Saturday, April 07, 2007

Prayer #32: Good Friday

I asked Jesus, "How much do you love me?"

He said, "This much." And he opened up his arms, and died.

Prayer #32: Good Friday 

Jesus, why did you die for me?

How did you sustain scourging, a long-thorned crown, and the mob's jeering, leering taunts long enough to heave a cross onto your broken back, and drag it miles to your own execution?

Did you scream out, naked, torn, bleeding, when they drove those crude nails into your limbs? Were you aware they ripped your shabby garments, and cast lots for it? Where, in all that, did you find the strength to answer the prisoners dying next to you?

And when your thirst overcame even your excruciating pain, how did you summon a voice to plead for it? What did it take to hold yourself on that cross for an endless afternoon, when each agonized breath railed against gravity, and the simple weight of your body spelled certain doom?

Through it all, through each ungodly moment of that bloody, brutal day, did you feel truly human and truly divine? Or was your physical character finally catching up with you, pushing you to the absolute limit of man's endurance?

Here's what I really want to know, Jesus. Was your corporeal suffering so profound and immense, that your spiritual strength waned, too? Is that why you cried out in terror and sorrow to a God you feared had forsaken you?

All this, so that a divinity's humanity could make humans divine.

Was it worth it, Jesus? Do we live up to your standards? Are we still worthy of those 30 years in Nazareth, those three years preaching and teaching, that one tortured day to end all days?

Do you look down on our broken, pitiless world, whose incredible beauty is so often soured by its inhabitants' evil, and think, "Why did I bother?"

If you had to do it all over again ... would you?

Faith and Scripture say yes. And if this is indeed the case -- and I believe it is so -- then I am left breathless by your unfathomable love. Love so far-reaching, so deep, so encompassing, so magnanimous, so true, so pure, that you became your own creation, and died to save us.

Such gratitude has been proclaimed for many more years than I've walked this earth. And far greater thinkers and writers than I have expressed it more eloquently.

But the more time I spend wrapped in this body you gave me, I see more clearly just how much you sacrificed for me -- and how little I have done to repay you.

This Easter, resurrect me too. Carry the world with you out of the tomb, and with it, my unceasing cries and petitions. Bear them to your heavenly Father and mother. Take my side once more, as you do every year, every month, every day, every minute, and every breath of my life.

And may I make all hours and seconds going forward an eternal testament to you, and the power of your role in my life, my grace, and my salvation.

I think it's the least I can do.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Prayer #31: Short, Sweet

Prayer #31: Short, Sweet

Lord, all your attributes are expansive, encompassing, and infinite.

Mine are definitely not.

Help me achieve even one iota of your patience for the next 24 hours.

Actually, I'll need your grace in this matter for the rest of my earthly life, but I think we should start small. It's going to be an uphill battle.

Sorry about that. And thank you.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Prayer #30: Theallergic

Prayer #30: Theallergic

Lord, the miracle of your returning springs is tainted only by one thing: allergy season.

Where in your grand plan for creation did you decide that people would react so violently to pollen, trees, and other hallmarks of life coming back to earth?

Dear God, this Holy Week, keep me focused on your magesty. Help me see the forests for the trees, and not for the sneezing fits.

May every hint of warm air remind me of your welcoming embrace, and may I always strive to stay encircled in your arms.

May every blossoming flower signal your devotion to resurrection, and speak the promise of never-ending glory.

May every blade of glass bear witness to your nourishing rain and sunlight, and catch my knees when I kneel to worship you in reverent awe.

This spring -- every spring -- any spring -- grant me an Easter heart, so that I may love you more fully, see you more clearly, accept you more readily, and abandon myself to your awesome love more quickly.

I wait to roll away the stone, and greet the sunlight streaming from the tomb.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Prayer #29: Language of God

This Fresh Air interview with geneticist and evangelical Christian Francis Collins is a meditation in its own right. It discusses the intersection of faith and science, and how they complement theistic belief -- not discredit it. A must-hear for the Lenten season.

Prayer #29: Language of God

Lord, You have created a world of complex mystery and staggering intricacy. As we enter the holiest of weeks in the liturgical year, keep these mysteries at the forefront of our consciousness and our questioning.

May we use our questions and doubts to plumb the depths of our personal belief. And may we arrive at a richer understanding of your powerful love -- the true source of this great, glorious, gorgeous world, which is ours to explore, and yours to delight in.

Hosanna to the Son of David on Palm Sunday -- Amen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Prayer #28: Mere Mortals

Prayer #28: Mere Mortals

Mike shared a story at guitar group tonight about one of his students who passed away from cancer over the weekend. The young man was only 22. His name was Joe Mills.

Joe developed cancer last spring, but was determined to finish his degree. He e-mailed Mike his assignments from his hospital bed. And though he had to take a leave of absence in the spring, Joe came back during fall semester to finish and graduate.

That's grit. That's determination. My hat is off to you, Joe. You made the most of your earthly time, which is more than many people can say.

This is especially poignant for me as my trip to Claude approaches. Claude -- my dear, sweet, 83-year-old friend. His vitality and energy dazzle me, but I try to stay realistic.

Time is finite. Claude is finite. The day will come when Claude dies a ripe old age, having lived a ripe old life, and I will mourn some, but not much, for his existence was exemplary.

I don't let these musings get in the way of enjoying our time together now. That would be wasteful. But the thought crosses my mind on occasion, especially when I hear of untimely deaths like Joe's.

Had Joe skirted chance and not gotten cancer, what age would he have reached? Would he have a family? Where would he move, shop, work? Would he have old friends and young friends? How would he spend his retirement? Would he be happy more days than not?

The inspiring thing about Claude is that he knows the gift he's received -- one helluva lucky hand. Good health, strong marriage, an eager and agile mind, and plenty of time.

And the inspiring thing about Joe is that he seemed to know the gift he was giving -- an example of how to make the most of a small budget, and accomplish a youthful milestone even as youth was disintegrating.

I pray for Claude and Joe tonight, that both men become reconciled to their lives and deaths, and that they understand the human construct of time as a gross understatement.

God doesn't recognize dates, years, minutes. He measures the soul's depth and breadth instead. Both these men are off the charts.

An extra prayer for all those facing mortality tonight, Lord. Show them it's merely the next step, and the unimaginable, unfathomable fulfillment of Your timeless promise, which we merely glimpse on earth.


P.S. I'll be dark for a few days while I'm in Marianna, Florida, with the Reeses. Catch you next Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Prayer #27: La Vie en Rose

Prayer #27: La Vie en Rose

Lord, thank you for the unexpected peals of laughter and ridiculous comments that jug wine and pleasant company tend to incite.

Thank you also for a wide, wonderful world that holds the anticipation of travel. Help us navigate this modern-day Babel without embarrassing ourselves as stupid Americans, and teach us more words than fromage and baguette.

And thank you for both these things together -- the joy of seeing a loved one get a much-deserved trip, the excitement such a journey engenders, and the hilarity of figuring out a language beyond counting to ten and singing Edith Piaf songs.

Bon soir, mon Dieu. This petit chou chou is fatigué. Merci for the gifts of family and adventure.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Prayer #26: Piece of Work

Prayer #26: Piece of Work

Tonight's prayer goes out to everyone fearful of being laid off; unhappy in their current job; struggling to find a new career; facing rejection and testing at each turn; reevaluating their life choices; and all-around stressed by the 9-to-5 that claims their time and energy.

Guide them to recognize the choices at hand, and give them the wisdom to select the healthiest, most satisfying option.

For work is a blessing, and to do the best we can every day for a challenging, rewarding position is tantamount to praising You.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Prayer #25: Ludicrous Uterus

Ok. We need to overcome biology for one minute and NOT get the urge to pop out babies whenever we hold one.

We also need NOT to fall in love with any dear male friend who holds said baby, thus increasing the ill-timed, ill-advised hormone surge.

Moreover, we need to take a step back, reevaluate our friendships, and determine what are the actual stirrings of romance, and what are evolutionary impulses.

And by we, I mean me.

Prayer #25: Ludicrous Uterus

Lord, promise me you will reveal the information I need to make informed decisions about what I truly feel for others.

Help me discern between all types of love, and match the right kind with the right people.

Above all, grant my male friends understanding and wisdom about female behavior, and please have them forgive me if they ever discover I am cyclically in love with them.


P.S. And if it's not too much, Lord, perhaps You can inspire one of these wonderful boys in my life to reciprocate one day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Prayer #24: Next to Godliness

God loveth the clean. {Koran, ch. IX}

Prayer #24: Next to Godliness

How can one person amass so many clothes?

I'm not a clothes horse. I abhor shopping. I wear clothes for 10 years on average. And yet ridding my room of unused clothing required three solid hours tonight.

I admit, my timing is odd for spring cleaning. We're in the midst of an icy March nor'easter. Sleet is pelting the windows. But instead of snuggling on the couch, I went on a cleaning tear, determined to purge my life of all outmoded physical trappings.

The sad thing is, I feel I didn't even make a dent. I still have so many belongings, most of which I don't really use. I tried to apply the one-year rule -- if I hadn't worn, used, or touched it in one year, it went -- but mushy sentimentality usually won out over cold reason.

Hence my still-crowded room, and my urge to land a spot on a personal organization reality show.

It's all too connected to my heart, Lord. Mementos of high school activities, gifts from ex-boyfriends, T-shirts from college spring break trips, perfumes and jewelry and outfits that defined who I was over the years. Throwing them out feels tantamount to turning my back on my past.

Yet that's precisely what I need to do this Lent. Not ignore the past, of course -- that's impossible. I'm cumulative, not serialized. Rather, I need to refresh my identity and spirit, and reflect who I am today by the choices I make.

In the case of my cleaning rampage, such reflection means investing in fewer, but better-tailored outfits. It means matching my wardrobe to my professional job, and not holding on to things I won't wear when somebody else needs the clothing more.

In terms of my heart, it means looking ahead, and embracing my young adult life. It means asserting my independence to make my own choices, while accepting responsibility for their consequences. And it means sharing my gifts with people I encounter, especially when they need them most.

Help me dig through the drawers I haven't dared open in awhile, Lord. Lead me to revisit hidden memories. I'm nervous about what I'll find. It requires messiness and lack of order. My belongings will be laid bare, and I'll be vulnerable.

But then I remember that needless things will go, and necessary items will be restored in cleaner, straighter order than they were before. This gives me great comfort, Lord, knowing that the truly important parts will endure, and that I'll always be able to find them.

So You bring the broom. I'll bring the dustpan. And together, we'll spring-clean my soul.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Prayer #23: Chemo'd

Prayer #23: Chemo'd

Tonight's personal, Lord. No general young adult stuff. Tonight, I need to pray for one particular young adult: my cousin Richard.

As You very well know (as You are an omniscient God), Richard was diagnosed with lymphoma about a month ago. He has undergone one round of chemo already. This weekend marks the start of his second round. There will be eight rounds total.

And that, Lord, is when we all hold our breath, and pray the treatments killed what they were supposed to kill. The cancer. Not my cousin.

Rich has a fiancee, Daphne. They just bought a home. He works as a plumber. He's young, strong, and 25.

My cousin is supposed to be living it all right now. Instead, he's heading downtown with his family and wife-to-be to stay at HUP, and zap his lymph nodes, so he can live some more.

Lord God, I pray for my cousin, for Daphne. For Aunt Karen, Uncle Richard, and Peter. For everyone who loves and cares for these good people, and who has supported them every step of the way.

I also pray for all the other young adults out there, Lord, who are facing their own mortality tonight. Fill their reserves of courage. Grant them emotional, if not physical strength.

Above all, open their eyes to the vagaries of nature, of circumstance, of accidents, that introduce such tragic events into normal lives. No merciful God -- yes, that's You -- would ever point a finger and deem this suffering.

But a merciful God -- still You -- will be with these brave young people throughout their suffering, and do His very, very best to keep them ready for the fight, if they only open their hearts and let him.

For Richard and all the rest, all my prayers. Amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Prayer #22: Sibling Chivalry

Prayer #22: Sibling Chivalry

Dear Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change about my sibling --

The courage to confront him about the things he can change --

And the wisdom to know when he's about to retaliate, because he's much bigger than I am.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Prayer #21: Don't Know Much

Prayer #21: Don't Know Much

Who am I to assume I know what's going on in other people's personal lives -- their hearts, minds, psyche, or health?

I know diddly-squat. I can only sit and people-watch, making up three-act plays about their internal dramas, and wrapping it neatly with a resolving bow.

But life is hardly packaged that way, is it, Lord? For that reason, I'm praying tonight for all the problems I know nothing about.

Please soothe all the sad, secret heartaches people are bearing. Console them at night, when fears creep out from under the bed, and run icy fingers across imaginations. And hold their hands during harsh daylight, when they want to run away, but have no place to hide.

For these people, Lord, I ask only Your highest mercy and love. Be with them when they need You most, even if they don't know You're there.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Prayer #20: Moral Relativism

Emily: Stealing Christian music isn't stealing. It's borrowing a prayer. I mean, because if you think about it, God inspired it and basically wrote it.

Prayer #20: Moral Relativism

God, are You black and white? Do You exist at the poles? Are You as dogmatic as we have made You?

Maybe it's my sinful, imperfect self talking (hoping?), but I believe You are pragmatic and flexible. You can see the forest for the trees -- or, in the case of Divine oversight, our souls beyond the sins.

This doesn't excuse bad choices, especially when made knowingly. You're not offering a 'get out of jail free' card. And You're definitely not mollified by my half-hearted Act of Contrition recitation.

But You do accept sincere penance, and take intention well into account. So says Thomas Merton in his prayer from "Thoughts in Solitude" (one of my absolute favorites -- may I write like him one day):

... the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

You must thrive on such desires, God. They surely give You hope that one day we goofy mortals will actually get Your master plan of love and forgiveness right.

Until then, thank you for helping us and letting us live in shades of gray.

From the grayest of them all -- Amen.

Prayer #19: Young Adult Novena

Mrs. Campo and Brian are saying a St. Joseph's novena for the next 9 days, set to end on St. Joseph's Day, which also happens to be Brian's birthday. Adorably Catholic.

Prayer #19: Young Adult Novena

This is an original novena for the young at heart and pressed for time.

Day 1. Dear God, help me stick to my guns and actually say one of these prayers each day for the next nine days. You know I'm forgetful, but I swear, I really do want to worship you with the sacrifice of my time and attention. So help a pray-er out with some gentle reminders.

Day 2. Yay! I made it back. Day two. Today I thank you for all the incredible blessings you shower in my life -- my family, friends, roof, food, health, and [insert favorite T.V. show]. Wait, ignore that last one. It just slipped in. I meant to say Your divine mercy. (Sorry.)

Day 3. Hi God. Me again. I'm not gonna lie -- there are a lot of problems in my life right now. [List all pressing problems here.] I rarely know how to handle these. In fact, I usually handle them incorrectly, thus creating more problems. Help me rely on Your infinite wisdom to get me through these tough situations. Even if I can't solve them, I want to learn more about myself and YOU through having lived them.

Day 4. Jesus, this one's for you. Here's a crazy idea ... how about you come back to earth? We could use you walking among us right now. Yeah, I know you're in our hearts and all that, but I'm a Doubting Thomas in the worst way. How can I touch your wounds, and know that you live on? If you can help me figure this one out, I'd appreciate it.

Day 5. The Holy Spirit halftime show. Apparently you're the entity that guides the answers from yesterday's novena. Soooo ... how does this work? Pixie dust or something? I've heard some stuff about fire. I need inspiration and motivation. Will you be around when I need you most? Please say yes. What an awesome gift, one that truly keeps on giving.

Day 6. Don't worry, Mary, I haven't forgotten you. Here's my burning Marian question: Did you really stay a virgin after Jesus was born? Gah! Forget I asked that, probably inappropriate for a novena. I was just curious. Anywho, can you do me a huge favor, and bend your Son's ear that I need all the help I can get? I'm on day 6 here -- outlook for success is dubious, at best. Thank you. You're a peach.

Day 7.
I'd like to point out that seven is a more mystical number than nine, and that it would be much more convenient for ME if the Church had stuck to conventional mysticism and made this ritual a septena (or whatever the heck you'd call a seven-day prayer). Yes, I'm whining! Sigh. Now I feel guilty. I'm sorry. You made much greater sacrifices that I can even dream of. Surely I can pray for another two days.

Day 8. Home stretch. This one's going to be terrific, just wait! Ummm ... hmm. There's so much I want to ask and say, but my heart is too full. The only thing that consistently comes to mind is -- Jesus, help me. Lord, protect me. Holy Spirit, strengthen me. God, be with me, in me, and through me.

Day 9.
DONE! Finished, complete, over, finito. Thanks for sticking it out with me, God. Not that I'm surprised, You've stuck with me through much dicier moments in my life. This must have been a walk in the park compared to my usual antics. So thank for listening and chatting. It's been real, in a refreshing spiritual, metaphysical, theological way. I'm lucky to have You in infinite ways, and for infinite days.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Prayer #18: Hard Knocks

Prayer #18: Hard Knocks

This prayer goes out to all the people whose lives are one step forward, and two steps back.

It's for those who struggle to make ends meet ...

Who never seem to catch a break ...

Who create, inherit, or live amidst bad luck ...

Who wake up every morning in fear of what's coming next ...

Who search for a leg-up, but end up kicked ...

Who try their damndest, yet feel damned ...

Who leak vital spirit and optimism with every blow ...

Who are angry at You for judgments and hardship they believe You send ...

I pray they recognize opportunities when they arrive; seek Your wisdom and solace throughout; and maintain hope, even in the bleakest hour, that life is indeed worth living.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Prayer #17: High School Musical

My cousin Janine had her theatrical debut tonight as a 'skater dude' in her middle school's stage production of "High School Musical." (Yeah, figure that one out.)

I wrote about this movie a few months back, and my feelings still stand. It's a darling little story, made all the more endearing by its performers' enthusiasm.

Seeing it live was no exception. The kids were equally into it, fueled by the energy of a real audience.

It was all-around good, clean fun. I feel so squeaky that I'm afraid to walk down the hallway and wake my parents ...

Prayer #17: High School Musical

Thank you, Lord, for innocence amidst puberty. It's not an easy time for kids, or for the adults who deal with them.

I sometimes think that rising expectations have made us look at newly-minted teenagers more like adults. This is an unfair and ultimately disappointing perspective. How can they possibly act so mature, when their bodies haven't even stopped erupting yet? We need to cut them some slack.

They're so young, Lord. So full of unabashed energy and gusto. What a delight it was to see kids singing about getting along and being friends ... and BELIEVING it, too! These young performers don't yet have the guile to hide their true feelings. In every number, you saw their precious hearts on the T-shirt sleeves.

Lord, preserve this wide-eyed wonder. Permanently instill the pleasure of achieving a common goal, and receiving the sincere appreciation of peers and adults. Each year will bring more difficult challenges. Help them draw on these positive experiences for the courage and self-esteem needed to go on.

Also, help me remember the ups and downs of this time -- the fashion insecurities, the changing hormones, the thrill of getting my first lines on stage, the friends in class. Keep me sympathetic and understanding even as I move further from that time in my life, so that I may always empathize.

(I don't need more acne, though, Lord. That's a little too much empathy for a young adult.)

Keep today's teenagers close to Your heart. And help me keep them close to mine.

With love -- Amen.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Prayer #16: Pro at Living

Prayer #16: Pro at Living

Just reread my old retreat letters from junior and senior year of high school. Powerful stuff.

What amazes me is that each time, six different people walked away, wrote independent letters, and said the exact same, specific things. (That proves they weren't just writing generic, get-me-out-of-this-mandatory-letter drivel, haha.)

And the words that kept coming up! Compassion, listening ear, leadership, confidence, poise, kindness, love, understanding, strength. It was unbelievably humbling then, and even more so now.

But it also fills me with the right sort of pride. These letters -- written by my peers when we were young and in the midst of great transition -- reminds me of what tough stuff we were made of.

That type of strength of character doesn't die. If it's in you, it stays in you. It may ebb and flow, but it never evaporates.

I'm glad I read these letters tonight. I needed the reminder that I *am* a good person, that I *do* have much to contribute. I remembered how filled with self-doubt I was about my abilities as a retreat leader, yet how miraculous that weekend became, not only for me, but for my classmates.

There's the lesson in all this, Lord: When I call on You from my lowest, most fearful point, You support me with mind-blowing strength. You grant me resources I never imagine, endow me with abilities I never knew I could wield.

I am at the moment again now. In fact, I'm at such moments often, and will be for most of my life. Keep these beautiful letters forever inscribed on my heart and in my beliefs, as fresh as the winter day on which they were written, so I can look back on them for courage.

And what better way to close than with one of the girls' words?

"Enjoy college and life itself. And don't worry about it ... you're a pro at living!"

Why, thank you!!!

And thank you, God, for making me so.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Prayer #15: Mean Girl

Is it possible to be a good Christian and a tough manager?

As much as I hate to think it, I'm sure most coworkers would throw you under the bus as soon as look at you. Sure, we're supposed to help one another get a leg up in the world, but a mere year in the workforce has proved nearly the opposite.

So in light of the working world's harsh realities, what motive do I have to be loyal or conciliatory to coworkers -- particularly ones that make my life difficult?

When does self-interest overtake 'nice'?

Prayer #15: Mean Girl

Lord, make me mean.

I mean it. I need an angry edge, more piss & vinegar. Put some fangs into this orthodontia-ed smile.

Apparently, love doesn't govern the world. Fear does. I'm disappointed, but I'll roll with it. So I'm asking you: Make me mean.

Give me the strength to hold others accountable. Set me ablaze with the desire to ensure fairness for ALL my coworkers, not just the troublesome ones. And help me stay firm and decisive, without slipping into petty or vindictive territory.

Make me mean, Lord. It will keep my vision and purpose clear. It will let me do the job I was hired to do, while completing the work You put forth for me, too.

And if (when) I accidentally-slash-intentionally punch someone in the face, it's because I became too mean. When that happens, stay my hand, and forgive me.

Sigh. Why You put up with me, I'll never know ... but thank you.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Prayer #14: Body World

I can't run on the treadmill with headphones plugged in, because invariably, I accidentally catch the cord, yank it from my ears, throw off my balance, and fall off the treadmill in a confused pile.

Such is the joy of exercise.

Prayer #14: Body World

10 fingers, 10 toes. More bones than we know what to do with. Hair to clog our drains, fingernails to clip, and skin to protect during extreme weather. Gurgly stomachs, runny noses, bruised knees, teeth left for the Tooth Fairy.

