Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Living Word

I realized that in the face of doubt the things that lead me back to God, and my sweet Jesus as His son, are not the scriptures. He is the living Word. Living in the mountains of Iceland, the jungles of Costa Rica, the streets of south central L.A, within the bark of the redwoods. His power tosses me and overcomes me amongst the waves of the West coast ocean, His peace blows through me in the Manitoulin wind, His joy is found in the deep Quebec woods, His passion is in the moments of intimacy between my husband and I, His beauty is in a Feist song, and His grace lives in the people I get to serve everyday.  

Jacobs alter was found in the wilderness, not the four walls of a sanctuary. The living Christ is in the miracles we overlook. The miracle of a bird flying through the mountains with perfect precision, the miracle of someone in a wheelchair learning to take one extra shaky step, and the miracle of laughter. Even larger than this, the living Christ is in me. So is undeniable broken humanity. Henri Nouwen says "In the hands of the oppressed we can see our own hands. In the faces of the oppressors we can see our own faces." To Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh this is called "inter-being." We are compelled to compassion because we see ourselves as the broken, the enslaved, the impoverished, and the oppressed and we are compelled to grace because we see ourselves as the warlords, the ugly, the sinful, and the oppressors. This realization of inter-being, this realization of the living Christ not boxed, not compressed but in the world (the wilderness) and in all things fuels us to a place where we desire understanding. We can no longer simply look at something or someone. We must look deeply. Deeply enough to see histories, God and ourselves. There is no them and there is no us. God is amongst.
 This changes everything. This calls you into action. This dissolves fear of the uncomfortable, of the different and of the other. "Jesus' message comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable," the saying goes. We are called to community. Global community where we get rid of us and them. Global community where we see ourselves as those we formerly called different. We don't need to protect, to isolate, to save, and to collect.  We don't need to protect because we see goodness in others, and we see our own responsibility in perpetuating violence in our own anger. We don't need to isolate because fear dissolves and we see we are better together. We don't need to save and collect because we see ourselves in the poor- we see how our pursuit for comfort drives others into discomfort our pursuit of the American Dream oppresses nations of people. We see we don't need violence and war. We need only to kill the ugliness in ourselves, we need only to practice non-violence within ourselves. We need only to focus on the living Christ in ourselves and on the living Christ in others and on the living Christ in the world. Heaven is in the moments we look deeply on this living Christ and choose life instead of death. Peace instead of violence. Community instead of isolation. Adventure instead of safety. Love instead of fear.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


This is a toast to the elusive, the complex, the heavy, the uneasy, and the mysterious. This is a toast to the message of the historical Jesus and the living Christ before and since Jesus.

I am here to speak against the representation of faith as simple, easy or a practice of specific beliefs. For some this may work. Some may meet God here, but there is a movement of others that can't sit still long enough and can't look into history, ourselves, others or Christ long enough to not come away scratching our heads and needing to search more deeply.

This is for those people. The type that search, not for answers, but for more questions.

I grew up in church. I grew up being told to "just believe." I was told that faith was simple. I was told that prayer "works." That doubts and questions were "spiritual attacks." That searching out in the world, out in other religions would surely lead me astray and surely lead to damnation.

I was given the box that was safe and told the outside was the path to death.

Again, this may work for some, but I was too curious not to dangle my toes out of the box. I was too bored, uneasy, and empty not to look elsewhere. I was too effected by poetry, a mountain and people with broken bodies to not call them Holy. I found love where I wasn't supposed to go and I found peace in the dirty, which told me there was more to the story than I had been told.

Where is the easy or simple in a story where a Man's message leads him to death? Where is the comfort and piety when He asks us to do the same? How did a founder who asked more questions than gave answers create religions with so many rules? How did a founder that spoke almost solely in metaphors and pointed to only elusive things create religions that put boundaries on where we are and are not "allowed" to go (physically, mentally and spiritually) to meet Him and the Divine he speaks of?

There is nothing simple about the kingdom of God. There is so much ambiguity about a Kingdom that is here and there and also within you. There is nothing tangible about a God that is neither male nor female, neither fully spirit nor body. There is nothing you can hold about a totally unknowable and untouchable Being that also becomes incarnated and fully human and claims to be personal. There is so much elusive about a world that is harsh and broken, but also a manifestation of the ultimate Divine- beautiful and holy.  

There is so much mystery in the seen, let alone the unseen.

But people aren't okay with letting the mystery float above them, under them and through them. We want answers. Are we okay where we are? Do we have a one way ticket to Heaven? Do we have to give up our way of life, our comfort, our desires or can we mould everything to fit around us?

Where would not knowing lead us? Who would we be in so much unknowing? Would we have to think, stretch, grow or change?

That's too much work. We would rather make it simple. We would rather live comfortably in that box.

We don't want to stop and see the Divine in the flower; we barely stop long enough to notice the Holy in the blessed bread and wine. We don't want the Divine to lead us to the dying, ugly and sick. We don't want the Divine to lead us up a mountain, into the woods and through the wilderness. We don't want the Divine to lead us to fight injustice, oppression and poverty. And We definitely don't want to carry out a kingdom that leads to our death.

If scripture isn't living out these things; using our bodies, minds and souls to get lost in the mystery, than I don't know what it is. The words on the pages can have life, but they are meant to breath out enough life to carry it onward. They are not to just meditate on and fight over. They are but a part of the story. They are only part of The Word that has been spoken, created, and lived for billions of years and is meant to continue being spoken, created and lived.

There is a reason there have been so many wars and so many people have been killed over following these rules or not following these rules over the years.

It is complex. It is vast. It is not simple.

We could have intellectual arguments including all religions and sub religions, every historical and spiritual figure and personal story and we will always prove and disprove it all a hundred times over. We could analyze and talk in circles into eternity. I live to have these conversations,but I also live to drop the ideas and experience unknowing; full trust.

I recently heard a beautiful Aboriginal saying that begins by looking at all around us and claiming "the only thing that can explain all this is this very experience, this very moment."
I realized then they were experiencing the same force I was, just calling It a different name.

We can't know beyond experience.

There is still room for choosing personal truth. As Rob Bell says there is a place we "live from" everyday. No matter your theology, what is the story or truth that affects your day to day life. What determines your everyday choices; deeper than that, what drives you to find joy in life? No matter the argument, there is a personal truth we can cling to- a place we can "live from"- and still be okay with the unknowing of the ultimate Truth.

It is okay to not know. There is beauty in confusion. There is trust in mystery.
I want to see a world of more questions and less answers.
Questions make you vulnerable, questions lead you to others and questions lead you to the Divine.
Believing in answers leads to selfishness, power, isolation and ultimately violence.

It is hard to believe in one truth, simple and complete without driving yourself into isolation or colonialism. There is more to the story, and we are but a part of it. We are simply called to experience it all and keep taking steps forward.

Lead the way explorers, questioners and mystics.
Carry the Word and Kingdom in the places that are "out there."
Search in the dust. Dig in the dirt. Kiss the unclean. Embrace the dirty. Dance with children. Carry the dying. Hold hands with the enemy. Empathize with the sinners. Find the humanity in the Saints. Drink with the broken. Eat with those that are different.

Ultimately, see the Divine in each. Be okay with it all making sense somewhere within and at the same time all being totally unknowable.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Seeing Everything as Spiritual

Everything is Spiritual

All my thoughts on this came together the second I took a few moments to deeply look at a small branch. I highly recommend it.

It is very poetic and beautiful to talk about seeing a flower as spiritual. It is intriguing to hear someone say they found God in the bark of a tree, but is there any weight to these statements?
Is there a way to see everything as spiritual?

I think there is.

In fact, I can think of two ways.

The world was created when the Divine decided to manifest Himself/Herself out of love. The I am was poured out into all the bigness and littleness of everything that is. Space was formed to make room for more Holy and Unique in what we would call tangible. The tree bark is not just tree bark but a Divine creation made from pure and perfect love- and in a way that nothing else can- shows a bit of the Creator. We can learn about God's presence, love and being from the vastness of the ocean and the littleness of an acorn. Each not able to be replaced in the Kingdom.

This changes the way we see everything. We begin to have reverence with every step.  We find purity in every blade of grass. We see grace with each rain drop.

We suddenly want to take perfect care of the earth that has been blessed, the world of lives that hold the essence of the Christ, and the body we have been given.

Sorry, my dear Love, I didn't see you there.. And there... And there.
Sorry we tear you up, step on you, pollute you, spit on you and take control over you.
We are now your servants. Use us to preserve, care for and love you.

If we can pass a dying flower or raccoon without the smallest of empathy and reverence, how will we react to dying humanity?

Jesus talks about a Kingdom that is here. A Kingdom of "on earth as in Heaven." If there was any call He gave us it was the renewal, rehabilitation and redemption of the Earth and all beings that dwell on it.

But first we have to see it.

"Ah, here you are Kingdom of God. Right in front of me. Present in the seed in my palm"

Holy is there. I beg you to look.

The second way to see the spiritual in everything is to realize the reality of "inter-being," inter-being is a word borrowed from Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who understand the connectedness of all that lives and dwells.

Once you realize the "oneness" of everything that exists you cannot help but feel ultimately  connected and a kinship to all around you.

When we look at a flower we should know that it is not just a flower. The flower is made up of minerals, the earth, the sun, and water. Once it dies it becomes compost that builds more life. The life of the flowers allows us to have the oxygen and release the carbon dioxide that we need to keep on living and giving more life.

The flower is not simply a flower. It is our partner in life.

We also learn that we are composed of atoms that are mostly made of blank space. The atom can attach and detach after death. What once made the flower, Ghandi or the rain now makes us.

It is not just a pebble, it is made of the same stuff that makes us. We are connected.

St Francis knew his kinship to all. He knew to address brother bear and sister moon as family. He was not going to pretend they were not as sacred as scripture or prayer.

I can't pretend that crossing paths with a fox feeds me more than a psalm.

Jesus continually finds life in everything and family in everyone. It is all Holy ground we tread on; try taking off your shoes and feel it; be overtaken by it.

Try again to pass by the dying raccoon or begging Lazarus.
You will only see yourself and the Divine and it will become much harder to turn away.

These things don't need you to see them to continue giving you life or being Holy, but you will be made new by the dance of the leaves in the wind or the rays of the sun if you would allow them to penetrate your soul. Open your "third eye" to see the world made new, the kingdom of God, the grace of the Divine and to find more of yourself.

"God has no hands but ours, no bread but the bread we bake, no prayers but the ones we make, whether we know what we're doing or not. When Christians speak of the mystery of the incarnation, this is what they mean: for reasons beyond anyone's understanding, God has decided to be made known in flesh. Matter matters to God. The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility. Pronouncing blessing on them is the least we can do. " -Barbara Brown Taylor

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Dark Cloud

There has to be some sort of supreme, holy sort of unconditional love

I have a yearning; a holy yearning, an organic yearning, a yearning not of this world within me. 

The yearning, the desire is almost solely what tells me I am more than just alive, I am eternal. There is redemption on the other side. 

Peace darling Carli. The Divine says to me. 
"Poor dear, my poor poor baby." as Barbara Brown says.

"There is something perfectly holy and complete out there waiting for you." It still whispers.

Maybe the whole point of this is to believe in that redemption. Or maybe the whole point is prepare for that redemption. Or maybe the whole point is just to know of that redemption.  

Whatever it is- my desire for a deeper love- a holy love- is still met with something. 
My heart burns and then my heart sings a song asking for something to manifest itself to me. 

As I have learned the holiest of things are the things that have no name. That cannot be talked about. That are not nothing but something. Just some thing. Some thing that is out there somewhere. An energy as much as a reality. Something out there and something within me. But it is there. Hope becomes manifested into a tangible thing. Just some thing. 

The things that are within me; The desires, sufferings, yearnings, hopes and loves as much a reality as the chair in front me. The senses that perceive the chair are as elusive as the desire to be uneqivically loved. I chose to believe in the elusive, the unexplained, the felt, the untouchable, the unperceived as well as the perceived. It is all there and not there. It is all in the wilderness and all in my spirit. This moment proves all moments. This breath all breaths. The mountain proves a Divine. Sex proves a maker. Bread proves a saviour. Love proves a spirit. My understanding of these things proves there is something out there connecting to that understanding. To me. 

I am beginning to realize you cannot name this energy. You cannot call out to the sacred with a name. You cannot tame the sacred or make him/her what you want of it. 
Language is too small. Too concrete. Our calling the Divine one thing or the next thing will not make him/her that. Language only changes our perceptions; not who He/She is. Sit in the elusive for a while with no words or language. No theology or ideas. Feel what you cannot think. Believe in the things that are made of "some thing" but not tangible. Escape humanity, not able to fully understand, but able to try. Use humanity, find the holy in a sunset,  in digging in the dirt or in making supper. Expand yourself in an attempt to meet the sacred. Grow in an attempt to understand the Divines bigness, wildness, deepness.  Get over yourself and go within yourself to see more of Yahweh. 

I wonder what the dark cloud above Moses would say to our desire to put the sacred in a box. What it would say to us announcing what the Divine is for and against and of making those things into religions of exclusion and safety? What would that dark cloud say to our violence when we set our sites on the specifics and kill those that disagree?  I know what Jesus would say. He would point to a different kingdom. A kingdom unexplained. An elusive kingdom that is here and there and within. He would talk about the lilies of the field and the poor. He would point to that dark cloud. 
"Aslan is not a tame lion." 
We won't ever be fully enlightened to the sacred's vastness, but we will grow. Growing is essential to humanity. Humanity is essential to meeting the Divine and taking moments away from humanity is essential to meeting the Divine. Continue this and continue to grow.       

Monday, 2 December 2013

A few Stories...

I have a couple stories for you.
Just because I think they are cool and worth telling.

Penn Station 

Before we left for Costa Rica I was working at a Children's Camp for kids with special needs with Christian Horizons, and one of the last days I injured my back during an incident involving a restraint. A few days later I was off in a plane and found myself hiking for hours up and then back down a mountain, that felt like it had 90 degree hills. Lets just say I was in, what felt like at times, excruciating pain, but I made a deal with myself after climbing up to the highest reserve that I wouldn't complain about it and I would push through the pain. On our way back we had a long layover in New York, and decided to go tour New York City. After a long day of walking around the bright city lights I was in so much pain I was fighting back tears.
We were waiting for our train at Penn Station to go back to the hotel to grab our stuff and get to the airport.
Everyone was tired (and kind of grumpy) and when the train got there everyone ran for it.
I had plunked myself down on the ground while we were waiting, and all of sudden found myself stuck. I was trying to get up and run with the group to the train, but it felt like my brain and the nerves in my back were no longer connected. I started losing sight of everyone in our group, and thought that I would actually be left behind.
Just then I see a hand reach down to where I was at. I looked up to see a smiling, friendly face of a young man who was developmentally disabled. He simply said "Do you need help?"
I humbly and happily accepted his hand and he walked with me to the train.
As I was dozing off in the train I thought about the symbolism behind him physically helping me, since I always try to communicate how it is a partnership of teacher/learner and helper/helped with the people I work with. I smiled to myself thinking of how this story brought it to life with something tangible.
It took someone who often gets left behind to notice someone that needed help and he didn't hesitate to be that help.
Just beautiful.  

Frank, the Homeless Poet, and My Friend Sebastian 

Last week Ben and I took out two missionaries our church supports from India, Frank and Bapu. We had so much fun eating out and touring around Ottawa with them. While we were at lunch we were picking Franks brain, being the adventurous quirky 78 year old man he is, we figured we could learn a thing or two from his 50 years in the mission field. He had so many insights into many of life's mysteries, but we found one of the coolest things about him was that he was so confident in who he was and who God was, that he didn't really care too much about the rest of it, or how others chose to spend their time or money. He was a man that treasured solitude and a moment with the Divine and it was as though he came to the place where he actually started knowing and acting grace. As he talked about the differences between this society and India, he didn't condemn the way western society operates (which I tend to do), he knew the Christians in this context were as covered by grace as he was, and it showed he truly believed it. So cool.
So as we sat and listened to all these things a strange thought came to me. The waitress would come every so often and we would stop talking and either give our order or compliment the food and then when she left get back to talking. I thought about how this waitress and so many others, like the barista that later took our drink order, would interact with Frank and probably never know all the wisdom he holds or that he houses, feeds and educates currently 1500 children in India.

Now hold that thought.

That same day as we were walking around downtown Ottawa I noticed a homeless man sitting with a bunch of cardboard standing up beside him, I knelt down beside him and realized it was poems written with marker on these pieces of cardboard. I asked him if he minded if I read them, and he happily and humbly agreed. As I read them, particularly one called "isolation" I was awestruck and touched. They were so beautiful and insightful. The words came to life on those small, cut out, dirty pieces of cardboard.
And then a similar thought came to mind, so many people would pass this man on the street everyday and never stop, never wonder, and never know the compelling talent and poet that he was. They would never get the opportunity to be touched by his words or taught by his depth of understanding the human condition.

Now hold that thought.

A week later I found out that a rather large church in Ottawa was running a second hand sale to raise money for Christian Horizons Global. Now I knew my friend Sebastian, a person I support at L'Arche, would be interested in going to this because he never turns down an opportunity to go to church. I arrived to pick him up that evening and we went off to enjoy the music and rummage through the second hand treats. Sebastian is someone that is always full of joy. He make me belly laugh on a regular basis. As we got to the church we began looking around at the goodies and Sebastian, being the friendly man that he is, began interacting with people. I was a little put off because many of the people he talked to didn't even bother responding to him or his questions. He usually greets people with "What's your name?" followed by "Do you like movies?" People just kept moving along and ignoring his presence. We sat for the worship and bought some of our things and left. Him completely unfazed by any of it, he is who he is, and he is going to be full of joy even if you don't answer his questions, but it still bothered me. I vocalized some of my frustrations with my dear Marika who came along with Sebastian and I. Being reminded again of Frank and the homeless man and how people never stop to notice.  Every person in that place would have been better off knowing the shining light that is Sebastian, but no one did, and that is kind of sad to me.

Now you can stop holding those thoughts.
Take some time to know the people around you, stop for a minute, be open to your brothers and sisters, create an accepting community to surround you, and treat everyone with tenderness.
This is not just for others but also for yourself.
You never know if you will meet Frank, the homeless poet or my friend Sebastian that could make your life a little brighter and more full.