Tag Archives: Prayer

christmas_candles

Opportunities and Questions of Faith

How do I pray?  This question is a recurring one in my dialogue with people.  It is one thing to believe there is a God who is just and concerned about me and the world, it is quite another to figure out how to speak with and hear God. We’re encouraged to “pray without ceasing” but what in the world can that mean for me and my schedule? And more critically, how do I pray for the world much less myself when things seem so out of kilter?  In an effort to help you create a discipline of prayerful contemplation, the Pastor and Deacons have scheduled a Prayer Retreat for all day Saturday, June 3rd at Bon Secouer Retreat Center.  The cost is a mere $25 and includes breakfast and lunch.  Spaces are limited so be sure to sign up on Sunday where fliers will be available with more information.

Why must we suffer?  Right along with the question of prayer, this question is at the top of most people’s list.  Some religious folks simply accept suffering as God’s will. Others question how there could even be a God as long as there is suffering in the world.  Christianity has at the center of its narrative a story about a suffering servant messiah.  First Sunday Bible Study in both May and June will be a read and discussion of the book of Job, led by our Aspirant associate, Tonetta Landis-Aina.  The study takes place after worship on those two Sundays and as well, Tonetta will preach on the book of Job in May.  Mark your calendar, sign up with Tonetta and prepare to have a rich and meaningful study/discussion about a crucial human experience and question, suffering.

Our choir and music team continues to inspire us and we are grateful, particularly for Easter Sunday’s beautiful worship service.  If you have a musical skill, please let Lauren know.  As we proceed into the second year of our interim worship at Jefferson Middle School, we are talking about and working on how we might expand to a second service in our community.  If you are interested in helping us reach out to young adults especially and provide innovative ways both in schedule and mode of worship, please speak with Pastor Bledsoe.

We are a vibrant community. We are dedicated to loving one another and we have a vision that takes us into the future.

~See you Sunday

Bluemont Bridge by Pastor Bledsoe

Mindful

When I am mindful as I walk across a small bridge along a bike path flanked by trees and a large creek on one side, then I am mindful that I am suspended but crossing.  I am mindful that someone crafted this bridge.  I am alert to being a bi-pedal creature, oriented in four directions.

When I am mindful as I count the coins to hand to the cashier, uniformed and standing across from me, a name tag tagged to their chest, then I am mindful that I am part of an exchange today.  I am mindful that beyond the coin lie certain tacit covenants between us, that I will hand this coin over and be handed my groceries.  I am mindful that we both have names but are separated by a chasm even as we extend hands across that chasm to give and receive.

When I am mindful as I turn out the light and crawl into bed, sheet and blanket to cover me, quiet and silence descended, and sleep covering me quickly then I am mindful of the poverty of my human existence. That I need to be recharged. That my powers are limited to the day that has just spent me.  That a descent into twilight and sleep is a resignation of my life over to the world that is greater than my singularity and a commendation of my soul into the boundless care of the Creator. Whether I sing in my head and heart a doxology to paddle into the night of rest that awaits me or pray a thank you, I am mindful until the switch is clicked and my mind rests.

When I am mindful, I wake up.

~See you Sunday.  Let us come together and be mindful of mutual presence and the Presence of the Holy One.  Perhaps we will step into an Awakening.

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~

 

The Gate Called Worship or, Three Things To Do Prior to Entering A Holy Place

English: Garden Gate All around Ballumbie Castle

Throughout the course of any given day in our lives, we find ourselves opening doors and following steps that will facilitate our movement through the labyrinth.  For example, think of how you prepare for something as routine as going to the store. Even if you do not make a list, you take a moment to consider why you’re entering the store and take steps to make sure you have cash or a credit card.  From the moment you exit your domicile or office to the moment you walk through the door of the store, how many doors have you opened? How many thresholds have you crossed?

When you cross the threshold into a holy place, like our church, you have opened doors, crossed boundaries, exited and entered a variety of doors.  Ponder this for a moment.  There is this experiential, bodily transition from one portal to another. We would do well to be mindful.  Be awake. Alert.  ”I am walking across the threshold into…”

Peace.  Translucency (blue stained glass, milky light powdered over walnut pews, symbol-adorned walls, table, glass). ” In the midst of others, I am positioning myself to…”

Come before the Holy, the Unutterable, the Fountain of Light.  What you have done is this: you have opened the gate called Worship. This is a series of actions from prayer to song to proclamation that weave you into a sacred tapestry of space and time and all in a singular effort to place one’s life before the Giver of Life.

There are secondary reasons we gather in the church and those reasons are fine as long as they remain secondary to the one great thing you do that day:  worship.  So we show up to socialize and network and accomplish some other secondary tasks.  What we want to do is show up in that holy place at least as mindful as we are when we enter the grocery store with our lists, our money and coupons.  Indeed, we enter sacred time with the small change of our lives seeking a treasure that far exceeds our expectations.

This is one reason I value so much the first gate we open on Sunday.  Have you noticed in your church bulletin that our order of service is a series of gates? And the first gate is “prayer.”  We begin our service without noise, practically in quiet and in prayerful repose. Think of that and how that might compare to your experiences in other churches.  We begin in quiet, contemplative prayer.  I don’t know how you experience that, but here is what I experience: the illusions of the world begin to crash like slags of ice into the sea; the noise of the world melts, dissipates and dissolves into quiet; I can feel my chest rise and fall to breath; eyes closed, I trade darkness for light. And I pray, Christe eleison, Christ have mercy.

Three things you might consider doing prior to entering a holy place:  be mindful of your thresholds; find the gate that opens into your heart, mind and soul; open that gate as you open the gate of worship.

I’ll end by quoting Augustine from Book XII of his Confessions:

O let the Light, the Truth, the Light of my heart, not mine own darkness, speak unto me. I fell off into that, and became darkened; but even thence, even thence I loved Thee. I went astray, and remembered Thee. I heard Thy voice behind me, calling to me to return, and scarcely heard it, through the tumultuousness of the enemies of peace. And now, behold, I return in distress and panting after Thy fountain.

There is a gate. Open it.  There is a fountain of light by which we see light.  See you Sunday.

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