Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Formed by prayer

Each one of our seminary worship classes, we began with prayer and a hymn.  Yet, one of those days as the professor said the familiar words of "let us pray", he did not continue with the prayer.  Instead he had us stop and pay attention to what we did as we heard that opening request.  Like our days back in Sunday school, most of us bowed our heads, closed our eyes and clasped out hands together.

I've always suspected that some imaginative Sunday school teacher years ago came up with this posture of prayer for squirmy children - takes away all the distractions even its just for a brief moment.

For me, I don't remember ever "learning" this prayer posture.  It has always been a part of prayer - folded hands, closed eyes and bowed head.  This is how it is "supposed" to be done and it has been passed along for generations.

My seminary professor began the challenge about the postures not just in prayer, but in the ways in which we were to lead worship.  We don't make those gestures because we are supposed to, but because they engage us physically in our relationship with and worship of God.

Through a variety of retreats, spiritual direction sessions and other resources, I found my hands opening up, no longer clasped in front of me.  I was engaged by the image of the begging bowl.  It is said that these bowls were often employed by both early Franciscan and Buddhist monks to receive either alms or food for each day.  They relied on these gifts of charity in order to survive, trusting always in the goodness of those that they encountered.  In prayer, I will often cup my hands like a bowl, seeking the wealth of God's grace and love to sustain me daily.  It is a posture of reception.

Other physical postures of prayer include raising one's hands in praise towards God, kneeling in confession and supplication, laying down on the floor in submitting oneself fully to God and more.  These and many other physical gestures - small and large - engage our whole selves in the act of prayer.  These postures take prayer out of our heads and issue it forth with more than words from our lips.

A labyrinth moves our feet in prayer.  As we circle closer and farther away from the center, we see and experience the paths that our daily lives take in relationship with God.  The one that we are blessed to have here at Trinity is marked by scripture that guides our way and draws us closer in relationship with God.

For many of us,. as Lutherans, prayer often remains in our heads or in the words that are spoken by others.  Prayer is contained and controlled.  It begins a part of our inner life but isn't always revealed in our outer countenance.

Being formed in prayer invites us outside of ourselves and even our own comfort zones.  Think about the words that you use in prayer - what kind of gesture or posture does it elicit?  How might raising your hands or keeping  your eyes open when you pray change your prayer?

Let me know what you try or if  you think of  other ways in which you pray with your whole self.

p.s. This Sunday (Nov. 3rd, 6-8pm) during our Affirmation (Confirmation) Theme Event, we will be talking about and experiencing different ways to pray.  Rather than just talking about prayer, we will be using different ways to pray  - such as the labyrinth and more - to experience prayer in our daily lives.  We are inviting anyone who would like to participate to come!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Home away from Home?

My stepmother has an embroidered picture that was made by my grandmother (I believe).  It is the simple saying that "Home is Where Your Heart Is".  While I have a variety of thoughts and reflections on this saying from over the years - it has taken on a multitude of dimensions for me during the past 10 days.

Our home is a house in Danbury where we have 2 dogs (Cooper & Rose) and 2 cats (Mickey & Kaboodle).  It is a place where we find rest and comfort; where we make plans and take care of our day to day dealings.  It is a place that holds memories that we brought with us into this house and ones that have been formed within its walls.  It is a home where we have welcomed others and where we have spent time together.  It is  more than a house; it is a home and my heart resides there.

Since I last posted, I have found myself not in my own home, but in the hospital with my husband, Michael (check out the details of this week by going to www.caringbridge.org and visit the site for Michael Boyd).  This is not home in the  same way as the home that  we have established in Connecticut.  Yet this is home in that my husband is here and he is my home, the place where my heart is.  While many things are out of our control (getting rid of this infection, future of another lung transplant), we are able to hold fast to the love that God has entrusted to us to share with one another.  And this love is home. (a song that reminds me of this is "Home" by singer-songwriter Ellis Paul; you can listed to it on YouTube)

Yet,  home is not only here either.  It is with the community that is surrounding us with so many prayers, thoughts and support.  This home is spread out from NY to Maryland to Texas to North Carolina and beyond.  Home is the love that is holding us up.  Home is not a place, but relationships bound together.

Jesus says "let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you..." (John 14:1-2)

While we reflect most often on this text in relation to heaven or to some other worldly place of God's kingdom, I have been blessed to experience the dwelling places of God's love through all of these homes.    And when my heart is troubled (dramatically so in the past week), I look to the homes where my heart finds peace, comfort, rest and hope.  Christ has prepared these homes, these relationships to sustain me, us.

I may be away from our home in Danbury, but I am home, immersed in the dwelling place of Christ.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Re-formed again and again...

It's been ONE of those kind of weeks.  One, in this case, where I need to (re)learn and hear again to practice what I preach.  Don't you hate when that happens?!  When your own words - while not repeated verbatim - get shared with you in practice.

Its' been a tough week - no, not just week, really couple of months.  My husband Michael's health and breathing has been getting worse (abridged version: chronic rejection of lung transplant from over 18 years ago due to repeated infections and the like over at least the past 10 years has put us on that path for a 2nd transplant; needless to say, his breathing is diminishing bit by bit everyday).  Each day has presented its own challenges, but I have kept that "stiff upper lip" and been "strong" for him.  I have tried to keep some sense of normalcy - at least for me - each day.  But you can only keep that up for so long.

On Sunday afternoon, Michael got me to finally let my guard down and let all my fears and sorrow come rushing out.  While still feeling numb and with eyes red, we went to a dinner with some of our Affirmation (Confirmation) parents where I kept it together through dinner until our time drew to a close.  When I chose to share some of what was going on with Michael, the tears flowed again.  I was vulnerable with those who are often vulnerable with me.

The response was so affirming and supporting.  Hugs and tears were shared as their compassion washed over us.  So, first of all - thank you for your support, prayers and love - Sue, Irene, Charlie, Cyndi, John, Inez, Dawn, Debbie, Agnes, Kat, Albert, and Joy.  And thank you for reminding me - not just that I am human - but what it means to be a part of a community. 

It didn't just stop there - the ongoing support and response (from the offer of meals and cleaning among other things) continues.  I am especially thankful to Dawn for re-forming me during this time for a new and deeper appreciation for community and for this community in particular.

While pastors are "set apart" in this particular vocation we are still part of a community.  While I will often encourage others to allow friends and family to minister to them, I am not always good about letting others in to share the same with me.   Our humanity and vulnerability can be important to community building. 

I'm still (re) learning this - but for now, I thought I would share how I have begun to be (re)formed through all of this.

P.S. if any would like to follow Michael's progress, you can go to www.caringbridge.org and look up Michael Boyd