a prayer on the eve of the election

Father, forgive us 
It is obvious that we have no clue what we are doing.  
You have given us the gift of reason  
yet when we insist that our understanding is right,
and we fail to acknowledge you,  
we have lost our way.  
Help us to turn again to you  
trusting you will set us on the right path, 
which is the way of love  
and when we get lost again  
bring us back home once more. 

A prayer for wholeness

God of wholeness,
Father, Son, Spirit,
never lacking or incomplete,
eternally perfect in oneness,
you promised that in the Son,
all things shall be reconciled.

Remind me of my union with you,
always aware of your holy presence
in and around me.
You, O LORD, are never absent,
but I confess that my senses are dulled
by 10,000 distractions.
I want to love you
as you have loved me,
fully and completely and unreservedly.
Let your lovingkindness toward me
ignite my love.

You, O LORD, have filled this world
with those who bear your image
yet each person is uniquely beautiful.
Remove the scales from my eyes
so that I may see with compassion.
Help me to remember that listening is loving
and curiosity is a sacred gift.
To love another is to get dirt on my hands,
just as you did when you formed people
from the dust of the ground.
Whether in agreement or conflict,
let love define me.

As I look inward,
let me see myself as you see me,
not as damaged goods, nor irredeemable,
but as your beloved child
who is infinitely valuable in your eyes.
Let the knowledge of my belovedness
cast aside every doubt I have
about how you see me,
knowing that you cherish me
just as I am right now.

Help me to remember
that when you formed the heavens and the earth,
you called your creation good.
It was full of beauty
and teeming with life,
yet like your people,
your good creation has suffered
the ravages of disintegration.
You have invited me to be a steward of the earth;
let me take up that call with hope and endurance,
remembering that you are reconciling all things.
Grant me the skill
to make good and beautiful things,
remembering that goodness and beauty
are reflections of you.

Where there is hatred, restore compassion
where darkness, light
where confusion, clarity
where where fragmentation, integration
where agitation, peace
where pride, humility
where brokenness, wholeness
and where self-centeredness, love.

a prayer written upon my arms

Yesterday, I got my 7th tattoo. When I got first tattoo a few years ago, I asked the artist about the weirdest tattoos he had ever done. Two stood out to me. The first was a model who had a stack of pancakes tattooed on her butt and the second was a person who had a waffle recipe tattooed on her arm. People get tattoos for many different reasons, I suppose. I have given considerable thought to each of mine and to the messages they send, first to me and then to others. They are intended to deeply reflect the things that I value.

  • שָׁלוֹם (Shalom)
  • חָפְשִׁי (Chophshi)
  • be who you are
  • truth, goodness, beauty, strength (King, Sage, Warrior, Lover)
  • LUDIO-Love Up, Down, In, Out
  • integration, wholeness, reconciliation
  • fiat lux (Let there be Light)

I will happily talk your ear off about any of these things, but this morning, I decided to write these into a prayer.

God of heaven and earth,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
At the beginning of all things,
you created all that is by the word of your mouth
uttering “Let there be light.”
You gazed upon your creation
and you called it good,
the cosmos was precisely as you intended.
Holy shalom.

Yet infective darkness slithered in,
the world became fragmented
by sin and shame,
all creation disintegrated and hopeless.
In your love and mercy
you saw fit to send a redeemer,
your son Jesus.
In him, I have been set free
from sin’s bondage,
but so often, I forget who I am
and I wander back into dark places.
God, remind me who I am,
over and over.
Let reminders of your grace
constantly ring in my ears.

You have created me in your image and likeness,
giving me the capacity to love all things
with my whole being,
heart, soul, mind, and strength.

God, the world is torn asunder,
I see it every day.
Help me to remember that I am
an ambassador of integration, wholeness, and reconciliation.

Where there is darkness, let me bring light;
where bondage, freedom;
where deception, truth;
where vileness, beauty;
where evil, goodness;
where weakness, strength;
where hatred, love;
where disunion, integration;
where fragmentation, wholeness;
where division, reconciliation;
and where rupture, shalom;
always remembering
who you already say that I am.

Still our hearts, Lord

God of hope,
our world seems hopeless.
An unseen enemy assaults us,
emptying our streets,
yet filling us with anxiety.

We have no mooring, no anchor.
We ride white-capped waves
in small vessels
that were never meant
to weather these storms.

Our stockpiles dwindle,
but we cannot see the shore.
We lash ourselves to the mast
and pray we do not capsize.

Our prayers are groans
and tears
and tumbling thoughts.

Many of us hope for the light to break through,
but all we see is darkness.
We don’t even know where to look.
Our darting eyes betray our anxious hearts.

Still our hearts, O Lord,
Still our hearts.

Disquietude

Last month, in honor of Eugene Peterson, Fathom Magazine ran a contest inviting folks to submit Psalm paraphrases. Those chosen appeared in this month’s issue and they are excellent. My paraphrase of Psalm 77 was not chosen, but I wanted to share it, hoping it might be a blessing to some. 

I do not hold back my tears from God.
Oh that he would hear my painful wailing,
that he would not be deaf to my disquietude.

In the depths of despair,
when all is blackness,
I grope around for my Comforter.
I strain to reach him, yet my hands come up empty.
How can I rest in peace without him?

Even as I think about him, tears stain my cheeks;
I try to pray, but what’s the use?

Breathe.

My pain blinds me, but you make me see.
Still, my words are held captive by my suffering heart.

I turn my thoughts to the past,
which seems so long ago.
I find my tongue, “Help me to remember joy’s melody!
let your mercy shine light into my darkness.”
I think long and hard.
“Will I always feel rejected by God?
Will he always be disapproving?
Has he stopped loving me?
Has he checked out of my life?
Has he forgotten how much I depend upon his grace?
Must I be crushed by his anger rather than upheld by his love?”

Breathe.

I tell myself, “Remember the past.
Remember God’s goodness to his people.”

Yes, I must recollect what God has done.
I need to recall his never-ending love.
“I will turn my thoughts to every good thing you have done, Father,
and when my thoughts stray, I will turn again to your goodness.
Your way, God, is the right way.
Why do I even consider that anything else compares with you?
You are the wonder-working God.
All I need to do is open my eyes and I can see your handiwork!
Again and again, you have saved your people from impossible situations,
generations have tasted your goodness.”

Breathe.

“When the oceans and the rivers see you, O God,
they retreat in awed surrender.
Even the very depths of the ocean
cannot hide from your glorious might.
At your word, O LORD,
Storms rained upon the earth,
torrents prevailed
lightning assailed
everywhere, accompanied by
thundrous wails.
All creation bowed to your command
winds whirling
with staccato flashes
and booming crashes.
You are the Lord of the lightning
and you are the gentle shepherd.
Your unseen presence
leads your people through life’s storms.”

The Melody of Shalom

Write 31 days, Day 16
Writing Prompt: Pray
(NB-I skipped a few days staffing Men at the Cross in Kentucky)

If you want to make many Christians feel guilty, ask about their prayer life. Every one of them would agree that prayer is important; the Bible talks frequently about prayer. Paul even told the Thessalonian believers to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:16). If you want to add confusion to their guilt, ask them what it means to actually pray without ceasing.

The reason we feel guilty and confused about prayer is that we define it too narrowly. Perhaps we treat it exclusively as “making our requests known to God” (Phil 4:6), or bestowing platitudes upon God: “O God, Dear Holy Lord, you alone are amazing. Just be with me God. In Jesus’ name. Ah–men.” Even some of our prayer tools (e.g., the ACTS method) restrict prayer. To be clear, these are wonderful prayers, but I want to challenge us to expand the horizons of our prayer. We learn with training wheels, but eventually, we take them off.

Prayer is so much more than we make it:
Prayer is delight, and prayer is lament.
It is requesting and receiving;
Gratitude and thanksgiving.
It is wonder and frustration.
Prayer revels in the beauty of creation, and groans under the weight of its brokenness.
It is boisterous merrymaking, and wordless agony.
It is walking hand in hand with your daughter in the chill October air;
It is holding space for your spouse’s pain;
It is harmonizing with your son in song;
It is attentive presence to your child’s story.
Prayer is seeking, and it is finding. And it is seeking again.
It is imprecation, celebration, lamentation, and contemplation.
It is confession and absolution;
Supplication and adoration.
It is intimate conversation with a friend.
It is the language of wholeness, the melody of shalom.

Prayer is union with God.

For reflection: 
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have come to believe about prayer. Has it changed over time?  

Awaken Me

O LORD,
Omniscient Creator, willing Redeemer, ever-present Sustainer,
the glory of goodness and the vastness of beauty
flow unendingly from your throne.
You attend to every detail
upholding the cosmos
moment by moment
breath by breath
and yet I fail to see.
I dull my senses
living in the mundane
failing to notice your manifold works
the pervasiveness of your beauty.
My interest is lukewarm.
I neglect your presence in the sensate world.
Teach me, O Spirit, to attend with wonder
to the expansiveness of your creation
remembering that you, O LORD,
are present in all things beautiful.

Awe came upon every soul–Acts 2:43a

Bold Love

O Sovereign Protector,

The world is full of dangers, which threaten at every turn.
The complex effects of the fall invade every facet of our existence.
We witness breakdown every day,
of physical health
of relationships
of the church itself.
And still, LORD, you are unwavering and whole.

Grant me courage for the day ahead
to live so fully in the security of your love for me
that I can say what must be said
and do what must be done.
I am often overrun by fears,
but you say, O LORD, that the righteous
are bold as a lion.
May I be ruled, not by anxieties,
but by love.

Let it be.

Radiate

Indwelling Spirit,

I am aware of so many sinful tendencies within myself,
self centeredness,
lusts of the flesh,
chasing distractions.
They crowd out the God-life.
I end up pursuing ten-thousand things that do not glorify you.
I live for self and fail to love.
Life becomes about satisfying my passions
and fulfilling my comforts.

So overwhelm me with your Holy Spirit
that I am left with no option
but to radiate peace, goodness and beauty.