Thursday, August 27, 2009

On Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills
in search of perspective.
Too often I forget to really see the hills, and the sky.

I lift my eyes from the road and the traffic before me
glancing out the car window for another view of scenery.
Is that building new? When did the trees start changing colors?

I lift my eyes from the computer screen--
this hypnotic rectangle--to clear my vision.
There are people to see, there is laughter to share.

My help and my hope come from the LORD
who shifts my perspective, who captures my imagination,
who rescues me daily by grabbing my attention.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our Little Lives (Howard Thurman)

"Our little lives, our big problems---these we place upon Thy altar!
The quietness in Thy Temple of Silence again and again rebuffs us:
For some there is no discipline to hold them steady in the waiting
And the minds reject the noiseless invasion of Thy Spirit.
For some there is no will to offer what is central in the thoughts---
The confusion is so manifest, there is no starting place to take hold.
For some the evils of the world tear down all concentrations
And scatter the focus of the high resolves.
War and the threat of war has covered us with heavy shadows,
Making the days big with forebodings---
The nights crowded with frenzied dreams and restless churnings.
We do not know how to do what we know to do.
We do not know how to be what we know to be.
Our little lives, our big problems---these we place upon Thy altar!
Brood over our spirits, Our Father,
Blow upon whatever dream Thou hast for us
That there may glow once again upon our hearths
The light from Thy altar.
Pour out upon us whatever our spirits need of shock, of lift,
of release
That we may find strength for these days---
Courage and hope for tomorrow.
In confidence we rest in Thy sustaining grace
Which makes possible triumph in defeat, gain in loss, and
love in hate.
We rejoice this day to say:
Our little lives, our big problems---these we place upon Thy altar!"

Thurman, Howard. Meditations of the Heart. Boston: Beacon Press, 1953. Pages 83-84.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

At Night Most Of All

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

Tonight my daughter tiptoed downstairs, teddy bear held tightly under her chin, and she silently climbed onto the couch where I was sitting in order to lay her head in my lap and fall asleep. It had been a long day, and I know that she had a case of post-vacation exhaustion. To top it off, a mild scolding from her mother (truly it was mild) led to a cascade of tears over bedtime loneliness, sibling unfairness, and a plague of insecurities.

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

I used to do the same thing as a child: I would keep myself awake past bedtime with imagined nightmares, listening to the (real) sounds of mice skittering through the walls. When I reached my limit of fear, I would sneak down the stairs, pausing on the last step to stare into the darkness for possible monsters or mice, and then I would run across the kitchen floor, through the dining and living rooms, and into my parents' bedroom for the reassurance that someone was awake (i.e., I woke my mother) and keeping watch over me.

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

At night most of all, against the nightmares of our minds (real and imagined), we crave the protection of a loving touch. In the loneliness of midnight, we cry for a caring presence. When insecurities loom large and the weight of the world presses in, we seek the reassurance of a watchful mother. At night most of all--whether the day has gone very badly or very well--we need one last reminder of comfort and grace before we can rest.

At night most of all, we need to know that we are not alone.

Sometimes our nights are actually terrors in broad daylight: Poverty that knocks at the door, violence that breathes down the neck, distrust that shadows every move, monsters of war between countries and persons. Some days are endless nights, with no glimmer of dawn in sight. Into one such nightmare, a child was born--late at night in fact--so that we would know we are not alone. It wasn't a birth story meant to be told only at Christmastime: it was a story meant to be told every night at bedtime, in every place where the terrors gather in force, for every hour when the nightmares spill over into the day, through every season of war and lies and power politics, and to every child (of any age) who cannot sleep. It is a story that promises:

At night most of all, you are not alone.

Neither am I.

Thank God.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Peace Like A River

Prince of Peace,
your peace is like a river:

spilling into life with a rush
pouring with happiness and busyness and richness and fullness
welling up over rocks and hard places
rushing over waterfalls
delighting in movement and quickness
splashing at your feet with joy and thanks.

Prince of Peace,
your peace is like a river:

scattering rays of sunlight
reflecting weeping willows and delicate dragonflies and lyrics of life
swirling gently into deep pools
pausing along the bank
calming the turmoil
whispering thoughts of your love.

Prince of Peace,
your peace is like a river.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Hymn

For the beauty of the earth
For the pure joy of his smile
For the brilliance of the sunset

For the odd grace of the white egret

Lord of all, to Thee I raise
This a hymn of grateful praise**

For the uplifted face of the flower
For the caring presence of a friend
For the satisfaction of great love
For a bold beacon in the night

Lord of all, to Thee I raise
This a hymn of grateful praise

For the beginning--and the end--of a day's work
For the invigoration of thoughtful conversation
For the light easiness of her laughter
For the peaceful quiet of prayer

Lord of all, to Thee I raise
This a hymn of grateful praise

**Original hymn text by Folliott S. Pierpoint (1864)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lament to the Savior

There is a disconnect--a chasm, it seems--
between the brilliant expanse of the sun-glittered ocean
stretching out to meet the blue sky
and the reckless, shocking abuse of authority
that ends a child's party with Tasers.

The abundant violets and pinks arrayed in the beauty of a hydrangea
are apparently worlds away
from the overwhelming scarcity of a woman
who can barely survive hour to hour,

let alone day to day.

It has been too long, dear Savior.
Your people cannot wait for the sweet by and by
to bring eternal satisfaction from hunger
or final justice from oppression.

God With Us, you are needed.