Prayers of Desperation

“Hey, Pastor Dave!”

“Hey Li! What can I do for you?”

“This is going to sound weird. At least, it does to me, but… Can you show me how to pray?”

Pastor Dave looked a little surprised. He ushered Li into his cabin. Li followed him in and asked, “So, should I get down on my knees or something?”

Pastor Dave chuckled and replied, “If you want to, but it’s not necessary.”

“What should I say? How do I address…it?”

It was obvious this was the first time Li had ever prayed. Dave found his sense of urgency intriguing.

“Why do you want to pray now, Li?”

“The Captain won’t let me go on the mission to find Dr. Yancey. He said he wants me to pray instead. Tell me how, please, Pastor Dave!” Both his zeal and his volume had increased with each word he spoke.

“Okay, Li, calm down! Wow, I’ve never had someone yell at me to teach them how to pray!” He laughed, then smiled humbly at Li.

“Uh, I guess it might be best to start with the standard. Repeat after me.” Pastor Dave cleared his throat.

“Our Father, who art in heaven…hallowed be Thy name…thy kingdom come…thy will be done…on earth as it is in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…lead us not into temptation…but deliver us from evil…for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever…Amen.” 

The Red String, Chapter Twelve, The Prayer

I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s short book on prayer, Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible. He claims that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us how to pray. Even in the Psalms, Jesus speaks because he IS the Word. John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Many of the psalms were prayers of desperation. “How long, O Lord,” etc… David and the other writers of Psalms capture every emotion and record it. Pain, injustice, guilt, confession, and thankfulness are constant themes encompassing its pages. Bonhoeffer believed that the Lord’s Prayer, as Jesus taught the disciples and Pastor Dave taught Li, was evident in every Psalm.

In Kevin Roose’s book, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, he admits that while he didn’t convert to Christianity during his time  doing undercover research at the very strict Christian university, he did develop a prayer life. I’m not quite sure how that works out, but I suspect God can see more of an unbeliever’s heart than we can, so I’ll leave that to God and not speculate. My point is that prayer, conversation with our Creator, is natural, innate. Thus, prayers of desperation happen with non-believers and believers.

In this excerpt of The Red String, Li is desperate. He feels helpless. We’ve all been there. Our loved one is sick and far away and there’s nothing we can physically do. Only pray. Prayer, mere words. But words, the Word, is powerful. Jesus, the Word of God, speaks. Trust to the Word.

 

“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/books/12-essential-bonhoeffer-quotes#kR6WK2cWJ7gAHs7h.99

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Book Review- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Omaha. Somewhere in middle America. This is the setting for Rainbow Rowell’s 2012 award-winning teen romance novel.  My own love story holds some parallels to this fictional tale- yearning to escape home, falling in love unintentionally, and rediscovering myself both musically and emotionally, byproducts of that unexpected, one-of-a-kind friendship which transformed into love. I married that one-of-a-kind friend, an Omaha native (Go, fightin’ Bunnies!) and we lived in nearby Lincoln, NE. for three years. If you’ve never been to Omaha, you may not realize how vital this landlocked, drab midwest city in the fluorescent ’80’s fits the setting and plot of Eleanor & Park. That’s okay. It’s still a worthy read.

My only criticism, however, is the language. It’s pretty uncouth- for me, at least. Normally I would berate a book for allowing such lazy use of the English language to crowd out alternative forms of expression, but in this case, I will extend some grace. For teenagers, swearing profusely can be a growing pain of the adolescent vernacular in process. Sometimes this vernacular doesn’t mature. Grown-ups in Eleanor & Park add their own zesty language to this coming-of-age tale. But, the author’s use of inappropriate language encompasses parts of the story where the rough tone expresses more than mere words. Foul language is uncomfortable, antagonistic, and demoralizing, and the author uses it as a vehicle to amplify that tone. The language alone, by grating on me and incurring images of isolation and pain, transported me back to hell, I mean, high school. Mission accomplished.

I’d rather discuss the beauty of this book. I’m not exactly a sold-out romantic, and neither are the two main characters, Eleanor and Park.  Their initial unromantic attitudes make their eventual fathomless commitment all the more captivating. And- they feel real. This description of fictional characters is wearing thin, but in the case of Eleanor & Park; it’s true.  I had friends like them. I was like them. It’s a difficult and satisfying feat for an author to create realistic characters readers can invest in. Kudos to Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor is weird, complicated, brilliant, neglected, and lonely. Park has hidden strength, and is shy, creative, rebellious, and deep. These teenagers don’t fit into a box neatly like comic books. Their foray thru high school and family life is an unyielding mountain. As a result, their relationship becomes a means of survival. The romance is of the teenage variety, but not completely saccharine- more nutritional, like honey. There are reasonable circumstances that allow the reader to be comfortable with Eleanor and Park’s heaping servings of syrupy, unfettered devotion. No spoilers- just trust me. As a side note, I appreciated that the writer decided not to take the characters’ physical relationship too far and cheapen their young bond.

The devotion between these two extraordinary, yet ordinary, characters is enough to entice the reader to keep reading; but the additional tension pressing on Eleanor’s home life, an antagonist in its own right, also contributed to the plot movement and overall interest. The sense of urgency, fear, and anger-inducing neglect of Eleanor was palpable and tragic. In addition, Park’s sardonic musical inclinations, his family dynamics, and his emotional transformation were as riveting as the Beatles’ White Album.

Rainbow Rowell’s writing induced sarcastic smiles, wrenched my heart, and caused a few eye rolls; but most often, it rekindled that knot-in-the-throat version of unabashed love in my fond memory. Good stuff.

And- the ending? …ahhh.

 

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
― Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park

 

Buy Eleanor & Park on Amazon.   Check out Rainbow Rowell’s Author Page.   Add the book to your bookshelf at Goodreads.   Fall in love, Eleanor & Park-style.

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Crimson Cord- Propaganda

[Bridge: Propaganda]
The pain that guides us
The strings that tie us
The coincidence that proves to us God’s existence
Joy we misplaced
Beautiful mistakes
The scarlet thread
The Crimson Cord

[Hook: Propaganda]
Wear your scars out loud
That’s the fingerprints of The Lord
A crimson cord, baby, a crimson cord
A timeline, a scarlet thread
A crimson cord, baby, a crimson cord
Let me celebrate your crimson cord
And that’s beautiful, a crimson cord
No regrets, boy, a crimson cord
Evidence of God’s love, that’s a crimson cord

Download the Crimson Cord Album by Propaganda here.

“’…I am not to…

“’…I am not to speak to you,
I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.’”

This poem is quoted in The Red String, Chapter 18, aptly named, “The Stranger.” 

I love, love, love this poem. The background of Whitman’s writing of it is a bit risque, but it doesn’t have the same connotation here. That’s the beauty of poetry, of writing. It doesn’t end with the writer, but with the reader. 

Hear the full poem- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOuSASiEzSE