Life is Full of Surprises!

Last week I was in the excited flow of being transplanted. We’d bought a new home and we were planning a move. Then the unexpected happened. We discovered some things about the house we hadn’t known and decided to cancel our offer. Our tender, transplanted shoot that looked so promising, suddenly withered. The move will still probably happen, but the timing and certainty are unclear. I didn’t expect that, but then…… do I live with the expectation of ‘Surprise!’ every day?


I realized that I don’t live expecting the unexpected every day. In ministry life, it’s always the unexpected happening. I wouldn’t know what the next phone call, visitor, challenge or learning would be. Something is always happening. But in my personal life, especially now I’m in the slow lane, I’m rather ordered, and my days gently unfold. This surprising turn has given me an opportunity to look at how I live.

What surprise will come my way today?

How will I respond to the surprise?

When we got the news about the house, my husband and I both felt stunned. We decided to enter into one of the Ignatian discernment practices we’ve been taught. We lived with both sides of the decision during a set time and then compared our feelings. I also went to some of my mature Christian friends and listened to their wisdom as they heard me. We were looking for that beautiful peace that Jesus breathes on his followers. When we had a shared peace, we made our decision. Since then, although we’ve spoken of it, neither of us have been caught in second-guessing our decision. We are working well together, and it simply feels right.

An unexpected hit came, we absorbed it, and responded with integration and waited for peace. YES!

I realize too. I haven’t in the past responded to surprises as well as this. I’ve been hit and sometimes hit back, other times I’ve been sent reeling into a corner and collapsed, and still other times, I’ve run away.

I still hold the hope of a home where I can wake and see the ocean, where I’m surrounded by trees, but not too far from a local café!

Surprises – Life is full of them!

How have you responded to surprises?






Thanks for listening Gentle Reader. You help me learn and grow.

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

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Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada




A Fallow Time


‘Anne, you’re in a fallow time.’  In the last while, a few people have told me that. One person, who is very action oriented, and believes the main purpose of life is to be actively helping others, said that to me. I felt she truly believed it and for the first time I sensed within her an acceptance of rest – at least for me!

I know I am in a fallow time. I entered it March 5 when I began my Sabbath Leave and despite doing some work, especially during the summer, I haven’t left it. I am in fallow time, a time of rest, renewal, regeneration.

Occasionally since March I’ve hit times of chaos such as when I travel or when I returned to my community after my leave, but generally my life has been gentle and very restorative since March. I haven’t sensed the farmer who tends my field, returning to use it again.

I really enjoy these open-ended days. I wake up in the morning when I’m ready to be awake. There is space in my day. It’s not already filled with appointments or responsibilities. I’ve enjoyed reading. I’ve dipped into expansive reading around nature, human rights activism, First Nations issues and their spirituality and ecological concerns. I’ve re-read some of my favourite spiritual teachers such as Rohr, Keating and Bourgeault. I’ve read them slowly, thoughtfully, meditatively allowing them to nourish my soul. I’ve spent time in scripture reflection, poking my way through favourite stories with fresh eyes and a non-teaching focus – just to enjoy. I’ve read novels, especially mysteries, played games and lingered over food. I’m regularly on my yoga mat, at the gym to swim and take long, go-nowhere walks. I’m sorting through my home, releasing things I haven’t used in years, discovering and enjoying other items that still speak to me. And despite that list, I don’t feel any need to justify my days!

I’ve found some definitions of ‘fallow’ that really speak to me which I’ll share in the next blogs, but right now I’m simply enjoying my quiet life.  I hope you’re enjoying your life too.

How are you? A new year begins…. What sort of resolutions do you make or not make? How does activity draw you? Which is more comfortable for you, activity or rest? Do times of rest generate guilt? There are times to work and times to rest….

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


I’ve currently got a major decision perking through my life and it led me to reflect on decision making and the implications of our decisions.

I have some basic guidelines I’ve been taught that make sense to me on how to make decisions – discernment principles we call them. It all depends on the size of decision of course, but some basic ones for me, for personal decisions are:

  • Don’t make major changes when in a place of doubt or desolation. Wait for consolation.
  • If I’m living lightly and in an open, loving place with God, a good choice or action will feel like a drop of water on a soft sponge.
  • Be honest and open with my needs and the needs of others around me who are affected by my decision.
  • Share my decision making with a wise Christian who knows me and listen to their perspective.
  • Wait for peace, deep internal peace and the clarity it brings.

