Remember that time I was like, “this year I’m going to do a walk through Foster’s spiritual disciplines and write about one each month and it will be inspiring and wonderful"?
Like, 5 minutes later, I got pregnant. So I spent the next three months sleeping and trying not to throw up, and then the six and a half months after that sleeping and chasing a toddler, and then we had beautiful-precious-sweet-baby-Olivia and then moved to New Braunfels to help plant a church and everyone stopped sleeping and I have no idea how this project got so back-burnered.
At this rate, we should have completed our walk through the disciplines by… let me see….. 2029! I hope you’re in it for the long haul!!
Honestly, what kept me from moving forward in the project though was the fact that I didn’t believe I had time to do it. I made an outline for what I wanted to work through for prayer, and the list covered 16 different approaches to prayer. 16! Of course I did not have time for that, and I’d guess that neither do you, nor does anyone else who does not live in a monastery in the wilderness.
So this one will be easy peasy. Those of us who have grown up in church culture probably already know all the different acronyms for praying and don’t need any more, and those of us who haven’t grown up in church culture don’t need something complicated and overly religious as we enter into this walk with Jesus. I’m only going to talk about three facets of prayer. They are sweet and simple and timeless, and very user friendly.
Onward and upward, then.
A few months back, Joanna Gaines posted this picture on her instagram. Her daughter had written on her bathroom vanity, “Hi God, What are you doing?” It was cute and innocent and childlike, and resonated deep with me. This elementary schooler had captured the essence of contemplative prayer in her little bathroom vanity doodle. Is that not one of the purest ways for us to come before the Father and to enter into a conversation with him ~ Hi…What are you doing?
Shepherd echoed those words to Robin the other night as Robin was laying next to him to put him to sleep. They’d been laying there silently for probably 15 minutes when Robin heard Shep’s little voice out of the darkness, “Dada?….. What are you doing?” How many times have I had to ask God that from my own darkness? Sure that he was next to me, but, was I sure? Dada, what are you doing? I need some reassurance that you’re still here.
Another approach to prayer that has been meaningful to me is breath prayer. The idea is to craft your own mantra, of sorts; something that can be prayed in the space of a breath : INHALE- gather me now to be with you as you are ever with me- EXHALE... INHALE- today let me be your grace upon the earth- EXHALE… INHALE- Lawwwd help me to love these crazies I live with like you do- EXHALE. Shepherd’s breath prayer is, “dear-God-thank-you-for-Jesus-and-John-the-Baptist-In-Jesus’-Name. AMENNN!!!!”
I love breath prayer because it feels calming and centering and very immediate. It’s feeding two birds with one scone: asking God for help, and reminding yourself to breathe. It’s a much better alternative to other things that I might choose to mutter under my breath. ;)
Last is the prayer of examen. I first encountered the prayer of examen when I was walking through Macrina Weiderkehr’s beautiful Seven Sacred Pauses. The prayer of examen is observed at the very end of the day. It is the last pause for prayer of the night, besides the midnight vigil, and it is one of the most intentional ways of closing the day that I’ve ever experienced. I sometimes practice the examen when I’m already snuggled up in bed- unless I have once again stumbled to bed already basically asleep. I realize the word examen makes it sound like a test, so I sometimes think of it as just doing inventory as I reflect on my day. Did I show kindness to someone today? Is there something that is stealing my peace that needs to be addressed? Was I a good memory in someone’s life today? Is there something that I left unfinished today? (Ideally, I bless it to be taken up tomorrow. Occasionally and completely-not-ideally, I start to worry and fret about it, and I have to rein myself back in. A breath prayer is helpful here too.) It really is just examining the way we are living out our days. As Socrates said, (Whoa! This sounds very highbrow of me! Don’t be too impressed. I might be using it totally wrong. Anyway…) As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It helps keep our days from dissolving into solely tasks and scrolling and falling asleep to Netflix, even though all of those things are fine, and even though that is often times what my days look like. It helps us to pay attention to what nourishes our souls and the souls of the people around us.
Becoming a parent and watching my babies grow up has made me so much more aware of the passing of time. I practice the examen because I want to be aware of how my time is being spent, and to see if I like where my time and intention are going.
As we go through our days, I hope that we will take a beat to breathe. To ask God what He is doing in our lives. To evaluate if we are blocking out something that He is wanting to do in us. I hope that we will be constantly reminding ourselves of truth and inviting the sacred into our ordinary as we, hour by hour, tilt our hearts ever so slightly towards Him.
Fasting is the next stop on our walk through the disciplines, and will conveniently be overlapping with Lent, beginning tomorrow, Wednesday March 6th! Which means we should all watch Chocolat and binge tonight, AM I RIGHT? Is that right? This is my first real observation of Lent so please advise. For those of you who are interested in observing Lent but are not really sure what you’re doing, here are a few resources that I’ve been scoping out. Because I get waaaaay too excited about this stuff, I’m going to try to do like 3 different reading plans, so we’ll see which one sticks. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be posting about my experience with fasting in April, as the disciplines apparently don’t like to be rushed and neither do I, so I’ll be posting on the Texas weather schedule- maybe one post in a year, then three posts in two weeks. I’ll keep it completely unpredictable for y’all. ;)
All these resources are just computer download things, they’re not paper (although I am going to have mine printed and bound at Kinko’s, sorry trees) so you’re not too late to hop on board! Nothing has to ship to you!
Rich + Rooted Passover by Jennifer Naraki - This is especially wonderful to do as a family. It has a ton of activities to do with your kids so the focus is not exclusively on chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs (although you’d better believe we still do celebrate some Cadbury eggs over here). Check out #richandrootedpassover on Instagram, everything is so gorgeous.
Negativity Fast, Positivity Feast, from Igniting Hope Ministries - My mom found this and she is wise and is good at finding really great stuff. High, high hopes for this!
If you’re intrigued by the Liturgical calendar and would like to know more, the Simple show with Tsh Oxenreider, she has a great discussion about Lent here!
Also to clarify, I will not be doing a 40 day, drink only water, fast. I am not a good enough Christian for that. I will be fasting from sweets though, so it’s basically the same thing.
Thank y’all so so much for reading along.