Thursday, May 21

Heaven's Books of Prayers

Libraries are one of life’s fine companions, aren’t they? How many pleasant hours in childhood are spent nestled in these corners exploring the world through the pages of books? How many paths to adulthood and discovery are spent perusing and devouring a gamut of subjects? Books widen our understanding, fears, knowledge. They invoke new questions, confirm or deny old suspicions, give us new frameworks for life. Books that are good, true, noble, lovely, admirable, sobering, enlightening, or excellent enlarge us and grow us as individuals, citizens, and communities. 

Clementinum, Prague

Among all the authors of books, my very favorite and awe-inspiring author is God. Yours too? The sixty-six books contained in the Bible contain history, poetry, prophecy, song, and much more in their telling of God’s works of creation and salvation. These books even refer to each other (search here). To call oneself a Christian pleads the corollary that the Bible is a part of the warp and woof of one's daily life.

The theme of this post bends here toward a pondering of books one cannot check out to read this side of heaven. The Bible gives intriguing hints about these books, ones that are not of this world, but housed in a world beyond the one we see. Books that might be read when we arrive on heaven’s shore: the Book of Life, the books of God’s plans for individuals, the books containing accounts of our tears. Sobering references to books of judgment, which will determine final destinies of all whose names are not recorded in the Book of life.

This all leads me to another library corner, a speculation with weightinessabout heaven's records of our prayers. Will there be such books of record in heaven’s libraries?

Daughter on her birthday
Down the long rows that hold titles beginning with "N," I wonder if there will be a volume or two titled “Nancy’s Prayers.” Will it contain all the formal utterings I made in my lifetime? The childhood prayers of simple or impossible-in-my-view requests? The blessings spoken over meals, or children’s and grandchildren’s bedtime hours? The laughing-out-loud at life prayers? The sensed-based prayers where the joy of the day bubbled up in my heart over the delights of creation and salvation?

Will holy moment prayers abound in this record of my prayer life? The scraps and sighs directed heavenward during weary hours? The rants and rumbles of foolish lips accusing God of not knowing, or caring, or hearing? The questioning, small-faith prayers? The pleading prayers? The sinner’s prayer? The prayer for guidance or understanding? The ensemble, preacher-led prayers that I echoed with my own amens? The glistening eye prayers of bent knees in sanctuaried spaces? The journal prayers written long and intensely during quiet hours?

Will this book of prayers contain the prayerful Psalms I read and sang aloud? Songs and prayers of thanksgiving sung in the company of other saints? Notes of prayer poured through my fingers at piano and organ during practice and in worship services? Other words from the Bible breathed in prayer again and again though out my life’s journey? The Lord’s Prayer spoken countless times in solidarity with other Christians, or ponderingly in quiet moments spent expanding its petitions? The prayers of other Christians I borrowed and made my own? The incomplete prayers of a wandering mind? The mature prayers framed by wrinkled, growing older hands?

Finally, will I be able to read again the prayers at the deathbed of loved ones? The final prayer of my own heart as my spirit let go of my earthly body?

Will each prayer, however spare or misspoken, be followed by the careful, certain answers from the heart of a gracious and loving God? Will I read these answers with gentle nods, get-outta-here delight, growing faith, radiant love? How will the silences be noted, where the Holy Spirit gathered breath and cadenced my own unformed words to His perfect wisdom and will?

Does heaven have place for regrets over blank pages or prayers that could have or should have been prayed? Will there be no blank pages, only thin volumes? Perhaps only earth gives us the opportunity to realize regret and amend our ways before the curtain is drawn, amendments including careless habits of prayer.

In a glimpse of heavenly wonder, we read in St. John’s epistle that the prayers of the saints are not only in the pages of heaven’s records, but they have an honored, Lamb-enabled place in the worship of God in heaven as they are combined with an angel’s golden offering of incense before the throne. (Revelation 8:1-5)

