What I want to say…


That Certain Sound

There’s a musical chord called a ‘unresolved suspended chord’, a series of notes played simultaneously on the piano that hangs in the air, like you know there is something coming after, it sounds unfinished musically.

Last night, after I prepared dinner, I sat down at the piano in the peace of a dusk filled room, I sat and played something I’ve never heard before, it spilled out. The melody was filled with suspended chords, the room with music and sighs and a days worth of unresolved thoughts of you.

I dropped by to see you earlier in the day, and you were sleeping, somewhere between two worlds, perhaps already there and longing for your body to catch up to what your soul has been craving for the last few weeks. Someone told me you are ready now, tired of the fight. I have seen you hero against this damned thing, seen you fight with all you’ve got, alternative means as well as conventional. Through it all you’ve dispensed hope to everyone around you, offered us a God-perspective and God-love. You’ve turned it on it’s head, your love blessing us rather than the other way around.

Which brings me back to the suspended chord, the haunting sound of music that kept repeating though my hands on the satin keyboard of well worn keys and in my thoughts until now. I found in that chord an echo of Gods voice, as if God had placed all of earthly life into that one musical chord of waiting, leaning, hinting, suspended until the day when we lean into his final resolving chord and all shall be as he planned it, just as he saw in the beginning, his eyes wide as the horizon. Sometimes there’s a hint of it at sunset, a lingering sense of it in a certain fragrant bloom, a combination of  words, the eyes into another human heart. We can’t help be drawn, our souls longing for that final transformation, for release from this suspended waiting. I sense that you feel it too, perhaps more strongly now.

And this thought, this small revelation of God’s way in the face of so many things I do not understand, and the great and heavy sadness that losing you is laying over my heart, suggests that you are indeed the lucky one. As we wait in this suspended place called earth and count the days of our existence here, Heaven is preparing for you, a celestial celebration is being laid out to welcome you home, dear and faithful one.

So I think of you, wrapped in a gossamer garment of light. I think of you, dancing in the most gorgeous designer shoes you’ve ever seen. 
I think of you, altogether lovely and perfect and laughing in the presence of the King of all Kings who delights over you with singing. While we continue to walk this dim lit pathway toward what you will soon know beyond doubt’s shadow.

You will be in that place of eternal music resolving absolutely everything, knowing and being known, face to face with your Jesus.

And I will miss you here. I love you, my friend.

 

The healing power of creative expression?


full body tattoo

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Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at the esteemed Okanagan Institute Express, on the topic of  THE THERAPEUTIC MUSE CELEBRATING THE HEALING ARTS. I was one of a panel of four artists, each involved in different artistic ventures that have resulted in a particular experience of healing.
The mission of the Okanagan Institute is to contribute to the quality of creative engagement in the Okanagan through publications, events and collaborations. If you have never attended one of their Express events, I encourage you to do so, Thursdays at 5 PM at the Bohemian Bagel, Bernard Avenue, Kelowna, B.C.
This is what I shared with those gathered last Thursday night.
Soli Deo gloria, Lesley-Anne.
Poetry and the healing power of creative expression

Preparing to speak tonight on healing and creative expression, both as a writer, and as a human being, led me to ask several questions;

What is healing?
When we say healing, do we mean physical healing?
I have a friend who is absolutely convinced that her cancer-filled body, is healed. Another friend, with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, believed in a healing miracle for three years before he passed away. I’ve been asked to pray for ‘healing’, and I have to admit that causes conflicting emotions for me.

Healing is multi-faceted, involving our heart, our mind, our spirit or soul, and our body. When we make peace with something, that’s healing. When our hearts finally mend after a huge loss, that is healing. When we change a thought pattern, or still the voices, or quiet the demons, or forgive the unforgivable, all that is healing. And, when we speak of our disease going into remission, or our body being clear after a series of treatments, that’s profound healing as well.

Why do we need to be healed?
To say we require healing suggests we are broken, hurting, imperfect people. This is the human condition. This is who I am, as much as I’d like to project otherwise. Yet, we all desire to be whole people, don’t we? We all seek healing to some degree or another.

And, what is creative expression?
The act of creating anything, whether a dance, or a painting, or a garden, or a cathedral, or a poem, is inherently powerful. This ability to create belongs only to the human race. It is an echo of the divine nature in each of us.

Creative expression is about courageously delving into our inner lives, unearthing or glimpsing something unique, intriguing, transcendent, and then casting our thought, idea, epiphany out into the world, in the belief that what we have expressed has a purpose higher than ourselves.

Creative expression is deeply cathartic. In the process we acknowledge who we are, what we have to give, and then release our creation to leave it’s mark on the worldŠ proof that we were here.

Creative expression allow us to tell a story to someone whom we may never meet. Author Stephen King says in his book, On Writing, ” We are not even in the same year together, let alone the same roomŠ except we are together. We are close. We are having a meeting of the minds.” That’s powerful stuff.

Is everyone creative?
Yes. Although sadly, many have lost touch with that part of themselves, like the free spirited pre-schooler who was told to colour within the lines. Creativity is hard wired within us, and we are more fully alive when we learn how to reconnect and express this part of who we are.
But does developing and expressing our creative nature heal us?
Healing, of the body, soul, spirit, heart and mind, comes from wrestling through, therapy, acceptance, faith, forgiveness, surrender, wise counsel, time, distance, AND creative expression. As difficult as it is to understand healing, it is still more difficult to measure. We look for outward proof about something that is, by nature, internal and personal.

A healed individual may manifest a spirit of peace, grace, joy, hope, resilience, often where we least expect to see it. I recall hearing of a woman who, when pulled from the rubble of Port au Prince, Haiti after 17 days, was smiling and singing a hymn. She was peaceful rather than afraid. I sense her spirit was whole while her body was bruised, broken, hungry, thirsty, and her mind, longing for release.

The creative arts allow us to put our complex feelings about our world and circumstances into word and action, rather than allowing things to fester and grow into something ugly inside us. Peace is a byproduct of creative expression.

Many Kelowna artists are working through their media to express deep sadness over the devastating situation in Japan.  Jody Bruce, an artist friend, woke in the middle of the night unable to sleep, and was compelled to create this beautiful piece called, ‘Hope’, because she just had to do something in response.  She offered her painting of an illustration to us tonight. Another local artist, Carrie Harper, has created a Facebook Group called, “Artists for Japan”, where artists can donate paintings for online auction. All proceeds will go to the Canadian Red Cross effort in Japan.

On a more personal note, last year, when I heard about the devastation in Haiti, and felt immobilized to do anything hands on to help, I worked through my emotions by writing to poetry. It allowed me to let go of my feelings of powerlessness, make peace with the situation, and to empathize to some degree with what was happening there;This is one of those poems; 

Haiti  16:53

What seems like one minute you are chewing on your HB pencil
Staring at the clock and dreaming yourself out onto the dusty street with
Football between your agile feet, and running, running.

The next, you are lying on your back struggling
To breath, through white dust that settles in your mouth and lungs
And you somehow can’t make your hand wipe away what stops your eyes from blinking.

Sounds of moaning, all around you in the dark, burst the tiny bubble of
Hope that, you are daydreaming at your desk, and you will wake up any moment
And the clock will say 16:54.

Have I experienced healing as a poet and writer?
I haven’t always been a poet, haven’t been able to say I’m a poet without choking on those words. I’ve become a poet. It’s taken time, courage, and a healthy dose of faith to stand before you today.

Art, music, design, love of the written word have always been part of who I am.  But my design career as an Architect ended when I became a mom. There were many years when I did not creatively express the deeper things of my heart. And part of me shriveled up and almost died.

Then, about 6 years ago, through weighty circumstances, and the pursuit of spiritual formation, I began to pay more attention to my inner life, to the ideas and desires that percolated around inside me. I began to write, and opportunities came for me to share my writing. I started to listen to people’s positive response to my writing, which fueled my passion further, and gave me greater purpose.

I see a clear connection between Creator God, and the ability to express my creative nature in writing and poetry. I am a spiritual being, and my creativity is a spiritual pathway for me to commune with God. To write is a gift. In the movie ‘Chariots of Fire, the olympic runner Erik Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” That is how I feel about my writing.

As I write, I find that my words contain a common message of love and longing, wonder and revelation, grief and loss, forgiveness and redemption, this message resonates with others.

Healing happens when I write because I embrace what I was intended to do. I use my unique voice, and add it to the chorus of humanity. Writing gives me permission to ask unanswerable questions, and to speak of unspeakably difficult things. Writing allows me to own living in the tension of not knowing, not being in control, not needing to be the one. I live as a writer who relies on God, and isn’t afraid to be human.  Living out of this new wider place is what heals my soul, a little bit day by day. 

So what is the ripple effect?
Sometimes we don’t expect to be part of a healing process. it happens as a byproduct of what we do. 2 years ago, I created a book for that friend I mentioned earlier who had ALS. I collected stories, letters, emails, poems, bible verses, photographs, and worked with a graphic designer to produce a book called ‘Buddy Breathing’. The most powerful part of my experience, was seeing how written words impacted my friend. I was witness to healing.

Over the weeks and months that led to his death, Art’s bible, and his book ‘Buddy Breathing’ became touchstones of strength, and platforms for meaningful conversations. In hospice, in the small hours of the night, his nurses read to him. He often asked friends to read and re-read certain portions of the book. He would say, “Is this really about me? I can’t believe people say that about me.” He was made stronger in his daily physical struggles through the affirming words of others, through knowing his life mattered. His heart was healed, though his body never was.

Could it be that our experience of healing through the creative process, the healing of our hearts, minds, and spirits, is just a tiny taste of what’s to come? An ancient Hebrew text promises that, “One day, God will wipe away EVERY TEAR from our eyes, and here will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.” Could it be, that through creative expression, we are being invited to a deeper encounter with  Creator God, the author of creativity and the source of ultimate healing?

Why music?


Sonatas for Violin and Piano (Grieg)

Image via Wikipedia

When the weather is grey, and Spring seems like it will never come, I sometimes get confused, lose my perspective, and feel like there’s not much hope. My regular everyday life feels overwhelming, and it’s all I can do to get out of bed and carry on. My faith takes a beating, and God seems far away. I know he’s there, but I just can’t seem to find the right frequency to connect with him. So, I wait for change. I keep taking my vitamins, keep doing the things I’ve been given to do to the best of my low energy ability, and wait. Because I know change and Spring will come. This morning I happened upon these videos and the small miracles in the voices of these kids, and a shift happened in me. I looked up to see the sun coming through my Winter windows. I considered going outside with my dog.

So I ask you, if there’s no God, then why is there music? Where does it come from?

1. 6 year old Connie sings, ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’;

2. Cover of Lady Gaga, ‘Born this Way’;

3. Brendan MacFarlane, from Perth, UK,  sings, ‘I got a woman’;

Hey Rob, “Lang may yer lum reek!”


It’s not often that I have the opportunity to share my space here at Buddy Breathing. But I should be more intentional about that. Because there are so many people out there who are smart, talented and interesting.

Case in point, I’ve known Rob Rife and his wife Rae for many years. Rob used to lead worship at our church, and we’d joke about being some of the few members of the congregation that actually ‘got’ the tin whistle and the bagpipes… our mutual heritage being British, while the majority of our congregation were Germanic in origin. We’d joke in a decidedly British way, share our love of UK sitcoms and Monty Python, and once Rae and I wrote a short skit in which we played the part of two middle aged British women who referred to one another as ‘Hen’.

And Rob and Rae’s two boys bear the same names as our boys… their “Graeme and Calum” to our “Graeme and Malcolm.” No we didn’t plan that! And while they don’t have a daughter as we do, they named their bunny… yes, indeed… they named her “Clare,” completing their family unit with an unusual reflection of our own daughter “Claire!” Did you do that on purpose, Rob? Well, did you?

Anyway, Rob often made me cry during Worship service… something about the sound of those two instruments I mentioned, and the decidedly Celtic flair of the music he led, that echoed within me deeply. So you can imagine how utterly sad we became when Rob and Rae told us they were moving away.

Yet our lives continue to intersect, sometimes at peculiar times… like the time we happened upon one another while on vacation at the Oregon Coast… me seeing Rae in a parking lot while we were driving past leading to us having a gut wrenching funny lunch at a local restaurant. Good times always!

So, I am honoured, and I am smiling, as I introduce you to my friend Rob Rife. Some of you may already know him, and some will meet him now for the first time. He’s talented, deep, and funny as all heck. And he has agreed to share some of his writing here at Buddy Breathing. I’ll be posting several of his works over the next while.

Thank you Rob. Thank you so much.

And for those who are wondering… “Lang may yer lum reek!” means “Long may your chimney smoke!” (it’s a Brit. thing!)

Silence of the Fall

by Rob Rife

It is surprising just how many toxins build up in our spirits when we neglect regular periods for silence, solitude and spiritual refreshment. What an affront to our self-referentialism to discover that the world has gotten along famously without our invaluable contributions! Nevertheless, it remains an immensely challenging undertaking to willingly disengage for a few days in order to re-engage the deeper things – God and those archetypal realities of our meager existence.

My house stands in need of significant repair, my wife deserves my attention, my sons need a father and my employer needs me to make the trains run on time.To retreat from our responsibilities requires our brazen intention to be vulnerable before God with no guarantee of visible returns on the investment of time.

Be that as it may, I took three days last week in Ocean Shores to enjoy silence, contemplation, reading, writing and sleep; not necessarily in that order! It’s enlightening how a good, long drive is always like Drano to a clogged soul or foggy mind. I guess that’s why there are so many good road trip stories. Few things are so fast acting in ironing smooth the unsightly spiritual wrinkles that beset us.

And, for me, there is absolutely no better time to do so than the fall. Everything feels different in the fall. There is a hesitancy about the passing hours that seems somehow not so…insistent. The world is not so in-your-face cheery and the sunlight’s less gaudy rays lie slanted on blushing trees, caressing the sadder sky in reassuring gestures that although winter is crouched and ready, she too, must pass like autumn before her.

Pursuing silence in the fall has always offered far more treasures for mystics like me. I am reminded of a line from a Chris de Burgh song, “there’s nothing quite like an out of season holiday town in the rain.” Amen to that. Take away the touristy stores full of shiny, campy bobbles attractive only to our covetous need for yet more worthless shit and we’re given permission to exhale.

Our need for silence mirrors Jesus’ similar need. It’s instructive to see the unabashed willingness of Jesus to turn his back on the madding crowd and escape to the hills under cover of night to meet his Father. He understood his own personal rhythms well and could thus obtain maximum benefit from such times of solitude. From there he changed the world. It is just that self-awareness for which I yearn. In such times an unseen door opens that invites us to see what God sees – and what God sees is remarkable…

Robert grew up in Calgary, Alberta but is presently the Minister of Worship and Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a master’s student, self-proclaimed book nerd, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes-go figure), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet and liturgist. He defines himself as “small-‘c’-catholic-post-evangelical-small-‘r’-reformed-Celtic-contemplative-with-issues.” Robert’s debut CD is entitled “be that as it may”, an eclectic collection of Celtic flavoured folk-rock. He went grey at 30, hates spiders his right ear is bigger than his left. Greatest achievement to date: a 22-year marriage to wife, Rae and 2 boys, Calum and Graeme.

Midweek random ramble008


Bowl of Mott's Cinnamon Flavored Apple Sauce

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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

Indie, Slam and getting real


I’m feeling somewhat older these days. And it’s not just because of the way my face has transformed, my body morphed, and my energy levels declined … but it’s this feeling of a lack of connection to what’s happening ‘out there’ in so many ways. I used to feel ‘with it’, and I liked that. But, maybe I can find ‘with it’ again?

Yesterday I had a brief conversation with a promising young musician and family connection, and I was excited to spend a few minutes in the company of someone with abundant energy and zest and desire to experience life to the full. Because I still want that too… no matter my age… the last thing I want to do is to give up and become morbidly out of touch. So, thank God for the young people in my life that remind me of what it means to be relevant and real, and who keep me apprised of how things are, no matter how shocking that can be sometimes.

So this beautiful young woman and I were talking music… her passion… and she referred to ‘Indie’ music. I immediately thought of ‘Bollywood’ (film industry of India) and wrongly assumed she meant music with eastern references and overtones. The more she talked, the more I recognized how wrong my assumption was, so I swallowed my pride and asked, “What is Indie?” She was happy to explain that it meant ‘Independent’ music… sounds and voices and lyrics and an overall uniqueness that doesn’t fall within the norm of pop music. “Oh, I said… like Alternative music?” “Sort of,” she said, and then she cued up a couple of songs on her ipod and handed me the ear bud while explaining why this particular musician was Indie and so on.

I felt so privileged to have her explain this to me. And once I listened and she talked some more I began to recognize what she meant. Then I offered up some examples of my music (from the dark ages) that I considered to be ‘Indie’ and offered her my CD’s to listen to. She seemed enthusiastic about that too. So, thank you to that particular young woman and all the young people who aren’t embarrased by older people like me who are interested in understanding their world. And maybe it ‘s a world that I can participate in too?

Like Poetry Slams… for example. Fairly new to me, not new to today’s kids. Spoken Word recently came into the world’s eye when 34 year old Shane Koyczan from Penticton B.C. spoke his amazing poem about BC at the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Vancouver. The world paused in awe and listened to this talented guy speak a poem that was anything but pretentious or out of reach or what many remember poetry being from stuffy english high school classes in the past. His words were real, raw, funny, delivered in a funky hip hop beat type of way that made us pay attention. Wow. I loved it. And I’m now finding out more about this genre and what it means socially as well as to the literary world.

So, I went to a Black History Month event at the public library where slam poet Kevan Cameron a.k.a. “Scruffmouth.” (Grand Champion of the 2008 Vancouver Poetry Slam) delivered a few poems that rivited me to my stacking chair. Followed by a reading by Governor-General Award winner Dr. George Elliott-Clarke that cut into my guts with it’s honesty and content with words that mattered. Dr. Elliott-Clarke is maybe not young, but he speaks like he is.

Again, I’m thankful for the kids, and those young at heart, that are out there changing things up in their own way, and making us sit up and pay attention. So much talent, so much passion. I would count myself blessed to sit and listen… a fly on the wall… when they speak.

Reminds me of a video I watched once at a women’s conference when I was just beginning to believe I might possibly be a writer deep inside… perhaps a poet even… and I was so overcome with emotion because of the words and delivery of this young woman’s spoken word poetry, that I stood up and said, “I want to write like her!!!” Amena Brown throws down words in a way that hits me in the gut and squeezes my heart in response to things that I’ve felt but never put into words.  Passion is contageous, isn’t it! Idealistic, untried, loud, lusty passion from the heart of the young. Do you remember what that felt like? Have you heard it lately? Here’s Amena;

I think I need to pay more attention to the kids in my circle, what they are reading, listening to, saying, singing, what they are passionate about. I need to be an explorer in their world in order to not grow old in mine. I think it might be one way to stay young, on the inside.

So I leave you with a song I know because of my son who introduced me to this artist this year. She’s young (30), and incredibly talented. I’ve not heard many vocalists who can do the things she does with her voice. Amazing.

Can you feel it???

Regina Spektor , singing “Dance anthem of the 80’s ”

Do you laugh with God?


My son played this song for me today. I’m still thinking about it. Like what does it mean to laugh with God? Do I do that? Do you?

Here is the hauntingly beautiful voice of Regina Spektor… the video I originally posted was removed on youtube, so this one will have to do.