Thankful at this very moment

I just finished my first week of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), and will share more about that experience later. However, it became clear to me that in order to give and minister this summer, I need to be very intentional in my spiritual practices. One practice I am going to intentionally bring back is my daily practice of listing what I am most thankful for *at this moment* … I will do this at least once a day and at least once a week share here. I encourage others to do this for yourself, and please share here and elsewhere your thankful list as well. It’s a wonderful practice.

1. breath
2. children
3. my children 🙂
4. my husband
5. my parents
6. my husband’s parents
7. all who are supporting us through this summer from keeping us in prayer to keeping our daughter for a times (or many times) while we are at our CPE assignments
8. my wonderful CPE group — classmates, current chaplain residents, staff chaplains and the rest of the Pastoral Care staff
9. a place to sleep at night (and man do I sleep sound when I get to now!)
10. The strength to be up at 5 a.m. each day this week!

Peace be with you!

Love and belief,
Tami

Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality / Spiritual Practices (and some reflection on a semester looking at Spiritual Practices)

It’s the last week of the Fall semester here at Wartburg Seminary. I likely won’t be able to really reflect on the entire semester until the space of Christmas is between me and my last paper (likely to be finished Friday morning), but I am starting to feel a shift in things as the my first semester ends. I’m connecting lots of dots so to speak, and things are really coming together as many of the classes wrap up.

The last Spiritual Practices lecture was held this past Tuesday (small group finishes tomorrow, Thursday), and we ended as we began with a panel of Professors sharing their thoughts on Spirituality and Spiritual Practices. The intended focus was around the question — Is There a Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality? I am not sure we really answered that question, but the comments were interesting and thought provoking.

The connections for me can be summarized in Spiritual Practices being grounded in the Word of God, and that for Lutherans, Spiritual Practices will look like Jesus Christ. And, I think related to that, Lutheran Spiritual Practices are grace-filled practices (centered on life in Jesus Christ and bringing gratitude) that lead us to our neighbor, and these practices remain a struggle due to the reality of sin (so we shouldn’t expect perfection).

That little summary is really a lot.

During the semester we went through many traditional and untraditional Spiritual Practices (from lectio divina to fasting to deep listening in lecture … to labyrinth “walking” (or tracing) to praying the daily examen to play/laughter/fun as a Spiritual Practice in small groups… and many more introduced in our readings). Although I didn’t enjoy all of the Spiritual Practices we tried, I have enjoyed learning about them.

However, now that can “test” any spiritual practice for myself personally as to if it “looks” like Jesus Christ, it makes it much easier to know if it’s a practice I should spend my time practicing. Does it draw me to my neighbor and make me a gracious presence when with my neighbor (neighbor meaning all others in this context just as it does in the gospels)? Does the practice add to, facilitate or otherwise bring me towards a thankful heart? Do I recognize my own struggle within that practice? Is the practice truly grounded in God’s Word? Is it something that is, for me, truly woven into these distinctive characteristics or can I walk through it on a human level only? — if so, it’s not a true spiritual practice (for me; it might be for another).

Now I have to decide what I am going to do with this information. (Much of which I think I knew on some level before, but now can articulate at least a little bit.) I have struggled this semester with continuing a healthy personal spiritual practice. This is true in part because of having to re-learn my habits, rituals, and how I meditate and pray within my current space and time. But, I think I have also struggled because we have actively been trying so many specific Spiritual Practices, and I genuinely consider each one as something to possibly do.

Now it’s time to step back and appreciate most from a distance while actively doing those that will most allow me to participate in meaningful and tangible ways with Christ.

I cannot just immediately tell you what those will be, but I think it will be some type of centered prayer or possibly a combination of simple centered prayer and a return to the daily examen, and a near daily participation in some type of family Spiritual Practice. Ideally Shawn and I would return to a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Word as well as beginning some type of hands-on Spiritual Practices (or maybe trying a new practice each month until we have enough to just rotate through them with her — fun ones, like praying in color and praying the catechism with prayer beads are where I will begin).

What Spiritual Practices do practice regularly or appreciate?

Does your faith have a distinctive spirituality? If so (or not), please share.

(And if you read my list at all closely, you’ll realize that the actual practices we learned about or participated in are anything but distinctive to the Lutheran faith. 🙂

Hospitality: My accidental Spiritual Practice

(Not really an accident of course)

chocolate covered strawberriesI just realized when cooking and baking first started to, very gradually, become a spiritual practice for me. It was nearly a decade ago after my daughter,  Emily Lin, died. Well, it wasn’t immediately afterwards, but rather after I realized how important the food others brought to me during my time of intense grief (seriously people, bring food and lots of it*).

As I forced myself to begin cooking for my family again it was hard, really hard. And then it started getting easier and became a way for me to focus and give rhythm to my day. And then one day I was cooking for someone else in a time of need, and the hours slipped by as mere seconds as I poured every ounce of love and prayer into those meals.  I still cannot describe how it felt to make that difference to another mom, and it became somewhat of a passion for me … however, having guests over for a meal was still something I was terrified of.

I continued to try to have guests over for both simple and elaborate meals (for example Thanksgiving … and once less than two weeks after having my appendix out while pregnant; my husband is a saint) with varying results. I started feeling like a glutton for punishment as I kept feeling called to host events and yet I would have to work through stress and anxiety as I did it.

And then my journey to celiac disease began (severe symptoms undiagnosed for more than “awhile”), and eventually I journeyed into not only the gluten-free world but other food sensitivities as well. Before and during the time of diagnosis, as well as while pregnant, food became the enemy and I retreated to my own defense.

And then I realized I would only eat great food if I made it, and ever so slowly I began to share those foods with others. Almost simultaneously I became part of multiple groups with wonderful hospitality mentors, and I felt the love of sharing meals – meals that *I* could eat too (talk about Christian love!).welcome mat

Shawn and I also realized that it was often much less stressful to host others for dinner than to go out to eat, and looking back now I can see all those dots connecting to prepare me/us. (Shawn is a wonderful host as well, and we’re even starting to work well together in the kitchen at times.)

When we moved to the Wartburg seminary community we knew we would continue to enjoy breaking bread with others in the community – even if it was gluten-free bread. So, we started inviting other families and groups of friends over for dinner, brunch, etc.  In addition to encouraging us to eat very healthy, I now clearly see that my eating restrictions are a part of my call to hospitality – a call that I was initially very reluctant to follow.

And now this Introvert thrives on feeding people and hosting events such as Friday Night Fellowship (otherwise known as Wine Tasting) … and yet I will still maintain I am very much a Mary type rather than a Martha type J

Where is God in all of this? Oh God is wrapped up in every bit of it – from guiding my cooking/baking skills and connecting all those “life dots” the past ten years to ushering the new and old friends through our doors. And oh I can feel the spirit at work when we gather together in community to support and simply love each other. And it is my honor and pure joy to do have a small part in that.

I am just beginning to explore the breadth of intentional (and accidental!) spiritual practices … this entry is really an open journal entry as I brainstorm  —

fresh fall produce

our abundance one week from our CSA while living in La Crosse

How have you practiced or received hospitality? What does it mean to you? Where is God in it? Is it important? Why? 

P.S. Now that we’re living as frugal seminary students, I further ponder how the gift of hospitality is at work. I can no longer buy whatever I want at the grocery store (or farmers’ market), but rather must be very deliberate about planning purchases and meals … hmmm…

 

*This is true after births as well as after deaths. Every set of new parents should have many many meals and snacks provided for them so they can focus on getting to know that brand new human being God created with them!

 

Wholeness Wheel: Life In Process

Last Thursday we had a convocation after Chapel here at Wartburg Seminary. Our focus included looking at the Wholeness Wheel, and discussing how we personally as well as the larger community can work on balancing all aspects of wellness.

The discussion was interesting, and I have been thinking about how to do this without becoming obsessed with “balance” which I have found to be a bit dangerous to my overall health in the past. The following Martin Luther quote shared at the event is something I have been meditating on. I invite you to read and ponder the quote as well, and let me know some of your thoughts.

Martin Luther said:
“This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.”

Today, I am using my free hour to ponder, walk, pray, and meditate while I move my body. I am also focussing this week on sleep as a spiritual practice, and will reflect on that here later in the week. I am evolving my thoughts from “what do I need to get done” to “what is the best use of my time” … this time stewardship within the practice of life is very much an evolving practice for me —

How do you steward your time?

What spiritual practices help connect the various parts of your life?