Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 12/20

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Rise like the dawn, Lord,
and let your sun's rays
warm the frost off my heart

and heal the sadness of my soul...

Disperse the gloomy clouds 

of all my anxious fears
and chase from the corners of my heart
what keeps me from the joy you bring...

Draw me from my own darkness
into the light of your presence
and let me know the peace you offer,

the light in which I'm bathed...

In these dark December days
and in all the seasons of my soul,
raw near, dear Lord, warm and bright,
and be the light upon my path...

O come, O come, Emmanuel!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by Joan Baez on Grooveshark

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The tree's a little sketchy, but...

My family's first Christmas with my brother, John, who was only 10 days old that Christmas morn.  John was definitely the best present we all received that year!  My mother is holding him, my sister is on the left and my father is behind the camera.
when Christmas taps a sad place in my heart,
stir up the joys of Christmas past
and let me know again the peace those memories hold
til I rejoice, as I did years ago...

(An earlier reflection on the same theme)


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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 12/19

(Still shopping for Christmas?  Remembering gifts you've given and gifts you've received? Today's post (an annual one) is not so much a prayer as it is a "starter" for your own reflection and prayer.  It's the story of the best Christmas present I ever gave - and received...
The Best Christmas Present 
He used to stop by about once a month just to talk – and talk he did: with a keen and critical eye on things religious and political and an Irish-born sense of humor to match. Our conversations were equal parts spiritual direction and political debate, brotherly bantering and shared sadness over the many faces of injustice.

By nature he was, and by nurture he became even more, a self-sufficient man, one who ached to be loved. He especially longed to know that he was loved by God – with whom he had a life-long sparring match. Unfortunately, his early church experience had done little to convince him of God’s love and much to make him deeply doubt it.

Over a few years’ time he shared with me his personal oral history, recorded in my heart and memories if not on tape. Especially sharp with detail were stories of his youth, his love affair with horses and the adventures of making his way in and around the world.  I don’t know which I enjoyed more: his stories or the look in his eyes as he told them. His words told the tale while his eyes invited me into his soul which I found to be, always, a sacred place to visit.

On a late October morning, complaining about the commercialism of Christmas items for sale alongside bags of candy for Halloween, he segued to a remembrance of an early Christmas when his heart was set on only one gift: a copy of Boy’s Cinema Annual. He’d made sure his mother and father knew of his wish but come the morning of the 25th he found other gifts under the tree but not the one he so dearly wanted.  He was old enough to understand that even if Santa Claus hadn't known his wish, his parents did and they could easily have afforded the gift he'd asked for. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time a cherished hope had gone unfulfilled.

It’s much too painfully early in life that a child can learn to expect to be disappointed. Some of our earliest disappointments are the ones that shape our souls and how we see everything – even how we see God.  My friend’s story joined my own soul-shaping memories in the place where my heart’s hopes and hurts are collected and guarded. Perhaps you have such a place in your heart, too.

Later that day, it took me only a few hours online to locate (at a used-book shop in Australia) an issue of Boy’s Cinema Annual dated close to my friend’s youth. I ordered it and was pleased with the condition in which it arrived. I remember wrapping it in red tissue paper and attaching a store-bought bow to top it off.

He stopped by in early December and we talked for about an hour. When he was ready to take his leave I produced the gift from my desk drawer. He was embarrassed not to have a present for me and I assured him that the wit and wisdom he brought to each visit were more than generous gifts.  He opened the package and for several long minutes simply looked at the magazine until the tears from his eyes began to fall upon it. Then he looked up and, as had happened so many times before, his gaze invited me into his soul.  He asked me if I knew how much this meant to him. Through my tears I told him yes, I thought I did.

I believe a wounded corner of Michael’s soul was healed in opening that gift and I know a place in my own heart was healed in giving it. If only for a moment we both knew that love finds a home between our hopes and hurts - the very place where God aches to be with us and to heal us.

