Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Abiding in the deepening places with Macrina Wiederkehr

I continue my journey through Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God by Macrina Wiederkehr, slowly but surely.  For me it's a book that I take in little bites and chew and chew.  And when I come back to it, I look back to where I was before I move on.  This is likely the slowest I have moved in any devotional book, but it is made for such slow reflection.  There is much to chew on.

I read Acts 9:1-19 about Paul's Damascus road experience.  It was revelation, conversion and calling all rolled into one.  As I read it and reflected, somehow this time I related more to Ananias.  I could see Ananias struggling with his calling to go to this one who had been persecuting the followers of Jesus and bring healing to him.  Much like Jonah being called to go to Nineveh, a place where he felt the people were undeserving.  I don't know why this resonates... I guess there is more chewing to do and some unfolding and onion-layering to peel off to get deeper here.

Meanwhile, here are the thoughts from Macrina Wiederkehr that struck me as I read the devotional:

"A great turning happens in the human heart when we are summoned and we find ourselves leaning toward the voice that invites." (72)  ["leaning toward the voice that invites" especially spoke to me.]

"The poet David Whyte suggests that when revelation dawns in your life, you can never hide your voice again.  You become impelled to speak the truth revealed." (72) [hmmm....this is definitely a cause for pause and explains some things for me]

Jesus speaks to Paul on the road to Damascus saying: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."  Macrina writes: "These are truth-telling words.  Take them to your heart and listen deeply to the spaces between the words.  These words suggest that Jesus identifies with us so completely that if we are wronged in any way, he is also wronged.  Likewise if we do harm to any of his disciples, we are harming him." (73) ["listen deeply to the spaces between the words"-- that simply causes my soul to breathe]

"When we are meditating on the Word of God, we hear God's call somewhere in the spaces between the words.  That is why pausing for reflection is so important." (73)

"The church is a bit like a big pot of soup.  It needs to be stirred up once in a while or it will get stuck on the bottom." (73) [this made me smile/chuckle]

"So let's open our hearts again to God's call.  Is there anything in you that needs to be stirred up so you can hear the call anew?" (73) [now she's meddling]

I don't know about you, but I often need to hear the call anew.  I need things stirred up so that things that became stuck can become unstuck.  I need to listen deeply to the space between the words.  Revelation is dawning.

May you and I lean toward the voice that invites and not hide our voices.

Blessings on your journey,


Friday, April 26, 2013

Flashback to one of my risks and failures...

On Monday I visited my grandmother in her new home and went with her and my Mom to the April birthday celebrations.  One of the residents was called Dr. "So and So" everytime they referred to her.  That's not so unusual, for someone to refer to someone else by their title.  After a little while, one of the other residents though leaned over and asked her: "What kind of doctor are you?"  She replied that she was an EdD.  "EdD" they repeated.  My ears had tuned in, though they were at the next table.  I knew that this meant Doctor of Education, not Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or medical doctor.   I haven't had a chance to chat with her about her career in education, but I hope to at some point as I visit.  I enjoy talking learning and education with folks. 

I didn't think that hearing the letters "EdD" could trigger anything inside of me, but they did.  They took me back to a time where I stepped out in risk and failed.

When I got that call to "go deeper" in 2006 and when I knew I would be retiring from teaching to make space to explore and to be more with my daughter, one of the areas I thought was a logical "next step" was the EdD at the institution where I currently taught.  I loved teaching and I did a decent job of it (per former students).  I enjoyed helping them learn to learn and helping teachers make connections, etc.  I participated in the teacher learning groups and even helped facilitate an online class after I had taken it for fellow teachers once.  

So, when the EdD program came up in discussions, it seemed that it might truly be the right next step for me.  I was given the impression that I was going to be in the program, and the process was a formality.  Part of the process was retaking the GRE because it had been over 10 years since I last took it.  Stumbling block.  I didn't do well the first time on the GRE.  I don't do well on those types of assessments.  Period.  It's not a strength.  The last time I had taken it I was so brain fried afterwards that I stopped somewhere on my way home to Dalton from UTC (where I took the test) and somehow locked my keys in the car (this was back in 1986).  This time I was going to have the opportunity to do it on computer.  I took it and did the best I could. 

The results showed that I had held my own over the last 20 years in the language area and did fairly well in it, which was encouraging since I had been in the area of languages and linguistics.  The written portion wasn't too bad either.  But the math?!?!  Let's just say that I pretty much tanked it (expression that means I didn't do well).  I can do math, but it's not my strong area.  I hadn't had math since pre-calculus my freshman year in college (1986-87) and this was Fall of 2006, I think. 

But I wasn't too worried about the GRE scores for the application process because it was only a portion of the process.  But, then I didn't even get an interview to come in and I didn't understand.  I asked questions.  I was told that the GRE counted for more than I had been advised previously and I didn't make the cut. 

Talk about a downward spiral.  You take what you thought was the next right step.  You do what you need to do.  You are given the impression by admission personnel that this is simply a process.  And, then large brick wall.  Ouch!  It was a struggle for me.  I fought it, internally and externally. 

In fact, I will admit that one of my reactions was to apply to an online institution where I could study and earn the degree.  I applied and spent my $50.  Then, the more I spoke with them and learned about them (they weren't accredited, they couldn't tell me or show me who their professors were, etc), I knew this wasn't the right choice for me.  I "wasted" $50 in my urgency to meet my own void.  But I learned quite a bit and had some good, albeit annoying conversations with the folks that kept calling me.  As I would ask why they didn't post their faculty online so I could know in advance who they were, they stumbled to give me answers.  It was a learning process time for me.  I told them to withdraw my application.  I still heard from them for a very long time.

I sat back to wait.  I had done what I thought was right, but it didn't work out.  Risk and failure.  It has to happen along the journey.  Was my discernment off?  I don't know.  It truly felt right at the time.  Did I learn things from the process.  Oh, maybe some.  Anytime I have to deal with my ugliness and frustrated self is a time to learn something. 

As I waited, at some point, the online certificate through Asbury Theological Seminary came into my radar.  I looked into it and applied.  That application process in itself was a process for me in that it caused me to assess some things.  I was accepted into the program and started classes in the Summer of 2007.  Through the Certificate program I took classes in leadership (which is why I was wanting to go the EdD route to begin with) because I knew leadership was part of my calling.  These courses confirmed that and equipped me.  I took classes in discipleship.  Not only was I learning, but I was being transformed and going deeper while I learned.  And, here I am now, working toward the M.Div. with about 2 more years to complete it.

I will then have 2 Master degrees; no Doctorate.  That's okay with me.  I didn't go for the PhD in Spanish back when I could have because the timing wasn't right.  The EdD obviously wasn't right either.  I may never be a "Doctor" and that is perfectly fine with me.  I have had students call me "Doctor" along the way, but I have gently told them that my degree wasn't a Doctorate and if they desired to give me a title, then my degree was a Master. ☺

Reflecting back on my experience of risk and failure has been good.  Anytime we put ourselves "out there", it is risky.  It means we can be rejected.  Though I was rejected from the EdD program, that rejection is what helped me wait and be open and ready for what was truly my next step.

What risks and failures are part of your journey?  I would encourage you to embrace them as part of your story.

Blessings as you travel,


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Listening for and to the sound of the One...

"There is an ancient harmony deep within the matter of the universe. All things carry within themselves the sound of the One."
 ~ John Philip Newell, A New Harmony
I found this quote on the Shalem Institute Facebook page this morning.  It was a "cause for pause" for me. 
Too often I find myself distracted by many sounds competing for my attention, to the point that the sound of the One is no longer distinguishable.
In order for me to clearly hear the voice, the sound of the One, I need to clear out all that other "noise".  It is very helpful for me to get out into Creation when possible because within Creation I can better hear the sound of the One as it resonates clearly from the surroundings.  But doing that isn't always possible, so sometimes I simply need to become still, to be silent and in solitude so that I can listen. 
Becoming still, becoming re-focused helps me to no longer be so distracted by the other sounds/voices, but rather to hear more clearly the voice/sound of the One, the Voice of Truth.  As I listen, there is peace and rest for my soul.
This author, John Philip Newell, is new to me.  In looking him up, I learned that he will be going on a pilgrimage from April 27--May 4 to Iona, Scotland, and other places.  Cool.  He has a website, SalvaTerra.  You can read his biography here.  Another interesting person from whom I can learn.
What a great thought to contemplate... that "All things carry within themselves the sound of the One."  Do you hear it?  Are you listening?
When you get distracted, what do you do to be able to hear more clearly the sound of the One?
Blessings as you seek to hear more clearly,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A mid-day moment to refocus.... some words from Jesus Calling

Do you ever find yourself going along pretty good and then all of a sudden you're spiraling down out of nowhere to nowhere?!?!  If not, that's wonderful for you!!  Today, I had such a moment (and I get them from time to time) as I began to see how much reading I have to catch up on in my John Wesley course and how much reading I need to do in order to earn the extra credit, which I feel I so desperately need.

I started out decent this morning, focused even.  I started on my to-do list (though I still haven't emailed folks about the May retreat) and dealt with a variety of other things that came my way.  I read the sermon for this week's topic and wrote and posted my response to the question of the week. 

I even made homemade chocolate chip cookies for the Wesley Center while doing these things.

But, then, all of a sudden, the overwhelming stress of all these pages that I need to read hit me, along with some arrows hitting me in other areas.

I finally needed to get my cup of Kenya tea and pick up Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.   These are the words that I read:

From April 21: "LET ME CONTROL YOUR MIND.  The mind is the most restless, unruly part of mankind."  [Tell me about it!]  "Open yourself to My radiant Presence, letting My Light permeate your thinking.  When My Spirit is controlling your mind, you are filled with Life and Peace." 

Ah, peace!  That is what my mind, heart, and soul need..... and in order to get it, I need for the Holy Spirit to be in control of my mind.  Whew!  Easier said than done.... at least for me at times. 

From April 22: "LISTEN TO ME CONTINUALLY."  "Walk with Me in holy trust, responding to My initiatives rather than trying to make things fit your plans." "When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice."

From today, April 23: "KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME, not only for direction but also for empowerment.  I never lead you to do something without equipping you for the task."

In the midst of my re-focusing time, I got a call from my stepson.  That caused me to lose focus for a mintue or two (or 15), but we did have a good conversation about housing and possibilities.  So, it wasn't too bad of an interruption. ☺

Now that there is peace restored into my spirit, it is time to read sermons and books for class.

How do you handle those moments of crazy stress?  Are you able to find peace in the storm and refocus your mind on the Divine Creator? 

Being able to decipher through those multitude of thoughts in order to hear the One Voice of Truth is not necessarily easy, but it is worth the work of trust!

Blessings on wherever you are on the journey!  May there be peace in your heart, mind, and soul!


Becoming a contemplative...

There are several sources on Facebook (yes, Facebook!) that I rely upon for inspiration and encouragement in my faith: Shalem Institute and Contemplative Photography are two of them.  There are others.  Regularly they post quotes or reflections, along with photographs.  This is part of my reflection time during the day.

This morning I went looking for Shalem Institute's recent postings because nothing was coming up from them in my feed (which, by the way, many things don't show up in my feed.... but hey, that's Facebook).  I went to their page, scrolled down and found that they had posted their most recent quote 13 hours ago.  I cannot repost the picture, but it was a white dogwood tree budding in Spring.  (I may go take a picture of my own white [or pink] dogwood tree.)

As I read the quote (and re-read it), it struck me and resonated within me. 

Here it is:

"What is becoming more apparent by the day is that we must all become contemplatives, not merely in the way we reflect or pray, but in the way we live - awake, alert, engaged, ready to respond in love to the groanings of creation. Human life depends upon our living this way."

~ Judy Cannato, Radical Amazement
Wow!  This is a great way to put contemplative living.... as living "awake, alert, engaged, ready to respond in love to the groanings of creation." 
This is an author whom I know nothing about.  But that won't last very long.  From Judy's webpage [click here], I learned that she is no longer with us physically on this terrestrial ball, BUT that she was quite the author, speaker, and retreat leader.  Looking through the four books she wrote and the quotes from other authors on her books, I saw several authors I recognized recommending her.  Among them were Macrina Weiderkehr and Joyce Rupp.  I have just now added one of Judy's books to my Amazon wish list. ☺
I have grown into living a more contemplative life, living a more reflective life.  This is primarily taken place because I have put myself into situations that have allowed me time and space to listen, to be silent, to be in solitude. 
Jesus was a contemplative, taking time to get away for prayer.  This enabled him to be alert, engaged, and ready to respond in love to the groanings of all those he encountered daily. 
Contemplative living is part of the ebb and flow of the inner and outer journey.  What strikes me as odd I guess is that this isn't something I remember hearing about growing up or in my earlier years along the faith journey.  Maybe I heard it and didn't remember.  Or maybe folks didn't talk about it or didn't know about it.  I don't know.  
What I do know is that "contemplative" is part of the journey (at least my journey) in following Christ.  How can it not be when it includes prayer and reflection?!?! 
Now I have a new quote to add to the bunch to inspire me and press me onward, to help me flow from that inner to outer.
Thank you Judy Cannato for your words of inspiration!  Thank you Shalem Institute for once again posting a quote that caused reflection!
Blessings on your journey today,

Monday, April 22, 2013

Living through the transitions, allowing my wings to dry...

April 4, 2013 (look for Chrysalis in top right quandrant, about 2 o'clock).

April 6, 2013-- emerged and letting the wings dry

My life continues to be one of ongoing transitions.  I think that is typical for us all along our journey.  Maybe it is more acute at times than others.

Having transitioned from being on the Academy journey to now being out of it, I'm in a "holding pattern" in some ways from that transition.  Likely because it is still so recent.  I'd say that I'm in the stage of having emerged from the chrysalis and allowing my wings to dry before I can fly.  And the image of the chrysalis and the butterfly that emerged during our last week will forever be etched in my memory because it was such a perfect and beautiful example of our journey.... ending, yet beginning.  It was an "accident" that one of the participants brought the chrysalis.  He had cut a rose from his garden to bring and only noticed the chrysalis upon arrival.  It became a sacred moment, a sacrament to me.... and to many.

My grandmother has recently been transferred to an assisted living facility.  This is a transition mainly for her I realize.  Yet, it is one for me as well.  I know that I am called to visit her weekly at her new place of residence.  This means a time of transition in my time management and daily life as I let go of some things to make room for her. 

I was blessed to have three grandmothers growing up.  And, I had special relationships with all three, in different ways.  This grandmother is now at a time and place where she recognizes me, yet sometimes forgets how I fit into the family puzzle.  Last week she asked if I was her niece as they were doing introductions at Citrus Social at the center.  I reminded her I was her grand-daugther.  It's okay with me.  I realized that I don't always know what piece of the puzzle I am in the family of God at times. ☺  Besides, we all fit, regardless of name, size, shape, etc.

This grandmother studied at Emory University and earned her Masters of Christian Education in 1962 after having raised her two daughters by herself for quite a few years.  She was involved in public education and had studied French.  In her earlier years she studied at the Teachers College in Statesboro (now Georgia Southern University).  She was a Stephens Minister in her church.  She was very involved in prayer and Bible Study.  I imagine I owe some thanks to her and her groups and friends for prayers lifted on my behalf over the years.  She showed me by example how to love "the other woman" and never spoke ill of my third grandmother.  That became important to me later in life when I went through things in my first marriage and then when I myself struggled.

So now as she enters a new phase of her life, it is time for me to give back to her.  I can give her my time and my presence.  She may not always know where I fit in, but she seems to recognize me and know me.  So far.  I don't know when that will change.  It doesn't matter.  I will walk this journey with her and with my mom and dad.  I will offer what I have.

Another transition I am going through is the laity/clergy transition.  This is one long transition!! ☺  In many ways I see it more as a merger and personally think that I have been "claity" for a while now.  I have been and will continue to be a bridge between the two.  Yet, I move more into some roles that are more one than the other.  One example for me is in the Emmaus community.  I worked a Women's Walk this past weekend.  I had the honor, privilege, and blessing to be an Assistant Lay Director [ALD] on this walk and to give one of the talks.  It was a wonderful weekend!  Even though I slipped on wet concrete and skinned my knee; even though I almost lost my voice a few times (maybe some would have liked that ☺);  even though a blood vessel popped in my left eyelid for some unknown reason and started bruising on Saturday; even though migraines came the morning of my talk....it was a tremendous weekend!!  I tried to remain as present and as poured out as possible so that God could work in and through me.  This was my last laity position and walk in our community.  I thought about it some, though I tried not to.  I had two community members that came up to serve meals mention it to me.  That was humbling and encouraging.  One simply said welcome into the new role in the community and another came by as I was eating a meal and said something to the effect of "we can call you pastor now".  Even though I am not quite to the ordained place yet, I am at a place (Certified Candidate) where I can be an Assistant Spiritual Director in the community.  I applied and my application was accepted.  I may not be asked for a while, but that's okay.  God will work it out for when I am to work a walk as an Assistant Spiritual Director (ASD).  I actually felt inside me that last April was my last laity walk.  God was preparing me.  But there was one more.  Why exactly?!?!  I don't know.  Was there one particular reason I was up there this weekend?!?!  I don't know.  I know that I was humbled, blessed, filled, emptied out, filled again, etc.  I know I was where I was supposed to be.  And, now.... I transition to a new place in the community.  I'm out of the chrysalis.  But my wings aren't quite dry yet.  I plan to be still and wait.... let them dry.  I will know when it's time to fly. 

What transitions are there along your journey?  How are you living into them?  Don't forget to allow your wings to dry. 

Be still and know that God will prompt you when it is time to fly.

Blessings on your journey,


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Expanding the Kingdom

From a discussion yesterday came some thoughts as I was driving along in my rolling sanctuary to visit my grandmother. 

In the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of believers, too often it is about the boundaries and the borders that separate each of us-- the doctrines, the beliefs, the traditions.  This seems to be because even though we claim loyalty to a larger Kingdom, we hold tightly to the closest piece of property to us that might be known as "denomination" or "non-denomination".  Though all one ultimately, we are divided.  And we spend way too much time, energy, and resources in and on our individual plots than if we were to pool them together for the larger Kingdom.

What if we lived primarily as Kingdom dwellers, people of the Kingdom rather than holding on to our own turf?  What if we shared our resources, talents, time, and energy?  What if we worked together? 

