Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pray the Power of Love

Psalm 116:5-7

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
our God is merciful.

The LORD protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

"Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment."

There is no power greater than Love. Let us come this week bringing, simply, our lowly hearts longing for the rest of prayer. In these, let us bring them to the power of Love. Let us come in our longing for its bonds of grace and mercy, the bounty of which is the only power which can truly save. Let us come praying that the powers of fear and castigation will, at long last, lose their fierce-some grip, and that the gentle grace and mercies of Love’s heart will return our hearts to their rest. Let us come in prayer hoping that our hearts might know such bounty of the eternal power that we might act in Love’s effect a thousand-and-one times more with every bit of power entrusted to our care. Amen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Bereaved Parents Wish List

1. I wish my child hadn't died. I wish I had him back.

2. I wish you wouldn't be afraid to speak my child's name. My child lived and was very important to me. I need to hear that he was important to you also.

3. If I cry and get emotional when you talk about my child I wish you knew that it isn't because you have hurt me. My child's death is the cause of my tears. You have talked about my child, and you have allowed me to share my grief. I thank you for both.

4. I wish you wouldn't "kill" my child again by removing his pictures, artwork, or other remembrances from your home.

5. Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn't shy away from me. I need you now more than ever.

6. I need diversions, so I do want to hear about you; but, I also want you to hear about me. I might be sad and I might cry, but I wish you would let me talk about my child, my favorite topic of the day.

7. I know that you think of and pray for me often. I also know that my child's death pains you, too. I wish you would let me know those things through a phone call, a card or note, or a real big hug.

8. I wish you wouldn't expect my grief to be over in six months. These first months are traumatic for me, but I wish you could understand that my grief will never be over. I will suffer the death of my child until the day I die.

9. I am working very hard in my recovery, but I wish you could understand that I will never fully recover. I will always miss my child, and I will always grieve that he is dead.

10. I wish you wouldn't expect me "not to think about it" or to "be happy." Neither will happen for a very long time, so don't frustrate yourself.

11. I don't want to have a "pity party," but I do wish you would let me grieve. I must hurt before I can heal.

12. I wish you understood how my life has shattered. I know it is miserable for you to be around me when I'm feeling miserable. Please be as patient with me as I am with you.

13. When I say "I'm doing okay," I wish you could understand that I don't "feel" okay and that I struggle daily.

14. I wish you knew that all of the grief reactions I'm having are very normal. Depression, anger, hopelessness and overwhelming sadness are all to be expected. So please excuse me when I'm quiet and withdrawn or irritable and cranky.

15. Your advice to "take one day at a time" is excellent advice. However, a day is too much and too fast for me right now. I wish you could understand that I'm doing good to handle an hour at a time.

16. Please excuse me if I seem rude, certainly not my intent. Sometimes the world around me goes too fast and I need to get off. When I walk away, I wish you would let me find a quiet place to spend time alone.

17. I wish you understood that grief changes people. When my child died, a big part of me died with him. I am not the same person I was before my child died, and I will never be that person again.

18. I wish very much that you could understand; understand my loss and my grief, my silence and my tears, my void and my pain. BUT I pray daily that you will never understand.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prayer for the First Day of Fall

"Harvest Scene” Paul Gauguin

Psalm 65:9-13
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.

10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.

11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,

13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

“What we plant in the soil of contemplation,
we shall reap in the harvest of action.” Meister Eckhart, OP, (c. 1260 – c. 1327). 14th century Dominican philosopher
whose interests included metaphysics and the psychology of spirituality.


Let us bring our hearts in study and in quiet prayer this week before God, who gives them life; let them come to this gentle spring seeking sustenance for our living. Let our tender hearts pray to be nurtured there by the gentle shaping of the blessing of God’s presence and its bountifully renewed. Let us ask to live our days in gratitude sharing abundantly from this harvest; living joyfully at home and at work and at play. Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prayer on International Peace Day

Bhea Vacio, age 11, the Philippines,
via the International Child Art Foundation, dedicated to nurturing children’s creativity and promoting peace through art.

Psalm 85: 8-9
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

"HELPED are those who are content to be themselves; they will never lack mystery in their lives and the joys of self-discovery will be constant.

HELPED are those who love the entire cosmos rather than their own tiny country, city, or farm, for to them will be shown the unbroken web of life and the meaning of infinity.

