Spiritual Discipline for the Week – Sabbath – Sunday

Today in church, Pastor Sarah challenged us to practice the spiritual discipline of Sabbath this week. The rules for Sabbath come from the oldest writings of the church. In Genesis, we are told to rest one day out of every seven, because God rested. God understood and understands that we get tired and worn out and burned out – even when we are doing good. And then in Exodus, we learn that the Israelites practiced Sabbath as an act of resistance. They refused to agree that their entire lives belonged to Pharaoh. And, likewise, in Jesus’ time, they practiced Sabbath as an act of resistance to the Roman occupiers.

1.  Notice throughout your week when you rest. What feels most restful to you? It’s very restful to disengage my brain. When the weather is decent, I love to sit in the rocker on the back porch and just rock. Sometimes I listen to music, but often I engage in an earlier Spiritual Discipline of enjoying silence. Reading a trashy novel, with no deadline, also lets me turn my mind off.

2.  Reflect on these two questions: What is saving my life? What is killing me? The beauty of the area where I live is saving my life right now. I can usually count on seeing Puget Sound every single day, and for someone who spent time languishing in Nevada and West Texas, cool water is a balm to my soul. The political climate, and the realization once again that people will descend into evil without a firm basis in a loving God, is destroying me. It’s killing my soul. I keep thinking if I could only talk to enough people, or educate enough children, or make enough phone calls to my elected representatives, surely things would begin to change and people would quit worrying about their own poverty, or powerlessness, or greed, and begin to think of the other people in our world. When I begin to despair, I often take a walk by the water and sit and listen to the waves lapping at the shore, and I gain a little peace, and the ability to go on with the work of changing the world.

3. Take one day this week for rest and no work. I’m retired, so I never work in the normal sense of the word. Because I don’t work, I have a hard time separating the days and “creating” a Sabbath. I am trying to quit obsessing about the number of steps I get on Sundays. The other days of the week, I try (and usually succeed) to get 10,000 steps a day. That involves carving time out of my other activities to walk, either indoors at the Wellness Center, or outdoors. For this one day a week, I eat what I want, and I don’t worry about how many steps I have. For someone who has been on a diet for three and a half years, not worrying about it is a real relief.


Spiritual Discipline for the Week – Prayer – Sunday

Today in church, Pastor Sarah challenged us to practice the spiritual discipline of prayer this week. If the best definition of prayer is connection with God, and if Jesus is God, why did Jesus pray? Sarah says that regular prayer will help us understand our purpose, and clarify what we are supposed to be doing. Here are the three things I hope to practice every day this week.

1.  Give up one regular activity this week and use the time for prayer. I’m going to go back to a previous practice I had of mindfulness. Recently I have become so focused on politics and the news, I haven’t been meditating every morning as I used to. Instead I have been reading The Skimm, and starting the day on a low simmer. For this week (at least), I will meditate instead of getting myself worked up about whatever political horror happened overnight.

2.  Listen to the Pray As You Go podcast. I have added the podcast to my iPhone, and have set a reminder for 5:00 pm. I already have the Ceaseless app on my phone, and it serves up three people every day for me to pray for by name. 5-10 minutes twice a day is far from the command to “pray without ceasing,” but it’s a start. Maybe with my life bracketed by prayer like this I will be able to fall into a more regular habit of prayer.

3. Experiment this week with a kind of prayer that is new for you. I’m probably least comfortable in naming my own desires in prayer. I have no problem praying for other people, but I resist asking for something for myself. I’ll try, this week, to recognize and accept what I want, and I’ll try to ask for it from God.


Spiritual Discipline for the Week – Listening – Sunday

Today in church, Pastor Sarah challenged us to practice the spiritual discipline of listening this week. She asked us to do three things every day.

1.  Sit still for a few minutes. Notice the sounds around you. What do you hear?

As I sat in the sun in the rocking chair on my back porch, I rocked and listened. I heard the birds.

There were several white-capped sparrows calling to each other with their distinctive “See, see, pretty, pretty, me!” I could hear at least three and possibly four different sparrows. One would call – another would answer – always with the same, vain song – “See, see, pretty, pretty me!” How does that echo my own vain song “See, ME, it’s all about me”?

There was also a whole flock of starlings quarrelling over the suet feeder! They squawked, and fluttered, and fought, until finally they all flew away – none of them having been able to get more than a taste. Because each one was so interested in getting there first, and getting the most, none of them got very much.

And when I was sitting still and listening, I could hear the beating of the wings of the chickadees as they fluttered across the yard, and the splashing of the robin in the bird bath under the tree. The chickadees have solved the problem of fighting for a place on the perch of the feeder. They nip into an empty spot and snatch one seed at a time, and retire to the branch of a tree to eat it. The robin enjoyed her solitary bath in the sun-warmed water.

