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.