Goals for 2012

After some thought, here are my goals for the new year:

Writing goals
Start a new journal
Blog twice a week
Make a dent in my reading list

Spiritual health goals
Try a new spiritual exercise each month
Practice the examine every day
Find a church community
Find a new spiritual director

Physical health goals
Ride my bike more than 5 miles
Use my new sleeping bag
Use my pilates videos at least once a week

Emotional health goals
Make a new friend in the SB area to have tea with
Watch at least 3 sunsets a week

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Revisiting Contemplation

In honor of the anniversary of Thomas Merton‘s death (December 10th, 1968), I have decided to re-read New Seeds of Contemplation. It’s been a while, and I forgot how much I enjoy his writing.  Here’s a bit from the first paragraph of the book:

Contemplation is the highest expression of [one’s] intellectual and spiritual life.  It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith. For contemplation is a kind of spiritual vision to which both reason and faith aspire, by their very nature, because without it they must always remain incomplete.

I like that idea that contemplation is the completion of reason and faith.  It helps me to understand why God has been leading me the past several years out of my left-brained intellectual self and toward a more right-brained, mystical experience of who God is and who I am in God and because of God’s presence in my life.  My college years were very much defined by St. Anselm‘s concept of faith seeking understanding.  I expected my graduate years to be much the same, yet I found myself drawn to fringe classes like Power Encounter and Theology and Popular Culture.  I discovered PIHOP and began an unexpected journey into the tangible experience of God.  Instead of lining my bookshelves with academic volumes and commentaries, I filled a whole bookshelf with new and used titles from the Prayer & Spirituality section at the bookstore where I worked.  Now, I’m excited to revisit New Seeds of Contemplation in light of my spiritual journey and see what new truths God has in store.

Trees: A Vision

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.    – Jeremiah 17:7-8

Has God ever answered a question you didn’t realize you were asking? I was wondering idly what season I’m in now, and to my surprise, God answered me!  Now, I have been in a very wintery season for the past few years, but now that I sit reflecting and searching my inner life, I realize I’m not really in that season anymore.  Getting engaged, getting married, and moving to a new area haven’t exactly been the easiest experiences of the past year.  In fact, it’s been an incredibly stressful year.  But they are happy things.  For the first time in a long time, I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am in life.  I no longer feel pain I can’t describe or identify.  I no longer feel dry and far from God.  Instead, I love being married to my wonderful hubby.  I love living in Carpinteria where it is quiet and peaceful.  I love working from home. I especially love having only one job.  I love being able to sleep as long as I want and stay in bed all day if I want.  I no longer feel like my world is coming apart.  Before I share what God said to me, there are three things you need to know.

#1: When my roommate and I decided to move to Sierra Madre several years ago, we ended up living on a beautiful little street called Esperanza.  When we prayed over our new home, my roommate remarked that it was ironic that we moved onto a street that means “hope” or “trust” since we were both struggling with a very painful season of life at the time.  About the same time, Jeremiah 17:5-7 came up in discussion with my spiritual director, and she encouraged me to mediate on the verses for a time, which led me to create this little picture to encourage myself that though I felt like everything on the left, I could hope and trust in God to bring me one day to everything promised on the right.

#2: Sometime later, Jeremiah 17:5-8 came up again, and I wrote this poem.

#3: I remember sitting in my living room about a year ago with a group of girls as my roommate led us in an exercise of Visio Divina (here’s a great resource). She asked us to imagine ourselves as a tree and to ask God to enter the image and reveal a truth to us.  At that time, I tried to imagine myself as a tree, but I could only see the roots.  It was dark and isolated, but I saw Jesus sitting on the roots and heard him telling me that the roots have to grow first before the tree can begin to grow above ground.  There was a sense of promise that although things seemed dark and lonely in the moment, growth was still happening, and I would one day begin to grow in the light.

Now in the moment I was wondering idly what season I had entered, I was not thinking about this image of the tree’s roots from that night with my friends, or the poem I wrote, or the picture I made. I was not thinking about Jeremiah 17:5-8.  To be perfectly honest, I had not–until the writing of this post–even noticed that there was a theme of growing trees in the story of my spiritual journey.  But suddenly there popped into my head this image of a tree.  Now the tree wasn’t really a tree yet. It was still a sapling.  It was young and bare, but it had a few green leaves beginning to unfurl on its flimsy branches.  In that moment, I saw myself as the tree growing above ground, and I knew I had entered a new season: spring!  New life and growth.  Light and green.  Health and hope.  Without even noticing, I left the barren wilderness and frozen ground behind and walked into the fulfillment of God’s promise all those months ago.