Is this possible?

I think it is.  I realize that many will think I hold an idealistic view of God's people coming together as one.  However, I believe there was someone else who taught that we were to be one and unified as well. 

How can this be done, you ask?  Before I answer, you remind me that we all have too many differences to be able to get along in the Kingdom. 

Ah..... Yes, we have differences.  And, that is a blessing.  That means we are truly the BODY and have different gifts and parts and can share our gifts and talents, etc.  To make the Kingdom expand and unified rather than to be a divided place, it is my belief that we live into the two commandments given by Christ that encompass the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. 

Simply put: Love God; love others.

But, it's not simple. Loving God and loving others is an ongoing journey of learning, trial and error, grace and mercy, forgiveness, ups and downs, ins and outs.  At least this is my experience. 

And, in case you wonder, yes.... I am one of those that claim turf in the Kingdom.  As I've shared before, I grew up in the Episcopal church and am in the United Methodist church these days (and have been since 1987).  Yet, as I am in this particular denomination, I recognize the importance for all of us to share with one another and to learn from one another. 

I mentioned that I believed this can be done.  Not only do I believe it, I have experienced this unified Kingdom. I have experienced it in various communities where we have come together as one body and have put aside our differences in order to worship together, to learn together, to grow together, to serve together, etc. It can be done.  I think it comes down to whether or not we are willing to do this for the sake of the Kingdom.

I know I'm not alone in recognizing that Kingdom boundaries don't need to be drawn so tightly in the sand (so to speak) that we aren't able to cross them. 

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was an Anglican his entire life.  Though he founded the Methodist faith, he kept his ties with the Anglican church.  Methodism was originally intended to be a movement anyway.

Jesus Christ is another example for me.  Though Christ taught a new way that radically challenged people, Christ wasn't a Christian, but remained in and of the Jewish faith.  The message he shared was for all people.

What these two examples show me is that if we can rise above our doctrinal differences and focus on the more important aspects of Kingdom living, then maybe, just maybe we can learn to live together as Kingdom dwellers here on earth. 

Maybe then, when folks enter the eternal aspect of the Kingdom, we won't be so shocked or surprised to see "so and so" there.

May all of our pieces of the Kingdom start to expand their borders, maybe even lose their borders, so that we all become a unified Kingdom.

Blessings on your journey,


Friday, April 12, 2013

Making the connection in order to have power...

So when my daughter and I got in the car last night to head off to her birthday dinner and a meeting I had, my husband's car wouldn't start once again.  YIKES!  What is it with this battery?!?!  I got the jumper box and cables and plugged it in and jumped it off.  In talking with my husband he suggested I run by Auto Zone and ask them to check the connections, just in case.  Besides, we were expecting storms, rains, and possible tornados.  He really preferred that I cancel my evening plans and stay at home.  But that wouldn't have been an adventure.

So off to Auto Zone we go.  And sure enough, we quickly learn that the issue is a $2.20 fix with a battery post shim to since the connection on one side wasn't tight enough.  The battery shim fits right over the knob and snugly fits then inside the connector piece.  Voilà. 

It got me to thinking a little bit.

Physically, spiritually, emotionally, metaphorically, and talking about real batteries, there are days when my "battery" is dead.  Assessing the situation is important in order to figure out what the best plan of action and solution is.  Typically, I'm going to guess that maybe I left a door ajar or a light on for too long to drain it.  Or, maybe I will think that I had a slow leak that drained all the power and energy.  It could be that the battery needs replacing.  Yet, what it might truly and really be is that the connector isn't securely or snugly on the source of power.  In this case, all that is needed is something between the power source knob and the connection to fill in that gap so that the power connects and stays connected. 

For me, the Holy Spirit as Guide and Teacher often becomes that filling in of gap to keep me connected.  Also, the community/the body of believers can be that shim that keeps me closer to the Power.  Prayer and Scripture, along with silence and solitude can keep me close to the Power.

So next time when I'm feeling drained of Power, I'll check the connection to see if it has gotten loose.  I will take steps to tighten it if possible or find ways to shore it up, so to speak, narrowing the gap between the connection and the source.

Have you checked your battery lately?  How is your connection to your Power source?

Blessings on the journey!

Debra ☺

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A crazy car morning.... yet, peace in the midst of it all.

This morning my husband's car was the one in back and it wouldn't start.  The battery was stone cold dead.  Dead as a door knob.  You get the picture.  There was no juice whatsoever in there.  NADA (nothing).  So, we rushed around to get the battery and planned to plug it in and put it on "jump" mode so we could hopefully get the kid to school on time or slightly late.  We got everything set up and I sat back in the driver's seat and noticed the engine lights were on, so I tried to crank it and it cranked.  My husband was staring at me through the windshield with the clips in his hand saying he hadn't even attached them yet.  ODD!!  The clock showed the battery had been working for 3 minutes.  Very crazy.

I facilitated/taught a Bible Study this morning in downtown Chattanooga.  After it was over, I got back in my car and the ignition wouldn't move.  It has been doing that off and on and we had the ignition replaced once before.(what we thought was a year ago, but turned out to be 4 years and 1 day ago--4/10/09).  I tried for about 30 minutes to get the key to turn over.  I wiggled it.  I tried to feel the key in the ignition and magically move everything to work together, to no avail.  Usually I can get it to work within 5-8 minutes.  Not today.  And today, my friend Kathleen had made it back to Bible Study with me, so she was stuck too.  I was able to contact insurance who contacted a towing company.  Kathleen and I got to walk up and down the block for about 20 minutes.  The towing company came.  My new friend Jeremy got things set up and then told me he needed the key so he could turn it over to put the car into neutral.  I told him that the ignition wouldn't budge and that's why he was there. ☺  Thankfully, Toyotas have a button you can push to put the car in neutral.  I learned something today.  We rode in the cab of the tow truck to Firestone.  If that were on my bucket list, I could cross it off.  I may write it in. ☺  It was a pleasant ride from downtown to Firestone and we had a good conversation.  It was enjoyable.  Why not try to make the most of rough situations?!?!

We got to Firestone.  It was my buddy Bill's day off.  Maybe that's best.  Because he probably would have given me a hard time.  That's when I learned it had been 5 years and a day instead of one year that we had the ignition replaced last.  After making all the arrangements, I went out back to get the key and talk to the tow guy again.

Guess what?!!?  He had gotten the car to start.  And, so did I.  But, I left it there anyway because this has been going on for a while again and there's only so much that graphite can cure.  Besides, what if this was my opportunity to get it fixed before it happened and I was stuck somewhere not so safe?!?!

Firestone called me this afternoon to tell me that they finally got it to lock up.  YEAH!!  There is some concern about whether or not this particular ignition needs to be key-coded or not (a matter of $$) but they are checking into it. 

I am good with whatever needs to happen so that this car that has gotten me many miles can continue to run for at least 5 more years or so (it's a 2000 with about 196,000 miles). 

Kathleen's husband picked us up, we ran through Starbuck's so I could get them an offering of thanks, and they dropped me off at Bi-Lo so I could get my husband's car.  He wasn't there, so I walked to Wendy's to get the keys. 

Whew!  And, how/why HIS car died over night?!?!  He probably left the lights on by mistake or didn't close the door well.  After all, he didn't get home until about 9:45pm due to the robbery at the pharmacy last night.  Yep, you read that correctly.  His pharmacy got robbed last night.  BUT, nobody was hurt and since this guy has done this before locally, they are hopefully going to catch him. 

Crazy stuff happens in life.  I try to see them as adventures and opportunities. 

And, of all days, today is our daughter's 12th birthday. ☺  Happy Birthday!

I took my Jesus Calling devotion to Bible Study with me today to "bless" them with today's message.  I had NO IDEA how much this message would be something I would need to hear and would need to live into today.   I am grateful that I haven't complained and have been able to have peace that flows deeper than I am aware.... even when the adrenaline rush flows.

Here is the devotion for April 11 from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Maybe it speaks to where you are today and/or something you have experienced.

"THIS IS THE DAY THAT I HAVE MADE.  Rejoice and be glad in it.  Begin the day with open hands of faith, ready to receive all that I am pouring into this brief portion of your life.  Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather, since I am the Author of your circumstances.  The best way to handle unwanted situations is to thank Me for them.  This act of faith frees you from resentment and frees Me to work My ways into the situation, so that good emerges from it.
     To find joy in this day, you must live within its boundaries.  I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four-hour segments.  I understand human frailty, and I know that you can bear the weight of only one day at a time.  Do not worry about tomorrow or get stuck in the past.  There is abundant Life in my Presence today." (page 106)

Scriptures: Psalm 118:24; Philippians 3:13-14

Handling unwanted situations in thankfulness and continuing onward on this adventurous journey,

May you find joy in this day!

Debra ☺

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Processing on my way home Sunday in my rolling sanctuary.... (OR, "Riding along in my automobile...")

This past Sunday was the last day of Academy #32.  After the final worship time, I had my trip home in my car ("rolling sanctuary") to process the week.  Well, to start processing the week.  I will be processing various aspects of the week for a long time to come, possibly a life time.  I have grown and changed over these past two years.... but that is not the focus of this post. (Nor is the focus the song with the lyrics that came to mind as I wrote the title of this blogpost and added: "Riding along in my automobile".  ☺

The passing of the peace was held until the end of our worship time.  Though there was quite a bit of time to go around and share the peace of Christ/«la paz» with one another, I didn't come in contact with everyone in the room.  But that's okay.   There is that sense of peace that transcends and goes out to one another, even when you're not able to say it.... even when it's the last time officially for that particular setting.

So...the worship time closes, I get my things together, and head to the car.  I spent the first 45 minutes in silence.  You might say that I played my "Quaker tape of silence" for those first 45 minutes.  I guess I owe Kathryn D. some money for her "tape". Kathryn, if you happen to see this, as they say, "check's in the mail". ☺

For the rest of the trip, I listened on and off to music in Spanish and English and had silence. 

I found it interesting the message(s) I heard in both Spanish and English from the wide variety of songs that I heard.  Normally I would include all the lyrics and a link to the song, but for this time, I'm going to only include the phrases the stood out to me.  I will translate the Spanish ones into English. 

Here goes:
  • "I will trust in You alone... where you go, I'll go...I will follow you"
  • "This is where the healing begins"
  • "He's not finished with me yet"
  • "When the path is daunting and every step exhausting"
  • "scandal of grace"
  • "I will live to love a world that's been broken... Power of your name... and go beyond the religion to see the world changing... to be the hands and feet"
  • "From where I'm standing it's hard to see... when I'm lost in the mystery... I can't wait to see how all the pieces fit"
  • "Bless the Lord, O my soul"
  • "Remind me who I am again... I belong to you"
  • "Here I go... sink or swim... I'm diving in, I'm going deep"
  • "I will walk by faith"
  • "If you want to steal my show... I'll sit back and watch you... my plans... my heart... take it away"
  • "I'm not who I used to be, I am redeemed.... I'm not who I was"
  • "Be still, there is a healer... you are my refuge, my strength"
  • "If there is a road I should walk, God help me to find it"
  • "Let my life be the proof of your love.... let my love look like you"
  • «Mi vida te entrego... un gozo nuevo... pasión... tú me apasionas» ("I give my life to you.... a new joy... passion... you give me passion") [Note: I'm using "give", but there are other ways to put both these two... keeping it simple.  Example: entregar= to turn in, to turn over. «te entrego» then could be: "I turn over to you"/"I turn in to you"]
  • «Bendito Jesús, mi deseo eres tú... eres mi fuente de amor» ("Blessed Jesus, my desire is you, you are my fountain of love")
  • «Tengo una nueva dirección» ("I have a new direction")
  • «Dios está en control» ("God is in control")

There may have been more, but this is what I noted.  The 520.6 mile trip from the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, FL to Hixson, TN took me 10 hours and 21 minutes this time.  That's quite a bit of music, along with some silence. 

Granted, this may not mean anything to anyone but myself.  But knowing the journey I have been on these past two years... and knowing the place that music has in it... Spanish and English, I know and recognize that these songs were speaking the voice of truth into me as I drove from one "home" to another on Sunday. 

The songs we sang during worship times during the week spoke to me at times and I hope to have an opportunity to reflect on that sometime in the near future too. 

Several of the songs I heard on the radio and on the Spanish CD were songs I knew and were familiar with... while others were new or less known to me.  I think if I were to examine the words that caught my attention and spoke to me most (audio divina?), I might recognize a thread of connection through them with one another and with my calling and journey. 

What words in songs speak to you? 

Blessings as you journey along and as you process and reflect upon that journey,


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

So much to sort through, so much to get back to doing... Tug of War in the re-entry

Re-entry. Once again I'm in that re-entry space. I'm back home. It's wonderful to be back home again from my Academy week. Yet, there is so much in my heart, mind, and soul that hasn't been fully processed (especially since this was the last session of the 2 year Academy for me).

There is so much floating around that needs contemplation/reflection time. Yet, there is MUCH to be done here at home. Laundry, this week's readings and assignments, catching up on e-mails, preparing to teach the ladies on Thursday, preparing for Thursday evening's meeting, preparing for my daughter's birthday and celebration, ETC.

There is a tug-of-war going on within me for my time and energy as I attempt to live into this place of honoring all that I need to be and do on both planes. Once again I find myself living into the tension. This is becoming a normal place of life for me. And, that's okay. There are many paradoxes in life and living into the "being" and "doing" is one of them.

Though I have so much that I want and need to process right now, I simply cannot. I will need to settle for short moments of processing and I will most likely make a list of those things that strike me most. And, then I hope for some time to work through it later. ☺

Meanwhile, I have made a "to-do" list of what I need to accomplish today back in my "normal" world. I will do what I can. I don't feel that I'm fully back yet. Maybe being fully back isn't the goal. I would hope that I don't fully engage as I was prior, but as I have become... whatever that means. ☺

I don't know where you are in your journey. Maybe you are living into the paradox of "being" and "doing" with much grace and ease. If so, blessings!! [There are some days like this, for which I am grateful!] But, maybe you are experiencing a tug-of-war like I am today. If so, blessings to you as well.

Wherever you are today in your journey, may you find peace as you work through ins and outs of the day.  There is peace in the tug-of-war even, at least for me, once I recognize it for what it is and simply attempt to do what it is that I can do and live into each moment that I have.

I may not fully be able to live into my desire to "be still" today because of all that I need to focus on and do. Yet deep down beneath all of this, there is the stillness and the peace that resides and flows.

Ah, living into the tensions and the paradoxes of life... now that's life-giving!


Debra ☺

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wind, Water, and Fire!


Yes, you read the title correctly: "Wind, Water, and Fire!" and no, I did not get confused on the name of the band.  I know that is "Earth, Wind, & Fire".  But, I'm not talking about the band here.  Rather I'm talking about the literal and spiritual elements of water, wind, and fire.  However, if my title or my reference has caused you to rabbit trail back into the musical years, might I suggest that you check out "September"?  [The lyrics are included on this link.]

Okay, now that you've checked out many of their hits and you're grooving to the music, I'll share these elements.

As I stood out by Lake Griffin yesterday in the breeze, it struck me that there is something that brings me to life when I am in the wind or breeze and when I am near water. 

The wind can be gentle or strong, but not so strong as I'm having to fight my way up the museum steps in Chicago. ☺

The water can be a creek, a lake, an ocean, a waterfall, a trickle, a stream.... it doesn't matter.  If the water is simply still and reflecting or flowing, it doesn't matter. 

The wind and the water bring peace into my soul.  They flow around me, through me, fill me. 

Fire.  No, I haven't forgotten that I mentioned fire.  We haven't had any bonfires this week, but we have had candles and flames because of them.  Fire is another element that calms me.  I spend time at my firepit for silence and solitude back at home.  I enjoy campfires while camping or at a camp or retreat setting.  There is something sacred and holy about the fire too.  The flames dance in front of me and the embers burn brightly.  There are always lessons in the fire for me.

Each of these elements--wind, water, and fire--bring peace into my soul.  They calm the storm of life, even if they themselves are not so calm.  These have always been important to me, going back into my childhood.  I imagine I'm not the only one who finds peace for the soul in these elements, yet I wonder if it says anything particular about me..... or not.

Each of these elements also carry a spiritual significance.  The wind of the Holy Spirit, "ruach".... it blows where it may.  There are other references to it... and maybe one day I'll explore that in more detail.  The water of life... those who drink it won't be thirsty.  The fire of the Holy Spirit that burns off dross, cleanses, and purifies.  A verse that is dear to me is Isaiah 43:2--"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."

Each of these elements can be harnessed.  They can be controlled, to an extent.  They can be used for good..... or they can cause damage or harm.  I'm sure you've heard of the expression that goes something like this: 'If you play with fire, eventually you'll get burned.'  I know that to be true.  These are elements to respect, physically and spiritually.  To be careful with, yet to not be afraid.  There's that paradox and living in the tension again.  It comes up so often on the journey.  It's a wonderful thing!

On my spiritual journey, the elements of wind, water, and fire take on significant meaning and physically bring calm and peace into my soul.  One day, I'll take some time and explore more in depth the Scriptures with these because I know there are numerous references.  But, for the moment, they are not in my brain... nor do I have time.  I've got to get going here soon. ☺

Having the time to reflect on these things yesterday and today is what brought all this into mind.  Reflection time is helpful, healthy, and necessary if I am to know myself and my Creator better.

Now that you're singing "September" or any other number of songs, and wondering why you read about wind, water, and fire, I'll leave you to think about this question:

What calms and brings peace to your soul?

Blessings on your journey!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jesus has his eyes on on me.... no matter where I am or where I go

On the altar this morning there was a relief work of Jesus.  Actually in the dark, I couldn't see that it was a relief work, I learned that later.  All I could tell is that wherever I went, Jesus' eyes were on me.  If I squatted down, Jesus looked down at me.  If I moved to the left, Jesus' eyes followed me.  So, there I was, in front of the altar moving left, right, up, and down, playing with Jesus.  Wow!  How amazing!  It was fun and weird at the same time.  And, it touched me somewhere deeper.  Yes, there were two other people in the worship space lighting candles, but they weren't bothered by my weirdness.

I later learned that this piece of art came from Argentina.  I don't know who made it.  I took pictures after our prayer time of Jesus' eyes following me around and of the backside of the art piece too.

Interestingly, this piece of art and the thought of Jesus having his eyes on me no matter where I am or where I go also fits in with today's reading of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. 

"I MEET YOU in the stillness of your soul. It is there that I seek to commune with you.  A person who is open to My Presence is exceedingly precious to Me.  My eyes search to and from throughout the earth, looking for one whose heart is seeking Me.  I see you trying to find Me; our mutual search results in joyful fulfillment.
     Stillness of soul is increasingly rare in this world addicted to speed and noise.  I am pleased with your desire to create a quiet space where you and I can meet.  Don't be discouraged by the difficulty of achieving this goal.  I monitor all your efforts and am blessed by each of your attempts to seek My face." (April 4, p. 99)

Scripture references: Zechariah 2:13; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 23:2-3

Meeting Jesus in the stillness of my soul.  That brings peace deep down into my spirit when I make that meeting.  When I am able to step away from the busyness of life and the noise, and "be still" and quieten my soul so that I can simply "be" and listen to my Creator, there is truly joy and fulfillment and peace.  To be reminded that Jesus' eyes are searching me out and looking for me and at me, no matter where I am or where I go is assuring and comforting. 

To have read this devotional this morning and then to have gone into the worship space and to have experienced Jesus watching me and looking at me was a double blessing, putting the words into a living experience. 

May you meet Jesus in the stillness of your soul.  May you know that Jesus is looking for you and watching you, that Jesus' eyes are on you too.... no matter where you are or where you go.  May you find comfort and peace in that realization.

Blessings on your journey today,


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reflections from day #2 at session #8 of Academy #32-- alligator and assessment


This morning was a beautiful morning, though the clouds were out some.  When the sun came out, it was breezy and still cloudy somewhat.  Cool, yet not cold.  The water on the lake (Lake Griffin) was choppy before the morning prayer service and during the first reflection time.  It didn't really calm down until after the rain storm during the afternoon lecture.  The page where I'm at in my Advice from a River Guided Journal?!?! "Rough waters become smooth."   The waters did become smooth today.  So smooth in fact that I hoped I might see an alligator during the afternoon reflection time.

I was on the main dock and had been looking over the smoother waters.  Nothing.  But then I heard a "snort" behind me.  I turned and saw an alligator head sticking out barely above the water near the reeds, very close to the dock.  I was amazed and happy.  I watched it for a while, until it submerged.  It came back up later and swam off into the distance.  A little while later, I saw an alligator swimming back toward the dock, bobbing its head with the tiny waves.  Whether it was the same one or a different one, I do not know.  I watched it swim toward the reeds and go into them.

Seeing an alligator is a highlight for me on these Academy weeks at the Life Enrichment Center.  That may sound odd, but it is true.  In fact, it has become a part of my creation time and actually is a sacramental moment (per Leonard Boff's work on sacraments that I read several sessions back).  Watching the graceful creation of the Creator glide through the water somehow brings a peace and a calm into my spirit and is a beautiful thing to behold. 

Was seeing an alligator the highlight of my day?  No, though it was pretty good. ☺

Both sessions today were thought-provoking and helpful.  The faculty presenters this week are: Kathryn Damiano (morning) from Wichita, KS and Bishop Rafael Moreno-Rivas (afternoon) from Puerto Rico.   The focus of the morning session this week is "Sustaining our Life in Christ: A Rule of Life".  For the afternoon session the focus is: "Bearing Witness to the Reign of God in the World".

Though I'm not going to be able to reflect upon everything I'm thinking about and writing about in my journal, I will share some thoughts that have been on my mind today.

This morning's session got me started in thinking about what I have experienced these past two years and how I have grown / changed through the process.

I have begun to live into a rhythm of silence and solitude because of the Academy that has blessed me tremendously.  I have begun to live into my contemplative self.  I have learned to live into the questions, to not be so afraid of the unknown, and to continue living into the waiting times without needing or having to press for answers.  I am learning to listen more attentively to God.  I am learning to "be" instead of "do" and to balance more my "being" and "doing".  I have slowed down my pace of life significantly in the past two years, attempting to be more intentional and attentive to what I choose to do. I recognize that I am becoming who God created me to be and that the unfolding will continue, long after this last session of the Academy is over.

A tremendous blessing for me has been the bilingual nature of this Academy, plus some French thrown in (merci beaucoup, Stephane!).  Being able to speak Spanish and worship in Spanish has been a balm to my soul.  I have been part of a bilingual covenant group too.  In addition to the covenant part, the bilingual part has blessed me.

The English-speaking participants have been a blessing too.  There have been many conversations that have encouraged me over these past two years.  I have made connections within the body of Christ with brothers and sisters from all over that have significantly ministered to me.  And, like those episodes of "Survivor" when they go through the names at the end of the game and talk about the ones that are no longer there.... there are some people near and dear in my heart, mind, and soul that have needed to drop out for one reason or another... but they are still here in hearts and minds and memories.... and I am blessed by them as well. 

The team and the Academy staff have been incredible in supporting this bilingual Academy and working hard to make it happen.  The faculty over the two years have been incredible too.  I have been blessed by their presentations and table fellowship moments. 

I have been encouraged by what I have read and what I've heard as some of it has resonated deep within.  I have also been stretched by what I've read and what I've heard. I have grown in my spiritual journey.

I have been encouraged and supported in my personal journey as I have made decisions and lived through life things.

The reflections of the past to the present and preparing for the future have started.... they will continue.  There is a deep peace in my spirit and I am super grateful for this opportunity.

It is amazing to look back to that Fall 2010 5-day Academy in TN at Camp Garner Creek when I first learned of a 2 year bilingual Academy and had my breath literally sucked out of me...... and to fast forward to now to being at my final session of this 2 year journey. 

This week has only just begun.... I desire to remain open to God for whatever God has for me this week.  I have been blessed so much already simply by being here and re-connecting with community.

My journey of growth and change is not over.... it will not be over until it is truly "over".  I look forward to continued learning, growing, and changing. 

My goal is to love God and love others; to be more attentive and more intentional in the ordinary aspects of the daily life.

Blessings on your journey,


Academy #32, Session #8-- Celebration! ¡Celebración!

It is here.  Session #8 of the Academy.  Academy #32 has been a tremendous experience for me.  It has been a bilingual Academy and that has been a huge blessing.  There is more to say about the Academy, but that will come later. 

For now, some brief thoughts about the beginning of our week together for our final week.

The word for yesterday as we gathered was "celebration" / «celebración».  And that is what this week is ultimately.  We have the opportunity to reflect and celebrate all that God has done for us, in us, and through us over these past two years. 

I am looking forward to the learning this week and the reflecting. 

Last night's Word and Table celebration was a blessing.  Our theologian on the team, Cathy Thacker, gave the homily and spoke about the celebration of the father when his son returned (Luke) and the heavenly banquet in Revelation.  She also spoke about how communion time can be a celebration time as we celebrate our relationship with the Lord (paraphrased). 

That struck me because too often we tend to be quite somber in our "celebration" of the Last Supper/Eucharist/Holy Meal/Holy Communion.  And, yet, if we consider that we are doing this in remembrance of Christ and that we are doing it based on our relationship with Christ, wouldn't there be more joy and freedom!?!?!  If that is the case, then why the sad and/or somber faces during communion??  Sometimes I may be reflecting on something deep or heavy during a communion time that causes me to be reflective and more contemplative.... Yet, I wonder why I don't see it more as a celebration 'in remembrance'?!?!  Maybe it's simply not presented that way.  Something to think about.  There is joy and freedom as I think about my relationship with Christ and there is something to celebrate. 

This week we will celebrate Holy Communion daily, we will spend time together in community learning, in fellowship, in worship, and in silence.  We will also spend time alone in silence and solitude.

There is much to celebrate when I think about life, my life in Christ, my Creator who has created me and who patiently works in me, etc.

Though I will try to not be a stumbling block to those who desire to remain somber during their communion experiences, if you see me smiling or even laughing quietly while I am partaking of the elements, please know that I am basking in my relationship with the One whom I am remembering.

Let's celebrate!


Monday, April 1, 2013

Holy Hope, Batman!

Today has been a day in which I have needed to regain hope.  Have you ever been there?  The opposite of hope is despair.  We can find ourselves "there" for any number of reasons.  It isn't wrong or bad to be there.  It's just not a place we want to hang out for a long period of time.  My philosophy is that I will attempt to learn from being there and then get out! ☺

So, what sent me to despair today?  Ultimately, me.  One of my weakness areas showed up today and wrestled me to the ground.  It was unavoidable.  I had my mid-term in my John Wesley theology course today.  We covered 35 sermons, one book, and several chapters out of two other books.  In addition, I read the 45 page class notes the professor had posted in hopes that it would help me.  That's quite a bit of reading.  There was quite a bit to know.  And, going into this test, I knew that I don't do well in situations like this.  If I don't have a target to focus upon, to study, to practice, etc., then I generally don't do well.  My brain doesn't do well on tests that cover loads of information.  My learning style is such that I can apply what I learn and can practice information over and over to get it back out of my head, if I have some type of guidelines. 

The test had two essays.  No 2 out of 3, simply 2.  So, my brain had no choice but to go through all the information I had read and attempted to study and try to come up with a well-written answer.  I can tell you that I did not do well in this attempt.  For me, it's like a shot gun approach or pulling information out of a black hole.  What it will tell you, as I could have already told you is this:  I am not an intellectual.  I work hard to learn whatever I learn.  I don't have a "high" vocabulary.  I don't do well on standardized tests (SAT, GRE). 

Even knowing what I was up against, it still broke me when I opened the test.  I knew I was doomed the moment I started reading the questions.  And that was a difficult place to be.  I'm not a dumb person; I'm just not someone who can read tons of information and recall it.  I would like to say it's an age thing, but I really haven't ever been able to do that.  You can look back at history and literature classes from high school to college.... even music class in college (uh, maybe I'll share that story one day).  I don't do well in learning/testing situations like this.  I do my best to find ways around it or through it, but sometimes there simply isn't a way.

So, what do you do when you're not an intellectual and you're in a situation that requires it?!?!  Well, today, the thought crossed my mind: GIVE UP!  QUIT!  But, I quickly shooed that away.  I did make it through one Master's program (when I was younger) and I am almost 2/3 done with this one.  So, giving up and quitting are not really options.  So, what did I do?  The best I could.  I attempted to answer the questions to the best of my ability, remembering whatever came into my mind. 

What gives me hope?  The fact that it is okay to be weak in this area of learning and testing.  God uses our weaknesses.  It may not feel good, but I will survive.  I need to be aware of my weaknesses so that in life and in ministry I will have others around me that are strong in those areas.  My weak areas, when forced to be used, will simply reveal a very vulnerable me. ☺ 

I have felt despair when I was tired of being tired and/or tired of the pain from kidney stones, frozen shoulder, etc.  Yet, those can and have been stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks too.  I have been able to learn and grow from those situations.  Living into who we are and where we are in life isn't always easy.  Yet, for me, I need to remember that WHO I am is a child of God and WHOSE I am is the same.  So, even in my weaknesses-- mental, physical, spiritual, emotional--God has me.  This is what gives me hope.

My circumstances won't always be pleasant or easy or within my control.  But, I am not called to keep my eyes on my circumstances.  In fact, I was gently reminded today that this is what I am called to:

"I AM CALLING YOU to a life of constant communion with Me.  Basic training includes learning to live above your circumstances, even while interacting on that cluttered plane of life.  You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with Me can be uninterrupted.  But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.  Accept each day just as it comes, and find Me in the midst of it all."  (paragraph 1, Jesus Calling, April 1)

My day was cluttered emotionally.... and well, there is still quite a bit to be done before I head off to Academy #32-- session #8 (more about this later). 

The important thing for me today is that I have been reminded that communion with my Creator is what I am called to and that life's circumstances have a way of sending me right where I need to be.  Though I may wish I had a different type of brain that could do well on tests like those today, I am learning to be satisfied with how my brain is made.  It's okay to be simple, to apply learning in a way that allows me to speak languages, to meet people where they are when I teach, etc.  I don't need to be able to remember everything I read and learn in order to live out the calling God has placed on me.   What I need to do is live into my relationship with God and then live out that relationship with others.

May you live into the hope of Christ in you,