Thursday, September 28, 2017

That's why we pray... or is it?

On a mission start to doubt here we go
Kicking back, read these words we need to know
Living high, living good, living long
Take a minute, bust a prayer
And you're good to go

That's why we pray
ah, yeah, pray
We need to pray
Just to make it today
---MC Hammer, "Pray"

(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me)
The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walks)
And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus Walks with me)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long
---Kanye West, "Jesus Walks"

hey, jesus, it's me
i'm the one who talked to you yesterday
and i asked you please, please for a favor
but my baby's gone away, went away anyway
and i don't really think it's fair
you've got the power to make us all believe in you
and then we call you in our despair
and you don't come through...

i'm not gonna call on you any more
i'm sure you've got a million things to do
all i was trying to do was to get through to you
because when i die and i get up to your doors
i don't even know if you're gonna let me in the place
how come i gotta die to get a chance to talk to you face to face?
---Indigo Girls, "Hey Jesus"

It happens every time there is a tragedy. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Shootings. 9/11. The response is the same, regardless of place in society- "Our prayers are with the people of Puerto Rico." "We pray for the people of Houston." #PrayForFlorida. A child dies in a small town, the news appears on a website, and the comments are all very similar- "I'm so sorry! I'm praying for you."

I don't. I know, I know, I'm a Christian, I shouldn't be a heartless bastard. Prayer should be the first thing I should offer.

But I just can't.

Why do we pray? In times of tragedy everyone says that they'll pray for you, but what's the point? Is God listening? If God is listening, why doesn't he answer? I've had people say to me that "sometimes God answers yes, and sometimes no, and sometimes wait", and my response to that is that it's a load of crap. If God (supposedly) answers no or wait, then he didn't answer. Ignore my son's autism for a moment. Let's say that I ask him to take the garbage out on Wednesday night, because the trash collector comes Thursday morning. He takes it out Thursday night. Did he answer my request? No, he did not. It doesn't matter that he did the job, the job needed to be done at a certain time and he didn't do it. Same with praying to God. If someone is down on their luck and prays to God for a job, a request born not out of selfishness but out of necessity, and they do what needs to be done to seek a job, and said job doesn't come, then God didn't answer that prayer. Or at best you can say that the evidence is inconclusive.

How about prayers for healing? Why do we have to pray over and over again for someone to be healed of cancer, for instance? What's the point? Doesn't God hear you the first time? And suppose you pray and pray, and the person dies anyway? Your prayers are wasted. Already I can hear people saying "but the person did get healed…they aren't in pain anymore…they received the ultimate healing…" blah blah blah. My answer is no, they did not get healed and God did not answer the prayer. To answer any other way is to dance around the issue. You're playing semantics. God then becomes a divine Bill Clinton who dances around the obvious meaning of a word. (See the word "is".) If I pray for someone to be healed, my intention is obvious. I want them healed in this life. Any other twist on the statement is just making excuses for God.

I have made numerous trips to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital with my son. While there I've seen small children in wheelchairs who seem to be in a catatonic state, the same expression seemingly frozen on their faces for all eternity. They don't care about LeBron James… or maybe they do; Donald Trump is the last thing on their mind… or maybe not; we don't know. They don't communicate other than to stare. For some people their first response would be to offer their prayers. My first thought?


How am I supposed to pray here? First off, I shouldn't even have to pray for healing. If God can't see that this kid needs healing… it's obvious to anyone with eyes and half a brain. Do I pray for the parents to have peace of mind? Do I pray for the doctors to have wisdom? I mean, come on!

And yet throughout the Bible we are exhorted to pray. Jesus says "WHEN you pray," not IF, and then gives instructions. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Paul says "Pray without ceasing." So my struggle is this- I know that I need to pray, yet I have issues with praying for things, because there doesn't seem to be much of a point. You pray for healings, but for as many people that do get healed, more people suffer and die. Or they get healed in a year, although in the natural process of things they would have been healed anyway. You pray for people that genuinely need certain things, and they don't get them. I just don't get it.

Do I need to change my definition of what prayer is? We come to God with our shopping lists and then don't come back unless we have another list. I realized that if my children only came to me when they wanted something, and no other time, my experience as a parent would be cut short. There are times when my daughter would crawl up on my lap, curl up against me and watch the game with me. It doesn't matter what game, she has no sense of what constitutes "the big game" as opposed to one between two 1-10 teams; spending time with me is the experience she seeks. And it is that experience that defines the joy of being a parent for me. So should we always present God with our wants? Shouldn't we just crawl up into his lap sometimes and express our love?

A few years ago I went to a Catholic charismatic conference and heard a speaker named Ralph Martin
. He has been a leader in Catholic renewal since the charismatic movement started in 1967, yet in the last several years he has concentrated on the spirituality of the saints. The talk I heard was on the stages of union with God according to the writings of St. Theresa of Avila, and it was fantastic. It opened my mind to the possibility that I've had it all wrong; that the goal of prayer is union with God, and the presenting of our petitions is peripheral to this central purpose.

Within the same time frame I was introduced to the teachings of Mike Bickle
. Mike has made the focus of his ministry exhorting Christians to seek the face of the Lord and pray what David prayed in Psalm 27:4- " thing I ask, this one thing I seek, that I may behold the beauty of the Lord…." He views the Song of Solomon in an allegorical format popular with the early Church fathers, teaching that the bridegroom represents Jesus and the bride represents the church, and Jesus longs to draw us to himself in a relationship of love. Prayer in this paradigm is not simply airing our requests and grievances, although intercession is certainly a part, but sitting at the feet of Jesus as Mary did while Martha busied herself with the tasks of everyday life.

And then there is Witness Lee
. Witness Lee uses the phrase "the economy of God" to stress that God's central plan is to dispense himself into his chosen people, the church. Our goal above all other things is to dwell in our spirit where Christ has made his home, and from that ground all other things have their growth.

So to answer the question "has Sean given up prayer?", the answer is "you know? I just don’t know." I pray that I would experience and enjoy the love of God in the same way that my son and daughter enjoy my love. I pray that the stages of illumination, purgation and union would be a reality in my own spiritual life and not just a theory to be studied in a textbook. But I haven't gotten through my difficulties with intercession. I may never. I can’t find people who are willing to take on the task of trying to explain it to me, and stick with it when I ask questions counter to their theology. I try to believe that my requests are heard. When life went south on me over the past year, the first thing I did was ask everyone I knew who might possibly pray for me to do so. But at this point.. I just can't. Maybe if I could get one prayer answered, God? Of course, if I understood all things, faith wouldn't be necessary. I guess. What do I know?

Just a few thoughts, your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


How can I just let you walk away, just let you leave without a trace
When I stand here taking every breath with you
You're the only one who really knew me at all

How can you just walk away from me,
When all I can do is watch you leave
Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain and even shared the tears
You're the only one who really knew me at all

So take a look at me now, oh there's just an empty space
And there's nothing left here to remind me,
Just the memory of your face
Oh take a look at me now, well there's just an empty space
And you coming back to me is against the odds and that's what I've got to face

I wish I could just make you turn around,
Turn around and see me cry
There's so much I need to say to you,
So many reasons why
You're the only one who really knew me at all...

Always knew there was a reason I listened to 80's music, huh? Sometimes the song lyrics say everything I wish I could. Some sing to remember, some sing to forget.

Sad songs, they say so much.

To be continued.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Loop

Look out of any window
Any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
Birds are winging or
Rain is falling from a heavy sky,
What do you want me to do,
To do for you to see you through?
For this is all a dream we dreamed
One afternoon long ago...

It was a February day in 2016. I wish it had been a dream. A dream you at least get to wake up from. This? Nada.

My son Matthew was born with severe autism, and my daughter Rebecca as well. Immediately the zealots will take issue with that, suggesting that they weren't born with it but developed it somewhere along the line. Well, I really don't give a rat's ass for zealots of any stripe, so we are just going to go with the birth definition. They both walked on time, but didn't speak, and still haven't. Our lives became one of IEPs and endless meetings to discuss why Matthew played with his poop and why Rebecca dug in her privies and why Matthew caused one teacher to sprain her arm and why Rebecca screamed and screamed. We had no answer. We sure wish we had one, or two, or a dozen; sure would have helped deal with the fact that as time went on Matthew hurt us and Rebecca was afraid of him and Matthew destroyed our house and Rebecca had to sleep in a room with drywall and insulation hanging from every corner.

Well God bless the zealots who took it upon their zealoty selves to decide that we were crappy parents who couldn't keep our kids out of danger. Yeah, I'm still bitter. How'd ya guess? We developed an intimate relationship with Children's Protective Services, and not in the fun way, either. Frequent visits and even more endless meetings ensued and eventually it was decided that both Matthew and Rebecca had to be removed from our home.

Walk out of any doorway
Feel your way, feel your way
Like the day before
Maybe you'll find direction
Around some corner
Where it's been waiting to meet you,
What do you want me to do,
To watch for you while you're sleeping?
Well please don't be surprised
When you find me dreaming too...

It was on a February morning when our lives changed forever. Electric word life, it means forever and that's a mighty long time, but I'm here to tell you, there's nothing else. When you spend 15 years expending all the energy you have and then some to keep some semblance of sanity in your life, and then all of a sudden you move from 60 to 0, stopping on a dime... it changes a man. And a woman. More on that later.

"But you have your life back now! You can recover, you can heal, you can live again instead of being held hostage to autism!" (The autism zealots are in the starting gate, ready to tell me what is wrong with that statement; I would suggest to them that they just listen instead of lecturing. Give it a thought at least.)

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

You, who choose to lead, must follow
But if you fall you fall alone.
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home....

On March 2nd my wife decided that she had had enough, screw this, she was out of here. For an explanation you would have to ask her. I'm not going to answer for her. The pressure was huge on both of us for years, and we had no time to make sure that our relationship was healthy. It obviously was not, otherwise we would still have one.

So the pain continues. It has never left. If anything it has multiplied. I titled this little essay "The Loop" for the simple reason that some people need to be brought into the know, to possibly understand why Sean is so moody, why Sean cries at the drop of a hat, why Sean alternately needs to be around people but at the same time just can't watch happy families when his own has disintegrated. My heart is full of pain because it is empty of everything I ever held dear. All that I ever wanted was to raise a family, get married and have children. That's all. Well....

(This is where I really want to let the expletives fly. But there might be some Baptists reading this, so for their sake I will dispense with the hardcore swear words. Maybe use some Christian cusses. Dagnabit.)

Since someone is going to ask, either to me directly or to themselves as they read these words and walk on by, yes, I do see a therapist. I am on medication. I am starting with a divorce support group in a few days. I am doing what I can.

To quote Gerald Ford, the state of the union is not good. People suggest that I must have some endless well of inner strength. Well... I don't. I am not strong. I am not strong.

Not sure why I wrote all of this other than maybe someone just needed it brought to the forefront. Just a box of rain, wind and water; believe it if you need it, if you don't just pass it on.

Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land
Maybe you're tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do
To do for you, to see you through?
A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through

(Song lyrics from the songs "Box of Rain" and "Ripple", both by the Grateful Dead.)