Some words for today

Benedicere*

May your home always be too
small to hold all your friends.

May your heart remain ever supple,
fearless in the face of threat,
jubilant in the grip of grace.

May your hands remain open,
caressing, never clenched,
save to pound the doors of all who
barter justice to the highest bidder.

May your heroes be earthy,
dusty-shoed and rumpled,
hallowed but unhaloed,
guiding you through seasons
of tremor and travail,
apprenticed to the godly art of giggling
amidst haggard news
and portentous circumstances.

May your hankering be
in rhythm with heaven’s,
whose covenant vows a dusty
intersection with our own:
when creation’s hope and history rhyme.

May hosannas lilt from your lungs:
God is not done;
God is not yet done.

All flesh, I am told, will behold;
will surely behold.

Kenneth L. Sehested, In the Land of the Living: Prayers Personal and Public, 2009, 82.
*Benedicere: (Latin) second-person singular present passive imperative of benedīcō “be thou spoken well of, be thou commended” (Late Latin, Ecclesiastical Latin ) “be thou blessed, be thou praised”

Lent: a time to follow

I’m not ready, Lord.
I don’t want to go.
The Advent candles are barely snuffed out;
the straw bales from the stable
are still in the dumpster out back.
And now this?
It’s just February, for God’s sake!
I’m not ready.

Let it go, let it go

I’m tired, Lord.
The year’s got off to a rough start.
I know I should be fresh, alert,
full of new-year resolve and ready for anything:
‘Yes, Lord!’
But I’m not.
This is hard work.
Just showing up is a tough gig.
I don’t want to go.

Let it out, let it out
let it all unravel

You want forty days of ‘on’ and ‘upward’?
You want six Sundays of resolution and surrender?
You want my life? my undivided attention?
‘Simon, are you asleep?
Could you not keep awake one hour?’
Frankly, Jesus, no.
I don’t have it.
I don’t feel it.
I can’t do it.

Let it free, let it free
let it all unravel

I know the way, Lord.
I know where this road leads.
I’ve been around the block before.
That’s the issue, isn’t it?
I know what you expect
and I know what it costs.
God knows, I tell others often enough.
If I front up with ‘all of me’
I know what it takes:
it’s all ‘giving up’ and ‘letting go’;
it’s all vulnerability, exposure,
opposition and conflict.
And everything so deeply felt.
Honestly, Lord, my heart aches enough already.
And, besides, this ‘all of me’
feels like a hollow gift to give.

Let it go
Let it out
Let it all unravel
Let it free
And it will be
A path on which to travel*

I’m not ready, Lord,
… but I’m here.

 

*With thanks to Michael Leunig for his constant inspiration

The Fullness Thereof

The earth is Yours, Lord
and the fullness thereof — the FULLness!

The earth is Yours
full of height
(help us to rise and soar
to look back on this small blue spaceship
and out into space —
past our system, our galaxy, to the atom).

The earth is Yours
full of depth
(help us to go down — to see within one dandelion
its tiny parachutes
wee green blades, hardy roots, the very universe
and its indomitable Christ).

The earth is Yours
full of beauty
(the greatest art in the universe is there in a fly’s eye
a butterfly’s shingled wings
an old woman’s wrinkled face
an – other human being.

The earth is Yours
full of ecstasy
(exaltation and depth
joy and sorrow
real hearts greatly broken
true loves really lost
and death’s worst efforts
faced
gone through
undergone
overcome).

Forgive us
when we desecrate Your infinite
startling
awe-full
awesome
mysterious creation.
Forgive us
the real atheism
of living on the surface
skimming along
overlooking
or just getting by.
Judge us whenever we say “It’s ONLY an animal”
or “Oh, I know him”
or “Is that all there is?”
or “BORing …”

Good God, what a world!
Passion birthed it
Your love sustains it all
from speck
to sun
to soul.
And only when we feel and see and sense the fullness thereof
just as we appreciate Your gift with interest
do we
can we
shall we know the earth
and the earth’s Lord
and ours

amen.

5142O-VL-zL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Frederick Ohler, Better Than Nice and Other Unconventional Prayers, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989, 87-88.

Faith & God

Faith is a fickle thing. There are moments in our dealings with God that the conversation is fertile and believing instinctive; and others when the seed of faith shrivels in the hand. There are moments when intimate language flows and seasons when it feels like heaven’s doors are bolted — ‘the Great Wizard’ is out.

Experience tells me that such fickleness is standard. It’s par for the course in believing. Yet reading through the psalms this past month, I come away with this sense: while faith may be capricious, God is not.

I cannot claim to understand this God. But in both the acclamations and accusations of the psalmists, there is something consistent about God’s being that holds when life, and even faith, fails.

In preparing prayers yesterday for another occasion, I came across these familiar words from Frederick Ohler. Aspirational perhaps. Regardless, there is something about them that resonates today.

AWE – FUL

Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.

Forgive us
for slouching in Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy—
neither “the Great and Powerful Oz”
nor “the man upstairs.”
Help us
to want what we need …
You God
and may the altar of our hearts tremble with delight at
Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler, Better Than Nice and Other Unconventional Prayers, Louisville, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989.

A call to grace

Grace: it’s never far away.
Hold out your hands now.
Open your heart
and receive its gift.
For the undeserving and the spent,
for the wounded and the weary,
the discarded and the grieving —
grace is here.
Grace is ours.

Grace is not over there and out of reach.
There is no striving
that will claw it closer than it is.
Grace is not later or yesterday;
it’s not ‘if’ and ‘when’.
Grace is now.
Grace is ours.

Grace is not reward for the righteous.
It’s no gold star for the best and brightest.
Grace is gift freely given.
It’s lavish and deep,
today and always.
Grace is yours.
Grace is ours.

So come now.
Lay aside your reservations
and your tiredness.
Turn away from voices
that condemn and ostracise.
Let it go, all of it,
and know again this boundless gift of God.
Feel again the balm of God’s forgiving love.
Hear again God’s persistent call upon your life.

Come now,
for grace is here.
Grace is now.

A prayer for today

God … are you there?
I’ve been taught,
and told I ought
to pray.
But the doubt won’t go away;
yet neither
will my longing to be heard.
My soul sighs
too deep for words.
Do you hear me?
God … are you there?

Are you where love is?
I don’t love well,
or often,
anything
or anyone.
But, when I do,
when I take the risk,
there’s a sudden awareness
of all I’ve missed;
and it’s good,
it’s singing good.
For a moment
life seems as it should.
But, I forget, so busy soon,
that it was,
or what
or whom.

Help me!
God … are you there?

51h4cyW5xxL._SX491_BO1,204,203,200_Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace, Augsburg Books, 1981.

An evening prayer

Early last month I spent a week on the far north coast of England. With a distant view of the cold North Sea, I stayed at Nether Springs, the Mother House of the Northumbria Community. It’s here a small group of men and women live, work and pray according to the daily rhythms of a semi-monastic way of life. Their gifts of hospitality and welcome are extraordinary.

The time to be still was a gift. Time to write and read was restorative. And the daily disciplines of prayer provided a structure: morning prayers, midday prayers, evening prayers and the gentleness of compline to end the day. And all contained in a simple daily office. My introverted self was in heaven!

Included in the office are various ‘declarations’ of faith. These were especially helpful. They are not detailed credal statements, more affirmations — words through which I could name what I hold onto in faith and what holds me.

This evening prayer I have found especially helpful and have returned to it routinely since returning home.

Lord, you have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, you have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, you have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though I am of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, you have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tired as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, you have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, you have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, you have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.

DSCN2698-200x300The Northumbrian Office, Northumbria Community Trust

Fallen in love with solid ground

THE OPENING OF EYES
by David Whyte

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of special conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

Sunlight and the Word

From time to time a favourite niece provides words that speak gently, deeply. I am always grateful. These are from the poet Tony Hoagland.

The Word

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between ‘green thread’
and ‘broccoli,’ you find
that you have penciled ‘sunlight.’

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

The Dressing Prayer

A Celtic prayer for daily life

This day I bind around me
The power of the sacred Three:
The hand to hold,
The heart to love,
The eye to see,
The Presence of the Trinity.

I wrap around my mortal frame
The power of the Creator’s name:
The Father’s might.
His holy arm,
To shield this day
and keep from Harm.

I cover myself from above
With the Redeemer’s love
The Son’s bright light
to shine on me,
To protect this day,
to eternity.

I pull around me with morning light
The knowledge of
the Spirit’s sight.
The Strengthener’s eye
to keep guard,
Covering my path
when it is hard.

This day I bind around me
The powers of the sacred Three.

UnknownDavid Adam, Tides and Seasons: Modern Prayers in the Celtic Tradition, SPCK, 1989, 11.