Tag Archives: reflection

reflection-God-prayer

Slow me down, Lord

Slow me down, Lord.

Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me, amid the confusion of this day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art of taking minute vacations — of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book. Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and tortoise, that I may know that the race is not always to the swift — there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look upward into the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.

Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values, that I may grow toward the start of my greater destiny.

~Richard Cardinal Cushing

We live in a culture that seems obsessed with speed. Our everyday language affirms our preoccupation with speed: we have fast-food restaurants with drive-through windows, expressways and instant messaging. We can’t seem to stop or even slow down.

I recently read that Michigan is increasing the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on several roads because that was how fast people were driving anyway.

Faster is better seems to be our national mantra.

And now we have added busyness to the equation—because moving fast means we finished everything and then, what? Have some empty space in our lives? No time for doing nothing—we have to keep moving and doing.

I think Cardinal Cushing was onto something, though, when he wrote the Slow me down, Lord prayer.

My brother recently visited from Arizona and we went on morning walks at a park on the lake near my house. Swans, ducks and geese swam by as people fished from the shoreline or out in boats. No rush, no hurry, no busyness—just life slowly going by.reflection-God-prayerI can easily fill up my days with lots of activities and then rush around to accomplish as much as possible. But that is not how I want to live. I want to have periods of silence every day, to ponder the glory of creation and to pay attention to the gifts God is giving me.

I want to be available to the people God brings to me, to be able to sit and listen to what they need to say. At the cancer support center where I work, someone invites me every day to slow down, to take a few minutes to listen to their joys and sorrows, the ups and downs of the cancer journey.

 

Slow me down, Lord.reflection-God-prayer

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compassion-God

A new perspective

“How are the fall colors?” my friend in Virginia asked the other night. She is coming to see me in Michigan in a few weeks and hoping to be in time to see the vibrant colors of our fall.

“We haven’t had a frost yet,” I said. “It is actually quite warm here—it’s in the 70’s.”

She laughed.

“What?” I asked.

“It is in the 70’s here, too,” she said, “and I was going to say how cool it is.”

Perspective. Same temperature but different conclusion.

perspective2

I think so much of what goes wrong in relationships is because we jump to conclusions without seeking clarification or understanding another’s perspective.

Yesterday, I facilitated a retreat session for a group of local volunteers. My topic was theological reflection, a process that helps look at things from God’s perspective, that invites God into a situation and asks, “How does God invite me to see this person or situation?”

In preparation, I spent some time practicing theological reflection A friend from whom I am feeling disconnected came to mind, so I asked God, “What are you inviting me to learn from this disconnect?”

When I open myself to this conversation with God, I usually hear God ask me to love unconditionally, to forgive without limit and to let go. God invites me to see the person or situation from a stance of compassion and mercy. No matter how hurtful something might have been, when I look at it from God’s perspective, it looks different.

From God’s perspective, the person who hurt me is loved as much as I am. God invites me to see that the hurt was a result of my unrealistic expectations and/or that person’s limitations or brokenness. Theological reflection helps me understand the Biblical injunction to love my enemies and to pray for my persecutors (Matthew 5:44).

During the retreat session yesterday, I asked the volunteers to recall a specific incident which showed that their expectations had not been met, a time when they thought, “I didn’t expect that” or “That is not how I imagined it.” Unmet expectations often lead to disillusionment, and disillusionment can lead to negative feelings and actions.

Once they had an incident in mind, I asked them to invite God into the situation, to describe to God what happened and to sit with God and look at the person or situation through God’s eyes.

Reframing the situation from God’s perspective helps to see a bigger picture. My unmet expectations then become more about me instead of about the people or situation that let me down. Changing my expectations—or at least being more aware of them—can change my perspective and help to me understand people and events in a different way. When I see things from God’s perspective, I can more easily let go of hurt and anger. I can be more open to compassion and mercy, less judgmental and more forgiving. I can move toward freedom.

 

Mindfulness

One wall of our parish chapel is made up of floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows. A circle of deep red-orange sits in the center panel, and from that core come colorful lines and swirls in shades of orange, yellow, purple and green. It is a beautiful mosaic, one I have looked at many times; but last week, for the first time, I noticed that the window is not one-dimensional. Pieces of glass randomly rise up from the base, adding dimension and movement. I was surprised by this discovery.

How is it possible, I wondered, that I have looked at this window so many times and not noticed this design feature?

I became intrigued by the mosaic and began to look more closely at the window, noticing the juxtaposition of shapes and colors. I sat in different areas of the chapel to give me different views of the window. I was entranced by the subtleties of its design, and as I paid more attention to the window, my appreciation for its beauty grew.

This, I think, is what being mindfulness is about, this intentionally slowing down, paying attention and noticing—looking at what is right in front of me and seeing it in a different way.

Living mindfully takes practice and energy. It requires me to focus, to notice, to look and to see. It is a discipline.

Living mindfully, it seems to me, is the antithesis of what is valued in our culture, where we love to talk about how busy we are.  Busy with what? I often wonder.

I find I am most able to be mindful early in the morning. Walking the dog, I am aware of the sun coming up and coloring the sky, of which flowers are in bloom (lilacs right now), of birds singing and squirrels playing. I am aware of the gentle breeze moving the air around me and shaking the treetops one street over. It is the most peaceful time of my day, and I am deeply appreciative for the quiet of it. Sitting on my sun porch, writing this,

Once I leave for work, though, I struggle to hold onto this level of awareness, to stay open to the little joys of my day.

I recently read an article about mindfulness, which suggested creating a calendar of positive experiences, and recording at least one moment of joy or gratitude every day. Even pausing for one moment to reflect on something positive can reshape the day and provide a different perspective.

The image of the stained-glass window is the reminder I carry these days—a reminder to look more closely and to be open to surprises that are right in front of me, if I only take the time to notice.