Eight Ways of Looking at Water By Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Kimberlee Conway Ireton has embarked on a Year of Prayer. To help hold her accountable to this commitment to live more prayerfully, she promised herself (and her blog readers) that she’d write about (some of) her prayer experiences.

This reflection was written in response to “blessing the water” prayer experiment in Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray.  A free study guide is also available and there is still time to form a group to use this as a study guide during Lent. 

Water3

 

1. Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters.

2.”When Paul says, ‘If then you have been raised with Christ,'” the preacher quotes from Colossians 3, “he is referring to baptism. In the ancient world, water was viewed as a place of chaos, a symbol of death.” I understand. I am afraid of water, too, the vast expanses that blanket the earth, hiding only God knows what beneath their opaque, undulating surface.

Water2

 

3. Icy morning. Frost paints the housetops white. My breath hangs in the air when I step onto the porch. Back inside, I run water from the tap into the kettle, pour near-boiling water over tea leaves and wait for them to steep. I sip too soon; the hot liquid scalds my throat.

4. Driving up the hill to church, I enter the fog. Low, white swirls of water settle among the gravestones as I pass the cemetery. I think of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and am grateful I live in so lush a place as this, where water is plentiful and our bones are never dry.

Water1

5. Stomach flu. I sleep fitfully, mouth dry, throat parched. A cup of water sits on the nightstand. I do not drink it. I am afraid I will throw up yet again, and my body aches from the violence of retching. Much as I long for water, I let the cup sit, unsipped.

6. After nearly a day without eating or drinking, I am a dry and weary land. I am the deer longing for the water-brooks. I sit at the dining room table and marvel at the beauty of clear water in clear glass. I sip, and the water soothes my parched throat. I imagine it filling my belly, my body, sending its healing power into every cell, rehydrating my dry skin, my dry eyes, my dry self.

7. Lynne takes the baby in her arms. He is wearing a long, white gown, over 100 years old, she tells us. She dips her fingers in the font and marks his forehead in the sign of a cross, once, twice, three times, baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “You are one of Christ’s own,” she tells him, “forever.”

8. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If any of you thirsts, come to me! And those who believe in me—drink!” 


Post and photos by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, urban outsider, mother of four, and author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.

Advertisements

Gun Violence in America – What Do You Think?

photo by Coe Hutchison

photo by Coe Hutchison

I don’t usually post about political issues, but the debate on gun control in the U.S. has so impacted me that I felt I could not keep silent. However when back in January this year, the NRA accusing the President of being an elite hypocrite because there are armed guards at his daughters’ school really made me angry. I don’t think the President’s children are more important than any others, but I do think they are more vulnerable and this type of comment will probably make them even more vulnerable.

It seems to me that the concerns about gun control revolve around our understanding of freedom. Does having assault weapons freely available make us “free”. I don’t think so but then I realize I did not grow up in this country and so have a very different understanding of freedom from the average American.

To Americans the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms.  What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live. Freedom to do what we want and carry whatever type of gun we want, in my opinion, is not freedom at all. Yes I know  the dogma: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” but if guns are not available there are far less gun deaths and we do need assault weapons to go hunting – that I think is massacre of another kind. And in a society with less guns all of us become free from fear.

To Australians freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences not just for us as individuals but for all of our society and our world.  Consequently most Australians are willing to give up their guns for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about drive by shootings.  In the Australian political system voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.

All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?”  Obviously there is a element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ.  However our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society.  Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2)  It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8).  Paul sums this up very well “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”

If we truly loved our neighbours, not just those across the street that we wave at every day, but the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, how would it change our attitude towards guns? Jesus us calls all of us to be citizens of a kingdom in which love not hatred reigns, in which peace not violence is proclaimed and in which freedom means we accept the restrictions on our individual behaviour to participate in the liberation of all humankind.

What do you think?

Let the Newness Emerge – MSA Imaginings January 2013

Photo by Nick Lipinski

Photo by Nick Lipinski

God as this new year dawns,

May we take time to see the newness you are giving birth to.

May we not be blinded by the darkness that consumes our world.

Or consumed by the fear that paralyzes our actions.

May we remember,

Out of winter’s darkness you bring forth light,

Out of winter’s death you give birth to new life.

From New Year’s Prayer 

This prayer reflects much of the hope and despair we felt at the end of last year. The hope and promise of Christ’s return was tainted by the horror of Sandy Hook and the uncertainty of the world economy.  As we look to the future however, we find hope and promise in the new things God is giving birth to. We look forward, not just to personal change, but to a future in which society is transformed and healing finally comes for the broken, justice for the poor, peace for the nations and restoration to creation

In a volatility and uncertainty world we too need to allow the spirit of God to stir our imaginations and encourage the newness of God to emerge. We need fresh ways to strengthen our faith and equip us to be God’s compassionate response in our communities and around the globe.

Return to Our Senses in Lent

Newness must begin with our faith Our volatile world calls for new forms of prayer and spiritual disciplines that weave intimacy with God into every aspect of life encouraging us to reach out with compassion and love. Lent which begins February 13th, is a season to reflect and refocus our faith. It is a time to ask ourselves: How do I need to change to be a more effective follower of Christ in the future? As was mentioned yesterday, this will be the focus of our Lenten disciplines this year and we hope that you will join us.

  1. We have just completed a study guide for Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray and invite you to participate in a Lenten study that will draw you closer to God and equip you to respond in compassion and love to God’s needy world. The guide can be downloaded free and Return to Our Senses will be available at a special discounted price to facilitate its use.
  2. This will also be the theme for the Godspace Lenten series. The daily reflections and activities throughout the season will complement the resources in Return to Our Senses. We hope you will accept the challenge and use them to develop new disciplines that equip you to respond to God’s needy world. Or perhaps you would like to join the Godspace writing community and contribute your own approaches to innovative, experiential prayer. Our insights can inspire each other to new levels of commitment.
  3. February 16th I will facilitate a Lenten retreat at the Mustard Seed House here in Seattle. We invite you to join us in a time of reflection and refocusing. Allow new forms of prayer to be woven into your life so that you can become all that God intends you to be.  

Igniting the Divine Spark

The second place newness needs to emerge is in the unleashing of our creativity. Our God is a god of unlimited imagination and has placed the divine spark of that creativity within each of us. To provide for ourselves and continue to be generous to those at the margins we need new economic initiatives. Cindy Todd continues to inspire us with the creative business model on which Snohomish Soap is founded. And it is not just us who are inspired. She was featured this last month in Puget Sound Co-operative’s news, and at the end of the month her model will be touted in a TED talk as one of the new and innovative business models for the future.

Throughout February and March Cindy and others will post on the MSA blog about creative business models and the ways that God ignited the divine sparks that gave rise to these. March 16th this will culminate in a workshop Cindy will facilitate at the Mustard Seed House entitled Igniting the Divine Spark. So save the date. This will be an exciting and instructive event.

Unleashing our Imaginations

It is not just in economic provision that God wants to unleash creativity. My husband Tom is busily engaged in research for a new book on creativity and imagination, exploring ways to move from Biblical vision to new design for church, ministry, housing, simplification and sustainable living. He is excited about how God is stirring the imagination and creativity of ordinary people to advance God’s purposes and engages the challenges or our turbulent world.

God is doing something new in our midst and we ask you to help us connect to those at the creative edge. If you know of imaginative business models, ministries, churches or approaches to housing please let Tom know. These will continue to fuel his weekly blog posts so check the MSA blog regularly for new insights.

Teaching in Australia

For our Australian friends who would like to explore these themes in more detail, please consider joining us in Adelaide in June. Tom and I will be teaching an intensive: Reimagining Faith for Turbulent Times at Tabor College in Adelaide Australia in June 2013. Still room & time to sign up. We would love to have some of our friends join us.

Not All That Emerges is New.

Please continue to pray for the launch of Cascadia/CCSP in September this year and let your friends know. It is time for students to sign up and we need your help in getting the word out.

Join MSA Board member Mary De Jong:

For a retreat at the Whidbey Institute in Chinook March 8-10.

For a pilgrimage to Iona off the west coast of Scotland, May 12-20.

Dates you might be interested in:

Return to Our Senses in Lent – Retreat at the Mustard Seed House February 16th

Igniting the Divine Spark – workshop with Cindy Todd at the Mustard Seed House March 16th.

We appreciate your prayers and support as we move into the newness that is emerging.

A Beautiful Celtic Prayer

I posted this on the Light for the Journey Facebook page this morning and thought that some of you might appreciate it too.

God to enfold me.001

Do You Memorize Scripture

Book of Kells

Book of Kells

This morning in Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings I read that the early monks memorized a lot of scripture, especially the psalms. It was partly because books were extremely expensive and relatively unavailable, but it was also because learning texts “by heart” provided a reservoir of wisdom within their hearts which was always available to draw on.

How many of us memorize large portions of scripture today? How often do we draw from these inner reserves rather than running to a book or a website for the scriptures we want to reference? Memorizing scripture does lodge it in in our hearts in a way that reading the verses in a book or online never does. The scriptures resonate in our souls flowing out into our bodies and often into our daily thoughts and activities. Lectio divina often accomplishes this same increased intimacy with God through the revelation of God’s word.

So my challenge to you today is – What could you do to lodge the words of God more deeply in your heart? How could you develop a discipline of regular scripture memorization?

Another Prayer by Mother Teresa

Along the N.S.W.coast

The following prayer was posted on the Light for the Journey Facebook page a couple of days ago – enjoy

“We cannot find God in noise and agitation.

Nature: trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence.

What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what He tells others through us.

In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls.

In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.

Silence of our eyes.
Silence of our ears.
Silence of our mouths.
Silence of our minds.
…in the silence of the heart
God will speak.”

Mother Teresa, from No Greater Love

Anchors of Stability – Landmarks on the Way.

 

On the pilgrim trail

On the pilgrim trail

Anchors of Stability 

A couple of days ago I post about  The Stability of Practice and shared some of the practices that have provided stability for my life. There is another I did not mention – the gathering of rocks. I have shared previously about my rock collection where I commented: Collecting rocks has become an important part of my prayer life, because each time I hold them in my hand I am reminded of some aspect of my faith journey and I find myself praying in gratitude, in repentance or just in sheer joy at the faithfulness of God.

In my upcoming book Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray, (available for preordering next week) I talk about this in more depth and encourage people to incorporate the gathering of rocks into their prayer life. Display them where you pray. Pick up the objects regularly. Remind yourself of the stories they represent and the lessons they have taught you. Use them to focus your prayers and to build your faith.

The aspect I have not shared about though is the use of rocks as memorial cairns and this morning I thought I would share the section of my book in which I talk about this. You may not want to collect rocks as I do, but all of us need tangible objects that act as memorials to the loving relationships in our lives. We need objects that stir our memories and stop us forgetting the faithfulness and enduring love of God. These days most of us collect photos or video footage of those we love. When houses are destroyed by earthquakes and floods it is the loss of these items that is often most devastating to people. These memorials remind us of the love that surrounds us. They provide anchors and add stability to our lives.

Unfortunately photos are not an option where God is concerned, but there are other concrete items, like my rock collection, that encourage us to remember the acts of God in our past and the intimate moments of love we have shared. This is one important way that we connect to the acts of God in the present and learn to trust and hope for the promises of God in the future.

God understands better than we do how easily we forget and how destabilizing it can be for our lives. Numbers and Deuteronomy are full of admonitions to the Israelites to remember their God who brought them out of Egypt and faithfully led them through the Red Sea and the wilderness. Their memorial symbol was the tassels on their clothing, something they wore every day, always in their vision, reminding them of their great and loving God: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: Throughout the generations to come you must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach them with a blue cord. When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do. The tassels will help you remember that you must obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the Lord your God!” (Numbers 15:37-41)

Collecting or making objects that help root our prayers in the faithfulness of God can provide important signposts that lead us onward towards the heart of God. Cairns of rocks have been used as signposts along paths of pilgrimage for thousands of years. They make us aware of the many who have gone before us. We are not alone. The God who has provided throughout human history is still a God of grace and mercy and love.

I was never more aware of this than when watching the film The Way recently. This powerful and inspirational story stars Martin Sheen who plays Tom, an irascible American doctor coming to France to deal with the tragic loss of his son. He decides to embark on the historical Camino de Santiago pilgrimage where his son died. On the Way” Tom meets other pilgrims from around the world, each with their own issues and looking for greater meaning in their lives: an overweight Dutchman supposedly trying to slim down for his brother’s wedding, a Canadian woman trying to give up smoking and an Irish writer who is suffering from a bout of writer’s block.

There is a tradition on the camino to bring a stone from home and rub all your fears, hurts and sorrows into the stone which you can place at the base of the Cruz de Ferro. Others pick up a stone along the way or write a wish on paper. They deposit them at the  cairn of Cruz de Ferro where a huge mound of rocks with their prayers, and hopes and suffering have accumulated over the centuries. This is a holy spot whose sacredness spoke to me even from a distance.

I have been intrigued by the Camino de Santiago ever since I read Phileena Heuertz’s moving story of her own pilgrimage along The Way, in  Pilgrimage of a Soul. Pilgrimage, memorials and anchors are so important in our lives.

Unfortunately in our highly mobile society where many families move every couple of years, memories, like everything else become disposable unless we make a deliberate effort to convert those memories into sacred memorials that can remain with us throughout our lives.

So my question this morning is – what are the memorials that mark your life? How do you preserve and build them so that they do remain as anchors of stability?