Monday, July 28, 2014

Days Crying Out for Prayer

These days of gang violence in Chicago and Honduras and warring in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and refugees and standard sad things and grief around the world . . .

My prayer life, to be blunt, is erratic. On the one hand, I do pray throughout the day---most often expressions of thanks and awe---but I cannot claim for much in the way of disciplined, focused prayer time. I have had it in the past, but it fell away with some theological crises. I've even said I'm something of a prayer agnostic---It might do something, but I'm not sure what.

But these days cry out for prayer and even as I type that, I don't know what that means. But I've started trying, again, to have focused prayer time. It's not going all that well, but I'm trying.

This morning, I found myself praying for revelation, theophany, really. I found myself praying that this revelation came not from the sky, from sun or moon or stars, but from below, from the dirt, that every blade of grass, every grain of sand, every speck of dust would burst with the glory of God, like the mystics write about. I want gravity to be involved in the revelation, so that we might all know how closely we are held by God. I want the dirt to shine with the things the ancients wrote about---lovingkindness, mercy, slow-anger, redemption. I want theophany out of the dirt so that when our knees give out as we fall in worship, we will know that it is God who holds us, who supports our every day.

I do not know what to do with this prayer. It's full of wishful thinking as much as actual hope. And yet, I wish for a theophany that will bring repentance, a turning from the violence we perpetuate. A turning to each other as the image of God and the expectation to receive lovingkindness, mercy, and redemption, not bullets and bombs.

Prayer does more to change the pray-er than to change God or even spur God to action of some sort. But perhaps, it's still worth praying this sort of prayer. Maybe it, as my more secular friends will say, put good vibes into the air. Maybe it will get God's attention in some way, as written about in the Bible. Maybe it will bring knowledge and courage and heart to be God's instrument in this violent world.

I invite you to join me, if you aren't already leading me. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Practice for a World on Fire

I've written about this practice before.

I feel like I want to make it an assignment for you. Yes, you. And I know, you're not my student, I'm not your teacher, there is no enforcement for this assignment. It's been my practice for a couple of decades, though, and whatever else, I believe it to be helpful. After a week of news about migrant children at the southern U.S. border (and the ugly things said about them in some media outlets), about the Middle East turning bloodier, it seems, by the day, about jet liners shot out of the sky to further one political agenda or another---apparently to bring about even more war?---I want you to think about this and do it and believe it:

Look at people you don't like, who frighten you or make you angry or are simply not like you. Look at them. Not necessarily in the eye, that can be creepy, but look at them. Say to yourself, "Here is the Image of God." That may be all you're able to say. If you can say it, say to yourself, "I love them." That will vary from day to day, but if you love God, this is where it plays out. Love that person. If you can't love them today, at least say, "Here is the Image of God." Maybe tomorrow you'll be able to love.

I'm not even asking you to say anything to them. You're probably not ready for that. But look at them and see the Image of God. Think on what that might mean, what that might tell you about God. Today you may not love them, but if you love God, you will one day.

You may want to say, "here is Jesus." Again, you may not be ready for that. Start where you can. Your heart may not be ready. 

That's it. That's the practice. If you don't particularly believe in God, or you don't believe in Jesus, translate into whatever you love. These are the words I have, the faith I have. My heart is hard, but these words are wearing it down, like water on stone. After a couple of decades, there is hope I might love someday.

But if we don't start today, the world is without hope. The world feels very full of hate right now and we need to find the strength to love. I honestly believe this practice will build that muscle.

+ + +

This morning, at church, my congregation, St Stephen's Episcopal Church, had a meeting about how we might address the border crisis. We're talking about things like hands on help, influencing U.S. policy, and even engaging in international policy to the best of our ability. SSEC has connections to Honduras, so this is personal. 

I'm prayerfully entering into discernment about where I fit into this, if I do. This feels big, and it's in my backyard, so to speak. Houston is still several hours drive from the Rio Grande Valley, but we're talking about children who have traveled the length of Mexico to get here. What's another 6-8 hour drive? Houston, and all of Texas, will feel the impact of this event. If God has blessed these United States, it's for a moment such as this.

Right now, I'm aware of what I don't know. There's so much to learn. I left that meeting with pieces of papers with information and websites for more. I'm already overwhelmed, but the room was full of people. I'll have to trust that we will buoy each other up. 

Pray for peace. Practice peace. Remember you are made in the Image of God, and so is the person next to you.