Tag Archives: dear Lord

Prayer—No Easy Matter

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 20, 2018

honest definition

Prayer—No Easy Matter

When I read this first reflection on prayer by Henri Nouwen, his words penetrated me deeply. (Again, I might add. I have a feeling this will happen to me again and again as I read through this short book.) I am unashamedly a fangirl of Fr. Nouwen. His profound writing and superb choice of words consistently hits home. Now, if I could just get his words to remain in my brain and imprinted on my heart…

He speaks of a deep relationship, a no-holds-barred relationship between me and the other. (Or, should I say the Other? I have always honored God with capitalization, as much as possible.) In any case, Fr. Nouwen talks of a deep resistance, as well. Giving the illustration of a woman admitted to a psychiatric center [1] who absolutely refuses to open her fist until it is pried open to reveal a coin…makes me think hard. How much am I trying to hide from God?

As Fr. Nouwen says, “When we are invited to pray we are asked to open our tightly clenched fists and to give up our last coin. But who wants to do that?” [2] This can be such a painful process. Even though some may cry out of that deep place of pain and anguish, the whole process can be painful. Just deciding to begin to pray can be filled with anguish. “You feel it is safer to cling to a sorry past than to trust in a new future. So you fill your hands with small clammy coins which you don’t want to surrender.” [3]

Dear Lord, how difficult it is to be totally honest. Even though You know everything already, just like a wise, benevolent earthly parent, I feel awkward, and shy, and ashamed, and resentful. Disappointed, jealous, sad, and angry, too. Why is it that deep emotions get in the way of my relationship with You so readily? Clutching these yucky emotions to my chest as if they were treasures is not in my best interests. Lead me to understand this deep truth that Fr. Nouwen brings to my attention.

Let us pray. Gracious God, loving Heavenly Parent, You are patient and merciful. You are also all-knowing, so I cannot hide from You—as much as I want to. As the psalmist reminds me, even if I flee to the depths of the sea or the highest mountain, You are still there. You are still with me, no matter what happens. Help me to be honest with You. You love me. Help me emblazon those words on my heart. In Jesus’s precious name we pray, 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), 3.

[2] Ibid, 4.

[3] Ibid.

Bring Prayer into My Life

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, April 14, 2018

hands folded in prayer

Bring Prayer into My Life

Going back to the original reason for this blog, I want to pray on a more regular basis. Yes, I realize this is a never-ending odyssey for me, in my spiritual life. Yes, God and I have had many conversations about this lack or deficit, for decades. And, I am going to try again. (Somehow, that quote from Yoda in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” comes to mind. “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” )

Dear Lord, taking a snippet from popular culture—and from Yoda (whom I love), I want to do. Not try, but do.

Over the next little while, I am going to read one of Henri Nouwen’s marvelous books called With Open Hands. In this slim volume, he examines his own personal experience with prayer. And as he says, “…could it be that what is most personal for me, what rings true to the depths of my being, also has meaning for others?” [1]

This book is distilled down from a number of conversations with twenty-five theology students. Father Nouwen and the students variously prayed, conversed, and contributed. As Fr. Nouwen says, this book “took form during many hours of intimate conversation, which could possibly be called hours of praying.” [2]

I already know Nouwen’s work. I have read (at various times) five other books he wrote. I am very much looking forward to this one. I know how faithful Nouwen was to his spiritual disciplines, and I pray I can be half as faithful.

Dear Lord, as I embark with Father Nouwen on this journey of prayer, I want to pray regularly. I want to get closer to You. Help me remain consistent. Knowing that Jesus is right by my side every day, I pray all of these things. 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), vii.

[2] Ibid, viii.

Christ, and Him Crucified

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 15, 2018

St. Paul, Guercino_stpaul3.jpg

Christ, and Him Crucified

Sometimes, Paul’s words are just that—wordy, pedantic, with run-on sentences. He did not craft parts of his writings with meticulous care. (Which of us in email regularly crafts the words we use with great care?) Some of Paul’s letters were, I suspect, written in some haste. At least, not given the great amount of care with which Paul wrote the letter to the Roman church. I’m reminded of the quote from Jane Austen, paraphrased, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Brevity and clarity in writing sometimes take considerable time and thought.

At times, Paul gets really excited. His subject matter, of course, is often weighty and even exalted—if not transcendent. Seriously, why not get excited about such things? This is only natural. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” As Prof. Williams says in his book of reflections, Paul is a passionate man, speaking passionately about this subject so meaningful to him and what has become his whole life—Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and ascended. [1] Spreading the Good News, to Paul, has become his primary, even sole purpose in life.

Going back to Prof. Williams and his in-depth look at Paul the man, one thing stood out to me. “It is always worth remembering that Paul didn’t know he was writing the Bible; that is to say that, when he is writing (or rather dictating) his letter, what we have is a flow of argument which, because Paul is an emotional man, sometimes gets so tangled in its expression that a sentence breaks off and you have to start all over again.” [2] His construction can be wordy, or labored, or even in sentence fragments. And, this is the apostle Paul in all his imperfect humanity. Like all of us, Paul was not perfect, and certainly admits as much a number of times in his letters.

I have very much enjoyed renewing my admiring acquaintance with Paul, both through the book of reflections Meeting God in Paul as well as through the readings Prof. Williams has chosen for daily readings. Dear Lord, I pray this can lead me to journey closer with You not only in Lent, but also throughout the rest of the church year. In Christ’s crucified, risen and triumphant name I pray, 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] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 19.

[2] Ibid. 20.

Welcome for the Outsider

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, March 5, 2018

welcome, Scrabble

Welcome for the Outsider

What a statement. What a concept. For all that the apostle Paul is talked about as being misogynistic, and prejudiced, and this, and that, I come up against a passage like Romans 15:4-6, capped by 15:7.

I started out thinking about what Paul said in verse 4: “Everything written in the Scriptures was written to teach us.” I was struck by that, and thought about it for a while. Sure, there are lots of verses and passages in the New Testament that are instructive, encouraging, even uplifting to the heart. But, genealogies in the Hebrew Scriptures? Or, population lists of the various tribes? Or, passages in the Mosaic Law Code? How were those written to teach us?

Which led me to think of the many different cultures and nationalities surrounding the church where I work, in Morton Grove (a suburb of Chicago). This suburb is diverse in just about every way. I am certain that the different cultures and ethnic understandings cover a wide spectrum of ways of thinking. Which led me to consider the understanding of the Jewish mindset, in the centuries before the birth of Christ. I know they did consider genealogies and population lists to be important. Who am I to say that they are not important?

(And, what about things our culture says are important? I can’t legislate what others think, regardless of whether it is my culture or ethnicity, or someone else’s. Or, in some other century.)

All of which brings me to what Prof. Williams says in his reflection. “The hard thing, and the thing that Paul cared deeply about and strove to instill in his churches, is to do both at once: to be united as one body but also profoundly welcoming to the outsider.” [1]

What a profound idea. As Paul said, “Accept one another, then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted you.” Dear Lord, I am convicted anew. Please, dear God, help me to accept people, accept individuals, coming from all over. Just as Paul had to deal with a polyglot society, so do I here is my setting. Help me—help us to reach out and provide “a place where there is a welcome for all and where there is unity. Amen.” [2]

@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), 89.

[2] Ibid.

Consider Everything Loss

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 26, 2018

Phil 3-7 consider things loss, circle

Consider Everything Loss

I am afraid I haven’t been the best at following the Lenten scripture readings for this past week. Yes, I managed to do a couple, but I did not read every day. God knows, I have struggled with Lenten disciplines and spiritual disciplines in general, for years. That is no excuse, I know. But, I don’t want to cover up the problem and just ignore it, either. Dear Lord, what do I do?

What is available to me is to dig in to the readings for today. (Actually, the bible reading for two days ago, Saturday, and the reflections for Sunday.) Some years ago, I used to really dig in to the letter to the Philippians as well as the life of the apostle Paul. Being interested in the subject material is no problem, in other words.

Paul had lots of reasons to boast, and to be such a puffed-up so-and-so. Hebrew of the Hebrews, he knew his Jewish lineage and high position. His pedigree was without a single black or negative mark. As a Pharisee, Saul knew he had beaten everyone (or almost everyone), and demonstrated his religious “super-power,” spiritually speaking.

And yet…from Philippians chapter 3, Paul says “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” After delineating his impressive religious pedigree, he makes a statement like what I just quoted. Wow! I keep shaking my head at words like these. But, wait! There’s more.

Paul uses a crude word in the next verse. He says, in brief: “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” The New International Version translates the word “garbage.” Other translations have “rubbish,” “dung” and “refuse.” The original Greek word is skubala. I don’t know how much Paul was given to humor in his personal interactions, but I can definitely read this as wry humor—while being perfectly serious in his communicating of this deep concept. It is as if all of the worldly and earthly attainments or privileges that Paul—and the rest of us—have painstakingly put together or scratched and clawed for are measured and found wanting before the amazing, glory-producing magnificence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rowan Williams follows this up with a thought-provoking question. “Paul recognized that he followed a King who surrendered his privileges, became a slave and died a shameful death. What privileges do we enjoy? Can we, like Paul, ‘count them as loss?’” [1]

Dear Lord, what a series of statements by Paul. Help me not to get puffed up or too proud of myself or my accomplishments. Keep me right-sized. Help me keep my eyes on the prize of the upward calling. Let me focus on Christ only, remembering His glory on the mountain of Transfiguration. Gracious God, with Your help, I can do all things through Jesus Christ my 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] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 88.

Inside, Outside, from All Sides

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 19, 2018

St. Paul on Damascus road, medieval

Inside, Outside, from All Sides

As my Lenten devotional, I am reading a book of short reflections called Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams. I have such respect for Rowan Williams’ leadership in not only his Anglican Church, but also the wider ecumenical church worldwide.

For years—for decades—I have been fascinated by the Apostle Paul, reading books and articles on his writings and theology. Since becoming a local church pastor almost four years ago, I haven’t had the time to really dig into the life and ministry of Paul. I miss that part of my thought-life, and wish I could revisit more of Paul’s writings, in depth. Since I can’t take the time right now to dive deep into Paul’s thoughts and theology, I felt the least I could do was to read this excellent little devotional on the life of Paul, written by the wonderful theological scholar Rowan Williams.

The reflection for the first Sunday of Lent highlights Saul of Tarsus. He was “staunchly committed to maintaining the boundary between those who were ‘inside’ and those who were ‘outside.’” [1] Of course, this was before his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. It was afterwards, with God’s influence and help, that he became a champion of the Gentile converts to Christianity.

However, I was intrigued and moved by Professor Williams’ expression: maintaining the boundary between those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside.’ How much of the Church Universal today is (rightly or wrongly) committed to maintaining similar boundaries? How much are local churches similarly keeping those boundaries—or walls—or other kinds of barriers firmly in place? I think Williams would agree with my serious questioning of this practice.

I am hesitant to name-call or cast aspersions on other Christians or others of different faith traditions. All the same, two adjectives came to mind when considering those who are ‘inside’ and those who are ‘outside.’ First, shortsighted. Second, divisive. Yes, shortsighted in the sense of missing a goodly portion of what Jesus preached in the Gospels. Yes, downright divisive, because of the innate fear, anxiety and stubbornness inherent in us frail, faulty human beings. Oh, how much humanity has to answer for…over the centuries, over the millenia. (And, I fully admit I am right there, amidst the rest of humanity.)

Dear Lord, are we ever to grow beyond this casting of stones and calling of names? This shunning behavior and distasteful attitude? Lord, have mercy. Help me—help us—to repent of our sins (both inside and outside). Lead us to amend our ways and walk in Your path of truth, righteousness, love, caring and sharing. 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] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 87.

Open Our Eyes, God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, January 21, 2018

Psa 119-18 Open-My-Eyes-brown

Open Our Eyes, God

I know I am a fallible human being. I readily admit that. I also readily acknowledge that I’m just a very young one, compared to God. I am so young. I feel really blind, sometimes, too.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a fascinating insight. He said God sometimes makes us blind in order to see God’s Word. Then, God “opens my blind eyes, and I see what otherwise I could never have recognized, that God’s law is full of wonders.” [1]

Open my eyes, that I may see,

The wonders of Your Law.

Just a small portion of the Hebrew Scriptures were the wonderful Law that was spoken of in Psalm 119. But, I have access to a lot more than just that portion. When God causes me to greatly desire His Word, I have access to many more wonders and riches now. All of the Hebrew Scriptures plus the New Testament?

“It is, in fact, the one who has glanced at the wonders of God’s law who knows how blind he still is and how much he needs his eyes to be opened in order not to sink back into total darkness.” [2]

Oh, yes. I am still very young, very blind, and very much in need of God’s Law and God’s Light in my life. Dear Lord, please help me to fully acknowledge my shortcomings. I do not wish to perish in my blindness.

Gracious God, open my eyes.

@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, 125.

[2] Ibid, 126.