Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Breathe on me, breath of God


As I start this day I sit with coffee on the patio, listening to the waterfall.  The elementary bus just pulled up.  [By the way, I miss those days of the elementary school bus swallowing up my child and others outside my house and spitting them out in the afternoon.  Ah, the early years.]


My first thoughts this morning as I stepped outside were 'breathe in the breath of God'.  As I thought about that, I started thinking about the song "Breathe on me, breath of God".  It's an "oldie".

Edwin Hatch wrote "Breathe on me, breath of God" in 1878 and it is published in over 270 hymnals.

Verses 1-3: (From Cyberhymnal)

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.




Breathe on me, breath of God.

That is my desire today.  Daily.

Yesterday I took a step of faith that I knew I had to take in the moment.  One of those steps of faith like when I was on belay and going australian style down the mountain or regular style rappelling OR running off the ramp (tandem with an instructor) to take my hanggliding flight.  You knew it was the right thing (okay, maybe not for some folks) to do, but it was scary.  That's how it was yesterday. I knew that it was time, that it was the right thing to do and the right time.  As Rafiki says, "It is time." Yet, there was that tinge of fear inside me.  It didn't hold me back yesterday. Why was I fearful of declaring that I was following the way of Christ and living into loving the marginalized, etc.?  Isn't that what we are all called to do by Jesus Christ himself if we claim to be followers of the way of Christ?

Oddly enough, there is some fear and trepidation in truly following the way of Christ, in living out how Christ lived.  Every time Jesus got in that boat (at least in Mark's version) to get away to the other side, it seemed folks followed him or beat him there.  Jesus had compassion on the people and did ministry.  He still made time for time apart though.  That's another area of Jesus' example that I try to follow too.  It's also difficult.

Breathing in the breath of God each day.  Making time and space to be still and know God.  Those moments help tremendously.  In those moments I can listen.  We all need those moments and longer times of times apart.

In taking that step of faith yesterday, I had no idea what would come of it.  That was not mine.  Mine was to take the step.  To have had over 400 hits in one day on one blogpost was a shocker to me.  I was also amazed at the many comments in different places of how the words shared were words on others' hearts and minds.  I was humbled and encouraged by the support yesterday.  Thank you people.  Thank you God.

My prayer is that God will breathe on me so that I will be filled with life anew to do the things I am called to do in this day.

May it be so.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Monday, August 29, 2016

Boldly moving forward in love for all


Boldly moving forward.  Or at least desiring and attempting to do so.  There have been so many things around me pointing to moving forward, continuing to listen to the Spirit, etc.  As I continue to listen and discern, I find myself still questioning and wondering if what I hear is really what I hear.  Would God really call me to be bold and courageous in that?  But that's risky.  Yeah, I know.  I've said I would live it risky. I saw a post once where someone had posted ministry to people working in strip clubs and the question from that became, would you minister to folks no matter where they were, even if it caused you to be judged or ridiculed or worse?  Because of my conviction to love God and love others, I felt compelled to say that I hoped I could be so bold to follow Jesus wherever Jesus might lead me.

Yet, I fly under the radar with my love for some people.  I may mention it briefly along with mention of other people, but I haven't come out and said it, except in safe places.  Why haven't I said it other than in safe places?  Because there are many people who aren't loving and kind to these people and they seem to think that anyone who supports them can't really love Jesus.

Over the years Jesus has opened my eyes to what love is, in the streets, under the bridges, in tent city, to those with homes, to those without homes, with people who have been blessed financially, with those who have nothing, with people throughout the world, and I've seen this love of Jesus exhibited in and through people who are heterosexual and those who aren't.

That confused me at first because I had been taught that if you were gay that God didn't love you.  So when I met people who were gay and loved God and I felt the very presence of the Holy Spirit flowing from them, I was confused.  If God's love and presence isn't in them and flowing through them, then what is this?

In this post I'm not going to quote Scripture for or against homosexuality.  That's not what this is about.  In fact, that's not what Christianity is about from everything that I can gather.

What I am saying in this post is that I am coming out as an ally, for ALL God's people. You see, in Psalm 139 it talks about God, the Creator, knitting us together in our mother's womb.  God created all of us.  We are uniquely and wonderfully made.  I believe that.

I also believe that we are to treat all persons with dignity, respect, and love.

Why now?

I've been an ally for years.  Why come out as an ally now?  There are several things brewing that feel like the perfect storm for me.

First, maybe I should say why I haven't been openly out as an ally for people who are different in society.  I will start there.

Fear.  I have been afraid to be open about it.  Why?  Because loving folks that are different isn't always accepted by others.  It is questioned and often rejected.  Therefore, it was about learning, growing, and loving while under the radar, yet not fully under the radar because I was openly loving to all.

Back to why come out now.

Orlando.  Too many lives were cut short because of hate, fear, and ignorance.  It's time to show love.

Suicides.  There are kids and adults taking their lives because they feel unloved by society, because they are told they are unloved, etc.  I don't get it.  As a follower of the way of Christ, I can't see how this is loving God and loving others-- by pushing people to the point of taking their lives.

I read yesterday's devotion in The Upper Room, "Trust God", and that caused me to spring forward a little more.  The verse was from Joshua 1:9-- "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  The author, Lynn Karidis, wrote: "When faced with a new challenge, we can remember God's past faithfulness.  These memories provide the courage to accept each new challenge that comes our way."

Courage.  I also heard about courage yesterday from Jasmine Smothers as she addressed our District Conference in both a workshop setting and worship.  She challenged us in reaching the younger generation and doing whatever it takes.  She also shared from Nehemiah 2 and how Nehemiah encourages us to take risks.

She said that there is no time to waste; to get on the risky journey.  Maybe that's why I'm jumping in today.

If I am going to truly love God and love neighbor, then can I pick and choose who that neighbor is?  Can I say that God loves one neighbor and not the other?  Jasmine reminded us that we need to grow up in God and grow up out of selfishness.  She said, "God is challenging the church to grow up."  It takes courage to grow up and change.

Nehemiah challenges us to overcome our fear.

Whether we have fear of the unknown, fear of the "other", fear of being rejected, etc., we are to trust God and know that God is faithful.

Another quote this past week, by Rilke, has been floating in my head.  It is this: "I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language.  Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." - Rainer Maria Rilke

I still have questions.  I don't have all the answers.  I know that by saying I choose to love, then there will be questions.  I don't have all the answers.

What I know is that Jesus has made it clear to me that I am to love God and to love neighbor as myself.  I am to share the love of God with everyone, including the person on the other side of the road that I might want to avoid, for whatever reason.  I know that we are all knitted together in our mother's wombs, uniquely and wonderfully made by the Creator God.

It is for these reasons I choose to love.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Yesterday... gifts and blessings

Yesterday I blocked time for sermon reading, studying, and writing. Amazingly, I was able to spend several hours in that mode. That was good. The things prior and after were good too.

There were unexpected gifts in the day yesterday.

I went to the YMCA for a short workout, then to the Greenway for a short walk. This was my first walk with the hip unloader brace and I wasn't sure how much walking I could do. I was able to walk about a mile without pain.  There were some pretty flowers growing in the private garden and to the side of it.





From there I decided to pray the labyrinth at Burks UMC on my way home since I hadn't in awhile and that would prepare me for the rest of the morning.

There were two bunnies in the grass nearby for the majority of my time there.




After my prayer walk I popped into the church to greet the bible study folks. Perfect timing. It was good to greet, hug, and catch up briefly.

After my study time I went to Erlanger for a visit. I had not been to the new chapel yet, but went in after my visit. It is beautiful. (Here is a link to learn more about the chapel.)



On my way to the car, I found a dime, reminding me of Marcia's dime story. I know have a stack that I have found.

Lighting in parking garage wasn't good.
From the hospital I headed to one of the three churches for a meeting prior to Bible Study. At a red light a gentleman with a cardboard sign caught my attention. It read something to the effect of 'hungry veteran. Anything helps. Thank you.'  I rarely carry cash. I rarely have food with me. But, because I had rushed out of the office on Monday to go to the ER to meet someone, I had grabbed a few things. I still had a box of animal crackers. The ones with the cage décor.  I was hesitant. What if he only wanted money? What if he rejected my offer? Did he know about all the veteran services available? There isn't much time at a red light. One has to decide quickly whether to obey or not. I grabbed the box from the back seat and waved them in the windshield. He grinned real big and came to my car. I handed them to him through the passenger window, apologizing for not having more. His response? He said he loved these cookies, kept that huge grin, and walked away as the light turned green and I drove away. As I drove away, the song on the radio was "Jesus in disguise". Hmmm.




