Tag Archives: grief

More Devastation. More Prayers.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 8, 2017

Psalm 23-4 though I walk through valley shadow death

More Devastation. More Prayers.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly faced a great deal of devastation in his life, as well as the lives of those he was close to, and the lives of those in the congregations he served.

I suspect he knew well the words of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Although that verse was written so long ago by King David, remembering the times when he was so very afraid (yes—afraid for his very life), that verse echoes and re-echoes down the crooked pathways of time. Sometimes through dark and fearsome valleys, sometimes through pelting storms and fiery trials. Yet, King David’s words ring true, for many, many people throughout the ages.

I know those words from Psalm 23, personally as well as professionally. I have pulled them out of my Bible in emergency rooms, in the intensive care unit, in living rooms, even sitting on street corners or in waiting rooms. People have spoken these precious words from Psalm 23 along with me. Other times, people have been too choked up to even utter a word, and silently allowed these words of comfort to wash over them.

Dear Lord, whether in grief, or pain, or anger, or trauma, we hurt. We cry out. We question. We wonder, “WHY?” (And, there is rarely an answer. An answer that satisfies, that is … )

Gracious God, You have said You would be right by our sides, even though we go through those extremely difficult experiences. Even though our parents—or siblings—or spouses—or children die. Even though we lose our homes, or limbs, or jobs, or even countries. Even though we may become refugees or homeless or incarcerated or even suicidal. Dear Lord, You have promised to remain with us. Right by our sides. Perhaps even holding our hands, through the trial or torment.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “the answer of God to the world that nailed Christ to the cross [was] blessing…. The world would have no hope if this were not so.” [1]

Only a love that extraordinary could possibly encompass my fear and suffering and hopelessness. And, encompass the griefs, pains, angers, traumas, and all of the countless sufferings of all of the rest of the world. God provides hope where there is no hope. God comes alongside when it seems as if there is nothing left. Thank God. Thank God for being there through Hurricane Harvey, and with Hurricanes Irma, José and Katia coming quickly. Dear God, help us. Please.



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, 89.

In Which I Serve at a Blue Christmas Service

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


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.


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

Sad Prayers of Remembrance

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, November 10, 2016


Sad Prayers of Remembrance

The past two weeks have certainly been a roller-coaster of emotion. The Cubs. (Need I say any more, as a life-long Cubs fan?) The United States election. (Whatever your position, or your candidate, this long election cycle has been particularly nasty.) And now, November 11, Veterans Day, right after the anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9 and 10.

I don’t want to belittle either—or any of these feelings of sheer joy and excitement, or these raw, searing emotions of grief, bewilderment and stunned silence.

Remember. We remember.

However—just in case anyone is wondering why we observe Veterans Day on November 11, we need to go back to Armistice Day, the cessation of hostilities ending World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”

Called originally Armistice Day, it is also known as Remembrance Day, when those in the Commonwealth countries (formerly or still associated with Great Britain) remember those military personnel who died in the line of duty. And, just as here in the United States, red poppies are symbols of remembrance. (From Lt. Col.John McCrae’s poem “On Flanders Field.”)

We remember. Many remember or commemorate the horrific happenings of Kristallnacht, where there was such wanton violence against Jews throughout Germany and Austria. Kristallnacht, or “Night of the Broken Glass” was when the isolated intimidation and persecution of Jews in the Nazi-occupied areas became pointed, systematic and crushing. A sea change moment.

Veteran’s Day here in the United States is a day to commemorate all veterans. We pray for all those who have died, in uniform. All over the world. They all had mothers. They all were babies, and young children, and had hopes and dreams and fears. No matter where they came from, or where these people served their military forces. God bless them all. God bless their memory. And, may God’s blessing and care rest on all those who remember, today, too.


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, Grief and Peace for Loved Ones

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


Prayer, Grief and Peace for Loved Ones

This is a blog on prayer, and matters of prayer.

