Birthday Gifts


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What is filling my soul this morning, the anniversary of my birth, so long ago;

Well, finding this silly picture that makes me look like a birthday fairy queen, I guess…

And this…grounding me, confirming I know nothing, but…

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: 1999), 79.

And this;

  1. relationships that continue to ask of me…and give to me…and the beauty of discovery within the complexity of life with people, these gifts that I will never truly understand and yet there they are, talking, breathing, working, living alongside me and I get to be with them all…
  2. anticipating the arrival of my son, and the intersection of 5 lives over several days…oh the anticipation of all that…
  3. a unexpectedly delicious poem, written by my lover, posted to Facebook.
  4. the dog, coffee, porch, quiet, sunshine, bluebird day, time, space, lingering…
  5. messages of love on social media
  6. challenges and considerations…each day to choose what is important, what is vital, what is life giving, and what adjustments must be made to live with integrity
  7. creative energy…that vast stream of Creator God’s creative DNA that flows and overflows in me with thoughts and ideas and possibilities and just enough courage to try something new…
  8. health, dreams, desires, all those elements that make up a life and are often taken for granted and yet are foundational to living well…
  9. writing, always writing, listening to the inner voice speaking and writing, playing with writing, writing with people, reading and writing, writing, writing, writing…
  10. the audacious pink thread of The Trinity woven through the simple fabric of my life …often hidden, sometimes apparent, but there…oh yes, there!

Gift. Gift. Gift. All gift.

Undeserved. Thankful. Gifts held with the knowledge that this may be for a day, a month, a few more years. Breath held for a few seconds, then breathing, breathing, wondering…what happens next?

Lesley-Anne Evans, July 29, 1962 – ?

 

 

 

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Walk in the near wild


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The book said take a walk in nature, centred, open, considering, look and see what is the divine grace in that wild place.

The middle of a dull warm snap here and snow is melting mush so I went to the most clear pathway I could find that winds through a small marsh not far from my home. The gates were locked to cars. The pathway was clear of snow. I began to walk and look. Asking what does this mean? Asking what does this mean for me?

I saw Osprey’s nest, high on the sport’s field flood lights. A platform built for her safety, I suppose, but not quiet and away, close in and loud in seasons of stiff competition on the pitch, and I wondered why wildness might choose this tamed space…

I saw a Mallard pair, in a ditch of melted runoff, making their way carefully through a fallen tree’s gauntlet of downed branches. Where there appeared to be no way through, they find space enough and carry on down the waterway…

I saw what used to be 18 holes of mini golf, now stockpiled here and there with junk and overgrown with weeds and small shrubs and the sound of birds who forage and find shelter in the convergence of cast away and redemptive things…

I was frustrated somewhat by 2 large dump trucks, the sound of their revving engines, the road adjacent to my cleared walkway where they worked with loads of soil, beeping, passing too close. My ideal vs reality, finding a simple path in the midst of complexity, messiness, noise, real life. Both, and…

The air was warm. A sense of being apart, yet part of something. I breathed in the fresh air, stretched my underworked muscles, said hello to a couple of humans and their dog who walked by. I kept looking all the way back to my car. I kept asking…

What is language? What is this craving for our experience to mean something that then requires articulation? What if it is only for us? What if it does not require mere words?

A walk in the near wild…nearer to…

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.

 

Step 2 ~ look at your life with gratitude


I’d vaguely heard of it before, but it came up clearly in conversation with a friend who said, Hey, I know how you like the practice of spiritual disciplines and there’s this one called “examen” you might enjoy. So I googled it immediately and today I practiced my very first examen and wrote it into my prayer blog that is now at its 100th post. (Not that I’ve been counting but wordpress does it for me and told me today I was at 100.)

Wow, so amazing this hindsight and seeing God is drawing me in new ways into him and how I can now say I have been given a gift of a spiritual habit that is meaningful and something I want to do and enjoy doing.

Examen is a way of finding God through intentional examination of a day, or, in the words of another writer, rummaging for God by praying backwards though your day. I love that idea. And so I ventured into this still space today, in the quiet of my office after all had gone to work and school, and began to dig around in the good, bad, bright and ugly of the past 24 hours of my life. I looked for God and found God and asked God to be past, present and future in all the bits that make up my days.

Examen includes 5 steps, a template of which is found here: http://www.rcdom.org.uk/documents/EXAMEN.pdf. 

Step 2 is looking at your life with gratitude, which I have decided to also note here in a continuation of the ongoing list of gifts the father lavishes daily upon me;

534. the discovery of the practice of Examen, ancient, new, drawing, opening, compelling…

535. My young friend and our conversation about similar things we long for and long to do

536. The sudden appearance of the ladybug on my binder as I prepared for tomorrow night

537. The kindness in words from other poets and friends who will pray and support by their presence

538. My family all arriving home safe from work, together for dinner, the slow evening of being in each others company

538. TV… the final episode sitting with him

539. Him picking her up from soccer

540. Hugs, kisses, words

541. The late evening sun over the garden and the warmth of it, the weeding, the watering, the joy of those dirty hands in the dirty dirt

542. Friends finding me

543. Quiet to prepare

544. A knowing that you are in all and inspiring all choices, empowering the words, quickening me to do what needs to be done in due course, encouraging my heart, giving me the strength I need as I rely upon you

545. experiencing this as truth in my ordinary and everyday life…DSC_0153

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

 

 

 

Life is a prayer, and God hears yours.


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Bench with a view, Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA.

It’s been 82 posts since I started my prayer blog… my online prayer journal. And I tell you this because what I will tell you next might surprise you. I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel any closer or further away from God. What I feel is a more relaxed way of being. I now feel quite natural about writing God a note that could be an angry outburst or a thank you. But I don’t feel like I’ve tapped into a deeper way, nor do I feel enlightened. I just feel more… dare I say… peaceful, about it. And I thank God for that.

Prayer has haunted me since I was a young adult. In fact, one of my big hang ups leading me away from the church and faith was prayer… how one could justify whatever the outcome of prayer as a yes, a no, or a maybe. That really bugged me… God didn’t bug me, but the way people approached prayer did. I found prayer inconclusive, not to be trusted, and without proof. So, I walked away.

Fast forward 15 years to when I became a mom and with that life change came a renewed interest in the faith. That began a process of years of establishing a new way of living my life with God, healing the old painful ways, and acknowledging God in my life choices. But prayer, I stumbled over it, was embarrassed by it, was overwhelmed by feelings of prayer inadequacy. Did I believe prayer worked? Yes, but I also knew I was walking a thin line where I hesitated to ask for much, and remained privately understated when answers came. Did I have faith… yes. But prayer confused me, upset me, eluded me.

I have always hesitated when someone asks me to pray, I still do. I know me too well. Not only do I struggle with prayer, but I also forget. How can I have integrity in what I say if I make promises and don’t keep them. So, I am very conservative about offering to pray, and when I’m asked, I usually make a point of writing a prayer down right then and there so they know and I know I really did pray for them.

I’ve learned over the years that prayer and trouble with prayer is part of my life. When I try to have a dedicated prayer time, it’s hard. I get distracted. So I try to pray as things happen. If something comes to mind, I mention it to God. If something bugs me, I get it off my chest. If something is amazing, I say so. I’ve written my prayers. I’ve taken large chunks of time away to work through things with God in what could be called prayerful encounters. I’ve found God in nature and in music and in poetry and in people. And my response to any and all of these is, in my opinion, prayer. I still don’t ask for much, and I still need to put more emphasis on asking God to forgive me for all the stuff that stacks up in my heart. I can be a hoarder like that.

My prayer blog is just another way of living in conversation with God, God as purpose and passion and for and because. I want God in my life, in the details. And I want to share my thoughts and concerns with him because I believe that’s what he wants too. God loves me, therefore he cares about all the silly, angry, jumping for joy words I speak to him. And he has things to say back… but I’ll leave that for another blog post.

I share all this with you because maybe you are a bit like me, maybe you wonder and stumble and feel like a square peg in a round hole about prayer, and I’m here to say God knows and he doesn’t have a checklist for must do prayer this precise way. The Lord’s prayer (Jesus answer to his followers when they asked him how to pray) is found HERE the gospels, and is the ultimate prayer guide we can revisit often. But I believe there are other ways to talk with God. God is creative and open to your own creative way of welcoming him into your life, in the language that you understand.

Life is a prayer… and God hears yours.

Lesley-Anne, SDG

Of Bugs and Bones ~ Part 1


English: color isolation photograph of Patty a...

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What I’m about to say will polarize. There may be those who immediately write me off, label me fanciful, delusional. And there may be those who allow within my tale, a tiny inkling of the possibility of truth, because they have experienced something similar in their own lives. I share my story anyway because is what my spiritual journey looks like. It’s complicated. It doesn’t always make sense.

I’ve longed for the audible voice of God, like Bible giants Moses and Abraham heard, but for me that’s never happened. I read The Book, not as often as I might do. I listen to wise ones teach on The Way/Truth/Life. I pray, somewhat hesitantly. But to hear God’s audible voice, not yet. Instead, I’ve had thoughts come to mind, found my attention drawn to seemingly inconsequential things I couldn’t ignore. The experiences I’m about to share are examples of this way of finding God. Bugs and bones and the natural world have opened up spiritual pathways to the divine. In the fullness of the glory of the earth, I  recognize God’s hand.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I feel like God’s taken a long vacation, and doesn’t write or call or text me a thing while he is gone. Usually this coincides with times of discouragement, or depression, or when I’m dog tired and need God but can’t find him. But other times, I ‘try’ to see God and feel a disconnect no matter what I do. So I wait. It’s hard, but I do. ‘Cause I believe he’s going to show up, or my eyes will open up, my ears will unplug, and he’ll have been there the whole time. I’m sure it’s me, not him, breaking down communication (hint of deeply engrained childhood guilt). The past few months have been this way. Silent.

In any case, here’s what I want to tell you. Well, the first part anyway.

In April, 2005, I went up to the Seton House of Prayer, a Catholic retreat centre high up in the hills above Kelowna, B.C.. This short physical journey to retreat was stepping way out for me.  I’d never practiced solitude before. I went to Seton House with a healthy dose of curiosity and cynicism. I set aside four hours to read The Book, pray, seek God (whatever that meant), and as is typical of me, I had a schedule neatly laid out, with lunch break, and plenty of time to pick up my kids after school.

I retreated to the Hermitage/Poustinia, a rustic little cabin perched on the edge of Okanagan Mountain, with a chair, a bed, a sink, a kettle, a selection of teas, a porch, heat, and a single bed (for overnight solitude experiences).

I was ready. Only problem was, time went by very slowly. I read verses, unearthed gut wrenching answers to all my preselected questions, prayed heartfelt prayers, took notes, grew tired, took a nap, and finally, with only two hours gone, and not much in the way of even the smallest epiphany, I took a walk around the grounds.

It was a chilly Spring day, and from the height of the property I could see 360 degrees, Lake Okanagan coursing north to south, the embracing ranges of Columbia and Cascade, dwarfed City neighbourhoods below me, the bridge, roads, forests, all under a tentative blue Spring sky.

I walked along a gravel pathway, lingered by the stations of the cross (which I’d never seen up close), and then I sat down on a large rock. I sat still and quiet, listening to the wind, watching a Bald Eagle float on an updraft, listening to the sounds of birds nesting and singing. It was very peaceful there. I sat for a long time, wondering about God, wishing he would speak to me, confused about what this time of solitude was really for. Wondering, wondering… and then…

Her small red body caught my eye as I sat waiting to hear from you, God. And then…

“Lesley-Anne, look at the little bug scurrying about.”  

Yes Lord?

“She’s busy working.  But Lesley-Anne, I also made her to fly!  You are like this bug – busy, madly working away, but you’ve forgotten I made you to fly.”  

But how Lord, I asked?  What do you mean?

“First you must unfold your wings – they are folded tightly against your body.  Your wings are what I have equipped you with – your talents and passions – open them up, then let go!  I am like the wind – I will carry you where I want you to be.  Trust me.  Like the eagle and the ladybug, you will soar and not grow weary.  I’ve given you all you need to rise up.  You were not meant to remain in deep solitary places. Yes, you will go there sometimes, but you cannot stay there or you will drown.

“Rise up, my child.  Fly!

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So, at this point you may be thinking I conjured this, imagined it, and how convenient for me if I did. Suddenly, I have this ‘experience’, justifying my time of solitude, and more importantly, giving me something impressive to talk about when I come down from the mountain. Did it really happen? Did I really hear those precise words? Did I imagine it? Embellish it? Did I find the ladybug, or did she find me? Coincidence? Illusion? And why is it even important?

Truth is, it took me seven years to tell this story. And I tell it now with a mix of reservation and conviction. I know I can’t prove it. All I can tell you is it happened. I ‘heard’ word thoughts in my mind. Not a voice speaking out loud, but a thought voice, rushing these words into my consciousness. Was it God? Well, was it?

That day in April, 2005, marks the beginning of a narrative of ladybugs in my life that continues to be written to this day. I told you my story is about “bugs and bones.” My bug experience does meld with bones, but several years later. I’ll tell you about that another day (click HERE).

Fast forward 10 years, to last weekend, April, 2015, Vancouver, B.C., a 7th floor balcony… and God ambushes me again, in this never ending story that surprises, mystifies, and bolsters my often fickle faith. I will tell you more about that too sometime, I promise.

Watchful,

Lesley-Anne

P.S. The story continues at “Dem Bones, Dem Bones ~ Of Bugs and Bones, Part 2”