Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
One of the gifts of being part of the Spiritual Care Network team is that ever so often I have the opportunity to gather with a group of clergy and talk about how I am caring for myself spiritually and how we can assist others in spiritual care. These meetings and conversations are rich and nurturing and although I usually go in wondering how I am going to make up for the lost time I find myself refreshed just by being in the room.
Today was one of those days - I had the opportunity to be “Rudolf” as I drove the carpool from Horseshoe Bay to the conference office.
The reality was that most of us were a bit flippant, cheeky and a little sassy throughout the day but we forgave one another (after all it is the week before Christmas and the stress level in the room and car was at times palpable).
And yet this brassy little group found themselves in deep conversation on our way home when the questions were asked. “What is spiritual practice?” “What counts as spiritual practice?” “Am I wrong that I don’t understand shopping as spiritual practice?” “Is that my egoic-self?” “Is there a difference between being nourished and spiritual practice?” We pondered the differences between extroverted and introverted spirituality throughout the day. But we also wondered what makes it spiritual practice?
For myself I think it’s about intention. In the conversation I recognized that I consider yoga (most of the time) spiritual practice but not kick boxing. I often say skiing is one of my practices and yet I wouldn’t say that about dragon boating. I love all of these sports - each of them nurture me and yet when I breath deeply and meditate in yoga - I intentionally connect with The Holy and yet in kickboxing... well..... If I’m honest I just want to ‘kick-butt’ (please don’t judge me). When I ski I am almost always in awe and yet when I dragon boat the moments of awe are an added bonus if they occur.
For me practice involves intention. It is not that these other things don’t nourish. But if I fail to be intentional in my connecting with the holy I am sure to notice every once and a while that it has been a very long time since I talked with my God other than in a leadership role. That’s just what I have discovered within myself. I would love to hear what spiritual practice means for you. What does it look like? How do you know it’s a spiritual practice? (I encourage you to share with us your practices).
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
“Wait for the Lord, Be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 “Christian practice can be summed up by the word patience. In the New Testament patience means waiting for God for any length of time, not going away, and not giving in to boredom or discouragement.”
The Advent season is filled with words of waiting and patience. It is often hard to understand the concept of waiting that is unless we are in the midst of a struggle, waiting for an answer, a result, or a resolution.
What does it mean to wait on God? How are you waiting on or with God in your life? How does it make a difference in your life to turn to God the peace-maker in a time of waiting?
God of peace and life
God who waits alongside us in our journeys
fill us with your hope, peace, joy and love this Advent season.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen - Anthem
Take some time to meditate on the following question.
Where are the dark places for you? Dark places may be places of struggle, but they also may be places of transformation - Although we will talk about looking for the light or finding the light I want to remind us and acknowledge that darkness is not always evil it is often a place of growth. For me darkness has been both a friend offering comfort, and transformation as well an enemy bearing fearful uncertainty, masking unknown threats.
Now take a moment to meditate - placing the light of the Holy in those dark places.
Do you see the light breaking through the cracks in your life? If yes what difference does it make? If no what do you think will help bring light into those places?
God of darkness and light
meet us in the places where we try to be someone we are not
Open us up to see you in our imperfections, in our wrestlings, in the cracks in our character and lives.
Let the light break in. Amen.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Here’s a story my grandpa, a rabbi, used to tell me:
Shlemiel, the town fool, caught sight of something lying on the road. It glinted and twinkled in the light. “Aha!” he chuckled. “What have we here? Someone has lost something precious.”
He picked it up. It was a mirror. When he looked at it and saw his face, he threw it down again. “Yuck!” he exclaimed. “No wonder they threw it away. it’s so ugly!”
When I grew up, I learned to obverse side of the mirror joke.
A young boy, who lived in a poor and remote village of Nazi-occupied Crete, found in the middle of the road the broken pieces of a mirror that had come off a Wehrmacht motorbike.
Having nothing much to play with, the boy tried to put all the pieces together, and when he couldn’t, shaped the biggest of the fragments into a mirror, round and smooth, the size of a watch face. He invested a little game: reflecting the sunlight into the remotest and unlikeliest nooks and crannies he could find. In time, as he grew up, it dawned on him that this game was a metaphor for what he wanted to do with his life - to reflect the light into the furthest reaches of this globe.
Today, Alexander Papaderos’ peace institute is known the world over.
