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.

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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.

Far from perfect


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I have no idea why some things happen to me. I do know how they make me feel. In life I try to do the right thing. Perhaps I try a little too hard? Or, maybe I think I’ve got it figured out? Maybe a little bit of self-righteousness creeps in and pride comes before a fall? I can’t really say why it happens. But, suddenly, I blow it, BIG TIME.

I feel shame. There’s a painful knot in my gut. My mind is filled with ridicule. How could I do this? What was I thinking? How can I possibly make it right? Now what? I’ve ruined everything!

I try to make things better, say the right words, apologize, rectify, promise not to do it again… but I just can’t fix it. I can’t rewind the tape and erase my words, my actions, my inaction. Even if the one I hurt forgives me, still I feel condemned. And the situation wraps itself around me in a strangle hold. It’s all I can think of. On and on and on…

FULL STOP! I know a momentary lack of judgement, a word misspoken, or a big ugly mistake, is not the measure of a life. I know there’s more going on when the echos in my head are mean spirited, cruel, cutting, and condemning. I am well aware of a mortal enemy, and his particular way of trying to get at me where it hurts most. He gets personal every time.

So I bring myself and my mistake and my guilt here;

God, please forgive me for what I did, for what I said. Forgive me for hurting one of your kids. Thank you for seeing me as clean and forgiven. Help me to move beyond this. Protect me from the darkness that would surround me and keep me down. Protect me from the evil one who would destroy me. God, fill me with your peace about this situation. Burn a deeper compassion/empathy/grace for others because of my mistake and your forgiveness. Then put everything in it’s rightful place, and allow me to move into your freedom.

And then, I’m done with it. Thank you God, it is done.

SDG, Lesley-Anne

Poem for a sunny Saturday afternoon


A predisposition to dark thoughts and negative thinking

Sad and worried old woman

Sad and worried old woman (Photo credit: SalFalko)

I’m convinced there are two types of people in the world

maybe more, at least two. Those who are care-full

glass barely at the half, wearing the gaze of others like a brand sear

the turning of heads like a slap, words spoken or withheld

a sieve with wide holes, draining.

And those who don’t.

(And if this is not true, please stop telling me

you don’t care what others think, stop saying

the world is tinted pink.) Please.

Because the rest of us, we do try

to begin with positive intent, wide mouths

and hearts open in rooms of strangers, for a fleeting hour

feel we’ve got it, found it, sweet notes lingering on

our tongues. We sing, sway tentatively to a song

we know we’ve heard some place before

then doubt what we did, what we saw, what we heard

wake tormented.  Should, could, didn’t do

walk weighted. Long for the lightness

of another world view. The one with the

all things working and all shall be well,

that view, fade to grey.

As if we wouldn’t choose

(our perception of) an easy burden

a way of sloughing off, dancing on, head high.

As if we clench our troubled thoughts in careful fingers

like small candles, barely lit enough

to cast a shadow as we shuffle home.

Poetry Fridayo37


Broken Heart

Image by Gabriela Camerotti via FlickrValentine’s Day

Salt, scabs and lost loves

A specter of my former life moves
past me on the pavement
close enough I feel
chill
And while I stare and will it to
look at me with dead eyes
it will not, but weaves
up the avenue
away.
It’s pretense on other things aside
I know it feels my mortal presence
Sure ghosts have memories
ours shared are
technicolour
Hawk cries out above us two
intent on blood warmed
bodies in the winter
grass
Small deaths atone for love’s demise
in me, splayed hearts scatter
like misplaced valentines
upon the frozen
ground.

Lesley-Anne Evans
, February 14, 2011