There is a lot to be said about ritual aka practice (Latin ritus).
It makes perfect what would otherwise be forgettable, momentary, and fleeting. But is not life made up of fleeting moments? Is not life one eternal act of the Divine, here one day gone the next? Isn't life considered something that happens to us?
Three years ago I attended the ordination of one of our deacons. He is now a full-fledged pastor, steeped in spiritual studies and eager to serve in his fullest capacity. However, he has come to this point by choice, by grace, and by ritual.
Our parish community huddled together with other parish families from Spruce Grove, and elsewhere in Edmonton to celebrate his special day, a wedding, one could say. In a sea of red and white vestments, incense and candles, and soaring voices from the choir loft, we were transported into what this ritual really is.
The practice of love is what priesthood is about. Love is how a person for God is identified. It is not ceremony for its sake alone. He was invited tonight by the words of Jesus, "If you love me feed my sheep." Love is a complete picture of a YES to God.
Fr. Robert's yes is tied to my yes because we live in community. We witness to this in the ordinary and simple acts, be it one-time or routinely. When we love we are our true selves.
Yes, life's fleeting moments are there to rehearse us to live in the present. Yes, God's one eternal act of creation and redemption is a reminder for us to be grateful. And yes, life in all its uncertainty tells us that it's okay to not have all the answers. The ritual is love. Love itself is perfection. Be open to it, choose it, and live it.
*original post 2018.06.28
The Lord usually if not often presents us different and better ideas.
This double-edged drama from the Divine stirs my heart and my mind into appreciating the beauty of mystery. Looking back feels bittersweet because I need to deal with present regrets, to ponder the future, and work towards saying goodbye to what was. It was time to “put an end to childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).
I was growing up all over again, or what my spiritual director calls (undergoing) a “transformation”.
My intensive studies at Niagara-on-the-Lake years ago opened up my soul to what it was seeking. Or what was seeking it. I was brought closer to a JOY I have not experienced before. The Lord affirmed this call in a special way, with such life and clarity. In silent contemplation to meditations on nature to fellowship in stories & song came that still small voice telling me to stay the course; I am on the “right path” to be with my God. I found like-minded people in my schoolmates, a soul tribe in the making. I didn't know what being happy to be somewhere really felt like until I stepped into this world of dreams and deepened spirituality; I fit so well here. Joy filled my week, and (even) weeks after that. I could have stayed in Ontario for longer; it felt like a home away from home. The sprawling green hills amidst a calm blue lake transported me into a different world. Autumn in Niagara felt like a fine mix of myrrh and maple syrup, yet I was drawn to something more beautiful than this. The visit to the Butterfly Conservatory was icing on the cake ---which were layers of affirmation after affirmation(!) If getting high on God is what this is then I'm in this for the long haul! Soul work is holy work. And a work of gladness. I will fondly remember how this experience has changed my life forever. “I was blind but now I see”, as that timeless hymn says. The joy of the Lord is strong indeed. Memorable and/or unforgettable are understatements.
My (close) friendships also opened me up to (more) peace and forgiveness...only after a encountering a PAIN of a different kind. All it took was a calm courage to tame my restless spirit. Until this struggle I did not really understand what being brave meant until I faced fear in its subtle form. And love defeated fear when I embraced my frailty, and welcomed the brokenness in others. I got reacquainted with kindness in a more profound way; I didn’t need to understand or know too much to give a damn (about someone). In caring for another my heart (muscles) stretched once more, making room for even more grace. In this rude awakening I discovered more about the sacrifice and the pleasure involved in genuine companionship. Despite the many words on this page no suitable adjective can define compassion but that it is all grace. In the end it was simply about acceptance. However, peace did not simply land on my doorstep; it took mental, emotional, and physical skirmishes here and there. I had to confront the conflict within myself, and the conflict with others. This ‘toll’ was worth all its weight in gold, as the saying goes. Here is born a better version of ME, filled with light & shadow, eager to keep growing.
The hope is that I become kinder and more merciful as time goes by.
Life is a wise teacher, and continues to teach me to this day. I thought I had seen & done everything until I found out I knew nothing at all. So, I am learning... (and that it is okay):
I'm sure I am still being schooled; this may just be a shortlist.
I am still having difficulty in certain areas but slow & steady is (still) a move forward. I am a work-in-progress. It would be a sin to not continue. O what a journey it has been already!
My need of my Lord is greater now more than ever. May He bless me indeed, and teach me His ways. This is the only way to be my true self. I will only stop learning when I am six feet under. But I am still alive, and so I will still need, I will still dream, I will still learn.
