Today after reading
I started to think about how we view and talk about prayer. I am somewhat of a eccentric Christian and have finally found peace after 77 years with my beliefs. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions. I will always have them until I “fly away.” But I am at peace about forming a relationship with God. Again, this does not mean that the relationship is perfect on my part. I am sure God’s side is ok.
We humans have spent centuries making a relationship with God complicated. We have created rules about prayer, rules about worship, and rules about anything else we could think of. I don’t remember Jesus mentioning any rules except:
Matthew 22:37-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
He broke many rules of his time. He ate with tax collectors, gentiles and women. He touched lepers to heal them. He excluded no one. He was radical. So often we have managed to turn him into someone I am sure he would not recognize.
So what about prayer? He gave us one prayer called “the Lord’s Prayer” because he was asked to teach us to pray. It is a wonderful prayer but it is not the only prayer. Prayer comes from the heart of the person praying. There is no rule for how it is done. It is simply pouring out your heart to a loving God. If you have a routine…fine. If you don’t…fine.
The thing about prayer is the person you know best is the one you speak with the most. If we speak with God about our day, our hopes, our distress, our job, our pain, our family….I could go on and on, then we spend time with God. Tell God what is on your mind and know that you are heard. That’s all there is to it and the more we do it the closer we become with the one who loves us.
Prayer is simple!
We all have bad things happen to us in life. When that happens some of dig deeper into a relationship with God. Some of us just let God go. They can’t believe that a loving, caring God could let bad things happen. Some are very angry at God and doubt his existence. This is a ‘both and” (see below) in that if you don’t believe in God how can you be angry at him?
I can understand this as the problem of terrorism, murder, rape, and other acts of violence do make us ask questions. This question has been kicked about in major theological circle for centuries. Some thinkers have tried to explain it but I don’t think that anyone has ever done it.
There are some things that we will never understand. I don’t know that I want a God who can be totally explained by someone. God is so very far beyond our very small minds. I don’t have any problem understanding that.
To accept this God we sometimes have to accept two things that are opposite each other but both are true. For me this is called both and. It can be called an oxymoron and there are some simple examples of this such as “found missing’ or “alone together.” We don’t have any problem with those but the problem of a loving God who allows pain is difficult to swallow.
I can’t explain it. For some reason I don’t feel that I have to…at least not to shore up my faith.
What is your take on this?
Lately I have felt apathetic about going to church. There is no specific reason for this that I can see. Nothing is wrong with either the church I worked at or the church I am attending with my husband. They are both friendly churches that adopt members as part of the family. You always feel welcomed and loved. It makes me wonder what’s up?
I am not really sure. I have not backed away from my relationship with God. It is growing stronger than it has been in a while. When you work for a church there is always the danger that you are working more than worshiping. I know I fell into it easily. Now I actually spend time with God. Not enough but much more than I was. My connection with God is enriched and I am grateful for that.
I do still miss greatly laying hands on people and praying for healing. This is a part of my past ministry that causes my soul to ache, It fed me in a way it is difficult to explain. I was not doing anything myself for it was God who was using my hands and my love….outpouring for others. I still tear up when I think of what it meant for me. God was physically present each moment.
My spiritual life is much more solitary and I am not a solitary person. This is a struggle for me but one that God is pushing me into. I am caught in the longing to do something more physical instead of meditative. Maybe I need to try moving meditation. (which actually is a thing) I would still want to do it with others.
I have always been aware of my need to deepen my relationship with God and at times during my life have had a deep and amazing connection. Now I need to re-connect.
So why does this translate into a lack of passion for church itself? I wish I knew. I can see clearly that stepping away is not the right choice. It is so easy to develop a pattern of staying home on Sunday morning and it becomes a habit that is hard to change. Church is also not about my feelings although for me, until now, it has frequently been an emotional boost. Church has not changed. I have and I need to spend time delving into myself to seek answers.
I need an emotional boost. I need to find an amazing conference or heart rending speaker who challenges me and reignites the fire that I can’t find.
God will supply my need. I just wish he would hurry up!
Having studied a good bit of history and over the years a lot about the history of my faith I have noticed some interesting parallels in today’s world.
If you learn about the early church and the followers of Jesus it is apparent (although seldom mentioned) that women played an important role. After all, they were the first to see Jesus after his crucifixion. Mary Magdalene was a follower of his and important in his ministry and NOT a prostitute. She was relegated to that role later in church history when the Roman church did its best to disavow the roles of women. Women were the personification of sin and not allowed to be a meaningful part of the church. The church did a good job and it wasn’t until centuries later that the protestant traditions began to reverse the trend. It has always been interesting to me that priests were not allowed to marry in spite of the fact that our beliefs sprang from Judaism which believed that men should marry.
So much for the past. Now, in a parallel to removing women, the culture seems to be set on destroying belief in any religion. They are intent on removing the one system that wants to employ a moral code. Religion is being mocked and followers are thought of as not intelligent enough to see reality. This may also follow the “I” principle. “I am more important than anyone else. Others don’t matter nor can I be held to someone’s outdated moral code.”
