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Category Archives: Spiritual Journey Thursday

Springtime of a new habit (SJfT)

Hi, and welcome to my blog this Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday of April. I’m your host today.

Have you ever experienced things coming together in your life in surprising yet seemingly meant-to-be kinds of ways? That has just happened to me.

Late last year I felt the urge to again pursue an old love of sketching and drawing. My son gave me a sketchbook and set of drawing pencils for Christmas and I have since spent many hours making pencil sketches from photographs.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got an email from the publicist at Fox Chapel Publishing, asking if I’d be interested reviewing a book they’ve recently published—Complete Guide to Bible Journaling.

I had seen journaling Bibles for sale but was never sure how they were meant to be used. This might be a good opportunity to find out, I thought. And any kind of how-to combining journaling and the Bible into perhaps some kind of spiritual practice or discipline interested me, so I said, yes, I’d review the book.

61dwrZAkbaLIt arrived about two weeks ago. On opening it, I was immediately smitten. For I quickly discovered that Bible journaling is a movement (and you might all know this, but it was news to me) that is not concerned with just writing reflections, thoughts, sermon or lecture notes in the roomy margins of specially designed journaling Bibles, but drawing, sketching, illuminating, decorating, lettering, scrapbooking, and even painting in one’s Bible!

“In its simplest definition, Bible journaling is a way to express your faith creatively. Putting pen to paper is a great way to remember and record biblical concepts that are meaningful and relevant to your life” Complete Guide to Bible Journaling, p. 8.

The guidebook is helpful and beautiful with sections on what Bible journaling is, tips, tools and techniques, eleven profiles of Bible journaling artists, a gallery of amazing Bible journal pages, and a bonus section of stickers, line art objects to copy, and many pages of traceable banners, borders, flowers, animals, words, etc.

I promptly looked through my bookshelf and found an old wide-margined notebook New Testament from my student days. Though I have since ordered a complete journaling Bible, while I wait for it to arrive I’m already experiencing the springtime of a new-to-me spiritual practice.

And it does seem like a set-up from our loving Heavenly Father! For here is a very meaningful and fun way for me to put my enjoyment of the graphic arts to use in Bible reading, meditation and worship.

Here are a couple of my early efforts. Explanation of my thought process is in purple.

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My first Bible journaling effort–my OLW “Listen.”

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Phil. 4:6,7 is my life verse. I had to illustrate that next.

I have often imagined taking off  worries and concerns in prayer as taking off a backpack and leaving that pack loaded with my cares with the Lord. In this illustration, I pictured that as leaving them at the cross.

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Detail 1 of previous page.

The thought of leaving cares at the cross brought to mind a snippet of a verse that talks about that. Google to the rescue and I soon had the verse’s reference–from Isaiah.

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Detail 2 of previous page.

On further reflection, I realized that one doesn’t go from prayer with a merely lightened load, but with new clothes! Another verse from Isaiah speaks of that. (In my sketch, I didn’t want to draw a person or a robe, so chose to illustrate this idea with an empty box–just tissue paper left.)

And now I’m eager to find out what spiritual adventures you’ve been having.  Please leave the links to your Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday posts with Mr. Linky—and thanks so much for joining in!


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Cheerleaders

The subject of today’s Spiritual Journey first Thursday is CONNECTION. It’s Doraine Bennett’s one-little-word for this year.

I’ve been thinking about connection and connections for several days now and the more I do, the more I realize it’s a big concept.

Many of our tools (like the computer I’m typing on) need a connection to a power source to keep working. Plants need to be connected to nourishment in the ground or water. Craft projects of knit and crochet are a series of yarn connections. And then there’s the vast array of human connections.

We talk of meeting, networking, partying, and fellowshipping. Our connections with people can be as underlings (employee, servant, slave, assistant, aide), equals (contact, associate, ally, kin) or superiors (boss, CEO, leader, head honcho).

Human connection is so important, in fact, that it’s needed  from day one. A  healthy bond between infants and caregivers can be the difference between life and death. Numerous articles on the psychology of early childhood underline the importance of human connection (skin-to-skin as well as eye and voice contact) with infants for them to grow and develop normally. Those early connections become the foundation for all other human connections and contribute as well to a person’s concept of God.

Have you noticed how family members dote on their own? Moms and grandmas carry their brag books and post photos on Facebook. Dads and grandpas cheer on their sons and daughters at ball games, swim meets, concerts and recitals. No one compares to Junior or Missy.  And that’s just how it should be.

Each one of us has our family assignment of little and big ones with whom we connect in a myriad of ways to support, teach, guide, and love.

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My team – December 2016   (Photo© 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Cheerleaders

Every wee one who is learning
to kick the ball, hit it off the tee
point her toes and do a plié
summersault, the front crawl
sing in a choir, be elf in a play
play guitar, trumpet, violin
shoot baskets, basket weave
weave in and out in a skillful
soccer dribble to the goal
with the goal to make the team,
every child with dyslexia, autism
Down syndrome, whatever syndrome
who isn’t ever going to make the grade
make the team, team up with the cool kids
(because who are we kidding?)
needs a cheerleader
a yell of encouragement
a bull horn, cow bells, sign held high
banner in the sky
face painted green, blue
or whatever colour the jersey
and an after-game trip to Dairy Queen
because she’s queen of the day
and you’re her mom, dad
grandma, grandpa, uncle, auntie
cousin, biggest fan
on the team of the family.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey first Thursday, hosted today by Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads.

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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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