Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trail's Inn Campground-- Unintentional Kingdom Living.

Whew.  I feel like I was just shoved down the rabbit's hole.  You know, like the one in Alice's Wonderland?!?!  What an experience.  I was innocently reading with an NFL football game on in the background.  (Maybe that was part of the problem....)

I picked up another book by Diana Butler Bass.  If you can't tell from my blogs, I like her writing.  I am now reading Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community (Jossey Bass: 2002).  I find her story interesting, intriguing.   We are close in age, not too far apart.   She grew up Methodist; I grew up Episcopalian.  She switched over to Episcopalian; I switched to Methodist.  Along the way she found that she likes John Wesley's theology.  My spirit resonates with her thoughts as she writes about Wesley: "He would prove a pivotal figure in my own spiritual development as I came to understand the way he combined Anglican tradition, Catholic piety, and evangelical fervor.  I now know myself as one of his spiritual offspring." (45)

A few pages later, I find myself being thrust into that rabbit hole as I read the words "pushing its own traditional boundaries for the sake of God's kingdom in the world." (47)   As I reflected, I realized that this is where I feel that God has had me since 2006.  Then, out of nowhere, the thought came.....

Even further back..... my thoughts went way back to when I was a kid walking in the woods along the creek beds at my dad's campground.  I remembered the mossy banks, the rippling waters.  I spent hours in those woods, walking along the creek bed, meandering my way through the woods on trails I blazed.  What did I experience in those woods?  I experienced freedom.  Peace.  Tranquility.  Fulfillment.  Strength.  It was one of my "happy spots".  I felt the Spirit in creation.  Even before I could articulate it.  I still do.  A question that came to me is, 'What does this tell me?'  Hmm...  something to ponder. 

We spent most every weekend there at the campground for I don't remember how long. Trail's Inn. We would stay in our camper trailer for the weekend and help mom and dad run the office, the pool, or the pond... depending on the season.  In the office, we would make change for the laundry and pinball machines as well as run the register if there were purchases in the camp store.  I even got to pump gas at the Shell gas station that was at the entrance to the campground, closer to the Interstate.  I met all kinds of people, I'm sure.  I really don't remember many of them.  I do remember the gypsies.  I was intrigued as a young kid that the women kept their money in their bras.  I usually kept money in a pocket or in my sock or shoe, if I had any. :)

Those campground days.... being outdoors in God's creation and meeting all kinds of people... was foundational to my faith.  I don't think I ever realized that before.  In an odd sort of way, living at the campground was kingdom living, albeit unintentional.   As I was reflecting on this, I attempted to share my revelation with my husband.  But the words weren't coming easily--tears had pooled in my eyes and my throat struggled to push out syllables.  For a moment my husband wondered if I was having another low blood sugar as I've had several today.  I had to admit to him that I wasn't whacked out physically this time, but rather emotionally and spiritually.  Why did all of this strike me the way it did?  I am not sure right now.  But it did.  I don't know what I've touched, or rather what the Holy Spirit has touched in me, but something has been pricked.  I remembered that once I had thought about owning and running a campground.... as a way to stay in nature and serve people.  But that was before I saw the kingdom through the Spyglass.  Oops.  That's a different story.  Sorry.  I'll save the Spyglass for another time.

As I felt myself coming back out of this rabbit hole, I thought about the campground and the Enduro races that my dad and others organized and raced there.  Those were some good days as well.  Lots of motorcycles!  Lots of people.   And folks wonder why I love motorcycles.  I rode with my dad since I was a little kid.  We wrecked in the grave yard once near the Episcopal church where we attended worship.  Another story.  Another time.  Thinking about motorcycles today is not good.  It is bitter sweet.  In fact, I should just "backspace".  But, I started and I want to honor an honorable man.  I last saw Perry at Nightfall on a summer night.  He had ridden his motorcycle down to listen to the music.  Several of us were just hanging out, listening to the music.  That guy played the strings off that borrowed bass!! We had a great visit that night.  I didn't know Perry all that well.  My husband knew him better.  But you didn't have to know Perry well to be infected by his smile, his joy, and his incredible singing voice.  Perry loved life, music, friends, family.  Perry was hit on his way home this past weekend by another vehicle.  A different kind of tears fill my eyes now.  I pray for big arms of love and compassion to enfold his loved ones at this time.  I pray for them to have strength for the journey.

From rabbit holes to rabbit trails.  whew! 

I'm not sure where these rabbit holes or these rabbit trails are taking me-- or taking you for that matter.   You may be wondering the same thing.  I wonder, what is the Spirit saying to you today? 

As I reflected on the thoughts that came from the book, I realized that this rabbit hole is actually the 2nd rabbit hole I've had recently.   My first rabbit hole experience happened this summer at Chester Frost Park.  I journaled it.  I shared it with a few folks for feedback.  Since the initial feedback, I've gotten some more clarification and insight on that experience.  Maybe one day I'll share that rabbit hole.  For now, I'll just say that it existed.  It exists.  And, I'll throw in a question.  Why these rabbit holes?  What am I to learn?  What are you to learn?

I'm not really looking for exact answers.  What I'm attempting to do through asking, however, is to live into the questions.  I am learning that as I live into the questions, answers come.

I'm worn out.... that was exhausting. 

On a different note, I would love to find some old pictures of my dad's campground and even some of those enduro races.  Good memories.   There is no longer a campground today... it is all gone.  I'm afraid to even go to Connector 3 to see if the woods are still there. 

May the mossy banks and rippling waters of the creek beds refresh your soul as they have mine.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Balance. Ups and downs.

Balance.  What does that word bring to mind? 

I might think of an instrument that weighs things.

If I were in a park, I might think "see-saw".

If I were watching wildlife in Florida, I might think of a flamingo (a real one or those pink yard ones).
I might conjure up an image of someone doing a "tree" in yoga.  (Have you tried a "tree" in yoga? It takes balance!)

Since I take taekwondo (though I'm on medical leave), I might think of the karate kid (original!) doing his balancing act on the stumps as he practices his jump kicks. 

These are just a few images that come to mind when one starts to think about the word "balance".  At the Hamilton County Fair, I saw balance in action.  There were young people jumping on a grown up "see-saw" in perfect harmony with each other.  Their timing was just so that there was balance in their jumping and floating.  Then there were the other folks climbing up and balancing on chairs.  Whew!   Wooden leg against wooden leg.  Fingers pulling their body weight up, up, up.  Each person's body counteracting the weight of the other.  Balance.

According to the Webster's II Children's Dictionary, "balance" means: 1. An instrument for weighing things.  2. A condition in which amounts, weights, forces, or power are equal.  3.  Steadiness.  4.  Something that is left over. 

The young lady riding her unicycle in a previous blog had to learn balance.  When she isn't able to balance, she falls.

Am I simply talking physical balance?  Well, I do enjoy a good workout at the park on a see-saw and playing with balance and imbalance.  But, no...  I've been thinking about how balance plays a part in our lives.   Just as a good see-saw ride must include ups and downs (and maybe the occasional KABUMP! so the other person pops off the end), so it seems that life in general must include some ups and downs.

I don't know about your life, but in my life I have been blessed to have quite a few folks join me in my journey and there have been quite a few that have blessed me to be a part of their journey.   There are many people in my life that are a part of me being who I am.  Some of those people live near enough to be in my daily or at least weekly life.  Others live further away and maybe I don't see them or talk to them often, but they are there.  Others may be worlds away even, yet are still connected.

One thing I have experienced in my journey is that there has typically been balance.  When I'm down, other folks are up and can lift me back up.  When they're down, I'm able to lift them up.  And, from time to time, there has been the occasional KABUMP!  where one of us has powered down enough to pop the other off of their seat, for one reason or another. :)

Who are the people on the journey with you that help you balance?  Maybe they encourage you in your spiritual disciplines (practices).  Maybe they hold you accountable.  Maybe they pray with you and for you.  Maybe they simply listen.  Maybe they provide you the KABUMP! every now and then. 

Dave Ramsey says we run on a 4-cylinder engine:  our physical being, our intellectual being, our emotional being, our spiritual being.  If one of those is out of whack, we're out of whack.   Sometimes we can be out of whack in more than one area. 

Is there an area of your life that is out of balance?  If so, do what you need to do to get in back into balance. 

Mark Davis wrote about the balance of spiritual healing and physical healing in his report this morning, about what we are to do and what we can expect God to do.  Here are his words:

"The reason this subject matter is of importance in the “prayer and healing ministry” is because people ask for prayer from both approaches. Some folks are asking for a miracle when what they need to do is go to the doctor! Now don’t get me wrong, we should ALWAYS pray for our health, and not just pray, but pray BELIEVING! But God heals in many ways, and in different lengths of time. It is all according to HIS WISDOM, not ours. We should not demand he heal by a miracle, when what he wants is us for us to go to the doctor.

In my years of praying for miracles and healing, I would not ever tell someone, “Don’t go to the doctor.” God created the human body, and therefore the field of medicine. Everything that any medical person knows about health, that knowledge came from God, the inventor. And besides, the medical people have often, by their testing, confirmed many miracles! So go.

There are other folks asking for prayer who have done the opposite. They waited “way too long” to ask God for healing. They did everything else, and when all that failed, they came to God in desperation. Do you see why God might not perform a miraculous healing in this circumstance?

I invite you to learn how to “lean” in both directions! Trust God. Call on him. Believe him. Ask for miracles. At the same time, pursue medical help. Be proactive in staying healthy. God is not just the God of MIRACLES, he is also the God of PRINCIPLES! Don’t be one who so depends on miracles that you fail to follow God’s clear principles. Wouldn’t it seem a bit hypocritical to smoke a pack a day and then ask God to miraculously heal you of lung cancer!? Or to eat a terrible diet and ask God to miraculously heal your diabetes?!

But neither should you be one who thinks that God never passes outside the bounds of the natural, if he needs to, in order to accomplish his HIGHER PURPOSES. As a matter of fact, it appears to me that miracles are on the rise, and that God would do more miracles if we would only ask, and that a great revival is at hand!

Be aware also that these thoughts apply not just to physical health, but to every area … relationships, emotional health, church work, family life, all of life. (I had 2 men in a church once who detested each other. One was a hard laborer and church fix-er-up-er, the other always going to spiritual retreats. They couldn’t see that they needed each other, and the church needed them both. Nor could they see that their lives were out of balance, leaning heavily to one side.)

Now … for the question of EFFORT … God gives it HIS FULL EFFORT. And we depend on that. But we should imitate Him, and give Him OUR FULL EFFORT as well. He is always PRIMARY, but He has chosen for us to participate in His plan." (Mark Davis, the Healing Touch Report, 9/27/10)

Balance takes effort.  Balance takes concentration.  Balance takes time.  Balance takes energy.  No matter what area(s) in your life need balance, it is worth the investment!

What needs balance in my life?  Quite a bit!  It depends on what day (and moment) you catch me. :)  What needs balance in your life?

Mark's words caught my attention this morning most likely because of my dealing with frozen shoulders since January and herniated discs in my neck since June.  I've been walking through the healing process with doctors, physical therapy, and God.  I will admit that it took me a while to ask some people to pray for my healing though.  I was afraid to pray for healing.  Though that might sound silly or odd coming from me, it is true.  I was afraid to ask on several levels.  Even so, God was faithful to me and allowed me some wrestling time to work it out.  I did ask for prayer for healing.  And, there at Soulfeast, surrounded by those in the butterfly house, I was prayed for.  I received the prayers and accepted in faith the healing that was to come.  Am I completely healed at this time?  No.  But, I am becoming healed.  It is a journey.

Blessings on your journey.  May balance be achieved!

Just for the fun of it, engage a fellow journeyer into a see-saw KABUMP! and pop up along the way!


Young Denman Award Winner Shares God’s Transforming Love

Young Denman Award Winner Shares God’s Transforming Love

Powerful words from a young lady (Laura Holderfield) who has been to Nicaragua. Check it out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Determination. Perseverance. Courage. Impacting the World.

Actually, my thoughts are swimming.  I have about three or four blog entries in my head right now.  I'm not sure which will come out.  Probably all of them. 

A few weeks ago I began this journey of blogging.  It is a new journey for me in some ways.  Not the writing or journaling part.  But, the "putting-it-out-there-for-folks-to-see" part.  Most of my journals are in spiral-bound and other notebook types.  I started writing when I was in elementary school.  I would "blog" our family trip adventures in tiny notebooks, telling on my little brothers, sharing about the nature I saw as we drove into campgrounds, etc.  Throughout my life I have shared some of my thoughts with some people.  Now, I'm sharing with "who knows who?", living "who knows where?" :)

One reason I am writing is to help me clarify the questions in my own life.  As I write about my journey, I might be able to see more clearly.  Another reason I write is to strengthen my writing skills.  Though these are the main reasons I write, I do wonder from time to time if anyone (besides "forced" family members) reads these things. :)

I have been humbled and amazed to learn that there are a few readers out there who haven't been "forced" to read.  Comments have encouraged me in that area.  Then, an e-mail came that completely humbled me and reminded me that it is not me in charge, that I am simply a willing vessel seeking to obediently do my part.

Someone has been reading.  And this someone told me that the words have spoken to them as if I'm right there.  And, the "messages" match what this person has been experiencing and needing.  Only God could do that.   (This would be where you would hear me say a "go God!", "woo hoo" or even see me do a little "go God spirit dance".  But, I'll spare you.)

Have you ever experienced that?  I have.  I experience it quite often with Mark Davis' reports from his radio show, the Healing Touch.  He has a "word" for the day.  It is amazing how often that word speaks to me-- whether it is for me personally or to pass along to someone in my life.  Words of encouragement, truth, etc.  Recently Mark has written on mentoring, Goliath, and armor of God, just to name a few. 

If we each "do our part", what can be the result?   What does "doing our part" mean?  For me, it means being 100% God's, no matter the cost.  Now, that's not always easy.  Nor do I always submit.   In fact, I have a prodigal daughter story that goes back to a time when I had given God 100%, no matter the cost.  Then I grabbed some of that percentage back.  Then I re-submitted, but not without some significant consequences.  This, too, has been an incredible and important journey in my life.  One that I've been blessed to share on Crossroads and Chrysalis Journey Weekends and at other times. 

That 100% can also be termed "radical abandonment to Christ".  That's what David Platt calls it in his book, Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream

My husband asked me to read this book.  I wouldn't read it for a while.  He said it reminded him of a friend who put it all aside to go across the world for God.  I didn't want to read it because I'm fairly "radical" already these days and didn't know what this book might do. :)  My husband said it was a risk he was willing to take.  And, since he said "go with the flow" back in 2006, I decided to jump in.  I haven't finished the book yet.  I read it in small bites.  It's powerful.  Along with the other books I'm reading, I can't very well escape the fact that I am called to be 100% abandoned to Christ.  This has been my mission statement, though worded differently, for many years.  The question for now, is-- what does this mean at this time in my life?  Each step of the journey requires us to ask ourselves, 'how does this step reflect living my life for Christ?'

