An Advent Journey

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Reflections: Scarritt Bennett, Nashville November, 2012

In 2012 I talked to a friend who suggested I keep, as a spiritual discipline, a Lenten journal using my camera to capture images that spoke to me of God’s presence. Her suggestion gave me a whole new way of connecting with God, combining my love of photography with my desire to spend more structured time in spiritual formation. Later that year my husband and I attended a workshop on photography as a spiritual practice led by photographer Susan Hay at Scarritt Bennett in Nashville, which led me to (eventually) start my blog.

This year for Advent, “Alive Now” magazine, a publication of Upper Room Ministries, invites us to participate in an Advent practice and pray with our cameras. Here is the way it’s explained on their website:

“Are you a visual psalmist? Do you pray with your camera in your hand? If so, please join us this Advent season for Alive Now’s Advent Photo a Day spiritual practice. Come to this page each day to find the word for the day. Then stop, watch, wait, see … for God’s presence in the word for the day. Tag your photo on social media (Facebook or Twitter) with #(today’s word), #AliveNowMag, #AdventPhoto.”

If you are interested in participating, check out “Alive Now” for the word of the day–begin Sunday, November 29!

You can learn more about Advent here.

Peace, joy and blessings during this season!

 

 

 

“Good” Grief and Gratitude

After my grandson Connor’s death in May, Reverend Mark Puckett, pastor of the church  my sons and their families attend, kindly and thoughtfully included me as a recipient of a series of books, “Journeying through Grief,”  by Kenneth C. Haugk and published by Stephen Ministries. How grateful I am that he did!

This morning I read a chapter in book three that I believe will change forever how I interact with others who grieve. The chapter addressed the fact that people often avoid mentioning the deceased loved one’s name for fear of making us cry, and the pain it causes when no one does, as if the person we are grieving never existed. I’ve been guilty of this  because of an incident that happened soon after my mother’s death. It must have been only a few weeks after, since she died in the middle of August and we had just started our school year (the 6th grade for me) when, as I ate lunch, one of the teachers came up and told me how sorry she had been to learn of my mother’s death. Of course, tears filled my eyes and my chin quivered. I saw the two kids across the lunchroom table whispering when one asked the other why I cried. All these years I’ve shied away from bringing up the names of those recently deceased for fear of causing more pain, but now I realize that my experience as a 10-year-old doesn’t necessarily apply in every situation.

I’m proud of Connor’s parents, my son Jack and daughter-in-law Kristen, and the way they celebrate Connor’s life and honor his memory as #TeamConnorJ, along with Elizabeth, Connor’s little sister. They participate in running events and fun runs, most recently in Florence for United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Alabama’s “Life Without Limits Race”. They don’t let their grief overshadow the love and joy Connor brought to their lives, and I learn from and am inspired by their example. Thank you, Kristen for sharing your photos!

Despite an injury, Jack crosses the finish line for #TeamConnorJ

Despite an injury, Jack crosses the finish line for #TeamConnorJ Photo by Kristen Jacobs

Elizabeth, member of #TeamConnorJ !

Elizabeth, member of #TeamConnorJ!Photo by Kristen Jacobs

 

Kristen and Elizabeth post-Fun Run for #TeamConnorJ

Kristen and Elizabeth post-Fun Run for #TeamConnorJ Photo by Kristen Jacobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing the Journey

In the assignment for day 8 of blogging 101, Michelle W. told us at least 2 things that I can vouch for: when you leave a substantive comment, you make the original post that much richer, drawing others into the discussion; & because engaging in conversation is inspiring, you never know where (or who) your next post idea will come from.

On Sept. 17 I shared a few thoughts in a post I called “Making Connections.” The comments made on that post, plus those on Facebook and in private messages, nudged me to give more thought to the purpose of “Shining Through: Seeing God in the Everyday.” Originally I planned to make it primarily a photography blog, to share what I’d learned about photography as a spiritual practice, with the hope that maybe others would find inspiration and look at the world around them more thoughtfully–or, as one of my favorite songs puts it, with “Spirit Eyes.” That goal remains, with the added one of sharing my spiritual journey and encouraging others. I assume that potential readers of my blog would either be at some point on their own spiritual journey or seeking. Why else would they even be interested in it?

As a Christian I am often saddened by the examples of “Christian” attitudes that make the news–judgmental, condemning, sometimes even hateful. I want my blog to be a place where others can find encouragement, inspiration, compassion and hope. I believe we all need those things, especially in these times of such deep division and acrimony in politics, culture, and religion–even among members of the same faith tradition or local congregation.

Instead of one of my own photos, today I’m sharing this quote from Madeleine L’Engle. I believe her words could apply to any situation, not just religious.

L'Engle QuoteI welcome your comments!

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Making Connections

Reading Big Erik’s post yesterday prompted me to share my thoughts about the need human beings have to connect with others and be understood. Often, happily, that occurs with people in our families, faith community, social circles or work environment. Right now I am in that blessed place in my own life, but it hasn’t always been that way.

In thinking back over some periods in my life, especially the long-ago miserable teenage years, I can understand how some people get caught up in self-destructive relationships and situations. For me, even more important than growing closer to others has been growing closer to God and trusting God’s unconditional love. My spiritual journey brings me nearer to both God and others as I seek glimpses of the Divine in all Creation.IMG_2453

Putting Faith into Action

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John Wesley lived his faith, not only by teaching and preaching, but he also worked tirelessly to serve the poor, which often put him at odds with the “established order” of the Church of England. By establishing health clinics, orphanages, schools and other programs to help people transform their lives, he let the love of God shine through his example. I took the photo above at the Epworth rectory where he grew up. The garden’s plants are ones he recommended in a book he wrote for healing, “Primitive Physic, Or, An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases.”

Getting to know myself better!

Almost two years since I set up my account with WordPress and very few posts to show for it–in fact I just deleted my introductory post from the last time I signed up for Blogging 101 because I dropped out! I have realized some things about myself that create stumbling blocks:

  • I find some blogging terminology difficult to understand, so the technical aspects overwhelm me–but even at my advanced age I want to keep learning!
  • I have a hard time swallowing my pride and asking for help–makes me feel dumb, even though I realize nobody knows everything!
  • Sharing personal thoughts with the world at large makes me feel uncomfortable and vulnerable–not that I believe the world at large is interested in what I have to say.

Ironically, during the past two years my life overflowed with journeys ripe for blogging about–spiritual, intellectual, emotional and geographical! Over the course of Blogging 101 perhaps this material will prove useful.

I pray that God's love shines through me, flawed as I am, like the sun shines through the clouds.

I pray that God’s love shines through me, flawed as I am, like the sun shines through the clouds.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place!

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Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place!For the past 20 years or so of my life, one of the places I’ve most strongly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit is Blue Lake United Methodist Assembly, particularly in the chapel, where I captured this image. Retreats, opportunities to learn about missions, the people I’ve met and the natural beauty of the setting contributed to, and continue to be a part of, my progress on my spiritual journey.