The first time I engaged in the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth was when I was entering seminary. My class traveled to a Catholic retreat center that had a labyrinth on its grounds. It was an 11-circuit, Chartres-style one with larger stones around the path and gravel on which to walk. After a brief explanation by one of our retreat leaders, we were released to give it a try. I've walked a labyrinth many times since, with mixed results.
As spring has arrived, so have my seasonal allergies. I've been coughing and sneezing, and my nose has been like a faucet the past few weeks. As if that wasn't enough, however, I recently had to deal with some sort of viral infection that only seemed to make all of this worse. The clear sign that I was dealing with more than allergies was the low-grade fever.
In one of the cabinets of my office, I keep a small glass holder big enough for a single tea light candle. I received it my first semester of seminary, during which I'd taken a class called Spiritual Formation. It was an oasis during a rough period of adjustment.
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I got my fourth tattoo recently. The typical person wouldn't know I had any, let alone four. The only ways people find out is if I or somebody else tells them, or if there's some occasion that calls for no sleeves or shirt. I don't really hide them, but I don't really broadcast them either.
Everyone has music that helps mark their childhoods. The artists that one hears during those formative years tend to stick with us, evoking memories when the oldies are played and, while not always the case, we may be likely to follow a few of these throughout their careers, no matter what sorts of turns their musical styles take. Sometime in elementary school, I first heard "Weird Al" Yankovic's classic song "Eat It," a parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
Years ago, when I was pastor of a smallish, "pastor-sized" church, it became clear that our chancel choir was not going to last very much longer. By the point I had arrived, it was down to a half dozen older women and a director who hadn't meant to be in that role for as long as she was. So when she announced that she was stepping down, there began some conversation first about a replacement, which then became a conversation about whether the choir was a viable ministry at this point in the church's life. Maybe it was time to give thanks for what it had been for the church for so long, and let it go.
A couple of weeks ago, funeral director Caleb Wilde wrote a blog post about who to seek out when dealing with grief. His basic advice: find a therapist before you seek out your pastor. The reasoning goes that therapists, with their training in the psychological aspects that arise in times of grief, are better qualified than clergy to deal with things like depression. I agree.