Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Beautiful Advent Prayer

After spending a little while outside hanging Christmas lights with my youngest son, the sun was beginning to set and it just felt "right" to sit down and read the Psalms for this evening. This evening's Psalms are Psalm 53 and Psalm 17, and I found myself drawn to Psalm 17, so drawn to it that I decided to share it with you all. Just in case you do not remember, I have been using Nan C. Merrill's Psalms for Praying: An Invitation for Wholeness when reading (I really mean praying!) the Psalms because I find that her language allows me to linger and enjoy the presence of Love -- of God -- for they seem to call me to the very Heart of Love -- of God!

So without further interruption, here's Psalm 17:

Listen to my heart, O Love Divine;
     hear the cry within me!
Heed my prayer from lips that
     would utter truth!
For in You do I seek justice!
Be Thou my eyes that I may
     see with clarity.

If You try my heart,
     if You visit me by night,
     if You test me, You will
     My only desire is to
     draw closer to You.
I see the injustice and the
     piercing the hearts of your people.

Be Thou my feet that I may walk
             along your paths;
     that I may be a benevolent
             presence on life's highway.

I call upon You knowing You will
                         answer me,
             Heart of my heart;
     incline your ear to me,
            hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Love Divine, You walk beside me
     giving me strength to face
     the fears that dwell within. 

I cannot think of a better gift God could give me -- that God could birth in me -- than that which sought in this prayer! This is indeed a beautiful Advent Prayer!

Happy Advent, my dear friends! May God grant you a peaceful night's rest!

Nesting and Waiting

Yes! I know! My blog has been rather silent over the past few months. This silence well represents my life these past few months for I have been immersed in silence and solitude. To be honest, I am quite hesitant to break out of all this silence and solitude. However, that still, small voice within me is clearly calling me out -- at least to this place -- this space -- to write yet again.

For me, the season of Advent is so much more than waiting for and preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to propose that, at least for me, Advent is a lot like nesting. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? Nesting is that which happens to a woman in those four weeks before she gives birth to the child she is carrying within her womb. When a woman is nesting, she is making room -- preparing room -- making ready -- her home for the advent of her child. This is what Advent is like for me. I am finding myself making room, preparing room, making ready for that which God is birthing in me. There is something God is doing within me and I trust that it is his desire to make that known to me.

Saturday morning's Gospel lesson provided me with the question that I think will guide me as I journey through this nesting and waiting that is Advent. That gospel lesson was Matthew 20:29-32, where Jesus heals the two blind men. I prayed this scripture (using  Lectio Divina, which is an ancient prayer practice where you prayerfully read scripture listening for a word from God) that morning. The word I received was the question Jesus asked the two men, "What do you want me to do for you?" As I prayed through the question, it became clear to me that I, too, desired that my eyes would be opened because while I am not physically blind, I do sometimes find it difficult discerning -- seeing -- what God is doing in my life.

And so this week, as I am waiting to see what it is that God is birthing in me, I am praying that God would open my eyes so that I can fully participate in this nesting process and can do my part of making room -- preparing room -- making ready -- for whatever it is that God is birthing in me. For now, my part in making room is joining a Centering Prayer Group that meets every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. This group begins with 20 minutes of Centering Prayer, then Holy Eucharist and ends with another 20 minutes of Centering Prayer. I have also committed to maintaining my rhythm and rule thereby giving my spiritual formation priority over the chaos that surrounds me.

I cannot end without asking you, "What is it that you want God to do for you?" And what are you willing to do on your part to make room -- prepare room -- make ready -- for whatever it is you want God to do for you?

Happy Advent, my friends! May your nesting and waiting be fruitful!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prayer of Abandonment

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures -- I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul: I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

This prayer resonates deeply within me because for quite some time now I have been struggling trying to capture with words the prayer that is within me. Last week my spiritual director prayed this prayer "the Prayer of Abandonment" over me and then suggested that I let this prayer become the prayer of my heart. It is always such a tremendous gift of grace when I find an ancient prayer that captures the "wordless prayers" that are within my soul and, indeed, are longing to be birthed, spoken and lived out. I remain grateful to my spiritual director for her wisdom and direction.
The addition I make to the Prayer of Abandonment is, "May it be so, Father!"

Grace & Peace, my dear friends!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Blessing Hour Pause

Sacred is the pause that draws us into stillness. Nourishing are the moments when we step away from busyness. Teach us the wisdom of pausing. Reveal to us the goodness of stopping to breathe. Bring to our memory the truth that we are the temple out of which you pour your gifts into the world. We are the temple from which you sing your songs. We are the temple out of which you bless. Enable us to listen to the renewal you are trying to bring about in us and through us. May we be reverent with each temple we meet and greet this day. May all the good that we long for come to pass.

This sweet prayer written by Macrina Wiederkehr touched me deeply this morning. Dwelling in the place of much stillness and solitude and trying to capture moments to pause and join with God in his activity throughout the day, this prayer said everything to God that was on my heart and in my soul. I had come to this pause (this 9 a.m. pause) with the words, "O Spirit of the Circling Hours. Work through me that I may be your love poured out." These words are also Macrina's words -- beautiful words creating space and indeed even inviting the Holy Spirit to work through me -- a simple woman who truly desires to be God's loved poured out. On my bicycle ride this morning, which for me is my quiet time with God, those words, "O Spirit of the Circling Hours. Work through me that I may be your love poured out." continued to bubble up until finally I asked God to show me what that would look like -- that perhaps I had not fully captured the invitation. Of course, I brought that question with me to my blessing hour pause and then found the beautiful prayer that is written above. What would our world look like if we embraced this beautiful prayer and indeed became temples through which God's love would be poured out? Won't you join with me in seeking to be a temple through which God's love would be poured out?

Grace & Peace, my dear friends

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Christ is risen today! Alleluia! Sunday's celebration of the Resurrection of Christ was as painful as it was beautiful. I know that sounds odd and I found it be to so at first. However, upon examining the oddity or what I thought to be the oddity, I realized that it what I was experiencing was living in the reality of the paradox of our faith -- that paradox being that new life comes only after death. I was experiencing that paradox in profound ways, and there in the experience of that reality I was struck by that oddity -- by this reality.

The season of Lent for me began with companioning my friend, Ann in her birth into eternity with God. Walking that journey with Ann and her dear husband, Ron happened just before Ash Wednesday. At that moment, I sensed that dying was going to be a theme for me through Lent. I'm at this place in the practice of my faith where I feel I can no longer really tell God, "No, we are not going there!" and so my only real choice was to be faithful and surrender to whatever God -- the Holy Spirit -- desired to do within my soul during the season of Lent. On Ash Wednesday the idea of this paradox about which I am speaking began to bubble up within me and I have looked at this paradox as though it were a crystal with each cut in the crystal revealing yet another lens through which I could examine this paradox.

I realized right away that while I knew Paul, the apostle, wrote of dying to ourselves so that we could be alive to Christ was real but that I had sort of externalized that notion. I had kept it out of the reach of my soul so that this dying to myself could only mean those external things -- those things others could see like addiction, gossip, lack of compassion, lust. I think you get where I am going. However, as Ash Wednesday came and went and I sat before God daily and throughout what seemed to be every moment of every day allowing him to look at my soul and reveal to me exactly what was there, I came to understand that Paul was writing of dying to all things of him within his soul so that there would be only room for God to dwell there. It was then God allowed me so just how wretched my soul was and just how broken I was.

I have already written about my original wound being that of a child of an alcoholic and how that happened when I was so very young -- about six years old. I remember the moment well as it is the moment in my life when my mother as I knew her to be and as I needed her to be died. My life forever changed that day. As I progressed through the season of Lent and had that experience on the beach at Perdido Key when God let me remember -- re-live -- all that pain all while he had his loving arms wrapped around me I began to sense that this season of Lent had yet another theme -- that of healing my original wound -- that deep gaping wound that kept a certain portion of my soul off limits to even God himself. It was that moment I realized that that very act was indeed sinful for it kept me separated from God and we all know that sin is really anything that separates us from our experience of God -- from our relationship with God.

As I progressed further through the season of Lent and began to give words to my experience and naming feelings with regard to my original wound, and yes! even to have many deep conversations with my mother regarding my wound and how it affected even how I made my decisions and how I perceived the world around me, I sensed then that God was up to something even larger and more beautiful than I could imagine. For you see, as only God would orchestrate it a woman who had been like my sister died on Maundy Thursday evening and her viewing was Easter evening. And so it happened that on Easter evening I put on my "big girl panties" and drove myself to Faith Chapel for the visitation. As I approached the guest book to sign in a man who had been like a daddy to me met me at the door embraced me with loving arms and an open heart, no judgment, no criticism. I felt as though I had come home. The feelings were so very overwhelming that it has taken me two days to have the emotional and spiritual fortitude to even began to write about it. You see, I had, like the prodigal son, abandoned this family of mine and was welcomed home and I desperately needed it. I understand that I had abandoned this family as a form of protection -- I just couldn't stand being around them any longer because they reminded me of my broken-ness. This beautiful family came into my life at the very moment my mother left me. This family had sustained me and loved me even when my mother could not -- at least not in the way I needed it. I know now that my mother has and always did love me -- that that love did not stop as I perceived it had when her disease took over, but you see I had keep that wounded child so locked up within my soul that no one not even God -- the Holy Spirit -- would be allowed to enter there and so I put on my running shoes and ran from anyone who could remind me of who I was -- that is until this Lent.

I am grateful that the practice of my faith has brought me to this place where I can see how wretched my soul is and can participate with God in terms of willful surender as he resurrects the wounded child in me. This work, this dying to myself -- to all things Donell even the wounded child within -- has been painfully beautiful. The welcoming embrace I received as I came home -- that's the beauty of it -- that's heaven on earth -- that's what it's all about, isn't it?!

My welcome home party happened in a funeral parlor as family was celebrating my sister's heavenly welcome home party! I pray my words have captured not just my painful experience of Lent but the beauty and wonder that was my Easter gift. Perhaps what we should celebrate at Easter every year is not just that God raised Christ from the dead so that we would enjoy life eternal but what resurrection work God is doing within each one of us. I wonder... do you know what resurrection work God was trying to do within your soul?

As I visited with a dear friend this morning I found myself saying to her, "I wonder what it would look like if during the season of Lent we asked ourselves what is God trying to bring to life within our souls -- what resurrection work God is trying to do, and if at Advent we asked ourselves what is God trying to birth within us?" I think it might make a difference in how we celebrate Easter and Christmas -- those celebrations would become very personal experiences -- not just something that we celebrate that happened to Christ 2000 years ago. It would mean that our story -- our lives and how we live them really matter because somehow they connect very powerfully with God's love story that he has been telling us since time began...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble... tremble... tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

No, of course not! That happened over two thousand years ago! And yet  my very soul trembles as I hear the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" And it is that soul trembling that causes me to reconsider -- to pause and reflect -- to search my soul... and consider could I have been there?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble... tremble... tremble. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
The trembling in my soul simply will not let me keep this question at arm's length any longer, and so I pause, reflect and consider my part in the suffering my Lord experienced before he was nailed to the cross and as he hung there... Oh Dear Lord, could I have participated in nailing you to the cross? Perhaps that time when I kept silent about another's suffering -- could it have been then? Oh, and there are other things too...
Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble... tremble... tremble. Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

The trembling in my soul is now companioned by my sobbing as I see that  because of my actions and lack of action, I pierced my Lord in the side as he hung lifeless on that dreadful cross. I pierced my Lord in the side by my lack of Love -- both expressed through my words and my actions. Oh that Love might forgive me...
Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble... tremble... tremble. Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
My trembling and sobbing have me on my knees helpless and overcome with the memory of all many times the Light of Christ's Love could not shine for someone else to see and experience because I chose to not be grace-filled -- gracious as you, My Lord, are gracious. I wanted to be God. Yes, Lord, I was indeed there.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble... tremble... tremble. Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
I am fully overcome and overwhelmed, Lord, by the state of my soul as I attempt to answer this question. Just as the man who came searching for you under the cover of darkness because he lacked the strength of faith to live in the Light of your Love, I, too, lack strength of faith to live fully in the Light of your Love -- to love as you have loved. Could it be that the trembling I hear is not only my own gut-wrenching sobbing, but also yours? I am overcome with grief and sorrow, Lord. 
But you already know all this, Lord, don't you?
And you love me still...?
I hear your sweet melodic voice, "My dearly beloved child, it was for you and your soul that I chose the Way of the cross and I invite you, child of my heart, to choose the Way of the cross -- to choose to Love as I have loved." Faintly, and through my sobbing and trembling, I respond, "I choose Love."
And Love is enough.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wait! I Need a Companion!

Tomorrow is the last day of Lent and Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week or Passion Week. We will begin Holy Week with Palms waving and our voices shouting Hosana (Save Us, Lord!), likely not even sure that what we most want saving from is ourselves. And then after a few days of wondering what all the hoopla was about, we will progress to Maundy Thursday where we will celebrate The Passover Meal with our Lord and after that glorious meal, complete with remembering Love's Story to us, we will then be reminded, through Christ's example of washing feet, that we are to be a communion of people marked by serving others in Love. But then along comes Good Friday, the day we journey with Christ to his horrific suffering, crucifixion and death. We watch silently while Christ suffers and dies and his body is laid in a tomb. We fear that the very thing we needed most has died and all hope is lost. So we get up Saturday morning with nothing else to do but silently keep vigil and remember Love's Story -- from the Garden to the Tomb and beyond and wonder where our Story and Love's Story connect and what in the world we are to do about it. This journey will be complete (or will it?) when we arise Sunday morning and say with confidence and joy, "He is Risen!" and then hear with the same exuberance, "He is Risen, Indeed!". I just don't know if this is a journey my soul is capable of taking by myself. My soul is just too fragile and so am I -- spiritually, emotionally and physically. And I wonder, will anyone companion me as I walk this journey? For I fear that in walking this journey, I am likely to discover things about myself that need to die in the same horrific manner my Lord suffered and died. And yet, I know that Love has a gift to offer me on Easter morning -- the gift of making me into a new creation! Like Lazarus, though, I think I will need a companion to unwrap the grave cloths that have me tied down. I simply cannot do this alone. Is there anyone willing to companion me along this journey? Perhaps, this journey is one Love never meant for us to walk alone...