Building Bridges

Beautiful woodcut style icons depicting critical moments
(Mysteries) in the life of Christ.  Meditating upon them 
gets us out of our heads and into our hearts.  This is
one of the most common ways that Christians meditate.
"Do you have any thoughts on how to meditate?" my friend asked as we sat sipping drinks. "My spiritual advisor suggested I meditate to get out of my head and into my heart more," she explained.

My young friend had grown up with my son in the same Church where we'd raised all our kids. She knew my journey had taken me into the more ancient strains of the faith and she also knew that I was serious about my prayer life. I was touched that she would ask me and kind of proud of her like I would be if my own child had tried to dig deeper into their faith. 

I was also excited to try to build bridges between our faith journeys. When something like this happens, I'm not sure why, but it almost always brings me to tears of joy. I love it when genuine souls reach 'across the aisle' so to speak and look for the good, the true and the beautiful in each other's faith practices. I recently found a prime example of this and wrote about it with a title of  “Demolishing the Walls of Suspicion”.

But WOW! ...where to start?  I mean, Christianity is rich with so many ways to ponder, reflect, meditate and connect with God.  Scripture repeatedly tells us to meditate on God's Word,  and since the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, we can now focus some of our meditations on The Living Word, God Incarnate, Jesus Christ.

Eventually I answered my friend out of an experience I had on Good Friday, 2018.  Two of my friends had come over to pray that morning and we decided to try to meditate together about what Jesus had done for us.  In my typical bumbling fashion I suggested we try praying the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary together, since they are all about the suffering of Jesus.  Well, it was awkward as neither of my friends were accustomed to that type of prayer.  I could completely relate because not long before that,  neither was I.

So I suggested that instead of saying the Hail Mary prayers, we could just pick a meditation and think about it with a much simpler prayer. For example, when we were trying to meditate on Jesus being crowned with thorns we could pray "Let's pause to think of Jesus who was crowned with thorns for our sake". We could then wait a few seconds and repeat it again... maybe ten times or so to keep our minds focused.

I encouraged them during that process to think of times when they had felt mocked and ridiculed in the past and to think of how Jesus knew how that felt. 

As we did this, it seemed like we were able to keep our minds focused on Jesus a little bit longer than we might have otherwise done.  We had the added blessing of doing it together.  There is something beautiful and moving about praying and pondering such things together.

Anyway, that Good Friday experience is essentially what I shared with my friend at the bar.  She too was not accustomed to praying the Rosary, but with the sort of prayers proposed here, that needn't be an obstacle.  There is great spiritual benefit from thinking about Jesus in a specific moment of His life and then pondering how we too experience similar moments.  In essence, we are learning how we are one with God and He is one with us in our life experiences.  I know for myself, that brings the thinking from my head down into my heart.

I'm not sure if she ever really took any of my meditation suggestions to heart. I respect her for reaching out however, and her doing so made me start thinking about how this type of meditation could grow into a much larger bridge between various faith traditions.

This is why I've lately begun sharing these woodcut style icons as tools for such meditations for all Christians. Catholics love them as a focal point for their Rosary, but I'm finding that nearly all Christians see the benefit of thinking about Jesus and saying a prayer.  Whatever we can use to help us do that for a sustained period is good, yes?  Of course yes.  Perhaps it will help you too.

Maybe, just maybe, by doing this together we can take a tiny step towards fulfilling Jesus' Prayer for unity in John 17 (especially vs. 21)!  After all, I have heard it said that the two best things for building unity among people is to have them eat together and pray together.  While I can't exactly have you over for dinner if you're sitting in Moscow right now, we can pray together separately by meditating on these moments in the life of our Savior.  Baby steps, right?


Below are the 4x6 meditation prayer cards that are grown on the farm.  They represent all twenty of the commonly pondered moments in Jesus' life.  If you would like some for yourself or others, simply ask in the form at the right where it says 'Contact Farmer Fred' and we'll grow you some!

Also, the meditation icons themselves are nice to have on a phone or tablet so one can swipe through them while meditating alone or in a group.  Click here to download all 24 of the meditation icons in a zip file.  Get one of your kids or grandkids or another youngster to show you how to unzip them and load them on your phone or tablet for easy access in a little photo album.

Lastly, here are a few thoughts on repetitive prayers like Psalm 136, the one with the repetitive refrain "His Mercy Endures Forever".  Repetition has often been misunderstood and in this reflection I attempt to unpack that and reclaim the value of repetitive prayers.


The Joyful Meditations
 focus mostly on the stupendousness of the Incarnation.  Christians all over the world have benefited from thinking upon the various aspects of this wonder.  In fact, some would be go so far as to say that God becoming human was even more amazing than Him choosing to conquer death by death.

I suppose that makes sense.  If I became a dust mite in order to somehow save all dust mites from certain self-annihilation, it wouldn't even be close to what God has done for us.  By choosing to become so little, He chose to need us, to need our love like any human does.  God the Son could have stayed happy eternally within the perfect love shared among the Holy Trinity, instead he became one of us, moved into a humble neighborhood, and forever subjected himself to needing our love, care and compassion.  This is indeed a great mystery in all it's facets and worthy of pondering!

Click here to download or listen to a suggested way to string this Joyful Meditation together, complete with opening Creed, Our Father prayers, and so on.


The Sorrowful Meditations
 focus on the Passion of Christ.  This is the set of meditations that I used to meditate with my friends on Good Friday 2018 that helped start this whole adventure.  There is a little music video/slideshow that I crafted as well called "The Rescue" that may help you bring your 'head down into your heart'... I know it does the trick for me every time I watch it, even more when I watch the entire 'Passion of the Christ' movie from which the slides are harvested.  I have a fuller reflection on this as a blogpost that you can reach by clicking here.

Click here to download or listen to a suggested way to string this Sorrowful Meditation together, complete with opening Creed, Our Father prayers, and so on.


The Luminous Meditations
 were only adopted recently (the last 50 years) whereas the other 15 have been used for hundreds of years.  This does not mean that these key events in Jesus’ life weren't celebrated by Christians and contemplated down through the centuries, they simply weren't included in the meditation toolbox also known as the Rosary.  Many Christians welcome their inclusion and love to meditate on these events as well.

Click here to download or listen to a suggested way to string this Luminous Meditation together, complete with opening Creed, Our Father prayers, and so on.


The Glorious Meditations
 contain both some of the most well known events in the life of Christ and some of the least agreed upon moments.  After the 15th century, some Christians began to question the historical veracity of the last two glorious mysteries.  I know I grew up never even hearing about them in my church.  I had also never heard Revelation 12 applied to Jesus' Momma in the way that so many Christians have down through the centuries.  Reading the books "Stunned by Scripture", "Hail Holy Queen" and "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary" helped me work through all of that... of course it took me years to be open enough to  truly consider what Christians outside my camp might have to say about controversial issues like how to think about Mary the mother of God.

However, if those last two mysteries still cause you concern, do not be troubled in your heart!  Simply follow the instructions on the back of the prayer card and skip over them.  We can still celebrate the fact that we have eighteen other beautiful meditations to ponder together.  Thanks be to God for all the moments in the life of Jesus our Lord that all Christians may agree upon.  May our good intentions for unity please God!

Click here to download or listen to a suggested way to string this Glorious Meditation together, complete with opening Creed, Our Father prayers, and so on.

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