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From The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

Spring/Summer 2014

Spiritual Practices:

Living the Gift We have only one thing to do, namely, to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God. - Richard Foster

magazine


In this issue:

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

Spring/Summer 2014

Spiritual Practices: Living the Gift 6 11

Talk About the Practices A conversation with Bishop Bob Hibbs and Brother James Dennis

The Habit of Practice Patty Brooke

12 How My Spiritual Life was Born Dan Morehead 14

Solitude and Silence

The Rev. Mike Marsh

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A View from the Pew

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The Rev. Mike Chalk

The Roots of Discipline The Rev. Carol Morehead

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God Prays First The Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson

Motivation Desperation Diane Thrush

In Every Issue

3 From the Editor 25 Resources and Book List 27 The Last Word Published by Department of Communications Episcopal Diocese of West Texas P. O. Box 6885 San Antonio, Texas 78209 www.dwtx.org

Editor Marjorie George, marjorie.george@dwtx.org Communications Officer Laura Shaver, laura.shaver@dwtx.org

Offices are at The Bishop Jones Center 111 Torcido Dr. San Antonio, Texas, 78209 210/888-824-5387

Bishop of West Texas The Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge

Bishop Suffragan The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed


From the editor by Marjorie George

The Practiced Gift On 190 concert evenings, the violinist is good; crowds are satisfied, and the violinist knows she has done well. But on seven of the 200 nights, supposes McLaren, the performance transcends “good” or even “great.” It is almost magical, the way the sound flows from the instrument and connects with the concert-goers. They are taken to a higher level; some describe it as “heavenly.”

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n his book Finding Our Way Again, Brian McLaren imagines the scenario of an expert violinist who plays 200 concerts a year. Three of the concerts are disasters – she has the flu or the bridge on the violin breaks in the middle of the performance or some such devastating thing.

The violinist herself cannot explain it; “she was every bit as prepared, practiced, serious, committed, and dedicated the other nights as well,” says McLaren. But on those seven nights, something inspirational unites the violinist, the instrument, and the crowd. Perhaps you have experienced these awefilled moments in your own life – when looking at your sleeping child and wept for joy; when you came across a landscape that

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We invite readers from every denomination or no denomination. To subscribe (there is no charge) send name, address, and e-mail address to marjorie.george@dwtx.org or Diocese of West Texas, Attn: Marjorie George, P. O. Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209.

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●The Practiced Gift from page 3

took your breath away; when you knelt for worship and knew the presence of God. You recognize it as a gift. “But,” says McLaren, “although the gift never stops being a gift, it ‘happens’ to those who are practiced in ways it doesn’t typically happen to those who aren’t.” Mark it well, for that is the crux of spiritual practices. 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. As Jane Patterson says in her article on page 22, “When I go to my prayer chair, God is already there. God has already started the prayer.”

It is always about what God does as he molds us into the person he is crafting us to be. The practices, says McLaren “make prayer ordinary in our daily schedule; they make generosity normal and habitual.” Through the practices we make regular time for rest every single week whether we think we need it or not; we practice simplicity instead of consumption, counter violence with peacemaking. Spiritual practices are ways we become awake and stay awake to God. This issue of Reflections magazine is about spiritual practices. In these pages, we are not going to lay upon you the “oughts and shoulds” of the spiritual life. We are not going to hand you a list and send you to the heavenly gym to sweat it out – although we

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will name some practices as a starting point (see the following page). Rather, we intend to invite you into a way of life that centers on God. Not all of the practices will be right for you; God made you a certain way and is calling you into a certain life and it does not – and need not – look like my life or your priest’s life or the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. (But if you are interested in St. Therese, the Church of the Little Flower in San Antonio is dedicated to her. In fact it is her national shrine – did you know that?). Here’s my confession for the day – I hate the spiritual practice of journaling. Hate it. Yes, I know I’m a writer and should love journaling. I don’t. Move on. The spiritual practices are not about becoming better at the practice. In practicing meditation, my goal is not to become better at meditating – “my meditation period is up to 43.5 minutes, what’s yours?” The practices are about things we can do to put us in touch with the things God does. And it is always about what God does as he molds us into the person he is crafting us to be. Nor are the practices adequate unto themselves. It is the Holy Spirit who initiates and sustains our journey and who is present in our awakenings, urging us onward, showing us this new revelation and that, surprising us with awe from time to time. As McLaren points out in his story of the violinist, practice is a necessary but not sufficient condition for receiving the gift. “Practices,” says McLaren, “are means by which we become prepared for grace to surprise us. They are ways of opening our hands so that we can receive the gifts God wants to give us.”

Reach Marjorie at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

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There are many different lists of the spiritual practices or spiritual disciplines, as they are often called. And different authors categorize the practices in different ways: Richard Foster speaks of inward, outward, and corporate practices. Dallas Willard classifies them as disciplines of abstinence or disciplines of engagement. Brian McLaren stresses contemplative practices, communal practices, and missional practices. These practices appear most frequently, even if by different names, on most lists of spiritual practices. These are broad headings so, for instance, there are many different forms of prayer. Add your own favorites to the list. You will find resources for learning more about these practices throughout this issue.

Solitude – spending time alone with God

The

Silence – removing yourself from all noise

Fasting – abstaining from food, media, entertainment to recognize your dependence on God

Sacrifice – giving of our resources beyond what is reasonable for the advancement of God’s kingdom

Study – spending time reading the works of good Christian writers Scripture – reading, examining, and meditating on God’s Word Worship – offering praise and adoration to God in a communal setting Prayer – spending time with God, talking and listening to Him Confession – recognizing and confessing your sins to another person Submission – humbling yourself before God and others

es ctic Pra

Simplicity – curbing consumerism and being content with only that which is necessary for your well-being

Secrecy – doing good deeds without anyone’s knowledge Sabbath – dedicating one day a week, typically Sunday, to spend with God without the distractions of sporting events, shopping, entertainment, work etc. For other resources on spiritual practices, go to these websites: http://biblestudies.stores.yahoo.net/spdine.html http://www.clcdayton.org/uploads/Corestrength.pdf http://lovegod.denisonforum.org/soul/386-transform-your-life-the-spiritual-disciplines https://bible.org/illustration/spiritual-disciplines http://www.soulshepherding.org/2012/07/spiritual-disciplines-list/ http://www.albministry.org/pdf/List%20of%20Disciplines.pdf All of these links are active in our online version of the magazine. Find it at http://reflections-dwtx.org/print-online/spiritualpractices


Talk About the Practices

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ecently, Reflections magazine editor Marjorie George (MG) spent some time with Bishop Bob Hibbs (BH) and Brother James Dennis (JD) talking about spiritual practices. When the notes from that interview got sorted out, four practices emerged that Hibbs and Dennis find essential in their spiritual lives: reading the Daily Office, engaging in spiritual friendship, study of Scripture, and confession.

