Merely Beloved: Unfolding the Spiritual Life

I had done a remix of spiritual disciplines based on Richard Foster’s work: Silence, Sweat, Sleep, Sustenance, Sight-Seeing, Spirits (undeniably my favorite remixed “discipline”), and Soundness. But I feel I need to constantly revisit this piece of my life. Something I’ve been longing to do for a while is to glean the methods that others – who are arguably much smarter, wiser, and deeper than me – employ to cultivate their spiritual lives.

“Merely” comes from this quote by Thomas Merton in Thoughts in Solitude:

The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.

And “Beloved” from Henri Nouwen’s creative use of this as the basis of not only our faith and spirituality but our very identity in God. There were too many good nuggets to pull from his writing, but of course, the most relevant to this came from Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World:

I kept running around it in large or small circles, always looking for someone or something able to convince me of my Belovedness. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved”. Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence…Becoming the beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about and doing from hour to hour…

And finally, the strange word “unfolding” has been almost haunting me since I first saw it in a quote on someone’s Facebook:

“Radical Self Care is the New Art of Unfoldment.”

I’m appropriating this word to incorporate it into my thinking, living, and being in terms of unfolding rather than forcing, coercing, or obligating even.

There is something very basic, very merely-ish, about being God’s Beloved and intentionally cultivating that in our lives. But despite it being so basic I still have the most trouble integrating it into my life on a regular basis. Especially now as the days become increasingly full and busy I feel I need something like this even more.

Over the next few months there will be the writers and bloggers who I look to often for this kind of wisdom. I look forward to being fed and nourished by these writers, and hope you will find some attitude, perspective, practical discipline that helps you move towards being Beloved.

September 16: Breathe by Mihee Kim-Kort
September 18: Taking Time for Yourself by Sara C R Hill
September 20: Grasping and Abiding by Erin Rafferty
September 26: Running Toward the Sacred by Chad Abbott
September 27: On Having a Spiritual Director by Adam Walker Cleaveland
October 4: Breathe Beauty by Erin Dunigan
October 5: Baking Bread by Meredith Holladay
October 9: Reading Books by Bromleigh Mclenaghan
October 11: Writing Thank You by Mihee Kim-Kort
October 16: Speaking Plainly by Rocky Supinger
October 19: Reframing by Casey Wait Fitzgerald
October 23: In the Desert by Derrick Weston
October 25: Walking Tsuki by Kiran Wimberley
October 30: Charging the Dark by Matt Gough

Upcoming in Advent

November 27: Andy Kort
November 29: More Than Fasting by Mariclair Partee
December 4: Embracing Inconvenience by Mihee Kim-Kort
December 6: Following Mary by Corein Brown
December 11: Layers of Paint by Elsa Peters
December 13: Writing as a Spiritual Discipline by Darnell Moore
December 18: Possibility as Practice by Chip Hardwick
December 20: Spending Money by Mark Elsdon
December 25: Beginning the Work by Mihee Kim-Kort

January 9: Practicing Presence by Kate Wiebe (a reflection on the CT shooting and helping our children)

The Spiritual Discipline of…Soundness

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10

This is the last of my re-mixed spiritual disciplines…I think I may go back to tweak/edit the entries some more in the future. But, for now, it feels fitting to end with something about wholeness…How the abundant life Jesus wants for me isn’t necessarily quantifiable, but thick and rich in other ways. I think themes of stability, integrity, and wholeness are a fitting end as I seek to make real connections between all the needs in my life. How I sleep affects how I eat, how I eat impacts how I sleep, how often I work out affects how I eat, how often I drink impacts how often I work out, and all of this is related to space, silence, and solitude necessary for presence and centered-ness…

I’m thinking and talking in circles. I went with soundness because of the alliteration, but because it also connotes for me something about sound, too…literally listening…I’m thinking of music, specifically, and how it is so important to me, whether it’s listening to tunes on my ipod, or live music, or singing, or maybe teaching myself a new song on the piano. But, throughout all of these disciplines is a call to also listen…listen for the voice of God…and find my anchor and center in her.

The spiritual discipline of soundness…

The Spiritual Discipline of…Spirits

“‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory…” -John 2.

My parents don’t drink alcohol. I think they used to at one point, but for years now they have hardly touched the stuff feigning allergies or other biological aversions to it. They did drink a little after the toast I made to my brother and new sister-in-law at their reception, but that was the first time I can recall seeing my dad have alcohol touch his lips in a long while. He kind of slumped over and had this glazed look in his eyes, as if he had 4-5 glasses already instead of literally ONE sip. They don’t like the taste or smell, I guess, but there are some cultural expectations, too, with my father a 1st Generation Korean pastor, that prevent them from partaking of it often.

Me, on the other hand…there is no doubt that a glass of wine or beer has literally carried me through a tough day, week, month. During my “evangelical” days I tried to stay away from it out of guilt, which didn’t always work especially in college, but when I turned 21 I took full advantage of the legality. For me, though, my affinity comes a little out of being a naturally tense, and stressed out creature. For me to truly relax and unwind, I need some outside help, so-to-speak, like Advil for a headache or good piece of chocolate for a certain time of the month. But, it’s not only a sedative and something to calm me down, it’s also a pleasurable experience. It’s truly a lovely thing – a nice glass of pinot or bordeaux, especially with a delicious dinner and interesting conversations. Wine pairs nicely with food…and I found, people.

But, I know I need to tread carefully here. It is too easy, as with any other addictive activities, to become out-of-control, and I’ve witnessed the effects of obsession, dependency, and the spiraling down of alcoholism in friends in the past. I’ve never really had an addictive personality, for instance, I tried smoking in my early 20’s but it never stuck. It is something for me to enjoy in moderation…which is the key…to almost everything. As one mom of a youth group kid said well, “Alcohol is a beverage to enjoy…” and not a solution or drug. I do love the familiar quote though…

“Beer is the proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” -Benjamin Franklin

The spiritual discipline of spirits is about opening up my spirit…

The Spiritual Discipline of…Sight-Seeing

“Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.” -John 9:32

This was a bit of a stretch. I mean to say something about sabbath actually…but it seems like the themes of sabbath – rest and rejuvenation – are threads that run through all these disciplines anyway so far. I was going to go more specific…and put out there the importance of intentionally carving out time for recreation in terms of travel and culture. I need something like this specifically because I have a tendency to feel out of touch or drawn to much into myself and whatever work. I forget there’s a whole world out there…

Some friends of ours came out for a visit and we went to the city to check out the Van Gogh exhibit at the MoMa (I wrote about it in a previous entry). It was incredibly therapeutic…the pace – slow and relaxing, almost meditative, and I didn’t realize how much I needed the chance to be able to pause and be inspired by such expressive, dramatic works of art. It was moving, and healing somehow…and it renewed my sight…

I think there isn’t too much more to say here…the spiritual discipline of sightseeing is about seeing…seeing something besides the laptop screen or the television…seeing something besides printed text…to nourish our souls…

The Spiritual Discipline of…Sustenance

“I am the bread of life…” -Jesus

The concept of three square meals is lost on me. I’m never hungry in the mornings when I wake up, and when I’m feeling particularly health-conscious I have to force feed myself yogurt or some kind of cereal with my coffee. Lunch tends to be hit or miss, either a huge meal or just kind of grazing in the afternoons, and with night time meetings, I end up eating with Andy much too much and much too late. There are days I find eating just plain frustrating and more of a nuisance, unless it’s a dinner party or going out to eat at a nice restaurant with a few glasses of wine (that’s another topic for later). Deep down, I know there’s something faulty with my perspective on food.

I really could take this in so many directions. There’s all the cultural phenomenon of diets/weight loss programs, eating disorders/disordered eating, and organic foods, along with the trends of food/eating competitions, bizarre foods (to steal Andrew Zimmern’s show premise), fast food, and food festivals. The spectrum has huge extremes, and some of it is almost frightening, sometimes gross, and sometimes intriguing. No doubt, food permeates our way of being at so many levels, it’s necessary for life. Perhaps this is part of why my mother whenever we chat on the phone always asks first about what I have eaten/am eating that day. She wants to make sure that I am eating because that is a sign of health and vitality.

There is something wonderfully gracious…or grace-full about eating…the receiving, consuming, and digesting…it’s a reminder of my vulnerability and humanity, my very tangible needs, as well as a reminder to be thankful…for what is being provided so I can live each day. The spiritual discipline of sustenance for me is about eating regularly, eating well, and enjoying eating…for life.