Tag Archives: spirituality

Be-longing

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

 

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Should I stay or should I go?*

This bright, sunny, wintery day, I was driving to a scheduled activity, tight on time as usual, when my eye caught this really bright – silvery – light to the south of me.  I didn’t think there was water, buildings or bins there, so what was that light?  I was fascinated, drawn in, by it.  I had to make a choice: do I stay with The Plan, or follow that light wherever it led me?  I was really torn, quite anxious actually.  What would you have done?

Everyone at some point is faced with an unexpected opportunity that will disruptstay or go pinterest our usual lives but draws us in; and it’s a form of spiritual crisis.  First, we have to be not so focused on what we are doing (yes, I am saying that), so nose-to-the-grindstone, that we miss them.  Then we have to question our assumptions and criteria deciding whether to risk all that we know for the possibility of something we don’t.  Not all bright lights are worth pursuing, so how does a person discern which opportunities, or lights, to investigate?

There’s story in my faith tradition about scholars who study the sky, see this “new, bright light”, realize its potential and pursue it.   On the side of that windy country road I thought of that story and I realized that the travelers in this story are spiritual giants.  First, they studied and knew how to read the skies.  I didn’t know enough to discern whether or not to pursue this light into the hills.  What are the things that you study, that matters enough to learn about it below a surface level? How does this knowledge & wisdom influence what you choose to do, or not do?

Second, they left their home country, and returned home by a different way. All enduring spiritual stories teach that to follow the path, the light, that brings life in its abundance requires a person to risk, even leave, everything that is known and cherished. Family. Tradition. Assumptions. The fears that hold us back. And a willingness to be changed on, and by, the journey.  On career paths, walking paths and life paths I’ve discovered this ‘letting go to gain’ and trusting is better for me in the end; but even so, every time, it takes me great spiritual energy to remember those experiences, and great courage, when the path takes the next turn, or the light leads me where I do not expect.

Finally, the travelers in the story turned to others when they got lost.  I’m still learning to trust companions on the journey, to listen to certain wisdom and people when I need reality-checks.  Where do your reality checks come from?  Who sustains you on your journey when it veers of course?

I confess I did not follow the light that presented itself that day, I chose to stay on the road and when where I was scheduled to be, because I feared what would happen if I didn’t.  And I have wondered ever since, what if…..?

* This song by The Clash (Combat Rock, 1982) often becomes an ‘earworm’ when I’m faced with decisions….It’s not a literal question I am asking.

Thanks to lettinggojustpraising.blogspot.com for the image.

 

 

In this baby, I find ….

My recollection is that in my family of origin, part of our celebration of someone’s birthday includes a story, or 2, that begins with “I remember the day you were born; I was…..”  Some of the stories are told exactly the same way year after year, others change in details over time, some don’t recount historical events as a camera may have caught them….but they are still true stories.   They’re true because of who is telling them; it is the story-teller’s relationship to the Birthday Girl or Boy, their experience of our coming into the world, and into their lives, that gives the story it’s life and it’s truth.

That’s how I approach the birth stories about Jesus.  Some of the stories have been told exactly the same way year after year, some change in details over time, some don’t recount  historical events like a TV camera would, but, like our own birth stories what matters about the story is the storyteller, and their relationship  to this child whose birth stories we share.  It is our experience of Jesus coming into the world and how that changes us, that makes this story true….and what makes it sacred story.  We tell about how we encounter the Holy Mystery behind all of life in the life of this child, and the man he will grow up to be.

For Christians, this child’s birth matters – although we may have difference about how and why it matters.  Because if it doesn’t matter to us in 2018, it doesn’t matter, period.  But with matters of faith and spirit, we can only speak of our own experience; what we share becomes our testimony, our evidence, of the holy and sacred experience.

For me, this is a story about finding beauty and hope in the middle of violence and anger.  In the middle of a brutal occupation, when people are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals, this child is born.  I wonder: what do his parents hope for him?  what do the shepherds see in him?  how can such an innocent — who makes me love him just ‘cos he’s here — be anything but beautiful and full of potential?  What do you see in this story?

