Tag Archives: suggestion

Problems of Meditation?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, June 19, 2017


Problems of Meditation?

Ah, now we come to the main point of difficulty. At least, my main point of difficulty. Yes, I have prayed regularly for years, and prayed sometimes for extended periods of time. (Not half as much as I should have, for which I ask great forgiveness, Lord.) And, I have had problems with prayer and meditation for years. For decades.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood about problems with meditation. He was writing to seminarians, remember; a goodly portion of them probably complained and moaned when Pastor Bonhoeffer told them how long each day he expected them to pray and meditate. The first recommendation he had, when encountering great difficulties in meditation? Practice, practice, practice. Practice earnestly and for a long time.

His second recommendation applies to me, quite well. My thoughts often flit around like insects—sometimes fluttering like butterflies, but other times zooming like quite another kind of unpleasant bug. Bonhoeffer says, “If your thoughts keep wandering, there is no need for you to hold on to them compulsively.” (Thank God.) “There is nothing wrong with letting them roam where they will; but then incorporate in your prayers the place or person to which they have gone.” [1]

Yes. I’ve known that my thoughts do fly all around, for years. And, I have asked God to send my thoughts to people or situations that need prayer. That’s one way I’ve been praying, for years.

Thank God for Bonhoeffer’s suggestion! Otherwise, I would feel really guilty about my thoughts flying around all over the place, even when I sincerely try to pray and meditate.

I admit that I have the Myers-Briggs preferences of ENFP. I have read the 16 different prayers for the 16 different personality preferences, and I can relate to the one for ENFP: “God, help me to keep my mind—look! A bird!—on one thing at a time.” So, yes. I appreciate Bonhoeffer’s understanding and patience with his students. I also appreciate my God’s understanding and patience with me. (Thank You, God!)



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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 26.

Breathe, Center, Pray.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, January 14, 2017


Breathe, Center, Pray.

Breathe. Just breathe. Big breath in, big breath out. Slowly.

This suggestion works for so many things. When you are afraid or fearful. Or, when you feel anxiety creeping up to get you. Perhaps, if you are angry and you need to cool down. Or, when you would like to calm yourself and focus.

As I said, this really does work. Slowing the breath seems to lengthen out time. Another suggestion? Keep track of your breaths. Slowly, slowly. Don’t cry or speed up or—especially—if you wish to find calmness, stillness, serenity, even.

If we pay attention to breathing, we can get down to the very foundation of life. The overarching principle remains the same.

Breathe. Calm yourself. Slow down and let yourself fill with all good things as you breathe in. Slow down further, breathe out, and let go of all anxiety, fear, anger. Let go, and breathe out everything negative.

Now you are in a much better place to connect with God. Reaching your Higher Power can happen at any time, true. However, breathing deeply, in and out, certainly helps us to center and concentrate.

Now, center. Now, pray. Now, serenity. Thanks, God.



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

My Personal “How” Circle—and Ignatian Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 7, 2015

meditating Jesus - unknown artist

meditating Jesus – unknown artist

My Personal “How” Circle—and Ignatian Prayer

I read the passage from Luke 1 again tonight. I still am not too excited about the Annunciation passage, but that was what Margaret Silf next suggested as a prayer opportunity in her book Inner Compass. So, I did it.

This assignment had to do with the “How” circle of my life. (It did not mention the “How” circle of Mary’s life, but I immediately went there.)

What is a “How” circle, you ask? Great question! The “How” circle is that area of my life where I have some ability to exercise some choice, as Silf suggests. Things do continue to happen, it’s true. However, I often have the ability to decide how I will respond to them.

So, given these parameters, Mary had a “How” circle, too. What were her choices, following the Angel Gabriel’s announcement? Fascinating exercise, positing some of Mary’s immediate and long-term choices. (For instance, what would she tell her betrothed, Joseph? And how ought she to let him know?)

As fascinating as that may be, that wasn’t the assignment for tonight. This particular assignment involved me, and drawing several concentric circles around my “Center.”

The outermost circle has the label “Where am I?” and involves all of the things/facts and circumstances in my life that I cannot change. For example, I was born in Chicago to two college graduates, the youngest in my immediate family. I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. I am nearsighted. These are indisputable facts. Simply speaking, where I am.

I’ve already mentioned the next concentric circle, named “How am I?” Last, the innermost circle is labeled “Who am I,” and involves the center of my being where I am who I truly am. In and of myself, and before God. This is also the circle where I am the most true and the most myself. The most stripped away. The most honest and open, if you will.

Yet, my traitorous thoughts keep wandering back to Mary. What does her “Where” circle look like? Is it compounded by the choices she makes, as a result of the Annunciation?

The concentric circles of Mary and my concentric circles seem to be more of a Venn diagram, overlapping. Mingling. Are most things in my life static, and already chosen for me? Were they chosen for Mary? How about both sets of “Who” circles, and how honest and open am I? How honest and open is Mary?

I feel awkward about this meditation. It brings up SO many questions, questions about which I have only a limited ability to answer.

I’m going to pray. You can join me, if you would like. Dear Lord, gracious God, this meditation distresses me, kind-of, sort-of. My mind keeps on flitting away from myself, and going to Mary. But—that’s good, isn’t it? Especially in Ignatian prayer? Lord, help me to orient my mind in this imaginative way of praying. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.


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 .

Day #14 – Mind the Gap? The Generation Gap—with Prayer!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 5, 2015

family reunion drawing

Day #14 – Mind the Gap? The Generation Gap—with Prayer!

In case you don’t know and have just started reading this blog, I am a friendly person. My natural smile kind-of, sort-of just happens. And, I often strike up conversations with complete strangers. (To the bemusement and occasionally unbelief of my husband and children.)

That being said, when I read today’s suggestion from #40acts, I immediately connected to the call for intergenerational communication. I do this on a regular basis. Perhaps not every single day, but as a regular occurrence at least several times every week. One on one, or in small groups. And, in large groups, on occasion.

But, then, I am a pastor. It is part and parcel of my job, my position. My business, so to speak. I am a communicator. In addition, I have special training in pastoral care, I am a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and I’ve done several extended internships (one paid) as a hospital chaplain. So, yes, I am familiar with talking to people. And I pray with people. As I sometimes say when asked, in part, I am a professional listener.

An acquaintance of mine is in the hospital right now. So, I have visited regularly, talked with the patient and loved ones, prayed, and sent cards. This person is in a different generation. I also call several people from the church on a regular basis. I try to keep tabs on them, pray, and give encouragement and support as I can, over the phone. And in person, when I am able.

Finally, and quite meaningful to me as well, I read each Tuesday morning. I read to two classrooms of preschoolers at my church. I love reading to these little ones. I try to choose books that have interesting stories, lovely illustrations, and not too many words on each page. Most weeks, I have the opportunity to interact with the children, ask questions, and sometimes talk about the illustrations or about the points in the story. Since my youngest child is now a senior in high school, I so much appreciate this precious time with young children.

I try to be friendly to people when I talk with them, too. (Since I am an encouraging person, that’s kind-of natural, too!) It is as easy as smiling at people waiting for the elevator, or standing in line at the grocery store or post office. And if the person is in a different generation from yours? So much the better!

So many people are isolated and separated today. I think a bit more togetherness is a wonderful thing. And—that is exactly what this post from #40acts called for today. Friendliness. Openness. Kindness. Togetherness. In an intergenerational way. Why don’t you try it, too?

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

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

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

Day #12 – Lose the Plastic. Seriously.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, March 3, 2015

do something your future self will thank you for

Day #12 – Lose the Plastic. Seriously.

Wasting stuff. So much stuff gets thrown away. It is a crime to just watch stuff going out, tossed in the garbage, day after day.

Today’s suggestion from 40acts is more of a challenge. If you had to live without plastic for a week, how would you do? As the author of today’s post said, “No bags, no food containers, no toothbrush.”

Wow! Right there, that stipulation almost makes it a deal breaker for me. I try to focus on my teeth, and oral health in general. But the suggestion for today goes much beyond mere toothbrushes and plastic bags. Do I take care of my home, my neighbors, just by being careful what and how much I try. To use plastic less and less, that is.

