Tag Archives: gratitude

Grateful!

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Today I am very grateful.

Grateful (on many levels) that Erinn’s husband Dion has been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks now, and that Erinn has been able to return to The Dale.

Grateful that a young man in our community will soon be out of the shelter system, and into subsidized housing, after many months of transience. And honoured that we get to play a small role in helping this to happen.

Grateful that I got to accompany another community member to the signing of the lease for her new, much improved, apartment. We’re already making plans to have tea on her balcony 🙂

Grateful that we’re about to take another trip up to the Zola Community Land, the 2.5 acre plot near Haliburton that friends of The Dale have invited us to use for gardens and retreats. We’re hatching plans for raised beds for veggies and herbs for our Monday lunches this year, and for an outdoor kitchen, walking labyrinth, and yurts in the years to come!

Grateful for a day full of good news, after a long period of time with lots of tragedy and uncertainty.

Grateful for spring!

Salty and bright

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I was reading the Gospel of Matthew a couple of days ago, and read the passage where Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:13, 14)

Somehow I had always associated those words with the end of Jesus’ ministry, and assumed he was talking to his closest friends, the disciples who were about to start the Church.

But, according to the chronology of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus speaks these words to a large crowd of folks during his Sermon on the Mount, right at the beginning of his ministry. Matthew, the author of the gospel, hadn’t even been called by Jesus yet!

Jesus had just finished healing a large number of people who had been afflicted with all sorts of diseases and struggles that would have left them on the margins of society. Matthew writes that these folks followed Jesus, and we can assume that they made up a large portion of the crowd to which Jesus was speaking. He started his sermon with the Beatitudes, proclaiming that the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the peacemakers, the persecuted were the most blessed in the Kingdom.

And then, immediately after healing people who had experienced deep pain and marginalization, and telling them that they were The Blessed Ones, he tells them that they are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. He tells them not to lose their saltiness, or hide their light.

In my experience in communities like The Dale and Sanctuary, it is absolutely true that folks who have suffered the most are the saltiest and brightest.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend who is wonderfully wise, and struggles mightily with an addiction to alcohol. She said to me, “I’m so weak…but His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He’s blessed me with nice people like you and Erinn, and I turn my back. But He never turns his back on me… I think about you a lot, you know. How is your family doing?”

A week or so later, I was speaking with another friend who is in chronic pain and struggles to make ends meet. At first he was focused on his pain, but then transitioned into an amazing mini-sermon about how it all comes down to love, how we need to listen to God even when it hurts, how it’s important to be a giver not just a taker, and how we need to learn to see the good in other people even when it’s not readily visible.

Another friend adopted a cat many years ago who wasn’t expected to live for very long, due to a variety of ailments. My friend has cared tenderly for this cat that would likely have otherwise been put down. He sat cuddling his beloved pet the other day, and the image was too beautiful not to capture. He told me I could share it with you.

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While Jesus is the ultimate Salt and Light, he makes it pretty clear (all throughout the gospels) that people on the margins are uniquely blessed with the ability to display his saltiness and brightness. I am so grateful for my friends who are constantly reminding me of this deep theological truth.

Well cared for

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A lot has happened since I last blogged! August really got away on me; a familiar feeling, I’m sure.

As I wrote last time, Erinn was away for a few weeks. As I trusted would be the case, I was very well supported while she was gone. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

In my blog I wrote about how the community “has my back”, and this was literally and figuratively true. During one of the (remarkably rare) conflicts between community members that may have become physical, I stepped between the two friends of mine who were experiencing tension. Another friend slid in just behind me, and we stood back to back, collaboratively diffusing the situation. This happened the very next day after I had blogged!

I was cared for in many such ways over the following weeks. Friends stepped in to help me lead music for our Sunday services. A core member of the community helped to clean one of the spaces we use by scrubbing a bunch of toilets and mopping the floor. A couple of friends from Sanctuary lent their support during a Monday meal drop-in.

Last week we closed The Dale so that both Erinn and I could be off at the same time. I was very well cared for during that week too. I enjoyed a bunch of meals with various friends, and spent a few days at a beautiful organic, off the grid farm that is owned and operated by friends/mentors/professors of mine. This is the same farm that has welcomed The Dale for a day-trip two years in a row now. I rested, worked in the garden, read, learned to make salsa, went for long walks in the woods, and shared delicious meals and fellowship.

