Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Prayer

Do you ever wonder about prayer?

Why do we pray?

How should we pray?

When we pray, what are we hoping for?

Do we have the power to influence God?

Is there a wrong way to pray?

If there is a wrong way, does that mean there is a right way?

I don't ask these questions in order to engage in theological banter. I ask them because people I love are struggling and I often feel helpless. I want to ask God to help them.

And I do! I do ask God to help them.

But often, if I am honest, it feels as if God does not respond to my requests.

Do you ever feel that way?

I have a hunch you do. Some of you come to my office and tell me you do.

So, let's talk about prayer for awhile, shall we?

I'll post my thoughts in the coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, Ole Hallesby's definition of prayer has been saving my life lately.

Hallesby basically says that:

Helplessness + Faith = Prayer

Do you feel helpless about something? (Yes)

Do you have mustard seed-sized faith that Jesus has the power to help? (Yes)

Then, you have all you need for a powerful prayer life.

Take what you feel helpless about and combine it with a modicum of faith ... that's it. That's the secret formula. You almost don't need words. Just a turn of the face toward Jesus with what you feel helpless about in your hands. And you will have set into motion supernatural power beyond your imagination.

Now, there's more to be said, of course.

But let's start here: Helplessness + Faith = Prayer

Amen.

Our hands are full ...

Too often I fill myself with worry about things I cannot control.

I ruminate about what concerns me.

I fret about the future, wondering if I can twist it into a shape pleasing to me.

I cling to anxious thoughts as cheap substitutes for prayer.

St. Augustine (who said some real dumb things about women in his day) said this:

"God wants to give us something but cannot,

because our hands are full - there's nowhere for God to put it."

Augustine's simplistic thought captured me today and made me wonder what God might fill my hands with if I but dropped all that does not satisfy.

Worry, rumination, fretting, anxiety. Why do I clasp them to me as if they have something to offer?

Have they ever provided me with what they promise?

What if I drop them, just for today, and open myself up to the possibility that God just might have something better up his sleeve?

Beauty makes us feel more alive ...

I just took a walk through our neighborhood with my dog, Stella.

The sun is shining in a blue sky. The birds are singing. The crusty, dirt-tinged mounds of snow and ice are gradually melting, revealing trash and brown grass and the once-hidden sidewalks.

I listened to a podcast of an interview of an Irish poet named John O'Donohue and something I heard struck me:

"Beauty," he said, "is that which, when we encounter it, leaves us feeling more alive."

What a thoughtful, lovely definition. What a stark contrast to most definitions of beauty which too often feel shallow and unobtainable and reserved for those who can pay.

As I walked, I asked myself, "What makes you feel alive, Alice?"

The answers were easy: The spring sun on my face. The cool wind in my hair. My old, faithful dog trotting happily next to me. My mom's kind, aging face. My friends' compassion. The pile of books on my chair.

I made a small resolution to seek beauty at every turn, realizing God gifts beauty to us to bring life to our souls. It can be found anywhere. It is never reserved solely for the well-off.

The apostle Paul knew this. He writes to the church at Philippi:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

If you can, get outside sometime this week. It will make you feel more alive. Spring is making its grand entrance. Beauty is everywhere for those who have eyes to see.

 

Lent means spring ...

Did you know that Lent means spring?

Literally, the word Lent comes from the Old English word "lencten" which means spring.

Aha! Now we are talking!

This has been a brutal winter in the Midwest, to put it mildly. Frigid, icy, snowy, isolating, mind-numbing.

Long.

The yearning for spring is palpable.

It is not only my body that yearns for spring, my soul does, too.

I have been pretty numb lately. Walking around in a stupor. Stumbling through my routines, steeling myself against the frigid air. Walking with my eyes down, watching for the ever-present ice, blinded to much of what happens all around me by my incessant need to get warm.

I need spring. I need Lent.

What if Lent could be a kind of spring for me this year? For you?

What if ... as I watch the spring sun shine through my windows revealing all the dirt I've allowed to build up in the darkness of winter, I also watch for God's gentle light to reveal that which needs to be swept out of my soul?

What if ... as I yearn for the first balmy breezes of spring to remind me that the earth will soon burst into bloom, I also yearn for the winds of the Spirit to bring new life to my winter-weary self?

What if ... as I anticipate the early thunderstorms that wash the gritty streets and sidewalks clean,  I also anticipate the rivers of living water Jesus promises me right in the gritty mess of my daily existence?

What if Lent could be a kind of spring for me this year?

For you?