Small


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My faith is small, or maybe the way I live my life is small, and ordinary. In small things I find God: his presence, his provision, his orchestration, his glory, his love.

When I recognize God in my life, it usually comes in the form of just enough rice or just enough flour, or sun breaking through cloud before sunset after several days of depressing grey, or a poem just right for the moment, or the colour of a pair of mittens matching a child’s snowsuit I’ve never seen before, or the heart shape of trembling aspen leaves strewn along a creekside pathway. God is in the shade of orange kelp on sand. God is in a small child spinning in a pink tutu. God is. I have come to notice God in all the details.

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I believe my Grandfather taught me to see God in this way. When I was very young, Grandpa walked me around his garden on summer evenings, our hands clasped behind our backs, each flowering shrub like an offering, a miracle he had discovered and wanted me to see. “Look at that” he would say, gazing deep into the centre of a Hibiscus bloom “have you ever seen a design like that?” “Rosa, Spiraea, Forsythia, Weigela, Hydrangea…” he repeated over and over until I knew them. Name these plants, see these small miracles. He was the same about song birds. His curiosity and joy of creation spilled over and captivated me. Little things. Seeing small. Seeing God.

Not that I don’t dream big. I love to dream and drink wine and talk about ideas. Not that I don’t dive into big things, because I do. But the dreams and projects and ideas must quickly settle into a series of little steps to realize the bigger picture. And maybe it’s not the big thing that matters as much as the little things that take place along the way. Usually, that means the people, conversations, conflicts, resolutions, and love. Each little interaction, each small encounter, mattering so much more than any end result. God is in the details of people too, I find.

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My faith is small, and wildflower and honey bee sized. My faith is my search for tracks to hang gallery hardware on the wall and finding them no more and no less than I needed, and my faith is the width of several old doors that now cover windows, in exactly the right width for the openings. My faith is sometimes the size of these three words…”I don’t know”. My faith is the sound of my daughter’s joy that she drove stick shift for the first time over the winding road to the Pacific Rim, and back. Safe. Back. My faith is light and shadow, juxtaposition of words on a sign against audaciousness of spring blooms. God is in each one of these small and sacred things.

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My faith is small.

My faith is small, and simple.

My faith is small, and ordinary.

God is there.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said “God is in the details.”

God is.

Lesley-Anne

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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…

The practicality of metaphor


July, 2014, I buy several books of poetry in a Belfast booksmith, including “Selected Poems” by Belfast’s son John Hewitt. I pack the book into my luggage and take it with me on the next leg of my journey; a pilgrimage of sorts, a homecoming, and a mysterious gathering of strangers walking and tale telling and music-man healing and Guinness tasting, in Kilkeel and Cultra. The book remains packed for several days.

July 10, 2014, and I cozy in to a little Kilkeel cottage with my fellow pilgrims. I take note of the country walls about us, invisible lines of heft and pull and balance, boulders gathered from the fields and lifted into place, and the walls find their way into my psyche.

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Sunday July 13, 2014, we begin a time of silence and solitude, from 1 pm until the following day at 11:30 am. We are asked to choose a slip of paper or two with words ‘that serve.’ I choose a Thomas Merton quote, then find myself seeking out the Hewitt book of poetry and a phrase that sticks;

I am the green branch asking for the flower

John Hewitt, ‘The Green Shoot’

I take a walk, chewing on the words, repeating them over and over in my head. I walk along the county roads, bounded by country walls. Again the walls. I look. I listen. I return after a couple of hours and write;

The walls, always the walls, my eyes drawn equally to the spaces as much as to the weight of boulders. At first I think it is the wind they must build for, a feat of engineering with revelation built in. If they build and leave room enough for the wind to pass through, the walls will stand forever. But the more I look, the less I see of stone and more evidence of green invasion, seed and wayward bits of bracken carried by wind or wild beast finding cracks and crevices rich with possibility to root in, find purchase. And so a transformation takes place in the spaces, created hollow where light and rain and soil collect. The wall does what the wall does…encloses, defines, stands firm with unquestioned ownership. But is is also a catchment for transformative work, where green shoots take root and thrive, become saplings, become trees, where ferns and grasses fill margins, where moss softens hard surfaces and wild vines climb, and poke through. And slowly, the stones, displaced from the field and placed by hand, become unified by green…and then, small creatures build their homes, raise young, trust in the shelter of the green mass that is slowly enveloped by the earth.

I am the green shoot asking for the flower

I am the green shoot asking

I am the green

I am…

This line of this poem in this place for me becomes a prayer as I consider my life and my ask for the flower and a feeling that change is coming through the angst and doubt and struggle I find myself in. I believe in my purpose. I believe I ask God and he hears me. So many of the things I previously held true are dropping away, and yet the truth that I exist and I ask and God hears and gives good gifts remains. This God is close up. This is a new way of being. Can I dare ask this…yes, I can.

I am the green shooting asking for the flower

I chew on this for the entire time of solitude. I write and write and write. I cry. I sleep. I wake and write again. I have other encounters that impact my spirit in a deep way. I return to Kelowna. I live my life differently than before I left. I make difficult decisions. I withdraw from church. I have written of this before. The journey before Northern Ireland, and after.

TODAY: Thursday, May 26, 2016 I recall the line of the poem, almost two years past, and so much since then. The metaphor of the walls still speaks, but I return to this other metaphor of the green shoot and…suddenly I see flowers…maybe not the flower but maybe, just maybe there are more than just one?

How audacious flowers are, how heady and lovely and unnecessarily necessary to the life of the plant, or not? Why else do we green so, why else does the sap flow, if not to some glorious showing of what is happening in us, and the possibility that the flower comes before the fruit. I don’t know what it all means, but I know some things…

like this…

My part of messy belonging within the Metro Community, the gift of bearing witness and holding space for the beautiful broken ones on the streets and how they are just like me, has become vital and fragrant to me, like a flower

and like this…

a community awards nomination has been gifted to me, unexpectedly, and with humility and surprise I see it is also a flower, whether I win or not, I am opening to this possibility that who I am is who I am supposed to be

and like this…

that while there is so much I can no longer say for certain, and while some of my theology is deconstructed or rebuilt or may be forever lacking structure, I only need look at the glory of the natural world and all God’s creatures and at this incredible life I get to live, and my heart bursts open like a flower, the fragrance of gratitude

Back to the wall…and I have to wonder what it is about the wall that matters now, aside from the perspective of the green shoot and the flowering, I mean? And why must it mean anything at all, rather it is helpful for me to find meaning. I do think there is something to be considered in this wall, still something in the placement of the stones and the spaces, and still there is something about the shoots rooting in the spaces, finding a nurturing spot to grow and yes, to bloom.

What is the stone wall? I don’t know. Perhaps my core belief in God, or a foundational structure that is required to root in and cling to? Perhaps. Or the idea of inert stony places in our lives coming alive, assimilated into an ecology of plants and creatures and all living things connected when there is room enough to believe it so? I don’t know. I leave that to you to consider.

Many years ago my then very young son Malcolm told me there were messages in the winter trees that God wanted him to hear. What a gift that he knew that then.

And so, I wonder…

Lesley-Anne

Along the way…


Years ago I began to see. At birth, my physical eyes opened. At the age of 40, my spiritual eyelids lifted to reveal new and meaning filled sights. And, another (almost) ten years later, I recognize that the second sight that comes with the spirit focused eyes must be intentional, often requiring of me a tuning up, a dusting off, a wiping of my glasses to ensure that I am seeing as best I can. God has things to reveal to me… even when I forget (see this post) or when I’m distracted or simply focusing on myself way too much.

Ten years ago or so I often saw things as I walked my dog and talked to God along the way. I was reminded of those wonderfully intimate times this morning as I drove to meet a circle of women who are becoming very important in my life and spiritual development. I saw things along the way today… and they revealed a deeper sight that I will share with you. May it bring you peace. God often brings peace in the midst.

I saw… a soldier dressed in his fatigues walking a very happy dog with tail back and forth and tongue lolling and face turned up to his master with an obvious ‘smile’ to share (those of you with dogs know this canine ability to smile). The dog was so full of joy at the walking with the one he loved that I almost didn’t see the obvious, that this pup had three legs, not four. At some point the fourth leg was removed due to an accident or disease and the dog carried on in a way that appeared to be without any real impact on his ability to enjoy the life he’d been given.

and I saw… a man waiting at a traffic light, a man whom I’ve noticed for years now, pocket protector in his short sleeved dress shirt, comb-over hair almost all grey, dress pants, and in one hand his black briefcase… very much the ‘Death of a Salesman‘ image here. And his body, his 60-something body, had conformed to the weight of whatever was in the briefcase, turning in, shoulders dropped forward, arms almost lengthened by the pull of the case. He was heading… somewhere… no smile, no joy, yes purpose, but no outer signs of pleasure.  Compared to the dog.

And here’s what I think I’m going to take from these images that linger in my mind, I’m going to take what I saw and own the truth that speaks. How we each have a choice to carry or to leave behind that which is diseased, that which weighs us down, that which we do not have to carry. And with that another choice, to leave the burden behind and embrace the joy of the moment, the gift of what remains rather than what could have been, might have been, and maybe still is. The dog made adjustments to how it walked to enable him to bounce on three feet. The man, burdened for years, his body also made adjustments, but in a way that left an impression of sad emptiness and pursuit of something just beyond his reach. Yes, I’m reading much into this, but I believe there really is something to it… a revelation of truth in the ordinary.

Thought I’d just lay it out there for you. To do with as you wish.

Journeying and watching, sometimes spirit sight,

Lesley-Anne

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.