A Much Needed Second Look

This should have been yesterday’s post. But I had nothing to say about the topic. It all seemed so “yesterday”, so passé. In fact, I have some negativity to overcome.

As a kid, the Rosary was a big deal. It was prayed in church before Mass. An expensive set of prayer beads were a typical gift for First Communion to replace the cheap plastic rosary we fingered before we even knew the Hail Mary.

We’d pray the Rosary at the beginning of every family road trip — we knew we better have our beads readily at hand. While other kids ran outside to play after dinner we knew we had to pray the Rosary first — not just during Lent, throughout theyear! My Dad prayed the full 15-decade Rosary everyday well into his 80s.

Life moves on. Religious culture changes. Schedules impinge on time. We outgrow childhood practices. I had plenty of negative baggage to dump regarding the seeming dreary repetitious routine that impinged on my youthful spontaneity.  I quickly discarded the practice for what I thought would foster a more mature “contemporary” spirituality.

Yesterday, my solid Catholic upbringing reminded me that October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (just like I remembered it was my sister’s 54th wedding anniversary).  But I had nothing to say. It seemed like a kindly artifact of yesteryear. Harmless enough. A bit quint. But, irrelevant.

Then a couple of things happened. A friend shared her delight with a prayer service she had attended the evening before at a local Catholic high school. The service was built around The Rosary with St. James, an innovative way of praying that combines the repetitive and contemplative aspects of the traditional ritual with the message that Christ’s disciple James preached—the message that “faith without works is dead.”

The rhythm, the structure of the five decades, and other aspects of the more traditional format are the same. This rosary uses contemporary composer and liturgist David Hass’s Mysteries of Discipleship:

  • First Mystery: To Serve the Poor
  • Second Mystery: To Serve Those Who Experience Discrimination and Hatred
  • Third Mystery: To Serve the Cause of Peace
  • Fourth Mystery: To Serve the Young and the Fearful
  • Fifth Mystery: To Serve the Suffering and the Dying

Interspersed throughout are musical responses along with inspired passages from the “cloud of witnesses,” including Óscar Romero, Peter Maurin, Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John Paul II, Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, St. John XXIII, St. John Baptist de la Salle, Robert F. Kennedy, St. Teresa of Ávila, Adrienne Rich, Helen Keller, and Henri Nouwen.

Then, as if God were intent on putting an exclamation point on the enduring relevance of this ancient prayer form, I simply happened upon a blog post by an Anglican who extolled the Rosary’s spiritual benefits. This Protestant recommends it as a graced entrée for prayerfully inhabiting the mysteries of the Creed.

Yes, the Rosary is Marian in character.  This is because she is among all Christians the model disciple. Yet, at its heart the Rosary — the Mysteries on which we meditate — are thoroughly Christo-centic.

The Anglican bblogger confesses that as he prays the Hail Mary over each plain wooden bead, he is brought again and again into the mystery of the Incarnation – in joy, light, sorrow, glory.  God the Word fully assuming our humanity, that our humanity may fully share in the life of God.

I may be a day late with this reflection.  Nevertheless, it is time to take another look at this discarded, even disvalued, prayer.  Accordingly, I am brought back to profound gratitude for the conscientious efforts my parents made to pass on the faith they treasured, a conformity to Christ they personified.

I enthusiastically introduce you to The Rosary with St. James [here] and the perspectives of the Anglican blogger [here].

True But Not Factual

Visiting the iconic Cologne Cathedral is fraught with danger. The imposing structure begun in 1248 remains under constant repair. Yet, the threat is not physical. The danger I felt last week was to my sophisticated 21st century post-modern Christian faith (sarcasm intended!)

The grand edifice was begun to house the physical remains of the Three Magi who presented gifts to the baby Jesus. Yes, indeed! Their bones had resided in Milan until 1164 when they were brought to Cologne where they remain in a gold, gem-encrusted reliquary which rests atop the main altar.

By the way, if you care to see the actual manger in which Joseph and Mary laid their infant child it has long been housed in the Chapel of the Nativity at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.

