Category Archives: Reflections

How Long?

Before he began his sermon yesterday our pastor led us in a time of prayer for peace and an end to the violence and hatred we had seen splashed across our media in recent days.  He referred to the ramped up rhetoric and violent threats that raise the possibility of nuclear war between the United States and North Korea and the hate filled speech and actions on display in Charlottesville.   Our pastor prayed for peace and love to characterize the relationships between God’s children.  He had a large Bible on a table at the front of our sanctuary open to a Psalm that begins with the words,  “How long O Lord?”  


A candle given to me after my Mom died. I had it lit as a reminder to pray for peace the day of the American election. I think I need to light it again.

How long will it take before we realize that everyone is a child of God and  threatening violence against any one of them is wrong? How long before we realize that things like the color of our skin, our gender, our country of citizenship, our religion or our political beliefs don’t give us the right to feel superior? Before he prayed our pastor lit a lamp placed just beside the Bible open to the psalm with the words……… How long? 

Other posts………

Hopeful Families in Korea

That’s How Light Gets In

Inter-Faith Dialogue- A Path to Peace

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You Are Not a Fluke

affirmation by britta b Britta B’s piece Fluke which I saw at the Art Gallery of Ontario last week is a good example of what an affirming experience it can be to view art.  britta b spoken word poetBritta is a spoken word artist and slam poetry champion from the Regent Park neighborhood of Toronto. fluke by britta b

Her work Fluke consists of a large glass jar sitting on an old ink stained school desk.  You are invited to put your hand in the jar and take out one of the folded colorful papers inside.britta b's affirmationYou read the affirmation printed on the card and then refold it and return it to the jar. While you look at Fluke you can listen to Britta reciting a poem which contains lines like ……

You are not a fluke. You know everybody’s got their insecurities, their flaws, and disadvantages, but nobody’s got you.  You are not a fluke.card from britta b's affirmation

Artist Britta B thinks most people lack affirmation. They do too much negative self talk. She wants everyone to know they deserve to be cared for.  Britta B says we have to keep reminding ourselves of all our good qualities. 

Other posts………

Katherena Vermette on the Wall

Ai Wei Wei

Self Care

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Mending What We Can

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within reach.  – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

combine dadMy parents grew wheat on their hobby farm to donate to the Canadian Food Grains Bank. This grain was sent to needy countries around the world. Mrs. Claudette Brown daycare ownerClaudette Brown runs a non profit day care in Runaway Bay Jamaica. The day we visited one hundred and forty children were in attendance. street children indiaThe Salaam Baalak Trust is a charitable organization started by movie director Mira Nair. On our visit to Delhi India we saw how the profits from her films help provide street kids with food, medical care and education. jill morse talks about land mines

Jill Morse is a retired banker from California who does education work at an orphanage and Land Mines Museum in Siem Reap Cambodia. Here she completes an educational presentation at the museum for my high school students.

vi voluntary serviceMy aunt Viola worked as a volunteer in a children’s program in Washington D.C. in the 1950s. 

Connie's team MS walk
My extended family participates in the MS walk every year to help raise funds for research efforts to end the disease.

with children on bolaven coffee plantation in laos

My husband Dave with kids on a coffee plantation in Laos owned by a man named Sam Say.  Sam was a Laotian refugee brought to Canada in 1977 by a Mennonite church in Alberta. Now a successful commodities trader Sam uses his money to help impoverished Laotian families become self-sufficient coffee farmers. 

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within reach.  – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Other posts………

Visiting a Land Mines Museum

MS Walk

Street Children of Delhi

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Preparing to Die

“I’m preparing to die. ”  I visited with a woman in her eighties who told me she is spending a fair bit of time reading, writing, learning, talking and thinking about death.  Even though she isn’t terminally ill she wants to be ready to die. She feels the more she can prepare herself for death and accept it as a natural part of life, the easier it will be for her and her family. 

summer of great grandmother l engleI just finished reading Madeleine L’ Engle’s book The Summer of the Great Grandmother where she describes the last summer of her mother’s life. L’ Engle says we experience a series of ‘letting go’ events or ‘deaths’ that can prepare us for the end of our life.  

Life-stages creative commons wiki mediaL’ Engle suggests we die to childhood and are born to adolescence. We die to adolescence and become adults.  We die to our single selves when we become someone’s partner or parent. When we move to a new place or a new career we experience a kind of death. She thinks these experiences can teach us things that will make the end of our lives easier. 

We spend much of our childhood and adolescence being educated and prepared for our adult lives. Many couples attend counseling sessions or retreats to prepare for marriage.  I took prenatal classes and read books to prepare for parenthood. Many people take seminars and visit a financial planner to prepare for retirement .  It makes sense that just as we prepare for these other deaths and rebirths during our lifetime we should also prepare for our final death and rebirth.  

Other posts…….

Teaching Our Children How To Die

Let’s Talk About Our Parents

My Grandmother’s Epitaph


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Four Things You Can Do To Be More Empathetic

I wouldn’t have thought that exercise could make you more empathetic, but that’s one thing I learned from an excellent sermon in our church last Sunday about the Golden Rule.  You know the one, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ”  Matthew 7:12

Our pastor, suggested the Golden Rule is basically asking us to be empathetic. 

He turned to psychological research to find steps we could take to become more empathetic. dave-runs-az-baseball

  1. Exercise.  A good workout where we push ourselves and our bodies makes us physically and mentally tough and more sensitive to what pain feels like. By stepping out of the relative ease of our modern life here in North America during a hard run or strenuous bike ride we connect in a small way with the struggle faced by many people around the world who are less fortunate. 

    woman praying at the wailing wall in jerusalem

    Woman meditating at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

  2. Meditation.  In particular LKM (loving kindness meditation) that involves spending quiet time each day sending loving and compassionate thoughts to ourselves, our family and friends, our enemies, people around the world who are suffering. This kind of meditative practice sparks the neural connections in our brains linked to empathy. Our pastor suggested it sounded an awful lot like praying.


