Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spiritual Discipline: Prayer

"Miserere Nobis"

I almost didn't write this post on my week of focusing on the spiritual discipline of prayer, because as I was thinking about my week, I saw many, many failures.  There were so many times to pray when I didn't even consider praying, so many opportunities to pray that I completely ignored.  There were some things Foster discussed in Celebration of Discipline that I didn't agree with, and this disagreement made me a little doubtful and a little grumpy and a little suspicious of this whole prayer thing. 

So I failed.

But I prayed, too. 

I spent a little more time this week praying the hours.  I always find comfort and encouragement in the Concluding Prayer of the Morning Office:

Lord God, Almighty and Everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

And then there was the day when I felt like I had messed up all day long, and I found mercy and forgiveness in The Greeting of Compline:

Almighty God, my heavenly Father: I have sinned against you, through my own fault, in thought, and word, and deed, in what I have done and what I have left undone.  For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me all my offenses; and grant that I may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your Name.  Amen.

And then there was the night when my heart was heavy for a grieving friend, and I leaned on the comfort of The Petition of Compline:

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.  Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.  Rest Your weary ones.  Bless Your dying ones.  Soothe Your suffering ones.  Shield Your joyous ones, and all for your love's sake.  Amen.

And then there was the evening that my heart was crumbling into broken pieces for our neighbors whose dog had just died.  I actually stood at my kitchen window, raised my hands toward their house like a zombie/crazy person, and prayed for them. 
And then I made them chocolate chip cookies and left them on their porch. 
And I realized that sometimes when you pray you use words. 
And sometimes when you pray you bake cookies. 

And then there was the night when everyone in my house was asleep but me.  And I slipped into Amélie's room, and I laid my hands on her precious, sleeping body, and I prayed that her sleep would be restful, that her heart would stay true and sweet, and that she would always love the God who adores her.  And then I tiptoed into Jack's room, and I laid my hands on his precious, sleeping body, and I prayed that no monsters or aliens or zombies would rob his restful sleep, and that his heart would stay kind and sweet, and that he would always love the God who adores him.

I am also still praying the prayer I prayed last week from Psalm 51:10:
God, make a fresh start in me; create a Genesis week [day, moment] out of the chaos of my life.

This week I am adding a little Latin:
Miserere nobis.
Have mercy on us.
Dona nobis pacem.
Grant us your peace.

May God have mercy on you this week, and may He grant you peace

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Spiritual Disciplines: Meditation

I am reading through Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipline, and this week I focused on Chapter 2: "The Discipline of Meditation."  I honestly can't say that I was looking forward to this chapter.  I enjoy meditation about as much as I enjoy it when Jack convinces me to play a video game with him, which is to say, I don't like it at all. 

I am horrible at meditation.  The truth is, my head doesn't empty.  It just doesn't.  My head is constantly spinning.  I am lucky when I can forge a path through the dizziness, so last Sunday I opened my book with a sigh.  I was drawn in, however, by the first paragraph:

"In contemporary society, our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds.  If he can keep us engaged in 'muchness' and 'manyness,' he will rest satisfied.  Psychiatrist Carl Jung once remarked, 'Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil'" (15). 

Noise.  Hurry.  Crowds.  Muchness.  Manyness.

Noise: My children arguing, with each other, with me.
Hurry:  "We can't be late for school!  Get your shoes on, Jack!  Hurry!!"
Crowds: (I try to avoid these as much as possible.)
Muchness:  You should look at my to-do list.
Manyness:  My calendar is full--too full--of commitments, games, practices, appointments, and on and on and on. 

Noise.  Hurry.  Crowds.  Muchness.  Manyness.

Sometimes, I feel like I am drowning.

This week, I still floundered about, gasping for breath, at least 85 percent of the time.  But there was about 15 percent of the time that I was gliding upon the sea of my day rather than thrashing about in it. 

I can thank meditation for that 15 percent. 

I was surprised.  Maybe I shouldn't have been. 

Here is what I discovered:
I discovered that I didn't have to empty my mind to meditate.  Instead, I had to focus on something.  I just needed to gather up all that mess in my brain and wrap something--just one thing--around it to think on for a bit. 
Early Monday morning, as I sat in front of my fireplace with a cup of hot coffee, my Bible, and my journal, I chose to focus on Psalm 51:10, using The Message: 
"God, make a fresh start in me; shape a Genesis week [day, moment] out of the chaos of my life."
I had to insert the words day and moment, because quite frankly, the idea of a new beginning, a Genesis, for a whole week is way more than I can take on right now.  I need a fresh start approximately every 5 minutes. 

So this week, when Jack had collapsed on the floor in agony, again, at the mere mention of homework or a bath or dinner, I mumbled to myself, "God, make a fresh start in me; shape a Genesis moment out of the chaos of my life."

When Amélie was using her best big sister/teacher voice to teach Jack a lesson regarding his cranky behavior, which of course resulted in even crankier behavior and sometimes bodily injuries, I shut myself in the bathroom and whispered, "God, make a fresh start in me; shape a Genesis moment out of the chaos of my life."

And in the middle of an argument between my exhausted, overwhelmed husband and his exhausted, overwhelmed wife, I forced myself angry heart to plead, "God, make a fresh start in me; shape a Genesis moment out of the chaos of my life." 

This week looks like the week before and the week before that. 
My kids are going to argue.
Matt is going to work more hours than we want him to work.
Sometimes I am going to snap and cave and crumple into a mess on my sticky kitchen floor.
But perhaps this week, yet again, I will also find myself dropping to my knees and begging,
"God, make a fresh start in me; shape a Genesis moment out of the chaos of my life."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Spiritual Disciplines and a New, Exciting (Terrifying) Project

Superficiality is the curse of our age.  The doctrine of instant gratification is a primary spiritual problem.  The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.  ~Richard Foster

I have been flirting with the idea of spiritual disciplines for quite some time.  There is something about spiritual disciplines that tugs at my soul and draws me down into its depths.  There is also something about "the doctrine of instant gratification" that, in much the same way, tugs at my soul and draws me into the ease of its shallow waters.  I am constantly drifting between the shallow and the deep.

Some days, I splash around in the shallow.  It's easy.  The sun is on my back.  Facebook is on my phone.  If my brain gets too quiet a friend is just a text away.  A quick fix.  An easy fix.  An empty fix.

Some days, I venture into the deep.  It's not easy.  The water down deep is chilly.  Complex texts need to be digested.  People need to be heard.  There is no fix.  But I feel whole. 

My tendency is to skirt the edge of the deep.  I dip in a toe.  I read a book.  Or part of a book.  I might even blog about my quest.

And then I get chilled in the depths.  Or maybe the newness wears off.  Or maybe I get overwhelmed.

And I quit. 

Enter: opportunity. 

This year's opportunity: to take part in a project sparked by the vision of Joanna Harader over at Spacious Faith.  She is starting a blog called Practicing Families (you can follow the link, but there's not much there yet), and I am going to be a part of an amazing opportunity to write about practicing spiritual disciplines with my family. 

I am excited.

I am terrified.

Some days, I don't even pray with my kids.
Most days, I mess up with my kids.

Besides, this is the opportunity I have always known would happen: I am going to be exposed as a fraud. 
I'm not creative, really. 
I can't write, really. 
I'm a total mess, really and truly. 
But as I have done before, I welcome you to my mess. 

I'm not sure what this mess of practicing spiritual disciplines is going to look like, exactly.  I am reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and Celebrating the Disciplines: A Journal Workbook to Accompany Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and Kathryn Helmers and Spiritual Disciplines for Children by Vernie Schorr Love.  I may use the guidelines in Celebrating the Disciplines and make this a methodical, yearlong venture.  Or I might veer off the course of a book and write about my wanderings.  I don't know yet. 

I just know that I am excited.
I am terrified.
I am diving into the deep.
And I am exactly where I need to be.