Tag Archives: prayer

Vacation for the Soul: Prayer

There are thousands of books on prayer. Millions of references and chapters in books as well as printed prayers that have covered thousands of years. And still, I struggle, I believe we all struggle with prayer.

Sometimes my prayers and my time with God seems simple and grace-filled. God feels so near to me. Other times, my prayer life is dry, God seems distant. Or, if I am honest, I am just not very happy with God or just plain angry. I am deeply grateful that God doesn’t seem to mind. Going back to last Sunday’s sermon, God longs to be in a deep relationship with me and with you and is inviting us to come home in both our joys and sorrows, our highs and lows, our angry and our grief.

This was a sermon I fought all week. I don’t know if it didn’t want to be written or if the pain of the world or the juxtaposition of lectionary texts with the celebrity deaths made this particular articulation of the Word more difficult.

Of course the sermon was preached, but preachers everywhere know some sermons are more of struggle to write and preach than others. What is odd to me, is that I never know what week it will hit or which sermon I am going to have to wrestle out of my heart and spirit.

Here is what I do know. It is an incredible privilege to preach the Word each week. I am in awe after all these years, that the fire within the bones (as Ezekiel describes it) still burns. Wrestling with text, struggling with how it relates now in this time and place, and meandering through the highs and lows of life itself is a gift. Prayer is what makes it real, what weaves the pondering and questions and the fear, the bits and dabs of faith together. The whole of today’s worship service can be found here.

My prayer is that this week you might have a vacation for the soul and find the time and space to reconnect to the God who loves you.

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Praying Always

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.” – St. Francis of Assisi

A few weeks ago in worship I shared how this prayer has guided and directed me for almost all my ministry. Not just the words, but the song. John Michael Talbot recorded it on his album Troubadour of the King. Here is the version I sing every morning and every evening.

I sing it as I wake and when I go to sleep, when I wake up in the middle of the night wearied with all kinds of inconsequential things or by major happenings in the world. When I need to pause in the middle of the day and discern what I will say or what I will do.

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.”

I learned these words quickly, music does that for my heart and soul. I carry this prayer with me in my comings and goings, in my solitude and in my community. This prayer, these words of St. Francis has sustained me in life’s highs and lows.

The deepest desire of my heart and spirit is to have “right faith, certain hope and perfect charity.” When I pray those words, I am not aiming to be perfect in terms of making no mistakes. “Right faith” isn’t about an arrogance that I know it all or understand it all or an am expert. For me, right faith is tied to the hope, a certain hope that God is always with me and that God’s perfect love (charity) will guide and direct me.

Faith gives me courage to live out the will and grace of God. Hope sustains and undergirds the belief that Emmanuel, God is with me. Perfect charity becomes God’s spirit at work in my spirit, that I might love as God loves and learn to love in a deeper and more holy and grace filled way.

God knows how much I long to discern God’s will and way for my life. Asking God to bring light to the darkness of my heart  is not so much about being depressed as to acknowledge how many things cloud my heart and soul and mind. There are so many things that get in the way of my being a conduit for God’s grace and love.

So on this day, when I have a brief pause in a schedule that has been way too busy these last few weeks, I pray this prayer and I share it with you.

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Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

Yesterday afternoon I posted this on Facebook:

I have no profound words in response to the violence and bigotry in Charlottesville. There can be no justification for hatred, for waving nazi flags and giving nazi salutes. No justification for punches thrown, kicks and pepper spray and a car used as a weapon. White nationalism is not Christian. I am stunned to have to write those words in 2017. I am horrified, saddened and I know that God weeps at bigotry and hatred and this kind of violence. Praying for peace and hope and equality for all.

Then I began the long and hard work of re-writing my sermon for today. Many people might be surprised to know I don’t like controversy. I don’t really want hate mail or texts or messages. The events of the last week have rattled me in so many ways. I am stunned and shocked and saddened by the rhetoric around the possibility of war with North Korea. I wrote about that on Friday.

Then Friday evening I stayed away from the news. On Saturday the pictures of the white men and torches in Charlottesville, Virginia began to fill my news feed. By afternoon the protesters and counter protesters begin to engage in a war of words, of actions and finally a state of emergency was declared. People died when a car…a CAR was driven into the counter protesters and many more were injured.

I continue to just be stunned by the actions of yesterday. I am shocked by Nazi flags and salutes and signs of hatred again my Jewish brothers and sisters and my brothers and sisters of color and so many others. So my sermon needed to be re-written to reflect on the need of a Christian voice, my voice to be raised against such hatred and bigotry.

So I preached. I preached against the powers of hatred and evil. I preached God’s call to justice. I know my words are inadequate to the task, but I believe God’s me to be a voice of reason, of hope, of faith, of equality and of grace for ALL people. As far as I am able, I will stand up and speak out against such atrocities.

Here is this morning’s worship service….if you want to skip the music (which is lovely)  and prayers (which Pastor Rebecca Goltry Mohr said so beautifully) the sermon begins at 34:15.

God in your mercy, hear my prayer for peace, for justice, for equality. Hear my prayer especially for your love and grace to shower your world with Shalom.

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Prayers, Presence, Walks and Marches

I woke up early this morning. I was going to walk or “wog” in the “Battle of the Bean.” This 5K race supports the ministry of Mead’s Corner the coffee shop that is an outreach of the church I serve First United Methodist in downtown Wichita, Kansas. Before I got out of bed, I said my prayers. First I prayed for our new president Donald Trump. Then I prayed for our nation and prayed for many people I care about.

Not that it matters, but I did a personal best on the 5K at 44:30.8. My husband and I enjoyed the race and the energy and helping out a good cause.

20170121_075643Following the race I went home, changed clothes and got in the car with my twin sister and friend and husband and headed over to the Women’s March.

20170121_093953I will be honest, I thought long and hard about whether or not I would go. When the march was announced in Washington, D.C. I was asked if I was going and I said no. It was a long way away, it would be expensive and I wasn’t sure what my presence would add.

Then a march was announced for Topeka, again, I had not planned on going because I had the 5K in the morning and I knew I couldn’t get there in time. Then they announced a march in Wichita. This gave me pause. What reason could I give for going or not going?

The truth is, that I have it pretty good. I am in a place in my life that frankly I never imagined I would be. I am a senior pastor in a historic downtown church. There have not traditionally been many senior pastors that are women, although they are becoming more prevalent. My life is secure. I have health insurance, although like many it went up dramatically for 2017 (60%). I can afford to pay for it. In some ways I could be the poster child for women’s equality.

That is not my whole story, however. I could be a poster child for other things: being raised for five years by a single mom and grandparents and being a recipient of what was then called Aid to Dependent Children and a medical card. I could be a poster child for being sexually harassed by my superiors and not reporting it for fear I would lose my job and not be able to be a pastor, something I was called to do and be. I could be a poster child for women who have been raped in college or anywhere and not reporting for fear of not being believed (actually both the sexual harassment and rape were shared but I was told that it would be his word against mine and there wasn’t any point in reporting it.)

So I marched today for those who could not or those who have not yet seen that equality and justice is possible. I marched today, because I don’t want to go back to where there is an open season on women to be groped and to be raped and to be abused and told to just get over it. I don’t want to go back to when I knew what it was like to be voiceless and powerless and afraid.

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The truth be told, I didn’t agree with every sign I saw, or every part of every speech that was shared. I didn’t need to. I needed to stand up and be counted. I also don’t believe in violence. I was particularly grateful there was none in Wichita, not that I expected it. Parents with children, young people, old people with gray hair and wrinkles, women and men gathered and the mood was amazing.

One of the gifts of being part of this country is our right to assemble, our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech. Disagreement is not only necessary, it helps us move in new directions. I know this will sound somewhat shocking, but I don’t need everyone to believe the way I believe. Christians do NOT agree on many things…not the least of which is who to vote for in any given election. Christians don’t agree on baptism, on women in ministry or other doctrinal issues. Jewish people also don’t agree on every doctrinal issues, nor do Muslims or any other religion. In this country, we are free to worship or not in the way we see fit. We are free to assemble and protest and march in order to change the things we feel need changing. We are free to write, to speak and to post what we believe even if others do not.

I prayed for President Trump this morning, because that is what Christians do, he is the president of the United States. I prayed for our government because that is what Christians do. I stood up for those less fortunate, the ones who are afraid and the weak, because that is also what Christians do. I believe deeply that I am part of a long line of those who have worked for justice, for equality and for the hope and promise that all people deserve the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There have been many who have gone before me, my attendance today honors their sacrifice and commitment to building a better world. I attended today for those who come after me, that the time will come sooner, rather than later, when the reign of God, which promises hope, love, joy and justice will be made real.

So today, I prayed and walked. I marched and was present and accounted for. I know that not everyone will think that was important, some will disagree. I honor that disagreement. I also honor those who work tirelessly for peace, for justice for all people. I want to be part of a loving movement which provides safety for the most vulnerable, justice for the oppressed, equality for all people. I want my words and actions to match what I say I believe. As a Christian, I long to live as Jesus did, not only proclaiming good news, but working in ways to change the world….into a world of peace, of grace and of justice.

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Transitions

A month ago, I posted a letter from my daughter’s blog Tales of an Earth Mama. The letter spoke of her longing to move to Kansas but her struggle with the state of education in Kansas. I, too, wish she would move home, but life is always changing and one never knows what will be around the next corner.

Fast forward one month and I have announced my own change. I moving congregations. After 10 years at West Heights United Methodist Church as senior pastor, on July 1, I will begin as senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in downtown Wichita. This change came as a big surprise to me. I had not asked to move, my church was not seeking a change in pastors and yet, the call came and I said yes.

I am part of a facebook community called RevGalBlogPals. As the name implies, it is clergy women who “blog” and who have created a supportive community. The Facebook page has all kinds of resources for worship and for new ideas. It is over 3000 strong with women from many denominations sharing.

In January, one of the women shared her tradition of “star words.” In a linked file, it listed over 400 such words. She would use yellow paper cut out as stars and printed all the different unique words. Many of the women involved in the facebook group asked for a word. I did too. She chose words and let us know what our word would be.

I loved the idea and took it to my worship team and we decided to use a similar principle for the Sunday after Epiphany and celebrate the baptism of Jesus.  We used a variety of  bright colored paper and invited people to come forward, remember their baptism and pick a word to pray on for the next year. Perhaps they would randomly pick a word and or they could carefully choose one.

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I randomly drew a word. It was interesting, the word I had been given through Facebook was “perceive.” I know that only because I went back and looked. I prayed with that word each morning and evening until I randomly drew a word on that second Sunday in January. The word I drew then was:

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So from that time, I prayed with the word “expectation.” I wasn’t really expecting anything. I would just pray, for lack of better words, expectantly. I asked God to do new things in my life. I asked God to use me, to let me serve, to let me find joy in all that I did.

I have jokingly told people, “see what happens when you pray! You never know what God is going to do!!” Truth! I never know what God is going to do. I pray regularly, though, that God will make my life matter. I ask God to help me love more deeply, serve with integrity and joy and to help me be an instrument of grace, peace and love.

So, my life is in transition. I must say goodbye to people I dearly love. My time at West Heights has been blessed in so many ways, we have laughed together, cried together, worked together and served together. In the midst goodbyes, I will begin preparing in expectation what God will be doing in this next chapter in my life.

Truly, I am graced to serve.

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Finding the Center in the midst of craziness

I am struggling to make sense of the craziness of the world. The struggle is not new of course, but still, within a couple of days, social media is filled with people angry, frightened and ready to do unspeakable things in the name of safety and security.

The terrorist attacks in Paris have brought the best of the worst of humanity to the forefront. I have been heart sick over the comments and posts that no matter what, none of “those” refugees will be allowed into Kansas, or Texas or anyone of about two dozen states. Children and women and men who fleeing for their lives. Women and children who are being raped and sold into slavery.

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I don’t have enough wisdom or knowledge to truly write about these issues other than to believe that I can not claim the name Christian and turn my back on those who are fleeing such horror. I do not choose to live in fear, and to claim that God wants us to take care of the least and lost.

Better writers and minds than mine have written numerous blogs and news stories. I will write something in the next day or two. Later than everyone I suppose, but I need more centering and prayer before I am prepared to put my thoughts out into cyberspace.

I am part of group called RevGalBlogPals who have taken the challenge to blog daily during November. I haven’t made it every day, but each day a “prompt” is posted on facebook. Today’s has to do with what keeps one connected to God and to others.

So in responding to that prompt, I am aware there are many things I do to recenter myself when I am overwhelmed, confused, scared, or just need to be reminded of who I am. I pray, I read, I cook. Cooking is practical and creates something that is helpful. Everyone needs to eat. So I can do something that makes a difference in that moment. I listen to music, occasionally watch television or movies. I find a way to laugh and smile.

I think true “power” lies not in how strong one might be, but in the ability to find joy in the midst of all: tragedy, grief, pain, sickness, uncertainty and fear. Today, I ran across video that features dancers from old time movies in a mashup using Old Town Funk. It made me smile today and I have watched it a couple of times.

http://www.slate.com/articles/video/video/2015/11/mashup_of_uptown_funk_and_hollywood_golden_era_movie_dancing_video.html

In the midst of life that would grind us down, I share this for a smile and moments respite. May joy infuse our lives. May a little laughter bring some happiness in the midst of a time that would wear us down and bring us despair. Today, I choose faith, I choose hope and I choose life.

 

 

 

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