Prayers for Pastors, Reflectionary

I try to be the best (a prayer for pastors)

I try to be the best
at everything

(if not always)

to prepare the finest sermon
to pray the deepest prayers
to lead with calm confidence

to call down Your Spirit
on the world on the church
as no one ever did before

I try to be the best
at everything

(usually I fail)

to devise the proper approach
to evoke the needed feeling
to illuminate the truth

to bring in Your Commonwealth
of Love single-handed
as if no one else were trying

I try to be the best
at everything

(forgetting there is grace)

to try a new way
to fail miserably
to try again and again

Thank you for that


Children, Grace

Off Road

Snowman left yesterday for a summer job at Land O'Lakes Arts Center. Two friends picked him up at an airport along their route, and the three continued on together. When a deer ran into their path, the young driver swerved, and the car went off the road. 

The convertible.

With the top down.

The car flipped, and despite a seatbelt clinging hard enough to bruise him, the force of the accident threw him from the car. 

Many things flew out of the car, suitcases and wallets and eyeglasses and cell phones and clarinets. Even a cello, in its impressively fashioned protective case, flew out of the car.

And with those things went my boy.

Snowman hurtled out of the car.

Oh my God! He *hurtled* out of the car.

In shock, cared for by a nurse who happened upon the scene and bundled him in blankets, he made the journey via ambulance to an emergency room, where medical staff checked him for every kind of thing you can imagine: broken this and lacerated that, internal injuries and external disasters.

How can it be possible that he is only bruised? Yes, the bruises are "serious," and he must rest and elevate his legs, but how can it be possible? How is he not lost to us?

A friend asked, "Did he see the angel that caught him?"

I have trouble with theology that says God purposely protected this person or that one, because it suggests a divinely cavalier attitude toward so many other people not encased in metaphysical bubble wrap.

But for today–and probably for some time to come–I am grateful, thankful, relieved.

Today, I believe in miracles.

(The driver climbed out and walked away; the other passenger required stitches in one of his two cut knees.)

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Faith, Grace, If I Were Preaching, Midway, Psalms

Oh, crap!

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."

The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 126, NRSV)

One of the things that gives me hope is quite simply the flip side of the thing that makes me frustrated about my own life and the lives of those around me: we tend to repeat ourselves. Sometimes I wonder if I am caught in a feedback loop, and I really worry when it sounds like I am my mother or my father having a conversation with me when I so strive to be a more awake and enlightened parent than they ever were, in my opinion. Although looking back I guess they didn't do such a bad job, really–after all, my brother and I are both productive members of society, raising kids who are thriving in one way or another, smart kids with interests and talents, and even one adult among them now, gone out into the world with his own harvests to anticipate.

But I don't love it when I hear frustration creep into my voice, when my old wounds and rejections become part of my parent-child relationships.

In fact, I hate that crap.

I'm pretty familiar with crap this morning. Sam strained or sprained something the other day and has been on a regimen of Tramadol and rest since Thursday afternoon, and this has thrown off his schedule of "bidness," and this morning I came downstairs to find a big pile of…that stuff. It cleaned up easily enough, but it served as a reminder of the way we all have habits to which we return unconsciously, primal tendencies that assert themselves in moments of stress, or exhaustion. 

They're not all as charming as the way I slip back into my Southern accent at the end of a long day or when speaking to an unknown group of people.

Communities have habits, too, patterns of relationship to which they revert when things aren't going well, or even when they are going *too* well. Even churches do this. If things aren't going well, God must not care about us, we think. Or if things are going extremely well, we may neglect the life of the spirit in favor of the more visible successes of life.

This psalm provides a vehicle for getting back on track. It's a song that says, oh, yes! We have become disconnected at times, and we thought God might be neglecting us or punishing us, and we plodded along watering our work with our tears–but we came back from the field with shouts of joy!!!

It sounds simplistic. God took stuff away, then for some reason God gave it back. I sometimes think we don't give those ancient writers of hymns and psalms full credit for the ritual nature of their compositions. Come back to God, they are saying, knowing full well that even a faithful person may have a bad crop or a dry season. Come back to God, because why ever you do it, it's a good thing. Come back to God, because believing you can handle it all yourself will surely lead to saying, "Oh, crap! Why did I think that?"

Come back to God, and be renewed by the natural mystery of cycles and seasons. Come back to God and give thanks that going away was always part of the human condition. Come back to God and give thanks that it is never too late to rejoice. Come back to God and give thanks that it is never too late to return.