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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

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I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Gift of the Labyrinth (Part 1)

  On a beautiful spring day in June, four years ago, I was introduced to the Labyrinth on Bowen Island, connected to Rivendell, a beautiful Christian retreat center where people go to learn, to pray, to listen.  My sister Cathy had been a number of times to this favourite place of hers and it was a wonderful sister day together.

   I was new to the idea of a Labyrinth, in fact somewhat uncomfortable and wasn't sure that this "method" of praying fit into how I prayed.  In fact, as I have learned later, labyrinths are used the world over by a number of faiths and religions, and also embraced by some Christians.

  This place held no special powers, but was a garden walk, created by those who wanted to create a place to pray.  For those who are not familiar with the labyrinth (and I am far from knowledgeable), it is a circular walk, similar to a maze where you walk around the path set before you until you reach the center.  And then you walk out again.

  On Bowen Island, it is beautiful rocks inlaid in the ground with mossy and ground cover plants in between, lovingly tended by gardeners and volunteers, next to a wood that surrounds Rivendell.  You can smell the ocean just a short ways away.

  I have come to see the labyrinth as a tool, especially in times of solitude and prayer - it is not something I have the opportunity to do often, but it is special; like visiting a garden, or praying by the ocean, or any quiet place where one becomes quiet before God.

  So I tentatively walked that spring day, and prayed, in silence, as my two sisters and I stepped on the stony path that led to the center.  The center seems symbolic - as Christ is my center, I also need to find those quiet times to center on Him - to quietly push out all that wants to crowd my mind and pray in His love, His peace.

  As we quietly finished our walk that day, we looked up and with us, just steps away was a deer.  Watching us quietly.  We watched back.  It was a peaceful, lovely moment, in communion with each other, with the creation, with the Creator.

This picture is of the Rivendell Retreat Center perched up on a hill, overlooking the ocean.  The labyrinth is below; I never did get a good picture of it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

100

  My dad loves numbers, and I guess, so do I!  We used to tease him, that he was like the Count in Sesame Street, who counted everything.  In our family, numbers have significance.

  So today, on the 24th of March, I feel blessed to have written 100 blogs.  If you have read a number of these, my hat is off to you, and I thank you for sharing in my life!  It has been a good exercise, to express my thoughts and hopes and dreams.

  I named this blog "A Journey of Hope, Faith and Love", rather deliberately, because I felt I was on a journey of self-discovery as an adult student, in a time of change.  My first book "A Journey of Hope" is having it's own little re-haul, and we are printing a few more copies - a third edition!  In many ways, this blog has been a "Journey of Faith", as I've explored what I believe God is teaching me.

  Part of faith, is just living it... living life, because God is everywhere, I feel Him as I celebrate my family, my grandchildren, I see Him in the garden, I hear Him in music, I feel His presence in my work and play.  The solemn thought that God wants to indwell us has always moved me, a God so holy and loving, who desires to indwell me is a thought beyond imagining.

  Tomorrow is the 25th of March, another significant date in the life of our family.  It will be two years since Chris, my nephew left us for heaven, at the age of 17.  He is missed.  There is a hole which is so deep and wide and felt so keenly by his parents: my brother and his wife, and his brother.  There really are no words for this.

  In many ways my own journey of faith has been carved by grief.  The death of my first husband created in me a desire to help others who are grieving.  And so I have continued to be with, and learn from, those who are grieving.  I am presently taking a Palliative Care Course which opens my eyes further to those who are dying and saying good-bye to their time on earth, and preparing for heaven.  It is such a privilege to learn from these people.

  So really, 100 is just a number on a continuum.  Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, as long as we have breath.  It is to be celebrated.  Each day is a gift to be cherished.  Thank you for sharing part of it with me!

 

 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Politics

  Politics is one of those words that either conjures up positive or negative feelings within us - and my guess is most of it is negative.  The old saying "there are no honest politicians" is not fair to those who are hard-working and trying to better the system.  But I certainly have felt that way at times when encountering red tape or felt like bucking the "system".  That system can drag us down and be enormously frustrating at times!

  I looked up the definition of politics on Wikipedia: "it is the process by which coercive power is legitimately applied.  The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups, such as the corporate, academic and religious segments of society."  

  Perhaps part of my issue is submission to power or control, which I don't always agree with, or perhaps feel has become corrupted.  Decisions are made at a top level, often without thought to what the affect of those decisions are to the ordinary citizen, or the person that will feel the effects of that decision.  The result is that one can feel powerless.

