One Breath

The air crackles when I step outside the door. The breath catches in my lungs and stings my nose. It is minus 35. Cold even for this part of the world. I don’t want to know what the windchill factor is. My eyes blink to focus in the frigid air. Winter in much of Canada is a harsh teacher this year.

Even in this frozen cold each day I take myself outside the House of Prayer where I am staying for some time of healing and reflection. I stand among the barren trees listening to the winter birds (how do they manage to survive in this bitter beauty?) I watch the deer paw through the snow for a morsel of sustenance. In the early morning sky I see the waning moon, Venus and Jupiter shining bright.

I am reminded in this one brilliant moment that this breath I can see as I blow through pursed lips I share with all life. It is not “my breath”. It is indeed the Breath of Life. I see the deers’ breath as they stop along the path to look back at me. I see the “breath” of the lake as the holes the weekend ice fishers cut begin to freeze over. We share the One Breath. We are of one essence. I now know how strongly, how integrally we are connected. And I breathe my prayer of thanks.

Susan Butler-Jones

The Last Strand of Lights

I can’t seem to bring myself to put away that last strand of lights…it encircles the candle on the coffee table…I turn it on first thing in the morning when I come into the dimness of the living room to enjoy that first precious cup of coffee that begins my day. Starring into the little LED string of “dots” holds me, offers me comfort somehow, brings me to a sense of well being. One little strand of lights… $1.99 + 3 AA batteries … economically speaking, a very cost effective spiritual outcome, wouldn’t you agree? (Smile)

But seriously, what is it about those lights that opens me, or helps to open me to the peace and presence of God, the sense of well being that I feel, just sitting there, sipping coffee, and starring into the brightness of those sweet little dots of light. I’m pondering that.

Do they call out to a shadow of a flame in me? Do they offer warmth to a place where I am feeling “frozen”? Where does their stream of light-energy flow? Am I breathing it in deeply, or am I “shallow breathing”? Where does its path invite me? As I return, morning after morning, will this circle of lights get me there…lead me there?

Will I know when the time is right to finally take the batteries out, wind the string carefully around a piece of cardboard, and tuck them away until next Advent?

I trust I will.


Armistice Day

As I followed the Armistice Day events around the world, marking the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI, I was struck by the appropriateness of remembering this horrendous event in history on a cold, somber November day.  Darkness and dreariness seem to define most of that which is November as surely as it no doubt defined many days during this and other wars.  At this time of year, in much of the Northern Hemisphere, we are fortunate enough to be able to “hunker down” in the warmth of our homes sheltered from the cold days that lie before us; but not so for the millions who lived in the trenches day in and day out exposed to the elements regardless of the season through those four l-o-n-g years.  They surely endured what must have been an endless misery – a reality that most of us can only begin to imagine.

I was also struck by the images of some 60 heads of state that attended the Remembrance Service at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris at the invitation of the French President Emmanuel Macron.  As little as two years ago, such a picture would have been viewed as a comforting symbol of unity amongst nations – but not so on this Remembrance Day!  In the words of President Macron “Old demons are resurfacing.  History sometimes threatens to take its tragic course again and compromise our hope of peace.  Let us vow to prioritize peace over everything.”  These words are a grim reminder of the ease and direction in which a handful of our present world leaders seem to be charting their course these days.   For me, President Macron’s words were sounding a clarion call.

As contemplatives our work in the world seems more important than ever!  As a contemplative in action, what role(s) am I willing to take on to promote peace and justice in the world?  Am I willing to put myself “out there” to take up a cause that supports or promotes peace?  How can I support others who work for justice/peace on a daily basis?  How do I see myself engaged in doing this important work?

I leave you with these words from the Peace Pilgrim:

“It is through solving problems correctly that we grow spiritually.  We are never given a burden unless we have the capacity to overcome it.  If a great problem is set before you, this merely indicates that you have the great inner strength to solve a great problem.  There is never really anything to be discouraged about, because difficulties are opportunities for inner growth, and the greater the difficulty the greater the opportunity for growth.”

 And so in honour and remembrance of all those who have lived and died seeking peace, let us seek ways to walk with each other in a spirit of peace.   May we also find “great inner strength” as we choose to do our part in resolving the “great problems” we encounter in our present world.


Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution

Some of you may have encountered Dorothy Butler Bass’s writing, but in spite of their very similar names, Diana Butler Bass has a very different style which appealed strongly to me. She is a storyteller, often using stories from her own life to open up the reader’s understanding of what she’s trying to say.

Her fundamental question is “Where is God?”   Instead of asking the usual and traditional fact-seeking questions of  “what” and “who”, and accepting the answers as authoritative, Diana Butler Bass encourages us to ask the experiential and open-ended questions of “where” and “how”.

She says, “To relocate God is to reground our lives.”

Her theology is open-minded and modern.  In a sense, this book is a spiritual memoir within which the author re-visions the traditional understandings of God.  “This world, not heaven, is the sacred stage of our times,” she reminds us.

Because Diana Butler Bass opens her heart to us even as she is explaining a theological concept, and grounds her explanations in life experience, I found this book fascinating, and did a lot of underlining!

Alice Rutherford

The Power of Pause: Becoming More by Doing Less

The Power of Pause, written by Terry Hersey, is a gentle book of reflections that also has the power to challenge. Each short reflection is followed by an inspirational quote – sometimes scripture, sometimes not – and then a suggestion for “A powerful Pause for the Days Ahead”.

There are 52 reflections arranged by seasons only because many people like to follow the seasons in their own reflecting.  But the book is meant to be used as each person finds most helpful, not according to any set of rules.

Each reflection speaks to ordinary everyday life and draws from ordinary life, often Terry Hersey’s own experience, but not always.

I found myself breathing easier and deeper after reading and pondering a reflection, pausing to “let [my]soul catch up with [my] body”, as the blurb on the back cover says.

I would gladly recommend this book as a simple yet thoughtful book on which to base a short retreat.

Alice Rutherford

Listening Below the Noise

51tolrzygdl-_sx343_bo1204203200_The day I wrote this blog about Listening Below the Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire, I was sitting in silence, pondering what to say and how to say it. It was a gloomy Sunday morning, Thanksgiving weekend. The autumn colours were at their very best, crying out to be felt, seen, heard – experienced.  I had just read the chapter about listening deeply and intuitively. I was gazing out the front window, chewing over what words to use.  Suddenly my mind quieted, my heart opened, and I woke up to the glory of the woods outside my window. At last, I was truly listening!

In this simple yet profound book, Anne D. LeClaire writes, in short meditative chapters, about the experience of taking every other Monday as a full day spent in silence, sometimes very active, sometimes slow and meditative. Her husband’s frustration at not being able to ask her questions; her friends’ puzzlement at why she was doing this; her own puzzlement, and then growing commitment to, the practice; her deepening awareness of her own soul and the soul of the world around her – all are starting points for her evocative reflections. A powerful little book that is transforming me, bit by bit.

Alice Rutherford

One of the Best Books I’ve Ever Read

1594204713Phenomenal:  A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World, by Leigh Ann Henion is filled with awe and wonder, without ever being sticky sweet. It’s the story of Leigh Ann Henion’s spirit-seeking pilgrimage; her “pilgrimage to wonder.”  In seven separate, yet intimately joined journeys, journeys which lead her from “a complete breakdown of faith…in what, exactly, I do not know”, to her saying, “…to experience an eclipse – or any of the phenomena I have explored – is to be granted an audience with [Mystery].”

Ms. Henion selects seven different natural phenomena around the world to experience in person. Along the way, there are indeed glitches and unpleasantness, but her growing sense of wonder and oneness with Mystery moderates those glitches. She accepts the challenge of fully drinking in each of her experiences, and becomes a lyrical storyteller convinced that “We are stardust”.  The way she expresses herself simply sings.  This is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Alice Rutherford
Sept. 2016

Leadership Team

BETHE BENJAMIN CAMERON is an ordained minister in the the United Church of Canada.  She lives her life prepared to be spontaneous. She has a passion for finding ways for social service providers and faith communities to collaborate.  Bethe has a gift for accompanying others on their spiritual journeys and she is known for sharing her creative and innovative ways of engaging the spirit.

FAY CAMERON has many years experience supporting not-for-profit organizations with administration and bookkeeping services.  Fay is the Registrar/Bookkeeper for Contemplative Pathways.

LINDA FOY is a facilitator and social justice advocate. As a Quaker, she tries to see ‘that of God’ in everyone and in all of creation.


KATHY ROY accompanies others on the spiritual journey as a Life Coach, Speaker, Facilitator and Spiritual Guide. Kathy is ordained as an Interfaith/Interspiritual Minister with a keen interest in studying the mystical heart of the world’s faith traditions.

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SUSAN BUTLER-JONES loves the adventure of the spiritual journey, and sharing that journey with others. A United Church minister, educator and spiritual director, Susan co-founded and co-ordinated the Prairie Jubilee Program for Spiritual Direction for 10 years before moving east. She lives in Gatineau, QC.

Contemplative Pathways Adjunct Staff:

CATHERINE SMITH is passionate about nourishing lives permeable to the Spirit.  She delights in gathering groups and accompanying individuals in practices that tend a contemplative way.  Catherine is ordained in the United Church of Canada and a graduate of  Shalem’s: Transforming Community: Leading Prayer Groups and Contemplative Retreats.  She lives in Sackville NB.

Contemplative Pathways Senior Associates:

Attachment-1MARILYN BURRELL Since completing the program in 1998, Marilyn has felt herself called to an ever-deepening life of prayer and contemplative living. She considers it a great privilege to accompany others as they explore their own spiritual truth. A United Church layperson, Marilyn lives in Sackville, NB.

CHARLOTTE CAMPBELL is passionate about her love of the earth, is committed to living more gently on it, and is dedicated to seeking reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and with the land we share.  She has been offering individual and group spiritual accompaniment for over 10 years. Charlotte is a United Church layperson living at beautiful Lake George, New Brunswick.

DON MACDOUGALL  (founder of Contemplative Pathways, formerly called the Atlantic Jubilee Program in Spiritual Deepening and Spiritual Guidance) is a facilitator and teacher, grounded in spiritual formation and guidance in the contemplative tradition, and is a retired United Church minister.