A Mosaic of Images on Joy and Prayer

I come from a tradition that is suspicious of written or scripted prayers, believing that spontaneity is a sign of sincerity and casting askance glances at those who must borrow the words of others in order to talk to God.  Then I became a mother and realized that not only were my own words in prayer untrustworthy at times, but there were also events in life for which words would not come. Praying the examen of conscience at the end of a day has often given my tired brain a place to go and an outline to guide my conversation with God.

Light When It Comes by Chris Anderson is a guide book for the practice of “paying fierce attention” to life in order to enhance one’s prayer life and to ensure that we catch all the stories that matter.  At the end of the day, it is helpful to me to remember that I have an audience with God and to review the events of the day with thanksgiving, paying attention to emotions, to the ways in which guidance has come and miracles have happened.  It is also a time to offer up all the failings and disappointments for forgiveness and grace and to make plans for a more Christ-centered tomorrow.

In the midst of this reflection, I find that life distills down to a series of moments.

“The only place I can be is the moment.
Everything else is an abstraction.” (25)

Chris Anderson intersperses his teaching on joy and prayer with vivid re-tellings of moments from his own life in a way that I found to be jarring at first:  a story about a yellow warbler calling “sweet-sweet-sweet-sweeter-than-sweet”  jostles around between a vignette from a funeral and a description of the sound of his son playing the harmonica with a Bruce Springsteen CD.  Eventually, though, these disjointed stories began to “appear in their real potency,” just as the unsettling stories of Scripture do when we let them speak for themselves and to communicate beyond the stained glass and the flannel boards.

Reviewing the events of the day in the presence of God is an opportunity to face the darkness as well as to remember the joy.  This too is part of the paying attention, part of the humility that acknowledges that “God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things“– including the things we wonder about.

The author examines servanthood from his perspective as a church member and a deacon, acknowledging his own mixed motives (the only kind of motives available to humans), and the thirst that tries to satisfy itself with something other than Living Water (Praise?  Order?  Certainty? No, these do not quench the thirst . . .)

He portrays service as a learning process:

“Whatever else it is, the story of Jesus is the story of letting go and the giving up we have to do every day of our lives.” (86)

This paying attention to life means that God shows up in surprising ways:  in the midst of confusion, on the days when I don’t like myself, when what I really need to do is to stop analyzing and to start trusting. It is a recognition of the humility of a simple “and” when viewing the pieces that make up the mosaic of our lives, not striving for or forcing our way into “thus” or “therefore” before light has come, but offering up the individual events, both good and bad, so that the creation of the mosaic is, in the end, left to God.

Chris closes with two premises that bring the pieces together into a joyful whole:

  1.  “God is present in every moment and in every molecule.  His grace and His love are nowhere less than complete and full, anywhere in the universe, anywhere in time.
  2. The love of God and the grace of God are freely given, are nothing but gift, [and] there’s nothing we can ever do to earn them.  No matter how much I read or pray or do good works, I will never be more loved by God than I am in this very second.  Yes, we should strive to be better, we should strive to be more moral and faithful people, but not in order to merit the love of God but rather as a loving and grateful response to it.”

Having said all that, it is not in premises that Light When It Comes urges us to find our life, but rather in the blessed randomness of holy joy that flows into the wildly disjointed pieces of our moments and our days, making of it all a gift.

//

This book was provided by the William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Advertisements

Published by

Michele Morin

I am a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. I have been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and our four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, two teens still remain at home, and along with an incorrigible St. Bernard, we laugh, make messes, clean them up, and then start all over again. I love hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop me in my tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. I lament biblical illiteracy and advocate for the prudent use of "little minutes." I blog at Living Our Days because "the way I live my days will be, after all, the way I live my life." You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

61 thoughts on “A Mosaic of Images on Joy and Prayer”

  1. Hmmm… Interesting! I was just writing yesterday how I need to slow down and notice what’s going on around me a little bit more. A little confirmation here! Blessings!

    Like

  2. I also like to sit back and review the day with the Lord, the good and the bad. I am not sure I would need someone else’s words to review my own day, but I do know what you mean that when you are tired and burnt out the words often don’t come. That’s when I take to heart the reminder in Romans 8:26 that God understands my prayers when I can’t find the words. So very thankful for the beauty of prayer!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! This sounds like a great read, Michele. I confess my attitude about written prayers have often been much like yours desired at the outset of this piece. I think I may well need to check out this book myself soon! Blessings on your day!!

    Like

    1. Yes, there’s a place for EVERY kind of prayer in our day to day lives, for sure. Thanks for reading. If you get the book, I’d love to know what you think. (Do you ever take advantage of the option on Amazon to read a sample chapter of books that interest you?)

      Like

  4. Thank you Michele for another devotional within a review! Noticing this morning in my own reading the ‘surprising ways’ God shows up and also the way a hard heart prevents us from seeing Him when He does. Consider the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. The disciples didn’t ‘get’ what happened. (Mk.6:52) And Jesus coming to them on the water shortly afterward (Mk.6:49). They saw instead ‘a ghost’! Do we miss Jesus coming to us because our hearts are hardened, bent on maintaining the security of the predictable…

    Along this line, I wonder if that’s why some of us have grown up with a wariness towards liturgy and its written prayers. We have been taught that this is related to a hard/cold heart:
    ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’. I’m sure it quite depends on where our hearts are in mouthing the words. We can do the same with our modern praise songs. They no doubt came from a full heart when they were composed. But we may sing them with our heart left out of the equation–just good words (or not!)….

    Thanks so much for distilling these good gleaning here, Michele. I love the way you do reviews!
    I do have one more thought…coming up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m responding to these comments in the wrong order . . . “a devotional within a review” What a fun way of thinking of what happens here! The teacher in me just can’t let the opportunity pass to “get my 2 cents worth in” — And, of course, I realize that only a small percent of my readers will ever get their hands on the book, so why not give them something of what I received in the process of reading.
      Your thoughts on modern praise songs — origin vs. execution — are stellar. And I think, sadly, we do the same thing when we hold a hymnal.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m reading also what you and Dawn are saying here, and I agree. As a matter of fact, sometimes we have the same problem even in reading the pages of Scripture. If we are distracted by many things instead of seeking first the kingdom of God, we can read the words, and come away not knowing what we just read.
        It is my understanding that, while the Psalms are meant to be sung, many of them are also prayers. It seems that, since they are Spirit inspired, they have been prayers that many saints throughout the centuries have been able to lift up, from the heart, in those times when they need the Spirit to give them the words to pray.
        Sometimes, I have felt inspired to write down prayers that God has given me, and when I go back and pray them again from the heart, they mean just as much to me as they did the first time I prayed them. I have shared a couple of them on my blog; you can find them under the prayer category, if you are interested, specifically, “War Room Prayer”, “Psalm of Ruth when the evil one spoke lies over her through the mouth of others”, and “Lord, You know me intimately; I want to know You more”.
        Thanks for sharing, sister! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank YOU for sharing. It’s helpful to me when praying the psalms to remember those throughout the centuries who have prayed those words, and even to put myself in company with those who are surrounding the Throne of God even now, continually occupied with the business of praising God!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds like great advice to look back over each day to better appreciate how God has led and orchestrated the moments that have passed. And, I agree that God is continually leading us to let go…of things that distract us, of excess, of self. Thank you for sharing, dear Michelle. I hope all is well with you and your family. 🙂 It was so nice to see that you had stopped by to visit the other day…your words are always an encouragement!

    Like

  6. “The only place I can be is the moment.
    Everything else is an abstraction.” (25)
    This quote reminded me of something niggling at my mind for a while now. Have you ever wondered, Michele, whether the current secular emphasis on forms of meditation, living in the moment, ‘mindfulness’, and such like have been transferred over into Christian teaching too lightly?
    The emphasis on the here and now seems to run contrary to Scripture’s emphasis on HOPE, on what is yet to be, on an eager expectation of things not yet come…As believers in Christ, our ultimate joy is not dependent on extracting the sweetness from every present moment (though in an affluent culture we can be lulled into thinking so). At least Paul didn’t find it so. (See II Cor.4:7-18 ‘persecuted, but not forsaken…, always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient…’
    There’s a tension between acknowledging Jesus’ presence in the ‘seen’, yes– ‘rejoice in the Lord, always’– but not depending on the good in life, the circumstances, for our joy. Without Christ this is the best therapy there is, but we are not ‘of the world’ in this sense.
    Anyway, you know I love your writing, Michele, and the way you distill good reads for us here; just wondered if I was the only one suspicious of this trend of encouraging people to ‘live in the moment’.

    Like

    1. I am so thankful that you are willing to buck the trend of all happy talk and nothing else in the blog comments world. And, Yes! I do see where we are in danger of taking on yet another sticky web of attachment to the perishable when we are commanded to fix our hearts on the imperishable and our eyes on the unseen.
      For me, Mrs. Hair On Fire and Living Life with Bugs in My Teeth, it is helpful to read and listen to thoughts that encourage me to notice what my tea tastes like and to review the events of the day before I go to sleep, because my preference is just the ungodly-opposite. However, if I start to make living in the moment an idol and forget to live life in view of the eternal weight of glory, I will have fallen off the other side of the bed! Thanks for your thoughts — I’m off to part 2 . . .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL You are so funny, Michele! Love that depiction of yourself (and me!) Mrs. Hair on Fire! ( : ( : My problem is getting to the end of the day unable to remember what has happened in it! I do make an effort and keep a little book at my bedside for some pre-sleep moments and records. It tends to fill up with the seen but I so want to recall (and record) the unseen, the quiet prompts, the lessons pointed out, the happy exchanges with sisters in the faith ( : I’m working on it by His grace.

        Like

      2. YES! That feeling of coming to the end of the day unable to account for it is one of the reasons that the practice of praying the Examen caught my attention. I want to be able to review the events of the day in the presence of God, mindful that He is with me in the review, and He was with me in the moment as well. So often He brings things to mind that I wish I had thought of on the fly.
        Yes, working on all of this, by grace.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha! another thought, Michele.
    Is ‘the moment’ really the only place I can be?
    Hmm what of Eph.2:6 that talks about us being seated with Christ in the heavenlies… as the basis for which we are to ‘set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ as we anticipate appearing with Jesus in glory (Col.3:2-4)
    I’m not trying to be a trouble-maker here, but you’ve set me thinking Michele. Thank-you! ( :

    Like

    1. Yes, I see this connection and agree. I also am aware, though, of times in which “a particular moment” or a particular blessing from God has galvanized my thoughts in the direction of the things to come — I’m thinking here of gorgeous views of creation, the amazing work of God in another believer’s life, a poem that mows me over with words like air and water to my soul.
      You are — in no way! –a trouble maker. I get weary sometimes of all the “agree at all cost” mentality here in my comment section.
      And I noticed a Sketches installment in my inbox earlier today, so looking forward to reading and relishing!

      Like

      1. Yes! absolutely. He uses the ‘seen’ to remind us of the unseen–the poem that ‘mows me over’ and is water to my soul. Yes! God is in the moments. They are all intended to point us to Him so our joy will be in Him.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love that phrase, “paying fierce attention” to life! I definitely want to pay attention. I like the idea of examining my day each evening. I will need to go look up the Examen.

    Also, I totally love Chris’ second point: “No matter how much I read or pray or do good works, I will never be more loved by God than I am in this very second.” This fact is something I have to continually remind myself, because my little Type A overachieving self wants to earn it!

    Like

    1. That phrase was helpful to me, too, Jerralea, because so often my “fierceness” is translated into running at full steam ahead. And, like you, I need the continual reminder that the works flow from the standing — not the other way around! Blessings to you, and, as usual, thanks for your encouragement!

      Like

  9. Wow – what an interesting – and fun – review. I definitely need to check out this read. And I just love this: “No matter how much I read or pray or do good works, I will never be more loved by God than I am in this very second. ” Joyful, indeed. Thanks for sharing this, Michele!

    Like

  10. Hmmm, this sounds like an interesting book, Michele. This quote: “. . . when what I really need to do is to stop analyzing and to start trusting.” When I’m having one of those days you described, it’s easy for me to analyze too. And I often analyze myself and my failings until I feel about an inch tall. If I can trust God in the midst of the story, maybe that will help me to enjoy my days more, even the ones that don’t go as I’d hoped.

    Like

    1. Jeanne, you’ve put your finger on the heart of the issue: trusting God in the messy middle. So often I get to the end of a rough time, recognize the hand of God which has been active all along, and wish that I had trusted. I’m thankful for His patience.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Michele, thanks for sharing this. I didn’t grow up in a church where we read prayers, but I’m now in an Anglican church and I really appreciate the prayer book and how it is used. We still use spontaneous prayers, too, but I love the liturgy and familiarity of the prayers.

    I am trying to slow down and be in the moment more. I know God is speaking to me about when I not only find myself writing about it but read it in the blogs of others, too.

    Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor this week at #TeaAndWord.

    Like

    1. I’m reading a book about the Daily Office with readings, etc. and am so intrigued by its intentionality. I need something to pull me into awareness, and I know that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, so am trusting for a more prayer-filled response to God in daily life.
      Yes, it’s amazing when our writing and the messages of others converge. God is certainly trying to get your attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear Michele,
    Thank you for this “Devotional within a Review” as Dawnweaver titled it! I too have had difficulty with different forms of prayer in the past, but God has been taking me on a journey to realize that there are so many more ways to pray than I had ever experienced. Sometimes I think I need to read more of those “jarring” ways of thinking, to let God stir and enlarge my heart. I loved this ending thought about moments: “holy joy that flows into the wildly disjointed pieces of our moments and our days, making of it all a gift.” Truly, that holy joy lifts our eyes to see Him with us here, and seated in the Heavens where our hope resides, all at the same time! –Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This sounds like such an intriguing book! I love the two premises you list at the end: God’s presence everywhere and His love and grace, freely given. 🙂 And I wish I could do this: “when what I really need to do is to stop analyzing and to start trusting.” 🙂

    Like

    1. Me, too, and I keep reading books that adjust my thinking, and try to stay close to “The Book.” I thought it was fun and quirky that Chris ended the book with something as concrete as “premises” when the approach had been so “trail of breadcrumbs” up to that point.

      Like

  14. I grew up with memorized or written prayers. In college when my faith began to grow I was with people who only used spontaneous prayers. I like how you showed there are times and places for both. My heart smiled this weekend when the First Lady led the rally in the Lord’s Prayer. Hearing the group pray together was very special to me.

    Like

  15. Thanks for sharing your review at Together on Tuesdays. I had a red flag on a couple of his phrases, that reminded me of some new age phrases that I’ve read recently. Because of my concern of a friend’s decent into bad philosophies, I’m more wary of anything that sounds like it includes these types of attitudes.

    Like

  16. Michele, in my mind, this sounds a lot like One Thousand Gifts … counting gifts, keeping a thankfulness journal, keeping track of God’s presence in everyday moments, etc. Does he come at it from a different angle, or is it very similar? I love the phrase “paying fierce attention”– it’s a great way to describe an active, intentional way of noticing things.

    Like

    1. Rather than a list, Chris Anderson’s approach comes in the form of little vignettes from life. And I loved that phrase as well because it reminds me that I need to work more at paying attention to what God is doing behind the scenes.

      Like

  17. “Making it all a gift.” — I like that. The mystery of God is humbling. All present in every moment, everywhere. Only God. And, I love the reminder that He’s bigger than our hearts. Praise God. 🙂 — Thanks for sharing with #ChasingCommunity, Michele! ((xoxo))

    Like

    1. I need constant reminders that even the things that I perceive to be inconvenient, ugly, unfair are part of the assignment that God has given to me, and, therefore, all gift. Happy Thursday, Brenda!

      Like

  18. I was reading discussion on the “in the moment” concept. I totally can see both ends of spectrum. On the one hand, if a person has troubles not “rejoicing and being glad in it” because they are nursing a grudge from yesteryear or fretting about their own failures, or worrying and anxious about the future, it is actually a sin. “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And Jesus spoke of not worrying about tomorrow because today has enough cares of its own.
    On the other hand, it is important to cling to the commandments and promises of hope for the here and now and for the future. I would call it an awareness of God’s Presence (Ex. 33:14-16), a dwelling in the Most High (Psalm 91), and abiding in Him and His word abiding in us (John 15). These should be our mindset whether we are thinking about the past, present, or future. We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies, high above every principality and power, in the moment as well as in the future.
    I think the important thing to remember is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We need to cultivate a worshipful awareness of Who God is that follows us into whatever time frame we are concentrating on. And yes, we need always to have eternity in view, both to rejoice in the second coming of our Lord and also to remember that we have a job to do getting out the gospel because the time is short.

    Like

  19. Have always thought it most appropriate to begin one’s day with a devotional or spiritual time (although, I get busy and don’t do it as often as I should). But LOVE this idea of reviewing the day as it ends. Talking it over with God. Great way to turn things over to Him before we rest for the night and refresh for the next new day.

    Like

  20. Being present in the moment has been a huge gift to me in both gratitude, and it does cause me to pray more specifically….but I really like this -It is a recognition of the humility of a simple “and” when viewing the pieces that make up the mosaic of our lives, not striving for or forcing our way into “thus” or “therefore” before light has come, but offering up the individual events, both good and bad, so that the creation of the mosaic is, in the end, left to God.

    Like

    1. I thought that was a great offering from Chris Anderson, as well, and I know that I am so guilty of pushing for the “therefore” and trying to draw conclusions when I should just be resting in the moment and drinking in the experience.
      Thanks for reading, Crystal.

      Like

  21. Such a powerful reminder for my heart, Michele: “the practice of ‘paying fierce attention’ to life in order to enhance one’s prayer life.”
    I love the encouragement of seeing the good and the hard as grace, being thankful, and letting go. Thank you for the reminder to pay attention, sweet friend.

    Like

  22. I do like spontaneous prayers, but yes, there are times a scripted prayer is just the right thing for the moment. Especially with children as they learn to pray for their food, and their bed time prayers. – – – We notice our own prayers often are conveniently repeats of what we prayed before. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s