I’m not one to pray out loud


DSC_0763That hasn’t changed for me ever in my life, and sure I could say the same thing about how I feel when I have to speak in a group about anything, but praying out loud is somehow heavier. So what happened today may be God doing what he always does, or God doing specifically what he had in mind when I prayed what I prayed, or God doing what he was going to do aside from anything I prayed. I wonder?

There’s more to it… I struggle with the repetitious nature of group prayers, the competitive feel of it sometimes, the limited vocab we use, the way I believe God might find what I say trite or redundant given he already knows everything there is to know. Still there is mystery in prayer, and I have been reading a book lately that points to a way of being with prayer that is quite attractive to me…to live my life as a prayer…everything matters…everything counts…when my heart is in a posture of reverence and gratitude before the Father. These days I am leaning more into a contemplative way of being in prayer. It’s a learned way. It’s a way I want to learn more about.

But prayer can also be specific, and at a given time, alone or in groups. And as the various members of our group prayed around the circle today I wondered, what on earth can I offer with integrity?

All I know is this…sometime between 2:15 and 2:45 pm today I prayed a short prayer out loud in a group setting. Very short. Pretty much these words;

God, we have so many needs here. And you are a God with lots of connections. Could you please send people to help us?

And when I was done praying I began to do what I always do…self analysis, critical dissection of my choice of words and how odd and how silly and really, couldn’t I have said something a little more eloquent than that? Condemnation…yes!

Fast forward 30 min to when a member of our community joined our meeting with a huge  smile, and we soon found out why. In another meeting that kept them late from ours, a meeting where our representative often feels unheard; today tangible and wide support was offered up to us in ways that left our representative dumbstruck. A shift occurred this afternoon. Between 2:15 and 2:45 pm.

Coincidence? Reading something into nothing? Or, could a short prayer offered up in earnestness count for something in the spirit world that changes something in the real world?

I wonder…

Someone at the meeting said maybe I should pray out loud more often… :) I’m not convinced yet.

 

We are not done


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We Are Not Done

We are not done. We are
ongoing conversation,
sometime monologue, sometime soliloquy.
Done is undone in our transforming reality,
our we that is, and will be.
As perplexing as speech sometimes seems,
I will wrap my errant tongue unceasingly
around the shape of this dialect we long for
yet hesitantly speak. Years down the road
we’ll continue our halting imperfect communion
because we have chosen this holy union.

No. We are not done.
Done is baked bread filling the air
with aromas of childhood, golden crust, served up,
butter and jam, eaten, gone, done.
Done is my hair, washed, cut, coloured, and styled.
Done is your fishing trip into the wild.
Done is each finished task, our completed to do lists,
but done is not done when we both choose us.
Yes we will disagree for a time,
but when emotions
and the need to be right mellow and calm
we’ll be right back here; take my hand, carry on.

Because we are not done
striving, surviving, staying alive, relational jiving.
We are not done doing and undoing
all we’ve messed up, gluing what’s come unglued.
We don’t live the
“you complete me” sentiment.
We chose, our promise remains.
We are not done. Always, we begin again.

One day, I imagine
you will hear my breath reach
between the words I cannot speak,
nearly there, almost, there.
In that pregnant space you will hear
the language of your heart, beloved.

My heart will be the echo.

Welcome, love and fear


DSC_0593Every human being is motivated by either love or fear, he said, in every  action ever taken. I contemplated his statement, wondering how true it really was for me. Just as I held each statement this wise counselor spoke, and everything I said as well, weighing out my authenticity, the truth of my disclosures. Was I creating something more, or simply telling my story?

So, he asked, when is the last time you were able to say I trust you with my life, my love, my everything? I don’t know, I said. Maybe never. There is no right or wrong answer, he said, it’s just what you know is true in your life experience. How could this be, I thought, have I never fully trusted, have I never felt freedom in love? My mind jumped back 30 years, then more recently, then to last week, and the reason for seeking counsel in the first place. My lack of trust, and my longing to belong, and what did it all mean?

The conversation continued to how mistrust of others and a possible deeper underlying fear of rejection can result in missing out on the beautiful potential of enjoying the fullness of loving community. Fear of rejection leads to withdrawal and isolation, and the vicious self perpetuating circle of fear, mistrust, and withdrawal from relationships continues. Allowing myself to fully engage in loving community could break down my walls, crack open my heart, and trust and belonging would grow. But fear of rejection is undermining what I desire. I wonder, is this true of me? Really? I want to argue it. I want to ignore it. I want to call it psycho babble.

