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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

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Advent 2013

Gracious God, it feels good to be in your church, together with people I love, my faith community.  Here, I am at home, surrounded by warm friendships and life long support. I relax into the rhythm of worship as I listen to familiar scripture, re-telling the story of Jesus’ birth, and drink in the sounds of singing and prayer.

Words like longing, waiting, preparation, expectancy are woven in and through the garlands of the advent wreath, holding a place for the hope, peace, joy and love that is promised.

Help me prepare my heart as faithfully as Mary, to be a place of welcome and hospitality, awaiting a renewed presence of Christ in my life. Embolden me to offer your radical hospitality to those who are not yet at home in your church.

Help me be as obedient and trusting as Joseph, as I journey through my days, by faith, taking nothing for granted.

Help me, Lord, to be watchful like the shepherds, seeing with new eyes the emerging light of Christ in the midst of the mundane and ordinary.  Especially let me see the light of Christ in others.

Increase my faith so I can boldly and freely share the hope and love of Christ I have come to know and trust. With the confidence of your angels, let me sing, “All Glory to God in the Highest.”

We, your church, are called to be a steadfast and watchful people. Give us renewed patience to wait for your quiet voice to reach our ears.  Give us new hearts that we may receive all the love and assurance that comes through your Holy Spirit. Increase our capacity to be instruments of your love and peace. Place in our hearts your seed of compassion, the Christ child. Like Mary, let us receive it without question, saying with confidence, “The Mighty One has done great things for me___ Holy is God’s name.”

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A practice room in Phillips Music Hall becomes a temporary sacred place of refuge.

Earlier this month, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered on the campus of Gordon College for it’s Annual Conference; a three day gathering of clergy and laity, for a time of holy listening, worship, legislation and learning.

Central to the work of the church is the practice of prayer. It is a privilege to work with the many gifted individuals who serve on the Spiritual Formation Initiative; a dedicated group that focuses on and coordinates conference wide spiritual formation events, throughout the year. One of our contributions is providing resources for the Prayer Room which is made available for individuals to engage in prayer, meditation, quiet reflection and exploration of various spiritual disciplines.  This year conference goers were able to read about and experience a ritual of anointing with oil.

anointing is an ancient practice of setting something apart as sacred using fragrant oils and prayer.

Anointing is an ancient practice of setting something apart as sacred using fragrant oils and prayer.

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Coloring mandalas is a way to relax the mind for deeper meditation and listening.This was completed by an anonymous visitor to the Prayer Room.

A  number of small worship altars were placed around the room to inspire the use of simple objects and images to create personal  ‘sacred spaces of rest’ in the home.

A floating candle in a pair of inverted bowls add light and interesting reflective surfaces to an already serene view.

I  A floating candle in a pair of inverted bowls add light and interesting reflective surfaces to an already serene view.

A simple cloth and candle draws your attention to stop awhile and pray.

A simple cloth and candle draws your attention to stop awhile and pray.

Icons are another way of experiencing deep prayer as one is invited into the scriptural story written in the form of an icon. A beautiful blue plate on a stand makes a striking background for this icon of  the Pantocrator.

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Natural materials, bits of colored cloth draped as a foundation for your altar, other items such as a cross, a journal, scripture, stones, or anything that evokes and encourages you to prayer are things to try. The important thing to remember is that we are all called to a life of prayer. We can live a sacramental life in the home when we establish a set apart place for worship and allow it to invite us to rest awhile and Be with God.IMG_0583

