Tag Archives: twitter

A Calm and Quiet Soul

It is a simple psalm – the shortest in the Hebrew Scriptures, only three verses, easy to miss. It is a little announcement, a tweet, a facebook status post:

 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,C, Co 1987 002
   my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
   too great and too marvelous for me.                             
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
   like a weaned child with its mother;
   my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
   from this time on and for evermore. Psalm 131

The psalmist does not offer his knowledge, answers, opinions, strategies, outrage, or some new technological advance. He does not blast his enemies and ask for God’s vengeance. He does not recite a litany of his sorrows, nor does he plead for mercy. He does not even offer God praise or thanksgiving. He simply posts a calm and quiet soul and out of his serenity emerges a message to his friends, Israel: hope in God.

Here is no flashy super hero, no glamorous celebrity, no clever talking head striding up to the microphone to silence opponents with verbal repartee and inflammatory speech. Instead we find a balm for all wounds and a cool hand to smooth out the furrows in the forehead of a distracted, feverish world.

Peace is polite and unassuming. It does not force its way on others or announce itself with strobe lights and blaring headlines. With the irony, sarcasm, and impatience so endemic in our world, we may think, “Big deal. So the guy’s calmed himself down. Whatever.”

It is easy to miss the importance of this. I think some of you know how much work it takes to create and maintain inner peace. You have an idea of the courage and selflessness a calm and quiet heart requires. Such peace is won by the bloody confrontation with inner truth and the battle with all in oneself that resists or thwarts reconciliation.

D, Co 1987A calm heart is the heart of a weaned child, no longing gasping and grasping for nourishment from its mother. The psalmist has mastered his appetites and addictions. He has grown up and can return to the source of life free of the demanding temptations of ambition, restlessness, and narcissism.

The psalmist does a startling thing here. Notice that he is not blaming, or damning, or threatening to sue whatever has upset him or caused him to despair. We do not know what has set him about calming his heart. What we do know is that he has assumed responsibility for his inner peace and his outward response to the world. He does not hold others accountable for his difficulty. He is reconciled with his own experience. His soul is at rest and his desire for his friends is the hope he has found in God.

A calm and quiet soul is a great lake of strength and serenity, a pool of stillness reflecting reality where many come to drink. Yet the cacophony of the postmodern world has little appreciation for such souls. These are hidden folk with no desire for their five minutes of fame. They remain rooted and grounded in the soil of love, flexible, bending with the winds of change, and standing tall in tough times. I have known a few. I want to be someone like that more than anything. Don’t you?

For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the “eye twitch.” You know, that annoying  hysterical jerk of the eyelid? I’ve been so tired. I have not been respecting my limits. My sites have been set too high. I have been occupying myself with things too great for me.

It is a simple psalm. It is really a lullaby. Sing it to yourself this week.

 DC, Co 1987 1

If you alone find inner peace, thousands around you will be saved.
– St. Seraphim of Sarov

New issue of Holy Ground, a quarterly reflection on contemplative life, published by The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer is out! This issue is about what happens when discernment appears to go wrong, resistance to love, and a puppy named Elijah. To request a free copy:  email info@fromholyground.org. Include your name and mailing address. We will send your copy right away.

Contact Loretta:
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary
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What Is A Prayer?

CBR002349I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields…
Mary Oliver (A Summer Day)

I have been at it for a lot of years now, and I still do not know exactly what a prayer is. It seems to have always been part of my life like the color of my eyes. As a preschooler I learned to fold my hands and bow my head. I prayed for my family, our dog, and my neighbor, Mrs.Wendel, who made good cookies. I had a set list I covered: Santa Claus, the Snowman, and Betty Crocker, whose picture was on the box which my mom’s iron came in.

CBR001191We always prayed before meals, usually led by my father. Every night he kneeled beside his bed to pray. I came upon him at prayer like that many times. He died in 2000. When I go back to Iowa to visit my mother, I like to sit in a corner by a bookcase, where dad read the Bible every day. His magnifying glass, pens, and letter opener are still there.

My father’s prayer was quiet and hidden, yet woven into the fabric of his life like his breath. I saw the fruit in his kindness and caring acts for others, in the vitality of his mind and interest in the world around him, and in his outrage at injustice. As he grew older, he would often say, “I am just so thankful.”

What exactly is a prayer? I fumble for the words. Traditional words about prayer feel like pebbles in my mouth, tasteless, hard and difficult to swallow. As much as I gnaw at them I find no nourishment.

“What language may we borrow to thank thee, dearest friend, for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?” wrote the anonymous author of the lyrics to the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded. Whatever language we use, it will always be “borrowed.” It will be loaned from some, other, lesser reality in an awkward, ill-fitting attempt to clothe The Reality beyond all language and human thought. Mere words fail to express the experience of our hearts in response to God’s love, gifts, and challenges in our lives.thinking businessman

Now I will foolishly do something I have just told you is impossible: tell you what I think a prayer is. For me prayer is fundamentally an attempt to communicate.  This desire to communicate is initiated in us by God and it is a way in which we participate in the likeness of God.

Take a look at that word, communicate. Its root carries the meaning of coming together, communing, communion. What is implied is that at least two separate parties are desirous of joining in some way, of reaching an understanding, of connecting with a commonly held perspective, need, desire, or purpose.

We could say prayer is the eternal conversation and exchange of love as experienced in the context of our lives in which all parties are affected and changed in some way. For me the life, what engages me, is not the abstract concepts of prayer, but in the lived experience of communication. By the way, this is why I believe God is on Facebook and is an old hand at Twitter.

Prayer rides on the wings of our hearts’ desires, anguish, hunger and joy – that bolt of white fire that connects heaven to earth and unites mortal with divine. I can’t say exactly what a prayer is. But I can sure tell when people have been doing it.

RFA073Who taught you to pray? Who are you teaching? What exactly is a prayer to you?

Learn more about prayer at
www.fromholyground.org, www.explorefaith.org

Contact Loretta at
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross

Wondrous Stories about God

blue_eared_kingfisherThe world is not a courtroom,
There is no judge, no jury, no plaintiff.
This is a caravan, filled with eccentric beings 
telling wondrous stories about God.                    ~Saadi

Could it be that the cacophony of our communication pouring into the air space, cyperspace, and onto pages and pages of paper is nothing more, or less, than eccentric beings telling stories about God?  One and all, we scrawl out as best we can our truth, our passion, our experience as creatures on this planet. We tell our stories through the choices we make, the friends we keep, and our mistakes and failures. We weave wondrous tales as we frame and express the meaning we give to our unique and precious lives.

We tweet and friend and facebook and link up and plaxo as we stake out our truth and territory like the birds in the woods calling back and forth.
“Are you there?”
“Yes, I am over here.”
“Well I am here. This is my territory. This is what I see. What do you see?”
“I don’t see what you see. I see this.”

 And yes, we are indeed, eccentric – wildly, delightfully, and horrifyingly so at times.

I listen a lot to people’s stories about God or the apparent absence of God in their lives. Together we lift their experiences to the light, turn them to and fro, and notice something spiritual directors like to call “movements of the Spirit” (a piece of spiritual formation jargon that makes me want to giggle). This spiritual practice involves learning to pay attention to and recognize God’s way with you and what God might be saying to you in the context of your being and daily life experience. Sometimes we work like a GSI (God Scene Investigation) team. We pick up bits of evidence. We look carefully and reverently at what we find. We piece together scraps of your life story in God. We hold it all up to the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit. We weigh it against the texts of scripture, the tradition of faith communities, and your own common sense, reason, and intuition. Then we wait for confirmation and/or redirection from the Spirit, as it speaks through your community, relationships, scriptures, and own heart.

Of course, it is rarely this tidy. Like babies babbling and toddlers scribbling, our stories are stumbling incomplete attempts to capture the unnamable ineffable Reality in which we live andchurch-bells move and find our being.  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge,” sings the psalmist uttering his own story. (Psalm 19)  In ways both, crude and blasphemous, and sublime and exalted, we join our voices with all the people on earth and all the company of heaven in every time and place who forever to sing to the glory of God.

One of the eccentrics on this caravan is poet, Gerald Manley Hopkins. With a grace and beauty that stun me, he captures the notion of all the creatures in creation telling at once their stories of holiness.               

dragonfly 1As kingfishers catch fire,
Dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves – goes its self; myself  it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me; for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
                                                          Gerald Manley Hopkins

So I say Tweet your hearts out: Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea, stories of Jesus, tell them  to me!


Read more about spiritual direction and stories about God at
www.fromholyground.org, www.sdiworld.org, www.theprayinglife.wordpress.com

Contact Loretta at
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

 Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross