Category Archives: earth

Oceans 

Dear God,

I have never been south of the equator. And I have never flown over any part of the Pacific Ocean. So, this is kind of a big deal for me and your Creation, today, God, as the plane descends into Sydney. 

When we first got on the plane, I looked up at the flight status map that shows your location and realized there would be hours and hours flying over 500mph over only dark ocean on that screen. And I asked Rachel if she knew the Hillsong song “Oceans,” which suddenly felt super pertinent. Not just for the Pacific and not just for the fact Hillsong is from Australia, but because yesterday’s news had me wondering how I can do Ministry with a people so divided. 

The airport in LA had tv screens full of protestors in the US upset about the election, burning Trump in effigy, and news of places around the world bracing for what this means for the world. For my own part, God, you know my heart. You know what I long for when it comes to my own nation and the world. You know how that’s been a passion for so long. You know how it is written into my very body. You know also my deep desire and idealism that longs for unity and the ability to disagree and embrace each other not in spite of difference but because of it. 

So, having just touched down in the plane on land again after crossing the biggest ocean in your Creation, let me say that no matter what happens,

“I will call upon your name/ and keep my eyes above the waves./ When oceans rise,/ my soul will rest in your embrace/ for I am Yours and You are mine.

“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders./ Let me walk upon the waters/ wherever You would call me./ Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,/ and my faith will be made stronger/ in the presence of my Savior.”

I’ve crossed one ocean. A big one. What’s next in the adventure?

Amen. 

Restoration

Dear God,

I’m on an airplane right now on the way to Sydney, Australia.

I am so grateful to and for Rachel, my champion and cheerleader, my second mother and favorite sister, my warrior and worrier. She’s worried about me and all that’s gone on in this past year of my life. She’s spent only You know how much to make this trip happen, this childhood dream and sister adventure come to be. I don’t know how to thank her and you enough. She is good, generous, protective, under-appreciated, and she deserves to have a good time, too. Help her to relax, not to stress about pleasing me, not to worry too much about her beautiful babies at home and Richie, too. Please take care of them and mom who is helping take care of them, too. 

Thank you for times of rest. And for restoration. And for the things that come next for which our rest prepares us. There are big things I want to get moving at the church in Edinburg, and it’s hard to let go to enter this time. It’s hard to let go of those ideas I believe you e given to me. I want to restore a fire and passion for your will and your people –all your people– but I also know it’s not always our work to do. Help me to accept the role you are giving me. Help to accept the rest you are giving me. 

May your will for creation and your people be restored. 

Amen. 

Butterfly Mass

Dear God,

Lately there’s been a mass of butterflies migrating south. First there was the mass of yellow butterflies with wings that are mostly rounded. They practically blend in with the esperanza bushes they love so much down here except that they are a softer yellow. I swear I could look out the office window and see at least 15 at a time flying through the parking lot, as though still on their morning commute. Then came the mass of brown and red butterflies–the ones speckled with white spots. They’re not the color of monarchs but a similar shape. They seem more determined and less happy-go-lucky than the yellow butterflies. And then came the mass of monarchs, though they came in fewest numbers. Did you feel each flutter? What about our heartbeats?

It’s incredible to witness each mass of butterflies and incredibly sad. I drive to work, I drive to hospitals, I drive to lunch, I drive to the beach, I drive home, and everywhere I go butterflies are flitting across the road. And getting hit by cars, getting hit by my car. It’s beautiful and horrifying when I stop to watch the butterflies. Which, of course, is dangerous because I’m usually driving as I watch. I find myself not quite slamming on my brakes but slowing down significantly, only to slam into a butterfly or three anyway. It’s unavoidable.

And yet, it makes me wonder. What pain or destruction do I cause to your Creation that is avoidable? What am I not paying attention to because it isn’t pretty enough or gentle enough to draw my eye and pull my heartstrings? Who or what do I careen toward, petal to the metal, because I’ve decided they deserve to be destroyed in some way or some part?

Do the butterflies en masse mean to you the same as a Sunday Mass? Do they weigh on your heart more? Do you feel their wings, thinner than tissue paper, crushed under tires? Do you blow the wind up under their wings to lift them up above the windshields like children play with bubbles? What delicate, gentle, beautiful, harmless, and helpless creations are you grieving the destruction of today?

I know that before resurrection comes death. Help me, God, not to get in the way of or speed past or destroy the work of resurrection you are bringing into the world.

Amen.

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Thunder

Dear God,

I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy to hear rain falling, especially after days and days of rain in recent weeks (sorry for all that grumbling about days of rain while I lived in Williamsburg).  I’m not kidding with you.  And you’ve topped it off with good ol’ fashioned thunder.  Who would’ve thought that I’d ever smile at the sound of thunder?  I’m sure you didn’t… or maybe you did.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to be “sure” of much when it comes to you sometimes.  But I’m pretty sure you’ve known me through and through from the beginning of me, and so you know how I’ve felt about thunder.  And how little I’ve smiled over it.

A long time ago (at least to me), there was that flood outside of Comfort, TX.  And even though I don’t remember that special flood right after we moved there, I know there were lots of times when the low water crossings were way under water after that time.  And people got swept away after that time.  And people got swept away in low water crossings in San Antonio when we moved, too.  Thank you for not taking away any of my loved ones that way.  But you know, I’ve thought for a while that the way I felt about thunderstorms and consistent rain had little to do with an actual conscious fear of rain or thunder and much more to do with some sort of deep memory of that time it flooded after we moved to Comfort and the firefighters had to come and tell us to leave our house and get to higher ground.  I don’t even know if I’d call it being afraid so much as being on edge, as though I’m peeking out the corner of my eye, waiting for something to happen.  Something bad.  Maybe that is fear.  I don’t know.  You do, I guess.

Is that how Noah’s people felt for years?  Generations?  How long did it take for them to stop looking out the corner of their eyes every time it rained?  I know you promised, but… that was a big thing to go through.  Did Noah or his sons or their sons ever smile at thunder?  Maybe they did, maybe they saw it as a reminder of your promise, of the amazing thing that they’d lived through, of the blessedness of their very lives.

I smiled tonight at the thunder.  I breathed out.  I looked up, not to the side, and thought “Thank you, thank you, thank you God.”

You see, there was this fire.  On top of the worst drought we’ve had in a long, long time.  I know you know.  How strange that something so awful would end up turning some other something awful around.  That flood in ’87 has been transformed by fire and the Spirit.  I hear the thunder and the rain right now and I feel that you are with me, your rod and your staff – they comfort me.  My cup runneth over, and so do the sidewalks in Smithville with rain tonight.  Thank you, thank you, thank you God.

Amen.

Smells

Dear God,

Tonight on my run/walk, I smelled:

  • something flowery like mountain laurel
  • manure
  • pipe smoke
  • clean laundry
  • cut wood/lumber
  • cigarette smoke
  • wet grass
  • something almost like talcum powder

What did you smell tonight?  Because in the Bible it says that sacrifices were burned so that the smell could waft up to your nose and please you.  And when you get angry in the Old Testament, I know that most of the time the Hebrew technically says your nose got hot.  So I’m wondering what you smelled tonight.  Did it please you?

Amen.

Drought

Dear God,

I get really nervous every time I hear the fire alarm go off if it’s not noon.  It just went off, for instance, and I am trying to keep down my panic that somewhere someone’s house is in danger of becoming a charred memory or that the highway will be engulfed in flame.  I worry about the men and women who have to go out in this awful awful heat to fight the spread of a heat that’s even more intense, which is almost hard to believe.  It is so dry outside, God.  I know you know.  I know you know the dryness of each speck of dirt out here. I know that you watch the foliage lift their leafy faces to you, imploring you to quench their desire until they droop in doubt.  I know.  But God, we need some rain.  They need some rain.  I need some rain.

See that’s the other thing.  I know you know this, too, but I’m lifting my face to you – this one here which ironically is not very dry as I finally allow some tears to fall – to say that I am feeling parched and dry.  I am so very grateful to you for so many things.  Please please don’t misunderstand me.  This life you have laid before me is incredible.  The way things came together for this particular job could only have been by your hand working on people’s hearts and minds.  Work is wonderful, in the ways that it can be and with its odd dips and doubts.  But still I am parched, dear God.  Still I am dry in my heart.  Rain in my heart so that it can rest in you.

And those dark clouds that have hung over the town?  I wouldn’t mind if you sent a little rain that way, too.

Amen.

Time

Dear God,

Time is a funny thing.  And everyone has apparently been telling the truth when they say that it only gets faster as you age.  Which is scary to me, because it already feels like days fly, I can hardly remember my answer when people ask my age (18? no. 21? no. twenty… six. yes, that’s it), and my nephew already seems to be a little man.  Wasn’t I just holding him in the hospital?

I don’t know what time feels like to you, whether it’s flying or whether every single moment is a full experience for you, or if you somehow don’t even experience time as moving since after all, you are God and you know what is to come as well as all that has been.  That’s so radically different that I can imagine the way time works for you is radically different.  Yet I also feel like sometimes you must wonder how the daffodils are already starting to wilt and the wisteria is graying out again, you see a new mother and remember when she herself was in the womb and you nurtured her growth and thought out who she would be in the world.

I’m sorry that I waste so much time.  I don’t mean simply that I wish I were efficient and didn’t procrastinate.  I wish I weren’t such a bad procrastinator.  In fact, as I’m sure you know, I have a paper that’s late right now that I should be typing up instead of this.  But I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that I haven’t sat staring at the daffodils this year and they’re already wilting.  I’m sorry that it’s been ages since I smooshed into a booth with my friends to laugh over coffee and marvel and delight in the fact that people so different in some ways can feel such a connection and love for one another.  I’m sorry I haven’t been immersing myself in the season of Lent in ways that shape my whole perspective.

I suppose I should finish up this paper that’s lingering.  Funnily enough, I have a book to read for class which is about spiritual practices of time.  I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts, but I was just thinking… I’m sorry for the way I abuse and misuse and disregard time.  You have given me such a gift with this life.  All of it.  Help me to be better and to attend to the moments of every moment.  And if you have any time, I could also use some help resisting the urge to procrastinate…

Amen.