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Prayer in action…

“Happy birthday!” I said to my teen-age son, and walked over to give him a hug. Huh. How about that. My son was so much taller than me that his shoulder was over my head. I had to turn to the side to breathe. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I suffocated in the armpit of the son I gave life to? 🙂

On an awards show, the singer, Pink, wearing a sparkly leotard, spinning on a trapeze high above the audience, was singing, “I’m not here for your entertainment!” I scratched my head. Surely this isn’t educational?

Flipping to another channel, there was a half-hour infomercial called “Identity Theft News” posing as a live news broadcast.

As we all tend to do, I surfed the web while watching t.v., and found some other puzzling things. Like the use of trendy, made-up phrases in news articles, i.e., Obama White House Photographer Throws Shade at Trump, Rep. Maxine Waters Claps Back at Bill O’Reilly After Hair Insult.

Even more confusing, sometimes a word can be used in opposite directions: Almost 75 Years After Death Beatrix Potter Drops New Book, and Simon & Schuster Drops Milo Yiannopoulous Book Following Release of Controversial Video.

Over the years, I’ve learned:

  • Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
  • Social media is here to stay, along with selfies and skinny jeans.
  • Times change.
  • We’ll be okay.

I don’t have to always “get it” as I look around at the world today, because I know some of the most important things never change. Faith, family, friends, and the perpetual power of prayer.

As the Yiddish proverb says, “Prayers go up, and blessings come down.” Let’s let Anne Lamott have the last word today: “Anything you say from your heart to God is a prayer.”

I think we can all agree, stress is a huge part of our day to day lives right now. Whether you’re on Facebook or Twitter or wherever else, all anyone is talking about is politics.  And they aren’t just talking. They’re arguing and name call and bickering.  It’s a lot like being a gibbon near the chimpanzees that Lori wrote about in her post. You’re just hoping that you aren’t the one they decide to tear apart.  It is exhausting.

Or it can be.

This week a friend commented that I don’t seem quite as strung out as everyone else. “What are you doing?” she asked.

Honestly, it is a very legitimate question.  I am, to put it kindly, a wee bit high strung.  Being around people who are stressed out really puts me on edge. Even a calm crowd gets on my nerves. What’s my secret?

I’m disconnecting. I’m not going to go so far as to shut down my Facebook account or go off Twitter.  But I only check Twitter once each morning and again around noon.  That’s it.  It means I don’t see every tweet but that’s okay. I’m surebookshelf I’m missing some great knitting and book news but I can only take so much of the angst.
I’m nesting.  Not in the “I’m about to deliver sense” but that’s what my husband calls it when I clean out, reorganize and redecorate.  No redecorating yet but I’ve dug out a set of shelves in the basement and now I’m cleaning them off. I’m also sorting and recycling here in my office.  One entire shelf was cleaned off and I now have a place for my Star Wars chest (yes, I’m that geeky) and my library books (again, geeky but all is good).

norwichWith this extra time in this renewed space, I’m praying.  Granted I’m not praying as much as I should – 24/7 seems pretty reasonable all things considered – but I am praying.  In part, I’m doing that by focusing on a particular prayer.  This week my focus was a prayer from Julian of Norwich.

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

When I pray this or any of my other favorites, it orients me toward God.  When I’m facing God, I’m not obsessing about what whoever said, what is and isn’t truth, and who may or may not be about to do what.  I’m focusing on God.

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Disconnect. “All shall be well…”

Nest. “. . . and all shall be well . . .”

Pray. “… and all manner of things shall be well.”

It may not be the right combination for everyone but it is the combination that’s working for me.

–SueBE

norwich

hzg0vjhfyg0-gary-rockettTell me this. When, exactly, do the cows come home? They must be the Ultimate Party Animals. People always say, “We’ll stay out until the cows come home!” as if it’s a measure of the amount of fun they’re having. Now, I’ll get along with anybody, but if Elsie Moos and Mambos at five AM outside my window, I’m going to be pretty darn lactose intolerant!

I wonder why we phrase it this way: “Nightfall” and “Daybreak.” To me, they should be reversed. Night actually breaks, if you think about it. The sudden presence of pitch-blackness disrupts us as we’re going about our daily lives. Oh! Not even 5 o’clock. Night-time already! Well, better get the knitting. Warm up the cocoa. We’re in for the night!

But if you’re an early bird and have ever (voluntarily) seen the sunrise, you know it comes gently, gradually. Often beautifully. It doesn’t “break” upon the scene, no, it rolls in. Perhaps even strolls in.

