seven-minute Lectio Divina: Matt. 20:29-34

     I remember doing Lectio Divina with this passage while sitting on a dock, looking out at Bogue Sound off the Carolina coast. I was on a Sabbath retreat with lots of silence. The skies were gray, and I hugged my knees, trying to get warm.
     When I heard Jesus’s question in the passage above, I felt it in my bones—and I also felt a distinct answer: “Give me a child.” It was as though Jesus was speaking to me, and from some mysterious place within, I answered.
     But this was Oct. 2017. Jordan and I had only been married three months. I didn’t know if I wanted children at all, and I certainly wasn’t interested in them so soon into newlywed life. I forgot about Jesus’s question, and my answer, until more than a year had passed: Jan. 2019, when the child I wanted didn’t live long enough to grow its little cells and split into more cells and finally, fully form.
     Then what I wanted most of all was Jesus himself, and he came and sat with me in my suffering.
     Whichever word/phrase stands out to you from the story in Matthew, I pray it brings healing where you need healing and breaks your heart where needed, too.

a liturgy for husband & wife at close of day

Happy two-year anniversary to my dear husband. Here’s a beautiful liturgy we prayed last night:

___________

Husband: At death we will part.

Wife: Therefore let us not take the blessing of our life together for granted.

 

Silence is kept as both spouses consider for a moment the gravity of this truth.

 

Husband: May our hearts be ever drawn towards You, O Lord

In whose three-personed perfection of love

Burns the fire that would kindle also our two-personed imperfection

Into a oneness that is warmed and forged of your holy flames,

Wife: A thing that is both an echo and seed and a play upon a stage

Portraying the promise of union with Christ that is to come.

 

Together: We are unworthy players, O Lord, unworthy to portray your glory.

We are weak. We are jealous. We are easily wounded.

We are petty. We are embittered. We store up remembrances of wounds.

We are insecure.

We hurt one another.

We do not deal with our conflicts well.

We fail to love as you have loved.

Forgive us even the failures of this day.

 

Silence is kept. If either husband or wife has need to make amends, they may do so now.

 

Husband: I am not strong enough in my own strength to be husband to you.

Wife: And I am not strong enough in my own strength to be wife to you.

Together: Let us turn to God together then, asking the strength that we need.

 

Husband and wife take hands.

 

Together: Give us therefore the strength that comes from the grace that flows from your heart alone, O God, that we might live and move and breathe in air of that grace, receiving it in ourselves, and then offering it daily to one another. Without grace, our marriage will wither as a vine unrooted. But sustained by your grace, it will ever flourish and bloom and flower and fruit.

 

Husband: Forgive us our failures and our sins against one another and against our marriage, O God,

And restore now our hearts to you and to one another.

Wife: Repair the damages of our selfishness, our thoughtlessness, our inconsistencies.

Draw us again together at the close of this day, in love, and forgiveness, and fellowship and peace.

 

Together: May we sleep this night side by side in unity of heart and mind and purpose.

May we wake in the morning in solidarity and delight,

Thankful for the sharing of this life, for the companion who journeys beside us,

For hands to hold and arms to embrace, and lips to kiss at the close of day.

 

Husband: May we love one another more at the end of this day

Than we did at its beginning.

Wife: May we treasure one another more at the end of this week

Than we did at its start.

Husband: May we hold one another as more precious, more respected, more dear

At the shuttering of this month, than we did at its opening.

Wife: May we delight in our companionship and take heart in the sharing of our burdens more at the close of this year, than we did as it opened

Husband: May we reflect your glory far more fully in the beauty of our shared relationship

At the hour we are parted by death than we did even in the hour of our wedding.

 

Together: Bless our marriage. Kindle our desire. Teach us to be friends and lovers and companions.

And may this our marriage exist not only for our benefit,

But may the bond between us grow to be a shelter and a blessing for others as well.

 

Husband: We ask these things in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Wife: Amen.

 

Together: And now, with joined hearts, together we bring to you these burdens of our day.

 

Husband and wife may now freely petition their heavenly Father with all worries, burdens and concerns.

 

Copyright 2016 by Douglas Kaine McKelvey. All Rights Reserved.

Everything Happens for a Reason (again)

Last week, I came into church and was immediately hugged by a woman who’d just heard of our miscarriage.

“I know you know this,” she said, “but, God has a reason. We just don’t always know what it is.”

It was, of course, her way of trying to offer comfort. It was her way of making sense of the senseless. It was her single lifeline, and as a wise pediatric oncologist once said, “Don’t take away someone’s lifeline.”

So I didn’t say, “No, I don’t ‘know’ that. I don’t believe that. In fact, I have preached against that. Or were you not here that Sunday?”

Instead I said, “Thank you,” and meant it. Because her hug was the more important thing. Her broken heart, displayed on her face, was the real comfort. And we all just take our lifelines where we can.

anger on the altar

DSCN3213

Last Sunday in worship, we wrote down what we needed to leave behind, let go of, before we could take the next step Jesus is calling us to. I wrote “anger.” There has been resentment wearing away at my heart, for a couple months, and I know I can’t keep letting it rot in there.

Of course, several times this week — while thinking, while cooking, while showering, while driving — I picked the anger back up again. I told myself, “You left that on the altar. Don’t pick it back up.” But old habits die hard, and thought grooves get worn down in our brain, ’til those neural pathways are hardened arteries.

One thing that helps is doing a breath prayer, which I started right around the time the resentment began. I breathe the word “mer-cy,” one syllable per inhale, the other for ex. So when I tense up in anger, I remember I’ve already left it behind, and breathe through the prayer word instead.

I have about an 8% success rate.

abandon

abandon

The darkest prayer I prayed was alone in a darkened bedroom. I was afraid I was crazy and they’d have to lock me in a mental institution. I’d be abandoned by my family. No one would see me. No one would want me.

This was also the prayer that made me more of a Christian than I’d ever been before, because in that dark cave came this truth: I would not be abandoned. God would not leave me. God’s love was bigger than death, demons, darkness — God’s love would always win.

That was eight years ago this month.

________

Last weekend I was in a community musical. Someone told me, “I wish I could do that. I wish I had your abandon.”

I’d never thought about that word in any way other than my greatest fear. But for her, it was her greatest envy.

A moment later, she made me laugh.

“See? You even laugh with abandon.”

This is a new word now. I want to pin it on the board above my writing desk. Maybe above my office desk, too. And in my car. And on my mirror.

…because you won’t abandon my life to the grave;
    you won’t let your follower see the pit.

Psalm 16:10 CEB

in an ideal world in Lent

  1. stop looking at phone so much *
  2. don’t eat processed/added sugar **
  3. fast on Fridays †
  4. journal every day °
  5. blog every day?
  6. do a devotion with husband every day ‡
  7. get enough sleep
  8. don’t eat meat unless it came from a local farm where the animals were really and truly pasture-raised, not just “grass-fed” ***
  9. give to everyone who begs from you §
  10. pray in the contemplative way that achieves union with God ****

 

* The March 2018 issue of Oprah says people look at their phones, on average, 47 times a day. This seems low.
** The documentary Fed Up helps with this.
† I’m in a community musical and we have dress rehearsal the first Friday of Lent, then opening night the second Friday. I’m already a little worried about fainting. So never mind.
° Have actually done this for 121 days and counting. What helped was thinking of it not as a journal but as a logbook.
‡ Wondrous Encounters, by Richard Rohr
*** (At least, that’s the latest self-righteous designation I’ve bothered to learn.) The documentary Food, Inc. helps with this.
§ Matthew 5:42.
**** To say “achieves” probably betrays just how far I am from contemplative prayer.

“everything happens for a reason”

EverythingHappensForAReason

 

Every Sunday in worship, the pastor prays, but leaves a silence where you can say the name of someone on your heart. Like popping kernels the names jump up and die down.

For years I’ve been saying the name Kate Bowler. She was my professor. Before I moved away, I went to her office and asked how I’m supposed to lead as a woman — how I’m supposed to be taken seriously. She said, “You don’t need to wear business suits with shoulder pads.” I said, “Does that mean I should get rid of all the suits I just bought from Goodwill?”

Only months later, word got out that Dr. Bowler had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer – at the age of 35. I never knew how young that was until I reached my thirties. It’s young. It’s when you should be flourishing, finding yourself, falling in love with life.

So every Sunday morning I said, “Kate.” Because what else can you do? And she lived, and still lives. She’s, what, 37 now? Maybe 38? She’s still with her high school sweetheart, still watching their toddler boy grow up.

My church family prayed for Kate without knowing her. When I put her name on a prayer card, they mailed their heartfelt prayers. They surrounded someone they’d never met. They let me say her name out loud.

I’m beyond ready to read Kate’s new memoir, which I guess she wrote in between traveling to another state for chemotherapy treatments and trying to spot Jimmy Carter down the hall. But anyway. Just the title of her book says it all: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. It officially releases on Feb. 5. Order your copy here.

Or if you can’t wait, get a preview of her voice by reading her New York Times op-ed here.

And I’ll keep saying her name.