Tag Archives: trust

Lent 2019 – Day 4 – Psalm 42: 1-7

As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
    so longs my soul for you, O God.

My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *
    when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my food day and night, *
    while all day long they say to me,
    Where now is your God?”

I pour out my soul when I think on these things; *
    how I went with the multitude and led them into the
                   house of God,

With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, *
    among those who keep holy-day.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
    and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God; *
    for I will yet give thanks to him,
    who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

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Surely it is God who saves me

Surely it is God who saves me;
trusting him, I shall not fear.
For the Lord defends and shields me
and his saving help is near.
So rejoice as you draw water
from salvation’s living spring;
in the day of your deliverance
thank the Lord, his mercies sing.

Make his deeds known to the peoples;
tell out his exalted Name.
Praise the Lord, who has done great things;
all his works his might proclaim.
Zion, lift your voice in singing;
for with you has come to dwell,
in your very midst, the great
and Holy One of Israel.

–Words: Carl P Daw (b. 1944); paraphrase of The First Song of Isaiah
–Tune: THOMAS MERTON, by Ray W. Urwin (b. 1950)

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Rejoice!

I’ve had a pretty bad last few days. A friend of mine hurt my feelings pretty bad the day before Thanksgiving. And then I spent Thanksgiving alone, which was a first for me and, although I actually enjoyed it, it was sad not being with my family or close friends. And then over the weekend, a person I’ve been romantically interested in for a year or so, and very good friends with for almost two years, gave me some news. I knew he had been interested in another guy for quite some time. But on Sunday, he dropped a bomb on me and let me know that they had decided to get married. It really hurt. I’ve been super upset since then.

And so for the last few days, I’ve been lost in my thoughts. I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone. I’ve been very introspective and contemplative. I’m wondering why God is bringing me this pain right now as I approach the 1-year anniversary of my mother’s death, and as I am still so unsettled and confused after the recent presidential election. What is God trying to show me in all of this? Is God even there? Is there any hope to be found in all of this? Why does my future all of a sudden look so empty, so lonely, so sad?

In the midst of all of this, I’ve been distracted with the fact that it is the beginning of the Advent season, one of the most beautiful, meaningful, and sacred times of the year to me. Over the weekend, I set up my Christmas tree and made a homemade Advent wreath. And this past Sunday night, the first night of Advent, I attended a truly sublime Advent Lessons and Carols service at my church. The service ended with a profoundly beautiful singing of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. Three different choirs alternated singing verses along with the church filled with around 500 people. It was uplifting and spine tingling. And since then, I’ve been singing the song in my head over and over.

Tonight, on the car ride home from work, as I was stuck in gobs of traffic, I put “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” on the stereo. I found myself meditating on the refrain:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

And it just hit me. Why am I consuming myself with sadness, and bitterness, and hopelessness? God is with me (Emmanuel!) in the midst of all of this. In spite of all of these bad feelings, I should rejoice in knowing that God’s peace is within reach. God’s grace and love and care surround me and are within me, no matter what befalls me. I shouldn’t be sad, rather I should rejoice in knowing these things.

And peace began to wash over me. It’s amazing how God can speak to us in the most mundane of ways. I think it speaks to the wonder of who and what God is…God is with us, in the midst of our daily lives. In the stranger, in the gentle breeze that blows, in the storm clouds that thunder and rain, in the raging fire, and in the swells of the sea. God’s presence supersedes all that we experience, and all we must do is listen with our eyes and we will hear it through all of our senses.

God’s peace does, indeed, surpass all understanding. And for this, I am truly thankful.

rejoice-590

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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We rest on thee

We rest on thee, our Shield and our Defender
We go not forth alone against the foe
Strong in thy strength, safe in thy keeping tender
We rest on thee, and in thy name we go

Yes, in thy name, O captain of salvation
In thy dear name, all other names above
Jesus, our righteousness, our sure Foundation
Our Prince of Glory and our King of Love
Our Prince of Glory and our King of Love

We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling
And needing more each day thy grace to know
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing
We rest on thee, and in thy name we go

We rest on thee, our Shield and our Defender
Thine is the battle, thine shall be the praise
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor
Victors, we rest with thee, through endless days
Victors, we rest with thee, through endless days

–Performed by Youngest Son, read more about his writing of this version of the hymn on his website here: http://youngestsonmusic.com/allsoulsday#we-rest-on-thee

we-rest-on-thee

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May the God of Surprises delight you

May the God of Surprises delight you, inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.
May the God of Transformation call you, opening you to continual renewal.
May the God of Justice confront you, daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.
May the God of Abundance affirm you, nudging you towards deeper trust.
May the God of Embrace hold you, encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.
May the God of Hopefulness bless you, encouraging you with the fruits of faith.
May the God of Welcoming invite you, drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.
May God Who is Present be with you, awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.
May God be with you.
Amen.

By Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa (http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/19916/may-the-god-of-surprises-delight-you)

– See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/19916/may-the-god-of-surprises-delight-you#sthash.pOaKS0KN.dpuf

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Pilgrims’ Hymn

Even before we call on Your name
To ask You, O God,
When we seek for the words to glorify You,
You hear our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
Surpassing all we know.

Glory to the father,
and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.

Even with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Your name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in You;
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.

Both now and forever,
And unto ages and ages,
Amen.

–Words by Michael Dennis Browne
–Music by Stephen Paulus (1949-2014)

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By mighty powers carefully protected

In memory of my dear friend, Maria Friederika Dunnagan (1921-2014).

By mighty powers carefully protected
we calmly wait and trust: let come what may.
God is with us, to him we are connected
mornings and nights and surely each new day.

The past still comes to torture our poor heart
the weight of evil days will not depart.
O Lord, please show our frightened souls the place
where we may learn of your redeeming grace.

By friendly powers silently surrounded
consoled and cared for in a wondrous way.
So will I live with you, when days are counted
into a New Year walk with you, I pray.

When now deep silence comes and does surround us
so let us hear the concert clear and strong.
From your great world, unseen, yet still around us
with all your children praising you in song.

–Words: translated by Maria Friederika Dunnagan, after Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
–Music: INTERCESSOR (by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1848-1918)

bonhoeffer

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How an ancient prayer renews my faith

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I recently read a similarly titled blog post (An Ancient Prayer Saved my Faith) and was inspired to share my won reflection on the Collect for Purity. This prayer (above) is used at the beginning of worship in the Anglican tradition. The prayer originates from an ancient prayer, and was translated from Latin and included in the original Book of Common Prayer.

My interest in the history of the prayer aside, I didn’t realize that others had had similar experiences to what I felt when I first heard this prayer. I remember the first time I heard this prayer on my first visit to an Episcopal Church in 2009. I had never heard a prayer that expressed an innate desire to worship God, while simultaneously admitting that to God, all that was within us was known and yet we were all being called to worship and stand as one before God. In my life, I’ve met plenty of people who think that their failings would make them not welcome in church, or have made God not interested in them. Nothing could be farther from the truth…and this prayer brings it home.

Upon hearing this prayer, and every week when I hear it in worship, my faith is renewed in knowing that regardless of my faults, God calls me to worship and to be in community with the Church universal. Thanks be to God!

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Lord, for ever at thy side

Lord, for ever at thy side
let my place and portion be,
strip me of the robe of pride,
clothe me with humility.

When I come before thy Word,
quiet my anxiety;
teach me thou alone art Lord,
let my heart find rest in thee.

What thy Spirit doth reveal,
that may I in faith receive;
though my doubts I sorely feel,
thy sure promise I believe.

Israel, now and evermore
in the Lord Almighty trust;
him, in all his ways, adore,
wise and wonderful and just.

Words: Stanzas 1 & 4 – James Montgomery, 1819; stanzas 2 & 3, Charles P. Price (b. 1920)
Music: SONG 13, melody and bass Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)

mi579x

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Walking the Labyrinth

The spiritual exercise of walking a labyrinth is something I have heard about for years, but never decided to try until today. I’ve visited many, many churches and other spiritual places that have labyrinths, and have stared at them thinking “someday”, but today I actually decided to try it. I am amazed at how focusing it was to my prayer and my spirit.

The labyrinth that I decided to walk was in Jackson, Wyoming at St. John’s Episcopal Church. I’m here on vacation for a few days, and had passed this labyrinth (just off the main street of the town) several times over the last few days. This afternoon, after spending some time with a good book and a cup of cold brew coffee, I decided to divert some time to prayer and to walking the labyrinth.

Before I began my walk, I sat down at a bench on its perimeter. I thought to myself “Hmmm, there are lots of people on the street walking by that might look at me and think I’m nuts.” And I thought, “How long will this take?” The more I sat there and wondered if I should or shouldn’t, the more I thought to myself “Just do it.” I tend to overanalyze everything, and after realizing that, just got up and started.

As I stood at the entrance to the labyrinth, I began with my favorite prayer by Thomas Merton, which begins “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going…” And I decided to use one of my favorite Bible verses as a mantra during my walk…I chose Micah 6:8b (What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?). As I began, I quickly noticed how what I expected to be the path (a very straightforward, predictable path) actually wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I continued saying my mantra. A toddler who had been playing in the grass nearby wandered into the labyrinth. I continued saying my mantra. A few passersby approached the labyrinth and looked at me. I continued saying my mantra. A man came into the labyrinth circle and sat down and watched me. I continued saying my mantra. When I reached the center, I paused, stood still, and thanked God for the moment. I turned around and walked the same path back out while simply focusing on my breathing.

The practice was surprisingly calming. As I encountered the slight distractions along my way, I couldn’t help but think of the symbolism in my everyday life. Every day, distractions can pop up, but I can’t let those distractions get to me or hold me down or suppress my spirit. I must continue to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. It is only with God’s help that I can achieve anything in this world. And it is only with God’s mercy that I can love and be loved in this world. As I continue in my life, my prayer continues to be that God lead me by the right path, and for me to acknowledge that God does not let me face my perils alone.

It’s a beautiful thing, what I feel after having walked the labyrinth. I’m not sure why I ever waited so long to give it a try. It was remarkably centering to my spirit. I look forward to my next labyrinth walk!

The labyrinth at St. John's Episcopal Church in Jackson, Wyoming.

The labyrinth at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson, Wyoming.

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