On Suffering and Memories

A good friend of mine’s husband has been battling cancer for a while now. They are the kind of family that everyone loves, totally committed to God and such people of faith. During this journey they have seen amazing miracles when the doctors said such and such would happen and it didn’t and great seasons when it looked like all was well, then one day it wasn’t. Today is looks to be that he may be entering into his last days. Personally I cannot imagine what is going on in the heart and mind of my friend or her children, to be where you have to say goodbye to one of the closest person in your life… words fail me.

The other day, the children and I were reading our daily Good Dirt devotional, it was in Mark 14 when Jesus and his disciples were in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed in full faith, “Father all things are possible for you, remove this cup from me.” And it stuck me, Jesus in all of his humanity and all of his godhood, he desired to be removed from suffering. He prayed this prayer over and over again that night and although this may not be a huge revelation for most, to me it was a comfort. Jesus was prefect and yet in his perfection he still longed to be free from suffering and pain. I long for the same, I long that my friends would be freed from suffering and pain and from the pain that separation brings. Yet, sin is in our world and with that pain, suffering and death come to.

So everyday since, as I daily pray for my friends, I look for ways to celebrate each day with my children. For life is short and we truly never know how many more days we have together. My daughter is currently obsessed with the story “Curious George goes camping” desiring it to be read daily and asking regularly when we get to go camping. For many days I said “maybe someday” thinking of when we could be in a place where poisons snakes and malaria carrying mosquitoes do not lurk in the night. But after this I thought we better make it today. So we put up a tent in the bedroom and pulled all the cushions off the couch, we roasted marshmallows over the stove using forks and stayed up late watching a movie. We took a night off and made some memories.

In that same day of devotions, we were asked, “What is something you pray for?” Well I pray for a long life so that my children will have a lifetime of memories with me to help them endure the separation that death brings, and I pray that the God of Peace would grant his peace upon my friend, her family and every other family like theirs who’s family members life was not long enough and they endure the pain of separation too soon. I pray that every day, we would remember that each day is about making memories and not about routines or schedules, about relationships and life with God above all else. Those are just some of the things I pray for.

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“Still Good” Saturday: A Conversation with God-Children and Prayer

This blog in it’s original form was posted at http://www.Renovare.org

I’m not sure who learned the most. Really I’m sure, but let me have my dignity for just a moment.

It was the first day of deer hunting season so I knew the church would be nearly vacant. I was right.  As I was gathering my wits for the Preschool Sunday School class, Jeffery meandered in, head hung low, frown draped across his face.

I mustered up a jolly, “Hello.”

And Jeffery shot back, “Guess it’s just me and you.”

This room is familiar to him and so am I. I see him every week.

“Well Jeffery, should we start by talking with God?”

“No,” he said, “I don’t know how.”

“Talking to God is just like talking to me. You can do it anytime or anywhere…. Bla, bla, bla…”

Jeffery had long since tuned me out and began playing with the glue and the glitter. Frankly I had tuned me out. Talking about prayer is like talking about eating ice cream or riding a roller coaster, words pale in comparison to the real thing.

Finally, I quit talking and watched Jeffery. He had opened the Beginners Bible to the story of Noah. “Read this to me he said.”

So I did.

“Let’s make some art.” He said.

So we did.

We found every color of glitter and paint we could imagine. We made the most sparkly rainbow ever. The best detail was the angel beside the rainbow, a big beautiful brown angel with yellow wings and just behind the brown I could see kind eyes and a huge red smile.

I said, “Your angel, he’s smiling.”

“The angel is wearing God’s smile.” He said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“He told me.” Jeffery said while adding a last splash of gold glitter.

I suppressed the urge for one more teaching lecture how listening to God is prayer, and how art can also be prayer.

Instead I picked up the green glitter and prayed.

This weekend break out the art supplies with your littlest people, maybe read a Bible story, or how about Psalm 150… then pray. Don’t use words…

A Prayer: Be the Gardener of My Soul

My eldest daughter’s favorite prayer book is Richard Foster’s Prayers From the Heart.

We have been working the opening prayer into our days lately and thought you might find it helpful.

 

Be The Gardener of My Soul

Spirit of the Living God, be the Gardener of my

soul. For so long I have been waiting, silent and still–

experiencing a winter of the soul. But now, in the strong

name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:

Clear away the dead growth of the past,

Break up the hard clods of custom and routine,

Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge,

Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,

Cultivate and water and tend my heart,

Until new life buds and opens and flowers.

Amen.

 

Richard Foster, Prayers From the Heart. Harper One:New York 1994. 3.

The Opportunity of Night

Nights can be tough for children. The “If I should die before I wake,” sorts of prayers aren’t really helping things. Seriously.

Nights, specifically right before bed, open the space for deep conversations and rich solitude. As a parent I view 8:30 as the finish line to freedom and I fight the urge to rush our end of the day conversations and prayers. Gone are the days when they can’t read the prayers and therefore don’t know I skipped the middle.

Now they read and lead the prayers, good stuff for sure, but it takes longer.

For Lent, I’m practicing slow bedtime. Long conversations and lingering prayers. I’m convinced (or I wouldn’t be doing it) that this time prepares the space for solitude which is quiet, alone, private time with God.

Here’s the Evening Prayer we’re using this season.

Child-Like Friendship with God: Evening Prayer

Together in BOLD and Italicized

May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord; the maker of heaven and earth.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

Luke 18:16-17

But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’

A time of silence to review the day. (This is where you might ask your “Weed” questions from Good Dirt.)

Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up.

My eyes are not raised too high for thee.

I do not think on things to great or marvelous

Or matters too difficult for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul

Like a weaned child with its mother is my soul within me.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord make me dwell in safety.

The Lord’s Prayer

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Lord, you now have set us free to go in peace as you have promised; for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: a Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever more shall be. Amen.

 

*Pieced together from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours and Shane Clairborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s Common Prayer

Prayer, Fasting, and Giving with Children

We are not suggesting you fast from your children or give them away. (Tempting though it may be on some days.) Instead here are a few suggestions, a few practices to engage with children during Lent. A few suggestions from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide on celebrating Lent, at home, family style.

The Big Three: Prayer, Fasting, Giving

Prayer begins in the heart.

  • Family Altar or Prayer Corner: Cover a small table with a purple cloth,. Arrange on it a cross, or a family Bible, maybe a small shallow box with sand in it, where children can draw their prayers to God, maybe a family prayer journal.  Choose a Christ candle to place in the center. (Battery powered candles are wonderful for the not yet fire worthy.) Invite children to light the Christ candle in the morning or evening, or when you are reading the Bible as a reminder that Jesus is the Light of the World. This is the light of Advent that continued through Christmastide and Epiphany–and still shines on in Lent. Invite family members to visit the Altar at least once a day during Lent.
  • Prayer Box: Take a 3×5 index card box and write prayers from the Bible, or from saints, or beautiful pieces of poetry on the card and place them in the box. Read one each evening before bed, or at the dinner table. Try prayers from This is What I Pray Today by Phyllis Tickle or Prayers for Each and Every Day by Sophie Piper.

Fasting begins in our bodies.

  • Fasting from Meat:Traditionally many folks fast meat on Fridays and they will also choose some other vice to give up for 40 days. If this works for you and your people, go for it.
  • Fasting from Superfluous Foods: Others I know have fasted eating out for 40 days, still others have fasted sugar, or chocolate, soda.
  • Fasting from Technology: For children giving up nutritional food is not an option, but giving up TV, or video games, or texting is certainly a good choice.

Fasting is not popular in our culture. To deny myself something I want will sound strange to others, but it is imminently important that we and our children learn to tell our bodies, “No.” Letting our bodies and our desires run our lives will destroy us. Fasting is directly related to prayer. We will need strength beyond ourselves to die to our wills. The will is loud, and irritating; only the peace of God can quiet it.

Fasting is directly related to prayer. In fasting we teach our wills to ignore our mere desires and focus on our true needs. But the will is loud, and irritating, and is the habit of responding to the body’s wants. We need strength beyond our own to die to our desires and retrain our wills. Only the peace of God can quiet  the will long enough for it to learn.

Giving begins with others.

Giving begins right where we are. We look to our families and see where we take instead of give. We make the effort to overcome our natural pet peeves. We do something nice for someone who irritates us.

  • Giving Money: We choose to eat simple meals, or to fast junk food, and send the extra grocery money to someone else. There are many great organizations that truly give life to others.
  • Giving Time: We fast our favorite TV show and instead pack the family up and visit the local nursing home.
  • Giving Attention: We give up always having to talk about ourselves and give the gift of listening.

 Let us know how it goes.