Thursday 27 December 2012

Midwives, Truman and Christmas

Over the Chritmas period I have been reflecting on what it means for us to be like Mary, giving birth to the Christ again and again in our own lives. What point was the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago if we do not continue to birth the love, joy and peace that Jesus brought in our own lives today? After all, isn't the emphasis in Christianity about new life and transformation?

If our calling as Christians is to continually give birth to Christ, then we are also called to be midwives. We live in community and our role as companions on the journey is to assist each other in giving birth. Often, however, I don't think the church gets this. Last night, one of my favourite movies was on television - The Truman Show. I can't say it is the clever camera work, the music or the exceptional acting that put this movie on my top ten list, but more the close parallels I have drawn with the church and the world of Truman. 

Truman was born, grew up and now lives inside a TV show that airs 24 hours a day. He is the main character, oblivious to the fact that the whole world is watching his every move. All of the people in his life are actors, creating and manipulating his life around him. The movie shows Truman's struggle with gradually coming to the realization that he is trapped. He wants to break free, find more to life than his existence and explore the world.

I find the themes and the yearning ofTruman very powerful. I have known some of his struggle growing up in the church. There are boundaries, lines that cannot be crossed and places that are filled with fear where one must not go. Yes, there is a place for protection and keeping people safe, but when this is done creating a relationship with God out of fear it is stifling to the birthing process. 

My experience of midwives is that they allay the fears of the unknown, gently encourage us to have hope in the future and walk with us through the pain and struggle. They stand by you until the birth is complete. In the church we need to do the same. Instead of cutting people loose when they dare to tread outside the boundaries, we need to journey with them in search of their birthing place. 

My opinion is that many of us are afraid of giving birth in the spiritual sense. It is a place of vulnerability and fragility. Many people have never experienced the birthing process themselves and are quite content to remain in the protection of their safe, little church world. But, where is the growth? Where is the adventure? Where is the life in that? The egg must crack open if new life is to emerge. As we await the coming of the new year in a few days let us commit ourselves to giving birth once again to the Christ in our lives and being midwives in the birthing process of others.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Blue Christmas

Last night we held a Blue Christmas service in Augusta. This was the first of its kind for this town and I wasn't sure what the response would be. The idea of this service is to acknowledge that Christmas can be a difficult time for some people. We are surrounded by the media telling us how we should be full of joy during this season, but that is not always easy. If this is the first Christmas since a loved one died, or it has been a difficult year emotionally, or there are broken relationships to deal with - Christmas can be a time of dread and sorrow. 

During the service we read from Scripture, sang some of the more reflective carols and heard how Emmanuel - God with us - came into this world for the lost, the marginalised and the lonely. The members of the congregation were given an opportunity to light a candle for someone or a situation. They were also invited to take a blue bauble or a star from the church Christmas tree to hang on their own at home to acknowledge the pain or remember someone dear to them.

As the congregation gathered, I met people from the community for the first time. Our regular members had invited friends and family and some had seen the posters around town. It was very much the case that those who were meant to be there were. There were tears throughout the service, and that was okay. I encouraged people to allow the song of their heart to be sung. This was not a place for pretending or putting on a brave face. This was a safe place to be vulnerable and to be real.

As a leader, this was one of the most meaningful worship experiences with this congregation this year. New seeds have been planted and new doors have been opened. Last night was living proof that the Spirit does not only move in large packed auditoriums of loud music, but also in the intimate quiet of a few hurting souls that gather in a small country church.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

A New House!

Well, we have officially moved into our new house. Our lives seem surrounded by boxes of varying sizes and shapes with mysterious contents. Gradually, we are tackling one box at a time and finding a new home for the contents. You would think that the process would be easy. This box came from the dining room, so it gets put in the dining room in the new place. The trouble is, our new house has a completely different configuration of rooms with different storage capabilities to our old place. In many ways, unpacking the boxes is like developing a whole new filing system. Where is going to be the most effective place for these items to be kept in light of this whole new context we are living in? 

During my training for ministry, a high priority was put on theological reflection. Some people found the process tiresome or difficult, but it always came quite naturally to me. I guess this blog is like a continuous theological reflection on life. In theological reflection we are encouraged to reflect on events of our own life in light of the bigger story. New insights and understandings can emerge from these reflections which need to be integrated into our own story. I find it sad that some people have amazing experiences in life, but they are not challenged to change or be transformed as a result. 

I have moved house physically a few times now. I seem to be more experienced at moving spiritual home, however. There is still rearranging to be done. There are still boxes that need to be packed and unpacked. Sometimes items find new homes. Sometimes things need to be thrown out. Moving spiritual home is not a physically demanding, but can be just as stressful and time consuming. 

We currently don't have internet or phone connections at our new place. In many ways this is a blessing. When we have those times of transition in our spiritual journey it is also helpful to disconnect the phone. We wouldn't dream of moving house without taking some time to allow this to happen. Why would we do anything less when making a spiritual shift?

I wonder how many "spiritual" boxes you have lying around your home. Maybe this Advent and Christmas time might be a good time to open some of the lids and reflect on where the contents might fit. Happy unpacking!!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Time to Register

The end of the year is fast approaching. Most people are just trying to make it to Christmas and have not even thought about 2013 yet. I want to put out a challenge that goes against the grain. Why not decide now to do something for yourself and your own spiritual health next year. 

Often we put ourselves last in our priorities, especially when it comes to our spiritual journey. Well, here's a simple way to make sure this doesn't happen next year. Why not register to be involved in "A Mandala a Month". The first registrations are already coming in for both the online and in person options. My kids have even asked me to sign them up, which I am very excited about. Give yourself a Christmas gift that will last all of next year!!

If you want to find out more have a look here. Please feel free to email me at if you have any questions or concerns. I would love to hear from you.

Monday 3 December 2012

It's Moving Week!!

You could say life is little chaotic right now. I am sitting in my lounge room that has boxes half packed all around me, trying to remain calm. We are now in Advent, a very busy time of the year for those who have chosen my vocation. Carols services, Christmas services, Advent study series and activities winding up for the year all need my attention. My kids have dance concerts, Christmas parties, presentation days, swimming carnivals and homework to finish. In some ways, there could not be a more crazy time to move house. 

In many ways, however, it could not be more fitting. As a family, we are about to cross another threshold together. We are starting another chapter in our new home. There are rooms to paint, vege patches to grow, and many projects to get started on. We are about to start creating our new home together. It will be a place where memories are made and much will be shared.

Advent is a time of expectation, hope and anticipation. Unfortunately, with children, this anticipation is often surrounding the much awaited presents of Christmas Day. I am grateful that this year there is a distraction. The anticipation is about our new chapter in our life. The hope is about what this will mean for our family and the expectation is of many special time ahead. It will be a time that is life giving and transformational. This is what many people live in anticipation of - the life giving change that the coming of Christ can be bring.

I'm not sure how many reflections I will manage to put on the blog over the next week. It could be a crazy time, but there will be many stories to tell once I am sitting in the lounge of our new place surrounded by half packed boxes.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

The Discipline of the Examen

I've just got home from my first session of our "Waiting on God" Advent series. I have been amazed by the interest in this series. We have three groups meeting through the week for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. This is not your usual study series, as we are not studying the Bible as such. Instead we are exploring and experiencing a different spiritual practice of St Ignatius each week. There is some learning about the practice and then we experience using it.

Tonight, we looked at the Examen. I expected some people to find the practice too prescriptive or analytical, but I was wrong. The people who came along tonight loved the practice and have said that they are going to try it through the week. I am looking forward to hearing how they went.

We discussed the importance of routine and discipline in life. This is something I am not too good at. I have never been particularly self-disciplined. I get things done, but often need a bit of pressure imposed by  deadlines or my own expectations of myself. 

I remember someone asking me when I was a teenager, "How's your relationship with God going?" My polite response was, "Good thanks", but I recall thinking it was none of their business. I am at the age now where I am asking myself that question. The Examen is a way of doing this daily in a disciplined way. I am looking forward to exploring Lectio divina next week.

If you would like to hear more about our "Waiting on God" series let me know.

Sunday 25 November 2012

The New Year's Eve of the Church Calendar

Today is the last Sunday of the church year. Next week Advent begins a new year. The last week of the church year is the Sunday when we look at what it means for Christ to be King or what the reign of Christ might look like. I love the fact that it is like the New Year's Eve of the church. It gives us the opportunity to look back at the year that has been and to look ahead in hope.

There is a lot of talk about the Kingdom of God throughout the Gospels. Jesus tries to get through to us that God's way or God's desire for how we live together is vastly different to the ways of the world. We see snippets of this kingdom when communities and families are at their best. I guess, we could say that the reign of Christ is God's vision for the world and its people. 

This Sunday is an opportunity for me to take the time to look back at the year and see how well I have captured the vision of God's Kingdom in my life. Hopefully there will be things I have done better than last year, but I know that there will be lots of room for improvement. I may not make any New Church Year Resolutions, but I certainly need to recapture the vision once again.

Bill Watterson - Calvin and Hobbes

Thursday 22 November 2012

A Mum in Ministry

It's weeks like this one that I find the most challenging in ministry. I am in full time ministry with two congregations in separate towns. I am also a mum of two children who are eight and ten years old. Usually the balance works quite well. This week, however, one of my kids has been very sick. It started Sunday morning and has continued all week. He has been home from school, which has been a challenge in a very busy work week for both my husband and I.

I guess some people would use my current situation as another bit of ammunition in the argument that women should not be in ministry. This is a topic that is very current with recent decisions that have been made in England. How can a woman possibly be in ministry, let alone a mother?

So, this week I have juggled between preparing an Advent Series and administering panadol; between planning a memorial service and cleaning up vomit; between meetings with my supervisor and visits to the doctor. It's not easy. I'm not going to pretend it is. But there is something about sitting with my own son while he is in pain that makes me more able to sit with others who are hurting. There is something about dealing with our own family's mess that allows me to sit in other people's mess. Being a mum is not a hindrance to my ministry, but enhances it. 

Yes, weeks like this one are an enormous challenge, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I am human. I am part of a family. I have needs. I have responsibilities. All this makes me more genuine and more real not only in my family life, but in my ministry as well.

Monday 19 November 2012

Guided Meditation

In our fortnightly meditation groups, we have explored many different styles of meditation. As is to be expected, people have found their own personal favourite styles. This can make it very difficult to cater for people within the group. Some enjoy contemplative meditation and others find the silence too much, preferring reflective music in the background. Tomorrow, I have decided to use a guided meditation for the groups.

Guided meditation is quite a different approach. With many types of meditation we are trying to leave all thoughts behind and simply be in the presence of God. In guided meditation there is a deliberate move to engage the imagination of those meditating in order to take them on a journey deeper within themselves. Images and story are used to guide people into a deeper reflection of life.

I have experienced guided meditation many times. Sometimes it has been a very positive experience and other times it was not. I am convinced that there is a craft to creating a guided meditation. There needs to be a balance between providing enough imagery to allow people to picture the journey for themselves. There needs to be, however, enough space for each person to create their own journey in their mind's eye. Providing too much detail can exclude people and isolate them from the journey. It is a fine line.

I have found a helpful site that has a good article about writing a guided meditation. Click here to take a look. I haven't decided exactly what journey I will take people on tomorrow. I am thinking a journey across water. There are so many opportunities for depth and reflection when on the water. The water may be still or tumultuous, deep or shallow. 

It is always a privilege to lead people on a journey, but even more so when it is an inward one.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Chaos and Order

Today's readings were a challenge for me. I nearly rejected them to take on something a little more palatable, however, I'm glad I stuck with them. The readings from Daniel and Mark are both considered apocalyptic literature - a revelation of the end times. I don't think I'm unusual in wanting to avoid these strange texts that give us very few answers, just lots of questions.

The question I found myself asking was how I deal with the chaos in life. Often we impose an order over our chaos which masks the pain and suffering. Creating our own certainties helps us to cope with the uncertainties of life. If you'd like to read how the message turned out click here.

There's nothing like a touch of reality to make a message more real. We seem to be living in chaos at the moment as we prepare to move house in a couple of weeks. And to top it off, we turn up to church and my son proceeds to vomit everywhere. God has a funny sense of humour. Want to talk about dealing with chaos? I'll give you a bit of chaos.

As it turns out, it seems that most people can relate to trying to find a balance between chaos and order. There are times when order is important, but reality is we cannot order all of the chaos in life. We must learn to live with it.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Starting our Story Circle

A little over a week ago, some people in the Margaret River congregation gathered for the first "Story Circle" This was inspired by our workshop back in August with Sarah Agnew on "Telling our Story". As this was our first meeting, we had no agenda as such. We were asked to bring a piece of writing with us to share, but we only just managed to discuss these. The time was filled with spontaneous sharing of our stories. Stories of family, childhood, places we lived and times of transition. 

Some found commonalities in their stories and could talk about places that were familiar. Others lamented that they did not know the stories of their parents and wish they had asked the right questions at the right time. This spurred us on to talk about passing our stories on to our own children while we are still able.

We have decided to meet again at the beginning of December, but we have some homework in the meantime. We have all committed to at least starting to write a story for our children. It can be a story about their younger life or our own, but something we would like to share with them. I'm not sure where to start. What is an important story for my children to hear? What stories will make a difference in their life? I am hoping that in the next week a story will become obvious as one I need to write.

I wonder what stories you would write about your life. If you want to know more about the inspiration for our story circle have a look at Sarah's blog.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Privileges in Ministry

While training for ministry, I had an ideal view of what I would be doing in ministry. If someone had asked me what I was most looking forward to, I would probably have said something about education, leading worship or ministering to young people. That all seems such a long time ago now. It was only five years ago! A lot has changed in my life and my experience of being in ministry has changed my views on what is important.

Today I was called to be with an elderly woman as she was dying. What a privilege! To be with someone as they approach the end of their earthy life is such a sacred place. People often ask me how I find dealing with this part of my ministry. I would be lying if I said it was easy - it is never easy. Sometimes people are in pain, sometimes they are afraid and sometimes they are very peaceful. Sitting by the death bed is a liminal space - a space of inbetweens. It is the place where life and death meet. It can be said that the curtain or the veil is very thin in this space. There is a mystery, an unknown, in this place. 

I now find that being with people at the time of death is one of the most enjoyable parts of my ministry. It is enjoyable in the sense that the presence of God is very real and tangible. People are open to talking about all things spiritual and their true understandings and beliefs are revealed. Death is a normal part of life, but our Western culture has tended to sanitize it and leave it to the professionals. 

I used to think that the point of death would be the most difficult place to minister. I have found, however, it is often one of the easiest. Often people are not expecting fancy prayers or rituals. They need a hand to hold, a comforting presence or a soothing word of peace. I just need to be there. That is all. I leave the rest to God and so far I have not been let down.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Discover the Inner Light

My daughter has been learning about celebrations at school over the past few weeks. The topics covered have been both secular and sacred. Yesterday, one of the mothers of Indian background came to demonstrate henna paintings on her hand and today the class learnt about Diwali - the festival of lights. I don't remember learning about other spiritual traditions and their celebrations until I was in lat high school. I think it is wonderful that my children have the opportunity to learn about other cultures at such a young age. 

I am not an expert on Hinduism and would certainly like to learn more about the spiritual life of the Hindu. I have, however, done a little reading about the Festival of Lights - Diwali. There are many aspects to this religious celebration, but the one that has got my attention is the awareness of the inner light. Hinduism asserts that there is something beyond our physical body that is eternal and pure. The awakening to this inner light brings joy and peace. Diwali is the celebration of this.

I cannot help but think that there is a similar theme in many spiritual traditions. In Buddhism, the goal is enlightenment. In Christianity, we talk about letting the light of Christ shine. There seems to be a universal acknowledgment that light can overcome darkness and the light dwells within us.

The writings of Swami Sivananda (Hindu Spiritual Teacher) say,
"May you all attain full inner illumination! May the supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self!"

So Happy Diwali everyone!! Keep discovering your inner light.

Monday 12 November 2012

Practices and experiences

I haven't got a profound word of wisdom for you today, but I have been busy working on the Spiritual Practices and Experiences page. I have shared some of my favourite ways to get in touch with the Divine in my life. It is certainly not an extensive overview of these practices, but I hope it whets your appetite to find out more. If you would like me to write more about any of these, please let me know. I would be more than happy to do a longer post about my experience of any of them.

So if you'd like to read more. Click on the tab above or here for a read.

P.S. We have our first sign ups for A Mandala a Month. Looking forward to 2013!!!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Launching a Mandala a Month

Well, there has certainly been enough interest about "A Mandala a Month" to make it happen. Deep Water Dwelling, a ministry of the Margaret River Uniting Church, will be running this program in 2013. Have a look at this short video (very professionally made - I might add :)) and if you would like to join us in a year of mandalas next year, read the details below.

There are two ways you can get involved in "A Mandala a Month".

1. In person - If you live in the Margaret River/ Augusta area, why not join a group of us that will meet each month for a workshop to create our mandala each month. The times and dates will be arranged once I have the details of the participants. We may need more than one group if we have more than 15 participants. The groups will meet each month, probably towards the middle of the month for a two hour workshop. This will include a brief introduction with some information about mandalas and a meditation time that will set the scene for the creation time. All materials will be provided for participants.
Cost - $20 per workshop or $200 for the whole year.

2. Online - If you are not able to join us in person, why not join the online group of people creating mandalas. At the beginning of the year you will be sent an introduction and ideas for preparation. Each month you will be sent, via email, the introduction and meditation to be used for the month. You are then free to use your own materials and create your monthly mandala in your own time.
Cost - $5 per month or $40 for the whole year.

To register for either option, please email me at

If cost is an issue, please let me know. I would not want people to be excluded for financial reasons.

Let the journey begin!!

Deep Water Dwelling is a ministry of the Uniting Church in Margaret River

Thursday 8 November 2012

A Journey with Eva

I had the privilege today to share my journey home from Augusta with Eva. She was waiting on the side of the road, so I pulled over and asked where she needed to be. I am usually wary of hitchhikers. Its an unfortunate result of today's world; we are never sure who we can trust or whether we will be safe. Funnily enough, Eva shared the same thing. She didn't usually hitch, but was having faith that the right person would pull over and be able to give her a lift.

And so, two cautious travelers shared the half hour journey back to Margaret River. It began with the usual chit chat where we shared what had brought us to the point of taking this road at this time of the day. We talked philosophy, theology, sustainability and much more. The role of women in the world and in the church and in the surf was pondered. We agreed the world was out of balance. She quoted an inspirational piece of poetry, and I finished the stanza. We lamented the inflexibility and exclusivity of much of the church. I spoke to Eva with such honesty and passion about life and love and God. She was not a church goer, but we certainly had a common understanding about our spiritual lives.

I felt sorry that the journey was not much longer. I found Eva easier to talk to about much deeper topics than some of my close friends. I have heard people tell stories of hitchhikers who mysteriously disappear into thin air. People have pondered whether these people may have been angels in disguise. I have no doubt that Eva was a real, flesh and blood person. She certainly didn't vanish before my eyes. But something gave her the compulsion to decide to hitch. Something gave me the courage to stop. And something was certainly moving between us in our conversation. Unexpected moments like these are certainly "angel's blessings" in our lives.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Towards Wholeness

I mentioned last week that I was attending a workshop to help me identify the principles by which I wanted to live my life. It was a great day. We began by becoming aware of the aspects of our lives that have shaped us. We discussed our family backgrounds and the principles that we may have received from them. We recalled inspirational people and places in our life.

The next part of the workshop had us reading the principles that other individuals and groups have written. It became evident that most of these were contextual. I found myself wondering what my context might be. Should I develop principles in my working ministry, or to guide my relationships or maybe something else?

We were asked to spend some time simply writing words that came to mind about how we would like to live. It very quickly became obvious that my context was about continuing my own journey to wholeness. What were the fundamental truths in my life and how would they effect my living? And so the principles I came up with were those that I need to keep at the fore of my mind if I am to keep striving to become more whole. 

These principles are very personal to me. Some I find easier than others. Some are included because the list would not be complete without them. Others are built-in as constant reminders of the areas in life with which I constantly struggle. You may be able to identify with some and others you might wonder why they are in my list and not others. My hope is that they will become more than just words on paper. I need to make them part of my daily practice of grounding myself.

So I share what I came up with not to inspire you to stick to them as well, but maybe to inspire you to think about your own principles. And maybe you can hold me accountable every now and then too!!

Principles for Moving Towards Wholeness

All of life is good and sacred.
I choose to seek the Divine in all things.

Life is a mystery and that I will never be able to fully grasp or understand.
I choose to rest in the mystery.

My calling is to be true to the person I was created to be.
I choose to live with integrity.

All people have the ability to love and to harm.
I choose to love.

Pain and suffering are part of life and the journey to wholeness.
I choose to honour my woundedness.

Transformation and wholeness are gifts available to all.
I choose to be a light in dark places.

All people are born to be in relationship.
I choose to be vulnerable and allow others to touch my life.

Each new experience we have, person we meet or place we visit moulds and shapes us.
I choose to begin each day with new eyes.

The Divine chooses to be incarnate.
I choose to live an embodied life.

Sunday 4 November 2012

What can Sheldon teach us about loving God?

Today in Augusta and Margaret River we talked about how we love God. We read the passage from Mark where Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." To introduce the theme I showed a clip from the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”. 

For those who don't watch this show, let me give a little background. The show is about four young scientists and the girl who lives across the hall. In this scene, we see Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon is a genius, has high functioning autism, is obsessive compulsive and struggles with social interaction. The scene we are going to watch is at Christmas. Sheldon has been struggling throughout the show with the whole concept of gift giving especially when it comes to Penny, who lives across the hall. He has no idea what Penny will buy for him, and so he has devised a plan. Sheldon had purchased a range of gift hampers. He plans to receive the gift from Penny and then use the excuse of needing to go to the toilet to go and choose the appropriate gift in return. All the other hampers will then be returned to the shop.

I should also mention before you watch this clip that Sheldon’s favourite TV show is Star Trek and his favourite character is Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy. Let’s see what happens when Penny arrives to exchange Christmas gifts.

Watch the clip

I wonder, if sometimes, we are like Sheldon in our relationship with God. We become uncertain about what it is that God requires or would like us to do in return for love. I wonder, if you like I, have gone through times in your life when you have become so involved in service to others, or personal bible study and gaining knowledge or maybe some other practice that you feel will be the right or acceptable thing to do.

And I wonder if God, like Penny, sometimes watches us and says with a smile, “What have you done?”. In our awkwardness to find intimacy with our God sometimes we go overboard and sometimes we feel totally inadequate. But, if you want to find this clip on Youtube, you need to search for the phrase “Sheldon hugs Penny”. This is what people remember from this scene. This awkward man who knows nothing of intimacy or the importance of being close to people, hugs Penny to say thank you.

When I have spent a lot of time trying hard to give back to God and repay in time, energy or effort God’s love it all seems inadequate. It is times like this when I simply fall into the arms of God. I wonder if God, like Penny, smiles and says, “Look, Cathie’s hugging me.”

Thursday 1 November 2012

Wisdom and the Number 5

In our final workshop for my Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction today, we took a closer look at the Enneagram. For those of you unfamiliar with the Enneagram, it is an ancient tool that looks at our personality and how we tend to deal with life. It emphasizes our greatest strength and weakness. I have done some reading about the Enneagram and listened to some CDs, but this workshop was more experiential. We had the opportunity to talk in groups with people of the same number and to really understand ourselves better.

I am a number 5 which, for those who are unfamiliar, is a person who has the self-talk “I am wise”. I have a tendency to gather knowledge to fill my emptiness and withdraw from people and relationships. Sometimes I find it difficult to get out of my head and actually allow myself to experience life at an emotional or body level. We discussed today that the point of conversion or transformation for a 5 is to move from merely observing life to finding Holy Wisdom.

The facilitator that I worked with, who was also a 5, spoke of how she needed to rediscover the person of Jesus in her spiritual life as he was the embodiment of Holy Wisdom. She encouraged me to do the same in my own life. I know that I possibly put more emphasis on God the Creator or God the Spirit rather than God the Incarnate. This is probably a well-practiced avoidance strategy in staying in my head and out of the body experience.

There is a lot that has arisen out of this exploration of the Enneagram. It is far more than just a personality typing. It is spiritual, rather than psychological and speaks directly into the Christian tradition. So much of it just makes sense. The more I learn about the Enneagram, the more I see the truth in my own nature – the good and the not so. I think there is some work to be done in the near future in exploring what Holy Wisdom might mean for me and how Jesus, as the embodiment of this, might be rediscovered in a new way.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Personal Principles

On Thursday I am travelling to Perth for my last day of the Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction. It has been quite a journey. Not only have I learnt a lot, but I have also grown a lot in my own spiritual life. The most significant change for me has been my increased confidence in what I believe and how that affects my living. It has been a liberating and confronting journey. Some things that were important to me at the beginning of the course, now have little meaning. Others that were given a low priority, I now cannot live without. 

Coming to the end of a programme that has sustained you and given you the structure you need can be daunting. Will I be able to continue in the same way? Will I slip back into old habits? I hope not. And that is why on Friday I am attending a workshop to identify the principles I choose to live by. My hope is that I can be very clear in defining my principles and this will seep into everything I do and say. Perfect timing!

It is not just about priorities and setting goals, it is much more than this. I believe identifying my principles for life will assist me in living a life of integrity and purpose. I am hoping it will help me to engage in activities that give me energy and use the gifts that I have. Some people might use the language of "call" or God's will in my life. For me, it is more about being true to the person God created me to be. Part of my discovery has been realizing that much of my life has been spent being the person that everyone else expects me to be. Living up to people's expectations now seems like hard work. 

I am excited about stripping back all the facades and masks and just being the person that God made me. Funny how it sounds so simple, but its so difficult. Sometimes its easier to put in the hard work to be someone else than it is to let go of success, ego, the need to liked and just be. In some ways its a pity that I need to attend a workshop to help me to remember to be me. I guess that is human nature. I'll let you know how the workshop goes.

Monday 29 October 2012

Mandala workshops

I had some initial discussions today with leaders in two churches about planning an introductory mandala workshop for their groups next year. It is very exciting to be contemplating sharing my passion for mandalas for the love of it, rather than for research. I am planning a 3 hour workshop that will include an introductory presentation, individual creation of mandalas and some time to share about the experience at the end. I am hoping that some of the people attending these workshops may like to join "A Mandala a Month" as well. There has been some interest in this idea and I am looking forward to seeing the unique creations that will be made throughout the year.

I see this as a wonderful way to extend my ministry and support my congregations financially at the same time. I plan to write a summary of different workshops that can be offered on this site. If you are interested in any of the ideas you have seen on this blog or you want to get a group together, let me know. 

I am really excited about the possibilities ahead of me in 2013.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Bartimaeus and Being Blind

Today's reading was the story of Blind Bartimaeus. I remember participating in an Ignatian meditation based on this reading about twelve years ago and finding it a very significant experience. This is the first time that I have preached on the reading. I based my message around a reflection I wrote putting myself in the shoes of Bartimaeus.

I think this reading speaks directly into my experience of contemplative prayer. It is when I am blind that I gain my sight. Coming into a contemplative space is about losing my sight. It is about coming before God with nothing, for it is when I have nothing that I have everything to gain. Bartimaeus knew his needs and desires. He was not going to remain quiet on the roadside. He was bold and called out his needs. Maybe, we too, need to be bold in expressing our deep desires. 

What do you want me to do for you?

Isn’t it obvious!
Can’t you see!
Dare you look in my eyes
and see what I cannot.
I know I am blind.
I have never seen the dawning day,
nor the trees swaying in the breeze,
birds soaring in the sky
or even the pity in my own parents’ eyes.

My need is great.
I need you.
I will not sit silent by the road side
hearing your footsteps pass by.
I will call out to you,
even though they muffle my cries
and demand I become dumb also.
But I will not cease calling,
crying out your name.
I need you.

And then you ask,
What do you want me to do for you?
I want to see.
Not just my own hands, or those who sneer at me.
Not just the bread I eat or the flowers on the wayside.
It is your face I want to see.
I need to see the love that is possible,
the compassion that is tangible.
I know I am blind.
I want to see – and then no choice I will have
but to follow.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Myriad Gaze

I don't consider myself to be much of a poet. It sort of happens in fits and bursts. All of a sudden, I find the urge to write a poem. There's never much of a craft to it. I don't worry about rhyming or a particular structure. The words just roll out and there's rarely much editing. My poetry is very personal and, to be honest, it is the hardest genre for me to share on this blog. (Hence my waffling now to avoid putting the poem down) I guess there is something about the abstract nature of poetry that makes me wonder if there is any worth to anyone other than myself.
Starry Night - Vincent van Gogh

However, I will continue to share them occasionally in an attempt to discover why it is important to me. I found this poem I wrote in February 2011. I cannot remember the context, but it was while we were still living in Perth. In my journal, I have pasted a print of Vincent van Gogh's painting 'Starry Night'. Reading this poem now I get a sense of the abundance of blessings in life. Dawn and dusk have always been my favourite times of the day. There is some sort of mystery about these times when the light changes and the sounds are different. Dawn and dusk are liminal spaces where transformation is possible. I think this is what I was trying to capture in this poem.

Myriad Gaze

Sink into the ground
Rise above the world
The myriad of lights never ceases
to capture my soul
To the south the blaze
of a day long gone
To the north pinprick 
hope of a promise
Splendour is caught between the past and the soon
Eastern skies shimmer
with things of the earth
Flickers to the west
wide windows unseen
Earth - sky - then - now - when?
Gaze on the blessings
that saturate life.

Thursday 25 October 2012

A Mandala a Month

Well, I did it! I managed to get the draft of my project on Mandalas complete and off to my proof reader. It's a good feeling, but it also saw the culmination of an exciting journey into discovering the value of mandalas in my own life. I have been doing some thinking about where to take this passion for mandalas next.

I have thought about offering a monthly mandala workshop in my local area for people to create a mandala a month for the year 2013. What an amazing picture of the year this would give us. It would almost be like a map of the inner journey throughout the year. This does not need to be limited to those who live locally. I am wondering if any of you out there, around the world, would be interested in engaging in "A Mandala a Month". I'm not 100% sure how this would work yet, but would love the challenge of making it available to people if there is a need.

I am thinking that the first workshop would include an introduction to mandalas. Subsequent workshops will help people to reflect on how life has been during the month and create a mandala that is like a snapshot of the soul at that time. It would be great to share some of the mandalas people have made here for all to see the diversity. 

If you think you would like to be involved in "A Mandala a Month" either from a distance or locally in Margaret River/Augusta leave a message or send me an email -

Would love to hear from you!

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The Imprint of God's Fingers

I have been reflecting a lot today, as I write up my project, on what it means to take a contemplative stance. I know that I can be guilty of thinking I am doing well at just being in the presence of God, only to realize that in fact I fill my life with righteous activities to convince myself I'm good with God. I could not have got the whole thing more backward!!

I rediscovered this great quote from Irenaeus, the second century bishop from France.

"It is not you who shapes God, but God who shapes you. Await then the hand of the artist. Offer God your heart, soft and tractable. And keep the shape in which the artist fashions you. Let your clay be moist, lest you lose the imprint of God's fingers."

It sounds so easy, yet it is so difficult. The more I try to get it right or be more 'holy', the drier my clay becomes. When I relax and just rest in the Presence, somehow God's fingerprints seem closer than ever. It certainly goes against the grain to stop striving and yearning for more. I wonder how much of my life is spent trying to shape God, rather than letting God shape me. 

You can't blame me really! Shaping God is the safest option. I am in control that way and don't need to be vulnerable. Letting God shape me only leads me into an unknown mystery. These words from Iranaeus are a real challenge. What does it mean for me to let my clay remain moist? What do I need to do to avoid losing the imprint of God's fingers? But see, I have missed the point again. Iranaeus says, "let your clay be moist". All I need to do is allow it, not get in the way with my own plans - Stop shaping and allow myself to be shaped.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Deadlines and Discipline

Some of you will be aware that I am currently writing my project to complete my Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction. I've done all the research and got all the references together, but now its time to sit down and get it all written. I've set myself a deadline and I have a proof reader lined up. Now to get busy!

I have set the next two days aside to, hopefully, finish my writing. I am finding the project very exciting. The results of the workshops have far exceeded my expectations. The problem that I have when nearing completion of a project is that my mind moves on to the next challenge before I have even finished. Needless to say, there are a lot of unfinished ideas and projects in my life.

I need to find a way to stay present to what I need to complete now. So, I'm going to the local library and taking only what I need for my project. I have to be strict with myself and create boundaries in order to get the job done. I don't know if I am unique in this way, or whether many people struggle like me. It highlights for me, however, the need to live more in the now. There is a discomfort in being still and not knowing what challenge will be next.

I have high expectations for the next few days. I am hoping that I have been realistic and I will be able to achieve what I have set before myself. It will be good practice in self discipline and staying focused on the now rather than yearning for the future. I'll let you know how I get on!

Saturday 20 October 2012

A Kiss of Delight

I went looking for a piece I wrote in my journal that I used twelve years ago during our time in Tonga. What a distraction! It is fascinating reading the thoughts, poetry and struggles of my younger-self. As part of our training week to prepare for our two years away, we were given the task of thinking about our spiritual grounding. I can't remember the exact details of this, but my memory is that when we faced times of trouble and doubt while we were away, we could turn to what we had written as our spiritual grounding and find comfort. 

The seasons and the timing of our days has always been a comfort to me. As the sun sets on the day, we sleep in the confidence that a new day will begin at dawn. Dusk and dawn have always been very spiritual moments in my life. Sometimes the most profound thoughts and experiences of God happen as the sun meets the horizon. Maybe there is something about the beauty in the sky or maybe as the sun meets the horizon it speaks of the thin places where God and I meet. Whatever it may be, this is the image I used twelve years ago to be my spiritual grounding while I was far away from home. Today, I might write something very different. However, this statement still speaks truth into a life that is very different now.

The Kiss of Delight

God has given me a new day
The rays of the sunrise tough me and bless me
You are my child
A kiss of delight
The warmth of my God wraps me up
The light of my God allows me to see
The breeze through my hair gives me life
The sand between my toes lets me know there is work to be done
I will run in delight where God will lead
I will see God in the smiles, the tears, the words
I will show God in my smile, my tears, my words
My Creator in me and me in my Creator's world.

At the setting of the sun
The rays will touch me and bless me
You are my child
A kiss of delight
Then I can rest knowing that my hurts, my struggles, my pain, my failures
Are in God's hands
Tomorrow God will give me a new day.

Joy, Paint Pots and the Sizzler

I spent much of yesterday watching children have a fantastic time. In the morning, Margaret River Church had their first session of 'Ready, Set, Go', a program to help parents and kids get ready for starting kindy next year. There was singing, wonder as we looked at flowers, painting, playing in the sand, gluing, dressing up and stories. Some children were a little overwhelmed, and others couldn't get enough of all the activities. 

In the evening, our family went to the annual Margaret River Agricultural Show. Arrangements for this big night started a week ago. As parents, we had a schedule. At 5.30pm we were meeting this friend at the Tumbler, at 6.30pm we would meet and have dinner, at 7.30pm another friend would be met at the Tumbler and at 8.30pm we would watch the fireworks. The excitement was oozing!!

The look on my daughter's face as she tried to take in the different show bags and work out which was the right one for her was priceless. Wonder, confusion and excitement all wrapped up in one little expression. Watching the anticipation as they waited in line to go on the rides and then the smiles and the hair flying as they whizzed past us on the Sizzler.We joined the circle of parents with their cameras, waving as they flew around.

Adulthood has a way of bringing restraint into our lives. Everything is more measured and contained. I guess there is a need for that in many ways, especially when it comes to spending money at the Show. I wonder how much more joy we would have in life if, just occasionally, we let ourselves go. What would happen if we allowed ourselves to splash paint on a canvas, not worrying about the cost or the mess we were making? When was the last time we felt our heart pounding in anticipation of going on a 'freaky' ride at the Show? When did we last squeal in delight? When did we last let our hair down and let it fly in the wind? Do you remember the last time you ate fairy floss?

I often here people talk about childhood like they would love to go back to those carefree days. I would like to ask the question, "Why can't we reclaim childlike joy for ourselves?" I guess it's a choice we make. Do we risk being vulnerable and experience a sense of wonder and laughter or do we stay safe, contained and in control?

Wednesday 17 October 2012

The Battle of the Head and the Heart

Shams Tabrizi image: Alex Tjoa
Some of us find that our life is dominated by our head. Knowledge, learning and exploring dominate my time and become the most important thing in my life. I need to constantly remind myself to engage my heart as well. It is when I can live from my heart that I go deeper and discover even more wonderful things than my head can handle. 

I follow Rumi on Facebook. Last week, the following quote and picture came up. 

"Intellect takes you to the door, but it doesn't take you into the house."

How true! I need constant reminding of this. I can know every theory, every fact, every date and every place in my mind. This does not help me to 'know' myself or my relationship with the Divine. These things are much deeper than my head can ever take me.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

The Funeral Row Boat

Much of my day was spent preparing and conducting a funeral for a much loved member of our Margaret River congregation. When I was training for ministry, a wise person once told me that as a minister we have a unique role to play at the point of death. They used the image of a lake that the family and friends cannot cross. As the minister, we have the task of rowing the deceased person to the other side of the lake. This is not only a service to the person who has died, but a huge comfort to the family and friends that their loved one is in safe hands.

This image has always stayed with me and I always find it a privilege to be with people around and after death. Today was no different. It is such a huge responsibility to hold people when they are at their most vulnerable. This is often the time when the most profound questions are asked and the veil between the spiritual and the physical becomes very thin. Often, I find that the family and loved ones allow you to become close very quickly. Stories are shared, insecurities are aired and truths are exposed. 

Funerals are often seen as morbid affairs, but for those of us who take on the role of rowing the boat, they are precious moments. So today I give thanks for the life of Kathleen and thank her family for the privilege of  allowing me to be part of this transition in life.

Monday 15 October 2012

Connecting Places

It was the last day of the school holidays today. It has been a different sort of holiday as Guy and I have both been working and trying to juggle our time with the kids. The kids went on a camp for part of it and we have had two sets of visitors staying with us. It wasn't until today that I realized we had very little time with our family all together. 

So this afternoon we took off. We drove to Dunsborough for lunch and then on to Canal Rocks. This is a place that all of our family enjoy. We have been visiting Canal Rocks with our children since they were babies. I cannot recall a time when we have not enjoyed our visit. My husband loves watching the wild, unpredictable waves. My son becomes like spiderman clambering with ease over the rocks. My daughter enjoys staying close to someone and exploring the cracks where living creatures might be hiding.

For me, I just love watching my family enjoying being close to nature and being themselves. I love the wildness of the place and the freshness in the wind and the water. There is something about our common love of this place that connects us in a mysterious way. As Harrison climbed higher and higher, his sister called our, "Be careful, Harrison". Only to get the reply, "That proves you love me!". There was lots of laughter and time stood still for a while. On returning to the car, we were somehow more connected than when we arrived. Canal Rocks has invisible threads that link us together as a family.

I guess for other people there are other special places that hold memories and the power to reconnect. For my family that one hour together in this awesome place made up for the disconnection of the holidays. So many cultures have a strong connection to the land that is not just physical, but spiritual. Western cultures are often too busy to be aware of these vital connections. Where are the places that have special significance for you? Are there places that are not only important to you, but to your family or community?