Summer-friendly spiritual practices


‘Strangers you meet on the street can turn into good neighbours’  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Have you considered activities like meeting people, gardening, swimming and journaling as a spiritual practice?

 

Incidentally, this is the 150th Prayer Matters blog post. Thank you for sharing in the spiritual practice that is this blog.

 

Gretchen Champoux … on gardening

Gardening connects us to life’s natural rhythms, the gifts of each season, the wonder of creation and the natural world. For me, gardening and gratitude go hand in hand … I can’t help but experience the garden. When I do, I am pulled to the present moment so much so that I can paradoxically lose sense of time — especially if I’m digging away!

https://www.asacredjourney.net/
 

Sharon Salzberg … on swimming

I thought of meditation when Willow described her experience (swimming laps). When she slowed down and focused only on the movement and the effects it had on her body, she was able to let go of the doubts, fears, and comparisons in order to experience what the body presented to her at that moment. The experience of being buoyed along in the water, of her muscles moving through it, was a pure sensation of being alive, once she got her comparing mind out of the way.

https://onbeing.org
 

Austin Kleon … on journaling

When I write in my diary, I often try to start with Nicholson Baker’s advice:

If you ask yourself, ‘What’s the best thing that happened today?’ it actually forces a certain kind of cheerful retrospection that pulls up from the recent past things to write about that you wouldn’t otherwise think about. If you ask yourself, ‘What happened today?’ it’s very likely that you’re going to remember the worst thing, because you’ve had to deal with it – you’ve had to rush somewhere or somebody said something mean to you – that’s what you’re going to remember. But if you ask what the best thing is, it’s going to be some particular slant of light, or some wonderful expression somebody had, or some particularly delicious salad. I mean, you never know …

 
https://austinkleon.com
 


From the blog
Up to us – on the joys of a walking holiday
 

When hot and bothered


After a warm spell dried out curly willow leaves litter the grass  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

I was searching for something to share on a summer theme. The word “hot” led me to this prayer poem by Anita Munro.


Teach us where the bucket is

O God, we gather at your waters,
as a hot and bothered crowd gathers on the beach
on a sweltering, summer day.
O God, we drink at your fountain,
as a parched dog laps at the fresh,
running water of a bush creek.
O God, we await your refreshment,
as a tired worker watches for the change of shift.
Quench our thirst, satisfy our longings.
May we be refreshed and restored in you;
and teach us where to find the bucket and how to carry it
so that we might draw that water for those who most need it.

— written by Anita Monro and posted on the MAD-e-Lena blog.


Tip
Read Anita’s blog post for the story behind this prayer poem.


From the blog
Water world news
 

A prayer to the God of summer


A local cat, in a summer mood  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

When Nancy L. Agneberg mentioned A summer prayer by Joyce Rupp in a recent Monk in the World guest post on ‘Summer Spirituality’, I was intrigued. I managed to find the prayer in full on Nancy’s own blog, in a post dating back to 2015.

I commend both Joyce Rupp’s prayer and Nancy’s reflections, as you give God space and opportunity to minister to you through summer’s unique gifts and challenges.

 

A Summer Prayer

by Joyce Rupp

May you breathe in the beauty of summer
    with its power of transformation.
May this beauty permeate all that feels un-beautiful in you.

May the God of summer give us beauty.

May you seek and find spaces of repose
    during these summer months.
May these moments refresh and restore
    the tired places within you.

May the God of summer give us rest.

May you be open to times of celebration and recreation
    that are so much a part of summer.
May you find happiness in these times of play and leisure.

May the God of summer give us joy.

May your eyes see the wonders of summer’s colors.
May these colors delight you
    and entice you into contemplation and joy.

May the God of summer give us inner light.

May you feel energy of summer rains penetrating thirsty gardens,
    golf courses, lawns and farmlands.
May these rains remind you that your inner thirst needs quenching.
May your inner self be refreshed, restored, and renewed.

May the God of summer give us what we need for healing.

May you savor fresh produce that comes to your table
    and enjoy the fruits of summer’s bounty.

May the God of summer give us a sense of satisfaction
    in the works of our hands.

May you find shelter
    when the stormy skies of summer threaten your safety.

May the God of summer give us shelter
    when inner storms threaten our peace of mind and heart.

May you enjoy the unexpected and find surprises of beauty and
    happiness as you travel the roads on summer vacation.

May the God of summer lead us to amazing discoveries
    as we travel the inner roads of our soul as well.

 
from The Circle of Life, The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr

***

To learn more about Joyce Rupp, visit her website.
 


From the blog
The wells of salvation
From parched to satisfied

Ask the animals


Pigeon talk in Malta  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

But ask the animals what they think —
     let them teach you;
     let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth —
     learn the basics.
Listen —
     the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree
     that God is sovereign,
     that he holds all things in his hand —
Every living soul, yes,
     every breathing creature?

