Monday, September 20, 2021

A heart-shaped potato chip


I posted this on my social media accounts today:

#seeaheartshareaheart
Paying attention. Having eyes to see and ears to hear. Being mindful. You may not see the heart shape in this chip. I did. It was the first chip I picked. Hearts are a symbol of love. Having preached on "Love Without Borders" yesterday and how God goes to extremes to show us love, this tiny potato chip makes me smile. God offers us love, hope, and healing. Yes, even by way of a potato chip.

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We can all use reminders of love.  Just today I wrote on someone's post who had noted that once you see mushrooms or trees you see them everywhere (something to that effect).  I responded with saying that it is the same with clouds or hearts or even people.  Once we see someone or something, it becomes difficult to un-see them or it.  Think about it.  It's a cause for a pause, as the saying goes.

May paying attention, having eyes to see and ears to hear, being mindful be a daily experience!

Peace and adventure!

Rev. Deb

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Writing Prompts got me writing again

This past week I took on a writing challenge to write daily using writing prompts.  That got me writing again.

Well, that is both a truth and a lie.  The truth- it got me writing something besides a weekly sermon or morning thoughts. The lie-- I write weekly, even daily-- I write a weekly sermon and I most often write daily reflections and at times prayers.  Those don't get posted in my blog though.  

It takes time and energy to write.  Brain space, if you will.  Therefore, if I am writing a sermon, working on paperwork for other things, etc. it is difficult for me to sit down and write.

This writing challenge was perfect for me.  Perfect timing.  Perfect prompts that resonated with me and caught my attention.  

September is the anniversary month of when I began blogging.  For many years I kept up with top blogs, top readership, etc. I printed out my blogs annually to have a record of them.  For the past several years I have stopped doing that.  But I haven't forgotten what caused me to begin.  It was a nudge. And, it was a spiritual practice. I just didn't realize it was a spiritual practice for me in the beginning. It was a way for me to process and to share.

Here are the four posts I made this week from the four prompts:

QUIET

Today's word prompt is "quiet". #quiet #hopewriterlife @hopewriters
In the quiet we watch and listen. In the quiet we can hear more clearly. This morning I hear the rooster, the crow, the chirping of the hummingbird and the hum of its powerful wings. The crickets and other birds fill the silence with their sounds. There isn't complete silence in the quiet, but it is a time and space for me to "be still and know". Psalm 46:10 exhorts us to "Be still and know that I am God." Or, "be still and know that I am Love." from Nan Merrill's "Psalms for Praying". In the quiet I listen for that One Voice, that Voice of Love, who knows me best, who created me. In the quiet I remember who and whose I am. In the quiet there is peace and calm. There is need for quiet in each day. May it be so.



INTENTION

Today's writing prompt is intention. #hopewriterlife @hopewriters
I begin each day with time to enjoy creation, listen to the Creator, to "be". My intention is to prepare myself for the day-- heart, mind, soul, and body-- so that I can live out the day as a follower of Christ, loving, living, and leading like Jesus. No matter the preparation, I don't always get it right. None of us do. My intention, however, steadily guides me on the path. Grace draws me back when I am off the path or guides me forward when the path cannot be seen.


EXPLORE

Today's word prompt is explore.
#hopewriterlife @hopewriters
To explore invites adventure. It means heading into the unknown. I may know that I am going on a certain hiking trail from point A to point B, yet as I allow myself to explore, whether this is a first time visit or not, I will see new things. The same is true as I allow myself to explore any area of life. There is light and darkness along the path. There are tiny rocks and huge ones. There may be downed trees on the path, causing me to find my way around, over, or under. Often before I ever begin an adventure, the questions begin: Am I open to explore the path in front of me? What awaits me when I say "yes" and begin to explore that idea, that dream, that vision, that _____? I have learned that I don't have to know the answer. I can simply begin and explore. May we allow ourselves to explore.
Photo is mine: Cumberland Trail, section between Hotwater Road and Big Soddy Creek Gulf

SERENDIPIDITY

Today's word prompt is serendipity. #hopewriterlife @hopewriters
I haven't used the word in a while, so I needed to look it up. I found this blog by Harold J. Chadwick that included the origin of the word. He writes: "The word serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole, a writer, politician, and the 4th Earl of Orford, in a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann on January 28, 1754. It came from an ancient Persian fairy tale called "The Three Princes of Serendip."  On their travels the princes were always accidentally discovering something that when combined with something else, also accidentally discovered, turned out to their benefit—though the benefit might not be seen or received for some time.
My definition of Divine Serendipity, therefore, is when God brings people, places, events, or things into your life that are later—even many years later—combined with other people, places, events, or things to benefit you or someone else."
Ah, so know I know the origin and am more curious about divine serendipity.
It has been a while, but I so have examples of "running into" people hither and thither because I went to a location other than my initial destination. Holy conversations have ensued.
Cliff was discovered at Pet Placement Center and became part of our family three years ago. He has brought much to our family.
Hearts on Fire/Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders has been one of those divine serendipity gifts, as has the Academy, both the 5 day and the 2 Year, SoulFeast, seminary, Charlie, family, friends, serving as a pastor, and many other things, people, and places.
Recently when I was at Chautauqua as Chaplain, conversations on the porch led to connections with my paternal great uncle, a doctor in Atlanta, and a distant relative who founded Milford, CT and was the first pastor there.
Do these serendipity moments simply just happen for us?
It helps if we are open to taking new paths, meeting new people, keeping our ears and eyes alert.
May we be surprised by serendipitous adventures and may we be part of being someone else's serendipitous experience.
Peace on this day.


HOPE

Today's word prompt is hope.
#hopewriterlife @hopewriters
As I reflected this morning on the word, this came to me in the form of an acronym. What hope is for me is "holding on persistently even so".
'Even so' means "in spite of that; nevertheless".
In spite of difficult times, or stress, I am holding on. I am riding the waves.
For me, it is getting to the end of my rope, tying a knot in the rope, and swinging.
There is a time to yield, let go, surrender, but that isn't the essence here.
Times may be difficult, but daily spiritual practices offer me hope.
Peace ✌.


It was good for me to get back into writing daily this past week. I haven't even been writing Haikus. Much of my writing as spiritual practice has been fallow. That isn't a bad thing. Often things need a break or need to rest. Yet, when these prompts came along and I sensed the nudge to respond, I did. The writing challenge reconnected me to one of my important spiritual practices. Though I write weekly sermons, that isn't the same type of writing. Below is a memory that came up this week from September 15, 2018. It reminded me that spiritual practices connect me with God, the Creator, and with others, strengthening me. When the wind blows strong or strands break away for other reasons, I remain connected because of the many connections with people and practices.

I don't know what spiritual practice offers you life. Explore. Find one. Find several. Try ones that you've set aside or ones you've never tried. I haven't been in my hammock in a while. It has been over a week since I have prayed a labyrinth. It is time to get back in the woods. Etc. Ebb and flow. It's a journey. It's an adventure.

Peace, grace, and joy on this adventurous journey!

Rev. Deb


From September 15, 2018:

I looked up to the right and noticed the web blowing in the breeze. The sunshine brings out the beauty of the geometric design. As I watched it sway, it struck me that it is only tethered in three locations yet it holds fast. The strength in the connections helps it stay together overall when there are holes or gaps. Much like in life. My strength comes from what grounds me-- the spiritual practices that strengthen my relationship with Creator God, Christ, and Holy Spirit. And when life puts holes in my web, I remain together because of those surrounding me, holding on. I see the web as a way of expressing community-- we need one another.



Monday, August 9, 2021

Messy Middle-- thoughts from a reading from Ash & Starlight

 I decided to open my new Ash & Starlight: prayers for the chaos & grace of daily life randomly this morning during my outdoor coffee time.  I figured that whatever it opened up to would benefit me in some way.  I wasn't wrong.

The book opened up to pages 44 and 45-- "When I'm in the messy middle of something".  I almost didn't read it.  I almost thought I would flip through and find something else, but I didn't.  Because there is much messy middle right now.

We are back in the red zone in the pandemic here in my area and have been for about 2 weeks.  That isn't just messy for life, but it becomes messy for leadership.  Truthfully, it was already a bit messy without us getting back into the red zone.  Seeking wisdom and discernment on how to be the church coming out of a pandemic and an ongoing/lingering pandemic at the same time is quite the challenge!

What else is the messy middle?  Getting all the preparations done for here and for the place I am heading to serve this week is one.  

The unknown of many things continues to cause 'messy middle'.  That liminal space.  Yet, that is where trust comes in.  Where I commit to the process and not the outcome.  Where I don't focus on the end result.

As I read this reading and reflected, it resonated with me.  I glanced at my coffee mug and smiled.  It made it through the process.  It is no longer a messy lump of clay, but rather a beautiful mug.  I wonder how many times the potter needed to start over with it?  How many times did it get mashed down and built back up?  I think about the process: the hands on the clay forming it, pinching it, and holding it; the firing and the glazing.  There was much work.  There was much 'messy middle'.  

Progress takes time.

Growth takes time.

Healing takes time.

"Help me embrace this messy middle time
when I must make space 
for shifts and questions."

Whether for my personal life or for my life as a leader, these words resonate with me this morning in this liminal space, in the unknown.

I don't know what will resonate with you today.  Whatever it is, may you find your way through to trust and to smile.

May the journey continue to be full of adventure!

Rev. Deb






Sunday, August 8, 2021

Simple Presence: a reading from Ash & Starlight

Last week we had our monthly "Simple Presence" for our Spiritual Direction cohort.  They are offered in the morning and in the evening on the first Tuesday.  Normally I have a commitment on Tuesday mornings, but this past Tuesday we weren't meeting, so I was able to join in on the morning session.  What was shared was perfect for me to hear and contemplate.

The leader for this Simple Presence was Kristi.  She shared a reading from Ash & Starlight: prayers for the chaos & grace of daily life (Chalice Press, 2019).  This was an unfamiliar book to me and I knew I needed (wanted) it from the reading she shared.  I honestly think "needed" is fair as the writings are incredibly poignant for anyone on the faith journey, though there will be a few people who will argue with me "needing" any book.  

I ordered the book and it arrived on Saturday. I opened the package today, Sunday, and started reading the preface and thumbing through the book.  I learned that the author, Arianne Braithwaite Lehn, has a blog by the same name as the book: Ash and Starlight.  In case the link doesn't work for you, the blogsite URL is her full name (above) then "dot" com.

The reading she shared was: "When I'm struggling to accept my life right now" on pages 30 and 31.

There were many things that caught my attention, but the very first part was extremely relatable as I had just cut my thumb a week ago from the day.  I knew the flesh wound that was healing slowly and was able to connect to the words easily.

"Completely Gracious One, 

Forgive me.

I've slipped into cynicism this week, 
hanging my heart on negativity
rather than hope, covering bloody wounds
rather than opening them 
to the air of your healing.

Air can sting."

As I contemplated on the healing of wounds in the openness rather than covering them up, the reading continued to provide more for my reflection:

"I've been asking you 
for a change in my circumstances.
And I've been complaining.

Sometimes, you want a
change of conditions, 
and you equip me to
make that happen.

But maybe what 
I need this time
is not a change of what's around me, 
but a change inside me.

My heart, 
not my circumstances.

Maybe a change in heart
will lead to a change 
in circumstances?"

Hmmmm.  A change in heart.  Circumstances aren't always what need to change, bur rather it is my/our inside, my/our heart that requires a change.  Here again is another deep place for reflection, to simply rest and reside on these thoughts.  But no!  There is quite a bit more...

