Friday, April 20, 2018

St. Francis Prayer ~ take six


Hopefully (building on the theme of the last posts) by now you are starting to sense that this prayer is not meant only as a prescription but a description that can work and wiggle into our lives.  We can read this prayer time and time again, like water over a rock, slowly letting it smooth the rough edges of our souls.  We let this prayer turn and tune our lives because the soundtrack of society blares and blasts too much hate/injury/doubt/despair/darkness - and we long for and thirst for another way.  Not that love/pardon/faith/hope/light are opposites, but as a response that might grow within us as a gift of God.

When I arrive at the doorstep of praying to bring light to darkness, I am reminded of the spiritual, "This little light of mine...I'm gonna let it shine."  I am able to let my light shine because the One who is light shines on me in amazing ways.  In Florida, we sometimes joke about being, "Solar powered," because if it is grey/gloomy for too many days (which is to say more than one), you can really start to hear it and see it in others.  Our vitamin D has been so elevated, that we crave it.  Yet, just as I cannot control peace; I cannot control darkness. 

Or another way to say all this is to suggest that the above are seasons and responses.  There are seasons (as Ecclesiastes 3 suggests), but what happens outside doesn't have to be the only voice about what happens inside.  Christ came to show us that even in a time of oppression, violence, hatred, and anger, there were ways we can live which might dance to a different beat of a drummer.  Rome would talk about "Pax Roma" or Roman Peace.  This was a peace only Caesar could bring...but it was a peace of oppression by taxes ~ peace won by a sword ~ peace of conformity or else the crucifix.  Christ came to talk about God's peace as for all, especially the least, lowly, and lost.  Christ came to talk about peace through non-violence.  Peace even in facing death, not as the end, but as a way to life abundant. 

Even in the darkness night, our eyes amazingly can find some light.  Sometimes from one small star above or a small strip of light creeping in through a crack in the door or even from the flashlight on our phone.  Leonard Cohen wrote that, "There is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in."  The crack is not brokenness...although it is that too.  The crack which we might want to repair or replace that item now because it is broken...might actually be the very location where God's grace gets a word in edgewise. 

So may the moments of darkness we all find in the course of a week also see more than a sliver of light in your life...and may that be more than a trace of grace.

Blessings ~~ 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

St. Francis Prayer ~ take five


We want to plant ourselves in peace.
We long to let love be the fruit that grows from our words.
We long to let pardon be a practice we engage in for the sake of ourselves and the world.
We long to let faith be the verb that feeds and fuels our lives.

Five posts into this prayer, we can start to feel overwhelmed.  This is a lot.  This runs counter to what seems to come naturally and normally to us.  It can feel like "oughts" and "shoulds" that shut down dialogue rather than encounter it.

Or, in short, we might feel some despair.  Again, it is important to say that despair need not be the opposite of hope, but an element of hope.  Hope is not some prize we can tightly cling to or control.  Emily Dickenson was right, "Hope is a thing with feathers."  That phrase means hope is flighty and free and far from our ability to force it to conform or contort to our way.  Hope will visit us, we pray it might even reside within us, but it is not something we can pick up at the grocery store.  Hope enters in unannounced, with serendipitous surprises. 

Part of my concern is that you might be reading all these posts thinking, "Well, I guess I just have to try harder...or do more."  We make faith out to be some prize or trophy.  Instead, faith is active, living, and growing.  Like a plant, we can shape its growth, but cannot force it.  I cannot will my tomato plant to grow faster.  I can water it.  I can tend it.  But it takes time.  So, while there are things I can do, there are also places I need to let God be the gardener ~ tending and teaching me how to be in the world.

Hope comes as a guest.
Hope knocks softly...patiently...persistently.
Hope comes in unexpectedly, unannounced, and will sit quietly.
Hope is around.
But like waves of water;
Like air currents
Like the butterfly that just landed on the flower outside,
I can't control.
I can only receive the trace of grace
Also called, "Hope."

Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

St. Francis Prayer ~ take four


St. Francis is looking to turn and tune our lives toward peace ~ perhaps that is what is at the center of this whole prayer and the petitions that follow (like ripples from a stone dropped in the water) radiate from there. 

He invites us into the Jesus ethic of love - of self; of neighbor; and even of enemy or the one who is sowing seeds of hate.

He invites us into the way of pardon or forgiveness.  After reflecting on this petition of the prayer in the last post, I read this by Ron Rolheiser, "The struggle to forgive is our greatest moral, psychological, and religious challenge.  Most everything in us wants to protest to the call of forgiveness.  When we have been wronged and hurt by people close to us and systemic injustices, everything in us CRIES out.  A thousand emotions rush, run through our whole bodies."  Rolheiser is right...forgiveness impacts our whole bodies from mind (where our thoughts object) to our nervous system and emotions to our hearts which long for justice to our bodies where the stress and strain can sit uneasy upon us. 

Perhaps, we doubt if we can do it, which is where the next line of the prayer knocks on the door.  I do find this prayer very meaningful.  However, in its rhythm, we might hear these words through a lens of dualism.  That is hate as the opposite of love.  But as Rev. William Sloane Coffin said, actually the opposite of love is fear...fear of ourselves and others.  Or that injury is the opposite of forgiveness.  Yet, none of us escape life without scars externally and internally.  Likewise, we might hear and think that doubt is the opposite of faith.  But as Paul Tillich said, "Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but a component of it."  Actually, what St. Francis is suggesting is not that we can ever eradicate or eliminate hate or injury or doubt.  These are daily experiences, part of the soil we walk down every day.  And these realities of hate and injury and doubt can either make us bitter or call us to choose another way.  We can either continue to let these realities grow and go unchecked OR we can try to live in God's realm.  Most of the time, this, too, is not an either/or choice but a both/and decision.  We find some peaceful ways to live and other times the chaos of life around us and within us continues to swirl.  We try our best to respond to hate with love, but sometimes say something sarcastic to the person who is throwing shade.  We try our best to forgive but it can be a slow process of being a little less angry each day.  And we can seek to live faithfully, but there are days doubt not only creeps along the shadows, but might call us to dance with doubt. 

It isn't that we can or even should avoid hate...injury...and doubt - but we also need to be careful only letting these realities be the only ones singing to our lives.  In my experience, hate, injury, and doubt don't bring me peace.  But it is in exploring and experiencing these realities - even encountering God there - have been part of the pathway to peace.

So, may the peace of God guide you not only along cool, refreshing, peaceful streams....may you sense more than a trace of God's grace even in those dark, valley when hate, injury, and doubt are the location of our souls.

Blessings ~~ 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Prayer St. Francis take three


We want our lives wrapped up in the movement of God...which makes a sound of peace.
We want to point our toes toward love...which the world might never understand.

Next line proclaims that where there is injury, we might sow seeds of pardon.

This is the language of forgiveness.  Like the word, "love" we held up to the light last time, "forgiveness" is equally misunderstood.  We think of forgiveness, conflating it, with forgetting or letting someone off the hook.  Yet, forgiveness is really about not carrying around a grudge more than anything else. 

Stop for a moment, who is that person who just said something to you recently that like a record is stuck on repeat?  Who do you have a whole speech composed in your mind for the next time you see them?  And then...have you ever actually said that stuff?  Or do you, like me, often just push those words down deep and put on a smile saying, "Oh it is sooooooo good to see you," through clinched teeth? 

So often carrying a grudge we do so silently.

So often carrying a grudge we do so alone.

So often carrying a grudge we do so with pain that can only feed on itself.

That is why grudges are so heavy.

Pardon sets down the burden...lays down the stone...says, "I will stop drinking this poison and expect the other person to suffer."

To be sure, forgiveness doesn't mean that suddenly it is all chocolate rivers and pony rides in life.  It is a slow, steady process of releasing the control anger has on us.

So, if we love to show peace to someone else....we pardon to show peace to ourselves! 

Who needs to be pardoned...not because he deserves it...not because she earned it...but because YOU do!  By the way...grace is always unconditional and unceasing...can never be earned or deserved.  Pardon and forgiveness is the flower that grows in the soil of grace.

Take some time today to just let this wash over you...try to plant yourself in this place.

I pray there might be more than a trace of grace that blossoms and blooms in you because of it.

Blessings ~~

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Prayer of St. Francis take two


So, we have asked/prayerfully pondered so far on questions such as...
                         Who/what is the Lord of life...where is your center?
                         How can God move through your life?
                         What kind of sound is your life making?

What I love about this prayer is St. Francis goes on to offer this laundry list of what peace sounds like in our lives.  Peace sounds like where there is hate, we sow love.  Or when someone goes low, we go high.  Or when someone strikes us on the cheek, we turn the other.  As much as our country confesses to follow Christ...we struggle mightily to turn the other cheek.  We justify this by saying, "This isn't how the world works!"  Or, "We would appear weak."  Or, "We shouldn't just stand by silently in the face of abuse."  All of that is true. 

The world does promote might makes right...send in the military...destroy your enemy before they destroy you...never realizing that the more you destroy, the more you create the breeding ground to produce more hate/enemies.  It is a vicious cycle.  We have fought long wars for this very reason. We kill the father, only to create an enemy in the son.  We treat the women as less than in violent ways only to leave force as the only way the daughter can know/respond.  To call it, "vicious" is apropos!  But to sow love plants a new garden in God's creation (which is what Easter-ing our faith is all about!).

Yes, it will appear weak according to worldly values...but not according to God's realm.  God's self-giving love didn't go down swinging, but faced the cross to say, "It is finished."  The "it" isn't life, "it" is all the ways of being in the world that create more violence and pain and suffering.  The cross is to appease an angry God it is to hold up a mirror of what violence will get you.  Namely, more violence.  Namely, more enemies.  Namely, that viciousness we just named above!

Finally, we shouldn't just stand by silently in the face of abuse. But to suggest that love is only some voiceless force is a bad definition.  Love is active.  Love will speak out.  Not by pounding the table or dehumanizing the other.  Love is creative and dynamic and seeks another way.  Love...however... often seeks the harder way.  The way of creating, through and with the still moving presence of God, a place for both us and the one who is against us.  That kind of world still seems a bit fictional by some accounts...but the people who say that are the ones playing a zero sum game and are the very ones saying, "Lets buy some more bombs just in case."

To turn my toes toward peace...means the first step is in love...not toward trolling my enemies with vicious tweets or comments...not toward political point scoring...not toward being successful or even relevant with a thousand blog followers...but loving the ones I encounter everyday.  Good Lord... I will need lots of help with that!

May the God who is peace and comes in peace move and mold your life toward sowing love today.

Blessings ~~

Monday, April 9, 2018

Prayer of St. Francis take one


The above prayer is attributed to St. Francis and is viewed as the saint of animals and ecology.  He is said to have preached an entire sermon to birds, including inviting them to confess.  With Earth Day coming up, the environmental crisis continuing, and our uncertainty about what/how we might respond in ways that will make a difference, the prayer of St. Francis seems a great place to begin in living our Easter-ing faith.

It is easy to rush and race past the first line, "Lord make me an instrument of they peace."  Notice that first off, the prayer is asking, expecting, even inviting God to do something in our lives.  How often do we expect God to show up in the course of the day?  We might say God is everywhere, but we don't always live that way.  There is the old joke about the church and the bar that sat next to each other and had an adversarial relationship.  The church people prayed something would happen to the bar...the bar own scoffed sarcastically in response.  Until one day, when the bar was struck by lightening.  There was a law suit by the bar owner...at which time the church pleaded it's innocence for any involvement while the bar owner was adamant that the church be held accountable.  The judge eventually said, "I am not quite sure what exactly to do, but it is clear that the bar owner believes in prayer while the church people do not." 