HELPED are those who live in quietness, knowing neither brand name nor fad; they shall live every day as if in eternity, and each moment shall be as full as it is long.

HELPED are those who love others unsplit off from their faults; to them will be given clarity of vision…

HELPED are those who love the Earth, their mother, and who willingly suffer that she may not die; in their grief over her pain they will weep rivers of blood, and in their joy in her lively response to love, they will converse with the trees.

HELPED are those whose ever act is a prayer for harmony in the Universe, for they are the restorers of balance to our planet. To them will be given the insight that every good act done anywhere in the cosmos welcomes the life of an animal or a child.

HELPED are those who risk themselves for others' sakes; to them will be given increasing opportunities for ever greater risks. Theirs will be a vision of the word in which no one's gift is despised or lost.

HELPED are those who strive to give up their anger; their reward will be that in any confrontation their first thoughts will never be of violence or of war.

HELPED are those whose every act is a prayer for peace; on them depends the future of the world.

HELPED are those who forgive; their reward shall be forgiveness of every evil done to them. It will be in their power, therefore, to envision the new Earth….

HELPED are those who laugh with a pure heart; theirs will be the company of the jolly righteous.

HELPED are those who love all the colors of all the human beings, as they love all the colors of the animals and plants; none of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them….

HELPED are those who love the broken and the whole; none of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them.

HELPED are those who do not join mobs; theirs shall be the understanding that to attack in anger is to murder in confusion.

HELPED are those who find the courage to do at least one small thing each day to help the existence of another--plant, animal, river, or human being. They shall be joined by a multitude of the timid….

HELPED are those who love and actively support the diversity of life; they shall be secure in their differences."

— Alice Walker, The Temple of My Familiar

Let us celebrate peace in our prayer; let us come with hearts seeking peace. Let us turn our hearts to the Lord praying peace in our souls and in our lives, in our families and in our church family, in our workplaces and communities and in our in our world. Let us bring hearts listening for the help that they need, the Word they long to hear, the salvation that is at hand. Let us bring hearts praying for that peace which surpasses our most lofty thoughts, our most cherished goals, and our most fundamental understandings. Let us celbrate peace in our living. Amen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gratitude's Gifts

(Psalm 103: 1-5)

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and do not forget all his benefits—

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the Pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good as long as you live

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

According to the research “Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness” at the University of California at Davis people who make use of daily practices of gratitude:

  Report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.

 Have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.

 Are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others.

 Place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of wealthy persons; and are more likely to share their possessions with others.

Let us bring our heats in prayer this week. Let us come with all that we are and all that we have, in gratitude and thanksgiving before the Lord. Let us come in full memory of all that we have received and known and done in the living of our days. Recalling, before the Source of all grace and blessing, times of forgiveness and mercies granted, both great and small; of healings, in body and mind and spirit; of rescue from the pit of deepest darkness. Let our hearts recount all the compassion, undeserved, and liberation, unexpected. Let our hearts come in prayer this week, seeking all the fresh goodnesses of the Lord. Let them come in memory and expectation all of these so that by our living daily lives we might proclaim, in gratitude, all the blessings of the Lord. Amen.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quasi Modo in Liminal Time

Fox Hound Quasimodo came to live with me a little over six years ago. He was the third in a succession of Fox Hounds that I have been blessed to steward in their honorable retirement from hunting packs. Ariel was the first; she came into my life in 1987. Tonight is the first night in 23 years I have not had a Fox Hound in my home. Quazi, crossed the Bridge earlier this evening resting his head on my knee. When I first brought him home from the hunt kennel he would not let me touch him. I had to keep about 20 feet of lunge line attached to his collar so that I could reel him in when I needed to. Tonight, those days seem another world. I wrote the following earlier today while Quazi slept beside me for the last time.

I am sitting here with Basset Hound Claire on the couch, Foxhound Quasimodo, is asleep next to us on the floor. In a little less than two hours we will drive, with the windows down so Quazi can ride with his head out the way he likes best, to the Riding Center where there is quite a bit of good covert within easy walking distance of the car park and go for a walk. In my private mind, at least, Quazi will get to draw those woods one last time. I will bring hamburger in a plastic bowl and when we are done, he will share tailgate with Claire the way we do when we go out with the Bassets. Then we will ride in the car again, windows down, to McDonald’s drive through to get a vanilla ice cream cone in a cup. When we get to the vet we will take it in with us because there is nothing Quazi likes better on a hot summer’s evening than vanilla ice cream in a cup.

It is a trip that I don’t want to make, but one I have been planning for quite a while. Quazi was diagnosed with lymphoma on July 5th. We were offered chemo and prednisone and a variety of life extending treatments by our very good veterinarian. I decided “not to treat” but to offer aggressive palliative care—pain relief and excessive pampering. We have been living “Dog Hospice” ever since.

Despite the just shy of two months we have been at this, I am not ready for today. Quazi is, he told me so last night. Good Huntsmen talk about the “Golden Thread” of communication they have with their pack of hounds in the hunting in the field. I have, I believe, been blessed by something very real and of that sort with each of the individual hounds I have had privilege of stewarding in their retirements. They each in their own particular way have found a particular place inside of me, a feeling as unique to each as their markings and their voice. I have known them each, intimately, by ways of knowing that come about not unlike the things of truth or faith or hope.

So when Quasi came next to me last night and lay, slowly down by my side, looking well into me with those eyes that harbor ancient, esoteric truths of scent and chase, in which I could see and feel, as well, their hope in recognizing from those depths the eternal notes of Dianna’s horn, when they spoke into the depths of me, “It is time, it is over,” I knew it to be so.

So, quasi modo, began the liminality of my privilege of our time together; the beginning of the deeper mysteries sounding “Going Home.”

Quasi modo, Latin, literally, “as if in [this] manner.

From Latin as well, limen, literally, “the time in between.” Liminal time, existentially, psychologically, a time in between., transitional stage.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Deep Listening

As it is with hounds and the things of God, it is good to stop and wait and listen deeply into the silence on hope that you will hear the music for which your soul so deeply longs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rob Blagojevich and Preaching Good News to the Poor

I’m angry tonight: “I’m sorry, I know you want treatment but you don’t have funding and the wait lists for those beds is 3 to 4 months. And, I know you are homeless, but the shelters are over filled and have no beds. Yes, frustrating, scary, overwhelming,” I can see it in their eyes. I can see it much more often now. Sometimes several times a day.

Meanwhile, the Trib reports:“Blagojevich left the house this morning dressed in a turquoise knit shirt, tan shorts and blue running shoes. He held Annie's hand and carried her backpack as they walked down the front steps of his Ravenswood Manor home…”

I wonder sometimes: What is the good news for these poor ones who eyes are looking deeply into mine, longing for some frail shred of hope? Where is the risen Lord in the midst of their suffering? How and where will they meet Jesus along the road of their despair? I am grateful though, tonight, as well, for if I hadn’t known the grace of glimpsing Jesus in the sorrow that is my own, or stumbled upon him upon occasion along my own darkest road, I could never find the courage to meet their pleading gazes, nor could I hold it in some frail act of hope for them when knowing mine is all that they can  bear.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From the Disappointments of Living, Pray Infinite Hope

(Psalm 42: 5-6)
“Why are you cast down, O, my soul, why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall praise him, my help and my God.”

“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us come in study and in prayer this week. Let us bring our hearts, filled as they are with all the disappointments of our living; the sadness’s and the losses, the broken promises and the faded dreams. Let our poor hearts bring them all, leaving nothing back. Let them come thus for in so doing is their only real hope. Let them come humbly before the Infinite with all the limits of our beings. Let them pray there in confidence for wholeness and peace, healing and courage. Let them pray there in faith for these graces to be made real in our living so that all other hearts brought to their knees by the finitude of our existence may know the Infinite Hope in which they live; the gracious God who in their living they offer praise. Amen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Songs of Confidence and Praise

(Psalm 57:7-8)
"I have complete confidence, O God;
I will sing and praise you!
Wake up, my soul!
Wake up my harp and lyre!
I will wake up the sun.”
"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime;
therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone;
therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the stand point of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”

Let us bring our hearts in  prayer this week. Let us bring them, for simply by our coming we pray for hope. Let us come and pray, asking faith where uncertainty holds sway, seeking love where anger has found its niche, and longing for forgiveness, love’s definitive act. Let us pray to find lifetimes which are true and beautiful and good; for the virtues of love’s accomplishment of these, and the humility to offer in our living love’s forgiveness to all who join us along our way. There is no more beautiful song in confidence than these, no greater acts of praise, no other tunes to play which can awaken other hearts to the living in such virtue as can stand the test of time and space. Amen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Eeyore's Gift

Of course, a wilted red balloon and an empty honey pot,
 poor gifts, indeed.
But to Eeyore’s thinking, they are most desirable Birthday offerings. Agape. Thank you, Melissa.

You can listen to Melissa's great sermon on Galatians 5:1, 13-25 at this link.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for their's is the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sighting Blessings

If I’m very good (which can be very, very hard for me) and if I’m very, very patient (which also can be very, very hard for me) and if I look very, very closely in the right direction, sometimes I can get a glimpse of the most amazing life. True blessedness comes, not in what counts as gained, but in the Intimacy and Truest Love known only in the solitude of the heart.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pray in Intimacy and Love

Psalm 103:1

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.

“Considering that the blessed life we so long for consists in an intimate and true love of God Our Creator and Lord, which binds and obliges us all to a sincere love.”

Let us bring our blessed hearts in prayer this week. Let them pray from our deepest longings for their most intimate and truest Love. Let them pray there, then, from the sincerity and obligations which bind them at their Source, in deepest amity, with all other hearts blessed in their longings for the intimacy of their truest Love. Amen.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pray to Know the Heart of God in Yours

"In the Mist," Elizabeth Chapman

Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.

3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.

4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.

5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

“God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it be that of the greatest sinner in the world, and this union is natural.”

Let us come in prayer. Let us come asking that our hearts be opened to their most intrinsic truth, that their truest nature is in most merciful and tenderly intimacy with the Indweller whose knowledge of them exists far beyond any they might claim for themselves. Let us pray to know these hearts of ours, as woeful and wanting, as distant and deceiving as they are. Pray to search them with tender mercy, and know them in such intimacy of compassion as they are already known; pray for the grace of coming to know them in that blessed Union which sustains and in which they dwell. Finally, let us pray to come to know all other hearts as we are praying to know our own. Amen.

Friday, July 30, 2010



The focus of prayer is not the self. Prayer comes to pass in a complete turning of the heart toward God, toward His goodness and power.

Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives, to let His will prevail in our affairs.

We go hopelessly astray if we think of prayer as a selfish endeavor to persuade or inveigle, or browbeat God to do us a favor, or win us a victory, or even help us in some dire distress.

He is not some kind of divine bellhop, to be summoned, as by the pressing of a button, to the service of our passing whims.

God does not come to us, but we to Him – and prayer is the high road to His presence.

Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.

Prayer cannot mend a broken bridge, rebuild a ruined city, or bring water to parched fields.
Prayer can mend a broken heart, lift up a discouraged soul, and strengthen a weakened will.

Prayer digs the channels from the reservoir of God’s boundless resources to the tiny pools of our lives.

Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask, but when we are challenged to be what we can be.

If I recite my wants, it is not to remind You of them, but only that I may be conscious of my dependence upon You.

Prayer is answered when it enables us to act as God desires.

If you would have God hear you when you pray, you must hear Him when He speaks.

Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue.

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks.

True worship is not a petition to God: it is a sermon to ourselves.

By benevolence man rises to a height where he meets God. Therefore do a good deed before you begin your prayers.

Who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered.

Pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on you.

Thought from: Abraham J. Heschel, John Holmes, Søren Kierkegaard, F. Ibserhan, E. Strangy Jones, Morris Adler, Bahya Ibw Pakuda, Ernest F. Scott, Thomas Brooks, Adam Clarke, Helen, Keller, Emil G. Hirsch, Hai Gaon, George Meridth

"Prayer" was given to me by a coworker. Her father was a Rabbi. After his death, she found “Prayer” among the many papers her father had saved from his many years in ministry.

“Prayer” is an anthology of sorts. A collection of quotes on the nature of prayer from great men and women of faith and thought across many years. It is a sort of contemporary piece of Wisdom Literature echoing some of the literary traditions which can be found in the Hebrew Bible.

My friend was gracious enough to share it with me and I am delighted to share it here.

For your own personal spiritual growth, you might find some value in reading each line of “Prayer” slowly, over time and sitting silently with each line's particular wisdom for a while, allowing it to connect most deeply with your own spiritual longings.

If you know where this came from, you are invited to leave a comment. Heck, you are invited to leave a comment anyway. How do you connect with this modern piece of Wisdom Literature?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Graces and Compassion of Unknown, Nameless Women

Today, in the Outpatient Behavioral Health Women's Group on Spirituality I facilitate: In the midst of lives overflowing with the most profound grief and suffering, brokenness, abuse and betrayal  there is witness to an incomprehensible depth of love and compassion, kindness, mercy and gentleness. God beyond God incarnate in the lives of women, who if the story of the people of God were told, would remain nameless and unknown. Today, I am humbled to have shared their sacred space.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pray to Open to The Dwelling Place of God

(Psalm 84: 1-2)
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

“Open unto me -- light for my darkness.
Open unto me -- courage for my fear.
Open unto me -- hope for my despair.
Open unto me -- peace for my turmoil.

“Open unto me -- joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me -- strength for my weakness.
Open unto me -- wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me -- forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me -- tenderness for my toughness.
Open unto me -- love for my hates.
Open unto me -- Thy Self for my self.

“Lord, Lord, open unto me!”

“Concerning Disciplines of the Spirit: Concerning the Presence of God,”
(Link above to
(Link above to more on Howard Thurman at

Bring your yearning soul, your fainting heart; bring them to the only dwelling place they can ever truly call Home. As they cry for light and courage, hope and peace, may they open and find there their truth. As they long for joy and strength, wisdom and forgiveness, tenderness and love, may they open wide to the home Dweller, finding in the courts of such grace their own true life with the living God. And may they live then opening to light and courage, hope and peace, joy and strength, wisdom and forgiveness, tenderness and love for all who seek safe dwelling in courts of their own. Amen.

Image: Anasazi Granaries on the Little Nakoweap River delta. The Little Nakoweap is one of the largest tributaries of the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. The granaries, built between 900 and 1150 CE, are 500 feet up the cliff face. (Link to for more information about the Anasazi.) 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Prayer for the Grace of Faith Which Surpasses All Understanding

(Job 38:4-5)
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know!”

(Psalm 102: 25-28)

“Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will endure; they will all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they pass away; but you are the same and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall live secure; their offspring shall be established in your presence.”

“If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy fathoms of water still preserving my faith.” Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments.

Let us bring our hearts in prayer this week.  Let us bring with them our knotting stomachs, our sweating brows, our trembling hands. Let us bring the longings, and the questionings, and the secret uncertainties that lie buried so very deep within. Let us pray to finally give them rest before the vastness of the horizon and the magnitude of the stars. Let us pray them gentle surrender to the mysterious and unfathomable depths of the seas and the eternity of incalculable mountain heights. Let us pray for the grace of faith which surpasses all our understandings. Amen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Job and the "God beyond God"

This week I begin leading our three weeks of study of the book of Job:

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears god and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.’” (Job 2:3)

Psalm 13:1-2
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain~

Let us bring our forgotten hearts this week. Bring our abandoned souls. Bring them in study and in prayer. Bring them by the slim-thread by which we are, somehow, barely able to continue to endure. As sorrow overflows and enemies over run, bring our hearts and souls. Hold nothing back from the God whose very essence is to seek the depth of us which lies beyond the deeps of barrenness and abandonment within; whose very substance is made real when we have nothing left to show for the emptiness of our pain but the loneliness of our sorrow. Attend most diligently to the conversation. Attend when these raw truths are all we have. Attend when to do so seems for all but naught. Attend. Do not give up. For, somewhere beyond the bounds of all that we can understand, God is longing for us to hear words of tenderness and intimacy we cannot now begin to comprehend. Somewhere outside of all that we could ever dream or hope words of mercy and compassion for our living abound. Bring our prayerful hearts, our longing souls. Come. Sit. Pray and cry until we have no more to speak. Attend, then, gently, listening for the kind-intimacy of unimagined words of grace, and hope and love. Amen.

I've been very fortunate in my academic training: I was enough to study Job, in the early  '80's with Robert Boling (author of the Anchor Bible Commentary on Judges and with G. Ernest Wright on Joshua) at McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, who taught Job as a comedic teaching device for theological students in the rabbinic academy of the day.

At the same time, I was lucky enough to study with Walter L. Michel, at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, who was between authoring vols 1 & 2 of Job in the Light of Northwest Semitic.

Two and a half years ago, over Thanksgiving weekend, my Jesuit Spiritual Director opened me to the challenge of praying and working through Pierre Wolff's, May I Hate God, a spirual exercise not for the faint or timid hearted.

To all three gentlemen, I am deeply indebted.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

4th of July Parade Garage Sale Wisdom

By way of India: Celebrating the 4th and this country's blessings...

Best post 4th of July Parade garage sale-ing find: “….we women, especially after menopause, are much closer to God. A man, if his child is in trouble is moved to protect, but we women are moved to compassion, to want to take it on and take on their suffering…. I told my husband four years ago that he had made enough money. He is a PhD in computer science and has a big job. I told him, ‘I did not marry a pile of money’, I married him to be my companion, it is time now, we can’t eat all this money, he must quit. In six months we will get in that camper over there and give back to this country that has been so good to us (they are both emigrants). There is so much trouble and suffering and we have benefitted so much from what is available here it is our phase of life now give back. This is the divinity of women….”

I would only add: Amen.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Psalm 17:6-9

6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me, hear my words.

7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.

8 Guard me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,

9 from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

“Prayer at the First Continental Congress,” 1774, Philadelphia, PA
“The Liberty Window,” Christ Church, Philadelphia, PA

“…What shall we say? Human nature is intolerant whenever it has power. Trust power then without a counterpoise to no church, to no sect, to no Party. Amen and Amen.”
John Adams, June 5, 1812.

As we bring our hearts in prayer looking forward to the joyful celebrations of the Fourth, to family and friends, fireworks and frankfurters on the grill, let them spend some few quiet moments in recall of the prayerful hearts of uncounted men and women through the years who have sought diligently the inclination of our Sovereign’s ear in times of adversity and darkness, in times when wickedness and enemies surround. Let them give thanks for these and recall gratefully as well, the struggles of their own where they have found safe refuge and kind easement when that which is worst among our natures seems too willingly to prevail. Let them rest gratefully in the only Power in which any human heart can fully rest; and trust fully in the only Heart of Power by which to guide the use of any human-earthly powers entrusted to their care. Amen.

Stay safe and be happy on the 4th….

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prayer is Listening

Psalm 17: 1-5

Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea;
listen to my cry.

Give ear to my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.

2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.

3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing;
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent.

5 My steps have held to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.

· Listen to hear, really hear, what is being said.

· Listen to understand.

· Listen to learn.

· Listen without comment, even if you do not agree with what is being said. You don't have to agree. Just listen.

· Listen completely focused on the speaker. Don't try to come up with counter arguments or to frame your reply. Simply focus on what the speaker is saying.

· Listen with respect, no matter whether the speaker is on "your" side or "theirs," regardless of the speaker's status or position.

· Listen to find links between you and the speaker.

· Listen with empathy.

· Listen with your heart, always with your heart.
Jewish-Muslim Dialogue Group of Los Angeles, California

As we bring our hearts in prayer this week, may we come with confidence that God listens and truly understands their depths better even than we know them ourselves. In this, may they be opened for us to learn more about our own truths and the truth of God’s grace for our living. May we bring our longing hearts to the deep Silence; may we bring them, especially when they come reluctantly, for simply in the coming can they know the great mercy which is there.

May they pray in silence for the grace to attend most fully the One Heart which they seek, listening there for its Fullness and their own. May they find assurance that it is on their own “side,” and may they pray with all their strength for the blessed grace to be drawn closer in to the “side” of the Heart they seek in prayer. In these may each of us find the wholeness which we seek, the understanding for which we long and the Heart to continue along the path which offers pleas and cries and prayers for every heart which seeks wholeness and understanding and to be heard. Amen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Prayer at a 30th Anniversary of Ordination to the Ministry

The head of staff at our Church celebrated 30 years of Ordained Ministry yesterday.
In gratitude and thanksgiving, I offered him the following prayer:

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees;

then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
(PS 119: 33-35)

As you turn your heart of prayer, in the coming thirty years, to study and to worship with God’s Word, may your prayerful heart continue to learn the truth of the Lord’s wisdom for your living. Many you continue to seek at prayer that deeper understanding of the presence of God written large upon your heart from most ancient days. And may you, in that ancient place of silent speaking, increase in wisdom and comfort of the Truth, so that in all the years to come, your path will find you delighting in the Lord all your days. Amen.

Congratulations. Thank you for your years of conscientious dedication and service among God’s people.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Psalm 55:1-2
“Hear my prayer, O God;
don’t turn away form my plea!
Listen to me and answer me;
I am worn out by my worries.”

“There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill.” - From No Man is an Island. Thomas Merton.

As we bring our hearts in prayer this week may we pray to set aside, even for the briefest of moments, all our broken promises and unfulfilled hopes and paralyzing fears, offering our pleas before the Lord as if for the first time. May we come with no reserves or strengths, no judgments of ourselves, our families, our neighbors or our God. Let our hearts seek, unburdened in this place, the wisdom of creation which discerns the truth of the world in which we live. And in that seeking may our hearts find that wisdom which sees more clearly the truth of those we love, of our friends and neighbors, of our selves and of our God. Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

“Starry Night on the Rhone,” Van Gogh

Psalm 19

“The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.” v.8.
“Discerning the will of God is therefore not something one can do on ones own, from one’s own knowledge of good an evil. It is…—for those who are ready to live in the will of God because the will of God has already been carried out in their lives.” (Dietrich Bonheoffer, Ethics)

As we bring our wondering, questioning, struggling hearts prayer this week, may we ask for the grace that they might find some rest in the recollection before God of the joys they have already known. May their dark corners be illumined by the soft and ancient glow which has guided them through their darkest nights and gloom filled days. May they seek in these days to live in the confidence of joy, as yet unknown, and by that light which comes only in their darkest hours. Amen

Friday, May 28, 2010

In Homelessness - Gratitude

I had the great privelage of working with "Tom," of having RN Peggy as a colleague and publishing the following article in our Pastoral Care Department Newsletter:

An Unorthodox Sight-seeing Trip to Chicago

(or How Tom and Ed Fed the Good Wolf)
By: Peggy Moran, M.S., R. N.

In the recovery community, there’s a Native American tale that resonates with those recovering from addiction. It goes like this:

The Two Wolves Story

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life….

He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil—he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.

The other wolf is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?” The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Tom and Ed’s Story
When Tom, a seasoned Chicagoan and hockey player, with 6 months of sobriety and his house-mate, Ed (Florida native), who both live in a local shelter for homeless men and women, were told by their case worker to “Get out of here, have some fun in Chicago!” they excitedly made their plans.

They tried the free admission to the Shedd Aquarium along with 500 other people…

Next! They then walked along the lake marveling at the Chicago Skyline., heading for Navy Pier. Chicago…City of Big Shoulders in the words of Carl Sandburg. Were Chicago’s Big Shoulders big enough for the stories of Tom and Ed?

At Navy Pier, they enjoyed the Crystal Garden, art, views of Lake Michigan and people-watching. They walked along the river, spotting the architectural stars of the Chicago Skyline, Willis tower (grrrrrr, still Sears to me!), Trump Tower, Marina City, the Wrigley Building, among many eye-popping structures.

They made a stop at Harey Carey’s, no, not to admire the Dutch architecture. But to gaze in wonderment at the photos of sports stars that cover the wall.

At long last, tired, they prepared to return to to the PADS shelter where they lived. But they had one last stop, Tom’s spontaneous idea. He took his friend to Lower Wacker Drive. No, not to show him where the movies The Blues Brothers or Batman were filmed. Not to show him the section of Chicago that used to be called The Emerald City because the lights were always green. Tom had a different idea…. A spiritual one. He wanted to show Ed, that even though they were residing in transitional housing, they had much to be thankful for: a roof over their heads, a warm bed to sleep in at night, and a lot of support from people like Kathryn, Linda, and Wendy, at the PADS support services center. Tom wanted to see the look on Ed’s face as he grasped the magnitude of the dire situation that some of their peers were in and the lengths they had to go to for survival.

He wanted to look back at how far he had come in his recovery, feel compassion for the homeless men and women still out there, shunned by society. He needed to embrace his gratitude to his Higher Power and to all the earthlings who were there to help him, because he was ready to help himself. A crucial timing of spiritual proportions.

Upon return to his treatment group on Monday, many of us were struck by Tom’s intuitive, spontaneous decision to take a look at the past and to learn from it; he felt moved and feel grateful for all he had learned and gained, by reaching out for help with humility, courage, and gratitude.

God of love and grace, I am filled with awe at Tom and Ed and Peggy. I am grateful that you have allowed me to share a small part of this journey with them. I pray that you continue to open them to your presence in their living and do not cease opening me to your presence in their living. Amen

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Prayer for Shavout and Pentecost: God's Spirit Overcomes

Psalm 119:30 – 32

דֶּרֶךְ-אֱמוּנָה בָחָרְתִּי; מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ שִׁוִּיתִי.
דָּבַקְתִּי בְעֵדְו‍ֹתֶיךָ; יְהוָה, אַל-תְּבִישֵׁנִי.

דֶּרֶךְ-מִצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ אָרוּץ: כִּי תַרְחִיב לִבִּי.

Ich habe den Weg der Wahrheit erwählt; deine Rechte habe ich vor mich gestellt.

Ich hange an deinen Zeugnissen; HERR, laß mich nicht zu Schanden werden!

Wenn du mein Herz tröstest, so laufe ich den Weg deiner Gebote. Luther Bible 1545

I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.

I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;
do not let me be put to shame.

I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.

Friend Eric recently returned from a trip to visit family in Germany and brought back small inspirational cards featuring the above Psalm quote in German. His gift came just as Christian friends celebrated Pentecost and Jewish friends were moving away from the festival of Shavuot. Both celebrations remind persons of faith of the truth of God in their hearts and in their lives. Each recalls the power of God to at once breakdown the human barriers which too often unnecessarily separate us from ourselves, one another and God; all the while offering us gentle guidance along the path which leads us closer to truth and freedom which God intends for us—the living of authentic lives of devotion, compassion and care.

Let our prayerful hearts come this week confident in the power of God to help them overcome the differences which divide; may they come confident that especially when they cannot comprehend, the truth of the Lord will hold them fast. May they find guidance there along the path and by such grace the freedom to allow the power of God’s truth to guide in the leading of authentic lives of devotion, compassion and care. Amen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What do You Expect In a Psychiatric Hospital

May is Mental Health Month; the American Psychological Association is hosting a Blog Day that I thought I’d tag on to as I’ve been a Chaplain in Behavioral Health Services for a long time and promoting an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to good mental health is an important part of what I do:

The first time I thought I might become a Chaplain in a psychiatric hospital it was 1978, I was 21 years old; a college senior. In all honesty, this was an absurd idea, but there I was at the William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute, a part of the South Carolina State Hospital, in Columbia South Carolina, bag in hand, ready to be the first woman in an undergraduate unit of Clinical Pastoral Education offered by the hospital. I lived on the grounds with female interns in other disciplines, in an old, old building upon which one could still discern the shadows of letters, long removed, over the entrance: State Insane Asylum.

I remember my Supervisor asking us on our first day what we expected a psychiatric hospital to be like and what we expected from our training quarter. I remember telling him that the experience was so foreign to me that I had no expectations. (My mind has always drawn a total blank when I am overly anxious.) In the past thirty-two years (much of it spent in this same ministry) I have had more opportunity for training in pastoral care and ministry and psychology and theology and biblical study. I have had great experiences in continued Clinical Pastoral Education, continued to grow in therapy and spiritual direction and clinical supervision. In all of these, by some grace, I have increased my capacity to hold my own anxiety, and I believe, at long last, I can form some semblance of an answer to my first Supervisor’s question:

In 1978, my father had just died after a ten-year-long battle with degenerative heart disease and my mother was only just ramping-up into the acute and chronic phases of enough  Axis I and II diagnoses to teach a class in diagnostics. I was only just beginning to explore the graces and gifts which would sustain and save me—a faint inkling of God and some blind, stupidity of faith to grudgingly follow; and gifts enough of intellect and abstraction to seek to fashion within some lopsided vessel of containment, which, when cracked, I would haul weakly to more tender and experienced hands for care. I was expecting to find in a place of absurd ideas, amid other suffering souls a ministry of care, that same strength in the absurdity of faith that called Abraham to the sacrifice of Isaac, when to lose him would have been to lose faith and strength and all. And, I expected to drink there from that same well of courage and endurance which sustained Jacob through a night long wrestling match with his divine attacker—broken, healed, blessed and prevailed before he could continue on is way.

I expect, in the psychiatric hospital where I work and in the care in which I engage today, to find people just like me who are hurting. I expect to pray for grace and mercy as I listen to their stories of suffering and of loss, to their tales of violent attacks and merciless engagements. I expect to hold with them, in some misshapen vessel of containment we manage to fashion between ourselves, the absurdity of frail faith, when doing so, for them, risks losing more than I ever pray to comprehend. And, I expect that there, despite the lisp and cracks, is the well of courage and endurance from which we draw some drops of sustenance of courage and endurance, broken, healing, and blessed as they are, so they can continue on their way.