In the month of September we’ll explore together the theme of expectation. What expectations do we have of ourselves and this community? When do we need to let go of our expectations? Can failing to meet expectations be an opportunity for growth? Theme-based ministry connects worship, religious education and small group experiences so that we are having a shared conversation across the generations.

Reflections on Expectation:

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

–John O’Donohue

“Life is not under my management.
It is free, and dappled, not pure.
Life is this, not something else…
Even God does not yet know
what’s in store before unfolding in it.”
–Steve Garnaas-Holmes

“Our expectations frame our view of what is to come.  Too often that frame is distorted by preoccupations with where we have been, like trying to walk forward while staring back over your shoulder.”
–Rev. Dr. Frances Sink

“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke life.”
–Lao Tzu


The spiritual practice of trusting our longings

The practice of allowing hope to widen our view

Spiritual Practice:

Lie Back and Lean Into “Enough”
Sometimes pausing to rest is a spiritual exercise in and of itself. We spend so much time chasing expectations, those of others and those we place on ourselves. It becomes such a way of life that we don’t notice we are doing it and stop wondering why we are doing it.

To help you pause and to carve out some space to think about why you don’t pause more often, take some time this month to meditate and reflect on the two pieces listed below. They are short. Made to be savored and read through multiple times. Use them as the focus of your meditation time this month.

Or take it to the next level and invite a trusted friend to listen to and discuss them with you. Invite your friend to share where the pieces take them and share where the pieces take you. Ask your friend why they think you struggle to “Lie back” and have trouble expecting that “the sea hold you.” Make space to help each other remember when you were first taught to build your life around expectations rather than “enoughness.” Yes, sometimes conversations can be the most important spiritual practices of all.

First Lesson, by Philip Booth
Full poem at  
“Lie back, and the sea will hold you.”

Even This Is Enough, Rev. Vanessa Southern
Full prayer at
“The world won’t stop spinning on her axis
if you don’t rise to all occasions today.
Love won’t cease to flow in your direction,
your heart won’t stop beating…
Rest, if you must, then, like the swimmer lying on her back who floats…”

Taking It Home:  Ideas for All Ages

Make a Möbius Strip
“I’m fascinated with the way our inner lives keep co-creating our external world—and how the external world then loops back to co-create us. The image I use is of the Möbius Strip, which is this very unusual 3D shape that only has one side. If you take a finger and trace what seems to be the outside surface, you suddenly find yourself on what seems to be the inside, and vice versa. So the inside and the outside continually flow into each other and co-create each other. The first time I saw this I thought, ‘that’s exactly how life is!’ – whatever is inside of us flows out to help shape the outer world, and whatever is outside flows in to help shape our inner world.

Video of a very simple one:

There are several suggestions for experiments here:

Take a Penny Hike or Drive
Sometimes the best journeys are those without destinations. Letting a hike or a drive unfold in unexpected ways is a reminder that we don’t always have to be in control or bend our paths to fit our exact desires.

As a child, Rev. Jan Taddeo and her family became masters at this spiritual discipline by taking what they called “penny hikes,” which involved flipping a coin at every fork in the trail or road to determine which way they would go. You can read about the impact this left on Rev. Taddeo by following the link below

Crossing Bridges, Rev. Jan Taddeo
Full reflection at

“Creating adventure was a theme in my family. My father would take us out on Sunday drives just to “get lost.” He would say things like, “Let’s just turn down this road and see where it takes us.” My mother would take us on penny hikes, flipping a coin at each fork in the trail to see which direction to walk next. We explored trails, creeks, and went bushwhacking a few times, always looking for new adventures. Growing up with an appreciation for the unknown and creating adventures in unexpected ways has served me well…”

With her story as inspiration, make time this month to take your own Penny Hike or Drive!

Stories Used In Worship and Classes This Month

 ¡Sí, Se Puede!, Yes, We Can!  by Diana Cohn
Crab Cake:  Turning the Tide Together by Andrea Tsurumi
Tiny Perfect Things by M. H. Clark
The Hardest Word:  A Yom Kippur Story by Jacquline Jules

Musical Connection

STLT #396 I Know This Rose Will Open
Commentary and origin of the song:

“I Know This Rose is the answer to my invitation (to the deep Self). The way I hear/feel it, I am the rose; opening is in my nature. Even when it comes time to let go of this body practice, I know this rose will open.

And although I may feel afraid of the changes, afraid of the unknown I can’t control, afraid of allowing the ego to follow the calling of something deeper, I know those fears will burn away (in the fire of transformation, this very physical practice of loving and living and letting go).

And as my fear burns away, I know, I trust that the wings of my heart, my soul, will unfurl their (my) wings.

Yes, I know this rose will open. I am the rose. We are all the rose. Opening.”

Theme Message: Calling us to be a people of expectation and expect the opening, the fear, and the transformation.

Soul Matters Spotify Music Playlists:
Discover musical inspiration on each of our themes through monthly playlists:

Join us to deepen our faith together:

  • Explore resources related to the monthly theme (links above)
  • Attend Sunday worship
  • Sign up for small group ministry (Soul Matters Sharing Circles and Chalice Circles)
  • Request a copy of Soulful Home (thematic resources for families)
  • Join our Parent Group (to discuss the themes in relation to parenting)

Resources on this page adapted from Soul Matters September 2019.