Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bless the Lord, O my soul.... what a day!

Today started off with being able to sleep in because there was no school for my daughter!  That was nice.  My main responsibility today was to teach a women's Bible Study from 10am--11:30am downtown.  Today was our last meeting of the year until next Fall.  We finished our study of Esther today, finishing up with chapters 9 and 10. We also finished the last segment of the video we've been watching along with our study, Esther by F. Murray Abraham.  It is the only film version of Esther I've seen so far and it honored the biblical text for the most part with a few artistic licenses here and there. 

After finishing the DVD, we talked about visiting Israel for a while because the movie led us to think about being able to be in the places of Biblical times.  I shared about my trip to Israel in 2000, the archaeological dig that I took with Associates for Biblical Research while I was teaching at Bryan College.  What a great trip that was!  David Fouts led our group from Bryan.  We got to go through Paris there and back and I got to use French!  In Israel, I got to dig (at Ai--see the link above for Associates for Biblical Research), see sights, touch the Western Wall, visit Yad Vashem, go to Jericho, En-Gedi, the Dead Sea, Hezekiah's Tunnel, Herod's place, Abraham's tomb, be above Jacob's well in an area folks weren't allowed in typically in Samaria because of our guide, go to Bethlehem, etc., etc., etc.  Some of the highlights were having the Scriptures opened up and read in location.  Very powerful.  Thinking about that trip today and sharing about it is bitter sweet.  That trip was a highlight in my spiritual journey.  Then several months later is when I got pregnant, wrestled with God, resigned my teaching position, and started a journey in which I learned more about God's grace and forgiveness in a tangible way than I had previously. 

I would like to pull out all my Israel pictures and put them into an album.  Maybe I can even find my journal from those days.  I have a smiley face yamaka (skull cap) that I bought on the streets of Jerusalem. 

Thinking about Israel makes me think back on my Bryan College days.... 12 years of teaching there.  Time in which I grew as a teacher and in my spiritual journey.  Time in which I went through difficult times in my first marriage and then a divorce.  Then, after the divorce, I went through another difficult time.  John Wesley would refer to it as "heaviness and wilderness state".  I refer to it as my roller coaster from hell.  When you love God and live for God, yet then struggle with self and sin, it's not a pretty picture.  

After leading/facilitating Bible Study this morning, I didn't go workout at Taekwondo (TKD) today because my left hip started hurting yesterday when I stand and walk.  I decided that crescent kicks... any kind of kick wouldn't be good.  And the searing pain that shoots up from the leg joint wasn't something I wanted to endure today.  If the pain persists, I'll be going to a doc to get it checked out.  I've been told I had minor arthritis in that area before.... so we'll see.

This afternoon, I met with a friend at Panera, one of my favorite "third places".  She is a fellow Lay Speaker/Servant and we get together periodically to check in, share, and see how we can pray for one another.  I have been able to hear her share God's Word from the pulpit and she is one on-fire lady for the Lord.  She is one of several folks that energize me spiritually.

While there at Panera, I did two double takes.  One was right after I had gotten my drink and was going to sit down.  There was Michael Palmer, one of my former colleagues from Bryan College.  I have seen him off and on through the years since I left Bryan.  It is always a blessing to see him and catch up with him.  Just another reminder of all the wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ I had the privilege to work with and be around during my time at Bryan.

Then, as my friend and I were leaving, this gentleman walks in and causes me to do another double take.  He is supposed to be in California, or so I thought.  David Masoner.  He was my boss when I resigned my position those years ago.  We had several talks throughout the year, especially when he learned why I had resigned.  Before that situation, he and his wife were instrumentally used by God to prepare me to be back home with my first husband right before my husband left me.  We ended up being together in the Charlotte, NC airport waiting on our delayed flight.  And, unbeknownst to any of us, they ministered to me in a way that sustained me tremendously and prepared me to arrive in Chattanooga and deal with what awaited me that day and the next... and the days to come. 

David and I chatted for a few minutes.  They moved back to this area last June.  He is involved in ministry with Northshore Fellowship and helping the new startup on the south end/shore.  I told him I thought of him and Barbara often and had thought of them in the recent past.  He didn't believe me.  But I have.  I can't remember if it was a few months ago or when, but I have.  "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" has been an important hymn for me since that airport God time.  In fact, if David searched through my blog, he'll find that I've written about him and Barbara before. ☺ I decided to look that up and found that I had written a post in October 2012 about the Red Sea Rule #6 in which I mentioned David and Barbara Masoner briefly.  That was last year.  See, David, you guys are on my mind... and had a bigger impact on my life in many ways than you ever knew.  (As did many of my colleagues and students at Bryan... and friends in the Dayton area.  I am grateful for those who supported me through the rough times of life!)

God has brought Bryan College into my thoughts and life today three times.  First through sharing about my Israel trip with the women's Bible Study and then through two former colleagues.  I have run into others over the years, unexpected and on purpose.  I am blessed to still be in contact with several folks I worked with and taught from my Bryan College days.  There is still a sore spot in my heart and soul though because of my past sin.  I am thankful that God has seen fit to wash me clean as snow. 

Through the meetings and conversations with all people today, I have been extremely blessed.  The song that rises from my heart to my mind is "Bless the Lord, O my soul".   My soul has been blessed to overflowing today.

Bless the Lord, O my soul (10,000 Reasons) lyrics:

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
You're rich in love and You're slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
10,000 reasons for my heart to find
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
10,000 years and then forever more
Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name (repeat 3x)
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name (repeat 3x)

Matt Redman YouTube version with lyrics

I don't know what you might be thankful for today.... a successful surgery, answered prayer, a wonderful 50th birthday yesterday, the opportunity to be with family and friends, simply being....

Maybe your soul will find a reason to bless the Lord today.  Mine did.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

¿Dónde está Jesús? / Where is Jesus? -- Session #8 of Academy #32

At the final session in April for Academy #32, I wondered where I might find Jesus and how Jesus might be dressed.  I wondered how Jesus might participate with the daily themes throughout the week, etc.

It was good to arrive to the Life Enrichment Center, get checked in and settled in, and head to the worship space for our first gathering before supper.

Jesus was already there in the worship space, awaiting our arrival.  The theme for the first day was "celebration" / "celebración".  Jesus was dressed in this colorful coat.  He had prayer beads in his right hand and he was next to the shell for us to remember our baptism.

Directly in front of Jesus was the altar.  For this day of celebration, it was decorated appropriately and beautifully.

Later in the week, one of the words for the day was "peace" / "paz".  Jesus was sporting this super cool jacket and was sitting up on the altar. 

Though it was kinda cool to see Jesus sitting around the candle, almost like a campfire, someone thought he might get burned, so they moved things around a little bit.  And, in this second picture you can also notice a beautiful addition-- an original art piece by one of our very own artists in residence.  (Look toward the left top corner.)

I didn't take as many pictures of Jesus this past session.  But in addition to Jesus being on the altar and the table where we remembered our baptism, Jesus was seen among the people during worship.  Sometimes he joined in for celebration of worship and at other times he simply sat in someone's lap during the service.  It was beautiful!

Having The Jesus Doll in our midst became part of the Academy experience for me, for us (I think I can speak for all of us).  For me, it became a sacrament as Leonardo Boff describes sacrament (and as I've shared about previously). 

Because of the meaningfulness of The Jesus Doll in this context, I took my Jesus Doll to the retreat I led last week.  Jesus sat in a chair toward the front of the room.  Before I ever could explain what it was and what people could do with it, one of the ladies had found him, picked him up, and brought him over to me exclaiming that Jesus was here.  She was hugging and holding him.  I didn't need to explain.  She got it.  That's why he was there.  Maybe someone needed a hug from Jesus.  Some one on one time. 

Another lady reflected on Jesus during the reflection time and used the physical presence for conversation time.  She got her one on one time with Jesus too.

Yesterday I bought some material so that Jesus could have some cool jackets like the ones at the Academy.  A friend mentioned that she could make the jackets for me.  I can't wait to share them and to use them in worship, retreat, etc. settings.

May there be peace, joy, and celebration in your day! 

May you run into someone today that lives out the tenets of Christ in your life so that you will come into contact with the physical presence of Christ today.

May you also be that physical presence of Christ for someone else today.

Loving God and loving others as the journey continues,


Monday, May 20, 2013

Pentecost Sunday.... Confirmation Day!

From left to right: Youth Director Bart Daniels, Associate Pastor Amy Nutt, Senior Pastor Rowland Buck.  Charlotte's head is under Rowland's hand.
This year Pentecost Sunday fell on May 19th.  I like Pentecost Sunday.  It's all about the Holy Spirit-- fire and wind stuff. ☺  The colors are reds, yellows, and oranges to represent fire (though officially, the main color is red). 

Often, this is the Sunday to promote graduating students, from high school, colleges, kindergarten, 5th grade, etc.  It is also a time for confirmation and new members and baptisms.  Whew!  This means it can be a wild and crazy time in the life of a church.

Yesterday in our church life was no exception.  We had an immersion baptism in the courtyard between services.  Though the rain could have provided the immersion experience, it held off long enough for the young confirmand to be baptized in a cool looking metal trough.

The second service was the one in which all the joining, moving up, recognition, confirming, and baptizing happened.

It was an extra special time for me because our daughter went through confirmation classes this year and was confirmed yesterday.

She was baptized September 23, 2001 by Dr. David Tabor when Charlotte and I attended Grace UMC.  Charlotte wanted to go through confirmation last year because she felt she was ready for it.  She even made an appointment to talk it over with the pastor.  I was proud of her for doing so.  Even though she was ready, they decided that she would wait until 6th grade to do it.  Though I knew she was ready and I know he knew she was ready, I respected (and respect) his decision and reasoning for the wait. 

At my last session of the Academy in April I visited the Cokesbury bookstore that was in its last days and found both a card and a gift for Charlotte's confirmation.

The card:

The verse on the inside is from Romans 8:26--"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness... that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words."
The inside of the card reads: "May God support you through every trial, that you may live a Christian life of love, holiness, and joy.  Congratulations on your confirmation."
The card is from The Printery House.  You can shop online at their website.
I was glad to find such a perfect confirmation card in the remains of the bookstore.
Confirmation is one step along the journey.  The confirmand takes for him/her self the vows that were once taken on his/her behalf.  My daughter has taken many steps along her spiritual journey.  From VBS to Camp Lookout to Annual Conference kids' time to mission trips to retreats to family discussions, etc.  She is listening and learning and growing in her spiritual journey.  At times she has provided spiritual direction and insight for me. 
What a joy and privilege to watch her take this step in the journey. 
I don't know where you are in your journey.  Wherever you find yourself,
May the Holy Spirit continue to blow and burn!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Journey Toward Abundant Living

Burks UMC labyrinth, dd Sept. 2012

In my reading this morning from A Guide to Prayer For All Who Seek God for Pentecost Sunday, I read this quote:

"Our journey toward abundant living is like walking a spiritual labyrinth repeatedly, from an ever deepening inner space.  We walk toward the center to be transformed by God's love; then we walk outward to transform our small space in the world by reflecting God's love.  There is no intention to trick us or get us lost along the journey.  But there is mystery.  Always mystery.  And awe.  And amazing grace."  --From Abundance by Marilyn Brown Oden

Several things in this quote caught my attention.

First, I enjoy walking a labyrinth for prayer and focus and I could relate to the "walking to the center" and then "walk outward" parts of the quote.  The quote also contains the rhythm of the spiritual life as modeled by Jesus: being transformed by God's love (inner/center) and then reaching out to others by reflecting God's love (outer).  Jesus spent time getting away to be with God in prayer for spiritual renewal throughout his ministry.  Jesus understood that in order to live out a life of ministry, one needed to be in constant connection with the Father.  This pattern is an inward/outward flow. 

Another aspect that caught my attention is the mystery.  There is mystery.  In seeking to know and understand the God of Creation, it isn't the mystery that I desire to figure out, but rather I seek to grow in the relationship.  Mystery can remain.  There is much I don't know and much I don't need to know. 

The term "abundant living" caught my attention too.  Who doesn't want to live life abundantly?!?!  Loving God and loving others is a way to live the abundant life. 

"Deepening inner space"-- there is a deepening inner space as this journey toward abundant living continues.  Deeper and deeper it seems to go.  When I think there is no farther deeper to explore, it is there.

I haven't heard of this author or her book before, so I checked her out.  It turns out that Marilyn Brown Oden has written 11 books to date, several of them novels.  The full title of the book that the above quote comes from is Abundance: Joyful Living in Christ.  It was published in 2002 by the Upper Room.  Besides being a writer, Marilyn is the wife to a retired United Methodist Bishop.  She has led retreats, counseled, traveled, taught, etc.  Two of her non-fiction books are centered around Advent and Lent.  They look like they would be good books for those seasons. 

This quote was a good one to cause me to pause, to allow me to slow down and reflect. 

How is your journey toward abundant living?  Are you walking toward the center and walking outward?  Are you being transformed by God's love and then reflecting that love to others?

Blessings on your journey!  Walk on!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Resting in the palm of God's Hand

Tree at Camp Dixie, dd 5/16/13
Yesterday was the retreat at Camp Dixie that I had been planning for the Thursday Bible Study I facilitate.  I would not have been able to pull it off without the help of other hands and feet. ☺  It was a blessed time of being apart at a beautiful location.  Though the morning started off a little cloudy, the sun came out and a breeze moved through.

The theme:  "Time Apart:  Sitting at the Feet of Jesus".  We looked at Jesus taking time apart for prayer and spiritual renewal and his rhythm of "being" and "doing" and then looked at Martha and Mary and how we could learn from their examples of "being" and "doing".

During the 2nd reflection time, I noticed the above tree from the backside and ventured over to it.  After looking it over for a moment, I decided it was climbable.  I was feeling a little anxious, though I couldn't tell you why and the closer I am to God's creation, the calmer I usually am.  So, I climbed up into the branches and leaned into the branch on the right.  As I gazed upon the waters, I became calmer.  My spirit began to rest once again.

I came down and went inside for my camera.  Came back out, climbed back up and took some pictures. ☺  More calmness.  Breathe in, breathe out.  It was now time for me to ring the chimes to bring everyone back from reflection time.

Though I thought about the tree looking like the palm of a hand and even labeled it thus in my photo album, it wasn't until an Academy friend pointed out that it could be the palm of "His" hand, that a light bulb went off in my head (I can be slow sometimes.) 

When I climbed up into the palm of my Creator's hand, I was able to rest and enjoy the creation around me.  Whatever was disturbing my spirit melted away into calmness.  What a gift.  Cool.  Neat. 

"God's got this." Whatever it is/was that was disturbing me?!?  God has it. 

At one of the prayer stations was a set of hands with a tiny bird inside.  Another example of resting in the palm of God's hands. 

I think of a song that Polly Cameron sang at Camp Skyline during camp days.... the line that sticks out?  "He will hold you in the palm of His hand."  The song is "On Eagle's Wings" and it was one of my many favorites that Polly sang.
The lyrics to the song:
You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord
Who abide in His shadow for life
Say to the Lord
"My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!"

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you
And famine will bring you no fear
Under His wings your refuge
His faithfulness your shield.

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

You need not fear the terror of the night
Nor the arrow that flies by day
Though thousands fall about you
Near you it shall not come.

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

For to His angels He's given a command
To guard you in all of your ways
Upon their hands they will bear you up
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand...
This song was written by Michael Joncas in 1979.  It is published in 21 hymns.  For a little bit of information about the song and the author, check out this link from Hymnary.
I rested yesterday in the palm of God's hand.  Resting gives us strength.  Taking time to be apart gives us strength as we allow the time and space to listen to God speak into our lives. 
May each of us take some time to rest, to gain strength from the Creator and to allow ourselves the time and space to listen.
Blessings on your journey,

Angels in Action-- Observing an act of kindness

On my way home this morning, as I neared the light at Hixson Pike and Middle Valley Road, I saw a car being pushed through the intersection by one person.  They had just started from the turn lane on the far left, so I went to the right one.  They were just into the oncoming traffic lanes, but they had the right timing.  The driver hopped out and pushed too.

Then, all of a sudden, a lady who was in a truck (passenger) that would be turning left into the car soon hopped out and started pushing.  Then a man in a black truck parked his truck out of the way as he was planning to either go straight or turn right and he hopped out and started pushing. 

They got the car out of the middle of the intersection and down the road into the left lane, and then it looked like they were going to try to get it into the parking lot on the left.

My car would've blocked traffic if I had hopped out to help.  I wasn't in a position to help.  But others were... and they did.  And the flow of traffic wasn't impeded.  No one was hurt.  Someone was helped.

It was a beautiful act of kindness to watch.  That might sound silly.  It might even sound sillier that when I drove by these angelic heroes, that I yelled out my rolled down window, "you guys are awesome!"

Encouragement, hope, community, community in action, kindness, blessings..... these are the words that came to mind as I observed and reflected upon this scene.

When we see someone in need, we may not be in a position to help.  But when we are in a position to help, may we, like these angels in action, hop to it!

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"A Space of Love".... quotes and reflections from Macrina Wiederkehr's chapter in Abide

This morning's reading comes from Macrina Wiederkehr's Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God.  The key verses for Chapter 6 "A Space of Love" are Genesis 18:1-15.

Space of love... what a beautiful concept.  Macrina Wiederkehr equates this "space of love" to hospitality in this chapter.  It makes sense.  It resonates.  It fits. 

The opening quote for the chapter: "Offer hospitality also to the stranger who lives in your own heart."

This Genesis account is truly a great example of hospitality.  Abraham offers food and drink, and shelter from the sun to the strangers that come upon his place.  It causes me to chuckle, however, that Abraham tells Sarah to make bread "quick".  It is going to take a while to make the bread, kill and prepare the meat.  This meal isn't going to be ready in 30 minutes.  I guess "quick" had a different meaning back then. ☺  But that gave Abraham and the strangers much time to talk and share life.

Rublev's icon of the Trinity based on the three visitors

[For more about Andrei Rublev and an explanation about the Trinity icon, you can go here.]

Abraham and The Three Angels
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Spanish, 1617-1682)
For more on Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, check out this website from the WebMuseum, Paris.

There are many (MANY!) other artistic renditions of Abraham and his stranger visitors.  It is interesting to see how artists throughout the years and from many cultures have depicted the scene.  I found a Japanese stencil and a Vatican commemorative stamp in my search.

But, I digress.

Let me return to opening our homes and hearts to the stranger.

Macrina wrote: "When we reach out in compassion and love to other people, we are filling the space that surrounds them and us with love.  We are creating a space of love." (77)

Something to think about: "The way we greet someone mirrors how we are living." (77)  Macrina mentioned a Bedouin greeting that spoke to the guest as the host and the host became the guest, showing that the host was there to serve and was honored by their presence.  She included how folks in the past greeted one another with prayerful greetings.  I wonder, do our greetings these days offer a space of love to others?

"The more we journey into those deepening places of our lives, spending time there in prayer and creating a space of love, the more ready we become to treat all as we would treat Christ." (78)

"Hospitality is about having open hearts, not just open doors." (78)

The prayer at the end of the chapter:

"Oh Welcoming One,
     You are my guesthouse, my hermitage, my dwelling place.  Your hospitable spirit frees me from my nagging fears of not being accepted.  In my deepest moments of estrangement from myself and others I discover my home in you.  There is no lock on your door.  You are all openness.  Inspire me to be a guesthouse for others.  Take the lock off the door of my heart.  I long to be a space of love for everyone!  I yearn to be a place where all can be at peace and feel at home.  May the interruptions of my day become pathways of love instead of annoying disruptions!  Give me a welcoming heart.  Make of me your guesthouse.  Amen." (79)

I don't know about you, but I don't think I can ever hear too much about hospitality or opening my heart and door to others.  Gentle or not-so-gentle reminders are needed to keep my focus outward at times.

May we create and be spaces of love for others.... for everyone.  May all be at peace and feel at home in our presence.

Blessings on your journey,


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Growing in silence... Sharing the sacred space

The other day a quote came across Facebook from Contemplative Life on silence.  It caught my attention.

"Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing."                        ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

Through the Academy, I grew in my experience of silence and even enjoyed walking in silence with friends.  At the last session we experienced a time of "active silence" where we gathered together in silence and did things that were meaningful to us.  We had been given instructions to return to our rooms and bring back pillows, blankets, and something for us to do... whether we wanted to read, write, knit, sew, etc.  When it was time for us to return to the conference room, they had transformed it.  There were places on the floor for sitting.  There were some chairs upside down providing back rests.  You could sit at a table, on the floor, make a pallet on the floor.  Whatever you wanted.  As we began to settle in and do our own things in silence, there was a remarkable sense of peace and community. 

I sat on the floor to write in my journal.  A few minutes later, you smelled the wonderful smell of popcorn and a few of the leaders were bringing around popcorn, cheese, grapes, etc.  Hospitality was thrown into this sacred space.  It was powerful to watch and listen as others were doing their thing--- drawing, lighting a candle for quiet time, reading, looking at pictures of beautiful birds on a computer, doing art work, taking a nap, etc.  As I observed and wrote in my journal, I found myself praying for folks and appreciating the presence of Jesus in the space.  

This was a beautiful experience of active silence for me, for us as community.  The speaker who introduced it to us, Kathryn Damiano, mentioned that gardening together and doing other activities together in silence are ways to live out this active silence.  I thought of mission trips and how there are often many times that we are working together in silence.  Last year cutting rebar ties and tying rebar and shoveling sand and dirt were some of my "jobs".  There would be some conversation, but there would also be silence time.  And, there was peace and beauty in that silence.  Christ was presence among us. 

Through the centering prayer group, I have experienced a beautiful time of silence with folks that I'm slowing getting to know.  They have been so gracious to accept me, a stranger, into their midst.  Though I don't get to go every week, it is a true blessing to go when I can.  Not only for the silence portion, but for the reading and sharing time as well. 

During the silence time with my spiritual director, my spirit calms.  Sometimes there are birds chirping outside the windows.  Sometimes I gaze at the pictures of Jesus and the candles.  Often, I simply sit in silence with my eyes closed, breathing deeply.  There are times when I know I could sit my entire time with my director in silence and then go and I will have met with Christ as much, if not more so, than when we break the silence and discuss things. 

I have learned from these experiences (and others) that there is peace, power, healing, and strength in silence. This space is a place of refuge, rest, and acceptance.  What a privilege to be able to share that sacred space with another.

Once again, I didn't know the person that was quoted above, so I looked her up.  She has a website and her biography on the website is found here.  She has developed curriculum that is used in medical schools, The Healer's Art

Here is a YouTube link to Rachel Naomi Remen discussing "Generous Listening".

I don't know enough about her or her practices to agree or disagree.  What I do know is that I can learn from her..... I can learn from anyone that shares Truth, because all Truth is God's Truth.  What I hear from her about silence resonates with what I have experienced and with what I know from Scripture about Jesus getting away for his times of silence and solitude in order to be strengthened for continued teaching and ministry.

Attributed to St. John of the Cross is this statement:  "Silence is God's first language."  It's a wonderful language to learn.

Wherever you are in your journey, wherever you are in experiencing silence on your journey, may you continue to grow in it.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Some notes from two chapters in Conversion in the Wesleyan Tradition

Today's reading time was dedicated to finishing up Conversion in the Wesleyan Tradition (2001) by Kenneth J. Collins and John H. Tyson.  It is broken up into four parts: Historical Perspectives: Wesley and the People Called Methodist; Biblical Perspectives; Theological Perspectives; and Pastoral Perspectives.  In each part there are chapters written by different authors.  There is also an introduction and a conclusion to the book, along with a section of abbreviations and notes. 

Though I have taken notes throughout my reading of the book, there were some things that stood out to me today in two of the chapters.  And since I read them today and they are fresh on my mind, it is those two chapters I wanted to share.

The first is "Conversion: Possibility and Expectation" by Sondra Higgins Matthaei.  Since there isn't anything on the authors, I had to do some digging to learn who she is.  She is currently (per the curriculum vitae listed as of 2011) at the Saint Paul School of Theology as a Professor of Christian Religious Education and has a book in the works, as well as several published works.  I will be checking out some of her books. 

What stood out to me from her writing is the following:

  • "The goal of Christian faith formation in the Wesleyan tradition is to share the good news of God's grace in Jesus Christ in order to help people recognize their need for the transforming power of God's grace while learning what it means to be faithful in everyday life." (196) [The statement simply stood out to me.  I imagine this is the goal of Christian faith formation in any tradition, but it was written for a specific flavor.  Sometimes those flavors aren't necessary to promote as a focus, in my humble opinion.  But I understand why it is/was included.]
  • "In other words, an experience of God's transforming grace in Jesus Christ leads to deepening faith as persons grow in love of God and neighbor with the help of the Holy Spirit and the support of the faith community." (207) [What stands out to me here is growing in love of God and neighbor and doing so in community.]
  • "The church is the context for formation to which Christians develop holiness of heart and life and bear witness to God's invitation to communion by patterning their shared life after the communion of the Trinity." (207) [Formation is to happen in the context of church/community and we are to develop holiness of heart and life by sharing life together and patterning it after that of the community and communion of the Trinity.]
  • "...transformation is God's work." (208) [We can set up the groundwork for it to happen and we can be agents for it to happen, but we don't cause it to happen; God does that.  This is a good lesson to remember.  Especially when you don't see it happening.  If there is instruction provided for folks to grow and be transformed, be patient (gasp!), God will work.]
  • "faith-mentoring" (209)  "Faith mentors are persons who become a vehicle of God's grace for others." (209)  [A new term for me.  Similar to "mentor", but different.  Four roles were listed for faith mentors: guide, model, guarantor, mediator.  Interesting.  Peter Böhler was listed as a faith mentor to the Wesley brothers.  That was a good example, p. 209.]
  • "The role of the church is to provide the relationships, structures, and practices of a Wesleyan ecology of faith formation for those who are seeking salvation, as well as those who are trying to interpret their religious experience and translate its meaning into daily living." (210)
The 2nd chapter that had some things stand out to me today was "From the "Works of the Flesh" to the "Fruit of the Spirit": Conversion and Spiritual Formation in the Wesleyan Tradition by Gregory S. Clapper.   So, "spiritual formation" had me from the title.  I admit it.  Once again, I needed to learn something about this author.  He is a Professor of Religion & Philosophy at the University of Indianapolis.  You can learn more about him through his curriculum vitae.

Here is what stood out to me from his chapter:
  • "If the church is to be about making disciples, then it must be involved in doing at least three things: recruiting disciples; nurturing disciples; and sending disciples out to do God's work." (213)
  • "Christian conversion, then, should be seen as a conversion to a lifetime of spiritual formation." (214)
  • "There can be no truly Christian formation that does not result in an embodied, ongoing, decisive commitment to leave behind the old way of life." (214)
  • "Similary, given our Armenian tradition, it should come as no surprise that Methodists should adopt this language ["spiritual formation"] and even develop programs for intentional spiritual growth, such as the Academies for Spiritual Formation." (215) [So, I wondered... was he a participant?  Yes, he was.  He went through the 2-Year Academy from 1988-1990.  He has also been a faculty presenter on numerous 5 day and 2-year Academies (9 per the curriculum vitae).  In my "Equipping the Laity" course two years ago we talked about provided academy-type learning opportunities locally for folks to permit spiritual formation and transformation.  Part of that class was working up something to be used at some point.  I know of some churches that offer such courses.  What a wonderful learning and growth opportunity.  I believe that there is place and purpose for both of these types of opportunities in the kingdom and that one doesn't necessarily replace the other because they have different aspects.]
  • "It must be understood that the works of the flesh cannot whither, nor can the fruit of the Spirit grow, outside the presence of a community." (221) [Community is crucial for formation and transformation!]
  • "The call to conversion and growth in the fruit of the Spirit is always a call to join a converting community, a community that has chosen to take a hand in the Lord's work of joyfully renewing not just the church, but all of creation." (222)
There is more to glean and gain from this book, but this is what I have for today.  Key words:  spiritual formation, transformation, community, love of God and neighbor.  Pretty good stuff.

Blessings on your journey,


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Rainy days and reading....

There is still much reading to be done before I can consider this semester finished.  I have 58 pages left (2 chapters) in The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace and I have 9 chapters left in Conversion in the Wesleyan Tradition.  In the second book, I really have less required reading to do, but I am attempting to earn the extra credit.

It's a great day for reading in my area because it is raining.  So, I take breaks from my reading to do some laundry, dishes, etc.-- those Saturday chores.  Then, I get back to reading.  The constant pitter patter on the roof top is dangerous in that it could lull me to sleep at some point.  But, a nap in the midst of reading might be a good break for my brain too. 

What I haven't taken time for yet this month of May (though it is only the 4th) is writing.   So, I thought I'd at least use one of my breaks to write a little bit and get it out of my system. 

I picked up Jesus Calling to see what today's message said.  And because of the flood watch through Monday in our area, these words caught my attention: "As you give yourself to Me, My Spirit swells within you till you are flooded with divine Presence."  (May 4, p. 131)  Just as the creeks and rivers will swell with flowing water because of all this rain, the Spirit will swell within us as we give ourselves to God and we will be flooded with divine Presence.  Giving ourselves... surrender... that takes intentionality.  That takes desire.  Surrender comes at a price.  Yet, there is a reward.  To be flooded with divine Presence, to have the Spirit swell within... that is a blessing. 

As the waters are rising in the creeks and rivers, I'm hoping to take some time today to surrender myself to God so that God's Spirit will swell within me until I am flooded with divine Presence.

Blessings on your journey as you encounter the divine Presence of God,