Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Change of Heart at Christmas




Lord Christ, Emanuel,

You bent space and time to join us.
But it was surprisingly subtle. 
A baby, born in a stable,
Who became a teacher,
And your lessons were spurned.

Yet the Kingdom of God is near.
It remains understated,
Behind a veil, not imposed.

And still, we rebuff your invitation.
Your message is obscured by
Selfishness, materialism and violence.
(We have erected a concrete wall.)

Oh! 
That we would hear the baby in the manger,
Appreciate your tender call,
And heed the teacher's lessons.

To love, to care, to forgive, 
To share your spirit and power,
To hope, to believe.

Hearts are changed!
The Kingdom comes!
At Christmas. 

Amen.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent Test


Another thought-provoking photo from my daughter, Melissa.


Lord Christ, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace,

Is this an Advent test? A tortuous discussion question: How do refugees, terrorism and gun control bear upon our preparation for the coming of Christ? And vice versa? St. Paul's prayer from today's Lectionary sets a high bar:

For love that abounds,
Insight...to discern what is best,
That we may be pure and blameless before You,
Filled with the fruit of righteousness,
Bringing glory and praise to You.
(from Philippians 1:9-11)

...but there's so much fear. Our better angels are not singing sweetly o'er the plain right now. Build a wall! Buy a gun! Go to war! Those seem to be the loudest voices. 

...but Charles Wesley's hymn from this morning's service rings in my ears:

Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love though art,
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
(Love Divine, All Loves Excelling - #657, Episcopal Hymnal)

May it be so! That in trusting You, our trembling hearts find true security. Amen.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Crossroads



My daughter, visiting her alma mater, posted this photo Friday of the Memorial Cross at Sewanee. It famously sits on the western edge of the Cumberland plateau, visible from I-24 near Chattanooga TN.

Cross and road come together - literally - in Melissa's photo. It's thought-provoking...as when life's road intersects the Cross of Christ. That's not a metaphor. It's is known to occur - literally!

From vocabulary.com: Crossroads is a noun that means a point where a choice must be made. The noun crossroads is great for describing a point in your life when you have to make an important decision...

The photo poses several questions: 
The Cross of Christ stands before us; will we take His road? 
...or will we see Jesus at the end of our road? 
...or along life's road, is He with us?

My prayer is to navigate this narrow road always seeking Christ's way forward. (Amen!)

Have you made the choice? Indeed, it is an important decision! Scroll though my prayers tagged spiritual cultivation.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Anxious Lambs



The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. (Psalm 23)

Our pasture is green. The grass is thick. 
But the sheep are anxious, apprehensive. 
I am unable to calm them. Or myself. 

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)

Intercede, Good Shepherd!
Lift each lamb to your breast.
Cradle them in your arms.
A firm but warm embrace.
Still their racing hearts, their frantic thoughts. 
Protect my sheep - your sheep. 

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep.
(John 10:14-15)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Who are You?


Gratitude is a significant facet of offering praise to God, but I have to guard against what I call transactional prayer. That would be submitting my list of needs to the Lord, checking off the answered prayers and dutifully thanking Him. I’m afraid the true focus of that sort of prayer is me, not God. So, I wrote this prayer to praise the Lord - not for what I’ve received - but for who he is.


Lord God,

Come closer. Reveal yourself. Who are you?

Creator.
We get a glimpse…

At a baby’s birth. Atop a mountain. By the ocean. In a storm. From a space telescope. From a microscope. The in the beginning, tree of life visionary. Still, your creativity and power are beyond our comprehension, far exceeding our earth-bound, puny-brained understanding.

Force of Love.
We get a glimpse…

From our parents and family. From babies and pets. It’s a prodigal son kind of love - unconditional, forgiving, arms outstretched. The Jesus kind of love - tending to the least of these kind of love, in the boat with you kind of love, the I lay down my life for you kind of love. Still, our self-centered, ego-centric hearts barely grasp this genuine love.


…but I’m grateful for the glimpses, for the preview. Thank you, Jesus, for the promise of eternal life, for the promise of a renewed, restored creation. Thank you, for your abiding presence. I cannot quite wrap my mind around it, but I am confident it is LOVE. Amen.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Taming the Type A


It's a safe assumption that St. Paul was a Type A personality. Jesus chose him and enrolled him in Kingdom work. 

Could anyone have a stronger sense of mission and empowerment? 

Yet Paul maintained a humble spirit...

I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

It's a lesson about persistent and unanswered prayer that he famously shares at the beginning of 2nd Corinthians, chapter twelve:

But he (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Last week I read a contemporary expression of this in The Upper Room Disciplines. The devotional wasn't written by a clergy person, rather by a lawyer, an Assistant Attorney General in Alabama, Margaret Fleming.

She describes her prayer life as a time for vulnerability and surrender "where I find my connection to a strength that is humble, gentle and yielding." Do you see that? Yet another paradox of faith where humility, gentleness and yielding are divine strengths.

I have fashioned some of Attorney Fleming's devotion into a prayer. (I hope she takes this as a compliment, not piracy.)


Sovereign God, 
I acknowledge your claim on my life, private and public.

Holy Spirit, 
Assist my surrender,
To One whose will is superior to mine,
To One whose strength is made perfect in my weakness.

Give me...
A humble attitude
That takes no offense at others' insults.
A flexible frame of mind
Capable of bending to others' points of view.
A good heart
That takes no note of others' wrongs.
An open schedule
That can accommodate others' needs.

Lord Christ,
Screen my priorities,
Clear the clutter,
Open my heart (and calendar),
To a better way,
To your way. Amen.

Graphic credit

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Heirs to Suffering & Glory


Paul does some of his best work in chapter eight of Romans. To label the prose profound & inspirational is understatement. But I was in a grumpy frame of mind when it appeared in the Lectionary last week. I hurled my doubts and protests at the Scripture in prayer, and PRAISE GOD that Paul and the Spirit prevailed. 


Thank you, Jesus, 

For faith that lifts me up,
holds me up,
holds me together.

Because I'm straining to embrace St. Paul's paradox about our kinship...and your kingship:

...we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)

I grasp at glory, suppress the suffering. I really work at gratitude. I reach for the cup that's half full to overflowing. 

But...
a laid-off neighbor has been jobless for months,
a good friend started chemo last week,
an acquaintance suffered a fatal heart attack,
a colleague's Mom just died too young from cancer.
Must we share in this!?!

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Really? Give me Paul's confidence!  That suffering is a feature of life's landscape, but not the promontory. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Thank you for the the rhythm of the church calendar to remind me of birth, resurrection and ascension. Epiphanies and Saints. The power of the Trinity. There's Pentecost. Give me a full dose of your Spirit!

...we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

Heirs to suffering, yes, but ultimately my true inheritance is your love and power! Amen.

Read St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 8, in its entirety
Graphic credit

Monday, May 25, 2015

Too much wine? A Pentecost Prayer.


Lord of the Church,

Your Spirit was poured out upon on the first believers:

There was a roar of wind.
Some people saw flames.
Their communication skills were acute.

What a powerful scene! (Acts 2)

Yet a skeptic observed,
They have had too much wine.

If only that could be said of me:
Ruddy cheeked and joyous, a palpable sense of well-being.

Not inspired by a good nap or Cabernet,
but energized by your presence.

Pour out your Spirit upon me, Lord Christ. Give me an enthusiasm for the faith that's intoxicating! Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Great Physician


All-powerful, 
Ever-present Lord! 

From King David's prayer, 
I claim these ancient verses, 
your power and presence, 
for modern day healthcare. 

You have searched me, Lord, 
and you know me. 

You hem me in behind and before, 
and you lay your hand upon me. 

For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made...

My frame was not hidden from you... 

Search me, God, and know my heart; 
test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
(from Psalm 139)

Wonderfully made, yes. 
But true to the human condition, 
Imperfect. 

Setting aside hospital jargon and Latin words,
We are admitted for repair work. 

Great Physician! 

Guide the doctors, the staff, 
With skill. With compassion. 

Bring healing, recovery, 
With determination. With patience. 

In faith. Amen.