First: Do What You Know, Even If You Don’t Believe in Angels

If someone were to ask you, “Quick! Recite something from a Psalm,” you’d likely go to “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23)
Or if they asked you to (quick as you can!) recite a prayer that’s not a table grace, you might start off, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallow/ed be thy name…” (Mtt. 6:9-13)
This week was another one of those “Quick!!…DO something!” kind of weeks, and I’m sure you’ve already had your fill of what happened and why, election this-and-that. I choose not to write about that part, but rather… the fear, the mourning, the healing we pray for.  It is the time to be galvanized, connected, and ready to continue creating the change we need in the world.
I do not agree with the prognosticators saying, “Don’t curl up in a ball.” “Don’t run away.” If you need to do that for however long it takes, go ahead! I certainly did, and I loathed the idea that someone should tell me to “just cheer up” when my body and my spirit wasn’t ready to do that.
Take as long as you need.
Your friends, your supporters, your caregivers, your prayer chain and assembled group of “we are thinking of you and remembering your grief,” we are here, and we are ready to proceed when you are. What’s the rush in getting it all back in order?
I’ll get more into shock reactions and the darkness I felt later on, as the memory of all that becomes less raw. I will keep politics out of the mix, and I will not preach any particular sort of salvation.
Ours is – after all – just a pause.
My first go to, when I was able to have prayerful thoughts again, was to turn to the Order of Compline in the Episcopal prayer book. It’s my favorite of all the services in the book. Not because it’s so short (you can get through it reading aloud in under 20 minutes) but because it is concise with extremely lyrical prayers about how we ask for God’s protection during the over-night, until the next day arrives.
One of the prayers speaks of angels, and that one sounds out to me today, because my first prayer I could say out loud was
“Protect me.”
I didn’t feel my safety was at risk even though I fear that for others around me. I prayed that because of what another Compline prayer describes as the changes and chances of this life. That is kind-of what’s going on right now. The prayer goes on to remind us of the eternal changelessness of God. Whatever awful, stupid crap happens around us, this one part of our experience with the universe never changes.
The prayer that popped to my Quick! reaction is this one:
Visit this place, O LORD, and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessings be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 – Amen
Protect me. Protect us all. Guide us away from wrong choices if that’s possible and if not, help us to learn quickly from our missteps.  If angels aren’t your thing nor this whole Christian gig, think of that phrase as: show us all our better angels. Show us that there is life beyond today, and that it is our vocation to live it.
If I can go to sleep and rest in that great changelessness (faith), then tomorrow, just maybe, the day will be a tiny bit brighter than today (hope.) 
Be good to each other and be there for each other. Give folks time to step into sunlight at their own pace. What’s the hurry? Healing comes as it comes and will not be rushed.
Keep the faith!
 – Amen
A little song from my Sunday School days that I didn’t even realize had verses. I have certainly sang the refrain all my life.

Angels Watching Over Me.

All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching Over Me (My Lord)
All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching, Over Me
You Can Accuse Me,
You Can Even Abuse Me,
You Can Drive Me From The Cold
(The Angels, Keep Watching, Over Me)
You, You Can Crucify This Old Body,
Oh, But You Can Not, You Can’t Touch
My Soul…
(Yes, The Angels Keep Watching… Over Me.)
I Haven’t … Been To Heaven
But… I’m Surely, I’m Surely
On My Way… Oh, (Background)
I Am Walking… With My Jesus
Every Night… And Every Day..
(Yes, The Angels, Keep Watching… Over Me.)
In The Midnight, When I Get In Trouble
When I Lay, Me Down To Sleep, Oh….
(The Angels, Keep Watching,… Over Me)
I Don’t Wonder, And I Don’t Have To Worry, For I Know The Lord, My Soul He’ll Keep.
(The Angels, Keep Watching… Over Me)

Saints and Sinners

The Christian Catechism basics are pretty much the same across any religion that uses them for confirmation (the rite of passage into the active life of the Church.) There’s a few bits and baubs that get changed, mostly due to politics in the church that have nothing to do with the communion of The Church.

Benedict VI added in a bit that homosexuality is “objectively disordered” and called a meeting of scientists at the Vatican to prove his point.

That Pope likely had the same math professor I had, who taught a university course in “how to lie with statistics.” We shall see how this changes under the Francis papacy, since he seems – at least semantically – to disagree.

It’s Church Politics, not The Church.
There’s some cool stuff about a church’s rubrics (the fine points of how to move and act during a service in order to bring one closer to God) that you don’t see as much in a text book as you do by being on the ground, seeing it for yourself. Bowing, genuflecting, and making the sign of the cross are the most visible examples.

In the Roman Catholic church, a new confirmand must take on the name of a Saint at the time they are being entered into the church by the confirming priest.  Episcopalians don’t do this, so it was an insight to watch. The back of my brain was wondering while this was going on in the service: how would a 12 year-old (more-or-less) decide which Saint was theirs? Would there be later-in-life irony or despair, or great elation on that name choice.

This isn’t like a monastery or convent where the person gives up their earthly name to take on the acquired name, but it’s the name you sort-of pick to go with you through life.

Of course at 12 years old I was a Southern Baptist, there was no such thing as Confirmation into the church, and Baptists don’t believe in (venerated) saints.

I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church “late in life” as a Sophomore in college after quite a bit of spiritual upheaval (we nicely call that discernment.) In our case, there’s the laying-on of hands (we use a Bishop for this rite) and pretty much, you’re in the club. I won’t go into the ecumenical meaning behind the confirmation here (that’s a whole other essay that’s more of theology geek than it is a spiritual resting spot.)
Sitting in the Catholic confirmation service I wondered what would it be like to take on the name of St. Lawrence (he was martyred by being roasted alive on a grid iron, and legend has it he kept asking his tormentors to turn up the heat because the room was too cold.) That could be taking on a little more of a karma load than your average tween should have to deal with.
I gave the saints thing some thought today in the car: which one would I have picked? Why them?  Driving around town is a good meditative practice for me because it’s one of the few times in my day when my mind is totally engaged and focused.
I came to like the idea of St. John of the Cross. 
Juan de la Cruz was a 16th Century Spanish mystic, poet, and theologian, and his work The Dark Night of the Soul (La noche oscura del alma) is considered to be one of the great masterpieces of Spanish poetry. His theological work mostly involved lengthy interpretations of his poetry, and The Dark Night of the Soul became a spiritual term describing our journey from “earthly matters” (as the 19th Century preachers called it) to our personal place with God.

As you can imagine that particular pathway can be a little crooked, mostly uphill, and lots of sharp rocks on the path that you stub your toe on and bruise your heel.

Generally it’s not a happy place to be.
I will be the first to admit that Christian life – like all of life – is not easy, and it’s not fair. And, like all of our life, we get out of it what we put into it. St. John of the Cross was the one who told us that the whole Christian process can be very difficult, and very depressing at times. The strong ones stick with it, the weak and lazy fall away. Religion and spirituality is not given to us, we must take what we need, pass that along, and leave the rest for the next person. If you have the means and the opportunity, read his poetry in the original Spanish. Spiritual counsel is semi-hidden in there, among some of the most beautiful Spanish lyrics you will ever read.
This is the guy who I thought I’d pick as my Saint name, if this was something I’d had to do at confirmation.
Driving in the car today, this whole thing came to mind with an old-ish (a couple of years old) song that came up on the play list in the car. The more I listened, the more I thought, “yeah!” Me and San Juan de la Cruz have got it going on!
This is a break-up song about two people who have to agree to break up, not be near each other any more, and the singer is pretty jaded on the idea (“the great lie”) of love. I looked at the official music video for this, and the song is set during a Civil War battle which I suppose makes sense in the context of the lyrics. The battle scene was too distracting so I looked for a version that spoke to the mood of the song, and focused tight on the writer’s concept of “some nights I don’t know what I stand for.”
Plus, if you get angry, need to go outside and stamp your feet hard on the ground, jump up and down and wag your fist in the air, this is the song you want to play! It’s not a gentle ride. No Moon River here.
This is what all the religion stuff is all about: if you can go 24/7/365 and never have any sort of doubt at all about the how’s and why’s of all this religion speak, maybe you’re walking in the shallows of the river and you need to wade out farther and take a deeper swim.
I think about these questions of “what do I stand for?” and I have no permanent answers. Religion in general and Christianity in particular is a constant quest. Most of the answers and truths that I found yesterday might be proved wrong (to my spiritual being) tomorrow.

This is the point in our lives – in our journeys – at which we both evolve and come closer to our concept of God. We must ask these simple questions occasionally, as times change, to make sure we are on track:

  • What do I believe?
  • Why do I believe it?
  • What am I going to do with it?

Keep the faith, and keep that questioning mind open!

 – Amen






The Tenderness and Love of God – a call to prayer

Two joining images from Psalm 130

Sometimes when entering into our moments of reflection (aka our Prayer Closet,) we catch ourselves approaching prayers when it seems as if “all hope is gone” as they say in the movies.

Looking at the words from Psalm 130, the writer begins the poem in this very depth of  depth:

1  Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; *
    Lord, hear my voice.  *
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy. *

By the end of this short song, the writer rests in the peace of patience, mercy and love, repeating the sentiment with saying:

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope. *
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning, *
    more than watchmen wait for the morning. *

The Bible teaches in many places that the followers should wait with such patience (and determination) on this forgiveness and salvation. Especially salvation from the hands of one’s enemies. And reading these teachings carefully, the Bible also teaches by word and example that this waiting for salvation cannot happen in a vacuum of inactivity.

While we cannot debase ourselves by stooping to the whispers and dirty tricks and back stabbing of our enemies that the psalmist wrote of, the followers of this ancient faith should act by said faith, to ensure the preservation of the Kingdom of God, and to present that same love and kindness, even to those who would mean us harm.

Nobody said this religion stuff was easy.
Enlightening – yes.
Easy (especially with a short temper like mine,) not so much.

Keep the faith, and watch, eagerly for the morning.

A call to prayer

I hope in the LORD
with all my heart.
I am eager for God’s coming.


With the LORD,
there is tenderness and love.
God’s compassion overflows.