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,

END FEBRUARY NOW.

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?

Amen.

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.