Enough

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O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.

~ Psalm 139:1-3

 “You can be silly or you can be sad.

You can be merry or you can be mad.

You can be grumpy or you can be glad.

God loves you just as you are.

 

You can be short or you can be tall.

You can be big or you can be small.

Your size and your shape don’t matter at all.

God loves you just as you are.

 

You can be messy or you can be neat.

You can be poky or fast on your feet.

March with the others or to your own beat.

God loves you just as you are.

 

You can be dark or you can be light.

You can be shades of the day or the night.

Whatever your color it suits you just right.

God loves you just as you are.

 

God made each part from your head to your toe.

Day in and day out he is helping you grow.

God made you special and that’s how you know:

God loves you just as you are.”[1]

 

I began reading these words to my daughter when she was only a couple weeks old.  I’d nestle her in the warmth and safety of my arms and as we’d rock together in the comfy, oversized chair in her nursery, I’d gently speak into her tiny ear.  Now, I also read these words to my son as together we rock in that same chair.  Nuzzling my cheek into his cheek, and kissing his soft, blonde waves, I hold him close even as he giggles and squirms.

I delight in telling my children how much God loves them because I know how redemptive God’s love is in my own life.  But, how hard it sometimes becomes to understand I’m worthy of such love.  How often I tell myself I’m not good enough, I’m not achieving enough.  I’m not loyal enough, or kind enough, or hard-working enough.

Still, moments of clarity afford me the realization that I am enough.  Not because of what I’ve done or left undone, but because of what Christ has done.  God’s grace, God’s love has always been enough.

Let’s pray together:

Redeeming God,

Love me.  Even when, and especially when, I doubt I’m worthy to receive you.  Shine, beautiful light, into my darkness.  Amen.

[1] Bostrom, Kathleen Long. “God Loves You.” Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL, 2001.

Sunday Evening Prayer

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Imaginative God,

When I was little, I liked to pretend.

Pretend I was a princess, or a ballerina, or a fairy.

Pretend I was a superhero or a Jedi knight.

 

Now that I’m older, I still pretend.

I put on the façade that I’m o.k.,

I pretend I’m in charge, I can handle it, I can keep going, it doesn’t matter.

I wear a mask to hide that I’m hurt and angry.

I’m not anything.

Really, I’m fine.

 

Thing is, it’s time to stop pretending.

I’m so desperate for grace.

I need to be heard, listened to, understood.

I’m broken, I’m not fine.

That’s what you’re here for, God.

Can you please scoop me up and put me back together?

Can you make it o.k. to not be o.k.?

Amen.

 

Run, Baby, Run

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… let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…    ~ Hebrews 12:1-2; NRSV

I like to say I’m a runner-in-training.  I’ll never break any records or win a race.  My version of running is a sluggish, heavy-footed plod.  Then again, although I just started running fairly recently, I need to run.  My emotional and spiritual well-being depends on it.  It’s become my prayer time and my refuge-of-sorts.

I’ve come to appreciate running as a metaphor for life and faith.  I often reflect on this as I trudge along.  Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

  1. You never know what the terrain is like until you actually travel it. It’s an adventure to make your way down a new path to see where it leads.
  2. Hills are tough, no two ways about it. But, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  One way or another, you’ll make it.
  3. Rain can be oddly refreshing. It smells as delicious as it feels.  If you find yourself caught in a shower, linger there for a while.
  4. All you really need is a good pair of sneakers and some water. Everything else is icing on the cake.
  5. Someone’s always faster or stronger than you. But, in the end, the race is only with yourself.

Let’s pray together:

Running God,

Sometimes we sail through, other times we plod along slowly.  But, in all times and in all places, you’re right beside us.  Give us strength to run the race with perseverance, whatever leg of the journey we’re on.  Amen.

 

 

Stay Hungry

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.                    ~ Matthew 5:6

On a spring day in May 1943, at the height of World War II, an aircraft carrying United States bombardier Louis Zamperini crashed into the Pacific Ocean.  For the next 47 days, Zamperini and two others floated on a raft, surrounded by mile after mile of nothing but open sea.  Multiple realities threatened their lives, not the least of which was extreme thirst.  Although surrounded by water, they couldn’t drink any of it because of its extremely high salt content.  Their bodies languished under the stress of dehydration.[1]

Strange as it may sound, I wonder if the Christian life bears some resemblance to those servicemen’s predicament  After all, there’s water all around us, and yet there’s still deep thirst.  There’s an abundance of food, and yet deep hunger.  Following Jesus means we join others in their thirst, that we regard their need as our own.  Our own thirst isn’t quenched until we offer a cup of cold water to satisfy someone else’s thirst.

Frederick Buechner once famously said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”[2]  Where do gladness and hunger meet for you?  How is God summoning you to pick up someone’s else’s heavy bag of need?  Where does God beckon you to join the fold of those who hunger and thirst?

As long as our sisters are hungry, we stay hungry.  As long as our brothers thirst, we also thirst.  We’re all in this together.

Let’s pray together:

God of Abundance,

We’re too content.  We’ve grown complacent.  We believe as long as we have what we need, it’s all o.k.  Give us hearts to join with someone else in her hunger, to see another’s thirst as our own.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] As described in “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” by Laura Hillenbrand.  Published in 2014 by Random House Trade Paperbacks.

[2] From “Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC,” by Frederick Buechner.  Revised and expanded edition published in 1993 by HarperOne.

Sunday Evening Prayer

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God of Blowing Wind and Gushing Water,

The destruction of the hurricane may be great,

but your ability to speak into chaos,

to weave peace into loss,

to fortify those who fear what the future may hold,

is even greater.

 

Work your spirit through those who will rebuild,

who place one foot in front of the other on the road to recovery.

Instill courage and grant perspective.

Comfort those who grieve.

 

Give breath to hope,

give energy to those who help.

We look to you for endurance

and for provision.

Amen.

 

 

Still, Small Voice

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He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.           ~ 1 Kings 19:11-13a; NRSV

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Which could be why I’ve been so drawn to the images which portray the impact of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and surrounding areas.  The statistics may be staggering of homes and property ruined, and of people misplaced and deceased.  The pictures, however, express infinitely more than a statistic ever could:

several men help an elderly woman from her home, as they wade in waist-deep water;

a cavernous room holds a multitude of cots where exhausted people try to rest;

a man sits in a kayak, floating in the middle of a living room filled with water;

two women stand face to face, one cupping the other’s tear-stained cheeks in her hands.[1]

As I’ve gazed at these images and others, my mind has flirted with the encounter in 1 Kings between Elijah and God at the entrance to the cave.  This story takes place during a distinct moment of despair, as Elijah is fleeing for his life.  Just as he needs the refuge of the cave to provide solace and rest, he also needs an infusion of courage to forge his way through adversity.  Sometimes, the pathway to tomorrow is nothing more, and nothing less, than the still, small voice of God echoing within us ever so subtly, whispering to us of who we are and to whom we belong, and pushing us to keep going, to persevere.

It might not seem as though God’s still, small voice is enough to get anyone through.  And, yet we shouldn’t underestimate its sheer intensity.  In the days, weeks, and months to come, we’ll learn to cling to new images which will portray receding water and the rebuilding of communities, outstretched hands, and the solidarity of a nation as we restore what’s been broken.  In all of these pictures, God’s hopeful voice will speak volumes.

We pray our sisters and brothers who are impacted by Hurricane Harvey are visited by the gentle whisper of God’s voice, that this whisper takes the form of compassionate souls who help, empower, and guide, that amidst the clamor of chaos and loss is the still presence of One who will show the way forward.

 

 

[1] These images are part of a slideshow found at abcnews.go.com

Sunday Evening Prayer

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God Of My Life,

You never promised life would be easy.

You never promised I’d have smooth sailing,

or wealth,

or good health,

or perfect relationships, no fear, happiness, fulfillment, employment, world peace, sunshine all day every day,

or beauty.

 

But you did promise to be here,

beside me,

in front of me,

behind me,

above, below, and through me,

when I see you,

when I don’t,

when it all makes sense,

when it doesn’t.

 

Teach me humility,

the art of contrition,

the beauty of brokenness.

What it is to rely on you,

to need you,

to feel you.

 

Amen.

Blessed

Hands

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.    ~ Matthew 5:3

I’ll admit it.  This verse of scripture troubles me.  Because at first glance, it doesn’t make any sense.  Being “poor in spirit” doesn’t strike me as a good thing.  Certainly not a blessed quality in anyone.  Being poor means being deprived of something, whether it’s a basic need, or good health, or another necessity.  Being deprived isn’t a good thing.

And yet, there it is.  In Matthew’s gospel, as Jesus kicks off his list of beatitudes, he says that being poor in spirit is a virtue.  He doesn’t say the rich or the self-sufficient are blessed.  The blessed ones aren’t those who have had it easy, or those who are the best and brightest.  No, here the blessed ones are those who go without, who are needy, who are entrenched in the muck of life.

Maybe what’s really blessed is our dependence upon God.  An understanding that all we have, all we are, all we’ve been and will be, are gifts extended by God’s benevolent hand.  In the end, we can’t rely upon our bank accounts or intellect.  At some point, our health might take a turn for the worst, or the relationships we hold dear might fall apart.  When the road of life gives way to a fork, it usually comes unannounced.

Being poor in spirit is having the presence of mind and heart to rely on God for help.  It’s realizing that just as surely as you need air to breathe, you need God.  This realization, though incredibly humbling, is also remarkably freeing.  God’s in charge, and we’re not.  Plain and simple.

When it comes down to it, we might all do well to be a little poorer in spirit.  A little less proud, a little less filled with the delusion that we’re in control.  As the saying goes, we need to let go and let God.  Let God steer the ship.  Let God remind us of the counterintuitive ways in which we are, in fact, richly blessed.

Let’s pray together:

God of Our Lives,

Surprisingly enough, it’s a good thing to be poor in spirit.  Teach us to get out of our own way.  As much as we might resist, hold us in the palm of your weathered hand.  In you is everything.  And without you, nothing.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Why Didn’t You Pray for Charlottesville?

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Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.        ~ Matthew 14:28-29; NRSV

Following worship this past Sunday, I stood at the door to the sanctuary, greeting members of my congregation as they left.  We shook hands, exchanged warm words, and enjoyed the occasional hug.  But as I clasped one congregant’s hand in mine, she looked me straight in the eye and demanded to know why I’d failed to mention the people of Charlottesville in prayer during worship.  Sheepishly, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, I answered, “Oh no.  What happened in Charlottesville?”

I soon learned what happened.  A young man drove his car into a crowd of protestors who were demonstrating against a white nationalist rally, sending bystanders running and screaming, and bodies flying.  Then reversed the car at high speed, colliding with yet more people.  What happened is that a young woman was killed, and roughly 19 other people were injured, and later on two state police officials were also killed.[1]  What happened is yet one more scary, tragic display of evil in our nation.  What happened sounds eerily familiar to other acts of unconscionable hatred with which we’ve grown all too familiar.

The thing is, I should’ve prayed for Charlottesville and I’m grateful my congregant called me out on it.  I needed to pray for Charlottesville.  My congregation needed me to pray for Charlottesville.  I failed to because I didn’t make the effort to know what might be going on outside of my little enclave of the world.  I was oblivious.  And that’s not o.k.

Ironically, I’d just finished delivering a sermon about how we can’t go through life with our heads buried in the sand.  How we need to be like Peter, get out of the boat, set foot on rippling waves, press forward against strong, adverse winds.  Do people realize how often pastors need to eat their own words?

Prayer is tricky business.  As a pastor for over 10 years, I’ve prayed countless times in front of people, over people, and with people.  I have no idea how many times I’ve led prayer during Sunday morning worship services, but this I do know: over time it hasn’t gotten any easier.  We pray week after week, month after month, year after year for essentially the same things- comfort, help, protection, healing.  For God to hear, to be with us, to give us courage, peace, hope, love. Does it change anything?  Does it make a difference?  Is God listening?  Anyone there?

Who knows what the mind of God is?  Who knows exactly what happens when we pray?  We might never know.  What I do know, however, is how I’m changed when I pray.  And that’s reason enough to keep praying week after week, month after month, year after year.

So here’s my prayer for this week… that next time I won’t fail to pray about things that matter.  That the sheer act of lifting our prayers will change us, making us more aware, more compassionate.  That our hearts will break for what breaks God’s heart, and we won’t quite figure out how to stitch them back together.

Dear God, may this be so.  Amen.

 

[1] As reported by Joe Heim, Ellie Silverman, T. Rees Shapiro and Emma Brown, The Washington Post. 

Sunday Evening Prayer

Adult woman is enjoying morning coffee in nature

It’s all become too complicated:

the apps on my smartphone,

the struggle to squeeze too many tasks into a week, a day, an hour,

the strain on my energy reserves,

the daunting feeling it will never be enough.

 

I need to turn, turn,

turn some more until I come ’round right.

Turn, turn,

turn some more until peace bursts forth.

Behold the simple gifts,

bask in grace’s simplicity,

lay down in a valley of lush love and vibrant delight.

 

So turn me away from what I’ve made too complicated,

free me from the preoccupations which bind me,

forgive me when I take myself too seriously.

Lay me down enveloped in mercy.

Turn, turn, and turn some more.

 

~ Inspired by the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”

 

 

 

In Search of Fuzzy Caterpillars

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The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.    ~ Psalm 19:1; NRSV

Not too long ago, my family hiked up a mountain in a remote enclave of Pennsylvania.  We’re not avid hikers by any stretch of the imagination, proven by the difficulty we had as we trudged towards the mountain’s peak, seven-year-old and two-year-old in tow.  Once we reached the summit we all basked in the beauty of the view, taking in the vivid green of the trees, the blue sky, the rock hewn ground.  We breathed in the warm, clear air.

But for the adults among us, the spell was broken after only a few moments.  Then our minds turned to the sweat trickling down our necks, our hungry bellies, and our thirst.  Impatient, we embarked on the long trip back down the mountain, intent on hastily re-tracing our footprints down the steep path.  However, our two-year-old son, James, had different plans.  Much to our dismay, he was content to stop about every five minutes and plunk down wherever he happened to be.  As the rest of us rolled our eyes and let out deep sighs, he’d eagerly explore everything in his immediate vicinity.

I envy my children.  Theirs is a world of wonder, as yet unfettered by the preoccupations and anxieties that consume us as we get older.  They savor the contours of rocks, and the uneven edges of each stick they pick up.  The gentle trickle of icy water weaving through a creek is music to their ears.  They relish the simple gifts nature so generously gives to us.

How much more enriching life would be if we took the time to notice the intricacies of the natural world.  Away from our smartphones, away from our TVs, and iPads, and laptops.  All we really need to do is step outside and breathe in the crisp scent of an evergreen tree, or touch the vulnerable bud that’s about to bloom into a flower.  Notice the elegant mother deer and two her speckled fawns quietly gliding through the brush.  How is it that she feels comfortable getting so close to people?  Marvel at the fuzzy yellow caterpillar inching his way across the ground, or the spiky white and black caterpillar curling up in the shade of a leaf.  Why are some of her spikes significantly longer than others?

Somewhere along the way, whether we intend to or not, we become immune to the subtle glory all around us.  We’ll never be able to match the Creator’s ingenuity in crafting everything we see, so we should simply savor it, grateful for the God who is so gifted an artist and engineer.

Let’s pray together:

God of speckled fawns and fuzzy caterpillars,

Forgive us when we don’t notice the painstaking details of your creation.  You paint nuances we’ll never see, and conjure up breezes we’ll never feel.  Help us to see, to hear, to feel, to savor.  Amen.

 

 

Mid-Week Meditation: Stop What You’re Doing

Coffee cup on wood table at sunset or sunrise beach

“He got out!  Again!”

Abby’s tired voice echoed through the air.  She, her two-year-old brother James, Tom, and I were staying at my parents’ house in two adjoining bedrooms.  But although Abby was snuggled into bed, James was exuberantly running around the room.

Hearing Abby’s exasperated voice, my parents, Tom, and I arrived on the scene to investigate.  Yet, for the life of us we couldn’t figure out how to get our favorite toddler to fall asleep.  He wouldn’t be safe in a crib because he’d climb out.  He couldn’t sleep on an open mattress on the floor because he’d spend hours wandering around the room (as we’d discovered several nights earlier during an unfortunate hotel stay).  He needed to be contained.

So, we’d fashioned a fortress of sorts for him, constructed out of an armoire, bookcase, two sides of a crib, a large plastic bin filled with wrapping paper, several daybed cushions, and a crib mattress.  Everything was solidly adjoined with several layers of duct tape.

Still, James managed to escape from his impromptu fortress three times.

Ironic how when I think back on that day, my thoughts turn to God and God’s inability at times to get us to rest.  Sometimes, we need to stop for a while- stop working, stop worrying, stop being distracted, stop talking.  But, amidst all of the items on our to-do lists, our anxiety, and our obligations, we find it incredibly hard to do so.  God resorts to knocking us off our feet and building a fortress of sorts around us, despite our protests and repeated efforts to break free.

It’s a gift to stand still, to pause, to take a deep breath, to gain perspective.  God never intended for anyone to move and work all hours of the day and night.  This is as true for two-year-olds as it is for 37-year-olds and 54-year-olds.  When you find yourself rushing and spinning out of control, accept the invitation to stop for a while.

Let’s pray together:

Moving God,

Move within us, so we might be still.  Teach us the beauty of stopping for a while.  And, when we refuse, please knock us off our feet.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Evening Prayer

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico in FloridaGod of the horizon,

here in my little corner of the world, all is well.

My children sleep content in their beds,

the dogs stretch out on the floor, snoring blissfully,

the refrigerator hums, stocked full of food.

Fireflies flicker outside,

the sun settles, its work done for the day.

 

But if I glimpse just over the edge of the horizon,

beyond the quiet setting sun,

I know the world extends far beyond my little corner.

Someone’s crying,

someone’s praying,

someone’s screaming,

someone’s reaching,

someone’s dying.

Someone’s haunted,

someone’s lonely,

someone’s scared.

Someone’s worrying,

someone’s wondering,

someone’s leaving,

someone’s coming.

 

Come by here, God of the horizon.

Come by here to carry us on the wings of grace,

to flicker bright in the darkness.

Come to lift your children up,

to abide,

to sustain,

to redeem.

Come by here with beauty,

with strength,

with hope.

Amen.

Inspired by the hymn “Kum Ba Yah.”

 

 

 

Mid-Week Meditation: The Hydrangea Killer

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They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper.      ~ Psalm 1:3; NRSV

“I think you killed it,” my husband, Tom, observed.

“No, I didn’t!  It’s fine.  It’s just getting settled in its new home,” I defensively answered back.  “Give it some time!”

The hydrangea was a gift of sorts from my congregation.  A couple months ago, it adorned our sanctuary during Sunday morning worship, and one of our deacons gave it to me afterwards.  The hydrangea was flourishing, its gorgeous hunter green leaves giving way to bunches of delicate, fluffy white flowers.

Slowly, though, the hydrangea’s flowers began to sag.  A bug took great pleasure in munching on the leaves.  And yes, I didn’t water it as much as I should’ve.  It died a slow, painful death.

Funny how when I look at that hydrangea, I wonder about all kinds of other living things that slowly wilt and fade away.

Plants wilt (especially if I’m left in charge of them).

Commitments fade.

Relationships wilt.

Passions fade.

Sometimes these things happen so slowly, bit by miniscule bit over time.  At some point, you catch your breath and realize what’s happening.  But it’s too late.  A gaping, ugly reality crept in so unassumingly you couldn’t see it.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the death of that poor hydrangea, but really- we have to sit up and pay attention.  Not take the beauty around us for granted, or the closeness of a relationship, or the promise of a new beginning.  It’s easy to believe the things we hold dear are invincible.  But anything can wither and fade when we don’t nurture and love it.

Let’s pray together:

God of the Living,

Life is precious.  The life of your creation, the life you give us, the life exuded in our relationships, our passions, our commitments.  Help us to keep the flame alive, to be in it for the long haul, to live and let live.  Amen.

 

Sunday Evening Prayer

candlesYou know, God,

lots of people wonder how I can believe in you.

There’s SO MUCH that doesn’t add up.

Too many natural disasters, suicide bombings, mental illness, freak accidents, cancer, dementia, broken relationships, addiction, prejudice, abuse, neglect, poverty, hunger, violence… and on and on and on.

What’s the point of believing?

 

Truth is, most of the time I don’t really have a good explanation

for why I believe.

You’re not a subject to be mastered,

but a presence to be felt.

You’re not a package neatly tied up,

but a breeze, spirit, wind.

Somehow, you’re smack dab in the middle of the mess.

Somehow, you’re solace churning in the chaos.

 

Maybe it’ll all make sense one day.

Maybe it won’t.

Maybe the best I can do is take a deep breath,

breathe you in,

reach toward you,

and feel you reaching out to me.

 

Even with everything I don’t understand about you, God,

this I do-

you can take the anger, the rage, the doubt, the questions.

Your shoulders are broad enough to cry on,

your chest big enough to pound on.

Thanks for letting me rage on…

thanks for never leaving me.

 

 

 

 

Mid-Week Meditation: Arachnids, Hurdles… and You

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… for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.        ~ 2 Timothy 1:7; NRSV

Most people who know me know I’m afraid of spiders.  Actually, “afraid” is really an understatement.  I’m thoroughly freaked out by those eight-legged, eight-eyed arachnid creepy-crawlies who bind their prey in their sticky webs and literally suck the life out of them.  I realize God created all creatures, including spiders, but sometimes I really wonder why.

Beyond spiders, though, I’m afraid of lots of other things, more profound and deep-rooted fears like something bad happening to someone I love, that which is yet unknown in my life, and that which I cannot control.

How about you?  Of what are you afraid?  What stops you dead in your tracks on a Wednesday afternoon or keeps you up at 3:00 in the morning?  What if the diagnosis is bad or the prognosis is poor?  If your son or daughter veers in the wrong direction?  If the financial ends become harder and harder to make meet?  Life produces plenty of what-ifs and difficult-to-navigate situations.

Our scripture from 2 Timothy says God instills within us such forces as power, love, and self-discipline.  While we may not be able to control much of what happens in our lives, we do control our own outlook and actions.  We decide whether fear consumes us, just as we determine how to rise above with love and self-discipline as our guide.  Life is what we make of it.

We weren’t designed to live in fear or to be stifled.  Have courage.  You are your own person.  Go forth with boldness and joy.

Let’s pray together:

Living God,

When we’re afraid, give us courage.  When we feel defeated, reignite our passion.  Again and again, tell us we’re your children, remind us we’re loved, send us forth to be bold.  Amen.

 

Sunday Evening Prayer

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God of the heavens and stars,

Tonight, I’m grateful I can wonder-

at the beauty of creation,

at the miracle of life,

of all that is seen and unseen.

 

God of the human spirit,

Tonight, I’m grateful I can love-

though we’re all flawed,

though we make countless mistakes,

though we often miss the mark.

 

God of the winding road,

Tonight, I’m grateful I can ask questions-

about the future that lies ahead,

about the past,

about that which extends beyond my ability to understand.

 

Tonight, and all nights,

tomorrow, and all tomorrows,

carry me, hold me, nudge me,

God who is, who was, and who always will be.

Sunday Evening Prayer

red windGushing Spirit,

You are not a gentle, cooing dove-

you’re a gale force wind.

Order and predictability aren’t your game-

you spin lives into chaos.

And yet, we hunger for you-

to deliver justice, to breathe peace, to impart hope.

 

London is shaken following a terror attack,

young people are dying from heroin overdoses,

someone will sleep on the street tonight,

someone is afraid,

another is angry,

another is hungry.

Someone wishes life had taken a different course,

someone lays in a hospital bed,

and another woke up in a prison cell this morning.

 

Thank God you’re not placid or unassuming.

Thank God you’re a force with which to be reckoned.

Please, Gushing Spirit, turn our lives upside down,

claim and reclaim us.

There is work to be done,

fences to be mended.

Cynical as we may be,

broken as we may be,

heal us, use us, send us forth.

Give us a swift kick when we need it.

Love us, that we may also love.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Mid-Week Meditation: Need an Advocate?

angel .jpgAnd I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.            ~ John 14:16; NRSV

On the last night of his life, Jesus speaks to his disciples, comforting them.  His arrest is just around the corner, and we can imagine their furrowed brows and fearful expressions as he tries to explain he’s about to go away.

