Monday, November 30, 2020

Advent Week One: Hope

 


I invite you to light one single candle, a candle of Hope, as you read this meditation. 

The days leading us to Christmas are not only about parties, Christmas cards, cookies, shopping, hustle and bustle; this is a sacred season for us to ground ourselves in the mystery and marvel of God coming to us in human flesh.  The theological word here is incarnation, which I believe is one of the most important words for faith.  God’s willingness, vulnerability, eagerness, prayerfulness, hope-filled-ness, unconditional love and unceasing grace enters this fragile/foible-filled vessel called, “human life”. 

Just in case that doesn’t cause us to scratch and shake our heads (after all gods are supposed to be powerful and throw lightening bolts, right?  Gods usually do not come upon earth in a form where you are susceptible to diseases in the body and dis-eases of the heart.  Gods do not come upon earth where they could be crucified – but I am getting ahead of myself here in the story).  God decided that God would come to earth in the form of a vulnerable infant. 

And oh, by the way, God decides the God-bearer would be an unwed woman, Mary.

And oh, by the way, God’s grand entry is in a barn.  I’ve been in barns, and not a Martha Stewart shabby-chic kind of barn.  One with animals who smell and do animal-kinds-of things.

And oh, by the way, the only ones who will witness and testify to this marvelous miracle are shepherds who are seen by society not on the lowest rung of the economic ladder – they weren’t even allowed near the ladder in the first place!

What kind of story is this? 

This is why we return to this sacred story year-after-year and discover/uncover something new.  Each and every time we encounter this marvelous, mysterious story, we are in a new place to encounter one of the details in a life-giving and life-changing way.  

This Advent we are centering around the question: what are you waiting for? 

Depending on where you place the emphasis, you might evoke a different response.  If you put weight on the first word, what, you might start listing events you are waiting for – like say a vaccine that could enable us to have in-person worship again with singing!  If you put the weight on the word, “you”, you might dive and dwell deeply in what your soul is longing for.  If you place weight on the word, “waiting”, I find myself pausing, leaning in, and listening to the truth that the world we inhabit doesn’t instantly and immediately microwave/text/tweet to resolutions.  Waiting is about time.   Waiting isn’t only about getting somewhere, or something done, it is about sensing God in the journey. 

That is my prayer for Advent, we will wait together and discover anew that God is not only born in a barn…God is discovered in our hearts – even and especially – right now this year. 

Prayer:  O come, o come Emmanuel, may the doorway to my heart be open to you every day during this season of Advent.  Amen. 


 


Friday, November 27, 2020

Thanksgiving Week Wrap Up


Morning Meditation ~

“I have spent my life watching, not to see beyond the world, merely to see, great mystery, what is plainly before my eyes. I think the concept of transcendence is based on a misreading of creation. With all respect to heaven, the scene of the miracle is here, among us.” Marilyn Robinson

We dove into this week with a prayer that we would describe and define the ways love walks into our lives every day.

We sought to be a detective of our own life, searching for detail upon detail of the divine dancing in our midst.

I pray the ordinary has become holy in some way this week. 

I pray that your list of encounters/experiences with love points toward what Marilyn Robinson is writing about above.

I pray that through your list of love you start to see the great mystery and know the sacred.

That you might know, not in the way of being able to study it scientifically like a butterfly.  Know deep within yourself a truth that you don’t need to cling to, because that truth clings to you.  Know not as some truth at arm’s length but knowing in a way that brings a smile to your face.

Suddenly, knowing isn’t only confined to what we comprehend, it is contained in our very being and body.  Knowing is when our head, heart, soul and whole life is playing in a symphony of the sacred – not only reading off the script of culture – or caught up in “us” verses “them” – but something else is at play here.

A holy play where we take our part of noticing the miracle of being here, with others, even in such a time as this.  A holy play that takes some leftover turkey, a bit of stuffing and cranberry sauces and says, “This is a holy feast where God is present.”  A holy play that says, “I didn’t get to be with my kids this Thanksgiving, but I got to see and hear them on Zoom or on the phone.  It wasn’t the same, but it was a blessing.”  A holy play that keeps inviting us to search for the sacred, which is always present.  May this practice of noticing and naming God’s love continue to guide you as we move into the last month of what has been a year!

Prayer: Let Your love loose in my life, O God.  Help me to notice.  Amen.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Day

 

We have been reflecting on love this week.  Love’s relative, gratitude, is good to get to know today.  I recently read this from the website Salt,

“But there’s perhaps no better day than Thanksgiving to reflect on the astounding power of gratitude itself — and accordingly, to commit ourselves to cultivating it more intentionally in the coming year.  If we think of “gratitude” primarily as a kind of duty to discharge (Now remember to write that thank-you note!), we’re missing the boat entirely, effectively reducing one of life’s wonders to mere good manners. On the contrary, gratitude is vital force in the world, a profoundly dignifying act that builds relationships, communities, and healthy human hearts. The science on this subject is overwhelming: in study after study, gratitude has been shown to lead to stronger relationships, better sleep, lower blood pressure, fewer trips to the doctor, fewer depressive symptoms, more patience, and more perseverance, among other benefits…our all-too-common tendency to focus on the obstacles in our lives (headwinds) and overlook blessings (tailwinds), an imbalance that over time leads to feeling aggrieved and resentful. In short, focusing on headwinds breeds bitterness; focusing on tailwinds breeds appreciation — and the act of thanksgiving helps call our attention to the winds at our backs.”

Gratitude and love go together like pumpkin pie and cool whip.  Gratitude and love hang out encouraging each other joyfully. 

I pray that your list of love hasn’t felt like a demand or duty, but a holy invitation.  I pray that today you will feel a gratitude of God’s grace stirring and swirling with you.

I know this Thanksgiving is different and difficult for many.  I know for some grief is mixed with gratitude.  I know there is feelings of frustration because you cannot be physically with family because of the virus.  I know that for some reading this the emotional stew of family causes anger or brokenness, not love.

Gratitude or love are not some sugary frosting that cover over the pain.  Gratitude and love are willing to listen and lean into the pain.  Gratitude and love won’t argue against the brokenness or bitterness.  Rather, these constant companions are patient as we process the pain, get it out in words that can feel inadequate, but are all we have. 

Today, I pray you will be honest about what is in your heart.  I pray you will name and notice the obstacles that can feel insurmountable in the face of this year’s edition of Thanksgiving.  I pray that as you do, God’s love will start to surround you in such a sacred way that even giving voice to our pain might always open you and me to the constant love in our lives for which I give thanks. 

May God’s love be with you today now more than ever.

Prayer:  Holy One sit with me on the sideline as I name and notice what weighs heavy on my heart, then lead me by the hand out to the dance floor where we can move in holy ways with love and thanksgiving.  Amen.

 


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving Week 3

 

Morning Meditation ~ Love

How is your list of ways you are encountering and experiencing God’s love going?  If you haven’t had time to reflect on God’s presence strangely warming your heart and whole life from yesterday, I encourage you to do that at some point, perhaps now.

It’s okay…I’ll wait.  Take your time.  Remember, you are savoring these sacred encounters like a piece of pie where each and every bite you might detect a different spice.  Keep asking yourself, “Tell me more!”  Let the curiosity of your life run rampant. 

These lists are a way of knowing, especially in the world today.  The point of the list isn’t that by the end you will have irrefutable proof of God’s existence.  The point is for you to know you better; the you that is still being crafted and created in God’s image each day.  There is a great line in the hymn, The Summons, “Will you love the you you hide if I but call your name?”  This is one way for us to live a response to that question.  

When we explore the mystery of ourselves with care and compassion, we can begin to expand and share that with others.  If we close ourselves off to the deepest part of our lives, if we choose to not know ourselves, we won’t have much compassion or care for others.  How we see ourselves is how we see others.  The words that stir when we stare in the mirror are carried within us out in the world as our lenses for making sense of what we encounter and experience. 

The power of love for self and other is that it is generative.  The more we ground ourselves in God’s love, the more it will guide us in how we encounter the other.  The more we let God’s love get a word in edgewise, the more we might come to know this as a reliable reality.  God’s love is inexhaustible, which challenges us in a world of sacristy.  We tend to think there is only so much toilet paper or hand sanitizer or vaccine or money to go around.  We can get caught up in clinging to what is ours.  The fear part of our brain says, “Get yours while the getting is good or you will only have yourself to blame.” 

To rewire our brains toward love is hard, holy work.

This is why such practices of making lists, detailed and defined lists, can help.  So may you and I go out with a Sherlock Holmes/Jessica Fletcher curiosity to investigate and discover what God is up to in the world today.  And may we be serendipitously surprised by the sacred in ways that make us laugh with joy and race to write down the description of the love.

Prayer: Love divine, all loves excelling, enter every trembling heart with a holy warmth we need today.  Amen.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving Week 2

 

Morning Meditation ~ Love

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

 
Yesterday we prayerfully pondered letting God’s love have the first, second, third, and last word in our lives.  To be caught up in a concert of love that can change everything.  Today, I want to encourage you to make a list of encounters and experiences with love.  Start with yesterday, where were concrete moments you can point to God’s presence in ways that warmed your heart, soul, mind, and whole life?

~ Perhaps it was a phone call you had with a friend. 
~ Meal with your spouse or family.
~ Something you read.

Now, go deeper and be more specific about the sacred.

~ It was when your friend on the phone said that particular combination of words.
~ It was the laughter you shared between bits of potatoes at the dinner table.
~ It was that sentence you highlighted.

Great!  Try to dive deeper one more time, even more specific.

~ It was because I needed to hear those words from my friend on the phone, I felt affirmed.
~ It was because laughter is a wonderful way of prayer.
~ It was because words create worlds and that sentence in the book gave me a vision of a world I want to inhabit.

So often, we skim the surface of our lives.  We let ourselves skate by rather than swim in the sacred.  To know God is love means we are called to interact with this love for longer periods of question and answer time.

I invite you to keep a list – three ways every day this week you encounter and experience God’s love.  Try to be as descriptive as possible.  Write a few words…then step back and with anticipation write more…then step back again and write some more.  Savor what comes to the surface like the first fork full of fresh made pie.  Don’t race through this process, but let it slow you down to taste the experience fully. 

I pray this prayer practice will help you know deeply God’s love as what can feed and fuel our lives in such a time as this.

Prayer: Open my ears, eyes, heart, and whole life to Your movement today, O God.  Amen.

 


Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanksgiving Week 1



By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

How do you know what you know?  That question has been around for centuries.  Perhaps in college you even had to take a class on theories of knowledge when you asked the question, “What is the foundation for facts?”  Such a question seems as important today as ever.  We swim in a sea of questioning the legitimacy of scientific reports or election results or everyone tossing and throwing around the word, “Fake news”.

So, now you are thinking, “Thanks for that uplifting insight, Pastor Eeyore!”

Or

Not exactly the way to start Thanksgiving week! 

Yet, when the writer 1 John says that we will, “know,” I wonder about that word in this world we inhabit.  How do we know what we know?  This question is one worth spending time with this week.  Perhaps we can start with the affirmation that we don’t always know ourselves or others as well as we think.  There are countless times during the week I think, “Why did I do that?”  Or times I say things I instantly and immediately regret.  I start by naming that I can be a mystery to myself.  Then, there are other times that a truth stirs and swirls within me from my mind, heart, soul, felt from my pinkie toe to the top of my head.  It can be a deep knowing, perhaps even beyond words. 

Love works that way.

I can’t prove that I love my family.  But I know it to be true and long to live every moment guided and ground by that truth.

I can’t prove God’s love.  But I experience and encounter the holy hovering and hanging around my life in many ways.  I pray that I might be led by such sacred affection.

I can’t prove that love is stronger than hate.  Yet, I know the former can feed and fuel my life in faithful/life-giving ways and later one leaves me fearful and feeling alone.

Such love isn’t only sentiment, it is sacred action.  Such love doesn’t just warm the heart, it compels and challenges what I do and say.  The author of 1 John is clear that love isn’t only an emotion, it is the way we will experience and encounter God.  In what ways can love define and determine your life today?  Before you answer, I encourage you to be as concrete as you can.  Examples include, “I could let God’s love loose when I talk to this person.”  Or, “I can let God’s love ground and guide me in that meeting.”  Or, “I prayerfully ask for God’s love to led me when I go here.”  1 John makes repeated use of the word, “love” not just because the writer desperately needed a thesaurus; but because only such dogged and determined returning to the love of God will get us through.  To return to God’s love for all because love is the pathway to God.  This truth that can make all the difference in our lives and world at such a time as this.

Prayer: God grant me strength to not only read these words intellectually, but live them in my life this day, especially when I go (fill in the blank here).”  Amen.


 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Baptism take five

 


As you read the meditations this week, I invite you to have a bowl of water in front of you.  You may want to begin by pouring out the water, hearing it splash at the bottom of the bowl and even splatter onto the table.  Now, I invite you to wet your thumb and trace the outline of the cross on your forehead.  Remember you are created in God’s image. 

As we wrap up and wind down this week of centering on baptism, I am wondering what is one truth you will carry with you?  Would you be willing to share in the comment section? 

What was it like each morning to baptize yourself?  Did beginning the day in this way make a difference?  Were there moments when you were about to say something but the evaporated water on your forehead caused you to pause and prayerfully ponder another way to express what was in your heart?  Were there moments each morning when you looked back at the past day to see places where God’s love was let loose and times you held back?

I ask all of this, not out of guilt, but from a place of grace.  God, who sees the foibles and faults of the cups of our lives not as flaws, but as part of who we are, created in God’s image.  I say this because I often learn best by doing it wrong before I get it right, not that I am proud to admit it.  I say this because we need to let God’s light saturate our full lives, not just the lives we share on Facebook.  So, take time today, to prayerfully ponder this past week.  I pray that as you do the cup of your life will overflowth with God’s love.

Prayer: Take my life and let it be, caught up with You in unity.  Take this moment and this day, let me rest in You to stay.  Amen.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Baptism take four

 



As you read the meditations this week, I invite you to have a bowl of water in front of you.  You may want to begin by pouring out the water, hearing it splash at the bottom of the bowl and even splatter onto the table.  Now, I invite you to wet your thumb and trace the outline of the cross on your forehead.  Remember you are created in God’s image.  

Now hear these words from Matthew:

The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” Matthew 3:16-17, The Message

I wonder how Jesus made sense of this holy moment?  Did he think he had lost it because he was hearing voices and seeing things?  Did he say, “Must be a bit of water in my ears and eyes, because this doesn’t make sense!”?  Did his heart feel strangely warm and his soul surge?

How would you feel?  What would you think?  

Because God is claiming you.  God is calling you, the delight of God’s life, to let your light shine especially in this year.  You can let your light shine by calling someone you know who lives alone and might need to hear a loving voice.  You can flood a nursing home with cards for every resident knowing that the isolation and loneliness of this year are real.  You can compose a song to sing because we need music right now.  You can care for creation and work to make sure our great grandchildren will have a safe place to live.  You can…fill in the blank with what causes your heart to surge and soar.

God claims us and that truth changes everything, rearranges the mental furniture and sings to our soul.

Hold this truth.  Dip your fingers into the water to remember again that God’s baptismal love for you wasn’t just confined to some moment in a sanctuary with a pastor years ago; God’s baptismal love is for this day.

Prayer: Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me.



Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Baptism take three

 

Morning Meditation ~ Baptism

In addition to the bowl of water, I encourage you today to have a cup of coffee or tea or OJ or a favorite beverage ready as you read the following words from Joyce Rupp:

“if I wait to be
perfect
before I love myself
I will always be
unsatisfied
and ungrateful

if I wait until
all the flaws, chips,
and cracks disappear
I will be the cup
that stands on the shelf
and is never used”

Baptism isn’t only external event, this sacrament (which means it is a tactile/tangible way of experiencing God’s grace) awakens an internal truth: you are a container of God’s love.  Just like the cup of coffee I hold in my hands right now, you are a vessel for God’s presence in the world today.  Suddenly I think, “WaitMe?  Hasn’t 2020 been hard enough?  Can I really do this?”  Perhaps you can hear why John protested baptizing Jesus in your own responses and reactions to letting the claim of baptism control the radio station of your life.

Yet, as the psalmist sang, “Our cups runneth over,” even now this year.  The good news about the vaccine.  The fact that I woke up this morning with my mind, stay on Jesus.  The ability to call someone and hear her voice.  My family.  The food I am eating.  You.  Especially you who are willing to read these devotionals so faithfully and offer amazing hymn suggestions!  I would say even facing our problems of the pandemic, polarization, and personal ones can be a moment when God enters in.  One of my favorite quotes is that struggles can either break you open or make you bitter.  Sometimes it does both!  Or, the truth will set you free, but first it can make you miserable.  As I have learned about my own biases this year, there has been struggle.  As I have tried to adapt to this new digital ministry there has been frustration.  As I have sought to be open to God, there are moments my soul has cried out.  Yet.  Yet, God’s grace has brought me safe this far.  The flaws, chips, cracks, and stains of this year on the cup of my life can also be a way God enters in.

How might that be true for you?

Prayer: God pour out Your love soaking and saturating my life every day.  Amen.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Baptism take two

 


As you read the meditations this week, I invite you to have a bowl of water in front of you.  You may want to begin by pouring out the water, hearing it splash at the bottom of the bowl and even splatter onto the table.  Now, I invite you to wet your thumb and trace the outline of the cross on your forehead.  Remember you are created in God’s image.  Pay attention your thoughts.  What words would you use to describe this moment?  Words like, “peacefulness,” “love,” or “soaked/saturated in the Spirit”.

When I think of baptism, in the back of my mind there is a melody that starts softly, tenderly.  Soon the words wash over me like I just dove into a pool of water:

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol’ way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way.
O sisters, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sisters, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

It is that final line of the first stanza, “Good Lord, show me the way,” that catches me.  I can sing that sweetly and hopefully where all the syllables come out evenly.  Or I can sing those words exasperated, exhausted where I emphasize the “Good Lord,” part and the words, “show me the way,” come out like a prayerful plea for such a time as this.  

What hymn starts humming in your heart today?  

Shall we gather at the river? Classic!

Wade in the water? Absolutely – that is a beautiful spiritual connecting us to the truths of God’s creative and liberating love.

I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry? Oh, that one always makes me tear up and think about my kids’ baptisms.

What other hymns – the hymn doesn’t have to explicitly mention baptism, just one that is flowing in your heart and singing to your soul.  Go ahead, post a hymn that is in your heart today in the comment section.  I can’t wait to see the hymnal we all participate in making together today. 

Prayer: Still singing God, wash over us with a grace and love we need and know as You today.  Amen.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Baptism take one

 


As you read the meditations this week, I invite you to have a bowl of water in front of you.  You may want to begin by pouring out the water, hearing it splash at the bottom of the bowl and even splatter onto the table.  You may want to dip the tips of your fingers into the bowl.  Pay attention to the sensations that are sent all the way from your fingertips to your brain.

Do you feel warmth or coolness?

What colors do you notice?

Can you maybe even see your reflection in the water?

Play in the water a bit, let your inner five-year-old-self loose with joy – especially because this year has not been easy.

Now, I invite you to wet your thumb and trace the outline of the cross on your forehead.  Remember you are created in God’s image.  Remember God’s liberating love that seeks to let loose in your words/actions/presence.  Remember God’s grace that feeds us and forms us every day.  Remember, you are a beloved daughter and son of God.

Breathe into that truth.

Then read these words:

At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him.  John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”  Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”

Two quick insights about the passage for you to ponder.  First, the setting of the Jordan River is a political statement.  The Jordan was where Moses preached his final sermon on the wilderness side.  Then mantel of leadership was passed to Joshua, who parted the Jordan River (just like Moses parted the Red Sea), the people walked through into the Promised Land.  The Elders collected twelve stones from the river bottom that were holy, tactile, tangible reminders of God’s presence.  (If you want to read the whole story it is Joshua chapters 3-4).  John didn’t just choose the Jordan as a random site, the Jordan choose John as a holy place for people to gather to remember – remember our history.  I wonder sometimes if we need to gather at the Potomac to remember our complicated and complex history as a country?  That we have struggled with living our ideals as a nation with our own self-interest and individualism – to name that and then wash in the river renewing us to live as God’s people.

Second, I love how John objects to doing this.  Is there any part of you that struggles with fully living the claim of baptism?  I do.  I do with people who push all my buttons and take all my energy.  Can I really show God’s love to them?  I struggle with when my frustration fumes and comes out in words I immediate want to pull from the air and put them back in my mouth.  Baptism is God's unconditional and unceasing claim.  We don’t do anything to earn this claim of love and grace.  It is.  You are God’s beloved. 

Now touch the water again, letting that truth soak in and saturate your life today.

Prayer:  Let this water today remind me who and whose I am.  I am (insert your name here), Your beloved, O God, let that truth loose in my life.  Amen and Amen.


Friday, November 13, 2020

Communion Again

 


I started the week with communion and want to end the week here.  Specifically, Jesus’ invitation that every time we take bread, break, and eat, we do so in remembrance of him.  This isn’t just confined to a sanctuary and communion.  The communion table connects and extends to your dining room table when you take bread into your hands and break it.  One of the blessings from digital worship is that you are living the priesthood of all believers.  You are blessing the bread and consecrating the cup.  Plus, the fact that your dining room table becomes an altar is an affirmation that I pray continues for years to come.  Given these truths – you are blessed by God and can celebrate communion any time you wish as well as your home is a sanctuary – means that today at breakfast, lunch, and dinner is a holy meal.  
The image that comes to mind is when I am eating a bowl of soup, there is always just a bit at the bottom I cannot get.  So, I take a bite of roll to soak the last little bit of goodness.  That is a holy act.  
Secondly, I think seeing our dining room tables as communion tables reminds us of our connection to Christ every day and wherever we are.  You are re-membered, which means re-connected and re-joined to the sacred, every time today you break bread and drink juice.  I need reminders every day of the holy hovering and hanging around me.  When I let this wisdom get a word in edgewise, I start to slow down at meals and savor what I am eating.  I sense the connection to the good earth that yielded the apple or grapes or tomatoes that made the soup.  We are interconnected to the soil that is in our souls from the food we eat and to God who crafts, creates and loves into being the good earth from which it comes.  I pray these words might sing to your soul and stay with you every time you pull a chair up to the table to eat today – for indeed, that is a holy moment of communion.

Prayer: Please pray/sing with me: Come to the table to grace, come to the table of love, come to the table of peace, your table is Christ’s table, come and remember who/whose you are.  Amen. 


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Two Weeks Til Thanksgiving

 


Morning Meditation ~

Two weeks from today is Thanksgiving.  For me, it doesn’t quite feel right because I know that Thanksgiving this year will be unique.  I am wondering what sorts of plans you are making for that day?  I know I won’t be joining church members at a restaurant for plates full of turkey and pieces of pie.  It will be quieter and perhaps more somber given the state of the world with the pandemic.  Yet, I know that the first Thanksgiving perhaps wasn’t the feast we now associate with the day (I will say more on that in the sermon on November 22nd – which is a total shameless plug).  Yet, this year I am being invited to give thanks, not because I have to or because everyone else is, but because such an act is life giving.  For me, thanksgiving isn’t just a day, it is a state of being.  To be sure, it is a state of being that at times eludes and evades me, especially this year.  At moments giving thanks can sometimes feel a bit forced.  But when I begin to think about the blessings and my gratitude, it shifts my attitude.

How does such a shift of attitude toward gratitude start?  Great question, I am glad you asked!

Recently I made a list of 50 things that bring me joy as part of a class I am leading on Zoom.  Others in the group did the same.  We shared some of our lists.  It was a blessing.  It was a moment that both gave voice to what brings me joy (family, ice cream, writing, reading, walking), but also hearing others ideas reminded me of additional experiences that bring me joy (like vacation or chocolate – not sure how I forgot those in my initial list).  

I encourage you to think prayerfully about how you will approach Thanksgiving in a few weeks.  I encourage you to sit down with a piece of paper, number one to fifty, and begin to make your list of what brings you joy.  Note that you may need to start the list, pause, walk away, and come back.  You may need to talk to others and share your lists with each other to be reminded of what warms your heart too.  You may find some things on your list that you want to include on the Thanksgiving table – like chocolate and pizza – just because this year is different.  Or things you want to do that week – like going for a walk and taking a photographs – to prepare your heart.  As we turn toward Thanksgiving in a few weeks, may your heart and mine be open to God’s grace and love every day.

Prayer – sing/pray with me: Praise God from whom all blessing flow; praise God all creatures here below; praise God above ye heavenly host; Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost.  Amen!!


