Lent Prayers

As part of my Lenten discipline, I’m writing prayers every day and posting them to the church’s Instagram and Facebook accounts. But I thought I’d add them here, too. After this post, you can find them here, under the Liturgy tab, under Lent. But here’s the first week’s worth. Enjoy – ? -!

Prayer for the Seventh Day of Lent
Well, Lord, could we talk about disappointment today? Because to be very honest, it’s been a disappointing year. And You haven’t fixed things for us. Can we say we’re disappointed in You? Can we say that You have let us down? Is that allowed? Or would You respond and tell us that You are disappointed in us, too? It feels like there’s no room for grace in disappointment. So help us today to acknowledge our unmet expectations, our hurt feelings, our sadnesses, and our disappointment. And then shower us with grace, because we really need it. Thank You. Amen.

Prayer for the Sixth Day of Lent
“Pray for your enemies,” Jesus taught. “Love your enemies,” he said. Okay, so first I must admit I have enemies. And that means admitting that there are people I hate or fear. And than means admitting there is hate and fear in my heart. And that means admitting I’m falling a bit short of the mark. Before I pray for my enemies, I must ask forgiveness for letting hate and fear settle in my heart, for letting hate and fear clothe a person or a people. I must confess to reducing one of your children to a symbol or a cartoon. I confess my sin. And now, Holy One, on to my enemies. I call them many things – evil, selfish, murderous, wrong, stupid. And I close the door to any inkling of hope for reconciliation. Help me to see their humanity. Help me to understand their hearts. Help me to work on forgiving them, just as I have been forgiven. Amen.

Prayer for the First Sunday in Lent
Creator God, thank you for the daphne pontica, the sweestest of flowers that remind us spring is not too far away. Perhaps this is the scent of costly nard, the expensive oil used to anoint Jesus before his death. Perhaps this is the scent of devotion and love. Help us to remember that acts of devotion are priceless: the act of showing love, the act of serving another, the act of taking risks, the act of being present. And so help us to be devoted to You and one another. Amen.

Prayer for the Fourth Day of Lent
Most Blessed, Most Glorious, Ancient of Days, God: I just spend half an hour scrolling through my phone, when there are more holy and faithful things I might have done. I might have been on my knees as I confessed my sin. I might have been lifting my hands in praise. I might have studied scripture, or prayed a psalm. But no. I sat in my chair and looked down at a tiny screen for thirty minutes of this day. Still, I must admit that sometimes I see You there, on my tiny screen – in the headlines, in a friend’s comment, in a Facebook post, in the beauty of a photograph, in pain I read between the lines, in hope I read between the lines. So I think today I ask for Your blessing as I scroll through my phone, that I will recognize what is holy even there. Amen.

Prayer for the Third Day of Lent
God of justice and mercy, we know that to fast is to be able to fast, that we get to choose to give up food, or screens, or the daily latte. We also know that right now, so many of our neighbors and so many of Your children in the world fast without choice. Your children, our neighbors, are without food. Your children, our neighbors, are without access to clean water. Your children, our neighbors, are without power. Your children, our neighbors, are without hope. We want to ask You to fix it, all the while knowing that Your response would ask us how we plan to partner with You in that. We know that You call us to bring compassion, justice, kindness, compassion, justice, wisdom, imagination, and love to that. So we pray for them and we pray to You and we pray for ourselves in all of this. Amen.

Prayer for the Second Day of Lent
Well, God of the journey, there’s no going back to ordinary time; the trek has begun. There’s no going back to “normal”, whatever normal was: we have been forever changed by all that has happened in the past twelve months – a racial reckoning that we ignore to the peril of both black bodies and white bodies; a pandemic that has brought the world to its knees in fear and desperation; the mass consumption of lies that are way more convenient to believe than truth. There’s no going back to ordinary liturgical time either. We have the trek to the cross and empty tomb, a season where death precedes life, a season where grief must come before any inkling of joy. As You were with Moses in the desert, as You were with Jesus in the wilderness, be with us on the journey. When we cannot take one more step, give us rest. When our neighbor has fallen, let us give them a hand. When it all gets to be too much – be with us. Amen.

Prayer for Ash Wednesday
Creator of all that is, for us mortals it is a wonderment that death ended up being part of Your design. True, it might have been of our own making, but then again, maybe You knew something we didn’t or couldn’t. But here we are, on that day when we say to each other, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” We dare to say to each other, “Remember, you will die some day.” To tell our beloveds that, to tell our children that: it is awful. On this day, help us to remember that in life and in death, all of us belong to You. Help us remember that death is not an end, but a beginning. Help us to live well and in faith, knowing that we will die some day. Amen.

I miss Brian Doyle

At our Worship committee meeting yesterday, someone commented that they wished Brian Doyle was still alive, so we could read his thoughts on how life has changed in the last year. To that, I decided to write a few prayers in that style of his. Enjoy. Or don’t judge me for being inferior to that beautiful and deeply missed master.

PRAYER WHEN YOU SCREEN FREEZES DURING A ZOOM MEETING
Dear Lord, I know that I am talking and that no one can hear me, so I suppose I understand a little bit what it has been like to be You. So in this pause, which is not of my own making but of the little hamsters who run in the wheel that powers the internet as they need a rest because their tiny legs are so tired, let me pray for the people on my screen. For Nancy, known to this Zoom community as IPad, I ask you to give her a deeper sense of identity. For John, whose face is frozen in what can only be described as mid-yawn scrunched eyes and gaping mouth that exposes a little of his lunch sandwich caught between his teeth, I pray for humility and good humor. For Pat, who is trying to run this damn meeting to the best of their ability while admonishing all of us to mute when not speaking so as not to be interrupted by, say, my dog who is alerting me that evidently Timmy has fallen down the well AGAIN, and to then unmute ourselves when we do have something to say, which might only be, could you please repeat that as I couldn’t hear over the dog’s barking; for all these, I ask a good measure of patience and the reminder that what may be most important is not what is said, but being able to see each other’s faces, so please, Lord, get Nancy to turn her camera on. And so: Amen.

PRAYER FOR WHOEVER INVENTED THOSE LITTLE ALL-IN-ONE COMMUNION CUPS THAT LOOK LIKE JELLY YOU GET AT A DINER
Dear Lord, this is a marvelous little invention for us Protestants who admit so a little lower standard for our bread and wine. And here it is – the body and blood of Christ neatly glued together in what might be mistaken for a half-and-half container. For those whose arthritic fingers cannot peal of the miraculous slive of plastic hold the cardboardesque wafer in place, we pray for agility. For those who accidently drink the grape juice first, we pray forgiveness. For the inventor of such a thing, and the tireless workers at the Amazon warehouses whose labor ensures that pastors who left planning the reorder to a rather late hour are not caught short at Sunday’s communion in the parking lot, we pray your blessing. For parking lots that have turned into sanctuaries, we give you thanks. And for congregations that are muddling through with substitutes that are no where near good but have to be good enough for now, we ask for your love. And so: Amen.

PRAYER FOR ALL PREACHERS WHO ARE SHARING THE WORD OF GOD WITH A TINY LITTLE CAMERA IN THE CORNER OF THEIR MOBILE PHONE
Dear Lord, please help us first to find the right pair of glasses so that we might both locate the 1/4″ circle into which we must pour all the Good News you would have us share while still being able to see the notes to remind us of what we are to say because our brains are overtired and we really can’t remember things or recall words unless they are printed in an 18 point font right in front of us, so if we need bi-focals, please allow us to find the right mask to use to make it to the optician so that both they and we are safe from this vile plague. And let us not confuse our preaching to a camera with the hope that said camera might be saved and need baptism for we know, that while you made all living things, this camera is but a tool for ministry and not a target for conversion though maybe a target for upgrade. And for the preachers, who so dearly wish that their view was of real, live, wonderful, imperfect people, give them a heaping of imagination to see contained in that tiny camera lens a whole congregation, not unlike the way a tiny feeding trough contained the entirety of salvation. And so: Amen.

PRAYER FOR ALL THE DOGS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHO HAVE BEEN KIND ENOUGH TO INTRODUCE ME TO THEIR PEOPLE
Dear Lord, it is not uncoincidental that God spelled backwards is dog, and heaps of gratitude on you for the gift of the canine species, for the mutts and the doodles and wiener dogs with their collapsing hips, for compostable poop bags and extendable leashes and school playgrounds that are vacant and so become a heaven and a haven for dogs and their slimy tennis balls and their humans with those plastic ball-thrower things that are another invention for which to give thanks. Thank you for Kona and Birdie and Mindy and Jack, for Rosie and Tiger and Bean and Emmy; thank you for Chimi and Dora and Archie and Tulip and all those sweet pups who were rescued from overcrowding and death and came to run and play in my neighborhood. Thank you for those who see unclaimed poop and take care of it. Thank you for coats with pockets, laden with said compostable bags, a reminder that unconditional love awaits us at home. Thank you for the constancy of neighbors who are out rain or shine, day or night, so that their dogs can check their p-mail and respond. And thank you for my daughter who still laughs at that term “pee-mail” which she coined when she was but a fourth grader. May our hearts be as big as our dogs’. And so: Amen.

PRAYER FOR ALL THE KIDS WHO NEVER DREAMED THEY WOULD ACTUALLY MISS GOING TO SCHOOL
Dear Lord, this is a hard one, and humor is hard found when kindergartners are clinically depressed. The choice of which risk to take feels pretty cruel, I must admit, and so I ask, in addition to that vaccine being made and distributed and shot as quickly as possibly, that you wrap all of our young people up in your sweet, strong arms that I think would smell like Ivory soap; that you would wrap these children and teenagers up and say, in ways that they will hear, that is is okay to be sad; that is okay to not want to get out of bed; it is okay to be angry that you have to live in such a time as this; that there are grown ups who have let you down. Whisper to them too that there are teachers who think about them every day, even when they’re not on Zoom; there are teachers and school custodians and lunch ladies and principals and staff like Miss Lori at Sabin who would never let a child go hungry during the day who always has a smile and would protect that place and those people with her life. Seriously, God, if you loved us at all you would end this merciless pandemic and let us get back to being with each other because, if my exegesis of Genesis is right and I’m pretty sure it is, you intended us to be together in the first place. Also, please get all those imbalanced chemicals that lead to depression and thoughts of suicide out of the systems of our beloved, precious, irreplaceable children. And so: Amen.

Liminal time

img_0816They say this will all be over,
Sooner or later
That this won’t last forever
That this is a temporary, though difficult, time
A passing phase
A passing pandemic

But isnt’ all time temporary, passing phases,
Passing minutes, hours, days, seasons, years?
Isn’t time just a human construct
A way to measure – what?
Our productivity?  Our greatness? Our failures to act?

This is liminal time, time on the edge
Time of misstepping and falling off the cliff

My time is now unbound
I do not know what day it is, or what I’m supposed to be doing
A friend suggested waking up every day and while getting out of bed shouting the day and date, just to keep ourselves grounded

They say that to offset a panic attack you should be very present
Notice what you see, smell, hear, taste, feel
Ground yourself in the immediate now.

Isn’t that what we are supposed to do all the time anyway?
Be present?  Notice?

This is what it is, right now, in this moment
What it will be in the next moment, we cannot know

Look: the crocuses are up.
Smell: the neighbor is burning trash again.
Listen: that bird keeps singing the same song, over and over again.
Taste: coffee lingers on the tongue.
Feel: the skin on my wrists is so dry.

Breathe.
This too shall pass, as all things do.

Heart’s Desire

A-hand-drawn-heartFor months, at the urging of my spiritual director, I have been praying to find my heart’s desire, to find that thing (not a person – I have those) that inspires me, energizes me; my flow.  But you pray for something long enough, and the prayer goes unanswered, and eventually you stop praying for the thing.

