Spiritual Renewal~Chârtres

Spiritual Renewal~Chârtres

I was 16 when my eyes first saw the magestic spires, one roman and one gothic, of Chârtres. Chârtres made a huge impression on me, even at that tender age. It was a birthday gift to be able to travel to France with my beloved high school French teacher. A love for France and its people has remained with me. But somehow in that first trip, I missed the labyrinth and the importance it would eventually make in my life. Walking a labyrinth would eventually become an important part of my regular spiritual renewal plan.

I have returned to Chârtres several times, but the labyrinth was never empty of chairs, until today. Today I had done my research, and I had the honor and privilege of walking and praying through the oldest inlaid labyrinth in France. It dates from around the 1200’s.

If you have never walked a labyrinth it might be something you want to try. (We will put one up again a few days this summer at Middletown UMC). They come in different shapes and sizes, many are copies of the pattern found at Chârtres.

As one walks, one can use the experience for several things, one of the most “popular” is to enter into the presence of God, the middle representing being in the center with God, or being in the center of what you are seeking. Sometimes one might repeat the words “Come Holy Spirit” or “Come Lord Jesus.” Sometimes one might pray the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” As it has been said, “Pay attention to your experience, without judging it. It can serve as a mirror for what you are experiencing elsewhere .”

Today, I was one of the few who took my shoes off. Since it was inlaid stone taking your shoes off was not a requirement, but for me, if we are trying to walk into the presence of The Holy One then we should show respect by taking off our shoes. After all, Moses was told to take off his shoes when God spoke to him through the burning bush as he was on “holy ground.”

Some impressions from today’s labyrinth prayer walk: The stone was cold to the foot. That had never been part of my previous experiences. Some folks, from many nations, came in to see the cathedral and were oblivious to the fact that many were walking the labyrinth. (Even though it was blocked off with chairs) Perhaps many go through life in the same manner, oblivious to the fact that there is something more and we are called to be all that God created us to be; Each person goes at their own pace, and we pass many on the journey; interacting with some, not necessarily with all, but we are always trying to show kindness; Some intentionally changed the atmosphere. There was a wonderful group of women visiting who stood in a corner and sang a capela. One such chant was “Kyrie Eleison,” Lord have mercy on me. It was a lovely enhancement for my journey of prayer; Someone else had gathered some tiny leaves from an outside bush and had dropped them along the path of the labyrinth. While I thought that it was probably meaningful for them to leave those leaves on their journey, whoever has to clean them off and get them out of the old cracks and crevices of the stone might not think so. (The story of Hansel and Gretel did cross my mind.) Finally, since I have walked this pattern of Chârtres in other places, I sort of know the way. Yet even in knowing the way, there is an inner yearning for the center and in coming out, you know the end is near, yet what are you going to do about the end looming near? How does this walk correlate with our daily life journey?

If you have never walked a labyrinth it might be something you want to try. Google will show you where one is located near you. In Mariottesville, Md the sisters of Bon Secour have a lovely outdoor labyrinth that you can use anytime. May you be able to experience this journey too, and may your labyrinth journey bring you closer to God!

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The Greater Family Win! (And 5 ideas for new wins.)

The Greater Family Win! (And 5 ideas for new wins.)

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Life is a balancing act, and so is parenting. When the kids are young, if we can be lucky enough to have some play time, get dinner in them, not have any tears and get them to bed on time it feels like a win! When they are teenagers, if we have gotten everyone to the right places, managed to watch the kid’s games, made sure the homework was done, get them dinner, not have any meltdowns and to bed, it can be a win. A question for the family win column is, “Have we added any spiritual direction to that list of family wins?”

Parents, you are responsible for your children’s spiritual health. Part of the very core of our being is spiritual. Part of raising our kids is to give them a healthy understanding of who God is and how God acts in the world. This is not something to hold off on or to “wait until they are older.” Rather, this is something they can participate in for the present time, no matter what their age. Just as a small child is learning about balance, and movement and talking and sharing, so too they need to learn now how to know God and how to participate in things that bring us closer to God. If part of their core being is spiritual, are we feeding their spirituality from a young age? If a child grows physically faster in the first 18 months, should not learning about God be a top priority during this time of intense learning?

Here are 5 things you can do now, no matter their age to help them grow into who God created them to be.

  1. Obviously prayer should be at the top of the list. Teach them to give thanks to God for meals and thanking God for the day and for family at bedtime are core wins. Teach them to pray to God at times of hurt. Teach them to talk and listen to God. Model that prayer time so that they can see you praying too.
  2. Story time can include a children’s Bible that tells them God’s stories. Whatever your bedtime rhythm might be, consider including a chapter each night from a children’s Bible that they can understand. (The Beginner’s Bible, or the Jesus Storybook Bible .) Bible story time began with my children when they were six months old. Now they are modeling that same rhythm of life for their own children. When kids are older this can be a time of reading the Bible together.
  3. Teach them the rhythms of the church calendar year. Today was the first Sunday in Lent and our Associate Pastor asked the children what season we were in. Lent is an easy four letter word that children can learn, and it is great teaching tool for young absorbent minds. They can learn that this is a season when we try to grow closer to God by doing something special for God. Pastor Beth suggested giving away a toy that we no longer need to someone who will need it. Maybe it can be a season to collect food for the hungry or maybe it can be a season to write love note to those in nursing homes. There are so many ways that a child can serve the world. Teach them about these times, especially Lent and Advent, that are designed to draw us closer to Jesus.
  4. Our children are never too young to teach them to serve others. Jesus calls us to serve the least of these. How do we help our children understand that we share our blessings with others. How do we teach them to have hearts that can break for the things that break God’s heart.
  5. Take advantage of teaching moments and show them what God is calling us to do in situations that could be major decision moments. When I was given too much change from the local cashier I stopped, showed the extra money to my kids and asked them what I should do. While it took a few extra seconds in the line, everyone saw that it was a moment to teach the kids the difference between giving back what was not mine or being dishonest and pocketing the extra money that I was mistakenly given.

Obviously, in addition to these practices at home, children will continue to grow spiritually if they are deeply connected to a church family; a place where they can go to worship, go to Sunday School and learn what it means to be a young disciple of Jesus. What spiritual practices can you add for your children today? What would you add to this list?