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Embracing Forgiveness

Sister Barbara Hance said, “Show me a day when the world wasn’t new.” I have this quote on a card that sits on my desk. (see the picture above)

 

When I look at this picture I lose myself in the wonder I feel in the little boy’s eyes as he watches the baby bird outside his window. Both creatures have beating hearts, working brains and both are present to a shared moment, expanding their awareness as they wonder about the other.

The past ten weeks I have been engulfed in self care, something ministers are unfortunately very laxed in practicing. Emotional wounds can be life altering and life defying, but if we take the necessary time away to befriend our wounds, the healing process will lead us into wonder and wholeness beyond our natural understanding.

Sitting in silence can be deafening when the heart is broken. As I sat on the sands of Cordova Bay in Victoria, the sounds of the past were silencing the sounds of the waves and I became angry at the voices I was remembering. This process went on for a few days. Silence. Voices. Listening. Anger. Pain. Repeat. Then one day the wind was asleep and the waters were still. I could barely hear the sound of the tide. All was still outside of me and I sat down and decided to join the stillness. As I meditated I thought, “Traci, you are the wind inside of you, not the voices of betrayal, assumption and judgement. You have the freedom to choose what kind of wind, what kind of energy, flows through you. You have the power to control your rising from your ashes.”

I begin to breathe in deeply, expanding my lungs and visualizing creating an expanse inside of me for stillness.

In this expanse, I landed on two verses I remembered from Paul’s letters to the churches in Ephesus and Colossae:

Ephesians2:6-7: “and did raise us up together, and did seat us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that He might show, in the ages that are coming, the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:1: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

 

The words that caught my attention were, “did raise” and “since then”. I spoke out loud and said, “Traci, enter into what is already yours. Rise. Come back to life.” And then I began to wonder what is the source that empowers our rising? I know the Source is God but what about God? Is it Her love that raises us? Is it His forgiveness that raises us? Or is it God’s grace, God’s wholeness and energy that raises us into new life? And this new life is waiting to be lived now, this new life is not talking about the after life that will be a new way of being. I began to get excited about this reality and then a riptide inside my heart hit me out of nowhere and I spoke out loud again, “But I am hurting. It hurts to breathe. This elephant is heavy.”

And my soul quaked for a while.

It quaked until I was ready to hear, “I’ve got this Traci. I’ve got you. Feel me. Let go and feel me. And when you are sure about me, do what I do for you every day. Be grace and forgive so you have nothing left but love. Let the tide rip you away from what is hurting you. Drown in me and I promise when you do, you will rise to a new life, stronger and gentler than before. Choose what kind of wind you want to blow you away. Choose where you want the wind to carry you and then get up and be there because the reality is you are already there. Show the elephant the door and shut it behind her and throw away the key.”

I took another deep breath.

Then I stood up, and wrote a name on a rock and embraced forgiveness as I let go of the rock and watched it fly away and land in the ocean and in the sea of God’s love.

I share this very personal experience because I love you, my family, my friends, my congregation and those I have yet to meet. I also share this because I will be offering a sermon series on “Embracing Forgiveness” because it’s time for many of us to acknowledge the elephant and say goodbye so we may be present to the beautiful humanity in all of us where the Divine has taken up residence. Since we have already been raised and put together as a body of Christ, it’s time to get ready for the winds of Pentecost where God desires to set us on fire with forgiveness, humility, joy, love and most of all, grace. I invite you to enter into wondering with me. If you are willing, I promise, I’ve got this and God’s got all of us.  Let’s be and do something life altering for the good! Let’s defy gravity and embrace forgiveness together. May it be so, amen.

Inner Faith Dialogue

Many have said, (who the many are I don’t know), that standing physically naked in front of another person is the most vulnerable experience one can have. I disagree. Although I do agree this can potentially be a frightening experience for sure, I also believe that engaging in conversation with intention to get to know one’s self and another requires courage, honesty and a deep connection. For me, this is the most vulnerable thing I can do because this is true exposure.

So, where do we get sunblock for being under this kind of light? We receive protection and support by plugging into the Light of the world and richly applying God’s ravenous and unconditional love into our hearts and minds.

In order to engage in evolutionary conversation, we must be willing to engage the hard questions, allowing them to expose what needs attention for our healing into wholeness so we may live in authentic relationship with ourselves, our Creator and others.

To be alive means to exist among constant change inside of us and outside in the world. Being in authentic relationship is being in conversation where sharing our beliefs, thoughts, feelings and experiences creates a flow that births a new awareness, causing us to deeper exploration, shifting our consciousness and spiritual connections into different living forms. Change is constant.

Okay, my current reading of Kant, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard have taken over here so let me pose some further questions:

How can we change the world through conversation?

Do we truly believe that examining the BIG Questions together and sharing core ideas for the highest good of all is possible without our ego’s getting involved?

If we dare to enter into authentic dialogue with another or with a group around cultural and religious differences, bigger questions will make their way into the conversation. Questions like:

Am I being honest with who I really am?

What is my mind and body, (thoughts and emotional and physical feelings), informing me about the condition of my spirit? Why am I thinking and feeling this?

Am I living a congruent life? (Am I living on the outside who I am on the inside?)

What areas in my life need improvement and what skills need sharpening?

Folks, until we take our last breath, we have the opportunity to expand our understanding of ourselves, God and others so we may grow in how we give and receive love, compassion and encouragement. There is never any shame in discovering how to better love, offer our gifts and work with others. Every public or hidden figure – leader in history that initiated change and love in the world remained a hungry student willing to face all shadow and light that lived within.

Engaging in honest conversation with our inner self is a sacred act of vulnerability and exposure. So why would we dare to know, prune and nourish ourselves?

One thing I know for sure is we will not be effective in bringing healing change to the world through conversations that we have not had and resolved within ourselves. As we continue our interfaith dialogue with others, I hope we will remember to be engaged in inner faith dialogue with ourselves so we may be able to be the change we want to see. May it be so. Amen.

 

 

Grounded

Since the inauguration of President of President Trump the energy in social media has been heavy to say the least. I appreciate and understand the call for Clergy to step into their prophetic voices to encourage and empower the church to rise up and speak to the blatant lies and injustice to humanity that are spewing out of the White House. However, I find myself bombarded by the constant stream of tweets, Facebook messages and Facebook posts where integral voices are courageously calling fellow clergy to action. The winds of change are blowing as the shadows that seethed quietly for decades beneath starched collars and backward baseball caps are being exposed in misogynist rhetoric and alternative facts. I have been sitting in the following question that many respected colleagues of diverse faith traditions have posed on social media: “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

“What does it mean to follow the ways of Christ?”

And, “What does living into the ways of Christ look like in our present culture?”  Compassion, love, peace, justice, mercy, kindness…yes. But sometimes love says “no” because of love and sometimes justice says “no” and “enough” and sometimes peace marches, lies down, or persistently proclaims what is stopping peace. Sometimes compassion makes the hard call and reveals the shadowy monster living within so one may be healed. Sometimes kindness has to shake the dust off and change her itinerary in order to be effective. And sometimes mercy needs to let another learn a lesson the hard way so they may truly learn and be transformed.

I wonder what Jesus felt like after he was tempted in the desert and then filled with the Holy Spirit who called him to return to a place that had rejected him and preach in the synagogue? When he stood up to read, did he know what scroll the Spirit wanted him to proclaim? As he trusted God and unrolled the scroll to see the words of the Prophet Isaiah did he think, “Oh please, I think something lighter for my first sermon might be better received?”

No. He was grounded in the winds of the Holy Spirit within Him. Grounded in the Breath of God. Hum…

 

Jesus opened the scroll and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Was he afraid to speak this to the Temple Leaders or did he take a deep breath before he spoke out loud, realizing that God was confirming – ordaining Him for ministry?

Whatever Jesus felt, it is obvious that he was aware of who God is and who he was in God as he read the entire passage with confidence that empowered him to sit down when he was done. He did not look around or wait for reactions from the listeners, he simply sat down with all eyes fixed on him.

Jesus read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And after he sat down and looked at the eyes fixed upon him, and I am sure a few mouths were wide open, he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus understood what God had called him to do and be in his ministry and he was completely abandoned – surrendered to God’s on his life no matter what the church or others thought.

I believe I know what it means to be a Christian and I can see clearly why I am the minister of Living Spirit United Church. We are not alone. Release and recovery is on its way. I am grounded and ready.How about you?

REVOLUTION

“Revolution” The Beatles
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, al…

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don’t you know know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright

Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright

We are always called to be active participants in a spiritual revolution from the inside-out…

REVOLUTION

My blog is simply:  Are we willing to say Alright? Are we willing to love God with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits’ and our neighbour as ourselves? Are we willing to do THE something new that speaks to social justice for all those oppressed in every nation under heaven? Jesus did not say, “The Kingdom of God” but “The Kingdom of Heaven” when he taught about what abides within and what we are called to create on our earth. Every human being is living on the same planet under heaven. This is our Maker’s World and we are called to bring All Things Bright and Beautiful to the nasty and ugly truths that the cancerous sounds of silence create among us. May we dare greatly to abandon anything and everything that seeks to stop us from answering the call of the Holy to love one another, even unto death on a cross. May we dare to follow the ways of Christ and use our privilege as revolutionaries for the sake of love, for God loves us ALL at ALL times. May it be so. Alright.

 

Facing Our Giants

We will all face giants in our lives at one time or another. These giants are problems we face that look and feel surmountable and sometimes it seems like the harder we try to rid our lives of a giant, the stronger the giant becomes. Where do we turn when our strength and resources are running low and a giant is breathing down our necks?

 

A giant might be a health problem, a financial problem, a hostile workplace, the loss of a job, a prodigal child, an unfaithful spouse, a threat, an addiction, a problem with gossip, a lingering grief, or even a dark night of the soul where our faith and energy have been tested over a sustained period of time and we cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Giants come in many shapes and forms and sometimes the last person on earth we believe would be a wounding giant knocks us off our centres. We will all face a giant or two or three in our lifetime and since this is a reality, we need to make sure we are constantly connected and focused on a greater reality and that is the unfailing love and unchanging character of God.

 

David’s giant may have been bigger than him and he may have been the World Champion in Fighting Games, but David’s focus wasn’t on Goliath, his focus was on Who God is. How could David dare to not only entertain facing Goliath, but ask Saul to let him face the giant that all of Israel’s Army feared? How? David knew he could face the giant Philistine because he spent every day out in fields with sheep and his Shepherd God, and he knew God by heart. David trusted that God would not allow His/Her name to be defiled and David remembered all the times God had helped him protect his flock of sheep.

 

As a divine and royal priesthood, we are all called to stand up and speak the truth to any and all giants who threaten the health and life of the church and our relationships. We are all called to be wise shepherds with and type of flock we oversee or belong to and we are to be wise shepherds in all of our relationships. It is never easy standing up to an empire or threat, but it is always possible because God is within us and with us. There will be some political leaders, spiritual leaders, private and public sector leaders who for whatever reason will threaten to censor healing conversations, but take heart and take up the spiritual stones of courage, truth, things worthy of praise, right things, noble things, pure things, lovely and excellent praise worthy things and use these spiritual stones as ear plugs to all or any person or leader who stands in the way of honesty and healing.

