Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Breath of God

Is the Holy Spirit resident in your life or president of your life? I call that The Pentecost Question, posed by Rikk Watts in my Scripture Union Bible study last Sunday. 

Lord Christ, 

How can I connect with your Spirit?

I’m convinced that regular Bible study releases or unlocks the Holy Spirit. I feel it in nature and worship. I find it in caring people and service. 

Still, my glass seems half-empty. 

In Acts, the Spirit comes powerfully upon your Disciples with wind and fire, even linguistic gifts. 

St. Paul is more real about the surreal. In Romans, we are groaning, hoping and waiting - in our weakness - for something we can’t see. 

…but I want a cup that runneth over! 

Our Book of Common Prayer talks about being enlightened and strengthened for your service; about growing in the likeness of Christ; about love and harmony with God, ourselves, our neighbors and with all creation. 

I pray for an infusion of your Holy Spirit - in the words of a hymn from two centuries ago:

Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do. Amen. 

The Book of Common Prayer, pages 251, 853
Breath on me, Breath of God, #508, The Hymnal 1982 (The Episcopal Church)
Artwork credit

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Speak less. Listen more.

Contemporary worship overdoses on words and songs, with little space for silence. We think it’s all about us addressing God…it should be about God addressing us. If we speak or sing too much we crowd him out. 

I was confronted by that commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, from Derek Tidball, a Baptist minister in the UK, writing for Scripture Union. It's wise counsel for an improved prayer life: 

Lord Christ, 

Are these prayers or a form of self-expression - with the emphasis on self? 

Am I focused on my words - or you? 

Am I inclined to talk too much - and listen to little? 

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. 
Go near to listen...   Do not be quick with your mouth…let your words be few. (Ecclesiates 5:1-3)

I’m lifting my fingers from the keyboard - creating a space to listen.


Photo credit:
Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville NC (a space for listening to God)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The WORLD in Prayer

My daughter, Lauren, is in Bolivia for a couple of weeks. Protests and strikes have foiled some of her travel plans, and that gives the folks something to be anxious about. All of a sudden, we’re paying close attention to current events in another hemisphere. Note to self: I live a very insular life.

Dear Lord, I’m reading about protests, marches, counter-marches, blockades and strikes in La Paz, Bolivia, as Lauren travels in that country. I pray for her safety and for the wise leadership of her group. I pray for the people and leaders of that troubled country - the poorest in South America - where most people live on two thousand dollars a year.

I’m suddenly aware of my blessings…and myopia. I don’t think a lot about the global south. Life is good in my all-American cul-de-sac.

Our priest e-mails a weekly link to the World in Prayer website. I should engage. After all, I’m a promoter of prayer. Today, I borrow their words and join the world in prayer:

We remember...
- those who were killed by two deadly explosions in Damascus, Syria
- victims of the Russian plane crash in the mountains in Indonesia
- the children and families victimized by a sexual exploitation ring in Manchester, UK
- the seventeen employees killed in a fire while they slept in a department store in the Philippines

We lift up the members of our human family around the world - for those who are afflicted or suffering, for those who need healing, for those who require bread or shelter, for those who live in violent homes and communities, for those who are grieving, and for those whose needs are known to you alone.

Touch us with your healing peace and gentle embrace that we may walk in your ways - bringing dignity, justice and peace to all corners of your world. All of this we pray in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.

World in Prayer website
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Grip of Fear

I’m disappointed - forlorn is a better description - that the Marriage Amendment was added to the North Carolina constitution by a majority of voters on Tuesday. It was an unfortunate collision of religion, politics and mores - fueled by fear - fear of God, fear of gays and fear of change.

Proponents claimed they were protecting marriage, but no one offered an amendment making divorce more difficult. No one suggested criminalizing infidelity. No, the preferred solution for protecting marriage seems to be aimed at denying committed gay couples a marriage license. Obviously, this controversy is about uneasiness with or fear of homosexuality.

I know what the Bible says about the subject, but I would challenge you to read Romans 1:29-31 (where St. Paul condemns homosexuality among promiscuous Gentiles.) Insert the name of a gay person you know. Is the Apostle writing about your gay coworker, friend or family member? I don’t know any gay people that fit his description. 

And consider the meaning of Acts 10 where the Spirit of God intervenes to upend Old Testament teaching.

This is one of those hard places in the Bible where - per John Wesley - we might apply the whole of Scripture, reason, tradition and our experience of life and faith.

Admittedly, I am perplexed by this issue, but I refuse to come down on the side of fear!

Great & Merciful God,

We are forever in the grip of fear - fear over money, health, relationships.

Politicians and marketers are especially good at pushing our fear buttons. Preachers will do it, too. Fear can motivate, but it’s equally crippling.

We read this passage from 1st John last Sunday in church:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

Lord Christ, that degree of perfection seems out of reach - very much so with people of different cultures, countries, lifestyles, views and faiths.

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21)

The words of St. John convict. God of love, cast out my fear(s). Amen.

Image credit

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Church

I’m a member of Church of the Good Shepherd, an Episcopal parish in downtown Raleigh NC. 

CGS was founded in 1874, and our current sanctuary was built in 1914. A rich history!

...but the congregation is a diverse flock, engaged in urban ministry and very much alive with young families and their children. 

Come for a visit!

Patient & Gracious God,

When I was a surly teenager church was so tedious. What’s with these old hymns, the same routine every week, the uncomfortable pews?

You were indeed patient and gracious - because forty years later - it’s a joy to be in church!

Those ancient hymns and our timeless liturgy connect the faithful across generations. The pews are still uncomfortable, but the ninety-eight year old benches creak with tradition and history. That’s comforting. Today, I find order and harmony (neither of which seemed crucial when I was sixteen!)

Praise God! Worship is inspiring and uplifting. I am a witness to your presence at Church of the Good Shepherd.

…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)