We need help to establish the internal spiritual structures that will serve as guides as we navigate life and seek to restore our souls to the beautiful self that God created us to be.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I am sitting down to write this afternoon without the need of a cup of hot tea and honey, throat drops and anxiety over when the next coughing jag will attack.  My last week has not been quiet when I've tried to talk, when I've tried to sleep.  A late-winter/early spring allergy episode showed up uninvited as snow has melted and temperatures warmed.  What I breathed in was not welcomed by my sinuses.  They, in turn, made a mess of my soft palate.  After a few days of this, a little light-bulb went on in my head.  I got out my seasonal allergy medicine.  I was on the mend within a day.  

I know that I have allergies triggered usually by springtime pollens/molds.  I have a routine of starting to take my allergy medicine in late April so as to be ready for the big onslaught in May.  This year the timing was off.  If I had been paying more attention to what was going on with the weather, and how that was affecting my body, I might have had a moment of revelation earlier to start my defensive routine.  Because of several orbits of busyness, and much noisiness, the information escaped my notice.  

This same thing happened to me several years ago, only it was December that time.  Out of sync with my expectations, it was.  I went to the doctor saying I thought I had a this-or-that.  The doctor did a quick check and said it was allergies.  Sure enough, the doctor was right.

Once again, I tell myself that I need to pay more attention, listen more carefully, be more heedful.  I miss cues and signs.  Quiet attentiveness helps us to notice.

Our theme for this week's reflection is “quiet.”  It is salutary to let quietness embrace and allow for  an informative and nurturing realm to surround us.  Even more than just letting quietness be, intentionally fostering quietness is important.  In quiet, with noise abatement, we are refreshed.

Quiet may be the settling of sound; the settling of sight; the settling of movement; the settling of emotions; the settling of spirit; the settling even of taste.  One of the spiritual disciplines of the Lenten season is to fast.  Fasting from any of the above can bring us into salutuary quiet.

How to enter in to quiet will vary by person and may vary according to what needs to be settled.  Sometimes we need to be physically alone to be quiet.  Sometimes having the presence of a trusted other person helps us to focus and to welcome in the quiet.  What are some ways that you enter into quiet?  Is it a special place that brings you to it?  Is there a significant time?

In this fifth week of Lent and as we move toward Holy Week, we will be going through some regular routines.  Perparing homes, church santuaries, yards and schedules for what we usually do this time of year.  I invite us, though, to be quiet and to watch more deeply.  Routines and rituals are good, but something may have changed as we approach that regular practice again this year.  What might we be able to notice in the intentional quiet of calm, prayer, meditation, stillness?  When practices of quiet are regular, they even operate subconsciously to help us out.

This past week, while my body was awry, there was a time of focused quiet somewhere that helped me to remember an important ally in my medicine.  Somehow, even as I battled physically, through practices of quiet that are in my spirit, I was able to acknowledge a change that needed to take place in my overall wellness.

God's intention for us is to be well, to remember we are beloved.  Quietness is a gift for us to meet anew or one means through which to be restored in that precious identity with Christ Jesus.  

“Be still and know that I am God”  Psalm 46:10

“In quietness and trust shall be your strength”  Isaiah 30:15.

(Colleen Kamke-Neiman)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Restored by love

Many times in life, that which causes our greatest grief and sorrow is also the stimuli for our deepest spiritual growth. It’s a paradox that illness can bring healing, vulnerability can bring security, death can bring new life. 

Paradox is a theme in our chapter this week in our Lenten book, “The Restoration Project” as we consider what it means to be stripped. 

In “The Restoration Project” the author aligns being stripped with deterioration, with the process of reversing the deterioration of DaVinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper by stripping away years of dirt as well as paint from previous attempts at restoration. 

We humans deteriorate too from unhealthy behaviors such as feelings of entitlement, prejudice, and judging. Jesus reminds us that we are not to behave this way; we are not to strip others of their basic human right for dignity and integrity. 

And yet people are stripped all the time. 

People are stripped of life - think of those murdered or under the threat of terrorism and war. 

Stripped of hope, think of those in poverty or war torn regions or deeply depressed. 

One can be stripped of integrity, think of those who are raped, abused or belittled, those who have suffered decades of racism or sexism or genderism. 

One can be stripped of responsibility if one is fired or laid off or in other ways deprived of meaningful work. 

One can be stripped of one’s identity by abuse or oppression or imprisonment. 

One might be stripped of one’s name, sold into marriage or kidnapped or trapped into sex trafficking or human slave labor. 

One might be stripped of one’s knowledge by disease or an accident. 

There are countless ways that one can be stripped. 

On the other hand, stripping can be paradoxical. When one is intentional, one can be stripped of the behaviors that limit our ability to grow in relationship with God. 

Stripped of envy, greed, gossip, complaining, or a failure to embrace our true self-worth as God sees us. 

These may be unconscious; learned behaviors from our family system, or socially reenforced values that emphasize the individual at the expense of everyone else.  

No doubt there are behaviors and values from modern society that we need to be stripped of. Stripped of these so that we can recognize the ways that God is active in our lives. 

When we are able to truly embrace the depth of God’s love for us we find we have no need for envy, for greed, for self-aggrandizement, for belittling others, for belittling self. 

As one develops a sense of self, grounded in God, one also forms within one’s self a deeper level of self-awareness and other awareness, of compassion and acceptance of others for being who they are. 

This is restoration of, and for, the soul. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Image of God

There is no one way to express or explore the Image of God.  Interior, exterior, personal, communal, concrete, virtual, physical, conceptual.  The list is not to be exhausted.  Immensity is a word that maybe tweeks at the breadth and depth of how God's Image may be expressed and discovered.

As a young adult I worked for five summers at a camp in northern Wisconsin.  The name of the camp at that time was Imago Dei – Image of God.  Restoration in that place with some of the vast possibility of God's Image took place.  Restoration occurred in the outdoors, in Christian Community, through rigorous physical times and quiet contemplative times. 

Each week's camp community would begin anew on a Sunday afternoon an continue formation through Saturday morning.  On Saturday morning, the week's community would be dispersed and sent forward to where its individual images were next meant to reflect and reform the Image of God.

Every week at Camp Imago Dei, the Image of God in each Beloved participant had come from somewhere.  The forming of each Beloved into that week's camp community usually didn't start to    become visible until Wednesday.  It took at least that amount of time, from Sunday until Wednesday morning, to let the dust of travel settle and the details of lives from different places be honored or quieted. 

Getting into the rhythm of each week's ever-reforming Image of God would go something like this:

Alpha (beginning, first things of the day)
Omega (closing, last things of the day)

Once the camp week would get to Wednesday through this practice, the remaining days were afforded a fresh energy for entering into worship and recreational experiences that became more meaningful.  An even more physical experience of this mid-way entering into God's Image of community often included an over-night journey.  There was a mid-way point on a path through a swamp between main camp and the place in the forest where cabin groups would go for overnights.

This summer experience was looked forward to each year by many.  In my five summers, I looked forward to the folks I'd see again, who looked forward to their week of restoration.
The season of Lent in the Christian Liturgical Year can bring to us a similar experience.  We are moving into about the “mid-week-of-camp,” if you will.  The middle of this year's Lenten journey is here.

How might your weekly or seasonal Lenten Practice reflect the rhythm found at Camp Imago Dei?

At this time in the season, what dust around your Beloved Image has been able to settle,  or perhaps be brushed away through this year's prayer practices?  

What Image of God in or around you are you seeing for the first time? 

What group experience is beginning to bring you refreshment, restoration to your Holy Image as God's Beloved?

I bid you a continuing Holy Lent.

(Rev. Colleen Kamke-Nieman)