Too beautiful for war

 

 

Two prayers by Simon Bailey – written from a teenage perspective – expressing distress at the ongoing threat of nuclear war and violence and recognising the comfort that comes when we bring our fears to God who is “warm enough to take all [our] shivers away”.

 

#1

They say we can destroy the world
twenty times over with nuclear bombs –
it’s probably more by now.
I see those pictures of the mushroom cloud
and I shiver –
the world is too beautiful for that,
people are too beautiful.
Father, it’s so wrong – and so frightening.

Jesus told us to love our enemies –
I don’t think you can love your enemies with a bomb.
It’s such a mess but somehow, somewhere
we have to turn round and really say:
‘We want to live in peace together.’

So send your Spirit to remind our leaders
how beautiful things are,
how beautiful their ‘enemies’ are,
to remind them to keep telling themselves:
‘We want to live in peace together.’

 
by Simon Bailey
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #1001
 


#2

There were wars and riots on the news tonight,
Father, and now I’m very frightened –
bombs and killings and rows don’t seem too bad
in the daylight, but it’s dark now …
I don’t let other people know I’m frightened
of the dark but I am.
I’m scared of lots of things –
evil spirits and heights, being beaten up,
of pain and dying,
and even looking silly in front of my friends.
Now I’m scared of going to sleep in case I dream.

Be near me,
Be a warm presence round me
and a light inside me.

You know what it’s like to be very scared,
so you can help me now.
I’m nearly shivering with fright,
so help me to know you are in charge,
you know what darkness is,
you are brighter than the darkness
and warm enough to take all my shivers away.

 
by Simon Bailey from Still with God, p. 36
referenced in How to Pray: Alone, with Others, at Any Time, in Any Place by Steven Cottrell
 


Church of Scotland at prayer

Together we pray
Each week, from late September until late November, new prayers written by people from across the Church of Scotland and our partners will be shared on the Church of Scotland website.

This week’s prayer for radical change, written by Doug Gay
 


From the blog
Consolation joy
Wild hope #1
Theme: Do not lose heart [prayer sheet]
 

A healing blessing


The Shepherd (1930) by Arturo Martini  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 
 

An unusually short blessing from Jan Richardson. She calls it “a [healing] blessing small enough to carry in the hand or in the heart”.

 

And All Be Made Well

A Healing Blessing

That each ill
be released from you
and each sorrow
be shed from you
and each pain
be made comfort for you
and each wound
be made whole in you

that joy will
arise in you
and strength will
take hold of you
and hope will
take wing for you
and all be made well.

 
by Jan Richardson, from paintedprayerbook.com
 


 
TIP
Check out Jan Richardson’s online Advent retreat, Illuminated 2019, now open for registration.
 


 
From the blog
Balm to heal the world
Worthy of trust
Fearfully and wonderfully made
 

Embrace the cities and towns


York Minster  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

Here’s a thoughtful meditation by Ann Bell Worley, based on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles headed for the city of Babylon.

The meditation is taken from the Cities and Towns issue in a series of publications on faith and ethics produced by Baylor University (and available for free download).


Meditation: “Babylon”

Not simply an evil territory
     or a dirty word,
     as we are prone to believe.
But a place where God’s people were sent
     in exile
     on purpose
     on mission
         to offer their culture
     to the culture there
     in love.
For God so loved the world.

Like Israel in exile, still we hope
     for our homecoming in the city of God,
     where there will be no more tears.
Let us hope not
     in closed communion
     in isolated sanctuaries
     apart from the Babylon-world.
Rather let us hope
     in the fullness of God’s love
     in the life of the cities and towns
         where we work
         and love
         and worship
         and play.
And remember
     that God so loved not only us,
         but the world.

Let us hope for Babylon
     as we hope for ourselves.
Let us embrace
     its people
     its buildings
     its streets
     and fill them with the beauty
         of God’s temple.
Let us hope
         with doors wide open,
     welcome the city in
     and pour ourselves out.
For God so loved the world.
 

~ written by Ann Bell Worley, copyright © 2006 The Center for Christian Ethics. Posted on the Baylor University website.
 


… more on Cities and Towns

Other subjects included in the Cities and Towns issue:

  • Dysfunctional Cities: Where Did We Go Wrong?
  • Citizens of Another City
  • The New Urbanism
  • Saint Benedict in the City
  • Crate and Castle
  • Cities and Towns in Art
  • Salt in the City

… and loads more on Faith and Ethics …

Check out the Baylor University’s Christian Reflection Project for materials on other areas of life where faith and ethics intersect – to inform your thoughts and your prayers. Also a great resource for group discussions.

Note: Besides articles, there are also study guides provided, for example this one on Consumerism.
 


 
From the blog

Prayer prompts
Sola gratia – Deo gratias
Sabbath rest

 

Proclaim the wondrous


Garden at Colomba Le Roc Retreat, France  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

But you are a chosen people,
set aside to be
      a royal order of priests,
a holy nation, God’s own;
so that you may proclaim
the wondrous acts
of the One who called you
out of inky darkness
into shimmering light.

 

(1 Peter 2:9, The Voice)

 


Literally part of “a royal order of priests”

Pentecost weekend I had the privilege of representing our Presbytery at the dedication service of Colomba Le Roc Retreat – a truly ecumenical celebration.

 
As part of the “Blessing of Colomba le Roc and all present” at the end of the service, I used this benediction by David Adam:

Benediction

The Father of many resting places grant you rest;
The Christ who stilled the storm grant you calm;
The Spirit who fills all things grant you peace.
God’s light be your light,
God’s love be your love,
God’s way be your way.

The eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit
shield you on every side.
Amen.

 
from The Open Gate: Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually
by David Adam, p.112
 


 
From the blog
Body talk
Prayer sheet: Called into community
Show me the way

 

Consolation joy


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

(Psalm 94:19, NIVUK)

 


A prayer

How can I tell of such love to me?
You made me in your image
and hold me in the palm of your hand,
your cords of love, strong and fragile as silk,
      bind me and hold me.
Rich cords, to family and friends,
music and laughter echoing in memories,
light dancing on the water, hills rejoicing.
Cords that found me hiding behind carefully built walls
      and led me out,
love that heard my heart break and despair and rescued me,
love that overcame my fears and doubts and released me.
The questions and burdens I carry you take,
to leave my hands free – to hold yours, and others,
free to follow your cords as they move
and swirl in the breeze,
free to be caught up in the dance of your love,
finding myself in surrendering to you.
How can I tell of such love?
How can I give to such love?
I am, here am I.

 
by Catherine Hooper
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #177
 


 
Recommendation
 
I’m thoroughly enjoying Ingrid Fettell Lee’s book, Joyful.
Check out her website, Aesthetics of Joy, for details and additional resources.
 

Thank you. For dust


(Photo: Albert Goedkoop)

 

Easter blessings to you all.

In light of the resurrection, here’s a different take on the word, “dust”.
 


A poem: Dusting

by Marilyn Nelson, 1946

 
Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.
 

source: www.poets.org
 


Extras
Article: The Science of dust, Picasso’s favourite phenomenon

 

Dust and transformation


(Photo: Albert Goedkoop)

 

Ash Wednesday was weeks ago, I know.

Still, you might derive some spiritual nourishment from this Ash Wednesday benediction, even now in Holy Week, as Jesus’ death looms large and his victory over sin and death is imminent.


Ash Wednesday Benediction

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Let the memory of your incomplete humanity
awaken you to the wonders, joys, sorrows, and pain of life.

Let the ashes you wear be the ashes of transformation;
of awakening to the beauty and love of seizing the moment
and living it to the fullest.

Let it be said of you that here in this little part of eternity
that you lived fully, loved extravagantly
and helped humanity evolve into all that God dreamed we can be!

You are fearfully and wonderfully made
In the image of the ONE who is was and ever more shall be
Creator, Christ and Spirit ONE, Amen.

by Pastor Dawn, posted on pastordawn.
 


 
Extra
The Dust Storm in Prayer (on Ignatian prayer)
 


 
From the blog
Holy Week posts from 2017
 

In the clouds


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Let me encourage you with these words, as Paul suggests:

 
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 


A prayer

Not when the mountains shake,
or the seas roar,
or the clouds part to reveal You,
Holy One,
but here and now,
on this one ordinary day,
we will wait and watch
for You will surely come to us.
Amen.

by Ann Siddall
posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community website.
 


Get inspired

Cloud Appreciation Society Manifesto

3 Prayers for Advent


 

To kick off this month’s theme, Prepare, here are 3 short prayers to ready our hearts for Christmas and for Jesus’ Kingdom to come, now and in the future.

 
(Links to additional resources for Advent included below.)
 


Prayer of Invocation

(inspired by Matthew 11:3-5)

O God,
we come today
echoing John the Baptist’s question to your Beloved Child:
“Are you the one who is to come?”
Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the answer for ourselves:
In the work of justice: Christ!
In the practice of mercy: Christ!
In good news for the poor: Christ!
In the vision of peace: Christ!
Make us ready, with open hearts and joyful spirits,
to follow in Christ’s Way.
Amen.

by The Rev. Susan A. Blain, and posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website.
 


Prayer of Confession

It is never easy for us to confess our sins, Waiting God.
There are the hurts we have caused to our families and friends,
     which we would like to forget.
There are those we believe are impossible to love,
     and so we don’t try.
There are people who live on the edge of our society,
     and we ignore their cries for help.

Forgive us, God who comes near to us.
When we have lost our way, show us yours.
Lead us in humility down the streets of your kingdom.
Teach us your truth,
     so we might be able to keep your Word,
     revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

by Thom Shuman. Source: re-worship.blogspot.com
 


Prayers of the People for All Ages

We have listened to God’s Word.
Now let us come to God full of hope for all our needs:

For a real sense of excited anticipation of the coming of Jesus
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

For peace in our homes, our schools and our communities
as we approach the Christmas season
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

For peace and harmony in countries torn apart by war around the world, that weapons be remade into garden tools
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

That we always learn to be alert and aware of God’s presence in our daily lives
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

God of light,
we bring these prayers to you through Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen.

~ from Children’s Liturgy of the Word, First Sunday of Advent Year A. Posted on re:worship.blogspot.com


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

These days there is so much material available online to accompany us on our journey through the season of Advent.

Here are a few examples:
Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Pray as you go Advent retreat
Abbey of the Arts online Advent retreat

I also commend our 2017 Advent series on Faith, Hope and Joy, featuring meditations by three ministers in our Presbytery.

 

Summer-friendly spiritual practices


‘Strangers you meet on the street can turn into good neighbours’  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Have you considered activities like meeting people, gardening, swimming and journaling as a spiritual practice?

 

Incidentally, this is the 150th Prayer Matters blog post. Thank you for sharing in the spiritual practice that is this blog.

 

Gretchen Champoux … on gardening

Gardening connects us to life’s natural rhythms, the gifts of each season, the wonder of creation and the natural world. For me, gardening and gratitude go hand in hand … I can’t help but experience the garden. When I do, I am pulled to the present moment so much so that I can paradoxically lose sense of time — especially if I’m digging away!

https://www.asacredjourney.net/
 

Sharon Salzberg … on swimming

I thought of meditation when Willow described her experience (swimming laps). When she slowed down and focused only on the movement and the effects it had on her body, she was able to let go of the doubts, fears, and comparisons in order to experience what the body presented to her at that moment. The experience of being buoyed along in the water, of her muscles moving through it, was a pure sensation of being alive, once she got her comparing mind out of the way.

https://onbeing.org
 

Austin Kleon … on journaling

When I write in my diary, I often try to start with Nicholson Baker’s advice:

If you ask yourself, ‘What’s the best thing that happened today?’ it actually forces a certain kind of cheerful retrospection that pulls up from the recent past things to write about that you wouldn’t otherwise think about. If you ask yourself, ‘What happened today?’ it’s very likely that you’re going to remember the worst thing, because you’ve had to deal with it – you’ve had to rush somewhere or somebody said something mean to you – that’s what you’re going to remember. But if you ask what the best thing is, it’s going to be some particular slant of light, or some wonderful expression somebody had, or some particularly delicious salad. I mean, you never know …

 
https://austinkleon.com
 


From the blog
Up to us – on the joys of a walking holiday