Spiritual Friendship

Tilden Edwards wrote a book entitled Spiritual Friend: Reclaiming the Gift of Spiritual Direction. He is the founder of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, where many of my teachers studied.

Edwards spoke to my heart of a “calm trust in grace winding its opening way” through one’s life.

Grace has been winding its opening way through me. I stood in a small park last Spring and saw with fresh eyes each raindrop on the grass, the trees, and the lily pond as grace. A gift that was mine for the taking, created by unseen forces.

I walked around the pond and took pictures of water lilies and a small cottontail rabbit nibbling, undisturbed, on lush wet grass. It was an experience of grace.

pond-in-distance lily-and-bud bunnyThis year I have visited monthly with a spiritual director in between classes to become a spiritual director myself. “Direction” is a bit misleading; it’s more like a conversation about one’s spiritual life. How does spirituality shape the way I live in the world? What’s the reason for prayer?

Since August I have been more faithful (again) about daily meditation / contemplation / prayer / what have you. I’ve increased the time gradually all the way up to 22 minutes in the morning and about 2 minutes at night as I settle into restful slumber.

In the evening I take a series of three breaths and repeat as long as needed while I focus on being grounded, on being full of gratitude, and on God as Love. The three Gs make it easy to remember:

1) Grounded. I belong here and I can rest now.

2) Gratitude. For grace that came my way this day, for friends, for opportunities and challenges, I give thanks.

3) God. Let all abide in love. Let love guide our lives.

Gratitude in the morning for having seen a new day, and gratitude for the day as I drift off to sleep, are now the bookends of my daily life. How does grace “wind its opening way” through your life?

Near-Death Musings

The Rev. John Price is an Episcopal priest and one of my instructors in FIND (Formation in Direction, a course for prospective Spiritual Directors, like a Life Coach, only spiritual).My studies have taken me in new directions.

Anyway, Rev. Price had heard stories from people every now and then about how they had experienced death but came back to life–a near-death experience. A skeptic at first, he became more intrigued when a 4-year old described her experience even though there was no plausible reason for her to remember the hospital building where she had “died” as her mother drove past one day. So Rev. Price began listening to these stories with increasing interest, and seeking interviews with people of various faith traditions who had personal knowledge.

He wrote a book about it from the perspective of a priest. Revealing Heaven: The Eyewitness Accounts that Changed How a Pastor Thinks about the Afterlife describes stories from Hindus and Muslims as well as Christians.

There is so much we don’t understand, and so much to discover. I’ve come to believe God (defined for me as Love) is with us in joy, in sorrow, in contentment, in suffering, and in death. That makes me think about atheists. Who is with them? Some ideas floated to my head:

the will to live

the will to love

whatever they hold as sacred or ultimate

cosmic energy

What do you think?

Clean Out the Gunk

One night, of all things, I cleaned out a stopped up bathroom sink. I hadn’t deliberately put gunk in there–except that it is mostly “my” sink. Maybe I was at least partly responsible for it. In any case, it was up to me to clean it out since I wanted it to flow freely. Toothpaste, mouthwash, dirty hands, occasional hair, and who knows what else built up on the sides of the sink stopper. It wasn’t hard to clean–it just needed the right tool.

Many of my friends and I were not happy about the presidential election and now the inauguration is upon us. Maybe I was at least partly responsible for the state of this country’s political and social divides. As Barbara Kingsolver pointed out several weeks ago, each of us can do something within our sphere of influence–write, teach, call, sing, march, smile–that will make a difference in the free flow of human dignity and individual worth. All our efforts are needed; support for one another is much better than finding fault.

Whatever we do, big or small, will determine our future. Don’t stand by and let the gunk build up! Find the right tool for you and let’s keep working together for a brighter tomorrow.

Blessings for 2017!

Kristen Cervantes is a Student Pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, TX, while she continues her studies at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. We have weekly conversations that help us both grow in ministry.

When Kris responded to presidential election results, she posted these wise words:

I will not despair. Or rather, I will not only despair.

At times like this I really do wish I believed in a God who is an active agent in the world. But as I think of the gut-wrenching sobs I have heard, felt, held in my body and held in the circle of my arms, in my friends’ bodies, I don’t have that solace.

I have solace in the beauty and wonder of the world we share. I have solace in the deep emotion that means deep commitment to the continued work of building the beloved community for all, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status, ability, and all the other boxes we try to fit ourselves and others into. I have solace in the help and strength and brokenness and beauty and potential in every human body and mind and soul.

My church says it wants to ‘create a more just and loving world.’ I take solace in the knowledge that we do not stand, move, and struggle alone in this painful and difficult act of creation.

I will not despair.

The New Year is upon us! May you find your way out of despair and into community.

One day post election

Some electives post election:

My focus today will be on music, art, nature, and community. Beyond difference lies beauty. One moment, one person, one love at a time might begin to heal divisions. May we reach out to one another as best we can.

Blessings and grace to each of you, dear friends.

I Don’t Know A Damn Thing About Black Lives

Remarkable post, enhanced by audio from Bomani Jones, important links, and video of Rev. Martin Luther King. Thanks, Kellye. Truth.

The Boeskool

A few days ago, the Nashville chapter of Black Lives Matter was told they couldn’t use the space at the Nashville Public Library to hold their meetings anymore. The reasoning behind this decision was because someone complained when they found out that the meeting was only open to “People of Color.” My initial reaction when I heard about this story was one basically this: “Wait a second… You mean that the Black Lives Matter folks are DISCRIMINATING against white people?!? That’s NOT okay.” Because I care about black lives. I’m one of the “enlightened” ones. I consider myself an “ally.” I want to help. And now you’re having a meeting and you’re telling me I’M NOT INVITED?? Just because I’m white? That’s not FAIR. And  I started cycling through the Martin Luther King, Jr., quotes that I have in my head… Like a dip shit… Thinking to myself, “What…

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Carry Water

The story of the world, the story of my heart, is captivated by warsan shire’s poem “what they did yesterday afternoon.” A few lines:

dear god

i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water.

warsan shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and was raised in London. You might already know that her poetry infuses Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Further into her poem above she spoke the truth when she asked of the world

where does it hurt?

 

it answered

everywhere

everywhere

everywhere.

She wrote these words two years ago but they apply today, this week, in this nation, in this world.

Violence has taken over so many places. This week’s headlines just in the U.S. include Baton Rouge; Falcon Heights, MN; Dallas; College Station (shots fired at a mosque). Add them to Orlando, Baghdad, Bangladesh, Medina, Ankara, Istanbul, and more, and more, and more.

This week Black men were suspected, accused, shot down; police officers targeted, Muslims fired upon. My heart hurts in so many ways. My mind doesn’t know how to make sense of it, except:

Except that we as a nation are so polarized that people at the far edges of many polarities are taking aim at The Other.

I am The Other. Each of us is The Other.

Until we can find a way to hear each Other

above the noise

above the rhetoric

above the line of fire.

The right to bear arms (well-regulated?) does not carry the right to kill wantonly.

Still.

Who is surprised when guns and innocence,

rage and impotence ignite and explode?

Civil Rights burst forth when violence was televised.

Today’s festering wounds erupt on ever-present, ever-vigilant videos.

We cannot unsee.

Who is surprised when fear and fury fire at will?

Wake up! We are The Other to those we would vilify in return.

Stay woke!

Until Black and Blue Lives Matter

Until Muslim and Jewish and Christian Lives Matter

Until Immigrant and Native Lives Matter

Until.The.Other.Lives.Matter

I am The Other.

i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water

dear god, help us carry water to this hurting world