Category Archives: Art

Sacraments: Letting Go and Waiting

Pruned branches of tree with one sprig of new life

Another week begins.

Another week without our usual workplaces, casual trips to the store, or gatherings of friends.

Some of us have let go of long-planned vacations.

Some of us are seized with panic about lost income.

We have let go of what is not essential. We are waiting for “normal.”

Our situation reminds me of this beautiful work by Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual.

She wrote this poem, which she gave me permission to share, about times when we are stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness.” At those times, we are living out the Sacrament of Waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go. 
First she surrendered her green, 
then the orange, yellow, and red 
finally she let go of her own brown. 
Shedding her last leaf 
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare. 
Leaning against the winter sky, 
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf, 
she watched it journey to the ground. 
She stood in silence 
wearing the colors of emptiness, 
her branches wondering, 
How do you give shade with so much gone?
And then, 
the sacrament of waiting began. 
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness. 
Clothing her with silhouettes 
that kept her hope alive.
They helped her to understand that 
her vulnerability, 
her dependence and need, 
her emptiness, her readiness to receive, 
were giving her a new kind of Beauty. 
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence, 
and celebrated together 
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Leap Day: The gift of an extra day

Most years have 365 days, but leap years have an extra one.

I know that time is a human construct and all that, but when we have the gift of an extra day, we should take best advantage. This post is inspired by the poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. That poem ends with:

Tell me what else I should have done? | Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do | With your one wild and precious life?

The Extra Day

Where to be today? Who to spend it with? What makes my soul leap, like the day?

There is a place.

The one where I plug in to recharge, where each face is love reflected, where the synapses of my brain snap with new ideas, faster and deeper, where the rainbow falls on the tree of life.

Reassurance and growth.

Wisdom and compassion.

This is where people are SEEN, where peace is made, where we question how to live, where graces falls on us all.

This is where I dance “Like a Prayer,” I travel on pilgrimages, and where my head sizzles.

Here, children’s laughter ripples through the air. I thrill in their sparks of insight, and their truckloads of questions. Here is where I say, “I don’t know.”

In this place, people are fed, body and soul, smiles right the world, and friends embrace in tight hugs.

Spicy soup simmering, tart, sweet pies, pinkie squares.

Guitar strings strumming, harmonious voices, organ crescendos.

A silent night of candles and tears.

This is where I am.

A place of steadfast friendships, where good grows out of my mistakes.

Wisdom and compassion. Healing through hardship and celebration after the light returns.

Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Do you have a place like this? May you find it and spend this gifted extra day there.

Really good shortbread

Shortbread cookies in maple leaf and heart shapes

I recently made shortbread cookies for my church bazaar and since then people have asked for my recipe. I’m sharing it with them, and with you.

Melt-in-your-mouth shortbread takes practice and a bit of fuss, but it’s worth it.

Smith shortbread cookies

  • 1 cup     butter (It must be butter.)
  • 1/3 cup  instant-dissolving sugar (It must be instant-dissolving sugar, sometimes called fine fruit sugar.)
  • 1/2 tsp.   vanilla (If possible, use white vanilla to keep the cookies looking bright.)
  • 2-1/2 cups   cake and pastry flour, sifted (I am Canadian. The flour where you live might be different, and you might need more or less.)
  • Beat butter until light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add sugar, beating after each addition.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Add flour 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition.
  • Form into a ball and pat the outside with extra flour.
  • Roll on a well-floured surface to ¼ inch thickness, adding extra flour if necessary to prevent sticking.
  • Cut using cookie cutters.
  • Bake at 300° F on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets for 12 to 5 minutes.
  • Makes approximately 2 ½ to 3 dozen average-sized cookies.

Shortbread tips

  • No substitutes!
  • Don’t bake for too long. I bake them until the edges are just starting to brown.
  • To ice them, I mix together icing sugar, water and vanilla. (Use white vanilla for white icing.) I never measure this, so I can’t give you quantities. Do it until it feels right!
Layered heart-shaped shortbread cookie
My original creation – Trinity Cookies. Shortbread, raspberry filling and buttercream.

Life well lived: A nail of gold

Into God’s temple of eternity,
Drive a nail of gold.

—The father of Raymond Moriyama, found in his book In Search of a Soul

Raymond Moriyama is the Japanese-Canadian architect behind the Canadian War Museum.

During the Second World War, his family was sent to an internment camp in British Columbia. But his father was separated from them and sent to a POW camp in Ontario. The family was eventually reunited and when Moriyama graduated from high school, his father gave him a hand scripted copy of the quote above.

The words have been popping into my head in recent weeks. Perhaps Remembrance Day prompted that, because one of Moriyama’s war museum design features was a shaft of light that shines on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 11:00 a.m. on November 11.

The inspirational quote makes me want to get off my couch. It makes me try that little bit harder to finish whatever I’m doing to its fullest extent.

To make whatever I’m doing a little bit shinier.

Carve your name on hearts

“Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” 

—Charles H. Spurgeon

I first read this quote years ago in the email signature of one of my daughter’s teachers.

It reassured me to know that my daughter was spending some of her days with a person with that kind of mindfulness. He was wasn’t working for himself; he was working for the children. Every day he was carving his name on students’ hearts, so he’d better make it good.

Today, you will carve your name on someone’s heart. What indelible impression will you leave?

Child's drawing where a mother and daughter make up one side of a heart.
When she was a child my daughter drew this picture of us. We’re carved into her heart together.

Music that brings chills, or tears

What music makes you stop whatever you’re doing and listen? What songs make you cry?

I’d love to know. Leave me a comment at the end of the post.

One song that undoes me every time is “Silent Night” by candlelight on Christmas Eve. My family knows that I’m a puddle during that hymn, every time. It takes me back to childhood services in a small town church, and to the birth of my daughter on Christmas Eve, and to my father who died shortly before Christmas twenty years ago. The simple hymn ties everything together from my past and gives me hope for the future.

Some songs move us because they remind us of someone we love — a father, mother, grandparent, child or friend.

 “You’ve Got a Friend” James Taylor, written by Carole King

Songs that are haunting and sad and then optimistic and hopeful, acknowledge the lows and highs and tells us to look for the triumph after the despair.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” Simon and Garfunkel

“Nights in White Satin” The Moody Blues

The music of our youth can instantly transport us back to a certain time and place. Where were you when you were listening to The Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles . . .? This Loggins and Messina song takes me back to my days working for Wilderness Tours Whitewater Rafting.

“Watching the River Run” Loggins & Messina

A couple of friends of mine are opera fans. Listen to this selection from Dialogues des Carmélites and see if the metallic slice of the guillotine makes your hair stand on end.

Dialogues des Carmélites (final scene – Salve Regina)

Music moves us when it gives us something to believe in even if we don’t want to. Music connects us with something greater than ourselves. I’ll leave you with this combination of “Scotland the Brave” and “Amazing Grace.” It gives me chills AND brings me to tears.

“Scotland the Brave” and “Amazing Grace” at an Andre Rieu performance