Sabbath rest


Re-reading Sabbath, by Wayne Muller…deep sigh. Paying heed to the longing for more than one day a week.

Spending several mornings in a row by the lake, poetry, paper, pen and bible by my side…yes. Be still. Listen. Know. Learn how to do this again…lean in, see, hear. It is good.

Spending golden hour in pursuit of the light, camera, eyes, heart seeking ordinary beauty…yes…weeds, but not really…

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And then this morning by the lake a poem comes trickling, flooding through me…just when I think I have passed writing the last one, when I’m convinced it has all been a cruel trick of nature, that I actually can’t write a jot, that my work is shite, that the combinations of words will definitely NOT flow this time around…what was I thinking…and then…a poem…a draft poem…appears (she says carefully, not wanting to sound as if she thinks it is any good.)

A friend once scolded me…you are a poet…you write…HOW DARE YOU NOT SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD!!! Whoa, it bothered me to be spoken to like that. Who was she to say that? I stuttered out excuses, like these ones I still push down every single time;

I’m nervous

It feels self-serving doesn’t it, a bit boastful

There are many poets so much better than I

It seems inappropriate to ask if I may read, silence is just easier

Um…I don’t think it’s that good yet, maybe a few more edits

Edie looked at me straight on and said it again…How dare you! It’s your gift! It’s your voice! So you’d do good at getting over yourself and sharing your work. (Well, maybe she didn’t say it precisely like that, but I remember clearly her emotion, her gentle yet persistent tone. I often share those words with young emerging and nervous poets I spend time with.)

It’s been a while. The last few days as described above have included solitude, silence and the joy of allowing my heart to free up my fingers and journal some thoughts and some poems. Here is one of them. For you, Edie.

Praise the Mutilated and Aching World

after Adam Zagajewski’s ‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World’

 

Praise the mutilated and aching world.

Praise civil rights activists and pamphlet propaganda,

praise the moment after

you watch the Youtube video and can no longer say

I did not know. Praise your confusion. Praise your disbelief.

Praise the ones who call it evidence, or conspiracy,

and sleep soundly with both points of view.

Praise each pair of opposites, the terror and the beauty,

disgust and delight, the wildness within us

and the sea, sky, and expansive forests

that swallow men and their wives.

Like the elderly man, axle deep in snow

at the end of a logging road, who suggested his wife

stay right here, stay warm, and I will go for help.

Praise his half-frozen body

and the wolves who received his offering.

Praise her waiting, for days.

Praise the sway of nighttime hydrangea bouquets

and dead black stares of roof rats chirping

like beautiful birds. Praise their goings out

and comings in for seed and vegetables.

Praise their diseased droppings.

Praise copulations of wet salmon

over gravel substrated shallows, praise

their slick fins and gaping gills.

Praise homefires in our wood stoves

and firestorms in our neighbourhoods,

praise the smoke, the candled trees,

the displaced and crispened wildlife.

Praise equally the ash smothered front lawns

and ash crossed over foreheads in remembrance.

Praise each fickle choice and self-righteous justification.

Praise lonely and never alone.

Praise here and hereafter.

Praise Him whom you have not seen but believe may be who he says he is.

Praise Him. Praise Her. Praise Us.

Praise the mutilated and aching world.

 

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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.

 

Hush, hush


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Hush, hush

Quiet me, LORD.

Hush, hush.
Your love transcends
my dialect of anxious fears,
soothes my flesh
with tender words
that still my trembling,
quiets my questioning lips,
stammering, and striving,
reveals your truth is
there, there, and here.

Hush, hush.
You teach me to practice
a foreign tongue
of sighs and weeping,
soul speak,
communion
of broken bodies
and body water
turned to holy wine.

Hush, hush,
in bare footed remembrance,
my shoes removed from road weary feet.

LORD, God,
consume me within your radiant presence,
my spirit burns in silence.

 

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.

Seriously, ladybugs?


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If I were to ask God for a significant recurring insect in my life, it would certainly not be a ladybug. Something more exotic perhaps, like a praying mantis, but not scary like a wasp or millipede. Nothing precious or pretty, nothing commonplace, please God. Let it be something with a bit of an edge to it, like the insect world’s version of a raptor, a hawk or falcon of the insect kingdom. But a ladybug? Shiny red, polka-dotted, embarrassingly cute… oh God, why that particular choice?

And, as if it weren’t bad enough to have had a ten year history (here and again, here) of encounters with these little red creatures, God continues to place them in my path. And I continue to notice. Either I find them or they find me, and it’s usually at a time when something significant is happening in my life that…poof… there they are again!

Still, they always come unexpected, and cause a sharp intake of breath that I hope is at least partially spiritually significant. These bugs hijack me, beg the question “Why?” (like most other things in my life) and have me asking, “What God, what are you saying in this, what would you have me learn in this?” And sometimes, I end up smiling, like there’s a private joke between me and the Almighty. So maybe I have come to terms with them as my significant bug species? I have not, nor will I ever, get a ladybug tattoo or wear representational jewellery. I have yet to witness any cool ladybug t’shirts. Those darn bugs keep showing up, and I keep wondering what they really mean?

Last weekend, 7th floor apartment in Vancouver, B.C. and I’m there with my young adult son helping him nest, watching him put together IKEA bookshelves and bed frame and it gets a little stuffy in the small studio and I go and open the sliding door to the balcony and there, in the track of the door frame…yes, you guessed it…ladybugs…3 dead ladybugs. Why? I have no idea. I’m not an expert in ladybug flight patterns, but 7 floors up seemed pretty high to me, let alone a little bug with translucent wings. And they were dead, again, dead and dried up. But this time there was no voice saying a word. Silence. There they were, and there I was. They were dead. I am alive. And these days I’ve taken to flying more. My son is leaving home, and I am still alive, still standing. Big changes, still standing. Big changes, still flying. Maybe that was it, more of a comparative analysis this time around? Was that it God? I don’t know.

And then this, again, these words,

Coincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

I’m choosing hand, and I’m beginning to see humour in it, how God might be enjoying a belly laugh when his kid (me) stops everything she is doing, everything she finds so vitally important, in the presence of this blatantly red yet miniscule stop sign! Yeah, maybe that’s it, it’s an attention getting thing. Whenever I get a little too hung up in my own way, my own pain, my inward focus, my work ethic, my sadness that my son has grown up and away, my, my, my… Oh my… then God says…

…consider this…

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothes [or whatever else…you choose what fills in the blank]? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27-29

Stop, observe, consider. Maybe that’s it. About seeing.

Lesley-Anne

Dem Bones, Dem Bones ~ Of Bugs and Bones, Part 2.


Dry-BonesCoincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

The following year, after my first encounter with a ladybug at Seton House of Prayer, I returned to the retreat centre for what was becoming my spiritual practice of solitude and silence. I left the busyness of my daily routine, and, for a day, invited God into the silence, into the inner room of my heart. I have not yet found my journal from that visit to confirm the precise date, but my experience that day remains indelibly etched into my psyche.

In planning my time of solitude, I gathered my journal and pen, my Bible, spiritual books I was currently reading, my camera, some lunch, some layers in case the weather turned, a plain wooden box with an inscription, “Buddy ~ Forever Faithful, Forever At Rest,” and Buddy’s old collar. I carried a painful weight of loss. Buddy, my companion and muse, my gorgeous German Short Haired Pointer, had died not long before. I was not moving past his void in my life, and I thought I might be able to bring Buddy to Seton House, release his ashes there, and in that find some release for my deep sadness, find some solace from the God who again felt so distant to me.

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I drove to Seton House, unpacked my car, and moved into the Poustinia for the day, alone, with Buddy.

By now my solitude practice had widened to include several ways of contemplative and prayerful being, the stations of the cross, several walks with niches and statues of saints, a lovely woodland altar where one day I came upon a doe resting, a labyrinth, and a small chapel at the top of the property. I quietened myself in the Poustinia, fed by the views of my natural surroundings, read some scripture, prayed, journaled, and then took a walk to the chapel.

I felt broken, empty, so placing my body prostrate on the floor of the old chapel felt right to me, to lay myself down in a response of surrender to God and to my feelings, there, in an old wooden chapel, with a plain altar, and embraced by the forest beyond. I lay myself down. And when I opened my eyes and looked around me, I saw dozens of dead ladybugs.

My sharp intake of breath, as in the next thought vicious words drove into my mind;

This is you, Lesley-Anne! Dead. Empty. Dried up like these dead ladybugs. You are not worthy of flight. You are not who you thought you were. Rise up… I don’t think so. You aren’t going anywhere.

No, no, I cried. Tears, running down my face. No, that’s a lie! God does not speak this way. I am not dead or dried up. I am sad, mourning, and that does not disqualify me from anything. I recognized the darkness, the lies of the enemy of my soul. Thank you God that I recognized who spoke.

But I was shaken. I quickly left the chapel, made my way back to the Poustinia, as these thoughts, jumbled but memories of a certain story came to my mind;

And God took his servant to a mighty valley, full of dry bones, and he asked the man, can these bones live? (My own paraphrase and just enough to send me back to my bible with hunger to learn how God can make dead things live.)

For the next two hours I poured…poured over the scripture verses I found in the book of Ezekiel, poured out my deep anguish and despair over the death of my sweet dog, and the death of my spirit because of his loss. And I felt God asking me the same questions as were asked the prophet of old, And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know! And in me a shift, a realization, a revelation, something opening me to the answer within my pain. God knew how he might take my loss and turn it from death to life again. So I prayed it out, anguished out a surrender of whatever was going to come from my pain, and I thanked him for my dog, for the love I had experienced, and I thanked him that he could make my dry, broken, mourning bones live again.

And then, my time was over, and I packed up my things, and I went back down the mountain, with everything I took up. And the plain wooden box with the ashes of my precious Buddy remain unreleased, instead gathered, to my bedside table.

And change comes, and life comes, more pain, more loss, more dry bones transformed.

My journey continues, and the mystery of ladybugs returns from time to time,

chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand?” “You can decide for yourself if…[these events] together have meaning or are only interesting but ultimately random coincidence of events. If you decide they do have meaning this does not imply you know what that meaning is.” John Terpstra ~ Skin Boat

Like last week…but that’s another story.

On the way,

Lesley-Anne

P.S. If you missed Part 1 of this story, see Of Bugs and Bones, Part 1.

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