Tag Archives: Prayer

Tire Alignment, Soul Tread

Most folks who own a car, especially a used car or one they’ve driven a while, have come to that moment when a mechanic says “your car needs an alignment.”

I found this short description of alignment from the Bridgestone Tire page:  “Alignment refers to an adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension – the system that connects a vehicle to its wheels. It is not an adjustment of the tires or wheels themselves. The key to proper alignment is adjusting the angles of the tires which affects how they make contact with the road.”

Now I pastor a church. I don’t manage a garage but I’m grateful for those who do. Because when it comes to driving and maintaining a vehicle, well, I’m usually in over my head.  I’m thankful someone has the skills and knowledge to correct whatever it is that makes my car run less efficiently or poorly.  So why bring this up?

It’s Spring.  You’ve noticed that. The trees are blossoming all around us and we’re pelted by petals and pollinated at the same time.  It’s hard to miss the signs of new life around us.  So let me ask you how is your alignment? Wobbly?  Off kilter?  The potholes of journeying through the daily grind have you out of alignment?

Before Spring is past, why not ask yourself how your spiritual life and discipleship are holding out—you wouldn’t hesitate to put on new tread if your tires put you at risk.  You’d get that alignment to not only drive more efficiently but to safeguard your investment.

How’s your soul?  Try this:  find a place that is peaceful in or outside your home and take some deep breaths and close your eyes. Then chant or simply pray the Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy):  Lord, have mercy. Christ, Have mercy.  Ponder who you are and where you are and consider how a simple discipline of meditation in the week and worship on a Sunday might realign your soul and empower you to navigate the roads you travel down each and every day.  Maybe I’ll write about a dashboard bobblehead next time.  🙂

Grace, Peace, Hope and Love abide in your life this week.  If you want to talk about spiritual alignment, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  ~See you Sunday

Practice & The Spirit

This past week I had more than one conversation with some individuals who were seeking a way to deepen their spiritual lives.  As a pastor, these kinds of conversation are what I and other pastors long for–we want to lead our brothers and sisters to a well where they can drink deeply.  As it turns out–and it always seems to turn out like this in our spiritual journeys–a serendipitous discovery came across my footpath and is often the case in my life, I was guided to this discovery by my wife who was reading the 2018 updated version of What Color Is Your Parachute?   and she offered me a link to a site that the author had mentioned in the book. I went there. I found an ad for another site and it is this site I want to suggest to you as a tool for your daily practice of spirit and spirituality.

The site comes to us via the Jesuits who are trained in the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola.  They have created a marvelous site and a very practical and cool app that you can download called “Pray As You Go.”  If you are trying to find a way to kindle a spark in your faith or simply add sparkle to your walk in God, then go to the site.  You can listen to daily prayers on their web site (you don’t need the app to do that).  I have tried it and find it to be soothing, peaceful, and yet willing to confront questions about our spiritual lives that can get us unglued from the traps of a too-busy culture.

Finally, there is one practice you are urged to make part of your life by the scriptures. It is there from the moments of Creation. It is enshrined at Sinai.  And the Church insists that this practice is the work of the Church:  W O R S H I P.  Standing together as those called out by Christ; embracing one another fully as made in God’s Image; Rejoicing and Praying and Loving; this practice every week lends a rhythm and sense to our scattered activities and infuses us with hope.  Join us Sundays at 10 a.m. where, in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School, we become the People of God.  Practice makes perfect.  ~See you Sunday

A Hymn For the End of The Sixth Day

Hallowed is your name.  Blessed are those places so sacred because we, in our labyrinth wanderings have suddenly encountered you there. We thought we were alone and abandoned, Holy One.  We were certain all of this, all of this–was some accident without purpose. And then a bird hidden in a tree sang and the song of other birds, these were twined to stars barely visible in the dawn and somewhere human voices were interchanged within the grand landscape of it all and we awakened. To presence. To the sheer, staggering beauty of it all and the truth that it did not have to be. But it is. And I am.

Guide me through what the world calls Friday.  Help me now to be rid of things that have kept me preoccupied and unfocused so that I give up what was vitally important for what was trivial or secondary or even mediocre.  I would lay these aside like a swimmer discards the weight of clothes and objects in order to glide through the life world.  I can see the sabbath rest breaking over the horizon. Rest, restoration, healing these are near.

For the Day of Rest, Lord God, we are grateful. For the end of the sixth day, its lengthening shadows arrive not as darkness but as measured rest and reprieve.  I don’t need to work now. No more delusions about my work saving the world.  I will ponder the Creator and Sustainer and the Liberator.  To all your creatures, great and small, Lord God, bestow Sabbath rest.  An end to work for a while. A reprieve from suffering. A gate opened to candles lit and friendships kindled and family embraced. Let the day begin. Let the sixth day end.  Hallowed be your name.  Amen.

Wednesday: A Prayer for Light

Midweek.  The 4th day. Wednesday.  Halfway home to Friday though, Sabbath God, we of the 21st century have lost sight of the star of the Sabbath to guide our paths. Darkness was separated from light on the fourth day, so place in our dimly lit lives a window opened to the light. You, who created suns and stars on the fourth day and separated darkness from light, help us at this midpoint in our week to remain silent at the still point of your rest.  We breathe deeply and in silence, whispering your Holy Name. Fountain of light, fill us with light.

We are middling and middled, if that be a word; we are stuck in the in-between and have woven ourselves into plots and schemes; we are twined by events and schedules and we pray and plead on this Wednesday that you would, like a mother, bend near us and untie the knots that have begun to tighten. Reassure of us of your love and that you walk this journey with us. God, come near.

In the midst and middle of our week, in the midst of the crowd, we are raising our hands and saying to you God, here we are! Alas, you know us and are aware of our coordinates.  Help us to find you for it is we who are lost to ourselves, tracking the path of this week across the field of Wednesday, the earth resolutely spinning and not consulting us for its journey.  We of the midpoint seek you, whose circumference is nowhere, whose center is everywhere.  Amen.

A Prayer on Monday

For the earth that is round or seems to be and goes round and around so that its rotation is somehow synced to my life in ways that defy complete comprehension but this I do know, that seasons come and go and my life is lived out in days whose completion is the setting of the sun and whose beginning is the rising of the sun—so for these mysteries of interconnection and for life, I give thanks.

For my body and five senses though these are gifts that betray me in the course of a day and a week, I give thanks, Lord God.  When I can stand on my two feet and walk, when I can eat from the fruit of the earth and its harvest, when I can feel the healing power of hot water on my face or on my aching and arthritic shoulders, as light enters my eyes and images of the earth are conveyed to my mind via light, I am deeply grateful.

For my mind that is a mysterious gift that defies reductionist science, that cannot be reduced to an analogy with computers, that allows me to critically engage the world around me and most mysteriously, like a three paneled mirror allows me to step out (ex-ist) of my being and behold myself, I give thanks.  For minds that communicate with me from centuries and even millennia ago through scriptures and books and now through media of all kinds and above all, Holy One, for this mind that allows me to speak and hear your Mind.  Selah.

On this Monday when the wicked swarm the earth and the politicians in high places prepare to cut the cords of covenantal obligations to our fellow citizens thus ratcheting even tighter the barbed springs of suffering, O Just God, empower your people to heal the world and cause princes of terror to stumble so that peace and justice might anoint the low, the humble and the outcast.  Have mercy on us, Lord Christ, Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, Child of Mary and Joseph, Light of the world.  Have mercy. Amen +

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

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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