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Category Archives: Spiritual Journey Thursday

RISE – Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday

sjt-2017-graphicIt’s the day for our Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday link-up. Today we focus on Leigh Anne’s one-little-word for 2017—RISE.

What Could RISE mean in my day-to-day life, I asked myself as I considered what to write. I quickly realized RISE is a very versatile word with lots of meanings and ways I regularly encourage myself to rise, from physically getting up in the morning, to rising emotionally and mentally for social occasions, to meditating on spiritual beliefs that recall and anticipate resurrection.

I put some of the ways one can RISE (or try to) into the poem below. It includes activities I take part in during a typical week.

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Image: Pixabay

RISE

A Monday word—RISE!
Throw off weekend’s quilt.
Duty calls. To work!

A Tuesday word, RISE
early to pray into God’s
possibilities.

RISE—a Wednesday word
absorb, learn, grow, reach out, love
sisters of my heart.

RISE—a Thursday word
of writing, posting, caring
in community.

On Friday RISE
with dust rag, mop, water can.
Homes need love too.

On Saturday RISE
bread, soufflé, muffins, scones
to nurture and feed.

RISE—a Sunday word
of resurrection, hope, a
future past the grave.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Now I’m eager to see what others have written about “Rise.” Please join me in visiting the link-up at Leigh Anne’s blog: Turn.

 
 

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Sounds

By now you’ve probably switched calendars, thought about—maybe even listed—a few resolutions and goals for the year, and caught yourself writing 2016 instead of 2017 a time or two. Plus, you may have chosen your one-word for 2017.

The custom of choosing a word for the year has been around for a while. I’m not sure whose idea it was to begin with but memory and scrapbooking enthusiast Ali Edwards has been choosing a yearly word since 2006 and has even developed a One Little Word business, offering prompts and scrapbooking products to members. I like her definition of “one word”:

“… a word to focus on, to live with, to investigate, to write about, to craft with, and to reflect upon…”

My word for 2017 came to me in the early hours of December 18. I had just written a blog post about my 2016 word (“mindfulness”) and choosing a word for 2017 was on my mind as I snuggled under the covers for a few more winks.

Also around that time I had been noticing that many of the big-name bloggers and productivity specialists I sometimes read were trying to convince me that I needed to be more focused to accomplish more and thus make more money in 2017. To do that I would want to sign up for their webinars and courses, but hurry because the special price would go away soon. I felt so bombarded by voices, it was becoming hard to hear the voice I really wanted to hear. How could I listen above the noise?

That word LISTEN sparked a frisson of recognition in me. You could say that morning it woke me up. LISTEN would be my one-word for 2017!

Because I always choose a scripture to go along with my word, I knew just what that would be too—Jesus’ words from John 10:

“To him (the Good Shepherd) the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him for they know his voice” – John 10:3,4 (emphasis added).

I want 2017 to be a year of listening for, recognizing, and hearing to the extent of obeying the voice of my Shepherd above all other voices.

During 2017 I’ll explore many other facets of the word as well, such as listening to nature, to people, and to all the ways one hears and listens metaphorically—by reading, tuning in to my intuition, visually observing and hearing the unspoken communication of those around me—that sort of thing.

I’m planning to try some activities this year related to my word. You may want to join me:

  1. Find and collect quotes with 2017’s one-word in them.
  2. Find, collect, and memorize Bible verses that relate to my word.
  3. Make a playlist with songs that relate to my word.
  4. Look for and watch TED Talks about my word.
  5. Journal / blog about my word.
  6. Collect objects with my word on them to display around the house.
  7. Make a collage or other art project relating to my word.
  8. Write a creed or manifesto as an ideal for how attending to my word will affect my behavior.

And now to prove that hearing and listening have been on my mind for a long time, here’s a poem from my files. It’s one I wrote in 1980 when I was taking a summer writing course.  (In it you’ll hear sounds that you probably haven’t since that era of wooden clogs that we wore for a while).

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A Western Meadowlark–a frequent sight on the Canadian prairies but rarely seen here on Canada’s southwest coast. I photographed this one one January morning at Blackie Spit, Surrey, B.C.

Sounds

A foghorn groaning his pain in the bay,
Liquid notes of the lark on a new spring day
The gleeful ring of the telephone
Cutting the still of an evening alone
The tock, tock, Tock, TOCK, TOCK, Tock, tock, tock of feet
In wooden clogs on the concrete street
The fiendish howl of the winter wind
When I’m warm inside, and so is my friend
The raucous cawing of crows in spring
And the gentle plop, plop of the snow, melting
The hiccupy laugh of Brita at play
When she catches her ball, then flings it away
Crystal chimes in December, buzzing crickets in June
The shrill school bell—so welcome at noon…
Sounds there are without measure to feed our ears
To sharpen our pleasure and soothe our fears
To add to the riches of all our years
Wealthy the one who truly hears.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Do you choose a word for the year? Does your word choice have a story behind it? What ideas for activities could you add to the list above? I’d love to read your responses. Leave them in the comments, below.

