Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pool Deck at the YMCA - A Place to Commune with Other Faith Traditions

Finishing the last lengths of my swim to complete a half mile, I did stretches while still in the water. I looked on the deck in front of me and saw a Muslim woman speaking out loud, reading from an iPad. I recognized Norah, having spoken to her before at the Fishers YMCA, so I jumped out of the water, grabbed my towel and gym bag, and walked over to the bench where she sat.

A burqa outlined her face and hands. "Are you praying?" I asked. She looked up with recognition, extended her hand and smiled.

"I've seen you before reading the Koran out loud. I admire the way you are public with your faith. I'm a Christian, but I don't carry my Bible wherever I go."

Putting aside her iPad, Norah replied, "I'm reading the Koran. We pray five times a day wherever we are. In such a busy life, we look to our great creator to remember our faith."

We chatted a few minutes. When her little boy finished swimming, I said good-bye and walked to the locker room. I never see anyone reading the Bible while their child or children have swim lessons. Norah's bold demonstration of her faith was inspiring.

Reflecting on my encounter later in the day, I focused on Norah's description of the importance of pausing and praying five set times during each day. This practice reminded me of the monastic ritual of praying the hours, something I did for many years especially during the time I worked at St. Vincent Hospital.

One day a week (I rotated the days; Monday, one week, Tuesday, the next, etc.) from the time I awakened until I went to bed, I remembered God at the beginning of every hour. At first, I looked at the clock often throughout the hour. However, as the day progressed, I  found "my soul took me to the hour" before I realized the time. My "day of the hours" as I called it, became a mini-retreat. Each day frequently ended with a new insight about my walk with God or with a deeper awareness of God's presence.

Pausing at the beginning of every hour was a way to stay centered in God as well as acknowledging that God was with me.

Here's an experiment. Choose a day to practice "a day of the hours." Select five times throughout your day to pause and pray. You may want to use these focused moments with God to pray for a decision or circumstances you are facing or for an individual about whom you care. Or you can use this time to direct your thoughts to God's presence surrounding you. Reminder alarms on watches and cell phones can assist if you desire.

We share similar practices of other faith traditions. Perhaps the terminology or sequence is different, but honoring common features can help build bridges and encourage understanding.

Prayer: God, you are the creator of all persons. We have more in common than differences. Help us learn from each other and befriend all. Amen.

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