Lent, Day 32: Grace

Day 32: Grace

I thought of another hymn today!

This is a rollicking gospel song called “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” The chorus really rolls right along; I love singing it! (even though playing it in tempo is a challenge)

Dear God, Your grace is truly marvelous! Praise Your name! ❤

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Lent, Day 19: Unproductive

Day 19: Unproductive

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Accursed Fig Tree (Le figuier maudit), 1886-1894

Unproductive? Like the fig tree from today’s Gospel reading from Luke 13?

I have had difficulty with this parable for years. For some reason – probably because I am rather dense – the best I can do with it is think of God’s patience with me (and by application, with all of us).

Dear God, thank You for Your patience with me. Help me be as patient with others. Please.

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Day 13: Journaling

December 10, 2021

Day 13: Journaling

I love journaling. (That’s what I am doing right now!) Seriously, I have journaled off and on for decades, ever since I was a teenager. Sometimes angsty, sometimes saccharine, sometimes theological. But, always deeply felt and deeply personal.

Since I grew up in a house of books, and my parents (both college-educated) very much valued books, reading and learning, I naturally gravitated toward reading, learning and the written word. I loved to journal (still do!) and soon found myself impelled to put down my ideas, thoughts, and ponderings in written form. Especially when thinking about God, the Bible and theological things. For years, in fact, for decades.

I loved using Scripture in prayer and meditation, and I learned how to do Ignatian prayer (using the Bible passages as jumping-off places of prayer, using a Godly imagination). I’ve been doing Ignatian prayer for 20 years, off and on, and have had such rich experiences! And – always, I journaled my way through.

One of my favorite books on contemplative, Ignatian, lectio divina, and Word-based prayer is The Word is Very Near You by Fr. Martin L. Smith. I love the way Fr. Smith breaks down the process for approaching God, praying, meditating, and then writing about the experience. This is one of my favorite prayer helps. I have spent many a session in prayer with the help of Fr. Smith.

In his instruction (and description) of lectio divina, his words have made such an impression on the whole way I approach God in prayer and attend to Scripture. After the reading: “Express to God in the simplest way the impression the words have made on you.  You may want to thank God for the gift they convey, ask the questions they have stirred in you, put into words the longings or needs they have brought up. ..Your prayer may move into contemplation, a simple being in Christ with God in which all you are aware of is that you are being attracted towards God like the needle of a compass finding the north.” [1]

I do not always make it all the way to contemplation. But when I do, it is sweet. All in all, using the words of Scripture is such a wonderful time of prayer. And journaling is a natural outgrowth of this whole process of prayer. Thanks to Martin Smith for adding to my enjoyment and enrichment of journaling.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for words. Thank You for the ease in which I can express my thoughts, my questions, my yearnings, as well as biblical and theological understandings and insights. I know You have made each of us differently, and some find it easier to write than others. I don’t know anything else. Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the Bible, Your Word. Thank You for giving us Jesus, Your incarnate Word made flesh. Help me – help us to incorporate Jesus into our daily lives, too. Help us to crave Jesus, the living Word just as much as we crave food and drink, and pursue the Bible just as much. Thank You for helping me take in the Word of God through journaling. It’s in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh, that we pray. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Smith, Martin L., The Word Is Very Near You (Cowley Publications: Cambridge MA: 1989), 120-21.

Day 6: Compassion and Loving-Kindness

December 3, 2021

As I read today’s entry on my list of contemplative practices, I remembered that Compassion and Loving-Kindness are two foundational characteristics of God. Attributes of, or adjectives used in describing God. What an awesome thought, that this Tree of Contemplative Practices mentions us – you and me – with the same adjectives that describe God.

(Yes, I am going to geek out at this point, and talk about the Biblical text. I love sinking my teeth into the language and meaning behind the words.)

One of my wonderful go-to books on prayer, Prayer by Richard Foster, talks about compassion in prayer. We – you and I – are urged to show compassion in prayer, just as Jesus did. “Always! The Gospel writers frequently mention that Jesus was ‘filled with compassion’ for people.” [1] In both Hebrew and Aramaic, the root concept of compassion is inward parts. The King James Version calls this bowels of mercy. In other words, reaching down to the guts of a person! That is how much our contemplative practice is to reach down inside of us!

Psalm 103 mentions compassion as a Godly attribute. Verse 8: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” And, Foster equates God with a loving Father in verse 13: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” But, that is not the end of compassion, Not by a long shot!

Psalm 103 highlights loving-kindness, too. I just love the rich, multi-layered Hebrew word chesed, which is variously translated, but in this situation is loving-kindness. Verse 8 mentions the Godly hallmark of “abounding in love,” or, as I translate it word-for-word (with my poor Hebrew skills) “abundant-of loving-kindness.”  

Wow! Double wow! These are two Godly adjectives that I consider so far above me, so far above my pay-grade, that I cannot wrap my head around them. Yet, Richard Foster says that we are to practice these Godly attributes on a regular basis as we pray healing prayers with each other. This is the same way I prayed with people as a hospital chaplain, for years. (By the way, you don’t have to be a “professional Christian” to do this kind of praying.)

We have moved beyond interior-gazing and are now going outside of ourselves. Yes, this is contemplation, and yes, this is action-oriented. A way to practice compassion and loving-kindness in the wild. In the world.

Join me in prayer, will you? Dear God, thank You for the two awesome adjectives about You and Your work in the world. About You and Your relationship with Your creation, Your creatures. (That includes us.) Help me – help us to step out, step forth, and practice compassion and loving-kindness. Help us use these gifts with love, with caring, with action. In the kind, compassionate name of Jesus we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), 208.

Day 1: A sacred, personal space

Photo credit: Kevin Jones

November 28, 2021

Do you look at life from a glass-half-full perspective? Or, is your glass half-empty?

I try to go through life looking at things from a positive perspective. (That is, most of the time.) When situations and challenges rock my boat, I sometimes try to calm things down by praying. Sometimes with meditation and contemplation, too.

Except, sometimes is not often enough. Sometimes.

I was introduced to the Tree of Contemplative Practices through a prayer retreat . My ecumenical association, the Federation of Christian Ministries, sponsored a (much needed!) Zoom retreat earlier this month. This prayer tree, found on the website http://www.contemplativemind.org, immediately caught my attention. Yes, and my mind and spirit, too. I noticed that I had done or been involved in almost every contemplative and spiritual practice listed on this tree. My intention is to journal about the many practices, when and where in my life I had the opportunity to practice, and see whether at the end I have any more insight than I do right now. Which, admittedly, is not much. I journal in hopes of gaining some godly wisdom.

When I pray, or meditate, or contemplate, or whatever journaling I may do, I find it helpful to get into a quiet place. This may not be a whole separate room. No, a chair may be enough. Or, a desk in a corner. You could even put in earphones or whatever sound reducing device you prefer. I suggest quiet music helps, even silence, at times. I’ve meditated to the sound of waves, and of rain. I love to listen to Gregorian chant and baroque guitar or lute while journaling. Whatever calms you and causes your heart rate to slow. Take some slow, deep breaths, too, before you start. Whatever is helpful for you, for your soul and spirit, and for your heart.

Remember, God wants to get in touch with us. Up close and personal, if possible.

Please, pray with me. Dear God, thank You for this time of quiet. Help me – help us to come to You with open hearts and spirits. Thank You for meeting us when we turn to You. In this time of Advent, of preparation, draw us close – close to You. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )