Friday, June 27, 2014

Finally, an adult--plus one to grow on!

I know exactly where I was twenty-two years ago today.  I was with most of my family gathered at my house on Beechmoor for lunch. Earlier that morning I had been ordained a deacon (transitional, that is) at Christ Church Cathedral by The Right Reverend Maurice Benitez, who died earlier this year.  I am grateful to him for so very much in my life.

I guess that means that I am an adult deacon plus one year.  Truthfully, although my ordination day is important to me and, I hope, to God, it's pretty much a non-event to the rest of the world. I have a couple of friends who almost always send a card or email, but it's mostly a private day for me and God to reflect and chat.

I spent most of this morning in my prayer room in my prayer chair.  I did a lot of pondering about centering prayer and contemplative prayer--to purists, different types of prayer, but for me they are both times to be still in the presence of God.

I started thinking about my practice, or not, of contemplative prayer a couple of months ago when I met my brother for coffee.  He had recently been placed on the board of an international religious organization, and a significant part of their meeting had been spent in centering prayer.  It was life-changing for him.  As we talked, he assumed that this was part of my own faithful daily spiritual practice.

Well.  Sort of.  Most days I have quiet with God.  But the more I thought about my conversation with my brother, the more I had to admit that I'd become sloppy and neglectful in my own quiet with God.

The next week I went to Oregon to visit my grandsons, ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. Almost every morning and every afternoon we took a walk, and we discovered a small park close by with a person-made pond and two waterfalls.  Austin (the three year old) had a new favorite place to go.  His favorite practice was to run to the rock outcropping overlooking the higher waterfall and sit on the edge.   Those rocks and water had big danger alerts for me, his grandma.  I wanted to hover with arms outstretched to make sure he didn't fall in.

But I eventually began to trust his motor skills.  We began to have chats about how he felt when he sat on that rock overlooking the waterfall.  Austin is a very curious, lively, active boy, and like most three year olds, he can have melt downs when he feels out of control.  One morning as we sat on the big rock over the waterfall, we talked about a meltdown he'd had earlier that very morning; he had a very good word for how he felt when he was in that place full of tears and angst.  I wish I could remember his word--it was perfect.  The closest word I can pull up is jagged.

As we sat on that rock, we talked about how he felt being still and enjoying the water.  I told him that was a place that he could carry in his heart all the time.  That how he felt at that very moment, sitting in the sun, with the gentle breeze, the sound of water flowing, was a place that was always in his heart.  When he got in that out of control place again, he could place his hand on his heart and remember how he felt sitting by the waterfall.

I call it a place on centering prayer.  Of contemplative prayer.  It's that place within us where God alone dwells, even if we don't know that that place is called God's home.  It's a place that is available to all of us.

A few weeks later, when I had a five days with the children of St. Mary's to teach them about prayer, we started each session with that place of quiet--Austin's waterfall place.  When we taught the adults about contemplative prayer during the sermon on the Sunday following, many were amazed to see our youngest Christians go so easily to that place of quiet with God.  In fact, even though I couldn't recall the quieting prayer I'd taught them without looking, most of them could pray the words from memory:

All is silent.
In the still and soundless air,
I fervently bow to my Almighty God.

I spent much of this morning reading about and practicing centering prayer in honor of twenty-two years of being a deacon.  Maybe I am becoming an adult.  Or perhaps, I'm finally becoming a child.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The next to the last day

Revd. Katie+ reminded us this morning in our opening worship that today is NOT the last day of Vacation Bible School.  We continue what we've learned everyday--and most especially this Sunday.

When choosing prayers for our Visioneers to learn this week, I wanted to be sure we learned some from our Book of Common Prayer. I wanted to be sure our youngest Christians had good prayer words in their spiritual DNA that they could pull up when they needed them most. 

So today we have words to parenthesis our days. From the Morning Office:

Lord, open our lips and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

From the night offices of Evening Prayer and Compline: 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. AMEN

Praying for ourselves

It's easy to pray for others. It's not always so easy to pray for ourselves. So today the Visioneers are learning that intercessory prayer can include and maybe should include lifting ourselves to God.

The prayer we're learning today was written by The Rev. George Herbert, 17th century Anglican poet and priest, one of those holy people called "Caroline Divines."  

Teach me, my God and King, in all things Thee to see, and what I do in anything to do it as for Thee.  AMEN 

Our special intentions for ourselves is the ministry we are doing with Habitat for Humanity.  Each day the Visioneers bring coins and bills and place it in a bucket, and matched with money from St. Mary's Outreach, we'll be giving as much as $6000 (and who knows, maybe even more!) to help build a house for another family.  There's a challenge of the boys versus the girls of who can give the most money. However, our prayer today reminded us that it's not about who wins or loses, but that in bringing money for Habitat, we are a yes to what we prayed today: and what I do in anything to do it as for Thee.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Midweek prayers

First on my list today is a thank you, God, for my awesome assistants Grayson, Felicia, Madilyn, and Abbie! (Can you tell that it's wacky hair day?)

Today we talked about intercessory prayer--the one prayer style which comes easiest to all of us.  Of course, at the top of the children's lists were their assorted pets--but next were grandparents and great-grandparents, both living and dead.  

We kept a chart with the names of those for whom the children requested prayers--it's an abbreviated list because we only took a couple of minutes for requests.  What I loved was when the children began to feel free to go and add names to our station list--and of course they were invited to write their own names in their prayer journals.

Here's photos of our prayer list--at the beginning of the day, and when the last group left.

We also had another intercessory prayer today;  Deacon Russ had a procedure this morning during our VBS session.  At our morning opening worship, Rev. Katie led the children in a prayer which we videoed and texted to Russ.  That's intercessory prayer!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Contemplating Contemplation

All is silent.
In the still and soundless air,
I fervently bow
To my Almighty God.

We've become awful listeners.  Notice I say we--which puts me at the top of the list.  When we talk to one another about how we've become so very poor at listening to one another, there's always a laundry list of whys, much of which gets focused on electronic media and the busy-ness of our lives.

I don't think it matters why.  That's a rabbit trail of noisiness all on its own.  I think it's always been easy not to listen to one another, and I think it's created within us to do better.

As a priest, specifically in leadership with our younger Christians this week, I am passionate about helping us learn to listen to God.  I suspect that if we become better God-listeners, we'll also become better listeners everywhere.

Each day at our prayer station in Vacation Bible School, we sit on the floor, get ourselves comfortable, and pray a centering prayer--All is silent. In the still and soundless air, I fervently bow to my Almighty God.  I ring a bell, and for a short period of time we are all invited to contemplate God--that is listen, and not speak.  Then the bell rings, and we are done.

This kind of prayer the visioneers learned is called contemplative prayer.  Yesterday we talked about distractions, and we learned to use a prayer word to help us stay centered, and to return us to our place of contemplation when we stray--as we all do.

I'm full of wonder of how easy these wiggly little people get still and mostly listen.  It's easier than I thought it would be to pray contemplatively with them.  

Yesterday as I was getting ready to leave for VBS, I peered out my window and noticed that my night-blooming cereus, which had struggled through our exceptionally cold winter, had put out it's first bloom in at least a couple of years.  If I'm not paying attention, I'll miss this rare bloom; the flower opens up during the night, and is wilted soon after sunrise.  It was a good reminder of how essential showing up silently and expectantly to God is.  I may go a long, long time without "hearing" anything--but when I do, oh the wonder and beauty!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Praying with the Visioneers

It's the first day of Vacation Bible School and I'm in charge of the prayer station--five rounds of children and youth exploring that there's no right or wrong way to pray; starting each session with contemplative prayer, then journaling, and today a little prayer walk.

My own morning quiet inspired by a word from The Rev. Barbara Taylor to get my day going:

To say I love God but I do not pray much is like saying I love life but I do not breathe much. The only way I have found to survive my shame is to come at the problem from both sides, exploring two distinct possibilities: 1) that prayer is more than my idea of prayer and 2) that some of what I actually do in my life may constitute genuine prayer.