December 28, 2014

New Year

Happy (Almost) New Year. The last few words and images from Advent led up to welcoming the Infant Lord. The words were “Ask”, “Relate”, “Delight”, “Love”, and “Receive”. As we move into the new year, I hope these images will linger and offer hope in my heart and in yours. Like last week, we can put them together in a sentence that offers a roadmap for the coming year:

We Ask things of God and, like Mary, respond to what he Asks of us. Only in that way can we Relate to one another and Delight in the arrival of the Love we Receive on Christmas Day, which will be with us into 2015!
My images from last this week may not seem like they fit into the holiday spirit. A swirl of koi, a lazy cat, a flower, and a child at Easter seem more summery than Christmas-tide. To me, though, they speak of our journey and arrival at the Manger I spoke of in this blog on Thursday.

The koi begging for a treat remind me that we often ask for things we don’t really need and yet God gives us exactly what we need. The cat dozing in the sun helps me think of resting in and relating to God, as does the beauty of the flower. The child is perfect for Christmas Eve. Many of us go to a Christmas Pageant this time of year and through the Story, told by children, we are reminded that God comes to us in the most unexpected ways. The image from Facebook of the word God speaks to me of hope and faith, as does the photo of the ice designs from the top of my car one day. God can create beauty from anything and everything.
I pray that in the coming year I can have the wisdom and willingness to allow God to take the coldness in me and transform it into beauty. I pray also that you will allow God to transform you into the beloved child you are.

Next week we enter a new year and a new church season. What will we discover in Epiphany when we consider the Manifesting of God to the World?

December 25, 2014

Unto us a Child...

We have arrived at the Manger. A hewn trough for animal food, probably in a cave.

In the midst of all the hectic preparation, decorating, parties, shopping, wrapping, travelling, welcoming, caroling, and all the other things we pack into this month comes the cry of an Infant.
Do you hear Him? Can we hear Him over all the cacophony of the advertisements and clamor?

A young woman has given birth. She rests in a cave amid straw and the rustling of animals large and small. There is nothing remarkable about a birth, except that every birth is remarkable. There is nothing remarkable about the couple. He is a carpenter; she is just barely a woman. They are strangers but no one has taken time to welcome them.
If you speak to them you would immediately know they are foreigners from the north, but that’s not unusual right now. There are lots of visitors in town. If you look at them you would not know that both the man and woman have encountered angels. They will not tell you about that. In fact, both of them are wrapped up in the Babe she holds. Perhaps they are treasuring their anonymity in this moment of birth. Perhaps they are treasuring their privacy as they marvel at the miracle in her arms.

He is a normal baby, mewling and squirming in search of the breast. He has black hair and tiny hands and feet, now carefully swaddled against the chill of the cave. He is unexceptional. Other baby boys were born today. Some in great palaces, others in worse hovels than this cave. Each has a destiny. Each will choose a path. Each is loved by God. Only to this one will the Holy One of Israel say “You are my beloved Son”.
What is that stirring beyond the cave entry? Why are shepherds gathering in a confused cluster? Who do they seek? How did they hear about this birth among all the others? Have you heard the news?

“Unto us a child is born, Unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Here the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings the words: from Handel's Messiah. 
Come to the Manger, Come to the Infant, Come to the Quiet, Come to Worship, Come and be Changed.

December 21, 2014

Advent 3: Becoming

This week we are continuing the exercise of creating an Advent calendar filled with images matching words suggested by the Society of St. John daily Advent word. You can sign up to get their meditation in your email inbox each day.

What do the words Expand, Focus, Experience, Become, Beautify, Heal, Thank have in common? At first glance, probably nothing. I remember an exercise that we had to do in school though. Do you recall having to take your spelling words and make sentences, or a sentence, from them? I wonder if teachers still do that today…? This week’s words could make a very inspiring sentence when put together like that.
During Advent we take time to Expand our Focus, in order to Experience God’s love, and Become more fully a person who will Beautify and Heal the world, because we Thank God for all we have and all we are.”

Looking at the images that spoke to me of these words, we might have inspiration from the individual words, too, as we think about them.
The Advent wreath, and especially the candles, is a reminder to me that each week we Expand our expectations wider as we approach Christmas. Each week we light another candle, bringing more and more light into our sphere.

The icon ornament of Mary and the Infant, combined with lectionary readings of Mary’s acceptance of her call to be the Mother of Immanuel is a way to Focus thoughts on the real cost of saying ‘Yes’ to God. Where do I need to say ‘Yes’ more eagerly and with faith?
In the Experience of God’s creation, like the image of the mountains near Taos, we also look beyond ourselves into the wider world and find hope for the future that is promised by the coming Babe.

Rahab, in this image from another blog, speaks to me of the reality that God doesn’t classify us by religion, or gender, or color. It sometimes seems, when you read the Bible, that God purposely choses those that society might consider less or useless. God chooses outcasts, murderers, youngest sons, prostitutes, and liars to Become the ones chosen to tell the story of Love. Gives hope to you and me, doesn’t it? Despite what we see as failures, God can use us in wonderful ways!
Advent is also a time when we Beautify our homes by putting up decorations. Pausing to take time to Beautify our souls is the goal of the season, too. It is hard to be counter-cultural and take time to do that important work, but it is worth it.

Part of the work of Advent may involve taking time to Heal from the rough times of the past year. Advent is, after all, the church’s new year when we can begin again. This lovely bed says to me, perhaps that healing will take the form of a retreat of some sort, or just taking time to relax.
Finally, we must learn to Thank God for the Love and Grace and overflowing bounty of our lives. Even if we are poor in material things or think we are one of the ‘least’ we can be reassured that we are truly called Beloved by the one who comes as a Baby in a manger.

Putting it all together, we can try to live so that “During Advent we take time to Expand our Focus, in order to Experience God’s love, and Become more fully a person who will Beautify and Heal the world, because we Thank God for all we have and all we are.
Next week we will finish this calendar with a few final images, culminating in the Love we will Receive on Christmas. Blessings to each of you as we move toward the Manger.

December 14, 2014

Second Advent: Show Up

During Advent I have been participating in creating an Advent calendar filled with images matching words suggested by the Society of St. John daily Advent word. You can sign up to get their meditation in your email inbox each day.   

This week the words were “Show Up”, “Respond”, “Encourage”, “Wake Up”, “Breathe”, “Act”, and “Risk”. The first thing that came to my mind in relation to this series is something I heard on a Cursillo weekend many years ago.
One of the priests shared a mantra he used: “Show Up, Tell the Truth, Pay Attention, and Don’t get Attached to the Results”. This saying actually encompasses all of life, but especially the words this week.
We first need to Show up to God and Show up to life. When we are really present we can Respond to one another actively and be available to encourage each other. That’s a way of ‘telling the truth’. When we Wake up and Breathe we find that we can really ‘Pay Attention’ to what’s happening in and around us. We can look for God’s action and presence in the world and in our lives, and in the lives of all those we meet.
Finally, the mantra suggests that we “Don’t get attached to the results”. In other words, we must let go of control and let God take over. Certainly that’s one of the harder aspects of living into this saying. The words Act and Risk which close out the week are reminders that if and when we let God be in charge, we can act without fear and even take risks that we wouldn’t have considered otherwise. We might take on a ministry, or start a new job, or plan a trip that might seem impossible.  

You’ll see that the images I chose this week cover a wide range of things, from goldfish in a pond, to a bouquet of hair ribbons, and standing on the edge of a canyon. For me, these are images that reinforce the idea that God is not just in church, but in every moment of every day. We all need the little reminders of the Holy One. Anything can be what the Celts call a ‘thin place’ where God breaks in. Even a pink Christmas pig in the neighbor’s front yard can signify God’s active presence just as much as the dawn breaking over the horizon. When we can see God in each thing and each moment, it might just be easier to “show up, tell the truth, pay attention, and don’t get attached to the results” because God really IS in charge! 
Next week’s words are: Expand, Focus, Experience, Become, Beautify, Heal, and Thank. As we draw closer to the arrival of the “Long Expected Jesus” we will want to look at, experience, and live into those words and discover images to fit them.

December 7, 2014

Advent, week 1

This first week of Advent has been predictably busy. Taking time to find an image to match the word of the day has helped me pause slightly and think about the word and what it means to me. I wonder if it did the same for you, if you are doing this challenge.

On Sunday, the word was “Look” and as I shared, the image that I thought of was the hawk that recently visited the church garden, because if we are not taking time to Look Up we miss the little surprises God sends. If I had not looked up at just that moment, I’d have missed my visitor.
On Dec. 1, the word was “Remember” and I was drawn to recall my teen age solo of Panis Angelicus not long after I joined the church. It seems a lifetime ago (well maybe it has been). That solo was one of the first times I felt affirmed by a church family.

The image on Dec. 2 is of Canyonlands. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to “Imagine” all the ages that have rolled past that formation. How many animals, storms, people, and changes has that plateau seen?
I asked myself how do we “Thrive” on Dec. 3. The answer is we are planted in the good soil of God’s love and thrive. That’s related to the ducks on Dec. 4, who, like us “Abide” in God’s presence while paddling on the crystal pond. And sometimes like the ducks, we do a lot of paddling below the surface while looking placid on top!

The words for Friday and Saturday: “Notice” and “Watch” are similar. When we watch we notice things and when we notice things, we are apt to watch more closely. However a radiant sunrise always helps me Notice the Glory of God and Watching what is around you can bring surprises like the moose and calf.

Next week the list continues and there will be more images and thoughts about these words. Remember, you can subscribe to the feed or participate by posting photos to the national site.

November 30, 2014

Advent 1-Look

As I shared in the last post, there are many online options for devotions this Advent. One that I will be following here is creating a digital Advent calendar using photos that represent, to me, the words suggested in the project. As I think of the words, I will try to be more aware of what is around me so that I can take a photo representing the word.

This coming week the words are:
Look (30 Nov)
Remember (1 Dec)
Imagine (2 Dec)
Thrive (3 Dec)
Abide (4 Dec)
Notice (5 Dec)
Watch (6 Dec)

As a starter, my photo for “Look” is of the Cooper’s Hawk (I’m told that is what type hawk it is) that landed outside my window at work last week. I looked up and there he/she was sitting on the branch! I took a long shot picture from my desk and then literally crept closer and closer to the window until I was able to get a closer picture. It was an amazing gift from God that morning when I had been feeling rather ‘out of sorts’. Come back next Sunday to see what pictures I have found to represent the other words week.
You can do this project yourself! The project invites you to post your photos using Instagram. I probably won’t do that since I don’t have an account, and don’t need yet another digital account to follow. You can also get the ongoing calendar (theirs, not mine) in your inbox in Advent by signing up.

November 23, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my faithful readers.
I encourage you to take time this week to pause and consider all the blessings you have.

Next week is the beginning of Advent. Here are links to a couple Advent devotional disciplines that you might find interesting. Leaders of the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Anglican Church of Canada, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have prepared devotions for the 4 weeks of Advent. They are downloadable as pdf files:
Another idea that sounds quite fun is using your phone to create a digital Advent calendar. You can share your photos or just use them for your own devotions. You may find some of my photos on this blog as I hope to follow along on this calendar.

The idea is to take a photo and then post it as below. I likely won't post to Instagram since I don't have an account. You can also sign up to get the calendar in your inbox:

For the first week: take a Picture, Hashtag #Adventword &
 #Look (30 Nov)
#Remember (1 Dec)
#Imagine (2 Dec)
#Thrive (3 Dec)
#Abide (4 Dec)
#Notice (5 Dec)
#Watch (6 Dec)

November 16, 2014

Forever and Ever

We are at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. The Prayer is all about relationship. We are in relationship to our Father God and God to us. Even though God is Holy and beyond all we can fathom, God seeks to be in a loving, intimate relationship with us! We are partners with the Holy Father God in bringing about the Kingdom. With God we work to birth or even sing the Kingdom into existence in response to and in union with the One who has ‘lavished love on us, that we should be called Children of God’ (I John).

As Beloved of God and people in relationship with God, we are also in relationship with one another. As we are fully provided with what we need, day by day, we in turn we ‘pay it forward’ starting with forgiving our self and others as we seek to follow our Father.

