UPDATE: The winner is…flchen1!
Discipline? Uh oh. Where is this erotic romance writer taking us now? As usual to a place you never expected to go.
When I was an associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica NY I became friends and colleagues with Reverend Nancy Schaffer. Rev. Nancy was FPCJ’s pastoral care associate. She headed the pastoral care ministries of visitation and social service outreach. To keep these activities from being something on a to-do-list, she guided the congregation and us on staff in the care of self and one another through spiritual awareness and practice. She taught this A-personality, right-brain clergyperson to appreciate the mystical side of Christianity in ways I never had before. She slowed my rapid NYC pace via the stillness of labyrinth walks accompanied by the music of mystics like Julian of Norwich. From her, I experienced the power of Lectio Divina prayer and guided meditation.
One year, she used Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline as our Lenten study. In it, Foster describes twelve disciplines, i.e. spiritual practices, that help us experience transformation in our encounters with God. Foster outlines twelve disciplines in three categories: Inward (meditation, prayer, fasting, study), Outward (simplicity, solitude, submission, service) and Corporate (confession, worship, guidance, celebration). We also had a workbook that helped us individually and in small groups go deeper into the book as well as share what we were learning.
Searching for something else, I recently came across the book in my garage. Intrigued by the table of contents I’ve dedicated a week to each of the disciplines. I’m relearning how powerfully each discipline can anchor me in the reality of the spiritual, a reality Mitchell Emerson, the hero in A Little In Love With Death, finds he knows very little.
The week I focused on meditation I experienced once again the slowing down of Rev. Nancy’s labyrinth walks. By meditating on nature, I appreciated anew colors in flowers that had always been around me. I hadn’t realized how many blues the sky contained. I heard music in the different bird calls and trills that I’d never really listened to before. Through a technique called “palms up, palms down”, I experienced relief as I verbally released negative things weighing on me with my palms down and received positive things freeing me to relax and enjoy life with my palms up. Another technique had me sit quietly with a word or a phrase for a set period of time and just be. If something came to me during the time, fine. If nothing came to me, that was fine too.
This week I’ve delved into study and already had my preconceived notions of what study is blown to smithereens. I look forward to what the next few weeks have in store.
I’d love to hear what is helping you connect with something deeper or stay grounded during this anxiety-ridden time. Please share in the comments what’s helping you for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
A Little In Love With Death by Anna M. Taylor
Ten years ago no one — not even the man who said he loved her — believed Sankofa Lawford’s claim she had been brutally attacked by a ghost. Ten years later, an assault on a new victim brings her back to Harlem to a mother going mad, a brother at his wits’ end and a former love who wants a second chance. Sankofa longs for her family to be whole again, for love to be hers again, but not if she must relive the emotional pain created by memories of that night.
Mitchell Emerson is convinced science and reason can account for the ghostly happenings at Umoja House. He resolves to find an explanation that will not only satisfy him but earn back Sankofa’s trust and love. Instead, his own beliefs are shaken when he sees the ghost for himself.
Now reluctant allies, Mitchell and Sankofa learn her family was more than a little in love with death. Their search for the ghost draws them together but discovering sixty years of lies and secrets pulls them apart. As their hopes for happily ever after and dispersing the evil stalking Umoja House slip beyond their grasp, Mitchell and Sankofa find an unexpected source of help: the ghost itself.
Excerpt from A Little in Love with Death…
“‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, against spiritual wickedness in high places.'”
Mitchell leaned forward in the chair across from Professor John Mortimer. The neat and tidy mid-Century chrome, light wood and primary color surfaces defied the stereotyped clutter attributed to eccentric college professors.
“That’s your realm more than mine, John. You’re the philosophy and religion professor.”
Mortimer leaned back, his fingertips steepled. “But it’s why you sought me out, why you’re talking to me about this.”
“Granted, but as I’m not in the camp of Biblical literalists, I don’t know how to interpret that verse.”
Mortimer smiled. “Perhaps you’re more comfortable with Shakespeare? ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies, Horatio.'”
Mitchell shook his head. “Nope. That’s equally unhelpful.”
Professor Mortimer laughed. “Too metaphysical for your scientific tastes, Mr. Soon-to-be Commissioned Lay Pastor?”
Mitchell shrugged. “Too metaphysical for someone who recently just put religion back in their portfolio.”
Mortimer leaned a forearm across his desk’s glass surface. “So why don’t we start with the answer you want and work our way back to the truth?”
Mitchell dry scrubbed his face. Could he accept his answer wasn’t the truth? He studied his friend. A scientist and an evangelical believer, John Mortimer was Mitch’s bumblebee: the thing defied all the reasons for why it shouldn’t exist by its very existence.
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