Posts Tagged ‘spiritual practice’

The Cleanse

// August 14th, 2014 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Some of you might know that I started a 21-day cleanse diet on Monday.  This is probably not “church news,” but I wanted to explain some of my thinking because I am looking at it as a spiritual practice.

I should start by explaining what it is.  It is vegan, but that’s not all.  It also eschews alcohol, caffeine, carbs, gluten, and anything processed.  No fake meats or cheeses, no eating out.  It’s basically fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, all organic.  It’s also a lot more meals, though small.

This was not my idea.  Y’all know I like to eat all the things.  Lisa wanted to do this for her own reasons and I was skeptical.  I don’t really believe in a “cleanse.”  As WebMD says, your liver does that.  Sure, you can overload your liver and feel crappy – that’s what a hangover is – but that is a temporary condition that is “cleansed” by drinking water instead of wine.  That is, whatever the temporary physical benefits of eating clean, they will disappear as soon as you stop eating clean.  So I’m not doing this for any physical benefits, though I expect there will be some.

Instead, I’m doing this for two reasons.  First, relational.  Those who know Lisa know that she is unlikely to be dissuaded from this project.  I could fight her, but that will make the next 21 days absolutely miserable for everyone.  I figure it will add about three hours of food prep labor to her day, which she just does not have.  We never see each other as it is due to radically different schedules and her demanding job.  So I decided to join her.  I figure we can help each other with food prep – she makes smoothies in the morning and leaves it for me, I prepare her lunch and snacks for the following day – and, at worst, we are in this together.

Second, the essence of any spiritual practice is time and attention.  As with dietary changes during Lent, it can shake up your routine and force you to pay attention to what you are doing.  I mindlessly eat a lot of things, especially at night after Lisa has gone to bed.  Even when I’m not hungry, I will make a bowl of guacamole and pour a bowl of salsa and eat an entire bag of chips with whatever is left of the wine from dinner.  This reinforces my crazy schedule; I’d rather eat and drink than go to bed.  Of course, that means I’m unlikely to exercise when I get up, which also feeds into the cycle.  I need a change.  I need to pay attention to what I’m doing and break some habits that are wearing me down.  I need a spiritual cleanse in the guise of food.

It’s only been a few days, but I feel pretty good.  My schedule is still off, but I’m trying.  I notice that I’m tired when it gets late, so I go to bed earlier, but I’m sleeping a lot, so I’m still getting up late.  Because I’m supposed to eat five meals a day, plus a couple of special drinks, I’m having trouble fitting it all in.  That means I’ve probably cut my caloric intake by about half to two-thirds, which is not good.  I do feel more focused and alert, except in the afternoons about an hour before dinner when I get a little foggy.

I’m really enjoying the food.  One of my other ruts has been in my cooking.  I make the same meals every week, primarily for efficiency.  I know what to buy at the store.  I know exactly how to prepare it and how long it will take.  They taste good and are pretty healthy.  Part of wanting to do this plan was to remind myself of some flavors, textures, and techniques that I have neglected.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, often raw.  Nuts and seeds blended into a fascinating array of milks and creams and dressings.  I’ve added a little salt to some of the recipes, but far less than I thought I would.  I think some of these recipes will stick around.  Maybe some of the habits will, too.

I’ll post an occasional update as this process brings things to mind.  Food is a big thing in this church, so I would like to be thoughtful about it.

We would appreciate your prayers.


The Christian Practice of Right Speech

// September 9th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

James is the lone book of Wisdom literature in the New Testament. According to this author, being Wise is all about learning to think carefully and act virtuously in complex situations. Specifically three things mark the Way of Jesus: taking care in how we speak,  giving care to those in distress, and being careful about what we let into our lives (1:26-27). At times sounding more like a linguist or contemporary philosopher than an ancient theologian, James meditates on the power and dangers of language. Talking about more than gossip and the occasional F word, James points to a potential toxicity of speech that can contaminate whole communities of people. It is cosmic and intense stuff.

So to be truly faithful should we adopt a vow of silence? I don’t think that is the only option. Rather, we are called to be thoughtful and compassionate speech practioners.  To listen deeply and to speak with care.  According to James, there is no way out of this practice. It is part of being on the Way. For whether we mean to or not, we construct worlds with speech. And sometimes we mistake our construction for the whole world. Making meaning of what we see, we conflate this with God’s meaning. Then we behave according to the world we have constructed with our speech, even when that causes us to dismiss or harm those who construe the world differently.  
Join us tonight and Sunday as we reflect on what makes language so powerful. And meditate on the word of God in scripture, among us, and within us.


Travel as a Spiritual Practice

// August 12th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

In much of the Hebrew Scriptures God is on the move. Literally. God could erupt anywhere and people marked the spot as best they could, like Jacob positioning and anointing the stone after his radical dream of a stairway to Heaven. Before the temple in Jerusalem, Yahweh camped out with people who were also on the move, and Moses would emerge from these face to face encounters with Yahweh in the “tent of meeting” with his face shining like the sun.

Likewise Jesus covered some ground in the course of his ministry. You almost get the sense that any one community could not really contain him. They couldn’t bear to integrate Jesus’ topsy-turvey, last are first, teachings into their day to day social structure. So he kept going– leaving people touched and challenged and transformed in his wake.

Surely Jesus himself was deeply moved by what he saw and experienced during his ministry. I wonder if all of his traveling helped him to stay in tune with the living Spirit of God: God in a tent. God on the move. God dropping a ladder from Heaven down into an unfamiliar landscape. God who shows up in the face and stories of perfect strangers. 

In this time of summer vacation I invite you to reflect on travel as a spiritual practice. Have you had those moments? Camping out in a forest, wandering the streets in another country, working with someone whose language you don’t speak on a service trip? Those encounters where you are far away from the familiar yet you feel more at home than you do most days in your regular life? Where the beauty of creation hits you in the gut and you stop and pause because you just can’t pretend you don’t see it? When the thing you fear the most is returning to school or to work and having this impactful experience, this awakening to life’s textures and vivid smells, drain away?

What do we do with these encounters? How do they point us to deeper and ongoing relationship with the Spirit of God? How do we make sense of our own privilege to travel, in a city, and a world where people are bound to their own small spheres by poverty?

Provocative questions. Bring some travel photos and join us as we dive into them — tonight while eating some pulled pork/vegetarian quesadillas at Wes and Teri’s 6:30pm– and Sunday morning 11am. Call church at 214.233-4605 for directions.

Grace and Peace to you all this day,



// July 7th, 2009 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Probably like most people in America, I have never gone without food for more than a few hours.  I might skip a meal from time to time, but never all my meals.

It’s important to note that fasting is by choice.  I chose to go hungry.  For a day.  For many people, this is not a choice and it goes on and on.  I chose a day that I didn’t have to exert myself physically.  I ran some errands, attended some meetings.  The only real difference is that I didn’t have to take the time to eat.  Other people can’t choose a convenient time to go hungry.  And I have to say that one day wasn’t too bad.  I wasn’t that hungry.  I felt a little weak and my thoughts sometimes slipped away into the ether, but I was fine.

When I got up this morning and went about my normal day, it started to hit.  I still wasn’t hungry, but I bumped into things.  Taking down the hanging plants to put under the sprinkler was a struggle.  I couldn’t fit the hose in the sprinkler and couldn’t figure out why.  I almost fell over turning on the water.  It’s hard to imagine going another day without food.  Even now that I have eaten — a big bowl of cereal with fresh organic strawberries; not a small bowl of rice — I still don’t feel right.  I feel unusually full, but not recovered.

Kirk Varnedoe talks in Pictures of Nothing about how an image with fewer formal qualities amplifies the qualities it does have.  Fasting would seem to be the same way.  The strawberries this morning tasted really good.  The soy milk had a little extra vanilla.  It feels like I’m more conscious of how I feel today and what the fast means to me than I was while it was happening.

I’d like to try it again, but just spend the day praying and drawing, locked in my studio.  I had a great experience drawing while fasting yesterday.  I started trying to draw emptiness and my mind emptied out and there was nothing but the motion of my arm and the feel of the crayon on the paper.  I’d like to be present to that moment all day instead of just having that emptiness pervade my normal routine.  Apparently even a fast can be taken for granted.