Tag Archives: fear

Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 9, 2018

HOPE scrabble

Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Depression, fear, worry, anxiety. When these things creep into my life, I feel like I am suddenly walking through chest-high water. It can be so difficult to get through a day, even an hour. I have friends and relatives who deal with depression and anxiety, too. Yes, it can be more than a challenge to keep one’s head above water.

When Father Nouwen quoted from Bertold Brecht, I felt the words deep inside. Because—sometimes I feel that way. Not as much as before, but still, sometimes. Here is the quote:

“As it is, it will stay/What we want will never come.” [1]

Life without prayer, life without hope—that is what those words reflected inside of me. Father Nouwen said, “If you believe this way, life stands still. Spiritually, you are dead. There can be life and there can be movement only when you no longer accept things as they are now, and you look ahead toward that which is not yet.” [2]

That is hope. That is what can be, if we believe in prayer. Although, prayer seems to be more about asking than about hoping.

When I have hope somewhere inside of me (no matter how deep it is), I have more ability to go forward. I have dragged myself along when I have been in deep depression, or filled with fear or anxiety. At times, it has been a difficult journey. (Like walking through chest-high water.. But, I repeat myself.)

Thank God I know that God always has ears wide open to my cries, and arms ready to receive me when I stumble and fall into them. Dear Lord, help me to have hope. Hope in prayer, and hope in You and Your faithfulness. Help me to believe, to hope, and to pray more easily.

Thanks, God.

@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), 39.

[2] Ibid.

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

Still More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 13, 2017

Psa 62 my soul waits

Still More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Early in his ministry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer held a position as a pastor-in-training, and served as assistant pastor at a German-speaking church in Barcelona. He preached a sermon on Psalm 62. (I have found this sermon especially thoughtful and thought-provoking.)

Being a mother (and formerly, a daughter and niece of elderly relatives who have since died), I know well the seemingly bottomless list of errands, appointments, going to and fro. On top of that, the worries and concerns of daily life, family life, and all of the other frustrations, snags, roadblocks and blank walls that just happen. Life happens. It sneaks up on us, and sometimes will drown God’s voice out.

Most penetrating, “we are much more afraid of God—that he may disturb us and discover who we really are, that he may take us with him into his solitude and deal with us according to his will.” [1] How do I deny this? Do I have a creeping, sneaking fear that God will overpower me, and that there will be nothing left of _me_, of who I am as a separate person?

I seem to have gone past that fear…usually. Yes, I have experienced God’s warm love—more than several times. But, it is not an always-kind-of-a-thing for me, not even a usual-kind-of-a-thing. God’s love still sneaks up on me. Yet, isn’t that the way it ought to be? Leaving me so expectant, so much looking forward to my times spent in meditation and prayer, that I can hardly wait for the time that God and I can spend together?

I am still trying to figure all of this out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a wonderful guide for my times of meditation and prayer. Dear Lord, help me to continue to pursue You. Continue to make me welcome in Your presence, just like a child coming home to rest. 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 50.

Meditation, Prayer and Wartime, Part Two

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 4, 2017

man praying, in pew 2

Meditation, Prayer and Wartime, Part Two

The year was still 1942. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote more to several seminarians he had been responsible for training several years before, in Finkenwalde. Hardship, tumult, injury and even death had visited many of those young men. Bonhoeffer’s words were warm and heartening, despite the hardship, deprivation and trauma of war.

True, he tells these former seminarians that “Our previous ordered life has been broken up and dissolved in these present days, and we are in danger of losing our inner sense of order, too.” [1]

I have never been under such duress, fear and trauma as these young men who had gone through battle, trauma, fear and live enemy fire. However, I know a little about trauma and fear, from other, difficult home front situations. Hard, painful (and pain-filled) times were often these young men’s regular accompaniment.

Yet—and, yet—Bonhoeffer speaks of meditation (and its companion, prayer) as a stabilizing force in these men’s lives. ”Meditation can give to our lives a measure of steadiness; it can preserve the link to our previous existence, from baptism to confirmation to ordination…it can be a spark from that hearth fire that the congregations want to keep tending for you at home.” [2]

People often crave some semblance of order, of sameness, of that link to the previous existence, especially when everything else is up for grabs. Especially in times of conflict, hardship and war, certain people run straight into the waiting arms of God. To the desire and relief of many, they find “Meditation is a source of peace, of patience, and of joy; it is like a magnet that draws together all the forces in our life that make for order….Have we not all a deep perhaps, unconfessed, longing for such a gift?” [3]

How long, O Lord, how long? How long until You come alongside of us and fill our hearts with peace, patience and joy? How long until You penetrate each soul and spirit with Your love for Yourself and for others (both friends and foes)? Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for Your promises, put forth in such a winsome way by Herr Pastor Dietrich. Thank You for Your nurture and care for all of Your creation. In Jesus’s 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 42-43.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Hadewijch, Serving God through Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, April 6, 2017

serve, joy of

Hadewijch, Serving God through Prayer

There were several Hadewijches during the medieval period in northern Europe. The editors of this “Spiritual Classics” collection believe that this particular Hadewijch was the leader of her community in Antwerp. Not an avowed person, not a religious, she nevertheless was a completely devout person who never took any sort of vows. However, she did abide by the life of poverty and contemplation, and was one of the group of women called “Beguines.” She and her community lived by a definitive Rule, followed the Hours, and essentially were nuns in all but name.

Hadewijch was so service-oriented, she had an incredibly high standard of what she expected of herself. Moreover, she was a spiritual director for the young women under her care She certainly considered all to live up to the same stringent standards.

I was not expecting Hadewijch’s description of God as Love, or Beloved. “Rejoice continually in the hope of winning love; for if you desire perfect love for God, you must not desire in return any repose whatever except Love.” [1]

I hadn’t been expecting it, but it seemed only natural that Hadewijch gave the young women under her care particular advice and direction on how they ought to walk in the Christian life. Except—she called it “Love.” “You are still young, and you must grow a good deal, and it is much better for you, if you wish to walk the way of Love, that you seek difficulty and that you suffer for the honor of Love, rather than wish to feel love.” [2]

Hadewijch does go on, and describe some of what she means exactly.  I would like to revisit her discussions at some future time (when I have more time), when I have the opportunity to delve deep. Since I have the spiritual gifts of mercy and helps in abundance, I am very interested to hear what Hagenwijch has to say about these things. (Just because she was writing her thoughts down a bunch of centuries ago, doesn’t make her any more or less serious of a planner and teacher.

I’ll let Hadewijch have the last word: “Serve nobly, wish for nothing else, and fear nothing else: and let Love freely take care of itself.” [3]  (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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 200.

[2] Ibid, 201.

[3] Ibid.

 

Breathe, Center, Pray.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, January 14, 2017

bench-snow-water

Breathe, Center, Pray.

Breathe. Just breathe. Big breath in, big breath out. Slowly.

This suggestion works for so many things. When you are afraid or fearful. Or, when you feel anxiety creeping up to get you. Perhaps, if you are angry and you need to cool down. Or, when you would like to calm yourself and focus.

As I said, this really does work. Slowing the breath seems to lengthen out time. Another suggestion? Keep track of your breaths. Slowly, slowly. Don’t cry or speed up or—especially—if you wish to find calmness, stillness, serenity, even.

If we pay attention to breathing, we can get down to the very foundation of life. The overarching principle remains the same.

Breathe. Calm yourself. Slow down and let yourself fill with all good things as you breathe in. Slow down further, breathe out, and let go of all anxiety, fear, anger. Let go, and breathe out everything negative.

Now you are in a much better place to connect with God. Reaching your Higher Power can happen at any time, true. However, breathing deeply, in and out, certainly helps us to center and concentrate.

Now, center. Now, pray. Now, serenity. Thanks, God.

@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

In Which I Serve at a Blue Christmas Service

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 14, 2016

blue-christmas-snowflake

In Which I Serve at a Blue Christmas Service

This evening was the Blue Christmas service at my sister church, Epiphany UCC in Chicago. Touching service. So effective, in many ways.

This quiet time in the church happened to occur on one of the coldest evenings that I’ve experienced for a long time. We had a small congregation. I do hope they received a blessing from the service.

It was a challenge to lead worship and to deliver several readings tonight, especially since my father-in-law died on Monday. Yes, I could relate to feelings of grief, fear and anxiety, anger—I could feel them, strongly.

There were two parts in the service that were particularly poignant: candle-lighting, and writing names on ornaments. Any members in the congregation who wished to, could come forward .

So, could we support grieving people? What about people who have lost a dear one? What about people who are overwhelmed by all the rushing of the holidays?  And, refugee families? They all need support and encouragement. i

Dear Lord, gracious God, bless all those who are hurting and grieving this evening. Give them comfort and support. Encourage all who mourn or are hungry or who are overwhelmed. Thank You for walking at our sides, for praying with us, and being Holy Comforter for those in need of comfort. 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