Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Saving My Life

March 7, 2017

“Come tell us what is saving your life right now?”

Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, An Altar in the World, tells of being asked this question. It is a question I think about. What is saving my life right now?

I have to say between our national life and the cloudy winter, most days I want to stay home with my cats and a good book. But like most folks,  I need to figure out how to get up, go out and do what I need (and love) to do. To do this for the long haul, I need to know and nurture the things that save my life. I’m not talking about making a list of things I am  grateful for, although I am grateful for these things. The things that are saving my life are practices and habits that keep me grounded and hopeful.

Worship, as always, is saving my life. There is something life giving and affirming about being in worship with other people. To speak and sing and pray together in the presence of God is life giving.

Spiritual formation and spiritual direction are also life saving. I am part of a small group of women who meet regularly to talk honestly about our spiritual lives. These wise, caring, and thoughtful people help me think honestly and sincerely about my spiritual life. Spiritual direction allows me focused time to recognize where and when God has been at work in my life.

Daily prayer  and daily silence saves my life. Morning and evening I pray using the Book of Common Worship, Daily Prayer.  This practice keeps my prayers from becoming small and self focused as each morning and evening the thanksgivings and petitions lift up different situations and people. The practice of silence helps me listen for God might be saying to me.

Good work is life giving and life saving.  I work with college students. Spending time with them and seeing their faith, honesty, compassion, and joy remind me that the future (and the present) are in their good kind hands.

Cats and reading, in other words, knowing when to stop working and when to stop engaging the news. Intentionally spending time curled up on my couch with my cat and a  book is good for my mental well being.  My cat Peppy sits on my lap, purrs and looks adoringly at me.  When I adopted her from the shelter I saved her life and now she saves mine. And a good book, I don’t have to explain that do I? Long term engagement, at least for me, requires regular disengagement.

These are the  intentional and regular practices that are saving my life these days. Honestly they have been saving my life for years.

What is saving yours?


January 15, 2017

Several years ago I made the only New Year’s resolution I ever kept- to stop making New Year’s resolutions. That resolution made life much simpler. I’m old enough to know the things I need to do and honestly, I don’t need to put more  pressure on myself.

A year or two ago, I had begun reading about people choosing a word for their year. A word to ponder and to guide. A word to open possibilities. A word rather than a resolution.

Then, in God’s amusing way, while attending worship at a church where I was leading an adult education class, I received a word. Everyone in the congregation chose a word from a basket of words on star shaped slips of paper. My word was “Playfulness” which I thought was silly. I was expecting something a little more, well, holy. Or serious. Or profound.

But I took my word home and thought about it. I realized over the past few years, for some very good reasons, there was very little playfulness in my life. Maybe it was time to regain some playfulness. While life didn’t become a barrel of laughs, the word “playfulness” would come to mind when I was about to dismiss something as silly or trivial. I was reminded that the silly and trivial have a place in life, as does fun. So I tried to do more playful things. Nothing dramatic but I did try to be open to play. I tried to notice and appreciate all the times I laughed during the year.

“Playfulness” turned out to be a very good word for me. God is playful like that.

This year I wasn’t at the church that gave me the word. I thought about the value of the word I received and decided to look for a word for this year. A few words came to mind.

First I thought of “presence”, which is an increasingly important part of what I do in life and in my work. But “presence” seemed a little too passive as a guiding word. Then I considered “show up”, which I know is two words, but seemed closer to the mark. But I have shown up at plenty of times and not really been present. Then,  my word revealed itself- Attend.

Attend captures several important ideas for me.

In the Orthodox Church, before the reading of the gospel, the congregation is charged to “attend”. Pay attention, listen carefully, obey! As I read the Bible this year, I will endeavor to attend.

“Attend” also suggests a certain type of “presence”. A presence with more focus and less distraction. A reminder not to multi task!

And “attend” returns me to “show up”. It is easy for me, especially when it is dark and cold as Michigan winters are, to stay home. To retreat into comfort and security. Comfort and security are necessary things. But I also need to get out, and to show up for people and causes that matter to me.

2017, the year I “attend”. Pay attention, be present, show up.

If you are so inclined, share your word with us in the comments.

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