Friday, July 31, 2020

Prayer



Holy One hold today the light of life in your hands.
Holy One guide and ground the actions of my life with Your presence.
Holy One lead and let loose my words with Your love.

I realize how quickly days can stack on days.
I realize that one moment can be at once both ordinary and holy.
I realize that in the midst of change and chaos, there is little I can control.

I long be a conduit of compassion and care.
I deeply desire to be so intertwined with You that are wills are one.
I prayerfully seek You.

And then...
Life interrupts and intrudes in ways that can make these prayerful moments seem as distant as Pluto.
I forget love in the face of frustration.
The priority of prayer is pushed aside for something that seems more important at the time.
People arrive with brokenness that can hurt and harm.
Or as the Apostle Paul said, "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."  

Complicated, complex, convoluted and confusing, life can be.
Beautiful, blessed, bewildering, and beholding, life can also be.
Sometimes wrapped in wonder, love and praise, it is both.

So, take my life and let it be, fully steeped in Your marvelous mystery.
Take this moment and this day, let me be caught up in prayer and praise.
For You are the One who names and claims my life,
Let that truth fully take hold through all the joy and strife.
May the light of Your love, the trace of Your grace,
Be now my vision, with every person and place.

Amen. 
Alleluia.
Amen.
Amen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Word Wednesday





Today is my 1005 post to my blog, which brings me to the word for today, "numbers".  Numbers play such an interesting role in our lives.  On the one hand, we are fascinated about numbers.  We toss around statistics, we see how many new cases of COVID there are, political polls dominate our daily news we consume, or how many African-Americans have been killed when compared to white people.  You swim in a sea of numbers.  In the church, we are always talking about our budgets and membership.  Recently, we want to know how many people are viewing a worship service online or how much the new air conditioner cost.  

Yet for all the ways we are surrounded by numbers, their impact often doesn't leave a lingering impression.  We hear the number, what we remember is the emotion.  For example, the number of new coronavirus cases causes either fear or relief, and it is that sensations that stays with me.  Or I hear a statistic of how many people around the world are food insecure right now, and my heart breaks and I buy extra at the store to donate to the food pantry.  

While numbers have power, but it is really the power to evoke and awaken something within us.  Because at other times, a number doesn't cause much of a change as we rationalize why we should stay the course.  A doctor can give you your blood pressure number, tell you to change something, but so often we find that to be difficult.  Unless, someone you know has recently passed away because s/he didn't change.  But what is motivating your transition?  The number?  Or the story?  Or both?  

Notice today how often you interact with numbers.
Notice what stirs inside of you.
Notice when a number causes fear or excitement or blah...and ask why?

And may our prayerful reflections awaken more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings  



Monday, July 27, 2020

Music Mondays


There is something about a piano that stirs my soul.  I have been listening to this album by Philip Wesley over the last few days.  I am particularly taken by the piece I've embedded above entitled, "Light and Shadow."  So often our dualistic minds want to classify and categorize everything.  We have containers labeled, "Good" and "Bad" in our minds and we want to file every experience and encounter in one of those boxes.  But sometimes it isn't that easy.  Sometimes a moment might initially be bad, only with time reveal something good.  There is a messy mixture of both good and bad in our lives that play prayerfully off each other. 

Likewise we tend to think of light as good, shadow as bad.  Yet, the gospel of nature has been trying to teach and tell us that these two are in a divine dance with each other.  We need shadows, night, to see the stars.  We need night to slow down, after all when you cannot see well you don't want to bump into the dresser or stub your toe.  We need a time each day when our souls can catch up with us.  We need rest to be renewed.  And we need light streaming in with its generous offering of vitamin D for our bodies.  Just as a leaf soaks in the rays of sun to feed, fuel the growth, so as humans (made from the same soil in which a tree is nurtured and nourished) we need to feel the warmth of sun baptizing our faces.

Metaphorically, life is a divine dance between light and shadow.  And I want to be careful to suggest or say an experience is always one or the other.  For example, laughter can be a light to our lives or it can be at another's expense that hurts and harms and perpetuates prejudice.  Pain can initially feel like a shadow but as we process the difficult days might reveal a truth we never would have heard any other way.  Not that all pain does this, but sometimes it can.  Light and shadow moving mysteriously and marvelously together.

I often wonder if we say Jesus was born on a silent, holy night under a star-filled sky because during the daytime we are too busy, too wrapped up in our own agendas to really pay attention to God.  Even though God interrupted and entered our world at a night, most were still to preoccupied to pay attention.  Might that still be true?

There is a prayer practice known as the examine, where every night, before you go to bed, you review the day inviting God to sit alongside you. 
Where did the light stream in beautiful ways?
Where was the light too bright, even blinding?
Where did the shadow disguise or disrupt you?
Where did the shadow help slow you down?
How might tomorrow be a day saturated with the sacred?

I pray this week you might practice the examine, sit with these question each night, maybe as you reply the above melody of music above. 

May there be more than a trace of grace guiding each of us in these days of shadow and light.

Blessings ~~   

Friday, July 24, 2020

Prayer Friday


After the sunset...the light still lingers, something still glows.
Even as the tides keep crashing softly on the sand.
Even as people pick up their chairs to head back to their cars.
Even as the event seems to be over, something still sticks around.

After the sunset...the peace within still persists.
Even as I start to walk back before it gets too dark.
Even as I leave that thin place where like Jacob I could proclaim, "God is here and I didn't know it."
Even as I go back to what is more familiar, something within still stirs.

After the sunset of this day...what has left an impression on my soul?
The good? 
The bad?
The ugly?
The hug...the heartbreak and soul ache...the frustration and funny and the futile that all get mixed into the batter of life this day.
The pause to breathe and the prayer I whispered and the moment I wish I could do over are all part of the recipe called, "Today".
The sun starts to rise on this new day...and in a few short hours it will set...some consistency in a world filled with chaos.
But how do I fill these hours and seconds?  What do I prioritize?  Who do I pour my energy upon?

Where we pour our energy is where we build our life.

O, God, I pray this day that I would direct my love and light toward that which creates beauty of a sunset and leaves a lingering light in this world You so love. 

Amen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Word Wednesday


Sunset

The sun slowly sinking into the sea, pulls out all the crayons from the crayon box, as she leaves.
A splash of red, pink here, and swaths of blue, orange and magenta there, all these will do.
And when the first bit of the glowing sphere touches the horizon, time seems to speed up,
But the artist of the sunset is not quite done.  More colors...more beauty...more ooohs and ahhs to awake.
More causing people to stop their frayed, frenzy lives, if only for a sec.
To reflect.
To remember what peace can feel like.
To breathe and be.
To laugh.
To sense joy.
To see.
One moment caught on film, that is it, in a life time of so many sunsets.
But this one, on this day, was the one my camera captured.
Each day in twenty-four hours we fill with the stuff we think makes up a life.
Checking off boxes to-do,
Accomplishing tasks,
Going to work,
Cooking dinner,
Cleaning,
Shopping,
Zoom meetings.

Which list do people remember?  Do they remember the clean kitchen or the time you laughed?  Do they remember the title of your job or the time you held hands before the setting sun?

One sunset of a thousand...my picture is not unique.

But that moment helped remind me of what I might miss in this life that really, truly matters.

May the traces of God's grace guide you from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same this day.  Amen ~~

Monday, July 20, 2020

Music Mondays


I have been listening to Brian Enos' Ascent a lot recently.  First, I find the music calming in the midst of a chaotic world.  Second, I find this video to offer a different perspective.  Seeing the whole earth rather than just my small, cluttered corner of it.  I find myself trying to fathom the number of people who live here, the lives they all lead.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in my stuff, to think that I am the center of the drama of life.  Carl Sagan once said, "Everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives, on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."  I need that bigger perspective: not everything is about me ~ there is so much mystery to life that can never be known ~ my ideas shift as the world spins (after all what I thought ten years ago is different than what I thought ten days ago) ~ beauty and brokenness are part of life on this planet. 

I invite you to listen to this a couple of times.

First, what does getting a wider view of our world awaken within you?  Are there thoughts or emotions or words that stir?

Second, do you find a sense of peacefulness listening and watching?  Why might seeing from a different perspective help?  How might this be a spiritual practice?

Third, go out for a walk or outside, how is your corner connected to all corners of the world?

May the one who moves through the melody and mystery of music surround you with more than a trace of grace.

Blessings ~~

Friday, July 17, 2020

Prayer Friday



How can it be, O God, that You are here in this room?
Are you woven into the woodwork of this dinning room table?
Has Your love, joy, and power been absorbed into the walls?
If You are the ground of being, does that apply to the floor supporting me?
If You are the holy other, does that mean You are hovering and hanging in the air I breathe?

In this room...
Look around the room where you find yourself right now.
What stories would that room tell if it could speak?
How as the room witnessed the good...the bad...the ugly of life?
What would be the story the room would share of the time laughter wouldn't cease?
Or the time tears drenched your cheeks and your heart ached?
Or the words you said that you wish you could take back?

In this very room...
Quite enough love to hold all that.
In this very room
Quiet enough joy to sing for the amazing and abundant grace of God weaving our daily living together.
In this very room
Quiet enough power to continue to renew and reconcile us through holy ordinariness.

In your very room.
Holy ground just as Moses stood upon before the burning, blazing bush afire with God.
In your very room.
Where you find yourself right now.
In your very room.
God is.
That is more than enough.

Amen. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Word Wednesdays


I want to take a look at three words in this beautiful hymn.

In the very room where you are reading these words, the writer proclaims that there is quite enough:
love
joy
power

To be honest, we may not realize that reality.  We can miss it because we are wrapped up in our own thoughts or troubles.  Quick example ~ a family dinner where my mind is still back on some church problem, the wheels are spinning searching for a solution, I miss the fact that through my family God's love, joy and power were in the very room where I was.  Honestly, I was physically there, but not mentally and emotionally there, which is why I missed the moment.  We can miss the love, joy, and power because someone else's brokenness is casting a shadow.  Quick example ~ we have all been in rooms where someone yells or throws a temper tantrum or is abusive.  Such human hurtfulness and harm can block the beauty of God being in the very room.  We often ask where is God rather than why we, as humans, do what we do to willingly deny or dismiss the divine?

How do you stay open to God's love, even when someone else is doing everything possible to make that feel like mission impossible?
How do you practice joy, even when there is so much evidence to the contrary?
How do we stay rooted in the power and promise of God this day?

This is where practices of prayer, worship, holy conversations, and fierce faithful friendship come into play.  These are not just reserved for Sunday mornings in a church building, but these are the foundation of holy faithful formation.  Prayer is more than a monologue lobbing our wishes toward God.  Prayer is an opening to God, listening, attuning our hearts to God's presence.  Worship is the practice of prayer and praise.  In one way, we pray each and every day which leads us to worship in community which leads us back to praying each and every day.  It is an ever spiral of deepening our dance with the divine.  We need holy conversation with fierce faithful friends so that we don't get caught in individualistic piety.  I need you to both comfort and challenge me.  To push my understandings and my soul in new directions through both great love and prophetic speech.

To be sure, this isn't some guarantee that life will always be amazing.  But like a basketball player who stay after to practice free throws 100s of times, every day, our souls need to strengthen our spiritual muscles to be open to the love, joy, and power of the One who is persistently presence.

May there be more than a trace of God's grace in your life as you discover new ways to pray, worship, talk, and connect with others. 

Blessings ~~

Monday, July 13, 2020

Music Mondays


God with us ~ God with you ~ not just when you are aware and awake to God's persistent presence ~ but all the time.  In every space and place...not in some building confining or when we call somewhere, "Holy"...for every bush is ablaze with the glory of God ~ only most of the time we don't see it that way.

