Category Archives: Prayer

The Yesteryear Country Parish

The sanctuary is small, close together, and chilly. The light coming through the ancient, simple stained glass, provides a mystic but ordinary aura. I have to pause, sit in the pew for a minute.

I see the yesteryear women and men dressed in their Sunday gathering clothes, sipping coffee, talking about the weather, a few talking about the sermon, but not too many. The pastor mills around, smiling mostly, and listens to stories.

I watch from a yesteryear distance.

The sanctuary is silent today. I’m alone, but not alone here. I’m surrounded by the communion of saints – the people who worshiped here before their current state: living and worshiping in the direct presence of God.

Their stories, rituals, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals fill this place; the pews where these families sat still seat their stories.

…and I watch and absorb from a distance of time, seeing the Artist’s work progress from then to now, still working on the same painting.

I cannot critique the Artist’s work; he has made it to be what it is today; though it seems like vandals have slipped in and scratched his canvas when he went away for dinner – to let the painting simmer for a moment.

Something inside me looks back at what the painting was a hundred years ago. I think about the beauty it was then; just a few simple strokes. Now, the painting has become more complex, but more full, as the Artist has pressed on.

…and I wonder, a hundred years from now, what people might wonder and see in their yesteryear, my today. Will they also desire this simple day, this day that feels complex to me? When they think of theology and interpretation, will they admire where we’re at today, or find it too simple, too wrong, or too misled?

I for one, today, will pause and be thankful for the Artist’s work in the yesteryear and in today. I pray my sons grow in this same affection, a simple appreciation of God and his work, that seed that has been planted in my own heart and soul.

Father, cause the intent to see my sons be with you to germinate within. Water this intent, cause it to be.

Jude, Jesse and Common Prayer

Here’s a neat story about my boys.

For the last couple weeks, some friends and us have been praying together, alternating mornings and evenings, praying using Common Prayer and reading larger chunks of Matthew’s gospel. Sometimes we sing a song – my boys really love that.

Something else has been really neat too. Jude has really enjoyed praying with us. He’s three and a half so he can’t read the words, but sure loves to have his book, to kneel, and to say, “Amen” when he senses it’s coming. That’s been pretty neat to see. It’s warmed us all in our group.

I wonder when Jude will feel up to leading the group in prayer.

Praying Common Prayer with Friends

Last week, friends gathered. The clock’s fingers touched 6:30am. We prayed, “O Lord, my soul rises up to meet you : As the day rises to meet the sun. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen…”

We’ve been gathering ever since. Monday’s at 6:30am, Tuesdays at 5:30pm… The rhythm goes back and forth.

The guide for our time together has been the wonderful collection of prayers and songs called Common Prayer. It was put together by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. My friends and I appreciate the rhythm of prayer, song, Scripture, and being sent to express the compassion Jesus expressed (though we have a long way to go to be molded like Jesus).

If you’re curious, the content of the book is mostly available online: www.commonprayer.net. If you’d like to join us, give me a holler.

Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day (by Macrina Weiderkehr) | A Book Review

“If you want to he attentive to your soul, you simply must find ways to honor your need to acquire a sense of rhythm in your life-some kind of balance in your work, leisure, and prayer.” (Weiderkehr)

How can ordinary people practice a rhythm of pausing and noticing, noticing the work and presence of God in their world? 

Why are the Divine Hours a helpful rhythm of prayer?

A few years ago I discovered the Divine Hours – those ancient rhythms of prayer that purposefully take one through the day with the Lord, pausing in the middle of the day for small conversation. I’ve discovered wonderful prayerbooks that guide through the hours, but it wasn’t until I came across a Benedictine Short Breviary that I had seen a prayerbook that really guided through all seven hours (see below).

I quickly purchased that Breviary and excitedly kept company with the Lord on the seven hours, with some routine, but a lot of struggle to keep the rhythm. Carrying that little book with me everywhere as well as trying to pause in the middle of the day was a tough discipline to establish. I enjoyed, however, the significance of the pauses in the day; each pause and time of prayer had a certain something to add to that time of day, even projecting and connecting times of life to times of the day.

To illustrate what I enjoyed, this comes from Weiderkehr’s book: “We practice pausing to remember the sacredness of our names, who we are, and what we plan on doing with the incredible gift of our lives-and how we can learn to be in the midst of so much doing. We have to practice loving and forgiving. We practice breathing and being careful with one another’s life. We practice nonviolence. We practice enjoying what we have rather than storing up possessions. We practice silence.”

After loosely keeping company with the Divine Hours (6, 9, 12, 3, 6, 9, with sometime in the middle of the night for an enthusiast – which I wasn’t) and the breviary, I needed to pause. What I wanted to discover was a rhythm that I could share with my family, Jenny and my two boys who are 3 and 1. I wanted to practice rhythms of prayer so that I could walk with them in prayer as well, once the boys discover the beauty of sitting still (this might be a while…).

So, the Benedictine Breviary, though so richly beautiful, was too much to engage for where my family is at and will be for a while. But, I wanted to retain the beauty of the hours, the significant pauses of the hours.

That’s when I discovered Seven Sacred Pauses (through seeing it mentioned in Phileena Heuertz’s A Pilgrimage of a Soul).

I read with thirst.

What I’ll share with you now comes from the book; these clips are helpful phrases regarding the intent of each hour. I find them helpful and hope to memorize them in order to continue to keep company with God, pausing in the various special times of a day.

1.) Matins or Vigils. “The Night Watch” (Sometime between midnight and dawn). Themes for the hour: vigilance and deep listening mystery and silence surrender and trust.

2.) Lauds or Morning Prayer. “The Awakening Hour” (apx. 6am). Themes for the hour: praise and resurrection joy and delight the coming of the light.

3.) Terce or the Third Hour of the Day. “The Blessing Hour” (apx. 9am). Themes for the hour: the coming of the Spirit wind and flame, breath and blessing strength and courage the sacredness of work.

4.) Sext or the Sixth Hour. “The Hour of Illumination” (apx. noon). Themes for the hour: commitment and passion courage and faithfulness healing, truth, and peace.

5.) None or the Ninth Hour. “The Wisdom Hour” (apx. 3pm). Themes for the hour: steadfastness, surrender forgiveness and wisdom impermanence, aging, maturing death and transition.

6.) Vespers or Evensong. “The Twilight Hour” (apx. 6pm). Themes for the hour: gratitude, praise serenity, mystery the lighting of the lamps.

7.) Compline or Night Prayer. “The Great Silence” (apx. 9pm). Themes for the hour: silence, rest, and sleep darkness, trust, and protection personal sorrow, completion, intimacy.

I recommend Weiderkehr’s book to those who would like to hear more about the hours. There are helpful guides for prayer tucked into the back of each chapter as well. I found her book a good, concise guide to the hours, to taking the soul of the hours into my life, pausing with the above thoughts in mind to inspire simple prayer.

 

Solitude, Community, & Mission | The Christian Life

The Christian walk has an important, necessary rhythm: Solitude, Community, Mission. (Influenced by Henri Nouwen)

Solitude, from Nouwen, is not loneliness but rather a solidarity of identity – it is the capacity to be at peace with God and ourselves as ones who are beloved children of God in Jesus. Solitude is not isolation either, but rather the desire to be present to God and to dwell in God’s presence that is already with us. Solitude often takes the rhythm of being alone somewhere to pay attention, but is also possible in a crowded place with many people.

Solitude, that is, knowing and dwelling securely in our identity as a forgiven, redeemed child of God in Jesus, pours us into the community of believers – the group of people with the same title as us: Beloved of the Father. The community builds and encourages one another and provides an environment of permission for love – loving God and one another and neighbor.

Strong community will always pour out into self-less love and mission. That is the imitation of Christ in outward fashion. Such an outpouring is dependent on the nurture it receives (and actual pours out) that comes from solitude and community.

This, I think, is a comforting message and a guiding thought. Contemplating this idea from Nouwen grants peace and causes anxiety in the spiritual life to fade.

Here is a quote from Making All Things New that I want to share (p.68). I believe this sums up the inner working of the text and sets our imaginations participating with God, looking to discover and create particular disciplines of attentiveness and action:

“A spiritual discipline, therefore, is the concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives, where this obedience can be practiced. Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray or, to say it better, allows the Spirit of God to pray in us.”

 

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What Would Have Happened if Mary had Denied the Presence of God?

What would have happened if 2,000 years ago, Mary the Mother of Jesus had denied the message sent to her? What if her heart was not prepared to receive it? What if, in her troubled state when the angel first visits with her (Luke 1) she disbelieves instead of anticipates?

 
Thankfully, I do not have to be concerned with the “what if’s” for Mary. Her example lays enshrined in history. Her response was faithful and nurtured by anticipation and hope.
 
What about my own hope and anticipation? What if God is today desiring to cause life from himself to take root within my soul? How might my soul be prepared to anticipate, receive and obey in faithfulness? 
 
Yours?
 
 

In the Sanctuary for Advent Prayer.

The Christmas trees illumine the space around me, the golden streamers stream above. The feel of this warm sanctuary is cozy, restful, and peace-filled.

I feel relaxed.

I feel like something deep within me is being re-worked to become attentive and able to respond to the needs of others around me once this sanctuary grace ends. Each breath of air brings in a flavor of grace, a coolness that refreshes my soul deep within – like when you inhale when you’re enjoying a candy cane, a cool freshness descends within you.

I want to write out the feel I feel at this moment, but I can’t grasp the words. It’s illusive.

All that comes to mind are the lyrics of a song I heard a few years ago: “Surely God is in this place, with us now. Surely God is in this place, with us, now.” (Steven Iverson).