An 8 week virtual retreat and spiritual boost.
Join us as we journey together through the Lord's Prayer in worship, practice and personal prayer.
May It Be So - Week of September 7, 2020
. . . for yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
When I think of the kingdom, the power and the glory, I think of the Trinity and the call of the Holy within me to co-create a life together that becomes ever more a part of my awareness until we are one again. I think of the kingdom as the holy mystery of God and heaven. I think of the power, as the manifestation
of the holy incarnate in Jesus, and in us, as power here on earth. And I think of the glory as the Holy Spirit who brings glory to all living things physically and spiritually.
As Thomas Keating says:
“The spiritual journey does not require going anywhere because God is already with us and in us. The Spirit speaks to our conscience through scripture and through events of our daily life. The Spirit then begins to address our conscience from that deep source within us. When we are not thinking, analyzing, or planning and place ourselves in the presence of God in faith, we open ourselves to the unconscious and The Ultimate Reality. Introduce yourself to the inner life of The Ultimate Reality whom we call God.”
One of the most helpful prayer practices for me to get in touch with God, our Ultimate Reality, is the prayer of examine that I will share with you as a 7-day practice for 5 minutes at the beginning of the day and for 5 minutes at the end of the day. This practice helps me get out of my head that wants to understand, analyze, plan and control, and opens me to my unconscious and to the Ultimate Reality and brings me into unity with God in the present moment.
I recommend setting an intention to do this practice for 1 week and open yourself to hearing the holy speaking into your life from the exercise.
Set an intention to do this practice twice daily for 1 week.
Plan a 5-minute check in with yourself When you first wake up in the morning, before your feet hit the ground, and 5-minutes at the end of the day before you go to bed.
First ask yourself how you are feeling emotionally.
Secondly ask yourself how your body is feeling physically.
Thirdly, ask yourself what metaphor you would use to describe your interior reality.
Make notes of your awareness, and take the opportunity to reflect on them occasionally throughout your day and at the end of the week.
For example, I woke feeling warm and connected to my adult children after a recent family vacation and I also noticed some angst in my stomach, but didn’t know why and noticed my back was a bit stiff. I thought of a metaphor of homemade chicken soup with a bit of spice. As I went through my day, I reflected on the soup metaphor and by the end of the week, I was able to notice greater awareness to the Ultimate Reality and see God at work helping me be more present and more aware.
One of the biggest gifts for me in doing this practice is that I have become more attuned to my body and God’s messages. This helps me be more present and aware, so I can make more conscious decisions about how to act in the world rather than subconsciously reacting and missing all God has for me to live more in sync with the holy. For example, just being aware of my angst, even though I am not sure why it is there, I am able to notice that I tend to get busy as a way of covering over the uncomfortable feeling rather than attuning to it and slowing down to ask what is needs. As I tend to my angst, I have had it reveal some very important messages. I have been attending to its recent message of my privilege, and its invitation for me to find ways to act for justice and equality for others.
This practice written and developed by
spiritual director and VPC member, Joni Cropper
Below is an audio recording of a guided meditation in two connected segments: a 5-minute practice for those who’d like to try a short meditation only, followed without a break, by a 10-15 minute segment but with more silence to help us find a place inside where we are held called “Experiencing the Light.” I hope you can get outdoors before you listen to it and sit comfortably in a chair, resting your feet on the ground. Then settle in with a few deep breaths.
This week's practice curated by Anne Hillman, author, poet and VPC Member
“…and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”
Forgiveness is invited everywhere in scripture, in addition to The Lord’s Praye
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God forgives you”. *
Colossians 3:13 “The Lord has forgiven you so you must also forgive.”
Mark 11:25 “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”.
John 19 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Psalm 85:5 “For you O Lord are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”
And of course, some of Jesus’ final words on the cross, “Forgive them Father. They do not know what they are doing”.
We can think about forgiveness as “preemptive”; God grants it before we ask. Or we can think that forgiveness will be granted to us only in the measure that we are willing to forgive. The first interpretation is a loving one. The second seems old testament to me. It seems conditional or fear based, as in, “I only forgive you if you forgive”! That is not the loving God I have faith in or pray to.
Whichever interpretation you choose to empower, the fact remains that forgiveness is key and powerful because, at its core, it is an act of love, humility, and compassion.
It is an act of love, the covenantal love that Jesus invites or commands; that we love our enemy.
It is an act of compassion for the wounds of others AND compassion for our own wounding. It releases or removes a burden from us and others; the burden of holding onto anger, resentment, vengeance, and judgment. This is a burden that takes up space that God might more fully occupy!
It is an act of humility as it levels all relationships; I can no longer hold that I am better than or separate from the one I have judged and refused to forgive. In forgiving I surrender to the possibility that we are one in God’s love for us! Forgiving is an act that heals both the forgiver and the forgiven.
Forgiveness is the ultimate surrender to vulnerability and love. In it we acknowledge our shared humanity and fallibility with others. I am like the one who harmed me.
I value saying The Lord’s Prayer in unison with others: it is deepening for me. At the same time, I “translate the prayer” in my mind, from one that is asking for reassurance (give us, give us, give us), to one acknowledging God’s loving commitment. It is my faith that God already “gives us this day”, “gives us spiritual bread. God has already “forgiven us our debts”. The big question is: Will we allow God’s forgiveness? If not, why not?
I offer two practices that might open you more fully to forgiveness.
Sit in silence, inhale slowly and ask God: “For what am I using my unwillingness to forgive?” Exhale and wait in silence for an answer. Inhale slowly and ask God: “What does my unwillingness to forgive do for me? Does it offer the illusion that I am better than the one who has harmed me?” Exhale and wait in silence for an answer. Say, “God. I am willing to let go of my need to feel superior. Please help me to see the space you create in me to love and forgive”. Allow any feelings or realizations to arise. Inhale God’s love.
Ho’ oponopono: Is a Hawaiian forgiveness practice. Sit in silence and imagine someone from whom you need forgiveness sitting across from you. Silently say, “I’m sorry for (fill in what you would like forgiveness for)”. Say, “Please forgive me”. Imagine that they forgive you. Say, “Thank you”. Say, “I love you”. (“I’m sorry; Please forgive me; Thank you; I love you”). Sit in silence and allow any feelings or realizations to arise. Inhale God’s love. Repeat the phrases until you feel some release. You can sing the phrase as well!
Reverse the process. Sit in silence and imagine someone you might forgive sitting across from you saying, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” Sit in silence and allow any feeling or realizations to arise. Inhale God’s love. Wash, rinse, repeat as needed!
Watch Ho’oponopono explanation.
End in prayer by saying, “Holy one, you have commanded me to forgive that I may follow Jesus more fully, that I may be ever more loving.
May I begin by first forgiving myself knowing that you forgive me. May I let go of self-critical thoughts and guilt.
May I constantly wake up to anger, judgments, and resentments, directed toward myself and others. May I wake up to the places I have refused to forgive, refused to love myself and others.
May I see more clearly that that in refusing to forgive I feed the illusion that I am better than others and separate. May I wake up to the heavy burden this is and may I release this burden to you, freeing myself and others from my self-made prison of hurt.
In doing so may I create more space for you and may I know deeply that I am loved and already forgiven. May I know also that you love and have already forgiven those I have been unable to forgive. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
This week's practice curated by Darlene Batchelder,
Ontological Coach and Spiritual Director
and VPC Deacon
May It Be So - Week of August 30, 2020
When I was four years old, our country hadn’t yet entered World War 2, but the fear of war had long since seeped into everyone’s pores. We were not allowed to travel more than 5 miles from our homes; there was a curfew every night from 8 PM to 6 AM and my daddy was an MP walking the neighborhood to keep it safe. He wore a helmet and a dark blue uniform (but I was much more interested in the shiny wooden billy club on his hip). Every night, there were blackouts and we helped our mother turn off all the lamps in the house and pull down the shades. Otherwise enemy planes would see lights and bomb us. During air raid drills, screaming sirens were an order to run downstairs and hide underground. We huddled in our basement, held safe in our parents’ arms.
Can you remember a time when you were very little and were afraid?
Another basement poured for the town’s new Episcopal church was hastily roofed over when the war began. So, on Sundays, we went down into the foundation for church. Outside, black tar from the new flat roof dripped down its walls. Inside, it was a magical place. I was entranced by bright colored figures wearing bathrobes on the stained-glass windows, by the smell of incense, candle wax and Easter lilies. And because I heard them over and over, the cadence and words of the Lord’s Prayer were indelibly printed inside me. After what happened to me next, I especially remembered: “Forgive us our sins . . . Lead us not into temptation . . .”
Shortly after my parents joined the church, I remember being carried in my father’s arms from our car into a hospital. He gave me away to people with white masks covering their faces and left me there alone and critically ill, separated from the parents who held me when I was scared. Because of the nighttime blackouts, they were only allowed to see me during afternoon visiting hours. I remember seeing my mother at the foot of the bed crying. I was in and out of a coma and they’d told her I was dying. As it is today, during the pandemic, while doctors are trying to find what will work to heal COVID 19, my life was saved by a doctor who tried a four-year-old drug that had never been used on peritonitis—sulfa. Weeks after coming out of the coma and still in the hospital, I lay alone in the strange white iron bed and looked out the window at some bright pink petunias circling a flagpole, trying to make sense of what was happening to me. Separated and alone, I thought I was being punished. I was sure I was bad. When I eventually went back to church with my family all I heard was, “Forgive us our sins . . . Lead us not into temptation . . ."
Was there a time when you were very little and felt all alone?
Sometime after I came to Valley Pres in 2000, I learned that the word sin meant separation. I heard it as separation from God. I’m starting to understand that temptation is to blame or judge another soul—good or bad. And that when I do, I separate from them; that my temptation is automatic, driven by a fear as terrifying as it was in the hospital, and that it affects them: their body feels it whether or not they’re aware of it. Having separated from another, I’ve separated from God.
The basic principle of the phrase “Lead us not into temptation” is do not judge or blame. Our practice is to become aware of our own ongoing perceptions of others, and to recognize which of our temptations need to be healed. To do that, we need to know how to find a safe place inside ourselves where we are always held, where we can begin to see, and then take the necessary action: do some forgiving.
This is our place of hope.
Forgiveness is an ultimate power. It’s no wonder we were taught to say the Lord’s Prayer on a weekly, if not a daily basis, and given a lifetime to circle this incredible prayer again and again, practicing the principle in each phrase in the hope of coming from fear— through our own acts of forgiveness—to an unshakable faith.
Plaster wall sculpture
Mary Southard, CSJ
This week's practice curated by
Pastor Kim Engelmann,VPC Parish Associate
May It Be So - Week of August 16, 2020
Give us this day our daily bread
For the many times I have said this prayer, I did not notice, until recently, the word that is sort of repeated. Give us this day our daily bread. It’s like we need to be reminded of what perhaps we already know - the old adage from Alcoholics Anonymous: “One day at a time” - started right here!
I can only handle right now - the present. It’s all I’ve got. Right now, in this pandemic, each day may seem painfully long, or lonely, or weary. Yet, if I worry about the future I am endlessly preoccupied. If I obsess about the past my mind becomes airspace for circling planes that never land.
Freeing up that space of past and future concerns, allows for permanent present awareness. I do believe we were always meant to live in the present, now, in the moment. To see the gifts, to recognize this day now in all its fullness, and to trust God for the rest. I also believe this perspective is meant to be freeing, easy and light. It was supposed to be this way for the Hebrews who gathered manna in the wilderness just for that day. If they tried to save it, to store it, to hoard it, it went bad. God was saying, “Trust me. You have what you need for this day. It is enough; this day, your daily bread.”
As you pray today, breathe in a deep breath, and imagining yourself filling with goodness and light - the Holy Spirit - is one way to center and feel full of God’s provision. As you breathe out exhale all worries and concerns about tomorrow, or regrets from the past. Arrive in the moment and say the words calmly, slowly, for yourself and for the anxious world …”Give us this day our daily bread”.
Repeat this a few times.
Consider setting an alarm for returning to it 3 times a day, perhaps when you sit down at a meal.
May It Be So - Week of August 2, 2020
On hold this week as we worship with First Pres, Palo Alto.
Feel free to revisit your favorite worship, prayer or practices below.
Our retreat continues the week of August 16.
May It Be So - Week of July 26, 2020
Hallowed be Thy Name
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version
One of the most transformative moments of
my life came as I trained as a spiritual director.
I was invited into an exercise to discover my
own heart’s name for God. There is a
secretive name my body and soul call out to
God, but it was unknown to me. This name
was my deepest desire for God. The name
may be a traditional name such as Lord, Jesus,
Father, or it may be our own name for God
such as Mother, Desire, Love.
Introduction from Kenton W. Smith
It may be any word or phrase that is most alive and pulls our heart toward God.
Most often there is an emotion, feeling or lifegiving energy that is aroused when
we savor our hearts name for God. We savor the name because no matter
the condition we are in whether good or bad this “hallowed”* name draws us toward God in love.
The mystics teach that “the desire for God is God” so equally the name our body and soul give God is also God active and present within us. When we have discovered our heart’s name for God we have found an intimate personal connection God wants with us.
Finally, a word of caution, this secretive name comes from deep within and sometimes when we share our most personal name others who hear it may not appreciate it, or question it, and may cause us to doubt our own experience. So, it is wise to protect this treasured name and share it carefully. If you are unsure about sharing the name you can always share the feeling, emotion, or experience the name brings up in you.
Exercise - Prayer of the Heart
Find a comfortable place to be silent and still and do nothing. Take slow complete breaths until you become centered and relaxed. Grow in awareness of God within and all around.
When you are ready,slowly repeat “Hallowed be your name.” No word or name is necessary here, your soul knows. Savor it slowly like melting a candy in your mouth. Notice what arises or comes to you (perhaps a word, feeling, emotion, image, or sensation).
Notice the word, feeling, emotion, image, or sensation that is most real, alive for you right now. Notice what pulls you toward God. See if you can express it in a word or phrase such as “_________________of my heart.”
4. Savor this expression. Say it to yourself while breathing in and out. Listen. Make it your own.
5. Sit quietly for a few minutes. What do you notice? What’s happening? Usually these notions are soft and require closer attention. See if you can write down what you experience when you pray your heart’s name for God. Offer your gratitude to God
for this gift.
6. (For groups) Try to describe what you noticed when you savored your heart’s name for God. There is no wrong name only your personal experience as it comes to you. You do not have to offer your name for God (it may be kept secret) but try to share what happened when you savored the name (a feeling, emotion, sense, image, sensation, etc.).
*Try not to define hallowed. Let it be a mystery word that expresses
the inexpressible about God.
May It Be So - Week of July 19, 2020
July 19, 2020 Worship Service
Lord's Prayer from Nicaragua
who are in this our land,
may your name be blessed
In our incessant search
for justice and peace.
May your kingdom come
for those who have
for centuries awaited
life with dignity.
May your will be done
on earth and in heaven,
and in the church
of Central American,
a church on the side
of the poor.
Give us today our daily bread
to build a new society.
Forgive us our trespasses,
do not let us fall into
the temptation of believing
new men and women.
And deliver us from
the evil of war,
and from the evil of forgetting
that our lives and
life of this country
are in your hands.
3. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we
forgive those who trespass against us.
Bring both hands to mouth
Turn left, extend left arm to side, palms up
Turn left, put right palm above left palm
Turn right, brushing to the right with palms down
Turn right, extend right arm to the side, palms up
Bring left arm over in circular motion, left palm touching right palm, left hand brushing left with palms down
2. thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Extend arms out front, palms up
Turn palms down and make a circle
Bring arms to waist and extend towards heaven
Practice prepared by Alice Chiang
One of the places where I feel closest to God is the Outdoors, in Nature, our GREATER Church. There I can look up to the vast sky above and feel myself being part of something Grander and belonging to a GREATER Source. I can lift my head and my hands and feel "Our Father, who art in Heaven". It helps me be in touch with the Vast Mysterious Cosmos beyond and realize that we are all miraculously made of Stardust.
One of the ways I feel most Present and Aware is when
I am moving slowly and consciously. Movement Prayer,
especially when done outdoors, allows me to feel that my
Body and Mind are One. Eastern practices like Tai Chi and
Qi Gong, with their slow continuous movements, resemble
how the energy in our bodies and in the Earth naturally flow
harmoniously and continuously, without blockages. The
Celtic tradition teaches us to listen to the Sacredness of the
Earth, as we embody the Divine through Body Prayer.
During this period at Valley when Jenny is reflecting on the Lord's Prayer, she asked me to create a Body Movement for the Prayer. I have woven this simple body prayer, based on what I have learned from the Eastern and Celtic traditions, and I hope you will enjoy practicing this with me.
Introduction from Alice Chiang
1. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name.
With arms in front, lift arms up to heaven
Turn palms towards face, bring hands down,
pausing briefly around eyes
4. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Turn head and body to left,
Extend both arms to the right and with stop motion
Turn head and body to the right
Extend both arms to the left, making a stop sign with both hands
5. For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Extend both arms out wide to the side
Bring arms overhead
Bring palms together and down the face and body
Finish with hands in prayer position at the heart
May It Be So - Week of July 12, 2020
What is your earliest memory of prayer?
I remember prayer around the dinner table with my family. I remember raising my hand to say I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart in a backyard Bible club. Prayer was purely a response of joy early in my life.
And how did prayer develop for you?
I remember gaining a sense of my capacity to choose to move toward God or away from God when I was in middle school. I spent a lot of time confessing for being mean to my mother for a few years.
In college, prayer became a way to sense what I was called to do, to follow what made me come alive.
And then there was a season in my 30’s where I sensed God in the absence of any familiar markers as my faith made a profound transition.
What is prayer like for you now?
Now, I would say, prayer is simply presence. God with me. Me with God. Less expectation, more anticipation. I pay attention to where there is Grace and I try to stay there.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he was not giving them a formula, but a way to live in the rhythm of grace. There is no formula to prayer — there are practices and ideas — but in the end, prayer is a journey of the soul that is about no one else but you and God.
So, I encourage you to begin this eight week journey into the Lord’s Prayer by writing a personal history of prayer. Just as our relationships develop over time, so does our prayer.
1.Take 5 minutes to be silent, focusing on your breathing and getting centered in this moment.
2. Divide your age by 5 and use that number to determine the intervals of ages you write down on your page. For example, if you are 30, your number would be 6, so you would write down, 6, 12, 18, 24, 30.
3. Consider each age and write 1-2
sentences to imagine what you would have said in prayer at that age. Using the example above, what would you have prayed at ages 6,12,18, 24, 30?
4. Take a minute to look at what you’ve written. How do you see your prayer changing over time? What led to the change? How did your experience affect your prayer? How did your understanding of God change over time?
5. Spend a moment expressing your feelings to God for your journey. Are you grateful? Concerned? Curious?
6. And now, look ahead. Add 10 years to your current age. What would you like your prayer to be then?
7. End your time by reflecting on this quote:
“Prayer, then, is a purely spiritual activity; and its real doer is
God Himself, the one inciter and mover of our souls.”
Evelyn Underhill, Life As Prayer
Remind yourself that prayer is not something to be achieved but a journey to be lived. Open yourself to trust the work of God within you.