Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent Week 1 - Prayer for Hope

This blog has recently felt more like "the ghost of Christmas past" for me than a means for community, inspiration, and connection.

I rarely do this much any more. But it's Christmastime...(well, Advent, to be exact :) ) ....and I think that is reason enough to share a little here and there. So here is a prayer that I wrote for this last Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent...a prayer for hope.

Hope excites us, O God. The hope of a new day.  The hope of a fresh start. The hope of a smile, or a hug, a text message, the laughter of children. Hope that things will get better.  Hope that we will reach the dreams of our hearts. Hope that we will see a light – if ever so dimly – at the end of a long, dark, cold tunnel. 

Hope tugs.  It warms and kindles until the very moment we think we are stuck in this one place forever – hope sits down beside us and whispers in our ear….

And on our best days, and maybe even our worst, we will come to find ... that hope is you, O Holy God. You are the one who tugs, nudges, warms and kindles the life that lives within us. You never let us go; it is we who lose our grip.  Forgive us.

As we step, ever so gently – or ever so anxiously – into this Advent season – guide us into your hope.  Open the map and point us in the right direction. For if we are honest we will confess that we have hopes – many hopes – for ourselves, for our own lives, for the person we want to be and for the life we wish to live. Will we trust you?

And because we are people who live in community with one another – we have hopes for the greater world – from our tightknit circles to the good of all humanity. We want the very best for the people you have created.  We have hope that violence and war and hate and greed cannot and will not be the final word. We have hope that we will see kingdom come in our own day! In the here and now! We have to have hope. We have to cling to it.

Lord, we wonder – do we have what it takes to wait for Christ’s coming? Christ as a newborn child breaking into our world with hearty cries and bright eyes?  Christ as "God with us" breaking into our world with a message that disrupts our status quo and turns over the tables of power? Do we have what it takes? 

O Lord, tug upon our hearts today…. hold tightly to the string that opens the doors of our hearts to receive the gift that waits to be given.

We pray in the name of your son, whose birth we await, Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Enough

Enough.

When will it be enough?

How much do we have to lose

Before we say

Enough?

Schools.

Movie theaters.

Concerts.

Sporting events and nightclubs.

Mosques, Temples, and Churches.

City streets and broken homes.

I have been silent for so long

In fear that my true fears would be one more line of division

In the constant tirade of noise and blame

But I have had enough.

Haven't we all?

Aren't we just tired?

So

Tired.



It hurts deep within my gut

To begin my work day

Fumbling with the question of whether or not

to lock

The church doors during worship.


To preach the gospel of Jesus

Means that our prayers must be lived.

Prayer without change

In how we live or think or act

Is simply not

Enough.

True prayer changes the person

And creates something within

That looks a little bit more

Like God.


And so I pray

That we have all had enough

And that the pettiness of the political blame game

Will. Just. Stop.

So we can find our decency again

So we can find our humanity again.

(Perhaps that could make

America great again)


Is it too much to ask

That we come together

In the name of

LIFE

And say

Enough!

And this time

Truly mean it?


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Saints

In an attempt to pray and capture the swirling thoughts and feelings of my sleep-deprived brain; feeling the sting of missing worship at my church on All Saints Sunday, yet giving thanks for the new life I cradle in my arms - I offer these imperfect, yearning words.   


Today.
A one month old swaddled in sleep.
Today.
All Saints Sunday.

Rare quiet moments
To wonder
On the joys and sorrows of life
The tug-o-war playing out in my heart
For life gone by
For life beginning

There is laughter
There are tears
In both.

The passing of time,
How life does change in one year
One month
One week

The close of one chapter
That beckons a new beginning
Whether we want it
Or not.

The whisper of a saint’s final breath
Lingering in the starlit space
Waiting to fill the lungs
Of a newborn’s cry

And the quiet thanksgivings
The bittersweet goodbyes
For those who lived well
Loved hard;
Touched the world with
Kindness and grace

These rare quiet moments
Are yours,
Ours

Swaddled safely in the God
Who is yesterday, today
And always.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

A New Day

Isaiah 44:1-5; Joel 2:28-29

I have been doing a devotion titled "40 Days with the Holy Spirit" by Jack Levison.  Forty days has taken me all summer.  Today I read two entries in the book, days 35 & 36, and in my reflection time I wrote in the last page of my current red, softbound journal.  One that I started last summer in June.  It's totally not a big deal to end one journal and open another for the first time - but I like to think it is.

Today I read and thought about how the Holy Spirit knows no boundaries.  Duh, right? But how we forget it.  The lines in the sand that we draw to keep us in and them out, the Spirit drenches in holy rain. Soaking us all - all flesh - with the blessings and promises of God.  Words I wish I wrote say for today's reflection say this:
"Horizontally the outpouring of the Spirit extends to all flesh - not just a single people group or state or nation or continent...the words all flesh crush the rigid shell of nationalism, for all flesh elsewhere in the Jewish Bible includes animals (Gen 6:19) and all of humankind (Gen 6:12; Deut 5:26; Psalm 65:2; Is 49:26; 66:23). The prophetic promise of the outpouring of the Spirit breaks every artificial boundary, every self-imposed border, ever pretense to privilege.  The Spirit also drills vertically deep into society, from top to bottom, from distinguished men to their nameless female slaves...There is a remarkable leveling out of society, a devastation of privilege, an obliteration of all barriers, whether of money, age, gender, or status in society."
Jack Levison, Forty Days with the Holy Spirit

Lines in the sand, drenched away by the Holy Spirit.  A vision that sounds warm and fuzzy, but in reality is anything but.  

Today I will go to a parent orientation at the place where Abbey will start pre-school in a few weeks. My baby girl is growing up.  And in the meantime the baby inside me continues to move and dance and kick in my belly - I cannot wait to meet Michael Cayce.

On this day in late July 2016, as I make an ordinary closing of a journal an important moment for my life and spiritual journey, I want Abbey & Michael both to know this (if they ever read it):

On Thursday of this past week, a historical moment was made in our country. Whether you like her or not, Hillary Clinton became the first woman in our nation's history to accept the nomination for presidency by a major political party.
Abbey & Michael, both of you can achieve anything you want.  Both of you can set goals for yourself and reach them.  Although, there will be hardships, failure, and pain along the way.  I hope and pray, through the good and bad times, that you continue along a path that molds you into the beloved people you are created to be. But I ask only this: that you work toward your goals and dreams with compassion. That you remember the message of our faith - from Noah to Moses to the prophets to Jesus - God's spirit drenches all of us with the goodness and blessings of God.  Do not step on others as you walk the path of your dreams.  Rather, reach out a hand to carry others along, and to be led by those very different from you. 

For the Holy Spirit truly does soak us with generosity and compassion and transformation whether we like it or not - if only we let it.  

And all of us - all flesh - are loved by God, the Creator of the world, whether we allow it or not.  

So we might as well, children of God, dance in the pouring rain of the Holy Spirit and give thanks for a new day.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Prayer for National Day of Prayer

This year, as part of our community ministerial association, I participated in the National Day of Prayer.  I joined several other pastors in this community as well as hundreds around the country to pray for topics such as U.S. military & government, families, churches, education, etc.  My topic of focus was the media.  I thought I would share my prayer here as well.  As the political climate gets hotter and hotter in America, the media has such a critical role.  And I worry more and more every day as to what kind of world Abbey and Baby Bruce #2 (as well as the countless children & youth I care about) will grow up in.

O God of all living beings,
God who touches the world with creativity and color; who equips your people with the gifts of imagination, talent, and inventiveness –

Continue to listen to our prayers today.  As we pray for our great country, we remember all the avenues of media:  from entertainment to news; from the screens of our televisions to the convenience of our smart phones. 

We ask you to open our minds to be thoughtful consumers of information.  We ask for the ability to stretch our eyes and our ears to look for the good things that are happening in our country; to not be so overwhelmed by the negative that we become bitter and complacent.  Rather grant us the awareness to respond to the plight of the poor and the suffering, which make the headlines, and grace us with the awareness to respond to the plethora of stories that never make the paper.  Remind us that your love does indeed bless the large cities and small towns of this country.  Empower our media outlets – from movies to the major news stations – to focus on the stories that bring healing, unity, compassion, and justice to the people of this country.  

O God – your son prayed that his disciples would be united as one people in your love made known in Christ Jesus.  And so we pray that, though we may disagree with our neighbor, though we may have different opinions depending on which media outlet we prefer, though we differ in culture, race, and background – we pray for the ability to focus first and foremost on our shared humanity and on the love that you place within us.  We pray for the courage of our media to deliver honest and fair information.  And on a day in which we also remember the 6 million deaths of Jewish people to the hands of the Nazis, we fervently pray our media not engage in the types of propaganda that once provided the fertile, deadly ground of the Holocaust. We pray our media will not divide us into people of anger and resentment for our fellow American, but rather inform us, educate us, and enlighten us to see all the people of this country – and this world - as our brothers and sisters; all of us wanting the very best for one another. May the information we seek every day be the stories we live out on the streets of our neighborhoods – stories of justice, of compassion, of peace, and liberty.


We pray in the name of Jesus – a man of peace; a Lord of love, Amen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Birdsong

Perhaps it is the birds, who paint their voices in the skies
that shows us where you are
When we look but cannot see.
When we listen but do not hear.

You are near, you are far.

Your love stretches the movement of their song.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lent Week Six

"Prayer is not asking.  Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts."  Mother Teresa

Six weeks ago was Ash Wednesday.  The ashes are no longer buried under my fingernails.  Haven't been there in a while.  Gone are the days when Lent crawled by.  This year it sprinted.  It ran like something was chasing it...(maybe Donald Trump was after Lent, too).

I'm not sure if I've changed much since the Wednesday of six weeks ago.  Have you?  My mind races today, too.  Scattered and jumbled like the pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  Like those annoying puzzles where the majority of pieces are slightly different shades of ocean blue; it seems near impossible to ever find two that fit together, let alone 683.

What has this season done for me?  For us?  For our churches?  For our communities?  For our world?  Do we even really know....or care.....or really, and I mean, really pay attention?  It's fun and easy to see the tiny purple flowers budding on the trees.  Makes us feel happy and gitty as we put on shorts and sunglasses and kick Winter in the butt.  But are we really paying attention to what it all means for us?  Or....could mean for us?

We ask a lot of God.  I know I do anyway.  And then my mind goes all turbo speed while God just might be talking back.  Things-to-do....things I want-to-do....things I need-to-do....things I think-I-need-to-do.....blah blah blah....

Meanwhile, God, you sit here patiently.  Waiting, listening, sighing deeply, waiting for me to turn and look at you.  To stop and breathe you in.  For real.
I'm not asking anything of you. (I'm not saying it's not tempting to just ask because that's what I do most of the time anyway).  It's easier to ask - keeps me in charge of what I want and what I think I need.

So I'm not asking anything of you today, God.  I'm just trying to put my heart in your hands.

I'm just trying.... to shut up.....and put my heart in your hands.