I love to send our Christmas cards. I love to write the family ‘news’ letter that goes in them. It is always a great way to review the past year and see what happened. It gives me a chance to say “Thank you God’ for all the wonderful things that happened and the daily gift of life we have received. It gives me the chance to pray again for all those times when there was hurt and healing and some might still be needed. And then I can say ‘Thank you, God for being there in the midst of that and holding us up and getting us through.” It gives me a chance to see the big picture for the past year and pray about the year to come.
And when I go to the mailbox and receive a card, my heart jumps for joy as I remember the people who have remembered me and who somehow have touched my life. And I say “Thank you God”.
But the part I love the most is at the end of the Christmas season when I am putting away all our Christmas decorations, and I brew a cup of tea and sit down with the Christmas cards we have received. I do this sometime after January 6 – Epiphany or the visit of the magi day, so usually all the late cards have come in. I sit down and read through each one again. This time I can do it slowly. They always bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart. As I read the ‘news’ letters from my friends and family I pray for them – for all their joys and blessings, for all the hurts and trials and temptations.
Next year, I encourage you to join me in these Christmas card prayers. It gives a little more meaning to the season. It helps me to slow down and pray for the ones who mean so much to me and who I may not think of often. And you can do this at any card occasion – Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries, Birthdays – in sending or in receiving. It is always a great time to give the greeting more meaning by adding a prayer.
Happy New Year
Remember you are blessed to be a blessing,
It is fall (or autumn here in England). There is a bit of nip in the air. The wind has picked up. There are more and more leaves on the sidewalk for us to shuffle through. It is a time for ghost stories, harvests, and apple pies. Our thoughts begin turn to the next three big holidays: Halloween (or All Saints Days), Thanksgiving (US), and Christmas.
Throughout the ages this time of year has been a time to be thankful. I found myself walking through the newt reserve the other day and I was so grateful for my life, my family, the beautiful weather and the beautiful place to walk a: “Thank you God”, sprang from my heart. That first one was quickly followed by another, and another. After maybe ten I realized I was saying “Thank you” – not for that moment in time – but just ‘thank you God'; for being you, for being with me, for watching over the world that seems so messy at times. And I kept on saying ‘thank you God’. It went on for maybe five minutes. My heart filled with joy; it was a holy time of worship.
I really never stop to say “Thank you God’ unless there is something that I perceive is ‘wonderful’. It occurred to me that I really should say thank you every day just because… Just because God, Creator of the universe, doesn’t ‘need’ it but ‘deserves’ it, for no reason other than ‘just because’.
And so for me a new form of prayer was born. I want to remember daily to just say “Thank you God’ for no reason. I want to say it for awhile and feel that bubbling up spontaneous worship again, because God and I need that time together; with no requests, no complaints, nothing but “Thank yous’.
Something to think about,
May the blessings of God be known and felt by you this day,
With love and prayers,
every place is truly holy…..the earth we walk upon is holy…the air we breath is a reminder of the breath of God that breathed life into us….the people we meet are created in the image of God and has Julian of Norwich says – have a little bit of them that is always connected to God. Madelaine L’Engle would say: God’s thumb print is upon all that God created.
Genesis 1 says after each day that God has made – “And God said that it was good.” All of creation is good. All of creation is created by God and therefore is holy.
Yes, Iona is a thin place, where we are a little closer to God but that does not negate the reality that every day, every person, every bit of earth and sky – wherever you are is also holy.
We were reminded of this at Iona because at 9 a.m. we gathered for worship in the Abbey Church. It was generally a short service of 15-20 minutes and we closed the worship standing up and without an ‘amen’. The closing response in the Iona Abbey Worship Book (p. 22) went like this:
L: This is the day that God has made;
All: We will rejoice and be glad in it.
L: We will not offer to God
All: Offerings that cost us nothing.
L: Go in peace to love and to serve;
All: We will seek peace and pursue it.
L: In the name of the Trinity of Love,
All: God in community, holy and one.
(We remain standing to leave, the work of our day flowering directly from our worship)
All of the rest of the days activities were found in between our morning and evening worship. All of day and all of our deeds were an offering up to God and an act of worship. This is how every day should be – not just the days on Iona. It is very hard to live that way. But it is something we should strive for to keep us reminded that every bit of life is lived in the presence of God and for the purposes of God and therefore it is holy.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Ephesians 1:3 says: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places….Iona is a heavenly place and it certainly was a blessing to me….http://iona.org.uk/
I spent a week here living in community and learning about Iona and its worship and mission.
What can I say?
It was a great week.
What can I say? I saw the Gospel lived out everyday in the wonderful volunteers who offered us extreme hospitality. I saw the Gospel lived out in daily worship at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. The perfect way to start and finish my day. The worship was fresh and alive and filled with good songs with great words. It was filled with real liturgy and prayer – no fluff here. We got down to the nitty gritty of living the Gospel.
What can I say? I met great people from all over the world: Africa, India, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Scotland, Canada, the U.S. and there were volunteer from many more places. We came from all walks of life and from many different places on our spiritual journeys. It was a blessing to get to know one another and share our journeys and grow together.
We gathered together to talk about worship and how to look at the words of the hymns we like to sing and if we sing what we mean and mean what we sing. We learned some new songs written by members of the community. We had an overview of their most excellent bookstore and the works of Wild Goose publishing – http://www.ionabooks.com/. We took time to ponder how we make decisions about ‘where we are headed’. We took a tour of the Abbey church and heard its history.
We shared wonderful food – many blessings and thanks to their wonderful cook and her cadre of helpers – mostly vegetarian and always yummy.
We shared chores – to help keep us all clean and healthy – and take care of this wonderful place. It helped us to get to know one another as we worked together preparing the dining hall for a meal and each taking part in the cleaning and sweeping and such.
We got to enjoy some wonderful art work – on the walls and in the Abbey.
We had an opportunity to knit for peace.
We had an excellent day to walk 7 miles around the island on a pilgrimage to hear its story and to think about our walk through the wider world and how we can care for it and for the beautiful children of God that God has placed in this world. We were blessed with a sunny day!! The beaches and the sky were beautiful blues. I will have pictures later. We walked together. Helping each other over the difficult bits. Seeing the beautiful wild flowers (some orchids), and the birds, and rocks and rocks and more rocks…on the beaches, the foundation on which we walked, and up into the hills. We stopped and pondered and ate our lunches and later had tea and flapjacks. And I made it to the end. I had foot surgeries on both feet and ankles last year and so it was a goal to be ready to do this walk as a sign of healing and a step into a more healthy life as a I can exercise to the fullest once again. I was very thankful.
I journaled and journaled and journaled some more.
I found quiet places to sit and ponder – from my room that I shared with a wonderful Scottish woman, to the library, and all the various corners of the Abbey church, cloisters, etc.
A wonderful boat trip out to the island of Staffa to see Fingal’s (the giant) cave and the puffins. The puffins come up from the ocean when people come because we keep away the gulls that will attack and kill them. Also saw a pair of oyster catchers (birds) and their two nestlings.
I walked beaches and listened to the ocean waves, saw the tidal pools filled with barnacles, sea anemones, snails and algae.
As we parted we talked about the many ways that we took to arrive at Iona – many of us traveling all day. We decided that it was good because it helped us to prepare for our arrival and the week. And the same as we left – the long journey home gave us time to debrief and transition and it was indeed part of the spiritual experience of the entire week.
Well that is enough for this post…..as the pictures are put onto the computer I will share them and share more of my thoughts of the journey…..
I recommend it highly……
May is mental health month….and my United Methodist Brothers and Sisters are offering these ten tips to improve your mental health….one of them is to take care of your spirit…. We need to work on body, mind, spirit all together….and attend to each one to find wholeness…So get your physical exercise for your body, do your crossword to get your mental exercise, go to Church and Bible study and prayer meeting and maybe even a spiritual director – to take care of your spirit and doing all of that will increase your mental and emotional health….you are a child of God and you are worth it…its great for you, for your friends and family, and for the Church and for the world….take care of yourself and you can help others……
Ten Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
May is Mental Health month. Use these tools to care for your body, mind and soul.May is Mental Health month. Use these tools to care for your body, mind and soul.
By Julia Kayser Frisbie*
Healthy habits positively influence how a person feels and how his or her body functions. Good health involves not only caring for our bodies, but also our minds. Overall wellness is not possible without mental health. May is Mental Health Month. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is partnering with Mental Health America to raise awareness of the role mental health plays in our lives. Here are 10 tools that can you can use to improve your mental health:
Stay connected. Nurture relationships with family and friends. A church or volunteer community can be a great way to connect with the people who are most important to you.
Stay positive. UMCOR shares stories of hope from around the world with a message: You have the power to make a difference. Remember to extend the same compassion to yourself as you do to the people you serve.
Get physically active. Exercise releases endorphins that can make you feel good and help your brain function at its highest level.
Help others. There are underserved people in every community. Who could you reach out to? Do any organizations in your area have a need that your church could fill? Even if you can’t volunteer in person, financial gifts can offer significant help to people in need.
Get enough sleep. Dr. William Dement has been an eminent sleep researcher for 50 years. “As far as I know,” he said in an interview with National Geographic, “the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.” We may not know why, but his research shows that sleep deprivation can cause a mental fog, slower reflexes and emotional instability.
Create joy and satisfaction. Laughter can be good medicine. It decreases pain and anxiety by relaxing muscles and, like exercise, it helps to release endorphins. So, if you can’t make it to the gym tonight, settle for a good laugh. Fellowship with your church community is another great way to bring joy into your life, and into the lives of people you care about. Or, like Monterey United Methodist Church in California, consider celebrating a Holy Humor Sunday together!
Eat well. Food doesn’t just fuel your body; it fuels your brain, too. That’s one reason why UMCOR is working to boost nutrition around the world through its sustainable agriculture programs. Making healthy food choices doesn’t have to be a drag. Local and seasonal foods are often the most delicious … and when we eat them in moderation, we enjoy them even more.
Take care of your spirit. Cultivate a prayer life that calms and centers you. Lean on your faith community. Examine your beliefs and explore spiritual disciplines. Our ever-loving God is a powerful source of mental strength.
Seek help during hard times. Crisis changes us, but it doesn’t have to break us. UMCOR’s Early Response Teams are trained to provide emotional support to communities that have been devastated by disasters. And congregations of The United Methodist Church across the world stand ready to respond in times of personal stress and grief. When you’re hurting, reach out to your faith community. Try to get even better exercise, sleep and nutrition than normal.
Get professional help if you need it. Nobody needs to go it alone. Dr. Rea Scovill, a United Methodist in Oregon, is a retired psychologist. She writes in her blog: “Mental fitness, like physical fitness, requires that you claim it … to become mentally fit, you must find ways to train your mind to cope better than average.” Reaching out to a mental health professional is like hiring a personal trainer at the gym. It can be a good investment in your health.
Pastor Kim B2
Once upon a time the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and Jesus gave them this prayer….
Matthew 6:9-13 from Bible Gateway.com – New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
9 “Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.[a]
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,[b]
but rescue us from the evil one.[c]
Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow
Matthew 6:13 Or us into temptation
Matthew 6:13 Or from evil. Other ancient authorities add, in some form, For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
We call this prayer “The Lord’s Prayer”. If you are a Christian who attends worship regularly and has a personal daily devotion you may have prayed this prayer 1000’s of times in your life. Often, when we hear/pray something like this so many times, it becomes rote and we really don’t hear what we have said. We loose the meaning of it. That is a shame because this prayer is so deep and means so much.
The first time I remember being made aware of my ‘roteness’ in saying this prayer was during a seminary chapel experience when two people performed a mini-skit based on the Lord’s prayer. It begins with one person saying: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”. And then a voice responds…”Yes”. And the first person looks around like they don’t know where the voice comes from, not seeing anyone, they shrug their shoulders and return to the prayer starting at the beginning; “Our Father, who art in heaven,”. Again the voice says’ “Yes”. The ‘Prayer’ then says something like, ‘Who is this?” The voice responds, “God.” The ‘Prayer’ says, “Well stop bothering me, I am praying.” The conversation continues between God and the ‘Prayer’. They discuss the meaning of the prayer in detail. The ‘Prayer’ is ‘caught’ in their lack of understanding of the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and prayer in general and promises to do better.
This skit really got me because I realized I had prayed the Lord’s Prayer like that a lot – maybe most often.
Which reminded me of another time I truly ‘encountered’ the Lord’s Prayer. I was a Sunday School teacher, at age 12, writing up the prayer for a group Sunday School teaching moment. I remember that every time I went to write the next word I had to start at the beginning of the prayer. I finally had to go open a hymnal to write it out because I had learned it by rote from a very early age and had never read it on a page.
In my life I have found that I often get ‘caught’ in the routine of my prayers and forget to really be open to God when I pray; I am just saying the words without thinking of their meaning and ‘meaning their meaning’ as I pray them. These days I am most aware of my doing this when I am on my way to my monthly meeting with my spiritual director. Sometimes that 45 minute ride in the car to her house is the only time in the last month I really thought deeply about my ‘spiritual life”. I find I am a bit desperate to find something ‘spiritual’ in my life other than, “I did my daily devotions”.
By the time I reach my spiritual direction session, I have ‘primed the pump’ and the Holy Spirit kicks in through the spiritual director and then I have something to talk about during our time. I hate to say how often this is the case…. And then on the way home I generally go over our conversation and save away some ‘gold nuggets’ in my heart (sometimes promptly forgotten unless I stop to write them down in my journal). I am better at writing these insights in my journal and usually this meeting with my spiritual director revives my spirit and pulls me out of the ‘roteness’ of my spiritual journey and God’s Holy Spirit renews me again.
This is one reason why I need a spiritual director…
Does this happen to you?
Do you think you would benefit from having a spiritual director to get you out of the “roteness” of your devotion time with God? If so, give me a call and lets talk.
Maybe this isn’t you – “How and Why do you need a spiritual director?”
Grace and Peace to you, Pastor Kim B2
To learn more about labyrinths you may follow this link: http://www.veriditas.org
To me labyrinths are part art and all prayer. I love to look at them. They are beautiful.
A labyrinth is a path, with only one way in and one way out. It is not a maze where one has to choose your path. Labyrinths are very ancient and were around before the Christian era. We do not know why the ancients created them or how they used them.
Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying: “This is the way: walk in it.”
Labyrinths have been used by Christians for hundreds of years now. The most famous one is in a Cathedral in Chartres, France. It was built around 1200 C.E. We do not know how the Christians of that day used the labyrinth.
I believe that Jesus came to make all things new. Jesus took many beloved traditions and symbols and ceremonies from his Jewish tradition and transformed them into something new for his disciples. I see the labyrinth in the same light – what once was not Christian can now be used by Christians if your goal is to serve the Lord.
I use labyrinths for a time of meditation and prayer. I begin my walk with a prayer or scripture and begin slowly following the path. My purpose is to draw closer to God as I wind my way to the center. I may pause here to pray or to journal. And then I walk back out again. I generally end my walk at the entrance/exit by saying The Lord’s Prayer. The labyrinth is a metaphor for our life in Christ and as I walk I find new ways to be with God, search for God, let God heal me and create in my spirit something new of God and for God. I always come away refreshed, renewed, and healed.
I love to walk the labyrinth alone. I love to use the labyrinth as a part of the retreats I lead when it is appropriate. Often times I just leave a labyrinth out for walking during breaks or personal time. I have prepared labyrinth programs for seasons of the Church year like Advent or Lent and have used it for creating a prayer space.
If you would like me to lead a labyrinth walk for you or to design a retreat with a labyrinth or if you just want to know more about labyrinths please contact me through this website.
Psalm 25:4 Make me to know your ways, O God; teach me your paths.
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