Some weeks are hard.

Being Christian

I rather enjoyed this weeks read. Rowan William’s Being Christian was a tiny book dedicated to exploring four areas of being a Christian dealing with prayer and the Eucharist, the Bible and baptism.  I enjoyed it overall but can I confess something to you? It was hard for me to finish. Not because of the writing, that was accessible and engaging. It wasn’t hard because of the content either.  What was hard for me this week was life. Life made it challenging to read 90 pages. It’s a good thing I’m not in school right now!

This past week many great things happened. My son got funding for IBI. My other son began sitting for longer stretches on his own so we can play which is great fun. We celebrated a baptism. New programs were added in therapy. We had visits with family. There was halloween and candy and costumes. It was a full week, a filled week. I simply had no room for reading especially while functioning in the sleep deprived haze of a mother whose child refuses to sleep between the hours of 12 and 5 am unless being held by said mother. I needed a break, a moment to myself to read and there simply wasn’t enough time it seemed. Nevertheless I persevered and here we are, week 9 done and the book is indeed finished. Thankfully it was a short read!

As familiar as much of the material was to me there were things that definitely resonated with me. I rather enjoyed his ideas on prayer and praying through Jesus, not to him. I liked his thoughts on priest vs prophet and how we all need a little more of the other in our lives. I suspect that we all find ways to connect with God that resonate with our spirit. The suggestion here seems to be that we need to form a more full shape of connection, we need to look at these ideas of Prophet, Priest and King and find ways to connect with God in all ways and forms. If God is three in one, we need to connect with the who not just the part we are comfortable with. I realized while reading that I need to push myself beyond comfort in my relationship with God more often. It’s easy (especially in this busy season) to see God as a source of comfort and support but it goes beyond that. I have to be willing to grow and change, to move and be moved, to shape and be shaped. I cannot sit back and allow God passively in. That is not a relationship. A relationship requires work from all sides and I thing we all need reminders of that from time to time. It was a good reminder and a nice read even if it felt rather rushed at times.

In the end I find myself wondering if I’d rather have listened to his talks upon which this book was based then read them. I think it would’ve been interesting to hear him tell these ideas and stories directly but that doesn’t diminish from the impact or importance of his message and I did like the book. I think this would be a great beginning book for people wanting to dig a little deeper into the meaning of Christianity as they progress in faith. It’s the perfect starting point for an eager congregant or an interested explorer. It’s not meant to replace further study but perhaps nudge one into it. I will definitely keep this on the list for future use should I ever return to full time ministry.

When you think about it, being Christian really is rather hard work so I suppose it was a good week in which to read this book. Pick it up and give it a look if you’ve got an afternoon free and need a little something to read.

As we enter week 10 I look forward to sinking into a few thoughts on creativity and suffering as I get reacquainted with Rob Bell while reading his book Drops Like Stars.  

 

A week in Celtic Spirituality

Celtic

“God’s heartbeat can be heard in the whole of life and at the heart of our own lives, if we will only listen.”   –   J. Philip Newell

This week was rather lovely in reading. I read Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by J. Philip Newell.  I prayed with Celtic Prayers from Iona by J. Philip Newell. As an added bonus I found myself laughing as I read bits from The Celtic Vision by Esther de Waal. Truthfully I haven’t finished this book yet but the ‘Prayer of the Teats’ had this breastfeeding mother in stitches as she thought about prayer through each part of the day and what that might entail. Embracing Celtic Spirituality this week was really rather wonderful. Centering one’s life around God and looking for the revelation of God in all things is a challenging exercise in this busy world but it’s very in line with my world view so I enjoyed it.  I’ve picked up a few Celtic prayer books and will continue to explore this side of prayer and meditation as I move forward.

As interesting as this week’s book in it’s entirety was, the chapter I found to be most engaging was the final chapter entitled ‘Two ways of Listening: John and Peter”. The author’s reflections on the different ways of viewing the Gospel and the world through the eyes of faith was quite engaging. He argues that there is room for both voices, the way of Peter (seeing God in a particular way as related to particular people) and the way of John (seeing God in relation to the whole of creation). I agree there needs to be room for a variety of views in the church. We all have different strengths and different gifts which open our eyes to God in unique ways. Have different views and visions of things only enhances our worship experience and mission overall. It was interesting to reflect on that and think how different things might be if we celebrated our differences and tried to understand one another better.

