A dear friend recently sent me the above sentence which she read in the introduction for a documentary film Godspeed. As I contemplated this thought I was convicted to slow down my pace even more. Before long a blog column was born…
Our world has most of us living at breakneck speeds. Jobs; families; children; church and school activities; hobbies; groceries; chores; cooking… With all this who has time to rest much less contemplate God’s goodness and purpose for our lives.
When we look at world history and the pace at which most cultures have lived, it’s only within the last 100 years or so that family and personal lives began to get overcrowded with outside distractions. With the invention of steam power for boats and trains, followed by automobiles, airplanes and computer technology, life for the average person has gotten complicated at an exponential rate.
Since beginning my Benedictine Oblate path in 2012, I’ve come to understand my need to slow down and simplify my life. It’s not something that happens overnight to be sure. Life didn’t get complicated and cluttered in one day and it isn’t going to get simplified in one day either. But just like most things, as we take baby steps each day towards our goal eventually we will see improvements.
One thing that helps me is to keep strong boundaries on my use of media and devices.Apple’s iOS 12 update has a new feature which allows you to put time limits on your apps. I implemented it immediately and have already seen great results. By limiting screen time I’m able to be more in the present moment; to recognize God’s Presence in my life; to be present to my surroundings, to myself, my husband and my dogs. By limiting, and in some cases removing, media distractions I’m able to focus more on the things that are important to me. To enjoy learning because I can remember more of what I’m reading. Then I’m able to share more with you.
God doesn’t want our life to be lived numbed out from one media device to the next, never having personal relationships with Him or anyone else. But He isn’t going to come in our living room and hide the TV remote or change our device passwords. It’s up to us to discipline ourselves. Let’s look at Jesus’ example. Let’s slow down our pace. The next time you’re outside, stop. Take sit down and just look at the clouds, listen to the birds and soak up the breeze. You’ll be surprised how energized you will be afterwards.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. ~ Matthew 11:29b MSG
Learning the unforced rhythms of grace means accepting that where I am now is where God wants me to be. Living the pace of grace for this moment means not looking back to yesterday, last week, or last year with regrets and do-over wishes. The pace of grace in the moment doesn’t look forward with fear, anxiety or dread. As we learn to let go, to walk each moment at Jesus’ pace, He dispenses His grace to us at the perfect place in His perfect time.
EACH MONTH IN A MONK IN THE WORLDWE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.
There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence. ~ The Rule of Benedict
I kept quiet, not saying a word, not even about anything good! ~ Psalm 39:2 (GNT)
Words, words, words…They are everywhere! Billboards, sides of buildings, flashing street signs, bumper stickers in traffic, even the sky isn’t immune with its skywriters and planes tugging advertisement banners. The plethora of words in our world dilute their meaning to the point of overload and burnout!
Where in the world can one go to find silence?
Even if we find a place with the precious quietwe’re craving we still have the noise in our mind to deal with. We must somehow change the internal noise into a gentler sound.
The one who sits in solitude and quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, and seeing; yet against one thing shall he continually battle: that is his own heart. ~ Anthony of Egypt*
As our body needs rest, our spirit needs silencefor our inner life to grow. When we keep out the weeds (noise) the garden of our soul can flourish. Too many words can hinder our relationship with God, preventing us from hearing the most important Word of all! Spiritual growth requires insights that only solitude and silence can provide. No one can do this work for us. We must be intentional to build times of silence into our day. It won’t happen otherwise. In Buddhist countries children routinely spend time with monks and are taught to sit in the lotus position and learn to meditate. Quaker communities also have silence as a regular part of their daily routine. Who is teaching us or our children how to sit in silence? Instead of hiding away in our prayer closet we must include our children and grand children in our practice of silence. They will learn best by watching our example.
If you are unaccustomed to silence (I was and most people are) begin with a simple plan. You may choose an activity that can be done in quiet: gardening, painting, walking or cooking. You may just want to sit. Either way start out small. If you want five minutes of silence, give yourself ten minutes. You will need the buffer time to get settled in. Gradually you will add more time. Before you know it you will prefer the silence!
Silence is an indispensable discipline in the spiritual life. It is our portable monastic cell that we take with us into the world to minister to others.
