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Contemplative Prayer Meditations

Meditations from the Thursday Morning Contemplatitive Prayer Group

Three Gratitudes

Every night before I go to sleep

I say out loud

Three things that I’m grateful for,

All the significant, insignificant

Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.

It’s a small practice and humble,

And yet, I find I sleep better

Holding what lightens and softens my life

Ever so briefly at the end of the day.

Sunlight, and blueberries,

Good dogs and wool socks,

A fine rain,

A good friend,

Fresh basil and wild phlox,

My father’s good health,

My daughter’s new job,

The song that always makes me cry,

Always at the same part,

No matter how many times I hear it.

Decent coffee at the airport,

And your quiet breathing,

The stories you told me,

The frost patterns on the windows,

English horns and banjos,

Wood Thrush and June bugs,

The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond,

An old coat,

A new poem,

My library card,

And that my car keeps running

Despite all the miles.

And after three things,

More often than not,

I get on a roll and I just keep on going,

I keep naming and listing,

Until I lie grinning,

Blankets pulled up to my chin,

Awash with wonder

At the sweetness of it all.

Carrie Newcomer

A Friendship Blessing

May you be blessed with good friends,
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.

May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.

May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
May they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth, and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated. May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam cara.

From Anam Cara  (Soul Friend in Gaelic), John O’Donohue

Reading from Richard Rohr

Being part of the cosmic dance can only be known experientially. That’s why centering prayer and contemplation as well as meaningful religious rituals and practices are important: to lead to a place of nakedness and vulnerability where your identity falls away, where your explanations don’t mean anything, where your superiority doesn’t matter.

You have to sit there in your naked who-ness. If God wants to get to you, and the Trinity experience wants to come alive within you, these liminal moments are when God has the very best chance.

As we “tune our hearts” [1] to greater perception, we’ll begin to experience God almost like a force field, to borrow a metaphor from physics. We’re all alreadyinside this force field, whether we know it or not, alongside Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and every race and nationality. God doesn’t stop or begin at the Mexico/U.S. border, the Israel/Palestine border, the border between North and South Korea, or any such line in the sand. The divine force field is all-encompassing.

When you see people protecting their small tribes and self-constructed identities as if they were lasting or inherently meaningful, you know that they’ve not yet experienced substantial reality. When you allow the flow of substantial reality through your life, you are a catholic person in the truest sense of the word, a universal person living beyond these tiny boundaries that human beings love to create. As Paul puts it, “Our citizenship is in heaven”(Philippians 3:20).

As I grow older, faith for me has become a daily readiness to allow and to trust the force field, knowing that it is good, that it’s totally on my side, and that I’m already inside of it. How else can I really be at peace?

Let this prayer resonate in you:

God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me.
Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see you in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
Amen. (So be it.)

Gateway to Silence:
In the love of God, the peace of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit

Psalm 15A Song of the Refugee

Protect me Lord, for I have fled, a refugee, to you,
And as I fled, I said, “Lord, you are my God, I have no other good but you....
There are other refugees like me, and these I love as well;
though poor, they are the noble-wise, and rich upon the earth.
And yet so many [others] simply love....their made-up gods, which only complicate their troubled lives.
So let me never sacrifice my life to these, nor offer them the flattery of empty praise.
But let me offer up the cup of life for you to fill, and hold my life in yours as I hold you,
For I live this life you’ve made as your own land in which I dwell.
It is inheritance for me, a gift from you that I may use.
And I am here to listen to your counsel, Lord, your inner teachings of the heart. Day after day, night after night, you speak through everything.
You are the prize of life, the goal, the hidden good.
You take my hand in yours and hold me up, And fill my heart to overflowing.
This body-mind, this spirit, all are yours, and each part finds a place to rest in you.
And even at the grave, I am not abandoned there, nor ever left alone.
From birth to death you are the path I walk upon, and you’re the guide who leads me through and far beyond, into your Presence, Lord, right next to you, which fills me full, my highest joy, my purest good.

(from Ancient Songs Sung Anew: The Psalms as Poetry by Lynn C. Bauman)

Start Close In

Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Start with the ground you know, the pale ground beneath your feet, your own way of starting the conversation. Start with your own question, give up on other people’s questions, don’t let them smother something simple. To find another’s voice, follow your own voice, wait until that voice becomes a private ear listening to another. Start right now take a small step you can call your own don’t follow someone else’s heroics, be humble and focused, start close in, don’t mistake that other for your own. Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.

