Prayer of St. Philaret

 

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee.
Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.
Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.
O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask.
For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation;
I dare only to stand in Thy presence.
My heart is open to Thee.
Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.
Behold and lift me up!
In Thy presence I stand,
awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments,
into which my mind cannot penetrate.
To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice.
No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will.
Teach me how to pray.
Do Thyself pray within me.
Amen.

from: http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/prayers/philaret.html

This prayer came to me, I did not come to it.  I was looking for something else, but this prayer kept coming up in my search, not the one I sought. The words, ah, the words.  How my heart and soul reacted to the words: I know not what I ought to ask of Thee. Oh, Amen. Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.  Ah, yes.  This is so true.  Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware. This prayer sounds in my spirit like a deeply resounding gong calling me to peace. I find myself praying this prayer throughout the day, again and again.

Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.  I love you more, God is saying to my heart.

Steve often says, “I love you more.” To which I respond, “I know.” It’s a little joke of ours, but sometimes I wonder if it’s true. I wonder if my heart is so damaged that I cannot love this man as much as he loves me. That makes me want to try harder, to be kinder, to love him as he should be loved, but then my Father is saying to me, “Love you more” and I can only say, “Thank you. I didn’t remember.”

 

Love you more.

 

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Chasing the Sun

Paint the world

Calm the heart, the mind and spirit with a fall drive.

Chasing the sun along fields and forests, the round bales of hay dotting fields against the fiery leafed edges in shades of crimson, gold, mustard, orange, oxblood, chestnut, shades of red and orange of every description, against skies of gray clouds slowly shifting to skies of clear blue. Shafts of sunlight lit the occasional tree with heavenly light, like Moses’ burning bush. The gentle cacophony of bird song carried through the open skylight. Wonder and awe lifted my sorrow. Wrapped in glory, my eyes were lifted from earth to heaven.

This glory, this peaceful glory wrapped around my heart and lifted me in my grief, and hinted, no, insisted that there is more than this.  There is more than this earthly glory and it was almost visible for a time. The veil that separates us from the eternal other was thin. In those moments, grief, so real, so profound, was nonetheless overwhelmed by glory. Comfort in the bliss of colors that came from the hand of God himself, lit by heavenly glow, colors too vibrant, too many to grasp in my finite mind.

Today I am comforted in the fading glow, the residual memories of that glory.  I know that is there, and I long for it again. That thing which seems to be the perfect fall day, but is achingly more than that… I am unable to explain why this is such a comfort, but having tasted this comfort which is also discomforting, this glory which aches for more glory, I must hunt for more.  I must seek more solitary wow.  I must seek more of those glimpses that cause me to cry out, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  and “Glory to Thee, O God. Glory to Thee!”

Ah, help me in my grief, O my Savior!

 

The River Called Sacrifice

There is a river called Sacrifice,
and my Savior bids me jump in.
But the current is swift and the waters are dark,
I look back at the place where I’ve been.
I can return to the meadow called Safety and Peace,
but He calls me on, “Jump in.”
“The river’s awash in the blood I shed
as a sacrifice for sin.”

I’ll just dip a toe in, I think to myself,
and see if the water is warm.
I’ll test the flow to see if it’s safe.
But I can’t find a gently steeped shore.
The choices are two, stay put or jump in.
There’s no choice for half-out and half-in.
So I must now decide to stay or to jump
in the river called Sacrifice.

God has sometimes parted the river,
but many are swept off their feet.
It is not a safe, lazy river.
but turbulent, wild and deep.
Stephen was stoned in the river,
Victorious when they thought he was beat.
O, many have died in the river;
Is this somewhere that I want to be?

I look at the current so swift and so dark,
and the end I do not know.
But I leap from the bank at the love on His face
and find peace in the midst of the flow.
I’m surprised when I land to find shallows,
and it gently tugs at my feet,
but as I keep going I know that each step
could carry me down to the deep.

When I jump in there is no going back,
the bank behind me too steep.
But there is a joy in the river,
that mingles with sorrows so deep.
The pain is so strong in the current,
but He whispers, “Be still,” and “Have Peace.”
And my heart is calmed in the midst of the flood
that may soon sweep me off my feet.

I see in the river the martyrs
the saints who have gone on before.
From the prophets of old to disciples bold
they cheer from the far distant shore.
There are faces among them I know not,
but I know now for whom they died.
And they show no regret for the lives that they gave
in the river of Sacrifice.

The river shows me many faces.
It shows scorn and ridicule, too.
It shows gunshots, stabbings, beheadings,
and beds filled with sickness and woe.
It shows me the face of rejection,
the bankruptcies, scandal and strife.
It shows me the wrong accusations;
it’s all in the Sacrifice.

I find Him in the midst of the river,
in a way that I never have known.
I see his love and compassion
and I see wounds–scars for me he bore.
Such mercy, and tenderness found there;
such grace and forgiveness untold.
His love has a depth with no start and no end
in the river called Sacrifice.

Should the current grow strong and o’erwhelm me,
don’t cry and plead from the shore,
don’t pray for my safety, or for my release,
for I’m here in the river by choice.
For my Jesus is in the river
and I share in his sufferings here.
But where he suffered abandoned, alone
I have him with me, e’er so near.

So if you are standing in safety
by the pastures of pleasure and rest,
and you hear his voice calling “Come join me.”
oh, come in, for the water is blessed.
Of pain I can promise you plenty,
of purpose I promise you more.
But the sweetest gift here in the river
is Jesus, the one I adore.

Oh, there is a river that flows here.
It’s name is called Sacrifice.
And it flows with the blood of my Savior;
the one who for me has died.
He bids me join Him in the river
and makes me no promise of life.
But he gives His comfort, and joy and peace,
in the river called Sacrifice.

(revised 6/3/15)

Some Days My Heart Hurts

You know those days? The days when the hurt of others weighs on you and your heart and squeezes your chest tight, and tears swell behind your eyes, and you wonder at the laughter of others. One friend received a cancer diagnoses. One friend is struggling for life in the hospital. Someone you love is dealing with what looks like dementia and paranoia, and the pain in your own body is threatening to overwhelm you. When your concern for others is more than you can bear. A family member has a terrible looking wound that doesn’t seem to be healing, while recovering from major surgery oh so slowly, and the bills are coming in for an injury…and, and, and…

And Christians are beheaded for their faith, others taken captive, still others have not been heard from as the months and years tick on, and so many are refugees running from violence and war, and your heart threatens to leap from your chest to escape the burdens of these hurts, these wounds.

It’s one of those days. It’s a day when I recognize my complete inadequacy to handle anything, when it is all I can do to crawl from my bed and whisper “Lord, have mercy!” And the words of that prayer are both insufficient and utterly sufficient. For where am I to go where His mercy is not sufficient? Do I need to explain what I want to happen? Do I need to tell him that I am asking for strength for the cancer patient, for the hospitalized friend and the family who loves him so, for the paranoid, the demented, for the recovery, for the bills, for the pain? I am going to the God who Knows All, Sees All, Hears All, and whose love is unending. I don’t have to educate Him as to what to do, as I used to think when I was younger.

I have not the strength for the day. Lord, have mercy. I have not the wisdom to know how to handle some family issues. Lord, have mercy. Someone has wounded me. Lord, have mercy. There are new martyrs. Lord, have mercy. There are those captured. Lord, have mercy. There are bills beyond my ability to pay. Lord, have mercy. There is pain beyond my endurance. Lord, have mercy. There is illness. Lord, have mercy.

Oh, Lord, have mercy. Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, All-loving God, have mercy.

Write-offs

It is tempting…highly tempting, when someone has “written you off” or done the unimaginable insult to you, to respond in kind. It feels…right…justified even.

And yet…

At one of these moments where I am reminded yet again of being painfully written off by a loved one, that though we do this to our God once, a dozen times or a dozen, dozen times, He does not respond in kind. When Christ had his very creation hurling insults at him on the cross—as he made the way for our reconciliation and healing, he bore the weight for all of us, those who stood by him weeping, the ones who fled, the ones who stood by saying nothing, and those who screamed for his death—he did not reject, he did not respond in kind.

If I am to be like Jesus, I must not write off those who have mistreated, who have failed in love, failed in fellowship. And where I have written off, cut off, erased my hurt by erasing the bonds of friendship, severing the lines of communication to keep myself from pain? In those places, in those relationships, I must once again write back those bonds, that they may be cashed in. I must restring the lines and be willing to take that call, answer that email, to listen, to hear, with my heart open and willing to have relationship again. Not requiring it, but willing. Not forcing, but welcoming.

It sounds lovely (and perhaps a bit foolish) in the abstract. In reality it is a painfully difficult thing, to open one’s self to relationships with those who have wounded, who can and probably will still wound—to be ready to forgive and to cover over an offense. It sounds…almost Biblical. Oh dear, that’s because all that forgiveness and mercy and grace and covering over of offenses is the very Christ-likeness we are called to have.

My conscience is pricked. I long to be able to speak from the long experience of one who has done well, but I find myself speaking from the place of the fallen. I must wipe my dirty knees and crawl to my feet to arise to a new way of living, no matter how many times I fail, no matter how many times I fall. How often will I come to the place where I realize that what I thought was right was…just…wrong? Protecting my heart from more pain sounds good, and for a while, perhaps it is okay to withdraw from the battle to heal, but at some point, and that point is this one, for me, I must re-enter the battle. Not to fight, but to bind up the wounded, even when they have wounded me. I must love, even where there is hatred. I must bleed and pray for those who cut me, knowing that in doing so, I am following Christ.

Today—this very day—I was reading a verse, about God’s unfailing love, and a friend, one who has distanced herself and cut the bonds of friendship, came to mind. I knew in that moment, that though I had been developing bitterness toward her over this wounding, that I was to repent and to reach out in love once again. Not requiring anything in return, but to reach out and remind her of the love of the Father for her. No pressure, no guilt, no recriminations, and as I was doing so, the bitterness began to be replaced by the feelings of friendship that had run so strong we had said that nothing would damage them. And then I thought of another with whom I have had strained relations. If God loved them with unfailing love, how could I continue to harbor bitterness toward them? How could I leave the bridges of friendship falling down?

I was brought to shame recognizing my pettiness, and the very way in which I have acted, in my heart, so very unlike Christ. Christ who was on the cross, who was buried and who rose again, “trampling down death by death, and to those in the tomb restoring life!”

Ah, but the beauty is that he restores me as well, in his unfailing love, not wishing me to remain in my bitterness, in my selfish, self-protection mode…he restores me. Through his word, through the Spirit, speaking to my conscience, reminding me of love and bonds and forgiveness. Unfailing love allows for all kinds of restoration.

Isaiah 54:10, “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (NIV)

Can you not wait?

In December, Steve was laid off. It was only supposed to be for a few weeks. It’s May 10th. He is still not back to work. He was supposed to go back yesterday, but there is another delay. I was laid off February 10th. I was off for just over two months, and have been brought back temporarily. I am highly frustrated by the delays, the fits and starts, the seeming randomness with which our lives are rolling along. My patience has worn thin and sometimes worn right through.

I’m like Vizzini (“The Princess Bride”), hands thrown up in disgust, bellowing, “I’m WAAAAAAAITING!” The timing of our rescue is outside of my comfort zone. There is also utter humiliation in the situation. We live in a society that boasts that things are in your control. One who works hard enough, is diligent and smart, will succeed. That’s the promise, right? And since we are NOT succeeding, and have NOT been able to land those good jobs, have gone through our savings…then by definition we must be indolent…lazy…stupid. That this is not up to me is something I announce, but in my heart of hearts, that voice keeps whispering that we aren’t trying hard enough, aren’t being smart enough.

Following hard on that whispered accusation is the dark thought that God is disinterested in us. That he cares not whether we are homeless, destitute…and that really, truly, he may be a God of Love, but his lovingkindness contains an awful lot of pain and devastation. Perhaps he has forgotten me? Perhaps I have not met his expectations for me, which seems odd, since he knows that I am dust.

These are momentary reflections, but they trouble me more than I would like to admit, because they reveal the state of my heart—a heart that should be trusting, yet fears and doubts assail; a heart that should be patient, but is impatient for God to reveal himself; a heart filled with pride, that should be humble.

In my impatience I have been contemplating the words of Jesus to his inner circle, those who waited for him outside the Garden while he prayed. He had need of them, yet they could not stay awake. He said to them, “Could you not wait with me one hour?”

In my impatience I hear those words echoing inside, whispering to me, After all we’ve been through together, after all this time, after all my goodness and faithfulness to you, can you not wait with me this one hour? It is the hour when he works in and through me, when he works his own purposes, when something greater than me is happening. Can I not wait and trust for this one hour? This one day? This month? This season? Can I not wait through this one trial? Can I not wait?

Broken-hearted

My heart was broken this week. I feel bruised and battered, and yet I am at peace. At this moment I am resting in the arms of the one who loves me, who loves me with an everlasting love.

I was thinking about a friend of mine, and the look on her face when she held their daughter the first day she became theirs. Love shone out of her, giving her an unearthly beauty, a radiance that is hard to describe. As I was thinking about her, and the things God has shown me about His love through that moment, through that expression on her face, I was reminded of this: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26. I think I understand what it means for the LORD to make his face to shine upon us. It is that look of love, of delight and joy that is of such radiant beauty it almost hurts when your eyes rest upon it.

As my heart was broken this week and I was a wounded, bleeding soul, my Savior was looking at me with this kind of love. His face was shining on me with such love and compassion. I can barely begin to understand this, this kind of love. In this pain, there has been a fight, a fight with bitterness, with anger, with depression, with defeat.

The fight is won, for now, but it has left me exhausted and in a quiet, contemplative state of mind. I am weary of the anger, of the family squabbles, of the barbs coming from those who are supposed to love you, care for you, protect you. I am accepting, yet again, what is, what was, what shall be, and those are hard things. I’m a dreamer. I dreamt such pretty dreams of family with loving looks and warm embraces. That is someone else’s family, not mine. Still, in the very deepest parts of me, the heart within my heart, there still exists the dream of a father who is my daddy in all the ways that word is spoken best, with all the things that word brings to mind. Maybe that dream needs to die. Maybe it is keeping me from truly experiencing all the love and healing of my Heavenly Father. I don’t know.

Let me leave you with this blessing:

The LORD bless and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.