These guidelines generally lead me to live thoughtfully, with purpose and clarity. Sometimes my pace is fast, sometimes it is slow, but it tends to be steady. People often describe me as peaceful, yet intense, anchored yet very productive. Such is Anne!

But… another whole intriguing side of decision making to me is the huge ‘what ifs’ that occur or don’t occur. What if I hadn’t said that thing, or written that email or taken that job, or married that person, or lived in that house/apartment….. and on and on and on.

Forty years ago, Hugh and I made a decision in our lives around where to live and raise our family. We decided to not move to Victoria but stay in Toronto. What if we had lived in Victoria? Who would we have met/not met? …… My daughter and her husband made a decision a year ago to raise their family in Paris. What if they’d decided to come to Toronto? How would my life, their neighbourhood, our city, our world be different?

Thomas Merton wrote that each moment in each event of each person’s life plants a seed within their soul. That was one of the life changing bits I received from him. Each decision we make has ripple effects within our own lives, but also the lives around us and the ripples extend out into the universe.

Decision-making ripples.  What choices are you making today? May you unhook your Pinball Brain. May they come from a place of quiet and peace within you. (see Nov 29 and Dec 6)

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 My Dog (#257)

The dogs I’ve known love to gnaw on bones. They’ll spend ages licking, chewing, crunching and simply gnawing on their bones. After they’re done, they might hide them to pull out another day. If they dig them up again, or if I give it back to them another day, they’ll start to gnaw all over. Ah yes… a good bone to gnaw chewing on bone 1

So what’s this got to do with finding a contemplative pathway?? Well, today I was sitting on the bench in the locker room at my gym, and I took a look at what was going on in my head. Have you ever done that, stopped and become aware of the patter that is happening? Today I heard myself going over a conversation that I’ve had before. Actually, I’ve had that same inner dialogue, or variations of it, again and again in my mind. Suddenly I realized I was like my dog as he chews on a bone. I was going over the same old ground again and again. Why? What was I getting out of it?

As I stepped back to ask those questions, I put my bone down. I was able to stop gnawing on it. I was quite purposeful. I know that to replay that conversation in my head will not move the situation forward. What will help is if I’m still, if I’m quiet within myself, and trust the Spirit of God to do her work, within me, within others, throughout the world. Relax and trust in the slow work of God. Replaying, gnawing on an old situation doesn’t help. Trusting does.

I’m happy to give my dog a bone to chew on. There are times when I do need to think carefully through things, but much of the inner chatter, especially when it’s playing the same old tapes again and again – I want to set that aside. I’m not a dog. I don’t need to chew the same old things over and over.

How about you Gentle Reader….are you chewing on an old bone today?

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

Love and prayers


Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion


Be Still, Be Very, Very Still

I’ve just returned from an eight-day Centering Prayer retreat. Of course we spent hours being still, very, very still! One of the beauties of it for me was our location. We were on Long Beach in New Jersey. As we sit being still, very, very still, the Atlantic Ocean is relentlessly pounding away on the shoreline. I love the picture of God’s relentless love washing onto the shores of our souls, never, ever stopping, and at the same time God’s presence as stillness and silence from the ocean depth. A surging ocean containing a still point. Constant noise and deep silence. All within one.

It was one more wonderful week. Held within our hours of communal prayer, I spent much time walking the beach and pondering my way forward. I’m coming to the end this week of three months of Retreat in Daily Life. I feel like I’ve been gifted with three months on the mountain top. I am aware I will be coming down. Or sort of aware…..

I’ve called myself “Mystic in Motion”, but I feel now there is less motion in me. The different pace of life, the Retreat in Daily Life discipline, the three retreat weeks, and the month on Cortes have slowed me down considerably. I’ve been in search of a sustainable life and I’ve certainly experienced it in these three months. I’ve lived into the core life of Contemplative Fire –prayer/study/action or slow down, listen to God and then live from what you hear. I’ve deepened my practice of slowing down and listening, yet I know there is still much more for me to learn there. And I’ve heard more guidance on living from what I hear. I know there is much more to experience there. I hear the call to have the ‘motion’ be moment to moment led by the surging stillness of God.

