This morning I was reading through some writings and prayers of Francis of Assisi. I enjoy entering into Francis’ journey of seeing God through His creation. A bird, a flowing stream, the sound of crickets at night…all these things centered the mind and heart of Francis on the sovereign God who created all things and gives life to all things. Here is a great prayer offering from Francis. Choose to slow, pause and be still and allow God to speak through his prayer.
You are holy,
O my Lord and only God,
mysterious and holy,
holy and amazing!
You are mighty, magnificent, transcendent.
You are all-powerful,
O most holy Creator,
beneficent ruler of heaven and earth.
You are manifold and One at the same time,
You are utterly wonderful.
You are wonderful, perfectly wonderful,
the very essence of all that is most wonderful,
O Lord God!
You are real and alive.
You are generosity and wisdom,
humility and patience,
safety and serenity,
ecstasy and delight.
You are righteousness and balance,
prosperity that surpasses all basic needs,
you are harmony and beauty.
You are my protector, guardian, and defender.
You are my strength.
You are my sustenance and my courage.
You are faith, hope, and charity.
You are my deepest tenderness.
You are everlasting vitality.
O supreme and marvelous Lord,
You are absolute mercy.
~St. Francis of Assisi
Great meditation from Eugene Peterson…mc
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 1:1
Jesse’s roots, composted with carcasses
Of dove and lamb, parchments of ox and goat,
Centuries of dried up prayers and bloody
Sacrifice, now bear me gospel fruit.
David’s branch, fed on kosher soil
Blossoms a messianic flower, and then
Ripens into a kingdom crop, conserving
The fragrance and warmth of spring for winter use.
Holy Spirit, shake our family tree,
Release your ripened fruit to our outstretched arms.
I’d like to see my children sink their teeth
Into promised land pomegranates
And Canaan grapes, bushel gifts of God,
While I skip a grace rope to a Christ tune.
1 Samuel 15:22-23
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
Thoughts: Saul, the first king of Israel, did not know much about silence or listening to God. Like David, he was gifted, anointed, and a successful military/political leader. Yet we never see him seeking to be with God like David. In this passage, Samuel the prophet reprimands Saul for doing many religious acts (i.e. offering burnt offerings and sacrifices) but not quieting himself enough to listen, or “to heed” God (vs. 22).
“We all must take the time to be silent and to contemplate, especially those who live in big cities like London and New York, where everything moves so fast…I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence – we need to listen to God because it’s not what we say but what He says to us and through us that matters. Prayer feeds the soul – as blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul – and it brings you closer to God. It also gives you a clean and pure heart. A clean heart can see God, can speak to God, and can see the love of God in others.” ~ Mother Teresa
Question: How could you make more room in your life for silence in order to listen to God?
Prayer: De-clutter my heart, O God, until I am quiet enough to hear you speak out of the silence. Help me in these few moments to stop, to listen, to wait, to be still. to allow your presence to envelop me. In Jesus’ name, Amen
*From the Daily Office, Scazzaro
I have just returned from leading a 3 day Sacred Space retreat. My mind all abuzz with the epiphanies the retreatants were having, the God-moves that took place in the quiet corners of people’s soul, and the rhythm of the Divine Hours being practiced by the monks at the Abbey that we experienced as we quietly slipped in and out of their practice… receiving something they had no idea they were giving.
This morning, as my spirit honed in on this particular prayer to breathe into my soul, it seemed to speak about all that God was doing in and through the men and women who were at Sacred Space…read and pray this slowly and ask the Spirit to illuminate the parts that your heart needs…
Gracious and Holy One,
Creator of all things
and of emptiness,
I come to you
full of much that clutters and distracts,
stifles and burdens me,
and makes me a burden to others.
Empty me now
of gnawing dissatisfactions,
of anxious imaginings,
of fretful preoccupations,
of nagging prejudices,
of old scores to settle,
and of the arrogance of being right.
of the ways I unthinkingly think of myself as powerless,
as a victim,
as determined by sex, age, race,
as being less than I am,
or as other than yours.
of the disguises and lies
in which I hide myself from other people
and from my responsibility
for my neighbors and for the world.
Hollow out in me a space
in which I will find myself,
find peace and a whole heart,
a forgiving spirit and holiness,
the springs of laughter,
and the will to reach boldly
for abundant life for myself
and the whole human family.
This prayer is full of ruminatorial opportunities! (but I’ll focus on just one)
The line that first drew me in was, “Empty me now of…the arrogance of being right.”
I wondered, ‘
“what would happen in our lives if we took 30 days and decided that we would choose to be kind instead of fighting to prove that we are right?”
How would we handle the tension in our souls that worships the god of rightness more than the God of love.
Could I possibly see and believe that I can choose to be kind over being right without having to give up on what I believe…yes I think I could, but that would require a mind like Christ’s.
He was able to be 100% right in every situation when the people around Him were so lost and wrong, yet love and kindness flowed from His soul.
I often ask myself, “even if I prove myself to be absolutely right in this moment, does it really have an eternal significance?”
Most often it does not, and my need to be right can easily take second place to my call to be kind and demostrate love without really giving up anything that matters, and gain much that does through kindness.
Our need to always be right lurks in the shadows of most all conflict…
Our need to always be right reveals the insecurities that fill our identity…
Our need to always be right becomes a god that we fashion and dress in religiosity and truth justifications…
Our need to always be right keeps us from enjoying the people in our lives…
30 days…can you do it…will you allow yourself to enter into and feel and become aware of the tension that you are experiencing with a need to be right…
When you sense the Holy Spirit placing some Divine Duck Tape over your mouth again and again, let me encourage you to laugh and smile at yourself as you see how often you need to apply the filter. It’s okay, it is all a part of the process and journey of becoming, and on the way, your kindness just might unleash the soul of smeone who desperately needs it.
I am always on the search for great poems, verse, meditations or benedictions to use in group settings, teaching environments or personal reflection times with God. This week a ran across a benediction that really caught my heart. While I was not able to track it’s genesis, I think it strikes at the heart of what I long for in my own spiritual journey.
Reflect and enjoy,
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships. so that you may live deep withing your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitations of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
I Want To Stop Running: by Kenneth Phifer
Eternal God, you are a song amid silence,
A voice out of quietness,
A light out of darkness,
A presence in the emptiness,
A coming out of the void.
You are all of these things and more.
You are mystery that encompasses meaning,
Meaning that penetrates mystery.
You are God,
I am man.
I strut and brag.
I put down my fellows
And bluster out assertions of my achievements.
And then something happens:
I wonder who I am,
And if I matter.
I am alone in the dark and afraid.
I feel so powerless.
A child is born,
I am touched by the miracle of new life.
At such moments I pause…
To listen for a song amid silence,
A voice out of stillness,
To look for a light out of darkness.
I want to feel a Presence in the emptiness.
I find myself reaching for a hand.
Oftentimes, the feeling passes quickly,
And I am on the run again:
Success to achieve,
Money to make.
O Lord, you have to catch me on the run
Most of the time.
I am too busy to stop,
Too important to pause for contemplation.
I hold up too big a section of the sky
to sit down and meditate.
But even on the run,
An occasional flicker of doubt assails me,
And I suspect I may not be as important
To the world
As I think I am.
Jesus said each of us is important to you.
It is as if every hair of our heads were numbered.
How can that be?
But in the hope that it is so,
I would stop running,
And be myself.
Let me be still now.
Let me be calm.
Let me rest upon the faith that you are God,
And I need not be afraid.
(* from Kenneth Phifer’s book “A Book of Uncommon Prayer”)
There truly is not much for me to say about this prayer. The deep, heartfelt words paint a very real tapestry that many will instantly connect with.
When I first meditated on this prayer, I was at a monastery with some other pastors, and one line captured my attention more than any other:
“I hold up too big a section of the sky to sit down and meditate.”
Even now, those words roll over me and leave me feeling somewhat uneasy. I’m uneasy because that is very often how I feel. My biblical theology tells me that it is God who holds up the sky, but if that is so, why does so much of it seem to depend on me?
My practical theology tells me that it is impossible for me to hold up a big section of the sky, and that if I think I am, I need to let it go, but if that is true, why does it seem so many people and things really do depend on me?
We are forever in the catch-22 of monergism and synergism, how much is mine and how much is God’s. When we think that too much depends on us, we posses weary souls, tired feet, and frazzled emotions. When we think that too much depends on us, we create God in our own image. When we create God in our own image, there is no one left who is stronger than ourselves to lift us from the tangled web of living. When we think too much depends on us, our self-importance creates an ego that fills the universe, so of course there is no time to relate with a God who is smaller than we are.
Yet, in our over inflated bigness, Jesus still loves us, still calls us, still waits…
As he graciously reminds me of His power, passion, and presence, I relax, realizing He not only holds up all of the sky, but He made it too. Then I breathe the final words of the prayer:
“I would stop running, stop shouting, and be myself. Let me be still now. Let me be calm. Let me rest upon the faith that you are God, and I need not be afraid.”
God has your corner of the sky,
Morning is an opportunity for newness…possibilities…potentialities. If the night has brought you some sleep (hopefully!) and some closure to the previous day, we can enter into the fresh canvas of life that awaits with the morning dew. Practicing the night rhythm will dramatically improve your experience of encountering the rhythm of God in the morning!More often than not, our mornings become a rush of timed rituals to get us out of the door and onto the road. “Coffee…newspaper…shower…teeth…what to wear…coffee again…toast…work stuff…car keys…see ya later!”
There is a rhythm there, but the rhythm is chaotic and hurried…forced. The pulsating, resonating voice of God gets buried somewhere between the first cup of coffee and the news blaring from the speakers in your car as you scan traffic reports.
Establishing a centered morning rhythm will bring balance to your day, give you the ability to better deal with the stresses on the road, and in the workplace. Your morning rhythm, like the night rhythm, is nothing huge, overwhelming, or forced. The morning rhythm is allowing your first conscious breath to acknowledge that God is, and you belong to Him.
I like to start my morning rhythm while I am still in bed. As soon as I start to re-enter the world of stress and chaos, while my eyes are still heavy and the bed is still warm, the rhythm begins as I say, “Good morning Abba…it’s good to be with you…let’s make this day a work of art.”
While there are many rhythm tools (spiritual disciplines) that you can use to establish your morning rhythm, let me again encourage you to simply “be” with God.
Maybe you could keep some of these ongoing rhythm Scriptures on your bedside table so that you could begin your day with God even before your feet hit the ground. Or, if you have a moment to find a place to sit for a few minutes to create your day and how you would like it to go with God definitely do that!
Before I read a Psalm…I begin with simply centering my day with God. “Abba (Jesus’ choice of name for God the Father, it means daddy)…I belong to you.” Let God know the way you desire to react and respond to the demands of your day…the kind of person you want to be to those around you. Give God permission to get your attention throughout the day so that you can become what you desire.
After this, slowly read the Psalm and then listen for what God might say to you. You might experience a stillness filled with direction, or simply silence. There is no “right” outcome, only what is…so be grateful for the moment ad take it with you throughout the day. Here is a morning rhythm Psalm to add to your collection:
O God, you are my God,
for you I long;
for you my soul is thristing.
I long for you
like dry, weary land without water.
Give me your strength and your glory.
I wish to praise you all my life
fill my soul as with a banquet.
I cling to you;
hold me close in your hands.
May your day have the fingerprints of God all over it!