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.

 

We are not done


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We Are Not Done

We are not done. We are
ongoing conversation,
sometime monologue, sometime soliloquy.
Done is undone in our transforming reality,
our we that is, and will be.
As perplexing as speech sometimes seems,
I will wrap my errant tongue unceasingly
around the shape of this dialect we long for
yet hesitantly speak. Years down the road
we’ll continue our halting imperfect communion
because we have chosen this holy union.

No. We are not done.
Done is baked bread filling the air
with aromas of childhood, golden crust, served up,
butter and jam, eaten, gone, done.
Done is my hair, washed, cut, coloured, and styled.
Done is your fishing trip into the wild.
Done is each finished task, our completed to do lists,
but done is not done when we both choose us.
Yes we will disagree for a time,
but when emotions
and the need to be right mellow and calm
we’ll be right back here; take my hand, carry on.

Because we are not done
striving, surviving, staying alive, relational jiving.
We are not done doing and undoing
all we’ve messed up, gluing what’s come unglued.
We don’t live the
“you complete me” sentiment.
We chose, our promise remains.
We are not done. Always, we begin again.

One day, I imagine
you will hear my breath reach
between the words I cannot speak,
nearly there, almost, there.
In that pregnant space you will hear
the language of your heart, beloved.

My heart will be the echo.

Everything is holy now…


I’ve only heard this song twice, the first just a couple of weeks ago as I sat mesmerized and crying while David Wilcox sang it over me and the rest of the Northern Ireland 2014 pilgrims. The second time right now, as I find it on Youtube and share it with you.

That first time I heard Peter Mayer’s ‘Holy Now’ in Belfast, I felt opened and washed by the lyrics and deeply understood in a way outside the music. I felt truth echo back to me around how I’ve been living out my lifelong version of a complex and oft times frustrating faith, a simple way that has seeped into my life and my writing for many years now. Glory in all it’s profound abundance, this sense that everything is holy now, has slowly seeped into my soul and grown into how I behold the world, it is the under girding of my poetry, it is how I find God.

So while I listened to Peter Mayer’s song, it broke over and through me with a deep thankfulness for having been opened to see the whole earth is full of the glory of God and in it to see Him, to be awestruck, and in my own way, say WOW! Everything, EVERYTHING IS holy now.

Yet as I write to you, my neighbour is cutting his lawn, large machines are hard at work digging and scraping and beeping and preparing what for 14 years has been an apple orchard behind our home, and my attempt at a time of contemplative silence has been cut off abruptly by science. Can I say this disappointment I feel today is holy now? Can I say the dog nudging me while I’m trying to pray is holy now? Can holiness be found in the sink full of dirty dishes and the piles of laundry and the weeding and watering and bill paying and dog nose prints on windows and spots on the carpet? My version of this truth about glory and holiness involves space and time and silence and proximity to rural landscapes and natural beauty. Not this version I’m experiencing right now… at least I don’t think so.

So how might God want to transform my heart to see holiness in noise and dirt and to do lists? Is that really who God has wired me to be? Or do I need to adjust how I live my life to line up more closely with the ways I see him and his glory best? Do I need to find new ways and new places of silence and contemplation and communion? Is it both and?

I think that’s closer to the truth of it. The more we know of ourselves, the more responsibility we take for how we live and the choices we make to be healthy and whole. And for me I know soul health and wholeness requires holy contemplative and life giving places and spaces and times. And the more we learn about God, the more opportunity we are given to be open to his ways of doing things, sometimes contrary to how we might naturally choose. While I know silence sustains me, I also know it’s also good and soulful for me to be stretched, to be opened to seeing holy in, as they song says, EVERYTHING. Not just the beautiful, but the ugly too. Not just the silence, but the noise.

As an introvert I find crowds and social events depleting. Oh, I love a good party, but I need time to gear up for it and to recover from it. The same is true for family holidays or other times with groups of people. I crave alone time, because in the silence I find myself and God coming together into a comfortable way of being and it is there I process and listen and fill up again ready for the next social interaction. Noise depletes me, and Northern Ireland taught me a new level of silence that, by comparison, makes living in Kelowna seem loud and brash. What was my happy place before I left, my garden porch in the shade of a quiet summer morning, is upon returning disturbed by things I have no control over yet offend me. Even the sound of my air conditioner grates on my ears and I’m longing to return to that remote rural Irish cottage with the sounds of sheep and lambs communing in the dusk. But I can’t go running back there… not yet. So how can I recreate what I have discovered is needed for the sustaining health of my soul? How do I accept what I cannot change and find good in it as well?

The settling in to everyday life after experiencing trips like Northern Ireland 2014 with potential life impacting new revelation, takes time. As I ask myself these questions of what now shall I do and recognize some shifts may be required, I also remember the wise warning of our retreat leaders who said, give it 6 months, don’t rush into anything, don’t go out and start a new business with someone whom you’ve met here, just allow what you have learned to settle in, find its place in your life. This is my life… this version of everything is holy now. The lessons must settle in here. I keep reminding myself of these words when visions of green walled fields and mist covered mountains call me back to that place of deep quiet that calmed me all the way down to my guts. And this from a woman whose guts are usually twisted up in knots!

For today, let me simply see holy in something I haven’t seen before. Let me see and hear and understand something new about where I am, this place and these people, this noise and this version of silence, this life. Help my heart to settle into my life here and all its holiness.

(And just now I realize the sounds of construction haven’t changed but I have been paying less attention to them. As I wrote to you the sounds blended into the background.)

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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”

Midweek Random Ramble020


Books - bookcase top shelf

1. On becoming an explorer of the world

But how does one do that? And why?

Here are 13 suggestions on the how, the why is up to you …

I recently found these and many more ideas to guide me on my journey to being more observant, more free to express my findings, and gave me permission to be as extraordinary as God created me to be! Got your interest piqued yet? All this in a little book! Don’t you LOVE books! When I think that e-books are taking a market share, I’m saddened because there’s nothing like the feel of paper, the smell as you stick your nose into an opened book, especially an old one… but I digress.

The book is called, How to be an explorer of the world, Portable Art Life Museum” by Keri Smith. Among other things, this book is full of inspiring quotes, creative exercise ideas, and suggests an entirely new way of looking at the world around us, under us, above us, beside us. Every day.

Check out this review of what I think is an altra-cool book. I just wish I had more time to read it!

2. Hard to believe, but it’s been almost a year since Claire and I traveled to Cancun to volunteer at a Sterilization Clinic with our friends and their non-profit organization, CANDi International.

I don’t think I ever was able to post the video that Claire and her friends put together to share their Cancun experience with their school. And, it appears that I still can’t post it without paying a premium to upgrade my video capacity on WordPress. SORRY! But, if you are my Facebook friend, you can drop by my facebook page to see it. I’m still very proud of these young ladies, for all they did to share their hearts and experiences with their school mates. Kids can do amazing things!

Another equally impacting video was produced in 2010, and is being screened on all Air Transat flights into Mexico. Featuring ‘At The End Of My Leash’ celebrity Brad Pattison, this CANDi International raises the awareness of Mexican tourists to the inhumane way that many cats and dogs are living in Mexico. Tourists are invited to come alongside and help financially.  Or, like we did, they can volunteer at one of the Sterilization Clinics in the Cancun area, organized by CANDi and The Achates Legacy Rescue Foundation. More on these amazing organizations and their passionate people can be found  Here and Here.

Check out the video… you may see some familiar faces!

3. I’m happy to report that I heard the Red-wing Black Birds calling in the marsh this morning. To me that always means Spring… aside from the groundhog and what he did or didn’t do, apart from what the Farmer’s Almanac has to say. Go outside on a morning when the sun has broken through the lid of cloud over our little valley, walk alone or with your dog along the edge of a marsh, and if you hear a warbling ruckus of birds calling back and forth over the bulrush edged ponds, you’ll know Spring is coming! Really!

4. Yesterday I went up a mountain to a special place of solitude that I return to from time to time. It was hard to leave the valley, hard to clear the internal clutter and be silent for a while. It was hard to remove the thought that this was not productive time. I went anyway. I listened anyway. I stayed for a few hours. God met me in the sounds of birds in the pine trees, the view of our beautiful city and surrounding mountains, the perfect calm of the lake, the insights into scripture and my life, the silence. He often does that.

5. It’s purging time, starting NOW. Call it Spring Fever, or whatever, I’m off to drag things out, pack them into boxes and bags, and release them into the world. My own version of reduce, reuse and recycle… release is my 4th ‘r’. Gotta run…

Peace is here,

Lesley-Anne

Just another manic Monday…


Mud bathing at the Standard Spa in Miami Beach, FL

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What’s your biggest goal going into the New Year? What’s your biggest challenge?

I was expecting to feel excited about 2011, but I’m feeling rather ordinary about it all. Sure, Bob goes back to work and the kids back go school and I un-decorate the house, get back into a schedule, but is that it? I mean I know I have a couple of special things to keep going with, like AfterGrad celebrations and all, but what else? Sure, there’s choir… I’m looking forward to continuing with that. And, there’s the date nights that we both organized as Christmas gifts this year, and there’s the 3 birthdays that fall in January and February combined, and then there’s Valentine’s Day and before long there will be Spring Break, but what I’m looking for, what I’m really longing for is something else… something out of the ordinary… something bigger.

