There’s an old nursery rhyme – “Tuesday’s child is full of grace.” For the next five months I will share sections from the new book — A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope (edited by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi) Pilgrim Press, May 1, 2017.
This book asks the question — what does it take for all the children in the world, all the children in the world, to be not only fed and sheltered and safe but also to be able to laugh. More than one hundred themes and issues crucial to hope and justice were crowd-sourced to create this collaborative anthology of fifty-two reflections from seventy-seven writers in eleven different countries. Of course I would love to have my readers buy this book, but even more I want you to hear some of these voices, each so very different. So every week I’m going to share a prayer or reflection or poem from one of these. This week I am sharing all of a chapter by Jamie Spriggs. She gives this as her “bio:”
The Reverend Jamie Spriggs entered ministry as her third and final calling, after pursuing careers in French and in academic technology. She currently lives on a pretty lake with her dog, where she enjoys canoeing, hiking, and taking photos of beautiful sunsets.
Compassionate Care for Those Who are Chronically Ill
It’s hard enough to have a discrete health need, a broken bone, or a passing illness that invades our bodies and takes us from our daily rhythms, requiring time, attention, resources and care. How much more difficult it is when a long-term and progressive illness settles in, causing life to change in both large and small ways.
This is hard enough. But while some people have a support team with time and willingness to help, others find themselves desperate and isolated, without access to good care. Some may have the resources to purchase what is needed, but many others struggle to get medicine, equipment, and even caregivers.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
God, it is hard
when sickness extends beyond the acute
and makes itself at home in the bodies that are home to us
We settle into unsought rhythms
Life seemingly reduced to messy necessities
and we feel so alone.
God, it is hard
when small comforts and mundane tasks
require resources that we do not have.
It is hard
when the value of our lives
seems measured by what help
we can afford to hire.
We know that we are your beloved children
that your love for us is not measured by our wealth or our family or our connections.
We know that you are with us
at the farthest limits of possibility
in heaven, in sheol, in all the in-between places
in bed and bathroom and wheelchair
in closed-in spaces of illness and caregiving
even in the valley of the shadow of death
but we yearn for health in body, mind, and spirit.
We yearn for breath and laughter and sunshine and freedom.
Help us to reach for what is needed
Help us to claim for ourselves
Remind us that you are in both storm and stillness
speaking peace, speaking comfort, speaking hope.
Remind us that you love us beyond reason.
Remind us that you love us beyond death.
Prayer of Confession
God, we confess that we do not like to be confronted with things we cannot fix.
We are tempted to speak platitudes pretending that you never give anyone more than they can handle.
We like easy solutions tied up with neat bows
and it is hard for us to sit with someone who will not be healed.
We confess that we have time and talents we have hoarded for ourselves.
We confess that we are embarrassed by messy eating;
we are embarrassed by smells and by forgetfulness.
We confess that out of sight too often really is out of mind.
We confess that we would rather recommend services
in our mistaken certainties —
that there must be enough
that someone else must supply time, resources, and care
that our social net cannot possibly have such large holes
that the desperation we see is only for lack of knowledge
that we ourselves cannot possibly fill the gap .
We confess that we would rather do some practical thing and be done.
because it is easier to bring a casserole, send some flowers, or write a card
than it is to engage in messy relationships for the long haul.
Forgive us when we prescribe for ourselves
ways to think about the situations of others
rather than sharing them in full complexity. Amen
Assurance of Grace
God comes to us again and again, clearing our understanding, like a log in the eye, so that we can respond to the many splinters of complication in chronic and acute health situations of those around us.
Prayer of Intercession
Mother God, Father God, Creator and Sustainer,
We entrust to your care all those who sorrow or suffer.
those who are facing crises which threaten to overwhelm them,
those who are lonely or hurting, those who are in need.
Fill them with the joy of your presence;
Use us as your arms and your hands to minister to them.
We ask that you forgive us and heal us
fill us and transform us
So that we might love and serve all of your beloved children
and praise you not only with our lips
but with our very lives.
Questions for Reflection/Action
Do you remember a time in your life when you were desperate: when there weren’t enough resources to go around, when you felt isolated or overwhelmed? What, if anything, did friends or neighbours do that was helpful for you? What did you not find helpful? What do you wish they had offered?
Who in your community has been struggling with chronic illness, either their own or that of a loved one — a child or an adult? Besides health, what might they be yearning for? a hot meal? easy company? the ability to get out and get away? inclusion? listening? What discrete thing can you offer them without it being a way to “check the situation off your list”? What ongoing (or weekly or monthly) action might you offer?