So for a very long time I was quite conflict adverse and felt that every conflict I had in relationships meant the end of that relationship. And some of that was just from my own experience and maybe also my own shortcomings of, “Oh, you want to fight with me,” like, “well, I have no use for you then,” which obviously isn’t a very mature or spiritual response to a situation. But as I have grown and gone through more experiences of broken relationships and experiencing reconciliation I actually find that the people that I often have the greatest conflicts with, the people that I am able to fight with, argue with, to disagree with strongly, and then reconcile with, it reinforces my sense of goodness in the world, my sense of trust and my freedom to be myself and to say that it’s okay to disagree and to fight and that doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship.
I am often painfully aware of how difficult I can be to live with. I think it is really true in my case, I’m my own worst enemy and that can come out in all kinds of ways. One of the reasons I am here, and one of the reasons that I continue to remain here, is because this is one of the few places in my life that has both been able to, in a sense, contain me but also allow me to be myself, and to know that when I make mistakes, and I make many mistakes in the course of the day, I can almost inevitably call in expectation that my brothers will forgive me. That has been my experience over and over again. And I am not talking about a kind of cheap love either, because one of the hard lessons I’ve learned here is that there are consequences to behaviors and part of their forgiveness is knowing that and acknowledging that.
Many of you know that I was born and raised in a town on the Virginia/Tennessee border right where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the great Smokey Mountains. Among my favorite aspects of the region I come from, besides its stunning beauty, are the smells. Because it is a rural setting, agriculture plays a prominent role in the region’s economy. The mountain air, especially in the springtime, is clean and scented with the aroma of freshly cut Tennessee sweet-grass which is oftenmixed with the pungent smell of cow manure being turned into the soil for fertilization. It may seem odd to wax nostalgic about the smell of grass and manure, but since it’s an odor that you experience in Appalachia with regularity, you lose the notion of its peculiarity and begin to experience it as a sign of joys of the approaching summertime: Such as the delicious food that will soon accompany Sunday dinners and weekend cookouts;-+ Homemade green bean casserole, summer squash gratin, hamburgers garnished with homegrown tomatoes and paired with grilled corn on the cob that tastes as sweet as sugar. Are you hungry yet? Continue reading →
Watch: Who are the “others” in your life with whom you are called to be in relationship?
Answer:Click here to write your answer. Share: Invite and join with others #GrowRule
Transcript of Video:
In this phase of the course, we’ll be exploring our relationships with others. Spirituality is never a private affair; it always brings us into connection with others. We are called to love by Jesus and to be in relationships of love, to be loving toward others, even toward our enemies. So we want to explore, in growing a Rule of Life, we want to explore what this Rule of Life might have to say to us about being in relationship with others.
We begin perhaps with those whom we find easy to love, with our family members and our friends; and how do we want to nurture those relationships? What can we do to foster intimacy and to grow closer together? What can we do to express our love and to protect our love and to nurture our love in these relationships?
But the Christian message always brings us beyond those who are easy to love and challenges us to love God in the stranger, to find Christ in the stranger, in the outcast, in the marginalized, in the poor, in the oppressed. So how will my Rule of Life help me to reach out beyond just the circle of those whom I find easy to love and touch the lives of others? And even our enemies, how am I called to relate to my enemies and how am I called to be in relationship with them, to pray for them, to love them? What does that mean for me and how will I put that into practice, as it were, in my life? Spirituality is always very practical. It has to do with how our faith impacts how we live from day-to-day and how we interact with people.
So that’s what we are going to be exploring this week. There will be a series of questions that will help us to look at our relationships – our healthy relationships and our broken relationships – to see what we might do to better carry out Jesus’ command to be people of love.
We’ve come to the end of a week where we’ve been talking about how you relate to yourself – I want to say, how you love yourself. There’s some things that will make a real difference in your life: One is to have beauty as a daily part of the rhythm of your life, especially when you go through a difficult patch in life, or if every day is full of challenging things because of your relationships or because of your work or volunteer activities. Using your five senses to take in beauty will give you a different sense of balance in your life. The difficult things won’t go away, but you will get a much greater sense of harmony, blend, direction, focus, hope – by taking into your daily diet beauty.
Something also that I do is I plan for something that I know will be enjoyable, every day. Now, lots of things in the course of a day are enjoyable, but I actually plan for something that I know I’m going to do that will be enjoyable in the course of a day. Some days I’ve got this much time; some days I’ve got this much time. Planning for it and enjoying something will make such a difference.
Here’s something you may not include in your Rule of Life: you may not “dis” yourself. If there is a part of you that is continually critical about yourself, where you come up short, where you’re not “good enough,” where you should be other than what you are – that has to stop. You may not “dis” yourself. You may not disrespect yourself. You have to look kindly on yourself and love yourself as God your Creator does. You are God’s creation, a child of God’s adoration, and you need to cooperate with that. No “dissing.” No “dissing.”
Something that I practice every day is parting with something. Even in a monastery we accumulate things and I find it enormously liberating – I travel lighter – by parting with something every day. It will also change your relationship to things, where you’re aware that you’re stewarding something for as long as it’s helpful, and when it’s time to let it go, you part with it. Not cling, but part with it.
And then, lastly, what about Sabbath practice – a day for you to be and not to do? If you cannot figure into the rhythm of your life a weekly Sabbath, then think about a Sabbath practice that can inform some every day. It will make a world of difference to you, and you’re worth it!
It is often the case when any of us are attempting to form or to grow or to realize anew a Rule of Life that there may be a temptation to think only in “spiritual” terms. And this would be very wrong because the truth of it is that a life in Christ is holistic. It is body, mind and spirit being integrated and brought into one by God’s love. There is nothing about us – in our physical desires, our physical enjoyment, the creativity or those things which stimulate our minds and imaginations – that does not belong as a part of a Rule of Life. To be named perhaps: What are your pastimes? What are your hobbies? What are your ways of finding exercise? What are your ways of finding relationship with others? It might be – as one of my directeees at one time incorporated into a Rule of life – English country dancing. It was to use the body, not to do difficult exercise, but to express joy in the company of others. It is to be whole.
Another aspect might be in some way or another to make music, or to go away entirely from pursuits that have anything to do with “religion” and immerse oneself in art or in the sciences. All of these aspects are part of our maintaining our health and creativity. We must let the heart open up and imagine these things. Make affirmations rather than prescriptions in our Rule of Life. Live wholly in God’s love – that is the way to bring body, mind and spirit into life through a Rule of Life.
I have been praying during Lent with a 12th-century icon called “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.” I had an opportunity to see the original version some years ago at St Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, while on a pilgrimage with St George’s College.
The icon pictures a ladder extending from the lower left to the upper right, on which are a number of monks, steadily climbing towards heaven, where Christ awaits them in the clouds. A choir of angels looks down on them, presumably to encourage them on their way to their eternal home. But floating in the air around the ladder are small demons, some with drawn bows, poised to shoot their arrows at the vulnerable pilgrims. Others have ropes with which they try to entangle the monks and pull them off the ladder. Several of the monks have been ensnared and are seen tumbling into the fires of hell below. Continue reading →
Now here is a suggestion for you: to take a body map – your body. Go to some place, perhaps outside sitting under a tree or inside some place that is cozy, maybe some place where you can dim the lights, even light a candle, and to map your body from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes. How do you see yourself? How do you see your face or features of your face? Work your way literally through your entire body. Where do you find your own belovedness? Where are you amazed with your body – maybe what your hands can do? Where do you find sadness or pain? Where do you see brokenness or scarring? What doesn’t work? What do you wish were different and why do you wish it? See where you are wounded and where you really need healing. The invitation here is to be aware of how you carry yourself through life and to accept an invitation from God to see yourself as God sees you with the eyes of love, amazement, devotion. You are God’s child whom God adores.
Growing a Rule of Life: To subscribe to a daily morning email with a short video and download a PDF of the accompanying workbook enter your name and email.
More information here: SSJE.org/growrule
Gen. 1:1-5, 26-27/Ps. 8/Matthew 17:1-8
We continue this evening with our sermon series on Rule of Life. These sermons are coordinated with our daily Lenten video offering “Growing a Rule of Life”. There are about 30,000 people sharing this project with us; many are using a workbook as a guide for the series—you can get one at the back of the chapel, or you can download it from our website www.ssje.org.
A rule of life is simply a rhythm or structure or framework meant to help create balance in our lives, to help us “keep the main thing the main thing”. We’ve organized this series around four relationships: our relationship with God, our relationship with others, our relationship with creation, and our relationship with our own selves. These are all interrelated, of course: you can’t really talk about one without the others. But for the sake of discussion and focus, they’ve been divided up this way. This evening’s topic: our relationship with our selves. Continue reading →
Something I am learning about myself is that in engaging with creativity, with creative process, I am a drawer and a painter, so that’s one area what I can think about creativity a balance between allowing myself to engage with that creativity in a way that is hoping for a tangible outcome and also giving myself time to engage with that without the pressure of any outcome coming from it, so just delighting in the process. I think that’s really useful for me not to get stuck or paralyzed. And so I think a similar dynamic applies to prayer, that allowing yourself to be surprised or to break out of a particular routine in terms of the ways of praying that might be most comfortable or most time tested for myself. Allowing myself to be surprised or to occasionally take productive detours in my prayer life.
Jesus in one of his parables speaks of the farmer who plants the seed – and it grows, he knows not how. The hiddenness of growth I think is an aspect also of growing into and forming a Rule of Life. One of the aspects that I have learned of that hiddenness is embracing limitations. Embracing what might be seen as weaknesses and seeing them as perhaps the alternative side of one’s graces and gifts, with various limitations that come about through age or with health problems, with perhaps the fleeting of memory, or the vigor of being able to work at the pace that one might have in the past or even to take part in the life of the Christian community. I think there is a hiddenness of grace that reflects in all of our relationships – with one another, with ourselves, and with God. Embracing the frailty of our human nature is a way of giving thanks to God. Forming ourselves in a Rule that is full of gratitude, expresses and embraces all the aspects of the mystery that we are before God as a particular image and likeness of God, which no other is.
It is also a way of us preparing for the new life, the new life that we begin to experience even now this side of the grave. A life in which we have interdependence one with another, a dependence on God that is an intimate one, one that is able to relax into the fullness of each day and each experience, without making judgments about them, but rather seeing all as gift and treasure as we are remade in Christ’s image.
Watch: How has your relationship with your body changed; how might it change? Answer:Click here to write your answer. Share: Invite and join with others #GrowRule
Transcript of Video:
When I was growing up I was what you would call “divorced” from my body, from my physicality, my embodiment in the world, because for a long time I didn’t see it as a resource, as a place of safety. I saw it as something to run away from. It contained some really painful emotions. And then sometime in my late 20s, I discovered dance, quite by accident, and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that dance saved my life, because it was a means of expressing myself through movement, of using my body for something creative. It allowed me to get in touch with those parts of myself that I had denied for a very long time. It wasn’t all very pleasant because it allowed me to get in touch with things living in my body that, like I said, were very painful. But as I worked my way through those, I was able to get to a point where my body was seen as – or I was able to see my body as a very beautiful resource that I can bring to my prayer life, that I can bring to all sorts of activities. And it was in recognizing how beautiful my body was that inspired me to want to honor it and treat it right, both through diet, physical exercise and of course, at the time, more dancing.
I think in creating a Rule of Life I think it is important to include elements within it that allow us to honor our bodies, to include our bodies as part of our entire experience in the world, not as something to be divorced from. Often times when praying it is easy to the mistake of being all in our heads. But the desert fathers repeated again and again how important it was to descend from our heads into our hearts and to live in our bodies. So I would encourage people creating a Rule of Life to include that element. To have some reminder that in the Rule itself that says, “I value my body. God sees my body as beautiful and I am going to include it as a resource in my life of prayer dedicated to God.”
Isaiah 40:27 – end
Today is a day we have been hoping for and praying for, for a very long time. A day of rejoicing. Our dear brother Nicholas is to make the vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, as a professed brother of our Society.
Gosh, what a long journey this has been Nicholas, to come to this day! After all the years of seeking, the Lord has found you – and I pray, he has brought you home – a home where you are loved and cherished by your brothers, and by the many men and women whom you serve in your ministries. Continue reading →
In this phase of our growing a Rule of Life, we are focusing on your relationship to yourself. There are some wonderful words in the prophecy of Isaiah: “You are precious in my sight and honored and I love you.” We have been created by the love of God, for the love of God, in the love of God. This is what God is up to, and God is up to in your life. This is how God is operating, so cooperate. Cooperate with how God is operating in your life. How you love yourself will make a world of difference in how you relate to others. It will set the bar for how you relate to others. Loving yourself is so important. You’re worth it.
Some of us have qualifiers. Some of us have had “weeds” sown into the ground of our being, which may go all the way back to childhood and they’ve never been eradicated from the garden of our soul. I have got some drive inside of me that says “should” a lot. I should be able to get this done, I should be able to do this, I should be able to perform or complete something at a certain level – and I seldom get to that level. And for me what I get in touch with is some weeds that go way back, which I have not yet completely eradicated, and for which often times I need help with fellow gardeners to be able to live a whole life and really, really bloom.
[i]If you’ve been worshipping with us with some regularity you may know that we have been using the Rite One liturgy on Fridays during Lent. I love that the liturgy begins with Jesus’ summary of the Law: Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. For me, while I know that fulfilling these two commandments is a challenge, there seems to be a graceful, even poetic quality to them that makes me want to strive for their fulfillment.
I sometimes wonder though what it would be like to begin the Eucharist with these words: Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Love thine enemies, pray for those who persecute thee. Thou shalt be perfect even as thy heavenly Father is perfect. Is it just me, or does this admonishment have a different ring to it? Love of God with heart, soul, and mind coupled with love of neighbor as self: I desire these things. I’m not sure I can say the same about love of enemies coupled with Godly perfection. It seems unrealistic. Continue reading →
In this phase, we’ve been exploring our relationship with God. We hope you have enjoyed it and we hope you have found something sustaining and inviting. And we’d like to invite you now to sit down and spend some time reflecting on your relationship with God in prayer, and reflecting on ways in which you can help sustain and develop and grow and deepen that relationship with God to be able to know more deeply that gift of life, which is Jesus’ promise to us.
Rather like a garden, plants do need space to grow and our lives are often so incredibly busy that for many people prayer is the first thing to go when there are many other demands on our time. But if that does happen, life becomes even more stressful and difficult. So I would like to invite you to reflect on how you can give your life of prayer more space to grow and develop, and to think of particular ways and particular practices that perhaps you can adopt to enable prayer to take root more deeply in your life and that you may bear fruit to God’s glory.
Before I came to the monastery I worked for a number of years as a Parish Administrator at a large Episcopal Church in downtown Boston, situated on a bustling street filled with high-end fashion boutiques and office buildings. The church kept its doors open throughout the work day and served as a hub for all sorts of programming, from Twelve Step meetings to homeless ministries, lunches for the elderly and concert series. On any given day I could be found coordinating a harpsichord delivery, scheduling a repair for our broken elevator, or trying to assist a young woman who periodically slept on our front steps – often simultaneously.
Dennis was our custodian. He greeted me daily when I arrived at 7 am with a huge smile and would yell one of his nicknames for me: “Special K!” or “K Dog!” or often just “Brother!” Short, thin, and feisty, Dennis had lived a very hard life but had an indefatigable spirit of joy and a deep, inspiring love for Jesus. He sang hymns at the top of his lungs over the sound of his vacuum cleaner, and accurately understood his work as a ministry. Dennis lived his emotional life extremely close to the surface and was frequently overwhelmed by it. He often needed to visit my office on the third floor to vent his feelings. Continue reading →
Growing a Rule of Life: To subscribe to a daily morning email with a short video and download a PDF of the accompanying workbook enter your name and email.
More information here: SSJE.org/growrule
Jer. 29:11-14 / Ps. 8:1-6 / Matt. 7:24-27
My sermon today is part of our Lenten preaching series on the theme of “growing a Rule of Life.” I want to explore how growing a personal rule of Life can transform our relationship with God.
At the age of 17 I went hitchhiking and backpacking through Europe with a friend of mine called Ian. We had amazing adventures, and several disasters. One of the disasters happened in Munich. We got to the Youth Hostel too late and they wouldn’t let us in, and suggested we put up our tent in the park opposite. We unpacked the tent, but we were so tired that we didn’t bother to bang in all the tent pegs. “That’ll do!” We got into our sleeping bags and fell asleep at once. And of course the worst happened. In the middle of the night there was a storm and terrific winds, and at 3:00 in the morning the tent fell on top of us, and we were soaked. That experience reminded me of the words from today’s Gospel – about the wise man who built his house on the rock – who put his roots deeply into the rock of faith. And when the wind and rain and storms came his house stood firm. Ian and I were like the foolish man who built his house on sand, and when the storm came it fell down – like our tent.
The theme of these Lenten sermons is how we might build strong foundations in our lives of faith – how we might bang in tent pegs, so that when the storms of life come we stay upright, and don’t collapse. Continue reading →