Daily Prayer :: Wind

First steps on the journey of faith and community

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March 19, 2019 – Focus on the wonder of God and gain perspective

For people just beginning to walk with Jesus and looking for the tried-and-true paths for getting to feel their faith, this week’s book: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation: Find True Peace in God, will set you on a good path. For anyone who has been wrecked by guilt-inducing Bible homework, either skip this week, or use the entries from a grace-filled perspective — the Bible is more like a cask than a casket.

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Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read James 3:13-18

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

More thoughts for meditation

In her book, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, Jennifer Rothschild describes her fear of flying after 9/11. She had many flights to take that fall, yet the atmosphere in the airports was tense and so was she. “I remember getting on my knees before God and telling him that I  was fearful,” she writes. “Immediately, this verse came to my mind: ‘When I am afraid, I will trust in you’” (Psalm 56:3 – put to music)

“God knows that sometimes fear and trust share the same heartbeat. As I meditated on the verse, I suddenly realized that I am afraid describes a condition and that I will trust describes a volition.” And neither defines how God is with me. Her deeper cooperation with faith helped undo her shallower reactions of fear. She ended up finding the courage to fly in peace, in the face of her foes.

The Bible is a gift to readers and listeners who want to practice creating new pathways in their brains for truth, hope and peace. Isaiah 55:8, Colossians 3 and James 3 (today’s reading) all describe the development of our thoughts once God is revealed to us. God does not think like us, but we can learn to have the mind of Christ. Our minds are set on automatic much of the time, but grace can throw a wrench in the works, if we cooperate. We can gain wisdom “from above.”

With meditation you can focus on the wonder of God, gain a higher perspective, and tap into God’s wisdom from above. These things, then, become not only your shield in a world embroiled in a spiritual war; they also become your weapons.

Suggestions for action

This book suggests we use scripture as our basis for meditation with a simple method much like our 2PROAPT

  1. Ponder today’s excerpt

Read today’s reading attentively, maybe aloud. If you can, read it in its larger context. Imagine Jesus saying it to you. Focus on all the words and try to understand what the passage means.

  1. Personalize

But the wisdom from above…

Try visualizing what that wisdom looks like when it comes upon you.

is first pure…

Pure wisdom has a natural impact on impurity. How do you see that happening in you?

then peaceable…

Is conflict in you, around you or between you and others (maybe even with Jesus) derailing your connection with the heart of God?

gentle…

“Gentle” or “considerate” is usually in the eye of the beholder. But using your own gentle eye, do you think you have received this wisdom?

willing to yield…

One can’t lead if they can’t follow. One has little power if they only get it by rebelling. What do you do with the word “submit” or “yield?” Can you embrace it, knowing the reality it represents in Jesus?

full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

This clause is the doing side of the being side in the word “pure.” Wisdom is knowing how to act out the selfless love of God in Jesus in all relationships, in a troubled and needy world. Do you want that wisdom? Ask for it.

  1. Practice

What part of the passage seemed like God gave it to you, the most? Jot it down, or jot down the directions it gave you and keep meditating on it through the day and night. Check to see if it is changing you reactions to wise actions.

March 18, 2019 — Nurturing a transformed mind

For people just beginning to walk with Jesus and looking for the tried-and-true paths for getting to feel their faith, this week’s book: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation: Find True Peace in God, will set you on a good path. For anyone who has been wrecked by guilt-inducing Bible homework, either skip this week, or use the entries from a grace-filled perspective — the Bible is more like a flask than a task.

Morton Kelsey’s diagram of our inner and outer worlds from the Lent retreat

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Romans 12:1-8

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

More thoughts for meditation

Harriet Tubman spent much time learning, memorizing and meditating on parts of the Bible, like her beloved Isaiah 16:3: “Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.” Her meditation resulted in action. Her action continues to inspire us and give us confidence that Jesus is truly alive. Like her, if we change our minds, we can change our actions and will probably change the lives around us.

If you are reading this, you probably already believe that last truth on some level and long for more light to drive away the dark shadows of anxiety, envy, anger, fear and other things that torment you. The Holy Spirit is with us to brighten us up, as Paul says puts it: to “shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). When we meditate, we resist darkness and welcome light, as today’s reading calls us to do.

Like Harriet Tubman knew, the Bible has been the basic starting place for God-seekers from the time the Old Testament was compiled into a collection and Paul sent his first letter. We don’t need the Bible to meditate on God’s word, but in it we have the word on which to meditate. The Bible says that Isaac “went out to the field one evening to meditate” (Gen. 24:63). He had creation, his family’s traditions and his spiritual experiences as a rich basis. He probably composed his heart, listened to birds and brooks, prayed, and wondered what God was going to do.  As he did those things, a caravan of people arrived, including his future wife. We don’t need the Bible, perhaps, but it seems absurd to neglect it — that might be like reinventing a wheel it took thousands of years to perfect.

As we meditate, God guides and changes our thoughts, helps us process our griefs…,enables us to soak up the wonder of his greatness, and prepares us for what  is coming. So this old hymn might be a good prayer with which to get started”

May the mind of Christ my Savior, live in me from day to day,
By his love and pow’r controlling all I do and say.

Suggestions for action

This book suggests we use scripture as our basis for meditation with a simple method much like our 2PROAPT

1. Ponder

Read today’s reading attentively, maybe aloud. If you can, read it in its larger context. Imagine Jesus saying it to you. Focus on all the words and try to understand what the passage means.

