Tuesday, September 29, 2020

How to Pray Week One - Chpaters 1 & 2: Prayer Everywhere and Keeping it Simple


Intro: How to Make the Most of This Book; Chapter 1: Prayer Everywhere; Chapter 2: Keeping it Simple

Key verse: “Lord, teach us to pray” – Luke 11:1

Summary points

· We can ask Jesus to help teach us to pray

· Prayer is like a toolbox – there are lots of different ways of praying

· Keep it simple. Keep it Real. Keep it up.


Q: What do you find difficult about prayer?

Nothing really. If I have to be absolutely positively honest. I LOVE to pray. I feel like it has always been pretty easy for me, and I love finding new avenues for an encounter with God. It is how I am with George too though. I love spending time with him. We don’t get tired of one another.

Q: What do you find easy?

God is always there to dialogue with (I talk and I listen – both in equal measure). God is the only one who truly “gets” me. That is what I find easy: GOD. He is so much more than I could ever ask or imagine. He is bigger than I could ever comprehend. He is more secure than any human being on earth. So, I can bring ANYTHING to him.

Q: Why do you think prayer can often feel hard?

I think I should pose this for others to answer because it has never “often felt hard” for me. Never. I am very thankful for this, but some of the people I have discipled or done spiritual direction with over the years, have found it difficult. So, I am on a quest to find out why this is hard for many people.

Here are some thoughts I have about this:

People can often be perfectionists. So, they think that prayer has to be a certain way. Or they are busy and cannot create space in their day for it. Or they might feel they have to do it in the morning, and they are not morning people.  Many people just don’t care to be connected with God.

George: Distractions. “I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do that.”  (Just write it down, and you don’t have to lose it.) Don’t plan it with the same priority.

I am uber RELATIONAL. So, it transfers over into my relationship with God. I will take in any way I can CONNECT to him relationally!

Pete says the best piece of advice is to “Keep it simple, keep it real and keep it up.”

Keep it simple: “your prayer life is at its best at its simplest”

Q: What do you mostly talk to God about?

I love to tell him how wonderful he is. I love to look at Scripture and respond to him from that. I talk to him about what I am needing to release, my consolations and desolations, I listen to him for direction and words of comfort and peace. I intercede on behalf of friends and loved ones. I lift up the current events and unreached people groups.

Keep it real: “Don’t role-play before God”

Q: Do you feel like you have to act a certain way before God when you pray? Why or why not?

Absolutely and positively NOT! He is all-knowing. So, there is no act that will be effective. He sees me just the way I am and LOVES me. There is no reason to hide. Also, Jesus reversed the Garden hiding. We can be out in full view of him for all the world to see!

Keep it up: “Don’t give up praying too soon”

Q: Do you find it challenging to persevere in prayer?

Nope. I do forget some things that I feel the LORD is telling me to pray about. Then I say, “Oh yay!” I think my shower crayon has helped. I have not been using that recently.

For the most part, I pray for a long time and it has been fun to see God answer some long-term things like peoples of the world coming to know him!

Q: How can we be encouraged to keep going?

Prayer mentors – Thank you, Sheryl Rice-Jury, Kathy Galloway-Allen, Helene Ashker, Ginny Bowen, Lorraine Fleishman. They were all such prayer mentors for me.

Prayer community – I have the privilege of being part of some awesome prayer communities of people over the years. Navigators were always really good about making prayer a BIG priority in everything we did. Both personal and corporate. Everyone was praying and spending time with God and sharing about what God was saying, and then we were praying together in one place corporately. ALL my leaders were people of deep and abiding prayer. Having the PUMP parties, TOAG prayer hours, Watchwomen, etc. I also liked that early morning group I had in the late 80s. 

Renovaré has also been great for prayer. Having been part of it since early on. It started in 1988. I read Celebration of Discipline in college (maybe it was on Rusty’s shelf when I housesat the summer of 1980?), and most of those disciplines were instilled in me through the Navigators, but Renovaré definitely reinforced it and reading through the Devotional Readings was helpful as I was exposed to excerpts of the giants of prayer in history. Reading Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home was also very instrumental along with E.M. Bounds, SD Gordon, etc.

Do It

Think about one way you’d like to grow in prayer and your relationship with God over the course.

I have had the goal to grow in Centering Prayer since early 2019 and will continue that. Reading The Sacred Enneagram in September of 2018 challenged me in this area. I had tried to read Basil Pennington's book at a prayer retreat in November 2018, but I thought it was not for me. Then we read the Cloud of Unknowing in the Renovare Book Club in Spring 2019, and I realized that God was already bringing me into this kind of prayer naturally during my colloquy times in the Spiritual Exercises and my afternoon times at the kitchen table when the sun was streaming into the room. So it didn't seem that unattainable when I realized that God was doing it naturally without reading Basil's book (LOL!) and that it was OK to let "kataphatic" (a prayer that has content; it uses words, symbols, ideas) of  Lectio Divina and Ignatian Imaginative Contemplation being the springboards to "apophatic" (a prayer that has no content; meaning emptying the mind of words or ideas and simply resting in the presence of God) because it is the natural "Rest" portion of Lectio Divina! Then I downloaded the Centering Prayer App in May 2019, and I started having short times of Centering Prayer even apart from the "kataphatic" prayer times. 

Mercy Center Zooms have also been helpful because I sit in front of a screen with others holding me accountable to remain still and quiet:


Write down your goals, so that you can revisit them at the end of the book.

Practice each Prayer Tool from https://prayercourse.org/toolshed/ and write about my experience for each.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

42. The Book of Job translated by Stephen Mitchell


I am not sure why the Bible as a whole is on the 1000 Books to Read Before You Die list, and this is a separate read. I did not find his translation really different from the other translations I have read. Job is a powerful book, and I have read it several times, in several translations. I did like hearing it again with Peter Coyote as a narrator, and it was a quick listen! 

41. The First Spiritual Exercises


The First Spiritual Exercises: Four Guided RetreatsThe First Spiritual Exercises: Four Guided Retreats by Michael Hansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I prayed through the four 22 day retreats in this book from May-September. I did the first one, "Inner Peace in Darkness and Light," with a group of 10 people. The way it was led was a bit "clunky" for me. So I decided not to continue to the next one and do the other three on my own. (I was also doing Finding Christ in the World with a group and didn't need two groups over the summer.)

I liked this, but the guidance overall was a bit too restrictive for me ("spend this many minutes on this and that many minutes on that"). Also, what I thought was going to be a great meditation on Creation (which is part of the larger Exercises) turned out to be the author pushing the theory of evolution that was more of a distraction to what could have been a really lovely retreat week. I don't think that needs to be pushed and one can just enjoy the beauty of the Biblical creation story whatever he or she believes.

I think my favorite retreat was the first one: "Inner Peace in Divine Love." Sadly, my group leader didn't start with the first one, and I think she missed out on a better experience for those people who had never experienced the Exercises in their entirety.

Where this book shines is in the Guides and Helps. There are different kinds of Examens (Awareness, Particular, Reconciliation, Healing), and guides to enhancing the Exercises, Twelve Ways of Prayer, and Christian Belief. There is also a section on Spiritual Conversation that was good.

So I will use this as a reference book when I direct others through the Exercises and offer the first retreat to someone who wants a 22-day "taste" of the Spiritual Exercises.

I found my favorite of the four retreats on the website for The First Exercises at: 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday Freewrite Sixteen

 Hello Sunday.

No agenda in this writing. I was up and at 'em at 4:50 and spent some wonderful time meditating in John 16 - about asking the Father anything in my name. He says ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full. 

So, I spent some time trying to discern what I really want. I am getting better at discerning that too.

Today, I must cancel my doctor's appointment that I forgot to cancel on Friday before his office closed. I must also change that link for the Bible Book Club. I just don't get DropBox. They always change things around so that my links never seem to be permanent, and I periodically have to change the link. I have never understood why they do that.

Yesterday, I finished the Virtual Camino de Santiago. It meant 11 miles of walking and a 13 mile bike ride. It was fun though. I am not even tired this morning too.

Two days before that, I finished In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. This is a huge accomplishment. I am so happy. It is supposed to be THE most preeminent novel of the 20th century. It is really seven novels that made one big tome. I am glad I can say I read it.

Two days ago was also my 51st birthday in the Lord! That was so great. I am doing so well. I am really healed from what happened to me in December, and I have moved on from it and glad for that.

Now to the future. I am so enjoying spiritual direction. I have 15 directees. That is a good number. It is different from discipleship in that I am tracking their spiritual progress. I am just listening to where God is working in their life and creating space for them to explore more ways of getting closer to him. That is so nice. I love that. Out of those 15, I have 3-7 who are doing the Spiritual Exercises. One is putting it on hold until her husband gets her job back. One put herself on hold halfway through the Exercises last year. One did it intensely on a 40 day retreat, but I have not heard how it is going. This is right up my alley. One thing that I know is that I really like to work with workers going to the field, on the field, and who have returned from the field and working with others in that realm. 

George and I have been able to go on many more walks in the last two days because the smoke has cleared, and we are happy for that. I will never take the blue sky for granted ever again, but I also know that I coped really well with having to stay indoors. I had good training when I broke my leg. Bloom where you are planted.

