Inappropriate Prayers – Losing elections mixed with sacred words

The older I get, the less I like elections. They get longer every time. They get nastier. They do more to split up friends and families than any other scourge that I know. And this one was different: it was worse.

I caught myself being the victim.

It’s not easy for me to look back and say “this is how it was last time,” because memories over time will cloud and skip the forgettable details, and then fill in with the details we wish had been, until it all seems real. So I can’t look back and try to “remember” how much less anguished this was the last time. I can’t remember the truth.

This time, the morning after election results, I checked into social media and found that some of my oldest friends were very angry, though I’m not completely sure what they were angry at.  And in that moment of rage, words boiled forth that may have been campaign rhetoric and stump speeches the day before, now, post-election, were personal insults that seemed directed at me. They sounded directed at our people.

In that mosh pit of raw feelings I remember in particular a few people who prefaced their comments with “God help us…” or “God have mercy on us…” in both cases, for what the country – or the state – had just done. My brain reads that very emotional, hyper-dramatic statement as meaning, “it just doesn’t get any worse than this, and now only God can see us clear.”

This line became particularly annoying in a statement ca. 2003 when Robert Duncan (then Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh) asked for this same divine intervention as he thought we were “a broken people” because of the Episcopal Church’s decision to ordain a gay bishop. I was outraged by this solemn, doom-filled line delivered like a hanging judge in a Saturday afternoon black and white B-western movie.

“You will hang by the neck until you are dead, and may God Almighty have mercy on your soul.”

Is this what was going on? Had some of my friends turned into hanging judges over night while I slept? Was an election result so damaging to the country and its people that only God can save us now?

The answer is – of course – yes. (Keep reading.)

First, in times of great trial when all we want to do is throw our hands up and walk away and cry, the only way to get the blame out of our system is to throw it at God. “There is nothing more that I can do in this situation, so if God can’t get us out of this, I guess we’re hosed.” By venting frustration in terms of “God have mercy on us all,” you have over-stated the obvious because if one has this spiritual belief, then God always has mercy on us, always forgives us, always lets us get our crying fit out of us, and helps us to move forward.

Second, to pull away from the super-dramatized feelings of a situation, seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God is part of the daily motion of prayer and contemplation, whether we are aware of it or not.

Before communion (Eucharist) Christians ask for mercy and forgiveness as well as spiritual peace. This is one of the strongest moments of the approach in prayer to God before partaking in communion:

Oh, Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
Oh, Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
Oh, Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.

At this moment even as the words we say or sing are “us,” more importantly, that means “me.” Before I can step forth to participate in this rite (to “commune” with God), I must find within myself grace and forgiveness. And just as important, I must forgive those around me, and seek to put forth that Christian peace into the world. Before we can so commune with God and then be sent out into the world to do “the works that he has prepared for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10), before we can rise from our prayers, we seek the mercy and forgiveness of a merciful and ever-forgiving Ywwh.

The answer to the question about “is this thing so bad that only God can save us” is Yes, because in every step and every breath, it is such that we exist because of this mercy (this love) of God. This is something that we can rejoice and be glad in when we realize that the use in this particular instance is more venting bad feelings at God than it is about getting love, finding peace, and going out to do our work.

The question I have for these “God have mercy on us” folks – once cooler heads prevail – is: Yes! Amen! God will have mercy on us as has been in the case in every second of the past and as will continue for every moment into the future. Now: given that knowledge, since you have that “salvation” (mercy, love, etc.) with you…

what do you do next?

Keep the faith!

 – Amen

Agnus Dei

First, you die – a prayer for families coming out

In the fourth season of Queer as Folk, as the audience comes to the end of our acquaintance with Uncle Vic, the Hiv-Poz former chef and patriarch of the Novatny family, someone asks his sister Debbie what it’s like to find out that your brother is HIV Positive, and that has now turned to aids.

After a moment’s pause she says “First… you die.

 

And then from there, the resurrection story comes into our lives from the realization that we can either sit there in that lonely pit where it’s dark and cold and the walls are steep and slick, or we can rise up, move on to our next day and our next, and so on, to live the lives that all the Uncle Vics in our lives would expect us to have.

I’ve heard some few parents tell me the same
response: What did you do when you first found out your kid was gay?

First, you die.

 

It’s as if what has just been told to me – most often from a place of sharing and trust – I have allowed to become my problem… my shortcoming. No child of mine is as bad as this badness (sic) that they have just told me, and so now I take the blame, the bad feeling, all the fault, and I sit here in my dark room with it, and oh! aren’t I a stronger person for suffering mightily on behalf of my child?

And then you wake up the next day.

 

Skies didn’t fall. Planets did not careen out of their orbits. Statues to that parent’s martyrdom did not spring up on the front lawn overnight. The badness, the crushing defeat, the loss – yes that is all still there. As is the daylight of that second day. We wake up, we look down and there scattered all around on the rug are pieces of a now-broken life (our own) that seemed so perfect – so untouched – just one day before. What happened in that day? And what to do now with that jigsaw puzzle of spilled pieces all around?

Consider reading the chapter 1 Corinthians 13 , it’s very short, only 13 of the most quoted and re-written verses in the Christian canon. The author (attributed to Paul) describes all that which love is. (In this case, agape, or charitable, Christian love.) Love, that active word that we don’t want to consider today because our life, broken and hurt, shattered in pieces on the floor by this bit of news from that one we… oh, wait a minute … from the one we love. The very last thing all that darkness calls from you is an active, pull yourself up by your bootstraps word like love.

 

Love never fails.

That’s not an original thought, or pie in the sky, that’s the first verse of the chapter. As strong an acclamation as you need to get you through this day, next week, a year from now. However long it’s going to take you to come to your senses and see how busted apart your life really is not.

 

Love is Eternal.

Regardless of that over worked movie scene in which the shell-shocked child is told of the parents’ upcoming divorce by saying “mom and dad just don’t love each other any more,” real, honest love is going to last beyond getting mad, coming out, denting the car, even that divorce split. Maybe mom and dad will love each other more by being apart than when they were together. And maybe – by being invited in as a part of this gay child/friend/spouse’s life – your love will also grow.

Evidence here is another super-quote from the Bible, John 3:16 described as “the gospel in one sentence:”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

They won’t perish: they won’t be removed forever from the one who loves them more than all others. No matter what awful things the world does, no matter how bratty we are, always demanding and never thanking…. always breaking stuff … God. So. Loved.

 

Are you the one who loves your child above all others? Everlasting, honest-to-God love?

Not everyone will have positive, wonderful or even funny coming out stories to tell. Some will break families, some will end relationships. And some will break old relationships into many jagged pieces that will then re-join more strong than before. Some will move along better because that child has spoken honestly of something that everyone already knew, and by speaking, they welcome us to know them – and love them – even more.

 

Families must grow to be strong.

That child – that beloved – has invited you to share something in their lives that is very close to their hearts, something very wonderful. Chances are they are scared- to-shaking that by telling you this good news, afraid you will react by rejecting their lives. Those scared ones fear that you will not love them any more.

God. So. Loved.

 

“At first,” Debbie said, “you die.” But you cannot stay there. Tomorrow will come whether or not you want it, and many days after. On that next day, when you are sitting in that dark, tall well with the slick sides, remember three simple words: God. So. Loved.  Decide then if you should do the same.

  • Love suffers long and it is kind.
  • Love does not envy and is not puffed up with false decoration
  • Love doesn’t behave unseemly or think evil thoughts
  • Love never fails, and endures all things

 

If you are that person who hears this news and your reaction is happiness, then God bless you, you got it right on the first try!

 

If you are that person who hears it and is afraid, just keep listening, keep asking all the questions you can bear to hear, understand the facts and not your inner fears, beginning with the fact that you have a happy person in front of you, asking you to join them in their happiness!

If you are that person feeling shattered and broken and ill-used, afraid, embarrassed, then everybody back to their own corners, reconnoiter and try again, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. This is a family and not a sparring match. It’s no time for emotional blackmail, and no time for threats that you will certainly regret later.

 

Speak your mind about how you feel and always remember as the words come out of your mouth to this person who just seconds before you loved so deeply: God. So. Loved. Remember God’s love (and yours!), and fight to the core of your soul to keep it.

 

 

And now abides faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.
(1Cor. 13:13)

 

A Prayer for Families Coming Out

 

(the final phrase, “and so continue…” may be omitted or revised as needed.)

Lord, creator, you made each and every one of us in your likeness, embracing us in our moments of weakness and cheering us in our moments of triumph. We  thank you for giving us families – both given by you and chosen by us – and we thank you for showing your diversity of the many shades of love, a great palette that shows your compassion for us. Be with us within our families as we face all challenges, both inside and outside, that together, putting aside our own  divisions, fears, and expectations, we may continue to grow in your never-ending love for us, and so continue the work of Jesus.
Amen

Keep the faith!

 

 

(for Ronnie B. You left us without giving us the time or the opportunity to love you even more. We miss you, bud, and guess what: we already knew. Rest easy.)

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.

(Alleluia)

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

(Alleluia)