An Easter Poem (John Updike)

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Seven Stanzas of Easter

Make no mistake, if He rose at all

it was as His body.

if the cells disillusion did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.


It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and befuddled eyes of

the eleven apostles.

it was as His flesh: ours.


The same hinge, thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart

that pierced, died, withered, decayed and then

regathered out of enduring Might

new strength to enclose.


Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.


The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of

time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day.


And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel,

weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque

in the dawn light, robed in real linen,

spun on a definite loom.


Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, for our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed

by the miracle,

and crushed by remonstrance.


(Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church of Marblehead, MA) Taken from John Updike, Seventy Poems, Penguin Books, 1972.

When Prayer Is Hard (George Macdonald)

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My prayer-bird was cold – would not away,
Although, I sat it one the edge of the nest,
Then I bethought me of the story old –
Love-fact or loving-fable, thou knows’t best
How, when the children had made sparrows of clay,
Thou mads’t them birds, with wings to flutter and fold
Take, Lord, my prayer in thy hand, and make it pray.
George Macdonald

Prayer Is Sharing In God’s Power (Henri Nouwen)

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“Christ is the one who in the most revealing way made clear that prayer means sharing in the power of God. Through this power he turned his world around. He freed countless men and women from the chains of their existence, but also stirred up the aggression which brought him to his death.

Christ, who is fully human and fully divine, has shown us what it means to pray.

In Him, God became visible for the fall and rise of many”

-Henri Nouwen

Three Postures of Prayer (Leighton Ford)

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Brother Lawrence famously wrote of “the practice of the presence of God” – one of the finest descriptions of attentiveness to God. In his book of the same name he described how he considered himself “before God, whom I behold as my king” using three images: subject, son,  and stone.

As Subject

the Posture: kneeling, prostrate

“Touched with a sensible regret, I confess to Him all my wickedness, I ask His forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands that He may do what He pleases with me. The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love…and treats me in all respects as His favorite…”

Kneeling or prostrate we pray: “As your Subject, redeem me – and converse with me as friend”.


As Son

the Posture: embracing, leaning, expressing need

“My most useful method is this simple attention, and such a general passionate regard for God, to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother’s breast; so that, if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call this state the bosom of God, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there”.

Embracing, leaning, we pray: “As your Son, embrace and nurture me”.


As Stone

the Posture: sitting, desiring change and transformation

“As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise. Sometimes, I consider myself there as a stone; presenting myself thus before God, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself”.

Sitting, we pray: “As your Stone, form me into your image”.

You Are Where You Are Meant To Be (Richard Halverson)

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Wherever you go, God is sending you.
Wherever you are, God has put you there.
God has a purpose in your being right where you are.
Christ, who indwells you by the power of his Spirit,
wants to do something in and through you.
Believe this and go in his grace, his love, his power.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Dr. Richard Halverson (for many years chaplain of the U.S. Senate)

A Prayer of Trust (Thomas Merton)

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MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I am following your will does not mean that in fact I am doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

Give Us, O Lord, A Steadfast Heart (St. Thomas Aquinas)

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Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

—Thomas Aquinas

A Prayer Through The Day (Leighton Ford)

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coffee cup

Drawn from the 139th Psalm, this prayer has helped many to order their days and move through them with an awareness of the presence of God.



“Search me and know my heart”

Is my heart centered right as I begin today?



“Test me and know my restless thoughts”

Recognize and rest from thoughts which will not let go.



“See if there is any hurtful way in me”

What hurts I have caused, or received, which need forgiving?



“Lead me in the way everlasting”

Rest in God’s hands.


The Summer of 1946 (Leighton Ford)

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walk woods

That summer, seventy years ago, was very important in my life.

I was fourteen years old, and it had been a very difficult year. My adopted parents had a difficult relationship. I would sometimes lie awake at night listening to them argue.

My mother Ford, although a strong religious influence on me, was also a very troubled person. Early that year she simply left, and was gone for months – we did not know where. Later I learned she had gone to Winnipeg, and lived there under an assumed name, running from her fears. In late spring she returned but the strain in their marriage remained.

That summer I went for a week to the Blue Water Bible conference, a new place named for the deep blue river on which it stood.  I had fun, liked the other kids, but expected to be bored by the speaker, Oswald J. Smith, a well-known pastor and missionary leader. I remember his shock of white hair and piercing blue eyes, and raspy voice.

When he announced his topic as the “Morning Watch” I was sure I’d be bored. Instead, as he told how he prayed, I was intrigued.

“I walk as I pray,” he said, “because I am quite nervous and if I kneel I get agitated. I pray out loud so my mind doesn’t wander. And I read a verse from the Psalms and turn it into a prayer to give me fresh words.”

That inspired me. I could pray and get exercise at the same time!

Early the next morning I got up, took a big Bible my mother had given me, and went by myself to a nearby woods. There I walked up and down, hoping no one was watching, read a Psalm, and said a prayer. What the Psalm was, or my words, I have no idea.

I do know that the presence of Jesus became very real to me. Prayer became more than rote words. I knew that God cared for a lonely fourteen year old and would be with me, no matter how hard things were at home.

That day prepared me for an opportunity to serve and lead which would come suddenly, just a few weeks later, when I was asked to lead a fledgling youth movement in our city.

I revisited that spot several years ago. The buildings are mostly gone. What is left is ramshackle. The grounds are weedy and rough. The woods where I prayed much smaller than I remembered.

But the reality of that morning has stayed with me across these many years.

And oh yes, I met Dr. Smith some years later and told him what that time meant to me. He was astonished.

“At Blue Water conference,” he exclaimed. “I thought nothing came out of that week at all”!


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