Category Archives: centering prayer

Learning Patience in an Anxious Time

The novelty of our current stay-at-home routine has worn off.  Though most Americans agree that “social distancing” makes sense for curbing the spread of the Coronavirus, we all yearn to reconnect with our family, friends, and congregation members.  We are tired of being cooped up in our homes, tired of business restrictions, tired of doing everything on line. We desire social touch and social interaction.  We yearn to be back in our church building, singing hymns and drinking coffee with our friends.  We want the pandemic OVER!

But yearning, desires and wants do not always line-up with reality.  We might all wish for the pandemic to end, but the virus will not magically go away on its own.  The vast majority of public health officials agree that the pandemic will ebb and flow over the coming months.  Now I am NOT a scientist and I am not a public health official, but as a pastor I know that the pandemic has caused wide-spread anxiety in our community.  The future has suddenly become very unclear and potentially dangerous.  Many people have lost their jobs and sources of income.  Others are totally isolated in their houses or apartments.

Every day I pray the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr.  It starts with the familiar words, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  But the prayer has so much more – see the whole prayer here.   One line in particular stands out to me, “taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.”  This is a call for patience.

person-people-kid-child-baby-conversation-155669-pxhere.com-1

Photo from PxHere

Patience is the wonderful ability to live in the present moment without feeling compelled to rush forward to something else.   You see patience in fishermen who are slowly and methodically casting their line into the deep in search of the big one.   Or in a scientist who is focused on researching the corona-virus in search of a treatment or vaccine.  Or in a mother who is sitting with her children and teaching them the first steps in reading.  They might want to rush forward to the landed fish or the completed vaccine or the skillful reader, but they know that to accomplish their goal they need to be patient in their daily tasks.  They cannot jump ahead, taking shortcuts that sabotage the results.

Patience is one of the Christian virtues that we are exhorted to embrace.

Gal. 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness.

Col. 1:11-12 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Patience is not a part of our present world culture.  We want instant gratification.  We can buy on credit what we want now.  We expect instant answers, quick results, and fast turn-arounds.  We want the pandemic over NOW.

Is it possible that in this Great Pause, God is teaching us to stop our frantic, driven way of life and calling us to patiently grow deeper in our love of God and each other?   Is it possible that at the heart of this storm is God, patiently calling us to trust and love?   God is in the NOW, in this moment, in “this sinful world” as Niebuhr states in the Serenity Prayer.  Jesus promised, “Remember, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

One way that I grow in patience is through Centering Prayer, a Christian form of meditation.  I sit quietly in silence each morning and evening for 20 minutes, with the sole intention of relinquishing my life, my desires, and my control to God. I have written about Centering Prayer here and here

There are four simple (yet challenging) steps to Centering Prayer.

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
  2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
  3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

This spiritual practice has strengthened and nourished my love of God while also manifesting the fruit of the Spirit such as patience in my daily life.  If you want to learn more about Centering Prayer try contemplativeoutreach.org or please contact me below.

What are practices that have strengthened your patience?

Work and Wait

man wearing blue scrub suit and mask sitting on bench

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

The Divide

Right now there is a tremendous divide in our nation as together we face the COVID-19  pandemic.  Those who work and those who wait.

The Essential Work

Many millions of people are overwhelmed and overworked: doctors, nurses, and other health care workers; public health officials and scientists, government leaders and grocery clerks, mask producers and delivery drivers. A member of my congregation cleans the local hospital’s ICU and she is worried and burdened by the challenges she sees.  They are our front-line workers in the desperate battle to mitigate and eventually end the pandemic.

They need our prayers and unwavering support.

Almighty God, we call out to you for help.  Your children are being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bring strength, compassion, and hope to all who are working day and night to stop this pandemic. Guide our leaders with your wisdom.  Empower the nations to work together.   We cannot do this without your grace and power.  Amen.

The Essential Wait

Yet as millions work and work to find a way through this pandemic, tens of millions are at home not sure what to do.  I am writing this post primarily for those who are staying home, waiting for the pandemic to pass,    And waiting is so hard.

As Americans we hate to wait.  Our culture values action, doing, and productivity.   We are measured by what we accomplish.    We become restless if we don’t have something to do.   We want instant gratification and satisfaction.  We hate to wait.

But now so many must wait.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this is our opportunity to learn how to wait?  How to simply be?

Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.  (Isaiah 40:31)

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

Be still and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10)

Rather than learning to wait and be patient, many of us are practicing panic, worry, and anxiety.  We become overly saturated with news and information.   We succumb to despair rather than abide in hope.

Many spiritual practices that can help in the waiting.  Scripture study and meditation is one; hymn singing and chanting is another.  Many are finding new ways to volunteer, even in this season of social distancing.

The practice that I have embraced in recent years is Centering Prayer, a form of Christian meditation that I practice daily.   I have written about this in other posts of my blog: here and here.   You can also learn more at Contemplative Outreach.  The practice of Centering Prayer deepens my trust in God and continues to transform my life from the inside out.

Perhaps this is your season to begin such a practice?  In the next week or two I will be starting an online centering prayer group though the online Meditation Chapel.   I will have more information in the coming days on this blog.

Centering Prayer will not be an instant pacifier.  But it can help you learn to wait and stay calm as the present storm intensifies.

How are you handling this time of waiting?

 

Hide and Seek with God

Andrew_peekingWhen my children (and now grandchildren) were small, a favorite game we played was hide-and-seek.  One of us would close our eyes and count while the others scattered through the house to hide.   The basement closet, the upstairs bathroom, under the bed – no room was off-limits.  The seeker would search every room, look behind every door to find the hidden ones.  If I was hiding, I sometimes would make special shouts – “Ookookachoo” – to help them in their search.  We would all squeal with delight when the hidden were found and then a new person would close their eyes and start to count.

When I was a child I imagined God was playing an ongoing game of hide and seek with me.  I knew that God was somewhere in the house but that he was hidden in some way and that I had to find him.  If I prayed long enough, or studied the right scriptures or behaved the right way, God would suddenly pop out of his hiding place and we would embrace.  I experienced moments of shared spiritual intimacy and wonderful joy, but then, in a moment, God was hidden again.

In this season of COVID-19 pandemic, one might think God is hidden, beyond our normal sight lines.  Our regular practice of gathering for worship has been interrupted.  The comforting taste of Holy Communion and church coffee has been locked away.  The familiar sounds of congregational songs are silent.   We sit alone searching on our computer screens for the hidden God.

Yet what the Bible teaches and what my contemplative prayer practice affirms is that God is always present, especially in the suffering of life.   When the great leader Moses died, his young protégé, Joshua was called to lead the people into their promise land.   Joshua was frightened by the unknown challenges ahead.  In that moment of uncertainty, God spoke to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)  God did not magically remove Joshua’s obstacles (nor our pandemic) but God gives us courage and strength to walk through the challenges, the fears, and even death itself.

What I am learning -and it is a life-long process- is that God is not hidden, but rather I am the one who has closed my mind and heart to the God.  She is always with me.  And the ironic thing is that it is often when I close my eyes, quiet my racing mind, and open my heart in centering prayer, I hear the still small voice of God shouting, “I am here, I am always here.”

Be strong and courageous, friends.