As I look back, yesterday was full of God moments for me. Times, spaces, and places in which God met me, blessed me, and even surprised me.

Many times it is not that God isn't there to meet me or reach me for those connections, but that I am not mindful or aware. Being more mindful and aware of the things and people around me helps. 

I don't always succeed in awareness or mindfulness. But I am blessed in those times when I do.

How about you?

Where have you seen God show up? Or, how has God blessed you?

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Friday, August 19, 2016

My abiding time this morning


This week has definitely been marked by "One Never Knows".  It has been a full week of adventure, ministry, unknown, ups and downs, ins and outs.  There hasn't really been any "bad"; it has just been busy. Many may ask how that is different from a "normal" week (or even day), but it just has been.  I can't fully explain it.

Yesterday I attended the Rossville Engage Prayer meeting and was blessed to pray again for the community of Rossville-- for its businesses, its schools, its churches, its people, etc.  What a wonderful time of prayer and worship.  It has been encouraging to see and hear things that are happening in Rossville.  The faith community continues to come together.  The Holy Spirit continues to do things beyond our imagination.

This morning, I knew in my spirit that I needed to take time to abide. I didn't get to right away this morning because it was my day to drive the kids.  [On a side note, I am super grateful for a neighborhood friend with whom our family shares carpool duties.  Her kids have been like my own since they moved into the neighborhood about 5 years ago.  I will miss them when they move at the end of the month.  Thankfully they will still be in the same area, but I will miss our spontaneous coffee and firepit moments as well as the carpool gig.]  After dropping of the kids at school, I went to the YMCA for a morning workout.

Now that I'm back at home, it's time for a fresh cup of coffee and time to abide.

Turning to Macrina Weiderkehr's Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God, I find my place: Chapter 4-- "Don't Look Back", #6 "A Rule of Life"-- Philippians 4:4-9.

Philippians 4:4-9 (CEB):

"Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people.  The Lord is near.  Don't be anxious about anything; rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.  From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.  Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us.  The God of peace will be with you."

This Scripture passage has several things that speak to me this morning:

1. "Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people." That's an "amen" and an "ouch" for me because there are moments and days when I do it well and other moments and days when I don't.  I am thankful for grace that covers the latter and for fresh opportunities.

2. God's peace does exceed all understanding and is that ever flowing calm river underneath the raging waters that are at times on top. When it's peaceful all over, then that's pretty awesome too, but to have an inner peace when things are hectic on the outside is pretty amazing.  It doesn't always happen, but when it does, I know and recognize that it is God's working in and through me.

3. Focusing my mind.  That can be a super challenge when there are trillions (exaggeration) of tasks on my mind, on hundreds (not so much of an exaggeration) of sticky notes, emails to respond to, folks to visit, call, etc.  However, it is my daily goal (and often moment by moment goal) to live my life open to God and say, 'what is it today, that you would have me do, have me be?'  As I ask that question daily, I often physically open my hands flat, palm up to signify my openness.  This may not fully clear my mind, but it helps me focus some and set those priorities.

Looking to Macrina's words, she talks about how Philippians 4:4-9 can serve as a rule of life.  Just a few things that stand out to me from her writing:

1.  from verse 4-- rejoice / joy (glad in the CEB)-- "Spend quality time with joy this week.  Even in the midst of the anxieties and struggles that beset you each day, get in touch with the joy that abides in those hidden places of your soul." (154)

Ah, the hidden places of my soul.... finding joy there and getting in touch with it sounds good.  That reminds me of the "Hidden Grace" post I wrote earlier this week.  There is hidden grace in us and in others too.  Getting in touch with these things is important.

2. from verse 5-- kindness--"Living lives attuned to the daily needs of others is a form of kindness that can lead us to the even deeper kindness of compassion." (154)

A possible breath prayer to help be more aware of opportunities to be kind to others might be: "Lord, God, show me practical ways to be kind to others this day." [Adapt it to how you address God and to your breathing pattern.]

3. from verse 6-- having no anxiety-- "Living the spiritual life requires a childlike trust in God." (155)

Replacing anxiety with trust is easier said than done.  The childlike part I can do.  It's that peace thing again.  When it's there, anxiety melts away.  Calm replaces fear and anxiety.  It takes letting go and leaning in.

4. also from verse 6-- a grateful heart, being thankful-- "A heart filled with awareness of reasons to be grateful is a superb guide for living." (155) "If we practice living with grateful hearts, we will become even more aware of daily blessings." (155)

What am I grateful for right now? What are you grateful for right now?  May our hearts become full of gratefulness.

5. from verse 7-- the peace of God-- "The peace of God standing guard at our hearts and minds is a comforting image-- an uplifting promise.  This promised peace will arrive at the door of our hearts if we are willing to practice the art of rejoicing always, trusting radically, living with grateful hearts, and letting our kindness overflow into the lives of others. Then comes the peace!" (156)

Putting this all together does become a great rule of life.  Spending time abiding in the Vine this morning has brought peace.

It's a daily walk, a daily adventure.

May you find joy (gladness), kindness, peace, gratefulness, and childlike trust on your path.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Morning quiet times and throughout the day


Today's view from the deck.
My morning quiet times vary.  Sometimes I am able to spend anywhere from 10-20 minutes in centering prayer. Other times I spend time in Scripture reading and reflection. There are those mornings I read devotionals or books and reflect on what I read there.  Some days I drink my coffee, listen to the sounds of nature, and simply try to "be".  Yesterday my quiet time happened after I dropped off the kids to school.  I sat on a bench by the Chickamauga Lake at the boat launch by the dam watching the remainder of the sunrise.

Sunrise at Chickamauga Lake, 8/17/16
My morning quiet time varies depending on the day or the pulse check of my soul in the moment. The one thing I know for sure is that I need morning quiet time.  In fact, I need moments of quiet throughout the day.

When the day becomes hectic, it's time for a "pause" break.  Some silence, some quiet.  Though it's counter-intuitive, it is exactly what is needed for me.  A moment to recenter.  Granted, there are times and days when more than a moment is what is really desired or needed.  But that "moment" gives me what I need to keep going until I can take more time.

Breath prayers are a great "pause" break for me as are Ken Hagler's minute meditations.  Yesterday Ken posted a minute meditation that was timely for me as it has been a busy week.

It begins: "Quiet now... you will be."


"Fret not."  "Be still.  Wait.  Patience."  I needed that yesterday.  I need that today.  I need that everyday.  Fretting and anxiety become toxic.  Detoxifying is important.

This has been a busy week in ministry with several opportunities to wait on God, to be patient, to not fret, to watch God work.  It has also required some extra time and energy.  God has been faithful in it all.

I have to remember my part in being still, waiting, and being patient.  I have to remember to create space for God to fill my cup before I can create space for God to fill the cup of others.

Creating space.... that is another topic that will come out more fully one day..... :)

I am grateful for morning quiet times that allow me to to center myself, to be quiet with God, to "be still and know".

Peace on this day and blessings on your journey,

Debra

For more of Ken Hagler's Minute Meditations, click here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hidden Grace




This morning I read a poem by Susan Gregg-Schroeder, "Hidden Grace" in this month's Alive Now issue, "Treasure".  The first two lines caught my attention: "So often, Divine One, the tasks before me feel overwhelming and impossible."

As I go through a mental to-do list today, I can relate.  Church charge conference time is upon us and moving into high gear.  That means meetings, Nominations, lots of paperwork, etc. I'm beginning an 8 week study next month to use as part of my Provisional Elder requirement.  My co-pastor and I are doing a stewardship series next month.  Advent is coming. There are weekly sermons still too and regularly scheduled meetings, community things, etc.

Then, there are the things that come up.  Yesterday I wrote about not knowing the things that are going to happen and how God works in things.  I wrote about being excited to learn about the things that were happening in the Rossville faith community.

My day changed.  One never knows.  In that change, I found hidden grace.

I didn't make the lunch meeting.

I got a call from a guy who has been coming to our church for about a month now. He's new in the area and has been helping a veteran out, staying in a spare room in the house. Yesterday, he got kicked out of the house.

When he first called, I couldn't place him. The name on the caller ID was different than the name he goes by.  Then I place him.  I've met him.  I sent him a card after the second week he visited.  (Because he didn't put his address the first week.)  Now he has a need.

The grace in the situation is that God pushed me to reach out to my neighbor, to extend help in this situation.

I made it to a meeting after the meeting at La Familia restaurant in Rossville, where I got to hear some of Paulina's vision of a safe place for people to come and worship.  We talked about Discovery Bible Studies, and other things before I needed to head home to the bus stop due to inclement weather yesterday.

I still need to learn about the other great things that are starting to happen in Rossville, but that will come.  I saw a glimpse of things yesterday.  I was a part of them too.

God reminded me that if I am going to preach "Who Is My Neighbor?", then I had better live it out.  I can only lead where I have been and where I am living it out.

Susan Gregg-Schroeder ends her poem with these words: "When I lift the treasure from its hiding place, I find that you have graced me with adequacy for all that lies ahead."

Yes, God tends to do that.  God graces us for all that lies ahead.  I had NO IDEA that in my "being still" time yesterday and my reflection time of "one never knows" that I would live into "one never knows" so immediately.  But I did.  It was an adventure.

Each day can be an adventure.  If I am willing to keep my eyes open, to allow God to lead my path, to allow grace to fill me and flow through me, then the tasks that are before me aren't so overwhelming and impossible.  I will remember to make time to "be" before I "do" so that the grace can have its space.

May there be hidden grace in your day.  May you become of aware of it.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Monday, August 15, 2016

One never knows...


This morning as I drink my coffee on the patio, listening to the waterfall, I read what was going on this day in the past.

One catches my attention, in particular, from 2012 on this day August 15: "Stepping (way) out of my comfort zone and writing/sending a letter to someone who owns a house that keeps calling me for ministry purposes.  I'm hoping that "be bold and courageous" wasn't just for Joshua back in the day....."

Ah, The brick house on Hixson Pike. I wrote the letter to the owner and sent it. I never heard anything back. When I sent that letter, I didn't what would happen. All I knew was that I that hiuse wouldn't leave me alone.

I did go to the house and visit the owners when it became a hair salon. They did well for a while. It is now a tattoo shop. Every now and then the little brick house still whispers to me. I continue to pray blessings over it as I drive by. However, I recognized that occupancy is one of those dreams that one let's go of..... In that house I saw ministry... Bible studies, activities, a place to be, knit, crochet, play music, share life, drink coffee, learn English, who knows what else..... it could have become anything. Yet it wasn't to be. It takes money to make some dreams come true. Money wasn't what I had, just a dream.

But, I followed through with the nudge I had, because one never knows. What if the owner read my letter and felt nudged by the Spirit to join in the adventure?! I can only do my part, follow the nudges I am given.

Today at lunch ("Engage Rossville") I will learn about some new things that are happening in Rossville, GA in the faith community. I am looking forward to hearing those things. Where will I plug in? Where will the churches I serve get involved? I don't have answers to that yet.

I do know that I continue to see good things happening. Therefore, I will continue to walk by faith, to trust in the nudges I have, and be bold and courageous in living into the calling.

Live into the nudges, because one never knows....

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

P.S. As I finish writing this, I look up and see this cloud formation. To me it looks like a big hand.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

An Interfaith Dialogue Panel--thoughts, reflections, resources


"What is it like to be you, to live in your faith, here in the Chattanooga area?"

That is the question (or something close) that was posed to the panel, the Interfaith Panel of Chattanooga.  (I knew that in advance, luckily, because I ran about 15 minutes late to the panel discussion due to a prior meeting.)

This panel has been travelling around town, sharing their personal experience with audiences at a variety of locations in order to help dispel stereotypes and ignorance.  Last night they were at St. Elmo UMC in St. Elmo and it was co-sponsored by Thankful Episcopal.

Last night's panel participants and moderator: Michael Dzik, Judaism; Nur Sisworahardjo, Islam; Sush Shantha, Hinduism; Brandon Jones, Atheism; and Lisa Harrison, Christianity.  Charles Neal, Moderator.

Each panel participant shared their personal experience-- the good, the challenges, whatever it was for them. After each of them shared, there was a time for questions from the audience.  One of the questions from the audience was 'in your faith tradition, what happens to you when you die?'  After the panel discussion, I learned from one panel participant that hearing the other participants answer was enlightening to this person.  They learned from the sharing time too.

This panel has been sharing around Chattanooga for at least over a year (with some variation in speakers) and will continue to share because they understand the importance of creating space to share and listen, to dispel stereotypes and ignorance. It is a wonderful step in the right direction.

The Interfaith Panel of Chattanooga now has a FaceBook page: Interfaith Panel of Chattanooga.  The purpose of the group from the FaceBook page:  "The purpose of the Interfaith Panel is to increase understanding and appreciation for the diversity of faith in Chattanooga. The event is free and open to the public.  The panel will meet at different places of worship and talk about the challenges they face practicing their faith in Chattanooga.  Like and share this page to stay in touch with the panelists and the upcoming venue for the next meeting."

As many cities in the world these days, Chattanooga is a multicultural, multilingual, multiracial, and multifaith place. It is to our benefit if we learn about one another as we share the same space.

Yet, it's a struggle we've had for many years.  Instead of learning how to live with one another well, we sent folks off to another place to live.  We segregated schools, buses, and water fountains.

Though we have continued to struggle, it is discussions like these, interfaith dialogue panels that give me hope.

They remind me of my multicultural leadership classes I took.  In one of those classes we watched a video project where people around the world had table fellowship with one another to get to know one another in order to dispel ignorance and stereotypes.  Faith wasn't part of the discussion.  It was simply that they were different from each other.

This project was called the Next Door Family.

Here is the Next Door Family video:


Some books in one of my multicultural leadership classes that might be beneficial to someone who is seeking to learn about "others" in their community:

whistling vivaldi: how stereotypes affect us and what we can do by Claude Steele
lifting the White Veil: A Look at White American Culture by Jeff Hitchcock

A book on interfaith dialogue:

Getting to the Heart of Interfaith: The Eye-Opening, Hope-Filled Friendship of a Pastor, A Rabbi, & a Sheikh by Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Sheikh Jamal Rahman

These are just some of the resources I have on hand. It's only the tip of the iceberg of what is available for us if we want to learn more.  Truly, a great way to learn more is to engage with others in dialogue and table fellowship.  As we get to know others, their culture, their faith, etc., then the stereotypes and ignorance disappear.

It's a much better community and world when we learn to live together, to support one another, to encourage one another, regardless of race, religion, gender, sex, nationality, language, etc.  We say this is how we are going to live and treat one another, but do we?!?!

May we continue to make steps toward unity in community!

Debra


Sunday, August 7, 2016

A New Day--Twila Paris' "Joy of the Lord"

Every day IS a new day.

Fresh with new opportunities.

This morning I hear birds singing and chirping, right before the neighbor's air conditioning unit kicks in.

The sky is clear and blue with some white clouds.


As I prepare my heart, mind, and soul for today, this day of worship, I breathe in the beauty of creation and breathe out the junk of whatever is inside me.  I breathe in the very breath of God and breathe out those things that would hinder me today.

I spend time listening to the birds, the air conditioning unit, and even the guns from the shooting club down the hill.  It's part of my "be still and know" time.

Today I have the opportunity to talk about faith.  That is the lectionary Scripture I am on for the month of August, Hebrews.  Today begins with Hebrews 11 and today's sermon is "What Is Faith?"  I find that no matter what topic I tend to be sharing from the pulpit, something personal or pertaining to life comes into play.  Lectionary has allowed me to preach in series and preach applicably.  It has also preached to me.

The dawning of a new day, a new sunrise, always brings me hope. Faith brings me hope.  Maybe I'll share the sermon later today.  Not that it will be great or anything, just to share what I shared.

May there be newness in your life today.  May there be faith and hope (and while we're at it.... may there be love).

Whatever this day brings, may the joy of the Lord be your strength.  That's from Nehemiah 8:10.  It's a verse stuck in my head because of a Twila Paris song back in the 90s.


Blessings on your journey, 

Debra

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A dream deferred

Suzuki GS450
What do you do with dreams?

Sometimes you are able to live into them fully.  At other times you let them go or die, for one reason or another. A third option is to put the dream on hold, to defer it, until the timing is right.

One dream I am living into is writing. I started writing when I was about five years old.  There are other dreams that I am living into and will live into, but that isn't what this is about today.

I have let go of several dreams:  the dream to have a retreat center on the family Walker county farm property, the dream to be able to go back to taekwondo, and others.

Does it mean there will never be a retreat center where people gather for spiritual formation? No. Not necessarily. It just won't be that location. Will I stop doing martial arts? No. I just can no longer do taekwondo. My body needs tai chi at this time.

Paths change as life changes.

What about those deferred dreams?  One has to do with calling and the other became a spiritual disciplines for me. 

Hispanic ministry is part of my calling and has been since college. I am able to live into some through La Paz by volunteering. Who knows?!  And there is that salón de belleza near one of the three churches I need to get back to.... I don't know where I will end up or how I will end up using Spanish, but I know it is part of what I have been created to be. (I have had many opportunities in the past to live into this part of my being... Spanish VBS in Dayton, TN, mission trips to Costa Rica, Esperanza del Barrio, My Sister's House, etc. It is a dry season. Even so, God has reminded me of the calling and my equipping in various ways. I wait in faith for the next step of opportunity.)

The other dream deferred? A motorcycle. Yesterday I saw a Suzuki 450. Of course it was older. They don't make them anymore. I know than an older bike is not for me. That is why I  let go of the 750 Yamaha. I had planned to get a 650 Suzuki until my hip started acting up again.  A 650 would be too big. The next option is a 250 Honda Rebel. I may go there. But not yet. I have to make sure that I can really still ride with the hip. 

I mentioned that riding became a spiritual disciplines for me. Being on two wheels with the wind beneath my wings was a way for me to connect with the Creator. It goes way back to my childhood days.  At the moment, it is a dream deferred. But, if I have to let it go, I will work through it, just as I did when I let the 750 Yamaha go.
Yamaha 750 Maxim
It broke down at bottom of neighborhood two years ago August, but I could still smile.
What dreams are you letting go? What dreams have you deferred? What dreams are you living into?

Blessings on your journey, 

Debra 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Love is a Spiritual Practice


Coffee on the patio with Macrina Wiederkehr this morning.  It's slightly humid, but it's still nice to be outside.  There are some blue skies poking through the white puffy clouds and grey ones.  There are birds chirping and singing.  A breeze would take away the sticky humidity, but I don't mind right now while the temperature is 75 degrees. 

I picked up where I left off in Macrina Wiederkehr's Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God, page 149, in the middle of a chapter on love.  I have found this book, Abide, to be one that I chew slowly. Sometimes I won't make it through an entire chapter because I stop on something and reflect. Because it is so filling, I put it down for a while before I pick it up again.  I have been working my way through this book now for four years.  That's okay.  I'm in no hurry to soak up and soak in the good stuff.

"This Tremendous Love" is the chapter I had been reading.  As I picked up where I left off, I read these words: "Why not pray for compassion for those who have hurt us?  Compassion is good medicine." (149)  Yes, compassion IS good medicine.  I spent last week reflecting on compassion and doing compassion work in myself and for others with Frank Rogers as our guest speaker at the Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders (Hearts on Fire) retreat. Compassion is fresh on my mind.  

"Love is a spiritual practice." (149)  Hmmm.... I've not considered love to be a spiritual practice before.  I don't think I've ever seen it in one of the "lists".  But then again, neither did I see blogging or contemplative photography and those have become spiritual practices for me.  I have seen journaling on the list and blogging is an online way of journaling.  But, love?!?!  How can love be a spiritual practice?  What does love have to do with the spiritual?!?!  I believe it has everything to do with the spiritual. If we don't have love, we have nothing.  If we don't learn to love, then we have missed the point.  If we can't love, then we cannot love God, our neighbor, or ourselves.  Love is everything.  Love IS a spiritual practice.

Macrina continues, "It doesn't happen automatically.  We have to practice loving." (149)  Just as we would practice any activity that we are learning to master, we must practice loving.  We must practice in order to build muscle memory and to learn what it feels like.  

Macrina offers a challenge, "What about opening our hearts to those who have wounded us? What about forgiving?  What about loving our enemies?  What about becoming who we really are?" (149)

These things require the practice of opening our heart, of becoming open and staying open-- to ourselves and to others.  

"Being and becoming take time, and commitment to stay open is at the very core of what it means to be a person." (Mark Nepo, The Exquisite Risk: Daring To Live An Authentic Life)

Practice love. Practice forgiveness. Practice compassion.

How are we growing in this spiritual practice? 

The Scripture passage that goes along with this chapter is Matthew 5:38-48. Here is version from The Message:

38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Read it through several times.  What captures your attention?  How are you challenged to become more loving?

Macrina encourages us: "This loving place really does exist in us.  It is from this place of freedom and peace that with practice in opening our hearts, we can turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, or hand over our cloak to the one who wants to borrow." (150)

She notes, "Nothing will ever bring us the peace we long for except God's love flowing through our being." (151)  Allowing God's love to flow through our being WILL bring us peace.  I am most at peace when God's love is flowing through me, to myself and to others.  

May we grow in our love towards God, others, and ourselves as we practice the spiritual practice of love.


Blessings on your journey, 

Debra

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A new day... seek the Lord and rejoice



"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice." 1 Chronicles 16:10 (NIV)

Mornings are the time in my day for me to "pause".  This morning was a little more difficult for me to get up as I hit yesterday hard at work after a week of retreat and a board meeting.

With my cup of coffee, I headed outside to see the glories of the Creator in the sky.  Some mornings there will be Scriptures or songs that automatically pop into my mind when I look at the scenery. Today I did a search on biblegateway.com for something related to "glory of the Lord" and found 1 Chronicles 16:10.  That resonated.

I may be a little tired this morning, but my heart seeks the Lord and it can rejoice.

"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice." 1 Chronicles 16:10 (NIV)


Often a breath prayer is a way to draw near to God.  I have prayed them in the past and last week we had the opportunity to create a breath prayer after a reflection time that allowed us to pray for a certain situation.

Breath prayers are a way to pray as you breathe in and breathe out.  Thus the name breath prayer. They are short prayers.  They are focused prayers.

Ken Hagler has been posting breath prayers quite regularly on his sites and one caught my attention yesterday.

"Light of life, I can't see.  Be light to my feet."

I don't know why it caught my attention. Maybe it was the bright light in the corner.  Maybe it was because it spoke of "Light".  Some days I see clearly and others days I don't.  Maybe that's why it caught my attention.  I am okay with the Thomas Merton prayer of unknowing.  

Ken had also posted a blog yesterday that I didn't get a chance to read.  When I went to his blog site this morning to find the breath prayer, I found it in yesterday's blogpost: Seven Practices of Discernment in the Valley of Suck.

In this post, Ken points to a video on breath prayers, but also gives great insight on the long and varied journey through grief.

What?!?!  How does this relate to the beginning of this post, that 'those who seek the Lord will rejoice.'????  In the both/and world, in the paradox of life, there is grieving and rejoicing.  Our hearts can rejoice for one thing and grieve another.  That's the way it is.  At least, that is how I've experienced it.  

For me to keep pressing on with focus and intentionality, I need to find ways to breathe in, to breathe out, to live into radical compassion, to follow the ways of Christ, and to grieve any and all losses in due time, in my time.

It's a new day.  A new opportunity.  May the Light shine the way for next steps.  May my heart rejoice.  May the journey continue.

May the Light shine for your next steps and may your heart rejoice today as well.

Blessings on your journey, 

Debra


Monday, August 1, 2016

When the retreat is over and the rubber meets the road, so to speak

I spent last week in a retreat focused on the way of Radical Compassion: loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves. It was the tip of the iceberg compared to what they do in their program, but it was great. Frank Rogers is a gifted speaker. He has two books out and I look forward to reading the one that arrived yesterday.

It was also great to be with and worship with spiritual directors and retreat leaders from around the country.

But, how does all that learning, training, and "being" translate into the real world?

So far, so good. But I know that the new shine will wear off, the fullness can deplete. It is an intentional moment by moment choice to live with compassion.

I sent an email this morning in which I typed "form". Autocorrect changed it to "former". I didn't catch it until afterwards. Normally, I would be less kind to myself. I don't like typographical errors.  Today, I let it go.

I went by the high school to find out what happened with a form I dropped off last month. The person said they saw it, but didn't know what to do with it.  No one had called. The person I spoke with on the day I left it didn't add a note. The form is slightly self evident.  Instead of becoming frustrated, however, I showed compassion and grace.

Then I called the Pediatrician office to inquire about the nutrition form that was supposed to be faxed in last month. We had received a reminder letter. Because of nut and peanut butter allergies, this is important. They found the form, sitting in the outbox. It had not been faxed. Today is the deadline. Grace and compassion reigned again.

To respond with grace and compassion consistently means that my tank needs to be full. I must be filling up at the Source of grace and compassion in order to offer it to myself and others.

I am grateful for last week's retreat and teaching.

When I royally mess up or situations out of my control occur, I hope to be quick to apply the new tools in my tool belt.

At the moment, I am finishing up a breakfast sandwich and an espresso at Starbucks before heading into the office. I was looking forward to all those extra stars that would be added to my account, until I realized that the promotional ended yesterday.  Oh well.

I decided to make it worth my while.....I needed breakfast anyway. It feels great sitting outside here in the sunshine. It is a pause moment.

I am grateful for opportunities to love God and love others as myself.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra