My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Approval Pending

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Recently, I started a couple of stock photography accounts to try and generate some passive income from the myriad photos I already have on my hard drives, as well as to be an impetus for continued creativity in my now retired life. (Notice re-tired means that you get to recycle all the “tired” you have felt for years!)

When I first started submitting images, I had more accepted than rejected; and yet, any rejection was a bit of a pinprick to my sensitive artistic self. How dare that anonymous reviewer not see the value in my work! After a while, I came to terms (kind of) with the idea that even though I might like an image enough to put it on my own wall, it was not necessarily going to conform to the criteria set forth by the agencies for products made available to their customers. Okay, got it. It’s just “business.” (Read that with a Corleone accent.)

I have submitted a lot of work over the last few weeks and have a lot of images in my portfolios. I have even sold quite a few, mostly for .25 a pop. Wow! Big stuff! But every so often, a particular reviewer rejects all or almost all of what I have submitted; and it is very deflating, making me doubt my photographic skills, my imaginative vision, my raison de vivre—okay, that minor depression is momentary, right before it turns to anger. Who are these nameless people hiding behind my computer screen anyway, who can deflate my ego with one keystroke of their preprogrammed criticisms? Dolts who fail to see the inspiration in my work! Sigh.

It takes a few moments, but I usually land back on my feet. I regroup my thoughts and fractured ego, realizing that I must try to be more detached about this process, not deriving my worth from what image gets accepted and what doesn’t. The reviewers are not uniform in their approaches to critique—it is not a totally clinical review process. They can be very subjective. At times, I will be uploading photos, and the reviewer, who is apparently on line at that moment, will be accepting everything as quickly as I post the items. I dive into a frenzy of uploads because I have a live one! One who gets me!

They like me, they really really like me!

But every so often, I will check on my uploads, and the reviewer has rejected every single image, some of which were already accepted in another agency. And I think: Okay, I will punish you. See, I am not going to upload for at least two days! That will show you!

Or not.

It doesn’t always take much, but that got me thinking. One of the agencies has pictures awaiting review in a file called “Approval Pending.” And I think for many of us, that is how we live our lives. In our work, our relationships with our family and friends, we live with approval pending. Our sense of value, our acceptance of person as well as product is fragile, contingent on the compliment, the Like on social media, the sacrifice of time spent, the nod of affirmation that contradicts our self-doubt and our feelings of a lack of significance. The Like is life! The affirmation is worthiness! And if we don’t get enough of it, if approval is forever pending, we spread the net wider and wider trying to find the thing that will for once and for all validate us. As if affirmations could erase betrayals or Likes could in any way be substance to build a life on.

As a person of faith who has placed her life in God’s hands, I must realize not only in abstract theory, but also in concrete practice, that my Approval Pending category is always filled with Yeses, always filled with acceptance. If I look to anything or anyone other than Christ from which to draw life, I will always be working on a deficit, always needy, always disappointed.

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God, thank you that Your acceptance is enough. You have not rejected me, but have drawn me into Your forever family. I cannot do anything to earn Your love, nor can I miss any arbitrary standard of submission that would cause You to reject me. When I am tempted to draw essential life from any other person or thing, when I am tempted to run after the newest illusion with a promised reward, would You remind me that approval is not pending, but is already mine because of the cross. There is no need for Likes when in You I have all Yeses.

My 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 the faltering, the lost.
To be the Kingdom person you suffered to make me is my Easter prayer.

The Limping Church Triumphant

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L-ife is to be lived with love as our mandate; but too often,
I-maginations are soiled with the cares and constraints of bolstering up this
M-ansion here, rather than the one
P-prepared for us. Wishing to stay and wishing to go
I-s for those closest to heaven’s door and
N-ot for those distracted with position and purpose,
G-rounded, it seems, in earthly things. And we wound each other with

C-areless words; and we
H-arm the weak and disarm the strong, without
U-nderstanding we are servants one of another, chosen not by destiny but
R-edeemed and uniquely
C-hosen by Christ. He is the One we serve—not ourselves—with grace and
H-umility, forgiving one another, seeking each one’s best.

T-herefore, as God’s people, let us clothe ourselves with compassion; let peace
R-ule our hearts, forgiving all grievances, responding
I-n love as Christ has loved us,
U-nfettered by ambition and pride and blind passion.
M-aster of all, Lord of Your church, it would seem our faith
P-aralysis is not a reflection of You but our
H-alf-hearted devotion, our crippling sins.
A-rise in our hearts; revive your chosen ones that we might
N-ot be so earthbound, but set our hearts on
T-hings above. This is my broken prayer.

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Colossians 3
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In You, O Lord (Lilly’s Amplified)

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In You, O Lord, do I take refuge;
I run to You when the darkness closes in, when chaos comes, and
my own best ideas about shelter fail.
let me never be put to shame;
let me not be disappointed in You because I am all in;
let me not place my disappointment in others and myself
onto the constancy of Your love.
In Your righteousness,
not in my abilities or my determination, but
in the pure and solid goodness of Your character,
deliver me!
Incline Your ear to me;
listen to my words;
but just as much, hear the twisting and groanings of my soul,
prayers that have no sounds but wet sighs.
rescue me speedily,
because I do not wait well, and
my desperation would crush my spirit.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a place to hide, to rest, to feel safe enough to heal.
a strong fortress to save me!
I need saving from those without and
my weak and worn self.

Psalm 31:1-2

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My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Have Mercy

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A p r o n h e a d -- Lilly

Oh, Lord of the broken and heartsick,
of the world weary and tumult tossed,
have mercy.
Oh, Lord of the fractured and failing,
of the wounded and flailing,
have mercy on us.

May our beliefs align with Your truths,
and may our weakness not hinder Your kingdom work
here in this battleground
between earth and heaven,
between the cross and the crown.

Oh, Lord of the blind and beleaguered,
the willing but wanting,
have mercy on us here below.

May our hearts break for the living lost
and our hands be quick to holy tasks
here on this hallowed ground
between world and wonder,
between sacrifice and song.

Oh, Lord, have mercy on us here below we pray.

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My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Once Again

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These witchy trees, bare and lifeless, cold and leafless:
One might wonder where life has gone and if all hope is gone,
receded into the dark earth. But
in one moment, that gifted second,
a nub of green sprouts, a speck of promise appears, and the sleeper rises,
stretches to the sky. Renewal happens once again—
from death to life.
That these dormant praises in me would rise again, unchained.
That these sleeping sermons once more would reach my mouth that I may speak of Your wonder,
once again.

 

My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Have Mercy

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Oh, Lord of the broken and heartsick,
of the world weary and tumult tossed,
have mercy.
Oh, Lord of the fractured and failing,
of the wounded and flailing,
have mercy on us.

May our beliefs align with Your truths,
and may our weakness not hinder Your kingdom work
here in this battleground
between earth and heaven,
between the cross and the crown.

Oh, Lord of the blind and beleaguered,
the willing but wanting,
have mercy on us here below.

May our hearts break for the living lost
and our hands be quick to holy tasks
here on this hallowed ground
between world and wonder,
between sacrifice and song.

Oh, Lord, have mercy on us here below, we pray.

 

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.

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.