Worship Words-A Prayer of Thanksgiving

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll spend the day with people you love doing something you enjoy. I’m sharing this prayer a day early in the hopes you might disconnect from electronics for a little bit tomorrow. Also, I hope you find time tomorrow to say a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. You are welcome to use this prayer if you are not yet comfortable praying in your own words. Happy Thanksgiving!

On this Thanksgiving Day, let us not forget to start by saying thank you to the Creator and Source of all for which we have to be thankful. Loving God, we thank you for those with whom we spend this day. Thank you for family, friends, and strangers. We thank you for the food we share and remember those who do not have enough to eat. May today’s feast inspire us to share what you have given us with others. As we enjoy a day of relaxation and rest, we ask your blessing on those working today–the people working to keep us safe and healthy, the people working so others can eat, and the people working because they desperately need the money. We pray for families and friend who wish they could be together today. We pray for people who struggle to feel thankful this day. God, we ask that you give us thankful hearts, not just today when it is easy to be thankful, but everyday. Amen.

This prayer was published by liturgy link on November 19, 2014.

Book Review-Worship Come to Its Senses

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Worship Come to Its Senses Don E. Saliers

Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Emotional-4

Scholarly-4

Although this book about worship is nearing 20 years old, its ideas are still relevant today. Instead of arguing over the style of worship, we are encouraged to bring awe, delight, truth, and hope to worship. Like all good things we do, worship requires preparation-not just from those leading worship but from all participating. How can you prepare? Come to worship ready for the experience, ready to encounter the other and the Other, and open to the ways God will speak to us. When we are prepared to meet God, we might just find that God is here already.

One theme that flowed through all these aspects of worship is that this happens best in a community where people are known. You might have moments of awe or delight on a retreat by yourself or with stranger. In order to keep these four aspects of worship alive and well, we need to situate ourselves within a community where we plan to listen for God and listen with each other. It is not a short-term process. Crafting worship requires much time and energy and many people sharing their gifts. Likewise, participating in worship requires our openness to what God is saying to us and those around us speaking truth and hope.

What I found so refreshing in this book is that problems with worship were described and solutions were offered. Too often books about worship say that each church is so unique that a solution cannot be offered. This book does the opposite. It shares concrete examples of what can be done to bring awe, delight, truth, and hope back to our worship. Now, don’t be overwhelmed thinking each worship service must inspire each of these things in every worshiper. That is not the point. Our worship planning and our worship preparation must include these ideas so over the course of our time together people have the opportunity to experience these things and know that they are all part of our faith journey.

I recommend this book to pastors, church people with worship responsibilities, and anyone who deeply love worship and wants to think more about it. [Read more…]

Book Review-Night Visions

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Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas Jan L. Richardson

Cleveland, Ohio: United Church Press, 1998.

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-2

Sometimes I wonder if I like the idea of the season of Advent more than I like the season of Advent. A time to prepare sounds good. I’d love a time to prepare. A time to wait sounds important. I’d love to be able to be a person who waits patiently. I don’t do well with the waiting or preparing. What I do hold on to each year is the candle lighting. I love the light shining in the darkness of this time of year and this Advent season. Each Monday in Advent, I’ll share with you some Scripture to read and a prayer for your candle lighting. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Advent in this way.

Advent is almost here again. And I will admit that I struggle to keep up daily practices. Weekly practices have more flexibility and forgiveness built in, and so I find myself drawn to the weekly practice of candle lighting. I recognize that what works for me may be very different than what works for you, and so I recommend for those who love daily readings, Jan Richardson’s Night Visions. The art and words are beautiful, heart-breaking, and inspiring. This book will take you through Advent, Christmas, and into Epiphany. If a daily reading works for you, I invite you to be challenged and supported by this book. And, if a daily reading isn’t for you, I still encourage you to get this book and read it at a pace that works for you.

“This season beckons me to ask, what am I preparing for? What is the way that is being prepared within the wilderness of my life? What does it mean for my own life to become a path, a way of welcome for the Holy One? How do I give myself time to notice the ways that the path unfolds before me and within me? What are the acts of preparation that bring delight to my daily life? Whom do I ask or allow to help me prepare?” (39).

“As I cross the threshold into a new season and a new year, the bag prompts questions. What do I need for the journey ahead? What would I put in the bag to take with me? What objects, words, blessings, hopes, charms would I keep within its colors against my chest as I meet the coming days? How will my actions in the year ahead stretch my own thresholds, my own boundaries, and bring me closer to others–to the ones such as those who fashioned this very bag? Or do I need to leave it empty, to wait and see what will fill it this year?” (120).

Wild Orange Blossom and Youthberry

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This week’s tea was a delicious gift from a dear friend. She knows how much I love tea, so she shared this fabulous blend with me. Of course, she also got herself some too because it is that good. I like this tea because of its beautiful color and taste. It isn’t too much orange, and it doesn’t taste too fruity. It has orange and berry and other flavors mixed in too.

I’d like to thank my friend for this tea and for our many tea dates when we’d sit together for hours drinking tea and catching up. Our drive times for tea dates has recently gotten much longer. Even though I don’t get to see you in person as much as I’d like, please know that I think of you when I drink a cup of tea.

Dear readers-find someone to join you for your next cup of tea. Have a conversation. Sit awhile. Catch up. Warm up on the inside and outside.

Book Review-In the Beginning

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In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis Karen Armstrong

New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-4

I enjoy anything that helps me see Scripture with new eyes. As I was agreeing and disagreeing with Armstrong’s interpretation of Genesis, I was engaging the text. The stories were coming alive for me in new ways. I appreciate that she ends her book with book of Genesis. It was so helpful to reread the Scriptures again after reading her interpretation.

Overall, I enjoyed this book because it pushed me back into the world of Genesis. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting a fresh look at the first book of the Bible.

“Sin is thus shown to dissolve community; it is presented as the opposite of wholeness and integrity” (30).

Instead of sharing quotes as I have for other books, here are some ways that she interprets the stories and people of Genesis. They made me think and ponder.

Noah’s sin is scapegoating. He blames others for his behavior after he gets drunk because he cannot live with himself after the flood (48-50).

God puts Abraham on probation to see if he is worthy of a blessing (50).

Why are there no chapters on Hagar or Sarah? Their part in the stories are mentioned. I think an interpretation of Genesis should include their story a bit more prominently.

Her thought is that Joseph saying God put me here (in Egypt) does not allow the brothers to take responsibility for their actions (113). I think that there is room for both. The brothers sinned by selling their brother and lying about what they had done. God worked in Joseph’s life to redeem the situation and find a way for Joseph’s gifts to be used in Egypt.

Worship Words-Charge and Benediction

Each week as worship ends, a blessing is offered for the congregation. We need reminders of God’s love and blessings everyday. I hope these words will bring you courage and comfort today.

Charge and Benediction

Jesus has told us who needs us to care. As you go out into God’s world, keep your eyes open for those who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or imprisoned. See Christ in them and help them.

And remember you are God’s beloved. The Holy Spirit lives in you. Christ’s compassion shines forth in what you do. Live as those who know and have experienced God’s goodness. Go now in peace.

 

This was published by liturgy link on November 19, 2014.

Book Review-Letters to a Youth Worker

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Letters to a Youth Worker  Mark DeVries, General Editor

Brentwood, Tennessee: CYMT Press, 2012.

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-3

When I started reading it, my initial reaction was that this seemed like a book aimed at a person new to youth ministry. As I kept reading, I realized while not full of new insights for someone who has done this for more than 10 years, it did have many great reminders in a easy to read format. And so, I recommend this for everyone who loves youth-for parents who want to know more about what it is like to be a youth worker, for church staff who do not work with youth but want to support those who do, for congregation members who want to be more in touch with youth, and for all those who have committed to working with youth for money or simply because you love youth.

