“Where is God in all this for you now?” It’s a typical question posed by my spiritual director. Here is today’s answer, as always subject to change!
For me God is in my heart along with all the joy and sorrow and especially with the confusion, trying to fan a flame of certainty or certitude or clarity. Then if God is within me and all beings and the universe and bigger than the cosmos, God is the heartbeat of it all; the electrical impulse that keeps us going (until it doesn’t–but then, it’s still pulsing), and of course God is linked to the breath–breath of life and cessation of breath (yet it is still flowing all around us).
In the flow . . . let it all go . . . breathe in peace / God . . . breathe out love / God . . . “all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.” When I pay attention to the breath of life and the heartbeat within everything I believe in the power of God and I believe in everlasting love that powers and sustains us all. Rest in that love.
A new (to me) meditation CD helped me relax so nicely. Psychologist Paul Overman has a series of 10 Minutes to Relax CDs. Guided meditation for about 10 minutes and another 10 minutes of relaxing music (Jim Oliver on synthesizer). It’s a great reminder that meditation does not need to take much time. It just needs the space–your personal space–that will bring you back to your center. Doesn’t that feel so good when you let it happen?
So for just one minute, breathe with me.
Let your rib cage expand, . . .
let your breath come smoothly and easily. . . .
Let tension flow all the way through and out of your body. . . .
Let wellbeing flow into you, . . .
from toes and fingers . . .
all the way through to your head. . . .
Then take this moment with you into your day. . . .
Thanks to Karl, I’ve started a prayer journal. On a recent Sunday he mentioned having done this for a couple of years, once a week, and sent me samples from his book. Since I keep a journal and I regularly meditate or pray, why not combine the practices? The idea is to spend some time (perhaps an hour) once a week to write to whatever/whoever seems appropriate: Spirit of Life; Mystery of the Universe; Holy One; My Higher Self . . . and just put your inner needs or desires into words. I started with a different journal from my usual one. It had been given to participants of a yoga retreat in April, and seemed just right for my new purpose.
Here’s a sample prayer, fresh off the keyboard:
Mystery Beyond My Understanding,
Be with my friends and parishioners who are hospitalized, in rehab, under Hospice care, and recently deceased. Each of them has been a teacher to me and continues to teach me without a single lesson plan.
They show me that we are frail vessels who might suddenly become ill or injured or in need of surgery. I particularly pray for my neighbor Ken, whose surgery is very soon. He is afraid and anxious, not just of the surgery but of the aggressive cancer. Another neighbor, a nurse, has been a steadfast companion.
They show me what it means to live and die with dignity, how dying brings out both the best and the worst of patients, family members, and friends. That we will die is not a mystery, but we prefer to ignore that fact.
Mystery of Life, Mystery of Death, open my eyes and let compassion guide me into good ministry and loving friendship.
Shanti, Peace, Aloha
Here’s a link to How to Keep a Prayer Journal. It suggests keeping a Bible at hand, but any scripture or book of poetry might be your preference. Let me know if you decide to try this–and check with me to make sure I keep it up!
Keeping a Prayer Journal
A Prayer Bead workshop led by Linda and Audrey provided over 20 women with an opportunity to think about prayer and to craft a set of prayer beads. Though some of us consider “prayer” to be a “wounded word” from the past and some of us have no reason to use it in the present, we were presented with alternatives–new ways of thinking about prayer. They are planning another workshop in the fall for children and adults, including families.
I pray on a regular basis now, but for many years it had became a pointless practice.
Maybe prayer felt like a childhood exercise: “Now I lay me down to sleep . . .”; “God is great, God is good . . .”; “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”; “Our Father . . .” At various times these were not just familiar but a source of comfort. (Ironically, they still bring comfort under certain circumstances.) When I left the Episcopal Church as a young adult I walked away from regular prayer, too. Everywhere I looked, prayers were offered for trivial reasons: for OUR team, OUR nation, OUR safety, etc.
These prayer beads serve a tactile purpose of metaphorically touching the spirit of life, the spirit within, and the spirit of connection with others. The entering bead is for Centering, or creating a space within for prayer or meditation. To that Centering bead I added disks for Time and Space. I’m centered in a particular time and space but I am also connected to eternal time and space. Widening my heart makes the Center fuller and richer.
The Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holway writes of prayer in volume 2 of Evensong>. She describes prayer as:
- attending to what life gives us
- listening in the quiet
- responding honestly and openly
- hearing the call to a wider perspective, a deeper resolve
- tending the relationship with our truest, greatest self
- cultivated when practiced every day, regularly, intentionally
- a reminder to live with compassion and care for ourselves, others, and creation
- a rush of thanks for all the gifts of life
Clearly there’s a call to prayer, as simple as “Thanks for Creation” or in whatever form helps you listen to your heart. There’s also a strong call to action when there’s so much that needs human hands to make the world a better place. Let’s pray for that, too!