Winter's Icy Beauty
Even the winter’s icy fingers have beauty to offer. These glistening branches are testimony to our God’s many gracious gifts, even in the midst of a barren landscape. Sometimes I lose that wider perspective. There are times when all I can see is the lack of what is right in front of me. There is that part of me that wants the spring and summer seasons of my life to last…and last…and last. And then I’m confronted with reality, life changes. While it takes cultivation of some new skills of appreciation, there are blessings to be found wherever I look, reminders…like these sparkling, barren, branches.
Among the lessons of scripture, I am encouraged by God’s constancy. I count on that in my life also, sparkling reminders of beauty when I take time to really look…to see with the eyes of my heart. In these otherwise barren months I am offered gifts, given from God’s generous heart. With the gift of quiet I can sense God’s invitation into silence. With this new year, with Holy Silence, I return each day to my disciple reading the scripture of the day, meditation, contemplative prayer, my quiet time. Disciplines I know that nurture my spirituality that can get lost in the season of many celebrations. I love celebrations. I also know that just as my body doesn’t do well with only celebration meals of cake, my spirit needs nourishment also. For me that nourishment includes worship in community, monthly time with my spiritual director, scripture reading and study each day and an occasional spiritual boost of a special day or two of encouragement. I do count on the promise that God’s Spirit will meet me “in returning and rest”, my spiritual nourishment, day by day.
By Vickie Bailey
Walking into 2019 with a New Perspective
On January 16, 2018, I fell on black ice in my backyard and I did a lot of damage to my body; the worst damage was to the calf area on my leg. As I stood, I assumed I had just twisted my leg and therefore bruised the muscles, but on January 19th I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I drove myself to the neighborhood ER and hobbled in asking for help. The X-rays showed I had a broken fibula; I was given a boot and sent home. On January 26th, I went back to the ER and found that I had a blood clot that was moving from the break in my calf all the way up to my heart. The doctors in the room began moving very quickly and prepping me for surgery as this was a very dangerous situation and they needed to immediately treat this clot. Over the next few months, I incurred many more health issues due to the break and blood clot, but if you looked at me, you may have only noticed that I walked slower. The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone, so you do not need to have a cast. The boot that I had been wearing contributed to the clot, so I now wore nothing on the break.
Finally, in October (10 months later), I was released from all doctor supervision. I was told to go off the blood thinner medication and that my fibula had “healed”, but I still had pain shoot through my leg when I walked or pain later in the evening from “overdoing it”. I didn’t feel healed, so I made a new mantra to avoid pain: “walk slowly, take care of yourself”. Another coping strategy was thinking it was just a “bad year” for my health so I also told myself that once 2019 came, I would be out of the “bad year”. Well, in just a few weeks it will be 2019 and finally I can say goodbye to this year of bad health.
This morning, as I do every year in December, I began to prayerfully reflect on what goals I would like to set for the next year. This year however, my reflecting on 2018 led me down a different path; I realized that next year didn’t have to be about fixing me. I realized that instead of looking at what I do wrong, I could look at what I learned from 2018 and take that lesson in to 2019. I like thinking that I don’t have to look at 2018 as a year to fix or leave. I like that I can look at 2018 and ask “what did I learn from 2018?” By looking at 2018 with a different perspective, one that is kinder, I can walk into 2019 whole, not broken.
What I learned from 2018 is the best lesson I could have asked for: walk slowly and take care of yourself. For me it is just one thing but a truly big thing that impacts everything I do, the way I listen to people, the way I spend time with my family, the way I drive, eat, and finally… walk.
What did you learn about yourself in 2018? What things do you want to bring with you from 2018 and is there anything you would like to leave in 2018? Can you go into a new year without goals?
By Megan Nagel
Silence and our San Luis Pilgrimage
There was anticipation as we all gathered in St Thomas Episcopal Church in Alamosa! We had never taken this kind of step before – a Pilgrimage to San Luis to walk the Stations of the Cross in this sacred area of Colorado. We weren’t really sure what all would take place, but we were ready for what God had for us.
I had recently been feeling a bit of depletion in both my spiritual and physical life. In reading Scripture, I always found that Jesus frequently put his schedule on pause to restore and rejuvenate his spirit and soul. This is where I was, and I think all of us, as we sat around the tables at St Thomas.
After sharing around the circle of pilgrims, we seemed to all have a common theme – we wanted to glean from a pilgrimage/retreat experience what God had in store for us in restoration. Christian George writes in his book, Sacred Travels: Recovering the Ancient Practice of Pilgrimage, “Pilgrimage is a spiritual practice that reminds us of our sacred purpose – to grow closer to God.” I believe that is where we were, and we were about to take steps to grow closer to God.
Walking the beautiful and mystical almost life-size statues that Huberto Meastas had created, it didn’t take long for us to begin feeling God was talking to us through this experience. Our conversations grew quiet as we climbed the hill to the final stations that were located on top by the chapel. In the silence of our walks, God was drawing us into conversations that we had not noticed before. This journey was incredible.
Our final gathering at lunch 2 days later reflected this journey together. The responses around the table were ones of blessing, learning, hearing, inner challenge and change, and of fellowship with other pilgrims. Once you have taken this step to deliberately invest in a pilgrimage, you are not the same. God uses this kind of experience to draw you closer to God.
We also had the great privilege of meeting with 2 students who took us on a walk around San Luis – the oldest city in Colorado. We learned a lot from them about San Luis, and the surrounding area, as well as the sacredness of the land. This helped us in knowing why this area was chosen for the Stations.
I, as well as the rest of the group, went away refreshed and renewed to listen more intently and consistently to God speaking to me in my everyday walk of life.
By Mickey Cox
This fall Spiritual Direction Colorado is venturing into new territory by offering a pilgrimage to visit the Stations of the Cross in San Luis, Colorado. What is a pilgrimage? Phil Cousineau in his book The Art of Pilgrimage says, “To people the world over, pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal. For a journey without challenge has no meaning; one without purpose has no soul.”
What will we find in San Luis and Southern Colorado? San Luis is the oldest town in Colorado and is predominately Hispanic, with strong ties to Spain’s religious, cultural, and artistic traditions. The adobe architecture and layout of the town are influenced by these historical and cultures traditions that shaped early communities of Southern Colorado.
We will also find The Stations of the Cross Shrine in San Luis built by the Sangre de Cristo Parish who wanted a place where members of all faiths could find consolation and peace in their lives. If you have ever been to Southern Colorado you know spiritual traditions have deep roots. The first settled of this area brought with them Spanish and Mexican traditions of communal ownership of land and water, a strong allegiance to their language and customs, and intense religious faith.
For a few days we will be immersed in this Spanish/Mexican influence as we learn about the culture, visit the workshop of the sculptor, and immerse ourselves in The Stations of the Cross. This will be a quieter, simpler way of being as we journey to this town that closes its shop doors and rolls up its sidewalks early in the evening.
How will our focus deepen? How will our attention to the path be altered? How will our journey be transformed from a most ordinary journey into a sacred journey, a pilgrimage? Each of us who journey to this most sacred spot will come away with different answers, with a different focus, with a different newness of spirit. The most common greetings on Spain’s Camino de Santiago is “Buen Camino” (Good Way/Road). I wish those taking this journey “Buen Camino!”
By Charlotte Shepic