Are You there, God? It’s Me, Maurice

This year has sucked.

It’s been filled with a seeming unending list of disappointment and unanswered prayer. There have been marriage issues and employment issues which has often left me pissed at You (OF COURSE we reserve the right to complain: because we value our free will until our choices make a mess then we’re all “why didn’t You do something?”). This year has seen the drama and trauma of us switching churches, has been a relational nightmare as circles of friendships broke and realigned. It has seen my parents and more than a few friends and family get divorced. My mom alone provided a roller coaster ride between her retirement, divorce, cancer scare, surgery, engagement and move back to Jamaica.

During the dark times, I felt alone and abandoned with the silence making me think of You as grandpa asleep on the couch while chaos was breaking out all over.

So needless to say, it’s been a little hard to hear You.

Hard to see and difficult to hear are different from absent, however. Sometimes faith requires its own CSI crew to look for evidence of your presence. Though, honestly, I don’t have to look too hard. You held my marriage together which was a miracle unto itself. Counselors had no words, friends were at a loss, WE didn’t know which way to turn, yet You held us in your embrace. You strengthened our community and friendships, showing me that Your church isn’t one lone body, but a worldwide one. You opened doors for my writing and helped me to not only find myself but revealed what I’m called to be. And You’ve walked me through the dark times, to the point where it’s like the pain was so overwhelming at times, I blacked out, and yet found I had been carried along without my realizing.

I’ll be honest, I can’t wait for 2009 to be over with. I’m trusting You for 2010 and looking forward to what You have in store for us. As ever, You are an artist in my life. Thank You, not only for the storms but for them passing and carrying us through them.

Prayer of Repentance

It takes a while for repentance to travel from your head to your heart. I don’t know, maybe that’s part of the process: First getting your mind around things then it slowly sinking into your heart. So this morning, right in the middle of work, things finally hit me and left me laid flat out.

Lord, I’d pray that against You and You alone have I sinned, but that’s not quite how I feel. I’ve hurt my wife. I’ve hurt my children. I’ve hurt my sister. I’ve hurt my closest friends. I’ve hurt my church community. I’ve hurt people I barely know. I’ve failed at so much, I still can’t put my mind around it.

And I ache.

I ached at the depth of my sin. I ache for all the pain that I’ve caused. I’m humbled before You, Lord. I’m at the end of my ability to control my own life, at the end of trying to spin the story of my life.

I’m tired of lashing out in pain.
I’m tired of hurting.
I’m tired of not truly connecting to people.
I’m tired of living life so afraid of being hurt. Of being rejected.
I’m tired of putting on such elaborate artifice and calling it “me”.
I’m tired of the walls keeping me from loving and being loved.

Forgive me. I long to experience You, to truly experience You. I want the new life You’ve called me to. And I pray for the faith to believe that it’s there for me.

***
Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

The Table Benediction

by Darrell Johnson

Go now in the joy of knowing that you have been included.
Included at this table.
Included as His table.
Included in our common life.
Included in the Life of God;
in the Life of the Triune God;
in the Life shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Go in the joy of knowing that you have been included
in the inner life of the God Who is love.

Go, find joy in telling others that they too are included!

Go, find joy in bringing all God’s people to His table!

“Do not be afraid, little flock,
for your Father has chosen gladly
to give you the kingdom.”

You are included!

from THE WORK OF THE PEOPLE: Visual Media for Mission & Worship

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

I’m just praying …

When you think about many of the typical Stephen King stories, The Mist and 1408 being two recent film examples, what do we have? Interesting characters living life in the ordinary until the transcendent, the unknown, bursts in on them. I have always thought that was one of the strengths of horror, how it not only acknowledges a spiritual dimension to life, but that we also have to wrestle with that same transcendent reality when it picks the most inopportune times to break up our routine.

Which, in my own convoluted way, brings me to the idea of prayer. I envy the prayer warriors in our church. There are some folks who are quick to fall to their knees in prayer, who are in regular conversation with Him, and who have no problems going through any of the prayer postures and meditations that are a part of our gathering. Can I be honest with you? I’m not always there. Prayer scares me in a lot of ways. In fact, my fears boil down to two issues, what does faith filled prayer look like and who are we praying to?

The idea of faith-filled prayer, really believing what we say we’re talking about, really rocked me as I thought through the implications of the question. Think of how often we hedge our bets while praying. Look at how tepid our prayers often are: when it comes to people being sick, we pray for God to guide our doctor’s hands (all of whom must have the shakiest hands on planet the way we keep praying for them). We rarely pray for supernatural healing and I think one reason is that we don’t know what to do with it, either in the praying or in the receiving of it.

Think about the web site “Why won’t God heal amputees?” That’s an interesting question to ponder. What do we do with unanswered prayer? We struggle. God doesn’t exist. God doesn’t care. We’re left feeling as if the whole time we were talking to our invisible friend. We then get to wrestle with the idea of God’s silence, possible non-existence, or the sense of abandonment (leading to what some call the dark night of the soul).

But what if He did? What if God burst in with full revelation, as He was often recorded doing in the Bible? I don’t think we could handle it. Look at those same stories in the Bible: after every miracle, it was like people embraced a type of amnesia. They either forgot what they just witnessed or became blasé with a “yeah, but what have you done for me lately?” attitude. Either way, an encounter with supernatural would rock our worldview to its foundation (and that’s even if you already believed in Him in the first place).