I seldom do this, but I would appreciate prayer for an older relative’s family, in another state. A recent death of the senior. I haven’t seen any of the family for years, yet I feel the loss.

Reflecting on John 14:27, it says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Jesus gives me peace. He offers me peace in troubled times, in grieving times. Plus, I can offer that peace to others. Yes, I can grieve. My friends and family can grieve. However, the Holy Spirit has promised to come alongside and comfort. Not as the world tries to distract, but real and genuine comfort and encouragement.

Gracious God, thank You for the peace and serenity that Jesus promised in this verse. Help me to bring some of that peace and comfort to my family. I pray that You hold all who loved my relative in Your everlasting arms of care and concern. Please encourage them even in the midst of their grief and sadness. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.


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

Why not visit my sister 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

Soul Creation—Nourish the Soul

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 24, 2015

SOUL beautiful soul

Soul Creation—Nourish the Soul

Another take on nourishing the Soul. Except, this way is expanding the Soul. This way is experiencing life, in every way. Matthew Fox suggests that “we must work on our souls, enlarging and expanding them. We do so by experiencing all of life—the beauty and the joy as well as the grief and pain.” [1]

This compilation, this book called Handbook for the Soul, offers a number of different aspects and attitudes towards expanding the inner workings of a person. And, with such a smorgasbord laid out for me, I can hardly choose. Perhaps, first one way on one day. Then, perhaps another way the next. And then, a third, and a fourth.

I could go on and on with these various approaches to nourishing and expanding the Soul. But I want to talk more about Fox’s way. He discusses soul work. How to do soul work? By experiencing life fully, deeply, in every way. In every facet.

Fox especially mentions silence and emptiness. Pain and suffering. Yes, sometimes there are great strides forward made at such times, in terms of soul work. In terms of strong emotion running rough shod all over a person, too.

The first thing I think of, when I read Fox’s suggestions, is why he said what he did.

When someone is presently going through some heavy emotion or deep, even raw feelings, sometimes it is wise to have someone to come alongside. Even though I may think I’m dealing with something manageable, things can always come up. Feelings, emotions, reactions, grief, sorrow, anger, grumbling, frustration. Joy, gratitude, relief. All kinds of feelings.

God willing, God will lead me to helpful prayers, nurturing exercises, and freeing meditation.


[1] Handbook for the Soul, Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, editors. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1995.), 151.


Coming to God with My Wounds—in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 24, 2015

stormy ocean

Coming to God with My Wounds—in Prayer

I am faithfully, even obediently reading the next chapter in my trusty prayer guide. I find “Wounds” is the topic of today’s chapter. Yes, I can immediately relate to the expressions I find Rev. Howell uses, the examples he gives from Henri Nouwen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sure, I find I can easily identify, and not just compare.

But, Lord Jesus, I find myself skidding to a mental stop when I come across an excerpt from Isaiah 53. These words bring tears to my eyes, yes! But, I cannot relate to them very well at all. Not in the sense that You actually experienced them. Your incredible suffering, pain and anguish during the time of Your passion and death are too distant for me to consider. (Very often, that is.)

But Psalms? Ah, yes. Psalms are much more accessible. More identifiable. I see the raw emotion, desperate grief and longing, and ecstatic praises written in the Psalms. Those difficulties and agonies in my life? As Bonhoeffer mentioned, I can surely cast my cares upon God, because God alone knows how to handle suffering.[1] Praying the Psalms can help me in my effort to try to give God my agony, grief and suffering, as well as my joys, praise and delight.

Dear Lord Jesus, perhaps I can see Your suffering as making You real. Real to me, anyway. You suffered in order to feel with us. Not to remain remote, light years away from us humans. I know, that’s part of the reason for the Incarnation, for You being born and a growing up a child in a human family.

I read in Isaiah that You have borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Please, dear Lord, impress this on my consciousness, especially as we are going to commemorate this once more on Ash Wednesday, in just a few weeks. (Much less the penitential season of Lent, culminating in the Passion Week and Good Friday.)

Please, God, help me come before You faithfully, even though I don’t understand—much. Help all of us. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

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

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1970), 48.

Prayer for Those Who are Sick

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, July 17, 2014

PRAY more things are wrought by prayer

Prayer for Those Who are Sick

People ask me to pray for them sometimes. Either when they are sick, or when their loved ones are sick. It depends on how sick, and for how long, and what their emotional state is. Sudden onset? Chronic illness? Serious accident? Baby or small child? End of life concern? It depends.

But what does not change is the seriousness of this prayer request.

I am not going to discuss deep theological thoughts in this particular post. But what I am going to do is remark upon—ponder—the large number of people I have heard of with cancer, in the past nine or ten months. Quite a number. I haven’t been asked to pray for all of these, but I have prayed for most of them. And although most were middle-aged or older, a few were young.

I believe in prayer. I really do. I have faith that God does indeed listen to every prayer that is prayed. When patients (or their loved ones) with cancer cry out to God from a deep, dark abyss of fear and unknowing, that is an emotional cry, indeed. I know. My father died of testicular cancer, a number of years ago.

God can and does come alongside of people. Again, I know, experientially.

A number of people I know are sick. I can try to alleviate their loneliness, spend some time with them, and pray with and for them. I can journey with them—and their loved ones—for a little way down this anxious, fearful, even angry or despairing, road. And, it’s a road I’ve traveled myself, with close relatives and other loved ones. I do not know how prayer works. I simply know it does work. I do not know how God heals, but I understand there are many healings available—not only physical, but spiritual, mental, emotional, and psychological. God is in the midst of all. All of these facets of us complex human beings.

Even when I feel downhearted and depressed, or despairing and dreading the next medical communication—I recognize the fellowship of compassionate friends and other loved ones, joining in prayer with me. I hope I can help others to understand this love and concern in prayer. And, it’s also encouragement. Encouragement even amidst tears and sorrow. Grief. Anxiety. Pain. And yet, hope. Faith. Love. God’s presence.

Let’s pray. Dear, loving, gracious God, we come before You. We do not know how to pray as we ought. Help us to come before you in trust and in truth. Touch all of our desires as well as our diseases, both inside and out. Heal each one where You know we need to be healed. Thank You for Your presence. In Your grace and mercy we pray, amen.


(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

Comfort and Prayer

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, December 28, 2013

Comfort and Prayer

I went to a funeral today. An elderly person close to me died recently. Today was a celebration of long, fruitful life as well as a grieving for someone who has passed beyond our immediate connection. Into God’s gracious hands.

As a chaplain and caregiver, I frequently am put in the position of communication with elderly individuals. I enjoy coming alongside of them, traveling with them for a little while. My heart goes out to these dear people. Each one has a story. Whether big events or little circumstances, whether traveling to far places for years or staying in one place for an entire lifetime—I always can listen to and learn from their personal stories.

This particular, much-loved senior had a full life. I heard many personal anecdotes today. Many remembrances, and a great deal of love and caring was shared from a long and blessed life.

I realize that some are less blessed in their lives, but each one has a continuing story. As I listen to each story, I can rejoice with the teller, or share their concern or pain. I can offer to pray, and bring their story before God—with or without words. That’s my privilege, to journey with individuals, couples, or families. Whether at a care center, a private home, or on the street, it doesn’t matter. God is still here. And I can come alongside people with the ministry of presence.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for the opportunity to come together, in community. Thank You for the blessed, yet difficult, experience of grieving and mourning. I know You are with each of us, every day—whether we realize it or not. Forgive me, God, for forgetting You so often. Lead me—lead us—to a blessed understanding of Your presence by our sides, each day. Thanks for Your care, Your comfort, and Your encouragement. God, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

water and sunset