September 17, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Hearing

Last week we looked for Holy Ground in really seeing things. Were you able to take a few minutes to sit and really look at a leaf or your hand? Were you surprised? When I studied my own hand, I was awed by the lines and veins. I was astonished to consider all the various things that hand had done. There were the mundane things like cleaning and cooking, but also the loving caresses and the hands held in prayer.

This week, let’s consider another of the 5 senses. Take time to hear the sound of Holy Ground. Have you ever wondered if Moses heard anything while at the burning bush? Was there crackling and popping like in most fires, or was it intense silence? Did Moses hear wind blowing and the sheep he left behind? What can we hear when we listen for God present on Holy Ground?

Not all of us are blessed with hearing. In the Gospel of Mark, we learn how Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. Some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and hardly able to speak, and they begged Jesus to place His hand on him. So Jesus took him aside privately, away from the crowd, and put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”) And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7: 32-34)

Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, which is typically something we do when we don’t want to hear. Yet Jesus’ touch opens the man’s hearing and gives him speech. Hearing and speaking go with each other. Those who are deaf from birth have a hard time learning to talk because they have never heard the sounds. If you go deaf later in life, you retain the memory of sound.
Science tells us that sound is created by waves moving through the air. Most of us cannot feel those waves, except with our eardrums. Sometimes you can get a sense of feeling them if you are at a loud concert or next to a car with the music playing really loud. Then you CAN actually feel the sound.

This year on America’s Got Talent, there is a young singer who became deaf later in life and is able to sing again by feeling the musical vibrations. Then her muscle memory could create the sounds that she can no longer actually hear. She is hearing through feeling and is sensing the Holy Ground through her entire body. We might in fact envy her that ability because very often we don’t listen to what’s around us.

Sit outside in the early morning or late evening to just listen to the sounds. Some are natural and soothing like birds calling or the breeze through the trees. Others may be more jarring like the neighbor’s dog barking or sirens in the distance. Close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you. Feel the Holy Ground swelling and ebbing in the noises you hear. Is that baby in the distance crying for joy or anger? Perhaps the dog is barking because it is lonely, or because the neighborhood tomcat just walked across the street. Do you wonder what the birds might be saying to each other as they twitter and coo? What is God saying to you in the wind and other sounds?

You might imagine the sounds of things you don’t really hear-like the tea in your cup. Is the steam giggling as it evaporates into the air? Does the tea bag sigh with delight sinking into the spa of hot water to steep? Or do seeds underground moan like a woman in labor as they split open to let the seedling out? And does that seedling grunt while working up through the soil?
What do you hear God saying to you in the sounds you hear? Is God saying ‘take off your shoes for this is Holy Ground?’ To what does God need to open your ears?

September 10, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Seeing

Today we start a new series about “Finding Holy Ground”. I recently re-read the Barbara Brown Taylor book An Altar in the World. It was a good reminder that God is found in all things and places. I’ll be referring to her and to others in this series that will take us to Advent. Our journey to finding Holy Ground starts with reflecting on how God is found very close to us-in our senses. I invite you to come along and take time to find Holy Ground.

In the September 4 meditation, Ben Brown noted, “Moses had packed a bag for watching his father-in-law’s flock, but he was unprepared to encounter God through a burning bush. Life is dynamic, and sometimes we’ll encounter God in surprising places” He asks, “will we recognize the holy ground and take off our sandals?” As Taylor notes, when we become aware of all the Holy Ground, we have to be prepared to be surprised.

I invite you to encounter the Holy Ground through our senses. Today we start with sight, which many of us take for granted. Even if, like me, you wear glasses, you probably can see if you are reading this blog. Admittedly I wouldn’t be able to read it without my glasses, but thanks to modern medicine, the blurriness of astigmatism is correctable so that I can indeed see to read.

In the Gospels, Jesus heals more than one person of blindness. One instance is found in Mark 8:23-25. We hear, “So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then He spit on the man’s eyes and placed His hands on him. “Can you see anything?” He asked. The man looked up and said, “I can see the people, but they look like trees walking around.” Once again Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and when he opened them his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly

Unlike many healings, this time the healing seems to be only partial at first. The man says, “I see the people, but they look like trees”. Certainly, that’s rather what happens to me when I’m not wearing my glasses. I can see shapes, but they are pretty indistinct.

I think that happens more often than we realize, because we don’t pay attention to what we are seeing. We are only seeing shapes not the reality of the people and things around us. We are not seeing God, and Holy Ground, in what we are looking at.

A few months ago, I came across an exercise for seeing more clearly. The author suggested taking a leaf or something else and really studying it for several minutes. Look at the veins and cells of the leaf, marvel at the delicacy of the feather, contemplate the tree branch until you are amazed at the complexity of the parts. Barbara Brown Taylor suggests doing something similar with your own hand. Study your veins, look at the lines or spots or scars. Think about all the places that hand has been and all it has done in your life.

I would encourage you to take time, as much as you need, but more than just a couple of minutes, to do one of these things. Find something in nature, or your own hand, and let yourself look deeply into it. Let God show you the Holy Ground in the object.

Then, take it a step further, the next time you are driving or walking or scanning through Facebook, take time to really see what is going on. Look at the faces you pass or the ones on the posts. Are they stressed, or happy, or afraid? See with the eyes of your heart and try to get past the odd, blurry ‘tree’ shapes that are safe, but which don’t tell us much. Look into the heart and really see the Holy Ground there.

The same September 4 post had this prayer to help us focus, “God of surprises, help me to notice you in the midst of my mundane activities. Prepare me for the holy ground I’ll encounter today. Amen”

September 3, 2017

Labor Day

Labor Day was an outgrowth of labor organizations at the end of the 19th century. On Tuesday, September 5, 1882 a local event was sponsored by the Central Labor Union of New York City. The picture is of the parade in NYC in 1882. Two years later, the first Monday of September was set as the holiday when more unions started celebrating a “workingman’s holiday.” Gradually cities and then states accepted the practice. Twelve years later, on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday of September a legal holiday.

Now, the long weekend is more of a ‘last hurrah’ of summer festivities, with trips to the lake or camping. Some places still have parades or other recognition events to celebrate the important role ‘blue collar’ workers play in the life and livelihood of our nation. For most of us though, it’s the last long weekend before all the busy fall activities move into full swing. Most schools are already in session and the after school sports or other extra curricular activities are also starting. Places like the Cathedral, where I work, start fall programs and the busy rush up to the season of Advent.

It is easy to get caught up in getting everything done. Sometimes, maybe even often, we end up falling into a daily routine to get everything completed. The routine becomes numbing and we act on autopilot and don’t really experience each day.

Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden,” Jesus says. “Take my yoke upon you.” (Matthew 11:29-30) When we are working in our own strength, life can be heavy and discouraging. However, when we are yoked with our Lord, the load is more than halved. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he says. Finding God in the routines of our day-to-day life is not always easy, but it is essential to our physical and spiritual health.

Much of this post was copied from my 2010 post. Despite all the changes in the world over the past 7 years, it is still important to take time as the meditation suggests: 
"I close my eyes and breathe, inviting peace.
I open my heart and breathe, inviting love.
My soul rejoices, knowing God is with me"
In fact, in the seeming turmoil of day-to-day life and news, perhaps it is even more important to remember to breathe, and to 'come unto me' as Jesus invites. Ask Jesus to bring peace and love and joy. I hope you'll take time this Labor Day weekend to just take a deep breath. 

August 27, 2017

Lord's Prayer: Amen

Here we are at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. The final word in this, and nearly every other prayer is ‘Amen’. It simply means “Let it be”. We ask God that all that we have mentioned in the prayer be accomplished. Just as Mary of Nazareth said to Gabriel “Let it be according to your word” (Luke 1:38), we offer our petitions to God asking that they be done.

Recently I saw a special on the Beatles. Many will remember their song Let it Be. Although they always insisted that the ‘Mother Mary’ was not the Virgin, many hearers still hear her words in the lyrics. Whether the group meant to refer to Mary of Nazareth, or not, the words are a fitting end to our study of the Lord’s Prayer. They summarize the requests made in the prayer, and offer them up ‘Let it be’.

In light of a world where people are still at odds with each other, just as they were in the 1960’s, we might indeed echo “And when the broken-hearted people/Living in the world agree/There will be an answer/Let it be”.

Enter the Presence: Read Mary’s encounter with Gabriel in Luke 1. Put yourself in her sandals and say “Let it be according to your word”.

Are there things in your life where God is calling you to step out in faith like Mary? Can you open your hands and heart to say, “Let it be”?

Stand In Awe: It can be hard to say ‘Amen’ to some things that God asks of us. Consider the lives of some of those chosen by God, who didn’t have an easy time. Almost anyone in the Bible will fit that description. There is a saying that "God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies those he calls". Read through the list in this image and remember that God empowers each of us to do what we are called to do. Are you willing to ‘let it be’?

Involve your Heart: Read through the words of the Beatle’s song.  

When I find myself in times of trouble/Mother Mary comes to me/Speaking words of wisdom/Let it be

And in my hour of darkness/She is standing right in front of me/Speaking words of wisdom/Let it be

And when the broken-hearted people/Living in the world agree/There will be an answer/Let it be

For though they may be parted there is/Still a chance that they will see/There will be an answer/Let it be

And when the night is cloudy/There is still a light that shines on me/Shine until tomorrow/Let it be

I wake up to the sound of music/Mother Mary comes to me/Speaking words of wisdom/Let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be/Whisper words of wisdom/Let it be

Do a ZenTangle of the word ‘Amen’. Include things you are called to do.

Write a song or poem expressing your love for God and new understanding of the Lord’s Prayer*

August 20, 2017

Lord's Prayer: For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory

Since the beginning of June, we’ve been ‘unpacking’ each line of the Lord’s Prayer. We have explored heaven (June 18) and asked for our daily bread (July 16). We’ve looked at how to ‘hallow’ God’s name (June 25) and offered ourselves to bring God’s will to earth (July 9). We’ve seen that God’s Kingdom (July 2) comes partly through our ability to forgive and receive forgiveness (July 23, 30). The past couple of weeks have been devoted to praying for protection from temptation and evil.

Today we consider the final phrase of the prayer “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever”. It is a summary of all the rest of the lines of the Lord’s Prayer. As some commentators note, it is a doxology of praise. In this last section, we return to praising God, as at the start. We acknowledge that God alone has the Power and Glory. Only God can accomplish all that we have asked. It is interesting to note that in the Luke version of the prayer (Luke 11:2-4) this phrase is absent. In some translations of the Matthew citation (Matthew 6:9-13) it is also absent with the note that this doxology was added early on by the church. Likely the early church fathers thought that the prayer should have some nice and tidy way to end.

Enter the Presence: This ending Doxology is a good reminder that to God do belong the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory. Saint Irenaeus, a second century bishop, wrote: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

We are reminded in the Old Testament that “the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” (Exodus 24:17) The New Testament encourages us to participate in that glory. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul says “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) The Philippians are urged to have “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11) Our every action is to be a doxology of its own-a hymn of praise in action to God.

Of course, as Paul tells the Roman community “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Still, the Colossians are encouraged because we are those “to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) Because Christ is in each of us, we can in fact be human beings, fully alive.

Stand In Awe: How awesome to think that we are, as Saint Irenaeus said, “the glory of God”, and we are to live and confess God in that Glory. Take a moment to think about what it means to have the glory of God in you. Look around you, sit in your garden and listen, smell, hear, see all around the glory of God in birds, grass, flowers, sky, sound. Everything proclaims the glory of God, if we pause to see it.

Barbara Brown Taylor talks about this in her book An Altar in the World. She notes, “the last place most people look [for God] is right under their feet, in the everyday activities, accidents, and encounters of their lives.” She suggests letting yourself get lost and get out of the daily routines of the same routes. When you do, you “agree to become aware of each step you take, tuning all of your senses to exactly where you are and exactly what you are doing.”
Involve your Heart: “Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory” says the Lord’s Prayer doxology. Take some time to be really aware of God all around you. Get off the normal, beaten path, and try a new route, or a new prayer routine, or a new version of the Bible.

Write the word ‘Glory’ or ‘Power’ or ‘Kingdom’ in the center of a paper. Add words or images that come to mind when you think of that word.

Color the tree of life image from Pinterest in this blog, or find your own image, and think about what being the Glory of God means to you.
This week focus on “Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever”. Next week, we will take a quick look at ‘Amen’.

August 13, 2017

Our Father: Deliver us from Evil

Our journey through the Lord’s Prayer is almost done. Last week we prayed to be delivered from temptations in our own actions. Did you have time to walk a labyrinth or other path?

Today we look at the request that God keep us safe from evil. There is evil in the world, of that fact everyone agrees. Watching the nightly news brings it right into our living rooms with scenes of war and destruction and hatred and violence. There have always been evil and frightening things. We know that God is our protector and shield. Psalm 28:7 tells us, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Sometimes though it can be difficult to remember that when assaulted by all the pain and problems and dangers in the world. With the ancient Scots we can beg,

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Enter the Presence: Paul’s letter to the Ephesians advises, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

An important part of the armor is the final verse. Paul admonishes the Ephesians to “Pray in the Spirit at all times”. In the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to clothe us with this armor, as we enter God’s presence with prayer. 
Stand In Awe: The Deer’s Cry is a prayer or song attributed to St. Patrick. Legend says that Loeguire, the High King of Tara, resolved to ambush and kill Patrick and his monks to prevent them from spreading the Christian faith in his kingdom.  As Patrick and his followers approached singing this hymn, the King and his men saw only a herd of wild deer and let them pass by. The words remind us of the power of God in the heavens, fire, sea, and rock. It is God’s strength that keeps us safe as Christ is behind, below, above, and all around.  

I arise today through the strength of heaven
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock

I arise today through God's strength to pilot me
God's eye to look before me
God's wisdom to guide me
God's way to lie before me
God's shield to protect me

From all who shall wish me ill
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul

Christ with me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ in me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me

In fact, it is the Lord who is our armor. Paul’s advice to ‘put on the armor of God’ is to allow God to surround us.

Involve your Heart: Think about what each part of the armor of God means in your life. Draw a shield shape, and add these ideas to it.

Take time to listen to the hymn Deer’s Cry in this video. Let yourself rest in the protection of Christ above, and surrounding you.   

This week focus is on Deliver us from Evil. Next week we will come to the conclusion of the prayer. 

August 6, 2017

Our Father: Lead us Not into Temptation

Enter the Presence: In our adventure through the Lord’s Prayer, we are entering the last few laps. We’ve celebrated God’s glory as Holy and as Father. We’ve asked that God’s Kingdom be built and looked at our responsibility in building that kingdom. God gives us our daily sustenance, and asks us to join in him in forgiving one another, just as we are forgiven every moment of every day. Which of the exercises have you tried? Were they helpful?

