Thursday, October 31, 2013

Discernment, always the need for Discernment

Saturday I went to a Wellstreams In-Service Day that I continue to reflect on.
As I was cleaning my desk today I found my notes from the morning speaker, Dr. Richard Sweeney, a Jungian Analyst. His talk was "Challenges and Opportunities of Helping People Grow Spiritually in our Culture." And it was important information for those in spiritual direction and for me as a pastor.
And here are some of the challenges that he mentioned.
1. The purview of spirituality is broader and deeper. “Everything belongs” so that God is not found just in the church. We need to develop our attunement to moments of spirit. See our interconnectedness
2. Changing images of God – God is not just apprehended through Jesus and through holy communion.
3. There is a proliferation of helping disciplines – not distinct from but interconnected. So AA, Yoga, therapy, many ways of seeking spiritual truth. And they can work together or see themselves in competition.
4. There is conflict between spirit and the institution. Always. the institutions are always given to structure and order and the spirit moves. And that really is the classic "both and." And the great challenge of any of us who are in the church. How do we recognize the promptings of the spirit that may cause the structure to have to move and change?

And so, today do the things that I do - preparing worship and sermons and wondering always how God led is this process? It is so easy to get into a routine of selecting hymns and prayers and reading other people's commentaries on scripture. This always needs to be more than that - and it so often - when I am conscious - brings me to my needs.
Anyway, I include this "Prayer for a Discerning Heart."
May it speak to you and it does to me.

Prayer for a Discerning Heart

God of inspiration, I ask you for the gift of a discerning heart,
a heart that remains attentive to you,
a heart that moves with your Spirit,
a heart that is aware of its sinfulness,
a heart that is open to your inspiration and guidance.

Help me to listen with a loving heart to the rich experiences of those in my care.

Help me to enter into
their struggles and peaceful experiences,
their sorrows and joys,
their woundedness and their wholeness,
their emptiness and their fullness.

As "heart speaks to heart", may it be your heart that touches both our hearts,so that the grace of a discerning heart can come alive in us.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Spiritual Life

I have been pretty busy lately with many things.
Friday I had the opportunity to go the Shepherds Corner in Blacklick Ohio. It is the ecology center of the Dominican Sisters of Peace and on its website ( is says:
"In caring for land, life, and spirit, Shepherd's Corner provides environmental education, provides reflective experiences on care of creation and renews the land while providing healthy, naturally grown produce."

I was there with Kim to spend time with God on both their meditative walk and the labyrinth. It was a chilly October afternoon and mostly grey although the sun did show itself periodically through my time there. It was a most wonderful way to spend time in walking and praying and pondering the mystery of the God of creation and the gift of life. The meditation walk consisted of 10 (?) stations which had quotes by spiritual writers, information about nature and questions for reflection. At one point we were directed to raise our hands to the sky and then look up in wonder. And as I looked at the clouds above me I could not help but think about the "Cloud of Unknowing" readings from September and the mystery of God's presence around us. We also spent time holding a rock and reflecting on its age and its journey that had brought it to this moment.

the next day I was at a workshop through the Wellstreams Program and became reacquainted with this poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins"

God's Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844–1889 Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

And that was my experience on Friday - the world is "charged" with the grandeur of God.

During the labyrinth walk I found myself singing "Spirit of God Descend Upon my Heart" as I noticed the grass and moss beneath my feet, the flowers starting to fade, the leaves that were changing color. When I got to the center of the labyrinth I sat for sometime in silent prayer. Suddenly the sun came out as it and seemed to just wrap around me. God's presence was so real to me in light and warmth and love.

There is more to share, but that is all for now.
Just a reminder to us all that God can often be most easily accessed through God's handiwork - this beautiful, changing charged world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

At Pipestem

I returned recently from a different kind of vacation for Chuck and me. Instead of going to the beach or on a cruise we took a road trip of a sort.
We started at Pipestem state park in West Virginia for 2 days, then to Lynchburg to stay with Audrey for 2 days and then to Washington DC for her legal wedding.

The visit to pipestem was really wonderful. It provided a time of rest and reflection in the midst of the beauty of West Virginia.

Pipestem has a beautiful lodge on the top of the mountain and then 30 creekside units that are only accessible through a tram. That is where we stayed.

Just riding the tram was an adventure. At first there was a sudden jolt when we got on it and then we became enamored of the ride down. Every time we were looking for deer and other wildlife as we descended. One night we went out to dinner and returned in the dark - that was pretty interesting - as we left the light and at the top and went in the darkness on a cable trusting there was a light at the bottom. It truly would have freaked me out if we had not already made this trip up and down several times. And of course, it made me think of this journey that we are all on in life as we at times feel like we are veering in the darkness - remembering there was a light at the top and trusting help at the bottom.

We were so blessed to be creekside and wake in the morning to deer feeding off an apple tree in front of us. Chuck fed the deer from the snacks that he brought with him. I sat and wrote and wondered at all of it. The signs of life around me, the obvious changing of seasons, the beauty and peace of this place. At the same time I am slowly working through a book called "Beauty" by John O Donohus. He writes

"The wonder of the beautiful s its ability to surprise us."

"Every life is braided with luminous moments."

Chuck and walked quite a bit - alongside the creek on the rocks and then we took one of the paths and had about a 2 miles walk. He is a great companion because he sees things I often miss. He found a caterpillar and said, "He'll be a butterfly in the spring if he makes it." and I found myself wondering - what will we be in the spring?
Always the questions about what is ahead but not knowing and trusting the light in whatever darkness we are living in.

Anyway, a few pictures and memories of a nice time that we were blessed to enjoy together. God speaks to me in times like this - often saying - "watch, wait, trust me."
And I do.