Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day 19 Resurrection Stories: Deconstructing Rituals

We had an interesting discussion around rituals in our group. There is honor and respect for the rituals that exist and, at the same time, the desire to be creators of our own. We began the evening with what may become a birthday ritual. It was Kelly’s birthday and we wrote on post it notes the characteristics that we see and appreciate in her. Then Bob, her husband, got to put the post it notes on her. She was covered in words of affirmation and blessing. We described her with words such as “kind” and “caring.” These words don’t show up in the daily news and are becoming rarer all the time. I had done this activity in a small group study a few years ago and after the activity we came to the conclusion that we don’t hear the affirming words nearly as much as the critical ones – either from ourselves or outside of us. As far as I’m concerned a ritual as simple as being intentional about affirmation can replace any of those in the church that seem to focus on our sin.

Of course, one could really have fun creating new rituals. I like the ritual of sharing Graeter’s strawberry chip – a most holy and reverent moment. Amen.

Day 18 Resurrection Stories: Deconstructing Worship

We’re trying something new in our small band of believers. Each of us is bringing a “God Sighting” to worship in any way we choose. Our “tribe” will share the stories of where the Spirit is moving in and among us. Worship is naming those places where God has made Him/Her self known and returning our gratitude for the Presence.

So we’re letting go of worship being done for us and we’re allowing ourselves to be immersed as active participants. If the evening together becomes filled with worship maybe we’ll find that we have fewer questions to discuss. Who knows? Well worth the try.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 17 Resurrection Stories: Deconstructing Prayer

Our community group talked the last time we met about the role of prayer during our time together. We had an open and honest discussion about how prayer has played out in each of our own lives. It was obvious that all of us have spent much time sincerely talking to God in our own ways. We’ve prayed in forms from ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication) to simply, “God help me.”

I have found in my own journey with prayer that I have no problem being in an ongoing dialogue with God. We came into the world with an open line to the I Am and we’ll move through eternity with the same organic openness. I know I am the weakest link in the conversation. Can I trust what I think I’ve heard God communicating to me? I was on a path to ordination but, obviously, I got that wrong. I thought I wasn’t retiring but moving from one career path to another. I have had to deconstruct the whole notion of prayer because of getting such crucial decisions wrong and the impact this has had on my faith. Don’t get me wrong, ultimately this has not been a bad thing.

So I have completely different expectations of prayer at this stage of my spiritual life. I may still ask for direction regarding decisions to be made but I spend much more time in listening and asking for direction regarding how to just be. I find prayer to be the place where life gets centered, focused and true. K. in our community group suggested that we sit in silence with each other. I welcome this opportunity because it is much more powerful to sit with others in a centering prayer or a guided mediation then to be filling the air with requests that we know the answers to if we are asking God to show us how to be in the world.

Prayer can take on new life if we’re learning to pray out of a servant heart. Some prayer habits need to die. It’s okay.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day 16 Resurrection Stories: Waking Up

Waking up each morning is just one of the millions of ways that the Christ theme of resurrection is woven into the very fabric of our being. We get another day, sixteen hours of new life so we can take another shot at trying to figure out how to be in this world. I need a nap just thinking about it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Day 15 Resurrection Stories: Daffodils

I know, I know. Flowers in the spring are the most obvious symbol of resurrection. But when you think about how they lie dormant and take the cold temperatures, rain and snow - especially the snow this past winter - and yet they return year after year. It's more than a symbol - it's a gift that gives one hope just when you think winter is never going end.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Day 4 – 14 Resurrection Stories

Obviously, I am behind in writing 40 days post resurrection stories. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been searching for those places where new life is occurring. I look for it every day. As I said at the beginning of this endeavor, Lent provides us with more than ample time to focus on dying and I find this theme is prevalent in our own lives through our own experiences/conversations and media. Post Easter is the Easter season and I find that we really have to be in the present and look with new eyes for those stories of new life, reconciliation, and, yes, even miracles.

So, I am going to play catch-up today and I know no one will read all of this because I have 11 days of the 40 to catch up on. It’s entirely for my own self-discipline. So, this is one long post for you to skim, if you’re interested.

Day 14: Resurrection Stories: The Kite Runner

This story may take up more than one post here. There are some very rich lines regarding redemption. One that really resonated with me was the line spoken by Rahim Kahn which was “There is a way to be good again.” He says this to Amir to encourage him to help Hassan’s son escape Afghanistan and finally redeem himself. Amir is the main character and had a very close relationship with Hassan. I won’t go into story details just in case you haven’t read the book or still haven’t seen the movie.

If you choose, there is a way to be good again no matter what – is that not the message of the resurrection? There is nothing beyond the work of grace. There is always available a better version of who we are. If our story gets stuck and hyper focused on death and sin then we have great difficulty moving toward that better version. The Christ story is a complete story of life, death and new life. There are times that people hurt us or that we hurt others so deeply that we have to forgive them because they truly don’t comprehend what they’re doing, they don’t understand how much pain they have caused. For some reason, they (or we) aren’t capable or choose not to read the situation through a different filter. All anyone can do is ask God to forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing. You turn the pain loose and wait for new life. Sometimes it’s three days, sometimes it’s a lifetime of waiting. But there is always a way to be good again.

Day 13 Resurrection Stories: The Kite Runner

I will continue with another quote from the movie that speaks to the redemption theme. The quote is “For you, a thousand times over." This is said by Hassan to his friend, Amir, as he retrieves the winning kite that would help Amir earn his father's praises.

A thousand times over – unconditional love that transforms. Amir was forever influenced by his friend’s words to the point that he even risked his own life in the end. I can’t say much more then that without giving too much of the story away.

