60 km Bike Ride, Because I Care

I care; therefore, I ride. A Spiritual Care Challenge.

Starting February 1st to the 10th, 2022 I will be riding my bike 60 km to signify the distance between my home and the hospital where I work as a Spiritual Care Provider (Chaplain). I know for many a 60 km bike ride is nothing more than a pleasant Saturday afternoon excursion but not in February!  It is a virtual bike ride.  I will be doing the 60 km on my stationary bike charting the progress daily.

There is an excellent reason for this mid-winter jaunt. I and many others are raising awareness of Spiritual Care Providers in local hospitals as well as raising funds to help support the presence of Spiritual Care Providers in the Grey-Bruce Hospitals. The campaign is titled: “I Care ∴ I Walk (or ride):  A Spiritual Care Challenge to Grey Bruce.”

In Grey-Bruce Counties there are trained Spiritual Care Providers in every hospital, hospice and at- home palliative care teams.  If you or a member of your family have ever received a visit from one of the Spiritual Care Providers than you know the invaluable care they provide. These trained professionals offer a non-anxious presence in some of the most anxious situations life has to offer.  Some are available On-Call 24/7 and are often called into crisis situations.

If you would like to support the Spiritual Care presence in the local Grey-Bruce Hospitals please consider sponsoring me (every $20.00 donation or more is receipted) or email the Spiritual Care Office for details: ehazen@gbhs.on.ca.

Recently, as I was ending a visit, the patient turned to me and said, “I didn’t realize how much I needed your visit until now.  Thank you for coming and could you come back soon?”  This sentiment is repeated often.  Please consider helping us to keep the gentle and attentive presence of Spiritual Care Providers within our local hospitals. 

Thank-you,

Rev. Heather McCarrel

60 km Bike Ride, Because I Care

I care; therefore, I ride! A Spiritual Care challenge to Grey Bruce.

Starting February 1st to the 10th, 2022 I will be riding my bike 60 km to signify the distance between my home and the hospital where I work as a Spiritual Care Provider (Chaplain). I know for many a 60 km bike ride is nothing more than a pleasant Saturday afternoon excursion but not in February!  It is a virtual bike ride.  I will be doing the 60 km on my stationary bike charting the progress daily.

There is an excellent reason for this mid-winter jaunt. I and many others are raising awareness of Spiritual Care Providers in local hospitals as well as raising funds to help support the presence of Spiritual Care Providers in the Grey-Bruce Hospitals. The campaign is titled: “I Care ∴ I Walk (or ride):  A Spiritual Care Challenge to Grey Bruce.”

In Grey-Bruce Counties there are trained Spiritual Care Providers in every hospital, hospice and at- home palliative care teams.  If you or a member of your family have ever received a visit from one of the Spiritual Care Providers than you know the invaluable care they provide. These trained professionals offer a non-anxious presence in some of the most anxious situations life has to offer.  Some are available On-Call 24/7 and are often called into crisis situations.

If you would like to support the Spiritual Care presence in the local Grey-Bruce Hospitals please consider sponsoring me (every $20.00 donation or more is receipted) or email the Spiritual Care Office for details: ehazen@gbhs.on.ca.

Recently, as I was ending a visit, the patient turned to me and said, “I didn’t realize how much I needed your visit until now.  Thank you for coming and could you come back soon?”  This sentiment is repeated often.  Please consider helping us to keep the gentle and attentive presence of Spiritual Care Providers within our local hospitals. 

Thank-you,

Rev. Heather McCarrel         

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

“Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds.  You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.” James Allen

Photo by Magda Ehlers/Pexels

On the wooden shelf in my dining room sits a metal tin box that is painted blue with multi coloured flowers on it.  Over 50 years ago I received this as a gift; it has held many treasures over the years. 

During Advent this box was put away as the shelf was covered with Santa Clauses and Christmas Candles. Last week, I got it out again and before putting it back up on the shelf I opened it to see what treasures it held.

There were ribbons, a couple of recipes, a beaded necklace, an old house key, and a small note pad.  On the note pad I had written the title, ‘My Favorite Things: June 1976’ and the list starts with rainbows, dandelion wishes, cotton candy, going to the beach, puppy dogs, watermelon, hot chocolate, tobogganing, my kitten named Peanut and the cartoon Scooby Doo.

I vaguely remember making this list.  It was after I had watched the movie The Sound of Music and heard Maria (played by Julie Andrews) singing the song, These Are a Few of My Favorite Things. She was comforting the van Trap children during a thunderstorm. Maria cheerfully sang, “I simply remember my favorite things. And then I don’t feel so bad.” 

As I put the tin box back on the shelf, I thought that perhaps it was providence that made me look inside that box.  This latest lock down has been very discouraging; signs of the weariness can be found everywhere from those losing their temper to those simply refusing to follow the rules.  My one friend shared that she witnessed three people ahead of her at the post office lose their temper with the postal worker who was simply trying to do her job.  We all need to pause and remember our favorite things, so we don’t feel so bad.

As I sat down on a dining room chair, I began to list my favourite things wondering if they had changed in the last 45 years.  In that moment my list consisted of fresh fallen show, birdsong, the smell of bread baking, puppy dogs, used bookstores, wool sweaters, lilac bushes in full bloom, the laughter of children, flowers that grow in sidewalk cracks, and sunsets over Lake Huron.  Then two days later, while nodding off to sleep I again listed my 10 favorite things and the list had changed and even now, the list forming in my thoughts has changed yet again. 

Since opening that tin box I have spent many moments redoing the list and it has been wonderful filling my thoughts with all that I find beautiful, noteworthy, and of value in the world.  It sure is better than despairing over COVID-19, lamenting the terrible headlines, or worrying over what may happen in the future.

As James Allen writes in his book, As A Man Thinketh, “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds.  You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.”

Our thoughts are powerful; they shape our days.  Why not choose happy thoughts? 

So, what are your top ten favorite things?

Blessings,

Rev. Heather McCarrel

Make Your Life An Event!

Don’t miss out on the beautiful story of your life.

Photo by Boris Pavlikovsky/Pexels

Here we are at the beginning of a new year with 365 blank days ready to be filled.  Each day is like a page in a book and the story of that book is written by how you decide to spend your moments.  How are you going to fill the pages of your life?

It isn’t difficult these days to find plenty to complain about.  Those with little imagination can always lament but those with vision and wisdom write the story of their life with gratitude and gentleness.

They are the ones who see the touch of divinity in seemingly ordinary occurrences.  They gather these occurrences like one may gather shells on the beach or stones along a hike.  They are gathered and placed into one place to be reviewed and admired for the beauty they hold.

One way to do this is simply by hanging a calendar on your refrigerator and making note daily of all the beauty you witness. Record the day you bumped into an old friend at the grocery store and spent 45 minutes in the cereal aisle talking or the day your new arm chair arrived after months of waiting.  Make note on that calendar of the brilliance of the full moon or the day you saw your first Robin in the spring.  Ink in the day the daffodils bloomed, the roses filled the air with fragrance and the day you noticed the first red autumn leaf.

Then, as the year draws to an end create a ceremony of reviewing your year.  Make a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine and in a quiet space slowly flip through the months making note of the days, pausing to remember the moments and savoring the memories.  Welcome to the story of your life!

As John Lennon sings in his song Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”  Don’t miss out on the beautiful story of your life by only using the calendar to write down Doctor’s Appointments, bill payments and when the car needs an oil change.  Don’t miss out on the divinity in your life by only remembering who slighted you, what upset you and who made you angry.  Instead, take a daily inventory of all the beauty your life holds. 

Happy New Year Everyone,

Rev. Heather McCarrel

Contented Christmas

This Christmas I am disciplining myself to be contented with whatever may be. 

