Archive for May, 2009

Who was I kidding?  Since the days leading up to Bella’s birth, I have cracked my “daily office prayer book” (I am using Celebrating Common Prayer) a mere handful of times.  I should have seen this coming.  It’s not as much that I don’t have the time- it really doesn’t take that long- but it is more that I just can’t seem to muster the effort necessary to attend to that kind of practice.  New babies tend to demand some attention themselves!  I am hoping to get started again in the near future.  I had a feeling the other day that I was actually missing those times of daily rest, of a brief space to re-center, of reconnecting with God and putting Him and His ways before my attention regularly in this way.  It was fleeting- and I will have to nurture it soon or it will die- but it’s appearance was hopeful to me.  It took over 5 weeks before I felt that way.

Reflecting back on the experience of praying the office through Lent, there is one thing that is worth mentioning- at least it is somewhat related to Jeff’s post and his hope that I would say something about meditation.  Throughout Lent (or any season in the church calendar) the daily office has some parts that you repeat every single day and since I was praying the office twice a day, there were parts I was visiting twice.  One of those things was the closing prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God,

you hate nothing that you have made

and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:

create and make in us new and contrite hearts

that we, worthily lamenting our sins

and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may receive from you, the God of all mercy,

perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I don’t know how that strikes you.  I like it, so I eventually memorized it.  (Other parts of the office, repeated just as often, I didn’t like, nor memorize, nor get much out of).  Praying this prayer became like breathing to me; receiving life and letting go, resting.  There is something about returning to and soaking your consciousness in a phrase or a refrain that grabs you- I think we humans are wired that way; unfortunately in this digital age we don’t have to remember anything and we think we know something just because we can locate information about it.  These kinds of disciplines help us stop, fully enter into something and revisit it again and again until it becomes comforting in ways that I am grasping at explaining (kind of like the difference between old friends and new friends, but now I am being cheesy, calling these phrases old friends!).

The one thing that I found particularly helpful about this prayer is that it helped me with one of the main thrusts of Lent: repentance.  Repentance isn’t something I am good at.  Generally, it isn’t the asking of forgiveness that is the problem for me, it’s simply the recognition of the evil in me (which seems to me to be the more serious of the two).  I think the simple praying of that prayer over and over, asking for a new and contrite heart twice a day, actually was a bit of a self-fulfilling prayer.  It softened my heart, opened my awareness and at the very least humbled me.

I really hope there is a Part III to this blog; that will mean I started up doing the office again!


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I’m a perpetual fidgeter. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this affliction as I know that Scott fidgets at least as much as I do. I’ve never looked up “fidget” in the dictionary, well, until about thirty seconds ago. Evidently “fidget” means to make small movements through nervousness or impatience. I’ve been this way my entire life. I could write about how the circumstances of my life have made me this way, but all the rationalizations I could muster would not be unique to my experiences as a human being living in a fast-paced world. Why I fidget isn’t important. When I fidget isn’t important. Where I fidget isn’t important. Rather, the fact that I am a perpetual fidgeter leads me to a realization that a friend of mine recently told me: You need rest.

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about rest. I’ve been realizing how I am in desperate need of rest. All the things that have consumed me are good things but don’t lend themselves to rest, just like most things in life. For so long I’ve been chasing an educational goal, which now lurks at my doorstep. My PhD dissertation has been submitted and my oral defense is eleven days away. I’m not anxious about my oral defense, understanding that I will get beaten up by my review committee for a couple of hours but resting in the fact that my advisor thinks it is good and will pass without a problem. My education is coming to a permanent end and, after six years, I have the ability to slow down without the constant pull of all the things that I should be doing. Compounding the problem is the reality that I’ve been teaching while writing. Students demanding my time just to talk or grade or read essay drafts or write letters of recommendation or the multitude of other things students require. Teaching at a college, I’m required to attend numerous meetings a week, most of which seem pointless to everyone except the administrators who require them. The pull of friends and the circumstances of life pull me in so many different directions that I have developed a “what’s next” attitude of divide and conquer.  In graduate school that seems to be an attitude of survival, not domination. To survive you must constantly be moving from one project to the next, from one e-mail to the next, from one lecture to the next. Survival requires one to constantly and consistently ask, “what’s next?”

Two days ago the first verse of Psalm 57 came to my mind: “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in Thee; And in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge.” One of the things Scott has challenged me to do over the past several years has been to participate in regular meditation. I do hope he will talk about meditation in the relatively near future. This is a topic I know little about other than the obvious, common sense understanding. But the last two days I’ve been meditating on the first line: Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me.

This verse positions me on my knees before my Father in an attitude of trust. I was in Colorado this past week and yesterday, on the plane flying back to Indiana, a little boy and his father were sitting in front of me. Throughout the flight the little boy and I were entertaining one another. I was making funny faces and playing peek-a-boo with him as his big smile helped me to stop and see the beauty in the passing clouds and the carefree spirit only a child can possess. As we were about to get off the plane, the boy exclaimed, “Daddy! I have buggers in my nose!” His tone was one of desperation and his father responded, “Just wait a bit longer.” In that moment the boy gave his well-being to his father. Something so banal as buggers had been frustrating and annoying him for so long that he just wanted relief. And he turned to his Father for that relief. “Be gracious to me, O God, Be gracious to me.”

Meditating on these ten words has turned from a screaming prayer for relief, to a peaceful whisper of rest. My gratitude comes from an ability to trust; to lay all that I have and all that I am at my Father’s feet, knowing that my rest will come … if I wait a bit longer. To rest is to trust; and slowly, very slowly, my rest is overtaking me in a way I haven’t experienced since I began this PhD. I don’t expect rest to come quickly but I know it will come. But I must rest. I must look to the heavens and simply be.

The kind of trust I’m talking about only comes when I’m comfortable to lay all that I am at the feet of another. To have the kind of openness and honesty about who I am and who I want to be requires an irrational trust that regardless of who I am, I can always rest in His arms when I’m weak and don’t have the strength to stand. But what’s funny about rest is that we rarely get to a point where we can see that we are lying flat on our back, not standing any longer. For so long we’ve had to be strong that we don’t even see our weakness, our need to rest, our need to surrender all that we are to our Father. Rest doesn’t come easy for me because I’ve always had to immediately move on. Complete trust doesn’t come easy for me because I’ve had to depend on myself for so long. Surrender seems like an impossibility because to survive graduate school I’ve had to conquer all that comes in my path. But my prayer will continue to be one that seeks rest in spite of myself. To find rest is to find peace in whatever comes; to trust that God’s timing is perfect; to trust that my humanity will one day be made whole; to surrender all that I am because I know redemption will come. To seek rest is to find peace; to find peace is to live redemption and reconciliation; to live shalom is to rest in the healing arms of a Father who works in and through us in spite of yet because of myself and who I’ve become.

“Be gracious to me, O God, Be gracious to me.”

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