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day

 



Today, November 11 is Veterans Day but we originally called this, “Armistice Day.” On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (i.e., November 11, 1918, exactly 102 today), the truce was declared that ended World War I, then known as “The Great War” and “the war to end all wars.” “Armistice” is from the Latin arma (“arms”) and sistere (“stand still”). Initially Congress said this this day, “should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”  What a powerful statement for this year.  Today, you can start with thanksgiving.  I give thanks for my dad who served in the Navy, my father-in-law who was also in that branch, for those who wore the uniforms of the Army/Air Force/Marines, for members in our church who worked at the Pentagon, those who left family to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, and those who are stationed around the world right now.  I give thanks that service to our country comes in many forms from medicine (those working on a vaccine right now) to teaching to leadership to fixing the potholes in the roads and making sure there is clean water from our faucets.  We need many gifts of many people to make our communities function (which is really what politics is about).  After you make the list of thanksgiving, I invite you to pray.  Pray for our veterans, especially those who live in pain physically and emotionally.  Pray for the medical staff around the world.  Pray for those who are on the front line of this virus in stores and classroom.  Pray for our leaders.  Pray for your neighbor, especially the one you struggle to love.  Then, listen – lean into God’s prayer for you today.  Finally, find a way to exercise peace.  What a great invitation that we can live today.  Peace found in our words and actions.  

In honor of my dad’s service, I close with the prayerful words of the hymn “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” which is often called, “The Navy Hymn”.

Prayer: please pray/sing with me:
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bond the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.
Amen.


Monday, November 9, 2020

Communion Take Two

 



Morning Meditation ~

During worship yesterday, we celebrated communion.  The word is derived from com- "with, together" and unus "oneness, union."  Another way to say this is that communion is playfully bringing together the words “common,” as in the ordinary/everyday bread from our cupboards and juice from our refrigerators, and the word, “unity”.  Communion gives us a vision of common unity.  Given that we are still in the throws of a contentious election, it can seem difficult to think about what can bring us together as people.  

But, perhaps, one possible truth is going back to basics of what we do share – the needs for food, shelter, and love.  The human need for connection and care.  It is often noted that human beings, on a cellular level, are 99% the same.  Beneath the surface of skin color; language; places we call, “home,”; political understandings; where we find the holy; and all the other ways we categorize and compartmentalize each other; within us we are made of the same soil and star dust.  But, you will correctly say, we certainly don’t act that way!  You are right.  We don’t.  And the reasons why are complicated because we are complex.  I don’t always have rational or reasonable explanations for why I do what I do.  Or, at least reasons I’d like to admit out loud to someone else.  I remember when my kids were growing up and they did something I disapproved of I would ask, “Why did you do that?!”  And they would innocently say, “I don’t know.”  

At the time I was frustrated by that response.  But the more I grow, the more I realize that is the honest answer.  I don’t know why I do what I do many times.  Words come out without thinking.  Actions happen because I am on autopilot or fear has taken control of the wheel.  On top of that, we are increasingly segregated into people who think like us (what is often called, “confirmation bias”).  Add to that, if change is going to be too hard we justify why we’d rather NOT even start (what is called, “comfort bias”).  Finding some sense of community or communion right now will be hard, holy work.  It will take shattering the norm that we can’t talk to each other.  It will take risking listening to people who push our buttons.  This moment is asking prayerful for maturity of both feeling our emotions honestly and then breathing through those initial reactions to stay in relationship.  

If your mind is like my, the initial reaction that what I just wrote shows the comfort bias we have.  I think, “But what about this person whose racism or sexism or homophobia is too much?”  Or what about that person, can I really change him?  I am not sure.  I am convicted by Ruby Sales who challenges us both to name where there is pain and to live the call of the redemption for all creation.  

I am convicted by Parker Palmer who writes when faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being.  I will never complete the faithful work or justice/love/mercy, nor can I cease from prayerfully doing what I can, where I can.  

I am most certainly convicted by Jesus who broke bread and poured out wine with people who would desert, deny, and betray him.  The one who both said, “Love your enemies” and then modeled that on the cross.  I am not sure of every step on the path ahead.  I will stumble and fall flat on my face.  Most of all, I trust in God’s grace and love that picks me up to take the next right step.  

Prayer: May the truth of the communion table continue to work within my life this day and week.  With God’s love now more than ever. Amen.


Friday, November 6, 2020

Prayer with Open Hymnals and Open Hearts

 


O God, I woke up this morning with my mind, stay on Jesus.  I woke up this morning knowing that I had to lean into Your everlasting arms.  I woke up this morning knowing full-well that I need Thee every hour.  I woke up this morning with the hymnal of my heart longing to be expressed in what I do and say and go about this day.  

I pray the words this morning realizing that You are the God of all the nations, “This is my song, O God of all the nations, A song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine; But other hearts in other lands are beating With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”  Those words sing to my soul.  Those words call out to my heart to realize that so often my focus can be too narrow only on me.  I forget the pain of my brothers and sisters in other countries also struggling with coronavirus, economic hardship, polarization, and pain.  We are so caught up in our own narratives that we don’t listen to others stories or we are too quick to dismiss them or we disregard rather than letting another’s story disrupt the way we live our lives.  You, O God along with the Spirit/Sophia/Wisdom, crafted and created us – all of us – in Your image.  You crafted and created us with all the colors of the crayon box, with all the beautiful diverse understandings, with a variety of ways we can encounter and experience Your holiness.  You love creation, all of it, from the tiniest particle of soil to the stars twinkling thousands of miles away.  From Sarasota to Seattle to Sidney to Sicily to the person next door on our street.  This meta-narrative seems too big sometimes to live our lives by.  Yet, it is a powerful truth, You invite us to hear.  This is my hope and the hope of people in diverse places I may never visit. Yet in Your mystery, somehow in some way, this prayer moves my heart this day.  Ground me in grace.  Lead me with love.  Trusting that this prayer is one that unites us around the world.  Amen.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Prayer as We Wait

 




God, You know all about waiting.  Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years from the moment You promised them a child to Isaac (meaning, “laughter”) first cry.  Moses never set foot in the Promised Land after wandering for forty years, being the complaint department, and preaching countless sermons.  Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah might never have known the ways their words would both inspire and challenge people of faith for centuries.  Even Jesus waiting thirty-some years from being born in a barn to the moment he waded in the water for baptism.  Be with us as we wait right now.  Remind us that there is holiness woven into every day if only we let Your grace and love get a word in edgewise.  Help us direct our energy, use our words, and be Your presence.  God, we need Your firm foundation of faithful living in these days.  As the hymn we sing proclaims, “Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore; let the gift of your salvation be our glory evermore. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving you whom we adore, serving you whom we adore.”  Let those words be embodied and embraced in every life who read these words.  Amen.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Prayer on Election Eve

 



I invite you this morning to take a deep breath.  Breathe in so that the oxygen reaches your pinkie toe.  Exhale out the exhaustion we have all been carrying trying to keep on, keeping on.  Breathe in again the strength of the One who promises to always be present.  Exhale out the fear that has for far too long controlled the radio stations we listen to.  Breathe in an unceasing grace and unconditional love that we need every day.  Exhale the pain, trusting God to help us process all that is swirling in our minds, hearts, souls, lives, community, country, and world.

Pray with me.

God, You are our help in ages past.  You are our hope for years to come.  We know from the stories of our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, the ones who would gather at family reunions with paper plates of potato salad and jello to swap stories about what it was like trying to live and raise families during the Depression, Dust Bowl, and World Wars.  We have heard stories about ducking under desks for fear of missiles and graduations.  We have heard about jobs lost and careers began.  We have heard about family members grieved and new babies welcomed.  We have heard about transitions that were welcomed and ones that caused frustration.  Through those stories, we heard resilience and a reminder that Your presence is what gets us through day-in-and-day-out.  Move in our midst of this weary years and too many tears.  We have known well the cries of the Psalmist, “How long?”  We have felt new insights into why Jesus cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  We need Your wisdom and guidance amid rising cases of Coronavirus that are overwhelming hospitals.  Be with our frontline workers who are doing everything possible to save lives.  We need Your peace amid a polarized country captive by narratives that keep us distrusting and even hating each other.  We need Your love to so take hold of our hearts that we cannot help but let that be the truth we share and shine forth.  We pray for our country as we head to the polls tomorrow.  We pray for those who work at the polls.  We pray for healing.  There is so much we face and too much for too long we have put off dealing with from racism and discrimination to economic inequalities to health care to our own brokenness.  We need You, O God.  Help open our hearts to Your creative and liberating love not just this week because of an election, but every week of our lives.  Breathe on us, breath of God, fill us with life anew, that we may live faithfully til we’ve seen this journey through.  Amen.


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