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Why Musings?

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Prayers from Africa

posted on April 2, 2014 by Musings

 

Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent, Musings will be posting prayers from a variety of pray-ers as well as thoughts and comments on prayer. Today’s prayers comes from An African Prayer Book, edited by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In the beginning was God,
Today is God,
Tomorrow will be God.
Who can make an image of God?
He has no body.
He is the word which comes out of your mouth.
That word! It is no more,
It is past, and still it lives!
So is God.

Pygmy

Asithi—Amen, siyakudumisa,
Asithi—Amen, siyakudumisa,
Asithi—Amen, Baba, Amen, Baba
Amen, siyakudumisa.

Amen, amen—Amen, praise the name of the Lord,
Amen, amen—Amen, praise the name of the Lord,
Amen, amen—Amen, amen, Amen, amen,
Amen, praise the name of the Lord.

Zulu, South Africa

All shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see,
We shall see and we shall know.
We shall know and we shall love.
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end which is no end.

St. Augustine

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Filed under: Faith, Lent, Poetry, Prayer

St. Augustine

posted on April 1, 2014 by Musings

 

Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent, Musings will be posting prayers from a variety of pray-ers as well as thoughts and comments on prayer. Today’s prayer comes from Augustine, an influential Roman Catholic churchman and theologian from the fourth century.

According to St. Augustine, we need not pray for what we need because God already knows what we need before we even ask. Instead, we ought to pray, he suggests, to increase our desire for God, and so that we might be able to receive what He is preparing to give us.

“The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive the gift, which is very great indeed. …. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruits. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:16), he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him alone who is able to give it.”
(Letter 130)

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear You, and let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and for ever enjoy You. Amen

The material for this post comes from the website of Villanova University http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/mission/campusministry/spirituality/resources/spirituality/restlesshearts/prayers.html

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Filed under: Faith, Lent, Poetry, Prayer

baruch atah, adonai

posted on March 28, 2014 by Musings

 

Prayer is a practice we share with our brothers and sisters of other faiths.  Here are examples of morning and evening prayers from a contemporary Jewish prayer book–Mishkan T’filah, A Reform Siddur.

 
We are called unto life, destiny uncertain.
Yet we offer thanks for what we know,
For health and healing, for labor and repose,
For renewal of beauty in earth and sky,
For that blend of human-holy which inspires compassion,
And for hope: eternal, promising light.

For life, for health, for hope,
For beautiful, bountiful blessing,
All praise to the Source of Being.

Baruch atah, Adonai,
M’kor nefesh kol chai.

* * * * * 

In the morning before this day’s journey begin.
I offer thanks before you, God,
That just as You found me worthy
to gaze upon the sun in the east,
So I will merit seeing it in the west.

And when darkness descends,
May it be Your will to grace me
with another dawning of light.

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Filed under: Faith, Lent, Poetry, Prayer

Please help me to get down under things and find where You are

posted on March 26, 2014 by Musings

 

Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent, Musings will be posting prayers from a variety of pray-ers as well as thoughts and comments on prayer.  Our prayer today comes from the great 20th century novelist and short story writer, Flannery O’Connor.  In her early twenties while she was a student at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Flannery O’Connor kept a prayer journal in which she entered this intensely personal prayer about herself, her relationship to God, her own prayer life, and her vocation and ambition.

Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.

I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.

I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do. I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, “oh God, please,” and “I must,” and “please, please.” I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way. Let me henceforth ask You with resignation—that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind, realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust. I do not wish to presume. I want to love.

Oh God please make my mind clear.

Please make it clean.

I ask You for a greater love for my holy Mother and I ask her for greater love for You.

Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.

I do not mean to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life; but I have been saying them and not feeling them. My attention is always very fugitive. This way I have it every instant. I can feel warmth of love heating me when I think & write this to You. Please do not let the explanations of the psychologists about his make it turn suddenly cold. My intellect is so limited, Lord, that I can only trust in You to preserve me as I should be.

The Prayer Journal of Flannery O’Connor is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  This prayer also appeared in the September 16, 2013, issue of The New Yorker.

 

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Filed under: Faith, Lent, Poetry, Prayer

Ash Wednesday

posted on March 5, 2014 by Musings

Grace to you and peace.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of prayer, study, repentance, fasting, self-examination, and giving to others to prepare ourselves for Christ’s Passion during Holy Week.  Our church-wide theme during this Lent will be “Lord, teach us to pray.”  The preaching in Lent will focus on The Lord’s Prayer.  Folks of every age will have the opportunity to participate in a visual, tactile, and spiritual art project on prayer that will play out across all areas of the church’s life during Lent.  Chris Currie and Sarah Cooper Searight will be leading a Bible study on the Gospel of Mark at 12:30 each Wednesday, beginning today.  There will be special studies and opportunities to help others appropriate for children, youth and adults throughout Lent.

Here on the Musings blog, we will be posting devotionals by church members, staff, and friends of the church on the subject of prayer, as well as prayers and reflections on prayer by others.  Each Saturday, we will post a different rendering of The Lord’s Prayer to prepare us to hear something new and unexpected in this most familiar of prayers.

We hope that you will visit Musings often during Lent as we make our way to the foot of the Cross and, thanks be to God, Easter.

We begin the journey with a poem/prayer by Walter Brueggemann

Marked by Ashes

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

From Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann

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Filed under: Lent, Poetry, Prayer

Epiphany

posted on January 3, 2014 by Musings

Artist: Allison Wehrung

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI
By: T.S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

 

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Filed under: Bible, Christmas, Poetry

Christmas Oratorio

posted on January 1, 2014 by Musings

 

Excerpt from For the Time Being—A Christmas Oratorio
by W.H. Auden

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes—
Some have got broken–and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted–quite unsuccessfully–
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.

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Filed under: Christmas, Faith, Poetry

Christ the King

posted on November 24, 2013 by Musings

Christus Paradox
      by: Sylvia Dunstan

You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd.
You, Lord, are both prince and slave.
You, peacemaker and swordbringer
Of the way you took and gave.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, whom we both scorn and crave.

Clothed in light upon the mountain,
Stripped of might upon the cross,
Shining in eternal glory,
Beggar’d by a soldier’s toss,
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are both gift and cost.

You, who walk each day beside us,
Sit in power at God’s side.
You, who preach a way that’s narrow,
Have a love that reaches wide.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are our pilgrim guide.

Worthy is our earthly Jesus!
Worthy is our cosmic Christ!
Worthy your defeat and victory.
Worthy still your peace and strife.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are our death and life.

Our sanctuary choir sang this beautiful poem/hymn this morning as part of our celebration of Christ the King Sunday to the same hymn tune for “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Here is some background on the woman who wrote this wonderful hymn from the website of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church
http://www.gbod.org/lead-your-church/hymn-studies/resource/you-lord-are-both-lamb-and-shepherd-christus-paradox

Sylvia Dunstan was early encouraged by her family in her love of music and song, and she began studying with Sister St. Gregory in St. Joseph’s Convent near her home. She began writing songs in her teens….

Dunstan earned a bachelor degree from York University and received graduate degrees in theology and divinity from Emmanuel College, Toronto. She was ordained by the United Church of Canada in 1980, served as a prison chaplain for ten years, as editor of the Canadian worship resource journal, Gathering, and went on to serve as minister at the Malvern Emmanuel United Church in Scarborough, Ontario….

In March 1993 Sylvia Dunstan was diagnosed with liver cancer, and she died four months later on July 25 at the young age of thirty-eight. Her reputation continues to grow as one of the leading hymn writers of the twentieth century, and her work appears increasingly in published hymnals and choral works.

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Filed under: Poetry

All Saints’ Day

posted on November 2, 2013 by Musings

All Saints’ Day
      by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Today no breath
Of life’s allowed
For Autumn spins
Her silken shroud,

Thread upon thread
The earth is bound
(November’s needle
Makes the round).

No wind may lift
The fallen leaf,
No flower, split
The face of grief.

No flight of birds
Distracts the eye
Across the smooth
Unravelled sky,

So still the day,
So pure, so bare;
Imprisoned in
Her crystal stare,

Earth waits a miracle –
Man too;
This is the day
All saints pass through.

        from THE UNICORN AND OTHER POEMS

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Filed under: Bible, Poetry

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

posted on January 4, 2013 by Musings

A poem from T.S. Eliot as we prepare for the visit of the Magi to bring gifts to the newborn King.

             
Scary, Scary Night.  Photograph by Jackie Twedell. From Art in the
Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Digital Library, Nashville, TN.  
 
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
 

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

–T.S. Eliot

 

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Filed under: Christmas, Poetry