“I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:13-14
*original post 2016.12.29
Easier said than done but not impossible. And each year is a year of possibilities, and the surprise that it was. Lessons can be a shock to the system, which woke me up from my daydreaming and wishful thinking. I may have allowed my escapism to take over what was genuine and beautiful about me and my life. Thank God for grace, and second chances.
Lesson One: Love requires confidence. Facing my fears is one of many uncomfortable cliches I deal with. Otherwise I cannot love in whatever form. This confidence has been welling up slowly through different experiences with my direct family and closest friends. Gone are the days when I coil up in self-pity. Courage is love with a healthy self-esteem, or what I’d like to call “hedgehog love”. I struggled through what seemed like a huge hurdle; I didn’t know how much my heart could take. And, how able my legs were to walk away.
Lesson Two: Sadness and tiredness will never go away. Because I am human this is part of the process and makes me ME. Rest is now part of my lifestyle in that I can stop, look, and listen to my heart, mind, and soul. When I am present to myself, I can heal completely, I become whole. I have permitted myself a vulnerability which opens me up to more opportunities to love. I can pause, take a breath, and continue on; detours are probable as long as it helps me stay the course.
Lesson Three: Being liked is overrated. Hard to swallow but a necessary pill. Yes, at times, I am vain, self-centered, and a social butterfly. This feeds my ego but I need to stop overeating ---validation, affection, compliments, attention, acknowledgment. It was call time to get fit ---from the inside out. I am not entitled to anything, nor deserve any love or praise received. If others offer patience and understanding, that is gift enough.
Lesson Four: Lost is a place too. Self-awareness means awareness of both the light and dark areas in me. More questions just meant more seeking, and more seeking meant more questions. Answers come eventually but I’ve found that insight is far more valuable. When I allow the process to form and stretch me I come out wiser. Discernment is good for my soul, as darkness helps me appreciate the light.
Lesson Five: Best is better. Words unsaid are not left... but given time to mature into something more. Space and solitude is life and air to me, and to those whom I’m journeying with. There is contentment in not trying to figure everything out because God gives grace and a spirit of surrender to just BE. How the world handles the search for meaning and purpose is a relentless rat race, pitting good against better, and still not winning. I will let the Holy Spirit show me what the best life is instead.
*original post 2015.12.12
hat child is this... let loving hearts enthrone Him."
We are at our best behaviour in front of a baby and/or child.
This is a power only children possess, and sometimes in spades.
I suppose God made it this way. He came to us this way.
A long while ago I experienced this twice in one day.
One instance involved a cute little girl I met on the elevator, on the way home from the doctor's with my brother. She was with her mom, carrying what seemed to be a branch cut off from a tree. Her mother asked her to push the elevator button "G". I smiled at her and said thanks. She replied, "You're welcome. I have a stick." I said, "Cool, what are you gonna do with it?" She replies, "I also have a red sucker...and a stick, and I pushed the G." I said, "I know, that's good." I smiled some more, and 'said bye to them as the elevator doors opened.
The other instance happened on my way to work, at the (LRT) train crossing stop sign, I was beside a van. There was a black baby girl inside. I thought I saw her see me so I smiled and waved. She waved back and pointed her little fingers at the front of the van and mouthing words. Of course, I couldn't hear her, but I nodded as if I did. The green light came and I smiled again, and said "bye" under my breath as I turned in to the highway. I smelled neither fear nor intimidation in those children. And so I didn't stink of it either. All I remember feeling was goodness welling up inside. I was all smiles.
The power of God is simple. And potent enough. This is a power He wants us to have.
*original post 2014.04.30
I recently fixed my room. (Well, I folded my laundry.)
Yes, I'm an adult. And yet messy seems to be this hard habit to break.
I try (hard), but not hard enough. I only really attempt to break the cycle when I've misplaced a pair of gloves or jewelry. I set it aside like a chore, letting it pile up. And it did, finally until I couldn't find a floor to walk on(!) And here comes the metaphor--
The room of my heart, my soul, my mind is a space I cannot afford to set aside. Every year I need to make room in there. It carries very precious items, which get lost in the growing stack of the unimportant: fear, doubt, pride, and the constant appearance of lint aka indifference.
I (really) should care that there is clutter in my life. If I did that in the first place, and replaced old habits, I wouldn't slip and fall more times than I should. I can make room. I just choose not to.
Today, I simply need to focus... on the important. They require (the) room more than anything else. To focus is to make room. Tidying up each day, each moment, and at each itch to procrastinate. Like a checklist that won't quit I must create the space for me to breathe, to grow. Plus, I would see the way so much better. Making room requires effort. I do not know the hour... but that hour will come. And so I (must) prepare.
"'Sometimes,' said Pooh, 'the smallest things take up the most room in your heart." ~A.A. Milne
My room looks somewhat leaner than it did a while ago. However, it's still missing a few pieces. So, I added a few things which added some more character to the space. It is a process. But the add-ons were simple and effective. Fulfilling, not fancy, was the order of the day. These are what's important, and usually forgotten:
a) Wonder. When was the last time I looked up and stared at the sky and lingered there? When was the last time I was on top of a mountain looking down at a vast valley? When was the last time I touched the bark of massive tree just to hear it breathe? That is the holy, wide-eyed childlike surprise and awe I wish to keep.
b) Desire. Much can be lost in translation with this word. Our hearts ache deeply for something. We throw around words like meaning and purpose, but do we know why we search endlessly? How much is a need worth? I have a longing as deep as a chasm and so for this I must carve out substantial acreage in my heart.
c) Joy. I always love seeing smiles on people's faces. And that contagious laughter! It is the one thing that not only creates an instant high, but a high that lingers. I often chide one of my friends to smile even when no one's looking, because eventually someone will smile back. And the domino effect of happy is priceless!
So make room, dear self. At day's end, it is only these that you will fondly cherish.
*original post 2013.12.25
A closed heart is the worst prison. (St. Pope John Paul II)
Love dictates that I risk it all. Ready or not.
Whether I am ready today is (also) tested. At each and every moment I face, whether it's the risk of losing momentum or when I sacrifice my desires. If and when I fail is equally considered. That paradox is weaved into the fabric of life.
The tear in that quilt is fear. It starts as a small hole, hidden in plain sight. Sometimes it's a wall, built of stacked concreted, from "recalling past mistakes" to "counting costs" --a veritable fortress of emotional bookkeeping. It is a subtle evil, an affront against love. And it is weakest from the inside.
I need to keep peering into my depths, into a sea of groans (and grudges) and find the key that God had already kept safe inside. This will help free me be more open to embracing my cross. It will prepare me though I doubt I will be truly ready.
A holy life requires an openness to love. No indifference, no record keeping, no prisons. Holiness is attained only in suffering which is part of lov-ing. It's messy and marvelous at the same time. And a long journey. This difficult road needs to be tread upon. That's just how love is. Yet God will not let me experience pain in vain. Love has a learning curve like no other. My hope is that I learn and be mastered by it for love is true freedom, true gift and true glory.
Love lives in risk because it is everything and all. Ready or not... here it comes.
*original post 2010.02.08
The passing of one life into the next.
It is an expression of growth and fullness.
For example, weddings. Here vows are exchanged, when forever is promised to one another. I have come to understand that this meaningful exchange of promises is not accidental. The reality is much more reassuring when the heart is open to the forever for which one hopes.
I'm at a stage in my life where hope is growing stronger, where love is growing deeper. It is also a time of great trial for myself: decisions must be made, not in haste but in sure resolve. Amidst the anxieties that may come with the process the possibilities are ever before me.
At weddings one can't help but be in awe of a love so holy. Yet this is also a stage.
I remain open and trusting of the process.
*original post 2010.05.23
Willing as we think we are to traverse a straight line life keeps challenging us with detours and (other) possibilities.
Having travelled for as long as I have does not guarantee me a proximation of the life I had envisioned for myself. I am constantly distracted by another prospect, another way to go, another opportunity, another reality. The list is ever before me.
With that said I am forced to look harder, dive deeper:
What do I want?
To coerce myself to pause is a good distraction. What I'm running after matters more in retrospect. It needs to be something that will fulfill me. Or else why run after it?
For now, I take a deep breath... a moment to define my ache.
The running can resume in due time.
*original post 2009.10.26
Year in and year out we write down what we wish to do for the new year, and plan on making plans. Then, year and year out each and every opportunity simply passes us by unless we take notice and take hold. Lessons are learned, and (some) bridges are burned.
This is the privilege of being alive. And of having choices.
We take stock of our most significant decisions, and reflect further on the probability and/or possibility of new ones.
All I know is that to be resolute in a happy choice is to keep moving forward. This is because I am choosing to be thankful to be growing up. And sometimes choices like lists or plans are thrust upon us, to face head on, ready or not.
Change is funny that way. Or unfunny depending on how your day is going. But change comes whether we are ready to laugh or cry. It is as sure as sunrise and as unpredictable as death. It reminds me that I am still here today.
This, being (alive) and living, is my blessed lot, the fortunate event, a constant spiral --it's good to be here.
May hope and grace guide you while you are here.
*original post 2009.01.01
I have decided to start blogging again.
Partly because I've renewed my site for another two years. Mostly because I want to consolidate my written thoughts on to one site. Why not here?
And so I will share with you my own journey, as well as repost the important lessons gleaned from (my) old "watering holes." Currently I am challenged with an empty canvas as well as a bucket full of options of what is best and helpful for you to read.
I find too that even starting is in itself a process.