Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – Really?

I’ve been reflecting on my experiences of God and want to share one with you. I’ve often been puzzled by the talk of sin and God’s wrath. I used to read sermons such as those by Jonathan Edwards and try to fit my belief into the box of an angry God who needed to have his wrath appeased, but I couldn’t ever fit. Here’s a story from my early life that shows why I struggled.

I closed the back door of our home, shutting Hugh out of my life, relieved that I would never see him again. I had been very cold and closed towards him that evening, yet as I closed the door, I heard a voice and felt an impression in my heart. ‘You haven’t loved your brother in Christ.’ That was all. That was it. I heard the words and knew their truth in my heart. I felt no condemnation, but knew the reality was that I hadn’t loved him. No matter what else happened in our lives, Hugh was my brother in Christ and I had been rude to him. I knew that wasn’t the way I was supposed to be living. I wasn’t walking the path Jesus was guiding me along but was veering off on my own direction. I had asked for a life companion, a husband and Hugh had been given to me yet I had rejected the gift. What would happen now? What happens when God gives you a gift and you toss it aside?

My experience of God in that moment was of understanding, tenderness, righteousness and love. God heard the negative churning in my mind, saw the decision I made and didn’t run away from me. My coldness and rudeness were seen, understood and mirrored back to me. God spoke tenderly into my mind and my heart, describing what I had done and what I hadn’t done. I was shown a glimpse of my cruelty yet also showed a different path that I was invited to walk. I’m to love. God didn’t start with me loving the whole world, but loving one person, who was my brother in Christ, one person who has faith and is wanting to walk the path of life with me. God showed me the path of loving, the path of kindness, the path that Jesus walked. It’s a beautiful path, might not always be easy but it is the path of loving.

I didn’t hear any condemnation that day. I experienced understanding, tenderness, righteousness and love. Love for me. Love for Hugh. Understanding for what might have been. Understanding for was going to be because of my choices.

I had listened to the voices of criticism that came from a place of fear, from that place deep inside me where I was taught to fear loving, that place that carts out boulders and builds walls. God saw me in that place, had compassion on me, didn’t run from me or abandon me or shut the door on me, but spoke tenderly, firmly, and wisely into my life. God is good, faithful, kind, compassionate. God knows me, knows each of us and cares.

I’ve never encountered wrath or anger, only God’s tenderness, compassion and invitation.

Perhaps this week you would enjoy journalling one of your experiences of God.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

A Glimpse of God on Raspail

Today I stood in one of those ‘v’ shaped intersections in Paris, France where several streets converge, some small, some busier, with the movement of cars and people everywhere. Which direction will I look to cross the street? The sidewalks are not congested but they were full of Parisiennes heading home after school and work. The sun was beginning to dip as darkness comes early near the end of the year. I’m on my daily walk from the hospital to a shop to find some thread to mend a scarf, on my way to pick up my grandson after school. I’m listening to a podcast reflecting on Julian of Norwich. My day is unfolding like many others on this family visit to Paris.

Julian and I have a bit of history. She’s my favorite Christian mystic. Over the years, several times she’s opened my heart. She was the first to show me the celestial city within me. Through her I could feel eternity, sparkling in my soul. I knew there was more to my life than the clothes I wore, job I performed, relationships around me. Oh, there was so much more. Through her writings I felt a connection to Divine and Eternity. Another time Julian showed me that God smells. Wow! What kind of God is this? So much bigger, so much more familiar than I’d ever imagined. God smells! And of course, she taught of LOVE. It’s all about LOVE. And the Hazelnut story where I’m taught the significance of everything, absolutely everyone and everything for all has its being in the love of God. After many years I’m re-reading her and listening to a wonderful podcast by a fellow mystic. Julian has been a rich teacher for me.

So perhaps today wasn’t a surprise, but when God shows up it’s always a surprise, yet not a surprise, for God is always present! Just sometimes when I catch a glimpse of what really is, rather than what seems to be, it feels like a surprise. Today I had such a glimpse. Walking along Raspail, with Parisiennes going about their daily lives, I felt myself within God. All of us, the cars, the people, the activity of Paris, all of that was within God. Not so much embraced or enveloped in God’s love as within God herself. We were God. It was a feeling of presence. The fragility of this world was gone. The unimportance/importance struggles of this world were gone. The glimpse was short, but oh, it was sweet. Like a bite of deep dark chocolate, something to be savoured.

