Today I return to 'Very Grateful'. I am wearing the light pink Carpe Diem t-shirt that my nieces had made for the family for Mom's memorial service. My morning coffee is in my "Book Woman" mug. I will be writing in the front room where I keep all of Mom's papers. I have faith that I will know what to say. In fact, during this week of waiting and listening to how God wants me to proceed, I have heard that this is a book about faith, and specifically about Mom’s faith that inspired mine.
The other day I commented to a friend that I’m trying not to nag God about my prayer requests. Let me just say that at the moment I have a lot of them, and I want some rather specific outcomes for a few of them. But to demand, to nag, to keep knocking at God’s door? That’s not how I was brought up, that’s not the way a nice girl like me acts.
But thankfully my friend reminded me of The Parable of the Persistent Widow that Jesus tells in Luke 18:1-8, which leads me to believe that God doesn’t need me to be a nice girl all of the time!
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
I often read from The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, which is a compilation of Russian Orthodox writing through the centuries on ‘The Jesus Prayer”.
This morning the following by Theophan the Recluse (1815-94), the most cited author in the anthology, got me thinking about this blog.
“Spiritual effort, if blazoned abroad, is empty and nothing worthy.”
Whatever I blog, I blazon abroad. Here I am, writing about the very thing that Theophan the Recluse warns against. Prayer should be private, secret, between me and God. And yet, talking about spiritual effort, sharing what, when, where and how we pray helps us grow closer to God, which is the very reason that I write this blog—for others and for me.
Yesterday 801 different people read aprayerdiary. My hope is that what I share helps them grow in prayer and draws them to God. For sure, writing this blog helps me in that very way.
I’m also aware that aprayerdiary primarily reaches people I don’t know. If you passed me on the street, you’d never know that I’m a prayer person, which gets me wondering how many prayer people I pass? I have a secret suspicion that being a prayer person is everyone’s secret.
Final thought for today: there’s a huge difference between talking about prayer, and praying.
Every so often I get thinking about sacrifice, and what that means for me as a Christian. For the most part I hate the word because it brings up the idea that I have to give up something. Although I might not like it, I understand that sacrifice might include giving up some, or even all, of my possessions and privileged life style. Giving up who I am, however, or what I think I need in order to be who I am….Well, that does sit right.
But what if sacrifice isn’t what I do, but who I am, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel suggests? “We do not sacrifice. We are the sacrifice.” When I think of it that way, so much changes. I start with who I am and from there I choose to do. I also noticed that my prayer for others becomes a lifting up to God, not a responsibility of mine to get it right. Being sacrifice is what Jesus calls us to be.
Woke up without much energy this morning. After lying in bed for an extra fifteen minutes, something I hardly ever do, I got up and started packing for our trip to visit our daughter in Pennsylvania.
I got dressed: “So, God, what is all this about? Why am I feeling enervated on a day with such a positive plan?”
I poured a cup of coffee: “Your job is to express my kingdom on earth. You have plenty of opportunities to do that today.”
I made the sandwiches: “Very grateful, God.”
“There is nearly always something deep in our hearts about which some special word has been told us by our Lord, or about which we have some inward assurance that we know it is from Him.” So writes Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India from 1895-1951.
I appreciate Amy’s language, language of another century. “Our Lord” isn’t a term I hear very much in my UCC church. In fact, I don’t hear it at all. But no matter, I get the point. What is it that God is placing in my heart? What word do I hear? Honing it down to only one word helps me clarify what inward assurance God is giving me. Today it is patience.
The final draft of “Very Grateful”, the memoir I’m writing about my mom is almost completed. I am impatient with the little details that I have to attend to before I send it to my editor tomorrow. I pray for patience, trusting that the work will be done, and accepting that this isn’t the last time that God will have to send me that special word.
In her book "The Healing Light", Agnes Sanford found she had difficulty praying for healing for people when she was not in their presence. She records a conversation she had with a lady Minister on this subject:
"I can help them when I'm with them, but my prayers from a distance don't seem to result in healing at all."
"Oh my dear, you're seeing them sick", cried the beautiful old minister.
"What do you mean?", I asked puzzled. "I'm not seeing them at all, I'm just thinking of them. And, of course, they're sick, or I wouldn't be praying for them."
"Yes you are seeing them," she replied patiently. "When you think of someone you always see the person in your mind. If you really believe he's going to be well, you see him well.". "…When you pray for someone, you must learn to see him well.
This from St. Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Edinburgh, http://www.st-cuthberts.net
Much to ponder. When I pray for someone who is physically ill, it is difficult for me to really believe that they will be cured, much less that my prayer will make the difference. On the other hand, I have more hope when I pray for someone to come out of the darkness, to rise above depression. My call to pray for people goes on.
For whom are memorial services? I know that’s an awkward sentence, but I trust that you know what I mean. More awkward, however, is the answer to that question. Sometimes we want to respect the wishes of the deceased. I have a friend who, in honoring her mother’s desire, didn’t attend her funeral. And yet, she accepted that we had one at church.
Yesterday I attended a service for Doris at the assisted living facility where she had lived. Many of her friends, who can’t get to the church service on Saturday, wanted to remember Doris and say good-bye. Although we might say that both of these services are for Doris’ friends and family, I believe that she would be pleased as well.
What did I expect? Of course, I got more out of helping with the youth group than what I put into it. Life is like that when we do something for someone else.
Sunday evening we prepared a simple tuna/noodle casserole, enough for six ample meal for people in our church. Comfort food, they all agreed, as I delivered the freezer ready containers to their homes yesterday.
We even made enough for all of us to enjoy a meal together. As we sat around eating and talking, Sandra, the youth leader, asked me about my ministry to the elderly in the church. Yes, it is my ministry, I realized as I explained what I do and how rewarding it is to me, and to the people I visit. That was the more that I got out of helping! A more articulated awareness of ministry, which isn’t just for pastors, but for everyone.
How satisfying to think that the young people are thinking about what their ministry might be, both now and throughout their lives. The story isn’t over. God is still speaking~.
This afternoon I’ve agreed to assist the youth group at church in making meals for some of our older members who can use a little help. This goes along with my commitment to visit those in the church who can’t get out and about.
I also want the young people to get a sense of what it’s like for someone who has given up driving, who is now cut off from easy visits to the supermarket. Of course, it’s not just a question of transportation. If someone gives them a ride to the store, it takes a great deal of energy to purchase the ingredients for even a simple tuna casserole: they have to make a list, remember to take it with them, make the purchases, bring them into the house, and put them away before the cooking even begins. This can be a big ordeal as people get older. And what about the men, who, into their eighties all at once have to start cooking and being the person in the kitchen?
Leading a simple life is complex. What might be a simple task for some of us, is incredibly complex for others. Jesus tells us to feed the poor, but he’s not just talking about those with no money. There are people right in our midst who are poor in energy and capabilities.