Bare Bear

Five years ago we got a dog - a standard poodle that wouldn’t shed.  Bear became part of our family and we fell instantly in love.  Last year we noticed something strange - our non-shedding dog was shedding.  Slowly, his chocolate brown hair turned grey, turned brittle and started falling out by the handful. Bear was eventually diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Sebaceous Adenitis.  With treatment his hair initially grew back, but now our “non-shedding” dog is shedding again.  He doesn’t know that he looks like a mangy scraggamuffin. He is just happy to be loved and cared for.  I could learn a lot from our bare Bear.  When life doesn’t work out as I expect, I would do well to remember that I am loved and cared for.  On any given day, I may look or feel like a scraggamuffin, but God loves me anyway.  Thanks be to God! 

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Summer Speed Bumps

“Come all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Mt 11:28

 

Spiritual direction: Embrace spiritual self-care by meeting with a spiritual director.  Learn more and find listings of certified spiritual directors in East Ohio at eocumc.com/pastoralcare, nationally at fumsdrl.org (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders), or globally at sdiworld.org (Spiritual Directors International).

 

Color:  Bring your colored pencils, Bible and coloring books to a local park. Relax, pray and bask in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

Sleep:  Allow yourself a guilt-free, 20-minute nap smack dab in the middle of the day. Savor a moment of rest & renewal. 

 

Sing loudly:  Roll down the car windows, feel the breeze, and belt out your favorite tunes.  No need to stop singing at the stop lights – bring a smile to your fellow drivers as you make a joyful noise to the Lord! 

Everyday Easter Prayer

Gracious God, when Good Friday lingers in my heart,

   roll away the stone of my doubts and

   surprise me with angels in the garden. 

When headlines proclaim death, violence and loss,

   remind me to fear not. 

When grey skies hang heavy overhead,

   shine your Son-light on me. 

When medical worries overwhelm my body and mind,

   lighten my heart with hope. 

When bonds of anxiety weigh me down,

   lift me up. 

Like steam rising from my morning coffee,

   rise again in my daily life. 

Every day is Easter day.

   May I have eyes to see. Amen.  

Slow Down & Celebrate the Son-rise!

     Every January, I have a few friends who prayerfully select a word to serve as a spiritual touchstone through the year ahead.  This year I decided to give it a try, but rather than choosing a single word I felt drawn to a phrase - “Trust in the slow work of God” from a beloved prayer by Teillhard de Chardin.

     I chose these words, in part, because of a little health scare I had last fall. As I rearranged plans, cut back on activities and underwent medical tests, I tried to remember to slow down and “trust in the slow work of God.”  Fortunately, it ended up being much ado about nothing.  The doctor concluded that I was doing too much and the stress was affecting my health. When I commented on the irony that what I do for a living is help people slow down and find spiritual balance in their lives, I will never forget his response… “Often we teach what we most need to learn."

     Throughout Lent, I have been slowly learning how to “give up” the societal myth that we need to do more in order to prove our worth.  Instead, I seek to embrace the resurrection promise that everlasting life is not based on how much we do, but simply on who we are - beloved children of the living God.  That is enough.  You are enough.  I am enough.  This Easter, may we trust in the slow work of God and celebrate the Son-rise! 

Guest Contributor - Kristen Vincent

Beads of Healing:  Prayer, Trauma and Spiritual Wholeness

        My story is never alone. It always leads to others. I will be speaking with a group, telling my story of trauma, pain, and healing, and inevitably someone in the audience will then share some part of their story with me. That leads to connection, conversation, new insights, and hope. Sister Kathleen Flood calls this a process of forming a complete picture of God’s love: as people share pieces of their stories, over time we craft together a larger story of God’s grace. We realize we are not alone. Better yet, we understand that pain does not define us, nor does it have the last word. God’s love has the last word, always and everywhere. 

       I spent years - decades even - going to therapy to try to heal from my trauma, and while the therapy was critical to my healing, there was always something holding me back. I was never able to move beyond a place of fear. It wasn’t until I brought my pain to God that I understood the spiritual aspect of my trauma. I had questions and feelings that only God could address. Once that happened, I moved from a place of fear to peace.

       My hope is that Beads of Healing will help others see they are never alone with their story; their story does not define them. So too, I hope it helps people recognize that wholeness involves emotional, physical, and spiritual healing. If they can learn to speak their truth before God, heal their spirit, and experience God’s peace, then we will begin to hear their stories of peace. And Peace, indeed, will have the last word. 

Beads of Healing – 20% off

 Kristen has graciously offered readers of Whale Spouts a discount on her new book!  You can get 20% off by entering the coupon code KVBOH17 either on the Upper Room Books website or through her Etsy shop:

 https://www.etsy.com/shop/PrayerworksStudio?ref=si_shop

Candlelight Breakfast

   For those of us in the northern hemisphere, these are some of the darkest days of the year.  It is not unusual to head out for work or school in the pitch dark and then return home at the end of the day in that same all consuming obscurity. Rather than give in to the darkness, however, why not embrace it!  Consider the darkness as an invitation to light a candle. 

   Sometimes at my house, we brighten our dark morning routine with a candlelight breakfast.  Next to the candle we place a small piece of paper with this short prayer,

 

God’s light shines through you.

God’s light shines through me.

God’s light shines through everyone we meet.

Look for it!

 

This simple little practice of lighting a candle and saying a prayer during breakfast has become a lovely addition to our dark, winter mornings.  As we plunge head-long into our days, it is important to remember that God’s light does indeed shine through me, through you and through every single person we meet.  May we have eyes to see – even when (perhaps especially when!) that light is only a faint ember.  

Advent Speed Bumps 2016

For the past two years I have offered simple, practical “Advent Speed Bumps” to help us slow down during the Holy-days.  Check out past issues of Whale Spouts here on our website to see suggestions from years gone by.  So, again this year I invite you to take the countercultural stance of slowing down to savor the sacred season of Advent on your journey toward Christmas Day.  

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Sing boldly:  Every morning when you wake up, chose an Advent or Christmas song you enjoy and belt a verse of it out at the top of your lungs.  Note I did not say anything about singing in tune.  Sing with joy, abandon and anticipation of Christmas Day to come. 

Advent e-Fast:  Gift yourself with a technology-free zone for at least one evening each week, in other words, a technology “fast.” Let others know that you are observing an Advent e-Fast and will not be returning texts, emails or calls after a certain time (perhaps from 6pm to 6am).  Instead read a book, linger over dinner with family/friends, take a long walk, pray or even simply go to bed early! 

Gaze at the stars:  Rather than racing into your home one evening, stand outside your door for a moment, look up and gaze at the stars.  Mary and Joseph, shepherds and magi all looked up at this same sky.  Allow these seemingly “timeless” stars, galaxies and planets to remind us of our interconnectedness throughout time and space.  God of all the universe is watching over us all.  

 

Kitchen Table Examen Prayer

“Finding God in all things” is at the heart of Ignatian Spirituality.  To do this, Ignatius encouraged us to use the Daily Examen prayer.  Through the Examen, we seek God’s presence amidst the details of our day.  We reflect on where we felt most connected with God (thank you) and where we felt least connected with God (forgive me).  We wrap up our prayer with the hope-filled assurance that God will be with us in the day to come.  It’s a simple little prayer that helps us to find God in all things. 

I recently came to the delightful realization that my family has been unintentionally practicing a simple version of the Ignatian Examen for many years.  Whenever we sit down together around our well-worn kitchen table for a meal (far less often than I wish!) we play a game called “High-Low.” After saying grace, we talk about our day and share something for which we are thankful (a high) as well as something that is a struggle (a low). This practice provides a way to “examine” our days and share our highs and lows with each other. Then, before the end of the meal, we chat about what activities are coming up in the days to come.

This simple game of “High-Low” is like an informal kitchen table Examen - we remember that God is with us, share our joys, share our struggles, and look ahead to the day to come. In the spirit of Saint Ignatius, I invite you to try the prayerful game of “High-Low” (on your own, with your family or even as an opening prayer before a committee meeting) as you seek to find God in all things. 

 

St. Hildegard's Pantry

Saturday, September 17 is the Saint Day for Hildegard of Bingen – a 12th century saint with profound wisdom for the 21st century. In addition to her role as a Benedictine Abbess she is also a renowned theologian, composer, playwright, environmentalist, healer and nutritionist. Hildegard was a woman ahead of her time as an advocate for healthy eating.  She believed that a proper diet could revitalize us and bring good health in every sphere – physical, spiritual and psychological. “Foods of joy” that Hildegard would have kept in her pantry include spelt, oats, almonds, cumin, dill and cinnamon. (Check out a recipe for delicious and healthy spelt pancakes in the September newsletter.)

This summer, my husband and I enjoyed visiting the Abbei of St. Hildegard in Bingen where we were revitalized in spirit by worship with the Benedictine sisters and revitalized in body by meals prepared from Hildegard’s “foods of joy.”

During the harvest season this fall, what “foods of joy” – both physical and spiritual – will stock your pantry? What are the spiritual practices that nourish your soul: worship, sacred silence, contemplative coloring, Bible study, walking in the woods?  And what healthy foods will you choose to nourish your body?  In the spirit of St. Hildegard, I encourage you to stock your spiritual pantry (as well as your kitchen pantry) accordingly!

Intercessory Prayer

Intercessory prayer reminds us of our interconnectedness – both with those we know personally as well as those we have not yet met.  Near or far, around the corner or around the world, prayer is the sacred bond that connects us all.  Recently, the members of University Circle UMC in Cleveland, Ohio and Camphor Mission in Liberia shared an exchange of intercessory prayer. The youth in Cleveland prayerfully colored an intercessory prayer mandala on an altar cloth and the whole congregation signed their names as an act of prayer for their sisters and brothers in Liberia. Half a world away, students at the Camphor Mission School prayerfully colored an intercessory prayer mandala on another altar cloth and members of their church signed it as an act of prayer for their brothers and sisters in Cleveland. The exchange of these colorful altar cloths, soaked in intercessory prayer, is a visually stunning reminder of our sacred interconnectedness.  Let us continue to pray for and with one another – friends, enemies, neighbors and strangers alike.    We are all God’s children.  Amen

Encourage one another

and build up each other.

1 Thessalonians 5: 11