Quotation of the Day; A Prayer by St. Augustine

God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems jury and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage.
Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the soles of all who journey with us on the road of life, to your honor and glory.

A prayer by St. Augustine

Quotation of the Day

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:1, 10

In a phase of frustration & discouragement, this mantra challenges me to put my trust where I’ve bet my life, in God’s hands.

Prayer as Second-Nature

Was thinking about this post yesterday when conversing about prayer, familiarity, change, and growth…

hope of things not seen

Back in June, when I made my first voyage back to my hometown* (Durham), about ten minutes out from my best friend’s home, I realized that we NEEDED cheese for our Sunday night repast. Flipping my brain quickly into cheese-emergency mode, I thought, “Must get to Whole Foods (only cheesey place open on Sunday nights). Where am I now? How to get there fast?” And my brain then did a very funny thing. It shut off. I exited the interstate, and my arms felt like they were moving themselves, turning the wheel; my foot had a mind of its own, pressing the brake and the gas. And then, I turned up in the Whole Foods parking lot–presto! What a strange thing to happen, I thought, that my brain wouldn’t do the think-through-the-map-you-keep-stashed-in-your-mind, calculating distances and times and the length of stoplights…

It dawned on me: my brain had done that…

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shavasana in life

I used to think that shavasna was a cop-out pose, the liturgical lie-down at the end of a yoga session that was for the old ladies who really didn’t have the physical acuity left in them anymore.

Maybe I’m one of those old ladies now, but I’ve discovered shavasna to truly be not only the most important yoga pose, but a truly vital life-pose as well.

Part of the point of yoga (part of the point of liturgy!) is to mimic parts of our everyday lives, that our bodies, minds, and spirits might learn to respond differently when faced with stressors or with joys.  My body gets itchy for downward dog and plank when in the midst of a rough day at the office (I’m notorious for popping down onto the carpet for some relief).

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Shavasna, in English–corpse pose, lying on your back with arms and legs extended naturally, is the end of every yoga sequence and the time when the body absorbs all the energy, air, life, strength, and stretching that you’ve been pushing around in it for the last hour or so.  I imagine it like a tres leche cake–the spongy cake soaking up all the milk and cream that is poured over it.  Our bodies are like spongy cake, letting the goodness we’ve cultivated through stretching our bodies fill up our bodies and stick around our souls.

“Reflection upon experiences is when wisdom comes.”  Instead of just grabbing and gathering experiences–stuffing them into our life-rucksacks, we need to sit down and process them both consciously and unconsciously before we can really benefit from the thing we’ve been through.

In less-grand parlance, taking a few minutes to gather thoughts after a meeting, or to think back through a day to the emails you’d promised and the epiphanies you’d had, can both keep your life on track and serve as a great boost–remembering all those things that your day entailed, accomplished, and surprised you with.

Too often, I tell myself I’ll recap later, I’ll remember later, and I’ll consider it later.  You won’t be surprised to hear: I don’t.

Mostly, I don’t remember the details and nuances of the meeting or lunch, sometimes I just don’t remember anything at all.  These moments are given to us as a gift, and to devote even more time to them–just a few minutes at the end of a day–gives them honor, cements the good in our mind, and perhaps even makes us better at replying to emails and keeping our promises.

Shavasna is our body’s reflection on its hard work; our minds, hearts, and souls deserve and demand the same–in our work and in our lives.

I’m not prayed-up enough yet.

There’s this apocryphal story from the high school I attended, TCS, wherein our faithful and frightening (maybe just to me–her expectations and deadlines helped me through college, but were so intimidating as a 17-year-old) Senior English teacher, Mrs. Markwood, agreed to a lunchtime meeting with one of our more challenging fellow students…

According to the legend, the student darkened the classroom doorway–Mrs. Markwood’s desk being located in the opposite corner of the room–and our beloved teacher, having not quite caught her breath from the last class, exclaimed, “Oh dear… Wait there a minute–I’m not prayed up enough to meet with you yet.”  Reportedly, she returned to her desk chair, bowed her head for a solid five minutes, and then ushered the student in for their meeting.

I suspect the story was shared later that afternoon as a point of amusement on the student’s part–how could someone be so earnest as to chew up meeting time with prayer time?

Now (doesn’t that always happen when we grow up and look back?), I find myself enlisting Mrs. Markwood’s phrase–I haven’t had the courage to say it to any parishioners yet–but I have started sometimes carving out a few intentional minutes of prayer before meetings which I do not relish attending (and even meetings I *do* relish attending).

In the phrase is the admission that it is not on my own patience and strength and graciousness that I deal with people–only through power, resolve, energy that comes from somewhere else is anyone able to live and behave with patience and compassion and joy.

Prayer is truly one of the most important things I learned from my teachers at Toledo Christian; acknowledging our need for peace beyond what we can white-knuckle for ourselves, and seeking out the source of that energy, peace, patience, and joy.