I have lost 16.5 pounds, and I am trying to get to a new level by the end of September. I have ten more days, and I seem to be stuck, but I know my body pretty well that it plateaus for 10-14 days, and then I have a drastic drop. I am sure it is how my body holds water. I also know that I have been creating a LOT more muscle in my body by walking and biking so much, and I have also been disciplined to do PILATES even though I am not teaching it. I always joke that I wouldn't do it if I weren't teaching it. I am being disciplined to do it at home, and my desire is to make PRAISE AND PRAYER PILATES videos this fall.

There is my timer. BYE!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

39-40. The Fugitive and Time Regained by Marcel Proust


I began this journey of seven volumes on August 2, 2019, and here I am on my 51st spiritual birthday FINIS with the whole thing. 

It was quite a journey, and I feel like I need to go out and celebrate. I saw an interview with Shelby Foote once. He said this was his favorite novel. 

I started this because I was in bed with a broken leg last year. You can read the humor of my first post on the first book in the saga:

This is Proust. It is considered one of the greatest books of the 20th century. So, I am tackling the whole seven volumes while I am recovering from a broken leg. I wrote this in my review of How Proust Can Change Your Life, but it bears repeating that Proust's brother said, "The sad thing is that people have to be very ill or to have broken a leg in order to have the opportunity to read In Search of Lost Time." LOL! 

I listened to an abridged version of Swann's Way 11 years ago. I wasn't super impressed, but I am older now, and I have done a lot of reviewing of my "Blessed History" through the Spiritual Exercises so this is basically Proust's secular recollections of his history. George and I had such a nice conversation yesterday about how certain things trigger our memory. For me, a ride on a boat (which happened the day of my broken leg) flood my memory of times with my family boating and me singing to the sound of the engine as my dad drove around Lake Millerton or Mohave. This book inspired me in many ways to do more recollections and write about them. I had done a recollection many years ago that made my brother cry, but where did I put that thing?

So, there are seven volumes, and I bought the whole massive thing in one Kindle book for 1.99. So, here I go!

Here is a summary of what this is all about from the "jacket" of the Kindle version:

On the surface, a traditional Bildungsroman describing the narrator’s journey of self-discovery, this huge and complex book is also a panoramic and richly comic portrait of France in the author’s lifetime, and a profound meditation on the nature of art, love, time, memory and death. But for most readers it is the characters of the novel who loom the largest: Swann and Odette, Monsieur de Charlus, Morel, the Duchesse de Guermantes, Françoise, Saint-Loup and so many others — Giants, as the author calls them, immersed in Time.
In Search of Lost Time is a novel in seven volumes. The novel began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. Proust established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished he kept adding new material, and edited one volume after another for publication. The last three of the seven volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages as they existed in draft form at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by his brother Robert.

“In Search of Lost Time” is widely recognized as the major novel of the twentieth century. —Harold Bloom
At once the last great classic of French epic prose tradition and the towering precursor of the “nouveau roman”. —Bengt Holmqvist
I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes… Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that! —Virginia Woolf
The greatest fiction to date. —W. Somerset Maugham
Proust is the greatest novelist of the 20th century. —Graham Greene
Our second greatest novel after “War and Peace”. —E. M. Forster

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

38. The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams


A fascinating look at the 19th century through the eyes of the great-grandson of John Adams. I resonated with him because he was a life-long learner!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Monday Morning Freewrite Fifteen

I have not done a freewrite in maybe a month. So I am going to just let my fingers go across the keys and hope I can find all that is in my heart down in this freeflow of writing. (Google Freewrites if you are new to my blog.) 

This morning, Jessica V led our group of 33 people through a Visio Divina. Maybe it isn't that. But she gave us some verses to start with, and then we had five minutes for five emotions. We drew a meditation of what we were feeling in that, and then she played music. The emotions were SAD, MAD, GLAD, SCARED, HOPEFUL. I found it very helpful, and it got some emotions out.

SAD - I drew wildfire in Oregon. Destruction of homes and loss of life.   

MAD - COVID-19 and destruction and murder in Portland by anarchist/Antifa.

GLAD - Dancing to the Bee Gees Documentary, family meals, dates with George, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Exercises, Prayer times with the world workers, Good Food, Supervision with Sister Joan and Sister Dorothy and the good article in Presence Magazine we discussed, reading good books, losing 15.2 pounds, a community we have and hold dear, Wednesday Imagine with the Brits, Sunday and Thursday Centering Prayer with the Bay Area Benedictines in Burlingame. 

SCARED - Disappointing people. Directee who wants to wear a mask during direction and having to tell her that was a "no." That I would miss the deadline for the Enneagram and Relationships Conference (he extended it for me so I could get the discount). Zoom prayer time I am leading next Saturday. Spiritual Direction time with a new directee. 

HOPEFUL - That "The Sun will come out tomorrow" LITERALLY! We have been in smoke for six days! 

I need to dance with the Bee Gees more since I cannot walk and ride my bike right now. :)  I don't want to deny those scared, mad, and sad feelings; but I do feel very glad and hopeful. I am a make lemonade out of lemons kind of gal. I can exercise indoors. I can adapt and get my 10,000 steps inside. 

I am reading The Education of Henry Adams. He is 65 years old. His life is coming to an end. I have 1 hour and 10 minutes left on this very long 22-hour book. But I have really liked it. It has given a glimpse into one man's perspective on 19th-century life. He lives through the Civil War and all the changes in Europe. He is at the beginning of the 20th Century, and you can already see the precursors to World War I brewing and the Russian threat. Fascinating. I love to learn. Education is a lifetime endeavor.

That is 15 minutes. BYE! 

Friday, September 11, 2020

37. Cultural Amnesia

 I had never heard of this author, but what a fascinating book! The author narrated the book. It is an ABRIDGED version so there are many more people in history that I have yet to read in the UNABRIDGED book. 

He looks at people in history that were important figures, most in the 20th century. He has many things to say about communism and how Nazism came to be in Europe. So insightful and smart! 

Examples of people in this abridged version:

Louis Armstrong

Albert Camus

Tony Curtis


There are many more, but I loved it. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

36. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


This book is winsome and wonderful. It is best to just enjoy it without trying to "figure it out." It is her 1970s musings about her observations on a creek near her home. She was attentive to the created world, and she won a Pulitzer Prize. I am amazed she wrote it at the age of 27!

It is on my 1000 Books to Read Before You Die list, but what really prompted me to read it was 1) my budding interest in being more attentive to the created world around me (being a Type A "get toward the goal and do not smell the roses" sort of person who has a husband who is a Type Z and constantly smells the roses and the geese and the insects [let's just say that our walks and bike rides take longer since our kids have also been brainwashed to do the same]), 2) Ignatian Spirituality encourages one to look for God in your everyday life, 3) I read Blue Sapphire of the Mind, and he is constantly quoting this book, and 4) My friend, Garrett, said it was his favorite book, and since I had just finished Blue Sapphire the day he told me this, I felt like this was confirmation that I should read it.

I was in no way disappointed. Just enjoy it and be challenged to look at the world around you. 

On the verge of reading this book, I read the quote, "Wisdom is born of wonder," and I think it goes perfectly with this book. Wonder at the world (at soon as the air quality improves - It is in the unhealthy range due to raging wildfires in Oregon). 


Monday, September 07, 2020

35. The Captive by Proust


The Captive (Remembrance of Things Past #5)The Captive by Marcel Proust
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The quickest I have ever read any of the books in his series! This was more about the relationship between Albertine and Marcel than French aristocracy droning on and on. So I liked it more.

View all my reviews

34. Blue Sapphire of the Mind


This was recommended to me by my dear Sister Joan. They were having a workshop on it that I ended up not going to. I like that this book gave a thorough history of contemplative spirituality and wove ecology into it. I found it fascinating, and it inspired me to read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The natural world is something we need to pay more attention to in good stewardship of the earth that God gave us. It is a valuable contribution to the dialogue. 

I had cut and pasted this in a forgotten draft post about this book and just found it:

 The fourth-century writer Evagrius of Pontus likens the experience of contemplation to dwelling in a kind of place. "When the mind has put off the old self and shall put on the one born of grace," says Evagrius, "then it will see its own state in the time of prayer resembling sapphire of the color of heaven. the state is called by scripture, the place of God." This book believes that the ancient tradition of Christian contemplative thought and practice represented by Evagrius has a genuine contribution to make to the world of ecological thought and practice. At the same time, he says, the sense of the "the whole" emerging from contemporary ecological discourse has the potential to deepen and expand the classic understanding of contemplative life and practice. One of the striking features of the present historical moment is a deep and pervasive hunger for a less fragmented way of apprehending the world. Attending to these two traditions of thought and practice together, this book argues, recover such an integrated vision of the world. Additionally, there is a growing recognition in the culture at large, and in faith communities in particular, of the need for a response to the ecological crisis that expresses our deepest moral and spiritual values. Drawing on the insights of the early Christian monastics as well as the ecological writings of such figures as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, and many others, this book forges a distinctively contemplative vision of ecological spirituality that could, the book contends, serve to ground the work of ecological restoration. (from https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812325.001.0001/acprof-9780199812325

Tuesday Ten Minute Freewrite

I am going to go great guns for 10 minutes on this freewrite. I am meeting with a person (not sure if she wants direction - she just wanted ...