Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Closing & Opening Chapters

University Peace Pole
That moment hit today. I was walking back from enjoying an annual event my department hosts and I began to tear up. Why? Well, in only four business days I'll be transitioning out of my current department into a new college to work as an EA to the dean. Of course, I'm super excited about this offer and move!! And yet, as I was walking back to the office today, the full realization that this chapter of my career was closing flooded me and I felt emotional. 

In 2013, I transferred to this job and that following weekend I began adoption certification classes. This was the job that supported me through adopting both my kids. These were the people who provided an adoption shower for me and my daughter, who gave me encouragement when adopting my son and gave a listening ear through it all! This department is where both my kids have visited their new Mama at work and caught a vision of what it would be like to go to college themselves.

So although it was tempting to stuff it all, as I walked back I instead let myself feel and remember. I let myself shed tears. In the next few days, I'll walk through the office and pray over people silently...those still at the department and those who will fill it after me. I do not want to shut down in the rush to the new job and miss the closing of this chapter of work. It's been a hard chapter and a good chapter. Sometimes we have to make the decision to let ourselves feel the turning page so that we can fully walk into new chapters.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lectio Divina ~ Devine Reading





I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s new book, Present Over Perfect and have been looking at the practice of Lectio Divina. Ever heard of it? There is something about it that I find so beautiful… specifically cuddled in the thought of, as she wrote, “trying to reimagine my faith as a soft place.”(1) I want to carry a gentle faith, almost soft, yet with the full knowledge that my faith is protective. And I desire my faith to be beautifully well-balanced and not to just see faith as a motivator.




“I picture God’s heart, red and beautiful; I breathe deeply and try to imagine my faith as protection from this frantic, soulless way of living, instead of one of its motivators.”(2)  - Chapter “Daughter”(2) from Present over Perfect (1)



The following is paraphrased from Wikipedia - So in portions of the Christian faith, Lectio Divina (Latin for "Divine Reading") is the practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God. Scripture is not studied in this practice but instead soaked in as the word, living and active. In a sense, the beloved glance at the verses with Christ. For example, in John 14:27 Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you." An analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement while in Lectio Divina, we would seek to rest inside this peace from Christ rather than "dissecting" it.

“Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation — The four stages of Lectio Divina as taught by John of the Cross.”


Another way of viewing Lectio Divina has been likened to "feasting on the Word": first, the taking of a bite (lectio); then chewing on it (meditatio); savoring its essence (oratio) and, finally, "digesting" it and making it a part of the body (contemplatio). 

The Practice:

  • Lectio ("read")  “these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” - 1 Corinthians 2:9–10. In Lectio, you relax into a calm and tranquil state of mind to prepare for full Lectio Divina. A stillness, as in Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God,” while inviting the Holy Spirit to guide the reading of the Scripture. The biblical basis for the preparation goes back to 1 Corinthians 2:9–10 which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing the Word of God. Following the preparation, the first movement of Lectio Divina is a slow and gradual reading of the scriptural passage, perhaps a few times.

  • Meditatio ("meditate") Although Lectio Divina involves reading, it is less a practice of reading than one of listening to the inner message of the Scripture delivered through the Holy Spirit. Lectio Divina does not seek information or motivation, but communion with God. The second movement in Lectio Divina is meditating and pondering on the scriptural passage. The English word ponder comes from the Latin pondus which relates to the mental activity of weighing or considering. To ponder, the passage is held lightly, gently, and considered from various angles.
  • Oratio ("pray") In the Christian tradition, prayer is understood as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with God who has invited us into an embrace about what you "savored" about the verse and God.
  • Contemplatio ("contemplate") Contemplation takes place in terms of silent prayer that expresses love for God through what the scripture and Spirit reveal and absorbing it into yourself deeply. In the 14th century, Richard Rolle expressed that contemplation as the path that leads the soul to union with God.

There are all kinds of videos on this practice but when I felt that they all seemed very strategic and  seemed too strict especially since this practice provided descriptions of a deep, gentle time with God. So instead, I'll leave this post with a video from David Steindle-Rast because I love his description of considering so many ways God expresses love.

Listening to God: What does it mean to listen to God? Brother David Steindl-Rast
explains that "God is so simple that he has only one thing to say: I love you."

Video also found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCqdoEF_Uus


 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Battling the Balrog


Life has been full of turmoil. I'm not talking just hard times of, "Oh, it's been stressful." No. The past six months sent me into full-on warrior mode and I've been taking a beating!

Remember in the Fellowship of the Ring movie when Gandalf battled the Balrog? That's fitting. Dark shadow, fire and smoke stepped towards me. Certainly, I gave my mighty shout to its sure defeat and I fought to protect my loved ones...yet as it began to fall into the abyss, it totally caught me in the thongs of its whip and pulled me down too!

As the battle rages, I find that many of the weapons I typically use during hard times are not enough. After all, I'm in a battle with a Balrog...just look at it!! So I have scrambled for better armaments. 

My Personal Balrog Weapons:   

 

Personal counseling: I signed up for weekly appointments (yup, that's right..weekly!) Life was coming too fast. I needed someone with whom I wasn't obligated to meet their needs. Speaking to friends and family during hard times is a lifesaver but those are two-way relationships. I am gaining a profession perspective and support from someone who can bear the FULL weight of my situation and does not expect or require any emotional support from me in return. Invaluable!
Purge: 
  • Septic people and negative social media. I recently culled almost 60 people and 10 groups from my social media. I keep my social media small anyway but somethings still needed to change. Many of these people were "somebody that I used to know" people while others are ones who create drama and breed unrest in my life. Bye.
  • Inflammatory, depressing, or violent news reporting. Talk about information overload! Being "in the know" was actually making things harder. Flash news has become an everyday occurrence. Instead, lighten your information intake. Turn off none essential notifications. I'm finding that TV news, email updates and trending links are often like a soap-opera. You can take a break from it and even when you do come back, the same things are going on. You won't miss much.
  • Conventionalism. Because my preteen son is going through medical and emotional challenges, there are conventional expectation I've had to release for both for myself as Mom and for my children. You ready? Showers and brushing teeth every night, clean room, eating perfectly balanced meals...whatever! When you are in this kind of battle...think big picture. Battle your largest enemy. You can handle the smaller street fights all in good time.

Reboot: Although big changes can be stressful, sometimes a big change can lighten your load and be highly beneficial. Do you need to change jobs to lessen your stress? If you move to a different neighborhood would you gain a new beginning? For me, the reboot was spiritual. By August of 2016, I'd been following hard after God for over 17 years. When this battle ensued it took the largest toll on my relationship with God. Your Balrog battle may require you to take a hard look at your spiritual support system. As a single mom, my little adoptive family simply needed more support than my long-time, long distance church fellowship provided. For my own spiritual relationship with God and for my children's emotional and mental health, I transition us to a closer church to worship with a smaller, group of disciples. 

Many will battle a Balrog eventually. Ultimately, in this battle one of the most powerful weapons has been to remember who I am truly fighting for...my relationship with God and my children.

"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers