Monday, May 9, 2016

A new outdoor labyrinth for me.... Church of the Nativity in Fort Oglethorpe

For an upcoming District Pastor's meeting, I've been researching local labyrinths.  In that research, I found that Church of the Nativity in Fort Oglethorpe has an outdoor labyrinth.  Maybe I had run across that information before, but it didn't mean anything to me since I live in Hixson, TN.  But because my appointment places me in Georgia (Flintstone, Rossville, and Fort Oglethorpe), that becomes significant.

Last week, I went to Church of the Nativity for the first time on Monday and walked and prayed the labyrinth.  I went back again on Tuesday.  I imagine it will become one of those "go-to" places in this part of my world, much like the pavilion at Flintstone UMC. 

Walking and praying a labyrinth soothes my soul.  Monday and Tuesday were no different.  My stress level had gotten a little high.  The week before I dropped my laptop on my foot, shattering the touch screen (optimizer) on the top portion.  That wasn't the first thing I dropped that morning.  I dropped a saucer and a muffin.  It was the laptop that clued me in, though, that my stress level was higher than I recognized. 

I did a quick examen (check) and realized that I hadn't really taken the time to allow my soul to catch up with my body lately.  I hadn't been on a good walk or a good hike.  I hadn't really taken time for centering prayer.

I took some moments for quiet and stillness that Monday morning before heading out to pick up my laptop.  The screen had other issues and could not be fixed at the time, so now I am getting used to not using a touch screen these days.

After I picked up the computer (in Fort Oglethorpe), I decided to check out the labyrinth I had found online in my research before going in to the office.

Church of the Nativity is located on 1201 Cross Street in Fort Oglethorpe and was on my way to the office. 

When I got there, I found the labyrinth in the back of the property.  It is a beautiful labyrinth with a gravel path, decorated with river stone, mulch and plants. 


As I walked the path, I found 6 "heart stones".


In the center of the labyrinth is this stone:


Prior to walking the labyrinth, I read these words from devozine, a youth devotional, on Instagram:


Oh, how I needed those words, in addition to the walk.  The words were perfect to begin my meditation and walking time.

My soul did catch up with my body that day.... and again on Tuesday.  Walking a labyrinth has been part of my spiritual journey for several years now and it always settles my heart, mind, and soul.  It represents the ebb and flow of the journey inward and the journey outward.  

This past Saturday was World Labyrinth Day.  Though I didn't make it out on that particular day to walk a labyrinth, I'm grateful to now know of an additional one in the greater Chattanooga area. 

If you live in the Chattanooga area and you're looking for a labyrinth for a prayer walk, check this one out.

In addition, you can check out these other outdoor labyrinths:

(1) Burks UMC on 6433 Hixson Pike has one in the back of the property in the grass
(2) The Bright School  on 1950 Hixson Pike has a concrete one and asks that people let them know they are on the property
(3) St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on 305 W. 7th. (outdoors, but accessed by going indoors)
(4) New Hope Presbyterian Church on 7301 Shallowford Road


A prayer for entering the labyrinth: (taken from Burks UMC pamphlet "The Prayer Path")

Lord Jesus, be with me in my walking.
Be with me in my listening.
Christ, open my heart, mind and body to receive.

A prayer for leaving the labyrinth:  (taken from Burks UMC pamphlet "The Prayer Path")

Holy Spirit of God, 
I hold in my heart the gift 
you have given to me.
However confusing, however clear, 
I accept it as your gift for me today.
May I savor it and respect it
until I understand the treasure that it is.
Amen.


Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Love, Peace, and the Holy Spirit-- today's sermon

Today I preached at Fort Oglethorpe UMC.  We had an unexpected death last weekend and the service was this past week.  The music leader took a break last week and this week as it was her brother who passed.  Because I had worked ahead, I hadn't revisited the Scriptures or title for the week until the first of the week.  It was appropriate for the week.  But not just for the recent death in this family and in this congregation.  Looking around the worship space today, there were at least 3 other families who have experienced deaths in their families since my appointment.  There have been deaths in our other two churches too.  There is brokenness in lives.  If not due to the death of a loved one, then for other reasons.  There is a need for wholeness and healing in all lives.  Today's message, "Love, Peace, and the Holy Spirit" speaks to that wholeness and healing that Christ spoke about to the disciples.

As with any sermon I post, what is written below is not always what is said verbatim in a service. Things are added or omitted, but it gives you a general idea of the message.

"Cry Out to Jesus" by Third Day (This was the Special Music played prior to the sermon. It was an added blessing to the service that had brought healing to others as they had watched it during the week.)


-------------------------------------
"Love, Peace, and the Holy Spirit"
May 1st, 2016 (Easter 6)
John 14: 23-29 (NRSV)
Fort Oglethorpe UMC

John 14: 23-29 (NRSV)

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter.   "Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen indeed!"
We come together this morning to worship the Lord of Lord and King of Kings in the midst of life—continued grief and continued celebrations.  We join together in community to hold one another up, to encourage one another, to pray for one another as each of us has different concerns, burdens, struggles, joys, and celebrations. 

Today’s passage brings us a message of hope in spirit and in truth that we are not alone.

Let’s begin in verse 23.  It is a tad odd that the lectionary passage chooses to start with a verse that states: “Jesus answered him” and without looking back, we don’t know who asked or what the question is.  The context for the passage is that Jesus is in the upper room, sharing his final discourse with the disciples.  Here is verse 22: Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Knowing the question helps us better understand the answer … or does it?  Jesus has a way of not always answering the exact question answered.  Jesus answers here in verses 23-24: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”  The answer doesn’t directly answer Judas’ question about revealing himself to the disciples, but talks about those who will love Jesus, how they will respond, and how the Father will respond to them.  Jesus also clarifies that the word heard is from the Father, reminding the disciples of Jesus’ relationship with God.  To simplify these 2 verses, we love God and Jesus by keeping the words of Jesus which are of God.  Remember when Jesus put it very simply for the disciples to remember how to show love in context of what is the greatest commandment? 

Matthew 22:36-40 --“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Love.  Jesus taught about love in word and deed.

The next things Jesus teaches here is about the Holy Spirit and peace.

Verses 25-26“I have said these things to you while I am still with you.26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Jesus is trying to prepare them for his departure in this final discourse.  He is sharing everything that he can with them while he is still with them.  But he wants them to know that when he is gone, the Holy Spirit will be with them.  Here, the term “Advocate” is used.  Other terms are: counselor, guide, helper, companion, comforter, encourager.  The Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name to be with the disciples to remind them what Jesus taught and to continue to teach them.

The Holy Spirit is a gift from God sent to minister in all these ways.  How have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your life? Have you experienced the Holy Spirit as Advocate? Counselor? Guide? Helper?  Companion?  Comforter? Encourager?

Earlier in this final discourse, in John 14:17, Jesus told the disciples that they will know the Holy Spirit: “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

How amazing is it that we are not left alone, but have access to the Holy Spirit who abides with us and in us?

Jesus uses the teaching of the Holy Spirit to lead into that of peace.

Verse 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Though there are many powerful teachings in this passage, for me, this is the take away verse for today, the central verse.  Notice the bulletin cover.



Jesus is telling the disciples that he offers them peace.  Not as the world gives, but peace.  It is a peace that often defies understanding and flows deeper than our circumstances.  For me, it is the type of peace that one has when your brother has been in a race car accident and is in a coma for several months and you don’t know what is going to happen.   It truly is the peace that passeth understanding.  Even though I have heard this saying, I didn’t know its origin, so I looked it up: Philippians 4:7 (KJV)—“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Other versions use “transcends” or “surpasses” instead of “passeth”.

How many have known this peace in difficult situations?  How many sitting here today can testify to that peace even in the midst of Jim’s untimely death?  This peace helps us through the difficult times and helps us heal in the broken and wounded areas. 

Jesus continues his teaching in this passage in verses 28-29: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
Jesus has tried several times to let them know he would be leaving them.  It hasn’t been easily understood.  Even though they walked with Jesus, learned first-hand from Jesus, lived with Jesus, they didn’t always understand him.  In fact, they often misunderstood him.  I continue to be grateful for Jesus’ grace in working with the disciples because I know that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will work graciously with me as well.

When Jesus tells them that they would “rejoice” knowing that he is leaving, he isn’t telling them not to grieve.  He is setting up the bigger picture for what his purpose was and is.  He realized that because of the relationship he had with them, his leaving would be difficult. The Easter joy of resurrection and being with the Father does not negate grief of losing the relationship.  Jesus knew that grief when he wept at the grave for a friend.  There is a way to experience both joy and grief in loss of a loved one. 

What Jesus offers the disciples (and us) in today’s passage is love, peace, and the Holy Spirit.  What Jesus is reminding them and us is that we can be made whole.  Today, we celebrate Holy Communion, a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and love for us.  It is a time of remembrance, but not one of grief.  It is a time of celebration as we recognize that we are made whole in Christ and whole as the body of Christ. 

As we prepare for communion, I want to share a poem (“Well-Being” by Sudha Khristmukti from India) from page 16 of the May/June edition of AliveNow: Wholeness. 



Listen to these words: [read aloud during the service; I cannot post on my blog because I haven’t requested permission at this time]


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
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NOTE: By clicking on the Alive Now link above, you can read the editor's comments for the Wholeness edition.


May there be love, peace, and the Holy Spirit on your journey, leading to wholeness and healing.

Debra

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Affirmation for my Spanish Calling.... once again

Last weekend I had an incredible filling in my life.  I was tremendously blessed to attend a Tres Días in Spanish at the Apison Retreat Center.  My Spanish tank was filled to overflowing as we sang in Spanish, as I had the opportunity to read and hear Scripture in Spanish, as I met many people from around the world (Peru, Cuba, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Venezuela) and spoke to them in Spanish.

If I haven't shared before, I have a heart for the Hispanic/Latino culture.  I have had that heart since high school when I began my language studies.  In college, I was able to write papers on migrant workers and thus spend time searching out folks in the fields in South Georgia for my research. On one Sunday, I noticed a bewildered family in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot across from the church I attended with my great aunt Gladys. I decided to approach them to see what they needed. They were looking for an open grocery store.  With my broken Spanish, I directed them to one (I hope!).

While in graduate school on Long Island working on my M.A. in Spanish, I volunteered with an organization that helped Hispanic folks there. I helped with translation of brochures and interpretation.

Coming back down south to TN, I would help out with Spanish VBS (Vacation Bible School) in the summer in Dayton, TN, working with Fred Bedford to teach the adult classes in Spanish.  I also attended Spanish tent revivals when they came to town and had a Spanish bible study in my home for a while.

When Brad Pritt started Esperanza del Barrio in Chattanooga, I jumped in and helped as I could.  But I wasn't able to get down to Chattanooga as much as I would like.  Esperanza del Barrio is now La Paz, which is a SUPER organization here in Chattanooga that works with the Hispanic/Latino culture to provide information and resources, as well as with the entire community to bring everyone together.  I am finally getting back to being re-integrated on a more consistent basis with La Paz.

When our little one was at Ganns Middle Valley Elementary, I would go and interpret for parents as needed.  I met some wonderful families that way. We held a gathering at a local park once for families to get information to them about resources, etc.

When Burks UMC started My Sister's House / La casa de mi hermana at St. Andrews Center, I was able to assist with any folks who spoke Spanish.  As intern for them for a class in seminary, that was a super blessing as folks came for business clothes and information as they were looking to integrate back into the working world.

And then there are mission trips to Costa Rica.  One cannot forget those.  A total of 13 trips to the country, most of them mission trips.  I haven't been back since 2012.

Ah, and the 2 year bilingual Academy for Spiritual Formation from 2011-2013.  That was a definite marker in my Spanish journey.  Having the opportunity to preach in Spanish, to listen to lectures in Spanish, to worship in Spanish, to be in a bilingual covenant group.... all of that encouraged me and helped me recognize that Spanish is part of who I'm created to be in serving and living out my calling.

That's why this past weekend was such a blessing.  To be inundated with Spanish-- the language, the worship, the people, the food, etc.  It truly filled me to overflowing.  I was (and am) blessed from the experience and opportunity.

I heard many new worship songs, but there was one song that played for a few moments the first morning that caught my attention and penetrated my heart, mind, and soul.  It was a Marcela Gándara song, «Un viaje largo» that I first came to know from Edgar Ponce, a Pastor from Costa Rica and his wife when they were stateside in 2007.  When we went back to see them in 2008, we had prepared some songs to sing for VBS (Vacation Bible School) while there.  One was the song «Un viaje largo».

«Un viaje largo»

Ha sido largo el viaje pero al fin llegué.
La luz llegó a mis ojos aunque lo dudé.
Fueron muchos valles de inseguridad los que crucé.
Fueron muchos días de tanto dudar, pero al fin llegué, llegué a entender.

Que para esta hora he llegado
Para este tiempo nací, en sus propósitos eternos yo me vi.
Para esta hora he llegado, aunque
Me ha costado creer, entre sus planes para hoy me encontré.

Y nunca imaginé que dentro de su amor.
Y dentro de sus planes me encontrara yo.
Fueron muchas veces que la timidez, me lo impidió
Fueron muchos días de tanto dudar, pero al fin llegué, y ya te amé
Ha sido largo el viaje pero al fin llegué


Here is the song with English subtitles:





This is a song that resonates deeply within me, every time I hear it.  To hear it this past weekend, even briefly, in an atmosphere in which I was surrounded by people of my heart calling, touched me to tears.  

I still don't know the 'how', 'when', 'what it is going to look like' in ministry answers. But, as I have learned over the years, the journey is not about the answers.  They will come.  The journey is about living into the questions.  It is about being present in the moment along the way.  It is about loving all those whom Creator God brings into our path, sharing with them the light and love that we have received.  It is about making our lives available to others, living for the sake of others.

As I reflected this week on the blessings of last weekend, I read this by Henri Nouwen yesterday (April 29) from Bread for the Journey:

"One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this:  "I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to."  This, however, is not a good argument for not writing.  Each human being is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived.  Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well.  Writing can be a creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others.  We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told.  We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them." 

Writing is invigorating for me.  It's one of the spiritual disciplines that breathes life back into me.  It's also an offering of myself to the Creator and others.

What about you?  What is your unique story, your calling?  

As we continue our journey of learning and living, may we share our stories with one another, whether face to face or with words, for this is one way we can encourage one another.

Blessings on your journey, 

Debra

P.S.  Many thanks to ALL my Spanish teachers throughout my YEARS of study through high school, undergraduate, and graduate school!  If it weren't for each of you pouring into my life, I wouldn't have learned the language, gone to Spain to study abroad, pursued my M.A., etc. Mil gracias a todos ustedes.  To name them would mean that I would risk leaving someone out, but I will name the one to whom I give credit for the beginning of the journey:  Señora Carol Zimbrick from Dalton High School.  Gracias. 













Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Be still and know..... the bookmark that began it all

My journey to quiet and stillness began in 2007.  It began with this bookmark that I made at a United Methodist Women's (UMW) meeting in July (notice the date on the back of the bookmark).



We had gathered for a craft evening to make bookmarks, led by Judy Kroulek. I haven't really ever seen myself as a creative person, but have learned over the years that my creativity comes out in photography and other ways. 

The only instructions that I remember were that we create something meaningful. I contemplated on what Scripture for a while until this from Psalm 46:10 popped into my head. I looked it up and wrote it down. I liked the cutout tool that made butterflies and chose it for decoration. 

That summer not only began my journey into quiet and stillness,  but also seminary.  Quiet and stillness became necessary lifelines as I studied, went back into teaching, applied my studies in leadership, and sought direction in next steps (which led to more seminary, the 2 Year Academy, and pursuing ordination).

Along the way I realized that my journey of quiet and stillness had really begun back in the days of my childhood, along the creek at my dad's campground and in the many acres of the woods and pastures of the family farm.

I continue to live into this verse today. Honestly, I don't see myself growing out of the need to "be still and know". In fact, I see myself needing more quiet and stillness rather than less.  Some days I need more stillness than others and am able to make time and space for it.  Some days I push beyond what I know I should just to get through. Even on those days, however, even a brief moment of being still, of allowing my soul to catch up with my body, is a moment of rest and refreshment for which I am grateful.

This morning I spent my quiet time out on the deck, enjoying the birds singing, the cool air, and the beauty of the sky... all while enjoying a cup of coffee.  I used the Centering Prayer app too. 


Returning to my bookmark....I have often wondered what happened to it. I have looked for it before. Today I found it when I was on our FUMSDRL/HOF (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders/Hearts on Fire) board call. I was in our home office and casually looked to my left on a bookshelf... and there it was. Just there.  Odd, huh?!?! 

I get reminders all the time to "be still and know"... as I continue to hear the verse, see signs of it (It's all over the office at work on art and crosses), hear songs about it, etc. Today my gentle reminder came from the beginning, a bookmark that began a journey.... be still and know.

Blessings on your journey, 

Debra

Saturday, April 16, 2016

My first Easter Sunday as a pastor


Last year at Easter time I remember reflecting on what it would be like this year as a pastor.  At that time I didn't yet know my appointment was to the Holston GaP Parish, a three church appointment.

What WAS Easter like for me this year in the Holston GaP Parish as a pastor?  It was a tremendous blessing and a humbling experience.

I preached at both Flintstone UMC and Simpson UMC that day.  But prior to that, I joined my co-pastor Tommy Messer at Simpson UMC for our GaP-wide sunrise service at 7:30am.  Though a tad cloudy, the rains held off and it was a beautiful morning.  The cross that had been draped in black was covered in fresh, colorful flowers.  Pastor Tommy shared a great message that morning to start us off on Easter Sunday and then we had biscuits and fruit in the fellowship hall, compliments of a Sunday School class.

Then it was on to Flintstone UMC before going back to Simpson UMC.  A few highlights-- there were 12 kids, the most we've had in a while.  It was great to see all the families come to be with their families.  Though I missed the children's message as I had already left to go to Simpson, I saw the pictures of the kids up front and it was neat to learn that there were just enough eggs in the basket to go around.

During communion, I did something that I didn't notice until I was about halfway through at the second church.  When I caught myself doing it, it struck me as odd, yet appropriate.  I had been taking the bread from the middle of the loaves.  As I thought back, I remembered the Hawaiian bread shell sitting there like an empty cavern.  As I was still in the middle of communion at Simpson, I kept doing what I was doing and set the emptied shell down when finished.  I wasn't sure if anyone else had noticed what I had done or not.  It was an unintentional action on my part, yet appropriate for Easter and the empty tomb.  Typically, I simply tear off bread.  I am not inclined to solely pull from the middle.  The Sunday after Easter, I mentioned it and there were several that had noticed it.  For me, it was an inward nudging of the Holy Spirit that blessed me unexpectedly.

Another aspect of communion also blessed me on Easter Sunday.  At Flintstone, there was a member who would be having surgery later in the week, on Thursday.  When I came to her, I prayed for her and her surgery.  I later found out that she had been anxious up until that point, but then had peace.  She was the only person I prayed for specifically at Flintstone.

At Simpson, we had a lady come that hadn't been able to be there in a while.  She requested to be served in the pew.  It was sweet that as communion was being served, three people made sure we knew to take communion to her.  We did.  I felt led to pray a special prayer for her too.  She was the only person I prayed for specifically at Simpson.

Later that Easter week, both of those ladies died unexpectedly of different causes.  It was a tremendous shock and difficult time for the families and the church families.  I wondered how to minister to two grieving congregations the following Sunday as I would be back in those exact two churches the Sunday after Easter.  I got to Flintstone a little early (as is customary for me) that morning and sat under the pavilion for some quiet time to prepare my heart, mind, and soul for the morning ahead.  That time of quiet helped me be the vessel and the shepherd I needed to be.  What I wrote that morning: "Sitting at one of the picnic tables under the pavilion this morning at Flintstone UMC. I hear cows mooing in the background, birds chirping and singing nearby. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. That latter part is a little more difficult when entering two grieving congregations today. Yet, as followers of the Risen Christ, may we worship even in the grief and difficult times. As a shepherd, may I know how to gently lead and be with the flock today. Amen."


God is good and faithful.  God had a message for that 2nd Easter Sunday morning.  One of the resurrected and risen Lord that continues to be with us today.  The message wasn't delivered without tears or emotion, because it had been a difficult week and I have learned (and continue to learn) that I am called to live and lead as the vessel and shepherd that I am created to be.  I have the sermon notes and might share them, but it's getting late tonight and tomorrow is another Sunday (Easter 4).  That means I need a good night's rest to prepare for worship.

Oh, I almost left out another wonderful event that happened in our Holston GaP Parish on Easter Sunday.  At Fort Oglethorpe UMC, Pastor Tommy accepted two new members into membership by transfer from Pennsylvania.  We had a very blessed Easter in the GaP and I am reminded during this Easter Season in numerous situations that Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Making space for quiet

How hard is it? To have some quiet time and space weekly, daily? I don't know about you, but I find that I have to fight for my time. I fight against agendas, unforeseen situations, and my own mind, to name a few things.

Yet, when I make it to a space that allows me some silence and solitude, it is well worth the battle. 

I typically choose something outdoors, whether by a creek, on a trail, in a hammock, or on my deck or patio. For me to be in creation adds to the connection with the Creator. Even if I am just sitting outdoors at a coffee shop feeling the spring breeze while the world goes by, as I am right now, there is a sense of connection.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in creation at Audubon Acres in Chattanooga.  I walked the trails and observed creation as I listened and spoke with God. There was so much beauty in that place and my soul was calmed and filled.  (To see more of my pictures from yesterday, click here.)


Today I spent 12 minutes of silence in centering prayer on the patio. Not nearly as long as yesterday's silence during my walk, yet a different time that also filled me.  At least for the time being.

Since I started my journey into silence and solitude over 5 years ago, I continue to find that I need more and more to keep me able to live well. The journey inward is crucial to the journey outward. I have learned that if I  don't make space for the silence and solitude, then I have nothing to offer from the well. Through the silence and solitude, along with other practices, I am able to be fully and freely who God created me to be.

I am grateful for the moments of silence and solitude that I can carve into the day and week.

When possible, I take time to join with others for time apart in a retreat setting for silence and prayer, whether in a Centering Prayer or a retreat setting.  Group silence as well as being around others who are in silence is a powerful experience too.  (If interested in finding a group to join for some silence, you can check out the Contemplative Outreach website and look in your geographic area for a Centering Prayer group or you might consider a 5 Day Academy sponsored by the Upper Room.  In seeking silence, you will find it.)

What about you? Do you practice silence and solitude? What works best for you?

Here are two screen shots from the Centering Prayer app that I used today.




Blessings on your journey,

Debra

"Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul."
~Marcus Aurelius

Monday, February 15, 2016

Transformation Project-- my first experience...

This past Thursday evening I was privileged and blessed to attend my first class with Transformation Project.  I had been invited last month to speak and had put it on my calendar.  I first heard about Transformation Project at a Hixson Thanksgiving Service where several churches combined in the community back about a handful of years. 

A friend of mine from the Emmaus Community connected me with Transformation Project.

It was a hop, skip, and jump to the church from where my office is at the Holston GaP Parish on Thursday.  I shared table fellowship and delicious lasagna, bread, and dipped strawberries with folks.  After dinner, chairs were lined up close to the podium. 

What I shared on Thursday was very close to what I preached the week prior because I felt so led to speak on being transformed, hope, confidence, etc.  There were some things changed and some testimony added to what I shared.  I also shared the words to a song I had heard for the first time the previous night going home from Ash Wednesday service.

The song is "Diamonds" by Hawk Nelson.  The lyrics were powerful and touched me in relationship to Ash Wednesday, but also related to being transformed. 

Check out the lyrics:
Here and now I'm in the fire,
In above my head
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Being held under the pressure,
Don't know what'll be left
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
But it's here in the ashes
I'm finding treasure

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He's making diamonds out of us

I'll surrender to the power
Of being crushed by love
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Till the beauty that was hidden
Isn't covered up
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Oh it's not what I hoped for
It's something much better

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He's making diamonds out of us

Oh the joy of the lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds

Oh the joy of the lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds

Oh the joy of the lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making, he's making

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making us rise up from the dust
He is refining in his timing
He's making diamonds out of dust
Making diamonds out of us

I won't be afraid to shine
I won't be afraid to shine
I won't be afraid to shine
Cause he's making diamonds out of dust
Making diamonds out of us


I wasn't sure when I walked in on Thursday evening if the message I felt led to share truly was for anyone there.  But before we ate dinner, I had a brief conversation with one person and knew immediately that hope and the transformational power of Christ were a needed message that night.

It is a blessing to be a willing vessel of our Creator.  It is a super special blessing to watch the Creator weave things together in the Kingdom and in the body of Christ.  I saw that Thursday.  I saw threads woven together as different people spoke and shared.

Why Transformation Project?  Because the call came and I answered.  Do I always say "yes" to calls that come?  No.  I pray.  Is it the right time?  There are some things that I want to say "yes" to, but it just isn't the right time.  I have said "no" recently to a couple of speaking opportunities.

What does Transformation Project awaken in me?  I'm glad you asked.  It takes me back to the days when I was the first female faculty member of Bryan College that was privileged and blessed to teach inside the facility in Pikeville.  Though I only taught one semester of Spanish there, it was one of those ministry opportunities to which I had been called and I knew it.  It was a blessing to be able to live into it.  Thursday night was similar for me.  It felt right.  It fit.  My journey isn't the same as those with whom I ate that night and with whom I shared, yet we are all on a transformational journey.  We all have things in our lives that require change and for which we need hope for the journey.

If you want to learn more about Transformation Project, click here to go to their website or http://www.transformationproject.org/.     

Blessings on your journey,

Debra