May 9, 2006

Landscapes and Prayer:
Recently at a gathering of congregational leaders and teachers,we were asked the question: “what is the image of your spiritual life right now?” Someone in the group asked for clarification, so the leader rephrased the question: “if your spiritual life were a landscape, what would it look like right now?” Once we had that language of landscape to use, members of the group offered their inner landscapes. One person said “an earthquake.” Another said “a whirlwind.” Someone said, “a desert.” Someone else said, “a flowering tree.” Each person then spoke about why he or she chose that image. And then we closed with prayer. As I listened to each of them, I wished I could ask everyone in our congregation the same question. So I am doing it here. If you could paint a landscape of your spiritual life, what would it look like? Is it a place you would like to stay? What happens to that landscape when you bring it to prayer? Where is God in that place? Where are you? Are there passages from scripture that speak to your experience? For example, for the person whose inner landscape is stormy or another image of natural disaster, several passages might come to mind: the rainbow passage in Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 46, Psalm 95, Jesus calming the storm in Matt. 8:23-27, Mk 4:35-41, Lk 8:22-25. I was also struck this year, as I am every year during Easter, how many times Jesus greets the disciples with the gift of peace, especially in the resurrection appearance at the end of the first day. In one Gospel account, Jesus gives peace and the Holy Spirit together: John 20-1923. That lesson was the Gospel reading two Sundays ago. So perhaps another question about prayer and spiritual landscapes might be, what happens in that landscape when we remember the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s gift of peace?

On another different yet related topic, author Edward Hallowell(“Driven to Distrction”) published another book. This one is for the over scheduled, overdtermined, over-committed, way-to-busy US person in contemporary life called “CrazyBusy.” His thesis is straightforward: US Americans are too busy, way too busy, so busy it’s making us crazy. Our minds aren’t structured for the vast input of information, the technological advancements which speed up our lives, and the emotional deprivations of an overly busy life which limits human contact and hinders human relationships. Get this book. He’s not telling us anything we don’t know already, but he’s pretty practical about how to lessen the sense of the crazy whirlwind of activity. And if you can’t get the book: here’s a one simple thing to do for yourself. Take one half-an-hour out of your day to do nothing: or if that is too unbearable, do something restful: goalless activity, flop down somewhere and look at the clouds. Take a breather, call it a recess–remember those? Think of it as recharging. We aren’t Borgs–machine people. We are organisms that need to replenish and rest. Think of it as keeping the third commandment, if you need a mandate to rest. We need a little sabbath rest every day. The ELCA and other mainline churches have been emphasizing health and well-being during the last year. Good rest, sabbath rest, recreation, doing nothing is necessary to well-being. Jesus was good at doing that, considering the lilies, the ravens, and all. Rest is good. Even God did it.

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