by Christine Sine
Over the last couple of weeks, I have started my day by lighting a circle of candles around me. Like the Celts of old, I love circles and circling prayers and often incorporate these in my spiritual practices. At this time of year, as we approach the solstice, I often greet the dawn with the soft glow of the sunrise reflected on the Olympic mountains outside my window, and say goodbye to the day with the even more breathtaking colors of the sunset over the mountains. It makes me feel as though I am indeed surrounded by God’s light. God’s embracing presence gives me strength, comfort and security in the midst of the ongoing trauma of our world.
My interest in circles as an expression of faith came from Celtic Christians who lived between the 5th & 8th centuries. They believed that a circle, with no break, created a complete whole, affording no access to the devil.
Monasteries were often surrounded by a circle of crosses declaring that the space within was sacred and different – dedicated to God and claimed as a place where God met people who were offered sanctuary and hospitality.” The Celtic Resource Book Martin Wallace
As I sit in my circle of light, I feel that same sacred presence surrounding and sustaining me. I close my eyes and draw an imaginary circle in front of me as I describe in this exercise adapted from a traditional circling prayer or CAIM. As I did so, I was reminded of a quote by Hermes Trismegistus that I came across recently:
God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
I interpret this to mean that each of us is centered in the presence of God and that God’s presence moves out from us to embrace everyone and everything. There is no boundary to God’s presence or to God’s love. Nothing can extinguish the light of God. It might be hidden as it is presently behind the blanket of smoke that the winds are sweeping towards us from the fires in California, Oregon and Washington. It might fade into darkness as the sun fades into night, but it is always there. It is always waiting for the right time to reappear. Wow, what a wonderful thought to begin the day with.
As I reflected on this a few days ago, I was reminded of another time I wrote about the emerging light of God and a saying attributed to an ancient monk:
How do we know when the dawn has come? Is it when we can see the mountains clearly? No. Is it when we can see a dog or a cat nearly in the emerging light? No. It is when we can see in another the face of God. That is when the dawn has surely come.”
As I pondered all of this over the last few days, the following prayer bubbled up within me. I have been using it each morning as part of my candle lighting ritual. I have found it to be a wonderful way to start the day, aware that not only do I stand at the centre of God’s love, but that I also provide a centre for God’s love out of which others can be touched and embraced with divine light and love.
Today, we stand in God’s circle of light,
Breathing in, breathing out.
Today we stand in God’s circle of light,
Light before, light behind,
Light on left, light on right,
Light buried deep within.
Today, we stand in God’s circle of light,
With friends and family, neighbours and strangers,
With all the people of the world.
Together we stand in God’s everlasting light.
United into one family,
From every nation and culture and creed.
Let this circle hold us,
Let this circle sustain us,
Let this circle surround us,
With the bright and shiny presence
Of the Eternal One,
Who leads us into light.
© Christine Sine September 2020
P.S. I will be talking about circling prayers at the free webinar on wonder and trauma this week and next week.
September 16, 2020 at 3-4pm PDT (West Coast, USA) Alice Walker, author of The Colour Purple says, “I think the foundation of everything is wonder.” She has grasped a reality few of…
September 23, 2020 at 11am-12pm PDT (West Coast, USA) Alice Walker, author of The Colour Purple says, “I think the foundation of everything is wonder.” She has grasped a reality few of…
Here is today’s contemplative service from St Andrews in Seattle. Find a quiet place, light a candle and enjoy.
A contemplative service with music in the style-of-Taize for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Carrie Grace Littauer, prayer leader, with music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers.
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A-710-756 with additional notes below. “
‘The Kingdom of God,”” Bless the Lord My Soul,” “God is Forgiveness,” and “Da Pacem Cordium” – Copyright and all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé.
“Kyrie for September 13th” – Text by Kester Limner, Music by Andy Myers, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY)
By Lilly Lewin
Many students are starting classes this week in the States and I am reminded to continue to pray for all the teachers, professors, moms, dads and grandparents who are working hard to make this happen both in person and virtually. Nothing is easy or normal in the land of Covid19. Many of us are trying to figure out how the calendar moved on to September while we are still stuck back in May or June!
As many of you know, I get inspired to pray with every day things. Just as Jesus used the things he found on his walks and daily life, like sparrows and lilies, I love to use the things that I see around my office, kitchen and the Dollar Store as inspirations. So here are some school/office supply prayers to inspire your journaling and reflections this weekend!
Pencils with an Eraser…
What are the mistakes you’ve been making that you’re longing for Jesus to erase? Make a list of these. Talk to Jesus about them. Know that Jesus loves you and forgives you & erases all these things! Now use the eraser to erase all of your list! Your slate is clean! Amen!
Maybe it’s not mistakes you need Jesus to erase. Maybe fears & frustrations are cluttering your heart and mind. Make a list of these. Talk to Jesus about them. Now use that eraser and let Jesus erase all your fears and those frustrations too! Thank you Jesus!
Pens and Post-it Notes…
We are starting a new season. What is the new story, new chapter, new adventure Jesus is inviting you to join him in writing? Even in the midst of all this uncertainty and confusion, ask Jesus to show you what his vision is! What words come to mind as you consider a new season, a fresh start? Use some post-it notes and write down some words that inspire you and give you hope. Post them around to encourage you to pray and dream! Write down a story or poem about a new adventure you’d like to go on with Jesus between now and Christmas.
Tape or Glue…
There so many things in our world right now that need mending. So many broken things that need to be taped back together. Tear off a piece of tape. What is on your heart that needs healing, that needs to be stuck back together? Things in your personal life, in your family, in your city, in your country. Maybe you need more than one piece of tape to use as you pray! Fell the stickiness of the tape or notice the messiness of some glue. Let Jesus hold these things for you. Know that Jesus is in control. Ask Jesus to mend these broken things.
Go slowly as you rub your hands with hand sanitizer. Notice the scent, pay attention to how it feels as you put it on your hands. Consider the protection it provides. Thank Jesus for his protection. Now consider those who do not have hand sanitizer or a way to easily wash up each day. Pray for them. Buy an extra container of hand sanitizer to share with someone else or make a gift to your local homeless shelter.
I love crayons! Sometimes we all need a little coloring therapy. Doodle, draw, get an old fashioned coloring book and just go for it! What colors inspire you? Which colors bring you joy? What do you notice about the texture of crayons on the page or paper? Don’t worry about being an artist or being perfect… enjoy the process. Play and pray with the colors. Allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you.
What other school supplies inspire you to pray? I’d love to hear about what Jesus shows you! And keep a pencil on your desk or somewhere you will see it this week to remind you continue to pray for students, teachers, and all those helping get school and learning started this year.
by Lisa DeRosa
Tomorrow, September 11, 2020, marks the 19th year since the tragic day that we remember and grieve in the United States. I remember entering my 4th grade classroom that morning to find the TV on, which was not normal. The news showed images that my young, sheltered mind was not able to take in. We weren’t able to play outside because we were on lockdown until the end of the day. A classmate’s dad was scheduled to meet in one of the World Trade Center towers that morning, but he missed his flight from the west coast. Our family faced several days without Dad after his Navy base was locked down in San Diego. That next year, he served in the Gulf with limited communication with us back home for nine months. This is what I remember about that day.
My husband and I traveled to New York as part of our honeymoon trip a few years ago. I was not emotionally capable of entering the memorial museum with my husband, but spent reflective time at Ground Zero and the Firefighter’s Memorial. It was eery. Life around it was rebuilt and moving at its normal speed. I could not imagine the amount of work that went into clearing and restructuring the streets, buildings, and city.
Recently, a stranger struck up a conversation with me while I was in a high rise building in Bellevue, WA. After just a few minutes, she opened up about her life since September 11, 2001 when she said goodbye to her fiancé on the phone as he died in one of the towers. I asked her how she has coped over the years, to which she responded that she has tried everything. Drugs, yoga, counseling, alcohol, meditation, marriage and divorce, a successful career, and finally as a last resort, she started going to a church and wondering about God. Her raw emotion that she was willing to share with a total stranger was both surprising to me and refreshing. Real.
All of this remembering reminds me that I cannot control people, places, or things. I cannot control events that occur around me. But, I can take one day at a time. I can be present to those whom God has gifted me with in my life. I can check in on loved ones and friends so they know how I care about them. And I can trust that God is my hope, my strength, my safe place and my peace. God sits with me in the pain and the remembering if I am willing to go there. The gentleness and love of God is there in the midst of my sorrow, tears, and grief.
I appreciate so much this prayer that Christine has adapted over the years as she has “meditated on the horrors of war and terrorism, the plight of refugees and the atrocities and useless killing and maiming that resulted”.
God, so much violence, so much pain, so much heartache.
May our remembrances of this day instill within us a horror of war,
And help us stand against the atrocities caused by terrorism.
As we grieve with those who still mourn,
And share memories with those who cannot forget,
May we be stirred by your love and compassion for all.
As we remember those who bravely responded,
And gave their lives to save others,
May we draw strength from their selfless sacrifice.
As we stand with strangers who became neighbours that day,
Sharing and caring for people they did not know,
We give thanks for their generosity and hospitality.
May it remind us of the call to be good Samaritans,
Reaching out across race and culture to other victims of violence.
So many in our world have lost loved ones to terrorism and war,
So many have been displaced from homes and country,
May their plight fill us with a longing for peace.
Let us seek for understanding and reconciling,
And not turn from your kingdom ways.
Above all God may we remember your faithfulness,
And learn to trust in your unfailing love.
Below are resources to help facilitate your remembrance of September 11, 2001.
- September 11th Resource List
- Litany for 9/11 by Fran Pratt
- In search of peace: Remembering 9/11 by Jeannie Kendall
- 9/11 – Ten Years Later
- Remembering 9/11, and Praying for Peace
- Remembering 9/11 – May It Call Us to Peace and Not to War
- Memorial 9/11 Prayer and Pope Francis Call to Peace
- Remembering September 11, 2001 by Michael Moore
by Sue Duby
My brain mystifies me. How is it possible to collect (and store) random bits of information and hide others I need to find?? How can Chuck and I enjoy a Friday night popcorn-movie date on the couch and realize half-way through, “We’ve already seen this!” (we carry on since we can’t remember the ending anyway!). How often we now preface conversation with our kids with a smile and sheepish, “Did we already tell you this?”. It’s all a mystery, that fine art of remembering.
Last year, we wrapped up 30 years of missions/faith-based non-profit work. As part of navigating the new season of free time and open calendars (all laced with a bit of curiosity and angst), we realized we needed to do some serious “remembering” before forging ahead. Needing a “fun factor” along the way, we purposed to head to a new coffee shop each week for what became our “Remember Dates”. Sipping lattes, we slowly read through over 100 quarterly newsletters I’d written to chronicle those 30 years. Over 6 months of intense remembering. Fifty pages of bullet point notes on my laptop. Each time, we’d read a bit, share emotions and marvel at God’s hand. . . all along the way sighing after an hour, “I can’t believe our life! I’m exhausted!”.
Somehow in the journey, we finished refreshed, refocused and at peace for the new season. . . certain that God’s faithful, gracious and loving ways so clearly woven through those 30 years, would lead us securely to whatever came next.
Remembering is work. “To recall to the mind by an act or effort of memory”. “Be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known or experienced in the past).” Intentional. Purposeful. An active choosing to do it. Requiring time to reflect and grab hold of the nuggets.
God reminds us often to remember, and in fact, exhorts us to do so. For our own benefit. For those around us and in our families. To lead us back to fully trusting His presence and ways in our lives in the present and future. Most simply, instructing us in Psalm 105:4-5 (NIV):
Look to the Lord and His strength.
Seek His face always.
Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles. . .
He’s not parted a river in my lifetime, but my list is long for ways He’s intervened, directed, protected and led in my life. In the obvious “big ones”, like saving my daughter Krista’s life twice (at birth and after a massive car wreck in college) and seemingly small (randomly finding a daisy bush for my cutting garden that wildly blooms until frost).
God reminded the Israelites often to recount His strong hand in their lives.
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
Deuteronomy 5:15 (NIV)
Knowing their human frame. . . just like ours. . . where passing time fades memories of even the most amazing, wonder-filled events, He exhorted once again.
He charged them to “not forget”. . . which only happens if you “keep remembering”. Not for themselves alone, but for future generations.
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV
Though our newsletter coffee dates may be finished, I’m still working those “remembering” muscles. Trying to find fresh rhythms to help me focus and not let days and events just slip by unnoticed. Paying attention along the way for moments of His intervention worth tucking away in my memory bank, as well as grabbing hold and pausing to reflect when a past event pops up on my radar screen. I’m hoping the list will grow, but for now these simple remembering steps stir hope and peace in my spirit:
- Waking each morning to recount 10 things I’m grateful for (big or small)
- Scrolling through the day in my mind before falling asleep at night. Recounting even seemingly mundane days reminds me – He was there!
- Continuing to “remember” with Chuck, as spontaneous conversations begin with one of us sharing random “I’m so grateful that we ________” moments.
- Purposing to weave our personal “God stories” into conversation with our grandsons. Remembering with them.
May He prompt us often to remember. . . as He remembers us, continually.
Psalm 77:11-12 (NIV)
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Psalm 145:5 (NIV)
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
[Photos above by Sue Duby, used with permission]
Has God ever spoken to you? Or, perhaps a more accurate question might be, have you ever listened to God speaking to you? I believe that God speaks to us a great deal more than we might think.
Because we are individuals, lovingly created, we are spoken to in ways that fit who we are and how we process things. Some people hear God’s voice in music, some in poetry, some in the depths of their souls, and most of us would probably agree, in and through Scripture. We can also experience God and his voice through the creation he spoke into being. Indeed, many saints and teachers liken nature to a kind of Scripture in its own right.
The Old Testament prophet Elijah discovered on Mount Horeb that God’s voice is more likely to be a small, still whisper than a great voice clothed in earthquake or fire. We hear the voice of God the Father, the Good Shepherd and the Holy Spirit, in many ways, but often in the centre of ourselves, that quiet, still place where we know things, where we feel things. The place the Bible tends to call the heart.
About twenty years ago I felt led to begin a deeper prayer life, and to start to practice daily contemplation. Stillness and silence gradually became precious to me and once my busy mind learned to occasionally quieten down and perhaps more honestly, once I’d learnt to let it chatter away above the more important things that were taking place in my spirit, I found God taking me to new places and showing me new things, and even speaking wonderful words into my heart.
I began to write them down in my journals, and a few years later, to collate them into documents on the computer. I had no idea then, of these things becoming a book, but rather, wanted to keep a record for myself of the time God and I were spending together, and the dear things he was showing me.
And then, nine years ago, my parents bought me a few days’ retreat at Aylesford Priory for my fortieth birthday. Whilst I was there, I sat in the Relic Chapel, in awe at the sense of God’s presence that manifested through the prayerful atmosphere, and through the beautiful ceramics, woodwork and stained glass. God spoke to my heart very clearly right there. He told me he was commissioning me to be a writer.
From that point on I set myself to the task of making the gifts I was being given into pieces that would bless others. My hope is that as I continue to do so, that readers will be drawn into deeper relationship with God, who is love, and that my sharing the understandings, seeings and stories that I weave with God’s help and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will be an encouragement and joy to my fellow Christians, and perhaps even to those who have yet to be still, and begin to know God.
I hope that you will join me in celebrating that my book of sacred receivings, Recital of Love (available here and at all the usual outlets including Amazon), is out now with Paraclete Press, and that you might enjoy the extract below.
Still, Small Voice
Though you try to deaden the still, small voice it will come unbidden in the night, a shaft of light in the darkness, a soft sweet singing in the pause between appointments. Gently insistent, it will be seen and heard. And then, how foolish your lives will seem!
Like a gardener watching and waiting for a compost heap to bear apples, with her back turned to an orchard as vast as the sky. Like an astronomer hell bent on searching space for a star to name after himself, when I have painted a whole galaxy for him to call home.
Before you waste one more second on pointless endeavours, hold still, and hear the poetry of your own heartbeat. Listen for the words that are rolling unsaid around your speech like waves of curling grace. These are the spaces that cannot help but fill with the presence of God.
If you each knew your worth to me or had tasted one drop of the ocean of my mighty and fearsome love, you would tremble and laugh at the smallness of your vision and your tiny, tinny hearts I hold so dear.
Endorsement by Christine Aroney-Sine
“What a delightful and enriching book Keren has provided for us. I intended to read it slowly, taking several days to relish the beauty of her words but found my eyes riveted by her beautiful poetry prose and couldn’t put it down. Its contemplative and sometimes mystical style draws the reader into a deeply intimate place with God, relaxing and renewing our souls. It is a book that I will be returning to again and again in the coming months.”
