Tag Archives: Sacred Rhythms

I heard the peepers! Hope soars as spring eases in.

The truest harbinger of spring has to be the sweet, sweet sounds of peepers in the evening.  Last night as I took the dogs out, I heard them.  True it was faint, but that sound is undeniable.

Then this morning, just before dawn, I stepped outside and again I heard that glorious sound—peepers.  This has to be real.  Spring must be coming soon.  

I realize the sound is so faint, but the peepers’ home is a marshy area about a half-mile from our yard, over the ridge and around the lake.  During the day nature’s spring symphony is hard to hear, but in the evening and the dawn, life is not yet loud.

Is that not like hearing the Holy Spirit speaking to you?  Life is noisy here in our world.  We have the alarm clocks, the TVs, the machines to get us to and fro, the machines producing the goods we sell, the voices of the sales people that hound us around the stores, the life sounds of parents, kids, and even the retirees, can become so loud that we hear nothing else.

Granted this is not a new topic.  The issue of the noise in our life seems to be a popular topic in the self-help literature.  Discussions about stress also reference this life noise.  We allow the noise to step between one and another in conversation and even in relationships.  We need silence.  

Maybe I am writing this for myself.  I keep noise on in the background throughout the waking day.  I should make silence a priority, but I don’t.  The noise is worse in the winter because I cannot step outside into the natural world and listen to nature.  

Hence my excitement hearing the peepers.  I know that soon I can step outside and listen to the symphony of nature rather than the noise from the TV or machines. I will be able to step away from the winter capsule filled with noise.

Last week I referenced Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms, and in the chapter “Solitude” one is reminded how needing silence is part of practicing ‘solitude:’

Barton opens the chapter with a quote from Parker Palmer’s  A Hidden Wholeness:

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy.  Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush.  If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out.  But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.”

Simply reading that quote triggered the desire for solitude.  I recognize that need for the silence of nature.  Notice that I do not mention quiet, I mean the silence of nature and all its natural sounds.  

Solitude from human-made sounds does not allow my soul to open up.  Even though I sit in the house with no other human, I tend to turn on background noise in the form of the TV.  I even turn the sound down just to a low sound that I really cannot make out the conversation.

Going on through the chapter I began to realize how come, even with my noise background, how I wanted solitude from other people and other noise.  And I thought I was an extrovert and who is fueled by contact with others.  Lately I am wondering if I really am an introvert and need aloneness to recharge.  If that is the case, it is directly opposite of how I have lived my life.

Barton develops her argument for solitude so well that I began wondering how I could find solitude in my world.  And then I heard the peepers!

Solitude may mean removing ones self from noise and allowing one to decompress.  And I am just now, after 7-8 months, realizing how many layers I must peel away in order to be decompressed enough to let God go to work through me.

Barton says, “One of the fundamental purposes of solitude is to give us a concrete way of entering into such stillness, so that God can come in and do what only God can do.” (p.41)

I am learning that working as I believe God asks me to work cannot be done while I am living in so much noise—noise that has developed from the years of working in education and then the pulpit, too.  

My noise is locked into my brain and I need it to be peeled away so God has a straight path back into my consciousness. I need to decompress.

As I have invested in a thorough study of the year-long Bible reading, I am hearing words I never have heard before.  I am realizing that I am ‘listening’ differently and that is due to the layers of noise slowly being peeled off.

My solitude practice is not complete, but I am making strides.  The long, harsh winter is making it difficult for me to step out into the silence of  nature and silence the noise of daily living.

Barton provides a ‘practice’ section in her chapters, and the one for silence provides these guidelines:

  • Choose a comfortable, safe place to be open and available to God,
  • Settle into a comfortable position, sit quietly, breath deep, become aware of God’s presence, and your desire to be present with God;
  • As you sit quietly, begin to notice what is true about you without rushing to make something happen;
  • Sit with what comes into your awareness, becoming aware of God’s presence with you; and
  • Regularly practice this way of entering solitude until it becomes routine.  (p.43-44)

Granted this is only a summary of the practice, but I can see how this could help me to decompress.  I can also see how it will allow me to hear God’s directions for me.

Barton shares how even Jesus needed solitude and tried to make sure that the apostles also learned this practice.  We all need to find a way to step into solitude in order to stay in a close, personal relationship with God.

I am not there yet, but with the work I am doing with the Bible reading and the guidance from various recommended authors like Barton, I am peeling away the clutter in my brain.  I am getting closer to the practice of solitude (esp. with spring being announced by the peepers).

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Father, 

You are The Word.

You are found in scriptures.

You are talking to me, and I do not hear.

Lead me out of the noise.

Lead me to solitude.

Lead me to hear you speak.

Thank you for words of friends.

Thank you for the words of scripture.

Thank you for the words of leaders.

May I find the solitude to hear You

By the power of the Holy Spirit.  –Amen.

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I know. Ash Wednesday over, Lent begins. I’m not ready.

The long, cold winter has so consumed my psyche that I was unprepared to accept the arrival of March.  We seem so far away from the typical spring images that usually accompany March. 

And accompanying that, I was surprised when I realized that Tuesday was Mardi Gras, which meant that Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and today is the first day of Lent!  Oh my goodness, how the time flies.

This has caused me to struggle wondering why Lent has snuck up on me.  I suppose one reason is the weather, but a second is that I have not had to prepare for the season as I have the past 10 years.  This is a season as a parishioner, not as a pastor.

I admit to feeling a bit guilty because I have no plans, no identified fasting plan or any 40-day practice.  The 40-day period of giving up something or doing something as a spiritual practice has always been a challenge for me.  This places me in an awkward position:  Is it too late?

Committing to the year-long Bible reading plan, I have already implemented a very structured practice.  This is not just sitting down and reading a novel, this is study.  My 40-day challenge is realistically a 365-day challenge.

Therefore I should not feel so guilty, should I?

Add to this study, though, is an additional reading I have just completed.  Based on a friend’s recommendation I have read through Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms(2006).  

The nine chapters take one through a process to establish the spiritual practices that develop–or maybe a better word is enriches—one’s spirituality.

Barton offers a personal viewpoint on the practices while providing the rationale, the scriptural basis, and the encouragement needed to reorganize one’s life to be more mindful of one’s own spirituality.  

The chapters outline the various practices as solitude, scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment, and Sabbath.  

John Wesley also identified the individual acts of piety as means to strengthen one’s spirituality, also.  The United Methodist Church’s website lists these as “. . . reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others” [Accessed on March 7, 2019 at umc.org].

There are differences, I realize, but Barton confronts the problems that our culture faces in this 21stcentury that Wesley could not have imagined.  Wesley’s acts of piety do still apply, but having Barton explain how today’s technological world and demanding family life do not have to interfere with these practices.

Therefore, as I continue working through the year-long Bible reading plan, I am going to reread Barton’s book with a pencil in my hand to make additional notes.  My Lent will be to review, release today’s world, and to work on developing a 21stcentury plan, or as she calls it, rule of life for myself.  

I may still be unprepared for Lent in the traditional sense, but I must forgive myself and acknowledge that whenever and however I work to improve my personal spiritual practices is the ultimate goal. Isn’t that what Lent is?

Please join in prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are my teacher.  

You are my healer.

You are my redeemer.

Forgive me for letting the world step in the way.

Forgive me for worrying that I am not perfect.

Forgive me that I procrastinate in growing spiritually.

Thank you for the words of others who teach.

Thank you for the words of those who help me heal.

Thank you for the words of scripture that are timeless.

Guide me in my understanding.

Guide me in making better time for scripture.

Guide me in adding scriptural practices

     that work for life eternal.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit,

With Jesus Christ your son,

And you, our Lord, I Am.  –Amen

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