Rejoicing in the relationship vertically to God and horizontally with each other, we can say “forever and ever, Amen”. When we say ‘Amen’ we are signaling our assent to all that we have just prayed. We are saying ‘so be it’ to each of the lines in the prayer.

Part 1

So be it is what Amen means. What does that word mean to you? Sit and repeat ‘so be it’ after each line of the Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father in Heaven       So Be It
Hallowed be Thy Name   So Be It
Thy Kingdom Come          So Be It
Thy Will be Done on Earth as in Heaven    So Be It
Give us this day our daily Bread    So Be It
And Forgive us our Trespasses,   So Be it

As we forgive those who trespass against us             So Be It
And lead us not into temptation  So Be it
But Deliver us from evil   So Be it
For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory        So Be It
Forever and Ever              So Be It, Amen

 Part 2
In the alternative prayer it concludes ‘may our future actions grow from here’.  You might layer colored sands into a jar remembering the layers of your life.
In Advent we’ll start a new series of meditations in preparation for the Nativity and Incarnation of our Lord.

November 9, 2014

Thine is the Kingdom

As we come to the end of the prayer we return full circle to the beginning by recognizing that God is where the Kingdom, Power and Glory reside, or as the Aramaic translation says, “From you arises every Vision, Power, and Song”.

Our loving Father wants us to find, and live into, our fullest vision. God wants us to have the dream God planted in our hearts at birth. When we offer this prayer, recognizing that God is the Source of the Kingdom and the Vision of our life, we can be free to allow our souls to awake and dream and live.

Discovering that dream may be easy for some. Many of us have known what we ‘want to be when we grow up’ all our lives and have followed that path. Others have listened more the voices of caution and ‘what you ought to do’ than to that Voice. It may take some prayer and meditation to rediscover that real Dream.

The photo from is what God asks us each day. “What is your dream, my Precious Child?” Take some time to think about what your real dream is. It’s never too late, so don’t say “I’m too old”. God will give you the time for your dream and God’s vision for you is perfect.

As God told Jeremiah: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Part 1

Manipulate play dough as you ask God to help you live in to and even to discover God’s dream for your life. You’ll find it amazingly freeing.

Part 2
In thinking about God as the Provider of “every Vision, Power, and Song”, you might do prayer yoga or sing or listen to a favorite hymn. Perhaps you feel moved to do liturgical dance to welcome God’s vision into your life. The little card reminds us “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!”

Next week we’ll finish our meditations on the Lord’s Prayer as we come to the very end and offer it all to God.

October 31, 2014

Saints of God

Today we take a break from our contemplation of the Lord’s Prayer to consider the witness of those saints of God who have gone before us. There’s a good old hymn, by Lesbia Scott, which reminds us that saints are like you and me. Another blogger weighs in on this hymn here.

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.
As we celebrate All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day this weekend, we remember those who have gone before us into Glory. We remember our family, friends, and even those we never knew who were witnesses to faith in God. We follow their leading in each of our individual Christian journeys.
Maybe this little pumpkin prayer (inspired by Oriental Trading, modified by me) will help us remember how to live as a saints of God.

October 26, 2014

Deliver us from Evil

So far in our exploration of the Lord’s Prayer, possibly the best known prayer in the world, we have paused to remember that God is our ‘daddy’. God is also holy and we are to allow ourselves to be conformed to God’s Kingdom and God’s will in our lives. For this God gives us what we need every day. In order to be more closely aligned with God, we must forgive ourselves and others. We also have to let go of those things that keep us from being fully in relationship with God. There's a lot to think about in this prayer that we often just recite!

In this part of the prayer, after acknowledging that we are easily tempted, we turn to God for protection from evil. Since the Garden, there has been evil abroad in the world. However, “God has overcome the world.” When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he declared 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'(Math. 4:4 NIV). In times of trial, Jesus recognizes the Lord as His source of deliverance. Likewise we are to depend on God when evil is at our door. We can ask for God to be our protection from being ‘lured’ by temptations that are not in line with God or that are truly evil. Being consciously aware of the protection of God can take the form of dedicated prayer.

Part 1
One way to focus on prayer, aside from all the suggestions already in this series is to use Anglican Prayer Beads. It really isn’t hard to make your own. If you don’t want to string the beads, you can purchase them and learn to use them in prayer. One set of directions and prayers is here.

Part 2
Yet free us from not being in the Present is how the Aramaic translation puts the petition for safety from evil. And it is true that when we are too focused on either the past or the future we are not living into the full life and protection of our Holy God and Father. There’s an old Chinese saying by Lao Tzu that puts it in perspective.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Matthew 6:25-34 says essentially the same thing, Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Like the Anglican Prayer Beads, a Holding Cross can help you focus on the present and on the presence of God. A Holding Cross is a specially shaped cross, but you can sit and focus on any cross you have, concentrating on being in the moment with God.
Next weekend is All Saints Sunday when we remember all the saints of the church, both famous and every day men and women who have gone before us in the faith. Then we’ll resume our study of the Lord’s Prayer with the closing doxology

October 19, 2014


"Temptation" Some synonyms are lure, enticement, attraction, invitation, pull, inducement, appeal, excitement, desire. Temptations are things that draw us away from God. They can be big things, but more often they are the little distractions that coax us away from time with God.

The prayer says “lead us not into temptation”. The modern translation says ‘Save us from the time of trial (or testing)’. Does God lead us into temptation or test us to see if we ‘pass’? Or is it our own decisions that let us slip into some habits that seem innocent and maybe more exciting than the relationship with God that is being focused on in the Lord’s Prayer? Temptations might be things that look good and important. Not too long ago on the internet a saying circulated “More than needing schedule and productivity, this week will need a Savior and prayer. God’s not asking you to produce, he’s asking you to pray. God’s not asking you to climb ladders, He’s asking you to kneel and let go.” (Ann Voskamp)

Sometimes we forget that God is in charge of everything we have, like our daily bread and the sunrise and even the trials and yes the temptations. So we can turn them back over to God. We can, as the little saying goes, “kneel and let go.”

Part 1

Make a Prayer rock. This is simply a rock wrapped in cloth to remind you of what to do with your temptations. There’s a little poem that goes along with it that you can tie onto the rock, if you want.

I’m your little prayer rock and this is what I’ll do.
Just put me on your pillow till the day is through.
Then turn back the covers and climb into your bed
And WHACK … your little prayer rock will hit you on your head.
Then you will remember as the day is through
To kneel and say your prayers as you wanted to,
Then when you are finished just dump me on the floor,
I’ll stay there through the night-time to give you help once more.
When you get up the next morning CLUNK…I stub your toe
So you will remember your prayers before you go.
Put me back upon your pillow when your bed is made,
And your clever little prayer rock will continue in your aid.
Because your heavenly Father cares and loves you so,
He wants you to remember to talk to him… you know

Part 2    Help us not forget our Source
In the Aramaic translation, we pray “help us not forget our Source”. When we give in to temptations, we do tend to forget Who the Source of all things is. When we let go of the temptations that lead us away from that Source, we are return to unity and union.

One way to keep connected to the Source of all life is to start a Thanksgiving diary. Just like the name implies, this discipline involves writing down at least one thing we are thankful for each day. Remembering our blessings helps us move past temptations and turn to God. Ann Voskamp, in her blog offers monthly suggestions for finding 3 things each day to be thankful for. She calls it the “Joy Dare” and you can download it.

Next week we consider the protection God offers when we turn to Him rather than depending on ourselves.

October 12, 2014


Forgiveness: asking for, receiving, and esp. offering it can be difficult. Yet we are instructed by our Lord to do just that. Indeed we are to forgive 70 x 7 times! (Matthew 18:21). We are to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) and “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13). If we can “forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

When you listen to the news it can be hard to find forgiveness in your heart for the evils of the world. How do we forgive those who murder children or who cause genocide and wide-spread anguish? Is it any easier to forgive the person who steals your peace of mind by roaming the woods and threatening lives with gunfire? What about the man or woman who thinks differently than you do or who cuts you off in traffic? Perhaps you have a personal story of someone who has caused you or your family harm-how do you forgive them?
Remember, forgiveness is not about excusing the wrong, but about freeing yourself from being trapped by the memory of that trespass. I have known people who are unable to forgive even little things and it binds them to the past and ruins friendships and makes their lives very unhappy.

Part 1
Because forgiveness is really a difficult thing, it can help to have something concrete to work on while praying for forgiveness.

One thing you can do is find a selection of twigs and small branches. Make them into a wreath, using a foam circle or just weaving them together free form. As you make the wreath pray for those you need to forgive. Start simple…with the person who cut you off at the grocery store.
You could also purchase a vine wreath from a craft store and attach the names and/or actions that you are working to forgive.

Part 2
The Aramaic translation of this line really hit home when I first read it. “Untie the knots of failure binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults” it says. Isn’t it very true that when we are unforgiving, we are really holding onto the “strands” of whatever they did to wrong us? The other person may not even know we feel hurt, but as long as we keep tying those knots, we’ll never be free.

There are many things in the world that we think we cannot or should not forgive. As I said above, forgiving is not about excusing the wrong, but really it is all about freeing yourself from being tied to the pain and anger of the memories. Sometimes, too, it is about forgiving ourselves. Too often we can be harder on ourselves than on anyone else…So if you need to ‘untie the knots…and release the strands of [our own] faults’ as you pray for forgiveness, do it.

Tie knots in a rope, one for each thing you need to forgive or be forgiven for. Use the knotted rope as a prayer aid. Pray over each knot, and as you are able to let go of that issue, untie the knot.

In writing this I started to wonder if my own unforgiving attitude toward those who have ‘trespassed against’ me is any less harmful than the fanaticism that kills others because they do not believe in the same way or agree with a certain leader…? An uncomfortable thought, isn’t it? Holding onto the “knots of failure” and the “strands of others’ faults” doesn’t solve anything. Paradoxical as it sounds, it is only in loving and “praying for those who persecute you” that we find freedom ourselves.
Next week we’ll move on to looking at Temptations!

October 5, 2014

Daily Bread

The phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer, as many commentators point out, starts the portion of the prayer relating to our personal needs. The first part of the prayer is dedicated to declaring God’s goodness and glory. In the second half, we recognize our dependence and our response to the goodness of God.

What might “daily bread” mean? Is it just the food we eat? Or is it all the sustenance of life that is provided for us day by day? Perhaps both? Daily bread is also the relationships we share with each other that nourish and refresh us.
Part 1
Make bread or a treat to share with someone ‘just because’, or take someone to lunch, as a way of recognizing that the daily bread is a food, but it is also the relationship of fellowship around a table.
If you want to start a round of Amish Friendship Bread, you can find the recipe here from my book, A Sampler of Bible Beauty. (For the book, it's called "Naomi's Friendship Bread", but the recipe is the same.)

Part 2
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom from the Aramaic translation offers a broader perspective by asking God for bread and wisdom. This is important because God gives us the discernment we need to determine how to meet our own needs and how to reach beyond our comfort zone.

Give or send a card to someone who might be lonely or to a service person to let them know you are thinking of them. You could even make the card if you are feeling crafty.

Take cookies, or bread, to your local fire or police station because our first responders don’t get thanked often.

Of course there are people in the world, and even in our cities and towns, that don’t have enough actual bread, rice, beans, or any food to make it through from day to day. I recently heard of the SNAP Challenge. The goal is awareness of the reality of getting enough food on only $4.50/day/person. That is the amount men and women on food stamps are allotted. Think about it, that’s $31.50/week/person. For some in our country, the amount many of us spend on a fancy coffee is all they have to live on all day long!

You might decide to make an impact in the war against hunger by donating to a food pantry or some other organization that is working to end hunger. One is the Rachel Ray show challenge to fund 9 million meals. For each dollar donated, 10 meals are provided. There are plenty of local options as well, no matter where you live.
Next time, we’ll consider our response to the Holy and Loving God who provides for us and how we too often break the relationships within the community and between ourselves and God by not being able to forgive.

September 28, 2014

Thy Will

In our walk through the Lord’s Prayer, phrase by phrase, we are offering ideas to use our right brain to pray. Too often a familiar prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer, can become more of a rote exercise than a deeply felt prayer. Even rote praying is useful and sometimes something will jump out at you even as you are mumbling through the prayer at one time or another.

Taking time to sit with each phrase and contemplate the prayer with different activities is just another way to make us aware of the depth and beauty of this prayer. Of course, you can do these same exercises with other prayers, or psalms, or even portions of scripture. Try it out. You might be surprised.
Today we come to “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” If you pause to think about what you are really saying you may find yourself asking what it would look like if God’s will was being done on earth.

Part 1
Get out a real candle and candle holder. Nearly all of us have one or more tucked away. There is something mesmerizing and holy about watching the flame on a real candle move and sway. Sit and watch the candle while repeating the phrase “Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.” Try to sit for several minutes with the candle and prayer.

If you’ve never closely looked at a flame, you’ll see that there are many colors in it. Marvel at these colors as representative of the will of God. Notice that the flame is three-dimensional, not flat as it looks from a distance. God’s will is multi-faceted and (at least) 3D.

Embody your desire in every light and form is the Aramaic translation of this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer.
Part 2
Ponder what “Embody your desire in every light and form” might mean to you and those you know and even those you don’t know, while taking a Prayer walk around your neighborhood.

Take time to notice the similarities and differences in light and form of the trees and plants and yards and houses as you pass. Say a prayer for those living in each home. You may not know the family personally, but God knows them intimately.
Remember God loves each person in your neighborhood with the same love God has for you! You and I may have our differences with some of our neighbors, but in God’s family we are one and called to unity. Perhaps that is part of how we can start to bring God’s will into reality “on earth as in heaven.”

Next time, we'll consider the 'daily bread' we get and give.

September 21, 2014

Thy Kingdom

We have already looked at the first 2 phrases of the Lord’s Prayer. I hope you have found some new insights into this familiar prayer, as we consider ways to prayer using the right side of our brain.

After addressing God as Father and remembering God’s holiness, we ask God to enter our lives. “Thy Kingdom come” we pray.

‘Kingdom’ might conjure up images of knights and ladies and castles, or perhaps all of Creation as the Kingdom of God. Take time to think about what ‘kingdom’ means to you.

Part 1
Offer your prayer about what Kingdom means to you in drawing. This is similar to the Zentangles from Sept. 7, but also very different. Rather than repeating one design over and over, you allow your hand to just draw designs. Some might call it doodling, but you will discover that you have experienced prayer as you draw.

If you want you can write your prayer intention and then draw around it, or you can simply let your hand do the praying as you make patterns. There are many suggestions, indeed books, about this type of prayer but really it’s all about letting your right brain take over the prayer. The website for Sybil MacBeth author of Praying in Color says, “When the page was covered with designs and names, Sybil realized she had prayed. The action of drawing was a wordless offering of friends and family into the care of God.” (

Envision Your “I Can” now is the adjacent phrase from the Aramaic translation. Asking God to ‘envision I can’ in my life and your life can be a powerful offering of self.

Part 2
One way to incorporate this is to braid a bookmark from 3 strands of ribbon or yarn. One strand is for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit. As you braid offer a pray for guidance on how God’s “I Can” will be in your life. 

You can of course decorate the ends of your bookmark with trinkets or bows or other embellishments that have meaning.

Another way to use this prayer form is to prayerfully and with intention pray for a situation or an illness or discernment.

Next week we will seek God’s Will in our lives and prayers.

September 14, 2014

Hallowed be Thy Name

In our excursion through the Lord’s Prayer, we come to the second phrase. Most of us prefer and use the older wording: “Hallowed be Thy Name”. It has such a comfortable, familiar feel. What does ‘hallowed’ mean, though? The modern translation gives an answer. When we say “Holy is Your Name” we are reminded that something ‘hallowed’ is something ‘holy’. The word can also mean consecrated, or sacred, or even revered.

How can we celebrate the ‘Holy’, ‘Hallowed’ or sacredness of God’s name using our creative minds? The simplicity of the words “Hallowed/Holy be Thy Name” invites us into contemplation of God’s Holiness in many ways. We can simply take time to allow the Holiness of God to seep into our souls by sitting quietly.

Sensing the holiness of an event or life or a time causes songs and praise to well up in me. Music takes me to a place where I can be in that Holy or Hallowed place with God.

