Thursday, January 31, 2008

+ + + + + - - - ++++++ (more pos than neg)

I read a most amazing document today: the English translation of an open letter published in November 2007 from the Archbishop of Quebec, Marc Ouellet, in which he repents for past sins of the Catholic church in Quebec. (see http://www.catholicregister.org/content/view/1302/849/)

This week I found myself on the negative side of the compass. I complained about everything from the provincial government, to Catholicism, to secularism, to the passive entitlement attitude of people in this province, to the wind and ice, to annoying things my friends said to me, to living in my small town. Rather wretched, I know. I am not sure why this deathly habit grips me occasionally - I hate the person I am in these moments. I repented a lot for it today, not sure anything was changing in my heart. Regret is not always enough to change the course of ones life. When I came across this public letter of repentance, the fire of hope burned deep in me again. Hope that we can change, that evils can be redeemed, that eyes can be opened and ears can hear, that we can change the road we are on, that destructive habits and addictions can be erased by the sweep of Spirit who brings freedom.

On the way to school, on a cold and windy and icy day, I prayed:
Thank you for Dean. I love him and he is my best friend.
Thank you for the sunshine. I love it. It is a good thing.
Thank you for French class. I love it: learning with all my cool classmates and a kind teacher.
Thank you for my friends. I love them and all they add to my life.
Thank you for streets and a car and being warm inside. I love it all. It is all such a good life.
You are good. Everything that comes from you is good. Thank you. Don't let me forget to say thank you.

and may I add...thank you for the gifts of repentance and forgiveness. Let me unwrap them every day - they are the key to being embraced by God, for he loves the humble and draws close to them.

This is the prayer corridor at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, a place I love to visit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

what do I say when I pray?

I pray. I have a short list of people that I pray for every day, for them to encounter God and know his goodness and be the people they are meant to be. What I pray for them changes every day, but it is always pretty much toward those goals. I often ask God what he is doing in situations and request his direction in decisions. I ask him to show me the truth about certain things. I pray for people as I encounter needy situations during my day. Sometimes I am just grateful for something and tell God how cool I think it is. Often, these days, I remind my soul and again reaffirm my trust in God regarding timing and major changes and events that are upcoming.

Some days I listen to the words that come out of my mouth, or the thoughts that whirl around in my head when I am talking to God and I realise it is all sounding very imperative. God, MAKE me a better leader. God, HEAL that person. God, BRING the right people across my path. God, COME and CHANGE us. God, GIVE us our daily needs. God, HELP me love in a better way. God, MAKE me whole. Now I realise there is nothing wrong with asking God for stuff, in fact Jesus modeled that very thing in parts of his teaching on prayer, also known as the Lord's prayer. But some days I think that someone who was listening in might think I am talking to am employee, handing out assignments. God does not work for me. I would say that I spend my days trying to fit myself into His grand masterpiece, but is it reflective in my language?

Some of my most profound moments of communion with the Creator and Lover of life have been times when words failed me: a silence of rest and comfort, a groaning of agony for some one's pain, a fistful of tears when I am overwhelmed, an awakening of my senses to the vibrancy of supernatural energy at work in and around me. It is not always necessary for words. I know I pray too much with words, thinking that the utterance in and of itself carries some mystical power to bend God's will to my pleas. He is already bending low to me, delighting to hear and see and taste and smell and feel the humanity, unique and beautiful, that he fashioned in me. May I bend my heart, my head, my hands, my smile, my mood, my work, my sighs, my laughter, my joy, my body, my life towards him every day. This is prayer.

This is a photo of my phone, gift from the most bestest husband on the planet, on which I talk to the humans in my world. The banana just wanted to be in the picture.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

cease fire

I took Jazz to the vet yesterday for her annual check-up. It is always an ordeal. She hates the place and as soon as she hears the vet's voice, she digs her claws into whatever is nearby and starts to growl. They have a system for dealing with this type of feline: no one touches her until she is wrapped in a towel and held by an assistant equipped with thick gloves. Then the examination begins. Poor Jazz. Poor vet. This is not how the relationship is supposed to work. One is concerned for the well-being of the other, and genuinely likes the other; there should be affection and gratitude and respect and trust and good communication flowing between them. Instead, there is a wall of distrust and the interaction takes on a hostile and defensive quality.

Sad to say, I have some relationships like this in my life. Somewhere along the line, in the course of living and interacting and making mistakes and saying things one did not think through and disappointing people and being disappointed and not understanding where someone is coming from, there have been walls erected. I wear my feelings, blatantly evident, on my face and in my voice and that is not always helpful. If you ask, we would say we are friends, but distrust has lodged its splinter between us and I am at a bit of a loss as to how to bridge the chasm.

Today I am feeling discouraged and judgmental, seeing what an un-lover I can be, pushing away the very people I want to have a heart for, that want to have a heart for me. God, undress my bitterness, strip off my stinking garments of self-protection and self-righteousness, and bathe me in your love again. Let my grudges dissolve in the bottomless ocean of your affection and acceptance. Let the hostilities end with me and the surrender begin right here.

This is Jazz, peacefully asleep, less than 24 hours after she terrorised the professionals at Hôpital Vétérinaire de l'Ile.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

the myth of peaceful co-existence

I once ate 3 servings of homemade tapioca pudding followed by a few glasses of fresh apple cider. You can guess what happened next. There are certain combinations of food that do not do well together. Citric acid and milk are one of them. They cannot coexist at the same time in the same place - they are in opposition to each other's purposes, one being a base and the other being an acid. This week I started another French course; it is making a bit of a mess of my normal weekly schedule because I have 4 less hours each day to work with, and the pace at which I used to do things has to change. Yesterday, I was still laundering bedding at midnight. Considering Dean wanted to retire for the night, that was a bit of a problem. French class and laundry cannot co-exist in the same time frame. I must choose where my time will be spent.

Dean and I were talking to someone last night about working balance and priorities into life. Let me paraphrase some things that were said: If we do not now develop and practically make time for the things that are of importance to us, those things we say we want to see grow in our lives, we probably never will. Something will always come along to push it out if we do not make it an immovable part of our schedule, an integral part of our life.

If we say building a loving and functioning community and growing spiritually are something we really want in our lives, how much time and energy are we actually setting aside for that? Or do we let everything else in life, demands like work and fun things like friends and leisure time crowd out the very things we say we hold as a priority? Who gets the best of our time and resources? Who gets the leftovers? The answers to these questions are very important.

We must change whatever we need to about our lives in order to build the things we really want to see flourishing there. Busy work and school schedules, extra-curricular activities and multitudes of friends who want to hang out and party will probably not co-exist well with a desire to grow and serve as part of a vibrant spiritual community. You will not have energy for both. I must choose who gets the choicest cuts of my life.

To my disappointment, I currently see a lack of people who desire to be spiritual leaders, who challenge themselves and others to live more than a passive and comfortable and good life, who discipline their souls to regularly turn towards God and let his love change them, rearrange them, and ruin them for ordinary things. One cannot obtain a blazing passion for God without fueling it regularly. One will always be floundering for direction and purpose in life unless one determines to wait on God, to obey him in the hard things, to embrace the sacrifice of self-fulfillment, and learn the way of love by serving in a community setting.

This is a harmonious, co-existence of pillows on my bed, all for the purpose of rest.

Monday, January 21, 2008

5 berries, 5 happy thoughts

1. Dean comes home tonight after 7 sleeps away. The cats are good company but their conversation skills are limited, they cannot pick me up and whirl me around with glee, and their smiles do not cause my heart to beat faster.

2. I have been reading some interesting blogs lately, one in particular that has much to say about how far everything in the church falls short of the mark. He moans about the lack of culture and excellence and depth in the evangelical community, pointing out its self-serving programs and mediocre art and music as examples of how far we have strayed. I agree, we are weak and poor and wretched, finding it easy to wander away from our creator instead stepping towards him. We are but dust. I wanted to argue: finer music, larger vocabularies, more complex paintings, and elitist cultural attitudes will not prove to be the church's salvation, buddy! Somewhere in the midst of my frustration and discouragement and anger towards the burdens these half-truths and slashing phrases were placing on the common follower of Jesus, I heard the Father say that he loves dust. He breathes life into dust (see Genesis 2). His Spirit can make the finest creation out of simple dirt. Dirty dirt. Shapeless dirt. Breathe on us again.

3. Saturday did not turn out the way I had hoped. Some days things just don't go according to the script in my head, and where I had hoped to leap and dance and live life large, I was bent low and disappointed in my weakness. Sunday morning I lay in bed and asked God what he thought about my performance the day before. This song floated through my head and continued serenading me all day: You take me the way I am (by Ingrid Michaelson). Weakness and shortcoming really have nothing to do with the quantity and quality of what is available 24/7 from the one who defines himself as LOVE.

4. I like going to the bathroom. There is something inherently satisfying and relieving about eliminating waste from your body. Of course, we do not talk about these things openly; we have sanitised these daily events and hidden them from view. But the fact is God made our bodies to take in both those things we need and those things that we don't (they are all mixed together in the foods we eat), and given our bodies the incredible ability to discern between the two and to take the valuable nutrients and let the other stuff go. He made letting go of waste an urge in us that needs to be satisfied and accompanied it with relief and a sense of well-being and lightness. How cool is that? Would that I could just as easily let go of all my emotional, spiritual, and personal waste.

5. Today was the first day of my intermediate French course. I sat beside Jean (the French equivalent for John) who sounds incredibly French to me, but admitted that after living here for more than 20 years, he still struggles to have a casual conversation. He is funny and friendly and made me enjoy the class that much more. I am blessed to have a patient teacher who wants to see us improve and learn, no matter what our level and insists that we never let fear or discouragement stand in our way. I look forward to more of the same tomorrow.

I am going to eat those blueberries now.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

who am I talking to?


Today I was reading the story of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38 and 39. Interesting fellow. He faces some fierce battles, but because he brings them before God and realises the nation's total dependence on Him, he and his people are saved. Then, after a big victory, he gets sick. A prophet of God comes to him to tell him he will die from the sickness. Hezekiah is not ready to go down so easily. He petitions God for longer life and is granted 15 years. Not bad. But things do not go so well for Hezekiah after this; he gets proud and tries to impress some big shot strangers and pays dearly for it by being the catalyst for his people's exile and his sons' castration and forced servitude. And he has no clue what he has done; he hears the warning of God about everything being taken and hauled off to Babylon and he thinks, if God says it, it must be good. Besides, surely nothing bad will happen in my lifetime, this gift from God lifetime. Warning? What's a warning? God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life, that's all I need to know.

Some say God told Hezekiah it was his time to die because God knew what kind of trouble Hezekiah would cause if he lived. Well, that cuts into free choice just a bit, don't you think? I don't believe the asking was wrong at all, though his motives seem suspect. In the end, a generous God gives this king a chance to use 15 more years as a wise investment. Sadly, he does not. This humble king begins to think of himself as someone special, untouchable in some way, singled out for favour with God and men, entitled to long life and greatness and blessing. It becomes about him instead of the people he serves or building something for the next generation.

Sad to say, I have seen the same reaction in some people (myself included) when we encounter the merciful intervention of God. Suddenly, we are the stars. OUR prayers are the special ones that change things. OUR miracle is worthy of attention and some measure of fame (to spread the good news of OUR God, of course, that is why we tell it over and over). We take very little consideration for where we are pointing our sons and daughters, or how quickly this glorious patch of mercy can be snatched away.

Let me point out one of the symptoms of this sickness that we refuse to die from. After someone told me about a significant wonderful event in their life, I heard myself utter these ugly words, "Well, I prayed for you!" As if these words could add anything of value to someone who has just had God's hand touch them, whether they were aware of it or not. What difference does it make that I prayed? Why must I insist on wedging myself into the equation? Why not just let God be God? But what if the person is oblivious to God's working on their behalf? Don't I need to tell them I prayed in order that their faith might increase and they give thanks where it is due? I used to think that was my reason for saying this phrase, but this week, I have seen the falseness of that claim and the selfish skin those words are wearing . Who prayed is irrelevant. That God is loving and attentive and watchful and will extend his kindness and compassion to anyone who will turn to him and receive it - that is the real deal. And nowhere in that sentence do you see the word, "I," occur.

I have been giving guided tours of my prayer life as if it were something to ooh and ah at when all God wants is for me to bring all my joys and concerns and troubles and hopeless situations and every day frustrations and decisions and happy moments and all the people I care about to him. Spread my life and all that goes with it before him and leave the mess there. He takes greater delight in my prayers than anyone else ever will. Let me learn to know his divine pleasure in such a way that I do not consider the acknowledgement or admiration of people necessary for my encouragement. Let me know that God does not need my help in revealing or explaining himself to the world. The fact that this great God would humble himself to listen to me should mean that I do not need to be heard by any other.

This is a bird house in Baie d'Urfe after a snow several years ago.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

can you see me now?

I have been wearing glasses for just over 53 hours - slightly less, I guess, because I don't wear them when I am sleeping. I have been a faithful contact lens wearer for many years now and wearing glasses for more than a few hours at a time takes some getting used to. I even went to see a movie last night with four eyes and it was fine. However, once you are used to the consistent sharp vision and effortless clarity that contact lenses offer, completely unfettered by frame lines, what I see through my glasses seems to be a cheap imitation.

The reason for this sudden change in what I put in front of my face in the morning is that I am going to the Montreal Eye Clinic tomorrow for a consultation regarding laser eye surgery and the tests require that I be contact-free for three days. I have had myopia since I was a teenager and it is just something one lives with. Optometrists become your friends, and pupil dilation and sticks with yellow dye on them pressed onto your eyeball don't scare you. And even though I basically know the eye chart off by heart, I have never cheated in an eye exam.

My thoughts the night before these tests are mixed. I would love to wake up every morning being able to see clearly, but, silly as it sounds, there is something that I would miss about the occasional state of being oblivious to anything except what is right in front of me. When I was acting, I used to do so sans glasses because that rendered the audience one big blur and I would not get distracted. Staying in character and really getting into the play were so easy when my sight line stopped at the edge of the stage. Is that a bad thing? I suppose the good part of it is a desire to single-task, to be wholehearted and present and focused. The not so healthy part of that is the fear of not being able to turn off my sight when I would rather not see, of remaining blind and oblivious and ignorant because it is easier not to be confronted with certain things.

I have asked God to heal my eyes plenty of times. So far, nothing. A generous gift from someone dear to me means this procedure is now a definite possibility, so I am exploring my options. Yes, I want to see better. No, I do not want to get so accustomed to my imperfect state that I turn away from healing or restoration in whatever form it is offered to me. Sometimes I think my yearning for wholeness is altogether too weak. God, forgive me.

These are my nifty red glasses on top of the laptop.

UPDATE: The consultation was most informative and after 2.5 hours of tests and interviews, I decided against the procedure. It seems that correcting my distance vision to that extent would mean that I need to wear reading glasses and really, the point was to get rid of glasses, I thought. Back to pursuing wholeness in other avenues.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

FoCuS

There is one thing wrong with the spiffy camera Dean bought me for my birthday a few years ago: it does not have manual focus. Instead of highlighting the wonderfully ripe cherry above, the all-knowing camera believed that the disturbed snow on my deck was a much more interesting subject.

Today, I also feel sightly out of focus and wish there was a handy manual setting to realign things in their proper perspective. Perhaps it was the trek outside to wrangle some windblown trellis out from under my deck that resulted in cracking my head on a wooden beam and then breaking one of the trelli (I am almost certain that is the plural form of trellis and if it isn't, it should be), or the fact that Tea was convinced that she needed a second feeding and meowed in my ear for an hour this morning interrupting my 8 hour sabbatical, or the detour on the way to the bank that sent me driving through winding residential roads without cause (at least in my opinion), or any number of tiny things that just did not go well today. Somewhere along the way I set my patience adrift and chose annoyance and criticism as the motivational force for my life on this particular January day. Bad choice.

I was reading one of my fellow blogger's posts today in which someone chastised him for being too critical of the church. Are there glaring wrongs and errors in the church? Of course. Should we shy away from pointing them out? Not really, for how will things change unless we admit there is something desperately wrong? But I also understand this reader's comment. While I love this blogging man and his daring honesty, sometimes I think his focus, like mine, is just a bit off. The beautiful bride of Christ is before us (in fact, IS us) in all her imperfect and underdeveloped glory, but she is glorious all the same because Jesus chooses to imbue her with his love and stand with her and shine on her. If I lose sight of that glory at any time, I become the most cutting and critical cynic, pointing out so many flaws that hope starts to wilt in even the most buoyant souls. It is not a question of being truthful or honest, it is a question of focus. If my focus lies on the faults, where does hope live? Truth is not what we see in front of us, but how God sees what is in front of us.

I very much desire to see the creative power of words evident in my life, a characteristic of God (see Genesis one) and Jesus (be healed!) that I believe is lying mostly dormant in us because we don't know how to use our words. When I speak, I want life and light to come into any situation.

Anyone can see a valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), but it takes a true prophet, a true seer, a person with a keen eye focused on the subject (and the subject of life is Jesus) to be able to call them to join together and live!

This cherry was sacrificed to my enjoyment immediately after this photo was taken.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

4 sale

It's official. Our house is on the market. Today Dean and I performed the traditional ritual associated with such an occasion: we went through our closet and tossed out clothes we don't wear anymore. Though I do not fancy myself a sentimentalist, I was surprised at the attachment I felt towards certain items. The value of said items of clothing is not in how well they fit me or how they fill out my wardrobe nor even how apropos they are for a certain occasion or situation. I hesitate to let a certain sweater out of my closet because I like the way it feels, even though it is misshapen and faded. I don't want to get rid of a T-shirt because it was a gift from my beloved sister, even though I have never worn it and never will (sorry, it just does not fit me). I love my old slippers with the natty fur and paint-stained soles and ripping seams just because they have been through 3 years of my life with me.

But I also realise that sometimes it is just time to move on. These items, in actuality, are just triggers - they have no value to me as such. They merely remind me of certain people or events or provide a sense of comfort. The same applies to my house. It is very comfortable, it is very spacious, it is very convenient, it is beautiful, and we have worked hard to make it so. But it is just wood and cement and brick. What makes my home valuable to me is the fact that it is where I love and laugh and live and grow and rest and work. I have spent some very pleasant moments here, but I can do that anywhere. And I look forward to doing so.

This is a candle-holder given to me by my good friend Cathy from their 25th wedding celebration. I am keeping it when I move.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the critic

I was reading some rather heated comments today between bloggers of differing opinions. It did not make me as uncomfortable as it used to, despite the cutting and sometimes slanderous remarks (despite all of these people professing belief in the same God). I am getting over my fear of conflict. Conflict is normal and inevitable in this world and it is actually good for me to encounter people of differing opinions. If I cannot take criticism and honestly listen to it, searching for whatever bit of truth might be there, I am in a sad, self-righteous state indeed. But how I treat these "others" probably says more about my character or the state of my heart than all the wonderful and correct and theologically sound arguments I can toss at my critics and those of other beliefs.

I went to a workshop on apologetics put on by Bob and Gretchen Passantino a long time ago. Not only were they brilliant people with incredible minds, extensive knowledge, and an uncanny ability to reason circles around most of us, they really knew what the place of argument and debate was. They told us that being a good apologist would seldom win someone over to your way of thinking. The main purpose for being able to tear apart some one's faulty reasoning is to get past the walls that people put up in order to get to the heart of the matter. And it is true. Most inadequate beliefs stem from a personal failure at some point. And we find reasons and a belief system that reinforce our prejudices and adopt this twisted way of avoiding the truth through rigid argument in order to somehow protect us from experiencing that failure and pain again. It is human. We all do it. I am guilty of it.

Which is why it is important to listen to those who disagree with me, who point out the flaws in my personal belief system. For if I cannot come up with a solid reason why I believe what I believe, if I am not willing to take a long hard look at how I come to believe something in the first place, how I decide what is true, then the truth holds little value to me.

Let us encounter Truth in whatever form He appears to us. (No, I am not advocating anything to do with New Age. Only one is the Way, the Truth and the Life.)

This is a street in Brooklyn, New York.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

water pressure

It is warm outside. Plus 10 in January. Very unusual for Montreal. Considering that we had ginormous amounts of snow in December, the warm weather is resulting in a lot of water for everyone to contend with. Rain - melting snow - fog. Great for getting rid of all the ice and snow on the roads, not so great for orderly and well-managed drainage. Last night Dean went downstairs to make sure the sump pump was doing its job and he discovered a tiny patch of wet carpet near a rear wall. We set up a dehumidifier (an exercise in futility as the humidity was not high enough to trigger it) and manually turned on the sump pump a few times and when we had done all we could, I freaked out! I had a real estate agent coming the next day to appraise our house and potentially put it up for sale and this was just a bad, bad turn of events. I lay in bed, utterly convinced that the good life was just about at an end, unable to concentrate on reading one of my favourite authors. Finally, I set the book down and prayed over and over and over for God to fix our foundation.

A hairline crack had developed in our foundation over the summer and usually this is no cause for concern, but with all the build-up of water, well, that's a lot of pressure on a foundation, more than the drainage system is equipped to handle. So the water started to seep in. And I could see it getting worse as the rain continued all night and was not scheduled to let up until late the next day. This morning, Dean got up and checked the basement. I waited, not wanting to get out of bed, knowing this was going to be an unpleasant and disappointing day. When I heard him come up the stairs, I braced myself. He informed me that it was much better, the carpet was practically all dry. What? With rain coming down all night and no sign of it subsiding for hours, the basement was drying?

The real estate agent came and went this afternoon. I was honest about the bit of seepage we had experienced last night and she seemed unfazed. She said some of her clients had water coming in their basement windows - one just had to be vigilant and remove the snow and aid drainage as best as one could, considering the unusual circumstances. And she appraised the house at a higher rate than I thought feasible!

All day I have been marveling at the drying happening beneath me as all around is wet. Today's Bible reading included this phrase: a trusting life won't topple (from Isaiah 29 - The Message). I am humbled that God would answer my unbelieving, whining prayer to fix my foundation and do something about the leak. I also feel his gentle nudge that he took my prayer to include much more than a slab of concrete. It is my life's foundation that needs fixing as well. One of the areas is finances. I think we personally make too many decisions based on monetary factors. I am not condoning reckless money management, but what is my bottom line? Profit? Getting ahead? Good investments? Or investing in the kingdom of God, trusting him to supply everything I need, so much so that I can actually hear him when he chooses to supersede the financial system of this world we live in. Do we trust in our own abilities to provide for our households and secure a future or do we recognise the ultimate benefactor in our lives without whom none of us would even draw breath? "You can't serve both God and the Bank." (from yesterday's Bible reading, Luke 16 in The Message).

Anyone want to buy a house?

This is my bathroom sink, draining.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

drink up

A little while ago I was re-reading the story of Jesus' first miracle: the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana in John 2. Nice little story. It has been used to illustrate everything from Jesus' approval of liquor to God caring about the smaller details of our lives. At this last reading just over a week ago, I asked God what the point of the story was, and the answer was unmistakable: It is a wedding! Jesus celebrates weddings! Anyplace there is love, commitment, mutual submission, a coming together of differences, unity, the joining of one to another, oneness, family, and unselfish unconditional affection, Jesus is present, celebrating, adding something to the occasion, turning the ordinary into the best. He loves weddings so much he instituted the celebratory institution himself as a picture of his desire to be one with us. One of the most intimate pictures of Jesus is as the bridegroom.

Being the church or body of Jesus is so much more than holding meetings or being involved in programs. It is about living in that wedding attitude, about always coming together even when we would rather exert our individuality, about giving ourselves to one another, of pursuing oneness with God and with others in all the ways we can and knowing it is such a worthy endeavour that Jesus will always infuse it with his extraordinary spirit.

This bottle of wine, now empty, was given to me on my birthday by a good friend. It was enjoyed by a small group of friends and family a few days later.

Friday, January 04, 2008

just start

Sometimes I sit here at my computer and sift through the thoughts in my mind and some of the readings I have done lately and a few of the life situations that have made an impression on me, and as I think and pray and ponder and try to envision what epic written work will spring forth from my fingers next, I realise I just have to start. Waiting and planning will not make vision concrete. There is always life happening in and around me. There is always learning, there will always be thoughts coming, situations arising, and truth to be discovered anew. It is a matter of jumping in and engaging with my world and seeing where we can go, what I can make of it, do with it, where this path will take me.

Sometimes my internal life thinks it is a replacement for the external one. I cannot let it go there. I need the jostling contact with people both familiar and strange, the abrupt and even uncomfortable collision with the cultures around me, the intrusion of other wills trying to bend me to theirs, and the challenge of doing things I have never done before and being faced with decisions I have never made before. I have been known to criticise people for placing too much importance on the intellect and neglecting the emotions. I will now admit to you that I have been and still occasionally am, a snob of a different sort - a spiritual snob. My internal world can be so real and intense that like someone who refuses to wake from a dream, I can lock myself in this mystic realm and shut out everything and everyone else. But there is no substantial power in staying in this place. One must come out of it in order to see something happen.
The real beauty and dynamism comes when the mystical smacks full force into the physical, when the spiritual hits the ground running so hard it leaves an indelible impact on the earth. I daresay most of us struggle with living too much in one realm or the other - either too earthy and temporal or too spiritual and irrelevant. A few years ago a friend of mine prayed for me and told me I am a person with an incarnational lifestyle. YES! I so want that. My desire is to be the most real and touchable person, yet to also be someone intimately familiar with the mystic and spiritual realm. What do I have to give to others if I do not cultivate a depth of understanding of eternal truth? How can anyone hear this truth if I do not sweat and roll around in the earthy soil where everyone else is toiling and living?
So I just start. I talk to God and read mystical inspired words and listen. I dream and question and write and make space for silence. And then I go out and play pool with friends, scrub the toilet, talk to the frazzled girl at the customer service desk, eat and laugh and dance and do laundry. This is life. One life. Not two different parts. Not separated. And I only get there by starting now. Who knows where it will lead?
Here are 2 random branches in the snow beside my house.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

the last straw

We had wonderful plans for New Year's Eve - a few good friends would come over, we would play games, eat food, watch movies, laugh and have good conversations, be warmed and filled and feel all good about ourselves. It was not to be so. Within 24 hours, all of our invited friends had informed us that they could not come - good excuses too, like previous commitments or sickness. When the number finally dwindled to zero, I snapped. It was the last straw. I got mad. What was the point in making these giant efforts day in and day out to connect to people and be a part of their lives when they just turned around and rejected you? I felt alone and abandoned and undesireable and unpopular. I was mad at people for saying NO and I was mad at myself for expecting too much and mad at God for not making it all right somehow. So this was how 2007 was going to close - on a pitifully sad and low note.

Or not. Somewhere, in the back of my mind beyond the lies and overblown misperceptions, behind the dark cloud of anger hovering over my soul, there was a glimmer. A spark of something better and brighter than what I was experiencing, and it offered itself up to me, waiting to be embraced. Okay, why not? What did I have to lose? It is amazing and annoying to me how tightly I hold onto my disappointments sometimes. Hope is standing at the back of the room jumping up and down and waving its arms, and I just stare at the floor filthy with my tattered inadequacies, choosing to be blind.

There are these scenarios of what I think my life should look like, of what patterns faith and hope and love should draw on my days and years, of how people should respond to give me maximum lift, and most especially the perfect, romantic, cheerful, culminative ego-boosting end-of-chapter totally fiction but oh so desirable extraordinary fusion of events that I think should be a regular occurrence in my life, especially on important days. And it is hard to let go of these fairy tales and see what is right in front of me, what good and perfect and real gift is being offered instead, right now, from the hand of a loving friend.

So I let the fantasy party go that night and saw Dean in front of me and we spent a wonderful, quiet, fun, silly, meaningful, random, memorable and very satisfying evening together. It involved popcorn, a car wash, donuts in the parking lot, a surprise meeting of friends, a funny movie, pizza, snuggling, and shared laughter and love. This was not the party I chose, but the party that chose me. It is nice to be chosen.

This is a fire pit at my friends' place in Ontario, taken the day before they got married.