As you read this, I am nearing the end of our week long mission trip. I have spent the week working, learning, sharing God’s love, and living among the people of Atlanta and my youth. I’d love to say I prepared for this week by spending the week before resting and relaxing. The morning I wrote this I fixed myself a cup of tea and breakfast. I moved to a quiet place in my house to write a thoughtful piece on the importance of silence and quiet time with God. And then my awesome niece came into the dining room watching a you tube video on her Dad’s phone and shooting me with a Star Wars toy. So, I threw my plans out the window to spend time with my niece and realized that this is great preparation for the mission trip. I spent months planning the mission trip. I know it isn’t going to work out exactly as I planned. I can either be mad that things are not going the way I planned or be flexible and look for God working in my life.
My paternal grandmother died in 2013. She taught me about love and faith in the way she lived and the words she said. I have wonderful memories of time we spent together. I miss her. A few weeks ago as I was spending time with my family, I discovered my sister is telling her daughter stories about our Grandma. She is teaching her daughter words and phrases our Grandma said. She is passing her memories on to the next generation.
We are all called to do this. Instead of worrying about the demise of the church, share your faith story and share our faith stories. Pass what is most important to you on to the next generation. This is our joy and our calling.
Faithful God, From generation to generation, you loved us. Thank you for our ancestors in the faith who shared your love with the next generation. Thank you for older generations who told us stories about you. Thank you for children who learn and who teach us. Thank you for your faithful love and mercy through the generations. Remind us how much we love to hear and tell your story. Amen.
We all have things we’d rather not do. My list includes dusting, washing windows, folding laundry, mowing the grass, running, and many others. At the very top of my list is packing! And at this very moment I am typing this I should be packing for a trip. By the time you read this, I will be celebrating the birthday of a very special five-year old. In order to do this, I need to pack tonight. In fact, right now would be a good time to pack. And I’m avoiding doing it. To tell the truth, I’m not the best packer. I make lists and take way too much. I go without my list and forget very important things. I believe we all have gifts and I acknowledge that packing is not one of mine. Sometimes I let my husband pack what I pick out, and that always results in half the stuff I think I need not making it into the suitcase. I’m not sure when I began to dislike packing so much. I know that I avoid packing until it can no longer be avoided. So I thought what if I wrote myself a prayer to use when I have to do something I don’t want to do. Maybe it would help me pack, and if I shared it maybe it would help others complete a task they think is terrible. So the next time you are faced with a task you’d rather avoid, try this prayer and see if it helps!
God, It’s me. You know I don’t want to do what needs to be done. I’ve convinced myself I’m not good at it. I’ve avoided this for too long and just need to do it. Help me, please! Move my feet in the right direction. Guide my movements and make them quick, so I can get this over with as soon as possible. Patient God, there are too many other things I’d rather do at this moment. Maybe if I take a quick break. No! God, Keep me on track! Help me to finish this task that I am dreading. With your help, Loving God, I can finish this task. Give me strength. Grant me perseverance. Let this be done soon. Amen.
Summer is an interesting time in the church. Some people think we should do everything the same year round. Some people think the church should take it easier since so many people are away and volunteers want a break. Each church handles summer differently. A few years ago, I wanted to offer the congregation a way to stay connected and remember that each of us is an important part of our church family whether we are in worship each week or not. This idea was based on the concept of Flat Stanley which some churches changed to Flat Jesus. I wanted to do something a little different and so I used a picture the youth had created as sand art that featured the church’s initials.
Here’s how we took the church with us-
Everyone is invited to take an StG picture with you when you leave worship today. Wherever you find yourself this summer, snap a picture while holding the picture of the church name. Send your picture back to the church office and let us know where you are. You might find yourself in the newsletter or featured on the screen before worship. Know that wherever you go this summer, you are loved. Share that love with everyone you meet.
