Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
“If we have any boast, it is not in our wealth or wisdom or strength. It is that we know the Lord. But an even greater boast…is that the Lord knows us. Here is our place to stand, our resting place.”¹
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
“I am afraid of insidious hands Oh Lord which grope into the darkness of my soul. Please be my guard against them.”²
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.³
“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust him more.”
¹Stephen Smallman, Forty Days on the Mountain
²Flannery O’Connor, Prayer Journal
I am afraid most of the time.
All the days, really.
Israel has never been more relatable.
Distrusting, falling into fear
Every other minute,
Because imminent danger always seems stronger
Than past salvation.
I cling to this hope:
“During those many days
The people of Israel groaned
And cried for help.
Their cry for rescue
Came up to God.
And God heard their groaning.
And God remembered his covenant.
And God saw the people of Israel.
And God knew.”
Weakest of nations,
The least of these is Israel.
When they felt alone, abandoned,
He knew and he never really left.
He knew and he stretched out his hand,
And through every obstacle,
Despite all their fears,
He made a way.
Lord, I am afraid of hope.
No good reason, I know.
Plenty of good reasons, I feel.
I acquiesce your sovereignty
Over clothing and food.
Lily of the valley,
Sparrow of the field,
Yes, even the least of these.
Never mind needs.
Wants are the stuff of hope,
And these I refuse to count on
With good reason.
Good isn’t about getting what I want.
And Lord you are so good.
So you see I doubt myself,
To know good when I see it.
I feel depravity deep in my core.
The heart is deceitful
Above all things.
So Lord I’m scared to tell you
What I want.
I’m afraid it won’t be good enough,
Afraid even that the very speaking will negate
Any positive response
You may otherwise have been considering.
I know all the Bible answers for this problem of mine.
But I’m betting on the fact
That you want to hear from me.
So here I am,
And here is what I want:
To see hopes fulfilled.
To hear YES while I still care.
To trust that somehow
Good doesn’t always mean NO.
To know and feel your love.
For that love to be enough.
Lord hear my prayer.
A providential reminder:
Advent arrives every year,
Enters into my impatience,and says
Already, Not Yet.
Already but not yet?
When I was a child I didn’t know what this meant
Outside of gifts under a tree–
Mine, but not yet.
Jesus says God knows how to give good gifts to his children.
I worry about that word “good”.
I think I know what good gifts are, but
God seems to have a different definition in mind.
My parents always asked for a list.
God doesn’t take my list into account.
Or at least
That’s how things stand so far.
Already, Not Yet
Already, Not Yet
Tidings of comfort and joy:
We are the people
Who are given everything,
And we are the people who wait.
You are more inclined to change my heart
Than my circumstances.
You could move a mountain with ease,
Yet are content
To take on the tangles
Of my attitudes and
The dirty corners of my soul.
Of course you choose this way,
Assuring my dependence on you.
You keep the trials in place,
Removing all my illusions of control
Allowing me to know,
Fully and deeply,
That I do not operate well without
Realizing this will be my prayer all my mortal days:
Satisfy me in you.
Because my foolish heart is forever distracted
By the glimmering dreams of this world.
Perhaps their glow and temptation will lessen, someday.
This is the hope which underlies my prayers,
That each morning will find my heart
More drawn to you,
If only by the smallest fraction.
Is this hope enough for you to work with?
I only desire you insofar as my mind
Tells me it is my best option,
This state where you are the context and comfort
In all my joy and all my sorrow.
Yet my heart is vain
And deceitful above all things–
Refusing to know truth,
Believing it can find anchor in creation,
Trusting only in itself and no other.
So here, my prayer and my confession eternal:
I do not love you as I ought.
I am easily led astray by empty promises,
By shadows and shallow pleasures.
Lord, satisfy my heart and mind in you alone.
Father, forgive me,
For I have forgotten once more,
To trust You.
The promises I think You’ve made,
Or the desires I dream You’ll fulfill,
But You, alone.
Help me, Father,
To be enough for me.
How do you describe a space
That is the same regardless of location?
This plane we seat ourselves before
Wields an enchantment,
Capturing us in conversation,
Building families of all kinds.
Each time, we leave different than we came–
Full in stomach and in heart.
All I know: we’re invited to a feast,
Which I know is a symbol,
But also a means for achieving itself.
We drink the living water and we eat
Solid food and
Suddenly we’ve found You
In our midst.
1 Oh, all who thirst, come to the waters,
and the one who has no money,
come buy and eat,
come buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Why do you pay money for what is not bread
and labor without satisfaction?
Listen carefully to me: eat of good things,
and take delight in abundance.
When I was five, it was easy to give You the reigns.
I was small and weak,
And I held so little in my power,
It seemed such a simple request to satisfy.
I gained Eternity for a pittance.
But I began to grow up
And Responsibility and Privilege
Well, they grew with me.
I learned to love Independence
And Self-Sufficiency was my friend.
Suddenly control mattered more than faith
And my childhood offering became distasteful
In the face of grown-up fears and worries.
Giving You what You wanted
Now seems like too much.
This stumbling began at five years old:
I never had even the smallest thing to give,
You want Everything and yet Nothing.
You would have me let go of what was never mine,
That your Love might fill my empty hands.
“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”
I’ve been whispering it for years,
Sheltering in place:
God with us, God with us.
Immanuel has been my comfort
In dark places.
But this sign grows still greater:
Immanuel, Immanuel is a promise,
And a battle cry.
Is my sword and my shield.
Whom shall I fear?
God is with me.