I am offended by this trend and concerned for the life of believers. Who knows…maybe we will end up being persecuted and it will revive the faith. Hardship and persecution does seem to bring out the best in belief.
At my age I have learned to speak my mind and not be afraid of the outcome. I will continue to follow my faith and be willing to stand up for it.
Today I am waiting for news of the birth of my first Great Grandchild. I can’t possibly be that old. My granddaughter is in labor and her mom and her aunt are with her. They are both nurses. Her aunt is an OB nurse so I’m sure she is getting great care.
It is amazing to think that this is a new generation. One that I am unlikely to see become adult. That is such a sad thought for me but that is how life goes. I do not expect to live forever nor would I want to.
There is a pattern to life. Some Hindus believe that at each stage of our life we have certain tasks to complete. The last stage is to gain wisdom and enlightenment. I really hope that I can do that but I will have to do better than I am doing now. I do not spend enough time in silence. I don’t listen for God enough. I am terrible about turning things over to God and letting them go. I am trying and I will keep on but enlightenment seems a long way off.
At some times in my life I have had the incredible experience of sensing God’s presence. It is a mountaintop experience. Each time I spent time immersed in meditation and let myself approach God fully. I know god is there just waiting. It is up to me to seek that communion.
Each day is a new day. Soon I will see a new life for my family. I think God is present in each newborn in a way that we can’t do as adults. Their connection to God is unique. They just came from His presence and can still experience the connection.
I look forward to meeting this new person and acknowledging God in his life.
People can say stupid things. It is amazing to me that they don’t really think about what they are saying. When I ran a grief support group I heard some goodies.
You can have another baby (to someone who just had a miscarriage)
God needed another angel in heaven ( to someone who lost a child)
Your husband wouldn’t want you to be sad (to a new widow)
I’m sure things are better now (to someone whose wife died a few months ago)
God never gives us more than we can handle (to someone who lost two teenagers in an accident)
Everything will be alright (to someone diagnosed with a fatal illness)
Sometimes when we don’t know what to say we can fall into the trap of saying something stupid or offensive. We may not mean it that way but that is how it comes out. When people are going through tough times they don’t need to hear these kind of answers. They need to hear
Can I bring dinner by tomorrow?
I’m going to a movie tomorrow can I pick you up?
I am so sorry
I will call you soon (only if you really will)
Give a hug
Cry with them
Solid concrete help is what is needed. Only say what you mean. If you can help try to do something specific. Don’t just say “how can I help?” Instead ask if you can pick up children, run an errand, offer a day out. Each individual needs different things. You have to gauge what will help.
Most importantly offer compassion and love. Nothing is more needed. If you have suffered a similar loss you may understand better what they are going through but don’t assume it will be exactly the same. Just being there is critical. Don’t just say something…..do something!
After posting the blog yesterday I have been thinking about death. None of wants to die. It is the unknown and we don’t like the unknown. So far as I know no one (except Jesus–if you are Christian) has ever come back from the dead and no one has told us what is there. Most Christians believe in a heaven although I don’t know if anyone has ever defined it. Some religions think of the afterlife as becoming part of God/cosmos/whatever. Some believe that we are reincarnated and come back as other people. Some of my friends want to come back as one of my husband’s dogs—he spoils them terribly. The point is none of us really knows the answer.
I have seen things worse than death. Some medical problems are so awful that death would be preferable. I think that is obvious since some states allow euthanasia. I am not going to get into the moral issues with that. I just want us to realize that sometimes death is a friend. And really, even though I fear illness I am not sure that I fear death. After all either there is something or there is nothing.
As a nurse I have been with people when they died and I never saw anything except a peaceful death. It’s getting to that point that we fight against it and do our best to ignore and avoid it but when death comes most people are peaceful.
In our culture we try to push death away. We go to the funeral home and look at a body that has been preserved and people say “doesn’t sh/he look wonderful?” I am glad that many people opt for cremation and my best friend’s daughter asked for her ashes to be planted with a young tree. She wanted to be at the root of new life.
I know this has seemed like a morbid subject and I hope you can see beyond that. I am including one of my favorite poems by black poet and preacher James Weldon Johnson. If you have never read his poetry (and sermons in verse) you are missing out.
Go Down, Death
(A Funeral Sermon)
Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.
Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God’s big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.
And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.
And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn’t make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God’s command.
And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She’s borne the burden and heat of the day,
She’s labored long in my vineyard,
And she’s tired--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.
And Death didn’t say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven’s pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning’s flash behind;
Straight down he came.
While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn’t see;
She saw Old Death. She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I’m going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.
And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn’t feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.
And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.
Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
From God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1927 The Viking Press, Inc., renewed 1955 by Grace Nail Johnson.
I want this read at my funeral.