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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

When You Can’t Pray by John VanDerWalker

There has been a growing impatience with the response “Our thoughts and prayers are with you/them.”   People of faith and folks of social conscience are beginning to say, let’s quit praying and do something about _________.  This is a valid criticism and one that we should, as disciples of Jesus consider as a criticism on Christian discipleship.  If all Jesus had done is pray and not extended healing touch and liberation the blind would have remained so, the guilty would have been condemned and the world would be in darkness.

But what about when you can’t pray?  Some would have you believe that prayer can be stopped by laws, I know better, I have prayed in the midst of some very hostile environments, and have offered vocal public prayers calling those in power to account.  There is nowhere in the world that you cannot pray, if you are able.

Sound like a contradiction?  Well maybe, but let me explain.  There has been a time in my life that I couldn’t pray.  The habit was still there, the desire or maybe the motivation was there, but the thoughts and words would not come.  I have sat, stood, laid in silence with my tongue and mind in neutral, no thoughts, no words, no prayers.  Recently this has gone on for years. 

Now, before you start pitying me, hang on. 

I have never once felt alone or abandoned by God in these times.  As I think back on those dry spells I am reminded of the witness of nature, the witness of my friends, my family, spiritual leaders, and authors.  Not once did God discontinue to show me God’s presence, whether it be in the antics of chickadees, the grace of soaring eagles, the rambunctious joy of a fawn, or the meditative murmur of a trout stream, God was constantly present and speaking.  I have had folks reach out to me out of the blue, like my high school friend David, who upon hearing of the passing of a loved one has called every couple of weeks just to make sure I was ok.  Or the dedication of colleagues who make sure the job gets done well and with a sense of joy to boot.  There is always the witness of faithfulness from my life companion who has not had an easy time with me. 

God’s genius expressed in the genius of men and women who are able to use words on paper to generate ideas, confirm feelings and foster inspiration, is witness to me in early morning and late evening reading sessions that at times last hours.  I sense God there on the pages flowing from the minds of those who write.  Wendell Berry, Barbara Brown Taylor, Brian McLaren, and on and on.

I know that some have felt abandoned by God, luckily I have not really been there, but I have been and am somewhat still mute when it comes to prayer, or at least what I was taught was prayer.  My mind swirls with the condition of the planet, the pain of my friends and the struggle of family and while that tornado is spinning in my head, still the words do not come, and so I sit, stand, lie, quietly, paying attention to the presence of God around me.  I listen.  And maybe that is appropriate for me, maybe I have said enough for a lifetime and now it is time to listen, to watch, to feel, to act.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Finding God among the produce by Mark Olson

I have always enjoyed food and cooking.  Twelve years ago my relationship to both changed when I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  I spent many months journaling about and examining my relationship to food. I tracked what I ate, when I ate, how much I ate and, most importantly, why I ate.  I read books and articles. I talked to doctors and dieticians.  Slowly, I began to see food with new eyes.

I adopted a very basic guiding principle that 70-80% of what I ate needed to cut up by me. I had my knives sharpened. I started spending time carefully picking out fresh produce, washing it and chopping it.  This small act has become a cornerstone of my spiritual life. 

Chopping garlic, onions, peppers, and mushrooms and peeling grapefruit, avocados and oranges has become a meditation practice.  I spend time with my cutting boards and my knives preparing wholesome food to nourish body and soul. 

I grew up saying grace before dinner.  Now, I give thanks to all the hands that help provide the food I cut up.  I give thanks for the fresh produce.  I give thanks for the opportunity to prepare food that will nourish the body and soul of all those who partake of it.  I give thanks and enjoy my time cutting and chopping.  The rhythm of chopping produce has a meditative-spiritual affect when done with intention and attention.  This is what the Buddhist call “joyful effort”.  Every pear cut, every cucumber peeled, every tomato sliced becomes an opportunity to give thanks. It can be an opportunity to live in the moment and connect with the life-giving bounty of God’s creation.