Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New Opportunities!

In looking for a quote to summarize my past year, I came across one in M. Scott Peck's book The Road Less Traveled & Beyond:  Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety.  It reads:

"Once a mind is truly stretched, it never returns to its former dimensions."

I just love that.  This has been one of the most difficult years of my entire life, as I have grappled, for the first time in earnest, with the Deep Questions about life, the universe, and everything.  I have cried.  I have yelled.  I have shaken my fist and I have heaved my shoulders, finally yielding to the Truth that what I had previously thought to be the Only Truth was instead a V.I.M.  That stands for Very Important Metaphor.  When one has lived their entire life taking a metaphor as the literal truth, one is in for quite an awakening upon finally becoming conscious! 

I now recognize my true, complete freedom in this world.  Without someone else insisting that I behave and/or believe in a certain way, I have total liberation - and total responsibility.  Whether I succeed or fail in my endeavors is totally up to me.  It is both daunting and thrilling at the same time.  This has been my first real year of adulthood, as I see it.  It only took me a full 40 years to get here!

Weight gain.
Marital crisis.

Getting our dog!
Camping with friends.
Realizing that I no longer believe what I once did - and that I am all the richer for it.
Redefining my marriage, and finding that it is better than I had ever imagined it could be. 

Continued growth mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
Old and new friendships.
Enjoying full health!
More time with family.
Changing careers - scary and exciting!
Performing with my band(s) and loving every minute on stage!

This New Year not only signifies the end of 2010, but the end of an entire decade.  This is significant.  Take a minute to ponder your life and how it has changed over the past 10 years.  Amazing, isn't it?  Over the past 10 years, I have moved numerous times; re-entered the work force; taken up a new career; transitioned my children from homeschool to regular school; and had my eyes opened on numerous occasions.  As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."   How true!

The New Year, and the next decade, will doubtless bring many obstacles your way.  My challenge to you (and to me), is to instead see those same obstacles as opportunities.  The next 365 days will pass, regardless.  The question is, will you use them to grow?  To work towards new goals, refining them as required?  Pay attention when the Universe seems to deny your requests.  You may need to rephrase them, or otherwise adjust your course. 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

I am thankful for the passing of this year into the next.  I am thankful for the pain as well as the joy; for that is where true growth occurs.  I recognize that I am part of all that is in this Universe, and that I am able to share in its collective abundance and wisdom.  I give thanks for the breath which has sustained me, and for the unseen forces that have guided me safely through another journey around the sun.  I receive with gratitude the lessons to be learned in the New Year, and will do my best to learn them quickly.  And so it is.

May 2011 exceed your hopes and expectations! 
- Rev. Jan

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time Of the Year!

As the song says, this is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, Christmas certainly does seem to be the time of year that brings out the best in people.  Despite the frazzle and frustration of trying to stretch those dollars just a little farther in order to get that *perfect* gift; despite the lack of parking spaces at the mall; and despite our lack of will power to resist yet another butter tart and glass of eggnog, there is still a joy peculiar to this special time of year.  I have noticed extra patience shown by drivers and shoppers alike.  I have seen folks who don't have much throw a little something into the Salvation Army Kettle to make Christmas merry for someone else.  I have been blessed to see some who don't normally practice volunteerism   don an apron and serve turkey dinner to those in need.

So, even though at times throughout this season I have felt more Bah! Humbug!  than Merry Christmas, on this Christmas Eve I do find myself reflecting on the joys that are present (pardon the Christmas pun) in my life all year through.  I have been blessed with friends, family, and good health.  I don't have much money, but I certainly have more than many who live in other parts of the globe.  If I need medical care, there is a hospital in my city.  We can afford insulin for our daughter.  Our car is still running.  Blessings abound, if we look for them.

My Christmas wish for you is that you will know deep, abiding peace, regardless of your current situation.  If I have learned anything in this life, it is the truth of the statement that "This, too, shall pass."  You may be broke today, and a millionaire tomorrow.  The only constant for us is change, so we'd better embrace it and learn from it.  As I look out at the stars twinkling above Canada this Christmas Eve, I am sending thoughts of peace and joy out into this beautiful world.

Rev. Janice

Saturday, December 4, 2010


In truth, I do feel that this has been a year of incredible, bittersweet growth.  I have "let the genie out of the bottle," as far as my former belief system goes; and I cannot cram it back in no matter how much I might like to.  I miss some of the comforting formalities of the religious services I grew up with, and truly had embraced as my own.  I miss the music, the much-loved hymns, and the warm fuzzy feelings that came with them.  I miss the feeling of belonging to The Club That Is Going To Heaven. 

What I don't miss is the anxiety about thinking outside of that prescribed religious thought box.  When I first started to doubt that my own belief was the Only Way, I snuck into the Metaphysical Room of Ted's Books across from my house.  I felt guilty just being in that room, surrounded by books written by folks who I was somewhat sure were not only bound for hell - but who wanted to take me with them!  Did I dare even take books off the shelf and leaf through them?  Which one looked the least dangerous to my soul?  That first day, I couldn't even bring myself to buy one.  When I returned, I did find one that looked "safe" - or could at least pass for educational (In the Path of the Masters, by D.L. and J.T. Carmody).  I bought it and literally snuck it into my house, terrified that my eager young God-fearing children would ask to see my purchase, requiring an explanation that I could not give!

It is one thing for an adult to undergo a crisis of faith; quite another to have to deal with all of the feelings that come with explaining the same to offspring.  The guilt, fear, and feeling of something lost can sometimes feel overwhelming.  I confess that I still struggle with this occasionally, especially since we have our children attending a religious school.  We feel that it is a safe and loving environment for them; but I am pleased that both of them have confided to me that they simply don't believe that a Loving God could condemn people to hell.  I have told them that I no longer believe in a literal hell; and have even gone so far as telling my oldest child that I no longer view the Bible as completely literal.  I have told her that I now read it as part history, and part metaphor.  My youngest one is not yet ready for that revelation, but we are gently moving in that direction.  I have also told them both that regardless of what anyone else in their life believes, it is up to them to determine what they will believe.  We have discussed the importance of open-mindedness and compassion, especially when they each asked me: "Mom, I know our Way is the Truth - but remind me again how we are so sure?"  I assure them that every devoted adherent to every religion in the entire world is pretty sure their way is the right one; thus the need for respecting all.

I am sure there are times when my poor husband just about chokes when he hears my discussions with our children, and I do try and keep that in mind.  I never want to be the cause of any division between my daughters and their Daddy, who loves them so.  And he has remained very respectful of my journey; asking questions occasionally, and never mocking or even freaking out.  He is also a Soul Pilgrim, just trying to find his way.

Growing up largely requires one to let go and move on.  There can be no going back, only going forward.  I sometimes miss the ignorant bliss of childhood and indoctrination; of not having to think for myself what is right or true, but only adhere to a set of rules.  That is easier, to be sure - but, in my opinion, much less rewarding than finding my own way.

Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books. Ralph Waldo Emerson