Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Am In the Thistle and the Thistle Is In Me.

Thistles! In my freshly dug and planted perennial beds! Beds that are carefully mulched to keep out weeds. A weed so prickly that I can’t just remove it with my bare hands, but have to get a trowel and my gardening gloves to try and get rid of it. I chose this picture this week because of the tenacity of the weeds. It thrives despite my efforts to eradicate it. 

I have watched my father display that same tenacity following an unexpected cancer diagnosis at the beginning of the summer. He was admitted to the hospital last week; his body has been poisoned by six weeks of daily, sometimes twice a day, radiation treatments for tongue cancer. The last few weeks have been especially hard on him and of course, on my mother. He stopped driving a few weeks ago and so my siblings and I have been taking turns driving him and our mother to his treatments. If you have ever been in a cancer treatment centre, you will know the tenacity of both the patients and the staff. People, like my father, resolutely walking in each day, knowing that the treatment that will hopefully help, will at first hurt. Treatment that must destroy part of the body in order to save the whole of the body. Treatment that may render them ill, weak, and dependent and yet still, they walk in. Sometimes it seems as if the cancer’s tenacity to devour the body will overcome the body’s tenacity to live and thrive. That tenacity is mirrored in the technicians I met. I can only imagine what it is like to administer treatment like that every day, to many different people of all ages.

How does this image of a thistle reflect God and a sense of the sacred? The thistle reminds me of how tenacious God is in wanting a relationship with me. That relationship may very well feel prickly at times.  In fact, there are times when I actively avoid reaching for God, as if God had prickles, or as if I need protective gear. And there are many times that I am prickly, using whatever means necessary to keep God at bay.

How is this image inviting me into a deeper relationship with the sacred in my life? Perhaps there are reasons, good reasons to be prickly and keep up barriers. Perhaps the insistence of keeping something or someone at bay is a lifesaver.But then the question becomes, do I need to maintain barriers with God? Is there any part of my life that God cannot reach? Where is my life not touched by the sacred?  

The wide reach of the tenacious thistle also reminds me of our persistent and determined God, who continues to reach for each one of us, despite our protective casings.

And that's my window on God's world. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Praying While Driving

Did you know that you can’t or don’t drive aggressively if you are praying for the person in the vehicle ahead of you? Most people know that I have a rather heavy foot and like to get from point A to point B quickly and efficiently. But my morning commute is neither quick nor efficient.

A year ago, I moved to Dartmouth, and since I still work in Halifax, this involves a daily commute over one of the bridges. The distance as the crow flies is only 11 kilometers, unfortunately, I am not a crow. After 4 years of living only 2 kilometres away from my church and an additional four years before that of working from home, the daily commute aggravated me each day. 

Given that we just built a house in Dartmouth, the likelihood that I will continue to commute is high. Resenting the drive wasn't helping matters any; in fact, was possibly making it worse. So, I did what I always do eventually, I prayed about it. This was the answer I received, “Pray for the people along your route, bless then and share my love with them.” Even as a minister, I find it challenging to find time for prayer. Phone calls, visits, meetings, sermon preparation, a thousand other things on my list often take priority; which sooner or later impacts my connection with God and the sacred.

At first glance, praying while driving may seem like another form of multi-tasking, just one more way to get a task done while doing something else. But that depends on your approach. For me it’s being mindful and noticing my surroundings and I simply pray for the person or people in the car directly in front of me. I hold them in the light of God's love and visualize positive energy surrounding them. I pray that whatever that person may need will come to them. It may be just for a few seconds, or it may be for my entire commute. One morning, I followed a blue car onto the highway and it stayed directly in front of me until the exit off the bridge, where I went one way and it went another. I felt a curious loss of intimacy as our path diverged.

The picture above is similar to what I see on my morning commute, lines of red taillights, keeping me from getting to my appointed tasks! I took this one on my day off; my husband was driving. What do you see? It’s certainly not nearly as lovely as the other pictures I have posted, you may have to look closer or with different eyes to see the sacred beauty displayed. What do I see? I see God's people, of various kinds, going to work or school or hospital. I see God's people, in the midst of concentric and overlapping circles of connection and responsibility. My prayers slow me down, my prayers let me arrive at my destination calm and ready to be present to whatever my day brings, my prayers enable me to tap into the divine spirit that lies within all of us. Do they make a difference to anyone along my route? Who knows? They make a difference to me and the people I meet that day.

And so this week, my window on God's world, is the windshield.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Long and Winding Road....

What lies beyond the bend? What mystery does the curve hold?

I love to walk in circles… not the circles that have no purpose and indicate frenzy, but the ones that take me on a circular path, ones that bring me home by another way. Two years ago I started walking on a regular basis to prepare for the 10k event in the Bluenose Marathon, an annual event which has a charity challenge component. As I gained in strength and endurance, I expanded my walking zone, it became an ever widening circle in the neighbourhood that I both lived and ministered.

A year ago, I moved out of that neighbourhood and into my present one. There is no circular route to walk, we live at the top of the hill on a dead end street. The only suitable walking area is the trail up behind our home, but it’s not a circle, it’s straight, I have to return the same way I came.

I resisted walking the trail for a long time, condemning it without experiencing it, using it as an excuse to not walk. And yet, over the summer, something changed in me. No, I still don’t like having to retrace my steps, I would still prefer it if there was some way to make a circular route, but something in me shifted. Without the need to be cautious of traffic, I was able to enter into an almost meditative rhythm, something I couldn't on city streets. And for the first time since I was a young teenager, I walk a pathway that is more or less wild, one that is unscripted and untended by human hands. 

There is an abundance of foliage and greenery on either side of me and I have become fascinated at how much it changes from week to week as one plant comes into season and then another. Each one beautiful in its own way and setting and often a glimpse of something up ahead will lead me onward. Like the morning I thought I saw a large dog just around the bend… and it was these!

The reality is, this straight path isn’t straight, no path is, even the straightest ones curve around the surface of the earth. We never know what lies just ahead when we look through the window in God's world.