Worship Words-A Prayer for Our Country

Gracious God, This is a time when we celebrate our country. And we are thankful for all the goodness in this place we call home. So much has happened in our country recently. Everyone has an opinion to share on the recent events in the USA. And many, many people have been sharing their words-some of these are joyful, some angry, some heartbroken, and some defensive. We often try to put words into your mouth, Holy One. Help us to stop and think before speaking for you. Encourage us to turn to your Word before claiming to speak for you. Remind us that you are the Creator of Love who calls us to love each other. You are the Compassionate One who calls us to live out compassion. You are the Great Listener who urges us to stop talking and start listening. Holy God, our country is divided, confused, overjoyed, and saddened. You call us to hold all these emotions together and live each one. You ask us to cry with all who mourn. You ask us to cheer with all who are rejoicing. You ask us to sit with all who need more time to understand and seek out your will. Because we have so much to see, hear, and do, be with us in this time of silent prayer as we listen for your voice and sit quietly with you. (time of silent prayer)

Eternal God, As we celebrate Independence Day, let us be thankful for the progress that has been made toward equality for all and strengthen us for the work that still needs to be done so all your children may be free. Amen.

 

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This photo was taken by Sara Slade of Sara Slade Photography. I’d like to thank Sara for regularly sending me pictures of two very American foods that I do not prefer-hot dogs and orange soda.

Book Review-Beginner’s Grace: Bringing Prayer into Your Life

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Beginner’s Grace: Bringing Prayer into Your Life Kate Braestrup

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-3

In my professional life, I’ve been asked countless questions on prayer. My answers begin with just talk to God and get more complex as the questions continue. I’m always looking for great books on prayer to share. This book caught my attention because it is about prayer and written by Kate Braestrup whose books I have enjoyed.

This book looks at prayers for different times and circumstances in our lives. This book explores the prayers of many faiths and traditions although the majority of the prayers are Christian or Jewish in origin. And here is what she says about prayer, “What prayer, at its best and at our best, has always done is help us to live consciously, honorably, and compassionately” (9). Although plenty of prayers are found within these pages, it is not simply a reference book of prayers. Here you will find stories that will make you laugh and cry and wonder and you’ll want to pray along with everyone whose stories fill these pages.

One of my favorite chapters was “Considering the Grace That Saves.” This chapter calls us to be attentive to each other. I need to constantly be reminded that everyone I meet is a child of God. I need to look people in the eye and really see them.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who struggles with prayer. I hope this will provide you with a new perspective on times and places and ways to pray. I recommend this book for people who love to pray and love to read about prayer. It is an easily accessible read for all.

“If as my husband defines it, disappointment is the feeling you get when reality doesn’t meet your expectations, gratitude is the feeling you get when reality exceeds your expectations. The truly rational, realistic person should feel overwhelmingly grateful all the time” (21). I have never been called a “truly rational, realistic person” and yet, I hope this statement serves as a reminder to me that there is so much for which I need to be grateful.

“But prayer, like the Sabbath, was made for the human, not the human for prayer” (155). This is a new perspective I had not pondered.

And I love this quote so much that I also mentioned it as it was used in her other book I reviewed, “Fill in the blank. Nothing matters more than _________. When you have filled in the blank, you will have given yourself a functional definition of God” (159).

In the midst of her chapter, “Singing your Prayers”, she shares this thought. “ ‘And the soul felt its worth,’ Father Boyle repeated, and wondered aloud whether any of us might, like Christ, somehow be able to offer our neighbor such love that her soul feels its worth. Maybe our faces should serve as loving mirrors, capable of revealing to a neighbor how good and beautiful she really is. Ever since hearing Father Boyle speak on the radio, I have considered “O Holy Night” to be a prayer” (164).

She begins her public prayers by saying, “Join me, as you will, in the spirit of prayer” (182). I found this an inviting and welcoming prayer invitation for people wherever they are on their journeys.

Worship Words-A Prayer for Guidance

1929921_11757933825_2917_nWorship yesterday included music by a bell choir. As I was reflecting on what to share for today’s worship words, one of the songs they played kept reappearing in my thoughts. The song was Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. Today’s prayer is a prayer for a time of discernment or seeking God’s wisdom now and in the future. Pray with me.