Today I experienced how my view of life impacts not only me but my family. And I felt a little sick to my stomach as I considered the truth; my fears are rippling out into their lives. So maybe identifying the core issue and making room for a new reality is the way forward? Rather than denial or avoidance, to welcome all in, in a new way, following some recent teaching at SoulStream, Living From the Heart. I have been learning a posture of opening to the difficult and painful things in me that need the touch of Jesus. It is called Welcoming Prayer. I feel it may be the way…in this quiet welcoming way of the heart. And so I say…

Hello fear, welcome. Hello mistrust, welcome. Hello self protection, welcome. Hello rejection, welcome. Hello disappointment, welcome. Hello hunger for love, welcome. Hello. You are welcome here. You too are loved.

The good book tells me Jesus was despised and rejected of men. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Who better to understand what I do not yet, than the one who knows me and these newly defined feelings, from his firsthand experience. Who best to be with me as I welcome all those things that make me much afraid…

Jesus, what would you say to me in the presence of all my fears and feelings that we have welcomed here together? What would you say to my heart? I’m asking…

Come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Come, my beloved. Bring your love and your fear to me. All is welcome here. Come and rest in me. Just come. Let us consider these things together.

Finding a more gentle way…remembering my excommunication.


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I didn’t expect to feel it in my body, my heart. The SoulStream facilitator lead us to recall examples of feeling like a stranger. I casually offered up the time I was excommunicated from, “put out” of, the church of my formative years. I shared how my faith family unrelated by blood yet named aunties and uncles and almost cousins, formally rejected and turned their backs on me in a final “just” response to my engagement to a man who was not of their choosing.

And maybe because I knew what was coming all along, maybe because I had hardened my heart, maybe because my love for my fiance transcended this outcome, I have borne that experience as a natural and even deserved expression of my actions. I was put in the “outside place.” How unlike the Jesus I now know. But that was then.

I have always been an elder’s daughter; in later years it carries little weight for me. I love my father, his intellect and sensibilities. But back then, being my father’s daughter carried a mysterious resistance to inclusion in my peer group, most obvious in the way all the girls were asked out on dates, but never me nor the other elder’s daughter. Was it my hair colour, wardrobe, body shape, struggles with pubescent acne, or was it something deeper, I wondered?

Being an elder’s daughter meant not being in the church it crowd, not being in anywhere. It was difficult. Because what was a good Christian girl to do socially? To be of the world but not in the world meant I was not at liberty to choose outside friends.  School day relationships remained that. Our lives revolved around the church. So, the other elder’s daughter (my dear friend to this day) and I tried to find a way to be. We knew some of what went on, some of what was meant to be kept secret from the powers that be. We somehow accepted that if our Dads were a problem, then so were we. But we were lonely at times. Misfits. Outsiders.

Fast forward to last week, and being on retreat with SoulStream for the first intensive of Living From The Heart, and me telling my story of what it was like to choose to marry a Catholic, to choose to proceed with what was considered being unequally yoked, to choose to choose him, rather than remain part of a community of believers to whom I once longed to belong.

I told my story as I have told the story for thirty years, dry eyed, matter of fact, the facts expressed and compassion within only for my husband who had been excluded along with me. Someone asked me why couldn’t I marry a Catholic? I tried to explain. Again I shared how hard it was for my husband. And then strong feelings of anxiety (common to me), began to traverse from my guts up to my chest and my breathing became laboured. I felt as though I was having a heart attack. It felt as though something was constricting my chest. I was afraid. My body began to quiver, and my eyes prickled with tears as I tried to hold myself together. But I could not. I felt myself letting go. Silence in the room and then…

a voice quietly offered “I think we need to take care of this right here” and then someone was on their knees in front of me, and then other voices in the room were speaking words of acceptance and love to me. My tears flowed and my body heaved with the realization of the depth of what was hidden inside me, a key to how I have navigated my life until now…

Belonging…always searching to belong, to be accepted, to be loved, to be liked. Thirty years that can be traced back (perhaps, in part) to a moment when I was made a stranger. Thirty years since a letter was read in front of my church that said Lesley-Anne Clements no longer belongs.

And so I cried out, thirty years later. And I received gentle touch to my body and prayerful words spoken over me, my heart opening to receive healing from this little group of people I had known for only 6 days. They lavished me with the love of the Father, and their love. The same people whom I secretly feared, and felt somewhat removed from, for most of our week together, held me with the genuine kindness of their presence and words.

And then, someone asked permission to pray. I nodded, unable to speak. His prayer was deeply repentant, asking my forgiveness, standing in to take full responsibility for what the Church had done to me. I was shaken. I did not know my heart needed reconciliation. But a generous knowledge of what was required and then given, met my unspoken need.

More tears and hugs and a holy kiss on my forehead. I felt emptied and filled in. I felt like blinders were removed. Now I sensed I could move forward into being more fully me. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you. Peace and reconciliation lavished on me. Mercy. Grace. Love. Thank you.

