Winter Practices

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love”. John 15: 9 (MSG)

Finding the will or way to practice our spirituality in the winter months and in pandemic isolation is a challenge, but a much needed balm of healing for our weary souls. In frustration, boredom, and laziness, we are likely to abandon the very practices that connect us to the God we love. Just as in any love relationship, daily consistency and intentionality are essential to being at home in the sacred places of connection with the Divine in us.

CONSISTENCY. I follow Khalid Al Ameri and his wife Salama, Facebook celebrities who post videos everyday on life in the Middle East. They are lovably ordinary and funny, with a goal to put out good stories about their life and culture to fight the fear-based picture of Arabic people presented in the news. Khalid explains the value of consistency in filming a video every single day of their lives:

Everyday, no matter what happens, I make a video. You see, for everything you need to do in life, I believe consistency is very very important. One thing I realized about achieving the things that I want in life, I need to put in the work first and then things will start to happen. Second, the more I do things, the better I will get at it. Practice may not make perfect, but it definitely means progress. More importantly, I LOVE THIS. I love making videos. (Khalid Al Ameri)

HOME. Love. Relationship. The most important reason to be consistent is that we love God and we enjoy the closeness of quality time spent together. Remember God first loved us and our love is a response to being loved.

What are ways you like to express your love to God consistently and personally?

SACRED SPACE. A simple practice that has helped me is Sacred Space, which is making a place and time to spend in contemplative prayer and meditation. The idea is like opening the door to a beautiful, comfortable room with warmth and joy as you sit down with a beloved friend or family. My winter practice has meant making space in the corner of my office for a cozy recliner which looks out the window. I enter the space in the winter dark morning and without turning on the overhead light, I instead light candles and sit in solitude. Honestly there are some mornings I just want to open my work computer or I might think, “Why light candles this morning, I’ll just say a quick prayer and be done.” Yes, the everyday consistency of any practice will not make you perfect, but the intention is a choice that will keep you close to the One you love.

LABYRINTH. Even though it is cold, a daily walk or bike ride invigorates my prayer life. The paths ahead and encounters with nature or people heighten all my senses to God as Creator. On these walks, I’ve discovered two labyrinths close to my home and have found them challenging and rewarding prayer practices. A labyrinth is a circular maze with meandering spiral paths inward to a center and back out. A labyrinth is also a practice of discipline, because it forces one to slow down and continue on the path, as well as being an outward practice for inner prayer and connection. You can search for a labyrinth near you or even adapt this practice to a nature walk with a loop. The most important part of the practice is your intention to go through the path of prayer to connect with God.

Very simply, there are three phases of meditation for the labyrinth:

1. Letting go. While walking in toward the center, pray through the anxiety or pressing needs of your day, allowing them to fall out of your heart and mind, step by step. 2. Center yourself in Christ. Allow God to pull you in with Love. Reaching the center of the labyrinth, embrace Christ in you, hope, peace, forgiveness, joy. 3. Going Out in Love. Focus on relationships. As you walk out, allow God to push you out with a purpose.

REFLECT. Wendall Berry, The Cold. What have you noticed about yourself in the solitude of winter? What goodness of God have you experienced in the cold days?

The Cold

How exactly good it is

to know myself

in the solitude of winter,

my body containing its own

warmth, divided from all

by the cold; and to go

separate and sure

among the trees cleanly

divided, thinking of you

perfect too in your solitude,

your life withdrawn into

your own keeping

-to be clear, poised

in perfect self-suspension

toward you, as though frozen.

And having known fully the

goodness of that, it will be

good also to melt.

Wendall Berry

My people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 31:14

BREATH PRAYER. O Lord I am satisfied with your goodness. Inhale: O Lord I am satisfied. Exhale: With your goodness. Substitute goodness with love, grace, peace, faithfulness…

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

3 Comments Add yours

  1. alansjones1 says:

    Thanks for your post Robbi. I just subscribed to Khalid Al Amari as well. Blessings, Alan

    Like

  2. Mark Irwin says:

    Robbi, There is so much in this one post that I’ve returned to it daily just to review and renew my acquaintance with some of these practices. I am a huge Wendell Berry fan and adore this poem. And I appreciate the video as well. The “consistency” admonition reminds me of the Benedictine vows and the importance of a daily, hourly “practice.” Thanks so much for all these! Oh, and the breathe prayer–it’s wonderful. This practice is one I want to resume. If this one is original, please share more with us! Thanks.

    Like

    1. robbijames says:

      Yes the breath prayer is “original” in that after reflecting on a passage, I want to remember it by keeping it hidden away in my heart and available for frequent prayer. Breath prayer involves the body, mind, and spirit and imprints on the soul. My first introduction to breath prayer was a recommendation by a friend: Psalm 56:3, a classic!!

      Like

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