The last few months have found me in the doldrums. (Excellent word, by the way, with possible origin in the words dull and tantrum.)  Yes, you could say I’ve been having a dull tantrum for a season, the result of an unusually warm summer, a not-fun spring at church, and continued physical pain as my hip heals more slowly than I would like. Plus sometimes I’m just a big baby.

And then I got an idea.  I would write a book, a novel, about a church, because I am the First Pastor Ever to think about writing a novel about a church.  I thought about it all spring, and I thought about during our first week of vacation, and I thought about it some more the week our kid was at sleep away camp.  And then I went away for a week, to the lovely shores of Lake Tahoe with a plum assignment of leading worship once a day.

In my free time, I powered up the ol’ laptop and started writing.

I am having a ball.

Today when I met with my spiritual director I told her I had started writing my book and she commented that light was bouncing all around me.  She noted my energy and joy.  And then she said, “I think you found your heart’s desire.”  I will note that God took God’s sweet time answering my prayer, but a thousand years are but a day, etc. etc.

Here’s the thing: writing this puppy is cathartic, and in twenty years of ministry I have met amazing people who have done strange and wonderful things that inspire the characters.  There’s swearing and liturgy.  Twists and turns.  Recipes.  Lists.  Thwarted romance.  A Yorkie Poo.  It is so me.

Back in high school, I aspired to be a writer, but college and theatre and then seminary and ministry got in the way.  To be truthful, my daughter’s own love of writing has inspired me, and maybe some day we will write a book together.  (I can just hear her saying, in about eight years, “As if.”)

This book will never see binding or a spine or a listing on Amazon.   I’m pretty clear about that.  It might show up on this blog.  It might be a Christmas present to my friends and family. But maybe one’s heart’s desire doesn’t have to have a purpose or action plan.  Maybe one’s heart’s desire doesn’t have to lead to success, fame, or fortune.  Maybe one’s heart’s desire is simply the thing that leads out of dull tantrums to joy.

That’s all for now – chapter nineteen awaits.writing

A prayer for such a time as this

Holy God,

We are appalled – but not enough.
We are grieved – but not enough.
We are fed up – but not enough.

Our hearts are breaking for the loss of those nine beautiful lives, nine of Your faithful children who were killed doing what You ask us to do – study and pray.  So however appalled and grieved and fed up we are, You most be all those things to the millionth degree.

But God, I’m not sure our feelings are enough; I’m not sure my feelings are enough.  I have spent the last day with tears in my eyes, learning the names of the dead, reading about their lives, reading about their church, and that is not enough.  I have spent time learning about the hate in my own city’s past, about the exclusion this state used to practice, and I have listened to conversations by those who are displaced because their neighborhood suddenly becomes “desirable.”

And God, I’m not sure my knowledge is enough.

Please, Holy God, do not let us go back to the same-old same-old.  Please do not let us mourn for a week or so, and sign some petitions, and shake our heads and cry, and then be done.  Hold our feet to the fire, to the refiner’s fire.  Let us not speak but listen, and when we are done listening, let us act.  Do whatever You have to do to make us so outraged that Your children were gunned down in your house, make us so ashamed of our own complicity or inaction in matters of race, that we don’t sit and tsk-tsk anymore.

But what do we do, O God?  Show me the way.  Show us the way.  Lead us out of this abyss we have gotten ourselves into.

And comfort the families of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, and Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., and Ethel Lance, and Cynthia Hurd, and Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson, and Tywanza Sanders, and Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson.  And comfort the family of the shooter, because although I do not believe it, I think You would say that he is Your child too.

Amen.

Bring Them All Home

clasped handsFor about five weeks the song “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables has been going through my head, a kind of incessant prayer for the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria.  Every time I think about them – which is often – I become almost paralyzed in my horror and grief.  And I don’t think I’m having that response because I’m a mother or a parent.  I think I’m horrified by this because I’m a decent human being who believes that children should not be the pawns in the deadly games that adults play.

When I was a teenager, my family was held up in our home.  For forty-five of the longest minutes of my life, my little brother, who was nine at the time, was taken hostage.  He’s fine now; we’re all fine now, after time and therapy and a lot of love.  But for forty-five minutes I sat in my neighbor’s house, paralyzed, and when I saw the police cars pull away and knew the situation had been resolved, I didn’t know if my next move would be to exhale or scream.  I exhaled, because the SWAT team was successful in their negotiations and my brother was okay.  I hope so much that the families of those girls are able to exhale soon; to exhale and run and embrace those children and watch them grow up and heal.

Sometimes I wish God would just smite dead people who abuse and terrify children.  I don’t believe in the death penalty, except when I do and that’s usually when something horrific has happened to a child.  I have to stop myself from thinking about what might be happening to these girls, isolated in the woods, or being smuggled out of the country to illegal human markets.

I feel so powerless about this, that there is nothing I can do other than pray.  So I pray.  I pray that these girls are allowed to be with each other, that leaders have risen among them who set a tone of comfort and hope.  I pray for their families.  I pray for those in positions of power and influence.  And because Jesus tells me I have to, I pray for the terrorists.  The prayer is pretty basic: God, I am praying for these terrorists.  I do not know what to ask for, but You know what to do, so do that.  Amen.

Then that little voice in my head gets going.  You know that voice – the one that tells you prayer is not enough. The one that reminds you that there are children right here who are in just as desperate a situation as those Nigerian girls.  The voice that does not let you off the hook for worrying about something on the other side of the world without worrying about things in your own back yard.

It’s not just me – maybe the media could cover some of our own domestic tragedies, especially those that involve children, especially children who live below the poverty line, children of color.  Maybe our own elected officials could look in their backyards in addition to looking across the globe.

Last year my daughter and I read Robert Coles’ book The Story of Ruby Bridges.  My daughter was amazed that a child was treated that way, and I was horrified by it, though I knew the story.  I think about her courage and her faith and her prayer for those who were doing such cruel things to her and shouting such hateful things at her.  And my wish that God would smite dead all those who abuse and terrify children comes back.  Because I really, really pray that adults will stop using children in their deadly games.

The Earthly Cloud of Witnesses

A friend of mine is in the middle of a tragedy right now.  It’s a tragedy of circumstance, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  There was no evil, no harmful intent.  But she is in the midst of a tragedy, and it is wrenching.

My friend is one of the most faithful servants of the church that we have nowadays.  She has committed her life to serving this funny, flawed, and hope-filled institution.  I consider her a mentor, friend, and yente, as she worked years to get me and my husband together.  I owe her more than I can ever say, and she would never say that I owe her anything.  She’s that kind of person.

Because she has been this faithful servant of the church she knows a lot of people, and I mean, a LOT of people. So when news of this tragedy hit Facebook, our modern and immediate Pony Express, the message boards lit up with prayers that you would not believe.  At the end of the day I read all the comments on all the posts, and I am overwhelmed.  I am overwhelmed by the love and the faith and the hope and the presence that these silly, powerful Facebook comments convey.  And last night, after a long session meeting, as I sat on the couch in my pajamas with the dog in my lap, the husband by my side, and Castle playing on the DVR, I realized that as much as we talk about the great cloud of witnesses in the sky, there is the earthly cloud of witnesses, too.

All these people posting on Facebook – and all those posting on the Caring Bridge site, and emailing and calling and showing up: they are witnesses to love, to the power of love and gratitude.  They are witnesses to the power of friendship, and the church, and belief that you tell people you love them and hold them in your heart.

Love cannot undo this tragedy, and my heart breaks at that.  Love cannot fix what is broken in this situation.  But love might be able to make it a little less worse than it is.  As the tragedy is cauterized, love might distract in that good way.  Love might take away an ounce of the pain.  Love will persist, because I know some of these people in this earthly cloud of witnesses, and like me, they have been mentored and loved by my friend.  They will show up; they will pray; and whether they know or care that they are doing this, they will witness to the Good.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overwhelm it.”

Candlelight vigil cups color

Stuffed; or better, My Cup Runneth Over

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly this morning I was on my way to the grocery store for eggs and Rainier beer, because it’s Thanksgiving, of course.  As I drove along the familiar route, I looked up to the steeple of the Methodist church, and noticed a bird on top.  It took me a moment, because I wasn’t sure if it was a real bird, perched atop the cross on top of the steeple, or some sort of weather vane thing. It was 7:15 on Thanksgiving morning and no one else was on the road, so I just watched for a few seconds until the bird moved its head, and the mystery was solved.  Because I was driving toward what was left of the sunrise the bird was silhouetted, and I couldn’t tell what it was, but I guessed it might be a seagull.  Interesting.

For the rest of the drive I thought about the bird on the cross on the steeple.  Maybe it’s keeping watch, or having its own little vigil for all of its bird-kin who gave their lives today that we might enjoy turkey and dressing and the works.

I got to the store and immediately went to Starbucks, because Momma hadn’t had her morning coffee yet and it would just be better if I did.  I got my eggs, and noted the Safeway does not sell Rainier beer, and picked up a few things to make a pumpkin cheesecake I hadn’t planned on baking.  I thanked everyone at the store profusely for working on Thanksgiving.  They were all quite gracious, and said no problem, that’s why we’re here.  Nice.

On the way home I thought about food.  I thought about my plan to eat so that I’m full but not stuffed, and my intention for exercise today.  Then I thought about all the people who will be getting their Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter or soup kitchen, if they get any Thanksgiving at all.  I thought about the cut in food stamps, and the food that flies off the shelves at our local food pantries, and maybe yours, too.  I thought about the woman at my parents’ church who died recently, about her personal ministry of collecting food from  local stores and driving it out to the fields to feed the migrant workers.

Last night at dinner our daughter asked about the Great Depression.  She’s reading the American Girl “Kit” books, and wanted to know what a depression is.  I told her that her grandparents remember the Depression, and how her great grandmothers would give food to anyone who came to the house who looked hungry.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but it does stir stuff up, stuff about the privilege of having a table of friends or family to eat with, the privilege of drinking good wine and eating an ethically-raised turkey.  It stirs up stuff about people who don’t have community or food; it stirs up stuff about the gloss of the first Thanksgiving story.

We’re joining friends whom we love for dinner today; I am grateful that they invited us.  They’re not particularly religious people, so I imagine there will be no grace said at the table, which is fine, because I can say many graces of my own today.  So here goes – and a happy Thanksgiving to you.

God of bounty, who calls us to see the scarcity;

may we be full today.

May we be full of your stuff, and not ours –

full of gratitude, of course;

full of mercy for the things that go wrong;

full of sorrow for those who hunger;

full of hospitality to those who are lonely;

May our cups runneth over.

God who loves the widows and orphans, who calls us to look far to the margins,

may we hunger today.

May we hunger for your graces, and not ours –

hunger for some justice;

hunger for some healing;

hunger for kindness, humility, and faith.

Hunger for our suffering kin who are so depleted they cannot even wail.

Our cups do run over, God, because you love us.

Let us fill each other’s cups today.

Amen.

Pride and Humility, with maybe a bit of prejudice thrown in

But maybe it's humble pie...

But maybe it’s humble pie…

So I was pretty sure I was about to get my gluteus maximus handed to me on a platter.  Instead, I received a more gracious lesson in humilty than I could ever have imagined.

Someone else handed that part to me on a platter in a different matter, but that’s another story.

A friend of mine just posted “I’ve been learning a lot about humility lately” and I replied “me too.”  I have a new-found respect for the beatitude about the meek, because if they’re anything like the few meek people I knew, I do believe they deserve the inheritance of this beautiful earth.

Maybe like a lot of people, I have a lumpy ego – strong in some areas, wilted in others.  In my role as pastor, and particularly as female pastor, I’ve assumed a strong stance.  Just because I’m a lady minister does not mean that I am a pushover, so I will assert myself in meetings and sermons  and emails and all sorts of places.  And sometimes I really am working from a strong place; sometimes I’m just pretending and praying that no one will pull the curtain and discover that, in fact, I am not Great and Powerful but just pretending to be.

I want to be strong, smart, articulate, assertive, on top of things.  But I learned today that sometimes being those things is off-putting or discouraging to someone else.  There I was, talking to someone whom the world might disregard, overlook, or write off, for reasons of prejudice I won’t go into.  I was pretty sure this person was mad at me and was going to let me have it.  So I had girded my loins and prayed my version of the Sinner’s Prayer: “Dear sweet Jesus, please help me to keep my mouth shut and help me to channel just a little bit of your grace.  Amen.”

Well, Jesus didn’t need to help me keep my mouth shut because my Meek of the Earth person did.  In an elegant, direct, kind way, this person helped me understand that when I put forth my Miss Smartypants self, I can be intimitidating.  The wilted part of my ego finds it hilarious that I could intimidate anyone, but the reality check I had today confirmed it.  At some point during our conversation I had the big a-ha.  Oh, this is what Jesus means by the least of these.  These are the ones we are to care about and to care for.  I have gotten it wrong, wrong, wrong.  It really is so not about me.

Anyway, I’m humbled today, and that comes from a strong place, if you know what I mean.

The Kindness of Strangers

kindnessSo I’m at Target, because it’s my day off and one pair of jeans evidently isn’t sufficient for our second grader.  Because I have been very, very good at Target, and bought only two pairs of size 6 pants and one package of trouser socks (as opposed to $150 worth of stuff I don’t need) I treat myself to Starbucks which, quite conveniently, is right there in the Target.

The woman ahead of me in line is chatting up quite a storm and I keep telling myself “this extra minute she’s taking will not throw off your entire day’s schedule.”  I breathe in through my nose and breathe out through my  mouth.  I imagine I am one with the universe, but I know this is a lie, because really, all I want is my skinny latte, thank you very much.  There’s only one thing standing between me and my latte, and that is this chatty woman.

She finishes her order, then turns to me and says, “Would you mind signing a birthday card for a complete stranger?  My best friend is stuck in a hotel room all by herself on her birthday and she’s going through a nasty divorce and I thought this card signed by random people would cheer her up.”  I say yes, and get my comeuppance for my impatience.  The Universe is right more often than I am.  We meet at the pick-up counter, and I have plenty of time to sign the card, because her mocha latte with four pumps of peppermint is taking a long time.  While we wait, she asks another few folks to sign the card, and then leaves.

I’m still waiting for my drink, but I notice she is on her way out the door without her Minty Minty Special, so I go after her and ask if maybe she would like her drink.  She smiles, and makes that face I make at least three times a day – I believe we call that “chagrin” –  and I get my latte and go on my merry way.

That was a kind thing for her to do  – to picture her friend ordering room service in her jammies, all alone on her birthday in some generic hotel room and to want her not to feel sad.  She put herself out there, a little bit, risked some foolishness so she might cheer up her friend.  I’ve always appreciated the kindness of strangers; I haven’t depended on it, but I do appreciate it.

So I’ve been wondering how I can be kind to our congressmen and women right now.  Really, they are strangers to me.  Our congressman attends our Christmas Eve service, but other than a handshake, I don’t know him.  I don’t know any of these people duking it out at the capitol.  I know what I think of them, especially those on the other side of the aisle than mine.  But this little voice – maybe it’s Jesus – keeps tickling my brains saying, “You have to be kind to strangers.  And you have to love your enemies.”  Sigh.  Why does Jesus have to make everything so hard?

So I guess I have to pray for all those people, the red state people and the blue state people.  (Honestly, I can never remember which is which.)  I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to pray for God to change them, but I think I’m on the right track by asking God to help them.  I’ll pray for Pam, alone in a strange city in a Hyatt on her birthday.  I’ll pray for her friend, too, because she pretty much made my day.

Here’s to some kindness all around.

Auld_Lang_Syne