Monday, October 27, 2014

The Power of Group Silence

Besides spending quite a bit of time studying Hebrew today, the other focus (reminder) has been SILENCE.

During my morning walk today at the Greenway Farm, the fog was thick and made for a wonderful cocoon in which to walk.  There were areas so thick that you couldn't see the objects, a visual silence.

In my walk this morning I was able to soak in the silence and solitude in the protection of the fog.  Though physically foggy, I was able to to spend needed time listening to God so that my heart, mind, and soul could clear out some. 

I was refreshed and ready to study after my walk.

During one of my study breaks this morning I opened up A Guide To Prayer For All God's People to week 52 "When God Calls" and read a quote from Elton Trueblood that came from his book The New Man for Our Time.  He spoke about the Iona community and their example of starting each day by listening to God for guidance.  But what grabbed my attention today wasn't that, but rather his second paragraph.  Trueblood writes about silence: "Powerful and productive as individual silence may be, group silence may be even more productive.  Many are able to report that a genuine entering into a group silence, when it is dynamic and not merely sleepy, can bring, in the briefest conceivable time, an entire flood of ideas not previously recognized." (p. 315 in A Guide To Prayer For All God's People)

Ah.... yes!

Silence in solitude is wonderful.  I concur.

Yet, I have also experienced group silence and find it to be powerful.  I have experienced group silence in groups of centering prayer.  There is something very special to that.  I have experienced group silence in active silence once during my journey in the 2 year Academy.  That was an extremely powerful and meaningful experience.  There was healing in that experience.  I have experienced group silence on 1/2 day retreats and during silent days on retreats or silent times.

There is something about being together, united through a common bond, that gives life to the silence.

Beyond the simple experience of it, group silence can be extremely beneficial when seeking discernment on issues or situations.  But that aspect of silence for group discernment is a whole other topic, one very well worth time and attention.

Do you take time in groups for silence?  Whether it is silence during prayer, or silence to focus and settle in, silence to reflect on a word or message spoken or sung..... if you haven't tried it, try it.  Allowing the time and space for silence in groups for us to listen to God is powerful.

Meanwhile, if you've not had your individual time of silence today, I encourage you take some time for silence. 

I learned of a new resource today, Friends of Silence.   It is a contemplative community started by Nan Merrill in 1987 in Detroit.   On their website they mentioned T.S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday" poem and the importance of there being enough silence for the word to be heard.

Intrigued, I looked for the poem.  I learned that this was considered T.S. Eliot's "conversion" poem, published in 1930.

It has 6 stanzas.  Though long, it is definitely worth a read (or two).  It makes a good lectio divina exercise.

Here is a link to the written poem: "Ash Wednesday".

If you prefer to listen to it, here is a YouTube video:

Blessings on your journey,


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Be informed...

I don't write political posts.

Well, I may have mentioned my Dad running for State Senator back in the day and my stumping for him as a kid... but, in general, I don't write about political topics.

However, on my drive home last night after class from Wilmore, I learned about an informative website that I wanted to pass along to others from the WMBW Moody Radio Station (88.9).  The show on last night that was sharing the information was "The Public Square" sponsored by the American Policy Round Table.

This website is called "iVoters".  You can access it by clicking on the name.

Once you get there, you can type in your address and zipcode to get a ballot for your specific area.  You will see links to the various issues for which you are allowed to vote.  You will also see all the candidates listed for your area.  Some will have pictures.  There are links to learn more information  on as well You can also read both sides of any issues on the ballot. The links take you to  It calls itself an "interactive almanac of U.S. politics."

During the radio broadcast show they were discussing the Tennessee Amendment 1 issue and how the commercials weren't doing the issue any justice nor were they really much help to the voters.

I agree.  The commercials did me no good when I early voted.  I read and re-read the statement with one certain commercial in mind, attempting to figure out how that commercial related to what was being asked of us to vote.  It did not make sense to me.

