Saturday, May 05, 2012

Daily or Semi-Daily Prayer Update

So far I have or had 15 things on my prayer list (I am a needy person!).  Of these, five have been answered with "yes" (if you count the very sucky surprises as a "yes" answer to prayer). One is a "no" and one is a "maybe, but not conclusive" so I'm still waiting on that one.

And either because I'm a glutton for punishment or an optimist at heart, even after yesterday's sucky surprises, I put on the list today: Something Joyful.

I'll keep you posted

Forgotten How to Play

I got up this morning and after a few phone calls, dove into work.  As I sat at my computer, thinking not of work, but of all the changes that have happened in the past few months, I realized that I have forgotten how to play.

I've been responsible for so long, for so many things...all of which are are/were important like my mother's care, making a living, dealing with finances, trying to maintain some modicum of my own health, I have simply forgotten what it feels like to be without the weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

In short, I've forgotten how to play.

Now, of course, the question is what to do about it. But the first step is identifying the problem.

 I've forgotten how to play.
Now I have stalling, procrastination, avoidance, and resistance honed to a fine art.  But play, as in carefree, just having fun, not thinking about costs and consequences of lost time that should be spent cleaning the bathrooms or the gutters...not so much.

I don't think my mother knew how to play, at least not that I can recall.  She created--beautiful works of art--and perhaps that was play for her, but when she was in her painting  years, I wasn't with her, so I don't know if she considered it play, work, therapy or what.

I've been trying to recall the last time I just plain played.  And I can't remember, it's been so long.  Maybe eight or nine years ago, I went horseback riding and I recall that as play.  I also recall about ten years ago going to an Amish bakery with a friend.  And two or maybe three years ago, I visited the sites of LOST in Hawaii with a friend and while there was play involved, the dark cloud of responsibility for my mother, concern about finances and other things rested like a mantle on my shoulders even in the bright Hawaiian sunshine.

What's even sadder than realizing I haven't truly played in years is realizing that I don't even know where to begin to begin.  Maybe just saying it out loud is the beginning.


Friday, May 04, 2012

Answer to Prayer

Yesterday I prayed that I could have a surprise today.

And I got one.  Two actually.  So that is an answer to prayer. A check in the "yes" column for the prayer reports.

Unfortunately, both of them were unpleasant.  I learned that the pay I get for a job I do regularly will be cut by 66% and I learned that I had been lied to.  So technically, yes, I got two big surprises today and therefore, technically, the prayer was answered.

But I'm not exactly delighted with the way it turned out.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Prayer Update

It seems that "be able to meet the deadline easily" is going to be a regular.  Both for asking and for answering.  I asked again today and again today I got a "yes." There are still eight things on the list that are pending, but then they are "big."

But is any prayer really bigger than another?  Does God think some prayers are so big that they take a lot of time to answer?  I don't know.  If any of these "biggies" is answered more quickly than I think possible, that might be a clue.  Just for the record, of my "biggies," my guesstimate of time frames are:
1.  18 months to two years
2.   Anywhere from six months to never
3.   Haven't a clue
4.   Haven't a clue
5.   Month or two
6.   Haven't a clue
7.   Tomorrow or up to a month
8.  Anywhere from six months to never

We shall see.

Weary and Worn on the Griefwalk

Today is a wet, grey, soggy, overcast, dank, dark day in Oregon.  The lilacs and wisteria are blooming, which helps things a bit, but having the sky be steel grey without a horizon doesn't.  Nor does the fact it is May and I have had to bring in more pellets for the wood stove so that my fingers don't freeze on the keyboard.  Everything in the house, even with the heat on, smells sort of damp...probably because it is.

The weather reflects my feelings.

I'm weary and I'm worn.  I'd go to bed, but I'm not really sleepy.  Just tired.

Tired of telling people that I'm just fine and getting better every day.  While, on some level, it's true; I am fine and I am getting better, people tend to expect more fine and more better than I am.

Tired of feeling like life is a series of endless grey days without a horizon.

Tired of seeing so many things that need to be done and not having the energy or inclination to do them.

Tired of being tired.

I think it's just part of the Griefwalk.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Prayer Experiment

Yesterday I said that I was going to keep track of my prayers for a month, see what sorts of answers I get and then report here on the results as they happen.

I have eight prayers listed in my journal, some of which are HUGE and seemingly impossible; some of which are frantic and some of which are more minor.  But as part of the experiment, I am trying to record all the prayers, not just the big, HUGE, frantic ones.

And the results are....

Yesterday I got a "yes" when I asked to feel some relief from the constant griefwalking and to be able to rest just one night.  I actually had peace until morning. 

I also got a "yes" when I asked for help in meeting a deadline that I was struggling with and things fell into place quickly.

Then there's the NO!. I have a 99.9% no on a something to do with settling my mother's estate, something that I had really really hoped would be a yes.  There's still that .1% chance of a yes, but if it is a yes, it's going to take a really long time, a lot of dealing with legal affairs and a bona fide miracle.  So far, barring some realio trulio miracle, it's a no.  And a rather tough one since this involved the last thing my mother hoped and prayed for me and it doesn't look like it's going to come to pass.

As for the rest, so far there hasn't been any answer or even any glimmer of an answer.

I'll keep you posted.

Asking God...

Asking God is still free on Kindle for today, so pick up your copy.  You don't need a Kindle to read it.  You can read on your smart phone or your PC.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Prayer--Answered and Unanswered

It's ironic that just as I was finishing this blog entry, I got word from my publisher that Asking God for the Gifts He Wants to Give You, a book on prayer, would be free for two days on Amazon. Ironic because this post, and my current thoughts, have been about unanswered prayer.

I wrote Asking God in a very different time and space in my life, a time when I was feeling God's presence much more than I have in the recent dark night of my soul. Lately, as in the past year and a half, I've been wrestling with the question of unanswered prayer--or worse, prayers that seem to be answered the exact opposite of the way I had wanted.  Scorpions and rocks instead of eggs and bread.

This seems to have happened to a lot of people that I know and I've observed that when God doesn't answer our prayers, we tend to give God a "free pass."  We rationalize the non-answer or the negative response by saying things like "I must not be seeing the answer." Or "This must be the best thing for me."

While that may be true, it's still finding reasons why God's promise that if we ask, we shall receive isn't being fulfilled. (I talk about this in the book, as well.)  We change "ask and you shall receive" to "Ask and then after you don't receive, try to find reasons why you excuse God for not giving."

The cold, hard reality is that sometimes--sometimes more often than any Christian likes to admit, the answer we get to prayer is not what we ask for; in fact, it may be the exact opposite.  And so we find reasons to cut God some slack because the idea that God might not really be keeping the promises we think he has made to use is just too painful to contemplate. It's way too distressing to allow the thought to creep in that God might perhaps be a trickster, a coyote god, who may or may not answer our prayers; a god who pulls out the football just as we Charlie Browns line up to kick.  A god who doesn't really mean what he says.

It feels almost heretical (and perhaps it is) to even write about such things since the Christian thing to do is to have faith that God is answering our prayers even when all evidence is to the contrary.  We are expected to proclaim that "God is healing me" even as we get the grim diagnosis that the chemo isn't working and we need to go to hospice.  Or that "God is providing" even as the foreclosure notice is pinned to the door.

The alternative to God not answering prayer is simply that God says "no" a lot. But that isn't always the most satisfactory of answers. Why, when we are told that we simply need to ask to receive, is the answer "NO!" so often? Again I find most Christians want to give God a freebie on this, saying that we simply have to believe that the no is the right answer. That's a tough one to accept, when there seem to be a preponderance of "no" in one's life.

This whole notion of answered and unanswered prayer is certainly not a new question and I'm hardly the first person to wrestle with it. Better minds than mine have lost their faith over it and better minds than mine have had their faith built to great heights considering it.

However, the fact that others have struggled is cold coffee comfort as I contemplate why so many prayers go unanswered or are answered in the negative.  It's little wonder that we are genuinely surprised when a prayer is answered the way we pray it.  So surprised we call it a "miracle!" And indeed answered prayer often does feel like a miracle since it seems to happen so rarely.

Now I will admit that I have had answers to major prayers, but they have been rare, a handful of times that I can say that the heavens opened and a voice from above rocked my world.  So I'm going to try an experiment.  For the next month, I'm going to keep a record of my prayers---big and small--and see what the answers are: yes, no, unanswered.  (I'd say yes, unanswered and absolute direct opposite, but that would be a teeny bit negative and biased.)

Yes, it is a challenge to God, but it's more of a challenge to me. I do believe that God wants to give us his gifts, as I wrote in the book, but I need to have some clear-cut evidence for myself at this juncture in my life. I'm willing to consider that I'm just not paying attention to the "yes" and focusing on the "no."  I'm willing to consider that my gaze is so intent on the things that I truly want to happen that I can't see beyond them.

(For those of you who are shocked at the idea of "testing" prayer, I would remind you that all miracles accepted for sainthood have to undergo rigorous scientific testing so a little data isn't a bad thing spiritually speaking.)

While some of the prayers may be too intimate and person to reveal in detail and others may involve other people whose stories aren't mine to reveal, I will post as many details as I can about prayers and I will reveal the "results."

If nothing else, I'm anticipating an interesting May.

Asking God for the Gifts He Wants to Give You

For the next two days, this is free on Kindle!
As Christians, we believe that God always answers our prayers, but we don´t always get the answers we want. Popular Catholic author Woodeene Koenig-Bricker has discovered a prayer that asks God for gifts that he wants to give us--and our Lord´s answers will delight us! The prayer, written by the beloved seventeenth-century St. Alphonsus Liguori, asks God for five graces: forgiveness; wisdom; a share in divine love; confidence in the merits of Jesus and the intercession of Mary; and perseverance. Koenig-Bricker expands our understanding of each of these graces, explaining their meaning with teaching and Scripture and providing illustrations of their power with personal testimony and stories.
  • Amazon Kindle Edition: FREE! Tuesday 5/1 and Wednesday 5/2
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Monday, April 30, 2012

Judging God on Second-Hand Evidence

Today I heard from three friends, all of whom have great faith...and great trials.  One is facing having to stop her cancer treatments because she can't afford to continue, another's sister in law is being sent home to die from a cancer they thought they had gotten and a third has had to sell her car just to keep afloat as she looks for a job.

I know the Scriptures that say God takes care of us, that he answers when he ask, etc. but news like this shakes my faith.  I can understand why a scholar like Bart Ehrman, who once was a devout Christian, can become an agnostic when the absence of God is more real than God's presence.

Even more to the point, news like this makes me wonder, no, fear, that just as God has let down my friends, he may let me down as well. He may not answer my prayers, either.  I may ask for bread and be given a scorpion, just like my friends.

When those thoughts come, and they do come, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that I cannot judge God on second-hand evidence.  Even though I think I know what my friends have prayed (and I may have even prayed with them!), I cannot know what the prayers deep in their hearts have been.  Nor can I know exactly how God is dealing with them. 

Oh I can guess.  And they can tell me what they want me to know.  But it still remains second-hand evidence.  The only absolute evidence that I can use to judge God is how he deals with me.

These past 16 months have been the hardest of my life. There is no way, if I had been shown them ahead of time would I have believed I could have survived.  Yet, I have survived. Sometimes it feels like survival by the skin of my teeth, but I have survived. 

I'd like to say that through it all I've felt God's presence yada yada yada, but that would be a mistruth. A lot of the time I've cried out into the dark and heard only the echo of my own sobs.  God has not been the ever-present comforter that some people claim to experience.  A lot of the time I've felt only a void, an emptiness and a profound fear for what might be next.

I'd probably give up on God except that I feel like Peter--"Where would I go?" If I abandoned my faith in the Divine, in the ineffable mystery, in that which is beyond me and my ego, where indeed would I go? 

Today, after swallowing the pieces of bad news, I went to my confessor after having done what 12 Steps call an inventory of my past.  Over the weekend, I had examined my life from earliest days and now came to confess all those things done and undone, said and unsaid that may still be having an affect on my life.  In his wisdom, Fr. Richard said that when one removes a whole lot of sin, it creates a void that we must fill consciously, lest the garbage of the world swirl into the hole. 

So today I'm praying that I can know what to fill the hole that I have first-hand evidence upon which to judge the promises of God. 

Because I really really want to believe that they are all true.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's Sunday and time for me to consider the areas in my life where I am grateful.

1.  I've mentioned this before, but for continued restoration in a relationship where I didn't think any restoration could ever be possible.