You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

A twitch in the weather

can upend houses,

blow down cities,

crumble lives.

Please send help.

Bring comfort to those in need,

reassurance, shelter,

the ways and means to regroup.

Be with them as they sift the rubble,

salvaging what can be salvaged.

Bring ease to those who have lost

to the capricious sky

something precious.

Though their lives be shaken,

let their faith remain steadfast.

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Every day, I put words on paper.  Every day, I tell my son the following little mantra:  “Honey, I love you.  I’m so glad you’re my son.”  Every day, I clasp my hands together and pour my heart out in prayer.

I learned a phrase in high school Latin class (many moons, a star and an asteroid ago) that has stayed with me to this day:  sine qua non.  Translated:  “Without which, there is nothing.”  Certain things and people in our lives make it all worthwhile.  This is the way I feel about God.  Without God, faith, prayer, well… there’s nothing holding life together.

This is what I find so unsettling about “acts of God” such as the tornado in Missouri.  Why in the world would the same God who’s keeping the world intact suddenly decide to take it apart?  Most of the time, God can move the heart of a troubled soul and renovate him from the inside.  But every so often, He makes cows fly through the air and takes roofs off of churches.

This puts me in mind of the time a reporter asked George W. Bush if he had lied about weapons of mass destruction as an entrée into the war in Iraq.  In a famous Bushism, he said, “No, no, I’ve never disassembled.”  Jon Stewart’s comment on the matter was, ”Mr. President, the word is dissembled.  ‘Disassembled’ is what you did to Iraq.”

Was God dissembling when He said He had the whole world in His hands?  Did he decide instead to disassemble it?

I’m going to have to trust that there are reasons beyond my understanding and a peace greater than any disaster.  I’m going to continue to give this One who has brought me through so much the benefit of the doubt when I doubt.  I’ll give Him the courtesy of voicing my dissent directly instead of holding a grudge and nursing a wound.  And I know in time, I’ll reach the same conclusion that I have every day for the past few years:  it doesn’t matter how dark it might be or how bad things might seem.  God is good.  All the time.

Life isn’t easy in these troubled times,
but God is good all the time.

People may betray you from time to time,
but God is good all the time.

You may have been a prodigal once upon a time,
but God is good all the time.

The healing may come slowly, even with the tincture of time,
but God is good all the time.

There’s no one else Who’ll be there
until the end of time.
God is good.
All the time.

I am numb.
Around me is destruction.
Homes and belongings
swept away,
splintered,
ruined.

Help me to see
with my eyes and in my heart
the rainbows of hope
that arc through it all.

Neighbors help each other
spread tarps,
salvage  a few mementos,
and scramble to safety.

Strangers pray,
bring food,
and send donations.

Help me accept
what they offer.
Help me to see You
at work here
where so much feels wrong.

You stand with me.
You hold me up.
When I am weak,
You are strong.
When I am weak,
You help me go on.

Amen


		

On Good Friday, my community was hit by a tornado.  It tore through a 22-mile-long strip of homes, businesses, schools and churches.  St. Louis’s Lambert International Airport was shut down.  Homes were lost.  Others were damaged.

But there was a miracle in the midst of all this destruction.  No one was killed.

A tornado alert had just ended.  People were coming up out of their basements.  And then the tornado hit.  Yet no one was killed.

Why did God send a tornado on Good Friday?  What message was He trying to send?

Frankly,  I know people are asking those questions, but I don’t buy into that.  Its Spring.  Tornados happen, especially when you live in a region with a nickname like Tornado Alley.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn when something like this happens.  I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the generosity of their neighbors.  The members of a church that lost its roof refused to accept pity.  They clearly stated to the reporter that what was damaged was just a building – the Church is still standing.

I’d like to invite the online Faith community to pray for the residents of Ferguson, Bridgeton and Maryland Heights, Missouri.  Please pray for the workers who are clearing debris, tending the injured and working to restore power.  There was a great deal of misery on Good Friday.

Then Praise God for the gifts He has given us all.  For they are many and Easter has come.

–SueBE


		

When I first returned to prayer a few years ago, my life was in turmoil.  “Simplifying”  became my priority.  First, I made some difficult changes in my personal life, then I had a moment to focus on my prayer life.   I didn’t even know how to pray at that point.  I didn’t know what I believed.  So I looked up prayers – where else?  – on the Internet.  And I found some lovely standard prayers that gave me comfort during a difficult time.

How can someone who doesn’t belong to a religion recite “rote prayers?”  Well, as with everything related to my faith,  I’ve been open to good ideas that work for me.  It doesn’t matter where they originate, only that I’ve been able to derive benefit from them.

It’s not often that I recite standard prayers, but when I do, it’s usually the “Our Father.”  Over the years, I’ve tried to make my own prayers as concise as this great standard.  For a while, I had a rule for my own prayer practice of keeping them to five words.

All my needs are met.

God is on my side.

Then I got it down to two:

Trust God.

God’s good.

All’s well.

But I realized that it doesn’t matter what sort of casing you put it in; prayer is really already written on the heart.  Words are just intentions, dressed up.  Impulses to improve your lot in life, to help your neighbor, to care for your children… all of it starts in the heart, snakes up to the head, and trickles down into your hands as you clasp them in prayer.

