A Prayer for Companionship

Annapolis Valley; notabletravels.com

In her article, “Landscape and Community“, Maxine Hancock shares something of her transition to live in the Annapolis Valley (Nova Scotia). Her reflection leads to a prayer for companionship.  Here is an excerpt and her prayer:

“Our mountain is most often bright and sunny, but one November, a few years after we had moved, fog rolled and settled down around us for most of a week. The fog acted as a blotter, blanking out the lovely landscape below, sucking up even the shortening light of early winter days. Suddenly, one afternoon, I was overwhelmed up with grief and loss. My desolation of spirit was profound. I felt stripped of identity, friendships, and community. I felt how far away I was from all my friends and most of my family. I was finding, as I had been warned before coming, that there would be no easy welcome here on this coast where people lived in intense familial and social networks intact from their childhoods. I felt how few I knew; how few knew me—or even showed any desire to know me. And I wept from the core of my spirit. Finally, still weeping, I lit a candle to place in the window, then found my grandmother’s little purse hymnal and looked up John Henry Newman’s great hymn, reading it as prayer, “Lead kindly light in the encircling gloom / The night is dark and I am far from home.”

“Dear Lord,” I whispered (or more properly, whimpered,) “wherever I have lived before there have been companions for my journey. So I believe that if you have brought me here, you have appointed some companions for me, and you have appointed me to be a companion to some. Please now reveal these people to me—give me eyes to recognize them and to welcome them when they come into my life.”

And then, quite wonderfully, companions for the journey came into my life, one by one, each a special gift received gratefully from the Great Giver of “every good and perfect gift,” together forming a community of which I am a part. The landscape is lovelier far now that I can name people who live along the roads we drive, and know a little of their stories; lovelier far now because now, when under the silver moonlight that floods into our mountain home, I sit, awake at night to gaze at the pewter gleam of the Minas Basin and then scan the constellations of lights that mark the little towns and acreages and farms along the roads, I can name before the Lord friends and neighbours, pastors and congregations, as far as I can see.

Landscape without deep relationships may be fine for a tourist. But, as I have learned, it will not do for a pilgrim. For now, at least, I am a “settled pilgrim.” This beautiful place and space—both landscape and community—has truly become home.”

Maxine Hancock is Professor Emerita of Interdisciplinary Studies and Spiritual Theology, Regent College. The author of many books and articles, she now lives in Nova Scotia, with her husband, Cam. You can visit her at her website: www.maxinehancock.ca

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Tongue’s Confession

Words are Powerful – image by Susanne Heaton

Tongue’s Confession by Deene Webb

Clever, clever
I think that I’m so clever,
As poison spits between my teeth.“Hey, I know!” she says, eyes bright,
but sarcasm thick as honey, green as slime
seals
her idea’s fate.They recoil from my poisonous dart.
I counter.
“You idiot. Can’t you take a joke?”
Funny, funny, I’m so funny.Clever, clever
I think that I’m so clever,
As poison spits between my teeth.Virtue pouts.
“Isn’t it the truth?”
“I say what I think, that’s just me!”“Oh, don’t worry, that’s how we roll.”
Truth mixed with lies—pain.
Excuse, excuse like toxic waste.A turn of phrase, a clever dig,
Everyone laughs, I feel big.
Clever, clever
I think that I’m so clever,What is one more poke?
One more jeer? One more curse?
Creation of heart’s protective crust,
that’s what.Clever, clever
I think that I’m so clever,
as poison spills out from my heart.

Awkward, awkward is the foreign.
Praise sticks in my throat.
It thickens my tongue.
I think it but I can’t speak it.

Awkward, awkward is the foreign.
Blessings hang… in the air.
My mind dulls.
I can’t receive, can’t reply.

Clever, clever, I put you down.
I lift me up.
Slowly, slowly you expire.
Slowly, slowly I poison
…me.

