My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Evanescent


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As light as incense,

soft on the air was her life.

Fragrant, but in a moment gone–vital but fragile.

Evanescent.

 

To hold our moments as precious,

to not measure our eternal weight by our fractured souls,

is my broken prayer.

 

Displaced–Blessing or Curse

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In Henri Nouwen’s book called Seeds of Hope, he writes that “displacements threaten us and give us feelings of being lost or left alone.” He goes on to say the following:
“Displacement is not primarily something to do or to accomplish, but something to recognize. In and through this recognition a conversion can take place, a conversion from involuntary displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy, to voluntary displacement that can become an expression of discipleship [. . .] To follow Jesus, therefore, means first and foremost to discover in our daily lives God’s unique vocation for us [. . .] our concern for a career constantly tends to make us deaf to our vocation [. . .] God calls everyone who is listening” (144-148).
And I am listening.

It is perhaps normal to wrap purpose up in accomplishment, to wrap acceptance in a profession up in calling, but a person’s worth and calling ought to be separate from all the doings, otherwise when the doings are done, there is nothing left in the identity we have so carefully created for ourselves. Is God in the midst of all that process? Is not at least part of working and the creating of identity led by more than just human inclination and desire? Of course—mixed in with His will, my will, the will of others, this crazy combination of spiritual and carnal. And unraveling all those threads, well . . . who could ever?

But the truth is that when you think you know, at least in part, who you are and what role you currently play in the world, you want to be the one to decide when and how that role should be redefined. There have been many times in my life when that decision was taken out of my hands. I was younger, and I grieved, but I adapted. I found a new path forward. A new open door. Why this latest displacement hurts so much, I am not sure, except that because I am much older maybe it feels like there is no other door to walk through now. Maybe it feels that a forced retirement underscores that I am past usefulness more so than a voluntary exit from a job would have felt, even just one or two years later.

It has been a painful few months, having lost my job. The grieving and reorienting have provided rather a topsy-turvy emotional ride. Regarding Nouwen’s “displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy,” well, I am somewhere between bitterness and resignation, I think. My desire is to skip apathy and move right into seeing this as freedom—a freedom to zero in on vocation, stripped of career obligations. Can my involuntary displacement become voluntary as it pertains to my following Christ? I hope so, but I am not quite there yet. That will perhaps be the determinant of whether displacement is a blessing or a curse.

 

I Miss My Father

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I miss my father.

Not the last, lingering days when the ravages of Parkinson’s stripped his body of strength and dignity,

not the growing quiet and dimming light, the betrayal of senses with the ambush of age and degeneration,

not the loss of skill and purpose with increasing dependence.

I miss the stories, the laughter, the dropping of the false teeth to scare innocent children.

I miss the sawing afternoon naps in the recliner, the dirt between the fingernails, and the smelly old farm boots.

I miss him, dusty and weary, still willing to amaze his children at day’s end by playing a bit of softball in the failing light—and hitting that ball to kingdom come.

I miss stealing sips of his instant coffee and codependent sampling of forbidden pies.

It’s the wisdom, I miss most. The forgiveness and acceptance, the knowing that in my stupidest moments, he was still my rock, my shelter, my willing warrior.

I looked at his picture on my dresser today, and a tear caught in my throat because as long as it’s been and
as surely as life has gone on,
there are some days in this topsy-turvy world,
I really miss my father.

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Remembering a Friend

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When there is the shock of loss–a sudden departure–and

you feel like you need to do something to fix things and to take the sting away; and yet,

there is nothing to be done in this shattered moment, but

you feel guilty doing anything else, all the  mundane things we do over and over in our life without remembering

that we are living on this fragile edge.

Upside-down World

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When what was and now is not happens in a wisp of a moment,
when friends become foes, exchanging their trust for biting and isolating words,

then it is plain to see that we are living in an upside-down world.

When conversations meant to break down barriers instead erect the worst kind of walls,
when what I see and what you see suddenly are
oddly at odds
to the vision once shared,

then it is pain to see that we are as much a part of this upside-down world as everyone we have observed from afar. Tut, tut, what a shame it was. And is.
We are in it, of it, and yearning for all to be made right.

What makes it worse is that the reflection is somewhat like what we hope for; but
in its rippling distortion and ever-changing color, what’s hoped for seems like some cruel illusion.

Far off, unattainable, yet present enough to hunger the soul.
======================
Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

 

An Unforever Friend

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It could have been a lifelong friendship,

haven’t-seen-you-like-forever-but-everything’s-the-same kind of friendship.

 

We shared tight, little secrets that only capital F Friends should share.

We pontificated over politics—all the things we could never change.

We wept over children—all the heart-pains that only mothers know

and only Friends can share.

We shared meals, split tabs, told jokes, prayed prayers,

taking time to just be

and sometimes read each other’s minds.

 

But the shared whispers have disappeared.

The warm hugs have been replaced by unreturned phone calls

and occasional hurried-life passings–as life is passing.

 

I have grieved your loss as one who died;

but your life is so full

you don’t seem to notice I am not in it.

 

I thought we would be friends forever,

capital F Friends, unshakeable Friends,

but forever has come to an end.

 

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: 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.     

 

 

 

Darkness Moves

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The darkness moves toward morning—sun and moon in their cycles,

and I in my bed lie awake with the constant thrumming of words in my head.

My body tosses and turns; my words toss and turn, and

sleep is an enemy, crouching far off, taunting.

Pain is magnified in the dark with no distractions. And

the aching in my head beats rhythm to the beats of my heart and the beating that I am giving my soul for regrets as

darkness moves toward morning.