A couple of days ago I managed to take a tumble, and banged myself up a bit. I received lots of immediate and follow-up care from the friends who witnessed or heard about my fall, for which I was/am very grateful. I arrived at drop-in a couple of days later, and as soon as I explained that I was pretty sore, folks from the community insisted that I take it easy and that they would “do whatever you usually do!”

I am so grateful for these ways in which I’ve been reminded, once again, that I am deeply blessed with wonderful communities of friends. Thank you to everyone who has been a conduit of God’s love over these past weeks!

Never flying solo

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Erinn’s away for the next couple of weeks. When I’m explaining The Dale to people and tell them that there are just the two of us on staff, I get some funny looks. And when I say that she’ll be away for a while, I get even funnier looks!

I’ll admit that I get a few butterflies in my tummy whenever Erinn is out of town for a while. But the beauty of The Dale is that I’m never actually “flying solo”. Our Monday meals happen every week because a whole bunch of community members, along with our awesome kitchen coordinator Souad, make it happen. Even next week when Souad is away, it’ll still happen. Everything that goes on throughout the week is a group effort, and I know that the community has my back.

We are also very blessed with folks from outside Parkdale who come and pitch in. These various friends and family members have become part of the community too, and I am so so grateful for their love and support whenever they are present.

This t-shirt, sent to me by my wonderful sister, sums up this post:

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All this being said, I/we would still appreciate prayer for a peaceful couple of weeks 🙂 At The Dale we’ve go each others’ backs, and I know that there is One who has our collective back too.

The beauty of spilling out

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When Erinn or I tell the story of The Dale, we often say that roughly three years ago we spilled out into the streets. The Dale (then PNC) could no longer afford to pay rent, and the decision was made to become a church without our own walls, rather then shut our (figurative) doors completely.

This way of being a roaming church has become a huge part of our identity, and sometimes I even forget that it’s not “normal”. Having no space of our own has it’s challenges, for SURE, but on days like today I am reminded anew of the beautiful blessing that it is to be a mobile church.

There is some work being done on the space that we usually inhabit on Wednesdays, and so we moved our art and breakfast drop-in into the park! It was the loveliest morning. We shared a simple meal of muffins, fruit and coffee. Some of us did some art, and some of us created music. We were able to connect with folks in the neighbourhood that we don’t usually see, and enjoyed being outside under the warm sun. The community was not at all thrown off by our change of location, since we have all become used to moving around, and being The Dale wherever two or more of us we end up!

At one point, a man came over and complimented the musicians on their rendition of “Sultans of Swing”, saying that he thought someone had been playing it on the radio. He was delighted to find the two of them playing it live. It turns out that this gentleman is a classical music radio show host! He was intrigued by our gathering, and took Erinn’s business card. While nothing more may come of this encounter, it was super encouraging, and another reminder of the neat things that can happen when we spill out into the neighbourhood and make ourselves open to new friendships.

I am grateful for days like today.

Gratitude

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I realized the other day that I haven’t done any blogging in a while, and I think it’s because things are still pretty difficult around The Dale, and within myself. Many good things have happened… and over all it’s been tough slogging. I don’t want to downplay or diminish the hard things, but I do want to take this blog post to name the things for which I am really grateful. And, in honour and anticipation of our upcoming Photo Exhibit (opening July 23rd at Gallery 1313 on Queen West… come!), I thought I’d use some pictures I’ve snapped over the last few weeks.

So, I am grateful for:

Our community garden plot, tended entirely by the community

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Sidewalk reminders

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Parkdale sunsets

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Backyard bonfires

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Friends who like to swing from vines

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Friends with farms and pies

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Colourful little critters found at farms

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More graffiti reminders

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Good poetry (thanks Wendell Berry!)

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Cherries picked blocks and hours from our drop in

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As Anne Lamott says, “Awful stuff happens and beautiful stuff happens, and it’s all part of the big picture. In the face of everything, we slowly come through… And at some point, we cast our eyes to the beautiful skies… and we whisper, ‘thank you.’ ”  (Help, Thanks, Wow, pg 51)

Hope in the heaviness

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If you read Erinn’s blog, you’ll know that this has been a heavy week, and it feels like it might get heavier.

Last Wednesday there were two memorials in a row for folks from the Sanctuary community (one of whom also came to The Dale), followed by the death of another Sanctuary member a few days later. I didn’t know any of these three men well, but I know people who did know them well, and am sad for everyone involved. Erinn and I were able to attend one of the two memorials, where we were reminded that there is nothing fair about the way life unfolds, but that if the Beatitudes are true, the most broken WILL be the most blessed in the end. This doesn’t seem to do a whole lot for us or our friends in the present, as we bear witness to the struggles, illnesses, overdoses, accidents, and premature deaths. But if we don’t have this hope, we don’t have much.

