All posts by pstrbled

Prayer of the Heart

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in the former Mosque (Cathedral) of Cordoba, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prayer of the Heart

by Michael Bledsoe

You invoke the Divinity

like a man carefully stoking a fire

the cinder is cold

might as well rub two sticks together

and say amen

the Holy is hardly careful

the truth can’t be sold ala carte

others invoke by passion

like burning tires at some intersection

of pain and desire

their shouts and screams

incendiary devices

gas tanks explode and children faint

once the smoke is cleared

the same dirt road, leading into the shanty towns

of heartache and grief

 

some invoke by curse and profanity

Jesus, they slur

pronouncing an absence

icebergs the size of Delaware

broken from the continent of whole

adrift in a sea of resentment and arrogance

that together smell like a crack pipe left on the curb

they stick the needle of secular materialism

into real arms, real hands, real hearts

they’re cruciform and don’t even know it

I

I prefer silence to sound

poetry to prose

the copper penny of faith

to the sterling coin of pride

thin pages of scripture

to op-ed sheets

one wounded hand of one wounded Messiah

to the manicured paws of minions

the chant and prayer of a righteous one

to the pontification of t.v.’s talking heads

Lord Jesus Christ

have mercy on me

a sinner.

 

still vase, translucent prayer

still_vase

 

 

 

For the first time in a long vocation of many years, I provided a “demonstration” during a sermon [entitled, "Silence: The First Gate--Practical Tools for a Spirituality that Keeps You Calm So You Can Carry On. ]

Those of you who attended the June 29th service remember that I walked out from the pulpit and down to the Lord’s Table where a vase of water was placed.  I had a light clipped to the vase, shining from behind it and through the water.  Then I took some dirt and poured it into the vase and stirred it with a large spoon whereupon the water was a very dark brown and the light behind it was blocked out.  But within five minutes or so, one could see the light breaking through the debris and by the end of the sermon, the heavy elements had dropped to the bottom of the vase and the light was quite apparent.

I wanted to follow up that sermon about remaining still and prayerful in order to find a calm in the center of our lives with a few words about “the liturgy of hours.”  That is a technical phrase that refers to the ancient discipline of praying at certain phases of the day.  It is not necessary that you understand the history of that tradition or how it is practiced. It is sufficient for my purposes simply to connect what I taught you Sunday—breathing deeply, praying Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy on the inhale and exhale of your breath—with the phases of the day that were so apparent to ancient Christians.

You are familiar with the two major divisions of a day simply by being alive.  You didn’t need to read a book about this.  Day/Night.  Morning and Evening prayer.  Lauds and Vespers. Whatever you call it, we experience our time day in and out by this major division.  The morning and day begins—we pray the Lord, Have Mercy and breathe deeply  and peacefully for some moments.  The day ends—we pray the Lord, Have Mercy and breathe deeply and peacefully for some moments. We begin the day by asking God to grant us peace and strength. We end the day by commending our energies and actions to God and asking for rest.

You can go a step further and pray noon, at the zenith of the sun and height of the day’s energies.  There are other “prayer hours” but for now, try a week of breathing deeply and praying at morning, noon, evening.  By doing so we mark time as holy. We consecrate our efforts to God. And we benefit by a contemplative life that shines light through us. A translucent life of prayer and contemplation may deepen your life and calm both body and soul.  Here is a brief and pretty Lord Have Mercy by our Orthodox friends.

See you Sunday~

 

Summer Book Bag ~ Reading For Spirit

 

Jester reading a book (png version with transp...

Ah, summer.  Many of us not only look to summer as a break from the ordinary, rutted routines of the other seasons, but as a way to break away from our ordinary reading habits. Hence, we look around for best sellers and very often books we would not ordinarily have the chance to read.  We ask folks not only where they might be headed for vacation, but we ask, what are you reading?

Thanks for asking!  I finished recently reading July 1914 since this August marks the 100th anniversary of World War I.  Very informative read.  I also just finished Lawerence Wright’s, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison of Belief.  Very informative but not as great as his The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road To 9/11.  Currently I am in midway in I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For EducationAnd Was Shot By The Taliban.  She is such an inspiration!  I just began Jennifer Michael Hecht’s  Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.  This is a stirring contribution to encouraging persons to not go through with suicide without making it a religious argument. And of course, I read Dan Brown’s Inferno for our Book Club and also we’ll be discussing this coming Sunday Annie Dillard’s, Holy the Firm.

You may not want to plow through several books and perhaps prefer a good read but not something that overwhelms you by page count or topic.  May I suggest something to you?  What if you could read a brief essay in less than half an hour that kindles your mind and lifts your spirit? What if you could do that and enjoy pondering contemporary issues, significant spiritual themes and do that simply over a brunch, a breakfast or at seaside? Sounds good doesn’t it?  I want to suggest that you read a book of sermons this summer. Yes, sermons.  Peter Gomes, formerly chaplain of Harvard University Chapel, has a collection entitled, Sermons: Biblical Wisdom For Daily Living.  He writes cogent, penetrating essays/sermons that will boost your spiritual IQ.  Or try Frederick Buechner‘s, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons.  Buechner is a novelist and a very thoughtful Christian preacher whose sermons read like short stories.  Wonderful prose to beguile you while ambushing you with truth.  Finally,  consider your pastor.  I have three books of sermons that you can find on Amazon ( “Dr. Bledsoe’s Books.” )  Or if you have an iPad and prefer a novel, you can download my Rooster’s Table: A Multicultural Apocalypse at the iTunes and iBooks store.  After all, how much easier can it be to talk with both your pastor and the author at the same time?

Happy reading.  Happy Summer.  May the light of this season of sun translate into an enlightened mind!  See you Sunday~

Highlights and Blooper Reels

Ravensworth Baptist's VW Pride Van.

Ravensworth Baptist’s VW Pride Van.

I wonder if you are like me and enjoy watching highlight reels and blooper reels?  Sometimes highlight reels are blooper reals—I’ve often had that feeling after a film that runs some bloopers as the credits roll and think, “gee, the blooper reel is more entertaining than the movie.”  But think of those reels as illustrative of the spectrum of emotions in our lives.

We like, as a rule, to see highlights of games or speeches or other events because very quickly, we tap into the most inspiring moments.  So highlight reels can generate hope and courage rather quickly and powerfully.  We’ll say things like, “wow, look what s/he did, that is remarkable.”

Blooper reels allow us a chance to be human, to practice a self-deprecating humor that keeps our perspectives in proper balance about who we are.  In the course of a day or week, we spend a lot of energy trying to be the best we can be and that means inevitably that we present positive spins on who we are, all the while keeping hidden or at least under the radar our vulnerable side.  When we watch blooper reels, we end up laughing at persons who seemed perfect just moments prior to when their “malfunction” took place.

What has this got to do with anything? Well, how about a spiritual practice that could take place once a week in your life, say on a Friday at the end of the work week, or a Sunday as the week is about to unfold before you. Take a moment to run the highlight reel from the previous week and inspire yourself.  In church language that would be similar to “count your blessings.”  Instead of focusing all your energy on what went wrong in a week, take a few moments and name your highlights.  You just might renew your courage and inspire yourself toward living more fully in the week of days ahead of you.  And include in that practice a brief blooper reel. Take a moment to laugh at yourself, take yourself less seriously and rejoice –really rejoice—in being a vulnerable human being.  Your humanity will be deepened by doing that.

So my highlight reel from last week would include:  holding my sign at CapitolPride, made by Terryn, that colorfully had our church’s name written on it with the word INCLUSIVE and pointing to the word “Baptist” as some judgmental Westboro Baptist types were marching along the sidewalks, denouncing those who had come out to celebrate their liberation from hatred and second class citizenship.  Those in the crowd in front of me cheered and drowned out the megaphone ranting of the street preacher denouncing them.  Highlight.  Inspiring.

My blooper reel:  I was standing in the street at CapitolPride, ready to begin marching (after a two hour wait), holding my sign up when a lady in front of me looked at me and said, “your sign is upside down.”  I sheepishly turned it right side up.  I won’t bother you with the details of how cranky I was and how much I whined while waiting to get going in the parade.  Suffice it to say, the wonderful persons from our church who were there to march were very kind and patient with me.

Highlights and bloopers. Who knew this could be a rather practical way to practice one’s spirituality?  Have a week of highlights and a good laugh or two at your own expense.  We are both heroic and yes, embarrassing at times.  It’s okay.  Live deeply and joyfully. See you Sunday~

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pulse and Breath

Traffic Jam

The moments of our lives—the tick tock of our mundane lives—are scattered throughout the course of a day.  Our routines—when we awaken, when we arrive for an appointment or our job, our departure to return home, and the myriad other things like lunch and meetings that comprise our routines—provide us a sense of purpose.  When those routines come to a grinding halt in traffic or are intruded upon by forces that threaten to overwhelm us then, in those kind of moments, we are liable to sense our routines as so much threadbare wallpaper. We end up asking ourselves what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Those moments are intertwined with the moments of many, many other lives and events.  And in turn, the weave of our interconnectivity is played out against a microwave background of tension that radiates the very city we live in:  the federal city of the United States, a target of terrorists and the power grid of the powerful and those who want to be near the powerful.  How does one keep one’s sanity in the midst of this?  How does one arrive at an authentic sense of self so that when our routines are interrupted, when the traffic comes to a crawl, when a meeting goes spinning out of control, when getting home seems impossible, we are not ourselves spun into madness or purposelessness?  Let me suggest something.

In whatever chaos or disintegration of the flow of your moments, put two fingers on your wrist, find your pulse and then, take a deep, deep breath.  Pulse and breath.  Remind yourself that these are the truly significant gifts.  And whatever happens and however things play out today, it is this gift of life that graces us that matters.  You’re alive.  The world will be here tomorrow.  Moments pass.  In the time it takes you to feel your pulse and breathe deeply, you can discover how wonderful and strangely beautiful this all is.

One last idea—enter a holy place on Sunday and through worship, say thanks. When you practice a weekly rhythm of gratitude, your mundane moments will be placed into a larger, cosmic context.   May the Peace of God that passes all understanding fill your hearts.  Breathe deeply.  Find the pulse.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta