Thoughts from visiting countless cathedrals

Soaring columns and colours that dance on the walls due to stained glass windows letting in the light, Gothic architecture is a pretty specific (and stunning) look. It’s one that is extremely prevalent in Spain and particularly in the many Catholic cathedrals and basilicas that sprinkle the country. As I learned more about the architectural choices and the significance behind them, I definitely grew to see the beauty in them as an offering of creativity by architects seeking to honour God and in some cases (such as the Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona), an opportunity for the entire community to come together and create a place of communal worship in the centre of the neighbourhood. Cathedrals are truly awe-inspiring and I think some cases, really do create a sacred space that draws people into contemplation, prayer and ultimately, a meeting with God.

However, I also saw a lot of excess. A lot of wealth being demonstrated by ancient royalty to prove their power and “devotion to God” while they simultaneously allowed their people to starve, while they destroyed minority communities, while they exhibited cruelty instead of love. Some of the places I visited felt so joyful and spirit filled (guys, visiting the Sagrada Familia was actually such a holy experience for me, despite the crazy crowds of people trying to get their perfect picture). But some of the cathedrals and the history behind the buildings, the context of how and when these monuments were created, made me feel sad, made the hallways feel empty and hollow and fake. Monuments to man instead of God. Wars waged over who got to worship within their walls. Monuments to the institution of religion instead of a home for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts.

I’m currently working on a post about what God was teaching me about having a pilgram’s heart and mindset while travelling, as well as some just about travelling with my mom and the incredible adventure we had. For now, I want to share with you this poem I wrote while exploring one cathedral that felt like a museum to the king who had built it and a space for the Church to honour itself instead of Jesus. I am not going to say which one because I don’t think it’s important for you to know. We must acknowledge the history of spaces and also know that the Lord renews all things; who am I to say that God will not meet you in that particular cathedral in a powerful way? He met me there. In that centuries old building that felt like an empty tomb, Jesus reminded me that He is wherever I am. And He also reminded me that I am not innocent of the same sins I felt there. I too try to build up things that show the world how faithful I am, instead of just walking it out and being the church to the people I meet. I pray that this poem will be a prayer I don’t stop praying, that I continue to seek to honour God with the things I am choosing to build with this life. And you dear reader, what are you building? What do you want the monument of your life to show?

 

Holy God.

You are not contained in cathedrals.

Yet we strive,

build up impressive monuments,

instead of creating churches out of our lives.

We each want to prove that we love you the most.

Build big enough examples to see for miles,

and yet we can’t even find a smile

as we walk past yet another beggar.

So easily we forget;

you are in the rags that we turn our eyes away from.

Gilded statues and gold,

we are willing to give our money but refuse to let you hold

our hearts.

Surrender is a false concept we bury deep in the foundations

to hold up our own creations

instead of being fully present in the one You gave us.

And Jesus, I know you are with me always,

in the mountains and in the hallways

of this church.

But may I never try to keep you here.

These drafty hallways and ruby coated walls,

heaven on earth is not this at all.

Lord,

you have all the riches you need.

Instead I offer you my heart.

Please,

take away my tendency for jealousy and greed.

Build cathedrals in my soul, Lord.

May I worship you each day,

singing holy, holy, holy is the One

who has shown us all the Way

to the Father’s throne.

It is not here, not made of velvet and stone.

Instead make pillars out of faith Lord,

to hold me up when life is hard.

I can survive without stained glass windows

but losing intimacy with You,

I can’t afford.

For though I see the beauty in these walls,

when our bodies are all temples, echo chambers of your call

for each of us to know You

we shouldn’t need a massive space to prove

our faith.

Lord,

may I never create for creation’s sake,

for conquest, power or for pride.

But as an imitation of your love

that is tall and deep and wide.

God thank you for this journey,

as you carve in me a pilgrims heart

Your Holy Spirit rests in me, in my study, work and art.

Let these buildings not distract me,

or others from the truth

that it’s not about the saints and angels

but the simple joy of knowing you.

