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Prayer, Gift-Giving, Control.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 13, 2018

man in prayer, silhouette

Prayer, Gift-Giving, Control.

What a punch in the gut! Seriously, Father Nouwen’s words can really pack a punch.

He speaks truth. When you or I give something to someone, whether we want to or not, we often find ourselves in a superior position. Manipulating others, whether we want to or not. Such an eye-opening realization, giving “gifts” to an inferior person.

I certainly do not mean to cast dispersions on all gift-giving. No! Sometimes, gift-giving comes from a sincere love for the other person, a feeling of gratitude, an honest desire to give a loved one something, or some combination of these reasons. However, not always…

Lord, are You talking to me? Is there something that You want me to get through my thick skull? (Sometimes, a two by four to the head is the only way the message from God sinks in…)

Good grief. I have no words. I want to particularly think about these following words from Fr. Nouwen: “When you give, you are master of the situation, you can dole out the goods to those you think deserving. You have control over the surroundings and you can enjoy the power your possessions give you.” [1]

However, if I truly want to be humble, I need to prepare my self and my heart to accept. To receive. “Ultimately, a gift becomes a gift only when it is accepted.” [2] When I finally find myself willing to accept gifts, food, drink, other tangible things, it is then and only then that I have gratitude in my heart. Otherwise, “many people are even embarrassed with a present because they know of no way they can reciprocate. ‘It makes me feel obligated,’ they say.” [3]

Dear Lord, this is a weighty problem, and no mistake. I don’t want to feel obligated. Yet, I know there are some people who joyfully and willingly give gifts! Gracious God, help me to find the graciousness to accept gifts, as well as the wisdom to decide when and where I might willingly and lovingly give gifts. Thanks for Your grace and power, and wisdom from on high. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

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Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 29.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 30.

Prayer, Acceptance, Openness.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 7, 2018

 

acceptance word cloud

Prayer, Acceptance, Openness.

What profound insights Father Nouwen has. Seriously, at times his words penetrate deep inside me. Like, tonight.

He speaks of prayer being acceptance, if one is experiencing deep silence. This is rare for me, since I am so wordy. Lectio divina is one of my favorite prayer methods, as is Ignatian prayer. Both depend strongly on the use of words, Bible reading and sometimes written responses. However—I have experienced deep, silent prayer. Meditation is a challenge for me, but I have done it. It’s like writing with my left hand. (Yes, I am right handed.) I can do it, but writing with my non-dominant hand is a challenge, even difficult at times.

Yet, I immediately understood what Father Nouwen was talking about. If one experiences deep silence, prayer can very well mean acceptance. But, that is not all. “Prayer creates that openness where God can give himself to us. Indeed, God wants to give himself;” [1] Now, this is more difficult for me to believe. God wants to give Himself to us? To me?

But, wait. Father Nouwen clarifies, and explains further. “This openness, however, does not simply come of itself. It requires our confession that we are limited, dependent, weak, and even sinful.” [2]

Oh, yes, I am more than ready to admit that I am not God. (I am very familiar with the Recovery Program, which talks about that very thing. I am—one is—most certainly not God, no matter how much one might want to think that is the case. Or, feel rather omnipotent.) Yes, this does make one feel vulnerable. However, if God is right by my side, I will not feel as lost and alone. Or as vulnerable and small.

Thank You for Father Nouwen’s wonderful words, dear God. Just what I needed tonight.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 25.

[2] Ibid, 26.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Prayer. Even in Dreams.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 31, 2018

dream not interpreted, letter not read

Prayer. Even in Dreams.

Often, when Father Nouwen suggests something, I strongly consider it. Except—in this particular situation. He was talking about silence, and noise, and especially about sleep. Then, he mentioned dreams. Oh, no!

It’s not that I never dream. From what I understand about dreams, I must dream with some regularity. I just never remember my dreams. Other people remember their dreams with great detail. Alas, not me. I am even uncomfortable talking about the fact that I don’t remember my dreams. (Well, hardly ever. Two, maybe three dreams a year, at most. And those, only vague impressions.)

Nouwen is talking about God being a Master Gardener; “Under this gentle regime, we can once again become masters over our own house. Not only during the day, but at night as well….Sleep is no longer a strange darkness, but a friendly curtain behind which dreams continue to live and to send out messages which can be gratefully received.” [1]

I am terribly sorry, Father Nouwen. I can’t make use of this friendly curtain, or the dream-space behind it. I feel my lack of dreams strongly. Periodically, I hear others discussing their dreams. An older friend encounters God on a fairly regular basis in dreams. (That’s how God communicates with my friend…not me!)

Realizing God communicates with me through the written word was (and is) a comfort to me. Gosh, I am so word-based! I know lectio divina and Ignatian prayer are great ways for me to pray. However, I have tried other ways of praying and meditation.  I really have tried, and tried hard. But, I just can’t allow myself, turn myself over to dream, because thereby leads to frustration and sorrow and disgruntlement.

Dear Lord, I do not think You want me to be disgruntled when I’m coming before You in prayers! I think that much be the furthest things from Your mind. Thank You for letting me find out that lectio divina and Ignatian prayer are two ways of praying that can lead me into Your presence, on a reliable basis. Gracious God, help me to be able to come before You on a regular basis. However, if I should be some change remember my dreams, help me to find some meaning in them. Just another in the dozens of ways You find to communicate with us. In the loving name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 21.

Prayer. All By Myself.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 17, 2018

monk kneeling at prayer

Prayer. All By Myself.

Father Nouwen says some intriguing things on these pages, in discussing inner silence—or, not so silent. Oh, how difficult it is to turn off that internal dialogue! Many people cannot stop that chatter, that constant whispering or commentary or even that committee in their own heads. “When there is no one to talk to, and no one to listen to, an interior discussion starts up which almost seems to get out of hand.” [1]

Yes, when I was a tween and teen, I disliked being alone. I liked to be with people. Even into my twenties, I wanted to be with people almost all the time, and did not care to be alone for very long. (By the way, that aspect of myself has changed.)

Have I changed, all that much? Sure, I enjoy, even relish being alone today. I can be silent sitting next to my husband, while both of us are working on the weekends. It’s a companionable silence, between the two of us. Dear Jesus, is that the kind of thing You are looking for? Is that the relationship You would like with me?

I am sad to say that I still feel some awkwardness in prayer. Yes, I have prayed for decades, and I still occasionally have deep and significant times of prayer. However, the prayer interactions are not always comfortable for me. Sometimes, it seems too stressed and forced (on my part, not on the other end).

Dear Lord, help me to feel comfortable with You, more regularly. Thank You for the possibility to be silent before You. Thank You for the love and caring You show to me, on a regular basis. I know I am not in a good situation…but as long as I am here together with you, Lord, I don’t have to worry. Father Nouwen is certainly correct; being calm and quiet takes a great deal of attention, but it is worth it. A relationship with my dear Lord Jesus? Thank You, Lord.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 19.

Prayer. Silence. Shhh.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, May 8, 2018

open hands

Prayer. Silence. Shhh.

What a stunning viewpoint on silence. Or, should I say, Silence?

Somehow, I feel as if this word ought to be capitalized. Father Nouwen makes such telling points on silence and the modern understanding of it. This little book was written in 1972, which is well over forty years ago. Fr. Nouwen talks about the clatter, banging, and constant noise of this modern time. Boy, can I relate.

I wonder what the good Father would have to say about 2018, the modern day in the western world? With all the technological updates and social media and the myriad of different choices in the way of accessing sound and video and recording of all different kinds…   Would this audio-visual kaleidoscope of noise, this cacophony of countless visual and audible selections, cause him to shun technology even more?

I remember I did not like being alone or in silence very long, when I was a teen. It got better in my twenties and thirties. Now, I enjoy it.

Oh, Father Nouwen, you seem to run toward silence with abandon. Nonetheless, you freely admit that “for many, silence is threatening. They don’t know what to do with it.” [1] Is silence truly a disappearing art? Is silence a fearful and terrifying thing, finally in its fearsome stages of existence?

The question forty years ago Fr. Nouwen wanted answered was, have people become alienated from silence? I consider it just as fair to ask what have the majority of people become addicted to?  Beyond random noise, to videos, blogs, vlogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, much less regular texting and instant messaging?

Dear God, save us from ourselves. Help me—help us to see that You thrive in the various sounds of silence just as much as in loud howls and yells, conversations, noisy trumpets, cymbals, honky-tonk pianos, drum sets, wailing guitars, and all the variety of electronic sounds and other forms of audio and visual input. Gracious God, thank You that You have given humanity the insight, ability, and ingenuity to come up with all of the constant sounds. Help us to quiet our insides just as much as the outside environment can be quietened. Thank You for this profound insight Fr. Nouwen brings to me today.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 16.

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 27, 2018

prayer candles

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Father Nouwen makes it sound easy. Well, if not easy, then straight-forward.

I know very well that I sometimes am all of these unpleasant things he talks about. I hate, I don’t forgive, I clutch worldly things or attitudes to my chest and turn away from the obvious invitations and overtures God in making to me. Yes, God. Guilty as charged. Yet, Henri Nouwen does make the process of prayer sound easy. (Or, straight-forward, whichever is more applicable to me at the time.)

Yet—before I get down to the serious business of praying, Nouwen tells me there is a caveat. “You must have patience, of course, before your hands are completely open and their muscles relaxed.” [1]

Patience? Seriously? Is this trait an absolute necessity? Because if it is, I do not think I will get very far in my walk with God. Or, my continuing conversation with God, either.

In the very next paragraph, however, Fr. Nouwen rephrases that absolute, and turns it into a conditional suggestion. He even acknowledges our human frailty. He says, “You can never fully achieve such an attitude, for behind each fist another one is hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless. Much has happened in your life to make all these fists….At any hour of the day or night you might clench again for fear.” [2]

Ah. Now you have it. Fr. Nouwen lays out the clear dilemma of prayer and the human experience. I have such fear and trepidation in my heart. I am filled with such anger, or shame, or even revulsion. Or, God forbid, I find myself chock-full of self-righteous judgement. Any or all of these can hinder or even totally stop my conversation with God.

What do I do about all of these horrible emotions and character traits that are so deeply rooted inside of me? Nouwen says, “What is possible is to open your hands without fear, so the other can blow your sins away…Then you feel a bit of new freedom, and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you.” [3]

Dear Lord, is it possible? Can I actually be welcomed into Your presence even though I am chock-full of all of these yucky emotions and character traits? Thank God, indeed.

 

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 8.

[2] Ibid, 9.

[3] Ibid, 10.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Detached? Prayerful, Instead.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 27, 2018

immeasurable prayer power

Detached? Prayerful, Instead.

Oh, Father Nouwen, your words burrow deep within my heart. Or, deep within the flimsy defenses I’ve erected, rather. (Whichever it is, these words do burrow deep. Perhaps both deep in my heart AND deep within my flimsy defenses…)

So many of the unpleasant, downright irritating and repulsive character traits Father Nouwen mentions in this short section are true about me. At least, every once in a while, and sometimes much more often than that. These repulsive character traits do get in the way when I wish to pray. (And, especially when I do not wish to pray. Then, perhaps, they get the most in the way.)

Most striking to me today is the fact that I “can become attached to [my] own hate. As long as [I] look for retaliation, [I am] riveted to [my] own past.” [1]  Oh, how foul. How horrifying. Imagine, being stuck in an infernal hamster wheel of hate for my whole life long.

I have rarely been burdened with long-term hatred and the desire for retaliation, thank God! However, sometimes… Twisted daydreams of revenge and retaliation do flit across my mind, on occasion. Again, thank God they do not stick around. I would shrink back in terror and horror if my mind did happen to continually return to twisted thoughts like that.

“Don’t be afraid of him who wants to enter that space where you live, or to let him see what you are clinging to so anxiously…. Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, disappointment to him who reveals himself as love.” [2] Oh, dear God, let it be true! Even though I am filled with twisted, repulsive, bitter character traits and negative emotions, I know You continue to reveal Yourself as love. Reveal Yourself that way to me, today. Now.

With a hopeful heart—surprising, after considering this sad, depressing topic—I pray all of these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

 

 

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 6.

[2] Ibid.