Friday, November 6, 2020

Look at the Day, Thankful for the Simple Blessings by Lavera Wade

 

Thankful I can hear the sound of the wind in the pines, the gentle lap of the waves on the shore, the prayers of the small birds in the early morning light, the silence of the morning covered in white.

Thankful I can see the colors of the changing seasons, the cherry blossoms, iris, daisies, roses, and marigolds, the changing colors of the leaves, snow on the bare branches.

Thankful for the taste of strawberries, ice cream, lemonade, and pumpkin pie.

Thankful for the smell of rain, a baby’s cheek, Thanksgiving dinner.

Thankful for memories of laughter, hugs, shared moments of silence.

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Psalm 103:1

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sunday School in a Pandemic by Lavera Wade

In one of my many Zoom meetings recently someone mentioned there was a survey of what church attendees missed most in this new world of Pandemic and Zoom, or where ever they were attending online services.  The list was:  1 HUGS, 2 coffee and cookies after the service, and 3. sitting at the table with a small group of fellow parishioners, and chatting about the everyday things. 

I am a hugger, I love Hugs and personally think there is never a point where a person could have too many Hugs.  Medical science has completed studies showing that good mental, and physical health is enhanced by Hugs.  I wonder if more people (especially the elderly) would have survived the virus if they had not been isolated, and thus received no physical touch by anyone, and especially anyone they loved.   

Which brings me to the story of our Sunday school class.  Our Sunday school class dwindled down to a half a dozen regular attendees before the virus closed the church.  After a month or so of not seeing these much-loved faces and sharing, I reached out and everyone was for meeting over Zoom.  Not everyone was able to attend but most were and so we meet once a week on Thursday and it has become my lifeline.  We open with a line of scripture, We read a paragraph from a book “Life Together in Christ” and  then share how the scripture and the reading from the book relate to our lives today.  We meet on Zoom for the forty minutes that are free.  Others pop in now and then, and we take delight in one members brand new granddaughter who grandma is babysitting, and we get to watch grow every week. 

I have shared with everyone I know, that I am keeping track of lost HUGS and the number is over 5 billion 756 thousand today.  I am blessed that I am closest to God when outside, on my knees, pulling weeds.  The spiritual practice of sitting outdoors listening to the early morning prayers of the birds, or the angels singing through the pines quiets my busy mind, and softens my heart. Some days just staring out the window as I enjoy the wonder of God’s creation fills my soul.  But that need for human contact still calls to me.  I will not live long enough to forget how precious a Hug is, when once again I can be face to face with all these people, I hold so dear.  And who knows sometimes when we are first able to feel safe, a complete stranger. 

The thought for the day is reach out, call someone your congregation address book is a good place to start, join or start a Sunday school class, or book club. Any group you can find or think of.  Human contact is good for your mental and physical health.

No it is just not the same, it is different, well from what I am reading we are not going to be together, in person for some time.  And what it will be like then most likely will be a new normal.  So we need to be as close as we can now, fill those lonely days with the voice’s on the phone, and the face’s on our computer.   May God bless us all with shared moments together in a pandemic.    

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Bloomsday during a Pandemic by Sandy Decker

For anyone who knows me well, you know that the first Sunday in May is always spent doing Bloomsday.  For those that don’t know Bloomsday is a 7.46 mile run in Spokane that has taken place in May since the 1970s.  Though Bloomsday has turned into so much more than a road race/fun run.  It is a community event that draws thousands of people not only to participate but to watch.  It grew to the all-time high in the 1996 at just over 61,000 participants and has now settled back down to around 40,000 to 45,000 each year.

Well, that has been typically how I would spend that first Sunday in May until this year, when the pandemic upon us has changed everything.  First the event was postponed until September then it was later changed to a virtual event.  With the virtual event, participants are to complete the 7.46 miles during a 3-day time span then report the time.

With the changes that have taken place with Bloomsday this year, it has me reflecting on why I do it.  This is my 40th year to participate in the event so I had a lot of experience to reflect upon.  I first began as a young adult, I was participating in an exercise class and many of my classmates were going to run the race.  I decided it would be fun to try and while I wasn’t very fast, I did run for most of the race.  This continued for a few years until life started getting in the way and I didn’t have time to train so I decided to take my five-year-old niece and walk.  This was a completely different experience and one I totally enjoyed.  For the next several years I took my nieces with me, then my sons as well.  One year I had one son in a stroller and one in a backpack.  Once my boys had moved away, I continued to do it by myself. And for the last several years my oldest son has done Bloomsday as well but since he is much faster than me, we part at the starting line and meet up again at the end.

So, this is what I have done but the question is why.  Why has this become part of my tradition and why have I kept on for 40 years.  I think it is several things, one is the personal accomplishment.  As I said, I am not particularly fast but I have always finished in a respectable time and feel good about participating.  Even beyond the personal accomplishment it is about being part of a community event.  It is about the fun and celebratory atmosphere that surrounds the event.  This year it will not be quite the same without the community celebration.

It occurs to me that all those thousands of people who participate in Bloomsday are following a common path with the same goal in mind.  The flow of people moving at their own pace but in many ways helping each other continue on the path.  Over the years I have had people, strangers, tell me that they were following my pace and it help keep them moving. People are all on different parts of the path. At times there are people moving along the entire race course at the same time. We are all moving together along a path to the finish line and to win that prize of a coveted t-shirt for the finishers 

Our faith community is like this, we are all on a common path with the same goal in mind, being in service and the mission of Christ. We are at different places on this path going at our own pace. At times we may need to look to someone else to keep us going and at times we may be the one that keeps others going.  The one difference I would say in this analogy is that on our faith journey we do not reach the end and then are done.  The journey doesn’t end at a finish line and we part ways. We may reach certain goals and accomplish tasks along the way but we continue along this journey together.

During this year, when everything has changed so much, let’s remember that we are in this together, traveling on the same faith journey all at our own pace yet with the same goal of loving and serving God and sharing His good news with others.

Although things are so different, we keep on because of that dedication that we have to each other and to God.  Just like I will be out doing the virtual Bloomsday without the community because I am dedicated to my tradition and I want to get the t-shirt!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Invite People to Christ by Carol Ann Reiff

 

When Terry finished Medical School we had to pay back the public health service.  We chose to go to a small town in Mississippi.  Moving to the “Bible Belt” was something we were not prepared for.  We moved into a very large, 100-year-old home in the middle of a small town, just 3 blocks from Terry’s clinic.  People treated us like we were royalty, bringing us vegetables every day.  We were not used to black eyed peas, boiled peanuts, and food we didn’t have in Montana.  Most of the time when they came, introducing themselves and offering food they would say something like, “Do y’all have a church to go to?  We’d sure like you to come to ours.”  Funny, we didn’t feel pushed or offended in any way.  In fact, we felt wanted, even cared about.  We drove most Sundays to our own denomination in Jackson, an hour away.  But sometimes we couldn’t so we’d attend other churches nearby.  We became so close to those people that when we finally left Durant one of the churches gave us a farewell dinner.  We loved their revivals with such talented singers.  Our children went to the Bible schools in the summer and I attended an inner-denominational bible study.  It was in that little town that I began to love Jesus and the Bible.  People there were very serious about their faith.  They took the bible very literally and tried to live up to Christ’s call in their life.  I still don’t take every part of the Bible literally but I hope I take it seriously.  It was there I also learned that inviting people to Christ didn’t have to be difficult.  It’s like giving them a gift of love.  It’s like giving them something so precious that life is more beautiful than it ever was before.


Monday, July 6, 2020

Meditation on Hymn “We Shall Overcome” By Roberta Tilden

We shall overcome – I remember fervently singing this song when I was in high school.

I remember watching innocent people being beaten with clubs and attacked by dogs just because they wanted equal rights.  Been there done that.  I thought we had overcome fear and prejudice permanently.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Here racism is rearing its ugly head again.  What is a person to do?

Fortunately those of us who belong to Community of Christ have a real vehicle for change at our disposal.  We have been encouraged to proclaim Christ and create communities of Joy, Hope Love, and Peace.  I do believe that we SHALL overcome one person at a time.

Walking hand in hand to create communities where people truly respect each other, and love diversity is our calling and our hope. 

We can pray for peace but we must also work for peace.

Will we live in peace someday?  Perhaps that is up to you and me.  Violence and racism can be catching, but so can Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace.  Live your commitment to the Christ and someday we will live in Peace.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Biscuits: A Spiritual Practice By Tyler Marz


Making food has been a passion of mine for many years. I recall learning from my mother, and grandmothers’ different recipes. Many of them were not “fancy” dishes, but delicious homecooked meals that they grew up eating. I have fond memories now thinking back to those times. Cooking and baking have become more than just a necessity but a spiritual practice.

While cooking for a reunion, I also offered a spiritual practice of making biscuits. This came out of a personal experience I had making biscuits one morning for myself. I had gathered all my ingredients and stood at the counter measuring out each. I incorporated a few secrets that ensured a tender biscuit with a crisp bottom and flaky layers. After I combined the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt I began to work the cold butter in with my fingertips – all the while staring out the window with the birds and spring foliage in front of me. I contemplated the hands that had worked to produce the ingredients I was using, the farmers and cows. I added the buttermilk, mixed, rolled, and cut out each biscuit, being present with the textures and sensations of the process. Round soft pillows of dough all lined in rows as they entered the oven.

As they came out of the oven, I split one open and added butter and a spread of homemade raspberry jam. For a moment I closed my eyes and smelled the butter. I then took a bite savoring the crisp and flaky texture and the tartness of the jam. I am thankful for the peace that filled that moment and knew that God was there.

During this reunion experience I had the participants do the same steps I did, being present each step of the way. They noticed the sensations and were prayerful about the ingredients and pondering the hands that assisted in the process. Later, as they consumed their fresh out-of-the-oven biscuit, they were silent, filled with memories of times past with food, families and friends. For each of them God was there in God’s own way, providing a sense of peace, memory and nourishment.


Editors note:  You can find Tyler's biscuit recipe at:  MarthaStewart.com/316713/flaky-Buttery-Biscuits

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Adventures in Spiritual Practices by Lavera Wade

Last Sunday during the Mission Center Sunday Service a guided centering prayer was offered. We were asked to close our eyes, and direct our attention to our breath, silently saying the word open as we breathed in and heart as we breathed out.   My busy little brain wanted to sing a favorite hymn that begins with “Open My Heart Lord”.  I am still growing in this process of spiritual practice.

For the last few years, I have been participating in the Spiritual Growth and Companioning program.  A great deal of time in this program has been devoted to the study and practice of spiritual practices.  At the first retreat for this class I was asked to select a spiritual practice that I would like to use daily.  I love God’s creation and have over the years found peace in gardening and fishing.  So I chose Holy Attention and devoted my time in spiritual practice each morning looking deeply at a toothpick holder that my husband a woodworker had made from a burl.

Or I would sit quietly on the patio bench watching finches, hummingbirds, and quail stop by for a snack. I found it easy to be still in this attention to God’s creation.  Well sometimes I found it easy, other times my busy brain would like to take off like a gerbil on a wheel with all kinds of conversations that were not happening, or concerns about issues out of my control.  In time I learned to gently quiet my busy mind and return to the silence.

Concentrating on the breath is an often suggested means of bringing the mind back to the meditation.  My problem is when I am concentrating on my breath I struggle to breathe normally.  I was grateful recently to read that this was not uncommon in learning spiritual practices.  One would think this would all be much simpler, but then there was a time when I did not know how to tie my shoes.  It is all part of learning and growing spiritually.

At the next retreat I was instructed by my leader to pick a new spiritual practice.  I liked the practice of Holy Attention and complained to my Spiritual Director that as I was learning so much from the practice of Holy Attention that I saw no reason to change to another practice.  A wise man, he suggested I try including the prayer of examen in my evening prayers for others, and continue the practice of Holy Attention as I wished. I said I would try it for a month.  The prayer of examen changed my life and I cannot image ever ending my day without this spiritual practice.  (See November 2019 Blog article)

Yesterday I received a book, Lectio Divina (required reading for the class) transforming words and images into heart centered prayer (by Christine Painter).  I will share an abbreviated portion of the of the initial steps of this spiritual practice suggested in this book.  After reading a short text or scripture,   settle into your prayer space (maybe spending some quiet time with your breath.)  Listen for a word or phrase in the reading that calls to you.  Repeat the word or phrase in silence.

Quietly listen for what images feelings or memories are stirring and welcome into your heart whatever comes.  Listen for how the stirring in your heart connects to your everyday life. In time prayer may arise spontaneously, when you allow your heart to be touched by this entering of God into your experience.  (Sometimes for me the prayer is a deep feeling of peace.)  Other times answers about the questions of my day will come to me later as I go about my daily activities. 

So, returning to the centering prayer last Sunday.  Amazing, I found that silently saying the word open as I breathed in and heart as I breathed out resulted in my breathing remaining fairly normal. I love it when at last I just get it.  We were asked to continue this breathing for one minute, and after a bell at the end of the minute, we were asked to open our eyes and rest in the silence for a minute and a half.  A minute and a half can seem like a very long time sometimes, and other times 20 minutes fly by. I use an egg timer or my phone to track time.

During this virus situation I have depended on spiritual practices to keep centered and find some peace in the midst of all this lack of normal as we knew it.  I find it easy to spend a couple minutes during the day, and other times for much longer, in silently opening my heart to God’s love. As I continue to learn the art of these different spiritual practices, I have found it easier to gently settle into the process.  Just enjoy the art of spiritual living.