Wednesday, January 30, 2013

School of the Spirit Self-Examen #3

About a month before each School of the Spirit residency, we're sent a Self-Examen. This is a number of queries that we are to use to gain self-insight about where we are in our spiritual journeys in relation to this program. I have felt quite distant from my assigned work in the program so put off doing my examen until almost the very last minute. When I did finally sit down to work on it, the words flowed out of me. 


Describe [or remember] a touchstone experience with the More, the Holy, God, the promptings of Love and Truth, which relates to the hunger in you that has led you to participate in this program.

Mark & I, as members of Nashville Friends Meeting Ministry & Counsel, have been leading a regular Worship Sharing with the intent to create and develop spiritual intimacy among members and attenders. We are inviting newcomers and oldster to come together to share our experiences of God so we can know and encourage one another in our daily spiritual lives. Our query this past Sunday was “What is your experience of the Divine?”. I was given the image of a mother sitting on a park bench, patiently and lovingly watching over her young child on the playground. The child is playing happily, running, climbing, using her imagination. Every once in a while the child feels the need to be reassured of the mother's presence so she runs over for a quick hug but then returns to her spirited play. I am that child and God is my loving, attentive mother.

I could describe specific moments, luminous times of an immediate awareness of God. I find, however, that they lose impact upon the retelling. What I will say is that I feel the Holy Spirit with me, always. Oblivious as I am, whenever I pause and become aware, I feel the Holy Presence. Someone who doesn't share this blessed awareness may ask the legitimate questions: “But how? What does that mean?” For me, God is a knowing in my deepest self. I feel the Loving Presence in my entire being. God said, “I am”. I reply, “I know”.

I feel God's guidance in the same way. When I am being called or guided to something, I am given a knowing in my being. When I feel a curiosity or a push without the secure knowing, I pray and explore, ask, listen and wait. When I am being directed by the Inward Light, I simply know. Sometimes the direction is to act and sometimes it is to wait.

I am not, by any stretch, always faithful or obedient. And even when I am faithful, the purpose is sometimes not clear to me. I have always, though, found God to be faithful to me.

Describe your intent, commitment, desire, dream related to your spiritual life as you participate in this program?

I think I had a clue what I wanted out of this program when I began but I have totally lost it. I guess at this point I hope to learn the reason I'm here. I feel disconnected and unattached, mostly because I often don't know how to follow. Hmm, yes. That's been a theme in my recent life: Submission. Am I to learn to submit? I thought that was the case when I applied. I thought I was to learn to actually follow the guidelines for readings and such. What I've found, though, is that God is encouraging me to dig deep in my studies for my research paper to the exclusion of the assigned readings. This feels right to me so I'm not sure what to make of it when it comes to the idea of submission. By following my own path, I feel disconnected from the purpose of this program but I also feel I am where I'm supposed to be and doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Go figure. Is submission the same as obedience? Seems like it but perhaps there are subtle differences that would be worth exploring.

What spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines, ways of being, time of retirement, quiet time help you live into the intent described above? How have they been part of your daily life? What has helped you choose this kind of contemplative rhythm?

In “Sense of Wonder”, Van Morrison sings, “Didn't I come to bring you a sense of wonder? ” That's been my mantra of late. Wonder. Wonder is grace. Wonder can't help but foster gratitude. Wonder is the antidote to cynicism. Wonder is prayer without words. In the words of Louis Armstrong, “And I say to myself, What a wonder-full world.”

Reflect on how the assigned readings, or additional readings, have worked in you.

I was steeped in the Mystics before the last retreat. This time I'm deep in Jewish writings about sexuality. The Christian perspective about sexuality is either totally metaphorical or it's anti-sex or at least rigidly proscriptive about the purpose of sex (:procreation only. Minimize pleasure whenever possible. Song of Songs was an anomaly we don't talk about). (I did find one really good exception by a Liberation Theologian-hurrah!) Jewish writing, though, totally rocks (and rolls--har-har)! I'm finding a millennia's worth of writing about the sacredness of our sexuality given by God as another aspect by which we know God (no coincidence there, the use of the word “know”). I am finding so much as I learn about Torah and the various interpretations of Old Testament texts.

As for the assigned readings...uh, I got nothing.

What is happening for you through your Care Committee?

I feel love and nurturing from them. One member is particularly astute and has been able to lovingly but firmly call me out when I seem to be straying from my declared intentions.

How are you in relation to your meeting?

I've been fully engaged in almost all aspects of the life of my meeting. I've had the opportunity to clerk two support committees, one which has provided very tangible support for an elderly member of our community who has suffered from a serious health crisis. I am active in Ministry & Counsel and deeply appreciate being able to serve my beloved community in this way. I've begun caring for the new infant of dear Friends and so feel even further the day-to-day connection of my spiritual community, which is absolutely wonderful.

I continue to be active with our young Friends through FAPping at Southern Appalachian Young Friends retreats and delight in the relationships with all the people I know through SAYF-adults and teens alike (Toby was at the last retreat, which was awesome!). I am so appreciative of the opportunity to grow through relationships with young Friends. I am grateful to be called in this way.

Reflect on recent times or ways you have experienced God’s presence and action in your life, promptings of Love and Truth, yourself being stretched and taught, luminous moments, times of joy or awe, feelings of oneness, synchronicities.

Caring for two members of my beloved community, one who is new to this world and the other who is in a very vulnerable place of fragility and weakness has given me the opportunity to love selflessly. Come to think of it, much of the work I've been given to do lately has felt like a sacred gift of humble service. I feel immediately and intimately what it means to be the Body of Christ.

One of my sons is having a tumultuous adolescence. Turning my fears, worries, and heartache to God is sometimes all I am able to do. We are held and supported by our spiritual community who know and love him.

The topic for my research paper is how marriage is a sacrament that reflects and informs our relationship with God as it is impacted and informed by it. My marriage with Mark feels like a miracle to me. I feel tremendous joy on a daily basis and awe that God felt me worthy of this amazing gift. I am also aware of the weight of our responsibility to make the blessing of our marriage a foundational element of our community: to take the love and security we have created together and share it with others.