    My Dad examining patients in Haiti

  3. Volunteering.  Regularly setting aside time for charitable work strengthens the empathetic wiring of your brain as you do your part to help someone who is less fortunate than you. 

    Dave and his friend Rudy taking time to listen to each other

  4. Slow Down. Being empathetic means we make time to truly listen to others and consider their concerns.  If we are rushing around from one commitment to another we may not have space for empathy. 

    Golden_Rule_by_Norman_Rockwell public domain

    The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

    Our pastor said every major faith has a commandment something like the Golden Rule.  Following it appears to be pretty basic to understanding how we should treat each other no matter what kind of spiritual framework guides our life. I think empathy is the key to a better world.

Thanks to Phil Campbell Enns for a helpful thought-provoking sermon. 

Other posts……….

Something Simple

Saying Hello to People

Must We Live in Fear? 

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The Breath of Life

maori greeting by marylou driedger

I visited a Maori meeting house in New Zealand and learned a traditional Maori form of greeting. Two people shake their right hands and at the same time place their left hand on the other person’s shoulder. The head is bent, eyes closed and their foreheads touch as their noses are pressed together twice. The two people are said to share the breath of life with one another.

Although we may not greet people in the traditional Maori style, perhaps the way we speak or act towards others when we meet them can breathe life into their existence. Research shows one effective way for high school teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students is to simply greet them by name whenever they meet them in the school hallways or classrooms. It lets students know someone recognizes them and appreciates their presence in the school community. Could this be exactly the ‘breath of life’ some teenagers need?

I used to take daily early morning walks with my mother. I noticed how she made a point of saying a friendly hello or ‘good morning’ to each person we met. I sometimes wondered if perhaps my mother’s cheerful greeting was the one warm kind word some lonely people received that day.

outside a maori meeting house

Maori Meeting House in New Zealand

The Maori exchange the breath of life when they greet others. We too have the opportunity to ‘breathe life’ into someone’s day when we greet them in a warm and friendly way.

Other posts………..

A Maori Jesus

Taonga Treasures

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Readers Have Lots to Say!

Here’s some comments my recent blog posts have garnered on various social media.

Erwin one of my most faithful readers commented that my grandson’s portrait of me is an excellent likeness. 

Lynn thought my brother had died when she read the title of my post about going hiking with him. She was relieved to discover that wasn’t the case. 

After Rob read Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot he told me he had recently walked by the statue at the MTS Centre and rubbed Mr. Eaton’s foot.   Esther said during her childhood her family met at the clock at Eatons when they were shopping because there were always too many people at Mr. Eaton’s statue. 

Bonny read the post about my mother’s sayings and recalled what a kind, gentle and patient woman my mother had been.

Heather cried after reading my post about the little boy from Iraq.  She says he represents the best of the human experience.

Lorraine said the photo of my grandmother doing laundry on the back porch brought back memories of her mother doing the same thing.

Mitch always tells his granddaughter that most people in the world are good, they just make bad choices. After reading my post about acid attacks in India he thinks he may have to revise his statement. 

Fran told me that Anish Kapoor the artist whose work I saw in Phoenix had created one of the warming huts on Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River skating trail.

After reading my post about Agatha Christie writing Murder on the Orient Express in Aleppo my brother-in-law John recalled his own visit to Aleppo. “I stopped in Aleppo on my train ride from Ankara to Damascus. The men I met on the train took me to a spa for a little bean soup and a hot bath. I remember taking advantage of the occasion and washed some clothes in the marble vats.”

Arlene said she is often the recipient of grammar corrections from her husband just like the ones I wrote about in a post. 

After reading about my icy walk to work Elsie commented she had fallen on the ice that same day but thankfully only her pride had been hurt. 

Patty appreciates my blog even more because I was vulnerable enough to share a poem that helped me during a sad experience in my life. 

As a trained architectural technologist Ruth was very interested in the post about the blueprints for my grandparents’ house in Drake Saskatchewan. She scrolled through the post many times looking for details in the drawings.  

Nicole one of my art gallery colleagues informed me the reason a Lawren Harris painting I wrote about was missing from the Winnipeg Art Gallery is because it is on loan to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, Ontario. 

“Amen” MaryAnn commented after reading my post about Member of Parliament Ted Falk. 

Some of my posts about the American election prompted one American reader to write “I’ve been very troubled by the justifications I’ve heard from people for a Trump vote. To me, it was simply unconscionable to promote a person of such low moral, personal, and professional character for what is arguably the most powerful and influential role in the world. How could I look my child in the eye and say “Yes, I helped elect him, but don’t ever talk or treat people the way he does”? 

Alison thinks artist Wanda Koop would love to know that a young viewer called her paintings on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery portscapes.

My cousin Al added some additional information to my post about the conscientious objector wall in Winkler, Manitoba. “The Conscientious Objectors Memorial Wall has one brick for each of the COs. There are intentionally no names on the bricks. However, the bricklayer’s father was a conscientious objector so when he laid the wall, he inscribed his father’s name on one brick and laid it with the name to the inside, invisible to all visitors but meaningful to him.”

Suzanne was so inspired by the Artists In Action post she said she’d like to organize something similar. 

One reader wondered if the most meaningful days might be ones when you are at rest, at peace with yourself and you meditate to clear your mind. This was suggested as a contrast to the busy list I included in my post about meaningful days.  I think they could be right!

There have been so many more comments and I am grateful for each and everyone.  Responses from my readers are a big reason I keep on writing.  Thanks so much to all of you. 


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