It isn’t always clear why “things have always been done this way.” Sometimes it’s out of habit, or tradition, or maybe it was whoever won “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

It may take a few years, but eventually, you’ll realize that it’s okay to be yourself. There was a time when I’d check in with friends to see what they’d be wearing to the party, or to make sure I knew where the action was later on that night.

Nowadays, I don’t get out as much as I’d like due to health issues, but as I sat in my sunroom and watched my cat watching squirrels, I realized something startling.

This is the peaceful life I always wanted. These are my druthers. Sure, there are things I’d like to do: it would be good to get out and explore the world more. See my friends in person. It would be nice to be able to “impulse-shop” once in awhile.

But I don’t miss the hustle and bustle, or the “schlepping” to get where you wanted to go – the place where you thought the action was.

Just as the church isn’t a building, but the people, the party isn’t the location, but the company you keep. Sometimes it’s the whole family, or just you and your cat. It’s all good.

My definition of blessings? A home that’s peaceful, prayerful and positive. Just like this blog.

Here’s to the good life!

bible-998150_1920Last week, I read a blog post about selecting a Bible verse to pray throughout the year. It’s an idea that appeals to me where I am at the moment.

Where am I?  I have to admit that my prayer life has been a little lax. What does lax mean?  It means that when someone asks for prayer, I pray.  When I read about someone who is hurting, I pray.  But I haven’t been spending a lot of quiet time with God.

I’m also not feeling 100%.  I thought I was having muscle spasms in my back.  But this morning as I was getting dressed my husband spotted a palm-sized rash, pink and blistered. It is probably shingles.

I’m also between jobs – a side-effect of being a freelance writer.  I’m always restless and a bit off when I’m between jobs.  But what to pray?  God knows what I need and telling him to send it RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE seems a little self-absorbed.

I need a focus.  I need something to help me remember to make contact with God throughout my day.  I need a verse.  I’m going to print out several copies.  Then I’ll tape one here on my monitor.  Another will go on the treadmill.  One suggestion was to tape one to the bathroom mirror.

But first I have to pick a verse.  Sometimes I will pray it “as is,” reciting as I read.  Other times, when I see this reminder to reach out to God, I will improvise.  Here are four possible verses to use, starting with one of my favorites:

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:5-6)

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (John 5:14)

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)

Oh, Lord.  Remind me to look to you when I am afraid, when I am sick, when I don’t know what to do. You are constant and unchanging.  You know me and my needs.  I call on you.  Amen.

–SueBE

I’ve been struggling with a word lately. Nothing polysyllabic, mind you. Just two little letters: AS. Oh sure, I can spell it. I can even use it in a sentence (and often do). It’s the repercussions of those two letters in one particular context that have me thinking: Their use in the Lord’s Prayer.

Here’s what I’m talking about: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s a pivotal part of the prayer that Christ himself gave us. And it is here that semantics come into play. “As” can mean “while” or “at the same time as” — as in, “forgive us our sins while we forgive others their sins.” But it can also mean “equally” or “because” — as in, “forgive us our sins to the same degree we forgive others theirs, or only because we forgive theirs.” See what I mean about two letters being thought-provoking?

The first interpretation is the easiest to parse and live with. It’s rather a tit for tat situation: You do your part, God, and we’ll try to do ours. But there’s no commitment to “keeping up with the Joneses” here — no promise to forgive to the same extent as God does. The second definition (“to the same extent as”) poses a trickier quest because it does ask us to do as God does, in the same way and magnitude that God does. That’s one tricky commitment.

“Because” also holds its challenges. It requires that we go first: We forgive to be forgiven. Can I do that sincerely, without feeling like I’m taking my spoonful of castor oil only so I can have a lollipop afterward? Can I do that without demanding the reward of forgiveness in return?

Forgiveness is tough, and it gets tougher depending on the degree to which we love the person we need to forgive. So, if we want forgiveness for ourselves — and who doesn’t? — it behooves us to think hard about those two little letters. What did Jesus mean by them? Which interpretation would he choose? Or would he choose “all of the above” — the toughest challenge of all?

God created language, and God knows (and delights in) its intricacies. So I’m reasonably sure of my answer. Jesus gave us just one prayer in all of scripture; he knew we would be picking it apart and analyzing it for centuries to come. I’m far from the first to wonder about it. I certainly won’t be the last.

So there’s my task: To be forgiven AS I forgive. Whatever that means. Whatever it takes. Boy, that’ll require some serious prayer.

l8a9vhn6pje-gabriel-piThe one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.
Proverbs 11:25 (MSG)

Waiting in the lobby of the doctor’s office for my appointment, I noticed an elderly gentleman walking in the door. He stopped, squared his shoulders and set his chin. It occurred to me, Something is about to happen.

Marching over to the front desk, he waved a paper at the receptionist.

“You people did it again! Tried to bill me twice. But I’m onto you. You won’t get another DIME from me!”

The receptionist said, “I’m sorry about that sir, but if I can direct you to call our billing department, which is at another location….”

The angry man turned on his heel and noticed someone he knew. “Hiya, Tom,” his friend said. “Having an issue with the billing?” The man said, “Yeah, I had to give them a piece of my mind. Sometimes you have to show them you’re not gonna take their BS!”

Proud as punch, he swaggered out; still, he didn’t get his problem resolved. He’d refused to listen to the woman trying to tell him how to address it, and he was still as tightly-coiled as a cobra.

Not exactly one for the “Win” column.

You can berate, raise a ruckus, and cause a stir, or you can represent yourself and your faith in a memorable, mindful, mature way. Really, you can’t do both. There is a clear choice, every day. Navigating sticky situations with compassion. Showing the world your character, even as others lower the bar. Outreach instead of outrage. Tact instead of attack.

A new approach might be to “Bless-tify.” To testify about your faith by treating everyone with respect, even reverence – especially when emotions are running high.

“Blessing” is both a noun and a verb. The beauty of it is that you can give it and receive it at the same time. You’ll find yourself walking in the same spirit of love that changed your life when it really mattered. The saying goes, “Think before you speak,” or to put it another way, Pray Before you Say.

5lrxnlhfzoy-paul-greenIt’s been said that public speaking is easier if you picture your audience naked. (Oh my! How did Hugh Jackman get into the audience? Crikey! 🙂 Or for the younger crowd, perhaps Ryan Gosling. Hey Girl.)

Writing a story recently, I wasn’t sure if it was a drama with comedic notes or a comedy with dramatic underpinnings. I couldn’t quite place my audience.

I decided it was a lot like life: a comedy with dramatic under…pants. The key is keeping it light and not airing the dirty laundry.

Everybody’s dealing with something just under the surface.

In times like these, it’s more important than ever to focus on the good things in life. I like to picture my audience smiling. That’s why most of my posts are about accentuating the positive.

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I like to grab that hook of hope and hang my hat on it. For me, it’s laughter. Finding the funny in everyday things.

That maniacal look in my cat’s eyes as he rolls on the rug as if he finally tracked down his mortal enemy. “Bathroom rug… at last we meet. In a dark corner at the crack of dawn. Prepare to meet thy doom!”

 

20170102_203052The Lyft driver who thought he was going to make my day when he gave me a free sample of…. wrinkle cream! Derived from snails, yet. Some in my sensible shoes might have been offended when given an old lady lotion, but I laughed out loud. “Snails? My word. Well, they’re not at all wrinkly, that’s true. More slimy.”

And for those around you who only seem to complain and kvetch? 

A friend of mine in HR once told me her policy: “If you’re coming to see me just to vent, I’ll give you five minutes. If you want to solve the problem, I’ve got all day.”

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“Commiserate” is a word that tells its own story: let’s come together to share our misery.

What’s the opposite of “commiserate”?

Prayer.

People of faith coming together to request that others be blessed.

It’s like a spiritual standing ovation. Now that’s a story with a happy ending!

Often, when I go for my hour of Perpetual Adoration on Friday, there’s already someone there — a little Vietnamese gal who spends so much time in the chapel, I’ve dubbed her “the lady who lives there.” She is a devout soul, spending hours on her knees. But the other week, she actually sat down and nodded off. I have no doubt that she woke full of self-recriminations, but I wanted to tell her not to. It struck me that there might not be a better place to rest than in God’s own presence.

“Stay awake,” said Christ
but surely he knew
how bodies give out, go limp,
sag as if in a warm bath
feeling secure, safe,
safer here than anywhere, ever,
before his presence in monstrance
and wafer.
To sleep before the Lord
is the sweetest of sleep.

The sleep of angels.
The sleep of saints.

Under God’s watchful eye
the soul and body rest,
ready to rise — like bread,
like spirit, like new day breaking.

 

Have a peaceful Christmas everyone!

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