Savoured, so I share it with you Gentle Reader. What ‘glimpses of the Divine’ have you had?  

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem

Ordinariness

It began or did it… with a friend sharing the invitation she heard, to fall in love with God. Everyday, all day she was to live deeply in love with God. One of my teachers says that we are to love God in our daily lives; each breath is to be a turning towards God. And then there is me knowing a quiet life this year, a year of not working or doing but of having my focus on loving those closest to me. When did it begin?

I have a deck of Zen cards with beautiful images on them, and thoughtful commentaries. One day after my conversation with my friend, I asked Jesus, ‘What do I need to consider today?’ and the card I drew was ORDINARINESS. It felt alive. Yes, this is my life. I am to live each day alive in God, falling in love with God and letting that love flow into the ordinary tasks/ways of life, loving the one closest to me, loving my family circle, tending the garden, sweeping the deck, walking the village streets, greeting people, enjoying my friends, praying for the world. Each day, every day in the ordinary flow of life I am to seek and know God, living a God-soaked life. Not saving the world, not doing famous things, not writing a book that gets attention, but loving those around me, anchored in love/peace/joy so that God’s being flows through me.

That’s my call

It sounds so good. When I met my friend again and described to her my ordinary life, she cried, giving me a heartfelt, ‘Yes’. Yet…it’s so hard sometimes. Sometimes I don’t want to love my family circle. I simply don’t. It feels like hard work to value them, do things for them, and keep my heart open towards them. I want to shut myself away, I want to hide. I want to be a hermit. Other times I feel the ego that wants to be noticed, to change the world.

Over this year I hear the call from Jesus to walk in the way he walked. At this time in my life I understand that to be listening to Father/Mother, loving those around me, forgiving them, enjoying them, being present to God’s breath every day, being open to God every moment. I’m so far from that… yet I’m moving toward it. At least I hope I am.

ORDINARINESS – the picture on the card is of someone, maybe a woman, walking through a field with a basket of flowers, trees in blossom all around her. Yes, the open air, the beauty of nature, my place on the planet. Finding beauty in the simple bits of life – in feeding our new granddaughter, sharing meals with family, tending a garden, cooking, planning a trip – letting all of life be sacred. Let me live easily, one step at a time, one day at a time. An ordinary life. A sacred life.

When did this call to an ordinary, sacred life begin? I think it’s always been there and finally I’m beginning to pay attention.

Dear Reader…your life too is sacred.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem

Coming Home to Where I’ve Always Been

In March of 2017 I was beginning my Sabbath leave and a three-month ‘Retreat in Daily Life’, with Jesus’s birth narratives as my starting point in prayer. Using imaginary prayer, I was sitting around the campfire with shepherds, and as the sky filled with angels I leapt to my feet. A hand lifted me through the angels and brought me off stage. I could see the whole world, and the Jesus story as a play on the world stage. I was no longer a part of it but was in the wings watching the drama unfold. Turning, I saw a door marked ‘Director’s Office’ and I was invited to enter. Inside, I knew a presence telling me to rest, for I wasn’t needed on stage.

That was five years ago. The image and message are still alive for me. My new life in BC began as an ‘off stage’, quiet life. Sometimes it got busy but then I would quieten it again. Today something different happened. I realized how being in the Director’s Office is a sacred and holy place, yet I haven’t been focused on the Director. My ears, eyes, body are always turning to what’s happening on stage. I’m here, in this fabulous, wonderful, holy place, called by Spirit to be with our Director and I’m not focused there for I’m still turning to the distractions of the world.

I’m stunned at the awareness. I need to capture that treasure and not loose it.

I feel so graced to become aware of the gift of being in the Directors Office, and the gift of realizing that I haven’t been valuing the gift, for I have continued to be distracted by the noise on stage. I know I’m repeating myself, but I need to hear the truth. Too often I let truths blow away in the wind. I want to stay present to the Director in my everyday life. My night dreams are still full of the noise on the stage reflecting how much I’m still entangled in it.

