A Prayer for Those of Us Who Are Aging

I found this 17th Century Prayer among the mementos my mother kept. Attributed to a 17th Century nun, I have adapted its language and some of its words and phrasing:

Photo: by Borya via Flick’r

PRAYER FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE AGING

Lord, You know me better than I know myself–that I am growing older and will some day be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every occasion. Release me from the need to straighten out everyone’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody–helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a shame not to use it all, but you know, Lord, I would like to have a few friends at the end.

Keep me free from the endless recital of details–give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips when it comes to talking about my aches and pains. They are increasing and the love of rehashing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I don’t dare to ask to enjoy tales of the miseries of others, but do help me to listen to them patiently.

I won’t ask You for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less stubbornness when my memory clashes with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably sweet–not a Saint–some of them are hard to live with. A sour old personal is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the grace to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And remind me, Lord, to tell them so.

AMEN

I have been remiss in keeping up with this blog and this seemed to be to be a good way to jump in again. I think the prayer applies to all of us, not only those of us who have already arrived on the old end of the aging spectrum.

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Oh, Chosen One

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah--Wikipedia Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah–Wikipedia, labeled for noncommercial reuse.

This morning, my reading took me to the second book of Isaiah, known as The Book of Consolation in my translation. I never tire of reading this, the voice of God through his prophet reminding me over and over again that, in spite of myself, God continues to choose me.

I’m revisiting a book that I read years ago,

Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey

that helps us explore avenues of prayer suited to one’s personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs. For people like me who can’t exist without time for prayer and quiet (Intuitive, Feeling) one prayer form that the authors recommend is Lectio Divino (Divine Reading), that is reading and entering into dialogue with God about what one has read. They suggest when reading Second Isaiah, to insert your own name whenever God is addressing Israel.

Check out these verses, for example. I will leave a blank, for you to substitute your name:

“But now, thus says the Lord,
who created you, ________, and formed you, _______:
do not fear for I have called you by name.
You are mine.” Is. 43: 1

“Hear then, ________, my servant,
_________, whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord, who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, __________, my servant,
____________, whom I have chosen.” Is. 44: 1-2

This is what it is all about, isn’t it? Bringing home scripture, making it alive today in our own experience. Remembering that we are God’s chosen and he is speaking to us. Divine reading, indeed!

If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment, may I suggest this book, a simple test and analysis of all 16 temperaments…helpful not only for prayer, but also in understanding personal relationships. My husband and I are the exact opposites on one another–complementary and challenging! (Click on the book titles to access these books on Amazon).

Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types Paperback by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates

By the way, for the fiction writers among you, this is the book I use to help me to develop characters who are consistent, but who will also throw in an occasional surprise by acting out of character.

Touch the Dawn

Photo: yala-lala via Deviant Art Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: yala-lala via Deviant Art
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

In the tender compassion of our God,
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet into the day of peace.

Luke 1, 78-79

Photo: touch the flame Deviant Art Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: touch the flame
Deviant Art
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

May the light and peace we need so much be with you, your loved ones and our troubled world. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Victoria

Playful God

I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in that heavenly reign. Mt. 18, 3-4 (NAB)

Photo: Crayola Crayons

Photo: Crayola Crayons

I remember a couple of lines from a poem I read a long time ago from a book published in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. It was written and published by a teacher from St. Mary’s of the Lake, a sister college back then of Notre Dame University–the college my grandmother attended. I tried to recall the exact phrasing, but the book is not available to me right now, so I will just give you the gist, in my own words:

I have a very little song to sing,
I have a very little game to play,
I play alone, except for One who is with me always.
And they are beautiful.

Whenever I read or think of this poem, I think of the ever-loving presence of our God and the fact that God cares about the littlest things in our life.

Yesterday, I had a delightful morning with a dear friend, someone with whom I share faith-talk. We went Bible shopping, as my sight is not so good anymore (one of the non-perks of getting older). I would like one that is large print. Most of the ones we saw were enormous study Bibles. None was in the translation I am used to. But we saw a shelf of coloring books for kids and started talking about the meditative fad that’s popular now of adult coloring books. Kerry told me they have them at Costco, just across the street from where we were. So we went, and both found one…but no crayons.

Now, in my early years, my mom and I lived with my grandparents on a very meager widow’s pension. Mom was not able to give me most of what I asked for, so I still carry the pure delight of the times she would take me to get a new coloring book (or any kind of book, for that matter) and a box of crayons…eight of them, if I recall correctly. Even now, when I pass crayons in the grocery store, I can taste that joy, the scent and colors of a new box of crayons…and so in the afternoon, I took off to Wal-Mart and bought one with 120 colors! I colored two pictures last night.

Jesus asks us to become like little children and I believe that is an invitation to trust and unquestioned belief in His Word. But I also suspect that God delights in us when we find joy in the simple things of life (and in the beauty of His creation.) Perhaps you would enjoy it too–or maybe you will rediscover one of those little things that gave you happiness as a child.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Keeping Sabbath

Image: oneyearbibleblog.com

Image: oneyearbibleblog.com

Most Sundays, I try to practice Sabbath—a tradition that was a strong factor in my growing up years, but that had waned with my work as a nurse…patients need care every day of the week. Most of us know and understand the concept of a day of rest, but our frenetic lifestyles tend to get in the way.

The concept of Sabbath crisscrosses most cultural, spiritual, religious and secular societies, even predating biblical times. The Babylonian Enuma Elish prescribed a day of repose. In the Genesis creation story, God rested after his six days of work and, I suppose it worked out well so that he added it to those tablets of stone he handed on to his people through Moses. Wicca, Islam. Buddhism, Cherokee teaching and others all caution humans to take a break, chill out, and rest.

Wisdom, it seems to me, embraces our need for refreshment, for replenishment of body, mind spirit and emotion, for regeneration and reflection.

For many of us, well, for me anyway, the need to be in control seems to take hold and it becomes oh-so-hard to let go of time, accept idleness and unproductivity and, perhaps, the feeling of uselessness. I suspect that there is a trust issue here. Can I really believe that God will take care of things in my absence? Can I believe that the work of creation on this particular day will go on without my amazing intervention?

So, how do I, Ms-Doing-Not-Being, make Sabbath?

• Meditation—a bit longer than my ordinary routine.

• Worship—with my Parish community.

• Journaling–and in the process really waking up to what is happening around me. I may write of all the wonderful sensory experiences that a pristine summer day offers—the finches’ songs, the brilliant orange of the male oriole at our feeder, the spicy scent of new-born flowers and the basil in the vegetable garden. I can pay attention to the play of light and shadow in the now-expansive boughs of the ash tree we planted almost twenty years ago and watch the hummingbirds fly back and forth sipping nectar from both flowers and feeders. I may feel the gentle kiss of a breeze and delight in my dogs’ warm bodies flanking me on either side. I will listen to David busy chopping spices in the kitchen.

• Spa Stuff. I can pamper myself, thanking my body for its seven decades of service and praise the many scars that it bears, a reminder of the life-threatening illness I have survived, for now.

• Creativity. Maybe some consider engaging in the creative process to be work. For me, I allowed the muse to come out and play, more by way of brainstorming than actualizing any project. Sabbath time allows ideas to gestate and gives clarity as to where to take them.

• And, yes, a final confession. I might do laundry. So, it’s not a perfect Sabbath, but for this woman who tends towards OCD, that’s probably not a bad thing. Besides, we need clean clothes!

Sabbath is not something that comes easily to many of us. I am aware that it doesn’t have to always be on Saturday or Sunday, or even occupy an entire twenty-four hours. How is life different if, each day, I remember to tuck in an hour or even minutes for the divine repose, sitting back and letting go?

Would you add, in comments, some ideas on how to keep Sabbath?

Photo: sroabji.com

Photo: sroabji.com

“Catching Sight of God”

“Immediately, upon catching sight of Jesus, the whole crowd was overcome by awe.”
Mark, 9, 15 (NAB)

Photo: consecratetheday.com

Photo: consecratetheday.com

This verse from Mark caught my attention this morning. It occurs at the beginning of an account in which Jesus heals a boy possessed by a deaf and mute spirit that threw him into what we would describe as epilepsy. The disciples lacked faith to heal him themselves and Jesus got on their case for that before asking the lad’s father to believe. The entire story is full of lessons and points to ponder–but it’s that verse I quoted above that commanded my attention today.

Two points: the preceding account is that of the Transfiguration in which Jesus gave Peter, James and John a glimpse of his divine beauty–or perhaps it was the Father’s doing. I have to imagine that after that, Jesus still had a radiance about him that struck the crowd.

I’ve seen that among his followers, haven’t you? The knowledge of God, an experience of his presence in our lives, really does transform us and there is a certain joy, a radiance that shines through our physical person. In my work with death and dying, I’ve even seen it in the midst of pain and impending loss when there is an undercurrent of faith that supports both the patient and their loved ones.

Second point: we, too, can catch sight of Jesus in the unfolding of every single day…perhaps in another person, perhaps in moments of prayer, in those moments that we can cultivate when doing the most menial of tasks like laundry or dishes, during a commute, working in the garden where we can appreciate the wonder of creation and the need of the constant attention needed to pull out those darn weeds (guess what I did this morning).

Jesus shows up, sometimes when we least expect it…if we look for him. Would you share (in comments) how he took you by surprise today. Or is there an event from the past you would like to share. Maybe this will help a fellow follower to zoom in on the Presence.

Thank you.

Homeless

Photo: tomstoneartist.com

Photo: tomstoneartist.com

Walking down the road I saw a man in tattered clothes.
I couldn’t help but wonder what had led to his defeat.
Tell me, if you would, about this life that you have chosen,
or did you have no choice except this life, upon the street?

I handed him a buck or two and said, Here, take a seat.
Upon a rusted old park bench we hunkered in to meet.
You’re curious, my boy, he said, why do you want to know?
I want to understand you, sir, to see what makes you so.

That money that I gave to you, I know you’ll give to others.
I wonder, how do you survive while giving to your brothers?
A smile broke across the wrinkled landscape of his face,
the pain I’d seen inside his eyes seemed suddenly erased.

You may not really want to hear the story I will tell,
it happened many years ago—a place not far from hell.
The name, you’ve heard—‘twas Auschwitz, a camp they took us Jews
the horrors that surrounded me tempted me to choose

to take my life before they could subject me to a death
without the grace of dignity. I wanted to be free.
But then some words came tumbling from the darkness of my mind
Words spoken by a holy man I heard in years behind.

The teacher’s voice was strong, it traveled straight into my core
of all I understand of God, of what we’re living for.
such good there that can be done in Auschwitz late at night—
your hope can be a gift to those who tremble in their fright.

And what I learned back then—the truths that saved me from despair
I carry them within my soul, there’s so much need to care.
So I refuse to see my life a symbol of defeat.
Much good there is, my son, that now awaits me in that street?

The old man stood and shook my hand and left me with his smile
I sat, transfixed, upon that bench, alone, for quite a while.
Now I withhold my judgment when I see another homeless guy
and wonder still at wealth, within, that money cannot buy.

This poem, written a number of years ago, is based on a true story, recounted by a Rabbi whose name I can’t recall. For me, the lesson is to look for God in everyone, in everything.

Have a blessed week.