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


Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Companion on the Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Spiritual Growth – Forgiveness: Navigating Spiritual Swamps

Sadness slowly welled up in my heart. Not far away, the community had built a dam to contain fresh water for the cannery. What happened instead was that further up the hill the spring welled up and created a swamp killing the natural cedar growth. They made the best of a bad situation. Realizing that the ancient trees were dead, they allowed a marsh to develop and created an ecological centre with boardwalks traversing the marsh. The ancient trees stand as a reminder of what was and what could have been.

My heart’s sadness didn’t come from the marsh but from the cultural centre that has been built on the island. It is placed near the site of the residential school that held children from 1894-1974. A healing ceremony was held when the building was torn down in 2015. The cultural centre, which is the building to the left of the school, displays potlach masks and stories of the First Nations who have lived on these lands since time immemorial. It also has an historical outline of life from unknown days through first contact and into Indian Act years to present time.

Since the exposure in May of 215 unmarked graves of children in Kamloops I’ve attempted to learn more of our Canadian history. The visit to U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay was one of those opportunities. I spoke with a guardian who asked how my day was going. With honesty I replied about how I felt going through their display, acknowledging my Canadian upbringing, my lack of knowledge of their story, and my slowness in being open to learning about the sorrow. Our conversation wandered around many trails of his family experiences and mine. As I wondered about next steps, he gently and quietly said a step is into forgiveness, and the first step is to forgive yourself. He who has been hurt, speaks to me, the settler, the one on the side of those who inflicted hurt on others, to forgive myself.

The other time I heard of forgiveness spoken so deeply, intimately and quietly was from a First Nations Elder I met on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. He told stories of forgiveness, of First Nations people living forgiveness to those who had hurt them. They way he spoke was humble and authentic. He was walking the path of forgiveness. Jesus’ last recorded words as he was dying were ‘Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.’ Forgiveness is at the heart of his message to us. When I hear forgiveness from First Nations, I know they are speaking God’s truth to me, and it is for them a living truth, nothing academic or theological but experiential. They are forgiving.

If we don’t walk the path of forgiveness, towards our self and all others, it’s like building a dam inside us, a dam that will cause water to plug up and kill ancient truths within us, creating a swamp. Forgiveness of our self and others is an essential ongoing step on the path of spiritual growth. Without it, something inside us dies. Life gets messy. If you want to grow spiritually, search your heart. Are you caring any grudge toward anyone? Are you blaming anyone for your life circumstances? Are you caring shame, any tiny sense of ‘not-good-enough’? Turn to forgiveness, hear Jesus’s words of forgiveness, and begin letting go of that knot inside you. Ask for help from Jesus, God, Divine Mother, Healing Spirit, help to undo that knot inside you.

Spiritual growth often starts with a sad heart but doesn’t end there.

Do you have any knots that need untying? Who doesn’t.

Here is a link to St Michael’s story and overview of residential schools.

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

Troubled Waters

Two rivers coming together often create turbulence. I’ve used that image in marriage counselling so many times! And it’s one I know is true. When two lives join, when two families join it takes awhile to sort out how the new family will live.

The last few weeks I’ve been reading from two different sources. One stream of books takes me deep into our spiritual life, how we flow from the Source of All Life, how we are all interconnected, each person, plant and stone is connected. That stream leads me to joy. The other stream takes me into the social structures that have determined the lives of people within our communities, to the segregation laws, to public attachment to violence and control. That stream shows me fear. What happens when fear and joy come together?

I’ve been reading Huston Smith’s work from the late 1950’s on world religions. I wonder what would have happened in my life if I had found him in my search in 1970’s! He is speaking to the questions that I was asking: what do we want, what is the purpose of life, why are we here? He looks at the major faiths and how people have wrestled with these same questions over thousands of years. I so often felt alone in my questions, but clearly I wasn’t. I was part of a huge stream of people that search out meaning in life and that’s what gives birth to religion as a solid part of human society. As I dip into the expansive spiritual world he describes, I feel at home, and hear so many faith traditions connecting us all. It feels good.

I’ve also been reading Isabel Wilkerson’s latest book ‘Caste’ and it troubles my heart. I realize it’s from an American perspective and to read a Canadian version would be instructive, but I have enough ties to America to know connection to that story and considering their place in the world it’s an important book. I haven’t finished it yet, so I’m still digesting, as much as I can what she documents, but so far she’s begun to outline the social structure that is deeper than racism, that subjugates one human to another in brutal and binding ways. In the last section I read she traces the origins of caste in both India and America to their spiritual roots. Both countries used their holy books to justify the ranking of people and the resulting control of a dominant group. It’s chilling.

How can what I love and that leads me to joy, lead to such brutality? How can humans read the same holy books and some come away ready to enslave and dominate and others ready to serve, even unto death? And the enslavement isn’t ancient history. The last laws were repealed within my adult lifetime and the effect of those laws continues long after they were officially repealed. How can it be?

Troubled waters today. I think sometimes it’s good and necessary to go through troubled waters.

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder


How to Handle Distractions: The Squeaky Shoes!

The community had gathered. We had heard a sacred reading. The bell was struck. A gentle silence descended on us. Then, on the other side of the wall, in the parking lot a frustrated mother began yelling at her child, “I didn’t drive all this way for you to refuse to go to camp!’. The yelling continued, accompanied by a child’s mournful cry.  Beneath our feet the piano began, joined by happy voices of children singing camp songs. One after another their songs rolled along. The final straw were The Squeaky Shoes, rubber soles on linoleum, that sauntered down the hall outside the chapel. Really! So what was that sacred text???

That particular morning highlighted for me the delight of meditation. We (or is it just me!) have this image of sitting in stillness, all is serene. Maybe a few birds chirp or a gentle waterfall is a soothing white noise. Within a pristine setting perhaps I will settle into a place of inner peace.

But usually as soon as I settle on my cushion, I’m aware of the flopping of my mind, or emotions that get triggered. Again and again, as Fr Keating taught, I get hooked by some ‘boat’ that has entered the river of my thoughts and I’m engaged in sorting out all the stuff on the boat. Whether my physical space is serene or not, my internal space seldom is very orderly.

That morning, with all the yelling, singing and squeaking, gave me time to reflect again on how to deal with distractions when I meditate. They will happen! It might be internal thoughts that engage me or the squeaky shoes outside the room. I know they will come, so how can I let them not trigger an annoyance or sense of failure, but become one of the delights of meditation?

I know as my practice deepens the external sounds move more easily into something ‘out there’ and cease to trigger the cords of annoyance within me. They can still cause me to feel disruption. I look for the day when I’m oblivious to them. I’m not there yet. I’m not able to walk on hot coals! But I can breathe and let them pass. The internal roommate that chatters is more of a distraction to me. But the good part is that I can recognize when I’ve climbed on board and jump overboard one more time.

The real delight of distractions in meditation for me is the growing awareness that those distractions help me bring the quiet centre of my practice into everyday life. When I’m standing in line at the grocery store or caught in traffic I can pause and breathe and return to being open to God’s Spirit right then, right there because I’ve done it in my practice when The Squeaky Shoes walked down the hall. Or when someone gets annoyed at me or I feel irritated towards someone, or jealous of who they are, I can pause and breathe and return to being open to God’s Spirit right then because that’s what I’ve done in my meditation practice when The Squeaky Shoes were the last straw for me. Again, and again, pause, breathe and return my focus to God’s Spirit within me. I am a branch of God’s vine. I carry God’s Life-giving, Ever-Loving, Healing Sap within me. I belong to God. That is who I am.

Distractions! How do you deal with them in life and /or on the cushion???

Love and prayers for the journey


Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire Founder (Canada)


View from the Edge

In a conversation with a soul sister today I found myself describing how I see the church, the world and place of the church within the world. It came out so clearly. Can I capture it again?

I live on the edge of my country which gives me a sense of freedom as I look around. I perceive the institutional church disappearing into irrelevancy. People don’t attend any more. They’ve dismissed it. The church has lost her spiritual authority. It seems to me that the church has lost spiritual authority because she no longer listens intently to the Spirit of God nor lives within the flowing energy of the Spirit.

Today we don’t just live in villages, cities or even countries but are called to live within a global community, an earth community. Yes, we do have the intimate relationships of family and community, but in this new age of human history, we’re aware of the global community and how our actions affect one another as well as our planet.

Any denominational church needs to have that awareness too. The Spirit of God is moving globally. Spiritually we need to be aware of all the spiritual pathways that are within the global community. We need to not only be aware of them, but awake and responsive to them. Within the main spiritual communities there is a meeting place in the mystical world. We all arrive at some point of recognizing the presence of God around and within us. We need to be open to each other and to the wisdom inherent in different pathways.

From my perspective, for too many years the Christian church has separated herself and become closed. She has ceased to reflect the life, energy and power of Jesus. Through history and theology, we have built walls between us and other faiths. It is time to step out from behind those walls and be open. We need to stand together, within the Light of God. God is so much bigger than any one human-constructed faith that has evolved from a divine teacher. I have found my study of other traditions has made Jesus bigger and more alive for me. He is not diminished but expanded and strengthened. We need to listen to what the Spirit of God is saying today.

For our human species to move to the next level of consciousness we need a spiritual rebirth that will bring healing to those who hurt, a deep peace to the planet and healing to our earth. We need to move beyond small worlds into the global, even cosmic world. We need to move beyond a small church into the wide, expanse of spiritual life, the big ‘C’ Church of All Followers Everywhere. That’s when spiritual authority will return to the newly created Spiritual Community.

The people on this planet need a strong, healthy, united spiritual voice. Will we listen? Will we respond?

We’re all in this together. It’s time we lived into that reality.

I think that is the essence of my response to my soul sister. I share it with you as a way of mulling it over myself. How does it strike you? Helpful? Heretical!?

Love and prayers
Mystic in Motion
Founder, Contemplative Fire Canada
If this is helpful or interesting to you, please pass it along.


Why this World is the Way it is….

This week I heard it one more time and something inside me said ‘STOP’! “Silence makes me depressed”. “Silence and solitude….” and then she shuddered. I’ve heard it so many times. People pull away from contemplative practices. Why? Why do they sign up for yoga retreats but not for Contemplative Fire or for contemplative retreats within a Christian tradition? Why will they learn a new language of Sanskrit, chant in words they don’t know but not join a reflective service? Why?

When I was in a contemplative group the other day and a member said how her husband found silence depressing, I found myself stirred inside, some frustration stirred, some deeper anger, some hurt and some sadness. I observed a messy little stew pot of emotions emerge within me! I have found my twenty-five plus years within the contemplative world to be deeply healing. I’ve learnt how to face my negative emotions and move beyond them. Fundamentally I’ve experienced the LOVE of God, the deep, deep love of God that holds and sustains my life. Has it all been easy? No, much of it has been hard work, but it’s been wonderful. It is now my life passion to help other people find their own healing path. I offer the contemplative path and I grieve when it is dismissed as depressive. The door is slammed shut. ‘No thanks. Don’t want any.’ Slam.

As I pondered that perspective and my own response to it, I heard Silence/Solitude/Contemplative Practices being blamed for the person’s depression. I realized it that was a common response I’ve heard over the years. “It’s too difficult. It’s too scary. I don’t know what will come to my mind if I’m still. It makes me nervous.” I’ve heard so many responses like that, but suddenly, this morning I realized that those people are blaming the contemplative practices for their emotional response. It’s like me blaming my husband for my anger. I’m responsible for my angry response not him. if he behaves in a way that provokes my anger, well it’s my feelings and I’m responsible for learning from my reaction and caring for myself.

How come people can blame the contemplative practices for their feelings and get away with it? The practices of silence or solitude or meditation or imaginary prayer or (insert any contemplative practice)… are not the problem. The inability to accept responsibility for our own feelings and reactions is the problem. Too much of our church life is directed by people who aren’t willing to own their own feelings and do their work, do The Work of maturing spiritually, of following Jesus. Too much of our world is also led by people who won’t do their work.

I see the problem more clearly today, but I don’t see the solution. Right now, I hold it in the presence of our Loving, Omnipresent God.  I want to be able to put my foot in the door and not let them slam it shut.

How do you respond?

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Founder, Contemplative Fire Canada

If this is helpful or interesting to you, please pass it along.


Public and Personal


Today I feel caught between public and personal happenings. I live in Toronto where ten people were killed and fifteen injured yesterday in what appears to be a random crazy attack. Will we ever know what motivated Alek to take so many lives of people who were strangers to him? The inner pain of the man, the anguish, delusion, distortion, separation….

Each one of us, as human beings, experience inner pain. An existential loneliness is a well-documented shared human inheritance. Most of us find ways of living with it. We learn to make friends, hold jobs, whether satisfying or not, that connect us to the bigger whole. We shop, eat, exercise, drink, work, play video games, decorate our homes, travel, study, help others… the list goes on and on of ways that we find to either cover up that existential loneliness, or ease its pain. And within our coping ways, we can even find joy, laughter and purpose.

Somewhere I read….and I’m sorry I can’t source this non-original thought… that this planet and our human lives on it, are a school of suffering. To be a human being is a challenging lifetime for we are here to learn how to suffer with graciousness and compassion. We are to allow our souls to be shaped by suffering. That doesn’t mean we’re doormats, but, the opposite, for we are to be actively and wisely open to suffering while we keep grounded in the deep, deep love of God. We are to touch God’s compassion through our suffering.

On a personal level, we’re selling our home and perhaps hearing offers today. As part of my work around that life transition, I’ve been re-reading Joyce Rupp’s book ‘Praying Our Good-byes’. This morning she took me to Jesus’ life, into his family life, his ministry years, his friendships, his suffering, and the long list of his good-byes before his death. I enjoyed reading of his connection with people and valued being shown, long before his death, his pain and suffering as he experienced human life.

As a human being, he suffered. I suffer. There are things I don’t understand.  Looking at Jesus’ death, I see God entangled in our suffering. So then,  how will I respond?

I spoke with one care-giver who was involved in the aftermath of the attack yesterday. His response was one we often hear. He spoke of the resilience of human beings, the goodness that pours out of people as they try to help victims, the shared sorrow of those nearby. In a moment when we see the worst, the greatest pain of being human, we also see the best, the greatest beauty of being human.

May our personal lives be grounded in the deep, deep love that God has for each one of us. May we respond to suffering, both personal and public, carefully, gently with wisdom, with openness, with compassion. One step at a time. Life is a marathon and we’re not done yet.

If this is interesting to you, please show support by sharing it with a friend. Let’s broaden the contemplative pathway.

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada


Lessons from a Hurricane (5) Uncovering Anger

Lessons from a Hurricane (5)

Uncovering Anger

empty ice creamAfter I cleaned up the mess of ice cream containers that surrounded me …… It doesn’t take and Adult Anne long to realize that ice cream simply doesn’t solve any problems or clean up any hurricane-like mess! Under the hurricane mess and under the mess of ice cream I found anger.

I was amazed by the size and depth of the anger that was within me. How could this be? I’ve been a ‘conscious’ Christian for over forty years. I’ve done years of internal work and hours upon hours of reflective healing prayer. How could there possibly be so much anger still within me? At times it felt like there was an underground river of anger that was feeding my soul. It was the ugly, painful, sleep disruptive kind of anger. Do you know that kind?anger

The anger felt like an invader. I did the work that I know to do when I encounter a persistent intrusion like that. I meditated, prayed, journalled, sought a therapist, saw my spiritual director, drew pictures, took lots of deep breaths, found a friend – all the things that I imagine many of you know to do. This anger was persistent. It would disappear some days and I’d think I’d licked it only to have it appear again and again. I was hounded by it for months.

I learnt that I’m loved by God, even with the anger. I learnt to live with anger, not ruled by it but acknowledging it’s presence, not overwhelmed by it but recognizing that because of my history,  because of my temperament, anger is a companion. And, it’s worth repeating, I’m loved by God. I’m loved in my unfinished state. This persistent anger was humbling. It drew me closer to God. My need for God’s presence, my need for tenderness and compassion, deepened. My wonder at God’s willingness to be close to me when I didn’t want to be close to myself quite took my breath away. How spectacular, how stunning is the Holy One.

The hurricane humbled me. At least it humbled me a little bit, enough to know there is more humbling ahead.

Amazing what a wind storm can reveal. Amazing what a wind storm can heal. When has revealing and healing happened in your world?

With love and prayers


Community Leader (Canada)