My Help

Prior to the current days of isolation, in my Spiritual Companioning practice, I met with some folks at a distance, on Facetime. My sessions begin with a time of guided prayer. I use a book by Joyce Rupp as a resource. Recently, with someone I usually meet in person, it happened that Rupp’s 10-line prayer for the day was based on the second verse of Psalm 121. Even though I had looked at the prayer before our meeting, I had not noticed its source text until I picked it up to read with my client. I was suddenly overcome with tears. Psalm 121 was my father’s favourite Psalm. I had to stop reading. I did something I promised myself I would never do again. I apologized for my tears.
When my children were growing up, we listened to records. One of our favourites was Free to be You and Me, by Marlo Thomas. One of the songs goes like this:

“It’s alright to cry. Crying gets the sadness out.
It’s alright to cry, it might even make you feel better.”

I promised myself not to apologize for tears when I heard over and over again at the bedside of the sick and dying, “I’m sorry”, when tears emerged. Tears are a gift. They cleanse and heal.
We are all grieving. My invitation is to not be afraid of your tears as you experience the daily losses. There is no hierarchy of loss and pain. If something important to you is gone, even temporarily, it is normal and natural to be sad or angry about it. Lean into those feelings, let the tears come if they are there. If that is hard, write about it, put on music or read a poem that takes you there, like this one did for me;

My Help
Psalm 121:2

Looking back on my life
I cannot count the times
I’ve called for your aid.
Looking back on my life
I cannot count the times
You were there for me.
Looking back on my life
I cannot count the times
When I forgot you were near,
And fell into the pit of my woes.

When you need help, call out to the one Rupp names “my help,” and don’t apologize for any tears that are part of the response. You might even feel better! Blessings.


Rupp, Joyce, Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of the Divine for Daily Meditation, page, March 24.


I am increasingly alarmed about the climate emergency. I find it difficult to watch others engage in behaviours which we know contribute to the problems: for example, unnecessary single-use plastics, and idling vehicles. People say: “What I do doesn’t make a difference.” or “What’s the point, we are too far gone.” I find that troubling. I care about what is happening for future generations.
I was becoming bolder; in particular asking people who were idling in their cars to turn them off. In one instance a school bus driver was sitting with the bus going, windows down. It was beside a park where groups of day camp children were playing. None were on their way to this bus, which was waiting for them. When I brought it to the driver’s attention and asked if he himself had children. He replied “Yes, I just wasn’t thinking. Thank you.” He turned the motor off. Emboldened by such responses, I found myself speaking to others.
Recently, slowing my bike to turn at the top of my street, a youngish black woman sits in an idling SUV with her windows open. I nicely ask if she might turn off the ignition to reduce pollution.
“We all need to be aware of contributing to pollution and climate change.” I add. “Isn’t it just lovely that your white privilege affords you the opportunity to worry about climate change. You have no idea! I don’t even know if my 17-year-old son will make it home tonight or be shot by police”, she replies.
She continues in anger to describe the whole back community as “still slaves of you white people, many struggling just to put food on the table. These are our issues. You have no idea from your place of luxury and privilege.”
I am quiet, stunned and silenced. She continues for what feels like 15 minutes. I listen to the far-ranging comments about how black slaves still exist as “they” continue to do “our” dirty-work. In spite of her anger, I hear her pain and truth. A couple of times I am moved to tears: compassion for her and all people who have suffered at the hands of white Europeans; shame at my superior sounding attitude towards the needs of mother earth.
I need to keep going. She shows no sign of letting up. I ask her name, which she tells me. “That’s a beautiful name,” I say, “I need to go now.”
I ride away humbled, challenged. Her rage palpable, valid. I wonder what lies just under the surface of our “civilized society”. The increase in the verbiage and actions of white supremacists among us is alarming.
Significantly, this was the first time I have felt first-hand what it feels like to be dismissed; the recipient of another’s rage, maybe hated, just because of my skin colour. That alone marks me as privileged. It is because I am a white woman. Earlier in my life when struggling with being a woman in a male dominated patriarchal world, I thought possibly my experience was like that of a black person. I know that this is not the case. I am privileged because I am white. I live in a society that remains systematically racist.
Climate justice, racial justice, and economic justice. Maybe we can’t have one on this planet without the others.

Holy Week Reflection

I was thirty years old. My then husband and I were in a couple’s therapy weekend. The leader asked for a volunteer couple to do a communications exercise in the group. The task was to stand apart and move to where we felt comfortable enough to name an issue in the relationship. My husband stood at one end of the room, I at the other. As we moved closer, attempting to speak, something stirred in me and I began to cry; tears turned to sobs. The group silently witnessed my pain. Engulfed in their support, my inner landscape turned from one of deep hurt and pain to inexplicable joy – a feeling of being deeply loved and accepted at the core of my being. Even though I had been taught all my life that God loved me, this was the first time that I felt it, no, KNEW IT, in the depths of my being.

The central story of our faith which we celebrate at the time of year when mother earth is bursting with new life, is about death and re-birth. I notice, both in our celebration and life experience we are quick to move through, even gloss over, the hard parts of the story in the same way we wish to avoid winter. In the garden, Jesus is “sorrowful unto death”. From an expression of sadness, he moves to anger at the disciples who are unable to witness his pain. Turning to the one he calls “Father”, he bargains, but then must surrender – “not my will but yours.” How often we must come to this place when we have done all we can to change or reverse a difficult situation, and simply accept what is – the things we cannot change, such as illness, death and many others.

On the cross Jesus cries: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” He knows that deep place of desolation, of feeling completely abandoned. I expect most of us have been at there at some point. This is also the place where people of faith might walk away – “There is no God,” they say – “What kind of God would allow this?”
The next part of the story we avoid – not only does Jesus die, but the story tells us he ‘descends into’ hell, where he spends three days. Whether you understand this metaphorically or literally, the meaning is the same – Hell is hell! Three days symbolizes a long time in a very lonely place.

Like the caterpillar who must remain in the chrysalis until the appointed time, it is only by staying long enough that we come to what Jan Hatanaka calls an “epiphany of despair”1, and through that, to new life; hence the butterfly as symbol of Easter and resurrection. Barbara Brown Taylor writes: “It is the inability to bear dark emotions that causes many of our most significant problems, and not the emotions themselves.” She continues “I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.”2 “Each time we trust the dying, we are led to a deeper level.”3

That moment a little over forty years ago planted the seeds of what became a career change from nursing to ministry. It was the first of many personal death and resurrection experiences. These have been pivotal in my life, and I regret none of them, even though at the time I would have wished, like Jesus, for “the cup” to be taken from me.

The invitation is this: the next time you find yourself in this cycle of death and re- birth, and it happens with any significant loss or change in our life, take the time you need to honour all parts of the process long enough for the epiphany of wisdom to emerge.

1. Hatanaka, Jan, The Choice, Finding Life in the Face of Adversity 2011.
2. Brown Taylor, Barbara, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Harpur One, page 78 and 80.
3. Rohr, Richard, Just This, CAC Publishing, page79.

Images courtesy of Jim Ellis

Facilitator, Educator, Counsellor, Artist