Take a Deep Breath and Push!

 

I’ve given birth to four babies. I know the feeling of the labour pains prior to birth. It’s commonly said mom’s forget those pains, and on one level I do….but I still retain residual memories! Women are wonderful, amazing beings to go through childbirth again and again and again.

But back to labour pains….one of the scriptures last Sunday was the description of how the Spirit groans within us. Creation is groaning, waiting for this world to be put right. We are groaning, waiting for things to be put right. Sometimes in our groans we can articulate the yearning, but often we can’t. There is simply something within us that groans. We know the world around us, the world within us isn’t right yet and we yearn, deeply longing for something else. The longing comes because we carry within us a God-given hope. The Spirit of God within us prays for us, with words we can’t understand. The Spirit either takes our groanings, or actually is our groaning, our longing for a shift.

Last week I found myself groaning. Some combination of the work of moving (memories get stirred up and then a pinch of concern gets added!) and a memoir course I’m taking (that week it was my 50’s – help, they were tumultuous!), stirred up deep longings within me. By the time Saturday came, I was tired.

When I read the Romans passage on Sunday, I could see my groanings with a different perspective. The ache, the longing, the waiting, the work of the week are the labour pains of the new life that is coming.

To be pregnant is fun but also at times painful and hard work. It is so rewarding when you hold your new infant … there are no words for that indescribable moment. I’ve been ‘pregnant’ in ministry too. I remember knowing deep within that Contemplative Fire was coming. Those months were precious. They were fun but also hard work and at times painful. And then… the fruit was precious. Our first retreat was memorable and there has been so much goodness in the years that followed.

I think I’m ‘pregnant’ again! I can feel the new life growing within me. I can smell the forest, feel the spaciousness of our new surroundings and hear the laughter of family around me. But, right now it is work and sometimes painful.

Childbirth hurts. Sometimes it felt like I was going to crack open. Bringing something new into the world hurts. Going through any kind of change in our life can often hurt. Shedding the skin of old ways. Fumbling, falling, learning new ways. It’s not easy. What if we are able to see the pain of change, as the groaning of new birth, as the longing of the Spirit within us for a new way forward, an expansion of God’s ways into the world? Each worry, fear, concern can be an ache of labour towards a new way to live.

There is always a new way coming. It doesn’t have to be a major move. Life is always unfolding. God’s Spirit is always at work drawing us closer and closer to a new world, a world where Love wins.

I choose love. In the midst of all the groanings of life, I choose to follow love’s pathway. I choose to walk hand in hand with goodness. When your groanings come…what will you choose?

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

Making It My Own

 

Have you ever taken something familiar or even very traditional, and made it your own?

One of the spiritual practices that Smith gives in ‘Good and Beautiful God’, is to recite Psalm 23 every night at bedtime for a week. It was probably at least four years ago that I first led a group through this exercise. I found it quite comforting, a bit of tucking myself in to sleep. I didn’t stop at the end of the week. In fact, the habit has continued for many years now, only I found the psalm began to take on its own life. As the spiritual truths of the psalm became more real to me, the words began to change. I began to make it my own. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful freedom as I’ve played with the phrasing. Crazy… but maybe a bit like a jazz singer massaging a standard hit! I’ve had many versions over the years.

In the middle of last night, I found myself once again with Psalm 23 and had the idea that it was time to share it with you.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need.

You take me to the ocean and forests.

You restore my soul.

I walk hand in hand with you, and your goodness flows into the world.

 

Even when I walk through The Valley of The Shadows, I’m not afraid

for you are with me, to guide and comfort me.

When people betray me, desert me,

you are there.

You notice me, nourish and nurture me.

I feel so full of your loving presence. Anointed.

You flow through me.

 

For sure, I will live within your goodness and mercy

every day of my life.

I will rest within your Presence all my days.

******

I began by using the traditional words, again and again. Slowly as the months went by and the truth of the scripture began to sink into my heart, shaping it, the words began to change. Perhaps my current rendition will inspire you to stay with this psalm, and eventually to play with it and make it your own.

Be blessed.

Enjoy.

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

 

Still More Fallow Time (4)

more and more definitions spoke to me….

3. plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation or to avoid surplus production.

Crop rotation! Yes, we don’t need to be doing the same thing year after year, season after season. We can change. May I be open to whatever changes My Farmer has in mind.

Surplus production! Yes, sometimes I think we just do and do and do. In churchland it seems more is always better, numbers are always a determining factor, but deep inside me I don’t believe that. I don’t want to be part of More, always More. I want to be part of significance, Spirit led significance in each of our lives. That might be more, it might be less. May I be open to the Whatever the Spirit wills, rather than the bigger and better our world, including the church, clamours for.

4. the tilling of land without sowing it for a season

in the midst of my ease. God’s Spirit is ‘doing’ something. I don’t know what it is, but I trust My Farmer with the care of my field. May God till the soil of my soul. May I rest and receive God’s care of my soil. Till away Dear One.

Are you experiencing the invitation to a crop rotation and the drive of surplus production? What would it be like to change what you are doing or to rest awhile?

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

Fallow Time (2)

 

I enjoy words and often poke through a dictionary. When I was reflecting on my time of rest, I dipped into the online dictionaries and found several ‘fallow’ definitions that spoke to me.

‘Fallow’ as either adjective or verb:

  1. usually cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season

I know I’m cultivated(!) and trained to be helpful or useful to the world, yet right now the gifts I’ve been given to use in the world are on the back shelf. They are not to be used. I’m to be idle. I’m not to lead or teach or organize. I still pray, but even my prayers are different.

All around me I see people busy at work. I return to my church or community and encounter busy people, planting, tending and hoping for growth. I know that is a normal part life. We are meant to be working and growth is to be happening, but I know that I’m not to be a part of that work. I’m at ease in that.

A different kind of growth is happening within me. There is a life energy to being fallow that is very different. I believe it’s very needed in our world.  We seem to be absorbed in work and activity and have forgotten how to rest, how to value times of ease. We resist allowing ourselves to be idle.

What if we allowed ourselves, at least a day a week, time to lie idle?

More thoughts on ‘fallow’ to come next week!

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

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

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

The Empty Creches (2)

Last week I wrote about the impact of the empty mangers on my life personally, but this time I want to turn to another impact of that emptiness.

I’m in a country that is officially Catholic, but is known to be very secular. They have every religious holiday the calendar offers, but they are vacation days, not holy-days. A few years ago, ‘Le Monde des Religions’ described the decline. It began historically with the movement towards equality. In 1905 the government declared that all religious buildings would be state owned. Now although half the population will name themselves Catholic, they say it is mainly a family tradition and half of those say they don’t believe in God. Only 10% attend church and one third of the population call themselves atheists.

When I walk the streets and see the empty mangers, I’m aware that I’m in a city, in a country, that has largely walked away from faith. There is a deep spiritual emptiness. We attend a school concert. I don’t hear any familiar Christmas Carols. Although we are spared the inundation of Christmas muzak in the stores, the music that I hear in restaurants is American music, some of it secular Christmas standards. Yes, there are church services, but most churches are filled with Christmas Concerts, not services. The city is beautiful. The windows sparkle. The gift bags dazzle. The food sumptuous. The manger is empty.empty creche

I realize that not all my struggles to keep a spiritual practice happening are related to travelling. I pick up on the spiritual energy around me. I enter one church for some time in meditation and as I sit quietly I feel the darkness around me. It was built in the 6th century. It once housed a flourishing monastery. It has experienced war and violence. All of the monastery has been destroyed, leaving only the sanctuary, not the living and serving quarters. The manger was emptied.

The empty mangers became a symbol for me, a feeling image, of the spiritual emptiness of this country and I fear, much of our world.

My hope lies partly in the fact that at least the Nativity Scene is still set out. I think today I’ll circle back and see Jesus in those mangers!

But the fullness of my hope lies in God, who is always present, who doesn’t run from darkness, or from our war and violence, who will, in the end, be the last word.

