The Avowal

The Avowal by Denise Levertov (1923 – 1997)

As swimmers dare

to lie face to the sky

and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air

and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain

freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,

knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.

Looking For Good

The following poem is by Eddie Askew, former General Secretary of The Leprosy Mission.

Lord, it’s easy to be discouraged

by all the pain and evil I see in the world.

Easy to grow hard and cynical. Paranoid.

Scanning each friendly word for hidden criticism.

Taking the outstretched hand and wondering

what the other hand holds.

Throwing away the message of love

while I look in the envelope for its letter bomb.

So easy, Lord.

But in the quiet with you

the thought comes.

If evil is so strong

and wrong so powerful,

why is there yet such goodness in the world?

There is one world, not two.

And the world that spins into darkness

is only half a turn from the light.

And in the dark itself there are lights.

Flickering candles of hesitant flame,

persistent rhythmic neons of colour,

bright floodlights of electric intensity.

A white shining of hope.

And somehow the darkness has no power to put it out.

The light shines on in the dark,

and the darkness has never quenched it.

Lord, thank you for that.

For every glimmer of light and goodness

that falls across my path.

For every rumour of righteousness,

each breath of kindness,

each incandescent glow of particular love in my world.

Thank you.

And as they coalesce,

spilling over into the dark chasms of life,

pools and lakes of shimmering light,

I can see the outline of your love.

Quiet. Persistent. Patient. Indomitable.

Evil may deny your presence, Lord,

but the light still shows me you are here.

Jesus Will Still Be There

Things change, plans fail.
You look for love on a grander scale.
Storms rise, hopes fade
and you place your bets on another day.
When the going gets tough, when the ride’s too rough,
when you’re just not sure enough.

Jesus will still be there.
His love will never change,
Sure as a steady rain,
Jesus will still be there.
When no one else is true,
He’ll still be lovin’ you.
When it looks like you’ve lost it all
And you haven’t got a prayer,
Jesus will still be there.

Time flies, hearts turn,
a little bit wiser from lessons learned.
But sometimes weakness wins
and you lose your foothold once again.
When the going gets tough, when the ride’s too rough,
when you’re just not sure enough.

Jesus will still be there.
His love will never change,
Sure as a steady rain,
Jesus will still be there.
When no one else is true,
He’ll still be lovin’ you.
When it looks like you’ve lost it all
And you haven’t got a prayer,
Jesus will still be there.

Labels

The following extract and poem are taken from Disguises of Love by Eddie Askew.

Another problem is that labels can restrict our own development. Our traditional piety sometimes makes us less than fully human. We curb our ability to enjoy life, or feel pain, because we feel we must conform to an expected role, to labels we stick on ourselves. Yet the most important thing is not that we can recognise others, labelled or not, nor that they acknowledge our labels, but rather that God recognises us. And the thing he recognises is love, not labels. That’s what he identifies with. Not the classification by which we proclaim our separateness from others, and certainly not the critical labels we apply to them, but the caring which shows our identification with them. What we claim to be is not as important as the presence of Christ in our lives. That’s what leads God to call us his children. ‘Because those who are led (not labelled!) by the Spirit are sons (and daughters of God’ (Romans 8:14).

Labels

They put labels on you, Lord,

Friend of sinners, Sabbath breaker.

Disturber of the peace.

They put all their fear and anger,

all their hate, into their labels.

It was easier to label than to listen.

Easier to condemn than to have their world altered

their customs questioned.

Easier to keep the blinkers on than face the light,

the discomfort of truth,

Your truth. Living truth.

They even nailed a label to your cross.

Just above the thorns of a bloody crown.

King of the Jews, it said.

Label. Laugh. Turn away. Forget.

Is that what I do, Lord?

The mockery of quick judgement

that takes fear as evidence,

prejudice as reason.

That shoots on sight

and leaves the bleeding body of truth

dead in a ditch.

And close my eyes, lest I remember.

Lord, when I meet someone new,

someone who threatens me by his strangeness,

whose presence asks for adjustments,

whose ideas don’t mesh with mine

and which shake the assumptions I wear

like a favourite jacket shaped to my comfort,

then help me to look,

not for his label, but for his humanity.

Not to close my mind, but to open my heart,

and see your presence in him.

Let me see you not just in my comfortable friends,

but in the eyes of strangers around me.

And Lord, help me to see

the only label that matters is love.

It’s not always easy to recognise.

Sometimes it looks like a bloody crown.

Eddie Askew (1927 – 2007) Previous General Director of The Leprosy Mission

Facing Reality

The following excerpt and prayer is from Disguises of Love by Eddie Askew.

As Christians, we must face the reality of the world. We can’t delude ourselves over the activity of evil or pretend that it’s all God’s will. We don’t know why some people suffer much more than others and why some break under it. But we do know that God is with us, even though sometimes we know it only in retrospect. Looking back, we see that, through the suffering, love was at work in one of his many disguises. Love is often hard to recognise, so close to the suffering that he’s hard to identify. So hard that we attribute to him the suffering itself, instead of thanking him for his presence and strength. We can find him in and through the suffering, love’s disguises slowly dissolving as we recognise his presence. Not necessarily justifying the suffering but turning it towards good.

Lord, I spend a lot of time

talking to you about myself.

I have so many needs.

Help me today to think of others.

I pray for people weighed down by worry.

Anxious people, who don’t know where to turn.

Who don’t know whose door to knock on,

bewildered by what life has brought.

Knocked off balance by the suffering and inequality

they meet at every step.

People without choices,

whose only way is down.

Somehow, Lord, in the turmoil of survival,

in the questioning and the doubt,

show yourself to them.

Let them find you, not in the abstract,

not in the smooth words of the practised preacher,

but in a hand held out to help.

In shared tears, and in the silence

that says everything without words.

May they recognise your purposes for them,

and learn that your will for them is good.

Help us, each one of us,

to face things as they are.

And though the world has forgotten the architect’s plans,

though the builders ignore the blueprint,

and the foundations shake with every pressure,

shelter us with your presence.

Help us to see you at work

not only in the good days

but in the bad,

and to know, beyond doubt,

not through others’ words but our own experience,

that you work together with us.

For good.

Then, Lord, our praise will be real,

our joy deep.

Eddie Askew (1927-2007), former general director of the Leprosy Mission who dedicated his life to the relief of leprosy all over the world.

Disguises of Love

Written by Eddie Askew (1927-2007) – former general secretary of The Leprosy Mission.

Lord, there are times

when silence seems best.

And yet, when I’m faced with your love,

even with the little I know, I have to speak.

If nothing else, to say thank you.

I don’t deserve it.

Now there’s an understatement.

Sometimes all I am and do

seems designed to test your love to the limit.

And you go on loving.

Lord, it’s breathtaking. Immense.

I hear your voice, carrying crystal clear over the vast plain,

re-affirming life and presence.

A small point of focus in infinity. Infinity of love.

Great enough for all. Small enough for me.

A love that comes to identify, to tell me I belong.

That comes to strengthen to tell me it’s mine.

That comes to comfort with the knowledge that you care.

A love that comes to challenge and discipline at the point of stress.

That stretches me nearly to breaking point and makes me grow.

That faces me, in searching, insistent strength,

with the pain of truth I’d rather not see.

That strips my illusions and leaves me trembling, naked,

in the cold wind of honesty.

The love that fights me as I struggle to preserve the lies I love

from the buffeting storm of your Spirit.

And through it all,

a love that holds me, firm and close.

Making me aware, in the eye of the cyclone, of your peace.

And in the wind-drop of understanding,

my ears still ringing, eyes still smarting, from the gale,

I recognise our love.

In the glacier wind as in the valley breeze.

Seeing, as in the crackling flash of brief lightning,

brilliant and clear,

some of the disguises of your love.

Lord, I know there’s more,

but I’m not ready for it yet.

Yes To Life In Spite Of Everything

I’m just about to begin reading Yes To Life In Spite of Everything by Viktor E. Frankl and, on reading the Introduction by Daniel Goleman, I had to share this:

“There are three main ways people find fulfillment of their life meaning, in Frankl’s view. First, there is action, such as creating a work, whether art or a labor of love – something that outlasts us and continues to have an impact. Second, he says, meaning can be found in appreciating nature, works of art, or simply loving people; Frankl cites Kierkegaard, that the door to happiness always opens outward. The third lies in how a person adapts and reacts to unavoidable limits on their life possibilities, such as facing their own death or enduring a dreadful fate like the concentration camps. In short, our lives take on meaning through our actions, through loving, and through suffering.

Here I’m reminded of life advice from the Dalai Lama on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, when I wrote A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. First, he recommended, gain some internal control over your own mind and how you react to life’s difficulties. Then, adopt an ethic of compassion and altruism, the urge to help others. Finally, act on that outlook in whatever ways your life offers.”

Autumn

Shades of Gold

So many shades of gold
Autumn
Another miracle we take for granted
Another expression of the artist’s vision
The blending of the autumn hues
with the setting sun
Warm
Comforting
Perfect
Thank you for autumn, Lord.

– Author Unknown

Golden Leaves

We see signs of summer’s passing in golden leaves,
shortening days, misty mornings, autumn glow.
We sense its passing in rain that dampens,
winds that chill, Harvest’s bounty placed on show.
Creator God, who brings forth
both green shoot and hoar frost,
sunrise and sunset,
we bring our thanks
for seeds that have grown,
harvests gathered,
storehouses filled,
mouths fed.
And, as your good earth rests
through winter’s cold embrace,
we look forward to its re-awakening
when kissed by Spring’s first touch.

– Author Unknown

For Those Whose Harvest is Poor

Creator God, for daily bread
and all who work
to bring your harvest home
we bring our thanks today.

Forgive our ingratitude
we who have so much
yet waste what you have given.

For those whose harvest is poor,
whose crops have withered,
water tainted, children starve,
help those who bring relief
and bestow on us
an unaccustomed generosity,
that all might share from your garden
and all might sing your praise.

Creator God, provider of all
we bring our thanks today.

– Author Unknown

JesuitResource.org

God’s Love Prayers

A Prayer for resting in God’s love

God of Goodness, I come into your presence so aware of my human frailty and yet overwhelmed by your love for me.
I thank you that there is no human experience that I might walk through where your love cannot reach me.
If I climb the highest mountain you are there and yet if I find myself in the darkest valley of my life, you are there.
Teach me today to love you more.
Help me to rest in that love that asks nothing more than the simple trusting heart of a child.

– Author Unknown

Your Love

Bless us with Love, O Merciful God;
That we may Love as you Love!
That we may show patience, tolerance,
Kindness, caring and love to all!
Give me knowledge; O giver of Knowledge,
That I may be one with my Universe and Mother Earth!
O Compassionate One, grant compassion unto us;
That we may help all fellow souls in need!
Bless us with your Love O God.
Bless us with your Love.

– Author Unknown

Prayer to an Evolutionary God

You accept us–at times of self-doubt
Thank you, God of all,
Co-creator of our world,
For allowing us to be imperfectly made:
Because it makes us, if we are wise, forgiving.
Do you accept us as we are?
We condemn people too quickly:
We judge them for flawed thinking, disguised egotism,
Unworthy acquisitiveness, or skewed opinions.
But we can forgive them once we accept our own shadow,
And realize how well we ourselves fit
Into the ranks of a less than perfect human race.
You, Holy God, accept each of us,
Prophets tell us, just as we are:
Provided our moral judgments of others
Are reciprocally generous and compassionate.
Imperfection fits this evolving reality,
For the universe thrives on diversity,
Including random failure,
One of the very preconditions for the unfolding advances.
May it be so.

– William Cleary

Resources from jesuitresource.org

The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom Of The Twenty-Third Psalm

The following is an excerpt from The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom Of The Twenty-Third Psalm by Harold S. Kushner.

“When we are frightened because the world is a scary place, God is with us. If He cannot always protect us from harm or from our own mistakes, He can ease our fears and our pain by being with us.

When we are exhausted because the world asks so much of us, God gives us times and places of refuge from the claims of the world, to calm and restore our souls. God renews our strength so that we can “mount up with wings as eagles” and continue tirelessly to do what is right.

When we are terrified at the prospect of losing control over our emotions and doing ourselves serious harm, God is with us to help us do things with Him at our side that we were not sure we could do alone.

When illness, bereavement, and the losses that come with age cast a shadow over our lives, God is there to fill the empty space, to remind us that shadows are cast only because the sun is shining somewhere, to take us by the hand and lead us through the valley of the shadow and into the sunlight.

When events in our world bring us dismay and we fear that evil is prospering, God reminds us that evil acts invariably carry the seeds of their own destruction.

When people disappoint us, when they cannot give us what we need, whether because our needs are too great or because their emotional resources are too meager, God is our reliable friend, and inexhaustible source of love and strength.

And when we find ourselves wandering aimlessly, through the world, wondering why we are here and what our lives will have meant when they are over, God blesses us with a sense of purpose, a challenge, a list of moral obligations and opportunities, every one of which will give us the sense of living our days in His presence.

There is pain in the world. If we are to be truly alive, we cannot hide from it. But we can survive it, and God’s caring presence lessens the pain.

There is death in the world, robbing us of the ones we love and one day robbing them of our presence. But God who is immortal assures us that death may take a person out of our future but cannot remove him from our past, that all the things we loved a person for have entered so deeply into our souls that they remain part of us. The Lord gives, but the Lord does not take away, and their presence is every bit as real as their absence.

There is fear in the world. There is vulnerability and uncertainty. God cannot tell us that nothing bad will ever happen to us. But God can tell us that we need not be afraid of the future, no matter what it holds. He cannot protect you from evil without taking away from other people the human power of choosing between good and bad. He cannot protect you from illness or bad luck. He cannot spare you from death and let you and those around you live forever. But He can give you the resources to transcend and overcome those fears, so that bad luck never causes you to lose faith in yourself, so that bad people never cause you to lose faith in humanity, so that the inevitability of death never causes you to give up on the holiness of life.

There will be dark days, days of loss and days of failure, but they will not last forever. The light will always return to chase away the darkness, the sun will always come out again after the rain, and the human spirit will always rise above failure. Fear will assault us, but we will not be afraid, “for Thou art with me.”

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.