Easter Sunday I decided I would start reading one a week book about faith & theology for an entire year, fiction and non-fiction.

I love to read.

I love stories.

I love being challenged and inspired by people who love God and share their ponderings.

I love getting back to early childhood reading practices my mother always encouraged.

Sure, Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Towards Beloved Community is a far cry from Sweet Valley Twins and Chain Letter (teenage horror novels, I could not get enough of them during my teen years… definitely a blog entry for another day :)… but the importance of the practice and the work-out of the imagination is still the same.

Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings is the book for this week. Through his words and the retelling of his life’s story, Love is coming in once again and interrupting life as usual for me.

This book may take me two-weeks though. Sunday I got stuck on a paragraph of a sermon he preached, picking it apart and throwing every possible question I could think of at it. Exhausted, I put it down and did not pick it up again until today.

This morning I came across a question that touched on something I have been journaling about off and on since I can remember.

The author writes:

The challenge for any contemporary spirituality is: “How do we speak of God in the midst of unjust suffering?”

The author goes on to suggest how he believes this can be done, offering a very insightful quote from one of my pilgrim companions Gustavo Gutierrez:

Without the prophetic dimension the language of contemplation is in danger of having no grip on the history in which God acts and in which we meet God. Without the mystical dimension the language of prophecy can narrow its vision and weaken its perception of God who makes all things new…. Both languages arise, among the poor of Latin America as in Job, out of the suffering and hopes of the innocent.

Each daily realization or encounter with unjust suffering, reveals new answers to that question for me. I often come back to the basics… faith, hope and love… be still and know… watch and pray… remember the Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit… speak truth in love always out of what I  know and believe by the grace of God, realizing there is much I do not know and will not understand.

That is the most difficult part of the journey with God, accepting there is much I do not know and will not understand.

I came across a prayer shared on a blog this morning written by a friend of mine in ministry in Nashville. Over the past couple of weeks, I have watched him from afar live some of the answers to some really hard questions in the midst of unjust suffering.  Today his prayer is like breath and water for me, like breath and water…

A Prayer for My City

Jay Voorhees

God, what do you think you are doing?
Many times I can write off bad times as the result of a broken humanity;
but rains that seemed never ending?
I think you are on the hot seat for this one.
Yes, I know, nature happens, and we have very little understanding of the stuff of our world,
but there are a lot of people suffering tonight,
a lot of people scared,
a lot of people whose hope is challenged,
a lot of people questioning their belief that you never give more than we can handle.
If I sound a little ticked off, it’s because I am.
A day watching poor people throwing all their ruined belongings in the street will do that to a man.
So does looking at pictures of places I love now destroyed,
destroyed by that which is necessary for life.
This sucks, God.
Sorry, I said it, but it’s true.
It’s true when you fall through the floor of a trailer because the flooring is so saturated with water that it can’t hold you.
It’s true when the flood water subside and everything inside the house is covered with mud.
It’s true when the mold comes — the deep, black fungi that seek to take over the home.
It’s true when you know that a city — my city — is put on the ropes by something that has never happened before.
It’s very true when you read the story of a 21 year old father whose only failing was that he worried so much about the   well being of his kids that he challenged the rising waters and lost the battle.
And yet,
you still are God,
and as we find ourselves by the rivers of Babylon weeping,
you take that which sucks and wring out the good things,
things like people from different nationalities and faiths working together to empty a house,
things like inmates and students working cooperatively to sandbag a water plant to keep water going,
things like people opening their homes and their hearts to those in need.
So God, if you will,
take some time off from the water business and get on with the heart transformation business,
leading brother and sister to transcend the mud and mold,
and rebuild something even better.
And God, if you will,
keep an eye on my city,
cause it’s home and I love it.
Dry it out and lead us to new depths of love and care.