Tag Archives: spiritual growth

Putting Together My Sabbath Picture







These were the Lenten-reflection words for the days of this past week. For most of the days since the beginning of this Lenten season, I’ve purposed to reflect on each daily word, and to share my thoughts in this blog. This week, however, I just couldn’t do it. Sure, I thought about each word on the appointed day. But I simply couldn’t write about them. Until today. Viewing them together in this list today, I could finally see proverbial the forest for the trees. I realized that each word needed the others to speak their collective story to me. And now, I can share it with you.

All six of these words came blessedly together for me this weekend at a women’s retreat, where the theme was ‘Sabbath.’ Through her words and exercises in using images to speak to us in ways that were beyond words, Paula, our wise retreat leader provided a framework that invited us to consider a practice of rest. An encouragement to stop and still oneself. In the listening, participating and sharing of this retreat, there was a tuning-in to God’s love-filled bidding to wellness in the midst of chaos and busy-ness.

For one day, or a few hours, minutes, or even for a few breaths – God coaxes us into a spaciousness where we can hear and begin to know our own Belovedness.

We all know that rest is vitally important for our well-being. Knowledge of the need to do something is one thing. Doing it is quite another. Taking knowledge to its ‘doing’ step requires our time-and-experience-infused inner wisdom – that Spirit-breath opening our metaphorical ‘vocal cords’ that gives voice to an inner call to a Sabbath practice to simply stop.

During the retreat, we were exposed to author Barbara Brown Taylor’s concept of Sabbath as the practice of saying ‘No.’ In her book, An Altar in the World, Taylor talks about the seductiveness in the word, ‘Yes,’ in our multi-tasking, can-do culture, where “the ability to do many things at high speed is not only an adaptive trait but also a mark of a successful human being.” Taylor goes on to say, “As much as most of us complain about having too much to do, we harbor some pride that we are in such demand.” The yes-steeped, false sense of our value that we associate with constant motion makes it difficult to recognize our God-steeped, intrinsic value — a value that is more about our being rather than our doing.

Taylor shares her journey to a place where she found profound wisdom in saying ‘No,’ to the voice in her head that “is forever whispering, ‘More.’” In her own Sabbath practice, Taylor shares, “More God is the only thing on my list.”

There is one more word on the week’s Lenten words that I haven’t yet mentioned: Search. During a beautiful SoulCollage exercise that Paula led this weekend, we were invited to browse through images in a collection of magazines and to tear out the ones that seemed to speak to us, or even to disturb us. We then took these images and put them together on an 8” x 5” card. For me, what resulted in this process was a card that added the missing piece of Search to the rich consideration of all of these other words.

On my card, I first pasted a picture of an empty room. That, for me, seemed to be the starting place for a Sabbath practice. Next, I found a picture of a zipper that was being pulled down, creating an opening. Next to this opening, I added a pair of eyes from a dark-skinned woman; different in color and shape than my own. In the upper right corner, I added a picture of lights inside a glass sphere; an homage to my own inner light. And finally, I added a picture of the Eiffel Tower that was taken from the perspective of someone lying on the ground – not the typical view that we normally see. My completed card is the image you see in today’s blog posting.

The wisdom-infused message that unfolded from the card I created revealed my need to create open and quiet space in my life in order to will birth an ability to search through light-filled new eyes that will allow me to view the familiar from a brand-new perspective.

While I may not set aside a full day each week for Sabbath rest, through my shared experience with the women of this weekend, I feel the invitation to at least stick my toe into the rest-filled waters of saying, ‘No.’

The wisdom of Meister Eckhart’s words, spoken over 800 years ago, stir my heart to Sabbath-rest this day:

“God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by subtracting.”

Strong at the Broken Places

Last week, I heard a quote by Ernest Hemingway that deeply resonated with me:

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

I’ve been thinking about that quote ever since. Such timely words for me now. As I write this post, I am packing for an amazing and much-anticipated trip to Monaco and Italy with my sister. Yet, I am feeling anxious — very, very anxious. As I breathe and I am present with my anxiety, I consider Hemingway’s quote: How did those places in ourselves become broken in the first place? Why do they leave us feeling at first so vulnerable? How, then, does strength come from this state?

One might think that being anxious before a trip of a lifetime like this doesn’t make sense at all. And yet, for me, it does. While I am grateful, eager and excited for the days ahead — to see and experience the wonders of Monaco, Rome, Florence and Milan — I also know that travel has not always been kind to me.

In October 1989, I was in San Francisco on a business trip when the 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck. It was, as you can imagine, a terrifying experience. Yet, what was even more unnerving were the aftershocks, without a way to escape them. The SFO airport was closed. There was no getting out of this ground-shaking situation.

On September 11, 2001, while the world was coming apart at the seams, I was en-route with a co-worker to Bangkok to lead a week-long training class for the Asia team at Microsoft. Our pilot did not share what had happened while we were in the air. So, when we landed and hailed a taxi, we were confused by our driver’s crazy ramblings  about the World Trade Center buildings falling and the Pentagon being attacked. We were incredulous. “Are you talking about a movie that you saw?” we asked. It was only when we were finally in our hotel room, watching the news, that we understood what had happened –utter tragedy and brokenness. What has happened to our sense of safety? Planes were grounded.  How long would this last? When would I be able to go home?

On more than one business trip, when I called home to talk with my husband, who struggled with depression that seemed to worsen when I was away, the phone went unanswered. I called again and again and again. No responses to emails or texts. Was Randy OK? What was happening? Once again, I found myself in the now-familiar place of complete vulnerability.

The origin of the world, vulnerable, is from the Latin word vulnerabilis, which means “to wound.” Being vulnerable, then, is the ability for one to be wounded. Athletes know that the building of muscle strength comes first through the stresses that are put upon them. As the body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through its cellular process, muscle fibers fuse together to form new protein strands, resulting in an increased muscle thickness and growth. It is in the breaking-down and breaking-open process that a state of strength is ultimately created.

In the choice of living life fully, with our hearts open rather than shut, we risk being wounded … or not. The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about being wounded and broken. And yet, it was from this very perspective that he chronicled God’s reassuring words to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So it is for all of us.

It has been said that nothing that is worth anything comes without risk. And so, on this day before travel; with the juxtaposing feelings of both excitement and anxiety, I choose to share my vulnerability. Whether this trip is easy and delightful; whether hassles or delays will be part of it; whether something very difficult happens — or all of the above — I know by my own experience that in my willingness to enter this vulnerable place called life, strength is created before I even get on the plane.

Bon voyage!  It’s gonna be a great trip!