the story room

Sunday, April 23, 2006

St. Francis again!

I found another prayer this week attributed to St. Francis. With the many challenges and stresses that come with the final weeks of school, I've found this challenging, refreshing, and sustaining. Again, it puts words to a prayer I've been trying to pray on my own the last few weeks...and I count that as a wonderful gift.

"Our Father,
each day is a little life, each night a tiny death;
help us to live with faith and hope and love.
Lift our duty above drudgery;
let not our strength fail, or the vision fade, in the heat and burden of the day.
O God, make us patient and pitiful with one another in the fret and jar of life,
remembering that each fights a hard fight and walks a lonely way.
Forgive us, Lord, if we hurt our fellow souls;
teach us a gentler tone, a sweeter charity of words, and a more healing touch.
Sustain us, O God, when we must face sorrow;
give us courage for the day and hope for the morrow.
Day unto day may we lay hold of thy hand and look up into thy face,
whatever befall,
until our work is finished and the day is done.
-St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I knew I loved St. Francis!

Flipping through a prayer book tonight, I found another prayer by St. Francis that I fell in love with. I deeply appreciate when people offer prayers that I could never quite put words to.

"Dear Father,
I pray for those who have no one
to love them enough to pray for them.
Wherever they are,
whoever they are,
let them know that they are not forgotten.

(I think I want to be like St. Francis when I grow up!)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Final Station

Yesterday, as a way to reflect on the events of Good Friday, I meditated on the Stations of the Cross as found at: The readings at each station struck me, but I especially appreciated what the last one said:

"They take the body of Jesus to its resting place. The huge stone over the tomb is the final sign of the permanence of death. In this final act of surrender, who would have imagined this tomb would soon be empty or that Jesus would show himself to his disciples or that they would recognize him in the breaking of bread? Oh, that our hearts might burn within us, as we realize how he had to suffer and die so as to enter into his glory, for us. . . .

". . . I pause to contemplate this act of closure on his life. In solidarity with all humanity, his body is taken to its grave. I stand for a moment outside this tomb. This final journey of his life has shown me the meaning of his gift of himself for me. This tomb represents every tomb I stand before with fear, in defeat, struggling to believe it could ever be empty."

I meditated for a long time yesterday on that image, thinking about the "tombs" I've stood before: the tombs of loved ones who have died, the tombs of broken relationships, the tombs that hold my fears and disappointments and regrets. I sometimes find myself wondering if God really will show up there, bringing his life where death seems to be the final word.

As Holy Saturday quietly slips into Easter morning, I realize that the tomb I stand before tonight - the one that matters more than anything else in the world - is empty. If the one who has power to resurrect is himself alive again - alive tonight - surely he will not ignore the other tombs we visit and weep over as we wait for him to bring life back.

The life-giver lives, and surely he comes, bringing healing and joy to my very life...and even to yours. May we take heart and have hope that he will come and make it all right, however long we have to wait. And may we see the beginnings of it even now, surprised and overjoyed at the life he brings.

May our hearts burn like the disciples', knowing that he's with us.

Monday, April 03, 2006

ashes on our foreheads

Thirty-three days into Lent, I've finally realized that I'm unable to keep the promise I made.

Sparing the details, I'll suffice it to say that I promised to fast from unloving and unkind words: things I wouldn't say about people if I knew they could hear me say them. Every day I've tried to discipline myself, but every day I've gotten it wrong way more than I've gotten it right.

I spent a lot of time this week praying and thinking about why this abstention, seeming so simple when I promised it, has been virtually impossible to keep. And today a memory came to mind that caused me to finally see:

I attended an Ash Wednesday service this year -- the first one I was old enough to understand. And even though I knew to expect it, I was still struck by the ashes. I was captivated during the service as I watched the elders smudge dusty crosses on each person who came forward: the beautiful, the sad, the very old, the complacent, the the newly-born, the wise, the fearful, the hopeful...all of us, at the end, with ashes on our foreheads.

Dust you are, and to dust you will return, the elders said.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life, whispered we.
The smudgy cross.

The ceremony was beautiful and profound, but then it ended. However, it was the time following that that affected me most.

In the candlelight, in the quiet, with Jesus' words on our lips - even with the mark of weakness and death on our heads - we looked courageous, holy, mysteriously strong. And the beauty of the ceremony is that, in a way, it showed us for what we were. But when the service ended, the candles were blown out, and the lights were turned up, the ordinariness of life quickly seeped into our conversations, our gestures, the ways we watched and listened to each other. Disappointingly ordinary (and loud and busy and self-centered and...), but bearing still the dusty crosses, all of us.

It was like a dream. All of us carrying on as usual, but able to see beyond what we usually see: all of us dusty and weak, terribly hopeless...and yet, showered with mercy and love, undeserved and overflowing.

I expected to leave church that night remembering that I was dust, and grateful for God's mercy. And I did. But I also left remembering that everyone else is dust, too. And if the perfect One mercifully and unashamedly loves dust, then I, smudged and ashy too, must do no less.

My problem with Lent this year is that I tried to hold my tongue but had little compassion. I didn't see their ashen crosses. And I seldom remembered my own.

But I haven't laid down my lenten promise; I take it up differently. God knows my willpower and strength is no strength at all, and in need of mercy I am indeed. But I want to love as graciously and freely and gladly as our Father. So I, weak but willing, will pray to love with his unbounded and compassionate love.

And I'll not forget the ashes.