Praying the Prayers of Others – Ted Loder

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This is the final week of this Lenten series, where I’ve been posting some of my favorite prayers. Ted Loder has become my favorite contemporary prayer writer. His book Guerrillas of Grace is full of honest prayer-poems that seem to often bring tears to my eyes. This excerpt of his prayer-poem “There is Something I Wanted to Tell You” is my favorite in a book full of favorites, and seems like a great prayer in the midst of Holy Week for those of us who find ourselves often busy and distracted.

“There is Something I Wanted to Tell You”

Holy One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but there have been errands to run,
bills to pay,
arrangements to make,
meetings to attend,
friends to entertain,
washing to do…
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and mostly I forget what I’m about
or why.

O God,
don’t forget me, please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ….

O Father and Mother in Heaven,
perhaps you’ve already heard what I wanted to tell you,
What I wanted to ask is,
forgive me,
heal me,
increase my courage, please.
Renew in me a little of love and faith,
and a sense of confidence,
and a vision of what it might mean
to live as though you were real,
and I mattered,
and everyone was sister and brother.

What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is
don’t give up on me, don’t become too sad about me,
but laugh with me,
and try again with me,
and I will with you, too.

How does this prayer-poem resonate with you?

Has this series been helpful? What’s been your favorite prayer?

Welcome to Holy Week

Holy Week

Drop the balloons, shoot the confetti and break out the piñata! It’s Holy Week. (Maybe that’s not the right feel!)

Six weeks ago I was talking about Ash Wednesday, giving things up and all the ways that I was going to live differently for the next six weeks tending to my soul in anticipation of resurrection. But as with everything in my life these days it seems that I blinked, went on Spring Break, came back and all-of-the-sudden we’re standing on the threshold of Easter.

I had such big plans for Lent. I was going to give up some things, replace those things with better things, read some poignant books about Jesus, practice the prayer of examen every single night and put the final nail in the coffin on at least one or two or my vices. If there were awards given out for Lent, this was my year to triple medal. But can I confess? I didn’t do nearly everything I intended to do. Sure, I gave up Facebook (which has been so good for my soul, more later) but I chose to read Stephen King and John Grisham on Spring Break. (“Real spiritual, pastor!”) And instead of doing the prayer of examen every night, I watched television in bed or played Plants vs. Zombies. And, if I’m honest, I’ve probably added vices.

But, I’m choosing today to put all that behind me and to just look ahead. It’s Holy Week. This is the week where we read again the stories of Jesus’ final week. We think about Jesus and ask ourselves again, “why did he have to die?” In my faith community we have special services and events, we go all-out to drink deeply of the season. This week, despite my shortcomings, I can choose to lean in, to pay attention, to spend extra time in prayer & reflection.

Here’s my invitation: join me. It doesn’t matter if you took ashes on Ash Wednesday 6 weeks ago. It doesn’t matter if you gave up meat on Fridays or even if you failed in your Lenten commitments. Today, you can choose – for one week – to put your faith front and center, to live intentionally, to think deeply about what you profess to be true. You don’t have to do everything. It’s not a contest, there are no trophies. What happened during Lent is past, nothing can be done about that now. Today is Monday. Resurrection Sunday is only 6 days away.

Let’s start together here. In the comments, let’s give each other ideas. Let’s discuss some of our practices and strategies for journeying through Holy Week. I’ll commit an internet faux pas and Icomment first on my own post. Don’t leave me hanging!

You Don’t Have to Know

hubble-Galaxy

Quick, what do you think…

  • should clergy perform gay marriages?
  • should America go to war?
  • what do you think about contraception?
  • any thoughts on global warming? green house emissions?

Now breathe. I don’t really want to know what you think. It’s not that I don’t care. Or that I don’t think we could have a great conversation over a cup of coffee, or a beer. It’s just that you don’t have to have all your thoughts nailed down.

I don’t know if it’s always been like this, or if this is a product of our 24-hour media, internet, moving-at-the-speed-of-light culture, but it feels like everywhere we turn we’re expected to have an opinion. We’re supposed to know what we think and why we think that.

In my world, I blame St. Peter who told us to, “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” For much of my life I thought that meant that I needed to both understand and defend everything I believed about everything, because as one mentor taught me, “everything is theology.”

However, last time I checked, the world is a complicated place. And on nearly every point of theology, politics & science there are dissenting voices. And unless I ignore data points, forming a solid position almost anything is a near Herculean task.

Years ago, I was introduced to this quotation from F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it’s become one of the pillars of the way I think about things:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Now of course there are things that I’ve settled in my mind. I’m a Christian and I can recite the Apostle’s Creed in good conscience. I tend to believe strongly in gravity. And I’m confident in many ethical issues. There are things I do in fact hold strongly.

But at the same time, there are many issues in the world today where I hold two opposing ideas. Take war and peace. I really get the argument for pacifism, and when I’m sitting with a friend who’s not pacifist, I tend to wrap myself in the cloak of pacifism for the sake of spirited conversation. But, sitting with my pacifist friends, I might play the part of just war theorist because of the pragmatics of the fallen creation. Depending on the day I can believe either position.

Here’s the thing: pushing oneself to “hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time,” give us space to enter into dialogue, to extend grace, to make every effort to see the world as others see it. It helps us to listen to ideas with empathy, without feeling the need to constantly form a defense.

So here’s a bit of permission, from me to you. Until it becomes critical, until there’s a good reason to make up your mind, you don’t have to decide on an issue. The next time someone demands that you answer what you believe, tell them you don’t know. Tell them you’re thinking about it. Tell them there are smart people on both sides of this one and then when you must, you take a side, but for now, you’re holding two opposing ideas in tension.

And if you feel yourself coming to a place where you must decides, perhaps try this: pretend for a month that you believe one way, then, next month, pretend you’ve taken the opposite side. Argue with yourself, or with friends, for both sides of an issue. Read widely, hear what everyone has to say, grant an author their argument as far as you can.

There will come a time where you may have to choose to act on what you believe. You may have to choose to vote for a position or act upon your conscience in regards to a particular issue. There may come a time where believing something will come at a cost. And you will disappoint people, there may even be tears. And when that time comes it will be difficult, but until then, just keep reading, talking and holding opposing ideas.