Monday, March 25, 2013

Thoughts on Monday

It has been so long - too long since I have blogged

Some of that is because i have been so busy during this season of Lent. I really, really, really enjoy morning prayers in the sanctuary but it means I do not write in my journal and often do not then find my way to the computer to write at all on this blog.

But today I do and the question is what to share. Because there has been so much.

We had a women's retreat on Saturday which turned out to be very meaningful to me as i continue to marvel at how God works. Kay and I co led and the theme was "Taking the next step" and it really was allowing us to see that this spiritual journey is always daily and literally step by step.

One of the scriptures I included was Jeremiah 6:16
Thus says the Lord: stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

But they said, We will not walk in it."

That seemed to really speak to me about the call to move forward and our resistance. And so much of the resistance comes from the fact that the deeper we get into our relationship with God - the more vulnerable we become. No wonder we resist.

But, of course, a retreat is a time in which we have at least said YES - I am giving you this time, Lord. And so we did and over the course of 6 hours of silence, reflection, sharing, praying, crafting I think some of us felt strengthened in our own journeys and prepared to keep going. One of the activities was that we identified some of the "rocks" within us that got in the way of our growth. We provided rocks to write on and then share (if we wanted) with each other. My partner was Kay and we found that we had written the same word on both our rocks - FEAR. After praying together she threw my fear in the lake and I threw hers in and we stood in silence and watched the circles spread over the lake. It was an important ritual for me.

The most profound part of these retreats for me is the process that I personally go through every time we do one. We somehow land on a theme and slowly but surely over about 6 weeks the different parts of the day come together. And often - like Saturday - in the moment we change some of our plans and allow the spirit to guide us. The retreat always ends up being more than I ever imagined it would be.

I have to say that I live my life in faith as I truly often feel like I am just putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that God will do something with me. And then the something happens.

I did not go to morning prayers this morning because it snowed last night, it is my "day off" and I had Addie spending the night. So this morning as I sat with my beautiful granddaughter and enjoyed her company I felt that the morning was in its own way prayerful.

This evening, however I did go to my prayer room and just listened to music and perused some of my books. I thought I would share what I wrote. Just because.

"I am just sitting in my prayer room listening to John Michael Talboy and writing whatever I want....
From Joan Chittister

- what is there in this of God for me?

The Everything of a deep and demanding prayer life is an awareness and acceptance of the self

- Self knowledge saves us from ourselves

- The fact is that we become what we think about

- Prayer like a laser beam concentrates the mind and challenges the soul

- It is our need for one another that teaches us our need for God

- There is nowhere where we are alone

From Richard Rohr

- Every time you choose to love you have also just chosen to die


Monday, March 4, 2013

Being Church

Last night when the day was done, I felt nothing but gratitude for all the activity of the day.

I cast a vision for this year at our church with 4 simple words - Faith is a Verb. It is the actions that reflect our relationship with God. And it seems like many people are really embracing this idea.

Yesterday beside worship we had three gatherings of people who were "doing church" or "faithing."

The first was the 25 or so that were in the fellowship hall. Carol Fry brought to us an idea for a Lenten craft project - making plastic mats for the homeless out of plastic bags. It is a daunting project in that every mat takes 500 bags and so for the last few weeks we have been collecting them. Yesterday we started the work which was folding and cutting and making them into strips that will be crocheted. Three quarters of the work could be done by anyone and so we had literally all ages working together to do these tasks. First we ate lunch and then with a lot of talking and laughter we worked together. It is everything I love to see happening at our church

At the same time this was going on, 10 people were gathered in the library preparing to invite people to come to the Nehemiah Action meeting in May for the BREAD organization. They understand the need for our church to be involved with others to bring to light some of the systemic issues that are problems in our community. I am so glad for the leaders who keep guiding our church to participate in this program.

Then yesterday evening we had a very diverse group of people come back to fellowship hall after our 5 O clock worship for Bingo. This is a fundraiser for our youth group and Seth organized it well. The food was perfect and the kids did a wonderful job of leading us in this fun and wholesome evening. A lot of laughs, fun prizes and over $400 dollars raised.

This is why I love the church - the opportunity for us to eat, work and play together and make a difference in the community and the world. And a place where different people have visions and passions and we support each other.

This is when we really are the body of Christ.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

James Finley

Last night I went to a talk by James Finley who is a former trappist monk, a psychotherapist, scholar, spiritual director and a retreat leader. This weekend there he is leading a retreat at First Community Church but I was only able to attend this Friday night offering.

As we arrived there, they had this message on the screen:

Find your practice and practice it
Find your teaching and follow it
Find your community and enter it

His talk was about both the Vision and the Path. The vision "bears witness to how we see." The Path is a way of life in which one comes to see the path of transformation.
He started out by sharing four thoughts with us
1.The contemplative way is about bearing witness to the already perfectly holy presence of God. Not just at inception but moment by moment by moment by moment. living so that we see life through awakened eyes.

2. It is a way of reflecting on the moments that we taste. This is true. Surely we are tasting the holiness of life.

3. Inviting us to be aware of how we tend to forget them.

4. Carefully consider how we are in these cherished moments compared to the rest of our life - "the root of all sorrow is estrangement from the contemplative self" We can live "strangely exiled from what I know is the presence of God" And our exile from what i know is the presence of God is the source of all fear and confusion.

I hope I am stating this right- I cannot in writing express how deeply his words went through me.
He talked about the decision to be a person of "Good Will." Asking ourselves always
"What is the most loving thing I can do for myself and for this community?"

He also said that the momsnt of awakenging is experiencing what i already know.
And he talked about being radical in our search for that radical childlike yearning.
Mystics are men and women who bear witness to the possibility of abiding consciousness.

He said that when we have awakened eyes we see God in a mother or a prostitute, a flower or a bird.
"We are the manifestation of what we are looking for. God is here - as the ongoing origine of our existence. God is smitten by us - hopelessly in love with us.
And the consummation is the reciprocity of love as we give ourselves to the one who loves us.

And he said that the moments of awakening are subtle, subtle, subtle. It comes as it comes, it is given as it is given.

Thomas Merton was his spiritual directory when he was in the monastery as a young man and he would ask these questions:
1. How's it going? What is it like being you here in this place?
2. How's it going with respect to your surrender to the mystery?
3. How's it going in discovering the intimacy of this love percolating up through you?

His two final comments were
- Merton bears witness to the mystical heritage of the Christian tradition
- Contemplation leads to social justice. In solitude we may experience God's love and our preciousness to God. And in our awakened state we see the preciousness of everyone else.

At the end of this talk we sat in silence for 5 minutes and prayed the Lord's prayer together. It was so holy and amazing.

I know that my writing is inadequate expression of a very holy evening. All I know is that God invites us always to stop, look, listen, open ourselves

My Mantra is: "I am here to be with YOU"
And this was a wonderful experience of being with God and makes me hungry for more..