We’ve met and planned, shopped and gathered, packed and loaded the trucks, and today we’re heading to Lake Junaluska to host SoulFeast, the soulful retreat. Please pray for traveling mercies for all those who are making their way to the event. Opening worship will be Sunday night. Trevor Hudson will be preaching about “The Way to the Jordan” and we’ll celebrate our baptism. The youth will be assisting in the ritual for this service.
Jay Voorhees, Pam Hawkins, and I will be setting up the worship space, designed by Karla Kincannon. (Karla will be joining us on Tuesday and can take over the set up then.)
We’re expecting somewhere between 450 and 500 participants. Children, youth, and young adults will be participating in age-appropriate programs.
Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be participating in a book signing featuring all the Upper Room authors present at SoulFeast. That’ll be the first book signing for The Uncluttered Heart. (Wish you could be there!)
Blessings, everyone. Pray for us. We’ll be praying for the world.
A few months ago, The Upper Room interviewed me for a prototype of a new magazine. The magazine didn’t launch, but I still have the interview. Here’s part two. (Back to part one.)
Upper Room: What are some of your earliest memories of praying or of seeing others pray?
Beth: My dad was a Methodist preacher, so seeing him pray was an early memory for me. We had prayers before meals and observed the church seasons (especially Advent!) in our family. I don’t remember this, but a family story is told that when I was about 3 or 4, my grandpa found me sitting in an old outhouse (“The Biltmore”) at our vacation cabin in Colorado. He asked me what I was doing. I said I was “just sitting here thinking about God.” So I guess my contemplative side started early. [Laughs.]
Upper Room: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pray but doesn’t quite know how to begin?
Beth: Anne Lamott says in Traveling Mercies that the two best prayers she knows are “‘Help me, Help me, Help me,’ and ‘Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.'” Prayer doesn’t have to be formal, fancy, or profound. Prayer is just connecting to God — by talking, by listening, by noticing where God is in our day. In a way, I think praying is just opening our eyes and seeing what’s already there. When I see the beautiful moon rising when I’m driving home, my feelings are a prayer. When I see or hear an ambulance driving by, the hitch in my breath is a prayer of compassion for the person who is in crisis. Think about people or situations that need God’s love and care. And ask God to walk with you through the day. Try that out for a month and then ask God what’s next. Then … Listen. I believe that God will help guide the process.
A few months ago, The Upper Room interviewed me for a prototype of a new magazine. The magazine didn’t launch, but I still have the interview. Here’s part one.
Upper Room: How do you pray?
Beth: I usually take some time for prayer each morning before I leave the house. It’s not a great lot of time — maybe ten minutes or less. Sometimes I read a daily reflections book like Openings by Larry Peacock. I have some set prayers that I say each day, helping me to get connected to God and asking God to guide me through the day. Currently I like to do this at the breakfast table — I like to look outside at the birds at the bird feeder. If the birds need food, I go out and fill up the feeder. Over the past year or so, seeing the birds makes me think of the scripture where Jesus talked about the birds and how they don’t store food, but trust in God to be fed every day (Luke 12:22-29). I’m sort of a worrier, and seeing the birds, feeding the birds, helps me have faith rather than fear.
During the day, I don’t have intentional times of prayer, but I’ll often find myself praying a breath prayer. I developed a breath prayer a couple of years ago when I was going through a stressful time. I used it so much back then that I find myself praying it unconsciously. The prayer is like this: inhaling, I say, “Loving God.” Exhaling, I say, “I am yours.” Sometimes, if there’s a specific need I have, I’ll consciously change the words of the breath prayer to address the situation I’m in. Like if I’m afraid, I could replace the second half with “I trust in you.”
I want to add a prayer time to the end of my day, but I haven’t found the right fit for me yet. I’m interested in doing an “examen” at the end of each day, looking back on my day and evaluating what had happened. I believe that when I find the right way to do it, it will fall into place. There are so many different ways to pray that there’s bound to be a pattern, a prayer method, etc., that will fit me. I don’t think there is such a thing as a “one-size-fits-all” way to pray.
It’s not an alien life form. It’s a red potato. I found it on the floor in the pantry behind the recycling bin. Who knows how long it had been laying there in the dark, sending out shoots, looking for life. It’s another image in my series of pictures on growing in adversity — how living things (including people) are able to survive and grow in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
Last week the UPS truck came by my house and dropped of a box of my books, The Uncluttered Heart. It was probably best that I didn’t realize what the package was or I might have asked the delivery guy to let me get a picture. <grin>
Since then, I’ve received a beautiful, framed book cover from the Upper Room book department. And I’ve gotten a book signing lined up at SOULfeast at Lake Junaluska in July.
How strange — it’s 98 degrees today in Nashville — and I’m thinking about Advent. I guess it’s never too early to start promoting. So, in the name of shameless self-promotion — be the first to get your book from Amazon or The Upper Room Bookstore. (I’d love it, too, if you feel led to add a customer review to either The Uncluttered Heart or Child of the Light.) Thanks for celebrating with me!
It’s not too late to register for SOULfeast, a spiritually nourishing event at Lake Junaluska, NC (July 12-16). I’m honored to be a part of the worship planning for this Upper Room event. Right now, we are in the throes of finalizing the services and the worship design. The worship team includes Jay Voorhees, Karla Kincannon, Trevor Hudson, Marjorie Thompson, Pamela Hawkins, George Donigian, and Stephen Bryant. It’s been great to work with this creative group to plan the 5 services of SOULfeast.
The preachers for this year’s event include Trevor Hudson, Jasmine Smothers, Vance Ross, and Marjorie Thompson. Music will be led by Elise Eslinger. Really — think about coming (if not this year, think about next year).
This Spring marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of Penuel Ridge Retreat Center’s 25th anniversary. This special place is on 135 acres in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Backed up against a wildlife preserve, it’s a beautiful place. Two ridges frame the back edges of the center, and in the center is a beautiful lake. For 25 years, we’ve called it “the lake.” But at the first event celebrating the anniversary, the lake was named Lake Joyce. Joyce and Don Beisswenger were the founders of the retreat center. They had the vision, purchased the land, and called together a group of us who could help discern its direction. Joyce passed away several years ago. She lives on in our hearts and now in this beautiful lake, a companion to those who seek rest and solace through retreat.
Prayer of Blessing upon “Lake Joyce”
Gracious God, we come in remembrance of your child and servant Joyce Beisswenger. We recognize her love for you and all of your creation. We celebrate her devotion to life’s spiritual journey and her kindness to those who walk it. As a witness to the legacy of her love for Penuel Ridge and its purposes, we joyfully bestow upon this body of water the name “Lake Joyce.” To you be all honor and glory. Amen.
Last week I got a call from my book editor, Rita Collett, who told me my book, The Uncluttered Heart, had come off the press. She had a copy of the book on her desk and I could come and visit it. So — I went for a visit, held the book in my hands, and took a picture of it. It looks great!
When a book is finished with its printing, a few copies come to the publisher. These are precious copies that go to various people and departments — the book editor, head of publishing, production (for their files), etc. The rest of the books are sent to the The Upper Room’s fulfillment center in Georgia. In the meantime, the book is put into inventory. So it’s time for a little more waiting before the book is ready to be released to the general public.
For me, it’s an exciting time — a time of gratitude and personal fulfillment. Thanks to everyone who has had a part in this birth of an Advent resource.
I got to meet Sr. José a few years ago during a week’s session of the 2-year Academy for Spiritual Formation at Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. She called us together for sessions with the beating of a drum and tried to teach us how not to be late to the sessions (a sign of disrespect). She had us howling like wolves and dancing in the nave of the chapel. She told stories. One that made a big impression on me was that she asked a carpenter friend of hers to make her a wooden casket. She had him fit it with shelves and then kept it in her house as a temporary bookcase. She kept us laughing even as she taught us about God, about prayer, about life.
Earlier this year, she passed away. And since then, I’ve been learning even more about her amazing life. I knew she was a Seneca elder and Franciscan nun. But I didn’t know that she knew some of the modern-day leaders in the faith. A friend of hers, John Dear, recently wrote an article with stories of Sr. José’s encounters with some these people. Dorothy Day went to Sr. José for retreat. During an event they were doing together, Henri Nouwen asked Sr. José to talk with him each day about the death of his mother.
Sr. Jose taught at Matthew Fox’s institute. Below is a trailer for a documentary called Holy Rascals, which presents a different way of thinking about religion and human spirituality. The trailer has footage of both of Jose and of Matthew Fox.
My favorite part was the description of how the brain changes when people engage in regular prayer and meditation. People become more connected, more compassionate. United Methodist minister, Scott McDermott, is featured in segment three. Researchers did a scan of his brain while he was engaged in intercessory prayer. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson said that after two weeks of meditation, there were distinct changes in the brain.
That’s what I want — for my spiritual practice to be such a regular part of my life that my brain actually changes. It takes “spiritual formation” or “participating in the mind of Christ” to a new level, doesn’t it?