Tag Archives: meditation

Midweek Prayer (in the spirit of Taize’)

It’s a wet, snowy winter-into-spring kind of day in south-central Pennsylvania. We woke to about four inches of sloppy snow (much more on the mountains). It was supposed to be much worse, so schools, churches, and businesses opted to close in advance of the storm. If you’re looking for a meditative mid-week prayer option, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what the congregation I serve would have been doing tonight, had we not canceled all activities. Peace, blessing, and reflective quiet. (Note: I apologize for any ads that show up with the songs. You might try opening the hymns in separate windows to cue when you are ready.)

Lenten Midweek Prayer in the Spirit of Taize’

(Light candles)

Song: “The Lord is my Light”

Psalm 39

1I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will keep a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.”

2I was silent and still; I held my peace to no avail; my distress grew worse,

3my heart became hot within me. While I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:

4“Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.

5You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath. Selah

6Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather.

7“And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.

8Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool.

9I am silent; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it.

10Remove your stroke from me; I am worn down by the blows of your hand.

11“You chastise mortals in punishment for sin, consuming like a moth what is dear to them; surely everyone is a mere breath. Selah

12“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. For I am your passing guest, an alien, like all my forebears.

13Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more.”

Reading from Scripture

Luke 13:18-21

18He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Song: “In God Alone”

Silence

Allow ample time to still your heart in silence and wait for the Lord. We usually allow 7-10 minutes in our worship.

Song: “Lord, Hear my Prayer”

Intercessions

As we continue our Lenten sojourn may we remember those who travel. Keep them safe. Guide them to their destinations. Give them hope and bread for the journey. Lead them beside your still waters and give calm to their weary souls.

Lord, we ask your blessing.

As we continue our Lenten sojourn, we remember those who have no place to call their own, no pillow on which to rest their weary heads, no money to buy their bread. Open not only our hearts and minds, but our hands and resources to share with those who have greater need.

Lord, we ask your blessing.

As we continue our Lenten sojourn, we remember those who are ill, who live with chronic conditions, who are oppressed, and who mourn. We name them now in our hearts or on our lips. (Name those for whom you pray.) Surround them with your love and care. Heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, and walk with the dying and grieving. Show us the way to provide care and comfort.

Lord, we ask your blessing.

As we continue our Lenten sojourn, we remember families, communities, nations, and leaders. Guide and direct those who lead to be gentle, wise, and prudent. Let your Holy Spirit surround them and enfold them so that they may be good and just in their servant leadership.

Lord, we ask your blessing.

We lift our petitions, our hope, and our dreams to you, O gracious Creator. Enliven and sustain us, giving us strength for the journey ahead. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your Kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins,

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom,

the power and the glory are yours.

Now and for ever.

Amen.

Closing Prayer

Loving God, open the eyes of my heart to see your world afresh. Let me never be blind to injustice, to meanness, and to pain. Enable me to be fully present to you and to all your people in each moment of each precious day. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Let me be the hands, feet, eyes, and presence of Christ to others. Equip me. Stir me. Discomfort me. But, always, always, draw me ever closer to you. Amen.

Song: “Jesus, Remember Me”

Until we meet again, go in peace to  love and serve the Lord.

Note: Scripture readings (NRSV) are taken from the ELCA Daily Lectionary. The Lord’s Prayer is the modern ecumenical translation. The prayers are my own–now yours to share. Blessings!

Silence

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.  –Psalm 62:5-7

“Anyone who loves words will tend to let themselves be satisfied by them, and as a result stop short of true satisfaction. For true satisfaction…comes when I am silent and listen…. When God’s voice is drowned out by incessant clamor, whether inner or outer, in whatever shape or form, then continuous dialogue with God becomes impossible.”  — Esther de Waal, from A Life-Giving Way

I came across these words of Anglican spiritual writer Esther de Waal today and had to pause to think long and hard about them. You see, I am a lover of words. For all of my adult life my vocation has, in some way, been connected to the world of words. As writer, English teacher, pastor, public relations and university advancement professional, everything has in some way dealt with the power of words–both spoken and written. And yes, I find words satisfying. I labor over the right words, the proper shade of meaning, the order and style of the words on the page.

Our culture is changing and so is the way we use words. Images have more power, in many cases, than words. Tweets and texts morph the language from a thing of beauty and an art to a utilitarian tool. No wasted letters–much less wasted words–are needed. Yet despite the way our use of words is changing, we still fill the void with words and noise. We have little tolerance for silence, rushing to fill empty space with sound.

I see this tendency in worship, where the congregation often seems uncomfortable if the pace is deliberately slowed to allow time for silent space and thought. Several times I have tried a silence exercise with confirmation classes or youth group, challenging them to be silent for just one minute. Almost without fail giggles will erupt before 60 seconds have passed.

Even in my own daily meditation and prayer time I often do battle with the words that crowd my mind and clamor for attention. Simply being present in the moment and listening for GOD is hard work; it takes a deliberate effort for me to be present in the moment, to let go long enough to simply be still and wait on the LORD. Ah, yes, my soul may desire to wait in silence, but my mind is too much with this world and its cares and busyness.

Today I am thankful for de Waal’s words of wisdom. Tomorrow I will try again to leave my words behind and, as the psalmist says, to let my soul wait in silence for the One who gives me hope.

Thanks-Living Activity

Light your candle and let go of your words. Yes, that is easier said than done! Nonetheless, try to gently send all thoughts away for just a short while–10 minutes perhaps. Be still. Breathe. Wait in silence for the Divine Presence, your rock and salvation. Allow GOD to enter the conversation.

Photos by anoldent and mpclemens used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Mindful

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. –slogan of the UNCF

Minds are wasted through lack of opportunity, as the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) so aptly recognized in its famous fund-raising and awareness slogan. Yet minds are also wasted through abuse, neglect, and the squandering of gifts.

As a teacher I am always concerned about the development of the mind and about nurturing a passion for knowledge and wisdom. Truly, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind is a gift, a part of the body not to be taken for granted, intimately interwoven with the spirit/soul that makes us human.

So tell me, are you mindful of your mind? Do you attend to its care and feeding? How do you nourish your intellect, and how do you attend to its companions of soul and spirit?

I am concerned that we in the United States have become somewhat soft when it comes to mental calisthenics. We are a nation that expects entertainment, and that thinks and responds in increasingly short “sound bytes.”

No, I don’t dislike social media; in fact, I use it fairly extensively. Twitter, Facebook, and other similar formats offer much of value and definitely have their place. What concerns me is that lose something if we become completely absorbed in the “newest and latest.”

What happens when our political discourse is reduced to manageable sound bytes? What happens when we are so cued to the visual that the power of words eludes us? What’s the difference in a Facebook “friend” and a next door neighbor? Do cyber relationships possess the same kind of potential for intimacy and transparency?

Educator Neil Postman wrote a wonderful book in 1985 entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you and encourage you to lay hands on a copy. Postman’s premise is that “form excludes the content” and that we have lost something important in our cultural transition to the visual media. Think about it. People used to think nothing of listening to a two hour lecture or sermon. Now, in many contexts a preacher or speaker will lose much of his or her audience after 15 minutes.

The ability to think critically, to analyze and synthesize material, and to actively listen and to develop and sustain a rational argument seem to be endangered traits. Sure, we’re better at multi-tasking, but recent research postulates that this may not be desirable or more efficient.

Nothing, of course, stays the same, and our success depends upon our ability to adapt or change. That said, the mind needs to be exercised and not lulled into some kind or Orwellian stupor.

Give thanks for the gift of your mind–for your intellect, your ability to reason, to grasp concepts, make connections, remember, experience, and feel. Don’t take it for granted. As the familiar adage reminds us, “use it or lose it.” Read, think, work puzzles, play games, engage in lively conversation and friendly argument. Analyze the content of news, consider all sides of an issue, and think for yourself. Listen to music, read poetry, delve into sacred texts.

Yes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. You have been given a precious gift. Use it and thank GOD for it.

For Further Reflection

Our modern minds are far more often “full” that “mindful” as we hurry through our busy days. Part of being mindful is the ability to put that 21st century multi-tasking part of your existence aside to focus, center, and simply be. Try to engage in meditation or contemplative prayer as a regular discipline. If you are not familiar with these practices you may find it difficult at first, but with practice it does become easier.

Try this simple exercise. Sit quietly and comfortably in a place with as few distractions as possible. Focus on your breathing and its gentle rhythms. Close your eyes and focus on a simple word or phrase. Why not try “gratitude,” “peace,” or “grace”? Empty your mind of all that crowds in. Acknowledge the thoughts that come but dismiss them for the moment. Aim for five minutes and gradually increase to 15 or more. You should find this time to be relaxing and refreshing.

(Photos by taufiq@eyecreation, ivanpw, and  libookperson used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)