Love Observed

On the night flight over to Paris, I watched a young mother pace the aisle with her almost sleepy baby. She jiggled and patted and swayed as she walked, that young mother. Even when she paused she did not stop moving, always swaying, patting, gently jiggling. She looked tired. And I thought, this is love. No matter what she is thinking, what she is feeling. No matter if she resents her baby right now, if she is doing it only for the sake of the other passengers, if all she wants is to sit down and sleep. Her body loves her baby. With every jiggle, every pat, every step, her body gives her baby love.

This is how I want to love God. Not with feelings that come and go and depend on how rested I am, what I’ve had to eat or what has annoyed me, whether I have time and quiet to pray. I want to love with my doing.

I’ve given up on love as a feeling (except in songs). I choose to believe in God, I choose to believe God loves me, I choose to base my actions on love for God, myself and others. Like that mother, I choose to walk in love.

A Sunday Prayer

Lady Wisdom, guide me
Mother of all, hold me close
Father of all, protect me
Teacher of all, teach me
Creator God, grant me a share of Your compassionate love

Lady Wisdom, thank You for my faith, troubled though it be
Mother of all, thank You for holding me, even when I feel abandoned
Father of all, thank You for protecting me, even as I wander
Teacher of all, thank You for Your patience, as I forget time and again
Creator God, thank You for all that I am, all that I have, all whom I cherish, all my joys and sorrows, triumphs and difficulties, youth and aging, those lost and those found

God Eternal, accept my praise, though I be like the dust mote praising the sun that makes it sparkle


Psalm 106: Nevertheless She Persisted

Praise God!
Give thanks to Lady Wisdom
For Her love persists forever
Can I ever thank God enough
Praise God enough
Wouldn’t it be wonderful
If I lived my whole life
Praising God
Giving thanks
Acting justly
Doing what is right
Ah yes, then I would deserve reward
Then I would merit saving
Then I wouldn’t need saving
But here’s the sad truth
Time and time again
I forget
I wander
I grumble
I close my eyes to Her light
I stumble in my darkness, my blindness
When I feel enslaved by my own selfishness
I forget God is with me
When I wallow in my own doubts
I forget God drives those doubts aside
When I wander lost in the wilderness of despair
I forget God feeds my spirit
When I give my time, my worship to unwise pursuits
I forget the peace I find in God
When I sacrifice love to anger
I forget God’s gentleness with me
When I live a half life, married to trivial things
I forget the fullness of life with God
When depression captures me
I forget God’s power to free me
With the psalmist I look back
I look back on the long history
Of God’s enduring love
To a faithless people
A doubting people
A grumbling people
A wicked people
A captive people
And I see myself
But I see God too
Her love
Her splendor
Her power
Her forgiveness
Her persistence
As always, for all people
She sees my distress
She hears my cry
She remembers me
She loves me
She saves me
She gathers me in
That I may give thanks to Her holy name
That I may glory in Her praise
Praise be to Lady Wisdom
Sovereign God of Israel
My God
From everlasting to everlasting
With that great cloud of witnesses
I joyously whisper shout, AMEN!

Psalm 107

Let me give thanks to God
For She is good; Her love endures forever
Let me remember and tell myself always
The story of my recurring redemption
How Lady Wisdom comes to me again and again
To defeat my dark tendencies
To bless my poor efforts
To gather my scattered thoughts
I wandered in my desert wasteland
Of darkness, despair, doubt and depression
I could not find my way to Her city of light
I was hungry for peace, thirsty for comfort
My hope faded
Lost, I cried out for rescue, for Lady Wisdom
And She came, with good news and the Way
She delivered me to the gates of Her city of light
Where my thoughts could settle
Where my darkness was banished
So I thank God for Her unfailing love
For Her wonderful help
For satisfying my hungry longings
For quenching my raging thirst
But then again I sat in darkness
In utter darkness
Prisoner in chains of my own making
I forgot God
I made my own plans, lived my own life
Went my own way
Until I stumbled, until I broke
Blindly, I cried out for rescue, for Lady Wisdom
And She came, with light and truth
She brought me out of darkness
Out of the utter darkness
She broke my chains
So I thank God for Her unfailing love
For Her wonderful help
For breaking the steel gates of my selfishness
For cutting the iron bars of my ignorance
But then again I became foolish
I left God
No dramatic rebellion but I left
Wandered away into other preoccupations
Into the tempting world
Until I felt like death, not even warmed over
Sickly, I cried out for rescue, for Lady Wisdom
And She came, with healing and life
She restored my faith, my hope
So I thank God for Her unfailing love
For Her wonderful help
For finding me
For curing me
With prayer and praise, with songs of joy
I give thanks
Yet again I was cast adrift
Scared and overwhelmed
Storms of doubt raged around me
Towering waves of despair crashed over me
I could find no lifeboat, no life preserver
Surely God’s anger would weigh me down
Drowning, I cried out for rescue, for Lady Wisdom
And She came, with power and love
She stilled my storms of doubt to whispers of faith
She calmed my waves of despair
She guided me to Her safe haven
So I thank God for Her unfailing love
For Her wonderful help
I will join the great cloud of witnesses
In exalting and praising Her
I am God’s creation
No less when my faith dries up
Than when it flows freely
I am God’s creation
No less when my hope shrivels
Than when it bears fruit
I am God’s creation
She turns my desert doubts into pools of faith
She turns my parched faith into flowing springs of hope
She shows me where to sow my hope
Where to plant my faith
With Her, I harvest the sweet fruit of love
She blesses me, and my comfort increases
My terrible Ds diminish in power
And yet, again, and again, and then again
I grow proud and am humbled
I grow careless and am brought to sorrow
I grow ugly and wander lost in anger
Until I know, again, how needy I am
How afflicted I am, on my own
Then She lifts me, again
Then She saves me, again
Then She reminds me again
That She is the Way, the Truth, the Life
She is Love
She is Lady Wisdom
She is Helper, Sustainer, Consoler
She is God
Let me be wise, please God
Let me remember
Let me ponder the loving deeds of God
For me – again and again. Amen

Psalm 108

The psalmist proclaims that her heart is steadfast
Ah, how I envy her
What is the opposite of steadfast
My heart is that – wobbly slow
Too slow, so often, to remember how good my life is
With God
Too wobbly, always, to hold onto that truth
But this morning, this morning
Praise God
With the psalmist I sing and make music with all my soul
Quietly but surely the music of comfort plays around me
Hope dawns for me
If there is one consolation for being so often lost
It is this: the wonderful feeling, the dawn feeling
Of being found, of coming again from darkness into light
Of knowing myself to be part of that great cloud of witnesses
Of laughing with the new old knowledge
Of God’s great love
God’s highest, deepest, longest, surest faithfulness
So today I thankfully join the psalmist across eons
To pray
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens
Let Your glory be over all the earth
And, like the psalmist, I hastily add
Save me and help me, deliver me
Because You love me
I believe Your promises
Today I believe; always I want to believe
When I wander, when I despair, when I doubt
Is it not You, God, I wait for, hope for
Is it not You who has to lead me back to You
My own efforts are usually worthless
Until I turn to You, until I hide behind You
As You gain victory, again and again
Over my doubts, depression, despair, darkness
Ah yes, this morning they are defeated
I rest and arise this morning within Your victory
For me. Amen and Thank You

Psalm 109

Ah, God, wasn’t it just yesterday
When I joyously proclaimed
Your victory in my life
Didn’t I rest and arise within Your victory
And now, here I am
Feeling defeated
Here I am, about to rant
I am tired, God
I am tired of waiting for You to finally banish
My terrible foes
You know the ones, the ugly ones
The ones who scorn my prayers
How often have I named them for You
How often have they driven me from You
Doubt tells me You do not exist
Depression tells me I am worthless
Despair tells me this world is hopeless
Darkness tells me there is no light
Dis-ease tells me there is no quiet
Discouragement tells me to forget prayer
Distractions claim my attention
Bind them, burn them, banish them
Bury doubt in Your reality
Build Your mighty fortress to imprison depression
Bring hope to my hopelessness
Bank Your bright fires against my darkness
Be healing balm to my dis-ease
Blot out my discouragement
Bring my attention back to You
May this be how You, God, deal with my terrible Ds
That whisper and then shout evil
Poisoning my peace
Out of the goodness of Your love, Lady Wisdom
Deliver me
For I am poor and needy
And my heart is wounded within me
My hope, my joy fade away like evening shadows
I don’t like myself, I don’t like my choices
Help me, Lady Wisdom
Save me through Your unfailing love
Help me remember Your blessing
Help me believe Your power
Power to help me, power to save me
Your power with me always. Amen

Psalm 110

[…God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col 1:27 & 2:3]

God said to Jesus, “Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies your footstool.”
God gave Jesus God’s own power and authority
To rule over all, to defeat all foes
God has sworn to Jesus, “You are my high priest forever.”
And – oh glory be! – St. Paul tells me Jesus the Christ is in ME
I can conquer my foes, those foes that destroy my peace
I can break and shatter, crumble and trample my terrible Ds
No, not me, but Christ in me
With the Holy Spirit of Christ in me
With Lady Wisdom’s sustaining grace
I can lift my head from darkness and death
I can drink Christ’s everlasting water
And thirst no more. Amen

Psalm 101

Here is my forever prayer:
I will sing of loyalty and of justice
To You, God, I will sing
Of Your loyalty and justice to me
I will study the way that is blameless
When shall I attain it?
I will walk with integrity of heart
Throughout my life
I will not set before my eyes anything that is base
I hate the times that I fall away
I will not let doubt cling to me
I will know nothing of evil
I will recognize when my thoughts turn against others
And I will pray those thoughts away
I will recognize my own pride and arrogance
My haughty attitude
And will pray that pride away
I will value faithfulness to You
And to my better strivings
And I will nurture those within me
I will seek the company of those who try themselves
To live in loyalty and justice
I will not lie, I will not deceive
I will banish lies and deceit from my life
Morning by morning, day by day, night by night
I will pray that You destroy my wickedness
That You deliver me from evil
That You make Your home in my heart. Amen

The Gift of No

A friend, who is a divorced Catholic, told me of having to leave a social gathering because she got so agitated when she realized one of the men was “working up the courage” to ask her out. “I didn’t know what to say to him,” she said. “I’m just not interested in dating.” I joked with her, “Let me teach you a two letter word to handle situations like that — NO. You can add ‘thank you’ but that is optional.”

I have been thinking about that on and off all week — about my own difficulties saying “No” (with or without the thank you) when I am asked to do something. A difficulty shared by many women and, maybe, especially by many older women in denominations like the Catholic Church.

And here was my personal insight this morning: The ability to say No is a gift that we give to others. It frees others to ask us without worrying that they will be imposing. I think of my friend and how careful I am about what I ask her to do because she will not say No unless it is literally physically impossible for her and even then she will apologize repeatedly and feel badly. So that shifts the burden of judging the appropriateness of a request to me.

Exercising the right and ability to say No is not just a matter of personal liberty (although it is most assuredly that), it is also a great and good gift that we give to others.

Third Grade Theologians

With my third graders last Sunday, I told the gospel story: Jesus’ parable of the two sons whose father asked them to work in the vineyard; one said “no” but then went and worked; the other said “yes” but never got around to going to the vineyard. Jesus asked, “Which one did what his father wanted?”

We talked about what Jesus meant to teach us. I asked how many had fathers who owned a vineyard. No one. How many went to work with their father every day? No one. So does this parable have anything to do with us?

“Well, God is our Father too,” offered one child, “so maybe Jesus is telling us not to just say prayers but to do God’s work.”

“That’s good. A good answer'” I said, “So the next question is, What is God’s work?”

This took some discussion to figure out. “Going to church?” “Helping poor people?” “Doing what our parents and teachers tell us to do?”

It took a while, but we got there. Together we decided, as one girl suggested, that God’s work is love.

“Yes,” I said, “God wants us to love God and love each other.”

“OK,” said Elise, “as long as that doesn’t include me loving my 5 year old brother. He’s impossible to love.”

“Why is he impossible to love?” I asked.

“Because he’s mean. He is always mean to me. He does mean things to me every day.”

“And when he is mean to you, are you mean back to him?”

“Not always. Not usually. Sometimes, but I try not to be.”

“Well, Elise, every time he is mean to you and you are NOT mean back to him, you are loving him.”

“Uh? But I never FEEL like I love him.”

“That’s OK. The love that God wants from us is not a feeling but an action. There’s a saying ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ God doesn’t care if you ever say or think ‘I love my little brother.’ God cares how you ACT.”

Of course, at that point, someone else wanted to talk about mean words, bullying words, and how sometimes people can act nice in front of others but sneaky say mean things to you. So that got us into a whole other discussion about words and actions, bullying and protecting, only seeming nice and really being nice.

Continuing to reaffirm my belief that third graders are the best theologians.