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For no reason other than it makes me happy.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
In a dream, You told me:
Teach. Learn. Live. Well. Work.
So I took it to mean I was ready
to share what You’ve done for me.
Then I realized I’m supposed to
teach and learn at the same time.
Don’t give up on me, Lord.
I’m set in my ways
but my heart is set on your word.
I know I’m still in the curve.
Enable me to grow.
Allow me to serve.
Last week, I wrote about using a set of prayer beads to help me focus when I pray. The problem is that I have an overly active mind – what the Buddhists call a monkey mind. My prayer beads give the monkey something to do so that I can take the time I need to pray and listen.
Another tool that is perfect for home use is a finger labyrinth. Our church has a finger labyrinth in the parlor off the sanctuary. This small stone carving sits on a table between two chairs. Whenever I use it, I place it in my lap and run one finger of my right hand through the curves as I pray. When the monkey is particularly boisterous, I trace the labyrinth with my left index finger. Since I’m right handed this takes just a wee bit more concentration.
Want to try this technique out? You don’t have to purchase a carving in wood or stone, instead print off one of these labyrinths.
This one if much like the finger labyrinth at my church. It is a common asymmetric pattern.
This is a duplicate of the Chartres labyrinth.
Personally, I like the combination of angels and curves in this particular pattern.
There are a wide variety of labyrinth patterns available online. Some are asymmetric like the one at my church. Others are symmetric. Just make sure that you are printing off a labyrinth and not a maze – a labyrinth has a single twisting path. There are no wrong turns. It is simply another way to release your day enough to pray.
Remember the greater good? It sent us to war against the Nazis. It induced us to pay taxes to build interstate highways and fund police and fire departments. It rings out melodiously every time we sacrifice for the good of others.
The common good seems to have gone out of vogue, along with war bonds and victory gardens. Today, it’s every man — or woman — for him/herself. The scrabble to have and keep what we’ve collected, as if life were a giant game of Monopoly, takes precedence over pretty much everything else. There are towns in Indiana where the paved roads are so pitted and ruined, they’ve been ground up into gravel and left that way. There’s no money to pay for their improvement. That might mean a tax increase, and the words “tax increase” hold roughly the same degree of distaste as the words “full body cavity search.”
We’re like a bunch of sullen teens, griping at the world-at-large, “Don’t come in my room, Mom and Dad. Gah! Can’t you just leave me alone?” Well, guess what, kids? You’re living under God’s roof now. And as long as you are, you’d best follow His rules.
As people of God, we’re asked to act for the common good. As 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” And while a tinkling cymbal may sound pretty, it’s not gonna get you seats at Sardi’s, if you know what I’m saying. Effecting change for the better takes a much bigger set of lungs.
Charity isn’t easy. I know this. Thinking of the common good means abnegating your own selfish wants and needs in favor of what we all need: as a community, as a country, as a world. And every time the scope expands, the amount that’s asked of us increases…and it hurts just a little bit more. It doesn’t help that most of us are so struggling to get by that we hardly have the energy to look beyond our own nests.
But there are things we can do that cost little in terms of our time and bank accounts. We can vote for those who will ensure better conditions for the most people. We can refrain from selfish pursuits that will benefit us at the expense of others. We can pray for change. And we can stand up to corporations, banks, governments and yes, churches, that prey on the weak or take more than their share, or ignore the root causes of poverty in favor of patriarchal control. (Just sayin’.)
It’s time for the common good to come back into favor. If we all push a little, we can move mountains.
I took a set of pale green beads but for a while I didn’t use them. Frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure how to use them. Its not like I grew up praying with a rosary or anything else in hand. I was going to have to wing it.
The first thing that I did was re-string the beads. I now have a longer set of green, onyx and brass that I can wear as a necklace or looped around my wrist. When I sit down to pray, just how I use these beads varies from one time to another.
Today, I needed a break from the worries running around in my head. I needed to focus on all that is Right and Good. I had to turn my gaze to God. At each green bead, I repeated the phrase “Holy God, You are the Creator of All.” Then for the black beads, I ran through bits and pieces of His Creation, naming one thing per bead.
For one set of beads I focused on large and mighty things – mountains, oceans, rivers, etc.
For another I focused on tiny things – the feather’s on a humming bird, the leaves on the new sprouts of mint in the garden, etc.
As I worked my way through the beads, I covered sounds (ocean waves, running water, wind in the leaves, etc.), scents (roses, a field in the sun, etc.) and even places I’ve been (Bandolier Canyon, the Davis Mountains, etc.).
For the last several sets of beads, I focused on simply breathing, slow and deep. I listened. No, I didn’t hear anything in particular but I hadn’t asked anything. I was just grateful for the quiet.
Not that this is always how I use my beads. Sometimes, I run through the Prayer of St. Francis, reciting a line of his prayer for one bead and then thinking of an application here and now for the next bead. Sometimes I pray for the families that I know who are in need. Each family gets a set of beads, with a specific request per bead.
The thing that I’ve come to realize is that the beads aren’t a grading system. There isn’t a single right way to pray with them. They simply help me to focus and slow down so that I spend some necessary time with the God who is more than I can wrap my mind around.
But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.