Part 1
If you have seen the movie Fantasia, you recall that it starts by having the music make designs on the screen. Pick a favorite piece of music. A song works, although instrumental music is more effective. Sit with the music and let images form in your mind. Let the music take you into the presence of the Holy One.

 Part 2
The alternate, Aramaic translation of this line is “Release a space to plant your Presence hereI think this wording takes us in a new direction in our thinking about the Holy. We are called to be open and allow God to be planted in our heart and soul. It still calls us to reflect on the sacredness of God, but in a very personal way. We are inviting God’s Presence into us.

As a reminder of this idea, you might plant something, or get a plant for your prayer area.
If music or plants just don’t speak to you, rejoice in the Holiness of God’s Presence by reciting a familiar litany (simply a series of prayers with a common refrain) or perhaps write your own. Start each line of the litany with the same phrase, add a short prayer of adoration, contemplation, thanksgiving or supplication, and then end with a refrain. A litany based on this portion of the Lord’s Prayer might start:

Father, Holy is your name. I praise you for the glorious beauty of sunrise. Release a space to plant your presence in me.
Father, Holy is your name. I offer to you this day that all it brings is to your glory. Release a space to plant your presence in me.
Father, Holy is your name. I thank you for all that you do in my life. Release a space to plant your presence in me.
Father, Holy is your name. I pray for all whose needs are on my heart, esp. … . Release a space to plant your presence in me.
Father, Holy is your name. Blessed be your Name forever. Release a space to plant your presence in me.

 You can find other litanies online. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer has several litanies, including the Litany of Thanksgiving below.

 Litany of Thanksgiving (pg 834 Book of Common Prayer)
Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.
For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea. We thank you, Lord.
For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ, We thank you, Lord.
For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends, We thank you, Lord.
For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve, We thank you, Lord.
For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play, We thank you, Lord.
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity, We thank you, Lord.
For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice, We thank you, Lord.
For the communion of saints, in all times and places, We thank you, Lord.
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord; To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen

See you next time.

September 7, 2014

Our Father...

From now until Advent, we’ll be traveling through the Lord’s Prayer a phrase at a time. Often, for me at least, a prayer can become very familiar and you hardly think of the words as you say them. In taking this prayer apart, and then using our creative, right brain, side to think about the phrases, may we gain a new perspective on what we are saying when we pray.

Throughout this series we’ll be taking the ‘thinking outside the box’ to another level every week. Recently on Facebook a translation of the Lord’s Prayer from the Aramaic circulated. This translation shines a different light on the terminology and so the second part of each meditation will use the line from the Aramaic translation.
I invite you to try some of these exercises and enter into this prayer. You can use an idea from part 1 or part 2, or both, or neither. I think you will be enriched if you take a few extra minutes to sit with this prayer. Sometimes, like today, there will be a bonus idea, too.

Of course, we start by saying “Our Father, who is in heaven”. How often do you really think about those simple words?

Part 1: Stop and think about each word in the phrase: like ‘heaven’, ‘Father’, ‘our’. Even the little words ‘is’, ‘in’, ‘who’ may jump out with new meaning. Choose one or 2 of the words. Find photos or other images that illustrate these words for you. They can be photos of your own, like this image of sunrise I took, or ones you find on the internet. Let yourself sit and be drawn into the image and closer to God.
Part 2
The Aramaic translation of the first line is “O Breathing Life, Your Name shines everywhere”. It is very different from what we are used to. The words open up new ways of thinking and praying this line.

The phrase, “O Breathing Life” instead of “Our Father” invites us to breathe a prayer. This is an ancient form of prayer and meditation. Say any short prayer, phrase from a psalm, or simply the word “Jesus”. Breathe in on the first half and out on second. One prayer you can us: “Be still and know/ that I am God.” You can also use this first phrase of the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father/in heaven or O Breathing Life/your name shines everywhere) as the mantra.

Bonus Idea
Another way to pray this first line of the Lord’s Prayer, in either translation, is to use Zentangles.
These are simply repeating ’doodles’/designs (like below). Pick one design from the selection, or make up your own.
Because they are so simple and repetitive, it is easy to pray while drawing. Let your mind roam through the first line of the Lord’s Prayer.

See you next week for ways to consider "Hallowed be Thy Name"