Save us, help us

Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.

People: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Why these words at the beginning of a noonday prayer service? It’s not likely that anyone praying them is in mortal danger. Anyone who is in such a predicament isn’t likely to have their BCP in hand, after all. As I pondered these words for the past few days, these thoughts arose…

The officiant is the one who asks God to save us, not the people. Although we shouldn’t need it, having a leader ask for God’s saving presence gives the rest of us permission to do the same. Everyone needs God’s saving love and presence, and asking for it is a sign of wisdom rather than a terrible weakness.

Most of us are okay with giving help, but needing help? It takes strength to admit to needing help; it’s easy to consider needing a help a character flaw rather than a universal human truth.

Asking God for help, admitting our need to be saved by God, is easier with practice. If the words become part of us, we will have them when we need them. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes for sufficiency.

I may not need saving from a physical danger at the moment, but I do need saving from things that kill the soul and maim the spirit. Disdain for others and self, hopelessness, and a perspective so limited that I am unable to act with love and compassion are deadly if not in an obvious way. I may not wish someone harm, but without recognizing my limitations and my need for God’s saving love I may not wish them well – and I certainly won’t be willing to foster their wellbeing.

In the middle of the day, in the company of others, I am asking for help. Only with God’s help and saving grace can I hope to love God, myself, and others. I’m so very glad there are others asking for help, too…

Officiant and People

Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.

People: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Officiant and People

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

There’s no “officiant only” service that I’ve ever seen, something that doesn’t require the presence or participation of anyone else. Sure, any of the services can be prayed by someone in solitude – but there’s no pretending that no one else exists.

That makes sense to me, reminding me of a deeper truth; you and I are part of a much larger, older community of prayer that is not limited to the souls currently alive on this planet. You and I, we are part of an unbroken chain of prayer that stretches back to the beginning of creation and will stretch well beyond the span of our lifetimes. Neither as officiant nor as one among the people do we ever pray and praise by ourselves.

Worship isn’t a spectator sport or a television soap opera. It isn’t the job of the officiant to perform for me. I am asked to show up and participate, to serve as a conversation partner in this most basic act of honoring God.

What a wonderful and necessary requirement.

Noonday Prayers

I pray in the morning, I pray in the evening, but I don’t pray at noon on any kind of a regular basis.

I’m familiar with Morning Prayer and Vesper liturgies, but not the Noonday service.

I say prayers throughout the day, depending on what I see, hear, and feel; I don’t say mid-day prayers as a routine activity. There’s no “noonday prayers” on my calendar. Why is this?

Our Muslim sisters and brothers pray at noon as part of their every day faith, stopping in the middle of activities to orient themselves toward God. Isn’t it time I give this a try?

I hope you’ll join me. With these words, let us begin…

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

 

Maintenance

It’s on the corner of Center and High streets, a lovely brick building that once housed the town library. The morning sun slants in the windows, creating an airy space within; the afternoon sun glances off this side window, and mirrors the dazzling sun-on-waves found on the river just down the street. There is a grace to this old building, and the town is made more beautiful for it.

But give it more than a passing glance and the neglect cannot be overlooked. The bricks are no longer held fast by mortar; it’s only a matter of time, and not a lot of it, before whole sections are sheared off by the erosive effects of weather and age. No matter how well constructed this building was, regular care and maintenance are necessary to keep it solid and safe for use – regular care that was withheld for at least the past twenty years.

In this building, I see the beauty of craftsmanship, a structure built to serve this town for hundreds of years. In its disrepair, I see a town’s lack of respect for its own inherited history and beauty. There’s a stinginess to withholding basic repair to save a few dollars, and a lack of understanding that routine maintenance is necessary for all things.

I hope the town invests in this building, restoring it to serve as a resource for decades to come. But leaders unwilling or unable to recognize the necessity of routine maintenance aren’t likely to invest in an expensive restoration.

If leaders cannot see the necessity for investing in what is right before their eyes, what are the chances that they will invest in the intangible and sometimes invisible elements that foster communal life – services for the elderly and poor, resources for the very young, and the preservation of the local environment and all that live therein?

Form and Function

A couple years back, she was a birthday present from my son, Colin. I’d never seen an all-white nesting doll before. I thought Colin picked it because it would show up on the dark bookcase shelves – something the traditional multi-colored nesting dolls might not. I was wrong.

Not about the showing up part, but about her true nature. Sure, she held two other nesting dolls, each with different flower pattern on the front. I thought the change in pattern was just for fun. I was wrong.

My nesting doll isn’t just decorative, lovely as she is. She is a set of measuring cups. The tops are the thirds: 1/3 cup, 2/3 cup, and 1 cup; the bottoms are the quarters: 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, 3/4 cup. The patterns on the bottom make it easy to tell one size from the other – a clever way to keep measuring mistakes to a minimum. This nesting doll set is sturdy, washes easily, and takes up less space than the usual 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 1 cup sets.

She sits on an open shelf in my kitchen – simple and pretty when not in use. She measures dry goods when I’m cooking – simple and accurate when in use. Form and function residing together in a thoughtful, simple, gift. If that isn’t a bit of kitchen magic, what is?

What Do You See?

Mysterious Changes

They began as six hollyhock plants, three a lovely pale yellow, three a deep scarlet. Being an heirloom variety, they reseeded themselves every year – yellow on one side of my front walkway, scarlet on the other.

Ten years after they were planted, something changed; the yellow gave way to something closer to a very pale pink, and the deep scarlet lightened. A few years after that, the flowers opened with two colors: peach and yellow on some, lavender and cream on others.

Over the years, the plants have moved up the walkway on both sides. I’m never sure where the newly reseeded ones will emerge, and I adjust the placement of my annuals – an opportunity to rethink my flower beds every year.

Weeding the beds the other day, I saw in these changes my life. In the nineteen years I’ve lived in this place, I’ve gone from a mother of small children to a mother of 20-somethings. My life pattern is different, growing out of changes that are beyond my control.

If someone had asked me nineteen years ago what life would be at this point, I doubt I’d have landed on what it is. But this life has grown out of the older one, changing with each season, flowering in new ways.

I can’t control it, and I can’t predict exactly what the coming nineteen years will bring. Isn’t that amazing?

What Do You See?

  

A Walk In This World

 Photograph by Donna Eby

A sculpture in stone: a woman walking in a beautiful green space. Unless something happens to knock her over, she will be standing amid the green long after I’ve left this life. She’ll be worn away by the elements, but that will take a very long time – a gradual blurring of her features and her skirt folds. She may even outlast the tree above her. For decades to come, she will offer everyone who passes the chance to stop walking just long enough to meet the beauty this world offers.

I am not made of stone, and I have changed from a newborn baby to nearly retirement age in these past fifty-seven years. I won’t get the chance to experience everything I’d like before a stone marks my grave, and I won’t appreciate all the experiences I did have as much as I should. But I recognize the holy privilege of drawing breath for a brief span of time, and the wonder of walking in this green place.

What Do You See?

Paper Boats and Folded Flowers

Origami is an art and a mystery to me. I enjoy watching a flat piece of paper turn into something quite different – a crane, a bird, a bat, or a Christmas tree. Or a rose and a boat, like the ones above.

You can’t tell by looking at them, but they share a common attribute: both require my participation after they are folded. The boat needs me to set it afloat – something I’ve done with dozens of boats in tubs, rivers, and ponds. When it gets waterlogged, I restore it by lifting it out of the water to dry. Origami boats, with a little help, have several voyages in them.

The rose is different because it’s not just a rose. A soft press of my fingers turns it into a cube; my gentle pull on the corners recreates the rose. It cannot be what it was created to be without help.

A beautiful human life seems to require the same: loving creation and another’s help for it to be what it was meant to be. Weighed down by the sea of reality, everyone needs a lift and a time for restoration. Stuck in one place, a gentle push or pull is necessary to shift into another one.

What a blessing, to be interdependent in this God-created world.

What a blessing, to have the honor of being the helping hand.

What Do You See?