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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Praying properly

(Originally journaled January 18, 2015)

I should be reading my Common Prayer book and my Bible. I wonder why that seems like such a big job? And I really, really, really should pray properly! I've been doing little "arrow prayers" when I think of it--or when I feel guilty about forgetting to pray, or when people ask me to pray. But I'm afraid those prayers--tiny and short, and with bad attitude too often--aren't very "acceptable"--not a fragrant and pleasing sacrifice, as the Bible puts it. I feel I'm letting people down. Not to mention letting myself down, regarding my relationship to You. And, of course, letting You down.

But all I can think of is those hours and hours and hours I used to pray for my children and the community and the churches and lots of individual people. And I do believe You're still working in my kids' lives for sure. But I'm realizing more and more how tangled and complicated our world is and how you're dealing with the needs of over 7 billion people (never mind the needs of the earth itself)--and I'm also realizing that people really do have a free will.

I guess I was hoping that my earnest prayers would lead to "miracles" like those ones we hear about (the English guy with the orphanages; revivals here and there with bars turned into churches--and giant veggies growing and stuff like that. But with all those prayers of mine it still didn't seem like I could see much of anything happen. Yet maybe that's the point: like Hebrews 11: faith--things not seen--but still hoped for, trusting in You.

The other thing is that I don't really know what to pray, because I'm more and more convinced that a lot of our "wishes" are awfully short-sighted. And what we beg You to do might not be best at all.  Only You can see the big picture.

Scripture says "the prayer of faith (along with elders anointing with oil) will heal the sick"--but all I can think of is King Hezekiah begging for healing because he didn't have an heir. And his request was granted, and then he had a son--and that son turned out to be one of the most wicked kings ever.

So all I want to pray is "Your will be done." (And no, it doesn't have to do with "lack of faith"--it's because I'm really becoming convinced that "my will" is so often destructive and short-sighted, blind even).

I could just pray "The Lord's Prayer," I guess. That pretty much covers everything. In the Anglican Church they pray the Lord's Prayer, and a couple other sort of "general" prayers--and then they have the "prayers of the people" and they just give names, not details--and that makes a lot of sense to me because, after all, You know all those people, and You know all their needs, and most of all, You know what's best for each of them, so your people are doing the right thing (I think) by praying those people's names to You--and leaving the path and results up to You. (Right? I think ...)

What's included in the Lord's Prayer? Honoring You. Your eternal purposes (you know best). Basic human needs. Relationship with you and others, and salvation. More of Your eternal purposes and relationship with You and others. So may your purposes, your love and righteousness prevail.

Yes, that pretty much covers it.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Terrified by disapproval

(Originally journaled on February 6, 2015)

I read this morning an article that said the best writing comes out of really emotional experiences. Maybe that is true, because since I went through my "Great Depression," I've been trying to live in this smooth unruffled way, not getting overly excited or upset, avoiding things that are scary for me. And I know I've lost my drive to write in the way I used to have it.

Approval. That's a big hurdle for me. I crave it.

And I'm terrified by disapproval. This morning I wrote a highly complimentary response to an article someone shared on FB--then removed my comment when I saw another article explaining why some people hate what the first article talks about. Good grief! Why am I so scared of ruffling people's feathers?

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

But I don't. I hide it under a bushel till it flickers almost into nothingness.

Let it shine till Jesus comes? He's here and I'm still hiding it. When he comes physically will he deny me? Because I act--maybe I am--ashamed.

Don't let Satan blow it out. Well, I could blame him, but really--isn't it just me? Why, oh why, am I so afraid of disapproval?

All around the neighborhood ... I fail to let it shine. Only in "safe" spots where it will be approved, and even then, only shine minimally :-(

I really don't know when and where my fear of disapproval began. And I'm afraid of it from all sides. Afraid to be too "bad" ... afraid to be too "good" ... Afraid to stand up and speak out, live out what I really think. (Believe? If I really believed, would I be afraid?)

Why am I so afraid to rock the board? To be disapproved of? Lord?

"May our sitting down and our rising up contribute, Lord, to your kingdom's work."

Does mine? Maybe in some ways. "Quiet action" ways. But "speaking up"? No. More likely embarrassed back-peddling, even denial.

If only I didn't keep screwing up by trying to "keep the peace" and by "denying you."  Tears ...

"Lord, remind us that it is not always agitated uprisings and nonstop activity which leads to justice, but that change often comes through the quiet commitment of a small group of people. Help us raise our small body of people to set about quietly becoming the change we want to see in the world. Amen."

But maybe that is the key: "a small group of people."

I spend way too much time alone. I need others. Not just on Sunday morning church gathering and Tuesday morning street outreach and occasional other "events." We need to live our lives together.  Maybe there was a good reason for all the "church" we did back in the day.  Somehow, deep down inside, I miss it. I want to be part of a big family, an intentional community. I still want to be a grandma teacher-facilitator.

I need that! How? Father? Show me, please.

Psa 33:13 "The Lord looks down from heaven and beholds all the people in the world.... He fashions all the hearts of them and understands all their works."

Is that what you've been doing? Fashioning my heart? Do you "understand my works"?  Yes, I sense You do ... that this is a message from You ... that You see my heart. You know my fears, where they came from and all. You understand, and You are working in my heart. Thank You. That's a comfort. A great comfort. You still love me, don't You, Papa? Thank You. Amen.

"...Through Jesus Christ, we have become the children of peace."  Maybe all this "time-wasting" on Fb and internet hasn't been a total waste of time. Maybe you are softening my heart, driving me to long for true peace.

I know that my heart is truly in pain when I read or hear about all the horrible things that happen in our world--the war, the grabbing for power, the oppression, and cruelty. And I don't see any hope except through You!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


(Originally journaled October 8, 2015)

"Forgive us, Lord, for stealing the land: Have mercy and set us free."

I don't get this--set us free? We are the ones imprisoning those we stole the land from--shouldn't we be setting them free? Inviting them back onto their land? Giving them rich, useful parts? Maybe giving up our own homes? Are we asking, in this prayer, for God to set us free from our guilt? If so, doesn't that mean we need to do more than just say, "Sorry." How can we adequately show we accept our guilt, and want to truly reconcile? Doesn't that involve restitution? And deep relationship sharing all we have, including our personal time, energy, active love ...

And how do we do that?

Maybe start on a personal level, with small steps. Ask what we can give, do, whatever.

Maybe that would be a really important Lenten practice (repentance ... leading to restoration, even to "resurrection and life"...)

Lord? How can I start? Today?

(We've taken so much more than the land--and yet that taking of the land does represent and underlie all who indigenous people are--their life, their soul.)

Chief Seattle of the Suquamish: "We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on."

Conquering the land is conquering life--it is darkness and death.

"Lord, show us that reconciling [is] to train us more deeply in the faith that honors everything created by your hand. Help us see that reconciliation leads to deeper knowledge of you. Amen."

Wow. I guess I never saw biblical "reconciliation" quite that way before. So reconciliation with indigenous people is in a sense a picture, an example, of us being reconciled to God. What we have done to our Creator is really in significant ways similar to what we have done to indigenous peoples.

We like, I think, to focus on God's merciful grace in giving his Son. We like that He chose to take the initiative, to suffer the pain. But should that "free" us from the "pain" of truly repenting (and doesn't that mean giving up all we hold dear, putting our very life, our heart, and soul, in his hands, to do with as he wishes? That's hard--but is it not necessary? Is it not part of truly loving? He loves us--are we not to love him (and deny ourselves) in return, as he as done for us? Are we willing to do that for others we have wronged, as well? Oh my goodness.

How much are we really willing to give up to achieve reconciliation? How far are we willing to go in repentance ... and restoration? What does that really mean? Can little lessons in schools, however well-meaning, accomplish that? It's one thing to intellectually (and even emotionally) understand. But is it not another thing altogether to reconcile, whatever it might take, however long it might take, no matter how much pain and loss we might incur in our own lives (because, after all, aren't we the ones responsible for their loss and pain?).

What, I wonder, does it really mean to "walk in another person's moccasins?" How far does that go to achieve true reconciliation--with God, as well as with "them"? If we don't go there, have we really reconciled? With them? With God? Can we really expect forgiveness (I know, I know--"freely given with no expectation of anything in return except the freedom of letting it go?"--would we be willing to do that if we were in their place? I bet not ...).

"Teach us to number our days aright." We have a very limited time, so we need to do what is righteous.

Our view of land is an "ownership" view. The First Nations view is that people are part of the land--so taking the land and pushing people off and refusing to truly share is to cut a piece out of a people. (And residential schools, cutting families and communities apart, is, of course, more of the same).

So much of what any people do is about segregation--me vs you, us vs them...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Je ne suis pas...

(Originally journaled January 14, 2015)

I want to write poetry again.

Maybe it's the appropriate way to express how I'm feeling about this whole "Charlie Hebdo" thing. The thing is: "Je ne suis pas Charlie!" The reactions--millions marching for the cause (while no one even pays any attention to other simultaneous massacres--way worse ones--like that in Nigeria by Boko Haram... because they're "just black people" maybe?) is really so "secular" at heart. So much of it is all about "my human right" of "free speech."

