Thursday, March 28, 2013

I will miss Sudan in my audience

Yesterday afternoon it struck me that it had been a day, maybe two, since I had seen the country of Sudan in the audience list for the blog.  Sudan had once been my 2nd top overall, then 5th top overall (and currently 6th).  Now there won't be anymore..... Unless someone else picks up the mantle.

I knew the time was coming for my friend in Camel land to leave, yet I didn't know the exact date.  Yet, having seen a few Sudan hits prior, and then none... well, I believe my friend has left.

My friend was in Sudan with a team doing relief work, helping folks with farming, refugee camps, health needs, etc.  But, things changed.  People had to go.

I cannot imagine what it is like to leave your "home", much less without being able to tell many people "good-bye". 

I do know the importance of processing life and life's experiences:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And, I know that there will be time for that now. 

Yesterday afternoon when it hit me that I hadn't seen a hit from Sudan, tears came to my eyes.  I know how much this home meant to her and I know that leaving was difficult, albeit time.  I pictured someone looking out the window of a plane onto a sandy, dusty runway....

To my Camel buddy and her buddies, I know you are all exhausted and are in need of rest.  Yet, in this time of weakness, find rest.  And hear these words: "Well done, good and faithful servants."



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Be still in My presence... Jesus Calling, March 27

"Be still in My presence"-- the first five words of today's Jesus Calling devotion by Sarah Young.  I read it rather quickly this morning prior to heading out for coffee and Bible Study.

I thought I would re-read it now that I'm home again, before I sit down and dig into more John Wesley sermons.  I am close to catching up, but not where I thought I'd be to getting ahead for the Academy week.  That is because somehow, our syllabus changed.  Yes, I know that can happen.  I changed mine from time to time as needed.  But, I haven't seen the change.  In the syllabus posted online that I printed off at the beginning of the semester, the dates are the same.  I haven't seen any place in the online course where the dates have been changed either, but I am likely not looking in the right place.  But, I am trying.  And that is what makes it so difficult.  Trying to do one's best, but coming up short.

So, to today's devotion.... March 27 (the first paragraph)

"Be still in My presence, even though countless tasks clamor for your attention.  Nothing is as important as spending time with Me.  While you wait in My Presence, I do My best to work within you:  transforming you by the renewing of your mind.  If you skimp on this time with Me, you may plunge headlong into the wrong activities, missing the richness of what I have planned for you." (page 90)

My "still" time is a tad lacking today, though I have had some helpful conversations, discussions, and unexpected encounters throughout the day.  I have also had some ongoing challenges that are exasperating as there seems to be a block in communication, but I will persevere and do the best I can do.

For now, being still means reading more J.W. sermons and seeing God in the Scriptures there.   Yet, soon I know I need some other God still time and look forward to the transformation and the renewing.  I am grateful that I am in progress, not fully completed.  I am grateful for opportunities to learn and grow, even when they stretch me and challenge me beyond my defined capabilities.  I am grateful for folks who walk this journey with me.

May we all find/make time to be still in the Creator's presence!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thoughts from Nouwen's Bread for the Journey

Sunrise, New Smyrna Beach, FL 5/29/04 dd

Yesterday and today I switched from my normal reading of Jesus Calling to another favorite devotional reading of mine, Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen.

Yesterday's entry (March 23), "Sharing Our Solitude", reminded me of the times I have been able to share those kinds of moments with friends.  It is precious indeed to be able to simply share the space.

Nouwen writes:

"A friend is more than a therapist or a confessor, even though a friend can sometimes heal us and offer us God's forgiveness.
     A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer.  A friend is that other person with whom we can look at a tree and say, "Isn't that beautiful," or sit on the beach and silently watch the sun disappear under the horizon.  With a friend we don't have to say or do something special.  With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us."

Today's entry (March 24), "Friendship in the Twilight Zones of our Hearts",  reminds me how others can better see us than we can see ourselves.  Often they can help us identify our weaknesses and giftedness as they look upon our lives.  This devotional speaks to me deeply.

Nouwen writes:

"There is a twilight zone in our own hearts that we ourselves cannot see.  Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves---our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and drives---large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness.
     This is a very good thing.  We will always remain partially hidden to ourselves.  Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can.  The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves.  We will never fully know the significane of our presence in the lives of our friends.  That's a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility but also to a deep trust in those who love us.  It is in the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born."

There is quite a bit to reflect upon here.... friendship primarily, but also silence, solitude, humility, grace, trust, and maybe some other things that spring up from reflection time.

For me, I am blessed to be surrounded by a cloud of friends--- present and past; near and far; living and deceased.  I am grateful for the lives that have touched mine that have caused me to grow, helped me to heal, etc. 

May you know this type of blessing too, this blessing of friendship that goes deep into the twilight zones of our hearts and that doesn't need words at all times.

~Debra ☺

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spiritual Learning and Growth Opportunities

A tree at the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) in Fruitland Park, FL.  This struck me as hands in prayerful formation. dd 7/29/11

I wanted to put together a list of resources that might benefit others who are looking to learn and grow on their spiritual faith journey.  This is by no means an exhaustive list nor will it necessarily have what you might be looking for and/or need.  A couple of the resources listed are local to my area, but most are not and can used by anyone, anywhere.  Maybe this is a list you not only find something for yourself, but you share with others as you come across others seeking to learn and grow along their journey.  I hope there will be something for you here. 

Blessings on your journey as you continue to learn and grow!


"Spiritual Learning and Growth Opportunities"
Devotionals and other readings
Spiritual Gifts Inventories
Online Learning Opportunities
Retreats, Academies, and Learning Opportunities
  • SoulFeast--SOULfeast is The Upper Room’s spiritual formation event for children, youth, and adults who seek deepening spirituality across a spectrum of experiences that nourish the soul.”  (Held at Lake Junaluska, NC)  
  • St. Mary's Sewanee--(The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development).  St. Mary’s offers retreats and learning opportunities).  “Resting on 230 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau, St. Mary's Sewanee offers a sanctuary of natural beauty and quiet for rest, renewal and reconnection. St. Mary’s Sewanee is a place that caters to individual and group spiritual needs through a variety of personal retreats and group programs.” 
  • Alban Institute--The Alban Institute offers resources, courses, etc.  On their “About” link, they state their purpose:  “At Alban, we seek to develop strong congregational leaders who have the creativity, the endurance, and the joy to do the work needed to fulfill their congregations’ particular callings.”      
  • Walk to Emmaus--The Walk to Emmaus is sponsored by the Upper Room.  From the “About” section on their website, it “is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that begins with a three-day short course in Christianity. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers.” Chrysalis is the youth movement.  Information for it can be found from the main page.
  • Upper Room--The Upper Room offers several magazines that are helpful in spiritual growth, including: The Upper Room Daily Devotional, Weavings, Alive Now and Pockets (for children).  They also offer programs and ministries such as the Walk to Emmaus, the Academy for Spiritual Formation (5 day and 2 year), SOULfeast, and Companions in Christ.
  • The Academy for Spiritual Formation (5 Day Academy / 2 Year Academy)--From the "About" section: "Since 1983, the Academy for Spiritual Formation® has offered an environment for spiritually hungry pilgrims, whether lay or clergy, that combines academic learning with experience in spiritual disciplines and community. The Academy's commitment to an authentic spirituality promotes balance, inner peace and outer peace, holy living and justice living, God's shalom. Theologically the focus is Trinitarian, celebrating the Creator's blessing, delighting in the companionship of Christ and witnessing to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives, churches and the world.”
  •  Renovaré--Similar to the Academy for Spiritual Formation, Renovaré is dedicated to helping people grow in their spiritual journey.  From the “Who We Are” section: “We seek to resource, fuel, model, and advocate more intentional living and Spiritual Formation among Christians and those wanting a deeper connection with God. A foundational presence in the Spiritual Formation movement for over 20 years, Renovaré is Christian in commitment, ecumenical in breadth, and international in scope.”
  • Lake Junaluska-- Conference and retreat center located in N.C. offering retreats and training events throughout the year.
That's all I have for now.  Hopefully you will find something that will help you grow in your faith journey and/or lead you to another resource for that purpose.
Blessings on your journey,

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Love one another...

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…” - John 15:12

A friend posted this Scripture verse on her Facebook wall yesterday.  It's a wonderful Scripture verse.  Yet, when one sits with it for a while and lives into it with life's experiences, the depth of this "love" becomes more than some surface, fluffy emotion.

So, I wanted to explore that more.  I knew I wanted and needed to post something on the Scripture, but I needed to wait.  Here is what I posted:

"Loving one another as God has loved us. That was with sacrificial, gut-wrenching love. It came at a price of being misunderstood, being rejected. On the surface, this is a nice verse. But, if I am truly going to live it out, then I need to be well aware that my life is ultimately not about me, but for the sake of others."

I still want to explore this further.  So, I'm going to keep chewing on this a little longer and see what I come up with.

My friend Mark Davis put together a listing of the "one another" verses...... Unfortunately, I had those saved on a different computer that experienced a "crash" several years ago.  Even though we had back-up, we have a difficult time getting documents off the back-up.  I might have a hard copy somewhere.  He sent me those and I printed them out for a Staff Parish meeting back in the day.

I wanted to get more context, so I went to the surrounding verses:

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (KJV)

Further verses (18, 20) mention hatred and persecution being endured because of this love, yet we don't often focus on that aspect.  It is more comfortable to focus on the "love" and "abiding" portions without fully taking into consideration what that love really means and what that love requires.

As I continue to reflect on this verse, here are some of the things that come to mind:

If I am going to love others as Christ has loved me, then I am going to...

... get in the boat and go to the other shore (over and over again). [as Jesus did in Mark]
...put others' needs before my own. (Jesus taking care of the hungry crowds)
...spend time with them. willing to weep with them and celebrate with them.
...pray with and for others.
...take time away so that I can be better prepared to give of myself. attention to and play with the children.
...treat others with kindness.
...speak the truth in and with love and compassion.
...walk the journey with others. misunderstood. rejected. persecuted. hated.

These are just some of the things that come to mind as I reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus and this verse. 

I could go deeper.  I could pull out some of the books I've read and look for some good quotes.  I could dig into my memory for some examples recent and further away of personal experience of where loving others in the name of Christ hasn't worked out too well for me.  But, that's not where I'm going to go with this.  Besides, I continue to remind myself that it (life and all of this spiritual growth) isn't about me, it is for the sake of others.   And that is one thing I will share.  From Robert (Bob) Mulholland's speaking to us at an Academy session and from his book, Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation, I learned this:

the definition of spiritual formation is that it is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.

The process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.  Well, from what I've experienced, that is love. 

I don't always get it right.  I'm still learning and growing myself.  Yet, my desire is to love and live as Christ did.  I will continue to stumble and fall along the way even as I attempt to love and live well.  But, I will get back up and continue on.  The journey of growing and learning is well worth the bumps, bruises, and pain.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Taking advantage of a gorgeous day....

Looking back the path we had just come
Yesterday (March 12) I was able to get outside for a little while and enjoy the beautiful day with my husband.  Sunshine and semi-warm weather have not been the norm lately, so when it came about, we took advantage of it.  We went to Greenway Farm (North Chickamauga Creek Greenway), [formerly known as Spangler Farm] to walk.  [Click here for a map.] There are paved paths, gravel paths, fields, and grass paths.  There is a dog park on the property, some private gardens, a defunct tennis court, a canoe launch, picnic tables, and a former quarry.  Animals only are allowed to play in the quarry water.  Humans will get in trouble.  In fact, that area may be roped off now.  We didn't go that way yesterday.  We walked the grass path along the creek near the wildflower field, taking the side trails around all the large pools of water.

There was one large pool of water that took more maneuvering than normal to get around.  Once inside the woods we noticed that a beaver dam had been built up.  Ah-ha!  that was why the water wasn't draining back down into the creek.  I did find a treasure for all the work bush-wacking through the woods--a golf ball.

Looking at the beaver dam; the creek is behind us

Looking back at the pool of water we had avoided

Not only was it good to walk among the trees and near the creek, it was good to feel the warmth of the sun and to hear the birds.  It was good to breathe in the fresh air. 

It was good to spend some time together walking--- some talking and some in silence. 

Being outdoors helped to clear my mind some and give it a break from lots of reading. 

The exercise was good for the body-- heart, mind, and soul.

May you find some form of exercise and/or may you be able to get outdoors and give yourself a break for your body-- heart, mind, and soul.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, March 11, 2013

"Walk by faith, not by sight"-- always a good reminder

This morning's devotion in Jesus Calling (March 11) begins with these words: "WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT."  This is always a good reminder, at least for me. 

The devotion continues: "As you take steps of faith, depending on Me, I will show you how much I can do for you."  I like how this is written here.  I can almost see step by step taken in dependence.  For some reason, this causes me to slow down for a moment and think about those intentional steps.  And, it causes me to anticipate with hopeful trust what Christ will do as I take those steps in dependence.

"If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you."

This statement stands out above all the others.  It doesn't say that we shouldn't live our lives safely, just not "too" safely.  I like that.  I like adventure.  Yet, I still need pushing out of my safety and comfort zone.  Who would think that there could be a "thrill" in seeing Christ work through us?  I get it though.  There is a thrill.  There is something remarkable, spectacular, thrilling when you recognize that Christ is working through you.  But, it means not living life "too" safely.  I imagine that involves risk(s).  There are days when I am up for risks and there are days I'd rather live in the safe zone.  However, if I am truly going to follow Christ and Christ's example, I imagine most days I need to be willing to step out of the safety zone into the adventure at hand, even if it happens to mean stepping out of the boat (so to speak). 

The devotion goes on:

"When I gave you My Spirit, I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength.  That's why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you.  The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless.  By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength." (page 74)

Scripture verses: 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:25

We are empowered by the Spirit to live beyond our natural ability and strength.  We are not to measure our energy level by or against the challenges that are awaiting us.  It is NOT about our strength.  As we walk close to the One from whom we get our strength, we will be enabled to fulfill that which we are to do.

What challenges await you?  What challenges await me?  Some are seen, others are unseen and unknown.  Am I?  Are you? ... willing to walk by faith, not by sight and to measure my/your energy level and strength by the Spirit's strength?  Are we willing to live a little less safely in order to experience the thrill and adventure? 

May your journey be filled with a little less safe walking and more thrills.  May you rely on strength that is not yours.  May you be empowered by the Spirit to live beyond...

Blessings on your journey,


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Resting in the "cushion of calm".... or at least attempting to...

My daughter is off at a Dare2Share (D2S) conference in town today.  Riley is at work until 6pm.  I have the day to myself.  Just as I had yesterday afternoon and evening.  You would think I would know just what to do with that time.  Not so easy.  John Wesley sermons await me, as do other pages in another book that I'm almost caught up on for the week.  But, my brain is tired and reading is not where I can go to first. 

The sun was out, but it clouded over.  So, I decided to forego outdoor activity.

Mainly, I'm cleaning here and there.  Doing dishes, picking up recycle, putting things away, etc.  Not that you might notice when you come over.  There is always more to do.  I may throw in some laundry and ironing too.  Then, there is the grocery shopping that I need to go do.... after I get all the coupons together.  No wonder my brain is tired. ☺

Hoping to find some inspiration, I opened up Jesus Calling to today's devotional to see what Sarah Young had put down for this day. 

"REST IN MY RADIANT PRESENCE.  The world around you seems to spin faster and faster, till everything is a blur.  Yet there is a cushion of calm at the center of your life, where you live in union with Me.  Return to this soothing Center as often as you can, for this is where you are energized: filled with My Love, Joy, and Peace."

Good words!  "Rest".  Now, that would be nice if I would and could take that literally today, but the readings are hanging over my head.  As for the spinning and blur... I get that.  Sometimes literally when my brain is overly tired and feels like a blurry mush.  That's why "rest" is so important.  I may end up making/taking some time for that after all today.

Second paragraph of the devotion:

"The world is a needy place; do not go there for sustenance.  Instead, come to Me.  Learn to depend on Me alone, and your weakness will become saturated with My Power.  When you find your completeness in Me, you can help other people without using them to meet your own needs.  Live in the Light of My Presence, and your light will shine brightly into the lives of others."

The Scripture verses included in this devotion were Galatians 5:22 and 1 John 4:12.

Learning to depend solely on God, the Creator for sustenance is an ongoing lesson for me.  It is my desire to be able to shine the light brightly into the lives of others and to help them without using them to meet my own needs.  I can only do that if I am getting my strength, power, sustenance from the Power Source. 

Good reminders today.  And, it was a "cushion of calm" simply to focus on the radiant presence of the One who continues to show me the way.

May you have a cushion of calm in your day.  May you get your sustenance from the One whose Power can energize you so that you can be a light for others.

Blessings on your journey,


Friday, March 8, 2013

Frank and Ernest preach it!

I enjoy reading the paper.  I haven't read the newspaper in weeks.  Last night I read the paper and there were some great things in there.  There were two funny write-ups in the now Thursday (formerly Friday) jokes section, one about a pharmacist and one about learning languages.  There was an editorial about free online learning (MOOCs), and there were the comics.

Of the comics, "Zits" was pretty funny because the teenage boy had a "serving" of lasagna that was big enough to feed an entire room of people.  But the one that caught my attention most was "Frank and Ernest" by Thaves.

They were outside a pharmacy, which they often do have something to do with a pharmacy.  Since my husband is a pharmacist, that always catches my attention.  One of them is on a set of scales that says "your weight".  The other is looking on and remarks: "That body you consider a temple has become a mega-church."  Whew!  That can be both an "Ouch!" and an "Amen!"  It is both funny and sad.  Though it makes me chuckle, it goes deeper than that too. 

Take a look:
"Weight" is not an issue I take lightly.  I have struggled with weight since my college years.  I have gone back and forth like a yo-yo, trying to get back to my high school days.  At one point, my collar bone showed way too prominently, but I wasn't at "goal weight", so I couldn't become a life-time member, even though I had plateaued and my body would no longer go down any further. 

I have had my ups and downs with this issue.  These days, I am more in the realm of "eating to live" rather than "living to eat".  I still enjoy eating.  I am still overweight.  But, I pay more attention to my body, to what it needs, to when it is full.  I also pay attention to portion sizes and what I put into my body.  That doesn't mean that I don't sometimes put in junky things (like a Krispy Kreme donut every now and then or some other crazy thing), but I attempt to keep it balanced. 

Listening to my body has been a big part of this growing awareness of eating more healthier.  And, that has been due to things such as diabetes, anemia, kidney stones, frozen shoulders.  I have needed to pay better attention to my body, the temple, in order to figure out what was going on inside it.  So, I've been listening and paying attention and then trying to do things about it. 

Exercise is an important part of my regime.  Taekwondo and zumba are my main workouts.  Walking and hiking are thrown in as often as possible.  Yoga was a part of my routine, but that is something I will now try to do on my own at home (or with the help of a program) due to cutbacks.  Yoga for wellness suits my needs best. 

Rest is another important part of the equation in taking care of the body.  I don't think I really ever understood this until my body became tired from anemia and I had no choice, but to rest.  Likely, earlier in my life, my body attempted to give me messages that it was tired and worn out, and likely sleep deprived, etc.  But, I pushed it to the limits.  That is not as easy to do as your body ages and changes.  At least for me it hasn't been.  And, I'm glad.  Because I finally had to start listening.  As I listened to the pain from the kidney stones and the fatigue from anemia, etc., I learned to respond to my body's needs more readily.  This is an area I'm still learning about and working on.... I sometimes don't read or hear the signals well and/or I simply ignore them and keep on going.  But, I'm learning to submit and rest.  It is amazing what rest does for the body-- the brain re-energizes, the body can move again, etc. 

According to an article in yesterday's paper (Chattanooga Times Free Press), rest and excercise go hand in hand.  "Poll Shows Strong Link Between Excercise and Sleep"

Taking care of my body, taking care of your body IS important.  If we are not in good shape, in good health, it is difficult for us to do what we are called to do here on this planet. 

In Ruth Haley Barton's Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, she devotes a chapter to the body: "Honoring the Body: Flesh-and-Blood Spirituality".  She opens the chapter with these words: "Surprisingly enough, it was in the process of staying faithful to the spiritual journey that I first began to face my profound ambivalence about life in a body." (78)  After sharing what she had not been doing, she shares: "I needed specific guidance for how to care for my body as a part of my spiritual practice and as preparation for the rigors of the spiritual journey into which I was being invited." (79) 

Taking care of the body is a part of the spiritual journey.  Even though I first read these words by Barton in 2007 and I have been made aware of this fact at every Academy session over the past two years, for some reason, it easily slips back into somewhere else in my consciousness, if I will allow it.  I must be intentional in reminding myself that taking care of my body is an integral part of the spiritual journey and therefore I must be intentional in doing those things that are good and right for my body.  Taking care of my body is as much of a spiritual practice as is praying, reading the Scriptures, etc.  In fact, let's be honest.  I am not able to do anything unless my body and mind are in good condition.  So, why wouldn't I put that as a top priority in my spiritual practices?!?!  Why does it slip and fall as a priority?  Well, again, in honesty, there are other spiritual practices that slip and fall as priority too.  It takes intentionality.  It takes focus.  And, it takes reminders.  Accountability and community come in handy too.

It's not an easy topic to deal with.  It's almost one of those 'pink elephants in the room' type topics.  But, our bodies are what we have to live in, what we have to work with.    Little by little, there is hope for progress on these fronts.

Frank and Ernest lightly point out the physical and spiritual side of this issue.

It made me think.  Thank you Frank and Ernest, thank you Thaves for jogging my thoughts toward the importance of honoring my body and taking care of it as a spiritual practice.

Once again, the comics have helped me learn a spiritual lesson. 

Maybe you already have this spiritual practice down and/or it's simply not an issue in your life for other reasons.  If you'd like to think through it more, I encourage you to check out Ruth Haley Barton's book that I mentioned above and her chapter on the topic as a starting place. 

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, March 4, 2013

"You are on the right path".... timely words of encouragement

taken 10/2009 NC dd

On February 28th, I wrote about "Questioning the direction, or lack thereof".  This year, there wasn't a "February 29" that followed in our calendar.  However, I thought I would read the next day's entry in Jesus Calling to see what it had to say.  So, on March 1, prior to heading up for my quiet day at St. Mary's, I read these words from the February 29 devotion (page 62) in Jesus Calling: "YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT PATH.  Listen more to Me, and less to your doubts.  I am leading you along the way I designed just for you."

Whoa!  Wow!  Really!?!?  Needless to say, these words hit me right between the eyes, so to speak.  I know that doubting is an okay place to be and that it is actually part of the growing and stretching process.  And, then, WHAM!  The words are in front of me to remind me that there is no need to doubt; that I am on the right path. 

Further down in the devotion: "I am revealing to you the path of Life day by day, and moment by moment.  As I said to My disciple Peter, so I repeat to you: Follow Me."

This is what I wrote on the page: 3/1/13 "I question & doubt the path-- the path of ordination, the path of ministry.  But-- here, I am reminded once more... "you are on the right path.""

These words were extremely timely for me.  Not only did I read them after my wrestling and questioning, I read them prior to heading into a time of focus and reflection and resting in God's presence.  I was able to reflect throughout the day on how I am on the right path.  That made me smile. 

I can guarantee you that I will come to more crossroads along the journey.  There will be other moments and days of doubt and questioning the direction.  And, that's okay.  The work of questioning and wrestling is part of the relationship and is healthy.  It causes muscles to grow stronger.  That time of questioning and wrestling will likely be followed by another time of assurance and resting.   It helps me to be reminded that although I am secure in who I am and whose I am, my ultimate security does not lie within me, but in the One who created me. 

Maybe you don't have these times of questioning and therefore the timely words of "you are on the right path" don't have the same meaning for you.  That's okay.  We all travel and grow at different paces.  Maybe you know someone else who needs to hear that they are on the right path.

You see, sometimes we can't see for ourselves that we are on the right path.  It takes those around us in community who can see our gifts and graces to help keep us mindful of what the path is.  God and community help us see and know who we are and help us know the right path.

If you are seeking 'the right path' for you in your life and ministry at this time, I pray that you will be able to live into the question and that you will come out of the wrestling time with peace.  You may not have a solid or specific direction or answer other than "you are on the right path", but I hope that those words will be timely and encouraging to you as they were for me.

Blessings on the journey,


Lenten Quiet Day at St. Mary's Sewanee

I saw it advertised a few months back.  A quiet day during Lent at St. Mary's Sewanee.  That's only about an hour and 15 minutes drive, the cost was affordable, the place is beautiful, and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to experience a quiet day. 

This past Friday (March 1), on a cold morning with snow flakes falling from the sky, a friend from church and I headed up I-24 to St. Mary's.  When we arrived, folks were busy doing last minute cleaning activities.  The room was set up and the fire place was lit.  All the paperwork we received said 9am.  The schedule we received upon arrival said 10am.  Oops.  We were going to have plenty of time to walk around and settle in. ☺

Since it was my friend's first time to St. Mary's, I showed her the prayer chapel inside St. Mary's Hall.  Then we went outside to look out over the bluff.  It was a little foggy in addition to cold and snow flaky.  Some snow flakes were sticking to the rocks, but not to the ground.

We had been told that the new residence hall would be opening that day and we could check out the rooms.  So we did.  The new building is next to St. Mary's Hall and looks out over the bluff and the woods.  It is rustic and woodsy looking on the outside. 

The rooms are ample space, cozy.  The one we looked in had twin beds, a reading/writing desk, and bathroom facilities.  Oh, and it was warm inside.  Perfect on this chilly day.  But, we moved on.  The building is larger than it looks from the side.  They are building a meeting room too.  Rooms are supposed to be ready now for use, but the meeting room is still in progress.  Besides the new building, there are plenty of other places to stay on the property that are still adequate, though not new.

Others began to arrive.  Bishop Parsley arrived close to 9am and decided we would compromise the start time and begin around 9:15am.  Regardless, it was all good.  A day and time set apart to allow God time and space into one's life... it didn't really matter when things got started.  Though in the beginning I was wishing I had brought required reading materials.  I dropped that thought fairly quickly and settled in to attempt to be present to whatever was at hand.

We gathered in the room with the fireplace.  Chairs were set up in a semi-circle (or "U" shape).  On a table next to the leader's chair was a singing bowl and a candle.  The fireplace was blazing in the background.  I sat on the side across from the windows so I could look out the windows and at the bluff.

There were 16 participants and the leader, the Right Reverend Henry Nutt Parsley.  Bishop Parsley is currently Bishop-in-Residence for St. Mary's, a new idea that they have begun this year.  He lives in Birmingham, AL.

The schedule for the day was three meditations anchored around Lent:
  • The Movement of Stillness
  • The Movement of Repentance
  • The Movement of Hope
After each time of prayer and meditation, there was a silent period of about 45 minutes for reflection.

Between the 2nd and 3rd meditation we had lunch in the cafeteria.  A silent lunch.  I had never experienced a purposeful silent meal before.  At the Academy, our meals are fellowship and talking times (thankfully) and a break from the other quiet times of the day.  But, I was glad for the opportunity to experience a purposeful quiet meal time.  We all attempted to quietly scoot our chairs in and out on the floor.  We attempted to not make too much noise with our silverware as we ate our soup and salad.  We nodded a greeting when someone sat down to join us at our table.   In the silence, I heard all the noise.  It was a tad awkward, but it was peaceful too.  As we got our dessert, the Bishop stood to read some Wendell Berry poems for reflection. 

This post contains the outline, the mechanics of the day.  My thoughts and reflections and notes are not included here.  I may include them later.  The meditations were great and the Bishop did a wonderful job in leading us through this time of Lenten reflection. 

It was a wonderful blessing to have that time apart.  And, even though we didn't really get to know one another, we were a community for the time that we were together.  I did get to speak with the person next to me when it was over and find out that she knows my spiritual director and my associate pastor.  Small world.

Taking time for quiet and reflection is important.  Whether you can get away to a special spot or you have a special spot in your home..... whether you are able to take a few moments, a few hours, or an entire day.... Whatever you are able to do, do it. 

May you be refreshed, renewed, energized, and encouraged by the time that you take for this.

Blessings on your journey!