Category: exercises

Sabbath Rest

My faith has been deepened by allowing Scripture to engage my imagination. The idea of a Sabbath Rest following the awful events of Good Friday has always fascinated me. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on that first Holy Saturday.

It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:54-56

Whose idea was a day of rest anyway? She thought. Remembering it wasn’t that long ago that he healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath and in the Temple too. That really angered the priests. The silence in the room was deafening, looking at the other women in the house she couldn’t understand how they all sat so still. The preparations had been made, yet the awful events of the previous day tortured her mind, as did the smell of his blood on her. She had stood near his cross and watched it flow, mixed with some watery substance. It splashed all over her and the group that stood together in disbelief. Then it was warm and fragrant, now it was sticky and itched. The dryness made her rub her arm without thought, some relief. But there would be no relief from the images and sounds that ran wild in her mind, the heavy dark wood, the sound of the hammer pounding, those thorns, the blood. It all caused her to tingle inside. Once the preparations had been made, there was nothing to do but “rest.” The slow movement of the sun kept them caged, prisoners of the ancient rest. Each woman left with her own sorrow to bear. No one had slept. Someone sobbed all night long, she tried to muffle her sorrow, to no avail, they all felt the same deep anguish and silently mourned with her.

She had had many sleepless nights, but the loneliness she once suffered was gone. Although surrounded by faithful friends she could almost hear those cold hollow voices, teasing her again. Would her “darkness” return? Was this new circle of friends enough to sustain her? Had he taught her enough to make it on her own? Could any of them make it without him? How was it that those hypocrites had won? What went wrong? She shook her head to lose the thoughts – Sunrise, the time would pass, and she would be free to go to him and fulfil the ancient customs of preparing his body – at least her hands would be busy and hopefully her mind wouldn’t wander. Being busy might prevent her doubts from engulfing her. The waiting was miserable. They barely got him in the tomb before the sun had gone down. The walk back to the house was wretched – at least they knew where he had been laid. She felt sorry for the men. She had been a witness to what happened, although it was awful at least she had been there for him. Unlike the men who had to hide – but she was a woman, and one that could easily go unnoticed. Finally, her infamy worked to her advantage. It was painful to watch him die, but maybe her presence brought him some comfort. The men wouldn’t have that consolation. For the first time she thanked God that she was a woman.

Her thoughts drifted back to his lifeless body alone in the dark, cold tomb; unprepared, rotting. Nothing could be done until the Sabbath passed. She waited for the sunset. She used to dread the sunset – the darkness, the loneliness. In the darkness she was alone, so much confusion. Hands and faces; strange men and their reproachful eyes. Their sweaty foul bodies near her, on her. The humility, the clicking tongues. The dark voices and shifting shadows, and there always was the overwhelming dread of lost memories. Her days were full of scornful looks and uncertainty of what had happened during the night. But he had delivered her from all that. If she could get through this day, she would have the opportunity to serve him, again, to honor him, lovingly devoted to caring for his body. It was the least she could do after all he had done for her … the way it should be. But now – this insufferable Sabbath rest. It was a torturous episode of constrained mourning, sitting, and thinking. The hunger gnawed her insides, no one had time yesterday to prepare food for this Sabbath. Slowly the sun withdrew its light from the sky, the new day began.

Finally, work could begin again, a chance to bathe. The water was cool against her dry itchy skin. The relief was overwhelming. She felt a quiet sorrow at washing his life’s blood off her, but the clean felt so good. Her thoughts drifted back to his body. She wondered if she could bear to see him dead. It was one thing to watch his life’s spirit leave his limp, broken body, but it would be another to see him, cold and stiff. The other women spoke calmly as they dressed for bed. She wasn’t calm, her body was finally clean but the scratchy feelings inside remained. When he died, her hope died. She began to wonder how long it would be before her “darkness” would overtake her. The voices were returning, although dim, she could hear their jarring. They brought back doubt. No! She wouldn’t give into doubt. She stood up quickly and joined the other women as they packed for the morning, the embalming spices and fresh linen, a bit of flat bread, a jar of water. Each of them longed to see him again; but they all knew this would be the last time.

Carefully finishing their preparations, the women readied themselves for sleep. Settling in, her mind drifted back to their first meeting. She could almost hear the warmth of his prayers for her deliverance. His voice pierced the hum of cold voices that had engulfed her for years. His hands were strong yet kind and gentle as he helped her stand. She remembered how her body squirmed and twisted and the groans and growling her “darkness” made as it left her body. She lashed out at him in a voice that was not her own, spitting words of defiance. Then – gone, the darkness departed and all she should see was his face, his strong dark face, smiling at her. This memory brought her deep peace and her body finally rested.

The quiet movement of the women woke her. They all knew what needed to be done, they dressed and prepared without discussion. The sky was still dark but there was enough light to see the pathway. The fresh air was filled with so many smells, smells of life, not of death. The long day of waiting was over. The women glanced back and forth at one another, now the dread of uncertainty plagued them. Someone whispered something about the stone. Who was strong enough among them to move it? No one had thought of that, maybe together they could budge it. As they walked their pace quickened. Another woman heard a rumor that guards had been placed by the tomb. In all their preparation, no one had thought of these obstacles, it didn’t matter. Their one thought was the care of his body, a proper burial. It seemed to take an eternity to get there. It was brighter now, and the pathway was clear. As they hurried along the air was suddenly filled with a loud noise. The ground underneath her feet began to move. More noises, as they came around the last curve in the pathway, they could see the tomb where he had been laid. The stone was already moved, the earth’s movement must have shaken it loose. One of the women reached the tomb quickly. Gone! His body was gone. In panic and disbelief, the women began to sob and scream. They dispersed. Her heart was broken; she felt her chest would burst. Could she stand much more torment?

Without thinking she began to run. She knew where his men were hiding. It was time for them to do something. Down the path, into town, she knew they’d still be in the upper room. She thrust the door open. Her voice was shrill, she couldn’t control her anguish. At her words they jumped up at once. A few of them pushed her aside and began to run. They had also been suffering during the long distressing Sabbath, but now they were free, free to act. They ran wildly to the crypt. It was true, his body was gone. She followed them, hopelessly lost in the confusion.

Weeping, she wandered the garden surrounding the tomb, she was alone again. The murky whispers began to return – the darkness teasing at her vision, lost in utter despair, she stumbled to the ground. Her face and hair wet with tears, she saw someone standing near her. Surely, he must have moved his body or at least seen what had happened. She begged him to tell her where the body was, in her anguish she promised to retrieve him no matter where it had been taken to. She needed to finish what she had set out to do that day, to anoint him, to prepare him for his final rest. If she could only do this one closing act of obligation, she would have lived with a purpose. Even if the darkness overtook her, she needed to find his body and care for it. She fell to the ground lost in her mourning, begging for answers. Quietly a warm familiar voice answered, “Mary.”

If you’re interested in exploring how your imagination can deepen your faith, try my Contemplative Exercise for Holy Saturday by click here.

Summer Gatherings … to Listen

So, something you may or may not know about me, God speaks to me. Weird … I know.

Many people think God stopped speaking in Bible times, but He didn’t. Sometimes His voice is audible, sometimes His voice is a thought in my mind. He speaks to me through the Scriptures, the words of others, and through the physical world around me.

Occasionally, the conversation takes place out of the blue, but most of the time He speaks when I am seeking Him. If you’re curious about our conversations, I’ve written a bit about them here.

Sometimes I’ve wondered, who am I that God would talk to me? Yet, His communication confirms His love for me. I wasn’t designed to independently, go it on my own. I was designed to be in regular conversations with Him.

God speaks to me because I seek Him. And the seeking is an active thing, as the word implies. There is no real secret to hearing God’s voice, and there are tools to help.

In my own Spiritual life, I have practiced visio divina (sacred seeing), and lectio divina (sacred reading) too. Click either link to read about my experience.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about these practices, so this summer I’m gathering a group to practice listening to God. We’ll meet in north Orange County on Thursdays from 7 – 9pm.

If you are in the area, and you’d like to join us email me and I’ll send you the address. If you aren’t in the area, but you are still interested, email me and I’ll share my resources with you. You can gather your own group!

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to give this a try … God loves spending time with you; there are things He’d like to say. He is just waiting for you to be quiet. These summer gatherings are the perfect opportunity to get the conversation started.

Check my Facebook  Events page for more information.


That dreaded word: exercise. And in the Spiritual Realm … really?

It is a well-known fact that if you want to improve in anything, you must submit to exercises. Spiritual improvement is no different.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are perhaps the most well-known series of exercises. Ancient in their origin, they are still being utilized by Spiritual Directors today, including myself.

I love all Spiritual Exercises. They push me out of my comfort zone, challenge my faith, and cause me to look at things in a different way. Spiritual Exercises have helped me know myself, create new habits, and heal old wounds. Most importantly, regular practice of Spiritual Exercises help me strengthen my faith, so I am better equipped for hardships. And I’ve had my share.

The whole purpose of exercising Spiritually  is to create a space for interior work to be done; giving you the opportunity to challenge what you know and advance in Spiritual Growth.

I have shared several Spiritual Exercises on my blog.

The Centering Prayer which provides a regular method for being still in God’s presence

Lectio Divina – the ancient monastic practice of the intentional reading of Scripture,

Visio Divina – similar to Lectio Divina, yet using nature as the text, and

Developing a Rule of Life –  a method for organizing your Spiritual goals.



Next Christmas Give Yourself a Gift

Curious this week to visit a local bookseller and see an eye-catching journal type thing titled “Letters to Future Myself: Write Now, Read Later.” Very cleverly designed, it was a group of envelopes bound together in an actual book. Each envelope had instructions on it for writing different letters to yourself; “Where I want to go…” “These are my roots…” “It was an extraordinary day…” Once the letters are written you are to seal them in the envelopes and open sometime in the future. The title tag line said “a paper time capsule.” Priced at just under $15, it felt nice in my hands.

yourself-giftI didn’t end up buying the book. Although impressed by the idea, I was somewhat disappointed that I hadn’t created it, you see, I’ve used this concept of writing a “Letter to Yourself” for years; both in my retreats and with people I’ve mentored. The instructions for my letters are a little different; “Where am I today on my spiritual Journey…” or “What new discipline would I like adopt this season …” or “What I’ll do differently next Lent …”

Not having a cleverly produced book, I simply have the participants self-address an envelope and seal up their private letters. I have a special place at my workspace where I keep the letters and I mail them out a year later. It is a great exercise and one that never fails to surprise. It is amazing to read your own words, written to yourself, in your own handwriting. Hindsight is an interesting gift. Having that ability to reflect on how you were feeling, and compare it to how things actually unfolded.

I thought it would be fun to share this idea with you. We don’t need the clever journal, just some paper and an envelope.

Before you begin, take a minute and think on your hopes and aspirations for the next year. Think also on the uncertainties the next season will bring. Maybe you have fears and anxiety about an unresolved issue? Maybe something special is going to happen this year? Whatever is going on, capture your thoughts, ideas, and feelings as they are – today.

Now, as you write your letter to your future self, be encouraging.

Encouragement is important to our mindset and to inner peace. Deep within each of us is the desire to have someone say, “You’ll figure this out.” “You’ll get through this.” Be that person and say encouraging things to your future self.

Because we’re doing this virtually, I can’t offer to hold your letter at my desk until next year. So, I had a thought, as you clean up your Christmas decorations, tuck your “Letter to My Future Self” in a box. You’ll discover it next year around this time. I know you’ll find those encouraging words, from yourself, in your handwriting, a welcome gift.

Mine will begin something like this, Dear Future Lisa, Surely, 2017 won’t be as difficult as 2016! I know you’re worried about …

Drop me an email or leave a comment here if you’re going to write a letter to yourself. I’ll make a note in my calendar so that I’ll remember next year to ask you about it. If you’ve worked with me before, you know I will.