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Category Archives: Religious

The year of LISTEN (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

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Coloring sheet gifted to me by Irene as part of the Poetry Friday summer poem swap. (I plan to spend a few more hours in quiet contemplation working on this in the days ahead.)

My one-little-word for 2017—LISTEN—has served me well… so well, I’m sad that the year is almost done.

As I went through 2017 it helped me make a habit of listening to others, especially when in conversation. Countless times through this year when the urge to interrupt came over me, I would hear in my mind: “Listen.” That reminder brought relaxation and a certain peacefulness as I continued tuning into what the other person was saying.

I’ve become alert to the wisdom of others about listening. Here’s something I read just a couple of days ago that sums up listening to others better than I could say it:

“Listening is more than being quiet while the other person speaks until you can say what you have to say … Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability—a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one’s own best self and one’s own best words and questions” – Krista Tippett in Becoming Wise (p. 29) quoted by Melissa Moore in Entrusted p. 153.

“Generous listening is a revolutionary act of kindness in a world of screaming and competing voices” – Melissa Moore, Entrusted, p. 153.

I have also practiced listening to God through Bible reading, prayer, paying attention to the lyrics of praise and worship music, tuning in to podcasts, and more. One of the practices I’ve begun this year is Bible journaling. It was such fun to create visual memories in my Bible in response to Bible verses about listening. I’ll leave you with a short slide show of some of my listening signposts.

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey First Thursday, hosted today by our wonderful coordinator and cheerleader Irene Latham at her blog Live Your Poem.

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Gratitude (Spiritual Journey First Thursday)

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Image: Pixabay

A few weeks ago I attended the Global Leadership Summit (by simulcast). One of the speakers was Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and author of the book Lean In). This gorgeous young woman looked like she had it all, and had it all together. Then she shared the story of her young husband’s sudden death while they were on vacation. He wasn’t even ill.

She was understandably devastated and paralyzed by grief. She told how slowly she worked her way through this tragedy to a new normal. Her therapist, Mark, was a big help, especially when he directed her mournful thoughts away from self-pity to gratitude (e.g. “Yes, your husband is gone, but you still have your children”). He challenged her to recall and write down, at the end of each day, three moments of joy from that day.

This Spiritual Journey Thursday finds me in the unusual spot of seeing my husband through surgery. Every time my mind goes to a negative place concerning this, I am trying to take Mark’s advice to Sheryl, and redirect it toward gratitude… which really isn’t that hard!

1. It’s elective surgery. Now that medical science has figured out how to replace hips, walking with a painful arthritis-degenerated hip is no longer a life sentence. And we’ve been waiting for this appointment for almost a year.

2. It’s publicly funded. We do our share of complaining about our country’s nationalized medical system (inefficiencies, rationing of treatment, long wait times). But when it comes to having to go to the hospital, it’s reassuring that it won’t bankrupt us.

3. General good health. I sat with hubby through his pre-admission interview with the nurse. As he answered question after medical question with “No” (no heart attacks, no strokes, no kidney disease, no diabetes etc.) it struck me how blessed he and I have been with good health.

4. Surgery is local, so no long drives to visit and fetch him home.

5. The hope of pain-free walking again—soon, we hope!

As I think of the days of rehabilitation ahead for him (I know a bit about what’s involved because I broke my hip in 2014 and also had to do the walker / cane / raised toilet seat / bath bench / hard to climb in and out of the car thing) I cling to my life verse for thought hygiene and reassurance:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses al understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6,7 NKJV (emphasis added).

 

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, a once-a-month look at life’s spiritual side by a collection of blogging friends who met (mostly) on Poetry Friday. Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday is hosted today by Karen at Irene’s blog Live Your Poem.

 

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Nourished by music (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

sjt-2017-graphicToday is the first Thursday of September and time for the monthly Spiritual Journey Thursday post. This month we’re hosted by Ramona, who is discussing her one-little-word for 2017 – NOURISH (what a fabulous word!).

One of the first things that comes to mind as soul and spirit nourishment for me is music. Though its delivery has changed over the years (from records, to eight tracks, to  cassette tapes, to CDs to, now, a streaming service), my appetite for and enjoyment of it hasn’t diminished. If anything it has increased.

When I joined Spotify (a music streaming service) a vast array of music was suddenly available to me at a tap of an app. Wow! In browsing around this huge resource, I stumbled on some ready-made playlists of worship music that introduced me to songs and artists I had never heard before. One such was Audrey Assad.

The first song of hers that snagged my attention was “Even Unto Death.” Her beautiful clear voice and the haunting melody begged to be replayed. Then the lyrics of this love song to Jesus captured my heart.

I found the song on YouTube (Audrey’s own channel), sung against the stark but stunning visuals of a snowy landscape. Even more moving, though, is Audrey’s own explanation of her inspiration to write this song—an ISIS video no less!

You can hear the song and Audrey’s explanation of why she wrote it below:

This song, along with others, is now part of my own worship playlist which is growing regularly as I discover more songs that nourish my soul and spirit.

 

 

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New beginnings (SJfT)

I begin lots of things. It’s the continuations that I’m concerned about! Three new beginnings that have become a part of my daily life are captured in the photo and poem below:

A favourite time of day

A Favorite Time of Day

Laptop tucked away
housework keeps till tomorrow.
Now is time to pray

to process joy and sorrow
line-captured while music plays

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

My three new 2017 beginnings:

1. Bible Art Journaling
Earlier this spring I discovered Bible art journaling. You could say it was love at first sight.

Doodling, drawing, and lettering in my special journaling Bible has become part of my routine. Several times a week, in the evening when the jobs of the day have been put to bed, I get out my Bible, pens, and supplies, tune in to one of my Spotify play lists (favourites are Audrey Assad , Fernando Ortega, and Andrew Peterson) and meditate / create.

They say that when you work in an area of strength, the activity energizes you. That’s what I find happens when I do this. The day’s fatigue falls away and I am often still going at 10:30 – 11:00—pretty good for someone who wakes up without an alarm just after 5:00 a.m. (though I do often take a daytime nap).

Here’s the project I was working on in the photo (prompted by a Rebekah R. Jones Bible Art Challenge video).

2. Taking a photo a day
My camera has been my walking companion since I got my first digital in 2006. Earlier this year I found a website (Capture Your 365 – #CY365) that provides a daily photo prompt. I’ve been snapping photos challenged by those prompts since mid-May. The photo above was prompted by the July 3rd challenge: “A Favorite Time of Day.”

3. Summer Shorts poems
On the first day of summer this year I met with a local poet friend. Among other things, we discussed summer poem-writing. I told her about American Sentences, and she decided to embark on writing “Summer Sentences.” Her decision encouraged me to work on a summer poem project that seemed like it would fit into my life—writing short poems prompted by the daily photos I take. I call my project “Summer Shorts” and the tanka above is one of those.

There you have it—three activities that I’ve not only begun but continued, and that have added much spiritual richness to my 2017!

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, hosted today by Julieanne Harmatz at her blog To Read, To Write, To Be.

 

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Party Hostess

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Party Hostess

Thinking it through and making lists
to cover all the bases.
Imagining each this or that
and putting myself through the paces.
I know I shouldn’t be uptight
I tend to be a perfecter.
I’d have more fun if I cut loose
this fete to faith and prayer.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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This Sunday my husband and I are hosting a big family party. I love being part of this kind of thing as a helper but being in charge is certainly getting me out of my comfort zone. That is our topic this month and a good one for me to muse on this week.

Even thinking about it for this blog post has been helpful. I’ve been intentional about countering every worrisome “what if?” thought with thoughts and prayers of gratitude that this is happening and joy and anticipation as I look forward to getting together with my large extended family. I am trying to follow my own advice…

sjt-2017-graphicVisit Pat at Writer on a Horse to read more “Getting out of your comfort zone” writings.

 

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Teach me

As I contemplate “finding joy” (our Spiritual Journey Thursday topic this month), it occurs to me how little it takes for me to lose mine. A stretch of bad weather, a cold that hangs on, misplacing my things, upcoming obligations that worry and stress me… These and many more easily grab my attention and, if I let them, steal my joy.

On the weekend I visited a friend who, a week ago, had a heart attack. Now mending from bypass surgery, her attitude of noticing all the positive things and being grateful for them is, I think, a template for retaining joy through bad times or good.

She was perfectly peaceful about relinquishing her classroom to a substitute for the rest of the year. Her husband was laid off from work a while ago, but because of that he was free to be with her in this distant city through this time. Her doctor happened to come by her room as her heart was misbehaving, witnessed what was happening, and pushed up her surgery. Her daughter, passing through on holidays visited the night before surgery and calmed her mother’s jitters using her doula skills. My friend has a strong faith and interpreted these things as evidences of the care of a loving heavenly Father.

For all of us—my friend navigating through her life-and-death health challenge to me with my petty annoyances, I believe finding joy comes in seeing and focusing on the good in the situation and being grateful for what is, rather than wishing for something that isn’t.

I leave you with a short prayer that I wrote some years ago but still need to pray:

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Image: Pixabay

teach me

the sweet leisureliness
of being a lily
the implicit trust
of my child-hand
in Yours
the unlikely joy
that sings sparrow-songs
even when I’m on the ground

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, hosted this week by Margaret Simon at her blog Reflections on the Teche.

 

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Build Yourselves up (SJFT – REACH)

sjt-2017-graphicIt’s the day for my Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday post for May. Today we’re linking at Mainely Write where the topic is Donna’s one-little-word for 2017—REACH. Would you believe reach has 29 shades of meaning (by my dictionary.com app)? What a rich word!

When I hear the word “reach” I imagine a vigorous, energetic motion toward something not yet attained or possessed. We talk of reaching goals and dreams. That’s a side of reaching that, in the last few years, I find myself less enthusiastic about than when I was starting out in work and family life. Lately I’m more content to just be and enjoy the moment for what it is. Have I perhaps entered retirement mode?

And yet, the book I go to for spiritual direction and inspiration has few retirees. One of its heroes, Moses, begged God for a chance to continue leading the people into the Promised Land at the age of 120 (Deuteronomy 3:25; 34:7). Another tireless character was the Apostle Paul who, despite resistance, setbacks, and imprisonment refused to quit. He wrote “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 3:14.

One of the things that affects my ability and desire to reach is my physical state. When I’m rested and fit, I’m far more likely to find myself reaching toward a new skill or goal in imagination and activity. I love Psalm 92:13,14 for its ageless outlook:

“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing.”

To make that possible, I believe people need spiritual fitness as well as physical. The little poem about spiritual fitness that I’ll leave you with is as true for me today as it was 10+ years ago when I wrote it. May we all keep reaching in body, soul, and spirit.

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Image: Pixabay

Build Yourselves Up

But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith – Jude 20

Warm up with worship
hands raised, spirit stretching
to the Almighty.
Increase the rhythm of the heart
with the jumping-jacks of praise.
Hop onto the treadmill of the Word
read it, study it,
meditate on it, memorize it.
Then it’s down on the floor
for push-ups of confession
abdominal crunches of petition
and, firmly grasping others’ weighty burdens,
bench presses of intercession –  set after set.
Up on your feet again for step-ups of listening
then cool down walking in place, silent.
End with a song of thanksgiving
that pours from a well-toned heart.
Now go out to meet the day
your spirit radiating contentment and joy
flexible and strong from its workout
with faith, hope and love.

© 2004 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 

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