Tag Archives: spiritual practices

Year of Gratitude: April

We have entered a new month for our Year of Gratitude. This month our focus is

Growing Edges: Spring comes this month and for Christians, Easter. Flowers begin to bloom and gardens are planted. New life is all around. This month we give thanks for growth: physical, spiritual and those places where we need to grow..

How are you progressing on writing a thank you note a week? Personally, some weeks are better than others for me. Sometimes I don’t write one note, I write several. This is one of those weeks.

Are you remembering to place memories or events in your gratitude jar?  I have not always put something in the jar each week and sometimes I have put two or three memories or events in the jar. Like the thank you notes, it is a good push for me personally to remember to be grateful by action and deed.

In the Christian tradition we are still a couple of weeks away from the celebration of Easter. Holy Week is another week away, but the spiritual disciples of Lent are still part of the lenten journey. During the forty days of Lent, seeds can be planted for growth,, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Like a flower bulb, or a seeds, new growth is cultivated by nourishing the soil, by watering the soil and the right amount of sun. Out of the right amount of care, flowers and trees and the garden grows.

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What spiritual practices are helping you grow this week? “How is your soul?” John Wesley encouraged peopl to ask each other. How is your soul and spirit? What are you nuturing in your spiritual life? Who is helping you do that? Have you thanked your prayer partner, your small group leader, your Sunday School teacher or your pastor? Perhaps there is an author that helps you deepen your faith. Can you write that an author a note or share their book or writings with others?

This week, may you find new challenges to help your faith grow, and to deepen your spiritual life in Christ.

 

 

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Vacation for the Soul: Into the Fire

What a great morning. After being on vacation for my wedding anniversary last week, it was a joy to return to worship at First United Methodist Church. The service was filled with terrific music, as usual we had our Downtown Alive Choir, a beautiful solo by Rebecca Beard AND the Treitsch Memorial United Methodist Church Youth Choir. We were their first stop on their tour this week sharing music and mission.

In our time with children, Mr. Phil Davis shared with us “tools of the trade,” including a plumb line. Many adults as well as the children had never seen one nor understood how they worked. It was a great visual for our Amos reading.

Today’s lectionary readings were hard. I do not think any one would choose both Amos and the death of John the Baptist for fun. Our Vacation Bible School theme is “Daniel, Courage in Captivity.” That theme pairs well with the spiritual discipline of study. In our tense and anxious time, how we experience God’s presence as we live out our faith is important to study. The prophets knew it was never easy and yet they stood firm in their speaking the truth when no one wanted to hear it. You can find the entire worship service with all the music at this link. The study guide this week has us reading the entire book of Amos. Each week, the study guide is uploaded on the church’s website. You can find it in several places but here is this week’s study guide.

For those who watch through television, I didn’t quite get all of my sermon on air. I will publish the manuscript tomorrow. May the prayer/spiritual practice of study this week, help us find our voice in these tense and anxious times.

 

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Vacation for the Soul, Guidance

This week’s Spiritual Practice or Discipline is Guidance. That doesn’t tend to make the top five list of things that are “spiritual.” Guidance doesn’t seem to fall in the same sphere as prayer or meditation or sabbath or worship. Yet, guidance has a long tradition of being important for deepening the spiritual life.

I didn’t mention it in worship, but many people have spiritual directors that help guide them in their Christian walk. Small groups or Sunday School classes can be part of the spiritual practice of guidance.

Today in worship, instead, I focused on being guided by love. Using Paul’s imagery in Colossians and pairing it with the lectionary gospel in Mark, I pondered how being clothed in Christ and in love guides us as it guided Christ.

I mentioned Lauren Winner’s book Wearing God, which is a marvelous book on how we experience and meet God in different ways: through clothing and laughter and fire to name a few. As followers of Jesus we are “fashioned” in the old sense of the word by Christ and by love. We are shaped, molded into the image and likeness of Christ.

It was a good day to being year three at First United Methodist Church. If you would like to watch the service in its entirety you will find the video here.

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Vacation For the Soul: Sabbath

I started a new sermon series today “Vacation for the Soul.” As a discipline I have pushed myself back to using the lectionary most Sundays. It connects me ecumenically to other Christians and it encourages me to wrestle with texts I might not always preach if given my own choice.

I also preach series, so I wanted to pay attention to what it means to feed and water the soul if you will this summer. Vacation! Summer time invites long evenings on the deck or porch or on the water. These moments during those long lingering days allow for enjoyment of family and friends.

It dawned on me that the spiritual practices or disciplines that are classic or traditional to our faith are mini vacations for the soul, time spent apart from our everyday life. In music it is the rest or the pause that create space for both the composer and musician to create something deep and moving. In Judeo-Christian history and tradition we call that moment, that pause, that time, Sabbath.

Now I am the first to admit I am terrible at keeping Sabbath. (here is a little secret for those who don’t know or haven’t caught on, I tend to preach to myself and if anyone overhears all the better!) Sunday, obviously is not a day of rest for me, but I claim Friday as my Sabbath. I have Jewish friends that as Friday evening descends, their televisions are unplugged, their phones and tablets are silenced or turned off or turned on to airplane mode. Their computers are turned off as well. They create and eat a meal together and either attend services Friday evening or Saturday morning. They walk, they talk, they read, they play board games with their children. They observe and keep the sabbath as honoring of God.

I actually on occasion turn off my phone, tablet and computer on Friday. More likely, I check my e-mails at least a couple of times, I might not answer them, but I know what is in my inbox. I usually try to avoid checking the news, but I am not always successful. I tend to see how much I can get done on “my day off.” Sabbath? Not usually.

Today in worship we heard again from Deuteronomy 5: “Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” In my sermon I noted that this was never to be a burden or a punishment but a gift from God. I quoted Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Sabbath (it is THE book on sabbath that every other book cites.) In it, he reminds us that in Genesis that God finished his work on the seventh day, in Exodus in six days God made the heavens and the earth. On the seventh God rested, but according to Heschel, creation was not yet finished. On the seventh day God created the Sabbath. “What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose.”

Wow, what a gift we need today. Or maybeI need Sabbath peace, tranquility, rest and serenity. “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.” (Heschel)

For the next few weeks the study guide I write will include a spiritual practice each day. This week will focus on Sabbath moments. The study guide is linked above and available each week on our website or through our new church app. We will be gathering for prayer each week in our Chapel on Wednesdays. It will begin at 12:10 and be finished by 12:40. Lead by different people each week, they will invite us into practicing a different spiritual practice that we studied on Sunday.

If you would like to participate in the worship or listen to the sermon the link to Sunday’s service is here .  I believe that God longs for my presence and your presence. God is leaving the door open, the table set, the wine cup poured and misses us so much when we don’t take time to visit, to listen and to be blessed again by love and grace. We are the children of the Divine and we are being invited: “Come home, Come home, I am waiting for you my beloved child, I love you.”

“On the seventh day, You, O Lord, created rest, So that I, made in your image and through your love, might be made whole in the joy and the peace of your Sabbath gift.” (Doris P. Hand-Glock, alive now! July/Aughts 1989)  Amen and Amen.

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