Restorative Practices

Restoration. As the owner of a 111-year old home I tend to associate the word with architecture, and as the occupant of a middle-aged (but, thank God. still flexible) body I make restorative yoga part of my daily practice. What does the word Restoration mean to you?

Many people make resolutions at the start of a new year with restoration in mind for things like motivation, health, organization, work-life balance, and even their sanity. The human condition presents countless opportunities to restore interpersonal relationships. Environmentalists attempt to restore ecosystems and wildlife habitats. And of course, regardless of one’s religious denomination, our relationship with our Creator-God always requires restoration.

Restoration is nuanced. Unlike do-overs, second chances, or refurbishment, restoration holds out the promise of an upgrade, a better than ever version. Not only is the broken piece restored to working order, it is stronger, more valuable, and has a promising future.

I have not published in more than a month. I allowed the entire season of Advent to pass without a word (although I continued to write every day, nothing made it to The Good Disciple blog). My attempts to reflect in a meaningful way resulted in forced, dry, and preachy prose that even I couldn’t bear to read. There’s enough of that out there already, and I didn’t want to add to it.

I spared you my socio-religio-political rants; they were too raw, too broken and therefore defeated the original purpose of this blog, which is to shine a light on what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

But wait, discipleship is one thing, and I will never stop being a disciple. But there comes a time when good disciples mature into good stewards. I’m not saying I’m either, but I’d like to explore that in-between space and maybe discover something new and restorative.

Just today, a very dear friend and mentor messaged me “Sometimes the Lord wants us to speak to one another from a place of brokenness, so together we can find healing and hope.” She’s right.

Perhaps like me, dear reader, you find yourself in need of restoration? If so, by way of a fresh start can we imagine our adult selves emerging, radiant and hope-filled, dripping with the restorative waters of our baptism, eager to live out our given roles of priest, prophet and king?

I am grateful for your readership and will do my best to publish regularly. Please subscribe to the The Good Disciple blog, if you have not already done so, and share your thoughts with me in the comment area that follows each blog post or on the facebook page. If you prefer, you can message me privately here.

And as always, please pray for me, as I pray for you.

The Journey Begins with Prayer: The Baptism of the Lord

 The Baptism of the Lord (C)

It might seem like the most obvious thing in the world to say, but, Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus is found praying with and for others, as well as seeking a quiet place to pray by himself.  He prayed before meals, before and after healings and other miracles, he prayed prayers of thanksgiving and prayed for the faith of his disciples. Jesus prayed when he had decisions to make, and taught his followers how to pray. Jesus prayed on the way to the cross, and moments before he died, Jesus breathed his final prayer.

The first prayer of Jesus’ public ministry occurred immediately after his baptism.

 “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  

—Luke 3:21-22

I wonder what Jesus was praying about, was it a prayer of thanksgiving? Discernment? Guidance?

Many people admit they don’t know how to pray on their own; they say they don’t know what to say; it feels awkward, or they aren’t sure if they are speaking to God the right way, or if they are being heard. I remember one friend who told me she doesn’t know when to “sign off” so she just sort of, ends it. Thanks! Love ya!

The variations of prayer are endless. Plus, other than the Lord’s Prayer given to us by Jesus himself, there is no one right way to pray. The best form of prayer is the one that draws us closer to God. Prayers can be contemplative or centering, a meditation or a chant, a favorite prayer said before bed or upon waking, spoken before meals, or with others during a liturgy or prayer group, to name only a few. The best prayer for me occurs when I share my hopes, fears, gratitude, or anguish with God while doing everyday tasks like cooking and gardening. Regardless of how we pray, if we open ourselves to it, we might sense a holy stillness that expresses God’s presence and love for us.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism beckons us to place ourselves in the crowd of the newly baptized and witness the moment Jesus’ earthly ministry began: with prayer. I wonder what Jesus felt when the sky opened, and the Holy Spirit filled him, and he heard God’s voice.

We can do more than wonder. Have you ever felt God’s presence in times of prayer? Perhaps you have experienced the stillness pulsing in your ears, keeping time with the chant of your heart, “beloved, beloved, beloved.” Maybe you felt the heaviness of the world dropping away, along with your words. Or a sense of well-being, unlike anything ever experienced that blankets you in lightness, and it is just you and God, and nothing else matters.

If we could remain in this state, we would. Because in that moment, which might last only a second or two, God’s delight is evident, and the Holy Spirit of God fills us, like it did Jesus. But, like Jesus, we can’t remain—we can always come back to prayer—but, for now, we must act.

Imagine hearing the words “You are my beloved (son, daughter); with you I am well pleased.” How would you respond?

Christians are baptized as infants, as children and adolescents, and as adults, as in the case of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Regardless of the age of the person receiving the sacrament baptism is a forward moving, future-oriented event. It’s not “done and over.” It’s not the first sacramental stamp on a passport to heaven. Baptism is a fiat, a yes, a birth. What comes next is life.

Do we remember to pray for the newly baptized after the day has passed? Prayers of gratitude, discernment and spiritual guidance for ourselves and others are needed, because, with baptism, we begin our lifelong journey as disciples.

With today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we bid the Christmas season adieu. Tomorrow begins Ordinary time, a new cycle of discernment, faith formation, and spiritual growth. Let’s begin by reflecting upon Jesus’ baptism, and our baptism, and pray for guidance in the coming year, and let’s strive not only to deepen our understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus but to act upon it.

“Lord Jesus, we end our Christmas season by celebrating our rebirth in baptism. We enjoy what prophets and kings longed to see. Help us during this New Year to grow more conformed to you in our thoughts, desires, words and actions. Enable us through the Scriptures as well as through the sacraments of your food and forgiveness to grow to full maturity as your disciples.” 

—Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P.,
Prayer for the Sunday after the Epiphany,
The Baptism of the Lord

Today’s readings can be found here. .