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This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, the first Thursday of each month. Today it’s hosted by Carol Varsalona at her blog Beyond LiteracyLink.

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Incarnation

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Image scanned from an old Christmas card

The climax of the Christmas season will soon be here. This year a book that has directed my Advent focus is Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (compiled by Sarah Arthur).

One of the readings for the first week of Advent (“Incarnation” by Amit Majmudar) especially captured my imagination over the miracle of the incarnation. Here are some lines:

1. Incarnation

Inheart yourself, immensity. Immarrow,
Embone, enrib yourself. The wind won’t borrow
A plane, nor water climb aboard a current,
But you be all we are, and all we aren’t.
….
…For eyes, just take two suns and shrink them.
Make all your thoughts as small as you can think them.
Encrypt in flesh, enigma, what we can’t
Quite English…. – Read entire…

Another poem that has expanded my view of the incarnation in the past is by my friend Darlene Moore Berg who is also a medical doctor. Her medically informed perspective comes through in “Embrylogy” with its ending that connects that event 2000+ years ago to each Love-accepting heart now:

Embryology

A subtle thing
one simple moment to the next
a rhythm, a pulsatile beat
and the heart of God
takes on a mortal cadence.

In a dark, muffled womb
four chambers form—room
to comprehend the flow
of human blood…

A coil of ear widens open
to the Voice of Heaven-
whispers of Divinity
knit into the ossicles

(last stanza)

embryonic genesis
a life takes flesh,
manifests ultimate Love
stretches forth
across a Universe
to be born within a human heart.  Read entire…

So my wish for you, for me, for all of us is that this Christmas we would experience this “birth” and the “abide” that follows:

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in;
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel. (- Phillips Brooks, 4th stanza lyric of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”)

 

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Mindfulness at Christmas

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One of the Christmas bells in my mother’s collection (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Thank you to Irene Latham for rallying us to revive our Spiritual Journey Thursday meme, at least this once. We’re invited to reflect on our One Little Word choices for 2017.

My 2017 word was / is MINDFULNESS.

I am aware that there are psychological and, in some faiths, religious overlays to the word which may bring baggage to it that I hadn’t intended. In my February post where I talked about what mindfulness meant to me, I gave it this definition:

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Now, in the middle of December, I am relating mindfulness to Advent, the candles that are lit each week in church, and the qualities each represents. So far we have focused on HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. I suspect next Sunday when we light the fourth candle, we will hear about LOVE.

I want to possess these qualities in abundance and in their purest forms, especially at Christmas. However, the circumstances of my life change and with those changes my emotions fluctuate resulting in the needle of my Hope-, Peace-, and Joy-meters becoming virtual pendulums,

Each Sunday’s sermon has helped me focus on the lasting and unchanging aspects of Hope, Peace, and Joy that play out for us in the events of that first Christmas. Hope doesn’t dim because God took the initiative to reconnect with us, and promises us eternal life beyond this life. Peace is possible because we’ve entrusted Jesus with our lives; Joy is irrepressible because we are invited into relationship with our Creator. I’m sure next Sunday’s talk on Love will deliver something just as enduring.

My challenge to myself, then, is when circumstances change—when I get the flu, or the shortbreads don’t turn out, or the weather switches off all the power and my plans go sideways, or whatever—I remain mindful of the lasting, unchanging verities of the season’s meaning, instead of losing hope, peace, joy, and love at the whim of what’s happening in my daily life.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”—a poem that became the carol—illustrates how this worked for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, according to this article, wrote it in the middle of the American Civil War. The carol version leaves out the two stanzas that refer specifically to the war. Here is his poem in its original form.

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Image: Pixabay

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I’m going to take ringing bells as my cue to be mindful of the truths that Advent represents that are bigger than my fluctuating day-to-day hope, peace, joy, and love.

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This post is linked to “Spiritual Journey Thursday,” hosted today by Irene Latham. At the link-up you’ll be directed to other bloggers and their Spiritual Journey Thursday posts.

 

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“Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Though we’re just starting December the First Sunday of Advent is already past and Christmas is in the air. Sarah Arthur’s Light upon Light (a book of readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany) recalled the beautiful song “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

I first heard “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” sung by the Amadeus Children’s Choir when our daughter was a member of it. At the beginning of the Christmas concert the children entered the auditorium singing it in their clear, pure voices. What a heavenly sound!

Since then it has become one of my favorite Christmas songs. Its beautiful lyrics and plaintive tune make it unforgettable.

The words are from a poem written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413). The tune is plainsong (a type of old Catholic liturgical music), and from the 13th century. I think the plainsong aspect of it—it is monophonic and has a free (not measured) rhythm—make it so mysterious and exotic.

And then there are the words, translated from the Latin by John M. Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859). What theology! What praise! I’ve posted some of my favorites of the nine stanzas.

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Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

 

Roby Furley Davis translated it from the Latin as well. All three versions (Latin, English versions 1 and 2) are here.

And here it is in  song…

 

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Night Class

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Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

Night Class

I wake at night in the classroom with God
go to His desk to watch Him marking my day.
“Here,” He says, “see your anger when you were kept waiting
your rudeness when disturbed
your defensiveness when criticized?
These are all places the theory you know in your head
those textbook passages you can say by memory
could have been applied.”

My face reddens and I crumple in shame.
Knowing how to use the formulas I can say by rote
to solve the equations of life
–in spite of review after review–
continues to confound me.

But His loving eyes reach deep into my spirit.
“Don’t worry girl,” He says, drawing me up.
“This is not your final grade.
I have planned for you a lifetime
of projects, quizzes and tests
each designed to give you
more insight.
Getting it wrong is also teaching you
how to get it right.”

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

I see by the various versions of “Night Class” in my files that I first wrote it in 2007.  I was reminded me of that old poem when, a few days ago, I read “The Temple of Memory” by John O’Donohue:

The Temple of Memory

When you visit the wounds within the temple of memory, you should not blame yourself for making bad mistakes that you greatly regret. Sometimes you have grown unexpectedly through these mistakes. Frequently, in a journey of the soul, the most precious moments are the mistakes. They have brought you to a place that you would otherwise have avoided. You should bring a compassionate mindfulness to your mistakes and wounds. Endeavor to inhabit the rhythm you were in at that time. If you visit this configuration of your soul with forgiveness in your heart, it will fall into place itself. When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal. You come in out of the exile of hurt into the joy of inner belonging.
– John O’Donohue 
Excerpt from ANAM CARA

I love this part of O’Donohue’s piece:

“You should bring a compassionate mindfulness (my one-little-word of the year)  to your mistakes and wounds. …When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal.”

May we do that –forgive ourselves– as we press ahead on the spiritual journey.

 

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The Longsuffering of Old Bibles (NPM ’16-Day 20)

Do you have a collection of old Bibles in your house? We do. Old Bibles in various versions stand neatly on shelves in the basement. They can also be found stacked with other books on my bedside table, buried in trunks, and in my study. I’ve found a slim New Testament in an old purse and tract-size copies of the Gospel of John with a bunch of brochures.

When, some time ago, Diane Lockward’s newsletter contained a poetry prompt with the lament of old wedding dresses, I decided my lament of old things would old Bibles. “The Longsuffering of Old Bibles” is the result.

What should one do to rejuvenate (our Spiritual Journey Thursday word for today) old Bibles? I wish I could send mine to places on earth where people are longing for just one Bible. Trouble is, they usually don’t want them in English but in their mother tongue.

How do you rejuvenate your old Bibles?

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The Longsuffering of Old Bibles

They stand upright, next to each other
the leather NIV beside the family King James
the paperback Message beside the patterned Phillips,
in fellowship and righteous support
version rivalries long forgotten.
On dark nights their longings
rise from the bookshelf, hover
a myrrh lament in the air:
How long, O Lord?
Will they forget us forever?

Sometimes the old Scofield
will whisper memories of past mornings
when light from his pages blended
with light from the sun
and he was written in, marked up, and lined.
I even have the stain of tears,
he says one day. The hardly touched Living
finds this hard to believe
but the Illustrated Children’s smiles
recalling her own rips and scribbles.

Who will read them now? Who will find them?
The wine leather birthday Bible, gold-embossed
in its zippered cover with pockets and pen holders?
The weighty red study Bible
at the bottom of a pile somewhere?
The first Bible—where is it,
what closet, what box?
Where is the burgundy New Testament
gifted in Grade 5, the one with the gold jug
on the cover? Languishing on the shelf
of a thrift store perhaps
or giving tattered testimony to the dump?

From closet floor to attic trunk
with eternal patience, faith, and hope they wait:
We have family members in hotel drawers…
Our pages could still be scattered as packing, wrapping…
One of us once even revived, with his leaves,
the cleaner of latrines in a faraway prison.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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This is not a new poem, but was written before this poetry month. It recently won an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Christian Poetry Contest sponsored by Utmost Christian Writers. Go HERE to see the list of winners and read more winning poems (they’re good—you’ll love them!).

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Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

Photo: Pixabay.com

 

 
 

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