This book is filled with letters addressing various situations a youth worker might encounter. It is written by a variety of people who have worked with youth in different capacities over the years. It uses many mistakes made by the authors to remind us that we are not the first ones to do this and we are not the first ones to make mistakes.

This book spent much time reminding us that ministry is something we are not called to do alone. I think that is essential to remember because ministry can be so lonely, and yet there are many ways to involve and engage others in this journey along with us.

Even those of us who know better get so busy doing ministry that we forget St. Anselm’s call to “faith seeking understanding” (66). We must continue to learn and grow in our own faith while nurturing the spiritual lives of others. This book is a good resource for making that happen.

On page 40, a covenant for the church and the youth worker is presented. What a great way to begin a ministry, with promises like “We will pray and spiritually support (promises for the church) and I will pray for our church, its leaders, and members and our community (responses of the youth worker.”

“What I’m hoping to emphasize to you is that the real heart of ministry is the amazing privilege of seeking God, of seeking to place yourself inside God’s very action in the world. The heart of youth ministry is to try to articulate how and where this God acts and move, and then constructing practices and activities that honor and seek for that place where God moves” (61).

“Who is your theologian?” (67). Who is it that you’d pick to journey alongside you as you study and grow in your faith?

“One of the occupational hazards of ministry is professional holiness: doing the right things with the wrong heart” (72).

“Youth ministry IS about investing. One thing I do know to be true is that good investments yield good dividends. And your investment in young people–your faithful actions, your positive spirit, your persistent conversations, your healthy decisions, your own love for God–will yield a return, though we may never get to see the full investment report this side of heaven” (84).

 

Pumpkin Spice Brulee

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Since it is the time of year when all things pumpkin are consumed, I thought I would try this tea. It smelled and tasted delicious. It does contain milk which may  not appeal to some people. I found it very easy to drink. I’ll be having some more of this tea during pumpkin season!

 

Book Review- Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

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Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint Nadia Bolz-Weber

New York: Jericho Books, 2014.

Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-5 

This books gets high marks on both emotional response and scholarly response because I enjoyed reading it and this book made me think. Deep theological conceptions like grace, forgiveness, loving our enemies, and resurrections, are explored through the lives of people who “good Christians” might not want to see on Sunday mornings.

Each chapter begins with a Scripture reading that grounds and focuses the story or stories presented in that chapter. It like reading stories and reading a sermon at the same time. In this book, we are free to question with Bolz-Weber and wonder how to make sense of it all. We are free to admit that we don’t have all the answers, and we mess up often. We are free to see ourselves in these stories. And we are encouraged to keep seeking God, to keep looking for the good in others, and to keep reminding ourselves that we are God’s beloved children.

I know that some people will not be able to read this book because of the language used. Instead of being offended by her language, I’m wondering if you might be able to see it as a dialect or her chosen way of speaking. So who should read this book-anyone who has questions about faith, anyone who wonders where God is acting in the world today, anyone who has ever wondered if he or she is a beloved child of God…if any of those questions have ever run through your mind, you need to read this book to be reminded that many of God’s best stories start with nothing and God can transform the nothing that you are able to bring into something wonderful.

“It’s (the Christian faith) about how God continues to reach into the graves we dig for ourselves and pull us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small” (XVIII).

“I need a God who is bigger and more nimble and mysterious than what I could understand and contrive. Otherwise it can feel like I am worshiping nothing more than my own ability to understand the divine”(15-16).

[Read more…]

Worship Words-Prayer before Reading Scripture

In our busy world, we jump from one thing to the next. We are always hurrying to check things off our to do list. Before reading Scripture, I hope you take a few moments to breathe. Allow yourself to feel calmed and surrounded by God’s presence. Use this prayer to prepare you to hear God’s Word.


Surprise us, God, as we read your word.

Surprise us by opening our eyes to the words written on the page.

Slow us down so we read or hear what is truly there and not just what we want to hear.

We, your servants, are ready to listen. Amen.