A Meditation Moment

“Solitude, silence and stillness are the corrections to the compulsions that come out of our head, heart and gut. Together they make us whole. They bring us home.”

~ The Sacred Enneagram by Chris Heuertz, p.169

Today, sit in solitude, silence and stillness with gratitude.

A Meditation Moment

Whew! We’ve been dealing with some tough topics! Today, find your breath! Go for a walk. Walk mindfully. Pay attention to your feet hitting the ground, notice the world around you. Listen to your breathing. Notice colors, sounds, smells. Walk leisurely. When you find your mind wandering, take a deep breath to reset, pause for a few beats, and then continue your stroll.

A Meditation Moment

There are various versions of the Serenity Prayer, and various attributions as to the author (Reinhold Niebuhr is a popular guess). Today we will continue with the longer version.

God [pause]

Living one day at a time [pause], Enjoying one moment at a time [pause], Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace [pause], Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it [pause]

What will today bring? Consider living it well, wisely, with gratitude. Breathe.

A Meditation Moment

A few days ago we took a meditation moment and breathed through the first part of the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… Today - we continue…


God [pause]

Grant me the courage [pause]

To change the things I can…[pause]


Ponder courage - what do you need to be courageous about? What things can you change? Allow your mind to gently ponder this as you breathe.

A Meditation Moment

Sit quietly and recite the first part of the serenity prayer. Pause after each phrase.

God [pause]

Grant me serenity [pause]

To accept the things I cannot change [pause]

Take a few moments to imagine God listening to your request for serenity. Imagine how you might find serenity today. Pause and consider the things that you wish would change, but you have no power to change. End with a repetition of God, Grant me serenity...

Meditation Moment

Today, try a loving kindness meditation. Think of someone and find your gratitude for them. Name at least five things about them you appreciate. Move on to another person and pray gratitude and appreciation for them in five specific ways. Do this as long as time and concentration permits. Gratitude is super good for us. It has more benefits than eating cruciferous vegetables and flossing. Just kidding - but it is really, really good for our souls!

Meditation Moment

Mindfulness meditation is as simple as sitting, breathing, and focusing on the present moment and breath. Research indicates that this is extremely helpful especially for folks struggling with depression and anxiety. I like to start my time of meditation with this opening prayer, “God, I am going to sit here and simply be present. I do this as an acknowledgement that you are God and I am not. So I sit in honor of you.”

When your mind gets distracted with thoughts and worries and plans for the future, just take a deep breath and refocus on the sit.

Meditation Moment

Each day we are given the gift of 24 hours; prayer and meditation is one way to ground ourselves in the present moment. Here is a prayer to guide our daily meditation moment!

Look to this day,

for it is life,

the very life of life.

in its brief course lie all

the realities and verities of existence,

the bliss of growth,

the splendor of action,

the glory of power.

For yesterday is but a dream,

and tomorrow is only a vision,

but today, well lived,

makes every yesterday

a dream of happiness a

and every tomorrow

a vision of hope.

Look well therefore, to this day.

Hindu Proverb

Gully Washers and Effervescence

Thanksgiving is now technically behind us, and that means we start looking at Christmas, right?


I could write something snarky about how we’ve all lost our way with the commercialization of Christmas, but who am I kidding? I love it all. I love the secular, the sacred, the lights, the handbells, the cheesy Christmas movies, the old standby Christmas songs, and even all the preparations surrounding the Christmas season. In our community, we have a few rituals around how we celebrate Christmas and I love them as much as I love the ones my family practices. I love Christmas. Mostly, I love the expecting, waiting and hoping that Christmas seems to awaken in me. As an adult, I am more focused on creating the experience of Christmas than hoping someone will make my Christmas merry and bright. I believe in Christmas. After reading Brene’ Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness,” I have no guilt or shame about my love for the season. I no longer understand my passion as the generational expression awakened in me by my Christmas-loving, Santa-celebrating, and over-the-top light-loving mom. In fact, I am turning into a Christmas holiday celebrating zealot.

In chapter six, “Hold hands. With strangers,” Brene’ Brown describes in detail a key point that emerged from her research to help us cultivate and grow our belief in the inextricable human connection. This matters because this capacity for connection is so vital to our well-being, and the wellbeing of our communities. It is what Christmas does for us as a collective, in my opinion. Brown was shocked by the results, which were this: Show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection. (p.120)

She entertained, illustrated and connected with her reader by providing examples of how she had experienced this showing up, which pretty much explains why I was unwilling to stand in the hallways at Scott Stadium during a recent downpour and legitimate gully washer at a recent UVA football game. At gametime, the seats were mostly empty but the entire stadium was filled with water! In raincoats, boots, ponchos and head gear, we were soaked within seconds of taking our seats. Pete suggested we go stand in the covered concession area. Maybe buy UVA apparel to change into that would at least give us dryer clothes? For like 15 seconds? I was having none of it. I cheered with the others in the stands, sang the good old song, and said to our neighbor a few seats down, “This is crazy, right?” What we were experiencing was collective effervescence. Brene’ says (p.130) that a French sociologist coined this term to describe a type of magic he witnessed during religious ceremonies. He says it is an experience of connection, communal emotion, and a “sensation of sacredness” that is what happens when we are willing to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And this feeds our soul.

Pete and I have been going to UVA games together for 44 years. UVA fans understand that the “effervescence” has been a lot of PAIN with an occasional side of joy. Our football team has lost a lot of games in 44 years. But our night in the rain was magical. To sit and stand and cheer and have water gather in nooks and crannies of our body was awesome. Our team lost that night, but we won another memory to cherish that was bigger than either of us individually or even the two of us as a couple. We need more of this in our lives folks, we just do. Christmas can be that if we are willing to be more intentional, aware and thoughtful in our Christmas expectations, waiting and hoping.

Letting go gives us balance

Over the past few weeks we’ve visited and revisited step 11 of the 12 steps of AA: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will and the power to carry that out.

It seems to me that the eleventh step takes a lot of pressure off of prayer and meditation. It’s clear and simple: we are simply improving our conscious contact with God, we acknowledge that our capacity to connect is limited by our gaps in understanding who he is, we ask only for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry that out.

It is assumed that to have the capacity to know and do the will of God is enough. It is more than enough. What else is there? This makes such perfect sense to me. Without big long lists of demands for God’s immediate action in the life and times of me, I am now given the time to meditate. To sit quietly. To be still and know that God is God and I am not. To, as Jesus did, draw away from the hustle and bustle of the world into solitude.

This is yet another blessing of letting go and letting God. It is a counter-weight to my natural tendency to codependently point out to God all that I think HE is missing!! Today, I wait more, expect more, and hope more.

Or, to be more specific, I expect differently. I have stopped demanding results and started trusting God with whoever and whatever my mind is concerned about. I’m aware that God is not obligated to DO anything about my concerns, but I love the practice of sharing them because I know he cares, not because I think he needs me to keep him informed.

December is a big month for waiting, expecting and hoping. I’m going to spend the rest of this month looking at the season of Advent - the four Sundays prior to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve, a time of preparing for the coming of the Christ. I wonder if our recovery perspective might enrich our faith perspective on Christmas.

Striving, hoping, and waiting

You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings. James 4:2-3 CEB

When I was young, I tried to solve my prayer problems with hard work.

I continued to redouble my efforts because I was convinced that my evil intentions in prayer were the cause of my desert-like prayer experience. But I also began to question my own prayer posture. The more I read and studied, the less convinced I was that God’s greatest desire for me was to feed him a list of requests, let’s be honest - demands, for how he was to show up and work in the world.

I continued this elaborate ritual of prayer but all joy drained from the experience; even my school supplies could not comfort me.

In 1986 my brother got sober; to support him, I began to embrace the 12 steps. Step 11 blew me away. Step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out.

What do you notice about this prayer? What is the objective of this step? What is promised? What is not promised? I thought prayer was about solving problems and feeling better. It was a relief to discover that prayer was possible and even sacred without solving a particular problem and even if I did not feel better as a result of my prayer efforts.

Hoping and Waiting

The eleventh step radically changed my perspective on prayer and meditation. I sorely needed a readjustment. Historically, I have proven time and again that I am capable of misinterpreting the scriptures.

“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Matthew 7:7-8 CEB

Early on in my faith journey, I developed a system of praying that looked more like a strategic plan then sacred time spent with God. I organized my prayer requests in an elaborate system of checks and balances so that I would not forget to ask, seek, and knock so that I might receive and find.

It was tiring.

As much as I enjoyed the school supplies I used as my prayer tools and the structure of rigorous and daily asking and seeking, I felt something was missing.

Do you ever feel that something is missing when it comes to prayer?

A Prayer for Wednesday

Father, Give us a heart for earnest seeking.  Help us appreciate the value of unconditional love and the real risk associated with knowing that all our relationships are appropriately conditional.  Grant us the discernment to wisely understand that we can ruin relationships if we stubbornly resist change. Guide us as we navigate our own struggles with people who have betrayed us and for whom we have lost trust.  And in all these things pour your grace and mercy upon us for we are weak and without you we are hopeless.

Amen

A Prayer for Wednesday

Lord, Your people asked you how they had behaved contemptuously toward you and you told them!  With fear and trembling, we ask you to show us our own stubborn resistance to living life as you would have us.  But God, please be gentle with us for we are fragile at times. Thank you for your patience with us.

Amen

 

A Prayer for Friday

Father, you have given us a big vision for a job that so often seems so easy, natural and small as to feel as if we couldn’t possibly be getting it right.  When our love flows naturally from you to others, we hardly notice it happening. For those times when we love one another well in a way that includes both give and take - we give thanks.
 
For those times when either we perceive or come to know that we have experienced a love fail - we ask for mercy.  Forgive us our clumsy love-less ways!
 
Thank you for your guidance in these matters.  For today, we lay our weapons of defensiveness down and ask for your continued patience as we practice loving respect for  you, ourselves and others.
 
Amen
 

 

A prayer for Tuesday

Lord, today we pray.  We pray for those we love.  We confess that we have not always loved them well.  We pray for those who love us, acknowledging that we have not always made it easy on them to understand how to love us well.  We pray for our enemies, for we often prefer to despise them more than we desire to love them, which says way more about us than it does them.

 

 

In all these things, we come to your our source of all good things.  We ask for your forgiveness, and your guidance. We thank you for your patience with us even as we lament our own sloth in the work of transformation.

 

 

Get down here and help us! Please!  We are in bad shape!

 

Amen

 

A Prayer For Monday

Today, I pray for you and yours…

 

 

Lord, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Who do we deceive?

Ourselves, Lord.

 

 

We deceive ourselves when…

We believe we are too far gone for you to reach down and scoop us up in your arms

We judge ourselves and find our own lacking reason from condemnation

We manage our own anxiety with veiled attempts to push it onto some other poor schmuck

We use our anger to fuel our action

We believe our emotions on face value and run headlong into reaction without pause

We distrust our feelings without thanking them for getting our attention

 

 

Woe are we in our confusion and chaos!

Bring us home Lord, home to you.

Grant us rest, as you promised.

Wisdom as you intended.

Save us and ours!

Amen

 

Prayer

Michel Quoist wrote a book named “Prayers” (Sheed & Ward Inc., 1963) that I have appreciated for decades.  The author, Father Michel Quoist, was a Catholic priest, theologian and writer.

 

 

I love the structure of this book; he poetically leads us through his core conviction that if we knew how to listen to God all of life would become a prayer.  Here is one of his poems. It presents both comfort and challenge. I like to imagine that after a particular sorrowful day, this is what God has to say to me. And to you….

 

Son, I have heard you.

I am sorry for you.

I have long been watching your closed shutters.

Open them; my light will come in.

I have long been standing at your locked door; open it;

You will find me on the threshold.

 

I am waiting for you, the others are waiting for you, but you must open, you must come out.

 

Why choose to be a prisoner of yourself?

You are free.

It is not I who locked the door, it is not I who can open it.

...For it is you, from the inside, who persist in keeping it firmly barred.

Michel Quoist, p. 114-115 Prayers

 

 

May we all accept the help; enter the challenge. Amen

 

Prayer

14 And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14, NRSV

Prayer is one of the “obvious” spiritual disciplines, but can look many different ways.  We talked in earlier days about how prayer can be a more active experience, one in which we are talking to God (whether out loud or not), or a more passive experience (such as centering prayer’s focus on sitting in God’s presence).  

Rather than saying anything about “how to pray,” that’s a separate conversation, I want to offer a few practical thoughts on prayer.  I know most people struggle to pray at all.  I am one of these people.  If this is you- find the style of prayer that you can do.  In an ideal world we would all have wildly exciting and diverse prayer lives.  We don’t live in an ideal world.  Don’t think about time or frequency.  Focusing on those things is just shame attack waiting to happen.  Spend your energy discovering a form of prayer that you enjoy (or can at least tolerate) and do that when you can.  It’s easier to stick to it if you schedule it and make it a habit but, if that’s not happening, do it when you can.  Any amount is valuable, there is no minimum.  

There is no right or perfect way to pray.  Some people use acronyms or other tools as guides.  That’s fine if it helps you.  Centering prayer is no more correct than a more active form of prayer.  They are all strategies and approaches, they all have value, and they will speak to, or connect with, different people differently.  Find something you enjoy- but be willing to try uncomfortable things.  It took me years to be willing to experiment with centering prayer- now it is my go-to.  So, don’t be afraid to revisit something you’ve previously rejected.  We change.  

There are “talking” prayers and “silent” prayers.  There are also other options.  You can get the Book of Common prayer, for instance.  You can read these prayers, and take them as your own.  You can do the same with Psalms, or Lamentations, or even the Prophets.  Or you can simply pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Or the Serenity Prayer.  You can use pre-written prayers as guides so you do not have to form your own words.  This can be one of the simplest ways to get started.  

Prayer is our conscious contact with God but, don’t forget our communal mindset.  Prayer is also one of the ways in which we serve our community and our world.  It’s far bigger than us.  Community is always first!