Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Centering, Words, and “Das Vaterunser”

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

M. Basil Pennington, the late Cistercian monk who encouraged and guided many in the devotional practice of “Centering Prayer,” urges in his writings that readers (and pray-ers) focus on a “sacred word” in Centering Prayer sessions.

When focusing on a special word, I almost always reach for my dictionary as encouraged by a gentle college professor of psychology who insisted students learn to “read” dictionaries; that is, to delve into not only definitions, but etymologies, synonyms and antonyms, and the subtle distinction of manifold forms and usages of the words (including translations of those words).

I think I can confidently say this professor believed “every” word is sacred.

As a native Hungarian and fluent speaker of German, Dr. Theodore Thass-Thienemann had been pressed into instructing classes in that tongue, and he urged those he taught into a tiny exercise of centering by demanding every class of German begin with a unison recitation—Auf Deutsch—of The Lord’s Prayer (The “Our Father”; in German, “Das Vaterunser”).

Many years after I finished college, I learned of this mentor’s death, and his 1985 obituary noted he had been trained not only in psychology but in linguistics. By that time, thanks to him, I had become an avid dictionary-devotee.

I’m still relearning his lessons, and I’ve come to believe, as he instilled in me, that every word is sacred. Thanks be to God!




Attacking Blogger’s Block: Meet an Inspiring Guide

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

You might note the non-existence of my October entries. My last posting to this blog was on September 17, a whopping 58 days ago (an eon in blogging lives!)

In the midst of COVID19, when one practicing social distancing and attempting to self-quarantine could expect time to blog would become plentiful and the impulse to put words into print would manifest itself explosively, I have failed to organize a single entry to post for two months. I might be overdoing my championing of faith at ease.

I don’t blame the pandemic, however, for my stalled pen; it seems I have been jotting lots of notes to myself, but simply have not organized anything I wish to bestow with ether wings.

So, I’m taking a simple route here in posting advice to myself, focusing on one particular note of inspiration.

Anyone stumbling into my posts over the past 13 years will discover I saunter in the direction of leisurely musings dominated by a desire to become better at poetry and prayer. Thus, I searched my notebooks for inspiration.

It was at this point during my pandemic-induced scrapbook searchings that Marilyn dropped into my life.

She didn’t arrive in any scurrilous manner you might think I’m leaning into; nevertheless, she has awakened me, taught me, and is slowly guiding my reading, writing, and spiritual travels, largely by modeling in her writings the wonder and beauty of bringing words to life (and, more specifically, by bringing life to words).

Enough of my snarky fantasy. You should read for yourself the writings of Marilyn Chandler McEntyre to understand better my pedestrian meanderings.

Begin anywhere among her published volumes, but here is my beginning chronicle:

It started when I read her book When Poets Pray (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019). She ensnared me with the opening paragraph of her introduction:

“In prayer, as in so many other areas of life, we ‘learn by going where we have to go.’ Many of us took our first steps on the path of prayer as children with lines we recited at bedtime or mealtime, or with innocent prayer lists that included blessings for guinea pigs and dolls [or for baseball players and country singers]. We may have come to prayer through crisis or loss, or through those who, when we didn’t even realize what we most needed, offered to pray for us.” [my insertion]

If you have an inkling of following my advice to read the reflections of this wonderful guide to life, and if you can appreciate God’s gift of skills encasing her prose, I suggest you begin with McEntyre’s collection called Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016), where you’ll find entries for every day of the year coming from a writer who whispers inspiration in your ear as you read.

Asleep in the Boat–A Reflection

Monday, August 24th, 2020

A Reflection:

“. . . and he was asleep.” [Matthew 8:23-27]

I am more grateful than startled by this revelation in Matthew’s gospel story. Jesus sleeps through a storm!

As the grandson of two professional Newfoundland schooner captains whom I never knew, I have always been attracted to boats; alas, as a city slicker, I’ve rarely been aboard one.

I remember going on a first-and-only deep-sea fishing trip as a young man with a group of journalist friends in North Carolina; it was my first cruise on troubled waters. To everyone’s amazement, I hooked the first catch of the day, and reeled it in like a pro.

Once my twelve-inch sea trout was aboard, I stood and began to grow dizzy and stricken; I became seasick. The chartered boat captain, alone among my companions who wasn’t laughing, told me to go below and lie down.

I slept in the rollicking, rolling cabin for about an hour, and for the rest of the trip I followed the captain’s advice to keep my eyes on the horizon or the distant shoreline while standing.

There I was, aboard an ocean-going fishing boat for the first time, and I slept through a good part of the trip (retching over the side several times when I wasn’t at rest). My grandfathers surely were rolling in their graves, or perhaps rocking in delighted laughter from their heavenly haven!

However, I smile because ultimately, we are strengthened and cured with Jesus asleep in our boat!

Thank you, Lord Jesus.

[This meditation grew out of a post written originally for an exercise in lectio divina for an online course I took offered through the The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.]

[The selection from Matthew’s Gospel is analyzed in the course text by M. Basil Pennington O.C.S.O. Call to the Center: The Gospel’s Invitation to Deeper Prayer (3rd Ed. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press. 2003)—Pennington’s reflection is from the chapter, “In the Boat of Centering Prayer,” pp. 83-87).]