Tag Archives: meditate

Following the River—Prayerfully

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ireland - Bridges Park

Ireland – Bridges Park

Following the River—Prayerfully

When last we left our prayer narrative, we were right smack dab in the middle of things. Wonderful place to pick things up again.

The next method in prayer and meditation concerns a view of my life. (Or, your life. One’s life. Whoever we are talking about, anyway.) I was told to consider my life as a river, following it as it goes, through the bumpy, hilly, turbulent terrain.

To quote from Margaret Silf: “[The river] carves its way through the earth—hard clay or soft sand—where it finds itself; it finds ways to go beyond the obstructions and blockages that it meets; it may flow underground, forming channels and caves, or it may spread out and water the land around it. . . . [the river] offers space for the flow or resists it; it cooperates with the power of the water or its struggles against it.” [1]

One of the first questions Silf asks is “What kind of landscape has your river flowed through so far?” Wow. That is a big, BIG question for me. Sure, I could chalk out whole episodes in different areas of my life. Sure, many of them were unpleasant. However, I just need to look at things (or people, or ideas) that already strive to make sense of this seeming mishmash of random activities or average stuff or, hurtful people crossing the river of my life.

Imagine your life as a river. What is your river’s path through the landscape where life has set you? Think about it. Meditate on it. Journal about it. Pray.

Great advice. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@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 sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1][1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 16-17.

First Sunday in Lent – Reflection on Fr. Nouwen and Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, February 21, 2015

Prayer-faith-God-stones

First Sunday in Lent – Reflection on Fr. Nouwen and Prayer

As my title says, today is the first Sunday in Lent. As such, I had a day of rest from the 40acts of generosity. (However, I did preach on generosity! See my tweet: Generous With Our Purpose – sermon for 1st Sunday of Lent http://wp.me/p5Nfg4-7  #40acts @StLukesChurch2 )

Instead of meditating and praying on the daily generosity challenge from 40acts, I had the opportunity to pray with one of my several helpful prayer guides. The one I am going to be using during the Sundays in Lent is A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. (an Upper Room publication)

Accordingly, I read through the prayer, psalm and several scripture readings for the day. Plus, I read the first Reading for Reflection. Wouldn’t you know that it was by Fr. Henri Nouwen. On prayer. Well, much more than prayer, but focusing on prayer as a centerpiece of our service to God.

Fr. Nouwen’s words are always thought-provoking. I can never read anything by him and come away unmoved. I always have some thing or some thought from his writing that just will not go away. Just so with this brief, two paragraph reading, too. (from The Living Reminder) The crux of what he said: “We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer.”

How often do I find that to be the case, in many people’s minds? Service for God is not meant to be totally separated from prayer, and vice versa. Service . . . ministry . . . prayer . . . spirituality. All interconnected, and all part of each other. God probably planned them to be seamless parts of a whole. Sadly, I do not (cannot?) make all these pieces of my spiritual life fit together so well as Fr. Nouwen suggests.

I am afraid I will never be an “isolated hermit,” but that is all for the good. I would be hard-pressed to be such, as a contemplative. I don’t think God intended that life for me. However, I can rest in God, have devotions with God, even go on the occasional retreat with God.

Yes, I don’t think I belong up on that mountaintop with God, all the time. I need to be down in the trenches, walking with the members in my congregation, praying with the bible studies and in worship services. And meditating. And in contemplation. That reminds me of one of my favorite phrases: both/and! Both service/and prayer. Both ministry/and meditation. What a wonderful reminder to me that I am absolutely doing something right—engaging in multi-faceted ministry for God.

Thanks for the affirmation, Fr. Nouwen!

(Check out #40acts; doing Lent generously at www.40acts.org.uk )

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

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza

Doubting? Who’s Doubting What? Who? (Me?)

matterofprayer blog post for Friday, May 23, 2014

Michelangelo_Merisi_da_Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_

Doubting? Who’s Doubting What? Who? (Me?)

I preached on John 20 a few weeks ago, where the disciple Thomas couldn’t (wouldn’t?) believe that the risen Jesus had appeared to the other disciples. About that time, I happened to read a blog post of an Internet acquaintance of mine, Barry, featuring Caravaggio’s intense painting “Incredulity of Thomas.” He gave some indepth analysis of the painting, which shows the risen Christ baring His side to Thomas, inviting Thomas to touch and see that it was indeed Him. In the flesh.

My acquaintance used some excellent Ignatian prayer principles, through inviting his readers to look at the expressions on the faces in the picture. Consider the placement, the movement of hands in this poignant scene. And especially—wonder where you—where I—would be in the picture.

I suspect Thomas was one of those sorts of people who needed concrete proof. Who wanted to know why. Who wanted most (if not all) of the answers.

Using Ignatian prayer and these questions, I could meditate on this picture for a good long time! But my acquaintance Barry didn’t stop there. He ended the post with several thought-questions, to consider. Meditate on. Pray over. One significant question was “How do you feel when you don’t have all the answers?”

Regarding this question, I prefer to have all the information I can. However, after several decades of being an adult and living life, I realize I can’t have all the information! Sometimes, not much information at all. And that’s okay to me, now.

One of my usual explanations I’ve used for some years refers to this concept, precisely. In my journey through life, I sometimes find myself walking through a broad, wide-spread expanse. It’s really foggy. I mean, a pea-soup type fog. I’m holding a lantern. Even with the light, I can’t see more than a step, maybe two, in front of me. But as I said, that’s okay. I know God is right next to me. Even when I can’t see God, I know God’s there. So of course I feel okay about things! (some of the time, at least)

But—what about when the lantern goes out? Darkness. Absence. Unknowing. (What then?)

Periodically, I have been through the wringer. However, I have come out the other side. I don’t know whether you are familiar with 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, but those are two verses that have come to mean much to me. The pain, difficulties and challenges I have experienced are/have been transformed as God has quietly been with me, through them. I can therefore journey alongside of others who are currently or have recently been going through challenging, painful experiences of their own.

Is it easy? Simple? Walk in the park? By no means!! But just as God is with me, in quietness, in that still, small voice, or even in the blessed silence, so I can be with others in their pain.

Let’s come to God and pray. Dear God, One who knows each of us intimately, You understand our hearts. You understand our doubts, our fears, just as much as You understood Thomas. Thank You for Your abundant, forgiving love. Help us—help me to come to You with a trusting heart, and put my hand—our hands in Yours. God, in Your grace and mercy, hear our prayer.

– See Barry’s posts at: http://turningthepage.info/who-are-you-jesus/#sthash.bh6fBLND.dpuf

@chaplaineliza

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

God Has a Purpose

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, January 18, 2014

ocean sunset

ocean sunset

God Has A Purpose

I did a good deal of computer work and read several blogs online today, since it was my day off. Including one blog I’ve been following for a number of weeks. The narrative the author of the blog talked about was from the Book of Judges, from the Hebrew Scriptures. The contents of the blog post struck me so strongly today, I decided to meditate and pray with that passage, Judges 6, the story of Gideon. Specifically, verses 11 and 12.

I’ve known various manners of prayer for years. Moreover, I was instructed in spiritual formation and prayer practices when I went to seminary. Very helpful, and deepening to my spiritual understanding! But over the past two years, I’ve regularly been praying and meditating using a basic plan of holy reading, lectio divina. There are a number of good instructional books out there, giving some guidelines on holy reading. However, the book I’ve been using (on and off) is by Rev. Martin Smith, a skilled spiritual director and now a retired Episcopal priest. His book The Word Is Very Near You is subtitled A Guide to Praying with Scripture. He gives these guidelines for lectio divina in Chapter 8.

He suggests “1. Spend a few minutes settling down and pray that your heart may be opened and receptive to the gift God knows you need today. . . . 2. Begin reading at the place you have previously chosen, and read on very slowly indeed with an open mind. . . . 3. When a particular sentence or phrase or single word “lights up” or “rings a bell,” put the Bible down. Resist the temptation to go on. . . . 4. Gently repeat this phrase or word again and again within the heart . . . Gradually allow yourself to be absorbed in the word. . . . 5. Express to God in the simplest way the impression the words have made on you. . . . put into words the longings or needs they have brought up. . . . Your prayer may move into contemplation.”

Thus, with some variation, I have often prayed since I read these simple instructions.

Today I was particularly struck by this passage from Judges, so I practiced holy reading with chapter 6, verses 11 and 12. God communicated to me that I have been called and chosen, just as Gideon was called and chosen. Gideon had a problem with low self-esteem, certainly. I have that difficulty, too. Gideon was the youngest in his family—same, here. (I can relate to Gideon, in several significant ways. I, too, need regular fleeces, confirming the way in which I am to go.) But the words that hit me right between the eyes today were those of the Angel of the Lord: “mighty warrior.” The Angel named Gideon by what God knew he was, who he really was. This is particularly important, because it is not what Gideon thought of himself, which was a flawed and incorrect perception.

I get downhearted and depressed by life, and how things can be rocky sometimes. Even often. What I think of myself is often a flawed and incorrect perception of myself. But these words give me hope. God has named me “beloved child” and “God’s masterpiece.” Who am I to think that I am less than that? Thanks for the two thumbs up, God! It’s awfully heartening. Loving, too!

Let’s pray. Dear God, You named Gideon “mighty warrior” because You saw him as You intended him to be. Forgive us for viewing ourselves incorrectly, through a blurry window pane or dark mirror. Thank You for Your clear sight, seeing me as You made me, not in the flawed way I see myself. Help us to see ourselves in the heartening, loving way You perceive us. As Your beloved children, as Your masterpiece! Thank You, thank You, God.  

@chaplaineliza

Passing Through – Sojourners and Strangers

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, November 23, 2013

The last Sunday of this liturgical year is at hand. Tomorrow, the church where I worship celebrates a special Sunday. This church is steeped in both the Lutheran and the German Reformed traditions, so tomorrow is “Totenfest,” or the day the church remembers all members (and in some churches, friends of the church, too) who have died since the last Sunday of the liturgical year, 2012.

So the church remembers. The recently departed are still fresh in many people’s memories. But not only people depart. The year departs, too. The close of November is the close of the growing season, where the growing things out of doors lose their leaves, shrivel, dry up. Or, go into hibernation and stasis, until the spring comes again. This is a quiet season, a contemplative time. So it is with Totenfest tomorrow, too.

Psalm 39:4 says, “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days.” Such sober thoughts are a bit challenging. Not the first verses suggested for beginners at this business of prayer and meditation. However, this season and tomorrow’s commemoration of Totenfest encourage us to meditate on verses like these.

Perhaps a verse from the Apostle Paul will be more accessible. “For we are well aware that when the tent that houses us on earth is folded up, there is a house for us from God, not made by human hands but everlasting, in the heavens.” (2 Cor 5:1) Here, Paul talks about our temporary housing, the tent that can (and will) be easily disassembled. We can meditate on the time when our measure of days comes to an end, and look forward to that house from God, where we will dwell with our God forever. No longer sojourners, passing through. We’ll have a real home-coming, to our everlasting, heavenly home.

Let’s pray. Dear God, we remember those who have passed through this life, especially those who died this past year. We celebrate their life and commemorate their blessed memory. We pray for those who mourn, who grieve not only the passing of loved ones, but the passing of the year. Help us to remember that our measure of days is in Your hand, and that You will surely welcome us into our everlasting, heavenly home. In Your mercy and peace we pray, Amen.