Another weekend passes, with the sun finally showing herself this afternoon. It was glorious! And then it was ninety-degrees. Summer’s coming, and with it new seasons in this unfolding mystery. I hope you found hours to rest this weekend, to lay down the mantle of things that occupy, challenge, or confound you during the week. A rhythm of rest feels essential to me these days, and I am hoping that each of you are finding consistent practices for rest in your respective corners of the world. Here are some thoughts and ideas for the week(s) ahead to contemplate our engagement with the world and create opportunities for connection with each other:
Contemplative Practice: Beholding
The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society describes the contemplative exercise of beholding as follows: Beholding exercises change the ways in which we see the world, enhancing one of the primary means through which we interact with the world: sight. During a life experience where many of us are seeing the same things again and again, it seems worthwhile to challenge our awareness via our vision. How are we looking at the objects, art, or nature around us? You can read a longer description of the practice of beholding here, but the basic concept is to find an image, a work of art, an object, or something in the natural world and to return to it again and again. Don’t glance, no passing gazes. Really take some time and spend it with what’s in front of you. A Religion professor at my alma mater would have students do a 10 minute meditation on a raisin. Look at it, smell it, think about all thoughts and associations you have with it, marvel at its size and wrinkled surface, and then, eventually, chew, taste, reflect, and enjoy.
As personal spheres might feel more constricting right now, this could be a solid exercise in expansiveness. What is on your walls that you haven’t really noticed in months? Are there images hiding in books, rose bushes in bloom outside, or a beloved pet asleep in the same corner each day? If it’s hard to feel inspired by an object or image in your immediate radius, you’re in luck: The Art Institute of Chicago has digitized much of their collection, so you can now tour their museum virtually or skim their digital collection for your foray into the practice of beholding.
Meet me at the Threshold (Something we can do together, apart)
I was reading about the renovation of an extremely old house this week and a quote from the head builder caught my eye as he talked about the challenge of leveling uneven floors in a time-worn home:
“If the floors are all over the place, you have to pick a reference point- a place to begin- and work from there. The front-door threshold is usually a good starting point. It’s a given that can’t be easily changed.”
It made me curious about an analogy in our houses of worship: In this time that feels disjointing, what would happen if we all took a moment to return to our reference point? How would we describe our threshold, or front door into this faith or this community? To that end, I’m going to make an effort to call three people this week and ask them to tell me their threshold story. How did they get in the door of the Christian faith? What was the entry point, and when? The same questions could be applied to a particular congregation. How did you get here? What brought you in the front door? I’m curious about any and all practices that leave us feeling more connected when this time of distance is over, and intentionally learning and listening to one another’s experiences in both our faith and faith communities feels like a good place to begin.
Last week wasn’t our finest for scripture memorization around here, so this week we’ll be doing double-duty. But memorize we will. It’s strange how encouraging it is to hear a child quoting scripture. To hear anyone quoting scripture for that matter. Here’s what’s on the docket:
This week’s verse: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
This week’s poem: In opposition to last week’s epic, here is this weeks poem in its’ entirety from the incredible Lucille Clifton-
The Lesson Of The Falling Leaves
the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves
Below you’ll find a compelling tidbit from Richard Rohr, an excerpt that one of our Young Adult Community Builders used as a catapult for group discussion this week. I loved it!
Peace and grace my friends,