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This is one of my favorite prayers. Okay, technically, it isn’t a prayer.  It was written in The Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich.  But I use it as a prayer.

For those you who don’t know of Julian of Norwich, she lived approximately from 1342 to 1416.  She was a spiritual counselor, a woman who set herself off from the world and lived at St. Julian’s Church in Norwich.  Thus the name by which we know her.  That’s right.  This isn’t even her real name.

Does that mean we should pity her as a woman whose identity has been taken from her?  I don’t think so but not because that isn’t an issue.  It is but in this case I suspect it is what she wanted.  She was an educated woman who wrote the oldest surviving Western book to be written by a woman.  She has a clue.

In The Revelations of Divine Love, she writes about her visions of Christ.  In one vision, she was bemoaning the fact that sin had to exist.  Wouldn’t everything be better if there was no sin? But Christ answered her in her vision, “It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

How often in prayer do we spend our time looking back, gazing on past sin and suffering?  Oh, God.  Why did this have to happen?

It did happen.  But there is God and where there is God there is hope.

“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

The world is not a perfect place and yet we have grace.

“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

We are flawed but we are God’s.

“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

–SueBE

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As a writer and editor, I’ve always been a proponent of proper punctuation. It not only renders our words more readable and comprehensible, it can eliminate tragic misunderstandings. Don’t believe me? As a (rightfully) famous book about grammar points out in its title, a panda bear “eats shoots and leaves.” A murderer at a café, however, “eats, shoots, and leaves.” Big difference!

I’ve been pondering punctuation in relation to real life: Is death a period or an ellipse (…to be continued)? Or is it a semicolon, as we move from one part of our “sentence” (a complete thought) to another? Only God knows.

I pray in commas, brief pauses in my day, bare blips,
or often longer stops — ellipses and em-dashes —
the occasional exclamation, in pain, worry, joy…
a curved question mark, arced in self-pity.
The perfect prayer is, I think, a period.
Self-contained. Measured, like a bolt of cloth.
Shaped most simply, a clay cup
of subject, verb, and object.
And best if God is all three.

Trees are powerful things.  They take root in our emotions.

A fallen tree makes me sad.  I always want to pat it and try to make it feel better.  “There, there.”

Having to cut down a tree?  If it is sick, I can just barely tolerate the necessity.  If it isn’t . . .  Even if it has to be done for safety purposes, it is simply better if I’m not there.

Maybe this is because trees are slow to grow.  Plant a tree today and you aren’t going to have shade in a week or even a year.  This is an investment of decades.

Not that this should surprise us.  God is a long-term thinker.  It takes time for things to build, to grow, to mature.

Maybe that’s why we so often think that God isn’t listening to us.  Perhaps God is on tree time.   The next time you need to go to God in prayer, find a tree to lean against, sit on a shaded bench, stare up through the branches.  And talk to God who made both trees and human kind.

–SueBE

Some prayers are easy. And some…not so much. It is easy to pray for the unborn — little tabulae rasae of infinite potential — but not so easy to pray for those on death row, for folks on the fringes, for those who might not even want our prayers.

I cannot judge your heart.
You would not permit me,
even if I could. I am, as always,
at arm’s length, the rain beating
its wet fists on the window. It will not
be let in. Even so, I know fear,
and fear is often where you live.
Let us meet then on common ground:
I wish you safe passage.
I wish you better than common sense
would grant you. I wish you endless
horizons, walkable on feet that do not tire.
I wish for you the thing you will never give to me,
and that is peace. It hurts to hold you.
It hurts to let you go. God speed.

Had you told me, back when I was a kid, that someday I’d be doing all my writing on a laptop computer, I never would have believed you. (Also, I would have asked, “What’s a laptop computer?” Those were simpler times, folks.) Even during college, I wrote out all of my papers — no matter how lengthy — in longhand before typing them up. My brain-to-pen connection was strong. Nowadays, everything flows through my keyboard. Even prayers.

What is it
that emanates from you:
enters, moves and exits,
dances my digits
across lonely letters,
forming whole words,
little acts of creation —
a platypus, perhaps,
beaked but mammalian,
spare bits that somehow swim —
or a perfect petit four, iced
elegance, consumed in a gulp?
Is it the stuff of charlatans,
tapped alphabets, levitating tables?
Or is it you, yourself,
hunting and pecking,
posing a sort of code,
and do I even interpret one word in three?
Whatever this holy magic is,
please may it always be.

Tomorrow is another day.  Thank, God.  Literally.

I’ve been playing with a cold since Thursday night.  First was the sneezing and snot phase.  Yesterday, was coughing and a pounding headache.

Today?  Today seems much better.  Granted it’s only 10 am but my head doesn’t hurt so I’m going with it.  Today is much better.

That’s the great thing about a new day.  It is an opportunity for improvement.  A chance to get it right.

In adult Sunday school we are studying Ecclesiastes.  We are currently working our way through the first chapter and what it teaches us about prayer.  This line in the lesson brought me up short.  “Prayer seeks what God alone can do. Prayer comes from a careful consideration of what belongs to human effort and what requires God’s intervention. For example, we don’t ask God to reduce or increase or weight if that change is an expected outcome of proper diet and exercise…”

As if this wasn’t pointed enough.  One of our Bible passages in church yesterday included Luke 3:11 when people were listening to John the Baptist.  “John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

How often do we all pray for God to solve our problems and to solve community problems?  Problems that we could address ourselves.  Quite frankly, we know what to do.  We just don’t want to do it.

What an uncomfortable feeling.  But that’s okay.  Discomfort can be taken as a nudge to do something different, to do something better, to get it right.

With that knowledge we can wind the clock  Tomorrow is another day.

–SueBE

 

Yesterday was giving Tuesday so I spent a lot of time thinking about the impact what all have on the world around us.  Give to an organization like Heifer or Presbyterian Disaster Relief, and it has an impact.  Your money pools together with the money of others and influences the lives of people we will most likely never meet.

But what if you don’t have money to give?  That’s the reality some of us face, we have time but not money.  The good news is that we can still give to others.  And many of these gifts will be much closer to home.  We can help with our children’s sports teams, in their schools or their scout troops.  We can help a neighbor run an errand.  We can sweep someone’s porch or shovel their walk.

And we can pray.  A lot has been said on social media in the last year belittling prayer.  And I get it.  When prayers are offered in times of pain and horror but nothing is done to prevent that same pain and sorrow the prayers seem empty.

But sincere prayer?  That is something else.

A friend recently lost his step-daughter to heroine.  We prayed.

Another friend’s mother is in-and-out of the hospital.  I’m not a doctor but I can pray.

Some people think these prayers do know good but when someone believes in the power of prayer?  When someone is suffering and feels alone, letting them know we are praying can truly help.  A friend of my son suffers from chronic migraines. When I let her know I am praying for her, the tension visibly drains away.

Take a moment today and say a prayer.  You can pray for someone you don’t know.  Or pray for someone you do know.  Pray for wisdom or compassion.  Like ripples in a pond, prayer impacts lives.

–SueBE

 

I have to admit that I sometimes let the negative voices in my own mind drive me forward.  What if . . . If only . . . Worries, fears, and concerns can push me along.

Fortunately, my husband doesn’t function like that.  He’s my sounding board and has no issues when it comes to telling me I need to get out of my head.

The funny thing is that we are so different in many ways my girl friend’s in college tried to warn me away.  I was a super studious scholarship student.  My grades were my ticket to school.  A long-haired drummer who just happened to also be a business student.  “You don’t know what drummers are like,” warned my friends.

But I’d been praying to meet someone who would love me the way my dad loved my mom.  We had grown up miles apart.  I went to high school with his church friends.  He went to high school with my church friends but we didn’t meet until college.  I’m just glad I managed to ignore the fearful commentary.

Today is our 30th anniversary.  My friends saw a wild, partier.  I found someone whose faith is stronger than my own, who stays calm when I’m in panic mode and who knows when it is time to pull me out of my head.  God answers prayers. We just need to listen.

–SueBE

 

I thought my dear friend (and pet-sitter of 19 years) had disappeared. I couldn’t reach her by phone. My messages went unanswered. The number I found in the white pages had been disconnected. I was so miserable, I wept.

Turns out it was all a product of a faulty telephone and some bad timing. I am understandably relieved, but in those moments of panic, I realized just how delicate life can be….

The world is a fragile place,
held together by gravity and spit,
like a spider’s web or soap bubble,
ever poised to fly into fragments
at the least puff of wind.
We can build a shell of sorts
by holding hands — prayer will
brace the dam more firmly
than cement. If someone is standing
alone, we must pull them in
like a wandering balloon.
Be gentle with your hands
and with your words:
You never know who
might be crumbling.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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