My friend, Betsy, recently shared with our Centering Prayer group the Jewish practice of "100 Blessings a Day" (as mentioned in the Talmud). It's a way of cultivating gratitude (& awe!) by finding 100 things you are grateful for each day.
I can’t help but think of The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon and his weekly “Thank You Notes” segment! Whether weekly like Jimmy or daily like the Talmud, our own practice can be just as fun and meaningful. We might even choose some background music for our “100 Thank-Yous (if you want Fallon’s music, one fan has put it on a 14-minute loop).
Says Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer, “True prayer is a bursting forth of the soul to God. What can be more natural and more human than turning to God’s listening presence with our thanks and our burdens?”
As we get ready to say goodbye to 2020, most of us would agree it has been a year of burdens for all of us (some of us more impacted than others, some burdens heavier than others). But before it leaves, pause with me and see if you can "burst forth" with 100 things (no matter how small) for which you are grateful.
My little family of four decided to do this (without music for now). So in no particular order:
Once we started, it was hard to stop!
“Whoever does not see God everywhere does not see Him anywhere,” said the Hasidic Kotzker Rebbe. It's also true that whoever sees God everywhere can see God anywhere...even in 2020!
May we enter 2021 with the gift of 100 Blessings (our Thank You-Notes to God).
How many of you are giving, giving, giving? Or producing, producing, producing?
Years ago, a Spiritual Director offered me a great image after hearing my story of burnout as a youth pastor. She said, “People in ministry often stand by the Well passing out cups of Living Water to others and forgetting to drink from it themselves!”
I was so busy being productive and constantly giving of my time and energy that I had neglected my own soul. I mistakenly thought my stamina and ability to be productive was soul food because after all, it was in service to God! My subsequent burnout said differently. EVERY area of my life was impacted…physical, emotional, mental, relational, & spiritual. No area was left untouched because all areas are interconnected.
We have a tendency to separate the body and soul, but according to the Hebrew language, there is no division between the soul (“nephesh”) and the body. So, YOU DON’T HAVE A SOUL YOU ARE A SOUL! You may have heard this before, but it’s true. You are a living, breathing, physical being, A WHOLE MADE UP OF MANY PARTS. Any of those parts can be trying to get your attention and tell you the truth.
My own dualism 20 years ago, viewing my body as separate and of lesser importance than my soul caused me to not listen to the wisdom my body was offering me. My body became a hurdle to my spiritual work and this was a major reason I burned out.
Over the years, I’ve met with countless pastors, ministry leaders, those in nonprofits, and care-givers of all kinds who come to Spiritual Direction in a similar state…weary and parched from trying so hard, giving so much, and on the verge, if not in the middle, of burnout.
What were their indicators that their souls were parched? Here are some…
Any of these sound familiar?
How about you, what are the indicators that your soul is parched?
I know Thanksgiving is coming up, but what if you stop giving to others just for a moment?
Offer a cup of Living Water to yourself by listening. Are there any parts of you (or your life) that are trying to get your attention? Do you need help listening? Or help stopping?
Spiritual Direction is a great place to stop and listen for the wisdom within your own life, your own body. I promise, these parts of you are eager for you to listen to the wisdom they hold. They are only a moment’s notice away—and will give thanks when you finally pay attention!
Next week we’ll take a look at what your soul is craving (& it's more than pumpkin pie!).
If you're anticipating tension around the table this year, here are 7 ways to invite (or perhaps choose) life to be your table companion.
Begin by offering yourself hospitality. When we welcome every part of ourselves, we lift the burden of demanding others to give us what they may neither be willing nor able to give. So in your mind's eye, give yourself the look of approval or hug of acceptance you need!
Do away with the “kids table” this year. Allow them to join the “grown ups.” Sure, they may spill the gravy, but their simple presence may open our eyes to the Kingdom and hand us the keys. If you're hosting, you'll find it's worth the messy table cloth.
Let humor pull up a chair. Here's where kids at the table are helpful once again! When it's not at the expense of anyone else, laughter can be common ground (like enjoying good food).
Keep Jesus' meal of thanks in mind. Around Jesus' supper table was a member of the radical Zealot party, a tax collector, some fishermen, a beloved disciple, a doubter, a hot-head and a betrayer...if these were Christ's table guests, what do we expect?
Remember the broken Body of Christ. Breaking bread together can be a tangible reminder that we follow a God who works through brokenness. Just as love flowed through the broken body of Jesus, love can flow through each of us, the broken Body of Christ. Be on the lookout to receive love from a broken person and to be a broken person through whom love shines through.
Leave or give others permission to leave. Jesus gave permission to one of his followers to leave the table. Rather than continue the charade of authenticity he said, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (John 13:27). In his case, he was about to betray Jesus. Did Jesus withdraw his love in that moment? No! He never stopped loving him, but he recognized when Judas was putting on an act. You or others may be itching to be somewhere else, unable to truly be present (in a life-giving way). No need to force yourself or others to hang around in misery (or make others miserable)!
Know that love is messy. Much messier than spilled gravy. The love of Christ isn't a pecan pie-gooey kind of love. It requires healthy boundaries and sacrifice. Both may not look or feel like love to you or others in the moment. That's okay, the book of Luke (12:51-53;18:29-30) warns that Jesus-followers must be prepared for family relationships to not reflect a Norman Rockwell painting. The path of and toward life rarely looks like it. But it's worth the journey!
A prayer for all who are gathering at a table this week:
God, may we welcome our family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers to the table as we welcome ourselves. May we recognize that not only do we have brokenness in common but we can find common ground in food and laughter. May we not shy away from awkwardness or tension but enter in with childlike curiosity. Give us discernment. Remind us of the permission we can give or receive to leave (without shame or shaming, without blame or blaming) on behalf of love. Thank you for the ways You join us at the table disguised as our own lives. May Your love be present in and with us as we break bread together.
In Christ's Name, Amen.
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.