Living with Integrity – Can I make a difference?

   I am not one to surf the web, or look on social media for articles. However I have some amazing Facebook friends who post some very thought provoking articles that catch my attention. This morning I am in deep thought about two of such articles arriving on my computer at the same time.  One is a blog by a dear colleague of mine in Courage and Renewal work.  Dan Hines is a facilitator for the Center for Courage and Renewal, and also a current candidate for the Green Party in the upcoming B. C. provincial elections. You can read his entire offering at .  His willingness to open himself to the political realm by speaking from his very “heart center”, about courage and finding a personal voice, provides such a model of authentic living.  Dan speaks of his experiences with Circles of Trust®, and how naming his questions and desires about his community and the world have led him to come forward in an active way.  Here is an excerpt from his writing:

I trust this strong motivation to travel ‘up the river’: to the place upstream where government legislation, regulatory power, and community decision-making happen. It is a guarded realm. It is the place from where much of the ‘down river’ issues continue to be created – for good and for bad. I wanted to show up there and try to affect what I can. I did not hear an inner voice. I wish I did. I do have access to what I call a low grade sensation of direction. It is a prompting to pray and play in this active way for these next years of my life.

A gift appeared along the way, in the form of a poem by the late Bill Stafford. I have only made use of this inspiring poem for one program to date. At that program, the poem spoke to me in the way that only an honest poem can. The words of the closing stanza are the ones that most resonated:

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
-an excerpt from William Stafford ‘ A Ritual to Read to Each Other’

The self work and courage it has offered to Dan inspire me to be attentive to my soul and what gift I am being called to express in my life.

The second offering on my facebook page today comes from a dear “kindred spirit” on my spiritual journey, and it troubles me greatly. It describes the visit of the current U.S. President to Melbourne, Australia from the perspective of a bystander who appears to go with and open mind and desire for understanding.  You can read that entire article at:

Joel Tooley speaks honestly about his emotional reaction to a rally that was completely manipulated to fit an intentional agenda. Rather than encourage people to think for themselves, or empower them to work together ( as his political campaign promised with slogans such as ” returning America to the people”), this rally appeared to incite anger, division and “worship” of an individual and an ideology. The author intervenes following his inner call to good citizenship and compassion.  His article is a plea for each person to be mindful and attentive to their own call and the way they live out their own Truth in their day to day lives.

I know that I am called to the work of Courage and Renewal.  When I sit as an equal member of a diverse circle of human beings, engaging in work of deepening relationships and integrity in life and work, it brings out my most authentic self and takes me to a place of connection to the real meaning and value of human life. Whether it is a circle of women, educators, church folks or community citizen focus groups, the practices and principles that hold that circle allow for “the stuff” of life at its best to happen!

I am therefore grateful today for the positive aspects of social media that have engaged people in thought and discussion about significant issues, and that have influenced action for reconciliation in a troubled world.   May I reflect on what this means for me personally. May I find courage to speak and live what I believe to be the truth, stand up where injustice and inequality are occurring, and seek connections where citizen groups can make a difference.


Posted October 23, 2015

Posted August 26/15

Lessons by Monarchs-0

Lessons by Monarchs-1

posted July 26/15

Musings on Obama, Pan Am Games and Diversity

We are not automatic lovers of self, others, world or God.  Love does not just happen…love is a conversion to humanity – a willingness to participate with others in the healing of a broken world and broken lives. ”    Carter Hayward

          News today of Obama’s trip and address to Africa.  I admire a President who can use his position to voice his truth – risk reputation to name inequality and injustice where he sees it, at the same time as embracing true effort and progress.  Other news of Pan Am events surrounded by the song “We Are One”  and calling on everyone to see diversity as a strength not a weakness.  These current events have me reflecting honestly in my life:

  •  How do I use my personal voice to speak my truth in my relationships and in places of community or where I feel discomfort with exclusivity?
  • What are ways that I work to embrace diversity and seek learning from others who differ from me in age, race, gender orientation, spiritual celebration or life choices?

       Circles of Trust have provided space for my growth and personal learning. I strive to seek life – giving places and relationships and to set aside those which serve to “shrink” my viewpoint back to a more narrow, unaccepting place.  Perhaps you can use the questions above to reflect on your personal life.  Blessings,  Sue

posted July 13th,2015

Courageous Living – Trusting the Experience

Here I am enjoying the warmth of summer, the beautiful connection to the Earth in my garden, to Spirit as I engage with grandchildren in precious ” Nana and Papa” camp moments, and to the Holy in the quiet contemplative periods that the slowing down of agendas allows.

This gives me time to discern my Spiritual work.  I have completed the facilitation preparation for the Center of Courage and Renewal, which has been rich and meaningful in so many ways.  Whenever I am facilitating or sitting in a Circle of Trust, it is a life changing experience – even if the change is a simple shift in a viewpoint or slightly new perception of a previously held idea.  I am called to examine how my inner self informs the way I live in the outer world. I become more centered and at peace, knowing I am connected to the Holy Mystery of life as well as every living thing.

I continue to celebrate sacred times of one on one Spiritual direction, where I am honored to share the spiritual journey of another .  The “directees” that find their way to me are always exactly the people I need to inform my own Spiritual path: together we affirm the way the Spirit works when deep listening is practiced.  Each shared soul experience illustrates to me the diversity and beauty of every  individual.

What I continue to realize is that my own spirit and soul yearns to be heard and to find expression in my life.  I need a regular practice of contemplation, writing and time apart to “be” and not only “do”. I am a person who enjoys a busy schedule, so this is a growing edge for me. Setting aside time for retreat is becoming part of my life planning.  Every day that I intentionally choose to do something spiritual becomes a day full of blessings!

I look forward to offering more Circle of Trust experiences in the fall, and to attending the Global Gathering of Courage and Renewal facilitators in Minneapolis in October.

I have found Circles of Trust to be safe spaces where individuals do their own exploring and discerning.  This work calls me to be courageous – I know that the work indeed holds Truth, and I trust that other souls will be called to join me at experiences that I plan and facilitate.  In those shared communities of trust we will find our True selves and live more authentically in our daily lives.

For more information on upcoming opportunities to join me on the journey, simply go to and click on Upcoming events.  Blessings on your journey today!

posted Sept. 8th, 2014

My First Courage and Renewal Retreat

    Arriving at the retreat I was warmly welcomed and invited to settle in to my quarters.  The simple act of arriving and gifting myself with a time away from usual life gave me the opportunity to relax and let go of concerns or issues that I had left behind. As we gathered in the circle of trust with the other participants it felt hospitable and safe. I was struck by the lack of usual “round the circle” introductions and sharing.  Rather, we were invited to share if we wished something of what brought us to the retreat.  Listening to others, I realized that we were a diverse and interesting group, everyone ready to explore their own lives more deeply.  The guidelines, or Touchstones for the circle were introduced and immediately I felt the group becoming a community that would keep the space safe.  Each person would hold the others in high regard. The weekend unfolded and I was struck by many differences from the many other retreats that I have attended in my life – there was no prayer, and yet the circle felt spiritual; there was no specific content imposed that needed to be “learned” by the weekend’s end – rather glimpses of truth to be reflected on well after the retreat ended; and there was no advice, council or recommendations directed at any one person – each of us were doing our own inner work, enhanced by the sharing in community around stories, readings, poems and other offerings. The opportunity to participate in a Clearness Committee was life changing for me.  Five or six people gathered for over 2 hours to focus on one focus person who brought a situation or question to the group.  Using carefully learned open, honest questions, the committee stayed attentive to the focus person as they answered the questions and worked with their own insights that came up. I had never experienced such a powerful experience of presence without evasion or imposition. When I was a focus person I was so grateful for the learning I received about myself.  When I was a committee member I was honored to be trusted by the focus person. The double confidentiality rule that surrounds the experience allows for speaking without fear of consequences. As I attended a cycle of retreats, and was able to build on my learnings from each one, my confidence in myself and ability to live my life more authentically grew.  I can now “speak my truth”  in a way that affirms my identity.  My inner and outer life are becoming more integrated and with that comes a greater inner peace. Certainly courage is a good word to describe what it takes to come to such a retreat – renewal is an excellent word to describe the feeling as I left the retreat.  Both words are intertwined as I journey on to more surprises and learning in the next circle I am part of!

Posted June 26, 2014

          Musings on a Woman’s Retreat

  I have just returned from a weekend with 17 amazing women, and my heart is full of love and gratitude for all that I discovered there.  I discovered that the 4 eternal female archetypes identified by Tonii Wolf are timeless, and speak to women of all ages.  I discovered that women yearn for mutual companionship, time apart from daily life, and space to rest and renew their inner souls!

Women have strong inner voices that seek expression in their day to day lives. Entering into community with other phenomenal women allows for silence, deep listening, and discovery of those voices.

When a woman tends to her unique passions, and uses her gifts and strengths, she finds her voice of truth.  She becomes more than titles, social standing, appearance, or roles.

 She can lived independently and in relationship at the same time.  She lives with courage and integrity. The women at the retreat all experienced a taste of this way to live, and celebrate life!

I look forward to facilitating more of these retreats for the unfolding of my true nature as well as the circle of amazing women that will accompany each other on the way to self discovery.

Posted: January 05, 2014:

Shared Sacred Encounter

A holy intimate space taken for a week

by a dozen newly acquainted, anxious, vulnerable, and yearning souls –

what would enfold?

Hesitant stories full of truth and life experience,

tears, joy, uncertainty, frustration, anger, celebration.

Kindred spirits longing to better themselves and the world in some small way.

A common quest for irrefutable signs of God’s presence.

I was blessed to be included in those sacred moments

I look forward to blessed surprises when we meet again.


Posted: January 09, 2014;      Tending to the Heart of the Leaders and the Congregation

I am willing to Facilitate a Retreat for any Church council – fee available on request

Proposed Outline for a  Council Retreat


Friday Evening *(Dinner Gathering) Session #1       Creating the Container

  • Introduction to the Circle of Trust touchstones, and the Group Process for the Retreat

Tending to the Heart of the Leader

  • Five Habits of the Heart
  • Understanding how we as leaders care for ourselves ; discovering how we can apply the Habits of the Heart to our own lives and our leadership style

  Saturday Morning *(Continental breakfast? – muffins, juice, etc) Session #2    Nourishing the Life of the Congregation

  • Teaching of the first and second Habits of the Heart
  • Exploration of how we are in Community now – appreciation for what works well

Lunch Session # 3 Dreaming New Habits for Congregational Life

  • Look at challenges and ways we approach them
  • Teaching re 3rd, 4th, and 5th Habit of the Heart
  • Dreams for the congregation – Who are the “vision carriers”?
  • How can we use what we have discovered about ourselves in our congregational work?

  Some reading material will be provided ahead of time for council members. The intent is for a time of renewal and affirmation as council members and leaders of the congregation, as well as a time to adapt “heart habits” to our work with each and every member of the church family.   This material comes from work by Parker Palmer on “healing democracy”.  The idea is that congregations often fall short of an intention to be democratic.  Parker Palmer says “What is important is not to be right, but to be in right relationship with each other”.  We can always learn new ways to facilitate that kind of relationship, and this retreat offers just one idea of how to do that. The group process is established on Friday evening on the circle of trust model, and it becomes the “modus operandi” for the rest of the retreat.   *These suggestions of meals or food are optional and up to the council, not provided by myself.  I am flexible in that regard;  I have just attended workshops where they have been provided, so invite you to discuss what is appropriate for your council retreat. I have used this material to facilitate a retreat at Silver Spire United Church, and would be happy to provide references from our ministers or others who attended. Sue Empringham