Practices

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Rule of Life

Photo from Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com. Some rights reserved.

Photo from Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com. Some rights reserved.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., I thought I would re-post his Rule of Life. It was a Rule for himself and a Rule that those who wished to join him in his efforts toward justice were expected to adopt as well. You can find it published in the book Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson, and on various blogs and web sites around the internet.

King wrote and spoke many, many encouraging words. These are the ones I’ve carried in my wallet and pinned up in my office:

  • Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  • Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham [or anywhere] seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory.
  • Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  • Pray daily to be used by God in order that all might be free.
  • Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  • Seek to perform regular service for others and the world.
  • Refrain from violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  • Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
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Holy Communion

8885024392My family shared communion bread in my father’s hospice room before he died. We blessed it, broke it, and ate it. My mom caught a few medical professionals off guard by holding the loaf out to them when they came into the room to check Dad’s blood pressure or give him his medications.

But all awkwardness aside, it was a beautiful thing to share this ritual with my dad one last time. . . . Except that Dad was past eating, even something as small and perfect as a piece of holy bread. So my mom tore off a piece for him and laid it on the pillow near his mouth.

As he took his final breaths–those breaths that are ragged and uneven, those breaths that make you count the seconds between them–I imagined that small piece of Jesus’ body filtering the air. As Dad drew air into his failing body, as his lungs struggled to push air out, it flowed through the blessed and broken bread.

That bread remained there when Dad died, on the pillow next to his beloved face–small and white and still.

This final image of my father is a painful blessing. It comes unbidden each time I speak the words, “This is my body,” each time I offer the loaf to those who can still take and eat.

For me, the phrase “communion of saints” used to conjure up vague images of sparkling lights scattered out there, somewhere–kind of like stars, but less specific, less real. Now the “communion of saints” is that hospice room. Too specific. Too real.

It is the gummy bread in my mouth, the labored chewing, the effort of my tongue and throat muscles as I swallow. It is holding hands with my brother and my husband, scrunching down and twisting my head to wipe the tears on the sleeve of my sweatshirt. It is watching my mom lead this ritual as both faithful pastor and grieving wife, somehow standing strong and collapsing all at once.

It’s a painful blessing–every time there is a loaf of communion bread, I am in the hospice room with my father again. I realize that I never saw anyone take that torn-off piece of bread away. And so it will always be there, on the pillow, next to Dad. It will always be there, holy and broken and unconsumed.

Categories: Ponderings, Practices | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Praying for Creation

On August 13, a group from the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance organization gave a presentation at our church. They talked about the terrible environmental damage done by leaking and broken tar sands pipelines and the substantial health issues faced by (inevitably poor) people who live near the pipelines and processing plants. (For a very brief overview, see this video from the Sierra Club.)

They also told us that this Saturday, August 24, is a National Day of Action Against the Tar Sands. This observance is in solidarity with First Nations groups who are planning a blockade on Alberta highway 63 to protest oil company infringement on sacred native lands.

I will not be participating in any public protests on Saturday, but do plan to spend some time in prayer for our precious Earth. I invite you to do the same.

Here are some suggestions for prayer:

  • Take a prayer walk in a beautiful natural setting–pray your thanks for that place and pray for the healing of other places on the planet that are being destroyed and polluted.
  • Prayer a prayer of confession for the ways that our North American lifestyle uses and abuses natural resources. Prayerfully consider one or more ways you could reduce your ecological footprint.
  • Pray particularly for the work of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, the Indigenous Action Alliance, and other groups working to oppose the building of tar sands pipelines through Canada and the U.S.
  • Read Genesis 1 and offer a prayer for the restoration of God’s good creation.
  • Pray a psalm about creation. (Try Psalm 8, 9, 33, 104 or 139.)
  • Write a prayer and share it with others.

 

*And just a personal update: My mom has moved into the new house with us and we are still waiting to get our internet hooked up. I realize my poor blog is a bit neglected these days. Now that I’ve found the camera I’ll try to get some pictures of the new place posted soon.

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Monday Prayer Practice: Decluttering

My dresser--Before

My dresser–Before

My dresser--After(Don't look in the mirror or off to the side. We're focusing on the dresser!)

My dresser–After
(Don’t look in the mirror or off to the side. We’re focusing on the dresser!)

Can decluttering be a spiritual practice?

I’m sure it can. But I’ll be honest, my decluttering efforts these days are spurred on more by anxiety than spiritual maturity.

My husband and I are hoping to buy a house on some acreage just out of town. He wants to have (more) chickens and gardens and fruit trees. I want to have a space in which I can offer retreats–day retreats soon and overnight accommodations eventually.

Barring an unexpected inheritance or lottery win, we will need to sell our current house if we want to buy a new house. And according to our real estate agent, we have to declutter and clean our house if we want anyone to buy it.

I realize my situation is extreme–most of you aren’t planning to move in the next few months. Still, many of you may be doing (or thinking about doing) some spring cleaning of your own.

Moving forward, I’m going to see if I can do what I have to do with more peace, gratitude, and awareness of God’s presence than I have been able to muster so far. And may you, also, find the holy in the messiness of your life.

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Monday Prayer Practice: Coloring!

The church I serve is pretty non-traditional, but we do have some traditions. One of them is that the children are invited to color the bulletins every Easter. We have a potluck breakfast before worship, and when the kids finish eating they can gather around a table with a stack of bulletins and assorted crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Our Easter cover image is something in outline–this year a cross with flowers wrapped around it–and the kids color away.

This year, an interesting thing happened. A mom started coloring with her daughter. Then another mom. Then another member walked by the table and said, “Oh, can I color too?” And another sat down with a smile on her face saying, “I haven’t colored in ages.” And soon there were more grown-ups than kids coloring in the crosses and flowers. (Our bulletins looked fantastic!)

I was reminded of the soothing joy of applying color to paper, and that grown-ups sometimes need an excuse to color. So this morning I got out my Colored Pencil Prayers book because I knew that whatever my prayer time would be, it needed to involve coloring. Flipping through, I found “Offering & Receiving Prompt 3: Offering Indecision.” Bingo!

My husband and I are currently looking at a home in the country. Wanting to move. Worried about moving. Wondering about money and the future and what might or might not happen with family situations and me having a little retreat center and him wanting to be a kind-of farmer. I’ve been going back and forth between excited and apprehensive, certain and doubtful. My usual intuitive discernment methods are all off kilter because I’m still in deep mourning for my dad.

“Great!” I thought, “I’ll color my way to an answer.” Which, of course, didn’t happen. Because I still have to wait and listen and talk and crunch numbers (ack!). But the prayer let me rest for awhile in my desire to be faithful and re-reminded me of God’s presence and faithfulness in every cranny of my life.

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So today I commend to you the spiritual practice of coloring–whatever form that might take for you.

And blessings to you on this first week of the Easter season!

Categories: Lent/Easter, Practices | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Praying Through Grief

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This is the doodle prayer I prayed for Dad while I was with him in the hospital. You can see that I never did finish it. Or, I guess it is finished, but not how I wanted it to be.

In the hospital, I learned that praying through deep fear and grief is hard. Not hard to cry out to God. Not hard to collapse into whatever cushion of comfort might be separating you from complete breakdown. But hard to pray with intention and presence.

It was hard because I was exhausted. Body and soul exhausted. And moving into and within God’s presence takes energy.

It was hard because I was distracted. I had nothing to do and too much to do all at once. Waiting and talking and watching and pacing. Flipping the white wash cloth draped over my dad’s forehead to the cool side. And again. And again. Disturbed by how hot the terrycloth felt against my palm.

This doodle was the prayer I could offer. Between hosting visitors and holding the straw up to Dad’s lips and calling the nurse and flipping the wash cloth.

I wrote words about my dad. I wrote words about what I wanted–for him and for us. I wrote words of blessing that I use when I anoint people. I wrote scripture. Simple words and phrases that my heart already knew.

I wrote and I colored. Pressing firmly and softly, the back and forth of the pencil was all the prayer I could offer. And as the colors filled the page, I knew that God heard every word and non-word.

Though I desperately wish my dad was still living in this world, I know that he has received the blessing I prayed for him:

May the Creator of life heal your deepest wounds;
May Jesus the Christ grant you healing;
May the Holy Spirit restore you to all wholeness.

So now, may this blessing be upon me, and upon all his family and friends. Amen. And Amen.

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Monday Prayer Practice: Family Liturgy

practicing families 4I am involved with a new blog project called Practicing Families. One or two Mondays each month, you’ll find my weekly prayer practice in the form of a family liturgy over on that blog. And never fear, I will always link you over.

For my personal prayer practice this morning, I did a visual lectio divina on Luke 4:1-13. I found this to be a good passage for this type of meditation.

Blessings to you as we begin the Lenten season this week.

 

Categories: Lent/Easter, Parenting, Practices | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday Prayer Practice: Valentine Cards

O.K. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch for a “prayer practice.” But this morning, during my sabbath time, I made some Valentine cards. Just me in my quiet house with my art supplies. Yes. It was as wonderful as it sounds.

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I pray you will find time this week to do something that nourishes your soul.

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Categories: Creations, Practices | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Monday Practice: Resources for Lent

Rather than post a particular prayer practice this week, I want to highlight some resources that you might find helpful as you think about the upcoming Lenten season.

Here are some available through this very blog:

This is my prayer journal from the Holy Spaces retreat.

This is my prayer journal from the Holy Spaces retreat.

  • Wilderness Choices: The Way of Jesus in a World of Worry; this is an actual, in-person, retreat at the Hollis Renewal Center in Bonner Springs Kansas, March 8-9.
  • Holy Spaces: A Creative Arts Lenten Retreat; this material is based on the lectionary readings for 2012 (Year B), but the general Lenten themes carry over from year to year. The PDF book contains worship liturgies, creative prayer experiences, creative writing exercises, and scripture reflections.
  • Fruit of the Spirit: A Creative Arts Retreat in Daily Life; this material contains 9 weeks worth of creative reflections based on the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians. The book is available with or without art supplies and also as a PDF.
  • Colored Pencil Prayers; this book describes five different types of creative prayer exercises and provides prompts and drawing space for each.
  • This blog; I will continue to post prayer practices, worship pieces, and scripture reflections throughout Lent. You can also select “Practices” on the Category list to the right–that will bring up previous posts that are specifically related to different spiritual practices.

 

And here are a few other Internet options to check out:

 

Please share some of your favorite Lenten resources in the comments section below.

 

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Monday Prayer Practice: Art Journal

This morning I finished reading and praying through Jan Richardson’s retreat material for Women’s Christmas. I had my colored pencils and art journal ready as I read, and found myself sketching out this picture to accompany a favorite quote:

May you sink the roots of your soul
Deeper and deeper still into the love of God
Who encompasses and encircles you
Without beginning, without end.

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The point, of course, is not to create beautiful artwork. (Though I do like how the tree leaves turned out.) The point, for me, is that the words somehow sink in more deeply as I illustrate them.

Creating art that incorporates or reflects meaningful quotes–from scripture or elsewhere, is the practice I commend to you today.

Categories: Practices | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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