A moment of retreat

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Have you ever had the opportunity to meet someone who, even though they are going through a difficult struggle in life, seems not only be joyful but also shares their joy with others?  These people who carry the weight of the world with grace and courage inspire us and make us feel as if the world is a kind and loving place.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who take their struggles and seem to leak them out on others.  The weight they carry is massive, and so they are continually unloading it and often at inappropriate times.  We recognize them by their anger, bitterness, and pessimism.

In the previous post, I shared with you the poem How Can I?  I share these dark moments not to be morose, but to recognize the authenticity and importance of those moments. I Feel we are at our best when we can acknowledge and accept them as a gift.  Life will throw us curve balls, and sometimes really hard and fast!  However, at that moment when we are afraid, empty and have no answers, we have a great deal of space in our heart, mind, and spirit.  We can choose to be active while waiting, filling our time with distractions like television, internet, and projects.  Or we can choose to actively wait.

This month a fantastic team is working together to put the finishing touches on The Joy Retreat.  There is a great deal of actively waiting involved in the preparation.  Actively waiting means simply being, being in the place and doing the things that can bring us answers and fill our empty spaces in a healthy and fulfilling way.  We need to be actively pushing away the habits of instant gratification and embracing the moment between not knowing and knowing.  What we do in those moments our team is calling Habits of Joy.  

How can we have joy and feel joyful when life is hard and grievous difficulties are close at hand?  How can we feel joy when we cannot see the rainbow at the end of the journey?   The joy in waiting comes when we are actively practicing habits of joy.

I believe we all have habits of joy and we exercise them.  Although, if you are like me, it is not as often as we should and generally it is at the moment when we have just had enough.  But the more we exercise Habits of Joy, the more ingrained the habits become and our ever-present inner joy , will surface, even in moments of deep sorrow.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.                        Hebrews 3:13-14  (NIV)

I invite you to take a moment and participate in the Joy Retreat by sharing here…

What do you do when you are actively waiting?  What are the habits that spark or restore your joy?

Peace to you all,

Alana

A moment in winter

“As long as the earth endures,
    seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.”  Genesis 8:22

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The rays that persistently push,

in the early hours,

cannot make their way into my heart.

The clouds are heavy with sorrow.

The night has been too dark.

Trees are barren. 

Leaves crumbled and brown.

Is God not everywhere?

Is he not only in the heavens but in the earth?

I see only the gray hard ground.

No sign of spring.

No memory of the sun.

I have no strength to search.

I touch the ground.

It is not to the hand as it is to the eye.

Though it appears cold and hard,

It is soft and pliable.

Though cold, it moves at my touch.

I feel a warmth from within.

The Creator and I are united.

His vision is mine.

His hands are mine. 

A seed is planted.

And the grey darkness is once again a new life.

A moment in the mirror

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But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.  James 1:22-24

As I was putting on my makeup this morning, I remembered that as a child our bathroom had a three-way mirror.  With the end mirrors spread wide you could see only the surface, however, if you pulled the end mirrors together, you could see infinite images of yourself.   Spiritual reflection can be a bit like looking into that mirror.  Looking only at the surface, you might focus on the perceived imperfections and be critical.   Pull in the sides, and you will see deeply, so deeply you may lose focus on what is real and true.  There is, however, that perfect angle, the angle where the end mirrors are pulled into just the right place, and you can see all sides of yourself.  Without distortion, you can see a clear reflection of who you are.  Even if only for a moment hold onto that clarity, it is a gift.

For me, scripture is the guide I use to set the angles.  Scripture gives me the guidance to go deep into my spiritual search while keeping the image of myself from getting too deep and distorted.  The words in James remind me to look, see, reflect and then go back out and live.  Live with and into that perfect clear image of myself.  Perfect does not mean flawless, but perfect as I am created in the image of God, who knows me from all angles and loves me deeply.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Take a moment today to look into the mirror at as many angles as your mirror will allow.   Look into the flaws and the flawless parts of who you are and know that God loves you from every angle.

Peace,

Alana

 

A moment for joy

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This evening, I with many others will begin a weekend retreat.  For those who cannot be there tonight, I want to share the opening discussion.  Some of the words are my own, but much credit must go to the books I have read this year. The most influential books are cited below.

The theme of the weekend:

WHOLEHEARTED JOY

Wholehearted  (whole·heart·ed) adjective–showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment. Synonyms:  devoted, enthusiastic and unshakeable.

What are we devoted to?  What is the condition of our heart?

The Dalai Lama says love, kindness, and affection are the source of joy.

Archbishop Desmund Tutu says we should have a generosity of spirit, be big-hearted, be broadminded, be forgiving, be kind, be magnanimous, be an oasis of peace.

There are difficulties in life that make wholehearted joy sometimes seem distant or unattainable.  Saturday morning at the retreat we will explore some of the things that fill the spaces in our heart and prevent the fulness of love from entering in.  We will release them as best we can over the weekend to allow more room in our hearts for love, kindness, affection, and joy!

Before we begin this process, we need a solid foundation.  So, let’s start with the solid foundation of God’s love.  We were created by love, in love, for love.  God delights in us.  God wants us to be happy and full of joy.  Until we believe this with our whole hearts, we will keep working to be happy thinking that we must control our lives, thinking it is up to us to make things good.

In God’s story of creation, his love story of the beginning of the world, everything is good from the start.  Take a moment here and read the story.   I am sure you have already read it, but I encourage you to reread it.  Read it as poetry and, listen for the love the excitement and the joy as our creator forms the world and us.

Genesis 1 (NRSV)

What do you imagine God was feeling?  Can you see the care he was taking?  And every day he declared His creation good!  On the seventh day, God rested.  God must have thought his work was complete or he would have continued.  But, God had thought of everything, made provisions for it, and so he rested.

Proverbs 8:22-31  Wisdom in creation joins with God in delight!

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
    then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the human race.

Psalm 104 is a song of praise for God’s creation, and it is full of joy! Can you hear the joy?

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
    O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
    wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
    you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
    you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
    fire and flame your ministers.

You set the earth on its foundations,
    so that it shall never be shaken…

In wisdom you have made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures…

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

 

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5

In his wisdom, God created us in His image, and he delights in us.  All that we are and all that we are becoming.  He is pleased with the process of mankind being and becoming like him, and he has provided everything for it.  He blesses us from the beginning and eagerly waits for us to rest with him in love.
Take a moment this evening to make a list of all the good things that God has blessed you with, in your life.  Include the good attributes he has given you to share with his creation.  Use this list and write your own Psalm of praise to your Creator who created you; by love, in love, and for love.
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Citations:

LAMA, DALAI TUTU ARCHBISHOP DESMOND. BOOK OF JOY. ARROW BOOKS LTD, 2018.

Benner, David G. Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality. IVP Books, 2015.

“BibleGateway.” BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 150 Versions and 50 Languages., http://www.biblegateway.com/.