Prayers from the Island Cloudy Windows

Cloudy Windows

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  My windows are covered with salt spray, especially those that look on the ocean.  When I peer out, what I see is clouded and spotted, distorted by the deposits made in each tiny drop.  My life is sometimes like that.  I am distracted by tiny ‘things’ that leave their mark on my vision, distorting and marring the view.  Each drop is so minute, and yet the accumulated distortion affects all that I see.  Pettiness and resentment encrust my perspective, making me cross and depressed.  Seeds of selfishness cause small changes in my view until I see only what is blurred and misshapen.  How can I see your world clearly through windows that distort my vision and its clarity? I pray, O God, help me wash my spirit and scour away these distorting deposits.  May I look through eyes that are clear and loving; may I see others as you see them.  Please help me see through eyes washed with your water of love and forgiveness; help me see only as you see.

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StolenStolen

I spoke with a woman in the store this morning.  During our conversation, she said she’d once been in a church with a large congregation, and when she went to the altar for Communion, she returned to her pew and discovered her purse had been taken. How sad that during a time of communion, someone had chosen to rob rather than share. I thought of how things are sometimes stolen from me when my mind is elsewhere.  I walk on the beach wrestling with other people’s problems or with situations over which I have no control, and I’m robbed of the day’s beauty and the ocean’s gifts.  I let myself feel apart from God, and my faith begins to erode, just as the water bites at the shore.  Forgive me, Lord, for letting you go too easily, for letting situations rob me of your presence.  Yes, bad things happen, even in the church where there are more avowed sinners than anyplace else.  Please help me to approach you always knowing there is nothing more important than my closeness to you. Amen.

 

The One Presence We NeedThe One Presence We Need

Dear Heavenly Father, these are desperate times. When crises happen, we find solace and comfort in the presence of others—they hug and hold us, they remind us of their love and caring, they provide for us a tangible symbol of your presence. But now, that source of comfort has been denied. Not only is touch forbidden, but we’re not even able to find comfort in the mere presence of others.

The act of quarantine is nothing new; treatment of diseases through isolation was prevalent in Biblical times. Various diseases forced victims into a life apart from others: for instance leprosy, syphilis, and smallpox. Though no one else would touch these people, Jesus touched them. He went to them, sought them out, and healed them with his touch.

And now we too find ourselves separate, apart from one another. Forced to live lives with as little human contact as possible, we feel apart, drifting. So reliant on others are we that our fingers type out text messages and emails or dial phone numbers, all in an attempt to connect. It seems almost beyond belief that something as microscopic as this virus can have such an impact on the planet—that it can render impossible the very vaccination we seek—the touch of others.

What will we do with our time? Television is an endless repetition of the virus damage; after watching for a short time the number of people infected, the lives lost, the shredding of our stock system and governmental breakdown, we feel overwhelmed. Life is hopeless—to leave our doors, to touch others, to take the sacrament—all these are beyond our reach.

Where is our God in all of this turmoil? Why isn’t he here protecting his own? Making our lives easier? Why would He permit something as devastating as this to take place?

When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, he asked repeatedly for his disciples to watch with him, to give him the comfort of their presence, to make him feel connected, not alone. But the text makes it quite clear; no matter how often or with such urgency Jesus asked for their nearness—they fell asleep. They failed him. Why is this scene so explicit? Because Jesus needed to face God alone—to confront him and ask for relief from what lay ahead, to ask his Father if he could be spared. But what would take place was in God’s hands, not the hands of Jesus. When given that realization, Jesus found peace. He rose from his prayer and began the sequence of events that would lead directly, in less than 24 hours, to his crucifixion.

These hours ahead of us, void of most human contact, force us into this same conversation. We are at the will of God, and he has given us the time and the opportunity to be in dialogue with him. We pray together as a congregation, but now is the time for personal prayer. Time to speak with God as Jesus did in the Garden, to ask for our safety and the safety of those we love, but to do so with the awareness of God’s power and presence. He promised his Son that he would bring ultimate good out of loss.

And we see this today—people sharing, medical staff putting their lives on hold in the interests of others, those who provide medications and gas and food and public safety—those who risk their lives so we may continue our lives with as little interference as possible. We are reminded of the goodness humans can draw upon in an emergency.

God has not died of the corona virus. He is not in quarantine. He is alive and well, waiting for us to draw closer, to read our Bibles for comfort and peace, to speak with him in personal honesty and intensity. Forget the rote prayers we can speak by heart, this is the opportunity for stark and revealing prayers that allow us to find him in a new way, to discover we can speak with God openly and without fear. “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of time.” This is not the end of time, but this is a time when God is with us. Open your heart and pray—now is the time to that find his presence is the only presence we need.

Help Me Turn Down the HeatHelp Me Turn Down the Heat

 

  Dear Heavenly Father, last fall there was a relatively common occurrence on the island; something was left, forgotten on the stove, and a serious fire resulted. While no one was hurt, the house was virtually destroyed, all because a small pot was left unattended on the stove, its boiling contents, so small, able to destroy an entire house.

I think Lord, of the small boiling pots I leave unattended in my heart, pots that don’t contain soup or stew or yesterday’s left-overs, but simmering pots of anger. Not always large, these pots sit on my hearts stove, never cooling, always finding new sources of fuel to continue burning.

For instance, there are those things I do that make me angry, behavior I regret but don’t erase. So often I insist on the last word, how I hone my phrases like, “I told you that would happen!”, or “so there!” knowing they accomplish nothing, only turn up the heat a tiny bit. There is the burning pot of wanting more and more credit for all that I do, particularly from God. Sometimes I know I treat God like a third grade teacher who dispenses smiley faces for good deeds, and I insist on my share. Turn up the heat a bit more. My feelings get hurt, what my mother called, “Wearing my heart on my sleeve,” so that I see harm in the most innocent comment, and the heat goes up still more. I forget that it’s not all about me. Another untended pot is that I’m impatient; I can barely wait to let someone else complete a sentence, so I hurry and finish it for them. I hate when I do that; it makes me angry, but I haven’t yet found the way to stop doing it. I get angry and angrier.

Then there are things I don’t do that make me angry. When someone could use a kind note, a positive email, the delivery of food; I’m always the first to volunteer in my heart. In my heart, yes, but not necessarily in fact. I get angry at myself for not following through, but I haven’t mastered my failure. I’m angry that my daily prayers have grown stale and repetitive. I want them to reflect the true feelings in my heart, but I find myself instead mouthing words while I brush my teeth. A small pot of anger. And what makes me most angry is that I don’t listen to You, God. I spend my time as if You were my office assistant; I give you a to-do list, dates when I want them accomplished, and suggestions for how to do them. I know in my heart that You are God of the universe, and yet I treat You with such casual regard, failing to listen to You, failing to give ear to what You have to tell me about my life. I’m angry at myself, but I don’t change my behavior. The heat goes up another notch.

And finally, Dear God, I’m angry over things I can’t even control. I’m angry over this country—it’s division, its name-calling, its refusal to emphasize what Christ taught—to love, to forgive, to care for the needy and the aged. I dread the papers, I watch TV and I grow angry. I’m angry over climate change. I worry about the planet I’ll leave my granddaughter. Our son is a geologist; he can see the impact we’re having on this world You gave us, and our disregard both troubles and angers me. And finally, Dear Lord, I’m angry over ageing. I hate that my mind grows increasingly muddied, that what was once crystal clear is now confusing, that I can no longer think or speak as I once did. I see my body changing day by day, no longer responsive to my wishes, and it makes me angry. The world is changing so rapidly that I’m dazed; I feel left behind and frustrated. I feel angry.

Forgive me, please Lord, not to do those things I ought not. Let my anger be consumed by activity. Forgive my anger at my failure to do things I ought to do. Please give me the motivation, the encouragement, to do them so that I am no longer angry at myself. And Dear Father, help me to find ways to channel my anger over those things I can’t change. Help me to find small ways that I can be an agent of peace in this troubled world. Help me to find ways, perhaps small ways, that I can reduce climate change by my behavior, reducing my anger. And help me to find patience in the process of growing old. Patience with myself and my body’s changes. Instead of anger, help me to find wisdom in ageing, ways in which I can share my life’s lessons with others.

Dear Father, I know that my anger, reflected in these simmering pots, is dangerous and unproductive. If left unattended, even the smallest pot of anger can destroy the joy in my life, make me despondent and unhappy. Just as these unattended pans of soup or stew caused fires that destroyed houses, so too I can ruin my happiness by letting anger overcome my life. Help me to examine each of these small fires, and help me find ways to remove them from excessive heat by positive choices. Give me, I pray, a life lived so close to You that there is no room for anger or simmering resentment; may my life be filled only with the joy of Your presence and the love You give me to share with others.