Worship Words from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time in San Diego. I highly recommend everyone take a trip to San Diego. The weather was wonderful. It is a very walkable city. It is also a heartbreaking city with so many homeless sleeping on the sidewalks and asking for money. While I was there a tour I took and a friend I met up with both recommended that I stroll down the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade. After taking this walk, I recommend this to anyone who visits San Diego.

Along the sides of the paved walkway are quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

photo 3-25“I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one…should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth, and your own somebodiness…always feel that you count. always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”

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“As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich…As long as diseases are rampant…I can never be totally healthy…I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”

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 “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

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“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgement. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”

 

And my favorite part (a huge thank you to my friends for sharing the secrets of this place with me) is the labyrinth. Although the city calls it a hedge maze, there is only one way to enter and one way to exit which means I’ll be calling it a labyrinth. If you look closely as you walk through the labyrinth, you’ll see suggestions for changes you might make in your life. You’ll be asked to shed the cloak of things that are hurting yourself and other, and you’ll be asked to don the cloak of behaviors and attitudes that remind us to love each other. I will include these words at the end of the post as a closing prayer or benediction. As you reach the sculpture in the center, you’ll see beautiful shininess inside of the sculpture placed there. Be sure to spend a few minutes looks for the words hidden on the sculpture. And then you can go back the way you came in. Hopefully, you’ll remember to shed what needs to be shed and don what needs to be donned.

 

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Shedding the cloak of oppression and Donning the cloak of recognition.

Shedding the cloak of fear and Donning the cloak of trust.

Shedding the cloak of prejudice and Donning the cloak of respect.

Shedding the cloak of malice and Donning the cloak of compassion.

Shedding the cloak of bitterness and Donning the cloak of forgiveness.

Shedding the cloak of despair and Donning the cloak of hope.

Shedding the cloak of weariness and Donning the cloak of courage.

Shedding the cloak of ignorance and Donning the cloak of wisdom.

Shedding the cloak of darkness and Donning the cloak of light.

Worship Words-A Sermon on Psalm 13

My best friend died of colon cancer three years ago today. She was 39 years old. Each year I make an extra effort to honor her memory on her birthday and the anniversary of her death. Today for the  worship words I am sharing the sermon I preached about my reaction to her diagnosis and the gift of lament found in the Psalms. This sermon was originally preached on June 26, 2011 at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and is shared today in loving memory of my buddy, Kristi.

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 Remember Me

To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain* in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

How do we pray when our hearts are broken? Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel recounts this incident from his experience at Auschwitz: “Inside the kingdom of night I witnessed a strange trial. Three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, indict God for having allowed his children to be massacred. An awesome conclave, particularly in view of the fact that it was held in a concentration camp. But what happened next is to me even more awesome still. After the trial at which God had been found guilty as charged, one of the rabbis looked at the watch which he had somehow managed to preserve in the kingdom of night and said, ‘Ah, it is time for prayers.’ And with that the three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, all bowed their heads and prayed.”

How do we pray when our hearts are breaking? When I got a call last month that my dear friend, Rev. Kristi Foster, had stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 38, I prayed and cried and questioned God. This has been especially hard for me because Kristi devotes her life to helping others, does whatever she can to stay healthy-exercise, vegetarian, etc-and should be in better healthy than most of us. In the following weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time praying while gardening. This isn’t new for me. What has changed is the tone of my prayer. Somedays I pray why Kristi and God how could you let this happen. Woe, to the weeds in my garden on those days. And other days, I’m able to pray for her healing, thank God for her life and mine, and feel blessed by the trips we’ve taken together and the adventures we’ve had and am hopeful that we might have more time together.

I share my story not because it is unique. I share it because we have all had pain in our lives. We have all had the opportunity to pray while our hearts are breaking. We have all had tragedy, loss, sadness-times where we ask God, how long? [Read more…]

Well Rested Herbal Tea

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Normally, I am not a huge fan of sleepy teas. They often taste “good for me” and make me feel like I am being forced to go to sleep. I feel the opposite about this tea. I enjoy drinking it. It makes me feel calm (without being pushy about it!). It is a mixture of so many different ingredients (chamomile flowers, lemon grass, spearmint leaves, tilia flowers, peppermint leaves, passionflower leaves, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn berries, and rosebuds) that surprising work well together. If you enjoy a cup of tea before bed, I would highly recommend giving this tea a try.

Worship Words-Benediction for Palm Sunday

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As I was writing, I keep moving from a joyful Palm Sunday benediction to a benediction that attempted to convey the variety of emotions present on Passion Sunday. I wanted to stay with Palm Sunday and focus on the gospel lesson. On Palm Sunday, I like to wave a palm, join in a procession of palm brach wavers, and be joyful. I am not against Passion Sunday where the whole Holy Week story is read. It just wasn’t what I wanted as the focus for this benediction.

This is a responsive benediction with palm waving!

One-Blessed in the One who comes in the name of the Lord!

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Blessed are all God’s children.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Blessed are we to hear God’s word and share God’s love with each other.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Blessed are we as we journey through Holy Week.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Feel and know the love of God this week as we walk with Jesus and experience the Holy Spirit moving among us.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Amen!

Book Review-Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

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Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis Lauren f. Winner

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-5

This is not a book everyone will love. I believe we are made up of our stories, and for me to know someone else I must know her stories. This book is some of the stories of how Lauren Winner found God (again) after her divorce and other events in her life. Although this is her story, you will find yourself in her stories. Your details may be different but the struggle to find God, to remain in relationship with God is not unique to her. I invite you to give this book a try as a companion on your journey when life is a struggle or as a reminder of where you have been if all is well in your world currently.

So what is this book? It is part spiritual memoir, part church history lesson (in a good way), lots of Scriptural interpretations, and so much more. The author describes it in this way, “this book is about the time when the things you thought you knew about the spiritual life turn out not to suffice for the life you are actually living. This books wants to know about that time, and then about the new ways you find, the new glory road that might not be a glory road after all but just an ordinary gravel byway” (xvi-xvii). She often refers to this part of life as not a beginning or an ending but a middle. What are the middles in our lives? How do we live through them?

Here are just some of the places I found her story and my story intersecting…

I love when I learn new ideas in books that I’d like to make happen in my life. She discusses the concept of “dislocated exegesis” (136). Basically this is the idea that you can be very influenced by where you read the Bible. One example she shares is her reading of Isaiah’s text of being on eagles’ wings while flying in a plane. I’d like to see this as a challenge to modify where I read to see how it influences my reading. If this works well, I’ll let you know how it changes my readings.

I was fascinated about her story in the chapter, Visits to My Mother’s Grace, about her singing to her mother. It made me ponder what is it I want my dead loved ones to know? What would I say/do if I visited their graves (if they all had one)? How do our stories today honor those who stories used to intersect with ours?

She shares the prayer of a Hassidic rabbi, “Until such time as I can pour out my heart like water before You, let me at least pour out my words” (51). And this made me wonder what can I pour out for God today?

In multiple places in this book, she makes the words of the desert fathers and mother come alive in ways that are applicable to us today. I appreciated this so much. “These desert people, Christians, left the cities after Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. The desert people knew that the faith’s new fashionableness was every bit as dangerous as the persecuting emperors of old, so they held the cities and the temptations of ease, to find God in the rigors of the desert” (55).

In her chapter, “Busyness during Lent”, she equates the sin of sloth with busyness. What if people remain so busy because they are scared of rest? I think this idea of sloth is everywhere in our overly scheduled world. And thankfully this chapter ends with the reassurance of an unnamed 14th century monk who said, “You only need a tiny scrap of time to move toward God” (108). So no matter how overscheduled our lives become, we all have time for God.

Purim is the Jewish holiday where the book of Esther is read. It is a lively celebration of life. Her are some important words from a rabbi on this holy day, “This may be the only book where God is not named, but God’s hiddenness is in fact shot all throughout the Torah. All throughout the Torah, we find people looking for God, and not finding God, because God doesn’t often conform to our expectations. God is somewhere other than the place we think to look. And our sages show that you can respond to God’s hiddenness in many different ways. You can, like the writer of Lamentations, respond to God’s hiddenness by mourning. Or, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, instead of asking where the God you thought you were looking for had gone, ask what God is like now. Or you can respond to God’s hiddenness by being like Esther: if God is hiding, then you must act on God’s behalf. If you look around the world and wonder where God has gone, why God isn’t intervening on behalf of just and righteous causes, your very wondering may be a nudge to work in God’s stead” (114-115).

Possibly only interesting to me is the fact that the hymn, “I Come to the Garden Alone”, was written by a pharmacist. His name was C. Austin Mills (45). (Just a personal shout out to the pharmacists in the world!).

I’d like to end this review with these words which I found humbling and inspirational. “I am not a saint. I am, however, beginning to learn that I am a small character in a story that is always fundamentally about God” (194).

Worship Words-A Prayer using Psalm 51

This prayer uses our Psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 51.  The words in italics are from the Psalm and the other words are mine. Pray with me.

Loving God, when we cannot find the right words to say, it is okay to say what others have said. The psalmist provides us with words that work no matter what we are feeling. We are thankful for the words of the psalmist and we turn to you with these ancient words. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Forgiving God, there are days when we are overwhelmed with our lives. It seems like we cannot make a good decision. We cannot love others as you love us. We cannot find the good in your world as we only see sadness and grief and greed. In these moments, we cry out to you asking for forgiveness for ourselves and for all your children. [Read more…]

Book Review-Seamless Faith

 

Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life Traci Smith

Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-4

What a wonderful gift this book is. Churches should gift it to all families in their congregations. No matter what your family looks like this book has something for you. You’ll find ways to see the sacred in your daily life no matter where you are on life’s journey!

