Saturday, October 14, 2017

New song to me-- "Bleed the Same" by Mandisa

As I neared the high school for the football game last night, a song on Family Life Radio came on that was new to me, "Bleed the Same" by Mandisa.  The lyrics caught my attention.  I looked it up after it was finished, sitting in my car.  It came out last May (2017).

I find it hard to believe that here we are in 2017 struggling so hard to love one another in this world.  I thought we had worked through those things when I was a kid back in the 70s, yet it seems things have remained the same or worsened. 

I believe that love continues to be the answer.  As we open up hospitable space to listen to one another, to get to know one another, to carry one another's burdens, we will recognize that we bleed the same. 

In last week's sermon, I spoke about us coming to the table together, literally.  I spoke about us making space for those who aren't there so that we can have the conversations.  We need to have the conversations with those who are already at the table too. 

In order to move ahead, love and compassion need to come to the forefront.  One of the things that got written into my sermon was this: "As we listen, we learn.  As we learn, we connect.  As we connect, we can more faithfully be the body of Christ God is calling us to be in showing love to others." ("Looking Ahead", October 8, 2017)

Mandisa's song touched me.  Here are the lyrics:

[Intro: Mandisa]
We all bleed the same
We're more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We're divided

[Verse 1: tobyMac]
Woke up today
Another headline
Another innocent life is taken
In the name of hatred
So hard to take (hey!)
And if we think that it's all good
Then we're mistaken
'Cause my heart is breaking
(Tell em' Dis)

[Pre-Chorus 1: tobyMac & Mandisa]
Are you left?
Are you right?
Pointing fingers, taking sides
When are we gonna realize?

[Chorus 1: Mandisa]
We all bleed the same
We're more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We're divided
If we're gonna fight
Let's fight for each other
If we're gonna shout
Let love be the cry
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We're divided


Here is the song:



Seeking to take action steps that stop the violence, the needless deaths, and despair.  May love and compassion for others pave the way to wholeness, healing, reconciliation, life, and hope.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

P.S.  Here is a link where Air1 shares the story behind Mandisa's song.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Falling Upward-- round 2



I first read Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr in 2012.  I thought maybe I had blogged about it, but I hadn't.  I only mentioned it in passing as I book I had finished in a June 2012 post.  I guess the time to write about it never came to fruition. 

Five years later I find myself re-reading this book for a book club. It has been good to re-read it.  I finished it this morning.  This time I will make some time to write out some thoughts, reflections, and share some quotes.

Where to start?  I think I will jump around.  Chapter 11 is entitled "The Shadowlands" and talks about the shadow self and doing shadow work as part of growth.  This is the work we must do to deal with our false selves so that we get back to our true selves.  Most often in life we put on masks for protection or identity and don't even realize they have become a part of us.  I started taking off masks a while back, learning to be in the out of comfort zone. But it wasn't until I attended the 2 Year Academy that  I  heard the term "false self" in comparison with "true self".  Bob Mulholland's book The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self helped put words to what I had lived out in experience in the years from 1998-2000.   Learning to live into our true selves, growing through the shadow shelf, and shadowboxing is a life-long process.  There always seems to be some work to be done.  Yet, I have found terms over the years and explanations for things.  I have also seen growth.

One of the biggest things in Rohr's book is the reminder that we don't mature automatically in the 2nd half of life.  Nor is the 2nd half of life necessarily a chronological half. 

Toward the end of the book, Rohr mentions having watched a documentary of Helen Keller and that she entered her second half of life early in her first half of life (154).  Rohr mentioned earlier in the book that pain, disease, or other difficult situations often were what helped people along into their second half of life. For Keller, Rohr noted that her focus was on serving others and not being limited by her limitations (154). 

Rohr notes that in the hero and heroine stories  the pattern is that there is some wounding on the journey. "There is always a wounding; and the great epiphany is that the wound becomes the secret key, even "sacred," a wound that changes them dramatically, which, by the way, is the precise meaning of the wounds of Jesus!" (18-19)

When we are wounded in life, be it physical, emotional or other wound, can we allow those wounds to become part of our healed and whole self?  That is the mark of the second half.  When life is opened up bigger and wider because of our wounds and experiences and we are able to use them for good, for wholeness, for reconciliation, for healing.

Toward the end of the book, Rohr writes, "Whole people see and create wholeness wherever they go; split people see and create splits in everything and everything and everybody.  By the second half of our lives, we are meant to see in wholes and no longer in parts.  Yet we get to the whole by falling down into the messy parts-- so many times, in fact, that we long and thirst for the wholeness and fullness of all things, including ourselves. I promise you this unified field is the only and lasting meaning of up." (151)  That first sentence reminded me of a phrase I've heard Mark Davis speak over the years and I've quoted it, as have others: "Hurt people hurt people and healed people heal people."

Besides what I've shared already, Rohr mentions solitude, silence, both-and thinking, "double belonging" (among many other things) that resonate with me. 

Rohr says this about both-and thinking or "nondualistic thinking": "It is almost the benchmark of our growth into the second half of life.  More calm and contemplative seeing does not appear suddenly, but grows almost unconsciously over many years of conflict, confusion, healing, broadening, loving, and forgiving reality.  It emerges gradually as we learn to "incorporate the negative," learn from what we used to exclude, or, as Jesus put it, "forgive the enemies" both within and without." (146)

How did my 2nd half of life begin?  When?  I think it likely started in 1993 with my brother's car accident and the traumatic situation surrounding that.  Then, with life's other situations of divorce, pregnancy, and trying to navigate all that, I think I hit the 2nd half of life in my mid 30s.  That was the beginning of the time of deconstruction and reconstruction for me.  SOULfeast, the 5 Day Academy,  the 2 Year Academy, and seminary have helped me grow in my faith journey.

God continues to work in me, teaching me, growing me, showing me the deeper faith journey. 

I hope to keep learning and growing because I have much to learn.

Rohr writes, "If you are on course at all, your world should grow much larger in the second half of life."  I hope and pray this to be true.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Friday, September 29, 2017

7 year blogging anniversary

The end of September is almost here.

I usually try to get the anniversary blog post written on, around, or closer to the anniversary blog date (September 3).

However, this year, I had more pressing writing obligations on my plate that were due on September 25th, my ordination paperwork.  I was able to mail and email them in on Friday, September 22nd, but I wasn't free to post my anniversary blog post just yet because there was work to catch up on (there always is) and other things.

Today, I'm taking some of my Sabbath rest time to do something I enjoy-- write.

7 years.

I starting blogging 7 years ago.  How has it been 7 years?  I have heard it said that time seems to go by faster as we age.  Maybe that's it.

I began blogging to deal with the spiritual "stuff" in my life.  I continue to blog for that reason.  Though I don't always have the time I would like to contemplate or reflect on the things that are going on in and around me, it is a good thing for me to write.  It has become a spiritual discipline.

It all began with this post: "To Blog or Not to Blog..." on September 3, 2010.

For an anniversary blog post, I go back and write about the past year's statistics.

They aren't 100% accurate for the countries, because I am not always checking in to see who is reading, but it is at least a view into who has been reading.

Here are the statistics for this year:

The Top 10 Countries: (all time views)

United States............106,518
Russia.........................25,302
Germany.....................13,410
France...........................9,003
Ukraine.........................3,261
China............................1,994
Belgium........................1,951
United Kingdom...........1,585
Philippines....................1,227
Canada..........................1,073

The United States, Russia, and Germany continue to be in the top 3.  France and Ukraine keep their positions at #4 and #5, respectively.  China has moved up from #7 to #6 this year.  Belgium and the Philippines are  new this year on the top 10 list.

Here are the countries that I have noted reading the blog:  (Remember that I don't always check in to see who has been reading, so I many have missed several-- apologies!)

United States, Germany, Ukraine, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, France, South Korea, Poland, Thailand, Spain, Singapore, Lithuania, Egypt, Pakistan, Portugal, Mexico, Czech Republic, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Romania, Iraq, Turkey, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Vietnam, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Hungary, Angola, Antigua & Barbados, India, Kenya, Nepal, Armenia, South Africa, Philippines, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Latvia, Macedonia (FYROM), Italy, Brazil, Czechia, Cambodia, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Kuwait, Belarus

If the countries are listed with an ampersand (&), I count them as 1.  I count 54 different countries that are reading the blog.  Even if I've missed some over the year, that is still amazing and humbling.


The Top 10 Posts:

1. Some Notes from two chapters in Conversion in the Wesleyan Tradition-- May 7, 2013--9,846
2. Thoughts and quotes from  Jesus Calling over the last few days and weeks-- November 24, 2011--2,758
3. Academy #32 Tú has venido a la orilla / Lord You Have Come--October 3, 2012--2,152
4. Boldly moving forward in love for all-- August 29, 2016--1,481
5. Sabbath retreat-- taking time apart--October 20, 2016--1,080
6. Stretching and growing--November 2, 2016--1,067
7. Find rest in God--September 16, 2016--1,046
8. Jesus Calling-- January 1, 2012-- January 1, 2012--1,008
9. Breathe, just breathe-- October 26, 2016--907
10.Christ the King Retreat Center--a beautiful place to get away for some quiet time!-- July 12, 2013--877


Posts 1, 2, and 3 have been the top 3 for a while.  #4 has moved up from #7 from last year.  The last post on this year's list has the same amount of hits from last year and has moved down from #5.  Numbers 5, 6, 7, and 9 are new on this year's list

Monthly Readership This Past Year:

September 2016-- 1,238
October 2016-- 1,577
November 2016-- 2,316
December 2016-- 14,491
January 2017-- 7,996
February 2017-- (won't show up on the chart, but seems to be between January and March, maybe around 6,000-ish?)
March 2017-- 5,473
April 2017-- 4,919
May 2017-- 5,762
June 2017-- 1,320
July 2017-- 1,962
August 2017-- 15,486
September 2017-- 2,002  (at time of writing)

The December 2016 and August 2017 spikes in readership are ones that I've not seen before and really don't know how to explain.  All I can attribute it to is that maybe there are things I'm sharing that relate to what other folks are experiencing and they are connecting somehow, someway.

In 2017 I have written 48 posts so far (this one makes 49). In 2016 wrote 62 posts.  In 2015 I wrote 47 posts. That was the year I was finishing up my seminary courses and focusing on graduation.  There was lots of other writing going on that year.   The year I wrote the most so far was 2013-- 130 posts.  Without going back to look, that must have been a combination of my final year in the 2 year Academy (lots of reflection) and things with seminary and life.

I continue to try to make space to write, even when life gets busy or my brain is tired.  Writing is often part of my quiet and study time.  It helps me process what is going on spiritually and otherwise in life.

Thanks for being with me on this adventurous journey.  When I started it, I had no idea I would be here 7 years later still writing.  But, I'm glad I am.

As I listen to the wind chimes and the water flow from the water fountain, I am thankful for these 7 years of writing, these 7 years of growth, these 7 years of an adventurous journey.

I look forward to continuing the journey with you and hope you will take some time to share your journey with me.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Previous blogging anniversary blogs:
6 year anniversary blog
5 year anniversary blog
4 year anniversary blog
3 year anniversary blog
2 year anniversary blog
1 year anniversary blog

Rebuild

This morning I came outside for my coffee and some reading on the patio.  It's a cool morning.  I went to check on the spider and spider web that I've been watching all week. 

This big spider has made its home on the gate and has connected to the lamp post and the hummingbird feeder (and the side of the house).  The first time I saw the web (and the spider), I was surprised at how big they both were.  I have enjoyed watching the web grow and change over time.

taken September 24
We have been careful to not use the gate and/or to duck under the web when we do. There is one tenuous thread that holds it to the lamp post. 

This morning when I looked over to the web, what caught my attention was that it had moved.  'That's odd', I thought to myself.  So, I went closer to inspect it.  In doing so, my friend, the spider, quickly vacated his center of the web. 



As I observed the web, indeed, it was now much closer to the hummingbird feeder.  It is smaller.  It looks like the spider had to rebuild. 

We had some winds last night.  That could be why.  Or something could have flown into it, or maybe, it was just time to rebuild.  I don't know.

Whatever the reason, the spider rebuilt. But, the other thing I noticed was that there was still a center. 

Even though the web was moved over and rebuilt, it still had its center.

The spider could rebuild the web, whether it had to because of destruction, whether it needed to because of safety, or whether it wanted to.  For whatever reason it rebuilt, the web would be built around the center.

There are times in my life that I've had to rebuild.  Because of destruction, because of safety, because I wanted to, felt called to, etc.  The rebuilding has happened emotionally, spiritually, vocationally, relationally, and other. 

As I reflect on the rebuilding, just like the spider and the web, the center has remained the same.  The center of my life has been my relationship with the Creator., even when I haven't always been aware of that relationship (that's called prevenient grace.)  Because of that relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I've been able to stay centered through the rebuilding.  Even when there was a shift in the paradigm, I am learning that the center has always been there. 

The center of my faith life is to live, love, and lead like Jesus.  I seek to follow the Way of Jesus: love God and love others as myself.

On an educational note, I wanted to know about this spider and web, so I did some research.  Because the "hub" is in the middle and the web looks like a "wagon wheel", it is most likely an orb spider.  Not all spider webs have a hub in the middle, but this one does and this is the one that caused my reflection today as I prayed with eyes open.

For a second link on spider research, you can go to the Smithsonian.

I am grateful for my spider friend and the web.  I have always liked spider webs because they remind me of community holding on to one another in support and prayer. 

Now I have something else to think about when I see spider webs.

Where are you in your journey?  Are you in a rebuilding stage of any kind? If so, look to your center.  May your center be the hub around which the new is rebuilt.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Praying with Eyes Open


After services and before an afternoon meeting, I am enjoying a little bit of outdoors time on the patio, with a book and some coffee.

I am continuing to read Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction.

Because I still have ordination paperwork and Hearts on Fire board work to do before I can allow myself in-depth writing in other forms, I am not going to go in-depth on other thoughts about "church" last night with Garrison Keillor or even church today, both of which I could probably write a bit about.  I still have my 7 year blog post celebration to write too.  All of that will need to wait.

A quick word for now.

I just finished Chapter VII, "Praying with Eyes Open" and was introduced to Annie Dillard in that chapter.  She sounds like someone I would enjoy reading, so I will check into some of her writings.  Peterson mentioned her Pulitzer Prize winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (published in 1974), among other writings.

What caught my attention was that Peterson described her as a "mystical theologian" (70) and noted that "she is after bigger game: after meaning, after glory, after God." (71)

She is an "ally in Christian pilgrimage" (72) and "embraces spiritual disciplines in order to deal with a Creator and a creation" (72).

At the end of the chapter Peterson defines kataphatic and apophatic prayer in this way:

"Kataphatic prayer uses icons, symbols, ritual, incense; the creation is the way to the Creator.  Apophatic prayer attempts emptiness; the creature distracts from the Creator, and so the mind is systematically emptied of idea, image, sensation until there is only the simplicity of being.  Kataphatic prayer is "praying with your eyes open"' apophatic prayer is "praying with your eyes shut." (84)

For me, both prayers are fulfilling and I need both in order to live a balanced prayer life.

As I prayed with my eyes open today, looking at creation, I noticed this snail on the water spout.


Upon further inspection, I found him burrowed deep inside.  I don't know if he will make it or not, but I removed him from his perched place, where he was stuck and put him in a place of soil.

Now a wasp has decided to drink deeply of my coffee.  I will share.  In fact, I will relinquish my coffee to the guest, albeit unwanted.


Whether you pray with your eyes open or closed, make some time for prayer today.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

P.S.  Here is a site I look forward to spending some time with later in order to get to know Annie Dillard better-- Annie Dillard Official Site


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Breezy morning reflections


It is a very chilly morning with constant breezes.  The temperature is 59 at the moment.  As I sit enjoying my coffee, the sound of the waterfall, the chimes, and feeling the breezes, I am in prayer for all those cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey and those being affected by Hurricane Irma.  I also think about those affected by the fires in Oregon, Washington, and Montana.  My thoughts also go to the immigrants in our country with the Dreamers Act. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

There are many things I'd like to write about, but my focus these days is finishing my ordination paperwork.  I spent three hours on Monday morning working on it and am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  However, with meetings every week for Nominations for Charge Conference (I serve three churches), that takes time too. I am fasting from all college and NFL football until I get the ordination paperwork done.  That might not seem like much to some people, but I like football. I follow my college alma mater, Georgia Southern. I follow UTC (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) where I taught (and try to make a home game or two), I follow the Dawgs-- GO GA! When it comes to NFL, I'm primarily a Broncos fan, but I do enjoy the Atlanta Falcons too.  That's the one pro game I've been to, while in high school and we (our band) played the half time show for the Falcons vs the Redskins.  You can see that abstaining from college and pro football will motivate me to manage my time well.

I also want to get the paperwork done so I can focus on my anniversary blog post.  My 7 year anniversary of blogging was September 3rd.  Each year I write an anniversary blog post with statistics and reflections, but that takes time.  Time that I need to put into my ordination paperwork.

So, what am I doing writing this morning, you ask?

Devotional reflecting.

Last Thursday I felt led to share "Be still and know that I am God" with a group of ladies as a devotion because that thought got hold of me during the day and didn't let go.  Then I shared it with someone else on Friday.  Then I kept living into it, as I have been for the past 10 years now.  As I've noted over and over again, it is a life-long lesson for me.  What God put on my heart last Thursday for me and for me to share has had a ripple effect into the kingdom and a ripple effect into my life.  I continue to see pictures on my feed from past years of "be still".

That reminded me that we are to share with others what we learn.  That's part of the benefit, the purpose, the reason, the blessing, etc. of community.  We build one another up, we encourage one another, we share with one another, we hold one another accountability, we love one another, we pray with and for one another, we forgive one another, we extend grace to one another.

Last night's District Clergy/Pastor meeting was centered around remembering our baptism.  Literally.  The baptismal shell (on loan from Ginger Isom) was in the middle of us and we were seated around it.  I only took a close up of the awesome shell.  But it would have been neat to see the set up too, because truly, our identity in Christ and our calling as children of God is at the center of who we are.  We are God's children.  God had called us into relationship and whether we said yes or someone said yes on our behalf until we were old enough to say yes in confirmation, the relationship is there.

If I can get the liturgy that we used last night, I will share it. It was good.

Meanwhile, here are pictures of the shell and the altar.  The altar was beautiful.  I later realized I had blurred my picture.  I didn't do the artist, Jodie Ihfe, justice with the picture. She has created altars for us in the past for District meetings and I'm glad she used her gifts and graces in this way. I'm reminded of 2 year Academy and 5 day Academy altars and am blessed.



Peace and blessings on this day.  May you remember that you are loved, cherished, beloved, and have purpose and meaning in this world.  Make some time to "be still and know".

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Becoming "unbusy"-- the eternal challenge




On a crisp 63 degree morning, I am outside on the patio with some coffee, listening to the waterfall and enjoying some quiet "be still" time.

I had planned to sleep in today, but I guess 7:30 am is sleeping in when 5:30 am is the normal wake up time.

A hummingbird is visiting the feeders as I type.  I enjoy watching those creations.  Once and only once so far, I observed one become still while feasting on the perch.  I had never seen that before.  But because it had space on the one feeder, it could actually be on the feeder and take a moment of inactivity while it was there.

Space.  Either we find it, make it, or create it for ourselves in order to not be so busy, to stop moving, to be able to stand still, to rest.

We all need that space.  That's why we have Sabbath rest.  Rest allows us to be who we are created to be.

I know it.  I have lots of books that remind me.  I'm a better person when I live into Sabbath rest.  Yet, it is still a struggle to guard that time and space.

As I write, there are two hummingbirds fighting over the one feeder.  One comes in to eat and another comes to attack it.  There is another feeder less than 20 feet away.  I wonder if one of them will move to the other feeder? There are hummingbirds going there, but evidently not these two.  They are in either play or battle mode today.

Thankfully, when it comes to space for rest and stillness, there is plenty. We don't need to fight over it.  We just need to do it.

I am glad for some time this morning.

Time to listen.  Time to be.  Time to breathe.  Time to watch hummingbirds. Time to drink coffee unhurriedly.

Yesterday I said I would share some notes as I read Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction.

The forward is an interview with Eugene Peterson and Rodney Clapp.  There were some good nuggets there for me, but today I'll share from chapter two, "The Unbusy Pastor".

"How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion?" (19)
"If no one asked me to do anything, what would I do? Three things.  I can be a pastor who prays. [...]  I know I can't be busy and pray at the same time. [...] I can be a pastor who preaches. [...] This kind of preaching is a creative act that requires quietness and solitude, concentration and intensity. [...] I can be a pastor who listens. [...] I want to have the energy and time to really listen to them so that when they're through, they know at least one other person has some inkling of what they're feeling and thinking. [...]  Too much of pastoral visitation is punching the clock, assuring people we're on the job, being busy, earning our pay. Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it's only for five minutes.  Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time." (19-21)

The more important question: "How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?" (21)

"But if I provide margins to my day, there is ample time to listen." (22) [Providing margins in the day has been a goal for me for quite a few years.  I attempt to have no more than 3 things on my calendar, allowing there to be margins.  My calendar has gotten less busy over the years, though there are seasons in life and in ministry when they are busier.  Charge conference season is a busier time of year as a pastor.  With three churches in the parish, there is a need to have each nominations / leadership development team meet.  That means 4 meetings right there.  And with that, we've only just begun.]

Peterson recognizes the difficulty in keeping margins in the calendar and speaks to that situation by scheduling appointments for himself.  That way they are in the calendar.  He notes, "I mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work-- prayer, preaching, and listening-- can issue." (23)

Good thoughts on a way to make margins in the schedule for needed things.  He also has a good phrase so he doesn't give in to too many things, "My appointment calendar will not permit it." (22)  Though I've gotten better at that, I still need wisdom and discernment on that.  Don't we all?  These lessons making space for ourselves in Peterson's book, though written for pastors, can be applied to all folks.  After all, we are the priesthood of all believers, and we all struggle with putting too much on our calendars and not having enough time for self-care, soul-care, rest, silence, solitude, leisure, and the creative work of ministry that flows from that (whatever ministry God has us involved in, again, as we are all a part of ministry).

How can you become less busy?  What are some steps you might take from having read these quotes by Eugene Peterson?

Blessings on your journey,

Debra