Once again I have been on a writing hiatus. It has led me to realize that I am unable to multi-task on many levels. I have always understood “multi-tasking” to mean the ability to do more than one specific task at a time. I am sure I have already mentioned in previous postings that this is very difficult for me to do. My brain and my body just don’t function well in multi-tasking mode.
I am always so amazed when I walk by my husband when he is working at his computer. I really should say “computers” – plural, because, although he has one computer (on his main desk – I’ll explain in a minute!), he has two screens and sometimes he is multi-tasking between the two and sometimes he is also multi-tasking on each screen. My brain just cannot hold that! It’s way too mind-boggling for me.
Apart from his main desk, he also has a secondary desk which holds another computer and recording equipment which he uses to create his “podcasts”. When he is all set up to record in that space, it looks rather like an old-fashioned radio show. He wears headphones and has a microphone in front of him and I almost expect him to break out into acapella singing. Since he has been indulging in this activity, which is all linked to his web page work, (www.windowsobserver.com), I sometimes think of the computer room/office as a recording studio too.
The lessons I have learned about myself in the last couple of months are myriad. I have lost three friends in that time frame. Two were “expected”. Is death ever expected? The two people, although unconnected in any other way, had actually been struggling with the same lung disease over several years. The third friend’s death came out of left field and left me, and many other common friends as well as his wife, completely mind- and heart-slammed. The first friend, died on 26th October 2011, the second friend died about mid-November, and the third friend died 16 December.
In other words, just as I was absorbing the news of one death the second occurred, and so it was for the third. In the meantime, as death was occurring, life was going on. Normal everyday events, commitments, and activities continued on despite what was going on in heart and mind. Meetings were attended, friends were attended to, school and its accompanying homework had to be dealt with, volunteer commitments were kept, I participated in a retreat, Thanksgiving came and went as did Christmas, and on and off, in the back of my mind, was the little nagging voice that said “I need to write”.
As I look back, I realize that I was actually multi-tasking in general across the board of all these events. Just to be able to deal with everyday life as well as grieve, and support others who were grieving, was a huge multi-tasking effort of its own, and I am so grateful for my relationship with God and my strong support network of spiritual friends who help me to get through tough times such as these and still stay sane.
But to hold all this together and allow the Muse of creativity to come forward is, for me, an impossible task. I have to put great energy into honoring and dealing with difficult situations and emotions such as death and grief, and there is little energy left for anything else. And I need to honor myself and where I’m at in all of that and allow the various processes to sweep through me. It is all important to my personal and spiritual growth.
So now, as I sit here and look out my window (no working on the lanai today, we had a near-freeze last night!), I feel some of the tension surrounding these recent events slipping away. Even though it is too cold to sit outside right now, the sun is shining brilliantly, the sky is that crisp, clean, light cerulean blue that only winter can bring forth, and I am breathing deeply and easily as I notice the hawks circling above the pine trees, the other birds swooping across and into the garden, and the squirrels frolicking on the backyard fence. Muse is creeping slowly back into my heart, honoring and respecting where I have been and gently inviting my fingers to once again play across the keyboard and put the words on the screen.
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.
In a previous posting, Musings- God and Chicken Soup, I mentioned that I had been involved in presenting a workshop about prayer and meditation. I use both of these activities/tools to help me through each day and to develop my spiritual growth through relationship with the God of my understanding. There are many people in my circle of friends who also pray and meditate and because we recognize that there is a growing hunger for the Spirit, we decided to put on the workshop.
We had an ordained minister, Amy, who agreed to talk about using prayer in every day life and to explain how powerful prayer could be in developing a spiritual life. We also had another person, Martha, who teaches meditation and who leads meditation groups. She agreed to “demystify” meditation and demonstrate how simple it is to practice. She also agreed to lead a guided meditation for the participants of the workshop. The plan then was to have a panel of three people, myself included, who would share their personal experience with prayer and meditation.
As people began arriving I was aware of a growing sense of anticipation. Our small workshops usually attract forty to fifty people. The room began to fill and I realized very quickly that we were going to have a bigger crowd than usual. This was more than exciting because the kind of people filling the seats did not look particularly “spiritual” (as if I could describe what spiritual looks like!!).
The room was almost full and, just before opening the workshop, one of the volunteers mentioned that he had given up counting heads after seventy five. I found this to be very heartening. This many ordinary working people wanted so much to hear about prayer and meditation that they were willing to give up a few hours on a Saturday afternoon to do so.
We began the workshop with an opening prayer followed immediately by a short, ten-minute skit. (We have learned that relaxing the audience with some humor at the beginning and feeding them some good food at the end is always a winning combination!) So after some good laughter, we then introduced Amy. Her talk on prayer was simple and straightforward. She shared from the heart, from her own personal experience, and from her perspective as a chaplain guiding her flock. She was well received.
Martha followed this with a basic but very dynamic talk about meditation and it’s use in every day life. As I listened I also glanced around to see how this “motley group” was receiving the information. Faces were focused in rapt attention and I was reminded of why we had wanted to put on this workshop. The average Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones are seeking a relationship with God. They are on a quest to find a spiritual path that will satisfy the hunger of the soul and fill the void that all the material things in life just do not fill.
Martha segued into a guided meditation by first having the lights dimmed and then lighting a candle. She also played some very soft music in the background. Then in a quiet but steady voice she invited us into a place of quiet and led us on an internal spiritual journey. Even as I focused on my own spiritual experience in that moment, I was also very aware that there was an intense quiet in the room, the kind of quiet in which you could hear a pin drop. There was no uncomfortable shuffling or shifting in chairs. Just a total peaceful quiet.
I felt so joy-filled in the moments following the end of the meditation. This is what we had worked so hard for: the chance to give the ordinary man and woman in the street the opportunity to experience the calm, the tranquility, and the peace of mind, heart, and soul that comes through prayer and meditation. After a short break we returned to the room and ran our panel.
To illustrate my personal experience with making time for prayer and meditation in my life I shared from one of my meditation books that I use every day. The title is Quiet Moments in the Presence of God, which is published by Bethany House. As I read some of the reflections that were themed, Be Quiet, Rest Up, and Always More, I looked out at the sea of faces and realized that they were hanging on every word I was reading and saying. I felt the awesome presence of Spirit in that moment as S/He touched all those hearts. I felt humbled to be an instrument.
But the best was yet to come. After dinner was served and people went home and the room emptied out, I was sitting at table finishing my food when a woman came up to me. She was someone that I would label a “down-and-outer”. She was shabbily dressed and had grey stringy hair and it was fairly obvious that she was “not very bright”. She looked me intently in the eyes and said, “when you talked, I listened”, and she smiled. I was stunned into silence for a moment, then said, “I’m glad, thank you”. Continuing to look intently into my eyes, she then said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully, “I liked that book you read, I’m going to find that book”.
It is in moments like this that I truly feel the presence of God. It is in moments like this that I think, this is my mission – to bring a God-moment to this woman. And in doing that I experience my own God-moment. I may not be an international circuit speaker. I may not be famous. But I am rich beyond belief when I am given the precious gift of moments like that. I am completely soul-satisfied.