Today I turn to Jesus and speak with him…..I’m so grateful to you.  Do I try your patience? It’s been years that I’ve been in the Director’s Office and years I haven’t always respected your call. I am so sorry. I have been as a child, naughty and distracted. I want to learn to be HERE with you. The trees have told me to be still ever since I arrived. I’ve paid some attention, but not enough. Help me keep my focus on The Director. That’s my calling, to use my will, my reason, my wisdom in focusing on You, Loving One. And I know that even as my eyes wandered back into the rush of life, you never took your eyes off me, for I am your child. I have returned home to where I’ve always been, living in your Loving…..

And you Gentle Reader. Are you wandering and now ready to return home? What might be your distractions that keep your focus off your Creator?  What keeps you rushing instead of resting and trusting?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion with the Rivendell Way

Society member of Shalem

Returning

It moves between a dribble and deluge. Right now, the creek below our home is roaring. After a week that covered our trees and mountains in snow, the winter rains returned washing everything green again and filling the creek almost to overflowing. Sometimes, such as the end of summer, our creek is barely a trickle. Other times like now, it roars.

Life is like that with twists and turns, ups and downs, times of drought and times of deluge.

Like the creek that was once dry, I stopped posting about a year ago, feeling it was a season of rest. It was a nourishing rest, much time given to family adventures, but something fresh is stirring now. It’s time to pour something again into my writing creek.

Last fall I listened to two of my mystical teachers speak about their spiritual writing practice, and I knew that I was missing that piece. For years I have written reflections for my contemplative community and then for this blog site. My writing has been more a spiritual practice for myself than to grow a reading community. I hoped that my thoughts would be nourishing to others but, speaking honestly, it was for my own spiritual growth that I wrote. I would take some glimmer, some glimpse of the Divine that I had encountered and ponder it, honor it and by doing that deepen my own experience. Over the decades I have been shaped by what I encountered in my written reflections, experiencing God’s presence in my life expanding, deepening, and warming. It’s like finding my heartbeat and paying attention to it.

A few months ago, I returned to the practice and now in the new year, I feel ready to begin posting regularly. I don’t know who will read what I write. I’m always interested to hear back from you, yet I send my words out into the world whether I hear back or not. It’s like walking down the street with a smile on my face. I don’t necessarily smile at a person, I smile because there is a smile inside me and I want to give to the world the gentle happiness that’s within me. I write what I ponder and offer it into the world, hoping, trusting that it is nourishing and turning our world into deeper harmony.

So, I’m returning. May the dribble of words grow into a nourishing deluge.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Draw the Circle Wide

Draw the circle wide…..

‘Draw’ pulls me in. ‘Wide’ expands me. Breathing in. Breathing out. Tension. Release.

‘Draw’ pulls me into my core, the centre of my being, what I experientially know to be true. I’m pulled to the source of my being, to the creative source within all life. It’s deep, good and full of LOVE.

The core of LOVE always has an expansive quality to it. Love is given to be shared. The core expands out, includes everybody, everything, everywhere.

Breathing in. Breathing out. Drawing in. Expanding out.

My call is to include everyone with my loving gaze, everyone. Everyone, whatever skin colour, cultural customs, demographics, age, orientation, whatever – all are included in LOVE’s circle of presence and care. Will I expand to include all? Everything, everywhere includes oceans and skies, mighty river and humble creek, towering red cedar and wild ivy, urban sprawl and congestion – all have their place and contain the presence of LOVE. Will I expand to include all?

‘Draw the circle wide’ began in church conversations to call us beyond our small congregations into an inclusive environment and inter-faith world. I don’t think it is contained to the Christian world. I hear a spiritual choir singing where there are many voices, each singing in their own way, but all singing in harmony to give to the world beautiful spiritual music. I don’t think we can make spiritually harmonious music unless we begin by going deep into our core, being drawn into LOVE, to an experience of our Living God. From that experience, we can expand outwards, drawing all life towards LOVE. We need to go deep. We need to be transformed by LOVE, so we are willing to expand and extend compassion to all. No one is to be left out.

