Tag Archives: Spirituality

Where has God been in your life?

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Today’s guest blog comes all the way from Connecticut, from Miriam Samuelson. Read on to hear about her journey at Divinity school and what unfolds in her spiritual formation group. For those of you who haven’t taken a moment to breathe this week, it’s a good reminder to stop, reflect, and see what arises. 

During my first semester of seminary this past fall, I joined a spiritual formation group.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I knew it was open to all incoming students, and that we would work on spiritual issues together, so I signed up with little knowledge about how this hour and a half would be spent each week.

When I entered the small meditation room with a cluster of large chairs and six other students, the spiritual director leading our group introduced herself, and we offered our names and degree programs to one another timidly, all a bit shy about not knowing exactly why we were there.  After a brief reading, prayer, and silence, our leader asked us where God had been in our lives the last week.

Where has God been in my life? I hadn’t really thought about it, especially not this past week.  I had just moved a U-Haul 1200 miles, said goodbye to my friends and family for three years, embarked on a long distance relationship, and had suddenly started meeting new people everywhere I turned.  My head was fuzzy from trying to get back into the mode of classes and reading and paper-writing, and I had spent the morning running from class to class, trying to learn the layout of the buildings and trying to figure out who I’d already met and who I was meeting for the first time.  Taking time to think about where God was in all this transition hadn’t really crossed my mind.

candleBut as I closed my eyes in this candle-lit room, surrounded by my peers who were feeling shaky and hectic like me, I saw clearly the places where God had been in my life over the past week.  God had been present in my friends at home, who came over to my house unannounced and moved all my things into the moving truck before I could open my mouth to say they didn’t have to.  God was present in a long stretch of highway in Pennsylvania where every turn revealed fog-covered trees pierced by a red-orange sunset.  God was present in my travel companions—my dear friend and seminary roommate, his parents, and my boyfriend—all happy to share this time together and listen to one another’s stories and laughter.

Each week, this spiritual formation group would gather, and our leader asked us the same question: Where has God been in your life this week?  Some weeks we didn’t know.  Some weeks we were filled to the brim with life and spirit and experiences of God.  Other weeks we had to learn how to see God in places that we might otherwise not want to go.  Yes, God was certainly present in sunsets and laughter and friendship.  But God was also present in the death of our friends and relatives, in the quiet moment after something vulnerable was spoken, in painful memories and changing relationships.  God was present as the leaves died and crunched beneath our feet, as we talked about the fragility of our own human lives.

Where has God been in our lives? God is present in our most effervescent joy, God is present in our deepest anguish.  And how do we know this?  Because we are living incarnations of this ever-present God for one another.  And what a gift to be able to open our hearts to this and to one another as we journey together.

miriam

Miriam is a first year in the Master of Divinity program at Yale Divinity School. One day she hopes to be a Lutheran paster in the ELCA. She loves people, the natural world, and learning new things.

 

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My Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions

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(Flowers from past weekend, photo courtesy of K. Higgins)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting a women’s retreat. Six women, some strangers, all coming together to be in circle, supporting one another in our life journeys. I feel so blessed to have kicked off my New Year this way, sitting in reflection with such intelligent and spiritually savvy mirrors. The experience was a perfect way to slow down and to begin living out and defining my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions.

1) Don’t do community, Be communityCommunity has always meant a lot to me, and it continues to get more important as I age. I look forward to spending quality time with my tribe this year. Quality over quantity. I may not be around as much, but I pledge to be present when I am with people. Often my existence consists of me thinking about what I need to do next or me being tired from the last thing I just did. This year, I pledge to be with my friends and family, and therefore, only be in one place at a time. No more double-booking. When you are doing, doing, doing, you can only miss out.

2) Rest. And then rest some more. People forget that rest is an important aspect of health and wellness. I am (was?) one of those people. 2012 was a little too busy for my liking, and I’m looking forward to catching up on some sleep in the New Year! Stay tuned for a longer post on Zzzz and restoration!

3) Eat simply. My husband and I love cooking, but this year I really want to explore simple foods and make them delicious. This weekend I tasted my first, broiled cinnamon orange. So simple. A recipe we enjoyed for its health benefits but mostly for its sheer simplicity and warmth. Yum!!!!

4) See beauty in everything (including myself). True beauty is everywhere. We often fail to see it because we are bogged down by all the white noise out there. It’s time to embrace who we are and actually see the beauty that resides in ourselves. How often do you look in the mirror and think, “I look awesome?!” Maybe some of you do, but for many, the first thing our minds are drawn to is something that may be irritating. “Oh, nice chunk of spinach in my tooth. Yum.” You get the picture. If its not in the physical, many of us are waiting to approve of ourselves after we do something – get a new job, get a boyfriend, lose weight. Why not approve of who you are now and see how beautiful you are now. You are. If we can find true beauty in ourselves, we are more likely to love and accept ourselves, and therefore we will take better care of ourselves and those around us. When we take care of ourselves, love and compassion will radiate toward others. Awesome!

5) Embody movement and accept movement. I need to move my body more and recognize that all of life’s experiences are just the movement of energy. Ebbing and flowing. Up and down. And that’s that. We cannot always be up, and we will not always be down. So I need to be okay with moving in both directions. I’d like to close with a great poem that reflects this sentiment, by Lao Tzu from Tao Te Ching (a special thanks to a new friend, Ihotu, for sharing this gem).

Do you think you can take over

the universe and improve it?

I believe it cannot be done.

The universe is sacred.

You cannot improve it.

If you try to change it,

you will ruin it.

If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead

and sometimes they are behind;

Sometimes breathing is hard

and sometimes it comes easily.

Sometimes there is strength

and sometimes weakness;

Sometimes one is up

and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes,

excesses, and complacency.

If it suits you, I hope you, too, can avoid extremes, excesses, and complacency in your life, find beauty in the moments, live simply, take time for rest and relaxation, and be present with yourself and your community in 2013!

Best wishes to you and your hopes and dreams this New Year!

First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle

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For those of you celebrating Christmas, here is a poem for you. For those of you not celebrating Christmas, here is a poem for you.(Courtesy of J. Tammen who shared it with me via a Christmas Letter she received in the mail.)

First Coming

By Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace
He came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He died with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Mandala Reflections hopes regardless of your religious background that you can find something to rejoice in, today and every day. Now is not a time for waiting, the world needs you, and if you are waiting to tell someone you love them, don’t wait.  Seize the day and your life!

Thanks always for reading along, we wish you love and light today and hope to see more of you in the New Year! May you be happy and healthy and an active participant in the world inside you and around you.

Peace be with you!