Monday, July 28, 2014

Buffalo Lake Musical Instrument Trail... a wonderful find!

Last Tuesday morning I set out on my morning walk knowing I would venture into the wonderful town of Buffalo, MN from Christ the King Retreat Center.  I planned to visit a buffalo or two and to enjoy the walk along the lake.

One of our board members that couldn't make it this year, Greg, took his morning walk daily into Buffalo, so I knew it was doable.

What I didn't know was that there was a park (Sturges Park) with a playground nearby.

Nor did I know anything about the musical instrument trail, which I have learned was just dedicated on July 9 of this year.

After taking pictures of the main town buffalo,

I crossed over to the lake and found my first instrument.  I say "found", but I had no idea these instruments were along the lake.  What a beautiful discovered treasure!

I was amazed and mesmerized.  Here was this instrument overlooking the lake.  The wind was blowing on this particular morning and I picked up the mallets and started playing the instrument.  "Playing" might be overly generous because I had no clue what I was doing.  But the instrument was gracious, making beautiful sounds.  What incredible music to my soul!  After enjoying the sounds of this something -imba instrument for a while, I headed left on the path.

[Here I am on this instrument on a different day.]

(There is quite a bit of car noise on the main highway behind me in this video.)

I found other instruments to enjoy.  I stopped and played several.  Each one had a plaque with its name.  The Buffalo Rotary Club was a big contributor to the musical instrument trail.

Some of the other instruments along the trail:


There was something powerful in looking over the water, feeling the breezes, and enjoying the sounds from these instruments.  It touched a place inside me spiritually.  It also made me think that it would be super cool to have something similar along the Riverwalk (or at least a portion of it) here in the Chattanooga area.  I don't know who the go-to people are here in Chattanooga to make that happen, but I will include some informational links here about the company that built this wonderful trail.

I went back to this trail a couple of other times to play the instruments during my time in Buffalo, MN.  I found other instruments with the help of others who had found them and enjoyed hearing the different sounds each one made. 

Just playing scales and chords was fun. I didn't try to play any (real) songs.  But, there were a few times when I felt some sort of song simply being played from within.  While the sounds of the instruments made their way through the air, I gazed out over the water and watched the boats anchored there bob and float.  I noticed the fountain spray.  It was a joyous and fulfilling time!

I asked someone to take a picture of me one day.

And I took a video by setting up my camera on the sidewalk. (see above)

Enjoy the pictures of the musical instrument trail and check out the company, Freenotes Harmony Park.  It was founded by Richard Cooke.

For videos, check out the Freenotes Harmony Park YouTube Channel.

May there always be some sort of music along your journey,


A blog post about the Buffalo Musical Instrument Trail from the Freenotes Harmony Park Blog. (June 9, 2014)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Be Kids, Everybody!

In my post about Slava Korsak's concert, I mentioned his ending of the concert and spoke briefly about that admonition.

I wanted to flesh that out a little more.

You see, I am a kid at heart and soul.  Now, if you know me, that isn't news to you.  Maybe you've picked up on that even if you haven't met me in person and you've been reading my blog.  I've known it too.  Yet, I've had a difficult time accepting myself for who I am in that realm because playing and enjoying life isn't always looked upon favorably by society.

Even so, I've still done it.  When I've felt led, I've done things with abandon in my heart..... like go up on stage as a "child" (child of God) to hear the Bishop (Swanson, at the time) read a story (The Spyglass) at Annual Conference.  My spirit said "go", but I was hesitant.  I went, though a little nervous.  I didn't look back.  I later learned that some teens came up and joined myself and the younger crowd.

I have spent time on swings and slides at parks.  I enjoy the simple things of life. 

*[These next three pictures are from the 5 Day Academy in TN, Camp Garner Creek, 2010, when I played on the tall metal slide, the red slide, and the swings.]

This past week at the retreat, in the inner workings of my "soil" / soul, I have finally come to peace with the fact that as a child of God, it is okay to play, to enjoy God's creation, to enjoy life, etc.  And it's okay to do so in front of others.  You see, in the past, I might only let my playful side come out when I was by myself or totally in my comfort zone.  But, what is new for me is that I'm learning to be the "me" I was created to be at all times.  Period.  It is okay to be this me and I am not ashamed of how God created me.  I said "learning.  I'm not there 100 % yet.  And, I know there are times for play and times that aren't for play. 

What it feels like is that I have emerged, that the caterpillar has come out of its chrysalis and that I'm not flying in freedom.

I saw this butterfly on the road the day of silence.  Though it is dead, it still symbolizes emergence and flight into freedom for me.  The journey of a butterfly's transformation and metamorphosis lasts longer than its time as a butterfly.  Yet the flight into freedom is worth all the time in the darkness, the learning, the growing, the awareness, the transformation.  The analogy to a caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly don't fully work for our spiritual life, but you get the idea.  Our transformed flight lasts longer than the life of the butterfly, prayerfully.

I noticed that the inner change was becoming complete and whole this past week at the FUMSDRL / HOF retreat (Christ the King Retreat Center) when I walked out from noon prayer and was heading to lunch.  Right before my very eyes was the luscious, verdant lawn with arching water sprinklers soaring above the ground in perfect arches.  I hesitated for a slight moment.  I dropped my books, emptied my pockets, and took off my nametag and camera from around my neck so that everything would stay dry.  Then I took off running into the grass.  Through the first sprinkler I went, getting wet.  Then I jumped over the next one, and the next one, and so on.  I must have run and jumped over at least 5 or 6 sprinklers over the lawn.  It felt GREAT!  I felt free and I enjoyed my burst of play.  The best part of it was that it fit my skin, so to speak, and that because I had responded to the call within my spirit, I was whole.

Play is an important part of life and we are all truly children of God.  I realize that we each live into that play in different ways.  Give me simple or give me adventure, anywhere from blowing bubbles to zip lining or hang gliding. 

So, today, when Slava Korsak ended the concert with the benediction: "We are all children of God; be kids, everybody!", I let out an "Amen!"  That resonated within my heart, mind, and soul. 

Before Slava, there was someone else that spoke of us being children of the Kingdom.  Oh, yeah... Jesus. ☺.  And, I take that seriously.

Play is a spiritual discipline that keeps me alive and in touch with who I am and whose I am.  It doesn't replace any of the other spiritual disciplines (practices), but it is an important one that I need to remember to incorporate. 

And, because it is more than just a spiritual discipline for me... it is how I am wired... I can live into being the "me" I was uniquely created to be... without apology or shame.

So, when the praise band ramps us "How Wonderful" at the very end of the 2nd service today and then goes into "I'll Fly Away".... can you guess what I did?!?!  I "flew".  Yep.  I "flew" for a few moments around the sanctuary.  I always want to fly when I hear that song.   But I don't.  I did today because most folks were gone out of the sanctuary.  And, because I am attempting to live more authentically and with higher integrity when the spirit leads me into play. 

It requires listening.  Listening caused me to take bubbles with to the retreat last week.  I wasn't fully sure why.  But when I kept hearing the words "bubbling up" the first two days, I knew I was to offer them to my listening group.  I did.  I was a little anxious what they might think of the bubbles, but because I knew it wasn't really me offering the bubbles, I listened and obeyed.  Would you be surprised if I told you that God affirmed to me that God was truly in the bubbles?!?!  Even I enjoyed my personal time with the bubbles!

Another way I played this week was on the musical instrument trail at Buffalo Lake.  Oh, what joy in playing those instruments along the lake.  I'll share more about that wonderful and creative trail with you at another time.  But, I will say that my most fun moment was when I played the colorful set of bongo type drums up by the playground next to a toddler on the chimes.  She and I made music together, taking turns with our sounds.  That was joyful!

How do you live into play?  What does it take for you to make time for play?  There is definitely freedom in play.

So, play!  Remember that we are all children of God.  Be kids, everybody!

Blessings on your journey,


Slava Korsak... amazing soul and spirit in song!

This afternoon I was blessed tremendously by Slava Korsak from Ukraine at Burks UMC.  He sang a variety of songs for a little over an hour, sharing his giftedness and from his heart.  Slava also sang this morning in both services, so I was blessed earlier in the day by him as well.

Though I had seen his name in print that he was coming, the name meant nothing to me.  Only after I posted a picture during church on Facebook did I learn that he sang at the Holston Annual Conference this past June.  Though I watched some of that through the live streaming, I had missed that.  I learned why... he sang during the power outage and storm there.  Based on the song he sang tonight that he sang that night ("Take My Hand, Precious Lord"), Stuart Auditorium had to have been filled with the Holy Spirit!

I watched Slava prepare as the video was playing prior to his heading down the stairs to begin sharing in song.  I could sense the power of the Holy Spirit even then.  I could tell that this man knows God personally in relationship and lives it freely and abundantly! 

After having experienced Slava share his giftedness with us, I know that to be true through experience, not just feeling.  After Slava ended his final song, he ended our time with these words (or something very similar): "We are all children of God; be kids everybody!"  Oh, what beautiful words to my ears, my heart, my soul!  What a perfect benediction!  At least, in my humble opinion.  For me, that is the cherry on top of the whipped cream on the top of the extra hot fudge on a perfect hot fudge cake (or sundae)!  I think I will save this for another post.  For now, let me get back to Slava.

Wil introducing Slava at 9am service.

Slava singing at 9am service.

Slava sang Gospel, Christian Contemporary, Taizé, blues, and jazz.  His range in notes was as extraordinary as his range in genre.  Slava showed soul and spirit throughout the entire time. 

Slava sang "Amazed", "I Love the Lord", "The Lord's Prayer", a song in the Ukrainian language "My Love" that was beautiful, two songs with Roy Treiyer from Argentina on piano-- "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" (the one sang at Holston Annual Conference) and "Breathe On Me Breath of God" (earlier in the concert), "Above All", "This is the Air I Breathe", "Go Down Moses", "Georgia On My Mind", "God Knows Your Name" and "You Raise Me Up" (as the last song).   I may have missed a song or two in there and/or gotten the titles incorrect.