My pondering of this phrase was heightened this morning by reflection time with Contemplative Fire UK community. Come and join us sometime. www.contemplativefire.org

What does this phrase say to you?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion (hmmm resting a lot right now!)

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

Companion with The Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

Endless Time

Can you recall a moment when you came across a book, a reading, a conversation, something that felt so ‘right’ to you, something that helped shape your day or your thoughts? It felt as if the whole universe, the Spirit of God had planned that moment for you. Everything felt in alignment. Yes!

The Greeks taught us about two kinds of time, Chronos and Kairos. The first gives us our watches, our obsession with minutes and seconds. We call it chronological time where we measure each minute, set appointment times and win races by milliseconds. We also count birthday candles, grades in school, and frequency of events with this time measurement. Handy but…..I’m grateful for the other time awareness. Kairos reminds us that there is more to time than we can measure. Tip your head up and behold the cosmos above you. That’s a glimpse into a Kairos awareness, one where we are humbled by the vastness. We stagger meekly into eternal time, unmeasured and forever.  I’m humbled before it for I can’t contain it in my watch or calendar. I’m expanded within it for I’m aware of a deeper calling, a deeper life where I live in Kairos time.

Our physical bodies are tied to Chronos. The clock ticks for the physical life I’m living. Our soul resides in Kairos. We are children of God, made in the image of eternity. Our soul breaths comfortably in Kairos time. When I feel trapped or exhausted, I wonder if I’m living too much in my body or mind and not enough residing in my soul. Or is it my soul experiencing the constraints of this measured life? I know my soul doesn’t get exhausted for it is always fed from the eternal spring of life within.

The last time I encountered one of those moments when the right word was given to me, made me so aware that my life was known by God. If that moment was known, that need was known, wasn’t every moment known, every need known? I glimpsed that we live within Kairos time, all the time. We simply don’t see it. God is always present. Relax and trust in the slow work of God. Always. Each moment is known. We live in endless, eternal time. Always known. Always beloved.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation  

Whispers from a Campfire

Last night I sat around a huge firepit with some Contemplative Fire friends. Together we listened to Judy Brown’s poem “Fire”. (There is a link below.) Fueled by the poem and fire in front of us, we shared our reflections. What does the poem evoke within us? What are our logs? Our spaces?

The fire had been carefully laid by another. It had paper inside a tent of small kindling and then some larger pieces to begin the blaze. Someone else came and put a match to it. I arrived as the fire was beginning to radiate light and warmth. Night settled around us. The one who built the fire wasn’t there. The one who lit the fire departed. I was on my own with a crackling fire when friends arrived. We settled in together around the fire, poking it as the evening went on. We chewed over the thoughts that were ignited by the poem. They returned home to tend their children and I remained by the fire. The poking continued as did the pondering. I watched the logs be consumed, the spaces shift and then I was left with only embers. What had been a blazing fire, giving us light and heat, became a small dish of glowing embers.

Often, I’ve been taught about the two seasons of life, the accomplishment/achievement of youth and then the search for deeper meaning and purpose that comes as we age. Are the logs the activity or tasks in life and the spaces what give meaning and purpose? Or is it the other way around?! As humans we need both, activity and purpose, accomplishment and meaning, engagement and space to breathe. There is no fire if there are too many logs or only space.

I watched the fire begin, roar, take many shapes as it burnt and then die off into embers where there are no logs or spaces. I wondered if there is a third season, a time of releasing from logs and spaces to becoming embers; a season when meaning and activity shift and change, becoming, a time when we let go of what we’ve done for so long and take on a new way of being. Is this what is called being an elder?

It seems to me that the logs are what the world notices and spaces are the inner work we mature into recognizing and cultivating. There comes a time in life when we are invited to let go of what the world notices and settle into the warmth of ember years. Last night around the campfire I heard the whisper of change, of releasing into the fire, activities and ways I no longer need, of allowing my life to burn differently, even to mellow into embers. What will ember years look like? Are we all called into ember years long before we age? Are not ember years the dying to old self, ego ways and resting into new self, true self, Spirit ways? Can’t that happen at any age?

Ember years. I’m still wondering, listening to the whispers around the campfire.

Here is a link:   https://wordsfortheyear.com/2018/06/02/fire-by-judy-brown/.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

Emotional French Fries

Sometimes I’ll order them but not often. Sometimes it’s those yam fries….Usually I  just take a few from my husband’s plate. I know I don’t feel well if I eat a whole plate of French fries or yam fries, and I do enjoy feeling healthy and full of energy. Fried foods clog our arteries. That’s just the way we’re made. Yes, they taste yummy but fried foods aren’t that good for our physical body, certainly not as a large part of a regular diet.

The other day I wasn’t feeling well emotionally. I’d been with some people and afterwards I realized I had digested something emotionally that didn’t feel well to me. What had I ‘eaten’? I felt plugged up inside so the usual flow I know had been diverted. Deep down inside me I could feel some fear which sent out tendrils of worry. It was those little bits of worry, soaked in fear that were tempting me to nibble. Ah! No! Worries are like emotional French Fries, tempting, tasty, but too many and I get clogged up inside.

My dear friend Jesus, says so clearly, ‘Don’t worry. Can you change anything by worrying? Know instead that you are loved, and know you are in the presence of One who loves you, always, everyday. Don’t give in to worry. Trust in the Presence of Love.’

When we worry, it will clog our emotional and spiritual energy flow, just as clearly as a diet of fatty food will clog our physical arteries. Yet somehow, we accept worry as a normal part of human life. I think it’s common, but I don’t want it to be ‘normal’ for you or for me. I want to make choices about how I care for my physical body, and choices about how I care for my emotional and spiritual home as well.

Menus these days are often marked with nutritional information – gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, calorie count etc. Imagine if your day was marked with a worry count….What does each encounter that you have during the day trigger in you? Are you drawn towards trust or worry? To what extent does that relationship help you be your best self? Are you able to give both strength and ease into the situation? I bet you could come up with some questions of your own!

So, my friends, watch out for those emotional French fries!

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

Always

She was shrouded in a cloud this morning, yet I knew she was there.

Chichiyuy, ‘The Sisters’, or as they are commonly called here, ‘The Lions’ are two distinctive mountain peaks near Vancouver which rise above my little oceanside village giving us the name ‘Lions Bay’. On my morning mountain walk, when I pause at the top of it, the west Sister is in my view. She is one of my places of prayer. Today I couldn’t see her for a cloud had settled over her. We’re in for a rainy day. But I knew she was there. Always there. Everyday.

When settlers arrived here, someone had the idea that the two dominant mountain peaks were reflective of the lions in Trafalgar Square, London. I’m not sure why. The name has been commonly accepted and now is sprinkled all over the area, so we have the BC Lions, Lions Gate Bridge, Lions Gate Hospital, numerous Lion Pubs and of course Lions Bay. A hundred years ago Pauline Johnson told us what the First Nations called those peaks and gave us a version of their story. It seems those peaks weren’t placed there to be triumphant and roaring but to remind us to live peacefully and in one accord with each other. I’ve heard several versions of the story and they all end with the two sisters who brought waring tribes together in peace being immortalized in these peaks. We’re to look at them and remember their story, their bravery, integrity and strength. Two strong women brought the warring tribes together. Peace. Live in one accord. Always. Everyday.

In the scripture I’m pondering this week Jesus speaks to us about not being fixated on our differences, to see God within people and live together peacefully, in one accord. As I write, in Canada, we’re on the eve of a national election. We’ve watched divisions flare up and negativity seep out. I long for the days when parties can work together for the common good. Sometimes it’s as if a cloud settles over us and we forget that we one people, one human race, here to live simply, humbly on a beautiful earth together, learning who we are as God’s children. Instead ,we become strident, insisting on our way as the right way and speaking negatively of those who have experienced life differently from us and see things another way.  

When confusion or uncertainty comes, and it will, remember that The Sisters are there, everyday, always. They are a constant reminder to us to live in peace with one another. May our lives move the world forward toward peace.

With hope, love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion with The Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation