Monday, January 22, 2018

Lord's Prayer - Names

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.

Over the next few posts, we will explore the New Zealand version of the Lord's Prayer above.  There are so many powerful, profound, and beautiful parts of this prayer.  I want to encourage you to not only read this...but let it roam around.  Don't only read it with your mind, let it rummage around your life.  Enter into the prayer with an openness and prayerful-ness that might make a difference in these early days 2018.

We start with the truth that New Zealand Lord's prayer starts with a variety of names.
Eternal Spirit;
Earth Maker;
Pain Bearer;
Source of all that is and will be;
Father and Mother...

There are so many names for God.  To refer to God as, "Eternal Spirit" reminds us that there is a timelessness to God.  There is no time when God was not.  The eternal part of God encompasses and embraces the whole of history.  Yet, there is a mystery...a spirit to God.  In John 3, Jesus says to Nicodemus that the Spirit is like the wind.  I cannot see the wind, but I feel it.  I may tune into the weather and hear the direction and pressure, but that doesn't tell you what it feels like to have a refreshing breeze baptize your face when you are standing in the warmth of the sun.  It doesn't tell you how the wind can cut through you when it is negative 12 below zero outside.  It doesn't tell you how a wind can knock you off your feet.  The Eternal Spirit suggests there is an endless presence that swirls and stirs around us.
We can know this mystery through the marvel of the earth.  Creation does proclaim and preach the glory, splendor and sacredness of God.  God crafting and creating all that is around us...from the smallest participle to a porcupine to a palm tree outside my window...there is a connection to God through creation itself.
Yet, it isn't only beauty, but also brokenness...God as the pain bearer.  Often we point to God's self-giving on the cross...but this quality of God was there from the beginning of Exodus when God heard the cry of the Israelites in Egypt.  This isn't a distant or disinterested is an intimate one that impacts God's whole being.  God's heart breaks.  God sends the prophets not to judge but to lead the people back to relationship with God.  God sends Jesus to show love embodied, even to the point of a cross.  This Eternal Spirit who fashioned humans in the divine image...knows our deepest woundedness and wonderfulness. 
So, God is the Source, the starting point of all that is and will be.  God as the center or core.  Theologian Paul Tillich would call God the ground of our being...the foundation on which faith flows from and forth.  Such a beautiful image says that we are not the center of our own universe, it isn't all up to us, we are part of a play in a thousand places...with people we don't even know.  The source, the well as the well as everything in-between...this is God.
Finally, I love that the New Zealand prayer breaks wide open the names of God to embrace both Father and Mother...the sacred female and male images.  Sometimes we need God to be our Father and other times our mother and still other times the Spirit source beyond definition or description. 

The New Zealand prayer starts this way to not be exhaustive in the ways we can name God.  Nor does this prayer say we have to choose one of these title exclusively.  The prayer starts something that we need to continue.  We continually have to ask ourselves, how do I understand God today?  What are the ways our understandings are helpful?  Are they hurtful?  Where do they stumble or soar; sink or stand tall?  All these questions are vital and important. 

How would you name God?

May that question open you to more than a trace of God's grace in these days.

Grace and peace ~~ 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Change take 3

We have grieved and let go.

We have spent time in the neutral zone, patiently persisting with openness.

Now we enter the third stage of new beginnings.

Remember that first day of school with all the nervous energy and endless questions.  What would the teacher be like?  How much homework would there be?  Would my friends be in the same class?  Would there be new friends?

Just as grieving is a process...
Just as being in the neutral zone can take time...
So, too, the new beginning - for the joyful anticipation, new car smell, hopefulness, and tentativeness it can awaken - needs to take time too.

We might want to rush in quickly...sign up for everything.  I see this sometimes around the church.  People dive in head first into everything.  After a few months when the constant, perpetual motion isn't offering the meaning, it is easy to get disillusioned.  To be sure, some people love the church and will attend every meeting with gusto.  But most folks, need to enter in like a child into a swimming pool by just dipping their tippy toe into the water to test it out.  Daring to dive in takes courage.  Daring to dive in, we need to take a deep breath and come up for air.  Daring to dive we need to let our lives be buoyed by a spirit.

In the new beginning celebrate what feels life giving.  But also name and notice where the new places maybe even has some disappointments.  Remember - no place or person is perfect or completely broken - usually somewhere in the messy middle.

I think a new beginning needs a slow, savory, steady pace with lots of breaks. 

I think a new beginning needs companions who help us celebrate as well as compassionately listen when it isn't quite what we'd hoped.

I think a new beginning is like when you start dating someone.  Listen, learn, and know that you cannot speed, microwave or manufacture your way through it.  Time is a gift in the new beginning.

Just as God's grace was there to help you let things go and grief.
Just as God's grace was there to help you patiently persist through the neutral zone.
Let God's grace be there to celebrate and immerse yourself fully in this new place and beginning.

Such is the nature of transitions and faithfully facing change.

Grace and peace everyone.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Change take 2

In the last post, we explored letting go/grieving changes as a way of transitioning.  Let's take time with the second stage of William Bridges process - known as the neutral zone. 

This is a time in-between or in the meantime.  Something has ended (and by God's grace we've grieved it).  But perhaps something new has not yet arrived.

The neutral zone is aptly named...we shouldn't feel any one way about it.  But it will bring feels of both excitement/freedom as well as some nervous/a sense of being too free.  People may constantly ask you - when is the next blog post coming, the next volunteer opportunity, or you get busy doing something.  We are so used to the litany of being busy...than when someone is waiting with a persistent patience (which by the way is a GREAT prayer posture) unnerves us.  So, we nudge them to get with the show.  Or maybe touches that jealous nerve in all of us.  Or maybe holds a mirror to our life we'd rather not gaze in. 

This neutral zone is a time of active waiting.
The neutral zone is the Church Season of Advent...when we are watching and waiting but don't know exactly when the new life will arrive because we did not order it on Prime and we cannot track it through a website.  It moves in the slow, steady work of the Spirit.

In the neutral zone there is work to do...

You wait expectantly...and appreciatively.
You keep open, gently taking each invitation into your hands.
You talk to others who are open to be still with you.

There is a line in contemplative prayer that you sit on the shore watching the boats go by, but you don't board ever boat.  You notice it.  Some may cause some excitement...notice that...ask why.  Some may look boring...notice that...ask why.

The neutral zone looks different depending on where you are at with letting go and grieving what is past.
The neutral zone looks different depending on how soon the new opportunity knocks on the door.
The neutral zone looks different depending on what it wants to teach and tell us for such a time as this.

To be in the neutral zone is to breathe and be.

And to trust that there is more than a trace of God's grace there!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Change take 1

As we reach the midpoint of the first month in 2018, what sorts of changes are stirring within and around you?  Which changes have you initiated and which have others decided to initiate for you?  Which did you welcome and which would you like to show the door and say, "Thanks for coming, bye-bye"?  Are the changes happening in your head (thinking), in your heart, in your soul, or in your body?  Or all the above?  Are there changes in relationships, at your job, the place where you volunteer, in family or with neighbors? 

I am already one paragraph in on this post...and haven't even touched or talked about changes in our culture or country or world.  The one constant (ironically) is change.  William Bridges in his book, Transitions, says that change is what happens around us and to us, but transition is our response, reaction, and process by which we travel through the change.  That is an important distinction and difference.  We have an important part to play in the midst of change.  How we deal...or decide to not deal...with the change is crucial. 

If you made a list of changes right now, what would be on that list?
In our country

Beyond describing or defining the change...what sorts of emotions does that shift awaken?

Taking time to notice and name the change is a great first step.  Taking time to describe and define.  Taking time to be acquainted is as a great place to begin.

Bridges in his book will say in every change we need to grieve and let go of the loss.  Second, we enter the neutral zone.  Third, we embrace the new beginning.

What kinds of ways we grieve a loss?

I think you can get out a piece of paper and write down everything you celebrated about the past as well as the concerns it caused.  Remember to take off the rose colored glasses, nothing is ever perfect and very few things are ever completely broken.

As the past twenty questions and the first ten don't count.

Get our your colored pencils and color the loss.  Which ones to you find your hand naturally going toward?

Write a poem or sing the loss a song.

Go for a walk...better yet go for a walk and talk with someone else.  Speaking the change out loud I believe makes it more real, especially when someone else is listening.  For the person who listens, s/he is not allow to fix or give you advice.  Just one affirmation.

Find a symbol for the past.  You may need to hold it in your hands for awhile...or you may need to bury it in the earth.

Give yourself time and gentle, but firm...grieving is a process that no one else can define the timeline for you.  But it is good to write in light, light pencil the process.  Feel free to erase as the slow work of the Spirit moves in your midst.  Please know, this process needs to be constantly edited. It needs freedom.  It needs to take unexpected exit ramps.  It might go backwards or stop/stay still.  But check in with the process to listen silently to the truth it longs for you to hear.

Fill in your better ideas here!

Defining the ways we let go of a loss is one way to begin...then you roll up your sleeves.  Or to use another metaphor, you set aside your dinner napkin and put on your apron to get into the kitchen to cook and taste and try the recipes you need to move through this first stage of transition.

May there be more than a trace of God's grace as you do so...


Monday, January 15, 2018

Words of Wisdom

On this day when we honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, I want you to listen to the words he preached in his final Christmas sermon entitled, "Hope".

Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

May these words of wisdom offer more than a trace of God's grace...but be born/lived/leaned into in such a time as these.

Blessings ~~

Friday, January 12, 2018

Random Thought 3

Recently, my son and I went to see the new Star Wars movie.  I will totally try not to spoil anything about the movie.  I think most know that Rey, the heroine of the movie, goes to study the way of the force with Luke Skywalker.  There is one exchange between them that I found so profound.  It went like this:

Luke Skywalker: Breathe. Just breathe. Now reach out. What do you see?
Rey: Light. Darkness. A balance.
Luke Skywalker: It's so much bigger.

The insight and idea that light and darkness are not opposites, but in balance, is really at the heart of all religious thinking.  Too often, religious language wants to say that some stuff/behavior/beliefs are good and other stuff/behavior/beliefs are bad.  But such either/or thinking truly needs to stop.  Not only is it unhelpful, it is hurtful to much of God's good/amazing creation.  There is darkness in this world.  Sometimes that is scary and other times sacred.  Almost every mystic at some point (regardless of which teacher s/he was following) has an experience of the "dark night of the soul."  You cannot go around it.  You cannot fast forward or buy your way through it.  You have go into the wild, wilderness wandering at night.  You have to stumble and fall.

It can happen when you get a pink slip unexpectedly.
Or grief pays an unwelcomed visit.
Or a relationship abruptly ends. 
Or pain just sits in your soul for some other reason.

So often, we forget in those moments to breathe.  Just breathe.  We also lose our ability to see quickly.  The narrowness of the moment puts blinders on our eyes.  All we can see is the loss or feeling left out.  We don't notice those who are reaching out, because we might be pushing them away or our pride might be preventing us for asking for help.  The root of the word, "anxious" is the sames as narrowness.  It is when we feel stuck between that rock and a hard place.  When all paths seem blocked.

That happened in Scripture as the Israelites were exiting Egypt.  Suddenly their forward process halted by a big old Red Sea.  Some threw up their hands in frustration.  (Sounds familiar).  Some wanted to give up.  (Yup, been there too).  Some said, "Thanks a lot God" because we love to deflect our pain to others.  Then, a new way opened up when the sea parted.  I wonder how many times I have been too busy mumbling or grumbling about the darkness or brokenness that I missed the parted seas in my life?  Because I didn't just breathe and be open to God who continually is creating anew and afresh.  And remember, even when the people of God got to the other side...they still had to wander in the wilderness for forty wasn't all promised land next left as their feet stepped onto dry land.

It is so much bigger than this.  But for now, can you let these random lines of dialogue sing to your hearts?  Can you enter into the mystery they point toward and proclaim?

May the traces of God's grace offer you moments to breathe and be on this day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Random Thought 2

Laughter to me is a form of prayer.  I believe this because laughter is a full body experience.  You process the joke in your brain, your body responds with a sound of joy, your heart and soul dance to the music coming from you. 

We live in a world where so often we focus on the brokenness and pain.  To be sure, we should not ignore these realities and especially those who are hurt and need healing.  Yet, if we think we can manufacture a perfect world before we every laugh or enjoy...we might be waiting awhile.

I take joy in the fact that I believe Jesus laughed joyfully at times.  I think of the time some religious people asked him about paying taxes.  He asked for a coin...inquired about whose image on was on it...then I am convinced he pocketed that coin given to him.  Or the time when he invited himself over to Zacchaeus' house, he had to be laughing to himself.  I wished we had more stories about Jesus telling jokes with his disciples.  There needs to be moments when we allow the cathartic release laughter brings.

Would you please pray with me:

God who delights in the peculiar and perplexing,
God who formed the duck-billed platypus
And who crafted colorful rainbows that come out after the rain.
God who loved to appear in the most random ways
To Moses in a burning bush that wasn't consumed...
To Elijah who fled for his life and was hiding in a cave...
To our world in a dusty, drafty barn...

Help us find our love of laughing.
Help us rekindle our ability to laugh at ourselves.
For me to laugh when I get too serious or somber or scholarly,
Let Your grace work and wiggle in my life,
Tickling my soul with joy.

Surround us in these days to hear the beauty of laughter...
Sustain us in these days to see the wonder of joyfulness...
Strengthen us in these days to not only sing about joy to the world, but to embody that prayer in our very lives.

In the name of the One whose presence still brings a smile to our faces.