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Archive for October, 2011

Teapot Garden Love

I’ve fallen in love with a garden.

It’s not the first garden that has caught my heart. I live in a city full of gardens. They’re everywhere. That photo in my blog’s header? It’s from another of my favourite garden spots.

It’s a beautifully manicured, carefully kept, public garden that literally millions of people have visited. I’m not the only person who’s fallen in love with that particular view.

The garden I met this weekend. It’s different. It’s a little bit magical.

It’s still at a tourist destination, but it’s tucked away. I’ve been there before, but I’ve never noticed its wonder. But on a perfect fall day this weekend, I could have stayed forever.

The flowers? The trained gardener’s eye would probably point out that they look a little overgrown and untended.

The grass? The stones out number any blades of grass. No manicured lawn surrounding this plot.

The design? No professional landscaper is going to include this oasis in their portfolio.

The location? I don’t even think there’s a bench handy for an admirer to sit and enjoy the view.

But I was entranced.

First glimpse of a teapot garden

 

It started with a glimpse.

What was that teapot doing under the tree?

Or what about the one on the ladder?

I was intrigued.

There's more beyond the first teapot

 

Then I looked farther. It was a teapot garden.

Pots of all shapes, sizes and colours, tucked amongst the greenery.

Dozens of teapots in the garden

 

 

Some hiding, some out in the open.

If I’d had more time, I’d have taken pictures of every single resident in that magical place.

Every shape and size of teapot grows here

 

I took what time I could to bask in the wonder, and then turned to head back to the car, full of joy at my discovery, and yet, sad that I had to leave it behind.

A perfect teapot garden moment

 

 

But as a I turned, more joy!

I spotted my favourite spot. The shiny blue teapot. The geranium.  The rusted, well, I’m not sure what it was.

A perfect moment, glinting in the autumn sun.

Yellow teapot wheelbarrow garden

… and still more joy!  Who can resist the tall yellow teapot in the wheelbarrow?

… oh, and even a house-shaped teapot sitting on a back porch railing to complete the picture but I didn’t manage a picture of that vignette.

So simple. So lovingly built. I’ll be back to visit the teapot garden. With a cup of perfectly brewed tea in hand.

I might have to take a tea cup or two with me. It seems somehow fitting.

If I’m lucky, perhaps I might get to enjoy that cup of tea with the garden’s creator.

I know there’s a story I’d love to hear and who wouldn’t want to make friends with the magical individual who thought to grow a teapot garden.

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Two dollars and fifty cents

Two dollars and fifty cents.

It’s not much when it’s in my wallet. It doesn’t quite buy a muffin from my favourite morning stop. It definitely doesn’t cover my preferred chai latte.

But sometimes, two dollars and fifty cents can be worth a whole lot more.

Here’s me, sitting on the bus wishing that I was still in bed on a grey, rainy, fall morning. Then, a young woman boards the bus. I don’t hear her story, quietly relayed to the bus driver, but I do hear the bus driver’s rather loud, indignant, gruff response.

“I can’t give you a transfer. That’s a receipt for money paid. I can give you a ride but you’ll have to take your chances with the next bus driver.”

The reality is, he’s doing his job. Do I think he could have been gentler and quieter in his response so that the front half of the bus wasn’t informed that she didn’t have bus fare? Most definitely, but I can’t actually be upset with him. He has a responsibility to his employer and he felt he couldn’t go farther than allowing her on his bus. I get that and I think he should be commended for bending the rules that far.

But I watched her face as she walked to a seat. Embarrassed. Deflated. Part of her sense of self-worth chipped away. A little more grey added to her day. She slumped into her seat and avoided making eye contact with the people around her. I watched as she rooted around in her bag trying to find change or her bus pass or … whatever she was searching for, her hands remained empty.

People piled on the bus. She sat closed off, in the corner of her seat. Along the way, I caught her eye and smiled. The tiny beginnings of a very tentative, half-smile emerged. I quietly dug in my bag, certain that there was more than enough change to cover her bus fare, but I also wanted to protect her dignity that already seemed like it was on fragile footing.

As I stood to get off at the next stop, I looked her in the eyes, smiled and put two loonies and two quarters into her hand. In that moment, I saw her face transform. There was an unspoken question in her eyes.

I answered, “No one should get stuck walking on a day like today.”

Then, the biggest smile. It was like watching a flower unfurl in the warmth of the sunshine. This time, the smile reached her eyes and sparkled with confidence.

I don’t know her story. There wasn’t an opportunity to talk with each other further as my bus stop arrived. I don’t know why or how she found herself in the place she was in.

I do know this. Even small acts of kindness and connection transform us. Sometimes two dollars and fifty cents is insignificant, but sometimes …

… Sometimes, the same two loonies and two quarters are world-changing.

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Niagara Falls Rainbow - picture by karencee Sept 2011

 

“But, they say I can’t be that.”

“They say I can’t be both a Christian and a gay man.”

“There’s nowhere that I fit. I’m too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives.”

“I almost decided to end everything.”

“If I’m going to be alone, I might as well be really alone.”

“My mother said I deserved to die of AIDS.”

 

Those were just some of the words I heard as I sat with a dear friend during my vacation. It took us a long time to get to those words. They were hard words for him to speak. There was such pain behind them, such fear that once again he would be condemned for being who he is.

I knew when we reconnected a few weeks before my trip that something was wrong. That’s why I made a detour in a rather packed schedule, driving an hour and a half each way so that we could spend time face to face.

As I listened and heard my friend’s pain, I wanted to cry. I wanted to hold him close and tell him that somehow it was going to be alright. I wanted to tell him that he wasn’t alone, that the whole church wasn’t that judgmental and stupid. I was angry too. I wanted to lash out at the people who had hurt my friend this much. I wanted to be able to take away all of the hurt and self-doubt and self-hatred that others had dumped on his head and heart. No matter how much I might wish it, I can’t make the words and actions that have caused such pain go away. The damage has already been done. My friend bears the scars of hatred, fear and prejudice. And I know he’s not the only one.

I did what I could, though it didn’t seem enough. I listened. I told him he wasn’t alone; I was there and I knew another dear friend of ours felt the same way. I told him that while some pastors and churches would condemn him, they were wrong and I knew that not every one felt that way; I’d talked to a pastor just like that earlier in the week. I reminded him that the world needs him. That there’s a reason why he’s here and that I adore the person he is. I told him that “they” are wrong … even when “they” was his mother. I sat with him. I laughed with him. I was silent with him. In every way, I knew how I reminded him of his inherent value, just because he is who he is. I tried to make sure he knew how special he was and how much the people who love him need him in our lives. But one afternoon is so short a time in contrast to a lifetime of being judged simply for being honest about who he loves.

On the drive home, I cried. For his pain. I raged. About a church that could be so hateful to any of God’s creation. I felt impotent. What could I possibly do? I can’t change the behaviour of the whole “Christian” community. But I can stand up for what I believe in. I can choose to set an example.

I used to think it was okay for each church and each pastor to decide for themselves how they should handle issues like homosexuality and gay marriage. I remember being proud of myself for standing up and saying just that at a denominational meeting. I’d listened to a group of people spew hatred under the mask of drawing a line in the theological sand. We were baptists and generally baptists don’t even have statements of faith. So why did we need to make a statement about homosexuality and marriage? The majority of what I heard and saw during those meetings angered and saddened me. Theology should be based on an understanding of who God is, not on our fear and prejudice. So I stood and told them that God was big enough for us to hold different views and still fellowship together.

But I realized something on the drive back to my hotel in the quiet of the evening. That was still the wrong attitude. It’s not enough to leave issues like this up to an individual’s or community’s conscience. We get it wrong far too often. The damage we cause can’t be undone and it’s inexcusable.

I’m not a theological expert. I did go to seminary and studied theology, but I’ll admit that was never a favourite part of my studies. I liked the practical part. I’m not going to try to argue theology or the exegesis of Scripture with anyone. I do know that I’ve been very willing to declare culturally irrelevant the prohibitions seeming to deny leadership roles to women in the church. You have to if you want to be a female youth pastor. I used to tell people who wanted to argue the point that all I knew was that I had to be faithful to my understanding of God’s calling on my life. I was a woman and, back then, I knew that God had called me to full-time ministry. The theology wasn’t important. The theology of whether you think homosexuality is wrong or right is equally unimportant. The only thing that matters is the character of God.

The theology doesn’t mean squat to me. But watching my friend, seeing the hurt and self-loathing and betrayal in his eyes as he talked about how people who call themselves Christians have treated him and made him feel, that made me ashamed to call myself a Christian.

Here’s what I know. If you believe in a loving God who is willing to die in order to redeem all of creation. If you believe in a God who loves even those society finds most unlovable. If you believe in a God who is defined by his love and his grace. If you believe in a God who can call an adulterer and murderer a man after his own heart. If you believe in a God who gets himself into trouble with the religious people for hanging out with all the people they despise. Even if you most believe in a God who is holy and just. You cannot treat any person or group of people in such a way that they are made to feel like they have no worth and that God couldn’t possibly accept them as they are. It is abhorrent and contrary to the very character of God that we have treated any part of his creation with such hatred, fear and disrespect.

I cannot believe that is what God intended for any of his creation.  When we treat any person as being less worthy, less human, less … just less than … because of who they are at the most fundamental level of being human, we are denying the fact that they are created and loved by the creator of the universe.  We are, in fact, saying that God screwed up by allowing them to exist.  That is wrong on so many levels.  I want no part of that kind of church.  That’s not the God I believe in.  That’s not how people called by his name should act.

There are a bunch of reasons why I don’t attend church at this point in my life. I expect that at some point, I may find myself choosing to worship in community again. Where or when that will be is entirely unknown, but I do know that if and when I choose to find a church to call home, it will be a church that is both welcoming and affirming of all people no matter what might appear to divide us.  That is what best reflects the character of the God I choose to believe in.

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