Monday, September 28, 2009

A Prayer for Falling In Love

“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”
Annie Leibovitz, photographer, born October 1, 1949.

Photograph from the “New York Times on the Web”, collection of Polly Weydener taken by Leibovitz at the Beach Partol public restroom, Miami Beach FL. Weydener, (b. 1922) moved to Miami from Chicago in 1935, she worked as an RN until her retirment in the late 1960’s when she became a chiropractic massage therapist. She teaches belly-dancing and ball room dancing as a hobby. Weydner has four children, two grandchildren and one greatgrand child.

May we pray this week to fall in love. In love with life. In love with family. In love with our vocation; our calling. In love with our avocations. May we pray that all that we do and all that we are speaks of this passionate love with every contour of our being. Amen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Praying Danger

“Safety's just danger, out of place.”

Harry Connick Jr.

May our prayers this week draw us gently into the place of the safe arms of the One who brought us into this world. May we find there the strength and courage to venture forth into the dangerous waters which lie beyond; for they too are our place in this world. Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Prayer for Honoring Dead Homeless Woman

Kevin Barbieux of Nashville, TN, who blogs as The Homeless Guy: There’s More to Homeless People than Being Homeless wrote back on August 14:

"Something happens to a person who lives homeless for an extended period, like I have. They develop the ability to remove themselves mentally, or perhaps spiritually, from the environment they find themselves in, on the streets, in shelters etc. The homeless environment is ugly and depressing, and so to survive being in it, mentally, you have to create some distance between yourself and the place in which you find yourself.

"After being homeless for so long, the mentality of "removed" becomes more permanent. It becomes the default your default mindset. This mindset is in play even when you're not in the homeless environment, and long after you've left it.”
One of our Deputy Coroners called me yesterday to do a funeral for an older woman who died homeless in the car she shared with her family. I spent today trying to talk with them to plan the service. They seem elusive, scared, removed from the experience. No planning has been done. I will try one more time later in the week. I can’t force them, just as no one could force them off the streets and into a shelter.

Jesus did not make Samaritans and Canaanites convert to Judaism before he loved them. He loved them as they were and as they were able, in ways that made sense to them. My prayer preparing to "Worship God and Celebrate the Life of this Woman" to ask the Holy Spirit to guide me beyond my own needs and vanity and ego so that I can love her and her family  in ways that make sense to them, as they are able and, most certainly, which meet them where they are. Come. Holy Spirit. Amen.

Untheological Postscript:
             Found Kevin Barbieux through a link on the Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County IL. Very great resource.
             For a thought provoking read try Cormac McCarthy’s The Road which I believe works quite well as an allegory on homelessness in America as well as a contemporary apocalyptic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prayer in the Spirit of Imagination and Creativity

Portrait by: Leonid Afremov

September 16 is Blues Great,
B. B. King’s 84th Birthday

The sound that you're listening to is from my guitar that's named "Lucille"
I'm very crazy about Lucille
Lucille took me from the plantation
Oh and you might say brought me fame
I don't think I can just talk enough about Lucille
sometimes when I'm blue it's seems like Lucille trying to help me, calling my name
I used to sing spirituals when I thought that this was the thing I wanted to do
But somehow or another, when I went in the Army
I picked up on Lucille and started sing the blues
Well, now when I'm paying my dues
Maybe you don't know what I mean when I say paying my dues
I mean when things are bad with me
I can always, I can always you know, like, depend on Lucille.

Honoring the gifts and graces, imagination and creativity which transported King from a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, to playing over 15, 000 lifetime performances, induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984, to receiving the Presidential Medal of the Arts in 1990 and an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Yale University, Berklee College of Music, Rhodes College and Tougaloo College.

My we seek in prayer this week, that upon which we can always depend. My we come with all our gifts and graces listening there for the voice of the One who calls out our name and, when we are paying our dues, when times are bad, may we pray to find there the Imagination and Creativity upon which we “can always you know, like, always depend….” Amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Show Me My Poverty, Lord

Friedrich Pacher, "The Bosom of Abraham" (detail), c. 1490. Novacella Abbey Cloister, Bressanone, Italy.

"What is the use of knowing our weakness if we do not implore God to sustain us with His power? What is the value of recognizing our poverty if we never use it to entreat His mercy. . . . The value of our weakness and of our poverty is that they are the earthin which God sows the seed of desire [for Him]." Thomas Merton 

Very Wise Spiritual Director continues to encourage, nudge, suggest that I lay my poverty before God. This is one of those things in the life of faith, in prayer, that sounds so simple: Where I am weak, He is strong. Cast your burdens. That ubiquitous “Footprints” story. And all those.

But that is not what he means. We both know it.

To know our own weakness as the “seed of (our) desire [for Him],” means to come in prayer not just in our weakness begging for mercy for who we know ourselves to be, but asking Jesus there to send the Holy Spirit to illumine our self deceptive hearts so that we may recognize, as we are able, the greater depth of our poverty and the radical truth of our inability to do anything of enduring value to help ourselves.

Anyone who has ever worked a good 12 Step Recovery knows the truth of this. The human heart and mind have an uncompromising and deeply subtle capacity for self deception. They deftly seek to resist any suggestion that they are not in control and on top of things; that solutions and answers are not within their grasp, even in the poverty of our prayers, even in our perceptions of our own weakness.

Lord Jesus Christ, the deepest desire of my heart is to know you more fully. The poverty of my heart and the weakness of my will seem overwhelming to me, yet I know that they are but a scant portion of that which keeps me from knowing your mercy and grace in my life as fully as you intend for me.

As I come unsteadily before you, send your Holy Spirit to me that I might find the strength to see more clearly all that is within me that keeps me from knowing and loving you. Heal me of those things which would keep me from knowing more fully the depth of your grace and mercy for the living of my days. This, Dear Lord, is my heart’s desire, to live in you as fully as I am able, and to live graciously and with a heart of mercy among your people. Amen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Prayer for 9/11

Photo by, Joe Woolhead, from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center website

“You make a living out of what you get; you make a life out of what you give,”
Winston Churchill.

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center has published a study guide for its film, “The Spirit of Volunteerism: 9/11 and Beyond.”

Among many stories:
"Ada Rosario Dolch, was principal of a high school just two blocks form the World Trade Center and on 9/11 safely evacuated 600 students. In memory of her sister, Wendy Wakeford, who died on 9/11, Ada helped build a school in Afghanistan that opened in 2005. Ada currently works with school leaders, and lectures on the topic of emergency preparedness, response and recovery for m disasters."

"Mickey Kross, is a retired NYC firefighter who survived the collapse of the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He volunteered to search and recovery missions at the site in the months following the attacks. After Hurricane Katrina, Mickey traveled to New Orleans, serving as a volunteer in New Orleans firehouses and helping with their clean up efforts."

"Albert Capsouto, kept his Lower Manhattan restaurant open in the aftermath of 9/11, providing first responders and downtown residents with free meals and a place to rest. He advocated for the needs of small business downtown and played an active role in rebuilding his community."

May we continue this week to pray for those whose loved ones perished in senseless acts of violence and for those who continue to reach down inside themselves to find, amid life’s greatest losses, a spirit of compassion and hope, and the courage and endurance to share these with others in greatest need. And may we pray as well for the grace in our own lives to find, in our deepest needs, our greatest gifts and hearts to share. Amen.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Discernment with Dogs

Eugenia Lo Photo Blog

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog when you are just as hungry as the dog,” Jack London.

“From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 28But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone,” Mark 7:24 – 30.

What do I share from my poverty, my hunger; what can I offer of what little I have within myself to give.

Not a question but a statement.

An intent.

A prayer.

After I have come to my Lord’s table as an outsider, a beggar, a woman in blind and desperate need and have received the miracle that I longed for, hoped for, but never truly expected; what can I share of graces I have poorly received; what can I give; what bone from my own scant laid table can I let drop to the floor; what can I say that might change a heart, drive the hungry demons out of God’s broken, grieving, suffering people.

Lord, I desire in my poverty, to seek to do you will; to give out of what I have received seeking only to love as you have loved me. Amen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lifting to the Unknown

“LIFT up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean Himself, and none of His goods,” Cloud of Unknowing.

The Cloud of Unknowing is a classic of Christian mysticism. Written, it is supposed, in the later half of the 14th century by an unknown monastic, the work is one of guidance for those seeking spiritual counsel in contemplative prayer in late medieval monasticism. I’ve read it several times, always struggling with the author’s most basic meanings.

There’s been so much for so long: changes in healthcare, always, the order of the day; obligations ending and beginning; lots and lots of really, really hurting, broken people; good friends battling horrible illnesses and grieving sad, sad losses; sorrows and anxieties, uncertainties and unknowns each one reminding me….

I think I might be slowly, very slowly finely, prayerfully getting it.

I know nothing.

I’m getting OK with that.

Better, I’m finding the notion peace provoking, meekly stirring in my heart love. Love for God and not for the gifts or things of God, all of which are transitory. Not for the suffering and grief which can provoke either righteous anger with or deepest longing for God.

No, I find my heart in silent prayer lifting meekly in love for God alone. Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Late Summer Prayer

A fall breeze
leaves blowing across
the gravel
~ lao xian

May we offer in prayer this week
late summer’s gifts. May we open
our hearts there to the blessings
of what has been, seek the hope
of what will come and entrust the
living of our days to the coming
Breeze of Fall.