  Part of my e-mail signature as a chaplain is the quote from Barbara Johnson:  "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved".  I love this quote.  When working at the church, my motto was "People before paper", and I still believe in that, quite passionately.  This week I have been bogged down with paperwork, and kept from being called to what I thought was truly important.

  And yet, I know that without governance, without order, the system would also fail.  There is a place for order, for rules, and I am thankful for those who are gifted in those areas.  Perhaps they need people (like me!) at times to remind them of what is truly important, and that all good decisions need to be made for the common good.

  Feels like a bit of a rant today, but I am thankful for freedom of speech, and know that sometimes we need to have a voice or initiate conversation where decisions are made arbitrarily without thought to consequences or implications.  There is no finger-pointing here, just a plea that we remind ourselves in every situation (government, work, church, organizations), that people really need to come first.  "Love your neighbour as yourself" comes to mind!

  And we are also called to become advocates for those who don't have a voice:  the powerless, those who have been wounded or victimized by decisions or choices that they had no control of.  Caring for the weak, for the powerless; I also see Jesus in that role as he had great compassion for those who suffered, and strong words for the decision makers.  It gives me pause, as I also reflect on how I treat others, and pray I do so with thoughtfulness and compassion.



 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

...and Spring Shall Come

  I have an old book, with beautiful paintings and this poem by Dean Walley, called ..and Spring Shall Come.
Seems appropriate to think about that today, this St Patrick's Day in March when my world again is covered in white, and the snow was falling thick and furious this morning.

    Part of the poem says...and spikes of ice, like frozen tears, cling to stark black branches... as the earth sleeps through the white silence of winter.

  Like many of you, I was hoping the earth was waking up!  Last year in March, which is my birthday month (and thank you to many of you who sent such loving wishes yesterday!), I had an epiphany that my birthday actually fell in winter.  This came as quite a shock to me because in my subconscious brain I had always considered myself born in the spring.  Of course one just needs to look at the calender to know I was very wrong, but the mind plays tricks on you, and perhaps because spring is my very favourite season (and winter is not), I clung to this notion of being a spring child.

  But like the poem, even in the snow, the cold, there is the whisper of spring, the hope of things to come!  The poem goes on... "But beneath the ermine robes of snow beats the heart of spring.

  The heart of spring is the heart of hope.  We cannot live without hope.  I think of the darkness of a cocoon,
and the promise of light to come, when the butterfly bursts out and lifts it's wings - how cheerful that is.  There are seasons of life; I know them too well, when it seems we are hidden in that cocoon, in the darkness of winter.  It is that hope that sustains me, the hope of spring, the hope of the eternal; knowing that yes, indeed... spring shall come.

   This famous poem by Alexander Pope says it so well:


Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

a late winter snow - March 17 2012 - outside our living-room window

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Truly Listening

  I just finished a unit on Communication for the Palliative Care Course I am taking, and it reminded me again of the powerful tool of listening.

  To truly listen is a gift we give to others.  I know that gift has been given to me.  I have a few precious friends who I treasure because they listen so carefully to what I say - they give the gift of themselves with their time, how they respond, not rescuing, not feeling sorry for, but just paying attention and being interested.  I feel heard!  What a lovely gift that is.

  It is a gift I also want to give, and I think of it often.  Am I a good listener?  We did an exercise in class where we had to listen to another list ten things they were good at... the temptation was to have my mind racing... what am I good at... how will I respond?   We were then asked to repeat back what the person had told us... I managed eight out of ten, but realized that I need to hone this skill!

  To truly attend to another and listen, while setting our own thoughts aside is not always easy.  I do find it helpful to rephrase what I have heard and repeat it back... it keeps me focused.  I tried this the other day, when talking to a young woman with emotional pain... I said, "So what you are saying is......", and she replied, "No, that is not what I meant at all!"  I was glad I asked!!  So often I find we perceive things, or read into things, through our own grid of experience, through what is going on in our own lives, that we make assumptions that are not even true.

  To listen to God is an even greater challenge.  I find the busyness of my life, my active thought patterns, my doing, doing, doing, keeps me from truly becoming quiet to listen.

  Because I've learned that God most usually speaks when we still ourselves and allow Him to quiet our hearts.  There is a constant learning of this discipline for me.  To shut my eyes, to be still; this takes practice and determination.  I know I can be all about doing, when I know sometimes God wants for me to just practice being.

Be Still and Know that I am God... one of my favourite verses.  There is peace there, and rest.





 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thoughts from the Heart

  A year ago tomorrow (March 13, 2011), I found myself in hospital, listening to a Doctor's diagnosis: I was having a heart attack.  It still seems surreal to me, but it has also changed my life...


  There is much gratitude as I reflect on this past year, to health professionals, to a caring family, to loving and supportive friends.  Sometimes, as I wander the halls of the hospital in my role as chaplain, I am amazed and thankful, because it really wasn't that long ago that I lay in that ICU bed, startled by the events in my life.  I am thankful for health, and even for challenges because of what they teach me.


  The distance between the physical heart and the emotional heart seems small, one seems to affect the other.  This past year I've paid close attention to the language of the heart, because for me it has become quite personal.  


  When you really start listening, you hear the language of the heart everywhere.  Our hearts are broken, filled with joy, stirred, uplifted, and saddened.  There are times when the emotion of the moment seems to be literally felt with the physical heart.  


  It is said the the heart is the core of our human existence - if we operate from the head, it will be clinical, but if we operate from the heart, it speaks of emotion, of love, of understanding, of expression.  It seems to me that our spiritual, our emotional and our physical beings are so inter-linked that one affects the other.


For this blog, I would just like to think on some beautiful words that speak to the heart, that come from the heart...


The heart is the only broken instrument that works. – T.E. Kalem

A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. – Proverbs 14:30

You change your life by changing your heart. -anon

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him”  - Psalm 28:7


Love is the best medicine, and there is more than enough to go around once you open your heart.  –Julie Marie

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. - Ghandi

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  – John 14:27






 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Let the Sunshine In


I was singing to my littlest grandson this morning as the sun was beaming into my house, warming me and shedding soft rays on his baby soft hair.  The song came to mind... "Let the Sunshine In"... and as I sang I remembered this very old Sunday School chorus I sang as a child:

So let the sunshine in
Face it with a grin
Smilers never lose
and frowners never win.
So let the sunshine in
face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

The first verse goes like this:
Mommy told me something
a little kid should know
It's all about the devil 
and I've learned to hate him so
She said he causes trouble
when you let him in the room
He will never leave you
if your heart is filled with gloom.

That took me back a few years!!  I found the song lyrics on-line (couldn't find the name of the author), and although I'm not sure I agree with the theology, there is a vivid picture of shaking the devil out and inviting in the sunshine!  It kind of conjures up the image of a loving busy African Mammy of yesteryear, beating out the dust and gloom, and the devil with it, sweeping vigorously with a broom, and filling the house with sunshine and laughter.  Can't you hear her singing as she whips that dust out?

  Of course, not all life can be faced with a grin; I know that only too well. There is a time for weeping, and lamentations are found in our scriptures along with songs of praise.

But days like today, when the sunshine is beaming in, with soft promises of spring, there is a lightness in the air that brings a smile to my face.  I'm ready to dance with my broom, I think, and sweep all the gloomies away!

I also love the picture of opening up my heart to let the sun in.  Filling my mind and my heart with light, with love, with the presence of Christ are pictures I sit with... while banishing the darkness that might want to lurk there.

Reminds me of that verse from Philippians:  ...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable...if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ... think about such things.

Letting in the sun!!


Friday, March 2, 2012

My Red Shoes

  I have had a hankering for red shoes lately, and I finally found a pair I liked within my budget on a recent trip to Victoria... fun.  It is a bit of an extravagance, I know, but there is something about red shoes that is so appealing!

  Of course, part of it is inspired by my friend Dene who loved to wear red.  And I was reminded to to remind those who are coming - the request of the family is that people wear red to her memorial tomorrow (March 3, 2012) to honor her.

  Red speaks of a zest for life.  It colors the world, it brightens a day.  I often try to wear some color when I visit at the hospital - in my mind, being sick feels drab and colorless - and I want to bring some color and brightness into the world of people I visit.

  I have a lovely tape dispenser in my office - in the shape of a red shoe!  And a red purse to match it.  Offices should be fun places to work, don't you think?

  I know I especially crave color this time of year when it seems gray outside, and the cold and damp weather seems to weigh me down.  It makes one hungry for the colors of spring, and long for the warmth and brightness longer days will bring.

  No matter what the weather, or the circumstances, there are choices about life.  As I fondly think about Dene, and wear red in her memory, I think of how she clothed herself in red, with a zest for life that went beyond oxygen tanks and pain and challenges.  She held her head high, even though her frame was diminished.  Her jaunty hats and her flashes of color spoke volumes of joy and courage.

  To choose joy, to choose color, to embrace life - and yes, to wear red!!