Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don't Be Tethered to an Ass

"There is a story from the middle ages of a preaching friar who had long distances to travel. Because of this, a wealthy merchant gave him an ass on which to ride. It was with pleasure that the preacher set out on his next journey. When he arrived at the church he tethered the animal outside. But throughout the service his attention was drawn to the ass. Was it properly secured? Had he left it in a safe place? What if a thief had come along and had stolen it? This went on until the service ended, the preacher was all the time distracted. When he came out afterwards all was well, the ass was where he had left it. But he knew that a new danger had entered his life. He untied the ass, slapped its flanks and drove it off. Then he walked away in the opposite direction. He was heard to say, 'God forbid that my soul should be tethered to an ass.' He was determined not to give himself to a lesser purpose than was his aim."
                       ~ David Adam, The Eye of the Eagle p. 133

The lesson of the story is not to get distracted on the trivial things of life but to pursue the greatest treasure there is: experiencing the precious presence of our Creator and growing in our relationship with Him. In our lifetimes the Author of Creation has given us a free offer: to know Him! Isn't that amazing? I think it is! All that we have to do is reach out with seeking hearts and He will make Himself known.

Now I'm not saying I believe trivial things are necessarily bad in and of themselves. For there can be lessons learned in the ordinary and God can be found in the most simplistic and mundane of moments. That's not what I'm referring  to. If we see glimpses of His glory made manifest through creation, glory be to God! That's a beautiful thing. But it's when we don't see God in things and let the things in and of themselves get in the way of our focus on Him that leads to a falling away of affection and pursuit of the greatest treasure one can ever experience.

So that guy in the picture, he doesn't look very happy does he? But would you if, metaphorically speaking, you were tied to things which perhaps brought you temporary pleasure, satisfaction, maybe convenience, but in the end were empty and hollow, bringing you nothing but a sense of distraction and displaced energy? The ass had a purpose, taking the friar from place to place and easing the burden of his travels but it had become a stumbling block for him, consuming his attention and taking it from God.

We will never find the greatest treasure there is for our mortal minds and souls to discover, or grow in our relationship or experience with Him,  if we are too distracted to see it. When we do discover the reality and presence of God we find that it is priceless and nothing else compares. Jesus illustrates it this way:

Matthew 13:44   44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

When God is discovered in the depths of one's soul a curtain is pulled back and a light like no other is shined through the heart's corridors, once dark, now illuminated with His presence. There is no greater thing than experiencing God's love!

There's bound to be things in our life that distract us from setting our hearts on God and seeking Him first. There's always things in our lives that clamor for our attention unceasingly. If we simply ask God to reveal to us those things that are stumbling blocks to our faith and relationship with Him He will surely let them be known. If we then come to Him in repentance and earnest desire, petitioning that He help us overcome our being "stuck" in a habit or mired down in a distraction, He will help deliver us and we will undoubtedly enter into greater depths of His love and presence as we shed our attachments and illusions, drawing ever closer to the lover of our souls.

What is the "ass" you are tethered to? (you don't have to share, but might want to ask yourself) It's time for us all to walk in freedom. Let's let God help us cut the cords that bind us to the trivial and experience greater depths of the most holy and precious treasure that could ever be discovered. His great presence, His love, His light.

Any thoughts? I would love to hear them! They are always welcomed and appreciated! :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

I Am the Great Sun: Charles Causley

I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
I am your husband, but you turn away.
I am the captive, but you do not free me.
I am the captain you will not obey.

I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay,
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.

I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,
I am the lover whom you will betray,
I am the victor, but you will not cheer me,
I am the holy dove you will slay.

I am your life, but if you will not name me,
Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.

                                                           photo obtained at: googleimages

I came across this poem a short while ago and felt prompted to share it here. I would love any thoughts or reactions you might have towards it.  It conveys the fact that God is always present and willing to guide, protect and comfort mankind but oftentimes we fail or refuse to recognize His reality.  Our great God is a God of compassion and love who welcomes us into His embrace. Manifestations of His glory surround us and our interwoven in and throughout Creation, yet many times mankind simply accepts the masterpiece but rejects the artist.

I don't think this poem is just towards those who reject the reality of God though, it can be for all of us to reflect on.  I think there's bound to be an area in everyone's life where we haven't fully offered it up to God in trust and faith. Perhaps something to meditate on after reading this poem is what areas there are in our lives that we have trusted ourselves first and foremost on instead of submitting it to God and seeking His will in that area. Or perhaps there are things that we turn to comfort us (like food, drink, tv)  instead of turning to God to soothe and heal us.

