“I am,” a new-to-me song by Jill Phillips, speaks deeply to me of the invitation to let God be God. So I did what I do, and made a video prayer.
Lyrics by Jill Phillips:
Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest, And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest The tide can change so fast, but I will stay The same through past, the same in future, the same today
I am constant, I am near I am peace that shatters all your secret fears I am holy, I am wise I’m the only one who knows your hearts desires Your hearts desires
Oh weary, tired, and worn Let out your sighs And drop that heavy load you hold, ’cause mine is light I know you through and through There’s no need to hide I want to show you love that is deep, and high, and wide
Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
Yesterday’s Gospel reading (Mark 3: 20-21) was just a few lines. It spoke of the crowds that were following Jesus. The last words of the passage were that his family were worried that he was “out of his mind.” Yeah, this whole preaching the good news thing can seem a bit strange and counter cultural, apparently from the very beginning of the experiences that inspired the Gospel writers.
This morning, as I was praying with the Sunday Gospel story of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew to literally abandon their nets and follow him, to become fishers of people instead, (Mark 1: 14-20), I had a sinking suspicion that their loved ones were probably also pretty concerned.
In the song “Abide” by Liz Vice, she sings these words:
“Jesus we will throw away our lives to follow you Struggling in your strength, resting in your truth Jesus, you’re so beautiful, you give vision to the blind You in us, the hope of glory, in You we will abide”
The call to follow Jesus by our lives, whether that is by abandoning our nets, professing religious vows, forming a family, a particular calling, just to choosing to be kind and compassionate in response to the opposite, or working for justice in this mixed up world … it can be hard to explain.
To someone else, family or friends even, it may seem like throwing away. Simon and Andrew certainly threw away their livelihoods, their nets. I shifted the trajectroy of my own life when I discerned to enter religious life and left my career to follow Jesus in a new way (and what a journey of blessings it has been by the way).
When my heart sings along with Liz Vice, it feels more like throwing my life INTO something. Into SOMEONE. Into Jesus.
The struggle is real, and there is Jesus. The promise of rest is real too, and Jesus is there. The healing is real, and life changing, and calls me to bring the healing to others. The vision of a kindom where we are each beloved community to one another is real, and makes real and present the beauty and hope of Jesus, in whom we abide.
I can’t help but think of those persons who were literally touched by Jesus. The woman who dared against all societal convention to reach out and touch his cloak, seeking healing. The folks who brought their sick loved ones to Jesus, even going as far as to drop the person in need of healing down through the roof since the doorway was blocked. The woman at the well who encountered Jesus in her daily life. The list goes on through the Scriptures, throughout our shared history, and into our day. Pretty incredible.
So what if it might seem a bit worrisome. I am reminded of another figure, who probably worried his own loved ones – St. Francis. As the story goes, he was known as “God’s Fool.” Fools for Christ. We are in good company. We are not perfect. We will stumble and fall and get back up. And Jesus will be there.
In any case, this morning as part of my prayer I made a little video prayer reflection set to “Abide” by Liz Vice, and featuring artistic depictions of some of these lovely fools. I share it here in case it speaks to you.
From talking with friends and family, I know I’m not the only one who is a wee bit tired these days. Pandemic. Politics. Life in the midst of pandemic and politics. No elaboration is necessary. If this is where you are at these days, you might like this video prayer I just put together, set to “Show Up” by Jill Phillips.
I’ve been praying with her song this weekend. I’ve also been praying in gratitude for the book of creation. The seasons show up like clockwork, even if our human activities add stressors. The animals go about their business, sometimes letting us get close enough for inspiration. So I paired some of my recent photos I’ve taken on walks the past two months, some in Federal Way, WA and some in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. (Yes, I took my first plane trip in December, with built in quarantines on either end so that I could visit our sisters).
Back to the song. I find it both consoling and inspiring.
… Afraid that what we have to give is so small.
You don’t have to save the world. All that hero talk is only superficial stuff. If you want to change the world, What you gotta do is show up, show up, just show up.
We’re so used to an immediate response, So used to giving up when things don’t work. The road of long obedience is hard, No shortcuts will make it easier Because the journey so long But the difference is made By the million small steps along the way.
This song is a good soundtrack for my prayer right now. I share it in case it is helpful in your own prayer and discernment on how you might show up and make a difference through small things and small steps in great love.
It’s a mix of old favorites by favorite artists, some newer songs and some new-to me artists, starting with three of my own prayer videos set to music. And yes, some songs are repeated! It’s 2020. All rules are flexible.
Enjoy! and Blessings of Peace!
As Joseph was a Walking – Annie Lenox Only at Christmas Time – Sufjan Stevens Joy to the World – Sufjan Stevens God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Sara Groves Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? – Sufjan Stevens Christmas (Baby Please Come HOme) – Darlene Love The Christmas Song – Aimee Mann Winter Wonderland – She & Him Jingle Bells – Ella Fitzgerald Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Phoebe Bridgers All I Want for Christmas – THe Yeah Yeah Yeahs O Come All Ye Faithful – Weezer What are You Doing New Year’s Eve? – The Head and the Heart Are You Coming Over for Christmas? – Belle & Sebastian Winter Wonderland – Radio Head The FIrst Noel – Weezer O Little Town of Bethlehem – Belle & Sebastian Jingle Bell Rock – Arcade Fire Donna & Blitzen – Badly Drawn Boy Last Christmas – Jimme Eat World Blue Christmas – Bright Eyes The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes Baby It’s Cold Outside – John Legend feat. Kelly Clarkson Frost the Snowman – Fiona Apple It’s Beginning to Look a lot LIke Christmas – Bing Crosby Skating – Vince Guaraldi 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night – Pheobe Bridgers (feat. Fiona Apple and Matt Berniger) Wonderful Christmastime – The Shins Little Drummer Boy – The Dandy Warhols Xmas Time is Here Again – My Morning Jacket O Holy Night – Weezer Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Albin Lee Meldau I Heard the Bless on Christmas Day – The Civil Wars Happy Xmas (War is Over) – The Polyphonic Spree Santa bring my baby back to me – Belle & Sebastian I Want an Alien for Christmas – Fountains of Wayne Good King Wenceslas – The Irish Rovers The Christians & The Pagans – Dar Williams Christmas in Hollis – Run DMC Last Christmas – Wham! O Holy Night – Tracy Chapman Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Frank Sinatra O Christmas Tree – Aretha Franklin Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2 On Christmas Day – Spiers & Boden The First Good Joy Our Mary Had – Fraser Freda Boyes Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer – Nowell Sing We Clear Christmas in Killarney – The Irish Rovers Let Us the Infant Greet – Loreena McKennitt Tracks in the Snow – The Civil Wars All My Christmases – Julian Edwards Christmas Song – Phoebe Bridgers Someday at Christmas – Jack Johnson I Saw Three Ships – Th Irish Rovers God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings – Bare Naked Ladies Feat. Sarah McLachlan I Wonder as I Wander – Audrey Assad
Have you noticed that everyone (and everything) is weird these days.
And that no one is weird at the same time?
If you find yourself tired or anxious or frustrated or annoyed or even angry, of course you are. We are going on 2 months of this strange reality with no clear path forward that seems comfortable, sure or safe.
Yet here we are. Together. Alone. Safe in our homes or maybe on the newly redefined front lines, suddenly considered essential. Simple daily tasks seem daunting. We juggle home and work life all in one place. So many plans have suddenly disappeared. We might feel lost, dazed or confused.
In today’s Gospel (John 14), our friend Thomas follows his own doubts to help us find the way through. In my own simplified paraphrase of this passage, which I have often prayed with even before these pandemic days, we hear:
Thomas: How can we know the way?
Jesus: I am the way. Stay focused on me. Love a lot.
Yep. Love. A lot. Love is the way when people are weird. Love is the way when we are weird. Love is the way when your child/niece/student is sad that their graduation has been cancelled. Love is the way when you remind your grandmother/mother/sister/friend/yourself that all this isolation has a purpose. Love is the way when you reorganize your plans … again. Love is the way when [insert challenging situation here]. All the rest is distraction from what really matters.
A few years ago, in other life circumstances, my meditation on this Gospel led me to create a video prayer set to music by Sufjan Stevens. I find it is a fruitful prayer these days too, and so I offer it here in case it resonates with you.
We’re all a bit off these days. Our prayer space, time and experience is probably off kilter a bit as well. For those of us used to a sacramental shared liturgical experience, we have the option of watching mass online, but it’s not the same. We all know there is SO much to pray for, but that’s just it. There’s so much.
For years now I have “prayed the news,” reading the newspaper in the morning as part of my morning prayer. I hold in my heart and mind some of the stories of human suffering, joy, and life within those written words and pray for the people and realities behind the story.
Last month, I was able to carve a little space into my oddly busy quarantine life for a mini personal retreat weekend. I walked the grounds of the convent where I live, which is perched on the palisades across the Hudson River from New York City.
New York City of course has been so hard hit by COVID-19, as has New Jersey where I live. I prayed for all of it and everyone, and later made this video prayer of photos from that day set to the song “Island” by Audrey Assad.
We are knit together Together as one Where you’re going I will go Underneath the shelter of this love We will walk each other home You be home to me I will be home to you No one is an island You be home to me I will be home to you No one is an island
I was reading the Urbi et Orbi message that Pope Francis gave today in an empty St. Peter’s square. He reflects on this time of Covid-19 in light of the story of the storm in Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41).
“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. …
Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” -Pope Francis
More than once in my life I have echoed the disciples refrain… do you not care that we are perishing?
Imagine their consternation, frustration and fear that he is, of all things, asleep!
We are terrified … we think we are alone.
But Jesus is with us in the storm.
A few years ago I created this video prayer reflecting on this passage, set to “How to Sleep in A Stormy Boat” by singer songwriter Amy Speace. The Pope’s message reminded me of this video, and so I share it here in case it is a helpful reflection for others in this time.
Peace. Be not afraid. We will weather the storm together.
My prayer at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 plays in my head with “Flourishing (Psalm 119)” – a song by Sandra McCracken – as its soundtrack. So I did what I do and made a video prayer set to this beautiful song with some of my photos from 2018.
May we give thanks for all the ways we lived and loved in 2018 from our best selves, for the best of everyone
May we remember those times when we weren’t so able to be good and kind for whatever reason and resolve to try again
May we honor those we love and all we hold dear through our words and our actions for the common good
May we recognize beauty, Live gently, and flourish together as we walk in the way of peace.
My Christmas card this year is a picture I took of a statue of St. Joseph “looking” at a Christmas tree lit up on the grounds of Bon Secours retreat center in Maryland that I took last year on retreat.
As I wrote in my Christmas Letter to family & friends:
I’ve been spending time talking to Joseph these days. In our CSJP constitutions we say about Joseph: “His courage to life a life of faith inspires us to trust in God’s abiding love, especially in times of struggle and uncertainty.”
Pope Francis writes about his own prayer practice with Joseph, and that he’s the one he goes to when he is “in a fix.” He writes little notes of problems that need fixing and slips them under a statue of Joseph. Joseph was a carpenter after all. When we spend time with the Gospel readings about the birth of Jesus, Prince of Peace, during the time of empire, we can see that Joseph understands what it’s like to keep on keeping on during challenging times.
We don’t often spend a lot of time with Joseph, but I think we all could use a little Joseph in our lives these days.
This Christmas Eve, I prayed with “As Joseph Was a Walking” recorded by Annie Lennox. If you want to spend some time with Joseph, here’s my video prayer reflection: