Heading Home – What Does It Mean?

Mt Rainier from the air

Mt Rainier from the air

Tom and I only have a couple more days in Sydney before we head back to Seattle. I am so looking forward to heading home. I know I am home when Mt Rainier appears in the plane window. Seeing our dog, the garden, our new community members. Hearing about all that has happened while we were gone and getting ready for a very full summer. These too make me feel I have come home.

Heading home I think and my heart swells, but there is an ache too because Sydney is also home. I will miss my family, the birdsong, the smell of eucalyptus in the air. I will miss the memories of what I grew up with, the familiarity of a culture that is still ingrained in my being.

In our highly mobile global world my situation is not unusual. Many of us have several places we call home. Some collect passports like souvenirs. But a sense of home, of belonging, of knowing who we are is important. And if that belonging is not connected to a physical location, then the spiritual roots, the longings that keep us headed towards God’s home, the eternal shalom world, become even more important. Knowing who we are in God and the destination towards which God calls us is an essential foundation for our faith. 

Richard Foster calls prayer finding the heart’s true home and as I sit here getting ready to head back to Seattle I find myself looking toward that home rather than a physical destination. In the next couple of weeks Tom and I will go away for one of our quarterly spiritual retreats. This is part of the rhythm of our life that keeps us rooted in the purposes of God. It is a particularly important practice after a busy trip like this one has been because it helps us to view all that happens through the lens of our faith rather than through the lens of our busy activity. 

What are the spiritual practices that make you feel at home with God? What is the “home” the destination toward which you are moving?

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Sacred Buildings by Lynne Baab

This morning’s post in the series Creating Sacred Space Do We Need Churches? is written by Lynne M Baab. Lynne is the author of numerous books on Christian spiritual practices, including Sabbath Keeping, Fasting, and Joy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your Congregation. She teaches pastoral theology in New Zealand. Her website has numerous articles she’s written about spiritual practices, as well as information about her books.

When I started this series I asked people to write about how they connected to God outside of church, but I have been reminded by many of the comments of the importance of connecting inside church buildings too. Lynne’s article is another good reminder of this.

Monastery

The first time I set foot in a Benedictine monastery, I knew many, many people had prayed over many, many years in that place. It was St. Gertrude’s Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho, and all the spaces felt sacred. I kept coming back every year until we moved away from that part of the world. In my visits there, my own prayers felt like part of a chain that spanned many years.

Around the same time as my first visit to the monastery, I discovered two sacred places in Seattle, the city where I lived. Places where I could pray easily. Places where I sensed the presence of God.

St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Episcopal cathedral in Seattle, has a heavy hugeness to it. Its solidity speaks to me of God’s safety and stability, and the enormous empty space inside of it tells me God is so much bigger than I can grasp.

St Mark's Cathedral, Seattle

The Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University is small and quirky, with odd curves and angles. Its colored glass windows come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The baptismal font near the entrance is very large, and the water rises exactly to the height of the font, giving a smooth still surface much like the pool of water outside the door of the chapter. The stillness of the water in the font and the odd shapes of the building and the windows speak to me of God’s peace coupled with the challenge of God’s unpredictable call to us.

Church

Fifteen years ago, around the time of my first visit to the monastery, I was a newly ordained associate pastor in a Presbyterian congregation in Seattle, and I knew I needed reflection time in order to hear God’s guidance for ministry. In addition to the yearly trips to the monastery, I booked out one Wednesday afternoon each month for thinking, praying and planning. On those Wednesdays I parked my car a few blocks from Seattle University, and I walked a circular loop that took me to both St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Chapel of St. Ignatius. I brought my journal, and I sat in each of the two worship spaces journaling for a while. I tried to sink into the space and listen for what God had for me in each of the two very different places of worship.

Walking between the two worship places got me out into the fresh air. I always enjoyed the urban walk along sidewalks, businesses, parked cars and busy streets. As anyone who engages in urban walking knows, small but beautiful signs of God’s creation peek out everywhere. A baby in a stroller, a flowering bush, a pocket park with interesting landscaping, a window box with petunias. My Wednesday afternoon combination of fresh air with signs of God’s creation, plus architectural spaces that speak of God’s character, fed my soul in profound ways.

Two years after I began that monthly practice, I had a knee injury that prohibited me from walking very much, so I had to find new ways to reflect and meet God. I’ll never forget those spaces that spoke to me of God’s character, spaces where I heard God’s voice of love, felt the companionship of Jesus, and sensed the Holy Spirit’s guidance for ministry.

 

Prayers for the Journey

Flower seller - Pike Place market

Flower seller – Pike Place market

 

I am just back from the Pike Street Market, one of my favourite places in Seattle. The flower sellers are everywhere, lifting my spirits with the vibrant beauty of their bouquets which inspired the first of these prayers. If you would like to receive these prayers each day on facebook you can sign up here

Glory be O God almighty, glory be.

Glory be O Christ redeemer, glory be.

Glory be O Spirit advocate, glory be.

Glory to the One who loves us,

Glory to the One who cares,

Glory to the One who hears us,

Glory be.

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Lord Jesus Christ, let the wonder of your love shine forth,

Let the beauty of your image emerge,

Let us magnify your greatness,

And bless the One,

who has given us new birth into a living hope.

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May faith go before us,

May hope reside within us,

May love always surround us.

All else will pass,

These three will remain,

And the greatest of these is love.

(From meditating on 1 Corinthians 13)

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God may I gaze on you and find myself,

May my eye be focused and my body full of light.

May I move forward with the joy of your presence before me,

And the wonder of your love ever within me.

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Let us welcome the good news of the kingdom,

and stand firm in its wonderful truths.

Let us follow its path and not stumble,

And see in it the unfailing love of our Lord.

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Lord Jesus Christ you are the way,

May we turn our our face toward you,

And grow in the beauty of your light.

No apologies for the fact that this is derived from the prayer I wrote yesterday (see below):

Christ is the centre and circumference,

Christ is the way and the destination,

Christ is the beginning and the end.

Before, behind, within, without,

Christ is God’s gift of life and love.

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May the centre of all things be Christ,

May the way of all things be Christ,

May the truth of all things be Christ,

Behind, before, within, without,

May the life of all things be Christ.

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Mayhem In Seattle May Day Riots – Let Us Pray.

Seattle protest - images via Komo news

Seattle protest - images via Komo news

I have just heard about the May Day riots in downtown Seattle. Chaos and property damage have been the order of the day. According to the KOMO news report: Property damage was extensive including a Wells Fargo bank, Niketown, Taphouse Grill, American Apparel and the old downtown federal courthouse. Seattle police tweeted that multiple vehicles were damaged along parts of Seneca Street and Sixth Avenue, and the HomeStreet Bank on 6th was also vandalized.

This kind of violence doesn’t really help anyone’s cause and in fact diminishes the important protest of the many peaceful participants. It certainly doesn’t forward the cause of justice and often alienates those who would listen to justified protest. The May Day parade traditionally honors labour and workers’ rights. In Seattle, it drew hundreds of demonstrators for immigration rights and from the Occupy movement, with many converging on a park near downtown for rallies and music. These people need our prayers and support. Please pray with me.

Dear God in a world of violence and injustice,

May your righteousness prevail.

When anger and destruction seem to reign,

May your peace restore and renew.

When voices seeking justice are silenced by rioters ,

May your shouts for freedom be heard.

Protect the innocent, guide the righteous,

Be with those who walk for justice,

May your peace and harmony prevail.

Amen

 

Guide those who seek to restore

Expecting the Unexpected by Liz Dyer

Snow covered Olympic mountains

Expect the unexpected - Snow covered Olympic mountains

This morning there is frost on rooves and snow on the Olympic mountains – an unexpected treat for many people who think of Seattle as a place of constant rain. This post from Liz Dyer on expecting the unexpected seemed very appropriate to me this morning. It was first posted on her blog gracerules as Expect the unexpected
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I have expectations!  I definitely have expectations!
They consist of me expecting a bunch of stuff to happen that will make life better. Not just for me – but for the world as a whole. And I think that is a good thing. These kind of expectations keep me getting up in the morning. These kind of expectations keep me looking for the good in people. These kind of expectations keep me believing that it will get better. These kind of expectations keep me hopeful. But expectations are only the beginning. It’s the unexpected things of life that have the potential to change us and the world we live in.
The Christmas story has a lot of unexpected things going on.  A pregnant virgin, a baby who is God, a star that guides, angels making announcements to shepherds.  Yes, Jesus burst onto the scene in an unexpected way, at an unexpected time, in an unexpected place, amid unexpected events – but that was only the beginning.  Throughout his life we continue to see a pattern of the unexpected taking place.
His family was bewildered.
Religious leaders were perplexed.
His own followers were baffled.
He wasn’t supposed to wash his disciples feet!
Why wouldn’t he allow the sword to be taken up against those who were trying to have him killed?
Who would have thought he would spend time with a Samaritan woman or help an adulteress?
And then there was his death,
and his resurrection,
and his ascension.
You have to admit that if you hung out with Jesus you should be accustomed to the unexpected.
At Christmas I am reminded not only of the unexpected things that Jesus did but also that as a follower of Jesus I should be accustomed to doing unexpected stuff.
Loving my enemy.
Putting other’s interests before my own.
Sharing my resources generously.
Feeding the hungry.
Standing up for the oppressed.
Helping those who are sick or weak.
So let’s blow everyone’s mind this holiday season and do some unexpected stuff.
Like admitting that we Christians haven’t done a very good job at loving people who believe differently than us, much less loving our enemies.
Like being less concerned with structuring everything around what we believe to be right and wrong; and being more respectful of the rights of those who believe differently than we do.
Like being willing to give up some of our comforts, resources and rights so there will be less people who are poor, hungry, homeless and without healthcare.
Like being more humble about our knowledge of God.
Like loving and caring for others the way we love and care for ourself.
What unexpected things can you think of to do?

Who Says It Always Rains in Seattle – the Sunsets Just Get Better Every Day?

Nothing speaks to me more powerfully of the awe inspiring nature of God than an beautiful sunset.  In the last couple of days we have had the most beautiful sunsets in Seattle and I wanted to share their breathtaking beauty with you.  Notice not just the sun but the amazing cloud formations too.  Enjoy!

A Second Spirituality of Gardening Seminar

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Due to the interest in this workshop, we have decided to add a second workshop for all the people who have expressed interest but can’t make it on the 25th. Here’s your chance to join in the garden fun!

The Spirituality of Gardening 2

2ND DATE: May 30th, 2009
TIME: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

COST: $40 – $45, lunch & garden manual included
REGISTERHERE

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There are still a few spots left for the April date. Sign up today!

The Spirituality of Gardening
the third workshop in the Revolution Starts at Home series
with Christine Sine
DATE: April 25th, 2009
TIME: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
COST: $40 – $45, lunch & garden manual included
REGISTERHERE

Do you struggle to connect to the story of God through morning devotions and Sunday worship? I believe one reason people are moving away from Christianity at time warp speed is because we have divorced our faith from the glory of God revealed through the natural world. Nothing makes me more aware of this than working in the garden. I read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but I experience it every time I plant a seed and watch it burst into life.I read about the faithfulness of God to Israel but I experience it every time I watch the rain fall and nourish the seeds I have planted. I read about the miracle of the fish and the loaves but I experience a miracle every time I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s harvest.
 
In this workshop, we will discuss the wonderful ways that God is revealed through the rhythms of planting, growing, and harvesting in the garden. There will be spiritual insights and practical suggestions for backyard gardening in the Northwest. Come prepared to get your hands (and your clothes) dirty! 
 
Each participant will receive a copy of The Garden Year, a resource to help plan, cultivate, and harvest a garden throughout the year. 

Click here to register.