A Matter of Choice in the Protestant Rosary Prayers

At a recent small seminar on using the Anglican rosary (Protestant prayer beads) I encountered some criticism of my using the word Protestant instead of Christian for describing the prayer beads. I felt no need to get into a open debate about this at the time and I understood the reasoning behind the person’s criticism.

However, a bit later, I was also criticized for telling those attending the seminar they could use written prayers, songs, or sections of Scripture to develop their own content for prayer.

“No!” I was told, “It must not be long or complicated! It must be a short as possible!”

Still, I felt there is little value in arguing with someone who obviously had taken an immovable position and was intent upon disruption. I let the comment pass and moved on with my presentation.

I understand where this person was coming from. This person is a strong advocate for the centering prayer. This person feels that this is the ultimate form of contemplative prayer, without exception.

Each person is entitled to their own opinion.

I love to spend time entering into the land of silence. I, too, strive to enter into the joy and blessings of the centering prayer. However, I also find times of spiritual growth and intimacy with the Spirit through prayer that come through using the beads and sources I have felt lead to put together to guide my heart and focus into the presence of God.

Some people, myself included, deal with a discursive mind that in made even more chaotic by a clinical disorder (for me ADHD) and, without taking medication, find the centering prayer a difficult (if not impossible) discipline. It is not that I do not want to struggle against the “monkey mind” but I do not find it as productive as taking up the beads and using the physical contact to focus my prayer thoughts. I find in doing this God’s presence and enter stillness (not necessarily silence) which is as restorative and as formational as the centering prayer.

Also, I have found God’s presence and blessings in the creative process of creating prayers for my Protestant rosary. The Holy Spirit, in my opinion, is not limited to using short phrases in guiding us to a deeper spiritual encounter with the Ever One, the Holy Trinity.

Because of my experience with a “fundamentalist” mindset in my own life, I seek to be very careful in telling people what is the “right way” or the “wrong way” to seek growth toward the Kingdom. As a spiritual director, I want to provide people the space and freedom they need to discover what God is doing in their lives.

So, here in this post, where a person can choose to read or not read, agree or not agree without disruptive contention or rude interruption, I encourage those who are discovering the joy of using prayer beads to find and choose the best way for them to proceed.

Blessings………

 

Following Up and Moving On

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The Pattern for Prayer seminar went well, in my opinion. I was very please with the presentations and believe the time praying with the Friar was a time of closeness with God.

I do believe using the prayer beads is an incredible discipline for developing a deeper practice of prayer and a tool to move toward the deepest most intimate forms of contemplative prayer.

I have received a bit of negative feedback. I say negative, only in the sense of how it bothered an attendee.

In my lecture I used the words, Protestant rosary. I was corrected and told to call them Christian prayer beads. I consider the Catholic Rosary as being Christian prayer beads. However they are different from the Anglican Rosary we were studying. In many ways the beads are seeking to reclaim some of the commonality we share with Catholic Christians. The ancient church has much to offer our age in was of formation in a time of too much information.

This too, brought up a concern. It was reported to me that I was “stealing from another tradition.” No, I am not stealing. I am contributing and expanding on a new tool while giving full credit to the group in Telephone, Texas who develop the beads for prayer.

I do not sell the beads, nor use them in any commercial capacity. I make them and give them away. I also, see to write prayers for people to use these beads in their spiritual lives.

So, I accept the negative feedback as an opportunity to reflect, discern, and follow my heart as I continue to seek to do no harm and give as much as I can to help others grow.

Blessings………..

Keep feeling the beads and they will lead you to feeling and experiencing God in prayer.

The Anglican (Protestant) Rosary

For the last few years, I have used prayer beads, the Anglican Rosary (as some call it) to aid in my prayer life. This simple daily practice of use a string of 33 beads (one for each year of the life of Christ) strung in a symbolic pattern of a cross (cruciform beads) with 4 sets of seven beads (weeks) combines the elements of lectio divina, centering prayer, and the Jesus Prayer (breath prayer).

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I make my own prayer beads. I use prayer guides from the books, Praying with Beads, by Nan Lewis Doerr and Virginia Stem Owens and, The Anglican Rosary Prayer Book. However, recently I have started writing my own prayer guides. I will begin posting them on this blog in the days to come. I hope they will help others in their contemplative spiritual journey.

