A Blessing for Those Who Wait

For those who wait
In despair,
In grief,
In sorrow.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

For those who wait
In the paths of storms,
In detention camps,
In hospice rooms.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

For those who wait
In tender hope,
In tear-streaked sadness,
In fearful anticipation.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

Bless, Loving Healer,
All those who wait.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

We drove over to Western North Carolina yesterday for a weekend retreat. Driving east were caravans of utility trucks getting into place to respond to the damage of Hurricane Florence. The retreat center where we are staying is filled with residents, employees, and families of employees from a retirement center in Charleston, South Carolina.

This day, I think of those throughout the world who are waiting — for the arrival of a storm, those watching the “drip, drip, drip” of chemotherapy. I pray for those who wait by the hospice bed of a loved one, for children and families in detention camps on our southern border, for families waiting for results of medical tests, for all who wait in fear and sadness and grief.

Drink Deep

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
-Psalm 63:1, NRSV

Drink deep
with eyes
with ears
with nose
with mouth
with hands
with heart.

I sip coffee, dark and smooth with a hint of cinnamon.

The wrens scold me as they carry food to their young the bird box on the front porch.

I lie in the lawn chair and watch clouds form, transform, and disappear.

I stack a smooth river stone to the pile on top of the bridge over Cave Creek.

The river roars in the canyon below. Its sounds lift my spirits, my heart.

I walk to the river at dusk and watch the ouzel hopping from rock to rock, stopping to preening its feathers before roosting for the night.

I smell the cool, earthy moisture by the river and the hot dustiness in the kitchen.

Vivid memories inhabit me. I breath them in with gratitude. In this place, I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

Drink deep from the present moment. The living, healing Spirit lives here.

Facing Loneliness

The writings of Henri Nouwen have been filling my meditation and challenging me to consider how we can spiritually survive our journey today.

“Our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but our emotional and mental pain as well. … When we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no television to watch or no record to play, and when we are left all alone by ourselves we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and are so afraid of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again.”
-Henri J. M. Nouwen
Reaching Out (first published 1975)

Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love — unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
-Henri Nouwen
With Open Hands (first published 1972)

When I put down my phone,
When I turn off the news,
When I take a break from the Netflix show I am binging,
When I try to get quiet inside,

My hands twitch towards my pocket or bag
As I try to find that smooth device that keeps me tethered to …

What is it I’m yearning to be tethered to:
Reality? Busyness? The avoidance of pain or fear?
What is it that I’m seeking to fill up the emptiness inside of me?

They say God created us with a God-shaped hole inside of us.
And then I put everything I can into that place
So that I don’t have to feel lonely or anxious or empty.

God is calling me to reclaim the disciplines that I have forgotten.
For me, they are sabbath, silence, and breathing.

What are the disciplines to which you’re being called?

The Legacy of Hatred

Each day I see the legacy of hatred
Written across my screen,
Displayed in videos.
It enters my car in voices on the radio.

Fists raised in anger.
Dueling pundits on cable TV.
The latest shooting.
Marching crowds and candlelit vigils.
Mothers weeping over children, slain.

I confess …
This legacy of hatred lives in me.
It flares out in traffic jams
And simmers inside my clenched jaws.
It plays out in my heart and mind
In unspoken judgments and harsh criticisms.

Wise ones,
How did you learn to love?
How did you learn to let go of
Wrongs done,
Raging resentments?

Holy One, you said that I should love my enemies
And pray for those who persecute me.

Have mercy on me, Gentle One,
For I don’t know how to love.

What Have We Become?

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I usually wake up early,
Turn on the news,
And go back to sleep.

This morning I was shocked awake
By the news of further violence.
The targeting of police officers in Dallas.
A suicide attack at a Muslim shrine in Iraq.

God of Love, what have we become?
We need you now.
We are broken, torn apart,
Permeated with a violent malignancy.

Come, quickly.
Come, now, and heal this hurting world.
Amen.

A prayer for today.

Lord, Have Mercy

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I wrote this prayer a few weeks ago in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. Since then, there was the attack in the Istanbul airport and, this morning, news of a bombing in a Bangladesh restaurant. I offer it here as I continue to struggle with the violence that continues around the world.

The news is bad.
We are outraged and horrified.
We are shocked and afraid.
We are overwhelmed and numb.
How many more times will we awake to such news?

Some of us sit in front of the television,
Search the internet for stories,
Watch, listen for something
That will help make sense,
That will soothe or comfort,
That will bring order back again.

Some of us can’t bear the words, the images.
The press conferences and scrolling news feeds
Freeze our brains, our hearts, our guts.

Some of us pray.
Some of us escape.
Some of us rage.
Some of us cry.

God, have mercy on our world.
Have mercy on the powerless and the powerful.
Have mercy on the first responders and those in ministry to the brokenhearted.
Have mercy on the victims, their families, their friends.

Sit with us in our terror, our sadness, our hopelessness.
And let us hold the space for others as we
Sit or cry, light candles or pray,
In solidarity, in hope, in love.
Amen.