Gentle Leadership

Years ago, while on my annual silent retreat, I’d heard the invitation to grow into a gentle leadership with Contemplative Fire. I spent some time after that in discussion with colleagues about what a gentle leadership model might entail, but then I think I let it go. I stopped consciously thinking about it or trying to grow in that direction. It surfaced again for me during my Sabbath Leave.

For me, a gentle leadership is one that comes from the Spirit of God. It is when I submit myself to deep listening and deep following. I set aside strategic plans, and my long-term goals are not measurable outcomes but adherence to the vision and values that align with our Christian faith and Contemplative Fire. It is less about accomplishing things or growing a ministry and more about adherence to the One I follow. I’m aware of a different space within me internally.

A couple of nights ago, I was lying in bed, and I had one of those ‘Sonburst’ moments I’ve written about before. This one was about gentle leadership. I don’t recall that I was even thinking about it, but I could feel the presence of being a gentle leader emerge within me. I felt the groundedness, the security, the warmth, the ease. I felt an inner quality I’d never experienced before. It didn’t last for long, but it was there. I will always retain that memory, that possibility. I hope I will not only retain, but actively remember it. I would love to grow into that more deeply, to lead more gently, to lead more intimately connected to the flow of the Spirit of God.

I’d like that. Have you had any experiences like that? What would you teach me/us about gentle leadership?

Love and prayers

Anne

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

A Mystic in Motion

 

 

 

 

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One Day in a Garden

One day a friend, during a prayer time, received an image for me. It was a jigsaw puzzle picture of an thatched cottage with an English country garden in front of it. I was tending the garden. I spoke with people who stopped by, attracted by the quiet beauty of the garden. The conversations were rich and transformational.

Sometimes when people share their prayer moments, or insights they bounce off me, but other times they penetrate and stick. The jigsaw garden was one that felt right to me. During my Sabbath Leave I have heard the call both to a quieter season of life but also to a life that is more deeply led by the Spirit. This prayer image gave more substance to my calling. What lies before me is a life where all the pieces are in place, and together they will create a place of quietness and beauty. All the pieces of my life will come together and will provide nourishment to a few. I will be in a place of internal quietness and beauty.

I’m humbled and awed, by the calling, by the image and by the image being given to one, who I only know slightly. How deep is the Father’s love for us! How connected are the children of the Father!

If I have one truth that I return with from my Sabbath Leave it is to say so clearly to any who might listen: We are not alone. God’s Spirit is present, watching over us all the time. It doesn’t matter if our days are happy or sad. God is present. It doesn’t matter if we’re devotedly following our faith or not. God is present. All the time. And the Spirit that is present with us is good, is cheering us on, wanting the best for us.

I do know there are dark spirits around too. We are not to live blind to them, but we renounce any engagement with them and open ourselves to the goodness of God.

We are not alone. You are not alone. May you know God’s presence today. May you open yourselves to the goodness and beauty of God. Breathe the sweet fragrance of the garden.

Love and prayers

Anne

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion

 

Leaving Home — or NOT!

Today is the beginning of my new season of life! I took Finn on a wonderful off leash dog walk through the woods, baked a peach and blueberry crisp, read and pondered the essence of Holy from a gift book and then settled into my prayers. What an awesome beginning!

Although still officially on the payroll till Friday, I completed my last Sunday in the parish yesterday and nothing is required of me this week. Oh, maybe a little bit of my office still to be sorted and few people to say hello/good-bye to, but my time in the parish is complete. Even though I’ll collect my small pension, I’m not using the ‘R’ word for I remain as Community Leader Canada with Contemplative Fire which for me is very intentional ministry. But I do feel a huge spaciousness in my life.

With my parish, it is ‘au revoir’ rather than a final good-bye. On one level, they have felt like home to me for the last six years and I don’t quickly rush away from home. I have dearly enjoyed the people I have ministered with and to within that community. Contemplative Fire has been welcomed there and even though I’m not on staff, they continue to give it a home. Contemplative Fire will have some office space and I will continue to come and go, so it is not a final ‘goodbye’ but an ‘au revoir’. I’m grateful for that. When you find a ‘home’ somewhere it is very special and to be valued.

My leaving has given me the incentive to be thankful for my years in the parish, to intentionally recall the memories of meetings, small groups, parties, shared life stories, struggles, challenges, growth, and the love that has been shared among us. I’ve considered on a deep level what it means to find a home, and how many different places and people can be home to me.

