Category Archives: Prayer

Forsake

Forsake: To renounce or turn away from entirely. 

[Merriam Webster’s definition is succinct, but if you scroll down a bit, you’ll find an additional note under the synonyms and antonyms button: to leave without intent to return. This isn’t a vacation, a break, a let’s-leave-some-options-open kind of thing. This is a burn-the-bridges action, because there is no going back. www.merriam-webster.com]

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;*

call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways*

and the evil ones their thoughts;

I don’t think of myself as wicked, or as an evil mastermind plotting the downfall of all that is good and holy. But I am quite blind to my own limitations, and whatever damage they do to neighbors far and near. I need an outsider’s perspective to shine a light on what I cannot and do not wish to see. Without such help, I cannot renounce or turn away from what is maiming my spirit and harming others. My small and fearful self doesn’t want to die, even when that death is necessary for a new self to be resurrected out of its ashes.

Giving this perspective, this help, is a prophet’s calling – and the reason so many prophets are killed. No one likes to die, even if the death of a small self offers a blessed, more expansive life. It’s far easier, perhaps, to kill the messenger than to admit to what is choking the life out of the spirit.

If I didn’t know in the deepest recesses of my soul that God was present, just a breath and a word away, would I have the courage to let go of even the least of my limitations?

God, give me strength to forsake what is killing me and harming others and give my neighbor a double portion of that strength. In Jesus’ name I pray, So Be It.

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways, and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, and to our God, for he will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and snow fall from the heavens, and return not again, but water the earth, 

Bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it.

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. [The Second Song of Isaiah, BCP, p. 86-87]

 photo by Jared Fredrickson

Isaiah Sings A Lenten Song

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;*

call upon him when he draws near.

[The Second Song of Isaiah (Is. 55:6-11)Book of Common Prayer, p. 86-87]

Whenever I pray the first part, the first line, there’s an obvious thought that comes along with it – something that could be put in parentheses and added to every Book of Common Prayer:

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found (which is always, every minute of every day);*

That God wants to be found by us is a no-brainer: God seeks discovery, a parent hiding in plain sight, waiting for us to open our eyes. God is constant and never truly beyond our reach.

But God doesn’t force a relationship. Constancy is not the same thing as insistence. We have the right to walk away, walk past, turn and head in another direction. We can refuse to reach out. We can stay put, hanging back from God’s presence rather than taking steps toward. Perhaps feeling we aren’t worthy of God’s love, afraid to admit our imperfections, embarrassed by needing the deep love that only God offers, we might not have the wherewithal to seek.

That’s why the second part is so important. Even with God’s presence with and for us a sure thing, our presence with and for God isn’t. So we have to act, to respond. God isn’t asking for much, just the simple act of calling a name. When we don’t have the courage, strength, wisdom, or energy to get up and look, we just have to call out. When we can’t see God through the darkness, we just need to speak. Even the faintest of whispers will do – God has drawn near enough to hear.

[For the full canticle, click Lent 2021 above.]

OMG

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12); John 1:1-14

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him; nothing – not one thing! – came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was the Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.

There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into the Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed, and would do what he said, he made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. [The Message, John 1:1-14]

John 1: 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
 
When I worked in San Antonio there were large billboards that had messages of faith prominently displayed along major highways. These billboards could be seen in various parts of the country and were rather thought-provoking. One I remember said “DON’T MAKE ME HAVE TO COME DOWN THERE!” and was signed “GOD”. I remember thinking, “well, I guess we did—thank you.”
These words in John’s prologue say it all. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, interprets this verse: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood”. How amazing and awesome is this!
This Word that was in the very beginning, which was with God, which was God, which created all things, is now here in our midst as one of us. Jesus has arrived and is living next door. May we invite him into our homes and welcome him into our hearts today. Oh, my God!
Offered by Bill Albritton, seeker of the Life-Light.

Ready

Readings: Psalm 79; Micah 5:1-5a; Luke 21:34-38

Redeemer

Eternal

Almighty God and Father

Devotion

Your faithful servant

Lord, make me ready

let me stand before you on this day

with my heart uplifted to you.

With the promise of life eternal

I remain your faithful servant.

Offered by Susan Sorrento, designer and scrapbooker bound for Bethlehem.

Luke 21:34-36, NRSV

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

The In Crowd

Readings: Psalm 79; Micah 4:6-13; Revelation 18:1-10

In that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted.

The lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion now and forevermore. [Micah 4:6-7, NRSV]

It’s the beautiful people, the wealthy and famous ones; it’s the ones with open concept homes, tastefully decorated; it’s the best and brightest, and the camera-ready: the In Crowd. The ones who don’t suffer in comparison, who don’t fall short, the ones who look the part, that make up that In Crowd. It’s not the ones who get picked last for kick ball, the ones who can’t afford the amenities, the ones without beauty or grace, or those who don’t get the joke. Outsiders don’t get in the In Crowd.

But that’s not really how the universe works, because the universe is God’s beloved creation. In the small, lower case sense, reality may be defined and limited by our superficial and inadequate standards. In the true, broader sense, it isn’t up to our limited judgement and prejudices. Those we would exclude from the In crowd, those of us excluded from the In crowd, are gathered and honored, valued not for external factors but for their very existence. God delights in every single life. There are no exceptions.

Happily, there are no ins and outs for God. There’s just the crowd and the invitation: join the party.

God In Mine Eternity

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels sometimes portray immortality as a good in itself. Living beyond all generations, never growing old or suffering from the pains of an aging body – who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t do just about anything to gain that?

But a few narratives include something else. Not exactly a religious or overtly prayerful approach that questions this, but the cost of such an infinite life. Perhaps it’s the method of gaining immortality – Voldemort by soul-splitting murder, Dorian Gray by soul-revealing portrait. Maybe it’s the consequence more than the method – Tuck Everlasting’s immortal family that “fell off the wheel of life” and landed in a never-ending loop of isolation, Olympic Gods losing empathy and the ability to value life, Bella Swan Cullen forever stuck in teenager mode.

If I’m to drop from life into eternity, it can’t be an eternity of my own making; such a thing would be existence, not life. If I’m to drop from life into eternity, it has to be falling into a much deeper, wiser love than I can attain or even imagine.

Mine eternity can only be something God offers, or it cannot contain the love and grace that even this short life of mine has given. May I only seek to enter God’s eternity. It can’t be truly mine unless it, just as my life, is God-given.

In My Ever-Living Soul

[Christ Church Parish, Plymouth, Massachusetts]

It blends in with the rest of the windows in the chapel – blue in tint, full of small symbols, rarely noticed by anyone but the people who sit below it during Sunday worship.

It’s breathtaking to me, this small bird. Surrounded by the virtues, the gospel writers’ symbols, and so many flowers, it’s a visually quiet pane. Peaceful.

Whoever crafted it, I owe you a debt. To see a bird perched on a branch is such a common thing – a glance out a window is likely to offer just this sight. I think that’s why you included this bird. To remind me that God is ever-present, a common element in my life.

But it’s when I remember that God is just as surely perched in my soul that I can trust that ever-living is an adjective that applies to it.

God In My Slumber

My grandmother got up early every day, getting the housework started well before the rest of us were out of bed. By the time I was getting ready for school, she was taking a break for her cup of tea. After that, she grabbed the dust mop and gave the floors their daily once-over. She filled the rest of her day taking care of the house and all the people who lived within its walls. At night, when it was time, she fell asleep, recharging her body, mind, and spirit for the next day’s work and play.

I asked her once how she managed to keep to such a good sleeping pattern, even when life brought worries that couldn’t be scrubbed away with soap and water. Just get up every day and do the best you can. Don’t worry about what you can’t fix. 

She didn’t put things in spiritual terms, and I never heard her wax philosophic over anything. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the capability – she just didn’t see the point. She didn’t talk about trust in God or letting things go in prayer. She just didn’t let daily cares become nightly anxiety dreams. She entrusted herself to something beyond herself, and had faith that the world would still be there in the morning.

If that isn’t the peace of God in slumber, what is?

Sufficient?

God in my sufficing,

God in my slumber,

God in my ever-living soul,

God in mine eternity.

[For full prayer and more information, click Prayers from the Hebrides above.]

It isn’t hard for me to call on God when I cannot face something alone. When my own abilities and knowledge aren’t enough, asking God and neighbors for help isn’t such a stretch. It’s when I am perfectly capable of completing the task without help (thank you very much) that I’m apt to overlook God’s love and how I am always connected to God, God’s fragile creation, and all of God’s creatures.

It’s a terrible thing, forgetting that everything that is, was, and will be is God-created and God-related. Preserve me from the arrogance of assuming that I am somehow an exception.

God In My Heart

Vessel (definition 1, www. Merriam-webster.com)

             A.  A container (such as a cask, bottle, kettle, cup or bowl)                              for  holding something.

              B.  A person into whom some quality (such as grace) is                                     infused

The heart is a vessel, by either definition – a container, or the core of a person. Either way, the heart will contain something, be infused by something. If it isn’t God, it will be something else.

Please God, let it be you. Amen.