Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Behold Thy Gracious Hand! Family...

Another prayer of gratitude for God’s gracious hand - upon my family. Again, I draw on The Book of Common Prayer. Do you find the language outdated or uplifting?

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary 
in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in
 which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride
 of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance,
 patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those
 who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the
 hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the
 children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among
 us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one 
to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Father God, family is a fragile ecosystem. Thankfully, mine isn’t auditioning for a reality show. Yes, there are worries and challenges, but that’s for another prayer. This is about gratitude!

For my wife (and partner) of thirty-three years. For our grown children who care for and support one another. For parents who have enjoyed long lives and good health. For Aunts, Uncles and Cousins who stay in touch.

When we’re reunited at holidays it’s a true joy, one of those thin places where heaven and earth intersect. My cup runneth over!

The Prayer Book’s archaic language calls us to companionship, mutual trust, interdependence and belonging - a definition of family.

I pray for that constant affection in my marriage…

So knit our wills together in your will, and our spirits in your Spirit, that we may live together in love and peace all the days of our life.

I pray for that fervent charity among my children…

Into your hands, O God, we place our children. Support them in their successes and in their failures, in their joys and in their sorrows. As they grow in age, may they grow in grace, and in the knowledge of their Savior Jesus Christ.

I pray that we will be kindly affectioned one to another. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer:
- Prayers and Thanksgivings, For Families
- Thanksgiving for a Child

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Behold Thy Gracious Hand! Nature...

Great God, I’ve posted over one hundred prayers to this blog. Observing, pondering, making requests, but there hasn’t been enough praise and gratitude. We Episcopalians lean on our Prayer Book and liturgy:

O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Book of Common Prayer, For Joy in God’s Creation

Father, I’ve seen your gracious hand in my summer travels. Some of your best work is done with mountains: the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, the Rockies in Utah and the Sandia in New Mexico. What a blessing!

In my own backyard, the hyperactive birds and squirrels entertain. The blue hydrangea and red hibiscus amaze. A full moon on a clear night turns the pine straw to white. That’s always stunning.

And I can’t forget my favorite creature, our joyful Springer Spaniel, Grace. She has been a wonderful gift, a reminder of your far greater gift that bears the same name.

I rejoice in the whole of creation.
May I learn to serve you with gladness.

Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Revisiting 9-11

Holy Spirit, I’m in need of inspiration. Lift my spirit.

The 9-11 observance was not cathartic for me. The replay was painful.

My church held a moving service. I was drained.

It’s an emotional stew of bad religion, hatred, mass murder, destruction and war. A horrible day and a decade of collateral damage.

I have read the retrospectives and the opposing viewpoints. I am unable to sort out events of the past ten years with the certitude of pundits and politicians.

I feel deep appreciation, however, for the bravery and sacrifice of public safety workers, as we revisit that day. The same holds true for our soldiers, past and present tense. A great price has been paid to restore our security. I am profoundly thankful that our country has not been attacked yet again.

Their courage. Their service and sacrifice. For our security. In gratitude, I discover inspiration. Amen.

A Reflection on 9-11

On 9/11/01 my day began with a weekly Bible study at the downtown Durham YMCA. We had a big debate on the inherent depravity of humanity. Our leader, who had fundamentalist leanings, was pressing hard on the depravity issue, and I was holding out for just a shred of goodness. We declared a theological tie, and I departed for breakfast at the Marriott. An awful irony was unfolding…

An hour later I was in my office at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Our General Manager called, and he asked if I was watching television. The World Trade Center was ablaze. Another plane hit, and I watched the towers collapse on my tiny office television. Horiffic. Reality trumps sci-fi in unimaginable fashion.

Returning to routine, I did a Meals-on-Wheels route during lunch. A ninety-three year old widow didn’t know about the terrorist attack. She hadn’t turned on the TV, preferring to talk about her cats and collard greens.

I was compelled to go by our home that afternoon. I wanted to see my wife and daughter. We checked in with the other children and our parents. That contact was especially consoling. It was important to hear their voices, to say “I love you.”

My wife and I took a walk after dinner. We live near the airport. With all planes grounded, it was eerily quite. It was a crisp, clear night. The sky was filled with stars. I thought about the terrorist attack and that Bible study conversation about mankind’s wickedness. I resolved to hold tightly to God’s love and providence.

Two days later we collected for the Red Cross on the street in front of the ballpark in Durham. We passed out miniature American flags. $60,000 was contributed in only a day.

The next evening, we hosted a community worship service at the ballpark. A diverse crowd of four thousand attended. It was almost two ours of preachin’ and prayin’.

Looking back at my journal notes, I’m encouraged at the community’s immediate response to that nightmare of a day. The outpouring of financial support. The solidarity in worship.

Generosity and solidarity are not highlights of our national mood at present, but still, I’m holding tightly to God’s love and providence. That’s my definition of Christian hope, the antidote to fear.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Day


How can I make my work an offering to you?

We have St. Paul’s advice to the Colossians:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… (Col 3:23)

...but so often there’s a barrier between worship and work. How can I find harmony between the two?

Martin Luther said "we are priests at our own tasks."

Mold me, Lord, into your priest at home, at work, at church and in the community.

Put your Holy Spirit to work on work. Amen.

Other thoughts on the intersection of faith and work:

Work is not just for profit or to feed the family. Work becomes an expression of your ministry, of your service to God, so that you bring Christ and your experience of God into the marketplace. Not by proselytizing, but by just being you. By the way you treat other people and by the great Christian virtues of forgiveness and compassion. (Father Thomas Keating, Searching for God in America)

Remember for whom you work: Whether you work for a private company, the government, a large corporation, or yourself, the true disciple understands that he or she ultimately is working for God in that place. (Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God)

You may never know the impact you're having on someone who's looking up to you because of your character, your life's work, your family life, or maybe just because of your have a platform of importance in the lives of those you touch...use it wisely and in an uncommon way. (Tony Dungy, Uncommon)