It’s hard to articulate everything I felt this week because it was such a holistic experience. When once embraces an all encompassing path it really takes over everything. While I failed miserably in some regards and there is no way one can become practiced in a particular path or practice overnight it is interesting to try out new things and discover different ways of doing things. I have to confess that one of the things I’ve loved about this project is the individual aspect of faith I’m engaged in. These books are about me and my journey. It feels odd even selfish sometimes. I’m not reflecting and breaking it down to share. Instead I’m reflecting and breaking it down. Then reflecting on the breakdown and it just keeps growing and pushing and moving me around in all kinds of interesting ways.  While some weeks it’s been hard to complete the book, I am glad I committed to this journey. It’s been good for my head and my heart.

This week’s selection is Being Christian by Rowan Williams. 

 

What if he wasn’t famous?

A few years ago I met Jian Ghomeshi at a book signing in Toronto. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, a little shorter than I imagined but there’s nothing wrong with that. He was publicizing 1982 and women at the blogging conference I was at were going mad for him. The reaction to him was akin to Bieber Fever. It was highly entertaining and his presentation was very engaging. I’ve always enjoyed his radio program Q and as a stay at home Mom is is nice to have culture to connect with at 10 am when dishes were being done. I guess you could call me a fan.

Yesterday afternoon as I was getting ready for a disappointing afternoon of fantasy football I discovered that Jian Ghomeshi had been fired by the CBC. Upon hearing the news I turned to my husband and said “He needs Olivia Pope.  If he’s been fired, that can’t be good and he needs Olivia Pope.” You all watch Scandal, right? No? Well here’s a quick backstory. Olivia Pope is the fixer. She’s the person you call when something goes catastrophically wrong and you need good press, some good fixing. Olivia Pope washes away your sins and crafts a better story, a better tagline for the blogs. Jian Ghomeshi needs Olivia Pope.

Over the past 24 hours statements have been released. He said he was innocent. That the behaviour was consensual. He claimed everything was on the up and up as far as he was concerned and his reputation was being tarnished by a venomous ex-girlfriend.  I heard his story and felt a little played. He is in the business of crafting words and these words were crafted perfectly.  Upon reading those words I knew he’d found his Olivia Pope.

I hate this part of nasty business. The getting people on side part. I suppose it’s necessary to save face and all. If what he said is true then he’s lost his job due to a smear campaign and that’s not good. His confession did exactly what it was supposed to. It encouraged people to side with him, to stand by him. As of this moment there are 102 032 likes on his Facebook post. These likes are people who can take his statement at face value and in many ways I admire that. They believe in him.

I want to be that person. I want to jump up and say without a doubt that I side with him. Truth is I’d love for Jian Ghomeshi to be back in the chair at Q knowing everything was a big misunderstanding but there is one question that eats away at the confidence in his statement. What if he wasn’t famous? Would everyone side with him then or would they listen to the women who claim abuse? Would they be willing to hear the other side of the story?

Regardless of right or wrong, this mess shows us how public a private life can become. Sometimes what you think is private becomes public all too quickly. This is especially true in today’s world of internet and instant media. Every decision we make has consequences and we need to be able to live with them should it ever come to that. Would we be ok if our lives were thrust into the public eye? Would we be able to accept the consequences?

I wonder what the response would be if he wasn’t famous? How many likes would be on a Facebook confession then?

Random thought: I feel like I should be writing a post about how Jesus is our own Olivia Pope. That he cleans up situations and makes everything sparkle again but that’s really not how it works, is it? Jesus forgives us and we’re all clean but if we’re honest about it we always remember and carry our past with us. Instead of hiding the nasty business Jesus helps us face it and makes it better because he accepts us regardless. Got to love that Jesus. He’s the crisis consultant we all need, isn’t he? 

He knows…

I think of my Dad when I hear the news about Ottawa. I call him almost instantly. They could be his friends. In days past it could have been him.

Tucked away in the corner of my bedroom it seems surreal. How could this be happening when life is so peaceful?  Soft breath rises and falls from the tiny one as he sleeps in his corner of the room. Giggles work their way through cracks in the house as my eldest works away at his task. This is ordinary life.

News breaks through the peace. There is violence and fear, terror and dismay. Articles are shared, news spreads and people comment on what’s happening instantly. Theories and ideas, suspicions and details move quickly. Some true, some not so true.  Everyone wants answers. Everyone wants to know the ‘why’?

I think back to my morning reading. I think of the mystics and their belief that if we dig deep, if we push past our sin we will find God. I wonder how deep we have to push to find God in this mess. I do not understand it. I do not understand this intentional wounding of others.

I turn to my prayer book. I open to the chapter on peace and find myself looking for words, looking for help on what to say, what to pray to God. I find a piece of a psalm. I read an intercessory prayer. I read it again.

O Christ of the poor and the yearning
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love for my neighbour,
For my foe, for my friend, for my kindred all.
From the humblest thing that lives
To the Name that is highest of all
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love.

J. Phillip Newell, Celtic Prayers from Iona

I think of this love.
I think of the love that is required of us.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44

I am reminded of the need to pray.

Not just for our country and the safety of it’s citizens.
Not just for peace and resolution to the crisis.
Not just for justice that satisfaction be known to those who seek it.
Not just for families of those who have lost and for the protectors which face danger to keep us safe.
We must also pray for those who would wound and destroy.

I pray for them that they might know a new way, a better way.
I pray that God would open their hearts to peace and understanding.
I pray that they would stop, they would think, they would see the people whom they are wounding.

It’s not fun to pray for one’s enemies.
It’s really hard to think about loving them but love is a choice and Jesus tells us to make that choice.
Sometimes I wonder about Jesus.  Does he know how hard this is?

Then I remember that tree.  I remember those moments where he hung dying, stripped bare and exposed to the world.

He knows hard.
He knows.

Found

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“My life has value because God has touched every mundane moment with the glow of holiness.  It matters.  It all matters”

Micha Boyett in Found

You know a book is good when at 5 am after you’ve put your baby back to sleep for the third time that night you stay up a little longer to just read a few pages of your book.  I loved the selection this week, Found by Micha Boyett.  It resonated with the deepest parts of me.  Her longing to discover God and uncover her ability to pray in the midst of diapers and late nights is something I’m living right now.  Her knowledge of grace but inability to accept it is something I think many of us struggle with.  Her struggle to find value and purpose in the midst of daily life was one I have lived so often.

Her search to find prayer through Benedictine spirituality is not unlike my desire to reconnect with a lost part of myself through this 52/52 series.  When you are in the trenches, fighting a daily battle with laundry and diapers, dishes and dirt it is easy to disconnect from the spiritual and live entirely in the material. When I began this project I thought it was to engage my brain but I have found my heart has been opened and I’m really finding myself again, the self I tucked away when I left ministry 5 years ago to be with my son. Reading this book helped me see how important this is.  I was wondering why I was doing it, after all it seems rather selfish to be reading and reflecting entirely for my own benefit but it isn’t about acquiring knowledge so much as engaging that connection with my spiritual self and with God.

After I finished this book I found myself a little sad.  I loved her voice and wanted to read more so I went on the internet, googled her name and found her blog. I’m happy to say I’ve enjoyed her blogs as much as her book and recommend both highly.  If you want an engaging story of one woman’s quest to find God, grace and all good things, this is the book for you.  I’d lend you my copy but it’s filled with notes and stars so you probably want your own…

This week’s book is called Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by J. Philip Newell. I’m halfway through already and love it so far. I’ve also picked up his book Celtic Prayers from Iona which is an aid for daily prayer and over the last few days have found my morning and evening prayer times have been more focused and fruitful.  I’m looking forward to discussing both books next week.

***Full disclosure moment.  I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher to review.  These are my feelings about the book entirely and I have not been influenced in the writing of this review by outside sources. I am grateful to them for letting me read this book and reflect on it this past week. ***

The margins

Yesterday at church a kind man took me aside after the congregational meeting and told me he thought I would benefit from building margins into my life.  He said he had done it as he needed some down time in which to really live and he thought I could do with some of that time. I laughed and said he was right but walked away without thinking too much about it. The day stretched on and I found myself bouncing from child to child, from the laundry basket to the dishes and trying to squeeze a few moments in to read my book of the week. It was not a Sabbath. It was another work day. I had things to do. I didn’t rest. Looking back I see that this is not good.

