Archive for the ‘ prayer ’ Category

An Evening Reflection on Turmoil

window_boys

We are making our way in New York City this week. After seeing, walking, exploring, as much as three young boys can handle, we seek quiet in a small Brooklyn apartment. Well, quiet is relative. There were snatches of it this morning, as I read that even though I’d walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I could dare to fear no evil.

This afternoon, though, my boys can’t stop rough housing, hurting each other, and making a game of crushing fallen cereal pieces all over the living room floor. I slam down my Chaim Potok novel, storm in to call my boys hellions and demand they clean up the war zone. Oldest son thinks I need to know that the fallen cereal did make the floor look like a minefield.

Clearly. A reason. To ruin. Someone else’s. Apartment.

I ban the electronic devices, cursing them as “lazy games,” and set the boys to work making dinner. They do well. One chops onions, another tomatoes. They stir the lentils, measure out rice.

And on the cleared minefield, we eat.

dinner_together

lentils

Food is thrown across the floor, eventually. And again, we work toward restoration. (And again, and again. How many things were spilled today.)

But my partner in this marriage comes home and takes the boys out to play, and what do I do with this unexpected time of peace, of genuine quiet? How much longer it lingers than I expected.

park

In my hour, I receive word of war zones half a world away. Of children beheaded. Of the advance of ISIS, and attacks between Israel and Gaza. Prayer has never been so urgent. Mind you, it’s not perfect here in Brooklyn—my lover and I startled awake to gunshots the other night. “Maybe it really wasn’t,” he said sleepily. But we both knew it was. We slept anyway, as though the tragedies of the day don’t touch us clear through.

I wonder how it is that peace is restored after the mines are strewn in our fields, after brother-anger flashes through my little boys’ eyes. I don’t have answers to these things—no tidy packages to pull together why the real consternation of my little day doesn’t keep us up at night. We still circle around dinner together, and we say grace, for that’s what it is.

But there are gaps sometimes, like this one, when the whispers come: how do Iraqi Christian mamas fear no evil?

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Woman

Woman

Do you know
you are the soul
of your mother,
the Earth? And
when you watch
the lizard slink
across her skin,
together you
are bound up
in her arms
and she takes
you home—
ah, home.
Together you
have longed
for this return.

Poem 15 or 16, National Poetry Month: “Where is it to believe…”

Where is it to believe again
that words will come? Are they
in the egg-shaped hollow
of my gravitational body—
in the no-place
that exists between fatty rounds,
between bones and chalky
marrow, sticky flesh?
What magic had them here before—
was it the combination of the air
drunk by my cheeks, or soil
tucked under my fingernails? What
secret pact had them
set loose into my atmosphere?

Will I ever ask anything
but questions? When will
I ask this declaration?
When will I ask a prayer?
All I am is wondering—

::
The phrase “egg-shaped hollow” is borrowed from “We Take the Sky,” a poem by Susanna Childress, included in her poetry book Jagged with Love.

An Artist’s Prayer

I have been pressing forward in my writing even though the odds of relational and logistical stress have been more weighty than ever. Add that to the mix of a slow-coming spring, and it’s easy to assume that everything will always be grey. In the name of Jesus, I refuse to be that dismal. This may have been a heavy winter in the midwest, but it also creates the opportune backdrop for hope.

Inspired by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, I wrote a daily prayer that reflects the truths in which I’ve been resting. If you are an artist (and I believe you are!), you may want to use the prayer or write your own.

Dear Abba, my holy Mama, my Savior Jesus, my present Spirit-God–

I lift to you these hands, these eyes and ears, this voice, this body, this mind, and this heart for your creative purposes.

I acknowledge and honor you as the source of all my creativity, and I worship you as the Great Creator who desires to create miraculous art through me.

I believe — and confess in your presence — that my most beautiful art works with, and not in opposition to, my relationships. Your purpose for me is to love, and as I admit, accept, and live that love, I create the most stunning masterpieces.

I commit to resting in your presence.

I commit to curiosity and not knowledge.

I commit to you my failures, knowing that you have already atoned for them all.

I commit to loving you, myself, and others.

I commit to forgiveness toward myself and others.

I commit to humility and courage — two love-birthed garments to wear every day.

I commit to taking loving, creative risks in faith, even when I don’t fully understand the outcomes.

I give you, Creator-God, glory for all good and all love that flows through me, and I name you as the place in which I find rest, peace, and everlasting, abundant life.

I acknowledge that none of my declarations can generate this new life and that it is all due to the regenerative power and grace of your Son. I offer myself boldly and freely according to what you have already shown me — what I have seen with my eyes that you alone have opened.

I ask that you would help me to denounce the lies of the enemy, as well as his plans for destruction.

I trust that you will allow only the suffering that is being used to generate creative glory for your Son, so I can accept it without bitterness, guilt, or reproach.

I accept the everlasting life, freedom, and joy you have offered me today. I am made for living fully in you and for your name’s glory.

Humbly, joyfully creating,

Amen.

Rabbits in Manhattan

“Are there rabbits in Manhattan?” my son Isaiah asked yesterday. And if I didn’t laugh, I wanted to, for what midwestern city doesn’t have rabbits? But Isaiah hadn’t seen them around, so how could he have known?

When I go out into the forest, I find it still sets the stage for my soul to be nourished. It was a confused and frantic soul this morning, and I didn’t know why. A restlessness had settled over me even though I’d seen evidence of new life in my community. How was it that seeing those newly hatched nestlings thrusting bare necks out for food wasn’t enough to keep me rejoicing for even a day? Hope was springing up like all the vibrant leaves everywhere after the persistent winter. But who knew spring would come again? We did. We all did, even if we dared not admit it to ourselves. We surely dared not hope in our own growth.

I walked into the wild today and I lay my confused mind and restless soul on the table before God. I said: “It isn’t right that I should be in despair with all this teeming life. I acknowledge that new things are birthed in pain, but birth is not a funeral! I refuse to despair, so teach me how to hope again! I know you taught me yesterday, but I’ve already forgotten.”

Abba took my hand and led me into the forest. And I saw a possum walking in broad daylight, weaving its way over forest floor. It climbed a tree. “I thought you were nocturnal, o possum,” I said to it, and God and I chuckled at the joke.

God led me down new paths and I saw hoofprints, and a little snake. It’s funny how one can imagine that there aren’t really animals in the forest, except for an obvious robin or two. But new eyes see new life. I was seeing already how hope — the antithesis of despair and confusion — is birthed in alertness.

We had a feast in the forest, Abba and I. I had lain despair on his table and he transformed it into a feast. We toasted to life and love and King Jesus. The enemy wrung his hands as his plot to confuse fell to ridiculous ruin.

Mouth bursting with bread, I acknowledged that there had never been chains binding me from praise except those of my own choosing. What mirage of insufficiency, what necessity for anxiety stood in my path were all cleared away. True identity in Jesus Christ, my mind and soul and body had been brought to attention and rest. Sitting by a trickle of stream, I sang out loud.

Oh, hope is not elusive. Life may not be evident, for we walk among much that is asleep. But hope? Hope teems. There has always been hope, and there have always been rabbits in Manhattan.

Afternoon Tea

God, You’re a funny lover.
What’s up with that?
What’s up with the way You
get me to ask You big things
like letting my year-and-a-half-old baby
sleep through the night for the Very First Time Ever,
and then You totally make it happen?
Why do You tease me with these things?
Are You sleeping while I’m trying to make love again?
Because if You haven’t noticed
it’s never happened since,
and it’s not for lack of asking.
He still acts like I’m all the world,
unable to sleep without Big Mama
singing his eyelids closed.

 

Ray was crying — not sleeping —
again this afternoon.
I put my palms on my baby’s cheeks and told him
“You need God, not me!”
I am worn like a canyon, and I don’t get the point.
I get that my hard times
make me all the more desperate for You.
But what about Ray?
He needs more sleep!
I’m his mother.
I should know.

 

Maybe it is I who wants to sleep.
Is that it, God?
You’re the one who can’t get enough of me?
When I’m talking heatedly
to You under the pillow
(so Ray doesn’t play with my face),
I can hear You answer in that funny way:
my teapot whistles;
another little boy retrieves it,
clicks off the burner,
and makes me a cup of afternoon tea.
In my favorite cup too.
I didn’t know six year olds do that.

 

I drink tea and write You this poem.
The boys are awake and they ask things of me.
We’re all awake hanging out together.
Cheers, You say, lifting Your cup.

i thank You God: cummings and me

i thank You God for most this amazing
day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings; and of gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any — lifted from the no
of all nothing — human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e.e. cummings

And now, inspired by the style and breathless awe of e.e. cummings, I subject you to my own “I Thank You, God,” heavier on the punctuation and prose, lighter on the poetry:

I thank You, God, for frost on leaves on ground, on toy cars, for frost on face pretended by him with hands shivering tucked in straightjacket coat sleeves. Thank You for pinching cold morning soaked in layers of warm clothes, and hot smoky fire where we handle flame and wood we don’t understand, only clutching at the extra incomprehensible by us life. Thank You for the simple plenty in cast iron over open fire to draw me to women not in America, women by open fire cooking as I am cooking on a special day when I don’t do it every day.

Thank You, Spirit, for praying unimaginable words on my behalf, and to think You could use this mouth to speak Your words, and that You do because You live here.

Thank You, Creator God, for the intersection of my work and play and thought with four men or boys — each both — who are beautiful, alive, sprawling with feeling and amazement, amazing me. And am I amazing?

Thank You, Jesus Word, for thoughts thoughts thoughts thoughts to thrill me into pressing into You thrilling me. Thank You for my face, hands, armpits, legs, secret parts, mouth and stomach lined with healthy life living breathing!

Thank You, King Jesus, for reigning humble when singing Word arranged physical heart into love singing heart. Thank You for Word returning me in tow in to outstretched unending celebration arms.

Thank You, God, for bare trees stretching worship still by me stretching worship still to You.