Tag Archives: thank God

God is Judge, in Psalm 50

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 4, 2017

JUDGE as God, Jesus

God as Judge, in Psalm 50

Have any of my readers been in a courtroom lately? I mean, close enough to watch the judge deliberate and make rulings?

Such a vivid example of tonight’s reading, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s compilation of short writings and letters called Meditating on the Word. God has a whole lot of names, and serves as a whole lot of awesome majesty and power.

I must admit, seeing God act as stern Judge certainly would give me pause. I do not think in those terms, usually. I know I usually see God Almighty as Shepherd or Lamb, as Teacher, or as Sower of God’s seed. I realize those images are meant to be honest and serious.

However, as I have been following these particular words written in Psalm 50, I am struck by these verses. Pierced to the heart is more like it.

Bonhoeffer had several comments on God’s behalf, in reflection on Psalm 50: “The loyal followers have been sanctified through the sacrifice of the cross. Against the background of Advent, the cross comes into view. Here, in this sacrifice of God’s judgment and His loving kindness are one.” [1]

Yes, some of the Names of God are quite serious, and their description contains parts of God’s character.

Dear God, mighty Judge of humanity (and all the rest of the universe), have mercy on us. Thank You for the cross, as it stands on that hill outside Jerusalem so long ago—and still stands in the heart of God. Thank You for Jesus, the Lamb of God. And, thank You for Your gracious and merciful loving-kindness.

Dear 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 65.

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 27, 2017

psalm 42-11 help of my countenance

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Have you ever been full of doubt? Downhearted, depressed and hopeless? Completely lost, with everything collapsing around you? Yeah … me, too.

That was what I dealt with for years. (Seriously, yes.) For years, I would struggle to pray, struggle with my doubts, and especially struggle with any knowledge that God was remembering me, at all. It was almost a daily struggle, for many, many months. For years, at times.

That was how the psalmist felt, too. (This psalm was written by one of the sons of Korah, so we are not sure exactly who wrote it.)

Our psalmist was of two minds as he wrote this. Sure, he told about his assurance in the Lord, and how he trusted in God. He wrote of how much the Lord would help him, and how he would pray to God regularly. On the other hand—he also poured out his heart, and confessed his doubts, his fears, his heaviness. He would mention how much his enemies oppressed him, and how far away from him he felt God was. (Yes, very far.)

And, yet … and, yet …

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “Whoever has found God in the cross of Jesus Christ knows how mysteriously God hides himself in this world, and how, when we believe him farthest away, he is just there beside us.” [1]

Some might call this a paradox, others might say it is the mysterious, sometimes unfathomable nature of God. Note the closing verse of Psalm 42: “Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”

I have trust in Bonhoeffer’s closing in this mini-commentary: “He will be the help of your countenance; because he knows you and loved you before he made you, He will not let you fall. You are in his hands.” [2] I take heart in this assurance. Pastor Dietrich affirmed this blessed truth. He certainly had a good deal of challenge and hardship in his life. However, he made it through his struggles and trials. Bonhoeffer continued to thank God for being there for him and with him.

Dear Lord, help me do the same. Please, Lord.

@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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 60.

[2] Ibid, 61.

Problems of Meditation?

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

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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!)

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

Richard of St. Victor Submits

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, April 3, 2017

submission, flower.jpg

Richard of St. Victor Submits

Fascinating reading today. I had never heard of this spiritual writer before, who set down the distinctive markers of medieval spirituality. As he went about this writing, Richard of St. Victor had an ease of speaking of intimate relations.

“See to it that the very time He begins to knock at the door is not the first time that you begin to want to throw out the crowds of those who make noise.” [1] Ah! How often am I distracted by outer noises, much less inner thoughts, wanderings and other distractions! Lord, You know how much difficulty I have had (for years!) with prayer and meditation.

Then, there is the plain statement “How often must one repeat ‘Wait and wait again, a moment here and a moment there.” [2] It is a rather ambiguous statement. Yet, this can refer to the Lover, to Christ waiting outside, knocking, patiently standing outside the door. He could break down the door. He could. As we reflect on that word picture, ‘Wait, and wait again’ can also refer to the beloved. How often do I lose patience with God? (Far oftener than I care to admit to myself, much less to all the rest of the world.)

Yes, this practice of waiting is a way for me to practice the spiritual gift of submission. Waiting quietly in line, sitting silently with a smile, walking slowly in connection with

I am reminded of other mystical, medieval literature I have read, especially in these phrases: “He is heard by a showing; seen by contemplation; kissed warmly by devotion, drawn close for the infusion of His sweetness.” [3] Ah. To be loved wholly, fully, without strings or hang-ups or any other distraction: that would be heavenly. Wait! I already am loved that way. Thank You, God!

@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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 185.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Simone Weil, Praying the “Our Father”

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

Our Father Matt 6

Simone Weil, Praying the “Our Father”

Here is another brilliant pray-er. (Educated in philosophy, and experienced as a teacher!) Simone Weil had such a multi-layered relationship with God. As one of the foremost twentieth century mystics, she wrote essays about prayer and her contemplative experience.

In this edited, gathered collection of selected writings, Richard Foster has Ms. Weil discussing the Lord’s Prayer. She runs through each petition, and gives a short commentary about each one. Of course, each extended paragraph—as commentary—has so much packed into it. I am simply amazed at the theological depth of this loved one of God.

That said, one sentence cut me to the heart, even more than the rest of her penetrating comments. In her paragraph discussing “Our Father, which art in heaven,” she says “We do not have to search for Him, we only have to change the direction in which we are looking.” [1]

It is as if the blindfold has been taken off, and I’ve been turned around to look the right way. By changing the direction I look, I change my attitude, and my impressions of life, of others and of my situation. I change focus. Almost imperceptibly, I find myself changing from the inside out.

As Richard Foster mentions afterwards, our Lord Jesus prayed this prayer in a teaching moment. “By responding to their request with the “Our Father” Jesus shows Himself to be the absolute Master of prayer, as He is of all matters of life.” [2]

Truly, the Rabbi Jesus prayed a prayer for the ages, interpreted in dozens of ways. Jesus knew very well about trials and temptations, as well as daily bread and the Kingdom of God. No matter the situation, no matter the location. No matter what. Thank God for the “Our Father.”

@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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 48.

[2] Ibid, 53.

Joyce Huggett’s Take on Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 2, 2017

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Joyce Huggett’s Take on Meditation

If you ask ten different people what their definition of meditation is, I suspect you will get ten different answers. Joyce Huggett has a definite definition. An awesome answer, that is.

Joyce Huggett certainly is well known for her books and other writings on prayer and meditation. In today’s reading, at first she describes what Christian meditation is not. It does not involve yoga, Eastern meditation or transcendental meditation.

I love yoga. I do it because of the marvelous stretching and strengthening abilities my body has been able to develop. Yes, certain of my yoga teachers do mention things like “the third eye,” and “chakras.” However, they do not insist that anyone in their classes follow the Eastern ways and spiritual practices that some people also insist are part and parcel of yoga.

In fact, my whole body now welcomes yoga. My mind slows when I practice. My body, joints and muscles are improving in their working together, more and more. And, if urged to observe any practice that is foreign to my understanding and belief, I simply, quietly thank God for my God-given powerful body, mind and spirit. All these parts of my Self/self now work together much better than before I started to practice yoga.

But, I digress. I really wanted to talk about what Joyce Huggett says about meditation. After giving several examples from Psalm 119—which has every verse describing an action taken with the Word of God, or Scripture, or God’s Laws, or Statutes, or Precepts, or Commandments—she talks about the verb “meditate,” as used in these verses. The verb can also mean “’to muse,’ ‘to ponder,’ ‘to reflect,’ ‘to consider.’ In other words, Christian meditation involves, not emptiness, but fullness.” [1]

Yes, we consider God’s Word, in all its fullness, and as we “encounter the Living Word, Jesus himself.” [2] Psalm 119 serves as a marvelous example for us to dig deeply into both God’s Word and well as into God’s heart.

Lord, help me to seek after You, Your heart, and Your paths. Please, 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 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.

Joyce Huggett’s Take on Meditation #matterofprayer

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 11.

[2] Ibid.

Practice Prayer, Like Practicing Piano

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 21, 2017

piano-hand-sketch

Practice Prayer, Like Practicing Piano

I am not the best at practicing. When I was young, my parents had me study piano. I had to practice. Sadly for me, I was not particularly diligent at regular practicing several time a week between lessons. (Otherwise I would have been much better at playing, at a young age.)

I would skip days, forget to sit down at the piano, and the week would slip by. I would often find myself the day before my lesson, not having practiced at all during that week. Frantic, I would do what I could on that one day. I did progress, even though I was not diligent. What’s more, I truly enjoyed playing the piano—and still do.

I was reminded vividly of this experience with piano practice as I read the short section for today. The teacher Thich Nhat Hanh talks about sitting in meditation and prayer as a luxury. Imagine that! “In our time, in our civilization, sitting and doing nothing is considered either to be a luxury or a waste of time.” [1]

Yes, it is a practice. We need to practice at it. And as I do, I have found that (usually) prayer and meditation becomes easier. Or, more natural. Or, more a part of me—an integral part. Just like piano practice became easier the more I did it, it is similar with this prayer practice.

Why is it that piano practice is still not the first thing on my mind, even though I intellectually understand the benefits? Probably has something to do with my prayer practice. Even though I also realize that a regular time of prayer and meditation would be marvelous for me and my spiritual life, I am afraid I am less than diligent.

God, You know. We have had this discussion a number of times in the past. Thank You for being patient with me. Thank You for loving me. Help me to be more diligent in practice—in both areas. My piano, and my prayer and meditation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.

@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), 68.

Look Deeply. Pray. Meditate.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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Look Deeply. Pray. Meditate.

When I think about meditation and mindfulness now, my breath automatically starts to slow down. I don’t necessarily have to begin the practice of mindful meditation and prayer. It often just starts to happen.

Yet, this is not the only thing that happens during meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh had some excellent insights in the small section of the book I read tonight, including where he talked about the practice of meditation giving us the opportunity to heal and transform.[1] I don’t know about you, but I particularly need the chance to heal and transform. I often feel broken and hurting. When I am offered the possibility of healing and transformation, I’d be foolish not to take it!

Slowing down, slowing my breathing, stretching my neck, back and shoulders—all of these are so helpful to my relaxation. Preparation for a time of prayer, of healing and transformation. And then, even if I quiet myself for just a few minutes, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Finally, as I enter into that quiet place of mindful meditation, I also have the opportunity to see clearly. To look deeply into what surrounds me on the outside as well as what is inside of me. This does not completely banish fear and anxiety, but it certainly diminishes it. Anything that lessens fear and anxiety is definitely something I support. And, mindful meditation certainly does that.

Thank You, God, for this spiritual practice. Thank You for leading me to it, and giving me the opportunity to practice prayer and mindful meditation. Amen.

@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), 31.

Sitting in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, January 2, 2017

sitting-sunrise-mindful

Sitting in Prayer

While out of town a few days ago, I visited a bookstore. I picked up several books, including a slim volume called “How to Sit” by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk.

I practice yoga at least once a week, usually twice, and three times a week, when I can. This is so beneficial for me! I don’t follow the whole spiritual aspect, but I very much appreciate the focus and mindfulness part of yoga.

This reminds me: I tried to practice Centering Prayer in 2015, for a whole month, with fair-to-middling results. For those who do not know or are not as familiar, Centering Prayer involves simply being quiet before God. Centering one’s physical, spiritual and emotional selves. Some people choose a word or brief phrase to assist them in centering. Alas, I did not excel. (Far from it.) However, I tried my best—most of the time.

This new slim volume convinced me that I ought to try to sit and center again. So, I did. And, I will try again, for the next month.

Similar to when I practice yoga, my breath slowed. My mind cleared. I expressed a welcome to God, but not really in so many words. (Just a welcoming feeling.) I did not pray in words, as I do so often. (I am so dependent on words.) Yet, my prayer time was restful and quiet.

Just what I needed. Thank You, God.

@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

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