Saturday, January 25, 2014

Refuge... a safe place

I woke up this morning knowing I needed some Macrina Wiederkehr time.  It has been a while since I have been able to be in her book Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God.   With my cup of java in hand, I sat down in the reading chair and picked up the sacred book that always seems to speak to my soul. 

I wasn't sure where I left off.  My husband and I both are reading it and there are several markers.  The first set of markers led me to a page where I saw the phrase "backpack of your soul" underlined (45), so I had been there before.  Yet, the title of the section, "Drawn Like a Magnet to the Divine" got my curiosity for a moment.  I explored.  On page 43 I found "O Tree of God--Tree of Life" and where I had written underneath how that reminded me of Eddie Murphy's movie "Thousand Words" and dying well that I had seen on the plane that summer going to Costa Rica (2012).  Then on page 49 in the poetic summary of Chapter One I read my underlined notes: "Each time you open the Word of God you are invited to die a little.  It is a dying that is full of living, a death that is life-giving."  There are more notes... but that is the gist.  Wow.  How powerfully true.  Our life journey is a process of dying.  And death can be life-giving.  Living well leads to dying well.  This is a journey that I have been learning about and attempting to live into for several years myself now.... having needed to live into my own physical limitations and recognizing that the aging process is a gift.  Yet much more recently, with the home-going of my grandmother this past week, I have lived it up-close and personal.  And, I will get to that topic at some point, but I'm not fully ready yet.  I have posted small updates on Facebook and I wrote my paper for bioethics on aging well and chose my grandmother as the person who in my opinion aged well.  But, I'm not ready to fully explore things just yet.  Plus, today is supposed to be homework day and this writing moment is just a spiritual boost for the day. ☺

Refuge.  That's the title.  Where is the post about it you ask?  After realizing I had already read the above section (and written about it), I found where I had left off in Macrina's book.   In the section "The Beautiful Struggle of Daily Life", Chapter 4-- Everyone Needs a Refuge.

Psalm 16 was the Scripture to read, so I read it slowly and thoughtfully.

Verse 1 is the focus verse in the book: "Keep me safe, O God; in you I take refuge."

Refuge.  Safe place.  I even thought of the term safety bubble.  From the American Heritage Dictionary, "Refuge" is defined as

ref·uge  (rĕf′yo̅o̅j)
1. Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship.
2. A place providing protection or shelter.
3. A source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble. See Synonyms at shelter.
v. ref·uged, ref·ug·ing, ref·ug·es Archaic
To give refuge to.
To take refuge.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin refugium, from refugere, to run away : re-, re- + fugere, to flee.]

"In this place of refuge we pause to breathe in the midst of the storms.  We practice remembering who we are.  We remember our spiritual selves and the God to whom we turn in times of trouble." (104)

Reading this chapter took me back to my Dad's campground and our family farm.  Macrina wrote about places she would go-- forest, meadows, cornfield-- for her places of refuge.  She referred to them as "stations of solitude" and "places of healing" and that "nature worked her medicinal miracles" in her.  (104)  That resonates with me.  The streams with the moss covered banks in the hills up behind my Dad's campground, the surrounding woods there.... the woods at the family farm, the fields, the ponds, the acres I would walk and walk.  Yep.  There were times I needed the space of the open areas and times I needed the closeness of the trees.  Macrina beautifully explains how she had come to understand the "healing properties of nature" (104): "The intimacy of the trees and cornstalks were like a little embrace.  The meadow, on the other hand, gave me space and freedom." (104)

Macrina goes from nature to people, recognizing that people can also be a refuge for us.  Yes!  Amen!  She gives an example.  I have those people in my life too.  Those people I can call, visit, or just let them know I'm struggling with life and need support.  I don't need to necessarily be with them.  Just knowing that they've "got my back" so to speak allows me to keep on dealing with the situations.  And, if things get really bad, then I know I can pull my cards and throw my chips down and cash in (so to speak) and I can have the support in person.  What a tremendous blessing to have friends, to be in community with others.  It is super humbling to recognize that these friends are near and far, some blood related and others not, some going back to childhood, others from some point along the journey.  And, likely, there are some that I've never met in person.  Wow.  I am grateful and blessed to realize that I have a refuge space in people.

Macrina goes on to let us know that the ultimate refuge is God.

Some of my thoughts: Nature and people both reflect and connect to God.  Yet, they cannot connect us to God if we don't allow them to.    Sometimes that connection is understood later in life through reflection though, as I have experienced over the past several years remembering my walks at the campground and realizing that God was with me then and as Macrina testifies to the healing powers of nature here in this chapter.  As Creator, God is the connection between the creation and us.

Well, that's my quiet time reflection for today.  My coffee is almost gone.  I guess it's time to switch gears and get my papers written today.... one on missions and another on physician assisted suicide (two different courses). 

May you find your refuge space in God, others, nature.  May you take time to rest there.  Be assured that I am heeding my own words!  I very much need it and am living into it.

Blessings on your journey!  For me, it's a journey of living well.... so that one day I'll be prepared to die well.


PS... Here is the post I wrote a while back on The Tree of Life (8/14/12).  I've written others about dying and living well.  Here is one: In Between The Lines (5/16/11)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

No time to write...

I'm taking a forced sabbatical from writing at the moment.  It's not that I don't want to write.  It's not that I don't have ideas (I'm stock-piling quite a few).  It's not that I don't need to write.  I could really use the therapeutic time.

But, my time is delicately balanced between finishing my J-term class and getting all the readings and papers done for my February class (first week in February), along with regular family and extended family responsibilities, exercise, etc.

So, if you've wondered why there hasn't been anything new on here in a while (since my class in January), that's why. 

I keep thinking it's already February.... that's where my brain is.  My brain is scattered in lots of directions with the upcoming bioethics class, the aging and dying of my grandmother in the midst of it, a brain injury brother going through continuing life situations, and simply attempting to live well into who I am and whose I am in the midst of it all.

So, this morning, I take a few brief moments to explain my absence... but probably more to relieve my need/desire to write while I sip some strong, dark coffee from my "Be still and know that I am God" mug.  And I breathe.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, January 6, 2014

My first J-term at Asbury Theological Seminary... a litte bit of español for the soul

I've not taken a J-term course before.  This is my very first one.  I was excited to learn that a mission and evangelism course was being offered on the Orlando, FL campus and I jumped at the opportunity to get back to the campus.  I have only been to the FL campus once, in the summer of 2011 (my very first intensive on campus course).

I had no idea how cold it would be in Chattanooga, TN while I was here in FL.  OH, I am SO glad I chose Florida over Kentucky! ☺  Extreme cold temperatures are hitting the north, along with power outages. 

As I mentioned in my last post about the Canterbury Retreat Center, the weather was SIMPLY gorgeous when I arrived yesterday!  Today it has become windier and cooler.  The temperature is dropping to slightly below freezing tonight.  This is cold, even by Florida's standards.  However, it is not what folks back home or in Kentucky are dealing with, so I'm grateful.

Back to the J-term.  Though I'm glad to take a J-term, I will follow it quickly with my first course for the Spring semester which is a Bio-ethics course and conference the first week of February.  This means LOTS of reading and writing the entire months of January and February.  Therefore, my plan is to do nothing else but focus, focus, focus.

Today was the first day of MS 610, "The Ministry of Mission & Evangelism."  There are 25 of us enrolled in the class.  Our professor is Angel Santiago-Vendrell. 

Being in Florida means being able to hear and speak the Spanish language for me.  That's one thing I miss tremendously from the bilingual Academy... being able to hear the faculty presenters in Spanish, engaging in conversation and worship in Spanish (and English). 

So, another "plus" for me with this course is that the professor is a native Spanish speaker.  He speaks English in the classroom, of course.  BUT, to my heart's surprise and contentment, he opened up class this morning by praying in Spanish. ☺  He explained that he prays in Spanish and it's "home" for him.  Well, it was "home" for me to hear him pray in Spanish.  I haven't heard someone pray in Spanish since the last Academy session when we ended last April (2013).  As the professor prayed in Spanish this morning, my heart swelled with emotion and my soul was pierced to the core.  I could feel tiny drops of moisture in the corners of my eyes.  What a blessing for me! 

What does that mean to me?  For me?  One, it reminds me to not let go, to not give up.... that though things haven't worked out up to this point for ministry in Spanish currently... that the connection, the calling is alive and well.  Two, it confirms for me that Spanish is my heart language, even though it isn't my native language.  Three, it simply brought me joy.  Much joy.  If we could have gone from that prayer into some singing and worship.... oh.... wow! ☺

I have known that Spanish is my heart language for many years now.  Typically, your native language is your heart language.  But, I don't "do" (nor am I) "typical". 

In my attempt to find some information on native language as heart language, I found this article on heart language.  It explains the concept of heart language.  "The Concept of Heart Language" by Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad

This paragraph strikes me as an excellent reason why Spanish is my heart language:

"HEART language is basically and ultimately about God’s love for us, as we may experience it in an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The purpose is to experience a true interaction, from one heart to another. In a Christian context, it is ultimately to allow the Almighty God to communicate all that he wants to give of love, wisdom, faith, strength, admonition, and whatever it might be, in a truly transforming way. Very often God allies himself with the feelings he has created in us to reveal himself to us."
God has created me in such a way that God reveals God's self to me in and through the Spanish language, culture, people, music, and worship.  Oh.  That's how and why I often have such an intimate experience when I worship in Spanish and it strikes me to the core.  It happened many, many times during the bilingual Academy.  Hmmm.

To clarify, I enjoy worship in the English language.  It is meaningful to me.  But I cannot deny the meaningful experiences I've had in Spanish.  French is my third language.  I haven't worshiped in French, but I have learned praise songs and hymns in that language, along with the Lord's Prayer.  There are some songs I sing automatically in French ("Glorifie Ton Nom").  Maybe the French worship will come into play one day if/when I make it to France for a Taizé worship service there!

If you are interested at all in the study of folks worshiping in their language, I found a couple of articles on ethnodoxology, which is the study of how different cultures worship God.

Ethnodoxology:  Calling all peoples to worship in their heart language

Heart-Language Worship in Multilingual Contexts

Well, that's it for now.  I need to get back to reading for my mission and evangelism class and get a good night's rest so that I'm ready for day #2.  The professor mentioned something about only praying in Spanish the first day, so today may have been my one and only opportunity to hear prayer in Spanish.

But, there are many restaurants around that serve Cuban and other latino foods.... I need to take advantage of the culture while here!

Blessings on your adventures and journey!


Canterbury Retreat Center... back again!

I arrived yesterday at the Canterbury Retreat Center in Oviedo.  It is my "home" for the week while I'm taking MS 610 "The Ministry of Mission & Evangelism" at the Orlando, FL campus for Asbury Theological Seminary.

After I checked in yesterday, I took a walk around Lake Gem, the lake on the property.  The weather was perfect!  Sunny and warm (in the high 70s).

The atmosphere here is calming, relaxing, peaceful.  It is a sacred space.  Very much akin to the Life Enrichment Center that was my "home away from home" for two years during my Academy experience.   There are however, a few things missing.... alligators.  I do miss getting to see them at the LEC!  And, then more importantly, there are my "family members" from the Academy that aren't here either. 

Admittedly, it was difficult driving into FL for the first time since my Academy days.  The route is similar until the end.  I even drove into Leesburg, but went through a different area of it.  That is a good thing.  If I had gotten any closer to Fruitland Park, I would have diverted my route and made a pit stop so I could stand on the dock at Lake Griffin for a few moments and reflect.

As it is, I have two docks here.  Though yesterday might have been the only day that I was able to enjoy them to the fullest.  I am here to be in class all day.  ☺

Here are some pictures of Lake Gem.  Some of the pictures I took on my walk around the lake on the fitness trail. 

I am glad to be staying here once again, to enjoy the beauty, silence, and solitude of this wonderful place!

