Praying for Charleston

“Oh, God… no.”

This was my first inklings of prayer this morning as I heard the news about the shooting in Charleston, S.C. Friends have been posting on Facebook that they are praying. I did too. And yet, my mind keeps returning to an idea I came across recently in Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing:

When we pray “through Christ” we are praying through the Body of Christ, which then includes Jesus, the Eucharist, and the body of believers (ourselves) here on earth. We are praying through all of these. Thus, not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves, as part of the Body of Christ, with some responsibility for answering the prayer. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in prayer.¹

It is good to pray, and yet it is not our only responsibility.

Holy Discomforter, teach us to pray.

 

¹Page 83

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“Love thy neighbor… as thyself”

This past year I was introduced to a variation on the Ignatian examen. In reflecting on my day, I would ask these questions:
1. How was I able to give and receive love today?
2. How was I not?
3. What is the invitation? What am I being invited to do or to be?

What came to mind most quickly and with the most energy were the ways I was able or not able to give and receive love from myself. Spirit was inviting me to pay attention to how I was treating myself. I did not expect this. So much of my religious upbringing invited me to focus on (and improve) how I treat others. Practice kindness. Serve. “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” with the emphasis on the first part – love thy neighbor. Even today, it seems the assumption is we are already loving ourselves well. The assumption is we can separate how we treat others from how we treat ourselves. We can’t. We are able to love others exactly to the extent we are able to love ourselves.

I am able to accept, honor the needs and desires of, and respect you only to the extent I am able to accept, honor, and respect myself. I am able to serve you without needing you to respond in a certain way only to the extent that I am able to befriend my own imperfections. I am less interested in making comparison or trying to measure up as I discover myself as lovable. As I practice receiving love from myself, I am better able to receive love from God and neighbor. As I practice  gracing the wounded places in myself, I am better able to offer grace when my neighbor acts out of their woundedness. How I am in relation to myself shapes how I am in relation to others. I am only ever able to love my neighbor as well as I love myself.

Yes and No

The past couple weeks I’ve been pondering the ways I say Yes and the ways I say No. And not so much the Big Decisions or the Opportunities that come along. Rather, Yes and No on a micro scale. Micro-acceptances, when my words and body language and intentions are all in harmony. When the message from me is one of value and respect. Or micro-rejections, those subtle cues I give that the Other is not really welcome. When the message from me is one of indifference or dismissal. Are there ways I keep people at a distance, building barriers around my welcome? How does this affect the hospitality of my being? How might I tend boundaries with an open heart?

Photo by Anita Peppers. Used with permission.

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Author of all wholeness, may my actions be true. Dismantle the barriers which block beauty and belonging. Build in me the courage to be a bearer your love. May my life speak grace and not judgement, kindness and not hostility, acceptance and not rejection. Amen.

to ponder

Would Jesus enter,
judgments at the ready,
hands clutching stones,
looking to “set straight”
the wayward community?

Would the divine One
come among,
open-hearted,
hands empty,
looking for ways to love
(hope with, heal with,
serve with, learn from,
respect, honor)?

How do I enter?

Tomorrow, Today

Today, I left my prayers on the kitchen table,
safe and immobile, asking nothing of me.

Tomorrow, may I take them with me,
cast them about through deed
and word, and presence,
drop them carelessly, as crumbs
falling from the bread upon which I feast,
toss them into the air to ride upon the breeze:
an offering to the One whose spirit
I take in with each breath.

Instructions for the Meantime

Waiting: vi. thinking about what is expected to happen; projecting one’s focus (and self, in a sense) into the future; an idle use of imagination that often leads to the draining experience of worry.

 Waiting sucks.

I have found I have lots of opportunities to practice it: waiting in the checkout line, waiting for the show to start, waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting in traffic, waiting for the end of the work or school day, waiting to meet a friend.

Whenever I realize I am waiting, I hear in my mind’s ear, “37 seconds well used is a lifetime.” The phrase comes from the movie “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” Here is the clip:

“We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds well used is a lifetime.” When I find myself waiting, I remind myself that I have a choice, that it is my responsibility to use my time well. I can choose to wait, or I can choose to … well, do a million other things.

I recently had some blood work done. The plan was for me to get blood taken at the lab and when the results came in, my doctor would get in touch with me. There are some things that are difficult to avoid waiting for. Waiting for the doctor to call, getting test results, is one of them. My sister gave me fantastic advice, “Don’t worry until your doctor tells you to.”

The trouble is, not worrying is a great goal, but impossible without something else to do. One evening, when my waiting had transformed to worrying, I wrote myself a list:

Instructions for the Meantime

Simplify.
Return focus to the present.
One moment at a time.
One thought, one feeling.
Be present.
Think.
Feel.
Seek to live the wisdom of the difference.
Dwell in harmony with the Sisters.*

*For those who may not recognize, the second to last line references the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The final line refers to the statement, “Joy and sorrow are sisters who live in the same house.”