We walk in tensions and paradoxes in our lives. Too often I think we have this schizophrenic view of God: half the time we treat Him like this cosmic genie doling out blessings like He’s the great Santa in the sky. The other half, we think of God like He’s a guy who hides behind the bushes waiting for us to screw up so that He can leap out, yell “ah ha!”, then heap plagues into our lives.

We want a God we can control and understand, but by losing the idea of what it means to have a fear of the Lord, we end up trivializing God. God is God. I don’t know how He chooses to answer or not answer prayers. Maybe something else is going on that I don’t get/know. Maybe there’s a bigger story in play than the one I’m writing in my life and mind. I do know that I pray to create a rhythm to my life, to quiet my thoughts, to align heart and connect it to God’s. Prayer exposes my heart, allows me to commune with God in relationship, and is ultimately a surrender to His authorship.

And as anti-intellectual as this may sound (my personal tension being a man of faith as well as a man of intellect), I follow even when I’m frustrated, angry, confused. The point is to stick with Him, praying full out, and then dealing with “no” as an answer later.

The Franciscan Blessing


May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort hem and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

The Cosmos is Our Daily Office

At the Dwelling Place, George Bebawi shared a prayer written by his mentor Philemon, a hermit monk. It’s something everyone ought to consider putting into practice:

When it is hot pray for the fire of the Holy Spirit and let this outside heat be your constant reminder.

When it is cold pray for more unity with the Lord and let the cold remind you of how sin can bring the coldness of heart and put out the fire of love.

When it rains, pray for the free grace which is given to all of us and pray for those who have not the grace of God in their life.

At midday our Lord was crucified do not let go of this moment in which we were reconciled to God. It is time to forgive all sins and injuries that we have sustained.

When you see the clouds pray for the Shekinah of God to protect you from evil. Pray also that this Shekinah overshadow the church.

At evening, it is time to remember our own death and give an account of what has happened during the day. Let us give thanks for what we have done and pray for the people whom we have seen and pray for a peaceful time for our sleep.

May the trees remind you of our growth Ps 1:3 and the roads of Jesus who is our Way, the building of our eternal dwelling with the Holy Trinity where we will not dwell in what is made by hands.

When we enter our dwellings let us remember our eternal dwelling in God and pray to be secured by God’s justifying grace which cannot be compared with our doors and walls.

If you have your hope in the life to come and in the resurrection and the eternal life pray that your bed be your grave and your covers be your shrouds. Say with the Lord, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit and sleep.

Do not let this become the chains of servitude.

As for the movements of our body:

When you sit to pray, you are sitting at the Right-hand of God the Father in Jesus Christ.

When you stand to pray, you are in the position of the resurrection with Christ our Lord.

When you kneel to pray, say the same words of our Lord in the garden and surrender daily to regain your peace the gift of God to us.

Enjoy sleeping as someone who is waiting to be raised by the Lord.

When getting dressed, pray that the Lord may take away the old life and give you the new one.

Give thanks for everything you eat and drink, for this is not in essence separated form the Holy Eucharist. If Christ is the food and the nourishment of your life then every meal will become a chance to pray to receive Him and to be nourished by Him waiting for the Meal that gave new meaning for every meal.

May your walking be always a renewal to commit your life to the Way of the One who is our only Mediator.

This does not mean, however, that each of the above should be performed with particular words or fixed manners; nor does one fix a particular way of behavior, because the sense of the presence of the Lord is the goal of prayer.

Our prayers and our behavior are unified to adjust our life to our fellowship with the Lord.

Prayer of Emergence

Dear God,

Save me from the pride of having things figured out. The arrogance of thinking I’m doing things the right way. That everyone else is wrong and I’m the only one who sees what went wrong. As if I know how to do things correctly; that somehow, I’m smart or insightful enough to be able to ride in on a high horse of judgment. Save me from my vision of religion and spirituality blinding me from loving others.

Save me from the spirit of bitterness against the church. My frustrations at our inability to be the kind of loving community You called us to be. The shoddy treatment I may have experienced at the hands. The let-downs and disappointments – it’s easy to focus on the Church’s shortcomings. Just as it’s easy to forget that the Church is us and You don’t focus on our short-comings. Let me remember all of the wrongs the Church has committed in Your Name, let every experience sear my heart so that they won’t be repeated on my watch. Help me to remember that the Church is Your bride, however numerous her faults, and how you’ve chosen to bring about Your kingdom.

Save me from the spirit of hearing sermons “so and so” should be hearing or reading books “so and so” should read, but help me to realize that I’m the one who should be hearing and reading. Help me to do my part to inflict less damage into the world. Remind me that I am here to love “those people”, too. Remind me that too often I’ve been a part of the problem.

Save me from my own hubris of the rightness of my spiritual journey. Help me as I work out my journey. Reveal Your Word to me in a fresh way so that I may know you better. Let my questions draw me closer to the reality of You. Let my life reflect Your love and healing. Let my actions help bring reconciliation.

Prayerfully, I’d settle for at least being on the right track.

Ever stumbling toward faith,

Maurice

***

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.