There is more to the story, at a heart level, but for now I will hold that as a gift for me alone. And I will continue to see what may be required from here, because it has been suggested there may be further trauma to deal with, there may be more for me around this notion of shame, how my hunger to belong haunts me. It amazes me that such deep hurt can be lived out without any true recognition…until….

Even this week I am beginning to see how the choices I make and the people I care for and the communities I lean into, reflect my hidden wound somehow being transformed into a gift to others. I’m reminded of a verse that says it was meant for evil but God meant it for good. And perhaps it wasn’t intended as evil at the time, but the result of my excommunication was pain, separation, and exclusion of my heart to an outside place, far removed from God’s heart incarnate in those who professed it most strongly back then. You can perhaps see how this could cause confusion in my relationship with God. Yes, there may be more to unpack here.

But thank God that His heart has never left mine. Thank God that He speaks in new and gentle ways to the broken and lost parts of my heart. And I have to believe that He has an holy intention in all of this…it all belongs.

Several years ago I wrote a poem that reflected part of the experience of my last meeting with the elders of the church, a meeting which set the wheels in motion for my excommunication. I remember it clearly. Only now I also feel it with more clarity. I feel anger in my poem. I didn’t know then that there were deeper layers to be coaxed out, loved on, and in God’s time, raised from the grave.

Finding the Outside Place

Two of their kind arrive
at my door, just like with Noah,
only no females. Two elders
in dark suits, carrying
The Book, King James, leather bound.
I invite them in, keep
my appointment with
their Kingdom kind. Hear
the blame and shame
coming. Same as grade
school quiet flush, my hand
goes up to take the fall for
someone’s spilled glue.
How I save the class from
head-down-on-the-desk
time out.  These two cut
me in ways I don’t expect.
And me polite and
would you prefer coffee or tea
with one or two lumps of sugary
excuses for my errant behaviour?
(it hasn’t gone unnoticed
over several years). They sit
like bookends in rose brocade.
I practice active listening,
open faced to inherent
rhetoric. They proclaim
fundamentals, subtle
errors of my ways, the dire
consequence of marrying
outside the faith. All this and

the truth shall set you free.
They want to pray. I say
no. Thanks. (Maybe I say
more?)  They deliver
last rites. Exit, stage right.
Afterwards I gasp like one
fresh raised from the grave.

A slight shift… just a little one…


DSC_0789Hi. Long time no write. Much has taken place and continues to find its place in my life. I am well at times. How are you?

I am grateful for the way God allows me time and space to come to my own inconclusive conclusions, mess through my own muck (self created and a product of my upbringing, culture, experience) and opportunity to humble myself and see things ever vaguely and/or becoming clearer in what they are.

I’ve been away. In Northern Ireland. In New York City. Away from “church” and searching for where I belong, what I need, what I can stand for and with, and who are my people and community and what is it that God would have me do. And more. I’ve become a bit of a nomad, but feeling the repeated pull of home. I believe I’m getting closer to the truth and the reason I’ve needed to wander. It’s as much a result of heart wrenching, certainty tossing, conviction lostness, as it is a result of conversations with wise ones whom I trust enough to open up my pandora’s box of troubled questions and invite them in.

I invite you in…

Here’s what I’m just beginning to discover, what is being unearthed in me;

1. I’m me, and God doesn’t make any mistakes. I’ve been wrestling with God and me, not loving who I am, but loving myself too much in other ways. There is paradox in the journey of faith and self-knowledge, like everything else. The struggles I’m having are because I’m me, and the way to shelter and peace will be specific to who I am and how God wired me. It takes time for me to sort these things out.

2. I’m prideful. I’ve just recognized I’ve been asking “Did God Really say?” (yes, same question the serpent threw in Adam and Eve’s face on the garden’s slippery slope) And whatever particular version of that I’ve entertained has been my somewhat slanted/deluded reason for separation from various people groups out of a sense of needing to protect other people groups. Proud Mary…that’s me. So…

Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned against you and against your people. Bring me back to what matters to you, something I can build my life on. Help me see the difference between the bricks and mortar that build a house, and the decorative elements that are lovely yet not necessary. Bring me back to basic design, Lord. Don’t grow weary of me.

3. I am super sensitive and easily influenced. When I open myself up to new opinions and I attempt to understand various points of view, sometimes those views meld with my own and I can no longer clearly see what I believe is true. There is paradox in this too, because I am a learner with a healthy dose of curiosity, yet I must create boundaries that are healthy for me. Just like I choose to not watch the 10 PM news before going off to bed, or click on the link to stories about animal abuse, I know in my core that I cannot carry certain information well and I must therefore put it aside for a time, or for always. This does not make me an ostrich, I know information is available to me should I require it in the future.