A related fact come in when a person uses less and less plastic. Just a simple thing like having my coffee in a reusable cup would make a difference! I have several reusable coffee cups (or, cups for tea). Since I love to drink coffee and tea so much, I already do this! Often.

I pass this on to my friends reading this post right now. A friendly suggestion. I also turn down the offer of a plastic bag periodically—like today, when I visited someone in the hospital. I bought several greeting cards in the gift shop, and turned down the offer of a plastic bag. (The weather was sleeting and raining during the day, so I can easily understand the offer.)

Remember what Jesus said, at the end of the paragraph in John 6? When they had all had enough to eat, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’

Accept the challenge? The world will be so glad you did! So will your neighborhood. And your neighbors, for that matter. God is smiling as you strive to reduce, reuse and recycle!

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

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

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

Day #11 – Post-It? Praying, Too!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, March 2, 2015

Placed a Post-It thank you note on my neighbor's door.

Placed a Post-It thank you note on my neighbor’s door.

Day #11 – Post-It? Praying, Too!

The suggestion from 40acts came this morning, and I read it with some interest. Even some excitement. The premise was intriguing. The email today mentioned that we all appreciate encouragement. That is all of us.

I have been told that a friendly countenance, a happy smile, or a word of encouragement is so helpful. I have a friendly, cheerful expression, so this is a natural for me. (These compliments were primarily when I was working as a chaplain at a nearby hospital.) However, this observation about encouragement is widespread, from what I can see.

Today’s suggestion is as simple as writing a brief note that says “thank you.” Or, putting a sweet message in your child’s lunch box or spouse’s briefcase. Just think what a pick-me-up that could be. I know—from experience—that some kind, generous gesture like that can make a big difference to someone.

I did this myself, today. I wrote a note on a Post-It. (Another suggestion made by our friends at #40acts today.) I immediately thought of a friendly man I could write to, on the other side of our apartment building. We live in a suburb of Chicago. The friendly man handles the snow removal for our building, and I really appreciated what he does for the whole group of our neighbors. Plus, and this is like icing on the cake, he is a super nice, helpful guy!

So—I thanked him for clearing the snow from our walkways around the building. Wrote it on a Post-It and attached it to his front door. And then, I snuck away. I know I signed the note, but I didn’t want to make things awkward for my friend and neighbor.

God bless him! And his family. Whenever they are, near or far. God is good. All the time

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

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

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

Day #8 – A Question of Time. Help Me, I Pray!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, February 25, 2015

clock - pocket watch

Day #8 – A Question of Time. On Time. Help Me, I Pray!

I try to be on time. I really do. Sometimes, I even succeed.

Especially in my current position, as pastor of a church, I have been consistently striving to be early for events. Meetings. Services. And, for the most part, I have succeeded.

Now, if I could just be as successful in the rest of my life . . .

I am serious. Today’s suggestion from #40acts was like a punch in the gut. A serious punch, because I knew that God was talking to me. God forgive me, but I am sometimes late. (I have improved, though! Several gold stars for me, on my forehead!)

I used to work with a person who was chronically, unbelievably late. I was impeccably on time, compared to my co-worker. I am not sure, but I suspect my increasing, improving tendency to get places on time may very well have been affected by the co-worker’s chronic tardiness. What the heck, LATE. VERY LATE.

Goodness knows, I was regularly kept waiting for fifteen, twenty minutes, half an hour. And sometimes, I would receive a call. But, sometimes not. Talk about incredibly frustrating! (And, talk about a pervasive attitude that told me my co-worker thought themselves so much more important than I was. Or anyone else, for that matter. But—we won’t go there.)

In order to show respect for others, I do want to make a special effort—on a regular basis—to strive to be on time. Yes, and I have been on the receiving end of this poor effort/even non-effort to be on time. As the #40acts post told me, by extending myself to be on time, or even, early (!!), I am letting people know that they matter. They are important, to me, to others and to God.

Excuses don’t cut it. (Except in extraordinary circumstances, like when I was talking on the phone to a senior about their seriously ill relative in the hospital. As a result, I was late for a meeting at church.) A bonus? Being on time can reveal my integrity. Doing what I say I am going to do.

As for today’s suggestion from #40acts? I needed to be at two appointments today. Even though the temperature was below freezing and the weather snowy and windy, I left in time to be a few minutes early, to both meetings. Thank You, God!

I can be true to my word, and rigorously honest, to boot. God, help me, on a continuing basis. Please.

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

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

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

Day #6 – Saying Thank You? Praying, As Well!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 24, 2015

THANK you flowers

Day #6 – Saying Thank You? Praying, As Well!

Today’s suggestion of generosity is one I can really sink my teeth into! As the 40acts post says, gratitude is one of the best catalysts for generosity. Gratitude and thankfulness are closely related. When you and I are thankful, isn’t it natural to wish to share that gratitude? Sharing the blessing(s) we received is often natural, too.

I have been on a journey. A multi-year journey, in which I have traversed emotional mountain ranges, huge spiritual deserts, and rocky denominational terrain. In the midst of it all, I have finally found a home in the Federation of Christian Ministries, an ecumenical, non-denominational association of Christians. This community encourages all of its members in their personal and individual ministerial activities.

After much prayerful consideration and discussion with some trusted, mature spiritual mentors and companions, I put my name (and a whole lot of paperwork) in for consideration with the FCM Circle of Directors. The Circle prayerfully considered me and a group of other members, and I received the joyful news that I—and a number of other FCM members—have been approved for commissioning. That’s the equivalent of ordination. So, in just a few weeks, I and several others will joyfully have a commissioning service at my church in the Chicago suburbs. Thank God!

You better believe I have sent out a number of sincere “thank you notes” to my many friends, colleagues and mentors in the past two weeks! This occasion is a radically joyful one for me. The beginning of a whole new stage in ministry. And, an occasion to let many people know how grateful, thankful and humbled I am for their constancy, friendship, encouragement and support.

So, I am advised to take some time to express my gratitude. (Oh, yes!! Abundant, even overflowing gratitude and thankfulness!) And, I am advised to let someone—even a lot of people!—know they are fully appreciated.

Thankful. And grateful. And so appreciative, too.

(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 blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

Hanging On—Or Letting Go? In Prayer.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 3, 2015

devotion to Christ one thing that's necessary

Hanging On—Or Letting Go? In Prayer.

How often am I like Martha, “worried and distracted by many things?” (Luke 10:41) Yes, I am often worried and distracted. Generally, in life. But in prayer, when I am ‘supposed to’ be in prayer, or when I am ‘missing’ my time of prayer? Such barriers are so common in my life.

I am drawn to these sentences from my prayer guide by Howell: “Prayer is hard, because it is like letting go. We hang on to what is familiar, even if it’s of no great value.”[1] Hanging on to those things or ways or practices that are familiar is sometimes like a millstone around my neck, weighing me down. Other times it’s like wearing clothing that just doesn’t fit on me anymore, and is hopelessly binding or constrictive. Hanging on to those things are also like busy time-wasters that fritter away my available time, leaving me with only the crumbs to offer to God.

When I prayed today, those words from Luke echoed and re-echoed in my mind. God, are You trying to tell me something?

I don’t _think_ I am too busy. I still have a little leisure time. I am trying to follow the excellent advice of my friend Jason, a full-time church worker at the time. I received these good words several years ago, when he told me he blocked out three basic time slots a day: morning, afternoon, and evening. He suggested that I only schedule two of those time slots per day for work, and leave the third free for myself. I have been trying to follow his excellent lead and advice.

My friend’s words are useful not only for scheduling and calendar matters. His suggestions are useful in matters of prayer and relationship, too.

Let’s pray. Dear God, I want to be able to offer You a real relationship, not just the crumbs and scraps of time that are like leftovers in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Help me, God. Please. In Your mercy and for the sake of Your grace I pray, amen.


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

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN: 2003), 18.

(Suggestion: visit me at my sister blog for 2015: (The Best Of) ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com     Thanks!)