Jesse Tree, Chartes Cathedral
The most surprising book will be the one titled “Jesus Intercedes for Me” wherein is recorded the prayers of the ascended Christ on my behalf before the throne of God. It is beyond my imagining to conceive of the God of all creation praying for me! Yet in the book of Hebrews we read:
Therefore he [the ascended Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 
Heaven’s collection of prayer bookswhat a glorious collection!
Will we have access to the books of other’s prayers? Will we find our name mentioned among the pages of a parent’s, spouse’s, child’s, grandchild’s, sister’s, brother’s, relative's, friend’s, pastor's, neighbor's, co-worker's, or even an assumed enemy's prayers?
Will we surprisingly find our name in the pages of prayers by someone we never knew? Someone who prayed for us before we were even born?
Jesus told us to pray and never stop. If we follow his admonition, those scribing angels will be kept busy for eons as they ponder our privilege and record page after page of the prayers of the saints.
I hope to keep my angel-scribe dipping that pen into the inkbottle at a good clip until we shake hands and with a ruffle of wings, I’m led to the shelf containing the books of prayers I prayed and books containing prayers prayed on my behalf by Jesus and others. What joyful moments those will be to see these prayers and bask in the wise, sweet answers of God with the clarity of heaven!

Roving among the stacks of heaven’s books of prayerssounds like a wonderful way to spend little time in eternity to me. Perhaps I’ll go with my friend Lois and we’ll show each other some of the prayers we prayed for each other. Perhaps I’ll find the prayers my son or daughter prayed for me when they were just wee ones learning to talk to God.

We have so much to look forward to in heaven including a Savior-infused library. For the beautiful gift and privilege of prayer this side of our eternal home, won’t you join me in saying, “Thanks be to God!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 


Christ Be the Lord of All Our Days - St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, text by Timoth-Dudley Smith
Christ be the Lord of all our days,
the swiftly-passing years;
Lord of our unremembered birth,
heirs to the brightness of the earth;
Lord of our griefs and fears.

Christ be the source of all our deeds,
the life our living shares;
the fount which flows from worlds above
to never-failing springs of love;
the ground of all our prayers.

Christ be the goal of all our hopes,
the end to whom we come;
guide of each pilgrim Christian soul
which seeks, as compass seeks the pole,
our many-mansioned home.

Christ be the vision of our lives,
of all we think and are;
to shine upon our spirit's sight
as light of everlasting light:
the bright and morning star.

Morning Prayer - Tchaikovsky, from Children's Album, op. 39, played here by the cello ensemble Cellomanie Croata (a prayer without words)

Evening Prayer - Ola Gjeilo, Phoenix Chorale with saxophonist Ted Belledin

Watch, O Lord,

  with those who wake,

  or watch or weep tonight,

  and give your angels charge over those who sleep.

Tend your sick ones,

O Lord Jesus Christ;

Rest your weary ones;

Bless your dying ones;

Soothe your suffering ones;

Pity your afflicted ones’

Shield your joyous ones;

And all for your love’s sake.


                                St. Augustine

Saturday, May 9

From Our Mother's Arms

Everyone has a mother! Regardless of how one perceives their mother's successes or failures as a mom, everyone can be thankful for the gift of life in the same manner that this hymnist writes . . .
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
                                                                               Martin Rinkart, 1636

These noble and beautiful lines have a remarkable story behind them. Wikipedia says this about Rinkart:
Martin Rinkart was a Lutheran minister who came to Eilenburg, Saxony at the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. The walled city of Eilenburg became the refuge for political and military fugitives, but the result was overcrowding, and deadly pestilence and famine. Armies overran it three times. The Rinkart home was a refuge for the victims, even though he was often hard-pressed to provide for his own family. During the height of a severe plague in 1637, Rinkart was the only surviving pastor in Eilenburg, conducting as many as 50 funerals in a day. He performed more than 4000 funerals in that year, including that of his wife.
Pastor Rinkart wrote the hymn Now Thank We All Our God as a table prayer for his children. Such an astounding poetic affirmation of daring to living fully and thankfully in the midst of chaos, overwhelming grief, and hardships!

The three stanzas of the hymn remind us of the beginning of life, the middle journey, and passing on to eternity with God. Stanza two summarizes the prayers that all godly mothers have for their children.

On this Mother's Day I will once again look back at how God has blessed me throughout my life "from my mother's arms." We could probably sit on my patio in the gentle spring breezes, sip a nice coffee or tea, and share wonderful memories of our mothers. Or we could sing this hymn wherever we might be and add our voices to the stream of sturdy, frail, hopeful, questioning, faithful children of God who have sung these strains for hundreds of years.

Blessings to all who have a mother, and blessings to all mothers! May the Lord help us all to live in thankfulness each day for His countless gifts of love and His presence in our lives every day that we live.

Photos of my mother, one with me at age 12, and crown vetch along Route 35 in southern Ohio, the road I drove many times to visit my parents in their later years. Mom loved flowers, and she so enjoyed this ground cover. It always makes me think of her when I see it.

~ ~ ~

A Choir sings NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD (John Rutter's setting with fanfare).

Bach used this chorale as the basis for many works including:

    Nun Danket Alle Gott - Cantata BWV 192, J.S. Bach

    Organ Choral Prelude, BWV 657

    From Cantata BWV 79

Thursday, May 7

Life's Small Celebrations

A poem celebrating new kittens for my Colorado nieces and nephews who just welcomed a new batch of kittens into the family. Thanks to my nephew Josh for letting me know!

New Kittens!

New kittens are meowing in the nestbox
As I dream of coming days filled
With kittenly joys
And new laughter in our walls.

Such dear little pittances!

Soft, fluffy, totally dependent on
Love to keep them safe and warm
And full of tasty milk.

Soon little eyes will widen
And tiny paws learn to
Scamper and leap
Straight into my lap and heart.

I will wonder over these dear ones
As I join their reindeer games,
As I sit quietly so not to disturb
The purring love across my floor-lying chest.

Kittens are Your gift,
Sent to teach us many things, Lord.
Thank You for teaching me about
Laughter, quietness, joy,
Family, silliness, mealtime,
Best sleeping postures,
How to use a soft cry or
Sustained purr to get help
Or attention.
And most of all Lord,
Thank you for making these
Days Bigger with Your Love
Through little licks,
Silky touching fur,
And joy an eye-mile wide
And gentleness a fluff-touched
Heart deep.

~ for my loved ones out in CO, by Aunt Mary Poppins (Aunt Nancy)

My brother's photo from 2014 of Cheese's first litter of kittens

~ ~ ~ 


"Fearfully and wonderfully made" - Song with Words - Mendelssohn 

Kitten on the Keys - by Zez Confrey, a ragtime piece

Monday, May 4

In Flight

Soar with me high
On wings of song
Scraping the belly of heaven
In search of our highest praise
And holiest joy and deepest
Reason for wings.

                                              © 2007 Nancy Gerst  

Near Marble Colorado, Photograph by Jerry Begly

Tuesday, April 28


The chair-of-today which seats me,
Body and soul,
Is a cushion of promises,
Background pledges
That make this day possible and
Watch over me with
All the stability of a mountain pass,
All the reliability of a golden sunrise,
All the bets of heaven laid on
A Carpenter from a dusty village 
   in Galilee.

The gentle breeze 
Teasing in my window promises
That with life’s changes
A Mysterious Force will be
Propelling them on a mission,
My part will be to ride the wind.

The cicadas and tree frogs singing in the trees promise
That a song will accompany my days,
One written in Notes of Gold,
My part will be to tilt the ear of my heart to the song
Lest I miss the humming and buzzing and miss my cue
To sing along.

The blue sky stretching farther than my eyes can see
Or mind comprehend promises
That there will be more to life than I can
Ascertain on my own,
But that the Heavenly Blue One
Knows its heights and depths and
Will grace me with what I need
To know and enjoy that the sky is true and real and beautiful.

The blood pulsing through my veins promises
That the Energy that powers the universe
Fuels me too and perfectly runs the
Labyrinth of systems within and without 
That I give little thought to
On ordinary days.

The light in my husband’s eyes
As he comes in the door at the end of a
Busy work day promises
That I matter to him and that
The Singer of Love Songs* who brought us together
Will sustain our love through years of
Having and holding,
Feeling  yucky or on top of the world,
Counting our pennies or stacking our gold,
And ending each of our gift of together days,
As husband and wife enjoying life.

They are there, little itty bitty promises
Like the promise that the Cardinals in the trees
Will give birth to babies in the spring.

And medium promises, like the fact that
If you put a chicken in the oven
At 350 degrees, after an hour, it will be tasty.

And big promises, like the one that says
Those who believe the Promise Giver
Will go to heaven when they die
Where all the promises that are yet to be fulfilled
Are waiting, shining in glory for the delight
Of those who wait for promises,
And live each day as promise-believers
In a world where the Promise-Keeper
Has yet to break, forget, renege,
Fudge on, alter, or destroy
Even one little promise in
The universe of the bazillion promises
He has made.

*Zechariah 3:17 
He will rejoice over you with singing, 
he will quiet you with his love.

 "The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, 
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Song of Solomon 2:12