So it could be, I suspect, for each one of us. We have a choice. We can pick up the fragments that make up our lives and, seeing our own faces, our own brokenness, throw down the pieces. Give up on making any sense of them.
Or little by little, we can shape those fragments into something. Something that somehow, somewhere reflects the light. Acknowledging, of course that we are not the light. Still less the source of the light. But willing nevertheless, to reflect it - love, care, understanding, peace into the darkest places of our lives of the world.
The Christmas presence.
But where can the impulse to do this come from?
Light of life, teach us to be aware
Help us to see the places where we can be reflecting your light
in the world.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Monday, December 6th - Ninth Day of Advent
Mary and Elizabeth
Mary and Elizabeth
two strong women
carried two strong men
Mary and Elizabeth
two hospitable women
with wombs wide, full
of grace and conversion
Mary and Elizabeth
two loving women,
blessing one another
with the grace of affection,
strength of communion
Mary and Elizabeth
did they know the dance
within their wombs
might change a hurting heart,
transform a languished life
Mary and Elizabeth,
two holy women
wombs gestating goodness,
sources of nurturing grace
yeast for every inner birthing
- Joyce Rupp
Holy wisdom, God of hope
What are you birthing within me?
What hope do you have for my life?
Open my awareness to your holy presence within my life.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Reaching for Rainbows
I keep reaching for rainbows...
Thinking one God’s morning
I will wake up with rainbow ribbons in my hair,
With hurts painted over in hues that only angel wings could brush,
Black obliterated, chaos hurled beyond the rainbow and my vision,
The world created in a myriad of colors:
The hungry fed, The dying held,
The maimed walking, The angry stroked,
The violent calmed, The oppressed freed,
The oppressors changed,
And every tear wiped away.
I keep reaching for rainbows,
But instead of colors in our storm,
Gray and black infiltrate, dirtying the sky,
And I hear human voices wailing in the darkness,
the never-ending darkness....
Just the same I know the promise of the rainbow.
I keep thinking I’ll turn a corner one day
And find a litany of rainbows flung across the sky,
Hosannaing back and forth
Through all the ages and Out into eternity forever amen!
Every tear wiped away -
It’s a promise - When we become rainbows to each other.
Holy Mystery, we live in Hope
Hope for a world of peace, joy and love
We Long to see your kindom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Help us to see the promise signs you give us each and every day of our lives. Transform us that we may become signs of your hope and love for one another this advent season.
A time of Sacred Conversation will be held for all to participate in at 2:00pm at Squamish United Church. Come with your questions and stories of faith.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I thought I would share a day with you that was a turning point in spiritual practice for me. This is a quote from a clergy "spiritual practice' blog that I am involved in.
I am finally getting to the post I wanted to give yesterday. And that is a piece of the story. I know I won't shock most of you when I explain my day started with prep for an important meeting at 6am and ended with book study at 9pm. All day I was thinking oh no I have to do a spiritual practice. Oh no I have to blog...oh no I am going to fail at this already. And then I remembered the sermon I preached just a couple days before.
I spoke on reverence and gratitude (it was thanksgiving after all). I found a beautiful reflection by Joyce Rupp which included a quote from Merton and so I preached "We experience deep gratitude as we take notice of that which is beyond us. With Merton on this thanksgiving day “I am going to put aside my ‘when it happens’ and my ‘if only this could be’ and my ‘when things get better’ and my ‘as soon as I have this.’ I am going to harvest what I now have, gather all the many gifts that are already mine. I am going to observe what has been placed in the granary of my heart and marvel at the abundance. I will stand before this heap of blessings and take a long, grateful look. I will say farewell to my ‘when’ and be thankful for what is."
And so I discovered in the clutter of my day that I perhaps might refocus some of the activities I already had in my schedule. As I rushed into my Yoga class I discovered this was exactly the spiritual practice I needed for the day. Just like when people come to me after a sermon and say "Where you speaking to me today?" I sometimes think the same thing of my Yoga instructor. She began class with meditation (she never begins class with meditation). She asked us first to ground ourselves. Be aware of our breath and then let go of the clutter, the rush, the things we can't accomplish.... Within two minutes I felt my squeezing in of Yoga was somehow Devine intervention. I found myself in a place of releasing the dissatisfaction, and embracing the abundance I already have.
I know that this isn't what I had desired to do. I wanted to pick up something new - be a superstar spiritual practicer instead I found myself in gratitude for what I already have. Namaste. Karen
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Make an Advent prayer chain (A version of an advent calendar). Use construction paper cut into 14 strips. Write a prayer concern on each strip. Use tape or staple the first strip into a circle. Take the second strip and insert it into the first. Continue until you have a chain. Today you would begin with the first strip and then each day you would pray a prayer from the chain.
A Time of Centering prayer will be held for all to participate in at 7:30pm at Squamish United Church
Who is your life is an example of someone who lives in hope? How has that person effected you life?
Monday, November 29, 2010
Traditionally in the first week of Advent we live into hope. I invite you this week to look to the hope your faith and life gives you. How does it assist you in living in that which you do not know. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
- Read through the scripture below from todays lectionary.
- Take a moment in prayer. What word or phrase stands out for you?
- Read and pray again. What hope does it bring? How could it apply to your life today?
Isaiah 2:1-5 (The Message)
“The Message Isaiah got regarding Judah and Jerusalem: There's a day coming when the mountain of God's House
Will be The Mountain— solid, towering over all mountains.
All nations will river toward it,
people from all over set out for it.
They'll say, "Come, let's climb God's Mountain,
go to the House of the God of Jacob.
He'll show us the way he works
so we can live the way we're made."
Zion's the source of the revelation.
God's Message comes from Jerusalem.
He'll settle things fairly between nations.
He'll make things right between many peoples.
They'll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes.
No more will nation fight nation; they won't play war anymore.
Come, family of Jacob, let's live in the light of God.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
Come, O Lord, and send us your light.
O come, O come, Immanuel.
Come and bring the light of God.
Come and walk among us.
Be our Savior and our Friend.
O come, O come, Immanuel.
Come to bring us your peace.
Friday, November 26, 2010
For the season of Advent I have created for us as a congregation a Spiritual Practice Advent Calendar. You can pick up your calendar in the church office and I will also post here on the blog. I thought I would begin with excerpts of a sermon I preached in July on my struggle with prayer. I am going to offer more of the struggle part of my sermon because I know I am not alone. Feel free to comment and join the practices with us.
How Then Shall We Pray? - Luke 11:1-13
“I envy people who pray well. Or who have the kind of faith that always believes in prayer. Now that might be shocking for you to hear come out of your ministers mouth but it is one of my deep dark secrets...
I have tried to become a certain kind of prayer more than once. I have attempted to be holy like Luther and others and get up early in the morning just to pray. But in all honesty I’m not a morning person so unless I don’t have to be to work or something else early I really don’t want to get busy before I have to - so the prayer times quickly slip into something I’m not sure many would count as holy.
I have attempted to come into my office every morning and begin in silent prayer but quickly I can get interrupted or distracted or realize I forgot to start there (and then I start praying just because I feel guilty and well - then I think that’s what it is supposed to be about and...)
I have read the books, I have tried the formats. I have heard what proper prayer looks like and how to get results. I have journaled, I have done prayer walks, I have done silent retreats....and the list goes on.
There is a lot of shame in this for me because my mother and my brother are prayers. They both get up every morning and take time in prayer and reading like every good Christian should. In fact my mom used to say every time I had a struggle “Just pray about it” until one day I snapped (Like only a daughter does to her mother). “Mom if it were that easy I wouldn’t have called you to talk about it.”
And yes this happened after I received the title of Reverend...
Now that I have gotten that off my chest all you ‘prayers’ out there can say a prayer for me. Because the greatest struggle I find with prayer being an achiever like I am is that if I don’t get the result I want I am convinced I have done it all wrong. The struggle with prayer formulas is that if the prayer doesn’t work then there appears to be only two options: there is something wrong with me and/or my praying, or there is something wrong with God... If you are someone who has written off faith and religion you most likely have decided there is something wrong with God. If you are a faithful church goer or person of faith then when your prayer doesn’t work you are more likely to blame yourself.
I know that people say God gives us three answers to our prayers which are “yes” “no” or “maybe” but even that confuses me because scripture clearly says “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” So why is it then when I ask even for good things - healing for a friend, comfort for a person who is depressed, or something for myself - why would God ever say no to those things?
I have come to discover of myself that when I start thinking that way I have forgotten the purpose of prayer. And to be honest I think this struggle I have with prayer just might be God given - because I find myself praying all the more as I seek to understand prayer more and to be connected with God more. I find myself eager to try new spiritual practices all the time. Maybe that is what this parable is about - constant seeking to be in tune with The Holy...
I fully believe in prayer and it may sound confusing but praying without ceasing has freed me up to know that I actually can pray. It has freed me up to wake up in the mornings as pray in between the snooze alarm, or in the shower, or on my walk, or as I journal - but not just with a certain formula or just for me - for everything and moment I encounter. It means for me that when I feel led to pray when I get into the office in the morning I just do even though I have not done it every day routinely...
Douglas John hall wrote “The object of prayer Christianly understood, is not so much to lose oneself in the contemplation of the Divine as to find oneself. to become - so far as possible, who one is. Dependent, guilty, lost and vulnerable... Because the one to whom we pray is not ordinary...but glorious in loving, we are able sometimes through our most honest acts of prayer to find that our very weakness is the occasion for encounter with the Source of new strength.”
So weather you feel like you know how to pray or not. You are invited to pray or join us in a spiritual practice over the next weeks. Weather you think you pray or not I believe you do - in moments of beauty, awe and despair, in moments of loneliness, and joy acknowledge the spirit with you and you will know that you too are praying.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I wanted to begin this blog with a purpose. We at Squamish United church are in a time of exciting mission transformation. As we share and blog together I want us to take the opportunity to discover who God is calling us to be as individuals and faith community. So today we will begin with a reflection on our Discovery Weekend (Oct. 1&2, 2010).
On this weekend a group of us from the congregation engaged in the question of our mission and ministry. We engaged in conversations around faith, calling, justice seeking, mission and purpose. We rekindled and reminded one another of the gift of God that is within us as we worshiped, fellowshiped and worked together. We were challenged and called to have a spirit of courage and faith. For some of us there was a deep process of increasing our faith and trust. For others there was a wrestle with what God calls us to in a time of change.
We know that as people of faith we are called to be a witness to hope and new life. Like a clay vessel that carries a message we are in transition and we do not know exactly where God will take us and yet we stated over and over that we are willing and ready to trust, even in these uncertain times. We realized that we are being lead by the spirit to take a leap of faith. We spoke to one another messages of Jesus’ teaching - like “Don’t be afraid” and “consider the lilies of the fields...consider their beauty and how God cares for them...how much more will God care for us? It is God’s desire to give us the kingdom.
We are being challenged to change and trust that God is with us in the transformation.
Perhaps the clearest message we reflected upon over and over is that transformation is going to happen whether we go along with it or not. And so we began a deep process of reaffirmation and discovery. We sought out the mystery of what is our mission as the united church in Squamish. As people in the practice of leadership we recognize that we need to be attentive to all the voices in our midst. We need to ask ourselves who are the voices not being heard both within and outside of our congregation. As people of faith we need to ask who we are advocating for? How is God calling us to be in mission in this time and place?
We live in a time of fast change and transformation within the world of technology, education, communication and more. And yet we recognize that all statics say that everything that is working and growing today in this fast pace technological world is about relationship. Jeff Davis wrote in What would Google do “...the single greatest transformative power of the internet and google has little to do with technology, or media or even business. It’s about people and making new connections among them. It all comes back to relationships.” Think about it - email, facebook, social networks, skype, text messaging, iphones and blackberries are all about maintaining communication and relationship. The encouraging thing about that for us is that from what I can see about Squamish United Church is if there is anything we know and do well it is relationships.
Loren Mead from the Alban institute says “We are at the front edges of the greatest transformation of the church that has occurred for over 1,600 years. It’s by far the greatest change that the church has ever experienced in America (even more so in Canada); it may eventually make the transformation of the reformation look like a ripple in a pond.”
So perhaps that is why at times we feel anxious and fearful in our transition and process. Perhaps we feel like we don’t know where we are going, what we are doing, and feel like we even need to rediscover our purpose. It’s true we don’t know exactly where God is taking us but as my friend Mary says what we do know is “Jesus is going to be okay.” God is going to carry on working and moving in this world whether we join her or not.
The spirit moves where it may and at this time we are being called to discover who God is calling us to be. And we are going to need to trust one another, and be transparent with one another. And so I encourage each one of you here to do that. To be in conversation with myself, with the facilities development team, with one another. We are the body of Christ in this place and each part of the body is essential.
And I invite you to engage in the conversation - How then shall we live and be as a community of faith this day?
Blessings on the Journey,