How still can you be?  Physically we can try to sit very still, yet perhaps feel the urge to twitch, scratch or shift positions. How about your emotions? Can you be aware of them and see what their energy level is like in this moment? Are they jumpy or deeply flowing? And then of course there is our mind and that torrent of thoughts! For most of us, those thoughts love to rush around, pushing each other out, repeating themselves, a relentless driving noise like the city’s churning. How still can you be? Take a moment and try it!

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Following the Prince of Peace Part 2

Do you know those moments when you simply wake up and hear something with fresh ears! Truly OMG moments. I had one a few months ago and it was one of the clear calls that I mentioned last week that I’ve had into a life of following the Prince of Peace. I caught my thought train in action, pressed the pause button, then pressed the rewind and then play buttons. I listened to my own thoughts. It was sobering. I heard myself say negative things to someone I value deeply. I wouldn’t spend any time with someone who talked to me like that. I heard a negative, complaining, controlling voice telling someone else how to live their life. OMG. Am I really like that?

The voice I heard that day was violent. Its weapons were words as if a rapid fire machine gun was taking out another human being. And it was inside me. I was stunned. I don’t want to hold those negative thoughts within me. I don’t want to send off the negative aroma that they carry. I don’t want to take any chance that they come out of my mouth and be a weapon of destruction in someone’s life. I was challenged that day with the reality of violent communication and how I can be hurtful to someone else, even someone I truly value.

I don’t know why I suddenly heard my own thoughts that day, but I will give all my gratitude to our very gracious and patient God. I’m so grateful to the Spirit for being slow enough to hear my thoughts. I wonder if some of it came as a fruit of the years of meditation where I do observe my thoughts and feelings as I open myself to the Holy Spirit.

Right now I’m less interested in the mechanics of how or why, and much more interested in growing in not tolerating the negativity within me. Each time I catch it, acknowledging it and choosing to wish goodness and loving kindness towards the person instead.

Have you ever caught yourself wishing ill of someone? Following the Prince of Peace means to me that I will do my best to not put up with that going on inside me anymore. I’ll lay down my weapons of violence and pick up the ways of loving kindness.

Maybe one of the gifts we can give this Christmas season is to bring peace into our thought life. Will you join me?

Prince of Peace Official Lyric Video

Peace in the midst of all…


Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada

Finding a Sustainable Life – Part 4: A Non-Zombie Life


Let’s be clear, I know nothing about Zombies! I’ve never watched a Zombie movie in my life. What I’ve learnt about them comes from Russ Harris (, a mindfulness teacher who has been helpful to me in the last year. Last week I led a women’s retreat on ‘Travelling Lightly’ using Psalm 23 and 131. As I led it, the combined mindfulness and scripture teaching landed so clearly on me that I want to share it with you.

There are three key words: Absorb, Avoid and Accept.

Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by repetitive thoughts or emotions? I’m sure you have! It’s such a common human condition. We replay conversations trying to make them right. I know I do. I’m sure you do as well. That’s when we’re ABSORBED in something. Apparently Zombies do that a lot. They like to grasp things and drag them into their net.

Have you ever refused to think about issues in your life? You know there is conflict and you’ll do anything to not deal with it. Again I’m sure you have! That’s AVOIDANCE and we all do it. We deny there is a problem, put it aside, push it under the rug, often putting on a brave face. Zombies do that too! They like to push things away from them that they don’t want.

Grasping things to us, pushing things away from us, being absorbed by life or avoiding life, my hands covering my face as I’m absorbed into life or my hands pushing things away from me – I can relate to those pushes and pulls. Can you? That’s Zombie life.
The Non-Zombie Life has my hands open gently in front of me. neither grasping or denying. I’m not absorbed in life nor avoiding it. I’m simply accepting life as it is. Observing it and myself. Being attentive to it and to myself. Ahhhhhh. There is ease. I think for me there is some help in finding sustainability through a simple acceptance, not running, pursing, or forcing life nor avoiding, denying, hiding from life, but simply seeing the complexity of who I am and what life offers.

Where are you today, in this moment? Absorbed? Avoiding? Accepting?

Love and prayers on the journey
Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada

On This Week…..


Join us this Friday, October 14 at 7pm as we discuss our reaction to Assisted Dying Legislation.  We will be joined by Guest Speaker Carline Hunter of VHA Home Health Care & Community Ethics Network

Location: St. Leonard’s Church, 25 Walness Avenue  Learn More

Finding a Sustainable Life – Part 1

God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Ps 131

For years I have enjoyed this Psalm. I delighted in the affirmation of the quest of stillness and quietness. Throughout human history there are those of us who have sought that stillness. And it can be found. I felt at home with this concept and the writer.

Usually when I meditated on it, I hurried (!) past the first verse to get to the second, but this summer I stopped on the first verse and realized how important it is to the second. My soul was quieted this summer. As I took my month break I enjoyed the rest and could feel myself settle down during the time. When I read Ps 131.1 I realized that my quietness was disturbed when I became engaged in things that weren’t mine to tend to.

I believe we all have a significant place in this world. Each one of us has something of value to bring. My temperament is such that I see big pictures and want to bring change. I am a visionary and an agent of change. Give Anne something and she’ll tidy it up, re-arrange it and set it going again with purpose and vision. It’s simply who I am and what I do.


The challenge I’ve come to realize is in whether I allow my well-trained and well-developed ego to use those gifts or whether I offer them to God’s Spirit via my soul. When it is a Spirit/soul venture, my soul remains calm and quiet as I do my work. When my Ego (intentional capital letter) gets hold of those gifts I usually experience push often leading to some level of exhaustion. I’m learning to let a lot of things go by me and only tend what I truly need to. I’ve encountered my Ego that enjoys and is capable of ruling the roost but doesn’t need to. My Ego is learning to heed the loving voice of my Soul and take the rest that is offered. I don’t need to bother myself with a great many things. Like a contented and maturing child, I can be at rest with my mother, my God and say thank you.

One step on the journey to sustainable ministry life; Sustainability is fed by discerning wisdom.

Life is good – All the time.


Community Leader Contemplative Fire Canada

“Ego – acronym for Edge God Out” – Wayne Dyer, The Shift

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)

Lessons from a Hurricane (4)

Lessons from a Hurricane (4)

First Responses

 On my way home after the ‘hurricane’ first blew through my life, I found myself wanting a stiff drink! Now, that is not my usual way of dealing with tough times!I went home and ate ice cream instead!

ice cream and spoon




In a perfect world I would have recognized that reaction right away as an early warning sign that the hurricane had been substantial. I was retreating to old childhood patterns of coping in difficult circumstances. I didn’t drink whiskey as a child but I sure ate a lot of ice cream, cake, cookies and popcorn! Clearly something had been touched inside me at a very deep level.empty ice cream

Do you know your childhood responses in difficult circumstances? It is really helpful to become knowledgeable about them. Simply name them, not judging, usually with compassion for your little child who was hurting. Get to know them so you can see when you’re being reactive like a 5 or 10 year old.

Some of our common childhood responses:

  • Eating
  • Pouting
  • Going silent
  • Hiding
  • Shouting

And what they might look like as we’ve refined them in our adulthood……

  • Eating
    • We may still eat, or not eat, as well as drink to excess or any other selection of drugs/stimulants/depressants. We can be quite creative.
    • We can also overwork, over exercise, over shop, over play, over-a-whole host of things.
  • Pouting
    • An adult pout can appear as soft or very strong passive/aggressive behaviour: ‘Oh—did I forget to…..’ or a very strong controlling action to stop someone else.
  • Going silent
    • We’re capable of being silent for long periods of time. It may be verbal silence but can also be emotional silence or withdrawal.
  • Hiding
    • We may not slip off to a bedroom closet to hide but we can find our caves, our offices, our gyms, our work, our long walks, our games and TV shows to disappear into. Again we can also hide our emotions and not allow them to be available. We can become unwilling to be ‘found’ in the game of hide and seek.
  • Shouting
    • Sometimes we still shout! Sometimes in a private place that feels very good, but in company, letting our anger loose on someone isn’t helpful. We need to do repair work when that happens.

These are some of childhood reactions that I know. Do you have some to add?

May we all be more aware of them and kinder to ourselves when they are triggered. Take it as an opportunity to find someone who is safe, who can hear your wounds and help heal them.


Community Leader (Canada) Contemplative Fire