Psalm 87

A small psalm of quiet, enduring joy

I am created, founded, saved by God
My life is God’s holy city and God loves me
In me, whatever my faults
Whatever my doubts, my darkness
In me is also, always, God’s glory and grace
I focus so often on the darkness
Despair, depression, doubts, defeat
That I forget the victory
I forget that God Herself created me
Loves me, lives with me
I forget that God rejoices in me
Please and praise
When my heart sings
When my spirit dances
It is from You, God, that my joy flows. Amen.

Sparks of thoughts

Bright trails of burning sparklers
The years behind
How many ahead

Do years bring
[wisdom, forgiveness, charity, gratitude]
Do years soften or harden
[hearts, minds, arteries, beliefs, bodies, souls]

I do not suffer fools gladly
And sometimes I think
Most people are fools
And sometimes I think
I am the biggest fool of all

Aftermath II

The wind is stilled
The earth is quiet
The fire is quenched
I hear the whispered questions

Who will love justice
Who will carry the burden of injustice
Who will know their own failings
Who will walk on troubled waters
Who will reach for My hand
When sinking with the weight of sin
With the exhaustion of trying
With the failure of understanding

Let me recognize
My privilege
My prejudice
My racism
My failures in love
Let me grasp God’s steadfast love for all
And enduring faithfulness to me. Amen

Aftermath: Charlottesville, 14 August 2017

Sunday’s Old Testament reading was beautiful: from 1 Kings, chapter 19

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus…

Ah, if only it were that simple.

God came to me, saying, “What are you doing here, Adrienne?” And I answered, “I have been very zealous for justice, for peace, God, but some have forsaken our covenants, our laws, our constitution, they seek to throw down equal rights and kill people. I am old now and I do not know what You want of me.” And God said, “Go out and stand on the front again, for right is confronting wrong, good is facing evil.” Now there was a great confusion, so strong that it was splitting groups and breaking people, and I don’t know if God was in the confusion. And after the confusion there was violence and I don’t know if God was in the violence. And after the violence there was injury and death, and I pray that God was there. But I was not. I was home, in my safe cave, praying. And there came a voice to me that said, “What are you doing here, Adrienne?” And I answered, “I don’t know, oh God, I don’t know anymore, if I ever did. God, I am not worthy, but only say Your Word and my soul will be healed.”

Sunday’s Gospel reading was powerful: from Matthew 14

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,[d] for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Ah, if only it were that simple.

Where do You want me, God? In the boat, struggling to keep it afloat through the daily turbulence? Walking with You on the stormy seas, braving the dangers and the depths of our depravity to each other? Will You save me when I sink, when my faith fails me?

It seems, for me, youth was the age of many questions and ready answers. Old age is the age of many questions and no answers.

Ah, but didn’t I decide 14 years ago that I did not pray for answers but rather prayer is the answer?

Amen. Shalom. Alleluia. In faith and hope and love

Love for Your Sake Alone

“…give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace.
Give me humility in which alone is rest,
and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens.
And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love.
Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love,
that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection,
not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity,
but for You alone.”

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Psalm 92

A song for the Sabbath

I will give thanks and sing praise to my Sovereign God, the Most High
I will remember and declare God’s steadfast love in my youth
God’s enduring faithfulness in my old age
With music and song, with prayer and reverence, I will give praise
My joy and my gladness are all God’s work, God’s great work in my life
Too great for my limited understanding
Though I struggle, though I doubt, Though I fail again and again
God will prevail
I am saved, forever
Despite my struggles, despite my doubt, despite my failings
God succeeds, forever
And so I am saved and favored, a child of God
Destined for good, not evil
Destined for love, not hate
Destined for peace, not conflict
Destined for hope, not despair
Destined to flourish as God’s good seed grows in me
And bears good fruit, even as I age
Maybe especially as I age
Because God is good, my gardener, my rock
My savior and my righteousness. Amen.

Some Thoughts on Positive Psychology

As I read about positive psychology*, both the academic and the pop versions, I began to think about the Psalms and how the psalmist turns to God to banish the negative – be it doubts or enemies. And I began to think about what positive psychology should not be and what the psalms can be.

What positive psychology should NOT be for a Christian:
• Needing to be happy always
• Denying the reality of sin and suffering
• Inflating your own credit for everything good that happens
• Withdrawing from the difficulties of life
• Expecting to make ourselves happy in this life without God
• Being sure that we’ve got the answers, that we’re getting things right

Rather, positive psychology should, perhaps, be about recalling that God is the great, unbeatable Positive, defeating all negatives. And so Christian positive psychology is, perhaps, already alive and well in Ignatian spirituality – in the ability to find God in all things.

Five ways to find God in all things (http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/15139/5-ways-to-find-god-in-all-things/)
1. Micro-awareness
2. Journal
3. Do something the “old fashioned” way
4. Listen
5. Say “God is here” (the next time something negative happens to you)

*Martin Seligman https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/people/martin-ep-seligman;
The Pursuit of Happiness http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/