Love Letters Sent to God: Patience

Above all, Trust in the slow work of God

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


By Juarlyn Gaiter

Beloved is there something that you have been praying for, wishing for, and waiting for with all your heart and still it tarries?  Perhaps the healing of an almost unbearable grief has robbed you of your peace?  It may be that the comfort of knowing that your dear one will remain in remission from an illness remains elusive.  Whatever the matter that you have waited on the Lord for, an answer to your problem has not yet come.  And the good book says: “Ask and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7 (The Living Bible)

What if, during all of your time of praying and waiting, that the Lord of all creation has been waiting for you?  The Lord may be waiting to see that you trust that He will work things out in His time.  We, of course, want big problems to be solved on our time table – that is, without delay.

God’s delays are often mysteriously frustrating.  We can, however, rest with the assurance that our prayers have been heard.  God always answers the prayers of those who earnestly seek Him.  Even when it gets difficult, let us strive to keep the faith and always be thankful!  The answer we seek will usually find its way to us right on time!

“For Jehovah God is our light and our protector. He gives us grace and glory.  No good thing will He withhold from those who walk along his path.”

Psalm 84:11 (The Living Bible)

And, we have hope because the good Lord has promised us.

“I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you, and you can give me glory.”

Psalm 52:15 (The Living Bible)

Remember that we are God’s only representatives here on earth.  We are God’s children, so that when the going gets rough, we must stay focused on thanking God for His goodness.  In and out of season, when life for us is wonderful, and also when shadows come and rain falls too, we praise the Lord!


Dear Lord Jesus,
We trust your timing in moving our lives forward,
Help us to be patient.
Thank you for knowing the answers
to all of our problems.
Your goodness and grace assure us of victory.
We give You all glory and praise.
AMEN


Photo credit: Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk, Rembrandt

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He Rose, He Rose (Easter)

But early, I said early
Sunday morning He rose
He rose


I can’t forget the day
When I heard the preacher say:

Stayed there, Friday night
Stayed there, Saturday night
But early, I said early
Sunday morning He rose
He rose

(Altos) He didn’t stay too long
(Tenors) He rose, He rose, He rose, He rose, Yes He did!
(Sops) He got up, He got up!

But early, I said early
Sunday morning He rose
He rose



SCRIPTURE: John 20

  • The Empty Tomb
  • Mary: The first person to realize that ‘He Rose’
  • Jesus and the Disciples

Happy Easter from 66 Assurance Way

Love Letters Sent to God: Peace

 “I am leaving you with a gift— peace of mind and heart!

And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives.

So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27  (The Living Bible Paraphrased)

“Peace is not the absence of war, Peace is a virtue, a state of mind,

a disposition for love, honesty and trustworthiness.”

Heart of a Buddha, 2003


By Juarlyn Gaiter

It is always a pleasure to read Max Erhmann’s beautiful poem, “Desiderata” (1952), because the opening lines are an invitation to slow down, meditate, and be at peace:

“ Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible be on good terms with all persons.”

These wise words bring a reality and timeliness to the experiences of many of us very busy people.  And sometimes it is easy to forget how wonderful it is to truly experience silence, given the familiar rhythm of our daily routines. The late Nan Merrill, author of Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, co-founded a monthly newsletter of spiritual meditations which heralds the mantra – “Is there enough Silence in the World for the Word to be Heard?

  • Can we make time in our active lives to pause in silence, to listen, and be at peace with the One who is our Source for everything?  It is the Lord’s “still, small voice” that persists in speaking to us all of the time.  We, in turn, continually have the choice to decide to be silent, so that we can hear what God wants to say.  After all, this Lenten Season reminds us that the story of Jesus is where we all started from.  It shows us that we have been blessed to come through thus far by our faith.

I want to suggest that we pause to reflect on the fact that we know -somewhere deep down inside of us- that our peace depends upon our willingness to forgive.  And we can go further during this season to be on good terms with others, even those who have hurt us.  Just as Jesus said on the Cross: “Father forgive them; for they do not know not what they are doing.”(Luke 23:34)

Everyone makes mistakes and we are going to be angered and hurt by friends and strangers alike.  We need the intention and the strength to forgive, because we have been forgiven.  A glorious purpose of our lives is to live in a peaceful community where we can be a blessing to each other, because we are all one.



Dear Jesus Christ,

Be by our side today as we seek You in silence.

Quiet our busy minds and guide us to the truth that

You are our source of peace and all that we can ever need.

AMEN


  • This Series, Love Letters Sent to God, will address all the fruits of the spirit.  How I met Juarlyn in Providence, R.I., waiting for the same plane at the local airport, is a story (link) you may enjoy.
  • Having written already on Love and Joy, her next post will explore Patience.  She is the blog’s first guest blogger.

Juarlyn L. Gaiter, Ph.D., a life long Presbyterian and the oldest of three daughters, grew up in a strong Christian family.  Her parents were co-founders with others of a small, community church in Florida; she joined the church when she was twelve years old.

Juarlyn graduated from Eckerd College with a degree in Psychology and later earned a Masters and Doctoral degree in Experimental Child Psychology from Brown University. She spent 2 years in Divinity school, first at the Interdenominational Theological Center and then at Candler School of Theology (Emory University).  She has been a member and leader of prayer groups for over 35 years and is a veteran of silent retreats. This year she will be a student of spiritual direction at The Shalem Institute of Spiritual Guidance in Washington, D.C.


66 Assurance Way

Love Letters Sent to God: Joy

“The joy of the Lord is your strength”

Nehemiah 8:10


“We already have perfect compassion, wisdom and joy.

We only need to settle our minds so they can arise from deep within us”.

Heart of a Buddha, 2003

By Juarlyn Gaiter

There are times when the Spirit speaks to us so clearly that it is impossible to miss the message. I imagine that you have experienced an awareness of times like that in your life. Think of when your much too ambitious “To Do List” got done with little effort, or when what seemed to you to be a problem was accomplished with ease and everything just worked out. These are examples of every day miracles. God makes these good outcomes happen for us because God delights in bringing us joy.

Sometimes we can genuinely feel joyous, but we identify joy as all about being happy. Are we aware that happiness can walk into a room, suck out all of the oxygen, and leave joy over in a corner?  Why is it that we have an easy going, warm comfort level with being happy while giving joy the cold shoulder?  I think that happiness has become our default setting, even though it comes and goes at the feeling level.  For example, we say that we are happy to finally get rid of cable television.  We are happy for a clean bill of health -after a long and dangerous illness- and we are very happy to go on a long vacation.

Happy tends to get all of the mention while joy stands close by waiting to be acknowledged. The truth is that Joy is our spiritual birthright.  It is ever present in all of us.  Joy resides deep inside our hearts and stays with us always and forever.

“These things have I spoken unto you,

that my joy may remain in you,

and that your joy might be full.”

John 15:11

We can endorse this truth, no matter that in our daily round we hear reports of cheating scandals, acts of senseless violence, and tragedy.  Remarkably, we can still find the joy in our lives despite all that we may experience as children of God.  A scripture verse, Psalm 30:5b, is a faithful rock for some of us, who have heard it recited time and time again: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  I cannot recall how many times that I have quoted this verse to myself and to my friends.  We can realize how blessed we are to express joy, because as children of God we are assured that: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)


A Christian author talks about joy in this way:

“To be joyful in the universe is a brave and reckless act. The courage for joy springs not from the certainty of human experience, but the surprise. Our astonishment at being loved, our bold willingness to love in return— these wonders promise the possibility of joyfulness, no matter how often and how harshly love seems to be lost. Therefore, despite the world’s sorrows, we give thanks for our loves, for our joys and for the continued courage to be happily surprised.”

Molly Fumia, 1994 from A Grateful Heart by M.J. Ryan

In this Lenten season, as we pray and seek God’s guidance and forgiveness, let’s bypass “happy” and show up for joy because we know the truth — Easter is coming!


Dear Precious Lord,

Thank you for joy that You have placed deep down in our hearts.

We remember your faithful promise to keep watch over us no matter

what is going on in our lives. Thank You for assuring us that You are our

ever present help in every need.  Let it be so.

AMEN


Photo credit: markuso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Love Letters Sent to God (Juarlyn Gaiter)


 

By Juarlyn Gaiter

When I was growing up, my sisters and I were taught by our parents to pray to God before our meals every day. We also learned and recited a prayer together at bedtime that I still remember:  Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen“.

Do you recall a childhood prayer like that? And at the end of our prayer each of us would mention specific friends, neighbors and family members by name. It would go something like this, “Lord would you please look after my Uncle Norman and bless my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Fair?”. Over the years my prayers changed a great deal, and took on various forms, depending on the particular experiences and challenges that were going on in my life.

Sometimes now my prayers are short and can happen anytime and anywhere. I may say silently a few prayerful words, or make a request of God, when I see someone who looks to be in distress, or while driving I hear a loud siren from a nearby ambulance. And there are other times when I find my way to a favorite place at home, where I sit in silence and pray for at least 20 minutes or occasionally a few hours. A list of specific people to pray for, however, remains a constant in my prayer life that continues today. I suspect that there are many people who have prayer rituals that help keep them connected to, and at peace with, God or a higher power.

It has been said that sincere prayer from the heart is a love letter to God. Most often we think to pray when we are feeling unhappy, stressed or at our wit’s end. At times like this we come to God, not so much on our knees, but with outstretched hands, asking God to please do or give us something. We might ask God for a new job, an exciting, loving partner or perhaps protection for a child who is withdrawn and seems depressed.

If you are like most people, we seldom pray the prayer that lets God know just how much we love God and desire God to be active along with us in our everyday lives. It is easy to pray The Lord’s Prayer when there are no expected, troubling events that threaten to turn our lives upside down.

The prayer that is a love letter, however, is personal, even intimate, because we choose our own words to give it power and meaning. Psalm 39:4 reminds us that “Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord you know it completely.” Although scripture assures us that God knows our very thoughts, it is also true that God cherishes our prayers and longs to hear from us.


  • The following prayer was written by Thomas Merton.  The simple words of the prayer reveal an intimate intensity that shows us how deeply Merton loved to trust and please God.

“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 think that I am following Your

will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the

desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope that 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, Thoughts in Solitude



God will never leave us or forsake us, because God’s love is available to us all the time.  All we need to do is pray up a love letter and ask for God’s guidance.

What follows -in the weeks ahead- is a Series of prayers or love letters to God that I have written that correspond to the description of the fruit of the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Galatians 5:22 – 23 ESV).  Here Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as:

  • Love (My first prayer can be found below)
  • Joy (the next post in this Series)
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Generosity
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self Control

 


Love Letters Sent to God: Love

Dear Lord come and fill my heart with Your life giving gift of love.

Please remind me to find ways to be a loving presence in Your world today.

Let me see how love heals and is not offended by the actions of

others who may or may not be aware that You love them.

Let Your love for my brothers and sisters enter into my thoughts

and be made clear in the words that I speak every day.

Dear Lord please show me how to be an ambassador of love for You wherever I go.  AMEN


Juarlyn L. Gaiter, Ph.D., a life long Presbyterian and the oldest of three daughters, grew up in a strong Christian family.  Her parents were co-founders with others of a small, community church in Florida; she joined the church when she was twelve years old.

Juarlyn graduated from Eckerd College with a degree in Psychology and later earned a Masters and Doctoral degree in Experimental Child Psychology from Brown University. She spent two years in Divinity school, first at the Interdenominational Theological Center and then at Candler School of Theology (Emory University).  She has been a member and leader of prayer groups for over 35 years and is a veteran of silent retreats. This year she will be a student of spiritual direction at The Shalem Institute of Spiritual Guidance in Washington, D.C.


Photo credit: honorbound/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

My Providence, My Providence



While I spent four years in Providence (R.I.), my relationship with Providence (God, my Heavenly Father) left a lot to be desired.  Smile.  I was a Brown University student pursuing an undergraduate degree.  While I was raised in an African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in Long Island (NY), in 1979 I dropped being a worshipper.  I remained a God believer who retained my moral compass, but chose -unwittingly- to toss my religious compass in a ditch!

Ironically, it wasn’t until the 3rd weekend of September 2018 that the New England city earned a spot on my Spiritual Journey.  38 years after I first stepped foot on Brown’s campus.

  • In this post I’ll share what happened that Fall weekend in Providence. Several things that occurred were spiritually fulfilling.  One has resulted in my meeting a fellow alum who will be this blog’s first guest blogger.  Like the Sermon I heard last August, and shared in a post in January, when I experience something in my spiritual soul, I consider sharing it with others on this blog, 66 Assurance Way.

Being on campus in Providence last Fall, for an all-class Black alumni reunion, I expected that being on the Choir that sang at the Sunday worship service would be a joy.  I wasn’t disappointed!  If you’ve ever sung in a choir, or currently sing in one, you understand the fulfillment I found in singing with about four dozen men and woman – with just one practice.  Some attended Brown in late 60s; some were young recent alum.  As we sung “Pass Me Not” that Sunday morning I realized how blessed I was.  I thought, beyond God granting me travel mercy, my blessings from Providence would end when I left the anointed service in Sayles Hall.  Boy was I wrong!

While I did get from TF Green Airport to the Charlotte airport safely, the person that God providently had me cross paths with -waiting for the same plane- was more than I could have imagined.  Her name is Juarlyn Gaiter.

While we spoke for only a few minutes at the airport, we exchanged mobile phone numbers.  I had heard her speak at one of the events at the Brown reunion, so I had more to go on than the reunion bag that I noticed next to her.  After a few text message exchanges with Juarlyn later last Fall, a voice in my head said: You need to ask her if she’ll write a blog post for 66 Assurance Way.  I’d sensed, even in her text messages, that there was a spirituality about her that intrigued me.  As we spoke, and I learned more about her (from the biographical profile I requested), I knew Providence had delivered to me -in Providence- a true Christian disciple!

In this Lent season, a series featuring her poetry and writing will be spotlighted.

I pray that Juarlyn’s health, creative energy, and spiritual voice will remain strong.  I’m confident that she will allow God to use her fully.  I pray that the Lord will -after allowing our paths to cross in Providence- allow our collaboration to be fruitful.  Look for the first post in her Series in a few days.

  • I can now say that my Spiritual Journey has a new city on it:
    • Providence (Where I attended college – and returned as an alumnus of Brown University many times since)
    • Greensboro/Winston-Salem NC (Where I’ve resided and attended church since 2007)
    • Great Neck, NY (Where I lived and attended that AME Zion church I mentioned above, 1966 – 1979)
    • New York City (where I was born)

In future posts on this blog I will return to the role of Providence, the place and my Provider, in my life.  For many years I’ve been reflecting on the irony of making the choice to attend a university -in a city named Providence- and not seeking a new church too.  I envisioned doing one longform post (3,000 words?) on this and then celebrating.  That vision frankly intimidated me.  A few weeks ago, a voice in my mind said: Why don’t you break up writing about your spirituality, since you graduated from high school, into pieces?  And focus on that one Providence weekend (last September) as you introduce your blog’s first guest blogger?


And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work2 Corinthians 9:8 NRS


In this Season of Spiritual Renewal, this blog will highlight:

  • “Love Letters Sent to God” (A Series written by Juarlyn Gaiter)
  • How I came to meet her (this post)
  • The vital role of Joy in the life of a Christian

Look for the first post in Juarlyn’s Series next week.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I have a new reason to love Providence.  To God be the glory!

Peace be with you,

   Greg Silverthorne, 66 Assurance Way


Photo credit: Craig Fildes/flickr(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)