Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Praying Together In The (For Now, Metaphorical) Fiery Furnace

 For us as a human family and for the plants, animals and ecosystems and climate which we received as a gift from the Creator when He placed us as stewards on this beautiful world we call home, we are facing an unprecedented crisis: global warming and the consequent climate change.

 NASA scientists just a few days ago reported that this year, 2016, was the hottest year in the past millenium, and temperatures will continue to rise, even if we repent in time and end our reliance on fossil fuels.

Thursday, September 1st is World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, originally an initiative of Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Orthodox Church.  Pope Francis last year invited Catholics and other religious believers and people of good will to join Orthodox Christians in praying each year for our world and the environment that is our common home.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace propose this introduction for the Holy Hour for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation:
"Despite our sins
and the daunting challenges before us,
we never lose heart.
“The Creator does not abandon us;
he never forsakes his loving plan
or repents of having created us…
for he has united himself definitively to our earth,
and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.”*                            
Let us pray today, and indeed throughout the year,
for the grace to show mercy to our common home."  

Prayer may seem inconsequential in the face of a threat of truly biblical proportions, but then again, prayer is always the biblical response when faced with catastrophe.  It is easy to forget that the beautiful canticle calling on all creation to praise God was sung by the three youths in the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:57-88)

So in the fiery furnace of our own era (and our own making, unfortunately), let us pray!

On September 1st in Juneau, there will be two prayer events:
-- Holy Hour with Benediction  5:30pm-6:30pm at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
-- Interfaith Prayer Service, 7:00pm-8:00pm at Northern Light United Church, sponsored by Alaska Interfaith Power and Light.

Everyone is invited, everyone is welcome, at both events.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Taking Time to Be Ready

 A personal paradox of sorts.  If I'm not drawing or painting (icons, that is), I start having trouble with prayer (nothing spectacular, just the usual difficulties for me, distractions, boredom, inattention, discouragement.  And of course, if I'm going through this or that struggle with prayer, then, you guessed it, it becomes more difficult to paint (distractions, boredome, inattention, discouragement.).  Yet, the answer doesn't seem to be either more prayer or more time in the studio, although that would seem the obvious way to proceed.  But what usually turns things around is not more activity but less (even activity that would seem condusive to prayer and iconpainting such as reading scripture or a spiritual writer.)  
From time to time it helps to find time to simply sit quietly in my prayer corner and try to clear my mind and just be present.  But certain types of activities are helpful and some days (like this morning,) its better to do something that takes a lot of concentration but doesn't require any evaluation and analysis.  Like cleaning up the kitcken and taking out the garbage and recycling (which is what I did this morning -- Monday is garbage day where I live.   Other days I straighten up the studio. (It helps me to have something to do with my hands.). It was only then that I was able to be disposed for prayer and eventually, to start drawing.  

I used to think that I could just step into prayer or painting. But I realize that I need time and space to prepare (which is why, when I'm serving at Mass, I need to be there at least 30 minutes ahead of time).  A part of me wishes that I could simply show up, ready to begin.
I now know better, having discovered that  it takes time for all of me to arrive.  Otherwise I risk being only superficially present.  

For me, its something like getting a gessoed panel (a wooden board covered with a smooth and polished layer of plaster on it) ready for the gold and the painting.   The Master is the one doing praying (and the painting) but I have to show up with the panel (actual and metaphorical) ready for His presence and His hand.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Breaking Radio Silence 2.0

I''m back.
After a long, long stretch of inactivity on this weblog, I've returned to the (digital) airwaves.  A lot has happened since I last posted, most notably, during the first week of January I managed to injure my back. Not a parachute jump injury or a tae kwan do bout gone wrong, I simply forgot that I wasn't nineteen anymore and stacked a cord of wood (thoughtfully provided us by my daughter Phoebe's boyfriend, Odin, as a Christmas present). It turns out that the movements involved in bending over, picking up and stacking a split cord of spruce and hemlock is just what it takes to herniate one's disk (in my case, at L4/L5.)

After seven months of increasingly severe pain, my doctor confirmed the herniated disk with an MRI and sent me to Seattle for an epidural injection of cortizone, which, since July 15th has been slowly getting better (thanks in large part to my physical therapist-thank you so much!)

It turns out that weeks and weeks in constant pain is both exhausting and distracting. However, it has given me a more profound and sympathetic understanding of the lives of those who live daily with chronic physical pain.  (And to appreciate how many people, especially the elderly and the disabled, bear the struggles and suffering that comes with chronic pain with such grace and fortitude.)   As I shuffled through the winter and spring I  was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed with kindness and sympathy over the past seven months into the company of those similarly afflicted, to greater or lesser extent, with a back injury and consequent back and leg pain.

The upside of no longer being in pain (at least for the time being -- epidurals don't come with a guarantee) is that I've got the energy and focus again for reading, reflection, writing, drawing and painting.

So stay tuned.