Friday, October 25, 2013


Two women consistently lift my spirits each week. Belinda Ferguson is the founder of Belindance and I have been taking belly dance lessons from her for over a decade. I often claim that belly dance is the most fun you can have with your clothes on! It it is a strenuous workout, employing both large and small muscle groups, not to mention learning how to isolate movements and learning to counteract the body's tendency to be lazy and use muscles that will do the job most efficiently, although perhaps not quite as gracefully or elegantly. 

Vanessa Lindsay-Botten is the founder and director of You Gotta Sing! Chorus. I have been singing with them for about six weeks and absolutely love it. I am continually filled with awe and gratitude to be part of this amazing group of singers.  

What do these two amazing women have in common. They both emphasize the basics, and of course, breathing is one of the most basic of human actions. For the most part, we aren't conscious of our breathing, it's involuntary and most of us don't use nearly all of our lung capacity. 

The other thing they have in common is enthusiasm for their art and for encouraging people to be the best singer, the best dancer, the best person they can possibly be. Belinda never allows a dancer to say 'I can't,' but rather, the expression becomes, "I have not yet learned how." I have taken those words to heart and apply them in many other areas of my life. Vanessa smiles with genuine pleasure at our efforts and I have heard her say on more than one occasion that any other note than the one printed on the page is harmony! 

One of the earliest understandings of the word enthusiasm is 'filled with God's spirit.' I experience the sacred and holy when I am with either of these women. Whether I am finding the choreography challenging or finding the right notes is a lost cause that day, both of these women find a way to affirm me and others in a way that leaves me feeling affirmed, valued and better equipped to spread love and life to our hurting world. Both of these women seem to appreciate the idea that their gifts and skills are gifts of God. Through performances and participation in concerts to raise funds for various causes, these women share their gifts with others for the benefit of our world. These women make me feel as if I have tapped into the very breath of the universe, the breath of God. 

And that's my window on God's world. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

God and Dog

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I am a cat person. So it may come as a surprise to them that I am writing about a recent encounter with a dog that was both profound and sacred. 

Last week, I went into the local flower shop, Props Floral Design in the Hydrostone Market, to pick up some wheat that I had ordered for our communion table. When I arrived, Ms. McFadden, the sales associate was on the phone and Chester the Golden Doodle was sitting in front of the counter. Ms. McFadden looked up as if to ask if I was okay with the dog, I smiled and nodded. I spoke to the dog which immediately came over and needed to be petted and scratched etc. 

I had had a rough 24 hours, my father had had a crisis in the hospital, I had back to back meetings in my church, some of which involved difficult conversations, I was tired, and facing a day of funeral planning, attending to the last details of a wedding and dealing with the ordinary, myriad demands of ministry. In short, I HAD NO TIME TO WASTE PETTING A DOG! 

But something happened as I interacted with Chester, my breathing slowed, I could feel the tension leaving my body, and I was simply present. I don’t know if my blood pressure or my heart rate decreased, but I certainly felt much calmer. It’s no surprise that there are therapy dogs and when I spoke with his owner, I found out that Chester was one!

As she continued on the phone, Chester continued to want to be petted and fussed over. Ms. McFadden occasionally glanced up from her phone to offer a silent apology for taking so long, and I conveyed by understanding in the same way.  

My encounter with Chester stayed with me all day and I went back later on, spoke to his owner about it and asked if I could take a couple of pictures and write about it in my blog. She graciously obliged and the picture above is my favourite one.

Look at that open, trusting face, a face that says, “It is enough right now just to be with me, there is nothing more important than that.” Chester was God for me that morning. Chester reminded me once again that practicing the art of being present is the art of experiencing God. I left behind the previous 24 hours and ceased to fret about the upcoming days. I was reminded that all we have is each moment and to experience each moment in its fullness is making room to encounter God.  

There is a luminescence to his face, perhaps only the camera flash, but it’s a beacon of love and welcome. Chester’s persistence in being petted reminded me of God's persistence in being in relationship with us and that’s God's invitation is always just a moment, a breath away.  

And that’s my window on God's world