David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems

The Peace of God

May the peace of God be with you. I do not know what you face. I do not know what you have been through or what awaits you still. But I do know that your heart hopes for strength, your mind seeks for answers, your soul longs for the companionship that only faithful friends can offer. May God’s strong arm hold you up. May God’s wisdom guide you. May God’s good people come to stand beside you. Take this prayer with you. Let it rest quietly in your spirit, come what may. Let it be what you most need it to be: the peace of God within you.

Steven Charleston, Cloud Walking: A Spiritual Journal, Oklahoma City, OK: Red Moon Publications, 2013

In the stillness I wait, in the stillness I listen, patient in prayer, riding deep currents of faith across an empty sea,sailing beneath a peaceful moon, out to where life becomes lights, distant and without worry.

However hectic your life may seem, however pressured or burdened, I will always have room to carry your soul passenger on my late night voyages.

Be at rest today, be comforted and sustained, for every evening an aging sailor sets sail to take your hopes to heaven, sailing out into the stillness, far beyond the shores of cluttered time, beneath a peaceful moon.

Be at rest today, be comforted and sustained.

Steve Charleston, Cloud Walking

Advent Prayer: ‘Roofer’

But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
They went up on the roof
And lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
Into the middle in front of Jesus.
Luke 5:19

The roofers teach us what friendship is all about. Friends who do not get struck in self-interest and status but find joy in lifting one another up.
Friends who are the first to pick up another’s mat and carry another when he or she is wounded and broken – without having to asked.
Friends who readily offer all that they have – and readily accept those gifts from others with joy and gratitude.
Friends who stand with one another at both their crosses and resurrections.

At this time of year, we are especially aware of the gift of friends – those individuals who have traveled the miles with us, offering their compassion and support, seeking nothing in return.

Advent 2007 - Waiting in Joyful Hope

Blessing

Now, May you dance through life as if no one were watching you.
May you love as if you've never been hurt before.
May you sing out loud as if no one were listening to you.
May you live each and every day of your life as if it were your last.
And may the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always!

—Amen.

In Christ's Love,
 The Rev. Mark W. Kelm

Every day, exercise your heart by taking in life's little pains and joys—that kind of exercise will make your heart supple, so that when it breaks, (and it surely will,) it will break not into a fragments grenade, but into a greater capacity for love.

Parker Palmer

The rule teaches that if we take control of our lives,
if we are intentional and careful in how we spend the hours of each irreplaceable day,
if we discipline ourselves to live in a balanced and thankful way,
we will create from our experiences, whatever they may be, the best possible life.

The First Rule

The first rule is simply this:
live this life
and do whatever is done,
in a spirit of Thanksgiving.

Abandon attempts to achieve security,
they are futile,

give up the search for wealth,
it is demeaning,

quit the search for salvation,
it is selfish,

and come to the comfortable rest
in the certainty that those who
participate in this life
with an attitude of Thanksgiving
will receive its full promise.

Always We Begin Anew, John Mcquiston

Blessed

Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for those are with whom Jesus chose to surround himself.
Blessed are those without documentation.
Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
Blessed are foster kids and trophy kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Blessed are they who know there has to be more than this. Because they are right.
Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.
Blessed are the kindhearted NFL players and the fundraising trophy wives.
Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed are they who hear that they are forgiven. ...
Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it.

Nadia Bolz-Weber

Writings of St. Clare of Assisi

Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world which passes like a shadow. Do not let the false delights of a deceptive world deceive you.

Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!...And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation! So that you too may feel what His friends feel as they taste the hidden sweetness that God Himself has reserved from the beginning for those who love Him.

Always be lovers of God and [lovers of] your souls and the souls of your Sisters [and Brothers], and always be eager to [practice] what you have promised the Lord.

Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, translation and introduction by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM, and Ignatius C. Brady, OFM (New York: Paulist Press, 1982).

…. Father, praise you, with all …. my brothers,
and …. give voice to my own heart and to my own silence.
We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices.
You have made us together,
you have made us one and many,
you have placed me here in the midst
as witness, as awareness, and as joy.

Here I am.
In me the world is present,
and you are present.
I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.
You have made me a kind of center,
but a center that is nowhere.
And yet also I am “here.”

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 131-132

Making Space

Being silent means waiting, waiting
for the Other
to say something to us.

Being silent before God
means making room for God,
to breathe in the will of God,
to listen attentively...

The time of silence
is a time of responsiveness
and of blessedness,
a time when we live in the peace of God.

“For God alone my soul in silence waits.”

Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

O fiery Spirit, come burn in us.
O sacred breathe, come breath in us.
O blazing love, come flame in us.
O balm of the heart, come heal in us.
O fount of courage, come spring in us.
O mirror of God, come shine in us.
O current of power, come flow in us.
O teacher of all, come teach in us.
O sweet song of praise, come sing in us.
O delight of life, come live in us.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Poem of the One World
 


This morning

the beautiful white heron

was floating along above the water
 
and then into the sky of this

the one world

we all belong to
 
where everything

sooner or later

is a part of everything else
 
which thought made me feel

for a little while

quite beautiful myself.
 
 

Mary Oliver 
   

The Summer Day

Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Today I claim a Jubilee for all who carry a burden in their heart.
In the Bible days of old the Jubilee was a time when debts would be forgiven
What you owed was erased, the loan of all sorrow paid in joy.
While I cannot proclaim my jubilee for a year, I can invite you to join in it for a day.
Live this day without regret.
Live the freedom of redemption.
Feel the lightness of life without guilt, the open air of a pure conscience.
Walk with me the path of Jubilee,
The experience of a love whose forgiveness set the soul to sing.

Steve Charleston, Cloud Walking

Thomas Merton once said that of all the violence in our world, perhaps the greatest violence is that of our busy, everyday lives.
Have you ever stopped and reflected on your movements, gesticulations and actions over the last 30 minutes or so? How often we prove jerky, jumpy, fidgety – not to mention distracted or obsessed. Our lives, in and out of our homes, are tedious. Our lives, in and out of our heads, are frenetic.
Both physically and mentally. One writer has described the thoughts of the human brain as monkeys jumping from branch to branch in the jungle.
From all of that, we need to withdraw. We need to rest our bodies on a retreat or a vacation; even more often, we need to rest our minds and hearts in prayer.
The mystic Julian of Norwich said the essence of prayer is rest.
Not talk, but rest. Like Christ, we can face more than we realize when we withdraw, kneel, and rest with God.
Lord, in your silence and quietness, I rest.

Thomas Merton, From Forward Day by Day

We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong.

But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite.

Grace, my friends, demands nothing form us but that we await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude...

See! That which we have chose in given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and grace have met together, and rightousness and bliss have kissed one another.

From the General’s Dinner Table Speech, Babette’s Feast, Isak Dinesen

Our conception of Christ colors our whole life; it informs everything that we touch with its spirit; it makes us what we are.....

Our sense becomes more sensitive; our sympathies stronger; our capacity for giving and receiving greater; our minds are more radiant with a burning light, and the light is the light of Christ....

Light's glory is to dispel darkness. Christ has illumined you with wisdom and the fire of his presence. It has been sparked and kindled in you. Let it blaze.

Caryll Houselander, A Child in Winter: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander

Now the Work of Christmas Begins
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
Every day, in every way, in all that we do
and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

Now the Work of Christmas Begins composed by Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.

In its brief course lie all

the realities and truths of existence

the joy of growth
the splendor of action

the glory of power.

For yesterday is but a memory

And tomorrow is only a vision.

But today well lived
makes every yesterday a memory
of happiness

and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day....
 

ancient Sanskrit poem

Autumn

The plants in the garden are giving their all. Stems and leaves surrender their energy to fruiting. The days are shorter, the air cooler. Autumn is a ripeness, an urgency to complete, to go to fruit and seed, to give to the future. Our lives, too, must be allowed to mature, to be able to give to others. We do not bear fruit for ourselves. We bear fruit for life itself....

Now the leaves are turning tawny or burning red and bright with gold. The joy of completion blazes in every direction. Fulfillment demands that we let go. It is a strange paradox that fulfillment is so much about surrender. We must fall into unknowing again [and again and again]....Then [this letting go] can be felt as the greatest fruit....

(from A Mystic Garden: Working with Soil, Attending to Soul by Gunilla Norris, NY: BlueBridge, 2006.)
Edited by Patricia Blakely

Every once in awhile in our lives, we come to one of those so-called thin places where the barriers between this life and the next are not impenetrable. If we are wise or lucky enough to be paying attention, we will glimpse reality in its grander dimensions.....

In holding a precious child or grandchild, a wave of emotion sweeps over you, and you are holding your daughter, your mother is holding you. God is in your arms and God is your arms.

Thin Places, John Bellaimy, Sermon 8-14-2011

What the Prairie Teaches Us

The prairie, although plain, inspires awe. It teaches us that grandeur can be wide as well as tall.

Young prairie plants put down deep roots first, only when these have been established do the plants invest much energy in growth above the ground. They teach us that the work that matters doesn't always show....

The prairie is tolerant. There are thousands of species of living things on the prairie, but few of them are natives. the prairie has welcomed strangers of every kind and has borrowed ideas from all its neighboring communities . In doing so, it has discovered how to flourish in a harsh place. The prairie teaches us to see the virtue of ideas not our own and the possibilities that newcomers bring...

The prairie is bountifully utilitarian. But it is lovely too, in a thousand ways and in a million details, many of them so finely wrought that one must drop to one's knees to appreciate them. This is what, over all else, the prairie teaches us: there need be no contradiction between utility and beauty.

Paul Gruchow, Grass Roots: The University of Home, MPLS. Milkweed Editions 1995

The Lord's Prayer

Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen

from New Zealand Prayer Book

I Have Decided

I have decided to find myself a home in the mountains, somewhere high up where one learns to live peacefully in the cold and the silence. It’s said that in such a place certain revelations may be discovered. That what the spirit reaches for may be eventually felt, if not exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I’m not talking about a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings

Be renewed in your spirit now; let this prayer lift you up,
let it restore your strength and your energy, filling your
soul with fresh hope, opening your vision to see the wonder
that is life. Be renewed in every part of your life; in mind
and body and faith, so that the heaviness of your labor grows
light, the waiting passes quickly, the problems suddenly seem
so much smaller. Be renewed in your heart: knowing that the
Spirit is with you, that angels walk beside you, that God is
opening doors and calling you to follow. This is the time of
your next birth, the passing from gray to light, the touch of a
holy hand that will empower you with its anointing.

Prayer of St. Augustine (B. 354, D. 430)

God of life,
There are days when the burdens we carry
chafe our shoulders and wear us down;
when the road seems dreary and endless.
the skies gray and threatening;
when our lives have no music in them and
our hearts are lonely, and
our souls have lost their courage.
Flood the path with light, we beseech you;
turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise.
Amen

ARROWS OF LIGHT
A SPIRITUAL DIARY

Ordinary day

An ordinary day, nothing special,
no big events planned, nothing on the calendar,
not going anywhere, doing anything.
Resist the temptation to think of it as dull.
Renounce the desire to be entertained.
This is a day you are needed:
to be attentive, to listen deeply,
to give God some loving company,
to extend loving mercy to the world.
Enter the monastery of your life.
Let the whole day be prayer and praise,
a meditation on the presence of God.
Let every ordinary thing you do,
the meeting, lunch, and the dishes,
be an act of devotion, of becoming light.
Let this day be holy, a gift from God,
and be deeply present to every bit.
Thank God that this grace is the usual thing.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Six Recognitions of the Lord, No. 6

Every summer the lilies rise
and open their white hands until they almost
cover the black waters of the pond. And I give
thanks but it does not seem like adequate thanks,
it doesn't seem
festive enough or constant enough, nor does the
name of the Lord or the words of thanksgiving come
into it often enough Everywhere I go I am
treated like royalty, which I am not. I thirst and
am given water. My eyes thirst and I am given
the white lilies on the black water. My heart
sings but the apparatus of singing doesn't convey
half what it feels and means. In spring there's hope,
in fall the exquisite, necessary diminishing, in
winter I am as sleepy as any beast in its
leafy cave, but in summer there is
everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts,
the hospitality of the Lord and my
inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body
through this water-lily world.

(from THIRST: POEMS BY MARY OLIVER, Boston: Beacon Press, 2006

Christ Has No Body Now On Earth But Yours

Christ has no body now in earth but yours,
No hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world.
Yours are the feet with which He
Is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He
Is to bless men now.

St. Teresa of Avila, Medieval Spanish Carmelite mystic