Tag Archives: thank God

Prayer, and Christmas Legend

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas poinsettia

Prayer, and Christmas Legend

I enjoy hearing about the various legends and stories about Christmas that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some start out in one area or region, and then after years go by, they spread around the world.

The online Advent devotional calendar I’ve been reading these past weeks comes from Epiphany United Church of Christ in Chicago. I appreciate this entry, from Ginny, an older member of the congregation. She also loves legends and stories. She relates the legend of the poinsettia.

“It once was the custom in Mexico for the villagers to leave a gift for the Baby Jesus in their church on Christmas Eve. In one small village, a little boy who had no gift to bring prayed to God for a way to show his love for the infant king. God, full of mercy, looked down on the boy and answered his earnest prayer by causing a flower to bloom where he knelt — a flower so brilliant and fair. The miraculous flower was formed like a star with leaves that were red and so bright, and the boy’s precious gift has come to be known as the “flower of the holy night.“ (flor de la noche buena)” [1]

This was one legend I missed. I had known all my life that poinsettias were considered Christmas flowers, but had never known the story behind it. Now, I do. Lovely story for a lovely flower.

However, I have always been rather uncomfortable about giving gifts to the Baby Jesus. It’s not that He doesn’t deserve rich, sumptuous gifts—certainly He does! Certainly, He deserves all of our gratitude, obedience and love. Except, Jesus rules over the entire universe. What could we possibly give Jesus that He doesn’t have already?

This poinsettia legend reminds me a bit of the poem written by Christina Rosetti, published in the January 1872 edition of Scribner’s Magazine. Some might know it better as the lyrics for the Christmas hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I memorized the last verse of this hymn almost fifty years ago, and it has been repeating itself in my head for the last week or two.

“What can I give Him, Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.”

I believe Miss Rosetti had it right: Jesus does not want rich gifts, or sumptuous gifts. Jesus wants me to give Him the best gift of all. “Give my heart.”

Dear Lord Jesus, as I await Your birthday celebration, almost here (!!), help me to give You my heart. Help me to give You my gratitude for salvation, obedience to Your commands and words, and love for Your indescribable gift. Thank You for Your love for me—for us. We bow before You in honor, worship and praise. And, say thank You. Thank You.

@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] (This devotional by “Ginny” Maddox appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 23rd edition of the online Advent calendar featured by Epiphany UCC Church, Chicago, Illinois.)

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 

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 Beyond Activism

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 25, 2018

cross - carved

Prayer Beyond Activism

Activism is quite important to Henri Nouwen. He spends a lot of time describing the critical prophets who cry out in the wilderness. He also details those who are threatened by these prophets. Oh, these prophets in the wilderness too often receive “a stifling oppression at the hands of those who consider themselves the protectors of order and the upholders of peace and calm.” [1] Denial, verbal attacks, imprisonment, even execution—how badly the visionaries are treated. Yet, they persist. These earnest critics must keep preaching.

That is so often and so sadly true. Yes. We can see this kind of mistreatment of visionaries happen again and again. But, as Fr. Nouwen perceptively asks, what does this have to do with prayer?

“Prayer means breaking through the veil of existence and allowing yourself to be led by the vision which has become real to you….The praying person looks on the world with compassion, penetrates its hidden meaning, and calls it to an always deeper conversion.” [2]

What power does regular prayer give to a spiritual person? I think Fr. Nouwen is stating the pwer of prayer is similar to the power of a prophet and visionary. If through prayer I receive increased clarity of a vision from God, then I will look on the world with increased compassion. It will then be possible for me to penetrate deeper and deeper (I am thinking like peeling an onion). Going deeper and deeper means penetrating further into the spiritual life.

Going deeper into the spiritual life is so appealing to me, on some hidden, secret level deep within. When I hear the words “be in the world without being part of it,” I have almost a prickly kind of feeling inside. I want to experience this kind of life, this kind of deep understanding of God and of other humans.

Alas, I can get only brief glimpses of this shining spiritual life. I feel like a mere spectator most of the time, looking in a storefront or shop window. I still haven’t figured out whether I am scared to try to go deep into the spiritual life, or whether I think this kind of spiritual living is just for other people. Grown-up people, not for me.

Yet, reaching towards the spiritual life is not my doing. (Isn’t that what Fr. Nouwen says?) This wonderful power comes from above, from the Father, from the Unseen Reality. That is a great relief, and it also fills me with reassurance. God, I am not alone here. Thank God.

@chaplaineliza

 

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

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 112.

[2] Ibid, 114.

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.

Prayer. Silence. Shhh.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, May 8, 2018

open hands

Prayer. Silence. Shhh.

What a stunning viewpoint on silence. Or, should I say, Silence?

Somehow, I feel as if this word ought to be capitalized. Father Nouwen makes such telling points on silence and the modern understanding of it. This little book was written in 1972, which is well over forty years ago. Fr. Nouwen talks about the clatter, banging, and constant noise of this modern time. Boy, can I relate.

I wonder what the good Father would have to say about 2018, the modern day in the western world? With all the technological updates and social media and the myriad of different choices in the way of accessing sound and video and recording of all different kinds…   Would this audio-visual kaleidoscope of noise, this cacophony of countless visual and audible selections, cause him to shun technology even more?

I remember I did not like being alone or in silence very long, when I was a teen. It got better in my twenties and thirties. Now, I enjoy it.

Oh, Father Nouwen, you seem to run toward silence with abandon. Nonetheless, you freely admit that “for many, silence is threatening. They don’t know what to do with it.” [1] Is silence truly a disappearing art? Is silence a fearful and terrifying thing, finally in its fearsome stages of existence?

The question forty years ago Fr. Nouwen wanted answered was, have people become alienated from silence? I consider it just as fair to ask what have the majority of people become addicted to?  Beyond random noise, to videos, blogs, vlogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, much less regular texting and instant messaging?

Dear God, save us from ourselves. Help me—help us to see that You thrive in the various sounds of silence just as much as in loud howls and yells, conversations, noisy trumpets, cymbals, honky-tonk pianos, drum sets, wailing guitars, and all the variety of electronic sounds and other forms of audio and visual input. Gracious God, thank You that You have given humanity the insight, ability, and ingenuity to come up with all of the constant sounds. Help us to quiet our insides just as much as the outside environment can be quietened. Thank You for this profound insight Fr. Nouwen brings to me today.

@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), 16.

Breaking Down Barriers

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

Gal 3-28 all one, words

Breaking Down Barriers

The Apostle Paul talks about barriers several times in his letters. Not only about breaking down barriers between people, between Jews and non-Jews, between male and female, slave and free, but also between us and God. (That is, all of us—humanity—and God.)

This caused me to reflect on the breaking down of barriers today. It seems to me that God would be pleased if followers of God were to break down barriers in all areas today. Not only racial and social, but in terms of gender, class, accident of birth, ethnic and cultural barriers, as well.

It seems as if racial, ethnic and cultural tensions are on the rise. It is not just my imagination. Just over the weekend, The New York Times reported a marked spike in hate crimes here in the United States. Specifically, hate crimes against Jewish people between the years 2016 and 2017 are up over 50 percent. [1] And, this is not an isolated occurrence.

In Detroit this past weekend an experiment disgruntled many people. A mock “no Irish pub” was “part of an experiment to raise awareness about how poorly Irish immigrants were once treated in the U.S. against the backdrop of prominent modern-day conversations about race and immigration.” [2] This mock-pub had a bouncer outside who gave verbal abuse to people of Irish ancestry and people who were wearing green—as was common around the turn of the 1900’s, with signs in shop windows that said “No Irish need apply” for help wanted positions. “Century-old newspaper articles that described Irish immigrants as “simians,” “too lazy to work” and members of “a servant race” helped fuel bouncer Bill Johns’ language as he sat outside the pub, telling people they couldn’t come in.” [3]

During the Apostle Paul’s time, in some circles, if you were not a Roman citizen, you were not worth much at all. (Fortunately, Paul was born a citizen; he was born to a father who had Roman citizenship.) Right side or wrong side of the railroad tracks, north-sider or south-sider, city mouse or country mouse? It does not matter to God. God breaks down all barriers. (Thank God!)

Let us pray: “Lord Jesus, in this Lenten season we are reminded of the sacrifice you made for us. Thank you that, by your sacrifice, you have made peace between us and God, and between us and others. Help us to live as people who represent the hope of the universe. Amen.” [4]

@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] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/sunday-review/anti-semitism-american-jews.html

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/17/detroit-pub-refused-serve-irish-people-detroit-st-paddys-pub-refused-serve-irish-people-make-point-m/435650002/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 90-91.

Servant of This Gospel

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 1, 2018

Eph 3 servant of this Gospel, words

Servant of This Gospel

As I have continued with the Lenten scripture readings for this past week set by the book Meeting God in Paul, I also read part of a chapter where Paul is described in detail. Rowan Williams has a remarkable understanding of Paul the man, as well as Paul the theologian.

I had never really thought about it before, but we have more of an actual description and more understanding of the apostle Paul the man than we do of almost anyone else in the ancient world—except for certain rulers and emperors. We know more of the person and description of Paul than we do about the person and description of Jesus, in fact. (We know lots of other things about the man Jesus while He was here on earth, but not so much about His person and physical description.)

Prof. Williams highlights some fascinating details about Paul, including a physical description from only a few years after the beginning of the second century. This was within the lifetime of someone who—as a young person—could have actually seen Paul. Written in Asia Minor, this account mentions that Paul “is a little man, bow-legged, thin-faced, hook-nosed, bald with heavy eyebrows meeting in the middle; and this is how he is invariably depicted in the most ancient Byzantine artistic tradition and in icons of him up to the present day.” [1]

In other words, Paul was not particularly photogenic. (It probably was a good thing that Paul did not live in either the 20th or 21st centuries, with the prevalence of cameras and other forms of media.) However short or near-sighted or bald he may have been, those were just elements of an exterior image of Paul. It was the interior that mattered to God. And, on the inside, Paul was an eloquent ambassador for Jesus. He called himself a servant of the Gospel or of the Lord several times in his New Testament letters. And, he meant it.

I wonder. Am I too caught up in what is on the exterior? Is someone’s image all-important to me? (Is my personal image that important to me? Dear Lord, please, no.) How about considering myself a servant of the Gospel, as Paul described himself to the believers in Ephesus? Lord, I hope so. I pray so. Help me to make it so. Thank You, God, for this wonderful book about Paul, filled with such meaningful words.

@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.