Prayer to begin one’s day

February 1, 2011

(This from a book I’m reading, “Praying with Icons” by Jim Forest. P. 59-50. The prayer is attributed to a 19th century Russian monastery.)

Lord, grant that I may meet the coming day with spiritual tranquility. Grant that in all things I may rely upon your holy will. In each hour of the day, reveal your will to me. Whatever news may reach me this day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul, knowing that all is subject to your holy will. Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down by you. Grant that I may deal firmly and wisely with every member of my family and all who are in my care, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love. Amen.

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Isn’t it funny…

June 22, 2010

Isn’t it funny how we learn things, forget things, and re-learn them, and only later remember we had “learned” that once before?  How the a-ha moment seems like the a-ha moment…again?  <sigh>

I guess it’s enough to be thankful for the a-ha moments, however often they may make encore performances, eh?

I look back over my journal entries sometimes (the blog, too, but I’m speaking specifically here about personal journal entries that don’t make it to public consumption.) and am amazed that I am ecstatic to finally “get” something, only to agonize over it again a few months later and then “get it” again, with the same grateful delight or passive resignation, whichever the case may be.

What are these things that I get and forget repeatedly?  Oh, I don’t know, that prayer is important?  That God actually enjoys spending a little time with me.  That I frequently enjoy that time, too.

May God’s peace be with you.


Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation

February 11, 2010

(blog post title shamelessly borrowed from a newsletter article and subtitle of a quoted book!  and we move on to tonight’s stream of consciousness!  <smile>)

I just got my copy of our church’s newsletter today.  The front page carries a reflection by our rector. (the priest/pastor in an Episcopal church.)  She titled it, “Lent:  Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.”

I was struck by the coincidental similarities in theme to my post from yesterday.  She (my rector) leads out the article thusly:

Many of us attend church because we have a longing for God, and for love.  But spirituality doesn’t just happen.  Even deeply desiring God doesn’t mean that I will experience God’s presence.

A quote she shared from Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms:  Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation” on p. 24:

Your desire for more of God than you have right now, your longing for love, your need for deeper levels of spiritual transformation than you have experienced so far is the truest thing about you.”

I had this knee jerk reaction upon reading that to ask if she had the book, and to borrow it.  (what is truest about me?  what does that look like and act like?)  I remember when I was in the throes of my first recognized and acted upon period of desire for God, I would ravenously consume spiritual books, and books on prayer, especially prayer of the contemplative type.  I wanted what those authors had found.  Of course, I spent so much time reading about prayer, that I didn’t always actually get into the business of prayer itself, ironically enough.  That came in time.  But then there came another time that I immersed myself in books like this where it wasn’t so much about the infatuation and zeal to be had in learning new things, it became a way to avoid prayer…a means of “learning” how to “do it right.”  The truth is, I avoided prayer, and instead would devour books on the subject.  Hmm. And so, while I will share this blog post with her, I won’t request the book just now.  Just yet.

Then I kept reading our rector’s article.  And now here are her words again:

Some of us want to be loved by God, but when it comes down to getting close to God in prayer, it’s frightening.  We resist.

Familiar?  (as this amateur blogger nods her head resignedly.)

She asks so many of the questions I’ve asked before and now in this compact little article in this month’s newsletter:  “What will I do when there is nothing to do?”  (I think her intent in asking that was how will we deal with silence instead of busy-ness that we fill our lives with, but I’ve frequently wondered what will I do when I can’t be useful, or competent as I age?  The head knows God loves, the head can even assert that with conviction to others in encouragement.  The head has a tougher time convincing the heart that beats just a few inches below itself that this is a known truth sometimes.)  And she closes with the suggestion to do some self-examination and ask oneself how to make space for spiritual transformation, in contrast to the smaller, more constrained question many will be asking themselves right now, in certain Christian disciplines, “what will be my Lenten discipline.”

That question, how am I making space for spiritual transformation, touches right at the nerve and heart center of what prayer is, in my opinion…how will I allow God to transform me and my community?  The next steps are in God’s hands about how any personal transformation in me will affect those around me and the space I inhabit, but we start within, I think.

Have you engaged in self-examination?  With Lent approaching, there may be more opportunities to dive in and dabble.

Now there’s a word I haven’t used in a long time!  <puts smile of reminiscence on face>  During that time of ravenous book consumption I recall “worrying” that I had no discipline, and that I was dabbling in so many different Christian practices and ways of praying, trying to find the way that best suited me and my relationship with God.  A wise friend assured me not to worry, that discipline would come later.

And it did, I suppose, but spiritual discipline doesn’t just happen, and it certainly doesn’t just endure on its own.  I stopped showing up.  There’s surely a connection.

No, I won’t dabble again.  It wouldn’t be the same or as holy as it was at that season of my life…it would be another nice (outwardly) appearing means of avoidance of the holy work I must really engage in.  Maybe someday I’ll go pick up that book, when it’s with intentionality and peace; right now it would only serve to distract from the real business I need for me, based on my own self-examination:  a need to pray and then get out there and live out whatever transformations God deigns to work out in me in my particular circumstances and surroundings.

Peace.


A Personal Review

February 10, 2010

Was looking over my last few blog posts.  Due to my infrequent posting, that actually took me back a ways chronologically.

I noticed my talk of piano lessons.  And my talk of getting Taize music for my mp3 player.

What prompted the review, was actually a lack of being gentle with myself over a lack of committed prayer. (another post about being gentle with oneself popped out at me.)

It’s true, I haven’t been praying as I ought.  But then I backed up a bit, and realized my listening, singing along, and now PLAYING taize music on the piano is not random.  I even believe there is a certain spirituality in the discipline of practicing any genre of piano music for me.  I’ve begun learning how to improvise,if you can use the term very loosely with me (particularly if you actually are a real jazz improviser!!!) on Taize music.  What an adventure!  What poetry does for some, music does for me.  It gets a litte frustrating sometimes to be unable to play technically the song in one’s head, just as it is to be unable to express in words the longing of one’s heart.  I believe there are real overlaps, but I think I have a better chance of overcoming the technical limitations, and allowing music to communicate at the heart level.  Makes one’s heart sort of yearn and ache.  The one I’m working with right now is called, “Jesus Remember Me.”  The lyrics are simple and repetitive by design.  The music combined with the simple lyric makes the heart to ache with longing…

Which brings me back to more traditional prayer and the longings of the heart.  I think that may be one reason why I avoid prayer.  Maybe?  Cracks you open to longings when it is sometimes easier to just keep busy, or even just be lazy with mindless entertainment, rather than be still and take some time to give God some access to your mind or heart.

I’m about to embark on a 12 week class as one of the co-facilitators for Community of Hope.  It is premised on the notion of being formed by prayer and silence, and encouraging that in the students who gather.  I’m motivated to dig in and return to  some of that, partly out of concerns of outright hypocrisy if I don’t, partly due to natural seasons of returning longings that happen to me sometimes.  But with this sort of strange feeling of trepidation.  What will happen if I pray?  (and/or what won’t happen?)  Will I find God in the ordinary, in the ways I profess to believe he is to be found and the Rule of Benedict from which our group will study asserts?  (Lord, I want to see!)  Will God confront me with something difficult to do, or ask me to change something uncomfortable about myself that I might prefer to cling to or hide behind? (“What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beg you, don’t torture me!”)

Do you ever find yourself asking these questions?

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Something about that prayer speaks to me, with a certain assurance that the mercy is already ours, but asking for it still feels “right” and not “grovel-ly”. 

What do you think?

Be blessed!


New (for me) Prayer Idea

July 4, 2009

I just love the way God works sometimes!

I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and got a discount on my vegetables by being the pickup site host…I call it my weekly veggie-sitting gig!

Anyway, I wasn’t too worried about the boredom of sitting around for a couple hours once a week…I’ve got books, mp3 player, a pad of paper and pen…I can easily entertain myself for a couple of hours, right?

Well, the pickup site is my church, so I have another way to amuse myself…a piano within eyesight of the front door that the veggie folks come to!

(yes, I play a LITTLE piano.  Emphasize LITTLE.)

Let me back up a little though.  I stumbled across this site for prayer on the mp3 when looking for the daily office as a podcast.  (note, this ISN’T a daily office podcast)

http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/

Now, I’m not sure this particular prayer podcast deeply speaks to me, but coincidentally enough, it reminded me of a prayer style that DOES!  Part of the podcast appears to be a rotating prayerful musical selection.  The particular Wednesday I was sitting there happened to be a week when Taize was the featured music.  I infrequently used to attend a Taize prayer service held at my church.  I think I want to get me a Taize album for my mp3 player!  If you haven’t heard Taize before you absolutely must give it a try!  Beautiful, repetitive, wonderful prayers set to sweet music that tugs at my heartstrings at least.

I’m trying to decide what album to purchase.  Anyone have any ideas?  I went to amazon.com and searched for taize as artist.  If you can recommend one album over another I’d love to hear your suggestion.  And if you’ve never listened to taize before you can go there to hear a brief clip to whet your spiritual appetite for more?

Pray without ceasing.  Let prayer pray within you.  That is most assuredly a niche for musical prayer (ever been unable to get a song out of your head?  Here are songs you want to feed into that endless repeat track!), and Taize is perhaps the perfect example of musical prayer!

Peace to you all, and I’d love to hear from you with opinions on this?

(bonus points for sharing your favorite taize chant with the cyberworld?  Bye again!)


Suburbia QuoteShare

March 7, 2009

This gave me a wry smile, discovered at the header of my gmail page, one of those random quotes they throw out at you:

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.

(Bill Vaughan)

In other randomness, I don’t know whether to be delighted or annoyed.  I’m getting spam here at the blog.  Should I be delighted that maybe this is a sign that I’m getting more real readers? (doubtful, but you know how we naive optimists can be at times!)  Annoyed, well, cuz it’s spam?

In my final random moment, had the neatest deja vu experience!  My SD, a priest at a different Episcopal parish than the one I attend, started what I suppose is his own Lenten discipline, calling it an e-retreat.  He takes a scriptural passage, reflects on it, and draws out the readers in wondering and prayer along with him, and does this via an email list.

