Friday, June 30, 2017

Praying the psalms with gratitude

Friday June 30, 2017

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.
You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.


Pray a prayer of gratitude today and allow the psalm to be your guide.  Take time to think about your day, what are you grateful for?  Write down all of these moments as way to capture your gratitude.   Offer up prayers of gratitude throughout your day.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

God's guidance

Thursday June 29, 2017

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.
You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.

What if the psalmist isn’t just speaking about enemies apart from us in verse 5, but is speaking about the discord and disunity that happens in our communities, even within our own families?  The psalmist then is gratefully praying for God’s presence with us and ability to gift us with wisdom to navigate hostile conversations. 
In Matthew chapter 5 we read, “You have heard that it was said, you must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.  He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have?”


Pray for God to help you to hear people who have a different perspective than you do.  Take a moment to name and pray for those who you call your enemy.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Offer to God a prayer of trust

Wednesday June 28, 2017

 

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.
You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.


Today, pray the scripture using lectio divina.  Read over the psalm a number of times, listen to the words and see what God is saying to you through the words of the psalmist.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A psalm of pilgrimage

Tuesday June 27, 2017

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.
You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.

There is a hint of pilgrimage movement in this psalm.  It marks the journey of the faithful under the guidance of God, along a path that leads to the house of the LORD.  While we don’t have time necessarily to go on a weeklong pilgrimage, we can see our daily life as one of pilgrimage, with God present with us along the various paths we take: Paths to peacefulness, paths to forgiveness, paths to kindness, to love, or reconciliation. 


Take time to go over your day.  How has God been present with you?  As you anticipate the rest of your day, imagine Christ beside you walking along side you and ahead of you guiding the way.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Praying the Psalms

Monday June 26, 2017

 

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.
You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.
    his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.


As you read through the psalm what words jump out at you?  Does one word seem to draw you into the presence of God?  Maybe the words guides, or protect, or goodness, or faithful love.  Take the word that draws you into the presence of God and use it for a centering prayer.  In centering prayer, we rest in God’s presence.  As your mind wanders (and it will), repeat your centering word to bring you back.  As ideas come into your mind, allow them to not occupy your mind, simply notice they are there and let go of them.  If you need to focus again on your centering word, do so. 


You may imagine your words floating by like the clouds or like driftwood in a river.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Praying the Psalms

Sunday June 25, 2017

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.
You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.

In Psalm 23 we read “the LORD is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.”

How has God been a guide for you in life? 

As you look back on your life can you name the moments when God was able to give you what you needed?

Have you been aware of God’s support through people in your life?


Say a prayer of gratefulness for God’s guidance and support in your life today.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Seeking God in suffering

Saturday June 24, 2017

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, LORD?
Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
Agony filling my heart?  Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?
Look at me!
Answer me, LORD my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I won!”
My foes will rejoice over my downfall.
But I have trusted in your faithful love.
My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the LORD
Because he has been good to me.

When I pregnant with Harry, I had some complications.  It was always on my mind that he may be delivered too early.  It was the topic of every visit with my doctor.  It weighed heavily on me.  Both Dan’s and my mother had lost babies who had been born too early. 

While so many mothers have this glow about them in their pregnancy, I felt like Eeyore with a dark cloud following me around.  There was much crying and fearfulness.  I had a number of friends that came to my house to comfort me, they held my hand and fed my family so I could rest and wait. 

I can remember one Sunday morning, Eva was being a typical toddler and didn’t want to get ready to leave the house, and so I left her with Dan and I went to our patio and waited for them to get to the car so we could head to worship.  My prayer that morning was just to get to worship, just to be in the presence of others who followed Christ through all of life’s ups and downs.  I can remember that once we got there, it was too much to be in the sanctuary, so I moved to the hallway outside of the sanctuary and sat on a couch.  The back wall of the sanctuary was all glass with a sound system that had speakers for people to hear in the hallway.  What I remember most, is that no one challenged me or encouraged me to come back inside, they honored my need to be exactly where I was.  I did not reach the bottom of the pit in my pregnancy, but felt pretty darn close to it.  

In community we share in one another’s struggles and we allow one another the space to be in the long uncertainty of suffering, grief and healing.  In faithful community we stand with and walk along side as God does.  Ours is not a place of offering a simple solution but a space to fully honor whatever it is we are working through.


Prayer:  God of desert places, we remember the moments that Christ suffered and know that we are not alone in our suffering.  Help us to be mindful of those in our world who have found themselves in a place of abandonment.  In your Holy name we pray, Amen.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A ministry of presence


Friday June 23, 2017

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, LORD?
Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
Agony filling my heart?  Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?
Look at me!
Answer me, LORD my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I won!”
My foes will rejoice over my downfall.
But I have trusted in your faithful love.
My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the LORD
Because he has been good to me.


The Lament psalms give us a template for faithful response to others who find themselves in the pit.  We live in such a face paced society that we allow almost no time to grieve or to suffer.  When we transpose that secular expectation into our faith communities, we do a disservice to one another.  Here is a place to honor the plea “how long, Oh Lord?”  Here is a place where we can create a safe place to honestly share our doubts, fears and struggles.  Here is a place where on any given Sunday we can lean on the praise and faithfulness of one another if we find ourselves in the pit.


Prayer:  God of desert places, we remember the moments that Christ suffered and know that we are not alone in our suffering.  Help us to be mindful of those in our world who have found themselves in a place of abandonment.  In your Holy name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Psalms of Lament


Thursday June 22, 2017

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, LORD?
Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
Agony filling my heart?  Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?
Look at me!
Answer me, LORD my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I won!”
My foes will rejoice over my downfall.
But I have trusted in your faithful love.
My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the LORD
Because he has been good to me.

In the songs of lament there is not a quick fix offered, but the psalmist gives us room to name the pain of what we experience in life.  Psalm 13 is general enough that it speaks to a variety of moments of lament within our life.  The beauty of it is found in its raw honesty with God.  The writer doesn’t remain stuck there is still forward motion, but that motion isn’t one where an answer is revealed on how to get out of the pit.

Even though the psalmist feels forgotten, and finds himself in a place of disorientation, he is confident that God is present in the midst of his suffering.  What we don’t know is if this psalm was written from the bottom of the pit, when there was no other place to go but up, or after he already felt the presence of God and was in a place of praise.  The important point is that we don’t need to know, it can be both and.  It doesn’t have to be either or.

The psalm reflects the journey of someone in lament, beginning with suffering that then moves to a request, “answer me and restore sight to my eyes.”  Then the psalmist changes tense and acknowledges that there will be a time when rejoicing will happen again.  The dark night will not be forever. This offers to us a template for reflection on our own movement in and out of suffering. 


Prayer:  God of desert places, we remember the moments that Christ suffered and know that we are not alone in our suffering.  Help us to be mindful of those in our world who have found themselves in a place of abandonment.  In your Holy name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How long Oh Lord?

Wednesday June 21, 2017

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, LORD?
Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
Agony filling my heart?  Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?
Look at me!
Answer me, LORD my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I won!”
My foes will rejoice over my downfall.
But I have trusted in your faithful love.
My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the LORD
Because he has been good to me.

Psalm 13 is a psalm that speaks to us when things out of sync and when the bottom drops out. “How long, oh Lord?” Is a refrain we may find ourselves saying on any given day. 

It is more than the “are we there yet” chorus we hear from children while on a road trip.  It is a universal plea when time seems to take on a new dimension of crawling unbearably slowly by as we feel the bottom fall out from underneath us.

It happens when our ability to focus on anything else completely is greatly diminished by our suffering.  It is when the dominate emotion we are experiencing is sorrow and suffering.  The psalmist is not only suffering at the hands of enemies but also from the perceived absence of God.
“How long, Oh Lord.” is said when waiting for a diagnosis, it is said when we are waiting to see if our bodies will respond to treatment, it is said when we are working through trauma, it is said when we are grieving, it is said when we find ourselves in hostile situations with others.  We say “how long, oh Lord” when we do not know how long a season of turmoil with last.  So much of life is a moment of not knowing how long and that is why the Psalms of Lament are so compelling and helpful as people of faith.

Prayer:  God of desert places, we remember the moments that Christ suffered and know that we are not alone in our suffering.  Help us to be mindful of those in our world who have found themselves in a place of abandonment.  In your Holy name we pray, Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Image of God

Monday June 19, 2017

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, LORD?
Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
Agony filling my heart?  Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?
Look at me!
Answer me, LORD my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I won!”
My foes will rejoice over my downfall.
But I have trusted in your faithful love.
My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the LORD
Because he has been good to me.

Our experiences of God help to form our image of God and our image of God has a direct coloration to our prayer life.

We may find that our image of God is one where God is outside of us and outside of creation.  God then has power over us and the over the world.  Our prayers then are pleas to gain God’s favor or to create a hoped for outcome.

Or we may find that our image of God is one where God is both outside of creation and inside of creation.  God’s power then is not about control but about empowerment.  Our prayers then are spoken in solidarity with God as an invitation for our participation in God’s kingdom work.  These prayers then center us and remind us what it means to follow Christ.


Prayer:  God of desert places, we remember the moments that Christ suffered and know that we are not alone in our suffering.  Help us to be mindful of those in our world who have found themselves in a place of abandonment.  In your Holy name we pray, Amen.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Psalms of Lament

Sunday June 18, 2017

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, LORD?
Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
Agony filling my heart?  Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?
Look at me!
Answer me, LORD my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I won!”
My foes will rejoice over my downfall.
But I have trusted in your faithful love.
My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the LORD
Because he has been good to me.


Psalms are prayers to God.  They reflect the author’s image of God and experience of God in the world.  They are the hymn book of songs to God.

An active faith life will produce an evolving image of God.  Many theologians would argue that part of the reason so many people leave the church is because they have not been given the space or permission to push against their image of God so that it can develop, evolve or grow.  They maintain a childhood concept of God that then doesn’t meet the spiritual needs of an adult and they find God to be irrelevant. 
We may find that when life is going along with no major obstacles, when everyone we love is healthy and doing well, that our image of God is helpful.  But when things become challenging, when someone we love gets the diagnosis of a major illness, or family relationships become strained we may find that our relationship and image with God is strained.  

Has your image of God changed over the years?  In what moments did you feel a need to allow that image to grow?  Are you open to living into growth, even in your image of God? 


Prayer:  God of desert places, we remember the moments that Christ suffered and know that we are not alone in our suffering.  Help us to be mindful of those in our world who have found themselves in a place of abandonment.  In your Holy name we pray, Amen.

Easter ... ready ... set ... go!

Matthew 28:1-10 About three years ago I committed to the Narrative Lectionary.   It is a four-year cycle that takes the congregation t...