Tag Archives: Meditation & Prayer

Lent Diary: Easter Saturday 2011


Luke 23:49-56

When John the Baptist was in prison dark doubts began to plague his mind.  Is Jesus the one?  He doesn’t seem to be taking charge and making things happen.  What if he’s not the one?  What if I have not prepared the way as I should have done?  What if I’ve prepared the wrong road for the wrong person? 

On that first Easter Saturday the disciples must have felt the same.  What went wrong?  Was this whole thing a failure?  Did we follow the wrong person?  What now?  Is love not the way after all? Does love have no chance in this world?  What do we do with all his teaching, with his new way of relating to God, with his “Blessed are the poor in spirit”?  He taught us to call God ‘Father’; what do we call him now?

Familiar?  Dark moments in our lives give rise to these questions.  But we are not alone.  Sometimes God seems far away and out of touch, even to the saints among us.  The Psalmist cried out: “LORD God, my saviour…hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help!  So many troubles have fallen on me that I am close to death….  You have thrown me into the depths of the tomb, into the darkest and deepest pit….  Why do you reject me, LORD?  Why do you turn away from me?”  (Psalm 88 GNB)

Tell God today about your darkest thoughts, your deepest pain, your most anxious questions.  You may find no answers for now, but take heart.  The Psalmist discovered that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

There is a morning that is coming that is the most glorious, the most wonderful, the most life-changing morning of all.  It’s not here yet.  But know, in the midst of your questions and doubts and tragedies, it is coming.

Prayer
Lord, sustain us and those we love, in the dark night of fear and loneliness and defeat. Give us hope for the morning that is to come.

(The Lent Diary is a devotional project of Prestbury Methodist Church started by my mother, Norma Webster, 21 years ago and still edited by her.   This year 40 different people contributed devotions for the 40 days of lent and the seven days of Holy Week.  This was my contribution for Easter Saturday 2011, what I have always thought of as the darkest day of the Christian year.)

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A Prayer about Prayer


Lord you listen to our ramblings,
You listen to our cries for help,
You listen to our angry ranting
And our tear-filled grief.

We bring you our troubles and disasters,
And the tragedies that play out in the world around us.
We tell you about the inconsequential, the mundane and the insignificant.
Sometimes we react with the greatest intensity to less important things
And appear indifferent to the catastrophes around us.

You listen to it all, our chattering and our silence,
Our passion and our calmness.
As a father listens to his children
So you love to share in our stories
And enter into our lives.

But how you long to speak a word of love;
How you long for a quiet moment,
When the babble and the tears and the anger subside;
A quiet space for your still small voice to penetrate;
For the Father to touch his children’s lives.

We are alert to the world’s nuances and rhythms,
Quick to react in every way imaginable.
Teach us to know the rhythms of your heart, Lord,
Your still small voice, and your passion for justice and healing.
Teach us to temper our chattering with stillness,
And to listen for the breathing of your Spirit.

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I saw a tree die


Written during a Life Revision Workshop with Jim & Heather Johnson at Beth Shalam, Pietermaritzburg, August 2010.  Allen Goddard invited us to consider how our landscape intercepts with our ‘soulscape’.

I saw a tree die.

Winter Tree DSCN0070

It was a gift, planted in love; a delight in the garden.
We treasured and nurtured it, loved and enjoyed it.
Its leaves danced on the branches, stirred into life by the breeze.
It was a miniature, fully grown when planted,
Providing shade to its small patch of garden;
Delighting the birds and insects that played in its space.

Winter Tree DSCN0075Then the rain stopped;
The breezes turned cold;
The leaves began to shiver in the cruel wind.
Green turned to red, then to brown, and the leaves died in the winter chill.
They fell to the ground, their summer dance forgotten.
And the tree died. 

My love had failed to keep it alive;
I had watched it die, helpless, and I mourned its death.
It stood there, gaunt and lifeless; a naked skeleton;
A caricature of its former glory.
I dreaded the day I would have to dig it up; a final acknowledgement of defeat.
“When Spring comes the earth will be soft. We’ll dig it up then.” 

Ian & Tree IMG_5356But Spring brought the rain.
And the rain brought a miracle of life.
Life thrust through the hard soil and into the roots;
Pushed its way into the trunk and through the dead branches.
And life burst forth in a glorious display of green.

“Death is not final,” it declared. “Merely a stepping stone
While resurrection is hidden from sight.”
Death calls for faith through the winter
And patience while waiting in the cold.
For God’s gift of life is not an event, it’s a process, a circle, everlasting. 

I saw a tree die?
No. I saw a tree rise to glorious life.

IMG_1994

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Life in Desert Places


A Desert Meditation

Written during a Life Revision Workshop with Jim & Heather Johnson at Beth Shalam, Pietermaritzburg, August 2010

Isaiah 38:4b-8 GNB

“Be strong and don’t be afraid!
God is coming to your rescue, coming to punish your enemies.
The blind will be able to see, and the deaf will hear.
The lame will leap and dance,
and those who cannot speak will shout for joy.

Streams of water will flow through the desert;
the burning sand will become a lake,
and dry land will be filled with springs.
Where jackals used to live, marsh grass and reeds will grow.
There will be a highway there, called the Road of Holiness.”

Only in the desert,
Not in our self sufficiency and self reliance;
Not in our comfort zones, or our frenzied worship of the latest trends.

Only in the desert,
In the empty, uncluttered spaces;
Only in the desert,
A place of dying to the false self, a letting go of all that I cling to,
all that defines me, that gives me a sense of worth.

Only in the desert, when I recognise my blindness,
my inability to see, to understand, to be wise,
when I recognise my inability to speak, to bring words of wisdom, hope, and love,
when I recognise my lameness, my weakness, my need to be carried.

Only in the desert, when all that is false has died,
There in the depths of the desert,
The earth will rejoice,
Water will gush out of the rocks,
and sight and strength and speech will be given.

And what delight and celebration there will be
as we walk the path of life together;

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Wrestling with the past and the future? Wrestle with God.


(A Meditation on Genesis 32)

Like Jacob, we bring our past (the pain, the failures, and the guilt) into the present.

We bring our future (the fears, the anxieties, and the Esaus of our lives) into the present.

We bring the world and its pain into our present, and we wrestle with them all.                                                

But real victory only comes when we bring these things into the presence of God and we wrestle with him (like the Psalmist—e.g. Psalm 13).  As we wrestle with God—bringing our questions, our anger, our guilt, our fear—only then do these things move from our head to our heart, from thinking to feeling, from understanding to experiencing.  Only then do we begin to overcome, only then do blessings begin to emerge for us and for our world.  Only then can we, like Jacob, rise up and meet our Esau.

And God’s immediate gift for Jacob is a new name, Israel, ‘he who struggles with God’.  It’s not very different from the old one, Jacob.  He is still the one who ‘holds on’ (Genesis 25:26), but this time he’s holding on to God.  And not from behind anymore but face to face, bringing all of himself into God’s powerful, caring presence.

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Prayer: Law or Grace


A Meditation on Romans 8:26-27 

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will”  (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8%3A26-27&version=NIV)

Prayer is so often a legalistic battleground: there is the law of praying the right words; the pressure of having enough faith as I pray; the burden of praying for the right things.  God, however, comes to us in the love and gentleness of his Spirit, and prayer becomes a gift of his grace rather than a burden of law.  Our prayer is a discovery and enjoyment of the gift, an entering into relationship with the giver, rather than a legalistic ritual.

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