of us who know we fall short as parents are actually doing remarkably well.

Finally, let’s remember that all these ancient biblical Dads – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David – were much beloved by God, in spite of their many faults and weaknesses. Perhaps we may say that God is an over-indulgent parent who loves us no matter what. For who other than the most loving of fathers, the most devoted and caring of parents, our Heavenly God, would come down to earth and give God’s life for a bunch of rebellious, spoiled and misguided children like us? It doesn’t make sense, does it? But God did it anyway. And thank God for that!




Just returned from a most inspiring conference last week on ageing and spirituality at Concordia University in Forest Park near Chicago! I will share more about some of the interesting topics addressed there in my upcoming blogs, especially a very moving presentation by Rabbi Richard Address on new rituals for the second half of life. For now, I provide just a bit of history on this wonderful event.

The 7th International Conference on Ageing and Spiritualty continued a series of international Conferences which began in Canberra in 2000 as the birth child of Elizabeth MacKinlay.  All have explored aspects of Ageing and Spirituality, and until the 2015 Conference, all have been held in countries of the British Commonwealth – Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland. The 2015 Conference, the first to be held in North America, was in Los Angeles. I have heard rumours that the next conference may be coming to Canada, so stay tuned!

Following the opening address by Dr. Lydia Manning and Dr. John Holton, who headed up the team that organized this year’s conference, Dr. Susan McFadden, reminded us that by focussing on spirituality we are part of a counter-cultural movement. She also noted that the challenges we call ageing are re-defined through looking at them spiritually. What does it mean, for example, when we say we are created in God’s image? Recalling the challenge that Aberdeen University scholar John Swinton issued at the 2013 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, McFadden asked “Is there a particular aspect of God’s image that we manifest as we grow older?”  And how can spirituality bring us strength and resilience as we age?

These were some of the questions addressed throughout the conference, which dealt with issues around Counselling and older adults, LGBTT Aging and Spirituality, Dementia, Caregiving, Elder Abuse, Gratitude, and how to live a meaningful and purposeful life in the third and fourth quarters. Of particular interest were Dr. Will Randolph’s sessions on “Transcendent Spiritual Care” and “How Boomers are Changing Everything We Know About Aging”.

McFadden concluded her opening address with a quote from the late Joan Erikson, the Canadian born wife and research partner of Erik Erikson: “Old age is a great privilege, but what are we going to do with that privilege?” What indeed? If we are made in the divine image, then our calling is for the whole of life. Spirituality can help us to live out this calling in a way that honours that image and brings life meaning.