I don’t know what I’ll call you. I don’t know if you’ll be tinies or monkeys ou chere-belles ou cher-beaux. There are pages, there are lists, things that I cannot begin to wonder at--shoe size, favorite colors, the way you’ll dance, if you’ll dance--that I don’t know about you.
(I don’t even know yet--and this is the heavy heart of knowing that God is a God of the unknown--if I shall ever have you.)
I’ve spent the week surrounded by your someday peers here at a preteen camp. I have heard their broken phrases offered up to our Lord; I have heard them stumble out the passages with the audible trips that my own heart feels when I stumble over the same words, decades later, struggling over the cracks in the words, the cross of the lines.
Now, having listened to them, having heard their child songs about God our Father, I want to make a sort of promise to you, tinies, monkeys, chere-belles ou cher-beaux: ours shall be a house of prayer.
Prayers you are taught by repetition, prayers you are taught by soaking in, but you shall be surrounded, in icon and sign, painting and statue, in word and deed, by people who pray.
There shall be all the good prayer books, from all the denominations, and they’ll litter the corner of the world in which we pitch tent and call home. Facsimiles of Rembrandt and Fujimura’s illuminated Gospels.
You’ll grow in the palm of St. Francis, in the vagabond grace of Phyllis Tickle, in the hard words of the psalmists.
You shall know the Scripture as a breathless sound of confession, of proclamation that God is present, ever and always and the world is charged with His grandeur, His awe.
You shall not learn to pray for God to be invited into a space, because you shall know He is already there.
You shall not learn to pray for God to just do something, just do anything, because you shall know He is greater that our greatest hope.
You’ll hear these lazy prayers from others; you’ll hear these lazy prayers from me from time to time--when I’m close to breaking, if it’s your life, tiny, monkey, chere-belle ou che beau, you shall hear me pray with just. Over and over, I’ll pray with just. And I’ll pray for Him to be present. I’ll invite Him in, in a sort of way.
I shall hope, I shall pray, I shall bake and when I bake I shall sing, and I shall teach you the oldest stories and the oldest prayers, the Gloria and the Our Father, and I shall trust that this just might be enough to remind you that upon your conversion, you are a temple of the Holy Ghost, that God inhabits the prayers of His people, that His ways are greater than ours, that He’ll do just whatever He wants.
Because I want you to know how to talk to Him. I want you to call out to God through the myriad of ways the Church through time has blessed the Lord. I want you to see baking as Eucharistic expression. I want you to see the joy of the butterfly. I want you to brush your teeth next to Jesus in the same breath as you recognize Him as Almighty, Crowned Lord.
There is a line, perhaps the best in all films ever created, which shall be inscribed somewhere, over a doorframe, in a hall, from The Tree of Life: “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life. The way of Nature and the way of Grace.”
You’ll ask me about it. I’m sure, more than once. I shall tell you that this is a sort of prayer, too, and I’ll likely cross myself--which I shall do from time to time--and then lift you up, and hold you, and walk you through the first psalm, whispered over the crown of your precious head, and pray hard for this way of Grace to be the way of your heart, between the prayerbooks and the icons, the baked goods and the bedtime stories, the secrets whispered and the summer sun, our house shall be a house of prayer, and it shall be just that.
Please forgive a bit of sporadic engagement with you this week. I'm away shooting video and photos for the Baptist association's amazing preteen camp. However, spotty WIFI turned into no WIFI and I'm iPad and iPhone 3G-dependent. If that. It is the woods, y'all. What this means aside from not aways being able to respond well to you here is also that I'm not always able to hop over and read your words, your blog. Looking forward to catching up and, thank you all in advance, for being patient with my inbox response time.