4. I will never find a place where I truly, entirely, belong outside of maybe my immediate family. Not my extended family, not my circle of friends, not my writing circles, not my church, not my neighbourhood, not my academic institution, not even my fav coffee shop. Unconditional love and acceptance does not exist here, on earth, and I will not argue the unconditional love of Father God for me, just to say I’ve heard he does and I am trying to learn how to believe that. My sense of community may instead come in the bits of experiences I have with a wide range of people over time. I must somehow carry my belonging in me. And yes, that ultimate belonging to God.

5. Life is hard. Life is lonely. Life is beautiful. Life is holy. All of these truths coexist. Life is paradox. God is a mystery. My inability to understand or explain or argue does not make it less so. Truth can be absolute. And one can live in the mystery of not having an answer and survive. What I thought I was looking for was a common language to speak, a inclusive way of living that is non toxic and  flourishing.

What I was maybe looking for was a place to be OK with myself and all the unanswered questions and doubts that I carry with me wherever I go. No place is going to tell me I’m OK all the time. No place is capable of answering all my questions. There will be trouble. The waters will be stirred up. There will be things said that I cannot abide. And that is OK, I think.

6. I am beginning to be OK with being adrift, but also feeling the need to look at what I know for sure, sure enough to trust. I sense the big chunk of fear is shrinking a tiny bit, the angst I’ve carried every single Sunday I wake up wanting/not wanting to go to church and then don’t/can’t go… I think it may begin to dissipate. I’m working through it. I just asked myself today, “What’s the very worst thing that can happen to me if I return to church?” No answer yet, still thinking.

7. I am not alone in my experiences. This is the human condition, to walk in faith and out of faith like Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis and me. Faith and doubt coexist. To say otherwise is a lie.

8. There will be more shifting. As I continue to unpack and attempt to understand where I am and where I am going and what God has in mind in all of this messy loveliness, I will probably write it here. We shall see.

May all that we experience and all that we learn and all that we are, feed our lives like small morsels of bread cast onto uneven ground. May we learn to see God as the one who breaks off those little bits to help us find our way, and to sustain us.

Lesley-Anne

Thanksgiving Sabbath unrest…


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Yellow ribbons of remembrance hanging outside a NYC Manhattan church.

My Thanksgiving Sabbath rest began with a hot cup of coffee and a little book my dear friend gifted me with for my last birthday. My darling went to church. I didn’t. I’m hoping this day will continue with family time, perhaps a hike somewhere on this lovely day, and then it will culminate in us five gathering around a table and ordering turkey dinner (my darling’s idea to reduce the work and increase the conversation) and watching the sun set over the lake and behind the Monashee. We may or may not talk about why we are thankful… often that makes for discomfort and eye rolling on the part of our young adult kids.

So I read the little book from cover to cover. “A Liturgy for Sunday Schools,” published in 1842 by the Dioscesan Sunday-School Society of Pennsylvania, fragile, water spotted, smelling faintly of must and mildew, is only 36 pages long, and for the purposes of leaders leading children in the various services of the Episcopal church Sunday-School. An easy read.

As I sip coffee and read, I am touched by the deep reverence of the words, and the words themselves, some of which are no longer part of our language today are unique, special, resonant. My mind wanders to my perceptions around church history, the simplicity, literal, black and white, how it seeps into everyday life back then. I move to my own church history, its complexity, its greyness, and how it has for a long time been part of my everyday life, but now not so much. And how I miss it but no longer know where I truly belong, if anywhere.

And I begin to see my Sabbath unrest rather than rest, not always, but now. Do you experience this? What does it look like for you? Have you found a way to peace?

There are others who share my place, others who have written about it. One of my favourite books, “Skin Boat,” by Canadian author and poet John Terpstra, resounds deeply for me. The dance in and out of the pews and I want to end up somewhere, sometimes, and other times I am repelled by the thought.

Or another friend of mine who says he is allergic to church, breaks out in a sweat when he is there, and I get that. Because there is physicality, emotion and intellect involved sitting and listening to words that you can no longer accept in their entirety, or underlying dogma, or attitudes, all those things that begin to get to you like a bur under a saddle and you finally have to untether yourself and run free for a bit while your flesh heals.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written here, and that’s partly due to feeling I have very little to say mixed with a bit of resolve and shame, but maybe it’s time to open up a bit, I don’t really know.

This blog is supposed to be about hope, and that hasn’t changed, and my belief in God hasn’t changed, nor my belief in who Jesus was and is and what he is about in the world. Jesus words (the red letters of the bible) speak precisely to how I want to live, but how I do that… that is the sticky point. I get hung up on the cast and hook, the doing what I do for the agenda/purpose of type stuff.

Yet my desire to live for God’s glory does not change. My desire to write my experience of the fullness of it, the spirit and humanity of life. My hunger for relationships that connect spiritually has not changed. My desire for spiritual formation, the integration of spiritual practice remains. I am becoming… but I do not know what.…

Anyway, I think maybe I’ll unpack some thoughts here over the next little while. I’ve done it before, HERE and HERE and HERE. Maybe it will take us to more clarity or more willingness to be unsure, more restfulness?

