Posts Tagged With: prayer

Seek Out All Our Fears: Psalm 10


Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying have long been a gift I find treasures in for reflection. Her phrasings have given me words to whisper, and pleas to cry out. They have soothed and challenged me, and taught me of the Beloved who loves us so. I have decided to include here the text of one of Nan’s psalms periodically for your slow reading and praying.   If you need an endorsement to consider these for prayer, note this recommendation from Madeleine L’Engle, another word artist, woman of faith, and sister of the journey:

“The very liveliness of the Psalms causes us to want to say them in our own language… Nan Merrill has done this marvelously, and I’m grateful for this labor of integration and love.”  

Both women have moved from this life to the next, where they see more clearly than we the truth we say and seek as we pray. I hope you too are moved as you read, and that Nan and Madeleine join our fumbling hearts and words with strength.


Psalm 10

Why do You seem so far from me,  O Silent One?
Where do You hide when fears beset me?
I boast and strike out
against those weaker than myself,
even knowing I shall be caught in
a snare of my own making.

When I feel insecure,
I look for pleasure,
greed grips my heart and I
banish You from my life.
In my pride, I seek You not,
I come to believe, “I am the Creator
of the world.”

I even prosper at times:
Your love seems too great for me,
out of my reach;
as for my fears, I pretend they
do not exist.
I think in my heart, “I do not need
adversity will come only to others.”

My eyes watch carefully for another’s weakness,
I wait in secret like a spider
in its web;
I wait that I might seize those who
are weaker than myself,
draw others into my web,
then I might use them to
feel powerful.

Like me, the fearful are crushed,
we fall by our own doubts.
Then we think in our hearts,
“I do not deserve Love:
my Beloved has forgotten me,
I am alone with my fears forever.”

Awaken, O Love! Oh You who created me,
return to my side;
forget me not in my weakness.
Why do I turn my back to You,
and say in my heart, “You will
not take notice of me?”
You do see me. Yes, You know of
my anguish and fears,
that You may take me once again
unto Yourself;
When I commit myself into your hands, you are ever my strength and comforter.

Break then the webs I have woven,
Seek out all my fears
until You find not one.
You are my Beloved for ever and ever; all that is broken within me
will be made whole.

O my Beloved, you hear my deepest
You will strengthen my heart,
You will answer my prayer;
that I might live with integrity
And become a loving presence in the world!

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Joseph of Nazareth – Friend, Witness, Patron – Be With Us, Tend Our Journeys Too

Happy Feast of St. Joseph, one of my patrons! In Mary’s vulnerability, he encircled her. His sheltering created a boundary where Mary’s availability to God and the life within her could flourish. Mary is theotokos, God-bearer; but it is Joseph who surrounded his beloved with strength and tenderness, bearing the one who bore the one larger than the universe itself.*

Joseph, your faithfulness to God held you firmholy-family
as you guided and protected Mary
and the child within her womb,
as you assisted at a stable birth,
as you greeted star followers and sheep tenders.

You held an infant son to your chest
and, with his mother, taught him –
as he toddled and explored
the human confines of home and hearth –
to speak and to pray.

You shaped wood, family, and Jesus –holy-family-statue
with love and attention.

You bore the one who bore God,
sheltering and encompassing her
from the beginning,
treasuring her as she treasured in her heart –
and you in yours –
what crazy wondrous things
your God (and ours)
was amazingly moving forward
through your growing son.

SAMSUNGTeach us your trust
your daily fidelity,
your openness to witness wonder
in the everyday.
And be companion-friend to us, to all.

Provide your circling tending presence,
place your hand upon our shoulders,
as we make our vulnerable way along too,
seeking to be available to God
and give Christ birth today,
at Spirit’s prompting.

Put in a word for us
to the boy and man you shaped,
and teach us your love for him
and your willingness to have him be all he is,
whether or not you or we understand.

We greet you and thank you on our way!
And we thank God for you!
St. Joseph, pray for us.

*This description of Mary owed to another friend, Clare of Assisi, in one of her letters to Agnes of Prague.

Categories: Poetry, Saints | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Enter the Lenten Wilderness: Remain and Be Transformed

Wilderness, desert, place apart.  Lent invites us to embark on a journey that removes us from the multiplicity of distractions and involvements – even in brief snatches.  Through the practices of diving deep into prayer, committing to a fasting that removes the superfluous and reminds us of the central, and reaching out in love and alms without condition or counting to others, we willingly embark on the path.  We sign our consent to keep company with Jesus, to be transformed.