Jesus tells his disciples about the Spirit whom God will send to them.  The Spirit Jesus describes is a force that’s even stronger than all the disciples dread.  One who will lift them up and transform their lives.  This Spirit reaches way down deep into the depths of the world’s pain and those whom the world pushes aside, forgotten and lost.

Jesus’ words remind us of the most amazing gift of our faith: that we’re never alone.  When we feel isolated and hopeless, it’s love which holds us together.  We are bound by a Holy Spirit of reconciliation, and when we abide in the Spirit, we are made whole.

Where in your life do you need this Spirit, this Advocate?  Where are the broken relationships that need mending, and the hope that’s become stunted?  Do you watch the evening news with exasperation, hungering for a society and world in which peace and justice reign?  Do you see people around you who are exhausted, spent physically and emotionally?  Might you, yourself, be one of them?

There are moments we all feel alone, when we wonder where in the heck Jesus is, and what God could possibly be up to.  I’m not naïve enough to believe there aren’t some really good reasons why some people don’t believe in God.  God never promised life would be easy or that we’d have smooth sailing the whole way through.  Some of what we endure is of our own making, but let’s face it- a lot of it just doesn’t make any sense at all.

There are lots of reasons to question, and plenty of reasons to doubt.  Resurrection may be at the heart of the Christian faith, but resurrection comes only after pain and death.  It’s not always easy to see where redemption is breaking through.

It was in the throes of the U.S. Civil War that the poem of an anonymous soldier was discovered.  As the story goes, a confederate soldier had composed the poem at some point, and it was ultimately found in his possession after he died on the battlefield at Gettysburg.  The eloquence of this soldier’s words speaks to the power of that which is unexpected, and the beauty that can be found through adversity.  In his words:

“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,

I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things,

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy,

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for,

but everything that I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all men most richly blessed.”

When it comes down to it, maybe our task is to keep reaching for the Spirit- the Advocate, the Comforter.  And at some point, we might just realize that the Spirit has been reaching downward the whole time to carry us.

Let’s pray together:

Lingering Spirit, abide with us a while.  Linger with us when we’re tired, when we’re afraid, when we doubt and question, and even when we curse you.  Be the solid ground upon which we tread, and the breeze that awakens us to new hope and possibility.  Amen.

 

 

 

Sunday Evening Prayer

white dove in flight.jpg

Come by here, O God.

Where it’s still and quiet,

peaceful and dark.

Come by here.

 

Come by here, O God.

Where it’s loud and chaotic,

messy and unhinged.

Come by here.

 

Come by here, O God.

When we know we need you,

when we don’t know we need you,

when we search,

when we question,

when we struggle,

when we rage on.

 

Come by here,

to be our Redeemer,

our Light,

our Shade,

our Everything.

Amen.

Mid-Week Meditation: Turn Aside

fire .jpg

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”         ~ Exodus 3:1-3; Good News Translation

When God presented Moses with the burning bush, Moses had a choice: he could ignore the bush and go on with life as usual, or he could stop, turn his head, and venture out onto hallowed ground. Something made him turn aside to see the bush that was burning, and yet not consumed.  Something made him pause and listen as God called out to him, prompting him to pay attention to the sound of his own name on the lips of the divine, and to hide his face in the presence of glory.

And thank God Moses did stop what he was doing, in lieu of something much more profound.  Because as he was out on that mundane day, tending some ordinary sheep, the world around him was decidedly not mundane.  His sisters and brothers were suffering in the midst of slavery in Egypt, crying out into the ear of God, tugging on God’s heartstrings to be free.  Had Moses not stopped what he was doing to behold the place where God so obviously was, he couldn’t have been the one through whom God would work to let God’s people go.  Moses was astute enough to realize when he’d set foot on holy ground.

Ever wonder how many times you’ve passed by something that should’ve stopped you dead in your tracks, or how many times a sacred moment has passed you by?  How many times does God call to us to step out from the ordinariness of our own lives and into the larger world of which we are a part… this place, held in God’s care, which pines after wholeness and freedom?  Burning bushes are all over the place.  We just have to pay attention long enough to notice them.

I remember the so-called burning bush that used to stand in the yard of our old house.  It was enormous, reaching up way beyond the first story of the house, its width equally expansive.  It was gorgeous in the fall, living up to its name as it turned a stunning shade of red.  I understand that in some places, burning bushes are considered invasive plants, and I can believe it.  Our burning bush was massive, dominating everything around it.

The day came when we decided to redo the landscaping around the house, and yes- that bush was one of the first things to go.  Only its root system was so expansive and intricate we couldn’t pull the roots up.  So we settled for simply cutting it down, while the roots remained in the ground.

Then again, it makes sense that a burning bush would prove almost impossible to completely remove.  It’s not in its nature.  Its whole purpose is to stick around, to get in the way, to refuse to be ignored.

What’s your burning bush?  What in your life refuses to be ignored, nudging you ever so persistently, summoning you to step outside of yourself long enough to behold the vast, intricate world God has so carefully crafted?

Regardless of what your burning bush turns out to be, one thing is for sure… it’s not going to go away simply by virtue of you ignoring it.  We can turn aside, we can recognize that we are, in fact, standing on holy ground.  And when we take the first step, and the second, and each step after that, towards the burning bush, we might just discover what it is to glorify God in all that we do.

Let’s pray together:

God of the Burning Bush,

So often we stand on holy ground, yet don’t even realize it.  As you prompted Moses to turn his gaze to that which burned, so cause us to turn aside and pay attention to that which burns in our midst.  Make us courageous to step out onto hallowed ground.  Amen.

Sunday Evening Prayer

10603587_720499557986921_5815082670617578187_n

Sitting in the stillness of a sanctuary,

watching a gorgeous sunrise usher in a new day,

holding a beautiful new baby,

listening to the glorious harmony of music,

watching as a flock of birds gracefully take to the air,

your presence is easy to sense.

 

Oh, how we wish it could be this simple all the time.

Oh, that we could exist only in stillness,

in harmony,

in grace,

in beauty.

But life’s a lot more complicated than that.

Life pushes and pulls and nudges.

There are decisions to be made,

responsibilities to take care of,

relationships to mend,

struggles to endure.

 

But you’re a God of the chaos just as much

as you’re a God of the stillness.

You don’t shy away from messiness-

never did and never will.

You’re a God for all times,

and seasons,

and questions,

and doubts.

 

So meet us in all our moments this week-

at our best

and at our worst,

when we know we need you

and when we don’t.

Be the God of our messy lives

and messed up world.

Amen.

Mid-Week Meditation: The Problem with Gates

Mysterious gate entrance.  New life or beginning conceptHappy Friday, everyone!  Yes, we have more of a late-week meditation this time around!  The following are some of my musings as I prepare this Sunday’s sermon.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.        ~ John 10:7-10

At first glance, this scripture is soothing and bucolic.  It conjures up feelings of security and safety.  Our ears perk up as we listen for the Shepherd who calls each of us by name, this One whom we instinctively follow in our quest for life abundant.

But I’ll be honest… the fact that there’s a gate in this equation almost ruins it for me.  Because anytime there’s a gate it means there are some who will be gathered together inside that gate, and others who will be left outside.  There are the haves and the have-nots.  Some make the cut… and others don’t.   It feels very exclusive and, to be blunt, pretty off-putting.

Do you imagine that you’re inside the gate, safe in the midst of the sheepfold?   Being inside the sheepfold is like finally making it home, even as a storm thrashes about outside.  The door closes behind you, blocking out all that might bring harm.  You’re warm and content.  Faith can make us feel this way, reminding us again and again that we’ve been found.  Faith can be a tremendous source of fulfillment and security.

Then again, you might not see yourself as being inside the gate, but rather on the outside, looking in.  You’re out in the middle of the storm, spinning in the midst of the struggles that consume you.  Faith can also make us feel this way, confronting us with many more questions than answers.  Religion can plop you down in the middle of a minefield, where you never feel worthy.  You’re perpetually lacking and your best efforts never seem like enough.

Ultimately, though, maybe the question isn’t whether we’re in or we’re out.  Maybe instead of being gathered safely inside, or left outside, we linger at the door, partly inside, partly outside, partly fulfilled, partly conflicted.

In the end, maybe what it comes down to is how willing we are to surrender and to trust the Shepherd.  After all, isn’t his hand always outstretched?  Isn’t his voice the one that speaks into the chaos, re-ordering our lives?  Ultimately, it’s not so much about what we’ve done right or wrong, where we’ve succeeded or failed, as it is about our ability to be vulnerable and to put all of our ambitions and fears in the Shepherd’s hands.

No matter who we are, or what we’ve done or left undone, the Shepherd’s hand will always be outstretched.  The door is always open.  There’s always redemption on the horizon.

Let’s pray together:

Loving Shepherd,

So much of the time, we teeter on the edge of faith and doubt.  We linger at the door to the gate, hoping we’ll be found worthy to enter.  Remind us, though, that it’s not about being found worthy.  Help us to lean into you, to place into your hands all of who we are.  In you we are whole, in you we are found.  Amen.

 

 

Sunday Evening Prayer

dancer sillouette .jpg

Dancing God,[1]

who danced when the world was begun,

in the moon and the stars and the sun,

blanket us in stillness as night falls

and we are at rest.

 

Dancing God,

who danced for the fishermen,

for James and John,

wake us with the dawn of a new day

with resolve to do the work to which

you call us.

 

Dancing God,

who leads us in the dance,

who tells us to dance wherever we may be,

wave your healing presence over us

as we rest,

as we work,

as we dance to the tune of redemption,

the harmony of grace.

Amen.

 

 

[1] Inspired by “Lord of the Dance” by Sydney Carter; 1963.

Mid-Week Meditation: The Giving Tree

big tree

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; NRSV

1 Corinthians 13 is an exquisite portrait of love at its best.  Love that’s more significant than anything else, exuding virtues like patience and kindness, and enduring, hoping, and believing.

If you’ve ever tried to love someone in this way, you might realize just how hard it really is.  Love isn’t always picturesque, and lots of times it’s not even remotely pretty.  When it comes down to it, love isn’t an ideal- it doesn’t embrace something or someone who’s invisible, but real, flesh-and-blood people with all of our imperfections and mistakes.

The children’s book “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein, points to the depth and complexity of love- it’s loyalty, devotion, and sacrifice.[1]  In this story, a tree loves a little boy.  As the story begins, the boy comes to the tree every day, gathering up her leaves and making them into crowns, and playing king of the forest.  He climbs up her trunk, swings from her branches, and eats her apples.  He sleeps in her shade, and he loves the tree.  And because of this, the tree is happy.

But as time goes by, the boy grows older.  He’s gone a lot, and when he comes back it’s only because he wants something.  He wants money, so the tree gives him her apples.  He wants a house, so the tree gives him her branches.  He wants a boat, so the tree gives him her trunk.  Finally, at long last, the boy has become old and the tree gives him what’s left of her- just the old stump she’s become- so he can sit and rest.

When in your life have you been a giving tree?  When have you loved unconditionally?  When have you given anything and everything to someone else so that person would be happy, and would thrive?

When have you received love from a giving tree?  Who is it that will always be there for you?  Even when you’re selfish, or uncaring, no matter how many times you make a mistake, or miss the mark, or fall short, you’ll always have a strong trunk to lean into.

When it comes down to it, what really matters is love.  Following in the example of the God who has embraced us with boundless devotion, and who’s made known to us in the person of Jesus.  This love is complicated, it’s perfection towards which we strive.

In your life, whomever it is that you love, and however difficult it may be at times to persevere and to continue on, hold on to the portrait of love crafted by Paul long ago for the church in Corinth.

Let’s pray together:

God our Anchor and Refuge, we lift our hearts in gratitude for the giving trees in our lives.  Give us strength and perseverance to love, even when it’s really difficult, looking to you as our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

[1] Silverstein, Shel. (1964) “The Giving Tree.” New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Sunday Evening Prayer

sunrise with rainbow on a summer day

In-Between God,

Here we are-

between what has been and what will be,

between longing and contentment,

between grief and joy.

We turn our gaze in two directions,

impacted by the past and yet reaching for the future.

Wherever we are, or we’ve been, or we’re headed,

be with us here and now,

as only you can.

Amen.

Mid-Week Meditation: Wilting Flowers… Wilting Alleluias

Withered roses

“I am the first and the last,” says the Lord God Almighty, “who is, who was, and who is to come.”    ~ Revelation 1:8; Good News Translation

So, here we are.  It’s the Thursday after Easter.

On Easter Sunday, there’s such joy, such hope.  Streams of “alleluias” resound as we declare Christ is risen.  We point to the tomb that’s empty, to grave clothes that lay discarded in a corner.  Maybe you managed to internalize some of this last Sunday.  But now, the big shebang is over and done with.  The Easter lilies have begun to wilt, and it’s possible we’re also wilting a little.

It might not be all that difficult for you to embrace Easter’s “alleluias.”  You could be beginning a new chapter of your life.  The beginning of a new relationship, the birth of a new baby, starting a new job, starting over again.  You might feel as though you have a new lease on life.  Easter’s joy really does describe your outlook right now.

But, for others, the reality is that after last Sunday, Monday came and life returned to normal.  On Monday, you went back to work.  Or on Tuesday, you went back to school.  Spring break came to an end, and there you were, back again.

Maybe work is hectic right now, pressure-filled, backbreaking even.  Maybe you have a stressful situation going on at home.  You’re the primary caregiver for a family member.  Or, you’re recovering from surgery.  Or, you’re on the brink of a major transition.  You’re trying to make difficult decisions.  You’re overwhelmed.  You’re worn out.

To be in this time after Easter is to live with tension.  It’s being caught in between the glory and tremendous hope of Christ’s resurrection, on the one hand, and the lingering, sometimes difficult realities of this life.  It’s realizing that long ago, something truly miraculous happened when Christ was raised from death, and, at the same time, it’s wondering and questioning how Easter’s miracle is tangible for you, in your own life.

And I’d wager a guess it’s not just the Thursday after Easter when we wrestle with this.  Truly, whether the daffodils are in bloom in April, or it’s a crisp autumn night in late October, or there’s three feet of snow on the ground in mid- January, there’s always the tension between hope and doubt, between that which is seen and unseen, between promise and reality.

Constantly we choose what will be the stronghold of our lives.  With Easter’s alleluias still echoing, we have a choice as to how we perceive what we see in front of us, how we interpret what happens in life.  There’s something in the human spirit that needs to lean into redemption’s assurances and hope, to seek deeper, more enduring truth in the midst of life’s challenges.

Easter isn’t just a day, it’s a reality.  Easter is transformation in our lives.

Let’s pray together:

God of Wilting Easter Lilies,

So many times, our faith wilts.  The road is long, and the journey often challenging.  Give us energy, strength, and courage.  After all, we are children of the resurrection and ultimately, nothing holds us back.  Amen.

Mid-Week Meditation: When Rubber Meets Road

Lent 1 .jpg Jesus said to them, “All of you will run away and leave me, for the scripture says, ‘God will kill the shepherd, and the sheep will all be scattered.’ But after I am raised to life, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

Peter answered, “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!”

Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that before the rooster crows two times tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.”

Peter answered even more strongly, “I will never say that, even if I have to die with you!”

And all the other disciples said the same thing.

~ Mark 14:27-31; Good News Translation

(What follows is an excerpt from my sermon delivered this past Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017.)

Promises can be really hard to keep, sometimes.  It’s a lot easier to make a promise- to speak words- than it is to actually do what you’ve promised.  Certainly this is the case with Peter, whose denial of Jesus tells a story of both redemption and failure.  Peter has no intention of denying he knows Jesus, but let’s face it, it gets a lot tougher when the rubber meets the road.  It’s only when dawn is just around the corner, and the rooster crows for the second time, that Peter realizes he’s done the very thing he swore to Jesus he’d never do.

And doesn’t that same rooster crow in your life, and in mine?  The rooster crows every time we fall short and miss the mark.

Ever sung on a Sunday about loving your neighbors, but then failed to show love to your actual neighbor on a Wednesday?  Ever chastised someone for their inability to forgive, dismissing your own torn relationships where forgiveness is very much needed?  Ever overlooked someone for whom Jesus would have stopped to listen, or been so caught up in your own drama you overlooked the crisis breaking forth in someone else’s life?  Ever turned a blind eye to someone else’s suffering, or need?  Ever judged someone you had no right to judge?

The rooster crows all the time in our lives, and so often, as Jesus kneels in Gethsemane, ready to take on the full measure of our guilt, we fail to stay awake, finding it so much easier to take a nap.

But as many times as we fail to follow Jesus, as many times as we deny him, and walk or run away from him, he won’t ever leave us.  While we follow behind him at a distance, he forges on ahead, into that sinister lair where he’ll be blindfolded and beaten.  When we deny him, he still travels the way of suffering, the heavy cross loaded on his back.  And when we desert him completely, he hangs on the cross, even then speaking unbelievable words of forgiveness and love.

No matter how many times we fail Jesus, he won’t ever give up on us.  No matter how many times our actions place us in prisons of our own making, he remains right there with us.

That’s what this week, this holy week, is all about.  It’s about returning to Jesus, grasping the depth of his love.  As Pastor Roddy Hamilton puts it, this week is the story “of one who reached inside himself and took a handful of love, like a pile of stardust, and said: this is for you.  It is all you need, it is all you will ever need.  There is enough here to change the whole world.  Take it.”

Take this passion story- it’s yours for the keeping.

Witness the story unfolding against the backdrop of our failures.

Behold- redeeming grace rises over the horizon.

Love is within our reach.

Redemption is ours for the taking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday Evening Prayer

Holy week  - The passion of Jesus Christ with Entry into Jerusalem, Eucharist, washing of the feet, rooster and cross. Modern abstract textured digital illustration made without reference image.

There you come,

riding on a donkey

into the dirt-laden streets,

palm branches spread,

cloaks kicking up dust.

Hope for the hopeless,

love for the unloved.

There you sit,

the jar broken

as she drenches your head

in ointment,

anointing you for burial.

Living sacrifice,

agony foreshadowed.

There you go,

into that upper room

tucked away,

the smell of bread and wine

permeating the air.

Broken in body,

poured out in humility.

Here you remain,

redemption in the flesh.

To kneel,

to wrestle with God,

to persevere.

Abide with us,

beautiful Savior,

now and always.

~ Inspired by Mark 11:7-11 and 14:3-9, 12-25, 32-42

 

 

Mid-Week Meditation: Make a U-Turn

All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.