What people and places have you called home over your life? Perhaps this week is a time for you too, to recall them and allow gratitude to grow towards them.

On another level, Contemplative Fire is my spiritual home. Within that community I find some kindred spirits who are called to walk through life with a similar rhythm and call to mine. I’ll write more about my thoughts on the future of our community in the newsletter and next few weeks. If you’re particularly interested in Contemplative Fire or interested in being part of this ‘community of Christ on the edge’ wherever in the world you call home, do be in touch through our website www.contemplativefire.ca. Perhaps you’re being called to make a home with us!

Love and prayers

Anne

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just A Little Stuck

Usually the blogs just flow for me. I know there is a ‘something’ that’s caught my attention that I want to share. I began the blog with the intention of sharing my experience of the challenges I face in being a contemplative both with an active temperament and living in a busy world. I wanted to encourage others on the contemplative pathway as well as help myself think through the craziness of life.

Not always, but usually, they’ve been weekly notes. This week I feel stuck. Nothing is flowing.  Instead I feel some static within me: there’s a bit of conflict within my parish life, there’s two sermons to prep and lack of clarity on one, and there’s decisions resulting from re-entering Contemplative Fire and discerning our way forward. Did I mention our dog who’s been barking at night? There’s static! Where is that Peace, the deep peace with a capital ‘P’! After four months of blissful consolation, I find myself on the hunt for God, feeling rather alone, and with lots of inner static.

I might call it confusion, annoyance, anxiety, or lack of sleep from our dog barking but I know the spiritual term of ‘desolation’, and I know the guidelines. When you hit a time of desolation:

  • Don’t make any decisions. Keep on the set path.
  • Tell God how I’m feeling and ask for help.
  • Share with a wise friend.
  • Be still and remember who I am.
  • Go back to a point of consolation, reliving those memories.
  • Help someone else.
  • Repeat as necessary *

I began last night to re-read my Sabbath Leave notes. Big ‘YES’ in doing that! I continue to write the blog, recognizing two things. First, in the scriptures I’m pondering this week for my sermons, one deals with conflict in a faith community and teaches how to handle anxiety and worry, how to return to the peace that passes all understanding. The second scripture focus is around Jesus, one day caught in a busy place, and watching him change his mind. I know they are both speaking into my personal chaos and I also know from years of scripture teaching that I often need to live through the week’s message. I’m probably just doing that, one more time.

Second, getting stuck is very common. Maybe some of you feel stuck this week too. Maybe you, my thoughtful readers, are experiencing a bit of chaos or uncertainty in your life and some spiritual static.

So …. Let’s keep on the path we’ve set, take our static to God and ask for help, remember a time of consolation and reach out in kindness to another human being. We’ll make it through!

Love and prayers

Anne

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

A Mystic in Motion

*adapted from Margaret Silf’s “Inner Compass”

A New Thought for Me…..

I was preparing yesterday for a meeting with a team from Contemplative Fire who has over the years helped me discern our way forward.  As I was gathering my thoughts together I was outlining some of nudges I’d received during retreat times regarding Contemplative Fire both over the years and during my Sabbath Leave. Then something I hadn’t considered before emerged – What is Contemplative Fire’s True Self?

As part of my spiritual journey along the contemplative pathway, I’ve done lots of work around my own false self.  Again during my Sabbath Leave, I was taken to places that removed some more ingrained layers.  I appreciate Keating’s descriptive phrase ‘those childhood patterns of happiness’, those ways that we learnt to survive in life that no longer are needed. The contemplative work peels away layers of the false self so I might live more fully from my True Self. For me it has often been hard work, but healing work. I’m grateful for it. And I trust those who keep me company in this life appreciate it too!

So…do communities have false and true selves? Do families? Do marriages? I haven’t read anything about that specifically, maybe some of you have and could let me know. With church communities and families we will speak of generational sin and the accumulation of spiritual energy that can be very negative, but we seldom talk of the original vision of a community. Once, in Contemplative Fire, we asked the question, “Why has God birthed Contemplative Fire at this time and place?” Some wonderful discussions and images emerged.

As I return to my role as Community Leader with Contemplative Fire Canada, we are engaging in the process of discerning our way forward. I wonder if we might consider again, why Contemplative Fire was birthed. Do we have a True Self in our community calling? Perhaps then we can live more closely to our True Self, the fullness of who we are as a community.

Please pray for Contemplative Fire as we discern our way forward. Are you part of another faith community? Does it have a sense of why it was created, and is it living within the founding vision? Or your family? Your marriage?

Love and prayers

Anne

Community Leader Canada

Community Questions

Last Sunday, twenty of us gathered for our Contemplative Fire July Potluck. I had offered to share some of my sabbath leave adventures and was looking forward to a time to reconnect with folk. It was wonderful to be able to share some of my prayerful experiences. Many had joined me through my blogs, but this was deeper, and more personal. It was a chance to tell some stories, laugh together and be thankful to God for our shared contemplative experience. I’m grateful that many enjoyed it as much as I did.

Some of their questions were helpful to me:

“How have you changed, Anne?”  I know I have been changed from this four-month experience. I’m quieter. I want a quieter life. I want to continue to live from that place of internal quietness. I’m not nearly as driven as I was before and I don’t intend to return that place of striving, accomplishing or achieving. It simply doesn’t appeal to me. What appeals to me is trusting God and leaning into the Spirit’s lead. Trust, Radical Trust.

“What was it like to return? Busy?” Yes, the world around me does feel busy. The city is busy and so is family life, but also the parish and Contemplative Fire are busier places than I’ve been in the last few months. One person noted that I return more vulnerable and she was right. I’m more tender inside, more open and feel the busyness in a different way now.

I am also more aware of the static around me. I experienced a simple clarity during the four months. Each moment, each day felt clear and focused. Back in the rapid flow I hear static. It’s harder to hear the gentle voice of the Spirit. I know God is still present, and the flow is still happening, but it is less clear to me. I need to trust more. I can imagine that the clarity of the four months was to strengthen me for the return and the season ahead. Life is all about trusting.

I’m sure many of you will take some vacation time this summer, some time when you step away from your usual pace. Might these questions help you too? How are you changed? What is it like to return? Let’s not live on auto-pilot, but fully alive, savoring each day.

Love and prayers

Anne

Contemplative Fire Community Leader Canada

Are You Back in the Saddle?

A friend asked me the other day if I ‘was back in the saddle’. It took me no time at
all to respond, “NO!” I realized that I’ve returned to work, but not gotten ‘back in
the saddle’. It was a helpful eye opener to see the extent to which I’ve changed
over the last four months.

I’m finding a new way to be in the work world, a way that doesn’t drain me. I’m
taking our Rhythm of Life more seriously. ‘Travelling Lightly and Dwelling
Deeply’ is the way for me to survive. I’ve always been attracted to those words
and valued them, but in the last few weeks they’ve become clearer and stronger to
me, a drag anchor in the fast current of ministry life. If something comes into my
world that doesn’t feel ‘light’ to me, I’m wary of it, observing it. What time and
attention do I need to give to it? I don’t need to jump on every request that comes.
Or if I am to join it, how will I do it lightly? And when I find myself moving quickly I
can observe that too and return to a slower, deeper pace, listening more and doing
less.

The change feels very good to me. It is both work and not work. It is both choice
and ease. I think my old way of life made me saddle sore. Jesus was so clear to me
in some of my prayer times. It is time for quiet and rest Anne, not for chasing wild
horses so I’m not jumping back into the saddle. Maybe I’m looking for a new
saddle, maybe a new outfit to ride in, maybe a seat on the fence of the corral, or
maybe as my friend suggested… maybe you’re going to ride bareback! Yes!! For
now, I’m content with a seat on the fence, but if a horse might come who would
like to ride bareback along the beach with me…. I could be interested!

Are you saddle sore?

What does ‘Travelling Lightly – Dwelling Deeply’ mean to you?

Love and prayers
Anne
Community Leader Contemplative Fire

Barging and Emerging

The other day, one dear to me said they’d recognized the difference in their life between ‘barging’ and ‘emerging’. For years they’d barged into situations, took control, got things done, but now they were learning to watch and see what emerges and join in the emerging work. She kindly said that I knew all this and no need to preach to me about it!….. oh how I need to hear the old, old story again and again!

I need repeatedly to hear of Jesus, who he was, who he is and how I’m completely known and securely loved. And then…living within that awareness, I can relax, trust and catch the emerging wave.