Today we pray “lead us not into temptation”. We face the fact that we are tempted to do the wrong thing every day. With Paul every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul continues, “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” I’m sure each of us at some time has been driven to sob, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” We want to do the right thing, but it seems like the more we try the worse it gets. However, Paul reminds us, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25) Through Christ, we are redeemed from the wrong things we do.

In the Lord’s prayer we say, “Lead us not into temptation”. The truth is, God doesn’t give us temptations. We find plenty of those on our own. We may spend time watching cat videos instead of taking time to pray. It’s easier to join the gossip than to find something positive to say. Shaking our head over a problem is simpler than working for a solution. Every day we make choices. Some of them take us down the well-traveled road that everyone else takes. As Robert Frost suggests “I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference”.
Stand In Awe: Consider some of the citations for ‘road’ in the Bible, like these.  

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11)

“A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.” (Isaiah 35:8)

The scripture promises that following God’s way, will be the way of joy and holiness. Jesus tells his disciples, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

When we pray ‘lead us not into temptation’, we are asking God to show us the proper path, the right road to follow. Probably it will be the ‘road less traveled’.

Sit with God and imagine what that road looks like in your life.

Involve your Heart: Think through yesterday. When did you give in to temptations to take the easier road?

What is your greatest temptation, the thing that lures you away from God’s path-power, social media, being likable…?

If there is a labyrinth nearby, take time to walk it thinking about how the path guides you without you having to determine which way to go. In the same way God guides your steps when you let God be in charge.*

This week focus on the phrase “Lead us not into Temptation”

July 30, 2017

Our Father: As we Forgive

Last time we considered how much we need to be forgiven, and how generous God is with forgiveness. This time, we look at the next phrase, which is perhaps even harder to accomplish. We ask to be forgiven “as we forgive those who trespass/sin against us”.

 Jesus is rather stern about the connection between being forgiven and forgiving others. In Matthew 18:21-22 “Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’” It’s not that Jesus is saying we should keep tally of how many times we have forgiven someone, but rather that there should be no end to our forgiveness, just as there is no end to God’s forgiving us.

Jesus then goes on to tell a parable to illustrate the point. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’ (Matthew 18:23-35)

It is not easy to forgive someone who has harmed you or even who keeps hurting you, and that is why we pray for help in doing just that. Not to excuse the behavior, but in fact for our own soul’s health and wholeness.

Enter the Presence: The daily post from the Society of St. John the Evangelist recently had a message about this line in the prayer. Brother David Vryhof says, “When we pray, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we are recognizing that a deep connection exists between our willingness and capacity to forgive and God’s forgiveness of us. God is not saying that our ability to be forgiven depends on our own efforts to forgive others. Rather, we are asking that the forgiveness we receive from God may lead us to forgive those who have wronged us.”

Think about someone that you have a hard time forgiving. Maybe it is for something that happened a long time ago. Perhaps it’s an ongoing situation. It could be that the other person is not even aware that they have angered or wronged you in some way. Offer this incident to God.

Stand In Awe: Read the parable again and imagine you are standing before the King of Kings and that all your sins great and small have been erased, like the slave in the parable. (They have you know.) This image of The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant by Pieter Coecke Van Aelst (1502-50) may help you enter the scene.
How does it feel to have a clean slate? Will you do things differently from now on? What difference does this new chance make to your life going forward?

Involve your Heart: Then leave the presence of the King. You meet someone who has sinned against you. What will you do?

Is it hard to remember that you are supposed to forgive when someone treats you poorly?

Praying for someone is the best way to change your opinion of them. Choose 5 people who you find difficult to deal with. (or less if you can’t think of 5-lucky you!) Choose one of the options from Thy Kingdom Come for praying for friends to remind you to pray, then be committed to praying for them this week. 

This week focus on Forgive those who trespass against us.

Next week we’ll ask for guidance and direction.

July 23, 2017

Our Father: Forgive Us...

Did you do any of the suggested exercises last week? Do you look at your daily bread or communion bread any differently? As we have acknowledged in the Lord’s Prayer that God is sovereign, and that God provides for our daily needs. We now look at how God heals our brokenness. “Forgive us our trespasses/debts” we pray.

This is a difficult phrase. We don’t like to admit that we are wrong. It’s much easier to try and shift the blame. ‘It was her,’ ‘He did it,’ we insist as toddlers. Or ‘I don’t know how it happened…’ We’ve all seen the videos of animals who know they have done something wrong slinking away with tail between their legs. We don’t like to feel that shame. We don’t like to ask to be forgiven for failing. It reminds us that we aren’t perfect, and mostly we don’t like that reminder.