 

Job 12:7-10 (The Message)

 


Extras

 

Pray: ‘Thy kingdom come’


 

Have you heard? A worldwide prayer initiative called “Thy kingdom come” starts today, running from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost.

Originally a Church of England initiative, it has now been embraced by many other denominations. For more information, see the official website.

It’s not too late. Officially or unofficially, we can all join this global wave of prayer right where we are. God is listening.

 
Other useful links

 


An offering prayer

(inspired by Matthew 6: 10)

In this world: kingdom living.
In our mouths: kingdom praises.
In our hearts: kingdom goals.
In our hands: kingdom gifts.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Amen.

written by Carol Penner, and posted on Leading in Worship.
 

In the school of prayer with Angela Ashwin

Books by Angela Ashwin
3 books by Angela Ashwin from my library

 

Angela Ashwin teaches us how to write beautiful, evocative prayers that connect with our everyday experience. But she is also an advocate for using “borrowed words” to enrich our (prayer) lives.

Companion

I first came across Angela Ashwin through her book, A little Book of Healing Prayer: my companion during the 5 days I spent at my mother’s deathbed. How comforting to have Angela Ashwin and others lend me their words while in the “valley of the shadow of death”.

One of the prayers seemed particularly apt – my mother was ever the seemstress – and I included it on the funeral service sheet:

O living God,
draw all the fragments of my life
into the bright mosaic of your love;
weave all the tangled threads of my desires
into the tapestry you are spreading,
like a rainbow,
on the loom of the world;
and help me celebrate
the many facets
and the dazzling colours
of your peace.

written by Julie M. Hulme
from A little Book of Healing Prayer by Angela Ashwin, #64

Ministry of “borrowed words”

A few years later, while on a trip to Edinburgh, I came across The Book of a Thousand Prayers, compiled by Angela Ashwin. I immediately bought two copies, one for myself and one for a friend. Prayers from this volume regularly make it onto the blog. (Maybe you’ve noticed and been inspired to buy a copy of your own.)

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to The Book of a Thousand Prayers (p.11) that explains the value and ministry of “borrowed words”:

We do not always need another person’s words when we pray. But there can be times when a prayer by someone else expresses our concerns and desires better than we could do ourselves and becomes a source of inspiration and strength. Or we may ‘grow into’ a prayer which has tremendously high ideals, such as the one by John Wesley: ‘Lord God, I am no longer my own but yours.’ Even though we have not ourselves arrived at such dizzy heights of self-giving, the very act of using a prayer like this helps us to come closer to its aspirations.

There can also be a sense of freedom in using a set prayer, because the words are given, and we simply let go into their flow and meaning. This is especially helpful in times of stress or doubt. The familiar words of a well-known prayer, or the challenges of a modern one, bring us back to our roots in God and remind us that we belong to the great body of Christ’s people. A written prayer links us not only with its author but also with all the other peoeple who have used it, so that, in a sense, we are never alone when we pray.

We usually think of prayer as an offering we make to God – and so it is. But it is much more. Prayer is God’s gift to us, a banquet of good things to feed our inner life as we respond to the invitation to his feast of peace, forgiveness, challenge and love.


 
To close, a prayer by Angela Ashwin that works as a mini-retreat:

God of delight, Source of all joy,
thank you for making me part of the web of life,
depending on the rhythms and fruits of the earth for my existence.
Help me to be wholly present to you,
now, in this place,
where my feet are on the ground,
and where I am surrounded by creation’s gifts,
from concrete to clouds,
if I have the wit to notice them!

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #210


From the blog
In the school of prayer with Anselm
In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew
In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin
 

Wilderness woes


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

While searching for ‘dry wilderness’ on my go-to online prayer resource – the treasure trove, re-worship.blogspot.com – I found this call to worship by Rev. Nathan Decker.

It is inspired by Isaiah 35 and recognizes both the reality and pain of the wilderness experience and our sustaining hope in God for a life beyond the wilderness.

 

Call to Worship

(inspired by Isaiah 35: 1-10)

Too long have we walked this dry desert wilderness
    searching for salvation.
 
We’ve drunk the cup of sorrow,
burned our feet upon the sands of misery,
and watched as our children were devoured
    by jackals, lions, and beasts.

 
“Be Strong! Do not fear! Here is our God!
God will come and save you!”
Today, we walk in the Holy Way,
    the highway of the wise!
 
Where the lame leap as deer!
Where grateful blind eyes see colors!

 
And the speechless sing out to our merciful Lord!
Blessed be the Lord our God!
 
Praise the Lord, O Zion!

 
written by the Rev. Nathan Decker, and posted on the Discipleship Ministries website of the United Methodist Church in the US.


Tips on searching re-worship blog

The search box on the website is very powerful. Type in a string of keywords to find posts that contain all the words you’ve specified. To exclude words like ‘index’ or ‘resource’ (handy lists of posts arranged by type or theme), add -[keyword] to the search box, e.g. -index -resource, and those posts will be filtered out.

Also check out Christine Longhurst’s tips on How to use the re:worship blog.
 


From the Prayer Matters blog:
also see Call of the wild ones and Wild animal praise

Heart’s desire


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

Take delight in the Lord,
      and he will give you
      the desires of your heart
.

(Psalm 37:4)

Reflection

The secret is to connect with – and pursue – the desires that God has placed in our heart.

Recommended listening

Ashton Gustafson in conversation with John Philip Newell, the celebrated author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality.
 

United by love

(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

I took this photograph of John and Ruth Robertson's wedding plaque when I last visited them in South Africa in 2015. Both have since passed away after a long life of loving and prayerful devotion in God’s service.

I first met John and Ruth the year after they were married, when I was in my 20’s, and they graciously took me (and later my family) into their hearts and prayers.

Ruth and John had been friends for years and when Ruth heard that John’s wife had died, she sent John a letter of condolence. Imagine her surprise when he came to visit her and proposed. Ruth’s initial response was “no”. She was in her fifties and happily single. But then, after praying about it, she contacted John and said, “If you ask me again, I’ll say yes”. So began a new chapter in their lives as instruments of love as a couple.

May you and I be instruments of love wherever God has called us and may we inspire and support others as John and Ruth have inspired and supported so many over the years – also me.


A prayer: Instruments of love

Let us pray to our kind and merciful God that his love for us may animate all we do and that our love may become contagious. Let us say: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That the Church, the People of God, may never cease to proclaim by its teaching, life and liturgy that love of God and neighbour is the heart of the gospel and that people are God’s gift to us, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That people may not lose their hearts in today’s economic systems of profit, efficiency, production and competition, but that they may keep giving first place to human relationships of friendship and respect, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That we may have room in our hearts and homes for refugees and strangers, that we may learn to share our goods and ourselves with the little people loved by God – the poor and the lonely and those who suffer, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That those who don’t know how to forgive, those who have not experienced much happiness in life or whose longings have not been fulfilled may encounter a bit of God’s goodness in our attention and care, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

That in our Christian communities we may uplift one another rather than tear down, accept each other with trust and affection, forgive one another from the heart and go forward together in hope and love, let us pray: Lord, make us instruments of your love.

Our gentle God, help us to love you and one another with your measure, that is, without measure,
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 
from Liturgies Alive, Models of Celebration,
posted on re-worship.blogspot.nl.


Related topics to explore to your heart’s content

  1. Resources for the 2018 week of prayer for Christian unity which takes place annually from 18 to 24 January.
  2. From the blog: Prayer sheet on Theme: The greatest is love

 

3 Prayers for endings and beginnings

Where do you go from here?
Where do you go from here? (photo: Irene Bom)
 

Here are 3 prayers for happier endings and good beginnings as we approach the end of one year and the start of another.

Go with God.

And if you’re looking for guidance on what to focus on in your walk with God in the coming year, here’s Paul’s advice, from his first letter to the Thessalonians:

16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. 19 Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire. 20 Don’t despise what God has revealed. 21 Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-21 (God’s Word translation)


A new story

Author of Salvation, write in us a new story.
Erase the sins of the past and create a new narrative,
one in which we seek Your love and justice in this world.
Write a new direction for our lives,
away from the busy-ness
    and cares of the world for success and stability,
and instead plot us towards ways of living Your compassion,
care and grace in the world.

Create new opportunities for us, O God,
to explore and live this adventure of life in bold and daring ways,
in which new insights may unfold for us.
Grant us the fullness of life by living for others,
as You taught us to love our neighbour as ourselves,
but most of all, may our story be about You,
about Your love for us,
and what Your love for us calls us to do.
In the name of Christ,
who writes the new ending and beginning, we pray.
Amen.

by Rev. Mindi, and posted on her Rev-o-lution blog.


God’s timing

O God of all seasons and senses,
grant us the sense of your timing
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly
in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth
    what is ready to be born –
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love –
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

by Ted Loder, in Guerrillas of Grace.


Prayer at the threshold

And so we take the ragged fragments,

the patches of darkness
that give shape to the light;
the scraps of desires
unslaked or realized;
the memories of spaces
of blessing, of pain.

And so we gather the scattered pieces

the hopes we carry
fractured or whole;
the struggles of birthing
exhausted, elated;
the places of welcome
that bring healing and life.

And so we lay them at the threshold, God;

bid you hold them, bless them, use them;
ask you tend them, mend them,
transform them
to keep us warm,
make us whole, and send us forth.

by Jan L. Richardson in Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas, Posted on Prayers and Creeds.


Tip: World in prayer
Their final post for 2017 invites us to pray for everyone and includes a list of every nation, so we can pray for them by name.

 
Other posts in the “3 Prayers” series
3 Prayers to the Sacred Trinity
3 Prayers for Wayfarers
3 Prayers for Refugees