A Christmas Prayer
WHEN LIFE FORCES US TO WRESTLE with what's difficult, give us courage.
Teach us that there is a purpose in everything we experience, and everything is more than it appears to be.
This world is permeated by your Presence, and is your Presence in form.
May we be drawn to your Voice above the other, competing voices.
Great and Holy one, we pray for Peace.
Take us to the abode of Peace for which all hearts long.
WE PRAY TO FIND STILLNESS WITHIN our busyness, and
Rest in the midst of our celebrations and activity.
Show us how to walk more gently, more patiently, on the Earth.
Let kindness be born within all hearts.
Teach us to draw together as one people.
May our prayer rise up like fire and be Light for a troubled world. This we know, Something is trying to be born in us.
Take our hand as we set out anew.
From Advent: A Time of Hope by Paula D'Arcy.
Did you notice the Exploring Peace Meditations podcast offering more and more Yoga Nidra practices as the year went along? That's because you kept asking for more! And, I heard you when you said you were amazed that it brought so much peace into your body. I've been studying and practicing Yoga Nidra more in this past year and I'm glad to hear your response to the practice. My body and mind love Yoga Nidra and my spirit loves offering it in ways that help me (and your) connect with our Creator.
What is Yoga Nidra? Also known as yogic sleep, this conscious relaxation and meditation practice offers space for your body and your mind to unwind. It feels good all over! Clearly, this is an oversimplified definition but it's the best way I know to explain the practice...until you have practiced it for yourself!
When I shared that this practice would be a bonus in our online advent retreat, I had multiple messages from those of you who were concerned you didn't know how to practice Yoga Nidra. Here's the great thing... You don't have to be able to know anything about it, you simply need to have a willingness to listen and relax!
Yoga Nidra is often practiced in a reclined resting position (think savasana pose in yoga) but can be practiced sitting up as well. It's a form of meditation, body awareness, and true relaxation. Richard Miller (yoga teacher, author, researcher, and psychologist) teaches that "in yoga nidra, we restore our body, senses, and mind to their natural function and awaken a seventh sense that allows us to feel wholeness, tranquility, and well-being."
It's a practice that has helped me connect body, mind, and spirit and I hope you find it helps you too.
Have you practiced Yoga Nidra?
Ready to unwind? Click here or listen below.
The live music ceased.
The hugs disappeared.
The worship paused.
The businesses wavered.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The table is empty.
The shoulders are tight.
The friend is struggling.
The account is dwindling.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The mask helps.
The Zoom introduces.
The commute is less.
The family is present.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The quarantine teaches.
The neighbor offers.
The alone time is reflective.
The pause is not so bad.
Give Thanks Anyway.
The divide is real, not imagined.
The conflict continues within.
The work God is doing is evident.
The choice to embrace it is mine.
Give Thanks Anyway.
Last year I purchased this adorable Christmas craft from Cozy Blue. And sadly, I've spent all of about 30 minutes working on it. I'm not sure why I was more excited about the idea of this piece than actually sitting down with my hands and being present while stitching. I was ecstatic with my purchase and have since looked at it and pondered, why have I paused in picking it up?
Maybe it's because I'm a recovering perfectionist and am afraid my final piece won't measure up to the Instagram worthy photos I've seen of the finished kit? Maybe I am simply distracted by life's responsibilities amidst a pandemic year? Maybe it's that silly puppy's fault I don't have space for thread and needles? Maybe I long for presence but don't always prioritize it? Maybe I have spent my time in other valuable ways besides crafting with my hands? There are a lot of maybes in life, aren't there?
If you haven't noticed, we are entering in to a season of giving! But here's what I'm reminded of... if we don't slow down long enough to receive, we won't have space to give. My hands can remind me to be open to and grateful for the way God allows me to both give and receive. Maybe I can practice that while crafting this season?
This Advent, I'm choosing to set aside all those "maybes" and enter in with open hands. I'm choosing presence over perfection. I'm choosing to slow down and prioritize the gift of this season. I'm choosing to ready myself for God's gift of Jesus. That may mean I end up with a finished craft and it may not. We'll see. Will you join me?
If you'd like to practice giving and receiving with your own hands today in prayer, savor this body scan meditation and a moment of gratitude for the ways you are giving and receiving in your life with God.
Since our puppy, Penny, joined our family this Spring, I've taken a lot of walks. A lot. Oftentimes I use our morning walk to listen to audiobooks that grow or stretch my faith. My recently played books include titles by Rob Bell, Glennon Doyle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Austin Channing Brown, Eckhart Tolle, and Jen Hatmaker. Through these recent (and yes, varied) listens I've been inspired to practice kindness with my neighbors, smile more often (I don't mean to always look so serious), slow it down, face my fears, realize everything really is spiritual, and truly strive to practice presence.
And while books and knowledge fuel, me, I don't always read and walk. Sometimes I pray when I walk, sometimes I listen to a favorite playlist, and sometimes I simply have to stay focused on training (AKA wrangling) our new puppy.
Walking has become a habit for me - twice a day, every day. I'm not quite ready for the Tennessee winters but I don't think Penny will let me break this habit. She loves walking, it's an automatic response to the start of her day. It took some practice for me to get on her plan but quickly it became a habit. I then realized our habit was becoming routine and at moments I dreaded it. Maybe like me, you often walk on auto-pilot. Do you ever wonder... How did I get to the other side of the house? Why is my face always in my phone? Or... What was I doing on my way to the mailbox?
Our minds wander and so having a focused purpose helps me stay present in my walks and break the cycle of worry (which I've carried my fair share of lately). Presence keeps us present! But we don't always need a book or music in our ears to practice presence. We can use our own bodies and breath to practice awareness with a purposeful walking meditation.
The first time I practiced walking meditation was on a retreat with a group of teens. It wasn't easy but it stretched us all and we learned a lot about ourselves. To start, I suggest practicing in your back yard or even at home if you can't get outside. It's nice to have some privacy to allow yourself full presence so you're not worried about being distracted or even stepping out in front of a car. Yep, that happens. Practicing alone gives you more confidence to start, then you can practice walking reverently throughout your day. Walking meditation isn't about exercising yourself or your pet but it is about healing, it is about being fully and completely present in your body.
In walking meditation you feel your feet hit the ground, each and every step. You notice how mindfulness in your body can bring you into the moment. You go slow on purpose. You walk and breathe in sync and allow your body the space to be fully present. While being present in this way is not easy, it is indeed transformational.
Ready to try it? Need some help in discovering presence with a short mindful walk? Listen to the Walking Meditation podcast below. Then use some of what you learn to begin incorporating presence and breath in all of your walking - about the house, to the car, or around the block.
Walking has become a natural way for me to destress and unplug. I have a long way to grow my mindfulness while walking (especially with a puppy in tow) but I'm glad to keep practicing.
How do you practice mindful presence while walking?
Will you take a walk with me?
Advent is a time of waiting, a time of preparation for Christmas. Let's be honest, waiting is tough right now but this kind of waiting is expectant and exciting. This kind of waiting is pondering the arrival of the one who came as a gift for YOU and the one who gifted you with your body and breath. There is always much to prepare for Christmas - food, decorations, packages. But what if the gift God longs to prepare most is YOU?
This year is different in so many ways. And Christmas can be different for you too, in the best way. What if this Christmas you prepared yourself? What if you made space for your body and your spirit? What if instead of being last on the list, you heard God's nudge and placed yourself at the top of the list? After all, if you care for yourself well you're better able to care for others well too. And, in this season, loving others and ourselves needs to make the top of the list!
How do you prepare for Christmas? What are your favorite ways to get ready? Don't worry, I'll still be decking the halls but I'll also be practicing lectio divina, centering prayer and yoga nidra too! Curious? Want to join me in community? Click here to register or learn more about this online advent retreat experience (nope, you don't have to be on social media to participate, one less distraction, yay!).
Are you ready for Christmas?
You're invited to an Evening of Prayer & Gratitude with the Women of McKendree United Methodist Church.
Are you in a season of overwhelm? Long to carve out some time for prayer and thanksgiving this season? Join the women of McKendree for a half hour practice of the Prayer of Examen on Monday, November 23rd at 7:00 PM Central.
This ancient prayer practice will invite you to pause and discover gratitude while giving thanks to God for the ups and the downs of your daily life. Find a quiet space to tuck away then allow yourself a half hour of refreshment and the chance to be guided in prayer with other women on the journey with God.
No matter your stage of life, all women are welcome for this time of prayer and gratitude in community.
Monday, November 23rd - 7:00 PM Central - Online via Zoom
RSVP below to receive the Zoom link (you'll receive an email with the link, from our facilitator, one week prior to the event).
Curious to experience this prayer on your own? You can listen to the guided meditation below and practice any time you long to foster a bit more gratitude.
Event Hosted by McKendree United Methodist Church
Facilitated by Whitney R. Simpson
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” ― Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now
We are well into our new normal of a pandemic lifestyle. Maybe your running around has been replaced with logging on these days - to meetings, to social media, or to check the news. No matter what you're filling your time with, I'm hearing from you that it is hard to give your body and soul a rest in this season. And, oh that forever running mind! Will it ever slow down again?
These words from Maya Angelou really humble me. Who am I to think that the world won't turn if I don't take a break? My meditation practice is the daily time I can pause those problems. And, scheduling purposeful time apart with God is vital for my own soul. But it's hard, isn't it? Why is it so hard to take time away from the news, the pandemic, the worries, the politics? What holds you back from taking time apart? Daily for a few minutes or weekly for longer periods of time? Do you prioritize a daily practice or weekly Sabbath? What does that look like for you?
If not, what gets in the way of prioritizing your own slowing down? What holds you back?
Whether or not today is a day you can "consciously separate" from your problems, I hope you'll pause and give yourself a few minutes to explore peace for your spirit.
You're not alone. Need some companionship? Listen to the most recent podcast meditation below.
All Saints Sunday, November 1, 2020 from 12:30 - 4:30 PM at Lebanon First UMC in Lebanon, Tennessee.
You're invited to join us for a reflective day apart offering space for God's wisdom through presence, intentional silence, and words from the Saints before us.
Space is limited to 20 participants, please RSVP to save your spot. Your registration and $15 check must be received by 10/23/20 (or until the retreat is full). Our day retreat will be socially distanced with plenty of room outdoors (bring a lawn chair, a blanket, pillow, or anything that makes you comfortable settling in for reflection). You'll receive a journal, guided prayer prompts, access to a hot beverage station and a warm fire. In case of inclement weather, please bring a mask for safety of all participants so that we may enjoy reflection time in the sanctuary and chapel.
This event is open to the entire community and is hosted by Lebanon First UMC. Our time in reflection will be facilitated by Whitney R. Simpson of Exploring Peace Ministries.
How is it already October? What has become of this year's vision board and goal plan? For me, not much. It is the year of PIVOT! And while it's been tough, I'm finding many silver linings in this invitation and focus shift. Amidst that shifting, I do know I'm hearing this quote from Augustine and a very familiar verse, loud and clear.
"Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." - Augustine of Hippo
“Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10
Do you have any stillness or rest in your day? Or, does stillness only find you when you crash in the chair at the end of the day after being all things to all people?
Or, does rest evade your mind because although your body is still, you rarely choose to stop scrolling or turn off the news? Do you collapse at the end of a day feeling tired, alone, or even unworthy of being still in God's presence? Are you restless?
This restless pondering and verse aren't simply about being still, are they? Nope. There is so much more than stillness in this invitation.
We might want to take note of something pretty important in the verse. The word "and" in the sentence. The scripture doesn't just ask us to be still, it asks us to be still AND know. What do we need to know?
If you keep reading, verse 11 tells us that “The Lord Almighty is with us.” We aren’t simply told to be still (I was told that in church as a little girl plenty, that's not the same as this). We’re told to be still and know that God is with us. Augustine reminds us God wants us to not only rest but to rest IN GOD. Amidst stress, overwhelm, injustice, worry, changed plans, and pivoting dreams, rest in God.
God gives us the ability to do more than just stop worrying or running. God gives us the ability to rest in God and be reminded how much God cares for each of us, especially amidst restless times like these.
Today, I invite you to find stillness somewhere in your day AND in that stillness of knowing God is with you.
Know that God is your comfort.
Know that God is your peace.
Know that your Creator longs for you to rest in thee.
Reflect: How am I reminded that God is with me? What is causing me restlessness (get specific, consider journaling or praying through these specifics)? When was the last time I experienced stillness and rest WITH God? Where and when can I rest today AND be reminded of God's presence in my life?
Action: Let's not choose to be restless in this season, let's choose to rest in God. Need a little help? Press play below and drift off to sleep in God's presence tonight.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Content @ 2010-2020
Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC