Category Archives: wondering

Chatter

Dear God,

Where are you? I travelled halfway around the world in both directions to get some time together. But it’s like there’s been too much chatter, or static, or I don’t know. Landscapes take my breath away in ways I wasn’t expecting. Lifelong longings make me goofy and giddy as they become reality and a photo op. But why can’t I find you? I said I wanted that, needed that, expected that, hoped for that most of all – to find you. I know you are here. I don’t doubt it one bit. But why can’t I feel you? Why can’t I hear you? I have been quiet and waiting. Please, we are running out of time. Come into the quiet, come into the chatter – boom or whisper or just overwhelm my senses in a way I won’t be able to describe. Please don’t let this chance pass us by. 

Amen. 

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So no one told you life was gonna be this way…

Dear God,

A person on my retreat just led a time of meditation speaking from your perspective. She said, “I want a relationship with you. I would be so thrilled to have you give to me the same time and energy and love that you give to your friends,” or something along those lines.

It really has me wondering.

I thought about how in scripture we hear about idols and are warned not to worship them. We are shown how meaningless and helpless idols are, how destructive they can be when we center our lives on them instead of you. So the commandments about you and idols are to help us, right? Not just to restrict us or to bind us.

Usually, it seems in the modern context we translate this idea of idols into things that go beyond statues and golden calves to things like money, sports, perfection, power, beauty, good grades, etc. I have never thought that friends could be called an idol. And while I’m sure that this is not what was meant by tonight’s comment, as soon as I thought it I realized how true it could be. Especially to a people pleaser. We who need our friends to like us and approve of us and affirm us can spend so much time devoted to others, practically worshipping their thoughts and opinions. God, help me never to place another’s opinion and approval over yours. God, help me.

But God, I realized something else. I’m not sure you would want me to give you the time an attention that I give to my friends and I don’t just mean because you are more than friend, you are GOD for crying out loud. I feel terrible and embarrassed to admit that I don’t think I’m a very good friend.

I used to be a great friend. I used to get my friends little thoughtful treats. I used to send them little messages online or by text. I used to send real mail. That I made the envelopes myself to send it in! With little trinkets or personalized clippings from magazines or something! But I think when I lost myself last year in depression and overwhelming loneliness and deep waters of disappointment with myself, I never recovered the part of myself that was a good friend. I’ve been working so hard on trying to find myself again in one very particular way that I guess I forgot that part of who I used to be was thoughtful and generous and loving and supportive to my friends.

What happened to me, God?
Who am I?
Am I still that friend?
Have I put on a new self who cannot be that friend? Or just not yet?

I want to find that part of me again. I want to find that part of me again that reminds me most of you. And I wouldn’t be ashamed to love you that way and more. God, help me to find myself, to find the self in me that is the seed of you which you planted so long ago. Help me to be generous, loving, attentive to my friends.

At some point life and busy and work, which is good work but still work, and distance and sickness and new things and funerals and self-centeredness and self-pity and more than even I know but that you know have pulled me inside myself, inside a shell that keeps
me from seeing anything other than me. I haven’t been there for my friends. And while I know that part if why is because I’ve been trying to be there for strangers, to make strangers feel like friends, but I think my friends deserve care and companionship that I have not been there to give them. And not just because of distance between us. You never let distance keep you from us. Even when we try to create distance between ourselves and you!

Draw me out of myself, God, and nearer to you. Help me to love as you love. Help me to be generous as you are generous. Help me to listen as you listen. Help me to reach out and pursue my friends the way you pursue all your children. God, help me to do all this and more in my life with you. I’ll be there for you.

Amen.

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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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Dancing

Dear God,

Do you dance?  I mean, I’m guessing the Baptists (most of them, though there are lots of varieties) would say ‘no,’ of course.  But I really was thinking about it earlier today.  I prayed something with others around about hoping we had made you smile or whatever the closest thing is to smiling that you do.  And then later tonight it hit me again.  I thought “God will be dancing over this one” and then I thought – “How does God dance?  Good grief, does God dance?”

So, I’m taking my question to the source.  Do you dance?  Is this one of those things like “thunder is just God and the angels bowling” and I should think up more poetic explanations and answers like “Every sunset is God dancing” or “the wind in the trees is a holy two-step”?  I don’t know; somehow I feel like there’s something more majestic to be learned or observed or wondered here.

I understand that you are not corporeal (but for your incarnational self in Jesus Christ).  There’s something, then, that makes me grieve for you.  I love to dance.  I wish I danced more.  I wish I danced with more confidence.  There are times, though, when as unforgiving as I am with this body you gave me (which I doubly treat poorly – cultivating both bad eating and exercising habits, then turning around and criticizing my body for that), I catch a glimpse in the mirror as I dance around folding laundry and putting it away and think “I LOVE DANCING!”  I like how my body can do things to rhythm, how the form I take can somehow make the music mean more.  I’m no ballerina, but when I take ballet classes, my body puts movement to melody in a way that feels extraordinary.  Do you know what it is to dance if you don’t have a body?  Do you feel movement as the earth turns, the rhythm of seasons, the form of cold fronts as well as spiritual formation of hearts, minds, and bodies?  Do you feel me dance?

If so, I will dance for you.  I will dance for you as long as you let me, as often as I have strength.  I’d hate for you to miss out on dancing.

OH, MY GOD.  How silly of me!  Of course… I hear you in my head, singing a song I have danced to many times.  I danced to it on many Easters past – sometimes with crepe paper and popsicle stick streamers; I danced around the San Antonio district parsonage as a little girl with a little Maggie – yarn offerings flowing behind us; I sang it to Jack in those first few weeks where I had so much time alone with him in the wee hours, soothing him and doing that newborn dance that sways back and forth; truly, my heart dances each time I hear the song again.  You are my God, and you are the Lord of the Dance… “I danced in the morning when the world was begun,/ and I danced in the moon, and the stars, and the sun./ I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth./ At Bethlehem I had my birth./ Dance, then, wherever you may be./ I am the Lord of the Dance,” said he,/ “and I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,/ and I’ll lead you all in the dance,” said he.

If that is so, I will dance for you, and I will dance with you.  Rachel always made me be the boy when we danced, so I’m terrible about leading whenever I dance now; it will be quite the relief to let you lead in the dance.  And so we come full circle to another prayer from earlier today: I am sorry for the ways I try to control, for the ways I get in the way.

Lead me; I will follow.  Let’s dance.

 

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.

Wind

Dear God,

Can you feel the wind, too?  Do you feel it the same way I do?  Do you feel it like a stomach ache or a heart flutter to me?  Or are in you in wind itself the way my thoughts are in me?  Or both?  Does wind really end or does it just keep going around and around until it has seen the whole world, and then it keeps going again?  Does it like seeing new places but also like coming back to something familiar?  Are you afraid of tornadoes?

It’s been a gorgeous day.  The wind has been that warm and yet still refreshing kind.  I’m pretty sure a storm is coming and tomorrow will be rainy and cold, but that’s okay.  Thank you for today.  I bet I’ll be afraid of many tornadoes that will pass through my life and if I ever get to have children, I’ll have to be brave and hold them and make sure they know that tornadoes don’t mean you don’t love us anymore or that you don’t care about people.  But I’ll also get to go on walks with them on days like today, and maybe fly kites like I used to with my Pawpee.  And tape down tablecloths at potlucks.  And close my eyes and breath the wind in as my hair flows back and dances.  Thank you for today and the warm wind.

Amen.