Another church I frequent is beautiful. People flow in and out of it all day, everyday. It is a place of prayer for the faithful. There I find peace. There are pockets of life everywhere. We need to seek them out and do our part to breathe new life into them and through them.

Nativity scene

Where do you find the pockets of God? How can you breathe new life?

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

 

Decision-Making

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

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

 

 

The Quiet Centre at the Heart of Me

 

Last week I was ruminating on my Pinball Brain, but this week my focus is on my Quiet Centre. I’m actually writing these two blogs on the same day, just minutes apart. You’ll get them a week apart, but they are deeply connected.

At the same time as I’m living with my Pinball Brain, I also am in touch with a quietness that pervades my inner world. I’m very still inside myself these days. One day I sat at my abandoned art table and got out one of my creative books to see if it would stimulate me. As I read, the author described pictures emerging from within her. I realized that one of the reasons my art table is abandoned, is that there are no pictures emerging within me. When I started about ten years ago to intentionally learn to draw and paint, there were pictures that were emerging within me, but now there are no pictures. It’s not time to create at my table. It’s time to be quiet.

Not only are there no pictures within me, there are no lessons to teach, illustrations to share, sermons to preach, or ideas for groups. That’s a huge change for me. Since my call to ministry in 1990 I’ve regularly had a flow from within for teaching. I’m very quiet in my central core right now. I continue to hold that sense that God has lifted my gifting from me and I’m to be still. It’s unfamiliar, uncomfortable and beautiful at the same time.

No pictures, no lessons and there’s also no leadership initiative within me. I read leadership books and can feel the old stirring, but then it subsides again. I return to the quiet place.

The quiet place at my centre reaches out and touches so many parts of my life. I have no desire to be in groups, workshops, retreats or services. I’m still resting in the depth of what I experienced during my Sabbath Leave.

At my core is quietness and yet I live with a Pinball Brain.

That’s me for now. How are you?

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Mystic in Motion

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

Stillness

I’ve been drawn to the experience of stillness in the last while. A few times I’ve been aware of the invitation in prayer to be still after I leave the prayer time. I’m not to get caugstone and sand for stillness and actionht up in the busy conversations, the decisions that seem to need to be made, the city whirl. I’m to learn to be still. It’s partly emerged out of my attraction to the True Self work. I’ve experienced an inner stillness even when around me, it feels like chaos. It results in me feeling like I’m more myself, simpler, deeper, less pretentious, less a lot of things!

But it doesn’t mean I’m physically still. I’m still to be moving, but from a place of stillness. It doesn’t mean I don’t make any decisions, just that they’re to come from a still place.  A recent tag line on my email account was: Be still, be very, very still. And the I added to it: Be still and still moving.

As this was happening within me, one of our Companions inchild image for stillness and action

Contemplative Fire told me about a message he’d received during a Quaker Meeting. Ps 46 is often quoted, “Be still and know that I am God.” The speaker noted that the psalm said to be still, not to be silent. That is so much in alignment with what I’m learning. To be still doesn’t mean to be silent or not taking action. It means to be still within our soul, to be still and listening and knowing and being formed and guided by God’s Spirit.

In Contemplative Fire, part of our Rhythm is ‘Across the Threshold’. That refers to being led by the Spirit of God, perhaps into unfamiliar places. As with all our leaves, that one too is rooted in the central Wordless Space, in the deep stillness of God. We also talk about the Silence of God, about God’s first voice being silence. We become still within, listening to God’s silence and from the still, silent space we are formed and hear our life’s words and actions. How intriguing is that!  Out of stillness and silence come words and action and oh… those words and actions smell, feel so different from the ones that come out of my busyness!

What is your experience of stillness? Physical stillness? Interior stillness? Do you run from it, brush it off, find it impossible, or never consider it! How have you experienced the different sources of your words and actions?

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

Love and prayers

Anne+

Contemplative Fire , Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion

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 on.dog 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

Anne+

Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada

Mystic in Motion