Prayers from the Island Music in the Night

Music in the Night

I woke during the night and listened to the cicadas singing their song, cresting with an intensity that echoed in the darkness.  A chorus of them joined in making music, their song far out of proportion to the size of the insects that generated it.  From a biological angle, the call must be a male mating sign, but from an esthetic perspective perhaps they are expressing their joy at being alive, celebrating existence.  I think of the ways in which I make music to show my appreciation to God for the life given me.  Certainly I have no pleasing voice to raise in song, but do I, like the cicadas, make use of what I do have to praise my creator?  Can I make music of my life by seeking to love, to forgive, to show compassion and be Christian?  Too often I fail to take advantage of God’s gifts to me, preferring to be lazy or uncertain as to the worth of my contribution.  And yet the cicadas flood the night with song, content to sing without worry or fear of looking foolish.  Forgive me, Father, when I refuse to sing the song you have given me with the instruments you provide.  Please help me find the music in my life that will serve you. Amen.

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A Prayer for ChristmasA Prayer for Christmas

Dear Heavenly Father—I see all of my past Christmases as pages in a photograph album, each year a separate picture. Tomorrow there will be 80 pages. They begin with my earliest foggy memories—a doll, a stuffed Scotty dog, a trike. And then the pictures are clearer—the 8 of us including three grandparents. Some years there are fewer of us in the photo—first grandparents and then my father who died when he was 52.

There are funny pictures—the year Mother made me a green velvet skirt, but she didn’t have money enough to take the nap into consideration, so I had a dark green velvet skirt in front and a light green velvet skirt in back. I was narrator at the church service that year, and embarrassed. Mother said people would see me walk up the aisle and then down the aisle—no one would see me from the side. It’ll be fine, she said, and so it was.

We didn’t have a car during the war, so we took the bus to the Christmas Eve service; friends drove us home, all crowded into the back seat. My box of cheap candy, in a church-shaped box, spilled, and my heart was broken. A boy from catechism class gave me a gold bracelet—I didn’t have the sense to invite him in, but I still have the bracelet.

I remember the Christmas in 1973 when I had my first spinal surgery and spent 6 months in a body cast. My hospital bed and trapeze were decorated with lights and tinsel; two days before Christmas, the cast was sawed off and I could sit again. No more meals balanced on my chest—I could sit at the table like a real person! Finally I could bend and sit after 6 months of immobility! I felt like a queen despite the pain of muscles unused for six months.

I look at the photos and I see sadness—my sister in law’s drinking becoming a problem. My brother losing the will to live. My brother in law, an engineer, so deeply in the grips of his obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder that he lost his last job working in a giant junk yard because he refused finally to sell anything, no matter how it was exactly what the customer wanted. He so wanted to hold on to everything.

I see failures and betrayals, disappointments and sadness. I look out the windows and wars rage—WWI, the Korean War, the War in Viet Nam—on and on, war after war. Clustered around the tree are human beings, failed human beings, coming together to celebrate good tidings of great joy. We are imperfect creatures who gather to celebrate perfect love.

Can I rewrite history? Yes–I can go over each photo and forgive each beautiful person, not beautiful as in Hollywood or model beautiful, but beautiful because they were alive and real, struggling to do the best they could with what they had—what they knew. I can look at each face and say I forgive you—forgive me. I can be one with them, that modern day group of shepherds gathered around a tree—around a manger—and say, “With tonight’s gift we become perfected in love, in forgiveness. There is only this good news of great joy for us—for all people.”

And so Lord, I pray tonight that as we open the Christmas album of our lives– each individual here this morning–we will find there the beauty God intended, the beauty of imperfect people celebrating God’s perfect love. May we find pardon and love, may we be able to come together around a manger, around the good tidings of great joy, and rewrite the past to make it beautiful and whole. May we never stand so tall as when we kneel together around the birth of love, becoming ourselves perfected. May this Christmas enable each of us to find God’s presence in the pattern—in the photos—or our lives. Amen.

A Beach ReadA Beach Read

I passed a woman dozing on a lounge chair just at the water’s edge.  A paperback book was in the sand beside her, barely out of reach of the incoming tide.  I moved the book higher just as she opened her eyes.  “Oh, don’t bother,” she said, “I’m not really paying that much attention to the book anyway.  Let it float away.”  Her eyes closed again.  I am an avid respecter and defender of books, but her remark interested me.  How do I react to God’s book?  I read the Bible daily and have taken various study courses on its content, but do I really pay attention to what it says?  Is my life different because of its message or do I, like the woman, lie back, letting God’s book float way because the message might cause me pain or make me reorder my life?  Do I seriously consider the implications and demands God makes in His book?  Forgive me, Lord, when I treat the Bible as light reading; help me to apply its directives to my life.  Forgive my lazy disregard. Amen.

God’s Grace Allows Us to SoarGod’s Grace Allows Us to Soar

  The strong spring winds make perfect weather for kite flying.  As I drive or walk, I see kites soaring overhead or diving and crashing against the sand.  There is a skill to kite flying, though someone who’s practiced can make it look easy.  I’ve tried to launch kites into the wind only to watch them plummet to the ground.  Wind alone is not enough; the wind’s loft must be harnessed and used correctly if the kite is to sweep and soar Heavenward.  In my own spiritual life, as well, it isn’t enough for God’s grace simply to exist; I must reach out and accept it, propelling myself into its currents so that I soar and ascend with its spirit.  Forgive me, Lord, when I insist on staying earthbound; help me to submit to your Spirit’s breath and soar with you. Amen.