Category Archives: Prayer

Proud Thoughts

Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13, NRSV

Keep back your servant also from proud thoughts – the alternate translation of that first part of the verse. This isn’t a prayer for God to keep me away from the insolence of others: it’s a prayer to God that I don’t become insolent. But, as like attracts like, if I hang with an insolent crowd I’m probably guilty of the same vice.

Proud thoughts (the ones that make me see myself as comparatively better than others) aren’t the same thing as self-confidence or self-love. Proud thoughts are those internal conversations that demean others so that I can feel inherently superior. They shrink my soul even as I diminish the worth of others. There is no doubt: this is a great transgression. Evil comes easily from such thoughts.

The Buddhists list right thought as one of the chief elements in a holy life. This is having the right perspective more than it is the lack of thinking mean thoughts. Their point is that everything else springs from this basic starting point. Wrong thoughts cannot lead to right judgement, speech, or action – harm will come from the wrong perspective, damaging others or damaging self, and often both.

Perhaps there’s no better way to avoid proud thoughts than asking for God’s help. Knowing I cannot rely on my own strength of character, and knowing I can rely on God’s love, is a good starting point.

 photo by Donna Eby

How Will We Find Our Way?

Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 

But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Psalm 19: 11-12. NRSV

There’s more: God’s word warns us of danger and directs us to a hidden treasure.

Otherwise, how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? 

Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Psalm 19: 11-12, The Message

[For the whole psalm, click Psalm 19 above.]

A couple of years back, just past midnight, street work closed my usual route to Logan airport. The detour signs put me on an unfamiliar road, then left me stranded in the middle of a bunch of warehouses. GPS was no help: it kept directing me back to the closed street and refused to guide me to another route.

I couldn’t see any familiar streets or landmarks, so I picked a street and drove. After a couple of attempts, I came upon a familiar place and was able to make my way through Boston and arrive at Logan from the North. My knowledge of Boston streets was just enough to get me to my destination.

At times, my spiritual life feels like that drive. My usual routine can’t get me where I need to go, and I end up in a dark and unfamiliar place. It’s during those times that I need to find a familiar intersection, somewhere that reveals where I am. Once I find that, I can reorient and find an alternate road. It may take some time, but I’ll find my way.

That night in Boston, the familiar place was South Station.

When my soul is lost, that familiar place is God’s word: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.

 Art by Margaret Hill

It’s Not Just About Me

…the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;

[Psalm 19:9-10a, NRSV. For the complete psalm, click psalm 19 above.]

 

English doesn’t quite get the point across. This isn’t fear in the sense of afraid-for-my-life/scared-to-death; this fear of the Lord is the quickening of the pulse, the scared-to-life sense when holiness shows up. This isn’t fear that harm will come, but keen awareness of the difference between creature and Creator.

This awareness of my own limitations, this encounter with the love that created all that is, this is what I should desire more than gold. My finitude in the presence of the loving Infinite doesn’t diminish me: it just gives me the slightest glimpse of God’s sacred love of everyone and everything else.

It’s a wonderful and humbling gift of truth: I am God’s beloved, and I walk a world full of other beloveds.

 

Tuning In

Offered by Bill Albritton, teacher, singer, prayerful writer…

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard.

When I was a young lad, sitting through a sermon on a hot Sunday morning in  Tennessee wasn’t always a very pleasant experience. Yet I will never forget one such experience when the preacher started out his homily with something like: God’s voice is everywhere. He went on to say that God is talking to each of us all the time. He used the analogy of radio waves being all around us that morning but we don’t hear them because we don’t have radios turned on and tuned in. And then he said something like: We need to tune in to God’s station to receive God’s message to us. 

As Johnna suggested in the first verse of this magnificent Psalm, it is good to get our heads up and look around in order to appreciate the Creator’s handiwork. Perhaps it is good to spend time tuning in as well.

I know I need to be doing more of it, and that means I can’t be doing all the talking. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young asked the musical question back in the early ’80’s: when everyone is talking and no one is listening, how can we decide? 

Indeed.

[Quote from Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Daylight AgainDaylight Again, 1982; Rudy Records, Devonshire Sound and Sea West; recorded 1980-1981]

 

No Speech, No Words

There is no speech, nor are there words;

their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19: 3-4, NRSV

A blue jay landed on my back window ledge last night, clicking his feet against the screen and cocking his head. No words, but the request was clear: fill up the feeder, please. The jade plant out back started drooping a few days back – too much rainwater had gathered in the bottom of the pot and needed draining. A cacophony in the trees begins, then moves to the shrubs and trees in the neighboring yards: all kinds of birds raising the alarm because an owl or hawk is near by.

None of these instances involve words or discernible speech, but the message was as clear as if spoken in perfect English. If such as these are clear, how can the diversity of life on this planet be any less understood: None of this is self-made. All of this has a creator.

Lord, open my eyes, ears, hands, and mind to all that you have made, all that you are making, and all that is to come. Amen.

 Minot Trail, photo by Jared Fredrickson

Day to Day

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. [Ps. 19:1-4, NRSV]

[For the complete text, click Psalm 19 above.]

It isn’t like a train that only shows up for a few seconds a couple of times a day. Day to day, night to night, the heavens are telling us about God. The whole creation, in all times and places, bears witness to the God who created it all in the first place.

Whether it’s a snow squall, a cloudless sky, lightning and thunder raging, or just a sliver of moonlight filtering through the clouds, revelation is offered every hour of every day and every second of every night. What language could be grander than the heavens above our heads? What time better than all the time?

Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear what the heavens profess. Amen.

Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Walking down the street and looking at the other people walking by; waiting in line at airport security; pushing a cart down the grocery aisle: why is almost everybody looking down? At phones, their feet, the sidewalk, luggage – what is so fascinating that so few glance upward?

I am grateful for two feet planted firmly on the ground, but there’s so much more to see beyond my own toes. The glory of the constantly changing color of the sky in all kinds of weather; clouds that reveal and conceal, morphing into shapes familiar and unidentifiable; stars and planets emerging in deepening dark and fading in coming light.

God offers the beauty of the heavens, sometimes calm and other times fearsome. It sings in my heart and resonates deep in my bones. It can bring perspective, beckoning me to let go of my own pettiness and the meanness of others in favor of living in awe.

Proclamation at its best requires no words.

 photo by Donna Eby

[Psalm 19 can be found in its entirety by clicking “psalm 19” above.]

Deep Inside My Bones

“I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

Hebrews 8:10b-11, NRSV

Are you enough? Are you loved, and lovable? Do you know, REALLY know, that God delights in you?

YES is the true answer: you are enough, you are loved and lovable, and you are a delight to God. Know this, accept this, inscribe this in your head and on your heart. This is the law of love that guides life and gives us all we need to embody love in our outer actions and inner thoughts. We won’t do it perfectly, and we might not always do it happily, but we can and will do it. And that, my friend, is reason enough to rejoice.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

[The Deer’s Cry]

Pass It On

May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

 

Everyone is born with unique gifts and deserving of deep love. Everyone has something to offer their small part of the world that no one else can, bringing new realities into being. But it takes encouragement and courage to offer your gifts to the world. Often, they seem so small, so limited.

That’s where the second part of this benediction comes in…

Pass on the love that has been given to you. If you haven’t been loved as deeply and broadly as you deserve (and you do deserve such love!), let God’s infinite love fill your heart and pass that on. Gifts alone aren’t enough; gifts offered in love are. 

It’s one of the great mysteries of life, and one of the most obvious. It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook.

Peace Within

May today there be peace within.

When I’m not happy, I look for more reasons to be upset. I read insult in a casual remark or change in tone. I notice every red light, every turn without a signal, and everyone driving way too slow or way too fast. Nothing I need is in the cupboard, the mailbox is full of bills and junk mail, and no one is around when I need help. And God forbid someone tell me to cheer up.

My own internal frustration and turmoil colors how I see everything and everyone. I give no one the benefit of the doubt, and I assume ill intention in the words and actions of others. It’s unfair to everyone, helpful to no one, and exhausting.

But if I calm the inner storm, I’m not looking for reasons to be antagonistic or confrontational. I don’t mistake inconvenience for catastrophe or someone else’s behavior for intentional insult. I can overlook or be amused by rude behavior – even intentionally rude behavior.

Peace within myself isn’t just a nice extra: it’s a necessary state if I’m to offer true love and care to the world in a consistent and dependable way.

Peace be with you and peace be with me are words of power just as sure as they are words of blessing. Today, may you and I both have peace within.