It is as simple as finding a picture that is meaningful to your congregation, getting many copies made (I found that only about half of the people in worship took a picture with them and I got the pictures copied at my local Walgreens when they were having a super sale), announcing the summer project, and sharing the pictures. While it might be too late to try this project this year, it doesn’t have to only happen in the summer. In September, you could ask kids or youth to do this when they visit a favorite spot near home or when they are doing a favorite activity. It could be a great way to get to know new youth and children in your church. It can also be a whole family project. The opportunities are limitless. The point is to remind people they are part of the church even when they aren’t in the church building and to help us get to know each other better. Have fun and I’d love to see how you use this idea as a springboard in your context.
On a recent Sunday morning, I got ready for worship like any other Sunday morning. When I got to the church, I realized this church did not have air conditioning. My outfit of the day was perfect for a church with air conditioning and very warm for a church without. The windows were wide open and the fans were blowing. Instead of focusing on the temperature, I listened. What could I hear with the windows open that I would not hear when we are closed in and enclosed in our safe space. I heard birds singing. I heard cars and buses driving by. I heard the voices of those walking outside. What does this tell us about our open doors? How can we open ourselves to hearing those we usually don’t hear?
Today, God, open my heart to see everyone I usually overlook. Make me a little uncomfortable so I am forced to be aware of your creation. Slow me down to hear the birds singing and see the clouds in the sky. Let me pause to feel the rain or sun on my face. Remind me to smile and say hi to everyone whose path comes near mine. Remind me we are all your children and you love us all equally. Amen.
We are all grieving. We do not get over grief. We learn to live in our new normal.
In my work as a hospice chaplain, I help people to name their grief and decide how to respond. Whenever life does not happen as we planned or hoped, we may grieve for what will not be.
Too often, we are told grief is linear. As if we can move through the correct steps of grief to come out the other end or to the finish line and be grief-free. Grief does not work like that. We circle around and around. We feel better and are sad again. We cry and smile. We scream and wonder why. Grief is unique to each person and circumstance. We need to acknowledge and accept each other’s grief.
In order to invite you to think about grief and possibly think about it differently, I encourage you to listen to this amazing conversation about grief. Pauline Boss, The Myth of Closure from On Being with Krista Tippett
A Prayer for All of Us
You are the constant in our lives. You love us every second of every minute. From you, we learned to love. This loves that brings us so much joy also brings us pain and heartbreak. You know our hurts and our grief. We grieve the changing of relationships and we know that people are not the only cause of our grief. God, you know that changes cause grief even when we know the changes are good. While it is difficult to thank you for the pain of grief, we do thank you, Gracious God, for our ability to love and adapt and change.
We bring our grief to you-
for relationships that ended,
for chances we did not take,
for loved ones who died,
for new jobs and new schools,
for the ends and the beginnings,
for the things we are no longer able to do,
for the times we are told no,
and for anything else that causes us grief, we give to you, God.
Continue to walk with us on this journey, Faithful God, as we grow, change, and grieve. Amen.
We need to see as God sees. Noticing our connection one to another. Acknowledging each person is a child of God. As I watch the news, I wonder how to stop the violence. It seems easier to harm someone when we see that person as other or stereotype a person as fitting into a category we don’t like. What if we began by acknowledging we are all beloved children of God? Or we are all human? Are we all exactly the same? No! I believe God delights in our differences and loves each of us.
How can we stop the violence?
By promising to see each other.
By promising to love each other.
By promising to listen to each other.
A Litany of Compassion
One-I promise to see you as a beloved child of God.
All-We promise to see each person as a beloved child of God.
One-I promise to listen to you and not assume I know your story.
All-We promise to listen to each other and hear your stories.
One-I promise to love you and support you living your life.
All-We promise to love each other and support each one in living our own lives.
One-Let us embody the words of 1 John 4:11.
All-“Friends, since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another.” Amen.
The Psalm for this week is Psalm 8. I love this Psalm because it reminds me of how big God’s creation is and how small my part is in that creation while also reminding me that my part is important and essential. I heard this Psalm read by children and youth leading worship on a church family retreat by the water at Camp Albemarle. I have read this Psalm at the bedside of hospice patients. I have joined in singing this Psalm with congregations big and small. I have read this Psalm by myself while enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. [Read more…]
Thank you, God, for worms.
Our worm community’s home.
A couple of worms hiding among all their delicious food.