intentions

My message at our contemplative service for January 28, 2018.  I did not write this sermon down, but the same gist is here.

Well, we’re at the end of January, and I’m wondering how many of you made New Year’s resolutions?  If you made them, how many of you have kept those resolutions?  Research tells us that about 40% of the population make these resolutions and a few weeks later, less than 10% are actually still working on them.

Given those statistics, I was so glad when a friend introduced me to “setting intentions” several years ago.  An intention is the commitment you make to carry out an action or a goal.  It is not the goal, or the resolution, itself–it is the actually commitment to the process.

At the end of 2017, I reflected back on how I spent my free time.  You see, with Hayley leaving for college in August, I thought I would have a lot of extra time to engage in activities of my choosing.  When I meditated on that, however, I realized that I couldn’t really put my finger on any one activity, practice, or accomplishment that had been made on behalf of my self care.

One of the intentions I set for early 2018 was to revisit my self care and spiritual practices and create a mindful approach to both.

Being a lover of all things office supply-ish, I began searching for just the right planner that would help me organize this intention.  I will admit that I do love to start with paper planners at the beginning of a new year but by the end of January or so, they end up sitting on my side table in my meditation room.

I spent considerable time looking for a planner that included more than a professional approach and would offer me the guidance I was seeking. And, ta-da!  I found that in the InnerGuide planner.

It begins with a self assessment about your intentions for your life and then transitions you into monthly (and weekly) intentions focusing on your life goals.  Every month has one page divided into various sections (personal life, career, home, family/friends, play, etc.) with just a few lines.  It is there where I list my commitments for the month.

FullSizeRender 6

Last week, I was sharing with my spiritual director how much I valued this tool.  When I have pockets of time, I open my guide up to that page and it reminds me of the commitments I’ve made in all aspects of my life.  Maybe that 5 minutes can be used to write a personalize birthday card, or that 20 minutes can be spent in centering prayer.  I expressed to my spiritual director that it was giving the structure I needed to live meaningfully.

When I noted that, Katie looked at me and said, “I know this word brings with it negative connotations at times, but what I hear is that the planner provides discipline.”  She then told me a story about a friend who, after sitting with the word “discipline” for awhile, developed her own definition for the word:  remembering what we want.

By remembering what we want, we are more likely to follow through on our intentions.  And so, my discipline of handwriting birthday cards draws me into closer meaningful connection with friends and family.  My discipline of centering prayer encourages me to return to the God within and listen for that quiet wise voice.

FullSizeRender 7

As we commit to new aspects of our spiritual formation, setting intentions and applying spiritual disciplines creates the fertile sacred space where our relationship with the Creator can grow.

Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and contemplative, created a prayer that captures the importance of intention as part of our spiritual life.  He notes that God sees and appreciates our desire to do God’s will just as much as the action itself.  I’ll close our message with this prayer and then invite you to engage in our three prayer stations.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

contemplative worship: pray your prayer

Elements from today’s Sanctuary service at Skyland UMC:

Opening Meditation:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
~Thomas Merton
bridge Pink Beds
Centering Prayer:
Applying the practice of lectio divina to this quote:
When I am with you, everything is prayer.  ~Rumi
Elements of the Message:
Quote:  We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human  journey.  ~Teresa of Ávila
Questions for reflection within the message:
  • What does your human journey, your ordinary life, look like?  What activities are included?
  • What does your spiritual journey, the well-formed life, look like?  What activities are included?
  • Do those two journeys look the same for you?  Do they overlap?  Are they separate?  Are they one and the same?
  • Substitute the word “prayer” for “life.”  How are you living your prayer?  Does that take on a new meaning for you?

IMG_0419

How do we live our prayer as spiritual beings?

  • Be compassionate to all you meet–everyone is struggling with some sort of issue
  • See the God-within–we all carry darkness and light within our souls.  Look for the gifts and graces that God celebrates in each of us
  • Live as a humble witness and servant–this is where the spiritual being moves beyond the human journey; we put our egos aside and go to the One within, living out the light and love that is so unconditionally shared with us by the Beloved
  • Be quiet and at peace with God–reconnect, listen, seek, surrender

Become a living prayer

Music for meditation after message:  Living Prayer written by Ron Block, performed by Alison Krauss

Closing prayer after communion:

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

~Teresa of Ávila

heart hands