An old, used issue of Boy’s Cinema Annual was the best Christmas gift I ever gave someone. And you know, it was the best Christmas gift I ever received.


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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 12/18

Reflecting on revolution, theologian Rubem Alves provides a reflection on hope, especially apt for Advent.  Today's Pause for Prayer follows below.

What is hope?
It is the presentiment
that imagination is more real
and reality is less real
than it looks.

Hope is the hunch
that the overwhelming brutality of facts
that oppress and repress us
is not the last word.

It is the suspicion that reality is more complex
than the realists want us to believe -
that the frontiers of the possible
are not determined by the limits of the actual -
and in a miraculous and unexplained way,
life is opening up creative events
which will open the way
to freedom and resurrection.

But the two – suffering and hope –
must live from each other.
Suffering without hope
produces resentment and despair.
But, hope without suffering
creates illusions, naivete and drunkenness.

So let us plant dates -
even though we who plant them will never eat them.

We must live by the love of what we will never see.
That is the secret discipline.

It is the refusal to let our creative act
be dissolved by our need for immediate sense experience
and it is a struggled commitment
to the future of our grandchildren.

Such disciplined hope
is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints,
the courage to die for the future they envisage.
They make their own bodies
the seed of their highest hopes.
- Rubem Alves
Let's pause for prayer...

Lord, I am so easily weighed down
by my struggles, my burdens,
by the harsh reality of my daily life...

Sometimes, I think I'll lose hope
in you, in tomorrow, in myself
and I need you to help me see
that the peace I imagine,
the peace I pray for,
the peace you promise
is greater than any of my problems...

Help me trust that my future, Lord,
is not limited by my present trials,
that the troubles of the moment
will not have the last word,
that my burdens are prelude to joy...

Give me hope in my suffering
for that is the path of your love
and let my hope never forget
the suffering of which it was born...

Show me how the troubles of today
prepare me for the advent of your peace
and the gift of your grace...

Come, Emmanuel:
be with me and be my hope!



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O Little Town of... Where?

In Hebrew, the word Bethlehem means House of Bread, a beautiful name for the birthplace of the One who would become and offer himself to us as the Bread of Life.

And who's not looking forward to some panettone in the week ahead? 

O Little Town Of Bethlehem by Barbra Streisand on Grooveshark


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Happy Chanukah!

Our Jewish neighbors and friends are celebrating Chanukah which began last night and concludes on December 24.  Whether you celebrate Chanukah and light a menorah or not, I'm sure this beautiful reflection from my friend Alden Solovy will hold meaning for you...

Inside the Light

A rainbow shines
Inside the light.
If you could be the dew drop
You would always see it.

Stillness waits
Inside the light.
If you could be the sky
You would always feel it.

The sunrise dawns
Inside the light.
If you could be the horizon
You would always find it.

Freedom flows
Inside the light.
If you could be the wind
You would always ride it.

Beauty rises
Inside the light.
If you could be the sparrow
You would always reach it.

Mystery pulses
Inside the light.
If you could be the wonder
You would always know it.

Majesty reigns
Inside the light.
If you could be the wisdom
You would always hear it.

Faith rests
Inside the light.
If you could be the eagle
You would always hold it.

Your soul glows
Inside the light.
If you could be yourself
You would never leave it.

© 2012 Alden Solovy  

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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 12/17

Lord, you are asking a lot!

Not sure at this point if I can give the poor
something equal to what I'm giving others:
but I know I can give til it pinches some more;
til I feel a tighter squeeze on my wallet...

I know I have a lot 
and I have a lot to give
and I know I can give more than I already have...

And I don't really have to go out shopping.
There are so many ways to give to the poor
at church, at work, at school, on line...

8 more days...

Lord, help me get it this year:
help me understand
the reason for the season...



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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 12/16

This photo takes me to a place deep in my heart where some of my most cherished childhood memories are stored.  This was our family creche (we called it "the manger") which sat atop our television, on my mother's hope chest, in the den.  It was here that my parents first taught me the story of Jesus' birth.

And do you see on the left, in a grove of four pines, a small church?  An interior light gave a warm glow from within and a tiny bell with a clapper hung in the steeple.  On the right are four members of a children's choir, each a candle with a wick on top which we never lit: that little choir sang from year to year. Oh, how incredibly well I remember all these!

This photo holds the key to a store house of memories in my heart. Some Christmas memories bring us joy, others bring us tears; some we want to remember forever, some we might want to forget.  

Let's pray...

All it takes, Lord, is an old photo, 
an ornament on the tree,
or a special song or carol
to open in my heart the memories 
of Christmas long ago...

When memories make me sad, Lord, 
with loss, regret and hurt,
let your healing Christmas touch
mend and heal what's broken in my heart...

And when memories bring me joy
let me revel in and cherish 
what my heart has kept for times like these 
when I so long to touch once more
what's passed beyond my reach...

Let my joyful memories give me faith
to find within my heart 
those I wish were in my arms,
the ones I hold in love, in prayer
in memories of Christmas past...

As this season stirs and opens up
the treasures in my heart,
let me handle each one gently, Lord,
and with your gentle hand,
help me treasure all I find...


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A night prayer

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(You might pray this three or four times, slowly, 
   letting the words become your own...) 
Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still
in your presence, O God...

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done.
Let it be...

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world
and of our own lives
rest in you, O Lord...

The night is quiet, Lord.
Let the quiet of your peace enfold us,
all who are dear to us,
and all who have no peace...

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys, new possibilities...

In your name, O Lord, we pray...


(from A New Zealand Prayer Book)


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Monday Morning Offering for 12/15

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

Only 10 shopping days left ‘til your birthday, Lord…

Gotta start thinking about what to get 

"for God who has everything!"

What gift might I find
for the One who made everything!

So, what can I give you?
What could you possibly want from me?

Well, actually, I think I know what you want...

You want me to let go the things

I hang on to and cling to,
the things I grip so tightly,
the things that get in the way 

of our growing closer together,
you and me...

There's no way to wrap these things up fancy
with ribbons and bows,
but for your birthday I want to give
what I know you ask of me...

So, I offer you the ways I keep myself away

the ways I ignore you, your word
and your love... 

I offer you the times I downplay and deny
the gifts and talents you've given me...

I offer you my resistance to seeing what's good

in the person you made me to be:
help me believe you take delight in me, Lord,
that in your eyes I'm of value and of worth,

that I'm your beloved, that indeed,  
you love me as I am...

Lord, I offer you my envy
and the ways I focus on what others have,
forgetting all you've given, generously, to me:

keep me from jealous thoughts
and open my eyes to treasures that are mine,

at my fingertips and right in my lap...

I offer you my moody sulks
when I banish myself to some corner

and feel sorry for myself:
rescue me from such traps, Lord,
and draw me out of myself and into your arms

and into the lives of those around me...

And for your birthday, Lord, 

I offer you not just the things I need to let go
but also the things I need to discover and treasure...

I offer you my better instincts, Lord
my graced intuitions,
the ones I too easily dismiss
when I mistrust my own judgment:
give me courage to speak and act
on the truth I know within…

I offer you the best of who I am,
the person you created me to be,
the unique individual you knew and loved

before you knit me in my mother’s womb…

I offer you the unknown, untried, unused portions
of my heart, my soul, my mind, my imagination:
make of me the person you intended me to be, Lord,
and use my life to touch others
as others’ lives touch mine…

I offer you anything that tempts me to think
that I have nothing to offer
or that what I have to offer isn't good enough...

Let the light of your advent shine on me
and show me every gift you’ve given me, 

large and small and in between -
especially the gifts of your mercy and your love...

I offer you anything and everything
that keeps me from knowing
how much you love me, Lord,
and how precious I am in your eyes…

And, Lord – help me see in others
the goodness you find and see in them...

Accept my prayer this Advent Monday morning, Lord,
and all this day and through the week ahead...


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