So for me, today, I might testify that this child will grow up to be a man who is so full of Love I see through him God in the flesh, walking among humankind.   From him, I will learn how that I am loved and worthy, and so I can love myself.  I will learn how to love my neighbours, how to share, and how to the love the one I think of as “the enemy”, the “other”, the stranger.  This child cracks open my heart, like the skies cracked open by angel’s song, so we can step into a new life and way of being in the world. And this new world order begins when we open our hearts to love just one more person.

How would tell the truth and joy you find in this story?

Merry Christmas; may the love incarnate we celebrate bring you peace.

 

(Thanks to jimbakershow.com for the image.)

 

Hope Leads…

What kinds of things do you hope for this Christmas?  What kind of preparations are you making for that to happen?  And how’s that working this year?

Spiritually we get to ask the same questions: what is your deepest heart’s hope?   What kind of a world do you hope your children or nephews & nieces, grands, great-grands will inherit? And what kind of preparations are you making for that to happen?

As your busyness in this season shows, Hoping and Wishing are not the same things.   Wishing requires nothing but having an idea.  I wish I could lose 10 pounds…..Wish away, but there will be no difference come January.   Wishing is hope without work.

But Hope has Hope stonehill collegemore substance.  Hope requires imagination of what the result will look like or feel like.  Hope requires action for it to be realized; not necessarily a ‘plan’ in place but concrete steps that can be taken so that imagined Hope will take shape in Real Life.   So, I can imagine what a weight loss will look like, what I will be able to wear (again).  And if I keep that imagined hope before me, and I take the necessary actions, I can lose it 1 pound at a time until that hope is realized.

Our Hope leads us in the choices we make.   I hope for a world without poverty, without greed. So I choose to buy fairly traded coffee, tea, (most) chocolate, where the supplier pays the producers either living wages or premium prices for their commodities.  Costs me more, yes, but with my choice I can help reduce the poverty by this much.  Bonus: I drink and eat less, so my propensity for overindulgence is reduced. (It also confronts me with my own way of being greedy: I think I need more than I do.  I also realize that by always wanting “cheap as possible” – good economics notwithstanding – my spending habit is for my own benefit; someone’s got to pay what it costs – why should it be the producer?)  Hope hands me opportunities: I can choose to accept responsibility to take those small actions that I can take to make Hope happen in Real Life. Or not, and keep wishing.

The thing about Hope is requires patience; the reality is that the Hope is never complete.  It is both now, and yet to come.  I will never see it fully realized – bad word – but it will never happen unless I add my efforts.

I find that very empowering.  “We are inherently important and included [in the Big Picture] yet not burdened with manufacturing or sustaining that private importance.”*  In other words ‘it’s not all about me but without me it cannot be’ – how Hope-full is that?!

So what is your heart’s deepest hope?  And what moves are you making while you wait for it to happen?   It matters, because “what we do with our lives depends on what we’re hoping for…”**

*Richard Rohr Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr, 2008 www.SAMPBooks.org

** Jim Strathdee “Waiting for the Kingdom of God” from album In Loving Partnership, 1983. Reproduced under OneLicense A-721869

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.

 

Friends on the road

Some lessons we get to learn over and over….and over and over.  This week I’ve had the 2 fish jackdrawsanything comsame lesson 5 days… in a row: not only are you not alone, you need to be in community.

For me, this isn’t geographical community (although proximity is a consideration), but about places that are safe enough, respectful enough, open enough, to have conversations that we can’t have in other places.  We risk something in opening up about our fears about aging; our concerns about developing children; about financial pressure.  Where do you go to share the issues you have on your heart? With whom do you make your community?

I think it’s even truer when we are sharing the intimate details of our interior life, about our belief systems, sharing our questions about life and purpose and meaning.  It’s been my experience that when I have drifted from my community that level of vulnerability, my sense of isolation, and so my questions, become monster-size, and threaten to overwhelm me.  But, opening up about these topics that touch the core of our being makes us particularly vulnerable.  We (I) don’t want to unzip our souls just anywhere; we want, we need, places where we know our story will be held with respect, and in confidence.   Where do you go with the questions about meaning, purpose, valuing self, our place in the world, what happens when we die – those big spiritual questions?

Where do we go when our questions, or our answers are different?  Where do you go? Community becomes even more important when we want to ask questions about what is on our heart, but we’re not sure the answers we are discovering are the “pat” answers, the ones we think “everyone” shares.

Even though I am well-rooted in the answers that have become true for me, I still feel vulnerable sharing them.  I need to know there is a community that is safe Graphic1and respectful, a soul-full community, which is willing to honour not only the process of asking questions so vital to this spiritual task, to this soul-work, but who are willing to listen when the answers I have discovered aren’t “the usual ones”.  What would be important for you in creating a safe, respectful community?

So this week I have been reminded of the value of this kind of community.  I have been truly blessed by being part of several, and varied, communities of support where asking the questions together is more important than arriving at one answer.  It’s been life-giving water to a dry and parched heart.  It’s bread to a soul who’s hungry.  It’s oil for my lamp.

In these experiences of community – not necessarily of like-minded people but of pilgrims on the same road — I have been reminded I am not alone in asking, and that being part of that flow of seekers is part of what it is to be fully human.  In these experiences of community I have encountered the Holy. Thank you, Friends.

~ ~ ~

Thanks to jackdrawsanything.com for the picture!

 

 

What do we do with our grief?

I was so sad when I heard about the shootings in Las Vegas, the attack on the police officer and pedestrians in Edmonton.  On top of that, I was saddened by the death of two people in my community, and Tom Petty. What a week!  Like many, as I reeled from one story to the next, my grief compounded.

So I do what many others do.  I look for answers: how could this happen?  I remember: stories of the person, or (in the case of the attacks) similar events.  I look for community: who else is sharing this sadness with me?  I look for strength and hope: what do I learn from this person’s life, or from this incident?  Because, ultimately, for my grief to be effective, not paralyzing, I have to integrate it; I have to ask ‘how shall this affect how I live?”

I spoke with family and friends, listened to music, read websites.

But I was disturbed with a trend I saw.  Remember the June ’16 attack in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub? That single shooter killed 49 people; it was called a “terrorist attack”, by many.  The Las Vegas shooting, which killed more people, also carried out by a single person is not being called a “terrorist attack”.  The attack this weekend in Edmonton is it being called a terrorist attack; why?

Don’t get me wrong: I am appalled by the violence. It may be driven by ideology.  But I am more appalled that we live in a world where violence is an easy response – and I fear it’s beginning to be the first response.  Is this because a person doesn’t know how else to dispel their grief and anger?  Anger, often, is a grief turned outward; when our life is not unfolding as we want or think it should we explode. Literally.

I, too, am seduced sometimes by violent-think. I’ve said “would somebody just shoot [this person] and relieve me of my misery?”  Maybe it is, too, because I am deeply saddened, and cannot see a different way to alleviate it?

I wonder if we are quick to identify bad actions as “terrorist attacks” when they are done by people with particular flavour-of-the-year names*, while we dismiss other bad actions as the work of disturbed people?  And I wonder, when we denounce the violence quickly (rightly so), why we aren’t as quick to understand what in the world would push someone to such grief, such anger?

So what do I do with this grief? How will it help my spirit live?  It leads me not to take this day for granted; who knows how it shall end?  It leads me to actions which help cultivate peace; can we avoid yet another generation (here and around the world) which sees no option but to explode rage outward?  It calls me to compassionate listening because don’t we all grieve sometimes and need to have that sadness heard and shared?  “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will receive comfort.”

 

* It feels like someone picks a “bad guy” every year.  In my lifetime the  names have been Arabic, Korean, French, Irish, Russian, Pakistani, Iranian, Chinese and even some anglicized names associated with nations indigenous to Turtle Island.

Thanks,  listchallenges.com for the image!