Prayer for Healing

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping for joy like calves let out to pasture.”

Father, thank you for your heart of reconciliation,

That you have ultimately healed our relationship with you,

Once and for all through Christ’s death and resurrection,

But we ask for your mercy in our presently broken bodies and minds.

We long for the day when you make everything new,

We know that you do not leave us or forsake us,

So we ask for healing–repair our bodies from illness,

Our souls from despair, and our relationships from disintegration.

Restore us that we may bless others with healing,

In the name of your Son, Jesus, who healed the lepers, the blind, and the mute,

Amen.

Feeding the Ducks

Feeding the Ducks
by Julie Sumner

Cast your week-old Wonder brand hot dog buns
Upon the brackish water of a pond,
And watch the ducks–plain whites, mallards, ring necks–
Glide in an instinctive, controlled frenzy
To form a bobbling, bright-eyed circle
Around your feet, now cold, damp and mud-bound.

As wet December wind scalds your chapped hands,
The ducks shiver and murmur quacks of thanks,
The confetti crumbs keep filling the bag:
Loaves for the hungry ducks at Spring Park’s pond.

Now with each toss, you stretch upward, outward
Toward a sun hidden and still distant,
But certain at last it will shine again.

The Creature

Sometimes we find our humanity mirrored in the most unlikely creatures….

The Creature
by Julie Sumner

A shadow curled and black
Swirled in silence on cool cement–
The creature came forth,
Enduring the scant basement light.

I beheld its brackish chitin armor
And innumerable constant-motion legs,
Extensions of the fear crawling about me, and
Wondered how to kill it.
A garden hoe could easily backfire,
A generous stomping would be too messy, and
I’d heard they were hard to exterminate.

Its life in the balance,
The creature stopped, lifted its head,
Looked first left, then right, then left again,
Scratched its head with twenty or thirty hands, and
Wondered where it had taken a wrong turn.

I swept the creature, curling in protest,
Into the prickly, sun-warmed grass, and
I wondered the same thing.

A Thanksgiving for Beauty

This is a meditation based on Mark 14:1-9.

Gracious Friend,

How can we thank you? You, who chose to enter our suffering, did not despise true beauty but held it up as marvelous. When Mary Magdalene poured the perfume over your ankles and washed your dirt-caked feet with her hair, the beauty of the scene with its embarrassingly rich smell and scandal of her hair on your feet–the beauty was a powerfully soft balm on your violent immediate future. You held her beautiful offering up as praiseworthy and timeless, said it prepared you for your road ahead. Did you treasure this thing, ponder it, and store it up in your heart the way your mother so often did? Help us not to discount the power of true beauty, nor relegate to a realm only for the joyous, but to embrace it as a threshold to enter the suffering of others. Amen.

Prayer for the Kingdom

Merciful King,
Please give us eyes to see
The reality of your kingdom–
A vision of love in action
In every detail of life.
Please give us ears to hear
The words of your life–
A message of kindness, wisdom, and mercy.
Please give us eyes to see
The people around us
As you do: beloved and winsome.
Please give us ears to hear
The words you are speaking to us,
Wooing us as you rule your kingdom in love.

Elkmont

Elkmont is an abandoned village within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The homes were occupied up until the 1990’s when the owners’ leases ran out and the area was made a part of the National Park. While I am grateful for all of our national parks, it must have been terribly difficult for these people to leave such a beautiful place.

Elkmont
by Julie Sumner

A lone lightbulb remained in the dark house–
Hanging still in its scrolled white wicker shade,
While pine floor boards rotted back to damp earth
And doves nested in the hallway bookshelves.

We spoke softly, our presence unannounced,
The floor creaked, unaccustomed to our weight.
We wondered who stacked riverstones like eggs
To make such a time-defiant chimney?
Who greeted sunrise through the sycamores?
Who planted the maidenhair ferns by the porch?
The smallest details of their lives outlived them,
Transforming callous curiosity
Into the timeless blessing of wonder.

Prayer for the Suffering

Father,
We do not understand–
We see evil encroach in your children’s lives
Like a malignancy–
It seems their suffering is limitless.
Help them in ways we cannot fathom:
Protect them from physical harm,
Guard their minds from chaos,
Save their spirits from being crushed.

Help us not to despair, or
Fall into prayerlessness,
For you are a God who is
Familiar with suffering and sorrow,
Who has already defeated death itself,
And whose perfect love casts out all fear.
Strengthen us to intercede
For all of your saints
In the powerful name of your Son,
Jesus Christ,
AMEN.

Night-Blooming Cereus

Many thanks to my friend and neighbor, Sherry, who kept insisting that I come see her night-blooming cereus. This odd little plant has the habit of blooming for one night each year, and in a most spectacular way. A member of the cactus family, it was prized by Mississippi writer Eudora Welty along with generations of Southern gardeners, who regularly gathered for parties each year on the night of its blooming. If you are an email subscriber, you will want to visit the windowonwords.com site to see the photo of this gorgeous bloom.

Night-Blooming Cereus
by Julie Sumner

The scorching stare of noon’s high-handed sun
Could never seduce this singular one,
Wholly enthralled by the grace of the moon.

Its dull, leathery leaves, gray, spindly limbs
Are easily fractured in any wind,
And belie its steelish resolve to bloom.

The year’s worth of ordered ordinary
In one silver-filled night becomes memory–
This rumor of flowers becomes the thing that is true.

Prayer for the Week of October 1, 2014

Hi Friends, from time to time, maybe all of the time now, a prayer will appear here in lieu of a devotional. Plenty of people are writing great devotional literature currently, but writing prayers is something that I don’t see very much. It is a very Biblical practice to write prayers–I think of Psalm 23 by David or the Lord’s Prayer by Jesus as prime examples. These prayers are very much like poetry in many regards, their words are well-chosen and the lines have a specific order, which means that they will stick in our memory much more easily and be at the ready when our minds are about to spin into anger or sadness or frustration–basically any time we need a way to express something inexpressible to God. I also agree with Anne Lamott that “Help, Thanks, and Wow,” can be as effective as anything when it comes to talking with God, but sometimes you need to go a bit deeper, too.

Blessed Friend,
You whose gaze beholds the scattering galaxies,
And whose hand anointed the bleak vacuum of space
With light from innumerable stars,
Also hold our spirits with that same gaze,
So we ask for your gracious creative goodness
To anoint the sadness of our hearts
With your limitless perfect love
Which banishes every fear.

Writer’s Block

Some days are more difficult than others when it comes to scouring life for inspiration….

Writer’s Block
by Julie Sumner

It does not help
To stay inside, chained to a wooden chair
Like some penance-prone eighth-century nun, or
To go outside, listen to the shuffling leaves
Fall in dry puddles of October sun, or
To speak with the dog, search her eyes for answers
To questions you’d never ask a human.

It does not help
To read other poets or their poems,
And note the noteworthy awards they’ve won, or
To listen to old vinyl-bound love songs,
Thinking their lyrics could be improved upon, or
To look for insightful writing prompts,
Because we all know a real poet would never need one.

It does help
To give up this whole idea of writing,
Lay down your pen, observe spiderwebs in the sun–
Light captured by each strand of spun silk
Reflects in mirrored filaments, and one
Word, then another, is caught glittering in your
Mind’s magnetic thread of electric color.