Category Archives: modern faith
“. . . events that happen in the moment belong to the moment. They don’t belong to you. They have nothing to do with you. You must stop defining yourself in relationship to them, and just let them come and go.”
—Michael A. Singer in The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
There’s always something, isn’t there? Just when you get all your ducks in a row, a fox bounds into the pond and scatters them all hither and thither. As you chase around after flapping ducks, you say: “Really? Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of a test?”
Life as a test is a popular notion with some. Rick Warren states it as a fact in his book The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? “Life on earth is a Test,” he writes. “God continually tests people’s character, faith, obedience, love, integrity and loyalty . . . God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather!”
Ugh. I find the image of a being—completely separate from me and the world—up there poking and prodding me to see how I react abhorrent.
A test implies that people either pass of fail. But what constitutes a pass? Who gets hurt when someone fails? And how does the word “test” make you feel? Intimidated? Scared? Paralyzed? Threatened? Overwhelmed? Under-prepared? Notice that none of those words have a positive vibe.
When contemplating why events happen the way they do and what I’m supposed to do about them, I prefer an idea that the singer Johnny Reid refers to in “A Place Called Love.” When he wrote the song, his grandmother had just died and his child had just been born. He asked himself, “Where did my grandmother go? Where did my daughter come from?”
His answer: a place called love. Sounds like as good an answer as any, and it is certainly much more reassuring than “A Place Called the Examination Centre.”
Scientific laws of the universe dictate that events we consider unpleasant or catastrophic must happen: cancers, tsunamis, wild fires. We have to accept the science, but we can choose to write our own story.
When that crafty fox leaps into our perfectly arranged row of ducks, don’t ask, “How do I pass this test?” Ask, “Who returns to love because of this?” Or “How do I help myself and others return to love?”
I like the image of real ducks all in a yellow fluffy row, so that how I wrote about them here. Another theory suggests that “ducks in a row” came from bowling. Early bowling pins were nicknamed “ducks,” and organizing them in their proper places before the next ball was thrown meant they were all “in a row.”
I am at the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference in Orillia, ON, surrounded by writers from every genre. We talk about the joys and trials of writerhood and our varied creative processes. Most of us share guardedly, wary of how others might judge the quirky things we do to get to the heart of our writing. This morning, a poet friend bravely shared the sketch book she uses every morning.
First thing in the morning, before she eats or showers or does anything else, she sits down with her sketch book. She writes the date at the top of the left-hand page and then on the top of the right-side page, she writes, “I am . . .” and completes the phrase with how she’s feeling. From a box of coloured crayons, she randomly selects three colours and draws a picture, a symbol, a pattern, or anything that flows from the colours and the phrase. And then (this is the part that boggles) she returns to the left-hand page and writes a poem, from start to finish. Boom, just like that. No stroke-outs or re-considerations. No pondering or hovering of the hand. Just a poem on the page.
She never knows what’s going to happen when she picks up the sketch pad or the colours. She never knows what the poem is going to be when she starts to print the words. She just “tunes in,” lets go and writes.
She receives daily emails from inspirational sources, and in this poetry sample, she writes about how often the topic of her poem and the topic of the emails coincide. (She reads the emails after she writes the poems.)
She calls it “collective consciousness.”
©2015 Jean Kay poetrytoinspire.com
After writing my morning poem
I read ‘Daily Word’ & ‘Science of Mind’
And very often the messages
Are of a similar kind
I call that collective consciousness
Some will say it’s coincidence
But whatever power is at work here
The messages are intense
Those articles were written months ago
But thousands are reading today
And I’m on a similar wavelength
To receive what is coming my way
I don’t preconceive morning poetry
I just write what comes into my mind
And yet often a word I seldom use
Will be in ‘Daily Word’ and/or ‘Science of Mind’
It makes me feel the path I’m on
Is the right one for me
I’m on track & tuned in
And living my eternity.
“Every moment is a starting point.” —Etienne LeSage
On the weekend, I attended the ordination and commissioning of two friends of mine into the United Church of Canada. The ceremony touched me deeply, and since then I’ve pondered what to write about it.
So many aspects of the event filled our emotional wells to overflowing. We cried happy tears.
The two people involved are both joyful givers; they embrace all people, work for justice, don’t sit in judgment of others, and allow and encourage questions. Love envelopes them; their parents, spouses, siblings, friends, children and other supporters glowed with it. The two people possess the perseverance and the indefinable “something more” that propels them into the challenging work of ministry.
In the end, though, I kept coming back to the laying on of hands.
Those unfamiliar with the practice, or those who have never been on the receiving end of it, might see it as an empty ritual, or even as a showy bit of hocus-pocus. But the ancient tradition of laying on hands is a powerful experience for both giver and receiver. It recognizes the potency of human touch. Like a comforting squeeze on the shoulder of someone bent over in grief, like a cool touch to hot brow, like a gentle nudge to the back of someone who hesitates—hands have the potential to soothe, heal or empower.
After the ceremony, one of the two people, Mark, told me that he felt the love flowing to him from hands placed on him by his parents, spouse, family and friends. But when he felt the touch of his daughter and his toddler son, his heart burst—the power of children blessing a father.
I lay hands on my friend, Etienne, as he was blessed and ordained. I was a member of his discernment committee, and I walked with him—metaphorically speaking—on his path to ministry. When I lay my hands on him, it was a conduction of love, power and blessing.
I sent him love, because the tremendous amount of love I had for him grew even stronger during the psyche-testing process of discernment.
I sent him power for his journey, because the path he has chosen (or that was chosen for him?) is not an easy one. He begins ministry in the face of assumptions about Christianity that just don’t apply to him. He’s funny and open, not sombre and judgemental. He knows that love is the foundation of a strong and healthy marriage, not gender. He sees the soul in people, no matter what race, ethnicity, religion or shape the body that carries it around, so he excludes no one.
I sent him my blessing of courage and compassion to face it with strength for the highest good of all.
Both people, in their individual ways, had to overcome big difficulties to arrive at the day. They both chose to take the road less travelled, and it is one that is fraught with challenges.
They both know that their lives, in so many ways, would be so much easier if they were taking the well-trodden path. Now that they have been sent forth with the love, power and blessing of the touch of those who love them, they might just make it.
“Gardens, like lives, require choices. What will we let grow? What will we encourage? What needs cutting back because it’s growing too wildly and out of control? What’s crowding out what you really want in life?” —Rev. Sharon Moon
I listened to a reflection by Rev. Sharon Moon about spiritual wisdom gained in a garden.
It’s true, isn’t it? When we putter in our flower beds and dig in our dirt, we “plug in,” as she calls it, to a different energy level—a spirit channel, if you will.
At least some of us do. I enjoy my time in a garden and I do “plug in” to an infinite place, but I have many friends who regard gardening as a chore. But no matter whether a person loves or loathes a horticultural pursuit, the activities, complexities, the growth, the pruning and the death in gardens so closely mirrors our human existence that we can learn from them.
We learn to be ready for surprises: the flower you didn’t plant that suddenly appears or the tender sprouts you admire one day gone the next thanks to a hungry rabbit.
We learn that sometimes a plant needs to be moved to an area better suited to its needs.
We learn that when a long, cold winter buries treasures under snow, it is easy to forget the bounty we have.
We learn that weeds are inevitable, and that a garden left untended quickly becomes overgrown and filled up with “things that come in and just steal the energy from the life that you want to encourage.”
As Sharon Moon points out, a garden teaches us that pruning is a good thing—cutting out the dead wood that no longer serves a purpose. A garden teaches us to give of ourselves—generous perennial dividing and sharing for the good of both the plant and the recipient. A garden teaches us that “a material that has been allowed to die transforms into new growth.”
What is happening in your garden these days? Are you bursting with new growth? Do you have weeds that need careful pulling? Have you had a shock or trauma that requires you to take some fallow time? Do you need some support and attention from “the Gardener”?
How does your garden grow?
Listen to her reflection here:
I ponder the parable of the seed scattered on good or poor ground. (See below.)
Like any respectable parable, it can be interpreted a number of ways. Perhaps we are the “farmer.” If so, we need to choose carefully where we spread our “seed”—our ideas, our time, our friendships. Don’t share ideas with an audience that won’t appreciate them, don’t waste time on pointless endeavours, and don’t choose friends who choke out your potential. Or perhaps God (the universe, nature, Yahweh, Allah, whatever) is the “farmer” and we are the “seed.” If so, some of us have a tougher time of it—through no fault of our own—just because of the environment where we are born. Others—lucky sods—happen to land on roomy, fertile ground.
But I wonder. Why do we always put the onus on the ground?
The poor ground is just being what it was created to be. The footpath doesn’t sprout seed, but it makes the going easy for the feet that tread upon it.
The rocks of Georgian Bay near my cottage don’t welcome scattered seed—carrots would not sprout there, nor would lush lettuce leaves. But it has perfect nooks for evergreens and moss, and its granite craters pool water for birds to drink. It is not bad; it is beautiful and rugged, mineral-rich and solid. Best of all, it is not trying to be something it’s not, gripped with angst about why it can’t grow tomato plants like its cousin, the rich farmland.
And what about that loamy earth of a tilled field? How would moss manage there? The bright sunshine and the working of the soil would kill it. As judged by the moss, the rich, loamy soil of a southern Ontario tomato field would be “bad.”
Plants or soil aren’t really good or bad. They just have to match, that’s all—the right soil for the right plant.
People are like that too. Women of action sitting behind desks, or scholarly men digging ditches are like seeds scattered on the wrong ground.
They start to believe there’s something wrong with them. Their bosses air frustrations about their inadequacies. They believe they are deficient in some way. They tell themselves they need to change. All they need is the right ground.
Moss clings to the shady sides of rock, corn sprouts from the arable land: A plant for every kind of ground, and a ground for every kind of plant. All are beautiful in their own way.
They just have to match, that’s all.
3 He [Jesus] told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!
Take a moment with me to pity sporting events. They get very little respect from those who spend their days contemplating spiritual matters. Meditation, journaling, dancing or yoga make the grade for spiritual enrichment, but not sports. The idea that a person might experience transcendence during a sporting activity? Well, that receives a dismissive sniff. All too often, sports get shunted aside as “fun-but-hardly-spiritual.”
Activity: A man walks in the woods and feels at one with the trees around him.
Perception: He experiences the “All is One” of spirit.
Activity: A baseball player gets “In the zone,” slows down the ball and goes 4 for 4 at the plate.
Perception: She is swinging a hot bat.
Activity: A meditator focuses on her breath and stays present.
Perception: She is practising mindfulness and living the power of now.
Activity: A hockey goalie stays in the moment and performs well under the intense pressure of Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final.
Perception: He is mentally strong.
Activity: A dancer experiences transcendence induced by the music rhythm.
Perception: She is at one with God.
Activity: A tennis player experiences transcendence induced by the movement rhythm.
Perception: He maintains his focus.
Too bad. Athletes might not use the words “spirit” or “God” when participating in their sports, but they share similar experiences, and they reap the same benefits of those who do. Sports teach us about the human condition, relieve stress and depression, and awaken us to the message of life.
- Provides clarity and cultivates awareness (√ Check)
- Lifts mood and prevents depression (√ Check)
- Creates steadiness and grounding (√ Check)
- Helps you see the big picture of life (√ Check)
- Puts you in touch with your inner self (√ Check)
- Keeps you in the moment (√ Check)
- Gives “the assurance of practice being there for you at all times” (√ Check)
- Boosts health and well-being (√ Check)
- Restores a sense of purpose and boosts self-esteem (√ Check)
- Relieves stress (√ Check)
- Connects people with others (√ Check)
- Promotes self-actualization (√ Check)
- Builds lasting memories (√ Check)
- Encourages participants to let go of the ego (√ Check)
Sports give us heroes that transcend the game: Lou Gehrig. Sports advance social change: Jackie Robinson. Sports shine a spotlight on big societal problems: When the Baltimore Orioles played to an empty stadium, it was a siren warning. “Something is seriously wrong, and something needs to change.”
From pick-up hockey games on frozen backyard rinks to the Olympic podium, sports teach us about life.
- You can be an instant hero and fall flat in the same game.
- There are rules, and with good reason.
- You can be the very best at something, and still lose.
- Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is a millimetre or a hundredth of a second.
- You can’t win them all.
- Some days things work, and some days they don’t.
- Things don’t always balance out.
- On any given day, anything can happen.
- You can make mistakes and still come back.
- You need patience and endurance.
- It humbles you. You never stop learning.
- You cry, you get frustrated, and you celebrate.
- You play it one day at a time.
- “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” —Yogi Berra
Here’s a timely quote from a well-known athlete: “I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability; it was my mental ability.” —Bruce Jenner.
Social change in action.
“The five Ss of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.” —Ken Doherty