Top 5 Things that I Learned Through the Summer of 2014

by Mark Votava


Now that the summer is over and the fall is here another season in my life has gone by.  As I reflected back on the last three months, it seems God is moving in me in many different ways.  There are so many things I could share, but these are some of the themes that I am coming to a deeper understanding in.

1. A deeper understanding of the importance of gratitude.  Gratitude is not always easy for me.  In fact, it is probably one of the most difficult practices as I live in the North American culture of consumerism where we are always wanting more all of the time.  I have had to discipline myself to be content in the present moment.

It is very easy for me to see what is not and forget about what is, the good gifts that life has brought me in this stage of my life.  I am alive.  I can breathe, walk, run, sleep, enjoy relationships and good food as well as many other things.  I have another year to experience the sacredness of all of life.

2. A deeper understanding of what faithful presence means to me.  This personal practice of faithful presence in the local community or parish where I live has shaped me tremendously.  After a decade of faithful presence in Downtown Tacoma, I am learning to appreciate the small things.  I am learning to experience the hidden yet present God in everyday life.

I am understanding that the kingdom of God lives within me.  And I am becoming an expression of love through my years of faithful presence. Faithful presence is bringing an awareness within me of God’s presence in everyday life within me and around me in all situations.

3. A deeper understanding of contemplative spirituality.  I have been so encouraged by the work of Phileena and Christopher Heuertz who started a center for contemplative activism in Omaha, Nebraska around two years ago called The Gravity Center after working twenty years with the poor around the world.  Their work revolves around the idea that community is not enough to sustain what God is calling us to in the world, we need to develop a contemplative spirituality of silence, solitude and stillness.  Encountering their work has been affirming and inspiring to me as I have thought about this kind of stuff for awhile now.  

4. A deeper appreciation for community.  I am learning to not take my relationships for granted.  Reimagining what love, grace and humility mean for me in my relational context is forming me to be a gentler person who is more mindful and aware of the people in my life who have loved me day by day.  This deeper appreciation for community is a desire in me that will grow more and more as the years pass.

5. A deeper understanding of my own personal vocation.  I think I am getting more clarity around my vocation as a reader, writer, local practitioner, contemplative activist as well as a neighbor and friend to the poor.  It seems that God is grounding my life and shaping this personal vocation for me in ways that are producing more awareness of my true self in the world in the context I live in.

What is one thing you grew in deeper understanding of this summer?