Lord Help Me To Live Simply – A Prayer

Still grappling with these words from Daniel Taylor’s book In Search of Sacred Places:

Simplicity is no great virtue unless wedded to right priorities. A desirable simplicity entails the recognition of what is important in life, coupled with the strength of will to structure one’s daily existence around that recognition. It requires minimizing the impact of one’s life of unimportant things, an extremely difficult task in an acquisitive and schedule-filled culture. (148)

My reflections inspired this prayer:

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Interruptions that Bless Our Lives

This has been a season of interruptions for me, events that disrupt the normal rhythm of my life, sometimes with joy, sometimes with sorrow. The last couple of days have been no exception.

With Jeff Pratt at the Mustard Seed Village

Monday I spent to Jeff Pratt  whom I know from my days on the mercy ship Anastasis. Jeff currently leads YWAM Axiom and Axiom Global Monastic Community. Like me, Jeff describes himself as a contemplative activist. He leads retreats and pilgrimages and challenges people to a more radical whole life discipleship that embraces both contemplation and activism towards the marginalized in our world.

Jeff and I shared stories, resources and ideas about contemplative living. We planned for possible collaborative efforts in the future. We drove up to the Mustard Seed Village site, shared coffee at Camano Coffee Roasters, and chicken masala and wonderful tomato basil salad back home at the Mustard Seed House.

Tuesday I headed out to Shelton, 1 1/2 hours south of Seattle, for the funeral of my best friend’s mother in law. It is just a month since my own mother died and as you can imagine this was a bitter sweet occasion for me. Being together with good friends, and sharing stories about Jane Mackey’s life brought back vivid memories of my own recent loss. Grieving together strengthened our friendships and our lives.

Rich and Cheryl Mackey with their sons Scott, Brett and Wade

It is so important to leave space for these types of “interruptions”. I am a strong believer in the need for disciplined daily, weekly and yearly rhythms but I also know that it is often these unexpected events that shape our lives and grow our faith the most. Both of these events enable me to see all of life with more contemplative eyes, encouraging me to really look and deeply listen to all that happens around me. They create a deep gratitude within me for the many blessings God brings into my life.

How do you make space for this type of “interruption”?

Am I Fully Recognized For What I Am?

My mother at 20 and at 90

My mother at 20 and at 90

It is just over two weeks since my mother died and I am back in Seattle feeling somewhat normal and re-anchored. This is a time of reevaluation for me. One friend wisely commented

No matter our age, I think the passing of our mothers awakens a new life stage for us.

I think she is right. Some things will never be the same again. And in the midst of the ache in my heart, I find myself rethinking my own life and its priorities. I continue to read the book In Search of Sacred Places, which I was reading aloud to my mother in her last few days. It has some great insights for me at this stage. In talking about the Celtic saints who died at the hands of the viking raiders Daniel Taylor comments:

If they were to die, they hoped to do so fully recognized for what they were. (p129)

He goes on to ask the challenging question:

how willing am I to organize my own life and actions and relationships around those spiritual truths that I claim should define every life? How eager am I to be fully recognized? (p130)

For the Celtic saints, all of life was organized in light of spiritual realities. Daily life was an ordered rhythm of worship, work, and study – all as an offering to God.

I am not sure that I can say the same for my own life. We follow a God who was not afraid to suffer and die to draw us close. We adhere to a faith that found its home among the poor and the outcast. It was spread initially by persecution.  and rejection, yet we want none of that.

Early Christians were not afraid to be fully recognized, even if it meant their death. Yet for us faith is often a benign and comfortable value, “useful for food drives and homeless shelters, but ugly and even dangerous when it publicly asserts its claims as truth. ” (p129)

I want, in this season of my life to be fully recognized for my faith, not just for I what I say but for how I live out every aspect of my life. I want my purposes to become more aligned with God’s purposes. I want the rhythm of my life to more closely follow a Godly rhythm and I want my actions to more fully proclaim the values and culture of God’s eternal world.

Will you join me on this pilgrim path so that together we may all be fully recognized as the caring, compassionate, generous, life giving people that God intends us to be?

 

The Art of Pilgrimage Part 1 by Mary De Jong.

Today’s post is the first in a series contributed by Mary De Jong regarding her recent pilgrimage to Iona.

The article was first posted at asacredjourney.net Mary lives in Seattle, Washington (USA) and has traveled to Iona many times, both on personal pilgrimage and as a retreat leader for personal discernment pilgrimages and retreats. Her personal studies of Celtic Christianity have led her to pursue graduate studies in theology with an ecological focus, with the hopeful vision of sharing with urban communities about our inherent need for Creation and how to live forward in such a way that honors Other and the Future.  Mary’s first published title, Waymarkers (2011), is a unique pilgrimage journal specific to the journey to Iona; it has been received with excitement by pilgrims the world over and has been endorsed by many Iona Community associates.

“ISN’T IT TIME THAT YOUR DRIFTING WAS CONSECRATED INTO PILGRIMAGE?  YOU HAVE A MISSION.  YOU ARE NEEDED.  THE ROAD THAT LEADS TO NOWHERE HAS TO BE ABANDONED…. IT IS A ROAD FOR JOYFUL PILGRIMS INTENT ON THE RECOVERY OF PASSION.” 

ALAN JONES

article-new_ehow_images_a07_od_rc_crafts-welcome-signs-800x800We all go about the busyness of our lives; busyness consumes us and rarely do we have a moment to sit, to listen, to breath. And then one day we are awakened to a feeling of deep disturbance–something vital is missing in life.

Out of this absence a question begins to emerge. This question looms and feels too big for the typical, daily answer sources.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram…they just don’t seem to cut it; nor should they! These venues, along with anything else in life that doesn’t align with the deep longing that is now upon you, are but mere distractions. For these questions are rooted deep in our inner soulscape and demand a rigorous process that is befitting to the eternal stuff from which we are made.

There is restlessness and an urgency to come home to your true self, a deep longing for personal integration. This longing, this asking kick starts the seeking process, as it is inherently true that you cannot cultivate an integrated home-space for your soul unless you first have intentionally gone out and away from all that you know and are comfortable within

“All that is worthwhile,” says the great Jesuit scholar and paleontologist Teilard de Chardin, “is action.”  The soul needs us to respond to the urgent and irksome call with ardency. And nothing is more befitting than to respond with a get-up-and-go; to draw a line in the sand and exclaim, “From henceforth, I am a seeker! I am leaving what I know to be my collections and comforts of home, and I am going to hit the road on a pilgrimage!”   

PILGRIMAGE AWAKENS THE SOUL

Pilgrimage. What is it about this word that causes one’s emotions to stand on guard – both compelled and cautious at the same time? Indeed, it is a loaded word, packed with ages of political and parochial themes.

Even with the historical entrapping of this ­­­concept, there is a much more ancient restlessness that is deep within our collective consciousness to be on the move and to engage questions and the Answer in the process. Wasn’t even Jehovah carried in a box on the backs of a nomadic people?  Wasn’t Jesus of Nazareth, upon fully integrating his ministry with his divinity, also hitting the road and on the move?  Getting up and moving to the parameters of our life, to the absolute edges, is where we engage our senses and awaken our souls.

I believe that what agitates people when they first engage the concept of pilgrimage is that it literally unsettles them. The domesticity that ties us down to the perceptions of our lives begins to untie and unravel as this seeker-path begins its work of instigating a longing and a calling to go, to move, to discover the Divine in this ancient process

When you first hear of pilgrimage, whether it is the perspective or a place, it is as if something comes on to you that will stay with you, call to you your entire life until The Longing and The Call has been met and engaged.

 

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GO. DELIBERATELY.

There is a general unsettling that is upon people of faith these days. The traditional means and methods of creating and cultivating a spiritual practice appear to have gone stale. The weekly trek to church can be driven thoughtlessly as can the participation in the service’s rituals. It even seems, as the community that assembles for corporate worship are so compatible, that carbon copies seem a more appropriate designation.

Despite long standing connections, there is a need to go and shake things up! Vacillation results in inactivity and indecisiveness. Resolution and an intentional move to action initiates Providence to move.  You do not need God’s presence when sitting on the couch undecided. You are desperate for the Divine when you decide to go and commit to The Call. That is when the energy begins to flow and synchronicities start and happen all around you.

Each of us has an unconventional soul, yet we are taught to feed and nurture it by the most conventional standards. Pilgrimage, while as ancient as our bipedal designed bodies, is now seen as an unconventional expression in our culture. However, if we are going to give the soul the feeding it needs, we are going to need to go against the grain and go to where are souls are freed to search for, and find, God in fresh new ways. This path of discovery ultimately attunes us to our souls as well, and authentic expressions of our unique gifts and talents on behalf of a greater and common good is the result.

The response to The Call, which most often requires a leaving of sorts, is a certain kind of action that most often leads to transformation, most often fulfillment and freedom, and an alignment of our individual soul with the Divine Soul.  Pursue the place that makes your heart skip and your eyes shine for here is where you will find your Answer and God in disguise.

walking

“SINCE WE ARE TRAVELERS AND PILGRIMS IN THE WORLD, LET US EVER PONDER ON THE END OF THE ROAD, THAT IS OUR LIFE, FOR THE END OF OUR ROADWAY IS OUR HOME.”

ST. COLUMBA, SERMON

I convene pilgrimage retreats to Iona, Scotland and in the Pacific Northwest for individuals who respond to the call to engage this different mode of travel; all are desperate for a new way of moving through their world and discovering God anew. Every retreat participant with whom I have worked has felt the deep uprooting that occurs when the call to go is upon them and are relieved and refreshed by a practice and a place that will demand action, questions and a search for answers.

My choice to lead retreats to Iona is very intentional. It provides all the trappings of a good pilgrimage: historical significance, a saintly presence, a continuous line of faithful heritage, and a requirement to travel there with intention. Moreover, Iona is the historical birthplace of the Celtic Christian tradition and so by going here, I can also invite conversation and attentiveness to the natural world around us. One of the key themes of this unique expression of the Christian faith is that nature is revelatory.

The early Celtic church had a fundamental belief in the revelatory nature of the created world. Every tree, blade of grass, and wild goose’s cry was imbued with the Spirit of God and spoke to the character of the Creator. These “theophanies”  – God showings — were expected and sought after as a way to understand the sacred mysteries.

The ninth century Irish teacher, John Scotus Eriugena, believed that God was the ‘Life Force” within all things, “…therefore every visible and invisible creature can be called a theophany” (John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon-The Division of Nature, 749D). The entire created world upholds something of the essence of the Creator. Eriugena also taught that there are two primary ways in which the sacred is revealed – the Bible and creation: “Through the letters of Scripture and the species of creature…” mysteries of God are revealed.

 PILGRIMAGE DEMANDS YOUR PRESENCE

By convening a pilgrimage process to Iona, Scotland, there is an invitation to integrate the natural world around us into our spiritual lens and live and move forward in ways that are holistic and healthy for both ourselves and the greater community of things, of which we are a part.  It becomes ridiculous to maintain a life-pace that disallows the seeing of the world around us.

Iona, and really any pilgrimage site for that matter, requires a slowing down, a waking up, and an ardent listening.What matters on the journey is this: how deeply you see, how attentively you hear, and how richly the encounters are felt in your heart and soul.

“Pilgrimage makes us vulnerable and different,” said Father Edward Murphy, a Roman Catholic priest based at the Yugoslavian shrine of Medujorge. “It gives us the freedom to step out of the ordinary and do something heroic and also to empty ourselves completely.” (quoted in Ian Bradley’s Pilgrimage201).

Aitareya Brahmana says it this way, “The feet of the wanderer are like the flower, his soul growing and reaping fruit; and all his sins are destroyed by his fatigues in wandering. Therefore wander.”

The same language recurs throughout the millennia. Leaving things behind. Going to a new place where a new start can be made. Becoming renewed, refreshed, rejuvenated. And because there is a great cost associated with this decision to become a pilgrim, you begin to become different. The mall, your desk, your commute – all begin to feel strangely restrictive; your spirit has been summoned to go and go you must. You have become a seeker. And journeying a long road is bound to offer something, which you seek. But even if you have no great epiphanies on the way, there will be a lot more truth in your life than there was.

 

lectiowind

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GO FURTHER…

Personal reflections for this stage of longing…*
(originally used for Mary’s Thresholds of Awakening retreat)

What is your life story up to this point?
What themes are woven through your years?
Do you discern a pattern in the sacred story you are living?

Share your reflections in the comments below

*These are questions that require the presence of the Spirit – the One who has been with you since the beginning and who can remind you of your authentic expressions. Also, noticing where your heart wanders during these chambered, reflective moments will show you the direction of your true longing. 

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Prayers for the Journey

This post consists of prayers posted each day on the Light for the Journey Facebook page – enjoy
I believe in a brokenhearted God.001

Today’s prayer inspired by this quote from Jan Johnson’s book When the Soul Listens:
“Contemplative prayer and the contemplative lifestyle it will create, is really for those who are ready to quit the small, self-absorbed confines of the old man… and be made new. And nothing is newer in this world than a man or a woman who is alive with God’s love”

God almighty, lover of my soul
May we seek you for yourself alone,
May we know the wonder of you love,
Above, below, before, behind,
May it fill, surround and hold us.
Amen

© Christine Sine

May our ears be attuned
to the whisper of God,
our hearts open
to the love of God,
our voices raised
in the worship of God
and our lives transformed
by the power of God.

(faithandworship.com)

Give wings to our prayers O Lord,
Let our desire for justice fly to you.
Let our hearts of compassion be filled by you,
Let our passion for righteousness be guided by you.
Give wings to our prayers O Lord,
Let the rise as incense before you.
Let them find favour in your sight,
Let them show us the wonder of your love.
Give wings to our prayers O Lord,
Let them lead us to unity,
Let them free us to serve you,
Let them guide us to eternal life.

© Christine Sine

A beautiful litany from The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther de Waal – one of my favourite Celtic books

O true Priest, O true Physician, O true Prophet, O true Friend,
Forgive.
O only Sustainer of the Threefold mansion,
O only life of all created things,
O only Light of the seven heavens,
Forgive.
O Subject of the Scriptures meditation.
O Object o the chief prophets search,
O Marrow of true wisdom,
O Father of life,
O Voice of the people.
Forgive.

(Note: the threefold mansion is earth, heaven and hell.

© Christine Sine

God of the past,
accept the people we have been
and the baggage we drag behind us.

God of the present,
accept the people we are now
and the potential that lies within us.

God of the future,
accept the people we could be
and by your Spirit transform us.

© http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship

God before me

God beside me

God behind me

God is with me

God to lead me

God to accompany me

God to provoke me

God is with me

God my light

God my companion

God my shield

God is with me

God the Father

God the Son

God the Spirit

The Three in One

Amen

Amen

Amen

Amen

Micha Jazz http://stcuthbertsoratory.wordpress.com/prayer-cell/

In the Back Yard by Gary Heard

This morning’s post is written by Gary Heard, pastor of The Eighth Day – A baptist community on the edge of West Melbourne. It was first posted on Gary’s new blog Heard the Whispers which he writes with his wife Ev Heard. Gary and Ev have been part of the international core of Mustard Seed Associates for over many years.

It is reposted this morning as part of the series Creating Sacred Spaces Do We Really Need Churches. 

The back yard in my own family home was a battleground where test matches, football finals, and basketball championships were won and lost. Being the youngest in the family, any win was difficult, often requiring perseverance against the odds. Alongside broken windows, damaged fence palings and a dented rubbish bin found one could also discover bruised egos, a heightened sense of injustice, and some heated battles over rules, interpretations and application, some of which were referred to a higher power (parents!)

When invited recently to conduct a wedding in a back yard, I was drawn to reflect upon the significance of such places in forming key aspects of our identity. Most back yards are ordinary places, littered with strategically placed and creatively recycled pieces of furniture, vegetable gardens, trees and plants with a unique ability to conceal a tennis or cricket ball, and knick-knacks collected from holiday spots or favourite nurseries. Although they are closed spaces, back yards are open to the sky, bringing a twin opportunity to ground ourselves in particular relationships and settings, but also to dream of what lies beyond: open to the infinite wonder which the sky represents.

In the back yard I learned about justice. Being the youngest sibling, I was often out-played or outweighed in the rough-and-tumble of backyard matches. I learned to deal with injustice, to rebound when I felt cheated or overwhelmed, developing skills to deal with taller, faster, stronger siblings. These skills impact me to this very day. I certainly knew how far to push, and when it was better to let things go, learning to use my own assets in creative ways when a direct one-on-one contest was too daunting.

But back yards are symbolic of a much richer heritage. In preparing for the wedding service, I reflected upon the ways in which it symbolised a love grounded in the realities of relationships, not only of husband and wife, but wider family and community, affirming that love is planted firmly among family and friends, and grows out of the reality of our daily lives. Back yards are places where ordinary experiences are made ever richer by shared love, recollected through the years in family gatherings. Stories are formed, told and retold in this place, becoming part of our identity. And some threatening drops of rain reminded us all that in the back yard we are also exposed to the elements, requiring us to relinquish some control and enjoy the exploration and randomness which nature – and relationships with family and friends – can often bring.

I recall reclining in the backyard pondering the skies and my place in the universe beneath the wonder of myriad stars so far from the earth, illuminating the skies. Looking into history – for the light I could see twinkling left its source many years before – I pondered perspective and the bigger questions of life. And in later years I would sit in the back yard with my beloved, sharing dreams and hopes together, pondering imponderables, and simply enjoying each other’s presence. These dreams could be apparently mundane: we can plant this, we can build that… the source of an intimacy built with roots in common dreams, shared values, a mutual spirituality.

Jesus’ parables often have their roots in ordinary places – weddings, gardens, roadsides – because they are the repository where our identity is formed, and our perspective on the greater questions of life are shaped. They are the places where God can be found.

Check out the other posts in the series:

Creating Sacred Space Do We Really Need Churches 

Every Garden Needs A Sacred Space

Reclaiming a Sacred Space – Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace by Mary De Jong

Creating a Sacred Space – Stir the Senses

A Garden of Inspiration – A Story of Leo Tolstoy

Symbols and Elements that Weave Together a Sacred Space

Why Being Spiritual may be More Important Than Being Religious by Rob Rynders

What is a Sacred Space?

Celtic Spirituality – What Is The Attraction?

In the Barren Places: Finding Sacred Space for the First Time – James Rempt

A Tree My Most Sacred Space by Ryan Harrison

Sacred Buildings by Lynne Baab

We are Raising the Roof.

Sacred Space – Listening to the Trees by Richard Dahlstrom

Sharing a Sacred Space by Daniel Simons

A Tree My Most Sacred Space by Ryan Harrison

Today’s post in the series Creating a Sacred Space Do We Really Need Churches comes from Ryan Harrison. Ryan is from Denver, Colorado. When she’s not at her day job, she spends her time creating: writing and designing, or trying to build a community of love in her little corner of Denver. She always thinks about keeping a blog, but doesn’t currently have one.

Oak Trees England

Oak Trees England

A tree, my most sacred space…

When I first began my relationship with God, I was instantly thrown into turmoil in my relationship with my family. I still lived at home, and they exercised harsh restrictions in my life in order to keep me from walking on my new path. In fact, in one particular attempt to deter me, they took me out of Colorado for an entire summer, to prevent me from going to a certain church.

What they didn’t expect, what I didn’t expect, was the way that God met me in the pine groves of the Pacific Northwest. The trees towered over me, catching sun rays and bouncing them off their green needles and letting shadows twinkle across their trunks. They were playfully declaring the glory of the Lord. I saw God in those groves, catching glimpses of His promise to His people: to trade their ashes for beauty, to raise them up like oaks of righteousness. As I watched the sun snag on the pine needles, my heart was consoled: me, a living promise of roots that dug deep for water, deep for the nourishment that would grow me up into a towering tree, a sign of His faithfulness.

Six months later, I’d run deep into the forests of Switzerland, running to a clearing where I’d collapse, the trees covering me, standing at my side and my back as though God’s army of angels was there in those very leaves, in those swaying branches that covered me in a blanket of peace. I had left home and gone to Switzerland, not being able to stand what my family did to me anymore. Almost as soon as I stepped off the train that took me to my Swiss village, my family severed ties, in a way full of finality, sending me into a season of despair and tears. And so I’d go into my forest, and I’d wait on God to show me something. He had met me in the forest once before and I trusted Him to do it again. Without fail, I’d wait and the sun would dance into the clearing and dry the tears from my face, and I would rest in the promise that the waves wouldn’t drown me, they wouldn’t sweep me away. God would rescue–no, He was rescuing me. He was pouring love into my dying roots, reviving me.

More than a decade later my friend had to bury her brother, and her long time best friend, just shy of 40 years old. And as I sought to comfort her, I could see one thing as I prayed: my friend in a clearing with an army of trees at her back, holding her steady, keeping her on her feet in the moments when the grief was too strong and it threatened to crush her. And those trees? Her community, the people who committed to pursue a holy God and be raised up in His righteousness so that we could pour that healing balm that came from God alone on her wounded heart.

Her brother’s ashes are buried at the foot of a kingly tree, one that climbs high into the heavens, birds perching on the branches so tall you can’t see their shapes but faintly hear them, the rain falling through and becoming mist by the time it lands on you. What beauty and hope there is in that picture for me.

Trees are my sacred space, my cathedral where I meet with God. When I sit at the trunk of a tree, or run my hand over the gnarled knots in a tree in my neighborhood that has pushed itself up through the sidewalk, I know God’s closeness. Whether in the pine groves near Seattle, the forests in Switzerland, or the olive groves in Spain, I find a sense of home, my true home. When the aspens quake in the late summer with the autumn breeze moving in, their grace and strength remind me of my journey with God and nudge me to remember: anchor my soul in Him and He will help me stand tall.

I love walking through the doors of my church building, the worship echoing along the walls and the warmth of the chatter of loved ones rushing at me. I need that quirky old building to remind me that my job helping build the Kingdom is as sacred as anything else, joining God’s people to raise up the cause of the orphan and the widow. The building reminds me that my soul does not have only an inward journey, but also an outward one. But what my soul longs for most, is that secret place where I meet God, my most sacred of all sacred spaces, the forest. I need the stained glass of the glinting sunshine and the dew. I need the hushed whispers of the leaves and the wind. I need the intricate kaleidoscope of the bark and the sap. But most of all, I need the promise of the tender blossom returning in the spring after a sleepy winter, its scent drifting on the promise of His redeeming love.

Ryan Harrison