Vision

“Vision quest, right livelihood, leadership, mission statements, ethical decision-making.”

March to May….a three month delay in posting. Maybe that says something right there about me and visioning.

So much has been made of the need for vision.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll

Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18a

I’m not a vision-making kind of woman.

I don’t day dream much. I don’t imagine what life might be like “if”. I tend to focus on what needs to be done, here and now.

And yet…I walked a mission/vision team through a year long prayer process to create a ten word mission statement that now is on our church header. I organize my monthly report to council using the statement, and I use it to ask, when considering an action, “what does this have to do with our mission?”

I also have “my” bible verse; Micah 6:8. “What does the Lord ask of you, oh mortal, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Lord.” My “vision” is that the verse guides my thoughts and actions.

Even as I own NOT being a vision kind of person, I will admit – heck, I will proclaim – that without a vision, it is so easy to go around in circles, or to wander aimlessly. Your vision doesn’t have to be drawn out in detail, day by day, month by month, but can you answer, “what am I doing with my life and my gifts? What do I want to do with my life and my gifts” How can I get from here to there?” A vision of your life, an acknowledgement of your gifts and how you are – or might- use them, will help you avoid being swayed away from your authentic self. A vision will help you make decisions, to become the you God desires.

Silence

“Contemplation, solitude, silent retreats, quieting the mind, centering prayer.”

I will sit quietly. I will sit quietly here, with the sun shining in through the south side window, a bright beam of light splaying the carpeted floor. I will sit quietly. I will clear my mind.

I will clear my mind with a centering prayer; a prayer I learned years ago and use today to calm down, in moments of anxiety, moments of fear, moments of need. “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” “Jesus Christ” breath in, “Son of God” breath out, “have mercy on me” breath in, “a sinner” breath out. Repeat, breathing, repeat.

Huh. Maybe I should light a candle. I have all these candles I forget to light. I appreciate the candles lit during spiritual direction…a centering candle is helpful….I can stay focused, I can look at something.

“Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

A few minutes pass…I am praying the centering prayer, I am breathing. I notice my shoulder aches. I forget the prayer, the breathing, I think about my shoulder. How long is it going to ache? Should I stretch it out, or will that make the pain worse?

“Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I begin again, I breath in, breath out with each line. I notice my cat, who had been lying quietly, roll over and stretch out, extending his back, arching. He’s such a sweet cat, so good natured… “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I sit alone in my living room, alone except for the company of my cat, who is content to sit on his haunches, eyes half closed. I sit in silence but there is no silence. Thoughts play through my mind, random thoughts, thoughts that make true silence difficult. Thoughts that make opening myself to the presence of the Holy a struggle. So, I sigh, and once again I say in my mind, the centering prayer used for centuries, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Shadow

“Shadow and wholeness work, identifying and taking back projections, embracing obstacles and failures, giving up addictions.

Do you remember playing with your shadow? Growing up, our house was on a dirt street, but nearby, on our neighbors street, a paved road AND a sidewalk. Perfect for playing with my shadow. I’d admire my shadow, dance with her, try to stretch her out, move her about. Sometimes I’d like to escape from my shadow; I’d try to out run her, or wave her away.

Claiming, embracing, maybe even playing with our shadow side is important spiritual work. Important work that many of us would rather avoid all together. For this spiritual practice requires us to honestly face ourselves, even – maybe especially – our dark sides, that dark side of the moon we’d just as soon never expose to others, let alone ourselves.

Richard Rohr writes about shadow sides, and in “Falling Upward”, about the shell of self we spend our early adulthood creating. This shell, this frame comes about from family’s, culture’s expectations. We go to school, we excel in sports, or academics or arts, we find work that allows us to become consumers. We consume – we buy a car, a house, the accessories necessary, especially for what was considered a middle class American lifestyle.

At some point in this shell of a life, something happens – an event, a crisis – large or small, it is enough to crack the shell. We fall to our knees when we realize the emptiness of shell living. We have an opportunity to admit for ourselves, to see our shadow selves – the very real parts that are less than perfect to the world, but those parts that make us indeed very human, very vulnerable to the One who created us and who loves us, shadow side and all.

Once the crack in the shell occurs, we have an option – to begin life anew, embracing our shadow side, learning from her. Or, we follow the first path again, rebuilding another shell…buying a larger house, faster car, “newer” spouse. And we never again recognize or embrace or shadow self.

Imagination

“Creativity, story-telling, dream work, imagery exercises, music, brushwork, writing, divination to connect with inner wisdom.”

Agh! What to write about?!?

When I feel challenged with “imagination-work” I freeze, I get anxious, I feel inadequate.

I’m not a very creative person. I don’t paint, draw, knit, create new recipes (I even am challenged following proofed recipes). I don’t write music; I can’t even play music. Make those cute crafty items we can find from now through Easter…the Halloween, the Thanksgiving, the Christmas, the Valentine’s Day, the Easter trinkets/displays/crafts? Nothing comes from my hands. When my kids were young, I’d joke that a teacher could never tell if I helped them with a project. More than once, W, L or K would gently suggest I stop helping them!

Though I’ve worked with people to do imagination exercises, I have difficulty seeing a story in my own mind’s eye.

Yet, I can write a sermon, week after week – sometimes two, even three sermons a week if needed.

I can hear a person share an incident and help them tease it out into a full blown story, with meaning and insight for them.

I dream, can wake up and see the way my sub-conscious has worked on issues that I’d ignored or struggled with during daylight.

So, I’m not creative using my hands, but God has gifted me to use words, to use ideas. Thank God we are gifted differently, so that our expressions, our uses of those gifts might create a rich tapestry in the world. A tapestry that is to God’s glory, a tapestry that expresses the grace – the freely given, abundant love we receive from God.

How do you use your gift of imagination?

Being Present

“Living in the present moment, haiku, free intuitive writing, gardening”

“This too shall pass.” “You’ll get over it.” “Give it time.” Platitudes. Empty words, uttered in clumsy attempts to comfort. Words uttered through lips of hearts crying out “you gotta say something!”

It’s easy enough to live in the moment when the moment is what we perceive to be as good. A pleasurable experience, laughter, joy, a warm heart, being among loved ones. Sitting in my favorite chair, with a soft cat, purring on my lap, both of us soaking up sunshine.

Being present at other times is more problematic. We go through the motions. Our cars drive themselves to work, guided along the freeway into our usual parking space by an unseen thread of routine. We move through the workday, reacting to the stimulus before us. Another customer to greet, another report to read, another dish to wash, another chapter to summarize.

Then those are those experiences of being present we’d avoid at all costs if we could. Excruciating pain, a knife in the side, sucking the very breath of life away. Or a fist to the heart, pulling it out, as you gasp in disbelief. The moments of fear, every hair on your body at high alert, ready to fight or flee. Being present – you can barely function, let alone be fully present. In those experiences, we want to get out of it, punch our way free, we struggle to gasp for life; staying – being fully present – is beyond comprehension.

Perhaps one way we are created in God’s image is our awareness of self in time. Of recognizing the present, as contrasted to the past, as opposed to the future – what is yet to be. Our gift of life is in the present, and it is in the present – whatever experiences we have – that we are challenged to live.

Learning the spiritual practice of being present helps us learn that all moments are fleeting, little is constant. The joy, the laughter, the dull routine, even the intense pain will pass. Our call is to live into each moment, being present.

Beauty

Living simply, clearing clutter, nature walks, ikebana, tea ceremony”

Ikebana – for those unfamiliar with the term – is according to google, the Japanese art of flower arranging, also known as kado, or the way of flowers.

cattails 3

In July, during a spiritual retreat, I gravitated to a nature preserve nearby; my soul was called to it’s beauty. Wild grasses, staggered woods, wetlands aplenty with cattails and translucent dragonflies flitting about. The warm sun, a blue sky that pierced my heart, cumulus clouds above creating, shifting. A row of poplar trees with leaves dancing, singing to God in their rustling. Along a wooded path, I stepped over a fallen log on the wooden path and saw a vivid, almost neon orange fungus, growing low to the ground.

Where I serve God now, I’m blessed to be among wide open spaces. I can drive for miles and see fields ever changing in their circle of life. Right now, corn fields over eight foot tall, crowned with tassels, laden with two, sometimes three ears of corn ripening. Lush fields of soybeans, their pods hidden under dense green leaves. The summer act of fireflies has past, the curtain closed on their blinking dance across fields and in drainage ditches, lighting up the shoulders of county roads. Soon, the views will turn…just this week I noticed a few fields of beans with swashes of yellow. Corn will dry, and turn into brown gold. After harvest, stubs left here and there, in deep brown dirt fallow. Winter will bring fields of blinding white snow, snow squalls, ice storms. On clear nights, stars, hundreds of them visible to the eye. Sunrises and sunsets – bands of purple, hues of red, and orange across the sky.

What comes to mind when you think of ‘beauty?’ What practices do you have, or might you add to your life, to see beauty every day? To see the abundance in God’s creation, to pause and really see, and to give thanks?

A,B,C,D….

alphabet
alphabet (Photo credit: Jim Davies)

This morning I received a download from http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com – a great site, if you’ve never visited it before, with spiritual practices from a variety of faiths.

The download was the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy;  “forms of practice that are markers of the spiritual life in all the world’s religions and spiritual paths.

For the next 37 days, for my own writing as well as spiritual practice, I will comment, at least briefly, on each of these practices.

Spiritual practices connect us with the world, with the Divine, with each other and with ourselves.  Intentionally drawing awareness to forms of connectedness can lead to a fuller, richer life – and our true selves.  May these coming days of intentional awareness through spiritual practices bring an abundance of life to us all.