Spiritual disciplines are opportunities to grow closer to God. I'm passionate that we see these practices as opportunities rather than things to check off our list, they should never feel or be viewed as legalistic opportunities. The spiritual disciplines we engage in are practices we choose to grow closer to God, on purpose.
Oftentimes there is not a lightning bolt moment of nearness to God in my practices of prayer, or meditation, or journaling, or scripture reading. Sometimes there is (and that's glorious) but mostly (at least for me) there isn't. Is this true for you? And if so, what's the point?
When we discover discipline in meeting God, we can continue to find God in every detail of our life, not just the obvious ones. We can walk with God in the unknown. We can sit with God in the grief. We can know God is near to us we feel lonely. As Oswald Chamber writes, "We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail."
Think about it, it is easy to recognize God in the mountain top moments! Those times of connection with with our Creator give us obvious encouragement, hope, refreshment, and more. And yet it's in every single detail of life that we have an opportunity to meet God.
The consistency of finding discipline in our spiritual lives, offers us the gift of drawing near, even when we feel far, that's the point.
Need some companionship for walking into the unknown right now?
Listen to the guided meditation from the podcast below.
“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.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. - Anaïs Nin
It feels risky to blossom. Yet blooming is happening everywhere!
May is the season in which the roses in my back yard are in full bloom. I paused yesterday in amazement at the number of buds opening up in the last week. It is also the month that I am excited to share with you some blossoming news!
First, I will be blooming in a new location. Just as I let go of "figuring out" what is next on this journey, an opportunity to partner with Bloom Yoga Studio (located at The Mill in Lebanon, Tennessee) has appeared. I will be offering yoga and meditation classes, private and group spiritual direction sessions, as well as workshops and events. The historic space is beautiful. You're going to love it at Bloom. Near Lebanon? Come grow with us, let's bloom together (click here for my updated yoga class schedule).
And next, this month marks the third publication in which my writing appears this year. Wow, what a year 2017 has been thus far (especially for me - a writer who has blogged in various forms for over a decade and ever only dreamt of being published). I am humbled to be included in Everbloom, sharing my story of miscarriage and grief. You can find Everbloom on Amazon and other online retailers. These stories of deeply rooted and transformed lives include reflection and writing prompts for your spiritual formation journey.
Blooming? Stop and notice the roses (or other blooms) in your backyard. And, consider allowing these reflections from the women of Redbud Writers Guild to be your companion in this season.
Right now, it’s hard to think about flowers because in Middle Tennessee we’re expecting our 3rd “big snow” of the year and it isn’t even February yet!
But, as I was reading this week for my class (during one of the few days my son was actually in school!), the following really resonated with me. It is from a book entitled, “Seeking God Together” by Alice Fryling. She talks about how different flowers need sun and some need shade to flourish and some tolerate heat better than others. She proceeds with, “Flowers, like people, need different environments to flourish. Sometimes we forget that with our fellow human beings. The problem with that forgetfulness is that it causes us to assume that all people are like we ourselves are.”
What a wonderful reminder and how thankful we can be that our garden of life can be full of a beautiful variety of flowers. However, as Fryling notes, this forgetfulness causes us to think that everyone should think, act, eat, sleep, write, respond, grow, serve, parent, pray, study, and discipline themselves the same way we do. This is dangerous territory. I am so guilty of seeing things the way I think they should be and not understanding how everyone around me can’t see how “obvious” the answers are for their lives. But, God is the ONLY one who knows best for each of us and if I don’t acknowledge that fact, I’m only going to be disappointed by everyone around me. Because even if I transplanted everyone’s flowers to my environment, they are likely not all going to make it. Some might flourish but others will fade.
As we take the time to learn about ourselves and the ones we love this serves as a fresh reminder that God made each of us different… purposely. That fact is to be celebrated rather than dreaded.
Also in our garden, many of us are concerned with the fact that we appear different from the other flowers. We may stick out too much or not stand out enough. Our petals may not be colorful enough or maybe they are too colorful. We often worry that we will be the last flower ever picked or the first one trampled on because no one notices. Only God can confirm our confidence, not the other flowers. He is our Gardner. I believe He is tending to each of us, his beautiful flowers, in the garden of everyday life…whether or not we let Him.
Unfortunately for many of us, we aren’t sure what kind of flower God made us to be. We’ve been in environments for so long that we’ve become acclimated to them and we’ve adjusted to functioning with a certain amount of sunlight or food. But, I think that He wants us to realize that this is one way we differ from a garden as we know it. As long as He is in control, we don’t have to wonder if we’re going to be watered or get the sunlight we need.
So, even with the snow looming, let’s take confidence in the beautiful flowers He made each of us to be and try to notice and appreciate the beauty of the many different flowers surrounding us in this garden as well. That, my fellow flowers, is Spiritual Formation!
I was reading this week in Fil Anderson’s “Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers” and he referenced Jesus regularly escaping to solitude and Paul’s time in Arabia as a sacred place where our heart is formed. He states that “it’s the place where I temper my devotion, make promises to God, and hear with my soul's ear the promises God makes to me. Arabia is where my deepest soul beliefs are forged and sustained. We need regular trips to Arabia.” I feel like I just had my own short time in Arabia and had a wonderful opportunity to experience God in silence during my trip to my first class.
The unique thing about the coursework I am pursuing is that it is in a hybrid setting. So, I am traveling back and forth each semester for intense work and then follow-up with regular assignments via the internet. I had the wonderful opportunity for this course to stay with the Sisters of The Precious Blood. The journey of traveling there alone and staying in a simple room with no distraction of television, internet or even a “to do list” was invigorating to me (and I do realize this sounds like torture to some of my friends and family (it used to to me as well). I will admit, my addiction to all things internet caused me to struggle briefly, but only briefly, as the rewards of quiet contemplation were well worth the little time spent in my simple room.
I have noticed upon my return home that my time of solitude away helped me process much more than I’ve been able to process since I’ve been home. The daily distractions of life often draw us away from God instead of to Him. My desire for ministry to God is to simply help people find ways to hear from God and find peace in their daily life. A trip to “Arabia” doesn’t have to take you to another land. You may find your “Arabia” in the backyard, a homeless shelter, a local convent or even in the simple silence of your own home. Try turning off the TV, computer, smart phone and just sit down and enjoy some time with your creator (the weather at my house is beautiful today). And, although we think that this slowing down may cause us to be delayed or unproductive (I fall prey to this too), when it is managed right, I’ve found I am much more productive for my family, my church and my community.
This draws me back to a practice that was introduced to me a few years ago at the beginning of my journey toward finding peace, Centering Prayer. It is a practice that in the beginning I was committed to regularly but then duties of life picked up again and unfortunately I let it fall by the wayside. I will be revisiting this practice in the coming weeks as I’m being drawn back to putting the disciplines to practice in my life (and it happens to be part of a class assignment too!). Maybe you could start small and give it just a few minutes of your day as well? As Thomas Keating reminds us in this video, just sit down, it doesn’t have to be perfect – God recognizes our effort and wants us to simply be in his presence.
Maybe you could take some time in “Arabia” today?
I have recently stumbled upon some insights from Father Richard Rohr. Today I wanted to take a moment to look at some of his quotes because I need them. Since my physical recovery began, the Bible has been a great source of strength. Honestly, I struggle to make it through a day without it (and have scripture reminders posted everywhere). I also think it is wise to look to people living and breathing on this earth right now to be reminded how true this ancient book is today and always.
I like quotes, they encourage, inspire and keep me going. I’ve stuck pieces of paper with inspirational quotes in bibles, folders and books all over the house (the one that I planned to re-visit this morning I can’t even find, so that will have to come later!).
“The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection and told us that we must do the same or we would never be content on this earth. “
— Richard Rohr (The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See)
“There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it’s enough.”
— Richard Rohr
“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your “I” is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary “I.” No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.”
— Richard Rohr
Today i celebrate my smallness, ordinariness and the fact that i am imperfect with nothing to prove and nothing to protect. What a relief that i am supposed to find Him in “disorder and imperfection”. My prayer for you today is that you are content with who God made you to be.
Alone we may be just imperfect and ordinary. But, with Him…anything is possible.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 NLT
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC