First Meditation

Heads bowed atop folded, sweat-sticky arms resting on wooden desks,Mrs. Logan led us past the daily eraser lint and chalk dust, deep into the imagination of seventh grade boys.

"Meditation," she said, word unfolding like velvet blanket from mother's alto, "is a gift from God. Picture an orb, incandescent bulb over formless void, bottomless chasm, or ashen open ocean. The orb is Christ."

Time swung in rhythm--eyes on the watch, we each grew sleepy-- and in mind's eye the orb drifted over bawdy Spanish beaches, over the bare myths told in boyhood locker rooms.

"This is the Word not yet flesh, not yet nailed to tree but hanging in sky. It is greater than sun and moon; it is creating the first Eden. Imagine?" The first Eden, where all was naked and unashamed,

where mediation was unsullied by adolescent dreams of sex, or hunger, I imagined. "Jesus, the always hanging orb, or ever present Savior comes to create peace. See him approaching; feel him pushing past breastbone; know his peace."

Voice calling into deeper dreams of decadence, of Eden's perfect breastbones, of sticky pomegranate smiles, powerful stallions, and multi-orbed skies, I followed into innocence, into the wide-eyed wonder of time lost to sleep.

"Lunch," the orb whispered, and pulled arms up from luscious earth, through clouds, and into the groggy then of a Cheshire smile, the chorus of girlish giggles. There, the mystic orb dissolved into the face of Mrs. Logan,

and left me to contend with that which was also real.

*****

In the most recent Tiny Letter (my once-a-month, insider newsletter delivered straight to your email), I'm discussing the Lenten season, the darkness of my heart, and the discipline of quiet reflection. If you sign up today, you'll receive a FREE DOWNLOAD of the song "Train Wreck." It's a song I wrote about pain, loss, and the love of God.

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Prayer Like Tweeting

“There is a way between voice and presencewhere information flows. In disciplined silence it opens. With wandering talk it closes.” ~Rumi

 

My phone lit up over the lunch hour yesterday, the Twitter messenger notification popping up again and again. It was a friend, the writer sort who spins sentences about as well as anyone this side of the Mississippi. I had asked her if she planned on writing a book in the near future, and she was working her explanation out in bite size messages typed with two thumbs.

“ALL THE NOISE,” she typed in an all-capped exclamation, and I knew what she meant—so many books, so little time, so much marketing.

An email cut through the direct message conversation. It was another friend asking me about Ethiopia and trying to pin me down on a time to catch up. Before I could respond, a Facebook notification distracted me, informed me that I had been tagged in a post, and as I was reading said post, Amber texted me asking about some item of family business.

Ping. Buzz. Blip. Ding.

We live in an age of uninterrupted interruptions. Divided between here and there, at any given moment we ship parts of ourselves to friends in Texas, the U.K., and the spouse across town. Yesterday, I was at the lunch with all of these people, virtually anyway, and I felt drawn-and-quartered, divided among too many good people.

I wonder whether the human species is evolving yet again, whether we are sitting under some technological personality fission—homo discidium, we are becoming. I wonder whether our DNA is undergoing a culling, the human capacity for singular presence being stripped from its code.

This morning, I sat in my chair, trying to find the rhythm of meditation. Instead, I found myself in popcorn prayer with God, the thousand thought-kernals expanding all at once. It was a distracted, divided prayer with no staying power—be with my kids today; and what about that project that’s due?; and when do I lead worship next at church?; I think Amber has Yoga tonight—and so on, and so forth.

The divided me has learned to pray like a social media interaction. Quick. Bite size. Throw away.

This morning, though, I stopped, took a breath, and centered on an old orthodox prayer a Catholic priest once taught me. In rhythm with my breathing, I prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And then I waited.

Beginnings: Ash Wednesday

"One cannot begin to face the real difficulties of the life of prayer and meditation unless one is first perfectly content to be a beginner and really experience himself as one who know little or nothing and has a desperate need to learn the bare rudiments."

Beginning Lent as a beginner takes a conscious effort.  I was raised on a steady diet of the Passion and resurrection, so I took little time to meditate in it deeply because I knew it so well.  Or so I thought.

Today as I contemplate my dusty beginning and my coming ashy end, I'm hoping to start this Lenten season with green belief.   I'm asking what it means to really pray and meditate through Lent, which means I'm asking what it means to really pray and meditate at all.

Consider starting this season at square 1?  Consider the readings as if they are fresh-baked?  Consider the Passion and resurrection with unreached ears?

Welcome to Ash Wednesday, 2012.  It's a good day to start from the dust.

"We do not want to be beginners.  But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners."

*All quotes taken from Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer.