Saturday, March 23, 2013

Drinking Deep; Learning Peace

In the following devotion, Laurence Freeman reminds us that we all have at least one mantra in our mental "tapes." However, if we have not consciously made our mantra a prayer, we are probably just recycling old fears and cravings.  This recycling (or roller coaster as Freeman calls it) contributes and increases anxiety and an ongoing sense of inadequacy.  Here lies the very unstable foundation of poor choices.  This is not prayer.   I very much appreciate this reminder that "all prayer that is is not an indulgence of the roller coaster of fortune is the prayer of the heart."   Our heart (and, no, I am not talking about the pump) is God's realm: a sacred well spring where we can return, time and time again.  This is where we find love.        
May you be able to drink deeply of sacred stillness today.  Let us remember that our mantras, our prayers, can bring peace:  to ourselves, our families, our world.  Where else can peace start but with us?  Without this balance  the roller coaster, and crucifixion, will have no end.  Let us continue, in and to, the Middle Way.  It is almost Palm Sunday.  Together, let us follow Jesus into Jerusalem.  Do not worry.  The journey does not stop there.    
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; the peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. 
 (James 3:17-18 NIV). 

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Photo: Meditatio House, London

Saturday of Lent Week 5

By Laurence Freeman OSB

John Cassian, the 5th century master of the spiritual life, advises us to say the mantra, continuously revolving it in the heart, ‘in prosperity and adversity’.

The global economy illustrates the often dramatic ups and down of life. Boom periods where expectations and greed run amok lead to bust. Then times of austerity follow and, as always, inflict most hardship on the most vulnerable members of society. Personal careers and fortunes can also ride high and then be smattered over the newspapers in a moment.  Our moods and physical health have their cycles, too, of prosperity and adversity.

It is hard not to grab at the prosperous times and fool ourselves into thinking that we have made it for good and that all will always be well. Fantasy – escapism - is the great enemy of moderation. The downturns in life or fortune can also mire us in despair and isolation. Yet we fear moderation because it seems tepid and boring; and we want to feel life as something thrilling and adventurous. If we don’t have the courage to live it this way ourselves, we do it vicariously through films and stories.

Actually the middle way is a knife-edge, a high-wire balancing act. It takes many stumbles and falls from great heights to learn how to walk it well. Moderation is the way and in the deepest sense the goal.  The centre of reality exerts the force that holds us in balance as we walk across the ravine of life. When we relapse into thinking that it is achieved by our own willpower or cleverness, it won’t be long before we have another fall.

Personal, interior balance and sharpness of mind is what Cassian is talking about in his asceticism of the mantra. That is where the universal centre is connected with: in our own personal centre.

All prayer that is not an indulgence of the rollercoaster of fortune is the prayer of the heart. The more personally balanced, deeply-centred people in the world there are, the greater the level of justice in all institutions. The more the gulf between rich and poor narrows, the closer we all come to reality.

Soon we will be contemplating the Cross with particular intensity. What does it say to us of balance, rootedness and compassion? What does John Main mean when he says that every time we meditate we enter into the dying and rising of Jesus? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Gift

Some of you may remember that my January started with finding a devotional in a box marked "Free."  It is entitled A Year of Days with the Book of Common Prayer by Bishop Edmond Lee Browning.  While I do not necessarily read it every day (there certainly is no shortage of devotionals during Lent), I am grateful for this gift, and I often return to it.
The March 17 entry has stayed with me.  I often find myself in conversations that center on balance.  The balance needed in relationships, whether the relationship is with our own bodies, with those we worship and serve with, with those we love.  The balance needed whether we are under or over employed. The balance needed to live creatively, lovingly, and yes, happily.     
Because I have had so many of these conversations, I am going to include the entry here.  It is longer than my usual postings, but if you, like I, often find yourself hungering and thirsting for balance, this may help.  If not, perhaps pass it on, or simply say a short prayer for the world and then press delete.        
If we do not take the time for ourselves and our families, here is what will happen:  We will stop wanting to. If we do not take the time to feel the things we are feeling, we will stop feeling them. It will be more convenient not to. We will be more efficient. And inside, we will be almost dead. We will become addicted to the busyness of our lives, unable to feel at home unless we are running at top speed. And our families will make their lives without us, find their comforts elsewhere. And we will be in our offices, at our meetings, and we won't know what happened. 
You must assert your need to gather strength from the right places, or you may try to gather it from the wrong ones. So many of the things are related to this: alcoholism, substance abuse, sexual abuse. These tragedies have touched some of our best and brightest. Take care of yourself appropriately, or you may find a way to care for yourself inappropriately.   
God did not call you into family life and working life in order that you might become angry and sick and dead inside. God called you to abundant life. Not every day is a wonderful day. But every day belongs to you, a gift to you from a gracious God. Reclaim your days. Find and savor their sweetness, even if you must do so through tears. Don't let a single one pass in a blur of responsibility and work. A day is too precious a thing to waste. You never get it back.       
Blessings to each of you as we prepare to enter Holy Week.  Let's follow Jesus' example and travel humbly for the journey is not always easy.  The good news is that any defeat we must face will never have the last word.  That word has always belonged to God, in fact is God, and God is love.  It is a living word, meant to be heard through whispers, songs, and shouts.  It can never be entombed and silenced for long.     
Blessed be.   

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.  Galatians 5:22-23.