Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Opportunities to start over

By Jim Merritt
I once weighed 384 lb. I was a bariatric surgery patient whose weight is now normal. My last round of blood work was absolutely perfect for the first time in my adult life.  
We are blessed here in North Central Florida with a variety of good food options. Farmers Markets abound offering an amazing assortment of locally grown, often organic, seasonal vegetables. We enjoy a number of health food stores along with a nice offering of vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants. Many local options make it easy for me to follow through with my commitment to good eating.
Another important aspect of my good health is my own spirituality and spiritual practice. The church where I am pastor sits on nearly seven acres of heavily wooded land. There are nature trails cut out all around the property. Quite often, in the middle of a busy day, I take a few minutes out to walk the trails, notice the changing colors of the leaves, and in the Spring take note of each day’s new offering of flowers. I return to my breath there, quietly breathing in and out while releasing whatever stresses or worries have come my way.
Sometimes I lie down at a particular spot on one of the benches in the outdoor sanctuary. From this position, the trees offer a clearing to the sky where I can look up and simply breathe.
I remind myself that interruptions are merely opportunities to start over.
These moments are very important for my overall well being and good health.
I am an avid student of Buddhist Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hahn. I listen to his recordings in my office and in my car.  On many Sunday mornings I listen to the nuns and monks of Plum Village chanting as I prepare to lead worship. Because I have been on retreat there, I can return in my mind and soul to places and times at Plum Village where I experienced complete peace and harmony with the world around me. I read and reread his books about peaceful living. These moments nourish my soul in wonderful ways.
I have been blessed by the presence in my life of a few very effective spiritual directors and spiritual teachers.  Because it is my tendency to rush through life from one event to another, at least two of them frequently told me I needed to make bread. They knew making bread would slow me down for a few hours.
I began that practice a little over a year ago and it worked!  Tonight I am making bread. I thought about the sugar and the place from which it came and all the various people who worked to bring it to my pantry.
I remembered the water and the sun and the soil that nourished it and said a prayer of thanksgiving as I added it to the newly forming dough. I did the same with the flour and with the butter and with the salt and with the yeast.  With each new element I prayed for all those involved in making them available to me for my own physical and spiritual nourishment.
This will be very good bread because it contains all the good energy of those who have assisted me in making it. It has also been prepared with a loving and grateful heart.
One of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books is called Peace is Every Step. Peace is essential for my own good health; peace with my sisters and brothers of the all inclusive human family, peace with this amazing planet on which I am blessed to live, peace with the animals and elements around me, and peace with God. My practice of peaceful living leads me both to good physical health and to good spiritual health. 
These are the ways I do it in North Central Florida. What’s your practice? Peace and good health to you!
Jim’s Special Bread Recipe
*  1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons
1 cup warm water
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup pitted black olives, sliced
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, diced
1 1/2 cups pitted black olives, sliced

Dissolve yeast in warm water.
In a bowl, combine flour, garlic salt, sour cream, and 1 cup sliced black olives. Stir in the yeast mixture and knead to form a soft dough.
Add diced cheddar cheese and the remaining 1 1/2 cups sliced black olives. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat, cover, and allow to rise until doubled; about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down, form in a greased loaf pan, and allow to rise again; about 1 hour.
Bake at 350*F. for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is browned.
* The Rev. Jim Merritt, MDiv ’08 is Senior Pastor of Trinity Metropolitan Community Church of Gainesville, Florida.

1 comment:

  1. Jim thanks so much for this. You've fed us with spiritual food and literal food. Both are a great comfort to me.