Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fried Egg Prayers

"Simple Prayer is necessary, even essential to the spiritual life.  The only way we move beyond 'self-centered prayer' (if indeed we ever do) is by going through it, not by making a detour around it.
                                                                 --Richard Foster's
                                        Prayer:  Finding the Heart's True Home
What does a peacock have to do with simple prayer?  Because I believe the essence of being human, is asking the question, "what am I worth? do I matter? am I worthy?"  Questions a peacock has definitively answered!  He just is, in all of his glory.  I believe in our effort to "pray right" we believe our focus can only be about God in prayer.  After all we continually hear, "it's all about Him!"  If I make prayer about me then somehow I'm taking away His glory (as if I could).  Foster says, "but the practical effect of all this  internal soul-searching (is) to completely paralyze my ability to pray." 
Like Foster, I become so worried about whether I'm good enough, my desires pure enough, my motives clean enough that I stop just outside the doorway of His holy temple.  I may glance pensively in His direction, but then I quickly look down at my tear-stained, smudged apron.  Recently I heard a pastor ask our congregation why they come to church -- "because you're lonely?  you're marriage is failing?  for your prodigal child?"  In my mind I answered all of them with a resounding "yes!"  Before I finished my thought, he replied, "no!  because then you're making worship about what you get out of it.  And it's not about your needs, it's about worshiping the Holy God!"  My jaw dropped.
Did Jesus not say, "come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden?"  Beth Moore profoundly asks this same question in a different way.  "In the dark of night, down deep in your soul, do you believe God is a giver or a taker?" (rough paraphrase from The Inheritance study).  Wow.  I have to admit I have believed He takes.  He takes credit, he takes my will, he takes control, and He takes glory.   He takes freedom, too much time, and my talents to use up.   I can't keep anything worth holding.  He takes what matters to me.  We move again and again, best friends are killed, husbands go to war.
 Funny my mind goes to this goofy picture I made at three years old.  It's a scribbled face with what I call "fried egg eyes."  I offerred up this icon of myself to the only thing I knew that resembled God--Santa Claus.   My mom I guess had had enough of the security blanket I toted around.  Probably looked like my daughter's tattered afghan we affectionately called, "the Shred."  I still have the note I dictated to Santa; my first letter to him-- "Dear Santa, I don't have my blanket anymore and throw it out.  I will go to sleep and close my eyes.  Please bring me Tippee Tumbles and Baby First Step for Christmas.  I am a very good girl especially since I threw away my blanket.  It's fun to be a big girl and not a baby."  And with that blanket went my security and all I knew to be safe.  I guess He needed it more than I did.  
Foster concludes, "we will never have pure enough motives . . . to pray rightly.  We simply must set all these things aside and begin praying.  In fact, it is in the very act of prayer itself--the intimate, on-going interaction with God--that these matters are cared for in due time. . . What I'm trying to say is that God receives us just as we are and accepts our prayers just as they are.  in the same way that a small child cannot draw a bad picture so a child of God cannot offer a bad prayer.  But when we pray, genuinely pray, the real condition of our heart is revealed.  This is as it should be.  This is when God truly begins to work with us.  The adventure is just beginning." (Prayer, pgs. 10-11)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Seeing the God whose Face perceives us

                                         "The Sound of Silence"--Martha Kilpatrick

Mary lived in profound silence.
In all three episodes she is quiet.
            Only one small quote is recorded.
            And it was a plea directed to Jesus, not for the ears of people.

The message of her life:  not a legacy of words
                  rather the stark absence of talk,    a silence . . . rare and mystifying.

The only voice in her life was Jesus'.  He spoke for her, about her . . . in defense of her.
Mary had no drive to explain, no compulsion to be heard.
                 no obsession to be understood.

Lust for audiences had been abandoned.  All such had died in her.
        She had found her soul's understanding in Him.
        She had been still enough to know she was heard
                                                 and now --in quiet --
                                                 she could listen.

Our idea of prayer is to hurl words at God.
        Mary knew prayer as silence in His presence,
                       to listen . . . without the audacity to speak . . .

"The Lord is in His Holy Temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him."  Habakkuk 2:20

The world is a swirl of noise, a loud competition of voices, in piles of useless words.
                                             Mary neither entered it nor heard it.
The only words she strained to hear were the captivating Words of God in Christ,
                                                                         full of Living Eternity.
And they were --for her -- priceless,
                          the only Words worth hearing.

Silence is one thing - amazing in itself -
             but stillness is a rare internal quiet
                             a peace of mind
                             a rest of the heart,
             by having found one's long lost home . . .
                             in the Soft Presence of God.

Mary found serenity before she entered stillness.  True quiet issues from inviting God
      into the long-sealed chanbers of the soul and letting His invasion calm our native hysteria.

Self-centered talk is the expression of pride, of not having seen the
                             God whose Face perceives us.
Meekness is not natural to a humanity that thinks it is superior to its own Creator.
Humility is the quality of having had vain illusions cremated by the Burning Love of Christ.

Silence is born of humility, the awareness that you have
               out of your self-taught ideas
               nothing to speak worth hearing.
It is having encountered God by His True Size
                breathtaking and magnificent
                and seeing the contrast between you and Him.

It is the exact measure of your consciousness of God and the proof of your confidence in Him . . .
              that He really IS . . .
                              the God you want Him to be,
                              nothing less and so much more.

We do not grasp the Holy Gentleness of God.
If we insist on
           the babble of our crude humanity, charmed by the sound of our own noise, then
this God of Kindness will stand back,
           robed in His Tranquil Dignity
           and let us have the vain spotlight
                       of endless talk.
 His voice is not in storm or wind, not in earthquake nor fire.
We could not bear that voice in
                       the Fullness of such Measureless Energy.
As Elijah learned, His voice was still and small, "delicate and whispering."

Jesus said to his disciples, "What you hear whispered in your ear  . . ."

If humanness will merely be still,
      The entire Trinity will come forth
                        and speak
       by a whisper in the silence . . .
       heard by no one else.