Photo by Taryn Elliott/Pexels

Do you recall the children’s game Snakes & Ladders?  It is a square game board with 100 squares on it with the first one starting in the lower left corner and ending with 100th square in the upper left corner. The game is easy, just roll the dice and move your game piece that many spaces.  If you are lucky you land on a square with a ladder and it moves you upwards but if you are not so lucky you land on a square with a snake and you slither downward losing the ground you had gained.

On our board there was a long snake on the 97th square that slide all the way down to the 13th square.  If you landed on it you were sent back to almost the beginning of the game.  It was that snake that came to my mind last week when the COVID case count went above 4000 cases daily in Ontario.  We began  December with wonderful plans and why not?  We had gone weeks with little to no new COVID cases in Grey-Bruce Counties; we had every reason to be excited.  Then we landed on the 97th square and slid all the way back down to the beginning. Now there are Government restrictions on how many can gather inside, outside and in stores. Theatres are canceling their shows and those who had travel plans are now staying put.   

 And yet, it isn’t exactly the same as last December because we’ve been down this road before and we know more than we did a year ago.  For example we know that to end the spread we have to do some simple things like wash our hands, distance ourselves and wear a 3 ply mask.  We also know this won’t last forever; this 5th wave will flatten out just like the 3rd and 4th waves did.  Like Maya  Angelou writes, “Every storm runs out of rain.”  

 I did despair for a few days; the days we returned many of the Christmas gifts, downsized the menu and began to figure out ways to ZOOM with family members.  Then I decided to try another approach to this Christmas; the approach the Apostle Paul teaches, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…”(Philippians 4:12). So, I am calling this my Contented Christmas.

This Christmas I am disciplining myself to be contented with whatever may be.  And, once I settled into this contented mindset some amazing things began to happen.  First, we went for a lovely evening walk through the woods under a star filled sky.  We slowed to enjoy the silhouetted trees against the moonlit sky and to count the stars; the peacefulness of that walk seeped in and left me soulfully grateful.

Then, Sunday evening the kitchen filled with this otherworldly light, I went to the window and witnessed the most incredible full moon!  It appeared like a perfectly round balloon hovering just above the tree line spreading an iridescent yellow and orange light through my backyard.  We stepped onto the deck to bask in its glow. And, today, as I post this BLOG, it is the longest night of the year; we are at the tipping point.  The winter solstice tips us towards gathering light daily. 

So, yes, it is true, this isn’t the Christmas most of us had hoped for but despite COVID and its variants the Christ Child will arrive.  The divine mystery of God’s enduring light will continue to shine in the darkness; a darkness that cannot extinguish its glow.  

May you find a way to enjoy this holy season making the most of Christmas 2021 for it will never come around again!  And may the love of the Creator, the joy of the Spirit and the peace of the Christ child be with you this Christmas and evermore.   

Rev. Heather McCarrel

Park Benches!

“Enjoy the little things in life for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

There has been a new edition to our daily walks; park benches! Over a two week period in mid-October the park staff were busy arranging new memorial park benches throughout the park. Each bench has been donated in memory of a loved one. One can now have a rest half way up the 1 mile trail allowing for a panoramic view of the winding creek.  Other benches were added along “Ring Road”, beside the Sydenham River, by each of the play grounds and in quiet out-of-the way spots in the park. 

One of the highlights of my mid-day walk with Abby, my canine sidekick, is two women who share the same park bench.  They can be found around noon proudly sitting behind their walkers which have been decorated with flags and ribbons.  They both wear bright red headbands, navy coats and one has a lovely yellow scarf while the other wears a bright green scarf.  Each as cheerful as the colours they wear.  

There is an elderly gentleman who I often see sitting on a bench in a quieter part of the park.  He nods in response to my “hellos” but never offers any more conversation.  I have assumed the bench was donated in memory of his wife and it is while sitting there he daily converses with her despite her physical absence.