"Georgia On My Mind"

Roy Treiyer and Slava Korsak finishing out "Take My Hand, Precious Lord"

Slava and Roy-- check out the joy on their faces.  Singing and playing "Take My Hand, Precious Lord".
Slava speaks 6 different languages, most of them in the Slavic family.  That is super cool! 

Slava's church in Ukraine is sponsored by the Holston Annual Conference, specifically a church in Johnson City.

The church for which he is raising funds and awareness in Prague (Czech Republic) is ESUMC.

Slava was on the news here locally in Chattanooga yesterday (Saturday), WTVC NewsChannel 9.

Slava Korsak on YouTube, singing "Hallelujah":

If you get a chance to hear Slava in person, I recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity.  Though I didn't get a chance to chat with him, I was tremendously blessed by his sharing of his giftedness and I did connect with him visually in the balcony prior to him heading down to share.  The Spirit flowed mightily throughout that church building this morning and this afternoon through worship in song led by Slava and through the choir, worship team, and the preaching.  It was a team effort, led by the Trinity.

Thank you Slava for sharing with us today!

Blessings to you Slava on your journey and to all whom you minister through word and song.

To all, may you live out your giftedness for the good of the Kingdom and the glory of the Creator!  And may we remember the words Slava exhorted us at the end of today's concert: "be kids, everybody".

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  If you live in the Johnson City area, he will be at Munsey Memorial UMC on August 17th.  Go to the Munsey website for contact information to call for times, etc.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

More news on Slava and his visit here in Chattanooga: The Pulse

Slava Korsak's website in his country

I was trying to upload a video I took with my phone: "Breathe on Me, Breath of God" (not great video quality), but have been having some technical difficulties.  If I get it worked out, I'll add it later.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Listening to the music.... my first Native American flute lesson

Today's words are "purpose" and "heart".  Today's question at our FUMSDRL/HOF retreat is: "How is God calling me to "venture forth" with wholeheartedness into new soils and areas of ministry?"

This morning's prayer time included Holy Communion in silence which was a beautiful and powerful demonstration of connected sharing without words.  Though it was my first experience with a silence communion, it reminded me of a somewhat similar communion liturgy without words that I have experienced outside the church and within it.

There was a reading by John O'Donohue that particularly spoke to me today, "Prayer for a New Beginning."  There were many words and phrases that stood out to me as I looked it over prior to the prayer time.  In fact, I went ahead and started taking notes.  My spirit connected with this prayer.

Prayer for a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

As you read this prayer, what speaks to you?  I invite you to read it through at least once slowly, if not three times.  Maybe write down what word(s) or phrases speak to you and invite you into a deeper place.

The phrases that spoke to me this morning: "home in a new rhythm" and "your soul senses the world that awaits you".  However, earlier this week I voiced the fear of going deeper into a relationship with God through the flute because of the calling I sensed from it.  So at that point, "seduction of safety" was holding me back with some resistance. 

For me, the overall invitation is the new soil of a prayer practice.  At least that's what I wrote in my notes and what I have felt bubbling up inside of me now for a while, even prior to having come here this week.  I knew it was time to jump into the unknown and explore to see where it would lead me, grow me, even heal me.  The phrase "delight, when your courage kindled, and out you stepped onto new ground" speaks to this.

As I reflected on this during morning prayer, it felt akin to me stepping onto that wooden ramp with Clark Harlow, strapping into that hang glider next to him, and then running with everything I had when he said "run". 

The next thing I knew we were airborne and I was flying for the first time in my life.  My spirit was free.  Of course, Clark the instructor was at the controls and it would have been very different if I was doing the flying.  And it was when I tried.  I was overthinking it and over-maneuvering it.  But I was still flying.  I soared in the heights.  The heights.  Much like my Advice from a Mountain journal reminds me.... "Reach new heights!  Savor life's peak experiences, Stand in the strength of Your True Nature!  Rise above it all..."

Just as hang gliding called me to a new place for that time, the Native American flute has been calling me. 

I have mentioned that I have heard both Karen C. Moore and John Blinn play (pray) their flutes in the past.  John, only over the phone until this year and Karen in person last year and over the phone prior to that and since then.  I have been blessed to hear both in person this week.  Prior to coming here this week, I consented to convene (lead) a listening group.  When I learned that a certain person would be in my group, after considering it in prayer and not wanting to impose on her, I asked if she would be willing to bring her flute(s) to our group.  She said yes!   Though slightly intimidated that God would put the director in my group, I was glad for the opportunity to be blessed more through the prayers of the flute.

There have been conversations around tables and hallways about flutes.  I have sensed the calling grow stronger while here this week.

Then the invitation came yesterday to find a time for a lesson and because of schedule, we found a time today during the day of silence. 

Today I took a big step into a new realm of learning and practice.  For me it's the beginning of an area of "new soil" and unexplored territory.   As I've mentioned, I believe it can and will be part of my spiritual discipline, as a prayer practice connecting me with the Creator God who called me to it.

My lesson today was with a High C birch wood High Spirits flute by Odell Borg.  It was Karen's first flute.  I learned the fingering, the scales, and about breathing.  I got to practice moving more than one finger at a time (which is fairly difficult).  I did fairly well on the basic scale.  The hardest parts for me are keeping my fingers flat and the pads covering the bottom holes.

John Blinn had warned that former clarinet players have difficulty and I fit that category, though it has (1) been a very long time since I have been one-- 1982 and (2) I wasn't a master musician. 

This is going to sound geeky, but holding the flute and hearing a somewhat decent sound come from the flute was exciting.  It is going to take time and practice, but that's part of any practice.  I think I have just figured out what my special gift for the upcoming year of jubilee will be!

It was a great first lesson from Karen, who considers herself a "flute evangelist".  She shared several flute origin stories with me as well.

To explore this bubbling up and calling from within my soul today was a blessing for which I will be forever grateful. 

For those wondering how this experience fit with a day of silence, we did have a silent lunch together on a bench overlooking the lake and we walked in silence too.   For me, it fit my day of silence.

On your journey, what is bubbling up inside you?  What calls you to new places and new spaces within your spiritual practice and your relationship with God?  What beginning is quietly forming in you and waiting to emerge? 

As you listen to the Voice, may you take steps forward into the risk with courage.

Blessings on your journey,


Pictures of me practicing:

A picture that fits the "Prayer for a New Beginning":

"This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge."

We noticed this on our walk back from the park after the lesson.

Fire and passion; water and joy... a full day at the FUMSDRL retreat

I doubt I will be able to articulate all that is rumbling in my heart, soul, and mind from the day.  However, there are some things I desire to attempt to share.  So, we'll see where this goes.

Buffalo Lake, Buffalo, MN

I went on a quick morning walk today.  The lake waters were calmer today than yesterday and I played a few different instruments along the musical instrument trail than I did yesterday.  What struck me most this morning was this flower.  It wasn't until morning prayer, however, that I put words to why it captured my attention.

When I got to the chapel and we started Morning Prayer, I learned the word/theme for the day was "passion" and the question for reflection throughout the day was: "What would it mean to "work the soil" of my passion for ever greater fruitfulness in my life and ministry?"

Hmmm.... great food for thought.

Then, the Act of Praise begins: "Come, O Holy Spirit.  Come as holy fire and burn in us.  Come as holy wind and cleanse us within.  Come holy light and lead us in the darkness. [...]" 

Uh huh.  Yeah. 

Then a Contemporary Reading-- "Fire" by Judy Brown.  This is where the flower I had seen during my morning walk connected with the words I was hearing.  The red doesn't quite show up in the picture above, but "fire" is what resonated within.  Beyond that connection, this reading about fire spoke into the depth of my spirit.  A phrase that I landed on was "practice building open spaces".   But, there was (and is) so much more within here that speaks as I sit with it and allow it to sit with me.  Such as "leaps and plays", "unexpected", "breathe", "energy", "beauty", "find its way".

I invite you to read the poem "Fire" by Judy Brown.  What word or phrase settles in your heart, mind, and soul as you read it?

The teachings from Terry Hershey have continued to impact me and I thoroughly enjoyed my walk/talk with my walking partner after the hour of reflection of "listening to the music" which was a paradigm shift of thinking differently that focusing on the "notes". 

There were many things bubbling up throughout this time.... so much so that after we finished prayers prior to noon lunch and I walked out the chapel doors to see the sprinklers watering the lawn, well..... a thought struck me.  I hesitated for a brief second.  Then, I took out my camera/phone, set down my notebook and glasses.  And I began.  I ran and jumped through the first one, then over the second, third, fourth, fifth, and maybe sixth.  I lost count of the sprinklers flowing into the lawn.  All I knew is that I was running around the lawn as if there were bases, jumping over the water streams, and having a BLAST!  The joy inside me was overflowing and it had to come out!  And it did! 

What explains this action?  I guess you could say I'm living into my year of jubilee coming up here in a couple of months... my year of freedom, so that's my excuse. Or, you could say that I'm living into who I have been created to be all along.  In many ways, it has been who I have been all along.  Yet, there is something more freeing as I learn to live into my true self identity and let go of expectations (from self and others) and accept me for the unique me that I am.  Living life to the fullest, with childlike wonder and abandonment, able to go with the flow, taking time to be still and know, learning to listen, yet knowing when to speak and move and do..... this is the me that is emerging from within the prepared soil.  This is my passion-- to live life such as this and to allow my life to be a light for others as they navigate the journey.

We unpacked the word "integrity" some this afternoon, we had sharing times with partners in the session and with our listening circles.  Then, we closed out the evening with Evening Prayer, going into the Grand Silence.

This retreat has brought me back into a rhythm I came to know and love in the Academy.  It's a little different, but similar in many ways.  Plus, the location has a lake.  But, alas, no alligators. 

Tomorrow is an entire day of silence.  And, I look forward to it with excitement and anticipation.  Why?  Because I sense that the Gardener started preparing my soil for me at SOULfeast and that preparation prepared me for this week.  So, the things that I have sensed this week are things that are sending me forward into new territories, new life.  There has been some resistance and a tad of fear of going deeper, but those have diminished quickly.  I attribute my prepared soil/soul to last week and I'm super grateful and blessed for that...

My soul continues to "sing" of magnifying the Lord.

Tomorrow, I am looking forward to allowing my soul the space and grace to hear and respond to whatever it is that it needs most. 

Part of what I plan to do tomorrow?   Play!  The musical instruments on the river walk.... and play on the playground.  Walk with God. 

Another part?  Respond to an inner calling that has beckoned to me and embedded itself within my soul.  I hope to connect with this calling tomorrow as I seek to pray the music within. (More about this later.)

May you find the right amount of space so that the fire within you may burn.
May passion ignite your soul.
May water refresh your thirsty spirit.
And may joy strengthen you for whatever path you travel.

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How is it with your soil?

Often I will ask folks the question, "how is it with your soul?"  That's a normal question when you are asking about the state of being of one's spiritual life and well being. 

As of today, I have a new question:  "how is it with your soil?" 

Yeah, I know.  The play on words is slightly corny.  Okay, more than slightly.  But here's the explanation.

Our theme for the FUMSDRL / HOF retreat this week is: "Tending the Tension Between Being and Doing".  Terry Hershey from Seattle, Washington is the speaker.

What a refreshing, authentic, funny, personable, real, down-to-earth guy.  He is also Episcopalian and a gardener.  You might ask what the last two have to do with anything... and my response is that I grew up Episcopalian and it's part of my heritage.  The gardening part, well, that's where the soil comes in.

Part of our opening worship time tonight was a "Laying of the Altar" where we brought in our various soils from our states.  There are folks here from Texas, Tennessee, Washington, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, and Delaware, and I'm not sure where all else (I'm still learning). 

In Terry's opening session, he talked a little more about dirt (his preferred word for "soil") and mentioned that "compost" is too nice a word for what it is.... now I have a new word to use in place of the other one that comes out..... If you hear me say "compost", well.... never mind.

We reflected on our dirt during worship time and Terry asked us to reflect more on our dirt during his opening time.  I reflected upon what was in my dirt.... what did I bring to the table?  As I reflected on this, what came to mind is the "unknown".  For me, that's neither a negative or a positive at this moment.  It simply is.  For the most part, I have peace with that, though at times, I do get a tad anxious. 

Terry reminded us that we pause because pausing lets us begin, it allows us to connect, and because of the pause, the light within us (that is already shining) is allowed to be seen.  The light cannot be seen if we are too busy to stop, look, and listen. 

So, today's word is "pause".  And this week is a "pause" for me.  As I reflect upon my "soil" that I brought with me and the unknown within, the peace is good.  But then, I realize that growing sense that those native flutes really might not simply be something to listen to, but rather a way to grow in my prayer life personally.  Conversations prior to dinner taught me more about these beautiful instruments and I continue to feel this pull toward the flute.  As I reflect on that, I realize that there is a fear that stops me.  A fear that I might get too close to God in an unfamiliar way and a fear that it might be more powerful and beautiful than I can handle.  Hmm.... interesting. 

At closing prayers tonight, part of the liturgy was "The Woodcarver" translated into English by Thomas Merton.  I had been asked to read a portion.  I read this paragraph:

"Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin."

That section spoke volumes to me.... being in the forest, seeing the trees in their natural state, looking for the right one to appear... but it was the word "begin" that stood out to me from the entire reading.

That is the word I spoke when asked to reflect.  What does this word fully mean?  I don't know.  Let's go back to my unknown in the soil. ☺  Does it mean I'm supposed to begin seeking out God and listening to God through prayer via flute playing?  Though I'm not fully certain, I did get the word I've been searching for to describe how the flute playing touches me.  John Blinn put it into a word for me, "haunting".  That's the word I've been searching for.  The music is hauntingly beautiful.  It strikes a deep chord and allows the spirit to fly freely.  Again, that's from listening.  I don't know yet if I'm to be a flute "prayer".  I am willing to test that though.

There is another "begin" I have in my soul soil.  But I cannot fathom beginning any further type of studies or programs at this time, so I don't know how in the world or when this can actually come to fruition.  But, I know that beginning a spiritual direction course of study or program is part of my future.  Finding the one that fits my life at the right time is the key.  There is one that is a soul care program, but I've not met anyone who has been through it.  It is something to check into. 

In the introduction to "The Woodcarver", Ann mentioned that it was the 'work before the work' that prepared the soul.  Ah.... well that makes total sense to me!  God gave me SOULfeast to prepare me for the work that is being done this week.  GULP!!  There was quite a bit of soil/soul preparation last week, so I continue to wonder what God is up to in me and through me. 

I am grateful for the gift of pause.

I am grateful for the gift of silence.

I am blessed to be able to tend to this crucial aspect of leadership.  Not just one week, but two weeks of tending to the soul of leadership.  My soul.  What a gift.

How is it with my soil?  It is rich and nourished.  It is also being tilled, planted into with seeds of life, and watered.  I am expecting new life to grow from within. ☺

How is it with your soil?

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  Another gift is/was tonight's glimpse of the sunset:


Follow the trails of the wise ones...

I took some time this morning to write in my journal.  I am writing in Advice from a Mountain these days.  I started this journal in September 2013 after I finished the Advice from a River journal.  As I opened up my journal, this is the page that was the next empty space on which to write:

I found this extremely appropriate as I am here at Christ the King Retreat Center, surrounded by spiritual directors and retreat leaders.  I am blessed to be in the presence of those who have gone before me on so many paths of life.

I sometimes wonder how in the world I ended up here... and I smile as I look back.  (There were conversations with a friend on the West Coast that led to my being on the board and to my being part of the newsletter team.) How I came to FUMSDRL in the first place?  I see myself as a retreat leader because I have been blessed to be a part of retreat teams in the past and have led a half day retreat.  But I'm not very much experienced beyond that.  I have written a retreat for one of my classes that is close to being ready to go... it just needs a team and a little fleshing out.  It's on the topic of prayer and spirituality.  I hope to be a part of more retreat teams in the future and possibly lead more day (or half days) in my area.  As for spiritual direction, I'm what I call a "wanna-be".  I'm not one trained or officially, but I do see myself heading in that direction and have in some ways been doing direction.  But, I have much to learn.  As I have much to learn in many areas of my life.

And, that is where I can learn as I follow the trails of the wise ones... who have also followed the trails of other wise ones.  At dinner last night I heard a great question that caused me to reflect, chew, and journal.

In this morning's board meeting, we started (as we always do) with a time of centering.  We were asked to offer a word that described our spirit this morning.  There were several words that went through my mind, but I landed on "open" and knew it was the right place.  My spirit is open.  As I reflected on that, I could feel a smile broaden on my face.

John Blinn, one of our board members, led us in this time.  After we shared our words, he read in lectio divina style a short passage.  It spoke to me.  The second time he read it, he asked us to reflect upon the challenge in it.  The third time he read it, he asked us to reflect upon the invitation in it.

There were several things that spoke deeply to me in it.  So much so that I took a picture of it. 

This may not speak to you as it did me.  However, humor me for a moment, if you will.  Take a few moments and read over the words above in the image, slowly and reflectively.  What speaks to you?  What challenges you?  What invites you?
What spoke to me?  What challenged me?  What invited me?  Pretty much all of it.  I am growing into my identity, my true self.
I am free to be me... to be real... to be true... to work out my identity in God.  My full identity is hidden in God and God will make me who I am... who I will be.... when at last I fully begin to be.

John played one of his Native American flutes after this, taking us into a time of silence.  He played it at the end of our time of silence as well.

Wow! I thoroughly enjoy the sounds of these flutes!  Karen C. Moore, our FUMSDRL board director, plays them (prays them) as well.  Either John or Karen will play them on our phone board meetings.  I have been hearing these sounds for a couple of years now....  Let me just say for now that this sound speaks to me.  I don't really know what this means.  In fact, I'm not sure I want to explore it.  I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to afford it if it means more than simply enjoying it as a listener.

For now, I sit with the sound of others praying their flutes.  And I listen.  Not only do I listen to the sound of the flute, I listen to and take note of the trails and paths they have traveled to arrive where they are now.

As others arrive today for the start of the retreat, I will be able to listen and observe many more trails this week. 

Oh, what a blessing to be here for this opportunity.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, July 21, 2014

Christ the King Retreat Center.... my home for the week

I arrived this afternoon to Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo, MN after an odd day of travel for me.  I say "odd" because there were all kinds of mix ups, yet I remained calm through it all and simply went with the flow.  That wouldn't have been me back 5-10 years.  I would have worried more about missing my flight, etc.  I don't know if I would have reacted differently if I had been in charge of a group or had I not traveling by myself.  But, there was peace in and through it all.  I was a little concerned here and there, but nothing like days gone by. 

Here is my travel day: 

When I arrived at Groome Transportation, they didn't have me on the list.  When I gave them my reservation number, they said my reservation had been canceled because I didn't show up on JUNE 21.  I told them that I had gotten a verbal confirmation for JULY 21 and JULY 25 (return) from the person helping me with my reservation.  Unfortunately, the number 6 had been put down instead of 7.  What that meant for me this morning was that I was not on the 8:00 am shuttle to Atlanta, but the 9:00 am shuttle.  I worked on my homework assignment in their lobby and then most of the way to Atlanta. 

Though a little concerned about making my 11:55 am flight, I got into the airport, got my boarding pass (with a little snag because my number on my print out was too long for the kiosk), and headed to security.  I haven't traveled with my laptop in a while, so I learned the get-a-dirty-look-and-almost-get-in-trouble-way that you are supposed to put it in a separate bin.  I took it out of my backpack.  It was an honest mistake. 

I took the wonderful train to Concourse D.  After making a pit stop and thanking an Air Force service woman in uniform quickly and briefly for her service, I was off to my gate.  What do you know?!?! It was all the way down the long hallway.  I got there and they were loading.  A full plane.  But here is where it got better.

I had LOTS of leg room (important for a short 5'4" person) because I was in the emergency aisle.  I wasn't cramped.  We landed 20 minutes early.  That meant I might be able to make the earlier shuttle.  When I got to the shuttle area, I made a call to the shuttle folks and they had room for me.  I then called the travel angel on our retreat end to let him know I would be arriving on the earlier shuttle.  I got to the meeting spot an hour earlier and I got to ride the shuttle with a very special passenger!

From the drop-off shuttle location in Monticello to Buffalo, MN is only about 15 minutes or so.  We drove through Buffalo looking at the Buffalo.  Though I didn't get pictures of them today, maybe I'll get out and get some again this year.  Last year I kissed one of them.  (These aren't real buffalo.)
We arrived at Christ the King Retreat Center, home sweet home for this week of the FUMSDRL retreat.  It is good to be back here.  As soon as I got here, I could feel some of the stress I had picked up over the past couple of days melting away.
With a full week at SOULfeast last week and only being home 2 1/2 days, you might wonder what in the world I could have picked up in that time?!?!  Well, that's another day.  Even just the minor incidences of today's travel day were allowed to slip off me.
What struck me most, however, was tonight's worship time after dinner.  Dinner was a good time to start getting to know some of the board members that I've only heard over the phone and a couple of the retreatants that arrived early.  It was also a good time to catch up with folks I met face to face last year.  There are missing faces, however.... those from last year and those who couldn't make it that would have been here for the first time this year.  Varying circumstances.  Those whom I met, I miss.  Those whom I have yet to meet, I miss the opportunity to have met them.  For each person and situation, they are being held up in thoughts and prayers.
Worship.... a wonderful and meaningful way to begin our time together.  Flute music, silence, prayer, holy communion, the Upper Room Worship Book, passing of the peace, etc.  It was a special time.  Psalm 42.  Psalm Prayer #270 (based on Psalm 42).
As you can see, this Psalm Prayer was adapted from Psalm 42 by Judy Holloway, 2006.  It reads:
Quench the thirst of my heart, O God.
Sing the song of your love deep within me.
Lead me to the waters of mercy,
for my hope is in you.  Amen.
This speaks to a depth I cannot not explain, yet can sense.  Again, one would think that after last week of SOULfeast I would be full to overflowing.  In many ways I am and have been.  Yet, with the theme of soil and tending to the tension of being and doing, I imagine God has plans for me this week. 
It's not all going to be about the business of FUMSDRL (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders).  Yes, I'm here for the board meeting.  I'm here for the fellowship.  Yet, I'm sensing God has me here for something far beyond what I can even comprehend at this very moment. 
What I do know is that deep calls to deep and that Psalm Prayer touches a very deep place within me. 
As I walked around this evening, marveling at the beauty of the flowers, the sky, the water, and the sunset, what rang in my mind was this:  My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord...

Though I am thirsty and seek God to quench my thirsty soul, at the same time my soul leaps out to magnify the Lord with all its being.
This is how I enter my week here at Christ the King Retreat, expecting, and ready to be led deep into the waters.
Blessings on your journey,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

SOULfeast 2014....

There are so many things I can say about SOULfeast 2014.

First, I will state the condition of my soul going into this week.  Frankly, it/I was depleted.  I had been working overtime to complete one of my classes two weeks early so that I could attend SOULfeast and another week for Hearts on Fire.  Beyond school responsibilities, there were other life things.

This photo was where my heart, mind, and soul were going into SOULfeast:

Though it is two days away and I have a final exam to finish prior, my soul longs for the nourishment it will receive at SOULfeast. Like the leaf that was ready and open to pool the water droplet here, I plan to be a vessel to capture what the Lord offers.
I was ready... in every sense of the word... to go there. 

Through the worship, the speaker (Roberta Bondi), the music, the prayer, the communion, the fellowship, seeing "old" friends (some I had met in years past and some I knew from home, friends from the Academy, etc), spending time walking around the lake, spending time in silence and solitude, meeting new friends, etc., God restored and strengthened my soul.

I felt refreshed, refilled, and refueled by the end of the week. 

It may seem a little crazy that I am doing back to back weeks of retreats/conferences.  When I saw Johnny Sears (Academy for Spiritual Formation) at SOULfeast, he said he didn't expect to see me there because of the Hearts on Fire in Minnesota.  I told him that God must have lots of work to do in me, because God is the one who worked it all out. ☺

I am grateful for the refreshment and filling that SOULfeast offered last week!

If you're interested in learning more about SOULfeast, an offering of the Upper Room, you can check them out on their website.

Next year's dates are:  July 12-16, 2015.  The main speaker is Elaine Heath and Jacob Armstrong will bring the Word/preaching.  The theme is "Renew Your People".  You can pre-register here.

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  Later (hopefully) I will post more pictures and thoughts from the workshops, etc.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Becoming a contemplative photographer.....

I didn't really see it coming.  It came.  One day I looked up and looked back and realized, that yes, I had been moving into this process for a very long time.  Though not necessarily intentionally as in a goal for arrival, I think it has been a natural outlet for my soul.

Much like the beginnings of my spiritual journey take me back to the days of roaming and wandering the woods for hours and sitting at the mossy creek side up behind my Dad's campground (Trail's Inn), my photography journey started without me realizing it.  It is in looking back that I am able to recognize the beginnings of both these journeys and the path they have taken me.

I have had a camera in my hands since I was a child.  My very first camera was a Kodak Instamatic.


My favorite part of that was the light bulbs.  In my high school days, in band we used those types of light bulbs for a special effects on one of our marching shows.  Everyone "popped" the wire at the same time at the end of the show. 

My first 35 mm was a Minolta XG1.

I could go on with the cameras I have had and used throughout the years, but that would make this post much longer.  I have primarily taken pictures of nature, architecture, and things that strike my attention.  But, I do take people pictures at times. 

In the past year or so I have noticed contemplative photography sites on Facebook of other people and started following them (such as Diane Walker's Contemplative Photography website or her Facebook page.  Their photographs and their words have spoken to me.  Additionally, other inspirational sites such as Shalem, Terry Hershey Fan Page, Alive Now, Weavings, etc. often use photography along with sayings to share a message.  I believe all of these have spoken to the deep place in my soul.  My soul not only listened, but started doing what it heard and saw. 

I really never set out to take contemplative photographs, to reflect my soul, or to allow others to reflect in the depths of their souls.  Yet, I know now that I am doing it.  And I'm glad.  Because I enjoy it and it is something that speaks to my soul.  It is one of those things that has grown out of my being.  Doing has come from being.  Being is always the root of doing because the well must have something to supply.  (This is one of those lessons that has been in the making, an ongoing learning journey and it flows from Psalm 46:10--Be still and know that I am God.)

I will note that part of my "a-ha" moment, realizing and recognizing that I have been on this journey came when a dear brother on the journey pointed it out to me.  My reaction was "oh".  Then, "hmmm".  That germinated and took root and helped me see, indeed, it was true.

At SOULfeast last week I attended a workshop "Visual Psalms" taught by Beth Richardson (a wonderful photographer, writer, singer, and all around creative person) and our assignment was to attempt to photograph the Psalms as we walked around the grounds.  I left our classroom, praying as I walked, and started taking some pictures here and there.  Sometimes I had an idea what Psalm or what portion of the Psalm might fit.  At other times, it was simply taking a picture of something that captured my attention.  Later that night I looked over the Psalms to match a Psalm or a portion of the Psalm with a picture that I had taken.  The first picture below fits the first category.  I knew when I looked at the mountains, that I thought "where does my help come from?".  And, I liked the idea of framing the picture with the archway at the chapel breezeway.  For the second picture, I enjoyed the roses.  There are SO MANY beautiful roses there.  These caught my attention because of the difference in stages and as I reflected on the passages and the pictures, it made me think of the different stages of waiting in life, etc.

Psalm 66:1-2-- I lift my eyes to the hills-- from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (NRSV)  (faith and trust theme)
Psalm 130:5-6--"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning." (NRSV) (petition theme)

When I walk and hike, things catch my attention.  There might not always be Scripture that goes along with it.  Sometimes I have found quotes that go along with the picture later, as in this leaf in the water back in the Fall. 

This one is of the creek at the North Chickamauga Gorge and I had read a verse that was on my mind:

(I created both of the above with the Textgram App on my phone.)

Sometimes, it is simply a moment with God.  Maybe just meant for me.  Maybe meant to share.  Sometimes I share.   Sometimes I don't. 

One doesn't always know what is for self and what is for others.  However, I do believe that most of what the Creator allows me to learn and experience is "for the sake of others", as Bob Mulholland reminded me of Christ's teachings.  And, I do want to live my life poured out for others.  However, that can only be accomplished if I regularly fill up at the well. 

Daily walks in creation, events such as SOULfeast, silence and solitude, music, ordinary things, etc.  There are many ways to fill up at the well. 

Thanks be to the Creator!

Blessings on your journey,


P.S.  Here are a few other resources not listed in the post above.

Visual Psalmists posted on Alive Now!
Sight Psalms

Other sites on Contemplative Photography:

Seeing Fresh:  The Practice of Contemplative Photography
Contemplative Camera

A book:

Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner