Each month I pause and look back at what I am discovering, learning, and exploring in life – I call these my monthly musings.
I believe strongly in living a reflective life as a spiritual practice. We rush through life, often missing the lessons, enjoying the highlights and sleeping through what we should be paying attention to. Capturing these special moments gives meaning, depth, and delight to life. Let’s wake up to the wonders in the ordinary all around us, especially at this most sacred time of year.
I record what I notice on the pages of my Monthly Musing Journal. You can use anything, scrapes of papers, a journal or a calendar. Copies of my Monthly Musing Journal are available on Amazon and are a convenient way to keep track of the little things in life we often miss. Or if you want to click the button at the end of this post to get a free copy of my one sheet Monthly Musing handout.
What I Learned in November
I am reminded this month to live in the present and honor space.
I sat in the chapel while in a quiet moment on the retreat I led earlier this month. Thanking God for all his gifts, I heard “you are a gift.”
Me? What did you say, Lord?
You are a gift.
Notice it is present tense. The lovely message from God wasn’t “someday you will be” nor was it “you used to be,” but “ you are.”
I have all I need right now from God. God is enough. He has given enough. I am. He is.
I am not sure if this is clear so will give an example that flowed out of my prayer into my journal.
I have asked God all year to help me see, find and experience joy (my word of the year) in deeper ways. The surprising lesson for me is I already possess the gift of joy. And not only that I am joy. I. Am. Joy.
And I have the space already. I don’t have to search for it, create it in my calendar, carve it out, get up early, or dig deeper for it. Space is mine now.
Space to love others.
Space to welcome God.
Space to rest.
Space is present. Joy is present. I am. God is.
Wise Words to Remember:
Here are a few of the quotes that stuck in my heart and mind this month:
There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You will never succeed in filling that hole, because your needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it so that gradually the abyss closes. Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it. There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.
Long quote but oh, so full of wisdom:
We so often think that those who refuse under any conditions to deny the essential goodness of life are mad. Look at the suffering. Look at the evil. Be real, we say. We are so often inclined to think that those who continue to see life where life seems to be empty and futile are, at best, foolish. Be sensible, we say. But we may be the ones who are mad.
The truth is that contemplation, the ability to see behind the obvious to the soul of life, is the ultimate sanity. The contemplative sees life as it really is under all the struggle and pain: imbued with God, glowing with eternity, full of energy, and so overflowing with good that evil never totally triumphs.
Contemplation keeps the inner eye focused on Goodness. The desert monastics put it this way: As he was dying, Abba Benjamin taught his disciples his last lesson. “Do this,” he said, “and you will be saved: Rejoice always, pray constantly, and in all circumstances, give thanks.”
In the end, joy, praise and gratitude live in the hearts of those who live in God. It is not the joy of fools. The contemplative knows evil when it rears its head. It is not the praise of the ingratiating. The contemplative knows struggle when difficulties come. It is not the gratitude of the obtuse. The contemplative recognizes the difference between chaff and grain. The contemplative knows that grain is for bread, but the contemplative also knows that chaff is for heat.
The contemplative realizes that everything in life has for its purpose the kindling of the God-life within us. And so the contemplative goes on with joy and resounds with praise and lives in gratitude. Always.
On my nightstand at the moment:
Upstream by Mary Oliver – wow, I wish I could write like she does. Oliver shares a series of reflections/essays about her life but draws you into her world of word paintings and I feel like I become the canvas to her ink. I borrowed this book from our library but will soon order a copy for myself, both for my writers’ soul and spiritual refreshment.
God and Churchill by Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley. Just got this book from the library since I love bios and when we can get a peek into a strong historical figure and how their faith gave him strength to persevere through a dark time. The tag line is a great summary: “How the great leader’s sense of divine destiny changed his troubled world and offer hope for ours.”
Terrific Tools and Tips
Fun gift ideas crammed into the internet this buying season, so here are a few of the items that stood out for me:
Wrapeez Reusable Gift Wrap – a reusable stretchy fabric gift wrap that would work great for those hard to wrap items.
Lighted Twig Garland – I think this would look great on my mantle.
Shepherd on the Search – I have never been an active participant with the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon but this character and book from Dayspring sounds delightful.
Website/Article(s) of the Month:
Brain Picking shared a neat column called the “Silence of Sounds.”
NPR interviewed a hospice chaplain on her work with people at the time of death. Insightful.
“I’m constantly reminded of the strength of the human soul,” she says. “I’m constantly reminded of … how much love people have for each other, and the love that’s all around us that we just don’t necessarily take a moment to see.”
And a wonderful video about the time we all are given – shown in jelly beans. Makes you think. If you are reading this by email you probably will have to go to the blog to see the video.
I compiled my Monthly Musings outline plus additional information in a book, a two-year journal that is available on Amazon. I don’t want to lose the loose sheets of paper and think having it in a book form will make it more of a keepsake. Would love to have you order one and leave a review!
As we wind down November, enter December and complete 2016 – what sticks in your mind and heart as a life lesson right now? What are your monthly musings?