Thursday, October 30, 2014

Centering Myself

I am always grateful for time with my writing friends. This morning Bonnie and I were the only ones able to make our early morning Starbucks meeting. I told Bonnie about my time at the Renovare prayer retreat and about the workshop on centering prayer. I told her I’d been practicing faithfully since my return home. I shared what I’d learned at the workshop and suggested we spend ten minutes in prayer before we began writing. She agreed, and the two of us spent ten peaceful minutes praying silently in the midst of the busy Starbucks where our group meets each week.

After the time of prayer, we wrote about centering ourselves. One member of our Starbucks’ group is an artist, who teaches pottery. I have learned from her about the importance of centering the clay when beginning to throw a pot. If you don’t center the clay properly, it will wobble, and the pot will become misshapen as the wheel spins. I realized that if centering prayer is a way to enter into God’s silence and center myself in God’s presence, then centering prayer is also a way to allow God, the Potter, to properly shape my life. If I never slow down enough to center myself on the Potter’s wheel, my life will be wobbly and misshapen. That reminded me of the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” which includes the words, “Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. 
Mold me and make me after Thy will, 
While I am waiting, yielded and still.” Now you will also hear this lovely hymn playing in your mind.

It has been easier than I expected to make time each day to center myself in prayer; to let go for a few moments of all those things I think are so terribly important. It is always a blessing to step into God’s presence. This morning’s time of prayer at Starbucks was a reminder that it is possible to do that anywhere.

Grace and Peace,


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Crawling up into God's lap

I am grateful to Bryan McDowell, the leader of the workshop on Centering Prayer at the Renovare Prayer Retreat I attended at Mo-Ranch in the Texas Hill Country this past weekend. He provided us with the image of centering prayer as something like crawling up into God’s lap. I immediately thought about the joy of cuddling my small grandchildren in my lap and how much that means to me. I have been practicing centering prayer since I returned home. I had fallen away from this practice and forgotten how much it blesses my life.

Walking the labyrinth was another spiritual practice I’ve let slide. After the workshop on the history of the labyrinth with Nancy Willet, I walked the Mo-Ranch labyrinth with Pat, a new friend I met at the workshop. I had never walked a labyrinth with someone I knew before, and it multiplied the blessings of that experience. Pat was one of many amazing people I met at the retreat, people for whom prayer is as necessary as breathing.

I also spent time with my assigned small group, led by Brian Hardesty-Crouch, the leader of the workshop on the Prayer of Examen. We laughed and shared our stories and prayed together. Brian and Jeff and Mike and Laurel are now part of my life’s story. Their openness and willingness to be vulnerable and to listen made me feel welcome and loved, and I’m grateful for the blessing of knowing them. All of us at the retreat were blessed to spend time learning from Nate Foster and Richella Parham, the keynote speakers, young people who are wise beyond their years. I look forward to reading their books!

Prayer is just one of the spiritual disciplines Nate talked about at the retreat. To call prayer a discipline makes it sound like doing push-ups with someone barking out the count. I think that’s why I like the image of a child crawling up into God’s loving lap so much. It sounds less like punishment and more about the blessing of being in God’s presence. That, in reality, is where I spent this past weekend, in God’s presence through the prayer and the worship and the singing and the reminders that I am a child of God.  I returned home refreshed with my parched soul abundantly watered. My challenge now is to make the time to continue practicing prayer and other spiritual disciplines to keep myself centered in God’s presence in the midst of all that this life throws at me.

Grace and Peace,


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fear of Ebola

The panic that has surrounded the recent arrival of Ebola at a Dallas hospital has been extreme. I do understand the fear of a disease with a mortality rate over 50% and no present cure. But I wonder at the hysteria of the moment, hyped by our twenty-four/seven infotainment industry. People have been dying of Ebola in Africa for a long time. A brief history of the disease on the Stanford website says it first emerged in 1976. The son that was born that year is now one of four doctors in the family. He is a physician in San Antonio, as is his older brother, an infectious disease specialist, and that brother’s wife. I am not worried about my safety, in spite of the front-page headline this morning in our small town paper that says a family living here traveled home by plane with the second Dallas nurse recently diagnosed with Ebola. I do worry about the safety of my sons and daughter-in-law when an Ebola patient arrives at the hospital in San Antonio. I am a mother after all, and I know that many of the deaths in Africa have been of health care workers, who none-the-less continue to care for patients there, in spite of the risk.

I wonder if our present focus on Ebola is a way to avoid thinking about the other more immediate threats our world faces at the moment. Some days it feels as if the world is falling apart around us. That nothing works like it should anymore.  That we are in constant danger of catastrophe. So we focus on this one threat, which is real, but unlikely to harm most of the people in this country who are the most panicked. It’s not easy to catch this disease unless you are in close contact with a person who has active symptoms. It’s not like catching the flu. But we focus on Ebola instead of on the problems we can do something about, like the flu, which hundreds will die from this year, while too many of us never get a flu shot.

Perhaps focusing on Ebola is a way of feeling in control. If we can just solve this one problem, maybe the world will feel safer. If we can vanquish this deadly disease, maybe even death itself can be conquered. Yet we are not in control. We will die and so will those we love. That is our reality, in spite of our culture’s irrational denial of death. While we can care for ourselves, and those we love, we cannot banish this ultimate reality. Death reminds us that we are not in charge. God is. And I am thankful for that knowledge. What ultimately matters is how we deal with this reality, and what we do with the life we have been given. I think that Jesus provided the best answer. In the time we have here in this life, what we can do is love God and love others as much as we love ourselves. If we had spent more time and money caring for distant brothers and sisters dying in Africa from a disease we thought would never touch us, we might not be panicking about Ebola here and now.

Grace and Peace,