Monday, January 16, 2017

Forgiveness prayers

Ryan preached a wonderful message on forgiveness yesterday. Kaylie and Donald sat behind me, and I only turned around three (or four) times during service to whisper to them. A bunch of "young adults" went to lunch afterward. We sat outside, and though I was hidden in the hood of my jacket like a good Angeleno should be, I was very proud of myself for remaining in the elements (read: sunshine and 60 harrowing degrees) for nearly two hours. I told Chelsea of my pride and she agreed that I had achieved a feat, as far as Bailey Brewer's tolerance for temperature goes.

After lunch I went home and folded laundry. I watched a little Netflix and met Alex at our favorite place: a WWI themed restaurant/bar by an airport runway, where we watched the Chiefs die a slow death, killed by field goals. We talked to a pilot, and a friendly man named Joe bought us each a drink. I gave Alex a Christmas present, and though I usually hate it when he correctly guesses his gift while still in its wrapping, we both enjoyed a game of 20 questions. (I was feeling generous; he loves guessing. I'm just upset that I'll never be able to throw him a surprise party, because he'll for sure be on to me.) My love discovered I had given him Mr. Springsteen's memoir with more than five fingers of guesses to spare.

We closed out the evening over Thai food. I plan to heat up my Massaman curry for lunch, on this holiday spent in bed with Max. I am provided for, and then some. So grateful to spend each Sunday with a community in which love abounds. Grateful to pray with my church family each week. Yesterday's focus was forgiveness -- moving on from viewing life as eye for an eye.

One of my favorite things that Ryan told us was that when we forgive someone, we are often reluctant, because it feels like we are letting him off the hook for something. Ryan said, when we forgive, we are in fact letting someone off the hook: ourselves. Letting ourselves off the hook from the anger that eats away at our insides, leaving us still angry and not any healthier for it. Holding on to resentment is not like a workout at the gym; it doesn't have a grand payoff, making the pain worth it in the end. It simply ends in pain.

Each week, Ryan and I check in with each other about the theme for the week's worship. Via Facebook message, he lets me know the general idea of his sermon, and on Sunday morning before worship, I chill in bed with Max and a cuppa, typing, backspacing, typing some more, hoping that my words of prayer effectively meet Ryan's ideas, at least somewhere in the middle.

Below are yesterday's prayers. Feel free to pray along with us. You are always welcome in our pews, or you can pray right where you are. Our church membership runs far and wide. Be blessed, Friends. If you're working today, may you feel fruitful in your labor and be surrounded by silly coworkers. If you're off the clock, enjoy a day of rest. Smooches from me and Office Max.

As we look at the date on our phones, and gasp at how quickly this year is unfolding before us, let us give thanks for the amount of life that has already filled this January. For paychecks earned, for quiet nights of rest, for early mornings of wide-awake children, children who are eager to share their enthusiasm at the day’s first light. For meals shared with friends over clattering restaurant noise – clinking glasses, divulging fears, and hopefully laughing. Let us be grateful for the people who are there, so that our celebrations and our tribulations do not get trapped in stagnant air, but fall on the hearts of those who care.

Amidst the breathtaking brokenness in our world, may we see hope breaking through the cracks, shooting prismed beams across our paths. May we point people to birds swooping in flight, to tiny sprigs of green pushing upward between pavement. May we know that in giving yet another chance to people who have broken us will give us, too, a new chance. A chance for living untethered, running free through life’s meadows. Let us not be afraid to conquer the monsters in the night. Armed with a mighty torch, may we always fight for light.

When we are simmering in hurt, because of something someone has done to us, said to us, or because they have neglected us, meet us in our ache. When we cannot understand why we must simply feel so much, sing sweet lullabies into our ears. Grant us rest, and as sun splashes against our windowpanes and streaks the peeling wallpaper as we wake, gently nudge us toward the gifts in our lives. May we breathe through the painful emotions, and with each silly text message received, each nudge of a pet into our limp palms, each time that we can’t help but sing along, may we once again feel joy.

For the opportunity to forgive. While it may not seem like a privilege, and sometimes feels like a painful, impossible thing to do, may we realize the freedom it sets before us. The freedom to let go. To see someone who hurt us in new light. To move forward, from a boiling cauldron of anger, whose fingers of flame clutch our hearts and singe our skin, to a cooling pool of peace. May we gently bob, in a spring amidst mountains, watching swirls of mist dance above the water’s surface. Up and down, like a tea bag being dunked by the One who loves us most, steeping to become stronger in grace.

Let us recognize how many times we come out of darkness and into light, each and every day. From our haggard morning selves, to the caffeinated person who can carry on pleasant conversation. From the scary pile of paperwork to the triumph of a file cabinet organized, because we didn’t give up. And for the switch from night to light that happens without us even noticing: each time we blink. We go into the darkness a thousand times a day, and we don’t feel scared to close our eyes, because we know that, thanks to a creator who lifts and drops our eyelids, we will be back in brightness in but a moment.

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