Thursday, April 20, 2017

Prayerful Meditation

Lately I have been spending time in meditation before bed and/or in the morning.  I find myself asking how I might view this time as prayer, or rather how I might restructure my prayer to learn from meditation. Here's my most recent exploration in a session of Christian Prayerful Meditation. May it inspire you to write your own.

Start by brining your awareness to the creation around you. Invite the Great I Am, God with us, to be present with you now.  Notice how God has been here already waiting for you, smiling at you.  See with your minds eye the beautiful and beloved created beings around you.

Turn your mind's eye to see the beautiful created and beloved creature that is you.
Visualize God looking at you with love and grace.
And as you see the loving eyes of God smiling on you, begin to notice the sound or your breath
Feel the air coming in and going out from your lungs.
Visualize the Breath of God, the Ruach of God, entering your lungs on the inhale, and on the exhale feel that Breath pass through your whole body. And on the inhale feel the Ruach breathe life into your bones and on the exhale visualize a fire being lit in the center of your being. Visualize you breath as gently tending to that flame, and allow your breath to soften. Now bring your awareness to the ground. Remember that from dust you came and to dust you will return. Feel your connectedness to the earth. Feel your connectedness to all of humanity. Visualize your connection to those who have lived and then entered the ground. Say a prayer of gratitude for how their experiences have impacted your present moment. Remember the one who entered this world as a one of us, a fellow groundling. Remember how God came to have earthly breath and life, born into this world as a little boy. That little boy grew into a toddler, a young kid, a teenager, and eventually a young man. Remember how he wept with those who had sorrow, remember how he fed the hungry. Remember how he healed the sick and gave sight to those who could not see. What do you need from Jesus in this moment? 

Listen for the voice of the Great I Am present with you here in this moment.

Close your prayer with a word of gratitude and open your eyes to continue seeing the world through God’s loving eyes. Glory be to God. Amen.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A different kind of Holy Week

This Easter is a unique one for us. Maybe you've had one like this too, where Easter comes at a time when your grief and suffering has been heavier during Lent, and the declaration that Christ has conquered the grave comes with weight. Over the past several months, Robbie and I have literally experienced some of the hardest moments in our lives, God has brought us through the troubled waters and here we stand. 

Last night we celebrated a small portion of the Jewish Seder meal during our Maundy Thursday celebrations.  As we read through the blessings and declared the truth of God's deliverance, I heard echoes of our experience.  Earlier in the day, as I was preparing the saltwater, I was tasting it to be sure the balance was right, and the warm drops on my fingers tasted like my own tears.  A few weeks back, a friend of mine had reminded me of the beautiful children's book Tear Soup.  She brought it to me a few months into my grief and recovery, and I told her, I had already made several batches of "Tear Soup" this spring.  That friend was busily helping prepare communion as I looked at the pot I had selected to make the saltwater, and I realized I had literally made a pot of tear soup!  I couldn't wait to dip my greens and celebrate the blessings of God with the taste of the bitterherb and tears on my lips.  When we finally did begin the Seder portion of our meal, I felt the joy in my bones as we read the blessing of the first cup, glasses raised: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who have kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this season of joy! As I broke the bread of affliction, I felt the strength of God's people who have endured affliction after affliction and still found a voice to sing of God's deliverance.

Now I'm trying to muster up the strength for Good Friday, trying not to think about Holy Saturday.  I'm incredibly excited for the different kind of "good" Good Friday service we have set before us. Back in January our youth choir director and I decided that we would pull together singers and orchestra players to perform John Rutter's Gloria. I had no idea how that would shape the formation of a worship which usually accents the frailty and horrible nature of humanity. Our service tonight is a testimony of Christ's faithful and unwavering, passionate love for us.  This is the "good news" about Good Friday: God has already chosen us for this life, and God continues to choose to be connected to us, despite our mistakes, all so that we can find true wholeness, all to discover true goodness in this life and the next.

The prelude and postlude for tonight's service is a playlist of New Orleans Jazz funeral music. We will walk the stations of the cross, to the beat of he drum which knows the end of the story. May the beautiful blend of joy and sorrow fill my feet to carry me through the silence of Holy Saturday, so that we might find light and life at that sunrise service Sunday morning. Jesus was with me in my suffering, and he will lead me into wholeness, where sadness and joy make one another complete. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Today we will sing

I’ve been journeying through Christine Paintner’s The Way of the Pilgrim.  Her books have given me space to connect my creative energies and spiritual yearnings.  This book does a phenomenal job of accompanying any kind of journey, whether it be a pilgrimage of discernment or renewal.  For me, the chapters have acted as a general leading on the road to physical and spiritual healing during my journey of grief and recovery.  One of the exercises was especially meaningful for me and I wanted to share it with you.  I had read her blog posts which introduced the sacredness of crossing a threshold, and her chapter gave even more depth to the encouragement to take that step from the known into the unknown, walking with hope for what is to come. We were invited to write a reflection as Miriam after praying with the following scripture.  I felt her somber cry of Alleluia, filled with tears of sorrow and joy.  May God continue to give me a song to sing, and a voice to speak for hope in the darkness.

When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers rushed into the sea, the LORD brought the water crashing down on them. But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground!
Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song:

    “Sing to the LORD,
      for he has triumphed gloriously;
    he has hurled both horse and rider
      into the sea.”
New Living Translation (Ex 15:19–21)

Miriam: My brother led the walkout. We knew it was coming, but all of a sudden, we were packing up everything and leaving the only home we ever knew.  We headed out towards the desert and found ourselves at an impasse. Do we cross the river or go around?  Before we could decide, Pharoah’s henchmen were gaining on us and Moses was forced to take a chance and lead us through the River bank. We made it through, everyone of us, as if on dry ground.  When we reached the other river bank the waters roared behind us and threw Pharoah’s men into the sea.  I couldn’t believe it.  The sight was horrifying and tremendous all at the same time.  We were saved, others dead, everything behind us and nothing but an empty freedom before us.  I picked up my tamborine and sang.  We sang alleluia. Suffering behind us and suffering before, but today, we will sing Alleluia, Amen.