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Contemplation in a Status Quo World

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Katy Stenta is curating a series called “Worship Outside the Box” that looks at the elements of worship in new ways and contexts. Each post will focus on one particular part of worship, providing new insights about how we can gather to worship God. Today’s post serves as the prayers of the people. What are the ways you worship God in your own community? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Mary Beene

Yesterday was a very busy day. I had several projects with looming deadlines and an evening gathering at my office. At 8:30 am I still had parts and pieces of an unfinished DIY bookshelf scattered across the office floor and little bits of Styrofoam packing stuck to every surface in the room. So I settled into my still cold room, sat on the hard floor screwdriver in hand, and finished the bookcase. Then I gathered my cleaning supplies, ran the vacuum and by 10:30 am everything was ready for the night’s event.

That’s when I sat on the couch in the corner of the now cozy office and admired my handiwork. I read a psalm and pondered the Lord’s judgment and the Earth’s joy. And then I sat for a few minutes more. Of course, the urgency of the day fell upon my spirit once my hands and mind were free to wander. I almost jumped up to begin the next phase of the day’s work.

But something stilled me, and I sat for many minutes more in silence, admiring the room, marveling at how God has guided me and uplifted me as I started my own spiritual direction practice, and thanking the Spirit for this blissful moment of quiet before the next thing.

When was the last time you let yourself take a moment of stillness in the midst of a busy day and a busy life? We are taught to admire people who rush through the day, accomplishing so much more than seems humanly possible. If we are wage workers, we know that there is no grace from our employers if we are caught staring into space, even if we know that in our hearts we are glorifying God.

Sometimes I even deny myself stillness at the end of a long day. I try to get in that last bit of housework, watch that program everyone is watching, catch up on Facebook, or even play a game on my phone. If I sit there doing “nothing” someone is bound to come and fill that time for me; but no one bothers me if I am still “busy” with anything that looks demanding.

As a spiritual director I teach contemplative prayer. And it is very important, because quieting our minds and opening our hearts to God is a skill that must be learned. It sounds like it should be simple, but even if I close my eyes right now, I can feel the urge well up to run in circles.

I recently learned of a Presbyterian church in Colorado that started an experiment 20 years ago to do contemplative/centering prayer as a part of their everyday church life. Now, two decades later, spiritual practices are a part of every dimension of the congregation’s life: time for deep prayer in worship, session meetings, Bible study, fellowship and mission. It wasn’t an overnight transformation, but it grew organically from the mustard seed of an experiment: what would happen if we took time for stillness?

This morning my office is in a shambles again. It’s not just the glasses and plates that need washing, the regular remains of a lovely party. Unfortunately, one leg of my cute but ancient loveseat choose last night to shatter and crash my poor guests to the floor.

Though I smiled, apologized for the unexpected dumping, and assured everyone that it was no big deal, my heart sank and my mind started racing again. I really love that couch, though it looks this morning like last night was its final party. It helped make the office cozy. And, of course, there’s no money in the budget to replace it.

After the guests left, I jumped into action. The computer came out – how much would it cost to replace a loveseat; is there any money in the bank, are there local stores I can visit in the morning, is there any chance at all there’s a youtube video on fixing ancient couch legs that are probably well past the “fixing” stage?

But this morning I realize there’s one thing I need to do before I rush into action, before the dishes are cleared, the floor is swept again, and the arduous process of replacing the loveseat begins. I am going to sit in the corner of my still cozy office, read a psalm, ponder the wonder of God’s grace and stay for as long as the Lord can hold me fast in a strong embrace. But I suppose today I’ll do it from a chair.


Mary Beene is a spiritual director, retreat leader and facilitator in Savannah, GA for Openings: Let the Spirit In (www.letthespiritin.com). She has her Masters in Public Administration from American University, her M.Div. from Boston University and is a graduate of the Shalem Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program. Her special interests include contemplative discernment for individuals and congregations and writing spiritual memoir as a tool for resiliency.

The Power of Coaching

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. The majority of blog posts this month will share stories from church leaders who participated in a pilot coaching cohort in 2017. They will share the challenges they face, the movements they’ve made, and what they are learning along the way. We hope they will connect with your “me too” moments and give you a glimmer of a way forward, and the knowledge that you are not alone. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

by Tara Spuhler McCabe

Way way back, there was a skit on SNL with a character looking into the mirror with the mantra: I am good enough, I am smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.

I laughed so hard because it was silly AND it was true! Today, we have an updated version of the truth we can laugh about and recognize in our faith: You are creative, resourceful, and whole! We all are. Creative Resourceful and Whole, CRW, is the foundational mantra for the coaching practice.

CRW is one of the many ways I recognize we are powered through the Spirit. Remember your baptism? Or someone telling you about your baptism? God claims you and blesses you! Yet we constantly wrestle with remembering our baptism — our creativeness, our resourcefulness, our wholeness. No surprise that when we wrestle in life and in faith, the root of the wrestling tends be in forgetting, ignoring, or just not believing in our God-given CRW anymore. An example of this brokenness is when any one of us may feel stuck in our discernment and decisions and we stop or spin in our own growth opportunity. We recognize this as self-sabotaging. You deserve to connect with a coach who can support you in getting out of that cycle.

We coaches stand alongside people and support them in their work to connect with their own creativeness, resourcefulness, and wholeness. A coach is another teammate in the journey along with pastors, therapists, friends, teachers, mentors — you name it. We work with a person’s opportunity and powerful questions towards their own goal. We celebrate the work and the self awareness as the person in engaging with the power of the Spirit within them.

The power in coaching is participating in the building up of God’s kingdom with others by working and living out of our CRW(ness). The power in coaching is being a helpmate with another while someone is in threshold moments of decisions and opportunities. There is accountability in coaching through support in holding up the mirror of what one says is most important to them. Accountability and celebration is the work with your coach. That is the fun part! When the person connects with their own CRW through our coaching work together, there is automatic celebration.

During a series of sessions, one of my clients shared that she was surprised by all of the laughter. I asked, what surprises you about your laughter? She reflected on how often she is laughing because she continues to be so surprised by herself. Say it with me: “I am creative, resourceful, and whole.” This self-celebration is so vital. This is not about shaming one another in the work but supporting one another to recognize the power of the Spirit within them. Her response was about how she is surprised with her awareness that comes from the inside of her. The awareness seems so simple since it is within her, and yet the spontaneous joy at connecting to it is that sacred place of healing and wholeness. What I appreciate in her reflection is the joy and celebration (a little of not taking ourselves too seriously) and the absence of self shaming.

That is the work and the joy of being a coach (and a minister): knowing that our brokenness is not the end, modeling how to be in relationship with all of who we are, and living into the unlimited Grace that is affirmed in our baptism because we are creative, resourceful, and whole!


Tara Spuhler McCabe is a Presbyterian minister currently serving as the Coordinator for the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program in Washington, DC, as a parish associate at Faith Presbyterian Church, a life and leadership coach, and as a “concierge” pastor who spends most of her time bringing pastoral presence and skill in response to the needs and opportunities in her neighborhood and community.