Do you feel it too? A certain amount of…

Boredom?

Lack of purpose?

Lack of focus?

My darling treated me to a Spa retreat for a couple of days over the Christmas Break. Our kids were happy to take care of themselves while Bob and I went to the ‘Kurspa’ at  ‘Sparkling Hill Resort for some TLC and down time. It was lovely. We enjoyed steams and saunas, and ate wonderful meals and slept in a bed with a memory foam mattress. Many of the spa treatments were for the purposes of detoxifying the body. From skin treatments like aroma scrubs, to more deep cleansing muds, our bodies were deep cleaned and felt amazing… lighter, fresher, younger, and smoother. What a delightful way to take care of our health and wellness, one we should probably do more often. I also couldn’t help reflecting on how a regular spiritual detox might be good for me too.

So when I see that I’m not heading into 2011 feeling excited and energized, that detox idea is what comes to mind again.

Or maybe I just need to get back on the vitamins? Perhaps  SAD is already catching up with me after a couple of dreary months of little sunshine? A little light therapy, or maybe some tanning, or even a new thing called ‘Hydration’ might do the trick. And making certain I eat healthy and get exercise… out in the fresh air is also a good thing.

But what I really think I need is to set time set aside for solitude and connection with my maker again… very soon. I have this need to get away with God and me to a special place up on a mountain, where I can just be still and listen. It’s something I haven’t always done, but the last couple of years I’ve started I find myself wanting to more regularly, and each time I go I am never disappointed. As I spend this intense time with God, I expose some of the wrong thinking I have inside me, I deal with the things I’ve done wrong, I get vulnerable with him, share my hopes and my ideas, and then I wait for his direction for what comes next. It detoxifies me from the influence of ungodly things in me and around me. It is such a good thing.

And I believe, based upon past experience, that my renewed focus and energy and passion and purpose will come from my time away with God. Most of all I will come back with the knowledge that there’s more to life than just this moment, or any immediate needs. I’ll come back ‘down the mountain’ with a tiny dose of eternal perspective that was given an opportunity to take root inside me.

So yeah, it might just be another manic Monday, but my planner’s open and I’m looking for a spiritual health day asap!

Out with the old and in with the new!

Lesley-Anne

A craving worth feeding…


It always takes time, it always feels slightly self-indulgent, yet I feel it is always necessary. While we might somehow hold to the idea that life is mostly about joy and activity and community and passion and purpose and moving forward, it is also about taking the time to to embrace loss and sadness, and to choose the place of silence and solitude for a time. As the good book says, there’s a time for everything under the sun.

I would like to suggest that without fully engaging in the difficult and sometimes awkward practice of inward focus, we might be living a life that is skimming the surface, and missing the deeper things that make life meaningful.

Now I readily accept the differences of personality types, the predisposed bent of the sanguine vs. the melancholy. But what I’m talking about is not that, rather it’s about choosing to slow down, unplug, disengage from regular life, to discover who you really are on the inside, and what your place is in this world.

I’m sure you’ve all experienced what it’s like to be on vacation and feel (around the third day) the release that comes from stepping off the tread mill of life. If you are a parent, just being away for the weekend with your spouse is exhilarating, as suddenly there is no child based conflict, no set meal times, no reason to not stay in bed late. Even if you are on a family vacation, there’s a freedom that comes from an open schedule and room for each other (especially if you leave the electronics at home). Or, you may have experienced a particularly lovely Sunday afternoon, where you are outside digging in the garden, and you suddenly become aware of birds singing and a feeling of peace overtakes you?

Our souls crave this type of time ‘apart’. Whether it’s for introspection or prayer, for remembrance, to work through feelings of anger or grief or forgiveness, to re-establish our purpose, or to fire up our passion again, a healthy part of living an active productive life is to honour our inner life too. And that takes time and consistency, and courage.

In the Jewish tradition, this practice is called Sabbath rest. In the Christian community, it takes the form of solitude or silence for the purposes of making space for God. For you it might be a hike in the woods, or a walk along a beach, or to journal your thoughts and prayers. Or, it could be something else. Like listening to a story on the radio.

I was listening to ‘Vinyl Cafe’ on my way home from dropping off the kids today, and it occurred to me that this particular story illustrates my point very well. So, if you have 23:03 minutes on this Sunday afternoon, I hope you can listen in. Usually Stewart McLean is very funny… this time, well, he is not. It’s a poignant story about slowing down, remembering, listening, and honour.

It’s called, ‘Remembrance Day’.

(I’m sorry to say, that until I can work through the technology to share ‘Remembrance Day’ with you here, I will have to ask you to google it, or visit your local library or book/music store. It’s available in a collection of stories called ‘The Vinyl Cafe – Storyland’.)

Peace, out.

Lesley-Anne