Saturday, May 27, 2017

Beyond Games prayer


Boundless God...

We are so good at trying to figure our the rules to life.
We want to be safe and secure from all alarms.
We long to be part of the inside group.

Your prodigal/extravagant/amazing/abundant grace scares us.
We'd rather define and confine the party to people like us.
We'd rather baptize our own believes, that let go to trust in Your unconditional love.

Challenge us beyond commercialism.
Transform us from transactional understanding.
Keep nudging us with a nourishing sense that there is more than we can possibly understand.

Each day is a mystery of meaning.
And we barely see the beauty of a clean plate or really taste the sweetness of a grape.

Each day is full of Your grace.
And we get caught up in defining and confining where we'd be okay for Your grace to go.

Boundless God...
We pray that Your unconditionalness would define not only Your love, but Your patience.

We can be a bit stubborn about this.
We can want to pontificate and preach, rather than be and breathe.

Help us this day to be steeped in a sacred stirring of Your spirit that makes all the difference.

In the name of the One who lived his life caught up in Your flow, Jesus the Christ.

Amen.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Beyond Games Part Two



Last post we dove into the since that everything and everyone belongs.  I ask for you to play and pray and live with it.  Question it.

Everything...really?

What about that annoying co-work/neighbor/family member/friend who you would prefer drive their plastic flimsy car off a cliff?  Whoops...did I say that out loud?

We have turned life into a game...not only financially, but also with God.  God, some churches proclaim, seems to only love you when you are singing that you, "Just want to praise him."  Such a God seems a bit narcissistic for me.  Or God wants me to go out and fight for what right.  Why wasn't I at that protest?  Or maybe, how could I not believe that God is unchanging, unfailing, and silent as night?

Richard Rohr challenges us to let go of a transactional God...one that is only interested in our good deeds or right belief.  The prodigal (which means extravagant, excessive, over-the-top) grace and love of God finds us where we are.

The Prodigal God will embrace the mud soaked younger son with his prepared speech and give him a coat and ring (that probably belonged to the father in the first place).

The Prodigal God will go out to the older son with his prepared speech of pain that has not been processed of righteousness...and still invite him to the party too.

The Prodigal God isn't playing a game...God longs for relationships...connections.  And as we all know, relationships are messy and broken and rarely perfect.  God is willing to go to the mud and muck.  God is willing to listen to anger/venting.  And God longs for us to see that inexhaustible love is the same for all.

Or...

Everything and everyone belongs!

We don't always act that this...but maybe it is time we start, especially in such a time as this.  The only thing that can over come divisiveness is love.  Not a love that wants to proof why you are right and the other side is wrong.  Love that listens. The only thing that can bridge and help heal divides between political understandings; urban/rural; gender; race; sexual orientation is a love that sees the other as God's beloved and belonging.

For far too long we want to control who is on the guest list.

It is time we let the prodigal God have that so that we might focus on sharing love with others.

It is far enough work for my energy to try to do this...

So may the invitation that everything and everyone belongs stir in your midst this day and this week with a trace of grace.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Beyond Games


        The pale blue plastic peg sat silently in the ruby red car that had all the structural integrity of our family’s Ford Pinto.  We were about to begin to play the Game of Life.  It was always curious to me that the starting line didn’t include spaces and scenes from Elementary School such as,

“Someone makes chocolate milk squirt out your nose at lunch, go see the school nurse and miss a turn.”

Or how about a place on the board from Middle School,

“Giant pimple appears on picture day, spin a five or high to convince your parents you have the bird flu to stay home.”

Or from High School,

“Congratulations you have your first job, realize that someone named FICA is suddenly very interested in you, give 7.65 percent of your income.”

Good times.

None those experiences and events of early life are on the board.  Instead the game fast forwards and you face a forced choice of needing to decide should you take the long road of college or shorter path of work?

Your blue or pink plastic peg waits expressionlessly for you to decide.  And we could certainly critique that for many people in our culture this isn’t really a choice.  There are circumstances and social prejudices prevent and serve as a blockade for people to attend college.  But, you take a deep breath to remember, Milton Bradley was a beloved child of God too ~ blessed and broken as the rest of us.

It does remind us that there are those moments when we are faced or forced into a choice; which road should you travel, traverse, and trudge down to make your way in the world?

Pause for a moment to ponder a few of the intersections in your own life.

What to do as graduation day approached?

When to stay or leave a job?

Or when your first child has colic at nighttime.  And your sleep deprived brain is trying to remember if the magic formula that worked last night was five times around the table clockwise or counter clockwise?  That is not on the game board either, but was a part of my game of life.

Again, good times.  

Like the board game, we don’t get much backstory on the parable of the prodigal family (Luke 15:11-32) who puts the "fun" in dysfunctional or what exactly led to the younger son fly, fleeing the nest.  We don’t know if maybe the two brothers always fought and were at each other’s throats?  Or maybe there had recently been an argument which was heated, hurtful and harmful moment where words were said at family dinner causing the younger one to say, shout, “I am outta here.”  We don’t know if maybe the two were always opposites.

The younger one might have always up for an adventure.  He may have dreamed one day to be a camel driver or longing to go explore Egypt; while the older one saved his pennies and dreamed of purchasing that new plowshare.  We don’t know if maybe the family always lived separate lives, never seemed to connect.  And in the large gaps of the back story of the Prodigal Sons, we are delighted to insert our own stuff.  We can tend to project and place onto this narrative our own family dynamics, because goodness knows my older brother always saw the world black and white and I needed space to roam and breathe.

Like the board game, the two pale blue plastic pegs of sons seemingly select different pathways.  But how different are they?  One physically leaves, but I get the feeling from the older son that he emotionally, spiritually left his father years ago.  One sets off for a distant land, but it feels like there is also a distance between the older son and father even as they live under the same roof.  Each have a chance to offer a speech.  One a confess of brokenness and the other a confession of frustration that had been pent up, pushed down for far too long.  Both remind us that pain that is not processed is passed along in some way.

Like the board game, both of their paths will at the end converge and come back together when the father invites both to the party.  We know all too often, that some family members never come home.  Some parents never throw a party with an ice swan sculpture but instead use an icy silent treatment.

Which is why I love that the ending of this story is like an unresolved chord.  We are left hanging and hovering there.  Because unlike the Game of Life where you count up your money to see who wins, which perhaps is a harsh, hard mirror of a reflection of our values as a people still today, this story doesn’t have an easy to swallow ending.  Which rings true in my life.  Reconciliation with family and friends doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes we are left hovering in the air like Wiley E. Coyote of cartoon fame when he would hold up a “Yikes” sign before dropping down hundreds of feet.

We don’t know what happened the day after the party.  Did the older brother eventually come in, grab a lamb shank with extra mint jelly?  Did he do so glaring and daring the younger brother to come over and talk with a silent sneer on his face?  Did the grace of the father un-harden his heart, those words, “All I have is yours” break through the barriers and blockades, the years of resentment that had clogged his soul and sight until he realized that grace is not a transaction or a balance sheet or a zero sum game.  All I have is yours.  The father can say that both to the younger and the older son, because God isn’t play a game with us.

There is no game of grace.  No rules that say the one with the largest bank account gets to retire in God’s love and the rest of us go to Shady Acres, which we all know is just short hand for loser-ville.  While grace is a precious resource ~ it is inexhaustible, inclusive, unconditional and unceasing; but that kind of grace is offensive because the rest of the world doesn’t work that way.  We were taught, ever since your plastic peg was put in that flimsy car on the Game of Life that there has to be winners and losers; you are either good or bad.  It is what Richard Rohr calls dualistic thinking and we are excelling at it today in our country, in our comments on-line, and in our common life together.  To move into both/and sense, where there is goodness and grace in all things and in all people is really the invitation of faith.  To be sure, some dualistic thinking is absolutely necessary and needed.  When I go into a restaurant, I need to make a decision because the wait staff doesn’t deserve a philosophical platitudes from me about how both the salad and soup are equal in God’s eyes.  Just order.  But there are times when we need to set aside our judgment, our categorization and our compartmentalization of everything, to see that everything and everyone belongs.

So this week...spend some time entering into the trace of grace that everything and everyone belongs.

Question it...
Play with it...
Pray it...

And we will return again to this idea in a few days.

Grace and peace

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Music for the Soul Part 3



It has been a blessing sharing a few of the songs that get on repeat both on my ipod and in my brain.  I really do believe that sharing music that has meaning is a great way to connect.  I also believe that hearing your experience with these piece is an incredible blessing.  The point, for me, is less, did I like it?  But more to listen deeply.  Our musical tastes are as different and distinctive as each of us are as individuals.  We are blessed to live in a time where it is so easy to share some of this music with you.  I grew up in the era of mix tapes and trying to catch/record a song off the radio.  I would sit for hours listening to, "Hot FM...the heartbeat of the heartland, WXYZ of Des Moines."  There was the thrill of actually recording the song...the agony when the tape stopped before the song did.  Sharing a mixed tape with another person, especially someone you had a crush on, was clearly a labor of love.  Trying to find just that right mix of songs to convey your feelings.  Now I can go to itunes or youtube and in under a minute have three songs picked out ready to post to the blog.  Where is the challenge in that?  😊

I pray this piece is one you find meaningful.  It is a daily prayer for me...that I need God every hour and I want God to abide because otherwise life is in vain.  I also love Jadon Lavik simple style of singing...I feel it from the depth of his soul.  Feel free to sing along!  And may you sense more than a trace of God's grace in this moment.

Grace and peace ~~


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Music for the Soul Part 2



Hopefully over the last few days the melody and words of the first piece of music I share have been stirring your soul.  I love the line, "We bend, we may break, but we keep it together."  I find myself singing that over and over throughout my day.  And when the hope seems to flicker and fade within my life, I need something a bit more basic.  I need to remember to breathe.  Just like music works on many different levels, so does breathing.  When we are afraid or anxious, physiologically our breathing become more shallow.  To take deep, belly filling breaths is one way both to calm down and a basic reminder that in the beginning, when God fashioned and formed us with fingerprints of love, God breathed the divine breath into us.  So may you breathe today as you listen to this music.  And may you sense more than a trace of God's grace for you.

Grace and peace ~~

 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Music for the Soul Part 1




Music moves us in many different ways.  We hear words that engage our intellect, as we seek and strive for understanding.  What is this combination of words seeking to convey, we ponder just beneath the surface?  As the words swirl and swim together, we seek meaning and whether this series of words might speak specifically to our lives.  But, beyond the words, there is a pulse, rhythm, or what is called the math of music.  What is the meter of the music...fast or slow?  Is it a series of short staccato notes or long ones that draw you in?  Of course, the ways the words and beat come together makes a difference.  And the mood we are in.  When I am feeling down, I really don't want to hear an 80s hair band...unless I do.  You see, music won't be confined or contained.  It moves, because there is a soul to music that speaks to our heads, hearts and core of being.  Over the next few posts, I want to share some music with you that is making a difference.  The first is by a band called, The Undeserving...which is perhaps a band we all feel like we might be part of on certain days.  The piece is called "Something to Hope For."  Each day, I think, each of us strives for something to hope for.  I sometimes wonder if people come to church out of hope...or out of habit...or maybe some mixture of both.

What are you hoping for today?

How might this song sing to your soul on this ordinary Tuesday?

I pray you find a trace of God's grace in this song.

Many blessings ~~


Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Prayer


The mood in the house on Friday night is one of celebration.
The week has come to a close.
School will not come knocking for several days.
Work is complete, the computer is closed.
The air is thick with pizza and the promise of ice cream awaits us as stars shine down.
A movie is waiting patiently for us.

These times seem so simple, but profound.
I wonder if looking back which of these Friday nights will really linger and last?
Which ones will be so deeply written that they will form the backbone of a story?
And which ones will be forgotten.
Forgotten not because they didn't matter.
In the moment, life was fully.
But forgotten because our memories seem to be able to hold only so much.

My prayer is this Friday
Laughter will come easy and honesty.
Connections will be found after a busy week.
A communion moment because God loves even frozen pizza.
A holy moment of being present to each other incarnationally.

A simple prayer from my heart to your home.
Along with wishes that the traces of God's grace will strengthen and sustain you.

Many blessings ~~