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!

Debra


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,

Debra

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 beadisciple.com.  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,

Debra

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,

Debra

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Participating in Christian disciplines leads to godly living


This morning I picked up the green book, A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God, and turned to week 46 "Making Room for God" to see what other readings might speak to me this morning. 

The first paragraph of was starred and highlighted already from a previous reading.  As I read the selection and reflected upon it, I decided to share it.

The reading selection is found on pages 344 and 345 of the Guide:

     "By participating in Christian disciplines, we live out our desire and intention to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  As we do so, we are encouraged, instructed, healed, challenged, loved, renewed, and beckoned to God and godly living.
      While it is true that God is in every when and where and that many other things besides disciplines contribute to our deepening relationship with God, we discover that it makes a meaningful difference in everyday life when we set aside time, space, and ourselves to be more fully present with and attentive and responsive to God.  Disciplines are like faithful companions on the way. The benefit we seek and desire most is deepening companionship with God.  We come away from other pursuits to listen for the still, small voice that is our best friend, our beloved Savior, the Holy One, our Creator, God."  --From Holy Invitations by Jeannette A. Bakke

Everything in this reading selection speaks to me.  It resonates within my soul and receives an "amen".  The author points out that the Christian disciplines in which we participate do the following things to us: encourage us, instruct us, heal us, challenge us, love us, renew us, beckon us to God and godly living.  That has been my journey.  Whether it has been the discipline of prayer, Scripture reading, blogging, or one of the others that have become part of my life, I have benefited from the disciplines (practices) in my relationship with God.  The author points out in the second paragraph the importance of setting apart time and space to be present to God and the benefits of doing so.  It comes down to being still and listening. 

That is where my journey has settled.  That is the center.  Being quiet, being still and listening.  It has been (and will continue to be) a long journey of exploration and practice, but one that is well worth it.  It all started with that UMW (United Methodist Women's) meeting and making bookmarks that night at Grace UMC with Judy Kroulek in charge.  I had no idea what to put on my bookmark...nor verse nor decoration.  I believe I ended up with some butterflies and the verse God gently gave me, Psalm 46:10-- Be still and know that I am God. 

I am glad that this verse is where I still am after all these years.  It's a great place to "be".  This week in the on line seminary campus for Asbury, Dr. Dale Hale wrote about being still in the chaos.  That's just what my husband and I were discussing while hiking on Wednesday morning.

Here is what Dr. Hale shared with us:

Be Still
by Robert Hale - Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 9:47 AM
 
I don't know about you, but sometimes I need help.  Sometimes, the help needed is something I can get from family or friends.  Other times, it is much deeper, more difficult to satisfy.  I was listening to another of those lectures of Dr. Seamands this morning in which he was describing an interview of Joni Erickson-Tada, the quadriplegic who has turned her handicap into a witness of God's grace.  In this interview, Joni spoke of trying to get her head around what it meant to be a quadriplegic, the eternal "why".  She concluded that one day God is going to give her the key that unlocks the answer to that question.  That's not now, though.  For now, she needs to be content in Him.

A few weeks ago, I was at a gathering of academic leaders.  That day, one of our group led us in a devotional.  Honestly, I can't remember much about the devotional.  However, one thing the leader said was that he and his wife practiced scripture memorization and would find opportunities to use that scripture over and over.  It helped make relevant the scripture while at the same time spoke into that point of their lives.  I thought to myself, "That's what I need to do.  I need to use the scriptures in that way."  Yes, I've heard others say the same thing, but I got it this time.

Following that lead, I decided to do the same.  I picked a verse of scripture that has not been far from me for quite some time.  Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  Be still. I don't know about you, but sometimes my life gets in a major uproar.  I start worrying, fretting over what is or what might be or what isn't.  "Be still."  But, I need an answer to this terrific problem!   "Shhhh.  Just be still."  Yes, but...  "Be still."  The still small voice whispers, "Be still and know that I am God."  Don't worry about this.  Just rest and trust in Him.  I keep having to hear that but every time I do, I hear the comfort, grace, love of the Father compelling me to "cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me." (1 Peter 5:7)  Hear it?  "Be still."

Friends, I don't know what you face but this one thing I do know.  God is fully aware and is not in the least caught by surprise by your predicament.  We can have every confidence that He will work all things for our good.  He will answer.  He will reveal some of those answers later, when we are with Him in person.  But, until then, rest in Him.  "Be still and know that He is God."