A simple prayer a few years ago completely changed my life:  “Help me.”  And really, isn’t that the essence of every prayer we ever send?  Help me.  Maybe all it takes is the true desire to change things for the better.  As long it’s from the heart, I believe your prayer will be heard.

I’m a  writer.  I string together words for a living.  I also string together words when I pray.  Sometimes.

Other times, I simply can’t put two words together on my own.  There is just too much to hold up in prayer or the need is too raw, too great.  When this is the case, I sometimes turn to traditional prayers.

I originally found The Prayer for Quietness of Thought in our church hymnal.  It is one that our church prayer group uses often.

Another  favorite is The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  I often use this one in my own prayer and meditation, praying one line and then adding a personal need.  “‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.’  Lord, I can’t make the two of them reconcile, but let me not be part of the problem.  Let me listen without taking sides or justifying hateful words . . .”

My other personal failsafe is music.  Having grown up with hymns and spirituals, it’s embarrassing to admit that I didn’t realize how prayerful some of them were until I joined the church choir.

My all time favorite is Kyrie Eleison (see video below).  The words are so beautiful and, even if not in English, so simple.  God have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  This anthem brings me close to tears whenever we sing it.

A close second is Be With Me Lord (Psalm 91/see second video below).  This is the one I pull out whenever trouble, including other people’s trouble, swirls around me.  When I can’t create my own prayers, I am more than willing to borrow the words of others.

–SueBE

Troubles swirl around me —
mine, theirs, ours.
With so much turmoil,
I find myself
dwelling on the agony,
wallowing in the misery
around me.
Help me turn my eyes
to the bare cross
to the empty tomb,
to the Mercy
with which You
have gifted each of us,
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Amen


		

There’s a saying: Writing is simple. You just sit down at the keyboard and open a vein. So it is for prayer. It ought to be the easiest of prospects: Unload your heart. But what do you do when your heart is so burdened, your mind so ill at ease, your whole being wrapped up in a tornado of anxiety or sadness or anger or fear that you can’t find your heart, let alone a key to unlock it?

I think that’s why there are standard prayers like the “Our Father.” Jesus gave us this prayer for a reason — it says everything most of us need and want to say on a daily basis: God, you are great. I want you in my life; I want your will for me. Please give us the things we need and forgive us when we fail. Help us to forgive others when they fail. Keep us from things that are harmful to us. Thank you.

The Our Father, Hail Mary and other formal prayers are easy to memorize and pure comfort food to the soul. They are there when you can’t find the words on your own. But I also believe that any words you use will do, as long as you mean them. A heartfelt jumble is more prayerful than any standard prayer said only by rote, with no meaning or intention behind it. Or do we even need words to pray? I think some of my most profound prayers have consisted merely of deep emotion and a single syllable: Please. It needn’t even be said aloud.

God doesn’t need a dictionary to read our hearts. He hears all voices, all languages, all dialects. Every moment that our souls are pure in their need, feeling, or expression, we pray. Thank goodness it’s so easy.

Stop.  Yield.  Caution.  When I think about signs, I think of traffic signs, big and bright, mounted on posts, reflective and tough to miss.

I’m hesitant to say that God doesn’t send signs but if He does, I routinely miss them as I meander through life.  I suspect that these signs are probably there, but, sans flashing lights and blaring horns, I blunder past.

If this wasn’t the case, my own life experiences would be enough to keep me from making certain mistakes.  Unfortunately, I missed many of the lessons/signs in my own childhood.  Not wanting me to miss the point altogether, God sends less subtle messages in the form of strong, slightly stubborn people. Signs are rooted to the spot.  People dial the phone.  They refuse to back down when I’m obstinate.

Recently, I got my feelings hurt by a good friend.  He didn’t mean to do it but I came out of the encounter in a sullen pout.  Given how outgoing I am, people tend to notice when I pout.

Fortunately, God decided that I needed a customized sign – stubborn and with a phone.  This friend gave me until Friday to cool off and then he called.  I was expecting a call and don’t have caller ID so I picked up.  “Yes, I’m mad.  Yes, it is something you said.  No, I don’t want to talk about it. I’ll suck it up and get over it.”

This was the approach my mother took although she tended to be more subtle.  She would never tell you when you hurt her feelings or made her mad.  After all, it would be self-centered and unkind.  She’d get over it.  Wouldn’t she?

In my personal experience, no.  She would let one thing after another go and then BAM she’d explode over something inconsequential.  She did this time and time again, yet I had set myself on this same path.

Needed: One Sign.  God sent a bull-headed friend who apparently has unlimited minutes.  I refused to tell him what was wrong so he waited.  And he waited.  It isn’t like he was doing absolutely nothing. From the background noises he let the dogs out and then let them back in again.  But he did manage to out wait me.  I told him what he’d said.

Of course, he hadn’t meant to hurt my feelings.  On a good day, I’d have known that.  But I ignored all those big, bright signs and headed down a road into the bad part of town.  Until God sent me a sign with a cell phone.  A sign that refused to wait for me to get over it.

Thankfully.  Because I’d hate to think about where I’d have ended up otherwise.

–SueBE


		
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