100th post: Pondering Advent and Spiritual Hypothermia

Post it note--100th blog postWordPress tells me that this is the 100th post on Spiritual Drawing Board blog.  Wow. I had no idea.

Numbers like 100 form a sort of milestone, giving one pause to ponder

  • how did the past blogging go (such as, did I forget to write Part 2 of the post defining “Christian contemplative”?)
  • where one is at present with blogging (I’ve been so busy I’m forgetting to post very often — yikes!)
  • where will one be in the future with blogging (Do I want to continue? — yes!)

This time of year, with its emphasis on new beginnings (Advent=new church year, Christmas=new life in baby Jesus, New Year of 2014), is a good time to ponder our own lives past, present, and future in similar fashion:

  • In the past, how has God invited me to live and how have I responded?
  • What is God trying to communicate to me today?
  • What would God like for me in the future?

[I think here of the brilliance of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol:  Scrooge was forced to ponder the effect of his actions on others in the past and present, and what might result in the future if he remained on that path.] 

If you try this spiritual reflection for yourself and find yourself regretting things of the past or frustrated with the present, please do not berate yourself or lose hope. Classic spiritual writers agree that self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. Use what you learn about yourself as an opportunity to make fresh choices for the future.

In the following 2-minute Advent reflection video, Pastor Paul Harris explores what he calls “spiritual hypothermia,” a condition of feeling disoriented, lost, confused, guilty, or spiritually weak.  He reminds us we are not alone, and offers a way to cry out to God for help.

 

(If you don’t see the video, copy and paste this YouTube link into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Snr2v8YrAQo )

When we feel we are having a case of “spiritual hypothermia,” we can cry out to God in the words of Psalm 80:

Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

          (Psalm 80:7, NRSV)

To paraphrase that, writing a similar prayer in my own words:

Bring us back to life, O Loving, Unseen God!
Let the radiant light and heat of your presence
Shine down on us, that we might not die in our sins
and mistakes of the past, but rather we might
live the compassionate, holy life Christ revealed

Until next time, Amen! 

A Spiritual Word for the New Year

At the end of last year, I decided to try a spiritual practice suggested by writer Christine Valters Paintner’s on her blog, “Abbey of the Arts.” One selects a single word to ponder for an entire year. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the word chooses you. As Christine explains:

In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them. The desert became a place to enter into the refiner’s fire. . .   

 Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word – this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime. This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – “give me a word” we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into. —Abbey of the Arts, blog post of  Dec.21, 2011.

Christine embraced the word “savor” one year and “sanctuary” the next, exploring layers of meaning over the course of time. She invited others to post their special words for 2011, so I posted the word “consecrate” (to dedicate something for a special purpose).

Using a personal theme word for a year was so helpful, that I’m selecting another word for 2012. Here’s what I wrote about my word on Christine’s blog:

Co-create” — God, of course, is the Ultimate Creator, but each of us can cooperate with God’s grace to make the world a better place. I want to think about what it would mean to take seriously that God wants to lead me in my daily tasks, writing, painting, even cleaning house (something I hate) to “co-create” something positive, maybe even something graced and holy, something that maybe is a mirror of God’s love for us. Dare I dream of such a thing?

Other readers of Christine’s blog chose words such as “healing,” “birthing,” “welcoming,” “question,” “fallow,” and “loving kindness.”

Is the Spirit inviting you to ponder a word for the upcoming year? If you are not sure how to select a word, I suggest checking out the Abbey of the Arts blog of Dec. 21 for ideas. If you choose to post your special word,  you may qualify for a free gift from the site’s online “abbess.”

Until next time, Amen!