Archive | September, 2013

A Prayer for Sunday Morning

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Dear God, we came to this place today looking for you, for some hint or glimmer that you are here, that you care about us, that you have a word for us.  Some of us came hoping against hope, to be honest about it, because we’ve felt a distance from you.  We live so much of our lives not thinking about you, not aware of your presence.   But in this place, surrounded as we are by people like us, hungry and searching, we remember the sound of your voice.  We remember that you are close at hand, that you are as near to us as our own breath.  And for that reminder, we thank you.  For that comfort, we are grateful.  Help us, we pray, to remember throughout the week, not just in quiet moments here, but in every waking moment – to be conscious and mindful that you are there, that our lives are in your hands, that we are never far from your gracious care.

We pray today – not only for ourselves, not only for the sick in our families and in this congregation – but also for our world, especially for those places where there is war and violence.  We think of Nairobi and the people there who lost loved ones simply because they went to a shopping mall.  We think of Syria. We think of an entire region of the world in turmoil.

We pray for this country and our leadership, especially for our Congress.  We pray for wisdom and understanding.

We pray for this community and this church, for its leaders, for its people.

And we pray knowing that you hear all of our prayers – this one spoken aloud, but also all those spoken quietly in personal worship.  Now hear us as we say with one voice the words your Son taught us to pray…

(That’s an ink and watercolor drawing by my daughter, Sarah.)

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Thank you, Mariano Rivera

Mariano GameShot

Something happened overnight that has never happened to my blog before.

After months of chugging along at 80-90 “unique visits” per day for the last several months, a volume which I was feeling pretty good about, I suddenly had several hundred visitors to my blog yesterday.  And the heavy traffic continues today.

Naturally I wondered how come my blog was suddenly so popular.  “Maybe,” I thought, “people are finally discovering what an inspiring and clever writer I am.  Maybe I can start using ads and making a lot of money from this little venture.”

As it turns out, the blog isn’t quite as popular as I thought.

Between the stats I receive from WordPress (too complicated to explain briefly) and Google Analytics (ditto), I was able to determine that the vast majority of those “unique visits” overnight ended up at my site because of a photo of Mariano Rivera I used a few weeks ago.

Rivera played his last game at Yankee Stadium this week, and it seems that lots of people went to the Internet looking for a photo of him.  And they went looking to the source I typically use – namely, Google Images.  If you look for a photo of Rivera, the photo I used turns up close to the top of the list.  And hundreds of people clicked on that photo at about the same time, resulting in a huge traffic jam on my website.

So, my brush with Internet fame turned out to be merely a fluke of search engine algorithms.  Too bad.

(Photo credit: Hey, it worked once, didn’t it?)

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A Prayer for Wednesday Morning

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Lord, be with us this day,
Within us to purify us;
Above us to draw us up;
Beneath us to sustain us;
Before us to lead us;
Behind us to restrain us;
Around us to protect us.

(Patrick c389-461)

Sometimes it’s the prayers of those who have gone before us that we most need to pray.

 

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A prayer for Sunday morning

bird taking flight

God of grace and forgiveness, God who surprises us each day with the gift of life, we turn to you this morning with grateful hearts – yes – but also with hearts that are full of sadness and grief and worry.

We pray for our world, the world you created and called good.  We’ve made a mess of things.  Everywhere we look a war is being fought – or there’s one that could start at any moment.  We’re sad and ashamed of what we’ve brought on ourselves.  And we need your help.

We pray for our country – its leadership and its people.  We’ve made a mess of things here too.  A wonderful gift of freedom and democracy, a land of plenty, and we’ve squandered it, until it’s very nearly gone.  Forgive us, we pray, and allow us another chance at it.

We pray for our church – at the start of another year.  You’ve blessed us with every conceivable resource, gifts of every kind.  Help us, guide us, we pray.  Show us how to be the people you’ve called us to be.

And of course we pray for ourselves – for the many issues and relationships and health concerns that we worry about today, that we can’t seem to get out of our minds.  We lift all of it to you, trusting not only that you hear our prayers, but also that you answer us, that you can take our broken relationships and restore them, that you can take our loneliness and anxiety and replace them with confidence and strength.  We trust that you can and do heal us.  And we pray for that healing – sooner rather than later.  You know we need it.

