Category Archives: faith

Becoming an Elder

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When a neighbor drove by as I was walking, she rolled down her window and pointed behind us with a smile and said, “Home is back that way” . . . “we’re going to need that kind of help someday.” We laughed and she drove on, having reminded me that we are conscious about getting older even though we still feel young.

Part of my ministry is to craft a worship service once a month for Unitarian Universalists and their friends who are residents of a retirement community near our church. In that environment I feel too young at 70 to have a real understanding of life at 80, 90, or 100 (as two of them will soon celebrate their centennial birthdays!).

Part of my personal quest is to age with a certain amount of grace and purpose. To that end, I signed up for a four-week, on-line webinar on Eldering. It’s designed for spiritual companions like me and equally important, for my future decade(s). Getting older can also be a path to becoming more open-hearted and appreciative of life at any age.

The New York Times Magazine has a weekly column entitled “New Sentences.” Translated from the original Japanese, author Sayaka Murata writes, “I’m now thirty-six years old, and the convenience-store-worker-me is eighteen.” (Click on the image to read the short commentary by Sam Anderson.)

I salute you, at each of your inner and outer ages!

 

Experiment

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I started a new website using a WordPress template. I can take advantage of their ability while challenging myself to learn more about this technology.

https://www.heartblessings.org

Consider it a work in progress and do let me know what you think.

Why bother? I am a recent graduate of Formation in Direction, a program offered by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to train people in spiritual formation and direction. Our class (the best one ever!) included clergy and lay people from a cross-section of theologies and life experiences. Now I’m interested in applying what I’ve learned with others. Individual spiritual direction provides a private space to listen to what’s in someone’s heart and help them apply that inner wisdom to daily life. Small groups have the same intention, and there’s a strong chance that collective wisdom will enhance all of our lives. Spirituality does not depend on your particular set of beliefs, but it thrives when you feel connected to the spirit within yourself.

How are your heart and soul today?

 

Micro-theology

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Reading, reading, and more reading is for me a time-tested source of reflection. This week it’s The Practice of Spiritual Direction, by William A. Barry & William J. Connolly. They ask, “Who is God for me, and who am I for God?”

Who is God for me? God is infinity, God is love. God is both remote and inaccessible and also fully present and personal. For me that means God transcends mystery, which can be microscopic or cosmic in nature. God is always present, but not in control.

Who am I for God? Wholly imperfect, fully human, worthy, and loved.

How do I feel about myself in relation to God? Inadequate, imperfect (based on deep-seated, internalized judgments from my father and other humans. Now I remember that they, too, were both inadequate and also imperfect.)

How do I feel about myself in relationship with God? I feel loved for who I am, mortal and limited. I feel challenged to be my best self, not anyone else.

How can I enter into (fuller) relationship with God?

  1. Stop and breathe.
  2. Confess my greatest hope and/or my greatest concern.
  3. Listen to inner wisdom and wisdom of the ages.
  4. Begin again in love.

Those four steps do not require a belief in a particular god/dess or deity. They require me to tap into the depths of my own knowledge and experience. They remind me to love to the best of my ability day by day. (Reading helps, too!)

How do you maintain a connection with your highest power? In relation to what? In relationship with whom? (Even tentative thoughts are fine!)

Spiritual Friendship

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Tilden Edwards wrote a book entitled Spiritual Friend: Reclaiming the Gift of Spiritual Direction. He is the founder of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, where many of my teachers studied.

Edwards spoke to my heart of a “calm trust in grace winding its opening way” through one’s life.

Grace has been winding its opening way through me. I stood in a small park last Spring and saw with fresh eyes each raindrop on the grass, the trees, and the lily pond as grace. A gift that was mine for the taking, created by unseen forces.

I walked around the pond and took pictures of water lilies and a small cottontail rabbit nibbling, undisturbed, on lush wet grass. It was an experience of grace.

pond-in-distance lily-and-bud bunnyThis year I have visited monthly with a spiritual director in between classes to become a spiritual director myself. “Direction” is a bit misleading; it’s more like a conversation about one’s spiritual life. How does spirituality shape the way I live in the world? What’s the reason for prayer?

Since August I have been more faithful (again) about daily meditation / contemplation / prayer / what have you. I’ve increased the time gradually all the way up to 22 minutes in the morning and about 2 minutes at night as I settle into restful slumber.

In the evening I take a series of three breaths and repeat as long as needed while I focus on being grounded, on being full of gratitude, and on God as Love. The three Gs make it easy to remember:

1) Grounded. I belong here and I can rest now.

2) Gratitude. For grace that came my way this day, for friends, for opportunities and challenges, I give thanks.

3) God. Let all abide in love. Let love guide our lives.

Gratitude in the morning for having seen a new day, and gratitude for the day as I drift off to sleep, are now the bookends of my daily life. How does grace “wind its opening way” through your life?

Near-Death Musings

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The Rev. John Price is an Episcopal priest and one of my instructors in FIND (Formation in Direction, a course for prospective Spiritual Directors, like a Life Coach, only spiritual).My studies have taken me in new directions.

Anyway, Rev. Price had heard stories from people every now and then about how they had experienced death but came back to life–a near-death experience. A skeptic at first, he became more intrigued when a 4-year old described her experience even though there was no plausible reason for her to remember the hospital building where she had “died” as her mother drove past one day. So Rev. Price began listening to these stories with increasing interest, and seeking interviews with people of various faith traditions who had personal knowledge.

He wrote a book about it from the perspective of a priest. Revealing Heaven: The Eyewitness Accounts that Changed How a Pastor Thinks about the Afterlife describes stories from Hindus and Muslims as well as Christians.

There is so much we don’t understand, and so much to discover. I’ve come to believe God (defined for me as Love) is with us in joy, in sorrow, in contentment, in suffering, and in death. That makes me think about atheists. Who is with them? Some ideas floated to my head:

the will to live

the will to love

whatever they hold as sacred or ultimate

cosmic energy

What do you think?

Clean Out the Gunk

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One night, of all things, I cleaned out a stopped up bathroom sink. I hadn’t deliberately put gunk in there–except that it is mostly “my” sink. Maybe I was at least partly responsible for it. In any case, it was up to me to clean it out since I wanted it to flow freely. Toothpaste, mouthwash, dirty hands, occasional hair, and who knows what else built up on the sides of the sink stopper. It wasn’t hard to clean–it just needed the right tool.

Many of my friends and I were not happy about the presidential election and now the inauguration is upon us. Maybe I was at least partly responsible for the state of this country’s political and social divides. As Barbara Kingsolver pointed out several weeks ago, each of us can do something within our sphere of influence–write, teach, call, sing, march, smile–that will make a difference in the free flow of human dignity and individual worth. All our efforts are needed; support for one another is much better than finding fault.

Whatever we do, big or small, will determine our future. Don’t stand by and let the gunk build up! Find the right tool for you and let’s keep working together for a brighter tomorrow.

Blessings for 2017!

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Kristen Cervantes is a Student Pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, TX, while she continues her studies at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. We have weekly conversations that help us both grow in ministry.

When Kris responded to presidential election results, she posted these wise words:

I will not despair. Or rather, I will not only despair.

At times like this I really do wish I believed in a God who is an active agent in the world. But as I think of the gut-wrenching sobs I have heard, felt, held in my body and held in the circle of my arms, in my friends’ bodies, I don’t have that solace.

I have solace in the beauty and wonder of the world we share. I have solace in the deep emotion that means deep commitment to the continued work of building the beloved community for all, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status, ability, and all the other boxes we try to fit ourselves and others into. I have solace in the help and strength and brokenness and beauty and potential in every human body and mind and soul.

My church says it wants to ‘create a more just and loving world.’ I take solace in the knowledge that we do not stand, move, and struggle alone in this painful and difficult act of creation.

I will not despair.

The New Year is upon us! May you find your way out of despair and into community.

One day post election

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Some electives post election:

My focus today will be on music, art, nature, and community. Beyond difference lies beauty. One moment, one person, one love at a time might begin to heal divisions. May we reach out to one another as best we can.

Blessings and grace to each of you, dear friends.

Carry Water

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The story of the world, the story of my heart, is captivated by warsan shire’s poem “what they did yesterday afternoon.” A few lines:

dear god

i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water.

warsan shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and was raised in London. You might already know that her poetry infuses Beyonc√©’s Lemonade. Further into her poem above she spoke the truth when she asked of the world

where does it hurt?

 

it answered

everywhere

everywhere

everywhere.

She wrote these words two years ago but they apply today, this week, in this nation, in this world.

Violence has taken over so many places. This week’s headlines just in the U.S. include Baton Rouge; Falcon Heights, MN; Dallas; College Station (shots fired at a mosque). Add them to Orlando, Baghdad, Bangladesh, Medina, Ankara, Istanbul, and more, and more, and more.

This week Black men were suspected, accused, shot down; police officers targeted, Muslims fired upon. My heart hurts in so many ways. My mind doesn’t know how to make sense of it, except:

Except that we as a nation are so polarized that people at the far edges of many polarities are taking aim at The Other.

I am The Other. Each of us is The Other.

Until we can find a way to hear each Other

above the noise

above the rhetoric

above the line of fire.

The right to bear arms (well-regulated?) does not carry the right to kill wantonly.

Still.

Who is surprised when guns and innocence,

rage and impotence ignite and explode?

Civil Rights burst forth when violence was televised.

Today’s festering wounds erupt on ever-present, ever-vigilant videos.

We cannot unsee.

Who is surprised when fear and fury fire at will?

Wake up! We are The Other to those we would vilify in return.

Stay woke!

Until Black and Blue Lives Matter

Until Muslim and Jewish and Christian Lives Matter

Until Immigrant and Native Lives Matter

Until.The.Other.Lives.Matter

I am The Other.

i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water

dear god, help us carry water to this hurting world

Prayerful Questions

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praying-hands

I wrote this before the horrid news from Orlando. Mass shooting, chaos, emergency responders, blood donors, prayer vigils. Love is Love, I say, but sometimes it is hard to hold on to that.

For the following, I offer credit to Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1996)

What is the purpose of prayer?

How could God pay attention to such insignificant creatures?

Are we just talking to ourselves, our inner wise spirit?

How do we know prayer is communication with God?

How do we know that it’s God?

Questions take us deeper into faith

. . . away from belief in our beliefs

. . . to believe in a God who is more than our beliefs can say.

It is possible for a good prayer not to address anyone by name. After yoga classes with Jogi Bhagat, he closes with prayers and we repeat each line after him.

May all be happy.

May all be healthy.

May there be no distress on earth.

May there be peace everywhere.

May all our actions lead us to make this happen.

May it be so.