Wednesday, July 18, 2018

More on learning to let go

            A long ago time ago in the hills of Quong Zu province, there once lived a revered old monk who was a master of Zen Buddhism. One day he decided that he would make a pilgrimage to a neighboring monastery, and not wishing to make the journey alone, he decided to take along one of his young disciples. They started their journey early the next morning and in the true spirit of Zen each walked along engrossed in his own thoughts, and so they journeyed for many hours without speaking. By mid-day they had come to a small stream and it was here that they noticed a young girl dressed in fine silk, obviously contemplating how best to cross the stream without getting her precious clothes wet. Immediately the old monk walked over to the young girl and in one smooth motion, he picked her up in his arms and walked out into the stream, then after carrying her safely to the other side, he gently put her down and walked on without having said a single word. His disciple having watched this whole incident was in a state of complete shock, for he knew it was strictly forbidden for a monk to come into physical contact with another person. Quickly, he too crossed the stream, and then ran to catch up with his master, and together they once again walked on in silence. Finally at sunset they made camp and settled down for the night. The next morning after prayers and meditation the old monk and his disciple once again continued their journey in silence. After many miles, and no longer able to contain his anxiety, the disciple called to his master and said, "Master may I ask you a question?"
         "Of course, you may" his master replied, "knowledge comes to those who seek it."
         Respectfully his disciple said, "yesterday I saw you break one of our most sacred vows when you picked up that young girl and carried her across the stream. How could you do such a thing?"
        His master replied, "That is true, and you are right it is something I should not have done, but you are as guilty as I am."
        "How so?" asked his disciple, "For it was you who carried her across the stream, not I."
         "I know," replied his master, "but on the other side I put her down. You, however, are obviously still carrying her."

       I shared that story in my sermon on Sunday.  I share it again because it has been a story that I have been carrying in my heart and mind for the last few weeks as I've been struggling to put some things down.  As I said on Sunday, the feelings we carry are calling us to pay attention.  We are called to walk through, not around, those feelings, memories, and experiences to work them through.  But, as I also said on Sunday, there are other things that haunt us that we cannot do anything about.  Those things usually involve the behaviors of other people.  There still may be some inner work that needs to be done around those experiences.  But when we carry anger, hate, thoughts of revenge, or even just pain because of memories of things other people have done to us, we are continuing to carry a burden that is only injuring us with its weight and pain.
      I write this from a place of struggling to let certain things go.  But I have found myself reflecting on this story often as I have strived to put down those people I am carrying whose weight is simply hurting me.  I think about the man we met in Canada who was simply attacking and unkind.  I am certain that was just his MO.  He has probably never given us one thought since he was hurtful towards us.  But I have continued to carry him, as I've found myself remembering, trying to imagine how I might have better answered his comments, how I might have stood up for myself, how I might have been stronger in the face of his attack.  He was mean for a minute.  But I have continued to carry him for weeks, and in doing so, I have allowed him to do so much more damage. I have given him power over me, a power to harm, that goes beyond even what the meanest person might intend.
      Likewise I often have a hard time putting down anonymous, unkind comments on social media.  Anonymity allows the writers to be much more mean-spirited than they would be if there was any accountability. But these are just people saying stuff because they can. I should not carry them farther than that.  Yet I do. I have a hard time putting them down, as it were, on the other side of reading through them.
     I wonder why these things affect me so much.  My family went through a huge public humiliation and many have told me that since I came through that storm of judgment and condemnation, I must now be stronger and more able to handle judgments and criticism.  But in fact the opposite is true.  These comments affect me much more than they used to.  For me, my reaction to their comments feels more like what Yann Martel wrote in The Life of Pi, "When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling." (2001.  Knopf Canada: Canada).
     I have the awareness that the anonymous words, these unkindnesses are trifling.  I have the objectivity to understand that any comment reflects so much more on the speaker/writer than on the recipient of those comments.  I am aware of how little and unimportant these attacks on others are. I can have pity and sometimes compassion for those who waste their time in anger at strangers, in spite towards people they don't know and will never understand.  And at the same time, those unkindnesses are unbearable to me. They mark for me another indication that there is a subgroup of humanity that is cruel and thoughtless, that many are so filled with anger that kindnesses do not pass their lips, or infuse their beings. It hurts my heart to know this.  At a personal level, I feel others' barbs as physical thorns poking into an already bruised and sore skin. And in that way, too, it feels unbearable.
     After writing the above, I found an article that discussed a gene that some people have that simply makes them more sensitive to pain, both emotionally and physically.  It was helpful to read that some people are just built in a way that makes us much more sensitive, but it also caused me to think about others I know who also struggle to let go of pain.  One of my children is extremely sensitive in this way.  But I like this about them.  I value this in others, that caring and awareness and sensitivity.  It doesn't feel good to my child.  But I love that their heart is open, compassionate, and kind.
    Of course, there are several lessons here. The first, obviously, is that it is becoming clearer to me that social media is not a good place for me to spend time. Publishing things in places where strangers can make nasty comments is not healthy for the person that I am. I wish I were someone who was not affected in this way, but I am.  I am a person who is injured by these things, so choosing intentionally to not put myself in those situations where harm is the norm rather than the exception is a wise choice.
   Second, I continue to work on the images of putting down the girl on the far side of the river, of no longer needing to carry a burden that is not mine.
   Third, it calls me to continue to be more careful and thoughtful with my own words, to seek to avoid being another barb or thorn for someone else.
    Fourth, the article I read about sensitive people emphasized (again) that aerobic exercise is a helpful way to boost one's ability to cope with pain. (Interestingly the author also said that laughter and chocolate are helpful.  Imagine that?)
    And finally, it reminds me again that forgiveness is for ourselves: we are called to wipe clean the slates of others so that we are not carrying them in our hearts.  I strive to forgive myself in this as well.  Not easy, and still, what we are called to do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sunday's Sermon - Haunted


2 Sam. 6:1-5, 12b-19

Mark 6:14-29



Herod had beheaded John the Baptist.  He had reasons for doing it, and may at some level have felt justified in his actions.  John had been critical of Herod for marrying his brother’s wife.  And so Herod had already put John in jail.  But Herod also respected John and feared John.  At some level he recognized the truth of what John had said, recognized that John was a man of God, just speaking God’s truth.  Herod had John arrested, and yet he liked to listen to John.  Herod felt touched by John’s words, even though he didn’t understand them.  But eventually, Herod was persuaded by Herodias’ daughter to have John beheaded.  And so, while Herod had his own reasons as well for wanting John gone, and while he could now put blame on someone else for pushing him to finally make the decision to have John beheaded, still, Herod knew in his heart that John was a man of God.  He knew in his heart that what he had done to John was wrong.  Herod knew this.  And because he knew it, he was haunted in his heart by what he had done.  We call this feeling guilt or shame.  And because of Herod’s guilt or shame, it was easy for him to believe that God, too, would punish Herod by raising John from the dead and bringing him back to physically “haunt” Herod the way Herod was haunted in his heart already by his guilt and shame.

Though Herod had listened to the man of God, still Herod did not know God.  He had not come to understand what John spoke to him.  Herod understood judgment, he understood revenge, he understood anger and hatred and fear and killing.  But he did not understand the God of love, the God of forgiveness, the God of new beginnings.  And so because of that, everywhere he looked, he was led by his guilt and his shame to see the world in terms of his pain, rather than in terms of forgiveness and new life. 

At some level he was right, not that Jesus was John brought back to life, but that God was present in the haunting of Herod, with his thoughts concerning John.  God wants wholeness for us and that means at some level it is God’s gift that we have feelings that call us to work through the stuff that we carry, the things we’ve done, the things we’ve left undone, the injuries we’ve sustained and the pain we’ve caused.  These things will haunt us, not because God wants pain for us, but because God calls us to deal with our pain, to confront it, to face it and work through it, to find ways to repent the things we’ve done wrong, to heal them, to “fix” them to the best of our ability, to grow, to become more whole.

A long ago time ago in the hills of Quong Zu province, there once lived a revered old monk who was a master of Zen Buddhism.

One day he decided that he would make a pilgrimage to a neighboring monastery, and not wishing to make the journey alone, he decided to take along one of his young disciples.

They started their journey early the next morning and in the true spirit of Zen each walked along engrossed in his own thoughts, and so they journeyed for many hours without speaking. By mid-day they had come to a small stream and it was here that they noticed a young girl dressed in fine silk, obviously contemplating how best to cross the stream without getting her precious clothes wet.

Immediately the old monk walked over to the young girl and in one smooth motion, he picked her up in his arms and walked out into the stream, then after carrying her safely to the other side, he gently put her down and walked on without having said a single word.

His disciple having watched this whole incident was in a state of complete shock, for he knew it was strictly forbidden for a monk to come into physical contact with another person. Quickly, he too crossed the stream, and then ran to catch up with his master, and together they once again Walked on in silence. Finally at sunset they made camp and settled down for the night.

The next morning after prayers and meditation the old monk and his disciple once again continued their journey, once again in silence.

After many miles, and no longer able to contain his curiosity, the disciple called to his master and said,

"Master may I ask you a question?"

 "Of course, you may" his master replied, "knowledge comes to those who seek it".

 Respectfully his disciple said, "yesterday I saw you break one of our most sacred vows when you picked up that young girl and carried her across the stream, how could you do such a thing?"

 His master replied, "That is true, and you are right it is something I should not have done, but you are as guilty as I am" .

 "How so?" asked his disciple, "For it was you who carried her across the stream not I."

 "I know" replied his master, "but on the other side I put her down. You, however, are obviously still carrying her."

At first this sounds like an admonition to let things go.  And it is.  There are things that other people do that we have to let go of, that we have no control over, that we need to put down and not allow to haunt us, to follow us, to become burdens on us.  Additionally, God is the God of forgiveness, and God calls us, too, to forgive ourselves and to forgive one another. 

But I also believe that many times our pasts haunt us because something in them is calling for our attention.  The reality is that it is those things that we avoid truly dealing with that haunt us for the longest, those things that we try to skirt around, rather than walking through that carry the greatest pain for us.

Have you ever felt haunted by something?  For me, this happens most often early in the morning, usually in the shower, I think of all the things I should have done/could have done/might have done differently.   When those thoughts come to us what do we usually do with them?  When we feel haunted by something, when a memory or a fear or a pain or a regret is so tangible that it seems to pop up regularly, I think it is our natural inclination to try to push it away, to try to squash it.  The more it pops up, the harder we work to dismiss it.  I hear from people “I try not to think about x, but it keeps coming to my mind.  I can’t keep it out.”  And from others, “so and so is dwelling on x.  They need to move on!”  But unfortunately, these comments show that we’ve missed the point in many ways.  Obviously we can’t just decide not to think about something.  And when we find ourselves obsessing over something, rather than seeing this as a problem that we need to block out, I believe it is often a call to do exactly the opposite of what we are trying to do, it is a call to pay attention, to deal with whatever it is that keeps arising, to find ways to heal it.  Only by going deeper in, by facing the pain can we then move on, can we no longer “obsess” or be haunted by a memory, a feeling, that guilt, that shame, that spirit of someone gone. 

A little girl was talking to her mother and the mom was listening while she was doing dishes.  She was responding appropriately to the comments the little girl was making, saying “uh huh” and “oh” and asking questions.  But finally the little girl said, “Mommy!  You are not listening to me!”  The mom said, “yes, I am honey.  I’m right here listening to you.”  The girl responded, “but Mommy, you are not listening with your eyes!”  I think that in many ways while we can become obsessed with a thought or a feeling, it doesn’t leave us, it doesn’t move on because we aren’t really paying attention to it.  We aren’t looking at it with our eyes.  We are haunted by it because we haven’t in fact given it the attention it needs to be healed.

That doesn’t mean that this is easy.  But the struggles that are internal are as important as the struggles that are external.  The struggles with our own grief, guilt and shame need as much intentional healing as those that are outside of ourselves.  How many of you have seen the movie, “A dolphin’s tale”.  The movie is based on a true story about a dolphin who got caught in a fishing net and whose tail was so injured that it had to be amputated.  The dolphin then was swimming by moving her tail sideways, which was causing injury to her back.  The care givers at the marine center who were trying to help the dolphin heal did not know what to do about it.  But the problem was not going to go away by simply seeing it daily without actually addressing it.  They began to try different prosthetic fins for the dolphin’s tail.  At first the prosthetic fins irritated the dolphin and Winter would shake them off, whack them against the side of the tank until they came off.  Again, the workers, those trying to help Winter, could have given up, but they didn’t.  They kept working on it until they found a prosthetic tail that Winter could use and swim with that did not irritate her.

While we can see that work has to be done to fix practical, day to day living problems, we don’t tend to give the same attention to our spiritual crises, our emotional and mental pain.  At my last church we had an annual mission trip.  One year the site where a bunch of us were working was the trailer home of a relatively economically poor woman.  She was not uneducated. She had been a school teacher. Her husband had been an electrical engineer; her son was a journalist in Italy. Still, her home was a mess.  And by a mess, I don’t even mean the fact that her roof had holes and that the floor was completely down to the subflooring, which was made of a cheap particle board, so cheap in fact that at one point one of our youth actually fell through the floor, creating yet another big hole in a floor already riddled with holes and patches over holes.  No, when I say it was a mess, I mean that this woman hadn’t done dishes in years, she just went out and bought more and more dishes (and not paper, but real dishes) to use rather than cleaning any of the old ones.  I mean that when we first walked in it looked like her floor was covered with carpeting, but we soon discovered that it was not carpeting but dog hair and other dog “products” that covered the floor, inches thick.  I mean that there was literally garbage piled throughout the house, and only a very narrow path through the garbage that allowed her to get from one room to the next, and that the back room of the house was completely filled to the brim with garbage.  We spent the week of our work camp fixing the holes in the roof, replacing the subflooring in the kitchen, but mostly, we spent the week simply cleaning the house.  We spent over 10 hours, each of the eleven of us, just washing dishes, packing up some to be kept elsewhere and some to be donated.  We took truck loads of garbage to the dump, and we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned.  We also spent a lot of time just listening, talking with her about her losses, about her pain, about the struggles in her life.  Still, a week is not a long time.  And as she sat telling us things like, “I know I need to just get over this” I realized that no, what she needed was more time to be heard, more time to heal, more time and attention to the pains inside to work through her past so that she would not continue to be so immobilized by depression that she was unable to even throw away her garbage or clean a dish.

Sometimes we don’t address these needs, the internal needs because we don’t know how to do it, or we don’t have the resources.  We think we should be able to “handle” things without help if it is an internal, emotional, or spiritual issue.  But God calls us to use all the resources available to us, God puts us in communities to help us, and God won’t prevent us from feeling “haunted” until we do address the issues that need to be dealt with.

We don’t know what happened with Herod after today’s story.  We don’t know if he was able to ask God for forgiveness or accept the grace God offers after his killing of John.  We don’t know if Herod was able to pray, to accept counsel, to talk and walk through his pain so that eventually he would no longer be haunted by John.  But we do know that we are given the story from today for many reasons.  And one of those is a simple reminder that what we don’t address will haunt us.  My challenge then for each of us this week is to not push away those uncomfortable thoughts and issues that arise, but to invite them into a deeper place within us, to address them, to discuss them, to pray about them, maybe even to get counseling and help for them if they are persistent.  My challenge for us is to see the “gift” in the hauntings of our lives, to remember that God calls us towards wholeness of our whole beings and that means taking the time to listen with our eyes, with our whole selves to those areas calling for our attention.  God is with us in that pain, and in the work we do to overcome our challenges.  Thanks be to God. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

A prophet in his own home


Mark 6:1-6

               A woman who ran a soda fountain was disturbed one day to notice a group of older boys making fun of a younger boy.  “He’s so stupid!” she could hear one of the older boys saying, “Watch this!”  The older boy proceeded to take out of his pocket a dime and a nickel which he then held, one in each open palm in front of the younger boy.  “Which one is more?  Which one do you want?” he mockingly asked the young boy.  The young boy looked very carefully for a moment at each coin, finally picking up the larger nickel and putting it in his pocket.  The older boys laughed and mocked and moved on.  The woman watching this, upset by what she saw, approached the young boy.  “I know the nickel is a bigger coin, but son, don’t you know that the dime is worth more than the nickel?”
               “Of course!” replied the boy.  “But if I don’t pick up the nickel every time, they will stop doing the ‘trick’ and so far I’ve managed to get over a dollar of their money.”
               Just like the boy in this story, Jesus, in his home town, was much more than his community would, or could see.  The people in his community could not see Jesus for the man of God that he was.  They could not allow for him to be a worker of miracles, a speaker of truth, the son of God.  As a result he could not do miracles in his home town.  They could not see who he was and so, with his own home community, he had no status, no respect, and ultimately no power. 
               Do you know people who are so charismatic, were so charming even as children that they had no trouble becoming prom queen or king, class president, “most likely to succeed,” etc.?  Individuals at every high school win these titles every year.  And I think that these are the kind of people who would have had no trouble being prophets in their own homes.  These are people everyone likes and everyone wants to be with.  They make their way, their successful way in the world because of and based on their charisma.  Everyone who meets them wants to be part of their fan club, their inner circle, their friends.  Many of our politicians fit into these categories.  Leaders of many of our cults also fit into this category: David Koresh, Jim Jones, etc.  For many of our most famous actors and actresses they too have found success by knowing the right people and by being the ‘right’ people also:  people that you cannot help but want to support, love and be around.  Most of these people not only have charisma or social status because of their personalities, but also have class standing; they are from a class of people whom we tend to respect: they have money, tend to be white collar workers, they come from respected family backgrounds.
               What is interesting for me about today’s scripture is that it tells us Jesus was not one of those typically charismatic people.  The people in his home town did not run to support his ministry, but instead made comments like, “huh.  I know his little sister!” and “He’s just the carpenter’s son!”  In our day the equivalent might be “what’s so special about him?  Who does he think he is, trying to change the world, preaching at us, claiming to do miracles.  We know his family for heaven’s sake!  His father worked as a janitor.  Wasn’t his sister, Suzy, the one who had such trouble in school?  And his brother, George, wasn’t he caught smoking behind the church?  Who does this Jesus think he is?  He’s not so special.”  Because they could not or would not see Jesus, everyone was diminished.  The people did not benefit from his gifts, he was unable to fulfill his purpose among them.
               This understanding of Jesus, as one not successful in his home town, one not seen, one not powerful, is, like everything else about Jesus, scandalous.  God did not come to us among the powerful, among the professionally and monetarily successful, among the popular, or the charismatic or famous.  He came and is coming among those we tend not to see or think of very highly.  He is coming among people you and I would and do have a hard time respecting.
               But while this understanding of Jesus is scandalous, I have to admit, I like this about Jesus.  Since I too am not charismatic or famous or rich by American standards, this surprising part of Jesus appeals to me.  He isn’t so far away, so untouchable that I can’t relate to him.  More importantly, he isn’t such an “idol” that he can’t relate to me.  This story about Jesus makes him once again, more human, more like us, more one of us.  His experiences in this life were very much what many of us have experienced and known.  He underwent again and again what it was like to not be seen in his fullness, valued in his being honored as who he really was, and respected.  He experienced powerless-ness.  He experienced rejection.  He, too, was not seen in his fulness by people he knew, loved and cared for.
               The words of one children’s song are, “There’s more to me than you see.  Won’t you reach out and touch me?”  We understand that feeling.  We are more than the person in the red car sees as he gives us an obscene sign because we made some error in our driving or weren’t going fast enough in his opinion.  We are more than the people in line at the grocery store see, annoyed at us because one of our items is missing the price tag and we have to wait for the bagger to get the correct price.  We are more than the professor sees who writes on our paper, “I’m disappointed in you.”  We are more than our teenagers and the teenagers in our community see who believe we can’t possibly understand or relate to them because they don’t know that in fact we are every age we ever were and so there is still that teenage part in ourselves, searching for who we are, struggling against trying to please those in our communities.  We are even more than those who love us will ever know.  We are more than we ourselves recognize: we are more every day, we are more of our potential, in our possibilities, in our being than just our past, our class, our money, our fame, our talents and our actions show.  We are God’s children.  God made each of us amazingly complex, unique, beautiful and GOOD.  Each of us is immensely valuable.  Each of us is worthy of infinite love.  You are an incredible creation.  You are worthy of being seen, of being loved, of being known.  God made you and loves you just because you are.  Just because God made you in love and for love.
               There was a monastery high in some beautiful mountains that was going to be closed down.  There were only a few monks who lived there – no new monks had joined for many years and visitors were scarce.  In an act of desperation, the monks decided to consult a local guru who was known for his wisdom in all matters.  When brother Michael consulted with this guru, the wise man said that he could not help them to keep the monastery open but that he was so glad the brother had come because he had a message for him.  Michael was surprised and asked what the message was.  The guru told him that the Christ was living disguised in the monastery.  Michael took this message back to the monastery, and told the other monks that while the guru had not been able to help them, that he had this amazing news to share with them.  After hearing the message, the monks began to look at one another differently.  Surely the Christ wasn’t brother Jason, they thought, he snores and brags and is anything but Christ-like!  But then again, the guru had told them that Christ was in disguise…    Could it be brother Simon?  He eats a little too much, but is generally very gentle and loving.  Maybe it is him…  Because none were sure who was the Christ in disguise, they began to treat each other person in the monastery as if they could be the Christ, just in case they were.  Visitors to the monastery began to notice that something was different here.  Each of the monks seemed to treat everyone with such reverence, such care, such respect and such holiness.  And as they noticed this difference, they wanted to be around it more.  They invited their friends to come back with them, and some chose to join the monastery.  The monastery began to grow again and eventually became a thriving, vital, active Christian community.
               When Jesus was not seen and not understood, not respected and loved by his own community, everyone in the community was poorer.  The same is true among us.  When we do not see each other, work to know each other, love each other in our fulness, we are all poorer for it.  And there is good reason for us to try.  Because just as in the story of the monastery, Christ is among us.  And she/he is indeed in disguise: the disguise is each of us.  The disguise is you.  What would happen here if were each treated with the care and respect of these monks?  What would happen to you if people looked at you like they really saw you, respected you, VALUED you, all the time, as the amazing, lovable, child of God person that you are?  What would happen to our world if we began to treat each other across cultures and across all barriers of ethnicity, gender, ability, age, country of origin, sexual orientation, religion, with the care and respect of the monks?
               Where is the Christ?  Where does Christ come again among us?  Not where expected – not in the powerful, the rich, the famous, the noticeable, the “beautiful people”.  Jesus did not come to us as the all loved, “most likely to succeed”, rich bachelor TV personality.  And Christ does not return as a person we would recognize as being of consequence: not rich, not popular, not special by American standards.  Jesus had regular, normal brothers and sisters, his dad had a blue collar job, he grew up in a poor community and, as much as he was divine, he was also fully human, just like us.  The challenge in this for all of us is that we are called to treat everyone around us as the Christ.  The comfort in this is that you, too, are deserving of such love, such care, such deliberate intentional knowing of the wonderful, beautiful, child of God that you are.  Christ returns every day anew.  In and among us.  In and among YOU.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

AND the good side...

      I know you want to hear the positive from the trip, too.  So this post is really just going to be a travel log...
      Sunday, June 17: Following church drove to Medford, Or.
      Monday, June 18: drove to Kelso, WA.  On the way, had a lovely visit at Crater Lake:


 
      Tuesday, June 19: drove to Port Angeles, WA and on the way saw Mt. Saint Helens. One of the amazing gifts we experienced was that we were able to take a helicopter ride to the Mountain and actually look into the crater itself.  What an awesome experience!!  We were also able to drive by the house where my grandfather had lived when I was a kid in Sequim, WA.


    Wednesday, June 20: We took the Ferry over into Victoria, BC.  There we checked into our hotel where we would stay for four nights, visited Miniature World and had High Tea at the Empress Hotel.







After High Tea, the girls and I found a lovely park to walk around in called Beacon Hill.  There we met a peacock who seemed convinced we were there to feed it.  It followed us around for awhile, finally giving up with a large squawk, before turning around and heading back.




 
     Thursday, June 21: Visited Butchart Gardens, the Butterfly Museum, did some foot exploring of the city of Victoria and rode a horse drawn carriage around an older part of the city.  We enjoyed this day very much.  The horse drawn carriage ride was meant to be a tour, but we ended up engaging the "tour guide" who was driving the carriage, instead, in conversation.  She is about to start her final year of college, is majoring in Medieval studies and Jasmyn, this young woman and I had way too much to talk about that just took priority over the tour.  That was a real gift: to meet this young woman and have such a wonderful conversation about school, politics, countries,  and life in general.












   Friday, June 22: We went to the Royal BC Museum and Craigdarroch Castle.  At the Royal BC Museum we were able to see an IMAX movie about the efforts in China to restore the Panda population from near extinction.  There is some success with these efforts and we are learning, so I think there will be more success as time goes by.  Additionally, several Indigenous Tribes were present at the Museum, and were giving talks about their cultures and the work throughout Canada to be more open, accepting and celebrating of Indigenous faiths,  practices and peoples.  We happened to be there at the time of an Indigenous Cultural Festival and there were dancers who came and shared some of the traditional dances, as well as the meanings of those dances.  That was amazing!  My pictures of this were not great, but perhaps that is better anyway.  This is part of who they are, not for our entertainment, but hopefully we learn from other people and can appreciate the beauty of our diversity, as we learn to honor other traditions, cultures and faiths.




    Saturday, June 23: We visited the Parliament building, the Maritime Museum, the Bug Zoo (some of us), Christ Church Cathedral (some of us), and then we walked around town more.  The kids, David and I ended up having dinner at a Games Café.  What a blast that was!  For $5 each, we could sit and play any of the games in their extensive games library as well as eating snacks and just being together.  We spent four and half hours exploring different games and having dinner.  We didn't buy any games, but we really had fun just being together.  






        Sunday, June 22: Well, I have to admit we didn't go to church.  However, the kids picked out a couple scriptures and asked me to give them an impromptu sermon... Honest to God, it was their idea!  They said they missed church and wanted me to preach for them.  While I was expostulating, we walked around downtown Victoria, found an outdoor market which we enjoyed, then walked along the North Harbor, across a bridge and along the Bay.  It was beautiful.  And we had a couple of amazing bonuses.  In the outdoor market, we came across a woman who made beautiful jewelry, including a Celtic Moon that was something Jasmyn had been looking for.  We talked for a while and the woman basically gave Jasmyn some of the Jewelry she made!  (I snuck back and paid her: I think it is really important to pay artists for the work they do.  But it was awesome that Jasmyn felt she'd been given this gift by someone who just liked her and wanted to do that for her!).  And THEN, as we were walking along the bridge to cross the bay into the North Harbor we saw Taxi Boats that were boating together and in patterns.  As we watched, we heard a loud speaker across the Bay announcing that the Taxi Boats were going to perform their "world famous water ballet" in a half hour! We'd been watching them practice in an area that was less touristy. So we walked for a half hour then sat on the shore of the Bay and watched the taxi boat ballet!  It was a blast.  Aislynn said it was her favorite part of the whole trip, perhaps especially since it was unexpected, unplanned and we just happened to see it by wandering...



Later that day we took the ferry off of Vancouver Island and onto mainland Canada.






     Monday, June 25: We stayed in Vancouver but visited the British Columbia Museum of Mining (I didn't go in so I don't have any pictures: I hadn't been able to sleep the previous night and that morning had my run in with the guy I talked about yesterday who was mean in the café.  I just needed some alone time, so I rested a bit while the rest of the family went to the Museum).  The rest of the family learned a lot though.  The museum and guides talked about how their mining had destroyed the local river, wiping out several unique fish species and harming the people downstream who had made their livings as fisher-folk.  But they also shared that because of that disaster, their mining techniques have greatly improved and the river is on its way to recovery.  Afterwards we went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.  As I said, it had not been a great beginning to the day for me.  However, there was live music that really touched me in the Suspension Bridge Park.  We had lovely walks among the trees: just the kids and I (David doesn't do heights), and it was a healing, calming time. 





     Tuesday, June 26: We went to the Science World in Vancouver which was AWESOME!  We saw a guy do an amazing demonstration on illusions, watched a movie about the Amazon and natural selection, and were able to see just a part of the many wonderful exhibits in this museum.  We wanted to stay much longer, but we had to get through customs because we had a scheduled tour at Boeing in Seattle late that afternoon (where we were not allowed to take pictures... sorry).





  Wednesday, June 27: We started in Seattle with the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden of Glass and the Science Fiction Museum/Pop Museum.  We were divided: those who don't like elevators or heights went to the Science Fiction Museum while the rest of us did the Space needle and Glass Garden.  After that we drove to Tacoma where we went to the Museum of Glass.  That was an unexpected awesome, too.  In the Tacoma museum of glass they have a theater space where on the stage are glass ovens and the glass workers.  A man with a microphone walks around answering questions for all of us to hear about the work the glass workers are doing.  You can sit for hours and watch this amazing process.  It was beautiful.













Thursday, June 28: We went to the Lewis and Clark Historical Park in Fort Clatsop where we walked among the trees as well as hearing history, seeing the fort, learning how to start fire with flint, and communing with different eco-systems.  We then went to Tilamook where we ate dinner at the cheese factory.  It was a delicious meal!  








Friday, June 29: Mostly a driving day along the Oregon Coast.  However, we made one stop at the Sandland Adventures area, where we were taken on a very fast Dune buggy ride over the sand dunes. It was a rollar coaster ride up to 60mph up and down and over and around.  I screamed a lot, Aislynn gripped her seat in terror, Jasmyn opted out completely, but the boys loved it.  Big surprise there... No pictures of Dune Buggy ride: they warned against getting sand into your phone and camera..  But lots of beach pictures!






Saturday, June 30: more beach, and Trees of Mystery.  This is also the day we had our near head-on collision.  But we are fine, and again, the time in the trees was healing and helpful.














Sunday, July 1: We head home.  But not before going to the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens.  The gardens were also a wonderful surprise.  Absolutely beyond our expectations.








We came home tired, but with our minds and hearts full.  Good people, good food, new experiences.  We had a lot of laughter, a great deal of learning, and most importantly, time together.  Some of the photos I posted here are just silly, some are sweet, some show beautiful or interesting things that we saw.  All of that is as true as what I wrote yesterday. I am very grateful for this time.  I hope it created life time memories for my kids.  I know it did for me.  The time away was full and meaningful.  And it was time to come home and be with my community once again.  I am grateful for it all.