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    Spiritual practice: Discernment

    Sunday, April 26, 2015, 5:09 PM [General]

    My sheep know my voice. —Jesus

    We hear many voices, receive many messages, throughout the day. Our thoughts or inner voice, dreams, feelings—both emotions and physical sensations, symbols, coincidences, or a sudden flash of knowing are all sources of those messages.

    Knowing how to distinguish which voices are helpful from those that are not helpful, productive from destructive, positive from negative is the process of discernment.  The process involves paying attention to what the message is calling you to do or pushing you away from.  The process may also involve discovering whether you are being called to look at something you have been ignoring.  Meditating on the message, reflecting on it in your  journal or sharing with a close friend or and asking if he or she feels you are understanding the message correctly can help in the discernment process.

    During this week practice hearing and discerning.  Pay attention to the “messages” you receive.  Also be aware of which ones you consider helpful, productive and positive.  Does the message call you to action, affirm you are on the right track, or offer you a warning?  Messages that function in these positive ways are the “voice of the good shepherd.”

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    Spiritual practice: Doubt is a step on the spiritual path

    Sunday, April 19, 2015, 6:02 PM [General]

    Doubt leads to questioning and nurtures curiosity.  Curiosity is the the fertile environment which produces discovery. This quest to discover is essentially a spiritual quest.  Doubt and questioning lead us to find answers. The doubt-questioning cycle keeps us growing. Just as spring is new every year, so the answers to our questions are often renewing.


    During this week embrace your doubt and see where it leads you.  Each morning this week as you begin your day, ask, “What am I wondering about today?”  As the day unfolds notice what connections you make that appear to be stepping stones on the answer path.

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    Spiritual Practice: Courage to go forward

    Sunday, April 5, 2015, 5:59 PM [General]

    “Go back?" he thought. "No good at all!

    Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward?

    Only thing to do! On we go!"

    ― J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit 


    Can you think of some event that has caused you to wonder how you could ever be able to go on?  Make a list of a couple of those events and then ask yourself, “How did I find the strength and courage to go on?”


    Your answer leads to discover how Easter calls you to embrace new life.  

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    Spiritual Practice: Living With “Ugly” Feelings

    Sunday, March 29, 2015, 3:34 PM [General]

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    When you become aware of an “ugly” feeling and you are telling yourself, “I’m angry.”  I’ll use “angry” in this example.  You can substitute any feeling that is discomforting or upsetting.

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    Shift your sentence from “I’m angry” to “A part of me is feeling angry.”  This is recognition that you and the feeling are separate.  You are not the feeling.

    Say “Hello” to the part of you that is feeling angry.  When you first try this practice, it feels counter intuitive.  It certainly is different from common strategies, maybe even some you have tried in the past—to ignore the feeling, to deny it, to argue with it, to try to talk yourself out of the feeling.  Saying “hello” is a way of acknowledging the presence of the feeling and recognizing that it has come to you, often without your conscious invitation.  Saying “hello” indicates that you are trying to move toward willingness to consider what the feeling might be trying to tell you.

    You can add even more power to your shift by adding a phrase, “I’m sensing…” and then add, “…that a part of me is feeling angry.”

    Place a hand on the location in your body where you feel the sensation the most.  Some common places that feelings show up are in your stomach, throat, chest (heart area), neck, shoulders, or head.  If you don’t sense a particular place in your body where the feeling seems to be showing itself, simply place your hand over your heart.  This gesture often has a calming effect.

    Listen to what the part of your body or the anger has to say.  Sometimes the feeling will remind you of a situation in your life, past or present, in which you have felt this way before.  Any number of memories, thoughts, feelings, images that come to mind may be part of the message.  Ponder what they might be telling you.

    After you’ve listed carefully, you may be able to say, “No wonder I’m sensing part of me is angry.”  This is a way to show compassion to yourself.  Having gone through this process you may be able to respond to your situation in a different way.

    Remember you can substitute any discomforting or upsetting feeling for anger.

     

    I learned this practice from Ann Weiser Cornell.  Visit her website for fuller explanation and additional resources:  focusingresources.com.

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    Spiritual practice:  Celebrate Diversity of Religions

    Sunday, March 22, 2015, 3:40 PM [General]

    To be hospitable, you need to accept pluralism as a natural condition in the world. Celebrate the diversity of the Creation. One particularly valuable spin-off of hospitality is inter-religious dialogue. Spirit speaks in many languages, and this spiritual practice helps us receive these multiple messages. — Henri J. M. Nouwen in Ministry and Spirituality

     

    To celebrate the diversity of religions, write out a story in your journal about an encounter with another religion — a conversation with a believer, a visit to a sacred site, attendance at a ritual, or use of a practice — and what you learned from the experience.  If you have the opportunity, share your story with another person.