2. Personalize

Consider what the passage means to you. This is not an academic exercise, but a personal reflection. Let God speak to your heart as you mull over what you’re given. Sit down next to the Lord and listen to the verse, phrase, word, truth, command, or promise that affects you most deeply.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship….

Meditate on the word “appeal.” Remember when someone appealed to you and how you responded. What is this verse appealing or urging you to do?

How is your body a living sacrifice, or how could it be?

Do not be conformed to this world, …

Can you think of ways you are conforming to the patterns of the passing away world? What tries to conform you?

but be transformed by the renewing of your minds,…

Mull over “transformed, renewing, mind.” Visualize your brain — how do you see God transforming it?

so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

There is goodness to discover. This verse implies we are preoccupied with discovering it. How does that describe you?

3. Practice

Jot down a note or phrase and take it with you into your day. Review it all day, no matter what you are doing. It is like starter wheels for “praying without ceasing,” starting with changing the habits of our minds.  Think about what is on your slip of paper when you fall asleep. Share it with someone. Do what it says.

Do the word. Look back on the whole reading for today and write down what has been given to you and take it with you.

March 17 – Sharp Trials in the Intellect

Today’s Bible reading

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”Psalm 46:8-10

More thoughts for meditation

During Lent we will be learning from great practitioners and teachers of Christian contemplative practice. Their shared wisdom and encouragement will inspire our own practice. Our words for Lent are “We need to feel it.” — our hunger, our lack, our sin, yes, but also the love that casts out fear, the presence of eternity in our here and now and the forgiveness that transforms our lives and the whole world. Contemplative prayer is a powerful way to practice feeling it.

Martin Laird’s A Sunlit Absence is a companion book to Into The Silent Land (Pastors’ Goodreads review here and Daily Prayer entries on that text here). He is one of our aforementioned “great practitioner of Christian contemplation.”

“When we are drawn into the presence of God with our conceptual mind gunning its engines, we are in for a rather rude awakening. … Gregory of Nyssa likens it to stepping onto a ‘slippery, steep rock that affords no basis for our thoughts.’ With nothing to hold onto, the conceptual mind cannot stabilize itself. Saint Gregory likens this encounter with God to being on the edge of a mountain precipice. Finding no toehold or handhold, ‘the mind has nothing it can grasp, neither place nor time, neither space nor any other thing which offers our mind something to grasp hold of, but, slips from all sides from what it fails to grasp, in dizziness and confusion.’

We may have known this liberating purification previously, but it focused more on the surface faculties of the soul, such as greed, gluttony, or lust. Not that these struggles did not give us a run for our money, but in classical Christian theology they are considered less spiritually dangerous. While struggles with these may generate a greater media interest, they are, in the ancient view of things, nearer the surface of the soul and produce more garden-variety suffering than the much sharper pain of confronting more spiritual, and therefore more dangers, intellectual sins such as pride, envy, judgmentalism, and vainglory. When the loving flame of God sets about healing these sins of the intellect it is more painful because they are more spiritual, and we become painfully aware of just how beset by them we are. Indeed we are progressing along the path of holiness but as a result we become aware of just how filled we are with deeply rooted intellectual habits that blind us to the loving light. As St. John of the Cross sees it, this is perfectly consistent with how wood takes on the qualities of fire. Before the wood becomes wooden flame—completely one with fire—the wood spits and hisses and oozes in preparation for becoming all flame. As part of the process of healing we become acutely aware of just how filled we are with arrogance, envy, preoccupation with our reputation, judgmentalism. Indeed these characteristics were all there within us, but we were at most only vaguely aware of them; now the living flame of love is drawing them out and placing them in our site. The problem is that this stage of growth in humbling self-knowledge is singularly painful, with the result that we feel we are falling to pieces when in fact we are becoming one with the living flame of love. As when our prayer was beset by boredom, there is no time limit on these ‘sharp trials in the intellect.’ These trials are intertwined with the tangles of Providence and are trailer-made for each person, but the following are common enough places to undergo them: our relationship with beauty, knowledge, spiritual advancement, idealism—each presents a different opportunity to observe the grasping, clinging mind (this list is by no means exhaustive)…

Study and learning are spiritual disciples with much esteem in the Christian contemplative tradition (as they are in many religious traditions). When this discipline is being strengthened and purified to make the discursive mind a better servant of God, we become aware of not-so-subtle tendency to show off how much we have come to know in all our reading and study. This need not be a public display; we can look down on people less well-read than we are in such a way that they don’t even notice it. When this form of pride or arrogance is being healed we are not only painfully aware of just how much we do this, but it can be painful to study in the way we did before. We find we cannot even read it, for it hurts too much to see our intellectual arrogance so clearly” (Martin Laird, A Sunlit Absence, p. 140-142).

Suggestions for Action

In the final chapter of the book, Laird seems to conclude with how contemplation refines you. It’s a perfect image for Lent. It brings up that which we need to let go of, that which we need to empty ourselves up, and moves us closer to God. We confront our anxieties, our emotions, our thoughts and give them to God, trying to leave all of our worry at the foot of the cross, and leave filled with God’s peace; not just a new idea. What are the trials of the intellect you faced? What are the inner videos you faced? How did you overcome your boredom?

How did the week of prayer for you? What did you learn? How are you moving with God? Journal about your experience, or share them with a friend. All of our prompts this week in “suggestions for action,” could be used to guide your cell meeting or another time of dialogue and connection. Go back and reuse one if it suits you.

Today is Patrick Day! Honor the apostle to Ireland at Celebrating our Transhistorical Body. 

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