Oh, Chosen One

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah--Wikipedia Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah–Wikipedia, labeled for noncommercial reuse.

This morning, my reading took me to the second book of Isaiah, known as The Book of Consolation in my translation. I never tire of reading this, the voice of God through his prophet reminding me over and over again that, in spite of myself, God continues to choose me.

I’m revisiting a book that I read years ago,

Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey

that helps us explore avenues of prayer suited to one’s personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs. For people like me who can’t exist without time for prayer and quiet (Intuitive, Feeling) one prayer form that the authors recommend is Lectio Divino (Divine Reading), that is reading and entering into dialogue with God about what one has read. They suggest when reading Second Isaiah, to insert your own name whenever God is addressing Israel.

Check out these verses, for example. I will leave a blank, for you to substitute your name:

“But now, thus says the Lord,
who created you, ________, and formed you, _______:
do not fear for I have called you by name.
You are mine.” Is. 43: 1

“Hear then, ________, my servant,
_________, whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord, who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, __________, my servant,
____________, whom I have chosen.” Is. 44: 1-2

This is what it is all about, isn’t it? Bringing home scripture, making it alive today in our own experience. Remembering that we are God’s chosen and he is speaking to us. Divine reading, indeed!

If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment, may I suggest this book, a simple test and analysis of all 16 temperaments…helpful not only for prayer, but also in understanding personal relationships. My husband and I are the exact opposites on one another–complementary and challenging! (Click on the book titles to access these books on Amazon).

Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types Paperback by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates

By the way, for the fiction writers among you, this is the book I use to help me to develop characters who are consistent, but who will also throw in an occasional surprise by acting out of character.

Advertisements

Get Over It–God Does

Photo: V. Slotto Zoe

Photo: V. Slotto
Zoe

I have a Jack Russell Terrier who is deaf. You may know that this is not a calm breed–independent, reactive, they require an extra dose of patience even when they are hearing. But they are fun, full of surprises and so lovable. Zoe is my little prayer partner, cuddling at my side when I spend time in prayer and reading scripture–her buddy, Sparky, usually flanking my other side.

First thing this morning, when I took the dogs for their walk and “duties” (we have no yard here in the desert) Zoe went ballistic, as she tends to, when a friend drove by in his golf cart. This is not unusual…sudden movements scare her, no doubt because of her hearing impairment. Usually I’m prepared, but this morning I lost it. I won’t go into detail.

When I returned home, I didn’t want to pray. I couldn’t bring myself to God after such a miserable failure…and really thought about just skipping that part of the day and getting on with my domestic chores. Then I happened to open my Kindle, which was on a page of “The Practice of the Presence of God”–a little volume you may have read by a 15th century monk named Brother Lawrence. This is what was on the page that I had highlighted:

“When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to doing so: I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself. I fail not, I give GOD thanks, acknowledging the strength comes from Him.” In other words, “Get over it.”

And so, I prayed. And after some really hectic weeks and prayer doldrums that accompany being too busy, God allowed me to know He is with me, even in my most pathetic moments.

Photo: Amazon.com

Photo: Amazon.com

I highly recommend this small volume. Find various translations on Amazon.com

 

Keeping Sabbath

Image: oneyearbibleblog.com

Image: oneyearbibleblog.com

Most Sundays, I try to practice Sabbath—a tradition that was a strong factor in my growing up years, but that had waned with my work as a nurse…patients need care every day of the week. Most of us know and understand the concept of a day of rest, but our frenetic lifestyles tend to get in the way.

The concept of Sabbath crisscrosses most cultural, spiritual, religious and secular societies, even predating biblical times. The Babylonian Enuma Elish prescribed a day of repose. In the Genesis creation story, God rested after his six days of work and, I suppose it worked out well so that he added it to those tablets of stone he handed on to his people through Moses. Wicca, Islam. Buddhism, Cherokee teaching and others all caution humans to take a break, chill out, and rest.

Wisdom, it seems to me, embraces our need for refreshment, for replenishment of body, mind spirit and emotion, for regeneration and reflection.

For many of us, well, for me anyway, the need to be in control seems to take hold and it becomes oh-so-hard to let go of time, accept idleness and unproductivity and, perhaps, the feeling of uselessness. I suspect that there is a trust issue here. Can I really believe that God will take care of things in my absence? Can I believe that the work of creation on this particular day will go on without my amazing intervention?

So, how do I, Ms-Doing-Not-Being, make Sabbath?

• Meditation—a bit longer than my ordinary routine.

• Worship—with my Parish community.

• Journaling–and in the process really waking up to what is happening around me. I may write of all the wonderful sensory experiences that a pristine summer day offers—the finches’ songs, the brilliant orange of the male oriole at our feeder, the spicy scent of new-born flowers and the basil in the vegetable garden. I can pay attention to the play of light and shadow in the now-expansive boughs of the ash tree we planted almost twenty years ago and watch the hummingbirds fly back and forth sipping nectar from both flowers and feeders. I may feel the gentle kiss of a breeze and delight in my dogs’ warm bodies flanking me on either side. I will listen to David busy chopping spices in the kitchen.

• Spa Stuff. I can pamper myself, thanking my body for its seven decades of service and praise the many scars that it bears, a reminder of the life-threatening illness I have survived, for now.

• Creativity. Maybe some consider engaging in the creative process to be work. For me, I allowed the muse to come out and play, more by way of brainstorming than actualizing any project. Sabbath time allows ideas to gestate and gives clarity as to where to take them.

• And, yes, a final confession. I might do laundry. So, it’s not a perfect Sabbath, but for this woman who tends towards OCD, that’s probably not a bad thing. Besides, we need clean clothes!

Sabbath is not something that comes easily to many of us. I am aware that it doesn’t have to always be on Saturday or Sunday, or even occupy an entire twenty-four hours. How is life different if, each day, I remember to tuck in an hour or even minutes for the divine repose, sitting back and letting go?

Would you add, in comments, some ideas on how to keep Sabbath?

Photo: sroabji.com

Photo: sroabji.com

Prayer and the “Me-Factor”

Photo: achurchoflivinghope.com

Photo: achurchoflivinghope.com

I’ve been noticing something lately when praying or even reading scripture. It’s really hard to take self out of it. Even in psalms of praise and thanksgiving, it seems that there’s a little hitch--“Oh God, you are great and wonderful…and in the meantime, would you bash my enemies’ heads on the rocks.” (my paraphrase, which is a bit exaggerated.)

I like to start my daily quiet time with the prayer to the Holy Spirit that was the first post on this blog, I believe. But lately I’ve noticed it’s definitely a Gimme-Prayer: Give me stillness…give me calm…give me the joy of your forgiveness…give me faith and hope and love and on and on. Now, don’t get me wrong…these are not bad things, but still, it seems to be all about me and my Me-Motives.

But then I stopped to think. I drive my husband, David, a bit crazy because it is so darn hard for me to ask him to help me with something or to ask him do something for me. I want to be self-sufficient, independent. It’s pride. isn’t it?! Especially since if he doesn’t happen to notice or guess that I would like his help, I get so easily miffed.

And isn’t that how it is with love, with Love that is God? I have to believe that God is happy for us to come to him in need. Sure, he wants us to express our love, our praise, our thanksgiving–those more unselfish aspects of worship. But also waits for us to come to him for forgiveness, for help. (more on that in another post)

It’s a matter of balance, as are so many things in life. The psalmist had it right, after all–though I’m not so sure about bashing those heads on rocks.

Image: Howard Carter

Image: Howard Carter

Prayer Pilgrims

Rejoice always;

pray without ceasing;

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.…

I Thessalonians, 5, 15

 

Photo: davefrohnmayer.com Oregon Coast

Photo: davefrohnmayer.com
Oregon Coast

Many, many years ago, I was enticed by the story of a Russian mystic who wandered by foot through his country on a quest for contact with God. It was said that, without ceasing,  he repeated the “Jesus Prayer”–Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

That reminds me of the admonitions Jesus and Paul give us to pray constantly.

Last week I received an e-mail telling me of a new follower who blogs under the moniker “Prayer Pilgrim.” I linked to his blog and Facebook page to learn that, as of yesterday, this young man is beginning a walking pilgrimage along the coast of Oregon. I felt a twinge of envy, wishing I could do something like this–but considering age and health issues, as well as my responsibilities to others, I understood that that dream is out of the question. I am following his blog posts in order to join in, in some vicarious sort of way.

The reality is, however, there is nothing stopping me from becoming a prayer pilgrim in my own way–striving to bring prayer into the simplicity of my daily routine–walking the dogs, doing dishes, laundry, errands–whatever. The challenges I face are not the biting cold of the sea spray, nor the rocky cliffs, nor the aloneness of traveling without companions. No. My challenge is to REMEMBER. To not allow mindless internal chatter or the variability of mood swings distract me so that by the time I reach the end of the day I have blocked out all awareness of God With/In me.

Like Prayer Pilgrim, we each try to begin our walk throughout the day in a prayer place. The question is, how to keep putting one foot in front of the other, progressing in The Practice of the Presence of God.

Is there anything that helps you to REMEMBER?

Bless you on your journey, Prayer Pilgrim.

Constant Contact

Zoe Photo: D Slotto

Zoe
Photo: D Slotto

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to don, once again, my nursing persona. My husband has had major surgery that leaves him in need of pretty constant attention–ergo, the scarcity with which I’ve been present in the blogosphere.

My responsibilities include our dogs–that means 3-4 walks daily as our home borders on a golf course without a yard. Zoe, a Jack Russell mix, is deaf, and true to the spirit of her breed, excitable (understatement). That gives me a lot of opportunity to practice patience–not exactly my forte.

A while back, I began asking for help during my morning prayer time, and sometimes more often. To some extent it helped. At first it seemed like she ignored joggers and golf carts and other distractions that typically set her off or even that these kinds of events diminished in number. But was short-lived. The reality is, being deaf, she startles easily and is afraid. So I pick her up and hold her close.

A couple of days ago, I happened to view an ad for the social media website, Constant Contact. That was when I realized that a quick prayer in the morning isn’t going to cut it, but rather, I need to maintain a constant contact with the Source of strength. Not only that,  it’s not about Zoe and her overreaction, but about me and my  learning and accepting the gift of patience in such situations.

I’ve got a long way to go–both in terms of patience and in remembering to ask for that help, to plug into the Divine Healer, in order to become all He wants me to be. Oh, and that Constant Contact applies to so much more than this tiny problem.

Image: bridgepointchurch.org

Image: bridgepointchurch.org

Gregorian Chant

Gregorian Chant

Sacred Vocabulary
eight modes of prayer
minor and major
moods to match mine
joy and pain.

Sacred Living
unfolding in hours
cast upon a staff
etched on vellum
etched in flesh.

Sacred Thought
echo through the years
rendered in music
rendered in breath.
Sacred poetry.

Gregorian chant or plainchant is a form of music used in Monastic Communities and Religious Orders for the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is also an age-old tradition for many liturgical ceremonies in the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian communities. Its style is reminiscent of ancient Hebrew chanting.

It is composed in eight modes or scales in major or minor tones. The minor modes are usually associated with the more serious or penitential times of the liturgical year, while the major tones for celebration and joyful events. In general, true Gregorian chant is recited without accompaniment or harmonization. In more recent years, Gregorian chant has caught the attention of popular culture and has on occasion merged with popular songs. The music of Enigma is an example of this.

The Liturgy of the Hours, along with the celebration of the Eucharist, constitute part of the official public prayer of the Church (including Anglicanism and Greek Orthodoxy). Also known as the Divine Office or Breviary, this prayer is recited eight times throughout the twenty-four hour day. In strict monastic settings, the monks arise during the night to recite one of the “hours.” While the hours may be recited privately, the ideal is to do so in community, preferable chanted. The Psalms make up a major part of the liturgical hours.

gregorian