Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter can't come too soon!

My experience of Holy Week this year has been very different from years past.

The obvious difference is that I'm a pastor now and responsible for leading services through the liturgy of death and resurrection. This may be the reason I can't wait for Easter...but I think there is more.

In years past, I've approached Holy Week with a real eagerness for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Living a privileged life full of first world problems, I yearned to remember (and to have those around me reminded) of the suffering and pain Christ experienced in order to give us new life and hope in the resurrection. I was critical of the Easter bunnies and chocolates and the commercialism of this "secular holiday" advertised weeks in advance. I deeply yearned for the rest of the story - the suffering and pain - to be told. 

This year, I yearn for Easter. I'm ready for the new life springing up around us. I'm excited to dance out of worship on my tiptoes full of joy and hope and love. 

And I yearn for this because of the reality of brokenness and pain and despair all around me. Now, living in an urban place, I feel more exposed to the in flesh pain and suffering Christ experienced. I see the long journeys of depression and loneliness and despair...and I'm ready to be reminded (and to remind those around me) of the hope that is true and real and good. 

I guess the age old quote about ministry "afflicting the comforted and comforting the afflicted" rings true. We need both. Joy is not empty when experienced apart from suffering, but Easter joy sure is fuller and deeper when the suffering is real. 

I wish for you a hopeful, joyful, laughter-filled Easter. I sure am ready for mine.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Embodied Prayer

In memory of John Dowling, a beloved member of MBCC who died in December,
we as a worshipping community embodied prayer as we made a communal
mosaic cross. John was a fabulous artist and so this embodied prayer seemed
only appropriate as we remember him and are grateful for his life.
I'm an active person, so I have a hard time sitting still to pray.

Obeying God's command to "be still and know God," I do sit still occasionally and can sometimes successfully quiet myself enough to pray. Most of the time though, I prefer to pray in action - through movement.

I discovered what I call "embodied prayer" sometime last year while swimming. I started praying for someone as I swam a lap and then when I started a new lap I would pray for someone else. The rhythmic pace helped me move through my prayer. I find that as I give my body some methodical task (like free stroke), my mind is free to be still, to connect to God, to lift those I love in prayer.

Swimming has been the best prayer practice I've found, though I've also used running or walking as a means of embodied prayer before. Any type of individual exercise allows me to pray.

Another way I pray is by writing my prayers on large white boards and then erasing them. This seemingly simple practice reminds me to "let go and let God." As I write down names, details, worries, anxieties, fears... I acknowledge their presence in my mind and heart and then as I erase them, I physically give them over to God.

Connecting with God in prayer isn't always easy. We have to experiment to see which types of prayers work for us. Some people connect to God through music...playing an instrument or listening to music. Others use creative expressions of art...using a creative medium to express their thoughts and prayers.