Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

December 2011

This December, I’ve been thinking a lot about life’s magic. I call it magic, but you could call it God, Spirit, the Divine, the collective unconscious, order, the spirit world, psychic phenomena, or a myriad of other labels. Magic is what gives life its meaning.

Several years ago the “out-of-the-box,” “off-the-wall” Asheville church Jubilee sent a bulletin out with a marvelous message on magic written by its founder and minister Howard Hanger.

In it, Howard reminded us that December is the month when we most celebrate miracles. Jews celebrate the miracle of an oil lamp that burned eight days and call this celebration “Hanukah.” Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, conceived by the heavenly Father. Wiccans celebrate the miraculous return of the sun to the higher sky on Solstice, and our friends of African heritage celebrate the miracles of home, love, and community in a celebration they call “Kwanza.”

“So many miracles….” Howard writes. What could they all mean? He continues, “…maybe each of these unexplained and explainable phenomena holds up a wise, ancient finger and points to the stars and galaxies, to the oceans and rivers, to the jet stream and Gulf Stream, to our hearts, to our DNA, to love.”

During this season of miracles, let’s celebrate the magic, meaning, and loves of our lives.

This month, we’ll discuss the “Power of Prayer.”

The Power of Prayer

 It’s unusual to spot a car in Asheville, North Carolina, without at least one bumper sticker. Folks around here like to make statements, and one of the more popular messages around town is a bumper sticker that reads “We Still Pray.”

I have to confess that when I first read “We Still Pray,” I cringed. I know I am not alone. Prayer can be a loaded word for many of us. When I hear the word prayer, I visualize kneeling on a hard kneeler in Atlanta’s stone Cathedral of St. Philip’s reciting monotone prayers during communion as a child. What do you see?

As an adult, my definition of prayer has softened. In the Sufi tradition, there are three ways of communicating with Mystery: prayer, mediation, and conversation. I like all three.

Sometimes I write prayers in my journal, and every now and then I meditate, but mostly I’m in conversation with God. Normally, it’s a casual thing. I’ll think, “Thank you, God, for this beautiful day.” Or, “God, please be with my sick friend.” And every now and then, God talks back. A hunch, dream, or synchronicity appears and demands my attention.

Sometimes my Higher Power and I have active conversations. These conversations mostly take place in my journal. Here’s how our dialogs often go:

RS: God, can we talk?
HP (for Higher Power): Of course, we can. I’ve been waiting for you.
RS: Thank you. It’s comforting to know you’re always there.
HP: You’re welcome.
RS:  I need your advice on….
HP: What do you think you should do?
RS: Well….
HP: That’s one way of looking at it. Have you thought about….
RS: No, but I will. Thank you.
HP: You are welcome.

It’s a polite exchange, and almost always insightful. Sometimes, I am tempted to ignore my Higher Power’s wise counsel, saying it’s just my imagination. Then I have to admit that regardless of where it comes from, it’s good advice. I’d be foolish not to pay attention.  

The older I get, the more I like communicating with my Higher Power. It’s like being with the person who loves you most in the world and always has your best interest at heart.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Apostle Paul directs us to "pray without ceasing." I believe this means keeping the lines of communication with my Higher Power open, and that means keeping an open heart.

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