I’ve been told that the very foreskin of Jesus was devoutly preserved at his circumcision and can still be venerated somewhere in Europe — I don’t have the time or inclination to verify this claim or its location! Superstition perverts the Gospel. Magic poisons authentic faith. Nevertheless, they abound aplenty!

Pity the one who suggests a story in Scripture can be true but not factual — that the Bible is a proclamation of dynamic covenantal faith, not a presentation of historical facts; that it is a testament to Love, not a treatise of laws. Sadly, this is heresy for many well intentioned folks, some of whom even hold positions of leadership in our faith communities.

Imagine my amazement last week when my belief in the Christian story and commitment to my faith was actually deepened by visiting the Cologne Cathedral. I was awestruck by the majesty of the reliquary and beauty of the edifice.  I found myself moved to venerate what I beheld.

No, I most assuredly do not believe the bones inside the bejeweled gold box are the very remains of the Three Kings. But I most definitely believe in the authenticity of faith expressed by builders of and pilgrims to the Cathedral over the last 1000 years!

This assurance came from the way guides and materials spoke about the centrality of Christ. Yes, the reliquary commands a place of prominence. The Three Kings’ search for the Christ Child — lifelong, through joy and sorrow, danger and discovery — is presented as the universal human pilgrimage.

As did the Magi, we all bring different gifts. But whomever we are and whatever we bring, all is to be placed at the service of the King of Kings. The Cologne Cathedral looms as a physical destination. But what we encounter is encouragement to forego the easy, false paths as did these three exemplars of persistent, searching faith. This monumental church was constructed to assure us of this truth — we too will ultimately come face-to-face with the One we seek.

I walked into the Cologne Cathedral skeptical and dismissive of medieval piety and sentimentality. Days later, comfortably settled at home in Minnesota, my faith remains strengthened, encouraged, grounded by what I witnessed.

Is the story enshrined on the banks of the Rhine factual? Not in the least! Is it true? Yes, I stake my life on it!

Tomorrow is NOW

Today’s the day! Today is the day set aside for special prayer, awareness and action on behalf of creation. The Orthodox Church has been commemorating this day since 1989. The rest of us Christians are taking a little longer to wake up to our need for practical conversion and spiritual transformation in the way we relate to God’s good creation. Better late than never!

Yesterday’s post suggested a few ways to make our commemoration of the day less “churchy” and more “grounded.” It was based in the conviction that we don’t need more prayer; we need more action. We don’t pray ourselves into right action as much as much as our actions ground our prayer (more about that later).

Here is another simple exercise… I just completed it myself. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home points to numerous ways world organizations, nations and communities can move forward and the way individuals — believers and people of good will — might see, think, feel and act.

Here is the fruit of my personal “examination of conscience.” In other words, where I felt a special need or where I felt I could immediately adapt my behavior. Again, they are what I am attending to today — you will certainly come up with a different assortment. The references in parentheses indicate paragraphs in the encyclical where more is said about this suggestion:

— Reduce, reuse, recycle. Preserve resources, use them more efficiently, moderate consumption and limit use of non-renewable resources. (22, 192)

— Stop blaming problems on population growth. The real threat is excessive consumerism and waste. (50)

— For genuine change, put the common good first. (54)

— Be consistent. Pro-life, environmental and social justice movements are all connected. (91, 120)

— Make public transportation a priority and a more pleasant experience. (153)

— Plant a tree. Take mass transit. Car pool. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Chilly? Wear a sweater. Little things add up. (211)

More than anything, here’s my ultimate favorite. It’s a practice we had at home as kids. What a transformational consequence of prayer it would be if we paused to thank the Creator for our food, for the earth that provided it and for the laborers who brought it to our table.

— Say grace before meals. (227)

In all honesty, here’s the one that presents the biggest immediate challenge at our house. We are much too tied to our iPhones, iPads and “mindless television”:

— End the tyranny of the screen, information overload and distractions. Watch out for media-induced melancholy and isolation. Cultivate real relationships with others. (47)

Above I claimed that we don’t pray ourselves into right action as much as much as our actions ground our prayer. I promised more about that later. Well, here goes! This is the suggestion (admonition?) that calls for my deepest personal conversion:

— Get down from the ivory tower and stop the rhetoric. Get to know the poor and suffering; it will wake up a numbed conscience and inspire real action. (49)

We will all mark this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in ways that are meaningful and practical for each of us. If you’d care to reflect on the forty or so suggestions that come from Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, you can access the list [here].

Dearest Freshness Deep Down Things

Who doesn’t like the musical, Annie? It’s theme song, Tomorrow is one of those melodies engrained somewhere in the recesses of our minds that surfaces just when we seem to need encouragement the most!

Well tomorrow — Tuesday, September 1 — really is a special day. When Pope Francis released his prophetic encyclical on ecology and the environment – Laudato si – back on June 18th, a leading Orthodox bishop who had been asked to help present the document, said: “I should like to mention that the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided as early as 1989 to devote the 1st of September of each year to praying for the environment.”

Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon then made a request: “Might this not become a date for such prayer for all Christians? This would mark a step towards further closeness among them.” So what’s the Pope to do? Of course, he followed suit by endorsing what the Orthodox Church has been doing for 25 years!

Most of the recommendations I’ve seen for tomorrow’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation strike me as disembodied, cerebral, too “vertical” — focusing on “saying” prayers or going to church. Seriously, isn’t that just the sort of heavenly-minded spirituality that has got us into the bifurcated mess we find ourselves in?

So here are a few more creation-centered ways of marking a day that is to refocus our attention on the Earth and how all life is intertwined:

  • Sing “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, the sun’ll come out tomorrow” along with Annie. Be child-like again — the way you were playing outside in nature when you were a kid! Here is a YouTube [link]. Consider: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Mark 10:15
  • Sit aside running water (we have a creek 3 blocks away). Listen to the gurgle. Wonder at the leaf floating atop the passing water. Imagine the stream’s source, it’s destination. What’s all this got to do with your Baptism (or ceremonial washing common to all world religions)?
  • Walk around your block — actually any place will do. This time get out of your head and dismiss every thought about what you have to do next. Just consider what you see. Pay attention. Attend to nature’s persistent poking forth. Marvel at the minuscule. Consider the lilies of the field, the birds of the air — just consider them, resist making this about you and your worries. Simply consider what you see — as they are, for what they are!
  • Go get yourself a Fall plant from the Garden Store. Fantastic purple-blue asters are coming into our markets right now. Reverently transform your yard with autumn splendor. As you dig the hole and carefully pat down the earth around your favorite Fall selection, remember that human, humus and humility all share the same root-word.
  • Spend some time — whatever you have — getting the following poem into your bones. It is surely as relevant today as when Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote it in the 1880s:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Finally, just be grateful. Say, “WOW… Thanks!”  If tomorrow’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation gets more us us doing that it will have been a rousing success.

No Longer Any Need of Comment

Coincidentally, two things arose today pointing me in the same direction. When things like this converge I’ve learned to pay attention. I don’t have it figured out — at least cognitively. What I have is an intuitive sense that simply suggests wisdom resides somewhere in it all. Both came from Trappist monks — can this be mere coincidence? Does this not suggest more than happenstance.

From In the School of Contemplation by Andre Louf:

The monk has received a certain experience of God and a taste of God that go far beyond the formulas that try to circumvent them. He also possesses, through prayer, a sense of the universal communion in Christ that exceeds the visible borders of the Churches such as they have become fixed after the wounds of the great schisms. He feels in a confused way that he must live within a certain ill-defined ecclesiological space, at a point where the partitions erected by the separation have not prevailed and where already those walls are yielding which, as Metropolitan Platon of Kiev said one day, certainly do not rise all the way to heaven.

Again, I do not have any of this figured out. Something tells me I don’t need to, nor should I try.

The second thing to arise was a poem by Thomas Merton. Again, I am not prepared to offer commentary. Simply the poem:

When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more Fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success,
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone:
He has not even a house.

Stars, as well as friends,
Are angry with the noble ruin.
Saints depart in several directions.

Be still:
There is no longer any need of comment.
It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares,
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.

Here you will find
Neither a proverb nor a memorandum.
There are no ways,
No methods to admire
Where poverty is no achievement.
His God lives in his emptiness like an affliction.

What choice remains?
Well, to be ordinary is not a choice:
It is the usual freedom
Of men without visions.

There is nothing more I care to say. I simply offer these words to you, trusting Wisdom will speak whatever needs to be said to your heart.
________________
The quote by Andre Louf is from p. 128 of In the School of Contemplation, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 2015.

The poem by Thomas Merton was brought to my attention by Richard Rohr’s Meditation: First and Second Halves of Life, Part I for August 20, 2015 offered by The Center for Action and Contemplation.

Absence Explained

Absence makes the heart grow fonder! Does it? I often just forget whatever is absent. The absence of something annoying might be a long-awaited relief! We might even learn that we live perfectly well without something and no longer care about whatever it provided.

My hope after being absent from these posts for more than a week is that you will welcome the return. It may be asking too much to presume the absence was even noted. Noted or not, I’m back and trust these ruminations are received with continuing interest.

An explanation is in order. Barbara Brown Taylor and John Philip Newell were in town leading a retreat from Sunday, August 2 thru Wednesday, August 5. Either would have had me beating a path to their door. Having both co-facilitate was a feast beyond imagining. My absence from these pages is due largely to the fact that my time and spirit were preoccupied and engaged.

Dubbed Seeking the Sacred Thread, the retreat more than fulfilled its promise to illuminate with clarity and grace the questions and hopes we carry, weaving together sacred threads of the Christian household with other wisdom traditions, focusing on the healing of God’s people and all creation. I’m still ruminating over its richness.

Rather than attempting an impossible “grand synthesis” or over-verbalizing what was often experienced as sheer grace, I will keep it simple. Here are five “sacred threads” which I am still holding, hoping they take deeper hold of me:

  • Seek the light at the farthest edge of darkness — deepest night holds the fullest promise of dawn.
  • “There are seeds in the rottenest of apples!” -Bede Griffiths
  • “Only when we are playful can Divinity get serious with us.” Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Our deepest longing is for belonging… BE longing!
  • There is no room for two — die to yourself in Love’s presence or Love will die in your presence.

Too Late Wise

“Y’know life can be really hard!” A dear friend was summarizing a conversation we had recently. Each of us could recite a long litany of challenges family and friends are facing — death of a spouse, chronic physical pain, frustrating dead-end careers, relapses in addictive behaviors, unspeakable betrayal in relationships, the list goes on.

All this was washing over me as Jeb the Dog took me to Minnehaha Creek for our late afternoon walk. We’ve had a marvelous summer, gardens are well-tended and the world looks lush. Weeks away from summer solstice, the sun now casts a perceptively different shadow. Jeb remains enthusiastic in his obligation to mark designated trees but he too seems to recognize the waning season.

With head cocked, Jeb grieves the absence of once plentiful ducklings from the water. A fresh silver maple now obstructs the creek’s easy flow, sad consequence of the previous night’s storm. Mary Oliver’s lament in her brilliant poem, The Summer Day rippled within my heart, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?”

In a few days Medicare kicks in. That more than the fact of turning 65 shocks me into heightened reflectivity. Like every Minnesotan’s experience of summer, it all happens too fast, passes too soon! There is no time for regrets. Precious time is now better spent remembering, gathering wisdom from what has been, harvesting all that is needed for approaching winter.

Upstream from where the silver maple diverts the free-flowing creek, Jeb plants himself as a sentinel surveying this place he knows so well. Feet squarely set, he appears oblivious as his chest creases the fast-moving current. A rock we know so well for its musical ripple when the creek dances with a normal flow has been smothered by the swarming storm water.

Again, Jeb becomes my best teacher. With legs squared and eyes fixed on the approaching torrent, he ponders our familiar terrane and the changes transforming our daily routine. Like the now silent rock that lies submerged by the storm, his resolute posture tells all I need to know. Do not fear deep water or the rushing torrent. Stand resolute in the middle of it all and let the waters flow over and around you.

As I officially join the Medicare generation on Saturday and turn 65 mid-month, what wisdom is to be gathered? Is there a harvest to be gleaned from these fast flowing years? By necessity, a new modesty seeks to take hold — I am far less certain about everything for which I once asserted a cocky self-confidence. I recognize a propensity to attack paper tigers like Papal infallibility all the while laying arrogant claim to my own.

If age smooths certain edges, it yields strength and confidence as well. Jeb resolutely squared himself midstream. Just as the stationary rock provides rippling melodies when the creek is running its normal course, so too it remains planted and ready to resume its role once the surge subsides. So too with us — I cannot imagine how we are to remain centered amid life’s litany of challenges without resolutely planting ourselves in a spiritual practice of prayer or meditation.

I increasingly cringe at the “wisdom” and “advice” I so wantonly gave whoever would listen. No longer do I claim to speak for God. In fact, I am coming to recognize the God I claimed to serve was too easily an idol of my own fashioning, one I tried to direct and contain. The Risen Christ breaks boundaries, defies our categories and shows up where we least expect — sometimes among those of whom we would not approve.

Finally, I am getting a glimpse into what Benedict of Nursia taught in the sixth century. This preeminent exemplar of western monasticism prescribed that any who would presume to offer spiritual counsel to others should know how to heal their own wounds first (RB46.6). Only when we have felt the full force life’s torrents wash over us may we presume to understand those who feel overwhelmed or are mired in despair.

Of this I am certain… those to whom I have been consistently drawn for solace or counsel somehow communicate they too have known the overwhelming mercy of God. They too are familiar with life’s torrents and human frailty. They know what it is to feel submerged or planted amid life’s rushing currents.  They simply stand firm with legs squared in the assurance that we are loved — beyond measure, beyond ourselves, beyond time.

Questioning the Inevitable

You have probably noticed. Regulars here will remember that I turn 65 in August. I’m wrestling with that inevitability. Mostly, how can this be? Once again “old people” were right — it descends upon us faster than we can imagine.

Getting an AARP card at 50 is dismissed as a playful hoax, especially now that the organization has dropped “association of retired persons” from its moniker. Most 50 year-olds are at the height of their careers. Many parents are paying far more in college tuition for their kids than contributing to their IRAs.

Even at 60 I was full-throttle in my career. The occasion was marked with a great celebration in our back yard with 60 of my closest and dearest friends. Awards were given to the top five winners of the “How Well Do You Know Richard?” trivia contest. Organizers regaled us with a hilarious skit, “Richard, This is Your Life!”

But 65 is different! More and more people in elevators, fellow customers in stores, even neighbors out walking with their dogs now unreflectively refer to me as “Sir”! I can no longer claim to be taking “early” Social Security. And try as I might, I must not ignore those infernal mailings from the federal government assuring me that I am being automatically enrolled in Medicare.

Don’t get me wrong! I want to be 65! The age is not the issue. It’s just that tables are turned on us so fast. No longer do I feel a creation of my past. As more trappings and traits of who I was are stripped away I discover the irrefutable truth of who I am at my core. It’s as if the future has grabbed the initiative and is now apprehending me like an unknown suitor I am powerless to resist.

My perfectionism and need to “control” will surly be one of my last personality traits to succumb. Even aging is something I want to do well, as it should be done, perfectly if that’s possible. With that in mind I was drawn to a six-month project by writer John Leland who will chronicle six New Yorkers over the age of 85 as they move into their futures. [link]

Leland recounts the popular schtick — old age is presumed to be “a problem to be solved. People’s bodies broke down, their minds lost function, they drained billions out of the health care system.” That more than a stereotype, its my fundamental fear.

About five years ago I started to resent people who would say something inane like, “You don’t look 60!!!” I retained my composure by quietly telling myself, “They don’t know of what they speak! What is 60 supposed to look like?”

Here’s what I’d really like… to be part of a massive rewrite of cultural presumptions. As Leland’s series intends to chronicle, what if we began thinking of our elders/ourselves “not as a problem, but as an asset, a repository of memory and experience?”

Research actually shows that people in their 70s and 80s, far from wallowing in despair, are happier than their younger counterparts. What do “we” know that younger people do not? For almost all of human history, societies turned to the oldest people for advice and wisdom. Now, that wisdom too often sits unheard, devalued, unexpressed.

Rather than seeing ourselves as “old”, what if we initiated a cultural movement — one by one — to reclaim our full stature as wise elders? Note well, I am certainly not suggesting that we perpetuate the status quo in which too many of us pretend to be “young.” That’s precisely the trap which holds us bound and the foolishness that’s sure to frustrate.

Growing old isn’t easy! Some wise elders have even counseled me that it was even harder than they had imagined.  But still, how do we choose to proceed? No one does it perfectly. One requirement appears to be yielding control, as hard as that is for my personality-type.

Of one thing I am pretty certain, growing old well and embracing an invitation to become a true elder, is not essentially a medical problem or even determined solely by our psychological makeup. Rather, I am convinced it’s fundamentally a spiritual challenge, invitation and opportunity.

As I hurdle toward my birthday in August I am increasingly drawn to a prayer poem by the late Elizabeth Rooney, an Episcopalian from Wisconsin who seems to have fully embraced her elder-hood. I intend to take her spiritual wisdom with me into the years ahead:

Oblation

I hope each day
To offer less to You,
Each day
By Your great love to be
Diminished
Until at last I am
So decreased by Your hand
And You, so grown in me,
That my whole offering
Is just an emptiness
For You to fill
Or not
According to Your will.

_______________

You may learn more about Elizabeth Rooney, a “late-in-life poet” [here].

Getting Caught

Fishing bores me to tears. This is heretical in Minnesota and risks ostracization. My defense is that this kid from Nebraska simply came to water and lakes too late to develop any affinity. My spiritual bond with creation is more grounded — planting trees, tending a vegetable garden, composting, walks with Jeb the Dog, the silent symphony of dawn.

Yet, I am not so dry-docked as to be incapable of appreciating a good fishing metaphor. One came from Christopher Pramuk who brilliantly invites us to look at fishing from the perspective of the fish! Maybe fishing doesn’t have to be as boring as it seems.

Imagine the fisher’s lure flashing, dancing, singing in the waters just in front of you, alluring you. Lunging forward, just as you’ve gotten her wholly into your rapacious mouth, just as you think you have gotten her, you discover that it is you who have been gotten. The fisher captures you, your whole self, and will not let you go.

God is like that! God initiates, pursues, allures us. We may think it is otherwise — we are deluded. We may dutifully recite our favorite “prayers” and enact our sacred rites and rituals. But ultimately it is God who ensnares us, it is God who initiates.

Whether fishing or planting, we merely attend — or not — to God’s enticements. It is God, as Pramuk’s fishing metaphor reminds us, who “dances and sings before us, shining from within all things, refusing to be domesticated.”

Perhaps here is the key to my aversion to fishing. Creatures of the deep defy domestication! Fish will always beguile me with their wildness and other-worldliness. Planting, gardening, composting appeal to my need to direct, control and define my world. To the degree this is true, I risk isolation from God. I resist being caught. I remain captive in my own idolatry about who God is and how God is to behave.

Still, God allures — her silent symphony from the deep is beginning to dawn on me.

___________

References may be found in At Play in Creation: Merton’s Awakening to the Feminine Divine by Christopher Pramuk.  Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2015., p. 64.

Realignment

Many who cherish the beauty of words grieved the loss of Elizabethan English when the Book of Common Prayer was revised decades ago. Still the Anglicans have it all over us Romans! (Especially after the ridiculous return to “And with your spirit!” babble of a few years ago… Don’t get me started!)  Words matter!

We could do no better than to commit these to memory: “Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” AMEN. (BCP 832)

Episcopalians refer to this as the Prayer of Self Dedication. Yes, it sets a very high bar! But then, how about this… “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” This is probably so embedded in out memories that it has become rote and we no longer recognize the radically of our words.

Asking to consistently do God’s will, not my own — there’s a counter-cultural idea for you! “Thy will be done!” — do I mean the words I say? “Use us?” Using my gifts for the well-being of others?  Parents are the few people I see consistently motivated by other-interest rather than self-interest! I’m not a parent.  Honestly, I have a long way to go!

“Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” AMEN.

Lent would be monumentally transformative for our selves and for our culture if we were to more and more find our words aligned with the will of God. There we’d discover — to our delightful surprise, perhaps to our amazement — they are not opposites in conflict.  Rather, God’s will and ours are ultimately convergent and the very foundation of our personal freedom and welfare.