He was right, I need to build in margins. You know who else talks about margins, God and I should’ve been listening to him too.  I need margins. I need to build some breaks into my days. It’s in the margins of life that God is found. God can be heard there, embraced there, experienced there. When life gets over scheduled it can be hard to see what is happening, to embrace the miracle of the moment.

I’m going to work on building those margins in. I know that it’s needed. I cannot maintain this pace and expect God to keep up. God has asked me to slow down. God has asked me to take a rest. It’s time I stopped and listened to that. It’s time I stopped and listened to him.

I may be losing it…

I am tired. Really tired. My son is teething. I’m not sleeping. I make it through the day but find myself falling asleep on my poor husband every night while watching TV. It’s not a season for rest in this house. It’s something else altogether and in the midst of it all I’ve found myself thinking that I’d like to write a book. I think I’ve lost it, gone off the deep end. With everything that’s going on I don’t know that I have time but the thought keeps entering my consciousness and I find myself wondering how I could make it all work.

Pray for me will you? I may be losing it or I might just be starting something. Who knows but whatever winds up happening I must ask you to pray because I think that even if I don’t write a book, I’m stepping on a path to somewhere. I don’t know where that is yet but I have a feeling it will be an adventure.

 

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You have a story.

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You have a story. It’s your story and you are the one who’s lived it. It has high moments and low moments, happy moments and bitter moments. You may have lived through terror or peace, through many years or few. You may have moved and seen the world or perhaps just stayed where you were born. Whatever your experience, your story is yours and God can be found within it. Own your story. Share your story. Connect with others and learn their stories for it’s the only way we can truly understand and invest in each other which is what we need to do, are called to do as Christians. This message was the heart of the book I read this week, Speak by Nish Weiseth.

This book was a quick engaging read that I think others would enjoy. We often forget that each person has a story, a history that defines them and brings them to the place where they stand before us. The author reminded me of the importance of personal stories and their impact on how we discuss, debate and engage with one another. She also inspired me to tell more of my story. I’ve been asked through the years what I think about certain things and am for the most part happy to engage in discussion. After reading this book I can see now how those discussions would have benefited from more story telling. We all come to the table with histories and if we don’t address them we can never truly understand one another.

I think I read this book at a time when I really needed to hear this message. On a Facebook page connecting members of the PCC (Presbyterian Church in Canada – my denomination) we’ve been discussing overtures towards the inclusion of LGTB within our church at large. I’ve found the discussions to be heated and at times filled with judgement on all sides. The idea that we all need to sit down and listen to each others stories really resonated with me because of these discussions. I wonder what would happen if instead of taking a side and drawing lines in the sand, we explained our perspective, our story and really discussed why it mattered to us. I think we need to engage each other more instead of just the issue. The issue is important but there are people behind it. Until we understand and communicate with each other at a deeper level I just don’t see a healthy resolution. Stories need to be heard. Stories need to be shared. We need to talk, really talk. Not at one another but with one another. I hope we are able to do that as we move forward towards a resolution.

The book was great.  I really believe we need to share who we are and connect with one another. I was really glad to hear a voice declaring the need for engagement. If you’re looking for a different way to connect with others in faith and are interested in finding new ways to share the story then give this book a try.

Great news, I’m still on track with my 52/52 challenge! Percy Jackson did not derail me.  I am however saddened to announce that The Blood of Olympus is still not completed as Thanksgiving got in the way.  Maybe this week I’ll have a little free time after I’ve read Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett.

Thanksgiving

Footie PJs

“Do you want to see the blood moon?” I ask, uncertain what the answer will be. “Wow.” he whispers in reply to a suggestion for a quest together on this brisk autumn morning. He peers out the window looking for the moon. I tell him to get his shoes and watch him slip his pyjama covered feet into angry bird sneakers. Uncertain of what to expect he announces “it’s dark” to me and I see hesitation in his body before he commits himself to the outdoors which are so much like night. We walk together into the darkness to find the moon. 

