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.

God, In Your Mercy

  
We wake up to the news
Of another terrorist attack.
Ordinary people doing ordinary things.
Lives changed forever.

This place seems so far away this morning.
But we are joined in our fear,
Our horror, our grief,
Our powerlessness to stop the evil of this world.

And yet, in this week, we remember
That though there is evil in this world
There is a Love that is greater.
There is a Love that overcomes even death.

This world, so large,
Yet so small.
We are joined together across the globe
In our ordinary human lives.

For those who suffer, send comfort.
For those who fear, send presence.
For those who grieve, send healing love.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Read more of Beth’s blessings in her book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Joy and Sorrow

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Someone described yesterday as a day of “emotional whiplash.” From the declaration of love, justice, and equality by the U.S. Supreme Court to the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of those murdered in the hate crime committed at a bible study in Charleston, S.C. I believe, I hope, I trust that the presence of the holy was in these places both of ecstatic joy and of deep sorrow.

I sat in my office, weeping,
reading the live blog
from the Supreme Court.
5-4 in favor of same sex marriage.
Who could have known
this day would come?

Protection for families,
for children,
equal rights for couples.

Small things, so important …
A spouse’s name on a death certificate.
Two parents’ names on an adoption form.
The right to be by a loved one’s side in the emergency room.

The acknowledgment of covenant,
of commitment,
of love.

I sat in my living room, weeping,
watching the President,
family and friends and leaders,
mourn and celebrate the life of Reverend Pinckney.

Deaths too awful to comprehend,
meaningless, senseless,
lives torn asunder by racism,
an ugly, malignant tumor in our land.

I watch as this gathering, these witnesses,
transcend barriers.
I listen, and my spirit
rises out of despair and darkness
towards hope and light.

God, how can you contain
all of this?
All of this joy and sorrow,
all of this love and grief.
Be present with us in these days.
We need you now.

Scottie Haiku for the New Year

jackNewYearsDayMuch love and best wishes for a Happy New Year from Jack to each of you!

I face the new year.
With new squirrels and cats and such.
Please let me catch one.

Last night was quite loud.
I was scared to go outside.
What’s up with fireworks?

It’s foggy today.
Or do I need a haircut?
I can’t really tell.

It is new year’s day.
My breakfast was late again.
I hope work starts soon.

I love all of you.
You are the nicest people.
But you could send treats.

Jack still has some of his 2013 calendars left (Jack’s Tips for Healthy Living – 2013). If you’d like a signed copy, send Beth an email and we’ll get one to you. (beth@betharichardson.com.)

Prayer for Dad

Dad, Mom, and BethMy dad (Charles H. Richardson) passed away at 9:53 a.m. on Wednesday, December 7. I was on my way to the airport to fly to Oklahoma. I shared Psalm 139 and this prayer at his service on Friday.

Loving God, we give you thanks for the life of your servant, Charles. We knew him as father, husband, uncle, grandfather, preacher, musician, photographer, artist, compassionate listener and friend. We loved him and we saw glimpses of you in his photographs of mountains, flowers, and sunsets; in the way he loved chocolate pie or made pancakes for breakfast; in hikes in the mountains or trips to the zoo. We heard your voice through his sermons, his prayers, the songs he sang, the music he played, his infectious laugh, his telling of stories. We felt your love through his smile, his hugs, his gentle presence, his willingness to listen, to give, to be present with others.

Comforting God, we miss your servant, Charles, our father, husband, grandpa, uncle, friend and colleague. We give you so much thanks for his life and for the privilege of knowing him for this short time on earth. Be present with us in our loss. Comfort us in our grief. When we are overcome with sadness, sit with us and wrap us in your love.

We thank you, we praise you for your many gifts, but especially for the gift of Charles. It’s in great gratitude for this gift that we pray in your name. Amen.

Here is a link to the obituary for my dad.

Centering Prayer Journal

daisiesThis is a repost from my article on Alive Now’s blog

I starting practicing centering prayer in February as I was working on the July/August 2011 issue on Finding Time. Centering prayer seemed to be a good spiritual practice to include with this issue. And I realized that if I was going to invite readers to try out centering prayer, I should be willing to practice it myself. Before February, my only experiences with centering prayer had been in a Sunday school class at my church. I went to three or four sessions, but ended up falling asleep each time. So I joined a more active class instead.

My time for centering prayer is in the early morning after breakfast and walking the dogs. I kept a journal for a while and share some of my experience with you here. As you can see, I’m still “practicing.” I hope you’ll share your own thoughts and experiences, challenges and successes, questions and comments. Blessings!

2/19/11 – God, I feel like a failure this morning in my prayers. My brain cannot concentrate on you. Every little space I create gets filled up in seconds with a thought or distraction. I could never achieve that peaceful connection that I am longing for. Help me, God, to let go of my expectations and accept what happens. I am longing for you, God. Please fill me. Amen.

2/21/11 – God, I thank you for this time. It seems I fight through chaos and distractions, only to find you in the final minutes of my mediation. I forget that you are present even if I cannot seem to reach you. I stood in your presence, I felt, for a few seconds at a time. Fog swirled around me, but I was fully present to you. Thank you for the luxury of 20 minutes of quiet. I pray for mothers and fathers for whom such a time seems impossible. I am yours. Amen.

2/22/11 – Somewhere between dozing and distractions of dogs walking, licking, and barking, I may have felt you. Saw glimpses of you. Walk with me into this day, O God. I need your presence. Amen.

3/13/11 – There is within me a sort of hall of presence where I meet you, God. It expands so large within me. When I can find the way, I open it to you and you come inside. Quiet, expansive, spacious oneness with your presence. I thank you, God.

3/14/11 – I cannot find the space except for short glimmers of you. I open up the left side of my awareness and try to hold off distractions with my right arm. That doesn’t work. Help me to relax into your love. I cannot control or fight my way there. I’m powerless over these distractions. Help me, loving God.

3/16/11 – Even without distractions I am flighty in my thoughts. My expectations are high and I struggle to force things out if my mind. Perhaps surrender would be a better way – force does not work. And still I meet you for moments and glimpses. I am grateful.

3/19/11 – It’s a curious thing, this spaciousness that I slip into. I don’t know how to make it happen or how to stay there once I find myself there. But it is a relaxed place. Like I have relaxed into God’s arms or lap or presence. I’m grateful, God, for this gift from you. Amen.

3/22/11 – Presence. Your presence, O God, through the distractions. I am yours. Amen

3/25/11 – It’s a morning when I feel like I failed my prayer time. I tried to control all the noise, but once it got quiet, I still couldn’t quiet my own mind. God, you are my God. I search for you. Thank you for your presence. Amen.

3/30/11 – I start out in a darkened place. I am broken before you. I don’t want you to see me this way. I start writing in my head even while I try to let go of the thoughts. I am broken, God, and standing before you. Have mercy on me. Then there is a spacious place that is around me and holding me in. Thank you, God, for letting me enter your presence.

3/31/11 – Some days I finally reach you just before the end of the allotted time. Thank you. It is enough. Amen.

4/1/11 – Even in the quiet of the morning I have trouble making a way clear to you. My brain keeps working on problems and I am unable to give myself over to you. A glimpse will have to suffice. Thank you, God. I am hungry for that spacious connection with you.

4/3/11 – I’m not ready for centering prayer in the midst of distractions – such as the dog chewing on his new bone. I need quiet, and still I lose my way. But I do better with silence and peace. It’s baby steps and gratitude and lack of judgment. That is what I need. Thank you God, for the glimpses of your presence.

4/4/11 – My brain hops around like a bunny. I hold tension in my arms trying to find the right position to meet God. I’m powerless over my attention. It seems impossible to be still for 20 minutes. It’s glimpses. Just glimpses. Thank you God for the glimpses of peace.

4/6/11 – Another day of some longer glimpses and I am grateful. Peace is wonderful. Thank you for the presence.

4/8/11 – I’m scattered and unable to concentrate. Gather me up, God, in a single-minded focus on you. Amen.

4/12/11 – Missed a few days and I’m totally out of practice. Didn’t even get to the narthex of your presence, God. Thank you for being there, even though I couldn’t find you. I need your help.

4/13/11 – I’m still fighting to be here. And fighting does not work. I am yours. I am here. Help me, God.

4/16/11 – Seems as though I mostly squander the time I have with you, God. My mind drifts off into all kinds of thoughts and I forget what I’m doing. I can’t remember to concentrate on you and waste most of the time far away from your presence. I’m sorry, loving God. I know you have forgiven me. Thank you.

4/21/11 – My brain is a clutch of bunnies hopping around, unable to focus. Bit there are glimpses of you. And that is enough. Thank you. Amen.

4/22/11 – Why is it that I don’t get to peace and presence until 20 seconds before my alarm goes off? Thank you, loving God, for those 20 seconds.

4/25/11 – I didn’t know it would be so difficult to learn to sit for 20 minutes in quiet. Thank you for this time of learning. I am yours. Amen.

5/3/11 – On this morning after I haven’t slept well, I am fairly peaceful and connected. Thank you, God, for your quiet presence inside of me. Amen.

5/4/11 – Maybe practice does help. It wasn’t a long stretch, but I was able to reach a deep place for a while near the end of my 20 minutes. I don’t know how it happened. It just did. Thank you, Spirit. Amen.

5/12/11 – Such a hard time getting anywhere today, thoughts float through my mind and I chase them on. Planning, solving problems, investigating noises. My brain is in a fog. But for short moments, I slip though the fog into the space that is you, and my mind quiets for that moment. Thank you, God, for moments with you. Amen.

5/18/11 – God, every time I think I’ve mastered the quiet, I find that the chatter is back. I cannot control my brain. I forget to surrender to you. I love you, God. I am yours.

5/20/11 – Thanks, God. Even with dogs barking from time to time, I found the quiet place. I’m grateful.

6/30/11 – I am trying to let go of the tension in my body. Seems like I am trying too hard to concentrate on the word rather than letting go, relaxing into God’s love. I’m trying to force my mind to be open. It doesn’t work so well.

 

More on Centering Prayer


Photo Credit: Beth A. Richardson. “Colorado Daisies.”

God Weeps

fog over water

I first wrote this piece after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. I rewrote it for the sorrow in the world today.

350 dead. … 1,000 dead. … 10,000 dead in one prefecture. Trains, boats, entire villages washed away. Thousands missing. How many will have died when the counting is done? My ears hear, but my mind cannot comprehend these numbers … In this place far away from Tennessee, in a country I do not know and may never visit, people are suffering, people are crying.

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
        wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
        she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
– Matthew 2:18, NRSV

These words of the prophet Jeremiah apply today, too.

Voices are heard in Tokyo, Sendai, Kesennuma,
        wailing and loud lamentation,
Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers,
        friends and strangers weeping …
They refused to be consoled, because they are no more.

What can I say? How can I respond? These grieving, devastated people live so far away. But they are my sisters and brothers. They are children of the Most High, the God who must be weeping, too.

God of Compassion, with you and all the world family, we weep and mourn. Comfort all who are alone or afraid, who wail in loud lamentation, who cry silently. Let us be your heart reaching out to those who grieve. Let us be your hands working to assist those who still live. For you are the God who stands with the least and the lost. Come by here, Lord. Come by Sendai, Minamisoma, Ichihara, and Tokyo. Come by all the places that need your comforting and healing presence. Amen.

Support the Relief Effort

United Methodist Committee on Relief

What If?

Collage of Busyness
Collage of Busyness

What if . . .

. . . I meditated as often as I checked my email?

. . . I talked with God as regularly as I posted a new Facebook status?

. . . My fingers longed to touch prayer beads instead of an iPhone?

. . . There was space in my heart, my soul, my spirit, that I did not try to fill?

It is in vain that you rise up early

and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

for [God] gives sleep to [the] beloved.

Psalm 127:2, NRSV

And so I post this . . . image, thoughts, and confession . . . on my blog, on Facebook, on Twitter. How strange. (Even crazy?)  God, help me disconnect … and reconnect with you. Amen.