Welcome to the blog of Rachel G. Hackenberg, a United Church of Christ pastor serving in Lancaster, PA (gracechurchlancaster.org). Check out Rachel's books, Writing to God and Writing to God: Kids' Edition, at paracletepress.com. For workshop and other info, visit rachelhackenberg.com.
Today I have lost what cannot be regained And all the powers of the gods cannot bring him back And the grandest music on earth cannot return him to me
Do not speak your condolences or your pieties, not today Death has taken away love with numbing finality and there are no words to mend that pain Say only to me that you feel this loss too and let us cry together on this holy day
Dear Jesus, you are full of contradictions that sometimes help but many times surprise me: saying "Peace, peace" but throwing a fit; giving sight to the blind but telling the sighted to find their own way; lending a hand to pull fish into a boat, but showing up empty-handed to a picnic for 5000, and then later saying "Eat my flesh"; you healed so many sick but missed the funeral of your best friend (I wonder if he forgave you for that after you unwrapped his grave clothes...); you railed against those who neglected the poor but you accepted a gift of expensive perfume; you claimed divinity (sometimes) but got dirty and rode a pack mule and broke religious rules. You manage to be seriously confusing, Jesus -- then and now -- so I pray in this holy week for the patience to find the Holy in the inexplicable...and the Inexplicable in the holy.
Reach out to me today, Holy Friend; catch my hand and hold it tight, else I might not make it through this day. Pour me a steaming cup of mint tea, toast a slice of bread and set it before me as the best of friends would do to sustain & comfort this weary soul. And then do not leave me alone, but sit and talk through life with me; nudge me to laugh when I am ready, offer me tissues when I am not. Then when it is time to move on, travel with me, or at least send me on with a token of your love and presence. Reassure me that, if it doesn't get better, you will still be here for me.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises. May evening find you gracious and fulfilled. May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected. May your soul calm, console, and renew you.
(John O'Donohue's "A Blessing" in For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, Hay House Inc. 2009)
Guide our wayfaring, E'er-Moving God, by sidewalks and highways, on paths of mud or spring grass or hospital tile, amidst love and disappointment and dread, with youthful steps or bone-tired paces, traveling with ease or dis-ease (or both). Guide our wayfaring, E'er-Present God.
God of mathematics and mystery, Creator of the amoeba and the great blue whale, Painter of the sweeping clouds at sunset and of the delicate violet, thank you for giving us macro and micro, for meeting us in the second and in the season. Thank you for the grace of a friend's smile when the world is falling apart, and of the expanse of nature's beauty when my world is falling apart. Thank you for the miracle that a glass of wine and a shared loaf of bread can heal the world, or at least satisfy a moment.
Maybe there is nothing to sing about, on this day when a rape story is shared aloud (one story that symbolizes hundreds, thousands). Despite all of our noise, maybe we have nothing to say that can really improve life or identify truth.
Maybe our tears have run themselves dry after seeing too much evidence of an eye for an eye (is it even that balanced anymore? was it ever?). Maybe the clouds weep on behalf of God today, because how else can One respond to the report that an island nation faces a generation of clean-up and more tremors and more clean-up.
Maybe this year, a holy week's worth of rituals will leave us, abandoned, without a happy ending, at the Place of the Skull. Maybe the best faith we can show is to put one foot in front of the other, as though tomorrow will surely come.
I cannot reach you today, my God -- not by savory caffeine or thoughtful word, not by breathtaking nature or stress-releasing laughter, not by stirring liturgy or restful silence -- and I find myself wondering how often I lean on emotional experience to bridge this chasm between holy and human. Do you find me as predictable as I feel today? Is it frustrating to try to provoke my attention and adoration, day in and day out? Tomorrow I may find you as close as my own breath, but for tonight I will worry that you are not.
I will sing praise to the Holy as long as I have my breath: for the squeeze of a hand and the beauty of bluebells, for kids playing ball and laughing and crying honestly when life hurts, for jet-black crows in a freshly tilled field and weeping willows' tears of spring green, for virtual hugs and emoticon winks and a caring voice relayed via cell phone towers, for stories and realities and the many ways that we get through these days called life; for all of this (and so much more) I give praise!
I send out a prayer like a tree branch (stretching, turning, multiplying, sun-seeking, arms reaching) for resurrection to burst into full bloom where life has been harsh and bare, where fruitfulness has been forced into hibernation.
You surprise me, Holy God, with love that is both passionate and gentle, with grace that is attentive and motivating, peace that is strong but unassuming (even vulnerable). You surprise me, Holy God, every time.
It's exciting (and humbling, and still surprising) to hear about and to read news of how people's prayer lives are being shaped and encouraged by WRITING TO GOD. Here's a snippet from a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota, a recommendation of the book as a Lenten study from a York PA bookseller, a blogged prayer from a Presbyterian minister in Washington, a note on spiritual disciplines from a fellow RevGalBlogPals blogger in Canada, a facebook page for prayer-writers, a congregation in Ontario writing prayers online together, and Amazon just started offering the book on Kindle! Really stunning and wonderful that the book is creating so many spaces for creative prayer!
Holy Awareness, forgive me: I have not been intentional in words or in presence; I have leaned on grace as an excuse, not trying not striving to be more fully where I am, as I am, for this work that I have to your glory, your fullness; I have not been mindful in these days and moments . . . and we both know it. Forgive me. Wake me up, surprise me, slow me down, do what you need to do (I think) until my spirit enters Awareness.
The crocuses shall bloom and the snow melt away; understanding will thrive and violence will find its end. The bombarded land will become an oasis, and the growth of cedars will break the marbled hallways of power. The women will dance to have freedom of their own bodies; they shall tell stories of the day when war against them ceased. Workers will leap like deer, no longer bearing the burdens of corporations or of middle-class-striving on their backs. Where the earth's oil has spilled like blood across sand and sea, the oceans will again dance with creatures great and small. Like a stream rejuvenating a dry and desperate wilderness, the LORD will flow abundantly with grace among peoples. Say to those whose lives are compromised until that day, "Be strong, do not fear. The LORD will come with a vengeance."
If you are writing your prayers this Lenten season -- whether by pen or by blog, using "Writing to God" or another devotional resource -- consider joining the Facebook page "Let's write 1,000,000 letters to God" and sharing your prayers (and reading others' prayers) there!