Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I find it hard to pray. So I'm glad someone asked me to do it more this year.

Hi, Friends,
I'm not a good pray-er. Generally speaking. Chiefly, I just don't do it very often. I think about God a lot, and His hand on nature and circumstances and us. But I don't do a lot of talking -- for all my talking -- in His direction.
Nor do I listen, as prayer is, I think, supposed to be a two-way sort of deal.
This is for various reasons. Chiefly, I don't want to stop moving and be still and quiet. Again, I think about God a lot. While quietly stitching, listening to meditative or classical music, I think about the blessings in my life, the struggles I have and knowing that Someone is there. But to put down the colored thread, to silence the music, and just sit on my bed, eyes closed?
Mmmm, no thanks.
That's a terrible attitude to have, but I am a busy person living in 2016. That's an excuse, but, well, I make those. And as a lifelong Christian, I know how easy it is, even when you believe in a divine caretaker, to go for that which we can touch, and see, and smell, rather than to reach out to a deity who we can't see, or touch. I can tuck myself in my boyfriend's chest, and smell his soap and his Alexness, and be comforted. But I can't do the same with my God.
[Side note: I'm reading Lauren Winner's Wearing God, and she talks about finding the divine in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the candles we light, whose aroma we breathe in. She dissects things like God's sense of smell, regarding incense and burnt offerings. Interesting read. And, side note within a side note: I love Winner. She is an amazingly well-read, honest, darling gem. If you're looking for a less heady introduction to her, check out Girl Meets God. (It's in my top 10, or at least 15).]
Anyway, so it's hard to sit and talk to someone who you can't see in the room with you, even if you believe He's there in the room with you.
But as I've mentioned in previous blog posts this summer, my pastor asked me to write some prayers for our church. At first I was interested in helping him out, and since then I've really enjoyed the process of writing them.
It's also been a growth practice for me to read them aloud during service, as I've learned to steady and slow my voice for my audience. I tend to cry when I read Scripture or talk about God out loud (see: Riley's wedding, 2011), but I've learned that not letting my voice waver helps others to pray with me. If they just hear a warbling girl in front of them, while I'm sure they'd be supportive and sweet, then none of us would really be praying. I'd just be crying and they'd be cocking their heads to the side, like attentive therapists, or mothers. There are a lot of spiritual mothers in my church family. This is comforting, as my mother is far away.
Writing the prayers, while it hasn't inspired me to sit quietly in my room and talk to God on my own time, it has made me focus on Him and his love, for an hour each week as I pen some reflections of Him. And for this I am so grateful.
So far I've posted my justice prayers and my love prayers (each week we have a worship intention that the prayers, sermon, and music are centered around) to the blog. Y'all have given me some very kind words in response. So for that, thank you.
And, as I know firsthand how hard it can be to, of our own volition, bow our heads and start talking to the Big Man, I thought I'd post some more prayers for you to pray along, if you so desire. I don't know about you, but I don't have one of those holy and compact prayer books. So if you find yourself in the same boat, feel free to pray the prayers below, from this past Sunday. 
To be honest, I feel a little weird posting these to the Internet, but I think I'd feel even more weird just filing them away for no one else's eyes or ears. This is not a private collection; I want you to be able to touch and feel and smell God. I want you to snuggle in his chest and smell his laundry soap, the soap that Mary took to the river, wringing out the robes of her mysterious son.
OK. Thanks for reading this far down the post. Read on, if you so wish. And pray on, as you feel moved.
Much love,
Prayers, Sunday, September 4, 2016
Theme/worship intention: Light, life, and love
Scripture: 1 John
Once riddled with cracks, we were broken pottery, deemed useless by the world. Forgotten amid the dust, we despaired. But you dug your nails into the earth, until it gave way to wet, sticky clay. You massaged your thumb over our cracks -- lines where we had broken under life's pressure and heat. You turned us in your hands until we were water tight. And when you were done, we knew that even when we had been imperfect, your light was always shining through our brokenness. We had purpose when the world said we didn't.

You made us
a city on a hill, God, so we could offer hope in the night. A lamp in a window, to guide the paths of passers by. We sometimes lose sight of your light, when all the news is bad. But with the flicker of a wick, you remind us that no darkness can ever overcome it. Help us feel your warmth in our cores, that we would be moved to shine your light to those who have lost hope. May we never be without a dry match, so we can rush to show that your light lives on.

You chose to make us exist, God. You could have kept this world spinning without us, but you decided to give each of us a chance. A chance to taste ice cream. A chance to stay up past our bedtimes, wrapped up in conversations that end only when someone falls asleep mid-sentence. A chance to feel healing as we sing in your sanctuaries. Let us close our eyes in the moments of gold, and say "thanks for the memories."

In this broken world, Lord, we can't always taste the ice cream of life. With worldwide strife, unfathomable amounts of death, and unexplained feelings of emptiness inside -- we sometimes wonder why life is so great. In our unspeakable pain, God, hold us. Help us find the joy that keeps us going. May we all be walking stories of redemption -- a people who has cowered in fear but then marches out of our cave, blinking in the sun.

For the opportunity to love, Lord, we can never thank you enough. To be unable to shut up about our latest crush, this one who we feel might finally be the real deal. To be just enamored by the cuteness of our pets, shoving our faces in their fuzzy bellies. For that certain squeal that emits from our bodies, the squeal that is reserved only for nieces and nephews, who grow and change so fast we can hardly stand it. May we never lose our urge to act crazy, because we are crazy in love.

Teach us how to love You the most, God. It is easy for us to fall for the tangible, for the people we can see and touch. But it is thanks only to You that we love at all. God, you made love an INSTINCT, and that alone is a miracle. May we obsess over You, the one who grants all things and people whom we love, the one who makes our hearts beat. May our hearts always beat for You.

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