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Archive for Saturday, January 7, 2006

Finding your spiritual spark

Worship, fellowship, meditation - even a good book - can rekindle inner flame

January 7, 2006

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January can be a difficult time to feel that spiritual spark.

For most, the major holiday seasons are over. Cold days and shorter periods of daylight have left many with the doldrums.

If you're looking to feel renewed, it might take a little initiative to make it happen. But religious and spiritual leaders say there are some simple steps you can take to be refreshed in the new year.

Worship

A start for rekindling your spiritual flame might be finding a worship service that fits your needs and preferences.

"There are so many different churches and styles of worship in Lawrence that I can't imagine any person of faith would not be able to find a good fit for them," says the Rev. David Livingston, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt.

Livingston says the style of music and the theology being preached from the pulpit are among the issues to pay attention to when searching for a church, mosque, synagogue or other religious organization.

"I think one important consideration is to allow yourself a few weeks with one church before trying another," Livingston says. "The preacher or musicians could be having a particular off day if you just visit once, and you may not have seen the 'real' worship experience."

Small groups

Sometimes, it takes more than just a worship experience to feel connected. For those looking for more, getting involved with a small group could be the answer.

"There are a whole host of small (faith-based) groups," says the Rev. Ray Fancher, interim senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway. "It's almost like a smorgasbord."

There are faith-based groups ranging from studies to quilting, from disease support groups to athletics. Simply calling a church or other religious organization and inquiring could turn up a group right down your alley.

Fancher says the intimidation someone might feel walking into a small group meeting for the first time usually wears off quickly.

"Essentially, that's where people are going to be able to find a sense of connection, which is important for all of us," Fancher says. "We need to know we belong someplace. It's those relationships that nourish us."

Meditation

No matter your religious background, meditation could be a way to center yourself after the busy holiday season.

"Meditation does help calm us down, does help us focus, does help us gain perspective so we're not always pulled around by the circumstances of our lives," says Judy Roitman, guiding teacher at the Kansas Zen Center, 1423 N.Y.

Roitman suggests the book "How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery" for beginning meditators. Teachers also are available through the Zen Center and other organizations.

"At least you'll have a moment of calm, a moment of focused attention, in your day," Roitman says. "At the most, you will wake up to your true nature."

Spiritual retreats

Another option for a more serious reawakening is a spiritual retreat.

Vicki Penner, co-director of Martha and Mary's Way, an interfaith group that focuses on women's faith issues, says a spiritual retreat typically involves getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spending time with God.

It could involve going to a retreat center for a week or a month. Or it could be as simple as taking a walk in the country or doing an early-morning study of Scriptures.

"In some way, it takes you away from your regular life, to reflect and be quiet and listen to God speak, however you picture God," Penner says. ""These things open up our lives again. They help us realize there's something more than us."

Religious texts

For some, simply delving into religious texts such as the Bible, Torah or Koran can lead to a spiritual renewal.

"There are always surprises when you read sacred texts," says the Rev. Ira DeSpain, campus pastor at Baker University. "No matter how many times you have read them before, there always seem to be new insights, new questions, new answers."

DeSpain says consulting a religious leader or attending a study could make reading texts less daunting. He doesn't recommend starting by reading them cover to cover.

"Think about why you want to study them," he says. "For instance, is it to become more faithful or more knowledgeable about a religion? Set goals for yourself like you might on other resolutions, but make the goals quality goals - like 'How would I like to change?' rather than quantity goals, like 'How many books of the Bible would I like to read?'"

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