Tag Archives: faith sharing

God-prayer-meditation

Spending time with God

In 1995, two friends and I started a faith-sharing group. We began with the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and we made a commitment to spend an hour every day in prayer and meditation. We got together once a week to share what God was saying to us during that daily hour of prayer.

My yes to this commitment was monumental because I had resisted setting aside a regular time for daily prayer and meditation. I was one of those people who said that my prayer life was more fluid and the idea of setting limits—fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, an hour—every day would limit the Spirit. I believed that, too.

Until 1995 when I actually tried it. “Mea culpa,” I said to Sister Ann, one of the people who had suggested this practice to me. She was right; I was wrong.

It turned out that setting aside time for prayer every day did not inhibit the Spirit and actually opened me up to being more present to God throughout the day. It was as if that time each morning predisposed me toward God.God-prayer-meditationI both like and dislike those kinds of insights. Admitting I am wrong did not come easily to me when I was young. (And although I am still not much of a fan, I have had lots of practice owning up to my mistakes, and it comes a bit easier now.)

So, since 1995, I have set aside an hour each morning for prayer and meditation. I journal, read scripture, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. I call to mind the people who have asked me to pray for them and allow space for God to bring others to mind. I ponder the words and images that catch my attention and sit silently with whatever the hour brings.

In the beginning, I would sometimes find myself looking at the clock, but other days the hour would fly by. It turned out I had a lot to say to God—and God had a lot to say to me, too.God-prayer-meditationI came to cherish that quiet time each morning and eventually got to the point where I could not imagine my day without it.

Sometimes, there seem to be no new insights, just an hour spent in silence; then I would remind myself that no hour devoted to God is ever wasted.

One hour a day, 365 days a year for more than 22 years—that’s a whole lot of hours.

I could have done something else with that time—watched the morning news, cleaned my house, etc.—but I believe my life would be the poorer for it.

I am grateful for my friend Steve, who first suggested praying the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and I often say a prayer of gratitude for his wisdom and guidance. Steve died in 2013, but I still feel his presence during my morning prayer.God-prayer-meditation

 

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Getting ready for Christmas

As I have been preparing for Advent, the word “fast” keeps coming to me. I tend to associate fasting with Lent, but I cannot seem to shake this invitation to fast.

This Advent feels different from the past few; I think because I am out of the fog of grief that shrouded this season for the last three years. This year, I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas, and I want to be fully alive and alert for opportunities to give and receive.

I have been pondering the things that keep me from being fully alive and alert, the things that occupy my time and energy without profit. Probably at the top of the list is watching television.

Although I watch less television than the national average, every time I find myself watching a mindless sitcom—or even worse, a rerun of a mindless sitcom—I know I am wasting precious time, minutes and hours I cannot get back.

My awareness of the preciousness of time keeps growing. Last week, I attended the funeral of a friend who was only twenty-six years old. Justin was healthy, and I had no expectation that his time on earth was coming to an end; but he died while out for a run.

At his funeral, I was deeply aware of how well he had used his time; although he had only been in Detroit for fifteen months, the church was full. Hundreds of people had been touched by this kind, thoughtful young man, and we came together to celebrate his life and share our grief.

Justin was serious about his spiritual journey and committed to service. He loved to read and was fond of suggesting titles that had helped him make progress on his path to God. He was passionate about God and his faith, and his commitment always challenged me to review my own spiritual life and my level of passion for sharing my faith.

Even before Justin’s death, though, I had been aware of this invitation to fast. Since my move, I have felt a bit off-kilter and only slowly have I begun to feel more myself. I have started to do things that have always been important to me like baking, knitting and sewing. But my life still looks so different from how it did four years ago.

One big difference is the amount of time I spend writing. For a number of years, I ghost-wrote reflection pieces for a priest friend—my first foray into publishing. Once I started writing down my ideas, it seems my brain kicked into overdrive, with new ideas popping into my mind almost every day.

Taking the time to write down these reflections seems to be a better use of my time than watching mindless television. Fasting from sitcoms might be a good start to help me get ready for Christmas. I can spend that time in prayer, reading books on spirituality and writing. Maybe I will even knit some Christmas gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

Permission

A friend was telling me about her book group and the deep level of sharing that happens among the participants. She established this group with the idea of getting people to reflect on their life experiences around contemporary issues, and she selects books that foster personal reflection.

As she spoke, I remembered a weekend retreat I attended years ago. The brochure promised an opportunity to reflect on contemplation and action. When I walked into the big, open room with fifty chairs hugging the walls, I was skeptical that anything of depth would happen in a circle that large.

After opening with prayer, the presenter asked us to think of a time when we felt most fully alive. He gave us a few minutes to reflect and then we were to share with this group of fifty. I scrolled through memories of happy moments, seeking something safe to disclose to these strangers.

Then the presenter began. He told us of his struggles with depression and how a hospitalization had helped him accept his mental health issues and then begin to heal. He talked about how destructive it had been for him to live in denial and how healing it had been to become more open and honest about his depression.

The bar for self-disclosure had been set. The man sitting to the left of the presenter went next. “I guess I can’t talk about how happy I am when I am fishing,” he joked. My sentiments exactly. I had been deciding whether to share how happy I am when I bake bread and it turns out beautifully or how alive I feel when walking alongside the river.

But the presenter had given me, had given all of us, permission to go deeper, to root around in the depths of our beings and shine a light on something buried there, something we rarely, if ever, talked about.

So, one after another, the people sitting in the chairs lining the walls of this large space began to pull memories from deep places. They told stories of childhood abuse and bad decisions as teens. They talked of being hurt and of hurting others. They spoke of how unburdened they had felt once they admitted their brokenness and accepted their vulnerability, how naming their shame had been healing.

The circle seemed to shrink as my compassion grew.

Then it was my turn. I don’t remember the exact words I spoke, but I do remember that I did not have to give much thought to what I would say. I knew my shame, the events of my young life that had wounded me and shaped me. And I knew the freedom that came from talking about them, of bringing that which was buried deep inside out into the light.

I was grateful for the opportunity to reflect and for permission to talk about things that don’t often come up in everyday conversation.