Tag Archives: Faith

Courage at Twilight: Prayers of the Innocent

As a boy, Dad’s mother Dora prayed with him every night, saying, “Bless the cost and worn.”  He thought it a good thing to ask God to bless the cost and worn, whoever they were—their situation sounded grim.  Sometime later, Dad asked her, “Mother, who are the cost and worn?”  She looked quizzical, confessing she did not know.  They thought and thought and repeated the phrase together numerous times, eventually realizing they had meant to be asking in prayer for those who had “cause to mourn.”  Of course, God knew their hearts, and what they meant to say, and who the cost and worn were—and doubtless He accepted their petition.  Again as a little boy, Dad was asked in his church primary class to offer a prayer.  He stood dutifully in front of the class and ventured, “Heavenly Father, help us to beat the Japs.”  While one would never refer to the noble Japanese people in that fashion today, eighty years ago, in 1942, that very prayer was on the lips and minds of tens of millions of people.  Even a seven-year-old boy felt the weight of the great conflict that was World War II, and asked his God to end it.  I have heard many testimonials from young children who prayed to find something they had lost, and immediately seeing in their mind, or feeling an impression about, where the lost thing was, and finding it precisely there.  I have felt tempted to pooh-pooh this puerile witness of the Divine.  But then I remember that God loves little children (and wants us older folks to be like them)—He wants to bless them, and appreciates their simple supplications as much or more than my own more complex concerns.  Children love and have faith and hope.  And what sweeter exercise of faith could one encounter than a small child turning to God in momentary distress.  An excellent pattern we would do well to emulate our whole life long.  The next time I lose my car keys, I will pray to God to help me find them.  Tonight, I will pray for the cost and worn.

(Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay)

Courage at Twilight: In the Resurrection

Dad wants to be buried by his father, Owen. Owen died of heart disease at the age of 59, a sad separation of father and son.  Dad harbors a secure faith in the resurrection and afterlife.  He is not concerned with the mechanics of how our bodies will be rebuilt and immortalized—God knows how to work all that out.  In the next life, each person will receive the divine inheritance they craved and strove for during this mortality.  The character we forged here will be our character there.  How could it be any different?  Did we think we could spend our life injuring others and suddenly, in the next sphere, be transformed into benevolence?  No, the universe doesn’t work that way.  Dad shared with me that when he awakens in the resurrection, next to his father, who will likewise resurrect, he intends to exclaim, “Father!  I am so happy to see you!  I love you!”  And Owen will rejoin, “Son!  I am so pleased to see you!  I have missed you!  I love you!”  Now, that is a hope and faith I can subscribe to.

Courage at Twilight: Garden Party

Mom received an invitation from one of the women of the Church.  It was fancy, with vinery winding around the pretty graphics and text.  An invitation to a Relief Society Garden Party.  The Relief Society, established by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1842, and reestablished in 1868 after the “Mormons” were driven from Missouri and Illinois into the wilds of Utah Territory, created a “temporal and spiritual ministry” by which the frontier pioneer women cared for each other, Church members and not.  The Relief Society organization, tradition, and mission thrives today, both with weekly meetings and countless acts of ministering to one another by over seven million women—a great worldwide sisterhood.  And here was the Garden Party, 179 years on, with 60 neighborhood women converging on the designated garden.  I dropped Mom off at the driveway and watched her gather with the welcoming throng.  She beamed as she walked through the front door three hours later, happy, refreshed, built up by camaraderie and love.  Dinner had consisted of a huge salad bar spread over several tables, plus one for desserts.  She loved visiting with the women, her sisters, and particularly enjoyed those who beamed cheer despite personal hardship.  For that is what we do: we take what comes and help each other through with smiles on our faces, sustained by a faith that all will work out in the end.

Commandments

In our lives, in this world, so much of what we hear screams at us; so much of what we see strains the eye; so much stimulus overwhelms our senses.  So how do we sense the sublime? How do we discern the quintessential?  Beauty and ugliness both surround us.  To see beauty despite what is ugly requires both a choice to see, and a belief that beauty is there to be seen. For a moment, put aside religion, God, spirituality, and morality–and trust that intrinsic beauty and goodness are real.  That is when you will see.  My poem “Commandments” points at the difficulty of having faith in goodness, of sensing the sublime, of believing in beauty, touches on the straining effort faith requires, but affirms the reality and virtue of light, goodness, beauty, and sublimity, and their power to eclipse evil.

COMMANDMENTS

Of you
I require
to hear Wren’s peep
through the hurricane’s howl,
to stare at the sun
yet see Luna fly,
to feel the breeze on your skin
as you’re quartered and drawn.
I demand your peaceability
despite warmongerings and deceits,
against abominations and lying hearts.
Your peaceable walk
I adjure.
Discern the beauty
of the muddy speck,
the song
in the screech and cry.

Prayer

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Prayer Rock by Laura Baker

Prayer has never come easy for me.  I avoid it, put it off, wander in my thoughts, cut it short.  Yet, I pray every day, because I have been told to, all my life.  It’s what I should do, they said.  I also pray because I want to believe that someone is listening and caring and responding.  But really I pray because I cannot deny a subtle, loving presence that abides and sustains when I am prayerful.  Prayerful through formal kneeling prayers as well as daily mindfulness.

For a family activity, we had each child choose a special rock from our faux riverbed, a rock to paint.  Laura (now 20) painted this rock when she was a young girl.  She gave it to me: a present for dad.  I keep it on my nightstand where I see it every morning and every night.  I call it my prayer rock.  I reminds me to bend my knee and bow my head, in humility, in gratitude, in desperate supplication, in recognition of the divine.

I offer to you two short poems on prayer.  Fitful, imperfect, but sincere prayer.

YES, I PRAY

Do you pray morning and night? they asked.

I wondered, Do I?

I pray all the day long.
My life is a prayer.
Living is a prayer–
a sacred expression of dreams, frustrations, loves, and straining efforts;
a reaching out to the One who can reveal the mysteries hidden deep within;
a cry of faith and despair, of struggle and the hope of victory;
an ever truer reconciliation of heaven and earth.

Yes, I pray.

ENDURING

Father–
I am here, and
I am listening.

A Cross To Hold

Holding Cross-crop

Elizabeth recently sent to me a special crucifix, carved from olive wood, that she called her holding cross.  Anne, wife of Father Chris, had gifted the cross to Elizabeth during a difficult period of Elizabeth’s life.  “For when there are no words,” Anne had said.  Elizabeth kept her holding cross close day and night, grasping it as she slept, toting it in her purse, carrying it as she walked along the beach, feeling it in her pocket.  Knowing that I, too, was passing through a challenging time of loss and loneliness, Elizabeth gifted her cross to me.  She sacrificed something holy and dear to her so that I might find comfort in the cross, as had she.  How I appreciate her gift, which arrived the day after Christmas.

Since receiving Elizabeth’s holding cross, now my holding cross, I have often sat in contemplation of its features, simple and beautiful.  I have thought of the wounds of Christ, the pain he suffered on our behalf, the love he beams to each of us, the dreadful certainty of his death, and the certain hope of his resurrection.  Though often a trying exercise, I labor to trust in him to mentor me in each moment, to show me the ways of patience and generosity, to coach me at kindness and compassion.  Turning the holding cross over and over in my fingers, staring at it in my palms, the words of this poem began to flow and form.  It is my hope that this poem inspires hope within all who read it.

A CROSS TO HOLD

These two arms, outstretched,
fit the curving
space between my fingers
as I caress, hold tight, caress.
Those hands, two,
at the end
brought tears, and blood,
that I make my own
through kindness.
The head inclines
to me, to all
the world, the masses.
I wonder at the mystery,
joy in the simplicity.
The feet: his feet: my feet:
wandering purposefully through
time and tide;
standing firm through all;
footprints to follow.
Olive wood glistening
from the oils and sweat
of your hands, of my hands,
from lips’ kisses;
polished with beeswax,
scented with lemon oil:
smooth; soft;
shining.
Hope,
in my hands,
holding.

Chapter 29: Gardens

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–Knock, knock.–
–Who’s there?–
–I got up.–
–I got up who?–
(Hyrum-4 with Dad)

Despite the bright blue sky and the sun’s brilliance dazzling from millions of ice crystals in the fresh skiff of snow, I felt crushed by life’s burdens as I trudged alone along Rabbit Lane.  The burdens of being a husband and provider and father to seven children.  The burdens of being legal counsel to a busy, growing city.  The burdens of maintaining a home, of participating in my church, and of being scoutmaster to a local boy scout troop.  The burdens of being human.  While the sky above me opened wide to space, these responsibilities bore down heavily upon my heart.  They seemed to darken my very sky. Continue reading