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Showing posts from 2018

"Come Further Up, Come Further In!"

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One night during my final weeks at seminary, a few of my friends and I decided to put together a picnic so that we could eat while enjoying a local sunset view. The four of us all packed our food, then plugged a beach name into our GPS – one none of us had ever been to before. Just spelling it was a challenge: "Wingaersheek Beach." After about twenty minutes of following the road's twists and turns (it's New England, after all), we arrived at the unassuming location. After parking the car on gravel, we walked up to the sandy shore, beholding low tide.

My dear friends, Ellie (front), Adrienne (left), and Petek (back center).
A few families were walking towards the water, dipping their feet in the shallow waves. Children were flying kites, though mostly unsuccessfully. The four of us walked closer to the shoreline, then found a promising rock formation where we could picnic. While eating turkey sandwiches, clementines, chicken fajitas, and other such yumminess, we discu…

On Repotting.

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In August 2015, I walked into the garden care section of a Springfield, MO, Walmart with a dear friend, intent on bringing a plant back with me to keep in my dorm room.  It was senior year, and I was comforted by the prospect of being able to nourish a little bit of green as I began moving towards adulthood with each passing day.  A little jade plant stood out to me, tiny and green, nestled in one of those flimsy, black plastic containers.  With excitement in my heart, I paid $4 or so, and walked out the door with my own potted plant.
When I got back to my cozy and colorful dorm room, I looked around for something that might work as a makeshift pot.  After carefully analyzing my collection of mugs, I decided a transparent glass mug would be my plant's new abode.  I patted down the soil, then poured a little water in the soil, hoping a little spritz might help the jade feel more at home.  It took me a little while to get used to a routine of checking the soil and watering the jade…

Why Hospital Chaplaincy?

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Since I've noticed that hospital chaplaincy can actually be quite a mysterious vocation, I thought I'd write a bit about why this ministry has so moved my heart.

The first time I encountered a chaplain was when I was twelve years old, six months after my sister Katie suddenly died. After being in a grief program at Little Company of Mary Hospital – facilitated by my now dear friend Peg – I saw how meaningful pastoral care was in my own life.  Through several years and many God-ordered opportunities and movements, I know deep in my heart that this is the kind of ministry He has created me to do – the kind of person He's created me to be:  being on a pastoral care team at a hospital.

It was a dream-come-true to serve as a 'chaplain intern' this past summer at a suburban hospital in Massachusetts.  It's in those eleven weeks that my passion not only cemented but grew beyond anything I thought imaginable. So now that I have the God-given opportunity to serve as a &…

What I've Learned from the Spiritual Disciplines.

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As the past two weeks have shown me that my schoolwork is monstrously piling up, I've decided to tie up my weekly account of the spiritual disciplines (at least for now). Though I may get back on this road of experimentation in the future, I have chosen to stop and to reflect at this point -- to pay attention to how these rhythms have shaped my heart this final semester of seminary.

When I think about what's happened in my heart the past ten weeks, I narrow in on the following image of a tree's roots aggressively fighting through the blacktop cement (photo taken on a walk in Cambridge):


For so long before this journey, I felt myself trapped by fear of failing in discipline, lack of motivation in connecting with the Lord, and a general complacency in my spiritual journey. However, living these past several weeks in light of the spiritual disciplines -- with a literal expectancy of meeting with God -- I've seen the roots of my heart begin to fight against the previous te…

Week Ten: Retreat.

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This past week, I had the opportunity to participate in a day-long retreat with a discipleship center we have on campus called The Pierce Center for Disciple Building. These day-long retreats have very much become part of the fabric of my time at seminary (I have gone on five), giving me just enough pause to catch up to where my heart is and how God is working within it.

This is a spiritual discipline that first captured my attention two years ago exactly, in March 2016, right before I graduated from college. I traveled with a small group of graduating seniors and a professor, lodging for three days and two nights at a Cistercian monastery in Ava, Missouri. Ever since that experience, I've known that silent retreats must be part of my spiritual life.

So, it's been a joy to retreat at the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Abbey in Ipswich, Massachusetts.  I love that the founder of the order, St. Julie Billiart, declared: "How good is the good God!" Truly, that Abbey is …

Week Nine: Scripture Memorization.

This past week, I practiced a discipline that reminded me of my elementary school days of memorizing chunks of Scripture.  However, this week was probably my first time memorizing Scripture not for a homework assignment or a Bible quiz competition.  Instead of my motivation being external, it was internal – truly wanting to tuck God's Word in my heart so I might access it at my weakest moments of discouragement and temptation.

Here's Adele Calhoun's take on "Memorization":

"Desire: to carry the life-shaping words of God in me at all times and in all places

Definition: Memorization is the process of continually remembering the words, truths and images God uses to shape us. Memorization provides us with a store of learning, which can be accessed anywhere and anytime.

Practice Includes:

memorizing Scriptures, hymns, poems, quotes, etc.rereading portions of Scripture until they are committed to memorymemorizing Scripture verses that clearly reveal God's plan of…

Week Eight: Celebration.

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Since this past week was my 'birthday week,' I thought it would be a good time to put into practice the spiritual discipline of Celebration. When I think of the word 'celebrate,' my mind immediately wanders back to an old VHS about Disney World I used to watch as a kid; Mickey and his friends, as well as a bunch of kids dressed in colorful clothes, would all sing, "Celebrate good times, come on!" Believe it or not, I found the video:



The above video might make you smile, or it may even be a little obnoxious (for me, it's a combination of both). But what might Celebration as a 'spiritual discipline' look like?
Adele Calhoun, in her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, writes the following about the discipline:
"Desire: to take joyful, passionate pleasure in God and the radically glorious nature of God's people, Word, world and purposes
Definition: Celebration is a way of engaging in actions that orient the spirit toward worship, praise and …

Twenty-Four.

Twenty-three has been a sweet year, filled more with what's felt like moments than days and weeks and months. Here's some of the moments I remember:

Starting my birthday last year with my dear friend Shannon, as well as my college-pals-and-still-pals Jeremy and Jami, on a Rhode Island adventure. I remember feeling so cold on the coast (it was a 20 degree day) that all we could do was take photos and then run into the nearest warm building. That day was filled with yummy tea, many laughs, and more laughs...and a Mike's Pastry Lobster Tail (the only thing resembling seafood I'll eat!). Beginning and processing through and finishing my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Beverly Hospital. During those eleven summer weeks, I learned how to take care of myself while diving into an intensive ministry setting. I discovered a deep love for chaplaincy work – for holding frail hands, sitting next to tired bodies, praying earnest prayers. I experienced an interfaith…

Week Seven: Examen.

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This week, I very acutely realized that I was cranky. After a Nor'easter (a fierce New England storm) knocked out our power on campus – not once but twice – I had had enough.  The darkness of the power outage did not bother me so much as the lack of heat in my bedroom.  Even though I bundled up in my blankets like a hibernating bear in winter, I woke up freezing cold with a sore throat and a sour attitude. Though hot coffee seemed to warm my throat and my perspective, I still felt some residual annoyance at having to deal with the interruption of a power outage.

I had no idea that my spiritual discipline of Examen would be so appropriate and challenging for this week when I did not feel like being particularly attuned to God's presence and grace.

So, what is Examen?

According to our now much familiar friend Adele Calhoun, here's the skinny:

"Desire: to reflect on where I was most and least present to God's love in my day.

Definition: The examen is a practice for di…

Week Six: Self-Care.

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During this season of Lent, a time when I'm especially drawn to thinking about the incarnated suffering of Christ, I've also thought of the way I view my own body. I've realized that for much of my Christian life, I've somewhat functioned as a gnostic – believing that while my spirit can be good (because of Christ's redemption), my body ought to be tolerated at best. I've never really thought of my body as something to rejoice in. However, as I've contemplated how Jesus came to earth – how He literally became human and did His ministry as one of us – I've realized that God cares more about my body than I seemed to realize.

Thus, I decided to delve into valuing the body this past week during my spiritual discipline practice of 'self-care.'

Here's how Adele Calhoun describes this discipline:

"Desire: to value myself as my heavenly Father values me.

Definition: Self-care honors God by nurturing and protecting the limits and desires of the b…

Week Five: Welcoming Prayer.

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It's Week Five of practicing a new spiritual discipline, something Adele Calhoun calls 'Welcoming Prayer.' And let me tell you, this has been a sweet and dear practice.


So, overview:

"Desire: to welcome Jesus into every part of my life, body, circumstances and relationships

Definition: Welcoming prayer is a way to detach from my need to be secure, liked and in control, and attach to the presence of Jesus instead."
(Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, pg. 287).
Additionally, she describes that a 'welcoming prayer' can be as simple as uttering, "Welcome, Jesus, welcome" (pg. 287).

So that's just what I decided to do – pray, "Welcome, Jesus, welcome" at various times throughout my day. It was a prayer I was aware of throughout the week, and whenever I felt nervous or lonely or confused or stressed, it bubbled forth from my heart: "Welcome, Jesus, welcome."

Though three simple words, they bent my heart towards deeper and fuller at…

Week Four: Silence (Again).

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Welp, as promised in last week's post, I've sought to practice the spiritual discipline of silence this week...again.

While I had a good dose of resolve heading into this week, practicing silence was much more difficult than I had anticipated. And honestly, more times than not, I ran from it again and again; this tendency in me was quite confusing. I had a long week of school, filled with class lectures and studying and driving and conversations. Shouldn't I be craving silence in the midst of all the noise? I thought so.

But on Thursday afternoon, I decided I would try one of Adele Calhoun's suggested activities for practicing silence: setting a timer for just ten minutes and allowing the self to be present in the silence (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, pg. 123). I thought this would be easy enough, so after putting my phone on 'do not disturb mode,' I set my iPhone timer for exactly 10:00. Then I was silent. I was even a good girl and turned off my ambient-no…

Week Three: Silence.

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This week, I chose to practice the spiritual discipline of silence, though I did not do very well at it.  Let's just say that I realized how *radically* tied I am to any kind of noise – from my Spotify playlists to the whirring sound of the fan in my room.  Goodness, I'm even writing this blog to background music!


Here's how Adele Calhoun describes silence as a spiritual discipline:
"Desire: to free myself from the addiction to and distraction of noise so I can be totally present to the Lord; to open myself to God in the place beyond words
Definition: Silence is a regenerative practice of attending and listening to God in quiet, without interruption and noise.  Silence provides freedom from speaking as well as listening to words or music. (Reading is also listening to words.)
Practice Includes: Setting a period of time in which you don't speak but isolate yourself from sounds (other than perhaps the sounds of nature)Driving or commuting without the radio or CD player…

Week Two: Gratitude.

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"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!"  (Psalm 118:1, ESV)

For this week, I've practiced the spiritual discipline of gratitude.  Though I wish gratitude was my default mode, I too frequently miss out on seeing the blessings God has given – the ones so clearly present if I would just give a moment to say, "Thanks, God."

Here's some of the basics of the discipline of gratitude, per Adele Calhoun's perspective:

"Desire: to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's prompting to live with a grateful heart, cognizant of God's work in my life and my abundant resources.

Definition: Gratitude is a loving and thankful response toward God for his presence with us and within this world. Though 'blessings' can move us into gratitude, it is not at the root of a thankful heart. Delight in God and his good will is the heartbeat of thankfulness.

Practice Includes:

Prayers and songs that focus on God's generosit…

Week One: Visio Divina.

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To start off my 'Journey with the Spiritual Disciplines,' I thought I'd flip through the Table of Contents in Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbookto see which disciplines stood out to me. After making a list of about twenty, I asked myself, "Which would be a fun one to start with?" I read some of the descriptions, then decided to begin with one that was unfamiliar to me - "visio divina." Visio divina is a Latin term, translated in English to "divine seeing." Sounds a bit mystic, eh? However, I realized it's actually quite a down-to-earth discipline. Calhoun describes visio divina as "a way to pray with the eyes," referencing the historical fact that "for centuries church has put icons, the cross, stained glass, mosaics, art and statues in churches as invitations to pray with the eyes" (Calhoun, pg. 47).

I contend that Henri Nouwen (in You are the Beloved) describes the physicality of this kind of spiritual disci…