Sunday, November 30, 2008

Contemplative Christmas I

Welcome to Week 1 of the SoulPerSuit Contemplative Christmas.

We have participants coming from near and far and across the globe for this group. A truly international affair. I'm excited to see the variety of worship experiences God will bring about in each of us because, truthfully, joining a community of God-seekers and sharing in the journey is my very favorite part of SoulPerSuit.

Right here on SoulPerBlog each week we'll be posting a theme phrase to reflect on during this Christmas season and one or two Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. Otherwise, SoulPerSuit is going to let Emmanuel speak for himself. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of this Christmas season are at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. You just need your Bible and your imagination.

This week's theme is:
Barn smells

Optional Shuffle The Deck activities to get things rolling:

1) What’s the most rugged camping or outdoor experience you’ve ever had? Have you ever sat around a campfire? Our memories of those times are strong because the sensory experiences were extreme. Was there food involved? Was the fire built with wet or green wood? Was it summer or winter? How do the smells differ with the season? Think about what it would be like if your job required you to camp outside every night.

2) If you have access to a livestock barn or stable, spend some time there with your nostrils on alert. Breathe in the earthy smells of the animals, the hay and alfalfa, the watering trough and all that goes with them.
Jot some notes on a 3X5 card about your sensory experience. Describe the smell as best as you can. What arrests you?
If you are not near a barn but have pets, do the same thing as you feed, groom and clean up after them.
No access to barns or pets? Try your compost bin, leaf pile or kitchen garbage.


So, what next? We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will lead you in worship over the next week.
If you'd like to worship and reflect quietly then you don't need to do anything.
If you create a piece of artwork or have thoughts you'd like to share publicly (or you're new here and wondering what on earth these people are doing), click here to see what on earth we're doing.


Erin said...

I love the smell of a campfire!
I love how the woodsmoke clings to my hair and jacket for days afterward, reminding me of the warmth and fellowship around the fire pit.

When I was in high school, our family took an October camping trip and it was sooooo cold! We nearly sat inside the fire pit just to stay warm. I melted my cheap-y faux leather shoes because I got so close to the flames.
And, scrounging for whatever firewood we could find, my Dad threw on a log covered in poison oak. He said "It'll just burn off," but non-expert in oil-based plant defenses, he had no idea that the smoke would carry the poison oils right into our faces crowded around the flames.

The next week I was back at school sporting the world's nastiest poison oak rash all over my face.
Ah, the memories.

Tomorrow I'm going to take my kids on a nasal field trip to the horse stables up the road.

Schweers' Mom said...

The first thing I thought about when I read "Barn smells" was...what???? And then I thought about how I am actually fond of barn smells. I love the smell of horse barns as it reminds me of horseback riding lessons when I was in middle school (a gazillion years ago). I used to beg my mother to take me early on Saturday mornings so that I could go clean out the stables and groom the horses because if I was there early enough, they might choose me to ride with a novice class on the trails. I loved horses far better than boys and far better than anything else. It was my escape from everything and it made me happy and useful.

I know that's totally unspiritual and not related to Christmas, but it was my first thought. The smell of horses can take me back to Spring Hill Riding Center in Illinois, the sound of the Carpenters playing "Yesterday Once More" on the radio while I groomed horses and feeling like I was doing the most important job in the world that a 13 year old could do.

I do have some other thoughts on Stable Smells related to my January trip to Bethlehem.

greta lynn hernandez said...

I remember the smell of a dairy barn filled with hundreds of cows--and it's such a sweet memory!

My mom's Uncle Jim had a dairy farm in Lancaster, PA, and it was hands down our favorite vacation spot. I used to run barefoot on the cool barn floor that was sprinkled with a white limestone powder each morning. Besides the obvious smell of animals, I remember passing the room where all of the milk was stored in huge vats. The sounds of swishing and swashing fill my mind, as well as steam escaping from some part of the machine. And that fresh smell of milk straight from the cow brings back great memories.

Oh...and the feelings. My cousin Ken used to take the automatic milkers off of the cows and squirt us with milk as we giggled with joy. I used to be the only one that got scared when the huge animals were coming into the barn, finding their own assigned space to feed and be milked. More than anything, though, I remember the warm feelings of fun and family.

Wow. It's amazing what barn smells can do!

wendy said...

My first thougth when I read this was the stink of pigs. (my only barn experience is the "working" farm that is a part of a park nearby.) Then I realized that pigs would not have been an issue for Mary and Joseph.
I have to wonder if the absence of their stench was by coincidence or design. That led to musings over how many little details throughout my day do I not notice, but my awesome heavenly Father arranges just for me.

Amy said...

Of course, growing up in Africa isn't exactly fodder for barn memories but we did live on a dairy farm at one time. I don't really count that though - as the milking shed was all about concrete, hosepipes and avoiding the cow pats; the whoosh and thunk of the machines slurping the milk away and the pervasive odour of sterising solution. Not so earthy I'm thinking. But the memories of camping...well now - there's rich pickings! One particularly memorable time was when I must have been about 6 years old and we travelled with a crowd of friends to stay in a very remote campsite on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. This was lion and hyena territory you understand - but I felt quite safe if I stayed away from the crocodiles lurking near the water's edge. One afternoon, in that drowzy lull after lunch we were rather surprised to be woken from our camp stretchers in the communal open-sided dormitory tent, to the munching, whiffling, rumbling sounds of a massive bull elephant at the edge of the tent. He was reaching under the tarpaulin floor of the tent with his trunk, in search of seedpods that are a great delicacy if you happen to be of that sort of creature. Mercifully, disaster was averted as after a few moments of digging around politely under the canvas(while fervant prayers from the moms nearby were launched in earnest) he lumbered off. This isn't such a remarkable story really, except for the awkward part when I had to confess to the party of annoyed grown ups, that I had personally wandered around the dusty campsite as they were erecting tents, collecting these pods in my skirt. I made little piles of them for elephant treats all over the campsite, in a time consuming act of sheer innocent generosity. I was in deep trouble for placing the group in the face of such danger, made all the more real because one of the party was a recent widow due to an elephant attack. Not your average marshmallows and campfire story sorry...rhinoceros tend to run and stamp out fires in the savannah... I have limited internet access at the moment, but will blog my reflections on the birthplace of our Saviour which are sitting written but unposted (using hubby's work computer now). I am loving this opportunity and direction to digest and worship on the remarkable event of Christmas and am entranced by the contrast of the stressful commercial holiday season with the humble yet staggeringly awesome birth of the King.