Integrated Life:Shared Journey with God

       This past Sunday we continued our exploration of the integrated life.  During the month of June, we are looking at what it means to live a shared journey.  The integrated life was never meant to be lived in isolation.  It was meant to be shared.  Shared with God, our neighbors, our communities, and the world.  This week we looked at what it means to have a shared journey with God.  
        The image of the vine and branches that Jesus gives in John 15 provides an example of what the shared journey with God looks like.  Just as a vine and branch are intimately connected, so we also are intimately connected with God.  The life of the Vine (God) is shared with that of the branches (us).  Without a connection to the vine, the branch will die.  We will die also, albeit a little slower.  A life lived without connection (or awareness of that connection) to God will shrivel and die spiritually.  
      Jesus says, "Live in me.  Make your home in me just as I do in you" (vs. 4).  It is a beautiful invitation for the branch (us) to choose to live the shared journey with God.  It's like Jesus is saying, "God has already chosen to make his home in us.  It's a done deal."  He is already living, making His home, sharing His life and journey within each and every one of us!  Unfortunately, most of us live our days woefully unaware of this mind-blowing fact.  We walk around, living our lives, unaware (or asleep as some would say) that the very life of God is flowing in and through our lives.  The Spirit is inviting us to wake up!  Live!  Make a home with God - share the journey!

Consider this week:
How awake am I?

Babs May-Clark

Integrated Life: Openness and Trust

       This past Sunday we continued our exploration of the integrated life.  During the month of May we're looking at how openness and receptivity are crucial to developing an integrated life.  This week Babs described how trust is critical for openness and gave some practices that encourage openness and trust to grow.        
      There's a direct correlation between trust and openness.  The more we trust ourselves, God, or others the more open we are.  The less we trust, the less open we are.  Trust in God, unlike what we’ve often been taught in church, is dynamic.  It can grow (or diminish) daily.  It isn’t all or nothing.  The more we open our heart space to God, the more we experience that God is trustworthy.  And the more we experience God’s trustworthiness, the more we can open up to God, ourselves and others.  Therefore, any small step in openness and/or trust practiced regularly can yield incredible fruit.  If we want to live an integrated life, no matter how much we currently trust or how open we are, the important thing is (with God’s help) to be intentional in practicing openness. 
     Below are a few suggestions/practices that can help us along in the journey towards openness and trust.
1.  Reframe your picture of God.  We can only be open or truly trust someone we believe has our best interest in mind.  So if your view of God is that He is any anything less than loving, compassionate, merciful, faithful, loving and good,  
read and re-read Psalm 103 or other passages that focus on God's loving nature.  
2.  Place your problems in God’s loving hands.  Practice trusting infinite God instead of your finite self or others.  When confronted with situations that are beyond your control, or past hurts that haunt you, practice turning that situation, condition, or person over to the care of God.
3.   Gain perspective (humility).  Practice being "right sized."  Remind yourself that you are not God, nor in control of the universe or others. Practice being "right sized."  Get out in the grandeur of nature and just be still. Still your mind, ears, and mouth.  Try not to analyze or judge, just observe.  Just be small, one small speck in the wondrous, expansive cosmos.  Insignificant and yet deeply significant.  
4.  Experiment with hands-on practices.  Make a Gratitude Journal,  use a "God Box" regularly, commit to centering prayer, walking meditation, or prayer using art.

Consider this week:
"How can I  practice openness or trust?"

Babs May-Clark

Integrated Life: Openness and Receptivity

This past Sunday we continued our exploration of the integrated life.  During the month of May, we're looking at how openness and receptivity are crucial to developing an integrated life.  This week Sean looked at how emptiness is needed in order for receptivity to exist.   He explored how emptiness and fullness at first seem complete opposites. But in the spiritual life, they are not. In the spiritual life, we find the fulfillment of our deepest desires by becoming empty for God.  We must empty the cups of our lives completely to be able to receive the fullness of life from God (Matt. 10:39).  This emptying, however, isn't something we do readily.  We cling to the known and comfortable, even if it is painful. Unfortunately, that which is already full cannot receive or be open to anything new.

Sometimes saying less is more, so this week I invite you to prayerfully ponder this adaptation of a story that was shared on Sunday:
A seeker, wanting to be a student of a certain master, is invited to the master’s house.

The student rambles on about all his spiritual experience, his past teachers, his insights and skills, and his pet philosophies.  He then goes on to tell about his current issues, his past hurts and failures, and all that he has strived to do to improve himself.  The master listens silently and begins to pour a cup of tea.  He pours and pours, and when the cup is overflowing he keeps right on pouring.  Eventually, the student notices what’s going on and interrupts his monologue to say, “Stop pouring! The cup is full.”

The teacher says, “Yes, and so are you. How can I possibly teach you?

Consider this week:
"What's filling my cup?"

Babs May-Clark

Integrated Life: Intimacy

       This past Sunday we continued our exploration of the integrated life.  During the month of May we're looking at how openness and receptivity are crucial to developing an integrated life. This week, in honor of Mother's Day, Sean talked about how Mary (Jesus' mother) modeled openness and receptivity for us.  Throughout her life, Mary, like all of us, was confronted with both positive and negative circumstances.  From her first encounter with the angel who informed her that she will be with child, to watching her son be crucified, she was open and receptive to God.  It may have taken her a moment, but she came around to accepting God's will for her life.  At first, when the angel told her the news she was to be "with child", her response was like "whoa, not sure about this, how can that be?"  But shortly thereafter her response changed to, "I am God's.  His will be done."  I wonder what changed for Mary in those few moments of time?  How did she move from being closed and non-receptive to open and receptive to God's will?
     Though we don't know for sure, a couple glimpses of Mary's heart may help us fill in the story.  After her visit from the angel, she hurried to see her relative Elizabeth.  Somehow Elizabeth knows that Mary is to be the mother of the Christ and greets Mary as such.  Mary's response, often called Mary's song (Luke 1:46-56), gives us a beautiful picture into Mary's heart that allowed her to move from being closed to open in a few moments of time.  Her response is filled with humility, joy, acceptance and an unwavering belief in the love and goodness of God.  She proclaims "He is my God and savior, He is merciful, good, and just"  I believe She accepts God's will for her because she knows God to be all these things, not only for her people but also for her personally.  There is this sense of intimacy with God in her response.  She acknowledges Him as Creator and Sustainer God.  Yet unabashedly she proclaims that she has been lovingly seen and known by Him.  
     This intimacy with a loving, good, merciful, saving God, I believe, allows her to move from closed to open, from no to yes in a moment's time.  It models for us a way and relationship with God that helps us also move from being closed to open, from no to yes.  God invites us to intimacy with Him, where all is included and where we are known and seen and loved by Him.  He invites us into an intimate relationship that embraces the whole of our lives- the painful, messy, and scary parts (becoming an unwed, virgin mother), as well as the bright, and beautiful parts (bearing God's son).   When we take steps, no matter how small, in the direction of intimacy with a loving, good, merciful God openness and receptivity start to bloom.   Over time and with God's help, we too, being grounded in His love, mercy, and kindness, will be able to be open where we were once closed and say "yes" where we used to say "no".

Consider this week:
How can I take a step towards intimacy with God?

Babs May-Clark