Prayer
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@Home Retreat – Creating Sacred Time

Affirmation:  Sacred time is an integral part of my spiritual well-being.    

In February of this year a group of four women gathered to talk about holding a woman’s monthly morning retreat at our church, St. Michael the Archangel.  The process actually began after Christmas during my stay in the North Carolina mountains.  For me, it is a very spiritual place and during my week there, God spoke to me.  Actually, I think it may have been Mother Mary but whoever wanted my attention, they got it.  Oh, not at first.  “No No No,” I answered but after the third morning of no, I gave up and said, “OK, if you want this to happen, send help.”  Here’s the story.

I awoke the first morning and as I journaled, I got the inspiration to create a woman’s monthly morning retreat.  ”NO!  I do not have time.  I don’t want to spread myself so thin.”  There!!  The second morning, the message arrived even before I sat for my quiet time.  “NO!  I cannot commit to a monthly engagement.  I like to travel.  I couldn’t possibly be available.”  The third morning, I woke up with the same message.  Again, I refused.  “No!  I couldn’t do this on my own.  I would need help.”  That was all the spirit needed, that tiny, “maybe.”  I imagined the person I would like to help with such a project and within an hour, I received an email from that lady, even though we did not communicate regularly.  The rest is history.  I contacted her and she immediately answered, “Yes.”  I think she has a more willing spirit than I.  We asked a few other women and two more agreed to help.  Then I contacted the church.  It seemed like a good idea since we wanted to use their space.  They agreed.  We put a few notices in the bulletin and on February 15th, eighteen women showed up.  It ran for two hours and the feedback was very positive.  We scheduled four more sessions.  The next one for March 21st.  

As all of you know, the world has stopped turning.  We will not be gathering for a morning retreat or for lunch or to play.  We are all doing our best to follow the recent National guidelines for stopping the spread of the corona virus and yet, it seems even more important, more relevant to bring our intentions together and to invite the Holy to bless our lives, our country and the world.  With that in mind, I am presenting a @Home Retreat. As of this writing, there are about two dozen of us who will take an hour and a half to pray and to listen to the Divine.  I’m sharing the format in case anyone who reads this is interested in joining us.  If you know me personally, you are welcome to email me for more information, otherwise all you need to know is below.  

The agenda is below but I want to emphasize that it is only a model and it is not written in stone.  Please feel free to adjust it to your needs and perhaps the guidance of your guardian angel.  

It is very important to recognize that you cannot do this “wrong.”  If you finish early or late, that’s just fine.  If you decide to read something you prefer over the suggestions, that’s fine.  This is a time of NO JUDGEMENT.  It cannot be viewed as, “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” or “successful or unsuccessful.”  It is simply time you have carved out for yourself to develop a closer relationship with Our Lord, with the Divine.  It will be different for each person and that’s just fine.  

There is a great power in silence. 

Triangle Women’s Monthly Morning Retreat 

Home Program: Saturday 3/21/2020 9:30-11:00am

*Prepare your space:  Find an area where hopefully you will not be disturbed for your quiet time.  Perhaps you want a  blanket for yourself (or a teddy bear?). 

*Gather your supplies: Timer (preferably not a phone, try to make your space – media free), note paper and/or journal, pen.

*Create an “altar”: Put a few meaningful items out, include a candle.

*Opening Song – Your Choice, sing one or listen to one.

Lyrics for Amazing Grace:  

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

T’was blind but now I see

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear

And Grace, my fears relieved

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares

We have already come.

T’was grace that brought us safe thus far

And grace will lead us home

*Opening Prayers – The Sign of the Cross/Our Father/Hail Mary/Glory Be or your choice.

*Intention:  This is a reflective, healing time and we ask that it be filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, the care of Mother Mary and the guidance of all our guardian angels.  We are here to learn from one another and to support each other on our journey towards a closer, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.

*Write out a prayer request or a few and add them to your “altar.”

*Reflection – Think of one thing you’ve added or deleted from your life for Lent.  

*Scripture Reading – Lectio Divinia – Slowly read the following daily scripture three times.  Read the passage slowly and carefully.

        

       

Gospel for this day, March 21st:  LK 18:9-14

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness

and despised everyone else.

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;

one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,

‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —

greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.

I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

But the tax collector stood off at a distance

and would not even raise his eyes to heaven

but beat his breast and prayed,

‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;

for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,

and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

*Journaling Time – What did you hear God sharing with you?  What do you want to share with God? (10-15 minutes)

*Centering Prayer – 10 to 20 (recommended) minutes of silent time (you decide.)

*Centering Prayer – Guidelines 

  1. Sit comfortably.
  2. Choose a sacred word on which to focus.
  3. Set a timer.
  4. Don’t judge, just observe.
  5. Take a few breaths at the end to return to the present moment and to reflect on the experience.

*Closing Prayer – 

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”  

Amen.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

 *Sharing a Word Exercise – choose a word from your reading or your quiet time (your sacred word?) and share it here.  Feel free to share any other thoughts or insights you have gained from this sacred time. 

Affirmation:  I pray unceasingly.  

Do you pray?  How do you pray?  Are your prayers silent or out loud?  Do you only pray when you go to church?  How about before meals?  Maybe you only pray before meals in your home, never out in public?  Maybe your prayers are only in the evening before bedtime, like many of us were trained to do as a child.  Maybe you make up your own words, or maybe you only use the rote prayers of your faith.  As you can see there are many forms of prayers, some might even say their best prayer is when they are on the golf course or watching a football game.  “God, help me get over this water!”  “Lord, please be with our team today.”  Some wouldn’t even use the name of God.  Perhaps, their faith won’t allow that or perhaps their faith leads them to only a universal concept like, the Divine or the Universe.  Of course, we also have those people who don’t believe in prayer at all and think it a waist their time.  This may not be the blog they will want to read.  That’s ok.  I think they are praying every time they send their energy out into the world with their thoughts, or into their bodies with their intentions.  
Recently, I read, “Ron DelBene’s Breath of Life Series: A Simple Way to Pray (The Jesus Prayer). To tell the truth, I didn’t expect to learn much from this tiny book but I am presently in the midst of training to become a certified spiritual director at the Haden Institute in Hendersonville, NC (I mentioned it In my last blog, Walking the Camino.) and I have a list of monthly assignments.  This was one of the suggested.  As usual, I was wrong; wrong, wrong, and wrong!  
If you’ve been following this blog, you already know I am a prayer warrior.  I pray all day and I have lots of tools to help me with that.  I have all those memorized prayers most Catholics learn as children and several I’ve memorized as an adult.  I have the one I wrote myself that I occasionally use before I journal.  I have the Rosary which I always say as I walk the lake and if not then, during some quiet time in the afternoon.  I have Sunday Mass.  There’s grace and my ujjayi yoga breath to which I add the name of Jesus.  So you see, I’m pretty immersed in a prayer life but I know there is always lots of room for me to improve my relationship with the Lord.  It’s my life’s primary focus, especially now as I move closer to meeting Him. 
  

In fact at the Haden training this last weekend we were handed a picture of a tree and the title was “Contemplative Practices.”  There are several branches: stillness, generative, creative, activist, relational, movement and ritual/cyclical.  It would appear according to this diagram that almost any form of activity can fall into a contemplative category as long as one is wholly present to their actions.  I’m sure that’s true but I still feel most of us will benefit from finding a way to silence and stillness.  It’s a busy noisy world out there and “in here” and to take some time and just be, can be life changing.  In fact, it has now been scientifically proven that the part of brain that deals with stress changes with meditation and we respond with less tension and anxiety. 

Ron DelBrene’s book was for me like discovering a magic lamp, with a genie inside.  The genie popped out and I was asked to make a wish, only one.  Oh, what was so important to me that I would want to focus on it all the time?  Ron suggests you find a short phrase that you use as an all-day prayer.  He recommends it be around six words or so.  You then repeat it throughout your entire day.  You can say it at a red light, standing in line, waiting in a doctor’s office, walking to you employment, in the shower.  Anywhere, anytime is the perfect time.  You “rub the magic lamp” and you actually ask, “God, what prayer would best serve our relationship?”  You take some of that quiet time I just mentioned and you listen.  What phrase comes to mind?  For now, that’s the prayer.  Sure, you can change it.  You can tweek it but for now, own the words that you have been gifted.  Breathe in, deep breath and let them settle into your heart and your spirit.  Give the prayer a few days to take root and then be prepared for when it begins to blossom.  That’s when you’ll know the “genie” has heard your one wish and it is being manifested.  The prayer isn’t for anyone or anything other than yourself.  Selfish, you think?  Remember the Prayer of Saint Francis?  “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Until we change ourselves to be centered in the gifts of the Sprit; love, joy, peace, hope, compassion and generosity, nothing outside of us will ever change.  Let God take up full time residence within, you only need ask, and then throw away that lamp because now the miracle of finding God within will bring about the miracle of revealing God without and I believe life will never again be the same.  

Give it a try.  If you like, write me and share your prayer and anything else that manifests from your newest practice.

“Holy Spirit, fill me with Your pure love.”


Throwing Away the Trash

Affirmation: I freely forgive myself and others.

The topic of the NPR story was about the abolition of the death penalty. What type of response do you have to the phrase “death penalty?” You must have given it some thought. The Old Testament promotes, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot.” (Exodus 21:24) Then, Jesus came along and promoted a whole new concept, forgiveness. Even at the end when He had been unjustly toured and crucified He prayed for His executioners, for all of us, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

I think of this quote often. Someone once commented to me that He did not say, “Father, I forgive them for they know not what they do” or even “Father, I forgive them even if they know what they are doing.” I’m sure there are many biblical scholars who have dissected these last words of Christ that are much more qualified to fully explain all the implications of His petition; I am not one of them. I am simply trying to absorb the lesson that even after Our Lord was put to death because some people did not approve of Him healing the sick, raising the dead, and protecting and promoting the care of those who most needed love and care; He refused to hold onto the burning coal of hatred. In His final moments He was teaching us His greatest lesson.

As I drove along that day the story being discussed on the radio was about the death penalty in China and the tradition that allows a family member of the victim to actively participate in the execution of the offender by removing the support from under the person who is to be hung. The narrator told of a young man who had been stabbed to death by another young man and the mother of the victim had chosen to perform the execution. She approached the condemned, reached up and slapped him and then reached out and helped him down from his perch. She then went over and took the hand of the mother of the condemned man. The story resonated throughout China and now it was being shared with the rest of the world. Because of her action, the Chinese authorities were reconsidering their tradition. Because of her act of forgiveness, some of the world’s conscience was being awakened.

Why do most of us find it so difficult to forgive, me included? I am not normally angry. I’ll get hurt before I respond with anger. Perhaps that’s just another form of anger. Sometimes, however, I’m angry at institutions, authorities or systems. Sometimes I’m angry with individuals. I can be angry with strangers, friends and worst of all, with people I love. Some small injurious word or behavior and I can feel the resentment building. Most of the time just when I think I’m “over” something that has happened, I don’t even realize I haven’t let go of the perceived injury or intentional slight or harm but then some reminder comes along and I’m back with my sad response. I can recall events from decades ago that still cause my body to tighten up but most times I don’t even recognize the emotion. Sometimes when the anger arrives the feeling puzzles me because it is so rare for me to respond in an angry manner. The point is, however, whether or not anger or hurt feelings come quickly or slowly, responding appropriately and then releasing it is not only to your benefit, but to the world’s.

The question that sometimes comes to my mind is, “What do I know to be true; what do I believe absolutely with all of my mind and my heart?” “The only important thing in life is to love and to forgive.” This is a quote from a wise older woman who was from my Small Christian Community. I believe with all my mind, body and soul that the above statement is absolutely true. Richard Rohr, one of my favorite spiritual teachers explains the Beatitudes in this way, “Jesus seems to be saying, our inner attitudes and states are the real sources of our problems. How we live in our hearts is our real truth.” When I can carry only love in my heart and my body and when I can release myself from any resentment, my life is rich and rewarding and peaceful. My life is then filled with hope and joy and I am able to take those emotions, those qualities with me out into the world.

One of my morning meditations took me into a subway station. What am I doing here, I pondered? On the station were 6 briefcases evenly spaced along the edge. The train came and five people picked up a case and boarded. I went over to the sixth case and looked down. It had my name on it and so I opened it. It was filled with trash. It was filled with the resentments of yesterday, perhaps of my whole life? I carried it up out of the subway, found a trash can and threw it away. Perhaps like most of the garbage in my life, I need to gather those resentments up periodically and toss them out. Perhaps with practice, I can throw away all those resentments and other junk that interfere with the love and joy with which I want my life to be surrounded.

The Chinese woman in the story was changing the world because of her ability to forgive. I believe we are called upon to do the same and that with the softening of our hearts; we too will change the world.