Dear God: Do Better

During the day when I’m in trouble I look for my Lord. At night my hands are still outstretched and don’t grow numb; my whole being refuses to be comforted. I remember God and I moan. I complain, and my spirit grows tired. – Psalm 77:2-3 (CEB)

There are houseplants at my feet, and a jack-o-lantern rolls around somewhere behind me. A guitar bumps into a lamp, out of sight, and its strings twang softly. I can’t find my flip-flops, although I thought I stashed them in the laundry basket under the garbage bag of clean linens.

This chaos is the current state of my car.

I retreat to the hotel room and contemplate it all with a spoon and an open jar of peanut butter. I am caught in between residences; my lease ended before my next home is available. Anything not in storage is in my car. Every day in the hotel feels like a week. I’ve survived far worse, but this disruption is currently on the receiving end of all my stress.

In the morning, I sigh in God’s direction.

During the day, my praying-by-pacing does not grow weary.

At night, distress rides my shoulders like a demon and I complain to God as I fall asleep.

My whole being refuses to be comforted.

Maybe your vexation isn’t housing purgatory. Maybe your disruption is the addition of online-at-home school, or the grief of losing hugs and get-togethers. Maybe your distress is the constant storm of racism, or the uncertainty of employment. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Maybe pacing and moaning are the best prayers your uncomforted spirit can offer right now.

So offer them. Without embarrassment. Without reserve. As long as the day, as deep as the night. Rage and moan and complain. Know that God hears.

Until my heart is tired of pacing and my spirit is weary from worry, hear my prayer, O God. I complain because I remember your goodness, and I believe your comfort will still come.

written for the Daily Devotional

New Songs

Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, God’s praise in the assembly of the faithful.
– Psalm 149:1 (NRSV)

I used to sing. Not shower singing or holler-in-the-car singing or hum-to-myself singing, all of which I still do. But once upon a time, I sang in trained, auditioned choirs.

It was an exhilarating activity that I walked away from years ago, for a variety of perfectly fine reasons, but I miss it. Even before Covid-19 ground congregational singing to a halt for health reasons, I was missing the choral experience: The practice of tuning your ear and voice to be part of one sound. The acute awareness of breath and diaphragm and body. The rapt attention to a conductor’s slightest change in expression that could change the tide of the piece. The miracle of harmonization. The joy in being pushed by the efforts of those around you to bring your best work – your best voice – to the moment.

Community, at its most harmonized, elicits our best selves. Invites our best presence. Strengthens our talents. Teaches us new songs, studies them with us, practices them together, sings them together.

All of which prompts me to wonder if I’m missing choral singing only or perhaps also missing the discipline of learning new songs. All by myself, I have a habit of singing the same songs. Listening to the same Spotify playlist. Rehearsing the same worldview. Repeating the same prayers. Breathing at the same intervals, but not really drawing breath down to my diaphragm. Not really using the fullest extent of my range.

Sing to the Lord a new song, but how can we sing something new if we are not listening closely to one another?

Sing to the Lord a new song, but how can we sing something new if we are determined to be our own conductors, our own deejays, our own one-person bands?

I would sing you a new song, O God Most High, but first I must set down my baton, practice my deep breathing, and tune my spirit to the community’s harmonies.

written for the Daily Devotional

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