Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Air and Fire

"Suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a blazing fire in a bush.  Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn't burn up."  Exodus 3:2 (NLT)

We continue to explore the different paths of spiritual experience in the "Paths to Wholeness" resource, based on the book, Discover Your Spiritual Type by Corinne Ware.
This week we are exploring worship & prayer through Air and Fire!  Both are used throughout the Bible to represent God's presence.  The burning bush is one of my favorites and most vivid!  And it calls Moses to extreme action for the Kingdom of God (one of the markers for the Fire path).

Reading is one of my favorite things to do.  Whether it be for knowledge or entertainment, I am most content to sit & read.  When I took my daughter for a visit to her future college, she went to dinner with her future teammates and they urged me to come along.  They couldn't understand why the prospect of eating alone in my hotel room and reading a book was appealing to me.  I've known this about myself from a very young age, but I never put it together with my spirituality.
This is the insight that our study is giving us.  And it's importance goes beyond just knowing and understanding how we, as individuals, prefer to worship.  It can be helpful by showing us, individually and corporately, what we need to continue to grow in our faith; how to step out of our comfort zone; and how to seek out and appreciate the gifts of others.

Ms. Ware and her predecessor, Urban T. Holmes, contend that we all have tendencies towards one or two paths, but that it is important to maintain a balance among the 4 quadrants (paths).  "The circle emphasizes Holmes's belief that each of four types of authentic religious experience is needed as part of a healthy whole.  The circle itself represents the value placed on unity and on the interdependence of each part."  (Discover Your Spiritual Type, pg. 9).
In other words, I need to do more than keep my nose in a book!  To maintain a balanced life, spiritually and otherwise, I should look to the other paths of Water & Fire to provided the proper tension to my Earth & Air paths.  When I look around at my immediate family and friends, I recognize that often they provide the balance and pull or push that I need to draw me off of my comfy sofa, out of the pages of an interesting book and into the world of action and expression.

I hope, as we study these different paths, that we can open ourselves to new experiences.  Even if we don't incorporate new practices into our personal worship and prayer time, it's still a valuable tool to use on our journey in becoming the person God created us to be.  He created us to be part of a whole, part of a community.  None of us can be complete without each other, by design.

Here's a quick overview of what we will do on Friday when we meet:

First we will look at the Fire Path and talk about volunteerism.  Please read page 20 so that you are familiar with this path's characteristics.  We will not discuss "the situations" on page 21.  We may briefly discuss how we, individually and as a church, contribute to The Kingdom of God through our volunteer efforts.

The bulk of our time will be exploring Air through contemplative meditation.  Please read pages 17,18, and 19 so you are familiar with what we will be doing.  This will make the transition into the meditation smoother and give us more time for the meditation and discussion or quiet time.  If you would like to bring a pillow to sit on for the meditation, please do so.  We will be sitting silently for 10 minutes.

WINNER!!!  Congratulations, Paula!  You are the winner of the journal and pen giveaway!  I will bring it to our meeting on Friday.

Please share your experiences so far in exploring the different paths of spirituality.  Were you surprised by your dominate path?  Do you need to be more balanced?  How do you plan on drawing from the other paths?

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Earth and Water

"And God said, "let the water beneath the sky be gathered into one place so dry ground may appear."  And so it was.  God named the dry ground "land" and the water "seas".  And God saw that it was good."  Genesis 1: 9-10 

Have you figured out your spiritual style based on Corinne Ware's guide?  I am finding it fascinating, but then again, I am mostly Earth, with a strong showing from Air!  Which means, I like this kind of stuff: "thinking" spirituality, the written word has power, love of order, concrete, attempts to make sense of spiritual experiences and give them names!  Describes me and this study to a "T"!  Who else would try to label one's spiritual experiences except an Earth type :)

On Friday I was pushed out of my comfort zone and into the "water".  And it was amazing!!  I am not artsy, though I have a high appreciation and love for art, music, dance, and all things made by human hands.  Personally, I can't draw a stick figure and a blank canvas or lump of clay is just that: a blank, lumpy thing!  But our study is encouraging us to learn about and experience different ways of seeking God, responding to worship, and being spiritual.  So, art supplies were gathered and we ventured into guided meditation.  After allowing the meditation to sit in our minds and hearts for a few minutes, we turned to the water colors, acrylics, and play dough to respond to our experience.  INCREDIBLE!  Afterwards we shared our art, how we felt, what we "saw", and what moved us.   One of the many unexpected results is that often we didn't know exactly why we responded the way we did: a purple house, a red braid of hair.  Some of us had memories stirred and the art reflected that: a jar of nard, a camel, a bowl of peas.  And some responded to the immediate: a rainbow on the hard packed ground, the silhouette of Jesus' head, a free-form poem echoing the meditation, and blue play dough kneaded into nothing in particular.  The process was authentic and the results were rich!

Whether or not you were able to participate last Friday, let me encourage you dip your toe into the "water".  It is refreshing!  As we journey through Holy Week, grab a brush, some clay, or a pen and dare to respond with art from your heart.  Listen to some music that stirs your soul.  Write poetry.  Draw or paint, allowing color to express your emotions.  For more inspiration, here is a link to my friend Jess's blog, Liturgy Beyond Words.  I met her when I was a member of The Presbyterian Church of Morris Plains.  She has since gone off to Seminary and is discovering the world of Liturgical Art.  This is the link to the art work she did during the Palm Sunday sermon.  Her whole blog is very interesting - I hope it inspires you.

Thank you Lisa, for sharing your inspired response from our Friday gathering!  BEAUTIFUL!

The water path is not just about art: it includes being intuitive, extemporaneous prayer, music, evangelism, witnessing and establishing relationships with other people and with God.  In the book, Discover Your Spiritual Type, Ms. Ware says you "seek illumination by heartfelt intuition." (pg 39).  I think that's lovely!

I would love to hear about your artistic response to the Word!  Or what role you think art plays in our spiritual experience.  Have you had a spiritual artful experience that you would like to share?  Comment below and you could be the winner of my next give away!  From those who comment on Art & Spirituality, a random person will be chosen to receive a set of watercolors and a pad of water color paper!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It All Fits Together

"Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm."  Ephesians 6:13

Welcome Spring!  Most people greet spring with great enthusiasm and excitement.  Not me.  Although it's not a popular stance, spring is my least favorite of the four seasons.  I don't get excited until the end of May.  And technically, it's still spring, but March and April hold little appeal for me outside of the fact that some dear friends & family celebrate their birthdays in those months and I do love Easter.  I won't go into all the reasons I am glum & grumpy, but instead turn to one of the verses in my Warrior scripture.

I have been wondering how my word 'warrior' was going to serve me throughout the coming year.  Today, after journaling the happenings of the last few days, I am beginning to see how Ephesians 6:10-18 will help.  I decided to view my glum & grumpy attitude through My Word and this Scripture and it dawned on me that "my time of evil" can be something different for everyone.  

It sounds like some great battle, but it can also mean those little battles I fight every day.  When I want to sit on the sofa, snap at my kids, or yell at the ref who just made a horrible call, I need to resist.  God commands, through Solomon's wise teachings, that I speak "kind words because they are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body" Proverbs 16:24.  He says I should wear the shoes of peace (not get agitated at the ump) and that I will need the shield of faith to protect me from Satan's fiery arrows (that little devil on my shoulder telling me that I have time for one more game on my iPhone, the laundry can wait).  It might seem like a stretch, but these little, daily skirmishes add-up at the end of the day.  I have to decide if I will have a day led by God or a day lost in the muck of selfishness and annoyance.  

What are your 'times of evil'?  Are they little things throughout the day or a big thing that seems impossible to overcome?  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, "But with God everything is possible."(NLT).  And as we study God's word together, we are gathering tools to help us draw closer to God and learn to rely on Him.  

Use your One Word to slow down; take a look at the situation through the lens of your word and the Scripture you have chosen.  God will use these tools and lead you.

Use your journal to examine your state of mind, a situation, or just to write what's in your heart and mind.  Journaling your journey will allow you to see how far you have come and recall all the wonderful things God is doing in your life.  I find it amazing what comes about while taking the time to write it out!

And as we explore our Spiritual Style, we will gain an understanding of what stirs us, fulfills us, and how we best experience our spirituality.  If you haven't already done so, flip ahead in the packet to read the "Dominant characteristics" and "Worship & Theology" of the different paths.  It's fascinating!

I am excited to learn how our different spiritual paths connect, support and compliment each other.  
And how knowing our paths will enhance our use of our One Word, our journals, our gatherings and how we each have our own style of growing closer to the woman God created us to be.

A Giveaway!!

For a chance to win a journal & pen share your response to discovering your personal spiritual style/path in the comment section.  Do the characteristics fit you?  Were you surprised by the outcome?  A winner will be chosen at random from qualifying comments on April 15th.

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

You've Got Style

"Praise to the Lord!  Sing to the Lord a new song.  Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. 3 Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp."  Psalm 149: 1,3

You've got spiritual style!  It's true!  Do you know what it is?  We think of style when it comes to clothing, home decor, car, music choices, even the way we parent, and engage in relationships.  But have you ever considered your Spiritual Style?  And I'm not talking about what you wear to church :)

I'm referring to the way in which you follow God.  The way you worship in church and in your life; how you draw closer to God.  We all have spiritual gifts, talents, traditions, and rituals; but style is more about how we like to do these things.  And although there is no right or wrong when it comes to style, it certainly can stir up emotions and controversy.

Over the next 6 weeks (7 on the calendar because we're not meeting on Good Friday) we are going to explore the different spiritual styles as defined by Corinne Ware in her book, Discover your Spiritual Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth.   We will not be reading the book (although it is encouraged).  Instead we will be following a "retreat resource" put together by the WELCA.  We will explore what Spiritual Style is and how it impacts our personal worship.  We will also have the opportunity to discover our own spiritual path(s) as well as the spiritual paths of others.  After discovering our own style(s), we will then have the opportunity to experience each of the spiritual paths, as defined in the book.

In preparation, please carefully read pages 3-5 of the "Paths to Wholeness" handout.  Take some time to answer the questions on pages 3 & 4 completely and consider your personal style.
Please do not read ahead!  

For those who have One Word, my hope is that this will be complimentary to living your life through the lens of that word.  Another layer of understanding ourselves, our Sisters, and our relationship to God.

In the comments below, please share your "style" of life as you understand it.  How do you think this will influence your spiritual style?  I'm excited to read all about you "stylish" women!

As a follow-up to last Friday's session, I'd like to thank Janice for that beautiful and moving display of our words.  That had style!  And in my style, I came home and wrote about it - in my journal and in poetry.  Please indulge me as I share my response:

My One Word walks across the room.
Held aloft by little arms.
Clutched in tiny fingers.
Look!  There it is!
It walks, unafraid, across the room.
Silent.  Strong.  
It walks with purpose, not knowing where the journey will end.
My heart is so full it spills from my eyes.
Our One Words parade through the room.
Look!  There's yours!
A living reminder of our journey with the Lord.

Your Partner in Ministry,

Eph 6:10-18

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the sould and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24