A couple of weeks ago, reflecting on the book of Hosea with a group, we looked together at the active words in a section of Hosea 2/3.  There God allures, leads, speaks, gives, removes idols, makes covenant, espouses-espouses-espouses, sows, has pity, names.  We respond and we call, and we respond again.  It is God who acts, who unerringly finds places and spaces in our life experiences where we can better hear and respond: often wild places, dry places, remote places.  These become, as in Hosea, doors of hope.

Lent is a calendar place and space, and one we collaborate with by entering.  We are allured, but we also compose and dispose ourselves to presence by the practices Ash Wednesday traces.  Like the early disciples, we show up.  Like those who companioned Jesus on the roads of Palestine, we are often clueless as to the curriculum, the transformation, the path we are on.  Still, our remaining with him matters.  And that is Lent.  We choose to come and to remain, as we are.  Wonders can then occur, beyond our reckoning, our recognizing, even our sight in this lifetime.

Though spring seems still far off in the mid-Atlantic of late,  hope does not disappoint, for there is an unerring pull toward life and growth that SAMSUNGis part and parcel of this world, this universe we inhabit.  The smallest seed holds potential for something amazing to emerge that is not evident in its small encasing.

God brings us, allures us, to wildernesses and deserts so that we can recover our first loves, our enthusiasms, our joy, as disciples and loved ones.  God invites us so that we can remember what is core and release our desperate grasping at what was never ours to hold onto to begin with.  God wakes us to our sisters and brothers – on the verge of war, on the streets we pass, in the house next door, sitting at our tables and workplaces – with needs we can and must attend to, if we truly believe we are all one, are all God’s, are all amazing stardust, are all beloved ones.  Resurrection impulse leads to life, and we are all to not just believe in, but practice resurrection, as poet Wendell Barry told us.

As Lent begins, we are well reminded today (Ash Wednesday) by Pope Francis that “in the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could lead to a hardness of heart, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of the boundless love of God, in order to experience his tenderness.”  It is God’s tenderness which surrounds us and which is transformative.  Our job is to show up and to stay put in God’s presence, and to imitate the love and tenderness we meet there in our interactions with each other, most especially with those in need.  Our remaining matters.  So, what to do for Lent?

Enter, remain, collaborate.  Respond, call, respond.  Wake, remember, release.  Allow, be embraced, be open.  Imitate, give, serve.  Turn, repent, rethink.  Practice, quiet, pray.  We can trust the process we enter, the path we’re on, and the One who works our transformation – whether or not we understand, perhaps even better when we do not and cannot.  Let us come to Lent, stay put, encounter faithfulness (our God), learn to love, and be shaped further into love in the ways our Lord knows best.

Mayhap you’ve seen these words of Catherine of Siena recently on social media:  “We’ve been deceived by the thought that we would be more pleasing to God in our own way than in the way God has given us.”  They strike as true.  Trust your transformation and your path to our good God, the shape and pattern of your growth to Christ’s safekeeping, but keep collaborating and watching.  God guides all paths, and will guide these 40 days.  Celebrate the work of grace – the Spirit’s creativity – in you and in the world…  and pray, fast, give.


Categories: Lent | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One King’s Epiphany: Final Arithmetic and Losing the Stars (Madeleine L’Engle)

Madeleine L’Engle does it again!  Read this Epiphany poem once, twice, three times:

One king’s epiphany

I shall miss the stars.

Not that I shall stop looking
as they pattern their wild will each night
across an inchoate sky, but I must see them with a different awe.
If I trace their flames’ ascending and descending –
relationships and correspondences –
then I deny what they have just revealed.
The sum of their oppositions, juxtapositions, led me to the end of all sums:
a long journey, cold, dark and uncertain,
toward the ultimate equation.
How can I understand? If I turn back from this,
compelled to seek all answers in the stars,
then this – Who – they have led me to
is not the One they said: they will have lied.

No stars are liars!
My life on their truth!
If they had lied about this
I could never trust their power again.

But I believe they showed the truth,
truth breathing,
truth Whom I have touched with my own hands,
worshipped with my gifts.
If I have bowed, made
obeisance to this final arithmetic,
I cannot ask the future from the stars without betraying
the One whom they have led me to.

It will be hard not ask, just once again,
see by mathematical forecast where he will grow,
where go, what kingdom conquer, what crown wear.
But would it not be going beyond truth
(the obscene reduction ad absurdum)
to lose my faith in truth once, and once for all
revealed in the full dayspring of the sun?

I cannot go back to night.
O Truth, O small and unexpected thing,
You have taken so much from me.
How can I bear wisdom’s pain?
But I have been shown: and I have seen.

Yes. I shall miss the stars.

     –  Madeleine L’Engle

The poem describes a mourning and a gaining, a seeing and a no-longer-looking, a finding and a losing, a Truth touched that changes one’s relationship to what has been most valued.  Following the ultimate equation leads to the One beyond the arithmetic.  The end erases the path.

I grieve with this king.  I’ve known times when what is found is wondrous, but what it means in loss intimidates. Have you?  What happens when we apply this to the simplest arithmetic of our relating to God – prayer?

I very much like the writings of Ruth Burrows, Carmelite.  Early in her Essence of Prayer she speaks of being attached to the strategies and methodologies of prayer being a bit of a trap.  I utterly agree.  We can become so focused on the how that we forget the Who.  The purpose is encounter with Love, not a completion of our favored strategies and some success to mark in our do-it-yourself I-am-not-a-prayer-for-dummies gradebook or prayer journal.  We become very attached to hows: they help us feel more in control in this relationship that is all unknowing — and some insoluble combination of mist, bright light and darkness when we try to put it in words.

Ah, but why would such little ones as we expect to word the Word in ultimate fashion?  We share sketches and glimpses, which is why this blog has been full of poetry during these days since Christmas.

When we meet the Word, the Truth – like the one king of L’Engle’s epiphany – we have come to the end of our arithmetic.  If we have been mathematician only, and lover only of the vehicle that brings us to what we seek, our loss is greater.  For me, when we meet the Word, all these images I love to play with fail.  All comes to silence, to no more equations.  We have seen.  And so, perhaps the best prayer for this one king, and for us, is the way to come to silence with Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still


SAMSUNGOh, one king, we pray with you.  We miss our stars too, but meet you in the region where the One we know as Truth reigns well.  The stars never lied, no fear.  Help us to release ours as you have yours… the better to encounter, unencumbered by our strategies and lesser loves, the Word who Loves and is ever With us, Emmanuel.  

Categories: Christmas, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas, Praying and Snow: Mary Oliver

This week and more has been filled with poetry and verse to point to the Incarnation wonder.  Wordsmith witnesses who wander their own ways upon the earth record what they see — and we are grateful.  They walk with open eyes and listen, pray and chronicle – and we are blessed.  Today’s good verses come to us from contemporary American poet, Mary Oliver.  There are three.

The first follows a legend and takes us to a stable.  At its end we are left perhaps in the safest place to be — you’ll see. Spend some time there.

Christmas Poem

Says a country legend told every year:
25A_00002-2Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds!

[So] I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold
I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
and the beasts listened –
yet they lay in their stalls like stone.

Oh the heretics!
Not to remember Bethlehem,
or the star as bright as a sun,
or the child born on a bed of straw!
To know only of the dissolving Now!

Still they drowsed on –
citizens of the pure, the physical world,
they loomed in the dark: powerful
of body, peaceful of mind,
SAMSUNGinnocent of history.

Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!
And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
immaculate still as when you thundered forth
on the morning of creation!
As for Bethlehem, that blazing star

still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled
my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
the best it could all night.


The second wakes us just to see again what’s at our feet. It bids us know that prayer is simple too, atTENDing only.  As 2014  begins, let’s make a practice of it in our moments. Let’s not make of prayer a strategy, an achievement, a technique — but just the simplest doorway to a place, a Presence who opens us.



It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

From: Thirst: Poems

And a third remarks on snowy days and nights, a gift to those embraced by white these January days. Enjoy the beauty, the wallking, the red hat, and shut the door.  What gates do you look to, hoping openings?



began slowly,
a soft and easy

of flakes, then clouds of flakes
in the baskets of the wind
and the branches
of the trees –

oh, so pretty.
We walked
through the growing stillness,
as the flakes

prickled the path,
then covered it,
then deepened
as in curds and drifts,

as the wind grew stronger,
shaping its work
less delicately,
taking greater steps

over the hillsSAMSUNG
and through the trees
until, finally,
we were cold,

and far from home.
We turned
and followed our long shadows back
to the house,

stamped our feet,
went inside, and shut the door.
Through the window
we could see

how far away it was to the gates of April.
Let the fire now
put on its red hat
and sing to us.

