Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take. If I should live for other days, I pray the Lord to guide my ways.
Father, unto thee I pray, Thou hast guarded me all day; Safe I am while in thy sight, Safely let me sleep tonight. Bless my friends, the whole world bless; Help me to learn helpfulness; Keep me ever in thy sight; So to all I say good night.
There is a fair amount of consternation about why we should pray. Most of us know about the foxhole payer where we ask God to get us out of a particular mess and we will agree to do heavy penance. Our intentions are good, albeit short-lived. And many of us have presented a shopping list to God hoping that it will be fulfilled. Then we shake our heads and tell ourselves that prayer doesn’t work. Prayer is not merely making supplications before God for our needs. Prayer is the connection between humans and God, communicating with each other.
Thankfully, there is no one way of praying and those who have the need for prayer find their own way. Prayer is definitely a conversation with God. Since my thinking is often my source of chaos, I always ask God to direct my thinking. It works for me, but I have to be attentive. I also engage in Centering Prayer, whereby I attempt to empty my mind of distraction and hopefully gain direction from the Divine. Action is a necessary part of prayer; helping those in need, getting on with our daily work, and putting every moment into the presence of God. Singing, playing an instrument, saying a prayer aloud in groups, public worship, or simply silence are all part of connecting with the Divine.
Prayer is a way of relating to God, to ourselves, to
those around us. In opening our hearts and minds and souls to God we are
challenged to grow, change, and to love. Just as we make time to spend with
those we love, so in making time to pray we are seeking to grow in our
relationship with the Divine.
Prayer is being in the moment, being present, being
open to new ways. It is a way of learning to become our TRUE SELVEs and to be
comfortable in the presence of God. Since GOD is a presence that infuses every
moment and every space, prayer focuses our attention in order to encounter the
I want to know the way of the Divine so that I can change;
be open to transformation, to becoming more loving, peaceful, gracious,
compassionate. It’s not an easy path and being open in prayer can often be a
painful experience as we find and confront those parts of ourselves which we
might not be keen on seeing.
You can pray anytime and anywhere. The
freedom to pray anywhere, though, often leads to praying nowhere. We should
absolutely pray spontaneously whenever and wherever prayers arise in our hearts
— during a break at work, before a test, in line with our groceries. But our
lives are fueled by prayer, so we shouldn’t leave it up to spontaneity. Pick a time and a place to be silent and pray
on a consistent basis.
some people, setting aside time to be alone with God is intimidating. In fact,
for many today, any time alone at all — no friends, no television, no phones —
is unnerving. After all, we are speaking to almighty God here. He already knows
everything we need and everything we are going to say. One important thing to
learn early on about prayer is that it truly is a conversation. God is truly
listening when we pray.
we’re honest, many of us lack courage and imagination in our prayer lives. We
have a tiny little box of routine things we’re willing to ask God for, and we
take on everything else — our questions, our frustrations, our dreams — on our
own. We assume God’s not interested in or doesn’t have time for the small
details of our day. And we can’t even imagine him conquering a global crisis, so
we settle for middle-of-the-road mediocre requests. We wait to pray about
something until it becomes “serious enough” for God to care about. Accordingly,
we deprive ourselves of his mercy and power in massive areas of our life and
the world spins faster with emails, tweets and Instagram, most humans need several
ways to cope with the resulting pressures. We need to maintain some semblance
of balance and some sense that we have it together. Otherwise we feel overloaded, overreact to
minor annoyances, and feel like we can never get everything done. As far as I’m
concerned, one of the best ways to relax is to seek and enjoy solitude.
the start, I will make a big distinction between solitude and loneliness. Loneliness
is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. I feel that something is
missing. I have been with with people and still felt lonely—for me the most
bitter form of loneliness. Loneliness is harsh and is a punishment of
sorts. It is clearly a deficiency state marked by a sense of estrangement and
an awareness of excess aloneness.
is being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of
engagement with oneself. It was an epiphany for me when I found that I was very
good and sufficient company. Solitude is a time for reflection, a way to touch
your inner yearning. Deep reading requires solitude as does experiencing
the wonder of nature. Thinking and creativity evolve from periods of
solitude as an awareness that everything has been created in oneness. The blade of grass, the tree that stands, the
bird that flies, and the living, breathing human being all share a oneness with
permits peacefulness and a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying
the quiet and drawing sustenance from it. This is something to be cultivated
like a spring garden. Solitude leads me to contemplative prayer where I commune
with the divine. It is refreshing; an opportunity to renew myself.
is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others
The SOLITARY SANDPIPER
all sandpipers migrate in flocks and nest on the ground, but the Solitary
Sandpiper breaks both rules. In migration, as its name implies, it is usually
encountered alone, along the bank of some shady creek. If approached, it bobs
nervously, then flies away with sharp whistled cries, leave me alone! In summer
in the northern spruce bogs, rather than nesting on the wet ground, the
Solitary Sandpiper lays its eggs in old songbird nests placed high in trees.
This lovely bird
forages in shallow water, moving about actively, picking items from the surface.
It also loves to probe mud looking for something delectable. While walking in
water, this creature may pause and quiver one foot, presumably to stir up small
critters from the bottom. The Solitary Sandpiper
feeds on many insects in
the water and along the shore, including beetles, dragonfly nymphs,
grasshoppers, crustaceans, spiders, worms, mollusks, and occasionally small
frogs. They are happy birds.
A long-distance migrant, these birds winter
mostly in South America, especially around swamps and riverbanks in the Amazon
Basin. They apparently migrate mostly alone and at night. In the spring they reverse the pattern and prepare for mating season, a popular
event among Solitary Sandpipers.
The SOLITARY HUMAN
To be a happy
and healthy person, most of us know that we need to sleep well, eat right,
and exercise. But how important “human connectedness” is to our
overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being is another matter. For a lot
of folks there is a tendency to obsess over
the past and worry about
the future (instead of simply being present), and too much time alone may have
mental and physical health consequences. Human connection anchorsour awareness firmly in
the present (instead of worrying and obsessing when alone). But we seem to be
following the path of the Solitary Sandpiper.
While the very best
cure for loneliness is a strong “in-person” social network (i.e. not
Facebook) and a loving family, this isn’t possible for everybody. Unless we go
back to tribal living like
our ancient ancestors, a more realistic solution is ideal. For me, meditation
has allowed me to lose my sense of self and creates a feeling of oneness with
my surroundings. By making me feel
connected to everyone and everything, meditation cancels the
detrimental mental, emotional, and physical effects of my solitude. While
friends come and go, meditation is there for
The strangest thing is that more and more
people in our society and in all countries around the world are choosing to
adopt a strange, never-before-witnessed lifestyle, on a very large scale … that
of the lone creature. Who is this masked man?
In the 1950’s, 22% of American adults were
single, and 4 million lived
alone. In 2017, there were an estimated 35.25 million single-person households
in the U.S. The number of single-person households has increased gradually
since 1960. There were more than 82
million family households in 2017. In 2017, 45.2% of adults in the
USA were single. Senior citizens accounted for 18% of all single folks,
In Stockholm (2017,) 60% of all households had just 1
In the US (2017), solo
dwellers constituted 31% of all households.
Most solo dwellers in
the US are primarily women (about
19 million), compared to the 16 million solo men. Most are middle-aged (35 – 64 years).
In the 1950’s 500,000 young adults (18-34
years) lived alone. In 2017 5,000,000 lived alone. Some 55% of 18-24-year-olds live in
their parents’ home and 16% of those 25-34 live with their parents.
The 4 countries with
the highest rate of people living alone are Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. 40-45% of all
households in these countries have just 1 person.
In 1996 an
estimated 153 million
people lived alone throughout the world. In 2017, of the world’s two billion households, approximately 15
percent – or 300 million – are one-person households. What an astonishing social and cultural
shift! Whereas once solitary confinement was given to criminals as a
punishment, now more and more people are actually finding it desirable. A question we
need to ask now is why? What on earth for?
it self-centeredness, or cloud-watching, but these days we have become interested
in ourselves more than others. Our lives revolve around “my career”, “my
happiness”, “my image”, “my Facebook status”, “my success”. Our
lives revolve around ourselves. We no longer care about selfless
living to serve God, country or people.
this a necessarily bad phenomenon? Admittedly,
it does does have the potential to create many problems both within and without
ourselves if we don’t take time to sincerely invest some in a spiritual life
and the happiness of others. But there is a positive side to this social shift
from group to individual– it gives us space to breathe, to look into
ourselves, to do that which makes us happy and whole. We can discover more
about ourselves – our strengths, weaknesses, desires, motivations, behavioral
patterns – with little to no distractions. Essentially, living alone
gives us more time to focus on ourselves, assisting us in developing our abilities that
can ultimately better our lives, and the lives of others. My exploration of things spiritual began when
I began living alone, which would not have occurred otherwise.
alone gives you the ultimate freedom to wind down and relax, helping you to
recover from your busy and intense work days or volunteer activities as the
case may be. Living alone gives us the time and freedom to explore and
work on our passions. Most of the greatest writers, artists and musicians
connected with their creative selves in solitude as it provides the best
environment to think, to dream and to create. On the other hand, living in a house
occupied with multiple people makes it very difficult to completely relax in
peace and silence.
can do what you want, when you want, where you want when you go solo. You
don’t have the drain and pressure of having constant, tedious duties to fulfill,
and you never have to walk on eggshells around other people. This can be
both a good and bad thing: while living with others can actually teach you
beneficial life-skills, giving you first-hand experience in “how to get along”
with other people and how to compromise peacefully, it can also repress and
hinder you from living a harmonious and enjoyable life.
live in a highly connected society that demands us to be present and
engaged in the exterior world of gossip and news almost 24/7. There is a relationship
between the demand for constant connection, whether online or on the job, or in
your world, and the enormous increase in the amount of time we spend on our
own. Living alone gives me the gift of time, time that allows me to focus on
what means the most to me, rather than superficially dividing and throwing
around my attention here and there.
dwelling creates a harmonious balance in my life that allows me to enjoy and
value the presence of other people more. It’s human nature to take our
friends, family and loved ones for granted. Living alone, devoid of the
presence of others, helps me to appreciate these people more when they arearound.
living alone, we have no one to cook for us, clean for us, wash our smelly
undies or grubby socks. It’s completely up to us to take care of
ourselves – because if we don’t, no one else is going to. When we realize
that we canbe self-sufficient, and we cantake
care of ourselves, we develop a lot more respect for ourselves. This in
turn enhances our sense of self-worth and self-esteem. I cleaned my first toilet at age 62 and felt
good about it.
Single life continues to be
beset by notions that singles are less secure and more self-centered than
married people. The belief is they tend to die sooner, alone and sad. Yet
observations of people who live alone typically find that most are doing
just fine; they don’t feel isolated, nor are they sad and lonely. Reports of
the early death of single people have also been greatly exaggerated , as
have ideas that marriage
transforms miserable, sickly single people into happy and healthy spouses.
In some significant ways,
it’s the single people who are doing particularly well.
There is comfort when we
deal in absolutes and certainties. We seekers often think we must be certain
about things. But our reality suggests that we are not certain at all and this
becomes the beginning of the loss of faith! It has happened to me. To
assist us the Church feels its job is to make absolute truth claims and feels
very fragile when it cannot. So, faith and our religious organizations are crumbling
beneath this impossible and false goal, it seems to me. What if the church is
imperfect—there is nothing wrong with “not knowing” as Richard Rohr says—there
is beauty and faith in imperfection.
I understand the need
for clarity, some basic order, and identity but absolutes don’t work in God’s
creation as I see it. The Church then needs to abandon this need to be perfect—but
from the inside by using internal resources (leaders and parishioners) to
self-correct. A beginner’s mind filled with humble, patient, wordless
unknowing, combined with sincere curiosity, is how I have learned to restart my
life. Only then was I truly teachable. Otherwise, we only hear whatever
confirms our present understanding. I
have had to become teachable in my own life to begin my quest to be the much
better version of myself. A human being that I can love. From the bottom of a deep hole, I had to stop
digging, become a beginner in life, and learn how to live at the age of 62. The Church is not too old to adopt a
beginner’s mind. In fact, many spiritual thinkers are giving new meaning to the
Christ and I am hopeful that unlocking the door will allow this message to
Without much humility, religion has cried “wolf”
too many times in history and later been proven wrong. These mistakes could have been avoided if the
requirement for perfection had been abandoned. Twisting one line of Scripture
to prove a point was an unjust usage of the word. The biblical text was not
allowed to change us as much as many Christians would have preferred but was
used to exclude and judge other people. A new way of thinking is required. I
want to be part of the whole.
I choose to believe what Richard Rohr says: “God’s presence
was poured into a single human being, so that humanity and divinity could be
seen, then and now, to be operating as one in him—and therefore in us! But
instead of saying that God came into the world through
Jesus, maybe it would be better to say that Jesus came out of an
already Christ-soaked world. The second Incarnation flowed out of the first,
out of God’s loving union with physical creation.” He loves me and He loves you and He loves all
When I realized that God loved me and I was like everyone
else in the Spirit, I was united with everyone and everything, even a blade of
grass and it was okay not to know, I began to see myself and the world
differently. I was loved and I could love even with all the imperfections that
abound. I see that it truly is as St. Francis said about loving: “It is better
to love than to be loved.”
I want to be loved but loving someone else and that blade of
grass is much better. And all love is unconditional. At one point in my life I
detested the phrase “I don’t know.” But not
knowing is preferable and my burgeoning faith keeps me in love with God and
Christine and the blade of grass.
I had the opportunity to take an adventure with some of my friends to the Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke, Virginia. The museum is featuring the work of Norman Rockwell and we were fortunate to have a talk at our place by Della Watkins, the executive director of the Taubman, on Rockwell and his paintings. Rockwell’s Four Freedoms—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear –are the paintings at the top of the page. The paintings were reproduced in The Saturday Evening Post over four consecutive weeks in 1943, alongside essays by prominent thinkers of the day. They were first published on February 20, February 27, March 6, and March 13, 1943 along with commissioned essays from leading American writers and historians including Booth Tarkington, Will Durant, Carlos Buloson, and Stephen Vincent Benet. The Four Freedoms paintings were the highlight of a touring exhibition sponsored by The Post and the Treasury Department. The exhibition and accompanying sales drives for war bonds raised approximately $132 million
The paintings had their genesis from The Four Freedoms Speech which was delivered on January 6, 1941 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States, to a joint session of Congress. Roosevelt’s hope was to provide a rationale for why the United States should abandon the isolationist policies that emerged from WWI. In the address, Roosevelt critiqued isolationism, saying: “No realistic American can expect from a dictator’s peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion–or even good business. Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. “Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
The speech delivered by President Roosevelt incorporated the following text, known as the “Four Freedoms”:
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
FDR lists the benefits of democracy, which include economic opportunity, employment, social security, and the promise of “adequate health care”. The first two freedoms, of speech and religion are protected by the First Amendment. His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional Constitutional values protected by the Bill of Rights. Roosevelt endorsed a broader human right to economic security (a job). He also included the freedom from fear against national aggression.
What has happened to our need to be free? After the war, there was a lengthy period where all Americans prospered. There really was a middle class that was the backbone of our American economy. In 1975, the seeds of major change were sown with the founding of Microsoft by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. A major revolution was underway led by rapid-fire technological change. Administrative jobs were replaced by computers as were mid-level bean counters. Lives began to be turned upside down.
During the ten years of 1994-2004, four companies emerged that would change the landscape for everyone. Amazon, Netflix, Google and Facebook changed buying patterns, the delivery of entertainment, the source of all information and human interaction. Today our friends share articles and website offerings to let us know how they are doing. Politicians and CEOs picked up the globalization theme and sold everyone on the idea that we didn’t need to make things, but we would control technology and therefore information. So manufacturing went to China and Asia along with the jobs. We were losing factory jobs and middle management jobs now With the Patriot Act, we have given up on freedom and liberty as well as the American people..
Today we stand in America wondering where the spending will come from to support the economy. People tend to trim their opinions to match those of the group. Only a fraction of the educated population of North America is prepared to think for themselves, even where matters of grave importance are involved. The wiring of most people’s brains keeps them from thinking independently. The brain is hard-wired to conform.
Conformity goes a long way to explaining the oblivion of Americans to the dire prospects of the US economy. Our leaders use this tendency to conform to manipulate the perception of the economy in ways that jeopardize your future. Listen to this solution for the deficit. They fiddled with inflation adjustments on Social Security and federal pensions. Outlays for SS are about half of what they would have been had the adjustments not been made. They will lie to you.
Most Americans have little chance of enjoying a better life if they must pay for everything from their own resources. Living standards in the US are heading lower. Our government has overspent the available resources, will increasingly rely on predatory taxation, and will do all that is necessary to preserve the state at the expense of the people.
I miss the days of Norman Rockwell and FDR.
Presently, your government is making it very difficult to maintain financial assets abroad. Many foreign banks will no longer take deposits from American citizens because of regulatory concerns. Will you need special approval to travel abroad in the near future?
Full time work is an endangered species. Look for McDonalds to begin serving our food in kiosks with robotic servers. Good jobs have disappeared and lower paying jobs will soon be giving way to technology. Mercedes has driverless trucks on the autobahn. But you can’t eat gigabytes.