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My pal Alice told me about a way to meditate anew on familiar biblical passages and favorite spiritual sayings. I call it “Quotation Subtraction.” It works like this: Choose a beloved, brief quote from a book, poem or other work of literature — the Bible, of course, is a great place to start — and meditate on what it means as you lose, one by one, the last word in the saying. Let’s use Psalm 46:10 as an example.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Take a quiet moment to reflect on the words. What do they mean to you? Now remove the last word.

“Be still and know that I am.”

How does this change what you feel? What emotions and ideas do these words conjure up?

“Be still and know that I.”

And now? Who or what is the “I” in this quotation? Which “I” does God want you to know?

“Be still and know.”

Know what? Again, reflect on what these words mean to you.

“Be still and.”

And what? What is required of you in this moment?

“Be still.”

What value is there in stillness? What can you learn from it?

“Be.”

If God said this single word to you, what would you think or feel?

I have found this meditation surprisingly rich and unexpectedly revealing. It is a quick and easy spiritual practice that can open to you whole new avenues of thought. Imagine what you might do with John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son”) or 1 John 4:7 (“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God”)!

Give it a whirl, and see how old words take on new meanings in your life!

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Some people are naturally happy. They bound out of bed, a tune on their lips, ready to embrace the day. And then there’s me. I pry myself out of bed with the greatest reluctance, as sleeping is perhaps the one thing I do exceedingly well. (And if the cats didn’t need feeding and tending to, I’d probably skip this step altogether some days.) The truth is, happiness doesn’t come easily to everybody. And that’s okay.

See, I’ve learned that happiness is like a garden (or a marriage, or any number of other metaphors). Even if you have great soil, the best seeds and plenty of sun, you still have to tend to it. Happiness requires work. Like all things worth having, it ought to.

I’ve started a new practice. Last week, during my hour of Perpetual Adoration (which, simply put, consists of sitting with God in silence for an hour), I picked up a book, the biography of some saint or other. (I wish I could remember her name, but I can’t.) Anyway, the back of the book stated something that blew my mind. This saint realized that there was only thing that she needed to do in her life, and that was to love God. Just that. It sounded so simple to me that the logical, Spock-like section of my brain immediately questioned it: But what about actions? Don’t I also need to praise God and thank God and, and, and?

Finally, it sunk in. If I do love God, primarily and consciously, the rest will follow…whatever it is. So to still my anxious mind (SueBe calls it “monkeybrain”), I have taken to the following: whenever I start worrying or becoming discouraged or digging in my heels, I stop and say (silently; I don’t need the authorities carting me away just yet), “I love you, God.”

It’s funny what happens when you say, “I love you.” Your heart slows down. You smile. There’s no way to be grumpy when love is on your mind. It’s a lovely reminder of all that is good.

Sure, it’s not much of a practice yet. I know I can do so much more. But it starts with this, just saying, “I love you.” Everything that ought to flow from that will come. I’ve got good reason to believe it will.

On our weekly radio show (www.blogtalkradio.com/prayables), my friend Alice and I discussed daily spiritual practices, using Jasper Fforde’s very funny book “The Woman Who Died A Lot” as a model. In the book, a single faith has gone global, uniting everyone. Among their faith practices are a set of “Bastions;” the church recommends each person practice four a day. Among them are “Pause and Consider” and “Moment of Levity.” Taking time to think and to laugh — pretty sound advice for healthy living, whether you’re a person of faith or not.

What are your daily faith rituals? What keeps your spirit in tip-top shape? It’s an intriguing consideration. Alice’s offering was “Breathe.” That is, pay attention to your breathing, allow yourself to consider the wonder of it, slow down, be in tune with your body…all these things. It’s a practice that those who do yoga know well. This “slowing down” time offers a good opportunity for prayer and reflection, too.

My ideas for good faith practices were: prayer, silence, time alone, time together (accompanied, as Alice rightly pointed out, by human touch, essential especially for children and the elderly), a moment of appreciation, an instance of forgiveness and a period of “giving over” — divesting yourself of whatever plagues you, be it anxiety, depression, anger, envy, whatever it is that’s getting in the way of you being freely you.

I came up with these practices as part of the show we were doing. It was only after the show that it struck me: Why wasn’t I actually doing these things? Why not add these supplements, as part of a good faith diet, so to speak? Funny how revelation can sneak up on a person. It had never occurred to me that there might be tenets just as conducive to my faith life as exercise, good food and sleep are to my physical life. Tenets beyond what is prescribed by my church or by scripture — tenets that are personal, that I need in order to tackle the bigger things.

So now I’m all in. I’m making a list of things that keep my spirit happy and healthy, and I’m bound and determined to indulge in them daily. Furthermore, I’m advising you to do the same. Make a list of good faith practices, things that bring you joy, center your being, and help you function as a person of faith. Then take as directed, daily. And feel free to share them. You never know when you might bring healing to someone else, too.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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