Congregation at Duke Chapel

Running the Race with Perseverance

For the ears, you can listen to an audio recording of this presentation. [high fidelity audio playable under all personal computer operating systems via VLC media player, Microsoft Windows Media Player with the Xiph.org codecs for FLAC et al, OS X QuickTime with the XiphQT plugin, etc., on many Android-based mobile devices, and on iOS-based mobile devices via apps such as FLAC Player or Golden Ear]

Running the Race with Perseverance

presentation at Adult Forum by
Amy McMann
LCSW
May 11, 2014

Running the Race with Perseverance

ultramarathon runner on downhill trail among boulders
 

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Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

  • What is the “race” we are speaking of today?
  • How do we “train” for this spiritual life? What “workouts”?
  • How can we cheer each other on in our spiritual “training”?
  • As a “coach” in contemplative prayer, how best can I encourage you today towards a deepened spiritual life in Christ?

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About the Coach

  • Follower of Christ Jesus for “a good long while”
  • Christian spiritual “mutt” - Lutheran, charismatic, Presbyterian, evangelical & interdenominational
  • Contemplative Prayer (Centering Prayer) practitioner
  • Psychotherapist (LCSW) who is trained & regularly utilizes mindfulness-based therapies such as DBT.
  • Long-distance runner
  • Avid outdoor enthusiast (walks, hikes, backpacking trips)

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What are we “training” for?

  • To become open & "fully alive" to the presence of Christ... not solely with our minds, but also experientially with our bodies in nature and in movement.
  • To enhance our intimacy & unionwith God.
  • To consent to God’s presence and to cooperate more willingly with God’s actionin our lives.
  • To behold & become more like Christ Jesus in the daily pattern of our lives; living & loving as He did.

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Mindfulness

  • A’s: Aware, Alert, Attentive, Awake, Alive
  • Involves noticing breath, body position & physical environment, engaging our 5 senses
  • Various models for & applications of mindfulness
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic model based on the following mindfulness skills
    • “What” skills: Observe, Describe, Participate
    • “How” skills: Nonjudgmental, One-mindful, Effective
  • Benefits us emotionally, socially & physically, yet also can be applied to our spiritual life

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Contemplative Prayer

  • What is it (general)
  • Types
    • Lectio Divina (Read, Reflect, Response)
    • Centering Prayer (Rest)
    • Welcoming Prayer
    • St. Ignation Prayer
  • Purposes/desired outcome

Reading Scripture from the Heart, Descending the Mind into the Heart, Union with God, Spiritual Transformation/Renewal, Greater Cooporation with the Kingdom of God among us. graphic horizontal rule with arcs of various shades of grey

Lectio Divina

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Centering Prayer

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Experiencing God in Nature: Creation & Recreation

  • "Wow" momentswhere we are overwhelmed by a brilliant sunset, a full-arc rainbow, a redwood tree, mountaintop views.
  • Yet... we can experience God in more subtle waystoo in the “mundane” things we encounter daily in nature.
  • Adopt a "Beginner’s Mind" approach, using the 5 senses, to mindfully experience an element of nature "as if we were seeing it for the very first timeever."
  • Sometimes you might notice a verse or passage of Scripture(inc. but not limited to nature references) or some other insight about God enter your mind. Linger in & savor that.
  • If you can’t get outside much, consider bringing nature into your home (buy fresh-cut flowers, grow potted plants, look at pictures of nature, consider hanging pictures or artwork of nature where you’ll regularly see them).

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Experiencing God with our Bodies (stillness & motion)

  • Become aware of our breath
    • the inhale/exhale phases
    • the "pause" or moment of stillness ("Wise Mind", a DBT term)
  • Bring attention to our body position in space & our bodily sensations
  • Meditative walks
  • Almost any movement

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Labyrinth walking

  • Purgation(Releasing) ~ A releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions. A time to open the heart and quiet the mind.
  • Illumination(Receiving) ~ When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.
  • Union (Returning) ~ As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in, you enter the third stage, which is joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you

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Classical Labyrinth

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For the runners among us…

  • Bodily discipline & training readily translates into consistently practicing the spiritual disciplines
  • Caring for the “temple of God” by regular exercise
  • Naturally relaxing due to alternating bilateral stimulation of brain (as our feet touch the ground, left & right, again & again)
  • Clarity of thought & peace of mind emerge when “in the zone”
  • Running metaphors in Scripture inspire us before, during and after training runs & races
  • Physical and spiritual experiences occurring during a race (such as the 2014 Boston Marathon) carry over long after race day
  • Running outside in the Duke Forest/neighborhood fosters integration of contemplative prayer, nature & movement

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Scriptural references

Mindfulness

  • What is man that thou are mindful of him? ~ Ps
  • Thou dost keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusts in thee. ~ Is
  • Be still and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10

Nature

  • The earth is the Lord’s & the fullness thereof. ~ Ps 24:1
  • The whole earth declares the glory of God ~ Ps
  • And the trees of the hills will clap their hands. ~ Is 55:11

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More Scriptural references

Body

  • I will praise thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ~ Ps 139:14
  • Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God... So glorify God with your body. ~ 1 Cor 6:19

Transformation in Christlikeness

  • Jesus looked and had compassion ~ Matt 22, Mark
  • Take my yoke upon you and learn from me ~ Matt ??
  • Glory of God in the face of Christ ~ 1 Cor. 4:6?
  • And we beholding the glory of God are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to the next... ~ 2 Cor 3:17-19

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Quotes

  • St. Augustine “The senses are the messengers of God.”
  • Saint Ireneaus, "The glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God."
  • Francis Bacon: "God almighty first planted a garden, and indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures."
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins: "The world is charged with the grandeur of God."
  • Eric Liddell (Scottish Olympic runner, Chariots of Fire : "When I run, I feel God’s pleasure."
  • Thomas Merton: "The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known or studied, it is meant to be lived."

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Songs & Hymns (prayer/contemplation)

Be Still and Know (Steven Curtis Chapman, 1999)

Breathe on Me, Breath of God (Edwin Hatch, 1988)

  • "that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do"
  • "until with Thee I will one will"
  • "Blend all my soul with thine"

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Songs & Hymns (nature)

This is My Father’s World (Maltbie Davenport Babcock, 1901 and Franklin Sheppard, 1915)

  • And to my listening ear, all nature sings, and round me rings...
  • Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas...
  • The morning light, the lily white...
  • He speaks to me ev’ry where.

Morning Has Broken (Eleanor Farjeon, 1931 and Cat Stevens, 1971)

  • Morning has broken, like the first morning; blackbird has spoken, like the first song
  • God’s recreation of the new day.

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Songs & Hymns (body)

Breathe (Marie Barnett, 1996 and Michael W. Smith, 2001)

  • This is the air I breathe...
  • Your holy presence, living in me.

Take My Life and Let it Be (Frances Havergal, 1874)

  • Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee
  • Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love...
  • Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee...
  • Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

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Nature scenes

photo of sunset over the ocean
photo of trees in forest
 

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The Redwoods ~ Joseph B. Strauss

Here, sown by the Creator's hand.
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand:
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.

The greatest of Earth's living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung,
Lie buried now-their splendor gone:
But these proud monarchs still live on.

So shall they live, when ends our days,
When our crude citadels decay;
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials' span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here, we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awestruck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal:

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
to make our world like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, Oh, traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees

photo of redwood trees in forest
 

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Resources - Books

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Resources - Communities (online handouts, recommended readings and webinars, as well links to local communities in NC)

  • Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.
  • Eastern and Central NC Centering Prayer Outreach
  • Center for Action and Contemplation: www.cac.orgis the home of the Rohr Institute and its Living School for Action and Contemplation.
  • International Society of Thomas Merton
  • Labyrinth website (with local sites!!!)

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Training for a Strong Finish

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ~ 2 Tim 4:7-8

  • God shows up & reveals Himself to us in many ways (Scripture, contemplative prayer, nature, movement).
  • How are we “showing up” and being present to God and His ongoing appearing?
  • What spiritual “training” might you do so as to open yourself up to the Presence of God?

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