“Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck.” Psalm 69:1
Now if that isn’t a cry for help, I don’t know what is. This line from the Psalm was the Request For Presence part of the morning prayers from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. It is used frequently throughout the prayers in all the seasons.
How often it is my cry as well. When we are immersed in life up to our necks, it is a good time to call out for help.
This morning I spent some time calling out “save me” for friends and children. Life can get very complicated, usually from something we have done that in retrospect was not great. But life has this inconvenient factor of not having a rewind button. We have this tendency to want to live in the constant mode of rewind or in fast forward. Living in the now, giving each moment to God, letting him help us get through the present moments we have flavoured or tainted with our past decisions takes a certain amount of courage. Especially when we are up to our necks in life and can’t see how we are ever going to land our little boats safely on the shore.
So, save us God. Give us wisdom to live well in the here and now and ride out these storms with us; these flood waters that rise to drown us.
This passage was part of the morning readings. Luke 6:36 to 38 (NLT)
You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
I am receiving many suggestions right now in the period of buying frenzy before Christmas of what my children would like to receive. I am reflecting on what place this kind of giving has for Christ’s followers. Maybe I am just tired of the excesses. Maybe I know how much their requests really will cost if I treat them all fairly and know that it will not be possible for me to meet their requests. More and more I wish I could get away from the pressure to give at this season. So much of the giving is stuff no one needs, really.
A http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/ looks more and more attractive.
Maybe it is just my feet sore with plantar fasciitis that tell me I do not want to walk around in malls fighting people for a place in the line ups.
Yet, I want to give. It is part of my nature and when done for the right reasons and to good causes (even to one’s own children) it is a response to God’s love. I am not sure the kind of excesses of our North American Christmas honor God nor do all the requests of my children. Balance I guess. Keep honoring God my first desire. Pray I do not become too cynical or miserly to catch some of the glory of this season.
One of my regular practices is praying the prayers of The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle especially the morning office and the Compline. I like the regularity of these prayers. This morning part of the request for presence read, “Our God will come and will not keep silence.”
It is good to be in the presence of God in the morning. Lately it has seemed like silence many mornings even though I know he is there; I count on him being there even if my feelings don’t sense him.
The last couple of days I have brought a bunch of my concerns to God. He has his ways of making me pay attention. He does not keep silence when we come to him. But, I need time and quiet to hear him.
I have always been a person of action – doing things, being busy with good things, helping out where I can. But in the past few years, God seems to be drawing me into another sort of relationship with him. More quiet, more listening for his voice before I act. I need to learn how to operate and how to order my life for this new relationship. I think that I am still the same person but when I was younger contemplation and quiet were not taught to me as ways to do the will of God – not that they were bad, just that Christians were supposed to do good things; put our faith into action. I think God is bringing me back to a more balanced place. It is a new way of looking at what I do with my time, learning to say no to some things, asking for more help with others. Learning these sorts of things can be a bit painful. Right now I am too busy and I need to work hard at freeing myself from some of the big demands on my time. I have to look hard at how I function and who I am and who I want to be.
It is tough. Sometimes it means I won’t blog as much. This is something I enjoy but it is not my first priority. I want to be sure to have enough time to know my grandchildren. I want time to spend with friends and my children. I have to have enough time to spend with God – a need as well as a desire.
Henri Nouwen writes:
How do we live in creation? Do we relate to it as a place full of “things” we can use for whatever need we want to fulfill and whatever goal we wish to accomplish? Or do we see creation first of all as a sacramental reality, a sacred space where God reveals to us the immense beauty of the Divine?
As long as we only use creation, we cannot recognise its sacredness because we are approaching it as if we are its owners. But when we relate to all that surrounds us as created by the same God who created us and as the place where God appears to us and calls us to worship and adoration, then we are able to recognise the sacred quality of all God’s handiwork.
One of the things I regret about becoming so busy is that it has taken away the time I need to enjoy God’s creation. I haven’t done any photography of anything for weeks. I haven’t gone for a walk for weeks. I pass through God’s creation without being able to take the time I need to “recognise its sacredness” and so I miss out on the presence of God in it and on the way he communicates with me when I am present to him in it.
So, I resolve to take some time today, in the misty rain, to notice God’s presence around me.
The words of Henri Nouwen in todays meditation seem very appropriate for these days of pending loss of a dear friend from cancer, children moving away for work and school, children just trying out their limits.
Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.
Love not only makes the homecomings painful, it makes the reunions sweet.
Leo came home late last night from Ontario. That is good.
I have been reading this book by Henri Nouwen more as devotional reading than as a book to be read for head knowledge. So I have been going through it slowly. There is much to be digested as one goes along. Nouwen is always someone I have thought of as so intelligent, so spiritual and yet the things that he struggles with are not so different from what I struggle with; discouragement and depression, anger and even difficulty in connecting with God. This is probably the most encouraging thing about this book – his honesty and openness that show me more about how God relates to us as humans, his beloved children.
Here is something Nouwen said about Merton that I read just the other day. It struck me as being an important comment on what it means to be a “minister”. He says about Merton, “…his death has made him an even stronger catalyst that he was during his life. He indeed made his own life available to others to help them find their own – and not his – way. In this sense, he was and still is a true minister, creating the free space where others can enter and discover God’s voice in their lives.”
I like that phrase “creating the free space where others can enter and discover God’s voice in their lives.” It emphasises the fact that it is God who we need to hear, not the one that ministers even though I believe God often uses people to speak his words to us.
So in this sense Nouwen is also a minister to me. He helps me to see that I am a beloved child of God. Reading about his struggles, which seem so familiar, opens me to the acceptance of myself as a child of the father, creating this free space where I can hear God calling me to live and listen for his voice.
Other people also play the role of “minister” in my life and I thank God that he has put them there. Most of these people do not bear the formal title of Minister, most are friends. My spouse plays that role often and I am thankful for the free space he gives me to follow God in the ways that are most significant for me.
Maybe the most important question that arises for me from this statement is “Can I do this for others?” I am hoping so but the only way to see this is from a long way down the path looking back, I think. So I pray I may be sensitive both to God and to others creating this kind of a place where people discover God more deeply for themselves.
“The Lord is my shepherd
I have everything that I need.” vs1(NLT)
These were the words of my morning reading. I didn’t get much farther than this for awhile – the first few reads. Something in these few words spoke to me strongly so that I couldn’t continue; spoke simply but loudly about trust.
“I have everything that I need.”
Being a sheep, I don’t have to create my own pastures. I don’t even have to find the pasture by myself. The shepherd, The Good Shepherd, will lead me to places where I will find everything I need to sustain me and help me grow strong. I simply need to follow. Neither my work nor my efforts to find my own way will get me there.
Jesus said something very similar when he used the metaphor of the field flowers. The wild flowers are nourished and clothed in splendour by God their creator. We can be sure that God will care for his human creations as well.
The 23rd Psalm for me stirs memories in me of death or the waiting time with someone who is close to death. I guess this particular Psalm is used then because it is so comforting. But I think it is really a Psalm for living.
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
All the days of my life
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” vs 6