Book Report: Bookshelf Browsing

November 17, 2022

I am a happy woman today.

I will spend a chunk of the day planning two more sessions for the writing group I facilitate at church. Each session I offer some quotations related to a specific theme, followed by a writing prompt.

For example, the theme this month is hospitality. Last week the quotes I presented included:

In your own way, do you keep a lantern burning by the roadside with a note saying where you may be found, “just in case?” Do you place a jar of cool water and a bit of fruit under a tree at the road’s turning, to help the needy traveler? God knows the answer and so do you!

Howard Thurman in Meditations of the Heart

The guest in Benedictine spirituality is a visit from the God of surprises…Guests bring the world in, place it at our feet, and dare us to be who and what we say we are.

Joan Chittister in The Monastery of the Heart, An Invitation to a Meaningful Life

The quotes may be poems or prayers. They may come from novels, as well as books or articles on spirituality or they may be Biblical passages. The first week we explored hospitality, for example, I included only one quote and that was the Martha and Mary story as told in Luke 11:38-42. Most often, however, I invite exploration of the topic through a variety of quotes–and a variety of sources and writers, balancing men and women’s voices, also.

Sometimes the theme is the result of something I have just read. Sometimes I think of a prompt first and need quotes to support it. No matter the doorway into the planning of a writing session, I love the scavenger hunt for supporting content.

I stand in front of my shelves in the garret and ask, sometimes even aloud, for guidance. What books will have the perfect words for deeper understanding and insight and inspiration? Sometimes the answer is obvious, for there is a specific book that addresses the topic. For example, Invited, the Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness by Leslie Verner or The Art of Gathering, How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. I glance at what I have underlined and I note sources the author mentions. As I immerse myself in the topic, I think about other books within my reach or file folders in my drawers that may have a nugget on the topic. I have a journal of quotes I have read in other people’s blogs and I may page through that, often finding just the piece of wisdom I need for myself that day

I turn to my favorites–Jan Richardson, Christine Valters Painter, Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, Parker Palmer.

I add sticky book flags to pages that seem relevant and begin a stack of books on the top of my desk.

One book leads to another. And searching for material for the current topic often leads to ideas for future topics or for other programs I facilitate. Or for my blog posts or essays I may want to write.

Ultimately, I only use a few of the quotes I find, but engaging with this process, an intuitive and playful process, immerses me in the topic and opens me to whatever direction the participants in the writing group may go with their writing. The process broadens me and deepen my own reflection. It is a process that leads me into a kind of stillness, even as it energizes me.

Moving from book to book I realize this is meditation, this is prayer.

Yes, today I am a happy woman.

An Invitation

Is there a quote in your life that continues to inspire and guide you? What does that quote prompt you to do, to be? I would love to know.

NOTE:

An essay I wrote is featured on the Brevity’ Nonfiction Blog site today. I hope you will read it. Here’s the link: https://brevity.wordpress.com/2022/11/17/to-continue-or-not-writing-the-memoir-that-is/

Closing the Door

October 4, 2022

I love fall. The crispness. The colors. The sweaters. The apples and cider. And, of course, the pumpkins.

But oh how hard it is to shut the door. I know it is necessary to close the door, as the weather gets colder, but I miss the light pouring in through the storm door.

May the door of this home be wide enough
to receive all who hunger for love,
all who are lonely for friendship.
May it welcome all who have cares to unburden,
thanks to express, hopes to nurture.
May the door of this house be narrow enough
to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity...
May this home be for all who enter
the doorway to richness and a more meaningful life.
           "The Siddur of Shir Chadish in Life Prayers from Around the World
           edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

Doors in our Lives

Many years ago I asked the women in a retreat I facilitated to draw a picture of a door and its threshold. An outside door or an inside door. A real door or an imagined door. The door could be from their present life or one from the past. I asked them to draw the image of what came into their minds when they heard the word “door,” and to draw a door with as much detail as possible, but assured them this exercise was not about being an artist.

The group moved into silence and using the offered crayons and markers drew their doors. Here are some of the questions we discussed after drawing our doors.

  • Is this a door that welcomes or does it feel unwelcoming?
  • Who enters this door? Is there anyone who is not welcome at this door?
  • What do you notice about this door that you have not noticed before?
  • How do you know when someone is at the door?
  • What is on the other side of the door?
  • What does this door reveal about you?
  • What needs to be healed as you enter the door?

What a rich discussion we had as we shared the drawings of our doors. Some sweet memories. Some painful ones. Some surprises and new insights, and even a few intentions to make their doors more welcoming and inviting.

The Door as a Symbol of My Heart

What is it, I wondered, that we were really talking about when we reflected on the doors of our lives? What happens if we substitute the word “heart” for “door.”

  • Is my heart a welcoming one or does it feel unwelcoming?
  • Who enters my heart? Is there anyone who is not welcome in my heart?
  • What do I notice about my heart that I did not know before?
  • How do I know when someone is waiting outside my heart?
  • What is outside my heart?
  • What does my heart reveal about me?
  • What needs to be healed in order to live with a full heart?

What would a picture of your heart look like? Are there any improvements you would like to make in the doorway of your heart?

The Door as a Spiritual Practice

Every time you open or close your door can be a moment of prayer, of blessing your home and all those who cross that threshold. As you stand at your door, pause, give thanks, and imagine God in your doorway. Every time you open or close your door, put your hand on your heart and feel it beating love and openness and welcome. Your door can remind you to invite God, the Sacred the Holy into your life.

Nightfall...morning
I lock the door. I unlock it.
My days are punctuated with this act.
It is a rhythm, a kind of pulse.

Just now the door is locked.
I want to think of this not as 
shutting the world out or shutting me in.
I want to think of this more
like dwelling in a rhythm...
sweet measure. Soon it will be morning
and the door will be unlocked again.

I can dwell in this home as if it were a heart. When I feel that pulse
I know that all that comes to me will also go.
Living in this stream I understand
You are my lifeblood. Let me feel
You course through me, through this door,
throughout my life.
             "Locking the Door" by Gunilla Norris in Being Home, A Book of Meditations

An Invitation

What do you notice about a door you open and close everyday? I would love to know.

Going with the Flow

September 20, 2022

Since returning from our Labor Day weekend road trip to Cleveland, the days have been full. Notice I said “full,” not “busy.”

For me “full” indicates choice. What do I choose to do? What do I prefer to do? What brings meaning into my life and in what ways do my choices have potential meaning for others?

“Fullness” versus “busyness” reminds me to pay attention. When am I responding from my essence, from the person I hope to be, was created to be, instead of responding out of duty or obligation? Obviously, sometimes a task simply needs to be done, but the more I open to the life I think I am asked to live right now, the more those tasks fall into place.

All that being said, during these last two weeks I have needed to use my time and energy well, moving from task to task deliberately and intentionally and calmly. And that’s the way the next couple weeks will be, as well.

As I have moved through these days, I have thought about my word of the year, rhythm, and also the flow I hope to experience.

Word of the Year: Rhythm

As you listen closely for your deepest call, what are the greater rhythms to which you must accommodate yourself.

Christine Valters Paintner

You may recall that my word of the year is “rhythm.” I’ve been more aware in the last few months of how I need to respond to the rhythm of a day–what is planned and required in a day–but also I am more able to notice and create my own rhythm.

For example, I know my rhythm becomes raggedy and I begin to unravel when I don’t begin my day meditating, praying, reading sacred texts. Doing that faithfully, allows me to adjust my preferred rhythm to the needs of the day. At the same time immersing myself in slow silence also helps me adjust the needs of the day to my own rhythm. Much to my amazement when I ground myself in that spiritual practice, the needs of the day and my needs accommodate one another.

When that happens, I experience flow–when one thing streams into another naturally and easily.

A Reminder

Sometimes I need a physical reminder, an illustration of what flow looks and feels like.

We spent the weekend at the home of friends who live in northern Minnesota, and one afternoon we cruised their beautiful lake. We were the only ones on the water, except for a few loons, who have not yet migrated.

My favorite part was going through a narrow and shallow channel to enter another lake. Our friend turned the motor down and guided the boat under the low bridge, reminding us to keep our hands inside the boat and to lower our heads.

How appropriate was that–to bow our heads as we crossed a threshold.

Pause and bow your head.

Rest in the silence.

Experience the flow.

Discover the rhythm.

Often when I lead a guided meditation instructing participants to breathe deeply in and out, I include the phrase, “find your own rhythm.” I think I need to add, “Feel the flow. Notice the flow around and through you.”

This morning when I closed my eyes, lightly, not tightly, and breathed in and out, gently and deeply, finding my own rhythm, I imagined the shallow water in that channel, and I remembered the feeling of unrushed, undemanding, gentle and yet noticeable flow.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

The Message, Matthew 11: 28-30

May I live my life that way.

An Invitation

When have you experienced flow? I would love to know.

Note:

Here is my post on my Word of the Year: https://wordpress.com/post/livingonlifeslabyrinth.com/362

The Lessons of Improvisation

August 16, 2022

This past weekend we saw our niece Alli, who is an improv comedian in Chicago, in two performances. Alli has been funny all her life–the family lore is full of Alli stories, and I don’t think anyone who knows and loves her was surprised when she chose comedy as her career path. She is also a substitute in the Chicago Public School system. Just imagine how often she needs a comedic attitude and improvisational skills to get through her teaching days!

We loved seeing her perform and oh, how good it was to laugh and laugh and laugh.

Improv comedy, it seems to me, offers good life lessons.

From the moment these performers walked on stage they had no idea what was going to happen from one minute to the next. In both shows they were given the bare minimum as a beginning and from that moment on anything could happen. Their job was to be completely present to what the others were saying and doing. They needed to react and respond as the narrative unfolded.

At the same time each performer adopted a persona for the show, and they needed to be true to that character. How would that character react and respond in the given situation? In a manner of minutes the essence of the character became clear through physical actions, the tone of voice, as well as words.

We each live an improvisational life. Who knows what will happen one minute from the next? We can plan and make lists–and that is often necessary and helpful, but at the same time we need to be able to open to what is unfolding and changing before our very eyes. The present moment. There is not always time to say, “Time out. I need to write the next scene. I need to decide how to move the plot forward.” Nope, something happens or someone says or does something, and the next line, the next step is yours. Now. It is time to improvise..

When I was a freshman in college, I remember the junior counsellors on my floor often saying when life got a bit crazy and chaotic, “Punt. It is punt time.” Do what needs to be done. You can’t always wait and weigh the pros and cons. It is time to act and maybe even take a chance.

Now I am more apt to adopt “pause” than “punt,” but I know there are times when pausing, at least longer than a second is not possible. It is time to improvise when the best plans are not possible, when life gets in the way, when the unexpected and often unwanted occurs.

Fifty-one years ago my husband’s mother died of a brain aneurysm–a month before our August wedding. In the months of planning before the wedding day, how could we possibly have anticipated the loss that would accompany us on our walk down the aisle? We were 23, mere babies, and along with the improvisation that marriage itself requires, we had to figure out how to respond and cope with such deep sadness, even as we were embarking with such joy on our lives as a new couple. We did the best we could, but we were not yet as practiced in the art and skill of improvisation.

Part of becoming a good improviser is knowing oneself. Who am I and what is my essence? Instead of playing a role, developing a character, I respond from my own ground of being, the person God created me to be. How helpful that is as life diverts us from what we envisioned for ourselves.

Here’s hoping that laughter is part of the journey.

An Invitation

When was the last time you had to improvise? How did that go? I would love to know.

Note:

We saw Alli perform in Hitch Cocktails https://www.theannoyance.com/shows at the Annoyance Theater https://www.theannoyance.com and also on one of Second City’s stages in Clued In https://www.secondcity.com/chicago-shows/ Be prepared to laugh!!!

Window Blessings: The Spiritual Practice of Receiving and Sending

August 2, 2022

Receiving

Every morning while making the bed, I pause and look out the window towards our backyard. This is what I see.

This is the view, thanks to the creative talents and physical efforts of the gardener in our house.

I stand at the window and receive a gift of color and the variety of shapes and textures. I see abundance and growth, reminding me to be grateful for the abundance and ongoing growth in my own life. I think about the season we are in and how each day may seem the same, but yesterday I did not see any roses on the tall rose bush, and today two are in view. Creamy with a blush of peach.

I wonder if the blueberry bushes are ready to be harvested again. A couple weeks ago I made muffins using our own blueberries, and I am eager to repeat the taste treat.

Standing at the window each morning, I receive energy for the day, even if I didn’t sleep well the night before. I wonder how I will be asked to bloom today or is it someone else’s turn?

I celebrate the miracle of creation, and I give thanks for the gardener in my life and his holy work.

This is sanctuary.

Love this Earth as if you won’t be here tomorrow; show reverence for your Garden as if you will be here forever.

Scottish Saying

Sending

Later in the morning I walk up the stairs to the garret and pause at the windows on the landing. I take a deep breath as my view expands over rooftops and into the backyards of neighbors.

In the stillness, I send blessings:

to the boys next door who seem to create their own universe, jumping on their trampoline. May your imaginations and energy enrich you and those who love you.

to the neighbor newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s. May you adjust to the new reality in your life.

to the neighbor across the alley who often forgets to shut her garage door and to the neighbors who do it for her. May you be safe.

to new neighbors on the block. May you find warmth and happiness here. May you find home here.

to each of the 22 children on the block. May you know fun and joy on this summer day.

to all those whom I don’t know, but who live within my view. May you feel support as you face whatever causes anxiety in your life. May you feel peace as you cross your own thresholds. May you know love.

The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.

Terry Tempest Williams

And, I add, daily prayers are delivered, also, while looking out a window.

An Invitation

What do you receive as you stand at a window and what do you send beyond your window? I would love to know.

The Days’ Rhythms

July 12, 2022

NOTE: After my post on Thursday, July 14, I will take a brief break. I will return with new posts beginning Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

While on my morning walk, I spotted this dozing kitty. Clearly, its rhythm for the morning was rest. Perhaps later it would play with a ball of yarn, give itself a bath or scamper after a bug in the grass, but for right now, “Take it easy.”

You may recall that my Word for the Year is “rhythm;” a word that has proven to be so helpful as I move through my days. Many times a day I stop and read Sue Patton Thoele’s words, which I have taped to my laptop.

I ask myself, What is today’s rhythm? Or the rhythm needed for this exact moment? What is my rhythm and how does my rhythm meet the needs and demands and expectations for right now?

Sunday mornings, usually before going to church for the early service, I consult my calendar for the new week, noting appointments and events, and I make the week’s To Do list.

My lists include writing plans; social events to arrange; preparation for the writing group I lead and the one in which I am a participant; household tasks like paying bills, as well as a list of names–those I want to email or send a card or letter. Some weeks the list feels more manageable than others. Some weeks the list contains items moved from one week to another. “Leftovers,” I call them. Some weeks feel more spacious than others and others, full of possibilities.

This list outlines the external rhythm for the week, but not to be ignored is my internal rhythm. How will the two fit together? And how will the rhythm of “doing” match the rhythm of “being”?

As I enter Sunday morning worship, I hold this peek into the coming days in my heart. I pray I might be open to what I am asked to do, what I need to do, and that I might be a welcoming presence for those scheduled to meet with me in spiritual direction sessions. I pray I might be flexible when needed, but also that I not ignore the internal call of my own rhythms, whether it is to rest and restore in solitude or to seek companionship.

Being aware of the days’ rhythms means paying attention to my body. One morning last week I slept over an hour later than I normally do, and I was shocked when I looked at the clock. My first inclination was to chastise myself and to think about the time lost. Oh, what I could have done in that hour and how would I make up the time! Then, however, and I am pleased to say this, I relaxed into the rhythm of the rest of the day. I had worked hard the day before, doing some cleaning I had not done in quite some time, and my body needed the extra rest. My body knew it and took over.

is this attention to rhythm just a sneaky way to talk about changes as I age? Maybe, but sitting at my desk in the garret, I hear the soft ripple of water in my tabletop fountain and I see the collage of pieces done by friend and artist Steve Sorman, and I sense the rhythm of God in my life now, and the invitation to live that rhythm. Right now.

NOTES:

Here are two previous posts about rhythm. livingonlifeslabyrinth.com/2022/02/08/the-rhythm-of-rest/ and livingonlifeslabyrinth.com/2022/01/11/word-for-the-year-rhythm/

Steve Sorman: http://stevensorman.com

An Invitation

What are you noticing about the rhythms of your days? I would love to know.

Book Report: Joan Chittister’s Books

I am a Joan Chittister fan. One of her groupies.

Joan Chittister, O.S.B., is a Benedictine nun, theologian, speaker, and prolific author. As a visionary voice in church and society, she has served in a variety of leadership roles, including co-chair of the UN sponsored Global Peace Initiative of Women.

Occasionally, actually more than occasionally, Chittister is the object of controversy and criticism–for her stances on contraception, abortion, women’s ordination as contradicting Roman Catholic teaching. Several years ago she was prohibited by the Catholic patriarchy from attending the first Women’s Ordination Worldwide Conference, and –no surprise–she not only attended, but gave the opening address.

Even though I have never met her I consider her one of my spiritual directors. I have heard her speak many times, most often at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, where she is a frequent and popular speaker at the afternoon theology forums, and, of course, I have read many of her books.

We Are All One, Reflections on Unity, Community, and Commitment to Each Other (2018)

This small book is my current “before I make the bed” book.

One of the chapters, “Holy Accountability” begins with this quote:

It is not God’s fault that things are as they are at present, but our own.

Etty Hillesum

Not the Republicans’ fault. Not the former President’s fault (or the current one). Not the superintendent of schools or the mayor or police department or the neighbor who doesn’t mow his lawn or the parent who doesn’t discipline his child or…..

No, the fault is our own. My own.

As if that weren’t enough, Chittister asks,

Here’s a quiz: What do the Adam and Eve story and the presidential election of 2016 in the United States have in common? Give up? It’s easy: free will, accountability–and oh, yes, a snake in the tree.

p. 41

Does that grab you? Chittister goes on to remind us that Adam and Eve lost “paradise” because they ignored their responsibilities. Ouch.

One of her attributes as a writer and a speaker is her ability to target the heart of a matter in a few words and to challenge the reader/listener to examine beliefs and perspectives and then to respond.

The great human task is to make life better for everyone. To be satisfied with anything less marks us as less than fully developed human beings.

p. 45

The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully (2008)

I own sixteen Joan Chittister books; many I have read more than once. The Gift of Years has become sacred text for me, and I consult it frequently, trusting its wisdom and its ability to challenge my fears and enlarge my vision.

Again, in a few words, Chittister tackles big topics, such as regret, letting go, loneliness, transformation, forgiveness, faith. With each topic she opens me to both burden and the blessing. For example:

The burden of regret is that, unless we come to understand the value of the choices we made in the past, we may fail to see the gifts they have brought us.

The blessing of regret is clear–it brings us, if we are willing to face it head on, to the point of being present to this new time of life in an entirely new way. It urges us on to continue becoming.

p. 5

Chittister does not have her head in the sand about the challenges of becoming older, of being old, (She wrote this at age 72 and is now 86 and still writing and speaking and influencing.) but, instead, she reminds us that even in this stage of life there is life to live. I am still becoming.

Other Chittister Books

I think it may be time to re-read The Time is Now, A Call to Uncommon Courage (2019) and Between the Dark and the Daylight, Embracing the Contradictions of Life (2015). I am also tempted to add The Monastic Heart: 50 Simple Practices for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life to my library.

As I said, Joan Chittister is one of my spiritual guides, and I need more time with her.

NOTE:

You can subscribe to weekly and monthly Joan Chittister newsletters. https://www.joanchittister.org

You can also listen to and see Chittister on You Tube.

An Invitation

Who are your spiritual guides? I would love to know.

Holy Days

These are Holy Days.

This week leads Christians through the remaining days of Lent to Easter Sunday, but first there is Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil on Saturday. Jews are preparing for Passover. The eight-day festival begins at sundown on April 15 and ends at sundown on April 23. And Muslims are marking Ramadan the entire month of April, ending with the Feast of Fast-Breaking on Sunday, May 1.

Yes, these are Holy Days, in which those of us who practice one of these faith traditions reflect on the stories central to our beliefs, gather with our faith communities, and observe the customs of these days. For example, a recent tradition at our house is to add the palms we waved on Palm Sunday to the basket of forsythia on our front door as a reminder of these Holy Days.

Along with attending each of the planned services this week, I will also attend a Solidarity Around the Cross prayer service at the Ukrainian American Center in Minneapolis, sponsored by my congregation as one way to respond to the world’s suffering. But I will also continue with morning prayer and reflection time, holding these days in my heart and reflecting on their meaning for how I live my life.

These Holy Days ask me to be aware of and live fully each holy day.

Some days I manage that better than others. This reluctant spring has added to the challenge here in my part of the world, but I am trying to love what is, to see and feel the holiness of each day.

I challenge myself to know, really know, the fullness of the words, “Every day is a gift.” Yes, regardless of the temperature, the precipitation, road conditions, or lingering brown landscape. I can continue to become more of the person I was created to be no matter the season, and I feel an eagerness to discover the holy days of this particular spring. In what ways will I be enticed to grow? How will I nurture others and myself? Where will I notice the movement of God?

Settle to be fully present to yourself, to whatever is, to God…dwell, and absorb and be–Give thanks.

from Christos Center meditation, 3/14/22

May these Holy Days be holy days in your life. May each day to come be a holy day.

An Invitation:

What might you do to be more aware of each day as a holy day? I would love to know.

I spotted these Lego vignettes of Holy Week in the Sunday School classroom where the writing group I facilitate meets each week. Holy Play!

Book Report: Morning Meditation Basket

As promised in my recent post (Tuesday, February 21, 2022, “Morning Meditation”), today’s Book Report shares my current morning meditation and devotion materials.

My collection of materials change as I finish reading a specific book, but also as the seasons in the church year change and as my personal needs change. However, two books always remain: the Bible and a journal. I only have a few pages left in my current journal and need to choose a replacement soon. That is on this week’s list.

Here are the other books in the basket:

  • Celtic Treasure, Daily Scriptures and Prayer by J. Philip Newell. (2005). This may be the third time I have returned to daily use of this book. Right now I am focusing on chapter five, “Songs of the Soul,” but other chapters include “Stories of Creation,” “Power and Justice,” and “Letters of Love.” Each day in the seven week cycle, begins with the same words, “We light a light in the name of the God who creates life, in the name of the Saviour who loves life, and in the name of the Spirit who is the fire of life.” After encouragement to “Be still and aware of God’s presence within and all around,” Newell retells a piece of scripture and offers a prayer. The brief and simple, but oh, so lovely daily meditation always ends in the same way.

The blessings of heaven,

the blessings of earth,

the blessings of sea and of sky.

On those we love this day

and on every human family

the gifts of heaven,

the gifts of earth,

the gifts of sea and of sky.

The illustrations from the Book of Kells plus children’s drawings are lovely, too.

This book provides a framework for my meditation practice right now. I begin with the opening prayer and readings and end with the closing words.

  • The Wild Land Within, Cultivating Wholeness through Spiritual Practice by Lisa Colon Delay (2021). I first learned about this book on Christine Valters Paintner’s website, Abbey of the Arts. https://abbeyofthearts.com The author describes the book as

an invitation to explore your own flyover country. This book serves as a companion to search the inner and unseen but very real territory of yourself. As we attend to this land within, our journey will involve some issues you may know little or nothing about. There are places of rough and even terrifying terrain. We will learn what makes spiritual growth unnecessarily difficult or extra confusing. To explore this land within means encountering climate and storms, negotiating treacherous topography, and finding creatures both wounded and wild. p. 2

Delay, who is a writer, teacher, and spiritual director and originally from Puerto Rico, broadens my white cultural context with references to Native American, Black, Latinx, and others and asks me to define what have been my main influences and how those influences have affected my spiritual growth.

In an early section Delay spends time reflecting on the four soils parable recorded in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15. I have been re-reading those pieces of scripture now myself, and using the practice of lectio divina, I ask what meaning they have for me after walking on the earth for almost 74 years. Ongoing exploration.

I am moving slowly, deliberately through this book. My plan is to read a chapter every day, but I keep returning to what I read previous days, finding more openings for learning and reflection. Chapter Five, by the way, is called “Weather Fronts,” and that seems perfect for the winter storm watch we experienced as I wrote this.

One more thing: Delay has a podcast, Spark My Muse. I have not yet listened to it, but I will.

  • The Divine Dance, The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell (2016) It seems I always have a Richard Rohr book in my meditation basket. If I think I am reading Delay’s book slowly, I am reading this one at an slower pace. I dip into this book, reading two or three pages, when I am willing to set aside the next task.

I was first attracted to this particular book because of the cover art, the famous icon of The Trinity created by Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev in the fifteenth century. I love that icon and the mystery it draws me towards. I was also attracted to the title of the book itself.

Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three–a circle dance of love.

And God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself. p. 27

This book will be in my basket for a long time. Oh, I also have a publication from Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation: Oneing, An Alternative Orthodoxy. Volume 9, No. 2 focuses on The Cosmic Egg.

  • Soul Therapy, The Art and Craft of Caring Conversations by Thomas Moore (2021) This is another book I dip into when the spirit moves me. Moore’s books, especially Care of the Soul, have been important landmarks in my spiritual growth. Directed towards “helpers,” including psychologists, social workers, ministers, spiritual directors and others, the book reminds me to continue my own soul work as I sit with others doing their own soul work.
  • The Making of an Old Soul, Aging as the Fulfillment of Life’s Promise by Carol Orsborn, Ph. D (2021) I have not yet cracked open the cover of this book, but I enjoy Orsborn’s blog https://carolorsborn.com and I really liked her earlier book The Spirituality of Age. More than likely, I will report on this book later.

My basket runneth over!!

An Invitation: What books or other materials do you turn to for reflection and soul work? I would love to know.

The Rhythm of Rest

I could not do one more thing. Well, of course, I could, but I would have done the next thing without focus or interest, inspiration, or energy.

The week had been full . Full of good interactions and scattered with productive writing time, but I was done, even cranky. Perhaps it was the unrelenting cold or the unrelenting pandemic, but I sagged and slumped.

Enter my Word of the Year: Rhythm.

Most of my weeks have a defined, steady rhythm. We begin the week attending church and adult forum, followed by going out for lunch where we read the New York Times. Early in the week I write both Tuesday and Thursday posts for this blog, and I prepare for the writing group I facilitate Thursday mornings at church. I tend to do the week’s grocery shopping that morning, too. Usually, on Friday or Saturday, my husband and I plan an outing–get in the car and roam.

The weeks vary depending on appointments with my spiritual direction clients and if one of the writing groups in which I am a participant is scheduled, and, now and then, there is time with friends or family. And, of course, there are the usual tasks–the laundry, the emails, the bills, the meal preparation, the home-tending. Oh, and writing time. This past week I worked on a piece to submit to a publication that has published my work in the past.

I begin my day meditating, praying, and writing in my journal, and later, I try to leave my desk by 4:00, giving myself some space to read before fixing dinner. In the evening we binge watch something on Netflix or Amazon Prime (Right now we are watching season 11 of “Vera” on BrittBox.) and read before going to bed.

By and large, these are good rhythms, but my word of the year invites me to pay attention. What rhythm calls me right now? What is the rhythm my body needs? My soul needs? Rhythm summons me to listen to my own heartbeat.

Instead of pressing on determined to check more off a list that seems to grow when my head is turned, I took a deep breath and asked, “What rhythm wants to be heard right now?”

REST. REST.

I turned off my computer, left my desk and the garret, even though it was hours before my normal 4:00 leave the office time, and I nestled in the snug with book, blanket, and a mug of hot cider. I read and I dozed. I listened to the rhythm pulsing gently around and through me, and I restored. And I gave thanks for being at a stage of life when it is possible to respond to rhythm’s invitation.

I know, appreciate, and allow my own rhythm. Each day I take some time to be in my personal rhythm.

Sue Patton Thoele

An Invitation: Do you have a word of the year? If so, how is it present in your life? I would love to know.