A Parent’s Prayer

This is a prayer from Debbie Pearlman’s Flames to Heaven: New Psalms for Healing & Praise. It’s a wonderful collection of psalms which Pearlman translates for our use, especially around themes of healing and celebration. This is number one hundred twenty-two.

Photo Thanks to Danielle MacInnes

Photo Thanks to Danielle MacInnes

I am trying, Life-Arranger, I am trying

To live with uncertainties.

I am trying to yield control,

To listen for the calm beneath.

My task nearly done, I am trying to trust

My nurturing and modeling

Have grown a complete person

Ready to enter the next territory.

All my caring words, instructions

Repeated and reworded are no armor.

Only faith in Your kindness

Will secure each tomorrow.

Letting go my protecting hug,

Releasing my shielding body,

I relax. And then I feel You.

You alone must be the Shield about us.

Only to be whole and to be happy.

Only to be well-loved and productive.

Giving and friendly, untroubled by terrors.

Parents’ sighs rise to You.

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In Others’ Words, Pt. 2: David Swanson

I asked a friend, David Swanson, to respond to the “current moment,” particularly speaking as a pastor to our children, our church’s children, stating what things we might say. I’m grateful for his careful reiteration of a basic truth.

Thanks to Aaron Burden

Thanks to Aaron Burden

To Our Church’s Children,

In my sermons to your mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and the other adults in our church, I often tell them that, though there are many, many important things about them, there is one thing that matters the most: each of them is loved deeply by God. You are generally not in the room when I say this, but I know you hear it from the adults who love you and from the teachers who tell you the story of how God is rescuing this world through Jesus. Even so, I want to say it to you too. Of all the interesting, beautiful, and challenging things that make you who you are, the most important of all is that God loves you.

I know this might not sound so important. Most of you have people who love you and they tell you this. But if you could see what I see when I tell the adults that they are loved so completely and profoundly, you might begin to suspect that there is more to this simple statement. And there is, mostly because it is God and God’s love we’re talking about and whenever we talk about God we have to be humble about all we don’t know. We have to, in other words, admit that we will always be discovering new ways that God loves us. And we’ll be discovering for the rest of our lives how this love changes us and everything around us.

But there is another reason it is a life-long struggle to accept all of God’s love for us and this one is harder. We live in a country where it is normal to make people feel less worthy of love. There are many reasons given for this lie: girls can hear that they are less worthy than boys; children with darker skin can hear that they are less worthy than their friends with lighter skin. Does this make sense to you? I hope it doesn’t, but I need to tell you that for too many of the adults in this country it does make sense. I don’t want you to imagine that the adults you love actually think these lies are true, but this country finds so many tricky ways to tell us these lies that they begin to wiggle their way into our thoughts and our hearts.

These lies are the hard reason that we have to hear over and over again that God loves us. Because when we live in a place that lies to us all the time, trying to convince us that some people are more loveable than others, we have to hear loudly and clearly that we are loved. We need to know that the One who made everything, including us, loves us. He loves us exactly as we are, as boys and girls with hair that is just the right texture and color, with eyes and noses that are perfectly shaped, and with skin that can’t be improved upon. Look at yourself in the mirror and know that God loves you.

I hope you will spend the rest of your lives exploring God’s love for you. And as you do, as you experience God’s love as the particular person you are, I pray that you will make sure that everyone around you knows that God loves them too. Because the lies are strong and constant and most people you meet will believe them at least some of the time. But, as you will find out, the lies have nothing on the truth. And the truest thing in the universe is that God loves. God loves you.

Prayer at the Close of Day

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Gilbert Meilander’s Working

A Prayer For All Our School Starts

O God, you know “our ends from our beginnings” as my elders used to say.  You know our downsittings and our uprisings.  Our futures belong to you.  Our futures are with you.

Look ahead into this year and bless us with all the growth that would make you look good and make us look more like who we really are.

You know that this year will have shifts for us, changes to our schedules, and that we’ll need you, it seems, more than before.  We submit to you and how you’ll work through the long pulling that will come.

Call us and speak to us and journey with us.  Live in and through us so that we might bring light into darkness.

Give us grace that we might be full of love.  May our days begin and end with you and be punctuated by love and grace.

Where we will learn to write this year, give us ready pens and appointed words.  May the strokes coming from our fingers spell words that cause ourselves and others to flourish.

Where we will learn to count this year, make us ready to notice things, to add things to our lives what you bring and to patiently suffer through any subtraction for the loss it will be.

When we learn to work with others, make us prepared and mature enough to reconcile, to be humble, to practice silence even if it’s only holding that last word or that convincing, if sharp, retort.

When we listen, slow us down and open us to be so generous that what things people say and write and live become gifts which we cherish and steward and protect.

And finally, may you grant us these particulars:

That Bryce may have a fun year, one full of learning leaps like last time, loving his teachers and developing friendships with his classmates and collecting all those good words we say about him as a brilliant, beautiful, beloved boy.

May you grant Dawn the repeated remarkable brilliance of all her previous courses, giving her the steady help she needs as she prepares and sits for her comprehensive exam.

May you go with me daily into the learning rooms of the seminaries, into the peer work and ministry in the hospital, and into the regular course of growth that is my church ministry.

May we labor for you and with you and may we be marked with memorable moments we’ll never forget.  Will you change us for the better, sweetening me, preserving the best natures of my wife and son, and turning us continually toward you as a family.

For us all, give us an abiding sense of your presence, reminders of your unfailing nature, comments and signposts along each path that you are active, boldly bringing about healing for people, growth in us, and justice for the world.

Amen.

Name the Reality

One casualty of that frantic schedule has been the Christian practice of prayer before meals, a practice often referred to, appropriately, as “giving thanks” or “saying grace.”  Christian parents honor the vows they make at their children’s baptisms to nurture their children in Christian faith in a variety of ways.  Some try to teach their children, with at best mixed results, how they should understand themselves and their world.  But whether they recognize it or not, all parents teach their children by how they themselves live.  Surely one of the most important things Christians do is teach their children to name the reality of God’s grace in their daily lives and to express gratitude for that grace and for their life before God by praying before meals.  It is one thing for a child to grow up in a Christian home and church in which the language of Christian faith may occasionally be heard.  It is something else altogether for a child to hear and learn how to speak not just about Christian faith, but the language of faith, the language of God’s grace in reference to the realities and events of their daily lives.

From George Stroup’s Before God (pgs. 160-161), a solid book that’s hardly about parenting and very much about parenting

Parenting and the Divine Advantage

I think this quote can touch a lot of the places I’m walking through as a father.  It’s admittedly about a common prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, but it seems to relate to the giving and surrendering of the will, the offering of many little, hardly-noticed acts which are so common in parenting.  Can what a mother or father does be turned into the Divine’s advantage?  Can wiping a nose or a butt or a shoe be taken into the larger world of God’s stuff?  One would hope.

This is from Evelyn Underhill’s reflection on the phrase, “Thy Kingdom Come”:

Thus more and more we must expect our small action to be overruled and swallowed up in the vast Divine action; and be ready to offer it, whatever it may be, for the fulfillment of God’s purpose, however much this may differ from our purpose.  The Christian turns again and again from that bewildered contemplation of history in which God is so easily lost, to the prayer of filial trust in which He is always found; knowing here that those very things which seem to turn to man’s disadvantage, may yet work to the Divine advantage.

A Prayer In Anticipation of A Friend’s Son

I offer this prayer today as we await and expect the arrival of Joseph Byron Durham, III:

Dear God,

Grant Byron the steady gaze to see everything good thing you do today.  Make him able to live fully, to feel fully, from joy to fear to awe to surprise to gladness to love.  May he feel everything between these and other stirring movements.  Give him the ability to help Karen and grant that he might be filled with every necessary gift for all that awaits.  Help him listen and act with grace and tenderness and with more love than his best actions before today.  Give him gifts for this day and for each day following.  Walk out the paths before him, and when he looks ahead, let him see your footprints in every possible direction.  Shine light in dark places for the rest of his life because his life is different after Joe comes.  It is already different with the baby on the other side of all that skin and muscle and warmth, waiting to come down through all those contractions.  Hover over Byron so that he might sense you in places that he hasn’t.  Give him witnesses of your abiding, unconditional  love.  Convince him again and again that what he does matters greatly but that your love comes despite his best or his worst.

For Karen, give her a full sense of your nearness.  Keep company with her and grant that she may feel closer to you—and not only to her son or her husband—than she ever has.  Pull her into the experience of labor.  Shower her with good words and impressions and nudges and pictures as she does what is the tough work of receiving this next joyous gift from you.  Sprinkle her throughout this day with more than hope for the good future you’ve assured.  Help her to receive every help and gesture as from your hand.  Give her strong gratitude.  Give her ever stronger peace that is unshakable.  Through the movements of this day, give her vision for all the tomorrows you’ve prepared for her, for them.  Inspire her.  Build in her increasing courage.  May her breaths be prayers.  Each one a tiny theophany.  Grant her the splendid and sparkling blessing of closeness with you, her God and her Rock.  May she and Byron be strength for one another.  May Karen get all the grace she needs for every next step.

Will you bless Joe with all the memories necessary to live the rest of his life with and for you?  Collect in his ears, his heart, and his spirit, the voice of your spirit, the abiding comfort of your company, and the life that always comes from you.  Send him into this side of life with increasing joy and purpose, both coming from you.  You have counted his days before this day.  May even he come knowing that in unsearchable, deep ways.  Lay within his belly an appetite for you and your things.  Lift his vision to you, even as he looks through the good models of his parents and his family and his friends.  May he know that his life has been surrounded by words spoken in your ears about him.  May he never feel alone or unloved or unwanted.  Grant that he will accept all the love you’ve provided.  May he follow the instructions you give, through his parents and through every other good gift that comes from you.  Protect him from the plans of all his enemies.  Make them your enemies because you win all your battles.  Kiss him righteousness and bravery and set his face in the direction of fruitfulness.  Be his present and his future.

In Christ’s name,

Amen.