Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Gratitude Eventually

Here we are again, God. Crying out for help. 
Loving, loyal, affirming, and compassionate God:
Sometimes the heartbreak is overwhelming. It feels devastating. It feels like we are incapacitated—stuck in a quagmire of sadness, loneliness, fears, and despair. Stuck and sinking deeper. It has been too long in the darkness and we long to move beyond these dark and sad days of yearning and weeping and groaning within. 
Sometimes the heartbreak is related to the sad events in the world—bombings in Beirut, terror in Paris, the horror of violence perpetuated by “others” and, at the end of the day, a realization that “others” are not the only ones who make war instead of peace. There are so many things over which we have no control but yet we want to do something, anything. Sometimes the heartbreak is personal, close to home, deep within our own hearts. Sometimes the heartache is a grieving of significant and very real losses. Sometimes we choose self-pity, choose to shun reality, and choose to foster fantastic and unrealistic dreams of ways we might make everything perfect…
Perfectionism is a harsh, cruel master. In the end we blame ourselves or blame others or discover that we’re living with a deep sense of shame because “we’re not up to the task of fixing the world”—not even our own little corner of it. 
So, there you go. How do we pray for a healing of this pain in our guts if we really don’t want to be healed? How do we let go? How do find our authentic selves—a task that belongs to ourselves alone—while at the same time comprehending and accepting that we cannot walk the journey alone?
Even in the midst of pain, there is gratitude. And gratitude helps us from losing our bearings in the heartache. Gratitude moves us towards faith; and faith calls us to compassion; and compassion calls us to listen to the stories of others and to be open and accepting and patient and kind. 
It all begins with gratitude. 
Personally, I am deeply grateful… For rest and renewal; for a warm home and a comfortable bed; for breakfast and coffee and my 16-year-old who enjoys sharing both with me; for colleagues in ministry and conversations and shared insights and wisdom and discernment; for delicious food and great conversations and generous hearts, for a delightful dinner with friends—old and new; for good health and the Spirit’s healing power and the joy of feeling my muscles being stretched; for spiritual guides and mentors; for music, for art, for rain and the smell of the earth and the leaves and the moisture, for seasons, for laughter, for my children and family, for the grace to care for others and the grace to be open to others who care about me, and for the gifts of faith, hope, and love. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Chrysocolla Prayer

Preparing to pray... Many people light a candle... A friend of mine would prepare an altar with a colorful fabric, a small standing cross, and fresh flowers... Some people hold a cross during their prayers.... Others use a rosary--both Catholics and some Episcopalians do this. Some people hold their Bible... Others might spend time contemplating an icon... Lately I've been holding a crystal--specifically--Chrysocolla. Not for everyone--I understand that. Neither is praying on your knees by your bed for everyone. Nothing magical about any posture or prayer book or other "helps" for prayer. Anyway, this blog post is a prayer--one of the many prayers I've written and prayed related to the metaphysical healing properties of Chrysocolla, which indeed, is part of God's good creation. 

For you shall go out in joy,
    and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Jesus, in Luke 19:40)

Solar Plexis Chakra

Prayer while holding the Chrysocolla against the upper abdomen

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
    or discipline me in your wrath.
For your arrows have sunk into me,
    and your hand has come down on me….
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
    all day long I go around mourning.
~Psalm 38:1-2, 5

Loving God,
you are gracious and compassionate,
patient, and overflowing with loyal love.

Compassionate Father, Welcome me home to my truest self just like father—so patient and generous—welcomed his younger son home after he had squandered his gifts and your love in a faraway place; welcome me home into accepting and trusting once again that I am your dearly-loved child and that I truly belong.

Oh, God, I really do need to feel a sense of belonging.  
Healing Christ, my true elder brother, Hold me close and reassure me. Open my eyes to comprehend and truly see how shame leads to an unhealthy and unrealistic perfectionism, to defensiveness and self-centeredness and a frantic striving to earn my worthiness. Open my heart again to the way of unconditional love. Open my soul to authenticity. 

Oh, yes, I really do need to be reassured. I need to know that I am loved, to feel it and believe it. And only then can I be real. Like the Velveteen Rabbit—battered and tattered and worn… But real. 

Spirit of Power, Open my heart to self-compassion and love—freely given and received; open my mind to wisdom and clear thinking, open my soul to gratitude and joy. Help me to be resilient. Re-energize my creativity. Renew my faith. Inspire me in times of meaningful work, and times of joyous, child-like play, and times healing rest, and in solitude—in hours of calm and stillness. Set me free to laugh and sing and dance again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reading Billy Collins on a park bench in Storm Lake, Iowa

The view across and along the lake is lovely.

Not particularly breathtaking
Unless you grew up on a Sioux County farm
Where corn and soybeans lead to the horizon
And the largest body of water is the Floyd River.

This setting would be peaceful, even prayerful
But for the constant rush of water down the snake-like tubes
And the blaring music from speakers and an occasional scream.

Rock and roll with lyrics I don't bother listening to
Country ballads alluding to a shot of whiskey and a cigarette
Hip-hop or Top 40 or what do we call this familiar tune
Except suitable for a Weird Al parady--is he still around?

"It's a beautiful day" finally makes the music rotation
And it really is.

A couple walks by
Not on a walk
But walking
Not holding hands--now that would be poetry--
But both wearing an iPhone on their arm with
Earplugs connected to their own music by a thin white strand.
And I wonder why.

Nothing to say to each other?

It's a beautiful day and it's a lovely view
But all this begs the question:
Why did I pick this particular place to read Billy Collins
And to write for no particular reason?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Sabbath

Meditation Before Turning Off All Connections to the Internet for the Day

Yesterday was my  normal day off but I worked. 

Quite productively, I might add. 

So today is my replacement Pastor's Sabbath. 

I celebrated by getting up 45 minutes early for meditation and muffins. The meditation from Henri Nouwen. The muffins from Betty Crocker. With fresh fruit, a nice breakfast with my cool kids who, today, didn't seem "wild about" going to school but whose attitudes seemed positive and pleasant nonetheless. 

My day off, in my dreams, includes finding my way via backroads and fall colours (in spite of the rain) to a little cafe near the Mississippi. But, in my real life--my everyday, ordinary life--we're looking at (a) catching up on housework, (b) making a big batch of my Really Amazing North-by-Northwest Chili (giving me the motive-for-action [motivation] to clean the kitchen first), (c) making a sack lunch for Elyse's last regular season volleyball game, (d) a walk, and (e) a late afternoon drive to Alden for Knights Volleyball. 

The dream will wait because life's present reality is pretty darn OK. And grace isn't found in dreaming about tomorrow, you know. But in living today's moments today.

Pax Agape Java,

The Church is the body of Christ fashioned by baptism and the Eucharist. When people are baptized in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and when they gather around the table of Christ and receive his Body and Blood, they become the people of God, called the Church.
Henri J.M. Nouwen. From the October 15 meditation in Bread for the Journey 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Portland Top Seven List

The kids and I visited Portland last summer and had a great time. For those of you heading that direction this summer, here's my "top seven" list of places to see and things to do... Certainly not all-inclusive, but a good start... (OK, now it's 10, not 7... I gave Voodoo Doughnut the top spot instead of sharing a listing with Powell's, and added two more spots at the end...

    Voodoo Doughnut -- your tummy will thank you!
  • POWELL'S CITY OF BOOKS - The largest independent bookstore in the world is in downtown Portland--we spent HOURS there and then walked from Powell's through Chinatown to Voodoo Donuts. "City of Books" fills a whole city block (multistory) and has over a million books! It's an amazing place and right on the light rail line For a real adventure, park in their ramp! We did, using Powell's as our home base for a whole day of downtown exploring.
  • OMSI - Oregon Museum of Science and Industry ("OMSI" on all the signs) including the submarine used in the movie "Hunt for Red October."
  • GARDENS - Portland is the "City of Roses" so if the kids are in the mood visit the Portland Rose Garden (and nearby Japanese Gardens).
  • FARMER'S MARKET - If you have a Saturday morning available, we had fun at the Vancouver, Washington Farmer's Market (and the fresh fruit and lunch options are amazing)... "Ice Cream Renaissance" is close to there and totally fabulous... in a quaint part of town....
  • OCEAN - Road trip to the ocean via Astoria and Fort Stevens State Park and a visit to the site where the Lewis & Clark Expedition spent their long winter.
  • COLUMBIA RIVER ROAD TRIP - Road trip the other direction towards Multnomah Falls Lodge (REALLY great breakfast spot!) and lots of other stuff farther up the road. On your return trip take some of OLD U.S. 30 including a stop at Vista House and the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint--the latter overlooks the Vista House and the Columbia River. Breathtaking plus fun falls stops along the way. Or do the route in reverse. We did the Multnomah Falls Lodge first because we wanted to have breakfast there and beat the crowds. This road trip turned into a full day for us.... and finally.... the restaurant we fell in love with...
  • BEST RELAXING PLACE TO EAT AND DRINK - The Island Cafe.... casual, reasonably priced, good service and food, and the closest you'll get to being in Margaritaville!
  • ANOTHER BREAKFAST OPTION - Order "The Breakfast Baby" at The Original Pancake House
    Luke's 13th Birthday at Multnomah Falls

