Prayer stars

Paper prayer stars (Photo: CKirgiss, Folding: LTenBrink)
Paper prayer stars (Photo: CKirgiss, Folding: LTenBrink)

At some point, every pray-er — no matter how devout — struggles to pray, sometimes for surprisingly pathetic reasons. One would think that shutting oneself up in a dark and quiet closet in order to listen to the Almighty would be a delightful gift to oneself, especially in a world that is spilling over with glaring and blaring distractions.

But it turns out that sometimes the dark and quiet closet is its own distraction. So much darkness. So much silence. So much closeness. The simplicity and sparseness can be quite overwhelming.

And then instead of praying, we end up thinking in spirals and worrying along rivulets and wandering through mists.

So we pinch our arms, reprimand our souls, nag our chattering minds, and get back to it. Diligently. Mercilessly. Stoically. Because, well, we should; we must; we ought; even though it’s so much work and requires such sternly disciplined singleness of mind. (And by “sternly disciplined singleness of mind” I mean “something that looks quite a bit like joyless self-martyrdom”.)

But – if you are very fortunate and very willing to listen and very emptied of self – something might break through the joyless self-martyrdom. You read a book that helps you understand prayer in a new way. You have an experience that peels back all the false layers of piety. You sense the Spirit gently whispering within the holy breath of life.

Or maybe even this: you receive a box of 8 small folded stars (that are beyond comprehension) and a note that says,

When I prayed for you I made these.

What manner of miraculous friendship is this, that someone not only prays for us but at the same time creates anew (from the old) something that reflects not just us but also the very One who made us?

In that moment – and everyone should have such a moment as this – prayer becomes something much sweeter and larger and more miraculous and divine and beautifully disciplined and creatively focused.

To the star-making pray-er: thank you for making prayer and creativity and friendship even sweeter and more brilliant than they already were.

To the rest of us pray-ers, including myself: what could be more unspeakably amazing than that we are invited to converse with the Almighty Creator (of the individually named and intentionally placed Stars), who is also Abba Father (of the undeserving and helpless flock known as humanity)?

Let us all find our own manner of star-making so that we will joyfully and often enter that sacred space to utter sacred words in the presence of the Sacred itself.

(happy) ABBA, FATHER (‘s day) (Michindoh Post 8)

[This post is eighth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

Dateline: Michindoh – Week 2, Day 4.

It’s a typical Day 4 at Wyldlife camp. Except that it’s also Sunday, June 16th.

On this Father’s Day the Work Crew and Summer Staff, who have left their fathers behind for a month, are enthusiastically celebrating the holiday by . . . doing what they do every other day – rising early to start a day of work that will not end until sometime after 11:00 tonight. Were I to list all the details and responsibilities of their individual jobs, you would want to curl up in a ball under your bed covers and take a very long nap – a luxury they do not have.

The work staff welcomes with expectant joy the long days of work, as well as the cramped sleeping quarters, the close communal living, the absence of technology, the lack of significant alone time, the separation from friends and family, and so many other things that would be viewed with disdain in the normal hustle and bustle of daily life back home.

They welcome, and on occasion patiently weather, these things so that a thousand middle-schoolers and a hundred teen moms will be introduced to the Abba Father who knit them together in their mothers’ wombs, whose loving thoughts towards them are too numerous and too profound to comprehend, and who waits patiently yet longingly for the chance to embrace them, put a ring on their finger, new sandals on their feet, and a brilliantly clean robe on their shoulders in preparation for a celebration feast to end all feasts.

They welcome, and on occasion grow weary of, these things so that a thousand middle-schoolers and a hundred teen moms will know beyond doubt that Abba Father, who created all that exists and whose majestic power extends farther than the east is from the west, waits longingly for the moment He can call each and every one of them Daughter or Son.

They welcome, and on occasion have time to glory in, these things because they have a heavenly Father whose love and grace extends to (and infinitely beyond) the thousand middle-schoolers and hundred teen moms they will selflessly (even when battling self-importance) and tirelessly (even when exhausted beyond measure) serve this month.

Depending on one’s earthly biological circumstances, Father’s Day might be a time to mourn or a time to celebrate, a time of painful memories or a time of contentment.

Beyond our immediate biological circumstances, there are no such widely divergent oppositions.

There is just God. Father. Abba. Into the hearts of His children, He sends the Spirit of his Son, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

We are no longer a slave to the world’s lies or our insecure fears or our own messy pride.

Rather we are God’s own children. His Daughters and Sons. His very own.

What a glorious thing to celebrate today and every other day.

(And to all the fathers we’ve left behind us for a month – we love and miss you truly.)