Thursday, May 25, 2023

Gator Gets Wise


Every once in a while, Stephan Pastis' comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, declares actual pearls of wisdom. Take for instance the recent Sunday strip that had Larry the Alligator focused on his normal gotta-kill-me-a-zebra reason for existence.

And then his wife drops a truth bomb that stops him in his tracks.

The good news is, Larry has an excellent reaction to this new information.

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Truth is...we all could take a lesson on priorities from this cartoon gator.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Prayer Posture Poem


In response to the 8-part series on prayer that finished last week, a co-worker of mine passed along the following humorous-but-accurate poem about the non-importance of what posture we assume when talking with God.

By Sam Walter Foss

"The proper way for a man to pray,"
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
"And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees."

"No, I should say the way to pray,"
Said Rev. Doctor Wise,
"Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes."

"Oh, no; no, no," said Elder Slow,
"Such posture is too proud:
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
And head contritely bowed."

"It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front.
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,"
Said Rev. Doctor Blunt.

"Last year I fell in Hodgkin's well
Head first," said Cyrus Brown,
"With both my heels a-stickin' up,
My head a-pinting down;

"An' I made a prayer right then an' there -
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standing on my head."

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Truth is...The attitude of the heart seems to be the place to start  -  more than standing, bowing, or what to say  -  whenever we set out to pray.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Reasons to Pray: There's Only One Way to Get It Wrong


More from Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton:

Pray Because the Only Way to Get It Wrong Is by Trying to Get It Right

I find it so helpful that when teaching his disciples to pray, Jesus included this line right in the middle: "Give us today our daily bread."

What a simple request! Bring your felt needs to God  -  the needs of this day  -  and talk to him about them. How should we pray? The most straightforward response is to talk to God about what's on your mind. That's it! You talk to God like a friend. You vent. You ask. You laugh. You listen. You unload. You just talk. You don't try to sound more holy or pure or spiritual than you are. Prayer isn't a monologue; it's a free-flowing conversation, and the only way to get prayer wrong is to try to get it right.

In the wise words of Candler School of Theology professor emerita Roberta Bondi, "If you are praying, you are already 'doing it right.'"

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Truth is...this may be the hardest truth about prayer to actually live out.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Reasons to Pray: Complaints Are Welcome


More from Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton:

Pray Because Complaints Are Welcome

God isn't nearly as worried about our mixed motives as we are. I can prove it. Here's a few prayers that made the cut as part of the inspired, inerrant, canonical Scriptures:

May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise. (Psalm 140:10)

I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God. (Psalm 69:3)

I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble. (Psalm 142:2)

Anger, depression, complaint. Whoever wrote those needs to see a professional.

David  -  that's who wrote those prayers. You've probably heard of David  -  ancient Israel's most famous figure, the king who set an unreachable bar for all subsequent kings, the man after God's own heart, the one whose bloodline was promised to lead to the Messiah. He's the psychotic nightmare who wrote those prayers. They were collected into the Psalms, which have framed Christian worship and prayer since before the church's inception.

The psalms reveal a garden variety of motives. Some of the words in those prayers go directly against the teachings of Jesus and the character of God (What happened to loving enemies and a God who is rich in love and loyal in faithfulness?), meaning some of the psalms are technically heretical. So why would those prayers be included in the Bible?

Because they're honest. That's what makes these psalms exemplary. God is looking for relationship, not well-prepared speeches spoken from perfect motives. God listened to overreacting rage, dramatic despair, and guiless joy, and he called David a man after his own heart. When it comes to prayer, God isn't grading essays; he's talking to children. So if God can delight in prayers as dysfunctional as the ones we find wedged into the middle of the Bible, he can handle yours too without you cleaning them up first.

If the Bible tells us anything about how to pray, it says that God much prefers the rough draft full of rants and typos to the polished, edited version. C. S. Lewis said of prayer, "We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us."

The way your motives change isn't by working them out in silence; it's through such brutal honesty with God that he, by prayer, can refine your motives. Complaints are welcome.

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Truth is...not only does Yahweh know what we need before we ask, he knows how we feel before we admit it. For our own good, we might as well be honest about it all. Pouring it all out is the only way God will clean it all up.