“The Goodness of God” (Thomas Merton)

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything God has given us – and God has given us everything…

Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.

For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience.

Pestering Prayer

Prayer is pestering.

Being a pray’er means being a pest.  Kayla McClurg, a shepherd with the Washington, DC-based Church of the Saviour, reminded me of this regarding the Lectionary readings from July 28, 2013.  It is the story from Luke’s gospel where the disciples asked Jesus how to pray.  And he tells them, in what has become one of the most oft-quoted and prayed prayers around.  But it is not simple rote.

The story reminds us that prayer involves closeness and intimacy with God, for we can call him “Papa” for that is what “Abba” means in the Aramaic and Hebrew, not ‘father’ as it is sometimes translated; father is too austere for the playful and proximate stance we have with God.

I remember when I was a kid being in the car for too long left me antsy and itchy, so of course I would squabble over and over again, “when are we going to get there?!” or the ubiquitous, “are we there yet?!” until my dad gave me an answer.  I am so grateful that God is not like my dad or I’d be in trouble for my dad’s answer sometimes involved a swear word and always involved that wearied parental frustration that came out not only in his tone but in his furrowed brow as well.

When I pray, I dare say, I am just like that to God.  I pester God.  I bang on the door; I knock until my knuckles bleed; I search until every stone is over turned and tossed.  I refuse to stop when I am hungry for more of God and God’s love and world.

Prayer is pestering God for more of God.

Prayer is persistence as well.  Prayer is like calling someone over and over again until they answer the phone.  Prayer is the persistent widow who would not take no for an answer.  Widows were the most vulnerable in those days, aside from orphans, and as women with no husbands they had no right to demand anything, so when Jesus likens the way we should pray to God the way the widow did, that was extraordinarily empowering.  It is extraordinary because Jesus is saying when we communicate with God, not just talk, we are communicating with the Source of all that is and we should do so with a radiant mixture of awe, wonder, love and child-like trust.

The trust we are seeking with God in prayer can be likened to that of the little boy sitting in front of me this morning at Mass who crawled up into his momma’s lap during the Eucharistic prayers seeking a comfort he knew would be there without any doubt or rebuke.  God is like that…Maternal like a mother hen who gathers her chicks.  And it is to this God we ‘pesteringly’ pray.

I said previously that prayer is about communicating with God which is more encompassing that talking, for words can fall so short when communing with the Divine Lover.  I communicate with my body, my mind, my spirit.  I communicate with God through nature, through love, through service.  I communicate in Silence.  I communicate when I am angry.  But regardless of form or function, ALL of it is communication and all of it is prayer to and with God.

Pester.  Pester.  Pester.  Because when we are pestering God, we are seeking God’s face, God’s heart, God’s very Being.  And pestering God is far better than not doing so, for in all of it God is the beginning of our prayers and God is the very end as well.

So, pester away prayerfully at God.

” Love After Love” (Derek Walcott)

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

…On Love…

God is Love. Plain and simple.

And it really is plain and simple…and profound and unutterable.  It is so simple children get it.  It is so simple adults are threatened by it (so much so we create dogma, doctrines, denominations and diatribes to control the very essence and definition of God’s love).

But God’s love is…and will forever be just that: Love.

We can do as we wish to it.  We can qualify it.  We can quantify it.  We can try and control it through the above mentioned ways. We can try and block it.  We can try and commodify it.

But God’s love is…unconditional.  And that scares the bejesus out of us.

We humans are so afraid of the utter brilliance and intensity of divine Love that we have to both qualify it and then quantify it.  We cannot truly believe God’s love is unconditional, as in absolutely unconditional, that we need to establish temporal conditions to that which is Unconditional.

What would happen if all the God Lovers simply sought love – to give and receive it?  What if all other dogma, doctrine and denomination burnt away as the dross that it is, and only God’s unconditional love reigned supreme in every being created by  this Loving God?

What would happen?

Divine Love is not a doctrine, or a sect, or a rule; far from it.  God’s love is a Reality, a Being, an eternal and infinite Presence that is pure and undefiled in its natural (um, er, divine) state of being.  But truth be told, I cannot handle that Truth so I have to place conditions on divine love.  I have to establish codes for this love…because I am afraid of what will happen to me, my world and my entire being if this Love actually came and consumed everything.

What would happen if we could understand Teilhard de Chardin’s urging to discover divine Love and thereby ‘rediscover’ Fire again and light the world up?

Divine Love is just that, divine.  And no human language or doctrine or dogma should ever try and tame such perfect wildness as the love of God.

More Musings on Prayer…

There are four prayers I fall back on, four I try and pray daily: Thank You; Please; Help and Wow!  They can sum up my spiritual life and my relationship with God.

Prayer is an amazingly simple, yet profound experience; it is something that is hard to teach, unless by example.  Prayer is not something, in my estimation, that can be done wrong (except not to do it at all) – I mean to say that as long as one is holding the moments as sacred and as a holy ‘conversation’ between created and Creator that in and of itself is prayer and there is no correcting it.

I put conversation in semi-quotes because for many, myself included, prayer has nothing to do with spoken words, but rather the living words of my heart in direct communique (veritable oneness) with God via contemplative prayer and meditation and being in silence in the woods or mountains or by a stream or river.

I say all that to basically let myself off the hook about ‘teaching’ on prayer and rather sharing some of my prayer life with you.  For when it comes to prayer, I am no expert or saint, but I do pray a great deal (like every day or else I am doomed).

When I pray, I start and end my days with a simple “Thank You” to God in loving gratitude.  And regardless of what is going on in between those waking hours, if I am alive, I have something to be grateful for, namely life (all of it).

“Please” is high on that list as well because if it ain’t obvious to you, it sure is to me: I am one needy little boy.  And I don’t mean I say please as in, please give me a Porsche (don’t like them) or a mansion (too much maintenance required).  I say Please as in “Please God, come to me, be with me, remind me that You are forever one with me…and as Your child all I need do is re-member my oneness with You…” and all is indeed well.

For when I say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’, I am merely paying tribute to my Momma and my Nana’s who always and often reminded (whether nicely or with a wooden spoon to my behind) that I was always and forever more to say Please and Thank You, especially to God!

“Help” is an obvious one.  I need a great deal of help, all day long, every day.  It really is that simple.  When I feel the sting of hurt feelings or the rage rising up when another idiot is behind the wheel of a car or I am frustrated with the addictions that rage in myself or the people around me (or when toxic people leave me feeling toxic), I need HELP!

And only God’s help will do…most other help is ego-based megalomania.

Yes, God works in and through people, but to me as long as my ego is in check and my level of self awareness is “on” (not self conscious), then I am attuned to the divine help coming through flesh and blood.  But when I am out of whack, and the source is out of kilter as well…hmmm, recipe for disaster.  As a wise person once said to me, “2 dead batteries will not start a car!”

And last but certainly not least: Wow!  That is the prayer I utter when I realize all the grace and miracles that surround me…from my dog Juno (I truly believe there is a reason dog is God spelled backwards) to the sunrises and sunsets, to the Blue Ridge Mountains still within eye shot.  All is glorious and indeed divine splendor!  And the best and most appropriate responsorial prayer is “Wow, God!”

Which then of course leads back to “Thank You, Lord.”  And the whole prayer cycle starts all over again.

So, if today you cannot think of what to say to God, might I suggest: Thank You; Please; Help and Wow!

“Seek God Purely” (Meister Eckhart)

Know that when you seek anything of your own, you will never find God, because you do not seek God purely.You are seeking something along with God, and you are acting just as if you were to make a candle out of God in order to look for something with it. Once one finds the things one is looking for, one throws the candle away. This is what you are doing.

Meister Eckhart