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In my small part of the world spring has arrived. Everywhere there are signs of emerging buds, and the sweet songs of returning birds. The nighttime hum of the nearby marsh assures me that temperatures are rising.  I feel lighter. I feel alive. I want to scatter seeds and participate in the cycle of renewal; to encourage and nurture life in all its forms. I am filled with the presence of God in all I see and touch and smell and hope. IMAG0898 Not only is it springtime, it is also Eastertide, the fifty days that follow Easter. It is a season ripe with reflections on the resurrection story, rich with the power and possibilities for Christians to live as resurrection people. Incarnate God has come to dwell among us and within us; to save us and restore us to God’s self; to kindle within us a renewed compassion for the other; to forgive; to love, to invite us again to live as God intended. Praise be given to God. And yet, it seems, in my small part of the world humanity has failed once again. Daily, there are signs of emerging hatred and distrust, violence and threats of violence, tragic loss of life, loss of security and economic stability. We ask the ‘who, what and why’ of it.  We view the stranger with eyes narrowed.  All too soon the lightness that is supposed to be the mark of our faith in Christ is cast into deep shadow.  We question how it is that we can journey with those who suffer when we are, ourselves, overwhelmed and weighed down with our neighbor’s grief. It is hard to live as resurrection people. Still, the Incarnate God dwells among us and within us and invites us to turn and return to God. We are invited to lay our burdens down, to find refuge and rest in the One who weeps with us in our suffering and holds us close amidst our frailties and doubts.  Our desire to feel compassion and consider forgiveness is the first step in our turning, once again, to God.  We choose to participate in the healing that must come, to participate as agents of God’s love until we are no longer afraid to offer compassion and forgiveness to the stranger. It is possible to once again feel the presence of God in all we see and touch and smell and hope.

 Pray, dear Lord, let your Spirit pour over me. Flush headlines and unholy habits from my heart. Unwelcome maladies, they clutch and cling, sending me to my knees. Anoint these lesions and loosen their hold. Place healing balm on unrelenting wounds. Wrap your servant in cloths of righteousness and bring me to rest in your house of Holiness. In your time, lift me from your bed of blessing. Raise me to my feet to carry good news and hope, to become your messenger of healing and servant of all.

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A Trinity of Light Special Occasions in the church invite us to consider our worship space in a new way.  What theological themes do we want to highlight? Is the occasion celebratory or meditative. For Sept. 11, I created a central worship visual that used color to give a subtle patriotic foundation to the service. Some of our guests represented the firemen and other civil posts like the state senate and the house of representatives. Other participants were clergy from other denominations in town.

I like using floating candles as the light ‘migrates’ with the air currents in the room. It reminds me that the light of Christ, while constant, is not stagnant. Glass vases and bowls reflect and multiply the candle light, not unlike the way the church is called to reflect and multiply Christ’s light in the world.

The use of water (floating the candles rather than using a single pillar or taper candle) can remind us of our our baptism; remind us to recollect water’s role in cleansing and renewing; remind us to seek reconciliation and forgiveness personally and as a faith community.

Simple displays can be used in the home to remind us to take time for prayer and reflection. Take a  moment to name the current state of your spirit. Choose a piece of cloth (a dinner napkin works well), place an object (natural or otherwise) such as a bible, a stone, a plant, a letter, a pile of shells, a photo, etc. Now light a candle, whatever you have available.

Be still. Offer a prayer.

Be still. Listen.

Give thanks. Notice any thoughts you have or feelings that arise.

Consider keeping a prayer journal.

Come back to your worship space often. God’s Blessing be Yours.

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In my last post I invited you to develop a Rule of Life in order to be more intentional (and aware) of how you prioritize your time and resources. We take so much for granted until something happens to disrupt the flow of our days: a move, a new job, an illness, unexpected financial or social crisis, traveling for business or pleasure, etc.

We don’t intend to neglect our spiritual life or ignore the relationships that give our lives meaning and comfort, challenge us and ground us. So if you have found your way to this blog I invite you again to consider this simple exercise as a way of naming what is important to you.

In prayer, commit yourself to a set apart time to seriously consider your values and goals. WRITE THEM DOWN.  You may have to work on this over a period of time, asking yourself one question at a time and waiting patiently until you are able to discern an honest response.

Begin with your primary relationship. How would you describe your relationship with God? What would you like it to be? What do you currently do to foster your relationship with God? What spiritual disciplines can you identify that  might help you in shaping and growing your knowledge, understanding and experience of God.  Make a list of simple sentence responses to these questions.

If you have already taken on this challenge, what sort of things have you been able to name, so far?  Until later ….. one deacon on a journey.

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We all order our daily lives based on a variety of imposed expectations and demands from family members and work schedules, as well as personal preferences and civil calendars. We set our alarms, follow well established routines for grooming, eating, commuting, exercising, working, and resting. We are more than creatures of habit. We respond to the necessary rhythms of life imposed by external demands and internal desires because we are created to be relational. Relationships depend on regular nurturing and are most healthy when we are dependable and intentional about maintaining them.

A Rule is like a trellis, giving support and shape to a growing spiritual life.

Relationships are fragile. We guard those that are most precious to us and neglect those that don’t seem important enough to invest our time and energy in. We are in relationship with ourselves, with those we share our life with and most importantly, we are in relationship with God and God’s creation.

Throughout the centuries, religious communities have lived under a Rule in order to foster a Christ-like rhythm of living simply and sacramentally, in community and in the world. Have you ever considered creating a personal Rule of Life? How would you begin? What sort of things should you take into account?

This is an invitation to YOU to intentionally shape and grow your relationship with God and self, in order to strengthen and honor your relationships with Mother Earth and others. The idea of writing a Rule of Life may seem daunting. I will guide us through a simple but serious process of  discernment and sythesis using a workbook created by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE). Sermon reflections derived from their Rule of Life can be read on their website: www.SSJE.org/monasticwisdom.

Developing a Rule of Life can be found on its own page by clicking the link here or in the header. I look forward to revising my own Rule and helping you write your own. Let me know how you are doing with it.

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It has been weeks since my last post; weeks filled with change, loss, transformation, growth, dreaming, packing, letting go, taking on, being empty and being filled. In other words, life!

One child is moving away with her family; family I see weekly and will miss terribly. One child is preparing for his wedding next month. He already lives far away and I miss him like crazy. My husband and I have been blessed to have such wonderful children, now adults, and we can’t imagine enough new ways to fill up the spaces they leave behind as they grow their own families.

A dear friend has moved away. Many clergy colleagues are reappointed to preach in new pulpits to new congregations. Their ever expanding circles of grace continue to flow and overlap and return. I pray for them all even as I know I will not see them again anytime soon. In other words, life! Mine is a life rich with relationships and love, admiration and joy, struggle and resilience, mending and breaking.

I find strength and solace when I get really quiet and listen to the sounds of the lake. Gentle breezes carry the call of the loons and the screech of young eagles in the nest, the soft sound of a fisherman’s cast, a fish jumping, a squirrel’s chatter. The light on the water is ever changing. The color of pine and blueberry scrub fill my morning and today it is enough.

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I have been quiet for a few weeks. Sometimes when I prepare to preach, God’s Spirit moves in a profound way. So it was after sharing my guiding principles with my faith community. While I have a number of projects to tend to, God drew me to a place of quiet reflection.  These periods of relative silence are fundamental to my discipline of discernment. Out of the silence, I emerge more focused and intentional. My work is more fruitful and my voice a little bolder.  

A friend’s blog directed me to Raven’s Bread Ministries, a ministry for men and women who seek a solitary life. I then read “Consider the Ravens,” a summation of posts by others seeking to live in the simplest way in order to direct the majority of their time and energy to prayer. At first look, it may seem impossible to live a solitary life in the 21st century. The reality is that more and more individuals not only seek a simple, set apart life but are able to find a way to live into a ‘hermit’s way.’

This may strike you as personally irrelevant, living as you do in a Post-Christian world, but even a cursory survey of Scripture reveals our need to have time apart for prayer and reflection; time to hear God’s voice; time to choose a life in concert with our brothers, our sisters, and creation.

In Sunday’s reading from Isaiah 49:8-16a, God meets the needs of God’s servant: “I have answered you. I have helped you.  I have kept you.” Sheldon Sorge writes in his essay in Feasting on the Word, “Flush with a personal encounter with God’s redemptive work, the minister is equipped to go public with God’s good news.” He continues, “Those who would minister in Christ’s name must first tend to their own souls, availing themselves of God’s help before offering it to others.”

Very soon, we will enter the season of Lent. There is no better time to consider our life choices, our life styles, our personal consumer practices in light of a world where economic injustice prevails, our earth suffers, and our children trust us with their futures.

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