In Him,
Dale
----------------

How does what I've inserted about "being still" fit with the reflection of Christian disciplines?  For me, the disciplines (practices) take place when I create the space, take the time apart.  I don't always need to "be still" physically because walking can be a time of discipline and used for prayer, etc.  But, there are many times that I do need to be still physically for my time with God.  Whether I am being still physically or mentally, I know that the time apart with God in whatever discipline (practice) I am participating in for the moment will result in a deeper relationship with God.  And that's how it fits.

There are classic Christian disciplines (practices) such as prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, Sabbath, journaling, worship, etc. and then there are disciplines (practices) that I have come to see as such on my personal journey such as blogging, walking/hiking, praying the Native American flute, etc. 

What are the Christian disciplines that draw you into participation? 

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Additional links:

Jeannette Bakke
An interview with Jeannette Bakke in Christianity Today (Making Space For God, April 2001)
Holy Invitations: Exploring Spiritual Direction by Jeannette Bakke (information on her book at Amazon.com)

Christian Disciplines
Spiritual Disciplines List (Bill Gaultiere, July 2012 at Soul Shepherding For You and Your Ministry)

For further reading, check out these authors

Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Marjorie Thompson, Ruth Haley Barton

(These are just a few.... there are others that have written on spiritual disciplines.  And, likely I've written posts on them too in the past. ☺)

Friday, September 19, 2014

When Morning Gilds the Skies...

This morning as I took my morning walk at the Greenway Farms in Hixson off Hamill Road, a song popped into my head.  That isn't abnormal for me.  Songs are always randomly popping into my head... spurred on by something I see or hear.  The songs can be something from camp, something from the 70s or 80s or even oldies (because I grew up listening to 45s and still listen to oldies) or classic rock.  Yesterday a song from Kermit the Frog and the Muppet Movie jumped into my head as my husband and I were hiking.  But this morning the song was a hymn.  That's right, a hymn.

As I walked around the gravel curve at the Greenway and headed toward the barn and the gardens, I looked up and to my left and noticed the most spectacular view in the sky.  Immediately, the words "when morning gilds the sky" came to mind.  I had to look up the song to see that the last word was "skies" and to also clarify the rest of that phrase.  I knew it had "praise" and "Jesus" in it, but I couldn't remember exactly how it went.  It finishes like this:  "may Jesus Christ be praised".  I used the word "let" in my Facebook post. 

Friday, September 19, 2014 (Greenway Farms) "When Morning Gilds the Skies"
As I continued my walk, I noticed the changing of the sky and took another picture.  I had posted the first picture on Facebook with the first part of the song.  And the second picture I posted with the ending.  What a glorious sunrise this morning! 

Friday, September 19, 2014 (Greenway Farms) "let Jesus Christ be praised"

It filled me with hope and joy and reminded me that circumstances don't need to get the final word because God inhabits the praise of the people.

If that weren't enough, on my next round, I look up and see a cloud with its outline glowing brightly.  Wow.  It reminded me of that proverbial saying of clouds with silver linings.  That made me smile too.  Once again, the circumstances in our lives don't have the final word.  There is a silver lining in the cloud.  What a timely reminder.  I posted that on Facebook too and tagged my husband to encourage him.

cloud with silver lining (Greenway Farms), September 19, 2014
So, if all of that weren't enough, when I got to my computer this morning (after having studied Hebrew for a while), I downloaded my pictures from my Facebook feed.  As I was saving them, I saved them as "when morning gilds the skies" and the title pops up in my picture albums.  I already had a picture with that title.  Here's the cool part.  From last year, Friday September 20.  A year ago today, the sunrise caught my attention and put that song in my heart, mind, and soul.  Wow! 

Friday, September 20, 2013 (from front yard) "When Morning Gilds the Skies"
Now, that's something to sing about!

Per the hymnary.org site, the hymn is a German hymn (Beim frühen Morgenlicht)first published in 1828, but possibly written in 1700s or early 1800s.  It was translated in1854 by Edward Caswell.  It has been published in 584 hymnals.

So, join me in singing "When Morning Gilds the Skies" through the links below.



LYRICS TO "WHEN MORNING GILDS THE SKIES":
  1. When morning gilds the skies,
    My heart awaking cries:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Alike at work and prayer,
    To Jesus I repair;
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  2. Does sadness fill my mind?
    A solace here I find,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Or fades my earthly bliss?
    My comfort still is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  3. When sleep her balm denies,
    My silent spirit sighs,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    When evil thoughts molest,
    With this I shield my breast:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  4. The night becomes as day
    When from the heart we say:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The pow’rs of darkness fear
    When this sweet chant they hear:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  5. In heav’n’s eternal bliss
    The loveliest strain is this,
    [*Let earth’s wide circle round
    In joyful notes resound,]
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Let earth, and sea, and sky
    From depth to height reply,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  6. Be this, while life is mine,
    My song of love divine:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Sing this eternal song
    Through all the ages long:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!

A link to the lyrics in German

Also, the song "My Soul Magnifies the Lord" by Chris Tomlin struck me as I was walking, so I have included it here for you to enjoy too.


I don't know what circumstances in your life might be a tad cloudy and/or heavy right now, but be encouraged that there is hope and joy even in those circumstances. 

Peace, strength, courage, and blessings to you on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Making Room For God-- mid-week vespers service

Hixson UMC, 6:30 pm weekly, chapel (old sanctuary)
Last night's mid-week vespers theme was "Making Room For God" from Week 46 of A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God.   This weekly service is all about opening space in our lives to allow God in, to work, to move, to heal, etc.  For the theme to be all about what the service is about was very timely and appropriate.

The service begins with a few announcements and then the ringing of a chime.  Last night I got to be the chime ringer.  I was in the chime choir at a former church and enjoy those better than bells, so that was fun to have one in my hand again.  The chime is rung three times semi slowly to signify the beginning of the service.

The order of the worship service is below:


The meditation by Rueben Job is on pages 341 and 342 of the green prayer guide.  He asks this question toward the end of the reading: "What do you feel called to give up in order to find room for God in your life?" (342)

Last night's service was a time of opening space for God, making that room.  Through the quiet, the reflection, the prayer, the singing, the sitting and being.  I felt my soul catching up to my body and relaxing into God's presence.  That's a good feeling.  It comes back to one of my favorite verses.... Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). 

Carving out time to just "be" so that I am strengthened and energized to return to "do" is a necessary rhythm in my life that I've come to understand, appreciate, desire, and live into.  The rhythm isn't always the same.   Sometimes the rhythm might be slow and methodical, going throughout the day or week.  At other times, there are situations that require much more "be" time and the journey inward and outward takes on a more frequent pattern.  It is similar to taking a "time out" when one knows they need a moment (or more) to cool down, to think things through.   Taking "be" time in silence and reflection allows one to slow down. 

The mid-week service is a great time for me to find room for God in my life.  But that's not the only time I slow down to listen or "be".  Walking, writing, reading, taking pictures.... those things help me just "be" at times.  Sitting on a rock by the flowing waters of the creek.    Sometimes for me, "be" is mental and at other times it is mental and physical.  I attempt to listen to my body and my soul to see what is needed at the time. 

In my times apart and silence times, I have not yet done anything more than a 1/2 day of silence.  I hope to one day in the not-too-far-off future do a silent 3 day retreat.  Then, maybe, I can attempt a longer one.  Silence is a friend.  It's a bubble that allows God to work in me and allows me to rest in God.  I wouldn't claim that the silence is always restful, however, since the work that God might do isn't always something I'm wanting, willing, or ready to face.  But God is gracious and works gently.

Enough of my rambling....

I want to share the beginnings of two readings in this week's theme.  The first is by Norman Shawchuck.  He writes: "My God, I lift my face toward you now like a hungry child asking to be fed.  My soul is starved; my flesh yearns for the touch that only you can give.  Come to me, O God, and stay with me; I abandon myself into your hands.  Do with me as you will, and whatever you do with me, I thank you.  I am prepared for anything; I will accept everything so long as your will is accomplished in the totality of my living." (342)

I have read quotes by Norman Shawchuck before, but don't know anything about him.  So, I decided to look him up.  I learned that he passed in May 2012.  Here is a link that links to the obituary.  In this link at The Upper Room site, I saw that he was quite involved in leadership.  I found a resource that listed some of his conflict management books for the church.  The article with that resource is: "Staying Cool When the Heat is On: Causes and Cures for Conflict".

The second reading I would like to share talks about solitude and its benefits.  The author is Simon Peter Iredale and his quote is from The Interior Mountain.  Here is a portion of the beginning of the reading: "Solitude is obviously intended to be far more than just being physically alone.  It is the way we form a habit of retreat, creating a space and time when God can speak to us." (343)  The reading ends with this: "For you, too, solitude can be a place of transfiguration, a meeting place with the living God." (344)

I could share more.... because there are some other great readings in this week's theme.  But, I've already rambled on.

May there be silence and solitude along your journey.  May you find/make ways to make room for God. 

Blessings on the journey,

Debra