What was helpful about the link from iVoters to ballotpedia was the information.  You can find the full wording of the ballot text.  You can find information on the Constitution.  You can find information on those for and against the amendment.  You can make your informed decision.

I wish I had been able to consult a non-biased informative website such as iVoters prior to my early voting, but I learned about it later.  If you haven't early-voted, it's not too late for you.

I voted based on verbage of the amendment and what I thought best for the government based on my understandings and insight and not based on commercial bias.  However, it would have been better to have been better informed of the full situation. 

We all know that to be better informed is good.  We all realize that often commercials, especially political ads, can be biased.  We must be able to filter through what is there and discern to the best of our ability, what is the best choice.

There was an issue I was expecting to be on my ballot when I early voted-- the wine in the grocery stores in Tennessee.  It was voted into legislation back in the spring of 2014 (HB 0610), but is coming before the people before it is finalized.  Just last week I started to see some commercials on television asking, "where's the wine?" for the Red, White, and Food Campaign

However, I didn't see the opportunity to vote on this issue on my ballot.  I learned that municipalities had to petition in order to get it onto the ballot. It seems that 80 municipalities in Tennessee pursued this petition to add this to the ballot.  (Check out this article on the Wine Petition Campaign for more information.) It seems therefore, that there weren't folks wanting it to go to a vote in our suburb area, because I never heard anything about nor saw any petition to sign.   I learned by watching this video below that the petitions started this summer in certain grocery stores and they had to have the required number by August 21.  Because the grocery store that I frequent most wasn't named, maybe that's why I never saw a petition to sign.  Also, I traveled a bit this summer and didn't read the newspaper as much as normal, so I missed this article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press from June 6, 2014.

I was asked about my stand on the matter.  I believe that having the wine in the grocery stores can help revenue and therefore isn't a "bad thing."  I wouldn't want the revenue of the larger grocery stores to destroy the smaller businesses, however.  It is important for smaller businesses to do well.  I would like to know how communities in other states have thrived in their businesses since bringing in wine to the grocery stores.  Has it been a win/win situation or has it hampered business and the economy?   Even with those statistics, because each state and community is a different culture, the results could be different here.  It remains to be seen how Tennessee will do in this area. 

You may still be wondering, 'why is she writing about politics and wine?'  It's about being informed.  It's about doing my best to know what is going on around me as I live out my time here, supporting my community, state, and nation.  I admit it-- I'm not always informed as I can be about the various issues and candidates.  I want to be.  I need to be. 

Wherever we live, we have a responsibility to do all the good we can in our community (state, nation, etc.).  As a follower of Christ it makes even more sense to want to be informed and to share that information with others so that we are able to make the best choices.

Check out the links I've provided in this blog post.  Share them with others.  Have fun with research and reading. 

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My year of jubilee.... it's finally here!!! Now what?!?!

I have been waiting this whole past year for this moment.  Seriously! I have anticipated turning 50 with excitement so much that you would think last year was my year of jubilee.  It was definitely my preparatory year.

I had the nudge on October 1 to start walking, so I did.  And I walked over 500 miles this past year.

For whatever reason, the nudge to hang glide for year 49 was strong, so I went for it.  That was one of the most incredible experiences ever.

I also experienced some significant difficult times in my life with the declining health and death of my grandmother.  I still have yet to blog about that, but I did post a few things here and there in blog posts and on facebook.  One day, when I'm ready, I will honor the rumblings in my soul and write about those times.  Meanwhile, it was an incredible journey to spend time with her weekly last year and to be with her at the end.

Taking BioEthics at the end of that journey (this past Spring semester in February) was difficult, especially when you add in the other situations in my life that I rarely write about that deal with mental illness and brain injury situations.  Suffice it to say that I have been blessed with opportunities for hands-on learning and ministry of presence.

This past year also brought along the death of a very special young man, Will.  His life, his hospital time, and his death forever are part of my journey.  What a blessing and privilege to have been able to walk the path with his family, then and now.

My preparatory year for my year of jubilee included many things.  I often contemplated how I would celebrate the big 5-0 when it finally came.   What I decided was that I would live into my year of freedom, my year of jubilee.  I would embrace it.  I would have fun.  I would live into the adventures set before me and seek out some new ones.  I would complete the paths I was currently on.  (Meaning that I graduate during my year of jubilee!! And I follow the path of commissioning as a Provisional Elder in the United Methodist Church.)

My husband and I made plans for a two night get-away in KY at a B&B, Eagle's View B&B located near Burnside.  (I had enough credits through the Kentucky frequent B&B plan to get a free night.)  We viewed Cumberland Falls, hiked the Natural Arch and the Panoramic View trail, checked out some fresh raspberries that were locally grown at the Cedar Creek Vineyards and ate dinner at Guthrie's Riverhouse Restaurant.  It was a great way to end 49 and bring in 50.

Eagle's View B&B

Sunset, October 7th 2014

Cumberland Falls, October 8th 2014

Natural Arch, October 8th 2014

Natural Arch (up close)

Natural Arch (from underneath)

Natural Arch (from inside)

Cedar Creek Vineyards

Jeff Wiles picking raspberries-- they were delicious!

The plan was to pick up our daughter from my parents and take her to Atlanta, GA to the Georgia Aquarium.  My folks, my daughter, my brother, his girlfriend, and my nephew surprised me with a special lunch and a cookie cake!  Balloons and streamers decorated the dining room and entrance way.  After the celebration, we headed to Atlanta for a couple of days.

I went to my first TaeKwonDo workout as a 50 year old yesterday (Tuesday October 14) and found that I can still do the workout.   ☺ Whew!  One of my goals for my year of jubilee is to test for my next belt level, which is a 1st degree, level 3.  That requires learning the form well, which requires brain matter, which is currently being overused.  So, TKD is mainly exercise for me right now.  But I have a whole year to accomplish that goal.

I wouldn't mind going hang gliding again during my year of jubilee.  Or even up in a hot air balloon.

There are family members I would like to visit.  There are friends I would like to visit.  There are places I would like to visit.

I am would like to finish this journey of my studies well, realizing that I have to balance my time with studies and other roles of life (parent, wife, daughter, friend, etc.).

It is a desire to get out and hike at least once a week, but sometimes that doesn't happen.  I do try to walk at least 4-5 times a week.

I plan to have some time apart, whether it is a 5 day Academy or SOULfeast so that my soul has time to catch up with my body.  Though that is a significant time set apart, I also plan to set aside smaller sabbath rest times throughout the year to "be", to rest, to play, to relax, etc.

I am hoping that my year of jubilee lives into itself historically and that all my debts are forgiven!  So, for the remainder of my seminary courses.... FREE!  For the remainder of the mortgage..... FREE!  YIPPEE!!  That sure would be super!  But, I'm not so sure that others will want to celebrate my year of jubilee in that manner.

Ultimately, how do I want to celebrate my year of jubilee?  Here's how I want to live it out:  I want to love God, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want to love others. I want to love myself.  I want to walk humbly.  I want to act justly.  I want to seek mercy.   If any of those things sound familiar to you, then you might be thinking of these verses:

Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

I don't know what all this year of jubilee has in store for me, but I do know that I'm excited to live into it.  I have been looking forward to living into the 2nd half of life for several years now.  I've probably really already been living into it in many ways.  The number is finally catching up to me.

Thank you to all who have been celebrating with me.  Know that I'm celebrating this year of jubilee all year long, so if you want to have coffee, go on a hike, share a meal, catch a play or movie, just chat... whatever, let me know.

How goes it on your journey?  What are you celebrating?  With whom are you celebrating?

Blessings on your journey!


PS-- One of the cool things for me during our time in KY was playing my flute underneath the Natural Arch.  I am still learning to play.  I just play/pray the flute.  That was a very sacred and special time for me to play the flute.  I probably should have taken advantage of having someone with me to take the video, but alas, there is a headless flute player.  The acoustics were incredible there.  Don't blame the acoustics for any poor sound quality.... that would be the flute player. ☺

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Walking the path.... my labyrinth experiences

A while back I was asked to reflect on my personal labyrinth experiences.  I haven't had lots of writing time these days and that had been put on the back burner, as the expression goes.  Today, I noticed a book called Walking the Labyrinth by Travis Scholl [published by Intervarsity Press (IVP)].  In sharing that book on my Facebook page, I was once again reminded that I had promised to reflect upon and share my labyrinth experiences. 

I have been fortunate to walk several labyrinths over the past several years.  There is an outdoor labyrinth at the Bright School that is open to the public.  It isn't too far away.  That is the first labyrinth I walked.

We have one on the property of the church where we worship, Burks UMC, and I have been able to walk it prior to services, at special services, as part of classes, and at times when I've just wanted and/or needed time and space to listen to God.

We made one out of hoses for a retreat once at Camp Dixie. 

I walked the labyrinth at the Fruitland Park LEC several times during my 2 year Academy time there between 2011 and 2013. 

I have also walked the labyrinths at Lake Junaluska, NC (cut into the grass), St. Mary's, Sewanee (brick inlay), and Asbury Theological Seminary (small concrete in a patio).  The one different labyrinth that I did was one that the youth set up indoors with stations around it.  It was neat because it had reflective questions, thoughts, and activities at the various stations along the way.  Though a different labyrinth prayer experience, it provided time and space for me to listen to God.

Why do I walk the labyrinth?  Because it allows me to focus on my conversation with God (prayer).  In walking the path, I am able to slow down, to listen, to talk.  Though walking, I am walking contemplatively, prayerfully.  Each labyrinth is different, due to how it is made, its terrain, where it is located, etc.

Outdoor labyrinths that are mowed may have bare spots, grassy spots, muddy spots, etc.  Concrete labyrinths may have rocks, sticks, leaves, acorns, or who knows what else on them.  At Lake Junaluska, one thing you watch out for as you walk is the geese deposit along the path.  All of these things are reminders to me that the labyrinth path is much like the path of life.  There are twists and turns along the way, there are differing landscapes, things to watch out for, and yes, even poop on the path.  But, that's not the ultimate focus of the path.  The path is a tool to allow me to focus on my relationship with God, to listen more intentionally as I meander the pathway.

I have entered the labyrinth most often with burdens on my heart and mind.  Most recently, I walked the labyrinth with memories and thoughts of my friend Leila with the Wednesday Bible Study group.

Regardless of what has been on my heart, mind, and soul as I have entered the path, my experience has been that I leave the labyrinth in a state of much deeper peace and solace.  The time to wander along the path, the opportunity to talk with God and to listen, the time and space to simply "be" (even while still moving), the time to breathe in and out more deeply and intentionally.  All of this must somehow be part of why I feel more at peace when I step back out of the labyrinth. 

It's like walking along the beach or hiking along a trail with a good friend.  You aren't saying anything to another out loud, but you're together.  That togetherness transcends anything that words could ever say and settles deep within.  That's what walking the labyrinth does for me.  

Peace.  There is always peace.  There have been times of resolution.  There has been joy.  There have been answers.  There have been tears.  There has been anger.  The labyrinth is a path of prayer, therefore it is a way of deepening my relationship with the One who created me, the Creator. 

How do I pray the labyrinth?  It depends on what is on my heart, mind, and soul at the time.   If I am seeking answers or heavy with a burden, I will most likely spend time on the walk in lifting that concern or thought up.  When I get to the center, I stay as long as I feel I need to in order to make sure that I can leave what I have brought with me there.  On the way out, I try to offer thoughts and prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving about the things that were on my mind and whatever else comes to mind. 

I have heard about using the labyrinth for celebrations, for Eucharist (communion), and other things.  That sounds wonderful.  I hope to have those experiences one day too.

The bottom line is that the labyrinth path is a path of prayer for me, a path of talking with and listening to God.  It centers me, it deepens the peace within me.

It is different than walking or hiking in that the walking is slower, more intentional.  I have not been on an intentional, contemplative hike yet, but I imagine that might be similar to walking a labyrinth path on the intentional level.  Yet, I think there is something unique to going into the center and coming back out that is different about the labyrinth that one doesn't get on other types of prayer walks.  But that doesn't come from any kind of research, just my brain (which is slightly over used and mush right now from studies.)

So, that's my experience(s) with walking the labyrinth path.  What is/are yours?

Blessings on your journey,


PS-- I have included pictures of the labyrinths I mentioned, one blogpost in which I wrote briefly about labyrinths, and a few additional resources about labyrinths.  There are abundant resources in books, on the internet, etc. 

Burks UMC

Life Enrichment Center, Fruitland Park, FL

Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY

Bright School, Chattanooga, TN

Hand-made out of 6 hoses for a retreat at Camp Dixie, Lakesite, TN
Lake Junaluska, NC
St. Mary's Sewanee, TN (not one of my pictures) 

Additional resources:

Rabbi Rami Shapiro talking about labyrinths and the one at St. Mary's Sewanee specifically

Journey Toward Abundant Living (May 19, 2013) [one of my posts]

Bonnie Jacobs has written about several Chattanooga labyrinths:

Labyrinths (October 20, 2012)

Another Labyrinth (October 24, 2012)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reflections caused by "The Journey" by Mary Oliver

Cumberland Trail, from Retro-Hughes Trailhead, October 1, 2014

Cumberland Trail, from Retro-Hughes Trailhead, October 1, 2014

Cumberland Trail, from Retro-Hughes Trailhead, October 1, 2014

Today a friend shared a poem with me.  A poem I have been introduced to previously during my 2 year Academy.  Just seeing the name on the poem, "Mary Oliver" brought a deep sigh of coming home that I cannot explain.  Then I looked at the title, "The Journey".   Ah... a deeper sense of settling in.  Then I began to read the poem and it struck deep into the core of my being.

In the midst of requirements, daily living, family situations and issues, etc., sometimes the voice gets drowned out.  Sometimes the chaos swirling around seems too much.  I attempt to be still and listen in the chaos.  I attempt to create time and space for God even more during the times of chaos by getting into nature, just sitting still, writing, reading, or some other way of communication with the Creator God.

Yet, even so, there are still times when I struggle to remember my calling, my way, my path that God has called me to.  And even when I remember and know without a doubt the way, it is difficult to imagine living into it when the way isn't clearly cut at this time.  But I am reminded that God can make a way when there seems to be no way.  I am reminded that I can trust the Voice that called me and that guides me.

Yesterday there was a picture of mountains on the Contemplative Photography by Diane Walker Facebook page with this quote:

There is a way,
a path carved in to the cleft between these mountains.
Whenever things begin to loom like this,
you'll simply have to trust.
There is a way, a path for you to take,
a hand to guide you through:
but first you'll have to ask...

I shared the picture and quote to my page, adding my reflection: "The way isn't always clear. The path gets difficult. Ask. Trust. Allow the guidance of the Guide."

Here is Mary Oliver's poem, "The Journey": 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – -
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.

I would encourage you to read the poem through a couple of times slowly.  What word, words, or phrases stand out to you?  Reflect on those things.  It might also be good to think about what are you learning about yourself on the journey. 

When was "the one day I knew what I had to do" and began?  One of the significant markers for me was the 5 Day TN Academy in 2010.  There were several things that happened during that week that clarified to me what I was to do.  There were also some seeds planted.   The big first step that came from that week was my re-application to seminary for the M.Div.  I also learned about the bilingual 2 Year Academy that week and made some connections that allowed me to teach Lay Servant classes on  Several ongoing relationships stem from that week too.  

The journey over the past 4 years has taken me deeper.  Deeper into knowing myself.  Deeper into my relationship with God.

I still have quite a bit of learning and growing to do.  I have many more questions than answers and my life doesn't always reflect the love and light of Christ.

Yet, I remain on the journey.  And, for me, that's the most important part. 

What is it that you know you are to do?  May you be graced with boldness and courage to begin!

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October 1.... a year of walking.

Mizuno shoes, October 1, 2013
Today marks a year when I began a new journey.  A literal journey.  The journey of walking.  Last year on October 1, a Tuesday, my day changed and instead of doing one thing, I ended up buying a new pair of shoes.  Running/walking shoes.  I hadn't had a new pair of shoes for walking in decades.  But something inside me had that "rafiki voice" (you know, from The Lion King) saying 'it is time'.

Because I was near Front Runner, I went in, tried on shoes, and bought a pair.  I bought a cool pair of Mizuno shoes.  LOVED THEM.  I started walking the very next day.  At first first I walked about a mile a day.  Sometimes a mile and a half.

I mentioned at TaeKwonDo class that I was going to start walking every day and one of my workout partners there said she would be interested in joining me.  So, off we went.  

I used "map my hike" as an application at first, but then settled on Runkeeper to track my progress and goals.

I walked about 4-5 days a week.  Even in the winter.  I bought a head covering/face mask to keep my head warm in the winter.
I set goals of mileage per month.  At some point I decided it would be neat to do a 5K since I had never done one before.  So, I found one that fit my schedule (Operation Outreach) and started preparing for it.  I was primarily a walker, but prepared some to run during that race too.

I have worked my way up to 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5 miles on a walk.  But the 5 mile walk is a rare one as there are other things to do in a day too.

Not counting the miles I did prior to using Runkeeper starting October 15, I have walked 494 miles.  Counting the approximate miles from October 2 when I started walking, that makes somewhere over 500 miles this past year.  Neat!

The shoes?  Well, the Mizuno shoes were awesome, but they got a tear (that appeared out of nowhere for no apparent reason) in the top part of the shoe about 3 months after purchase and I took them back.  Front Runner replaced them.  Then about 3 months after that, a similar tear on both shoes.  Weird. Other people had come back with similar issues.  This time I had to switch to a different shoe.  I did.  Asics.  Love them.  It took me a while to get used to them, but I have worn out the soles and am in need of a new pair.

tiny hole that appeared

the asics gel nimbus shoe that I went with last and still have (no holes, just worn out soles)
What has all this walking been for me?  Done for me?  It gives me some quiet time.  It gets me out and moving.  It gets me out in creation some days if I'm on a trail or walking one of the more natural walking areas.  It has helped me explore my contemplative photography as I've taken many photographs on my walks this past year. (2nd photography book)

The exercise has been beneficial.  Whether I'm walking by myself or with others, the thought processing time has been beneficial.

I have since found articles on the benefits of walking and how it creates space for the mind to be creative.  Neat.   Here is one article that talks about how walking boosts creative thinking.

I didn't start walking to accomplish anything, really.  I had no idea it would lead to a 5K or bring out contemplative photography or even help me lose weight over the year.  I felt the nudge inside to start and do it and I obeyed.  It has been a blessing and benefit in my life.

What are you feeling nudged to do, to begin?  I encourage you to listen to that nudge and obey it. 

Nike advertising would say, "Just do it."  John Wesley would say: "O begin!"  (Though the John Wesley quote is more in reference to spiritual disciples of study, reading, Scripture, etc., it can be applied to any area that we are feeling nudged/called into.  Here is the quote: "O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant.") [For more about this quote and the context from which it came, check out this link.]

Blessings on your journey,