On Sunday we may pray a corporate prayer of confession, which keeps our individual sins and failings at a nice safe distance. We’ve all made mistakes, and I’m sure that my neighbors’ must be bigger than mine, so maybe God won’t notice my little sins when God is focusing on everyone else’s. It is easy to fall into the trap of the Pharisee and tax collector in the temple. “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11)

Enter the Presence: There is a current Christian song called Forgiven by David Crowder that starkly changes the dynamic of trying to shift the blame. The words remind us, “I'm the one who held the nail/It was cold between my fingertips/I've hidden in the garden/I've denied You with my very lips… I've done things I wish I hadn't done/I've seen things I wish I hadn't seen.” Crowder’s song reminds us that we are all participants in the crucifixion. We each deny Christ, and are always doing the wrong things.

However, the song doesn’t end with the deserved condemnation. He sings “You look at me, arms open/Forgiven! Forgiven!/Child there is freedom from all of it… You love me even when I don't deserve it”

The words of the Lord’s Prayer are said in faith, knowing that in fact, we are already forgiven. Crowder rejoices “I could've been six feet under/I could've been lost forever/Yeah I should be in that fire/But now there's fire inside of me/Here I am a dead man walking/No grave gonna hold God's people/All the weight of all our evil/Lifted away forever free…You love me even when I don't deserve it/Forgiven! I'm Forgiven!/Jesus Your blood makes me innocent/So I will say goodbye to every sin/I am forgiven!”

I invite you to take time to watch the video and really listen to the words. Or read them through at the end of this post**.

Stand In Awe: As the song says, “Jesus Your blood makes me innocent”. In the Letter to the Hebrews, Paul reminds us, “Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” Paul takes it a step further and says, “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25)

Because we are forgiven, we should encourage each other to ‘love and good deeds’. We need to help each other see that we are each forgiven. The song by Crowder reminds me of the picture by Ron DiCianni of Jesus holding a man who has a hammer in his hand. There is also another, less famous one by DiCianni that shows a man with a hammer kneeling at the foot of the cross. 

Involve your Heart: Look at one of the DiCianni pictures. Have you ever felt the weight of sin as deeply as depicted in the art? Or have you felt Christ holding you and offering forgiveness?

If you have a large nail, hold it between your fingers, as in the song. Think about how your sins, though seemingly small, do drive a nail into your relationship with God.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show where you erred, or acted, or didn’t act. Write it all down and then shred it or burn it, thanking God for forgiveness.*

*From Thy Kingdom Come

This week focus on the phrase Forgive Us our Trespasses.

Next week we will consider how we can and must forgive others.

**I'm the one who held the nail
It was cold between my fingertips
I've hidden in the garden
I've denied You with my very lips

God, I fall down to my knees
with a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

Forgiven! Forgiven!
Child there is freedom from all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven!

I've done things I wish I hadn't done
I've seen things I wish I hadn't seen
Just the thought of Your amazing grace
And I cry ”Jesus, forgive me!”

God, I fall down to my knees
with a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

Forgiven! Forgiven!
Child there is freedom from all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven!

I could've been six feet under
I could've been lost forever
Yeah I should be in that fire
But now there's fire inside of me
Here I am a dead man walking
No grave gonna hold God's people
All the weight of all our evil
Lifted away forever free
Who could believe, who could believe?

Forgiven! Forgiven!
You love me even when I don't deserve it
Forgiven! I'm Forgiven!
Jesus Your blood makes me innocent
So I will say goodbye to every sin
I am forgiven!

Forgiven! Forgiven!
Child there is freedom from all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven!

July 16, 2017

Our Father: DailyBread

Have you tried some of the exercises related to each phrase of the Lord’s prayer so far? We are about half way through the prayer. If you would like to share some insights, feel free to comment. In our adventure, we’ve met our Father, who is God in heaven and yet who wants to be in relationship with us to bring about the Kingdom and reign of the Holy will of God. We are an integral part of that process.

This week we turn from looking at God's greatness and glory, to asking God that our physical and spiritual needs be met. “Give us this day, our daily bread” is the first real petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Bread is a basic food in all cultures. The harvesting and grinding of grains was one of the earliest evidences of civilization. In asking for our ‘daily bread’, we acknowledge that we need sustenance.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers, “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.” (Matthew 6:25-33 and Luke 12:22-31)

We are assured that God does ‘know our needs before we ask’ (Matthew 6:8). In fact, the most important thing is to ‘strive for the kingdom of God’. Isn’t that exactly what the entire Lord’s Prayer is about-aligning our wills with God’s will? I heard a sermon recently which reminded me of this important aspect of faith. Mother Carolyn stated that as Paul says in Romans 6:6-9, ‘our old self was crucified with Christ…so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.’ Because of this, we need to work at fitting our lives into God’s plan. As she pointed out, that includes welcoming and giving ‘a cup of water to these little ones…’ (Matthew 10:42)

Enter the Presence: We are also asking for the ‘Bread of Life’ when we pray. The ‘true bread which came down from heaven’ (John 6:58) in the form of Jesus, is what we seek to make us fully alive and members of the body of Christ. It is not surprising that we compare Jesus to bread because we need daily bread for living, and we need spiritual food as well.

The Bread of Life is found in the bread of the Eucharist and in the bread we eat for nourishment. Have you ever paused to think what it takes to make bread? When I was a little girl, I had a Children’s Book of Prayers (not sure if that’s the real name) that had in it a poem about a child thanking God for his toast. He thanks the farmer who grew the wheat, the miller who ground it, the baker who baked it, the trucker who brought it to the store, and the store keeper. He even thanks the sun that made the grain grow.

How often do you think about where your physical daily bread comes from?

Do you pause on Sunday to think of the spiritual nourishment we receive from the Eucharistic bread?
Stand In Awe: Hold a piece of bread in your hand. Consider, like the little child, the road it traveled from the seed in the ground to your meal. Communion bread has a similar journey whether it is a loaf baked for the service, or wafers. Whether it’s a simple biscuit or tortilla, or a loaf of yeast bread, the process is similar. The wheat is planted, grown, harvested, ground, packaged, purchased, mixed and baked. The grain of wheat is nothing like the final product.

Communion bread has an additional step before feeding you. In the consecration, the priest asks the Holy Spirit to come and transform the physical bread into spiritual food. The wheat seed is nothing like the bread or wafer. Neither are we the same after eating the bread of life. 

The next time you receive communion, remember you are receiving spiritual food to strengthen you for your daily journey.   

Involve your Heart: This week you may want to make some bread from scratch.

Draw a loaf of bread and on it list the many people you need to thank for having bread to eat.

There are many in the world who lack the basic daily bread. Do a fast for a day. Perhaps you will feel moved to make a donation to some organization that feeds the homeless or refugees or those in famine struck areas.

This week focus on daily bread.

Next week we will turn to the difficult task of being forgiven. 

July 9, 2017

Our Father: Thy Will be Done

In our continuing adventure of looking at the Lord’s Prayer phrase by phrase we come to a transition point. We entered the prayer with acknowledging that God is our Father, yet God is also holy and beyond all creation.

Now we ask that the holy will of our Father come to earth, just like in heaven. We say, 'thy will be done on earth as in heaven.' As noted on June 18, heaven (if we think of it as outer space) is incomprehensibly vast and beyond our human knowing. It is even more unknowable when we think of it as the dwelling of God. So how can God’s will be done ‘on earth as in heaven’? When we say, ‘thy will be done on earth, as in heaven,’ aren’t we offering to be part of bringing God’s way to the people of earth? That is not an easy task, nor something we should take lightly.

Enter the Presence: The idea of being a conduit of God’s will on earth is found in the Episcopal Baptismal covenant which asks us to ‘respect the dignity of every human being’, and to ‘work for justice and peace’. You can read the entire prayer.

Christian artist Hillary Scott sings a song titled, Thy Will be Done. She notes that it can be hard to determine what God’s will is in our lives, sometimes. “I thought I heard you,” she sings. But it didn’t work out and now “all I get are these 4 words-thy will be done.”

Can you relate to Scott as you try to work to bring God’s will to earth?

Stand In Awe: Teresa of Avila reminds us “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.” That is an awe-full idea that we fallible humans are responsible for being Christ to the world. However, it is in everything that we do and say that we are just that. Our daily actions matter to God's will becoming real on earth. 

What do you feel when you think about being Christ’s hands and feet in the world?

Involve your Heart: There are as many ways to help God’s ‘will be done on earth as in heaven’ as there are people on earth. Most of us are already doing something every day to live into that hope, in our interactions with one another. This week take time to do something intentional that you don’t normally do.

Consider a prayer walk around your neighborhood, your work place. As you walk, focus on what you see in the homes or offices you walk past and pray “Thy will be done” over each one. Continue your walk each day this week. *

Write your name in the center of a page. Surround it with people, situations, places, worries that you want God to intervene in. Ask God to help you pray for each of these things. *

On June 29 the Forward Day by Day meditation suggested greeting yourself (and others) with ‘Good morning, Child of God’. It might be a little uncomfortable to do that, esp. on days when you are feeling out of sorts or grumpy. However, that is how God sees us, isn’t it?

How would saying, ‘Good morning, Child of God’ to yourself and everyone change your attitude?

This week focus on letting God’s ‘will be done on earth as in heaven’.

Next week we turn to the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer.
*From Thy Kingdom Come

July 2, 2017

Our Father: Thy Kingdom Come

Last week we looked at the “Hallowed be thy Name” phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. Our adventure this summer is delving deeply into each phrase in this very familiar prayer. Today, we move on to “Thy Kingdom come”.

I think it can be difficult to understand the concept of Kingdom in 21st Century America. We are very far removed from the hope of 1st Century Judea where the long-desired King would be like David or Solomon-the Messiah who would deliver the people from the oppression of Rome. Our images of kingdoms are most likely colored by fairy tales with princesses, castles, and dragons. King and Kingdom may conjure up the idea of an absolute ruler, or even a despot. 

How is the Kingdom of God different than these interpretations? I think it has to do with the difference in defining Kingdom in everyday vs. faith language.

As we study the Lord’s Prayer, we are speaking the language of faith, which is often at odds with the everyday language, even when the words are the same. On the June 21 Episcopal Café, Speaking to the Soul post, the author, Leslie Scoopmire, notes that at Pentecost “these disciples, many of them simple country folk, have just learned to speak other people’s language. I think that’s an important point for us too in the Church today: we are called to speak to people in their own languages first, rather than expect them to immediately understand the language of Christianity.”

Leslie goes on to say, “the disciples’ first new language came as a challenge even earlier, for them as well as us. As soon as those early disciples answered Jesus’s call to follow him, they had to learn the language of Jesus—a strange language, then and now, awash in a grammar of grace rather than a grammar of vengeance. We are still learning Jesus’s language of reconciliation today. It is the language of salvation, but not salvation for selfish ends. Rather, this language calls all disciples, them as well as us, to find the vocabulary for helping to repair the world and our relationships within it, with each other and ultimately, with God. This idea of responsibility of faithful people to repair the world is what our Jewish brothers and sisters call tikkun olam—the repair of the world...[And] that’s exactly what we are called to do as the Church.” 

Enter the Presence: The Kingdom we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer is one that will, according to Leslie Scoopmire, ‘repair the world and our relationships within it, with each other and ultimately, with God’.

Take some time to think about your definition of the word ‘Kingdom’. What alternative word might you use to better express the Kingdom of God to someone who might not necessarily be speaking the ‘language’ of faith or grace?

Stand In Awe: Paul reminds the Corinthians, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (I Corinthians 2:1-5)

It is ultimately the Spirit of God that opens the ears of the hearers to our proclamation. Like the disciples, speaking in the languages of the people in Jerusalem at Pentecost, we are able to speak to our friends and neighbors of the Kingdom in ways that they will understand when we put God first.

One way to start the transformation of ourselves and of the world is prayer. In the days leading up to Pentecost, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited people around the world to intentional prayer for Thy Kingdom Come. The website says, “Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus. What started in 2016 as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.” 
Involve your Heart: Leslie Scoopmire says, “We are called to speak to the soul of each precious person we encounter, and hear the echoed whisper of that goodness and love vibrating from them—especially when it’s hard for us to do so, when we allow our differences, our fears, or our suspicions to divide us rather than strengthen us. Words do matter when we are speaking to the soul, and the word is God and the Word is with God and with all of us.”

Use the ‘Pray for 5 Friends’ resource from “Thy Kingdom Come” to pray for 5 people who you may find different or difficult.   
Ask God to be King over the whole world by taking a map and physically placing a sticky note with local and world-wide prayer concerns on the map, or simply pray around the world with intention for places in the news.*

Continue your ZenTangle or Praying in Color activity that you may have started.

This week focus on Thy Kingdom Come.

Next week we will consider “They will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

June 25, 2017

Lord's Prayer: Hallowed be Thy Name

We are praying our way through the Lord’s Prayer, a phrase at a time, this summer. So far, we have discovered depths of meaning in the first line “Our Father, who art in heaven”. Today we move on to the phrase “Hallowed be thy Name”.
Hallowed is not a common word in everyday 21st Century English. It was much more common in Elizabethan times when the Lord’s Prayer was translated into English. The word means holy, consecrated, sacred, or revered. In modern use, it can refer to long held traditions or significant locations (Gettysburg, cemeteries, and universities, for instance). ‘Hallowed’ can be traced back to the Old English word hālig meaning ‘holy’. Of course, the holiday of Halloween comes from ‘All Hallows Eve’, or the day before All Saints’ Day.
In the Bible, the Hebrew word translated as ‘hallowed’ is qadhash, meaning to set apart or consecrate or the Greek work is hagiazo with essentially the same meaning of making holy, consecrating, or sanctifying. There are many references in the Bible where the Hebrew word gadhash or the Greek word hagiazo are used. These include: Leviticus 22:32, Exodus 20:11, 1 Samuel 21:6, Numbers 18:29, Jeremiah 17:22, Hebrews 9:2, Revelation 22:11, among others.

Enter the Presence: The phrase ‘Hallowed by thy Name’ might, as we look at it, be a bit perplexing. Are we trying to sanctify God’s name? Isn’t God the One who should do the consecrating? The phrase “Hallowed by thy Name” is part of the entire opening salutation of the Lord’s Prayer. We are addressing “Our Father, in heaven” and acknowledging that the very Name of God the Father is holy.
According to Philip Wendell Crannell, the word “embraces the idea of marked separateness.” Crannell also says “To ‘hallow the name’ includes not only the inward attitude and outward action of profound reverence and active praise, but also that personal godliness, loving obedience and aggressive Christlikeness, which reveal the presence of God in the life, which is His true earthly glory.” 
Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume V notes, “In these words, we give glory to God…as an adoration; as that, the Lord be magnified, or glorified, for God's holiness is the greatness and glory of all his perfections. We must begin our prayers with praising God…our chief and ultimate end in all our petitions, [is] that God may be glorified; all our other requests must be in subordination to this…[And] We desire and pray that the name of God, that is, God himself, in all that whereby he has made himself known, may be sanctified and glorified both by us and others, and especially by himself…”
So, we are not trying to make God holier, instead we are acknowledging that God is indeed the source of all holiness. By saying, ‘hallowed be thy Name’, we are admitting that God is holy and separate and that we must respond in awe and obedience to that glorious presence in our lives.
Stand In Awe: Sometimes we get too familiar with the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Take some time to sit and pray the phrase, substituting some of the other meanings for the word. Some suggestions might be:
[Father] “Sanctify thy Name”, “Make your Name Holy”, “May your Name be set apart and special”. Think up your own version.  
Does changing the wording, change the emphasis for you?
Do you find yourself drawn deeper into the holiness of God by one of the phrases?
Involve your Heart: Think how God makes ‘hallowed’ and holy all life. If you looked at some of the other verses using the word, you will notice that creation, bread (especially the shewbread), and offerings are among the things that are sanctified. How does the fact that everything is 'hallowed' change the way you look at the world? 
Make a list of people for whom you would like to pray that they feel surrounded by the holiness of God’s love.
Write the word ‘Hallowed’ or ‘Holy’ in the middle of a page. Surround it with things in your life that you consider holy because they are from God, or like God.
You could add to your ZenTangle or color prayer, if you are doing that.  
 This week focus on just the words “Hallowed by thy Name”.

Next week we’ll look at the phrase ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. 

June 18, 2017

The Lord's Prayer: Who art in Heaven

How did your praying with just the words “our Father” go? Did you make a word picture and add your own prayer requests? Did you calligraphy or make an acrostic? Did you just sit with the two words and let them soak into your soul? How does it feel to just sit with ‘our Father’? Feel free to share in the comments if you want.
This week we will look at the words ‘who art in Heaven’. This phrase reminds us that God’s home is heaven. But what does that mean? What is ‘heaven’? Where is it?
Enter the Presence: I suppose our modern concept of ‘heaven’ is different from that of a first century Jew. After all, in the first century, heaven was the sky above that was vast and unreachable. We have pierced the sky with our rockets and visited the moon and even other planets. We have seen images of stars and galaxies so far away that they would have seemed impossible to a first century person. Astronomers cannot really guess how many stars there might be in the universe. David Kornreich “used a very rough estimate of 10 trillion galaxies in the universe. Multiplying that by the Milky Way's estimated 100 billion stars results in a large number indeed: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, or a "1" with 24 zeros after it. Kornreich emphasized that number is likely a gross underestimation, as more detailed looks at the universe will show even more galaxies.”
I’m sure the magnitude of stars in heaven would have been a shock to Abraham who was told by God, "Look up at the sky and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." (Genesis 15:5) We are heirs of that promise.We are one of ‘Father Abraham’s sons [or daughters]. (You remember the Sunday School song!) If there are really 1024 stars, then there are that many beloved sons and daughters of God! Abraham’s clear desert sky would have shown with myriad stars, but he could not have seen beyond the Milky Way, nor imagined that there were stars beyond what he could see. (The picture below of a section of the Milky Way from the Hubble Telescope shows how packed with stars the sky really is.)
Stand In Awe: Yet I think, I hope, there is still some mystery about heaven. Even the scientists aren’t sure of the extent of it. We may never really know how many stars there are. We can, however, know the One who made the stars. Psalm 8 is reminds us of the One who is in charge. We are told that God’s glory is ‘above the heavens’ and that the moon and stars are the ‘work of God’s fingers’. Read through the Psalm slowly. Does the psalm give you a different sense of ‘heaven’ than the scientific estimates of numbers?   
1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2   Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
   to silence the enemy and the avenger. 
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them? 
5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
   and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under their feet,
7 All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
   whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
9 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Involve your Heart: Read through the Psalm again, perhaps in a different translation. Is there a phrase that makes you stop and think about God and God’s heaven? If you have a chance, find a place beyond the city lights where you can see a wide expanse of the night sky without interference from street lights. Even if you cannot get out beyond the city. Turn off your lights and sit outside looking up at the stars. Just sit and look at the heavenly skies.
Consider what it means to pray to Our Father ‘who art in heaven’, yet who loves us intimately as one of Abraham’s children.
Perhaps you’ll want to continue the same activity you began last week. You could add to your ZenTangle around the word ‘Pray’.
You might prefer to find a way to record your impressions in a photo or drawing of the night sky, or by composing your own psalm God ‘who art in heaven’. 
Draw a bunch of stars on a paper. Each star is a person, place, event, or other prayer request. Can you pray for every star on your page?
Maybe you want to have some fun and sing the Father Abraham song and do all the motions, remembering the promise of God to the patriarch!
This week focus on just the words “who art in Heaven”.
Next week we’ll look at the phrase ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’.