Tag Archives: Spirit


Lately (literally 4 times this week, at least once a week in the past 3 months, and frequently during my 4-month hiatus this Fall) I’ve been confronted by the question “What does it mean to Belong?”  I’ve not come to a solid conclusion yet, so bear with me.   belonging Lucy

But it haunts me, this question. I have assented to statements of ‘faith’ and not felt I’ve belonged to The Group.  Like other healthy persons, I long to belong….but not at any price.   I’ve had profound experiences of truly ‘belonging’ to the Holy even when – sometimes even because – I do not agree with a statement laid down by The Organization.  I’ve felt nearly dead when I’ve felt I had to leave a group (more than once) because to be true to myself I came to a place of saying “I don’t agree” with whatever the “Belong” requirement was.  Conclusion: Assent  Belonging.  On the other hand, can a person belong without giving assent to a group’s shared statement of purpose?

When it comes to having the right, or responsibility, to be part of the decision-making, ought there to be a check-list of who belongs?

There are implied rights, and responsibilities, to belonging.  One gets to be part of the decision-making, but is it enough to attend events, or volunteer, or financially support an organization?  Is frequency or quantity thereof part of the criteria?  Think Citizenship; maybe not?  Think Firefighters; maybe not?  Think political party…golf club…sports team.  Do I belong to an arts community, or music band, if I do not produce art?  Or share an understanding of what “art” or “music” is?  Do I belong if I don’t show up to work/practise days? to performance dates or exhibitions? Does belonging hinge on the payment of fees, or contributing financially to the maintenance costs?

Does the criteria for belonging change if the organization is about support and care rather than production?  Can anyone be in on decision-making for a hospital, or service agency, for example? What about belonging to a family?  Does one still belong without showing up to family events? Can a neighbour belong to the family if they spend more time, or eat, at that house more than at their own? Is belonging to a family dependent on agreeing with a set of values?

If Spirituality is about connection, community, belonging,  do the criteria change?   Is belonging more than assent to a statement of faith? more than participation? more than finances?  Is it any less than any of things?

This is not a vague question. In my work we are coming up to weeks of decision-making meetings and sometimes who gets to votes is determined by who ‘belongs’?   It matters, this notion of belonging, because it feels like it also determines who is valued, who gets to make decisions? And I’m not sure those are the same thing.

I heard recently that belonging is about feeling comfortable to be yourself, to make a contribution to the well-being of the whole.

How do you understand what it means to ‘belong”?

belonging cycle bhma…More food for thought

from British Holistic Medical Association



Hope in small lights

The other day I was working in my office with a lovely west-facing window and wondered why “all of a sudden” the room was so dark….”Must be a cloud over the sun, after all it’s not even 5 o’clock yet”.  Ah, yes. The final weeks of November and first ones of December always catch me off-guard.  How can it get this dark this early??

Yes, I know it’s about orbits, axis shirts and seasonal cycles, but it still holds my imagination and wonder.  And Awe.  And truthfully, not a little fear…I admit I’m intimidated by rural driving in the pitch black.  Then I turn on the coloured lights on the evergreen outside my front window.  Ah, yes.  Small lights make big differences.

Those lights often encouraged me in my spiritual life this week.  I was so frustrated by the news: dwarfing of remembrance of some events (like the 28th anniversary of the intentional hunting of women at École Polytechnique in Montréal) in light of others (the Olympic Committee’s response to athletes of only one nation who cheated to win). That got more airtime than reports of ongoing bombing and fighting in the Levant.  There was more efforts to downplay the claims by those targeted for abuse and harassment because of gender – 1989 all over again.  Then there was That Announcment by the USA formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel – despite international law about occupation, UN policies on “international cities”, not to mention a seemingly flagrant indifference for consequences in terms of disregard of general human and minority rights in the occupied part of East Jerusalem, not to mention geo-political consequences.   It seems that the clouds of reason have darkened the sun…it is too early for “all hell to break loose” – again.christmas lights


And that’s when those little coloured lights start to remind me of the underlying truth of all festivities this month: there are little pricks of light in the darkness, and taken together can make something beautiful.  Whether that’s in Romeo Saganash’s speaking Cree in the House of Commons on behalf of Bill C-252, or groups that gather to encourage one another in the hope and vision that if we all were treat every person in our community (and globe) as if they were family, kin, there would be no greed or need and peace would reign.  Or that with a birth of one child a new world order of justice and peace begins.  Or that through unseen collaboration one small vial of oil can light sacred space for 8 days.  Or gathering enough food for many families to make merry, one can, one box at a time.  Miracles of light in a world where darkness casts its pall.

We may curse the darkness.  But we can also show the small light of Hope that each of us carries.  Together we can make a beautiful place, and “say to the darkness ‘we beg to differ.’”*   So thanks, Spirit, tonight, it’s not quite so dark.


*quote attributed to Mary Jo Leddy, 1990 book of that title

Thanks to smithsonianmag.com for the photo.


Charlottesville is also here

For two weeks I’ve been hearing about Charlottesville, VA: the event itself, analysis, the hand-wringing about ‘how could this happen?’, could it happen in Canada?  Really?  That’s a real question?  For two weeks I’ve been trying to find a way to explain my non-surprise.

The good thing about all of this is, my work is about seeking the sacred in the everyday. Easy: The Sacred brings us to Life in its Fullness, always moving us forward and so the Sacred has been at work as we lament the events and begin to confess our part in why they happen.

The violence at Charlottesville is only the latest manifestation of the “why”.  The hatred, the frustration and the violence that was evident in those events is what happens when we allow a culture to persist in which “some people don’t count”.  For the “white nationalists” people of colour don’t – or shouldn’t – count, especially in making policy and setting direction for “their” nation. For those who oppose that racism, and the prejudices that fuels it, there’s a fine line between saying “those ideas are not worthy of us” and “those people don’t count”. All of the violence is spawned by the same force.

When we persist with a culture in which “some people don’t count” we end up with: residential schools, not caring that hundreds of women have gone missing or been murdered (Indigenous & non-) especially when they are street-level sex workers. We end up arguing about whether or not people can wear conspicuously religious symbols at work.  An unfair taxation system which favours those with money to invest and handicaps those whose incomes are used entirely to pay bills and to make ends meet.  It’s what allows a citizen to use weapons against those whose ways make them feel threatened.  When we allow a culture in which “some people don’t count” we end up low wages for ECE workers,  overloaded child protection services, policing that racializes crime (that’s what racial profiling is), and civic policy that criminalizes poverty (that’s the anti-panhandling laws).  It’s why there is an increasing call for programs to teach how not to bully (that’s another blog…).  So, really, are we so surprised that events like those in Charlottesville happen?

But when we are open to the Sacred, which like our culture, is all around us…and within us, musingsfromaministerswife com 1 Jn 4

we move towards becoming our Best Selves; we get to let go of that being scared of the unfamiliar.


We stop making an “Us” and “The Other”.  When the Sacred is moving in us, we are moved to behave as if we truly believe Everyone Counts.

But it’s hard work.  Look around you, within you, see who has become, to you, the “ones who don’t count” (we all have them); then work towards seeing them as humans who do count. Because until we do that Charlottesville will just keep happening.

We Are a Part of It All

accuweather comMy heart was touched by a scientist talking about the full solar eclipse that is happening over the continental USA on Monday.  Like the Aura borealis and meteor showers, which he also mentioned, we are fascinated by spectacular natural phenomena.  He said “It fascinates us. It brings us closer to the Universe.”

It does fascinate us; hours of reports and commentary on TV and radio, links on mainstream webpages to science-based sites, inches of print, all encouraging us to “witness this rare event”.  Experts say a full eclipse hasn’t happened this close to western Canada in about 100 years; no wonder they, and we, are excited.

Along the “path of totality”, only a few hours of driving south of us, people will experience a deep twilight at noon, and maybe a phenomenon called “the Ring of Fire”, a halo around the sun.  The eclipse is highly unusual, out of the ordinary; it’s also out of our control, which makes it a little scary.  Another scientist said “it’s a mysterious, almost spiritual, experience.”

It should fascinate us.  The ancients explained such events as the result of actions of human-like beings who lived in, or above, the sky. With their science they could predict such events in the heavens (think Stonehenge), but they still stopped business-as-usual; they realized something important was happening.  They believed they were being affected by Someone, or Something, beyond themselves and they stopped their regular lives, and did actions so the gods would be happy and return the sun.  Another scientist said “The ancients had a sense of fear and awe; we have no fear, but the awe remains.”

We should be in awe. Just because we can explain such events with our science,  if only for a few minutes, we realize that something beyond our small, finite, mortal selves is at work in the Universe.  Agronomists are watching how crops will be affected by the prolonged darkness; NASA is watching for how clouds are affected.  During this eclipse, if only for a few minutes, we finite human beings experience that we are all part of a larger Universe.  We discover a connection to a web of Creation, by which we are interconnected.

That is the spiritual experience, to feel that connection. To experience within our body and heart and mind that we are part of The More.*   Even many secular scientists experience this awe, wonder and connection and invite us to the experience. We don’t have to imagine the gods turning out the light to feel the Awe and Wonder, to be reminded that Human Beings are not in control of all things; we are only a part of it.  Such Awe and Wonder just may help some of us to regain our proper perspective, stop behaving as if we are in control of all things, and realize that we are only a part.  But we are a part of it All, Something Larger, connected to The More.  And it is The More, which is worthy of my awe and wonder and worship.

youtube comI don’t have to understand the eclipse like a child, but I can experience the Awe & Wonder like a child.   And offer a prayer of thanks.



*thanks to Dr. Marcus Borg for that phrase to describe the Holy Mystery, in The Heart of Christianity, 2004;

thanks also to accuweather.com for the picture Ring of Fire, and the 2nd picture from images.google.com, Source Unknown

Ruminate, Recalibrate, Renew

compass wendybattino comI know I’m not the only one, but I have times when a day is so “busy” I can hardly remember what I’ve done in it, which end is up; times when I wish I slow down the pace of life so I can take a deep breath and take stock.  Sometimes I wish I had the time and the energy – at the same time – just to chew on an idea that’s been floating in and out of consciousness.  I want to step out of “regular time” with all that “has to be done” and be in a different kind of time,  in which I can just Be.

I do have those moments – when I remember to make time for them, when I am willing to let go of what I have become convinced are “have-to-dos”.  They give me a sense of connection to all that is; touch the infinite.  In these moments everything is whole and balanced, (sometimes it’s called ‘kairos’ time)*.  You probably have them too.  That quiet of the very early morning, sitting at night watching the stars, a child sleeping.  It’s that moment at the end of yoga, the ‘resting’ pose.  In kairos time, I remember, as a colleague once put it, that I am “a  human Being, not a human Doing”.

Lots of images: compasses need to be re-calibrated to True North. Wilderness time to let go of distractions that hold one captive. Leaving a field fallow to give the land a chance to renew.  Making Sabbath – a time to “do no work” – those chores that lead us into that go-go-go pace – and reorient to the vision of how the world could be if Compassion was our guiding principle for our actions.  Steeping oneself in Living Water, being nourished by Bread of Life.  A time to understand the holy message: Do not fear.

So this leave I am on is your gift to me of time away from “regular duties”.  It am offered the freedom to make space for this kairos time.  It’ll be like slowing down the merry-go-round – not because the ride isn’t enjoyable, but to see who else is on it, explore what other features there are, be fascinated by the tune of the calliope. A time to reboot, to nourish my spirit, mind and body which (like most other people) the run-of-life interferes with.

The “plan” is to ruminate on ideas I’ve only had a chance to skim; literally to chew on ideas that are trying to germinate.  To renew some disciplines in order to harness my energy differently so I can use it more effectively in my service here. To clear out some of the physical and internal detritus that makes me feel separated from the Holy, that inhibits me (or at least makes me unsure and unsteady) “shining my little light” in a good way. To recalibrate to my call of being here.

You folks of Cornerstone have given me this gift of sabbatical time; I do not take lightly.  I am profoundly grateful for this time to renew, to reboot, and be ready to come back to the work that I am called here to do.  Thank you.

~ ~ ~

*Mckinely Valentine has a great blog on “Kairos time”, which she describes as “the moment  after you’ve inhaled and are just about to exhale”; check it out mckinleyvalentine.com/kairos

** Image from: wendybattino.com



Is there a difference between thanks-giving and gratitude?

cornucopia-timeanddate-comI used to think of Thanksgiving weekend as a time of celebration and joy.  It’s a time for delighting in a good harvest of field and garden, of smiling at memories made this summer, the renewal we received when we were away from regular schedules and obligations.  And now we have all the joys of fall: vibrant colours, and crisp apples, and the smell of wool sweaters coming out of storage.

It’s important to take the time to stop and be intentional about noticing all that we have.  Whether we say a formal grace over the feast, or ask those around the table to share what they are thankful for, it’s good to recognize the gifts that we have in our life.  And when we’re given a gift it’s only polite to say thank you.

But I’m finding giving thanks isn’t enough anymore.  Because when I am honest, and realize just how many people contributed, for example, to my meals, I am overwhelmed.  There must be thousands of people bringing it from field to table — farm workers, truck mechanics, the Dakota people who agreed to share this land with us, the workers at the canning factory, the people who made my stove…. And even that things grow from the earth; it’s amazing to realize how the tomatoes grew in my garden when it was clearly with no help from me whatsoever.  I am humbled by it and wonder how I could ever have thought that all this was by my own work alone – or that it belongs only to me?

I don’t feel badly or guilty about “all that I have”, but I find that thanks-giving isn’t enough; what is emerging is a sense of gratitude.

Gratitude comes from that humility of seeing I’m not as independent as I think; it pulls me into to seeing just how interdependent I am with the whole web of Creation.   Gratitude makes me see Life as a gift. It opens my heart, and then prompts me into action.

So when I am supporting the local Food Banks, and asking “why is there still a need for these in Canada?”,  it’s not because I’m a “good” or even “generous” person; it’s because my spiritual well-being depends on it.

Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Woman from the Murri people of Australia, once said:  “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Gratitude feels like it recognizes that interdependence, and comespinterest from a place deeper in the soul. I hope you take time this Thanksgiving season to stop and notice what you have
. And how you come to have it. And that your thanks that blossoms into gratitude.  It’s an amazing experience of blessing.

Thanks to: Meister Ekhart for the quote, pinterest.com and timeanddate.com for the photos.

Happy Earth Day

Every gift bears a challenge, and challenge bears a gift. The trick is to find it, and to accept it.

The United Church has a statement of faith which includes the line: “We are called to be the Church…to live with respect in Creation.”   It’s a great line – inspiring and universal – but it isn’t defined. It presents us with the challenge: what does it mean (for me) to live with respect in Creation?

Last summer a bloc of delegates to our denomination’s triennial gathering, was entrusted to fabakeapple montrealgazette comece 22 resolutions grouped around this principle. (named for a remarkably tasty orange berry in NL…but I digress…) The Bakeapple Commission made 2 particularly controversial decisions. They asked our church’s Pension Plan to divest from Goldcorp, a Canadian mining project operating mostly in Canada, Central and South America, and to divest from fossil fuels. The backlash has been substantial.

Rather than back-biting, name-calling and mud-slinging, which only erects walls to informed conversations, how about if we ask what was/were the resolution(s) trying to accomplish? what did they say? and what did they not say?

The resolutions said to divest our holdings from the companies, not vilify the people who work for them.  They said to investigate investing in other companies which are developing other technologies which would create sustainable or renewable energy resources.  They said to encourage people who are part of our Church’s community to use less fossil fuel. The resolutions remind us that our concerns about large-scale oil & gas infrastructure projects is their impact on both the environment and relationships with the First Nations communities involved.  In other words the resolutions reminded us as a Church, as people of faith (and specifically as Jesus followers), there are other criteria we need to consider just as much as making money while we are making our choices in our everyday lives. (For full text and study materials visit gc42.ca/actionstaken Background Material and Bakeapple Commission –Revision 1.)  The same could be said about our food.

That’s why marking Earth Day is a faith-filled duty.  We have inherited translationscool down dear earth we will not kick you any more CC Sunciti_sundarams Images and images of what it means to have “dominion over the Earth” (Gen 1:26f), and despite the variety of words most still beg the questions: what does that mean? Can I do what I like with it? ought I not to use more than I absolutely have to? what does it mean to be a ‘steward’ of the land? What I want is a black and white response (which is soo, much easier!); what I get is 50 shades of gray.  It means I have to take responsibility to answer and to live with those answers. And living with my anxiety of what if in a 100 years it what I/we have done – thinking it was a positive thing turns – out to be a wrong thing?

For me, the challenge – and the gift – is to sit with that ambiguity, and struggle with how I answer those questions of what it means to live with respect in Creation; it is spiritual skill and part of the journey of faith.

My faith and experience tells me that everything in Creation/universe is a reflection of God’s creative genius, and it is good. So it deserves respect and awe.  It belongs to God.  And because I/we need energy (including fossil fuels), I/we need to be aware of which and how I use Earth’s gifts in a way that it also reflects my gratitude to God (which also means where and how they are produced).  Our denomination’s line is “to live with respect in Creation”.

There are no easy answers; there is only actions based in faith and humility, a church (and wider) community which whom to struggle with the choices, and connection with the Source of Life.

Which for me means, in part, that I need to manage my time so I can drive as little as I need to and at optimal gas mileage rather than speed.   Happy, and Blessed, Earth Day to you.

(photo credits: ‘bakeapple’:  montrealgazette.com – accessed at google images; and ‘Cool Down dear Earth; we will not kick you anymore’ by sunciti_sundarams; used under license of Creative Commons/attribution)