Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sabbath Prayer Part 5


Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 

And we like clay touched by God...

God's DNA etched upon our lives.
God's fingerprints pressed upon our hearts.
God's presence woven like a thread into the fabric of this day.
God's colorful creation upon the canvas of life we all paint and seek to create.

The prayer is an echo of Genesis 2....where God sinks God's fingers into the soil to craft and create the first human.  It is good to note that the word in Hebrew is the generic, non-gender specific for human...not just "man".  As a matter of fact the word human comes from humus meaning earth or soil.  In our soul there is the soil of the earth.  We are made up of the same stuff as star dust.  And because energy can neither be created or destroyed...just recycled...we are living proof of resurrection, new life, formed from the energy of yesterday for this day.

God takes, touches the clay to fashion and for creation.

We are formed in loved to be love in this world.
We are formed in creativity to be creative in this world.
We are formed from the earth to never forget the good soil in our soul.

Yet, we don't always live out the profound and powerful truth placed upon each one of us.

So, I suggest we remember by buying Play Doh...or actual clay if you are bit more serious and sincere artist.  That every day your prayer time takes time to touch the clay to remember that glob speaks a profound truth about who you are and whose's you are.

When we do that, I think we can touch holiness in a beautiful way.  We can live out of a beautiful place.  To be sure, it might not solve every problem in the world.  Most of the mystics and faith people of the world have been honest about their own limitations.  After all...I really am just a lump of clay.  An amazing lump of clay that can run, type, make jokes, cry...and one day will cease and return from the good earth from which I was born.  And that truth for me sings out from my soul with good news of great joy this day.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sabbath Prayer Part 4



Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 

So far we have sought to step into this prayer....let it settle and seep into our soul...sing to our hearts and speak to our lives.

Do you have a favorite word or turn of phrase so far as we've returned to it?

Have there been moments when you've glimpsed the grace of God, like a lightning bolt illumines the night sky?

Have there been moments you've sensed the sacred in the ordinary this past week?

This prayer connected with another beautiful set, series of words I recently ran across.  It is from a song by Cloud Cult, entitled: Through the Ages.  These are the words:

We were born on a lightning bolt, grew up in the ocean salt, 
We’ve traveled through ten thousand lives. 
So if ever I can’t see the magic around me, 
please take my hands off my eyes. 

I was prayerfully pondering that as I drove to church on Sunday.  There was the news of Charottesville, VA weighing heavy on my heart.  I considered all the divisions and differences in the world.  How in the world do you speak into a time such as this?  I was listening to this song, when I looked out the window and saw a beautiful, bold rainbow!  To be sure, it didn't solve everything.  People are grieving in VA...we struggle as a country to name bigotry and bias and refuse to confront white privilege for what it is....we deny the pain by consuming more and more.  Brene Brown says that we are the most addicted...overweight....medicated culture in all of history.  So, that makes you feel good, he wrote sarcastically.

You see, I don't need to see the world as either/or...it is both/and.  Pain and beauty...brokenness and blessedness...life and death...Christmas and Easter.  You can't divorce the two truths...like a teeter-totter they are both true.  Like the night sky with the gathering storm...and the lightning bolt that illumines us to see for a few seconds.  Both are true.  We don't have to choose.  We won't always be able to fully understand.

So, we pray that we will take our hands off our eyes to see the beauty, joy, hope...as well as the brokenness and pain around each of us.

I keep coming back to this prayer...to let it form a well worn rut in my soul until I can say the words from memory.  

I pray you are finding more than a trace of God's grace in these words as we continue to let them sing and speak to our hearts in these days.

Grace and peace ~~ 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sabbath Prayer part 3



Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 

I have been praying this prayer all week...and finding it helpful.  So often, we rush through a prayer like Kleenex, thinking a prayer should be one and one.  But maybe a meaningful, prayer that has depth can be returned to time and time again.  Prayers like the one above is like a stream, each time I step into it, let its words rummage and roam around my life, something is different.  Prayers like the one above is like a stained glass window that is always changing with the light that streams through it.

So, I love the line about the bush burning unconsumed.

Or as one of my favorite poet puts it:

“Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

There are moments when I pluck a lot of blackberries without realizing I am on holy ground.

So, my invitation is to savor the simple taste of each bite today.
Savor the conversations, even...or especially...the difficult ones.
Savor the ordinary.
Savor the mundane.

Have you ever noticed how joyful it is to pick out a flesh apple from the store?

To be sure, life is difficult.  There is too much suffering.  There is too much divisiveness and debate.  There are too many people pushed to the fringes.

But every now and then, some thing simply sacred helps preach another word to those truths above.  A kind word to a Muslim woman at the story.
A hug to someone who is hurting and wondering if anyone cares.

It isn't that these minuscule moments suddenly become monumental.  But they take on a significance it is easy to miss...like a delicious blackberry from a burning bush.

May you notice the bushes unconsumed with a trace of God's grace in your life this day.

Blessings ~~

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sabbath Prayer part 2



Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 


So, we dove into and dwelt in the first sentence in the last post.  Did you have some time to stop...breathe...and be in the last few days?  Did you lay out your days (good/bad/ugly) alongside God's loving presence?  

If we think that for our eyes to see or minds to know it is only about what we will discover in a book or seminar or TED talk...
If we think that for our eyes to see and minds to know we need to find someone who is smarter than we are and sit at the feet of the master...
If we think...to quote one of my favorite authors...we can think our way into a new way of living, rather than live our way into a new way of thinking;
We need to step back.

Perhaps part of the miracle we discover in the ordinary and every day is seeing through God's eye glasses and having understanding through the humble practice of walking with God.  
Perhaps part of the miracle is just being in God's presence.

Barbara Brown Taylor says once a week we should be, "Good for nothing."  I have yet to take that sage advice as seriously as I should.  I am not a good slug or sloth.  Yet, if I think I just need to read a bit more or listen to one more lecture on slowing down...then I will finally get it...this prayer upsets that apple cart.

Parker Palmer says that there is a hidden wholeness within each one of us.  As a teacher, he advised students to pay less attention to the information he was giving (that is, don't take notes).  Instead, as they listened was there a truth that stirred from deep within?  Those are the moments when the lightning strikes and we see...perhaps a bit afraid...but see nevertheless.

Have you had a lightning moment this week?  When the sudden flash of light illuminates more than we can see?  Is there a person who helps you with that?  Is there a practice that helps you with that?  

For some it is meditation.
For some it is music.
For some it is art.
For some it is laughing.
For some it is poetry.
For some it is reading psalms.
For some it is sitting on the beach.
For some it is walking in the woods.
For some it is sitting next to their dog.

And I could keep going...but I think you get the point.  What are those flashes of brilliance and brightness that help you on the journey see, if only for a few moments, the traces of God's grace in your life?  And practice those in these days.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sabbath Prayer part 1


Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, "How filled with awe is this place."    Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book

There are moments that I can feel like I am sleepwalking through the wonder of this world.  There are moments when the din of the twenty-four hour news cycle diminishes and distorts my ability to notice the Good News that God is here...right here...and also right by you as you are reading this post.  It is easy for me to get caught in the vicious cycle of my own to-do list that I miss moments when God is suggesting I stop.  Stop trying to be super spiritual answer man...although I really think the outfit for that super hero/heroine would be awesome.  Stop trying to think I can think my way out of everything.  Stop trying to be all things to all people...darn that perfectionism voice singing in my head.  Stop.  Just stop.

Whatever else you might think prayer is...prayer is stopping.  Ceasing.  Just breathe and be.  It amazes me that so many people today gravitate toward meditation, mindfulness, and even yoga.  As Christians we have failed to teach and tell people that our prayer practices in their most ancient and authentic form have more in common with Buddhist meditation than the laundry list; let's ask God to fix everything understandings that we often associate with prayer.  Prayer is slowing down to God's grace-filled pace.  Prayer...as CS Lewis said...doesn't change God, it changes us.  But when was the last time an opening prayer in worship lingered much longer than the few seconds after it was spoken?

One of the reasons why I find the above prayer so compelling is that it speaks truth in ways that help me slow down.  There is so much in the above prayer.  I love the initial, opening line.  It is a recognition that we cannot stop time.  It flows on like a never ceasing stream.  It causes me to stop.  Think about your day so far.  The hours that have landed you to this one, holy precious moment.  What about yesterday and the day before that?  What are the events still lingering and leaving an impression?  I am talking about the good...like spending time laughing with my family at Monte Python.  I am talking about the bad...like having to cut down tree limbs and my back is still aching.  I am talking about the ugly...that time I might just have said something I instantly regretted at the last church meeting.  Gulp!  Those days.  Those very human, beautifully messy, days.  Our days are our life...our life is made up of days.  And beginning there with prayer is right where Genesis 1 begins with God.  So, it seems to be a good place to pause, to stop, to cease and let God pull up a chair alongside you to see what you've been up to.

Now, amid those events and experiences that made up your day, was there a miracle?  Usually, we think of a miracle as something outside the realm of reasonable explanation...and usually with a heavenly light shining down...perhaps a verse or two of Handel's Messiah being sung.  But what if, a miracle is simply seeing the world and your life in a new light?  How about the moment when my wife today said to me, "It's better to forgive yourself for a small blow up, than to let it simmer until it eats away at you.  Better to feel the emotion."  So good!  Or how about sitting here, working on this blog that I pray in some way tethers our two lives together?  Or how about a good piece of dark chocolate I am going to eat when I finish?  It doesn't have to be a Disney production to be a miracle.  In fact, the more I notice the miracles in every day...the good and even in the bad and ugly...the more I start to sense that God's grace isn't just a trace...it is an impression upon every day.  But, it begins with stopping...breathing...being...and listening for God.

Of course, chocolate doesn't hurt either.

Grace and peace

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vacation...


While I am with my family resting...enjoy another of my favorite vacation memes.

And just because this one is hilarious...


And this one...


And this joke...

A preacher was completing a temperance sermon. With great expression he said, "If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river!" The congregation nodded their approval. With even greater emphasis he added, "And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river, too!" The people clapped and were saying "Amen." And then finally, he concluded, "And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river!" As he sat down, the song leader then stood up quite cautiously and announced, "For our closing song, let us sing Hymn #365: "Shall We Gather at the River."

Grace and peace!!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Vacation...


While I am with my family resting...enjoy one of my favorite vacation memes.

And this one...


And this one...


Grace and peace!!