Silence in Tragedy and Atrocity

It is always a weird feeling when you can’t say anything when you are in a profession built about having answers and preaching the Word.  But here we are.

I’ve spent two days mourning the senseless violence that has once again ravaged our nation.  I’ve cried over the devastation of the natural disasters that have destroyed life and home of thousands, and felt rage over the lopsided and frankly sickening response to different groups of Americans having their homes destroyed.

I have prayed, and I have not heard an answer.

I want to fix the world, and I can’t.  But I am expected to have a response because of my profession and my faith.

And I don’t have a response that will be helpful or could possibly be heard in a helpful way.  So I will pray, and I will remain silent, and I will pray.  Because that is all I can do.

I know there is a call – even from my own denomination – to speak out and call our congresspeople and scream about it, but I don’t know what to say or what to ask for.  I know there is an army of people who would be willing to tell me what I am supposed to ask for, and another army who also know exactly what to ask for, both armies asking for exactly opposite things.

I don’t know, I am lost, and my voice wants to be heard but I have no words.

So now I pray:

God of peace and love, provide us peace and love, mold our hearts for peace and love, and help us to feel Your peace and love.  Amen.

And I remain silent until I have a word that might help instead of tear apart and break down relationship when we need, more than anything, loving relationship.

Jesus loves you and I love you.

Peace,
– Robby

How Do I Pray For Everything?

Facebook is the source of 90% of my discouragement.  9% being impatient, 1% trying to figure out my digestive issues while remembering they aren’t even approaching debilitating and are probably 100% as minor as the doctor suggested, 90% reading Facebook.

I just opened up Facebook after briefly opening and then closing and I found these things to pray about:

  • A retired police officer passing away.
  • Celebrating young life.
  • The American political situation.
  • Ditto, again and again.
  • Problems with our natural world.
  • The beauty and joy of summer and enjoying our natural world.

Then the song changed on my playlist and I stopped scrolling.  Each bullet point was a specific post, posted by another person, which a specific thing I should be praying about.

How do I pray for everything?  If I spent time listing everything that I hear – not even seeking out but just hear – on a daily basis in prayer, I would have little time for anything else.

And I don’t know the answer to my question.  There are prayers that are all-encompassing of much of that, but then why do we pray for anything specific?  And I don’t pray to Vending-Machine Jesus or Magic Genie God, so listing my every concern and joy seems…odd.

I find myself wanting to come up with some profound thing to pray, some profound solution to this struggle within me, but I can’t.  All I have is this humble offering:

God, give me words and voice for the pains of this world, heart and joy for the things of this creation that bring us joy, and peace to know that I am doing what I can do, in my broken state, to bring more light to this world.  I mourn with those who mourn, celebrate with those who celebrate, and I ask you for peace in this world, but also peace in knowing that this world is temporary and you provide us with a new world without tears, pain, or mourning.

Please give your servants strength, please give your servants voice, please give your servants joy, and please give your servants peace.

In the name of our exemplar, our teacher, our savior, and our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Peace,

– Robby

Breathing (and Practicing What You Preach)

Every year the ecumenical group here hosts a Prayer Breakfast on Holy Wednesday.  My church hosted, I lead the prayer service.  I read a piece from Urban T. Holmes’s Spirituality for Ministry (third and fourth paragraph on this page) and closed our little prayer service with encouraging those gathered to take time to find silence and talk to God during what is one of the busiest weeks of the Christian year.

The challenge was, “Christ went off the pray by himself because he needed to.  You are no better than Christ, you also need to find your time alone with God.”

Good message, I thought.  Everyone needs to breathe during Holy Week and God wants an active relationship with us as much during Holy Week as any other week.

Then I came home.  And the mountain of tasks I had to complete – or could be completing and not putting off – stared at me.  It was Holy Week, I had that magical approval to complete a PIF and make the final strides toward ordination, and because of life and tasks the house was a total disaster.  There were things that needed doing.

