Nurturing rituals

I’m several weeks into sabbatical and finding it to be much like I thought it would be in some ways and surprisingly different in others.  I’m taking the advice of some very wise men and women who agree that there can be this sense of urgency to “get it right” rather than just be and let be.  There have been many times when I’ve found myself hoping that I get the most of this time and hope that I’m “doing it right”.  To this point I’d say that I’ve spent most of my time wrestling with that.

I’m very much in the building up and nurturing of rituals phase of my sabbatical.  Breaking old habits, letting things go, finding out who I am-just me.

One of the ways that I am starting my day well is in reading Common Prayer alongside many others around the world.  There is something very sacred about that for me.

I’m also practicing the art of scripture memorization.  I’m fortunate in that God often places scripture, words, or reflections on my mind between the 3:00-4:00 hours of morning (a gift I’ve received since childhood).  I’ll wake up, write them down, and go back to sleep.  When I awake again in the morning I’ll read them and from time to time-I’ll commit them to memory.  I have found that as I go back and read words that have been given to me over the last year that there is much insight in each of them.  They are coming together in ways that I hadn’t seen before.

t try to end my day with the examen using this online tool.  I have found this to be an excellent way to reflect over the previous day while preparing myself for tomorrow.  It’s a very centering practice that I hope to continue long after sabbatical is over.

In order to create the habit of prayer and writing in the morning I’ve nurtured a  new space to do so. The writing table I used at our old house-the one where I wrote on daily to meet deadlines-has been brought downstairs for me to use as often as I can.  Life is different than it was back then.  I could count on an empty room for hours of the day in the early morning or during nap time.  We rarely had visitors and my responsibilities were much fewer.  It’s apparent that If I am going to take writing seriously that I must take advantage of the quiet moments of the day-whenever they appear-and no matter how brief.

As I’ve pruned away certain things from my day (Facebook, in particular) I’ve found that I’ve added hours and hours to my day.  Interestingly, I feel as if I’m getting more done with plenty of extra time for rest, good food, and authentic connection with my family and friends.  This time has already become a mighty fine teacher.

Most importantly, I’m learning that we must not create idols or houses that contain God.  These places I’m nurturing for my time with God is not meant to constrict or limit, but rather to open up all the other places in my day where I unexpectedly meet up with God.  In nature, while on a run, in a child’s gift, while preparing a meal or doing the mundane task of laundry.  I truly believe that God never intended to have boxes, buildings, or time limits placed on our experience with him/her.
One of my favorite stories about Mother Teresa as told in several books I’ve read, and most recently in Christopher Heurtz Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community goes something like this:
A priest, while visiting Kolkata, saw Mother Teresa running while carrying a dying man. He ran up to her and eagerly asked, “What can I do to help you?” She abruptly replied, “Get out of my way!”
It’s very true that sometimes what the people around us need most is for us to simply get out of their way. That’s a very upside down, eternally driven statement. It’s hard to understand and even harder to accept. It requires you to take into consideration ways that even with your best intentions you may have become destructive or a barrier to the things you care most about. One of the most painful parts is that this self awareness might just open up opportunities for others to judge or pass blame. Another way that we must check our intentions, cleanse our hearts, and accept our burdens.
While extremely difficult this is something that has offered me a lot of peace during this time of reflection and restoration.