What if we're not 100% sure about something?  What if we get tired?  What if we feel like giving up?  This is where the body of Christ comes in.  The body of Christ is meant to be there for "one another" by activating and incorporating practices of prayer, discernment, and mentoring.  These practices, along with several others not mentioned, can provide wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.  Remember, we are not alone on this journey.  Or, at least we aren't meant to be.  Whether we hear it from Scripture, the Holy Spirit, or a companion on the journey, sometimes we need to stop.  Sometimes we need to go.  Sometimes we need to pause, wait, and listen.  Sometimes we need to be bold and courageous and "go for it". 

Putting on the armor of God is a helpful thing, at all times.  I once used my daughter's taekwondo sparring gear as a visual for the armor of God.  Just as she wouldn't head out to spar in class without her gear, we would be wise to not head out daily into life without our "gear".

Today, a young lady taught me a lesson in determination and perseverance.  She has been riding a unicycle for only a few months.  She decided to try something new today.  She wanted to try going up a steep hill.  She was bold when she told us she would do it.  She rode down to the spot, turned around, got situated on the cycle.  Then, she was a little less sure of herself.  I imagine it looked slightly different from her new angle with the hill in front of her sloping upward.  Her mother and I shouted encouragement down from above.  We told her to go for it, to pedal, to just keep on pushing.  That may not always be the best advice.  But in this situation, it was appropriate.  This young lady started off.  It took courage to take that first step, or in this case, that first push of the pedal.  You could see the determination in her face.  She was focused.  We weren't really sure she would make it.  She pedaled.  She kept on pedaling.  It was steep.  You know what?  She made it!  She persevered to the top!  Victory!

  just starting out
       almost there... she started at the black mailbox
 behind her (not the one by her hand)
This young lady impacted my life today because she reminded me that even though the hill may be steep, I can still make it.  I can make it in the power and strength of the One who has called me on this journey.  

I'm not just called to share it within my geographical or social borders, but throughout the world, to the ends of the earth.   David Platt reminds me that by making disciples is how I can impact the world: "Indeed, Jesus has invited us to join with him in the surprisingly simple journey of spreading the gospel to all nations by spending our lives for the good of others and the glory of God." (Radical, 87)

How is God calling you to impact those around you today

I can only make it up that hill pedal push by pedal push (or step by step).   Transformation is in the journey!

May your hills be high enough so that you know you can only make it outside of your own strength, yet not so high that you don't take the first step.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What are you longing for?

What are you longing for?

How would you answer that question?  Are you longing for a Klondike bar?  A vacation?  Some peace and quiet?  Each of those things is good.  I would take one of each. :)

But that's not what I'm really asking.  What are you longing for in your heart of hearts?  Are you longing for more?  Are you wanting to go deeper than where you are now?  Do these questions resonate with you?  Do you sense a hunger and thirst?  If you've been following my blog from the beginning, you've learned of my call to go deeper and you've learned about some of my journey. 

I'm just now being able to articulate (to express in words) what I have felt deep in my soul for several years.  [NOTE:  Most folks will know what "articulate" means.... I wrote it that way for an eccentric geeky friend who speaks better English than I do.  I came up with "express in words" while this person simply said "articulate".  sigh.   I don't claim to speak English, only Spanish and French.  Before you ask...yes...English is my native language.]

This "deeper".  This "longing for more".  Where is it taking me?  On a journey to and through spiritual disciplines (spiritual practices) as well as on an exploration of church history and theology.  Several courses that I took at Asbury Theological Seminary stretched and challenged me through our readings and discussions.   Some books on history and Christian thought that I read in those two years: Documents of the Christian Church by Bettenson & Maunder, Readings in Christian Thought edited by Hugh T. Kerr, The Story of Christianity by Justo González.   That's just the tip of the iceberg on the books that challenged me.  I'll mention more later.  I'll probably talk about some of them too. 

I picked back up a book today that I purchased in 2007.  Longing for More: A Woman's Path to Transformation in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton.  It was staring at me from the shelf, so I took it down.  I had read more than I remembered.  Here are some things I underlined back whenever I first read it:

  • "How does one experience spiritual transformation even when our outward circumstances are not what we would choose?  What are our choices when we feel we have none?" (14)
  • "The only thing that kept me going was my longing for freedom to follow God more fully and my growing awareness that the movement toward freedom is indeed the heart of the spiritual journey." (16)
  • "...the call to freedom required them to take risks, to leave some things behind and move into unknown territory." (17)
  • "The road to transformation always seems to lead us through the wilderness--that solitary place where the chaos in our soul starts to settle and it gets so quiet that we can finally hear the still small voice of God with clarity." (17)
  • "The sovereignty of God permeates our lives as well, although we don't always see it.  God is putting together a package in each of our lives, preparing us to make a unique contribution to his kingdom.  We need to ask ourselves, What have I come to the kingdom for?  Why has God brought me to this particular time and place?" (54)
  • "Often what we see as limitations are God's training ground for unique usefulness to him." (55)
  • "One way to become more intentional and disciplined about living your life according to God's purposes is to actually chart out your purposes, priorities and plans." (60)
And, that's where I am in the book.  I have quite a few pages left to finish it. Why today?  What does this book have to say to me today?  To you?  I don't know.  

What do I know?  These things: life is a journey and I choose to see this journey as an adventure.  It is an ongoing learning and transformational process with ups and downs and twists and turns. 

Throughout this journey I am seeking to be more intentional and disciplined about living my life according to God's purposes.   I am working on my (revised) rule of life.

Why "revised"?  Because life changes.  We change.  Flexibility is key.   My life isn't the same as it was three years ago when I wrote my first "rule of life".   Maybe I'll post my rule of life, my map, once I get it worked out.

How are you coming along on your journey?  Where are you?  Do any of the quotes from the book speak to you?  Which ones?  How will you respond?

Remember to share your journey with someone else.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Listening, Hiking, and Transformation...


Do you ever just stop and listen?  I love being outdoors.  Whether it's on my deck, the patio, or in the woods..... The other day I was reading on the patio and I stopped to listen to the sounds from the gentle breezes.  As I listened, I heard the leaves rustling, the windchimes, the birds chirping, the train horn, a motorcycle revving, a jet plane soaring overhead.....and I wondered to myself, "Can I hear you God in these things?"

My husband and I took some time Friday to get into the woods.  We took off to a nearby section of the Cumberland Trail, Mowbray Pike Trailhead.


It's a great trail for me because it has rocks and overlooks as well as water.  It would have more water and even some waterfalls, but most of the creeks are dried up.  Being out in creation allows me to connect with my Creator and the wonderful creation.  I saw beautiful views, incredible rock formations, a bright red ladybug, two turtles, a decent sized spider, water cupped in a fallen leaf.  I heard birds singing and chirping, the leaves rustling in the breezes, the water dripping off the rocks.  My mind, body, and soul were able to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate.  By spending time hiking and in God's creation, I was transformed.
I finished Diana Butler Bass' Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith this weekend.  I recommend that book to anyone who is interested in getting a well-written overview of how some mainline congregation churches in America are growing and making a difference in their communities.   If you're someone who is seeking to go and grow deeper in your own spiritual journey, this book is a good read.  For me, it is encouraging to see churches going and growing deeper in their spiritual journey.  Since the book was published in 2006, I wonder how many more churches are out there now with similar stories to the ones in the book? 

The entire book is engaging, interesting, encouraging, motivating, challenging.

I've already shared some thoughts and quotes from the book.   I'm going to share some more.

As I read the chapter on "Justice" (Chapter 11), I couldn't help but hear Micah 6:8 echoing in my mind: "He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

I was struck by the response of some church goers about a Tent City being brought to their church.  The pastoral staff was gearing up for a meeting and for responses, but were surprised when they got this response: "If you don't bring Tent City to live on our front lawn, we're afraid we won't be able to stay with this congregation.  Because on our way into the baptismal waters, you told us that we would be washed to serve the world and if we can't do that in this place, then we believe God will call us to another place where that is possible."  (p. 163)  WOW!!  Can you imagine it?!?!  That was a real person responding to a real situation.  That person, that family was listening to the pastor and took seriously the call to serve.  I may be wrong, but I think most pastoral staffs would be shocked (in a good way) to hear folks "threatening to leave" if the church wasn't going to live out its faith, walk the talk.  

Though a call to serve the homeless might not be for all churches, Diana Butler Bass says this: "It intrigued me to see how many of the congregations I visited had ministries serving the homeless.  Many people mentioned that, despite the fact that they lived in houses, they too "felt homeless" and experienced a surprising kinship with the actual homeless people they befriended." (229)

I have been blessed to have been part of a ministry for folks in Chattanooga.  A ministry for the hungry and the homeless.  Though I haven't been as active in the recent past few years as I was at first, my heart's desire is there.  One pastor with a vision started a ministry.  Folks joined in.  It grew.  Ministries branched out from within this ministry and those being helped started helping others.   A man who invested much into the ministry's clothes closet and a halfway home recently went home.  A significant lay person in this ministry has become a lay pastor and now has her own church.  This homeless ministry is now homeless.  Even without a secured full time homebase, the ministry keeps on keeping on.    It is a community.  A community dedicated to carrying on the mission of Christ.

Transformation.  Change.  Diana Butler Bass writes: "Following the Spirit means change." (242)  "People change when they encounter God in meaningful ways." (242)  "Just as this process is true for individuals, so it is for congregations.  People need community to change, to sustain a life of pilgrimage, and to go deeper in change.  Pilgrims need pilgrim congregations." (242)

Diana Butler Bass notes: "Whether threatened by spiritual boredom or facing church closure, each congregation had asked two questions that sparked deep change:  Who are we?  What is God calling us to do?  They discovered a renewed sense of identity and a clear purpose in serving the world.  They experienced a change of heart that transformed their communal understanding of who God had made them to be." (243)

As I continue to drink of the deeper waters, I thirst more and more.  I desire to go deeper and deeper.  I am seeking answers to the question 'where is the Spirit leading me?'  I'm enjoying the process of living into the questions.  I wonder how my congregation would respond to the two questions posed?  [Who are we?  What is God calling us to do?]  I wonder if my congregation is ready for the adventure of becoming an "authentic spiritual community"?   Diana Butler Bass defines authentic spiritual community as a "journey of becoming God's church". (254) 

What about you?  Where is the Spirit leading you?

Where is the Spirit leading the community of believers (congregation) with whom you worship?

Enjoy the journey!  Take time to rest and listen along the way.


PS-- A few extra quotes from the book.  Quoting Reverend Anne Howard from Trinity Episcopal Church, Diana Butler Bass writes: "Transformation is the promise at the heart of the Christian life." (281)

Just as the butterfly struggles to get out of its chrysalis so that it might take flight, transformation is not easy.  Diana Butler Bass says: "Change is never easy--especially spiritual change." (281)

Change is part of the journey.   The journey is an adventure.  Keep on travelling.  Keep on being transformed. 


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Handmade rock labyrinths, listening, and a rule of life

Today I was reading the book that I’ve previously mentioned by Diana Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith, and my interest was piqued when I read that Graham Standish’s church, Calvin Presbyterian, has a handmade rock labyrinth and that the church publishes a pamphlet called A Guide to Listening and Hearing God.

I had to put down the book and find the church online. When I read about the handmade rock labyrinth I thought it might be nice to have my own small labyrinth in my backyard with the river rocks we have that used to border the planting areas. I don’t know if that is feasible or not, but it’s something to consider. Meanwhile, I found a picture of the labyrinth at Calvin:

Then through some searching, I found the pamphlet written by Graham Standish: http://web.mac.com/ngstandish/Site/Resources/Entries/2008/7/2_Discernment_Guide_files/Guide%20to%20Hearing%20God%20v.2.pdf  As you can see, the pamphlet was located within a section entitled “Discernment Guide”. Listening and discernment go hand in hand. Since I’ve been talking about both “listening” and “discernment” here on my blog, this caught my attention. Standish offers nine pointers on how we can listen for and hear God. Check it out!

I also found a Rule of Life worksheet in PDF format that might be helpful for those seeking to establish a rule of life. (When I went back to the link, however, all I was able to see was the class slide notes. Hmm.) If you’re asking yourself, ‘what is she talking about?’ then, let me briefly explain. A rule of life is akin to a rhythm of life—what you put into practice, the structure in your life that leads to spiritual growth. Is that too brief of an explanation? :) You might want to check out one or both of these for more information: Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, Marjorie Thompson’s Soulfeast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life. Both books are dedicated to spiritual practices (or disciplines) and each book ends with a chapter about the rule of life and the challenge to create one for yourself.

How is your journey going?   Be sure to take some time to rest along the way.  Rest.  Silence.  Solitude.  Restorative healing for the mind, body, and soul.  Ahhhh.   I think I'll take some of that now.

Happy trails!


Weavings | Listening for the Voice

Weavings Listening for the Voice

article by Robert Corin Morris

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Discernment--a spiritual compass


It's one of those "big" words, one of those "heavy", "deep" words.  It's something I've been trying to practice more.  It's something I want more of. (sorry for the hanging preposition.)

My discernment "radar" was fairly strong at one time.  I had been able to grow and strengthen the muscles.  But something happened in my life that caused me to doubt my discerning abilities.  It took several years to regain some of that lost ground, to get to the point where I felt that I could discern once again.  It's an ongoing process.

I looked up the word in my daughter's dictionary, and it wasn't there.  I think children need to know what discernment means.  Since I didn't want to go to the boxes in the basement, I decided to use an online dictionary. 

Merriam-Webster Online says that discernment is "the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure".  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discernment

It lists some synonyms for discernment: wisdom, insight, perception, perceptiveness, perceptivity, sagaciousness, sagacity, sageness, sapience.

So, besides wanting more of it (discernment), why would I talk about it here on my blog about journeys and adventure?  Good question.  In fact, questions help us live into the answers.  Questions help us discern. :)

I'm reading Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass (Harper, 2006).   I just read Chapter 6 "Discernment: Listening for Truth" this morning. 

Here are some thoughts that struck me in her writing:

"But Christian tradition points toward something more mundane: discernment as a practice that can be developed through participation in reflection, questions, prayer, and community." (p. 91)

"Discernment is a gift to the whole of the Christian community, one that can be strengthened and nurtured by engaging the practice.  Discernment serves as a kind of spiritual compass, helping us negotiate the unfamiliar territory of our truest selves as we seek to find meaning in God's call." (91)

"spiritual compass"-- What a great analogy!!  It fits so well with the image of hiking through the wilderness.  Wow!!  That's very powerful to me.

Butler Bass mentions Frederick Schmidt, an Episcopal priest who sees discernment as "...fundamentally a practice of asking "God-questions" instead of "I-questions." (94)

Wendy Wright is quoted: "Discernment requires that we pay attention." (96)

Butler Bass acknowledges: "You have to pay attention when you are not entirely sure where you are going." (96) 

This is so true!  Think about a time that you were driving somewhere new or even hiking a new trail.  You paid attention.  You noticed the environment around you.  You looked for signs, whether they were road signs or trail blazes showing the way.  You were intentional as you went along your way.  Once we become familiar with a road or a trail, we tend to pay less attention to the things around us.  We just "go". 

Butler Bass says: "Discernment is an odd guide, however, for it not only points the way on the journey but is a sort of destination in itself." (96)

"In emerging Christianity, discernment is the spiritual process through which metanoia, being "born again" in God's truth, beauty, and love, occurs." (97)  [Metanoia is discussed prior on the same page and Butler Bass explains that it means "a radical change of mind and heart that redirects our whole being." (97)]

My curiosity is piqued.  I want to know more about this word "metanoia" than I have read here.  So, here I go.... I'm going to take a side trail here.  If you prefer, have a seat on that rock or log over there.  I'll be back in a few.

Merriam-Webster Online says "metanoia" means: "a transformative change of heart; especially : a spiritual conversion". http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metanoia   It also says: "Greek, from metanoiein to change one's mind, repent, from meta- + noein to think, from nous mind.  First Known Use: 1577"

From a church website that uses "metanoia" in its name, I learned: "METANOIA (meta-noy-ah) is an ancient Greek word that reflects a conscious decision to reorient your life in a way that your whole being – body, mind and soul - moves in a new direction. Commonly translated as ‘repentance’, this word is used in the New Testament to refer to the life-altering, voluntary decision first century Christ-followers made to move toward wholeness and belief in Jesus Christ." http://metanoiachurch.org/  (I found their five areas of prayer focus to be refreshing and encouraging.) http://metanoiachurch.org/?p=995

So, I got off trail a little bit and learned more about metanoia.  Interesting!  Now, back to discernment. 

This caught my attention.  Butler Bass quotes Tom from one of the churches: "...If you aren't looking for it, you will never see it.  Well, I'm looking for it because it has become part of what we do.  I might not have noticed God's presence before, but I'm more attuned to it now." (100)

"Listening, paying attention to the Spirit, new awareness.  When pursued in community, discernment became a shaping practice..." (100)

The last line of the chapter:  "Discernment welcomes pilgrims to the feast." (102)  Hmmm....  That sounds very inviting. 

Do you pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit?  Do you act on them?  Where do you see God at work in your day to day life?  What do you hear God calling you to do?

Follow your spiritual compass.  Remember to bring along others on the journey.  They can help you reflect, you can help them reflect.

May your journey be an adventure!


PS—For those who are interested, metanoia is Strong’s G3341. Check this link out for more information: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3341&t=KJV

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Listening and waiting....then taking the next step.

How does one learn to listen?  How does one learn to wait? 

Testing the waters.  Trying and failing.  Trying and succeeding.  Just trying.  Taking that first step.  Experience.

A significant marker in my listening and waiting journey happened in the summer of 2006.  I was on a mission trip in Costa Rica.  We were staying at El Bambú in Puerto Viejo del Sarapiquí.  I had been feeling unsettled and unrest for a while and didn't know what it was.  One night, it struck me that I felt like I was being called to go deeper in my spiritual journey, in my relationship with God.  That was it.  There wasn't any "how to", "when", or "where" associated with this feeling.  As I shared this with my spouse, his response was: "Go with the flow."

We came home from the trip, I started back teaching at the local university, everything seemed "normal".  At some point, my elementary-school-aged daughter asked me to be more available to her.   Though I didn't fully understand, I felt led to "retire" from my teaching position effective at the end of the school year.  

I also felt the doors open to explore and I looked into taking classes online through a seminary in KY.   I thought I would test the waters and see if those classes might clarify something, anything to me.  After receving a Certificate in Christian Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary, I would say that those courses (through my professors, my fellow students, the books read, and the assignments) have helped grow in my journey.  They also helped me to discern three areas of passion:  discipleship, spiritual formation, and leadership.   Additionally, during that time I was able to come to peace with the fact that I don't have to be in a classroom to be a teacher.  I am a teacher.  It comes out naturally, whether I want it to or not.

Another option I had considered was pursuing an EDD in Educational Leadership at one of the institutions where I had worked and taken a few courses.  I applied.  I took the GRE again after having taken it 20 years ago.  I did well in my strength area, verbal.  I did not do well in the analytical area since I hadn't really used those skills since college.  I didn't make it to the interviews.  Though disappointed, I finally came to realize I was already accepted into a graduate program and I should just finish it.

There have been many times of listening and waiting.  I'm not always aware of them.  Meaning I don't always listen well nor do I wait well.  I struggle sometimes to find meaning when I've listened, waited, responded, obeyed.... and then SLAM! the door has closed without satisfactory explanation.   What I'm learning is that I don't always have to have the answers.  sigh.  Someone smarter and more knowledgeable than me has things under control.  Things may not turn out the way I wanted them or thought they would, but things will turn out. 

Recently, I read Sue Monk Kidd's book: When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Questions.  This book helped me to verbalize the waiting period and to better understand it.  A caterpillar cannot grow if it doesn't spend time in the chrysalis.  It is part of the process.  And, once it is ready to emerge, the butterfly must struggle in order for its wings to sufficiently strengthen to prepare to fly. 

Process.  Struggle.  Now, who said these would be part of the journey, the adventure?  The better question might be: who didn't say these would be part of the journey?  Because, they are.  In order to fly like the butterfly, we do have to go through the dark times of waiting and then the times of struggle.  However, to fly like the butterfly it is worth it.  At least to me.