The Rt. Rev. Bob Hibbs is the retired suffragan bishop of the Diocese of West Texas, having served from January 1996 to December 2003. James Dennis is an Anglican Dominican brother who belongs to the Anglican Order of Preachers. He attends St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio and makes his living as a lawyer.

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MG: You have both said that reading the Daily Office is the absolute starting place for your spiritual lives. BH: I learned to love the Daily Office in seminary; I’ve been doing it every day for 55 years. I think of that as my daily ration – If I don’t do the daily office, I feel weak. It’s how I do my scripture, it’s how I do my liturgical year, it’s how I become daily deeper in love with the Psalter. I don’t think it’s the only way, but I sure do think it’s one of richest ways to develop a spirituality and to enrich and nourish it. JD: In the Daily Office I am being quiet with God. In our modern lives, we’ve lost silence. We’ve lost the ability to sit without the radio, the telephone, the computer or the iPod. To sit simply and let God be God in our lives. One of the things that silence does is that I am no longer trying to manipulate the Lord God of all heaven. I’m allowing myself to be worked on. BH: There is a wonderful text that says it – “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). JD: That sort of starts the ground work, and even if you suffer from what I call “monkey mind” at the beginning of practicing that silence, work through that. Even if it’s only 15 or 20 minutes a day when you are allowing God to work in your life – that is foundational for all the disciplines. The Daily Office will compel you into all the other disciplines. MG: Sometimes it’s hard for beginners to dig out all the meanings of the daily scriptures. JD: Start with commentaries. I’m not going to read the Bible like any other book. There is a context that is not immediately

apparent. For the average lay person, N. T. Wright has a wonderful series, especially his one on the Psalms. There is a lot of it out there. Scripture is one of the essential spiritual practices, and I do think there are some essentials and universals. And I know how hard that sounds to some people’s ears. I think you can’t get around prayer, you can’t get around charity, which I mean in the broader sense of learning to love all people. I think you cannot avoid study and you cannot avoid Scripture. Now what kind of prayer – centering prayer, or meditative prayer or intercessory prayer – there is lots of room there. BH: And in all of this I think there is a need for spiritual friendship. It’s not that you need someone to teach you to read the New Testament in Greek. It’s that you go to someone who has been along the path already. It helped me when I learned about the scouts who used to bring people across the Great High Plains. The scouts were people who had gone ahead and scoped out the territory and knew where the springs were. They knew where the Comanches were hiding, where the quick sand was, and they could save you a lot of trouble simply because they had been across the path. JD: They knew how to pull out an arrow without tearing too much of the flesh away. Because we all have those arrows in our spiritual life. BH: And sometimes you don’t pull out an arrow, you push it through.

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A spiritual friend, like the old Western scouts, knows how to pull out an arrow without tearing away too much of the flesh.


● Talk about the practices

from page 7

MG: Is spiritual friendship like spiritual direction? JD: Yes. The Celts called it anam cara. In some sense this spiritual friendship need not be a formal relationship. There is something about having been through a broken humanity – spiritual friends are able somehow to remind us that we are the beloved child of God. This is the fundamental fact of our nature, and the rest of it is just details.

Brother James: "Too many of us approach the spiritual practices and say, 'I pretty much get this Christianity thing already. Just top it off a little.'" BH: All are the beloved. All are living sacraments of the power and presence of God, but it’s only through the brokenness that they come to know that. JD: Another spiritual practice you will get if you do the Daily Office is the confession of sin. Most Episcopalians say the confession of sin once a week in church and they say it largely the same way they say the Lord’s Prayer – without thinking about it very much. I like the spiritual discipline of confession. I like having a confessor. If all I am doing is reciting that prayer in church and . .P O I have not is, R . De nn s e m Ja r made what used Brothe

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to be called a “thorough inventory of the state of my soul” I am missing it. What is it in my life that doesn’t fit in with the presence of God? What in my life is keeping me from being close to God? Whether that’s greed, anger, gluttony. What is it that is preventing me from approaching the nearer presence of the Father? If I am compelled to do that every day – it forces me to take that inventory. How did I despoil creation today. How did I devalue the people around me. While it is true that our sins are forgiven, if we cram them down rather than bring them to light, they may be forgiven but they may still be richly painful and bring about an infection. BH: I may be forgiven, but unless I engage in self-examination I don’t know that. Self examination and confession are essential practices for spiritual growth. JD: And here is where the practices begin to feed on each other and intertwine – I probably won’t take the time to think about the ways in which I have separated myself from God unless I take some time alone in silence. That really is the place where we confront our demons, and the confrontation of our demons leads us to realize we have someone in our life who loves us. BH: It’s important for everybody to know that there is life after sin. Part of the joy of the Easter life is knowing that after the death of sin there is resurrection. That the wounded healer that we are all called to be always bears the scars of sin. It has always seemed to me that it is easier for my heart to break when I confess my sins to another person than when I just have this interior exercise of self examination. That’s why I think the Anglican thought on confession is so good – “none must, all may, some should.”

Reflections

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See, our ancient enemy likes us to lie about ourselves. He uses two lies – one is that I am infinitely better than I really am and the other is I am infinitely worse than I really am. As long as we Bishop Bob can swing on that Hibbs trapeze we’re not going to make a lot of spiritual progress. It’s only through examination and confession that we discover who we really are.

Bishop Bob: "It’s only through examination and confession that we discover who we really are." MG: Why, do you think, people are reluctant to try the practices? JD: Sometimes it's because our cup is already too full. Too many of us approach the spiritual practices and say, “I pretty much get this Christianity thing already. Just top it off a little.” So the notion is I have to empty myself of the everyday-ness that I have filled my life with and then I can come to the altar. And that is the reason for the practice of fasting. In the fast, I am emptying myself out so I can recognize my complete dependence on God for my life. To genuinely fast in the Christian tradition requires that I will spend that time in prayer and I will also spend that time engaged in acts of charity. I am showing my solidarity with the poor whom Jesus loved so dearly, and if I am not in prayer during that fast and if I am not giving alms to the poor during that fast then it’s just a diet.

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Learn more

About the Daily Office The Daily Office, as set forth in The Book of Common Prayer (BCP), includes forms of worship and assigned Scripture readings for each day of the week except Sunday. These include Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Noonday Prayer, and Compline along with daily devotions for individuals and families. “It comes out of the worship of temple and synagogue,” says Bob Hibbs, "and there has likely not been a time in the Church – East or West – when it has not been a significant part of the spiritual life of the Church. Often it has been canonically enforced on those under holy orders.” The lectionary (readings for each day) is found in the BCP beginning on pg 934. In recent years, reading Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer has been made more accessible by websites that post these forms online with appointed readings for each day embedded within the service. One-stop worship, as it were. Perhaps the easiest site to use is The Mission of St. Clare, which has been online since the early 1990s – now in English and Spanish. Mission St. Clare was begun, says the creator of the website, "after one too many clerics gave one too many sermons opining about how people didn't make time to come to church anymore. Since I was, myself, working 60-hour weeks in Silicon Valley, I knew very well why people weren't in church on Sunday. In my mind, the question was not 'Can you get the people to church?' but 'Can you get church to the people?'" According to the site, "The Mission was named for St. Clare because (at the time) no one had designated a patron of the Internet and I thought she represented the idea of prayer available anytime and anywhere the best. (Especially because she was already patron of television.) No official body was involved in elevating St. Clare to patron of the Internet because, really, who would you ask?" Access the Daily Office and read the rest of the story of Mission of St. Clare at

http://www.missionstclare.com.

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● Talk about the practices

from page 9

BH: Maybe in the history of the world there has not been a culture so saturated in excess as ours. That is part of the reason we are so violent. We live in a culture where many of our diseases are the results of excess, and so even as the root of holiness is wholeness, fasting is part of what we need, it’s part of the practice that restores us to wholeness. It involves things like the expenditure on clothing and on so many other things. Holy simplicity is part of the package.

draws you in. Some of the practices you will be drawn to and some you will not. Do the ones you are drawn to. That is probably your soul telling you that is what it needs right now.

L to R: Bob Hibbs and James Dennis.

JD: What we are trying to do in all of the spiritual practices is awaken ourselves to the presence of God in our lives; all of the practices are aimed at that endeavor. We have a rich tradition from which to draw, there are lots of practices to choose from. There is the old doctrine of attrait – which means that which pulls you,

Find the Daily Office online, with apps for Android, iPhone and iPpad http://www.missionstclare.com/english/paddex.html Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, ad Evening Prayer in audio http://www.missionstclare.com/english/spoken/morning.html For the daily Bible readings with a short meditation for the day, plus links to the readings on other sites, go to the Forward Movement site http://prayer.forwardmovement.org/forward_day_by_day.php?d=12&m=5&y=2014 For the lectionary (Bible readings appointed for each day), go to http://satucket.com/lectionary/ For The Book of Common Prayer online http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/bcp.htm For more liturgical resources for Anglicans http://anglicansonline.org/resources/liturgical.html All of these links are active in our online version of the magazine. Find – Spring/Summer 2014 it at http://reflections-dwtx.org/print-online/spiritualpractices

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T he Habit of P ract ice by Patty Brooke

hen I first hear the word W “discipline,” I am taken back to my childhood days and my Father who believed in discipline — as the dictionary describes it: “behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control." That describes my

Father and me. I had to shine my saddle oxfords every night, wash the dishes, keep my room clean, etc. before any play time was allowed. There was intentionality. Those were not awful or dreadful disciplines to cultivate, but they left me feeling rigid and rebellious. As I have grown on my journey of spiritual disciplines, I have chosen better words with which I can resonate: spiritual practices. One of the definitions the dictionary uses to describe practice is: “habitual or customary performance; condition arrived at by experience or exercise”. If I “practice” something, it can then become a “habit.” Why do we want to cultivate a spiritual practice or habit? I would suggest that it is to rekindle the gift of God to be in relationship. I think the key word is “rekindle.” I believe we all have a habit that we practice. Maybe it is using words from The Book of Common Prayer (a really good resource) or other devotional books and reading from scripture. I especially like the New Zealand Book of Prayer. My husband, John, and I frequently use the Forward Movement publication “Hour by Hour” to read Morning Prayer together. Over the last year I have rekindled the Morning Offering prayer I learned when I made my Cursillo in 1978. I have rephrased the prayer into my own words, and it is the first thing that enters my heart and mind when I awaken in the morning. It is a lovely way to begin and offer the day to God – my words: "I offer this day to the Father through my Lord and brother Jesus Christ in unity with the Holy Spirit. I unite myself in spirit and prayer with all Eucharists being celebrated this day. May the good news of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be proclaimed throughout the world."

Over the years I have used many practices, including centering prayer and lectio divina. I also have used music — I attended a retreat where a lovely cellist was present. The moment she drew her bow across the strings, my heart and soul resonated. The music took me inward, and I was present with God. Walking is another way to rekindle your relationship. Each step can be a word said aloud or silently, maybe praying as an intercessor, saying names as you take your steps. Sitting in a garden or on a deck or porch can regenerate your spiritual practice. We recently hung our hammock in the back yard under our pear tree, and as I lay in the hammock I watched the clouds roll by and listened to the doves as they sang their song. Being out in creation revives my very soul. Revisit your current practice — is it connecting you to and with God? If not, try something new. Rekindle the gift God has given us of presence. Be present and open, be intentional, pay attention, be still and listen for that still small voice. Do your spiritual exercises and come to know God. As Barbara Crafton says, “All you have to do is show up!”

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

Patty Brooke is a spiritual director and retreat and workshop leader. She is a member of St. David's, San Antonio. Reach her at pjbrooke@sbcglobal.net

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How My Spiritual Life Was Born by Dan Morehead “Until we realize that it is better, more useful, more productive of strength, to spend ten minutes in the morning in feeding and finding the Eternal than in flicking through the newspaper – that this will send us off to the day’s work properly orientated, gathered together, recollected and endowed with new power of dealing with circumstances – we have not yet begun to live the life of the spirit.”

Evelyn Underhill

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n 1999 I was 34 years old. I had recently completed psychiatry training and was on staff at the Menninger Clinic. At home we had two fine boys, and my wife, Carol, was pregnant with another. We were moving into a big new house. And while all of these wonderful things unfolded, I was becoming aware that I had no spiritual life.

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This was rather a shock to me, so surprising that I only realized it slowly, over a long period of time. I had always been religious, even devout. I grew up in a home where our Christian faith was the most

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important thing – we went to church three times a week (at least) and had family devotionals at home as well. Every night I read my Bible. Every day I prayed. During college, I was a religion major, and I certainly knew a great deal about my faith. But I also found that intellectualizing about our religion is not (for me) the same thing as having a spiritual life. I could think about God and theology all day (and did in graduate school), but I felt farther away from God, rather than closer. Furthermore, I realized that I could do things such as go to church or perform good deeds and not experience any sense of closeness to God. More strangely, I noticed that I could even have emotions about God, Jesus, and my faith, but that even emotions did not constitute an experience of God or Jesus or my faith. I could think, do, and feel "about" religion, but in my case I still did not have a spiritual life.

discovered this wonderful book called The Book of Common Prayer (you may have heard of it) and began doing daily prayers, three or four times a day. I started doing contemplative prayer as well. I was still terrible at fasting, but prayer seemed to form the backbone of this effort to have a spiritual life. At first, I would check every few minutes to see if I was having a mystical experience, or if some other wonderful, life-changing thing was happening. It did not. No special messages from God, no holy aura surrounding me, no St. Theresalike raptures. Luckily, I kept going. What I did not understand at that time was that spiritual disciplines do not have their effects in hours, days, weeks or sometimes even months. Spiritual practices are the necessary conditions for spiritual growth. And spiritual growth takes time, like the growth of a tall tree, or a child becoming an adult. You cannot see the tree grow, and the child cannot feel him or herself grow, but it is going on all the time. And so it was even for me, who had no clue what I was doing but just kept doing it.

It puzzled me for a long time. I was not even sure what a spiritual life was, or if anyone else had one, or if I was even capable of having one. But it gradually became clear that, if I were going to have one, it would be constituted by Spiritual practices are the necessary conditions for some actual, direct experience of spiritual spiritual growth. And spiritual growth takes time, reality, of ultimate meaning, of encounter with God. There had to be some actual core like the growth of a tall tree, or a child becoming an or substance to it, some genuine experience adult. at the center of my feeling, thinking, and doing. Otherwise, it was all going to stay Gradually, I found that I was being given empty and dry, like a fine furnished home, abaneverything I had sought, and much more. I did doned and inhabited by no one. not "find’" God. Instead, I found that God had So I began to search. I did so not in the best been close to me all the time, closer than I was to way, but in the only way I knew how – by reading myself. And I found that the deep emptiness inside books. Instead of intellectual theology, I tried to myself was already the substance of my spiritual learn about the spiritual life and spiritual praclife, waiting patiently to be born and live, if only I tices. I thought I already knew about these, for I gave it the chance. had already dabbled with them earlier in life. But at the time, they did not seem to have much result. I could fast, and feel terrible (tired and achy and irritable), but not really be better off when I resumed eating. I could do quiet prayer or meditation, but it just felt like sitting there for a while, Daniel Morehead is a then getting up and going about my business in psychiatrist in private practice. the same old way. It was all like having a not-veryHe lives in San Antonio with interesting conversation with myself, and seemed his wife and 14-year-old son, to go nowhere. where they attend St Mark's Episcopal Church. Reach him at But this time, at age 34, I was desperate. dmorehead@austin.rr.com Although I was a non-Episcopalian at the time, I

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Solitude and Silence Article by the Rev. Mike Marsh. Accompanying photography by Peter Szarmach.

he 14th century Sufi poet and T mystic, Rumi, wrote, “Return to the root of the root of yourself.” His

words remind me that I often live on the periphery or circumference of life, disconnected from the root of my being and existence. To “return to the root of the root” of myself means returning to myself, becoming more fully human, and entering the deep heart. Ultimately, though, it means returning to God. For me that returning necessarily involves intentional silence. Silence is more than the cessation of talking or the absence of sound. We’ve all experienced times when we were not talking and the world around us was quiet, but the world

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From the photographer - Peter Szarmach: Sedona – the red rock, the blue skies, the energy vortexes. The beauty of such a place is only magnified by the spiritual energy that has been known to surround Sedona. I find solitude in hiking the rocks and canyons. Drawn to the majesty and the natural awe, it’s easy to focus on the higher power or energy that created such beauty . . . my delight is in capturing it.

within us was filled with noise and voices that just would not be quiet. The real work and practice of silence is within us. Three or four times each year I go to Lebh Shomea House of Prayer for extended periods of silence and solitude, a few days to a week at a time. Lebh Shomea is in south Texas near Sarita. The community lives in silence. Each guest lives alone in what the desert fathers and mothers would call a cell. It is a small individual dwelling with a bed, a desk, a bathroom, and a prayer room. The community gathers for Eucharist each

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About the photographer

Peter Szarmach's interest in photography began in college where he was fortunate to study with talented professors such as Esther Parada at the U. of Illinois at Chicago. With a Communication Design degree, his working career took a path to graphic design and marketing, but he has always enjoyed capturing images with a camera. In the last couple of years, he has had the pleasure of showing recent work at the Cathedral House Gallery in several shows. In his retirement years, Szarmach hopes to devote much more time to this passion. You can see more of his work at composingbeauty.com. Left: Ice Abstract morning. Meals are eaten together in silence. That’s it. There are no programs, no scheduled activities, no escape from the silence and solitude. Exterior silence is not, however, the goal. God is always the goal. The exterior silence is a necessary means to interior silence, but it is the inner silence that gives meaning and content to the outer silence; otherwise it’s just escape, running away, isolation, the absence of sound

The Grand Canyon: not many places can match its awesomeness. The depth and breadth of its beauty is beyond words. It’s only fitting to enjoy the Canyon in silence and meditate on the Divine within, especially when a sunset lights up the canyon.

True silence is not escape but engagement, not emptiness but fullness, not absence but presence. It is a way of showing up and being present to God, others, myself, life, and the world. Mindful of the psalmists words, “For God alone my soul in silence waits” (62:1, 6), I surround myself with silence in an attempt to fill myself with silence. Waiting in silence is not necessarily easy or comfortable. The silence strips away busyness, distractions, and entertainment. You are confronted with yourself – your thoughts, voices, temptations, fantasies, all that you are and all that you are not. In this regard

continued on page 16

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the practice of silence becomes an act of repentance, turning around and going in a different direction. Silence invites me to repent from the need to justify, explain, and defend; from the need to be recognized, heard, and approved of; from the need to be accomplished, efficient, and productive. Silence asks me to learn to gracefully do nothing. It reveals that I am “un-selfsufficient.” That doesn’t mean that I am deficient, but that my sufficiency is not found within myself but in God, the one who created me in his own image and likeness. The Christian tradition holds silence as an essential practice for anyone who wants to grow spiritually. Elijah found God in “a sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12). Jesus, the gospel writers tell us, often went off to be by himself, to lonely and deserted places, to pray (for example, Mark 1:35). Rumi quote from: Kabir Edmund Helminski, trans., Love is a Stranger, Selected Lyric Poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi (Boston: Shambhala, 2000). Egyptians fathers quote from John McGuckin, The Book of Mystical Chapters (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2003.)

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Valles Caldera – hot springs, streams and elk are commonplace in this volcanic caldera in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. This vast grassy landscape reminds one of a savannah in Africa, but without the big game. This is a special place to come and feel alone, but not lonely, as you feel one with this natural phenomenon – one of only 11 in the U.S.

So where does one start with the practice of silence? The specifics of silence will be different for each of us, dependent on our life’s circumstances. We all, however, start the same. A saying from the Egyptian Fathers offers a simple and direct answer: "You need a spiritul pilgrimage; begin by closing your mouth."

The Rev. Michael Marsh is rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde TX. Reach him at marshmk@stphilipsuvalde.org

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The Practice of Breathing “In the Bible, the word for ‘breath’ is the same word as the word for ‘spirit.’ In Hebrew, God’s

name is essentially four letters…YHVH. The ancient rabbis believed that . . . they were . . . essentially the sound of breathing. Is the name of God the sound of breathing?” – ( Rob Bell, NOOMA Breathe video) How many of us need a break but can’t slow down enough to fit it into our calendar? We don’t need to schedule it – all we need is a single, intentional breath to “break” the busy pattern of our day. Try it right now. Notice your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Is hearing your own breathing foreign to you?

Are you scrunched over your desk? Are you slouching, and are your shoulders rounded forward? Do you feel stress? Whether you are standing or sitting, position your body to let in a deeper breath. In this intentional position, take a deep breath, past your lungs and into your belly; then breath out as much air as you can. Do this three times. Sometimes this will make you yawn, which means you needed the intake of air. Don’t underestimate the power of this simple, intentional and kind act. You have just taken a break and said the name of God. Use this practice throughout the day, especially when you are stressed.

from Catherine Lillibridge, a member of St. David’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX who has a ministry to women. Reach her at lillibridges5@yahoo.com.

Read more online

From the ExploreFaith website.

Slipping into Simplicity, by Renee Miller

"All I'm asking you to do is to set a mock 'fire' for me," I said to my friend. "What are you talking about?" she replied. http://www.explorefaith.com/livingspiritually/spirituality_every_day/simply_satisfied/slipping_into_simplicity.php

Simplicity of Time, by Renee Miller

“I once shared with a retired priest friend that when I took a day off, I didn't know what to do, and found myself easily disenchanted with a day that should have been a delight." http://www.explorefaith.com/livingspiritually/spirituality_every_day/simply_satisfied/simplicity_of_time.php

Simplicity of Activity, by Renee Miller

We know that we are over-committed, but when we look at the roles we play and the tasks of each role, there seems to be little chance of whittling down our responsibilities. http://www.explorefaith.com/livingspiritually/spirituality_every_day/simply_satisfied/simplicity_of_activity.php

Why Be Silent? by Margaret W. Jones

Recently I was invited to lead an out-of-town retreat. I agreed, and began to discuss plans for it with the woman who issued the invitation. Almost as an afterthought, I added, "I didn't say this earlier, but I only do silent retreats." http://www.explorefaith.com/livingspiritually/being_still/why_be_silent.php

Following Jesus into Silence, by William A. Kolb

The first few hours were torture for me; I am an extrovert. But after a while there was a nurturing quality to the stillness and I experienced some feeding of a part of me that I am not even sure I knew existed. http://www.explorefaith.com/livingspiritually/being_still/following_jesus_into_silence.php

In God's Time - Three ways to re-orient our clocks and our calendars, by Lauren Winner

Sometimes I’ll say, “Great, I’m gonna commit myself to saying the Morning prayers and the Evening prayers from the Book of Common Prayer every single day…” I’ll say that on a Monday and by Wednesday I’ve blown it and I feel like, “Well, why bother.” http://www.explorefaith.com/livingspiritually/being_still/in_gods_time.php

All of these links are active in our online version of the magazine. Find it at http://reflections-dwtx.org/print-online/spiritualpractices


A

fter nearly 40 years leading wor-

ship, I find myself in the pew on Sunday mornings. Even though I had worshiped in the pew on vacations, after I retired from St. Mark’s, San Antonio, a year ago, I began to look at worship in a new way.

Attending church on Sunday was now a choice! I wondered how I would respond to worship as another person in the pew rather than as celebrant and preacher. Could I overcome the natural tendency as a priest to evaluate the liturgy rather than to simply enter the worship experience? I have found that my reaction to Sunday mornings is an intense call to be with the gathered community of faith. My spiritual disciplines during the week are vital, but the need for community is equally important. This call to be with others reminds me that I am essentially a relational being, and that the Christian faith is an incarnational, embodied faith.

A View from the Pew by the Rev. Mike Chalk

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My 40 years of leading worship had required a great deal of preparation. From planning the service to preparing the sermon, worship was related to preparing spiritually for the Sunday experience. One would think sitting in the pew would not require any preparation, and to some extent that is true. We can leave the worship service up to the priest in charge. But I find that if I read the appointed lessons for Sunday and practice my spiritual disciplines during the week, I am more alert to God in the worship experience. A sense of expectancy is also an important ingredient for perceiving God in the Holy Eucharist. I picture two men on the front pew of a church – one with arms crossed, eyebrows knit together, with little or no sense of expectation that he will hear anything of importance. Next to him is a person sitting on the edge of his seat listening intently to the reading of scripture. After the reading, the man who is alert says to his companion, “Did you hear that! It

Reflections

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was to me the very Word of God!” What made the difference? When I am attentive to the liturgy, words that I have heard many times can speak powerfully and meaningfully. Invariably a word or example from a sermon will speak to some aspect of my life. In his book Prayer: Our Deepest Longing, Ronald Rolheiser provides a helpful reminder of the importance of corporate worship when one cannot bring adequate preparation or energy. “What clear rituals provide is prayer that depends precisely upon something beyond our own energy. The rituals carry us: our tiredness, our inattentiveness, our indifference . . . They keep us praying even when we are too tired to muster up our own energy” (p6). Richard Foster also reminds us that the path to spiritual growth includes the inward disciplines of contemplation and study as well as the corporate disciplines of worship and celebration (see Celebration of Discipline).

as a reminder to pray for the disenfranchised but to serve them as well. Worship has the power to change me and enable me to live more faithfully in the world. Learning to worship from the pew is an adjustment, but one that has been very positive. I am grateful to the clergy who prepare so well and faithfully for the practice of worship and the hospitality of the community that reminds me of the love of God. I cannot be Christian alone. The corporate and inward disciplines are interdependent. To neglect one discipline hampers the spiritual life. My view from the pew has been an adjustment that has served to remind me once again of the power of worship and the need for a community of faith.

Left to my inward disciplines, I might believe prayer is all about me. Corporate disciplines remind me my prayers are to include the needs of the world. Authentic worship not only serves

The Rev. Mike Chalk retired as rector of St. Mark's, San Antonio, in 2013 after serving there for 19 years. Reach hin at mikedchalk@gmail.com.

Find more online At the Edge of the Enclosure offers a weekly self-guided retreat on the Gospel lesson for the coming Sunday. The site also has resources for sermon preparation, Bible Study, and personal reflection. Author is Suzanne Guthrie. http://www.edgeofenclosure.org/

Christian Prayer Resources has articles about prayer, books on prayer, prayer organizations, prayer networks, prayer fellowships, prayer ministries, prayer mobilizers, online books on prayer, prayer guides, and more. http://www.christianprayerresources.org/

Oremus has daily prayer, liturgy, hymns, prayer resources. excellent Bible search tools. Morning and evening prayer are read by David Guthrie (with an English accent). http://www.oremus.org/

Other resources from Episcopal monastic communities: The Community of the Holy Spirit, http://www.chssisters.org/ The Society of St. John the Evangelist http://www.ssje.org/index.html All of these links are active in our online version of the magazine. http://reflections-dwtx.org/print-online/spiritualpractices

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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The Roots of Discipline

by the Rev. Carol Morehead

W

hat does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? How can we, so long removed from the actual, historical life of Jesus of Nazareth, be disciples? Early believers wrestled with this question. As time passed and the generation of people who knew Jesus ended, believers passed down wisdom about how to be a disciple. These early pilgrims – desert Christians – sought to grow deep roots. Practices like prayer, silence, solitude, fasting, meditation, study, service, simplicity, and others became the bedrock of living a Christian life – of being a disciple.

Fast-forward to our modern times, when we are habituated by instant gratification and fast food. Our foundations are often weak and our roots perilously shallow, and too often we find ourselves

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subject to the constant shifts of a culture that encourages us to embrace mood swings, get ahead at the cost of others, and focus only on ourselves. How do we, who seek to be disciples of Christ, actually live into the call of serving others, of keeping the long view of time and space, of growing deep roots in Christ? One way is by returning to the early Christian wisdom of disciplines which will habituate us in the ways of Jesus. It is in that spirit that Richard Foster wrote Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Foster notes that the classical spiritual disciplines exist to liberate us “from the stifling slavery of self-interest and fear.” Foster begins by setting a helpful framework. The ingrained habits of sin are slavery to the believer. Foster writes, “Inner righteousness

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is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.” This is important to my understanding of being spiritually formed as a disciple. Without this point, spiritual disciplines too easily become laws which crush us rather than practices which free us. “The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that God can transform us,” Foster writes. Foster chooses 12 classical disciplines, dividing them into inward disciplines, outward disciplines, and corporate disciplines. In my experience, we Christians tend to treat the disciplines as a smorgasbord from which we pick and choose the things we like: I’ll take a little prayer with a side of worship and some service for dessert. What Foster helped me discover was that the whole of these practices work together to form me, inside and outside, body and spirit and heart and mind, into a disciple of Jesus. The very notion of disciplines isn’t appetizing to me, to be honest. So my own resistance to the concept had to be overcome. As I tried them, I found that these practices became for me the way of life; they form the rhythm of my day, the rhythm of my thinking, the framework for my relationship to creation, to the world, and to the community of faith. So many things in the book stand out to me: to pray is to change; fasting centers on God; simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle; service not based on feeling but as a lifestyle; to worship is to experience reality; joy transforms misery. As I began to actually move from these practices being words on a page to them being a part of the shape of my life, I found a new sense of gratitude, of openness to God and to the world, of purpose, of vocation. The truth is, being a disciple is a journey, a lifelong process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. By tapping into the wisdom of the many ages of the faithful, I discovered a richness, a fullness to my life as a disciple. By placing myself before God through the practices of spiritual disciplines, my understanding of being a disciple has been transformed from

a vague, unattainable, ancient word on a page to lived reality. Foster, in his chapter on Study, quotes Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, and the wisdom expressed sums up the benefit I have found in the spiritual disciplines: “Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery of things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.”

“Inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.” I’m drawn to the image of a tree as it grows: an ongoing process of being alive, growth requires things – water, air, nutrients, deep roots, pruning, rich soil. How do I grow that way? Spiritual practices are tools not just for developing a spiritual life, but for the ongoing process of becoming in Christ.

The Rev. Carol Morehead is assistant rector at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, San Antonio. She graduated from Seminary of the Southwest in May 2013. Reach her at cmorehead@stmarks-sa.org.

Watch more online Richard Foster talks about Celebration of Discipline on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BJmAJjh-OY Dallas Willard talks about taking theology and disciplines into the workplace http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBh8Kz9uqG8

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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God Prays First

Japanese teacher says: At first light, rise. Don’t hover between sleep and waking, this makes you heavy, puts a stone inside your heart. (Naomi Nye, “Breaking the Fast” in Red Suitcase)

by The Rev. Jane L. Patterson, Ph.D.

T

he alarm goes off in the dark of my bedroom. I reach out from under the covers to switch it off, burrow down deeper, try not to become aware of how the pitch-black room is lightening to gray. The brown chair by the sliding glass door is calling to me. I imagine myself boiling water for tea. Tea would be good. I push the covers aside, like a diver coming up from deep water, and am glad for the new day. All the people who teach on daily practices of prayer suggest that first thing in the morning is the best time for prayer, and having a customary place with your prayer book or icon or candle there is the best way to do it. So why, then, is it so hard, morning by morning, to heave myself up and out of my dreams, and into the solid room? Yes, there is the cup of tea.

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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But it isn’t only about the tea. Decades of rising for prayer before the dawn have shifted the focus of my attention, from the supposed heroics of waking before the rest of my neighborhood is up, to the awareness that it is not my prayers that begin the day at all, but rather God’s prayer that I am lucky enough to let move through me. 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. The other reason I get up has to do with the earthly side of things: there is no praying alone. One person praying is an opening for the prayers of all, a channel for all the prayers and all the hurts and all the gratitude of the earth to ascend to God. I get up to be the place where God’s mercy meets the heartache of the world, even if I can barely put words to it. I get up early because my brown chair is the place where I get to join a daily miracle of grace: the unceasing prayer of God and the prayers of the earth intertwining in the dance that God imagined from the beginning. So good. So lucky.

The Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson is an educator, retreat leader, writer, and co-director of The WorkShop in San Antonio TX. Reach her at jane.patterson@ssw.edu

Motivation Desperation by Diane Thrush

ouldn’t I love to say that I have W been reading and praying the Daily Office for almost 40 years

because that’s what Christians do! The

truth is, I have been practicing my faith in this way for all these years out of sheer desperation. You see, I learned a long time ago that I couldn’t do it alone. In 1976 we were living in Denver with two small children, far from family and emotional support. Having had a spiritual awakening, I became aware that I could not survive life and its problems without God at my side – all the time! As with any young mother, sleep was very important to me. Yet, I knew that if I was to get through my day relatively unscathed by life, I was going to have to make time for God. That meant getting up before my children while the house was quiet, reading the appointed scriptures for the day, and praying. There was nothing glamorous, no mountain-top high, no bells and whistles – just the acknowledgment that I HAD to do this for me. And so began this now-almost lifelong practice for me. As the children got older, some stresses lessened and others took their place. Whether it was motherhood, marriage, money, relationships, I didn’t find life to be a bowl of cherries. It was certainly not what I had in mind as I faced life not as the product of fairy tale images but in all its gritty reality. Working outside the home – being a working mother – brought its own problems, the ones that many of us face on a regular basis. Always, what everyday life meant for me was a sense of complete and total need for the Lord, all day continued on page 24

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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● Motivation Desperation from page 21

all the time. That still meant for me giving up sleep to spend that quiet time in scripture and prayer. I knew at the deepest level of my being that I couldn’t live without that time. My sacred space was just a chair and end table in our family room, no big deal. I had one icon on the wall that was a focal point. Sometimes there was a candle. But, there was always my Bible, my prayer book, my prayer journal, and Forward Day by Day. Did every scripture verse pop out for me? No. Did I leave my space every day having had a moment closest to God? No. But, it was as important to

me as brushing my teeth – I wouldn’t have even considered beginning my day without that time. No matter what problems I have faced in my life I have always approached my daily time with the Lord as an absolute necessity to facing each day, come what may. That does not make me holy. It makes me a person completely aware that I cannot do it alone. “For God alone my soul awaits in silence” (Psalm 62).

Diane Thrush is a retired chaplain and a member of St. Luke’s, San Antonio. Reach Diane at dianewt@aol.com

Read more online Recognizing God's presence in our every experience By Sylvia Maddox "When I’d rise early for prayer, little feet would come running in for breakfast. When I’d arrive early at work for a time of reflection, the telephone would start to ring. Like most people I tended to separate my prayer life from the other parts of my life. I was very far from the wisdom of Thomas Merton who said, "What I do is live. How I pray is breathe.” Read the rest of the article at: http://www.explorefaith.com/prayer/prayer/why_how_and_when_to_pray/celtic_prayer.php

Spiritual Practices on Interstate 89 by Doug Wysockey-Johnson from Lumunos. “On any given day, and any given practice, it is hard to tell if anything is happening. In fact, sometimes it feels like we are getting worse, not better.” Read the rest of the article at: http://www.lumunos.org/spiritual-practices-on-interstate-89/

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All of these links are active in our online version of the magazine. Find it at http://reflections-dwtx.org/print-online/spiritualpractices

Reflections

– Spring/Summer 2014


Book list Spiritual Practices Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster (Harper One, hardback, 25.99) Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices Brian McLaren (Thomas Nelson, pb 12.99) The Spirit of the Disciplines Dallas Willard (HarperSanFrancisco, pb 15.99) Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People Edited by Dorothy C. Bass (Jossey-Bass, pb. 19.95) Living Faith Day by Day: How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Traditions Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World Debra K. Farrington (Universe, pb. 20.95) Strength for the Journey: A Guide to Spiritual Practice Renee Miller (Morehouse Publishing, pb. 16.00) The Vinedresser’s Notebook: Spiritual Lessons in Pruning, Waiting, Harvesting, and Abundance Judith Sutera (illustrated by Paul Soupiset) (Abingdon Press, pb. 15.99) Sabbath Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives Wayne Muller (Bantam, pb. 16.00) The Sabbath Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, pb. 13.00) Prayer The Praying Life: Seeking God in All Things Deborah Smith Douglas (Morehouse Publishing, pb. 14.00)

Prayer: Our Deepest Longing Ronald Rolheiser (Franciscan Media, pb. 8.99) Close to the Heart: A Practical Approach to Personal Prayer Margaret Silf (Loyola Press, pb. 12.95) Seven Sacred Pauses Macrina Wiederkehr (Sorin Books, pb 16.5) With Open Hands Henri J. M. Nouwen (Ave Maria Press, pb 10.95) The Practice of Prayer Margaret Guenther (Cowley Publications, pb. 14.95) An Ignatian Introduction to Prayer: Scriptural Reflections According to the Spiritual Exercises Timothy M. Gallagher (Crossroad Books, pb. 16.95) Silence Keeping Silence: Christian Practices for Entering Stillness C.W. McPherson (Morehouse Publishing, pb. 14.00) Read more online About the spiritual practice of fasting What Classic Spiritual Discipline Needs the Most Renewal Among American Christians? In the March 2013 issue of Christianity Today, author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove argues that fasting is the most-needed spiritual discipline in this country today. You must be a CT subscriber to read the entire article. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march/whatclassic-spiritual-discipline-needs-most-renewal-among.html

Creating a Life with God: The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices Daniel Wolpert (Upper Room Books, pb. 12.00)

Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org

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Book list Meditation Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture Timothy M. Gallagher (Crossroad Books, pb. 14.95) Spiritual Direction and Meditation Thomas Merton Liturgical Press, pb 11.95

Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible Lisa Nichols Hickman (Abingdon Press, pb. 16.99)

Lectio Divina Conversing with God in Scripture: A Contemporary Approach to Lectio Divina Stephen J. Binz (The Word Among Us Press, pb. 11.95)

Hospitality Hospitality: Discovering the Hidden Spiritual Power of Invitation and Welcome Rev. Nanette Sawyer (Skylight Paths, pb. 16.99)

Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness Christine Valters Painter & Lucy Wynkoop (Paulist Press, pb. 18.95)

Labyrinth Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice Lauren Artress (Riverhead Books, pb. 15.00)

Writing to God: 40 Days of Praying with My Pen Rachel G. Hackenberg (Paraclete Press, pb. 15.99)

Journaling Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice Christina Baldwin (Bantam, pb. 17.00) Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within Karen Hering (Beyond Words hb. 24.00)

Read more online about the spiritual practice of Hospitality "Sometimes hospitality requires that we cross boundaries and dismantle some of the barriers erected in our society to keep 'the other' out. Sometimes it means entertaining ideas that might be alien to us." Read the article on the website of Spirituality and Practice. http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/practices.php?id=13

This book list was compiled for Reflections by our friends at Viva Bookstore These books are available at: Viva Books and Gallery 8407 Broadway San Antonio, Tex. 78209 210-826-1143 or 1-800-826-1143 www.vivabooks.com Email: viva@vivabooks.com Call or go online to purchase and/or order books. Viva offers a customer discount card that gives you a $10.00 credit once you spend $100.00 on books/gifts (excluding special orders, non-discount items or sale items) Viva is a founding member of the Episcopal Booksellers Association.


by the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge

The last word

The Practice of Rekindling

T

his year’s diocesan theme, “Rekindle the gift of God within you” (2 Timothy 1:6)

is ripe with opportunities to connect and re-connect with God, the “ground of our being.” The focus of this edition of Reflections is on spiritual practices. And when we consciously are deepening our spiritual disciplines, we are rekindling the gift of God within. The Gospel of Luke is rich with parables, and one of the most well-known parables is The Prodigal Son (Luke 15). During Lent, I had the opportunity to offer some reflections on the father in this story, using Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen notes that it is the love of the father which makes the child aware of being lost in the first place. He says that a person who has no home to which to return isn’t lost – in the sense that without a home, there is nowhere to be found. This type of understanding doesn’t speak of “home” strictly as a place, but “home” as a deep rootedness to something. In this parable’s case, that deep rootedness is the love of the father, and since parables point us to God – this is speaking of our “home” as our relationship with God. In the story, the love of the father embraces not only the son’s return, but also the son’s leaving. Nouwen notes that the father doesn’t say, “don’t go.” Quite the opposite is implied: “Yes, son, go; it will be hard and you may be hurt. I can’t hold you back. When you return, I’ll be here for you, just as I am here for you now.” There are several important theological points in this story. Let me just mention two. One, God’s love surrounds us all the time. In our going out, and in our coming back. The psalmist gets at this same idea in Psalm 139: Lord, you have searched me out and known me . . . you trace my journeys and my resting places and are acquainted with all my ways . . . where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

This is the kind of Godly presence I appreciate and the kind of Godly presence I need. To keep this presence and this relationship strong, I need to continually work at it. And this brings me back to the ongoing necessity in my spiritual life and in my spiritual disciplines to “rekindle the gift of God within.” Two, when we leave our “home,” our “base” our “core," our “truth” – however you choose to say it – we’re adrift. Away from our God, we begin to lose our way. This problem, of course, is covered in the story of the garden of Eden. The deepest suffering of the prodigal is a result of being adrift and separated from his source of life. In the sense of the parable, that source of life is God. In those moments when we remember that we are created in the image of God (also covered in the garden of Eden story), our connection is rekindled, and we are more likely to rediscover that “peace which passes all understanding” and that holy joy which makes life deeply meaningful. Or as Jesus puts it, “the life that really is life.” I hope that your spiritual practices will rekindle the gift of God within you, and that together, as a rekindled people, we can be that “royal priesthood” that is mentioned in 1 Peter 2.9: You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. This is our calling, this is our purpose.

The Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

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Reflections spring/summer 2014  

Reflections magazine is the spiritual formation magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

Reflections spring/summer 2014  

Reflections magazine is the spiritual formation magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

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