Saturday, April 30, 2016

Walking the Race

For the fourth time, Kim Veatch and I signed up to do the cap city marathon - not the half marathon the quarter which is 6+ miles.  Unfortunately  - and as usual - I did not "train" or even walk much beforehand  and wondered if I was up to it this year.  After all, I was also a year older than last year.

So, I had a thought that rather than not do it - we might try the 5K - 3+ miles.  Kim had pulled a muscle and was willing to go along.  So, we did it.  The 5K.  And we walked it in under an hour and talked the whole time and it was truly no big deal.

And I learned that I don't want to do it again.  Next year we need to go back to the quarter.  Because I missed feeling really tired and spent and like I had accomplished something.  After the race we had fruit, bagels, free wine and pizza.  It is a party - but it felt distinctly different for me because I missed out on that feeling of achievement.

My daughter Marnie did the half marathon - and trained well for it.  This was not her first, but her fastest.  And she ran it without a friend or sister to talk to.  She did it on her own and I could see the satisfaction that she felt and certainly I know that she knows that I am PROUD of her.

I told Kim that I am signing up for next year and maybe this time I will train for it.  And get that high that you only get when you stretch yourself and do something hard.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Retreat in Daily Life

Today is the last day of the retreat in daily life - a 30 week Ignatian retreat that I began in September.  We end today with a three hour afternoon retreat in which we will reflect on the experience for the twelve of us who have participated.  The last time we were all together was 30 weeks ago, so I look forward to hearing what others will share.

For me, it has been a time of truly deepening my faith - with the growing experience of God's light.   For the past week, I went through my journals of this time (3!) and today I reviewed the writings that we received each week.

Ignatian writes that God gives us memory, understanding and will.  There is so much here.

In the first few weeks of the retreat we spent time with our memory - reviewing our life and seeing in a new way the occasions of grace and the abundant blessings.  Grace is really understood and received in a real awareness of our sin.  Sin is - in our culture and within our spirit - such a downer.  And so we repress and deny so much of who we have been and can be.  Ignatian writes: "For many of us, the ways we are rebellious in our failures to praise, reverence and serve God are often subtle." So beginning with honest reflection led me into a much deeper awareness of God's amazing grace toward me and heartfelt gratitude.  And I learned how hard grace is for me to really accept.  Reading the book Who Told you You were Naked?  was so helpful for me.

Later we spent time with Mary during the season of Advent and reflected a lot on waiting.  I keep learning about my natural impatience which gets in the way of receiving what is present in the moment.  So much of  the spiritual life is waiting in hope for God's work to be revealed.

Then there was time with the life of Jesus,  his healing work, the Beatitudes, the call of the disciples.  None of this was new to me as a long time preacher and Bible student - and yet it has been made new as I have prayed with Mary, with Peter, with Jesus.  And as always, there have been openings and deeper understandings for me in my daily life.

Holy Week and especially Good Friday and Black  Saturday was especially meaningful to me this year. I wrote this in my journal on the day before Easter:
"I can be mindful of the path of Jesus.  We can go so far and then there is mystery.  Unknown.  But still activity.  What we think is hopeless has movement."

And this retreat  coincided with my daily life experience during these 30 weeks - taking my  mentally ill stepson into my home and heart and then letting him go.  So that the pain and confusion of the cross - somehow spoke deeply to the pain and confusion I have experienced in my daily life.  And trusting in God's hidden work.

Finally last few weeks have been  spending time with the resurrection appearance of Jesus and these words that resonate for me - "Peace be with you."  There is so much mystery to all of this but the eventual word has got to be peace - the peace that only comes after a struggle.

I write all of this today to try to make sense of what I have struggled with over these weeks.  And also to have a brief record for myself of this time.  Thirty weeks in which I met with a spiritual director weekly, prayed for an hour a day, and remembered and reflected and trusted in the slow work of God within me.

Here is a wonderful prayer that sums everything up

Take, Lord and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, and my entire will,
all that i have and possess
you have given all to me
to you, Lord, I return it.
All is Yours
do with it what You will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace.
that is enough for me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Soul at Sea

I have just returned from a seven day cruise in the Caribbean with our friends Jim and Holly.  Cruising has turned out to be a real blessing for me in so many ways and so every year it is our gift to ourselves to take time like this with friends.

"The Soul at Sea" is the name of the devotional book about cruising that I want to write - but probably never will.  A cruise is a great time to literally get away from everyone and everything and be able to really find some refreshment - and my idea is a little guide to help people to do the reflection that helps us to come back NEW.  Here is some of what helps me.

1. Unpacking the first day.  I love the idea of a little room that is ours for the week and that time of putting our stuff away and making promises to each other about how neat we are going to be is always fun for me.  It is a way of setting this time and place apart.  And there is always the promise of something new this week.

2. Finding the place for the week for me to start the day.  Chuck sleeps in and I get up early and get coffee and look at the water and read and write.  This year that place was usually in the library where they had a big easy chair that looked out on the ocean. .  I would buy a premuim cup of coffee and have my special time.  There is something about the expanse of the sky and the depth of the ocean and the constancy of the waves that really speaks to my soul.  Beginning the day like this centers me.

3.  The abundance and variety of food.  Chuck and I had most breakfasts and lunch in the "Lido" and I got used to salmon for breakfast and fruit and the wonderful salads they had for lunch.  Our dinners in the dining room were always opportunities to try new things - or once a year foods - like lobster, escargot, special soups and appetizers.

4. Going to exotic places and seeing what life is like for others.  Our tour of Jamaica was eye opening.  We rented a taxi and drove around this beautiful lush island that had the stark realities of very rich and very poor people.  Their unemployment rate was 25 percent.  Our taxi was stopped twice - first by a young man who was on stilts and dressed up.  We paid money to have pictures taken with him.

 The second was a young man who did six flips in the road in front of us - again we paid him.  And just cannot even imagine the difference of life choices for a child born in Jamaica and in our country.

5. Seeing the wonder of creation.  Besides the beauty of the islands and the blessing of blue seas and white beaches we also took a Submarine Trip in Cayman Islands that went 1000 feet under the sea.  It was a trip of a lifetime seeing the mountains beneath the ocean, the fish, the life down under.  Always I learn how much there is to learn.

6. Having fun.  We loved the entertainment, the touring the islands, the freedom to come and go all day however we wanted.  Just being away from our regular life and responsibilities was wonderful.
Here is a picture of Jim and Holly at having cigars and port wine one night.  I joined in the wine part and it was fun!

Here is a picture of Chuck from Cozumel.  There seems to me to be a connection here!

   After a week at sea, my soul comes home a little more free, relaxed and at peace.  And may now ready to work on a devotional about time away.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Heroine's Journey

I just returned from a beautiful Saturday at Camp Christian where I helped Wendy with a Retreat we called "The Heroine's Journey."

After a wonderful opening prayer from Ellen which involved both chanting and dancing, we were ready to look at the stages that we go through on this spiritual journey of saying YES to God's invitation to growth.  Much of this is based on the work of Joseph Campbell plus the book The Heroine's Journey.  I gave a little talk - or more like a conversation - about a subject that we could have spent a week praying and reflecting on.  I want to share the handout from today with some annotations from my talk and the  reflection questions.

What I believe is that everyone of us is called to our own journey - we are the heroine and the our God is continually inviting us to growth and to becoming our true authentic selves.  The question is always where or not we say yes.  Or stay with it.

                                  The Heroine’s Journey

1.  1.   The Call – When have you experienced it?
           Is there an invitation right now?
The real work of our lives is to become aware.  And awakened.  To answer the call.”  Oprah Winfrey

2.  2.   Leaving Home
            Leaving Mother
            How have you left mother?
            How have you identified with father?

          Letting go of security “dropping your nets”

3.  3.   Initiation – Training
      Describe the ways in which have learned and become initiated?
      What I realize is how important books have been to me on my own journey and at the same time that having a supportive community has been really important. 

      Who have been your Mentors

4. 4.     Recognition of Demons     -“ The ultimate key words are fear, guilt, shame, grief, lies, illusion, attachment”
What demons have you identified and extinguished?
What demons are you struggling with?

5. 5.   Facing the Monsters - the journey with God will lead us into a realization of the evil that is part of life on earth.  (Like racism, sexism, greed, homophobia, xenophobia)

T"there comes a time when we grow up that we start to see “the underbelly” which may not affect us – but others.  Maturity means that even though we love our country – there are problems to address
Even though we love our church – there are issues that have to be dealt with"

What are the monsters that you face because you are on this journey?

6.6.    Facing the Abyss – When have you experienced this?
          What does the “Abyss” look like for you?

“It is my going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.  Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”  Joseph Campbell

7. 7.    Healing and Integration
 Healing the wounds from childhood  
Experiencing the Grace of God

What needs to be healed now?
8.8.     Returning Home -
How are you different than you used to be?
What has changed

Everything changes when you start to emit your own frequency rather than absorbing the frequencies around you, when you start imprinting your intent on the universe rather than receiving an imprint from existence.” ~ Barbara Marciniak

 This is just an outline of an paradigm that reminds us that our life can be an adventure - as we take risks - say YES to the Invitations -  that are offered to us - to grow, to go, to learn, to serve, to become. 

It reminds us that it is not easy all the time - we face ourselves(our best and worst selves), and some of the ugliness of the world, and we have to have the courage to grieve and mourn the losses that are part of life.  But what I believe is that if God invites us to step out in faith - God WILL show up when we need God.

And I can only say that the more you look for God, listen for God, trust God – the more peace you will have in all the transitions of life.  The growth – potentially  -  never stops. 
The fruit of the faithful journeying is the realization that life is an eternal adventure, and that we are explorers, always changing, always learning, always breaking open into new vistas of clarity and peace.