My Book of Uncommon Prayers: These Frail Threads

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I don’t want to be naïve again, speech peppered with Praise the Lord’s and God Bless You’s, and other Christian slang, as if by filling in the blanks I could sanctify the moment.

I meant well.

There are elements I wish I could reclaim—the idea that God would intervene if I could muster enough faith, the idea that God would love me more if I kept more of His rules.

Always.
Simple. Kind of.

I would love to get back to the uncomplicated worship where I knew God was big, powerful, and good, and that somehow my weak words meant something in His kingdom economy, that his gifts freely given actually changed things—changed lives.

Even mine.

But things don’t always turn out as expected. The right key doesn’t always fit in the lock; and though I still believe, my belief is tangled and mangled with shaky hopes and sanctified suspicion.

The strength of will is not always armor enough when facing a cosmic battle. And inspiration and revelation once cavalierly received have slowed to a trickle in the murkiness of time, trouble,

and desperation.

Cataracts of soul have dulled even further the glass darkly explanations, and my longing for more drives me to my knees.

Can I have the wonder back? Can I feel again past the numbness of mind and heart? Oh, Lamb, Oh Lover, Oh Rescuer, save me. Let me feel again what it means to be connected to eternity with these frail threads of confidence and leave the doubt of this dirty life behind.
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Psalm 86:1-7
Bend down, O LORD, and hear my prayer;
answer me, for I need your help.
2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
You are my God.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
for I am calling on you constantly.
4 Give me happiness, O Lord,
for I give myself to you.
5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
6 Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD;
hear my urgent cry.
7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
and you will answer me.

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My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Willing To Be Defeated

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I used to be cocksure,
willing to trample fragile souls for the sake of being right. And
it hurts to think I was so unlike Your sacrificial kindness, so unlike Your bleeding, selfless truth.
May I be willing to be defeated to win one. May I grow accustomed to embarrassment to at least appear humble as the pride prickles are chiseled away—one by one, by weary one.
My kingdom looks ever dim in the bright hues of Your shining presence—and may all see You
in spite of me.
If I would feed on Your words more than I feed on my need, I would be so much more nourished
with life to give.

My Book of Uncommon Prayers: There is a line . . .

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There is a line in the sand, and I dare not cross—
but funny thing about sand and funny thing about lines,
they wash away with beating waves, leaving a skimming reflection where surety used to be. So maybe instead of lines in the sand, I should head into the surf and just ride out these waves.
But some days I feel more infidel than faithful.
When the press is great and rescue far off, help me not to fail
but to fall
into you.
Without You, I will sink in the undertow and be lost.
Are Your arms bigger than my sorrows, Your view wider than my narrow vision, Your heart tougher than my doctrine, Your compassion deeper than my loss, Your love hotter than my tears?
If there is a way that I must walk, can it be a yes-way, a water-walking way—a path of fullness and yeses.
So often I walk in these in-betweens, chained to an accumulated load that fills my soul with the hollow No.
Piercing doubt, filling, spilling. Knocked sideways. Sinking in the swells.
But I am ready for the Yes, Lord, not a way that seems right,
but is right.
No variance to the right or left, but straight-ahead trust
to joy, unspeakable peace, unbreatheable, that just is.
When the press is great and rescue far off, help me not to fail
but to fall
into you.

 

My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Easter Prayer

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Is it just another day, another ritual performed,

a chance to wear new clothes and serve festive meals,

a celebration to mark our days and orient ourselves in a new year?

Is it just another obligation,

a compartment to fit in all the praiseworthy things

we ought to feel,

hope to feel,

about One so distant, so long ascended?

Has the burning in our hearts been quenched by familiar practices

and institutions?

Has the finger-in-the-side-faith lost its exclamations,

replaced by programs, distractions, and holy soundtracks?

Has our communion in the garden become commonplace

rather than ablaze with revelation and intimacy?

Oh, God of the resurrection,

God of the unruly and easily sidetracked,

burn within my heart this day.

Renew this shabby faith, these tattered shreds of almost belief,

with an obsession,

a knowing,

a persistence,

and an urgency to love You,

to love the faltering, the lost.

To be the Kingdom person you suffered to make me

is my Easter prayer.

A Limping Life

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I heard your whisper in the wind, and

I leaned to listen; but

my lisping voice rose rough and rasping, replaying all the shame moments,

the named moments—over and over,

owning their bite.

I glimpsed your face in the greening breeze of spring, and

I opened my eyes wide to see and be seen, but

the haze of doubt drifted down like a curtain, so I was unsure of what was there; and

blinking long and hard only tired my eyes,

my heart,

my will.

I put my knee to ground in weakness,

convinced that my limping life would never be anything more than this,

that tears would ever flow; but

you met me there

where

words are soft and

light is clear and

belief is birthed from unbelief.

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Be still and know that I am God. ~Psalm 46:10a

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. ~Mark 9:24b

 

My Book of Uncommon Prayers: To Live a Noble Life

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How can I make my ambition Your ambition?

Every now and then, unworldly inspiration and imagination penetrates

this sin-chained  mind, this bone-bound spirit,

and I rejoice,

respond;

but just as quickly, flesh presses in—

pride presses in,

puffing me up, showing me what a wonderful thing I did for God.

Is there any hope to live a pure life,

a noble life,

when wriggling in skin and bone, a soul enslaved?

But to be free.  

My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Pulpit

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May my life be my pulpit.

If ever my words outweigh my actions,

if ever my professions overshadow my deeds, I will have given up abundant life for at the very least shallow, vain repetitions,

and at the worst, dead religion.

May my faith-life seek not to coerce others by God-words but convince others by Your God-love working in and through me.

This is my broken prayer.

My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Pain and Hope

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I woke suddenly in the wee hours, the dark hours. Was it the weird dream I was having? Maybe. But aside from that, I immediately was aware that I had passed the anniversary of my first child’s death and had not remembered.

That was what kept me awake.

I stopped hearing the heartbeat with my stethoscope on Nov. 18, ’74. The doctor confirmed my full-term child was dead on the 18th, and I gave birth to her on the 19th. Every year at this time, whether I say anything or not, the loss rises up. And though time has healed the rawness of the wound, the grief has always been there.

But not this year.

The loss of Noelle colored my whole life. It framed my internal dialogue with God about what is just and right, and what is love in His eternal economy.  I wrote a lot of songs. I wrote a lot of poetry. And I journaled the highs and lows of grappling with loss and disappointment. I processed a lifetime of questions. I railed and returned to the knee time and time again, knowing that He was there to meet me in my anguish and questioning.

Though it hurt to turn the grief over and over in my mind and art, the reality of it, in a strange way, is what gave me hope. There was the expectation that something so horrible would be made right at the end of all things. All the hard things would not be for nothing.

Pain and hope link arms, and it is what keeps you pressing on. It kept me pressing on.

To stop feeling the pain is to forget. And to forget is to become numb.

If I forget, I don’t care.

If I don’t care, I lose hope that things will ever be right.

The steady drip drip of loss joins the stream of all the other pains in my heart and in this world, and it would flow on and on unabated, swallowing up all the cries of us, the anonymous, if not for the glimpse of promise. I must believe that even if I stop feeling, His promise is stronger than my exhausted unbelief.

“Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” ~~Mark 9:24

Lord, of the faithless, the weary wanderer, though I am apt to complain more than praise, don’t let me stop feeling the pain that reassures me I am connected and hoping for your kingdom to come. Be near me in the silence of my heart; speak love to me. Help me to not stop caring.     

 

 

 

To Remind Me

 

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May the rising vapor of morning remind me that my life is such—a vapor that lasts but a moment—fleeting.

May the intensifying blush remind me that the color of my life is in direct response to the Son’s rising in my life—growing.

May the increasing light of morning remind me that Your presence is ever surrounding— abounding as I struggle here below—persevering.

May the setting of the sun remind me of my limits and that hours spent ought to be well spent, for they will surely end—humbling.

May the brilliant reds and oranges fading into indigo remind me that the best I have to offer is nothing that will last—ending.

And may the last thinning rays remind me that though darkness comes, Light is on the other side of things—rejoicing.

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My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Phantom

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I was a pebble, small but strong.

From where I sat, I clearly saw my place, and

those around me knew me, as I did them—

as light as song and as sure as breath.

It was community,

communion,

a fixed place in a wide world of opportunities.

But time went on, moment after day after year, and the view widened ever more.

It became harder to see the edges as light blurred.

Waves beat and wind blew.

Some pebbles shifted right and left, front and back, up and down, and soon

familiar was a memory and

distance seemed farther away.

Did I get smaller and smaller, or did context get bigger and bigger?

The bigger has swallowed me up—my pebble self is a grain, unimportant and invisible in this big, wide world. And I thought all along I mattered.

Maybe I was never important.

Maybe there never was a mission, because for now I have become a mere placeholder that no one sees anymore.

I am but a breath—a grain of shifting sand, a whisper on the wind, a phantom in the land. Show me, oh my Lord . . .

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Psalm 39:4-7 (NIV)

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is.

You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
    My hope is in you.

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Psalm 90:12

12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.