From: Why I Wake Early 


What do these verses wake in you?  

What is their invitation to your heart and life?  

Be present, then, to this your moment.  And see.  And see.

Categories: Christmas, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sojourners On the Ways – Guest Friendship

Autumn is a time of particular beauty, with haunting colors that are the stage set for celebrations of saints and souls and sojourners.  We are all passing pilgrims.  The psalmist declares, “I sojourn with you like a passing stranger, a guest, like all my ancestors!” (Psalm 39:13)  Years circle, children grow, trees extend, blossom and flower and fruit are borne and fade, water freezes-flows-and mists.  And each moment is painfully wonderfully precious.  But we are guests upon the earth.  Here is amazing matter that absolutely matters.  But it – and we – change…  and we are not long here.  Are we invited to walk differently for this knowledge?  And can it be celebrated?

Years back, reading one of Rev. Margaret Guenther’s works, I reveled in her concept of providing to fellow journeyers the gift of ‘guest-friendship’.  There is an art to welcoming and providing a geography for grace and a haven for heart’s unfolding to one we have invited into our homes or into our lives.  We prepare and wish to make the other comfortable – so that laughter may come, stories may be shared, rest may be enjoyed, nourishment embraced and stored, tears touched, learning lived.  When we offer another guest-friendship, we offer them a home and shelter.  We create sanctuary.  

So, what if autumn tells us that we are really all guests, like all our ancestors?  We are sojourners on the ways, travelers of paths.  We root and stretch, green and grow, flower and fade, and fill with color and beauty. 

There is an awareness and practice that is important to me whenever I visit a retreat center/house.  In such sacred spaces, many guests have previously used the room I dwell within for my time there… and many more will fill this space after I leave.  I have long been mindful of those that would follow me into this space.  As I pack and remake beds and straighten and clean a bit, I stop and pray for those who will sit in this very chair, rest or stay wakeful in this bed, pace or be still in the internal acreage.  I send a blessing their way – for whatever they will need that I know nothing of.  In this way, I offer hospitality to another pilgrim to a place neither of us will remain.   I have only recently resolved to enter the room, on my arrival, gently – quietly-humbly mindful of those who trekked and prayed and rested here, grateful for their christening of the space I too will stretch and live and be nourished within.

“Friends of God and prophets”, family members and distant ancestors, saints and souls – all traveled the earth space and lived the temporal measures that you and I inhabit now.  Like us, they were as beautiful, complex, loved, and fleeting as the beautiful autumn vistas or the individual red-gold veined leaf. 

Let’s you and I live increasingly aware of – and practicing through concrete actions and choices – the unbroken chain of connection that exists between the sojourners on the ways, of which we are some.  Perhaps we can consider our time in years and generation and even cultural context as parabled in the image of my time at the retreat center – or yours, in visiting a dear friend or family member or glorious panorama.  What if we accept the guest friendship of those who have come before us and who send to us their blessings and good wishes?  What if we know – to our bones – that we are not alone in this space, for others have laughed and cried and grown and lived and died and risen here?  What if we offer our guest friendship to those who will come after us?  And what can that mean? 

At the least, it means great company before and behind, around and within.  What we’d call the communion of saints – but with us more mindfully relating to all there in the when and the then and the here and the now.  With such thin separations of centuries or styles, generations or gadgets – these others are our family and our friends.  They are part of the constant in the midst of our ever experience of change. 

Wisdom makes her own rounds, today’s first reading declared.  She seeks us, is resplendent and unfading, hastens to find us, graciously appears to us on our ways, meeting us with all solicitude.  It is enough to be so marvelously met by this creative playful companion of God who was present at creation’s making.  We are guests upon the earth.  And our lives have seasons of expansion and contraction, joy and pain, fruit and fallow.  But we are not alone.  The God of saints and souls and sojourners – and the community of all three – join us.  Let us accept and offer guest friendship as we continue in this time ‘on the ways’ where – thankfully – wisdom will ever meet us.  Let us keep watch for her!

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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