Morning Devotions

Well, I had a whole other post planned for today.

But, in the spirit of flowing with what arises in the moment, I will share with you this morning’s devotions.

I have never ‘done’ devotions before, but was very moved by the description of an evening devotion in Wm. Paul Young’s amazing book, The Shack.

I read this book a few years ago and it blew me away then, although there were whole sections of it that I just did not ‘get.’ When I shared that with Stephen, he said in his wise way (well, it’s wise in retrospect, in that moment it just pee’d me off),

“That makes perfect sense, Maxine. Those sections were all about grace and you have trouble receiving grace.”

I think I stomped out of the room at that point, but I knew some day I’d reread the book, maybe when I was a little more capable of receiving grace. (That last part might have been written with just a titch of sarcasm)

That day came a few weeks ago when I was laid low by the flu. The book called to me as I schlepped pathetically from one room to another, so I pulled it off the shelf and started rereading it – much more slowly and with a lot more focused attention — and when I reached those sections that I didn’t understand I pondered them in the pages of my journal.

Still am, actually. I’m only on chapter eight. There’s a LOT to ponder.

Anyway . . . there’s this section where Papa/Elousia/God and Jesus have devotions after their evening meal (pages 107-108 for those of you who have the book) that had me thinking,

“Wow. that’s beautiful. I would love for our family to incorporate that into our lives somehow.”

And then I went off on this whole tangent figuring out how I could make that happen. Turn it into a ritual of sorts at some point in our day or week. You know, mandate it, as the matriarch of the family.

Well, last night I read another chapter (I can’t help myself, I’m reading ahead to gobble up the rest of story even though I still haven’t fully digested chapter eight). It’s the second night of the main character’s weekend with God and when the meal is over he is surprised that they don’t move into the evening devotion.

“What about devotion?” asked Mack.

“Nothing is a ritual, Mack,” said Papa . . . 

I wasn’t sure why this struck such a chord with me, but I when I played around with it in my journal this morning I found that it might have something to do with receiving grace. (Go figure.) That moment of devotion Mack (and I – vicariously) experienced his first night in the shack sprang from the heart in the moment. It wasn’t a tightly adhered to, nightly ritual. Something beautiful wanted to be expressed in that moment and Jesus expressed it. It touched Mack deeply and he wanted to experience it again, but moments like that cannot be slotted into a schedule. They are touches of grace (there’s that word again) that occur when we lay aside all expectations and just allow what is to be.

No. Not just allow it. Fully enter into it.

I could certainly decree that every night before bed the Spence family will X Y Z, but profound, heart-touching moments cannot be mandated. They arise spontaneously, graciously when we enter into relationship with another person, with God, or even with ourselves.

I had been playing around with what I could do each morning as a form of devotion. I was thinking daily / constant / profound / divine connection / ritual but then I remembered what I had read last night about how humankind tends to take something spontaneously good and pure and heart-felt (that usually arises from being in relationship) and then makes it into a ritual and ultimately what happens is something that began as a deeply alive, grace-filled moment ultimately becomes mechanical and wooden and dead.

So I asked myself,

“Maxine, what is wanting to be expressed right now, in this moment?”

I had already danced in the kitchen with Michael Franti (and Jacob) while cooking breakfast

(That’s two days is in a row! But there was nothing wooden or mechanical about it. His song was running through my head again this morning.)

But when I checked in with myself, I realized I wanted to dance some more so I turned the volume way up for two of my favorite Isn’t-Life-Wonderful songs, We Celebrate by the Barra McNeils and Passionate Kisses by Mary Chapin Carpenter and danced around my living room.

And then I moved into some Creative Joint Play that I learned from my Genius coach,  Karen McMullen

and then I breathed while I moved slowly and mindfully through the prayer position movement that my friend and yoga teacher, Yvonne, shared with our class just yesterday

and then I stood in silence

and then I went downstairs to my office to start my writing day.

Simple. Profound. In the moment.

And it filled me up.

To overflowing.

With peace and a quiet joy

and grace.

(Thank you, Stephen.)

Who knows what will fill me up tomorrow?

Or what will fill you up today.

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6 Responses to Morning Devotions

  1. Yvonne says:

    You got it Maxine. Devotion is not a ritualistic act. It is fully expressing our true self, in every moment. Sometimes the ritual helps us find the self, but it is not the devotional act. Dance, breathe, create. That is devotion.

  2. and today’s devotion was much different than yesterday. aaaah, the freedom!

  3. Laura says:

    Great post! Your comments remind me of a statement quoted by Jim Richards (I believe he was quoting someone else): “The path is not the mountain.” The path is the way to the mountain; devotions are a way to find God and have relationship with him, but we often end up focusing on the path instead of the destination.

  4. Sandra says:

    Wonderful! I just stumbled upon this – although I am sure it was not by accident. Funny thing I have just been discovering this devotion myself. Struggling with my sadhana (yoga practice), knowing what I should be doing for a complete practice, but for some reason feeling reluctant and dissatisfied. In my last week I have played, I have sang, I have danced, I have breathed, I have been still. Each day different. And I have moved deeper into devotion. And yes the freedom! Thank you for writing and defining this so beautifully and gracefully!

    • maxinespence says:

      Hooray! And thank-you to the ‘stumble’ gods out there who line us up with the messages we need to hear and to you, Sandra, for taking the time to let me know that my ramblings sent a positive ripple into the world.

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