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Sit in your Tear Drop Trailer and it will Teach you Everything

Abba Moses said: Sit in your cell and it will teach you everything.

Last week, on a 12-hour driving journey to visit my family, we tested a traveling “sacred schedule” out while camping with our homemade tear drop trailer.

The first day and evening went very well. We traveled about 4 hours and stopped at a lovely campground, where we played at the playground, walked through a field of alfalfa, and had hot showers. The next morning, we made a delicious breakfast and loafed around, chanted the psalms discreetly, and read our “offices”, using prayers from the Carmina Gadelica. (Our son likes to say the last words of each line in the Lord’s Prayer and he asks us to chant the Psalms if we forget.) Slowly, we packed up and pulled out of the campground late morning, with high spirits and contented hearts.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Our plan was to drive about 5 hours to a small city in Saskatchewan, where we would go and have showers at an aquatic centre, give our 2.7 year old son some exercise in the water, put our pjs on and find a place to pull over and sleep.

Enter reality. It turns out our son travels long distances much better in the mornings. We spent a good portion of that afternoon teaching him that intentional loud, shrill screaming, is best not done in the van next to his baby brother’s ears, (not to mention ours!) The deal was that we pulled over, made tea, bounced our baby and sat in our folding chairs on the side of a gravel road, while our eldest sat in the van and deliberated over saying these words: “I won’t scream anymore. Let’s keep driving.” We had a nice tea, and read out loud from the book we’re reading, and after a good while, we finally heard the magic words: “I’m sorry. I won’t scream, mama. Let’s go to Mamna and Papa’s”.

Bill Plotkin has a great book called Nature and the Human Soul, in which he speaks about soulcentric parenting. That is: finding alternatives to teaching either “entitlement” or “obedience”. Finding that “other” option is not as easy as it might sound and can be incredibly counter-intuitive in this culture. And depending on whom you’re speaking to, our “method” might be seen as either “unkind” or “spoiling”.

Prairie ghost town

Prairie ghost town

 

By the time we got to said town, with said aquatic centre, we realized it was a Friday night, and carnival night to boot. Testosterone was thick in the air with cars and trucks cruising around, looking for… love. The pool’s parking lot was exactly where the zipper ride was screaming, and there was no parking within a mile. It was getting nigh on to bedtime and in the end, it started to rain. We pushed on, and by the end of it, everyone but my husband ended up in tears in our little trailer in some parking lot in a small town,  with me trying to change diapers, nurse and put pajamas on in the dark, while Ian tried to find the batteries to our flashlight that fell out when we’d hit a bump somewhere along the journey. Not to mention the mosquitoes!!!

My friend James Finley, who I have recently recorded Sanctuary with, says, “The poverty of the practice is the richness of the practice” (on centering prayer). It is in these times of apparent poverty, we realize it is not about getting it right all the time, but about showing up, in order to see that our merit comes from somewhere that can’t be touched, no matter whether we’ve done it perfectly or not.

We have a “rule” for the road, yes. And we have a practice so our feet have traction, to operate with less impatience and with more love, yes. But in the end, we also have a practice to remind us that we don’t get to do it perfectly.

We will be leaving August 19th for 6 weeks, visiting Albuquerque, San Antonio, and Phoenix and all the way up the West Coast. I have 11 shows, 6 of which are house concerts. We’ve designed the tour so we have many days off between shows and only have to travel 3-4 hours on driving days. That being said, we knew this was not a holiday, but a journey. Now, since we’ve done our practice run, we know it is a Family Pilgrimage. We also know, this is why many folks stick to home routines and only venture out for short, well-funded, holidays. We also know, that this is a tremendous opportunity for us to experience being sustained by God as parents, as partners and as apparent servants.

We may not have a big motorhome (our tear drop trailer is the size of a double bed with a little bunk at our feet), but we have so much. Nevertheless, we will be placed in the symbolic position of being the stranger in a strange land.

Lunch

Lunch

I should have known that I couldn’t make an album like Sanctuary, without having to be put through fire of re-knowing transformation, deeper and deeper! (Shucks.) This tour, this pilgrimage, is another conscious way for us to be reminded that God does the work inside of us.  

Sanctuary – Exploring the Healing Path with James Finley and Alana Levandoski will be released on September 17th, 2016 – sign up HERE for to receive more information about this and other stuff!

Istanbul, Social Grieving and Tom Petty

Being a musician, I’ve been to a lot of airports in the world. My favourites are Ataturk and Charles de Gaulle.

I called my Canadian prairie grandma from Ataturk airport in the year 2000 and told her I was in Istanbul. I told her the entrance was remarkable with its marble and gold. She couldn’t imagine it!

istanbul

Of all the countries I’ve visited, Turkey has left the most lasting impression on me. Fresh olive oil, new wine, goat cheese, layers of history and such hospitality. And the architecture!!!

I stood on the Bosphorus bridge with one foot in Europe and one in Asia. I walked where Saint Paul walked. I traveled through the mountains and sat in the ruins of roman bathtubs amidst shepherdesses watching their sheep.  

I know we can examine this strange time as the rise of anti-intellectualism (or if you follow spiral dynamics at all, perhaps the strangest clash of Blue and Green we’ve ever seen). But this week, I have been feeling like Beauty herself is under attack from all sides.  I’ve been feeling sort of… defeated, and it wasn’t until today that I was ready to “socially grieve” for Istanbul.  It seems that with social media, we are moving from one tragedy to the next, and socially grieving is becoming a full time job.  It’s like even those with the best of intentions are technologically ready for globalism, but perhaps not psychologically ready to constantly change their profile picture overlay from flag to rainbow to flag.  This might be a whole other blog – to discuss how perhaps our social grieving still doesn’t know how to release this universal suffering back into the big picture so our egos aren’t holding onto it.

In the long view, this IS all connected in a great web of suffering and a great web of life, but I also know real people with real stories are losing their lives and real groups of people are being deeply misunderstood.  I do trust that whatever is, is being transformed, but it neither the time nor the place to try and explain the atrocity away.

There are so many beautiful things to acknowledge in the world and yet we must also show our compassion to the stories of suffering.  How to do this in balance with the hope of moving out of the “stuckness” we find ourselves in may be the great puzzle of our time.  It feels like it takes an ocean of healed people to get the same kind of press as a single unhealed one.  

 In the meantime though, these events are each in their own way, tragic and deserving of love and attention.

I have a story to offer Istanbul as my gentle gesture of acknowledgement.

I recently watched Runnin’ Down a Dream, the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers documentary, and at one point Tom gets his audience to imagine if “for just one moment, everything was alright”.

It might sound like a rock ‘n’ roll pipe dream, but it reminded me of a day when I was in Istanbul 16 years ago. In Turkey every year on November 10th, the day that commemorates Ataturk’s death, there is a minute of silence in the morning. I got to witness it. A whole city of millions of people, motors turned off, standing still and silent together. I think about my own life, my marriage, my relationships, my children and ask myself if I am living minute by minute, free of the violence of accumulated resentment, stress and fear. If a whole city can do it for a minute, maybe I can gently go forward, minute by minute with the grace of God.

Istanbul, I am sorry, and you are loved.  Thank-you for showing me how for one moment, everything can be alright.

 

 

All Real Living is Meeting

In the past two weeks it took a crow attacking a robin’s nest in front of our picture window, and a massive cell tower erection in front of our beautiful sunset, for me to realize that we often really don’t grieve deeply until something is destroyed right in front of our eyes. I was confronted with my own tribal tendencies and my desensitization was shattered. John Donne says it better than I do:
 
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

“I Am”: how tucking my son in reveals the hope for convergence

The phrase “I am”, has held great power for me, from the narrative of the Exodus text “say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14) to Jesus saying “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).  The Greek words eigo emi “I exist” is the first person tense of the verb “to be”.   This is said to be best translated as “I Am!”

As a good Christian, I have made sure to hear these words as an affirmation that God exists and Jesus was referring to himself as God.  And while I believe that (now in many dimensions), and find it to be quite powerful, it no longer gives me the same sense of shallow certitude that it used to.  Rather, I have started to feel within me the deep sense of mystery at play in these words.

i-am

It has recently struck me that although there has been a lot of work done around “I-Amness”, or “suchness”, or “isness”, with philosophers like Ken Wilber, there are many folks not ready to hear his delivery on the matter.   And then, held particularly within the Christian tradition, this notion that this God is stating His existence – we mostly find that the dynamism of God is not implied nearly enough.

My days are made up of very simple, ordinary (yet truly extraordinary) occurrences. I nurse my 6 week old baby.  I make time for my little boy.  I make meals and abide by a Rule of life with my family.  I am not surrounded by academics or great mystics and don’t have a lot of time for philosophical conspiring!  So, insights and moments have to come to me in the everyday happenings of life.  And these days,  my children are often my greatest teachers and revelators.

Every night when my 2 1/2 year old son gets tucked into bed, he asks me for a honey tea.  It is our tradition that he gets a honey tea when he’s going to sleep (hot water, honey and milk).  So, every night, when I tuck him into bed, he asks for his honey tea and I go out to put the kettle on.  Consistently while I am in the process of making the tea, he asks from his bed, with slight anxiety, “mama, are you going to make me my honey tea?”  And consistently I respond, “I am making it sweetheart”.  Or “I am, my baby.”

Last night, as I let my child know that the honey tea is “in the making” or “happening” or “on its way as promised”, by saying “I am making it, dear one”, the term “I Am” was not only, “I exist” or “to be”, but “I exist and I am becoming”.

Since the work of Teilhard de Chardin has deepened its way into the Christian imagination, and with the dawn of an era that can no longer ignore that the cosmos has become bigger than our small, tribal God (whom we fight for to be bigger than we’ve fenced “Him” into be), we now find ourselves standing in the paradox of a “creation-is-evolution” place.  This can feel very unmooring for people who have felt so in control of who God is.  I know, from personal experience!

The jury is still out on the matter of Christ being at the heart of evolution, (and I understand that wholeheartedly), but this little experience of saying “I am” to my son, in promise of what is to come and what is already in motion, somehow gives me great hope that all of this complexity in the world, is friction caused by a Force working in love, bringing convergence to a boil.  In other words, the honey tea is being made and we are each a unique part of it.

My husband just pointed out that in French “je suis” means “I am”, and that, whether it holds any academic water or not, is one letter off of “jesus”.  Perhaps Christ is in the letter, and in everything that is, after all.  Perhaps Jesus is our great model of “radical receptivity” as Denis Edwards said in his book Jesus and the Cosmos.  Perhaps Jesus is the great embodied metaphor for what it looks like to allow the Seer to see through us completely.  

I want to develop this whole thing further, but I thought I’d pop it in my blog as food for thought.

In the meantime, check out these two little resources and use them in a way that helps you.  For those of you interested in Teilhard’s intriguing philosophies, watch this little video with Teilhard expert, Ilia Delio.  CLICK HERE.

For those of you who don’t quite agree with this philosophy, so far as you know, but are interested in this “becoming” force that God implies to Moses and Jesus implies he fully embodies, NT Wright has a fantastic article – CLICK HERE

From his Book of Hours, Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem God Speaks perhaps says it best (as poetry tends to),

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am waiting.
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time.

PS- go here to listen to a sample of Rilke’s poem set to music by my friends rEvolve 

Beauty is not Denial: Why Grace and Frankie strengthen my Faith

 

Most people wouldn’t think that a self-identifying Christian would appreciate a television series about two women in their 70’s living in the aftermath of their husbands coming out to them, divorcing them, and getting married to each other.

I admit that at a certain point in my life I wouldn’t have appreciated it.

That was before I knew that life is not as predictable and controllable as many people attracted to “faith” would have it be. But perhaps those of us attracted to faith are more attracted to certainty, or being right and perhaps even to convention itself, than we are to the stuff in life that requires us to have faith.

Now, I wouldn’t let children watch the show, (my little ones are screen-free at this point anyway), but I would encourage grown ups to watch it with an open mind if they are able and ready.

2015-125-a0622828-4d57-4460-b67f-6decb4a6cb1a

Here’s why:

There was a point in my life where I would feel insanely frustrated if I felt I couldn’t predict outcomes, especially if I risked being vulnerable with someone. In the process, I tried to be “moral”. I tried to be “good”. I even tried to impose “morality” and “goodness” onto others. I was one of those people.

What I’ve since discovered is that often right when the truth of what we fear is staring us in the face, instead of facing it, we can often repetitively agonize over longing for a “mom and pop” world. We put ourselves in the false and dangerous loop of really believing that “other times” were truly better. Thinking, “just give me that old time religion” and that will stop the world from going to hell in a hand basket. (I also wonder which “old time religion” that song is referring to? Third century? 11th? 50 years ago?)

Often the delusion that other eras were more golden or more moral, is a condition we impose on ourselves to set catharsis and nostalgia as city walls to guard us from what we fear.

All the while our grandparents were remaining committed to their marriages, or children were better behaved, or churches were better attended, marital rape was not considered a crime (until in some states, 1993), sexual abuse of children went mostly unreported and this was yes, happening in church communities too.

The person suffering from nostalgia for more “upright” times, might think there are more gay people today than at other times, but perhaps it is more true to say there are more gay people actually seen as people in our neighbourhoods and in our world, because, thank God, being gay is no longer punishable by death or imprisonment (at least in our culture).

We find in the hit tv series starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, an unlikely friendship between country club, Type A, control freak (Grace) and hippy, still holding to her counter cultural principals (Frankie).  Grace trusts that convention and hard work will protect her, and Frankie ever loves, and trusts that she is loved as equally back.

What we see in each of these women after the shock of finding out their husbands have been cheating on them, with each other for 20 years, is a series of unfolding facades being shed, one episode after the other. It is a process of healing that is anything but pretty. Sort of like life.

I believe that beauty will save the world but I also believe that being in denial is never beautiful. This is where we reach a paradox about living our lives.

I am the first person to line up to watch Anne of Green Gables, but I am now also willing to accept that Lucy Maud Montgomery died of suicide.

With Grace and Frankie, we see their suffering transform into acceptance and friendship. It isn’t a pat and perfect story. But show me anyone being pat and perfect when the façade of their life falls around them and there is no hiding or covering up available as an option.

I see in their children, particularly the daughters of Grace, people who perhaps knew their parent’s marriage was not what it appeared to be. One of them takes the workaholic cynic, don’t come near my heart route, the other marries perhaps a similar man as her father, in the sense that he doesn’t necessarily love her dearly and buries himself in his work.

With Grace, as her conventions fail her, we begin to see underneath this very put together woman, a real person with flaws and fears, who awakens to her sexuality perhaps for the first time.

With Frankie, we see someone struggling with how to live with her heart on her sleeve and trust anyone again.   We see her codependence with Sol (her ex-husband) diminish, as she strengthens and gains more courage to just keep letting her heart be what it is, and perhaps even for the first time.

In both women, we get to walk the journey toward accepting what is, no matter how much we wish it could be different at first. We get to see them begin to allow for their unmooring to be an unlikely touchstone… or for their suffering to become a place of peace and new beginnings.

The makers of the show aren’t afraid to shed light on confusion or what can often lie beneath the pretence of a thing. These ladies get down right effed up about their lives. But perhaps their lives were effed up all along, underneath it all. Only it took their husband’s storylines and betrayal to dredge it up to the surface.

I am not saying the show is for everybody. It has verbal content that may offend some, even beyond the storyline. But as for me, it has shown me two characters I can understand, empathize with, and somehow feel I have been.

There was a time I was betrayed, and things were revealed to not be what they were. I have been confused beyond comprehension. I have suffered by having to face “what is” and accept that I have no control over outcomes. And through it all, something eventually began to shine out of me, and out of the circumstance itself, that resembled Great Love.  

Christ is revealed in the cracks.

Honestly, any time I begin to fall back into the bogus safety zone of thinking I am beyond the confusion, or any time I start judging someone because they seem “screwed up” (which I’m sure has been used to describe me at times), I come back around to what I know to be true. Faith isn’t about certainty or certitude or defending something to be true.

Faith is what shows up when your proverbial undies are at your ankles exactly at that moment when you thought you had the world fooled that you’re in control… that you have the answer… that you’re above dysfunction.

Faith is what shows up when your heart is breaking and you feel so vulnerable and out of control, but you know you must walk the long miles ahead to rid yourself of codependent patterns and own your own life.

 I want to be a wisdom holder in my old age, but what does that look like?  Being in control?  Pretending that things are not as they are?  Or, as James Finley says, “it isn’t that the master is no longer confused, but they are no longer confused by their confusion”.  I can see Grace and Frankie moving in the direction of not being confused by their confusion, and that is to me, the way suffering can be turned into beauty.

If beauty is going to save the world, like many of my friends think it is (and I do too!), it will have to do it in a way that incorporates the great labour pain agony of accepting what is, and transforming through it, or it is not beauty.  Beauty is not denial.  Or as Bono says, “grace makes beauty out of ugly things”. 

The Kickstarter Campaign for Sanctuary is 90% funded!

For the past 2 weeks I have been running a campaign to pre-sell albums and raise funds to make a new album called Sanctuary ~ Exploring the Healing Path with Alana Levandoski and James Finley

We are up over $18,000 now and our initial goal is $20,000.  

I begin in the studio in 6 days and have the engineer set up to record James Finley in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t made your pledge yet, please head over to the kickstarter page to become a part of the collective that is making this possible! 

An email that went out today

 

I have a course available that walks people through my album Behold, I Make all Things New.  Every week they receive an email from me with some new thoughts and angles for how to work with the songs.  

I thought I’d share the email from today as my blog.  Please remember to head over to my kickstarter campaign and pledge for the new album, if you haven’t already.  Click HERE for that 🙂 

Greetings,

My family and I were away for the long weekend and I was away from email so here is your belated email in connection to the latest video.

I understand that you didn’t receive the Magi last week but yesterday so I have arranged for you to receive The Wisdom Teachings video today.

The two chant songs that accompany this section are selections of Jesus’ words that perhaps aren’t quoted enough.  Again, the first one, Leave all Things, hints at an inner worth that will shine forth when all else is left behind.  We have been walking through Henri Noewen’s book on Lent, using the method of lectio divina, and yesterday’s writings were on how “poverty makes a good host”.  Alluding to the concept of turning the tables in the case of a robbery asking “who will be our robber when everything he wants to steal from us becomes our gift to him?”

Leave all things that you have  and come and follow me could become the mantra for releasing what we anxiously cling to.  

I had an experience recently where someone said something critical about my 2 year old, and I noticed how I was not only protective, but defensive.  The protectiveness is necessary and good.  It is my job.  But the defensiveness is keeping what could be a gift to this person.  It seems that the balance of boundaries and love is ever before us.  Seeking the wisdom to know when we are “getting our back up” and seeking to defend a part of ourselves that we fear is separate from and not infused by the love of God.

I am reminded of the scene in Les Miserables when a desperate Jean Valjean steals silver from the church and when caught, the priest gives him even more than he stole.  How can we start considering that there is always enough? 


The second chant song is “as the Father sent me, so I send you.”

This call to living the “mythic life”, that somehow is inherently there in our desires and longings.  

I watched a sort of scattered and intense talk with a fellow by the name of Greg Boyd on The Work of the People last night and something he said in one sense reminded me of my old philosophical/rational self, but still hit home in a new way.  He was speaking about the way in which we long and what had brought him to a new place in his faith was through philosophically asking a question that went something like this: “why did we evolve to be beings that long for the Holy, if this is simply a meaningless, random empty universe?” 

And he went on to use a metaphor of a carp that evolved out of a desert who had an inherent longing for a water that never was and never would be.  He couldn’t resign himself to that sort of vacuum, and began to travel along the road to encountering God.

In a sense, as the Father sent me, so I send you, gives us full permission to embrace the mythic life it seems we were built for.  That we were built this way and then try to remain asleep seems to encourage “the gods” to send awakeners in our direction.  It usually takes some form of adversity, visitor or shift in life to wake us up to the much more interesting life of being sent, like Jesus, by the Father.

I will end here with another quote from the Noewen Lent book, Show Me the Way.  Perhaps this quote can be used as you meditate with the chants.  

“Our lives are destined to become like the life of Jesus.” – Henri Noewen

If you’re interested in the course, click HERE

Showing Up ~ an Artist’s Healthy Alternative to Entitlement

 

I am about to run my second Kickstarter campaign for the new album I am making with contemplative trauma therapist, James Finley. It is called Sanctuary ~ Exploring the Healing Path with Alana Levandoski and James Finley. This project has consistently bubbled up creatively for me over the past number of months, and I am deciding to trust that weird instinctual “voice” saying, “Please make me!”Album Cover James Finley Project

That being said, I have learned from the past, and from a recent fidelity to a sacred way of life, that I am not entitled to make or record music. Paradoxically, I do feel compelled, even required, to show up and do the work, whether it is made possible to be incarnated into the world and offered or not.  In other words, I have composed the material, have worked with the graphic designer and spent many hours building the Kickstarter campaign, but I am not entitled to the outcome.

I wanted to share this publicly to hold myself accountable, as I move forward with my Kickstarter launch. I also hold myself publically accountable to have fun during the process, for that too was lost to me in the old model! I don’t think it is possible to have actual fun and be entitled at the same time!

I publicly announce that I am showing up for this with my whole heart and will work to my utmost to deliver healing beauty into the world. But this “showing up” is my healthy alternative to “making it happen”. I am not self-made!

Amen, a million times, amen!