Monday’s confession of faith

I probably look like I always love him and I never doubt

And for many months this can be true

 

For many months the thought of him is sweet and I believe his words and am

So happy to be part of his family

The Bible is alive and the Lord’s Supper full of meaning

And when I sit in church on a Sunday morning, the sound of my own people singing hymns

Is the feeling of slipping into a warm and fragrant bath

 

But I will tell you honestly

Sometimes

I cannot stand us

Sometimes our meetings are endless and our trivialities a millstone

And our pastors insufferable

(Yes, I married one of them)

(His wife is even worse)

Sometimes God’s people are not that good

I said sometimes God’s people are not that good

Sometimes God’s people are not that good, folks

And the Lord’s Supper tastes like breadcrumbs and nothing more and

The magic does not descend

 

Sometimes it is a small discrepancy in Scripture that I stumble over

Calling into question the whole book and everything I’ve swallowed

 

Sometimes it is just life, when so many bad things happen at once that I wonder

How can it be that someone out there is taking care of us?

Would life look any different if he were nothing but a figment of my imagination?

 

And

What if he is there, but not who I always thought?

And

Can anyone really be that good?

 

Sometimes I drop into darkness and know that the world is empty of a Messiah

And that hanging all my heart on this one man to be true

Is folly

 

So I cry

 

And then

I blow my nose and think

Well

Here I am

If I can imagine a God better than the one there is, what kind of contradiction is that?

Wiser people than I have hung their hope here and found grace to live and die by it

(Some of them attend church with that pastor’s wife

And love her anyway)

 

I have not found another philosophy on earth

That makes anywhere near as much sense as the one that says

The Master suffers

And pain heals the world

 

And

Discrepancies aside, the fresh-air truth blowing out of those pages gives me reason to go on

There is more right about this amazing, historic, eerily accurate book than wrong

 

And

If he is not

There is nothing to explain the beauty

And how buds form every spring and seeds grow and the earth is renewed and people are sometimes kind

 

And I pray please, please be real. I need you to be real.

Who will I turn to instead?

 

I probably look like I always love him and I never doubt

But I believe in doubt

As the birthing stool

Of faith

 

The Lord’s Prayer – My turn

Confession: I have a tall glass of iced coffee in hand, and if I am not very careful I will pick up The Count of Monte Cristo and be lost to the world for the night as a reader instead of a writer. This too would be good. Dantes is an airhead at this point in the story, but the Abbe is nearing his fatal attack and Mercedes is growing paler and more interesting every day.

What did I learn when I prayed the Lord’s Prayer every day for a month?

(I’m still learning.)

Some days the phrases played over and over in my mind. Some days the words pierced me, and I cried as I spoke them. Some days I could hardly speak them at all, and instead let the celestial voice of Andrea Bocelli sing them into reality.

I learned things about myself, and prayer, and God.

First, I learned that I pray some really dumb prayers, ordinarily. Not only on the tip of my tongue, but also in the depths of my heart lie some truly ridiculous requests. They bloop out of my mouth when I’m least expecting them, and they embarrass me.

Like—

Please help me not to say anything silly…

??

I can only imagine the look on God’s face.

Please help me to hold it together…

????!

Sorry, darling. Not on My list of goals for your life.

It was a relief to pray the Real prayers, for the Kingdom and God’s will and His glory and my daily needs, without falling into such catastrophically selfish and ungrantable petitions.

I’m not trying to say that ad-libbing in prayer is a bad thing. I know God cherishes the words we shape to Him, the words that come from the depths of our hearts or the tips of our tongues, however silly they occasionally are. But are they really what we want to say?

I loved the gentle alignment of my words with His, my requests with His, my will with His. I loved skipping “I know you want me to be okay with this but I’m really not, but I’m trying to be. You know I struggle sometimes, Lord. Are you sure you really know what you’re doing? I’m trying to trust you, and so I pray (I think I pray) that your will be done (except not if it hurts too much)…” and instead moving simply, so sweetly, to His heart. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Second, I learned that I am terrible at forgiving. I’m not sure if it was the Prayer itself that brought my grievances to the surface, like scum atop a cooking vat, or if I am always this vengeful. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” seemed like an impossible mouthful for the first week or two, especially on the days when I was really steamed about something that happened months ago.

Then I started thinking about the real mouthful.

“Forgive us our debts.”