"But, for now, the changed
heart will be enough.

Instead of discontent, gratitude.
Rather than jealousy, generosity.
In place of judgement, compassion.
Replacing anger, laughter.

Mold my heart, God, into
the form you want it to be.
Lead me to my courage.
Kindle and warm what
has grown cold in me.
Energize the passions lying lethargic. 

In this day, help me stand before all my life
with a trusting, open heart.
That's a good enough change for now.
I will ask you about those circumstances later."

Oh, wow!  Gratitude. Generosity. Compassion. Laughter.  I could see these things flowing from a heart, representing a changed heart. The praise song "Spirit of the Living God" came to mind with the line "melt me, mold me, fill me, use" as it heard the words 'mold my heart'.  'Lead me to my courage' speaks to me as I seek to live, love, and lead like Jesus. The word 'kindle' causes my to think of the prayer "Come, Holy Spirit" and the line that says "kindle in them the fire of your love". The expression 'trusting, open heart' caused me to think of having open hands, being open to whatever God offers/brings.  

The reading still isn't over.  It ends with this: 

"I praise you as
the heart-renewing
God who is good, 
the God who is able, 
the God I love, 
and the God of us all.

Amen."

Ah, yes.  There is praise at the end and a recognition of who God is and God's character.  There is strength and hope in these words: 'heart-renewing God'.

Another song that came to mind from this reading was "Change My Heart, Oh God".  

Of the suggested Scripture passages with this reading, we looked at 2 Corinthians 12:9-10--"He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong."

Grace.  God's grace is sufficient for us.  It is enough. Thankfully, grace is always available to us, if we'll receive it, accept it.  Grace can carry us through the things listed in verse 10: weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations.

The reading and the Scripture passage were both powerful for reflection.

The entire book is full of readings and Scripture passages for different situations.  I imagine this will become part of my prayer life.

As you reflect on this reading and the Scripture passage, spend some moments in silent reflection.  What resonates most with you?

Peace on your faith journey, wherever you find yourself this day.

May the heart change begin!

Rev. Deb



Saturday, July 31, 2021

Haiku writing-- a spiritual practice for me

Though I haven't been writing in my blog since May (evidently), I have been writing some Haikus (and weekly sermons).  I have found out that Haiku writing as a spiritual practice and pairing them with a photo is life giving for me.  It is a spiritual practice for me.  Not just for me.  I recently found a entitled Haiku-- the sacred art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines by Margaret D. McGee.  It goes well with the first book that got me started into Haiku writing: A Listening Heart: The Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness by Brother David Steindl-Rast.  

I wrote my first Haiku at the bottom of page 82, on 8/18/20 as I listened to the wind chimes and the water fountain.  Steindl-Rast speaks of the Haiku as "a poem of awareness" (82) and "as a mirror" (82)  He writes: "The Haiku is, paradoxically, a poem about silence.  Its very core is silence." (96)

I wrote a blog post after first starting this spiritual practice and included some of my first Haikus.  Here is the link to that blog post: Haiku -- 8/26/20.

Iris Blooms and a Haiku-- 4/26/21

Hammock Time and Haiku-- 5/1/21

Here are some of the Haikus I have written since May 1st:


Morning time with Cliff.
Coffee. Birds. Clouds. Cool air. Calm.
Good start to the day.
DD, 5/8/21


Breezes come and go
Rustling leaves and singing chimes
Peaceful for my soul
DD, 6/25/21


skipping rocks in creek
rock sitting in the water
cold and refreshing
DD, 7/5/21
Fires Creek, NC


canopy cover
gentle breezes move the leaves
breathing in and out
DD, 7/8/21


Haikus bring healing
as they create space inside
my breathing expands
DD, 7/13/21


fresh cool morning air
clouds above moving around
hummingbirds feeding
DD, 7/14/21

hammock time swinging
underneath the canopy
healing for the soul
DD, 7/15/21


sunset on the lake
bright color fills the water
needed peace for soul
DD, 7/16/21
Chester Frost Park

Though there are more Haikus, these are what I will post for now.  On 7/9/21 I wrote in my Haiku journal (yes, I have a journal dedicated to Haiku writing) that to that point I had written about 22 Haikus.  At some point I may post the original photos with the ones that I turned into Haiku photos.  Maybe these will turn into "A Year of Haiku Writing" or "Haikus as a Spiritual Practice". Who knows?!?!