Another thing one can do after reading this poem is simply to go outside and feel, hear and sense all of Creation around you. Look at the beauty and perfection of nature and see the reality and love of the Creator that is interwoven in the Creation and rejoice in the fact that that same Creator is interwoven within your soul as well, seated on its throne. We are never alone, He is always with us. The lover of our souls :)

Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them! They are always appreciated :)

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Smaller World Bigger Peace (Thomas Merton)

"No, the great business of our time is this: for one man to find himself in another one who is on the other side of the world. Only by such contacts can there be peace, can the sacredness of life be preserved and developed and the image of God manifest itself in the world."

           ~ Thomas Merton, A Life in Letters, p. 107

Though Merton spent much of his time in solitude among the peaceful grounds of Abbey of Gethsemani where he resided, he saw the importance of communication and it's association with peace. To build real friendships with others living in vastly different cultures cultivates a broader understanding of the inherent similarities that we all share as well as an appreciation for the beautiful diversities that are interwoven within mankind's tapestry.  It is easier to callously push a button that will obliterate the lives of thousands whom you have no association or understanding with, people of whom your perception of has been shaped by propaganda and prejudice, than to do the same with the knowledge that a culture you appreciate and a people you love will be destroyed. 

The above passage was taken from a letter Merton had written to a Russian writer, Boris Pasternak, whom he had written to several times and had felt a deep kinship with. Merton described his friendship with Pasternak this way:

"It is as if we met on a deeper level of life on which individuals are not separate beings...it is as if we were known to one another in God."

In one of his letters to Pasternak he writes:

"Although we are separated by great distances and even greater barriers it gives me pleasure to speak to you as to one whom I feel to be a kindred mind....I am convinced that you understand me perfectly. It is true that a person always remains a person and utterly separate and apart from every other person. But it is equally true that each person is destined to reach with others an understanding and a unity which transcend individuality, and Russian tradition describes this with a concept we do not fully possess in the West-sobornost."

I was curious as to the definition of sobornost so I looked it up, this is Wikipedia's definition of the term:

Sobornost (Russian: Собо́рность "Spiritual community of many jointly living people")[1] is a term coined to underline the need for cooperation between people at the expense of individualism on the basis that the opposing groups focus on what is common between them.

After reading the letters between Merton and Pasternak and Merton's thoughts towards the importance of international dialogue and relationships I couldn't help but wonder of what Merton would have thought about the internet. Would he have had a blog? I think so! He was an avid letter writer and loved to communicate to people all across the globe. He took full advantage of communicating in any way possible in reaching people and oftentimes became frustrated at the limitations of doing so (slow mail, mail getting lost, etc.) It's my theory that he would have taken advantage of the opportunity the internet gives us all of being able to communicate and form friendships with people we otherwise would never haven gotten the priveledge of become familiar with because of our geographical limitations.

Through my experience in blogging I have met extradorinary individuals from places like Australia, the Phillipines, New Zealand, England, India, Argentina, Indonesia and beyond. I've learned things about their cultures that have touched me, enriched me and sometimes have surprised me! Besides learning things about the way in which we are different I have also formed real friendships. I've laughed alongside some of them during their light-hearted moments, I've shared their sorrow during  somber ones. No matter where one's location is we are all human. We all want to be loved, we all want to lead peaceful lifes, we all want to laugh and experience joy. The more people reach out to others who are different from them, whether it be on the internet, through letter-writing or during their travels the smaller the world becomes. The bond within the Body of Christ is strengthened. People don't seem so distant and different. We no longer perceive those across the globe as strange foreigners of whom we have no compatability or understanding with but as friends and even sometimes as family.

Any thoughts? Have you had the experience of connecting with others who live across the globe? What was your medium-the internet, traveling, exchange programs,etc? How has it enriched your life and/or changed your perspective? Please share!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Creative with Prayer

"Some families and communities find it helpful to have a prayer bowl on the coffee table or in the room where they gather to pray each day. Whenever someone asks for prayer, they write the request on a little slip of paper and put it in the bowl. Then when it's time for morning or evening prayer, each person can take a few slips of paper from the bowl and read out the requests during the time for prayers for others. This is also a good way to remember people we don't see everyday, like children in war zones, victims of human trafficking, or our political leaders."
            ~ Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

When I read that suggestion I couldn't help but find it a great way to keep prayer creative and engaging within a family or community setting. Sometimes when my family gathers together and it's time to pray, there is a silence that descends after the first couple of prayers are uttered. It's almost like some of our minds can go blank when it comes to our turn!

This especially can be the case when praying with a group outside of one's family. Have you ever been in a circle of friends or at a Bible study where there might be two people in the circle that have very much to say and pray about but when it comes to your turn you just run out of ideas! Well, ok, I'll admit I have! And its certainly not because there isn't enough to pray about! Our world is filled with sin and darkness, disease, war and suffering. If we don't know someone personally to lift up in prayer there are countless brothers and sisters across the globe and in our communities that we can pray for.  

The idea of having a community prayer bowl gives everyone the opportunity to get involved and not feel like they are being put "on the spot". For many that haven't been raised in families that have prayed together , or in churches, this puts pressure off of them and gets them active within the circle of prayer. The prayer bowl also allows a greater chance of new ideas and prayer suggestions to be interwoven in the time together and prevents a prayer request from being forgotten.

There are other suggestions for individual prayer that I've heard in the past that are creative and worth considering applying to one's practices. One such suggestion is creating a prayer closet, or a space designated for praying in solitude. In this sacred place for prayer, it's suggested putting pictures and other articles up to remind you of the things that you feel inspired to pray for. For example, maybe a picture of someone serving in the military overseas, perhaps just a word that inspires you to pray over a certain region or group of people who are persecuted. You can read more about this if you'd like here: http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/02/sacred-places-creating-place-for-prayer.html

One of my friends responded to that post, on creating sacred places for prayer, and mentioned that she had made homemade prayer beads. (Thank you Debra!) I think that is a beautiful idea for prayer! I'm planning on making this a project for my kids and I to do together.  This is some of Shane Claiborne's suggestions on creating prayer beads:

For instance, create a chain of different-sized beads (or different-colored or different-textured beads) for various prayers. You might have a large bead for the Lord's Prayer. You might have seven rough beads for praying against the seven deadly sins-pride, envy, lust, anger, gluttony, greed, and sloth- and you might have nine little ones for the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galations, so that you can rest on each one and pray that it would take root and grow like a seed inside of you- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
                                  ~ Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals,p. 292

We have a God of unceasing imagination. We just have to look around at Creation to reaffirm us of that reality! The life that surrounds us, with it's brilliant hues, sounds and textures pulse with God's love and affection for the world and children He created and continues to create. Since our God is full of imagination, let's also be! Prayer should never be dull but an active devotion and expression of love towards God. Let's come before Him in prayer with thirsty hearts set on Him. Let's be creative in our methods and find ones that speak to us and help us enter His presence more readily.

Is there a way that you pray that is unique? Would you consider any of these methods or already practice them? Please share in the comments section!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Season for Seeking

O God, you are my God;  earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
 ~Psalm 63:1-4

May we seek God's Spirit within us earnestly, knowing that He alone can fill the desert in our souls. He can water the barren lands of our hearts and cause gardens of untold beauty to grow that bring a richness and reality to our lives that is transforming; bringing us, and giving us the ability to bring to others, a life, light and love that the world finds hard to understand. A radical love. The love of Jesus made manifest through our hands, our hearts, our feet as we seek to let our lights shine, the light of God shining through us, to all the dark corners of the world.

It humbles and awes me to think of Jesus, the sustainer of all life being willing to lose his own in a manner that spoke of humiliation and pain. He was spat on, beaten and verbally accosted and finally he was hung up on a crude cross to die for my sins, for your sins, for the sins of generations before us and generations yet to come. He was born to die. And in his death the veil separating us from our Father was torn. Redemption's song rang throughout all of creation as untold chains fell at the sides of untold children of God and freedom was granted through God's great mercy to all who would accept the precious gift of salvation. This precious gift was obtained by the blood of the only innocent human ever to tread upon earth's mantle.

During this season as we find Easter nearly upon us, may we seek God and be thirsty for His presence. Let's not settle for anything less but the presence of the God that heals, the God that is infinite love, the author of life and salvation. His love is indeed better than life!  Let's seek Him as if he's the only thing that could ever satisfy our heart's longings, for truly He is.  Let's put praising, honoring and loving our God as our top priority and find His healing rain and eternal waters flow through our centers, reviving us once again. And as we find our hearts revived and our soul's nourished, let's ask God how He wants us to serve Him, to glorify His name and bring His Kingdom down among us.

I pray that all of you have a blessed Easter. May it be abundant with meaning and reflection and filled with the joy at the reality of his resurrection.

I love Eden's Bridge and find this song very fitting, I hope all of you enjoy it as well.

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tuning In

Drop thy still dews of quietness
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through earthquake wind and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

~ J.G. Whittier

When we rest in silence and seek  within our inner chambers our soul's center where the Spirit's throne abides we enter into a peace that surpasses all understanding. I came across the prayer above while reading a book by David Adam, The Eye of the Eagle. It is a book that meditates on the ancient hymn "Be Thou My Vision". I found this prayer a beautiful expression of this reality and wanted to share it with everyone. It is in his section at the end of a chapter that includes various "exercises" and meditations one can do to grow closer with God.  He suggests praying this prayer multiple times throughout the day, slowly and mindfully, dwelling on the meaning of each word and the reality of which it speaks.

I love the last two lines  "speak through earthquake wind and fire, O still, small voice of calm." It reminds me that even through the trials and busy nature of our lives, if we just center ourselves in the present moment, we can still hear the voice of God. It never leaves us, it is our focus that leaves Him and which makes us feel alone at times. For we are never truly alone, that is just an illusion that we sometimes buy all too readily into. We just need to find ways that work for us to "tune-in" to God's gentle whisper that beckons us forward to experience greater dimensions of His peace and love, which is His presence made manifest.

I am just as guilty as the next person in letting life's distractions carry me away from the peace and presence of God. When I find this happening I can't help but feel a bit of sorrow, for it doesn't have to be that way and many times it's being lost in those distractions that I find myself more apt to sin and wound those around me. And then there's the cycle of feeling guilty and sometimes in our guilt we feel unworthy to enter back into the presence of God. Well, that's also a lie! God always is there to welcome us back with open arms, that's why he sent Jesus, so that our sins and shortcomings, our transgressions could be cleansed from us and we could enter into His presence with a clean heart.

May we all take the time today to seek God's presence and be restored and refreshed, letting the Spirit's life giving waters flow through us. May we all find ways that work for us that help our hearts "tune-in" to the gentle whispers of God.

What are some ways that you find helpful in centering yourself in His presence? Prayer? Meditation? Worship? Please share in the comments section! :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Fearless Bride Retreat 2011

I recently returned home from spending the weekend in fellowship with women all across our region and beyond who gathered together for the Fearless Bride Retreat. This retreat was presented by LifeGivers International Ministries in conjunction with Kainos Ministries through the Fellowship Community Church in Marlborough CT. Lifegivers Ministries is a ministry that truly takes to heart what it means to walk like Jesus, providing invaluable resources  to those locally and globally and is based in Cleveland Tennessee. Feel free to visit their website and learn about the amazing things they do and find out about ways you can assist in spreading the love of God to those near and far. Their website is: www.lifegivers.org.

The retreat took place at a camp nestled in the wooded hills of Connecticut. It was a time of reflection, of praise for our beautiful Savior, of laughter, of prayer and of growth. His presence blossomed within our hearts and rained down upon us as we came together to learn more ways to walk in His continual presence with fearless conviction. It was a time to become centered in the Spirit which resides on our soul's throne and find courage in our great God who steadies our hands and clears our vision during life's trials and tribulations.

The theme of the retreat was being a "Fearless Bride". It centered around the parable of the Ten Virgins found in the book of Matthew.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1-13

 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
   6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
   7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
   9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
   10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
   11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
   12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
   13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Speaker and co-founder Brenda Jones (she founded the org with her husband, Tom Jones) was the primary speaker at the event. She compared the oil in the lamps to God's presence (Holy Spirit) within us and emphasized the need to become continually aware of His presence throughout our lives and to never let our lamps run low, and certainly not out, of oil. For when our lamps are burning bright our lights shine out God's love and compassion to all around bringing healing, love and life and His Kingdom down among us.

I took away so many insights and truths from this past weekend! I have so much to share! Before sharing a summary of some of my insights I'd like to relate the importance of the bride's veil that was taught at the retreat. Jewish tradition teaches that the husband has three obligations for his bride: 1) food 2) clothing and 3) conjugal rights.  The veiling of the bride was the symbolic gesturing of clothing her and providing that material need. It also, however, meant a bit more than that. The fact that it hides the bride's face was symbolic that the groom accepted her for the inside rather than for merely her external beauty. It also meant, that when the bride has her veil on her vision is obscured and with an obscured vision the bride shows her complete faith and trust in her groom. Therefore, the veiling of the bride symbolized the husband's unconditional love for his bride and the bride's unconditional and complete trust for the groom. How beautiful is that?

The body of Christ is Christ's bride and these truths can be applied for us as well. God accepts us unconditionally, faults and all and we are, in return, called to trust completely in Him.

One line that Brenda said really stuck out for me, "Jesus is more than our Savior". Indeed He is! But sometimes I think that can be forgotten somehow. Jesus does much more than merely save us...he restores us, he comforts and heals us, he centers himself in the seats of our soul in the form of the Spirit and gives us an eternal love that is always there and waiting, eager for seeking souls to come to the door and just knock and receive His life-giving presence.

Another thing that I really appreciated was the emphasis of experience not just merely doctrine. I believe doctrine is very valuable and has its place but rings hollow if it is not accompanied by the experience of His presence within. I have to say that when I was born again, with joy, I accepted salvation and the knowledge of having a Savior but it wasn't until recently that I opened my heart up to experiencing the Spirit's presence within. I've talked much about it here on my blog-it is a transforming experience!

It was an amazing weekend and I look forward to sharing more things that I have gained from the time spent there in posts to come, but I'd say the most magnificent thing that happened was just becoming even more awakened to greater depths of my internal awareness of His presence. At times I became totally overcome by the reality of Jesus' love for me and all of God's children and creation and the fact that He is all around and in and through all that surrounds us. His abundant love and joy is always there for us to experience. All we need to do is open up with trusting hearts in complete submission to our King and He will flood us with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

I am happy to be back on my blog to connect with all of you once again! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Awareness

I'm reading a great book that a friend sent me recently. The title is The Eye of the Eagle. In this thought provoking and spiritually insightful book, author David Adams meditates and reflects on the verses of the Hymn "Be Thou My Vision". This ancient hymn was written in Ireland from anywhere between the eighth and tenth century and has been sung and meditated on for more than a thousand years. Adams writes about the deep spirituality that was central to the Christianity of ancient Ireland, which he refers to many times throughout the book as Celtic Christianity. I will probably write a couple of posts regarding this book, as I am still early on in it and it's already making me nod in agreement, stop and take notes and pause, to reflect and savor the truths it draws out.

I have written much on the concept of mindfulness and how it has really transformed my heart spiritually, drawing me deeper into the arms of God and opening my heart to the reality of greater dimensions of love as I experience more and more His infinite mercy, grace, love and compassion. What an awesome God we have! My experiences are not unique. Of course we are all unique individuals and hence experience things from slightly different angles, but when it comes to experiencing the Presence and love of God and the awareness of His eternal reality made manifest within and around us, anyone that opens their hearts in submission, leaving their egos at the door and reaching with thirsty hearts towards God, can experience such things. One just needs to stay centered in the moment, open and receptive to the reality and love God reveals. God welcomes seekers and is always at the door, ready for us to knock, and eager to open and welcome us Home.

Adams writes beautifully about awareness, which is a term I feel is synonymous to mindfulness. He writes about becoming aware of God's glory through Creation and using the five senses to draw deeper and deeper into this awareness. I'd like to share some brief excerpts and would love your thoughts on them :)
One of our greatest difficulties is that we are always wanting to take things apart, to analyse. To dissect living things is fatal! The Celtic Christians tended to seek to discover the underlying unity in things rather than their separation, to align things rather than to divide them. Instead of looking at secondary causes of secondary causes they were concerned with the Prime Mover who united all. There was a consciousness of the integral wholeness in nature, an almost tender awareness of the unseen strands that unite all things and that vibrate with the Presence....

There is something which the Celtic Church seemed to do a lot more easily than we do today- 'to see in the visible things those things which are invisible'. I do not believe that they saw God in all his glory any more than we do, but they certainly saw signs of His Presence. They were aware of creation pointing towards its Creator, and because creation has a Creator we are offered a relationship through it to Him. For them, creation was a way of communing with God. Created things spoke to them of the goodness and love of the Creator who was involved in and with His creation...Creation was the means of communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything spoke of a Presence, vibrated with His love. They saw a universe ablaze with His glory, suffused with  a Presence that calls, nods and beckons - a creation personally united with its Creator in every atom and fibre....

The Celt says we must take time to play the 'five-stringed harp', that is, use all our five senses. Each of our senses can learn to respond to a wider range, and the very center of our being to be allowed to vibrate to the call of Him who is....The road to the glory of God is through a reverence for and awareness of the glory that is all about us.    
Through our ordinary-God given-senses the Divine, the Holy Three, seeks out our heart and soul. If our senses are not aware of this they need re-training until we are aware that we are part of the mystery of Creation. For many this will be like a homecoming. We shall discover like the prodigal son we have been in a far country and living off poor fare- if not suffering from famine-when in our Father's house there are riches indeed.
~ David Adams, The Eye of An Eagle,p. 7-9

     I will conclude this post with my favorite version of "Be Thou My Vision", I hope you enjoy it! If you have a favorite version of this hymn, please leave the link in the comments section and/or with your thoughts on this post. Thank you!


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Simple Proclamations

"There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and proclaim the greatness and the mercy of God to the whole world.

There is not an act of kindness or generosity, not an act of sacrifice done, or a word of peace and gentleness spoken, not a child's prayer uttered, that does not sing hymns to God before His throne, and in the eyes of men, and before their faces."
                         ~ Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain p. 129

I came across this passage in Merton's autobiography that I am reading, Seven Storey Mountain,  a book that I highly recommend, especially to those who are inspired by Merton's writings. I thought they were such beautiful thoughts that I'd share them with everyone here.

It also compels me to ask this question to all of you:

In what ways have you seen God's mercy and greatness proclaimed today?

My family and I were blessed to have the morning and early afternoon together, in which we took no time at all to set out to one of our favorite places to go as a family-the state forest not very far from our home.

Along the river's edge my son skipped with joy while throwing stones into its shallow depths. My daughter sitting, criss-cross apple sauce, broke open rocks that she had found. The tiny fragments that glittered like jewels were her "treasures" she was to take home, the bounty of her hard work! My husband tossed sticks that had been washed ashore into the river where our dog eagerly sought them out bringing them back to the carpet of stones that lined the river's curves, but not quite to my husband, forcing him to pick up new sticks while the old were forgotten in her new pursuit.

While everyone was engaged in their activities I breathed deep, feeling the gift that is air fill my lungs. Exhaling I looked around, centered in the moment and all around me life inundated my senses with a beautiful awareness of the greatness and wonder of God. All around me creation was singing into existence a song declaring the amazing  miracle of life God so effortlessly authors into our reality.

These are the things that I noticed, there beside the river, that reminded me of God's greatness and mercy:

...The tender buds appearing on branches that stretched over moss and root, rock and crabgrass. Later they will open up to the world and form countless numbers of leaves, providing abundant shade and coolness, promising us the mercy of protection from the sun's harsh and unrelenting rays in summer...

...The sounds of an infinite number of beginnings and endings, as the clear water rushed down the riverbed. 

...The warm rays of the sun gently caressing my bare skin as the soft breeze danced across it, making me feel amazingly alive.                       

...The wonder in my children's eyes at new, simple discoveries. The skipping of a rock along the water's surface, the glitter and seemingly warm glow of rose quartz. That despite the harsh realities that plague this world from one end to the other: disease, war,  poverty, and an infinite array of others: that despite all of that my beautiful children can sit at the edge of a river on a warm spring afternoon and delight in the richness of nature's simplicities is a great mercy and gift of God indeed!

Please share your experiences and reflections of how you saw God's greatness and mercy proclaimed in your day in the comments section. All thoughts are appreciated and welcome! Thank you. :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Just a Step Away...

I remember stumbling and falling hard early on in my faith. I felt deeply disheartened by this, as if I was the worst sinner on earth.  This is where holding oneself accountable and turning, with trust and in confidence, to a brother or sister who is more mature in their faith can be a very beneficial choice. I will never forget what was said to me by a friend, "You know, we are all just a step or two away from the worse sin we'd never think ourselves capable of committing". I've tossed those words over in my mind throughout the years ever since and can't help but find a lot of truth in that statement.

Accepting that truth doesn't justify or make excuses for the wrongs we commit. It does, however,  realize the fact that we are all human and given a certain sequence of events along with our own weaknesses, none of us are excluded from the possibility of committing something that normally would make us wince, perhaps even ignite feelings of frustration, anger or even hatred if seen committed by someone else.

I have a real uneasy time when I'm among a group of believers that seem to focus on one or two "moral sins" to ponder, reflecting on how those who commit them are going to hell. I'm not going to get in a conversation about hell.  I believe our God is a God of love and grace, and I believe He wants us to manifest His Kingdom here on earth right now...the ever after He will take care of, and I trust that all who follow the pathways of love and compassion will be taken care of...

What bothers me most about these conversations is that they consist mostly of judging others, rather than focusing on empathy, compassion and love-all traits Christ exemplified. Again and again the Bible says that through the process of sanctification our characters should reflect that of Christ's more and more as we journey down our spiritual paths.  It's almost like some of us like to gloat at the moral depravity of others rather than seek ways in which we can lift those people people up-in prayer and with spiritual and material blessings that will help them move towards freedom from that which holds them captive.

There's a rather popular story in the  eighth chapter of the book of John that shows what happens when a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The crowds are already feverishly looking for stones in which to throw at her. The punishment for such a crime in those days (and in many places still today) was capital punishment.  The Pharisees ask Jesus what should be done, knowing the law already and wanting to see what Jesus will do. Jesus draws a line in the sand, while the crowd raises their voices for the woman's blood to be shed, and answers the Pharisees with this simple statement: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Well, Jesus sure knew how to break up a party, one by one those in the crowd, feeling humbled, dropped their stones and left.

Sometimes I think many of us fall into the belief that our sins are a lot less than other people's and that that gives us a leg to stand on in judging them, much like those in the crowd that were crying out for the woman's blood.  But it really doesn't. Romans 3:23 tells us, "For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We all fall short. I fall just as short as anybody else and if I just stand there gloating at my own illusion of self grandeur while having Christ in my heart and watching another suffering from the bonds of slavery, whether it be addiction, poverty, or anything else, that just means that God might just have even more work to do in my heart than he who I am witnessing sinning. Instead of judging, I need to reach out in love and compassion, like Jesus did.

There's a great song that reminds me of what this post is all about. It has some profanity and might not be for everyone to listen to. I like it because it's real...I don't mind when things are gritty when they ring out with the truth. It's all about people in circumstances that others oftentimes feel easy to judge. We just haven't a clue, especially at first glance, what brings people to the places where they find themselves right now. Perhaps it's not even important, what is important is the right now. The post will end with the song, I hope you enjoy it, please don't be offended by the language! I believe it is artistically put into the song and gives it an authentic tone.

God tells us in the book of Isaiah what those who are called into the Body of Christ are to do, and this is how I believe we are to respond to those who we don't understand, to those who might even repulse us by the choices they have made. Not to judge them, but to love them. To bind their broken hearts, not to break them even more. After all, I don't know about you, but I'm in no position to throw the first stone! Let's drop our stones and shine our lights so that God's glory will be radiantly displayed in the hearts of his people.

Isaiah 61:1

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please share in the Comments section.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Birth Pains of Reconciliation

When someone criticizes or disagrees with you,
a small ant of hatred and antagonism
is born in your heart. If you do not squash
that ant at once, it might grow into a snake,
or even a dragon.
 ~ Rumi
When I read that passage from Rumi (a sufi philosopher) I was reminded of these verses in Scripture:

Ephesians 4:26-47
26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

I'd like to think that I practice what those verses preach, but I have to admit, I don't always. There has been more than one occasion where an argument will occur and be unsettled by the time I drift off into another realm of consciousness. Waking becomes an uncomfortable endeavor as a tinge of guilt usually rises in the morning to meet my conscience, greeting it with great mirth and then infecting it with rationalizations as to why reconciliation is not important, usually in the form of distractions and pride. I'm too busy to call that particular person, or wow, that person said some hurtful things, I should apologize but he/she really crossed the line. Pride is an extremely effective barrier that comes between us and making peace with others, and experiencing peace within ourselves.

Oftentimes what starts as a small misunderstanding or disagreement between us and others ends up becoming a bitter fued as the small festering wound that another can cause our heart to experience becomes a raging infection fed by time, and our own illusions and egos.

Rumi warns us to stomp out these feelings of hate, dislike, conflict before they get out of hand and end up manifesting themselves into much larger forces within us, causing us great angst and turmoil. Such illusions, for that's what they really are, they aren't real but false and grossly altered versions of reality, lead sadly to the destruction of relationships that might have otherwise offered us much light and joy.   Scripture echos this by implying that we must do this immediately, not letting the sun go down before reconciliation is made, lest the devil take a foothold.

Jesus died to reconcile us to God. He was able to forgive even those who pounded the nails into his flesh, hanging him up on the cross to die a horrific and very human death full of suffering and pain. It is because of his sacrifice that our sins are forgiven, and how many they are! I think of all the things I've done wrong and how God has forgiven me each time I come before him in humility. Certainly, through Jesus, God teaches us to forgive and there is true liberation in forgiving others. It's a win-win concept really. We create peace in our lives between others and remove the barriers of bitterness in our own hearts to experience more fully the presence and peace of God.

Jesus emphasized the importance of reconciliation. Not only should we try to deal with the seeds of hatred and irritation that others put in our own hearts but those we put into other's as well.

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

It is hard to come before God with a heart that is clean and pure when it is clouded with controversy and conflict. So it's my suggestion that we clean up our hearts and seek out those who have caused us angst and unease, anger and frustration and forgive them. And perhaps even more difficult...for those who we've wronged, ask that they forgive us. It isn't easy, but it is something we are all called to do and it will bring us and others much peace.

I know recently there was someone that brought me much pain and it took me to swallow a lot of pride to come and reveal to them my own contribution towards our conflict, ask forgiveness and also accept their apology. Life's often painful, but so is giving birth...and any mother that has given birth will say that the pain was well worth the new life that now rests in their arms. Let's be authors of new beginnings that speak of love and light and of compassion, built on the framework of reconciliation and hope. Let's take joy in the birth pains of reconcilation for the new life it produces in our hearts and in our relationships.

I would love to read your thoughts, please leave them in the comments section :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Keeping Sunday Sacred

"Sunday is a day of contemplation not because it is a day without work, a day when shops and banks and offices are closed, but because it is sacred to the mystery of Resurrection. Sunday is the "Lord's Day" not in the sense that , on one day out of the week, one must stop and think of Him, but because it breaks into the ceaseless, "secular" round of time with a burst of light out of a sacred eternity. We stop working and rushing about on Sunday not only in order to rest up and start over again on Monday, but in order to collect our wits and realize the relative meaninglessness of the secular business which fills the other six days of the week, and taste the satisfaction of a peace which surpasses understanding and which is given us by Christ. Sunday reminds us of the peace that should filter through the whole week when our work is properly oriented.

...Sunday is a contemplative day...because everyone, Christian or not, who celebrates the day spiritually, and accepts it as its face value, opens his heart to the light of Christ, the light of the Resurrection. In doing so he grows in love, in faith, and is able to "see" a little more of the mystery of Christ. He certainly may have no clear idea of what is happening, but the grace of God produces its effects in his heart. Sunday, then, is a day of grace, a day of light, in which light is given."
                    ~ Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience, p. 138-139

The sun had already made it's ascent above the treeline as I opened the backdoor to take our dogs out this morning. The warm breeze carrying with it a subtle and spontaneous chill, the kind that plays with the senses, greeted me. A chorus of birds sang in the new day, giving praise to the God who sustains their hearts, who fills their tiny lungs with air and who gives them their song.  A vibrant blue above, soft and gentle light filtering all around, my heart, like a flower in early morning sprung open, eager to be drenched in the light of God.

Sometimes the revelation of the radiance and presence of God can almost be overwhelming, and very humbling, causing me to want to kneel down before the God who is in and through and around me and all that surrounds me and my senses.  In the song of the birds, in the hue of the sky, in the tender blades of grass furiously poking through fertile soil. I prayed that my heart would be fertile this day, fertile to receive the seeds of contemplation and embrace the light and love of God's grace to spur on the growth of spiritual fruit and provide me with direction in how I might best use what God has given me to bring Him Glory.

I have to admit, lately Sundays have consisted of a flurry of activities...birthday parties, chores, all kinds of things that have distracted me from contemplating God and opening up to His love, letting it fill me with its light. This Sunday is truly a gift because we have nothing planned. I've decided to take hold and seize it, every glorious moment of it, and submit it to God. This Sunday will truly be Sacred, as every Sunday is intended to be.

In what ways are you going to make this Sunday sacred? Will you be going to church and/or spending time in God's natural sanctuary of earth and sky? (That's my plan! :) ) Will you spend time with others in fellowship or perhaps prayer or studying scripture? How does your Sunday differ from the rest of your week? Will you open up to His light and love and embrace the seeds of reflection he wants to plant in your heart?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Interview with Jonathan Almanzar

Jonathan Almanzar, co-author of the new book Crabgrass and Oak Trees was gracious enough to sit down with me in a Skype interview to answer some of my questions. I absolutely love his new book, if you'd like to read my review please go here: http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/03/crabgrass-and-oak-trees-book-review.html

Crabgrass and Oak Trees

It was my intention of playing the Skype video for everyone but I had some problems with the production of it and instead, for quality's sake, decided to produce it in the form of a podcast.  I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation!

This is what I hope will be the beginning of a series of interviews and conversations I will be posting on my blog with authors, activisits, speakers and other believers that have something to share with us :) Please pardon my "ums"! I was a bit nervous, I have to admit, I don't usually interview people, especially noted authors! Almanzar was very gracious during the interview though, and I think you will enjoy his answers to my questions!

I encourage you to voice your thoughts and opinions on the content of the dialogue below in the comments section!