Sometimes we make praying and prayers too complicated, don’t we, O God.
Thinking we have to be in the right place or say the right words in order to pray. But it is not like that, is it?
Remind us again, O God…
That each time our heart reaches out to another is a prayer.
Every thank you felt and said is a prayer.
Each time we listen carefully and caringly to another is a prayer.
Every time we gaze at another with love overflowing is a prayer.
Each time we reach out our hands to help another, it is a prayer.
Every time our heart breaks for another it is a prayer.
Each time we are stopped in our tracks by beauty is a prayer.
Every time we look closely at a flower;
Or gaze into the depths of space, is a prayer.
The lesson for us is to turn those moments into a lifetime.
If you don’t recognize the name, Fred Phelps was the founder and the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church which is the congregation that was and is vehemently anti-gay and repeatedly protested at the funerals of service men and women blaming their deaths (and a number of other tragedies) on our country’s tolerance and acceptance of those who are gay. As reported in one news source, he believed in and preached the hate and judgment of God, and that any who did not think as he did were going to hell.
On one hand, hearing that he was dying, and today that he had died, I am sad. I am sad for all the people he hurt and the hatred he added to our country and world. And, I am sad his life was so full of anger and condemnation and alienation.
You might say he got what he deserved.
Maybe you are right.
But I am still sad anyone goes through life like that.
But, as a result of his venom and hate, some good did emerge.
Individuals, who otherwise might have been silent, stood up against his hate and countered it with a show of compassion and love. When the Westwood Baptist Church would show up or threaten to show up to protest whether a funeral or an event, hundreds of others would also show up to form a protective, non-violent circle around the person or family. To my way of thinking, that circle rather than the preaching of Fred Phelps embodied what I know and name as God.
I don’t know what happens after one dies.
I don’t know about any of us coming before the judgment seat of God to receive approval or disapproval for the choices we have made or how we have lived, and either be rewarded with heaven or condemned to hell. I know I don’t believe in hell other than the hell we make for ourselves and each other here on earth.
In the end, I believe, love wins.
In the end, I believe, LOVE wins.
Even for someone as full of hate as Fred Phelps.
I got up this morning as I usually do.
I put the dog out.
I made coffee.
I got the newspaper from the front walk.
(Yes, newspapers still come that way.)
I let the dog in and gave her food and water.
I sat at the breakfast table and had my first cup of coffee.
All of which is to say
This day began as an ordinary day
Like most of my other days begin.
And the rest of the day shapes up to be a pretty ordinary day as well.
A bit of work to do to be ready for tomorrow.
Several chores to accomplish so I can cross them off my list.
Walking the dog.
All VERY ordinary.
My prayer today is this…
May I recognize how wonderfully special and unique each ordinary day really is.
Two weeks ago I was sitting in a plastic chair around a plastic table in a rural community in Nicaragua. I sat there talking to three high school students – two young men and a young woman – about their dreams for the future. The two young men wanted to be engineers of some type – mechanical or electrical. The young woman wanted to be a doctor. I thought of them again last night as I watched Lupita Nyong’o win the Best Supporting Actress Award at the Oscars for her performance in 12 Years A Slave. Her acceptance speech was one of the best of the evening and concluded with this line: No matter where you are from your dreams are valid. As I listened to her I thought of those three students.
Against incredible odds, dreaming bold dreams for tomorrow.
I do hope dreams come true.
Against overwhelming odds, I hope dreams come true.
Because no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.