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    A spiritual practice for this week: See the Light and Shadow

    Sunday, March 15, 2015, 4:13 PM [General]

    Surprisingly, we cannot see light itself

    only reflected light.
    Even at that light and darkness,
    brightness and shadow,
    provide the necessary contrast
    that make it possible for us to see.
    God is only known in the reflection.
    You are the reflection!
    You are the reflection in all your brightness
    and shadow.

    I took an art class many years ago. I remember only one repeated line the instructor used: “drawing is made up of light and shadow.” That’s true of seeing too, light and shadow. Look around you. What do you see? Could you see it without light? Could you see it without shadows?

    Take a few minutes to write your answers to these questions. What does this exercise tell you about light and shadow in your life? Consider whether you can really appreciate one without the other?

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    Spiritual practice: Mid-Course Check on the Lenten Journey

    Sunday, March 8, 2015, 5:26 PM [General]

    At the beginning of Lent, we considered the call of Jesus.

    • Jesus invites us to a way of celebration, meeting and feasting with the humble and poor. Jesus beckons us to a way of risk, letting go of our security.

    • Jesus challenges us to listen to the voices of those who have nothing to lose.

    • Jesus points us to a way of self-giving, where power and status are overturned.

    • Jesus calls us to follow the way of the cross, where despair is transformed by the promise of new life.

    Has one of these calls felt significant to you as you take this year’s Lenten journey?  How has the call affected you?

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    Spiritual Practice: Follow the Way of the Cross

    Sunday, March 1, 2015, 4:22 PM [General]

    Jesus had a vision of a different world order. His central message was that he was bringing the new order into being. “The reign of God is at hand,” is Mark’s way of summarizing Jesus’ message.  The way of the cross is a symbol of Jesus’ commitment to his vision.


    Jesus invited his first followers-and by extension us-to share his vision and to bring about this new world order. He also invited individuals to transformation,

    to leave behind the security of this world, to place their trust for security and well being in the realm of God.  


    During this week spend some time each day with your journal and reflect on these questions:

    • How does Jesus’ alternate world view compare to your view of the world today?

    • In what ways has Jesus brought transformation in your life?  Has the transformation included putting your trust for security in the realm of God?

    • In what ways do you sense Jesus calling you to more fully embrace God’s realm?

    • How do your answers reflect “the way of the cross?”

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    Spiritual practice: Call of the Lenten Journey

    Sunday, February 22, 2015, 12:35 PM [General]

    Consider what Jesus calls you to at the beginning of this year’s Lenten journey.

    • Jesus invites us to a way of celebration, meeting and feasting with the humble and poor. Jesus beckons us to a way of risk, letting go of our security.
    • Jesus challenges us to listen to the voices of those who have nothing to lose.
    • Jesus points us to a way of self-giving, where power and status are overturned.
    • Jesus calls us to follow the way of the cross, where despair is transformed by the promise of new life.

    Which of these calls feels most significant to you on this first Sunday of Lent?

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    Healing is not an end to achieve, but a path to walk

    Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 7:20 PM [General]

    Prayers for healing have been part of the Christian tradition since the time of the New Testament. One Sunday each month I offer special prayers for healing as part of our worship. Even though I have done this for many years and it has been a meaningful act of worship, it seems as if in the past few months, I have gained insight in a new way with regard to healing. I would like to share some key insights here.

    A prayer from The United Methodist Book of Worship suggested for use at services of healing includes this line: “May the power of God’s indwelling presence heal you of all illness—of body, mind, spirit, and relationship.” This suggests to me that healing energy tenaciously moves toward health and wholeness.

    It appears to me that healing is often a matter of being restored to health and wholeness that you already possess. Sometimes it is a matter of removing obstacles or accumulated conditioning and then letting nature’s healing power move through you.

    Further, it appears to me that to acknowledge the life force within and to give thanks for its tenacity to bring health and wholeness in itself has healing power.

    I have found it surprising that something always happens. Sometimes the seeker is aware of changes immediately, sometimes after passage of some time, sometimes never. I encourage my congregation to receive the gift; be open to receive whatever comes.

    As I reflect on what happens, I can summarize under three headings the possibilities.
    One, things can remain the same or two, things can get worse. In either case, we can be aware of God’s presence to walk along side. Three, things can change for the better. Of course that’s what we would like to have happen.

    In this regard it is clear to me that prayers for healing are not magic, “magic” in the sense of its root meaning to bend the laws of nature to conform to our desires. In fact, we may need to change our expectations and accept what is.

    Healing and cure are different things. In the end, it appears that healing is not an end to achieve. It is a path to walk. And, this very body, with its aches and its pleasures is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.

    This article was published 2/18/15 in the Newberg Graphic

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