Thursday, September 29, 2016

Believe

Both the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds begin with the Latin word credo, which means I believe. Most modern people understand “I believe” as “I give my assent to.” But credo does not mean “I hereby agree to the literal-factual truth of the following statements.” Rather, it means “I give my heart to,” “I commit my loyalty to,” “I commit my allegiance to.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Invocation - September 25, 2016

Almighty God, in whom I find life, health, and strength, and through whose mercy I am clothed and fed, grant unto me a thankful and faithful heart.  In the name and spirit of Christ.
Amen

       -A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Cruel Chisel

...the cruel chisel destroys a stone with each cut.  But what the stone suffers by repeated blows is no less than the shape the mason is making of it.  And should a poor stone be asked, 'What is happening to you?, it might reply 'Don't ask me.  All I know is that for my part there is nothing for me to know or do, only to remain stead under the hand of my master and to love him and suffer him to work out my destiny.  It is for him to know how to achieve this.  I know neither what he is doing nor why.  I only know he is doing what is best and most perfect, and I suffer each cut of the chisel as though it were the best thing for me, even though, to tell the truth, each one is my idea of ruin, destruction and defacement.  But, ignoring all this, I rest content with the present moment.  Thinking only of my duty to it, I submit to the work of this skillful master without caring to know what it is.'

     -Jean-Pierre de Caussade in the sacrament of the present moment

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Becoming Prayer



May my prayer be set before You as incense,
the raising of my hands as the evening offering.
               -Psalm 141:2

If a few men become prayer–prayer that is ‘pure’ and to all appearances quite useless–they transform the universe by the sole fact of their presence, by their very existence.
- Olivier Clement

Meditating on this verse from Psalm 141 I consider the properties, the characteristics of incense.  It is a small, crude, unattractive lump or stick which, until set afire, doesn’t impact or affect anything or anyone.  Yet, when lit its scent and smoke defuses throughout the room permeating the air with thought provoking, energizing smells.  Moreover, incense continues affecting us with its lingering scent long after it is consumed by the fire.  Hours, even days, later you walk into the room and are brought back to the memories of past actions, desires, and prayers.

Like incense the ancient’s offerings to God served no useful purpose.  They were poured out wine, burnt up animals, a waste of resources.  To most the raising of my hands to God in prayer and praise serves no purpose, helps none of the hurting and helpless around me, a waste of time–our most precious resource.   Yet, God calls us and compels us to worship him with our lives and what are our lives other than time?

I pray my prayers will be “pure” and will have these same lasting, impactful effects on me, our universe, and our God.  I pray God will use my prayers, which are “to all appearances quite useless”, to change lives, to change me.

O Lord, may I become prayer!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Limits Transgressed


I’ve come away to be alone with God on a 5-day silent prayer retreat at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert (MCD). Located in the high desert of northern New Mexico on the backside of the Santa Fe national Forest the MCD is the most remote monastery in the Western Hemisphere. The monks are friendly and eminently hospitable to the few souls who make their way here. The guest rooms are sparse but comfortable providing all that is necessary–protection from the harsh, high desert elements, a twin bed, a chair, a desk, and plenty of time alone with the Alone.


The Benedictine monks, as all Benedictines have for 1,500 years, live by the guideline of ora et labora, prayer and work, as set out by the apostle James in his New Testament book. They believe we can and should honor God with all our lives whether we are on our knees in prayer or praying as we work to provide our sustenance. After Terce and a simple breakfast the first morning I was assigned to pulling weeds from the guesthouse prayer garden as my work for the day. This was good for me, silently cleaning one little section then another as God continued to speak his word into my heart. Settling into the work Psalm 109:1 came to me as my breath prayer:
O God of my praise,
be not silent.

I prayed this simple request over and over in sync with my breathing adding others as they came to mind. O God of my praise, be not silent in my life, then in my fellow guests, in the monks who have so graciously received us, in my family, in XMA, in our world. We all so need your Voice in our lives.
The silence here is deafening. This has surprised me since I so enjoy and actively seek silence and solitude. But, it is deeper here, palpable. No road noise, no planes overhead, no equipment droning, no cell phones, TVs, radio, or people chatter. MCD is a stark reminder of our human limitations just as our distracted lives are attempts to deny them. To paraphrase Kathleen Norris, the silence here fills what Thoreau termed our “need to witness our limits transgressed.”

The only sound I heard while gardening other than my shoes crunching in the rocks was a few geese honking as they flew down the river. A humorous aside—as my Work Master monk was giving me my daily assignment he saw some of the geese flying in.  Pausing to admire their graceful descent onto the river he commented that they were a new arrival to the valley then adding, “they only started coming about 25 years ago.” This reinforces something else Norris wrote in her book Dakota, “monks are accustomed to taking the long view, another countercultural stance in our fast-paced, anything for a buck society…”

I’ll admit this deep, pervasive silence and extended time alone with only God and my thoughts was at times a challenge even for a reclusive introvert like me. I’ve witnessed my limits transgressed and it was very, very good. God spoke through the silence confirming my call as his child, his servant, his friend.