A Life of Prayer: getting started

How does one adopt a contemplative lifestyle? There are many ways to live a consecrated life. In this posting, I will discuss the initial steps I took to get started.
 

First, consider how dedicated to prayer you wish to be. You could start with a minimum of twice a day (morning/evening). Then, as you develop that routine, add a mid-day prayer. The prayers need not be long, drawn out activities. What is important is to establish a prayer line to God. I wish to adopt 7 times a day as do Cistercian contemplatives which works out to about every two hours. And before you say, that cannot be done with work and schooling, I did exactly this while working full-time plus attending grad school full time. I MADE time waking early, during breaks, during walks or even during swimming. Prayer can be anywhere as long as the mind can be directed to God. Right now, I am managing 4 times a day (morning, mid-morning, noon, and evening) but I hope to increase that.  

 Second, incorporate reading the scriptures into your daily routine. This is not about marathon reading. In fact, lectio divino (mindful listening and pondering) can be done in a verse or two upon which you will ponder during the day. Some call this ‘meditation’ but another way to consider it is ‘ruminating’ on the word of God. It is amazing how much more meaning and memorization can occur with this technique. Moreover, scripture study may involve listening as in mp3 or online. Sometimes, hearing the Word brings a different perspective that reading does not.  

 Thirdly, return to song and psalm. Reciting a psalm or singing a hymn (hopefully related to the scripture verse of the day) just adds that much more to the daily routine. The psalms were meant to be sung, or at least chanted. There is every kind of emotion in the psalms: from sublime love and worship to anger and desire for revenge. All that reflects the human experience. Now, I am not a singer by any stretch of the imagination but I know that God delights in song so I do my best. After all, this is about a personal relationship and there is a lot of divine forgiveness given for my song.  

 I know all this may sound daunting to a beginner, but it is not meant to be mastered immediately. This is discipleship and requires persistence and patience. Once you make prayer, study and song a habit you will reap the sublime rewards of such discipline.

Eve: Mother of All Living: a Mother’s Day examination

Eve: Mother of All Living: a Mother’s Day examination 

One of Eve’s titles was Mother of all living. So, on this day as we pay tribute to biological mothers, I wish to examine the first mortal mother: Eve.

What do we gain from understanding motherhood in terms of what God has called it? First, as mother of all living, Eve was given stewardship over the natural world with its vegetation and animals. She must have loved and cared for the living things because we do not hear she broke that commandment to care for the garden and the animals therein. This must been her initial exposure to motherhood in this mortal world for she did not conceive until after the fall. I wonder what she learned from her stewardship? Did she learn how animal mothers nurtured their young? Did she develop empathy that prepared her for caring for her own offspring? Eve, from accounts, was a new creature and did not seem to bring any knowledge, wisdom or experience with her to mortality. How could she have known how to fulfill her calling? Not by instinct as the animals are born with. So, Eve must have learned through practice and experience.  
If we really consider Mother of All Living then it would follow that motherhood encompasses much more than reproduction. It seems to be, rather, a title; one that is earned or confirmed rather than ascribed. There seems to be throughout history those women defined as good or bad mothers. Bad mothers are those who precisely do not acquire the maternal priority of offspring over self. Wicked mothers do not feed, cloth, or nurture her children rather starve, beat and withhold affection from them. Good mothers on the other hand, act the opposite with taking measures of supreme personal sacrifice for the good of the child. The child’s interest surpasses her own. We love this slightly romanticized image of motherhood and even elevate it to the divine. Mother Mary (Virgin Mary) epitomizes this idealization of motherhood such that she is the role model instead of say, Eve. Yet Eve, in a way had more to love besides her flesh and blood. She had the world and all living organisms in it. Christ said that to love one’s own is not meritorious as even the sinners do such (Matt 5: 46).  

Typical Mother’s Day church service will include many laudatory talks about mothers: one’s own or the mother of their personal nuclear family. Do not get me wrong; setting aside a day to acknowledge the sacrifice of good mothers is commendable. Yet, what about those women in the congregation who do not have or will never have children? What about the wicked mothers of childhood? For non-mothers, Mother’s Day can be very isolating and painful particularly when narrowly defined motherhood is glorified. Isaiah reminds us “more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife.” (Isaiah 5:1) From this we see that merely bearing children is not a marker of righteousness for such can quickly become self-righteousness.  

 Just these past few weeks on Facebook, encounters with co-religionist mothers dismissed others’ spiritual needs at church in favor of their own children’s ‘rights’. Those who do not meet their self-exalted status of motherhood are to stay away from sacrament meeting. What a selfish position and narrow understanding of motherhood. For, love is not a piece of finite pie. Love has no bounds or limitations. So, loving your neighbor and your neighbor’s children is a commandment intended to stretch our hearts.  

 Moreover, love should extend to non-humans as it does in the heart of God. Sometimes if seems as though mothers chant as spoiled children seeking their father’s attention: “my children are best!” Totally disregarding that God can and does love all his creations. This is the model we should follow. Yes, perhaps humans seem to be given greater divine tragectories IF they can imitate God’s nature–God’s capacity to love. Not only that, but he created a maternal role model who, despite her imperfections, showed us motherhood includes loving all living things. This, I believe, is the destiny of those who develop the divine capacity to love. Then God will confer the true title of Mother.