Thursday, September 20, 2018

Falling in Love with God: The Life of Prayer

Someone once said that being in the presence of God was like “living each moment as if all Eternity converged upon it.” How do we live like this? Can we live with our wicks turned up that high without burning out? Yet Eternity is converging upon this very moment. What is happening now – this reflection, our struggles to understand, the reading of this paragraph – will never happen again. Engagement with others and with God takes place at Eternity’s converging point.

Seventeenth-century Carmelite Brother Lawrence speaks of the “practice of the presence of God.” Anglican Pastor Jeremy Taylor talks about “holy living.” Albert Schweitzer called it a “reverence for life.” Douglas Steer speaks about “being present where you are.” Jesuit philosopher Teilhard de Chardin calls it the “divine milieu.” How do we wake up to the presence of the kingdom all around and within us?

Recall the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Clearly Jesus’ concern here was the convergence of Eternity in the present moment. Jesus was not criticizing Martha for her effort to be a good hostess, nor did he mean to elevate the contemplative above the active life. Rather, he zeroed in on Martha’s busyness and anxiety, which were causing her to miss what Jean-Pierre de Caussade called “the sacrament of the present moment.”

Oblivious to all the work her workaholic sister had to do, Luke says, “she was sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to what he was saying.” You can feel Martha’s temperature rising as she puttered around preparing food, setting the table, doing “a lot of work” while Mary sat cozy on the floor at Jesus’ feet. Martha finally speaks out in anger about the situation, and implores Jesus to make Mary get up off the floor and help her.

In responding to Martha, Jesus did not put down work. What he criticized instead were those characteristics of busyness and anxiety, so pervasive in our own society, which dampen prayerful attentiveness to the convergence of Eternity upon the moment. Jesus gently admonishes her: “You worry and are upset about a lot of things…” Poor Martha. A glimpse of Eternity slipped past her unnoticed, while Mary’s “laziness,” if we want to call it that, let her partake of the sacrament, allowed her to soak up grace.

How can we live like Mary, with a desire to live every moment attentively and responsively? Our Martha-like compulsive driven-ness and sense of duty keep us with shuttered ears and eyes to the glory of God all around us. How often do we miss the “sacrament of the present moment?”

We begin to live like Mary by living attentively. We begin by practicing the presence of God. And we begin by making our life a life of prayer. None has offered a clearer and simpler solution than the simple monk, Brother Lawrence. The longer I have studied The Practice of the Presence of God, the more convinced I am that this simple and good man just fell head over heels in love with God and let that transfuse and transform everything he was doing. “I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God,” he explained. People try all kinds of methods to learn how to love God, but is it not better, he asks, “to do everything for the love of God, to make use of all the tasks one’s lot in life demands to show God that love, and to maintain God’s presence within by the communion of our heart with God’s?”

How do we fall in love with God? Is that something only a na├»ve, uneducated person like Brother Lawrence could do? Can we who have benefited from education and who live such full and busy lives love God enough to live each moment as if all Eternity converged upon it? Brother Lawrence thought everyone could do so. His formula was simple: “We must know before we love, and to know God we must often think of God. And when we love God, we shall think of him all the more, for our heart is where our treasure is.

Author Thomas Kelly invites us to be attentive to God’s presence, and then to be prayerful in all that we do. Live in utter openness to God. Quietly, behind the scenes, keep up a silent prayer, “Open Thou my life. Guide my thoughts. Thy will, not mine, be done.” As you chat with friends, pray every moment this internal continuous prayer of submission.  Kelly’s suggestions for this silent prayer: “Be Thou my will,” or “I open all before Thee,” or “My God, my God, my Holy One, my Love.”

To live a life of prayer is to begin the surrender of ourselves to his divine will. Prayer begins when we open the shutters of our heart and send forth the dove of desire for God. Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Writing Love Letters to God

A title such this one is bound to get your attention. “Love letters to God!” you might say, “What's that?” Well, a love letter is what I think of whenever I sit down and take the time to journal. It’s really a love letter to God. After all, who else loves me so much that they would be glad to read my funny scribbles and musings about my life? The little doodles that I fill up the margins with: drawings of clouds and trees, names, crosses and interlinking circles? Who else would care that much? Only God, that’s what I think.

What’s a journal anyways? It can be whatever you imagine it to be, that’s what. There are so many types of journals that I could fill this page with descriptions, but let’s not. Rather, let’s look at a very simple type of journal, and a more involved one, too. Maybe after reading about them, you might be tempted (nudged by the Holy Spirit, perhaps?) to try this way of writing.

The easiest is the daily journal, which is a record of the day’s happenings as well as the effect those happenings had on one’s life. This form is most consistent and is usually dated. Its impact will be noticed at the reading of the entries after a 4-6 week period. Most folks think of this as a diary, but it’s different in that you also write how you are affected by what happens in your life on a daily basis.

Another type of journaling is done in response to scripture. Here are the basic steps to prepare yourself: Pray that this time might be an opening to God’s spirit. Find the day’s selected scripture passage. Read the passage slowly. Try to visualize its images. Jot down any ideas, questions, key phrases that come to you as you read. Begin writing on a blank page. Writing your deepest responses to God’s word is what counts here. Then ask yourself: what might God be saying specifically to me? Let yourself sink deeply into your core as you listen, listen, listen to what God is speaking within you. Write down everything that comes to you, even if you think it’s strange or disturbing. Ask God why He is saying these things to you. What might God be inviting you to do? Is there a challenge from God here? Do you feel a shift inside? When you feel a sense of closure to your writing, take time to thank God for these words of scripture and God’s message to you personally.

“So, tell me again,” you say, “Why do you call journaling a love letter?” Well, think about writing the most secret, the most important, the most cherished things, and the deepest longings of your heart down on paper. Who would you trust with those things? Who COULD you trust with those things? Who else would continue to accept and love you unconditionally after reading all the utter nonsense and delightfulness that exists in the depths of your soul? Yep, you got it right: GOD. God is the one Being who will always love you no matter what devilment you hatch, no matter how crummy you feel (and take it out on others), no matter what your hair looks like in the morning, and no matter how many times you run away from Him. God will always take you back, no matter how prodigal you become. Trust in that fact.

So, take the time this week to write a little love letter to God. And I will, too.

On the journey with you, Lynne

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Daily Review of Life

Looking for something prayerful to do during Lent this year? Try this: a daily review of life. This is a way to examine our thoughts, feelings, and experiences in terms of how God is present and how we are responding. It fosters an awareness of God’s presence and call in our daily lives. There are many different forms of this examination of the self; the one presented here reads as a conversation with God. You might start a daily personal journal using this model. Start today, keep at it, and over time you will see a deepening of your relationship with the Lord. God is waiting for you to recognize that he is everywhere in your life. Seek him now in this simple review of your daily life.

Start with a prayer like this: God, my Creator and Redeemer, I am totally dependent on you. Everything is a gift from you. I give you thanks and praise for the gifts of this day. Give me also an increased awareness of how you are guiding and shaping my life, and of the obstacles I put in your way. Be near me now and open my eyes as I reflect on these questions. Amen.

* Your presence in the events of today:


* Your presence in the feelings I experienced today:


* Your call to me:


*My response to you:


God, I ask for your loving forgiveness and healing. The particular event of this day that I most want healed is:


The particular gift or grace that I most need is:


I entrust myself to your care and place my life in your strong and faithful hands. AMEN.