Tag Archives: spirituality

Up, down and all around

During the pandemic, I have been participating in Zoom Around the World events. Since we can’t travel, we are sharing photos of trips we have made in the past.

Next week, I’ll be the presenter, talking about my Habitat for Humanity trip to Bolivia, so I’ve been preparing. The process of sifting through old photos reminded me of a conversation I had about El Cristo de la Concordia, the huge statue of Jesus built on a mountaintop overlooking the city of Cochabamba.

GUIDE: El Cristo de le Concordia is the second tallest statue of Christ in the world. It’s even bigger than the one in Rio de Janeiro, although that one is on a higher mountain. If it’s on a high mountain, it’s closer to God.

ME: That’s only if you believe that God is up there. (I point to the sky) I think that God is a-a-all around, and here (I place a hand on my heart), and in you (I point to his heart), and everywhere (I spread my arms wide).

GUIDE: (looking concerned and a greatly alarmed) No! No! He is up there. (He points to the sky.)

I immediately let the topic drop. The guide was not ready to let go of the “old man in the sky” version of God, and I wasn’t about to push it. He found comfort in believing that there is a great power watching over us. It was what was he needed.

I’m more comforted to feel that the Great Power is not separate and apart from me, and that it lies within us all. I find that to be a more tenable position in hard times, because then there’s no questioning or pointing fingers at a force outside of ourselves.

Also, up, down and all around includes everyone, no matter where they are on the crazy journey with spirit.

That’s an idea that can Zoom around the World.

“The kingdom of God is within you.” —Luke 17:21.

Hope and faith: Something missing, something coming

On the four Sundays leading up to Christmas we light Advent candles—one candle per week, each with a different word associated with it: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Usually the first Sunday of Advent falls on the same date as an important Canadian sporting event: the Grey Cup. [The championship game for the Canadian Football League.] Usually we host a gathering of neighbourhood friends for a Grey Cup party involving unhealthy food and beer. A kind of Canadian Superbowl party. At some point in the evening, we still the TV, quiet the conversation, and take time to be peaceful, to appreciate each other’s friendship, and to light the candle of Hope. 

This year the Canadian Football League did not play at all due to COVID. There was no Grey Cup. There was no gathering of friends.

We lit the candle of Hope, but something was missing.

But that’s when we feel hope, isn’t it? When we feel that something is missing. That’s when we yearn.

This year, there is a whole lot of yearning going on. So . . . many . . . things . . . we are missing.

In these times I try to remember that the sunshine side of hope is faith. That’s when we relax in the knowledge that all shall be well.

When we hope, our bodies are taut, we lean forward with fists clenched. In faith, we relax, drop our shoulders, breathe . . .

We hope because something is missing. We have faith because someday, somehow, something’s coming. Get ready.

Advent wreath with one candle of Hope lit.
The Candle of Hope

Temenos: Are you in your sanctuary?

I might have been a hermit in another life, I think.

This time of social distancing is easy for me. I’m in my home. I love my home. It is my sanctuary.

Or one of the anyway. I also find sanctuary in other places: the woods, friends’ houses, and, yes, church.

Are you in a sanctuary? Which sanctuaries do you miss?

Woods in the spring

You can’t skip Day Two: Where the magic happens

Day two, or whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re ‘in the dark’—the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.”

—Brené Brown in Rising Strong
Book cover Rising Strong

Brené Brown, author of Rising Strong, leads three-day workshops that encourage people to dare greatly and accept vulnerability. On Day One, people arrive bright with curiosity and anticipation. Day One is easy.

But not Day Two. Day Two is hard. It’s the time of not knowing.

The middle space is one of doubt and discomfort. Sometimes people want to give up and flee. They want the happy ending, sure, but not if it’s painful or scary.

But you can’t skip Day Two.

“The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”

Day Two is the space after death or divorce, but before life re-created in a new way. Day Two is the scorching pain of labour before the birth of a child. For some of us, Day Two is Easter Saturday.

During our times in between, when we can’t see the happy ending, we have to remember that wonderful things beyond our wildest imaginings could be around the corner.

It might be messy and difficult, full of grief, doubt, confusion or anger, but we have to go through it without knowing where it’s going.

It’s not fun, but you can’t skip it either. It’s where the magic happens.

wishing-for-wind

Sacraments: Letting Go and Waiting

Pruned branches of tree with one sprig of new life

Another week begins.

Another week without our usual workplaces, casual trips to the store, or gatherings of friends.

Some of us have let go of long-planned vacations.

Some of us are seized with panic about lost income.

We have let go of what is not essential. We are waiting for “normal.”

Our situation reminds me of this beautiful work by Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual.

She wrote this poem, which she gave me permission to share, about times when we are stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness.” At those times, we are living out the Sacrament of Waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go. 
First she surrendered her green, 
then the orange, yellow, and red 
finally she let go of her own brown. 
Shedding her last leaf 
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare. 
Leaning against the winter sky, 
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf, 
she watched it journey to the ground. 
She stood in silence 
wearing the colors of emptiness, 
her branches wondering, 
How do you give shade with so much gone?
And then, 
the sacrament of waiting began. 
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness. 
Clothing her with silhouettes 
that kept her hope alive.
They helped her to understand that 
her vulnerability, 
her dependence and need, 
her emptiness, her readiness to receive, 
were giving her a new kind of Beauty. 
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence, 
and celebrated together 
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

A time to reflect, no matter what you believe

Red Velvet Pancakes IHOP
Red Velvet Pancakes from IHOP

It’s Pancake Day, a Lenten tradition with roots in the Jewish history of the Christian tradition.

On the day before Passover in observant Jewish homes, the family cleans thoroughly and uses or removes any food that has leaven in it. It’s a symbolic way to let go of old life and embrace the new. Christians morphed this idea into Pancake Day, a time to use up eggs and fats in decadent foods before the deprivation of Lenten fasts began.

Few people I know “give up” anything for Lent anymore.

  • Some have abandoned organized religion because they see only the harm that it can cause.
  • Others are still a part of a faith community but don’t “give up” because they see that as punitive instead of inspirational.
  • Still others don’t “give up” something they love in a way that feels like deprivation or punishment. They examine their lives to find something that is not feeding them mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually, and they give themselves “freedom from” that harmful element.

The minister at my church says Lent is like the time between when a seed is planted and when it sprouts. You know the seed needs to be nourished, but you can’t see any signs of new life yet.

No matter what you believe, this time of year is good for reflection. It’s a time to ponder what you can give yourself freedom from, or what you could take up instead.

Whether you eat pancakes tonight or not, take some time to plant a seed. Nourish it until new life grows.

What kind of sprouts do you want to see?

A field of sprouting corn stalks