RESOURCES: The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J.M. Nouwen Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison* The Path of Life by Cyprian Smith OSB The Rule of Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry, OSB The Oblate Life Edited by Gervase Holdaway OSB
When I was growing up my father was an alcoholic. Our home life was stressful and unpredictable so I developed a coping mechanism to escape the painful reality of my daily life. My personal escape mechanism was fantasy. I created invisible friends who kept me company when lonely and scared. Fantasy served me well in my childhood but later as an adult it became an unhealthy escape.
Though fantasy escape is no longer a issue for me, I still struggle with wanting to avoid the painful realities of daily life. In the last 50+ years I’ve made the rounds of the common addictive substances/behaviors: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sexual addiction, gambling, shopping, television, and food.
In this most recent season of recovery I’m giving up something that I have to witness someone else using on a regular basis. At first this was extremely difficult and maddening. It’s getting easier as time goes by, but some days are still hard. At the same time I was getting sober from this substance both of my elderly dogs died within a few weeks of each other. The emotional pain was so intense I wanted to run away. But I couldn’t.
Most of my life I’ve avoided feeling anything really. The bad was numbed with some substance. And the good was also numbed with a celebratory substance. So I grew up not knowing how to feel. Now in my late 50’s I’m in one of the most difficult seasons of life and facing it completely sober.
To be honest, I’ve cried a lot and I’ve yelled at God. But ultimately what has helped me the most has been just sitting quietly in God’s presence. I’m learning how to accept this moment, one moment at a time.
Life may not get any easier, but I’m learning new ways to cope with my pain. I’m avoiding television programing that highlights escapist lifestyles and replacing them with encouraging audio books and podcasts, listening to liturgical prayers, reading scripture, journaling, and writing this blog. It’s vital to have a creative outlet to help process feelings.
When we escape this moment we are running from the only life we have.
Are you always seeking escape? Do you often want to fly far, far away?
We all endure suffering and handle it differently. Suffering has many levels and can be expressed in various emotions and behaviors. It can be very painful, even destructive to relationships. What can we possibly do to get through this difficult time in a healthier way?
What is suffering for you may not be suffering for me. What is suffering for me today may not be suffering for me tomorrow.
To the degree that we surrender to our suffering is the degree that we will grow stronger spiritually.
The idea seems simple but it’s difficult and even painful to walk out.
As a recovering addict, I am usually trying to avoid pain at all cost. But I’m finally learning the more I fight the pain and suffering, the more I try to run from it, to avoid it, to remove it… the worse it gets and the longer it may last.
If we can find our way to accept the moment and its lesson for us, trusting that there is something better on the other side of the suffering, we are closer to the Peace of God that passes all understanding.
When I surrender to what this moment brings I am accepting God’s providence. By trusting Him, I am loving Him.
All of us make mistakes. We hope to learn from our failures and not repeat them. Unfortunately, for most of us this isn’t the case. We seem doomed to go round and round our mountains until we’ve worn a deep trench that resembles a castle moat.
It dawned on me one day that we have pain memory but it doesn’t seem to last very long. We remember when we touched that hot stove not to do it again.
Why can’t we remember emotional pain causing events? What about bad habits that we allow to creep back in and again cause us the same old pain from before.
Scripture likens humans to sheep, who are very dumb animals, cute but dumb. If the sheep didn’t have their shepherd to follow they would literally walk off the cliff. The leader would start off the cliff and the others would follow. Now that’s dumb. Sound familiar? We may see someone doing something that looks like fun and follow them only to find a cliff edge waiting. Forget about following others. We can follow our own nose right off the cliff. An important difference between humans and other animals is our ability to make conscious choices. Just following our sensory perceptions: sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing; can easily get us into trouble. But if we can be more aware in the moment, making conscious choices, we will be better off. The problem is we are dumb sheep and get distracted easily. Before we know it we are at that cliff edge again.
The key is in who and what we are following. This is a daily, hourly, even momentary discipline that must be intentionally practiced. Who / What am I following today?
IN A MONK IN THE WORLDWE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.
THIS MONTH’S TOPIC IS THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS.
One thing that attracted me most to Benedictine spirituality is the custom of praying The Liturgy of the Hours. Fixed-hour prayer has its origins in Judaism from which Christianity came and is still widely used today. The connection to this ancient practice is fascinating to me and draws me in with an incredible sense of unity to my spiritual family.
In a previous blog I wrote a book review on The Divine Hoursby Phyllis Tickle. Ms. Tickle has done a marvelous job compiling scripture and prayers for daily use built around the seasons of the year. If you are just learning about this type of prayer routine Phyllis Tickle’s books are an excellent place to start.
By far my favorite way to pray the hours is with my iPhone app The Divine Office. This wonderful ministry has developed beautiful productions of worship experiences and brought them to us via technology. Not to worry, if you don’t have a smart phone you can still participate through their website.
What an incredible experience to join the live recording and gather with a world-wide community who are praying together. This takes Christian community worship to a whole different level! As the earth rotates and each time slot changes we pass on the prayers like a baton to the next time zone. I find this such a sweet thing to imagine. I’ve been using The Divine Office app for 2 years and look forward to hearing the now familiar voices each day.
As a recovering addict this prayer routine has been a great tool especially in rough times. When I can rotate my day around praying the Psalms it helps to push out things of the world by keeping my heart and mind focused on transformation.
I encourage you to consider praying the Liturgy of the Hours. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. It has given my prayer life new direction, energy and purpose.
RESOURCES: The Benedictine Handbook Liturgical Press 2003 The Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer by Phyllis Tickle Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monks Insights for a Balanced Life by Lonni Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan How to be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life by Benet Tvedten Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine** Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal
EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY. WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.
The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict
THE ELEVENTH STEP OF HUMILITY:
A monk speaks gently, without laughter, with modesty, briefly and reasonably without raising [her] voice. ~The Rule of Saint Benedict
Speak concisely, say much in few words; be as one who knows and yet holds [her] tongue.~Sirach 32:8
This is the third step where Benedict addresses communication. Step Nine calls us to listen more than we speak, followed by Step Ten which asks us not to be excessive in our laughter. Today we are encouraged to be brief and gentle when we speak.
When I grew up we were taught“If you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all.” This might be considered a modern version of St. Benedict’s 11th Step of Humility.
By restraining our speech we are putting others before ourselves, allowing them to share something of themselves, honoring them with our attentiveness.
Much of the time when someone is talking to us we are too busy in our mind crafting our fabulous response. St. Benedict asks us to restrain our speech with a humble, honoring attitude toward others. Having listened attentively to the other we can now have our say. We aren’t to be boisterous, bragging or loud. The best rule of thumb might be to remember to respond vs. react.
When we are reactive we are being led by our emotions. But by responding we have given more thought to the words we will say.
This is often difficult and must be practiced consistently for it to become a natural habit, especially with those we are closest to.
Again Saint Benedict comes to us with words of wisdom from an ancient time that are vital to our lives today!
RESOURCES: The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chitister
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Benedicts’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
For the better part of January I have been knocked down by the flu virus. More than the usual sniffles and body aches, I was immobilized by chest congestion that brought wheezing, a non-stop cough and loss of breath.
A book I’m reading on Christian mysticism brought a new perspective on the simple act of breathing.*
In the Judeo-Christian tradition the name of God is Yahweh. Written in the Sacred Hebrew tetragrammaton: YHVH (yod, he, vac, and he) it was considered unspeakable by the Jews. This unspeakability has been recognized for a long time but some see it deeper way, not only as a word formally unspoken but a word breathed. Many are convinced the correct pronunciation of Yahweh is replicating the sound of inhalation and exhalation.
Imagine… our first and last words entering and leaving this world, the one thing we do every moment of our life is actually speaking the name of God. This should make me have more respect for my lungs and the breath given me by the Holy Spirit! Try this meditation/breathing technique: Breath in whispering Yah. Then breath out whispering Weh.
YAH-WEH… YAH-WEH… YAH-WEH… YAH-WEH… YAH-WEH…
If you can’t see the video below CLICK HERE for a beautiful Michael W. Smith song to listen to as you breathe in the peace of the Lord.
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr