Driving as Spiritual Practice

The weather has cooled down considerably here in Seattle and everyone feels that things are back to normal.  A little rain would be appreciated – yes we do have days and in this case months without rain in the Pacific NW.  The garden is flourishing but definitely crying out for a good soaking.  However as most of the vegetables don’t like the heat any more than Seattlites do there will be few squash or beans to harvest over the next few days.  Probably just as well with me getting ready to head to Australia

Today’s post for the What is a Spiritual Practice series comes from a Presbyterian pastor on the East Coast of the US who writes under the pseudonym of Reverend Mother Her topic is one that all of us can relate to – driving.

Living in Suburban Sheol as I do, I want to propose driving as a spiritual practice.

…OK, hear me out on this!

First, we have some stereotypes to overcome, and some caveats:
Here’s the image of suburban driving: a mom in a gas-guzzling SUV, Starbucks in hand, cell phone ringing, kids making a racket in the backseat with the in-car DVD player blaring. It’s hard to see much that’s mindful about that, true… but it’s a caricature.

Now, I have heard of parents who sit in their car, idling with the air conditioning on, watching Junior play a soccer game. I also think we drive places when we’d be better off walking or biking, though few suburbs are built for that. I am concerned about sprawl, and this area has some truly horrendous commutes. And finally, driving purely for pleasure has never been much of an interest of mine. I’m a big believer in every-little-bit-helps environmentalism, so I’m not sure I want to encourage driving just for the heck of it.

All of that said… driving can provide nourishment for us spiritually. I know it is seen by most people as a necessary evil, something to be suffered through… but we might say the same about washing dishes, which has been addressed in the blog series. So here’s my case.  Read the entire article

The article reminded me of a prayer that I used in my book Godspace. It comes from another book entitled Blessings for the Fast Paced and Cyberspaced I thought that it was an appropriate addition to this post.  I have often sat in traffic thinking about the people in the cars around me and praying that God would protect them from road rage and road rush

O God, make my tools of technology into instruments of your peace today.

May my cell phone connect me to blessings but disconnect me from trivia.

May my automobile move me to safety, past road rage and road rush.

May my e-mail enrich me with connectedness but also give me the wisdom to empty the trash.

May the internet open up the world to me but not snare me into addictions.

Through sights, sounds, movements and competition move my spirit on angels’ wings.

When day is done, may I come home again out of stress into peace and joy.

Yoga & Jesus: This is a spiritual practice

I continue to be challenged and stretched by the ways that people connect to God and to Jesus Christ.  The posts below are by Christina Whitehouse-Sugg.  I found them particularly intriguing because of my growing interest in Christian meditation and as you know I am also passionate about Henri Nouwen.  I feel that we have too easily dismissed the practices of other traditions because we think of them as non-Christian and yet God created them all and it is not surprising that we can use them to connect to the God revealed through Jesus Christ

Christina describes herself as a chameleon who struggles with finding a color of my own, a performer who often loses my voice only to find it in silence, a minister who is more comfortable among sinners than saints.  She blogs at Thoughts for the Journey

…yoga has become a significant spiritual discipline for me. My easily distracted ENFP brain (Oooo! Shiny!) is quiet & focused as I attempt to master poses that have been around for centuries. But more and more, what draws me to my yoga practice is the short lesson at the beginning of each class that focuses our practice that day…I am hungry for the spiritual truths that God reveals to me through my teacher.  Read the entire article

I wonder – can you see how these five elements are helping my spiritual devotion as a follower of Christ?? I recently read the following reflection by Henri Nouwen on flexibility and it resonated strongly with my current understanding and practice of yoga.  Read the entire article

Spiritual Discipline – Serving At the Pantry

Well yesterday afternoon all my good intentions went out the window.  I had expected to post another of the excellent articles still being submitted for the series on What is a Spiritual Discipline but two things happened to change all that.  First the temperature in Seattle climbed to an all time record of 103 F so Tom and I decided to take our golden retriever Bonnie to the doggie beach for a swim.  Even for those like me who enjoy hot weather this is a little much.

We returned home to find a message from my brother saying that my Dad passed away yesterday.  He was 90 so not totally unexpected but as all of you who have lost a parent know that does not make it easier.  So I will be heading down to Australia probably Monday and would appreciate your prayers.

Anyhow with that obviously important preamble I still wanted to make sure that you do not miss out on the excellent articles that continue to come my way.

This morning’s article is from Maria Henderson from California who blogs at Spiritual Birdwatching.

It must have been one of those typical Sunday mornings when I really did not want to be at church, turning the bulletin over looking for something interesting to read (the pastor’s wife offers up the occasional NT Wright or Miroslav Volf quote for our edification), when I saw the invitation: Help needed at the AIDS pantry, Monday evenings, Tuesday mornings, Thursday afternoons. Call Bob. No thunderbolts, no drama. Just two thoughts that connected in my addled brain: I’ve been thinking about food and our food systems, why not get involved in helping those who don’t have enough food? And, somehow, this might be a place to encounter Jesus.  Read the entire article

The Spiritual Practice of Getting Honest with Myself

The temperature here in Seattle might reach 100F today and even for someone like me who loves the hot weather this is a little much.  The garden isn’t too happy either.  The tomatoes and beans stop setting fruit and of course anything that isn’t being watered is shrivelling up and dying.  All that to say there is a reason I am a little later than usual with this post this morning.  However it is worth waiting for.

This morning our post is by Jonathan Brink – The Spiritual Practice of Getting Honest with Myself.  Jonathan is Managing Director of Thrive Ministries, a non-profit ministry focusing on creating missional discipleship communities and spiritual formation.  He lives in Folsom California.  He blogs at Missio Dei

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Why is it that I’m always the last one who can see it?

It’s that moment when something is broken in my life and I can’t see it.  My wife and friends can.  My children and my neighbors can.  But I can’t.  It’s like the very nature of the problem is to blind me to the problem.  And to make it worse, the more everyone points it out, the more I seem to protect it, as thought the problem is me.  And it’s not.  The problem is the problem.  But as long as I hold onto it, I can’t tell the difference.  And the longer I hold onto it, resisting the gentle and not so gentle reminders of the world around me to “LET IT GO”, the more it gets embedded within me so that I can’t tell the where I stop and the problem starts.  I literally become blind to the problem.  And in the process I have become my own worst enemy, protecting that which destroys me.

I sometimes wonder if this blindness is what Jesus was talking about when he said:

“though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.”

Jesus was saying that it is possible to see but not see?  I get that.  Its like being the only one in a crowded room who can’t see the “Stupid” sign on my back.  Everyone is laughing but I’m not willing to pull it off.  read the entire article

Smoking to the Glory of God

This evening’s article comes from Jason Clark. Founding Pastor of Vinyard Church in Sutton UK.  He is currently working on a second doctorate (P.hD) at Kings College London.  He blogs at Deep Church

I am not quite sure how Jason had time to write this as his family is struggling with swine flu.

…why do most people experience God outside church in the world, whilst Christians see only prayer, bible study, and going to church as spiritual practices, for knowing and experiencing the death and resurrection of Jesus?

It was a good question for me, in that it bothered me and got me thinking.  In particular, how tragic it is if the bible, church and prayer become self referencing static mediators of the gospel, with no connection to the real world.  But also, how equally tragic and a measure of gospel paucity, if spiritual practices, are about experiences of God in the world, with no framing by the canonical-linguistic grammar of the gospel, prayer, and Christian community.  Both are as bad as each other, or perhaps at least lead to a question, what are the nature of spiritual practices, and how are they connected to the world, and church, and scripture?


Otherwise without some understanding of that, it’s easy to accept the opening premise at face value as fact, and in response as a Christian to reach for what I do in the world as ‘a spiritual practice’. That is to respond by listing what I do in the world, outside of the bible , prayer, and church, as where I meet God.  It’s to locate spiritual practices on those terms, and that’s something I’m uncomfortable with.  Just as I am uncomfortable with collapsing ‘spiritual practices’ into bible study, prayer and going to church.

I can easily reach for how having turned 40 years old this year, I became a cliche, and I decided to get a motor bike.  I can describe how the training process in the UK, with four separate tests and requisite training, have been forming me as a biker.  How I for the first time have a hobby away from my work, and the pressures of Church community.  How a ride through the english pastoral countryside, clears my mind, connects me to creation, and how close to God I feel compared to going to Church.  And if I were to imagine that Christians who see spiritual practices as solely the domain of prayer, bible and going to church, were to ask me, how can you ride a motorbike as a spiritual practice, my reply might be like that of Charles Spurgeon, when asked how could he smoke cigars?  That I do it to the glory of God.  Read the entire article

Tentative Schedule for Australia October 2009

Tom and will be speaking in Australia throughout the month of October. Here is a tentative list of their gigs, but all dates are subject to change. It’s a work in progress.  If you are interested in hosting an event there are still openings

October

1 | Arrive in Sydney

2-4Black Stump Festival (Sydney, NSW)

5-9Worldview Center for Intercultural Studies (Launceston, TAS)—Tom Open seminar on the 7th

12 – 16 Worldview Center for Intercultural Studies Christine in Tasmania

9-10UNOH (Melbourne, VIC)

11Urban Seed (Bendigo, VIC)—Tom

19-23Tabor College (Adelaide, SA)

24 | Tabor College Retreat (Adelaide, SA)—Christine

25Coromandel Valley Uniting Church, (Coromandel Valley, SA) then return to Sydney

26 – 29 Sydney

Love-Making As A Spiritual Practice

The submissions are coming in thick and fast at the moment for the What is a Spiritual Practice series.  I will probably post twice a day over the next couple of days in order to keep pace.  Wonderful reflections.  I love to read through each one before I post it and there are a number that I have found increasing my understanding of God and where God is at work in the world.  Another quote from Henri Nouwen’s The Genesee Diary that comes to mind as I grapple with the fact that God is indeed present in every part of life and of our world.

We can neither explain God nor his presence in history. As soon as we identify God with any specific event or situation, we play God and distort the truth.  We only can be faithful in our affirmation that God has not deserted us but calls us in the middle of all the unexplainable absurdities of life.

God is indeed present in the unexplainable absurdities of life.  God is also present in inexplicable ways in the activities of life we think we understand.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God because the love of God permeates all of life and all of creation.

This morning’s post comes from Mark Scandrette cofounder and executive Director of ReIMAGINE: A Center for Life Formation based in San Francisco and author of SOUL GRAFFITI: Making A Life in the Way of Jesus.

Love-Making As a Spiritual Practice

“Fire crackers like gun fire

Shatter the velvet silence of sweet release

with you in my arms.”

When I shared the poetic lines I wrote above with a group of friends, reactions were mixed. One friend nodded with the knowing relish of common experience. Others squirmed uncomfortably as what was spoken was too private or salacious.  Despite the fact that sexuality is central to what it means to be human and to be alive, so often it is a dimension of our lives that is fraught with conflicted feelings, secrecy, wounds or shame. Here are examples of common themes I hear in conversations among friends:

“We’ve never been able to talk about sex– I don’t think my spouse would understand what I need or want.”

“I stayed up all night twice this week looking at internet porn.”

“My partner and I haven’t had sex for almost a year. It brings up too much pain about my childhood trauma. ”

“I thought that if we got married, the same-sex attraction would go away.”

“I accidently made out with someone I just met at the party last weekend. We may have had too much to drink.”

“My spouse just caught me pursuing someone I met online. This has opened up the wounds and broken the trust we have tried to rebuild after the affair nine years ago. But I feel desperate for soul connection with someone.”

“I wonder why I haven’t found anyone to marry yet. I’m so hungry to share life with someone and experience intimacy. What’s wrong with me?”

The yearning to connect with another human being in whole person ecstasy is a sacred gift that is frankly overwhelming in its potency. And often it is the unspoken energy that is shaping our relationships with one another and our sense of belonging to God. It is a beautiful treasure that needs to be awakened, cultivated, disciplined and celebrated.

Knowing that our sexuality is a sacred gift, my wife and I have tried to be intentional about  our sexuality and love-making as a spiritual practice:

One of the ways that we do this is by talking about sex and our sexuality regularly outside the bedroom. Sometimes we talk about the mixed messages we got about sex in our families, or the guilt, shame or confusion we have felt about our sexual awakening and desires. We acknowledge that we are sexually broken. Most, if not all of us have wounds, guilt or repression about our sexuality to navigate. Knowing that the journey to healthy sexuality is often a winding road from adolescence throughout adulthood, we try to be deeply vulnerable and realistic– while offering each other grace and understanding. We think that rather than seeing our sexuality solely in terms of moral successes or failures, we are asking, “What are our next steps towards healthy God-conscious sexuality?” We also talk about the nuts and bolts of what works for us in the bedroom–the words and touches that make the other person feel attractive, beloved and aroused. And though it is sometimes embarrassing for our kids, we talk with them about the loveliness of a sexual relationship and the sacredness of sex between people who are committed to one another. And we try to normalize and celebrate their awakening desires to experience union and intimacy with another human being.

As corny or unromantic as it might sound, we schedule our times for love-making. For us the days of spontaneous eruptions of sexual desire diminished quickly with the onset of full-time jobs, children, and the other the responsibilities of adulthood.  The truth is that at the end of a fulfilling day of meaningful work, family and community life, we feel pretty tired and often wish for a few moments alone. Like our weekly dates,  we schedule love-making as a way to make it a value and priority in our lives. Sex can be a measure of the whole quality of a marriage. Scheduling special time for love-making each week is a way for us to take the temperature of our relationship. There is a lot that has to happen before we get to the bedroom. We need to be reconciled with one another. We need to be conscious of our words and tenderness throughout the day so that the other feels safe and open to intimate touch. We need to be relaxed, centered  and de-stressed in order to be fully present to one another between the sheets. The practices of exercise, healthy eating, dressing and cleaning the body are all ways that we  affirm that we are God’s temple– sacred, attractive and worthy of care. And our bodies are sacred temples that we invite one another to enter. The teachings of Jesus and the Disciple John suggest that the love and care we give to one another is as close as we can get to loving the God we cannot see. The attentive gaze into one another’s eyes, the tender touch and gentle words are tangible practices in the mysterious ways of the kingdom of love.

Whether a person is married or single, we can explore ways to be God-conscious in our sexuality.  I know a devout single woman who practices what she calls, “Sexy time” — a space where she chooses intentional practices that help her feel feminine, beautiful and in touch with her body in ways that affirms dignity and a sense of being beloved.  I believe there is a way for each of us to invite God into the earthy realism and beauty of our sexuality– to walk with us in the complexity and power of being created as sexual beings.