There’s no wrong way to be a lizard in the sun



I love November. It’s the summer month par excellence for me. Early mornings, days stretching to their apogee, their afternoons often swallowed up by thunderstorms and rain that beats the smell of ozone from the earth. November is full of the dance of some old thing we’ve mostly lost to the advent of 24-hour living. Novembers are simply magical.

November isn’t hugely productive as a rule. Combined with the mischievous wink of summer and sun and the approach of Christmas (tacky, seasonally inappropriate decorations seemed to go up at the stroke of midnight on the 31st of October) and the beckon of the schools closing for the year, November is about as circumspect as a toddler presented with a bowl of candy. It’s an odd time to be thinking about the Advent season and the new year, when so many things seem to be telling you to stop thinking, to turn your face to the sun and the season and to just breathe it all in.

I wonder whether God isn’t asking the same thing with prayer. Glancing through my prayer list, much of it is busywork: me trying to press my case or impose my will (masquerading as God’s will of course) or otherwise labouring at my idea of what a faithful life looks like. Sometimes that labour is necessary – if I didn’t go against my natural urges, how often would I get up early on a Sunday morning to go to church, for instance – but maybe like the month of November, sometimes prayer isn’t a job to do or an item to tick off or a solemn request to make, but a turning to the “sun” of God in our lives.

For the last few weeks, whenever I go outside it’s to a scatter of small lizards streaking in all directions, startled by my appearance. If basking in the sun were a religious practice, lizards out-holy us all. They go to the sun with nothing but the need to be warmed, and nothing but the expectation that they will be warmed. There’s no wrong way to be a lizard in the sun, other than not seeking the sun, of course. There’s no wrong way to seek God, other than not seeking him.

Work and necessity will play tug-o’-war with November for our heart. Even Advent will push its own agenda. But I think the month of November is itself a kind of prayer. All the while, whatever the season, God is there, trying to lure us from the shadows of tradition and busywork and our own limitations into the warm sun of his light, love, grace and mercy; back into relationship with him, friendship with him, communion with him.

Sometimes that communion is bread and wine in a church building. Sometimes it’s the rustle of Bible pages at the end of a long day. Sometimes it’s a hurried, muttered prayer in the mornings. But sometimes, other times, it’s a shady, grassy spot under a big tree with the wind whispering through the leaves.


#MondayPrayer: Speak true

Dear Lord,
Sometimes it’s so hard to trust that You know best.
Hard to trust that You’re good and kind and faithful and just.
That You’re true. That You’re real.
The world is as convincing as a politician, and as full of promises. Promises that in times of hardship, difficulty, pain and uncertainty – oh, the uncertainty! – look if not better, then at least more likely.
And You never were a politician.
Never said what the “It” crowd wanted to hear.
Never stood with the powerful or the perverse.
Never wavered from the Kingdom way You proclaimed.
Father’s Son, You always spoke true
(and good and kind and merciful)
calling, inviting, encouraging.
Speak to me today. Speak to me of trust.
Speak to me of truth: Your truth.
Speak to me of mercy over judgment
and repentance over sin
and love over apathy, anger, and hatred,
of patience and gentleness and self-control.
Speak to me the good words of obedience
and faith, of resurrection life, of You, Your Spirit, and our Father.
Speak, Lord. It’s Monday, but Your servant is listening
(or trying to, anyways.)

Hope against all hope: a #MondayPrayer


Lord oh Lord oh Lord…

As You invented the seven-day week model, I hold You personally responsible for Mondays. A big part of me wants to hold you responsible for this Monday in particular; for everything from my bad night’s sleep to floods in India to the real possibility that I’ll check Twitter at some point today and see that North Korea and the US’s posturing men children leaders have started a nuclear war. I want to hold You responsible for the prayer request I received from a woman in a terrible situation. I want to hold You responsible for me.

This is very unfair of me I know, and hardly deserved. Still, sometimes the gulf between knowing something and feeling something is nigh insurmountable. I think You know about that gulf: after all, against all caution, You created us and hoped… Someone’s clearly an optimist.

I think it’s that hope I need most this week: hope against all hope. Hope against all hope that sleep will be caught up, that Tuesday won’t loom as large, that cooler heads will prevail, that the places that need sunshine more than rain will get it and that the places that need rain rather than sunshine will get it too. Hope that a married man will come to his senses or fall down a hole (either will do). Hope that I could be less of a Dumpster fire (I did say hope against all hope).

I need Your hope. The whole world needs Your hope.

Praying for it today, Lord, and for Trump’s Twitter app to crash.


#CoffeeTimePrayer: Fertile ground



Once when I was a young teen my friends and I were playing the 30 Seconds board game. At one point a person on the opposite team quickly had to explain something to their teammate; we stuck our fingers in our ears to stop us from overhearing. Unfortunately, our nefarious plan to eavesdrop failed when they asked us, “Can you hear us?” and yours truly shook her head “No”!

In Matthew 13:16-17, wedged between the Parable of the Sower and its explanation, Jesus told his disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (NRSV). Because we have seen and heard Jesus through the Word and the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we can’t shake our heads “No!” when we clearly hear his voice! We don’t have the excuse of thorny or rocky or weedy ground to explain our lack of faithful yield, because we “[hear] the word and understand it” (verse 23).

If like me you often find yourself shaking your head “No!” when Jesus talks to you, don’t be discouraged! In Proverbs 20:12 we read, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye—the Lord has made them both” (NRSV). Rather than condemn ourselves for our lack of yield, we can ask the Spirit of God to restore our sight and to heal our hearing, to see him and to hear him so we can be fruitful ground for the Kingdom seed.

Prayer: Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear you. Amen.

#CoffeeTimePrayer: Hope alights

Brown Bird on a Branch

Winston Churchill called his depression a “black dog”. It was something that dogged his steps, leading him to avoid balconies or railway tracks for fear that he wouldn’t be able to resist suicide.

If depression is like a black dog, then hope alights like a bird. It flits from tree to tree and garden to garden. One of the joys of bird watching is how transient individual birds are even when they’re nesting in the area. To see them is to appreciate them, for the sight might be rare.

Hope is hard when we’re having “black dog” days. We can become so preoccupied with the creature pursuing us that we forget to keep our eyes open for hope. But hope is perched above us. Sometimes it’s hardly visible, but it’s always worth the trouble to look for it. Like God, it might just surprise us.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:5 NIV

Lord God, help us to find the hope of you in our darkest days. Amen.