Honestly? Such a light and simple request.

I don’t pretend to know more about forgiving than I did a month ago, except for this piece: I cannot claim the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus for my own sins if I am unwilling to release those who have sinned against me.

I know we say His grace is free, with no strings attached, and I told you I don’t pretend to understand these things. But I know from the parable of the two servants who owed the lord money, and I know from experience in my own life, that it just doesn’t work to claim the one and refuse the other. And oh, I have been forgiven so much! The two parts of forgiveness must go forth hand-in-hand into the world—or neither.

“Forgive us our debts while we forgive our debtors…”

My acceptance of His bountiful, generous release, His wiping away of the debts I owe Him and cannot pay, not only inspires me or prepares me or enables me—but truly impels me to offer that same free release to others, at the risk of losing it myself.

Third, I learned something about the nature of prayer itself: that it is a way of holding two opposite things simultaneously and in the same space—the brokenness of the world, and the loving provision of the Father. (This idea came straight from N. T. Wright’s book The Lord and His Prayer.)

The prayer of Jesus stands as a powerful bridge between two realities. On the one hand, you have hunger, debts, temptation, evil. On the other, you have forgiveness, deliverance, power, glory. Mr. Wright says this is a crucial function of our prayers—bringing the brokenness of the world into the light of God’s presence, and holding the two together in our hearts.

There is more to this world than meets the eye. We are surrounded by brokenness without and within, but the kingdom is come! and coming! and coming more! Aslan is on the move.

Now that is a prayer I will be clinging to for months.

*****

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The Lord’s Prayer – Your turn

Our Father

a good Father, a loving Father
and we come to him together

which art in heaven

what is heaven but where God dwells?
is every place you inhabit made heaven?

Hallowed be thy name

sacred, precious, unblameable

Thy kingdom come

oh, swiftly

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

here is “heaven” again, and our request that you so fully inhabit earth that it, too, becomes your dwelling place

Give us this day our daily bread

let me not look too far ahead, but receive every good gift for today at your hand.
feed me, Father

And forgive us our debts

there are so many. I feel dark with shame and inadequacy on this new day of a new month. forgive me what I owe you and cannot pay

as we forgive our debtors

this is a mouthful, but for now I will take it as this:
that your forgiving of me and mine of others will go forth hand in hand into the world— “while” I forgive those who owe me, and cannot pay

And lead us not into temptation

I am weak
let your hand hold me and point the way

But deliver us from evil

may darkness fall away in the kingdom-light of heaven

For thine is the kingdom

this is why evil cannot win

And the power

all of you and none of me

And the glory forever

I taste worship in my tears and prayers.
you are the Holy One.

Amen.

– April 1, 2015

******

The month is over and I want to hear! What did you learn as you prayed Jesus’ prayer each day?

Here are some questions to get you started—those who did not pray the prayer daily but have a thought are welcome to share too!

What is your favorite phrase?

What did you understand in a new way?

How did God work in your life through these words?

Next time, I’ll share three things I learned
am still learning.
You first!

Teach us to pray

A question for you this morning:

If intercessory prayer is as important as we think, why is it not touched in The Lord’s Prayer, the model given when His disciples asked for a lesson? He said—

“After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13

I suppose this word “us” could be considered interceding for mankind along with ourselves, but Jesus’ prayer seems to have four basic components: praise, submission, request, and more praise.

Hmm.

I actually think my own prayers are getting a little top-heavy in the intercession department. Part of this is because I am too fearful and stubborn to bring my own needs.

Now I am curious: what would happen if I took this prayer as my model for a month? What would I learn about God? About prayer?

In April, I would like to pray Jesus’ words daily, in some way. Some days I will recite them, some days read them in another translation, some days use them as an outline / framework / launch pad for my own praises and requests. Anyone want to join me? At the end of the month, we’ll talk about this again, and share whatever we learned.

Do you have anything to say about the Lord’s Prayer, for starters? An answer to my question above?

Lord, teach us to pray.

Learning to be reasonably happy

Confession: I’ve never liked the Serenity Prayer.

Anything that overused, she thought, has to turn to rot after a while.

And it seems too… serene. A little folding of the hands to rest.

Last month at the local ladies seminar I read the whole prayer, for the first time, and it made all the difference. It gets to where I am, and where I want to be.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

— Reinhold Niebuhr