Summertime…

Here it is the last day of June, and tomorrow, the beginning of a long weekend with National celebrations on both sides of the border and the true beginning of summer. As the calendar turns over to July, there is a feeling of lightness and freedom that comes with the long, hazy days of summer, when the memories of the dark months just past fade out under the hot sun.

I find my spirit lifting at the prospect of the summer ahead of me. All the commitments of the year are put on hold – choir practices, group meetings, car pools – and the summer months stretch long and blissfully empty before me. Even the heavy gardening has been done and now I can enjoy the fruits of my labours.

Days at the beach, weekends away, even a much longed-for vacation await us, and there is so much to anticipate. On those days when the sun doesn’t shine, a quiet afternoon on the verandah, hearing the rain beating on the roof, reading the latest library best-seller, a cup of  tea at my elbow.

Summer is a time of refreshing and rejuvenating. Freed from the restrictions of dealing with ice and snow, cold wintry blasts and bone-chilling temperatures, I stretch and take a deep breath and allow myself the luxury of “being”. I try to enjoy every moment – the call of the mourning doves in the woods, the smell of the pine trees under hot sun, the feel of grass under my bare feet, the touch of a breeze on the back of my neck. I want to have this to remember in the dark winter nights that will, inevitably, come again.

I feel God’s presence all around me, rejoicing in this beautiful world of trees and sunshine. I feel touches of grace in the wild poppies beside the highway and the sight of the blue heron wading in the shallows of the lake. I am blessed with summer.

I’ve often thought that summer is a gift to those of us who live in the Northern Climes. It’s a fore-taste of what will be ours when we leave this world and cross over into the life that awaits us, the life that is called Heaven.

It is a  reminder of the promise that even on the darkest, coldest day of our lives, when it seems nothing will ever be bright again, that the love of the Creator is with us and sustains us. That Jesus walks with us, and the the Spirit comforts us.

Summer will always come again.

 

Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. www.myquietspaces.org

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Don’t Fence Me In…

We’re building a new fence between us and the house next door. Most of the properties around us are fenced, so this isn’t a new innovation. However, I’m surprised at my feelings of uneasiness as the post holes are dug and the actual fence-building begins. Somehow, a fence seems unfriendly, even threatening, although that was far from our intention. We just wanted to enclose a space where we could build a small private garden and courtyard.

The old saying goes that “good fences make good neighbours”, and I can see how that would be true. As it is, our neighbour has a window that looks directly into our living room. And she does – frequently. So if I’m being honest, I also have to admit the new fence will also give us the kind of privacy I would like to have. For that reason, it will be a high fence.

We’ve always had large properties, from a 100 acre farm to a big acre corner lot in town. I’m finding it a bit disconcerting to have people so close, although our current location only has one neighbour – my friendly keep-an-eye on us neighbour. I think the fence will do us both good.

Our contractor has a design that features flower boxes along the top and hanging vines and flowers, so I’m hoping that it will give both of us a lovely view. But I know what I’m really trying to do is disguise the fact that it is a big, honking, high fence! I don’t think I’m kidding anyone.

In a world where political candidates are talking about building walls and shutting others out, and indeed, in some countries that’s exactly what has happened, it’s hard to reconcile myself to being the person who puts up a fence. In a world where gated communities are a growing trend, maybe my fence is just the thin edge of the wedge.

Or maybe it’s just a fence.

 

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Dada, Daddy, Dad, Father, Abba…

My father went away for a weekend when I was nine years old, and never came  back. He didn’t die, but simply left my mother and me. I never saw him again.

I didn’t actually meet him until I was nearly three since I was born in England in the middle of the Second World War and my father was a Canadian soldier. It wasn’t until we came to Canada that he had a real part in my life.

Just six short years. Yet, he had a profound influence on my life. He gave me my love of the outdoors and all things wild and wonderful. He taught me to be brave and stand up to the bullies of the world. He nurtured my inquisitive nature. And I felt loved by him.

His leaving was devastation to me. For many years afterwards, I waited for him to return. If nothing else, I hoped he’d at least write to me, to remember my birthday, to send word that he was still there. But I heard nothing, received nothing.

Yet I hoped. I remember making a clay ashtray for him in school for Father’s Day. I was sure he would come and get it and I waited vainly all day in anticipation of his return.

I watched for him in other ways, too. Whenever my mother and I left the apartment in the evening, I strained to see if there was a light on when we returned – again, sure that he was there waiting for us. Once, there was a light and I remember the excitement, the elation, the sense of joy I felt. But, of course, it was just a light that had been left on. I can still feel my profound disappointment. Even today, I never leave the house without making sure I’ve left at least one light on – a guarantee that I won’t be disappointed since I know that I was the one who turned on the light.

I think anyone who has been deserted by a parent carries around the inner belief that nothing is permanent, and all the love in the world does not guarantee that things will not change. There is a sense of having somehow done something wrong, to have failed to live up to an expectation, to have been the cause of the desertion.

Perhaps that is why I love my Creator as a Father who will never desert me, never leave me behind, never forget me, and never expect me to walk the dark valley of life by myself. I love God as a Father who loves me just as I am, who sees me with all my faults and shortcomings and loves me fully and wholly. When I pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” I feel a sense of connectedness with the heavenly Father who calls me “My Child”.

 

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Monday Morning Mood…

I was listening to a program about The Carpenters on PBS last night, and was struck by Karen Carpenter’s song that had the lyric, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down…”

When I was still working, Monday morning meant “back to business”. During the early part of my career when I was working in an office, once I got past the getting up and out part of the morning, I looked forward to catching up on all the weekend adventures and the latest rounds of office gossip. Later in my life, when I spent most of my time on the road as a professional speaker, Monday meant the start of a gruelling week: usually five cities in five days with either a long drive or a short plane trip in between. In those days, Monday meant I was back in “speaker mode”, which entailed a strict regimen that ensured I was able to deliver a high-power presentation each day. By Friday, I was always glad to get back home.

I have to admit that those working Mondays also came with a sense of frustration. The freedom of the weekend was gone and and now, I was constrained by time pressures and the demands of others. In many ways, I hated having to leave behind whatever projects the weekend had brought, whatever good book I was right in the middle of, whatever new, interesting thing had come my way, and put them all away for another five days. I guess you could say that Monday sometimes got me down.

Now I’m retired (although I still do a lot of speaking and, of course, continue to write), Mondays have very little significance in my life. If anything, I do have a fleeting moment of gratitude that I’m not subject to the demands of an alarm clock, business clothes and a commute of some kind. There’s almost a guilty pleasure in rolling over for another fifteen minutes on a Monday morning or pulling on my gardening pants and heading out to walk the dog.

Yet, I still find myself looking at Monday as a ‘starting point’ for many things. All of my diets (and yes, there have been quite a few along the road), started on Monday. So do any other resolutions that I might make…a longer quiet time, an exercise program, a house-cleaning schedule, a daily bible study, a new facial routine. Whatever it might be, it seems that Monday is the logical starting point.

My Monday morning mood is usually one of determination. I have my “to do” list and I’m determined to work my way through it. All those things that have come up over the weekend and have ended up in my “Monday list” are now demanding attention.

Yet, there is a way in which Monday can become a something other than the start of a work week or the start of the “to do” list. A Jesuit priest whose name I’ve long forgotten, once gave a lecture on something called “The Work”.

He said that if we saw everything that we did in our life, from wiping a child’s runny nose to photocopying five hundred pages, as “The Work” that God has given us to do, then every thing we do becomes a holy thing, part of our offering to The Creator. Instead of wishing we were somewhere else, doing something else, he suggested that in the moment of our discontent with where we are or with what we are doing, we offer it up to God and give thanks for The Work that we have. been given. He also suggested that we see our various forms of work as a way of being in God’s presence every moment of our day.

I have to admit, during those frustrating, lonely, stressful days on the road, this idea kept me going. It still does.

 

Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. www.myquietspaces.org

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Open My Eyes that I May See…

I had cataract surgery on my left eye yesterday.

As I always do before embarking on anything new, I headed for the internet and Google. I like to know what to expect.

What I expected was that after the surgery, I would open my eye and “see”.  At least, that’s what Uncle Google told me would happen, providing page after page of glowing testimonies from people who said it was a “miracle”, and “like being reborn”. Sounded good to me, especially after the past year or so of steadily declining vision and light.

I was tired of squinting, of using a magnifying glass on almost any set of instructions, of searching for a bright light so that I could read my book. I was fed up with having to ask others to do small tasks for me because I couldn’t see well enough to do them for myself – little things like threading a needle.

So my expectations were high. I left the hospital in anticipation of the moment when I would “see”. I was disappointed that it didn’t happen right away, which seemed to be the norm from Uncle Google’s point of view. Everything was blurry. There were sparkling, moving halos around every light or bright object. My eye felt like someone had left a dry contact lens in it. A small headache started up at the back of my head.

As the day went on, it didn’t get any better. In fact, the reaction to light got worse and I found it was only tolerable with my sunglasses on.

Speaking of glasses – none of my current eye glasses worked anymore. I still couldn’t see.

Today, twenty -four hours later, the halos have gone, the headache has abated and my eye no longer feels scratchy and irritated. I still need the sunglasses. I still can’t see because my other eye hasn’t been done yet and any eyeglasses  I have don’t do the job. However, I have to wear them if I want to read or work on the computer.

Then I had  a breakthrough moment. I took off my glasses, covered my un-done eye, and looked out the window.

Wow!! Every detail of the tree trunks stood out in high relief. The green leaves were so green! And the depth of the shadows seemed to go on forever. As promised, I would have distance vision again.

I thought of that old hymn, “Open my eyes that I may see, glimpses of truth thou hast for me…”

I hummed the chorus as I looked and looked out the window, enjoying my new eye.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit Divine!

And I thought of that moment when I gave my life to Jesus, and how it felt looking at the world through a new lens of faith.

 

Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. www.myquietspaces.org

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Sacred Spaces in Ordinary Places

I realized this morning as the dog and I were enjoying our morning walk, that there are sacred spaces all around us, even in the most ordinary places. Like many, I’ve always thought of sacred spaces as being somewhere like a church or a chapel or even a graveyard – a place that is set apart for the contemplation and worship of God. I’d even consider a place like Stonehenge in England or some of the ancient temples in Rome to be sacred by those who frequented them. The same goes for mosques and Buddhist temples.

But, the whole idea of sacredness is so much bigger than that. I’m beginning to realize that anywhere is sacred the moment you lift your spirit to God. That brief second in which you acknowledge the Creator creates a sacred space amidst all that might be going on around you.

This is a very liberating thought! It means, quite literally, that you don’t have to wait for the “right place” to pray, to contemplate, to silently listen for the Still Small Voice. Instead, where you are right now, this moment, under whatever circumstances you may be in, is the “right place”. Imagine! Sacred spaces on buses, on busy sidewalks, in a waiting room, at the kitchen sink. Sacred spaces in the midst of arguments, sorrow, despair, anger and depression. Sacred spaces springing from joy, from jubilation, from peace, from love. Sacred spaces on battlefields, in hospital rooms, during storms and loss.

The whole world is a sacred space. It was made by God – who made every part of the creation divine, for God saw it and declared that it was good.

So I walk my little dog – making sacred spaces as I go. Maybe that’s part of our purpose in life.

It’s a thought, isn’t it?

 

Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. www.myquietspaces.org

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