“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in the deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” – Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters To A Young Poet
“For God alone my soul waits in silence” Ps 62:1
The practice of centering prayer seeks to still the activity of the mind in order to experience a loving awareness of God’s presence.
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within you. Silently repeat the chosen sacred word or phrase in your mind. It may be helpful to link this repetition to the rhythm of your breath, for example repeating shalom with each in- and out-breath. The word or phrase can also be split, repeating “sha-” while breathing in and “–lom” when breathing out, or breathing in. The breathing technique should consist of breathing in slowly for a count of 4-7 seconds, then breathing out slowly for an equal length of time while silently saying your sacred word in rhythm with your breathing. I prefer to use the word Maranatha (Aramaic for Come Lord). Here is an audio example of using Maranatha as your sacred word. Other suggestions: Jesus, Abba, Freedom, Stillness, Shalom.
2. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. You can sit cross-legged; full or half lotus; kneeling with a cushion or bench under your rear; or sitting in a chair, as long as the chair fits you so you can plant your feet with your back supported. All of these are fine. The point is simply to balance the body in an upright posture, so there is no need for adjustments while sitting, and to encourage alertness. Settle briefly and silently, to yourself, introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. The goal is that silently repeating (or remembering) the sacred word to yourself will lead you to an inner silence.
3. When you become aware of thoughts, sensations, feelings–any perception whatsoever–return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. Remember the three Rs: Resist no thought, React to no thought, Retain no thought. You will drift into not needing the word, into the inner silence where you are “resting in God.” When you realize you’re thinking about something, say the sacred word to yourself and let the thought go. The silence may last a while, or you may stay in the attachment-surrender loop the whole time. The goal is not constant emptiness. As Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault says, “striving for emptiness is a surefire way to guarantee that your meditation will be a constant stream of thoughts.”
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. Before coming out of your meditation, start breathing deeper and more actively and become aware of your surroundings. You might also want to stretch your arms, yawn, sigh or rub your eyes before opening your eyes. You may choose to end your practice by saying a short prayer.
For best results do this 20 – 30 minutes in the morning and in the evening. If you can’t do 20 minutes at first, do less rather than not doing it, but something happens to the stillness around 10 to 15 minutes into the practice that you will miss. That’s why 20+ is nearly universal. (you can set a gentle sounding timer to let you know when the allotted time is up)
Today’s post is my contribution to theEighth Letter project, which invites participants to compose letters to the North American church in the spirit of John’s seven letters of Revelation. A handful of these letters will be chosen for public reading at the Eight Letter conference in October.
Dear North American Church,
I don’t know if you remember me but we were pretty close at one time. I not only was an active member and servant of one of your local communities for most of my life, but I also attempted to be a faithful representative of what you taught and believed in my every day life. But, that was then, and this is now, and, well … it’s been a while since we were close, and I don’t even know if you would recognize me these days – I’ve changed a lot since then. Which brings me to the point of this letter … I want you to consider making a change.
I realize it is a little presumptious of me to show up like this, asking you to change, after the way I just up and left with little or no explanation. I didn’t mean to be rude or inconsiderate – it was a crazy time for me. It all started when my son told me he was gay and that he didn’t believe loving, monogamous same sex relationships were wrong. At first I tried to tell him all the things you had taught me about same sex relationships but those things didn’t end up standing up under scrutiny. When I studied scripture and took the time to look at original language and historical contexts I realized that the few references available were not as black and white as I had been led to believe. On top of that, I knew my son. I knew he was a good person. I knew he loved God and wanted to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Things weren’t adding up and it was a disturbing, scary and lonely time for me. Anyway, once I realized, and began to accept, that I (and you) might be wrong about same sex relationships I naturally started wondering about some other stuff … and, well, one thing led to another and before I knew it there were a lot of things about you that I could no longer support.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t walk away from the faith – I didn’t stop following Jesus – I didn’t even want to leave the church. I just didn’t fit in anymore. There was no place for someone like me unless I wanted to be treated like I was less than others. If I didn’t conform I just wasn’t “in” … so I left. But, I miss you, I really do. And it’s because I miss you and want to reconcile with you that I dare to ask you to consider making a change that I believe would start the healing process that needs to take place between you and me.
Something I would like for you to consider is being a little more humble about what you know and believe to be true. I would suggest that pastors stop saying most everything from the pulpit with absolute certainty; that those who teach scripture acknowledge the contradictions and conflicts without resorting to flippantly explaining them away; that followers of Jesus with doubts, questions and different beliefs stop being treated as backsliders or as immature or as unbelievers; that different interpretations of scripture be examined and considered respectfully; and that you spend more time teaching people how to ask good questions rather than always being so quick to give answers. Of course, this would indeed require that you also teach and model how to live with the tension of living out one’s beliefs with conviction while at the same time being humble enough to remain aware that ones belief could be wrong. That may not be as easy as “being certain” but, I think in the long run it will be more effective in helping people to be transformed into people who are kinder, gentler and more compassionate – people who are more like Jesus.
When you think about it, the church has gotten it wrong in the recent past about things like slavery and interracial marriage. So, what makes anyone think they are finally to the point where they have it all figured out when it comes to stuff like atonement theories, heaven and hell, women in ministry, same sex relationships and a bunch of other stuff.
After all …How can God speak into our lives if we aren’t humble enough to listen and hear? How will we know if we are mistaken about something if we hold on to our beliefs with unswerving certainty? Can we really be transformed without being humble about what we know? Shouldn’t unity be able to exist without conformity? Doesn’t it make sense that people who are serious about being followers of Jesus would ask tough questions?
Let me stop there and just say this:
To put it simply, I am suggesting that you put some humble pie on the menu … and if you do, I’d love to sit down and have a slice with you … if that’s okay with you.
Someone who left
Please go to Rachel Held Evans blog here to find the links to the other letters.
I found this at Jonny Baker ‘s blog here
Using a cord with beads or knots as an aid to prayer is practiced in many spiritual traditions including Christian. Having something tactile helps give a rhythm and focus to one’s prayer.
To use prayer beads, take the cord in one hand and hold a bead between the thumb and index finger. Pray a prayer, pause, then push the bead on and take the next one. Repeat for one cycle or as many as you like.
The prayer cord in the picture can be made very easily with a piece of cord and five beads of different colors. If you make a prayer cord as pictured these colors could represent the following:
yellow – thanks
red – mercy
blue – peace
green – healing
purple – justice
You could pray with your own words and thoughts or try these simple prayers:
yellow – thanks for life
red – have mercy on me
blue – peace on earth as it is in heaven
green – you are the healer, come and heal … in Jesus’ name
purple – may your justice roll down like a river Amen
As Christians we have a duty to care for and protect children. We are warned to be careful in our treatment of children and challenged to see them as whole persons created in the image of God. And so, as we ponder the Immigration Issue, one thing we must consider is the way our laws and policies impact immigrant children.
She was brought to the US when she was only 3 years old, today she is 17, a gifted student with a 4.3 GPA who will graduate in the top 10% of her class in 2011 … but she can’t get a drivers license or a job or make college plans or join the military – she has no hope of her dreams coming true. She is an illegal immigrant through no fault of her own.
More than 3 million students graduate from high school in the U.S. each year. Most have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, but there is a group of youth (more than 60,000) who are much less fortunate because they have inherited the label of illegal immigrant. These young people have lived most of their lives in the United States, most have no connection or personal knowledge of another country, and are culturally American. No matter how smart, well behaved and hard working this group of young people are, they are caught in a system that offers little or no way for them to legalize their status and pursue their dreams. Even if they are accepted by one of the higher education institutions that accept illegal immigrants, they are faced with having to pay out of state tuition rates which usually end up being too costly since they do not qualify for any financial aid. The result is a higher rate of teens dropping out of school, a higher rate of teens involved in criminal activity and a higher rate of teen suicides.
The DREAM Act could change all of that if it was passed.
The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, also called the DREAM Act, would provide certain undocumented students, who were brought to the United States by their parents and have continuously resided in this country from a young age, conditional residency and a pathway to citizenship, provided they finish high school or earn a GED, and go on to college or the military. Once they are proven to qualify for the program they are given 6 years to obtain a 2 year college degree or complete 2 years of military service. Upon completion of one of these goals they will be given the opportunity to change their conditional permanent residency to U.S. Citizenship.
To find out more about the DREAM Act and how to support it go here.
Together we can make dreams come true.
This post is part of a Synchroblog, where a group of bloggers post on the same topic on the same day, so that people can surf from one to the other and get different views on the same basic topic. You will find links to the other synchroblog posts below.
Jonathan Brink – Immigration Synchroblog
Mike Victorino at Still A Night Owl – Being the Flag
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Together We Can Make Dreams Come True
Sonnie Swentson-Forbes at Hey Sonnie – Immigration Stories
Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity – Is Xenophobia Ever Christlike?
Kathy Escobar at the carnival in my head – it’s a lot easier to be against immigration when you have papers
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Christians and the Immigration Issue
Ellen Haroutunian – Give Me Your Tired
Bethany Stedman – Choosing Love Instead of Fear
Joshua Seek – Loving Our Immigrant Brother
Amanda MacInnis at Cheese Wearing Theology – Christians and Immigration
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – You’re Absolutely Right
Peter Walker – Synchroblog – Immigration Reform
Steven Calascione at Eirenikos – The Jealousy of Migration
George Elerick at The Love Revolution – We’re Not Kings or Gods
Beth Patterson at Virtual Tea House – What we resist not only persists but will eventually become our landlord
K. W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent – On American Immigration
Jeff Goins at Pilgrimage Of The Heart – When The Immigration Issue Gets Personal
Kathy Baldock at CanyonWalker Connections – My Visit To A Mosque, Now What?