Monday, November 28, 2022

Advent 1 ~ Hope

 


Yesterday in worship we sang the Carol, “Awake! Awake and greet the new morn.”  I invite you this morning to read these words slowly/prayerfully, letting each syllable settle into your soul.  I encourage you to see which sentence causes your heart to leap and which sentiment causes you to question what is possible or practical.  Watch where you put the emphasis; you may want to softly whisper the words and then bravely, boldly declare them emphatically for your neighbors to hear.

 

Awake! Awake, and greet the new morn, for angels herald its dawning,

Sing out your joy, for Jesus is born, behold! The Child of our longing.

Come as a baby weak and poor, to bring all hearts together. 

To open wide the heavenly door, and lives now insides us forever…

 

To us, to all, in sorrow and fear, Emmanuel comes a-singing.

Whose humble song is quiet and near, yet fills the earth with its ringing.

Music to heal the broken soul and hymns of loving kindness,

the thunder of the anthems rolls to shatter all hate and injustice…

 

In deepest night Christ’s coming shall be, when all the world is despairing,

As morning light so quiet and free, so warm and gentle and caring.

One without voice breaks forth in song, a lame one leaps in wonder,

The weak are raised above the strong, and weapons are broken asunder…

 

Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night, though cold the winter and cheerless,

The rising sun shall crown you with light, be strong, and loving and fearless.

Love be our song and love our prayer, and love, our endless story.

May God fill every day we share, and bring us at last into glory. 

 

One of the sentences that sits in my soul is in the first verse ~ third line ~ come as a baby weak and poor, to bring all hearts together.  God comes as a baby weak to show us the way to life.  I wonder if the counter-cultural truth of Christmas ever really sinks into our souls?  God comes not in military might or with a glitz and glamour or political power ~ God comes weak and poor.  Wait, you think, isn’t God all powerful?  The puzzling paradox, even contradiction, is that God enters our world not with coercion or control, but softly on a silent night hardly noticed amid the chaotic cacophony of the census ~ the stress and strain of people feeling oppressed ~ the uncertainty and uncontrollability of the world.  That sounds a lot like today.  God doesn’t pound on the door of your heart with demands or decrees (like Caesar), but patiently ~ persistently ~ waits at the door of our soul for you to open to a Presence that has been there all along.  Advent ~ awaking to the Holy hovering ~ not just here and now ~ but so we can live this way every day in the coming year.  That is what we greet with anthems sweet ~ if we are ready and willing to let God reside in our hearts. 

 

What in this Carol sings to your soul today?  How might you awaken to God during Advent in these dwindling days and continue to do so as 2023 dawns?  May those questions cause you to prayerfully ponder, and may the candle of hope guide you every day this week.  Amen.


Friday, November 25, 2022

Prayer for Friday

 


Amid leftovers and Black Friday deals;

Amid emotions that sit on the shelves of our souls;

Amid the dwindling days of 2022, I invite you to hold the fullness of this day.

 

Often holidays come with expectations ~ spoken and unspoken ~ for ourselves and others.

 

Hold that this morning.

 

Often this time of year can feel so frantic, frenzied ~ which is jarring especially as some many activities now burst from the COVID cocoon, and we are not sure we are ready.

 

Hold that this morning.

 

I invite you to be intentional in the coming days.  On Sunday, we will enter the season of Advent ~ a time to prepare prayerfully for the One we greet with anthems sweet ~ as we join in the choir of angels and shepherds to Christ (God in the flesh) laid in a manger ~ a feed trough.

 

Wait…go back and re-read that sentence please…letting the contradictions and mystery divinely disrupt you today.

 

What would it look like for you this year to clear away chaos or clutter in your mind/heart/ soul for the birth of Jesus?

 

This might mean being present in the moment ~ even when the moment is less-than-perfect.

This might mean blaring Christmas Carols ~ you have permission.

This might mean doing what makes your heart sing and feel fully alive ~ what is that?    

 

Hold that last sentence.  Christ comes in the flesh, in human form, because human life matters to God.  Your life matters to God.  What brings you alive?  For me, it is listening to music, laughing with family, baking cookies with my daughter, worship, playing with Legos and connecting with others.  Given that, how do I design the art of living in the last month of 2022?  How can I be a conduit of liberating love that gushes forth the way water did from a rock like we heard on Sunday? 

 

Whether your tradition today is to go out shopping or not spend a dime.  Whether you have a special leftover turkey sandwich you make or want to order a pizza.  Whether you feel full or long for more, I pray for the Presence of God to enfold and hold you, guide and ground you, and be with you as we prepare for the truth of Emmanuel ~ God with us and for us ~ in the coming days.  Amen. 


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving Day Prayer


 

The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves. —Brother David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer


Breathe in God’s thanksgiving, breathe out moments where gratitude is difficult.

Breathe in God’s wholeness, breathe out that which is incomplete or left undone.

Breathe in God’s peacefulness, breathe out the to-do lists and voices that tell you it’s not enough.

Breathe and be on this Thanksgiving Day.

 

Hold in your hands a moment this past year when joy was tactile, and you could taste the sweetness of love on the tip of your tongue.  For me that was Easter morning, my son’s graduation, dropping him off at college, my daughter starting her Senior year, seeing my family after COVID kept us apart, writing these mediations, preaching on Sundays, holding hands in prayer, studying scripture, petting our dogs, weathering Hurricane Ian, and the support of my wife ~ it is easier to preach about unconditional love when you encounter this as a reality every day.

 

Hold in your heart moments this past year when things were not so great ~ knowing that pain that isn’t processed is passed along.  I grieve those who are now in God’s eternal embrace.  I grieve a world that is bickering and back-biting.  I grieve Thanksgiving tables today where all are not welcome, and others sit silently in emotional pain.  I grieve those who feel alone and wonder if anyone cares.  I hold those who are facing medical appointment.   I grieve those who are struggling in mind, body, and spirit.  I grieve that too often the church is seen more as the problem than any source of comfort, compassion, or care.

 

I hold all this ~ the good and bad and ugly ~ in prayer to the One who is able to accomplish far more than I could ever ask or imagine.  I hold all this in prayer to the One who doesn’t ask for me to be perfect or successful, but how our Creator continues to shed acorns of love (throw back reference to Monday’s morning meditation).  I hold all this in prayer to the One who wraps me in an embrace of grace that never lets any of us go.  May the One whose love crafts and creates all that is and calls you, “Beloved” be encountered and experienced this day.  With praise and thanksgiving to God ever living open our hearts, souls, and whole lives.  Amen.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Morning Meditation ~ Thanksgiving Part 3

 


On the eve of Thanksgiving, I pause to reflect.

About all that is happening, a moment of introspect.

The last eleven months has given much to dissect.

I know the moments of joy and days almost perfect.

Graduation, birthdays, where laughter was the sound effect.

And I know moments of pain, hurt, dejected, and neglected.

Both the good and ugly sit side-by-side in my heart unchecked.

What do I really make of tomorrow, my mind questions and objects?

How do we live when it feels like constant change and lessening respect?

Perhaps I can’t solve all the pain and hurt and less than perfect-ness,

But I can show up with a grace, curiosity, and thoughtful intellect.

I can commit to being a conduit of God’s liberating love as prayerful affect. 

While I don’t propose that this would all the ills of the world correct,

I do, deep in my heart, trust this way of life can help us all connect.

So, on this day before turkey and laughter and love let us all interject,

A way of being God’s people and honoring all as beloved we are called to protect.

 

I pray that each person reading this would sense God’s presence, peace, and love as we prepare our hearts, homes, tables, and lives to give thanks tomorrow.  With God’s love to you all.  Amen.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Morning Meditation ~ Thanksgiving Part 2

 


Did you know that on Thursday we will eat 704 million pounds of turkey?  There are 332 million people in the United States, so that means you need to eat 2.12 pounds of turkey this week to do YOUR part.

 

Did you know that Friday this week is usually one of the busiest days for plumbers?  That is according to Roto-Rooter as they are called upon to unclog our drains.

 

Sarah Hale is known as the “Mother of Thanksgiving,” because she spent four decades campaigning to make Thursday a national holiday and in 1863, she persuaded President Lincoln to make it so – talk about an abundance of attempts.  She also wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” in her free time. 

 

Who thought the morning mediation was going to be this educational today?

 

Finally, according to AAA, Orlando, Florida is near the top destinations for travel this week.  Just a public service announcement for anyone thinking about traveling I4 on Thursday.  You are welcome.

 

While these tidbits of trivia might be fun to share at your Thanksgiving table, the reality is that we know gratitude is about more than this one week.  We practice the prayer posture of praise every single week in worship.  Last Sunday in worship we heard another account of the people of God grumbling and groaning.  In Exodus, the people mutter and mumble on the banks of the Red Sea saying, “What the graves in Egypt weren’t good enough for you, Moses?”  They complain about not having enough to eat moaning, “Oh, when we were back in Egypt at least we had bread…after working our fingers to the bones making 2000 bricks a day for Pharaoh. You know, the good old days.”  And they take to Yelp to write a scatting review of Moses’ leadership saying, “The guy wouldn’t know water if he fell into a pond!  Worst road trip ever!!”

 

The more things change…the more our lives echo the history that is repeated and replayed in our words every day.  Yet, I don’t think an attitude of gratitude can ever be demanded or decreed.  It is why so many people groan silently/inwardly on Thursday when we go around the table to say one thing we are thankful for.  Forced gratitude can feel both ironic and irritating.

 

The practice of gratitude, giving thanks, living open to the goodness and God’s presence which is here hovering and hanging around you and within you, is more than one week.  I give thanks to you, dear reader, for sticking with me over the last few years.  I began these devotionals to stay connected during COVID back in 2020.  If you go back, many of my early prayers were about safety and fear and uncertainty.  I don’t know that I feel any more secure than I did back then, but I also know God has brought us this far.  Thanksgiving isn’t about saying everything is great and grand, but it is about noticing/opening to the unnamable and unmistakable presence of God.  What if we tried doing this every day in the coming month?  And what if we continued every day in the coming year?  I am not saying this would make everything magically better, but I am suggesting it would widen your perspective beyond only holding the sharp shards of brokenness that we so often capture our attention and call us to fix but are not sure how.  Thank you for continuing to be part of these meditations.  You, each of you, fill my heart with gratitude each day.  With God’s love to you.  Amen. 


Monday, November 21, 2022

Thanksgiving Week

 



20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3

 

Acorns. When I think of abundance, having far more than I can ask or imagine or ever want, I think of the acorns that have been piling up in parking lots, sidewalks, lawns, and streets over the last few weeks.  I think all the oak trees must have had a secret meeting where no human was invited or involved. The trees made a motion that was soon seconded and unanimously voted that this was the year of the nut. Science tells us that an oak tree can drop more acorns than hungry squirrels, raccoons or wild hogs would be able to gobble up. By some accounts, one single oak tree can drop upwards of 10,000 acorns in what is called a mast year. Which, one, that is a lot of nuts. Two, who exactly counted, because if they had asked me, I know I would have lost count around 2584 and have to start over again.

 

Hold that image of abundance, more than we could ask or imagine, in one hand.

 

On the other hand, out of these 10,000 acorns sometimes only one sinks down into the soil, stretches out roots, bursts forth from the ground, and grows into a new oak tree. 1 out of 10,000. If you told me that only one of my sermons this year would make a difference to one person, I wonder if I could keep preaching?  If you told me that only one pastoral visit or one morning meditation or one day out of the last year would make a difference, how would I live?

 

If I told you that you that being kind, gentle, generous, loving, peaceful would change just one person in your lifetime, would you continue? I am convicted by Paul’s words this morning about abundance. Of course, Paul isn’t preaching about acorns but about God’s grace, love, peace, promise, and presence which is even larger than10,000 acorns. Paul is talking about an inclusive, unconditional, unceasing gift from God that moves in our lives seeking to make a difference.

 

This Thanksgiving week it is easy for us to count our more than 10,000 blessings.  Honestly, though, most of us believe that life is happening to us ~ that there is some scoreboard of who is winning and losing.  Often our mood is based on the external evidence around us ~ rather than the transformation within us.  If the oak tree lived this way, my guess is 1 out of 10,000 might cause a deep depression for that tree.  Yet, creation testifies to generosity and the question for you and me this week ~ is are we willing to let this truth of creation inform and inspire our living ~ not just now but every day in the coming year? 

 

May that question cause us to ponder prayerfully and commit our lives to being conduits of liberating love in these days.  Amen.


Friday, November 18, 2022

Prayer

 



Here we are, O God, midway through November.  Visions of turkey dance in our heads, we can almost taste the sweet potato, pumpkin, chocolate pie on the tip of our tongue.   We long to feel our hearts strangely warmed as we approach Thanksgiving in less than one week.  Here You are, O God, with us even as we know our Thanksgiving may not be a Norman Rockwell painting version.  The turkey might be dry, or the pie dropped, or conversation turn toward a topic that causes the tiny vein in our neck to throb. 

Here we are together, O God, in this less-than-perfect present wilderness-wandering moment.  Help me, O God, be open to You…not just in the great and grand, but even in the messiness and broken.  Help me, O God, be open to You…not just when things go my way, but when life takes an unexpected twist or turn like a rollercoaster.  Help me, O God, be open to You knowing that Your presence doesn’t make everything magically better but does cause my mind, heart, soul and life to turn toward a fullness and wholeness that other things I buy cannot.  Thank you for this day.  Thank you for this breath.  Thank you for those whose love and friendship and presence are a gift that reminds me Your grace is not abstract but encountered in my life.  May my life be caught up in Your great composition and story that is unfolding in this day.  Amen. 


Advent 1 ~ Hope

  Yesterday in worship we sang the Carol, “Awake! Awake and greet the new morn.”   I invite you this morning to read these words slowly/pray...