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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Parent's Prayer

by Betsy J. Perry

After spending 7 days with our 7 grandchildren ages 4 to 13, I’m in awe of the time, energy, and creativity it takes to be a parent in this day and age. When Uncle Rob declared an “electronic-free day,” there was great gnashing of teeth, loud arguments, puny whines, stomping of feet, arms folded in disgust, and downcast faces. But by the end of the day, new games out-of-doors had been invented with lots of running around. Some even played old-fashioned games such as ring toss and catch. 

On our drive back home, my husband and I were talking about what a parent’s prayer at the end of a long day might look like. What if we used the prayer form of ACTS—Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication?  Here is what we came up with, and we offer it on behalf of parents everywhere.

Dear God,

We are in complete awe of Your Beautiful Creation of all living beings including our own children.

We hope you don’t think we are bragging, but our children are beautiful in your image (most of the time.)

When they show their love and care towards even a squirmy worm found after a rain, we know they have something of You inside them.

When they say, “I’m sorry” to their little sister or brother, we know they are learning Your Message of love and forgiveness.

But, as tired and often overworked parents doing too many things, we confess we lose patience and wisdom.

Then we blurt the first thought out of our mouths like, “You are so impossible. What am I going to do with you (or even worse)?”

Please forgive us these stressed out parenting words and deeds. We know Your love surrounds us as a family even when our parenting love fails us.

How thankful we are for what our children can teach us.

With all the deadlines and activities impinging on us, it’s hard to keep promises until one of them says, “Remember, Mommy and Daddy, a promise is a special gift you have given someone.”

Thank you for these reminders of what loving relationships are built upon.

And, finally, we ask You to keep our precious children in Your care no matter where they are or what happens to them.

As the small and big challenges of life confront them, please guide our words and actions to support them in ways that are most loving and nurturing as You have taught us.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Prayer for the Freeing of Our Voices

by Angier Brock

Two guitars, one ukulele, four djembes, a tambourine, a couple of sets of Boom whackers, and two Tibetan singing bowls—these are among the instruments that showed up in my backyard this summer for our annual family-and-friends-Fourth-of-July picnic. As you can imagine, amazing sounds issued forth from various combinations of instruments (and would-be instruments) played by various combinations of musicians (and would-be musicians) whose ages spanned seven decades.

I loved all the music that was made over the course of the day, but particularly moving to me was my experience with the Tibetan singing bowls, also known as “Himalayan bowls” or just plain “singing bowls.” If you have ever watched someone “play” a bowl, you know the magical sound that can result when, by the action of running a wooden dowel around the bowl’s rim with just the right amount of pressure, the “voice” of the bowl is set free.   

A cousin once gave me two brass bowls he had bought on his travels around the world. One at a time, he had collected a set that, when struck with a mallet, produced the sounds of an octave. With an overtone of apology, he told me that the bowls he was giving me were not as resonant as his other bowls and that they did not fit in with the octave the others produced. For those reasons—defects, really, in his eyes—he was willing to part with them. Still, they were lovely to look at, and I received them gratefully.

For more than forty years I have kept those bowls, mostly using them to hold things—votive candles, small flower arrangements, thumb tacks. Not until I watched Jan and Lauren play their bowls in my yard did it occur to me to wonder: Despite my cousin’s disparaging remarks, did they in fact have a voice he had not discovered? Could they be played another way? Might they be singing bowls? 

I went to get them. With great curiosity, I watched as Jan held one in the palm of her hand and began running a mallet around its rim. With even greater amazement, I listened as its voice emerged and came into fullness. It sang a strong, clear song, one rich with complex harmonics.  Wow. How long had that bowl been waiting for its voice to be set free?

You probably know where I am going with this. Sometimes we are so convinced that we cannot do something that we don’t even look at all the options. Sometimes we think we have no voice—when in fact we each have one that is clear and strong and rich. My prayer this week is that we not remain content simply to hold things—but that we let the spirit of love and hope and possibility play in us, freeing our voices, releasing our songs. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where Your Feet Take You

by Paul Hettinga

Last Thursday marked the 43rd anniversary of Joanna and me being married. Laughingly, we have wondered if we’ve had 43 years of growing, loving and enjoying each other…or has it been one year lived over 43 times?

Living with another person, sharing your life with another is of all gifts the highest gift of all - and at the same time the most challenging gift to fully embrace and realize in your life individually and together.

So, I wonder: how many of the 43 years were not simply repeats of the previous year or years? Gladly and with a modest amount of humility I can say that most, if not all the years we’ve had together, have grown on the experience of the past years and embraced the future with expectations of growing together and individually more with each new year.

Do I dare compare this to my relationship with God? I claim to have become a Christian when I was 22 years old and with that started a life long quest to discover who I am in this relationship with God. At 68 I ask the same question: is it 46 years or 1 year lived 46 times over and over? Certainly there have been spurts of growth and discovery in some of those 46 years - but when I read my journals from the past, I find myself struggling with the same things year after year.

My favorite writer, Fred Buechner writes about this in Alphabet of Grace:

“I say that if you want to know who you are, if you are more than academically interested in that particular mystery, you could do a lot worse than look to your feet for an answer. Introspection in the long run doesn’t get you very far because every time you draw back to look at yourself, you are seeing everything except for the part that drew back, and when you draw back to look at the part that drew back to look at yourself, you see again everything except for what you are really looking for. And so on. Since the possibilities for drawing back seem to be infinite, you are, in your quest to see yourself whole, doomed always to see infinitely less than what there will always remain to see. Thus, when you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again, if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are.”

Sometimes, I seem incapable of “getting over” who I used to be and becoming the new person I imagine God imagines me to be. Letting go of the past me to embrace the future me seems unreachable—but I’m going to watch my feet.