Joining in the Advent Journey

Every year, during the Advent season, I ask myself the question, “What ‘newness’ wants to be birthed into the world through me in the coming year?”  It is my way of holding a space within my heart and mind to listen for what offering of love the Divine is calling me to create, share, or give to the world.

In 2018, when I held this question I felt the nudge that it was time to write a book.  I had received this nudge many, many times in the past, but last year it felt different.  It felt like it was time to face all of my fears about writing, to offer the whole process to the Sacred and to allow a book to be birthed through me.  So, I embarked on one of the most challenging contemplatively lead projects of my life.  Every day, I showed up in my office and prayed to be shown what to do and I committed to taking the steps that I was shown.

Gradually, one small step at a time, a book began to take form.  It was to be a compilation of lessons I have received from my time spent in nature.  The vision was to have these reflections organized into categories that correspond with the elements of earth, air, fire and water.

The whole process of opening to the Sacred to allow this book to take form felt magical, challenging, and beautiful all at the same time.  When doubts about my ability to write, worries about being good enough, and obstacles around finding an editor, title, or cover art for the book arose, I found myself turning to one line of an ancient prayer in the book of Proverbs (30:8) which reads, “Keep lies and falsehoods far from me.”   This prayer would rise to my aide every time that I felt overcome with fears of being judged and criticized for my writing, or fears that what I was creating would not be good enough.  This simple prayer would help me focus, clear my being of fear and give me strength to keep showing up.

Bit by bit, I was shown the way to write this book.  I was inspired to ask my aunt for one of her paintings for the cover art.  I was inspired to dig through my collection of writing to find reflections that corresponded with the movement of each element.  I was inspired to reach out to friends and colleagues for help and support with reading the manuscript, editing it, and providing valuable feedback.

Throughout the project, when I needed strength and inspiration, I would turn to these words from Rilke, “We must give birth to our images, they are the future waiting to be born.”

When I finally held the book in my hands for the first time, my heart was full of gratitude for saying ‘yes’ to this journey.  Compiling this book helped me grow the inner muscles of courage, perseverance, and commitment.  It also strengthened my belief in something greater than us that uses us to birth newness into our world.

In the end, I learned that this book does not belong to me.  I was only the instrument through which it was birthed.  As the creative process came to completion, I recognized that I was being asked to let go of thinking that I was in any way in control of this process.  This book would have a life of its own.  I couldn’t control who read it, or what people think of it (or me).  This creation would find its own way in the world.  It would reach the hands it was supposed to be held in, it would touch the hearts it was meant to touch.

Today, I am so grateful for the gifts that I have learned through the process of creating Lessons from Nature.  I am grateful for listening deeply to the inner movements and nudges of Spirit.  And, I am gratefully surprised by the stories people are sharing with me about how the book has impacted them.

In 2019, as we once again find ourselves immersed in the Advent story, what new life is stirring within you?  What invitations are beckoning you to say ‘yes, I will commit to this journey’?  Just like Mary and Joseph, as we listen to these nudges, we find ourselves immersed in a story that is both ancient and on-going.  We take part in the birthing of new life and love into our world.

Advent blessings to all,

P.S.  Lessons from Nature can be purchased from all on-line book retailers, including Amazon and Chapters.  Signed copies can be purchased directly from me by emailing  A portion of the proceeds from each book sold are donated to Community Forests International.

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.