During one walk I found a sweet blue and white rabbit sitting on one of the benches, someone had carefully placed it there with a heavy rock upon its lap.  I stopped and smiled as I thought of the child who is looking for this furry friend and the many adventures they must have shared; my hope was that the bunny found its way home.

Another time I witnessed a grandma sitting on the bench with a small child sharing a picture book.  I knew a child like this, one who would carry books everywhere, always preferring books to jungle gyms or slides.  I hope someday to sit on the same bench with one of his children, my grandchildren, sharing in a book while the others run and play.

This past week I noticed that many of the benches have been decorated with bows or Christmas decorations.  Presumably this is done by family members of those whose names are on each bench; an act of remembrance which is most important during this sacred season.

In the few short weeks that these benches have been present they have nurtured rest, reflection, friendship, healing, and created countless memories. May we never forget to pause and appreciate the small things for as it is written, “Enjoy the little things in life for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”

Blessings,

Rev. Heather McCarrel

Beating The Blahs!  

As we head into the darkest days it is important we take with us all we need to find our way back out again. 

Photo by Darius Krause/Pexels

The days have been so grey lately that my light sensory Christmas decorations have been going on by 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon.  I don’t mind though, those little multi coloured lights help to brighten an already dark and dull landscape. 

As we now head into the darkest days of the year it is important we take with us all we need to find our way back out again.  For some these darkened days spiral into despair, depression and days of such low energy they can barely climb out of bed.

The tipping point is almost here, hang on!  Tuesday December 21st at exactly 10:59 a.m. E.S.T. we will arrive to the tipping point; this will be the longest night of the year and then we begin to gather more light daily.

What do we need to navigate these last couple weeks of dullness?  Lights and lots of them!  Cover your house with Christmas light, inside and out.  I would even suggest you consider keeping a few strands of the indoor lights up until well into March. And candles, there is something healing and comforting about a flickering candle, perhaps its warmth and aroma softens the darkness and transforms it into something romantic and otherworldly.

We also need good company.  Recently I have been enjoying the company of an old friend I hadn’t thought of since I was around 10 or 11 years old.  The ever optimistic Francie Nolan and her Tree of Heaven in the book a Tree Grows in Brooklyn.   Each evening I look forward to time with Francie and her stories of life in 1940s Brooklyn.  There are many ways to connect with friends:  Skype, ZOOM, Facebook, WhatsApp, or simply pick up the phone! 

And, we need exercise.  It is natural for us to feel less energy during these grey days.  Getting out for a walk even if it is at the local mall helps to rejuvenate us and increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid all which are brain chemicals that help us feel happy, confident, capable, and less anxious. 

There is also the need for a talk with God.  Take time to pray, read scripture, meditate or listen to your favorite preacher on YouTube.  Cultivating faith aids us in seeing the bigger picture and is a sure fire way to buoy our spirits.

Don’t forget to be silly during these darkened days!  Intentionally adding fun and joy to our days adds brightness. I heard of a couple who went to the local toy store and bought silly string.  They had a riot in their own back yard!  One youth group leader brightened up everyone’s day last Sunday by letting loose a confetti cannon in the sanctuary!  So, sing a song, do a little dance or draw a picture.  Find a way to be creative and think outside of the box.

Finally, end each day with a fistful of gratitude.  As you lay in bed, about to dose off, count five things from that day you are grateful for; by expressing gratitude we barricade the darkness from seeping in.

May you find a spark of heavenly light in every day,

Rev. Heather McCarrel

The Eternal Echo of Smallness

God’s kingdom realized through small and quiet acts that echo for an eternity.

Photo by Lilaartsy/Pexels

At Bible Study last week one of the participants asked, “Why can’t God do something as big as the disasters?  The flooding out west, the horrific carnage of the forest fires last summer or this pandemic that has taken over the entire globe.  These disasters cannot be ignored. Why can’t God do something that is so big everyone witnesses God’s power?”

Her question expressed the true longing of the Advent Season; the longing for God’s kingdom to be realized. 