I’ve never met a “Hassan” and I’ve never been a “Hassan” but I can let these words rest on my heart and pray that they take root.

Day 12 Resurrections Stories: Praying with Beads

A friend of mine, Rev. Tammy Jo Reiser, clued me into a wonderful book called “Praying with Beads: Daily Prayers for the Christian Year” by Nan Lewis Doerr and Virginia Stem Owens. Since I make prayer beads I was delighted to connect my work with this resource. There is a great deal of reading regarding the season of Lent and I am very grateful to find these prayers for the Easter season. At the beginning of Easter season section of this book part of the introduction states:

“During this season we celebrate the Lord’s continuing presence with us on this earth. We know that Christ has promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit and is available to us through prayer.”

There are six weeks of prayers to pray with the beads that truly do celebrate the Lord’s continuing presence with us. Of course these weeks lead up to Ascension Day and then onto Pentecost.

In the second week in Easter this was the prayer for the invitatory bead:

“Everlasting God, you established the new covenant of reconciliation; grant that we who are reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s body may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith. Amen”

Truly a challenge and yet the hope of all Christ followers.

Day 11: Resurrection Stories: Naked Pastor

David Hayward has a very sharp wit through which he teaches. He is also an artist and this particular work spoke volumes to me.

Day 10: Resurrection Stories: Bob Carlton Post

Bob is one of the most amazing bloggers out there. He provides new and challenging perspectives. This post challenges our vision of post Easter days.

Day 9: Resurrection Stories: Manipulation

The resurrection story was used to manipulate me into accepting Christ as my “Lord and Savior.” I responded to the Christ story out of pure guilt. I went forward during an altar call and my sins were washed away. Apparently, that was all I needed to know. It wasn’t until years later that I began to discover the Christ story of grace…the grace that actually moves us forward toward compassion, justice and mercy.

I don’t believe the purpose of the crucifixion was to manipulate anyone emotionally. I don’t believe that we are to live with the horrendous burden of evangelism. I think the message is conveyed by how we live out the resurrection story one day at a time – one act of grace at a time.

Day 8: Resurrection Stories: The Easter Message

This is an Easter sermon by one of my favorite theologians/authors/women, Joan Chittister.

Day 7: Resurrection Stories: Reconciliation

I’ve been thinking about how much resurrection is reconciliation. Christ reconciled us to God and us to ourselves and to each other. It’s crossing those bridges that have been broken. The bridge doesn’t get crossed by being judgmental, unforgiving, or by being in denial. I don’t see this as such a personal issue as I see it much more about building the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I know it happens one person at a time but the ultimate goal is not to reconcile me to God but the world to God…. a much bigger picture then my little world. If we don’t get the big picture then we don’t grasp how crucial the work of reconciliation is in our lives.

If we raised the level of reconciliation to that of how much we focus on sin or self preservation then we might just stumble onto the path of Christ. I am a stumbler who has wrestled with the work of reconciliation. I know there’s something much more powerful about this work than any of our own needs…. as modeled to us by Christ.

Day 6: Resurrection Stories: Spiritual Direction

In the required reading for the training I am using a highlighter like mad. In the book, Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls, by Gary W. Moon and David G. Benner I found this wonderful quote about the difference between psychotherapy and spiritual direction.

“Psychotherapy is about normal making. Spiritual direction, however, is about abnormal making. For the most part, spiritual directors work with individuals who are already living close to the middle of the normal curve but desire to become abnormal – abnormally loving, peaceful, joyful, abnormally aware of God and the loving presence. In spiritual direction the goal is accompany directees on a journey toward normal kingdom living – far from the center of the world’s normal curve.”

We can look at the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and see that normal was changed forever. Cultural norms, politics, relationships were leveled and a new playing field was established. Normal is not such a good goal anymore.

Day 5: Resurrection Stories: Spiritual Direction

On March 27th and 28th Dave walked us through the steps of discernment process called a clearness committee. A Quaker technique that is very simple, of course, yet very powerful. One person talks about the area in their life where they need discernment. No one else can speak until that person feels they have adequately shared their story. We began with a centering silence. Then each person could ask just one question. This really makes you sort through your list of questions. You can’t give advice, counsel, or instructions which is tough for someone of my temperament type. I know this about myself and will always struggle with it in any discernment situation. After the questions, the person reflects verbally to the group. Then we shared our hopes for this individual.

What I was most impressed with was the movement of heaviness regarding the burden this person was carrying. I felt the heaviness move from the one person carrying it out into the group and the weight of it was diffused. In this particular situation I felt that we were there to help carry the burden for a moment in order to help this person step back and see the situation more clearly. The questions were very helpful and the person had the right to not answer the question. No decisions were made which is very difficult in this age of fast food everything. But for a moment this person was embraced, empowered and heard. That’s all most of us want in any given situation. Please pray for that this person finds new life in this situation - new life that will bless them in the now and the forever.

Day 4: Resurrection Stories: Spiritual Direction

March 27th was the day that I started back into training for three days at the School of Spiritual Direction under the umbrella of Sustainable Faith under the direction of David Nixon. It was good to be back with others on this journey. We have two more sessions between now and June 21st and I already know that I am going to miss this community.

I am beginning to see the parallels between the resurrection story and spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is simply a discernment process in finding new life. It’s finding God’s aim and following that aim toward health and wholeness. It’s finding life and living it to the full. Most people seek a spiritual director because they sense a change is on its way. Something is coming to an end because a new way of being is going to be birthed. A spiritual director is often compared to a midwife. I’ve never known the joy of birthing a child but I find great joy in being part of the soul’s birthing process.