We reach the end of the driveway. He looks up and acknowledges the moon. We stand together looking for a few moments. It’s not the usual moon but he tires of it quickly and so begins a dance back to the house as he’s cold. His shoes light up in the darkness and it amazes me to see the red lights hover midair. It would seem his feet rarely touch the ground. Inside he settles down at his desk. He surrounds himself with work books and markers, with pens and paper. He wants to learn, create, colour. He craves knowledge and connection. We work together and apart. I begin to make breakfast. He flits in and out of the room, narrating his steps, happy and content. His chatter fills the halls and my heart. The messy chaos of this morning is perfect.

Just a few short months ago none of this would have been possible. We had little of this. Moments were wonderful of course, just different. I worried more. I carried fear in my heart for what would come for this quiet, shy boy. Now there is peace. Now he knows growth and opportunity and it is wonderful. I’m so proud of him for all he’s accomplished. I’m so grateful we were able to find his team to help us as a family learn how to help him. I find myself looking into the future with joy. As I head into the weekend thinking about thanksgiving I find myself returning repeatedly to moments like these. I am so thankful to God for walking with us here. I’m overwhelmed by the gifts that have led us to this place. I’m full of praise and thanksgiving for the ‘normal’ that I do not take for granted. Thank you God for this time, this place, this life.

With great hesitation…

one thousand gifts

With great hesitation I must confess something. This horrible, awful, no good truth that has been eating away at my soul over the last week must come out. The truth is One Thousand Gifts didn’t do it for me. I know, I know. What’s wrong with me, you ask? I honestly don’t know. Everyone else seems to love it. Something must be wrong with me…

Now, where to begin? When I was reading this week I found myself overwhelmed with language. I admit her words read as poetry and speak to the heart of the issue. This was wonderful at first but as the book progressed I found myself longing for a little more focus. I found the swirling images repeating throughout to be beautifully annoying. Sometimes I caught myself thinking ‘get on with it’ and that’s not where my head or heart should be while reading a book about spiritual awakenings. I also found her constant desire to feel joy always a little intense. For me life needs balance, the tug from both sides. If one always feels joy how can they appreciate it, not take it for granted? We were created in God’s image and Jesus had emotions and feelings and they came out in his teachings.  I’ve often found God working in me the most when I’ve been angry or lonely, unsettled or discouraged. Maybe that’s just my way. I know I grow in the wrestling and questioning and I’m grateful to God for allowing me to do just that.

The message of the book is wonderfully simple. It’s something we all need to hear over and over again. Thanksgiving is living. When we begin to thank God for all of the blessings in our life, big and small we start to realize how much we have been gifted. It’s a great way of putting life into perspective and I’m totally on board with that. Trouble is I had a sense while reading that she was sitting a little too close to the theology of ‘God gives you these things to help strengthen you’ for my liking. Full disclosure: I acknowledge that these feelings may be influence by my own experience. I have had far too many people tell me that my son was born with CDH for a reason or that he has Autism for a reason and I have to say that’s ridiculous and very irritating. I usually smile and nod but this is my blog so I can say what I want. I do not believe God didn’t bless my son with a diaphragm so I could become a stronger person. I became a stronger person as God worked with me through a difficult situation but I don’t think he would be so cruel as to torture my son to benefit me. Seems very unlike a loving God.  So while I was reading the book and hearing that all things are grace I was torn.  Yes God works grace in all things but are those things a gift or is God walking with us while those things happen the gift?  Maybe it’s the same thing but there’s a fine line for me and I’m hesitant to walk to close to the line.

I know my experience with the book is rare. Maybe it’s my own personal circumstance. Perhaps her voice didn’t jive with my inner dialogue. Maybe it’s just not my style. I’m not sure why exactly I didn’t get into it.  There were parts I underlined and was challenged by in the reading but it is not one that will stick with me like others do. What I do like about the book is that it’s been such a blessing to others. I’m so glad she’s been able to reach so many people and help them grow in their relationship with God. This is truly wonderful and I will continue to enjoy her blog even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the book.

This week I’m reading The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan!  You claim this doesn’t count?  I agree but I’ve been waiting so long for the finale to his Heroes of Olympus series that when it arrived today I started in on it as soon as I was able.  I’m also reading Speak: How your Story can Change the World by Nish Weiseth.  That should cover my 52/52 project nicely.  

**Another full disclosure moment.  I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher to review.  These are my feelings entirely (obviously) and I am grateful to them for letting me read and reflect on her words even if it wasn’t my style.**