Wednesday, July 7, 2010


"We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look  at ourselves in the mirror."
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Part of talking about Meditation is also approaching the habit of Solitude...  How can we focus solely on God when we are surrounded by other people?  by constant noise and distractions?  We can't.  In order to take time to feed our souls, we need to take time to be alone.  And be quiet.  In today's culture this may seem like a weird concept... but followers of all faiths have been disciplined in solitude for centuries!  It has always been recognized as a way to further a faith journey with full concentration on the one thing that matters more than all else...  God.

"The desire of Solitude is to leave people behind and enter into time alone with God...

"...The practice of Solitude includes: giving God time and space that is not in competition with social contact, noise or stimulation; taking a retreat; communing with God alone while you walk or run by yourself; practicing disciplines alone - study, prayer, examen, journaling, etc...

"...The fruit of Solitude includes: liberation from constantly living your life in reference to other people; quieting the internal noise so you can better listen to God; giving yourself time and space to internalize what you already know...

"In solitude the heart waits for God, and God alone.  Here the soul opens wide to listen and receive."
--Adele Calhoun, "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook"

How will you find some time for solitude this week?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


"The practice of Meditation includes: mulling over, chewing on and ruminating over God's Word and it's application; meditating on people - seeing them as God sees them and expressing delight in them as God does; paying attention to God with your body by slowing down, relaxing and breathing deeply; meditating on Jesus and Scripture...

"...The fruit of Meditation includes: seeing beyond a first glance and first impression to the heart of God; developing a depth of insight; experiencing calmness, serenity, and quietness stemming from an awareness of the nearness of God."
--Adele Calhoun, "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook"

We practice spending time focusing on God through scripture, nature, people, and events in order to experience the confidence that God is near and with us all of the time.  When we can live into that knowledge, we can live in peace and confidence in our daily lives.

How are you going to meditate on God this week?  What kind of meditation appeals to you?

Monday, July 5, 2010


"Meditation is slowing down and giving one's undivided attention to God - this lies at the core of Christian meditation."

"'God walks everywhere incognito.' - CS Lewis.  Clues to his presence can be found in creation, in history, in human beings, in worship, and in scripture.  But we must stop and pay attention."
--Adele Calhoun, "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook"

Meditation.  Sounds "New Age-y", doesn't it?  Are you picturing crystals, flute music, chanting, sitting lotus-style?  Yeah...  Those can be ways to meditate, too... but that's not what we're talking about with Christian meditation.

We're simply talking about the idea of taking a break from the distractions of daily life and focusing on God.  That's it.  And there are many ways to do it!  The ways most often recommended?
*  Meditating on Scripture - read the Bible and think about what it means.  You can do as little as one verse at a time...
*  Meditating on God's creation - spend time in nature (and recognize God in it)!
*  Meditating on world events - what's happening in the world?  How do you feel about it?  Where is God in the situation?  How is God calling you to respond?
*  Meditating on the lives of individuals - we all know people who need prayers.  Spend time focused on their situation and trying to see where God is in it.  How is God calling you to be present to the person?  Or maybe there is someone that has been a faith role model in your life - meditate, or think about - what they've taught you about God and being in the world.  How is God calling you to respond to what you've learned through this person?

We've talked about prayer... about fasting...  about worship... about simplicity.
Meditation is just another way - or piece - to living the Christian life.  To separating ourselves from the chaos and constant distraction of our culture and finding the time to connect with God.

Try it.  I triple-dog dare you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday at SPUMC - July 4th, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

For the month of July, we will be taking a moment to be still and focus on Meditation and Solitude. And what a perfect time for these habits! With gorgeous weather that invites us to go for walks, watch a sunset, or go for a paddle—it’s the perfect time to be still and know that God is.

“In Christian Meditation we seek to clear our minds of the clutter that prevents us from focusing our thoughts on how God is at work in us and in the world.”

“Solitude opens a space where we can bring our empty and compulsive selves to God. And no matter how ‘well’ we do silence, God is there to accept, receive and love us.”

“The Spiritual Disciplines are things that we do. We must never lose sight of this fact… If that does not somehow work itself into our experience, then we have missed the point of the Disciplines. We’re dealing with actions, not merely states of mind.”

“Silence reminds me to take my soul wherever I go…” —a little girl describing the feeling of silence.

We Meditate on what we are Thankful for; We Meditate on how to be Generous;

We Meditate in the Simplicity of daily life; We Meditate in the experience of Worship;

We Meditate when Praying; We Meditate while Fasting for the hurts of the world;

We Meditate on what we Celebrate in the blessings of our lives; and We Meditate when we allow ourselves to be humbled and Guided by the Holy Spirit into a life of Service.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rosebud Reservation 2010 - Day 6

We're packed and ready to go.  Many of us with heavy hearts.

We began the day at devotions with the other groups for one last day...  A beautiful morning, outside, with the sun shining down on the Tree of Life grounds.  Russell inspired yet again.  Life is good.

We went back to the house, cleaned our rooms, the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and living room.  Loaded up the cars.  And took a couple of last minute photos as we headed out of town.
(Good-bye Guest House!  You've been a nice home for us this week!)
(The group in front of the Tree of Life storefront.)

9 hours back home.  We stopped for lunch... and later for gas (and ice cream)... and just kept driving!

Many of our conversations in the car centered around our experiences.  Questions we still had.  Hopes for the future.  Comparisons to past mission trips.  But yet... so much of it was hard to put into words.  It would take awhile for the a-ha moments, the confusion, the weights upon our hearts, and the inspired God whisperings to come to life and be able to put them into words...  (As I write this, it is actually July 14th and some of my feelings are still beyond the formation of words.)

But stay tuned!  And plan to be in church on August 1st - when we will tell you all about the trip and will be available to answer your questions!

"God has no hands or feet or voice except ours and through these he works."
--Teresa of Avila

"Good deeds are like a pebble cast into a pond: they create ripples that spread in all directions.  Our acts of service in our homes and communities become part of an ever-widening circle of compassion that eventually encompasses the entire creation.  In this interconnected world, we live locally knowing that our actions have an impact globally."
--Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, "Spiritual Literacy"

(Photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rosebud Reservation 2010 - Day 5

Well, we had an interesting night last night!  After returning from our day trips, showering, having dinner, and relaxing together for the evening...  we eventually went off to our bunks, very ready for a good night's sleep!

There was a pounding on the front door around 11pm.  Now, we had been told it was possible that beggers would stop by the guest house, but they have been told that's not ok and we were told not to open the door.  So we didn't.  From my room, I didn't hear anything else and assumed the person had moved on.  But a little while later I was told he was still on our porch...  seemingly planning to spend the night there.

One of our group members was especially concerned about this - since her bedroom had a door to the front porch (I don't blame her!).  She asked if it was ok to call the police to come ask the man to move somewhere else.  We agreed that would be ok....

So we called Google 911 to get some local law enforcement phone numbers.  First, we called the Rosebud Reservation Tribal Police - and got an answering machine.  Then, we called the town of Mission's police - and got an answering machine.  Next, we called the Todd County sheriff - and guess what?  Got an answering machine!  Lastly, we just dialed 911... and never got connected.

It really goes to show how a lack of funding and resources affects how a community can keep their residents safe.  We were fine - our visitor was just sleeping off a night of drinking (and the other group that was staying in our house came home while we making phone calls).  But earlier in the week we had heard that there had been 4 deaths the previous weekend - 1 accident, 1 illness related death, 1 that I never heard the cause of, and 1 young woman who was beaten to death by her husband or boyfriend.

After our difficulties finding a law enforcement officer... my heart just broke thinking of this young woman.  What if she had been trying to get help - to no response?  What a horrible reality to know that help is so limited and not exactly something you could count on.  Something we take for granted in our safe lives!  Something to think about...

Today would be our last full day of work - and boy, did we WORK today (after our morning devotions with Russell and the other volunteers, of course)!

Beth R. continued her position in the Thrift Store - lovingly taking care of customers all day.

Carol took her turn in the sewing room - making quilts (of course!).

Amy decided to help serve meals in the Warm Welcome Center - and what a busy day she had providing meals to the many customers that came in getting ready for their weekends! 

And Beth J., Kathy, and Megan ended up working in the warehouse most of the day - bagging thousands of pounds of donated corn and potatoes for people to take home for their Fourth of July weekend!  (Ask Kathy or Beth about the corn and they will likely break into a fit of giggles!)  This seemed like hot, dirty, menial work to do all day long - but when we put it into perspective of how we are able to serve others...  It was definately worth spending the day this way.  (And we got to meet several of the people who picked up the food - all very kind, friendly, warm-hearted individuals!)
(Bringing in ANOTHER box of corn!)
(Even Beth R. came out to help stock corn in the store!)
(This is what Megan did for most of the day - with the help of a teenage boy named Avery, we went through a bag and a half of potatoes!  Uffda!)

After relaxing for a bit in the afternoon, we began our busy and fun-filled evening!  It started out at a craft fair at the local college - Sinte Gleska College.  Many people from the reservation brought out their jewelry, paintings, bone carvings, beadwork, etc etc.  All beautiful!  I think we each bought at least one thing to bring home... some of us a little more...

Then we headed across the street to have some "Indian Tacos" for dinner - YUM!  Pretty close to our tacos, but served on fry bread.  Delicious. 

And while we were eating, we made a new friend.  Steve is a teacher at the college - teaching about the Lakota Sioux culture through art and traditional dress and crafts.  He was fascinating to listen to!  He taught us about how to make moccasins, handgames sticks, porcupine quill bracelets, etc - and he had an interesting personal history to boot!  He grew up outside the reservation, but when his young daughters decided they wanted to learn traditional dance, he began learning about his culture from scratch!  He eventually brought them to the reservation and has been learning ever since - he's even a consultant for national museum exhibits (including the Smithsonian).  After talking with and listening to him for almost an hour, several of us were wondering if it would ever be possible to give up 4 weeks of our summer to come take his class...  Fascinating!

We headed back to our house, thinking our evening was over - and were happy to see that there was another speaker lined up at the house!  A flutist!  This was a man who played the traditional Indian flute - a beautiful, haunting, earthy sounding instrument.  He told stories, made us laugh (a lot), told us about his life and what he sees as strengths and challenges on the reservation... including gangs and drug use.  As a teacher of young kids, he tries to influence them towards making good choices in their lives - from our viewpoint, he seemed a wonderful role model for the local kids!  He ended the presentation by playing "Amazing Grace" on his flute... and made the tears fall.  A really special, moving experience for our last night on the reservation.

Once the house quieted down, our group met for our last evening of devotions.  We talked about the Spiritual Habit of Celebration and shared the things that we were celebrating about the trip - including what strengthened our faith, what challenged our faith, and where we had felt God's presence in the week.  It was a wonderful conversation - full of laughter and some tears, all of us sad to be leaving the next day.  We ended with sharing affirmations about each other - affirming each others strengths, talents, and ways of reaching out to each other and the community we were serving.  Our prayer was a prayer of thanks for such a wonderful experience with such an amazing community.

"The discipline of service begins with humility and ends with humility...  We can humbly serve others because we know who we are: children of God.  This knowing frees us to have the heart of a servant, even if we can't fulfill the need in front of us at the moment."
--Valerie Hess, "Habits of a Child's Heart"

"The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
--Frederick Buechner

(All photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)