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TGIF

I was at a conference last week and the speaker asked if we knew what TGIF stood for. Thank goodness its Friday popped into my mind. That was not the correct answer in his mind. It stands for “Twitter, Google, iphone and facebook”. He says the world changed in 1973 with the creation of the cell phone and the “Gutenberg folks” born pre-1973 are a different breed than the Google folks who think text is a verb.

He may have overstated his case to get our attention (and some laughs) for it is certainly true that many of us Gutenberg folk use facebook and even blog, yet he was right that the world has changed and rather quickly, too. Though I like to read newspapers, I have also bought a smartphone to keep better in touch. Maybe it is a question of balance, staying connected and yet preserving moments of quiet reflection.

A Harvard study published in the journal Science suggested that meditation or mindfulness may even increase brain gray matter and boost mental alertness. Even with TGIF, there is always a need for quiet focused reflection. What do you think?

I led an advent retreat at Rolling Ridge this week and asked the participants why they were drawn to spending a day, mostly in quiet, at Rolling Ridge. One of the participants said she feels like God is trying to tell her, “don’t run over the manger.” We all laughed but understood what she meant.

I wrote a prayer for the day, inviting the gathered folks to take a deep breath and take the time to listen in this sacred time of year.  Maybe a moment of peace will be yours as you pray this as well:

In this moment, in this carved out hallowed time:

Quiet us to hear where new life is struggling to be born.

Cause the angelic choruses and familiar carols to lift our hearts and                    renew our joy;

Slow our rush so we may hug those we care about;

Keep us disciplined in a time of excess;

Fill our hearts more than we fill our stockings;

May your light penetrate deeply to the wounds we carry and                                        let some healing be born in us.

Open us to the miracle waiting to happen, even now, even now.

Amen.

I make lists and I guess many others do, too.  Especially at this time of year and with the encouragement of songs about Santa and buying gifts.

I came across some alternative lists, ones that will last longer than the coming holiday. I am trying to keep these in front of me as well as the list of tasks to do and presents to buy.

The first is five simple rules to be happy(source unknown to me):

1. Free your heart from hatred

2. Free your mind from worries

3. Live simply

4. Give more

5. Expect less

The second list is from anthropologist and author Angeles Arrien and speaks of a fourfold way of love:

1. Showing up – being there.

2. Paying attention – proximity become presence.

3. Telling the truth without shame or blame.

4. Being open to the outcome without being attached to an outcome.

And from John Wesley, founder of United Methodism:

1. Do good

2. Refrain from doing harm

3. Stay in love with God

What is on your list this December?

Anticipation

It is Advent, a season in the church year of anticipation and preparation.  Externally, we decorate the tree, bake cookies, light candles.  Internally, we create a peaceful space and an open heart.  Often the internal work is harder.  I hope this prayer helps.  You can find other of my prayers in Openings, A Daybook of Saints, Psalms and Prayer.

God of Mary and Joseph, God of shepherd and sage, quicken our mood of anticipation, yet still our anxious worry of lists and events. Hush the frantic tone in our voices. Slow the rush of our busy lives.

Open us to the joy hidden in every carol, the love hidden in every card, the beauty nourished in every tree.

With Mary, let wonder fill our hearts and blessing be our song.  With Joseph, let us listen to the whispers of the night and do what is right.  With the shepherds and kings, let us prepare to hear the flutter of angel wings, see the bright star and kneel in awe and joy.  God of the morning light and holy nights, we long for you.  Amen.

Subversive Prayer

Someone accused me once of living in the shadow of a monastery.  For over 30 years I have been visiting and praying and chanting at monasteries.  Here I am again.  For three days I have been at Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in Hingham, MA.  Times have changed here – no longer are there 60 monks in the choir but only 8. Yet, they still chant the psalms 4 times a day and have a mass at noon.

I love chanting the psalms.  Simple tunes with organ accompaniment at Lauds and Vespers are my favorite services.   I usually sleep through the morning vigils and I miss the organ at night time compline but I like the spritzing with water at the end of the day.

Daniel Berrigan wrote that “ The time will shortly be upon us, if it is not already here, when the pursuit of contemplation becomes a strictly subversive activity.” In the face of all that wrong with the world, all the hunger, hurt and war, it is humbling and subversive to take the long view that God is still at work for good.  And our prayers are part of that energy transforming darkness to light.

Keep praying wherever you are – in the shadow of a monastery, at the street corner or sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal.

Nature Calls

An article in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin said that paying attention to the natural world not only makes us feel better, it also makes us behave better.  Wow.

We know that just being in nature helps lower stress and increases happiness and now we find that walking and absorbing the natural surroundings leads people to value community and close relations and to be more generous with money.

Lead author, Netta Weinstein, says the study shows that we are influenced by our environment in ways that we are not aware of and the natural world has an effect on how we view ourselves and others. Even having plants or other natural objects in the house or work environment helps create positive energy if we cannot get outside.  So feel good and be good and hug a tree,  smell a flower , rake some leaves (we have plenty at Rolling Ridge), look at the stars, listen to the birds.

Running

Just finished Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. A fascinating book that makes me want to run and I haven’t been a runner since college.  It is not just about a 50 mile race between the best ultramarathoners  that happened in the hills of Mexico, but a book about the link between compassion and competition, about running as essential to better communities and spiritual growth.  He quotes one Olympic distance runner as saying, “poetry, music, forests, oceans, solitude – they were what developed enormous spiritual strength.  I came to realize that spirit, as much as physical condition, had to be stored up before a race.”

I am glad I work in a place that has solitude, forests, a lake and music.  If only I can remember to stop looking at the computer and go outside and store up some spiritual strength.  Maybe even a jog.