Tag Archives: spirituality

Soft and supple: Thoughts for new life

Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus, whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life. 
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
- Lao Tzu, as found in Atomic Habits by James Clear

In this season of Easter | Passover |Ramadan—all times of self-reflection—we contemplate what it means to live fully and well.

The soft, supple, tender, pliant, and yielding are alive and growing. They stretch toward sunny new truths.

The stiff, hard, brittle, dry, and inflexible are breaking. They crumble and return to dust.

For me this is Easter Monday morning. A time of new life, in whatever way you believe it to be. A time of recognizing that good always arises out of the darkest of times.

I just need to remember that during the dark times.

Not grow dry and brittle. Stay soft and supple and ready for new life.

A field of corn in spring with rows of new sprouts about six inches high. A barn in the distance.
Soft and supple sprouts reaching for sunny new truths

Focus: A word I need

My word for 2022 came to me in December as I was reading a post on The Spectacled Bean.

What would my word for 2022 be, I wondered . . . Oh wait, the laundry needed to be changed.

. . .

Right. A word. 2022. That was what I was thinking about. What should . . . Oh, but then my husband was going to the grocery store. I just needed to tell him we need milk.

. . .

Back again. Think, think, think. What would . . . Sorry. A notification popped into my computer screen. I needed to respond to that.

. . .

If only I could focus, I thought.

That’s it!

FOCUS.

One thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. I aim for a more productive 2022 as a result.

Do you have word for 2022?

The word BE written in black marker on white paper
Just be

A fairy tale of crossed lines

Once upon a time a three-year-old boy sat in a church. At the front of the cavernous space, far away from him, an adult voice yammered on. The boy squirmed. Squiggled. Stretched out on the floor.

To entertain him, a woman handed him an activity sheet. It had a maze printed on it, full of dead ends and clever diversions.

Child's activity sheet maze where a squirrel find an acorn

Happy to have any distraction, the boy sat up and began to trace the path with a finger. He made his way through the maze with delightful disregard for the lines. After blowing through any twists and turns that might have blocked his progress, his finger reached the end.

He raised his arms in victory. “I did it!”

“Yes, you did,” the woman affirmed.

Why tell him that crossing lines isn’t always that easy?

Why burden him with the idea that some lines are best left uncrossed, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which ones.

Better to send him out into the world excited about obliterating barriers blocking his path. Better to equip him to cross the many lines that need to be crossed.

And, far away from him, the adult yammered on.

Hammer and nail

“Into God’s temple of eternity | Drive a nail of gold.

—from In Search of a Soul by Raymond Moriyama
Box of Common 1-1/4-inch nails

We are spending some time at our cottage, where renovations never cease. It gives me opportunity to re-visit one of my past posts.


I sit on the sofa and contemplate a box of nails.

“Common” nails, the box tells me. Ordinaires. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Those common nails hold together the kitchen in which I sit—the heart of our cottage home—but only because they are working together. One nail alone can only endure stress for a brief time before it snaps from the strain.

Those common nails don’t judge themselves against longer ones, or thinner ones, or younger ones. They know they are the perfect size, material, and shape for their purpose.

The nails know and accept without question that they need help from an outside source: the hand that wields the hammer. Nails on their own must wait.

Once work is underway, the hammer strikes the nail. It doesn’t feel good. It hurts! Fulfilling purpose is not a pain-free, comfortable experience.

If I am a common nail, I have a purpose for which I am the perfect size, material, and shape.

The hand that wields the hammer is with me. I’d better call up some friends.

Top 10 reasons to belong to a faith community

Who are the people helping you through this pandemic? I have neighbours, friends, my book club, and writing circles. I also have a core group of people who support me in all things: the fellow members of my progressive faith community, tirelessly doing good in the world. Here are my top 10 reasons why they are my peeps.

10. Critical thinking

There are faith communities out there that don’t tell you what to think. (There are. Really.) There are faith communities that say, “Yeah, I don’t know what it’s all about either, but let’s explore this mystery together.” Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples provide places for you to sit and listen and ponder fundamental matters.

9. A community of support

When life brings you to your knees (and it will) a faith community helps you through. The connections forged at deep levels in these groups help people to rebuild lives after tragic events like the loss of a child, the early death of a spouse, or global pandemic.

8. Lifelong learning

“I am still learning,” Michelangelo said. An insatiable curiosity drives happiness, and faith communities come with an endless supply of brain teasers.

7. Singing!

Our popular culture provides so few opportunities for belting out a tune. If you want to sing, play the guitar, or bang a drum, we have the place for you. Best of all, when you sing in these venues, even a solo, you don’t have to be perfect. The audiences are very forgiving.

6. Child education

What does the wisdom of Solomon mean? Under what circumstances might one require the patience of Job? What is a David and Goliath situation? How many prodigal sons, or daughters, do you know? Have you ever been the Good Samaritan? Our societies, our art, and our literature contain religious references which would be meaningless without adequate education about our heritages. 

5. Ritual

Humans create rituals. It is what we do. Jumping into, or out of, any particular activity without some form of ritual feels wrong. At a hockey game we introduce the players and sing the national anthem. At graduation ceremonies we wear gowns, deliver moving speeches, give individual rewards, and have a group celebration. Faith communities provide grounding rituals for the most pivotal moments in our lives. Sometimes the comfort of ritual is all that gets someone through the night.

4. Peace

When I returned to church as an atheist adult, I did it for my daughter. I was shocked to discover there was something for me too. At the time I had a young baby, I worked full time and we had just moved to a new house. I was stressed. When I went to church each week, I left my baby in the care of the nursery workers and sat in the pew. I expected to sit and roll my eyes at everything the minister said. Instead each week he said something that made me think.  Each week he said things that surprised me, challenged me. Each week, at some point, I had tears in my eyes. That hour of peace fulfilled a need I didn’t even know I had.

3. Helping others

Faith communities pick up where social agencies drop off. The charitable donations and volunteer activities of members of all kinds of faith communities keep many aspects of our society afloat. Clothing donations, homework programs, soup kitchens, food banks, emergency assistance, global outreach. The charitable deeds amount to millions of volunteer hours and billions of dollars.

2. Creativity and growth

A former minister of mine used to say, “Do it, and you’ll grow.” This simple statement encouraged many to take on tasks that made their fingertips tingle with fear. Our involvement with faith communities pushes us to do work that stretches us past our comfort zone.  Every time we climb over our fear and break through that barrier, we grow. We learn to get past fear. Are you brave enough to deliver a Christmas basket to a family in need and share the experience in their home? Would you teach Sunday School? Preach a sermon? Do it, and you’ll grow.

And the number 1 reason to belong to a faith community . . .

1. Fun

So many of the activities in faith communities are just plain fun!

A country lane through a grove of trees.
Photo by Donald L. Smith © 2014

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