Here is a partial poem I’ve been messing about with on the subject… all I have for now:

This accidental architecture defines what belongs
and what is outside, romantic notions
of historic field boundaries somehow justified
by the latter commendations of sparrows and
and small creatures nested in crevices, hollows. How
we are drawn by longing then repelled by the lines drawn between us.

Build me not a wall but an altar, a holy well
set mid field and shaded by fairy thorn.

What we are thirsty for…


This Lenten season I have been working through an amazing and meaningful experience called Beloved, an online journey into Lent and Easter with Jan Richardson leading us. Each day for the past 5 weeks leading into this, Holy Week, I have received by email an image of Jan’s paintings, a poem blessing, a few paragraphs of prompting and insightful considerations, reflective music, and many questions. Deep questions. Soul searching questions. I know I will continue working through them for a long time.

I tell you this because when I chose to undertake this journey, I suppose I did so with an agenda. I didn’t voice it, write it down, or even consciously think about it, but my hidden agenda was that this Lent I would draw closer to God and he would in turn, draw closer to me. I’m not entirely certain either thing happened. Although I wrote about my experience briefly HERE, still, today, I’m feeling rather disconnected and sad and even a little guilty for feeling this way.

Now I could be feeling rather vacant because school is over and I no longer have anything to put my mind to, or it could be because the season of life I find myself in is with young adult children still in the nest but wings ready for flight. It could be because my husband’s new job has taken him to a neighbouring community which makes connecting for coffee or lunch much more difficult these days. It could be my age. But, in concert with all of these is this soulful hole inside me that is God shaped (or so they say when they talk of spiritual longings such as these, and I do believe mine is spiritual) and I haven’t managed to find a lasting way to fill it or to feel like it has been filled.

And, as I with my heart/soul ache messing about inside me always do, I try to make sense of it. I try to solve it I guess, yet I think that may be impossible. I write to God on my prayer blog, I mess about with thoughts, and as usually happens, I write poetry. Rough draft, rough ideas, still working through. You will find my poem posted just below…

INSERT:  a short time later after posting this blog, I find, “Many a quiet, ordinary, and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love’s flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a place of delight where the King of Love himself walks and rejoices with his friends.” ~ Hinds Feet on High Places

Which makes me wonder if maybe my ordinary life presenting me with rather ordinary things to do and take care of, maybe my life with quiet times such as this one right now is the one God has prepared for me to blossom in. Maybe I’ve become greedy/thirsty for… busyness… being needed… experience… accomplishment… status… acknowledgement… rather than truly longing for God? I’ve been given my quiet and hidden life, and the hardest thing for me to do is to see it as a gift.

I’d love, I’d REALLY love, to chat about these things with you if you are willing to engage. It can be through email at mygracenotes@gmail.com if you’d prefer. Do you ever have these thoughts, these feelings, and what do you do with them?

Here are some questions that might guide our conversation;

What do you thirst for? Are you spiritually thirsty, or for something else that could be met by making a change?

What steps are you taking, or have taken, to identify what you are thirsty for?

In your relationship with God, do you find your thirsts are quenched? Do some thirsts remain?

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I thirst

 

I thirst.

After all is done

and all is accomplished

yet that the scripture might

be fulfilled, Jesus says

I thirst.

 

And I come

not to a cross

but to His wellspring

of life, not for the first

time, but again and still

not knowing what it

means to drink. I long

with a black hole

of need, desire for company,

significance, meaning, chat,

answers. My prayers fall

on thin air, his presence,

his ever expanding mystery

perplexes me, angers me

keeps me asking for what

I do not know. He

is often silent, so often

delivered up on tongues

of men in ways I cannot

digest. We sit around

comparing our notes

patting one another

on the back for discerning

his plans and his will

and I critique the words

as they leave my lips. I want

to bite my forked tongue

into silence. I am wet eyed

at the terror and wonder

of this world and most days

I don’t get the point of it

don’t get God, don’t hear

God, don’t feel like I’ve

come closer to God

in imperfect trying. Peace

does not last. Grace

is fleeting. Words

just words, so many words

my head spins, soul

ache remains. No matter

the long years

of limping toward you

the hole is here.

I am bono-fied ~

cause I still haven’t

found what I’m

looking for. And I’m

looking, I am looking

and I’m asking

and I’m here.

Where are you?

 

Jesus says I thirst.

Jesus does not preach

yet is not silent in his agony.

Jesus states his need,

his simple need

for quenching. He knows

what he will get

yet he exposes his need

that scripture would be

fulfilled. What does

this mean? Only after

they respond, only

after they offer him

the tainted wine, only then

Jesus says

it is finished.

 

You know what I need, God.

I want to know. I want to ask it

if I could just find it.

The words that mean

I am thirsty.

 

 

It Is Finished

28 After this, Jesus, knowing[e] that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Gospel of John, chapter 19

 

 

 

“I Hate You,” and other words on the tips of our tongues…


Love is Stronger

“Love is Stronger” carved by Claire C. Evans.

Dear buddies,

We’ve been friends for quite a few years now, and I know you have heard me rant before. This probably won’t be the last time. This time is with a fair bit of trepidation as I’m still working things out inside me and nothing is clear. It may never be clear. Thing is, I want to say something about it anyway because we are friends, and friends talk about stuff that matters.

If I tell you I’m a Christian (it’s hard to use the big C), or I’m a christian (little c is closer to the truth), that says a lot to most. It says good and bad things without me saying much at all. If you asked me what I mean by christian, I’d have a hard time because there are many things I used to say right out, black and white, that I am not comfortable with anymore. And this is not the time for doctrine or belief statements, rather the time to try to show the kind of person I am without labels. Is that possible. I don’t know.

I remember when I was a little girl. I was really mad. I wanted something really really badly, and my parents said, “NO.” In my anger and disappointment I lashed out and they sent me to my room and I ran down the hallway crying and threw myself on my bed and yelled, “I hate you. I wish you were dead.” Sound familiar at all? And there are many times in my life that I still say this inside, use slightly different words like, “you suck,” or, “you idiot,” or, “and you call yourself a human,” or “you are such an ?*&^%$##!!!” I do. Often.

And I judge. The monologue that takes place inside my head is horrific. If you could hear the voices and what they say, you might not want to be my friend anymore. I try not to. I call myself to account. I try to be the one who judges not lest I be judged… but I will be, I know that to be true.  I still judge. Maybe this sounds familiar to you as well?

So, now you know two truths about me, in my attempt to show you that I am human and not professing anything other than humanity like all those who are mentioned in this post. Just in case you hear judgement or righteousness, I want you to know that is not my intent.

I want to talk about what is bugging me about the day before yesterday and yesterday and maybe open up a dialogue about it. If not, I guess I’m just talking to myself and that’s OK. It’s a topic so confusing and hot and complex that I need to get some words outside my head to try and come to a place of being OK. I’m not there yet.

Day before yesterday World Vision announced they were adopting a new hiring policy allowing same-sex married individuals to work for their NGO. I read about it on Facebook and immediately Googled to see if it was true. It was. Everyone was talking about it, writing about it. And it was both exciting and appalling, depending upon one’s perspective. Some people rejoiced. In many uniquely creative ways some other people said, “I Hate You, and I Wish You Were Dead!!!” They did. Muck was slung, scriptures were launched, people on both sides of the line (mostly within the church) defended their positions and it was really really awful. There were some well crafted blogs suggesting immediate action, either to quit WV entirely or to support through further adoptions. Seems a lot of people’s response to WV’s change was to drop child sponsorship, just to point to how strong conviction/emotions are, and how easy to lose sight of the fall out (reports say over 2000 sponsorships were pulled overnight).

Then yesterday, World Vision changed their mind. In an announcement that included asking for forgiveness, WV turned everything around and suggested they were unintentionally misled, less than scriptural, acting outside of wise counsel. And again, all hell broke loose. Again, both sides launched shit on each other. While the world watched and wondered, and all of heaven held its breath. What was gained and what was lost? We could talk a long time on such things.

I don’t know the answer, I don’t profess to be a theological scholar or a history major or an activist for any special interest group. I know it’s complicated. I know. I was born in Northern Ireland, I’m protestant, and I married a Catholic. I know a bit about church troubles. But I’m a white, heterosexual poet who is married with 3 young adult kids and a dog. I live in Canada. I am not oppressed. Still, I’m deeply concerned and disturbed by this turn of events.

Yes, I believe in standing for who you are and what you believe. There are folk all around the world who are suffering for who they are and what they believe. People are martyrs for the faith right now. People are taking their lives after being bullied for years about their sexual orientation. You tell me about suffering and I will tell you what I know. I will tell you what it was like to be excommunicated from my family church for marrying outside it.  I’ve seen what happens when good intentioned animal rights folk post pictures of abused animals on Facebook. I’ve read comments that would make your blood run cold. Passion can get out of hand. Convictions can result in as much retaliatory evil as the original act. Life is full of suffering. Christian, christian, agnostic or atheist, life is hard and difficult enough to bear without all this hate. God isn’t about hate, he is about love.

So, when I see the sides drawn, and I see the shit being launched, I can’t help wonder where it’s all going to lead? We can see where it led in history, and where it leads in countries around our world. Religious persecution is no different than any prejudice based upon colour, creed, sexual orientation or gender. There are good and beautiful people inside and outside of every faith community, every church, inside and outside of every political group or NGO. Who am I to judge. WHO AM I? The world has for so long been about winning… about the right answer… about treating the one with the wrong answer as less than. About hate. Not about love.

I don’t even know what this means yet, but I do know I will not take sides and fling muck at the church or any other group of people on this issue. It’s not right. It’s not loving. When I feel that deep seated desire to judge flood me, I don’t want to go there anymore. I want to  love rather than divide or conquer. And if loving means not having the right words to say, that will be me. If loving means having a hug rather than having a platform or position, I’m OK with that too.

I choose love. As ridiculously improbable as that sounds because I am fallibly human, I still choose love. And I trust I will learn how to love better as I limp along with God in the lead and eyes on Jesus. And I don’t know what it looks like. I wish I did.

Lesley-Anne

What others are writing on the topic and related thoughts:

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2014/04/02/where-i-stand

http://sarahbessey.com/ones-leaving-evangelicalism/

http://sarahbessey.com/ones-who-stay/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/when-wed-rather-let-kids-go-hungry-than-be-reasonable-on-gay-marriage/

 

 

 

See, I am doing a new thing!


Eowyn+in+battle

I’m not really one for resolutions, but I do find the New Year and Spring and also September to be times when I have renewed energy and this sense of potential buzzing around me like small but pretty flies. Not a lovely image I know, it reminds me somewhat of Charlie Brown’s friend ‘Pig Pen’… so perhaps I should say potential like the small illuminated motes you see floating in sunbeams? Truth is there is a buzzing of ideas and the correlation to something alive and with wings a more apt description. What I mean is, my mind is alive with ideas germinating and taking root, ideas that come in the night and again at first light and keep poking at me during the day. I have such energy. I want to involve myself in initiatives that are fresh and alive and I’m entirely OK with charging ahead into many different things at the same time.

Someone asks me if I am somewhat manic (a rather charged word choice, don’t you think?) I take slight offense, of course. My husband agrees I am certainly not manic, and suggests I might pace myself, but when I ask him how to do that, he doesn’t know. Busted, I say! He gets me and I get him because this is how we do things, and there will be a time where we crash, but not yet!

I’m focusing on a new way of looking at it and choosing to call it ZEAL! A new facebook friend used this word to describe me recently, and I’m latching onto it. He said I had Uber-Zeal! Then he shared the provocative illustration below. Double wow! Sure, I’ve heard of zealous, of being a zealot (that, I’m pretty certain I’m not) but the root word, ZEAL, appears to mean something entirely different than what I thought. On fire… for God. And that description can include many many things and look entirely different to many people.

Uber Zeal

A google search of the meaning of the word ZEAL opened up further definition;

zeal
zēl/
noun
noun: zeal
1. great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.
“his zeal for privatization”

synonyms: passion, ardor, love, fervor, fire, avidity, devotion, enthusiasm, eagerness, keenness, appetite, relish, gusto, vigor, energy, intensity; fanaticism

Each one of the synonyms and their life application attract me, compel me, inspire me, somewhat drive me (apart from the last one which I will choose to remember only as a warning, or maybe just as a baseline for balance.) Or maybe being a fanatic for good God things is a good God thing in itself? As always, everything is open to interpretation!
What I’m really saying, as I carry on this dialogue with myself about who I am, and a perceived hope-filled conversation with you about who you are, is this;
Take time to know yourself deeply. I’ve heard and am beginning to see how knowing yourself leads to a deeper knowledge of God. (I struggled with this at first… not so much anymore) So with that in mind, keep on getting to know yourself, what makes you tick, what makes you white hot mad or joy-filled and spilling, what makes you energized and focused and gives your life value. The work of self-knowledge is never wasted. Choose to hear the positive descriptions of who you are rather than the negative. One person’s manic is another person’s zeal. Apply what you learn to your decisions, to your life.
I’m still trying, at my age, to learn what it means to truly live with integrity… my life lining up with my core values. It’s not easy, but it’s so important. My core values center around this:  I believe in a God is up to something GOOD in this world and we ALL have a part to play. I believe in a bigger story and all its many character roles including mine ~ this wee Irish gal who has some off centre ideas and just might attempt to do some crazy stuff because she has a small dose of faith and a strong feeling that everything is connected and everything does matter and how we spend ourselves makes a difference. Yes, I do believe I hear zeal in me!
Some people choose a word each New Year as a focus. I’ve never done that. I’m not saying I’m going to either. But if I were to do it, it just might be… you guessed it, ZEAL.
And if I were to choose one verse, it might be this verse, one that arrived in my inbox just after Christmas and I read it again in awe (I’ve read it before… it always takes me by surprise because of the intimacy and strength of it… the POTENTIAL, of what God can do);
16 This is what the Lord says—
    he who made a way through the sea,
    a path through the mighty waters,
18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:16,18,19 NIV
Happy, happy New Year, my dear reader friends.
Here’s to another new year, new ways of doing good things, renewed perspective and understanding of who we are and what God can and will do because we are his and precisely who we were made to be!
May we be aware and encouraged and energized by the knowledge that God IS doing a mighty NEW THING in us this year! Can you see it?
Lesley-Anne, SDG
p.s. my apologies for the formatting but I just can’t seem to make it work this time around. xo

All I want for Christmas…


I’m not usually one for Christmas lists, I seldom ask for specific gifts. Come Christmas morning I will feel quite uncomfortable with all eyes on me. I feel some pressure for an appropriate joyful, grateful response, and wanting my family to know how much they mean to me apart from what they give, but also how much I appreciate their efforts and love to me in their gifts. I’m not gifty. Perhaps I’m complicated content.

My grandmother used to say, “just a hanky,” when we asked her what she would like for her birthday or for Christmas. It seemed such a little thing, a hanky, yet I know how you reach a point (or maybe you were always there) where material things don’t mean much.

So, as I was thinking about what I’d really like for Christmas, it’s about the intangibles of relationships and social constructs that are most meaningful to me… the HOW we LIVE with one another. It comes down to the acceptance of who YOU are and who I am, and finding a way of doing life together that brings meaning and joy to both of us. I want for us to KNOW each other, to love each other all the more for knowing how imperfect yet wonderful we are.

So I am going to disclose some personal things to you with the real hope of acceptance and continued relationship. Forgive me if I’ve been less than forthcoming previously.

So here goes;DSC_0301

1. I believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. I am a simple woman, simply trying to follow Jesus and infuse all areas of my life with God’s love. I celebrate Christmas because of what I believe. If you want to hear my story, I have one to share.

2. I live in a constant tension of faith mixed with doubt. I do not have many answers, and I’m becoming more comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” It’s not about convincing, arguing, debating, although there are those who are very good at apologetics, I am not. I believe my life is becoming what it is because of God and me doing life together. It just is, and most days I believe it to be true.

3. I’m uncomfortable with organized Church. I regularly push myself to participate, serve, contribute to my local church, and for a time I feel real belonging, but I often also feel like a square peg in a round hole. I have been, and perhaps always will be, a dweller of margins.

4. I am imperfect. I say stupid things, forget birthdays, don’t return your calls or texts. I talk negative and overly-serious and deep when you want light and fun. I hide from people. I spend too much time on Facebook. I fight with my husband and my try to control my kids. I hate cleaning my house. I’d rather write or read. I’m unfriendly to some of my neighbours, and don’t speak to one. I’ve ignored you. I’ve broken promises. I am horrible at baking, but love getting praise for my cooking. I love getting praise for anything I do, but feel guilty for loving it too much. I want to do things for God, but feel I’m probably doing things for me a lot of the time. I run from conflict. I have strong opinions. I talk too much. There’s more.

5. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression, and I am sensitive to those who have been and how much worse they must feel compared to me. However I wonder sometimes if it would be best for everyone (my family especially) for me to spend a little time in a hospital and get myself somewhat re-tooled. If this is even possible. Often my depression lines up with SADD (several months of cloud and no sunshine in the Okanagan), menopause (sleeplessness, hot flashes, irritability etc.), and a predisposition towards introspection and time alone. I wonder how #1, #2, and #3 line up with this point. I have noticed that being more involved with projects around creative expression and things outside the world of being a stay-at-home manager of my family, helps my mental balance. I have noticed that happiness and joy are two different things.

6. I love to create, and I love to see others find their creative spirit and create. I believe passionately in how much better we all are when we find what we are meant to do, what we were created to do, and then go do it. I love to connect with others and encourage them to be their best.  I love to see the ripple effects of love, joy, and healing go out from the heart of each creative spirit into the hearts of others.

7. I want to be part of a bigger picture of creative expression. I am keeping my eyes, ears and heart open to what is next for me as part of the greater creative collective. I am considering how I may pour myself into realizing a new dream around words, writing, giving and growing.

8. I intend to continue to sign “SDG ~ Soli Deo Gloria,” to my work, and attribute thanks to God for what he allows, facilitates and carries out through my one life. I continue to desire and ask for integrity in this.

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for your open heart. This has truly been a gift to me to be able to write to you, share things at Buddy Breathing for a long time now.

I look forward to what life holds for us in 2014 and hope you write and tell me what you are up to, what you are learning.

May you be blessed with a renewed spirit of deep joy and gratitude for who you are, and the gifts you have been so rightly given.

With my love, SDG,

Lesley-Anne