Tag Archives: Dear God

Praying, Sharing Humanity

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, October 13, 2018

compassion, word cloud

Praying, Sharing Humanity

Compassion. That’s what today’s section of Henri Nouwen’s book With Open Hands is all about. Amazing insight with such brevity. Father Nouwen says such sensible things, I cannot believe they never crossed my mind before. Like, “Compassion grown with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you.” [1]

I cannot help but compare Father Nouwen’s words here with the basic outlook and principles behind Fred Rogers’ treatment and attitude towards everyone he dealt with. It did not matter what sort of person Mister Rogers met—age, height, ability, ethnicity, status (or lack of status), or any other kind of difference or separation. Those differences did not matter to Fred Rogers. I do not think those differences or separations mattered to Father Nouwen, either.

Fr. Nouwen clearly states “Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws, and destined for the same end.” [2] I don’t know how Fr. Nouwen was able to do that, but there was an equitable, caring, open attitude he had towards everyone he encountered, just as there was with Mister Rogers. That kind, caring attitude and openness are what I strive for, God willing.

Yet, compassion—according to Fr. Nouwen—is not only a positive, warm, fuzzy kind of expression and emotion. Compassion “also means sharing in joy, which can be just as important as sharing in pain.” [3]

Yes, we are human; yes, we all have the experience of pain. Some people experience pain more often than others. Yes, I have sat with individuals who go through painful episodes in their lives regularly. I know some have inner anguish, others have physical pain. Those painful emotions and situations did not make Fr. Nouwen care for those people less. Those negative experiences caused Mister Rogers to care even more for children and adults alike.

Dear God, when I grow up, I want to be like Fred Rogers. I want to have the attitude of Henri Nouwen. Help me—help us to offer others real support and comfort from our hearts. For real, not with false faces or fake feelings. Thank You for giving us such excellent examples as Henri Nouwen and Fred Rogers.

@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, 2005), 92.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 93.

Hands Open Towards Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 2, 2018

my heart saying a prayer

Hands Open Towards Prayer

It’s amazing how a turn of phrase can spark the imagination.

In this brief reading today, Father Nouwen refers to the passage from John 21, where Jesus tells Peter that he is now a person of volition, going where he would, but when Peter grows old, he will not be able to have the same volition. Moreover, people would take Peter where he did not want to go.

All of this is in the context of volition. Having one’s hands open. Even, having one’s heart open. As Father Nouwen talks about having one’s hands open towards prayer, he mentions care for others. “Care for others means a growing acceptance. This acceptance led Jesus and his disciples to where they didn’t want to go, to the cross. That is also the road for one who prays.” [1]

I hope I have acceptance in my heart. I hope I show that acceptance in my prayers. I realize where I do not have acceptance, and I ask God to forgive me for that non-acceptance, that insecurity, that dislike—even bordering on downright fear.

When I have my arms (and hands) stretched out in prayer, I strive to be welcoming in prayer. Dear Lord, it can be a challenge! However, as Father Nouwen rightly brings out, this acceptance and welcome I offer in prayer opens me deep within to the freedom that God truly offers. The freedom of God’s breath (which I referred to before, several posts ago – see Prayer, Life-Breath of God #matterofprayer  https://wp.me/p43g3i-12T ), and the freedom of the cross.

Dear God, please give me the courage to be prayerful. Please give me the acceptance to stretch out my hands in prayer. Forgive me for my insecurity my dislike, and especially my deep-seated fears. Help me to follow after You all the days of my life, especially in Your Son’s example of prayer. Amen.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 35.

@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, Life-Breath of God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 20, 2018

breath of God, mountains

Prayer, Life-Breath of God

Father Nouwen calls the Gospel—the Good News—the life breath of God. Isn’t that it, exactly? If we name the Good News as indispensable for life, how then shall we orient our selves? Our lives? Indeed, our souls?

“The person who prayerfully goes about his life is constantly ready to receive the breath of God, and to let his life be renewed and expanded.” [1] (Fr. Nouwen wrote this several decades ago, when “he/him” was commonly seen to be representative of all humanity.)

If I am receptive and ready to receive God’s life-giving breath, God’s Ruach ha Kodesh, into my life and self and soul, isn’t that the essence of being? Isn’t that what it means to be a child of God? (These are rhetorical questions.) I agree with Henri Nouwen. Then, I can stand upright, stretch out my hands and come out of the corner where I have been hiding and cowering in fear. Then, I am free to boldly stride through the world, because then I can move without fear. [2]

Fear is just what I am preaching on, in my summer sermon series. I am looking at just a few of the hundreds of “Be Not Afraid!” passages in the Bible, and highlighting these each Sunday. But, to return to Nouwen’s idea of God’s breath, it is truly life-giving.

Nouwen describes someone who never prays as someone who has asthma. (Or, from my direct experience as a hospital chaplain, someone with COPD.) So difficult to breathe! As I have had it described to me, life becomes as small as the distance an affected person is from his or her oxygen source, as far as their oxygen tube can take them. What a sad commentary on living and existence.

It is prayer that opens up the world for anyone, even if some do have mobility difficulties and challenges. Prayer becomes that gift from God for which we need not give anything in return. Thank You, dear God, for the remarkable, immeasurable gift of prayer.

@chaplaineliza

(Here is last week’s “Be Not Afraid” sermon: June 17 Sunday Sermon: “Joshua Called Courageous!“ Joshua 1:8-9 @StLukesChurch2 #pastorpreacherprayer )

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), 31.

[2] Ibid.

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.

Breaking Down Barriers

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 8, 2018

Philemon title, bible

Breaking Down Barriers

There are many separations or barriers between people today. Barriers of race, gender, color, class, birth, finances, status. Another way of looking at it is right side/wrong side of the tracks, rich/poor, have/have-not. Much less in terms of language(s) spoken, dialect or accent, educated or uneducated. What are we to do? What was Paul to do?

From what I could tell from some reading about Paul and his time and culture, Paul knew very well about these different kinds of cultural statuses and society structures. Sometimes, he would uphold them, and sometimes not. (I apologize beforehand to all Pauline scholars who may read this, and correct me. I fully enjoy learning more! So, please, let me know if I am mistaken.)

Prof. Williams talks about exactly this fact in one of his short chapters in Meeting God in Paul, starting with the mountain of a verse from Galatians 3:28, “There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free man, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” “Here is Paul saying that there is something you can belong to in which all these different kinds of status are completely immaterial.” [1] Wow. What a statement for Paul to make, given the fairly strict rules and mores of his society. There was a little latitude and wiggle room, but not very much.

Reading this chapter of Williams’ little book, I was struck by the little book (actually, personal letter) of the apostle Paul to Philemon. Paul had obviously been friends with Philemon before, and was communicating long-distance. Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus had become acquainted with Paul in the distant town, and—by Paul’s own account—was now like a son to Paul. Now, Paul was writing to Philemon on Onesimus’s behalf: “11 At one time he was of no use to you, but now he is useful[b] both to you and to me.” (And, yes, I think Paul loved the word-play—“Onesimus” meant “useful.”)

Paul was breaking down barriers. Jesus broke down barriers, too. And, much more so than Paul. How marvelous that Jesus just plain disregarded societal structures and barriers, and welcomed everyone. We see Paul striving to do the same thing. His statement in Galatians 3 (as well as a similar one in Colossians 3) shows us that he is striving toward welcoming all, no matter what.

Dear God, thank You for Your extravagant welcome, breaking down all barriers.

@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] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 29.

Dangerous Newness of Jesus

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, February 22, 2018

2 Cor 10-10 Paul in person, words

Dangerous Newness of Jesus

I am striving (and struggling) to do my Lenten devotional, as has happened for years. It is not because of the reading material! No, the book of short reflections called Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams is a fascinating read. (Did I mention that I love the clarity of Prof. Williams’ writing?) No, I have struggled to have regular devotions for years. God knows. (And, we have had many conversations about this, over the years.) But, I was fascinated by the readings set for this week.

As I read the assigned chapters from 2 Corinthians, 10 and 11, I was struck again by Paul’s forcefulness in speech. Sure, he might have been a less-than-impressive figure in person. I know—from what he wrote—that he was fully aware of that. However, that did not stop him from being forceful, convincing, and persuasive in his letters. I have no doubt in eloquence in speech (and sermons), too.

I went back to Williams’ introduction, just to refresh my memory. I was struck by what he said: “…we need to have at least some sense also of the social world and the world of ideas Paul inhabits…It helps to have some feeling for this, otherwise we shall miss the moments when he is being most courageous and creative, when the dangerous newness of what has happened because of Jesus most clearly comes through for him.” [1]

What a statement! “Dangerous newness.” Almost two thousand years after the fact, having been raised in an atmosphere where the Biblical figures and the Old and New Testaments were fairly common references in literary culture, it’s difficult for me to separate myself from my “pre-set,” from the ideas and concepts that I learned about the apostle Paul from school-age (1960’s and 70’s) to seminary, shortly after 2000. Yet, reading 2 Corinthians 10 and 11 once again brought this newness starkly to my attention.

How can I tell others about the newness of Jesus? Of His love for me, and of His very Good News? In the 21st century, as modern culture is becoming less and less knowledgeable and welcoming to the Gospel message, the news about Jesus Christ is gaining dangerous newness, again.

How can I communicate this? Dear God, I wonder. Help me learn how to reach out effectively, in this day and age. Help me to understand better how to tell others about You, I pray.

@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] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), xi.

God is Judge, in Psalm 50

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 4, 2017

JUDGE as God, Jesus

God as Judge, in Psalm 50

Have any of my readers been in a courtroom lately? I mean, close enough to watch the judge deliberate and make rulings?

Such a vivid example of tonight’s reading, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s compilation of short writings and letters called Meditating on the Word. God has a whole lot of names, and serves as a whole lot of awesome majesty and power.

I must admit, seeing God act as stern Judge certainly would give me pause. I do not think in those terms, usually. I know I usually see God Almighty as Shepherd or Lamb, as Teacher, or as Sower of God’s seed. I realize those images are meant to be honest and serious.

However, as I have been following these particular words written in Psalm 50, I am struck by these verses. Pierced to the heart is more like it.

Bonhoeffer had several comments on God’s behalf, in reflection on Psalm 50: “The loyal followers have been sanctified through the sacrifice of the cross. Against the background of Advent, the cross comes into view. Here, in this sacrifice of God’s judgment and His loving kindness are one.” [1]

Yes, some of the Names of God are quite serious, and their description contains parts of God’s character.

Dear God, mighty Judge of humanity (and all the rest of the universe), have mercy on us. Thank You for the cross, as it stands on that hill outside Jerusalem so long ago—and still stands in the heart of God. Thank You for Jesus, the Lamb of God. And, thank You for Your gracious and merciful loving-kindness.

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 65.