Dawn noted on my last post that I’d basically upped the ante for God- and I think that’s an accurate way to put it. But I guess it’s good to keep in mind that in a poker game, you keep betting until everyone’s even. Ironically enough, I even found mention of a “poker priest” who’ll be on a televised competition, trying to win money for his parish.
I have to say, I really enjoy watching Texas Hold’em, which is a rare game where it’s definitely more about the betting– much more about the betting than the cards. You don’t play the cards in Hold’em: you play the people. So I’ve watched and gotten all the catch phrases down- “Pocket deuces” and “he flopped trips!” and calling Kings “cowboys” and such. And in case you haven’t watched Celebrity Poker Showdown (the one you actually learn the most from) or the World Series of Poker, here’s a quick primer on how it goes.
There are some obligatory bets in Hold’em – a bigger one and a smaller one (half the bigger one)- called “blinds.” Then those who haven’t put in the largest amount in have three options: “fold” and be out of the round, spending nothing; ”call” and put in enough to match the big blind; ”raise” by putting in more money. The trick of the raise is that after that, everyone has to put in enough to match it or else fold. And players can “re-raise.”
And that’s exactly what I think has been happening with me, Ten Prayers, and God.
Today I dawdled and delayed a bit by reading more in Orthodoxy (GKC) and Ten Prayers (DeStefano) before realising that, yes, I did actually have to shower and get dressed (I was in fact in my pajamas quite late- I like them and had nowhere to go yet) and go to Mass. I hit chapter 8 today, well started it- at 1:40 I finally came to my senses (English Mass is at 3- well there’s one at 9 but I’d have to leave at about 8:10 to get there and that’s not going to happen right now).
I had to pull myself out of Ten Prayers in Chapter 8: ”Sometimes Being Smart Just Isn’t Enough; God, Give Me Wisdom.” DeStefano was just telling me about asking God to help with decisions. This is an area in which I can use a lot of encouragement.
I think it comes down to being afraid of what God will say. What if he wants me to be a “holy beggar” or something? What if he wants me to do something completely different from what I thought? What if he tells me and I don’t know how to listen? Actually, the last one is a biggie for me, because the thing I miss most from my childhood is the closeness I felt with him, where I was sure I heard his voice. I don’t regret growing up, but I do regret growing foolish and unable to hear him. How will I know what he wants? And will I be able to give it? I know logically and through faith God won’t give more than I can handle, but that hasn’t stopped the fear. I guess that’s why any time he has a big announcement, it starts with, “Don’t be afraid.” In one sense, I trust God quite a lot– because of my closeness as a child, I have been blessed with certainty of his existence. In the senses that matter more in everyday life… I’m a real skeptic.
But I’ve been smart enough, I think, to be skeptical about my own plans as well. I just don’t know that they’re what he wants, so I don’t have complete peace with them. So I figured I ought to pray that prayer. I almost “dashed it off” quickly as I read and then hopped in the shower. I figured I’d already gone in on the whole charitable giving thing, and that if I really missed that closeness, prayer was the only way to get it back. So I said it.
And God saw my bet, and re-raised me.
As I mentioned in a Quick Take a couple weeks back, I was asked to lector at Mass the second Sunday I attended, after which I also said, I’ll be here til July, so you’ll see me around. Well, every Sunday I’ve been since then I’ve been asked to lector. Not only have I been asked to lector, but I’ve been given the biggest portion- first reading plus the psalm response. Today I only got there with about 5-8 minutes to spare, and figured they’d have already gotten someone. But I guess they were hoping I’d show because I sat down and immediately was handed the lectionary. The fellow who is basically the acolyte and does things like assign readings and get Communion counts told me they love it when I read. I’m one of the few English speakers there from a country where it’s the sole dominant language so it’s easier for me to be expressive I think, plus I figured if I’m reading it I should read it with expression. As long as no one else is getting shafted, I’m happy to help, even though a bit nervous when I step up there.
Given that I’m eight hours ahead of EST, it’s entirely possible that some folks haven’t gone to Mass or service if you’re in a Protestant church that follows the calendar of readings, so here’s a little liturgical “spoiler alert.”
I looked down at the book, and I almost had tears running down my cheeks– my eyes were suffused with them, and are again now even thinking about it. Here is the first reading:
I prayed, and prudence was given me,
I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne,
and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,
nor did I liken any precious gem to her;
because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,
and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.
Yet all good things together came to me in her company,
and countless riches at her hands.
– Wisdom (!) 7:7-11
Okay, okay, I get it. That’s a dose of wisdom, a “trust me” and an implied “be not afraid” all in one, right when I asked for wisdom. I don’t get amazed by “coincidences” — I am constantly amazed by how detailed God is, and how, if you’re looking, he’s really hitting you over the head (lovingly, of course) all the time– he just knows everything so well that he stands behind you encouraging you, and is the ground beneath you so you have a good path, and is the star before you to follow, and when you finally do listen, he’s already in the place he’s been leading you to, ready to welcome you in. It’s mind blowing, because it’s so incredible- and so incredibly loving.
I’ve been shuffling my way along on this wisdom thing for a long time. I think God even helped the priest out with the homily today just for me, the one about the rich man who doesn’t want to give up all his stuff. He said something like, ‘It’s not enough to stay out of trouble; you have to go beyond that.’ Giving God something to outdo, and now asking him for wisdom– and it seems like that line is just for me.
You know what I didn’t mention about betting in poker? At any point in the game, any player who’s still got his hand can go “all in” — and anyone who wants to remain in the game has to go all in, too. I think the reason I was folding so many hands was because I’ve been afraid of going all in. I hope that the prayers I’ve been praying, “God, outdo me in generosity,” “God, give me courage,” “God, give me wisdom,” and “Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” will prepare me to go all in.
I sure hope so– because I’m finally starting to want it again.
Updated only to add categories and correct a typo in which I accidentally claimed I’d been asked to lecture at church– thankfully for both my pride and the very lives of anyone potentially subjected to a lecture by me, I was asked to lector. And all my family will commence laughing now….