And they wrestled all night


My intention is to continue unpacking what I began yesterday, talk about it, bring it into the light, consider what it means, consider how being at this juncture is where I’m supposed to be.

Today I opened The Good Book, which led me to a commentary by Alexander MacLaren, and there I discovered his wonderful essay about Jacob wrestling with…a man…an angel…the divine presence…God!

Alexander Maclaren (February 11, 1826 – May 5, 1910) was an English non-conformist minister of Scottish origin. “Called the “prince of expositors,” Alexander MacLaren was a renowned preacher of the 19th and 20th century. [The published collection] Expositions of Holy Scripture brings together many of the sermons over his fifty years in ministry.”(https://www.ccel.org/ccel/maclaren)

Here are some highlights from MacLaren’s commentary on Genesis 32 :

So this failure of natural power is the turning-point in the twofold
wrestle, and marks as well as symbolises the transition in Jacob’s
life and character from reliance upon self and craft to reliance upon
his divine Antagonist become his Friend.

How interesting to land on this particular story, and these particular insights now. Spiritual formation study and practise have been part of my life for over ten years. My recent studies have led me to the teachings of Contemplative Christianity (Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Margaret Silf etc.) with distinctions between living from the false self vs the true self. I am beginning to understand my longing for authenticity and integrity, and my unique place as an artist/poet in the world. I have begun to look at The Enneagram as so much more than a diagnostic justification of identity, rather a starting point toward spiritual transformation, balance, and healing. These teachings are rich, impacting. I continue to sense the draw toward this way of being.

And yet, ironically, I find myself wrestling with certain fundamentals of faith…and perhaps wrestling is what is required of me to continue on The Way with God. Do I truly desire to be transformed? Do I?

Further highlights from MacLaren’s expository on Jacob’s encounter with God (bold text by me);

God desires to go, if we do not desire Him to stay. He will go, unless
we keep Him. Then, at last, Jacob betakes himself to his true weapons.
Then, at last, he strangely wishes to keep his apparent foe. He has
learned, in some dim fashion, whom he has been resisting, and the
blessedness of having Him for friend and companion.

The desire to retain God binds Him to us. All His struggling with us
has been aimed at evoking it, and all His fulness responds to it when
evoked. Prayer is power. It conquers God. We overcome Him when we
yield. When we are vanquished, we are victors. When the life of nature
is broken within us, then from conscious weakness springs the longing
which God cannot but satisfy.

And God prevails when we prevail. His aim in all the process of His
mercy has been but to overcome our heavy earthliness and selfishness,
which resists His pleading love. His victory is our yielding, and, in
that yielding, obtaining power with Him. He delights to be held by the
hand of faith, and ever gladly yields to the heart’s cry,’Abide with
me.’ ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me,’ is music to His
ear; and our saying so, in earnest, persistent clinging to Him, is His
victory as well as ours.

This is far from being tied up with a bow. I will continue to lean into what is revealed…in word, deed, circumstance, and the world around me. I don’t yet know what it means…this seeking and longing for…answers…peace…justice…love…God?

I continue to read and consider the the new name “Israel” that Jacob receives from God after morning comes and wrestling ends. I admit there is a teeny shift for me when I read MacLaren’s words;

To impose a name is the sign of authority, possession, insight into character. The change of name indicates a new epoch in a life, or a transformation of the inner man. The meaning of ‘Israel’ is ‘He (who) strives with God’; and the reason for its being conferred is more accurately given by the Revised Version, which translates, ‘For thou hast striven with God and with men,’ than in the Authorised rendering.’

A true Christian is an ‘Israel.’ His office is to wrestle with God.

jacobwrestlesgod

An encounter with the Divine…

Wrestling as worship, leading to transformation…

I wonder…

Advertisements

We are not done


dsc_0045.jpg

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.

Recommendations…


DSC_0558I’ve been otherwise occupied, obvious from the date of my last post. I’m sorry. Not much in the way of blogging, or even new poetry writing. But a rich time of learning the history of epic poetic genius, and growing into new word pursuits presenting to me in my community. Awe-struck by it all.

Here are a few things I recommend to you in my latent absence, or in the intent of a poetic line/seed poem that is rooting itself in my brain, in the commendation of sparrows and lesser things;

1. John Donne ~ Holy Sonnets, specifically Death Be Not Proud.

2. Wit ~ Play by Margaret Edson, screen adaptation, starring Emma Thompson.

3. BBC Documentary on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

4. Take a course, push outside the comforting constraints of current circles, learn.

5. Self-knowledge. Dig in. Unearth. Make adjustments.

6. Forgive. Often.

7. Dive into Life. Abandon yourself. That most often requires slowing down.

That’s all my friends.

With love,

Lesley-Anne

Adding extra to ordinary…


india kerala boat people

india kerala boat people (Photo credit: FriskoDude)

Part of me longs for extraordinary… while the other part feels rather comfortable with things just the way they are. But the first part, the one I often censor or squelch or call names, it’s the part that is most alive when I watch movies and read books and listen to people talk. It’s the part of me that holds it’s breath, that makes my heart beat just a little stronger than comfort ever will. That deep part of me has a voice that whispers over and over and over until I have to pay attention. I believe God may be calling my name.

What I’m trying to hear and trying to understand is this… that I need, or my heart might need, a jump start… an experience that would be like strapping on those ER cardiac paddles and yelling ‘CLEAR’ and holding my breath and feeling that whomp in my chest, as something big and electric and jarring and different and nothing near ordinary changes something in me. And how that change will effect my writing… as a witness,  writing about things that really matter… all this and more…

I’m a pretty ordinary gal. I’m not much of an adventurer, I’m an artist. I’m not very flexible, resilient, crowd saavy, travel saavy, or extraordinarily brave. At least, I don’t think I am. I speak one language well. So, I’m good with ordinary most days.

And maybe it’s because of my recent birthday, maybe it’s because I just promised my husband that I’m going to live to 100 and I want to make the very most of the next 50 years that I’m thinking I’ve got to bust out and figure it out and get out there in a new way that might change the trajectory of my life… or not. You know what I mean. Talk is… well, just talk.

Last night was girls night out. We went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel… yep, a sweet movie with more than a hint of introspection/perspective on counting our days, measuring our choices, and experiencing a life of joy to the end. Made me wonder if I could be doing things a little differently, a little more focused/purposeful/passionate than I have been so far. I mean, my life in Canada is so… privileged, so…vanilla, so… expected. And it’s not that I can’t do good things at home, can’t impact the world/my world from here, but still it’s awfully safe and sane and sanitized… can you relate? Still I’m not convinced… still not certain if this is real, or my imagination.

When I got home last night I spent a couple of hours online investigating India…and today I’m thinking some more about it… and I’m wondering what will come of all this? What is this all about?

India - Kids - 092

India – Kids – 092 (Photo credit: mckaysavage)

God, what are you trying to tell me?

God, I’m opening my ears, my eyes… to what is

India… far far away, crowded, hot, humid, beautiful architecture and people, deep poverty, intensely spiritual, rich in culture and history,

india calcutta bookstore

overwhelming humanity… India.

and I’m paying attention, God,

Lesley-Anne

Anne Shirley, BFF’s and why girlfriends matter…


Free Anne of Green Gables quote poster

Image by the green gal via Flickr

Here is something I wrote for my friend and writing mentor, Heidi McLaughlin, for inclusion in her new book, ‘Sand to Pearls’. You can pick up your copy online at Amazon.ca, Barnes and Noble, from Heidi McLaughlin, or at your local Christian Bookstore.

This morning I had the opportunity to sit with a vibrant young girlfriend of mine over a cup of ‘Americano’. We sat on stools at the coffee shop window, and talked about stuff like relationships and jobs and the economy.  An hour later we hadn’t come to any conclusions.  Yet, as I headed out the door to my day, I felt something shift — a hopeful kind of energy had begun to percolate inside me.

My life is full of these type of girlfriend encounters.  God has splashed the canvas of my life with a colourful collection of women who overwhelm me with their unique beauty. They widen my understanding of friendship with their hilarious and serious, gracious and goofy, energetic and organized, wise and spiritual, artistic and technical, youthful and experienced selves in my blessed life.  From my type ‘A’ friends to more reserved ones, the ones I see often, to those who I know only virtually, my life is rich and fun and livable because they are all my friends.  I would be lost without them.

When I was a little girl I had dreams.  And, like other little girls, I dreamed that I would someday become a teacher, an artist, a veterinarian, even a heroine in a fantastic story.  I also dreamed of having a best friend — another human being who understood me completely.  Like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, I longed for ‘a bosom friend’ with whom I could share life, through thick and through thin.

This notion of having one special friend that was ‘closer than a brother’ effected many relationship decisions I made. I tried, trusted, and then mistrusted females in my life who didn’t fulfill my vision perfectly. And I experienced broken relationships, including ones where I did the breaking. A lot of pain in my life was caused by this childish fantasy of finding one ultimately fulfilling relationship.

