July, 2020:  Our world is out of Center.   Our hearts are pushed sideways.  Our minds are too filled with unknown.  Our actions betray our confusion.   There is so much unknown.  We are out of balance.  

Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries and I (Bill Black) would offer for us centering thoughts.  We would invite all to settle into the Center that is God; to enter into the Holy.  To be restored in our hope.  To live in such prayers as these offered by Howard Thurman in his book, The CenteringMoment, from 1969.  Howard Thurman lived, ministered, led, and wrote through years of segregation and racial hate.   In all of his writings there is a quiet strength that confronts without being strident; that demands justice without being destructive; that invites peace while being challenging; that calmly claims the certainty of God’s rule and grace.  Let us so be led and centered:

“The Common Mood” by Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, 1969:

It is a very blessed thing to be privileged to share together the common mood, the full and searching moment in which the meaning of private life is lifted up and seen in a perspective as broad as life and as profound.  Again and again we are overwhelmed by the littleness of our lives, the way in which there seems to close in upon us the intimate need, the personal demand.  There is often no breathing moment that permits us to lift up our heads and take the long look and sense ultimate meanings in which our lives are involved.  Thus each has his world of need and necessity and urgency; some of us are wrestling with very great anxieties.  We do not know how to deal with that which awaits us tomorrow, and in our desperation and our panic we find ourselves unable to center our spirits upon the meaning of this great and significant moment in our lives. There are some who are ill and we have no way by which we can determine now that this illness says about the length of our lives.  We wrestle with this secondary undertone of uneasiness while we await the revelation of trained mind and skilled hand.  There are some who are deeply troubled about the state of the world—the fever that seems to be sending our civilization hurtling along a path which threatens to end in destruction and carnage and great tragic waste.  So we clutch this moment of intimacy ad friendliness and put it over against all the darkness that seems to be brooding over the nations of the world.  There are some who remember the meaning of this day in the richness and tradition of the faith, and we seek ways by which we may enter into its meaning in our way so that there will be in us no things what will spoil the fullness of the joy of the moment of triumph.

Here we are, Our Father, all of us Thy children, each with his own life and world and need.  We lay gently upon Thy altar our life as it is, and we hold it there, waiting for Thy Spirit to invade our spirits so that we shall be prepared for the living of our lives, whatever may be the circumstances by which our days, tomorrow and tomorrow, may be surrounded.  For this, O God, we utter in the quietness our thanks and our praise.

“Right Relations With Others” by Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, 1969:

Always we live under some necessity for righting our relations with our fellows. We turn to the scrutiny of the light in our hearts to see wherein we have lived without harmony, without order, and without an increasing measure of tranquility and peace. We look at the misunderstandings which we have experienced during the week that has passed. Those moments when our words conveyed what was not our intent, and the result of their movement into the life of another, brought chaos and pain and misery. Those moments when with clear-eyed intent we have gone out of our path to do the vengeful thing, to speak or to act with hardness of heart. We remember all of our reactions to the ill will in the world, to the bitterness that has loomed large between peoples and states, between countries, and between nations. All of these things weigh heavily upon our minds and spirits as we seek somehow within ourselves to be whole and clean and purified.

Our Father, we come to Thee, seeking in quiet ways the courage to ease the tensions and break the discord in which, one way or another, our lives are surrounded. We offer to Thee the treasures of our life, to the end that we may be so touched by Thy spirit and sensitized by Thy love and Thy tenderness that we may find our way in peace and in strength and in confidence. This is what we seek, even as we worship Thee, O God, in spirit and in truth.

“Mindful of the Agonies” by Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, 1969:

We are mindful of the agonies that are sweeping over our world.  Suffering, hunger, disaster falling upon whole communities and generations; fears that drive nations to put their organized might against others nation’s organized weakness; the utter loneliness of those whose dwelling place is the solitude of vast havoc; the anguish of sensitive spirits that find no windbreak against the impact of so much human misery.  From all of this there is no escape.  

As if this were not enough.  We are immobilized by our private world of frustration and inner chaos, of needs unfulfilled, of dreams that leave us bereft of even the hope of fulfillment.

Surround us, close present God of our spirit, that we may fathom the true intent of our hearts and our strivings, that we may sense the true intent of Thy purpose in human history, and the personal enterprise.  We would not turn away from Thee; but again and again it is so hard to find Thee.  Find Thee we must.  Understand us in our search, that even our weakness may lead us to Thy dwelling place.

“The Moment of Recollection” by Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, 1969:

In Thy presence, our Father, we make an act of recollection:

We cradle in tenderness those that have been visited by sudden or muted violences; families shattered by death and murder; those distraught by illness which does not respond to the trained mind and the skilled hand; those who inhabit the shadows where things are never clear to the mind and at the core of whose spirit lies an endless torture, making for restlessness, panic, and madness; children who are without love and compassion, who must manage life with ill-formed and blunted tools; the lonely who cannot experience the penetration of the wall that envelops them; and those who are so tired that the ground of their being is consumed by great weariness.  These we remember before Thee, our Father.

We do not know how to express our feelings, we do not know quite what to say.  We give to Thee a cloud of witnesses to human need that in Thee may be found sanctuary for them.   As for us, we still ourselves in Thy presence to be caught up by the movement of Thy spirit in our minds and hearts so that we may dare become Thy living agents of usefulness and redemption.  Grant, O gracious God, that we may not betray Thy urgency through self-love, self-pity, or fear.  This or souls cannot abide.  Deliver us from so great a temptation, our Father. 

Thanks be to God.