Announcing the winter 2014 Central California Prayer of the Heart Conference.

"Pursued through Beauty."

POH 2014 announcement

We'll curate seven incredible encounters with beauty...
tendered by seven local artists/persons of faith...
and explore the way our encounter with everyday beauty can lead us to God.
Mark your calendars now!
Friday evening, Feb 28-Saturday afternoon, March 1, 2014.

University Presbyterian Church 1776 E. Roberts Ave Fresno, CA 93710

More info and a Facebook event page to come!
Click here for a PDF flyer: POH 2014 announcement

A TED talk by photographer Louie Schwartzberg, and a short film (exquisite) narrated by Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast. Watch and open your life to Life, experience the truth that "Today is a gift that was given to you, and the only appropriate response is gratitude." See the world again through the eyes of a child and an elderly man.

Calm. Composure. Level-headedness. Poise. I'll bet these are things you want in your surgeon or pilot. And I'm guessing you'd like to possess them yourself. The ability to hold yourself calm in the eye of a storm will save you a lot of suffering over the long haul. But calm doesn't just come over you; you've got to work it into you, massaging it into the deep tissue of your being through practice, practice, practice.

Contemplative prayer is such a practice. Through meditation on the name of Jesus or some other simple prayer, you make a habit of drawing of your mind down into your heart and holding it there in the presence of God. In this way you train yourself to dwell at the center, remain composed and calm, no matter what's going on around you.

One of my kids called late one night. He was stuck in on the 134 in LA. An accident. Traffic at a dead stop, not even crawling along. People around him pounding their steering wheels in rage. Others swearing out their windows. His own anxiety skyrocketing in the midst of the mayhem. Never mind that someone's suffering, maybe dead on the road ahead. Thousands are stuck in gridlock, feeling claustrophobic and powerless to do anything but rage against it all.

Unless you've trained yourself for such a time as this, you'll get sucked into the collective insanity.

Practice poise. Enter the stillness each day in prayer. For 5 minutes (but the more, the better), do nothing in the presence of God but fend off the thoughts that try to pull you away from center. Return to the center, to God. Just be.

Then when you're on the road or in a meeting, answering an email or listening to the news you're less likely to get sucked into the collective insanity of so many around you who do not practice peace.

Intention: Today, I'll practice poise. I'll grow still in prayer. I'll massage into my deep tissue a growing trust in God's presence in and around me.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a peasant of Galilee. Galilee was hill country and life there was difficult. A drought or bad harvest could endanger whole villages. Infant mortality was about thirty percent, and only sixty percent of children lived beyond teenage years. The peasants' diet was poor: bread, olives, wine; lentils, a few greens, figs, an occasionally some cheese or yoghurt. Religious practices were simple. In the rural villages there were no scribes or priests. Families practiced the faith with great devotion, for their vulnerability meant they had little hope except in God.

Twice a day, upon rising and at the time of sleep, peasant families recited a simple prayer, the Shema Israel: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (This portion from the Torah is what Jesus refers to in Mark 12.29-30).

There was little time for extended prayers, and of course, no possibility of reading sacred texts, since no one could read. The prayers were simple, intense, and frequently recited. It reminded these peasants of the one thing that mattered most to them: to love God with every fiber of their being.

Intention: Today, I will gather my life and energy around the simple act of loving God. My head and hands may be busy with ideas and plans and work, but my heart can rest in God through a simple prayer I can return to over an over again.