 

The more President Trump censors and intimates the free press and the oppressed, the louder their voices become and the stronger their courage. David may have been a wee little lad but he knew the size of the power of his God. So when we are facing a giant, we will not allow let his or her threats  to silence us into doing nothing as this is lower behaviour than that of our  giant who is doing something. We need to put one foot in front of the other and open our mouths and let our hearts speak to the problem. And don’t forget we need to take God with us as this is the only armour we are going to need. Always and ultimately, the court we are accountable to and serve is the Kingdom of God which is governed by the Spirit of God.

Hidden Figures

Today my family celebrated the 31st birthday of Amy, my daughter. My daughter’s and I gathered together for breakfast and prayer and shared many memories and laughter. Late in the afternoon, Amy and I went to see the movie “Hidden Figures”. To say that the movie moved me would be an understatement. My goodness, humanity is very skilled in hiding the cause that creates effects. In the movie, based on fact, the audience learns that women of colour were the hidden figures, silent cause, behind the success of John Glenn’s and the grand US of A’s first successful orbit around the earth. I left the theatre wondering, “Why does humanity fear sharing the cause and effect, the truth around success or failure?  History and this movie certainly proved this point, that failures are roads that lead us to success. And yet, causes that lead to failure, and sadly, the courage that lead to successes, are often covered up because of ego or egos.

 

When I read the first chapter of Matthew and see the genealogy of Jesus, I see that his bloodline leads us to five women of questionable repute. Yet each of these women exemplified faith and courage as they followed their hearts and the leading of their Creator, and each woman changed history for the better.

 

Each one of us have questionable people of repute, imperfect people, in our lives who have taught us valuable lessons and changed us for the better. So my question is, “What are the gifts we have received from the questionable people in our lives? What has our real or perceived enemy taught us, and are we viewing, perceiving, that person in a truthful light?

 

Who is the hidden figure, or figures, in our lives that the Spirit is using to draw us closer to what we need to understand in order to heal and become whole?

 

And what would happen if we dared to have a conversation with them so we could successfully orbit our journey?

 

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Blast off! May we dare to enter an authentic journey that is out of this world. I bet if we do, as in the movie, our hidden figures will become our rescuers and our heroes.

“Lost and Found in Playing with Jeremy”

He sees me

Across the table

Underneath the table

He sees me

And I see him

And we alone know it.

 

Sabers are drawn but quiet

M&M’s don the outside of our lips like a model in Milan

Uptown Funk drowns in our focused anticipation

The battle is on

While watermelon waits on the kitchen counter and macaroni and cheese bait both sides

The rebellion is happening

Grandmother and grandson meeting in full Force while time screams this is just a phase, unimportant and silly

NOT TRUE we think, we know because

The red and the green sabers are playing hide and seek

Around kitchen counters, dinning room chairs and couches

Two layers of galaxy masked in two flights of stairs and rooms bid the battle onward

Yet they laugh, these two, red and green sabers blazing

They laugh and cuddle and take a time out for red and green M&M’s…and fresh squeezed orange juice, the juice of champions…

Then it happens…

The great one, the older one, sees the red saber coming and steps out to feel the force upon her

The awesome gaze of the two-year old hobbit’s red light meets her green light with certainty, as he foretold, telling her that he would defeat her as he lights the room with his laughter and she is overcome by his serious squint, by his belief in their play.

As he lifts his saber…

His force lightning smile and belief send her to her knees (slowly, oh so slowly), and she falls down, reaching for him, for her two-year old Jedi grandson saying, “I will never forget this battle”, who in turn says, “Nanny, I got you. I defeated you. Now I am going to put my saber under your arm and you will die…until we hug and come to life and do it all over again OTAY?”

“Otay.” She grimace’s as she offers her best Meryl Streep death and he follows her with a better Meryl impression because they always die and come back to life together.

*After we rise again, it is strange how M&M’s welcome us along with peanut butter because he does not appreciate mac and cheese like he imagined.

Tomorrow, we will do it all again.

I am blessed to play with you Jeremy Clayton Anderson.

Tomorrow, we will go to Sherwood’s Forest where danger and love wait to be discovered. After that, the Shire. AHHHH.

See you in the morning Jedi…like your father and brother before you, I love you.

P.S. I see you too, I saw you in my dreams before you were born and I see you underneath the table…so bring it on! I’m ready.

Love, Nanny

 

 

 

The annunciation

I did not capitalize annunciation for a reason. I wonder if we perceive the annunciation as a big deal, meaning that it was a huge event. A messenger appears to Mary and offers her a message, an opportunity, to lean into God and hold her life and loved ones loosely. Mary, quietly and alone, lives into the offering of the message to experience something more, become someone new.

 

God’s messages are seldom written on the stars or found flopping in the skies behind an airplane stating, “The Buffet is over here or there.”

 

My experience of the Sacred in human history and in my own is a whispering of what God is offering. And so, as we begin a new year, the song I penned and lead in worship, “I Am My Offering” compels me forward through calm and gentle messages, to continue befriending the ordinary moments and become my offering.

 

I believe that in the ordinary, God is annunciating, God is whispering, God is revealing and God is showing us that the kingdom of God is within.

 

Happy New Year. May we dare to play with the sacred ordinary.

Pregnant with Wonder!

Have you ever wondered what would happen if every person on the planet opened their hearts to everyone who crosses their path?

 

Imagine what the world would be like if we truly were open and respectful to every skin tone, every social and economic status, open and respectful with every level of education, with every personality type, with every gender identity, with every story that crosses our path?

 

I wonder what would happen if we opened our hearts to Christ coming in everyone we meet? I wonder what would happen if we believed that God’s DNA is weaved in every human being and that God is coming and speaking to us through our harshest critic or through a perceived or real enemy, or in our loved one who is driving us to our last nerve? What would happen if we stopped doing things the same way, hoping for a different result in our relationships and inner being?

 

I wonder how we would be filled with hope, peace joy and love if we exchanged our fears for a life of wonder? Life has a way of presenting situations that feel impossible and full of what if’s. Prices are going up on food while many are unemployed or on fixed incomes causing fear around how needs will be met. I wonder what sharing our stories with one another would look like? I wonder kind of healing change a bartering system and the sharing of our resources would bring for all daring to engage in vulnerability and generosity?

 

Advent means something is about to happen that will transform us, prepare us for something new, something healing, for God’s presence to be personally real to us.

 

For the past two years I have been aware of that God was bringing many adverts into my life. I intentionally abandoned old ways of thinking and being and became open, peaceful, to all that would unfold in my life. My choice created space for me to see and appreciate others in new and life giving ways. I experienced the impossible becoming possible inside of me and outside of me. I became and continue to be pregnant with PEACE, joy, hope and love beyond my comprehension. On many accounts, I should not feel this way yet I do and I trust my journey because I know that God is always coming, always being born in a situation, in a conversation and in a relationship. This Advent I invite you to join me and exchange fear for wonder, exchange judgement for wonder, exchange disappointment for wonder, for wonder empowers us to love like God loves us. Wonder empowers us to embrace uncertainty with the certain knowledge that God is with us and we are not alone. Wonder empowers us to get to know those who judge us or those we judge at the foot of the cross that awaits our Christ. Wonder empowers us to see another through the eyes and heart of God revealed through the ways of Jesus. Wonder beats the numbers in the stock market every day for holy wonder is based on the unchanging and ever growing secure love of God. In our ever changing political world, we have a leader who has our best intentions at heart. We have God in us and with us. Emmanuel is here in all of us and Advent is always now…I wonder who we could be together if every day we lived intentionally in unwrapping the Christmas presence in our souls. Wonder and wander with me into the gift of God who has come and is always coming for God is with us in all of us. Merry  Christmas. Amen

Love and Music

This Sunday we will be celebrating Love, particularly the love God has for all of us.

I believe the word LOVE is a word we often use carelessly. I say this because the word LOVE has its definition in what and who we want to love, who we want to love us, and what our definition of love means. The love of God for us is built into our DNA. It is always and forever, dependent only on the constant nature of our God who dwells within and is constantly leaning into us, desiring a deeper connection, a stronger uninterrupted knowing. When we read the scripture that announces, “Love casts out all fear and does not involve punishment,” those of us who live prisoner to deep abiding wounds, prese our lips and think, “If this is love, if this is true, why am I afraid?” Why does it hurt when someone we care about extravagantly shares their love for us and then our protective mechanisms kick in and create all sorts of reasons about how the presence this extravagant love must have hidden or unhealthy motives? It hurts because our unhealed wounds are desperate thieves and liars who want us to feel like they do, unworthy, not good enough, not important. How can we trust the love of another, especially our Creator, when we allow our cells to be on high alert to protect us from the possibility of being alone, abandoned or misunderstood? One of the saddest realities among us is how many of us sabotage the love we seek by believing we will be devoured and unable to be free to be who we are. The truth is, healthy love empowers one to be their best self and then live into their gifts and dreams. Unhealed wounds may be able to lead others to healing waters, but the reality is, they become a lens of either – or, confusing independence with the empowering journey of inter-dependence that creates connection that causes us to soar, expanding us to be able to receive more love and give more love. It’s amazing how fast we can conjure reasons to run like the wind away from the presence of the very thing we need, love, and then blame or shame the presence of this present love into silence.

Extravagant love joyfully pours itself out for another. Jesus had to cram pouring out God’s extravagant love into a 3.5 year journey and his pouring caused either extravagant peace and joy, or internal, and then external chaos, everywhere he went. The impact of the love of God depends on the state of our minds with regard to the state of our wholeness. Many of us miss the birth of love, the opportunity for loving healing relationships, because our wounds, our cellular memory, our unconscious, demands love to look and feel a certain way, a way we have defined as “safe”, because we are trying to be in control of the uncontrollable.

This Friday my daughter Amy and I will enter into our traditional Christmas date that we anticipate with wonder and joy every Advent. We will dress up and go out to enjoy a beautiful meal, sweet and fun conversation, and then venture to the Jack Singer Hall to watch and FEEL the music and movement of The Nutcracker. Amy and I have been enjoying this date with love, music and movement for twelve years. One of the beautiful aspects of this familiar adventure is that each year, both of us are independently moved by a different piece of music, familiar music to be sure, however, we acknowledge that time has passed and we are evolving, experiencing a new moment.  Our acknowledgment of being moved by what we are experiencing creates room for the familiar to surprise us and fill us with joy. Every year, we glance at one another in a different place in The Nutcracker and we smile in awe and appreciation of the music, of the movement and for our relationship, our shared love for one another. This is yearly shared experience is intentional because we allow room for love and music to rapture our senses. Life is too fleeting to allow the past to steal love’s rapture, love’s gifts and love’s empowering lessons.

Everyone of us have been created by perfection to enter into the world of imperfections where for whatever reason, fear continues to try keeping us living wounded, emotional and spiritual zombies, desperately searching to be devoured by love. Extravagant love, God’s unexpected love alive in another, the kind that intrigues, surprises and opens our hungry wounds, arrives when we least expect it, when we most need it and usually when we believe we are open and ready while we lace up our inner and outer track shoes. The deal is, real love, extravagant love, and God’s love can be terrifying, especially for our wounds who do not want to lose their grip on us. But as a friend recently shared with me, things that are terrifying can be “Kinda Awesome”. This Advent, dare to receive the “awesome” this Christmas because love is on its way…in fact, it may have already knocked your socks off while you are tripping on your laces. Love and music have a way of stripping us to our beautiful core. Terrifying? No! Beautiful and healing and freeing! When the love we need shows up, may we dare to take the plunge and be fully immersed in the extravagance God has gifted to us, trusting that we will land upon the shore of safe and encouraging sands.