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Simpler Life

A small book of prayers by Avery Brooke jumped off the bookshelf and into my lap this morning. Once again the Holy Spirit brings a both a roaring fire and a cool breeze into my life, just when I least expect it, just when I'm lazily adjusting the contents of a shelf, waiting for a sermon to come....

A Simpler Life

 Life has gotten confusing, complex, and full of pressures, God. I am pulled this way and that by too many demands and desires.

 It is impossible to be my best self in the midst of this. Yet it is also hard to know how to make life simpler.

 Help me to choose, God. Everything I do seems like something I should do, and yet I know that if I do not stop doing some things I will be able to do nothing well. 

 And if I do not leave some peace and quiet to listen to you, I will fail you, myself, and others.

Avery Brooke
Plain Prayers for a Complicated World, p. 29
Copyright (c) 1975 by Vineyard Books
Copyright (c) 1959 by Avery Brooke

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cheers: A Sermon for Memorial Day weekend

Sermon preached May 26, 2013.
Scripture readings: Rev. 21:1-5; 22:1-5; Psalm 116

This weekend we remember “…those we have lost not only for what they fought for, but who they were: proud Americans, often far too young, guided by deep and abiding love for their families, for each other, and for this country. Our debt to them is one we can never fully repay…” (President’s Memorial Day Proclamation). Yet we remember not just those who died, but those who were there with them. And, of course, we remember and pray for their friends and families—all those who endured a real and painful loss when the earthly life of someone who may have been “their whole world” ended much too soon.
One Marine wrote online recently, “A toast to you (who died in combat), and a double toast to your families and friends. Blood washes off a lot easier than tears and we will never forget you.” War is hell not only for those who die…

Bloodied from battle, Lt Colonel Hal Moore stands overlooking the Valley of Death after the first major ground campaign involving U.S. forces in Vietnam. To a young reporter and photographer, Joseph Galloway, he says, “I'll never forgive myself.”

“For what, sir?”

“That my men... that my men died and I didn't.”

Later Joe Galloway would write, “We who have seen war, will never stop seeing it. In the silence of the night, we will always hear the screams. So this is our story, for we were soldiers once, and young.”

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus gathered his disciples together and taught them—we know this teaching as the Beatitudes, the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessings to those who mourn, cheers to those who weep, hail to those whose eyes are filled with tears, hats off to those who suffer, bottoms up to the grieving. How strange, how incredibly strange.

When you and I are left to our own devices, it’s the smiling, successful ones of the world that we cheer. “Hail to the victors.” The histories we write of the odyssey of humanity on earth are the stories of the exulting ones—the nations that won in battle, the businesses that defeated the competition, the explorers who found a pass to the Pacific, the scientists whose theories proved correct, the athletes who came in first… We turn away from the crying ones of the world. Our photographers tell us to smile (Nicholas Woltersdorff, Lament for a Son, page 84).

We raise our glasses and toast those who died too young. And offer a double-toast to those who grieve, and to those who weep with those who weep, and to those who ask why. And yet, with the Psalmist, we raise our glasses in a toast to the LORD, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD…. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of one of his faithful ones” (Psalm 116:13, 15). 

If you watch the TV or read the newspapers, no doubt you have wondered and maybe even cried out in prayer in the face of tragic events. How many tragedies have there been since our last Memorial Day weekend gathering in this place? Among countless others, there was a bombing at the marathon in Boston; and a school where gunfire turned laughter into wailing, where bullets pierced the hearts of children and—in shared grief—countless others, turning joy into despair; and the path of destruction and death from the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. 

We cannot help but ask, “Why God?” And yet we are wiser to offer the gift of shared suffering by weeping with those who weep than by trying to explain such events theologically.
I cannot answer the questions by saying there was nothing God could have done. God is sovereign. And yet I cannot fit it all together by saying God did it. God’s Sovereignty is a sovereignty of love, not a sovereignty of causality. God does not cause tornadoes to strike one town and not another anymore than God causes a man to pick up a gun and kill children.  Indeed, I could not—I would not—worship such a capricious, vengeful, hurtful god.
Jesus said, “Aren’t you more valuable the sparrows? Yes, even the hairs of your head are numbered…” And Paul wrote, “Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God….” 

Don't trust anyone who claims to comprehend the meaning of this storm. Don't trust anyone who points with absolute certainty to a single cause for this storm. Don't trust anyone who treats a tornado as anything but indiscriminate and cruel. These tragedies are not punishments or object lessons. Such natural forces do not reach their conclusion with a pat moral or a simple "they lived happily ever after." (Eric Barreto, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.)

Instead of claiming to have all the answers, as some are prone to do, instead of trying to figure it all it, we more closely follow God when we try instead to feel for one another, to be compassionate, to mourn with those who mourn. 

As the news of hundreds of dead and wounded reached stateside during the early days of the Vietnam War, the Army was ill-equipped to handle the task of notifying families. Telegrams were given to taxi cab drivers for delivery, as depicted in the film We Were Soldiers. 

On a beautiful autumn morning, a taxicab arrives at the house of Julie Moore, wife of Lt. Col. Hal Moore. She gasps audibly, then reluctantly answers the door. The cabbie removes his hat and inquires, “Mrs. Moore? Colonel Moore's wife?” Her heart already breaking, it is all she can do just to respond, “Yes.”
“I need help finding an address, says the driver, “I'm looking for—“
She interrupts, shouting, “You jackass! Do you know what this is?! Do you know what you just did to me?!”
Making his way sheepishly toward his cab, the man stops at the curb at the curb and confesses, “I don't like this job, Ma'am. I'm just trying to do it.”
“Wait. Wait!” she says, running to the cab, “I'll take it to her.” She takes the telegram and says “Tell the cab company, if there are any others, just bring them to me.”

Although in real life the wife of Lt. Co. Moore did not actually assume responsibility for the delivery of the telegrams, she did follow close behind the wake of the taxis, grieving with widows and families, attending the funerals of those who fell under her husband's command. And based on her complaints to the Pentagon and her example of Christ-like compassion, the Army almost immediately set up notification teams consisting of a uniformed officer and a chaplain.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

It sounds too tame when we say it—we hardly know what “blessed” means anymore. It’s not just a holy pat-on-the-back. It’s real and total happiness, fullness of life, joy and delight. Being blessed is hearing God say CHEERS TO YOU

And so on the Memorial Day weekend…
A toast to those who gave their lives.
A toast to those who mourn. And to those who mourn with those who mourn.
And CHEERS to God who holds us in the palm of his hand through it all—the God who has promised a day when war will be no more, when death will be finally and forever overcome, when sorrow and pain and sickness will be no more. When all tears will be dried by the tender consolation of our Savior. 

May the time not be too distant when we meet by the river shore;
'Til then dream of that wonderful day, as we sing once more, once more:
There is a river in Judea that I heard of long ago,
It's a singing, ringing river that my soul cries out to know.

If the God who revealed life to us, and whose only desire is to bring us life, loved us so much that he wanted to experience with us the total absurdity of death, then—yes, then there must be hope; then there must be something more than death; then there must be a promise that is not fulfilled in our short existence in this world; then leaving behind the ones you love, the flowers and the trees, the mountains and the oceans, the beauty of art and music, and all the exuberant gifts of life cannot be just the destruction and cruel end of all things; then indeed we have to wait for the third day.   (Nouwen. A Letter of Consolation)