geezeronthequad: A Prayer Tip for Deadheads, Duds, Dodos, Dunces and Others Like Me. Psalm 103:1
Most college students don’t seem to do mornings. Maybe it has to do with being up till past midnight studying, playing video/computer games, Facebooking and Internet surfing, charting our fantasy football team, untangling a roommate’s relationship issues, crying, screaming and banging our head on the wall over our own relationship issues, going out for late night pizza even though we’re not hungry, etc. In the morning we throw on a sweatshirt, jeans or workout pants (The pants do not go on over the head. Always remember this.) and then we snatch a bagel from the breakfast line and gnaw on it as we cross the quad with a coffee IV in the arm headed for that always fun 8 o’clock class.
That makes starting the day with God problematic. I may barely have pulse and respiration and that brain wave thing is really in question. And Psalm 103:1 says,”…and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” Not only does this Scripture throw open the doors of our inner closets, it speaks to effort and intensity when we come to God. When we come to God, let’s come full-bore bringing everything we have. Grace (which I will revisit in a minute) has become a pretense for laziness, contentment with mediocrity and/or subliminal entitlement to indulge in low-grade rebellion toward God. It’s compost for excuses. God’s grace should be a launch pad toward excellence. Read Paul in I Corinthians 15:10. “…his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them…” This seems to play well to the Christian “navy seal” or “olympic gymnasts” among us who start the day with a devotional read from the early church fathers, four to eight chapters of bible reading, memory work on five verses and fifteen minutes of worship incorporating a blend of classic hymns, contemporary praise and a medieval chant to mix it up.
At the moment Jesus died, the veil of the temple ripped in two from top to bottom. Have we noticed? Yes, we know but have we noticed? From that moment on anybody can enter the presence of God. We don’t have to be the high priest, ritually cleansed and carrying the blood of the Passover lamb to be sprinkled on the mercy-seat. We don’t have to be spiritual gymnasts or have it together. Just show up and walk through the veil. Don’t get me wrong. I admire the people who do all the things or the equivalent thereof in the last paragraph. In the many shifts my spiritual life has made, I’ve done some of that. But when we start to falter, we start beating ourselves up because we’re falling behind in our bible reading or can only memorize two verses a week. It becomes performance and God can’t be pleased when we don’t touch the bar.
Worship is meeting with God, walking through the veil no matter what shape we’re in. It’s not about goose bumps or having it together. It’s about showing up and walking into the Holiest of Holies where He is. On a lot of days, “…all that is within me…” isn’t very much. We come with a handful of crumbs instead of trophies and merit badges. In the microseconds I feel together and with it, I envision myself as St. Bruno the Cool, the spiritually jitterbugging cousin of Mother Theresa or some other super saint decked out in spandex and feathers like a pro wrestler. Most days I’m a slug. “…all that is within me…” doesn’t just speak of effort and intensity, it speaks of intentionality. I don’t have much in the tank today. My faithfulness would be hard to find with a microscope. too small to pick up with tweezers. But the veil is held open and He is in there; I certainly haven’t earned it. I have too many screw ups to impress Him. I’ve hurt Him too much. But I’m coming. This is grace, the gasoline that runs the Christian faith.
A good start-up point comes in an old prayer from the Orthodox church. It’s called the Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” There’s no magic in it; it simply kicks off the day framing both Who Jesus is and who we are. Saying it a few times has nothing to do with the chanting of a mantra which, instead of bringing focus, reduces our minds and spirits to soup. Repeating it locks us into the Cross, the Saviour Who died on it and my need for this Crucified God (a good description by Jurgen Moltmann). It not only brings to center stage my need of mercy for sin brought to that moment but sensitizes me to the sin which will manifest itself in the day to come.
An old John Wayne western called “The Cowboys” has the big guy on a cattle drive with a bunch of young boys. Some bad guys try to steal the herd; they grab the scruffy cook and prepare to string him up. The cook meekly asks if he can make his peace with God before they hang him and they agree. The old man bows his head and prays, “Lord, forgive me for all the men I’ve killed. And forgive me for all the men I’m going to kill today.” Forgive me, Lord, for all the people I will kill today with my tongue in gossip or with my words on social media. Forgive me for the souls I will wither today by holding others in quiet contempt because of their appearance, the frat or sorority they belong to that isn’t mine, their intellectual, athletic or musical gifts that eclipse mine. Forgive me for slashing the image of God in another out of jealousy for the friends they seem to have that I do not. They are not the authors of my loneliness. Forgive me for the souls hurting to be loved whom I will starve by withholding my time and listening ear. Forgive me for being so intent on myself, locked up inside my own little bubble that I won’t notice or care about the collateral damage of these souls piling up around my feet like windblown trash on the street while I walk through this day. Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.
The veil is not only torn but held open for us; He is inside. “…all that is within me…” If we live in a place right now where the Spirit runs free and hot making us hungry and bold, then come. If we’re swallowed by sin, failure and guilt, then come. If the flatness we bring to the day makes a stack of pancakes look like Mt. Everest, then come. Once we start showing up… just because, He will draw us in and we’ll be coming more often no matter what time of day it is.
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Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.