St. Francis of Assisi
It seems as though Spirit is nudging me along this prayer path. I think I pray quite a lot. However, in preparation for this upcoming “instructional weekend” in the Audire program that I am participating in, I was asked to prepare a “prayer history”. One of the questions that we were offered to use for reflective journaling on this activity asked, “How do you pray now? When? Where? What posture? Why?”
As I gave some serious thought to this, I came to the conclusion that maybe I didn’t pray as much as I thought. Initially I said I prayed on and off all day, that I hold a running conversation with God as I go about my daily business –which I do. However, what I really do is invite God along in my day and then I give Him a running commentary on things as they unfold. (As if He didn’t know already!!)
Sometimes, if I am dealing with some difficult stuff, I lay it all out before Him and then ask for support, comfort, courage, or maybe a solution. Other times I may have enjoyed a couple of hours with some girlfriends, and so I thank Him for the gift of friends and for the enjoyable time spent with them. Part of my volunteer work is to help in the Ministry of Consolation at my church,so frequently I am interceding on behalf of the family which is dealing with grief. And I realize that all of this is prayer of a sort, but it’s kind of “muddied up” in the middle of all my daily busyness.
I do carve out about an hour and a half in the morning when I get up and this I spend in quiet time with my Creator. On the odd occasion that I choose to rush into my day without spending time with God first, my day usually spirals downward until I slow down and catch up with Him. Then there are those times when I bring myself to a screeching halt in a mad chaotic day and I find somewhere quiet and private (sometimes that’s the bathroom!), and I say a formal prayer like the Our Father or the Serenity Prayer or the Prayer of St. Francis. Just focusing on the old familiar words, rather like a ritual, slows me down and helps me feel closer to my God and, consequently, calmer.
So here I am preparing for this weekend, the theme for which is Pray Always, Pray All Ways, and I find myself thinking deeply about how I pray, which is good because sometimes we have to shake things up a little, change things, or else it all becomes too routine. So here I share with you a prayer that we were asked to write. It is a berakah, which comes from the Judaic tradition. It means a “blessing prayer” and is based on this format: Who (are you praying to); Do (what has He done for you); You (what do you need from Him right now); Through (Jesus Christ).
Abba, Creator and Spirit of Love, who gave me the greatest gift of Your Son, Jesus, I am full of gratitude for all the blessings You have given me. You saved me from self destruction and led me back to You, filling my life with joy. Please continue to bless, protect, and grow me and lead me on the path You wish me to tread. I ask the same for my family, especially Melissa. All this I dare to ask through Your love, that is Jesus Christ. Amen!
As we are coming up to Thanksgiving, I would also like to offer you this beautiful prayer that I came across the other day.
Oh God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me
to remember the jobless;
When I have a warm home,
help me to remember the homeless;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering, help me
to destroy my complacency
and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough
to help, by word and deed,
those who cry out
for what we take for granted.
Samuel F. Pugh
Blessings to you all.
Finally the sun has deigned to grace us with his presence, his light, and his warmth down here in (normally!) sunny Florida. The biting cold, the frosts, and miserable grey are hopefully a thing of the past. And not a day too late; my garden Muse was absolutely itching to get to work because I had major projects to accomplish!
This year I decided to shake things up a little in my garden. The St. Francis flower bed, so named because his statue oversees this part of the garden, had developed a deep-rooted weed system which was hard to control. So I decided to dig deep, dig out as much as possible of the offending growth, and put in a fairly large (10’ x 6’) paved patio center-front of the bed to eliminate some of the back-breaking work of weeding. I have dressed up the patio with pots and urns of various sizes and colours which are planted up with bulbs, seeds and some partially developed plants.
The Quan Yin flower bed, obviously named because her statue reigns supreme here, is much the same as before. However I have decided to fill it with even more flowers this year. There are also hundreds of seeds lying just below the surface of the soil which hopefully will germinate and bloom as the year goes by. I also plan to add to the collection of brightly coloured chimes and wind twisters that hang from the wrought iron framework of the old gazebo that I moved to this bed when the lanai was built last year.
The front yard has undergone the biggest transformation: the side two of the three small flowerbeds have been eliminated and returned to sod, while the central flowerbed has been enlarged to four times its original size. I have walled it in with rustic stonework, elevating the back part to a higher terraced level. The front area has been filled to overflowing with brightly coloured spring flowers and hundreds of seeds are also germinating here for later in the season.
However, the central attraction of this new terraced bed is the weather-worn, trellis arch that originally sat just outside the screened-in back porch room. This arch, which was deeply rooted into the ground on each side with six years of steadily growing orange trumpet vine, was dug up and relocated to the center of the raised terrace part of the new bed out front. A couple of extra trellis panels have been added on each side of the arch to accommodate the copious trailing branches that grow from the vines, and I have planted several rose bushes in this elevated section too.
All of this was done with much help from my assistant gardener, Linda – a very dear friend without whose help I could not have achieved this major overhaul!! This morning, after many anxious days of waiting and watching, new green growth showed on the winter-hibernating vine that wraps itself intricately around the arch:-).
As I sit in the lanai writing, my heart is full of joy and my soul sings in gratitude as I survey the end result of much hard work. It continues to be a work in progress and God’s creation will become even more beautiful as seeds develop into plants and then bloom out in a riot of colour. And this joy and gratitude are magnified because I know that passers-by can feast their eyes and experience their own heart joy.
My happiness is complete as I watch the birds swarming at the feeders. Squirrels are scurrying in the grass and chasing each other up and over the back fence. Lizards and frogs are awakening from their winter lethargy and today I have seen at least a dozen butterflies.
Richard has taken some lovely photos of the garden today, some of them early this morning in the subdued sunrise light, and some of them around lunch time. Enjoy!!
You can see all 45 photos at the Spring Garden Update Photo Album.
I’m back on one of my favorite subjects again – words. In recent postings,Poetry- Words Painting Pictures, Musings- Sharing Our Gifts And Talents, and Reading Or Writing- It’s Still About Words, I have spoken at length about my fascination with the written word. Seeing the way that words are strung together by different authors to achieve different descriptive effects gives me great pleasure and reaches into my soul.
However, words, ether written or spoken, can be used for negative purposes too. Just a few days ago I was witness to a small scene between two people that reminded me of this. There is no need to go into the details of the situation. Suffice it to say that one of the parties involved was extremely hurt at the end of the exchange and it gave me pause to think, once again, about the power of words.
Words can be used to build up or tear down a person’s sense of self worth, their self esteem. Words can comfort or they can cause pain. They can be a generous gift or a piercing sword. Words can cause laughter or tears, they can bring enlightenment or they can confuse. In the mouth of the speaker or the writer, words can be veritable weapons far more destructive than a bomb.
Sometimes the words themselves are not at fault. When delivering a message about the death of a dear one, or giving the truth about a harsh medical diagnosis, the messenger cannot change the words in order to not cause pain. Bad and difficult situations happen in life and we need to be informed of them. That is part of Life itself. But the way in which such information is given can make a huge difference to the receiver.
I am well aware that in the past I have cut people down, usually those closest and dearest to me, by thoughtless and scathing criticism. I have also been on the receiving end of such word lashings and I know how that feels. Over the years I have learned to curb my tongue, to take a deep breath and think twice before speaking.
How many times have I wanted to take back words spoken in haste. But the word, once spoken, cannot be erased. The most I can do is make attempts at reparation and ask forgiveness, as quickly as possible, and pray that the damage caused is minimal and that the injured party finds it within their heart to “forgive and forget”.
I try to remain on high alert when I know that I am going to be involved in discussions on sensitive issues. I always pray and ask God to keep me in a state of compassion. One of my favorite prayers is the Prayer of St. Francis. This is the prayer that I take into many difficult situations or before going into a retreat process. I would like to share that prayer with you now.
- Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
- that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
- that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
- that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
- that where there is error, I may bring truth;
- that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
- that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
- that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
- that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
- Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
- to understand, than to be understood;
- to love, than to be loved.
- For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
- It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
- It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.