Christine Aroney-Sine author of The Gift of Wonder.
Keren Dibbens-Wyatt is a chronically ill writer and artist with a passion for poetry, mysticism, story and colour. Her writing features regularly on spiritual blogs and in literary journals. Her new book, Recital of Love, published by Paraclete Press, is out in September 2020. Keren lives in South East England and is mainly housebound by her illness.
by Christine Sine
Last week in my post What Do You Have Trouble Naming, I shared some of the struggles that I, like many women, have been through over the years. I talked about my impressions of Joseph, wondering how he treated Mary. Someone commented, “I have always felt he was one of the unsung heroes.”; something that I am fully in agreement with. This time, as I reflected on this comment, I was reminded of all the unsung heroes in our world who make our way of life possible.
Today, we celebrate Labour Day in the U.S. and Canada, paying homage to reforms that moved work from seven days a week to five, made child labour illegal and improved working conditions. This year is a Labour Day like no other. Today, we particularly salute those unsung heroes of the COVID pandemic who have carried us through the last six months of anxiety and illness, many of whom never receive the recognition they deserve – people who stock shelves, check out groceries, drive buses, and sanitize hospital rooms.
I would encourage you to say a special prayer and, where possible, give a special thanks to these pandemic heroes especially to those who will spend the holiday working.
A Labour Day Like No Other
In past years, this has been a long weekend of parades, picnics, fireworks and other pubic gatherings. This year, for most of us it will be different as we endeavour to keep ourselves, our families, neighbours and communities safe from COVID-19.
One thing remains the same, however. This day has also become known as the official end of summer. We all recognize that it has been a trying and unusual summer with vacations cancelled and traditions changed. Most of us have worked hard to reorient ourselves and enjoy an at home celebration, making it a surprisingly special time. Acknowledging and giving gratitude to God for this, is, I feel, an important tradition that we might like to initiate this year.
Maybe you would like to spend time reflecting on Gerald Manley Hopkin’s Hurrahing In Harvest.
A New Reality is Coming
With the mornings becoming cooler and the sun set a bit earlier, many are turning their attention back to school or towards new jobs.
This is a tough time for parents and kids alike, whether they are learning remotely or in person. Its a good time to consider how you can reach out to those in the same boat, especially to those who are handicapped by lack of access to the internet or the disadvantages of out of date computers. If you aren’t directly effected, consider ways that you could support someone who is – financially, prayerfully or emotionally.
Work is also changing. Some are facing the reality of long-term remote workplaces. A corner “office” in the garage has become a permanent work space which hopefully can be adapted for more long-term use.
Others have lost their jobs and are in danger of losing their housing. Some are able to look for new career paths, but for others, like those in the restaurant and hospitality industry, there seem to be few solutions. In the U.S., unemployment is at an all-time high. So as we celebrate Labour Day this year, it is good to consider what we can do to help those who are vulnerable and may end up on the streets or living in their cars.
Remember and Anticipate
When I worked on the mercy ship, Anastasis, we had a tradition that I think is a good one to adapt here. When we were getting ready to leave a port, we held an evening meeting that we called “A moving of the ark” ceremony. We highlighted the joys we had experienced at the port we were about to leave and talked about the struggles. Then we talked about what we were anticipating in the port we were about to enter. At the end, we held communion. It was a wonderful way to transition into a new step of the journey.
I have done something similar as I look at God’s beautiful creation. I reflect on what I have most enjoyed about the season that is passing and what I am anticipating about the new season that is emerging. For example, I love the way the skeletons of the trees around me are hidden in summer but revealed as the leaves drop in the autumn.
I suggest that you get together with some friends, keeping a good social distance, of course, and talk about these questions.
- What have you most enjoyed about the last few months? What has been your greatest struggle?
- What are you looking forward to in the next few months? What do you think will be your greatest challenge?
We may not be able to hold communion this year, though a shared snack over Zoom or in the backyard might be a fun end to your celebration.
Everything is a bit different this year for everyone. We need to accept the changes we cannot control and look to whatever silver linings we might see on the horizon.
We will continue to face challenges and hope they will turn into new opportunities. We should also be inspired to create new traditions, forge new relations and make new connections. This is a time not for turning in on ourselves, but for turning out towards our communities and asking, What can I do for the least of these? What can I do to foster unity and strengthen the common good of my community?