Practicing The Presence August 25, 2014

Practicing the presence is a way of living into a deeper awareness of God’s activity in our life.  This practice is often attached to the French monk, Brother Lawrence, circa 17th century.  No matter what he was doing, he longed to maintain an ongoing conversation with God.

In The Practice of Presence of God, I quote, “I make it my business to rest in His holy presence which I keep myself in by habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God.  This often causes me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them, and prevent their appearance to others.”  Brother Lawrence

I call this true humility.  Brother Lawrence washed dishes and he did it with a smile on his face.  Try it, just smile; your whole demeanor will change.

You might try the breath prayer, breathe in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth and say to yourself, Lord I am here.  Help me listen.  Practice everyday for ten minutes.

Dedicate some task you are doing to the Lord.  Talk to Him about the task before you begin and again when you are done.  Are you more aware of our Creator of the Universe and Master of our soul than you were before you began?

May our Lord give you peace as you rest in His tender care.

Submission 8/18/14

What does submission mean?  If it leads to growth, it means aligning my will and freedom with God’s will and freedom.  His will for us means submitting to each out of love and reverence for Christ.  Now, what if we’re not a Christian?  It doesn’t matter, as long as we submit our will out of love and reverence for the Universe and/or the one who created it.

If I desire submission, I desire to have Jesus as the Master of my life in absolutely every way.  Boy this is hard.  We are constantly fighting against our ego, especially if we are hurt.  But we can practice submission.

We can ask for and seek God’s will and do it – no matter what.  We can allow others to mentor and guide us.  We can be a good follower.  We can lay aside the need to be in charge.  We can be an eager learner.

What happens if we do those things?  Well, first believe that change will happen.  We will feel freer.  We will esteem and honor others more than ourselves.  Humility, right?  We no longer want to be rebellious.  We become gentle and approachable.  And we develop a deep regard for others and what they might have to offer.

I like to say that we just have to get out of our own way, be quiet and pay attention to others.

Dignity and Meaning August 13, 2014

I am late again, friends, and I am sorry.  My father is now in Hospice and his time in this place on earth is running out.  I often wonder why this slow motion deterioration has taken so long.  It has now been seven years.   I do believe that when faced with challenges like this we learn from them.  The longer it takes, the more I ask myself  – what is it I must learn, Lord?  But it keeps on going, and I keep on wondering.  I recently woke up with my “Ah Ha” moment.  I know why it has taken so long for me.

Growing up I knew my father loved me, but he was a hard taskmaster with very high expectations for his only daughter.  Sometimes he wasn’t fair.  AW….well life ain’t fair is it?  But what I have learned is that my father is a loving, gentle man, extremely intelligent, with a great sense of humor and laughing blue eyes.  He has great integrity.  “You must do the right thing!”  That is why Mom married him.

So now I know why it took so long for me, because it took me that long to learn the lesson.  Some people would look at my father now and say, “He has no quality of life.  Why is he hanging on?”  Well, he has sons and they need to learn as well.  Why would Dad not give them the same latitude he has given me?  Everyone works through things differently.  And Dad has his own internal work to do as well.  Someone I love very much I won’t embarrass by naming, said, “When I look at it that way, it helps me see dignity and meaning in each of his days.”

So, this perspective is not mine, but it is so right on I needed to share it with all.  Dignity and meaning float through our lives until we take our last breath.  Let us not ever forget that.

Who’s On First? August 4, 2014

When we are small, we are taught that going to church on Sunday is something everybody should do.  That is, if we are from a family with that tradition.  The trouble is that not too many families go to church these days.

When we were young, we didn’t give it a lot of thought.  We were too busy growing up and learning all about this big wonderful world from our peers and school, and sports.  Oh, we might have ask a question about “God” now and then.  This big bearded man who sat on His throne with Jesus on one side and surrounded by angels seemed like quite a mystery.

But then we grew up.  We began to use those ideas about life that we acquired from our parents or other guardians.  Then we passed middle age in a flash, retired, saw our children off to do their own thing, and started to wonder about the rest of our lives, which are almost over – or so it seems.  We start to think much more about our faith and what happens when we die.  Who is God?  Who is Jesus?  What makes it real for some and completely incomprehensible to others?

Before we make ourselves crazy, we need to ask one fundamental question:  Who came first, God or the big explosion that some scientists call the Big Bang and believe was the beginning of everything?  We have to come to that conclusion before we can go on to make assumptions about our faith.

Now, I believe God came first.  No question in my mind.  Then whatever happened, He had a hand in it.  From that belief, I can grow my faith and read and learn about it all and make conclusions based upon my belief that God was here first.  People call  this a matter of faith because we can’t prove it.  Well, we can’t prove He wasn’t here first either.

But in order to formulate our conclusions, we need to make that decision first.  Maybe the belief of some is that He was not first.  That’s okay.  I still love and believe in those folks as human beings.  But in order to make our lives rich, we have to make a choice.  We cannot sit on the fence.  It becomes very uncomfortable and hard to hold on.  So here we are, entering later middle age, and I ask, Who’s on first?

Three Kinds Of Meditation July 26, 2014

Those of us who have studied beyond traditional Christian teaching, realize that we are really two people in one body.  Our “true” selves, that deep inside part that lives with our Universal Creator, and our “outside” person which is how we see ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world.  The outside person is called the ego.  Modern spirituality will tell us that the ego is the part of us that causes all our suffering.  Maybe that is true.  What I do know is that our egos get in the way of a stress-free, feel good life.  Our thoughts are oriented inside and they are all about us and how we feel.

Meditation is a way to get inside our true selves.  It came from eastern tradition and has been studied extensively since it has reached our western shores.  We know that the practice of meditation, much like yoga (which can be a form of meditation), has a number of physical and mental benefits if practiced consistently.

Generally speaking, meditation can be divided into three main groups:  concentration methods, awareness methods, and surrender methods.

Concentration methods, the most universal kind, rely on the principal of attention.  We focus our attention on a specific word or thought, or we count our breaths.  We might choose a word like Maranatha  (Come, Lord).  If the mind wonders, simply let the thought go and come back to your word and breathing.  Our minds are refreshed by the Universal presence which the word invokes.

Awareness methods are favored in Buddhist practice.  In this meditation, we align ourselves with an inner observer and watch our thoughts as they come and go.  If we are angry we might  label it “angry thinking.”  We can stay with the thought, sometimes feeling painful, or let it go and wait for the next thought.  This practice is very good for being present to the moment.  We learn that what we project to the world is sometimes not such good energy.

A surrender method is simpler than awareness.  We don’t name thoughts, we just watch them come up, then watch them go.  It is not a prayer of attention, but of intention.  This form of meditation is called Centering Prayer founded by  Father Thomas Keating.  It has a certain fluid, dreamy quality to it.  This form of meditation begins and keeps coming back to intention.  What is the aim?  To be totally open to God.  This is my favorite form of meditation.

There is a story about a nun who tried her first twenty minutes of Centering Prayer meditation.  She then told Father Keating that she was a total failure since she had ten thousand thoughts.  “Lovely,” Father Keating said.  “Ten thousand opportunities to return to God!”  Think of it like Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will be done, oh Lord, but Thine.”

When we sit quietly, and do it consistently, we come to understand what it means to consent to the presence and action of God within us in whatever form it comes.

The Jesus Prayer July 19, 2004

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner.”

I have always loved this prayer because it is short and simple.  When I am in crisis mode, I like to have a prayer that I can repeat over and over because it calms me.  But I have always had a problem with the part….”me the sinner.”  I  think , “Well, how bad can I be anyway?”  Even now, with all the studies I have completed, I still have trouble with “sinner.”

What is it?  For years I believed it meant “missing the mark.”  Okay, that made sense.  But not in this prayer.  Lack of doing our best?  Okay, but that seems a little lame to me.  Negative versus positive?  Yes, possibly, but this is the Jesus Prayer, not another spiritual leader’s prayer.  Although, I really don’t think Jesus would mind if any spiritual leader borrowed it.

This morning I was reading one of my favorite sages, Richard Rohr.  He spoke about this prayer and it was so eloquent I wanted to share it.  I will give you the short version.  Should you want more, just Google him and it will take you to his foundation and website.

Let’s break it down.  Master Joshua, the chosen anointed one, please give us the salvation of love to overcome our fear-based disconnection.  Help us remember our true selves.

Richard Rohr writes, “Remember that “sin” is simply that which keeps us from knowing and living out of our True Self….Nastiness is shame-based thinking and does not get us to a good place.”

Say the words over and over again until they pierce your heart. You will then be praying and connecting with the Glorious Presence.

 

 

Prefection and Creativity July 14, 2014

Being perfect is like being in prison.  As long as we demand it in ourselves and in others, we are not free.  I think freedom is important.  We abuse and misuse it but as the psalmist said, it makes us a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor.

As we watch children get older, we see them stop trusting the dreaming and doodling part of their brain.  They start looking for the “right” answer.  Wow, all of a sudden they see things with their own eyes and ears.  They learn to like and dislike certain foods. This is exciting and it also takes courage.

When they are allowed to do something just one way – the “right” way – they are less likely to try other things.  If children are allowed to experiment, and to fail, they are more likely to grow creatively and think outside the box.

We live in a complicated world today.  We need creative thinkers.  If these young people are encouraged positively in their endeavors, they have the freedom to dream, to remember, and to share.  They can also learn to accept irrationality because it is what makes us human.  They will have the courage to dream the impossible dream.  God Bless the children.

Mystical Emotion July 5, 2014

Every now and then I let myself get “off course,” and when that happens, my imagination starts to run away from me.  We have a lot of things going on in our lives now, a major move, putting our current house on the market, logistics, my father illness – the list goes on and on as I am sure it does for all of us at times.  I have a tendency to panic.  Fortunately, I have a very calm, analytical husband that keeps me pretty stable.

But if I do not pray and meditate every day, it is like I start to see sideways and upside down.  I know it, feel it acutely, and start immediately to make things right.  If I don’t, my imagination begins to run.  I start to wonder about things we really cannot answer like evil, and suffering.  So I tell the Holy Spirit about it and ask him to give me some kind of an answer.  Tonight was rather extraordinary.  For some reason, Albert Einstein came to mind.  I started to read about him (this is when I think the computer is just about the greatest thing going), and the following is what popped up.  Thank you so much Google, Mr. Einstein, and Holy Spirit.

“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  It is the sower of all true science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.  To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness.”

A Lesson On Meditation June 29, 2014

That outstanding writer, Madeleine L’Engle, told a wonderful story once about a conversation between a girl and her very old, frail grandfather.  She came into his room and saw that he was sleeping.  Not wanting to disturb him, she quietly started to back out.

Her grandfather opened his eyes and smiled.  His granddaughter asks if he was sleeping.  He told her no, he was meditating.  Of course she asked him, “What is meditation, Grandfather?  How do you do it?”

Her grandfather thought a moment and then ask her if she liked to go down to the sea and sit on the rocks by herself.  She told him that yes, she loved to do that, to look at the sea.

“Do you need to go down to the sea?” he asked.

“I do and sometimes I don’t think anybody understands that but you.”

Grandfather asked, “What do you do when you go to the sea?”

“I sit and think, but those aren’t the best times.”

“What are the best times?”

“Gee, when I sit and look at the sea somehow I feel part of it, and everything around it.”

“What does that feel like – when you’re a part of everything?  What is it like?”

“Grandfather, it is almost beyond words.  It is like being on the other side of myself, and part of everything, but I know deep down I am still at the sea, but I’m not at the sea.  I know!  It’s like I’m not in the way of anything.”

“That’s meditation,” said Grandfather.

I love this story because it shows us just how underrated silence is.  When we find a place that calms us and beckons us to stay, we sometimes stay.  I like to think that is when the Holy Spirit takes over.  In fact I invite him to journey in my imagination with me.  We have conversations.  Sometimes I don’t like what He has to say, but I know He is always right.  And I am always calm.  That is when God and I are one.

Ruach June 22, 2014

John 3: 8-9.  The wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.

The Hebrew word for wind is ruach, and it was also the word for God.  It seems like the wind is the wild heart of Jesus.  At times it is lusty, overwhelming and painful.  Then at other times it is refreshing, clean, and invigorating and it can clean our minds and urge us to dance.

Movement is the sign of life and can change our moods in an instant.  We can’t see it, but we know it.’s there.  One of the most beautiful images I have is God blowing ruach – blowing us into life.  Please don’t ask me what He looks like.  I have an active imagination. To me it means to go forth and experience all there is to experience and try to do it with grace.  If I get on the wrong track, I look up and He will blow ruach in a different direction.