And we won't even get into sports, dance, menstruation, sex, stress, and all other ways we use our bodies to laud Your engineering.

Thank you for making me wake up with the sun and fall asleep with the moon in a circadian cycle. Thanks for the sweats and shivers that keep me homeostatic. And many thanks for the reassuring rhythms of daily functions -- breathing, blinking, swallowing.

So what if I can't run a triathlon? So what if I can't carry furniture up 3 flights of stairs by myself? I glorify you by keeping this temple -- Your creation, my body -- healthy and strong.

Every bite of good food, every sip of sanitary water, celebrates the blessings of health You shower upon me. Each movement and thought reminds me that other people are bound by physical and mental handicaps. I must realize the full potential of my incredible freedom for them.

Be with all those in pain tonight, Lord. Soothe them. Heal them. Make them whole once more. And for those of us who can revel in our corporeal machines, keep us safe from bodily harm, and allow us to stay active in Your name.

One more thing: If you can help me not be a klutz on the treadmill, that would be much appreciated too!


Monday, March 05, 2007

Prayer #13: And This Is Love

Prayer #13: And This Is Love

And this is Love, not that I have first loved You
And this is Love, that You have first loved me
And You give up your life
One perfect sacrifice
And this is Love, that you have first loved me.

Sometimes, Lord, another person's words strike me once, and never leave. They become a tune I can't shake from my head. And as I grow and change, so do they, always taking on new, yet appropriate meaning.

Such are these lyrics. Here's how they impress me now, as a young woman hanging on a thread of unanswered questions and bungled hopes, a woman who feels alone, and only sporadically loveable.

The miracle of Your love is not in my stumbling adoration of You. It's Your unending, undying worship of me.

You, who have the entire universe at your fingertips ... You, who understand the mysteries of infinity, matter, good and evil ... You, who created man and spirit in your image to reinvent our animal lives ...

You love me. Without strings. Without fail. You love me. Me, of the too many curse words and shaky faith. Remember, I'm the girl who occasionally doubts Your existence, yells at You, and shies away from sticking up for You.

Yet You love me anyway. Warty, grouchy, irritable me.

I don't know why I'm surprised. You are, after all, God. But finding out someone, anyone, anything loves me unconditionally -- precisely BECAUSE I am imperfect, not despite my imperfection -- is always breathtaking.

With great love comes great responsibility to live up to that devotion. I hope I make You proud. But even if I don't, I know You'll want me anyway. For that is Love.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Prayer #12: Innervate

Innovation is the hot business buzz word these days. Companies seek innovators. They hire chief innovation officers. They form innovation teams. They create fun offices and allow casual dress, all to stimulate innovation.

But titles, jeans, and Nerf balls do not innovation make. Authentic creativity and progress is borne of intellectual freedom.

This does not necessarily mean freedom from constraint, as restrictions can inspire the perfect solutions. Rather, it's the freedom to follow one's instincts, and take a risk on a radical idea, without fear of recrimination or ridicule.

Without such an incubator, innovators may enervate -- and we'll all be worse off.

Prayer #12: Innervate

We must innovate our approaches to prayer, the Church, and God. No swords needed. I'm not calling for a revolution, but rather, incremental change. For in the peaceful, steady march, tread by ordinary people, lies the key to radical reformation.

First, we must reconnect through prayer. I don't spend enough quiet time with God. I don't know how many young people do. Think of the difference a few reverential moments a day, multiplied over millions of young people, could have on the state of the world.

People would hear their callings, and better receive the strength to follow them. They would become the change they wish to see in the world. And they would unify their efforts as part of a larger army.

Then we need to shake down all Christian denominations, and move our dialogue from dogmatic to pragmatic. It's not about different hymns, catechisms, or hierarchies. We must recognize (admit?) we are identical at our core: We believe Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and that in following his life, we come one step closer to eternal joy in God.

So why are we fighting??? It only wastes precious time. Faith today requires creative thinking. We must look outside our churches to find the real Church. Only then can we rebuild a healthy, living body, fit for the most holy of bridegrooms.

Finally, we must reclaim God. This need not take place on political grounds. Rather, it should happen in our hearts. Is God in my life? Do I share with others that He's in my life? Do I invoke His name and teachings as a force for good works?

Better yet, do I take him out of the literal 'love thy neighbor' context, and brainstorm all the miraculous ways I can realize this command? Do I act on these ideas? And do I trust that God will protect me, though others may harm me for it?

Lord, help us be radical in a traditional world. Connect us with other movers and shakers. Unite our missions. Lead us to your restorative grace, like animals to water, so that we are always nourished and sustained for the journey.

And let it begin within me, one innovation at a time.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Prayer #11: Soul Food

Emily: Because naturally my soul is a white fluffy cloud. With sparkles. Pink sparkles.

Prayer #11: Soul Food

What does my soul look like?

It's made of light, the kind that fills my bedroom on a Sunday morning in spring, and makes my walls glow golden. On creative days, it pulses with prism colors.

My soul is scored. It's accompanied by music that matches my mood. It sings show tunes and arias when it's strong. And it weeps on a violin when wounded.

Laughter and silliness feed my soul. So do joy, approval, and compassion. My soul requires the occasional reset -- a bout of guilt, a wallow in shame -- but that's tough love, and good medicine.

My soul is wanted by forces all over the universe, holy, evil, and everything in between. It's up to me to look up to you, and strive to stay on your side.

Protect my soul, Jesus. Keep it whole. Keep it pure. And keep me aware of its limitless potential and profound glory as a instrument for your work on earth.

May I put my soul in all I do, while always entrusting it to you. Amen.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Prayer #10: All Aboard the Friendship

In an excellent example of interfaith dialogue, my dear college friend John E. Smucker III (Hans) is coming over. (He's Mennonite ... that's what makes it interfaith.)

I haven't seen him in ages, and am desperate to give him a huge hug. Hooray for returns of the prodigal friends, and long-awaited boy hugs!

Prayer #10: All Aboard the Friendship

"A friend is one who walks in when others walk out." --Walter Winchell

Friendship is an ordinary miracle. It may be the only relationship that comes without strings. It's not forced like family ties, not turbulent like romantic love. Friends simply love you for you, warts and all. After all, they CHOOSE to be with you.

The best friendships conquer years and life events. They equal more than the sum of their parts -- laughter over coffee, tears over the phone, letters, e-mails, Sunday drives. Friends become warm afghans on cold nights, which you pull close to your heart to feel safe and warm.

For friends who are far in distance, bring them close in spirit. For friends who are far in spirit, help the relationship reach its natural destination.

Grant us patience with our friends, Lord, and understanding. Channel our anger when it's called for, and renew our compassion always. May we always see God in our friends, for they bring Him to us on earth, and they deserve our veneration.

That, and they know all our secrets. We can never let them escape.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Prayer #9: Wave the White Flag

Prayer #9: Wave the White Flag

I am defeated, Lord. I am broken, and sad, and lonely. Lift me up, if even for a moment.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prayer #8: In the No

Emily: "Good lord in heaven ... why don't they have drive-thru communion?"

Prayer #8: In the No

Always rushing, always moving. Over-scheduled and under-resourced. One activity after another, each requiring precision in duration and intensity, so that the next event does not fall by the wayside.

This is my life, God. It has been my life for many years, and is entirely of my creation. I was so overwhelmed at one point that I scaled back out of necessity, but my calendar entries have crept back to previous flood marks.

How am I supposed to fit you in among such hecticness? Where's the time for prayer? Do I have to schedule that, too? (Apparently so. Exhibit A: this blog exercise.)

So much commotion ...

Am I running away from the silence?
(Yes, says a little voice.)

Am I afraid of what I might hear?
(Definite yes, the voice chirps.)

What could be so bad about a conversation with God?
(Oh, plenty! You could find out He wants your life to go a different route, that something you're doing is not right in His eyes, that you're called to stand up for Christ ... ggaaaaaacccckkkkk!)

And that's when I choke my conscience, throw it aside, and plan more busy-ness. It's easier that way.

But it's not better.

You know I know it. Hence the repeated invitations, the gentle summons, the shoulder taps. You are a wily salesperson, Lord, I have to hand it to you. Very persistent. You're going to make me quiet if it kills me -- and it very well might!

Sigh. I'm saying no to the wrong things. I'm saying no to the one activity that could bring me peace. Yet I'm saying yes to all the commitments that crush me. I sense a priority switch coming on.

That was your goal all along, wasn't it, Lord? Like I said, very wily. It's like you're omnipotent or something.

I promise to practice the right no's, in pursuit of the ultimate YES. --Amen

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Prayer #7: Penultimatum

Prayer #7: Penultimatum

Dear Lord,


No one can take one more day. I don't know what's in the air this month, but February has been absolutely wretched for us all.

Of course, it's risky making such requests of you. You might take it as an opportunity to teach 'Be careful what you wish for.' And before we know it, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are bearing down upon us in a blaze of judgment and fury.

Or I might step outside and be hit by a double-decker bus. Rare in my hometown, I know. But that would be quite the cosmic chuckle for you. 'No better way to end a month!' you'll say, slapping your knee in delight.

Ok. Now I'm rethinking. Don't end February just yet. Let it carry out its final day. In the meantime, I offer up all the crappy days, sorry missteps, bad weather, bizarre circumstances, uncomfortable coincidences, yucky moods, and overextended moments.

And I'll thank you for sunny mornings, lunches out, lucky occasions, productive days, optimistic moods, happy accidents, and peaceful moments.

So cancel the bus, Lord. I'm coming in from the cold, into your warm embrace. Though, if it's not too much to ask ... can spring come a little early?

Fine, fine, fine, whatever you want, your will be done, yada yada yada -- Amen.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Prayer #6: Liquid Courage

I act on a stage in front of countless strangers. I can dive off a diving board. I go parasailing. I introduce myself to people I don't know. I raise my hand at meetings.

Yet introduce doubt and the fear of personal rejection, and all that confidence flows out my toes.

Whatever happened to the bold little girl who declared to Joshua Krisher in the first grade that they were engaged? I had no trouble making him my square dance partner, or kissing him on the way to the homework box. (My god ... I was a brazen hussy.)

I need to be brave now, not only to handle external pressures, but also to get over my problems, and resist self-pity. That's a different kind of bravery--one that lays you bare under the microscope, and forces you to confront your more neurotic side.

Uncomfortable, to say the least. Then again, so many things these days are. Why should today be any different?

Prayer #6: Liquid Courage

Every day, Lord, you ask me to do unpleasant things, from mundane to extraordinary. Confront a coworker. Accost people for interviews. Call a boy. Receive criticism. Stick to a principle. Demand justice. Defend my faith.

But this takes grit, gumption, moxie, determination, and courage. Ah, courage. How often I feel like the Cowardly Lion, all bravado and bluster until night falls, and I wind up crying into my tail.

In the end, though, the Lion stepped up when his friends needed him most. He discovered reserves of strength and dignity he had previously dismissed. And such storehouses can only come from You.

Pour your non-liquid courage into me, Lord. Fill my bones with it. Surround every muscle. Inundate me with your power, so that it leaks out my eyeballs and through my nostrils. Give me excess, so it pools at my feet and trails behind me in droplets, creating courageous puddles that other people can soak their weary feet in.

I snivel and shrivel without it. Such fortification is vital. Drown me in courage, Lord, baptize me in it, and pull me out as a refreshed, invigorated woman, ready to do your will.

I wait for the flood. Amen.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Prayer #5: Nicely Disappointed

"Suspense is worse than disappointment." -- Robert Burns

Prayer #5: Nicely Disappointed

Nurse my heart and nurse my wisdom in this sad moment, Lord. Arm me not with the superficial information I want, but rather with the profound conviction of my worth and dignity.

I know there are times You are disappointed with me for my ridiculous decisions or wayward routes. Sin, after all, is 'missing the mark.' Yet you always respond to me with Your infinite hope that next time will be better. Share a taste of that hope with me now. I need it very much.

In the meantime, please stay with me through my red eyes, used tissues, and tossing/turning nights. And may I in return focus my energy and attention on You, and turn this disappointment into redemption.

Thanks for the otherworldly shoulder to cry on. Amen.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Prayer #4: Boy Power

I call it the 'Aunt Angela syndrome.' It's the feeling of anticipation you carry for hours, weeks, days about a really fun event, such as your favorite aunt coming to visit.

But when the moment of truth arrives -- her car should be in the driveway, the doorbell should ring, etc. -- it doesn't happen. She's disappointed you, for whatever reason, and left you as deflated as a day-after Party City mylar.

That's how I feel right now, except this time, it's about one boy, four phone messages, and two weeks of unfulfilled anticipation.

Prayer #4: Boy Power

Dating is a terrible and dangerous game. It caresses you with one hand, and twists your heart in the other. Intellectually, you know you shouldn't live and die by date nights. But emotionally, you percolate with hope, despite your best efforts to stay cucumber-cool and composed.

In this era of instant communication, how do daters still manage not to connect? That seems to take more effort than actually picking up the phone and calling. It worsens when dates fall through without explanation. Then you're left wondering: Did his cell battery run out? Is this his way out of further commitment? Is he dead on the side on the road? Was he mauled by a bear on the way to the movie theater?

The human institution of dating proves God is male. Free will be damned! No benevolent female God would ever have made women so neurotic over the search for a perfect mate. She would have hardwired us much differently -- maybe crafted Adam from our hipbone, and left men forever wandering and wondering instead.

So sorry God -- tonight's prayer is going to the Blessed Mother. (It's a girlfriend thing. Ask her to explain it to you.)

Dear Mary, do you understand dating? Do you understand what a quagmire my age group has gotten itself into? I hope you do, because tonight, I'm laying at your feet every phone wait, every boring dinner, every second guess, every over-analytical thought, every moment of self-doubt, every attempted outfit, every expensive cocktail, every awkward make-out session, every pint of ice cream consolation, every swear word, every treacly chick flick, and every emotional roller coaster EVER experienced, by ANY person, on EITHER side of the dating aisle.

But I also lift up all the first kisses, the second dates, the anniversaries, the trips, the (good) movies, the inside jokes, the end-of-day sync-ups, the compliments, the cuddling, the takeout Chinese, the adventures, the confidence, the certainty ... the love. That certainly makes all the rest worth it, doesn't it?

So I pray for all those struggling in relationships tonight, Mary, however new or old they may be. Please comfort and sustain everyone through the 6 pints of Ben & Jerry's they'll probably consume. Remind them that their self-worth is reflected best in God's eyes, and that he is a constant Lover.

And I also pray for those who are succeeding in dating, Blessed Mother. Keep their relationships strong and healthy. Be with them in their personal and mutual decisions. And bless their friendships with neurotic singles ... we need all the help we can get, on earth or from above.

I like talking woman to woman, Mary. Care for a bite of Phish food?


Friday, February 23, 2007

Prayer #3: Forgive and Remember

No preamble tonight, Jesus. The temperature is dropping precipitously, and I'm falling asleep at the keyboard.

Prayer #3: Forgive and Remember

Imagine your funeral. What if the priest's eulogy contained nothing specific or glowing -- just the stock 'special and unique child of God whose suffering has ended, and she now sings with the angels' language.

What if no one bothered coming to pay their respects. Worse, what if the people who did attend came out of obligation, not because they really missed or mourned you.

And what if you had driven them all out of your life because of petty disagreements, exacerbated over countless years simply because you refused to forgive them.

I can think of no fate more tragic.

Withholding forgiveness requires far greater energy than granting it. You have to continue fuming, stoke the fire, fan the flames. That takes dedication and meditation. Isn't it easier to let it go as best you can, and see if you have the strength to accept people back into your life?

I don't want to die alone. I don't want to have a small, quiet funeral, where no one has fun or comforting stories to share about my time on earth. You know the maxim: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I pray that never applies to me.

Lord, teach us forgiveness. Give us equal conviction in letting go, as we have in holding on. It's such a short span down here, God. Why waste it on stifling bitterness, regret, and recrimination, when we can experience liberating grace instead?

Be with me at those moments when my heart is hardening, and keep it soft
with this soothing reminder: Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It means remembering whom I serve, and that His gospel is all-consuming love.

Yours to unburden -- Amen.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Prayer #2: Dilemmas and Decisions

"I think today was a sort of turnaround day. I just felt more peaceful ... I guess that's how one knows they made the right decision."

Prayer #2: Dilemmas and Decisions

Chocolate or vanilla. Left or right. To be or not to be. Every days brings new conflicts, and it's up to us to decide which path follows You.

Ok, 'chocolate or vanilla' is flippant. If only all decisions were that easy. But we become inextricably so wrapped in our human dramas -- regrets, hurts, woes, indecision, moral crises -- that our vision clouds. And that's when we make choices that make you groan, smack your forehead, and wonder, "Can't you see? The answer's so obvious!"

Well, yes, Lord, to you, the omnipotent Almighty. The rest of us are confused mortals, running around without thinking, bumping into one another and leaving bruises. I wish every decision I made was the right one. I wish the path was immediately clear. I wish I trusted myself (and You) enough to follow my gut when the answer IS clear. And I bet You wish the same.

Decision-making hurts. It requires sacrifice and vulnerability. It confronts a person with old wounds or new fears. No wonder we shy away from it. Better to stick in ruts we know -- it's safer, and more convenient.

Lord, be with me in the 'figuring out.' Lead my discernment. Compel me in rare, quiet moments to really listen to your guidance. Help me remember your grace is present even in the wrong decisions, and that peace always comes after the turmoil. Bless all my outcomes, and the decisions that precede them.

Blessed is the decision-maker, for she shall feel God's grace. And for this I say thank you -- Amen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Prayer #1: Flat Tire, Lifted Spirit

Ash Wednesday started off with a *pop*, then a pssszzzzt, then a "Oh [expletive deleted, seeing as it's a holy day]".

Dad roused me from a deep sleep to share the news that my passenger rear tire was flat as a griddle on the driveway. 10 minutes later, groggy and frumpy, I held a flashlight in the early morning light, watched Dad fuss and fume at my sorely outdated jack, and wished I were back in bed.

One hour after that, AAA was at the door. They fixed the tire in a flash. And soon, I was bouncing off to work on the donut, marveling at how the best-laid plans so quickly go awry.

But in that marveling, I found my prayer of thanksgiving for today. Here it is:

Prayer #1: Flat Tire, Lifted Spirit

Lord, thank you for flat tires. I drive my life so quickly, that I sometimes need a road calamity to remind me of what's really consequential. A flat tire can't help but ground me. It forces me to sit, think, weigh my options, wait.

Waiting becomes uncomfortable, however. My mind is already onto the next task, the next set of logistics. And the disruption of my carefully planned day makes me fret. Where is my tow truck savior?

But I'm patient for AAA. I have no choice -- I depend on them for getting out in one piece. So why am I not as patient with you, you who promised always to come, and who doesn't rely on dispatch to find me?

The truth -- I fear the stop. I don't want to sit on the side of the road, alone with my thoughts. It's vulnerable sitting there, watching other cars whizz by, wishing I was out there with them, blaring my radio over the rush of wind.

Because if I don't keep it loud, if I don't keep it busy, if I don't keep it rushed, hurried, and dazed, then I might actually have to listen to you. I'll have to pay attention when you pull up next to me on the roadside, and offer a spare tire to get me home. Worse, I'll accept it, and then I'll owe you a favor.

But that's the beauty of your service, Lord. It's not quid pro quo. It's selfless. You give me exactly what I need when I need it most, and it lets me get on with my life.

All you ask in return is that when I get a flat tire, I call you. And when you give me a spare tire, I thank you.

Hmm. It would be much easier to pay an annual membership fee. But the road trip would be much less fulfilling. Funny how that works ...

Thank you for my time on the side of the road today, Lord. I remembered that life's little inconveniences are opportunities to open my eyes to new thoughts and experiences. I wouldn't have learned how to work a jack. I wouldn't have found the great mechanic's shop near work. And I certainly wouldn't have discovered how badly I need you.

Amen and alleluia!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Advent of Lent

In the beginning, there was prayer.

Well, that's not entirely true. In the beginning, there was prayer. But there was also procrastination. And avoidance. Hiding. Excuses.

As a result, the beginning never ended. It had no middle, no growth. My New Year commitment to regular prayer expired after a week and a half. My last post is dated in November '06.

This Lent, I intend to change this. This Lent, I am giving up excuses. No more claiming there is no time in the day for prayer. No more protests about tiredness. No more indulging in laziness, or worse, apathy.

After a year of thinking about it, I'm going to do it. This Lent, I will write 40 prayers in 40 days, all based on the young adult experience of God and faith.

If the resolution and sacrifice succeed, I will continue past 40 days. But for now, one liturgical season at a time will do. Can't turn a sinner into a saint in one afternoon, and can't turn a stubborn girl into a blogger any quicker.

So in the beginning, there is prayer. And here it is.

Prayer #0: Give up chocolate? Or your self?

No merciful God ever asks you to give up chocolate.

Cursing, yes. Pornography, yes. Lying and cheating and stealing, yes. But not chocolate. Oh no. God is too generous, too kind, too loving for that.

So what can I do this Lent to return such magnanimity? Surely not give up chocolate. It must be something bigger, better, more important. It must be something I've come to rely on, something I use as a crutch, something that prevents me from being my full self.

I know. I'll give up excuses. You know, those oh-so-reasonable reasons I concoct to avoid writing at home. To not bother blogging in my spare time. To pass on that book and watch TV. To skip out on my journal. To put off calling an old friend. To hide my face in the pillow at night without saying a prayer.

Lord, I give you all my excuses. I give you my rationalizations. I give you my arguments. They are all weak and empty, and they're making me weak and empty, too.

I lay them at the foot of your cross this Lent -- your cross, Jesus, where you did not equivocate or waffle, you simply did. You didn't say, "Oh come on, I did good for the past 33 years. Cut me some slack. I deserve some time off, as in, off this cross entirely. Let me have a long nap, a glass of wine, and we can forget the whole thing. What do you say?"

Instead, you said, "I'm ready. The time is now. Bring it on." And you opened your arms, and embraced every excuse-addled mistake of every sin-riddled person for the next infinity or so.

In that moment, you became exactly who you were destined to be. By shedding my excuses, and baring myself to the truth, I hope to achieve the same.

It will not happen in 40 days. Maybe not even in 40 years. But that's no excuse not to try. Remember? I'm giving up excuses. That's my small Lenten sacrifice in honor of your great one.

Let the writing -- and the healing -- begin.

In your name, now and always -- Amen.