Spiritual Practices – Living the Gift

Wicker Chair“When I reach the chair by the glass door, sit down, and pull my legs up into it, I join the living stream of prayer that is always pouring out from God, blessing and healing and repairing the earth. Breath by breath I get to listen to the rhythm of a life so immensely greater than my own, and begin again to match my life to its rhythms.” – Jane Patterson, from “God Prays First,” in the Spring/Summer issue of Reflections magazine, now online.

Read Jane’s article and more from our favorite authors in the current issue of Reflections magazine. Enjoy the entire issue all at once or read the articles one at a time – then follow the resource links to lots more about spiritual practices.

Click here to go to this issue of Reflections magazine. Then let us hear from you.

Spiritual Practices – Living the Gift

spring summer 2014 cover for webFrom the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Reflections magazine:
“Spiritual practices, some call them spiritual disciplines, assist in connecting us with God and the life God desires for us.  Rather than being drudgery, as they are often characterized, they make the Christian life easier.  In the spiritual practices, we do not “conjure up” God; we do not stress and strain to coax him into our lives. God is already there.”

The Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Reflections magazine is now online, with articles and photography and lots of resources about spiritual practices.

In the coming days, each article in the issue will be posted individually to this site; the printed issue of the magazine will be in the mailboxes of subscribers* in about a week.

But you can read the entire issue online now.  Find it at

http://issuu.com/communicationsofficerdwtx/docs/spring_summer_2014_final_issuu

*All members of churches in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas whose addresses we have on file  receive the printed magazine free of charge.  If you are a member of a church in the diocese and do not receive the magazine, or if you are not a member of a church in the diocese and would like to receive the printed magazine, send an email to marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

The Story

 

By Marjorie GeorgeFix Anything!

What happened? What the hell happened? A week ago we were entering the city in triumph. People were shouting “hail to the king,” throwing their cloaks on the road in front of him and waving palm branches.

And now we are huddled in this dark little room with the doors locked, and he is dead. The revolution has failed. It’s over.

I sit on the floor with my back to the wall, knees pulled up to my chest, hiding with the rest of them. I disappear under my cloak – whew this thing is smelly; I need to find a stream soon. Most of them are still asleep on the floor. What now? What are we going to do now? Go back home, I guess, ignore the jeers and cruel jokes from the people of my village who told me I was crazy to follow him when I left three years ago. Continue reading

Lessons from an Empty Tomb

by Marjorie George

Tomb of Jesus

 

“They’re depending on you,” says the letter that came with my Neighborhood Volunteer kit from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My assignment is to address, stamp, and mail solicitation letters to neighbors on my street. Sure, I can do that.

The faces of three beautiful children smile at me in the literature I received with my Volunteer kit. “They’re depending on you,” I am reminded. Of course I will do that.

A few years ago there was a tv commercial, I don’t remember for what, in which a man kept getting assignments and kept saying, “I can do that.” After several agreements to do such-and-such, he said, “How’m I gonna do that?”

Christ is depending on us; how’re we gonna do that?

Christ’s last words to his disciples were, “Go and make more disciples” (Matt 28:19). They were “Go and proclaim the good news” (Mark 16:15). They were “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). “Yes, Lord,” we respond.

But how are we going to do that?

I think the Gospel stories we read during the Easter season tell us exactly how we are going to do that. We have taken these stories of post-resurrection encounters with Jesus as proof stories – evidence that the resurrection really happened.

But perhaps they are also sending stories. Perhaps Christ is gathering up all that He taught during His active ministry and giving us an executive summary of how the mission is to be carried out. In these stories, I see five helps, five things without which we cannot go, proclaim, and feed. The five are these: learn to recognize his voice, go forth in peace, believe, depend on the Scriptures, do it all in humility.

1. Learn to recognize his voice. “I know my sheep, and my sheep know me . . . they listen to my voice,” Jesus had told his disciples (John 10:14-16). Now, at the empty tomb, weeping, Mary sought the body of Jesus. Encountering a man in the cemetery and supposing him to be the gardener, Mary asked where the body had been taken. Then Jesus spoke to her – “Mary!” – and she immediately recognized Him as her beloved Rabbi (John 20:15-16).

Put 10 babies and 10 mothers in a nursery and listen for one baby to cry. Immediately the correct mother says, “Oh, that’s mine” and moves to comfort the child.

I have been wakened from the soundest of sleeps by one of my children coughing in the night. One cough, I listened; two coughs, I got up.

I watched my one-week-old granddaughter smile up at her daddy from his lap when he spoke to her because he had done it so often when she was in her mommy’s womb.

Learn His voice; learn to separate His truth from the cacophony of bad advice that surrounds us these days. Spend time with Him, and listen.

2. Go forth in peace. Later that day, in the evening, the disciples were gathered behind locked doors because they were afraid. Then Jesus appeared among them: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

Three days earlier Jesus had had to admonish Peter to put down his sword (John 18:10-11).

Lay aside you weapons, your anger, your need for revenge. This war will be fought and won through love, not hate; by unity, not division; by acceptance, not ridicule. The disciples were at the beginning, not the end, of their ministry – and only the peace that passes understanding would sustain them, and us.

3. Study scripture. On the day of the resurrection, Cleopas and another were walking on the road to Emmaus, discussing the strange events of the day, when Christ joined them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him, Luke tells us. As the two told of their perplexity at the unfolding events, Jesus “interpreted to them” the stories of scripture, revealing how it had all been foretold.

Later, after the two walkers had recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they remembered how their hearts had “burned within them” as Christ “opened the scriptures” to them on the road (Luke 24:13-32).

What will we feed His sheep? What we have been fed – Scripture.

4. Believe. Thomas had not been present with the disciples on the day of the resurrection, and he was taking no one’s word for it. Thomas was an evidence kind of guy. On the Meyers Briggs he was an S-J; first the facts and then we will talk about it.

And Jesus obliged. A week after the resurrection, Thomas was with the disciples when Christ again came and stood among them. “Here, Thomas,” He said. “Touch my side, feel the nail marks in my hands, believe,” adding, “but blessed are those who have not seen but have come to believe”(John 20:26-29). That would be us.

If you are in doubt as to what we believe, read the Nicene Creed.

5. Do it all in humility. It was in doing the only thing he knew to do that Peter found his mission. And in that, he had to be taught anew. It was at the Sea of Tiberias; Peter and some of the others had gone fishing. But after a night of it, they had caught nothing.

In the morning, Jesus stood at the shore, though they did not recognize Him. “Have you any fish?” he asked. “No,” they replied wearily. “Cast your nets to the other side,” He said. And they caught so many fish they could hardly draw in the nets (John 21:4-8).

Bishop Lillibridge has the best definition of humility I have ever heard. Humility, says the bishop, is being teachable. It is setting aside the arrogance of “I know all that,” and being open to a new way of seeing it, a new explanation, a new direction, fishing on the other side of the boat.

At the end of his Gospel account, John says that Jesus did many others things. “If every one of them were written down,” adds John, “I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written ” (21:25).

But never mind; what has been written is sufficient for our Easter learning. Now, it is left to us to obey.

Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

Practicing Easter

The Easter Season extends from Easter Day until the day of Pentecost, this year June 8. For the next few weeks, we will explore what it means to be an Easter people.

by Marjorie George

I was convinced the little possum was dead, although Maggie, our eight-month-old, 40-pound Golden Retriever puppy, continued to poke and paw and bark at it. Maggie had found it in the backyard during her last “out” time for the night. A new visVirginia Opossumitor, a new toy, and look, Mom, it moves.

It was just a baby possum itself, measuring maybe eight inches from nose to rump. “Where is your mother?” I asked it. But it was busy hissing at Maggie, bravely baring its teeth at her. Finally Maggie cornered the possum by the fountain, and the little guy flopped over on his side, apparently dead.

So this is “playing possum,” I thought.

From the website of the Opossum Society of the United States, I learned that this “I’m dead; leave me alone” stance is actually physiological. The involuntary, comatose-like state is induced by extreme fear. Since predators find that chasing and killing their prey is the appeal of the meal, an inert possum does nothing to excite the appetite, and they will leave it alone. Somehow the possum’s body knows when the danger has passed, and the critter “comes back to life.” Scared nearly to death, we would say.

Later, when Maggie was safely settled into her kennel for the night, I went back to the fountain; sure enough, the little possum was gone.

At Easter we look again into the great yawning emptiness of the tomb, where once Christ’s body lay inert in the blackness of death, and we find the body gone. But his had been a real death – the heart had stopped pumping, the blood had ceased to course through his veins, the lungs were still and silent. He had died. And then he had not. Resurrection – alleluia!

The Christ who arose from the grave was not “playing possum” – it was not just the old Christ brought back. He was resurrected to something entirely and exquisitely new. It was not a refurbished body that Mary encountered at the tomb, but a brand new one. “The resurrection narratives,” says C. S. Lewis, “are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being had arisen in the Universe. Something new had appeared, as new as the first coming of organic life” (from “The Strangest Story of All” in Bread and Wine, pub. Orbis). The death begets new life. In him, in the world, in us.

Die to self we are told; surrender your life. There is a difference, I think, between surrender-dying and giving-up-dying. Giving up says I am just too tired to fight any longer. Giving up often is accomplished out of fear and expresses itself in anger, resentment, and frustration. Surrender is wrapped in the sweet fragrance of hope. Surrender is my finally perceiving that I do not know best about my life, but you do, Lord. Surrender is Christ in the garden – “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Giving up feels like dying; surrender feels like resurrection. It will be the case in our lives that we will know failure, we will taste disappointment, we will watch helplessly as dreams die. Because the world does not yet totally belong to Christ, bad things will happen to good people. But death to self, the death of Easter, takes our failures and disappointments and dead dreams and resurrects them into something new – something far better than we could have imagined because they are of Christ-nature.

Surrender is buoyed by expectancy – that this death will open a way to new life, though we, like Mary at the tomb, may not recognize it at first (John 20:15).

Bishop David Reed points out that in her wisdom the Church gives us 50 days of the Easter season leading up to Pentecost. Easter wasn’t over last Sunday; Easter began last Sunday. We will always be an Easter people, and Eastertide, says Bishop Reed, is a time for practicing resurrection.

The collect for Wednesday of Easter Week, the week following Easter, asks God to “open the eyes of our faith” that we may behold Christ “in all his redeeming work” (The Book of Common Prayer, pg 171).

Easter, and life, have just begun. Throughout the Easter season, may we practice it a little more.

Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org or leave a comment below.

The Hand-Off

by Marjorie George

Circled Spelling MistakesIt was supposed to be a great little endeavor that was well-suited to my circumstances. In my semi-retirement, I would take on some free-lance editing. Make a little extra money, work from home, and frolic about in the happy land of commas and semi-colons. Be still my heart.

A client was referred, I got in touch, and we established a working relationship. Then things got touchy, and we quarreled over syntax – no, “impact” is not a verb, I told her. Neither is “office.” We are not going to “office” anywhere. She fired me in favor of another editor. Well, she was just wrong. Continue reading

For your spiritual journey from The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

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