Underneath the surface of the Earth are shifting monumental plates or tectonic plates. Far, far deeper than we can see, these moving tectonic plates form part of the foundation for continents, oceans and countries. When these plates shift, earthquakes happen. Fault lines surface up to the outer shell of the surface of our planet. These fault lines reveal a fragile physical condition of our planet.
It is apparent that not only are the deep, massive tectonic plates within the Earth surfacing but the tectonic plates of our life and culture is shifting as well. Things are changing—perhaps to never return to life, as we have known it.
People have developed what is called a Doomsday Clock. It is a way of looking at what people believe is the time we have left on this earth, before something of doom—something catastrophic, will happen. The Doomsday clock takes into account the combined threat of a nuclear holocaust, climate change and other factors of unrest. Just last month, January 2017, the Doomsday clock advanced two minutes leaving only 2 ½ minutes until Doomsday.
Tectonic Shifts in our Own Souls
As we survey or personal worlds and spheres, there is much unrest to be experienced as well: a health crisis for someone you love; political upheaval and discord, the constant busyness of our lives and our many failed attempts to seek to balance our lives as we confess a “spinning out of control” kind of diagnosis. Underneath the surface of the souls of many is an inner anxiety—a sort of growing angst that something is wrong—really wrong.
Some of us are happy with these shifting movements. Others of us are not. It does not matter whether we are happy or upset. What matters more is this: How will we navigate the tectonic plates shifting within our own souls? How will we allow ourselves to be affected by such seismic shifts in the world we are seeing and experiencing? Can we maintain some form of inner stability, contentment and well-being by such much outer stress happening outside and around us? Does everything HAVE to be so upsetting all the time?
A sponge soaks in what it is sitting in. Place a simple sponge in dirty water and it will, in fact, absorb the dirty water. Our souls are like sponges and with all the discord, shifting, violence and expressions of such strong beliefs and convictions, will we lose all civility, decency and order to our lives? Will our inner life become as chaotic as our outer world?
Our predicament is not new to God. Down through the eons of time, there have always been crisis, problems, upheavals, wars, crisis and tragedy. The world’s residents have witnessed a lot of unrest throughout time. Think of the wars, genocide, tragedy, unrest and unjust things that have always been a part of being a global citizen. But also down through time, God has invited us into a way not only of coping but of an invitation to grow in our own awareness of his deep, compassionate love for those of us on the up and those of us who find themselves crashing to the bottom of their lives and landing in a pit—perhaps another pit.
A Shift In My Soul
For the past two years, I have been on an inner journey surveying my inner tectonic plates. This journey has been an inward one and an outward one. Because things are shifting in me, and let me remind you that I am at present 62, these inner shifts are causing outer change. In short, my journey has been to learn how to pray.
Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh, here we go….” Let me just say that although I’ve both read a lot of books and written some on the subject of prayer, I realized that I actually knew very, very little about prayer. I was taught acrostics on prayer. I was taught to pray in many different ways: intercessory, prayers of praise, prayers of inner healing; prayers to change an addiction or deep flaw and more. They all seemed somewhat canned, if I am to be honest. Even though I, myself told and coached people to prayer, something felt amiss.
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A Shift in our Prayer Lives
But two years ago, Gwen and I took a sabbatical from our work and the focus of our time off from work was to take time on to learn about prayer. Like the disciples who followed Jesus, we both realized that we needed a teacher to teach us. They turned to Jesus himself and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We turned to a Christian, spiritual master who was steeped in prayer. We took an online course. We began to practice prayer in a whole, new way. What matters here is that I not go into what this is called or where do you sign up for the course we took? What matters is that I simply share that these two years have greatly helped both Gwen and I in a greater and deeper awareness of God; the love God has for us and for all his children. Prayer has helped us maintain some sanity. It has helped us stay connected to our deepening roots. It has helped us to live a better life than we were living prior to this shift. It is helping us learn to detach from distractions, old patterns of attempting to smear happiness over us like make-up to cover up blemishes. This movement within us is helping us to grow in a greater and deeper awareness than I had thought possible. It’s helping me understand in a deeper way, my place in the universe. It is helping me face my inner wounds and find wholeness in the grace of God. In short, I am more content.
Who would have thought that something like prayer—and practicing the presence of God could have shifted my tectonic plates to such a place of inner peace? I was not prepared. I needed to submit my educated self to learn something I simply did not know.
Prayer is not a program you master, at least I don’t see it this way. It is becoming more and more awake and aware of God in me and around me; in the shifting tectonic plates of the world outside of me and how that clamoring discord I hear about in the news can be lived through.
Some people are just too quick to quote verses from the Bible; paste emoticons on your status—without digesting what I am trying to say here. A spiritual master I have read wrote, “Everyone needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour” (Francis De Sales). There was a long, extended season of my life and work when I quoted things like that in a way, I suppose to manipulate or quilt trip people to pray more. But now in my sixth decade of life, I am more and more understanding what De Sales is saying. By sitting quietly in your room or office, you might begin to pray by saying less and listening more. That is a good starting point to learn to shift what you thought you knew about prayer to praying in a deeper way—a way that can bring an inner quietness and soul satisfaction.
There are turbulent times indeed. And our sponge like souls have soaked in a great deal of toxins. The remedy is not as complicated as we might have thought.