Tag Archives: joy

Enjoying Prayer and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, February 8, 2017

pray-blocks

Enjoying Prayer and Meditation

When I slow down and get ready for prayer and meditation, I sometimes find myself automatically loosening up my shoulders, taking slow and even deep breaths, settling myself comfortably, or turning my head gradually from side to side. All this is my way of getting ready.

Thich Nhat Hanh has similar advice for his readers: “Set aside a room or a corner or a cushion that you use just for sitting. When you arrive there, you will immediately begin to feel some of the joy and relaxation that comes from sitting.” [1]

Relaxation and calmness are with me, and a part of me, most of the time now when I pray. However, I sometimes still find it difficult to generate the joy that the monk talks about here in this section from the book How to Sit. This is one of my current challenges, I know. (I am working on it.)

Gracious God, this quote reminds me of what joy and happiness can be found in prayer and meditation…Thich Nhat Hanh shows it so clearly. I know I ought to strive for that same joy. But—I feel the challenge. I realize this is difficult for me. Heck, I really am excited about feeling relaxed and calm most times, when I pray! (Much less feeling joy. One step at a time. That is what I keep telling myself.) Dear God, help me to persevere. And, thanks for the wonderful, unexplored world of prayer. I know I’ve just gotten started, in prayer. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

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Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 53.

Joy and Happiness in Prayer?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 6, 2017

 

happiness-in-sand

Joy and Happiness in Prayer?

What an outrageous thought—feeling joy and happiness while praying. Or…is it?

Not according to the author of How to Sit, Buddhist monk and meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. The way he talks about it, feeling joy and happiness is a natural outgrowth of regularly practicing meditation and prayer.

All I know is I am able to tap into calmness and (even) serenity sometimes when I pray and meditate, now. Sure, I still have regular bouts with fear and anxiety. I can’t imagine a single person who does not. Welcome to the human condition. However, I am able to calm down that fear and anxiety, and more often than not relax into calmness, slowed breathing, and legitimate peace of mind. Really. Really and truly.

Now, going the next step and feeling joy and happiness, on a regular basis? Not so much.

As How to Sit says, relaxing and calming the body is a wonderful thing to do. Except, he connects being relaxed and calm with experiencing joy and happiness. [1] This is a challenging next step for me to do.

As this page mentions, “Countless people bounce around like yo-yos in their busy lives and never have the chance to taste this joy.” [2] However, I can take heart in the fact that I don’t have hours each day to sit in prayer and meditation, since “a few moments of sitting and conscious breathing can bring great happiness.”

Contentment? Peace? Certainly. I’ve experienced it. But, happiness and joy? I guess I’ll have to keep practicing until I do. That’s okay. I have a great love for these practices. So awesome! I guess there is always something more to learn. Again, that is perfectly okay.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thanks for bringing this reading to my attention. Thanks to our author, and much appreciation for his offer of support and encouragement. Thank you! And, go, us!

 

 

 

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 51.

[2] Ibid.

In Which I Listen to Christmas Music

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 16, 2016

handels-messiah-title

In Which I Listen to Christmas Music

I enjoy listening to music. I mean, really enjoy it. (I do have an undergraduate degree in music. So, there.)

I have eclectic tastes in Christmas music, too. Love me some Leroy Anderson, Irving Berlin, and Vince Guaraldi. Also, I am a big fan of Baroque music (Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, anyone? Of course, the first part of Handel’s Messiah. For that matter, all three parts of it.).

Currently, my favorite music I listen to on the CD player happens to be a Christmas jazz instrumental collection. Also, I am seriously considering buying another Christmas CD—a capella, five voices. Wonderful blend, jazzy and innovative arrangements.

I suspect I know what some people are asking. Listening to music…that is just background noise. But, not for me. For me, it can be much more.

Sometimes when I am listening to music, I feel a joy inside, or awe, or deep sadness. I swing, or strum, or just rock out. It doesn’t matter where on earth the music came from. The musical language can even transport me to a galaxy far, far away.

Can I pray when I am listening to music? Not always, no. Sometimes I simply enjoy the music for its own sake. But, sometimes, the music echoes deep within. And, yes, I pray. I thank God for the particular piece I’m listening to. (And, I mean, really listening. I listen to the melodies, harmonies, and various instrumentalists and vocalists. I listen to the interplay, polyphony, sometimes the conversation between various groups of instruments.)

Amazingly, at times the music moves me ever so strongly. (I was going to say, “strikes a deep chord,” but I thought I would skip that pun.) And, sometimes I pray wordlessly when I listen to music.

Dear God, thank You for music. Thank You for artistic expression, which is a gift of Your ever-so-dynamic creative impulse. Creative God, thank You for the many different compositions, styles, expressions and arrangements of praise to You. I’m especially thinking of Christmas music. It doesn’t matter whether the music was written in the Renaissance, or Classical era, or the twentieth century. Innovation and beauty mix and meet, intermingle and interplay. Thank You for such a marvelous expression of creativity. No matter what else happens to me or my loved ones, no matter what is going on emotionally or what a bumpy road I may be on. I love listening this time of the year, especially because of the marvelous, glorious music. Simply, thanks.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

In Which I Pray for a Friend

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 25, 2016

PRAY I always hug them with my prayers

In Which I Pray for a Friend

Here I am, at the New Wilmington Mission Conference, which is totally awesome! Such a wonderful gathering of people interested in mission and outreach. Not only from all over the country, but from all over the world.

Yet, I am also far away from a good friend who will be having a medical procedure tomorrow.

I have heard heart-warming (and sometimes heart-breaking) stories about individuals in far-flung places this week, as well as churches just planted, churches in difficulty, and some churches under opposition. Also, I heard great hopefulness about believers having great joy despite trials and poverty, conflict and being refugees.

So much sadness mingled with joy. Yet, I have concern in my heart about my friend. Far away.

I can’t be there. Yes, I can pray. (And I have already, and will continue to pray.) But, I would like to be there for the family. I know how it helps to have encouraging and supportive friends nearby. Able to run errands, and visit in the hospital or care center. Sometimes just to sit and keep loved ones company, or pray, or be silent.

The concern in my heart is real. I want to ask God to be with my friend. Would you pray with me?

Dear Lord, gracious God, You are the great Physician. You know us from head to toe, every hair on our heads, and every cell in our bodies. Heavenly Healer, I pray for my dear friend right now. I pray for the medical procedure tomorrow, for the medical team attending, and for You to give abundant wisdom and understanding in this case. I pray for the hands of the staff to be caring and capable, and for the healing to come. Holy Spirit, I pray that You come alongside of all who love and care for my friend and the whole family. Support and encourage all of them in this challenging time—healing time. Thank You for loving and caring for all of us—especially my good friend. In the healing name of Jesus we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza  And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Joy! Jesus is our Joy!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 25, 2015

joy to the world blackboard

Joy! Jesus is our Joy!

As much as I love Henri Nouwen’s writing, he is by no means the only Christian writer I fangirl.

I need to make a confession. When I was considering the Advent season and the month of December (last month), I chose two writers of stature, whose writings I greatly respect. I ordered two books of Advent meditations featuring their writings. And, I said to myself, whichever book arrives first will be the one I use. Henri Nouwen’s book arrived first. So, that was settled.

However—Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book of meditations and reflections is also rich. Deeply moving and meaningful. Even though I couldn’t manage the whole season of Advent, at least I could finish up December with Bonhoeffer. See whether I can finish this year of prayer well. Bonhoeffer is certainly a heavy hitter, as far as prayer, meditation and devotion are concerned.

Joy to the world! That’s what I am called to consider. Joy to the world!

Bonhoeffer walks us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. Vignettes, in a brief glimpse form. Different ways in which Jesus revealed Himself to different segments of humanity. Until, at last, Jesus was resurrected for all of us, that Easter morning.

This hymn, “Joy to the World,” is full of theological detail from a broad scope, The vast sweep of eternity. Yet, I am drawn to consider the birth of Jesus. That specific moment in time, over two thousand years ago. Bonhoeffer makes reference to 1 Peter 1, especially “even though you do not see [Jesus] now, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”

Yes. Jesus is my joy. I find joy in the entrance of the eternal God into this world. I find joy in God the eternal Son loving the world so much that He chose to empty Himself and become human. I find joy in God desiring a relationship with me. With me!

Thank You, God. I know I don’t deserve any of it. But, I try to be grateful. Thank You, God.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

On Taking the Joy with the Sorrow

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, November 11, 2015

JOY today I choose joy

On Taking the Joy with the Sorrow

I need to get used to living life on life’s terms. Yes, life comes my way, complete with joy and sorrow.

I can so relate to today’s reading from Keep It Simple, the reading that says so many people in recovery want the joy from life without getting any of the sorrow. In other words, all of the up sides of life, without any downs. But—what will happen if life is all sunshine and flowers?

“ … we can learn from hard times, maybe more than we do in easy times. Often, getting through hard times helps us grow.” [1]

Wow. I know that, first hand. I have been through some challenging, even difficult times. Even though I have always had a belief in God as my Higher Power, a belief in God as I understand God, my life has not always been a bed of roses. Sure, I have had hard times. (For several extended periods in my life, too.) But, God has been there.

There have been times when God seemed far away. Or ignoring me. Or powerless to help me. Those are the times when it was like God was behind a cloud. Or, hiding. Or, completely silent.

This reading lets me know that this may very well describe our “conscious contact” from Step Eleven. Yes, “as this constant contact grows, our courage grows. And, we find the strength to face hard times.” [2]

God willing, I will be able to depend on my Higher Power. I will find the strength to have faith in God, as I understand God.

Praise be to Your name, O Lord Jesus Christ.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Keep It Simple: Daily Meditations for Twelve-Step Beginnings and Renewal. (Hazelden Meditation Series) (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989), November 11 reading.

[2] Ibid.

Nourish and Connect with the Soul

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, June 20, 2015

HUG - can I have a hug

Nourish and Connect with the Soul

Why not nourish our souls? Why not connect with that deep place inside each of us? (Those are rhetorical questions.)

I loved the way Richard Carlson opened our chapter today in Handbook for the Soul. He quoted Stephen Levine, and said, “If you had one hour to live and could make only one call, who would it be to, what would you say, and why are you waiting?” [1] Yes, I loved this quote.

I know I think about life one day at a time. This quote also made me think hard.

When it comes to thinking about my own death, I am certainly calmer, more at peace than some I have seen first-hand who received bad news in the hospital. However, I have never thought quite this thought before. Going one step further, I considered Carlson’s similar question, directed to the Soul: “Why wait a moment longer to connect with and nourish the Soul?” [2]

My connectedness to my Soul plays a big part in my happiness, my joy, contentment, graciousness, and kindness (to myself as well as to others). Any kind of disconnect is something that concerns me.

As I thought about the whole concept of connection to the Soul, my yoga class came to mind. (I know I’ve mentioned before that my yoga teacher is marvelous!) True, I have prayed, meditated, and done various other kinds of spiritual formation and exercises for years. However, I think the past year and a half (since I started yoga practice on a regular basis) has helped me to grow in a different way. Not as much up in my head, and more in my heart and in my body.

I can easily affirm Carlson’s words “that the primary purpose in life is to feel and appreciate the presence of God, to live from a state of love and compassion, to be of service to others, and then, instantly, like magic, I begin to feel at peace.” [3]

Just so.

Yes, I find yoga greatly assists me in this endeavor. Yes. Striving to do these three foundational things, and having peace by the natural result? Marvelous striving. And, wonderful happenings, along the way. Feeling nourished by my Soul? Fabulous. And, I feel that feeling on a regular basis, now. What a feeling! How wonderful to be more and more connected to my Soul. God willing, I can keep feeling this way.

[1] Handbook for the Soul, Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, editors. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1995.), 126.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 127.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

Full of Grace and Encouragement. Prayer, Too!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, April 13, 2015

encourage each other water

Full of Grace and Encouragement. Prayer, Too!

Barnabas is mentioned just a few times in the book of Acts, but always with such encouragement! That was Barnabas, all over. (I’m talking about Acts 11, now.)

Yes, I have some of the gift of encouragement. I enjoy building up others with the joy of God. If people are doing something right, my first impulse is to comment and tell them so!

I wonder. How often do others have that impulse?

The other leaders in the beginning of church movement wanted to check out what was going on in Antioch. They were truly led by God in their choice of investigators. Who better to investigate, verify and report back?

Dear God, help me to be encouraging, positive, loving and caring with others. And when I get placed in situations where others are doing something questionable, Lord, help me to always follow Your will and ways, especially when dealing with others.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

Leaving Advent Calendars Behind

matterofprayer blog post for Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent calendars are wonderful. Great ways to show small children, visually, how many days have to pass before Christmas comes. I have used Advent calendars in my house for years. They are pretty and useful. In years past, the young people here have really appreciated the yearly calendar. But now, my two younger children are in their late teens. Yes, I got an Advent calendar, but my 19 year old did not want to open any windows (this year, at least). And my 16 year old is opening windows in the calendar, but is not particularly excited about it.

What do I do when some Advent activity or small tradition of Christmas is left behind? How will I feel? Will my unrealistic expectations be dashed? What then?

This is where prayer comes in. Prayer can be calming. Prayer can be life-saving. I can pour out my disappointment to God in prayer, and get some relief. (some release, too!) I know, intellectually, that my children are growing and changing. As each new year passes and each December proceeds toward Christmas, I need to grow and change, too. My prayer life helps me come to terms with that part.

God knows our disappointment and fear, as well as our anxiety, anger and distress. God is familiar with our joy, excitement, and laughter, too. These are God-given expressions, meant to express our feelings, desires and the innermost cries of our hearts. (chuckles, too!) God calls us to pray, to communicate, to curl up alongside and have a heart-to-heart talk. Just what I need, so often.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for such wonderful ideas as Advent calendars! But help me come to terms with facts: my younger children are growing beyond such things. I know You can bring me—You can bring us—to fresh understandings of the Advent season. Thank You for this time of preparation. Prepare our hearts to receive You. Amen!

Christmas Music for Everyone

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, December 14, 2013

I hear Christmas music on the cd player as I write this. Choral, a capella. Complex chords and harmonies. These aspects of the music make my heart sing. The winning combination of beautiful music and meaningful words helps my heart to worship, too.

Since I am a classically trained musician and have a bachelor’s degree in church music, music has been and still is an important feature of my life. My avocation and my deep joy, as well as an aid to worship. Sometimes music can bring me to tears, and the next minute can lead me to worship and praise. Especially at this time of year.

A great deal of Christmas music was written with the church in mind, or at least, based on the Gospel accounts in Luke and Matthew. (I know there are some fun songs, secular songs, but I’d like to focus instead on the sacred music.) Composers and songwriters in many diverse cultures have tried their hands at writing Christmas music—and Advent music, too. Diverse songs like “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming” (German, Michael Praetorius, 1609) to “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” (Traditional West Indian Carol, popularized by Harry Belafonte in 1958).

Different cultures portray the Holy Family in contexts that are familiar to them, too. Many people are familiar with the olive wood nativity scenes, carved by Palestinian Christians and imported all over the world today. But I’ve also seen a Kenyan nativity set with animals native to the Kenya bush. And a Peruvian nativity with everyone dressed in traditional Peruvian garb. And—to me—the familiar Advent calendars with the northern European features.

One more recent Christmas carol comes from the mid 20th century. The words by Wihla Hutson evoke the differences in how children all over the world see the baby Jesus. “Lily white,” “bronzed and brown,” “almond-eyed,” “dark as they.” The Baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. He was born into this world to identify with us. And we can identify with Him, just as much.

This Advent period is a period of waiting for the coming of the Baby in Bethlehem. However we may see Him, however the Holy Family is presented in our culture or setting or church tradition, we are to wait with eagerness. With quiet and prayer. With expectation in our hearts. And in one of my favorite ways, with music to assist us in this waiting time.

Let’s pray. Dear God, Gracious Lord, this Advent waiting time is a time of expectation, but it’s also a time of preparation. Help me to prepare my heart to receive You. Forgive me for closing the door on others who don’t see You in the same way as I see You. Forgive me for being so narrow-minded and thoughtless. Thank You that You came into this world for everyone. For each child, for each adult, for each senior. Help me to look on those who are different from me with Your eyes. Emmanuel, God with us, all of us. Thank You, Jesus.