Let us pray

What is your most basic prayer, the one that’s always there in the shadows and will come forward any time if you let it?

For some compulsive reason I’ve set myself the task of consolidating all my old blogs in one place. Remember blogging? There was a sense of anonymity, which allowed for a certain freedom. The fact that it was online tended to override some inappropriate sharing and reinforce some standards of good writing. And there were communities of bloggers, which made it feel a bit like group spiritual direction. (Sadly, I haven’t found a reasonable way to preserve all the comments.)

At any rate, going through this stuff has given me some perspective on how my own most basic prayer has evolved over these years, from “show me the way,” to “get me through this,” to “make me enough.”

There’s a part of me that hopes that knowing your basic prayer, which is to say recognizing exactly what it is you need the most, is a sign that you’re halfway to it.

My backpack for the journey of life

Sermon prep: Friends, please help me out. This is my backpack for the journey of life, which I’m planning to use as a sermon illustration this Sunday when we bless backpacks for back to school. What do I need in there?
Examples: Bible, just because … Book of Common Prayer – not only because I need to pray, but because we need to pray together, and how else can we make sense of the good book except together. Food for the journey – might look a lot like communion bread. Sunscreen because you know you’re supposed to wear it. My camera because, well, this is me we’re talking about.
Etc. – what else would you add to my list?
* And by the way, this is actually the backpack that got me through the weekly commute from Bucks County to New York City for seminary. Unzip the expansion and you can fit a week’s laundry in there. Plus a laptop. Plus some books (not the Hymnal 1982 Accompaniment Edition, though). But you’d better be strong, oh lordy, you’d better be strong.

Sermon prep: Take up your cross

Sermon prep: Pondering what it means to take up your cross and follow, I stumble across this quote, which was included in a letter I sent to Sunday School teachers a few years ago:

… if faith only heals and energizes, then it is merely a crutch to use at will, not a way of life. But the Christian faith, as a prophetic religion, is either a way of life or a parody of itself. Put starkly and with echoes of the Epistle of James, an idle faith is no Christian faith at all.

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The beauty, the frailty of life

 Sitting at the lab early this morning, waiting to have blood drawn, a patient more than a chaplain, I’m approached by an older woman who veers in my direction on her way to the door. “Are you Episcopal?” she says. This is a first; never have I been so precisely identified by a stranger. Usually if anything I’m taken for a Roman Catholic nun, which is fine with me, though I’ve never seen one in a dog collar. I tell her I am, and she reaches toward me, and asks me to pray for her. The warmth of her hand; the pain in her eyes. Her name is Lillian.
A minute later, still feeling that warmth, I’m informed that my collar is hanging half off; in my early departure, I’d failed to connect the back button. Which actually is an improvement over all the times I forget to put it on at all, and have to go back.

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Give us a heart

I read this at the start of our shared silence before Holy Eucharist this morning:

Creator God,
give us a heart for simple things:
love and laughter,
bread and wine,
tales and dreams.

Fill our lives
with green and growing hope;
make us a people of justice
whose song is Alleluia
and whose name breathes love.

“A prayer from Africa,” Pocket Prayers for Peace and Justice, compiled by Christian Aid, p. 88

Open our eyes

When we traveled down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we were amazed by the flowering trees we saw everywhere. They were extravagantly gorgeous, and we were sure we’d never seen that kind of tree anywhere before. We took pictures just so we’d be able to reassure ourselves later that they really were as strikingly beautiful as we remembered. And then we came home. This is a picture of the third house down the street from me. Same kind of tree. I had never noticed.

Generous Creator, open our eyes to the beauty all around us, and especially to the deep beauty of our sisters and brothers.

Remind us – as Krista Tippett says in the video* titled “Reconnecting with Compassion,” which we watched at church yesterday, – that compassion can open our hearts to “a willingness to see beauty in the other, not just what it is about them that might need helping.” As she continues, “in that light, for the religious, compassion also brings us into the territory of mystery — encouraging us not just to see beauty, but perhaps also to look for the face of God in the moment of suffering, in the face of a stranger, in the face of the vibrant religious other.”

View the video “Reconnecting with Compassion” here.

Letter from the past

Every so often I go to look something up in the Old Testament textbook I used in college, which happens to be an earlier version of the book we used in seminary some years later. It’s a delightful time capsule containing the syllabus and review questions for the course, minutes of the Educational Policy Committee, and this letter from my dad, which I always open and read. He was a contributing editor at Time magazine. The enclosure from the government was a tax refund – the checks have been cashed but the IRS envelope is still there. Much as I love the convenience of email, it will be sad when there are no more letters like this to cherish so many years later.

Silent prayer on Wednesday morning

Every Wednesday morning, we gather at Good Shepherd for Holy Eucharist and healing prayer, including prayers for the healing of the world and of our own souls. A few of us come early to sit in silence for 20 minutes, and I open that silence with a short prayer. This morning I’ll be reading the collect from last Sunday, a prayer that stays with us through the week as part of the Daily Office:

“Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

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