I’ve done a lot of barging in my life. I’ve taken charge, gotten things done. I don’t think it’s all bad, for there has been good in much that I’ve done. God is SO gracious. I’m often amazed goodness can come out of us crashing around, but it does. Over my twenty-five years in ministry I’ve seen it again and again. I may disagree with people and how they oversee ministries, I may be hurt by them, and I still see that God is blessing them. For years it was a mystery to me. Now I know a bigger God! However, I still chose how to live the life I’ve been given, and I don’t want to live barging around as much anymore. Less barging, more emerging. I want to be still enough to see what is happening beneath the surface, to catch a glimpse of the next rising wave. I want to continue longer in the beautiful inner stillness I’ve known so I can catch a peek at what God is doing.

I can’t be reminded enough – less barging, more emerging.

I’m returning to my communities after a four-month absence, returning to the fast ministry flow. I’m tempted to barge back in – well not really tempted, but I can feel some undercurrents that want to draw me back in. I’m glad to have had that clear reminder this week – Anne, how about living with less barging, more emerging?

Love and prayers for our journey

Anne

Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada

 

 

The Whiff of the Rose Vine

When I’d step out the door sometimes I’d catch the whiff of roses. The old manor house where Contemplative Fire hosted their annual retreat this year was Parcevall Hall in Yorkshire. There was a beautiful rose vine that grew beside the doorway and over our bedroom windows. It became a friend during the week I stayed there.

The devotional focus for the week was seasonal changes. We walked through the letting go of autumn, the dormancy of winter, the mess and buds of spring and the abundance of summer, only of course to begin again with letting go as summer’s abundance fades and frozen time of winter approaches. The relentlessness of seasons.

The rose vine was a picture of all the seasons for me and the whole picture was beautiful. There are beautiful roses in bloom, and small buds emerging too, but there is also a scattering of rose petals on the ground as a blooms finish and of course dead heads that have yet to be cleared away – buds, blossoms, fallen petals and deadheads, spring, summer, fall and winter, an ongoing cycle in front of me, relentless and all beautiful. In it’s completeness it is beautiful. Yes, there is a part of me that only wants full blooms…. But truly the whole vine is beautiful.

The whiff of the rose vine – may I embrace all the seasons of my life. Am I resisting one of them? Don’t want to experience the autumn of letting go of something? Fearful of buds – what will they look like? How messy will it be? Uncertain, tentative to bask in the beauty of abundance? What sustains me in the times of deadheads, times of deep waiting? The relentless turn of seasons. Winter won’t last forever, spring will come, but also summer won’t last forever either, autumn will come as well. What do I need to be content with the seasonal cycles? Another twist to being a Mystic in Motion.

Love and prayers on our journey

Anne

Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada

 

 

Relax, Trust in the Slow Work of God

What do you do with souvenirs that you bring home from your trips? The crazy Hawaiian shirt that looked so good …., the shells and rocks, the coffee mugs and plates, the masks and carvings, the maps and guides and of course the photos! What do you do with your trip memories, the ways you’ve been shaped from your adventure that took you out of your ordinary routines?

Sometimes I lie in bed and pull my Sabbath Leave memories over me, so they are wrapping me like a blanket to keep my soul warm, tender and willing to show up. I would love to share my memories with others, but I usually find that most aren’t too interested. We seldom want to sit for long and look at photos of a trip someone took to some place with some people other than ourselves!

But I’ll share one keepsake with you. The title of this blog probably sums up the work of my leave: Relax, Anne. Trust in the slow work of God. I can’t say it often enough. I do say it frequently as I re-enter community life. It aligns really well with our Rhythm of Life: Travelling Lightly and Dwelling Deeply. Again and again I return to it – relax, be at ease, move lightly through life, for God is at work, in the depths God is there, with the Presence of Love guiding the movements. I can be so impatient, so eager to make things happen. My sabbath leave was full of what I’ll call ‘Moments of Encounter’, times when I know so clearly there IS a God, a Divine Presence within all there is. I am to relax, trust in the slow work of God. God’s speed is often very slow – at least by Anne’s schedule! And that’s okay. That’s what I’m learning and what I bring home from my Sabbath Leave. Thanks for listening.

Love and prayers on our journey

Anne

Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada