Tag Archives: Ancient practices

Teenager creativity: Poetry month

The public library where I work is attached to a high school. The students come and go around us every day.

Today’s teenagers are something else. They are open and honest about aspects of life I either didn’t understand when I was their age, or wouldn’t have talked about with anyone. Sometimes I need to hold on to something to regain my balance when I catch some of their conversations.

They’re also freely creative. For poetry month, we set up a poetry station.

I love the art they created—en anglais et en français in Ottawa, Canada.

This one is good advice for anyone, most days.

Poem: May you should chill out.

Because Poetry Month . . . God Kin

From one of my favourite books: The Gift,with poems by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. You can see that I have sticky notes on many pages.

Book cover of The Gift


So that your own heart
Will grow.

So God will think,

I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and 

Because this is a food
Our starving world

Because that is the purest

It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here

There are days when I wish more people could say, “It’s not about me.”There are days when I wonder why people think life should only be about what they like.

I am guilty of it too. But I try to think: “It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here.”

I use it at the grocery store when I’m in a hurry and the person ahead of me is paying cash, counting out every nickel. Patience.

I use it in tense meetings. Conflict resolution lessons.

I use it at church every week.

I’m a member of a progressive, affirming congregation. The foundation of our group is that love and grace are available to all people, but beyond that we don’t dictate what anyone should believe. On any given week an atheist could be sitting down the row from a person who believes in the virgin birth. It’s fantastic!

Our conversations are authentic, and deep, and heartwarming,

And challenging. How to balance the content of a church service for people on such different places on a journey?

  • A service about an Old Testament story:
    • “Why do we even use the bible (small b) anymore? It’s thousands of years old, written by men in a patriarchal time. What does it have to do with me? “
    • “Thank goodness we’re finally talking about the Bible (capital B). It has timeless lessons, and it’s the foundation of our faith.”
  • Communion:
    • “It’s a sacred ritual for me. A reminder that I’m not alone and that I have purpose.”
    • “It’s meaningless to me. A little creepy if you want to know the truth.”
  • The cross:
    • “It’s barbaric. I would never wear one because it brands me as something I don’t want to be associated with.”
    • “It’s a symbol of connection with something greater than myself, the reaching and the grounding.”
  • The organ:
    • “The music resonating through the pipes moves me to the depths of my soul.”
    • “How can people endure that horrible screeching?”
  • A short sermon:
    • “It’s about time. No need to go on and on about things. Just get to the point. “
    • “The minister needs to delve more deeply into the topic.”
  • Children in church:
    • “Oh, the noise, noise noise!”
    • “It’s good to see so many children. They bring the place to life.”
  • The hymns:
    • “We need to sing more of the old, familiar hymns.”
    • “Enough of the blood and the sin songs. Let’s sing something new.”
  • The prayers
    • “Oh my God, the prayers are long. My mind drifts off.”
    • I need prayers. They are my time of centering. It’s when I connect with God, and when we connect with each other and the world.”

Every Sunday something happens that I would not choose to include if I were a member of a church of one. (And what fun would that be?) Every Sunday I have to remind myself that the thing I dislike is exactly the thing that someone there—maybe right beside me—is needing. Every Sunday I say to myself: “It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here.”

There always is. Something authentic, deep and heartwarming.

A pewter communion cup beside bread and a candle
The cup of hope and bread for the journey.

Devotion and transformation

“In every religious tradition there is a practice of devotion and a practice of transformation . . .
Devotion means trusting more in ourselves and in the path we follow. Transformation means to practice the things this path imposes on us.”

Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ
city street with a large tree in the middle
Trusting in the path, and growing through what it brings us to do.

Sabbath on Monday

Walking on Lake Louise

Walking on Lake Louise

How do you react to the word “sabbath”?

Does your stomach clench, like it does in response to all words religious? Do you envision thin-lipped matrons in darkened parlours piously whiling away an afternoon with the book of Genesis?

Or do you relax and breathe easily? Do you picture yourself curled up with a good book in front of a fireplace?

I hope it’s the latter.

I want to reclaim the word “sabbath”. Years of  “shoulds,” guilt, judgemental recriminations and self-deprivation crust over this beautiful word with corrosive layers. I want to scrape away the damage and polish the word to a renewed welcoming shine, because sometimes we just need a break. The ancient practice of sabbath has roots in the practical idea that, in order to exhale, we have to inhale sometimes.

I took a sabbath day—a day to inhale—on Monday. These days it doesn’t matter which day you choose.

We are on vacation at beautiful Lake Louise, Alberta enjoying a week of skiing in the Rockies. Perfect sun, perfect snow, breathtaking scenery and Albertan hospitality surround us. I skied happily Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday, while my son and husband skied the black diamond bump runs they love so much, I took a sabbath day. I read. I wrote. I relaxed. I created heaven for myself.

My husband didn’t get it at all. He’s an intense skier, so his sabbath is on the ski hill.

In our modern times, a sabbath day is more important than ever. When was the last time you allowed yourself an entire day of rest? We are connected, always “on,” busy with “stuff” every single day. We are so busy exhaling, we forget to inhale. And there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all sabbath. For me, it’s a quiet day and a good book. For my husband, it’s a sunny ski run. For others it might be a walk in the forest, dinner with family, or a fishing trip.

Play, eat, or meditate, However, sabbath looks to you, I encourage you to reclaim an ancient practice that fulfills the universal need for a mindful indrawn breath.