He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

He said, “Who are you, Master?”

“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”

His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.

~ Acts 9:1-9; “The Message” sunshine.jpg

When I became a pastor a little over 10 years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a wonderful gift- a GPS for my car.  It was ideal for someone starting out in ministry, because it would enable me to visit members of my congregation with ease.  Or, to be more accurate, given my terrible sense of direction it would ensure I could find members of my congregation.

But the one time I didn’t care for that GPS was when I decided to go in a direction the GPS deemed incorrect.  The times I actually knew where I was going, but the GPS wanted to take me in a different direction.  Then, it could get pretty annoying.  I’d drive along, and the GPS would repeat “recalculating, recalculating, recalculating…” I’m convinced the voice in the GPS grew more and more annoyed every time it said it.  If it got really bad, the GPS would insist, “As soon as possible, make a u-turn… make a u-turn…”  At that point, I’d press the mute button and fend for myself.

There are times we have a pretty good idea where we’re going.  When we don’t want a voice interrupting and recalculating our steps.  We don’t want anyone to insist we make a u-turn.  This is as true of navigating while you’re driving as it is of life, in general.  We can make our own decisions, we can take care of our own problems.  We don’t need help.  We have it figured out, and we don’t need to be redirected, thank you very much.

This is all well and good, until we come face-to-face with God, who will often insist we recalculate, or that we make a u-turn.  God likes to meddle in our business, and it can be really annoying.  God will whisper in our ear, or tap us on the shoulder, or, when that doesn’t seem to work, knock us off our feet or slam a door in our face.

Take Saul, for instance.  He never would’ve believed he needed a change in direction.  He was just about the most unlikely person to whom Jesus could have appeared.  Up until that moment, when he traveled the road to Damascus, Saul had devoted considerable energy, time, and resources to killing any and every follower Jesus he could get his hands on.  Yet God sent a flash a blinding light, and handpicked Saul to spread the gospel.

Go figure.

God’s presence came at Saul, knocking him off his feet in a flash of blinding light.  Isn’t that often what faith is?  Faith is being knocked off your feet by something irresistible.  It’s being drawn into relationship with a magnet-like force.  Even though you don’t quite know what hit you, you want to change your life.

In its essence, having faith, following Jesus might be nothing more and nothing less than the ability to turn around, to turn toward God.  To move from one place to another, to be regenerated.  Held in the full measure of love’s redeeming grace, we can begin anew, and we can turn around to behold the new road upon which we’re meant to travel.

Let’s pray together:

God of Blinding Lights,

Whether we like to admit it or not, we need you to meddle relentlessly in our lives.  Knock us off our feet with a blinding light, so we’ll truly know you, and understand how fervently you long to know us.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Evening Prayer

Before I wrote this prayerSilhouette of woman praying to god

I washed the dishes from dinner.

And I remembered

the hands cooking the food we ate,

the conversation we had as we ate,

the blessing we said before we ate.

And I felt grateful.

 

Before I wrote this prayer,

I vacuumed the kitchen floor.

And I remembered

what created the mess I vacuumed-

dogs running around happily with muddy paws,

my son throwing his afternoon snack on the floor,

bits of food falling off the kitchen counter.

And I felt grateful.

 

Before I wrote this prayer

I put our children to bed.

And I remembered

how priceless the gift

of rocking my son to sleep,

of playing a game with my daughter,

of telling our children I love them.

And I felt grateful.

 

Before I wrote this prayer,

I felt grateful

for dishes cluttering the kitchen,

for a mess on the kitchen floor,

for our children warm in their beds.

How grateful I am

for an ordinary evening,

filled with blessings,

filled with grace.

Filled with the goodness of You.

Amen.

 

 

 

Mid-Week Meditation: Shells, Quills, and You

Be prepared.  You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.  Take all the help you can get… so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.  Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words.  Learn how to apply them.  You’ll need them throughout your life.    

~ Ephesians 6:13-17; “The Message”

Hawksbill turtle

Hawksbill turtle in red sea

Turtles have shells to protect them.  Porcupines have quills.  Chameleons change colors to blend in.  Skunks can make us stink to high heaven if we get on their bad side.  Nature has given these animals, and so many others, the ability to protect themselves.

People, too, put lots of protective measures in place.  We protect our homes with security systems, our financial well-being with investments and savings accounts, our health with visits to the doctor and health insurance.  It can prove a lot more difficult, however, to protect ourselves against the threats and sources of adversity we can’t see.  Those subtle, systemic, subversive evils that pervade our lives, communities, and the world in which we live.  There’s no shortage of powers that seek to seduce us, promising us happiness if only we’ll buy into them.

The Apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians utter truth.  We’re up against far more than we can handle on our own.  We need all the help we can get.  Our deepest, most profound source of strength comes when we cling to the living God.  When we pray, time and again, to be renewed, to be transformed.

Let’s pray together:

Bold and Empowering God, help us to realize we’re not o.k. all on our own.  We need you.  Grant us clarity of mind and heart to cling to you, even when we might believe we have it all figured out.  Through Christ, our Rock and Redeemer, we pray.  Amen.

Sunday Evening Prayer

Guardian of Our Lives, Keeper of Our Days,

A new week dawns.

Some of us have much to look forward to… others of us dread what the new day will bring.

In all times,

every place,

as each word is spoken,

every decision made,

every struggle endured,

hold us tightly.

Guide us,

guard us,

inspire us,

move in us.

In you we are found, redeemed, and whole.

Amen.

Beautiful sunset sky over Phoenix

Sunday Evening Prayer

paper people chain .jpg

God of Abundance,

It doesn’t feel good to hunger or thirst.

Sometimes, we’re hungry for the dinner that smells so irresistible cooking on the stove,

or pancakes for breakfast,

or, if we’re being honest here- for love, acceptance, or a second chance.

We thirst for grace, welcome, redemption.

 

As unpleasant as it may seem,

open our eyes to the extreme hunger and thirst all around us,

and within ourselves.

Let’s be real with each other,

let’s find one another in our brokenness,

let’s stop putting on the façade that it’s all o.k.,

let’s hunger and thirst together.

Let’s be in this thing together.

We can pine after redemption,

we can take our first steps toward wholeness.

Together.

Amen.