Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five: Spiritual Practices

Mary Beth says: "My Sunday school class has hit the "pause" button on our study of First Corinthians and is spending Lent on Richard J. Foster's classic Celebration of Discipline. I have had this wonderful and very readable book on my shelf, along with the study guide for it, for years, but have never discussed it with a group. Because there are only five Sundays in Lent, we are fairly galloping through the book, getting a quick introduction to the various disciplines. The church is also sponsoring a Lenten Centering Prayer group, allowing some of us to sample this discipline in community. I like to think of the spiritual disciplines as vessels that prepare us to ride the wave of God's amazing love and presence in a new way. For today's Friday Five, please share with us five spiritual practices or disciplines from your experience. They can be ones that you have tried and kept up with, tried and NOT kept up with, ones that you flirt with at various times, or even practices that you have tried and found are definitely NOT your cup of tea. Let us know what's worked for you...and not."

There was a Lent a few years ago that I still look back on with a kind of fond nostalgia as "my favorite Lent."  There were many things that came together to make it a particularly fruitful spiritual time in my life, but a big part of that experience was that this particular Lent included the practice of several spiritual disciplines, both alone and in a supportive community that had committed to practicing them together during that time.  Some of the practices that I experienced during that time, as well as have done at other times have included:


Centering Prayer
Spiritual Reading or Lectio Divina

At various points in time all of these are in and out of my spiritual menu, along with other practices.  I find them all helpful, I find they all sustain me when I sustain them.  But they are spiritual disciplines and I am not always as disciplined as I could be in following them.  I allow life and schedules and other such things to intrude and they fall away or get interfered with or otherwise eroded day by day and the next thing I know no longer can claim this practice and must begin again.

My life has never again been quite in that same perfect alignment as it was in "that Lent" in which all those things simply worked. I'd like to think it could be again, but perhaps that is a very tall order.  Perhaps it would make more sense to think about how one or perhaps two of these could fit the life I have now, could be practiced to help me get in shape for any and all wave riding that God might have in store.  I'd hate to think that I might miss out on a grand adventure just because I wasn't up to the challenge!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Five: Springing Forward

Jan says: "Whether we liked it or not, we all "sprang forward" with the change to daylight savings time in the USA this past Sunday. There is lightness and brightness slipping in as spring approaches, so let us consider what is springing forth in our lives right now." Name 5 things that are springing forth, possibly including :
  • What you hope for  Oh I look at my little counter and see the days dwindling to our next "great adventure" my hopes are so many. My passion meeting the world's need in a new way, being able to "release" the things we need to in order to move forward unencumbered, being accepted by the CPE program and most importantly, following my Lenten discipline of "giving up anxiety" over all of it!
  • What you dread  All of the stuff in between "here" and "there"
  • What you observe How many times a day I have to give up anxiety again, after having taken it back....*sigh*  God is very patient with me.
  • What is concrete The "stuff" that needs to be fixed, moved, changed, dumped, schlepped, organized, figured out and generally messed with. "Real" stuff and "life" stuff and stuff that only exists in my head. 
  • What is intangible The bonds that will change but not be broken, the experiences and transformations that came and come still as a result of who we are where we are and where we have still to go.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ashes to Ashes, God to God

This is a portion of a post from Ash Wednesday 2008 that I decided to re-post this morning.  It's something that has never left me and that I like to think about when I bless people with the gift of ashes as I will this evening at our service.

Post from Ash Wednesday 2008
.....I had the privilege of being the one to "impose" the ashes as the prayer book says. I had to go look the word impose up to see if there was something I was missing here, but all the definitions had the same sense of the word that I am familiar with, that of bringing something on someone with force or at the very least authority, pushing it at them. I did not feel that! I felt instead that I was giving them a splendid gift. The opportunity to remember by word and symbol the fragile and brief nature of this earthly life. How precious it and we are before God. And how God holds us in that life...and that we can indeed trust God to do that.

As I spoke each person's name and said those sacred, sacred words, "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return," I kept thinking about something that was said in our prayer workshop on Sunday, that essentially the "dust" that we are is the stuff of the universe, the same matter as supernovas and stars, glaciers and canyons, the very ground we stand on and air we breathe...the stuff, could it be....of God? "Remember that you are of God, and to God you will return." It was all I could do to hold back the tears as I looked into each face in this wonderful quirky bunch and traced on their heads a cross of ash to carry with them into the night as a reminder of how very much they are loved.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Slow Roll into Re-Entry

I remember that my wise yoga teacher told me once that it is always a good thing to change states of consciousness slowly. I do believe that where I was this time last week and where I sit this morning qualify on several fronts as different states of consciousness, and I am trying to heed her advice, but finding it a little challenging my first morning back into the day job.

The temperature here is 19 F this morning.  It snowed again yesterday, and it's promised to us that it will do so again today, tomorrow and Wednesday. All the things that I left on my desk are still here and more came to join them in my absence.  The loss of my client's husband weighs heavy on my heart this morning as she will lay him to rest today. 

The BE was not only all of its own wonderfulness.  It was a marker for me.  I don't know how many times I said to someone, "when I get back from the BE..." or Right after the BE I will..." meaning that this is the time I will "officially begin to transition from here to there, from now to then.  There is much to be done.  The CPE application to complete and mail, a house that needs some serious curb appeal, and a "marketing campaign" for yours truly for the next gig, whatever it might turn out to be and a visit with the Bishop and his Missioner about how the church might use me in a new way.  Just writing all that makes my stomach do a slow roll that has nothing to do with a week on a boat.

We did make a good beginning this weekend.  The stairway is painted! Much of the credit for this goes to my sweet husband who figured how to get the horrible wallpaper off, which we accomplished before I left. While I was cruising he did the skim coating and mudding and sanding and sealed and primed it. So yesterday we finished it up with the final touches and put on the lovely goldenrod color. Just for perspective...this is a project I started six years ago with the initial wallpaper stripping.  It stalled and sat. Three weekends of teamwork (mostly the R half of the team on this one) and it's done! Thanks be. So one down and...well let's just say "a few" to go on the house front. "Be not afraid," this too will be accomplished.

This project thing reminds me again that I am not alone.  Not alone in this world with my projects and my worries and my tasks, and not alone at all in any sense.  It is one of my biggest faults that I keep somehow managing to forget that.  In the "this world" sense it has some logic of long habit at least.  I did have to rely on myself. But how I extrapolate that to God who has never once asked or expected me to make it on my own, well that's another thing entirely. 

I bought a little silver bird in Mexico to add to the things on the chain I wear on my neck (a cross and a shooting star).  The bird is to remind me not to fear, as"even the birds of the air" are in God's care, so I am. As I think about Lent this year, I want to work with that fear, that release myself more and more into the care of those loving hands of God who have my name tattooed on them.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Coming Back, Coming Through

Parts of me have returned from the RGBP BE4 and parts of me have not.  My inner ear, or whatever part of us it is that is responsible for the slow rock and roll that lingers after cruising, has not quite let go of the boat.  As I'm talking or typing, or drifting into sleep, there it is again, that not entirely unpleasant, but slightly unusual sensation of being just a little elsewhere somehow.

The trip was wonderful.  Restorative, connective, stimulating, fun, educational.  It got my creative juices flowing at the same time it soothed some pretty deep spiritual and emotional needs. Go RevGalls and Carol Howard Merritt! It's not every day that CE does any of those things let alone several all at once!

But as all with good things, there is the end, and the return to what we left behind.  With deep gratitude I realize that much of what I left and return to is good, my sweet husband, great friends, the stability of church and "day job" vocations that feed body and soul. The good thing about going away sometimes, too is that even the hard things I return to have something to say, and I seem to be in a place to hear them a little better.

One of the things I seem to be able to hear, or at least to remember is that old wisdom about "life goes on" in my absence. Big things happened in people's lives, life and death things.  Things that maybe I "should" have been here for.  I was not. Others stepped in to fill those spaces.  A good reminder for my overfunctioning self. I can step away. For a moment, for a time and perhaps go from a place forever and it will be okay for those left there. Others will fill those spaces.  Life will go on.  Because really, it's not about me in the end anyway. That is not to say I am not important, or do not bring gifts, even unique ones. But somehow there is a balance, a bigger picture at work.  I do not have to bear all the burden for any one person place or thing. That has been the freedom at work in my soul as the improbable blue waters moved the ship gently and the words of Jesus conveyed by Matthew sat quietly in my soul. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your not worry about not not not worry"