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This is a season that demands deeper prayers, expansive hearts, generous hands and communities, inspired leadership, creative adaptive worship, and patience beyond our imagination.

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It is that time of year when holiday busy-ness is past and too soon in the day the light fades to black. Like many others I know, the winter months are some of the most difficult for me to navigate. There seem to be fewer distractions to keep my thoughts focused on my outward life and my inner life seems to curl up and hibernate. I am not a big fan of television land. I am not a mall walker or a phone talker. I am impatient with puzzles and bouts of creativity are short lived. I do find I can lose myself in books but I am not convinced that endless fantasy diving is, after all, good for what ails me. It does help the transition from day to night and even keeps me company in the middle of the night, but like I said, I am not convinced this is an entirely healthy way to traverse the season.

In an effort to break with my routine, I am sitting in a local coffee shop, Photo on 1-20-15 at 10.57 AMeven though I have already had my daily ration of caffeine. Many of my clergy colleagues use local cafes for casual meet ups with parishioners and friends. There are certain benefits to getting out into the community, to hold audience in a public place, to capture a bit of energy from others. I have no particular designs on connecting with anyone I might know. I do not announce that I am here or send out FB invites. I just sit and sip.

For about the hundredth time (probably more) I open my photo files and think, “Today I will put these in some order, delete the duplicates, discard anything that is out of focus, rename the images. I will put like with like, tag the faces of my grandsons so I can find them easier. I will think about making albums. I will.Christ Be My Light on the lake

I am lost from the start. I pull up images from the summer months; a time and a place that fills me with light and gives me an odd sense of being grounded. Some places are like that. I sit and sip      and linger. quiet reflection on the dockI  remember the sounds of the lake, water stroking  the shoreline, wind in the branches of the birch, the  thrum of a hummingbird at the feeder. I recall the  spot along the path where the fragrance of sun warmed pine needles stops me in my tracks and I wonder for a moment if this isn’t the most marvelous smell, ever.July 11 2009 026

When is the last time you stood barefoot on the earth and felt your own pulse in your feet? Did you notice the way your toes grip the soil as if they could root themselves where you stand? Everyone needs a place to feel connected with the earth, even if it is just a postage stamp of grass in a park. Can you remember a time when you simply stood barefoot on the earth?

trinity of pond lilliesI cannot see the long stalks of the water lilies buried  in the silt and mud of the lake bottom. Hidden are the  turtles, frogs and fish that weave between the green  shoots. I can only close my eyes and feel the drifting  of the boat.

Summer days are expansive, long and lingering, compared to the days of winter. My photos remind me of a certain awareness I had while storing up what I would need for my self imposed hibernation. I am nearly half way through it. As I click through a few more images I take another sip of my tea, look about and notice the seats are filling up around me. Where has the morning gone? I am breathing a bit more freely and feeling lighter. I am. It’s time to go home. The photo project will have to wait for another day.

time to reflect boat on dock

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A practice room in Phillips Music Hall becomes a temporary sacred place of refuge.

Earlier this month, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered on the campus of Gordon College for it’s Annual Conference; a three day gathering of clergy and laity, for a time of holy listening, worship, legislation and learning.

Central to the work of the church is the practice of prayer. It is a privilege to work with the many gifted individuals who serve on the Spiritual Formation Initiative; a dedicated group that focuses on and coordinates conference wide spiritual formation events, throughout the year. One of our contributions is providing resources for the Prayer Room which is made available for individuals to engage in prayer, meditation, quiet reflection and exploration of various spiritual disciplines.  This year conference goers were able to read about and experience a ritual of anointing with oil.

anointing is an ancient practice of setting something apart as sacred using fragrant oils and prayer.

Anointing is an ancient practice of setting something apart as sacred using fragrant oils and prayer.

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Coloring mandalas is a way to relax the mind for deeper meditation and listening.This was completed by an anonymous visitor to the Prayer Room.

A  number of small worship altars were placed around the room to inspire the use of simple objects and images to create personal  ‘sacred spaces of rest’ in the home.

A floating candle in a pair of inverted bowls add light and interesting reflective surfaces to an already serene view.

I  A floating candle in a pair of inverted bowls add light and interesting reflective surfaces to an already serene view.

A simple cloth and candle draws your attention to stop awhile and pray.

A simple cloth and candle draws your attention to stop awhile and pray.

Icons are another way of experiencing deep prayer as one is invited into the scriptural story written in the form of an icon. A beautiful blue plate on a stand makes a striking background for this icon of  the Pantocrator.

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Natural materials, bits of colored cloth draped as a foundation for your altar, other items such as a cross, a journal, scripture, stones, or anything that evokes and encourages you to prayer are things to try. The important thing to remember is that we are all called to a life of prayer. We can live a sacramental life in the home when we establish a set apart place for worship and allow it to invite us to rest awhile and Be with God.IMG_0583

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Just a few short weeks ago, the Christian church celebrated Pentecost. Jesus promised his disciples that he would send God’s Holy Spirit to remain with them once he ascended into heaven.  “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16–18  This event, fifty days after Easter, is annually celebrated as the “birth” of the church.  The symbol of the Spirit is depicted in two familiar ways, as an ascending white dove and/or as tongues of flames. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1–4  The color red dominates the liturgical paraments.

Our spiritual life is predicated on the expectation that the Holy Spirit does indeed abide in the hearts and lives of God’s people. It is the Spirit that inspires our faith, conspires with us in our Christian work and is our very breath (respiration) in the midst of prayer. Next week, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church will gather for its Annual Conference, a gathering of all elders along with an equal number of appointed laity. For three days, we will engage in what John Wesley called Holy Conferencing. We will join in worship and prayer, engage in biblical studies, share in any number of meals, ordain a new class of clergy, debate our polity and practice and generally indulge in fellowship and fun. At the center of our work shall be God’s Holy Spirit, inspiring and informing all that we do. I look forward to waving ribboned poles and lifting banners to announce the beginning of our time together and to affirm the very presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

Celebrating God's Holy Spirit!

Celebrating God’s Holy Spirit!

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In my small part of the world spring has arrived. Everywhere there are signs of emerging buds, and the sweet songs of returning birds. The nighttime hum of the nearby marsh assures me that temperatures are rising.  I feel lighter. I feel alive. I want to scatter seeds and participate in the cycle of renewal; to encourage and nurture life in all its forms. I am filled with the presence of God in all I see and touch and smell and hope. IMAG0898 Not only is it springtime, it is also Eastertide, the fifty days that follow Easter. It is a season ripe with reflections on the resurrection story, rich with the power and possibilities for Christians to live as resurrection people. Incarnate God has come to dwell among us and within us; to save us and restore us to God’s self; to kindle within us a renewed compassion for the other; to forgive; to love, to invite us again to live as God intended. Praise be given to God. And yet, it seems, in my small part of the world humanity has failed once again. Daily, there are signs of emerging hatred and distrust, violence and threats of violence, tragic loss of life, loss of security and economic stability. We ask the ‘who, what and why’ of it.  We view the stranger with eyes narrowed.  All too soon the lightness that is supposed to be the mark of our faith in Christ is cast into deep shadow.  We question how it is that we can journey with those who suffer when we are, ourselves, overwhelmed and weighed down with our neighbor’s grief. It is hard to live as resurrection people. Still, the Incarnate God dwells among us and within us and invites us to turn and return to God. We are invited to lay our burdens down, to find refuge and rest in the One who weeps with us in our suffering and holds us close amidst our frailties and doubts.  Our desire to feel compassion and consider forgiveness is the first step in our turning, once again, to God.  We choose to participate in the healing that must come, to participate as agents of God’s love until we are no longer afraid to offer compassion and forgiveness to the stranger. It is possible to once again feel the presence of God in all we see and touch and smell and hope.

 Pray, dear Lord, let your Spirit pour over me. Flush headlines and unholy habits from my heart. Unwelcome maladies, they clutch and cling, sending me to my knees. Anoint these lesions and loosen their hold. Place healing balm on unrelenting wounds. Wrap your servant in cloths of righteousness and bring me to rest in your house of Holiness. In your time, lift me from your bed of blessing. Raise me to my feet to carry good news and hope, to become your messenger of healing and servant of all.

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Radishes

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Is your faith rooted in God?  It seems a strange question, perhaps. If you are a “religious” person, then where else would your faith be rooted you might ask. If you consider yourself “spiritual” but not necessarily “religious” you may hedge around the question and offer a multiplicity of options for where you place your rootedness: universal mind, that which is Other, creating energy, higher presence, great spirit. Just not the G_D word.

Derived from the Latin word radix, meaning root, the radish gets its name. It is not the only root vegetable but  (so named) linguistically, it is the root of all roots. God may not be the only place of rootedness in our pluralistic society, but, so named, God remains the source of ALL rootedness. Is your faith rooted in God?

The open air farmers’ market has resumed in downtown Eugene, OR. It is a signal that a new growing season has begun. It invites us to experience the fresh renewal that is spring, to look forward to abundance and growth, to embrace what is nourishing and life giving. Live into the season, taste and see the goodness of life and remain faithful in your love of God.

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Christ Be Your Light

Your Light and Salvation

In Whom You Trust

In Whom You Trust

 

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Living a sacramental life teaches us to hold all that we have as sacred; our time, our space and all of our relationships. Daily prayer, weekly worship, studying scripture and sharing our lives with others are all aspects of a sacramental life. How we take care of our homes and value the tools and resources we have can also be an expression of our gratitude for the life we have.

Is your home a place of worship? Is your home set apart as dedicated to God? In her book, “Reminders of God: Altars for Personal and Family Devotion,” Ann Grizzle shares helpful insights into the how and why of creating a personal, home altar.  I have used this resource in a variety of retreat settings.  My own sacred space changes depending on the books, objects or images that resonate with my prayers and reflections.

The altar reminds us to take time to pray, read, journal and rest in the presence of God; it is a portal to a personal encounter with God. Please visit my “Worship in the Home”page for an expanded discussion of Grizzle’s book and consider a home altar of your own.

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