He added me to his list, and I’m rather enjoying the reflections and wondering questions.  I once did that as a spiritual discipline.  Oh, of course, it was completely amateur, but I had fun, I grew, and I tried.  It’s a long story, but I used to reflect on our weekly lectionary passages, and try to write adult-level wondering questions, in the same spirit of the wondering questions I would use with my Sunday School/Worship Center children.

But even that is not the deja vu part.  I had tried to form a community of learners and explorers around these amateur reflections.  Got a pretty good-sized percentage of my small parish to willingly sign up to get the reflections – and I think a good chunk of those actually read along, too, not merely politely giving their passive assent to get email from me.  Well, I wasn’t so successful in stimulating conversation, and I have several theories about why that was.  But the SD says that there’s someone out there who approached him about having an email dialogue around them.  I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what comes of that.  It’s so hard for me to get to small groups.  I feel guilty leaving the husband and kids behind for such things, after being at work all day.  And then there’s also just the challenge of finding the time with being a working mom of two elementary aged kids.  Email dialogue, and now blogging, seem a good compromise of what’s in the cards for me, spiritual conversation-wise.  We shall see, I guess!

Peace.


Belated Ash Wednesday Ponderings/Confessions

February 28, 2009

Hey there! I have Episcopal readers, and I have some evangelical readers I think. If you’ve been with me a while, you may be aware that I was raised Roman Catholic. We Catholics “do Lent.” Episcopalians also “do Lent” though not quite to the same legalistic degree as the Lenten observances I was encouraged to as a child. But I wouldn’t abandon a Lenten season, and I see more Protestants are observing Lenten piety than ever.

Just now I made a page with the entire pre-Eucharist Ash Wednesday liturgy, as it occurs in an Episcopal church. You can find it here on my blog (and on the top margin, too!), with links to my original source material there. And I found a phrase of the penitential rite that was fitting for me, and my spiritual pathway of the moment. It is simply this:

…We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

I appreciate the recognition and calling-out to our attention from our prayer book regarding this particular piccadillo as “sin” worthy of confessing, reflecting on, and repenting for. Okay, sure, envy of others is pretty obvious. One of those seven deadly ones, undoubtedly. But what of that first part: anger at our own frustration. How many “good” people work themselves into a lather over not being good enough, or competent enough, or perfect enough to be “worthy” to stand at their mere job or family position, let alone stand before the throne of (our merciful, forgiving, loving) God? (do I detect a little involuntary confessional head-nodding from my side of the computer keyboard???) And so often, these people (“people” equals me, too, of course; my bad!) believe this working of themselves into the lather to be evidence of their goodness and even a sort of repentant, sorrowful piety before an inflexible God. And yet, it’s just another twisted form of pride, isn’t it? Frustration that I am not perfect. <faux gasp!>

I missed Ash Wednesday services this year. I had a rough preceding week that made me part lazy, part exhausted, and part scatterbrained. Friday through Monday had me running from house to grandparents to hospital while my husband recuperated from an unexpected, slightly emergent heart procedure. (it is assumed to be a viral infection with greater than expected inflammation, and fluid accumulation…not likely to be an ongoing problem, but one that will require a few followup appointments with cardiology and hematology. Would welcome your prayers in that regard for a non-remarkable report after those appointments are complete!) Then Tuesday I had one of the worst days at work I’ve had in a long time. The new system contributed to my stress level. Some demanding patients, some legitimately so due to health status and/or disability, some unkindly so with no outwardly apparent explanation (but who knows what really goes on in their inner lives of course. <sigh>), added to my stress level. I was too busy to eat lunch, too busy to drink a sufficient quantity to even desire to use the restroom. Had to tidy up a few unfinished tasks after closing, and was late to a family function as a result. Just really didn’t feel like going to church on my much-needed day off on Wednesday.

Now I regret it though. I miss that “invitation, in the name of the Church, to an observance of a Holy Lent.” It’s just not the same in solitude as it is to be gathered in community as the body of Christ. But my missing it was the prompt for my reading over the liturgy here at home, sort of after the fact. It’s a good one. A rich and useful prayer, that is, this liturgy. No Ash Wednesday is complete without a prayerful meditation over Psalm 51 in my opinion. I recommend it and the rest of the Book of Common Prayer’s Ash Wednesday liturgy for your use or consideration.

But yeah, that whole frustration with self is a biggie for me at many times, and particularly right now with this new computer system at work. Must be patient with self. Must relax. Not easy.

Is there a part of these prayers that particularly speaks to you at your place in the faith journey/struggle as you’re experiencing it right now? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

I enjoy taking some time to wrestle prayerfully/thoughtfully with the spiritual and incarnational realities of our God during the season of Lent. Earthy, fleshy life and ministry with attendant joys and suffering. Spiritual, supernatural results and ripples of that ministry and resurrection life. Hmmm…. Much to pray over and ponder, no?

May you be blessed on your journey, whereever it leads you.