"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking for Lovely in 2016

A friend sent me an email last week stating that I needed to write one more blog for 2016 in order to get off of 13. Yes, I have only blogged 13 times this year. I quickly typed, "Challenge accepted," and hit the send button. So I've been thinking a lot about what I could write that might be more than just words on a page and I was completely "blogged" down (please forgive the pun). In fact, as of this time yesterday morning, I had totally given up. After all, who wants to read, "2016: A Year of Heartbreak"?  And quite frankly, it was just too hard to look at. But three days ago, I picked up Annie F. Downs book, Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter," and after completing it, my mind has been transformed to a new way of thinking.

As I read back through my 2016 journal earlier this week, over and over I had written, "My heart is just so broken this morning." So, yes, the original title, "2016: A Year of Heartbreak," could have worked and been very appropriate. For example, in the first quarter of 2016, my oldest son went through an unexpected divorce. On the Richter scale of my heart, it was a full blown 10. The 2nd quarter saw the return of my brother's brain tumor. Once again, our lives were shaken. August revealed yet another breakup when our daughter did the bravest thing she's ever done and left her husband. And then, October landed my husband in the hospital for several days with what we thought to be a stroke or TIA as he lost his memory. Like it was here one minute and, ZAP, gone the next. I thought I had lost him, too. 

Large heartbreaks with a thousand smaller ones wrapped up inside of each. Not to mention all the other things that go along with just living. Rough stuff. All things that can break one's heart. 

But in reading Annie's book, I discovered that I could either let 2016 be defined by these heartbreaks, or I could do as she has done and look for lovely and collect the moments that mattered. And what I have discovered is that lovely shows up as hope where there's despair; as faith where there's darkness; as love where there's hate; as joy where all else is crying. It shows up in siblings gathering around each other to laugh and support. As friends coming together in grief to encourage and cry. As prayers lifted to heaven -- with numerous tears. As meals given, as meals received and as meals shared. Lovely is found when you are seen; when I am seen. 

One of my journal entries I came across read, "We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our responses." And so as the year draws to a close, I have chosen the latter, for, indeed, there is so much lovely to be seen. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. For Lovely.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Would You Like to Dance?

I have always loved to dance, despite the fact that I've never been particularly good at it. For those of you from my area, you might can appreciate that at only 3 years of age, I was one of Sally Stanley's very first students. Whereas I loved it, I also wanted to take piano; and seeing that my body shape was probably more conducive to the latter, the summer I was entering 2nd grade, my uncle Bernie bought me my first piano and my parents signed me up for lessons with Mrs. Bedingfield. But I still loved to dance. 

On several occasions, neighborhood friends and I would hold shows on my parents' front porch or in the carport. We performed skits (my friend Jeannie received a pie in the face) and told jokes, but there was always singing and dancing involved in the midst of it all. In fact, I specifically remember doing a dance number to Doris Day's "Que Sera, Sera." And on one such occurrence, "Miss Sally" herself was sitting in the crowd. I was very young. She was very gracious. 

As time waned, so did the shows, but never my love for dancing. Unfortunately, my dance card never filled up. It seems I was always the last to be invited to the school dances, and even then it was often by the guy who had depleted all of his other choices. I even went with a distant cousin one time. I caught some grief for that one. Then my future husband came on the scene and not only did I have dates to the proms but I also got to go to his college dances! We still laugh at our different dance styles. And, yes, after I married him, we joined a local square dance club and literally danced circles around everyone else.

Today, most of my dancing is done through my fingers at the keyboard. Or vicariously through Dancing With the Stars which is the only show I have set to record on my DVR. And if truth be known, I can be caught twirling through the kitchen while I'm baking. Like I said, I have always loved to dance. My body tends to want to move when I hear a good beat. 

Throughout the Scriptures we are told to "rejoice." The Psalms are particularly filled with such charges. But if we delve a little deeper into the true meaning of the word, we will see that it's more than just to be glad. The Hebrew is gyil which means "to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion)." Wow, that's a lot different than just smiling and clapping our hands. Sounds a little bit like dancing to me.

But here's the cool part: whereas we are told over and over to "gyil in the Lord," there is a Scripture where God says HE gyils over us. Zephaniah 3:17 -- The LORD, your God ... will rejoice (gyil) over you with gladness..." Do you hear that? Our God twirls around over us in violent emotion. In other words, He passionately DANCES over us. How can we not get caught up in that kind of rejoicing? How can we not enter in to such a divine dance? 