Thirsty, thirsty is my soul.
Clever words stole His joy.
Thirsty, thirsty is my soul.
Oh, what can clean the poison
… out?

All this “cleverness” is not so wise when sarcasm drips thick as honey and green as slime. We might successfully fool ourselves, but the exposure of hurtful words is felt by those on whom it is spewed. No wonder James writes:

“… the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire…”

About the Author:

Deene Webb is a friend, mentor, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, and has finished a career as missionary in Colombia. She wrote this in response to hearing James 3:1 – 12 – demonstrating a teachable and humble posture to God’s word spoken into her life.

May we be so wise as to tame our own tongues in this day of reckless words.

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A Prayer for my Son on his wedding day

A Prayer for my Son on his wedding day:

“Your eyes are so big and bright my son
I can see you smile with your eyes…”

These are the opening words of the song I wrote for you,
   the song that sprung from joyous birth
   the song I sang over you with delight.

I named you with an ancient name,
   as an ever-giving gift;
   I named you for who you are to me.

On your wedding day you are being given;
   For you are the present for this person whom you love,
   this person I can’t help but love as well.

You are the prize – the award – the benefit,
   And somehow we all are the beneficiaries;
   All this from a generous benefactor.

Now may your marriage be an offering to each other,
   May you help each other discover and re-discover
   the mystery of your worth to the One who made you for Himself.

May you be fruitful in family and friends;
May your influence be restorative and healing;
May you be an endowment to the generations.

And with a nod to T.S. Elliot:

… At the end of all your exploring
may you arrive where you started
And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
In Jesus’ presence and care. Amen.

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The Place of Suffering to the Soul

thank-you-board

“… If you ask people who don’t believe in God why they don’t, the number one reason will be suffering,” says John Ortberg

“… If you ask people who believe in God when they grew most spiritually, the number one answer will be… suffering.”

Confirming this based on my own suffering may mean little to you; but it means something to me, enormously. But don’t I speak into a community of sufferers – to people well acquainted with the ways suffering breaks you down, or leaves you to limp the long arc of your short life?

One of the enduring writings on suffering has been the Dark Night of the Soul (by St. John of the Cross). Ortberg observes,

“Because the soul is the deepest expression of the person, the soul is the place of greatest pain. We do not speak of the dark night of the mind, or the will, or even the spirit.  Only the soul.  The dark night of the soul…

In the dark night, my prayers feel like they reach no higher than the ceiling.”

To this, Dallas Willard said,

“If we truly understand how radically present God is in our world, reaching the ceiling is more than enough.”

He knew something about suffering and prayer. His last words as he was dying from pancreatic cancer were, “Thank you. Thank you.”

It reminded me of something Annie Dillard said,

“I think that the dying pray at the last not, ‘please,’ but ‘thank you’ as a guest thanks his host at that door.”

She knew some secret about a life of gratitude at the moment of mourning; that our exits would be exposed for their wonder, and elicit appreciation – not apprehension.

Therefore may you enter into this prayer about the place of suffering to your soul:

Thank you?
Thank you…
Thank… you.

At the doorway, standing on the threshold,
I see friends and family who share my pain;
And who endure their own;
And I wonder at the place of suffering to the soul.

I need only look your way
To see yours… (Selah).
What is the place of suffering to your soul?
Waiting, sharing, living, dying?

“See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”*

Therefore “let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him
endured the cross, scorning its shame
and sat down at the right hand of God.”#

You are radically present to me, now as always;
Even if I feel my prayers cannot ascend
or if they merely ricochet against the walls
You ever attend the soul of your loved one:

Thank you
Thank you
Thank you.

* Isaac Watts
# Hebrews 12:2

For more, see  Ann Voscamp’s  post, “Dear Brittany…

Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.”

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A Prayer for Awareness

The Girl at the Mirror, by Norman Rockwell

The Girl at the Mirror, by Norman Rockwell

A Prayer for Awareness by Ken Gire

Thank You, O God,

For seeing beyond the surface of my life
   to the child sitting at the mirror.
Thank You for sitting down beside me,
   putting Your arm around me,
      and speaking to me with such tenderness,
         such compassion, and such understanding.

Help me to be ware of the pictures in my life
   that are everywhere around me and at all times
      showing me something I need to see,
      telling me something I need to hear,
      offering me something I need to receive.

Help me look beyond the surface of those pictures to see windows.
Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to receive
   what you are offering me though those windows,
      that I might sense what is dear to You
         so that it might become what is dear to me…

Ken Gire provides tender insight in his book “Windows of the Soul.” He writes about this Rockwell image in which the girl sits in front of her mirror, her doll cast aside, as she rests a magazine on her lap.

“There is something about this girl, this girl whose arms are held close and whose hands are curled inward like the petals of a flower. She is somewhere between bud and blossom. Somewhere between her last doll and her first date. Somewhere between dressing up and growing up…

The girl is on the threshold of her life, standing on very tentative legs, now sitting.  She knows it is a threshold she will have to cross, but she’s hesitant, unsure. Her body is tugging at her, pulling her through the door, but something inside is pulling her back…

We go from threshold to threshold with something pulling us forward and something pulling us back. We sit in front of a mirror, tentative, hesitant, unsure…”

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I Walk Alone

green-day-boulevard-of-broken-dreamsGreen Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a prophetic instalment into modernity’s bleak wasteland of empty streets, shallow hearts, and lonely walks.

With the cover of his album featuring a graffiti of a downcast angel with eyes crossed out in somber anonymity, it is a song that has lost touch with the transcendent.

In one sense this is a song of truth – of life without the One who made us for Himself. In another sense, this is a song of lies – for it fails to recognize:

God made you a little lower than the angels and crowned you with glory and honour.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s only me, and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I’m the only one, and I walk alone

I walk alone, I walk alone
I walk alone and I walk a

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Till then I walk alone

Ah ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah

I’m walking down the line
That divides me somewhere in my mind
On the border line of the edge
And where I walk alone

Read between the lines
What’s f#@ked up and every thing’s all right
Check my vital signs to know I’m still alive
And I walk alone

I walk alone, I walk alone
I walk alone and I walk a

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Till then I walk alone

Ah ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah

I walk alone, I walk a

I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I’m the only one, and I walk alone

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Till then I walk alone

Written by Michael Pritchard, Frank E., Iii Wright, Billie Joe Armstrong • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

This might be the truest lyric of the song:

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Till then I walk alone

Indeed, till then – till “someone out there finds” him, he will (as we all do) walk alone.

Will you hear His voice; for He is walking beside you even if you don’t know it.

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A Blessing for Mothers

mother-and-child-shutterstock

Mother and child on the water, Shutterstock

To bless Mothers:

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart. We remember you.

We celebrate all mothering for the ways it reflects the Imago Dei (Image of God) by bringing forth new life, and nurturing life to those around them.

As one family, we pray

May God grant you wisdom
to know and share gospel values to those you nurture.

Together we say… AMEN.

God, the giver of all life,
We thank you for these women who share with us their wisdom.
Help them to be ever mindful of your wisdom.

Together we say… AMEN.

God, you gave us Mary as the mother of Jesus and his Church.
May Mary continue to be a role model for all mothers.

Bless and console those women who struggle with this day due to loss of a child, lack of children, unexpected pregnancies, or the death of a mother.

Together we say… AMEN.

God continue to bless these women,
who have had children, adopted children, loved and cared for children and those people in their lives.
God bless these women with courage and a generous heart.

Together we say… AMEN.

Loving God,
As a mother gives life and nourishment to her children,
So you watch over your Church.

Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as people of faith sharing life with those around them.
Let their example of faith and love shine forth.

Grant that we, their sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, friends and family – honor them always, with a spirit of profound respect,
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

AMEN.

Source: Holy Family’s Mother Day Blessing

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