“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.
How's your focus and attention these days? Believe it or not, mine has found a renewed sense of clarity in the season of this pandemic. While there is plenty to overwhelm my body and my spirit (the hurts of our world, the effects of a mysterious virus, the longing to end racism) there is a new pace that helps me be more mindful and present.
Slowing down came naturally to me after my stroke and brain surgery 15 years ago. Honestly, I didn't have a choice. My ability to multitask ceased and life as I knew it shifted drastically. Not that long ago, I reflected and lamented with a friend about this longing to again juggle too many balls in the air. As she listened, she told me, "what a gift this experience of forced slowing down was for you!" And, I realized she was right. I am re-opening this gift of slowing down. Will you join me?
How are you intentionally slowing down in this season? What gifts are you discovering in the midst of a pandemic?
Group Spiritual Direction was my introduction to the ministry of soul care. After my stroke, I experienced extreme anxiety. The anxiety was emotionally and spiritually paralyzing. I could barely go to the grocery amidst strangers, let alone be surrounded by people wanting to hug and communicate (at church). The church wasn't causing my anxiety. My anxiety simply didn't allow me to be present at church, which felt conflicting and overwhelming.
It was an isolating and lonely season. A friend knew I was in this searching season, trying to discover God in new ways. So when she heard that her church was offering a group spiritual direction series, she asked me to join the group. I had never heard of the ministry of spiritual direction. I was hesitant and also curious. You would think something brand new would have been harder to embrace than what I knew but what I needed in that season was simply a small group of people to hold space for me and my struggles on my spiritual journey.
This little group of listeners soon helped me hear God in brand new ways. They listened fully, completely, and without judgement. They didn't try to "fix" my challenges or change me. They helped me notice God's activity in my life and I'm forever grateful.
According to Rose Mary Dougherty, three conditions are essential to the life of a spiritual direction group:
Are you willing to be open and honest about your relationship with God (struggles and all)? Are you in a season of change, discernment, or longing? Do you simply want to learn to be a better listener? You're invited to join us for our first online small group inside our new Peace Seekers Community.
Attendance is important since our group will be intimate. Our time will be an introduction to spiritual direction so you don't need to know a thing about this ministry to begin. We'll meet for 4 Sessions on Zoom, Wednesdays from 10:30 AM - 12 PM Central beginning October 28, 2020. We'll offer safe space to share and ask questions about your spiritual journey among peers and with me (a trained spiritual director). You'll participate in weekly guided scripture meditations for listening to God's activity in this intimate group (limited to 6 participants). Your investment in this 4 sessions is the cost of 2 private spiritual direction sessions. You can find full details and register at this link.
BONUS: You'll become a member of our new online community during the time of our group. This community offers you support from other Peace Seekers, weekly scripture passages and ponderings, as well as connection.
Will you join us?
Oh, coronavirus, you've taken too much from us this year, retreats included. However, I am so very excited to share with you each that online retreats are here.
YES! We're finally ready to begin our journey of online retreats at Exploring Peace Ministries. It's been a challenging season for all of us to find new ways to interact and connect in our businesses, churches, communities, and relationships. After pausing all in-person retreats for 2020 due to COVID-19, I wasn't sure what was next. Yet after much discernment and lots of prayer and help, I've discovered and created a safe online space that I think you're going to love. Yes, it's possible to connect in safe space amidst a pandemic and I can't wait for us to begin. I'm more than thrilled to be hosting my online retreat book experience for you in a new space, our Peace Seekers Community. You'll find me there now along with our community moderator, Lauren, and a handful of Beta Testers. If you register for the Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit book retreat, you'll gain access to our community and see exactly what's in it for you (encouragement, connection, community with other Peace Seekers just to name a few)! The retreat and our new community is open as of TODAY!
Retreat materials will be available for pre-work beginning August 17th. Our 40 Days together and live teachings begin September 1st! Don't miss out on this chance to offer your body and spirit a reboot in community. I am so excited to journey through the book with you!
glimpses of his face
upon leaving the parade
wisps of confetti and hurrahs floating in our brains
palm branches remain scattered in our minds
and one on a donkey passes by, looking, intently – as if into our very souls
seven days our watching, from afar or close by
perfume scents the air before a feast of delicacies spread
she has broken open her heart and the vial of treasure
for sharing silent tearful words of holy drops, his feet touched
tainted tables in the Temple crash to the floor
his voice echoing off the marble walls in defiance
of mistreatment upon those come to worship,
who is there in this company, over-priced dove in hand?
friend/companion arranges the ill-fated movement of betrayal
we ponder motive - angst, skepticism … despair or truth
loft dinner for a chosen few; ‘tis good to be included
what will he have new – in song or word – for us this night?
night that never ended and never will
garden dew, strangers’ grip, off and away
we watch him disappear into the courts
early morning and far too many people in the streets
choices offered between the two
but we have no part do we, as he appears
tattered and torn, enduring, suffering
interrogation and courage
only the weight of that devilish cross spans
our perception of the moment, his breath in our face
his eyes once again in our gaze
to the deafening silence of death
a holy week.
by Rev. Mary Anne Akin, April 2020
Below is a glimpse into my habits and what I long to prioritize. Does every day check off every habit? No, it doesn't and that's okay. My heart's desire is to prioritize these areas of my life so that I can live into the life God has created for me. You may also look at this list and wonder, when does she do anything for anyone else? The point of these habits are to live as my best self so I can live and serve God in my home, my community, and this world. Self care may seem or feel selfish to you but it is true that if you pour into you, you can more easily pour out into others.
Have you heard of a Rule or Rhythm of Life? I don't love rules but I do love rhythms and that's what my habits have become, a rhythm. Some "play" more loudly than others in certain seasons but they all matter to the overall music of life.
My current healthy habits include:
Silence & Meditation (breath prayer, centering prayer, reiki)
Prayer & Scripture (this often looks like journaling or lectio divina right now)
Movement (walking, yoga & swimming are my favorite - I am so ready for summer!)
Herbs (herbal tea and St. John's Wort have saved me this winter, check out this blog post)
Clean Living (real food, less toxins)
Reading for growth (spirituality, business, personal growth - I often listen to audio books while doing laundry, etc.)
Reading for pleasure (historical fiction all the way)
Focused Time (writing, creating, dreaming)
Relationship Growth (friendships, dating my spouse, family time, active listening with my teen, peer group accountability)
Financial Stewardship (budgeting, banking, administrative tasks)
Rest/Sabbath/Sleep (blocking off days of my week without social media is a new and helpful habit)
Gratitude (prayer of examen)
Some of these habits are MUCH easier than others are for me. I started clean living after my stroke and brain surgery in 2005 out of necessity. Today it's a fairly natural habit until food temptations arise and I find myself off course. Because it's a long standing habit, it's fairly easy to pick back up and find the rhythm, like a musician who hops in mid song. Others of these habits are truly challenging. Silence may be the hardest on this list in this full season but I long for it and desire it so much. That's why I'll be choosing silence & meditation as the area to focus my heart and mind during the season of Lent.
Do you have a healthy habit you want to focus on during the Lenten season? While this time is often known for giving up, it may be a time to add to for you. Either approach could be taken with healthy habits - give up something (that is not great for you) or consider adding something (that will help you find your healthiest and best rhythm).
What healthy habits are vital for your body and spirit?
We often get tips for our bodies or our business at the start of each new year. But, what about tips for your soul? We're not talking goals, we're talking soul care. What makes your soul sing?
Below is a transformational tip that if you embrace this one habit this year, I believe your soul will indeed sing. I use the practice of a morning ritual in my own life and encourage you to as well.
Already have a morning ritual? Share it with me on social media! Tag me at @WhitRSimpson and show us how you're #ExploringPeace in your daily life.
How to create a morning ritual:
Set aside a few minutes to ponder, what draws you nearer to God? Then make a list (journaling, savoring silence, reading, watching the sunrise, meditating on scripture, a healthy breakfast, practicing centering prayer, movement, etc.) and place that list in your planner, journal, beside your bed, or on your bathroom mirror (somewhere you will see it!).
Enjoy your morning ritual:
Once you have your inspiration, take action for your soul and enjoy it! Here's the tip: each morning dedicate the time you have set aside to one (or more than one) thing on your list. Whether you have 5 focused minutes (not every morning is slowly savored, I get it and remember the toddler days) or a slow and savory 75 minutes (on the best day ever of you being the only one to care for), enjoy YOUR morning ritual. Consistency is my key to a soul-filled morning ritual. Contrary to popular belief, there is no time limit required for drawing near to God and you do not need to do everything on your list at once (it may actually be better that you don't). For the benefit of your soul, choose to BE with your ritual rather than DO your ritual and start with just a few minutes at a time.
So what's my morning ritual look like?
My morning ritual:
It feels important to share I'm not what some would call a "morning person" which is why I believe my morning ritual is so valuable to my soul. This time set apart helps ground me and enter in to a day with a heart and a body that is set on God and not how little I love mornings.
Before my feet hit the floor, I explore a few simple yoga stretches and place my hands on my body for prayer. The normal morning hygiene routine takes place (Ayurvedic medicine has taught me about tongue scraping and I include this most days too, ever tried it?), then I cuddle into my prayer/meditation chair for either a few minutes of breath prayer, centering prayer, or a time of journaling (as an Enneagram 4, I like variety in my quiet time but I don't do all of these - I pick one). If it's a slow and savory morning, I include devotional and/or scripture reading. Note: while I prefer to draw out my mornings, many mornings are more hurried than others so this may take as few as 5 minutes, it's the intention of being present with God that is the focus of my morning ritual. Commit to pick one thing from your list and practice it daily, that's it.
Once I've enjoyed the quiet, I move from contemplation into some self-care action with prioritizing care of my physical body. Before bed, I try to prep my favorite green lemonade so I can sip on something good for my body first thing in the morning (my green lemonade recipe is lemon water with spearmint chlorophyll and green juice powder - it's an acquired taste and I love it now). A brisk walk does me good but it's true for me that my soul must be awake first. So while exercise is part of my day, it comes after my soul is awakened! Once I'm dressed and ready for the day, I visit the kitchen for two more important hydration elements. First, I brew my herbal tea then I blend my favorite smoothie (hemp protein, spinach, banana, frozen blueberries, frozen butternut squash, raw cacao, collagen, flax, chia, or whatever else I may have on hand). So yes, caring for my body is a vital part of my morning ritual. With practice, these habits have become a soulful experience to start my day for spirit rather than chores I must check off my list.
What do you do for your soul in the mornings?
Create a ritual of caring for your soul a few minutes at a time and you'll find encouragement to care for your self and grow in your spiritual practices in 2020.
A decade has passed since I stumbled into this space and told the world (maybe one person actually clicked through from my link to that first post) that God was inviting me on a journey of exploring the gift of peace on January 18, 2010.
What began as a blog post written at my kitchen table, with a 5 year old under my feet, is now ministry. And, I'm mom to a teenager with a first job and a driver's permit. A lot has happened in ten years.
Ten years later, I'm learning and teaching and sharing all that God has shown me along the way and I'm more passionate than ever about evolving as a peace seeker (one seeking God's peace) and as a peace maker (one leading others to also seek God's peace) on this journey.
Do I have it figured out and live a peace-filled existence all the time? Let's get this straight, my friends: absolutely not. I'm knee-deep living into my sandwich generation (caring for both offspring and parents), learning how to run a brick and mortar yoga studio with my business partner, pondering politics, the future of the church, and inequality in our world. I'm feeling guilty over the plastic I toss and the water I waste. I wonder if I'm doing too much or not enough and where the fine line is in the middle that I can actually walk.
And I have discovered there is a false understanding that those of us who prioritize our soul care are living perfectly peace-filled lives. We aren't. The truth is that prioritizing soul care gives us peace, even when we cannot shift or change the circumstances. We begin to notice and ask, "where is God in this?" and draw nearer to the one who longs for us to pay attention. We get better at practicing presence and grow in every situation but we are not masters of the life or void of troubles.
As I reflect on drawing nearer amidst the reality and struggles in this world, I celebrate what I have learned in this past ten years of exploring peace. I've learned about my fears, my hopes, and what drives me (thanks, Enneagram!), about the world around me and creation care, how to slow down and savor time with God, how to meditate (or not), and what my Rule of Life entails (thanks, St. Benedict). I've learned what brings me joy and what makes my heart break. I've learned about essential oils and crystals and real food (thank you, Hildegard of Bingen) and how connecting with elements God created give me life and bring me peace when I need it most. I have learned how challenging it is to write down some innermost parts of myself and share those in the form of a book (thank you, Upper Room Books). I have learned how to be brave and say yes and how to say no (even when I don't want to). I have learned to walk away from places God had me for both long and short seasons and walk into new ones (even when I don't understand). I have learned what it means to meet God in consolation and desolation (thanks Prayer of Examen and St. Ignatius). I have learned about energy work and the amazing connection we have with our bodies and the way God made us. I have learned to explore grief, sadness, and disappointment. I have learned to feel joy and pleasure. Each of these has helped me to live present and embodied. I have learned that experiencing all this for myself deepens my relationships to others and my purpose in this world. I have learned that mastery is not the goal and exploring the gift of God's peace will forever be an invitation, not a destination.
You know those self help gurus who tell you they have it all figured out? The ones that say the answers are all inside their latest release or class or program? Don't believe them. Your answers are inside of you, not them. We cannot look to anyone beyond our Creator and ourselves to explore what God offers each of us. We are each on our own exploration with God.
And while we are unique, we need each other! Because I long for companionship on this journey and suspect you do too, in the coming months, more resources are coming for your journey (I've been working on these for months and 2020 is the time to invite you to join me in each of these - I am so excited about what is coming and have been bursting to give you more details!). Keep reading for a little preview of what is to come!
This year, after ten years of purposeful exploration, three new things are on the horizon for this ministry space:
1. The Exploring Peace website will be getting a fresh new look and growing to include more resources for you (look below for a hint of what is to come).
2. We'll be launching online discernment groups (where we meet virtually to dive into some of these tools I've learned and explored over the past decade). Peace Seekers and Peace Makers will be equipped with resources each month and we will meet and learn together from our own experiences. If you stumbled here from your email in-box, you'll be the first to know when the groups are open for registration (later this year). If you've landed here from social media, be sure to click here and hop on my monthly email list (I promise, I don't email you all the time, that gets old quickly).
3. And finally, Exploring Peace Meditations will be launching soon as a podcast (no more clunky downloads from this site, I'll be right in your pocket as of early 2020). Yipppeeee!
I hope you will continue to follow along as we explore this gift of God's peace in our lives together. I'm grateful for your companionship and look forward to what the next decade offers us together. Oh! I have one BIG favor. If you read this entire update and you're still here, you're part of this growth and we need your voice here. Would you be willing to offer a few words about your own journey of exploring peace (how spiritual direction, yoga and meditation, retreats, my devotional book, or some other resource has impacted you)? These short testimonials will be offered to new peace seekers to encourage their spiritual formation journey.
Thank you for being here and entrusting me on your faith journey. May 2020 be a year of discovering God in deeper ways and learning about the one God created (YOU) along the way.
Whitney R. Simpson
Click to connect:
Content @ 2010-2020
Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC