Being Guided Part 2: Guts and Curiosity

I was on a small island in the Scottish inner hebrides looking for a holy well.  It was a combination of a small pilgrimage and a mystical spiritual quest.  Most of all, it was curiosity and a sense of being guided.  One of the things I had been learning was how important it is to have a sense of prayerful curiosity.  In order to be guided—in order to find your true purpose, you have to follow your curiosity.  When you have a surprising thought pop in your head, be curious about it, take time to consider it prayerfully.  You may then want to try it out, even if it is a bit tentatively at first. Anyway…

So there I was…looking for  the Well of the Holy Women or Tobar nan Ban Naoimh.

After my first failed attempt at finding this well, I did a bit of research online and found some helpful information although there wasn’t a lot of it. In fact in some places, the name is given as singular ‘Woman’ rather than ‘Women’.   I knew that the well was somewhere in Gruilin where an old abandoned village lied.  There is a website that gives suggested walks with pictures where I found directions to Grulin.  From this website I could tell that I had been going in the right direction.  I had also found a blog post of a woman who found it and gave some landmarks to look out for. I found another blogger who couldn’t find it at all but I wasn’t going to let that discouraged me.

I headed back down the path from Cleadale stopping occassional to wonder and take photos.

Path from Cleadale

Path from Cleadale

dscn2742

I found this concrete stairs on a woodsy verge and wondered what the story was. I allowed what faeries there might be about to take control of my imagination.  Where would I find myself, if I climbed the stairs?  Would I be transported back in time like in Outlander?  Or to a mystical world?  Would I find there is a house that it leads to after all but one that is not visible unless you climb the stairs? Etc. etc.

dscn2614

I also took a photo of this ruined building and then discovered a rather sad story behind it on the Isle of Eigg Facebook page.  ‘The story goes….
A boulder rolled down the cliff through the back of this in the 1950’s and as the couple weren’t married at the time (living in sin) it was thought the place was jinxed and has never been lived in since.’

dscn2743

After an hour, I reached the pier where the small shop and cafe and toilets were (which was a good thing as I still had far to go).

Pier on Eigg

Then it was up the alternate path and through the forest …

 

Forest in Eigg

and accross the field and behind the farmhouse …

dsc_2557

and then a long, scenic walk to Grulin with the Sgurr keeping me company most of the way on my right and the sea on my left.

dscn2655

dscn2660enhance

dscn2777

dscn2778

Eventually, I saw a huge boulder in the distance.  I knew that one of the landmarks I had to look out for were two boulders so I knew I was getting close.

Boulders at Gruilin

Only problem was, there were more than one pair of boulders.

Gruilin Boulders

I spent the next couple of hours searching and searching for the well…and could’t find it.  In desperation I prayed and asked God to show me the way and at that very instant a fighter plane (or at least I think that’s what it was) flew toward the direction of the two biggest boulders.  I walked partly in that direction but as it appeared to be at the edge of the cliff,  I walked no further. If you read my last post, you know about me and my fear of cliffs and this looked like a sheer drop to me.

dscn2685

I walked painfully back to my cabin.  I had been walking for about six hours and by my calculations just over 20 miles and the first time I have ever walked as long as that in my life.

Feeling somewhere between defeated and determined, I asked about the well on the Isle of Eigg facebook page:

2016-10-22

Arrgghhh! So close!

I decided to take a day of rest while I ponder whether it was worth spending another day on the same walk and try again.  Decision made, I headed back up the following day. I made it up to Gruilin and began to walk toward the boulders from the left side …extremely cautiously.  I was still worried about falling off that cliff.

dscn2754

I came around the back of the boulders and discovered there was a gentle slope of several feet before you meet the cliff edge.

dscn2760

I looked toward the right and spied a patch of watercress surrounded by rocks…

well of the holy women

…and there was the well.  The watercress was growing straight out of it! It was wonderfully quiet there.  The only sounds were the gurgling of the well, the distant waves crashing on the sea, the wind and the sheep nearby bleating.  I thought about the people who lived here long ago and the possibility that there was a ‘holy woman’ or nun or more than one.  I also pondered about its more ancient history as many holy wells have pagan origins before becoming ‘sainted’.  Perhaps, the holy woman was a deeply wise woman who planted the watercress nearby..

I read somewhere that when one finds a holy well, an offering should be left.  Usually, it’s something like a bouquet of flowers.  I had forgotten to bring something so I offered up a song of thanksgiving.  I then ate a raw food bar (and some watercress!) and drank from the well.

Curiosity, determination, guidance and some guts brought me to this place.  However, the purpose was in the journey itself.  I had my fears to face and I had to learn some lessons along the way.

Being Guided Part 1: Trust Over Fear

While on the Isle of Eigg, I had an eye-opening lesson on the rewards of faith.  Although many of us might profess a faith in God or a higher power, how many of us would be willing to act on it?  How many of us would truly pray, ‘Guide me Lord and I will follow’ and then do just that?

The Isle of Eigg is my personal choice as a place of restoration.  It is sublimely beautiful. It offers within nature what is most popular about Scotland.  You get thistle, heather, ferns and foliage which changes to beautiful autumnal colours in the fall.  You get the crags and huge rocks and lots of wild scenery.  There is hardly any light pollution so you get an abundance of stars at night and beautiful sunrises and sunsets and sometimes (if you’re lucky) the aroura borealis.  You also get migratory birds of various breeds and many sea animals.  You get all that and the sea as well with majestic views of other islands. It is truly paradise….

IsleofEigg

e9e93e788a71476b98ad2de83ebd6931

7a59c5405204420a81f465370defd026

sunset on Eigg

Singingsands

Unfortunately, sometimes things can go wrong like the time a hiker broke her ankle while she was on the Sgurr and they had to get a helicopter to rescue her.  I can’t help thinking that it could have been worse.  I don’t know the full story but she was lucky.  Somehow, someone knew where she was and that she was hurt.  When I was there nearly three weeks ago, I was on my own during off-peak season.  Kids were in school so there were very few vacationers on the island.  Therefore, when I chose to do some hiking and broke my ankle, no one would know.  If I got lost, I would pretty much stay lost for some time…maybe having to spend the night on an area of grazing land…with cows and well…cow pats.  Not a pleasant thought but even more unpleasant is the possibility of falling off a cliff.  I don’t like heights much so it’s no surprise I guess that thoughts would run through my head such as, ‘If I fell off the cliff, how long would it take before they found my body?’  I am a bit embarass to admit this but I confess I thought of this a wee bit too much.  So much so, that even in the midsts of beautiful scenery, I felt a bit of tightness in my chest and I walked very very carefully in some places.  I didn’t want to fall knee deep in cow manure and break my ankle.  I especially did not want to fall off a cliff.

BUT…

I was on on a quest.  Ever since my first visit to Eigg, I had known about this Holy well.  It was on a map of Eigg which I saw on the wall in Tigh Eilidh.  Not many people on Eigg seem to know much about it or cared.  I had vowed that one day I would find it.

So one my second day on Eigg which was a Sunday, I thought it would be a good day to look for the well.  I knew which direction to head towards but didn’t have a route planned.  After about 5 or 6 miles walk, I lost confidence and assumed that I was going in the wrong direction so I decided to postpone looking for the well and just do some exploring.  My anxious thoughts were agitating just below the surface so I asked God to guide my steps.  All I meant was, ‘Please don’t let me get lost, hurt or step in any boggy, sh**-y mess.’ I just wanted to be safe and not have any mishaps.  The weather was beautiful and I was happy just to walk and explore a bit….safely.

dscn2652

I came out from the woods, and down the path and had an instinct to go through a gate into an open safer looking area.  The weather app on my phone said I was at Galmisdale.  After walking only a short way, this was the view that met my eyes:

0bc67abbb1124911813e07f54235a690

GalmisdaleBayEigg

I realized that God had something better in store than just keeping me safe.  He wanted to calm my spirit, to teach me to trust him more and simply to bless me with a gift of staggering beauty and wonder. He wanted to awe me.  I was.  His love never ceases to awe me.

Book Review: Running In Heels- A Memoir of Grit and Grace

option-6d-copy-1.jpg (1800×2700)

Mary A. Perez is a WordPress Blogger and the author of her gripping memoir Running In Heels.  This raw memoir begins with Mary Perez’s childhood and that mysterious resilience that children often have when life treats them harshly. We read how this little girl dug within herself to find her inner strength to survive even when it meant stealing cold cuts from stray cats. The journey takes us through her sad loss of her childhood where we are also seized by her experience of tragic loss.

At times the book reads like a journey through time as Mary grows up and recounts events in her life which coincide with historical events such as the assassination of Martin Luther King and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.  There are some small fond memories of TV programs of the 60’s and 70’s and popular food labels of that time. We also are immersed in Mary’s Hispanic American culture where the language spoken was English interspersed with Spanish commonly known as Spanglish.

It is not just her childhood that is so austere for as Mary grows up she becomes a teen bride of an abusive alcoholic nearly twice her age.  Thankfully, due to the limited upbringing of her loving grandparents, Mary is introduced to faith in God.  In her honest portrayal, we read about her spiraling faith which so many of us can relate to. However it is her faith that results in Mary being an overcomer in her life.

Running In Heels is a story of survival. It is the story of hope and faith and an amazing godly forgiveness which is truly inspiring.  I had no high expectations so I was surprised at what a page-turner it was.  It is a beautifully written narrative and I could not put it down!

 

One Life Three Births

Three Births

“I remember you from the future.”  What an odd thing to say…yet odder still that the words resonated.  On some strange level, the words felt true to me.  A truth deeper than understanding.  More loving than, “Will you marry me?” Perhaps even more loving than,  “I love you.”  The words have since been kept filed away in my heart for they were spoken to me by my future husband.

Today, as I began my morning meditation, the words came into mind and I followed to see where these words would  take me.  When I did, I realized I was now saying them to God.  ‘I remember you from the future.’  The words spoken unconsciously from my spirit were words of love while my mind responded in wordless questions. I was then reminded about a conversation I had with my husband Jim not too long ago.  I told him I had this sense that I knew God before I was born.  Although I had in the past always believed life began at conception,  lately I have had the sense that I have known God before.  How else did I know something was missing?  How else did I recognize God when I met Him?  When these words came into my heart this morning, I wondered as I have often wondered over the years,  what is time?  Is it as we experience it?  Is it linear?  Is time the same for us as it is for God?  And now I wondered, does our spirit experience time differently and perhaps that is why I remembered God from the future?

My thoughts were then led to life.  I followed. We are born into this world.  We are (hopefully) spiritually re-born.  When we die, it is another birth again.  Many people who have had near-death experiences talk about going through a dark tunnel and seeing a light at the end of it.  For the first time, it occurred to me how similar that sounds to a baby being born.  To many of us, the word death seems to have awful connotations, a finality to it.  This morning, I realized that death is our third birth.  Our first birth…the physical one was full of intensity.  Light and sound.  Pain and hunger.  Fear and nurture. Our second birth…the spiritual re-birth we experience when we are awakened and find God (again) is full of the newer experiences of peace and love.  Joy and bliss.  Gratitude and faith.  It is in one respect a step up from our physical birth.  With spiritual re-birth, our physical side…our mind…our psyche or ego connects with our spiritual side.  We feel more wholeness.  So if death is a third birth, we have nothing to fear and every reason to look forward to it.  It is a furthering of our life with greater wholeness, greater intensity of experience, greater joy and bliss.

 

Learning To Walk

baby-steps

When we are toddlers learning to take our first steps, there are a range of emotions that we experience.  Likewise, there are a range of emotions our parents experience watching us.  A toddler may be bold and daring while his parents may be fearful of him getting hurt.  A toddler may be fearful or tentative while his parents may be be positive and encouraging.  A toddler may be excited but uncertain while his parents nudge him by holding his favourite toy just out of reach.  A REAL loving parent takes joy in her child’s first step. A loving parents enjoys watching the whole ‘learning to walk’ process and rejoices with her child on his accomplishment because real parents love their children.

Parent-love

Brittany was a bit of a late starter when it came to walking.  She was fourteen months old when she first mustered the confidence to walk. She was a bright child who knew she could get hurt.  However, because she was bright she found a way to teach herself.  There were two entrance ways into our kitchen.  Brittany figured out that she could keep one hand on the wall and walk along the wall through one entrance way and out the other without stopping.  I watched her walk into the kitchen and I watched as she came out beaming with pride.  I was so happy for the joy I could see on her face.  Every time she came out, we beamed at each other.  I was proud of her and I am sure she knew I was proud of her and loved her.    This is parent-love.

Never does a parent, at least a loving parent, get angry at their toddler for teetering as their child takes her first steps.  Never does a good parent get annoyed that their child is not striding as an adult.  Never, does this parent tell his toddler, “You are doing it all wrong!” or “Can’t you walk straighter or quicker?”   I can’t help thinking, I am human and yet I have all this love for my children and I also know that God’s love is greater than the most loving being on Earth.  We who believe in God pretty much say this is what we believe…we believe that God loves us…and yet…

I see all the time how easily some people who say they believe this seem to forget they do.  They forget when they say God gets angry and perhaps even punishes us if we make mistakes or take the wrong steps.  They forget when they say, this bad thing must have happened to them because they did something they shouldn’t.  To hear them talk is as if they believe God wants and expects perfection from us; that God is harsh and unloving really, ready to strike someone down with cancer or aids because they didn’t walk straight enough or quick enough.  Yet we wouldn’t treat our children that way, would we?

Of course not.  That would be cruel and unjust!

So is God cruel and unjust?

Never!

Why?

Because God is love!

Of course He is.

God encourages us to grow into the full potentiality of who He created us to be.

When our children take their first steps, as parents we are there to lend a supporting hand and give encouragement when necessary.  Once our children are walking, we don’t teach them to walk straighter, they learn to do that for themselves.   If our toddler misjudges a step and falls, we pick her up and hold her close and wipe her tears and kiss her and allow her to try again while giving love and encouragement.  How much more then will God do that for us?

God encourages us to grow into the full potentiality of who He created us to be.  He doesn’t smack us down when we make a mistake or do something wrong–the consequences of our actions do that for us and God responds with His arms held towards us, ready to embrace us.  God is there for us to turn to for advice and wisdom but it is up to us to seek Him.  It is up to us to learn to walk straighter.  To learn what is right and what is wrong.  Hopefully, we begin to learn that the value or ill of our actions are determined by the motivation in our heart and we never forget God’s loving grace.

Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle (A review)

walkingonwater

Madeleine L’Engle is best known for her children’s fantasy series, A Wrinkle In Time and other works of fiction.  However, in this truly inspiring book, she writes her own reflections on her Christian faith and shares some of the background to her writing process of some of her novels.  Whether you are a writer or an actor or an illustrator or creative on another level, this book will speak to you.  On the other hand, if you are spiritually minded of any faith, this will enliven your faith and perhaps even inspire you to test your creative juices once more.  The author explains how we lose our child-like creativity, forgetting how to ‘walk on water.’  Madeleine shows us how faith and art intermingles when she writes, ‘I have often been asked if my Christianity affects my stories, and surely it is the other way around; my stories affect my Christianity….’   She also writes, ‘I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the creator of the universe are inseparable.  To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory.  It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.’

Her reflections are beautifully and intellectually written yet not overly scholarly. In it, she quotes other famous (and not-so-famous) authors and thinkers.  Though less than 200 pages,  I found myself wanting to read this slowly, taking my time to savour all the ways it spoke to me.  I read and re-read passages and wrote them down in my journal to save for later.  It resonated on a deep level so that my spirit could only respond with a joyful, ‘YES!’  She is now top of my list in answer to the question, “If you could have anyone over for an evening of dinner and conversation whether dead or alive, who would you invite?”  I only wish I had attended one of her workshops or lectures when she was alive.  Her beauty shines through her words.

Being Like A Child Part 1

My son Dustin and my daughter Brittany when they were small.

My son Dustin and my daughter Brittany when they were small.

What started as a post has now made me aware this will be a short (I promise!) series on being like a child based on the bible verse in Mathew 18:1-5.

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Brandon and Brianna

Brandon and Brianna

Part 1: What a child believes

Last Sunday before leaving for church I read a comment another blogger made regarding Christians believing that ‘certain’ people will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  It was a remark based on ignorance against those of a certain sexual orientation and it really grieved me. Later during the service I got the sense that God’s heart was breaking because so many of us are short-changing His love. We say we believe God is love but our thought process shows that we actually feel God’s love is smaller than our own.  Those I refer to worry and speak to these ‘certain’ people with love in their hearts because they want to ‘save them’ and they don’t see that in a sense what they are saying is, ‘I am trying to save you from God’s judgement on you’ so therefore ‘I love you more than God’.

Many years ago when I was 14 years old, a friend of mine told me that God hates gays.  I was shocked at his statement and argued that God loves all people.  I wasn’t a practicing Christian at the time But I did believe in God and was confident that God loves everyone.  Why? I guess you can call it deep intuition.  It was something I was simply born knowing.

When I look back at the faith I had in God when I was a child I understand now what Jesus meant by becoming like a child.  I am deeply ashamed to admit that when I got older I too picked up on the thought process of others and believed that God wasn’t as loving as I first thought and that people of other faiths or sexual orientation were simply not going to be allowed into heaven unless they turned away from their beliefs. Sadly, I was influenced by people who I believed were more knowledgeable and spiritual than me. Thankfully, this belief system did not go on forever.  I was challenged one day by a Godly person (my husband) which led me to spend quite a bit of time in contemplative prayer to finally deprogram myself of these acquired unloving beliefs.

love1

The thing I found funny was that God brought me back to the faith of my childhood.  It was a faith I hadn’t inherit from anyone.  It was simply the conclusions I had when I trusted my genuine child-like heart.  The faith I had in God’s love inspired me to return it back to Him by singing songs to Him in my head while I laid in bed at night.  I was 9 years old when I started doing this and they weren’t songs of praise.  I didn’t know any.  The songs I sang to God were children songs I learned in French class.  Like the little drummer boy, I was confident enough in God’s love to feel that my songs would be lovingly received.

Me age 7

Me age 7

I was often compelled to create gifts for others when I was young.  This is something that most children do I think.  We lock ourselves in our room and spend time drawing a picture or making some craft and when we are done, we feel so good about what we made that we want to give it away!  How often has it happen in the history of time that a child has walked up to his mother or someone else he loves and says, “Look what I made!” and then follow that with, “It’s for you!”

brianna'sdrawing

Another conclusion I came up with as a child (about 7 or 8 I think) was that God is neither male or female and God is both.  Deep huh?  As a child I had no problem with understanding hard concepts like that and especially I had no problem with God loving everyone.  When I was a child I didn’t feel very loved by people and yet I had no problem believing God loved me.

I made mistakes when I was a child.  I lied to people, fought with my brothers, was very selfish and self-seeking. I often was aware of the things I did wrong and would apologise to those I hurt.  However, sometimes my apology did not get accepted.  Somehow, I knew that God forgave me when I told Him I was sorry.  How did I know this?  Nobody taught me about God’s forgiveness, I just intuitively knew.

I can only speak about what I believed as a child.  I would love to hear from others as to what they believed about God when they were children outside of what others taught them.

So in conclusion, when I was a child I believed that

1.God loves everyone very very much.

2. God is happy to receive our gifts no matter how small and loves us for it.

3. When we create something that’s good we should give it to someone we love.

4.God forgives us when we are sorry even when others don’t.

5. God is neither sex and God is both.

Incidentally, when I refer to God as He it is for simplicity’s sake.  I believe that God is Mother as well as Father. Although personally God feels more like father to me, I have learned that for some people this is a hard concept.  Those especially who may have had an abusive father finds it easier to think of God as Mother or Goddess and that is more than okay. In part 2 I hope to talk more about being like a child.

Mother God

I love this picture of a Mother God holding the earth in loving contemplation