Here’s talking to you, kid…dwell

At the Episcopal parish where I have been worshiping this Lenten season, the priest has been including a prayer from Thomas Merton at the conclusion of the Eucharist and before dismissing all of God’s people into the world to do the work God gives us to do.

The prayer is an appropriate addition in this liturgical season of Lent when regularly worshiping Christians re-engage with their faith on a practical, life-lived level for 40 days, replicating some of the disciplines first century Christians instituted in what was a period of preparation for baptism into God’s church. A period considered a journey, amongst other things – a journey of re-orientation, penitence, reflection, a journey of getting one’s life set on the right path, re-orientated towards God and away from self. A journey begun in the desert, alone, but knowing God’s presence there, trusting His hand to lead you out, lift the fog, nudge you towards Him.

This prayer, A Prayer for Guidance, speaks to this one aspect of a Lenten journey, elevating the yearning for simply knowing God’s presence, soft-ball pitching the question of whether or not we are on the right path and are we doing the right thing?

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.
I do not sense the road ahead of me.
Nor do I really know myself,

And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.

The prayer has hung around my head this Lenten season like a dense fog, fog-with-green-field-pixabay-fog-4237_640hovering above and under and within my comings and goings penetrating the nooks and crannies of my own prayers, of worship and of the Daily Office readings.

And this morning, the prayer lifted. That is to say, the fog lifted. RoadTrip_Aug2011_24For at one word in the Old Testament reading, I paused and my eyes lifted. Ahhh…the Holy Spirit arrived! I have yearned for some such touch for so long now. Just a touch to let me know all is not lost – that am not lost and that I haven’t lost touch with the Lord.

It is when my eyes lift from reading something, especially Scripture, that I have come to know as an interruption of sorts, a pause button wherein God wants to be heard. Something is headed my way that I need to pay attention to – some learning, some thought, some answer – that God intends me to heed.

So, this pause, eyes lifted, was like a whispered answer to the petition expressed in A Prayer for Guidance.

Isn’t it lovely how the Holy Spirit can elevate just a word – one word – to bring someone ‘a word’ (which is insider talk for a message, a nugget, a piece of advice, encouragement, a plan, a prayer answered).  If you dwell in God’s Word you’ll find that just one of them is often all it takes to let you know God’s talkin’ to you, kid.

Dwell. That was the word meant for me today.  Dwell.

Read what God is saying to God’s people in Jeremiah 7. He is talking about a contract of sorts – if you do this, then I will do that. This is the covenant. You worship me, the Lord your God, and follow the law as best you can as I have laid out and I will be with you always.  Steadfast love, faithfulness, hope is yours from me, your Lord, God, who dwells with you in this place, in this life, in this moment…in all places, all lives, all time.

5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.

Now I believe God is present in all things – in ALL – time, space, genes, the planets, humanity, relationships. God’s presence is in all blessings, in all sufferings. Point is, that I have never been challenged to wonder if God is in all things – a gift of faith from the Lord, God – but rather where God’s presence can be felt, seen, known so that His will, path, way, can be discerned and followed.

And in my personal life this has been one of the biggest of all challenges  – just not having a clue far too many times whether or not I am where God wants me or where I want me. God is in the mix – never a doubt about that – but it has been more than difficult to move forward one way or another as various apparent roadblocks and detours pop up, confusing me, immobilizing me, distancing me from God’s still small voice.  Have I walked the way God laid out for me or have I gone down too many wrong roads?  And why I am so confused, still, yet, evermore? As the prayer, says:

I do not sense the road ahead of me.
Nor do I really know myself,

And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you

So. Hmmm. Dwell.

What is the Spirit saying to me? Why was the fog lifted here? Is there a difference between just knowing God is in all things and in dwelling in that truth?

Is it possible that that the chances for receiving an an answer to prayer, of perceiving God’s hand, or hearing a word, are immensely improved by simply dwelling? By practicing my faith? Dwelling in the Word. Worshiping regularly. Doing my best to obey, to do justice, to love my neighbor, to visit the prisoner?

And if God is dwelling in me, then can I have the courage to accept that though I feel lost and confused as the Merton prayer describes, I am where God would have me be. God is leading me.

I do.  Have the courage. To accept that I am where God would have me.  And I praise God for lifting the fog this morning long enough for me to see all the little hints laid out for me the past few months – the little whispers of encouragement to stay on the path that I was set upon – to trust Him, to breathe in His Word, to give thanks for all God has brought my way  – roadblocks, thwarts and all – so that I might do good works and live a life that glorifies only Him.

Dwell.  Linger here, longer, loved one.  The fog will clear.

Praise Him.

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