I’ve been trying to hold onto this hope, as two beloved Dale folks have been hospitalized in the last week and a half with life threatening situations. Rumours were flying around this morning that one of them had been taken off life support, which is untrue. But the knowledge that this is a real possibility in the coming days or weeks is scary and sad.

Last week I also had difficult encounters with a Sanctuary friend, then a Dale friend a few hours later, while running errands downtown. I left both encounters genuinely and sadly wondering if my presence had had a net positive, neutral or negative impact on my friends. I was reminded of the fact that sometimes there is very little I can do for my friends in the moment, and that my best efforts may backfire. I was reminded that I don’t have all the answers, and I never will.

And yet, I/we hold onto the hope of the Beatitudes, the resurrection, and the coming kingdom.

In the meantime we’ve been given little gifts, like a beautiful, full-sky rainbow during street outreach at the end of the double-memorial day. And wonderful words of encouragement from various folks in the community who remind us that the presence of this little group of strugglers is important and good. And the chance to celebrate my dad’s birthday, with a beautiful bike ride along the water. So in the midst of the heaviness, there are reasons for hope and gratitude.

Wowzers

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Tonight’s Bible study was really lovely.

We were small in number, but had a good, deep discussion and the chance to really share and pray together, which is sometimes hard in bigger groups.

One member took off a bit early to get to an AA meeting, and we cheered him on his way, congratulating him on 13 days of sobriety.

The rest of us spent some time praying. One member prayed “for the guy in the bus shelter, even though he’s crabby with me. I don’t really know why I’m praying for him… but I love him, and I’ll miss him when he’s gone.” Another prayed for “everyone who thinks that no one loves them.”

Wowzers. What a group.

Reasons to Rejoice

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Today was pretty sweet.

Erinn and I received our business cards, after a fair number of glitches and waiting on things over which we had little control. But today they were ready for pick up, and we were so excited! I somehow feel like I must be an adult (or getting there!) if I have a business card 🙂 And this feels like another sign that we, The Dale, are here to stay. Don’t be surprised if I force one on you the next time I see you!

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Erinn, very wisely, suggested that we take a moment, in the middle of our busy day, to celebrate our cards. We took a few out, admired them, took a selfie, and felt happy. Yay for little moments of rejoicing!

And today was full of those moments.

The sun was shining brightly, and everyone was in a better mood.

An artist from the community sold some paintings last week, and insisted on treating us to lunch, to say thank you.

Another friend and I went to the AGO (for the second time).

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I am grateful for the reminder to stop and celebrate, and for all these little (but in their own way, pretty big) reasons to rejoice.

A beloved one of the gang

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The other week I was at a Coffee House at Sanctuary, and Dan (the emcee and one of the original members of Sanctuary) was introducing Greg Paul (the founder and pastor of Sanctuary). He said something like, “and now introducing our beloved… well… our beloved… one of the gang!” My friend Anne, who is married to Dan, leaned over to me and said “If that’s how I’m referred to at my funeral, that would be pretty cool.” I feel exactly the same way. Whether it be at Sanctuary, The Dale, my family, a circle of friends, I just want to be a beloved one of the gang.

Last week Sanctuary lost a deeply beloved one of the gang. Greg “Iggy” Spoon passed away last Tuesday, totally surrounded by family and friends. It was one of the hugest and least deserved honours of my life to have been there in that room, as he left us to join his Creator. I still find it pretty hard to believe that he’s gone, even though I witnessed his departure.

Iggy was most definitely “one of the gang” at Sanctuary. He had been part of the community for a good 12-15 years before I showed up almost 5 years ago. He was an incredible artist, a kind and very loyal friend, an asker of the toughest questions; a hurting and beautiful soul. I hadn’t spent nearly as much time with him over the past couple of years as I did when I was at Wycliffe and interning at Sanctuary, but he still greeted me with warmth, asked how I was doing, and made me feel like a beloved one of the gang. What an incredible gift.

His absence is felt keenly by many, many people, and will continue to be felt. If you could, please join me in praying for good and healthy grieving to happen in the Sanctuary community, his family, and the other circles to which he belonged.

 

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[Greg Paul and Iggy. A beloved two of the gang.]