But just look at where our "human rights" and our "me-centeredness" has got us in this world. It all runs so smack-dab in the face of the Jesus, God, Spirit rule of "Love the Lord Your God, and love your neighbor as yourself." (And when people dare to point out the hypocrisies of the whole situation--and there are many--they are slammed for being non-PC or too religious or whatever...)

Of course, part of the "me-ness" of secularism is the inbuilt intolerance for any way of thinking that is not the way "I" think--despite secularism's proclamations about creating a tolerant society. Tolerant, that is, for anything that doesn't personally annoy me, or challenge or threaten my individual way of thinking. Good grief. And of course, Jesus' way "threatens the empire," as yesterday's Common Prayer quote points out.

I am certainly not in favor of radical, fundamentalist approaches of any stripes--religious, scientific, educational, political, or any other "institutional" radicalism, be it left or right or any other extreme that is willing to cause pain and oppression and even death to further its agenda.

However, there is a fine line in issues like "free speech" or any other "freedom." At what point does "my freedom" begin to impinge on others, to the point at which I am demanding they lose their freedom, to the point at which, in my zealousness, I am oppressing others myself through my "free" demands and reactions, denying them the same kinds of rights and freedoms I demand for myself, in order to gain and maintain those I wish for myself.

Jesus told us we must "deny" ourselves in order to live his way--the way that seeks to love and honor and respect and help others--and no wonder this is a "way" that so many hate...because it does demand self-denial of the "extremisms"--the "radical religious fundamentalist approach" of personal goals and demands, no matter how rational and "humanly right and free" they may appear on the surface.

Enough for now.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Words of Assurance

(Originally journaled November 3, 2014)

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit ... what do You have to say to me today?

My child--Our child!
We love you.
We truly do.
Sing. Praise. Lift your heart, lift your eyes, lift your hands upward to us. Reach out, take hold of our hands which are reaching down to you. Let us lift you up. Cling to us.

Take your eyes off the ground, off the world, and see us.  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the 'things of earth' will grow more and more and more dim--gone!--in the light of his glory and grace."

Remember, child--the darkness you feel and fear is simply the absence of my light. Draw close to my light, closer and closer. Let my amazing glory drive away all the shadows and darkness and tiredness and fears. "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."

Love Your Father. Love Jesus. Love His Spirit. Love God.

Lay down your little burdens. Lay down your little fears.
I will be with you. I will never leave you alone, not even for a moment--even if it be my will that you follow me into the path of dementia your mama trod. I was with her every moment. I really was. And you, too, I will never let go, not for an instant. Whatever path I call you to tread.

I Love you! You are mine!

[And my husband, children, spouses, grandchildren? Are they Yours too? Can I trust You for them, too?
What about all the people who are seeking You, even if they don't know about You? Father?
Father? How can You let Your creatures, who You died for, perish? What about the ones who haven't had a chance to hear of You? Father? Jesus? Holy Spirit?
You do reach out to everyone, right?
Please help us all to choose You! Help my family, please! Help all people, dear God. Please? ]

[You do care...
And each rejection by one of your created children does break Your heart ... doesn't it?
You love us ... and long for--but do not force--every one of us to come to You.
Okay. Guess I'll just have to place that one on Your shoulders, in Your hands.
Thank You. Amen. In Jesus' name. Thank You. I love You.]

Friday, 13 May 2016

What am I bringing into the world?

(Originally posted Jan 7, 2015)

I hope, as it says in today's Common Prayer, that I've brought a "little more love and kindness, a little more light and truth in the world," and some peace, too.

I know I'm not being patient with Your ways and timing. There's so much time for You--but so little for us. You know that, Jesus, for You had a very short time here on earth--and an infinitely more important mission. You really saw the "big picture," far more than any of us are capable.

But I'd still like to help open people's eyes ... and hearts.

I like the vision of that guy who is working on a way to inspire peace and caring and stuff among the youth in our town.

Me? I'm just writing "learning themes." And helping out my family a bit (but maybe that's just because they are "my" family). I want to help others, and encourage them, and in some way make people's lives more "community" and peaceable and sustainable and caring.

A friend who has a street ministry in our town says he thinks I'm like him--and in some ways I am, but not altogether.  I'm really beginning to see that each of us is different--which is why, without a doubt, You need, call, use all of us. And each of us has something good and worthwhile and useful to bring to Your purposes and plans for Your creation, Your world, Your beloved children.

I'm just not sure what mine is, to bring. I'm such a "Jill of all trades, master of none,"--but maybe that's needed, too.

And you've taught me to care and to maybe even to listen a bit and to long for people to find peace--your peace, real peace, please? Maybe that's enough?

I've written and written and written my thoughts and questions and wonderings (and even some challengings) in the past. But who has really listened, except for a few "members of the choir," so to speak? Maybe people whose hearts and minds You've been preparing ... and yet it seems to me that a lot of people you lead me to be friends with, and share my writing with, don't even know about You. Some aren't even interested or seem to actually be antagonistic against You (or, at least, antagonistic against their "idea of You").

That's what I was thinking when R. was saying he doesn't even know if You're real. (And yes, I felt his pain. And I've felt the same, sometimes ... "Doubting Norma" ...). But I was thinking--or maybe You were whispering in my ear because I really did feel like You were just telling me to keep peace and not argue or try to explain in "doctrinal ways" ... that maybe he's not ready? or he just needs to rant before he can listen? or doctrinal explanations just seem too pat ... or? And maybe You were telling me to realize that he has to work through this with You there at his side even though he doesn't realize it's You just now, because he's looking for, or expecting, a "You" that isn't really You.

"Keep us from trying to rush peace."

Help me see the big picture, Lord. Help me see the world with Your eyes. Help me to speak only the words You give me to speak. And meanwhile, help me to do a lot of listening and gentle caring. (Jeremiah 13:14: pity, mercy, compassion).

And Lord, what about "God's Kitchen" outreach? Has it really gotten too "institutional," or is it just me not willing to change? Or what? It's supposed to be Your kitchen, Lord. Your table.

"He brings me to his banqueting table, His banner over me is love."

You came and invited the poor and the wretched and blind (and the rich and successful and leaders rejected You).

What do You want us to spread at Your table? Just lots of warm, healthy, physical food? And a quiet, peaceful spot for a few minutes? And a few prayers and counseling? And? Or? Lord? Your will be done.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Slipped moorings and feeling adrift

(Originally journaled October 27, 2014)

I've been wasting so much time in my life. Way too much TV, radio, newspaper, and certainly way too much email (subscribed to too much!) and facebook. And way, way, way too little time with You. I did start listening to Christian music for a bit, and I've been Bible reading very sporadically. But very little prayer--just little "arrow prayers" I guess, when people ask for prayer. Or maybe when I'm feeling desperate, occasionally.

It's been so long since I "longed" for You. I have wanted to, but I've just been so adrift. Yes, I did seem to slip my moorings when I was depressed. And then I was so "negative" about "church" and stuff. And I was "embarrassed" about "Christianity" and let that slide into being embarrassed about admitting to belief in You--and that led me to slide into really not following You actively.

I've gone through times when I really wasn't sure--intellectually--what I believed any more. Yet I never stopped knowing You are real, knowing I want to know You. (Even when the enemy--and maybe even my "brain"--questioned Your reality. The thing about that is that when it happened, I found myself defending Your reality because I know, in the deepest part of me, that You are REAL, and that I want, most of all, to be in relationship and to remain in, abide in You).

Yesterday we were reading John 15 at our church gathering.  Reading about You, Jesus, being the vine--and how apart from You we can't "bear fruit." Indeed, apart from You we can do nothing! And we certainly can't be "in the Father" unless we "remain in You." (I was concerned about the "bearing fruit" part because all my life I have felt a failure and guilty for not "bearing fruit" because I don't seem to be able to "count" anyone who I've "led to the Lord" to "say the sinner's prayer" or whatever (unless I "count" some of my kids when they were little--and yet, have my doubts during their teen years driven them away?).

John 15:9ff "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.... My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.... You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."

Do I believe this? So many seemingly unanswered prayers back when I was so energetically "following" ... and oddly enough, so much protection and care in the past few years when I have not been trying to, working at, following hard ...

There's one thing of which I'm now convinced: Your love doesn't fail. But I'm still a bit puzzled about the "whatever you ask" part. And I'm scared to ask anything except "Your will be done"--but maybe that's the point! After all, Jesus, You Yourself said you did nothing, said nothing, except what Father said. Maybe prayer is listening--and asking only, "Your will be done." Could it be?

Yes, it is time to get back into some discipline in my life, to make sure I have time set aside especially for You. For Bible reading and study, writing (journaling with You most of all), praying (and in that, really listening) ... and making the best of the rest of my time. Not frittering it away.

But most of all--I want to HEAR YOUR VOICE AND DO WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO ... and trust You to take care of the things I really can't (which is a lot).

Archbishop Oscar Romero:  "We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.... We cannot do everything.... It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the results... We are prophets of a future not our own."