During the month before the High Holy Days, it's Jewish tradition to read Psalm 27, writes our guest contributor. She reflects on turning inward and the struggle of preparing for quiet reflection.
At Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, a U.S. soldier bows her head during a prayer on a solemn, tenth anniversary ceremony of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
When we set the script of American civil piety next to the scriptures assigned for the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we notice that the 9/11-inspired "remember and never forget" meets up with Jesus' outrageous to forgive ad infinitum those who sin against us
In addition to providing me with a least a decade’s worth of entertainment, J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series has also given me a fresh and hopefully meaningful way to explain my not-always-easy-to explain religion to others. And given that practically half the world has either read or seen the last installment of this epic series, I feel comfortable doing so without fear of spoiling the ending.
But first a little background…
photo: C. Jill Reed/Flickr, cc by-sa 2.0
In honor of the 60th National Day of Prayer today, I thought it fitting to share a bit about what prayer means to me.
Most recently I’ve been thinking of prayer as an unmistakable reminder from God that I’m not helpless and alone in this world. These reminders come not just during moments of peaceful reflection but during even the busiest of days as I find myself appreciating qualities of God I see expressed by others — qualities such as patience, compassion, grace, wisdom, order, intelligence, and joy.
On Being has made an identity shift, expanding its scope to exploring questions about meaning, religion, ethics, and ideas. But our host Krista Tippett still asks her guests a key question during the interview about their religious or spiritual traditions in their formative years. And for a producer, it’s like watching her turn the key in the ignition.
The question always propels the guest somewhere unexpected even if, and maybe especially if, it’s a “no.” It really disarms them; you can almost hear their shoulders release and sit back a bit through the mic. Maybe they’re surprised that a radio host wants to know them as a human being and not just as a pundit or a preacher.
A sign hangs on the wall of a Taizé community in Burgundy, France. (photo: forteller/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
It is Easter week. This week, we remember the events from Thursday’s meal to Friday’s torture to Saturday’s silence and Sunday’s mystery.
Years ago, 13 years ago in fact, I fell apart. I was 22 and I had already been sick for a year. It had started with a bad flu that had never gone away. After 12 months, I was bewildered and dizzy and achy, confused with a fatigue and an illness that would take a further five years to diagnose and a total of nine years to recover from.
"We never looked at another catechism, never recited another memorized belief, but step by step we built a new spirituality for ourselves that was deeply personal and rooted in our ultimate concerns." -Jan Phillips, from her guest contribution to our blog.
The Internet Wishlist creates a space for people to share the holes and needs in their complex lives where apps and websites could do them some good.
Japan has been on all our minds and in all our hearts. There doesn’t seem to be enough capacity in the human soul to witness nature unleash its force on man in this way. Helplessness still sits with us even after the contributing of funds to relief efforts.
The magnitude of the disaster and continuing saga has made us all feel vulnerable to the uncertainty of life. We can’t fathom how recovery can possibly follow such devastation.
Then there’s me here in my studio just painting clouds and wondering how what I do could possibly matter. And then today I happened upon this Rilke poem after I finished the painting shown above. And the words could not be more profound and with them my painting feels right again.
Threshold of Spring
Harshness gone. All at once caring spread over
the naked gray of the meadows.
Tiny rivulets sing in different voices.
A softness, as if from everywhere,
One day last fall, just after 3 a.m, I found myself on a country road in the high Ogden Valley near Huntsville, Utah. It was the first morning of a three-day retreat at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, a Trappist-Cistercian monastery, and I was walking the half mile from the guest house to the church for Vigils, the first of seven times each day that the monks gather to chant and pray.
Screen capture of the Baha’i Faith Facebook page.
Day two of fasting this year, and the egg salad on the sesame bagel was especially delicious this morning. This is the dichotomy of the Nineteen Day Fast — that while we don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, the early morning meals feel more special and dinners more festive.
The Baha’i Faith has its own calendar of 19 months made up of 19 days. As in Islam, one of these months is set aside for fasting, just during the daylight hours. And much like the Islamic month of Ramadan, when it comes time for the sun to set, the evening meal feels like a party, a celebration, a time for truly giving thanks for our nourishment, be it a feast or bread and water.
Now that Pharaoh has been removed, Rose Aslan writes, the long process of cleaning up corruption and education begins — and, by the signs of it, Egypt's future couldn't look brighter.
Christians protecting Muslims during prayer and the mundane act of picking up the trash. Great on-the-scene photos of the Tahrir Square protests from Nevine Zaki.
A guest contributor uses poetry as a vehicle for processing his faith, doubts and depression during the Advent season.
The first time I prayed the Islamic prayer, or salat, I stood in my living room in the silvery morning just moments before dawn. I was self-conscious and unsure of what to do. I had prepared flash cards to help me through the complicated process of standing, sitting, and bowing while reciting verses in Arabic. I stood facing Mecca and folded my right hand across my chest. My left hand clutched a flash card that read:
Bismillah ah Rahman ah Raheem
In the name of God, the most gracious, most merciful
Alhamdu lil-ahi rab-bil alamin
All praise be to the Lord, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds
Ah rahman-ah rahim
The most merciful, most gracious
Master of the day of judgment
Of all the lessons my children take from our family’s winter solstice celebration, this is the one I hope they remember most: even in the midst of the darkness, within you is the luminous glow that will, in perfect timing, spark the return of your joy. Nurture and honor it, always.
by Jessica Kramer, guest contributor
“Mom’s birthday breakfast” (photo: Jessica Kramer/Flickr)
Christmas is almost upon us. In seeking God during this time, I have sought renewal in the darkness of winter, in the stillness in which to hear God. This fourth week of Advent brings promise of harmony, that the (often disjointed) pieces of our lives, hearts, and emotions might be joined into a single, but rich and layered, sound of joy.
by Peter A. Friedrichs, guest contributor
Awaiting Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee at Disneyland. (photo: huffmans/Flickr)
Advent is a time of waiting. For Christians, it’s a time of waiting for the arrival of the Christ child. For others, Advent is a time of waiting for a hoped-for future, waiting for the time of bleakness to pass and for new joy to arrive.
Biblical quotes displayed in Washington, DC for the 2006 National Day of Prayer.
(photo: Street Protest TV/Flickr)
Elie Wiesel dispels the misconception that he forever lost his faith in God after the war. Language becomes holy through prayer.
This week’s program “Approaching Prayer” is on my list of SOF classics. It’s a busy program: three interviews, readings and poetry, chants and music, biblical stories and Rilke quotes.
I love Anoushka Shankar’s description of Hinduism’s connection to nature and how prayer is about sound as much as words. I appreciate Stephen Mitchell’s story of how encountering the Book of Job was a “spiritual riddle” for him — a form of prayer. And I’m drawn to Roberta Bondi’s generous philosophy of prayer: “However we are, however we think we ought to be in prayer, the fact is we just need to show up and do the best we can do. It’s like being in a family.”