Hear all of our prayers today – this one spoken aloud, but also all those offered silently in personal worship.  And now hear us as we say with one voice the words your Son taught us to pray…

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Pope Francis and Me

pope francis kissing feet

As my readers know (find the posts here and here), I’ve been praying for the new pope, Pope Francis I.

When he was first elected back in March, I mentioned in a sermon that I would like members of my congregation to pray for him too, something I could not imagine hearing from my own pastor when I was a child sitting in the pews.

At the time I thought it was an unusual thing to do – a Protestant clergyman asking people to pray for a Roman Catholic pope.  A local reporter even called to ask me why I was doing it.  But the more I think about it, the more I’m glad I did it.

My hope was that Pope Francis would do something to restore integrity to the Catholic Church.  I had no idea how he was going to do that, and I wondered if it was even within the grasp of one man, even one as talented and gifted as he seems to be.  But still, I thought, the task was clear.

As it turns out, Pope Francis is doing it – and in an unexpected way.  I’ve been reading news reports – maybe you’ve seen them too – of out-of-the-blue telephone calls, which have endeared him to the public, but occasionally unsettled his aides.

Just this week, apparently, the Pope called a 35 year-old Italian woman who was pregnant and whose boyfriend had left her.  Turns out, the boyfriend was already married and had a family of his own.  She told the Pope she felt “betrayed” and “humiliated.”  Beyond that, “who will baptize my baby?” she asked him.  “I’m divorced.”

The Pope spoke to her, she said, “like a dear, old friend.”  He was certain there would be a pastor who would baptize her baby, but “if not, you know there’s always me.”

In addition to this call, the Pope also called an Italian man who has struggled to forgive God after the murder of his brother, and an Italian engineering student who can’t find work even with his degree.  Aides say that the Pope is frequently on the phone – when he’s not busy fixing the Vatican bank, restoring trust in the Swiss Guard, or appointing a new Secretary of State for the Vatican.

The interesting thing – and it really shouldn’t be surprising– is that the church is seeing signs of life and hope because of the pastoral heart of its new Pope.

When I first became pastor of a larger church, the first pastor I worked with, and someone who has been my mentor over the years, called to say, “Don’t forget to make regular hospital visits.”  I wasn’t surprised by the advice, because I had worked with him long enough to know his own pastoral heart, but it was nevertheless important, even critical, advice.

Don’t forget to be a pastor, he was saying.  Don’t forget that those relationships become the foundation for everything else you do.

I hope I’ve learned that lesson.  And I’m glad for the example of His Holiness, who’s also the pastor to a rather large flock.

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God made us for work and play

work and play

“God made us for work and play.”

That’s what I told the students at Happyland Day School today.

Every month I speak at the Thursday morning chapel service.  It’s an enjoyable part of my work.  Well over a hundred children from two year olds through Kindergarten crowd into the church’s third floor chapel.  They’re so small they fit two to a seat.  And then, after a song and prayer, the school director introduces me.  And I’m on.

I usually bring something with me – my hat collection, my baseball bat (which, I realized too late, was kind of scary), my beloved Detroit Tigers jersey.  It usually doesn’t take much to get their attention … which I can probably hold for about five seconds.  Today I dressed up as though I was headed to the beach with a Tommy Bahama shirt, swimsuit, flip flops, and beach towel.  A large tube of sunscreen in my back pocket completed the ensemble.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure who enjoys these chapel talks more – me or them?  But I had a thought I wanted them to hear and remember – namely, that God made us for a purpose.  God made us for work and play.  (Actually, Genesis tells us that God worked and then rested, but stressing the need for naps didn’t seem like the right message.)

I’m just back from some playtime myself which is why I haven’t posted in a while.  After what seemed like many months of work, I enjoyed two weeks at the beach.  I rested too, of course, and napped, but the playtime is what I remember.  I really needed some unstructured time for reading a novel, playing a board game (I’m not sure I understood the game, but I played it in a fiercely competitive way anyway), seeing a movie at the local theater, and visiting the farmers market where there is some of the most wonderful produce I’ve ever seen.

So, I’m back at work today, if you can call having fun with the children in our pre-school work, and I’m remembering this idea that I have been created for work, yes, but also for play.  Without the work, I’m not sure where I would find meaning in my life, but without the play, I’m not sure I’d have the energy to start a busy fall.

Work and play. Life in balance.  It’s all good.

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