Tag Archives: hope

Prayer, Because Yes

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, December 8, 2018

hillside with fog - credit Rich Lewis Experiencing God wp

Prayer, Because Yes

Ever have an awful couple of weeks? I have. A loved one is seriously ill, and I need to travel out of state to the hospital. Yes, it is Advent. Yes, I am in one of the busiest times of the church year and of the calendar year. And yes, I am taking time out to go and see this dear loved one.

Sometimes, I need to give myself permission.

I am a member of a dear church some miles away from my house and from where I serve another church. This dear church has had an online Advent calendar each year. The Rev. Barb Bolsen submitted this marvelous poem to the church online Advent devotional. I appreciate so much these messages of encouragement and hope that come quietly into my email box early each morning. This was the one for today.

God Says Yes To Me – Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish and she said honey
She calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want
Thank God I said
And it is even okay if I don’t paragraph
My letters
Sweetcakes God said
Who knows where she picked that up
What I’m telling you is
Yes Yes

The magazine this poem was printed in, This Land (thislandpress.com), says Ms. Haught lives in Oklahoma. She lives in a small town, in a house older than the state itself.

I love the way Ms. Haught had such confidence in a loving, nurturing God. I appreciate that God talked back to this dear woman in the poem as she prayed, addressing her sass and questioning and inconsistency. (I know I have sass, questions, and inconsistency. Lots of all of them.) And sometimes, I just need to give myself the permission. Permission to pray, to go and visit a loved one, permission to say “yes.”

Dear loving God, thank You for Your nurture and love. Thank You for the promise You give in Jesus. Thank You for giving me—us—permission to be and to do and to love. Amen.

(The poem and this devotional originally appeared in the Equality Illinois “Seasons of Inclusion”)

@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

Prayer, with Open Hands

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, December 1, 2018

my heart saying a prayer

Prayer, with Open Hands

If ever I have wanted to learn to pray, Father Nouwen is an excellent teacher. His insights, his words, his example—all can lead me towards a warm, vibrant prayer life.

Take, for example, his latest definition of prayer. “Above all, prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God’s promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world.” [1]

This reminds me so much of Fred Rogers. He, too, was a deeply spiritual man. Also an ordained minister, he was always striving to find ways to be more loving and open to his neighbors—which were everyone he met.

This makes me think. And I mean, really think. Do I open my hands to God’s promises? Do I find hope in God for myself, much less my neighbor or my world? Perhaps, if my neighbor closely resembles me. But, what if my neighbor does not look like me? What if they look different? Or speak a different language? Or wear different clothing? What if they were born halfway across the world? What then?

I truly do not think that mattered to Father Nouwen, and I don’t think that mattered to Fred Rogers, either.

“Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive.” [2]

I want to learn to pray more deeply, and more freely. I’m reminded of the old joke from New York City—“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice.” I know I have been in the schools of prayer for many years, but I still feel like a rank amateur. My prayer life ebbs and flows, and I feel more and less discouraged, accordingly. (So, I suppose I must feel encouraged sometimes. Apparently not right now, though.)

As I come to the end of this small book, I pray that I may take these lessons to heart.

Dear Lord, thank You for sincere, genuine people of faith like Father Nouwen and Mister Rogers. May I take them as examples for me—for my thoughts, speech and actions. May I find joy in You and in Your presence. And, may I lead others into Your joy, to experience your love, mercy and rest. 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, 2005), 121.

[2] Ibid, 122.

Prayer, Hoping for a New World…

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, November 12, 2018

Rev 21-5 all things new

Prayer, Hoping for a New World…

Resentment. Oh, how pervasive it is!

Resentment, frustration, cynicism. And finally, resignation. What’s the use? What good will mere praying do? The structures of this fallen, imperfect world certainly seem to be set in stone. I’ll never be able to budge those structures, or practices, or attitudes, or groups. “Oh, well,” I say to myself, with a melancholy, half-cynical grin.

“And yet, you are Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society in which you live, and only so long as you emphasize the need for conversion both for yourself and for the world.” [1] How much faith does Father Nouwen have! How much resilience and wherewithal did he harbor, deep within.

Sometimes, I do not see how I can continue to have this sort of hope, the hope in a new world that Father Nouwen so clearly had.

I saw several questions taken from Henri Nouwen’s writing, quoted today on social media. These questions arrested me, and started me thinking. (Are these the types of questions Nouwen mentions here in his book With Open Hands?) The questions run as follows:

“Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love? These are the real questions.”

Instead of feeling beaten down and defeated by the societal structures, common practices, and overarching attitudes of this world, I can concentrate on these personal questions. I might be able to use them in personal interaction. One on one, person to person. That is the only way I can try to affect change, anyway. One kind act at a time, one gentle word at a time. So help me, God.

Dear Lord, forgive me for my resentment, frustration and cynicism. I think. I hope. 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, 2005), 103.

Hope, Turn Toward God in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 24, 2018

hope - cursive

Hope, Turn Toward God in Prayer

I had the unusual experience of questioning what Father Nouwen said in his book just now. “Only if you pray with hope can you break through the barriers of death.” [1] I did not quite understand what he was saying here. I know I might be believing pie-in-the-sky sort of theology, but I suspect that what Father Nouwen seems to say here goes against what I have always believed. In other words, that if I do NOT have hope, then I am out of luck, in terms of prayer.

That statement, on the surface, goes against everything I have learned of God and of prayer. However, that is only one sentence in this small section on hope and prayer.

Several sentences further down, Nouwen said “When you pray with hope, you turn yourself toward God, trusting fully that God is faithful and makes all promises real.” [2]

Now, THAT I can understand. Praying with hope. Turning toward God. Trusting in God.

When you or I take what we know of God and pray with what hope we have in our hearts (even if it is only a mustard-seed’s-worth of hope), then you—I—we turn towards God. Isn’t that enough? Or, do I need to quantify my hope and my prayers to God?

“As long as there is still hope/There will also be prayer…

And you will be held/in God’s hands.” [3]

This is what I understand. This is what I relate to, and what my heart opens toward. When I open my heart in prayer, when I have even a tiny scrap of hope inside of me, that is enough. God will still hold me in God’s hands of love and caring. For that, I truly thank the 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, 2005), 75.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 76.

Pray in Hope, Hope in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 21, 2018

hope - light, dark night

Pray in Hope, Hope in Prayer

I can see how some cynical people might scoff at Father Nouwen’s words here. Sure, “hoping” might be overrated. “Hoping” has little to do with the mundane day-to-day experience. “Hope” is for naïve people, or worse, for suckers.

Such a dreary, pessimistic way to approach life! I have met a couple of people who had this kind of attitude and way of thinking about life. I would not trade places with them for anything.

Father Nouwen tells about the trusting relationship of little children with their loving mother. “All day long they ask for things, but the love they have for their mother does not depend on her fulfilling all their wishes.” [1] In this simple, straight-forward description of the mother/child relationship, Fr. Nouwen hits the theological and relational nail on the head. Our relationship with God our heavenly Parent does NOT depend on whether God gives us everything we ask, or grants us each request (no matter how ridiculous or outrageous those requests may be).

It reminded me of a long-ago memory. One of my children (in preschool then, now in her 30’s) dearly wanted a pony. She had a plan, had thought about it a great deal, and came to me and her father with this plan. The pony could live in the storage space in the basement, and would not take up much room at all. She would go down and feed the pony, too.

At the time, we lived in a smaller vintage apartment building in Chicago. I realized what the landlady would say if my daughter brought this up to her, much less the animal control department of the City of Chicago. However, I could not tell all this to my preschooler. I needed to let her know that it was not possible, of course.

But—she really, really, REALLY wanted that pony. She hoped against hope that she would get a pony for Christmas.

How many times do I want a pony, too? How often do I come to God with a sincere, deep-seated request oh, so similar to my dear daughter’s Christmas wish? Yet, a little child still loves their mom or dad dearly, even though their parents know that the requested thing (or wish or experience) would be negative or not at all good for their dear child. In the same way, our loving, caring God sovereignly knows what would help each of us.

Yes, I can hope. Prayer is hope. Hoping is prayer. “All those concrete requests are ways of expressing [my] unlimited trust in God who fulfills all promises, who holds out for [me] nothing but good, and who wants to share goodness and love with [me and] you.” [2]

Thank You, dear God, for wanting to share goodness, love, and caring with me.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 74.

[2] Ibid.

@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: 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.

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.

@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, 89.