Finding ‘Beautiful’ in Prayer

Aprilsnow It’s a beautiful day outside.  Sun is shining on the fresh snowfall we had last evening.  The world looks so pristine…picture perfect…except for the fact that it’s April 3!  Oh well, I’ll breathe it all in.

This morning I am beginning a 3 week teaching series on ministering to the sexual minority.  So how to pray before going into such a topic?  “Oh God, oh God, oh God!”  Which actually works, sometimes.

But a Trappist monk by the name of Thomas Merton wrote a beautiful prayer, especially for such a time as this.  I share it with you…

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I’m following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore, I will trust you always.

Though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Amen

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Shut Up and Listen!

[blogging is like exercising…stop long enough and it becomes easier not to]

So the other day I was leaving work and three feet from our main admin door was a young man sitting on our sidewalk, cross-legged with his head down. I stepped outside and bent down beside him and asked if everything was okay. He turned his head slightly and with a bit of a slurring mumble told me to “shut up”. He rocked and said something to the affect of needing drugs. His face looked like it had been roughed up and he clearly needed some help that I wasn’t going to be capable of offering. At that point he rolled onto his side and curled up into the fetal position. I went inside and called the emergency services.

The fire department were the first on scene. After a few questions, the young man stood to his feet – clearly not liking the looks of any authority figures. One of the fire fighters asked him, “Why did you come here?” He looked at him with glazed eyes and said, “Isn’t this a soup kitchen? Can’t I come here if I need help?”

The fire fighter looked at me, and I haltingly said it was. But inside my mind I could hear this very LOUD voice saying, “Did you hear him? Do ya get it? Out of all the places or people he could have thought of, he thought of YOU!”

Not wanting anything to do with anyone even slightly resembling authority, the young man took off with the fire fighters hard on his heels. In the midst of the f-bombs and screaming coming from him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that God had me by the scruff of the neck and was trying desperately to drive his point home – “THIS IS WHY YOU’RE HERE!”

Ya see…our awesome faith community, Cambridge Vineyard, is going through what many churches are facing – expenses exceeding our income. We have some options available to us, including severing some of our property, or relocating altogether.

In the past couple of weeks I have asked God to help me make sense of all this.

When all is said and done, I think it was Jesus sitting outside of our office doors, cross-legged, beat up and broken with only two words for me… “Shut up”. He wasn’t being rude…he just needed me to listen.

Cambridge Vineyard are his Matthew kids…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

I get it! I know where we belong. Please pray that I’ll continue to shut up and listen.

Resolutions?? Fuhgeddaboutit!

Happy New Year! Yes, 2012 has arrived, and as I read the news, 2011 has not been all that bad for us, especially here in Canada. According to MacLeans magazine Canadians feel like they live in the best country and are just downright the envy of the world! Now I am not completely gullible either. I realize that for some, 2011 has been a tough year – one wrought with continue struggles and chronic challenges. It’s all a matter of perspective.

For myself, 2011 has had more than it’s fair share of challenges and tough circumstances (many of them related to church life). In some ways, 2011 could be compared (at least emotionally) to riding the Behemoth roller coaster. Extreme highs immediately followed by death-defying lows. Ask those who have to work with me or live with me and you will soon discover that I’m not the easiest guy to be around…at times.

God has been leaning hard into me over the past…oh, two weeks or so. Not hard in a bad way, but just that he won’t leave this alone: “How about changing your approach in 2012?” I know what he’s talking about. It’s how I approach my situations and circumstances that I find myself in.

He’s adamant that I cannot change people or circumstances – they are not going to change just because I want or need them to change. I need to fuhgeddaboutit! God is asking me to stop praying or asking him to change my circumstances, and instead to ask him to change me.

When you think of Jesus’ teachings, it makes sense. Jesus never promised that he was the ‘saviour’ of our circumstances, but of people. He’s the Saviour of my heart – I should pray for my heart. That’s probably what it means to pray according to his will.

Right now I am seeing the faces of the people that intersect my life on a daily basis – those that are closest to me. As I think about them in the light of asking God to change me, it’s wild how I think of them almost instantly changes! (Try it)

I’m not one to make resolutions at the beginning of a new year – mostly because I end up not following through. However, if there is one resolution that I can make, it’s to pray for God to change me and not my situations.

This past Sunday I led those who had gathered for worship through the prayer of St. Francis. I had read this many times before, but this Sunday for the first time I meant it.

I dare you to take the challenge!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.