Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A tool for Lent

Lent. In the church, Lent is a time of preparation, of reflection, giving up and adding to the day-to-dayness of our lives. This Lent, like all others, I gave thought to what I would do as I prepare for Good Friday and Easter. After thought, I am consciously adding extra prayer to my daily life. This past week, especially, has needed prayer, so it is a good thing that this is my choice.

When praying, some prayer tools are helpful. The Roman Catholics have the rosary – many Hail Marys and Our Fathers that focus attention on the praying rather than on the art in a building or on the music playing or the kids outside. Though no longer a Roman Catholic, as a kid I had many sets of rosary beads, none of which are still in my possession. Other faith traditions use their own beads: When I traveled to Ireland, each pilgrim received an Episcopal “rosary” – four sets of prayers of any stripe rather than five sets of Hail Marys. Two years after the Ireland trip, a friend sent me prayer counting beads from Turkey. I used the Episcopal and Turkish beads to focus my thoughts until I broke both of them. I still have the beads, but not the patience to restring them. Another prayer tool was needed! Ah, the labyrinth. A gift from the ancients.

Over many years, I have loved outdoor labyrinths. They are amazing at focusing my prayer. The walk in to the center is calming, the center itself filled with wonder sometimes making me cry and the walk out always light - even though I may have shed tears in the center. For me, the labyrinth is a wonderful, if not generally portable, prayer device.

There was hope for my choice of prayer tool as some enterprising individuals make and sell hand-held labyrinths. I shopped online and ordered an inexpensive five-inch labyrinth. This past two weeks I found that this portable labyrinth fills the “tool” need quite well. It does not tear as do paper labyrinths, will not break as my handcrafted clay labyrinths might and does not require external electrical power as a computer-assisted labyrinth would. The thin wood-chip labyrinth fits into my purse, has the 12-circuits of a Chartres labyrinth and is handy when I pull off the road if early for an appointment.

Thus far, while using this indestructible labyrinth, I have not found the Holy Spirit as physically present as I do at large labyrinths I have walked. I have not found myself in tears from relief or pain or joy. Rather, I experience calming. Perhaps, calming and peace is exactly what I needed in my recent life. I will continue "walking" with this prayer tool at least until the Saturday before Easter.

If your interest in labyrinths is piqued, you can find more about them by googling “labyrinth;” a computer assisted interactive labyrinth is found at the Grace Cathedral, San Francisco site.

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