How many times do we sometimes hold too tightly to the adage, "Pray as if it is all up to God and act as if it is all up to you."  The problem both the joke and adage point out is that we, as humans, want to be completely in charge and control.  The prayer starts off with the old fashion word, "Lord".  To be sure it drips with sexism and is tied to a time of oppression.  Lord is a claim that someone is at the center of your life.  Or as Tillich contended that no one was an atheist, because we all worship something or have something at the center of our lives.  While it might be money or relationship, we all have some part of our life that we prioritize.  Who is "Lord" for you?  Is it your investment broker or the person who organizes your golf league or the clerk at your favorite store or a teacher?

If it starts by acknowledging who is at the center, the second two words of the prayer, "make me" reminds us that we are being molded by forces in our lives.  Nature has an impact on us.  Scientists say that our relationships do influence, leave a lasting impression, on our DNA.  We are who we are because of who/what we love!!

But St. Francis wanted to made, shaped, fashioned and formed into an instrument of peace.  I used to play the trombone...very poorly play the trombone.  The thing about an instrument is that it is designed for one purpose (to be played) and can produce (within a wide, but also limited range) a certain sound.  I could never sound like a clarinet or drum.  Yet, both the clarinet and drum, are also instruments.  Yet, both the clarinet and drum, produce sound.  There are similarities and distinct differences.  The point is that there are MANY ways to be an instrument, but the sound we want to make is one of peace.

How are you letting/opening yourself to God to move/blow through your life sounding the spirit of peace?

May that question sit and simmer in your life this day and offer you more than just a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~~

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Eastering Faith


On Sunday, I suggested that rather than a noun, our celebration of Christ's resurrection is better as a verb.  Rather than Easter...perhaps we should think of "Eastering" faith.  A faith that both moves and meditates on God's work among us/in us.  A faith that prays with its legs/hands as well as our hearts in quiet moments.  A faith that celebrates but also knows the concern for those who are crying.  Eastering faith...I believe is summarized well in the Prayer of St. Francis.

Lord, make me a instrument of Your peace.  Peace here is more than an absence of violence, rather an embracing/encompassing shalom - or wholeness/connectedness.  I also love here that this isn't just about what we can will or work we have to do...this is something God does/has done for us.  To make us...mold even...mend us into an instrument of peace. 

What would that instrument look like?
Is it a guitar?
Is it a drill?
Is it something a doctor would us to help/heal us?
Is it something that we would recognize or is God's tool box drastically different from our own?

Because you know peace, you must decide the pathway to that peace...the process God might use to engage us and encourage us.  We need to know the instrument that will be working in our lives.  Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Which to me means I let go of the stuff I hold inside...the anger at that person...the frustration at myself for my role...the pain I leave unprocessed.  All that stuff that wants to congregate in the corner of my soul, like a cobweb.  All that stuff that wants me to just pretend I don't see it there huddled and hanging out together.  All that stuff that is broken and even unwanted.  Because our soul is shy and won't show up just because we invited it to the party of life, we need to ask God to interrupt and intervene in our lives.

Make me...because I cannot make myself forget or heal.
Make me....because I cannot wrap my mind around the process.
Make me...because otherwise I might not even go there.

But make me not in the image of the world, but in Your image O God. 

Where do you long for peace?  May a list.
Where do you long for stillness/shalom in your life/your family/your community/and especially in our world.  Make me...which also sounds like mold me and fill me and use me in ways that do not hurt or harm but bring about God's peace.

Can we live into this prayer this week for the sake of the world God so loves.

Amen. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Total Praise


On this glorious, grace-filled Easter Sunday, there is a joy that hovers/hangs in the air.  I want to share our choir singing Total Praise from a few weeks ago.  It is a song that moves my heart and speaks deeply to my soul.

May the sacredness of this day sing to your heart as we celebrate God's grace facing even death itself.  As we celebrate that even in a tomb a trace of grace was more than enough to bring life.  As we celebrate brokenness is never the last word.  It is my prayer this day will linger in your life long after the jelly beans are gone...may this day continue to linger even after fireworks light up summer sky in July...may this day sing to your heart after summer vacations and when school resumes...guiding us all the way to the end of this year.  For indeed, every day holds an Easter promise.  Every day holds the possibility of us Eastering our faith, sharing and shining the light of God wherever/whoever we are.

Grace and peace everyone ~~