Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Consuming Part Two

 


Yesterday I invited you to pause prayerfully, to be aware and awake to what you were consuming ~ not just through food ~ but through your eyes, ears, heart, soul, and body.  You absorb not only the nutrients of food, you can also take in what is around you and the seas of life you are swimming and sailing.

For example, just because we can watch 24-hours of news, does that make us better informed?  Just because we can refresh Twitter every two seconds with thousands of new tweets, does that change us or help us comprehend?  

The question of what are we consuming and what is consuming us is one of the most difficult to answer.  

I am not a digital native.  I did not grow up with a smartphone in my hand.  But, I am nevertheless tethered to technology.  And all this information we consume is not neutral.  It impacts us.  It evokes and provokes and nudges us.  We may think that because we were the one clicking the mouse to read the story, we are in control...rather than realizing that an algorithm fed us that story and the business that posted it gets paid by us clicking on it.  The world we swim in is complex.  Perhaps the ways we have always treaded water no longer work to stay afloat.

To be aware of how the snippets of stories can cause us to leap to conclusions.  To be awake to how quickly something we hear causes an emotional reaction.  To stay alert to how our soul needs more space to breathe rather than rush to the next things.

Noticing and naming the weather patterns of life is important.  I wonder if the storms that have surged in our soul for the last twenty years of fear, since 9/11, have left our bodies as vulnerable as our planet?  I wonder if the eroding hatred we anonymously post on the internet is akin to the evaporation of top soil of land that has been over-farmed?  Like the earth we walk upon, our bodies are alive and showing significant signs of being overworked, overstressed, and overscheduled.  When we treat our lives, ourselves, this way...why would we treat others or the earth any differently?

Listen to God's words of love for who you are ~ not because of what you consume or comprehend or can produce.  You are loved by the Holy and nothing can separate us from God's love.  So may you and I notice what is happening within us and how it is both impacted by and impacting those who are around us.  And may it be God's love that consumes our lives this day.  Amen.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Consuming


 

This morning I sat eating my usual bowl of overnight oats, scanning the heartbreaking headlines about the devastation Ida left in Louisiana, military families grieving, the crisis in Afghanistan, COVID 19 cases, masks mandates...with each word I consumed my soul ached a bit more.  I realized that just as I feed my body, so I feed my mind, heart, and soul.  Just as I exercised my body this morning, so what I was consuming and reading was exercising my mind, heart, and soul.

We don't often think about what we are consuming...or what is consuming/occupying/feeding our dis-ease with the world today.

If all we hear is brokenness, that cause and create brokenness within us.

This is not to say we should just bury our heads in the sand.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what a 24-hour news cycle does to your soul?

Have you ever stopped to wonder what constantly consuming misery does to your heart?

Have you ever stopped to wonder what is happening internally to all that we experience and encounter externally?

Today, I want you to pay attention to what is stirring and swirling in your body.

Over the last few weeks, I have invited you into the prayer practice of pausing to name and notice what is happening in you physically ~ emotionally ~ spiritually ~ and ~ mentally.  I have encouraged to you name your weather patterns of your soul.

Now is the next step.  Weather patterns do not happen in a vacuum...winds and seas and the moon control what is happening outside your window.  This week I want us to look at the winds and seas and moonlight of our world and how it is impacting, influencing how we inhabit the world.  

Today, just notice what you experience and your reaction.  What thoughts stir in response to the news stories?  What conversation warms your hearts?  You can start right now, what does this meditation evoke and provoke mentally ~ spiritually ~ emotionally ~ physically within you?

Breathe in God's presence and encounter the Eternal this day, I pray.  Amen.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Meditations

 


Please click the link below to access the Morning Mediations for all week while Pastor Wes is away on vacation:

https://uccsarasota.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/August-23.pdf

Friday, August 20, 2021

Remembering Today

 


A poem/prayer on remembering...

We tend to think of the word, "remember" as some intellectual exercise.

But my nose remembers grandma's kitchen every time I pass a bakery.

My ears remembers goodness every time I hear laughter.

My eyes remember beauty every time I stand in creation with the soil enlivening/enlarging my soul.

My skin remembers love with every hug.

My toes remember summer every time sand clings and coats them while walking on the beach.

My tongue remembers peace with each sweet, soothing spoonful of ice cream on a warm day.

You may tell me that memories live in a metal, mental file cabinet in your mind, but I know there is something deeper and something more.  And I believe that even when my memories fade, God remembers.  Remember as meaning brought together and brought to live anew.  Remember being God's activity of rejoining that which was forgotten or left behind ~ God still brings and blends together with love that which we cannot contain or control.  

Memories, like the wind, can stir and swirl in countless ways in our lives.  Memories linger and live not only within us but in a universe cultivated and created by the Divine.

So, hold today lightly, for tomorrow this moment too will be a memory.  And may grace and love saturate/soak every second of your life today.  Amen. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Remembering Today

 


I remember pacing nervously back and forth in the church hallway.  The collar of the white button shirt was tight around my neck and did not help my breathing.  The pastor softly touched my shoulder, told me it was time, and I ~ along with my brother and best friends shuffled down the side aisle of the sanctuary about to begin the wedding ceremony.

Twenty-one years ago I married my wife.  It was, is, and will always be one of the best days of my life.  I remember promising to love Gina as she is and as she will become ~ for better and for worse.  Twenty-one years later, those vows remain as important as ever ~ especially living in the world today.  The words we spoke were written on our hearts.  Twenty-one years later, I still feel like I am on a grand, great adventure - and can't wait to see where the road takes us next.

I have been thinking a lot about marriage recently as I am completing a 52-week devotional written for husbands that will be published in November.  While I always wanted to write a book, I never thought my first book would be on trying to offer wisdom to husbands.  Yet, the opportunity of writing the devotional has been a blessing to reflect on marriage and God's presence in our life.  Like marriage, writing the book has had ups and downs ~ twist and turns.  Moments of stress, times of both joyful and frustrated tears.  Most importantly, this has taught me about why I value Gina as my partner so much.

I will let you know when the book is ready and released.  

Today, I honor and celebrate my wife who is my best friend, companion, partner, one who makes me laugh, helper, and a reminder of God's love in my life.  I honor and celebrate my wife whose presence, support, and care is a blessing beyond words.  Today, I honor God's presence in Gina and commit to continuing to live our vows to love her with all my heart every day.  

Happy Anniversary...with all my love 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Remembering Today




Today is the 101st anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, recognizing that women have the right to vote. 

From the Salt Project "The amendment’s initial version was officially proposed in 1878 — and in every congressional session since — and finally (and narrowly!) passed both the House and the Senate in 1919, whereupon it was sent to the states to be ratified. Most states in the South stood against the amendment, but on this date 101 years ago, it was clear that if Tennessee passed it, it would be ratified nationally. As the state legislature gathered to vote, the atmosphere was electric. Those in favor of the amendment wore yellow roses in their lapels; those opposed, red roses. With the vote tied at 48-48, all eyes turned to 24-year-old Harry Burn, the youngest legislator in the chamber. He was widely expected to vote against the amendment (he reportedly was wearing a red rose), but his mother had written him a letter, which he carried that day in his pocket. She wrote: “Dear Son: Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don't keep them in doubt. I noticed some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the 'rat' in ratification. Your Mother." Harry Burn voted in favor."

The cliché is often that history repeats itself.  Today, we are struggling with laws that continue to restrict who has the right to vote.  We continue to realize that Democracy - governing by the people and for the people - is fragile and never complete.  There is always the struggle; as Fredrick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." As a Congregational Church, we seek to honor the gifts of each other ~ to bring and blend our lights brightly in shining God's love.  We prayerful listen and learn from each other.  We seek to prayerfully to be a place where each person is honored as created in God's image.  It isn't easy, but is hard and holy work.

Today, we honor women who raised their voices demanding to be heard.  Today, we recognize that the 19th Amendment, while a step forward, still left African-American women behind without the vote in many states.  Today, we realize that the work will not be finished in our life time.  We pray for the courage and strength to continue this important work in our lives.  We pray for this prayer to be embodied in us in these days.  Amen.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Remembering Today

 

This week, we are remembering and rewinding and reviewing important moments from the past. Yesterday, we honored Aretha Franklin, whose voice defined a generation and moved souls. Today, I want to focus on your summer time memories.  

Perhaps you grew up going to a cabin every weekend in the summer.

Or you may have vivid vacation memories of being in the back of a station wagon on a road trip with your parents ~ visiting national parks.  

Perhaps for you it was a week at summer camp where you met new friends and feasted on s'mores.

Or did summer mean that you hopped on your bicycle after breakfast spent all day with your friends playing baseball or helping your grandmother in the garden.

When you think of summer in your youth, what stirs and swirls in your mind and heart?

For me, summer time was resting and relax - even boredom as my parents worked full time and we did not take many vacation trips.  I remember playing kickball in our backyard or hide and seek with the neighborhood kids.  I remember my parents' garden in the back yard.  I remember going to the Iowa State Fair to see the butter cow (for those who don't know ~ that is a cow carved out of butter ~ which somehow seemed so much cooler when I was younger and now I wonder ~ why was that a thing?) or the largest hog or eating a corn dog and then riding the tilt-a-whirl (not a winning combination!).  Summer time had a different feel as the stalks of corn slowly grew under the Iowa sun.  

Our past shapes our present.  Our thoughts today have been formed by what has happened to us.  What we think of as normal, for another person might seem exotic.  What we found boring as a child another might have seen as a great adventure.  You are who you are because of experiences, encounters, events ~ both internally and externally.  Sometimes the best way to think through that truth is seasonally.

What has been a blessing this summer for you?  When you look in the rearview mirror of June, July, and August 2021 ~ where did you sense God's presence moving in beautifully mysterious ways?  I pray you might comment with both a memory from your childhood and a memory from this summer so that we might share together!  May the God who is present in every season of life stir in your soul as you reflect and remember today.

Amen. 



Monday, August 16, 2021

Remembering Today

 


This week, I want to engage the metal mental file cabinet in your head.  I want you to rummage through the file folders there.  Specifically, today, I want to honor that August 16 Aretha Franklin died in 2018 in Detroit, Michigan, at the age of 76.  The undisputed “Queen of Soul,” Franklin defined the age of soul music in the 1960s and 70s.  Her voice ministered to people in life-giving ways.  Just last Friday a movie on Aretha's life came out.  There are documentaries you could watch to learn more about her faith and strength.  

I believe listening to Aretha sing can minister to your soul.  Listening to her music is a wonderful way to honor one of the greatest singers in my lifetime.  I have posted a link above to listen to her Greatest Hits Album.  

I invite you today to recall when was the first time you heard Aretha Franklin sing?

What is your favorite Aretha Franklin song? (Mine is "Respect" because it was the first song of hers I heard and as kids we would sing it to each other when we felt like we had been disrespected.  Now, I honor this song as giving voice to a central need we all have to be seen/treated/received/honored as a beloved child of God).

I invite you to listen and remember.

I invite you to listen and then post in the comment section YOUR favorite Aretha Franklin song or a story about her music in your life.

May we, today, remember and honor the life and legacy of a voice that defined a generation.  Thanks be to God for the gift of Aretha Franklin's voice that she let loose and shined her light on this world.  

Friday, August 13, 2021

Pausing to Reflect

 


This week we have engaged the prayer practices of body scan, paying attention to our five senses, and the practice of lovingkindness.  What did you find meaningful in each practice?  Was one practice difficult?  Any insights about why you might have found one more helpful than the others?  Sometimes, sitting openly and reflecting honestly about what we are experiencing, can provide a pathway to God’s presence. 

As we hold this day God has made, please pray with me:

Gracious God, thank you for this most amazing day and for my one, wild and precious life.  Thank you for the ways you move through my thoughts and guide my energy.  Thank you for my senses which allow me to pay attention.  Thank you for this body, crafted creatively in Your imagine.  Continue to help me be open to You, O God, every moment this day.  Amen. 


Thursday, August 12, 2021

LovingKindness

 


Today we will explore the Lovingkindness prayer practice.  This comes from the website themindfulchristian.com

Begin with comfortably sitting relaxed and engaged.  Focus in on your breathing, trying to find that peaceful rhythm of exhale and inhale.  Practicing lovingkindness has compelling research backing showing that it increases shared feelings of love with others as well as personal feelings of happiness. It is also a highly flexible practice and can be modified to be a more direct prayer or a more literal expression of Christian theology. One option is to use the phrases "May I/you know God's love. May I/you know God's joy. May I/you know God's peace. May I/you know God's rest."

You can begin this prayer for yourself.  May I know God’s love.  Pause with an open heart to encounter God’s love.  May I know God’s joy.  Pause with gratitude for where you have encountered traces of God’s grace.  May I know God’s peace.  Pause to recall and remember places where you encountered shalom – well-being in your mind, body, heart, and soul.  May I know God’s rest.  Quietly sit with the Sacred in the moment.  

Now you repeat this with the name of a family member.  May ____ know God’s love.  Pause.  May ____ know God’s joy.  Pause.  Continue until you have offered each of the four phrases for that person.  You can repeat for each family member or friend in your heart.  

The challenge is to also pray for our enemies, the people who push our buttons.  The one who said a hurtful comment that left a papercut on your soul.  You pray for the person honestly to know God’s love, joy, peace, and rest.  Often people who hurt others are hurting so deeply within him or herself.  The person is unable to love his/her neighbor because he/she doesn’t love him/herself first.  I realize this is difficult.  I invite you to try this first with those who are mildly irritating, people in your life who deep down you wish the best for, but s/he grates on you from time to time.  Often, we want to try a practice with someone who really hurt you.  That, to me, would be like trying to run five miles the first time you went out for a jog.  Try to ease into praying for the people in your life who are difficult.

I pray this will open you to God’s presence and open others who we hold in our hearts to the Holy hovering and hanging around their lives as well.


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Five Senses Prayer Practice

 

As we continue to explore and experience our bodies this week, today we will take a tour of our five senses.  This practice comes from the website, calminggrace.com.  This is another powerful way to check in with how you are doing and paying attention to what is going on around you and within you.  Bonus, this is a prayer practice especially for people who like numbers! 

Begin by slowing steadying your breathing, paying attention to your exhale and inhale.  You can even be grateful for this breath and next breath too.  Now with prayerful intention I invite you to name and notice what is around you.  We do this with a soft gaze, that is, non-judgmental.  You are not being graded on this exercise, there are no right answers.  How you enter this, is how you enter into this. 

You are invited first to:

  • 5 things you can see: For example, your computer, your dog/cat, a window, a glass of water, etc. ~ we are searching for the tactile and tangible.
  • 4 things you can feel: Consider the texture of your clothes, the chair you’re sitting on, the temperature, etc. ~ again, the invitation is for things around you that are also made of atoms and have energy like you.
  • 3 things you can hear: Listen for sounds far away as well as in the same room.
  • 2 things you can smell: Notice the scent in the air, or maybe the smell of your hands or a nearby object.
  • 1 thing you can taste: Maybe your coffee or tea, or simply the taste in your mouth.

Part of what I love in this practice is it gives us a way to encounter/experience the truth of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s beautiful line of poetry, ““Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”  When we pay attention to God all around us and within us, we sense the Divine.  But if we believe there is nothing sacred to see here, then we may miss the burning bushes ablaze in our life. 

I pray this prayer practice today will open you to the Holy hovering and humming in your life.  Amen.


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Prayer Practice Take Two

 



Today, I invite you to engage the prayer practice of a body scan once again.  Even if yesterday wasn’t the most awesomest experience and holiest moment ever, I believe sometimes a prayer practice needs several attempts before we sink/settle/feel surrounded by the sacred. 

Here is a short review and reminder from the website calminggrace.com

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Bring your attention to your feet. For a few seconds, just focus on your feet and notice the sensations you can feel there. 

Then, slowly bring your attention up to each part of your body: to your legs, torso, arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, and face, all the way to the top of your head. Spend time noticing how each part of your body feels before you move on to the next part. 

This body scan exercise is helpful for grounding in the present moment. It should help you listen to your body and recognize what it needs right now. Also, as you notice each part of your body, you can thank God for it. Praise God for creating each part of your body, and for designing all the details so intricately:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~ Psalm 139:14 NIV


Monday, August 9, 2021

Morning Meditation

 


Last week, we centered our hearts around the question, “How are you really doing?”  We intentionally turned our attention toward four dimensions: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Each of these have a voice in responding to how we are in the moment ~ a place at the table.  Each contribute to the internal “weather pattern of our soul”.  This week, I invite us into a prayer practice of a body scan. 

This is a wonderful affirmation that you are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); that every single cell/atom/particle of you has been and still is being formed/fashioned by God’s fingers (Genesis 2:7).  God breathes the breath of life into you from the top of your head to the tip of our pinkie toe. 

To begin a body scan, it is best to be in a comfortable seated position.  You want your back straight and shoulders relaxed ~ this takes practice!  This is not a natural position for us.  We carry so much tension in our backs, shoulders, and jaws.  This is especially true when we are trying something new – like a body scan prayer – and want to get it “right”.  Please try to settle in, trusting that however you are able to be in a relaxed and engaged position is correct.

Now, do a long exhale.  Just as we carry too much tension in our bodies, our breathing is often shallow most of the time.  A long exhale can get all the carbon dioxide out of your lungs.  Now, you are ready to drink in a deep inhale of breath.  I find it helpful to quite my monkey mind by counting rhythmically.  Inhale to the count of five, hold gently, and exhale to the count of seven or eight.  When your exhale is longer than your inhale, the one simple practice to reset your mind.

When ready, slowly and without judgement check in with your mind.  Notice the thoughts stirring there.  Has your mind been like a hamster on a wheel, spinning – racing – running already this morning?  Softly say to those thoughts, “I hear you.”  When ready, slowly move to your jaw and mouth.  Is your jaw tight/tense?  Have a number of words already fallen from your lips or has it been a quiet morning?  When ready, slowly move on to your shoulders.  Notice the muscles there and softly say, “I hear you.”  When ready, slowly move on to your chest and especially your heart, paying attention to what is being communicated from this central part of you.  When ready, slowly onto your stomach and core, leaning in to that intuition part of yourself.  When ready, slowly move down to your legs and your feet.  Where have you already traveled today?  Have your tasted heaven while still touching earth?

Checking in with your whole body, from top to bottom, is a wonderful affirmation of who and whose you are.  You can try this several times each day and I pray this will be another prayer practice for your spiritual toy box to engage in meaningful and life-giving ways this week.


Monday, August 2, 2021

Morning Meditations

 


While I am on vacation this week, you can click below to access a pdf of the Morning Meditations for August 2-6.

https://uccsarasota.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Morning-Meditation-August-2.pdf


Many blessings ~~

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