2.  During your day notice which voices you trust.

On this 52nd Anniversary of our marriage, I trust this man. He has never let me down when it came to anything important. He has loved me, and he has provided for me and our children, and he has supported me as I grew into the woman I am today. When we met and married I was timid and unsure of myself, but after years of encouragement from him and the fact that I knew I could count on him to be there for me, I am strong and self-confident.

3. When you hear something you don’t want to hear, try asking yourself, “What is the Spirit saying to me?”

I really resisted reading this article ‘Soft Coup’ on Trump Hiding in Plain Sight. I realized that I have been so focused on MY side of the argument, that I have resisted hearing what the other side said. So I read the article. And I read the analysis on Medium. I’m not so stupid as to think that Trump is all bad, and the Democrats are all good, but I realized I may have been listening myself in to believing that. I think, once more, that Calvin was right. People may have been created without sin, but, left to their own devices, they will often (usually) choose the sinful, God-denying, self-important way. I realize the Spirit is telling me not to get too full of myself, and to keep on judging my attitudes and actions by Matthew 25. As I fancy myself as having more and more power in church circles and in life in general, I MUST keep remembering “Power corrupts! Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” May God have mercy on my soul.

2017 Intentions – May

As I said here, I dumped my original Star Word in favor of COURAGE.

These are my intentions for the year. Let’s see how I’m doing showing COURAGE in each case.

I will resist hatred, prejudice, and evil, and speak out against all of them when I see/hear them.

  • I will resist evil, hatred, and reactionary government by signing up with Wall of Us. Each week you will receive a list of four actions you can take by writing to your elected representatives to ensure your values are being considered by the government. Some are local, some are state, and some are national. Often you will receive suggestions of products to boycott or hatred to call out.
    • I’ve consistently made phone calls – either in support of my representatives positions or to encourage them to speak out. I have both US Senators’ and my Representative’s number saved in my phone and I call, at least, weekly.
    • I’m still calling. Right now, I’m focusing on LGBT rights, global warming, and immigrant rights.
  • I’ve signed up with People Power – a grassroots organizing effort backed by the ACLU.
    • I’m on the local leadership team for People Power in Tacoma
    • I have attended a City Council meeting where they were discussing eliminating fossil fuels from our port.
    • I’ve added my neighborhood council meeting to my calendar and will try to attend.
    • I attended a Washington Won’t Discriminate training, and will be working to bring Trans-101 training to groups I can influence. I also signed this letter as Vice-Moderator of Olympia Presbytery.

I will exercise regularly and eat good, healthy food.

  • I will try to get 10,000 steps a day – so far, so good, for the most part.
  • I will log my food every day (and no cheating)  – I have lost the weight I put on since the first of last May. That includes the weight I gained while traveling to see the Alabama Watters and at General Assembly. Next milestone will be when I get back to where I was when we returned from our big 50th Anniversary trip in November 2015.
  • I will cook most of the food we eat from scratch, and will be careful of extra salt and additives in any packaged foods – check, check, and check.
    • I have planted the tomato and pepper plants.
    • I’ve also planted green beans and squash, and the green beans have sprouted.
    •  I will continue to get Blue Apron meals whenever my schedule allows me time to prepare them. If you would like to try them, send me your email in a comment, and I’ll send you three free meals (I have at least 5 sets available).

I will make personal contact with at least half of the churches in the Presbytery.

  • I will meet the pastors for coffee and a “get-to-know-you” time. So far I’ve only connected at Presbytery meetings and events.
  • I was on a panel at the last Presbytery meeting because Bethany was one of the churches with the most growth – both in numbers and percentage.
  • I continue to attend Administrative Council meetings, Trustee meetings, Taskforce for New Worshipping Communities meetings, and meetings of the Granting Team for distributing mission money to various churches.
  • I will try to meet with the sessions and invite more participation by Ruling Elders in Presbytery meetings and commissions and committees.

I will work for more racial diversity and harmony in my city and church.

  • I will encourage a dialogue between Bethany and at least one historically Black congregation – no opportunities yet, but I’m working on it.
  • Our Interfaith Dialogue has continued through May. I have attended all four sessions, one at Bethany Presbyterian Church, one at Temple Beth-El, one at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and one hosted by the Mosque at the Library. We have studied how each religion thinks about Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohamed. In July we will meet with all the other faith communities for a picnic.

I will pray for Big Al as he faces decreased mobility and increasing pain from his back problems. I will try to remember that he is hurting, and not push him to do more than he is comfortable doing – I’m doing pretty well with this one, but it means I often go places and do things that leave him at home alone.