Tuesday 27 November 2012

The Discipline of the Examen

I've just got home from my first session of our "Waiting on God" Advent series. I have been amazed by the interest in this series. We have three groups meeting through the week for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. This is not your usual study series, as we are not studying the Bible as such. Instead we are exploring and experiencing a different spiritual practice of St Ignatius each week. There is some learning about the practice and then we experience using it.

Tonight, we looked at the Examen. I expected some people to find the practice too prescriptive or analytical, but I was wrong. The people who came along tonight loved the practice and have said that they are going to try it through the week. I am looking forward to hearing how they went.

We discussed the importance of routine and discipline in life. This is something I am not too good at. I have never been particularly self-disciplined. I get things done, but often need a bit of pressure imposed by  deadlines or my own expectations of myself. 

I remember someone asking me when I was a teenager, "How's your relationship with God going?" My polite response was, "Good thanks", but I recall thinking it was none of their business. I am at the age now where I am asking myself that question. The Examen is a way of doing this daily in a disciplined way. I am looking forward to exploring Lectio divina next week.

If you would like to hear more about our "Waiting on God" series let me know.

Sunday 25 November 2012

The New Year's Eve of the Church Calendar

Today is the last Sunday of the church year. Next week Advent begins a new year. The last week of the church year is the Sunday when we look at what it means for Christ to be King or what the reign of Christ might look like. I love the fact that it is like the New Year's Eve of the church. It gives us the opportunity to look back at the year that has been and to look ahead in hope.

There is a lot of talk about the Kingdom of God throughout the Gospels. Jesus tries to get through to us that God's way or God's desire for how we live together is vastly different to the ways of the world. We see snippets of this kingdom when communities and families are at their best. I guess, we could say that the reign of Christ is God's vision for the world and its people. 

This Sunday is an opportunity for me to take the time to look back at the year and see how well I have captured the vision of God's Kingdom in my life. Hopefully there will be things I have done better than last year, but I know that there will be lots of room for improvement. I may not make any New Church Year Resolutions, but I certainly need to recapture the vision once again.

Bill Watterson - Calvin and Hobbes

Thursday 22 November 2012

A Mum in Ministry

It's weeks like this one that I find the most challenging in ministry. I am in full time ministry with two congregations in separate towns. I am also a mum of two children who are eight and ten years old. Usually the balance works quite well. This week, however, one of my kids has been very sick. It started Sunday morning and has continued all week. He has been home from school, which has been a challenge in a very busy work week for both my husband and I.

I guess some people would use my current situation as another bit of ammunition in the argument that women should not be in ministry. This is a topic that is very current with recent decisions that have been made in England. How can a woman possibly be in ministry, let alone a mother?

So, this week I have juggled between preparing an Advent Series and administering panadol; between planning a memorial service and cleaning up vomit; between meetings with my supervisor and visits to the doctor. It's not easy. I'm not going to pretend it is. But there is something about sitting with my own son while he is in pain that makes me more able to sit with others who are hurting. There is something about dealing with our own family's mess that allows me to sit in other people's mess. Being a mum is not a hindrance to my ministry, but enhances it. 

Yes, weeks like this one are an enormous challenge, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I am human. I am part of a family. I have needs. I have responsibilities. All this makes me more genuine and more real not only in my family life, but in my ministry as well.

Monday 19 November 2012

Guided Meditation

In our fortnightly meditation groups, we have explored many different styles of meditation. As is to be expected, people have found their own personal favourite styles. This can make it very difficult to cater for people within the group. Some enjoy contemplative meditation and others find the silence too much, preferring reflective music in the background. Tomorrow, I have decided to use a guided meditation for the groups.

Guided meditation is quite a different approach. With many types of meditation we are trying to leave all thoughts behind and simply be in the presence of God. In guided meditation there is a deliberate move to engage the imagination of those meditating in order to take them on a journey deeper within themselves. Images and story are used to guide people into a deeper reflection of life.

I have experienced guided meditation many times. Sometimes it has been a very positive experience and other times it was not. I am convinced that there is a craft to creating a guided meditation. There needs to be a balance between providing enough imagery to allow people to picture the journey for themselves. There needs to be, however, enough space for each person to create their own journey in their mind's eye. Providing too much detail can exclude people and isolate them from the journey. It is a fine line.

I have found a helpful site that has a good article about writing a guided meditation. Click here to take a look. I haven't decided exactly what journey I will take people on tomorrow. I am thinking a journey across water. There are so many opportunities for depth and reflection when on the water. The water may be still or tumultuous, deep or shallow. 

It is always a privilege to lead people on a journey, but even more so when it is an inward one.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Chaos and Order

Today's readings were a challenge for me. I nearly rejected them to take on something a little more palatable, however, I'm glad I stuck with them. The readings from Daniel and Mark are both considered apocalyptic literature - a revelation of the end times. I don't think I'm unusual in wanting to avoid these strange texts that give us very few answers, just lots of questions.

The question I found myself asking was how I deal with the chaos in life. Often we impose an order over our chaos which masks the pain and suffering. Creating our own certainties helps us to cope with the uncertainties of life. If you'd like to read how the message turned out click here.

There's nothing like a touch of reality to make a message more real. We seem to be living in chaos at the moment as we prepare to move house in a couple of weeks. And to top it off, we turn up to church and my son proceeds to vomit everywhere. God has a funny sense of humour. Want to talk about dealing with chaos? I'll give you a bit of chaos.

As it turns out, it seems that most people can relate to trying to find a balance between chaos and order. There are times when order is important, but reality is we cannot order all of the chaos in life. We must learn to live with it.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Starting our Story Circle

A little over a week ago, some people in the Margaret River congregation gathered for the first "Story Circle" This was inspired by our workshop back in August with Sarah Agnew on "Telling our Story". As this was our first meeting, we had no agenda as such. We were asked to bring a piece of writing with us to share, but we only just managed to discuss these. The time was filled with spontaneous sharing of our stories. Stories of family, childhood, places we lived and times of transition. 

Some found commonalities in their stories and could talk about places that were familiar. Others lamented that they did not know the stories of their parents and wish they had asked the right questions at the right time. This spurred us on to talk about passing our stories on to our own children while we are still able.

We have decided to meet again at the beginning of December, but we have some homework in the meantime. We have all committed to at least starting to write a story for our children. It can be a story about their younger life or our own, but something we would like to share with them. I'm not sure where to start. What is an important story for my children to hear? What stories will make a difference in their life? I am hoping that in the next week a story will become obvious as one I need to write.

I wonder what stories you would write about your life. If you want to know more about the inspiration for our story circle have a look at Sarah's blog.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Privileges in Ministry

While training for ministry, I had an ideal view of what I would be doing in ministry. If someone had asked me what I was most looking forward to, I would probably have said something about education, leading worship or ministering to young people. That all seems such a long time ago now. It was only five years ago! A lot has changed in my life and my experience of being in ministry has changed my views on what is important.

Today I was called to be with an elderly woman as she was dying. What a privilege! To be with someone as they approach the end of their earthy life is such a sacred place. People often ask me how I find dealing with this part of my ministry. I would be lying if I said it was easy - it is never easy. Sometimes people are in pain, sometimes they are afraid and sometimes they are very peaceful. Sitting by the death bed is a liminal space - a space of inbetweens. It is the place where life and death meet. It can be said that the curtain or the veil is very thin in this space. There is a mystery, an unknown, in this place. 

I now find that being with people at the time of death is one of the most enjoyable parts of my ministry. It is enjoyable in the sense that the presence of God is very real and tangible. People are open to talking about all things spiritual and their true understandings and beliefs are revealed. Death is a normal part of life, but our Western culture has tended to sanitize it and leave it to the professionals. 

I used to think that the point of death would be the most difficult place to minister. I have found, however, it is often one of the easiest. Often people are not expecting fancy prayers or rituals. They need a hand to hold, a comforting presence or a soothing word of peace. I just need to be there. That is all. I leave the rest to God and so far I have not been let down.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Discover the Inner Light

My daughter has been learning about celebrations at school over the past few weeks. The topics covered have been both secular and sacred. Yesterday, one of the mothers of Indian background came to demonstrate henna paintings on her hand and today the class learnt about Diwali - the festival of lights. I don't remember learning about other spiritual traditions and their celebrations until I was in lat high school. I think it is wonderful that my children have the opportunity to learn about other cultures at such a young age. 

I am not an expert on Hinduism and would certainly like to learn more about the spiritual life of the Hindu. I have, however, done a little reading about the Festival of Lights - Diwali. There are many aspects to this religious celebration, but the one that has got my attention is the awareness of the inner light. Hinduism asserts that there is something beyond our physical body that is eternal and pure. The awakening to this inner light brings joy and peace. Diwali is the celebration of this.

I cannot help but think that there is a similar theme in many spiritual traditions. In Buddhism, the goal is enlightenment. In Christianity, we talk about letting the light of Christ shine. There seems to be a universal acknowledgment that light can overcome darkness and the light dwells within us.

The writings of Swami Sivananda (Hindu Spiritual Teacher) say,
"May you all attain full inner illumination! May the supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self!"

So Happy Diwali everyone!! Keep discovering your inner light.

Monday 12 November 2012

Practices and experiences

I haven't got a profound word of wisdom for you today, but I have been busy working on the Spiritual Practices and Experiences page. I have shared some of my favourite ways to get in touch with the Divine in my life. It is certainly not an extensive overview of these practices, but I hope it whets your appetite to find out more. If you would like me to write more about any of these, please let me know. I would be more than happy to do a longer post about my experience of any of them.

So if you'd like to read more. Click on the tab above or here for a read.

P.S. We have our first sign ups for A Mandala a Month. Looking forward to 2013!!!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Launching a Mandala a Month

Well, there has certainly been enough interest about "A Mandala a Month" to make it happen. Deep Water Dwelling, a ministry of the Margaret River Uniting Church, will be running this program in 2013. Have a look at this short video (very professionally made - I might add :)) and if you would like to join us in a year of mandalas next year, read the details below.

There are two ways you can get involved in "A Mandala a Month".

1. In person - If you live in the Margaret River/ Augusta area, why not join a group of us that will meet each month for a workshop to create our mandala each month. The times and dates will be arranged once I have the details of the participants. We may need more than one group if we have more than 15 participants. The groups will meet each month, probably towards the middle of the month for a two hour workshop. This will include a brief introduction with some information about mandalas and a meditation time that will set the scene for the creation time. All materials will be provided for participants.
Cost - $20 per workshop or $200 for the whole year.

2. Online - If you are not able to join us in person, why not join the online group of people creating mandalas. At the beginning of the year you will be sent an introduction and ideas for preparation. Each month you will be sent, via email, the introduction and meditation to be used for the month. You are then free to use your own materials and create your monthly mandala in your own time.
Cost - $5 per month or $40 for the whole year.

To register for either option, please email me at cathielambert@hotmail.com

If cost is an issue, please let me know. I would not want people to be excluded for financial reasons.

Let the journey begin!!

Deep Water Dwelling is a ministry of the Uniting Church in Margaret River

Thursday 8 November 2012

A Journey with Eva

I had the privilege today to share my journey home from Augusta with Eva. She was waiting on the side of the road, so I pulled over and asked where she needed to be. I am usually wary of hitchhikers. Its an unfortunate result of today's world; we are never sure who we can trust or whether we will be safe. Funnily enough, Eva shared the same thing. She didn't usually hitch, but was having faith that the right person would pull over and be able to give her a lift.

And so, two cautious travelers shared the half hour journey back to Margaret River. It began with the usual chit chat where we shared what had brought us to the point of taking this road at this time of the day. We talked philosophy, theology, sustainability and much more. The role of women in the world and in the church and in the surf was pondered. We agreed the world was out of balance. She quoted an inspirational piece of poetry, and I finished the stanza. We lamented the inflexibility and exclusivity of much of the church. I spoke to Eva with such honesty and passion about life and love and God. She was not a church goer, but we certainly had a common understanding about our spiritual lives.

I felt sorry that the journey was not much longer. I found Eva easier to talk to about much deeper topics than some of my close friends. I have heard people tell stories of hitchhikers who mysteriously disappear into thin air. People have pondered whether these people may have been angels in disguise. I have no doubt that Eva was a real, flesh and blood person. She certainly didn't vanish before my eyes. But something gave her the compulsion to decide to hitch. Something gave me the courage to stop. And something was certainly moving between us in our conversation. Unexpected moments like these are certainly "angel's blessings" in our lives.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Towards Wholeness

I mentioned last week that I was attending a workshop to help me identify the principles by which I wanted to live my life. It was a great day. We began by becoming aware of the aspects of our lives that have shaped us. We discussed our family backgrounds and the principles that we may have received from them. We recalled inspirational people and places in our life.

The next part of the workshop had us reading the principles that other individuals and groups have written. It became evident that most of these were contextual. I found myself wondering what my context might be. Should I develop principles in my working ministry, or to guide my relationships or maybe something else?

We were asked to spend some time simply writing words that came to mind about how we would like to live. It very quickly became obvious that my context was about continuing my own journey to wholeness. What were the fundamental truths in my life and how would they effect my living? And so the principles I came up with were those that I need to keep at the fore of my mind if I am to keep striving to become more whole. 

These principles are very personal to me. Some I find easier than others. Some are included because the list would not be complete without them. Others are built-in as constant reminders of the areas in life with which I constantly struggle. You may be able to identify with some and others you might wonder why they are in my list and not others. My hope is that they will become more than just words on paper. I need to make them part of my daily practice of grounding myself.

So I share what I came up with not to inspire you to stick to them as well, but maybe to inspire you to think about your own principles. And maybe you can hold me accountable every now and then too!!

Principles for Moving Towards Wholeness

All of life is good and sacred.
I choose to seek the Divine in all things.

Life is a mystery and that I will never be able to fully grasp or understand.
I choose to rest in the mystery.

My calling is to be true to the person I was created to be.
I choose to live with integrity.

All people have the ability to love and to harm.
I choose to love.

Pain and suffering are part of life and the journey to wholeness.
I choose to honour my woundedness.

Transformation and wholeness are gifts available to all.
I choose to be a light in dark places.

All people are born to be in relationship.
I choose to be vulnerable and allow others to touch my life.

Each new experience we have, person we meet or place we visit moulds and shapes us.
I choose to begin each day with new eyes.

The Divine chooses to be incarnate.
I choose to live an embodied life.

Sunday 4 November 2012

What can Sheldon teach us about loving God?

Today in Augusta and Margaret River we talked about how we love God. We read the passage from Mark where Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." To introduce the theme I showed a clip from the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”. 

For those who don't watch this show, let me give a little background. The show is about four young scientists and the girl who lives across the hall. In this scene, we see Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon is a genius, has high functioning autism, is obsessive compulsive and struggles with social interaction. The scene we are going to watch is at Christmas. Sheldon has been struggling throughout the show with the whole concept of gift giving especially when it comes to Penny, who lives across the hall. He has no idea what Penny will buy for him, and so he has devised a plan. Sheldon had purchased a range of gift hampers. He plans to receive the gift from Penny and then use the excuse of needing to go to the toilet to go and choose the appropriate gift in return. All the other hampers will then be returned to the shop.

I should also mention before you watch this clip that Sheldon’s favourite TV show is Star Trek and his favourite character is Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy. Let’s see what happens when Penny arrives to exchange Christmas gifts.

Watch the clip

I wonder, if sometimes, we are like Sheldon in our relationship with God. We become uncertain about what it is that God requires or would like us to do in return for love. I wonder, if you like I, have gone through times in your life when you have become so involved in service to others, or personal bible study and gaining knowledge or maybe some other practice that you feel will be the right or acceptable thing to do.

And I wonder if God, like Penny, sometimes watches us and says with a smile, “What have you done?”. In our awkwardness to find intimacy with our God sometimes we go overboard and sometimes we feel totally inadequate. But, if you want to find this clip on Youtube, you need to search for the phrase “Sheldon hugs Penny”. This is what people remember from this scene. This awkward man who knows nothing of intimacy or the importance of being close to people, hugs Penny to say thank you.

When I have spent a lot of time trying hard to give back to God and repay in time, energy or effort God’s love it all seems inadequate. It is times like this when I simply fall into the arms of God. I wonder if God, like Penny, smiles and says, “Look, Cathie’s hugging me.”

Thursday 1 November 2012

Wisdom and the Number 5

In our final workshop for my Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction today, we took a closer look at the Enneagram. For those of you unfamiliar with the Enneagram, it is an ancient tool that looks at our personality and how we tend to deal with life. It emphasizes our greatest strength and weakness. I have done some reading about the Enneagram and listened to some CDs, but this workshop was more experiential. We had the opportunity to talk in groups with people of the same number and to really understand ourselves better.

I am a number 5 which, for those who are unfamiliar, is a person who has the self-talk “I am wise”. I have a tendency to gather knowledge to fill my emptiness and withdraw from people and relationships. Sometimes I find it difficult to get out of my head and actually allow myself to experience life at an emotional or body level. We discussed today that the point of conversion or transformation for a 5 is to move from merely observing life to finding Holy Wisdom.

The facilitator that I worked with, who was also a 5, spoke of how she needed to rediscover the person of Jesus in her spiritual life as he was the embodiment of Holy Wisdom. She encouraged me to do the same in my own life. I know that I possibly put more emphasis on God the Creator or God the Spirit rather than God the Incarnate. This is probably a well-practiced avoidance strategy in staying in my head and out of the body experience.

There is a lot that has arisen out of this exploration of the Enneagram. It is far more than just a personality typing. It is spiritual, rather than psychological and speaks directly into the Christian tradition. So much of it just makes sense. The more I learn about the Enneagram, the more I see the truth in my own nature – the good and the not so. I think there is some work to be done in the near future in exploring what Holy Wisdom might mean for me and how Jesus, as the embodiment of this, might be rediscovered in a new way.