The incarnation ~ God coming to us in the flesh and form of Jesus ~ was the church's way of saying God is not distant or disinterested in this world.  This was not an original idea.  Remember in Genesis 2, God walks in the garden among God's people (even though Adam and Eve hid...perhaps telling us that we hide from God too - not the other way around).  Then in Exodus, God pitches God's tent among God's people.  God is with them.  Then in exile, Ezekiel has a vision of God on a chariot coming to Babylonia; God not in a temple but in the very space and place where the people are.

The incarnation ~ wasn't the first time Scripture tried to tell us God surrounds us.  The mystics have said it over the years too.  God is the circle who center is everywhere and whose circumference is no where.  God's embrace enfolds all realms and races and realities.

To radically (which really just means from the roots) practice the presence of God that is the invitation.  The hymn above says it better than I can.  In this very room...the one I am writing from and the one you are reading these words...in this very room there is quite enough love and joy and power because in this very room is more than a trace of God's grace.

I pray the melody of this music moves your soul to remember no matter where you are...God is.  And may the abundant traces of God's presence enliven your life every day.  Amen. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Prayer Friday


How can it be, O God, that this year is over half-way finished?
How can it be, O God, that this year is only half-way finished?
How can it be, O God, that anything else could be crammed into this chaotic time?
How can it be, O God, that we need to summons the energy for one more day?

So create in me a quirky soul.
A soul that is inviting and interesting and involved in this beautifully broken world.
Create in me a quirky soul.
A soul that yearns for connections and collaboration and calls out to others to join in.
Create in me a quirky soul.
A soul that can be quiet and creative and contemplative and courageous.
Create in me a quirky soul.
One that plays with words and forms sentences like -
"The praying platypus purposefully posed with a bowed bill and folded her paws together."
Because even I don't know what that means!

Let me loose into this day with grace...place to pray.
Let me loose into this day with love...and people to share it.
Let me loose into this day with hope...because You are not finished with us yet.
Let me loose into this day with purpose...prayer...and playfulness that might bring forth Your realm.

Let me loose...but keep me close that I may discover You in others, in myself, in creation, and especially in that praying platypus...whose name is probably Phoebe.

Amen.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Word Wednesday



quirk·y /ˈkwərkē/ ~ adjective ~ 

characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.


Inside each of us is a quirky part yearning for expression and to be let loose in this world.  Over time, rules and social situations and peer pressure pushes that quirky parts of us down until we seal those traits tightly in jars and place them on the shelves of our souls.  We are all quirky as kids.  Coloring outside the line; skipping when everyone else is somberly walking; yelling when everyone else is quietly concentrating; let the unique and beautiful ways you are created in God's image out while others are all wearing a suit and high heels and other clothing that constrains the body/mind/soul.

We learn this in school where we sit in neat rows, raise our hands, and don't chew gum.  We learn this in homes where slurping spaghetti (which clearly is how this food was meant to be consumed) gets a lecture from your parents...because they got a lecture for their parents...because they got a lecture - well you get the point.  We learn this when others ask us, "Why are you wearing that?"  And we realize that wasn't a question as much as a critique.  

And while your quirky side may accept some of the constraints...especially when your mind says, "It is for the good of society to follow the rules."  You also wonder, who made up these rules!!  You may also see others push the boundaries.  Silently admire the people who wear a bright yellow shirt and pink tie - and seem to get away with it.  The ones who write poetry or have a hobby of spelunking.  The ones who seem to dance just on the inside edge of the rules.  And when you meet that person, the tightly sealed quirky traits in your soul...start to clamor to be unleashed.

What quirky traits would you say you have?
What rules would you love to break if only you had the courage?
What ways would you live if you didn't have to worry about other's reactions?

How might some quirky parts of you...the you you love deeply...the you the world needs right now...the you that doesn't hurt or harm others but could bring new light and love into this world in amazing ways...the you that wants to break out of the mold because honestly you'd rather be remembered as daring than boring...the you that doesn't question if this is financially responsible... the you that wants to be an expert stick figure artist...the you that wants to race off to capture the beauty of life one photograph at a time...the you that wants to explore blades of grass and study the stars.

You...beautifully and boldly created in God's image.

You...beloved and beheld by God.

You...that might experience traces of grace if you let that YOU loose now for the sake of the world.  Amen.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday Muse


The path...

The steps ahead look steep and will strain my feet.
I wonder if I will be able the challenge to meet.
The truth is I am at once both excited and afraid,
Will the experiences help my soul to soar or be dismayed?

The path may be exciting with each twist and turn,
New encounters and people and things to learn.
Or I could stumble and bumble, fall flat on my face,
There could be fear lurking there rather than grace.

More than likely it is not either/or but both/and,
For the paths we travel are both paved and slippery sand.
The paths we travel hold delight and moments of heartbreak.
Times of laughter and nights of honest soul ache.

We trudge on the path, but every now and then it good to pause.
To look at the footprints that got you here and all that was.
To look around at the scenery surrounding you this day.
To slowly gaze at what might be up ahead on your way.

The paths that have met and merged and the people you love.
The ones who give meaning to your life and parts you are proud of.
The moments you wish you could redo if only you could rewind,
Even as we know that isn't how it works in our lifetime.

Today, breathe, be, pause, reflect, and enter fully into this space.
Open your heart, swing open your soul, let your life be saturated with grace.
Today, just today, notice and name that past, present, and future path.
And may your soul start singing out in the joy of the sunbath.

Amen.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Prayer Friday


We don't need a new prayer everyday...
Sometimes we need to repeat and replay...
Words need to be said again and again...
Only then do they really find a home within...

So one more time listen to this hymn within your heart...
May these words stir within you a holy place to start...
A beginning where we can value what we have here....
And know that there is equal value in what is there...

Here is my home, the country where my heart is....
And God's children also reside there because this isn't a quiz...
Holy God, hear the prayer that pours forth from our hearts...
And may we learn to practice the peaceful, loving, healing arts.

Amen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Word Wednesdays



There is a second verse to this beautiful hymn that needs space for us to receive and reflect upon:

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh, hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

In the post on Monday, I mentioned that the word for peace in Hebrew is Shalom.  Peace that is wellness and wholeness within the individual and the whole collective.  The prophet Isaiah talked about this kind of peace as the wolf laying down with the lamb.  The vision unveiled to John in Revelation saw all nations gathering by the river where there was 12 kinds of fruits from the healing of the whole wide world.  Jesus walked and wandered all around the land he called home, into neighborhoods that were rich and poor, where there were priests and religious people and those people from the wrong side of the tracks.  Peace means weaving together threads that we think might clash but end up together creating a beautiful tapestry.

Oh, hear my son, O God of all the nations...a song of peace for their land and for mine.

The hymn writer knows that you cannot fully enjoy peace unless your neighbor does too.
The hymn writer knows that no nation can be safe when another nation has strife and suffering -
Because as we have seen this year with the virus - brokenness does not respect boundaries but will burst into wherever it can.

Shalom...peace here and there because peace is not a limited resource.  Peace is a generative resource.  Peace longs to be shared and surges the more who reside in this space.  Peace is expansive and embracing.  The economy of peace doesn't work like any other system...the politics of peace is not polarizing or competition or comparing but collaborative cooperation where creativity is celebrated. 

How might peace take root and reside in your heart?
How might peace find expression in your words and actions?
Where might peace take you in these days?
Do you sense how peace can open us all to more than a trace of God's grace?

May the peace that surpasses understanding but longs to live in our hearts find a space, home in you this day and this week.  Amen. 

God's Calling - We don't have it all figured out

  A few weeks ago, I offered the analogy of the Slinky as a serendipitous example of the ways calling can go off course and still end up in ...