Easter Sunday

Cross: Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs
bestowing life.                                                                            Troparion Orthodox liturgy

Initiatory bead: Lord God, divine Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit
I (we) give thanks for your sacrifice and for the hope that comes from your resurrection.
I (we) know this is a gift, a gift of grace to be treasured, valued, and allowed to bring transformation into my (our) life(s) that is desperately needed.
Hear my (our) prayer Lord of thanksgiving, praise, and trust in the resurrection and all it can mean to us.
Help me (us) when the world distracts us from its promise and power to quickly turn our focus and faith back on the path of the promises You, my (our) Lord give. Amen.

Cruciform beads: Oh, that my words were written down, inscribed on a scroll with an iron instrument and lead, forever engraved on stone. But I know that my redeemer is alive and afterward he’ll rise upon the dust. After my skin has been torn apart this way– then from my flesh I’ll see God, (Job 19:23-26 CEB)

Weeks beads: May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! On account of his vast mercy, he has given us new birth. You have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Pet. 1:3 CEB)

Dismissary bead: Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.)

Cross: Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed.

(If someone is looking for prayer beads to buy, I would highly recommend prayer beads made by Sister Brigit-Carol http://www.solitariesofdekoven.org/Prayer_beads.html)

Contemplation, thoughtful observation

The word contemplation can be defined as thoughtful observation. 

When we set down with the Scripture and read it with the understanding that it is a gift given to us out of God’s love toward us then thoughtful observation can become a means of intimate discovery.  To spend time reading the accounts of human shortcomings that are met over and over again by God’s efforts of restoration and transformation thoughtful observation brings a realization of how love is magnified.  Giving thoughtful observation to forgiveness, calling, indwelling and communion can produce powerful perspectives.  Contemplation opens us up to inspiration by the Spirit that indwells our hearts.

We live in the midst of limitation and finiteness.  In the Scripture we are told that God wishes for us to become aware of God’s desire for us to want to transcend our limitations and our finiteness.  Through contemplation, thoughtful observation, we can grow in our understanding of this desire.   This understanding gives us resources that cannot be bought or acquired by any merits on our part.  Through thoughtful observation we can come to embrace grace in a more expanded manner.  Through thoughtful observation we can find the means to trust providence beyond our understanding.  Through time spent in thoughtful observation we can gain confidence that God is present even when our circumstances, situations, feelings, and perspectives pressure us to doubt.

In any relationship there are times for spontaneity and emotional response.  However, a relationship that also has its time of thoughtful observation, times of reflection, that allow the encounters of the relationship to be viewed in different and more profound ways, the relationship is given the chance to develop depth.   Contemplation requires the giving of time and intent.  It is an offering of worthiness.  Thoughtful observation is a demonstration of the value and importance of the relationship experience.  It is another positive way and means of loving the Lord our God and discovering more deeply just how much the Lord loves us.

 

 

A Double Blessing

Today was my first Sunday serving the two church of the charge I have been given.  In both churches, communion was served.  This means I had the privilege of being blessed twice through taking of the sacrament with God’s people at both churches.  I can understand the joy and commitment found in John Wesley’s exhortation to take communion as often as we can.  I was almost brought to tears in the joy that I felt.

Communion is a means of grace.  To come to the Lord’s table in remembrance and in worship, receiving the body and blood of Christ, joining with other believers in anticipation and expectation can be a glimpse into the joy that is ours to come and yet already is.  In Eucharist the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is strengthened.

Communion for me is an act of intimacy.  It is time of remembering what has been and looking forward to what is to come.  It is a reminder that the Lord is with us always even to the end of the age.  What great love is found is this most blest of sacraments.  Today, with believers I have been called to pastor, it was truly a time of loving the Lord.

Developing a Central Theological Statement

In a recent seminar, I was asked to write a (my) central theological statement in 50 words or less. A central theological statement is an expression of the foundational concepts (beliefs) upon which a person bases their service to Jesus. I believe taking the time to write one’s own central theological statement can be very productive spiritually. Writing out this statement and then using it as a tool to reflect on how we are living our lives in accord with what we have written can give us insights into our consistency in faith and practice.

The central theological statement I wrote for myself is: Practicing Christian Theology is done in guiding the church to be faithful in growing in intimacy with God, the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and living in anticipation and preparation of Jesus return.  In this statement I hoped to capture the things I consider to be of most importance as I seek to serve my Lord.  I feel this statement gives me workable parameters upon which to reflect but is also broad enough to allow for growth.

As can be seen in the statement, the focus is about guiding the church in a certain direction.  What is not stated is that in order to do this I must make sure it is a reality in my own life.  In order to do, I must be.  I believe this is the way a central theological statement must work.  This is how it is practical. 

Disciples in the early church developed tools for spiritual reflection to aid them in maintaining their focus and purpose.  Today, I believe we face greater distractions than the church faced then.  In light of this, I believe disciples of Jesus today must be attentive to those spiritual practices developed in the past but also to look for new tools to help us in our spiritual growth today.  I believe developing a central theological statement and reflecting upon it regularly can be such a tool. 

In all we do let us seek to love the Lord.

 

Love the Lord Your God (3)

In John 14: 15 Jesus states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

We have been taught that the love of God is unconditional.  That word “if” seems to place a condition.

Yes it does, but the condition is not on God’s love for us but on our ability to love God.   Jesus states that true love of Him is tied to our keeping the commandments God has given to us.

We human beings are very good at rationalization.  In fact, we are so good at it we that we believe our rationalization are what make up reality.  We reason what we want and then believe this is the way it must be.  We can get angry at other people and then blame them for our anger.  We reason they made us angry.  No, we respond to a stimulus in ourselves and decide to be angry.  The creation of anger is all our own.  A person does something and we respond with sadness.  We say they made us sad by their actions or inactions.  No, we chose to respond out of our reason with a reaction of sadness.  When we say we love God are we responding with an emotion made of our reason, our rationalizing that we “love” God?  Have we set the criteria for what constitutes love?  What role does God have in this?

God’s commandments set up the foundation for true reality.  God’s commandments come out of God’s very nature.  God is love.  God sets the standard.  God’s commandments set the standard for behavior within reality.  God states that love is defined within the actions God has determined.  If we are to love then we must conform to this reality.  There is no room for our rationalizations within this reality, thus the condition, “if you love me.”

In our mortal state, corrupted by our nature, our rationalizations are not a reliable standard by which to judge what is true or real.  This is why God must give us the gift of grace to be able to respond to God and to come to understand what truth is.  The command to love the Lord our God is a command to action.  This action is not determined by our reason but by God’s revelation.  Without our accepting this we are caught in a cycle of reasoning that is centered in deception.  Grace opens us up to the chance to break out of the cycle of human rationalization into the reality that God desires for us to know.  In responding to grace we can keep the commandments God gives to us.  Grace reveals to us this reality and gives us the ability to take action in accord with it.  It also gives us a basis for self reflection on how we are doing.  We can look at our lives and the commandments God gives and see if they are in sync.  In this way we can know what real love is.

Loving God takes a commitment on our part.  It is a duty that becomes a delight.  This is a hard task in our world that places so much emphasis on our deciding what we want rather than discovering what we really need.  So if we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, and might we need to understand we can only do this IF we keep God’s commandments.

 

Love the Lord Your God (2)

I have added a question to the pre-marital counseling I do.  The question is, “What would hold this marriage together if you could not have sex?”

The purpose of this question is to get the couple to think about their relationship is there was not a physical dimension to it.  What is the basis for your love outside of the physical part of the relationship.  What ultimately is your love for one another founded upon?

What is our love for God founded upon?  Is it love to say I love God because of what God has done for me?  I believe it most certainly could be.  A deep relationship can be built out of acts of sacrifice and devotion.  Certainly the cross was an ultimate act of love and commitment by Jesus.  But for the relationship to become more than a attitude of gratitude there must be more to the connection.  For our love to founded upon what God has done there must be a desire that comes from God’s action that makes us desire to want a deeper attachment and a growing commitment.  Eventually the love founded upon the action must lead to a love of the character God.  This love of character can only come about through a developing intimacy.  Intimacy comes from vulnerability (trust) and commitment.