Blessings on your journey!



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 begins!

Happy New Year!

Probably the most repeated phrase/greeting of the day. ☺

Today was a quiet day.  Time at home.  Time outside.  Time to walk.  Time to reflect.

I was blessed to get to walk twice today.

The first time I went to the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge area, part of the Cumberland Trail.  Because of the rain we've had recently, the creek was up quite a bit.  I walked with my walking buddy and her botanist husband today.  Besides the walking, I learned some cool things about the flora and fauna and sand boils.  When we were leaving, one lone kayaker was preparing to dismount his kayak from his vehicle and hike in a way before launching.  This is a great place for kayakers when the water is up.  I wanted to stay and watch him come down, but I needed to get back home.

My husband worked from 9am--3pm today.  When I got home from my first walk, he said he was up for a walk.  We took off and went to the Greenway Farm to walk.  We were able to get in a decent walk before the threat of sunset and closing of the park.

What a great way to start off the new year... walking and being out in creation!  Both places allowed walking by water.  The first place I was able to hear and see the roar and power of the flowing water.  At the spot where you normally walk across the water to the other side to get to the Blue Hole, the water was high and flowing a quick pace.  At the second place, the water was more still but you could see that it was up as it covered the docks.  One dock had two plastic chairs still sitting on it, slightly submersed in the water.  Odd that they hadn't floated off yet.  Maybe due to the stillness of this portion of the creek.

The sunshine was warm (around 48-49 degrees) and the day was beautiful.  Each place had their differences, but both were beautiful.  Both places were very populated with others with the same idea to get out and enjoy the gorgeous day.

Other reflection time today centered around the word "faith".  First I saw a picture and a quote from Sight Psalms on Facebook this morning of a bug perched on the edge of a leaf.   It said, "SERIOUSLY?  Sometimes the next step is a leap of faith."  At first, it just seemed like a cute saying.  And then a couple of people came to mind.  Wouldn't you know that from there that "cute saying for others" became something that came back to me throughout the day?!?!!?  And I don't think it's finished with me yet. ☺

Then, I heard a lady talking about "faith" on the radio.  For some reason, my mind went into acronym mode.  F.A.I.T.H.  At first, "freedom" came to mind.  But it didn't go anywhere.  Then, the phrase "Freely Alive In The Holy spirit" came to mind and that resonated.  I know there isn't an "s", but work with me here.  Then, later the thought came to me "Fully Alive In The Holy spirit".  I don't know if it will sell tons of bracelets or not, but both phrases resonated within my soul today.

Lastly, I've been thinking about words.  More specifically, I've been semi trying to come up with a word for this year because I've read about others working on their words for the year.  Well, I haven't come up with "a" word.  I've also been trying to come up with theme words for the national newsletter I edit.  I'm not doing so well there either. UGH. 

However, there was a quote posted today by Shalem Institute's Facebook page that caught my attention.  As I've reflected on it this afternoon and allowed it to sink in, it struck me that THIS is a quote that has SEVERAL words that I would like to live into in this new year.  In fact, the ENTIRE quote is one that strikes me as one that adequately describes how I desire to live into this year.

Therefore, I don't have a "word" for this year.

I have a quote.  I'm going to attempt to live into it.

I guess I should share it.  That means you'll be able to hold me accountable.  And, that's okay.

Here it is:

"Contemplative awareness provides a door through which the Spirit can take us deeper, freer, and truer, a door through which we can walk beyond any confining room that smothers the Spirit's call to abundant life."  ~Tilden Edwards

What are the words that jump out to me, resonate within me?  awareness, deeper, freer, truer, door, walk beyond, Spirit's call, abundant life

I look forward to seeing what this year brings... what this quote brings into my life, how it is lived out (or rather how I live into it)...

I look forward to more time in the outdoors!  Flowing waters, waterfalls, creeks....

I look forward to more time walking.

I look forward to seeing how my faith is challenged and what leaps and steps I will take this year.

I look forward to more times of a peaceful spirit that has filled me today.

Blessings on your 2014!


Some pictures from today: