I’m not prayed-up enough yet.

There’s this apocryphal story from the high school I attended, TCS, wherein our faithful and frightening (maybe just to me–her expectations and deadlines helped me through college, but were so intimidating as a 17-year-old) Senior English teacher, Mrs. Markwood, agreed to a lunchtime meeting with one of our more challenging fellow students…

According to the legend, the student darkened the classroom doorway–Mrs. Markwood’s desk being located in the opposite corner of the room–and our beloved teacher, having not quite caught her breath from the last class, exclaimed, “Oh dear… Wait there a minute–I’m not prayed up enough to meet with you yet.”  Reportedly, she returned to her desk chair, bowed her head for a solid five minutes, and then ushered the student in for their meeting.

I suspect the story was shared later that afternoon as a point of amusement on the student’s part–how could someone be so earnest as to chew up meeting time with prayer time?

Now (doesn’t that always happen when we grow up and look back?), I find myself enlisting Mrs. Markwood’s phrase–I haven’t had the courage to say it to any parishioners yet–but I have started sometimes carving out a few intentional minutes of prayer before meetings which I do not relish attending (and even meetings I *do* relish attending).

In the phrase is the admission that it is not on my own patience and strength and graciousness that I deal with people–only through power, resolve, energy that comes from somewhere else is anyone able to live and behave with patience and compassion and joy.

Prayer is truly one of the most important things I learned from my teachers at Toledo Christian; acknowledging our need for peace beyond what we can white-knuckle for ourselves, and seeking out the source of that energy, peace, patience, and joy.

Selective Memory

More and more, I’m realizing that the things I remember and the things I forget aren’t just coincidences.

A few weeks ago, Psalm 23 was one of the readings assigned by the Revised Common Lectionary–the schedule of Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, and Gospel readings that most all Lutheran, Anglican, and Roman Catholic churches use to plan their Sunday services.  The 23rd psalm was one of the first bits of Scripture I memorized; it’s long-since become so familiar to me as to sometimes feel calloused–overused.  I no longer turn to it for comfort or for inspiration, I’ve let it grow cold and unfamiliar in my mind and heart the last decade.

Saying it with a hospital patient this week, I stumbled in the middle, suddenly unable to recall the next verse; I skipped on to the next bit I could recall, and we finished strong, but I wondered what the little phrase was that I’d forgotten.  I looked it up.

It was verse 3: “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (KJV)

More than believing that I’m not alone in the valley of the shadow of death, or that goodness and mercy shall follow me, I wonder that God binds up and brings back our souls to health.  God promises to restore our souls, to upright the fallen, spilled, perhaps broken, vase of our lives, and to put it back where it belongs (we may not even know or remember where it belongs, exactly, but I suspect that if we ever get there–“restored”–we’ll know).