Guide me, O my great Redeemer. We seek your guidance, O God, for there are many choices in our lives and many paths we could take. We need your wisdom. We need to know how best to live in your ways. Hear us cry out for help.

Pilgrim through this barren land. God, you know there are days when it seems like no choice is a good choice, days when nothing we say comes out right, and we wonder how to turn back to you. We are wandering and wondering.

I am weak, but you are mighty. Your strength and power amazes us, O God, and we need to feel your presence when we feel like we have no power. Give us the words to speak. Point us in the right direction.

Hold me with your powerful hand. God, we need to be held in your hand, to hold your hand, and to be pushed on with your hand. Give us comfort, support, and a nudge in the right direction.

Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Loving God, you feed us with your Word, with our communities of support, and with blessings too many to count. We are so thankful for all the ways you reveal yourself to us. We pray for all of your children who need to be fed physically or spiritually. We know what you provide is more than enough to share, so revive our spirits of generosity until everyone has enough.

As we seek out what is next for our lives, may we always begin by saying, Guide me, O my great Redeemer. Amen.
The words in italics are from The New Century Hymnal #19, Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer.

In the picture, I am posing beside a cross at the Camas Centre on the Isle of Mull. The Camas Centre is part of the Iona Community. I spent a week volunteering at the Camas Centre in 2005.

This prayer was published on liturgy link on June 28, 2015.

Book Review-A More Christlike God

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A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel Bradley Jersak

Emotional Response-2

Scholarly Response-5

When I selected this book, I hoped to read how the life of Jesus revealed God to us. Instead, the focus was on the death of Jesus. I had hoped for more about how Jesus’ ministry was life-giving for those he encountered, how Jesus saw ones who others ignored, etc. This book presented the death of Jesus as how we can more accurately see/know God. For this reason, I struggled to read this book. Because of his focus on the cross and our very different experiences with the church, this book did not resonate with me. I wanted to love it. I did love the second telling of “The Beautiful Gospel” beginning on page 280. He uses Scripture and modern story to illustrate how no matter what we do, God always turns toward us. It was an inspiring end to the book.

One goal of this book was to present a systematic theology that was accessible for the average reader. I think that was achieved. When he uses words that are more technical or words have a variety of meanings, he includes the definition that he is using. I found this to be very helpful as I read the book and imagine other readers would as well.

I did not understand the choice of language used for God in this book. On page 3, the author discusses the problem with using pronouns for God. “Even using the simple pronoun ‘he’ for God is awkward and inaccurate. I will use it, but when I do, I tend to cringe. God is not a ‘him’ or ‘her.’” (3). This made me cringe throughout the book. I wonder why he acknowledged this difficulty if he wasn’t going to change his language. His answer seemed to be I don’t like to call God he, but I’m going to do it anyway. This disappointed me.

My excitement for this book was because I hoped he would share my understanding that the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are God incarnate. While I do not attempt to explain and understand God completely, a good portion of what I know to be true about God is because of the ministry of Jesus. I also see God revealed through prophets and apostles. One tension for me has always been how to believe in Jesus without becoming a supersessionist. (This is the idea that Christ as the new covenant has replaced or superseded God’s covenant with the Israelites. If taken far enough, it means that Christians are the chosen people and the Jews are not because they haven’t accepted Christ as the new covenant). I am not a supersessionist and try hard to make that clear in the language I use. Here is one section that concerned me, “We read in John 1:17 that Moses gave us the Law (a system of rewards and punishments), but Christ brought us grace and truth. We read in 2 Corinthians 3:9 that Moses’ covenant brought condemnation but Jesus’ covenant brings righteousness, true freedom and transformation. What’s happening here? Rather than replacing Yahweh of the Old Testament with the Christ of the New, these authors emphasize that Moses’ revelation of God as the just Judge (the law-bringer) is being eclipsed as Jesus’ greater revelation of God the loving Father (the gospel-giver)” (75).

I would recommend this book for anyone who doesn’t know that God is love. This might be a first step on your journey to seeing God in a new light.

 

I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

#SpeakeasyAMoreChristlikeGod

Tangerine Orange Zinger

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As the temperature rises, I find myself drinking more fruity teas. And the Zinger teas are always a hit with me. This one is so smooth. I’m always surprised it doesn’t steep up in a bright orange color. I enjoy this tea because it is fruity without being sweet.

While researching this tea, I found it that it is the favorite Zinger to drink over ice. I’m not a big iced tea drinker. If you enjoy fun iced tea, you might want to give this one a try!

Worship Words-Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness

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Let us pray. God, We are busy people. We need reminders. We need help remembering what is important. In this time of silent confession, we will try to slow down our thoughts and be present with you, Loving God. If something needs to be confessed, we will silently share it, God, and then continue in silence. We will be still and be with our God.

(a time of silent prayer)

God, silence is hard. Confession is hard. Faithful God, you stay with us through all the difficult parts of life. You have heard our confession and been with us in our silent prayers. For your faithfulness and love, we are grateful. Amen.
Our good news is this-The steadfast love of God never ceases. God’s mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23).

Today’s picture was taken at the amazing Camp Albemarle. This is a place I highly recommend for retreats and summer camp.

Book Review-Children of God Storybook Bible

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Children of God Storybook Bible Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-5

There are so many things to love about this book. The amazing artwork by 20 talented artists from around the world brings the diversity of God’s creation to life in these pages. The words selected to tell the sacred stories are beautiful and perfect for children, youth, and adults. My only complaint is the lack of inclusive language for God. With all the other diversity and inclusivity, why not be creative in describing and naming God too? This can be remedied by using different pronouns or your preferred name for God while reading it aloud. If children are reading it silently, a conversation or two about names of and for God can be helpful.

I highly recommend everyone read this book. Most people can read it in a very short amount of time. Or you may decide to savor it and read only one story per day. Either way, you need to read this book.

I love the words used for the Beatitudes on page 76.

“Blessed are you who feed the poor, for you are the hands of God.

Blessed are you who comfort the sad, for you are the arms of God.

Blessed are you who work for peace, for you are the voice of God.

Blessed are you who are loving and kind, for you are the heart of God” (76).

Worship Words-Pentecost and Retirement Sermon from June 8, 2014

A year ago, I was preaching at my Dad’s church. We were celebrating his forty years of ordained ministry. We were celebrating his retirement from full-time ministry. It was my parents’ last day with this congregation. A special joy for me was celebrating communion with my Dad. My ordination was the only other time we’ve celebrated communion together.

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Although this sermon seems very specific to the events happening somewhere in central Illinois 365 days ago, when I reread it today I was delighted to see universal themes that apply to all people of faith every day of the year.

Scriptures-

Ephesians 4: 1-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
   he gave gifts to his people.’ 
(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Acts 2: 1-4

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

[Read more…]

Book Review-365 Thank Yous

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365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life John Kralik

Lately, I’ve been pondering gratitude. How can I be more grateful? How can I better express my gratitude? I was delighted to find this book, 365 Thank Yous. Sadly, my disappointment with this book began almost immediately when on page 14 I read, “Then I heard a voice: ‘Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have,’ it said, ‘you will not receive the things you want.’ (14).”

Wait a minute! We are not called to have a spirit a gratitude so we can accumulate more things. We are called to be grateful because our very existence is a gift. We are loved more than we know-another gift! We have been gifted with talents to use and share with others.

I cannot recommend this book because I do not agree with his premise. In spite of this, I did finish reading this book. Instead of reading this book, I recommend that we all write a thank you note or two or 365 to people who we need to thank! Thank you, dear reader, for faithfully reading and encouraging me to keep reading and writing! I am grateful for each of you!

Organic Rooibos Herbal Tea

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First of all, I must begin with a confession. Often, I drink the same teas day after day. Those Lady Grey tea bags just keep jumping into my mug. While it is perfectly acceptable to keep enjoying old favorites, it makes it difficult to recommend new teas to others. I decided to outsmart myself by rearranging my tea cabinet. Now, all my favorites are on the top shelf where I cannot reach them without a step stool. I won’t leave them up there too long. Just until I try a few teas that have been stuck behind all my favorites.

Today’s tea is one that got moved to the front of the cabinet in the tea shuffling, and I’m so glad it did. I am enjoying this tea. It is so dark that it looks like you have coffee in your cup. Good news, it doesn’t taste like coffee. No matter how long you leave your tea bag in the cup, this tea won’t turn bitter. No fruity taste to this tea. It just tastes like tea. This is the perfect tea for drinking on a dreary, rainy day. Plus, it is a fair trade, organic tea.