Help us open our eyes and our hearts this day to notice you.
We long to sense your goodness amidst the ashes and the despair of this world.
It isn't easy to slow down long enough to hear your whisper in the wind, notice your goodness in the buds on the trees, or glimpse your face in the smile of another.
Allow us to move away from what is easy through the noise, distraction, and overwhelm of this world.
Instead, remind us to lean into your presence around us through praise, quiet prayer, and contemplation this Lenten season.
The ashes remain but we can find your beauty amidst them, if we look.
The Lenten season is upon us and I don't know about you but I am admittedly tired of giving up!
The past two years have been filled with "giving up" things, not by choice, that drew me closer to my Creator (like travel, for example). Oops, see number 5 below.
But this invitation of "giving up" for Lent need not be about letting go for the sake of letting go or letting go with remorse. We are invited to let go of things that get in our way of connecting with God and make room for more time with our God in these 40 days leading up to Easter.
So I am pondering things beyond the standard list I've chosen to give up in the past (like chocolate and wine). I'm pondering things (actions/habits) that will give me a more peace-filled, embodied, and connected journey to God if I let them go - once and for all! Below is a list of a dozen things I am "giving up" this year.
12 Things I Am Giving Up
Ouch, huh?! Does one jump out to you more than another? Once you have found your place to start, take a deep breath and let it soak in a bit. Will you choose to practice letting it go and give it up - for Lent and even beyond!?
Without this (or these) in your life, there's more room to listen and draw nearer to God. There's space to be a world changer and a difference maker. Practice letting go and you'll walk into Easter better knowing a Christ who lived without these 12!
Giving up also gives us room to lean in a bit more. Do you need help along the way to stay connected with your whole self and listen to your Creator (not that other stuff)? If you have your copy of Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit on your shelf, it's the perfect 40 day companion to make room for more trust, community, peace, healing, love, joy, wisdom, connection, and hope in your life with Christ. Consider picking it up and begin again your time of holy listening with God.
How will you choose to journey through these 40 days towards Easter? What will you give up this year (or maybe even for good)? What will you pick up?
I've been working on something exciting while patiently waiting to share it with you. Finally, the title of my Advent devotional for 2022 is available to share!
Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Advent Devotional for the Whole Self
Ah, this captures the invitation of an embodied journey with the embodied Christ! Each week of this devotional provides prompts for using your whole self to meet God as you prepare to receive the hope, peace, joy, and love the Advent season offers you.
This book, published by Upper Room Books, will be available in plenty of time for Christmas 2022. Most exciting, an e-course option from the publisher will be available. That means they are recording bonus content for me to share with you, and you (or your small group) can journey through the book with ME. But if you want the behind-the-scenes scoop all along the way next year, be sure to join our new online community. I'll share the details there first as we prepare to release this new content and experience for Christmas next year.
Thanks for celebrating this new release with me and make plans now to journey with me toward Christmas 2022!
You're invited to join me for a reflective day apart offering space for God's wisdom through presence, intentional silence, and words from the Saints before us on All Saints Sunday, November 7th.
This soul care retreat is limited to 20 participants, please RSVP below to save your spot. Your registration must be received by 10/31/21 (or until the retreat is full). Our quiet day retreat will be socially distanced with plenty of room outdoors (bring a lawn chair, yoga mat, blanket, pillow, or anything that makes you comfortable settling in for reflection) and indoor space is also available. You'll receive a journal, guided prayer prompts, coloring pages, access to a hot beverage station, and a warm fire, as well as opening and closing time in community. In case of inclement weather, we may enjoy our socially distanced reflection time in the sanctuary and/or chapel.
All Saints Sunday, November 7, 2021, from 12:30 - 4:30 PM at Lebanon First UMC in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Rest is one way we can love ourselves better. How do you find rest? Rest does not come accidentally to me and my personality. I do have to "find" it and make time to simply "be" with God. One reason I am so passionate about bolstering others in their own soul care is because I have had to work so hard at caring for my own soul over the years. It's not a natural inclination and yet God invites us to rest. Rest should not feel like work, it should feel like rest. Need some ideas to get started?
Here's a list of ways you may choose to explore rest this summer:
To find rest right now, try practicing one of my favorite ways to rest, Yoga Nidra. Listen below!
This week, a neighbor asked me to borrow an egg...and I was giddy. Sound ridiculous? Maybe so, but this simple act offered me an opportunity to respond to a question I've been pondering, how can I be a good neighbor?
As a kid, I grew up in a small town where our family knew lots of people. But, we moved homes within our zip code fairly often. So we didn't often develop relationships with those living next door. We rarely got asked to borrow an egg, or watch a neighbor's pet, or grab their mail.
To be a good neighbor, we don't have to become "best friends" with every person next door but we do need to have relationships that offer neighborly love. What is neighborly love and how do we show it? It starts with being kind.
Over and over again, scripture tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Bible gives us many tips on what it means to be a neighbor. It is a privilege to support and build up our neighbors, whether by dropping off an egg, offering a listening ear, or saying a purposeful prayer.
Romans 15:2 in the Common English Bible says this, "Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up." If you're unsure how to do that, maybe you could ask? Pray this prayer simple prayer (or some form of your own prayer) today:
God, show me how to be a good neighbor. Give me an opportunity to respond with kindness to a need I can supply and help me build up those around me.
How do you build up your neighbors?
How has a neighbor supported you over the years with kindness?
It may not always be as easy as a dropping off an egg. God may stretch you to be a good neighbor and you may never know how your care and kindness impacts another. I sense the need to end this post with a Mr. Rogers quote. After all, Mr. Rogers is the ultimate neighbor!
“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” Mr. Rogers
Be kind to a neighbor this week. If you'd like some companionship in praying for your neighbors with a walking meditation, listen to this episode of the podcast.
Oh, I love this image. LOVE & KINDNESS ARE NEVER WASTED!
They bless the one who receives them...
and they bless you, the GIVER.
They always make a difference.
Have you practiced Loving Kindness Meditation?
I enjoy practicing this meditation, most of the time. It's true, I want to offer loving kindness to myself, my loved ones, and the world. But when you get to that part about offering it to someone you're struggling with, that's really hard. Yes, really hard.
But God calls us to love and pray for our enemies, even forgive them. Right? And I find this type of meditation to be helpful when I'm struggling with a loved one (or stranger).
If you'd like a little support on your meditation journey with loving kindness (and love books as your guide) pick up my friend Dana's book, One Breath at a Time. Using five approaches (including loving-kindness meditation it's a practical, 40-day guide to beginning and sustaining a Christian meditation practice in our often chaotic world.
To be guided through an audio version of loving kindness meditation (where we specifically pray for our families), listen below.
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.
After more than a year of in person community being limited to screens and small gatherings, I've been craving more in person community connection. I'm so grateful for my soul friends - near and far - online and in person! And, I always long for more of those strands because I know I'm better together than alone. And I'm not alone in that. In listening during spiritual direction sessions, I have heard many prayers muttered for more authentic in person connection. Maybe you've missed your small group or worship. Maybe you've missed your in person yoga class or book club. Whatever it is you've been missing most, let that help you re-enter more purposefully into community connection. Let the longings help you find or sustain authentic connection!
This season of disconnection has helped many of us realize how important connection is in our lives (and to realize what relationships may not have been fruitful too)! We've found ways to connect or stay connected. But what will return to your schedule and what won't? What authentic relationships do you need to continue or what do you need to let go of? God created us for community, not to live life solo! Scripture reminds us, we're better together. Who are you doing life with?
I'm so grateful through our Peace Seekers Community I've been able to hold space for authentic connection near and far in this past year online! Many of us are now pondering how to authentically show up after such a long season of being tucked safely behind our screens. I've pondered this for myself and have created some journaling prompts for you below.
Consider these journaling prompts:
We pondered these questions in our online community this week and it made us more grateful for purposeful soul friends. If you're looking for authentic connection, consider joining us there.
Recently, I was asked to write an article for The United Methodist Church on embodiment and why connecting with the body matters for Christians. Here's a short excerpt of that piece and a link to the full story. Your clicking and sharing is always encouraging to writers like me.
If you've heard my story, you know that over 15 years ago, my body went through a health crisis (a stroke and brain surgery on my 31st birthday). At this time, I did not always feel like a whole person; I often felt disconnected and broken. While my body was in chronic pain, my spirit was also discouraged.
In that time of frustration, a physician prescribed yoga. I am unsure if it was the last resort on their part, but I was hurting and willing to try exercise and mindfulness. What did I have to lose? I did not know that yoga would be an invitation for embodiment and an opportunity for healing in my whole self—body and spirit.
Now, more than 15 years later, I not only practice living embodied, I am passionate about inviting others into caring for their bodies and spirits through embodied practices. If you are not interested in down dogs, I understand, but please know that yoga is not the only way to become more connected and present with yourself (although you may also be surprised).
Click here to read more and be encouraged with ideas for connecting with your own body today.
Latin for spiritual or holy reading, Lectio Divina is an ancient prayer practice that allows us to listen for God’s activity using scripture. This style of prayer lets us listen with an open heart for God’s activity in our life today as we connect to God through the written word. Lectio Divina focuses on the formational reading of scripture rather than the informational reading to gain knowledge about God’s word. While both are important processes, this art is seen as a more personal way to interact with the word of God.
Lectio Divina is an ancient monastic practice that has been modernized by academia with consecutive steps to the process that were likely not defined when it was practiced in the 6th century. For this reason, you'll find varying outlines for the practice in books and across the internet. For all practical purposes, the steps are the same and the process is simply an invitation to enter in to a time of conversation and contemplation.You'll read, reflect, respond and rest in God's word.
For those of us who enjoy Bible study, it can be challenging to set down your commentaries and highlighters and simply settle in with God's word with this style of prayer and listening. Yet the rewards have been evident for me as I experience both big and small glimpses of hope and encouragement for how God speaks today through the ancient text of the Bible. Don't come with expectations, just come and listen.
Here is a simple overview of Lectio Divina:
Read, Reflect, Respond, Rest
Need some companionship in formational listening with scripture? Use my devotional book, Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit. Or, listen to a guided Lectio Divina meditation on the Exploring Peace Meditations podcast.
Whitney R. Simpson
Click to connect:
Content @ 2010-2021
Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC