Thursday, December 25, 2014

A child is born. A great light.


In a world where the forces of violence, ignorance and despair can make it difficult to perceive God's presence, we claim Isaiah's words as we welcome Christ our Light...

That's from a Christmas Eve devotion on Isaiah 9:2-7 by Jan Richardson in Disciplines 2014, the inspiration for this prayer. The morning headlines and evening news routinely feature the "forces of violence, ignorance and despair." Things were no different for the ancient prophets I read during Advent. Isaiah, Hosea and Zephaniah railed against those same forces, but they shared a long term vision for restoration. They saw a Light. The prophets (and Rev. Richardson) remind us to hold tightly to that vision, to that Light, to our hope in Jesus Christ.


Kind Father,

We reach back in time, three millennia, and give ear to Isaiah's prophecy:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you... 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. (from Isaiah 9:2-7)

That was a word of hope and freedom to a defeated, captive people. Today, we claim those verses for ourselves.

Hope for health, relationships, careers...our grandson! Freedom from our flaws - too many to list - and the difficulties we face.

And there's heavy duty hope...for eternal life, Jesus' reign and a restored creation.

Lord Christ, we too often slip into the darkness. Let us see your great light! And we will rejoice on this Christmas Day! Illuminate our lives with your Spirit, with your presence. Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nativity


I am all about the Nativity this year. The Fisher-Price crèche is your hint...


I hesitate to grade my blessings, but the highlight of 2014 has been the birth of our first grandchild. Much like your child's wedding, your kids having kids brings a sense of continuity to this family endeavor of the past four decades. 

Four generations. Great Granddad at 93, the new father & son,
with Granddad.

Only four months into Grandparenting, I do have a few observations about this special role:

You come to it with some experience and confidence (that you didn't have with your own kids), so you are more relaxed...and joyful!

And you don't have 24/7 responsibility for the baby, so you are more relaxed...and joyful!

Finally, there's the opportunity for a do-over. Maybe I can close some gaps from the first parenting go-round, ie, improve the quality of "quality time" and excise the conditions that so often persist in "unconditional love." That is my prayer for this new relationship.

Also, I claim these Biblical promises. Our children are included in the spiritual purposes of God. They are holy. (1st Corinthians 7:14) And I find comfort in the very last verse of the Old Testament where God's prophetic, healing voice will ultimately turn the hearts of parents and children toward one another. (Malachi 4:6)

Finally, from our family's nativity to The Nativity, I invite you to scroll through my prayers for Advent and Christmastime...with my sincere wishes for a meaningful Advent and a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Me or We?


Occasionally, God hits me upside the head. There’s no booming voice, but a theme arises from my daily reading - Bible study, blogs and devotions. I can’t miss the repetition and reiteration. This past week the significance of community was obviously a Heaven sent message…via these three authors:  

For most of my life, I practiced a private faith. I prayed mostly for myself or for close friends and family. But in college a friend pointed out to me that in scripture God speaks to people as a group as much as God does to individuals. Jesus too speaks, not only to individuals but to crowds and the disciples as a group. Paul’s letters are, all but one, addressed to communities. As Americans, we tend to imagine that our relationship with God is individual and personal and hasn’t much to do with our neighbors, coworkers, or wider communities.

…we don’t live in isolation; our lives intertwine with the lives of those around us.
Rev. Heidi Haverkamp, Chicago
Disciplines 2014

We are not meant to live as self-reliant, independent operators. God created us for community and interdependence, with him and with others.
Vivian  Whitfield, Nottingham UK
 Encounter with God
                                                                                                  
Following Jesus means moving out of our privatized, isolated, and self-enclosed worlds into a compassionate engagement with our suffering neighbor. 
Trevor Hudson
A Mile in My Shoes
Upper Room Daily Reflections


This theme of community and connectedness and compassion and interdependence informs my volunteer work with United Way. It’s an intersection of the sacred and secular - Spirit inspired. The author and Trappist monk Thomas Merton sharpens the point:

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.

I have written several prayers related to this subject…

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Conformed...or transformed?


I'm sure St. Paul's intent is inspiration, but the opening language and lofty standards of Romans 12 are intimidating. Can I be totally devoted to and in sync with God?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)


Great & Merciful God, 

With gratitude, I remind myself...
We are made in your image, (Genesis 1:27)
wonderfully made, (Psalm 139:14)
and the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

Then, I must ask myself...
How badly have I distorted that image?
Have I been polluted by the world? (James 1:27) 

Lord Christ, I'm struggling to maintain dual citizenship - in the Kingdom and the culture. Harmony is unlikely. 

Am I numb to my compromises? 

Help me discern...
What is good,
what is pleasing to you,
dare I say, 
what is perfect. 

Holy Spirit, fine tune my conscience and adjust my consciousness. Stamp me with your image as a representative of the Kingdom. 

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. 
(Psalm 40:8) 

Amen. 

Graphic credit
~   ~   ~   ~

If, like me, your transformation and renewal come haltingly, this is encouraging...

Few of us are able to see our place in God's plan, but we trust that God needs us there. This is God's world, and God has brought us to this time and place, with our particular gifts, for God's purposes. I don't believe God has everything planned out. I do believe that God has an intent for our lives, purposes beyond our seeing. God will use us to bring justice, healing and blessing to the world. 

Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes 
from The Upper Room Disciplines, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Walking on water...or sinking?


Thanks and praise to our powerful Lord, our reality-bending God.

You walked on water, Lord Christ. Did the disciples need that affirmation of your divinity and supernatural power? 
(Matthew 14:22-32)

I once looked for a “scientific” explanation. Now, I accept it as fact...on faith. If I want your power in my life, why would I deny it?

Indeed, both reality and denial can be overwhelming.

In the squalls of my life I hear your words to Peter: Take courage! Don’t be afraid. Come. Why did you doubt?

…but like Peter I find myself sinking. Faith and trust can be surprisingly weak.

The storms are inevitable. Your presence, however, is certain. May I find it to be palpable.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) 

Amen.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reclaiming Christianity


I recommend this post on Patheos entitled "I Want My Christianity Back - Without the Ugly Baggage" by Rev. Mark Sandlin. It was on the Time magazine website this week as well. An excerpt:

...we need to more closely follow the lead of Jesus and lovingly confront those who want to turn the Prince of Peace into a tool for dividing and marginalizing. Every time anyone tries to exclude a group of people they dislike in the name of the Great Shepherd, we must pronounce the radical inclusion of a loving God.

And when they accuse us of being un-Christian (and they will), we must stand strong and tell them, "You no longer get to own that word. You have used it and abused it and crucified it on crosses of hate, greed, power and control. We are taking our religion back – way back.

All the way back to the teachings of Jesus."

Read the full article. And pray...


Generous Lord,
Faith is so very confusing.
I'm sure of mine!!!
But confounded by others'.
They seem sincere,
stridently so,
hearing a different message.
Like radio,
they listen to a different format,
of fear and threats.
I'm tuned into Grace Radio,
powered by the Holy Spirit.
The playlist:
generosity and mercy,
unconditional love.
My prayer:
May that song in my heart
resonate in my life.
Amazing, marvelous grace!
Amen.

Patheos
Graphic credit

Friday, July 4, 2014

To Live Freely


It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom...my counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. 
(Galatians 5:13-16, The Message)

Click here for two Independence Day prayers I posted in 2009.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington DC

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Heart for the City


Loving & Faithful Lord,

Have I been hiding in the suburbs?
It's safe and predictable on the cul de sac.
That's been a blessing,
But maybe there's a numbing effect?


Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I carried you... 
(from Jeremiah 29:7)

Give me a heart for my city.
I leave at day's end.
I leave its challenges to others,
And I miss opportunities.


Commerce and culture percolate in the city,
Crime and poverty, too.
But you care for the city - for its people.

Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. 
(from Jeremiah 29:7)

It may seem unlikely to this suburbanite, but my God is at work in the city. The apostles went to the cities of Asia and Europe.That's where the faith was established and spread.

In the Old Testament you sent prophets to the cities. Jonah was dispatched on a rescue mission to Nineveh. Jeremiah pleaded for peace and prosperity in Jerusalem. 

And today, we may be called to march around our own Jericho for the cause of justice.

Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

Give me a heart for my city, Father,
To engage, serve and advocate.
Amen.


Artwork credit

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Resurrection Grace


Lord Christ, 

I hear your post-resurrection message:
Peace be with you.


And I see a pattern, a template for the faithful. 

There was consolation for Mary.
Woman, why are you crying?


There was no scolding of the disciples' cowardice.
Receive the Holy Spirit. 


There was patience with Thomas' doubts. Again,
Peace be with you.


There was hospitality for the disciples at the shore.
Come and have some breakfast. 


There was no rebuke of Peter's betrayals.
Feed my sheep.


And there's both query and call for the faithful.
Do you love me?
Take care of my sheep.
Follow me.
You must follow me.


May it be so!
In the name and power of
God the Father,
God the Son,
God the Spirit,
Amen.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Post-it Prayer


It was a stressful week. I left myself encouraging Post-it notes from various devotionals and Scripture (Upper Room, Scripture Union, Psalm 62, Isaiah 40). Gathering up the scraps of paper at week’s end, I realized that they formed a prayer!



Generous God, I prayerfully weave these scraps of inspiration…

Carry a little quiet inside you. Have some extra calm to share.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God.

Forgive me for being intimidated by things in daily life. I long to trust you more fully.

Truly you are my rock and my salvation. You are my fortress. I will not be shaken. God is my refuge.

Let go of effort, the illusion of control and surrender to God.

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Amen.

Upper Room | Africana Worship Book
Upper Room | Centering Prayer
Scripture Union | Isaiah 40
Psalm 62

Graphic credit

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Still Small Voice


Kind Father

Your voice is described as still and small, a gentle whisper. (1st Kings 19:12)

Is that how your Spirit works on the conscience? Within our prayers and devotional disciplines? 

I appreciate your gentleness, but in this noisy world, have you considered surround sound with a subwoofer? A hundred decibels with thumping bass!

I'm distracted - in din and clamor - and plagued with attention deficit. 

Holy Spirit, help me to listen, to hear God's voice. 

If this isn’t a matter of volume, then it must be about filtering and discernment. About making time and being attentive to the gentle whisper. 

Give ear! Our Mighty God does not raise his voice. Amen.

Photo credit

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On Mortality, Penitence & Grace


…for dust you are and to dust you will return.
(Genesis 3:19)

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Liturgy for Ash Wednesday)




Lord Christ,

It's not about me.
It's not about me.
(Repeat until it sinks in.)

Starring in my own life,
I must resist that.
This performance could close today.

Under the best circumstances,
my empire will fall in thirty years or so.
I'm counting on another Kingdom.

There are some things in my nature
that need to be seared or burned away.
I shudder as I pray,
but turn up the flame Lord,
if that's your remedy.

This is out of sync
with our "selfie" culture.
Yet I know your acceptance and love.
I know your presence in my life.

During Lent,
let’s proceed with my repair.

Amen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sunshine of Your Love


This prayer shares its title with the classic 1968 rock song by Eric Clapton and Cream. While it's a favorite tune of my misspent youth, the inspiration for the prayer comes from Isaiah 46.


My Lord & Creator,

Help me to find and feel the sunshine on this frozen morning.


I'm feeling prematurely ancient as this long winter drags on. Crunchy joints. Stiff muscles. Caffeine and Celebrex disappoint.

Thank you for dispatching your prophet. Isaiah points me to the daylight:

Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Lord Christ, I'm seeking a measure of joy today. I realize that it's more than an emotion. Some discipline is required to find it, to be present, to participate. 

I am bringing my righteousness near, 
it is not far away;

Holy Spirit, lead me along your path - into the sunshine. Amen. 

Photo credit

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Should I Kneel or Applaud?



I have attempted to write a prayer of praise. No requests. Keep it simple. Focus on God. 

Next step: put my words aside...and listen. 


Eternal 
Majestic 
God 

Author of creation 
Of life 

My maker 
My Lord 

Father 
Abba 

I celebrate your Glory
Your gracious, saving Love 
And your guiding Spirit 

I am compelled to kneel 
But I want to clap 

Amen 

Photo: Above the Storm | Hurricane Sandy, 10.30.12, G.W. Habel

Monday, January 20, 2014

Call of Duty | Call of Love


With duty, one does only what one has to do. With love, one can never do enough. 

W. Paul Jones, from Becoming Who God Wants You to Be 

Lord Christ, 

With your Spirit’s help I try to be faithful to my responsibilities and obligations. 

Duty is a worthy virtue, but I occasionally serve it up with a side dish of resentment, even martyrdom. Duty relishes a “thank you” note. 

Can the call of duty be replaced with the call of love? 

That’s my prayer: to act out of love, not merely obligation. Give me a genuine desire to help...to act or serve reflexively...not counting the cost...with no need for appreciation. 

In your name, Amen. 

Graphic credit

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Enduring an Enemy


Lord of Peace,

It seems that I have an enemy, a foe. 

A collaborator has become an adversary. 

This happens infrequently, and I’m not handling it well.

Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them. 
(Psalm 69:24)

Oh, how I like that Scripture! …but I know better. The Psalmist ultimately leaves it in your hands. That's where I'm struggling.

I began by defending myself. That morphed into judgment, and I just can’t let it go.

…you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1)

I need your strength, Lord Christ. Not for the battle. I need strength of faith and strength of trust to let this go. You are my defender. You are the judge.

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:39)

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21-22)

My prayer is to think and act on your truth. Amen.

Artwork credit