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sacrificeshoes2003

It takes a little practice…

“Practicing the Presence” can sometimes seem like an elusive thing. Often, that is because we have certain expectations about the outcome… what the divine will look like in our lives. Other times, it is because there is no real formula for success. It is more about practice than perfection. For some of us that is a challenging thought… especially if we want to measure results.

Practicing the presence is more about desire, inquisitiveness and grace. We practice certain spiritual rituals such as prayer, dwelling in scripture, and contemplation because we believe that God is present and we long to notice and experience the grace of the moment when our longing is unexpectedly filled by God’s love.

As I ponder the very peculiar story of Moses and the burning bush, I am struck with three important practices: Read more

Sabbath and Gratitude

As I reflect on what it means to cultivate gratitude and a generous heart as a spiritual practice, I am reminded of the importance of keeping the Sabbath. I found this blog I wrote a few years back that really captures my thoughts about this integral connection. It was a good reminder and I wanted to share it with you.

I have recently noticed that the more I practice keeping the Sabbath, the more I experience gratitude for the things that I have. Why, you may ask? I think, in part, it is due to the slowing down long enough to notice what I have;  long enough to take in the smallest things like a double rainbow that stretches across the sky after a thunderstorm, a flock of geese flying over my head in perfect formation, the hydrangea vine that bloomed for the first time since I moved into my current house, the sound of teenage guys laughing in the basement, the funny way my cat looks at me when he wants me to rub his tummy…

I have also noticed that when life is busy and I am unable to keep the Sabbath, I quickly become  unsettled. This unsettledness leads to a sense of loss, emptiness and longing. It soon moves to an unconscious striving to do,  fill, acquire, or accomplish something that will ultimately make me feel better. Missing the Sabbath drives me toward a kind of vortex that  sucks me into another way of being and drives me further and further away from a place of deep spiritual satisfaction. It literally sucks all of the resources and creative energy out of me and as each day and week passes, I find it harder and harder to slow down. I find myself feeling less and less fulfilled and consequently, less grateful and less generous.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day apart in silence and reflection at a local retreat center. As I sat in one of my favorite chairs to pray, I noticed that a painting was propped up on the floor in the corner facing me. I was captivated instantly… it seemed like a watercolor of a remote Italian village… along the sea. you could see its reflection in the background… but in the foreground, there was a little boat tied to a rock in a little cove surrounded by white flowers… gardenias I imagined at the time. I found myself reminiscing of our years spent in Sicily and soon became aware of a longing, an aching, even, to return.

Was I ever really cognizant of what I had in those beautiful years there? Had I taken the time to savor the beauty of the people, the land and the food? My mind was soon interrupted by the daunting thought of now… My scripture reading for that morning had been Psalm 16… Verse 6 reads “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance”. The invitation? Take it all in and receive God’s blessings that are all around, even the blessing of memory… savor the now.

Sabbath is a time of savoring what has been given; rejoicing in what God has provided. It changes things.

the longing

oh how I would love
to sit
in a boat
skimming smooth water
anchored
among fragrant flowers

to breathe
warm salt air
with hints of gardenia

to see the village behind me
that pauses
sleepily
for a moment
in the reflection
of quiet waters

to be rocked
gently
in the presence
of day

It’s Monday

It’s Monday… the festivities of Easter have come and gone… we remembered together the significance of Christ’s resurrection… we sang Hallelujah’s and feasted our eyes upon majestic colors and easter flowers… our ears are still ringing with resurrection songs… but what difference will it make today?

This was the topic of the yesterday’s sermon… what does the resurrection really mean and how does it change the way I will live?

A Prayer for Easter Monday

let life spring forth
into busy tomorrow
bringing resurrection fragrance
to stacks of papers
books
technology
piled too high
on my desk

that waits
to lure me
into
pre-ordered tasks
of calculated
productivity

let the empty tomb
surprise
my waking
with mystery
on the first day
of my weekly
agenda
already chocked full

let spaciousness
and freedom
inspire
prayers
like the chubby bird
perched on a branch
bursting
with vibrant green buds
singing

completion

Since Harry and I have been exploring the meaning and benefits of the Sabbath over the past several months, I find myself drawn to the significance of Jesus’ Sabbath rest in the tomb.

Just as God created the heavens and the earth and then rested because it was good and complete… God’s love for creation and humanity were made complete when Jesus died on the cross… nothing more could ever be added to God’s final expression t of love to us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It was complete. Once again, the Son of God rested, hidden in the tomb, waiting for the dawn of a new day. Read more

more thoughts on the gift of time

One of the reasons I feel we misunderstand and misuse our time is because we do not view it as a gift. We generally move from day to day with the assumption that there will be another. The consequences? We move from activity to activity, meeting to meeting, shopping spree to movie night, barely able to take it all in. We can easily fall into a sort of stupor where we are kind of sleepwalking through our days, entranced by the ticking of our watches and how our culture defines our day. All the while, we are never fully awakened to the gift at hand, one more day in the presence of God. Read more

Some thoughts on the gift of time

It is always intriguing to me when the various streams from which I am reading all come together in one congruent message. For the past several weeks, I have been reading about the gift of time… each new day… how we receive it… how we perceive it.

It began as I was reading Eat, Pray and Love… the author reminisces about her time spent in Italy and the beautiful way Italians relish each day and especially the sheer beauty of doing nothing, “Bel far niente”. I literally laughed out loud as I read it because having lived there for ten years, I knew exactly what she was describing in her book. At the same time, I saw, perhaps for the first time, the beauty in what I had learned from my Italian brothers and sisters. Read more

Should blogging be added to the list of classic spiritual disciplines?

Recently, I have heard the comment that  perhaps blogging takes away from the pastoral role… that maybe if the pastor spent less time typing away at the computer, they would have more time to… You can imagine all the things one could say to finish the sentence.

For me, as a pastor, blogging has become somewhat of a spiritual discipline. It is one of the ways that I practice the Presence. Because I don’t have time to do it during the day, I choose to wake up earlier. So, in the wee hours of the morning with coffee in hand, I begin to search my soul for what has inspired me during the week or month. You could even go as far to say that it is a form of an Examen.

Because Harry and I have chosen to blog about our practicing the presence, I do not blog until I have spent time in centering prayer and meditating on scripture. I begin my time with God each morning by naming the persons in my life and in my congregation that are needing healing or guidance from God, then I move to thanksgiving for the persons in my life and congregation who have inspired me or co-labored with me recently.

During this time, I practice noticing in prayer and in reading what inspires me to blog. I find great inspiration and creativity in blogging each day. I also find it personally inspiring to read again and again the things that stirred my soul and drew me into deeper understanding of who I am as a child of God .

One of the practices that I value as a pastor is beginning any meeting or rehearsal with a time of centering ourselves in God’s presence. Before I began my adventures in blogging, I would read from various books and devotionals but now, I use my blog as my own resource for devotionals and prayer times with members of the congregation. I find that it fosters transparency and intimacy between myself and the persons I am working with or leading.

I am convinced that blogging keeps me accountable, keeps me focused on the spirit’s movement and helps me to stay refreshed spiritually. All of these are qualities that foster a healthy spiritual life for persons in ministry or anyone for that matter.

Journaling has long been accepted as a spiritual discipline… perhaps we need to add blogging to the list.

It takes some effort to frame our days…

Like Jacob… we can take the time to re-frame our days. Just has he stopped before moving into Egypt to honor God and offer himself to God, we too can take time to do that.

There are many ways to frame our days that have been passed down throughout the history of Christianity. Morning and Evening prayers, the Examen, the Daily Office, the practice of centering prayer are just a few.

I find it helpful to begin my day with reading scripture and then move into a time of centering prayer. I find that it re-frames my entire day. I tend to see things that happen throughout the day with spirit eyes… which is a good thing. I find that if I begin the day centered in God’s presence I have a much better chance of staying centered!

I was never good at praying out loud for any length of time growing up. Read more

Why settle for yesterday’s manna when there is a feast today?

Recently I have been amazed at the provision of God, to meet me in times of prayer, to “tweet” me messages of encouragement when needed  and inspire me when I am feeling dry. At the same time, I am also aware that I must cultivate an awareness of this provision and an attitude of thanksgiving. God invites me to a rhythm that fosters an awareness of his provision each day.

When I arrived at work today, I met a friend who shared with me that she had been praying for our trip with our son… that we would sense God’s presence with us. I was amazed! The very thing she prayed for, we experienced in our many God tweets during our visit to the university. My heart was warmed as she shared with me the words and frequency of her prayers for our family. More manna! More to feast on!

I am reminded of how God provided manna for the children of Israel  as they wondered about the wilderness. The interesting thing about the manna is that they could only gather enough for one day. If they gathered more than what they needed, it was rotten the next morning. Sometimes, I think we spend too much time dwelling on the past or thinking about the future and miss the fresh manna for the day. Read more

God is tweeting everywhere

For those of you who are not familiar with one of the leaders in Social media and communication, Twitter is a network of persons who give a short status update in less than 140 characters. The goal is to share information, feed and point your twitter community to things that you find beneficial. The status updates are called “tweets”. I, for one, am fairly new to Twitter, but after a year or so of my husband telling me I should try it, I finally gave in. I will confess that I am enjoying following, connecting and learning from persons in my Twitter community.

A week or so ago, as I spent time with God in the morning, I heard God say, “I am tweeting everywhere”. Well, my first reaction was that I must be overly involved in this social networking stuff that it has made it this far into my prayer time. But, after reflecting on the idea, I must agree… God is tweeting everywhere.

The Bible is full of God tweets… just think about Daniel and the writing on the wall! Or some of our favorite verses in Psalms such as “the heavens are telling the glories of God” or my favorite in Romans chapter 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

God is the Master tweeter! He surrounds us with updates pointing us to Him, His activity in the world. The problem is, we are too often too busy to notice or even ponder what they mean. As my own spiritual awareness grew from this concept, I began to reverence these heavenly tweets by simply naming them as I saw them and giving thanks to God.

This past weekend, we took our son for a college visit. He planned to try out for a full scholarship on one of the worship teams there. We decided to leave early so that He would be sure to get on the audition list since it was a first come first serve basis. When we arrived, early, we found ourselves in a line longer than any ride at Disney. There were an overwhelming 2,000 people there registering for the weekend.

My son and I took our place in the long line while Harry went to find the nearest restroom. We noticed that he was gone a really long time. We thought he might have gotten lost or something. When he returned we asked him what happened… he said that the first bathroom was  being cleaned and he needed to find another one. Wouldn’t you know, that the other one was right by the table to sign up for the worship team auditions! The spots were being taken quickly and he was able to secure our son a time slot… God is tweeting everywhere we said to each other with a smile.

After his long awaited audition, we chatted with our son on the way out to the car about how it went. He seemed unsure … we tried to encourage him because, of course, we are his parents! Just before we made it to the car, a young lady stopped us in the parking lot and said that she was part of one of the teams and had sat in on our son’s audition! She went on to say what a great job he did and what a good musician he was! Wow… another God tweet.

Our weekend with our son was full of God tweets… it is not that God was saying that our son would definitely get into this program or get that scholarship. God was just simply reminding us that he was with us in the journey.

Our lives are indeed full of God tweets, God saying to us, hey, I am with you. As we become aware of God’s encouragement to us, God’s pointing us, and God’s presence all around us, we realize that God is closer than we think! Thanks be to God!