Faith/Spirituality

A Wide-Angle lens

Lately I have been reading books with various perspectives on prayer and meditation. As I say those words, my guess is that if you lean more towards unconventional spirituality, the word “prayer” makes you feel slightly uncomfortable and perhaps even a bit tempted to skip this reading. If your spiritual practices lend themselves towards organized religion and church attendance and you “do devotions” on a regular basis, the word “meditation” may set you on edge or cause you to feel unsettled about where I am going with this.

Everyone do some deep breathing and relax. You know by now that I am not in the business of freaking people out or pushing my own ideas on anyone ( sadly, I haven’t always been that way 😜 ). I simply want to share a recent “ah-ha” moment I had regarding both of these concepts. A few scales of confusion regarding these vast, vague and mysterious practices fell from my eyes, and I was able to get a clearer vision of what they look like when I integrate them into my daily life.

I am about to give you a snapshot of prayer and meditation that I hope helps you the way it has helped me to take a step closer to being able to apply these practices with a bit more clarity than you had before.

Some of you might know that I am a realtor (this is relevant, I promise…). Because of this, I have learned how to take quality pictures of homes when I list them. At first, I had a fairly nice camera that I used with the lens that came with it. The problem was, it is very hard to take any kind of usable photo of a tiny bathroom. I could get a really good shot of the toilet or bathtub, but not both in the same photo. I was informed by my photographer friends that I needed to get a differennt lens. A wide-angle lens. This would allow me to stand in the same spot, with the same camera, but adjust the lens so I could pan out and get a broader perspective, capturing all the magnificence of the, um, bathroom.

In short simplicity, this is an illustration of prayer. Richard Rohr calls it “a positive widening of your lens for a better picture.” It is an “alternative processing system.” Somehow, many well-intended religious people have turned it into what Rohr describes as a “pious practice or exercise that you carried out with the same old mind and from your usual self-centered position…This practice was supposed to ‘please’ God somehow. God needed us to talk to Him or Her, I guess. Prayer was something you did when you otherwise felt helpless.”

Prayer can be juxtaposed with the word meditation, both referring to an entirely different way of processing life. Prayer/meditation is “lens”, the “wide-angle lens” that helps us to see the bigger picture of an otherwise narrow view of circumstances. And instead of seeing people with our blurry, tainted and selfish-absorbed lens, we can use prayer/meditation to see them through God’s lens. One that takes into account that their immediate behavior may be the reaction to and consequence of deep rooted resentments, abuses and feelings of abandonment or loss.

These practices take work. It is no easy task to invite God to “be thou our vision”. Rohr says “it always takes a bit of time to widen the lens, and therefore the screen, of life. One goes through serious withdrawal pains for a while until the screen is widened to a high-definition screen.” Most of us pray about what we want for us and what we want for others. It takes discipline and a conscious decision to “turn our will and our life over to the care of God” and let Him decide. To let what He wants for us and what He wants for others be the guinding principle of prayer and meditation.

When we widen our lens, we can see the world more clearly because we are aware that God’s lens is bigger and fuller and crisper than any prayer uttered from our limited, self-centered, ego-centric vantage point. Our perspective changes when we see through this lens of prayer and meditation. Views that were otherwise confined to itty-bitty spaces become fully developed to display  the “reality” of how God intends for us to see the world.

And, you might also be interested to know that the real value of a camera, is the lens. I recently purchased a lens for my son, who regularly sells old camera parts for new and better ones on eBay, that cost almost 5 times as much as the camera itself. Because, it’s the quality and scope of the lens that produces the best pictures, not the camera (anyone else feel like a cheap camera in need of an upgrade?).

We have been given the ability to connect with the God of the universe, through the gift of prayer and of meditation, so that we can see and experience life with the mind and heart, and wide-angle lens, of the One who sees All, knows All, and is All.

 

Addiction, Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Cancer, Control, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

“Goals”

At first glance, how I spent my day yesterday (bleeding over into today) might might appear like laziness or procrastination. And trust me, my skills are stellar in those two areas. In the past, I would have been all over this opportunity to get things in order and get back to regular life. Kill off the Christmas tree once and for all and vacuum up the tiny pine needles strewn about the house, after falling off of family member’s socks. Christmas is over and tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. We have had extra visitors in our house (and at this point, my very own 21 college-student-home-on-break, qualifies as a visitor) since before December 25th. And as much as I do love it, no routine, lots of people and opinions and plans can make me a little ticky after awhile. Yesterday was a prime opportunity to get the house cleaned up and back to normal. All the kids were sleeping, relatives were gone and husband was reading in another room of the house. I had the perfect window.

But then I read something that caused me to do it differently this year. I chose to squelch my urge to organize and engage in what the author called a holy “afterglow”, this space between the crazy of Christmas and the celebration of the New Year. It reminds me of the Recovery saying that has benefited me often (when I slow down long enough to do it): Pause. Pray. Proceed. The idea is that when you are tempted to act, usually rashly or emotionally, you play it different. Instead of barreling ahead with that angry phone call, posting a passive aggressive snippet on Facebook, or letting your words fly out your mouth without caution or control or compassion, you Pause. You Pray and invite God into it. And then you proceed (hopefully on to something more productive or healing for everyone).

This is a practice that is not only useful for the biggies, but for every attitude or thought or word that crosses our consciousness, all day, everyday. Today, I am using it as a guide as I reflect on last year and prepare for the year to come. In dozens of ways, i failed to accomplish my physical, emotional and spiritual goals. I truly wish I could say I ended this year a little more advanced in these areas. My standards for myself tend to be a bit high. But regardless of the little progress I did make, I am left wanting more. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. God has designed us to move forward. But, In the past, I would make very specific goals that were based on the hype and energy of the promise of a new year, only to abandon most of them and feel like a loser for doing so by February.

Today I am different. Maybe it’s from the battle with disease of Leukemia. Or the family disease of addiction seeking to steal, kill and destroy our family. Or leaving a church family after 20 years. Or losing many many relationships with people I thought were my forever friends. Or my son going off to college and my two teenagers getting their driver’s license. Not maybe. Probably. But those are just a handful of hard times that changed me. There are also countless blessings that have contributed to this “different” in me. Maybe it’s the new friends God has brought me as a result of Leukemia and addiction and having to find a new church family. Or maybe it’s from the snuffing out of old habits and thought patterns that don’t serve me anymore. Or maybe it’s because I am finally convinced that God, in His infinite wisdom about what I need verses what I want, can be trusted with my future.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there’s a thing wrong with setting goals for yourself. Or with reflecting on ways we could have done it better in the past. But don’t hang your hat there. I can learn from my past and be prepared for the future. But ultimately I need to live a little bit longer in the Pause. Look back, look ahead, but don’t forget to Pray and invite God in before you Proceed. What I have found, and why my goals are a little more in flex than they used to be, is that what God has planned for my future will most likely look drastically different than my personal, calculated plans. I can remind myself of His faithfulness when I reflect on all the ways He took care of me even when life didn’t seem to cooperate last year. If am open, I can learn and grow and flourish this coming year, especially when I let God lead me, as opposed to the other way around.