Yes, we are invited. Not as a 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice, but as His first. His desire is for you. For me. All of us. Fully accepted in the Beloved, with His name written on every line of our dance card. Why not accept the invitation to join in? Kick up your heels. Tap a toe or two. Move back and forth in rhythm. Or swirl violently. But know that regardless if you choose to or not, He's still dancing over YOU with much joy ... and a whole lot of wildness.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bread Given

The light tap on the door revealed my darling, young friend standing there with a warm loaf of bread in her hands. Laura Carroll. It's what she does. It's one of the many ways she loves me. She informed me that it goes stale fast; that I might want to slice and freeze it. But no need for that. Bread disappears quickly around here; especially hot, homemade bread. In fact, I had already had two slices before the dinner hour arrived -- and then another with my meal. 

But by far my favorite partaking has been at breakfast. These last 2 mornings I have sliced, buttered and toasted a couple of small slices and brought them out here to my sunroom where I could enjoy them in the quietness of the breaking day. A candle is lit -- and breakfast becomes communion.

What grace. What gift. A young mother TAKES some wheat and mills it herself; BREAKING it. The BLESSING comes in her act of mixing, forming and baking. It's her spiritual act of worship. Her spiritual practice. Baking bread. And then she GIVES it, which just might be the hardest part of all. Sounds an awfully lot like Jesus to me. Like God. 

Henri Nouwen wrote, "As the Beloved of God, my greatest fulfillment lies in being bread for the world. I am chosen, blessed and broken so that I might be given." Yes, that's my young friend.

Toast and coffee. Bread and wine. Communion. Just me and Jesus -- and Laura.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Psalm: O Living Flame of Love

There has never been a day I didn't love You,
     Though often times the embers barely glowed;
     Nor could the heat be felt by anyone but me
          And even then only faintly.

But I have always longed for You,
     A built-in yearning not of my own;
     Often searching in the wrong places
          But longing and looking nonetheless.

Today I ask for a fresh breath of Spirit oxygen --
     "The enkindling of love, wherein the will of the soul is united,
     And it loves most deeply, being made one with that flame in love,"
          As John of the Cross so beautifully put it.

Yes, be rekindled in me first,
     O Living Flame of Love, and then
     Radiate Your love, Your peace, Your warmth
          To an ice-hardened world that so desperately needs Your heat.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sacred Heart and Tattoos

I got a tattoo once. A biker's cross on my left ankle. No, it wasn't some whim when I turned 18, but a fun day at the fair with 4 girlfriends. We each got one; different designs in diverse places on the body. I finally washed mine off the day I had to play for a funeral as I figured the grieving family had enough to deal with without my tattoo blaring from the my seat of service at the front of the chapel. I'm not opposed to tattoos, though I do think I might have an aversion to the pain inflicted while getting one.

In a nearby town, there's a tattoo parlor called Sacred Heart. For years, I thought it was a poorly done billboard advertising a Catholic school. I couldn't help but laugh at myself the day I became enlightened. Coming from a Protestant background, I must admit that I've never quite understood what the Sacred Heart emblem is all about. But after a little image searching on the internet, I've discovered that many do indeed go for this particular brand on their body -- and often in some of the oddest locations.

So what it is about the Sared of Heart of Jesus that attracts so many -- to churches, to schools, to tattoo parlors? As I looked at the images on the screen, there were several things that stood out. For one, Jesus was almost always pointing to it or holding it. Secondly, it was always, except for on one occasion, on the outside of His body. And lastly, it was always burning.

So what does all that say to me? Love. Love. And more love.

In my times of (attempted) centering prayer here on my deck, I have been using the word "love" to draw me back to God's presence when my mind begins to wander to other things. I had already noticed a large opening in the oak branches above me, allowing me to see through to the blue sky. But when I opened my eyes after my quiet prayer and looked again, I noticed that the aperture was in the shape of a heart. Tears welled and my own heart swelled as I realized that God pours Himself through the heart. His Sacred Heart.

Jesus paid the price for loving, and in giving His burning heart to us, as so portrayed in all those images, He tells us to do the same. To love. But here's the catch: when we love, we, too, must pay the price for loving. We, too, have to risk the pain; to suffer for it. But to do so is to be Christ-like. I agree with Richard Rohr: "The cross is not the price that Jesus had to pay to convince God to love us. It is simply where love will lead us. ... Jesus names the agenda: If we love, if we give ourselves to feel the pain, it will crucify us." Yes, crucifixion is painful. Thus, so is love.

Are we willing to pay the price of love? A price that demands we give up our rights to have our own way; to dominate; to always be right. A price that necessitates we lay down our hurts, our feelings of rejection and injustice, our grievances, our unforgiveness. A price that leads us to lay down self-centeredness that pretends it's all about you when really it's still all about me, which just might be the most insidious one of all. In short, to love with a price means discarding any behavior that does not take us forward into the nature of God and committing to a behavior that does.

This Sacred Heart of love is risky business. Sometimes I wonder if it's even attainable. For now, I will stand in the place of grace, receiving from His hand this gift of burning fire and pray that its glow will attract others to do the same. Maybe then and only then can I truly be branded.

See you at the tattoo parlor.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Morning Psalm of Lament: Madder Than a Hare in March

I'm mad.
Just pure, stinking mad.
Not the crazy kind of mad.
But the angry kind of mad.

What has brought me to this place?
What has flipped the switch to make me
          Throw the bed covers
          Be careless about doors

Could it be the constant schedule I face
          The pressures of life I combat
          The rejections I contend
          The disappointments I confront?

Or have I just given in 
          To self-pity
          To envy
          To ingratitude?

What is the answer to this foolishness?

I sit in silence ... and wait.


Rather, He sends a rabbit

Encouraging me to lay down this madness
          To retreat within
          To align myself again with the holy
          To reflect on majesty.

I bow to the Beloved
          Source of All Life
          Breath of the Merciful
          Silent Speaker
A dove perches above me in the pine.

Just an ordinary moment....

Monday, June 27, 2016

The ABC's of Prayer

When my children were very young, I began using the ABC's as a tool to guide them in Scripture memorization. For example, "A" would stand for Anger: "A wise man controls his temper" (Proverbs 14:29). "B" -- Bad Words: "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies" (Psalm 34:13). For "C" I chose the word Choosing: "Where is the man who fears the Lord? God will teach him how to choose the best" (Psalm 25:12). And on and on we'd go until we had made our way through the alphabet and then we'd begin again with new words corresponding to each letter. (I must inject here that I used money as an incentive. Back then, I think I paid them a quarter at the end of each week for the verse committed to memory. You may judge me, if you like, but, hey, it worked.)

There was a period of time where our middle child would get up in the middle of night with some type of anxiety, pacing the floor on his toes. As his mother, I would pull him into bed with me, wrap my arms around him, and say, "A." He would respond with, "A wise man controls his temper."

Then I would say, "B."

He'd reply, "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies."

And on I would go with each letter, with him responding with the corresponding verse until he finally settled down and drifted off to sleep way before we made it to "Z." And as I recall, none of those verses had anything to do with anxiety or fear. They had more to do with just life in general.

"D" - Doing: "Whatever you do, do well" (Eccl. 9:10).

"E" - Example: "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).

"F" - Friends: "Do not be mislead: bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor. 15:33).

After several rotations of ABC character-building verses, I moved to selecting scriptures that had to do with God and His character. How many of those verses through those years took root and produced good fruit? Only God knows. But for that season of restless nights, the ABC's were less about Scripture memory and more about prayer and connecting to the true Word of God.

Many, many years have passed since those days of drawing my child close and saying the ABC's in order to calm him down. Many books have since been read on prayer, and many techniques have been employed. Does anyone truly believe they have arrived when it comes to praying? Certainly not I.  Recently I came upon a story that J. David Muyskens relates in his book, Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God. I offer it to you here.

The story is told of a Jewish peasant who became so absorbed  in his work in the field that he did not notice that the sun had gone down. It was the eve of Passover, and he was not allowed to travel after sunset. So he spent the night in the field. At sunrise his rabbi came walking through the field and said to the peasant, "Your family missed you last night." With a sigh the peasant explained what had happened. 

"Well," said the rabbi, "I hope you at least said the appointed prayers."

"No," the peasant replied, "that's the worst of it. I was so upset that I could not remember the words."

"Then how did you pass the holy evening?" asked the rabbi.

"I recited my alphabet," said the peasant, "and trusted God to form the words."

Sometimes life can get just get overwhelming. Whether it be the chaos in the world, the chaos in our own personal life, or the chaos within our heart, during those times, we can find that it's difficult to know what to pray. Or how to pray. It's times like that when we can trust God to form the words. After all, He knows the world's troubles; He knows our personal circumstances; He knows our hearts -- our desires, our needs, our sorrows, our rejections. And sometimes there just are no words. 

So should you hear me singing in the night season, listen closely, I just may be reciting my ABC's while God draws me close in His arms.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Band of Blue Jays

When I come out here to my deck in the early mornings, I truly never know what to expect. In fact, I've come to anticipate this time for just that reason. No, the scenery itself doesn't change too much -- just the normal stuff of the seasons, but what God brings to me does. This morning was like that.

At the present, I am working through a devotional book entitled, "40 Days to a Closer Walk With God" by David Muyskens. The author teaches his readers a method of silent communion with God; of being open to the gift of God's presence and just abiding in deep and intimate relationship. After reading today's short entry, I put the book aside and picked up my coffee to just spend some time with God -- as suggested. No reading. No praying. Just a time of being aware of His presence. In silence. Or so I thought. For just as I picked up my warm cup and began to meditate on the passage, "Lo, I am with you always," a blue jay in the back pine began to call. I have to admit that my first thought was, "Well, that's annoying," as I pulled myself back to center. And then there was another. And another until I could distinguish between 6 or 8 jays in a cacophony over my head. Never had I heard, or at least been aware of, such sound. I couldn't help but wonder if there were some intruder of sorts in the trees -- or yard. What would cause such alarm?

As the concert continued, I refrained from clapping my hands or rushing into the yard crazy-like to scare them away so I could return to "being in God's presence." Rather, I settled into listening to see if God was speaking to me through this. After all, there I sat TRYING to meditate upon Matthew 28:20: "I am with you always."

Because I had looked at my watch when I settled into my silence, I knew exactly how long the birds kept up their, what shall I say? Chorus. 25 full minutes. But as quickly as they began, they quieted. The odd thing is that I never saw a one of them. No flights. No swoops. Just one lonely call at the end so precise that I wondered if it might not be the pronounced "Amen" by the leader of the group.

Blue jays. It's not a bird that many like due to its aggressive behavior -- especially toward another bird's nest and babies. And their gaukiness. After all, their "song" is not particularly lovely. But they are fearless when it comes to protecting their partner (they mate for life) as well as their young and their territory. They will defend their positions against adversaries much larger and more powerful than themselves. Often to great success. And to the Native Americans, the blue jay speaks of purity of the soul, truth of the heart, and clarity of thought; a "double vision" or double clarity due to the blue on blue.

At this point, I'm not really sure what or if God was speaking to me. But I am certain of this: when all was quiet again and I took by Bible and opened it to that Matthew passage, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had just experienced something very, very holy. Tears welled up in my eyes and began to course down my cheeks. My spirit was extremely full -- like I had just eaten a gratifying Thanksgiving meal.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He said the kingdom of God is at hand. It's NOW. Maybe this is what it means to be in the present moment and experience Him NOW. After all, isn't that what the Matthew passage was saying? That He is with us, even in the midst of the disturbances, all the noise, all the upheaval going on around us? Yes, I believe it just might be. And not only today, but tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and, yes, even to the end of the age.

I think that's a word worth holding on to, even if God did use a band of bluejays to deliver it.

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, May 6, 2016

Early Morning Poetry

My heart has been heavy lately. Weighed down by a multitude of circumstances surrounding me. No book or reading or prayer seems able to aid me in my quiet time just now. I try, but everything seems empty. I sit with my Harney and Sons coconut, ginger and vanilla green tea pressed to my chest warming it and my hands on this unusually cool spring morning ... and I watch. The holiness of the gaze,  as one author puts it -- allowing my eyes to bring everything close, intimate. Just being aware, for I have read that the loving eye can coax pain and hurt toward transfiguration and renewal, and I could use some of that. I watch the first rays of sun find their way through the white oak onto the grassy lawn just past the pine. The cardinals, wrens and dove vie for seed where the greedy squirrels cannot reach. A young hare hops across the backyard into the neighbor's azaleas, out of view of the hungry hawk. I breathe in and out slowly. In and out. "Yah-weh." And another. With each inhale and exhale: "Yah-weh." All is silent but my breath: "Yahweh." I sense His presence with me. It feels good. HE feels good.

