Godspacelight – Spirituality, Sustainability, Hospitality and Community
Writer, blogger, conducting seminars, workshops and other speaking events on spirituality,Christine Sine believe that our engagement in God’s world should be grounded in a deep intimacy with God that only comes though contemplation, scripture study and meditative practice.She encourage participants to recognize the encounters with God and the gospel story that occur in every aspect of life.
Here is another prayer station from the LOVE WELL Sacred Space I designed for United Methodist Conference YOUTH 2019. The Theme for the conference was LOVE WELL based on Romans 12:9-10. This station had participants design two masks. One, showing what they show the world, or what others see and the second mask was what they WANT to show the world instead. You can use this as a prayer station response, or do this as a large group activity with your entire church, or as a small group activity, or as an individual devotional practice. You will just need enough Mask outlines for each person to have two masks. Have multicolored markers or crayons. We hung our finished masks on a clothes line to display them.
DON’T HIDE YOURSELF BEHIND A MASK Love others well, and don’t hide behind a mask; love authentically. Despise evil; pursue what is good as if your life depends on it. Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. ROMANS 12: 9-10
Don’t Hide Behind a Mask.
Too often we don’t show people who we really are. Too often we hide behind a mask.
We often hide our pain behind a happy face or smile.
And too often, we don’t even tell Jesus about our true feelings. Our hurts, our pains, our frustrations.
And often we don’t share with Jesus, or with our friends the real joys in our life either. What mask are you wearing today?
What do people see on the outside?
What is different on the inside?
Talk to Jesus about your Mask. Talk to Jesus about the Mask you are wearing.Mask
ACTION: CREATE YOUR MASK Mask PDF to copy The Mask I hide behind: WRITE and/or draw ON ONE SIDE OF YOUR MASK the things you show the world. What do other people see?
NOW FLIP the Mask…
What don’t they know about you?
What’s on the inside? What things do you hide? Write or Draw that down on the back side.
HANG UP your old mask, the one you hide behind… and give this to JESUS!
The NEW FACE: TAKE another Mask. What do you want people to see in your life? What do you want them to know or to notice? What do you want to give to Jesus so you can show his love to the world? What face do you want to wear in order to Love others Well?
Talk to Jesus about the NEW face you want to wear in the world. DESIGN YOUR NEW FACE with words or pictures draw what you want to show the world with the help of Jesus.
Circlewood Retreat – Saturday, August 10 on Camano Island.
Godspace readers who live in or near the Pacific Northwest are invited to Circlewood’s summer retreat on Saturday, August 10 on beautiful Camano Island. For those of you who were fans of Mustard Seed Associate’s annual Celtic prayer retreat, this will be in the same wonderful forest on Camano. The topic is exploring what it means to be an “Ecological Christian,” and will include learning through group discussion, break-out sessions, and special afternoon excursions (with plenty of time to talk with people or enjoy the peace of the forest). For more information (and to register), visit https://www.circlewood.online/summer-retreat.
On a related note, we recently spent a day with foresters Kirk Hanson and Jose Narjava from the Northwest Natural Resource Group. They are helping us put together a long-term Conservation Action Plan that will help us conserve and improve the health of the forest for future generations.
7-10-19 Interview with foresters from Northwest Natural Resources Group - Vimeo
Workmanship. One of the challenges about starting over in a new country is finding furniture. The house we are renting is large, and we are not going to bring up furniture that we own, so we have to look around locally for what we need. There are no department stores for us to go into and buy ready-made things.
We took a drive down the main road to see what is on offer. There are any number of people who make items one might need. This carpenter specialises in double/queen/king size beds, and so does that metal-worker, if you want a decorative metal work bed. That carpenter make chairs. Oh look, that one make children’s bunk beds. And that one makes really ornate dressing tables. Everything is displayed on the side of the road. You can watch the ‘fundi’ making his items as well. You get to have a close look at the items and feel them – sadly, the finishing of the products is pretty rough. We saw a lovely pine bed, which in our opinion, still needed at least two more lots of sanding to smooth it down nicely. Yet when coming back along the road, we saw they were already varnishing it.
The flat-pack table and 4 chairs we bought a month ago – made in China – looks nice, but screws were missing to put the chairs together, the rubber on the base of the table legs is a kind of plastic that is falling apart already. Chair tops are missing. Someone didn’t check when packing!
When we moved in, one section of the house still had renovations being done to it, bathrooms being tiled, painted, and plumbed, 3 doors had to be hung. Its two months since we viewed the house, one month since we moved in, and the work is still not completed. The painter painted over at least 2cm of the tiling, the doors have not been sanded or varnished, one corner of the bathroom and toilet still needs tiling finished off.
The question begs: are we being too particular? Should we just accept shoddy workmanship because “this is Africa”? Do we have the right to demand perfection of others? Do we in turn give of our best when we make or produce something?
I am so grateful that God is a perfect Creator, that the things he creates are good in his sight (Genesis 1 and 2)
In Ephesians 2:10 I am reminded that we – you and I – are his workmanship (KJV, ESV), created by him to do good things which he has prepared for us to do. The NIV version talks of us being God’s handiwork. A quick word study expands the verse remarkably: we have been made by God, completely created, changed or transformed in Christ Jesus, to do good, excellent, honourable and useful works – whether in business, employment, anything that we undertake to do, any product, artwork, industry, or thinking we occupy ourselves with, any act or deed we do, things we work hard at – that God prepared beforehand, or in advance, for us to do – so that we should conduct ourselves and our lives, making full use of the opportunities God gives us. Wow, what a reminder of the complexity of God’s creation of you and me!
What is the attitude we are encouraged to have? Peter and Paul both tell us that we are to work as if we are working for God (Eph 6:7) to work wholeheartedly at whatever we do (Col 3:23), to recognise the great responsibility that we have been given by God to embrace all the opportunities he creates and gives to us – to serve, to minister, to provide, to teach, to nurse, to heal, to feed, to grow, to encourage, to share generously, to lead enthusiastically, to mother, to father, to guide and mentor, to create with our hands in whatever way he has gifted us (1 Pet 4:10).
Creator God and Father, you have made me with such love and care, given me so much to guide and help me in my daily walk with you. Would you open my heart and eyes to see the wonderful areas of life in which you offer me opportunities to serve you? Would you in love renew the tired soul, bring joy to the sad one, provide new purpose for the one who has lost focus, that we might all sing your praises again.
If you’ve been a fan of Jenneth’s poems, like we have — check out her newly published book of poetry called, The Present Moment of Happiness. This volume of 50 poems is a call to courage, as you embrace the wisdom that abides within your story. Her poetry explores how painful shifts in the seasons we go through can lead to even greater expansion when we trust the process. Featuring 50 poems in 5 themes: live in the moment, hope, love yourself, believe, grateful dreaming. Jenneth writes from the inspiration of her own challenging experiences tangibly, making her poetry accessible to everyone on a spiritual journey.
When I walk the seashore, I meet in that one sacred space, both the immanent and the transcendent God. The ocean stretches out as far as my eye can see, and way beyond, just as the sense of the divine lies far beyond any human understanding. And yet that same ocean laps at my feet and deposits all kinds of very ordinary objects on the shore for me to discover as I do my beachcombing – objects that may have stories to tell me about who I am and who God is for me, and how our realities embrace in this ordinary-extraordinary space where the water meets the land. (Landscapes of Prayer: Finding God in Your World and Your Life – Margaret Silf (24,25)
Tom and I have just returned from one of our quarterly prayer retreats. One of the things I always like to do on these retreats is take a book with me to help me focus and Margaret Silf’s delightful book Landscapes of Prayer was my choice for this retreat. As I sat on the beach after a beachcombing forage along the pebbled sand, I read the quote above. It is followed by the story of Jesus making breakfast on the beach for his friends and in her narrative she likens this to a beach BBQ where the aroma wafts across the shore to them inviting them to breakfast and a new beginning.
She suggests that beachcombing is a wonderful way to pray and adapts the Prayer of Examen to fit into this context but as I sat there on Friday holding my very ordinary treasures of rocks and shells, I found myself wanting to create my own process of discernment so I have adapted her questions and added some of my own. Here are the questions and reflections that came to me that you might like to adapt for your own use:
Beachcombing As Discernment
What treasures have you discovered in the ordinary landscape of the last few months that caught your attention with delight and joy, bringing you new life as they connected you to God, to yourself and to others? For me the gifts of wonder that have been birthed come to mind – first my book The Gift of Wonder, now three months old, abut also the gifts of babies in Australia and Texas that are special gifts of wonder for me. These are the treasures that have transformed what could have been very ordinary time into extraordinary, shaping both my faith and life in unexpected and precious ways.
Who or what has nourished and enriched your life helping you to find new depths of faith, healing the hurts that still shape you? My husband Tom’s supportiveness and encouragement is the most sustaining and wonderful gift that has built my confidence as I stretch myself beyond my comfort zones. As well as that the garden, both its beauty and its productivity nourish my spirit and my soul relaxing and growing not just me but all who enter it.
What are the waves that lap at the boundaries of your life sometimes gently bringing rest and calm from stress ago other times crashing like storm waves with tumult and destruction to your well ordered plans? my contemplative practices and my breathing prayers are the gentle waves that calm my soul and nourish my spirit helping me to relax and also find relief from the facial pain that still plagues me. The waves that crash like storm waves are the stories of those at the margins – refugees, houseless people; migrants at the border; LBGTQ community all rejected because of their “risky” lifestyles and poverty deprived lives. Yet I realize as I think about this that it is these storm waves, not the gentle ones that both uncover and deposit new treasures – maybe new understanding, deeper compassion and generosity’ stronger cries for justice welling up from within.
As you look back over your beach today have you left a trail of footprints that need to be washed away by the loving presence of God – things you wish you had handled differently that have left you with regrets, guilt, anxiety? I always feel that I should be doing more than I am – speaking out more strongly for justice or being more generous and compassionate. This can paralyze me and immobile me. I sit this morning watching as the cleansing flow of the rising tide washes away these regrets and feelings of guilt and I feel refreshed and made new again.
Pebble question mark
As you bring your prayer to a close gather up your treasures. How will you display them for future remembrances or where will you store them? As I look at my collection I wonder what new creative practices they could stir within me. I hold the rocks in my hand – an ordinary collection of different colored stones – I shape them first into a question mark and then into a circle reminded that questions help bring wholeness and completeness. When I get home they will be shaped into a more permanent remembrance for me, how about you?
Now as I look to the future I wonder what does God want me to learn from my beachcombing experience that will help shape the months to come? First I realize the importance of my contemplative and creative practices. I need to make are that I protect the time that I dedicate to these every day, no matter how busy I get. Second I need to protect the relational time Tom and I have together and not allow my vocation and travel to distract me from this. Third I must not be too hard on myself when I fell I have messed up, remembering that God forgives no matter what mistakes I make. Discernment comes in many shapes and forms I realize. Usually I expect to come out of a time like this with clearly defined goals, but on this retreat I have also learned the need to relax and allow the waves to shape who I am becoming, even if there are no clear goals that come out of the process.
I’m in Kansas City this week, curating a Sacred Space Prayer Room experience for the United Methodist Church YOUTH2019 Conference. It’s a gathering of students and leaders from all over the United States and beyond. The Upper Room is sponsoring the Sacred Space and hired me to design and curate the space around the theme of the event, LOVE WELL.
How do we LOVE WELL? How do we LOVE GOD, LOVE OURSELVES, and LOVE OTHERS WELL?
First, I believe that we cannot love well if we don’t have margin in our lives, if we don’t have rest! So I designed the entire Sacred Space around the LOVE WELL fountain where participants can sit down in rocking chairs, lay down on blankets, or sit on a cushion and JUST REST and BE with Jesus.
I then added small prayer tents, called Poustinias, so students could pray and listen to God or just take a nap in them.
“Poustinia is a Russian word for a small sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray and fast alone in the presence of God. The word poustinia has its origin in the Russian word for desert.
Whenever I design a Sacred Space Prayer Room or Prayer Experience, I start with four prayer stations.
1. A Place to Pray for the World, because God blesses the World not just America.
2. A Place to Confess our Sins, because we Protestants are bad at that!
3. A Place to Create Prayers in Art, because that’s how I like to pray and because I want the artists to know that their creativity is prayer.
4. A Place to Rest, because it’s a commandment! and #RESTisHOLY
After creating the design for these four stations, I then build on the theme and/or the Scripture passages being taught at the conference.
In this Sacred Space we are standing on a hand painted map of the world and praying for different places, countries, and people to be filled with the love of God. I also created some large tag board hearts that people can pick up to pray with as they stand on the map. The art station has two tables filled with supplies to create with and one of my team created a heart outline on the floor that the students are filling in with their art prayers. I created a new confession station for this Sacred Space and it involves building blocks. I like to use everyday items that you will see again to help people remember their experience with God. I also knew that their would be lots of guys at this event and I wanted something fun and tactile to engage them right when you walked in the space. This may be my new favorite station! Participants are writing down with sharpie markers, the things that BLOCK them form receiving God’s Love. They are writing this on the Building Blocks and giving these to God to hold. Letting them go and receiving God’s love!
So what are the things that are BLOCKING you from receiving God’s love today? Talk to God about this. If you have some wooden blocks actually write these things down so you have a visual of them to give to God to remove for you! Here is the signage/directions from this station:
What Blocks you from God’s Love?
To love well we all
need to receive the
love of God.
What stops you from believing in the Goodness of God? What things block you from believing in God’s love for you?
Write these on a block and give them to Jesus to hold for you.
YOU FROM GOD’S
Write these things on a block and give them to Jesus to hold for you.
Allow Jesus to unblock these things.
Allow Jesus to hold all the stuff, the junk, the sin that blocks you from receiving his great love for you! Remember that Jesus loves you, RIGHT NOW, JUST AS YOU ARE! You don’t have to get your act together first. Allow Jesus to love you now, so you can love others well.
I will talk more about the other stations next week.
Take time this week to practice the four areas I’ve talked about above.
Pray for our World…use a map, your news feed, a globe or even a magazine to inspire you to pray for God’s love and hope to be felt and shared.
Use the Block Confessional above.
Create something this weekend that expresses your love for God…draw, doodle, collage, write a poem.
and most importantly, REST. Really. Just REST. Take a Nap. Take time to Stop, Be, Breathe and let God love you well.
Sacred Space prayer kits can be purchased in the store at freerangeworship.com There is a great on for Back to School that has stations based on School Supplies if you are thinking ahead.
I love the sound of Jeannie Kendall’s latest book and think that you will too.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your life journey.
I grew up in Cornwall, a beautiful but rugged county in the south-west of England. Being surrounded by beautiful countryside had a profound influence on me. My growing up years were not always easy though. We lived in a remote hospital (remote as originally it was for TB patients) as my father was a doctor there so I was surrounded by people who were ill or dying. Then when I was 12 my father died after a long illness and so we lost our housing and had to move into a nearby town.
When 16 I started attending a local church, mainly to be disruptive. However I became a Christian and my life changed – and is still changing. My journeying has always included questioning, and enjoying a wide variety of worship styles.
I am married, with two grown up children and two grandchildren, currently aged 9 and 4. My husband, children and grandchildren teach me more than anything else.
All my life I have loved stories, whether reading them, or hearing them from all the people it has been my privilege to listen to in my various roles.
Tell me a bit about your book – In a nutshell what is the main theme?
Finding Our Voice looks at eleven of the unnamed men and women of the Bible, telling their stories imaginatively (as if them), then with the text, a little context and explanation, but then, importantly, a story from people living now, also not named, who have faced the same challenges. Finding Our Voice examines important themes, including being a refugee, finding forgiveness, looking for love, abuse, death and hope. Some of the stories are brave and gritty.
What inspired you to write the book?
For a long time I had been writing poetry on the unnamed women of the Bible, and thinking imaginatively about their stories. However the full idea literally came to me on a clifftop watching birds! Incredibly, at the same time my husband, who was also quietly been bird watching, felt God told him that I should write a book in my upcoming sabbatical. The other inspiration has been all the many stories it has been my privilege to hear and be a part of, which are not directly in the book but have made me the person I am today.
What is the main “take away” that readers will gain from your book? How do you hope they will be changed?
Both that the Bible is incredibly relevant and also that their own stories are important and known to God. I hope that their understanding of the Bible will be enhanced, or refreshed by looking at some of the stories again, or even that they will look at the Bible for the first time, as I hope the book might be gifted by Christians to people who would not normally read the Bible or do church but love stories and find people fascinating.
Writing a book often changes our own perspectives. How have you been changed by writing this book and what do you continue to learn about the topic?
Well I’ve learnt a whole lot about publishing, a new world for me! I think the way Finding Our Voice came about – more than I can include here – has been a reminder of God’s grace and the way he works quietly through us in so many different ways. I have been humbled by the bravery of the people who shared their stories for the book, and also by the response to it so far.. I am continuing to reflect on these and other stories and I am sure always will.
Where can readers connect to you on the internet and what is the best way for them to purchase your book?
My website – www.jeanniekendall.co.uk is a good way to make contact, though I am also on Facebook, including a specific page for the book – search Finding Our Voice. In the UK books can be bought via the website, postage free. In the States they are available through Amazon – and possibly other sources too. Authentic Media are the publishers.
Jeannie Kendall grew up in Cornwall, moving to London at 18 to train as a teacher. She taught in two secondary schools, both Religious Education and English and Drama. From there she went to work for the church she attended, (and was involved in running a dance and drama group) initially in their bookshop (great for a reader like her!), then setting up and running a coffee shop, and then setting up and for some years running an award-winning counselling service in the community. In time she returned to working directly in the church context as a pastoral worker and trainer, subsequently training for ministry and becoming ordained. In 2011 I moved to the church I currently serve in, Carshalton Beeches Baptist Church.
She is married with two grown up children and two grandchildren. She enjoys gardening, reading and theme park rides.
African time is a very real thing! In South Africa, when people were often late for appointments, I used to put it down to transport difficulties and didn’t give it much thought further. However, here in Tanzania, we have discovered that the locals work with a different time system, and as this illustration shows, there is a 6 hour difference to the Western time system.
This is because we are so close to the equator, that there is little or no difference between the hours of sunrise and sunset, all year round. We have 12 hours of sun, and 12 hours of darkness.
The first hour of the morning equates to the Western (or English) hour of 7am. The day is further broken down into early morning, morning, noon/afternoon, late afternoon and evening, and all hours of darkness are night. The first hour of the night is the Western 7pm.
This explains why the dealer was so insistent on finding out whether I meant English time or African time when I was arranging to collect appliances when we moved into our home. It also accounted for an expected meeting at 10am resulting in a no-show until the customer arrived at 4pm for his meeting! So, when dealing with locals, we are learning to specify which hour we mean, so that all agree on a time, and not be left wondering what’s going on
In Genesis 1, we are told that God created light and separated the light from the darkness, and called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night’. On the very first day of creation, God created the concept of time – morning and evening. The contrast of light and darkness is a theme throughout Scripture, often connected with the deeds of the righteous and the deeds of the evil.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 that believers are the light of the world, and to let our light shine before men so they can give glory to God in heaven. Do you remember an old Sunday School chorus:
“Jesus bids me shine like a pure clear light,
like a little candle burning in the night.
In this world of darkness, so we must shine,
you in your small corner and I in mine”?
In 1 Peter 2:9 we read that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light! This verse is also one that has been set to music and was a favourite chorus a couple of years ago.
Psalm 90 is a psalm full of references to time – to God who is everlasting, who existed before creation, to man who is dust and will return to dust. God is not bound by our concept of time – a thousand years are like yesterday to him, or even last night. Our lifespan is like a day to him. The 70 or 80 years we live are quick to pass away even though they seem long to us. The verse that speaks to me today as I reflect on the time differences I’m experiencing in Tanzania is verse 12 – Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!
As we meditate on time today, may we praise the Lord for the days he has granted us, to walk this earth and share his love with those around us. May he grant us wisdom to use our time graciously and mercifully, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (Ps 90:14)
“Take off your shoes, for the place that you are standing is holy ground.” Those weren’t the words that I heard that day over twenty-five years ago. What I “heard”, or more accurately more sensed, was “take off your shoes and wander the grounds. Listen to me through your feet.” I was at a pastors’ retreat in Arizona that was being held at a Franciscan retreat center. It was the final day, and I decided to head out to wander the grounds one last time. Sauntering along trails, over grassy sections, and across scorching hot pavement led me to a new way of praying, of listening, of conversing with God.
Praying barefoot has become one of my favorite ways to pray. Most often I pray barefoot in the garden, or in a park, or along a sandy beach. These are pretty easy ways to begin. But over the past month I’ve been sensing the need to walk barefoot through the business area of my community. It took me a while to actually do it. It sounded like a great concept, but “what would the neighbors think”?
I don’t normally care about such things, but as I ventured onto the sidewalk with naked feet I really felt out of place. I was the only one walking around without protection. My first impulse was to dash back to security and put on shoes like everyone else. But I told myself I was going to do this. For some reason I needed to do this. So I ventured on.
Walking in sandals or shoes on sidewalks shields our feet from a sensory extravaganza. There’s a buffer between me and the nitty gritty of my neighborhood. Removing my shoes I begin to notice every crack, every pebble, every contour and temperature change. To be honest, I felt more self-conscious than prayerful at the start. And as I thought about that and asked God how to overcome that so I could enter into the moment, I realized how many wander the streets feeling out of place, naked and exposed. For some it’s because they live on the streets and know that their presence isn’t welcome. For others it might be social phobia or anxiety. For many just venturing out into public is a frightening experience.
Lord, who are the people I’ve walked by without noticing? Who are the people I’ve noticed and judged? What are their stories, their struggles and hurts? How can we create a neighborhood where all feel loved and accepted?
Wandering around a corner I noticed a friend hopping out of his car. Do I greet him? Seems like a silly question, but he hadn’t noticed me, and I was doing something weird. I called out his name and waved. He crossed the street toward me. “Have you quit wearing shoes?” he asked. I told him what I was up to, and we ended up in a conversation about faith, spirituality, and belonging. It was a choice. I prefer to pray alone, but God interrupted my prayer with a friend. This friend entered into my prayer in the form of a conversation, and together we met with God.
Lord, help me to remain open to those around me. Help me to recognize opportunities to join with others in the celebration of life even when it may, at first, seem like an interruption to my plans or my way of doing things. Thank you for the gift of holy interruptions.
Continuing my journey, I reflected on how walking barefoot through the community forced me to slow down and notice. You have to be careful where you step, and you can’t be in a hurry when your tender feet are exposed. “Hot! Hot! Hot!…” Ironic that while reflecting on this a metal utility cover appeared out of nowhere! Spying a patch of weeds growing up through the cracks in the sidewalk, I rushed to the coolness of these unwanted plants.
Lord, where are the oases in my community? Are there places of comfort and rest that are overlooked, or worse, thought of as intrusions on a well-maintained neighborhood? How can I be a place of comfort for those burned or neglected? How might I receive hospitality from those I would normally turn away from?
Settling into the walk I began to really feel the community. It wasn’t just the sights, sounds, and smells but also the touch. The smooth sidewalk surface was frequently disrupted by concrete squares with a pebbled texture. The cracks slanting through older parts of the sidewalk reminded me of how cracks can be a crumbling nuisance or a mark of character earned by living life fully.
Crackling beneath my foot a fall leaf disintegrates. Yeah, fall is fast approaching, the seasons are changing. I can see the seasons changing in the business community too. There are established businesses that have been here since before the 60s, when I arrived on the scene. There are brand new businesses that have just opened up. For such a small area there’s also a surprising diversity of cultures. This is my home.
Lord, the world around us seems to be constantly changing. Help us to embrace the change that builds community and confront change that divides, alienates, or seeks to put a shiny facade on a serious issue. Give us wisdom to see the neighborhood through your eyes and to pray with my mouth and with my actions, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Returning to where I began I sit down to reflect. I started my barefoot prayer through the neighborhood feeling out of place, self-conscious, and not too prayerful. But as I walked and listened and conversed with God and those God brought into my path, all that was replaced with a sense of peace, of belonging. Yes, my feet were filthy by the end. But that was just evidence that I had been present in my place.
We can live in a locale but be so shielded by our attitudes, habits, and comforts that we’re not really present. I know I often isolate myself from my larger neighborhood by working from home and not creating reasons to get out and about. What does it mean to really be present? What does it mean to really listen prayerfully in the place that you live? By shedding our shoes we can also shed some of my unseen assumptions about our community. Listening to God about our neighborhoods through our feet can help us to see and to pray differently.
Have you ever prayed barefoot in your neighborhood?
If so, how was it different than other forms of prayer?
It not, would you consider it?
Where else might you venture unshod?
(This post, first published in 2016) seemed such a wonderful compliment to yesterday’s post that I thought some would like to revisit it.)
Did’ you know that walking barefoot benefits not only our balance and body alignment. It also increases muscle strength, and most surprising of all it helps our brains develop.
the feet are the most nerve-rich parts of the human body, which means they contribute to the building of neurological pathways in the brain. Covering them in shoes, therefore, means we’re eliminating all kinds of opportunities for children’s brains to grow new neural connections. Read the entire article
Then there is mud play
“It’s not just playing, it’s risk taking, it’s problem solving, it’s hypothesising and if you stand back and … observe, you can see so much learning going on. (Read the entire article)
I was amazed at the responses that my posting these two articles on Facebook elicited.
Many of us remember with nostalgia a childhood spent barefoot, running through the grass and the agony of having to confine our feet to tight fitting shoes at the end of summer. We remember too the toughening up period that was our initiation into a new summer experience and the joy of finding our feet impervious once again to jagged rocks and uneven surfaces. We remember too those carefree days of playing in the mud, unafraid to get our clothes dirty. Running barefoot through the mud, allowing it to ooze between our toes and caress our feet is probably the best memory of all.
Both these practices anchor us in the earth from which we were created and for which we are responsible. Yet now we are afraid to go barefoot, and discourage kids from doing the same. We are afraid that our sensitive little feet will be hurt by a jagged stone. Or maybe we will tread on a sticker (bindi eye in Australia) or a piece of glass. Or we cold pick up a germ lurking in the bare earth. We are willing to give up delight to avoid the transitory pain of toughening up. In the process I think we lose so much of the joy and carefreeness that a barefoot life gives us. Ironically as the article above points out we are much more likely to get hurt or become ill through what we touch with our hands and most of us would never think of wearing gloves all our lives because of this.
Are We Afraid To Go Barefoot Through Life?
Are We Afraid to Go Barefoot Through Life?
As I thought about this today I couldn’t help but compare the experience of walking barefoot in the grass and the mud to our lives. We have allowed our fears and our worries to cover up our spiritual feet – those sensitive parts of our body that help us find balance and alignment, that strengthen our spiritual muscles and develop our brains.
One of our scriptures for Sunday included the story of Jesus sending out the 72 disciplest ahead of him into every town and place he intended to go to and he tells them:
“I am sending you out armed with vulnerability, like lambs walking into a pack of wolves. Don’t bring a wallet. Don’t carry a backpack. I don’t even want you to wear sandals. Walk along barefoot, quietly, without stopping for small talk.” (Luke 10:3,4 The Voice).
Wow! BAREFOOT! ARMED WITH VULNERABILITY!
Walking more in the way that children walk not weighed down by the prejudices and misconceptions that bind us.
I wonder was Jesus trying to toughen up his disciples here, helping them find their balance and make them less sensitive to slights and hurts and jagged rocks underfoot. Was he trying to strengthen their muscles and develop new neurological pathways that would grow their brains and help them understand the new perspectives he was teaching them?
Then I wonder: Have we lost some of our spiritual strength and balance because we are afraid to go barefoot, armed only with vulnerability? Are we more prone to the spiritual equivalent of germs and jagged rocks and prickles as a result? Are we hypersensitive not so much to the toxic pain of what is wrong with our society but to the bumps and lumps that toughen us up to enjoy what is good and healthy spiritual living?
I wish I had thought of writing about the benefits of walking barefoot and the delight of this childhood joy before I wrote The Gift of Wonder. There is a carefreeness to barefoot living that we seem to have lost just as we have lost so many other aspects of childhood.
Introduce A Little Barefoot Living
Here is some advice about barefoot living that I think is helpful as we consider how to apply it to our spiritual lives: (adapted from this article)
Start slow. You need to be patient and start with short 15- to 20-minute sessions of walking barefoot this allows your feet and ankles to adapt. The spiritual toughening up process needs to be eased into too as any child starting their summer vacation cold tell you. “for the joy that is set before you take time to endure the pain” It is well worth it!
Ease up if you feel any new pain or discomfort. Because our muscles have lost their strength we are at increased risk of injury. “Without appropriate strength in the foot, you are at risk of having poor mechanics of walking, thereby increasing your risk for injury.” I think that many of us have lost the mechanics of good spiritual walking too because we have not strengthened our muscles. Maybe some of the fallout we see in our churches is because we have not taught followers of Jesus to strengthen their muscles so they can walk well without injury.
Practice on safe surfaces. “Once you’ve mastered the indoors, try walking on outside surfaces that are less dangerous, such as turf, rubber tracks, sandy beaches, and grass.” Once we have mastered barefoot living inside at home we could try it out in places we feel spiritually safe like discipleship groups before we take it outside into the neighbourhood.
Experiment with balance exercises. “Start with simple balance exercises like standing on one foot or pressing yourself up onto your toes and lowering down slowly.” To me this speaks of the need to balance contemplation and action. Learning to rest the moment without stress and anxiety then committing ourselves to active involvement in God’s world is a good way to practice this.
Try an activity that requires you to be barefoot. “Take advantage of activities that are already performed barefoot, like yoga, Pilates, or martial arts”. Now that one is easy for me – exercise the muscles of joy and delight that God has given you. Go for a barefoot awe and wonder walk, swim in the waves or play in a mud puddle. The delight of these types of practices strengthens us for a life of joy and delight in which the pressures of jagged rocks don’t bother us.
Examine your feet for injury.”Every day examine the bottom of your feet for injury.” A good exercise to end your day with during this “toughening up period of barefoot living” is to ask yourself “What has caused me discomfort” before you go to bed. Identifying the sensitivities that cause pain allows God to bring healing to these areas so that you are really able to walk barefoot and carefree.
So get out there and enjoy a bit of barefoot living this week!