What I DO know is that writing Haikus brings me joy, healing, and hope.  And I guess that answers the question my spiritual director asked my yesterday, at least in part.  She asked 'what is needed for me to have hope?'  I wrote a Haiku based on that and changed the wording a bit after seeing bright yellow flowers growing in asphalt.  Ultimately what is needed for me to have hope is for me to continue the spiritual practices that draw me into relationship with the One who created me, the One who loves me, and the One who knows me best.  Then I can live out my calling to live, love, and lead like Jesus.

Here is that Haiku from yesterday:


the question was asked:
'what will it take to bring hope'?
the answer will come
DD, 7/30/21
Photo is mine

Whether Haiku writing or reading offers you joy, healing or hope, may you find those spiritual practices that do offer you these things.  

Peace on this adventurous journey!

Rev. Deb

me at Fires Creek, NC
enjoying creation






Saturday, May 1, 2021

Hammock time and Haiku

Today's search for hammock time created restlessness for me. I started off to head to the Soddy lake to a picnic area on a peninsula.  I was stopped on the hill by a train on the tracks. It isn't unusual for this road. However, when the line lengthens behind you and those in front of you turn around to seek other paths, you begin to question how long the train will remain. I decided to do as many had done and turned around and left. Based on the train that I saw further down the tracks where I crossed, I would have been waiting a long while. I got onto the highway and continued to my destination. There were families with kids in the water, people in kayaks, and hardly any space for a hammock that would be peaceful. 

Because I figured that a go-to spot on the creek would be crowded on such a beautiful day, I decided on a tiny TVA park I had seen years ago, near the "stacks". There was only one other vehicle when I arrived and another person walking a dog. 

I found a spot between two trees and settled in. I wrote this Haiku:

Hammock time in trees.
Breezes. Birds. View of water.
Calms my restless soul.
[DD, 5/1/21]

I watched the leaves dance in the breezes and listened to the birds sing. I noticed a sign on a tree that marked a trail. I could not find any information about the trail.

A book that was recommended in the spiritual direction cohort came today: Mark Nepo's Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred.

I read the cover and saw that Rev. Ed Bacon had a quote on the back. That made me smile. He was one of my rectors at my home church in Dalton, GA-- St. Mark's Episcopal.

I read through the other quotes and noted Parker Palmer. He impacted my teaching when I heard him at a language conference years ago.  

I read through the quotes slowly and then the introduction.  I can already tell that this book is going to be one of those that reads you more than you read it. 

I write from the hammock and have a great sense of peace. 

The view of the water and the continued breezes continue to relax and refresh me.

The adventurous journey continues.

Peace,

Rev. Deb







Monday, April 26, 2021

Iris blooms and a Haiku



 
The first photo is what I saw this morning.  The second one is what I saw just now.  It bloomed today. The iris bloomed. These irises are slower than all the others in the neighborhood and maybe others you have already seen bloom. Yet, they are budding and blooming. In their time. For whatever reason they are not in synch with all the others. As I reflected this morning,  I thought about how I move in different ways and paces too. My growth is not always at the same time as others. It's okay. My thoughts in Haiku form:

Faithful.  Regardless. 
Listening. Following One Voice. 
Audience of One. [DD, 4-26-21]

Though I may not always follow the One Voice well nor listen well, that is my heart's desire.  

May we allow each other the space of grace to be and to grow and bloom as intended. 

Peace,  

Rev. Deb