Trust in the Lord always...

The old spiritual master, Fr. Ed Hays, once wrote a fine little book called, Pray All Ways.  It is not only a sweet play on the words of St. Paul in I Thessalonians 5: 17 - pray without ceasing (or pray always) - but also a guide to shaping your life as a prayer.  As he notes in the introduction, "the spiritual challenge of the twenty-first century is an exodus out of the God-dwelling space of churches to experience God inhabiting all spaces... We are called not simply to engage in formal times of prayer... but to live in communion with Jesus through the different activities of daily life (that) are not distractions, but rich soil for prayer." 

The Table of Contents is illustrative:  it includes the prayer of napping, the prayer of our tears, praying with our ears, nose, eyes and feet as well as the prayer of our suffering, the prayer of the feast and the way hurrying is a hindrance to nourishing a sacred rhythm. Since first reading it in 1981, it has helped shape my experience of life as a prayer.  In Peterson's reworking of Romans 12: 1-2 he speaks of prayer like this:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

At midday Eucharist we spoke of Paul's encouraging words as one of the ways to enter into the peace Jesus promised when he said:  Come unto me all ye who are tired and heavy ladened and I will give ye rest. This rest is always available - and available in all ways - if we are open to letting God be God.  Three times today I was awakened to this blessing.

+ First, I had wanted to wrap up ALL my staffing concerns before heading out on vacation. And as of last Friday, it looked like that was going to be true - only to get an email (an EMAIL!!!) informing me that the person who had accepted a position in one of our ministries had decided it wasn't going to work out.  No clarity - no PHONE call - and no resolution to my challenge.  Like some of my church leaders said, "Oh shit!"  (And that is a completely accurate theological expression in this context.)

And as I sat with this "problem" over the weekend - and through the hurricane - I kept hearing Fr. Hays say:  "Let it go, man. I have come to give you rest - nor worry and anxiety - so let me take care of it.  You do YOUR part and let me do the rest." And as I was cleaning out some of the stacks of paper that accumulate by my desk, I came across this old affirmation that had somehow been lost.  It reads:

Dear James:  This is God. Today I will be handling ALL of your problems. I do NOT need your help. So, have a wonderful day.  I love you.

PS - Remember... if life happens to deliver you a situation that you cannot handle, do NOT attempt to resolve it yourself! Kindly put it in the SFGTD (something for God to do) box.  I will get to it in my time.  All situations will be resolved, but in my time, not yours. Once the matter is put into the box, do NOT hold onto it by worrying. Instead, focus on all the blessings that are present in your life right now.

If you find yourself stuck in traffic, don't despair: there are people in this world for whom driving is an unheard of privilege. Should you have a bad day at work, think of the man who has been out of work for years. Should you despair over a relationship gone bad, think of the person who has never known what it is like to love and be loved in return. Should you grieve the passing of another weekend, think of the woman in dire straights - working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week - just to feed her children. Should your car break down, leaving you miles away from assistance, think of the paraplegic who would love the opportunity to take that walk. Should you notice a new gray hair in the mirror, think of the cancer patient in chemo who wishes she had hair to examine. Should you find yourself at a loss and pondering what life is all about, asking what is my purpose: be thankful - there are those who didn't live long enough to get this opportunity.

And should you find yourself the victim of other people's bitterness, ignorance, smallness or insecurities, remember:  things could be words - YOU could be one of THEM! 

And as today unfolded, two other people contacted me who are interested in filling our ministry position:  it isn't resolved, but it is working out.

+ Second, as I was talking on the phone after a pastoral visit, a person said, "I have just learned this in my life but... unless I surrender things to God's will I am a mess."  NO fooling - she said that to me - and then went on to tell me that for most of her life she thought she was intended to FIX things.  Now, however, she realizes she is called to be present and share her gifts and leave the rest to the Lord.

+ And third, as I was starting to discern a theme for the day and maybe this phase of my life - I read these words from St. Frederick Buechner of Vermont.  "Have no anxiety about anything," Paul writes to the Philippians..." Now notice, Buechner continues, that "he does not deny that the worst things will happen finally to all of us, as indeed he must have had a strong suspicion they were soon to happen to him."
He does not try to minimize them. He does not try to explain them away as God's will or God's judgment or God's method of testing our spiritual fiber. He simply tells the Philippians that in spite of them - even in the thick of them - they are to keep in constant touch with the One who unimaginably transcends the worst things as he also unimaginably transcends the best.  "In everything," Paul says, "they are to keep on praying." Come Hell or high water they are to keep on asking, keep on thanking, above all keep on making themselves known. And God does not promise them that as a result they will be delivered from the worst things any more than Jesus himself was delivered from them. What he promises them instead is that "the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

We start two weeks of wandering vacation tomorrow - a time of rest and reconnecting - that we have both been eager for all summer long.  And now it is here.  We will play a jazz gig and then head out for a little away time in Quebec.  Like the women in the Wailin' Jennys say: "Don't worry - worrying is like praying for things you DON'T want." Rather, rest and trust and be in prayer in all things.  Today I was blessed...


Black Pete said…
I like this a lot. It is literally true, and furthermore, against everything I've ever desired, having a neurological malfunction is a wonderful (and difficult) way to learn to let go and let God. I can verify the truth of Paul's and Fred's and Edward's statements empirically. Thanks for this.
RJ said…
Man that does my heart good, Peter. Thanks for your encouraging words. All my love and peace and rest for you and Joyce.

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