Many others around the table nodded their heads in agreement and she quietly added, “I know God is at work.  We hear about those who step up to help and we hear about those who survived against the odds. We hear the heroic stories and know God is busy turning things around.  But why do we always have to look so hard to see the small acts of God?”

She has a point.  God does do things in obscure places in seemingly unnoticeable ways; a baby born to poor parents in a barn who grows to lead an endless worldwide movement that begun with only 12 followers.  

As the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Corinth Church, “…God chose the small things…Yes, he chose even the things which seem to be nothing. He did this to destroy the big things.” (1 Corinthians 1:28)

Forest fires are eventually extinguished by each tiny drop of water and each sand bag does its part to hold back the flood.  This is how God’s kingdom works, small and quiet acts that echo for eternity.

We can help realize God’s kingdom by small acts of peace, respect, and acceptance. What a difference the world would be if each one of us decided to do one small act of kindness every day; imagine the tremendous wave of hope, peace, joy and love that would wash over the world!

Blessings,

Rev. Heather McCarrel 

A Determined Hope

Isaiah is speaking to those who know how to deepen their roots around hardship, embracing change while reaching upward. 

Photo by Maria Orlova/Pexels

(Hello everyone, this is the second time you have received this BLOG this week. When I reread the original BLOG I noticed a big mistake. It is amazing how the positioning of two words can alter the meaning entirely. Perhaps you will notice the change….maybe you won’t! Thanks for joining us at Stainglass Lense!)

When hiking the trails through Grey-Bruce Counties it is likely you will come across one of the most hope filled images in all of God’s creation, a tree growing out of a rock. With its roots stretching over the sides of the rock and sinking deep into the earth while its limbs reach up to touch the sun, each tree seems to embrace these large rocks.  This image has always encouraged me and I have pondered, is this an image of hope or is it an image of determination; perhaps, a determined hope?

This is the image that pops into my mind each Advent when the words of the Prophet Isaiah are read, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1).”  In other words, out of a seemingly dead tree new life will emerge with a determined hope.

Isaiah is speaking of the kingdom which began with Christ and continues to be realized through the Spirit of God. In this kingdom the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, justice will cover the earth as water fills the sea and peace will be maintained between all the nations (Isaiah 11:1-10). 

Isaiah is speaking to those who know how to deepen their roots around hardship, embracing change while reaching upward.  He is reminding us that with God there is always hope for new life to emerge.

 This coming Sunday we begin our Advent journey.  And, as is tradition we will begin by lighting the candle of Hope.  I cannot imagine a better way to start any journey then with hope.

Blessings,

Rev. Heather McCarrel

Determined Hope

Isaiah is speaking to those who know how to deepen their roots around hardship and reach upward. 

Photo by Maria Orlova/Pexels

When hiking the trails through Grey-Bruce Counties it is likely you will come across one of the most hope filled images in all of God’s creation, trees growing out of rocks. With its roots stretching over the sides of the rock and sinking deep into the earth while its limbs reach up to touch the sun, each tree seems to embrace these large rocks.  This image has always encouraged me and I have pondered, is this an image of hope or is it an image of determination; perhaps, a determined hope?

This is the image that pops into my mind each Advent when the words of the Prophet Isaiah are read, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1).”  In other words, out of a seemingly dead tree new life will emerge with a determined hope.

Isaiah is speaking of the kingdom which will begin with Christ and continue to be realized through the Spirit of God. In this kingdom the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, justice will cover the earth as water fills the sea and peace will be maintained between all the nations (Isaiah 11:1-10).  

Isaiah is speaking to those who know how to deepen their roots around hardship and reach upward.  He is offering something new to imagine; a future full of peace, equality and justice. He is reminding us that with God there is always hope for new life to emerge.

 This coming Sunday we begin our Advent journey.  And, as is tradition we will begin by lighting the candle of Hope.  I cannot imagine a better way to start any journey then with hope.

Blessings,

Rev. Heather McCarrel