One last listening and waiting example.  I had some opportunities this summer for intentional listening.  I went to two gatherings back to back.  While at each, I listened intentionally and intently to what God might be telling me through the speakers, the songs, other people, etc.  I had a breakthrough on my last night at the second gathering and was able to get at least a glimpse of what I've been trying to see.  What I realized is that I want to be a guide for others on their journey.  What I wrote in my journal is this: "I picture a guide leading a hike through the wilderness. That guide is me."  I think I've been doing this in many senses already.  But, what I'm feeling is that now it's time to do it more intentionally.  Some might argue that I'm fairly intentional about it now. :)

One thing I'm going to do to spend some more time listening and to test the waters is to attend a 5-day academy sponsored by the Upper Room in October.    It felt like the next step.  It will be an awesome experience.  I don't know where it will lead.  I don't have to.  I'm just looking forward to the opportunity.

A word of caution on listening:  listening doesn't always happen in a vacuum.  It often helps to have folks around you to help you filter out what you hear.  Just as we don't always see our strengths and weaknesses and others do, others help us discern in the listening process.  

Thank you to my "hiking buddies" that are on this journey with me!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Taking the first step...

Trail Head at Nick A Jack

Yesterday as we headed down Lookout Mountain (on the GA side heading into Chattanooga Valley), we stopped to check out the Nickajack (Nick A Jack) Hiking Area.  I was very impressed with the large grassy (yet inclining) meadows next to the information hut, the parking area, the garbage and recycling bins, the privy, and the changing screens.  The information hut had a good map and other helpful information.  This is a multi-use trail.

As I looked at the entrance way, I wondered 'how much of this trail will be this flat?'  The beginning looks easy enough, quiet, and peaceful.  Looking a little closer at the trailhead, you can see only up to a certain point.  After that point, it seems that the trail drops off.  Does it descend from there?  If so, to what degree?   Looking at the map, I noticed a warning for a section further on down the trail that is steep.  It's hard to tell from the map that was posted what the elevations are for the trail.  An elevation map like the ones I studied back in geology class would be helpful to figure out to what degree the trail will descend and ascend.

We didn't hike the trail yesterday.  We just wanted to check it out.  We wanted to learn a little bit about it since we had driven by it several times in the past year.  Now that we've seen it, we want to experience it. 

Even with the map that is posted, the trail will become known to us only by our experience of hiking it.   Taking the first step will open up a new adventure to us.  One that we will only be able to experience by actually taking that first step.

So, what does all this "hiking" talk have to do with journeying and adventure?  Everything!  If you've ever hiked,  you know hiking to be an adventure!  :)

Beyond hiking, it has to do with life.... the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.   There are times when taking the first step isn't so easy.  The trail before us may not look so easy.  Or, we may not have sufficient information to tell us everything that awaits us ahead.  

Taking that first step is significant in any area of our lives.  What is it in your life that is calling you to take the first step?

Tell someone about it.  Let them know what "trail" you are beginning.  Who knows?  They might decide to become your "hiking buddy" on that "trail" for a while.  Often, having someone go alongside with us helps us continue the journey.

If you'd like, post in the comment area about the journey you are beginning or have begun.   Sharing about our journeys often helps others as they travel along theirs.

Happy hiking.

Friday, September 3, 2010

To blog or not to blog...

Several of my friends have blogs... one even blogs from Camel land.  A cousin has begun a blog to tell of her adventures in a new country.  I don't know if it is "blog-envy" or simply the desire to finally start my own, but I decided that today was the day.

That was the easy part.  Coming up with a title and then the URL took a little more time. 

Now for the first post.

I thought I'd define the key words in my title: journey, adventure, alien.  Since my dictionary is still in a box from remodeling days, I will use one of my daughter's children's dictionaries.

Webster's New World Children's Dictionary
  • journey-- a trip; an act of traveling from one place to another.
  • adventure-- 1 an exciting and dangerous event. 2 an unusual experience that will be remembered.
  • alien-- 1 a person from another country. 2 a person living in a country but not a citizen of it. 3 an imaginary being from outer space. 
Now that the terms have been defined, let me explore the meaning behind the title of my blog: "The Journey is an Adventure; I am an Alien".

     I see life as a journey, an adventurous one at that!  I love to travel.  Maybe I'll share some of my travel adventures here.  Beyond travels to states and countries, I've experienced "travel" in my life in other ways as well.  I have gone from one place to another professionally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
    At some point on the journey of life, I began to see it as an adventure.  I don't know if I would have used the term "dangerous" as in the definition, but I have found myself in dangerous places along my travels. 
     I don't fit #3 on the alien definition, though there might be some folks who would disagree with me, especially my daughter.  I am currently living in the United States and am from the United States, so #1 doesn't fit me either.  Politically, I am a citizen of the United States.  So, what do I mean?  I mean that even though I live in this world, I am not of it.  My true citizenship is of the kingdom of God.  What does that mean?  Simply, that I belong to God.  Yet, living it out isn't all that simple.  But, this is an introductory post, so I'll stop for now.

Thanks for joining me on this leg of the journey.  I hope that you find your journey experience(s) to be adventurous as well.