29 Apr 2017

Holey socks

     I easily admit that I am not the most 'aware' person. At times, I can overlook the blatantly obvious.

     A few weeks ago, for instance...  I was attending a session in a shoe-free zone, and when I looked down at my crossed feet, noticed a hole in my sock. A reasonable size, it was unlikely to have just popped up during the morning. How had I missed that when I put my socks on?!

     I changed the crossing of my legs, not wanting to show the room my hole-y sock. Imagine my surprise, doubled, when I looked and saw that the other sock also had a hole in its heel.

     This led me to reflect on what else I could be missing in my life. What else was happening, that would have been obvious and apparent, had I been open and aware to it?

     The holes in my socks had not just happened suddenly; they must have been wearing down over time. I do not dress in the dark, so I could have seen the holes at any time. Why did it take a time when there was nothing else happening to notice that something so basic was left wanting attention?

     So too, our spiritual journey is one that wants regular reflection and care. Is our prayer life in good status? Is it wearing in places? Are we looking for places of weakness in order to be more gentle with ourselves in those places? Are we looking to strengthen and maintain other areas? Are our practices just routine enough that we assure ourselves we have done them? Are we intentionally going sufficiently deep within ourselves to seek out this awareness? Are we spending enough time to be carefully reflective, amidst the busyness of life?

     Whatever our journey, we know we can always do better. Our practices can always use attention, and maybe change. Spiritual direction, the Ignation Examen, Centering Prayer, Labyrinth walking - whatever the format (or combinations thereof), we are challenged to greater awareness of self and of God; to our own benefit and to the benefit of the broader community.

     Wherever we are on our journey, we know we are walking with God. My prayer is that my journey will be in better repair than my socks!

15 Apr 2017

The Artistry of Easter

     I am NOT an artist. At a recent workshop on art as prayer, however, I did my best to tap into any semblance of creative ability.
     In one activity, we reflected on a passage of scripture, identifying a word or phrase that spoke to us, and then drew it with pastels. I won’t say WHAT I was trying to create/represent, or what the passage was, but I ended up with this: 

     Bypassing the fine-art-critic stage, we then changed how we viewed our own work, by placing a bi-fold mirror on it. We adapted the location and bend of the mirror until we saw something we liked. So, suddenly, my work looked like this:

     How much of a difference by a changed perspective!
     Taking things one step further, and were invited to create a mandala (circle-based drawing) from what we had seen in the mirrors, this time using pencil crayons. My eye was attracted to one area of the reflections, and so my new pencil crayon artwork ended up looking like this:

     Again, a new perspective was brought into being through an intentional new process and careful effort, and even with a new medium.
     This Easter weekend, we are invited to look at the artistry of our own lives.
     Our lives are a manifestation of what we see and do and believe – it may not be exactly what we want or how we want it, but we are the creators of our own lives. We create and blend our work and worship in such a way that we understand the meaning behind, and hope that maybe that meaning will be understood by others. Sometimes it works how we want it to, other times (like my pastel drawing) it may not be what we envisioned.
     And then, an external factor (like a mirror) invites us to recognise that beauty exists in our work: whether we were aware of it or not, whether we were expecting it or not. We can be shocked by seeing how a change in viewpoint can change the focus of our lives, and how we then present and are received by others viewing us. For us as Christians, this happens through the Resurrection. What we are celebrating today (and everyday, as Easter people) is our willingness to be changed by the power of the risen Christ.
     Finally, we are then encouraged to take things one step further, and to create something anew as a result of having been changed by the experience (the mandala). We get to look for new areas of focus, new expressions of light, new ways to be the church that Christ calls us to be. We can recognise the original aspect, because we know where we started from; and we can celebrate that there has been opportunity for spiritual growth and development by the process itself. 

     May our lives ever celebrate the truth and joy of Easter as a moment of artistry! Alleluia!

8 Apr 2017

Remission of Sins

Cristo Redentor at sunset, Rio de Janeiro
            In our society, when we hear the word "remission" we tend to think that someone has had a positive reprieve or turnaround in their medical condition.
            For us fans of the BCP, it takes us through the offices and the Eucharist, where we understand it to mean the cancellation of a debt or an exculpation of sins.
            More modern translations use 'forgiveness' but the subtlety is, in my opinion, important. The creed in Greek uses the word aphesis (ἄφεσιν) which means that the sins are treated as though they have never been committed. The great gift we acknowledge, that through the One baptism our sins will be remitted, should not be taken lightly.
            For this forgiveness is not merely a 'blank slate' to start sinning again, or an articulation about ourselves individually. It is an assurance that the sin which has stained us, the sins we have committed by thought and word and action, the sins that we have unknowingly committed, the sins that are committed by the very nature of our sinful human condition: these will be removed from us.
            We are encouraged, of course, through the path of confession and self-examination, to do our best to avoid sin. And what reassurance, therefore, to know that God's remission transcends any human laws or earthly limitations. It is absolute; it is
            It is, in fact, a positive reprieve or turnaround in our spiritual condition. It is a remission even more significant than what a cancer patient may hear from their oncologist. It is a turn towards health and well-being.
            It acknowledges, as with the medical counterpart, that dis-ease and un-health may return; and return at any time. But it celebrates that full remission; that for one beautiful moment we recognise and delight in the joy and peace and comfort of that turnaround.
            And in that recognition, we might go one step further and re-examine the remission itself: to re-mission ourselves. To align our lives in such a way that we intentionally aim to avoid future engagement with known sins; that we make effort to become more aware of our unknown sins and their impacts.
            One hopes that our Christian journey will be full of gratitude and humble appreciation, that the remission of our sins is a re-mission of our lives, with a focus on loving and serving our God.

1 Apr 2017

A Bold Post

            When I was in New York, there were times when I was feeling rather bold.    Admittedly, I'm not a shy person: however during my time away I started conversations I might not have otherwise started, including learning more about global situations, sharing Canadian and Anglican realities, and offering possibilities for collaborative future efforts.
            Part of it may have been that as I was away from home, I was somewhat anonymous. Part of it may have been that I was feeling empowered by the influence of my sisters at an amazing experience. Part of it may have been that in an intense situation, with limited time, I was living a now-or-never reality.
            Whatever it was, it was good. And it came home with me.
            This boldness was just that: bold. I was not rude or mean, I was not impolite, I was not inappropriate or brazen.
            It was also not about my own personal gain: rather, my lack of subtlety had more to do with matters of justice and peace-building, of dignity and basic rights. In faith terms, it had to do with my best efforts to make the Gospel a living reality in my work.
            If I hadn't spoken up, some of the conversations that were quite fruitful may not have otherwise happened. Meetings with political movers-and-shakers, and networking with like-minded people may not have happened. I was determined to get the very most out of every moment of the remarkable opportunity I was afforded.
            This boldness came in a number of areas: a commitment to gender equality, a determination to denounce violence, support for interfaith dialogue, a desire to learn more about global issues of social injustice (such as human trafficking, indigenous rights, humanitarian relief needs, &c.) It is a boldness that challenges me to continue, from my current position of abundance, to speak truth to power, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable.
            My boldness came from an understanding that the work I was doing - and continue to do - gives glory to God, builds the Kingdom, and shares the faith. This boldness grows out of my faith, and my desire to express that faith as fully and completely as possible. I feel we should all exercise our ministries and witness with boldness, demonstrating the Goodness of God active in our lives. I hope we all live in such a way that, not unlike Paul on Malta, the world will see through our actions that we are "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance." (Acts 28.31)

A bold statement from the Anglican Communion Delegates can be found at http://iawn.anglicancommunion.org/media/289039/CSW61-Anglican-delegation-statement-to-ACC.pdf