Mid point in my life, I’ve finally come to realize that God never planned for me to place a  ‘BFF’ on the pedestal of my life. No girlfriend or husband or child is meant to be there. That place is reserved for God alone.   God wants to be my best friend forever.  So I’m trying to lean into that truth, and remove the pressure of my needs on my human friends. How could I have been so blind for so long?

With God in his rightful place, I can see that he has given me exceedingly more than the realization of my dreams.  God has collected a wonderful plethora of female friends and said to me, “Here, these are for you… these unique, timely, divinely assigned friends are for you, just as you are for them.”  My God given girlfriends custom blend of humour, grace, wisdom, soul wrenching honesty, and spiritual connectivity, are just what I need, at precisely the time I need, for whatever God needs me to learn, change, grow in or go through.

So I thank God for each one of them, and for the way that he uses them to plant tiny seeds of hope in me. And when he brings along someone new, I get quite giddy dreaming of the possibilities of how God will work through this girlfriend-in-waiting. I trust that he’s got that all figured out, just like everything else.

Thankful…Lesley-Anne

Midweek random ramble008


Bowl of Mott's Cinnamon Flavored Apple Sauce

Image via Wikipedia

1. Reflecting on a simulcast conference I attended yesterday. Are you like me… find yourself all fired up when you listen to inspiring ones who hold out a better way, and you find yourself longing for it? Well, yesterday was just like that for me. Beth Moore is an amazing speaker and teacher. She’s funny, open and honest, and smart. She knows her Bible, and has a way of explaining it that leaves me wanting more and more of what she is offering up of God.

I spent a couple of hours today reading over my ‘Living Proof Live conference notes, looking up references in my Bible, chatting to God, and thinking about the potential for change in me….

Beth taught on verse 26 from Proverbs chapter 31… which is;

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.

I want to be that woman. I want my words to be full of wise counsel and loving kindness and life to those I speak to.

So, I’m inviting God to help me to do that. Be that. Specifically. Daily. Moment by moment.

2. Just picked some Mac apples from the orchard behind us. There’s something about apples… simple and wholesome. Fruit of the earth. Going to make some apple sauce. Going to enjoy the aromas that will soon permeate our home. Going to sink in and cocoon on this rainy Sunday afternoon at home. It’s lovely to just have a home day in the midst of what will be two very busy weeks. Hmmm… Sabbath rest… I can feel that today.

3.  Our life really is going to the birds! This morning we had Rock Doves, Chickadees, White Crowned Sparrows, Quail, and regular garden variety Sparrows outside our dining room window, dining at the various feeders that were just filled up by my son Graeme last week. What a delight to sit on the floor with the dog beside me and look out the dog smeared window at all the bird activity. Do you like birds? I remember my Grandfather was mesmerized by them. Just like he was mesmerized by flowers and plants and all living things. He would say, “Would you look at that!” incredulous, voice filled with wonder.

4. I’m deathly afraid of the dental chair. Saturday morning I bit down on a multi-grain bagel and a very tiny seed wedged it’s way into one of my molars and as I bit down a lurch my stomach type pain jammed it’s way down into my jaw. Ever since I’ve been worried about what that means. Because my dentist said we’d leave well enough alone with this tooth. It has a history and a hairline crack that we’ve been watching. Considering the need for a crown. My first crown. And thanks to that bagel my dental nightmare seems to be coming true.

Last time I was tipped back in the dental chair I became overwhelmed by anxiety, shallow breathing and tears. Over getting one of my wisdom teeth extracted. I may be a bit of a pansy because in all of my years I’ve only had one filling. Lack of experience results in my freaking out when I can’t close my mouth or swallow my saliva or sit up straight or be in control of my own head. Did I mention the fear?

So, after a tearful conversation with my husband regarding the pending crown vs. extracting said tooth (He thought pulling the tooth sounded a bit barbaric, while I thought grinding down for a crown sounded worse) I realized that my fear is just that… fear. And, without getting into the details of some other situations that I have trusted God with, let’s just say that God was with me in the sea and in a cave and he’ll be with me in the dental chair.

Just made an appointment!

5. Reinstating ‘Date Night’ with my husband. We want to do it, talk about it, plan to do it, forget to do it. So, we’re adding it to some things that are ingrained in our weekly calendar which will mean we will no longer forget. Looking forward to some face time with my main man!!!

6. Enjoyed a rousing rendition of ‘Jupiter’, and then ‘Rockin Around the Christmas Tree’ thanks to Malcolm the DJ this morning. Bizarre mixing on my iMac… perhaps some tweaking of the playlists might help :)

Here’s ‘The Planets Op. 32 Jupiter’, by Gustav Holst, for your listening enjoyment.

Sol Deo Gloria,

Lesley-Anne