All of Life is a Prayer

magpie

The magpies chortle in the gigantic gumtree behind the fence,
calling in sheer joy and enthusiasm to each other,
greeting the new day.
Dogs in the distance greet one another,
and the neighbour’s dull Labrador-cross-who-knows-what
with the crooked tail howls. Each one making
the sounds of play and boredom respectively.

And we, in our early morning mindless banter,
speak blessings to one another,
affirmations, petitions, thanksgiving and praise and,
at the same time, whilst hiding our own irritability over lukewarm coffee, utter curses:
decrying the banality of someone’s existence in a dead-end relationship, or
the apparent lack of resilience in another, or
the poor taste of yet another in their choice of job, car, house, attire, food.

Are not all these prayers to some
ever-present yet invisible deity
(one who is beyond ourselves, perhaps
even as expansive as the universe)
who listens intently to the groanings of creation,
each one singing, speaking, sobbing, blaspheming
their own private prayers that, although perchance unintended,
always find an answer?

Blessed? or Lucky?

Tandem BikeThe LORD has been mindful of us; She will bless us; She will bless the house of Israel;  She will bless the house of Aaron; She will bless those who stand in awe of the LORD, both small and great. May the LORD give you increase,  both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 115

The other day I was riding a tandem bike to pick up my young daughter from summer camp. Free as a bird, I zoomed down a busy urban thoroughfare, feeling as sleek and strong as a pre-fall-from-grace Lance Armstrong.

Then, crashing metal noises, skidding and sparks. The tandem bike, which 5 minutes later my daughter would have been sitting on, had fallen off and careened into traffic. The pin tethering it to my bike had fallen out.

I scooped up the tandem bike, breathless with adrenaline, and sat on the curb to collect myself and quiet the “what ifs” crowding my mind, first among them, “What if it had fallen off after I picked her up?”

Some of us are fond of chalking up everything that goes our way to God’s blessing. The near miss. The good vacation weather. The raise, the house, the healthy newborn! We have won the Holy Lottery. God, in Her beneficence, has smiled upon us.

But what about the people who sit in the rain their whole vacation long, their whole life long? What about the mother whose daughter was sitting on the tandem bike when the pin came out? Does God not love them? Has God chosen not to bless them? I don’t believe in this God. I’ll bet you don’t, either.

Here’s what I believe: there’s luck, and there’s blessing, and it’s virtually impossible to tell which is which. (There’s also plain-old privilege, but that’s another devotional!).

Since I can never tell the difference, I hedge my bets and silently thank God for everything good that comes my way, knowing She’ll sort it out. The practice of acknowledging God in good times paves the road so that the bad-times potholes don’t seem so deep or so wide.

And out loud, in the hearing of others who might be down on their luck, I don’t give thanks that God has blessed me. I give thanks that I get to bless God, no matter what is going on.

For a great song that might inspire you to “bless the Lord at all times, cuz God’s Good,” click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7TP5ZSqF1w

God, Holy Linchpin, thank you for blessing us in good times and staying with us through hard times. Thank you for living in both the summer sky and the potholes, and in neighbors who arrive in the nick of time with strong, sturdy replacement bolts. Thank you for our children, who mean so much to us that they keep our hearts on the edge of breaking, all the time, just as You would have it. Amen.

– Reflection by Molly Baskette, from StillSpeaking

I’m Blessed?

Many might say I’ve been blessed.

I have a good life with my wonderful partner, Vicki. I have two great kids who are becoming balanced, well-adjusted young adults (at least I think they evidence this more often than not these days). They both attend a reputable private school and are doing well academically.  We live comfortably in a quiet suburb in a home that is around halfway paid off. I have a good job that bring great satisfaction, working with caring and talented people. I drive a decent car, eat healthy food, don’t suffer from any major diseases or health problems, belong to a good church and count it a privilege to have some good friends and a loving family. I’m not boasting; things aren’t perfect, but my life is relatively good.

I’m ‘blessed.’

But . . . what about my neighbour who suffers from ill health constantly? What about my friend who lost his wife to cancer? What about my work colleague who isn’t experiencing the same sort of thrill from her job as I am? What about my buddy who lost his job recently and now stands to lose his home? The list that goes on indefinitely, including the people who recently lost all in tornadoes, tsunamis, floods, and epidemics. Some live in third world countries where poverty is a given. Some only have one small meal a day . . . or every other day.

Rather than seeing my life as being one graced with material ‘blessings,’ I would say that I am fortunate. I have the good fortune to have been born in a nation that enjoys a high standard of living, has good hospitals, infrastructure, schools, safe workplaces, and abundant crops. I am fortunate to have been born into a loving family and to have completed, without much struggle, a university education.

But if I say ‘I am blessed’ as evidenced by all these circumstances, relationships and possessions, then that implies there are some who are cursed (evidenced by a lack of what I have) or, at the best, not blessed as I have been.

I cannot believe that God would choose to favour me with all sorts of earthly gifts as a sign of his blessing and leave my neighbour, whom God loves just as much as me, with so little of the same. Certainly if the rain falls on ‘the just and the unjust,’ then God does not show favouritism in blessing one and withholding the blessing from another.

We are surely fortunate. But I dare say this has, if anything, robbed us of the blessings that can only be discovered when we are not distracted by glitz and glamour of things. The blessings of God–love, peace, hope, joy–fall on those whose hands are most ready to receive, those hearts are not listening to the call of ‘more’ and whose eyes are fixed on the Giver of every perfect gift rather than on poor substitutes.

My fortunate life may, in fact, keep me from realising the greatest blessings of all. . . . something which many of those we would not immediately see as ‘blessed’ understand and enjoy better than we.

Who, then, is truly fortunate?

Nothing Good Withheld

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will [God] withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Excerpt from Psalm 84KJV)

I had just purchased a brand new computer.  I was frustrated because I couldn’t get the thing to work right.  I had wireless internet and I had a brand new computer, but I still couldn’t access the Internet or check my e-mail.  In an agitated flurry, I put the computer back in the box and took it back to the store.  Surely some device or some cable had been omitted from my computer package.

The “Geek Squad” tested it and politely informed me that all I needed was in the package, but that with the new configurations of a new computer I needed new procedures to access the Internet.  The store had not withheld anything I needed; I just needed to learn how to use it.

When I think of the goodness that seems to be lacking in my life, I am often tempted to believe that for some reason God is holding back and holding out on me.  But in light of my computer experience, the problem may not be God’s lack of provision, but my failure to fully access all that God has provided.  For me, this is the promise of Psalm 84:11—God is not a withholder of anything that is good.  And this is the blessed assurance of goodness in my life—the goodness which has been revealed, and the goodness which is yet to be accessed.

Prayer… Lord, give me the faith to trust in your goodness that I cannot see, and to depend on your provisions that I have not yet realized.  Amen.

–Reflection by Kenneth L. Samuel, from StillSpeaking

*   *   *   *   *

God is Good–all the time, to all people, in every place, and across every generation. Is that complete? Possibly not. But it will do for my presently-limited understanding.

My natural tendency is to think I have to be good for God to be good to me. Other times I think I must be in the right place for him to pour out his blessings on me. Then other times I think that only I am deserving of God’s goodness and wouldn’t mind if he could shower my neighbours with a touch of whatever is the oppostie of his goodness.

(Thank God he doesn’t do whatever I wish . . . )

I remember singing this song so many times at Salisbury Baptist Church that I actually (confession) wish it had never been written. BUT I’m glad it was because it has brought to my mind the infinite goodness of God so many times when otherwise I wouldn’t have been reminded of this truth. As the psalmist writes: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Ps 27:13 NIV).

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

If you’re walking through the valley
And there are shadows all around
Do not fear, He will guide you
He will keep you safe and sound
‘Cause He’s promised to never leave you
Nor forsake you and His Word is true

We were sinners – so unworthy
Still for us He chose to die
Filled us with His Holy Spirit
Now we can stand and testify
That His love is everlasting
And His mercies – they will never end

Lord I may not understand
All the plans You have for me
My life is in your hands
And through the eyes of faith I can clearly see

God is good all the time. . . .

–God is Good All the Time, by Don Moen

Amen and Amen!