Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hope part 3



Prayer practice this week

Remember those paper advent chains you would make as a kid to count down the days to Christmas?
Each morning eagerly removing a link getting closer to the day you'd open presents.
You'd watch it shrink until only a few links clung to your Christmas tree.

This year...what if you made a paper advent chain with 25 paper links...writing your prayers on each.
      Maybe you can write down reflections from the past year on what was good, bad, and ugly.
      Maybe you can write down a prayer for each day...a person or place in your hear.
      Maybe you can write down a prayer for the coming year...how do you hope the presence of God in Emmanuel will make a difference in the coming year.

What if instead of counting down...we count up.
What if instead of counting down...we allowed this prayer practice to help us process our pain rather than pass it along.
What if instead of counting down...we let these pieces of paper lead us deeper into hope for such a time as this.

C.S. Lewis said that prayer doesn't necessarily change God...prayer changes us.

May our journey to the stable this year clear away clutter and deal creatively with the chaos of our lives.

With prayerful hopes for this Advent journey ~

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hope Part 2



Lighting a candle of hope when the night is falling around is an act of courage.
Lighting a candle of hope against the night creeping in is a deep act of prayer.
Lighting a candle of hope to keep the night at the edges is to be open to God's presence even here and now.

The candle may not solve Syria, but it might help you see the suffering of those half a world away.
The candle may not solve fear, but it might remind you that fear is not the only voice in the world.
The candle may not solve hopelessness, but it might help us see our pain clearer and deeper.

We light one candle of hope at the beginning of a new church year not only to light the way to Bethlehem, but to light the way for the coming 365 days.
We light one candle of hope at the beginning of a new church because hope is first sign post we need to notice and name.

What hopes are stirring and swirling in you right now?
Seriously...stop...light a candle...and name your hopes

Do some of those hopes seem foolish?  Like wishful thinking?  Like a thing with feathers that might be whisked away with the slightest breeze?  Keep going deeper.

Do some of those hopes seem vulnerable, a bit of timidity and trepidation to admit them out loud?
Good!  The candle is helping!

Have some of those hopes been so covered by years of cynicism and criticism and concerns that others just won't understand?  Because our hopes need to first be spoken to God and ourselves.

We need to live with hope day-after-day.

Barbara Kingsolver says, the least we can do is build a place for our hopes...and the most we can do is live inside that place where hope is at.

As we take the first tentative steps toward Bethlehem may the movement awaken hopes now and for months to come.  And may your hopes keep you company as we journey to the stable where hope is born anew and afresh even here and now.

Advent Blessings ~

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hope



How absolutely foolish to light a candle at the beginning of Advent and call it, "Hope".
Have you not read the paper?
Have you turned off the news?
Has your ears not heard the unrest and hurt and pain and noticed this mess?

Who would believe that one candle can help?
What happens if a strong breeze...or even a weak one at that...might stir and cause the flame to flicker, fade, and even extinguish suddenly becoming a rising stream of quickly disappearing smoke?
Where is hope then?

Maybe hope is not only the candle.
Maybe what is lit is hope within us.
Small.
Warm.
Drawing us deeper.

Hope needs to be tended and trimmed.
Hope needs to be fed with oxygen and space.
Hope needs us to notice.

Where do you long for the light of hope?
Where does it feel foolish and you'd rather not admit it out loud?
And where might you hold hope for another whose heart, hands, head are too full right now?

For the candle of hope reveals, to all who draw near, that there is a deeper truth which causes the light to burn brighter:
We are not alone.
In the light of hope, we see another.
And we find the courage, strength, conviction we need to face another day.

May God's hope burn brightly beside you.
May God's hope find space within you.
May these words and the ones stirring with you right now...be hope in the days to come.

With much love and hope ~

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Good-bye



I said, "Goodbye" to someone today.
He laid his head upon my shoulder.
I felt a tear well up in my eye.
We might never see each other.
No matter how much we may try.

The miles can be so daunting.
The busyness of life can force us to stay.
So the days start to pile up.
As the word "Goodbye" fades away.

Sure the memory lives in our heart.
And you never know what happens when a new day starts.
But something seems so final.
And sometimes the "Goodbye" makes us idle.

So, we say it, and something else not spoken.
Something deeper that can never be broken.
For in that, "Goodbye" I felt a deep tug,
Of a love we exchanged as we hugged.

So we say the word,
The heart holds on.
Maybe one day, I might hear another word that I long to share.
"Hello!"

With love and blessings ~

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Problem of Pain


The problem of pain, C.S. Lewis, observed is it exposes the cracks we'd rather ignore.
It awakens our inner atheist who wonders if God exists.
It awakens our inner agnostic who wonders if God cares.
It awakens the doubts and the tears and all the things we think are not part of faith.

But struggling with God is one of the widest ways to encounter the divine...
To be sure it is fraught with potholes, bumps, twists and turns, we'd rather avoid.
It is filled with ups and downs that causes our hearts, heads, souls, and lives to feel dizzy.

But Israel means to strive...struggle with God.
Jacob wrestled;
The People of God wandered for forty years;
Years later, they were carted off to live in exile lamenting, "How do you sing to God in a foreign land?"
And the soil that bares that name still longs for peace.

Perhaps faith is not the absence of conflict, but what helps me breathe through the pain.
Perhaps faith is not a guarantee, but a promise...and there is difference.
Perhaps faith is not certainty, but mystery that continually invites us deeper.

In the face of pain, I remember one of the great lines from poet Leonard Cohen,
Of course there is a crack in everything...that is how the light gets in.

And while that light might not solve everything.
While that light might barely keep the darkness at bay.
It does help us see, if only a few feet.

And for the One who is as close as our next breath,
That is enough for us to maybe sense that pain is not the only truth there is in that moment;
For God is there too.

Blessings ~

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Processing the Pain



When the hurt is heavy as a rock on our soul,
When all the tossing and turning can't help us find rest.
When the unanswerable question, "Why?" seems to be our only companion.
When our heart is broken...

How do we process the pain?

When all the words ring hallow and the container of balm is empty.
When others stare and glare as if to demand us to try to explain...
But the words are slippery and won't satisfy
And all we want to do is sigh.

How do we process the pain?

When the valley is deep and dark and the days of lush green grass of Psalm 23 is light years away;
When God might seem angry...or distant...or at least disinterested.
When our own voice doesn't even sound familiar to our own ear.

How do we process the pain?

When we know the deep ditch that Saint Julian of Norwich fell in.
When we cling at the dirt walls and seem to constantly slide and slip down, unable to gain our footing.
When we long for Julian's prayer, her beautiful prayer in that pit of life, "That all will be well, all will be well, in all manner of things, all will be well"...to be our prayer.
But it just isn't yet.

How do we process the pain?

We keep speaking, even when the words don't seem right.
We keep sharing, even when we disagree.
We keep showing up, even when we might rather be alone.
We keep holding on to words like, "forgiveness" and "hope" and "love" because even though they might not fit, they are the words our hearts long to wear.

And somehow, in some way...perhaps as we hold those words.
Forgiveness
Hope
Love
We might realize they are actually holding us.

For all those hurting, for all sorts of reasons...may the One who loved you into being and the One who claims you as a beloved daughter and son help you as you begin to process the pain.  And I pray you find a safe space that will hold you and wait with you and keep watch with you.

Many blessings, grace, peace, and love ~~

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tuesday prayer


When all the speechifying stops.
When all the ads stop shouting at us,
Where will we find ourselves?

When all the votes counted,
All the stickers passed out,
And the polling place is closed,
Where will we find ourselves?

When we wake up tomorrow morning,
will we face our divisions that has been visited on every generation since our Civil War.
Where will we find ourselves?

When the cries for peace and love and justice
Fall deaf on the ears of those with power,
Where will we find ourselves?

We find ourselves still praying for God's realm to come.
Inside
Around
Here and now...
But it rarely comes knocking on our door with a quick fix or easy money back guarantees.

God's presence comes in like a weak force,
At once we might miss
But deeper still God was always there.

I pray for our country today,
I pray for peace.
I pray for one day we might stop waiting and start being the embodying and enacting and expanding God's realm.
For two thousand years, Jesus has kept saying, "It is at hand."
Right there
If you reach out.
And I pray today, we might reach not just for winning, but for God's grace for all people.

Many blessings ~

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Peaceful Walk



The wind whipped around me,
Refreshing after weeks of humidity.
The sun had already set,
The moon, stars just starting to twinkle over head.
Dusk...and wind...on this All Saints Day.

When in-between the full sun and darkness of starlight.
When in-between the space where everything makes sense and pure mystery.
When in-between the noise of voices clamoring and the quiet center.
Like standing in the doorway, not quite inside or out...but enjoying pieces of both.

That was the walk tonight.
Nothing amazing, life-changing.
Nothing that would constitute a best-selling book.
Nothing that would deserve a re-tweet or thumbs up on Facebook

But in a quiet space of a peaceful walk with the breeze,
There is more than a trace of grace...there is God.

Blessings ~

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

For ALL the Saints



The hymn is stuck on repeat, replaying all day long.
"For all the saints who from their labors rest, Who Thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest, Alleluia! Alleluia!"

This coming Sunday, we will light a candle and name the saints who have passed from this life into the next.  It is a powerful ritual.  It is powerful because the names awaken memories.  It is powerful because with some names I can still hear the sound of their voice.  It is powerful because when I see all the candles burning...I glimpse the truth of the phrase, "A great cloud of witnesses."  We are blessed by our ancestors...our forefathers and foremothers in the faith.  Men and women who taught us Sunday School.  Grandmothers who held us in their lap as they softly whispered the psalms in our ear.  Our teacher who banged out hymns on the piano.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who confessed, professed, and helped us catch the faith.

Yet, increasingly, we know that much of the cultural story tellers of the faith are fading fast.  People are not brought up in the faith from a young age.  Church attendance continues a downward slope.  But please know that this not another guilt trip...but simply a statement that as saints in the church today we have work to do.  We need to keep sharing the extravagant love of Jesus, because there are other voices that preach a different gospel.  We need to keep being open to blessedness so we can be blessedness in our work places, volunteering, at the soccer field, and when we are out getting groceries.  Another All Saints Day speaks prayerfully about how we can meet saints anywhere, "You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea; For the saints of God are just folk like me, And I mean to be one too."  Maybe it is a little hokey, but it reminds me that saints are not just people from the past, they are in our midst in the present.

They are people who allow the light of God to shine through their words, actions, and presence.  Not perfectly, not all the time.  Sometimes we still get mad a children or the person who cut us off in traffic.  Saints respond honestly and try to keep letting that light of God burn brightly.  And realizing more and more that this is less about what we do and what God is doing in us.

I pray you will give thanks for the fingerprints of Saints imprinted on your life and heart.  I pray you will continue to let God's love drench your life every day.  I pray that there will be more than a trace of grace as we turn the calendar to November.

Blessings