Here I am at another run that year, cheered on by two great witnesses, two of my children!
Today marks two weeks since a hip arthroscopy performed to treat something called FAI, I decided I would search through the 700-plus-something posts I’ve written in the last 5 years and recycle. I thought I had published something for Veterans’ Day before, but lo and behold, when I searched on Veterans, I found this post. Wow, to think — just 3 and a half years ago, I was running a half-marathon. The truth of the post applies equally to recovery, some thoughts I may continue as recovery progresses. Meanwhile, from April 4, 2010
Thirteen point one miles of hilly country in humid conditions, I am THANKFUL! Thankful to God our Provider who held the rain until many if not most had finished the half. (I am sad for those marathoners who trained so hard but were prevented finishing because of severe weather spotted:(. I’ve done a number of half-marathons in the past twenty years, coming out of running retirement on occasion to run with a friend or to mark a milestone, or in this case, because my eldest daughter was running her first half (and she completed it with great success), but the Country Music Half remains one of the toughest courses because of the hills. What gets me through those ups and downs of the course are the wonderful spectators, the “great cloud of witnesses” who line the course cheering us on, telling us we’re doing well, encouraging us that we can make it. So again I thank those who lined the roads today, risking being rained upon, and I offer all of us the reminder that whether in life’s journey or a morning run, we need the “cloud of witnesses.” Who are the people who cheer you on on life’s strangely contoured journey? Thank God for them (and thank them) today!
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” The Message, Heb. 12:1-3
Flannery’s Prayers are available now for pre-order.
I don’t have my hands on the book yet, but I can’t wait to read the collection of Flannery O’Connor’s old prayers edited by W.A. Sessions. Reading a few of the excerpted prayers available in the New York Times and New Yorker, I wonder whether it is appropriate to read prayers that Flannery wrote to God — does that then make her prayers a performance of sort? It is one thing to read prayers someone wrote for the purpose of helping others pray, but I do wonder if Flannery herself ever thought her prayer journal would be published. I guess I’m going to have to get my hands on the book to learn that.
Meanwhile, here are a few excerpts that particularly struck me as a writer and as a woman always trying to get my “self” out of the way so I can love God’s glory and others can too.
“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.
I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.
Give me the grace to be impatient for the time when I shall see You face to face and need no stimulus than that to adore You. Give me the grace, dear God, to see the bareness and the misery of the places where You are not adored and desecrated.
Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story — just like the typewriter was mine.”
What do you think? Have you ever written out prayers? Did you write them for others to read, or for God’s eyes alone?
Try writing a prayer today. It’s really cool if you read Scripture first and tie the prayer into that Scripture. If you want people to read it, share it in the comments section or in a letter or on social media.
The problem with writing a book is sometimes you are dying for everyone else to know some of what you wrote, but the book is still under the loving care of the publisher, not yet available to the public. Today it occurred to me that I could share small portions of the third book in the Living Story series. Here is the intro to the chapter called God Is Love. While you wait for the third book, be sure to check out the first two.
In truth, the brown Subaru that hit me was a little newer than this one and looked a lot better after it hit me.
The assignment was simple yet seemingly impossible to me: draw an aspect of God’s character. (It might have felt easier if I could draw!) It was the first night of a course called Spirituality and the Arts, and we had ten minutes to complete the exercise, so I picked up my pencil and began sketching. What I attempted to draw was a small, faded brown, 1989 Subaru with a female stick figure sliding down its hood. Large, strong, sinewy arms encircled the whole scene.
Earlier that day, during a pleasant morning jog on a nature trail that wound through a Seattle office park, I had been struck by that same brown Subaru. A truck-driver had waved me across the crosswalk, but neither he nor I saw the little vehicle moving in the lane next to him; nor could its driver see me. When I finally did see the car approaching, too late, watching in horror, even as my left side was falling on the hood, I remember two things – first, the sentence that played in slow motion through my mind, “So this is how I’m going to die.” And then, sitting on my rear, cross-legged, just as I had landed on the asphalt, repeating to myself over and over, “I’m not dead. I’m not dead.”
What I wanted to convey that night in class was the sovereign, ever-present, shielding, powerful love of God I now knew in a brand new way. The Bible asserts that love cannot be defined without God: “God is love” (1 John 4:8b). Love is a fixed reality about the nature of God – and God is a fixed reality about the nature of love. The narrative of Scripture characterizes God’s love as, among other things, steadfast, covenantal, merciful, gracious, sacrificial and transformational. Love is God’s prodigally generous, contra-conditional, eternal gift. And it is in this love alone that we as humans know love.
Christ’s love melts frozen hearts.
The Sisterhood More-than-a-Bible-Study has been working through Scriptures and thoughts from Paul Miller’s book, Love Walked among Us. This past week, we wrestled with God as we sought to understand what it means to speak honestly with compassion as Jesus did. Here, in part, are a few ideas about how to “speak the truth in love.”
- Humble your-SELF. (Phil 2:5-11). If you are concerned about your own reputation, you will not risk loving in this way.
- Pray without ceasing, and ask others to pray as well. You desperately need wisdom from above (James 1:), so seek the Holy Spirit who gives it.
- Name sin for the purpose of inviting to repentance. Jesus exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites, because he wanted them to see their sin. He was distressed over their self-worship and invited them to worship him.
- Recognize there’s a good chance you will sin against the person you are speaking to, and rest in the reality of forgiveness.
- Be willing to disrupt as Jesus disrupts. Sometimes naming sin will turn our lives or others’ upside down.
- Recognize that God is not “safe” but He is “good.” In other words, God will disrupt our status quo and others so that we may love him more than ourselves or our own “peaceful” lives.
- Recognize that the person to whom you are speaking may not receive your words. In fact, they may become harder towards you (Exhibit A — The Pharisees). The question may be, “Do you believe God will take care of you in the painful fallout of trying to repair a broken relationship and meeting with a hard heart?”
- Remember your purpose — to glorify God and enjoy him FOREVER. That means at least in part that we have to trust him to change people — we can’t do it, even though he calls us to be part of it.
As my prayer list bleeds off the page with painful circumstances, life-threatening illnesses, and daily annoyances, I am drawn to Eugene Peterson’s reflection on Luke 23.
“The death of Jesus is the centerpiece for learning how to deal with the fundamental violation of life, this sacrilege visited on creation that makes up so much of what happens in us and around us. We began to deal with the, “What’s wrong with the world?” At the place where the gospel deals with it: the death and burial of Jesus.
The death of Jesus confirms our experience that there is, in fact, something terribly wrong and that this wrong isn’t simply a logical working out of cause and effect, of the way things are. Jesus, born of a virgin, died on the cross — there is no logical connection between those two facts.
Jesus’ suffering, recorded in his laments, tears, and death, provides the authoritative gospel text for finding our place in history — this history that seems to be so much at variance with what is given and promised in the creation itself, in the life abundant all around us.” Eugene Peterson, Conversations.