Prayer Practice Fridays – May 1, 2020

Exercise

Now that the weather seems to really be turning into Spring it seemed like a good time to share exercise as a prayer practice. Exercise might seem pretty pedestrian to some in terms of prayer and ideal to others. It can be a time to ourselves, where we get to choose what to focus on, what to think about, perhaps to rewire our minds a little bit and to take a break from all the things that we have to think about or do. Some exercise admittedly requires full attention on what you’re doing, but the aftereffects of having exercised can provide a good head space and sense of clarity for prayer. Other exercise offers time for thought and prayer while you are in the midst of it.

When using the time of exercising to also offer prayer it can take many forms. It might be pausing before you begin and being conscious of inviting God into that space with you. Perhaps if you’re at the gym or out pounding the pavement it’s the meditation that comes with regulating your breathing or listening to your steps. However you choose to listen to God in this time it’s important to be intentional in your awareness and invitation to God in that time.

If you find it difficult to be intentional in prayer and reflection while you exercise it could be a better option to engage following your exercise. You might find that you have more clarity or calm afterwards and it is a good moment to capture those thoughts on paper or in conversation with God. Take a moment to notice where your thoughts and your body are directing you; maybe into contemplation of a relationship, a specific part of your work or family life, new ideas for things that you want to accomplish or goals you want to set. This might not be a time for answers, but could be a part of the path to get you there. Vision can come in these moments of clarity and exercise is often a great way to get you there!

Pastor Carrie

Prayer Practice Fridays – April 17, 2020

Meditation

I will be the first to tell you that of all the prayer practices I have learned about, this one is still often the most difficult for this seldom quiet pastor to hold on to. That being said, we shouldn’t let the idea of meditation scare us either. There are many different practices that include meditation in different ways. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have wait for everything around me to align, for the perfect moment of quiet bliss to practice some form of meditation. I actually think that being able to take a moment in the midst of chaos to center ourselves can be a real gift if we allow ourselves the freedom to do it. I have a note on my phone that I open to every now and again that simply says, “If you’re reading this, release your shoulders from your ears, unclench your jaw, and remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth. We physically tend to hold onto stress in the least noticeable ways. Relax.” When I remind myself of those things it gives me a chance to catch my breath, to center myself and to reengage in the present moment. That act of bringing ourselves back to the present, having a sense of self-awareness and clarity in moment often brings me to a place of gratitude. It often doesn’t then come as a spoken prayer, but a recognition of something greater than myself who leads me to a place of centering, mindfulness and gratitude.

Of course there are many ways to practice mindfulness and meditation which are more focused too. One of the practices that I have experienced in many different settings is an exercise called Lectio Divina. I will share the most basic understanding of this practice and suggest a text to focus on this week.

Before you begin find yourself a comfortable space and bring your bible with the scripture marked. Take a moment to invite the Spirit into this time and space with you and to guide you. Read the passage once to get familiar with it and then reread the passage more slowly. As you are reading the second time listen for a word of phrase that stands out to you or lingers with you, you might want to mark that word or phrase. Then spend some time being quiet, listen for what it is that you think you’re hearing in that word or phrase. Does it call to mind anything particular about your life or life circumstances? Read the passage again and pay attention to how your word or phrase ties into it, notice if it leads you to any other words that stand out and how they might tie together. I like to ask myself the questions “I wonder…or I notice…” to help lead me in the passage. What other life experiences might tie into the words or phrases you’ve identified as meaningful? Images or pictures, specific people or places? Remember in this that you are not alone, that in all of those experiences God was with you. Read the passage for a last time, and let it guide you in conversation with the Lord. Tell God what you have noticed, listen for God to help you understand that which you might not. Ask what you should take away from this time together with God.

Finally, a book that I have been spending time with in the last week or so is titled “just this” by Father Richard Rohr. The book is labeled as “prompts and practices for contemplation.” This book is described as being “a collection of brief and evocative meditations and practices.” It

offers many opportunities to experience the ordinary around us in ways that can be eye-opening to beauty unseen and foist us into the mystical experiences of God and faith that we otherwise might not see. Some may find that Rohr is a bit too into the mysticism side of things (I know that I often do) but this book has many practices that allow for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. You might give it a try. I hope you all can find some peace in your prayer life this week. I continue to hold you all in prayer.

Easter Blessings,
Pastor Carrie

Prayer Practice Fridays – April 10, 2020

Lament

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
-Matthew 27:46

This is the verse in the bible that always strikes me as the saddest. I find that it makes me tremble. This lament coming from Jesus on the cross is one that brings me both fear and hope, knowing that Jesus will be killed, but that is not the end of the story. Lament does not mean that our faith is weak, but that we can express darkness live into our feelings and know that our relationships are strong enough to withstand the lament. This was Jesus relationship with God, and is ours all the same.

So much of scripture includes lament, a third of more of the Psalms, a whole chapter named Lamentations, and so many more places scattered throughout. Our scripture gives us prayers of lamentation, prayers for help coming out of pain. Laments turn toward God when sorrow tempts us to run from him.

On this Good Friday, I urge you to do as Jesus did and take up your lament with God. It is healthy to share wounds and hurt that you cannot carry on your own and to ask for help. God can handle the laments that we voice, he is our listener, our healer and our hope. So today we turn to God, we voice our complaint, we ask for help, and we trust.

-Pastor Carrie

Thanks to First Lutheran member Lisa Christopherson for the beautiful artwork!

Prayer Practice Fridays – 03-27-20

Fasting

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
-Joel 2: 11-12

One of the Lenten disciplines that is always encouraged is fasting. During this particular Lent we are most certainly fasting in ways that we had never intended. We find ourselves fasting from face-to-face interactions, from going about some of our daily routines, perhaps from picking up our regular items from the store and from experiencing Holy Communion together. None of this comes to us as an intentional fast to make room for prayer but, all of it allowing for time to reflect in prayer on so many different things. This forced fast has been pretty eye opening, allowing time to think about the things that we can’t currently have access to, or that no longer seem like a big deal, and it makes me wonder what things that we are currently fasting from that may not return.

When we talk about fasting as a prayer discipline we speak of filling the space of something we consume with time for prayer and reflection. This is a time of prayer and reflection can be spent giving thanks for what we have been blessed with and praying for those who lack the same. We might find that when we give up a comfort in our lives it readies our hearts for more urgent sacrifices that might be called upon us from time to time. Today it seems we are living in a vulnerable state of fasting. I know that it is one that creates anxiety and a sense of helplessness in not knowing how to help. I urge you to take this time of fasting and create space to pray, to reflect on the blessings that abound in our lives and trust that God is faithful.

Lastly, this week I’ve started reading (literally just started) a book titled “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. It speaks to the ways that Common Prayer helps today’s diverse church pray together across traditions and denominations. It seems most appropriate to me now in light of our current pandemic situation. Early in the book, page 19 on my Kindle to be exact, they have this to say about prayer: “We never pray alone, even when praying by ourselves.” I take great comfort in that during this time and I hope you do too. Remember that we continue to hold you in prayer and long for the day that we gather to pray together.

-Pastor Carrie

Prayer Practice Fridays – March 20, 2020

One of the things that I’ve been doing since we are no longer in the office and working from home is trying to figure out ways to keep folks connected. We are loaded with technology these days that keeps many of us in face to face conversation and allows for meeting one another online and in the cloud. But I’ve also been thinking of the ways that we can stay connected without technology, ways to stay grounded in caring for one another and engaging with the presence of God who is surely with us.

Each Friday for the foreseeable future I want to share with you a different resource for prayer practices and some ways to engage in them. Earlier this week I had also shared the hope that at 6:18 each evening you would take a moment, either as a family around the dinner table, or wherever you happen to be and offer a prayer. The 6:18 comes from Ephesians 6:18 which says: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” It’s my hope that during this time (and always) we can pray for one another, keeping us connected as the body of Christ, knowing that as you are praying for someone, another is praying for you.

This week I want to share with you “Intercession.” This is the kind of prayer that leads us to pray for others. So I invite you to spend some time thinking about, remembering, and praying for the people who benefit from the gifts and strengths that you offer. You might make a list of those closest to you and see what other names and faces come to mind. You may find yourself surprised. In some cases you will have a strong sense of what to pray for others, in other cases their situations might be far beyond your reach of knowing. In either case pray for them, and when you don’t have the words, simply know that God does. That God understands far beyond our own understanding and he intercedes for us when the words simply don’t come.

I want to commend to you one of my favorite new prayer books. It is simply titled “Prayer Forty Days of Practice” and it’s by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson, I ordered mine on Amazon. It includes a short prayer and a sketch to go with it and outlines some prayer practices too. The prayer from this book that I am praying on in these days is this: “May I find freedom in limitation—to fully give myself to what I can do rather than worry about what I cannot.”

Thanks for walking with us as community in this time of separation. I continue to pray for each of you and hope that you are well. Many blessings friends, many blessings.

-Pastor Carrie

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