As I walked into our nearly dark church sanctuary last night (we have a Wednesday evening worship service at 5:30PM these days, which is actually growing in attendance, which is nice, but I wander) I noticed a couple of people towards the front of the worship space looking at an array of objects on the chancel platform.
I greeted them and I heard the voice of the sixth grade girl say, "Pastor Bart, would you like a wish bracelet?"
I said, "What is a wish bracelet?"
"Well, you choose one of these bracelets I've made. I tie in on your wrist, you make a wish, and then you wear it until it falls off. Then your wish comes true."
Now I'm not much of a believer in wishes, but I am a believer in prayer. Not wanting to create a philosophical quandary with such a genuine offer from this delightful young person, I said, "Sure, I would love to have a wish bracelet."
She showed me my options, and immediately I chose one that has two colors of green intertwined, one a life-giving grass-like green, the other a nicely contrasting lime green. At the center of the bracelet was a single large green bead.
"That's a good one," she affirmed. "It's even got my lucky bead in the center."
I'm not one for "luck," either, but I graciously accepted her offer. As she knotted the bracelet with two twists she said, "OK. Make a wish." I paused for a minute, nodded my assent, and she said, "There's your wish bracelet."
I've decided I would use my wish bracelet to help me pray for my son, Mike. Mike's eyes are green, varying between a light blue and the intensity of the grass green, sometimes almost a lime color, so the colors of my "prayer" bracelet remind me of him. Several years ago while he was in treatment somewhere (there've been too many times to remember) Mike crafted for me this green beaded celtic cross, which I have occasionally worn as part of my pastoral identity. It's another connection for me with the greens, my faith and my son.
It's funny how a new object on one's wrist seems annoying at first. Every few minutes I feel the bracelet against my skin, and I am reminded of Mike, and I pray for him. It's hard to know what to pray, because it is so basic. I mean, I want Mike to get out of jail, get a job, finish high school and stay out of legal trouble. For most of my kids I don't even have to pray that way because they have mastered (or are mastering) these goals. But with this son it's really just that foundational and just that basic.
I wrote Mike a brief letter this morning, explaining how I would be using my "prayer" bracelet.
I am not ready to give up on you, Mike, and I know that God is not done with you, either. As I explained to you last night in our visit, there is not much these days I can do to be helpful. But as there are things I am able to do, I will try my best. I want you to be able to finish high school, to get a job, to pay back your restitution.
I want you to never touch drugs or alcohol again. I want you to find friends who will be positive (or at least neutral) in your life. Most of all I want you to find happiness and to find your way in the world without further jeopardizing yourself or others
There was, of course, more to the letter, but mostly I wanted him to know that my desire is to maintain a connection with him even though that will be difficult because he can really not live in our home anymore. I want him to know that he is not forgotten, and that there is a person in the world who really believes something can change for him.
If I were simply a pragmatic truth-teller I would say there is little hope and that no change is possible. And maybe there isn't. But I'm not quite ready to give up yet.