Giselle, bless her heart, was having none of it.  It was sunny and beautiful out, she had been cooped up inside so much over the past few months, and she could be outside and not inside, enjoying the sun more than our windows allow.  Typically she isn’t awfully demanding but that day she would not relent.

So outside we went.  She sat in the sun, I sat on a chair, and I just stopped: stopped thinking, stopped doing, stopped talking.  I let the sun hit my face, the warm air calm me, and I just enjoyed the moment, listening for God to tell me something.

God told me nothing other than to rest.  He didn’t have a message for me, a direction for me, or a task for me other than to rest.  As I would feel guilty for not doing anything, I would hear a voice telling me to stop feeling guilty and continue to rest.  My phone went off, I responded, and I felt guilty responding and doing work instead of resting.

God gave me opportunity and means to rest, and I finally took it.

15 News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses.  16 But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer. – Luke 5:15-16 CEB

I’m not better than Jesus, I’m not stronger than Jesus, I need to withdraw and pray, even if it is just right outside the door, looking at the dog sun herself while I just sit still, no noise or distraction.

I hope that you can find your moments to participate in the hermit’s discipline, even if it just moments.

Peace,

– Robby

Tired and Weary

I find myself weary today.  Part of it is that damn exegesis exam*, part is that my wife has been sick and not sleeping well, which makes me not sleep well, and part is because coffee isn’t doing it right now for some reason.

I mean really, coffee is supposed to wake you up, not put you to sleep like it has been doing to me today.

But I find myself more than just tired and drained because of my own life.  I find myself weary because I see darkness in the world and I’ve found myself helpless.

I find myself tired and weary as I think about Baltimore.  I struggle with knowing that racism is alive and well in our country.  I am weary because I see what I find to be senseless violence because I don’t understand having a history that tells me I am only not an animal, a monster, 3/5 of a person, or worse to the legal system because I was born in the right time.  I don’t understand being followed by cops because of the color of my skin.  I’ve never been told that my culture is bad and that I need to follow another culture to not be a bad person.

I don’t feel or understand the anger that lead to the violence, so all I see is the violence.  I see what seems to be mindless and undirected and needlessly hateful, and I can’t wrap my mind around anything else.  I hear pundits and activists try to explain why it is happening, and I hear pundits and activists try to explain why it is wrong and evil, and I hear pundits and activists say why it is good and righteous, and I don’t understand.

It makes my head swim.  I am a logical person, seeking to understand not just with the heart but with my mind.  I try to understand the logic of something, the reason, the buildup and the systems and the anti-systems that lead up to something.  I try to assign blame, assign righteousness, assign the best course action and judge the current actions upon them.  I try, but I can’t.

All I see is anger and hatred and pain.  So much pain.

I sit in my office and I actually feel the urge to weep.  I won’t – professionalism is important and my door is always open – but weeping seems to be the only decent response.  Even if everything that the rioters did was wrong, what lead them to be so angry to do it?  How much pain have they been caused, have they felt, that this is the only way they could respond?

I don’t understand it, and I never will.  My logical and organizing mind tries to rationalize it but I can’t.  I so just want to get it, to know what is going on, but I can’t.  All I want is to know how to ease the pain of those who are in pain, and I can only kneel, praying that God can provide healing because I cannot.

I am weary.  And tired.  And hoping that my prayer is sufficient.

I don’t feel your pain, but I can see your pain, and I want nothing more than for it to be relieved.  May God’s loving arms give you comfort in peace in this time where there is nothing but pain and violence and anger.

Let us also bow for the relief of pain, for love to win, for people to love one another, and that we can feel empathy for all, not just those who we understand.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Peace,

Robert

* As a side note, holy crap I was a gun shy about that exam.  Exegesis was probably my strongest area in seminary – except may Presbyterian Polity because I’m awesome like that – and yet it is the exam I did the absolute worst in.  I feel like the exam is set up not to test your actual ability to exegete a passage but do the busy work of someone else’s exegesis and then someone be creative with a sermon using, again, someone else’s process.  That’s all to say, please let me pass this time 😦