Tag Archives: suffering

Remembering. Praying. Again.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 12, 2017

prayer stained glass, Balliol College, Oxford

Remembering. Praying. Again.

So much to pray about. So much to break our hearts—not only in the past, on September 11, 2001, but recently, with the natural disasters and devastation of the past few weeks.

At the church where I am pastor (St. Luke’s Christian Community Church in Morton Grove, a suburb of Chicago), I hosted a regularly-scheduled monthly Interfaith Gathering last night, the second Monday of the month. We held an informal time of remembrance of 9/11. And, towards the end of the hour, we also lifted thoughts, hopes and prayers for those who are in the midst of natural disasters right now.

Last night, I read several paragraphs from a contemporary article found in the edition of TIME Magazine, published on September 14, 2001. Just three days after these horrific events. Here are a few sentences: “Terror works like a musical composition, so many instruments, all in tune, playing perfectly together to create their desired effect. Sorrow and horror, and fear. The first plane is just to get our attention. Then, once we are transfixed, the second plane comes and repeats the theme until the blinding coda of smoke and debris crumbles on top of the rescue workers who have gone in to try to save anyone who survived the opening movements. And we watch, speechless, as the sirens, like some awful choir, hour after hour let you know that it is not over yet, wait, there’s more.” [1]

I encouraged people to remember, back to that Tuesday in September 16 years ago, and the aftermath. I invited them to turn to their neighbors, and talk about something that is strongly imprinted on their minds from that time. The heroism of the first responders, the loss of someone dear to you, the trauma of the idea of attack, the unity of many people throughout this country. Whatever was significant, I invited people to share. And, share they did. Such a buzz of conversation, as significant experiences and feelings were shared among this diverse group of people from different faith traditions and different backgrounds.

This is why I continue to host the Interfaith Gatherings. This sharing of our human-ness, our commonality, and what binds us—different individuals from different families and different places on the globe—together. We are all human. We all breathe the same way. Our hearts beat the same way. Our digestive and circulatory systems are the same.

Yet, we all live in this world where such natural calamities happen. Not only that, many of us live in communities where many people are cruel and heartless and thoughtless in their treatment of others. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said when considering Psalm 34:19 and 1 Peter 3:9, “You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world that causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out, despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope, we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come upon you; may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world, for you belong to your creator and redeemer.” [2]

In the face of such a time as this, Pastor Bonhoeffer brings words of blessing and hope. What a blessing to anyone who strives to follow God, even through such challenge, difficulty, and sorrow. Even pain and suffering. Thanks to Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his bittersweet words of blessing and encouragement, even while imprisoned by Nazi Germany.

@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] http://time.com/3313113/if-you-want-to-humble-an-empire/?xid=time_socialflow_twitter&utm_campaign=time&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social  “If You Want To Humble an Empire,” article by Nancy Gibbs, TIME Magazine, September 14, 2001.

[2] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 89.

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Psa 34-19 brokenhearted, words

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a tumultuous life during the 1930’s and 1940’s, ending with his imprisonment and death by the hand of the Nazis. He had escaped the tumult of Germany for what ended up being only a short respite. Bonhoeffer had been invited to come to the United States to lecture.

As was a habit for him, Bonhoeffer regularly prayed and meditated on a published selection of bible passages, the Herrnhuter Losungen. After reading and praying on a Losung text (2 Tim. 4:21), he felt strongly convicted by the instruction “Do your best to come before winter.” He decided to return to Germany in the summer of 1939.

This sermon on the suffering of the righteous (taken from Psalm 34) Bonhoeffer wrote in 1944, after he had been imprisoned for some time. His writings in prison had much to do with God being present with him—and with others—through adversity. He said, “Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying: You belong to God in spite of it all. It is in this way that we respond to the world that causes us such suffering.” [1]

This is not the way that most people respond to suffering. Bonhoeffer had an intimate relationship with God. I take a step back from his difficult life and look at the upsetting and unfair circumstances. Yet, his deep faith in God brought him through and it showed. I am in awe of relationships like that. Such a deep, thorough understanding of the character of God astounds me. I quake and fear that I might be expected to go through fiery trials similar to what Pastor Dietrich experienced. I know, from even a rudimentary knowledge of church history, that many saints of God were similarly tested and tried.

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to remain firm in my commitment and relationship to You. Help me love You with my heart, soul, mind and strength. Lead me—lead us to do what is right in Your sight.  In Your mercy, Lord, 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, 89.

Praying, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 1, 2017

Psa 34-19 afflictions, script

Praying, Suffering, with Psalm 34

When I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in prison, the companion thoughts of suffering and deprivation also come to mind.

I could shake my fists, cry out to heaven and ask God, “Why?” Except, I do not think I would receive any sort of an answer. I know, many righteous people have been unjustly imprisoned throughout the centuries.

Looking at Psalm 34:19, “The righteous person must suffer many things; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Bonhoeffer also meditated and prayed at length over this verse. (I secretly wonder how much comfort he found in it?) “The righteous person suffers because of many things that for others seem only natural and unavoidable. The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness, because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world.” [1]

Senselessness and absurdity. That is certainly true, and has been true for thousands of years.

And yet—and yet—“the Lord delivers him.”

God is always present, all over the world. The righteous person is always with God, no matter where, no matter what. Bonhoeffer had the unshakeable belief that “God allows him to suffer so, in order that he may learn to love God for God’s own sake. In suffering, the righteous person finds God. That is his deliverance.” [2]

I am afraid I am a far weaker person than Pastor Dietrich. I do not know whether I would have been able to suffer such deprivations as he did. I read his writings and am in awe of such faith and devotion. I pray that I may be able to display just a small part of Bonhoeffer’s resilience and faithfulness.

Lord, in Your mercy, help me in my journey through life with You, whether difficult or not. In times of suffering and pain, or times of calm and serenity, You are with me.

@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, 88.

[2] Ibid.

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, December 27, 2015

o come to us Emmanuel

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

What kind of situation do I come from?

When I consider the Christmas reflection Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, I cannot complain. By no means can I complain. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazis. I read a portion of a letter he sent to his parents before Christmas 1943. He considered the occasion of the Christmas celebration within the prison as opposed to other places.

Can I possibly understand what Bonhoeffer really meant? I mean, really and truly? I must be honest. I have only a small idea what it’s like to be in misery and suffering. Just a little bit. I am struck by this sentence: “For many people in this building it will probably be a more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name [of Christmas] is kept.” [1]

That sentence did, indeed, pull me up short. How do I consider Christmas? Do I keep the holiday in a sincere and genuine way? Or, am I shallow, uncaring and inconsiderate? (Not considering my Christmas observance in a judgy, condescending manner, but instead in a thoughtful, contemplative one.)

Bonhoeffer’s contention is that a prisoner in a cell may well have a better understanding and more sincere appreciation for Christmas. So much better and more sincere than that of some people here on Chicago’s North Shore.

Dear Lord, help me to make room for You here. Help me to be open to Your work, Your will and Your ways.

Thanks.

@chaplaineliza

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.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. O.C. Dean, Jr., compiled and edited, Jana Riess (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2010), 70.

Healed of Our Sufferings?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 22, 2015

suffering word cloud

Healed of Our Sufferings?

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it in full.” – Marcel Proust

When I look for healing and restoration of my sufferings, of my challenges, one of the last places I tend to look for others who will understand. Others who are acquainted with, and know my sufferings and challenges, first hand.

Sometimes, people are healed of the terrible experiences they have had by telling their stories. Oftentimes, people need the nurture and assistance of others who have had similar experiences.

Instead of internalizing my sufferings and challenges—in a negative manner—I can share them in a safe place. And, I can offer to listen to others sharing, in a similar safe place.

This is what telling my story is all about. This is me, remembering. This is me, being supportive, kind, and compassionate.

You or I may have had terrible relationships with other people, in the past. We may be trying to rebuild our relationship skills, even though we may still be thinking of loneliness and fearfulness. It is a fearful thing to be stuck in the past or in the future, stuck anywhere except the here and now.

I am encouraged by my friends and fellows to listen. Be supportive. Nurture, in safe places. I am encouraged by my Higher Power to concentrate on One Day at a Time. Today. Now.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear my earnest prayers.

@chaplaineliza

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.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Teach Me Patience, Lord

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, October 23, 2015

PATIENCE God isn't finished Phil 1-5

Teach Me Patience, Lord

People have recognized their need for patience for a very long time. For centuries. Suffering is a common thread in prayer, too. When I see patience (in prayer) coupled with suffering (in prayer), I know that I am looking at someone well accustomed to prayer.

The prayer I chose for today from The Oxford Book of Prayer concerns “Deliver Us from Evil.” (Prayer 437, page 130) [1] The prayer is in a section entitled Suffering. Written by the English churchman Thomas Fuller (1608-61), this brief, pithy prayer appears below.

“Lord, teach me the art of patience whilst I am well, and give me the use of it when I am sick. In that day either lighten my burden or strengthen my back. Make me, who so often in my health have discovered my weakness presuming on my own strength, to be strong in my sickness when I solely rely on Thy assistance.”

I can’t help but think of the quote “O Lord, give me patience. And, give it to me right now!” This first line of this humorous prayer (above, here) is a joke, yes. But it is also disturbingly true. Lord, O, how I need those reminders.

God, to give You the option and decision to pray for either a stopping of Burdens or to strengthen me for the road again? (What insight. What a way with words.) Which is followed by an honest and forthright description of himself : my goodness, he is presumptuous. Just like me. And at the end of the prayer? Fuller speaks plainly: “I solely rely on Thy assistance.”

Ah, yes. Whatever the situation, Fuller has the words. (He was a wordsmith by repute, and a marvelous preacher, too.) Lord, give me the presence of mind as well as quickness of speech. In Jesus’ 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 sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 130.

Suffering? Growthful, Forming and Transforming.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, July 25, 2015

Romans 5-3,4 word cloud

Suffering? Growthful, Forming and Transforming.

Long day on the road, coming back from the New Wilmington Mission Conference. As I turned to the chapter for the day today, I reflected on the past week. The topic for today is Suffering. Suffering for the sake of Christ, as well as the mystery of suffering.

At the mission conference, we prayed for the persecuted church. We prayed for different areas on different days. My thoughts went to them, as well as my heart, no matter where. Nigeria, Egypt, Central Asia, Vietnam. These were just a few of the places we prayed for. We prayed for the churches, the individual believers, the governments ruling over the countries, and so much more. God, please be with them all.

This modern psalm moved me so profoundly. However, I was struck by one verse in particular. The verse is taken from John 9 and 1 Peter 3. “Let me never believe that my suffering is Your punishment for sin,/since doing what is right can lead to suffering too.” [1]

Doing what is right? Yes, that can lead to pain and suffering. What about Romans 5:3b-4? Paul says, as plain as day, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

It breaks my heart—again—to hear people saying, straight out, “God is punishing me for my sins.” Sure, if someone breaks the law, they deserve the punishment meted out by the law. But there is grace. Mercy. Abundant love. Whatever is going on in people’s lives, whether it’s on the inside or the outside, whether it’s pain-filled death or painful health situation; even when pain comes about through machinations and manipulations. God loves me. God loves you.

God loves the whole world. What part of “whole world” do you not understand? God, help me to come alongside of persons who are suffering. Dear God, help me to listen. Thank You, Amen.

[1] Praying the New Testament as Psalms, Desmond O’Donnell, OMI, and Maureen Mohen, RSM, (United States of America: ACTA Publications, 2002.), 185.

@chaplaineliza

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.  @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .