You will find three invitations in this post,
1. A spiritual practice for the new year.
2. The new issue (Autumn 2018) of Holy Ground: Like a Trap. (Yes I know it is winter and now 2019. I have had a very hectic fall with my move to Iowa. Things are finally settling into new routines. Thanks for your patience!)
3. Update with our Annual Letter
A Spiritual Practice
for a New Beginning
A new year with its promise and possibility of new opportunities stretches out before us.
Take a few moments to ask for and to listen for the Word from God to you for 2019. Will you discover a word of challenge or encouragement? Perhaps you hear a word of correction or hope or purpose. Pay attention to what attracts or repels you. Pay attention to your inner life, images, music that come to mind. Look at your dreams and your heart’s deep yearnings. What might God be asking of you in relation to your work for the Realm of God?
When the Word comes – silently in a dream, or knocking you on the head like walking into a tree – take time to explore your word or words. Look up the words in a dictionary. If they come from the Bible, track down their origin. Draw or paint them. Write a poem or song. Find an object to symbolize the word of God to you. Build or bake something. Take your word for a walk, as you repeat it softly to yourself. Chew over and live into the word, allow it to take flesh in you.
Take action in relation to your word. Set an intention regarding your word. Write down some goals. Make some phone calls or appointments. Share your word with a friend and pray together about your call from God.
It need not be a gigantic task. It may be quite simple and seem very small. One year I heard “rest.” “In returning and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30: 15-17 Your gift is important. It may be something you and you alone can give. You are on this earth at this point in time for a purpose. Trust the angel who whispers through your life. Say yes.
New Issue of Holy Ground: Like a Trap
“I opened the door on apocalypse. I let it in and then kept draping throws and bright afghans on it. It brought news of my demise, my slow decomposition. I was weighed down with distraction and worry. It was like a trap. . . .”
“The universe is saturated and dripping with the power of Holy Love, oozing like sap from every crack and cranny of being. I trust the tenacity and persistence of life pushing through the cracks, pouring over the dam, carving out canyons, and pulsing in our veins, drawing us to ever fuller expression of being. The Word – the creating energy of being – inhabits all that is, unfurling itself in kaleidoscopic formations and scintillating complexity. . . .”
The clamoring demands of a paralyzed present
Living in a time of apocalypse and reckoning brings both chaos and opportunity. We face great changes and challenges. We also bring particular gifts for this time, not the least of which is our faith. We look forward to the coming Realm of God manifesting more and more throughout the world. It is important to deepen our roots into the bedrock of our faith. May these words from L. Daniel Hawk encourage us all “to look to the restorative end toward which the Lord is moving . . . rather than the clamoring demands of a paralyzed present.”
“The vision of a future beyond the contemporary horizon, therefore, calls the people of God to look beyond the present moment, with its violence, disintegration, and failed leadership, to the restorative end toward which the Lord is moving, and so to orient faith and decision making within the context of God’s ultimate power and purposes, rather than clamoring demands of a paralyzed present.
The parable of the fig tree and Jesus’ admonition to pay attention to the signs of his coming remind readers that God is not absent or inactive in the interim but, to the contrary, powerfully at work in every present moment to bring about the redemptive end foreseen by the prophets.”
-L. Daniel Hawk, Connections – A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship p. 3
“The Sanctuary heals me. It has brought peace and serenity to me in the chaos of the Twenty-First Century by regularly reminding me of the serenity that comes through the stability of…following the teachings and life of Jesus in good times and difficult times.” Ron -Sanctuary Annual Letter
Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough hope, not enough money, not enough jobs, not enough room, not enough love, not enough peace …
not enuf nuthin !
So goes the lie.
As the holiday season of plenty, hope, and generosity opens its arms to us, some individuals are pained by and suspicious of the season’s glittering wares. The family, who have lost their home to foreclosure, the unemployed factory worker, and other despairing and heartsick souls may feel plenty is beyond their reach and scarcity their new normal.
The media depictions of holiday cheer play on our insecurity and sense of lack. They insinuate that no matter how much we have, we do not have the latest and greatest. Advertisers lure us with promises of more. We may find ourselves stumbling after ghostly phantoms in the desperate hope that this year we might find that illusive wholeness we are seeking.
How does one feel whole and fulfilled, when one is more aware of scarcity in one’s life? Perhaps abundance in the midst of scarcity occurs for us as it did for Jesus, when he fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish.
We welcome what we have, however meager. We give thanks, and watch it multiply.
Here is a simple, yet demanding, exercise to practice such a miracle in your own life. It is called The Welcoming Prayer. It was developed by Mary Mrozowski, one of Thomas Keating‘s closest associates and a prime mover in the development of centering prayer. She based the Welcoming Prayer on the 17th-century French spiritual classic Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade as well as Fr. Keating’s teachings and her own lived experience of transformation with its underlying attitude of surrender. There are a number of variations on this prayer. Here is one.
Focus and Sink In:
Become aware of what is troubling you or occupying your mind. For example, your sadness, anger, or fear regarding scarcity of some kind in your life. Focus on your feelings, both cognitively and physically, noting how and where the feeling affects your body.
Instead of resisting, or feeling ashamed or denying, welcome the truth of what is troubling you. Welcome the feelings with curiosity and compassion.
(Here is the hard part)
Let go of your desire for power and control over the situation. Release your desire to be “right.”
Let go of your desire for affection and esteem from others.
Let go of your desire for survival and security.
Let go of your desire to change the way things are.
Allow yourself to sink into the abundant flowing love of this moment. French priest, Jeanne Pierre de Caussade, describes this love:
The present is ever filled with infinite treasure; it contains more than you have capacity to hold. … The will of God is at each moment before us like an immense, inexhaustible ocean that no human heart can fathom; but none can receive from it more than he has capacity to contain, it is necessary to enlarge this capacity by faith, confidence, and love…
You may find the letting go section of the prayer difficult to do. One or two of the desires may be harder to release than others. Think of this as useful information about what things, other than God, are of primary importance in your life. Notice which desires might be getting in the way of your freedom in Christ. If you find you cannot release one of these, you might simply pray that God give you the desire to desire to let go.
The Welcoming Prayer invites us to trust in God’s presence and providence and to discover the infinite wealth of God available to us in each moment. “The divine will is a deep abyss of which the present moment is the entrance. If you plunge into this abyss you will find it infinitely more vast than your desires,” writes de Caussade.
I believe this is absolutely true. Over and over in the midst of distress, I have wrung my hands about there not being enough of one thing or another in my life. Yet as I have focused and welcomed the feelings and my present reality, let go of my ego’s desires, and rested in God, my need has been supplied with an abundant depth and power that swept away all my grasping and anxiety.
I heard the geese honking at dawn last week. My dog halted at the door and cocked his head and we listened together in wonder. I love the sound of them moving over head, giving themselves to the skies. Trusting in their ancient faith they make their way.
In spite of all appearances to the contrary, I believe there is enough.
The Wild Geese
Abandon, as in love or sleep,
Holds them to their way
clear in the ancient faith:
what we need is here.
And we pray not for new earth or heaven,
but to be quiet in heart
and in eye clear.
What we need is here. Wendell Berry
I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God.
My times are in your hands. Psalm 30:1
What we need is here.
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