Jesus,

teach me as I worship,

with each step and every breath,

how to find You in this world of wild excess

and more importantly, in the quiet and the rest.

These buildings are stunning and some have pointed me to you.

But others are empty of the Spirit,

honouring earthly kings and their world-views.

I learned that in Spain three religions warred,

wanting power and control,

but you Lord are the Lion

who comes in as a baby, with a cry and not a roar.

Though you are the keeper

of all Creation big and small,

You sacrificed the last True Lamb

to save us one and all.

Holy Spirit,

Cathedrals do not contain you

though they amaze me with their size

You are in our daily rhythms, in our hearts,

our prayers, our minds.

Build signposts in my heart Lord,

to keep pointing me back to You.

Let me love bigger than a basilica,

so that it is You my actions point to.

Make my life a work of art

A sign that reads humbly but clear

that this is not an empty building, temple, body.

The Holy Spirit dwells here.

 

Creating, Creation, Creator

Sometimes, my pride seeps through.

It likes to take credit for the things that “I” do.

My words dance and reverberate

with power

and I accept the compliments

“you’re a great writer”.

I wish I had the courage

more often to say,

thanks but no thanks,

I was actually such a mess today.

And then God met me

in my wild, tangled up mind,

met me with words the way He designed

for me and Him to know each other.

 

See everything in this world

echoes His beauty

every stunning thing you see

is just a fraction of His truly

magnificent Creation.

And all creativity is

just us trying to imitate

Dad.

 

Abba knows best and so

He guides

with gentle hands,

allows our still learning fingers

to paint green rolling hillsides,

to smash together crooked pottery,

and write crappy lines of poetry.

Our mortal souls

see Creation and let out sighs

of elation

and then we set to work, trying

to express our never ending awe.

 

Like children learning to speak

our parent’s language,

Creation evokes in us a

desire to Create.

Paintbrushes and music scores,

woven baskets and dances that make bodies into

moving magic,

we each become more and more dramatic

as Life

becomes inspiration for Art.

 

I meet God

best among trees and poetry.

Creation and Creating

help me know deeper

my Creator.

And remind me always

that I am an Imitator.

I want to be known

as a someone made out of

clay,

shaped more and more each day

by the One who imagined

each grain of wheat and blade of grass,

forms rainbows and icicles that shine like glass,

the Maker who sewed together

all the wild fish in the depths of the sea.

All the things the Lord created

and he still want to meet with me

through creativity.

Wow.

 

And so together we meet and He

teaches me to write,

speaking to me and through me

and my face lights up

and I can’t help the smile on my face

as I glimpse

Love.

 

I am a writer,

a storyteller too.

They are beautiful parts of

how God made me and I want

to share them with you.

But don’t forget for a minute

I am just the vessel

for the True Author’s words

when I meet with him in quiet or while listening to the

chirping of birds.

 

I lean in,

let Him show me.

I put pencil to paper

and tentatively at first,

I begin

to Create.

Return

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any poetry, friends. Here is one inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son that I performed at a church “Slam Sermon” this evening. It’s a little messy and unedited but I love the way God teaches me through my creativity, that I get to write inspired by the First Author. I got a little emotional as I read this evening because even when I’m “doing good” with God and with life, I am reminded that I too am a bit of a mess, that I have a tendency to hide my weaknesses and failures, that I try to deal with them alone, and that every single time, the Lord calls me by name and seeks me out. He is the One who leaves the 99 to come after the one and throws a feast when we return. What a wild grace we’ve been given. What a kind Father we have.

Return.

A voice in the chaos cuts through

the rain and the tears

the insults and the jeers,

return.

Return,

you who have squandered

and wandered away,

hidden in caves

and turned your face

to hide the scraps and the pain.

Return

the voice calls,

because I see the bruises

that don’t bloom on the skin

but attack from within and

slither through veins

in ways you can’t begin to explain

the mental haze that has found you,

made you lose your ways.

Return

say the voice

because I have heard

coins clash together in scenes that feel blurred

as exchanges are made and

you smile as pleasures

are handed your way

but at the end of the night,

lonely, sad and frustrated

you just want

to take flight and escape

what you have created.

Return

though your clothes are dirty

and you feel unworthy.

Return

not as a thief in the night

slinks back and hopes to avoid being seen

come in the morning when the sky is blue

and the trees are green.

Return.

Return,

in the light

so that He can greet you

in the way that is right

for a Father

to embrace his Sons and Daughters.

Return,

to a love so reckless

that it kicks up its heels,

an outrageous love

that revels and reveals itself.

A love that does not hide,

loves fully and with pride

in it’s Beloved Creation.

Return.

Return,

urges the voice

and He will run calling out for all to hear

the one I love was far

but now they are near

Return,

the voice reverberates

through all the other noise.

Somewhere a man awakes

looks around at all he has destroyed

He rises and looks towards the door

Return

the voice whispers

with love the man

no longer feels he deserves

return

and you will learn

how the Father longs

for his children

and does not reserve

love for only those who are “worthy”.

Return,

all are welcome,

those broken and thirsty.

Return

from hard work in the field

or a wild life abroad

the voice calls them in

not caring where they have trod.

Return,

the voice

says

I have been waiting.

With love anticipating,

always hopeful,

never hating.

Watching the door for you.

Return,

now is the time,

the Father waits

to wash away any shame and crime.

Return

to Perfect Love

to Divine embracing

return to being fully known

instead of always chasing

more.

A King’s feast awaits,  not just the crumbs

Here is your home

where you can always come

So now,

without fear

or condemnation

come boldly

and be cherished

by the Maker of Creation

And the Father will smile and

with the same voice He will say

all I’ve wanted

for years has come true today.

For you, My Child

have returned.

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Beauty that breathes

The world is a beautiful place

 

My soul lights up at the colours of the trees

and the sunlight pouring down through the leaves

like harp strings made of gold.

Land and sky twist in time,  making music

that only my heart can hear.

 

When my fingers trail through lake water deeper than imaginable,

the Holy Spirit tangles more wildly into my mind and heart.

The way sunflowers run towards the sun despite their roots,

I will myself to become one with the water and one with God in heaven,

despite being made of dust from deep valleys.

 

Though I sometimes wonder how I fit into the beauty of this world,

I can’t help but look at everything else God created;

the world is made up of breathing art pieces,

each it’s own exhibit of the Artist’s endless talent.

 

I feel peace settle into my bones like a much needed sleep,

reminding me that I have the same Creator

and that I too am art to be seen and valued.

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Passion Tea

GradPromJuly2015 309Hey friends,
It sucks that you all are so far away
(or maybe not, if you’re in Ottawa lets grab coffee).
I really love sitting with people and hearing about their biggest dreams.
The ones you don’t talk about so often, the ones that matter so much you don’t dare tell people, lest they don’t understand.
I want to invite you into my room,
pour you a cup of tea and sit with you on my couch by the window.
You’re lucky; I don’t clean my room very often but I always try to tidy it for guests.
Today, all the pillows are in place and the plants have been watered and the kettle is on
I want to hear what you’re passionate about.
I want you to explain to me things I probably won’t understand,
the things that make you talk a little too fast and gesture with your hands a little too much.
The things that make your eyes light up
and then keep you up at night, in awe of the beauty and complexity of the world we live in.
Tell me about how plants duplicate their chromosomes,
about how science exposes the miracles of creation
Explain how to find the best lighting for a photograph, how to set up the perfect shot,
to balance reality and creativity
Let me read bits of your soul on paper,
poetry and stories that capture the world and wrangle it into squiggly lines,
tell me how words beg for lined paper homes and pitch tents in old notebooks
Show me how to make a good cup of coffee, latte art and all
Share the secrets of the sky, the constellations and the nebulas;
whisper their stories, as if you lived each legend yourself. You, storyteller of the skies
Explain math to me, not in the way my 3rd grade teacher explained it,
Instead explain how the logic clicking into place explains the subtext of the way the world works together in I way I just don’t see
Tell me how you see colour and make paints and pencils
somehow recreate the world I can touch but never see the way you do,
let me into the exhale you feel when you do what you were created for.
Tell me what makes you feel alive. Tell me what you do to feel most you.
Who are you friend?
What makes you tick?
I only get one life, one set of eyes,
one mind to ponder with.
Let’s chat
and see through each other’s mind for just a little while.
I’ll sip my tea while you talk

 

Canoe with me

There’s something about sharing a canoe with someone.

You’re in each other’s space.

Moving forward as one, you can’t leave this person

behind.

Sometimes there is silence.

Except it’s never really silence because

your paddles are swishing through the water,

sending droplets flying and crashing down,

making noise in nature.

But when the other person says nothing, not even the biggest splash

can break the barrier.

Other times,

the banter flies back and forth without effort.

You make each other laugh and share silly stories

about the time you fell in a mud puddle at a school cross country race

or when you melted your compass into the plastic map case,

leaving it too close to the fire.

Voices echoing into the wide wild that surrounds,

two people connect

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Roots

Curled roots with deep dug holds in the dirt,

the dirt and rock

of the place I call home.

This land has twisted itself into every fibre of my being.

Growing up riding

on Dad’s shoulders, hikes through

Awenda and summer nights spent

learning how to imitate a barn owl

“Who cooks for you, who cooks for you, who cooks for you allllll”.

Setting fires, long lazy debates about

log cabin or teepee styles,

an afternoon spent rubbing sticks together

and wishing for sparks.

Butterfly catching

and fishing,

holding snakes and thinking

how cool it is to live in Canada.

Swimming until my parents swore I must be part fish,

doing everything to be on the water.

Put me in a rowboat, a sailboat, a canoe,

I need to be out there.

Laughter ringing through the woods,

recounting tales that made me known as

the storyteller.

Long hilly trails,

tears and sweat under a solo portaged canoe,

the moment when you finally see the water again.

Weeks of my life spent in the wilderness of Temagami.

Months of my life spent on the Island of Beausoleil.

All the years of my life, spent on the rocky, hilly, grassy, sandy, forest filled, sunshine blazing, cold air in the morning country of Canada.

Home.

Now, I wake up in the middle of the night,

to firetrucks raging down the road outside my downtown window.

My tent stays wrapped, buried in my closet, next to my backpack.

Sometimes I wear my hiking boots to school.

My souls cries out for

trees and wide spaces

for sunrises and quiet places.

For rainy afternoons on the back porch with a guitar,

for heart to hearts in a tent in the dark,

for swearing we were about to be eaten by a bear

and actually being woken by a raccoon in the cabin.

For quiet songs by the campfire,

glazed eyes entranced by the dancing flames and crackling leaves.

For moments of feeling small, laying

under the stars.

Talking about the future

or wondering who used to do the same things

long ago.

I can’t feel the earth beneath all this concrete.

The buildings wrap tendrils

around my lungs,

make it hard to breathe deeply;

they make it hard to truly be me.

 

 

 

Wild Fire Humility

They’ve said I should be a lawyer, because

I’m awfully good at talking.

A full steam ahead,

one track mind

and a stubborn heart,

an articulate tongue

and an eloquent argument.

I love a good debate and I’m full of ideas

that seem to make my brain a dam that will

inevitably break.

Yes,

this girl knows how to talk.

And yet, I am learning more and more

how to listen.

To quiet my soul,

to bite my wild fire tongue.

I am writing a new definition for

the word humility. (I keep my own dictionary

because I used to like to think

I know everything. )

Now, I pass my notebook around

and let other people add

their personal thoughts and commentaries.

Handwriting I can’t read in English,

let alone the addition of scripts

I have never learned. My definition becomes one

of many colours

and experiences that breathe the air

of every country in the world.

Each face I meet knows something I don’t

 

I am welcoming the taste of

the stones of ignorance that are harder to swallow than pride.

Welcoming the cold water shower that wakes me

from the sleepiness of my privilege.

I am opening my eyes wider than before.

I am tuning my ears to different channels.

I am engaging with people who ran on different train tracks

than my fast moving mind.

I am sitting down in the quiet with those who can’t stand up in the chaos.

I am letting humility be the fire running wild in my heart

 

Trust me,

I still love to talk.

But now,

I seek to expand my own definition

by also becoming a listener.

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Just some unedited ramblings from this soul under construction

Until next time,

-Sam ❤

Samantha

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I dream that the world
will one day be printed and tattooed on the back of my hands,
like watercolours that swirl and mix.
Remind me of nights spent under the stars
Or nights I spent laughing
with a drink in my hand as I tried to understand tongues
I don’t speak.

I debate furiously.
My cheeks flush and I start flourishing my hands, sometimes
I knock things over, laugh it off and keep talking.
I listen intently and respect your ideas;
that doesn’t mean I won’t fight back
if I think you are wrong.
I just really love to have conversations with passion.

I care deeply about those I know
and those I don’t.
I will fly to the tops of mountains
and dance through valleys and fight off the dragons that
go bump in the nights of injustice.
I let hugs speak louder than words.
I will lend you my heart when yours is too worn out to be sewn together again.

I am the “mom” at 19,
I bake bread and cut it while it’s still warm and yeasty.
I will knit you a pair of mittens to warm your hands
or tuck you into bed when you have had too much to drink.
I love to sit inside while it rains and drink tea with milk and sugar,
eat sandwiches with the crust cut off,
creating things out of yarn or else twisting words into poetry.

I breathe deepest underwater.
Submerged and floating, I open my eyes
and see sunlight warped through the layers, I am alive.
I curl my toes into sand, struggle to climb to the top of a lookout,
run my fingers along the ridges of a tree.
I breathe easier in nature.
I feel the Holy Spirit best under the cover of trees, or out on the water in the morning fog

I whisper prayers for the girl with the tired eyes
who pours my coffee in the library
and for my homesick friend adjusting to university.
I sometimes forget to read my bible
or lack the boldness to pray at church.
I choose Jesus,
on the days when life is warm as summer
and on the days I am overwhelmed to the point where my tears
waterfall over my journal pages.
I am a girl, learning how to navigate the streets of a city
and the backroads of life.
Sometimes I panic because everyone I know
wants to work for the UN
or be a lawyer, a doctor, a CEO. I don’t.
I want to advocate for education,
to help farmers in Nepal
to give woman without a voice my own,
a voice that doesn’t just speak but
a voice that sings,
a voice that prays,
a voice that fights,
a voice that does not tremble or question it’s own validity and knowledge.

I hope that one day,
I will understand myself.
That the backs of my hands will be wrinkled with lines
of wisdom and stories told with great enthusiasm.
That the colours of the world painted there will melt together with
stories of triumph, of courage, of adventure and of humility.
I hope they will be hands that served others,
hands that held other hands
and hands that made a difference.
I just really want to make a difference.

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5:30am

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A finger dips into the water.

Ripples form rings as wide as the oldest tree.

The morning air tastes like

magic, as if a heavy sigh would be enough

to knock the world upside down. A boy

wraps his arms around his sun tanned knees.

Lily pad eyes peer out from under a waterfall of curls;

he lets his hair fall over his face, hiding

under the spell of dawn.

He wonders at the colours of

God’s crayon box.

The boy knows that the best shades are saved

for sunrise. The sun comes like a splatter.

The yellows, reds, oranges and pinks

seem to mix with every other colour he can

imagine. Absentmindedly, he twirls

a piece of grass between two sandy palms.

Eyes on the sky, he tucks these colours into the paint set

he keeps in an often unused corner of his mind.

A woman comes,

she calls his name and tugs him away.

She doesn’t care about the colours; she doesn’t know how

he craves the vibrancy of morning.

Morning is when the seconds drag more slowly

than his feet.

Morning is when the day is heavy

with surprise and potential.

In the morning, at dawn, no one

tells him he has to

talk.