Posts Tagged ‘pray

17
Jun
21

In Praise of Slow

Normally, I am a pretty fast guy.

Mmmmmm!!

I walk fast.

I drive fast (much to Joan’s great displeasure).

I eat fast and drink fast.

I cook fast, I wash the dishes fast, and I make my bed fast.

I even read fast.

I was always the guy who had too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. Somehow, even though I have been retired now for almost two years, I still carry on in the same way.

Since May 4 of this year, however, all of that has changed DRAMATICALLY.

The issues I have been having with the pain in my lower back have forced me to follow the wise guidance of Simon and Garfunkel when they sing, “Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last!” 

They are right about that part. But I’m not sure I am on board with the song’s chorus: “ALL IS GROOVY!”

Every day, somewhere around 10:00 a.m. when the muscle relaxers and pain meds finally kick in, I venture out for a little walk in the neighborhood. But I have to walk REALLY slowly. You would be forgiven for chuckling as you watch me out there… taking my mincing, shuffling, “little old man” steps. 

Then it is back home for a 20-minute session with the ice pack.

In many ways, this enforced slowdown is very aggravating. I mean, we are finally coming out of the dark tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic when things are opening back up, and here I am, sidelined by this ridiculous, relentless PAIN!!

But you know what? I am slowly discovering that there are some hidden gifts that come when I take life at a slower pace. 

  • I see more of my surroundings
  • I have longer conversations with my neighbors
  • I feel zero guilt about sitting down and cracking open a book in the middle of the day
  • I note and appreciate the different hues of each hour of the day
  • This new pace of mine allows me to turn the tables and give Joan the opportunity to be MY caretaker for a while.
  • But most importantly, I find that I am much more likely to use these slow, unscheduled moments to pause and connect with God… in prayer or quiet reflection.

Looking in at the life of the man who drew the BC/AD dividing line through human history, we find that HE had a finely tuned appreciation for life in the slow lane, too. The Bible records at least 21 separate instances like this one in Luke’s gospel where we read: “Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12, NRSV). 

Jesus sounds ardently anti-hustle-bustle in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27, NRSV).

Despite these manifold spirit-nurturing benefits, I absolutely will NOT accept the premise that God sent me this back pain as a hard-to-miss lesson about slowing down and smelling the roses. 

On the contrary, this dilemma is all about the accumulated effects of genetics, years of bad posture and overdoing, mixed in with a touch of Ol’ Uncle Arthur. 

God is the one who stands with me in my pain and whispers, “I know this thing with your back sucks right now, but I AM and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN in the redemption business. Tune in and I will help you make a sweet pitcher of lemonade out of this lemon you’ve been handed.”

And you know what? God is there with you too, whispering the same thing. 

All we need to do is slow down and LISTEN!

Abundant blessings;

28
Apr
21

An Idle Mind

Idle hands are not a problem for me.

Most of the time, I am either doing something or reveling in the fact that I am NOT doing anything.

An idle mind though? That’s another story entirely.

It happened to me just the other day.

Most of the time, I guard against Idle Brain Syndrome pretty well. I’ve read Proverbs 19:15 where it warns, “Laziness brings on deep sleep; an idle person will suffer hunger.” Lord knows I’d do almost anything to avoid hunger.

So, when I am in the middle of a monotonous or repetitive activity (like exercising or working in the yard), I am pretty good at finding ways to keep my brain engaged. I will go ahead and offer the spiritual answer right off the bat and tell you that I regularly use that idle time to talk with God. 

But not always. 

[Honestly, I sometimes wonder if God gets a little tired of me and my nonsense. God is too polite to come right out and say it, but I’m sure he wants to interrupt me right at the beginning and say something like, “Again, Russell? You know, we’ve been over this territory AT LEAST six thousand times already! Can you come back later when you’ve got some fresh material?”]

Sometimes I listen to music during my tedious stretches.

At other times I listen to podcasts through my Bluetooth device (… some of my favorites include TED Talks, Hidden Brain, The Next Right Thing, Maybe God, Unlocking Us, and Revisionist History). 

But yesterday, while I toiled away at the wearisome task of putting a brick border around one of our front flower beds, I had NOTHING. No music. No podcasts. No prayers.

Just a dull job and an idle mind. 

And now I know why God seems to be such a non-fan of idle brains. 

That’s because they can go anywhere, y’all! They can latch onto an insipid song lyric and wear it smooth. They can invent entire conversations out of whole cloth and orchestrate them so that I ALWAYS come out on top! They can rehash events from the past that should be left well enough alone. They can start imagining things that might/could/should/ possibly happen at some unspecified time in the future and turn them into a nightmare apocalyptic scenario. 

Or they can just descend into meaningless gibberish. 

And once again I am reminded of the incredible width and breadth of possibilities we possess as human beings. The same brain that can become inescapably fixated on the Baby Shark song is also capable of creating art that stirs hearts and souls, or devising words to soothe a grieving friend, or naming all the states of the U.S. in order alphabetically. 

James, the half-brother of Jesus, once wrote, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs?” (James 3:11-12, NRSV). 

No. But the human brain can perform an amazing array of complex and even contradictory tasks, all without breaking a sweat. 

And ALL of that is a gift from the God who loves and trusts us.

Is that cool or what?

Abundant blessings;

07
Jan
21

Lord, in your mercy…

… hear our prayer.

  • Hear our prayer for humility in the face of chaos and confusion.
  • Hear our prayer for justice, administered without regard for place or privilege.
  • Hear our prayer for softened hearts and willing hands.
  • Hear our prayer for vital, life-giving connections between all of your people, recognizing common bonds of humanity.
  • Hear our prayer for the resiliency of hope in the middle of dark times.
  • Hear our prayer for a new willingness to listen deeply to voices other than our own, and those who echo us.
  • Hear our prayer for the relief of the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual suffering of brothers and sisters around the world.
  • Hear our prayer for a supernatural infusion of wisdom into those we have appointed to govern over the unremarkable affairs of our lives.
  • Hear our prayer for new courage to do your will… even in the face of opposition and hardship. 
  • Hear our prayer that the sharp edges of power might be hammered into the productive edges of plowshares.
  • Hear our prayer for gentle rains and warm sunshine to nurture the fragile, green shoots of new life bursting forth all around us. 
  • Hear our prayer for the birth of a new world, reshaped into the image you intended at the Dawn of Creation.

In your name and in the name of your incarnate son, Jesus Christ, we pray…

AMEN




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