Category Archives: Spiritual Practices

Prayer For The Week – Let us be God’s hospitality in the world

I wrote this prayer for the June synchroblog which invited bloggers to write about Christian Hospitality.

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Give us eyes to see the deepest needs of people.

Give us hearts full of love for our neighbors as well as for the strangers we meet.

Help us understand what it means to love others as we love ourselves.

Teach us to care in a way that strengthens those who are sick.

Fill us with generosity so we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty.

Let us be a healing balm to those who are weak and lonely and weary by offering our kindness to them.

May we remember to listen, to smile, to offer a helping hand each time the opportunity presents itself.

Give us hearts of courage that we will be brave enough to risk loving our enemy.

Inspire us to go out of our way to include those in the margins.

Help us to be welcoming and inclusive to all who come to our door.

Let us be God’s hospitality in the world.

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Here is a list of all the links to the other synchroblog posts about hospitality:

A Sacred Rebel – Hospitality

Carol Kuniholme – Violent Unwelcome. Holy Embrace.

Glen Hager – Aunt Berthie

Leah Sophia – welcoming one another

Mary – The Space of Hospitality

Jeremy Myers – Why I Let a “Murderer” Live in My House

Loveday Anyim – Is Christian Hospitality a Dead Way of Life?

Tony Ijeh – Is Hospitality Still a Vital Part of Christianity Today?

Clara Ogwuazor Mbamalu – Have we replaced Hospitality with Hostility?

Liz Dyer – Prayer For The Week – Let us be God’s hospitality in the world

K.W. Leslie – Christian Hospitality

Christine Sine – True Hospitality – What Does It Look Like?

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Put Your Mask On First

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This post is part of the February Synchroblog “Renewal”

I run across a lot of people who wear their exhaustion, lack of sleep, over scheduled life as a badge of honor and more times than not the excuse is connected to them taking care of others … their kids, parents, friends, spouse, neighbor, the sick, poor, imprisoned, orphaned.

It’s good to care for others but we can’t offer much, for long, if we don’t take care of ourselves first.

When you fly on an airplane, flight attendants always tell you to “put your oxygen mask on first” before trying to help others. Why? Because if you run out of oxygen you will not be able to help anyone else.

Putting on our mask first is a great metaphor for reminding us to take time to care for ourselves so we are healthy enough to help others.

We need to be renewed daily or else we risk becoming burned out, over stressed, anxious or extremely fatigued which can result in physical, emotional and mental health issues.

Two basic things we must do daily is make sure we get enough rest and eat healthy … however, we need more than that to be whole and healthy. Getting enough rest and eating healthy keep us renewed physically but doesn’t meet our emotional, mental and spiritual needs which are just as important to our well being.

I’m a people person so spending time with my family each day helps to keep me refreshed – but spending time with them is not the same as doing things for them – so, each day I try to make sure we have some time to just be together … talking, laughing, sharing a meal together are enough to make a huge difference.

I also try to get together with good friends several times a month. Spending some leisure time with close friends, sharing our stories and listening to one another, laughing together, encouraging each other and caring for one another are all things that renew me emotionally, mentally and even spiritually.

Some other things that are like a breath of fresh air to me include reading a good novel, listening to uplifting music, having a good laugh, being physically active and engaging in a creative activity.

I don’t think the problem is a lack of things that can help us as much as the fact that we get busy and end up not taking the time to do the things that can help us. We have to be intentional about caring for ourselves just the way we are intentional about caring for others.

Part of being intentional includes us taking the time to identify what works for us … to build a menu of things that are like oxygen for us.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Clean, fresh air

2. Exercise/movement

3. Meaningful relationship

4. Fulfilling career

5. Rest and relaxation

6. Spiritual practice

7. Creative hobbies

And remember … it isn’t selfish to take care of yourself first … it is the responsible and loving thing to do. So, put your mask on first!

What is it that renews you?

Be sure and check out the other February Synchroblog posts:

Abbie Waters – It is Well with My Soul

Done With Religion – Renewal

Mark Votova – 30 Ways the Church Can Find Renewal

Jeremy Myers – I am Dying … (So I Can Live Again)

Phil Lancanster – The Parable of the Classic Car

Susan Schiller – Renewal by Design

Glenn Hager – Repurposed

Wesley Rostoll – Why I no longer pray for revival

Liz Dyer – Put Your Mask On First

Clara Ogwuazor-Mbamalu – Renewal of the Spirit

K. W. Leslie – Those who wait on the Lord

Lisa Brown – Momma’s Kick Off Your Shoes and Stay For A While!

Jenom Makama – …Like An Antivirus

Leah – Renewal!

Peggy – Abi and the February 2015 Synchroblog – Renewal

Quotes Worth Repeating – The Guru’s Cat

10257039_10204059223820221_7035561874645616129_n (1)The story of the Guru’s cat by Anthony de Mello is worth repeating:

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshipers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.   – Anthony de Mello

You can find this story and many more in Anthony de Mello’s book The Song of the Bird

Little Things

This post is part of the January synchroblog “Serving Others In The New Year” 

I will put a list of all the synchroblog links at the end of this post when they become available.

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A few years ago I began the new tradition of choosing one word as a theme for the upcoming year.  The idea is that instead of making a list of specific New Year’s resolutions you choose one word that will serve as a sort of guide or inspiration for the whole year.

As I began this year I had several words that were floating around in my head but I couldn’t get comfortable choosing any one of them because they all seemed too “little” to be a theme for the whole year. And then it hit me that they were all connected to small acts of kindness that I had the opportunity to do or that had been done for me and “voila” my word for the year became “Kindness”.

I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to make a big difference is through the little things so I am really excited about my 2013 word!

One thing that I’ve learned in the past few years is that I have to be intentional about my one word or else I end up forgetting about it the same way I often forgot about the list of New Year’s resolutions that I used to make.  For example, in 2011 my word was “Awaken” and I scheduled some specific activities on my calendar throughout the year, such as meditation, gardening, reading poetry, practicing silence etc., to help me stay connected to my one word.

To help me remember to be guided and influenced by the word “Kindness” this year I have made a list of little things that I am putting on my calendar.  I have a list of 24 things and plan to scatter them out so there are a couple of little things for me to do each month.

As always, I hope that this one word will help me become a better me and at the same time have a positive impact on the world I live in.

Here’s my list:

(1) Send a card or letter to someone letting them know how they have positively impacted my life.

(2) Pick a day of running errands and shopping to focus on people I can open doors for, help carry things to and from their car, let them go ahead of me in a waiting line, give them my seat in a waiting area or any other way that I can be kind on the spot to a stranger.

(3) Donate a favorite possession.

(4) Bring a snack to work to share with my co-workers.

(5) Offer someone an unexpected tip.

(6) Invite someone who is alone over for dinner.

(7) Compliment a stranger sincerely.

(8) Listen intently.

(9) Give someone a flower just because.

(10) Donate books to the local library.

(11) Bake something delicious and give it to a neighbor.

(12) Buy some extra groceries and take them to the local food bank.

(13) Leave a favorite book in a public place with a note.

(14) Tell family members what is special about them.

(15) Send an anonymous gift.

(16) Leave an extra big tip for a waitperson.

(17) Return someone’s shopping cart for them.

(18) Pay for the person behind me in a drive thru.

(19) Take the time to let management know how much I appreciate

a specific employee and the way they served me.

(20) Take my already read magazines to a senior center.

(21) Send a care package to someone that is spending a significant time away from home (a military person or a college student for example).

(22) Drop off something delicious at a local fire station.

(23) Pick up trash everywhere I go for one weekend.

(24) Slip a $20 gas card or public-transportation pass into someone’s

shopping bag with a note.

 

Here is a list of the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

 

Practicing Gratitude.

This post is part of a synchroblog on gratitude as a spiritual practice. The other contributions are listed at the end of this post.

Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind. – Lionel Hampton

I think of gratitude as essential to my spiritual health as prayer and meditation.

I love the idea of gratitude and I believe that being grateful and remembering what we are grateful for can have a positive impact on ourselves, on others and on the world we live in.

And practicing gratitude sounds so simple … make a list of the things you are grateful for, take a walk for ten minutes and think about what you are grateful for, blog about being grateful everyday in the month of November, always start your prayer with thanksgiving.

But, over the years I’ve come to realize that practicing gratitude isn’t as simple or easy as it sounds.  So, I thought I would share what I have learned over the years about practicing gratitude.

Once you begin to attempt the spiritual practice of gratitude it quickly becomes obvious that there are times when you are going through the motions of practicing gratitude but everything that is the very essence of gratitude seems to have slipped out the back door of your soul.  You are mouthing the words, you are thinking the thoughts, but you don’t feel thankful right now – life is beating you up, things aren’t going your way, you are hurting, afraid, lonely, worried.  You may be saying “I’m thankful for this and that” but you don’t feel thankful and you don’t really feel like taking the time to remember something you’re thankful for. You begin to wonder if practicing gratitude is the answer to what ails you – is it really helpful?, does it work?, is it worth the time and effort?

One thing I have learned over the years and have to remember when practicing gratitude is that it is NOT the answer to pain.  In fact, if there is an answer to pain I haven’t found it. BUT, I do believe that practicing gratitude may be what opens something up inside of me so that I am able to receive the light and comfort that my soul seeks and needs in order to heal. I do believe that practicing gratitude, even when the feelings aren’t there, creates a path that I can follow back to peace and harmony.

Another thing I have learned over the years is that practicing gratitude does not mean that I will never have a sad or negative thought or that I have to replace every sad or negative thought with a positive one.  Some days, when our grief is still too raw, aren’t good days for the spiritual practice of gratitude. I don’t ever want to fall into the trap of thinking that practicing gratitude means that it is wrong or bad to allow ourselves to experience pain or suffering. I don’t want to pretend, or encourage anyone to pretend, that loss or sickness or injury or catastrophe or any other bad thing that we experience does not exist or impact us.  What HAS turned out to be true for me is that the practice of gratitude is an essential element when I am ready to start the healing process.

And most recently I have learned that practicing gratitude and positive thinking are different   Positive thinking is an approach to life but practicing gratitude is a response to life. Good thoughts are probably necessary for our success but gratitude is our sincere appreciation for the gifts of life that we have experienced. I’ve heard that gratitude is not only a virtue but that it is the mother to all the other virtues. I don’t know if that is true but I do think that gratitude often leads to positive thoughts and positive actions.

What are some insights that you have to share about practicing gratitude?

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Check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

Better Than Hope

This post is a contribution to the January synchroblog which is being done in partnership with Provoketive Magazine.  The theme is Hope.  You can go to Provoketive Magazine and read all of the synchroblog posts and I’ll also put links to each person’s individual blog post at the end of this post as they become available. No matter where you read these posts I strongly suggest you check out Provoketive Magazine! It’s a very cool online space that features pieces on faith, life, justice and culture.  I love the look and content!

I grew up hearing how great and necessary hope is, which is why I was so shocked when I first heard about the notion to “abandon hope.”

Last year I participated in the tradition of choosing one word as a sort of theme for the year.  My word for 2011 was Awaken.  I chose Awaken because I wanted to pursue the practice of being fully present in the moment. In my efforts to learn more about being fully present I ran across the Buddhist idea of “abandoning hope.”

Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, wrote, “One of our deepest habitual patterns is to feel that now is not good enough.”  Chodron encourages us to abandon hope and put our energy into being where we are. She informs us that as long as we are putting our energy into the desire for something or someone to be different (which is what hope leads to) the present moment will be lost.  When the present moment is lost we lose opportunities that can only be found by staying in the moment that hope wants to sweep us away from. When we are swept away from the present reality to a vision of an imagined future we lose answers and solutions and healing that we can only know when we stay and face our pain and our fears.  If we are caught up in hoping for a future result we cannot embrace the present moment.

A famous Buddhist saying is “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails.” In other words, hope and fear are intrinsically connected – you hope because you are afraid of what is happening or not happening – without fear hope would not be needed.  The present – which is demanding your attention here and now – may not look appealing and yet it may have something deeper to offer you than a hoped for future. The idea is that this method of befriending our present concern affords us a clarity of action that we can never gain while trying to avoid or rid ourselves of our pain and fears.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t have a positive attitude. And there are certainly times when hope allows people to take that next step and behave “as if,” despite all evidence to the contrary.  But abandoning hope isn’t really about being negative.  Abandoning hope is more about detaching ones self from success or failure.  It isn’t about giving up in a way that would make you stop working or striving.  It is a kind of positive giving up that not only has the potential to reveal to you what it is that makes you more fully alive but at the same time affords you the ability to put even more effort and energy into whatever that is.

Thomas Merton, the late Christian mystic, advised a friend: “Do not depend on the hope of results … you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself…”

We typically have a purpose for everything that we do.  We want to succeed at accomplishing our goal and not fail.  That is fine.  However, what happens so much of the time is our thoughts of success or failure begin to become more important than what we are doing and how we are doing it.  The fear of failure causes us to become more rigid, less compassionate, more impatient, less creative, more cautious, less willing to take risks – all because we cling so desperately to a successful outcome.

WOW!  This new way of thinking about hope was making sense to me.  At least enough sense that I wanted to try to put some of this stuff into practice, so over the past year I have tried to merge what I was learning about hope with my pursuit to be more present in the moment.

Where did all of this new thinking about hope lead me?

Well, I still find myself hoping as a reaction to fear or worry.  But at least I am usually aware of that happening and can stop and focus on remaining in the moment – letting myself experience the feelings more fully – being more aware of myself in the present moment (Buddhists call that being mindful or waking up).

And I still find myself performing a task or doing work with a goal in mind but at least I am getting better about the goal not overshadowing the action.  As a result I feel less attached to outcomes and more interested in the value of what I am doing and how I am doing it.  I don’t know if I am accomplishing as much but I think what I do is a higher quality, more enjoyable and unique.

My problems have not all disappeared because none of this stops life from happening.  The hope and fear continue to return because the practice of letting go of hope and fear is hard to embrace. But I keep training and practicing and the more I train and practice the more I am able to lessen unnecessary suffering and worry.  I believe that I am more present in the moment and that the more I wake up the more compassion I have towards myself and others, the more creative I feel, the more risks I am willing to take, the more discernment I seem to have about what I should spend my time and energy pursuing.  It’s a process and honestly I feel like I could let all the progress slip away without much notice if I don’t remain vigilant but all in all I think I am discovering something better than hope.  I think I am discovering now.

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Below is a list of all the posts and participants in this month’s synchroblog.  There are two links for each contribution listed.  The link on the title of the post will take you to the Provoketive Magazine site where all the pieces are posted and the link on the author’s name will take you to their personal blog.  I encourage you to not only read these wonderful pieces about “Hope” but to also check out the contributors personal blogs.  

The Trouble With HopeJohn Ptacek

Hope = Possibility x ImaginationWayne Rumsby

Little RemindersMike Victorino

Where Is My HopeJonathan Brink

Hope for HypocritesJeremy Myers

Now These Three RemainSonny Lemmons

Perplexed, But Still HopefulCarol Kuniholm

A Hope that LivesAmy Mitchell

Generations Come and Generations GoAdam Gonnerman

Demystifying HopeGlenn Hager

God in the Dark: On HopeRenee Ronika Klug

Keeping Hope AliveMaurice Broaddus

Are We Afraid to Hope?Christine Sine

On Wobbly Wheels, Split Churches and FearLaura Droege

Adopting HopeTravis Klassen

Hope is Held Between UsEllen Haroutunian

Hope: In the Hands of the Creatively MaladjustedMihee Kim-Kort

Paradox, Hope and RevivalCity Safari

Good Theology SavesReverend Robyn

Linear: Never Was, Never Will BeKathy Escobar

Better Than HopeLiz Dyer

Caroline for Congress: Hope for the FutureWendy McCaig

Fumbling the Ball on HopeKW Leslie

Content to HopeAlise Wright

Hope: Oh, the Humanity!Deanna Ogle