A prayer for today

O Lord,
in the turbulence
and the loneliness
of my living from day to day
and night to night,
keep me in touch with my roots,
so I will remember where I came from
and with whom;
keep me in touch with my feelings,
so I will be more aware of who I really am
and what it costs;
keep me in touch with my mind
so I will know who I am not
and what that means;
and keep me in touch with my dreams,
so I will grow toward where I want to go
and with whom.

O Lord,
deliver me
from the arrogance of assuming
I know enough to judge others;
deliver me
from the timidity of presuming
I don’t know enough to help others;
deliver me
from the illusion of claiming I have changed enough
when I have only risked little,
that, so liberated,
I will make some of the days to come different.

O Lord,
I ask not to be delivered
from the tensions that wind me tight,
but I do ask for a sense of direction in which to move once wound,
a sense of humour about my disappointments,
a sense of respect for the elegant puzzlement of being human,
and a sense of gladness for your kingdom
which comes in spite of my fretful pulling and tugging.

O Lord,
nurture in me
the song of a lover,
the vision of a poet,
the questions of a child,
the boldness of a prophet,
the courage of a disciple.

O Lord,
it is said you created people
because you love stories.
Be with me as I live out my story.

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

Feathered angels

In the early morning, as my beloved and I circle the local gardens in our walking shoes, we routinely hear one of the most beautiful sounds I can imagine: the song of the magpie. In my years away from Australian shores, it’s the one sound I missed. And yet to evoke the magpie’s song in words … I can only take heart from the English ornithologist John Gould: “To describe the note of this bird is beyond the power of my pen.”

I am not a bird man. I can barely spot the difference between a raven and a common koel. That said, I have a friend who photographs birds. Through his images — drip fed over the years into my email in-box — I’ve begun to appreciate just a little of what he sees routinely. It’s another world up there! A mostly hidden world of colour and song. At least now I look.

Clearly, the Australian poet Michael Leunig has been looking much longer than I have. On this beautiful autumn day, his prayer of thanks for these ‘feathered angels’ is one worth praying.

Dear God,
We give thanks for birds.
All types of birds.
Small birds and large birds.
Domestic fowls, migratory birds
and birds of prey,
hooting birds,
whistling birds,
shrikes,
coloured parrots
and dark darting wrens.
Birds too numerous to mention.
We praise them all.

We mourn the loss of certain species
and pray for deliverance
of endangered ones.
We pray, too, for farm birds,
that they may be released
from cruelty and suffering.

We give thanks for eggs and feathers,
for brave, cheerful songs in the morning
and the wonderful, haunting,
night prayers of owls,
mopes, frogmouths
and all nocturnal fowls.

We praise the character of birds,
their constancy,
their desire for freedom,
their flair for music
and talent for flying.
May we always marvel
at their ability to fly.
Especially we praise their
disregard for the human hierarchy
and the ease with which they leave
their droppings on the heads
of commoners or kings regardless.
Grant them fair weather,
fresh food and abundant materials
for building their nests in spring.
Provide them too with perches
and roosts with pleasant aspects.

Dear God, guide our thoughts
to the joy and beauty of birds.
Feathered angels.
May they always be above us.
Amen.

x293Michael Leunig, A Common Prayer, Collins Dove, 1990.
The image above is one of those captured by my friend and fellow Baptist pastor Bruce Stewart: “a wonderful visitor to our backyard this past week – the White Plumed Honeyeater.”

A prayer for Easter Sunday

THE SON ALSO RISES
A prayer by Frederick Ohler

Lord, no Easter ever celebrated life without death
and this day is no exception.
In the world
in our community
in our souls—
while we live we are always surrendering to death …
Never the less
closer to finally
Christ’s resurrection prevails
and therefore we cry out
“L’chayim!”—To life!—
that in-credible,
in-soluble,
un-stoppable mystery,
which is Yours to give
and ours to live.

Lord, we are grateful
that
seedtime and harvest
cold and heat
summer and winter
day and night will not cease
that
every rainbow is a covenant
and every sunrise a promise.

Lord, we are grateful
that
floods clap their hands
and hills sing for joy
and what the birds do by nature we may do by choice—
to sing
to sing
to sing!

Lord we are grateful
for
despair that is in vain and labor that is not
work that is worship and worship that is play
for a world that includes April,
a species that produced Bach
and a century that birthed our sister Teresa.

Lord, we are grateful for the ubiquity of life
and democracy of death
which none may evade (like taxes)
nor any buy off (like justice)
nor slaughter (like the innocents)
but which all must face
for life to come and belief to be real
for choice to count and love to matter.

Thank you, God
that
in a world where “little men cast long shadows
because the sun is setting”
the Son also rises
and all the naked emperors
and massive egos
and fakes
dry up
and the gentle Christ rises lovingly from the grave
worthy of praise
for
His grace — full entry
his limitless love
his absolute conquest of death
and His unremitting affirmation of life.
He is mighty because of His honour,
great because of His goodness,
and alive because He loves.
Therefore we praise Him and call Him Lord

amen.

5142O-VL-zL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Frederick Ohler, Better Than Nice and Other Unconventional Prayers, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989, 89-90.

A prayer for Maundy Thursday

Catch me in my scurrying

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my feet to the fire of your grace
and make me attentive to my mortality
that I may begin to die now
to those things that keep me
from living with you
and with my neighbours on this earth;
to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities,
to my fascination with false securities,
to my addiction to sweatless dreams,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be;
to my corrosive fear of dying someday
which eats away the wonder of living this day
and the adventure of losing my life
in order to find it in you.

Catch me in my aimless scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my heart to the beat of your grace
and create in me a resting place,
a kneeling place,
a tip-toe place
where I can recover from the dis-ease of my grandiosities
which fill my mind and calendar with busy self-importance,
that I may become vulnerable enough
to dare intimacy with the familiar,
to listen cup-eared to your summons,
and to watch squint-eyed for your crooked finger
in the crying of a child,
in the hunger of the street people,
in the fear of the contagion of terrorism in all people,
in the rage of those oppressed because of sex or race,
in the smouldering resentments of exploited third-world nations,
in the sullen apathy of the poor and ghetto-strangled people,
in my lonely doubt and limping ambivalence;
and somehow
during this season of sacrifice,
enable me to sacrifice time
and possessions
and securities,
to do something …
something about what I see,
something to turn the water of my words
into the wine of will and risk,
into the bread of blood and blisters,
into the blessedness of deed,
of a cross picked up,
a saviour followed.

Catch me in my mindless scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my spirit to the beacon of your grace
and grant me light enough to walk boldly,
to feel passionately,
to love aggressively;
grant me enough peace to want more,
to work for more
and to submit to nothing less,
and to fear only you …
only you!

Bequeath me not becalmed seas,
slack sails and premature benedictions,
but breathe into me torment,
storm enough to make within myself
and from myself,
something …
something new,
something saving,
something true,
a gladness of heart,
a pitch for a song in the storm,
a word of praise lived,
a gratitude shared,
a cross dared,
a joy received.

51h4cyW5xxL._SX491_BO1,204,203,200_Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace, Augsburg Books, 1981, 123-125.

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.