Am I Talking To Myself?

rita kowats:

Enjoy this post by Susan Pitchford. It is a helpful and informative tool for understanding prayer.

Originally posted on Susan Pitchford:

beach

All of us who pray have wondered, at some point, if we were talking to ourselves. According to a 2010 USA Today/Gallup poll, 92% of Americans believe in God, although other surveys show that for some this belief is not exactly rock-solid, and for others this “God” is really “something out there,” not necessarily the kind of loving, powerful Being who listens to prayers and helps us out. Still, in the 2010 poll, 83% of respondents said they believe that “God answers prayers.”

What people mean by that is probably at least as varied as what they mean by “God,” but here are a couple of options. First, if I pray for my Great-Aunt Matilda’s piles, I can conclude my prayer’s been answered if the next time I see her she’s in a better mood. This is God “answering” intercessory prayer, or to be precise, God answering yes

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Wearing Plain Clothes in My Heart

toddler at beach

 

 

I have lived in the realm of academia and spirituality all my life. It is lofty living and I have loved it, but in my retirement years it is time to come down from the loft more often if I want to learn the lessons which down-to-earth life has to offer me.  I do want to learn.

 

Yesterday was a bright, warm Puget Sound day and I had fixated on cooling off with an ice-cream drumstick.   Pulled by the vision of hot St. Louis summer afternoons when my Hungarian grandmother gave me a dime to get a pop sickle at the corner convenience store, I headed to the nearby 7-11.  Arriving at the door simultaneously was a curly red-haired giant of a youth who bounced in with me.  We both made a beeline to the ice-cream freezer and dissolved in giggles at the synchronicity of our meeting.   He gurgled with glee, “And they’re on sale two for $4.00!  I bought my drumstick and he exclaimed in disbelief, “Only one?  But they’re two for $4.00!”  “I know,” I replied, “But I shouldn’t eat one, let alone two.”  I continued on my way, grinning and wishing I had thought to buy two bars and give him one for a dollar.  The simple gift of joy exuding from this young man pulled me into that ordinary space of unadulterated, lavish hospitality.

When I settled into life at my 55+ community, life events drained me of the energy to pay attention to the tasty slivers of ordinary life served up on a daily basis.  Three years later I try to relish each morsel that presents itself.  This morning I was greeted in the coffee-room by Marge and Louise.  They both still work part-time.  Marge and her sons catered our Christmas brunch last year.  She shares treats baked by her aging hands and brought home to us on the bus.  Out at the entrance to the Blakely at 7:30 a.m. I sit with my coffee waiting for the parade of smokers and dog owners to begin.  First the smokers burst through the door.  They have created an enviable tight-knit community held together by need and exposure to the elements of heat and cold and driving rain.  Here come Victor and Jack.  It was such fun sharing the excitement of the Superbowl with them in our communal theatre a few months ago.  Often at 6:00 a.m. from my sixth floor window, I see Jack at the smokers’ bench sweeping around it.  Now come the dogs walking their owners.  Gordon’s prissy little Maltese urges him forward, but stops long enough to visit with a Shih Tzu tangled around its mom’s leg by its leash.  Joan comes by at walk’s end with her neighbor’s Dachshund/terrier mix.  She walks him because her neighbor is no longer able, but also because her own little companion has died.

The parade of life has stopped for now.  I honor the different paths it takes in my neighbors.  I am learning from the example of my Mennonite friends to wear plain clothes in my heart so I can see the plain truth of others and rejoice in it.  Lest you think that I have this down, I report that a daycare contingent of toddlers has just arrived with their caretakers in tow.  The toddlers are fine.  The caregivers are loudly interfering with every other move the children make and in between complain about the parenting habits of others.  This sliver of life fails to drawn me in.  Good-bye blissful beach.

 

 

Screen Saver

ego screens wout verse

 

 

When I lifted my pen from this endeavor I realized that I had just found a place to put my grief over the cultural genocide that is racism in the USA.

 

Screen Saver

We peer through ego-screens
at distorted images
of our own creation
waiting until it is safe to surface.

 

Shapes of perceived miscreants and heroes
Semblances of foreign countries and cultures
All hit the screen, running in rivulets
alongside the flattened essence of our own being:

 

Sacrilege.

 

 

A little Spark of Madness: Artists, Mystics and Misfits

 

seattle lighting thunder

 

As I take up pen today I see trees swaying with the wind that is bringing in more thunder and lighting, atypical of the Seattle area.  It’s hard to wait for the fireworks to commence because the built-up tension from ninety degree temperatures and high humidity also builds in me, seeking release.

The tension in the pending storm mirrors the tension that lives in me and in many of you as well.  We seek release from the horrors happening in our world.  We stagger in our beings, bouncing from Israel to Syria to Ukraine to Nigeria to Iraq and back again, with little respite from grief and rage.  Now life has become too much for Robin Williams.

Myriad media accounts have offered us much to ponder while emotion catches up to thought.  Most meaningful for me is this quote from Robin Williams, “You’re only given a little spark of madness.  You mustn’t lose it.”  What are we doing to our artists, and at what cost to our society?  That spark of madness lives in the foreground for artists, mystics and misfits of all varieties.  Their differences threaten a society which puts them into a cloven pine like Ariel in The Tempest, allowing them out only when a laugh or quick look into the soul is called for.  Never mind the price artists pay for unveiling their holy spark of madness.

How different our world could be if we released the voices of our conscience and consciousness from the faux safety of the cloven pine and treasured their humanity instead of the roles assigned to them.  In a society which valued the right-brain as much as the left-brain, and which taught its children to value it, war and suicide could become obsolete.  Thank you Robin Williams and all your tribe for showing us how to be human.

 

 

See-Through-Church on a Hill Outside of Brussels, Belgium                         AP Photo

See-Through-Church on a Hill Outside of Brussels, Belgium
AP Photo

 

Today we hear in the news of the demise of an evangelical megachurch founder and pastor, Mark Driscoll.  Mars Hill Church is located in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle WA, northwest coast of the USA. The “ungodly and disqualifying behavior” he is accused of is using church money to promote his book which denigrates women. It appears that his ministry is about promoting himself rather than true gospel values.  American Evangelicals are not noted for publicly raising consciousness about the beliefs and behavior of their own church, but members of this church have come out strong, questioning Driscoll’s practices, especially his beliefs and treatment of women as second-class citizens.  I find this very encouraging and it gives me a reason to respect them.

I came across this photo of a see-through-church after having read about Driscoll, and it hit me powerfully that what we really do need is see-through places of worship.  A “What you see is what you get” policy would go a long way toward trust that furthers the ministry of every congregation.  True community does not allow a loose cannon to dominate its life.  I applaud the members of this church who stood up.

http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2014/08/08/evangelism-network-to-mark-driscoll-step-down-and-seek-help/#25601101=0

Dealing With Chronic Illness: A Spiritual Practice

bxccbghzplhcgsrasumofm.com Phoenix Rising 2

 

 

My favorite version of the legend of the Phoenix has it resurrecting from the marrow of its own bones…again and again and again.  That is what it is like living with a serious illness that has no cure in sight.  It’s always there.  Like the Phoenix rising from its own bone marrow, those with disease have to invent creative ways to deal with it.  I offer the following spiritual practice.

We cannot displace the physical disease, so this is a way to spiritually displace the dis-ease it causes for a time so that we can change our focus to life-giving activity:

Begin by placing a vessel on an altar with a candle beside it.  This vessel will hold your dis-ease for as long as you intend.  Calm yourself with music, breathing, or whatever way helps you.  Say:

 

I accept that this dis-ease is within me.
(Pause and let the feelings catch up with your mind.)

 

I acknowledge that I cannot displace it physically.  It is here for the duration.
(Pause)

 

I promise to make every possible effort to aid my body in coping with this dis-ease.
(Pause)

 

Acknowledging that the ego-presence of this dis-ease is not the same as the disease itself, I put it in this vessel and place it on my altar.  May my mind be free of its hold on me for ________ (for however long you need.)  May I receive the grace to create ease in my body and soul for this time.

 

I place my dis-ease in my nautilus shell each morning and I find that it does help me to shift my focus for a time.  If I am finding it hard to cope during the day I will revisit the meditation.  It really does feel like I am reaching into the marrow of my bones and pulling myself up again.  I hope that this is helpful.  Peace to you.

nautilaus shell on altar

 

 

Photo Credit:  bxccbghcgsrasumofm.com “Phoenix Rising”

Dealing With Chronic Illness: A Spiritual Practice for Endurance

bxccbghzplhcgsrasumofm.com Phoenix Rising 2

 

 

My favorite version of the legend of the Phoenix has it resurrecting from the marrow of its own bones…again and again and again.  That is what it is like living with a serious illness that has no cure in sight.  It’s always there.  Like the Phoenix rising from its own bone marrow, those with disease have to invent creative ways to deal with it.  I offer the following spiritual practice.

We cannot displace the physical disease, so this is a way to spiritually displace the dis-ease it causes for a time so that we can change our focus to life-giving activity:

Begin by placing a vessel on an altar with a candle beside it.  This vessel will hold your dis-ease for as long as you intend.  Calm yourself with music, breathing, or whatever way helps you.  Say:

 

I accept that this dis-ease is within me.
(Pause and let the feelings catch up with your mind.)

 

I acknowledge that I cannot displace it physically.  It is here for the duration.
(Pause)

 

I promise to make every possible effort to aid my body in coping with this dis-ease.
(Pause)

 

Acknowledging that the ego-presence of this dis-ease is not the same as the disease itself, I put it in this vessel and place it on my altar.  May my mind be free of its hold on me for ________ (for however long you need.)  May I receive the grace to create ease in my body and soul for this time.

 

I place my dis-ease in my nautilus shell each morning and I find that it does help me to shift my focus for a time.  If I am finding it hard to cope during the day I will revisit the meditation.  It really does feel like I am reaching into the marrow of my bones and pulling myself up again.  I hope that this is helpful.  Peace to you.

nautilaus shell on altar

 

 

Photo Credit:  bxccbghcgsrasumofm.com “Phoenix Rising”

labyrinth

Old Wounds

labyrinthWe have all been treated unjustly in our lives.  We deal with it squarely, analyze the situation, feel the feelings, sort through what is real and what is not, confront it if we can and move on.  And those times come back to haunt us.  This poem emerged from an invitation today to return to them:

 

Old Wounds

 

 

* Short story by Ernest Hemmingway, perhaps about hospitality.

photo credit: Yavuz Alper via photopin cc

 

The Daily News

Pacifism is work     Today I struggle with news coming out of so many parts of our world, and I am at a loss for words.  The best I can do is offer this prayer:

Creative Energy
Take hold of us and shake us loose
From boundaries that separate us
From one another.
Give us the courage to let go
And do the hard work of peace.
Amen.

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  NASA Space Photos CD #137 Ultraviolet Light Source from an Old Galaxy

 

 

Soul Storms: The Irradiance of Spirit

aurora borealis in Norway Many moments of synchronicity lately have focused my attention on the phenomenon of the aurora borealis.  One short film from the PBS film festival left me gasping from the beauty of it all.  The film is entitled, “I Am the Aurora Hunter.”  http://video.pbs.org/video/2365129081/.  I have embedded another video below of the Northern Lights in Alaska. To grow spiritually, we must be brave enough to expose ourselves to a powerful wind which can shake loose the static energy of our souls and free us to make a holy collision with the auras of our souls.   The Book of Genesis pulls us into the vortex of the creation story with a description of “a mighty wind sweeping over the waters” (Gen. 1:2).  The Hebrew word for wind in this passage is ruah, which refers to Spirit and wind interchangeably.  This mighty wind has hovered over our universe since before time, waiting for opportunities to collide with us.  Just as geomagnetic storms can expand the zone of the aurora borealis to lower altitudes, the Wind of the Spirit can snatch us up when conditions are optimal. The aurora borealis is most vivid at the equinoxes and we are most conductive of spiritual energy when our lives are in balance.  This autumn equinox (Sept. 23) hold a promise of vivid cascading aurora for me if I stay faithful to my practice of watching which way the wind is blowing.   Photo Credit: hoto credit: Håkon Iversen Photog – On and off Flickr via photopin cc