Change My Heart

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When one gets hurt and injured, we instinctively flee to someone, or somewhere, to find comfort and solace -  a haven, if you will. Once there, one of two outcomes will likely occur: we are comforted because we received the care that was needed, or we seek someone/somewhere else because it did not do it well enough. For the previous, if too much care is given, we may find ourselves developing almost an "Allegory of the Cave" mindset (from Plato), meaning that even though we know there is something more out there (such as pain or suffering once we leave the comforting place), we choose to stay here because it is only safe and comforting. This, however, would breed ignorance to everything else surrounding us, depriving us of a more real life of experiences, or the ability to connect with others in a deeper way. That being said, the other outcome here does not exactly bear great fruit either: jumping from person to person or place to place just to avoid having to hear or experience something we are trying to avoid, which stunts us from being able to grow emotionally or spiritually as well.

During a recent Sustaining the Mission seminar, one presenter talked about how we are afraid to be vulnerable or accept feedback that challenges us to grow more deeply. This got me thinking about an old song that we would hear at home growing up. Now, you'll have to pardon me here in not remembering fully the name or lyrics of the song, but one verse in particular stuck out: "Change my heart, O God!" 

For me, this always meant that we are asking God to change us, making our hearts more true, and changing us into His own image. Finding that haven that we seek for the hardest of times, in God. But God also reveals unto us hard truths that we must be willing to accept and to allow the change that we may pray for to actually take place; it is one thing to simply ask for the change of one's heart to happen, but to actually act upon it and allow that change to take place requires work and dedication. It is from this concerted effort and work that we can find a footing in the raging waters of life knowing faithfully that God will, indeed, change our hearts...but only when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and work to keep ourselves from falling back into our own personal caves. 

in Prayer

Persistent Prayer

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Do you ever feel like you are bothering God when you pray? Do you ever feel like your prayer may be so small and insignificant compared to the “big things” that plague other people? Do you ever feel like you don’t need to pray because you aren’t really “needing” anything? I know I slip into this mindset from time to time especially when I am praying with others about cancer, unemployment, and fears that haunt their consciousness but nothing “big” is going on in my life. Does that mean I shouldn’t pray? Absolutely not. There is always something to pray for or about. There is always something to tell God about even if it isn’t an “ask.”  Does that make my prayer insignificant in comparison to the “big things” others are praying for or about? NO! My prayer is my prayer. It is what is on my head and on my heart. My prayer is just as important to God because God loves me and wants to hear from me. He wants to hear what weighs on my heart and plagues my consciousness just as much as He wants to hear yours. He wants to hear it anytime and it brings Him great joy when it occurs.

Today’s gospel reminds us about the persistence of prayer. As I read it, I imagine the widow to be like the no-see-ums that swarm about me on warm summer nights outside. The judge views the widow as a pest like the no-see-ums. The judge wishes her to go away. He cannot ignore her but he wants to. I imagine the judge throwing up his hands and saying, “Fine! Here is my decision, now leave me alone!” He finally dealt the death swat to the pesky no-see-um. This is not how God works, not at all. God wants us to be like the no-see-ums and continue to pursue Him in prayer.  He will never throw His arms up in frustration and say, “Fine! Here you go!” Instead, God listens and responds as a loving father would respond. He will not provide all that we ask for in prayer. He will, however, always respond to our prayer with what is in our best interest.

When I catch myself focusing more on what I want, I add a little phrase to my prayer. It goes like this, “but of course Lord, only if it is your will.” Rather than looking for the answer that I want, I look for answers He provides. Look and listen with eyes of faith for He always answers our prayer. The more we ask, especially asking for His will to be done, the more our hearts soften to seeing how God responds. “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” 

Unique Images of God

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I have spent much of the late summer fascinated by the images coming from NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope. For many science-y reasons I can’t explain, it is a groundbreaking telescope able to capture images of space previously unobservable to us. The clarity and definition of the images are breathtaking. The photos look like paintings. They are artwork. God’s artwork painted in the universe.

I have spent a great deal of time viewing the images and marveling at the wonders they reveal. And always, this marveling has led me to praise of God. Marveling at the Creator of all these wonders. To think that our God created all of that. To think how beautiful, how expansive, how immense the universe, and our God created it all. Oh, what a God we have!

In the midst of this praise and wonder, there is always a soft echo in my heart: “And even with all these wonders, I still thought it necessary to create you, my dear Claire.” “Even with all these wonders, my creation would not have been complete without you to love and cherish.” 

Oh what a God we have! To have created the entire expanse of the universe, an expanse infinite in its depths, and still deem it incomplete without me. To create planets and solar systems and entire galaxies and nebulae and still think little ol’ me, in all my flaws and weaknesses and imperfections, was necessary, was desirable, was lovable. To think, God’s creation wasn’t complete without me.

You were necessary. You were desired. The created world was incomplete to God without you in it.

This is true of me.
This is true of you.
This is true of every single person on this earth.

From the baby in a mother’s womb, to the homeless person wandering the street, to the incarcerated, to the politically or religiously opposite, to the President, to the toddler coloring all over your home, to the difficult person at work, to the person who cut you off in the drop-off line, to the person slowly taking their last breath. Creation was incomplete without every one of these people.

Unique images of God, as diverse and unique as the stars in the universe, every one of them.

May we marvel at the necessity and desirability of ourselves. May we wonder at the necessity and desirability of every person we encounter. Truly we are each a greater marvel than the entire expanse of the universe.