Here’s what you find in this book-Part 1 is traditions. You’ll find ways to mark the holy days and the regular days of life. Part 2 is ceremonies. “For the purposes of this book, a ceremony differs from a tradition or spiritual practice in that a ceremony is an isolated event and does not happen with regularity, as a tradition or spiritual practice does” (15). Part 3 is spiritual practices. You will find ways to pray, learn about ancient and more modern spiritual practices. These three parts of the book will give you 50 ways to be more attentive to God at work in your life and in the lives of those you love. Each practice gives you an introduction, appropriate age, time required, materials to have ready, an explanation for how to do the practice with notes and variations.

This book is perfect for anyone who is busy (everyone) because it is not a story. You don’t need to read through page by page. You can search for the next upcoming holy day (Easter, page 34). You can look for a different way to pray (Candle Prayer, page 78). You can read two practices I do regularly (New Year’s Eve, page 32 or Almsgiving, page 93). There is no wrong way to read this book.

I recommend this book for all families (whatever your family looks like-seriously an Aunt can use this with her nieces and nephew, a Grandpa could use this book with his grandchildren, a parent and children, spouses could read it together, you can read this book by yourself too). I recommend each church have at least one copy of this book for their staff and education ministry team. It is an amazing resource for an intergenerational workshop. I recommend that everyone read this book and (if it is within your budget) buy a copy to share with someone who needs it. And after you’ve read it, I’d love to know your favorite practices.

To find out more about Traci Smith, check out her website.

Mom’s Hot Chocolate

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Mom’s Hot Chocolate

This is a recipe I remember from my childhood. We didn’t have packets of hot chocolate. We had Schwan’s ice cream containers filled with homemade hot chocolate mix and a ¼ cup Tupperware measuring cup. This mixture stores well and for a long time. So, you can make a batch now and enjoy a little before Spring appears or save this recipe for next fall!

A few warnings with this recipe. Warning 1-It is old and every time I try to make it I am frustrated that the ingredients no longer come in the sizes called for with this recipe. You can either do lots of math or just wing it. If you know me well, you know that I start off with the math option and end up winging it! Warning 2-My husband doesn’t find this recipe to be chocolatey enough. Next time I make a batch, I’ll increase the chocolate for him!

Mix Together-

3 quart box of Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk

1 pound box of Nestle Quick

7 ounces of Powdered Coffee Creamer

½ cup of Powdered Sugar

To enjoy your hot chocolate, mix together ¼ cup of mix with mug of hot water. Top with marshmallows or whipped cream, if desired.

 

Worship Words-A Prayer

In Sunday’s Scripture from Numbers, we meet the Israelites at a point where they are beyond frustrated, and so they complain. This Scripture might have hit me a little too close to home. For all those times I have been frustrated about things that really didn’t matter and overlooked things and people who did matter and need my attention, I ask forgiveness. If any of this applies to you too, please pray with me.

Faithful God,

Just like our ancestors in the faith, we are impatient. They did not want to wander in the wilderness. We do not want to wait in traffic. Help us to turn our impatience into action. Focus our frustrations on the things that need to be changed. God, we do not want to wait any longer for an end to war. We do not want to wait any longer for an end to homelessness and hunger. We do not want to wait any longer for everyone to have enough. Kindle our righteous anger, O God, and move us toward acts of justice, so all may experience the saving love of your Son, our Savior. Amen.
Published on liturgy link on March 4, 2015.

Book Review-Sabbath in the Suburbs

Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time

MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-4

This book began with conversations between the author and her husband on the Isle of Iona (a place I highly recommend everyone visit). Life on Iona is slower and invites questions of life back at home. It is here that the author decides to make a major life change-incorporating sabbath into her life and her family’s lives. Their conversation reminds me of the Thanksgiving talk my husband and I have each year on our road trip. it is a time to share our joys, frustrations, and dreams. We make plans to change what needs changing and congratulate each other on our dreams realized. These types of conversations are an important part of life. Too often, we are too busy to stop and reflect. I encourage you to take time to think about what brings you and others joy and include more of that in your life. Think about what frustrates or discourages you and those you love and work to change or eliminate that from your life. And dream. Dream big and wild. Make lists and come back to them. Make the changes you want and ask others to help you!

And now back to the book…The author and her family undertake a year of weekly Sabbath. Each chapter is one month on their journey. I appreciate her honesty in sharing their struggles and triumphs. This book leaves me believing crafting a practicing of Sabbath is extremely difficult and extremely necessary.

It was difficult for me to select which quotes to share from this book. I highlighted so many phrases and ideas and paragraphs. This is a book you need to read for yourself to find what portions speak to you and your life. For me, these portions are the words and ideas that have stuck in head between readings of this book. I need to remember I am dispensable and wholly loved. I need to remember that I won’t do everything I dream about and yet I am grateful for the people in my life and the achievements I have accomplished. This book reminds me to keep things in perspective and to stop being so hard on myself. [Read more…]