On every visit to Florence I take a morning church. I photograph each church exterior and move on to the next one. The rain stopped me from getting to Santa Croce.
Here it is again! A slideshow of Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the monks’ cells in the Convent of San Marco. At 8:15 I was the first visitor of the day, and for a while I had the place to myself. I have a set of these same pictures stored on my computer, so why take them again? Because these are of the moment, this moment of prayer.
I’m back in Florence, walking around with God. My commitment to this is strong, which means that I am remembering more often to feel God’s presence, not just when I visit a church or walk the streets, but as I encounter people living their lives and expressing joys and concerns.
My purpose simple: live only in, by, through, and with love. This means no judgments, other than to notice that someone is expressing joy or concern. If I observe joy, I express gratitude. If I observe what appears as sadness or anger, I send God’s peace.
Case in point! A bit ago, a boy (age eight ?) sat down in this café with his parents and grandmother. He appeared distressed and started pouting and crying. He was not happy, nor were the adults happy with him. I need not analyze or explain the situation further.
My prayer challenge is simple: send love. Further judgments on my part diminish the power of prayer.
I wrote the following for this blog but when finished, I realized it was right for my cottagebythesea blog as well. This often happens because it is the same me writing for both. On this blog, however, I spell out my faith in more concrete terms.
The Psalms in the Hebrew Bible are steeped in gratitude. Most of the epistles in the New Testament start with gratitude. In Jesus’ message of love he tells us love and judgments are not companions.
On this day after Thanksgiving I could be talking in my usual way about gratitude--what we’re grateful for, what we ‘should’ be grateful for, personal graitudes, and gratitudes for the world. I’m all in for these kinds of expressions, but today I’m thinking of the power of stating gratitude in positive terms. For example, “How wonderful we can get out for a walk,” instead of, “Well at least it is not raining.”
Speaking positively keeps me away from making judgments. I more apt to see people for who they are, rather than who they are not.
So, on this day after Thanksgiving, I am grateful for friends and family just as they are, and for the food just as it was prepared and served.
The Daily Office is not a Protestant way of worshipping. The idea of stopping to pray seven times a day, or even three, is no part of our ritual. But I’ve always be intrigued by this monastic way of being faithful. In fact, one of my fantasies is to be a monk (not a nun) in one of the English monastery that flourished before the beginning of their dissolution by Henry VIII in 1536. I’ve visited many and am still deciding which to choose: Fountains, Rivault in England, or perhaps Glastonbury or Melrose in Scotland.
Oh well, all a fantasy, but I can create my own daily office schedule. Three times a day, morning, noon, and evening is manageable. When I attending to such a schedule, the Bible, along with The Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer, by Phyllis Tickle, and various other readings, become my guide.
I offer you this group of sayings I’ve gathered together to take to a 98 year old friend that I’m visiting today. I print it out on a stiff piece of paper, and if I knew how, I give you a link on this blog.
THOUGHTS FOR AN OPEN HEART
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose
To accept death is to accept God.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
To cast the burdens means really to insist upon harmony and peace of mind, and to cease from worry and anxiety there and then.
But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
A free translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:11 might well read: “Study to shut up and mind your own business”; and among all the texts we hang on our walls, let this be one.
Bobbi Fisher, November 2018
Here I am again, working through my ongoing conundrum about prayer. How does it all work? Is there a right way to pray? The questions take many forms. I’ll probably keep writing about this until I get it right, which will never be, so either put up with me, or find some other blog to capture you interest. The name of this blog, however, shouldn’t fool you. I’m obsessed with prayer; writing about it helps. So here I go again.
When praying for people in a difficult situations, is there a right or better way to it? Sometimes we are asked to pray for specific results, such as for cancer cure (doesn’t give God any wiggle room). I understand the humanness of that I one, and at times I feel comfortable telling God what to do. But, really, that is more about God and me than about God and the person being prayed for.
In other prayers we ask for good to happens, such as that medical staff use wisdom. That makes sense because I believe that God, as love, wants us to do our loving, compassionate best and wants the best for all of us.
The prayer I feel most called to offer is to lift people to the light as I image them walking with God. I both figurative and literally step out of God’s way, and open up energy for that light to shine (that’s what I think I’m doing). I have NO idea what God plans for anyone, but I trust that it is of the good.
What keeps me going with the prayer obsession is my belief that we co-create with God, that we live in community with God, and that the universe needs our prayer/love. God has no power all by God’s self.
So I pray as though life depends on it, and that my prayer makes all the difference. It sure does for me. My guidelines: pray in faith: be positive and loving.
When God’s calls me to pray for people, I must keep silent. Intercessory prayer and gossip are not just incompatible, they can’t exist simultaneously.
Yes, I must keep silent so I won’t gossip or betray a confidence, but it is much more that that; talk, be it out loud to others, or silent to myself, gets in the way of prayer. When I pray for healing and peace for someone (which I believe God wants for everyone), I don’t know what that should look like for them; thus conversation and delving into details only hampers my prayer channel to God.
In other words, I need to keep completely away from all kinds of judgments about what ‘should’ happen, and pray Thy will be done.
Father Thomas Keating died last night. He was 91, suffering from cancer. As we might say, “It was his time,” but nevertheless I am sad because his kind, animated, sparkling visage is no more. Through many audiovisual recordings of conversations, workshops and speeches Fr. Keating nourished my faith and deepened my spiritual practice. Yes, I will continue to watch on YouTube and be refreshed, but I will miss knowing that his earthly light is shining no more.
We mortals can’t imagine the bliss and peace that now surrounds Fr. Keating, but we have to believe it from our worldly vantage point. Christians embrace the message of hope, which Fr. Keating offered in tangible ways through Centering Prayer and his commitment in bringing the contemplative dimension of the Gospel to the public by co-founding Contemplative Outreach. He lives on through us whenever we pray and sparkle God’s love.
Fr. Keating's death has not been announced on the Contemplative Outreach website yet. I received notice of it because I subscribe to its daily posts. Keep checking.