After a period, I am led to pick up my book of Mary Oliver poems in the basket next to my chair at the window, and I turn to the page where I had last marked to begin again. I haven't always been a fan of poetry -- which speaks more of my lack of literary prowess than the poet's ability to communicate. I'm a wordy person. Poets are not. They know how to leave a page white with empty spaces. How to articulate silence. As John O'Donohue puts its, "In poetry, your language will find cleansing illumination and sensuous renewal." I'm learning that. Like now. I turn to Oliver's poem, "Summer Morning," and He reaches into my depth of being ... and speaks renewal.

   I implore you,
      it's time to come back
         from the dark,

it's morning,
   the hills are pink
      and the roses
         whatever they felt

in the valley of night
   are opening now
      their soft dresses,
         their leaves

are shining.
   Why are you laggard?
      Sure you have seen this
         a thousand times,

which isn't half enough.
   Let the world
      have its way with you,
         luminous as it is

with mystery
   and pain ---
      graced as it is
         with the ordinary.

Just a (not so) ordinary moment...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

When Heaven Touches Earth at the Dogwood Festival

As I walked the exhibits of the Dogwood Festival yesterday, I came across a booth that caught my attention. This particular couple was from Homosassa Springs, FL and they were selling unique leather goods. (You can check them out here: The Hide Out.) Interestingly enough, it wasn't the merchandise itself that caught my attention but the scrap bin set at the corner. For $1, I could have 5 pieces of scrap; for $5, I could take home 40 pieces. So within minutes, I was walking away with a little green bag containing scraps of 2 sheepskins, 2 alligator hides and 1 crocodile skin. I had found my treasure. I would go home happy. Very happy.

My husband and I made our way deeper into the hoard of tents, looking, smelling, touching the wares of many of the craftsmen who had come for the weekend. We even stopped at the corner soda shop for an old-fashioned root beer float; and always, I protected my little green bag of treasure. Or so I thought, for as we were approaching the truck to return home, I looked down and gasped,"My bag? Where is it?" I had my other purchases, but my prized buy ... it was gone! So as my husband took my few bags and headed on to the vehicle, I back-tracked every step I had made since my last known period of possession -- yet to no avail. I returned to the truck and to our home dejected.

It was just a bag of scraps, for crying out loud, but for some very strange reason, these little pieces of sheep, gator, and croc had brought me such joy. And so after about 3 hours of brooding, I decided to return to the festival and to that particular scrap bin.

My first clue of blessing should probably have been the parking spot. A festival in full, afternoon bloom, and there, almost at the barrier cones, was an empty parking space. I whipped in and walked up to the booth. The man remembered me: "Yes, 2 sheepskins, 2 gators, and a croc," he said. I told him what had happened and he instructed me to pick out 10 for a dollar (instead of the 5). I told him I thought I might actually get 40 for 5. "Then pick out 50," he replied. He walked around to where I stood at the bin and began going through it with me.

"What are you going to do with these?" 

How does one explain when one really doesn't know? So I said, "Well, I'm making a poem and prayer journal, and I want to use these somehow. Really, I'm just trying to strengthen my right side of the brain with a little creativity." Truth is I really didn't know why the innate pull to these reptile hides. But I kept digging. 

Fred (did I mention he wore an alligator head "hat"?) told me that when I was through to come lay the scraps out and he would categorize them for me. As he did, he would say, "This isn't 40, go get you some more," and so I would. He would pile those and instruct me again, "This still isn't 40, but I'm not going to count them, so pick you out some more." By the time I was finished, I had accumulated piles of alligator, crocodile, sheepskin, cobra, boa, python, ostrich, stingray, snook, and rattlesnake. He labeled bags, separated them out for me, and after taking only $5 from me, sent me home, instructing me not to stop and hug anybody less I lose those bags, too.

So what does all this have to do with heaven touching earth? Everything. You see, yesterday, as I stood there dipping both of my hands into those scraps, turning them over and over, it seemed that time stood still, and in some mysterious way that I can't even begin to explain except that I know it was real, heaven opened up and I became aware of something very, very holy. In that moment, heaven came and touched my little place here on this particular ground where my feet touch. As my friend would call it, it was the ministry of reconciliation. For a moment, heaven and earth were reconciled. It was simultaneously sweet and bitter. Sweet in that it was so holy. Bitter in knowing that it was but for a moment. It would not last. I HAD to be in that moment, or else I would lose it forever.

I'm also convinced that my new friend Fred got a whiff of it, too. That's why he kept saying, "Go back and get more! Go back and get more!" Heaven had touched his tent and the Kingdom is always about giving ... about spreading outward ... about the more. He could not help himself.

Many who read this will think me crazy. In fact, I don't really don't expect many to understand at all. But that's okay. I just know that it's these brief moments of awareness and perception that make the world so full .. and so good.

By the way, when I got home and laid the scraps out on the bed to look at them again ... to touch them, I also counted them.  80 pieces.  A double portion.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Early Morning Note to a Friend

Grateful for these times here early in the morning before my open window:
the waning moon peeking in and making company:
a tinge of pink in the approaching east:
a small chorus of my feathered friends taking stride along with me.
     I think they are singing joy today.
It's the In Between time when the veil is thin and God is near.
And it's important in our day, both yours and mine, that we stop and take notice ... and align our internal frame of reference.
     For love flows from the inside out, not the other way around.

Ah, my first guest has arrived. A cardinal. I must go. Know how much I love you.

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, March 25, 2016

One Thing We Must Not Bypass

The words were weighty this morning as I read the verses assigned to today's calendar. I began with the Isaiah passage that speaks of the suffering servant. A lamb led to slaughter and a sheep before shearers are just a couple of the images the prophet portrays. We also read words like despised, stricken, wounded, crushed, bruised, oppressed and afflicted. And that was just the prelude to the second reading: John 18-19.  The betrayal, the arrest, the kangaroo courts, the denial, the mockings, the flogging, the nailing .... the death of our Lord Jesus and His burial. Weighty, weighty words that are hard to read ... even harder to comprehend. For a period, all I could do was just sit and let the heaviness have its way.

It is not uncommon to hear people say, "We celebrated Christmas early this year," and I understand what they mean. But when I heard someone say it recently about Easter, it jolted me. How does one celebrate Easter early?

How easy it would be if we could just bypass this day of crucifixion. This "good" Friday. If we could just wave palm branches and shout Hosanna! on one Sunday and sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" on the next. If we could bypass the blood and go right to the resurrection. Forego the messy and move to the magnificent. Forget the suffering servant and rejoice in the risen King. Wouldn't that be more ... what shall I say ... comfortable?

But the truth is there would be no salvation without a sacrifice. No empty tomb without an occupied cross. No forgiveness without blood. No Easter without a Friday. No King without a cross.

Feel the weight of that ... and remember this truly IS a Good Friday.


Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
     That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
     To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
     Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
     Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
     Which hid their faces in a starless sky.
     A horror of great darkness at broad noon --
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er
     But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
     Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.
                                             -- Christina Rossetti

Yes, Lord, let it be.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

May God's Grace and P's Be With You

I'm going to cut to the chase. Prayer is work. And I'm not sure if or when I will ever get it right. If there's even such a thing of mastering prayer. It remains a mystery, for sure. We serve an omnipotent, omniscient God. The great I Am, self-sufficient in every way. Needs nothings. Gives all. And yet He opens up to us this portal called prayer. Like I said, I just can't figure it nor Him out. But then again, if I could, He wouldn't be God. And so I am left with finding my place in it all.

One of the more challenging parts of prayer for me has been learning how to pray for my immediate family. After all, this is my treasure. But what began as just 2 of us has expanded to 9 of us. I have run the gamut of experiments of what works for me and what doesn't. When the children were younger, I would bring each one into my bedroom and pray over them individually before sending them off to school. I have even kept a 3-ring leather notebook with each person and his or her spouse having his or her own section. I sometimes wonder if God tires of our wordiness in prayer. But what has evolved over the last few years and even more recently as I have been using Robert Benson's book, Venite, seems to be what works best in this season of my life.

In my morning prayer, called Lauds, I come to a place in Benson's book that reads, "We offer prayers for all those with whom we share the Journey: For our loved ones, those who have been given to us, and to whom we have been given." I pick up the picture that is always before me as I pray, and I call their names aloud. "Sandy, Charles, Adrianne, Robert, Kristin, Jude, Marynan, Todd."

Of course, God knows their names, but I want to give life to those names and each individual by causing the atmosphere to vibrate with the sound of my voice. And then I slowly and purposely begin to speak God's "P's" over them which I have recorded by their names in the back of my Bible.


More recently, the list has grown to include:

Promises (Christ Jesus is Yes and Amen)
Providence (His care and guidance)
Pardon (Receiving His total forgiveness)
Patience (To wait for His timing)
Perfection (Maturity and completion)
Perseverance (To run their race)
Possessions (Honor the Lord with them)
Praise (A heart of worship)
Prayer (A life characterized by)
Prophecy (Dreams and visions)
Prudence (Understanding)

I conclude with the words I have written and pasted on the picture: "Establish, O Lord, what You have wrought for us. And may your grace precede and follow us so that we may continually be given to good works." 

"Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy." 

From there I pray for those others who are categorized on the back page of my Bible; those who are near and dear to me as well as those who are facing trials and tests that day ... lifting their names (maybe even your name) in prayer. And as Venite guides me, I end with, "We entrust all who are dear to us to Your never-failing love and care, for this life and the life to come; knowing that You will do for them far more than we can desire or pray for. Amen." 

Yes, Lord. Let it be.

Like I said, this is the season of prayer I'm in right now. A distilling of words. So while I'm at it, may God's grace and P's be with you.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, January 7, 2016


I really wish I had begun blogging these next entries when I began using the book -- which was around the first week of December. They might have made more sense that way. Now I will just pick and choose how I will order them and hope my readers can still get a flavor of this wonderful tool.

The name of the book is Venite: A Book of Daily Prayer. My friend Vicki introduced it to me; she was given a copy by our mutual friend Sally, who was actually a student of the author, Robert Benson,  though I use that term loosely as you will see why in the future. I'm not even sure anyone will be interested in what I have to say on the subject. But if my memory serves me correctly, blogging had its origin as being an online diary. So if that remains the case, my entries are just a way for me to keep my own personal record of experiences and thoughts arranged in calendar order. But if you would like, please feel free to join me on my journey.

To use Venite is to join in a very ancient practice of daily prayer. Christian seasons are observed, holy days are remembered, and the liturgical calendar is kept. It's not for everybody, but in this season of my life, it's perfect. I will expound more on all that another time, but for now my thoughts take me to yesterday morning. And the beginning of Epiphany.

In case you are not familiar with the Christian calendar, Advent begins 4 Sundays prior to Christmas, on which we begin celebrating Christmastide. This is where your 12 days of Christmas come in, for on January 6, we move to Epiphany.

Epiphany means "the showing forth" or "the revelation" of Christ in the world. This is when we celebrate the journey of those wise men from the east -- pagan astrologers, I might add, who left what they knew for something very unfamiliar. Something very foreign. Everyone knows what caught their attention: 

O star of wonder, star of night, 
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

From the known to the unknown with only a mysterious star to guide them, they were compelled to move beyond what they knew to something unexplainable that moved within them. Leaving behind things that were once priorities and personal ambitions, they set off on a physical journey that led them in a new spiritual direction until they found what they were looking for. They saw the child with Mary his mother and they knelt down and paid him homage. These thinkers found themselves out of their cerebral boxes, rejoicing, bowing, kneeling, giving ... and finally, returning home different than when they came.

So maybe you can understand a little bit of my awe on this particular Epiphany morn when I approached my sacred place, a chair pulled up in front of a window in my sunroom, still very dark both inside and out, and finding one lone star unwilling to give way to the approaching light.

Quietly and reverently, I lit my Christ candle, opened Venite, and prayed the recorded prayer:

In the work of Your creation, Almighty God,
     You commanded the Light to shine out of the darkness:
Grant that the light of the gospel of Christ may shine into the hearts of all,
     dispelling the darkness of unbelief, and revealing Your glory in the world.

Yes, Lord, let it be ... that we move beyond the norm, beyond the safe, beyond the unbelief, beyond our own safe country ... and worship the one true Light who pierces the darkness.

Just an ordinary moment...