The listening point blog has inspired me to spend more time in meditation this week. As a result I have been able to put together another meditation video. I love the meditative nature of Jeff Johnson’s music and I am delighted that he has agreed to do the music for our Celtic retreat up on Camano Island on August 18th.
I hope you enjoy this video and spend some time reflecting on God’s presence as you view it.
Last night Jude and John Tiersma Watson came for dinner. They usually live in LA and work with Innerchange but are currently staying in La Conner for a sabbatical break. I had met Jude at the CCDA conference some years ago but had not seen them since. It was a wonderful evening of getting to know this delightful couple with whom we discovered we have much in common. (The photo in case you have not guessed is of John & Eliacin Rosario – as Eliacin pointed out it is not of John & Jude)
Entertaining in this way reminded me of one of my favourite books on hospitality is Christine Pohl’s Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. It is also one of the most challenging books I have read because Christine talks about how in Biblical times hospitality was about entertaining strangers not friends. I think about this a lot when we have people over for dinner. Many of the people we entertain are ones we have met through our ministry and though we do not know them very well we at least know a little about them. I wonder what it would be like just to open our home to people off the street that we don’t know. Certainly a scary thought.
The only time I have ever experienced this type of hospitality was when I lived on the mercy ship Anastasis. In each port we used to hold what we called a “Highways and Byways” banquet. Taking the story Jesus tells about going out into the streets to invite people to the wedding feast, we used to arrange one evening in every port where we literally did just that. We all went out into the streets around the port and invited people home for dinner… and often we had homeless people and prostitutes and transvestites on board because they were the type of people that lived in the port area. I still remember a couple of transvestites who came on board. they were absolutely amazed that Christians would ask them home. Some of the crew stayed in touch with them for years after. Their hearts were touched and transformed by this gesture.
Last night we had our rector Carla Pryne and her husband Eric over for dinner. Part of our conversation revolved around the use of ritual in our lives. We talked a lot about how the loss of ritual in our lives disconnects us from community and makes us more isolated, insecure and alone. Most rituals are community events. They provide opportunity for us to affirm and to encourage each other. Even when we perform rituals on alone – such as when we light candles during our devotional time, their is often a sense of connection to others who are performing or will perform, the same ritual at some point during the day.
What we mainly talked about is how we can transform what are usually secular rituals into sacred events. We discussed the life events that are most significant in people’s lives – losing a first tooth, receiving a driver’s licence, the transtion from childhood to teenager, graduating from college, selling the family home. All of these events can be given a sacred significance. Carla talked about how, in one church she pastored they got all the young people who had received their drivers licences that year to bring them up and lay them on the altar. Then they prayed for the young people and dedicated their driving to God. What a neat thing to do.
I have probably said it before, but the Jews celebrated everything good and everything bad that had happened in their lives and I think we need to as well. Marking transitions whether they be celebrations of joy or pain is important. People need to know that they are affrimed and honoured because of who they are and what is happening in their lives. When we take the ritual out of our lives we are all the poorer for it and lose the anchors that enable us to connect ot each other, to God and to God’s world.
I would love to hear abotu the transitions you have marked in your life and how these have impacted you, your family and community.
The evidence is in. Americans are working harder than ever before and at a greater cost both to their own health and to that of the environment. Research suggests that practicing a more simple lifestyle makes people happier while using fewer resources. Read the full article on AlterNet
This research doesn’t surprise me. When our lives are out of balance in any area I think that it is detrimental to our health, to the health of our families and ultimately to the health of our planet. According to Tim Kasser who is wuoted on page 3 of this article “Materialism is driven by an underlying sense of insecurity.” I think he is spot on. If we are honest most of us will admit that when we are depressed or stressed or just overworked we are more inclined to buy things that we don’t need.
My research suggests that people arn’t necessarily more productive because they are working longer hours either. In fact those that take siestas after lunch are so much more productive after their rest that there is no way those who don’t rest can equal their output. I have taken afternoon rests for many years – intitally because of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but now mainly because I really have found that I am far more productive afterwards. Of course for many of us taking an afternoon rest at work is impossible but if you can flex your schedule it might be something worth trying.
Tom & I are back from our retreat feeling refreshed and renewed after a couple of days mainly just relaxing in Anacortes. Retreat doesn’t really seem like a very good term for our time away because it really is more a time of refreshment and renewal.
We start by reading through our journals from the last few months reflecting on all we have done and how well we have adhered to what we believe to be God’s call on our lives. Sometimes this can be a little embarrassing. I am amazed at how easily I get distracted from what God’s purposes. I find that I need to be very intentional about following God’s purposes or I slowly drift away.
I like to look back over the scriptures that have stood out as I have read the bible in the last few weeks. I find this helps me to focus on what God is wanting me to do. Then we spend time praying and listening to God and trying to discern if there is anything new that God wants to say to us in terms of our direction for the next few months.
The last part of our retreat we usually spend setting goals for the next few months . However, this time after the busyness of the last few weeks we needed some time to relax and renew ourselves so we spent more time sitting on the beach reading and walking with our golden retriever Bonnie than we did setting goals. We even found time to explore the antique stores in Anacortes and discovered an excellent french bakery with some of the most delicious almond croissants we have ever tasted.
Tom & I try to get away for a couple of days of retreat time every 3 – 4 months. These have become some of the best prayer times we have. Personally I find it very difficult to listen to God and what God is wanting to say when I am surrounded by the distractions of phone calls, deadlines and unfinished projects. I think that the busier we are the harder it is to hear God’s voice. As Richard Foster says “Busyness isn’t of the devil, busyness is the devil. If you have trouble discerning what God is wanting you to do you may find that going on spiritual retreat for a couple of days can really help.
Here is a Celtic prayer attributed to Columba of Iona I have found really helps me when I am trying to focus and listen to God.
Sometimes in a lowly cell
In the presence of my God
I stand and listen.
In the silence of my heart I can hear his will
When I listen
Despairing people flock to me
They expect that I can see the answers
They ask my advice,
They say I am wise
I answer that nothing can deceive me
If I stand alone and silently listen
For I am but a servant
Who is guided by his king
When I listen
Sometimes in a lowly cell
In the presence of my God
I stand and listen
I thought that I would need to wait until after our retreat time to feel spiritually revived but this weekend I learned an important lesson (one that you would think I should have learnt a long time ago.) All that it took for me to feel spiritually renewed was a good talk to Tom about Clint and the struggles that both of us have gone through over this last year, an extended time of prayer and listening to God and an excellent sermon from our rector Carla Pryne that seemed to speak straight to my depleted spirit.
Carla talked about Salvador Dali’s painting: The Sacrament of the Last Supper in which the the table does not seem restricted to the disciples but seems to extend out into the world. She suggested that as Jesus prays his prayer is not just for those at the table but really extends out to all those through the centuries who also sit at that great table. She went on to suggest that when we pray we see things happen not so much because our prayers change God’s mind but rather because when we pray we literally add our love to the love of God and in so doing enter into a little part of God’s eternal world of love and unity. Prayer is our decision to take our time and our love and give it to another. When we pray we join God who is already pouring out his love into the situation we are praying for. Our prayers are important more because they transform us than because they transform those we are praying for. She suggested we all pray for the love and grace necessary to be able to pray for others in such a way that we can be transformed by the love of God.
As I write this it does not seem as transformative as it seemed on Sunday morning but that I realize is the power of God’s words. They transform and renew us because of the power of the holy spirit working through them not because of the words themselves.