This seems complicated.  It should be.  If it is complicated it is less likely to be taken for granted.  A relationship that is taken for granted is in danger of being an illusion rather than a reality.  God never takes us for granted.  Do we take God for granted?  This is no way to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, and might.

What Does our Giving have to do with Our Love?

This is my body given for you. What do we give to show our love to Him?

All the church is interest in is money!

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this statement.  However, is this statement a true accusation or a attempt to avoid facing a real spiritual threat?

Below are three verses, one from the Old Testament, one from the Gospels, and one from a Pauline epistle.  In these three verses we find three warnings that must be taken seriously if we are to be true followers of our Lord.

Ecclesiastes 5:10  Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. (NIV)

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

If you are a member of a United Methodist church, you took a vow (Methodist are a people of accountability).  The following statement is a major emphasis of that vow.

As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service?

If you look up the definition of vow you will find it is a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment to make a vow of; promise by a vow, as to God.  God takes our vows seriously, as should we.  This is my body given for you. What do we give to show our love to Him?This is my body given for you.
What do we give to show our love to Him?

(Note:  Ecclesiastes 5:4-5  When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  5 It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.)

 
This is my body given for you.
What do we give to show our love to Him?

I am not talking about legalism.  This short discourse is about relational responsibility.  If a parent says to a child, “I love you”, but does not meet the child’s needs, the words do not match the behavior.  If a spouse says to their mate, “I love you”, but is not faithful and is selfish the words do not match the behavior.  If a person says, “I love you Lord”, yet does not support or give to the God’s physical presence the church, then the words do not match the behavior.

It really hurts to say this, but our church has a behavior problem.

As a new pastor to the United Methodist church I feel duty bound to carry out my job as I am direc

ted by the Discipline, my DS, and my Bishop.  My main task is the making of disciples and equipping the saints for ministry.  l am supervised, mentored, trained and directed to give the best pastoral care I can.  One of the tools I have been told to use is the church’s record of contributions.  I have been told it is clergy malpractice to not know who is giving and who is not.  The reason and theology behind this directive is that how we support the church does indicate our level of spiritual maturity, commitment, and discipleship.

Folks, to look at the giving records of our church is a painful thing right now.   Yes, we have a surplus of funds.  However, this surplus is because the faithful have been giving more.  Still, the surplus is not the issue.  If we had a billion dollars in the bank I would still need to  bring our behavior problem to you.  Giving is about faith not about bottom lines.

Some would say, “tithing is an Old Testament concept.”  The problem is not about tithing and this is not a debate about 10% of the gross or net.  The problem is about giving out of love.  The problem is about being faithful to God’s word.  The problem is about our commitment to the church we profess we love.  Thus, the point is this:  What does your giving say about your love for the Lord?

Please pray.  I am.

 

Critics of the Labyrinth

Last night I spent time researching articles on the Web critical of using the labyrinth in spiritual formation.  Most of the arguments reminded me of those that were critical of contemporary Christian Music 30 years ago.  I cannot remember how many times I was told that anything with a drum beat was “of the devil”.  My answer to those critics is the same I would offer to the critics of the labyrinth: Music is morally neutral.  It functions within God’s natural physical laws.  We must give the music its meaning.

Labyrinths are patterns.  They are morally neutral.  It is we who give their usage meaning.

As I read most of the critics, their main target was Dr. Lauren Artress of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  She is the author of “Walking the Sacred Path” which is a book about using the labyrinth as a spiritual tool.  I have read her book and have found it to be one of those books which must be read with an understanding that the author has attached some personal perspectives which other Christians could disagree with along with the Christian focus they offer.

I do believe the labyrinth can be a positive tool in spiritual formation. I do have the credentials to evaluate it from a position which holds a high view of Scripture and an evangelical motivation and desire.

The labyrinth can be used as a means of discerning God’s will for a person.  It can be a tool used for self-introspection.  It can be a means of making communion more meaningful.  It can be used as a time of intercession and thanksgiving.  It offers opportunity for worship in unique ways.

Sadly, as in the time of Jesus, there will always be those critics who view anything that outside of their comfort zone as “of the devil” and feel compelled to try and scare others into embracing their paranoia.  I feel sorry for them and the opportunities they miss.

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